This was a pretty solid episode of the Village of the Damned miniseries about a series of murders in Dryden, New York during the late 80’s through the 90’s, though there were points where I had some problems with it. I mean, there’s always going to be a sensationalistic element to any show that has to do with real-life murders, but there were a couple points, especially near the end, which felt like the creators went too far. The main problem I have is that each episode begins and ends on a crazy cliffhanger. I know that you want people coming back, but the total lack of subtlety and the “on the next exciting episode” quality of the thing makes the series feel like fiction, rather than something that happened to real people.
The two stories in this episode get closer to the events that I remember. I would have been nine when the 1990 incident happened and twelve during the 1993 incident. Though these things happened in my hometown and were surely the stuff of local gossip I don’t recall any of that getting around to me. I didn’t watch the news and I’m sure that my mother, and other kids’ mothers, wanted to maintain the illusion for us that the area where we lived was as good and wholesome as apple pie.
Well, so much for all that because the majority of the episode is taken up with the story of the disappearance of two-year-old Aliza May Bush, which took place in the nearby town of Lansing. They don’t mention Lansing much, I guess because they don’t want to confuse the audience, since this is all supposed to have happened in Dryden. In fact, only two of the stories in the entire series take place in the actual town of Dryden, which was one of the complaints that locals have brought up, but it’s a bit of a moot argument when all these little satellite towns with populations of maybe a few thousand people orbit a small town of less than 15,000 people. All these towns send their children to Dryden High School. It’s all the same area.
Aliza May’s mother, Christine Lane, reports that her baby went missing when she was taking out the garbage and had to run inside the house for a second. When Lane came back out, she says, Aliza was missing. The working theory is that Aliza has either been abducted or wandered out into the nearby woods. But police are immediately suspicious. The amount of time Lane says she spent in the house before coming back out for her daughter. The jig is up a few days later when Lane is recieves one of Aliza’s mittens in the mail. It’s supposed to look like it was sent from a kidnapper, but the police feel like the whole thing is overly dramatic, and a store clerk tells the authorities that Lane bought a matching envelope the night before. Lane had suffocated her baby, buried her in the woods, and made up a cover story.
I mentioned before that there wasn’t a lot of cooperation from the locals with this series (the producers occasionally turn to a waitress who had no connection to any of the events for commentary), but up to this point in the series, plenty of law enforcement officials involved with the case appear. I’m not exactly sure why, except perhaps that they might finally be able to talk frankly about something that just isn’t discussed much, and certainly not honestly, in a small town setting. The police investigators in this episode are especially emotional, and seem to feel guilty about not catching on to Lane’s lying sooner. There was, after all, a toddler involved and cases involving children are, I’m sure, especially difficult for police. The cops that are interviewed here seem like good people.
The second story on this episode, which ends on, yep, a cliffhanger, is the first to have any connection to Dryden High School. This story takes place in 1993 and the people involved graduated in the mid-80’s, so they don’t really have any direct connection to the people involved in the murder of Coah Starr the following year, but it might have been best to have started the series here. After all, the idea of a town actually being cursed is silly. At least the next few cases have a connection to the high school, however tenuously. This story is told mostly by Kirsten Clark, who woke up one morning witnessing her friend Scott getting stabbed in the heart by Paul Jackson, the ex-boyfriend of Clark’s roommate Colleen.
It’s been twenty-five years since the murder, so I guess it makes sense that Jackson would be out of prison, but why’d they have to go interview the guy? What’s worse, they interview him in a nice, clean, quiet home somewhere, possibly his own, giving an unnecessarily cozy vibe to the interview. I think it’s absolutely absurd to give this guy any time to explain what he did, let alone in a setting that will no doubt generate sympathy. He should have forfeited that right after he fucking murdered a man by stabbing him in the heart. Don’t you think?
Well, two episodes down, three to go. The next three episodes are the big ones, the most high-profile cases, which culminate in the murder of two Dryden High School cheerleaders. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes.