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Author Topic: Pseudopod 99: Photo Finish  (Read 15896 times)

Bdoomed

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on: July 18, 2008, 07:43:02 PM
Pseudopod 99: Photo Finish

By Adam La Rusic

Read by Cheyenne Wright

A painful kick to my shin woke me. Squinting against the harsh fluorescents in the office, I bleared up to see Kim holding out my hat and coat.

“Come on, Gerry. It’s show time. Let’s ride,” she said.

The police scanner sputtered with the kind of staccato dialogue that indicated something big was happening. I leaned forward and cranked the volume, bowling over a collection of styrofoam coffee cups in the process.

“10-47. We’re going to need more units,” the scanner blurted. Hostage! Cruisers headed to the area like swarming wasps. Every other news beat in town monitored the police bandwidth and I bet they’d be clamoring at the bit for this one. We had to get there fast.

“What’s going on?” I asked, accepting the hat and coat, forcing myself awake.

“In the car,” she said.

“Hang on,” I said, but she didn’t. Grabbing my camera bag and checking my battery supply, I took off after her.



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
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Chivalrybean

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Reply #1 on: July 20, 2008, 07:41:59 PM
No supernatural creepies, no angry spirits, no flying can openers, but I bet that guy will be haunted for an everlong time.

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Schreiber

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Reply #2 on: July 20, 2008, 07:54:30 PM
The story manages to put into fiction what a lot of scholars have such a hard time expressing concisely --- the responsibility that comes along with representation.



petronivs

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Reply #3 on: July 21, 2008, 01:16:55 PM
I totally sympathize with the camera dude.  I mean, it's as if there's some kind of deviancy in profitting off someone else's misfortune!  He was just doing his job, getting the best picture he could, and suddenly he's the bad guy!

Silly, silly ghost.  Why didn't she decide to haunt the officers who didn't keep her from getting shot?



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Reply #4 on: July 21, 2008, 05:04:57 PM
No, no

Our first job is to be a good human being. 

The photographer could have helped, possibly saving her life.  Instead he took the sub-human route and decided to exploit her life.  That’s what the story is about – he was at the crossroads, with two paths to choose from; exploitative scumbag or hero.  He chose scumbag.  I was just doing my job and or I was just following orders is NOT an expectable excuse.  Jodl found that out at Nuremburg, the hard way.   


errant371

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Reply #5 on: July 21, 2008, 06:47:26 PM
No, no

Our first job is to be a good human being. 

The photographer could have helped, possibly saving her life.  Instead he took the sub-human route and decided to exploit her life.  That’s what the story is about – he was at the crossroads, with two paths to choose from; exploitative scumbag or hero.  He chose scumbag.  I was just doing my job and or I was just following orders is NOT an expectable excuse.  Jodl found that out at Nuremburg, the hard way.   


But do we hold the footsoldiers responsible for the insanity of their leaders?  They are the ones who get shot for not following orders.  Must someone be required to risk death to not follow an order?  If "I was just doing my job" is never an exceptable excuse, then we must condemn a great many more people than I would ever be comfortable with.  Are the clerks who ran the Hollerith/IBM machines that tracked the trains taking the victims to death camps complicit in the evil of the holocaust?  What of the railroad men who threw the track switches to send the trains on their way, are they answerable for the evil of Himmler and Hitler?  The masons who built the walls of the Warsaw ghetto are as evil as the men who ordered it built?  If you are not willing to condemn these sorts of people, where do you draw the line and why?

What part of 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn' didn't you understand?


DKT

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Reply #6 on: July 21, 2008, 08:20:30 PM
No, no

Our first job is to be a good human being. 

The photographer could have helped, possibly saving her life.  Instead he took the sub-human route and decided to exploit her life.  That’s what the story is about – he was at the crossroads, with two paths to choose from; exploitative scumbag or hero.  He chose scumbag.  I was just doing my job and or I was just following orders is NOT an expectable excuse.  Jodl found that out at Nuremburg, the hard way.   


But do we hold the footsoldiers responsible for the insanity of their leaders?  They are the ones who get shot for not following orders.  Must someone be required to risk death to not follow an order?  If "I was just doing my job" is never an exceptable excuse, then we must condemn a great many more people than I would ever be comfortable with.  Are the clerks who ran the Hollerith/IBM machines that tracked the trains taking the victims to death camps complicit in the evil of the holocaust?  What of the railroad men who threw the track switches to send the trains on their way, are they answerable for the evil of Himmler and Hitler?  The masons who built the walls of the Warsaw ghetto are as evil as the men who ordered it built?  If you are not willing to condemn these sorts of people, where do you draw the line and why?

Are other people responsible for following orders that resulted in the deaths of innocent people, as in some of the examples errant371 pointed out?  Absolutely.

Does following orders have anything to do with this story?  Absolutely not. 

The photographer wasn't following anyone's orders, he was charting his own career path.  Did he have to pull the goon's gun and be the hero?  Not necessarily, he could've done something else, like told the cops right after it happened. 

I think the incident he mentioned in hindsight with "Children of the night" and the photograph he took for that other tabloid story is pretty much tipping the hand.  The guy was a scumbag, profitting off of other people's misery.  (In that case, glamorizing and profiting off of child prostitution.)  He did the same thing in this story, except he was literally in the story this time, and, like Kevin Anderson said, was at a bit of a crossroads hismelf. 

Good, haunting story this week.  I love Cheyenne's readings, but the audio quality on this one seemed different.  (I'm sure part of this nitpicking is me trying to figure out my audio quality issues.) 


Schreiber

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Reply #7 on: July 21, 2008, 11:09:06 PM
I agree with Petronvis.  And with Kevin.

We can't absolve the man for doing nothing.  We can't help but blame him for the woman's death.  All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to snap a picture of it instead of trying to wrestle away its gun, or so the saying goes.

But is that a reasonable standard to hold?  Is a cameraman at a burning building a bad person for not throwing down his camera and trying to assist the firefighters?  Is Peter Arnett a bad person for not sneaking a shiv into his interview with Osama Bin Laden and going for his jugular?  How about Mike Wallace and Ahmadinejad?  We don't like Ahmadinejad, at least not this week.  Surely at least one pretty blond woman has been shot in the head because of him, right?

I'm not trying to split hairs here.  I'm just saying that the story is stronger and more interesting because the protagonist both deserves and does not deserve his fate.



Void Munashii

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Reply #8 on: July 22, 2008, 02:56:04 PM
  I really enjoyed this story, and I think a lot of that had to do with the stellar reading. This story really had an old "Twilight Zone" vibe to it for me; I pictured a young Jack Klugman as the protagonist, and could see the whole thing set in the modern day, but still in that vaguely fuzzy black and white of old television.

  I thought for a moment there that the main character was being given a chance at redemption at the end, but I'm somewhat glad he didn't, as the ending was quite horrific. We are all haunted by our bad decisions, just not quite so literally usually.

  This was easily the best PP in a while for me.

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DKT

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Reply #9 on: July 22, 2008, 03:42:12 PM
I agree with Petronvis.  And with Kevin.

We can't absolve the man for doing nothing.  We can't help but blame him for the woman's death.  All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to snap a picture of it instead of trying to wrestle away its gun, or so the saying goes.

But is that a reasonable standard to hold?  Is a cameraman at a burning building a bad person for not throwing down his camera and trying to assist the firefighters?  Is Peter Arnett a bad person for not sneaking a shiv into his interview with Osama Bin Laden and going for his jugular?  How about Mike Wallace and Ahmadinejad?  We don't like Ahmadinejad, at least not this week.  Surely at least one pretty blond woman has been shot in the head because of him, right?

I'm not trying to split hairs here.  I'm just saying that the story is stronger and more interesting because the protagonist both deserves and does not deserve his fate.

I get where you're coming from and I did think about Mike Wallace when I typed my previous comment.  However, when comparing the circumstances you've mentioned to the one presented in this story, the photographer here was in a situation where someone's life was being threatened right before his eyes.  And he took pictures.  So for me in particular, this situation is not as gray as some others might be.


Schreiber

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Reply #10 on: July 22, 2008, 11:40:16 PM
I agree that Photo Finish feels like a more clear cut case, but that reflects good decision-making on the part of the author more than any definitive ethical principal.  If the murderer had appeared grief-stricken and confused, if the woman had been a yuppie in a business suit, if the photographer had had an amputated leg, if any number of details had been different, we might be siding with the photographer.  If, on the other hand, the woman had been an eight-year-old, if the murderer had curled his lips into a lascivious smile before driving off, etc., the opposite would probably be true.  Yet in all those cases, the ethical nature of the photographer's decision remains fundamentally the same.

As it stands, we really can take both sides and I think that was a very deliberate decision.  Not because the story is meant to be ambiguous, but because the justice and injustice play well off one another.  The fact that he deserves his fate makes it gratifying while the fact that we identify with him, even like him a little, makes it horrifying.



Listener

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Reply #11 on: July 23, 2008, 01:27:43 AM
Good idea. Not so great on the execution. Maybe that was in the reading; this was by far the weakest Cheyenne Wright reading on PP. His accent was all over the place, he went too fast, and then he shatnerized his pauses toward the end to try and build suspense. I found myself not caring.

As someone who's been in the news business for almost 10 years, I find I should've cared more about this story, but I just didn't.

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errant371

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Reply #12 on: July 23, 2008, 02:19:11 PM
I'm just saying that the story is stronger and more interesting because the protagonist both deserves and does not deserve his fate.

Absolutely.  The moral ambeguity is what makes this sorry so powerful, in my opinion.  But then again, I find the scumbags more interesting than the saints.  An all around good job:  the story, the reading, the commentary.  I am very glad I found PP (and EP, and PC).

What part of 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn' didn't you understand?


wakela

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Reply #13 on: July 24, 2008, 12:58:48 AM
Overall I thought the story was pretty weak.  Stories where people are haunted by ghosts of those whose death they feel responsible for are very very common, and this story didn't add any twists.   I was really hoping that when he saw the picture the girl would be grinning ear to ear.  That would have creeped me out and set the story in an unpredictable direction. 

I prefer the ambiguous readings given above, but I don't get the feeling that that was the author's intent.  He made the guy pretty unsympathetic and greedy, and I think a more interesting choice would have been to make him really believe that he was doing the decent, moral thing (whether or not he actually was) or to show the good that came out of getting the picture -- that it put a human face on an otherwise abstract tragedy or could have help get the robbers arrested and convicted.  But the presentation was one sided and manipulative, IMHO. 

I liked the reading.  But for me Wright's voice is like a big piece of rich cheesecake.  It's great, but a little goes a long way, and I've been getting a lot of Wright recently.  I'm glad that he went with a higher pitch, though.  I think I blew a speaker in Carbon County. 



Stalinsays

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Reply #14 on: July 25, 2008, 10:33:45 PM
Story reminds me a bit too much of many, many others. I enjoyed the reading, but that really is the most I can say.



JoeFitz

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Reply #15 on: July 26, 2008, 12:36:36 AM
I get where you're coming from and I did think about Mike Wallace when I typed my previous comment.  However, when comparing the circumstances you've mentioned to the one presented in this story, the photographer here was in a situation where someone's life was being threatened right before his eyes.  And he took pictures.  So for me in particular, this situation is not as gray as some others might be.

Indeed. But not only did he take a picture - he asked the guy to pose - and paid him! That's where he crossed the line into wrong-doing and moral blameworthiness. He didn't have an obligation to intervene - that's a job for the professionals and for people with steelier nerves.

The story made be think of Execution in a Saigon Street. The photographer just took the picture - he didn't ask the soldier executing the man to turn and smile. Or, take Nick Ut, who stopped to pour water on the napalm burns of subject of the iconic photo of a naked girl running down a road during the Vietnam War. He still took the picture and exploited the tragedy to some degree, but a photojournalist must walk that line. The protagonist in this story fell over it.

My biggest problem with the story, in the end, is the tacked-on "and the police screwed up" aspect. If the police are that incompetent in this story, it told me that grabbing the gun probably would have resulted in the photographer - and everyone else getting shot by the cops.


For the story behind Execution in a Saigon Street and its photographer Eddie Adams, try:
 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20040920/ai_n14585547

Nick Ut's
http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0008/ng2.htm



Schreiber

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Reply #16 on: July 26, 2008, 04:09:52 AM
Quote
Indeed. But not only did he take a picture - he asked the guy to pose - and paid him! That's where he crossed the line into wrong-doing and moral blameworthiness. He didn't have an obligation to intervene - that's a job for the professionals and for people with steelier nerves.

Well put.  I would say that the line the journalist crossed was a different ethical boundary than the one he's getting taxed for, that interfering with his subjects for his own personal gain was an altogether different infraction than failing to intervene in a different manner and for more selfless reasons.  But maybe that's not the point.  Like you said, he was straddling the line of decency to begin with.   Giving the murderer a pack of cigarettes and having him pose can be reasonably seen as the straw that broke the camel's back.



Dwango

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Reply #17 on: July 28, 2008, 08:55:07 PM
But at least this guy has a conscience.  He can see the ghost haunting him and hates himself for what he did not do.

What scares me are those people who can do fifty of these pictures and not feel a thing.  Take the awards and never once feel some guilt for not taking action.  I think there are far more of those kinds of people out there than the guilty ones.



wakela

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Reply #18 on: July 28, 2008, 10:56:07 PM
It would have been interesting if he had been given the chance to go back and do it again. He goes back and tries to save the girl, she ends up getting killed in the struggle, and then he lives with that hell.



eytanz

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Reply #19 on: July 29, 2008, 04:42:29 AM
It would have been interesting if he had been given the chance to go back and do it again. He goes back and tries to save the girl, she ends up getting killed in the struggle, and then he lives with that hell.

So you'd trade a story about someone who has to live with the consequences of a moral choice, to a story where someone has to live with the consequences of failure? Both interesting themes, but why would the latter be preferable?



Thaurismunths

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Reply #20 on: July 29, 2008, 10:03:25 AM
It would have been interesting if he had been given the chance to go back and do it again. He goes back and tries to save the girl, she ends up getting killed in the struggle, and then he lives with that hell.

So you'd trade a story about someone who has to live with the consequences of a moral choice, to a story where someone has to live with the consequences of failure? Both interesting themes, but why would the latter be preferable?
I don't think Wakela meant to imply that failure would be more preferable than inaction, but less.
He has to wrestle with the demon of having had an opportunity to try and help but not acting. Giving him a second chance, where he makes things worse could make for some good horror.

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eytanz

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Reply #21 on: July 29, 2008, 10:48:14 AM
It would have been interesting if he had been given the chance to go back and do it again. He goes back and tries to save the girl, she ends up getting killed in the struggle, and then he lives with that hell.

So you'd trade a story about someone who has to live with the consequences of a moral choice, to a story where someone has to live with the consequences of failure? Both interesting themes, but why would the latter be preferable?
I don't think Wakela meant to imply that failure would be more preferable than inaction, but less.
He has to wrestle with the demon of having had an opportunity to try and help but not acting. Giving him a second chance, where he makes things worse could make for some good horror.

How could he make things worse (for the woman, at least)?



wakela

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Reply #22 on: July 29, 2008, 10:59:22 PM
It would have been interesting if he had been given the chance to go back and do it again. He goes back and tries to save the girl, she ends up getting killed in the struggle, and then he lives with that hell.

So you'd trade a story about someone who has to live with the consequences of a moral choice, to a story where someone has to live with the consequences of failure? Both interesting themes, but why would the latter be preferable?
I don't think Wakela meant to imply that failure would be more preferable than inaction, but less.
He has to wrestle with the demon of having had an opportunity to try and help but not acting. Giving him a second chance, where he makes things worse could make for some good horror.

How could he make things worse (for the woman, at least)?
I hadn't thought of it in terms of inaction vs. failure (which is an interesting way to look at it), I was thinking in terms of doing or not doing the right thing.  Doing the right thing may still have a negative outcome, and if he still gets punished for it then I think it's more horrific.  Someone else someplace on these forum mentioned the horror theme of a person suffering retribution beyond what he deserves. 

With the story as it is I get to tuck myself in at night, snug knowing the universe is a just place, and if I make sure I do the right things I won't go to hell. 



MacArthurBug

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Reply #23 on: July 29, 2008, 11:04:43 PM
Overall great gritty story.  I didn't really get why just one of the pictures developed.. didn't make sense or jibe with the rest of the story for me. Everything else was wonderful. Nothing super creepy for me in the story but it worked for me. And.. after the last story it's hard to follow that with ANYTHING.. so something had to come next... 

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Reply #24 on: July 30, 2008, 12:22:54 AM
Overall great gritty story.  I didn't really get why just one of the pictures developed.. didn't make sense or jibe with the rest of the story for me.

  No, that did not make sense to me either. I could make up a number of reasons, but none with anything in the story to really support them.

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Reply #25 on: July 30, 2008, 12:40:23 AM
Good idea. Not so great on the execution. Maybe that was in the reading; this was by far the weakest Cheyenne Wright reading on PP. His accent was all over the place, he went too fast, and then he shatnerized his pauses toward the end to try and build suspense. I found myself not caring.

As someone who's been in the news business for almost 10 years, I find I should've cared more about this story, but I just didn't.

I tend to have a difficult time focusing on stories he reads.  At first I thought I just wasn't zoning in enough but now I've noticed it's consistent.  Fast with confusing accents is a bad mix for my easily distracted brain.
So, I think I didn't really care for the story, but should prob listen again or read it to make that call.



Sgarre1

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Reply #26 on: August 06, 2008, 12:11:26 AM
I thought this was pretty good. Nothing amazing - as others have pointed out, protagonist haunted by the outcome of his callous deed is a fairly well-worn horror plot but it's lasted that long for a reason.  In this case, it's not about originality but execution.  And I liked the whole "CASEY CRIME-PHOTOGRAPHER thrown into a Kitty Genovese situation" framing.

Of course, these kinds of stories are ultimately reassuring, as they promise a universe that cares about "justice" - unless he's just lost his mind.   Someone once posited that the EC TALES FROM THE CRYPT Story Model A (killer gets his comeuppance in poetically appropriate way, usually involving the risen dead) was a last gasp of Romanticism in an unlikely form - gosh darn it, the universe still cares about un-righted wrongs but the only vehicle it has left, that an audience will accept, is a rotting corpse and eye-for-eye violence.

Thanks for listening.
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« Last Edit: August 06, 2008, 12:13:05 AM by Sgarre1 »



Myrealana

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Reply #27 on: August 06, 2008, 07:56:51 PM
Quote
Indeed. But not only did he take a picture - he asked the guy to pose - and paid him! That's where he crossed the line into wrong-doing and moral blameworthiness. He didn't have an obligation to intervene - that's a job for the professionals and for people with steelier nerves.

Well put.  I would say that the line the journalist crossed was a different ethical boundary than the one he's getting taxed for, that interfering with his subjects for his own personal gain was an altogether different infraction than failing to intervene in a different manner and for more selfless reasons.  But maybe that's not the point.  Like you said, he was straddling the line of decency to begin with.   Giving the murderer a pack of cigarettes and having him pose can be reasonably seen as the straw that broke the camel's back.
That's what I saw too. Taking pictures made him borderline scum - giving them a pack of cigarettes and taking pictures of him posing with the hostage was too much. He stopped being a chronicler of society's ill and, for however brief a time, became part of them. That's why he was being haunted.

"You don't fix faith. Faith fixes you." - Shepherd Book


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Reply #28 on: October 22, 2009, 04:43:26 PM
This story was both good and bad:

Bad:  Well-worn horror trope, The reading was not good with his accent all over the place.

Good:  VERY well written.  Especially the dream/hell at the end with the inevitable events replaying in snapshot form. 



Millenium_King

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Reply #29 on: July 13, 2010, 11:36:35 PM
Eh.  It was alright.  A pretty well-worn story idea that played out like a hack-version of a Twilight Zone episode.

I didn't really feel like the photographer deserved the torment he received.  The ghost blamed him for her death, which is absurd.  To demand that a bald, old fat man wrestle a gun away from a multiple murderer is insane.  No police officer would advocate that.  "You might have saved me" says the ghost - yes, perhaps, but he instead might have gotten both her, himself and even other people killed (if he had been taken hostage as well, for example).  He was callous, but responsible for her death?  Nah.

Unlike, for example, the circumstances surrounding Kevin Carter's famous photograph there was no definite chance that the photographer's intervention would yield positive results.

I once watched a group of people burn literally to death in a crashed car.  I was seperated from them by eight lanes of fast-moving traffic and a concrete barrier.  Rushing to their aid would likely have killed me and, even if I had made it, pulling them from the inferno would have been highly unlikely - if not fatal.  I do not feel guilty that I did not do anything.  I feel sad they died - but none of it was my fault.  The situation felt the same here: the woman was already burning to death metaphorically - does it matter if someone stops to snap a picture?

One of the things that bugged me most was that he never really starts blaming himself for her death.  He sees her everywhere.  She blames him.  But he does not blame himself.  Because of this, it really began to feel like the ghost was being unfair (ie. why not blame her killer?  or the police?).  Scummy photographers are convinient targets, yes, but this guy didn't seem deserving of her torment - nor did he seem guilty enough to secretly desire it.

I think this unevenness of motive and driving animus basically derailed what would otherwise be a good-old-fashioned revenant story.

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