‘The Following’ offers disturbing thrills
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Fox’s newest TV show “The Following” premiered Jan. 21 and has left viewers thirsting for more. The show follows ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) as he tries to recapture serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and unravel his devious plan involving a cult of fellow killers called the Followers.
This dark and disturbing show at first glance seems like it has been done before. Imagine “Dexter” or “Bones” without the humor to relieve some of the murderous tension. The show tried to distinguish itself by Carroll’s literary obsession and connection to Edgar Allen Poe and the romantic period. Although the fascination with Poe’s work is reminiscent of high school kids first mesmerized by the “Tell-Tale Heart,” there is some psychological work behind the cliché that gives the show a little more merit.
With the use of flashbacks, the show tells two stories: how Hardy first caught the cunning professor Carroll after he murdered 16 college girls, and how Hardy must rejoin the FBI in order to catch Carroll again after he escapes from prison eight years later.
In the first episode (spoiler alert) Carroll surrenders himself to the FBI, but not without setting in motion a gang of obsessed followers who will carry out Carroll’s bidding while he sits in prison and watches the FBI scramble to stay one step ahead of the murderous cult. Although Bacon is no free-spirited dancing teenager, he brings his reputation for rebellion to “The Following” and provides a nice foil to the sinister Carroll character.
Reminiscent of charming Hannibal Lecter with a taste for female flesh, Purefoy executes his character well as the handsome British intellectual with a fancy for death as works of art. Regardless, his character after the first episode is more of a ringmaster, making him the laziest serial killer yet to appear on TV.
However, Carroll’s minions — a group of young people who admired Carroll before and during his time in prison — seem to have the most interesting story lines and verge on telling jokes throughout the show. These Followers who are driven and conflicted by murder are the most sympathetic characters in the entire show, providing the gray area between Hardy and Carroll’s clear good-versus-evil positions.
For a basic cable TV show, it is surprisingly bloody and violent, which is something to be expected from director Kevin Williamson, who wrote the screenplay for the latest “Scream.” The images of violence — mostly targeted at pretty college-age girls — pair nicely with Marilyn Manson’s malevolent rock cover of “Sweet Dreams” by The Eurythmics that floats behind the pilot episode — making it slightly difficult to sleep after watching it.
Williamson has a knack for cliffhanger endings and it is easy to see that the actors slip into their roles better as the show continues. Because of the show’s hour-long length, each episode seems like a short thriller film.
The show might not hook everyone, but there is a niche of serial killer enthusiasts who will latch onto “The Following” and never let go.
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