Fear makes us feel our humanity.
~ Benjamin Disraeli
Happy Friday the 13th! I am not a overly superstitious person nor am I OCD ~ although sometimes for the sake of my cluttered home office and bedroom, I almost wish I were! But I love stories that deal with the dark side. Not the blood-and-guts, chop-chop horror stories full of scantily-clad screaming teenagers and no plot. But stories that tackle the dark side of humanity ~ something I think we are all too familiar with.
So in honour of Friday the 13th, I offer up my top five picks for artistic explorations of the dark side of humanity.
Criminal Minds – CBS
In my opinion, Criminal Minds is one of the best dark police procedurals on television right now. I have been watching the show on DVD the past couple of months, starting with Season 1; I’m in Season 5 at the moment. The writers for this show are incredible ~ every episode I watch has some aspect that makes me green with writerly envy. I’m the type who becomes completely enmeshed in the story [i.e. do NOT talk to me while I’m watching]; however, there have been moments when the writer in me detaches and thinks “that was a brilliant line or plot twist!”
In terms of fear, CM has got it: they’ve had episodes dealing with almost every type of sick psycho out there, including a Satanic-esque cannibal. What fascinates me is the myriad factors that go into making a criminal who he or she is, family background being the most important.
Grimm – NBC
The Grimm Fairy Tales as criminal profiles? Brilliant! The development of myths, how they affect us and what they say about a culture is a fascinating study. And NBC has a winner with this show. The pilot was a little slow, but set the stage and the episodes after have not disappointed. Imagination is not dead, folks! It’s alive and well in the minds of Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, and Jim Kouf.
There’s fear aplenty and it airs tonight at 9pm!
Fringe – Fox
J.J. Abrams is my hero. He comes up with the most amazing plots and story lines that push the boundaries of the mind. He must wake up every morning thinking “What if…?” Mad scientists, parallel dimensions, other selves, and Joshua Jackson. Plus a haunting soundtrack.
Downside? Also airs on Fridays at 9pm. Tivo, baby!
The Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
Remember reading this for English 101? A fascinating psychology study. A modern adaptation is Apocalypse Now, starring Martin Sheen and set in Vietnam instead of the Congo. Read the book ~ again ~ and then rent the movie.
The Tell-Tale Heart – Edgar Allan Poe
Picking five stories to read or watch for Friday the 13th is tough ~ there a re many great authors and stories out there. But you can’t talk about scary stories without mentioning Poe. The man was a master of the macabre and a brilliant writer. Masque of the Red Death is one of my personal favorites, but the Tell-Tale Heart is sheer brilliance because it Poe wrote it before “profiling” was invented. It’s a crime story told by the criminal who committed it.
I would love to see this re-imagined on Criminal Minds in Season 8. A violent and possibly schizophrenic yet organized protagonist becomes fixated on the old man’s eye, sadistically shines a light on it night after night for several weeks. After the vile deed is done, he chops up the body and arrogantly invites the police into the room and talks to them at length. Come on, it’s perfect!
What noir fiction do you like to read or watch and why?
Oremus pro invicem,