Don’t Fear the Tempter: A Review of 666 Park Avenue
- Monday, October 22, 2012
Meanwhile, Jane continues looking into the dark corners of the Drake and here is where the show trots out the horror tropes even a non-horror fan like me is familiar with. Like so many heroine's of Gothic horror, Jane goes where the audience knows she shouldn't, the only difference is she uses her smartphone light instead of a lit candle. Eerily flickering fluorescent lights in the basement? Been around since at least Twin Peaks. Askew angles suggesting a world awry? At least as far back as 1949's The Third Man. Unsettling stone angels? Dr. Who. The impressions of the hands and faces of tormented souls, pushing outward against wallpaper? The Frighteners. Ghostly figures suddenly revealed in the background? Maybe half the horror films of the last ten years. The show has twice used the classic scare shot from The Sixth Sense, where a main character in a dark room is in the background with their back turned, when a figure suddenly crosses the screen in the foreground. When you pepper your scenes with a list of what was scary the first five times, it's simply not effective in evoking dread or fear.
When dealing with characters who sell their souls for something, there should be some level of drama, as this is a plot of many great tales, from Faust to "The Devil and Daniel Webster," to even the classic Simpsons episode, "Bart Sells his Soul." Just as there is drama in good redemption stories, so cautionary tales of gaining the world only to lose one's soul should create characters we can relate to before sending them down the elevator shaft to hell. With such shallow characters with low sales resistance, there is no sense of loss or tragedy when Gavin collects on his contract.
We aren't cautioned by watching the deliberations of a soul because we never get to know them. Similarly, I didn't really care about the plot to claim Henry's soul because he has no inner life. He and Jane are simply cogs in an unscary spookhouse. Maybe disbelieving in the reality of the devil undercuts this attempt to horrify television audiences. And is this a world with no representatives of the forces of light? Spiritual warfare without God is pretty one-sided storytelling and has always been a problem with these types of Satan-as-leading-man stories that started when Milton's Paradise Lost made Lucifer more interesting than the Almighty, evil more compelling than goodness.
So, boo! And also hiss! to a missed opportunity. The only scary thing in the Drake's basement are the declining ratings for 666 Park Avenue.
*This Review First Published 10/22/2012
**Watch 666Park Avenue Sundays on ABC
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