Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is a “retired” FBI agent who quit the agency after catching the serial killer John Carroll (James Purefoy) whose victims were his female university literature students and were killed brutally, with references to classic horror writer Edgar Allen Poe.
Not everyone wants him back, and he doesn’t want to be back. But when John escapes from prison to kill his only surviving victim, Sarah (Maggie Grace), he doesn’t have a choice. Sarah is heavily protected, and so is Claire (Natalie Zea)-John’s ex-wife.
Even though Ryan Hardy has literally written the book on Carol, things will be even more difficult this time: Carroll has formed a huge following-ready to kill or be killed for him. And Ryan has a battery operating heart, no longer in great physical condition, and the FBI agents working for him won’t always listen, with the exception of fan Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore). Oh, and there is another minor complication-Hardy had an affair with the killer’s ex-wife…
Let there be blood…Kevin Williamson Style
There is anyone who knows to utilize clichés better than anyone else, it is the writer/creator Kevin Williamson. It’s not to say he doesn’t thrown a bit originality here and there, but his signature is to get well-known clichés, make some homage, make fun of them a little, add something from himself and get hits, no matter the genre.
But while the first Scream movie was good to watch, the series became a bore, leading to way too many slashers, several of them written by Williamson himself.
But just when you thought he is all about slashing teens, he came up with Dawson’s Creek, where all the teen problems and angst came together pretty seamlessly, until he decided to go all Melrose Place on us and have all the characters hook up with each other.
But he is great with beginnings, and The Following pilot, to me, is the best thing he has ever done. Admittedly, I was positively biased towards the show. Hello, it is regular Kevin Bacon on TV! And it does have a compelling plot, and I do love a good cat and mouse.
As for the clichés some viewers have been complaining about, well stuff was probably original when Poe wrote them, but today, you need to give the writers a break. I am not saying it is OK to write sloppy and stupid, but The Following makes the best of its material.
And Williamson has picked the best cliché to begin with. And the first fictional serial killer Purefroy’s character reminded me of is Red John of The Mentalist. It made me feel like they were showing how Red John is operating.
I like that the agent didn’t lose a family member of his to the killer (The Mentalist, Se7en, The Watcher…), I like that with his first encounter with the psycho, he got injured right away before going all Taken on Purefroy’s ass. I like that he really cared about Sarah, but got involved killer’s wife. I liked that the killer had an unsuspecting wife and a son.
The pilot was really something, but then again, it is all relative, and it does depend on what you expect. I got what I was waiting for:
A chilling and cool thriller with interesting character interactions, on-the-edge protagonist, and that the fact that the villain is writing his “next novel” with the ex-agent.
So yeah, it’s well worth watching, even if just to check out Kevin Bacon alone.
There are few actors who ace the psycho, the good, the grey, and Bacon is one of them.
P.S. Another cliche that works? Marilyn Manson’s version of Sweet Dreams in a horror/thriller setting.