Monday, May 17, 2010

Will “LOST” Leave Us “In The Mouth of Madness”?

Evil Clowns 2 Eerie Images

The End is Near,” says the headline. And as any fan of pop-culture knows, this refers to the series finale of “LOST”. The innovative television series has reached the end of the road and is poised to go out with a proverbial bang in a television event sure to command viewership unseen since its early days. The show has been described as a mix of science fiction, mythology and soap opera, full of “Easter eggs”, “red herrings” and outright confusion, delivered up in weekly doses. Books in the backgrounds of scenes have resurrected interest in many obscure works of metaphysics, science fiction and philosophy. The themes range at times from Christian doctrine to Egyptian mythology, intermingling far eastern philosophies with western supernaturalism. Not since the second “Matrix” movie has there been such a wide-spanning interpretation and discussion about “what it all means”. The series has been exhaustively evaluated from almost every angle and ascribed to most genres except one: horror. So, it begs the question: “Do you read Sutter Cane”?

That obscure line hails from the John Carpenter movie, “In the Mouth of Madness” and while not even remotely similar to “LOST”, a forced comparison can easily change one’s perspective. Using the same extrapolations fans and the creators are accustomed to linking “LOST” with other works of fiction, one can make the argument that “LOST” is not about love, or redemption, or even the struggle between good and evil, but simply a tale of horror. Of course, kicking out that 4th wall to make the associations helps, but once the finale has aired, any association is null and void. It’ll be too late. But here and now, a mere 6 days before the end of the run for “LOST”, I think one can make a pretty compelling horror story out of the rocks, pebbles and sand on the beach of that “mysterious Island”.

The plot surrounding “In the Mouth of Madness” regards a top-selling horror author who has gone missing just before releasing his latest work and namesake of the movie. Sam Neill plays John Trent, an insurance fraud investigator who’s tasked with finding Cane and retrieving the finished manuscript. Regarding the entire affair as an elaborate publicity stunt, Trent nonetheless takes the job and takes the long journey into madness and ultimately horror. Without giving away too much of the plot, it suffices to say that the ultimate horror involves a breakdown of the barrier between fiction and reality, and the unleashing of ancient, mutant creatures via literature...with tragic consequences. In “LOST,” the containment of another ancient horror, the Smoke Monster, is the centerpiece of the finale. But, is literature also its gateway into the “outside” world?

The director of “In the Mouth of Madness”, John Carpenter, is said to have intended the author in question to represent Stephen King, his good friend and associate. Although the movie ascribes King and Sutter Cane to be contemporaries, one can’t help but draw a parallel between the friendship of John Carpenter and King, and JJ Abram’s admission of being a fan of King’s. To go one step further, Cuse, Lindelof and Abrams courted King for some time in hopes of being able to do a television adaptation of his trippy “Dark Tower” series. Given Abram’s affinity for parallel universes and the weird aspects of time, seems like it would have been a good fit. Unfortunately, JJ didn’t get to do the adaptation. Looks like Ron Howard got that gig. Let’s just hope that Abram’s doesn’t do to King what Ben did to Jacob over a perceived sleight.

John Carpenter described less stable readers of Sutter Cane as being subject to disorientation, memory loss, and severe paranoia, which means they could probably pass as LOST fans. It’s the rich tapestry of interwoven storylines and meaningful coincidences that makes LOST particularly appealing to certain kinds of people, those who find themselves watching and re-watching old episodes in search of subtle clues. It is here that I choose to exploit other coincidences and place LOST squarely into the horror genre by taking a few liberties with reality. While it is true John Carpenter directed one of the least liked Halloween movies (“Halloween III: Season of the Witch”) it is remotely plausible for the sake of argument to use this particular movie to outline the sinister intent behind LOST. The plot of “Season of the Witch” involved a modern day warlock who intends to sacrifice children on Halloween by virtue of crystal magic and mass communication. Urging all the children to wear a Silver Shamrock Halloween mask with the crystal in it when the winner of a fictitious contest is announced on television, the warlock proposes to use a carrier wave to project magic through their television, turning all their little heads to vermin. Nasty little plan, eh? If it wasn’t for all the plot-holes (and the most annoying jingle ever created) this might have a movie, I mean.

The similarities between LOST imagery and Stephen King books are also numerous: from the demonic “I-see-dead-people” issues of “The Shining”, to an enigmatic protagonist with questionable motives and an arch enemy called “The Man in Black” in the “Dark Tower” series; from post-Apocalyptic people aligning with good or evil as in “The Stand,” to the “crazy mother issues” explored by “Carrie”. Abrams really does appear to cover a lot of King’s landscape, but are JJ Abrams and Stephen King really two people, or is Abrams living out another King short story, “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” with King angrily shaking his fist at Abrams proclaiming, “You stole my story!”?

Here is where all the ingredients start to meld. John Carpenter, friend of Stephen King, directs two movies where books, television and film are used as conduits of evil to attack and destroy Mankind. Abrams has acquired a 4 1/2 hour time slot devoted to his “LOST“ finale, assuring maximum viewership. Using other plot devices from this season of LOST, what if the “Sideways” universe here? Just suppose Abrams will precipitate the REAL Smoke Monster’s escape from the Island by bombarding the continental U.S. with electromagnetic radiation from a rogue satellite, simultaneously as millions of people (wearing Silver Shamrock masks of their favorite characters) are glued to their televisions, watching the same show? What that very moment, the evil that is the Smoke Monster can “cross-over”, into the interconnected psyches of millions of fans and escape into our reality while turning viewers' heads into massses of black smoke?! Now all we need is a rogue satellite...oh one. Galaxy 15, solar-fried zombie satellite at your service. Now if we can only make it run amok on the date of the finale...ah yes. It’s scheduled to interfere with another broadcast satellite...23 May. Perfect. Cue creepy music.

Now that all the pieces are in place, do you STILL read Sutter Cane? Like Cane, will Abrams make himself a deity to an ancient race of Lovecraftian smoke creatures who aim to wipe-out mankind and reclaim the Earth? Not if enlightened, concerned citizens see through this nefarious plot, quit playing "Alan Wake" long enough to call up local affiliates showing the “LOST” finale and scream into the telephone, “Turn it offffffff!” Go it! Save the world. Or else insert maniacal laughter here.

Writing copyright Jack Lee© 2010.You may not copy or otherwise reproduce any of this material without prior written permission. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

I found this six months too late but nice job!

Anonymous said...

This is amazingly well-written. Wes Craven would appreciate your angle on this classic tale.