Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Following, Sky Atlantic with Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy PREVIEW

Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy as Hardy and Carroll
Deadly act to follow – Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) battles killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Pics: BSkyB
Rating: ★★★½ 

Sky Atlantic: starts Tuesday, 22 January, 10pm  

Story: Ryan Hardy, a retired FBI agent is recalled to duty to lend his expertise to a high-priority manhunt. Years earlier, Hardy saved young doctor Sarah Fuller from the grasp of murderer Joe Carroll, but now the college professor-turned-killer has broken out of prison and is looking to finish what he started. 

This is a shocker of a series, in that characters are forever entering dark places and having terrifying killers or defiled corpses thrust at them. When you hear that the guy who wrote the Scream films, Kevin Williamson, also created The Following, then you know this serial killer drama will be a mash-up with the horror genre.

It's got a dynamic cast, led by Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, an FBI agent called out of early retirement to help with the hunt for serial killer Joe Carroll, played with relish by James Purefoy. Hardy previously captured the wily murderer, who stabbed him during his capture.

A serial killer obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe
The grisliness is there from the opening moments, when five prison guards are butchered during Carroll's escape. Hardy, now with a pacemaker thanks to Carroll's past attack, is dragged from his bed to join the FBI team, which is none too welcoming.

Carroll is a former college lecturer obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe, and who believes murder is an art form. Hardy quickly works out that he will try again to kill the young doctor, Sarah, who was rescued when the FBI man originally thwarted Carroll.
The cast including Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy and Natalie Zea
Shawn Ashmore, Jeananne Goossen, Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Natalie Zea

Hardy is linked to the murderer's ex
The title refers to a network of psychotic devotees that Carroll has been cultivating while inside. These followers enable him to mount an audacious campaign to escape and capture Sarah from under the FBI's noses. All of this was planned years in advance.

The plot is thickened with a frisson between Hardy and Claire – Carroll's ex, played by Justified's Natalie Zea. These two have a past, and Carroll, with his supernatural levels of prescience, knows it.

Kevin Bacon carries The Following as the edgy Hardy
It's all highly implausible, with Carroll belonging to the Hannibal Lector wing of fiction, the omnipotent criminal mastermind forever dancing round the feeble intellects of law enforcement. In addition, he has such hypnotic power that his devotees – from friendly policemen to smiling suburban couples – are unthinking slaves, with Carroll ordering atrocities and suicides like fast food.

The Following is essentially a gory thriller fest in 15-episodes, with lashings of blood, gougings, dark rooms and shocks. Personally, I found it a tad nasty, with a couple of female characters coming in for horrible mutilation. Kevin Williamson and Kevin Reilly, the boss of Fox, who make the show, have already had to defend the series against charges of glorifying violence.

But the show is a reminder that Kevin Bacon, who in the UK is in danger of becoming known only for his mobile network ads, is in fact a charismatic performer, even in a character-thin fright of fancy like this.

Cast: Kevin Bacon Ryan Hardy, James Purefoy Joe Carroll, Shawn Ashmore Mike Weston, Natalie Zea Claire Matthews, Jeananne Goossen Jennifer Mason, Annie Parisse Debra Parker, Greg Paul US Marshall, Billy Brown Agent Reilly, Gilbert Soto FBI Agent, Steve Monroe Jordy, Maggie Grace Sarah Fuller