Sunday, 30 November 2014


It would be fair to say that I have managed to avoid books and films about serial killers for most of my adult life. I cant abide gratuitous sex; torture; child abduction; gratuitous violence; books and newspaper articles about trafficking or sex-slaves or anything about serial violent crime. I know it goes on, I am not burying my head in the sand but I don’t want it served up as ‘Entertainment’. For this reason, I do not watch Game of Thrones or The Fall on TV or True Detectives, all of which I know are popular. I am not going to rubbish these programmes here; some people love them; love the edginess of The Fall or the complexity of True Detectives and the twists and ingenuity of Game of Thrones. I can respect that and I do want ‘real’. I try to write ‘real’ in my novels and I can and have used violence to bring an edge or a thrill to a scene when in reality, the issue might have been settled by the police or by the courts. But no reader would want the chapter say when Michael gets his just rewards in Train That Carried the Girl resolved with a scene such as, ‘ we took him to court and he received a six-months suspended sentence’, which is probably what would happen in real life. The reader needs the catharsis of a dramatic and violent denouement.   
Yeah, yeah its a bit stagey but you buy a thriller to be thrilled.
I went out of my way not to have a violent, macho end to Riccarton Junction. Partly because I always knew there would be a sequel so I had to take great care not to write a conclusive ending but also, this is Kikarin’s story and I never wanted any sense of her as a kind of avenging angel figure as part of the narrative.

This is what Emily Nussbaum thinks about True Detectives:
 ..but, after years of watching “Boardwalk Empire,” “Ray Donovan,” “House of Lies,” and so on, I’ve turned prickly, and tired of trying to be, in the novelist Gillian Flynn’s useful phrase, the Cool Girl: a good sport when something smells like macho nonsense. And, frankly, “True Detective” reeks of the stuff. The series, for all its good looks and its movie-star charisma, isn’t just using dorm-room deep talk as a come-on: it has fallen for its own sales pitch.

To state the obvious: while the male detectives of “True Detective” are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over “crazy pussy,” every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters—none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, “True Detective” has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty, who seems like a real and flawed person (and a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson’s strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I’ve come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He’s our fetish object—the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him “a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade”), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliché, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. “True Detective” has some tangy dialogue (“You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch”) and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it’s so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet. Meanwhile, Marty’s wife, Maggie—played by Michelle Monaghan, she is the only prominent female character on the show—is an utter nothing-burger, all fuming prettiness with zero insides. Stand her next to any other betrayed wife on television—Mellie, on “Scandal”; or Alicia, on “The Good Wife”; or Cersei, on “Game of Thrones”; or even Claire, on “House of Cards”—and Maggie’s an outline, too. 

Reprinted from New Yorker magazine

I started watching True Detectives, not knowing that it was about a serial killer. I thought it was a well-reviewed crime thriller, maybe like The Wire or The Sopranos; I switched it off half-way through Episode 4 . . .  halfway through the famous six minute tracking shot in fact. Emily Nussbaum’s argument is unassailable as far as I am concerned. Gratuitous? It is the very definition of the word.

This post was energised however by a screening last night of a film called The Dead Girl [2006] on TV. Again, none of the many reviews mentioned the fact that it was about women being murdered by a serial killer. Stupid me; I should have done more research.
This is what it says about it on IMBd, where it has an average of 4 stars:

When the middle-aged Arden finds the dead body of a young woman dumped in her property in the rural area in Los Angeles, she calls the police and becomes famous in the local town. While shopping in the supermarket, Arden meets the employee Rudy that invites her for a date. Arden accepts the invitation of the stranger and faces her dominating abusive mother and moving from her home to a new town. While preparing the body to the autopsy in the morgue, the depressive coroner Leah believes she is her sister missing for fifteen years, and she accepts for the first time the invitation for a party in the house of her colleague Derek. She changes her behaviour and attitude; however, when she discovers that the girl is actually called Krista, she tries to convince her mother Beverly to accept that her sister is dead. Meanwhile, an old woman finds evidences in the storage where her husband works that he may be a serial killer. The mother of Krista, Melora, goes to the precinct and snoops on the documentation the last address of her daughter. She visits the place and meets the roommate of Krista, the prostitute Rosetta, and discovers that she has a three year-old granddaughter, Ashley. Last but not the least, the last day of Krista is disclosed including the identity of her killer.
It is actually told not in one linear narrative arc but as five separate . . . whats the word? . . . vignettes? . . . unrelated, impressionistic scenes in which none of the women actually meet one another. It is filmed almost entirely at night and in the rain, very dark in other words and the disjointed nature of the arc holds interest because we, the audience wonder who these women are, what they have to do with one another and how will it all come together in the end. It isn’t a good end.
I found it pretty harrowing, but to be fair to the writer/director, we see no violence, gratuitous or otherwise. Nevertheless, I feel I should have been warned.

No comments:

Post a Comment