Category Archives: kevin williamson

The Following: The Poet’s Fire

Most fiction (in any medium, be it books, television, or film) works on the premise of suspension of disbelief. The target, in this case, the viewer has to believe what they are seeing. It’s very important in science fiction and fantasy, because in stuff like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, the boundaries of reality are being stretched. But in a way, it’s easier in those realms.

In something like “The Following,” which is essentially based in the ‘real’ world, albeit a larger than life version, it’s even more important. The viewer has to not just believe it can happen, but they have to believe it could really happen, if you get my understanding.

This episode, “The Poet’s Fire,” opens with a nutjob in an Edgar Allan Poe mask (after just two weeks, an already old and tired gimmick for this EAP fan) sets a man on fire on a crowded city street with witnesses with cellphones and security cameras overhead. Seriously, if such a thing happened in the ‘real’ world, the media would go batshit crazy. I know it, you know it, and quite honestly, showrunner Kevin Williamson should know it too. Here, no one but the Feds and the cops that seem to blink at all.

And that’s just the beginning. The rest of the episode is spent flashbacking and overexplaining motivations we have already guessed. And then there’s the obligatory serial killer follower of the week, whose plot twist I guessed from jump street. The blind followers are getting a bit too convenient as well. Perhaps it’s Williamson’s comment on reality television and sheeple. Or just lazy writing.

“The Following” has ceased to be clever, to be unique, and even – and I’m counting the cast members I like in this statement – be interesting.

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The Following: Chapter Two

Okay, the hype is over, for the moment at least, and now “The Following” has to sink or swim as a series as opposed to an event. I had expressed in my review of the pilot that I didn’t think it had the legs to be a series. I guess this is where we find out. It has the bad potential to become a freak of the week show like early “Smallville” or “X-Files,” and I hope that’s not where we’re headed.

In the pilot, or rather the setup, multi-flawed FBI agent Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is pulled out of retirement to deal with the escaped serial killer Carroll (James Purefoy) that he had put away. He’s recaptured, but it turns out he’s built a cult of serial killers through social media, and they’ll do whatever he wants. This cult has kidnapped Carroll’s son to lure Hardy into a game of cat and mouse with the baddies.

Again written by creator Kevin Williamson, the subtext is very literate, and I am enjoying the writing theme and the Poe obsession. But I’m a writer. I wonder if other folks are digging this particular vibe or not. It works this way – Carroll was a writer, his crimes made Hardy a writer, and now this whole crazy game is built on the idea of a new book – one written by the followers in which Hardy and Carroll are the protagonist and antagonist.

Bacon and Purefoy continue to dominate the small screen whenever they are on it. Waste of an amazing cast, as I said last time. I just wish that the two of them would give us something edgier than the Clarice/Hannibal and/or Batman/Joker dynamic. I want more Shawn Ashmore, Billy Brown, and especially Li Jun Li.

Much of the episode is taken up by the good guys playing catch up to Carroll’s cultish followers and their shenanigans. I smell the stink of “Alcatraz,” “Revolution,” and “Flash Forward” on this one, as if we’re being played with like a fish on a hook. All we want is the confrontation(s) between Bacon and Purefoy, and the boy found, but you know we’ll only get dribs and drabs, while each episode has its own little underling serial killer story. Just give us what we want.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll be around next time. I think I can see the future, and I’m not sure it has enough fuel to entice me further. We’ll see.

The Following

I was wary of this one. Usually when Fox gives a lot of hype to a new TV series, it’s either a big hit, or a big disaster. Excuse me while I wash the taste of “Touch” and “Alcatraz” out of my mouth. But then again, there was also “24.” Fox has been pushing “The Following” very hard, but because I like Kevin Bacon (well, bacon in general), and I’m just sheeple like that, I gave it a shot.

Bacon is former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, reactivated because a violent serial killer he put away has escaped prison. The charismatic James Purefoy is the killer Joe Carroll. Purefoy is a favorite of mine. You might know him from HBO’s “Rome,” and you should also know him from the excellent John Carter and the even lesser known Solomon Kane. The dude is awesome.

The catch here in “The Following” is that all the time Carroll has been in prison, he’s been online building a very particular social network. They’re not just followers, mind you, they’re also copycats and wannabes. Yeah, a serial killer social network, hanging on his every word.

Now the star power is not all in front of the camera, there’s some behind it as well. The pilot is written by creator and showrunner Kevin Williamson. You probably know his work, new spins in the worlds of horror and drama like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Vampire Diaries.” However, like Fox, he’s had his share of dogs as well. Anyone remember “Hidden Palms”?

Also in the cast, but too far in the background for my tastes, are Shawn Ashmore and Billy Brown, both terrific actors. I also like relative newcomer Li Jun Li. It’s a great cast, but vastly overshadowed and overwhelmed by Bacon and Purefoy, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

What is wrong however is a little thing and a big thing. The little thing is Williamson needs to brush up on his knowledge of pacemakers. The big thing is this premise is more miniseries than series. Viewers will only be able to take so much of this, before they start asking, “Is it time for the good guys to win yet?” The monotony can only be saved by new twists, and I wonder if Kevin Williamson has enough of them.

For another opinion on “The Following,” check out Amanda Reynolds‘ terrific review at Biff Bam Pop! here.

Quickies 9-15-2010

Drag Me To Hell ~ A young loan officer arbitrarily refuses to extend an old gypsy woman’s mortgage and is cursed, hilarity ensues, as they say. As the lamia, a goat-like demon from Hell, pursues the young woman, she tries desperately to break the curse. This is a fairly scary new entry from writer/director Sam Raimi finally getting back to his horror roots. Except for the casting of Justin Long and a couple painfully cartoony moments, this is an excellent scare-fest, worth seeing, but keep the lights on.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ~ The first filmed part of the Millenium Trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson is much more streamlined and exciting than its literary counterpart, no slow or dense parts like the book. Good mystery, good action, well cast with great soundtrack – recommended. It’s so perfect, I am almost dreading the American version coming next year.

Nanny McPhee Returns ~ Also known as Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang overseas, this family film sequel, based on the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand, is a bit formulaic, but still a lot of fun.

Jennifer’s Body ~ Taken as a black comedy, this one is actually rather good. It has a very Kevin Williamson tongue-in-cheek feel to it, but is actually written by the infamous Diablo Cody, who brings her own unique sensibility to it. Quirky and more real than a lot of horror of this kind, this was a lot better than I thought it would be. Check it out.

61* ~ I’m not a big baseball fan, and I’m even less of a Billy Crystal fan, so I was surprised I liked this baseball flick directed by Crystal. The HBO movie recounts the summer of 1961 as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle both strive to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. Thomas Jane is terrific as Mantle. Recommended.

Komodo Vs. Cobra ~ This low budget SyFy special features bad writing, bad CGI effects and bad acting that would make porn actors blush. It stars, along with badly realized giant reptiles, Michael Pare from the decades ago Eddie and the Cruisers and reality TV star Jerry Manthey from “Survivor” who seems to want to prove she’s a better actress without a script. Miss this one.

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