Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Following or, The Scream Sequel We Never Had

Have you been, er, following The Following. It's a new TV series from Kevin Williamson who we all know as the screenwriter of Scream, Scream 2, and some of Scream 4. Two episodes have aired so far, and it is already a densely layered macabre treat. I am, however, not quite on board with Kevin Bacon, although his grizzled appearance may certainly be an asset down the line. He certainly looks like somebody who's been treated badly by the years and I find delicious symmetry in Bacon appearing on TV once his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, decided to call it quits on her own oft-gruesome series, The Closer. They took turns!

Of course, being written by Kevin Williamson was always going to imply a certain meta quality to it, since that's one of his trademarks. What we may not have expected until news began to trickle out about the series' plot last year was that it shares a lot in common with Williamson's ditched idea for Scream 3, as well as sharing similarities with the potential direction of Scream 5 and Scream 6. Williamson's original idea for the trilogy-ending Scream 3 is infamous: Stu Macher was to be in prison - having survived being stabbed, slashed, and having a television thrown onto his face, naturally - and manipulating a connected cell of wannabe serial killers from the inside who set out to do his bidding. And then the Columbine shooting tragedy happened and the idea of knife-wielding teenagers running around a high school didn't sound quite so PC (it also derailed Williamson's first and, as of now, only directorial effort, Teaching Mrs Tingle (nee Killing Mrs Tingle) and, well, the rest is history. Williamson wanted to focus on other projects and then Ehren Kruger was brought on board to do a whole lot of silly, albeit enjoyable thanks to the cast and director, stuff. It's timely that The Following should be airing at the same time that we're continuing the Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene feature at the half way mark of Scream 3. Personally, I think the idea of Stu in prison is ludicrous and it's probably a good thing it never happened especially since the television format allows for him to go deeper with the plot.

And, indeed, now comes The Following and it's remarkably easy to watch the show and see how it would have worked in Williamson's Scream world. Scream 4, which was released two years ago (!), was to be Williamson's redemption in a way and see the inter-connected serial killer cell plot revived thanks to the efforts of Sidney's cousin, Jill. "I don't need friends, I need fans", she told an alarmed Sidney Prescott in that ballsy climactic reveal sequence, and it was presumably the jumping off point for a sequel. Yet again he was foiled by the Weinsteins and he left the project to, yet again, focus on other projects. There's Kevin Bacon's former FBI agent saying dialogue like "he wants to finish what he started", or a serial killing apprentice following "the rules" of his leader and so on. And it's very easy to see how the Edgar Allen Poe element of The Following could have very easily been a horror movie in the Scream universe. I mean, the entire pilot episode played out like an extended opening scene with a big name getting the surprising chop. The series even stars Nico Tortorella whom obviously made a big impression with Williamson on the set of Scream 4 (and, boy, who wouldn't be impressed by that face?)

I will be interested to see where The Following goes, especially since these first two episodes have been far from blood-free. Can it get gorier? There've been multiple massacres, a whole lot of bloodied bodies, a man set aflame in the middle of a street, self-sacrifices, and a lot - A LOT - of eyeball related nastiness. Red herrings, surprise twists, and quippy meta dialogue abound. So much so that, if I didn't already know, I would suspect Williamson had something to do with it. I think my favourite part so far is the way creepy use of Poe masks, which have an awkward menacing quality that recalls Leahterface. It's easy to see the series going around in circles, but I hope for Williamson's sake that he's able to finally tell this story in a way that, at least for him, does it justice. I'll be watching.

1 comment:

mangrove said...

Great piece, connecting the dots of unrealized projects I did not know about.

I find the reading of Poe by the characters on the show completely insane, but in a way, the fact that everybody is wrong about him in "The Following" universe is fun