"Subject: The Harbingers" on Freakylinks
by Michelle Erica Green


Demons on the Street, Angels on the Internet

Subject: The Harbingers
Airdate: January 5, 2001
Credits:

Derek Barnes: Ethan Embry
Chloe Tanner: Lisa Sheridan
Jason Tatum: Karim Prince
Lan Williams: Lizette Carrion
Vince Elsing: Dennis Christopher
Tamra: Amelinda Smith
Wilson Ashcroft: Angus Scrimm
Beret Lady: Audrey Wasilewski

"Subject: The Harbingers" Overview:

A dream about Adam causes Derek to read his brother's favorite horror novel and investigate the hometown of its mysterious author.

Plot Summary:

Derek is at a party with his dead brother Adam, though he knows it's a dream because Lan kisses him. Adam asks whether Derek has read The Harbingers, and encourages Derek to investigate psychics in Cassadega because author Wilson Ashcroft lives there. As they enter the town, Chloe reads Ashcroft's novel aloud, describing invisible creatures that prey on human weaknesses and make people commit evil acts. Jason and Derek ridicule the horror story. They are unhappy to learn that rival Stu Carmichael, who runs a rival paranormal news web site, has followed them to Cassadega based on a tip from the Freakylinks site.

The crew discovers that Ashcroft died three years earlier. Locals remember him as a crazy old man who gave away photocopies of his book because no one wanted to buy it. Tamra, the pretty proprietor of the local used bookstore, thinks Derek is his twin. A jealous Chloe investigates with Derek to find out when Adam was in Cassadega, learning that he visited the town shortly before he committed suicide. Adam had promised Ashcroft that he would get The Harbingers back into print; as collateral, he left a camcorder in Ashcroft's apartment.

Tamra tells Derek that the author consulted a psychic to find out about Adam. The clairvoyant turns out to be Vince Elsing, who demands that Derek finish what his brother started by uncovering the truth about The Harbingers. When Derek reports back to the others, he learns that in the weeks before Adam and Ashcroft died, the latter purchased a scanner and a server so he could upload his book onto the internet. Meanwhile, Jason and Lan have figured out that Adam had his camcorder configured to use heat sensors for night vision.

Derek studies the people of the psychic-infested town on videotape, and concludes from the radiation patterns that many of them are infected by harbingers. He guesses Ashcroft was in league with the demons, which infuriates Jason, who is already thinking about quitting Freakylinks so he can go work for his father's firm. Jason believes Derek is living in the past, trying to hold onto Adam as a hero instead of looking for the truth. Vince appears, telling Derek he's lost again. Then Stu breaks in with a gun and tries to shoot Derek, but a copy of The Harbingers brings him to his senses.

Derek realizes that Ashcroft's book is magic, protecting them from the real harbingers the way Bibles and other sacred texts are supposed to ward off evil even for those who haven't read them. Ashcroft passed it around Cassadega because the psychic energy would otherwise have allowed the demons to roam, but now that the book is out of circulation, the local spiritualists have become gateways to let the harbingers through. Derek decides to finish Ashcroft's work by uploading the novel onto the Internet, so that the words of revelation will protect them all. But Jason is possessed by a harbinger and attacks him. Lan gets the book uploaded while Derek struggles with his partner, and once Jason is himself again, Derek promises to treat him like a brother from now on.

Analysis:

Freakylinks returns with snazzy new opening credits, elevated sex appeal and a return to the storyline that launched the series, namely Derek's obsession with the dead twin who founded the web site he runs. There's still little logic to the assorted supernatural happenings, which don't seem connected except via Adam's interest in them. "That's a Freakylink, right?" asks Chloe when Mayberry gets mentioned, as if she were talking about an X-File. Derek's team of amateur investigators look more like the Scooby Team than Buffy's clever cohorts ever will. They take road trips to nowhere and stumble across colorful horrors, which get solved mostly by serendipity. All they really need is a talking dog.

There's lots of horror movie imagery, like Derek's panic when he thinks Lan is missing and Stu's over-the-top attack while possessed by a harbinger. The filmmakers still like to show off their Blair Witch grunge video skills, but sequences such as Ashcroft's black-and-white interruption in Derek's full-color dream make excellent use of the low-budget effects at their disposal. This series gains charm through character relationships. As Lan dons fashionable clothes and moons over Derek, a psychic waiter makes predictions about the webmaster's romantic future. Jason gets insulted about the way Derek is always rushing off to consult psychics and watch videotapes without him; this is true of the other partners as well, but unlike the rest of the gang, Jason has an offer of a job and a new car, which he foolishly turns down after Derek rescues him from the Forces of Evil.

It's past time for us to learn who Vince is and how he fits into the mystery of Adam's death. It's also past time for Chloe to stop wearing such low-cut tank tops if she's not interested in pursuing an erotic relationship with her former fiancÚ's twin, since they constantly end up sharing hotel rooms. Girl genius Lan would make a better partner -- hey, she'll do laundry and she can see heavenly light radiating from The Harbingers! But Chloe's the only one who understands Derek's obsession with Adam. They all should get a life, though the women at least have senses of humor about their bizarre compulsions for Derek's attention. Heck, Jason must have a crush too.


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