Long ago, when I first saw Brian dePalma's 1978 adapation of John Farris's 1976 novel THE FURY, I took note of its extensive violence but gave no thoughts as to whether it qualified as a combative horror-film. Farris' book, like Stephen King's 1980 FIRESTARTER, concerned a secret government project oriented upon capturing and weaponizing persons with strong psychic power. King provided enough of a "combative contest" between his titular "monster" and the evil agency that his book qualifies as combative, as does the 1984 film. But what about THE FURY?
Before re-screening the film, I decided to read Farris's novel for the first time. Like the dePalma film, the book is very violent but ultimately not a work in the combative mode. However, Farris gave me far more pause in determining who the "centric" characters were.
SPOILERS FOR ANYONE ACTUALLY READING
Three characters get the majority of Farris's attention, although he devotes a lot of characterization (more than King does) to his villains, a research group with the fitting acronym MORG. Two of the characters, Gillian Bellaver and Robin Szandza, are teenaged psychics who were once bonded through reincarnation. The third is Peter Szandza, father of Robin, who once worked for MORG but turned on his bosses, largely because they learned of his son's fabulous powers and wanted to enslave him. Robin is not initially in MORG's clutches at the start of the book, but Peter, whom Robin believes to be dead, is looking for the fourteen-year-old, and so are the villains. Robin is in psychic contact with Gillian but she considers him an "imaginary friend" and doesn't have any conscious awareness of her special abilities. Eventually, after a lot of spy-type shooting and masquerades, MORG manages to lure Robin into their clutches, where they attempt, in a roundabout way, to brainwash him. Peter learns about Gillian and enlists her help in trying to free his son. Unfortunately it all ends up badly. Robin's exercise of his talents makes him into a "bad monster," as against "good monster" Gillian. Both Peter and Robin end up dead. Gillian kills the nasty head of MORG and waits to be rescued by her parents. Farris wrote three sequels to the FURY storyline, none of which I've read, but he didn't commence this series of novels until 2001.
So my critical question becomes: just because Farris spent roughly equal amounts of time on these three characters-- are they all centric characters? Certainly I can have no objection to presenting characters who have opposed interests as belonging to a fictional work's ensemble, since in my last sizable essay on the subject, I cited types like King Kong and Godzilla as belonging to the two-monster ensemble of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.
My purely subjective verdict, though, is to say that only Peter Szandza and Gillian Bellaver are really centric characters. Even when an ensemble includes a character with whom the audience is not supposed to like-- such as Godzilla-- there must be some sense that the character, while destructive or evil, is still in some way fascinating.
Robin Szandza doesn't quite reach this level, because his transition from innocent boy to destructive monster seems constructed less as its own self-sustaining arc than as a means of providing a problem for Peter and Gillian. Further, after Robin dies, his last act is to more or less spark Gillian into using her powers offensively-- so that even his one good act is all about empowering another character.
I would assume that Gillian is also a major character in the sequels, but am not sure at this point if I'll invest further time in the FURY universe, despite having basically enjoyed the first novel.
ADDENDUM: I assumed wrongly: for the 2001 book, Robin is revealed to be alive after all, but many years have gone by and Gillian has passed on, though she's left behind a psychic daughter to get into lots more trouble.
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