Story and sequel
15 August 2002
They're dredging the lake today. He thought he might pop by, show his face, see if there's anything he can do to help. That's what being a concerned neighbour is all about. Hanging around at the press conference, just behind the protective cordon of actual friends and relatives, giving the impression that you were there just in case suddenly the anxious parents needed a fresh perspective, a change of scene, the comfort and company of someone they had only ever known before as the possessor of the best-kept lawn in the street. You know. If they needed anything. Anything at all.
By the time he got to the pub that evening, they were already betting on whether and how they'd be found. Molested. Dead. Molested and dead. It all seemed a bit tasteless, but he supposed that the drinkers had surmised (rightly) that none of the close friends or family was likely to be in the mood for a swift mid-vigil pint.
The problem with sequels is, very obviously, that very rarely are they better than the original in whose steps they follow (lat. sequor, I follow), and in fact are very rarely as good; the basic Western drive to endless refinement and progression shatters on the rocks of Violence Force II, with most of the original cast gone and either double or half the budget. It doesn't seem to matter much which.
One major problem is The Crow syndrome. Although an idea may only have enough breath for one film (murdered, returns from dead, murders murderers, say), the need to retain the original audience means the sequel cannot be too bold a departure. So, The Crow with a female lead. The Crow in outer space. The Crow with a Native American. The Crow with an actual crow. Baby steps. Not one robot killing machine, but two. Not one deadly alien on a spaceship, but lots of deadly aliens on a space colony.
And, this time, not one golden-haired innocent missing, but identical twins, gazing out of the front page of the Sun in too-bright pinks (the most bewildering thing for most people seemed to be the sudden arrival of news in their town. Not just the newsmen, the news broadcasters, the news vans, but the news itself, as if they had turned on Eastenders to view themselves in the Queen Vic). Turning to the details on pages two and three, he shakes his head in sheer incomprehension. It's day four, and "molested and killed" is leading the field by a length. Looking at the two clean, well-scrubbed twins, artificial-looking in matching summer dresses, foregrounding a family portrait, he, married for twenty-two years and never so much as a deviant thought, ponders the madness, the sickness that could make these sexless, angelic young things an object of such ghastliness. Then, as it is Saturday and his wife has left to do the weekly shop, he retires to bed and enjoys a leisurely wank with the image of their sixteen-year old older sister. She is wearing a heavily St. Trinianised version of his daughter's old school uniform, and he is comforting her in an avuncular fashion, his hand slipping further and further up her stockinged thigh. The news may have come to Pannavale, but irony was still by the side of the road with her thumb out.
He tried something similar the next day, but with a local TV weathergirl in the same outfit thrown in to add some girl-on-girl spice. His wife came back from church just as he came, which made him suddenly aware that he had forgotten to bring any toilet paper into the bedroom, and he had to bunnyhop across to the bathroom with one thumb pressed over the top of his foreskin to act as a cap. It was an order of magnitude less fun, and then on Monday he went to see Tomb Raider 2 and that occupied his thoughts from then until they found them in, true to form, the woods.
Of course, you can buck the trends. Some people swear by Back to the Future 2, although more mature commentators remark that it lacks the lightness of touch of the original. The Empire Strikes Back, for all its bittiness, is a damn fine film, only ruined by proximity to and culpability for Return of the Jedi. And sometimes they are found sleeping, still in their matching summer dresses, in a warm barn or under a leafy bough, or rescued by the charcoal-burner's son who kept himself to himself but became a bit of a hit with the ladies after serendipity or heroism made his slow speech enigmatic and his blank eyes mysterious. Sometimes.
Dawn of the Dead, of course. And The Evil Dead 2. Two hen's teeth - absolute, straight down the line examples of the follow-up surpassing the original, the student defeating the master, experience beating down beginners' luck. And both featuring death and the dead prominently. If that's a good sign, you'll have to explain to me why. Small words.
And from the village priest who saw more people in the course of a weekend than had touched arse to pew in the last decade, to the newsreader who stifled a brave little sob on the six o'clock news, to the American pathologist who became an unlikely national sweetheart when, pushing back her blonde fringe with one hand a examing the rotting bone with the other, she mildly observed, "You know, it's always good to get out of the office when the days are as nice as this one. But, folks, if your kids are being taught that human femurs look like this you really need to take a look at the public school system," all the way to the unselfaware masturbator five doors down, everyone seems to be plagued by the same nagging thought.
You know, I'm sure it seemed more important with that girl last year. If the trial was a bit closer, I'd probably go.