Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Following or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb

In 2008 I was toying around with the idea of writing a short story collection. It began with a handlful of objects. Toothpicks, pennies, paperclips. I tried to weave a story around these items. Some of them were more prominent in the story than others. 

But one story I really enjoyed writing was The Graveyard Shifters, a tale of two misfits who stumbled upon a gothic device that somehow transports the consciousness into a corpse. What's more, it is later revealed that the device belonged to Edgar Allen Poe. Before this story, I didn't know much about him. I read some of his stories but it wasn't until I read a biograpghy of him that the seed of my short story really began to develop.

That was then.

Now I feel like everyone is shoving Poe down my throat.

It's gotten to the point of saturation. I hear the name so much, that I get annoyed when someone wants to educate me on Poe.

It was bad enough that I was burned by watching 2011's The Raven. Granted, I don't fault the actors. They did the best with what they had. I blame the script. They fudged some facts, tied in a serial-killer/Saw angle, dressed up the villian in the same wardrobe of V for Vendetta, with a Sai for a weapon, I might add. And there you have it. Now EVERYONE  and their brother thinks they know what's what with Poe.

At first, my wife and I were excited to see the show seeing as how we hardly heard anything about it. So we were going in with somewhat hopeful expectations.

Good Grief.

You know you're watching a bad movie/tv show when you start rewriting things in your head.

So here are a few scenes that really irked me and made me realize that I was watching a terrible show.

A killer in the show is obssessed with Poe, to the point that he has built a following of people, like Charles Manson. 

1. It's All Been Done Before
So, at the begining we have a setup that could work, had it been excuted with a little originality in place. But instead we get formulaic, predictable story points which aren't even points, really. Joe Carroll, the killer is a literature professor who has had many students who he has mentored and in this instance, he was caught by Kevin Bacon's character, via a whole Hannibal Lecter/ Will Grahm scenerio.

Kevin Bacon is still coping with almost meeting his end by the hands of Joe Carroll. Enough so to the point that he has to hide vodka in his water bottles.

2. Scenes Play Just For Shock Value:
As Bacon and others are brought back on to the case, after Carroll escapes prison, they start calling in all the people who were connected, in some way, to the killer. One woman stands up, strips naked, revealing scribbled text over her body and stabs herself in her own eye. All I have to say, and it should be glaringly obvious, is what does this have to do with anything? It doesn't do anything to move the story forward. It's just creepy for creepy's sake. And, why would the killer be sending her as a message? Wouldn't a post-it do? Or, I dunno, maybe not warning the lead detective at all? Maybe take him by surprise? Then Keven Bacon displays what I call false genius. Somehow, he's the only one who can tell, at a glance, that all the writing on her body is by Poe. Big whoop.

3. We're Still Doing The Whole Writing In Blood On The Wall Thing?:
At one point, in a garage, the killer has written NEVERMORE in the victim's blood. Um...okay? So...what does this have to say about ANYTHING? Does this mean that the killer will nevermore murder again? Is he alluding that death is a raven that taunts you? No, it's just creepy being creepy for creepy's sake. Hey, I've been guilty of this little trope myself but I've learned from my bad writing in order to identify what bad writing looks like. And this is bad writing.

4. If You Are Going To Use Poe, Use His Other Stories:
Over the course of the first episode, Poe and a handful of his literary works are mentioned. The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven. Why not use something else, huh? Like, I dunno, The Cask of Amontillado? There's a story that could be portrayed, a person being bricked in somwhere. Or Fall of The House of Usher? Or Muders at The Rue Morgue? Use anything else! Because when you only use The Raven and The Tell-tale heart, that, as a viewer, tells me that you are only using what you believe to be his greatsest hits.

5. It's Not A Plot Device, It's Just Plain Lazy:
By the end of the episode, we learn that several people, we thought we could trust, are actually underlings working for Joe Carroll. At this point, in my mind, someone should be tossing papers in the air and rolling their eyes. By this rational, anybody could be a hidden discple of Joe Carroll. Which you would think is an edgy plot device but really it's just plain lazy. Every episode could have somebody who is conveintally working for Joe Carroll. It just really spoils the show.

Anyway, I guess I'm done ranting about the show but, if anything, I've taken away a valuable lesson from this. Sometimes you have to hunker down and watch a terrible show or movie. Even if its just for a minute. Why? Becuase each story is a lesson on writing. Either you learn how not to make the same mistakes as others or you can find a different path to a story, completely wowing your intended audience in the process. After all, that's what writing is all about, isn't it? Just a constant chain of people observing what worked and what didn't and trying their hand at it. So pop in that movie with the chicken-scratch script. Because even if it is a bomb, it will teach you a valubale lesson in creativity and how to control it.

Needless to say, I won't be watching the rest of this show. Too afraid of wasting my time with it. I've already gleaned as much as I could from the first episode. I guess it couldn't be all bad. I mean, hey, at least they aren't using the stereotype of someone dressing up in Edgar Allen Poe attarie with a bobble-head paper mache face. Man, it'd be even worse if they had him throw confetti like Rip Taylor or something, right?

Oh for Pete's sake.

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