This story is a sequel to Nom de Plume. You don't have to go read that one first, but it helps.
Truth Lies Beneath
by Tony Noland
"It's gonna be just another sequel," said Marcus.
"I don't think so." replied Annie. "Jorge Amaroso said he wanted to remake the original, not just add another sequel to the franchise."
"And what director ever says, 'I'm just doing this film because I know everyone that saw the first eight movies will come see this one'? It's a slasher flick, no matter how much money he spent on it or how he dresses it up as a re-imagining or a reboot or whatever."
"What do you mean, dresses it up?"
"I mean they should have just called it 'Blood Picnic IX' and be done with it. 'Blood Picnic: Origins' sounds like a comic book."
"Look, did you see the trailer?"
"Sure, I watched it on YouTube, it looked great. They always put the best parts in the trailer. I saw the teaser last year; you know, the one that was just a campfire on a deserted beach? Practically everybody in the theater laughed when we figured out what movie it was about. 'Blood Picnic VIII' was so terrible, I still can't believe they're doing another one."
"That's just the point! This isn't going to be just another sequel. This one is going to be true to the original book!"
Marcus blinked. "There was a book?"
"Yes, you moron, of course there was a book, the book came first."
"Well... so what? It probably sucked."
"No, it didn't. It was actually pretty good. There was a lot of subplot that got left out when they made it into the original movie."
"Hold it, subplot? In 'Blood Picnic'? Give me a break."
"Seriously, the book is completely different. OK, OK, that's too strong, it's not completely different. The basic facts are there, Carl Scrimshaw is a psycho father driven to revenge against the people who hurt his daughter. The big thing though, is that in the book, she was his stepdaughter, and the father was actually one of the people sort of responsible for the boating accident. Or at least, he thought he might have been. That's a little unclear. I thought it was just bad writing, but after a while, I realized it was because the father wasn't sure. It was his stepdaughter, and he wasn't really sure he loved her, see? The guilt and uncertainty arising from that complicated parent/child relationship, mixed with his guilt over the accident is what drove him crazy, not simple rage. He went after them because it was a way for him to project the culpability away from himself."
"Project the culpability? You're bananas. This is 'Blood Picnic', not 'My Dinner With Andre' or 'Citizen Kane'. You know, scary teen slasher flick? Don't make it out to be more than it is, Annie."
"I'm talking about the book, not the first movie. In the book, it was a group of men and women, a bunch of bigwigs in the park commission who caused the boating accident. When the father goes after them, it comes across as the powerless fighting against the powerful. They took away that whole dynamic when they changed the victims into teenage girls for the movie."
"Because who wants to see a bunch of middle aged farts in bikinis, right?"
"Exactly. Didn't you ever wonder why the killings got more and more outrageous, more sadistic?"
"Well, I'm no student of culture, but I'm going to guess it was to heighten the tension? Or is that too obvious?"
"Ha ha. When you get to hear the inner voice of the father in the book, you realize that it's because he's trying to expiate his own remorse through murder, but it doesn't work. With each one he killed, his guilt and self-loathing grew, and he's driven to more and more extreme methods, trying to avoid admitting to himself that he's as much to blame as anyone. Finally, when he's run out of people to kill, he has to face his own conscience. His guilt drives him to kneel at his stepdaughter's bedside so he can confess and beg forgiveness for everything he's done."
"And so she can tear his throat out and possess him like a demon for the next seven slasher movies. Wow, Annie, that ranks right up there with the 'Illiad'."
She punched him in the shoulder. "They totally changed the ending! I'm not saying it's one of the great books, I'm saying there was more to it than just blood and screaming girls with big boobs."
Marcus started to say something, then, seeing Annie's scowl and crossed arms, changed his mind.
"Annie, come on, it's just a movie, OK? Or a book, whatever."
"It happens to be one of my favorite books."
He stared. "You're kidding, right? 'Blood Picnic'? I thought you liked Proust and Updike."
"Call it a guilty pleasure, alright? It was one of the first books I ever read that had an actual subtext. Yes, it's a stupid little book, and yes it's blood and gore and sex, but there are elements of a really good story in 'Blood Picnic'. I'm not saying it was the only book that led me to become a writer, but it was one of the books that helped me to understand that books can have layers. It made me think about writing something that gives the reader something new with a second or third read."
"So... if it was so good, why didn't any of that come into the movie?"
"The first 'Blood Picnic' movie was really low budget. Besides, you said it yourself. Who wants fat, middle aged complexity when you can have a bunch of stuffed bikinis?" Annie sighed. "I just wish Billy Divine had gone on to write more. I read a few of his other books, the ones that I could find, anyway. They were technially competent, I guess, but still pretty lousy, just slasher thrillers. I think he was a guy who might have been a good writer if he hadn't spent all his time on genre crap."
"Or maybe he only had one good book in him," Marcus said.
Annie took off her glasses and cleaned them, then said, "I don't believe in that. A writer has has many good books inside of her as she has the time and energy to write." She put her glasses back on, and the silence grew between them.
"Annie..." he said, "maybe Billy Divine was just a pen name. What if, once the writer developed his chops, he quit the slasher stuff and started writing real books?"
Her eyes widened.
Seeing her reaction, he said, "If that were the case, then maybe there's a bunch of great stuff out there by this guy, just waiting for you to discover." He smiled in an encouraging, hopeful way.
"You know..." she said, "I never thought of that."
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