The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 10: “New Best Friends”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 10: “New Best Friends”
Directed by Jeffrey F. January
Written by Channing Powell

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Rock in the Road” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Hostiles and Calamities” – click here
pic-1After the Kingdom, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow Alexandrians searched for Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). Only to come across another group entirely.
Meanwhile, King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Morgan (Lennie James), Richard (Karl Makinen) and some others meet with a few of The Saviors for a pickup. Although the men from Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) camp make a fuss, the King assures them all is well. Then a standoff between Richard and one of the idiot Saviors breaks out of nowhere.
Where do we go from here?” asks Richard. To which his King replies to hand over his gun. A little bit more violence breaks out when the man oversteps his boundaries, then Morgan and Benjamin (Logan Miller) step in until things even out.
Expect things to get more “visceral” eventually, though. On top of everything Morgan’s lost his staff. Back at the Kingdom, Daryl (Norman Reedus) isn’t happy staying cooped up, particularly with everybody just laying down for the Saviors. “You know what they are,” he scolds Morgan, and wishes Carol (Melissa McBride) knew about Glenn and Abraham. Because if so they’d be headed for Negan to kill them all.
And damn, if that isn’t the truth.
One thing I love is that we’ve got guys using bow and arrow, which is only a step from the crossbow Daryl so excellently wielded. Richard and Daryl could prove to become an exciting team.
pic-2See, Richard has a plan, and he’s looking for help from Daryl. In his trailer he has weapons. They grab some things then head out to the open road. Note: I don’t say it enough, though everyone who loves the series knows it – the production is all around spectacular, the locations and the props and the cars off the road, they make everything look damn believable.
Turns out that Richard is leading Daryl right to Carol. He’s gone insane wanting to try and turn Ezekiel towards fighting. He wanted to go out there, kill her, use that as a catalyst. Seriously, man? Whoa. In general that’d be horrific, even worse that they had a brief thing together, too. At least Daryl’s there to protect her, while she sits unsuspecting in that cabin.
Daryl: “Anything happens to her, Ill kill ya.”
Richard: “Id die for the Kingdom
Daryl: “Then why dont you?”
Returning to Rick & Co, they’ve wound up in an odd place. Just as strange as the Kingdom. The Alexandrians are surrounded by people. Led by Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh). So, she goes back and forth with Rick. Although allowing them to see Gabriel, who looks frightened but no worse for wear. Rick tells Jadis and her group of The Saviors, asking for help to fight. She flat out refuses with a simple, direct “no.” Shit goes sideways. Soon, Gabriel has a woman named Tamiel (Sabrina Gennarino) at knife point. All is well once the former priest talks his, and the Alexandrians’, way out of their predicament. He talks up Rick, the group, their abilities. After awhile they take Rick to the “up up up” where Jadis explains their community, a tad, offering their help if he’s worth their time.
pic-3Which means Rick gets tossed into a pit of filthy garbage. Suddenly an insanely medieval-looking walker appears, blades coming out of it everywhere, in the skull and through the torso. He fights against it with whatever he can. And to stop it he has to pierce his own hand with one of the blades. Then, his foot. As Rick struggles, Michonne (Danai Gurira) tells him to use the walls. When he does he gets the zombie down and stabs its brains in with a shard of glass. HARDCORE, BABY! Rick Grimes. All day.
Rick (to Jadis): “Believe us now?”
Their leader wants guns. A bunch. Then they’ll all rally together, fight the good fight.
And as quick as the community gathered, they disappear. Leaving the Alexandrians to their work ahead. There’s a bit of that old cocky Rick still kicking. I think as much as it helps him to be confident, Michonne and the others feel better when they can see he’s level-headed and fighting instead of spaced out and near insane after some of the more devastating moments in their history. Right now, the team are ready for anything.
Carol receives a visit from King Ezekiel and a few of the Kingdom’s residents; even a cobbler from Jerry (Cooper Andrews). She reluctantly takes the delicious treats, beckoning for them all to leave. She’s busy reading, trying to get on with… life. Not long passes and Daryl comes to the door. A crazy emotional moment. The one person she does want to open the door to see, even if Daryl’s sad that she left, to be on her own.
Later on, Rick tells Gabriel “enemies can become friends” (as they themselves did once) and that’s why, in a world with The Saviors pushing their will onto others, he knew that finding Jadis and their community was more an opportunity to find the enemy of my enemy, that kind of thing, y’know? Regardless, this strange community warns that they better receive guns. Soon. Or else.


Over in the cabin, Carol tells Daryl she couldn’t kill anyone else, she couldn’t watch anyone else be killed. She then asks if everyone’s okay, if they’re hurt. She almost knows the answer without a word. Only Daryl lies: “Everyones all right.” Oh, Carol’s gonna be mad when she finds out the truth. She will, down the road, because you know she’s not staying out of everything permanently. For the time being, she and Daryl sit together as he eats soup, and life is normal life.
That never lasts long. They know it, so when they get those normal minutes in the day they take them, cherish them. Afterwards, Daryl plans on heading for Hilltop, which he does the next morning. To prepare.
Will the Kingdom come to its senses? Will the addition of another community and the power Jadis wields help convince Ezekiel? Will Rick even get the guns for her?
pic-10pic-11An awesome chapter in the back half of Season 7! Really loved this episode. Fun, gnarly zombie, Rick being a bad ass, Pollyanna fucking McIntosh! Doesn’t get much better.
Next up is “Hostiles and Calamities” and I bet Negan will return. With a bang.

Advertisements

Taboo – Episode 7

FX’s Taboo
Episode 7
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 6, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 8, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-11-51-25-pmHow will James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) atone for his sins after murdering young Winter by the shore in a drunken, mad state? Surely he did it. Or maybe not. I’m not sure he can redeem himself to begin with, really. Although such is the grotesque landscape of character in Taboo.
Helga (Franka Potente) and Atticus (Stephen Graham) and others stand by while Winter’s laid to rest, readied in a boat. At the same time, Brace (David Hayman) receives a visit from Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander); he’s come with little Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), the possible son or brother of Mr.Delaney. Well, Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) receives him just fine. I’m interested to see where her character winds up in these last couple episodes.
Still James is in need of a ship. He’s consumed. As he struggles to find one, Helga, Atticus, everyone wonders whether he’s killed the girl. And he sees her, there by the fire at home while he drinks. Ghosts all around him.
Then suddenly James receives George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) at his home. He’s there to talk about The Influence. He believes James was onboard when the ship sank. More of the harsh truth comes to light. He was a slave, then became a slaver. Then “much worse things than stealing diamonds,” which Chichester already knows. What George wants is James, last remaining survivor of the wreck, to name Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) as the organiser of the slave ship. Headed to Antigua. If so, full pardon for what Delaney’s done. Yet you just know there’s something else always up the mysterious bastard’s sleeve.
James: “What kind of rational man believes in justice?”
screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-11-54-24-pmOn the street, Helga takes a shot at James nearly popping his skull. She doesn’t manage to get the job done, only screaming “MURDERER” at him over and over. Then there’s poor Zilpha (Oona Chaplin), caught between life and her half-brother/lover, having just murdered her wickedly abusive husband. Between that and the loss of James’ ship neither of them are doing well.
Something about Brace comes to light. He purchased a large quantity of arsenic. For the rats, supposedly. Perhaps to kill Horace. “It was a kindness,” he confesses to James. He says that the state the old man was in, mentally, everyone trying to get at Nootka Sound and his money. So he tried to ease the pain. It doesn’t seem as if the son wants Brace to leave. Surely he doesn’t hold it against the old chap, having his own reasons to hate his father.
At the East India Company, Sir Strange receives a visit from Helga. She brings word of the gunpowder, its gifting by Delaney to an American citizen. Another of the prostitutes is brought along to corroborate. Now Strange wishes to use this as a charge of high treason against James. Looks like things aren’t going to go too nicely for Helga and her girl, either. Accessories to the crime. All this sends Godfrey (Edward Hogg) running to see his secret friend, to try and give him warning.
Strange: “We have him. We fucking have him.”
In the woods James breathes in smoke from a fire he makes, spreading a chalky yellow powder on it. He sees visions of his mother. His father. Himself. Godfrey finds him to let him know what’s happened, though he says he already knows. Then the two head off together.


Over with Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins), Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson) and the lot, Sir Strange brings word of the treason charge. The law is consulted. Nootka Sound is being brought to the King. All a way of sucking up to the Crown, as Strange does nasty things in the dark and under the guise of the “loyal and honourable” EIC. For all the tea in China. Literally.
James takes Godfrey to see Chichester. They have a chat together about him giving account of what he’s heard about the sinking of The Influence, a.k.a The Cornwallis. However, it isn’t easy for Godfrey to accept. His good friend Delaney convinces him they’ll sail for The New World long before his having to testify. Is this truth? Or is he spinning fiction to get what he wants?
Quickly the house of pleasure clears out while James prepares for the incoming soldiers. He sits and plays cards instead of running anywhere. Elsewhere, Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) is alerted to the treason charge of his associate. And the soldiers, they don’t take it easy on Delaney. They taunt and beat him brutally in a dungeon before leaving him in the dark.
Lorna tracks down a young boy on the street who knew Winter. He says: “I want her to forgive me.” Turns out the EIC killed Winter. At home she finds Brace gone mental, wishing he’d killed James alongside his father.
For what’s coming is even worse.
In that dungeon James is prepared for a gruesome bout of torture. To get information. Simultaneously, Cholmondeley and others burn papers, evidence leading back to the source, the laboratory. All of it. Delaney says he’ll give up the information, so long as he gets a meeting with Sir Strange. This is met with immediate, vicious torture, as a Mr. Arrow begins cutting, waterboarding, whatever he can to draw out the truth.


On the links, Sir Strange whacks a golf ball, and Chichester arrives for a casual confrontation. This puts a scare into the old company man. Of course he thinks it all hinges on Delaney, but doesn’t know who Chichester has Godfrey in his pocket. Later, Strange and his friends discover Godfrey is a “Molly” and that he is the mole.
Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) sits waiting for good news on the torture of Delaney. Next, a mask is put on him, and an Asian doctor pours a liquid down his throat that “alters perception.” Taking James back to a time before, in the forest. Back through terrifying images and memories. Still, nothing comes. They cannot break him. He will only speak to Sir Strange.
So what will the Crown do next? Prince Regent tells Coop to give Delaney what he wants. Out of nowhere, when Strange goes to meet him in the dungeon, James seems to have it all in the palm of his hand.
James: “I have a use for you


Coming up on the last episode, Taboo throws a nice curve into the story. Let’s see where Delaney and the others end up. I can only imagine his plans for Sir Strange, what that’ll mean for him and everyone involved. And how will George IV ultimately come into play, if at all, in the finale?

Legion – Chapter 2

FX’s Legion
Chapter 2
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a review of Chapter 1, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-2-49-05-amAfter the exciting events of Chapter 1, we find David Haller (Dan Stevens) alongside Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) and the others, as one of them sings “Road to Nowhere” by The Talking Heads.
They get back to a facility – Summerland – where David meets others, including Cary Loudermilk (Bill Irwin). But the poor dude is sick, he has too many voices rushing through his head. Melanie tries to help, getting him to focus: “Theres a single voice calling your name. Can you hear it? Can you find it?”
And who’s the voice? Could it be his mother, maybe?
The next day things start in full swing. He sits with Melanie and Ptonomy Wallace (Jeremie Harris) discussing how to harness his powers, which involves looking back through a lifetime of memory.  So it begins.
screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-2-53-07-amWe see memories of David and his sister Amy (Katie Aselton), though they’re very young, maybe eight years old. They run in a field with their dog, they laugh and play. The goal is to figure out where his supposed mental illness started, then leading to, hopefully, controlling the energy of his mind. They head more and more through various memory work, and David witnesses himself as a boy with his mother. Happy memories, evidently. Also, he remembers his father as an astronomer. Those of us who know the comics know better though, don’t we?
Ptonomy: “Pretend were in a museum; the museum of you.”
Suddenly something goes wrong. The dream feels sinister, ugly. The room starts to shake, as David spins out of control. Back to the table where they all sit. David’s beginning to freak out, until Ptonomy puts him to sleep.
Another trip back sees David sitting across from Dr. Poole (Scott Lawrence). He’s twitchy, he’s nervous. The voices scatter his brain. Outwardly, he seems incredibly mentally ill. On the inside is something nobody would’ve ever been able to diagnose, in terms of regular everyday medicine and science. Moreover, we see him and Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza) together, the earlier days of their friendship. But quick as we went in, David wakes up in Summerland with Ptonomy, and has a glass of milk to settle his stomach. I love Ptonomy, too. He has memories of his entire life, right back and into the womb.
Out in the woods, searching for David, is The Eye (Mackenzie Gray) and a fleet of black dressed, gun-toting SWAT team-looking cats. They will not stop, either.


There’s still no full explanation about what happened when Syd and David changed places. Although she remembers it being “so loud” while they did, it scared her. She likewise saw the horrible entity David keeps seeing in the background, that malevolent, hideous thing. And then, Syd remembers she probably killed Lenny.
Note: This scene had some awesome editing, from the memories of Syd about what happened in the hospital to the quick cut to Lenny reciting a line David is saying to Syd. I mean, Hawley & Co are pulling out all the stops to make this series work. Dig it!
Finally, David steps in with Mr. Loudermilk for a CT-scan-type test. Well it looks like Cary’s a bit of a character himself. There’s two Loudermilks: Cary and Kerry. Hmm, I’m intrigued now, especially seeing as how he said he was talking with Kerry, and she’s nowhere to be found. Either way we tumble back into more of David’s memories, now one in which he and Amy sit together chatting about her personal life. Memories slip by quick and we’re over with David and Lenny once again; she’s trying to trade an oven for drugs. Meanwhile David is having aural troubles. When they get their drugs it’s back home to get high! Only, should someone like him be experimenting? What I love most about Haller’s issues is that we see a genuine depiction of mental illness: he hears things, sees them, he’s not sure what’s real or what isn’t, and it’s as if we’re watching a documentary sometimes on the nature of schizophrenia. Inside the sci-fi trappings is a genuine depiction of a struggle with a disease of the mind.
We’re actually watching more of the memory work with David, Ptonomy, and Melanie. They try getting to the bottom of his visions. Particularly once the eerie, dark entity shows up and it freaks him out. Then the memories are glitching, jumping time. They dig up one of David’s flashes, in his apartment when he blew the place near to pieces.


Loudermilk is trying to help David figure out where his “memories are stored.” Stubborn little things. They head back into another one and try again. He goes into a dark place of his memory where things fold back onto themselves, the voices overcrowding his thoughts. Then there’s Amy, who can’t find David at the old facility anymore. She’s distraught, wanting to understand where her brother’s been taken. And Amy winds up being found by none other than The Eye. Uh oh.
Has David discovered a further power? Can he hear and see things from across time and space? Oh, I wouldn’t doubt it.
After Loudermilk leaves him alone, amazed by what he’s seeing on his readings, David’s greeted outside the machine by that grotesque entity. Another second passes and he’s not even in the machine anymore. It’s because he blew the thing right outside and into the yard with his powers. A truly disturbed individual, frighteningly powerful.
Alas, David’s decided to leave for a couple days and figure out what’s going on with his sister. At the same time, Amy is stashed away somewhere being held by The Eye and his associates, in a dreary basement akin to an old mental hospital. What is he planning for her?
screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-3-35-05-amWhat a spectacular follow-up to the first episode. The next ought to be a thrilling experience, just as these two have been! Loving this series. Hawley is an impressive writer, showing us more of his talents here with every passing chapter.

The Path – Season 2, Episode 5: “Why We Source”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 2, Episode 5: “Why We Source”
Directed by Norberto Barba
Written by Jessica Goldberg

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Red Wall” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-10-42-34-pmCal Roberts (Hugh Dancy) gives a speech to a crowd, more of the Meyerism Kool-Aid. Next to him stands Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan), playing her role. Then in the wings are Richard (Clark Middleton) and Kodiak (James Remar) still try getting to the bottom of Dr. Steve Meyers’ (Keir Dullea) death.
Simultaneous is the trajectory of Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul), on his second meeting at the support group for people who’ve left cults. He talks fondly of his children, of course. “I really thought that I was freer than Id ever been,” he laments, knowing that’s not true at all.
At their latest meeting Cal and Sarah, uncovering the damage of others, are actually looking for the mole in their midst. Nothing on that front yet. The rooms are checked by Russel (Patch Darragh) under the pretence: “This is why we source.” They claim to be helping when they’re only digging for answers they hope to find. Abe Gains (Rockmond Dunbar) sweats through one of the sourcing sessions opposite Cal, and for the time being is safe from being rooted out.
screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-10-42-59-pmLife outside the cult is wildly different for Eddie. He’s back to eating all the things he did once. Living away from a commune. Taking pills to help his mind rather than burrowing himself into a useless ideology. But things are much worse for Sarah, as she’s called to a house where Hawk (Kyle Allen) is being hauled away by the police on a warrant for his arrest. Hmm. I smell Libby Dekaan (Molly Price) behind this one. Did the scientist testing the water give something up? Either way, young Hawk is in the clink.
Everything really gets heated once Eddie and Sarah meet down there. He’s pissed because it’s clearly out of his hands. But Hawk doesn’t even want him there, and Sarah gets hot under the collar about her estranged husband calling Meyerism a cult. Compounded by the fact a domestic terrorism charge is on the books. The Meyerist lawyer is all about “the Light” and that’s terrifying, both to the viewer and definitely to Eddie.
Back at the compound, Cal talks to Abe about the death of his child; or, what he believes was the death of Abe’s child. We know that Cal is digging, we know that Abe is undercover. It’s one of the best types of Hitchcock schemes where you show the audience the bomb under the table, then let them sweat until it explodes. Whenever that may be. As it stands, Abe – aka Sam – is recruited by Cal to help them suss out the rat. Oh, really? Could mean ramifications for Meyerism if Abe’s privy to anything sensitive. Maybe just a way for Cal to reel him in closer.
Later on Sarah’s letting the kids see Eddie comes out, upsetting her mother Gab (Deirdre O’Connell) and father Hank (Peter Friedman) a bit. Although grandma reassures young Summer (Aimee Laurence) that Hawk’s predicament has nothing to do with them seeing their “denier” father. This further brings out tension between Gab and Hank, about the presence of Kodiak, why he left many years ago.
All the pressure comes down on Eddie, too. He returns to his prayers, to his Meyerist roots. I hope it doesn’t suck him back in permanently.


Sean (Paul James) has a sourcing session with Cal and Richard. Essentially, the younger man tells his leader exactly how things are going to go. Such as they need a new fridge, he and Mary (Emma Greenwell). None of this seems normal to Richard, certainly, and you can see the strain on Cal. Without many words Sean made clear he won’t be sitting by silently, not forever.
In prison, Hawk comes up against other ideologies. A black inmate (Hubert Point-Du Jour) from his cell challenges his Meyerist shit. He tries to show Hawk that things aren’t as simple and as loving and equal as his book The Ladder makes the world look.
Over at Dekaan, Eddie lays out his plan when he and Sarah confront Libby. Turns out she has a son who won’t talk with her anymore. Even has him on the phone. This doesn’t exactly appease her, though it made a difference. “Youre sadistic,” she tells Eddie as she leaves. Not long after, Sarah and her husband connect again, if only for a moment.
Mary receives a visit from Cal, looking mighty angry. He doesn’t like blackmail. She has him wrapped around her finger. But how long will it last? And it’s a dangerous game for her to play. Given what we know about Cal’s impulse control.


Together again, Richard and Cal sit. Only  now the sourcer is being sourced. Cal’s asked questions, then he comes clean about a mole in their legions. However, Richard wonders why the FBI is even poking around in the first place. He can so clearly see the lies in Cal, anybody can. He all but runs away after they’re finished. Leaving behind his old friend to wonder exactly what the leader is up to, and how bad things are going to get sooner than later.
Sarah and Eddie, after making love, lie together and talk about life, calm, open. He talks about being struck by lightning when she comes across the tree-like scar on his back. More and more, Eddie’s secrets are revealed.
That night in prison one of Hawk’s cellmates tries to touch his hair all creepy in the dark, which prompts him to freak out. This starts a fight and now things are likely looking worse for Hawk. Aside from that he gets further into the speech of his black cellmate, who preaches to his friends in the prison yard. I wonder if this whole experience will alter Hawk’s worldview.
Abe goes on leading his search effort for the Meyerist mole. In the doctor’s office they find a burner cellphone taped under the patient’s bed. Shelby (Allison Layman) denies it being hers, yet Cal and Russel believe otherwise.


Hawk gets released from the Juvenile Hall to find his father waiting. But Eddie only wants to make things better, right between them. And the ever ungrateful, foolishly idealistic Hawk turns his back on his father, wishing they’d left him in jail. Lots of people are turning their backs. For instance, Shelby is now cast out, and I sort of worry for Abe’s ethis at this point. He knows he’s the one undercover. Shelby is sent away, crying, with him left to do more work. Might’ve been the best thing for the woman, I don’t know. Just brings other elements into the picture when considering Abe as a character.
Sarah has to go down and see farmer Marshall Small (Tracy Howe). He is outright disgusted with her, particularly with his latest sick cow. She tries softening the blow, but it doesn’t do much. Because Marshall opens up his poor cow, spewing black, tar-like liquid into Sarah’s face: “I dont need to have the water tested. I know whats in the fuckinwater.” The animal’s veins are nearly entirely filled with poison.
screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-11-31-41-pmWow. That’s one of the more intense episodes and final moments of any yet on The Path. Very interested to see where all the threads lead from here. Many possibilities, none of them anything other than grim.

Father Gore’s Top 205

In no particular order, these are 205 of Father Gore’s favourite films. Crossing all genres, sub-genres, and decades, not only limited to the love of horror. A little blurb added for each entry on the list.

Before you start, remember: it’s great if you have movies you think I should love, and if you do make a list. Otherwise, stick to telling me if you hate or love the choices I’ve made. I’ve seen over 4,000 films, I know there are plenty choices aside from these 205 picks.
But these are MY picks.
So here we go.


The Long Goodbye (1973)longgoodbyeAltman has many great pieces of work. The Long Goodbye is forever my favourite for a few reasons. One of those is Elliott Gould. Another is Leigh Brackett’s adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel, adjusted for the ’70s. And of course Altman’s style gives this film a feel very much its own.

Bullhead (2011)bullheadA contemporary Greek tragedy, set in Belgium amongst the world of the hormone mafia. Matthias Schoenaerts is intense and perfect as Jacky Vanmarsenille, a man who suffered a terrible assault as a boy which left him battling against violent masculinity for the rest of his life. One of the most devastating, tender, conflicted films I’ve ever seen. Masterpiece.

Antichrist (2009)antichristI know that Lars von Trier is a hugely divisive name even to mention in conversation, let alone in a discussion for one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers. But, here we are, and he’s at the top of my list as a director. Antichrist appears, on the surface, a misogynistic film in and of itself. Therein lies von Trier’s genius, as he uses the film to effectively dissect the many ideologies in which misogyny thrives, from psychiatry to Catholicism and more. Dafoe and Gainsbourg are fearless to have taken on these roles.

Don’t Look Now (1973)dont-look-nowCertain horror films don’t have to drown you in blood or jump scares or masked killers to be terrifying. Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier story Don’t Look Now is one of those movies that can trick you into feeling like it’s one thing, then shifting to reveal it is something else altogether. Great performances, masterful direction, and powerfully written, this is an examination of grief gone tragically wrong.

Videodrome (1983)videodromeIn this Croenenberg classic, one of his many, philosophy meets horror meets the human body, when James Woods’ Max Renn stumbles down the rabbit hole of a strange program called Videodrome. Also features a stellar performance out of Blondie’s Debbie Harry. And out of this world special makeup effects accomplished by the legendary Rick Baker.

Catch Me Daddy (2014)catch-me-daddyThis one stunned me. It’s a quietly unsettling thriller with characters coming together from various walks of life in a cultural melting pot which we see in all its beauty and all its darkness. Trust me: go into this one without knowing much, appreciate the depth of the story, its characters. Some films can help you understand people, other cultures, and the world better.

The Night Porter (1974)the-night-porterI’ll write about this one at length some time. Right now I’ll say that I can understand why some might not enjoy this film, especially if connected personally by family to the Holocaust. I can never understand how watching a film like this as a Jewish man or woman might feel. Nevertheless, from my perspective, I do enjoy this film because I believe it exposes uncomfortable truths, or at least presents them for us to see in the cruel light of day.

La Dolce Vita (1960)la-dolce-vitaI don’t care if people think it’s snobbish to love Fellini. Fuck that. One of the most revolutionary cinematic artists of the 20th century. I love this movie so much I have the title tattooed from my hip up to my arm on my right side. Just see it.

Talk Radio (1988)talk-radioWhen people talk about free speech, my mind never fails to sweep to thoughts of Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio. There might never have been an actor better suited to a role than Eric Bogosian to that of Barry Champlain. A searing look at free speech in its many forms, as well as how far people will go to silence it (in many ways). An important piece of cinema from a director who’s made several incredibly important films.

Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)a-lizard-in-a-womans-skinLucio Fulci is so well known for his various nasty horror efforts, whether Zombie or The House by the Cemetery and others. For me, outside of his campy horror fun, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is objectively his most interesting and well made movie. It’s a mind bender, so there are a lot of spectacular visuals, showing that Fulci wasn’t a one hit wonder on the same horror note for years. He was often capable of real good stuff, camp or otherwise.

Last Night (1998)last-nightWritten and directed by Don McKellar, this is possibly the most Canadian vision of the end of the world you’ll likely ever see. With a top notch cast including Sandra Oh and McKellar himself, David Croenenberg, Sarah Polley, you can’t go wrong with this one. Not only that, it’s one of those end of the world scenarios you’re never totally clued in on, and so part of the film’s joy is the ultimate mystery of things, leaving the focus totally on all the people scrambling to enjoy their last night on Earth.

Seconds (1966)secondsOne of the greatest sci-fi films in existence. John Frankenheimer – legend – directs Rock Hudson in this fascinating, and equally horrifying, story of what it might be like to start life over, literally, and take on a new face, a new path. Except things aren’t always as good as they seem at first. There is such gorgeously inventive cinematography that you’ve got to see it to believe that it was made in ’66. But of course it was, because artists were thriving and starting to open themselves up to anything and everything new. A great instance of innovative cinema.

Carnival of Souls (1962)carnival-of-soulsHerk Harvey’s low budget chiller is one of the few movies that genuinely makes me want to turn all the lights on. At first you feel like it’s going to be a generic bit of horror, then everything gets spookier and spookier until the nightmarish finale refuses to let you go.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)aguirreThere’s an aura surrounding every one of Werner Herzog’s films, no matter if it’s a documentary or a fictional feature, historic, whatever. He has a special feeling. And when you add Herzog to Klaus Kinski, it’s a game changer, in every film they worked on together. Their fiery friendship provided excellence on screen. This movie in particular hits the perfect notes with me, as you get to see the cruelty and madness and greed of man set against the gorgeous, humble qualities of nature.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)picnic-at-hanging-rockA horror mystery without any explicit horror. Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of Peter Weir’s finest, is a haunting look at the loss of innocence, the transition between when girls are girls and when they become women, among other themes. Based on the novel by Joan Lindsay, this is a classic, and one that will probably remain with you long after the credits finish rolling.

Tyrannosaur (2011)tyrannosaurSeveral reasons why this is a cinematic heavyweight. First, you’ve got actor turned director Paddy Considine giving us his all (and a deeply affecting screenplay), next to Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman in equally powerful roles. Second, the importance of the story is unimaginable until you’ve seen it for yourself, I won’t give any of it away. Just know that it isn’t an easy watch, there are a few moments of traumatic violence, though most is either suggested or after-the-fact edited; still, an at times tough experience. But again, an important experience.

The Thin Blue Line (1988)the-thin-blue-lineA handful of documentaries, maybe more, have actually changed the world, in various ways. This 1988 Errol Morris classic didn’t just give a boost of energy to the crime documentary as a whole genre, it also helped the case of a man in jail for a murder he insisted he did not commit. Saying anything more will ruin it. Trust me, Morris’ style mixed with the extraordinary details of this specific case makes for one of the most compelling documentaries you’ll ever watch. I can put this one on back to back. Also due to the fact Philip Glass gives us an original masterpiece of a score to enjoy along the way.

Spoorloos (1988)spoorloosMystery, tension enough to choke you. A fantastically written screenplay that defines the idea of intricate storytelling, and somehow manages to reel you in while also showing you (almost) everything. The remake is absolute garbage, don’t bother. This original is fierce, moody bit of horror that works on your psychological state with deliberately rough hands. And it works a charm. This is one of those films I’ll never forget as long as I live.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)beyond-the-black-rainbowSome say there’s no real plot, or that this goes nowhere. I say Beyond the Black Rainbow is the most original film of the decade. Like a fever dream, a collage of ideas moulding into one, director-writer Panos Cosmatos brings a unique vision of the 1980s and New Age psychiatry, feeling like part David Cronenberg, part David Lynch, part Ridley Scott. Yet somehow all its own beautiful thing.

Exotica (1994)exoticaAtom Egoyan; national Canadian treasure. There’s an Altman-esque cast of characters in this film, all of whom connect, each with their own desires and emotions running wild. I can never get this one out of my head. Egoyan is someone whose films I dig, very much, though Exotica constantly sticks out because of its simultaneous strangeness and normality rolled into one.

Scarecrow (1973)scarecrowSometimes a pair of actors come together complimenting one another in the perfect ways. Scarecrow is a truly classic American movie, joining the ever awesome Gene Hackman with an up and coming Al Pacino, as two down and out types trying to make their way in the world, despite their problems. There’s one especially harrowing moment, but other than that this is a heartwarming story in places, even if it’s as much a sad one at times.

Bulworth (1998)BULWORTHOthers might pass this off. I wouldn’t if I were you. Warren Beatty is just too funny in this political satire. As a politician ready to give up, Senator Jay Bulworth takes out a hit on himself, only to want to take the offer off the table when he meets a young black woman who inspires him. After which he becomes a rapping political sensation, turning his back on his previously Conservative ideals to a more socially progressive outlook. True perfection, one of the best comedies in history.

Three… Extremes (2004)three-extremesThis is a three-for-one deal, with three short films from three impressive Asian directors – Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, and Chan-wook Park. I won’t say anything else because these need to be seen fresh, you won’t see it coming! I will say this much, they’re all great. But if pressed to pick I’d choose Miike’s chilling short “Box” as my top pick. Nevertheless, they’ll all make you feel strange.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)paradise-lostIf, like myself, you grew up enjoying the darker side of life – horror movies, heavy metal, reading about serial killers and Aleister Crowley and other strange things – then HBO’s Paradise Lost is all the more chilling. A look at justice in small town America, where three young boys, one of whom has an IQ so low he is legally mentally disabled, were charged with a vicious crime they did not commit. This is every bit a documentary, though certain moments feel genuinely theatrical. Such a devastating movie, each time I watch it I can’t help imagine how these young men felt at the time.

Killing Zoe (1993)killing-zoeRoger Avary directed and wrote this 1993 gem, and its original feel, its strangeness, they suck you in quickly. When American Zed (Eric Stoltz) turns up in Paris to help his old friend Eric (Jean-Hughes Anglade) commit a robbery, events spiral out of control, and what once seemed a foolproof robbery descends into chaos. There’s excitement, there’s snappy dialogue, another solid performance from Julie Delpy, plus more! A weird, wild thrill ride from start to finish.

Absentia (2011)absentiaWith a string of great films already, Mike Flanagan is a fresh breath in the world of horror. His little flick Absentia is one that haunted me deeply after seeing it for the first time. There’s a quiet terror about the story, allowing for plenty eerie imagery alongside marvellous characters and even better performances. The human qualities of this ghostly, supernatural story are what anchors it in reality to make it get under your skin even further.

Pusher (1996)pusherBefore coming into his elevated style (which I do love), Nicolas Winding Refn explored the bare grittiness of Copenhagen’s underground, the drug dealing scene, through the eyes of a pusher named Frank (Kim Bodnia). There are all kinds of seedy characters, and as Frank makes his way through a hellish day or so he comes into contact with the worst of the worst. Refn takes us into his life with a cinema verite-type focus, making the audience feel like they’re right there in the streets.
My reviews of the whole trilogy are here.

With Blood on My Hands: Pusher II (2004)pusher-iiRefn continues his series with another entry that touches on issues you might never expect to see in most crime/drug-related films. Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) returns after the first film, fresh out of jail, and faces a life on the outside where his father hates his existence, he has an unexpected child with a woman who hates him, and everything is different than it was once upon a time. This is like a hard smack in the face, as we move just slightly adjacent to the first film to explore something other than drugs: a family under the pressure of hard living, from criminality to addiction to the longing for acceptance and love.

Brotherhood (2009)brotherhoodA beautiful, brutal, tragic film about two men entrenched in the violent ideology of white nationalism while also falling in love with each other. Brotherhood explores a topic we don’t often see, and does so with a rare tenderness. There are difficult ideas at play, but above all it’s a love story about two men wanting something they know they can have and rejecting it outwardly because they’re lost, lonely, looking for anywhere to belong. See this. Recommend it to racists and watch them seethe.

The Third Part of the Night (1971)the-third-part-of-the-nightAndrzej Żuławski is well known for his ’81 horror headtrip Possession. My personal favourite of his work is The Third Part of the Night, which takes us into a strange, internalised look at the effects of living under fascist rule. This is equal parts horror and equal parts philosophy. Go in with an open mind. Worth your time.
Need a full review? Click here.

Infernal Affairs (2002)infernal-affairsI’ll always dig Scorsese’s remake. The best, without a doubt, is the original Infernal Affairs. There’s so much perfect directing, editing, dialogue, tension. Scorsese had a bit more comedy in there, which worked. But this one takes a hardline, serious look at its plot, in turn giving the whole thing an added, thick air of suspense from top to bottom.

The Crucible (1996)the-crucibleOne of the greatest plays ever written, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible takes on a new life on screen. Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal, as are the rest of the cast; he takes the cake, from execution to preparation. Most of all, the analogy of the Salem Witch Hunt and the American witch hunt for Communists during Miller’s era is always compelling, and even when you’re fully sucked into the period piece story, the contemporary political leanings of the story are never, ever far.

The French Connection (1971)the-french-connectionThere are good directors, there are great directors. There are also directors in the pantheon of cinema giants, near the top of which sits William Friedkin. Several of his films are on my Top 200+ list. The French Connection is one of the best examples of pure action, and one which also exemplifies how to make an action movie with excitement, heart, and intelligence. Throw in a stellar bit of Gene Hackman, some Fernando Rey and Roy Scheider; what more could you want? And that fucking car chase. God damn.

Brick (2005)brickAs if Raymond Chandler wrote a YA novel. Rian Johnson’s Brick hit me like a ton of them. It is totally infectious in every way. Directed, written, acted, edited to perfection. Don’t read much about it. Go in unknown. The mysterious plot will keep you riveted, I can just about guarantee. Always love an eccentric cast of characters, too.

Maniac (2012)maniacIs it blasphemous to love a remake more than the original? Fuck it. Whereas the 1980 original is disturbing in its own right, the 2012 Maniac remake takes you into the eyes of a killer, literally. Shot in 1st person POV, Elijah Wood takes us inside a psychopath with chilling results. Not everyone’s cup of tea. To me, an inventive piece of horror that challenges our idea of empathy towards characters.
My full review over here.

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)bringing-out-the-deadAn unheralded Scorsese gem, same goes for the Cage performance. This is a weird journey through Manhattan with a burnt out paramedic who starts questioning his efficiency as a lifesaving agent. There are existential questions abound, as well as questions about how people handle the dangerous and nasty careers not everyone is cut out to do. Cage is like a tour guide through the dark depths of Manhattan and the human soul at once.

Miller’s Crossing (1990)millers-crossingThe Coen Brothers are treasures, so many great films under their belt. This one makes the list because it’s a gangster movie, yet it is so unlike most in the genre. There’s the typical wit and charm of the Coens’ writing, then the performances give impressive weight to the screenplay. Best of all, Miller’s Crossing is hard to pinpoint, and the story continues unfolding in such a fun, unexpected way that by the time it’s over you’ll wonder how you got there.

The Seventh Seal (1957)the-seventh-sealIngmar Bergman made plenty of quality films, several masterpieces; many, even. Forever, his depiction of the Medieval Age and the inevitability of death, its looming certainty, is one of the best visions of when the Black Plague took hold in Europe. There’s such a high degree of symbolism that you can find so much to enjoy. The two lead performances are magic, as well.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)dawn-of-the-deadI actually love Day of the Dead most of all. However, Dawn of the Dead is Romero’s most important zombie film. It takes subtle (and not so subtle) shots at the rabid consumerism of American culture, even just the setting itself stands in for sociopolitical commentary if you want to see it that way. Most of all, the strange look and feel, the zombies, Tom Savini, and lots of other fun makes this a memorable bit of horror. There’s also a palpable air of ultimate dread, and not many can tap into that like Romero. Even some of the other great zombie flicks can’t come close to touching its atmosphere.

Barton Fink (1991)barton-finkAnother Coen Brothers classic. This is a perfect snapshot of what it’s like to be a writer. But there’s more to Barton Fink than that. At once it touches on the madness of the film industry, the futility of being an artist in the Hollywood system, as well as dives into issues of anti-Semitism and identity. There’s too much to love about this one, not the least of which is one of John Turturro’s finest moments on screen.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)the-last-temptation-of-christRaised in a Catholic house, I eventually was given the choice to do what I wanted around 12 when my parents asked whether I wanted to keep going to church or not. I chose not, and for the past 19 years and counting I’ve been a non-believer. That being said, I still find religion and its stories intriguing. Scorsese dives deep into the humanity at the heart of the faith with which many identify. And at the core of this film are certain things I understand, despite my lack of religion. A testament to Scorsese’s power as a filmmaker and visionary.
Here’s a piece I wrote for Film Inquiry comparing the religious humanism of Scorsese’s film with Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.

The Proposition (2005)the-propositionMy personal favourite Western, John Hillcoat’s The Proposition takes the genre over to the Outback in its early days, as the law attempted to rein in the madness of an untamed land. The story and its execution are impressive. What I dig most about this Hillcoat film is its focus on aesthetic. Never will you feel so utterly filthy after watching cinema than when this is over. You can all but smell Guy Pearce. This is a disturbing, emotional, tension-filled Western which features a few fine tuned performances from Pearce, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, and the great Danny Huston.
And yes, I have more to say.

High Tension (2003)high-tensionA brutal slasher with a psychothriller twist, Alexandre Aja’s High Tension is an atmospheric bit of horror. Even after you’ve experienced the twist watching the film over again is a lot of fun. You can try piecing together the mystery afterwards from the start, and it may even help you notice some little clues. No matter – just as a gory slasher, the whole thing works.
Props to Cécile De France in particular for her performance, which required emotion and nuance at every turn. Also, Philippe Nahon does well as the serial killer at the centre of the plot.
Rip through a review with me here.

Sound of My Voice (2011)sound-of-my-voiceThis atypical look at a fictional cult is simultaneously creepy and heartwarming in doses. Two of The OA‘s producers-writers Zal Batmanglij (also director) and Brit Marling co-wrote this mysterious 2011 thriller, so if you’ve seen the Netflix show and haven’t yet seen this: dig in. There are common threads in the show and Sound of My Voice, although ultimately they’re vastly different. Above all, Marling plays a wildly believable yet out there cult leader, as Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius round out the cast with two characters trying to get to the bottom of this cult.
What happens throughout verges on something between dream and reality; it’s up to you to decide, in the end, which is which for each character.

The Man from Nowhere (2010)the-man-from-nowhereAsian films of all genres are amazing, there are so many of them that it’s hard to pick a favourite, or even a top ten of favourites (or a top twenty…). But on this list of 205 films, The Man from Nowhere deserves a spot. There’s a wonderful air of mystery surrounding the titular man, whose past – for much of the film – is kept under wraps, until it’s obvious he is a man with whom you shouldn’t trifle. We also get a beautifully loving story, as well as kick ass action and fight scenes. This one has everything. As the plot evolves, you’ll get sucked in tight to the screen until the final moments.

Nosferatu (1922)nosferatuThere’s simply no denying that F. W. Murnau made one of the greatest horror films in the history of cinema. Almost a whole century later, Nosferatu remains terrifying. Some film fans, though I question their validity, don’t dig on older films as much as more contemporary works. And that’s a major mistake.
Murnau utilised plenty of innovative techniques in order to make this unofficial Dracula adaptation a beacon of German Expressionism and a horror that would never lose its power. There’s an altogether eerie atmosphere from the first scene to the last. Another 100 years, people will still find this frightening.

The Jerk (1979)the-jerkOne of the funniest comedies ever made. Steve Martin is a hilarious tour-de-force as a white boy adopted by a black family, who believes that when he gets old enough his skin will change to match his parents, brothers, and sisters. When he discovers the truth and then sets out on his own, there’s no telling where he’ll end up.
But the fact is, Martin carries every single moment of the film in which he appears, and is the major reason why so many of the gags and jokes work to perfection.

Persona (1966)Persona (1966) Filmografinr: 1966/18My favourite Bergman experience is, bar none, Persona. Many of his films are so human that they hold immense beauty. Something about this one is both human and also otherworldly, as the characters played by Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann slowly merge into one entity. Exactly why, how, all those questions, are left to the viewer to understand. As I said – this film is an experience. Not just that, since ’66 this Bergman classic has influenced everyone from David Fincher to Denis Villeneuve to many more, and will continue to do so until people don’t have eyes or hears.

The Chaser (2008)the-chaserHong-jin Na has since made The Yellow Sea and most recently The Wailing, however, it’s his 2008 film The Chaser that captivated me most. Inspired by the story of real life South Korean serial killer and cannibal Yoo Young-chul, this thriller is crafty and it’s likewise a thrilling 125 minutes. To say anything further would do you a disservice. Watch, enjoy, be disturbed and elated by the mystery, the tension. You won’t regret this choice.

Prince of Darkness (1987)prince-of-darknessThere are many John Carpenter flicks I absolutely love. None more than 1987’s Prince of Darkness. Because Carpenter merges the ideas of religion and science, making the concept of Satan into something far more ugly, sinister, threatening than just a name in a book meaning evil. The special effects, the score, Alice Cooper’s unsettling cameo, the creeping plot; everything adds up to a top notch bit of horror. Yet another JC gem!

Lady Vengeance (2005)lady-vengeanceChan-wook Park’s revenge trilogy is great, all around. One of my favourites is Lady Vengeance. It takes on the female perspective and also dives into a raw, disturbing story which culminates in the expected revenge we’ve seen from Park in his other films from the trilogy. Parts of the crimes involved are about as eerie as some of the disturbing bits in Oldboy, so buckle up.

Oldboy (2003)oldboyI remember hearing Quentin Tarantino rave about Oldboy after it was released, and he’s always been an inspiration to me as a writer/director hopeful. So I checked it out, fell in love. Sure, it is wildly disturbing particularly at the end. Something within that nastiness is riveting.
More than that the directorial choices of Chan-wook Park are so beautiful. No matter if he’s got his main character wielding a hammer and bashing people up, eating a live octopus, or learning about the world through television, Park makes every moment worth relishing in. Pure odd and wild delights to be had.

A Prophet (2009)a-prophetPrison films are a dime a dozen. Because of that there’s a wide variety of shitty ones. Just as many great ones, too. A recent amazing story set inside prison walls is A Prophet. When a young Arab man is sent to jail he has to do whatever it takes to survive, and after receiving an offer – either kill someone for one of the gangs, or the gang kills you – he ends up on a fast ride to the top of the food chain.
If you’re looking for a more realistic gangster movie, and one that takes place in jail, this is the ticket. Like parts of Scarface (the Arab’s feeling of being an outsider reminds me, a tiny bit, of Tony Montana’s struggle), Bad Boys (1983), and Animal Factory mixed together. But nothing’s lifted from any of the classics, nor its inspirations. A Prophet gives the goods, with flashes of absolute brilliance and violence in spades.

Altered States (1980)altered-statesWhatever Ken Russell does is, often, borderline genius and madness. Sometimes he falls off a bit. For the most part he’s a legendary director worth his weight in gold. The first time I saw Altered States was when I used to do drugs (been clean now as of this writing for almost 9 years), I took mushrooms and, boy… what a trip.
Later when I got away from all the drugs and I actually stopped drinking too (7 years sober), I revisited this Russell headtrip. Because I knew that there was something worth the effort. I watch it at least a couple times a year, finding new things to love. The heart of it never changes for me, and Paddy Chayefsky’s words beam like that first star in the night, never failing to catch me, grab hold. William Hurt is one of my favourite actors; here, he does amazing stuff, and in his first feature film no less. There’s nothing bad about this movie. Even in its zaniest scenes.

Caché (2005)cacheOn the list of my favourite directors, near the top sits Michael Haneke. He’s also a terrific writer to boot. Caché is my favourite of his, though that’s a hard choice either way. I sort of feel like Haneke is a less surreal version of David Lynch, and vice versa. They each deal in ideas that are hard to pin down, not necessarily easy to understand. And they make you think.
Caché takes on ideas of white guilt, colonialism, and inevitable vengeance. It deals with the stories people tell themselves, the narratives they create in order to live with the stories of their lives. All the actors are equally as wonderful in their respective roles, giving depth to their characters as an eerie tale precipitated by voyeurism wraps them up.
You want more?

Bug (2006)bugFriedkin takes a Tracy Letts screenplay, based on Letts’ own 1996 play, and transforms it into a psycho-thriller full of drama and horror alike. Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon are unforgettable, as they go on a dual transformation fuelled by paranoia. What Friedkin does best is retain the aspects of the stage play which made it tense. He then amplifies everything using the medium of film, making the performances larger than life and the atmosphere thick with a terror not usually seen. Shannon, in particular, is part of that terror, bringing it on with every breath.

Shorts Cuts (1993)short-cutsLike a marriage made in Heaven – Altman and Raymond Carver. Perhaps best because of the director’s affinity for weaving around a multitude of characters. This fits so perfectly due to the fact Altman takes nine short stories and whittles them into a 3-hour film, encompassing 22 different characters altogether. Zipping through the various spaces of Los Angeles – changed from Carver’s Pacific Northwest settings – the legendary director makes every character interesting, worth watching. Some stories are more disturbing than others, yet they all hold both the sweet and the sour; something Carver was great at in his writing. This is one of the greatest films, not just my favourite. I genuinely feel this is one of the best ever made, certainly one of Altman’s best, too.

The White Ribbon (2009)the-white-ribbonAgain, a Haneke film appears on the list. I could’ve put a bunch on here, but needed to make room for other cinema I love. What’s so interesting about The White Ribbon is how Haneke explores the origins of evil, set in a German village just prior to World War I. He dives into an entirely universal way of seeing evil, through the lens of this strange place and its inhabitants. There’s a blanket of dread that Haneke lays atop every scene, never letting up. Even those not huge on black-and-white cinematography might find themselves drawn to the images on screen from one minute to the next.

Mysterious Skin (2004)mysterious-skinOne of the most difficult, if not THE most difficult films on this list to watch. Trust me though, if you can get through this Gregg Araki tale then it’s worth all the effort. I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away parts of the plot. Just understand that, while disturbing during certain scenes, Mysterious Skin was filmed in the best way possible to protect the young actors. Plus, the story dissects the effects of child abuse on people as they start to age with a haunting, nuanced blade. Not many directors other than Araki could have made this film, definitely not as good or – believe it or not – as tender as him.

Kill List (2011)kill-listAnother of my favourite filmmakers, Ben Wheatley, turns up on this list a couple times. All his flicks are spectacular, in my eyes. Kill List takes the cake for me. Not just for its crime and horror mix n’ match story, but also for the way Wheatley slow burns through the plot. To the very last moment there’s a curiosity, a dark one, about where things are headed. And you’ll never guess where. That’s part of that dark excitement.

In the Bedroom (2001)in-the-bedroomThis Todd Field feature is powerful. So much potent drama involving families, the want for justice – or revenge – and all kinds of other themes. There’s a realistic feel to the people in this film, and the story is so organic that it flows in front of you like you’re hearing someone tell a story. Field is a fine director, and writer. Mainly he’s capable of taking us steady through a weaving set of lives which all make up the life of a small town, where everyone knows each other and what’s happening with everybody else. You won’t ever forget the climax or the resolution of In the Bedroom.

The Devils (1971)the-devilsYet again, Mr. Russell and his excellence returns to the list! This is one of those fabled films, blasphemous and wild in content, based on the true (dramatised, obviously) story of 17th century Roman Catholic priest Urbain Grandier, who was executed for involvement in witchcraft. Alongside Oliver Reed as Grandier is the ever perfect Vanessa Redgrave playing one of the mad nuns accusing the priest of having influenced them with black magic.
Put it this way – there’s a sequence called The Rape of the Christ, and if you can track down the uncut version of the film it’s a proper treat. A devilish good time.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)the-treasure-of-the-sierra-madreIf ever there were a story of greed, this one is king. John Huston is forever one of the greatest directors to have ever lived. There’s so much to love about The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. From its wonderful cinematography courtesy of the magical Ted D. McCord (East of EdenThe Sound of Music; nominated for 3 Oscars), to Huston’s adaptation of B. Traven’s novel, to the fact Huston directed his father Walter alongside Humphrey Bogart.
Today, this movie still stands as relevant. I know that’s said a lot. Just take a cold, hard look at what the film is saying, how it navigates the brutality of greed in the name of the supposed American Dream. Nothing has really changed, only the medium of greed.

Possession (1981)possessionAndrzej Żuławski is one of my other favourite directors. Such an auteur, especially in his niche, which is somewhere between surreal horror and psychological horror, mixing in significant points of history now and then. Possession throws all those things into the bowl, though Żuławski goes into a Lovecraftian mode and takes a staggeringly frightening look at the nature of relationships in terms of how people – men – often wish to possess their mate.
But what happens when someone, or something, else possesses the person you want to possess? Dig in with me.

The Lords of Salem (2012)the-lords-of-salemNot everybody loves Rob Zombie. For me, he’s one of the more fun horror filmmakers post-2000 because he does the whole retro thing well. Not just that, he gets to the savagery and the nastiness many horror fans seem to want, and yet people are so fickle. I do understand, he isn’t for everybody.
The Lords of Salem is a different film out of his catalogue, though. This is a wild look at witchcraft, addiction and recovery, and the imagery is perhaps the best Zombie’s offered to date. This is different than his throwback pieces – still dig them, all the same – giving us another side of artistry than we’ve ever seen out of him. Weird, disturbing, horrific; a wonderful genre mix!

Inside (2007)inside Not many horrors should come with warnings. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s Inside is one that ought to tell pregnant women: turn away! If you’re even squeamish about pregnancy, in any sort of sense, it’s likely best to watch through your fingers, or not watch at all.
When a crazy woman stalks a pregnant lady in her home, trying to break in, trying to kill her, one night becomes a fight for survival in the most visceral way. I won’t say anymore because you have to see it to believe the horror. Bustill and Maury are a fascinating team with a bunch of great titles to their names; they’re also the directors of the upcoming Leatherface many of us horror enthusiasts are dying to see.

I Am the Angel of Death: Pusher III (2005)i-am-the-angel-of-death-pusher-iiiWhile I love the other two films of Refn’s trilogy dearly, this third film might actually be my favourite, and my vote for the best of them. Zlatko Buric returns as the drug dealing gangster/hopeful chef Milo, likely the best performance of his career. There are a lot of things happening. However, watching Milo trying to balance a new sober life, his drug business, his daughter getting married (and him agreeing to cook for everyone) is a mesmerising experience. Refn keeps the gritty, realistic style of the first two movies and brings back characters we’ve seen before. The best of the film is Buric, as he allows a penetrating look into an ageing criminal whose guilt is catching up with him more everyday.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)monty-pythons-the-meaning-of-lifeEven some of Monty Python don’t think this movie was so great. Me? I fucking love it, every last segment, each second. There are too many funny characters to even gloss over in a paragraph. What I dig about this film is the scope: the meaning of life. Might’ve been a lofty goal. There’s something perfectly fitting, though. Watching the Pythons in all their glory navigating every aspect of our daily lives, including drips and drops of hilarious history, is breathtakingly funny. From “Every Sperm is Sacred” and the hymnal “Oh Lord Please Don’t Burn Us”, to John Cleese’s schoolteacher and his wife demonstrating sexual intercourse for the class, to Eric Idle’s “Penis Song” and the grotesque Mr. Creosote, every inch of The Meaning of Life is perfect to me.
Above all else, this Python flick contains my favourite Graham Chapman moment, as he rails to his wife (Idle in drag): “Look at them, bloody Catholics, filling the bloody world up with bloody people they cant afford to bloody feed.” After that his Protestant condom pride is enough to make me choke with laughter. Even before that when Michael Palin’s Catholic dad tells his many kids it’s “medical experiments for the lot of ya” I can’t get through it without a few chuckling tears.

The 400 Blows (1959)the-400-blowsFrançois Truffaut’s got a bunch of excellent films to watch. This one resonates with me because, although it was made in ’59, there are inescapable truths about youth. The 400 Blows takes a close look at how loneliness can become something else, when young people are left to their own devices they do learn things; just not all the right things. Still, watching Antoine struggle with figuring out independence is thrilling. As Sartre said: “Man is condemned to be free, because once thrown into the world he is responsible for everything he does.”

Ravenous (1999)ravenousThis Antonia Bird historical horror film is the stuff of dreams. The cast is outrageously great, the writing is so interesting you won’t want to miss a single moment. The production design, the costumes, the cinematography; all of it so well executed. On top of that is a uniquely odd score from Blur’s Damon Albarn and well versed composer Michael Nyman, you’ll never hear anything like it.
Also, Ravenous provides a unique look at manifest destiny, the desire to conquer, wrapped up inside a bloody cannibal story set not long after the Mexican-American War. Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle shine in two vastly different roles which crash together, providing relentless suspense until the climactic and brutal final scenes.

Sightseers (2012)sightseersMr. Wheatley, a master of many genres. As opposed to the nihilistic (and awesome) Kill List, 2012’s Sightseers is a strange cross of drama, comedy, and very real horror. When an odd couple – Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) – decide to go caravaning for a few days in the country, things take an unexpected, homicidal twist. What starts as a vacation tumbles into a mess of bad timing and even worse decisions after Chris turns out to be quite different than who Tina knew before. But then again, Tina’s not exactly the woman he first met, either.
One of the darkest, funniest bits of comedy in the last decade or more. Wheatley knows how to hit the weirdest notes, no matter what genre he tackles. Check this out when you’re looking for something out of the way.

Festen (1998)festenThis Dogme film is my favourite of the bunch, if pressed to choose. It’s well conceived in the Dogme vision, touching on just about every base they hope to cover. Thomas Vinterberg (originally uncredited as per the Dogme manifesto) breaks through the uncomfortable exterior of a family with hidden secrets. The performance of all actors comes to make this an interesting – and tragic – experience, though it’s Ulrich Thomsen whose shine is brightest. He’s perfect, hauling you directly into his inner life to the point where even while the rest of his family questions his motives the audience feels firmly rooted in his perspective as truth.

Cruising (1980)cruisingThis is my favourite Friedkin film. That’s saying something, because he’s one of those classic masters of cinema in the director’s chair. Cruising is an incredibly intriguing film for a number of reasons. One thing I love is that, in the name of not exploiting the gay community, Friedkin got into a jockstrap and frequented the clubs instead of standing back like someone looking down on the BDSM culture of the story; in all fairness, he was later banned from a couple of the gay clubs, for whatever reason. Also, the screenplay is based on actual murders of gay men happening in the late ’70s. The production and release of the movie were both plagued by protests from the gay community. Personally, I don’t feel Friedkin ever meant anything in this work to feel anti-gay. Rather he wanted to make a movie concerning the gay community simply because of the murders, their impact on gay men, and so on. Either way it’s a twisty psycho-thriller, it’ll get its hook into you.

Halloween (1978)halloweenThe first appearance of Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s horror classic is still to this day, and always will be, a horrifying creeper of a film. Nothing else to say. If you want more, I talk about it at length here.

Thief (1981)thiefMichael Mann’s debut feature Thief was an announcement of a passionate, talented, innovative filmmaker on the scene. He’s made a bunch of quality movies; at the top of his heap for me sits this one and Manhunter. In this James Caan-led flick, featuring Willie Nelson and Tuesday Weld, we get a realistic look at a criminal hoping for a bigger dream and a better life comes up against forces beyond his control. Like a microcosm of the elusive American Dream, Thief depicts what happens when the obsession of a criminal to find that last big score gets in the way of better sense.

Repulsion (1965)repulsionI don’t want to talk about Polanski, because that’ll require a whole other massive article. I can’t deny the power of a few of his films, Repulsion in particular. This is a hypnotic, haunting vision of what happens to a woman after an unnamed trauma in her past; or was there any? Until the end we’re never entirely sure, nor does the film provide us with any actual concrete answers, avoiding exposition at most points. What matters most is the imagery. The one above still passes through my mind ever so often, more than you might imagine. At the centre of the film’s powerful force is Catherine Deneuve in the lead role, taking us through a phantasmagoria of the pain in her mind.

Ichi the Killer (2001)ichi-the-killerTakashi Miike is a twisted man, whom I love dearly as a filmmaker. His adaptation of this manga title works me over, so much so I can’t watch it as much as other movies I dig a ton. That doesn’t change the fact it is a legendary piece of cinema. This is one of the most spot on manga adaptations you’ll find, simply for the fact it doesn’t shy away from painting the walls ridiculously with blood, nor does Miike shy from a bit of semen, either. Real stuff, too. Gross. Nevertheless this story is infinitely interesting and nasty.

Bad Education (2004)bad-educationPedro Almodóvar will go down in history as one of cinema’s best. No doubt in my mind he’s already attained such status. I could’ve chosen several different titles of his for my list – The Skin I Live InTalk to HerMatador, or Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! – but there’s a truly compelling story that Almodóvar tells in Bad Education from which I can never avert my eyes. A courageous central performance out of Gael García Bernal, an actor who’ll likewise be seen as a great from his generation, makes everything even better. Directed to perfection, Bernal acting circles, a screenplay to wow. Just an outright classic.

Black Christmas (1974)black-christmasI find many movies terrifying, and I’m glad I still do after seeing over 4,000 films – lots of them horror. Black Christmas is one that never fails to creep me out. The voice over the phone alone is the stuff of nightmares. A fantastic cast of women each goes up against the terror of an unseen killer. Nothing more I can say except dig into this vicious little slasher.

Dead Ringers (1988)dead-ringersCronenberg is the Canadian Jesus. Just kidding; Jesus isn’t real. But Cronenberg is, and he’s one of the best out of our country. The way he’s made body horror his own genre in a sense is a feat of unimaginable talent. Perhaps one of the eeriest of his works is Dead Ringers, loosely based on a story of identical twin doctor brothers who were found dead together in their apartment. It features Jeremy Irons, legend in his own right, as both brothers, next to Geneviève Bujold as the object of their creepy obsessions. This movie chills me and it’s not all the time I get genuinely unsettled; certain stories linger, this being one. Just like some of the characters, the audience will feel violated. This is Cronenberg’s intention.

A Bittersweet Life (2005)a-bittersweet-lifeJee-woon Kim is a stellar filmmaker, all around; he’s a powerhouse writer and director combo. This is his best film. Don’t get me wrong – I Saw the DevilA Tale of Two SistersThe Quiet Family, they’re all knockout cinema. I love them all.
A Bittersweet Life is a revenge story for the ages. Beautifully captured by Ji-yong Kim, the look will dazzle you. The characters are rich and they aren’t merely a bunch of people dropped into the plot for garnish. Best of all the climax and end are pure thrill. South Korea has plenty of talented filmmakers. You bet your ass Jee-woon Kim is in the lead of that pack.

The Woodsman (2004)the-woodsmanI enjoy difficult cinema. It doesn’t have to be glossy-looking, it doesn’t need to be artsy. It must, however, be well told from a storytelling perspective. One of the most difficult films I’ve ever seen, yet in a way one of the most rewarding, is 2004’s The Woodsman. Kevin Bacon plays the complicated lead as a man who once committed an unforgivable offence, though one for which he’s served time. Afterwards, facing life as a registered sex offender under watch of a crafty detective (played brilliantly by Mos Def in a career best role), Bacon’s character is faced with redemption or regression.
The way this sensitive material is handled, how it’s handled, is heartbreaking and important and yes, even beautiful. There’s no way to forgive people ultimately for certain acts. Problem being we’ve set up a series of institutions, from jails to hospitals (et cetera), in the name of not just housing criminals, but also rehabilitating them, we’ve already accepted the idea of giving them a second chance. This story digs into all sides of the issue at hand, from how a sex offender actively trying to change himself integrates with the local community and at his new job, to how even those who appear willing to accept them have a breaking point. A must see.

Spring (2014)springJustin Benson and Aaron Moorehead are fresh, fun new voices in the horror genre. I don’t want to say too much about Spring, for fear of ruining even the slightest bit of its surprise elements. It’s a great mix of romance and terror. There’s a weird fiction feel, like reading an awesome story somewhere between a romantic tale of adventure and an H.P. Lovecraft short. You won’t soon forget the wildest moments.

The Boxer (1997)the-boxerMy boy Daniel Day-Lewis is on this list a couple times. This is my top pick for his best role. A story of Belfast, the IRA, the human damage of the cause. Jim Sheridan is the right director for the material, too. There’s nothing fancy here, but the lens through which we see different sides of the IRA and the cause they say they’re fighting for is what makes it all worthwhile. Seeing the struggle of a man trying to live his life in spite of his former life nipping at his heels makes for an intense drama, especially with Day-Lewis bringing out the lead character’s soul with an electric performance.

Silkwood (1983)silkwoodI’m a big time Meryl Streep fan, so fuck the Donald.
But in all seriousness, Streep + classic director Mike Nichols + a screenplay from Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen = possibly the best biopic in the history of film. Honestly. Because it’s well made, well acted – including some Cher and Kurt Russell and Fred Ward and Craig T. Nelson and a dash of David Strathairn – and the steely focus is the tragic true tale of Karen Silkwood.
In a day and age where the conversation surrounding heroic whistleblowers is hotter than ever, with Snowden and Chelsea Manning and more, Silkwood requires a revisit.

Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989)elephantUp there with the likes of Ken Loach is Alan Clarke in dissecting socioeconomic spaces other filmmakers don’t bother to go. There are a few worthy entries in Clarke’s filmography. None better than Elephant.
On the surface this is a very basic short film, less than 40 minutes in length. You see a series of killings. Some short, quick like a shot in the night. Others are more intricate, more difficult. What Clarke does is present the ‘elephant in the room’ which were The Troubles and all the violence in Northern Ireland. The anonymity of the people in the film, characters killed without any development whatsoever, stand in for all the nameless who’ve died in the name of the cause. Another important bit of cinema, not to be missed or dismissed.

Sauna (2008)saunaThis Finnish historical horror is a total mindblower. Within a story about borders being drawn after a two decades long war between Russia and Sweden, director Antti-Jussi Annila weaves haunted imagery and creates an atmospheric period piece that defies explanation. There’s not just spooky horror, there is a slice of history, from the border drawing to early eyeglasses it’s fascinating to watch. Trust me, if you go in with only this little bit of knowledge it’ll prove a rewarding horror experience.

Left Bank (2008)left-bankI can’t say a lot without ruining this eccentric horror. Or is it a horror?
You’ll have to see for yourself. If you want to read a detailed review and be spoiled, head over here.

Beauty (2011)beautyRepressed sexuality is human dynamite. It is dangerous and even life threatening. This 2011 drama dissects the life of a man who exists entirely in the closet, unable or unwilling to let himself come out. He meets with other men in a group for secret sex. He’s a bit of a racist, too. He also lusts after a college-age young man, the son of a friend, which eventually tears open the repression under which he’s lived so long.
Beauty is are hard one to suffer. Make it through the film and there’s much to learn, in my opinion. The road may be hard, but the lessons understood are why the journey’s necessary.

Trainspotting (1996)trainspottingDanny Boyle’s a firecracker full of talent. The reason I love Trainspotting so much is due to the fact I was once addicted to drugs; not heroin, still hardcore addicted. I was also an alcoholic many years. Some of the depths of despair, between ridiculousness and dead seriousness, in the characters is recognisable when you’ve spent time around junkies, of any sort. The acting is impeccable, the story sobering. Irvine Welsh’s novel was tough to get through because of his use of Scottish slang. Once you break through that, similar to A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, it’s a treat. Boyle brings so much of the enjoyable qualities in the book to screen, and most of all makes the cast of often times pathetic, yet marvellous in their own sense, characters leap off the screen with the help of solid performances.

Alien (1979)alienAny horror and science fiction cinema fans who don’t love Ridley Scott’s Alien, to my mind, are utterly insane. I just don’t get it. There’s such terror, such quietly horrifying material that it makes no sense why people wouldn’t find it effective. There’s not much more I can say, other than that I could watch this at any given moment. It’s one of the first movies that made me fall in love with practical special effects work and set design because of its ingenuity in both costumes, the effects, and the many cool sets which Scott frames perfectly in this dark, gorgeous classic.

The Lobster (2016)the-lobsterA dark comedy and dystopian vision of human relationships in the all too near future. Yorgos Lanthimos, a peculiar director and writer. This is my favourite of his stuff, so far, though that may change when he and Colin Farrell get together again. This takes some work to understand fully, but if you let the weirdness flow and take it in one scene at a time, The Lobster proves rewarding.

The Godfather (1972)the-godfatherI love Coppola’s The Godfather for different reasons than most of the reviews I’ve ever seen. Mainly, it’s because Coppola and Mario Puzo wrote a perfect screenplay out of Puzo’s own remarkably mediocre novel. I read the book once, years ago, while out in the middle of the woods in a cabin, I remember it vividly. There’s a fair degree of nasty, lengthily described sex, which I found strange. But it’s just as a whole, the novel didn’t catch me, I finished it only to finish what I started. Coppola uses all his talent to make this an undisputed classic. Everything from performances to the locations to the music and cinematography is constructed with great care. And it shows, every inch of the way.

Prisoners (2013)prisonersAn intricately written mystery-thriller. I love Denis Villeneuve and here he proves how thrilling he can get, with a masterful script from Aaron Guzikowski. Hugh Jackman sears the screen like a burst of fire, actually scary at points. Jake Gyllenhaal transforms into Dt. Loki with every nuance his mind can manage. Viola Davis and Terrence Howard play a couple at the end of their rope, yet trying not to fall over the edge.
There’s too many things to love about this dark film. Prisoners, when first released, played on my Blu ray player about five times in one week.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Blu-ray ScreenshotOne of the most genuinely perfect crime-thrillers that will ever grace the screen. Ever. Also, a unique film in the ’90s with a heavily feminine perspective under the nasty bits of serial killer horror out of Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter.
In the meantime, check out my review here, as well as a piece I wrote for Film Inquiry.

Se7en (1995)se7enYou’d be hard pressed to find another serial killer flick as horrific as David Fincher’s Se7en. The dark, moody cinematography. A brutal screenplay from Andrew Kevin Walker. One surprising killer reveal, as well as two fabulous performances out of Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. There’s a sick thrill of watching this movie, each time I see it. In an unnamed, rainy city, Pitt and Freeman’s two detectives are thrust into solving a series of murders which defy the imagination. I vote the ending as one of the top ten endings of any film in history.

Black Swan (2010)black-swanNatalie Portman gives a performance for the ages in this Darren Aronofsky work of magic. The film involves themes of womanhood, and the transition of a girl to a woman, sexual awakening, obsession. There are unforgettable images, such as the one above, and a lot more.
What Aronofsky does so well is get inside the mind, which he does in every one of his efforts, even Noah. He gets into the head of his characters, in the best of moments bringing the audience right inside with them. Black Swan is beautiful, terrifying, exasperating. It is many, many things, all of them of the highest excellence. Mix ballet, body horror, psychological horror, you’ve got a fraction of what this movie offers.

Taxi Driver (1976)taxi-driverI mean, what else can I say? Scorsese, baby.
My full review. Here’s a piece I wrote for Film Inquiry comparing Taxi Driver‘s depiction of PTSD and that of Alice Winocour’s Disorder. Tuck in!

Mystic River (2003)mystic-riverClint Eastwood has shit political opinions. His movies? Aside from that Chris Kyle masturbatory fantasy, they’re incredible. He’s a solid director. Mystic River, an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel of the same name, is a subtly soul crushing drama and mystery. The story concerns a group of kids, one of whom was abducted at a young age by predators, who become adults and find their lives intersecting all over again.
This is like a Greek tragedy set in contemporary Boston. If you’ve not seen it, do yourself a favour. The trio of performances at the centre – Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon – all deserve the credit they’ve received, and more. So do the smaller performances from Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Kevin Chapmna, and Laurence Fishburne. Just a powerfully directed and acted movie, one I can watch a couple times a month and it never tires, every bit as potent as the first time I saw it.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)eyes-wide-shutNot everybody was sold on the final film of master auteur Stanley Kubrick. For me, it reached a strange place inside, one that partly touches on the emotion of love and also on the shadows of the dark nature within human beings. There’s all the recognisable traits of a Kubrick flick – massive tracking shots, visual symmetry, a proper use of fitting music. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise do well as the couple whose marital issues set off the plot’s events, proving they’ve each got the acting chops to carry such material. You may not get it right away, but trust me: there is a concrete plot, the story flows like a curious dream. Don’t get lost and you’ll figure it out. It’s not as elusive as some make it seem.

Amadeus (1984)amadeusMilos Forman has done great things. None better than Amadeus. Based on Peter Shaffer’s original stage play, this story about Mozart and supposed secret rival Antonio Salieri is riveting in its scope. You can never take your eyes off the screen. Even if manage to, the music will sweep you back. Tom Hulce does well bringing Mozart to the screen, as does F. Murray Abraham with his depiction of Salieri. If you don’t like classical music, this may not be your thing. Yet I feel there’s something universal in this story that’s capable of touching anybody. Give it a shot. If anything, the look and sounds and the production, it’s all enough to keep anybody interested.

The Game (1997)the-gameThis is my vote for Fincher’s best. It’ll drop you down the rabbit hole, pull you out again. Then toss you back down for another ride. Michael Douglas carries this with ease in a fantastic role, as a man who has everything is given a strange birthday present by his wayward brother (a solid Sean Penn performance) – an immersive experience, a game. Except you don’t ever know when it’s started, really. It begins out of nowhere. And Fincher will fuck your brain, too. Hard.

Terminator (1984)terminatorArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton are perfection here, as is Michael Biehn. This is one of those action classics that’s nowhere near overrated, and its many legions of fans, including myself, have made sure it won’t ever be underappreciated.
Terminator is such an exciting piece of sci-fi and action put together. Hamilton is so good, she’s really one of the anchors of it all, even if Arnold and Biehn are rushing around beside her. The effects, the writing, and every aspect puts other films of its kind to shame. Every time I put this on I almost forget how damn fine of a film James Cameron and co-writer Gale Anne Hurd gave us.
We’re not worthy!

Batman (1989)batmanBest Batman. Period.

Magnolia (1999)magnoliaPaul Thomas Anderson is one of his generation’s greats. He is fantastic. Again in Magnolia he channels the spirit of his mentor Robert Altman, weaving together a bunch of characters from all walks of life into a serendipitous, epic-feeling story crossing the San Fernando Valley.
The performances are the best part. Then there’s the editing and Anderson’s wonderfully exhilarating style that keeps ever segment of the film fresh. Drop in a strange though fitting musical moment, a sky of falling frogs, you’ve got yourself a gem from the tail end of the ’90s.

 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)close-encounters-of-the-third-kindI saw other Spielberg movies before seeing this one. Most of his work is just magical stuff. This is my favourite of his, simply because of my interest in life outside of Earth, the possibilities of what’s out there in the rest of the universe, et cetera. There’s a palpable feel of reality mixed into the science fiction, and there’s a humanist message to this idea of aliens coming to our planet, our connection with them. Many things about Close Encounters of the Third Kind to love, dearly.

U Turn (1997)u-turnI’m a huge fan of Oliver Stone. U Turn is weird, surreal, a different type of flick for him to handle. Stone churns out this weird bit of Americana with the help of a great screenplay by John Ridley, based on his own book. Along with a cast of colourful characters. Penn gives a paranoid performance to make his character feel as desperate as the situation into which he tumbles out in a desolate desert in a forgotten corner of the country.

Jackie Brown (1997)jackie-brownNot a typical pick for Tarantino’s best, this Elmore Leonard adaptation (from his novel Rum Punch) contains some of my favourite characters he’s brought to screen, namely Jackie herself (Pam Grier), Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), and Louis Gara (Robert De Niro). But everyone’s good.
The dialogue’s slick, the comedy is both outright hilarious and darkly comedic. A dash or two of violence. Most of all I love the twisting, turning plot that gets better and better right to the finish.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)the-blair-witch-projectIf you want my full opinion, click here.
This is a horror I’ll never forget. I got it on VHS soon as it was released, then watched it to death. Still scares the life out of me; the end does my head in bad.

Vertigo (1958)vertigoHitchcock was a master. Vertigo captures a strange mood and the atmosphere throughout is one of unease, as we navigate a retired detective’s newfound obsession with a woman he’s meant to watch, keeping an eye on her for the fearful husband believing his wife is maybe suicidal. What follows is another trip into the rabbit hole, like many of my favourite psychological thrillers. Not only is the story and its plot enough to grab you, Hitchcock provides a handful of visuals that are forever iconic, such as that monumental shot of the spiralling staircase; just one of a few.

Brazil (1985)brazilPythonite Terry Gilliam made a cracking dsytopian picture with Brazil – a movie I remember seeing late in the afternoon one day as a teenager, on Showcase here in Canada. I only caught the last half hour or so, which is strange enough, let alone when you have no context.
Years later I tracked it down from vague memories of strange Asian-faced masks, a coffin, a vast and dilapidated building with a stage at the center where a man is held in a modified dentist’s chair. I scooped up the Criterion Collection DVD, coming with its several alternate cuts and a backload of exciting features, commentary, so on.
This is a dark and brutally satirical look at a future in which bureaucracy has buried us all.
Here’s my review.

Menace II Society (1993)menace-ii-societyA terrifying look at the lives of young men growing up in the Watts projects, suffocated by their desire to be something and their lack of resources (not their capabilities). Caine (Tyrin Turner) and O-Dog (Larenz Tate) are two guys that get hauled into the drugs lifestyle, the type of living where every corner is a possible death sentence, and the next bullet is only a block away.
What fascinated me most is to see the lives of these men depicted in such a way that’s realistic, honest. Although it’s rough and disturbing more often than that, Menace II Society shows us the bittersweet side of Caine’s experience when he finally tries getting away from the gangs, the drugs, hoping to start a new life.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)the-life-aquatic-with-steve-zissouLots of good Wes Anderson movies, I pretty much enjoy his whole body of work.
But a special quality of comedy exists in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Every bit of Anderson’s stuff is quirky, with its own unique flare. This film has so much to offer. A central, hilarious Bill Murray performance, amongst a cast of equally funny characters played by a group of stellar actors from Cate Blanchett and Anjelica Huston to Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe, to name but a few.
Check this out, don’t read about it. Let its strangeness and its dry humour surprise you as Anderson takes you through another one of his microcosms of odd lives.

This is Spinal Tap (1984)THIS IS SPINAL TAPThe team of Rob Reiner as director, plus Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer is comedic gold standard. There are too many funny lines to even begin to mention.
Probably my personal choice for funniest scene is when Nigel (Guest) is taking about the sustain and he goes on and on about how good it is, just absolutely slays me.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)leaving-las-vegasSay whatever you will about Nicolas Cage, he gave a huge performance for Mike Figgis in this film. It’s a horribly depressing piece of work, yet there’s something liberating in it; definitely part of that is Cage’s unleashed spirit. He and Elisabeth Shue are good together. Head into this one with an open mind. Sure, it’s grim, but not every inch of it’s so dark. There is a gorgeous human heart driving Leaving Las Vegas.

Hellraiser (1987)hellraiserI’ve always read lots of Clive Barker, ever since I was a kid and mom let me read him + Stephen King. There are many great Barker short stories, novels, et cetera. Hellraiser is based on his own novella The Hellbound Heart, and he brings every last ounce of terror that his regular writing usually holds.
There are many things at play in this horror film, it isn’t only an excuse to show off blood and gore and depravity. No, it’s about the nature of sin, what it might mean in its true context. Regardless of anything else, Barker makes all that brutal horror exciting, weaving a mythology involving the dreaded Cenobites into 90-odd minutes of pure fear.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)cool-hand-lukeWhat we have here is a failure to communicate
Where does the human spirit lie? Where does freedom come from, and can it exist under any conditions? Paul Newman’s Luke takes authority to the limit in this undisputed classic, directed with grace by Stuart Rosenberg (BrubakerThe Pope of Greenwich Village). There’s heaps of iconic material in this single film. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure, snatch up a copy of this prison film that’ll leave you smiling at the spirit of a rebel like ole Luke.

Network (1976)networkChayefsky’s prescient screenplay for Network might be the best in film history, in my humble opinion. Because even in ’76, when media was already working its claws into the American psyche and not in the right way, he knew as a writer what was happening, and that it would only get worse.
One scene later in the film featuring Ned Beatty – an extremely brief role which netted him a Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Award nomination – sort of jabs at both sides, not only the one Chayefsky rails against most of the film. You’ll know what I mean when you see it (or remember it if you already have). Peter Finch won the first posthumous acting award at the Oscars for his role; so it should’ve been. He lights your mind on fire as the prophetic suicide case who transforms from a man at the end of his wits into a TV prophet on during prime time. And you can’t forget the subplot involving Faye Dunaway’s character venturing into business with rebel groups, exploiting their causes purely for ratings without care for them or what their causes end up becoming in the end.
So much going on that it’s amazing how coherent the entire thing plays. A pure classic in every sense of the word. Amazing filmmaking, Sidney Lumet in his finest hour.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)who-framed-roger-rabbitMy full review of this fun and thematic film can be found here.
Always one of the best. Better than it’s ever gotten credit for being, more heart and innovation than ten movies combined.

Manhunter (1986)manhunterThe visionary aesthetics of Mann, the acting power of William Petersen and Tom Noonan and Brian Cox and Joan Allen, the eeriness of Thomas Harris’ book Red Dragon.
What else is there to want, to need? Mann does great work with this adaptation. Not my favourite of the Harris adaptations, though close. Certainly at the top of my list of Mann’s best. The fever dream qualities of certain sequences, the neon and the shadows. This is just plain wonderful ’80s cinema.
All my Thomas Harris-related stuff is located here.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)the-texas-chain-saw-massacreTobe Hooper will, for eternity, be a scary fucking dude.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, while having a title that isn’t spelled correctly, is the scariest thing I’ve ever witnessed. To this day, that’s not changed. I saw this for the first time about 18 years ago, as of this writing. I’ve seen tons and tons and tons of horror since, yet nothing will top Hooper’s nightmarish backcountry tale.
The first appearance of Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is a shock. Once the family takes Sally (Marilyn Burns) inside their decrepit backwoods, two-story house, the shock keeps working you over until a numbness creeps in. Never does the terror stop. And when it’s all over, like the sole remaining character of the massacre, you might even want to laugh the fear away, too.

Blue Ruin (2013)blue-ruinEver wanted to see a revenge movie starring a character who’s not well acquainted with guns, or violence, or revenge?
Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin is a story of vengeance at all costs. We don’t see the Hollywood version of a revenge thriller. Rather, Saulnier offers an alternative look at a situation we’ve seen time and time again. Like his latest film Green Room, Saulnier uses Blue Ruin to create a heavy load of tension, letting it unravel in a messy, savage way that’s as unexpected as it is satisfying.

The Piano Teacher (2001)the-piano-teacherNever satisfied unless the material he works with is challenging, Haneke takes his reluctant though willing viewer into the hidden masochistic proclivities of a piano teacher (Isabelle Huppert) who lives a lonely life with her mother at home.
There’s no way to describe what happens in the film without ruining the plot. You may want to turn it off halfway through. If so, fight that instinct. Hupper is always a talent to watch, here she unleashes herself in an emotional tour-de-force that’ll leave your head spinning. When you get to the end there may also be a feeling of the film having really gone nowhere. Yet if you know Haneke, this is simply not the case. So dig in deep, listen, watch closely. There isn’t a big twist or reveal or hidden meaning here like some of Haneke’s work. There’s a penetrating character study of a woman on the fringe, yet one who seems to sit in the middle of normality; often the case with those who hold sexual impulses below the surface. And sometimes those things bubble up from under the surface in threatening ways.

Life of Brian (1979)monty-pythons-life-of-brianFor a review, jump over here.
Python are the perfect group of comedians to take on a searing religious satire. They not only make you laugh, they make fucking excellent points.

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)the-devils-rejectsZombie’s latest, 31, is pure brutality, and I dig that. The Devil’s Rejects is both brutal and full of interesting characters; the latter is something his newest movie lacks at certain points.
What I love here is that House of 1,000 Corpses is continued on in a more gritty, even more realistic sense.
We see the Firefly family move out into the world after their ranch is raided. Now, Baby, Otis, and their father Captain Spaulding go on the road trying to evade the authorities. In their wake they leave depraved murder and mayhem, every step of the way.

Mommy (2014)mommyXavier Dolan is a talented young man, younger than myself and he has a string of quality cinema under his belt already. Mommy is another riveting, emotional piece of work, examining a mother-son relationship plagued with issues.
Best of all, Dolan’s empathetic storytelling combines with his use of a 1:1 aspect ratio, very rare particularly for a feature film – these elements make the movie a unique experience, as the ratio forces us into closer quarters with the characters, always feeling directly in their face even without a close-up shot. I continually love Dolan’s films and this one is his best yet.

This is England (2006)this-is-englandI always said it’s a god damn shame the shitty white nationalists appropriated the skinhead subculture for its own use, making skinheads forever, sadly, synonymous with the idea of neo-Nazis and other white hate groups.
This is England is a study of socioeconomic groups left behind, and how they then become susceptible to the influence of hatred. Stephen Graham is electrifying in his role as Combo, the fierce white nationalist who corrals a bunch of people into his dangerous ideology. He’s also a man not totally convinced in his own view of the world. When he takes a young boy under his wing, a devastating act will make him question whether or not it’s worth continuing with so much hate in his heart.
The story is actually focused mostly on the young boy, played by the charming and confident Thomas Turgoose. Yet Combo is a massive part of everything important that happens.

Little Children (2006)little-childrenHow often can we all fall in love with Kate Winslet? How many times can one develop a man crush on Patrick Wilson? Who the fuck knows.
What I do know is that Little Children, another great feat by director Todd Field, will make you feel a gamut of emotions, ranging from disgust to fear to love and everything else in between. An Atlman or Anderson-like cast of characters takes us through the walks of life of many in a small neighbourhood. Go in blind, drink in the heavy drama.
Also, Jackie Earle Haley’s greatest work. Until the end of time.

Solyaris (1972)solyarisAndrei Tarkovsky is another giant of cinema, an auteur. This is his most compelling work, for me personally. It’s the one I resonate with most. Because humanist science fiction is my favourite type of science fiction, stuff where at the heart of the story lies a veritable human element. Something that reaffirms our soul. There’s a haunting quality about Solyaris, one that isn’t easy to shake.

Memories of Murder (2003)memories-of-murderDark. Mysterious. Based on a real serial killer case. Thrilling. Even funny in specific scenes.
This Joon-ho Bong feature is one I’ll never forget, no matter how long I go between viewings. Memories of Murder is spooky in such a realistic manner, it takes you through one of the single most frustrating cases in the history of South Korea. The performances will keep you hooked, and not a single second of film is wasted. Style and substance combined.

Role Models (2008)role-modelsI’m still not totally sure what it is exactly that kills me about this comedy. Both Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott do make me laugh, same goes for Jane Lynch. Bobb’e J. Thompson, too. But there’s an inexplicable quality that I wish I knew how to articulate.
Role Models is so fun, to me, because unlike other comedies about men who are either immature or just plain terrible boyfriends, it doesn’t condescend to women. A lesser film might have a more stereotypical nagging woman in the main character’s life, which is nonsense. Here, you can wholly understand why a woman wouldn’t want Rudd’s character around. He’s a childish and unhappy man, the latter most of all. So from there, it really does become a redemption story, and the lead isn’t entirely unlikable like the same types in other similar flicks. We want to see him do better, not just for laughs but because of an emotional connect.
So I guess that’s why I love the movie. It has a genuine feeling, instead of hilarity for hilarity’s sake. That’s not always bad. Sometimes disingenuous. Role Models comes off as real, even at its most outrageous. Herein lies the fun.
I wanna rock and roll all niiight, and part of every day.”

In the Name of the Father (1993)in-the-name-of-the-fatherPerhaps because of my Irish roots I often gravitate towards dramas and thrillers in a big way when they involve the IRA and the Troubles, so on. Then again, injustice and inequality and any of these concepts are things I’m interested in.
But you put Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson, and Jim Sheridan together, a screenplay based on Gerry Conlon’s book Proved Innocent, this will compel anybody with sense to watch.
The performances, Day-Lewis above all, are so powerful that it will rock you. In terms of DDL, this is what I’d consider his second best performance – behind his best in The Boxer and just in front of what I consider his third best, Plainview in There Will Be Blood. See it, relish every moment of him and Postlethwaite as father and son. Revel in the strength of the human spirit, the bond of family, the conviction of one man to stay the course of truth at all costs.

You’re Next (2013)youre-nextI love Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett as a director-writer team. They’re interesting filmmakers together, bringing us new takes on genres with their fresh, inventive eyes. Everybody who likes slasher horror always wants something different. My feeling is, You’re Next took home invasion horror and turned the sub-genre on its head. Not that the twist isn’t foreseeable by those with the smarts. Not to say it’s the bloodiest thing you’ll ever see. Simply put, Wingard and Barrett give us good kills, dark comedy, fun characters and in particular one kick ass female lead to take us through to the vicious end.

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)dead-mans-shoesThe most bleak revenge thriller ever conceived, this Shane Meadows-Paddy Considine collaboration hits all the right, if not horrifically dark notes. Without spoiling any of the plot, Dead Man’s Shoes takes you along as a man returns home from the army and plans on visiting those who’ve hurt someone close to him. After that, all bets are off. Blunt and realistic, Meadows haymakers the viewer until there’s nothing left to do but submit to the onslaught of raw, vengeful violence.

Midnight Cowboy (1969)midnight-cowboyIm walkinhere!”
Speaking of bleak, the story of Joe Buck (Jon Voight before descending into Republican madness) and Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman showing early on that he’s a top notch character actor) in the big city is a heartbreaking venture. There’s a disturbing, repressed portion of Joe that lingers throughout the whole story. You can never escape it, just like Joe who runs anywhere and everywhere to try and do so. A movie so iconic that even Seinfeld parodied its final scene. While Jerry and Kramer make it funny, Joe and Ratso leave you with an empty, terrible feeling in your gut, as the ever elusive American Dream hovers just out of reach once more.

Sexy Beast (2000)sexy-beastJonathan Glazer’s 2000 crime film starring Ben Kinglsey and Ray Winstone is in a league all on its own. There are some dreamy scenes peppered in amongst the intensity of its many scenes featuring Kingsley’s gangster of savage proportions. Also featuring Ian McShane and Amanda Redman, Sexy Beast has all of the artsy qualities you might find in an indie flick, in addition to a solid story about criminals; some of whom hope for more in their lives, some of whom wallow in their bestial nature.

Vampyr (1932)vampyrCarl Th. Dreyer made several masterpieces, including The Passion of Joan of Arc and Day of Wrath. Ahead of those in my books is the fantastical, ghostly Vampyr. I love the use of light and shadow in old movies because it was less an artistic ideal, more of a way for filmmakers to show off their genius by manipulating the only elements they had at their disposal. Not to bash modern filmmakers who’ve had their choice of colour v. black-and-white for many, many years.
What Dreyer does with this classic piece of horror is create an atmospheric landscape of shadow which is like a waking nightmare. The Criterion Edition comes with the screenplay, as well as other great features. I recommend it for any film lovers, the transfer is fucking beautiful work. Makes Dreyer look even better, as all the expert directorial work he did shows up in high definition glory.
Note: I believe Criterion does good work most of all due to the fact they make old films more accessible for younger audiences, and of course the die hard film lovers. But they do a service to those who want to see these landmark films and can only come across bad copies that survived the years.

Marathon Man (1976)marathon-manJohn Schlesinger is a director whose career gave us a handful of wonderful movies. The best of those being, while in stiff competition, Marathon Man. Featuring Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier, even a bit of Roy Scheider, this is an acting clinic. It’s likewise an exercise in tension. Schlesinger knows how to really take you to the limit, and the excitement never actually lets up. To say much of the plot is to spoil your fun. Although it’s worth noting this has stolen diamonds, an ex-Nazi, a government agent gone rogue, Hoffman being a charming bastard, in combination with directing, editing, and writing of the highest calibre.

Synecdoche, New York (2008)synecdoche-new-yorkI can’t begin to explain anything about this movie for you. To see is to understand, even then you might not. Took me a couple viewings before I knew I really enjoyed the film, then a few more until I feel like I understood what director-writer Charlie Kaufman was aiming towards. Centred on a theatre director struggling with work, Philip Seymour Hoffman (rest his beautiful soul) gives one of his best performances as Kaufman weaves another strange world around him. Existential questions everywhere, the movie deals in themes of art v. life, the weight of loss, on top of many further ideas. And that’s the tip of the iceberg, honestly. A visual stunning and emotionally gripping bit of drama, garnished with dark comedy.

Silver Tongues (2011)silver-tonguesA pair of lovers escalate a series of thrill seeking games to a dangerous point. Beyond that description, my lips are sealed.
Find this film. Watch. Lee Tergesen and Enid Graham show up for life altering performances. A relatively unknown drama, this one caught me off guard. The chemistry between the two leads is unreal, to the point you’ll want more after the credits roll. As far as finales go, Silver Tongues left me in a state of euphoria and simultaneously I felt walloped by the heaviness of what I’d just witnessed. You won’t see this one coming, neither first nor last.

Soft for Digging (2001)soft-for-diggingJ.T. Petty has since gone on to other things, bigger films. It’s his 2001 feature Soft for Digging which will never stray far from my darkest thoughts. A simple plot of a man looking for his cat in the woods and witnessing a murder spirals into something out of this world. The story is unique, which I love. The visuals of Petty’s spooky little plot are imprinted on my brain. Regardless of how you feel about the screenplay, those images are likely to burrow deep and settle in your unconscious, waiting to pop up again one day when you least expect. It stays with you, like the main character’s own experience.

Clean, Shaven (1993)clean-shavenDepictions of mental illness are almost always flawed. I can’t say the same for those in the films of Lodge H. Kerrigan. This is a disturbing, genuine, deep look at a young man with schizophrenia, whose struggle to get his daughter back from the family by whom she was adopted is tough to endure.
Kerrigan never condescends, he never tries to make his main character look bad. He simply shows the depths of the mental affliction through which he suffers. Peter Greene cements himself as a great actor, despite his many roles he never got as big as he should have; as evidenced by his career making performance in Clean, Shaven. If it weren’t for him, and Kerrigan’s tact, this might feel like an exploitative story. It isn’t, not even close. You’ll feel how real it gets almost immediately.

A Horrible Way to Die (2010)a-horrible-way-to-dieI love some films people actively hate. One of which is the Wingard-Barrett serial killer flick, A Horrible Way to Die. A frequent collaborator actor A.J. Bowen stars as the madman, and multi-talented Amy Seimetz as his ex-wife trying to move on after he’s put in prison.
This might feel like a typical movie, or just another slice and dice effort. The handheld camerawork, the inventive story with its jaw dropping twist, the chilling ease with which Bowen’s killer moves through the world; these are bits of the film’s greatness. Lots will talk shit about this one. That’s fine. Doesn’t change its ass kicking qualities. A slow burning, violent, human piece of serial killer horror.

Down to the Bone (2004)down-to-the-boneYou must see this Vera Farmiga-led, Debra Granki-directed story of a woman on the edge. I don’t want to reveal any more. This is a tale of woe, though one not totally devoid of hope. Farmiga shines in a role that isn’t easy, not because it’s so tough but because it’s a character we’ve seen so many times before. She brings out the best of the screenplay, allowing us a window into a woman juggling the weight of life all on her shoulders, trying to get by and barely able. Testament to the power of humans, both to overcome and to bury themselves in pain.

Race with the Devil (1975)race-with-the-devilSatanists. An RV attacked by a cult. Warren Oates and Peter Fonda. Guns.
Need more? If so, you need to look elsewhere. Race with the Devil is a thrilling slice of action mixed with horror. Enjoy!

A Bay of Blood (1971)a-bay-of-bloodMario Bava, one of the masters of gorgeously disturbing horror. This 1971 mystery is the precursor to slashers like Friday the 13th and its sequels, as well as other movies of its type. The plot concerns an heiress killed by her husband, devolving into a murderous rampage as people try to get their hands on the inheritance left behind for themselves. A shocking, nasty, glorious horror classic that won’t soon lose its impact, if ever.

The Selfish Giant (2013)the-selfish-giantInspired by the Oscar Wilde story of the same name, The Selfish Giant is a look at two boys who want to make money in their rural, working class little town, so they get involved with a criminal and local scrap dealer.
I don’t want to spoil the plot. This is directed with amazing depth, and the tragedy which eventually boils over feels like something you’d easily see in a small place. Also, you’ll revel in the performances of the young kids, as they prove you don’t have to be an adult or even a young adult to wow with a soul baring human performance.

Big Bad Wolves (2013)big-bad-wolvesTo the last minute, you’ll stay wondering: is this man evil?
That is all. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Revenge has never been so intriguing or darkly funny as in this gem out of Israel, another Tarantino recommendation I’m glad I took seriously.

Angst (1983)angstThis 1983 shocker, based on real life killer Werner Kniesek, is viscerally powerful, if not one of the most disturbing horror movies ever made. Hands down. Inside the gore and the depraved murder are impressive use of film techniques, inventive camerawork (from Academy Award winner Zbigniew Rybczyński). You literally go inside the headspace of the horrific bastard you follow through a couple days of carnage.
Want more? An in-depth review with spoilers, here for your (dis)pleasure.

Rolling Thunder (1977)rolling-thunderI’d see anything if Paul Schrader’s name is on it. Considering his recent Dog Eat Dog and his atrocious Bret Easton Ellis-penned The Canyons, sometimes it’s not great. Despite a couple misfires there’s a compelling aspect to Schrader, he always gets to the dark side of humanity.
1977’s Rolling Thunder was written by Schrader, directed by John Flynn (The OutfitBrainscan), starring a slick William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones in one of his first few film roles. A unique war story come home, as Devane’s Major Charles Rane and his family are assaulted, robbed one evening. Afterwards his wife and son are dead. His hand mangled after being stuffed into the garbage disposal. Major Rane recruits his army buddy Johnny Vohden (Jones), and they head off to find some vengeance.
A nasty, brutish piece of exploitation cinema that’s not simply a bunch of violence, it has plenty to say.

Cure (1997)cureUnrelated to the other fascinating director of the same name, Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a special talent. One of his more recent films, Creepy, was solid. His 2001 horror-science fiction hybrid Kairo eventually got an American remake when the trend got big (original is definitely better). Point being, Kurosawa has several great movies.
Cure has haunted me for years. I saw it in 2003 while at film school. Ever since I’ve had several scenes stuck in my mind, little bits of the dialogue. This is a favourite of mine, yes, but I’d consider it objectively one of the best films of any I’ve seen. The pacing, the suspense, its unnerving story about a series of murders – Xs carved into the victims’ skin, though the killer different every time; there’s nothing about this film that disappoints. The way Kurosawa lets us see everything, watching from a distance as the events unfold, is fascinating to me.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)the-killing-of-a-chinese-bookieThere’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that John Cassavetes shaped independent film. He was keen at finding the humanity in every situation, not just the grandiose, Hollywood-type stuff that gets pumped out of studios constantly (not saying all that’s bad, at all). He looked into the everyday lives of men and women, as if they were people he knew personally.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie means a lot of things. To Cassavetes it was an allegory for his own struggle as an artist. To me, it’s a thrilling, artistic bit of crime cinema about a man caught between a rock and a hard place.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)lets-scare-jessica-to-deathI say it so much, this time I’m sticking right to it: not ruining anything.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a haunting movie in the eeriest sense of the word. A slow burning bit of Gothic horror for which I am extremely grateful.

Affliction (1997)afflictionSchrader’s back! Writing and directing, as he should.
His screenplay is based on a Russell Banks novel, also the author of The Sweet Hereafter (an amazing film). Affliction is some of the best from the ’90s. It’s a gritty rural story of a sheriff in New Hampshire whose demons haunt him, just as his abusive father does in his still living never ending rage. One thing piles on top of another, and another, and another, until the poor sheriff is left with not many options left except either go insane or keep going against the grain.

Black Sunday (1960)black-sundayIf you need Gothic horror, or maybe you just want to see one of the best horror films ever made, Mario Bava has you covered. Black Sunday plays like a story off the page, something you’d find in a dusty old tome at the library, in the creepy part.
See it. I won’t say a word. Bava’s film is perfect.

Rome, Open City (1945)Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, Italy 1945, 100 mins)There’s a special quality to this Roberto Rossellini film. Filmed in a still beaten up Rome, a year after Allies ran the Nazis out, Rossellini used this to make one of the early and greatest examples of neorealist cinema.
Rome, Open City isn’t what you’d expect, or maybe it is at times. This is another film ending that won’t ever be forgotten. The neorealism focusing on the fear of the Roman people is compounded by the final moments. A powerful movie.

The Swimmer (1968)the-swimmerFrank Perry’s adaptation of the short story by John Cheever, starring Burt Lancaster (my favourite of his performances) as Ned Merrill is a classic American film. On the surface, you’d think there’s no way to turn a story this short, though a great one at that, into 95 minute film. But the symbolism of Cheever turns into a surreal journey for Ned in the medium of film. What was already a spectacular story transforms into a cinematic tale of decadence and decay in the upper classes of American society.
I did an extensive piece on the film for Film Inquiry here.

13 Tzameti (2005)13-tzametiBeneath the threatening exterior of 13 Tzameti is a parable, about how the lower class and immigrants and those less fortunate are pushed to insane extremes in order to survive, how the promise of a fortune at any costs can lure vulnerable people into horrible situations. Or, is it just a story about a depraved game promising a huge payout?
You decide. Let me know.

Noroi: The Curse (2005)noroi-the-curseThis has my vote for best found footage horror. Scares the life out of me, every damn time.
Crossing together the lives of several people, each haunted in their own way by a malevolent spirit, a documentary filmmaker tracks down a woman supposedly cursed by a Japanese demon. And what he finds is far more horrific than anything he anticipated.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)bad-day-at-black-rockJohn Sturges’ 1955 crime-mystery was important upon release, important again in today’s political landscape 2017 and beyond. A man with one hand arrives in Black Rock, immediately getting the cold shoulder from the various locals, all of whom have something to hide. When the one-handed man makes clear he’s looking for a friend, a Japanese-American farmer, the locals are even more intent on icing him out. Whether with words or by force. This movie’s honestly perfect, and Spencer Tracy in the lead role (supported by the likes of Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine) gives us a classic tough guy American performance.

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)assault-on-precinct-13At first, John Carpenter’s lean action-crime-thriller combo feels like it has a tenuous plot that could fall apart. But then the master director-writer drenches the film in tension, making each character’s move possibly their last. Even better this feels like an old school Western, something which Carpenter intended, as his big inspiration was 1959’s Rio Bravo. The score, the cinematography and Carpenter’s direction, the stellar cast, they’ll impress you.

In a Better World (2010)in-a-better-worldSusanne Bier’s In a Better World stunned me the first time. The story deals with forgiveness, revenge, different worlds colliding. Its themes are powerful. Through a series of events the lives of two Danish families intertwine, and within the bonds of a new friendship forms the spectre of danger and violence.
Don’t read too much about this one. A small description like this is best. Go into it head on and experience this drama for its raw force.

Happiness (1998)happinessDon’t get it twisted – Todd Solondz isn’t out to make anybody happy with this one, despite its title. More so he uses the title as a way to indicate the deeply meaningless existential search for some elusive quality called happiness. Because most of these characters, almost every one of them, isn’t looking for it in the right places.
Happiness will disturb you. If not, you’ve probably got a head in your basement. And there’s no actual horror in this one. All drama; an intense, vexing, even sinister bunch of shit. The men portrayed by Dylan Baker and Philip Seymour Hoffman are two of the top ten worst people of all time in film. They’re rotten to the core, though in the way they could be living right next door in the next house, the next apartment, wherever. That’s one of the really disturbing bits to me. The normality Solondz injects into the depraved actions of his cast of characters.

The Fog (1980)the-fogAnother Carpenter flick I absolutely love. An American ghost story, if there ever were one to love!
The writing is so stellar, with Carpenter and Debra Hill conjuring up a neat little story that you could tell around the fire; ironic, considering the opening moments. Plus you’ve got Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh… what more could you ever dream of? I really can’t spoil even a drop of the story. My favourite thing is that it’s absolute American Gothic. If Carpenter and Hill put this in a book only as a novel, I think I’d still dig it as much as I do on film. One of those stories that reminds you of great, creepy literature.

The Sword in the Stone (1963)the-sword-in-the-stoneI do love animated films, they’re just not my favourite type to watch. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some I don’t absolutely die for, such as Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. I always loved it, but then I came to enjoy it more while doing my degree. I took two courses required for my Honours that were in Old English and Middle English. In both of them were a lot of works inspired by Arthurian legend. So after that my respect and admiration for this Disney flick grew, intensely. Not that it’s filled with all these academic references, that’d be stupid. After reading about Arthur so much, this movie hits the spot with a combination of what I’ve read recently and enjoyed, and the bits of why I loved it as a kid.
From Merlin to Archimedes, to the wild Madam Mim sequence, there’s something to remember out of every scene. I couldn’t even begin to choose a favourite moment.

Once Were Warriors (1994)once-were-warriorsAlan Duff’s novel of the same name dealt with domestic violence in New Zealand. His characters are a Māori family plagued by issues of alcoholism and poverty, leading to the violence.
Part of why I’m drawn to this movie is because I live in Newfoundland, a small island on the far East Coast of Canada. I live in city, though come from a smaller town where it was a mix of urban and rural. Though the family are Māori and they have their own particular complexities, their struggle reminds me of people I’ve known, families I grew up with and near. So despite its regional feel, compounded by Duff’s original material exploring issues specific to New Zealand, there’s also a universality in the story with which many can identify. A heartbreaking, tragic. But there’s a little hope, just a glimmer.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)mr-sardonicusHuman greed is a theme explored in literature since time immemorial. William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus uses greed as a vessel for this modern Gothic horror. The whole thing is macabre. Darkly thrilling. Original Ray Russell story “Sardonicus” was published in Playboy Magazine, then Castle snatched up the rights and had Russell do the screenplay, which is part of what makes the story so damn fine. A favourite horror I watch near Halloween. You should, too!

The White Sound (2001)the-white-soundNot many movies express the true feeling of taking drugs, nor do many get depictions of mental illness correct. Daniel Brühl stars in Hans Weingartner’s The White Sound as a young man named Lukas who takes a horrible trip on magic mushrooms. So intense that perhaps Lukas might never make it back from where he’s headed.
Paranoid schizophrenia is often depicted in violent ways, both through film and other media like certain biased news channels who aren’t sensitive to the mentally ill, and so on. What Weingartner does is produce an experience which takes us into the head of a man suffering from the inability of his brain to filter the world, precipitated by the mushroom high. A scary little film.

Vengeance is Mine (1979)vengeance-is-mineThis is a cold, sterile look at the crimes of Akira Nishiguchi (renamed for the film). The events of the film come to us through flashbacks, as we piece together the life of this man who is now in police custody. Even a dose of dark humour along the way. I can’t say much more, you need to get hold of the Criterion Edition. Perfection, all the way. What’s most interesting, above the style and feel of the film, is the dissection of this serial killing thief and his motivations, or lack thereof. A terrifying and provocative story.

Casino (1995)casinoI love just about every Scorsese film. He’s a master at work every time he works his magic.
Casino‘s my personal favourite. I know I’m in the minority, most likely. But can you deny the lure? We begin in media res with a shocking act of sabotage and violence, then we work back through the story as Scorsese takes us into the rise of Las Vegas with De Niro playing Ace Rothstein, based on Frank Rosenthal. There’s intrigue, betrayal, murder, brutality. There’s Joe Pesci stabbing a guy in his neck with a pen. There’s Joe Pesci squashing a guy’s head in a vice. Don’t understand how anybody couldn’t love this Vegas gangster picture. A crime classic.

The Breakfast Club (1985)the-breakfast-clubReleased the year I was born, this is such a great John Hughes movie. Resonates with me, and y’know, half of the world, because it’s the ultimate anthem for losers and at the same time for those in the popular crowd who never actually like they belonged.
Whenever the last scene plays I feel my heart start skipping beats. Always emotional when I watch, maybe more so as I get older. There’s a little bit of Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald in all of us.

Boogie Nights (1997)boogie-nightsThe opening sequence of PTA’s Boogie Nights is proof positive he’s the cinematic son of Altman. From there, we dive into a sordid tale out of the L.A. porn scene in the ’70s and ’80s. Starring a prosthetic-cocked Mark Wahlberg and a maybe never better Burt Reynolds, a knockout Julianne Moore performance to boot – and a host of awesome supporting roles from Don Cheadle and William H. Macy and more – this is just a mesmerising drama. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll be grossed out. Just as I’d imagine many did during these days in the porn industry.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)brokeback-mountainI can’t speak for how the gay community feels about this film. For me as a straight man, Brokeback Mountain changed my perspective, even as someone who’s always accepted gay men and never had a problem (because why would I?). But I remember loving this movie, seeing it in theatre, then buying it immediately on DVD. Friends – men, insecure with their own sexuality no doubt – made fun of me when they’d see it in my collection. A few woman, too. They’d ask “Why do you own this?” and I’d reply: “It’s a great fucking movie.”
Ang Lee is excellent. What he does with this beautiful yet bittersweet love story is so wonderful, and devastating, as well. There’s nothing else to say. Ledger and Gyllenhaal are both tremendous, as are Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway in their roles. Powerful and timeless cinema.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)the-neverending-storyThis is like a dream that never fades. Wolfgang Petersen has done such great stuff, especially his powerhouse Das Boot. For me, The NeverEnding Story makes me feel the feelings I did during childhood, the sort you can only vaguely remember. The way you felt before responsibilities and the state of the world bore down on your psyche, when all you had to worry about was a bit of school and your imagination. Alongside little Bastian Balthazar Bux, avid reader, we engage in a tale that’s prophetic in way, but one that mostly whisks you into fantasy where you can take control, like Bastian, and help change the world.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)dr-strangeloveBlacker than burned toast. The only description fitting for this dark political satire.
With characters named President of the United States Merkin Muffley, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, General Buck Turgidson, Colonel Bat Guano, Lt. Lothar Zogg, it’s hard not to see the utter hilariousness. At the very same time it’s about the possibility of all-out, accidental, nuclear war between America and Russia. Perfect Cold War comedy.
If you’ve never seen this Kubrick gem, get to work. The funniest film ever made.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)the-wizard-of-ozFeel the excitement and enjoy!
Great songs, even better performances. The whole production is pure magic.

Philadelphia (1993)philadelphiaGetting his break like many others in the industry from Roger Corman, Jonathan Demme made several masterpieces. One of which is Philadelphia, telling an important story about HIV/AIDS and the discrimination against gay men with the disease which persisted for so long, no doubt still does in many circles sadly.
Tom Hanks does perfect work, but don’t forget Denzel Washington – he plays an equally tough role that cannot be discounted. They’re magnificent, each presenting some of the many issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in the everyday lives of regular people.

Natural Born Killers (1994)natural-born-killersLong live Mickey and Mallory! Two depraved and motivated serial killers, each with their own troubles. Oliver Stone made such a damning comment about the state of media and celebrity in age where true crime was (and still is today, more so) exploited by any outlet with a voice, big or small. What we get is a vicious, macabre tale of Mickey and Mallory tearing through America down the highway, stopping here and there to kill, eat, fuck. Along for the ride later is a sleazy TV host willing to do anything to get a good story. Little does he know where that will lead him this time.
This is one wild ride. So get ready.

Being John Malkovich (1999)being-john-malkovichAnother film exploring the concept of celebrity, as well as our worship of those who attain such status, is the Spike Jonze-Charlie Kaufman collaboration Being John Malkovich. This is up there with the best, most innovative films in history. Such a strange movie in many ways and at the same time it is pure genius. Catherine Keener gives a fantastic performance, as do the others, but she’s just a real hit. And the sequence where Malkovich goes inside his own head is a psyche out, entirely surreal, such an accomplished bit of filmmaking. The whole thing is like having your favourite meal, it hits the spot every time.

Pinocchio (1940)pinocchioThe second animated feature film by Disney after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A whopping bit of animation, too. Gorgeous drawing. Story comes from an Italian children’s book. Groundbreaking movie all around, most of all in terms of the artistry. Light and shadow here is used as well as a live action bit of cinema.
One section stuck with me from when I was a kid – Pleasure Island. It frightened the shit out of me. Today when I watch it’s still an unsettling portion to an animated adventure. Poor Pinocchio. Just wants to be real, man.

North by Northwest (1959)north-by-northwestOpening titles may never be topped, credits to Saul Bass. Bernard Herrmann gives us a load of wonderful compositions to make up a classic score. And of course, master of the thriller Alfred Hitchcock takes us for a loop. There are too many scenes that WOW to get anything done here, so maybe if you want share your own with me in the comments!
Is this Hitchcock’s most exciting film? Is it his best? Which scene gets your adrenaline flowing?

Sling Blade (1996)sling-bladeWritten and directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton, a movie that makes me weep. Also, a rural drama that’s actually got one of the most villainous characters ever in its workings, a.k.a Dwight Yoakam. There’s a lot to love about this little story. John Ritter plays an atypical Southern man to great effect. Natalie Canerday gives a great performance as a woman in the best situation she can muster, and you can’t ever forget young Lucas Black as the kid befriend by Thornton’s Karl Childers.
You’ll be hard pressed to get better drama in the ’90s, a feat by Thornton to do such good work from the page to the screen and behind the camera.

Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)boratThe genius of Sacha Baron Cohen lies in the way he exposes the bias and ignorance (and racism in this case) of others is by satirising, but in the way he looks to others as if he’s borderline being offensive. When his dressing up and acting as Borat Sagdiyev is actually a mask in order to get under the skin of others, helping to bring out their inner feelings about foreigners and foreign ideals. And like many of the greatest, Cohen borders on nastiness, outright riotous jokes, and gallows humour.
Not sure if anything’s funnier than Borat doing Driver’s Ed. Too, too ridiculous and perfect.

Battle Royale (2000)battle-royaleThis film has more guts than 20 other horror-thrillers combined.
When Japan becomes a nightmare, the youth overrunning the adults with chaos and disorder, the government implements the BR Program, where students from school are taken to an island then left to fight to the death. The last remaining young person is then reintegrated into society. Hugely controversial because of its sensitive subject matter. I’d imagine in America it was a bit sensitive, too; only a year after the Columbine High School massacre. But this is a dystopian vision of the near future, when class isn’t a big issue anymore, only age. It’s a unique vision based on the 1999 novel of the same name. If you’ve not seen it, snatch up a copy. This is exciting, nasty, brutal. Everything a horror fan wants.

Elena (2011)elenaI love films which explore socioeconomic situations, whether in my own country (Canada) or abroad. This 2011 Russian drama Elena follows the titular lead character as she navigates her own personal Hell. Elena, a woman from a working class background, marries a man she met while working as a nurse in a hospital, Vladimir; he is a rich businessman. Problems surface when Elena wants to help her son from a previous marriage to put his boy through school, so that he doesn’t have to go into the military. But Vladimir will not loosen the purse strings, neither for Elena’s family nor her even after he passes.
This story opens up issues about modern Russia, as well as its treatment of women.

Mother of George (2013)mother-of-georgeWe can’t just have diversity in casting, behind the camera, et cetera. What we need is diversity in stories. That conversation needs to be made even bigger, evidently.
Mother of George blew me away because it takes the audience inside the lives of Nigerian-Americans in Brooklyn. We’re brought into their cultures, traditions, the way they live with their families. And out of that comes a cultural problem many of us white people might not understand, or have ever known about. I won’t spoil a second, it’s worth going in knowing only the basics.

Lost Highway (1997)lost-highwayMany David Lynch films entice me. All of them, really. None of them so penetrating and scary as this headtrip. What starts as something like a paranoid thriller crossed with a story of mad jealousy eventually morphs into a psychotic journey across space and time. Is the man who goes to jail and wakes up another person still the same man? Or is it all a way of dissociating from reality? Or is it something more sinister?

Trouble Every Day (2001)trouble-every-dayClaire Denis. Vincent Gallo. Béatrice Dalle.
Tindersticks.
Love. Horror. Sexual cannibalism.

Van Diemen’s Land (2009)van-diemens-landStory of the infamous Irish convict Alexander Pearce, filmed with gorgeous cinematography in the wilds of Australia. A dark look at what happened when Pearce and other convicts at the penal settlement in Van Diemen’s Land escape into the untamed bush in Tasmania. What followed is a gruesome tale of man v. wilderness, in which man – or one man – loses his mind entirely. This is a bit of history we haven’t seen much on film. Glad to see such an exciting, grim retelling of the well-known Tasmanian story.

Images (1972)imagesThe intersection of Robert Altman and the psychological horror sub-genre is what makes up my dreams!
Susannah York stars as a children’s author who has mental troubles, undergoing a horrifying experience while staying in a vacation home far out in the country. She suffers from mysterious apparitions, which beg the question: what is and isn’t real? The whole film will have you reeling, right to the shocking finale. York carries everything so perfectly, as Altman does his usual dance. Not a typical film of his, yet there are landmarks of his style. What we get is an eerie spiral towards insanity where we’re never sure what’s happening and what is a figment of her excitable imagination.

Homicide (1991)homicideThere’s a reason I’ll always love Joe Mantegna and David Mamet’s Homicide from 1991.
Mamet has a body of work that could make even accomplished writers weep with shame, from the stage to the screen he’s undeniably a master of his craft, both as a director and a writer. This one is different. Wedged in between the crime and the drama which works as the catalyst for everything else is a biting take on anti-Semitism and other issues surrounding Jewish people in America. Best is the struggle of Mantegna’s cop character, not quite fitting in at work and simultaneously not quite fitting in with his Jewish people. Unique perspective for a crime movie.
Again, too much would ruin the fun. You get to see Mantegna, William H. Macy, Ving Rhames. In particular it’s Mantegna, his character stuck between duty and faith, who impresses. This isn’t just a favourite of mine, it’s a ’90s classic which somehow gets overlooked too often. Don’t make that mistake, and definitely not if you dig Mamet.

Revanche (2008)revancheThis 2008 Austrian thriller gives its all in weaving a story through several characters, as we witness the various sides of revenge – from the side of the one seeking vengeance, and from the side of the one who caused such a need. The beauty of the film’s look is juxtaposed against its human cruelty and ugliness. You don’t need to hear another word.

The Last Wave (1977)the-last-wavePeter Weir: fucking magician.
The Last Wave masquerades for a long while as a straight up piece of cinema, one that’s full of drama and mystery to the brim. During the lead up to what the Aboriginals of Australia believe will be a devastating storm of cosmological influence, David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) must defend four men in the case of a suspicious death, an Aboriginal man. Soon, Burton unearths in himself the belief that the storm coming is indeed catastrophic, and he also starts having prophetic, disturbing dreams.
You’ll never, for sure, what happens. Weir leaves us in the last frames with a decision for ourselves.
Is the storm real, is it the coming apocalypse? Or maybe it’s all inside Burton’s head after being wrapped up tight in his own madness?

Feed (2005)feedPicture enough?
This is a uniquely disturbing bit of horror. Find it. Hate it, or love it. But you’ll never see anything else even close to its strangeness.

Los sin nombre (1999)los-sin-nombreI can’t get more creeped out than Los sin nombre (English title: The Nameless). A whole mix of horror, history, psychology, and Gothic Literature. Based on a novel by Ramsey Campbell, this early Jaume Balagueró feature chills with each scene, every revealed piece of plot. Enough creeping moments to make anybody shudder. And once the old smiling man turns up? Forget about it. New pair of shorts, please.
Oh, and if you’re looking for a happy ending of any kind, don’t look here. Nothing but a horrific and depressing conclusion. So fitting for the material.

 Keane (2004)keaneLots of people came to love Damian Lewis for his performance in the grotesquely racist series Homeland. He’s much better in Lodge Kerrigan’s Keane.
Again, the director-writer focuses his lens on the topic of mental illness and its struggle. Never are we sure if what he claims is real, or if it’s a product of his schizophrenia, with which he battles daily and fiercely.
William Keane (Lewis) has lost his daughter at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. Except we can’t tell if he really has a daughter. And is his interest in little girls something else? These questions wrack your brain while witnessing the near total breakdown of William as he searches for the daughter he knows he’s lost.

Surveillance (2008)surveillanceJennifer Lynch followed sideways in her father’s footsteps, making her own brand of weird movies. Most of deliciously macabre.
Surveillance is a twisty little slice of crime and horror put together. When two serial killers terrorise their way along a highway, through various towns, the lives of a bunch of travellers. The cast of characters is spectacular. Although it’s Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman who steal the show in their roles as two FBI Agents who come into town after a police officer is killed on the side of the road with some tourists.
You may see some of it coming. Maybe. I didn’t, and even if I did, watching it now getting to the finale is still cool. Just good filmmaking, a fun script, several solid performances. Even French Stewart plays a great role as one sleazy cop. Trust me, at the very least you’ll find yourself surprised at some of what Lynch does with the story.

Animal Factory (2000)animal-factorySuch a top notch prison flick. Steve Buscemi directing, from a screenplay Edward Bunker and John Steppling (based on a novel by the former). Then, one of the actors I most admire, Willem Dafoe in one of the lead roles opposite Edward Furlong. Add in guys like Danny Trejo, Mark Boone Junior, Mickey Rourke, Tom Arnold? C’mon!
A simple tale of a young convict being helped out altruistically by an older criminal in the same prison isn’t the typical or expected film in Buscemi’s hands. He gets to the grittiness, showing us the brutality. Yet the story Bunker wrote also allows him to show us a different kind of con in Dafoe’s Earl Copen – a man who cares, if only not to see another soul washed down the drain. An interesting, real view of life on the inside, courtesy of Bunker who spent major time in prison throughout his life.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)werckmeister-harmoniesCo-directed by Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, Werckmeister Harmonies is one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. Also beautiful, dark, elegant. Many things.
In a small village, near madness occurs after a circus shows up with an odd attraction: the massive, bloated carcass of a real whale. Then people from elsewhere start to come, the town itself becomes bloated, and its natural order disturbed. A wild movie, I’m mesmerised by it every time I watch. Tarr is a genius, though I do find watching some of his works tiring, have to admit. Also love The Turin Horse; this film still takes the Tarr cake for me.

The Signal (2007)the-signalThis is the best romance movie. With a fine twist of infection horror, science fiction, lots of thrills. The story takes hold when two lovers are trying to meet across town after an outbreak of a signal across all electronic devices, proving difficult as the whole of mankind goes insane with savage violence around them. It’s a unique movie in so many ways. Great performances by A.J. Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn, Scott Poythress. Best of anything is the way we get the story in three parts, three directors on board, and the story comes at us from three different perspectives. A whole bundle of exciting, horrible, romantic events lumped into one great flick.

Sisters (1972)sistersDe Palma is up there with the other greats. Sisters, to me, is in his personal best. Even early on he had a style of his own, a look and feel cultivated from his talents. This horror-thriller never fails to unsettle me. Not just that, it’s thrilling; not in the way some thrillers claim to be then come out only half exciting. As it is in many of his works, De Palma uses his storytelling skills to make his plot so interesting. It’s a bizarre, Hitchcockian horror with Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, and Charles Durning, all in fine form.

Tom à la ferme (2013)tom-at-the-farmOn, Xavier Dolan! If I were a gay man, this guy would be the ultimate catch: he can write, he can act, and fuck me can he ever direct. Mommy‘s his most accomplished feature. Next to that is Tom à la ferme, though it’s no less incredible.
When Tom (Dolan) goes to see the family of his deceased lover, grieving and hoping to find some comfort in their company, he soon discovers they were unaware of him, as well as their son’s sexual orientation. After an uncomfortable welcome, Tom slowly awakens feelings in all of the family, maybe even himself. But there’s no telling if he’ll even make it off the farm once things get tense.
I can’t recommend this enough. Dolan works his way under your skin, in every one of his films in different manners. Here, you never know if this is going to turn out a vicious thriller or merely remain a tense drama. Either way, it’s so god damn perfect that I hate Dolan (just kidding, man: love you) for being this talented in all his roles. Based on a play, he lifts this into a whole other medium and gives it a breathing, snarling life off the stage.

Immortal Beloved (1994)immortal-belovedWorship, kneel at the altar of Gary fucking Oldman! DO IT!
Just kidding. But seriously, he’s up there on the Mount Rushmore of Character Actors.
Immortal Beloved tells the story of the famous letter to his ‘Immortal Beloved’ that Beethoven wrote, never naming the object of his amour. The always interesting Bernard Rose directs this gorgeous period piece, whisking us back through points in the great composer’s life to try and figure out: who was this elusive, nameless love of his? You’ll never see Oldman better, no matter how many awesome movies he does. There’s just such passion to the work he does energising the spirit of Beethoven.
That scene when he has to put his ear to the piano, playing what became his “Moonlight Sonata” later? Enough to take the breath out of your chest.

Hard Core Logo (1996)hard-core-logoAn impressive Canadian feature. Bruce McDonald greatness. Punk rock. Mockumentary. The origin of the band for Billy Talent.
There are things you’ll never see coming. This is NOT Spinal Tap, though it has its moments. It’s the chronicle of a band with its trouble, how it moves on or stays stuck in place, and we witness the tension, the love, the hate, all of it. Front row seat.
Oh, by the way – Hugh Dillon is a Canadian legend!

He Got Game (1998)he-got-gameThe best of Spike Lee, as he examines a father-son relationship plagued by a terrible act of violence by the former, and also he eviscerates the way young basketball stars – in the spotlight are those from urban neighbourhoods like Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) – are treated by recruiters and schools like paid peaces of meat, offering up irresponsible amounts of money + gifts to entice these young men away from their homes and their lives, their loves.
There’s so much to love, not least of which are the performances from Allen, a huge surprise to me, and of course the always charming Denzel Washington. I think Denzel’s performance and role are the best, the toughest, because the character of Jake Shuttlesworth is very unlikable. You don’t want him to be redeemed, though by the end you forget his original intentions and start to see him as a human again. I love Spike’s work because he never shies from the truth.


Thanks for reading, if you’ve made it this far. Cheers!
Let me know what you thought in the comments, whether you hate or love the films I’ve mentioned.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hearts Still Beating” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “New Best Friends” – click here
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-1-46-30-amHere it is – the mid-season premiere!
Open on Alexandria. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) stands on watch at the top of the gate, everything is dark. He passes time reading the Bible. But it’s getting harder to read, you can tell by the look on his face. Soon he goes back to one of the houses, starts piling canned food into a box and looking through the inventory, most of which is going to The Saviors. He packs what he can into a car, gasses up, then heads out into the night.
Is he bringing things to them? No, I think he wants to hide things from them. That could turn things awful tricky.
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-1-49-37-amBack at Hilltop things aren’t so easy, either. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) argues with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his people, he isn’t so convinced the group can do what they say and take out Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) or his Saviors. Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Tara (Alanna Masterson), and the rest try convincing Gregory, but he’s simply not buying it. “Youre either with us or you aint,” Daryl (Norman Reedus) reminds him.
After they’ve gotten nowhere with the fearful leader, Enid (Katelyn Nacon) brings a few people to speak with Rick and the group. One woman named Bertie (Karen Ceesay) tells Maggie that they’re willing to fight, long as they’re shown how to fight and defend themselves properly. This is a good turn of events, they don’t need Gregory when the people at Hilltop are ready to be part of the resistance. Jesus (Tom Payne) also says it’s time that the gang meets King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). Yes!
They go to the Kingdom – Jesus, Rick, Daryl, as well as Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Tara, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). And there they meet a couple guys on horses, one of whom is Richard (Karl Makinen).
It’s amazing to see Rick and the group when they witness the Kingdom. Even better once Morgan (Lennie James) strolls out to see greet them. He tells Rick and Daryl about Carol (Melissa McBride) wanting to be left alone, too. Afterwards they meet the King and Shiva, and it’s a big of a culture shock. Although Rick jumps on in for a chat. He brings up The Saviors, wanting to band together and bring them down. Everybody discusses Negan, his brutality, why he must be stopped. Jesus also chimes in to say that he once thought their deal was something they could all “live with” but that’s all quickly, horribly changed. On top of that we already know Richard doesn’t like The Saviors, he’s on board to get shit done.
Ezekiel: “And what plans have you, Rick Grimes of Alexandria?”
What comes out is Rick talks about his mother telling him a story when he was a boy, about a road to a kingdom. A little girl and her family went along the road, losing all they had after their wagon hit a rock in the road. The girl, determined never to let the rock hurt another, dug at it until eventually finding a bag of gold. Negan is the rock in the road, and if they’re able to dig him out then at the end of the line is their gold: a world at peace.


Out on his own, Benjamin (Logan Miller) runs into a gun-toting Carol. They talk about general badassery. They also talk about Ezekiel, a little. In this brief exchange, Benjamin instils a tiny smidgen of hope in Carol, somewhere deep down. The fact that this young man still holds hope for mankind, wanting to help others, it sort of goes against everything she’s started believing about the new world.
I love that we get a guy like King Ezekiel, too. Because for so long we went from either Rick’s group and their various people, some good and some bad in the end, then there’s The Governor, all those battles, and then it was Terminus, and so on. Once Negan turned it up you start to wonder, if you haven’t read the comics like many of us, if only the big baddies are kicking around. Finally, we get a guy who’s pure, or at least his intentions are of the purest sort. A little later Benjamin actually becomes the voice of reason for the King, in regards to helping the people of Alexandria: “My dad always said that if youre asked to be the hero, be a hero.”
We find out that Ezekiel has regrets about once sending some of his people into battle, which yielded many dead, many children orphaned. So this is part of why he’s so altruistic at this point in time. He wants to right his wrongs. But Rick has been there, as well. We’ve seen all that. He has demons, he also isn’t a total saint. In the end, Ezekiel won’t agree to help, though offers Daryl asylum from The Saviors. Hmm. Something needs to happen to change the King’s mind. Richard’s on the side of Rick and his friends. That’s not enough. At the moment Daryl’s left at the Kingdom with Rick asking him to try his best on swaying Ezekiel.
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-19-34-amOver the radio Negan’s voice is heard eulogising Fat Joey. Meanwhile, Rick and Co head onto the highway where they find a bunch of cars blocking the way. They move them with their vehicle while Michonne keeps her eye on the horizon; she spots a strange device. It’s a rope across the road rigged to an explosive device. Now, they’ve got to disarm the thing. Rosita has her hands into the trap’s inner workings, as they hear Negan call out over the radio for men to go searching for Daryl. Following that, Rosita gets the main component of the trap disarmed, and they all go about carefully unwrapping the dynamite and other explosives, watching the road for Saviors or walkers.
And sooner than later the undead come shambling from a distance. The group packs up what explosives are in good condition, scrambling to put the cars back in place on the road. A massive horde of zombies works its way up the highway faster than expected, forcing Michonne and Rick into a quick plan.
We get one of the coolest zombie killing scenes EVER, as Michonne and Rick use the wire between the cars from the trap to clothesline tons and tons of the walkers before climbing in with the rest of the crew and scooting to safety. Behind them an explosion goes off blasting more meat into the sky.
Michonne: “Were the ones who live


Once Rick makes it back to Alexandria they’re greeted by a Saviors convoy. Simon (Steven Ogg) arrives, coy as ever. They’re trying to find Daryl, of course. Simon wants to search the entire place and they go about their business, all the while trashing everything like pigs. The Saviors also come across the empty shelves in the storage garage, the stuff we saw Father Gabriel take in the opener. But they don’t care, not until pickup day. When the group is left on their own again people believe Gabriel ran off with their supplies. But what’s the truth? Rick, Tara, some of them don’t believe he’d do that to them.
Turns out they were left a message: BOAT. Mysterious how he knew where Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Rick had gone. So, another journey is at hand. When the crew make out for the boat on the lake they find footprints. They follow them to an old factory in a field where they encounter people with guns, many others with weapons; MANY.
But Rick smiles in the face of it all. Literally. A big shit-eating grin. Is it a ‘bring it on’ smile, or a ‘these people can help us’ grin?screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-41-24-amA great mid-season opener after the break. So many things to look forward to, and lots of character development going on, especially when we get a conversation between Aaron and his partner Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson). We see that everyone has issues, everyone has worries. This will only continue in the next episode “New Best Friends” and I’m excited.

Taboo – Episode 6

FX’s Taboo
Episode 6
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 7, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-10-50-53-pmJames Delaney (Tom Hardy) is continually plagued by visions. “Youre as mad as your da,” Brace (David Hayman) tells him. They’ve a vast difference in opinion on James’ mother. She apparently tried holding baby James under the water of a river, so says the trust Delaney caretaker. If true, this is seemingly the reason Horace put his wife in an asylum. Is it all true? Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle of what James has dug up and what he thought he knew?
While there’s a lot of plot going on, much of what we see is James experiencing an existential crisis. He’s got to deal with what he’s become, one way or another. For better, for worse, he can’t erase any of his own sin, nor can he blame it on his father or his mother. That’s what feels interesting to me. Whatever darkness lies in his past, he’s done bad things, that much is clear. There’s no real redeeming him, only to an extent. How far the extent, we’ll see.
Over at the little factory, Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander). He’s got a crew of men ready to do his bidding. They must “stir continuously” in order to mix the powder, both efficiently and safely. Young Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is amongst the men whom are chosen to do the stirring. A precarious operation, to say the least.
screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-10-54-17-pmThere’s lots of intriguing aspects to George Chichester (Lucian Msamati), as well. He makes the white men around him uncomfortable. Two reasons: 1) he’s smarter than them and smarter than they believe him to be; and 2) he brings to mind the uncomfortable truths of the travesties of the white man. Great character, great writing, great performance. He knows the real name of the Influence, why “in four days the ship ran aground” and everything associated. Hmm. Trouble.
Spooky James is down in the river, hearing things. Having terrifying visions. You know, the usual. And to anyone around him he’s a mythic creature. Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) and Brace have to kind of hover nearby, trying not to let him go mad completely.
Certainly once Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) gets the entire report about the ship formerly known as the Influence, and what Chichester knows, including a bit about Sir Strange’s brother, who happens to own a sugar plantation. Ah, now things are getting properly treacherous. Because the look in Sir Strange’s eyes as he describes everyone as chess pieces is creepy.
When Lorna goes to see Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) about where James may be, she’s greeted by husband Thorne (Jefferson Hall). The nasty man accosts Lorna a bit, verbally abusing her. After a moment Zilpha turns up, her face bruised and cut. No information is given up, although nobody really knows where James has been. Will Lorna try and help Zilpha? I hope so.
And speaking of James, he’s over meeting with Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) – the powder will be ready tomorrow at midnight.


They begin the slow transport of their gunpowder across the city. At one point, young Robert helps them when they’re stopped by guards, posing as a cholera-ridden corpse in a coffin. Upon delivery, Dumbarton is happy with the deal and offers what he can to James. Meanwhile, Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank) looks more and more concerned, sneaking about. What is he planning/thinking?
James: “You tell me one thing that isnt a matter of time
In the night, Zilpha crawls on top of her husband. Then she sinks a long, thin blade up in under his ribs right into the heart. Afterwards, she goes directly to James. He’s not entirely thrilled, even if he wants her in his life. He agrees to help her take care of the body. Dumbarton has Thorne marked for immediate burial, and that is that, my friends.
At the East India Company, Sir Strange brings good news. Ibbotson made a confession to a priest. And the priest, for 25 pounds, gave over the goods on the factory to the company. Wow. James said he’d blame it on Dumbarton if this were to happen. Godfrey (Edward Hogg) brings the news to Delaney, but no telling what the man will do next. Biggest problem is what to do with their powder. James already took care of the betrayal, handing Cholmondeley a bloody organ – a tongue? Either way, it belongs to Ibbotson; his corpse is left in the confessional booth, too. Nasty stuff from a wonderful heathen like James Keziah Delaney. Moreover, they move the powder via boat instead of doing it under unstable conditions on the road. Smart. Only a moment is the EIC thwarted, though. They’ll keep coming.
screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-11-20-15-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-11-at-11-25-46-pm


With Thorne dead and gone, buried quick, will James and Zilpha get close again? What does the future hold for their relationship? It doesn’t take long at all for them to fall into bed, passionate, intense. Only he starts to have those awful visions, nearly choking Zilpha at one point. Half-sibling incest is actually the least of James’ problems, and that’s saying something. He’s a maniac, sitting near the barrels of gunpowder and flicking a flint in the darkness. There’s a definite path of self destruction he’s on and has been on for a while, one which only gets worse. And now the EIC has a message for him: “Its war.” Their first move? Blow up the ship James owns. Shit, that is a bold move.
James heads to see Atticus (Stephen Graham), needing a ship and wondering how to keep himself safe from further betrayal. Tough times to navigate. So Atticus helps him tie up loose ends, killing the man meant to be guarding the ship. This prompts another horrific display of violence from Delaney.
Later still, James goes to Helga’s (Franka Potente) place. Drinking. Hoping for an easy solution to his ship problem and finding no answers. He stumbles drunk into the streets, raving to himself in the night. Winter finds him wading in the harbour: “Im not fit to be near you now,” he warns. He has another drink, then spirals into unconsciousness. Waking the next morning face in the mud.
Worst of all, he discovers that he’s killed Winter. Not fit is right. James can’t seem to gain any traction, only falling deeper into his own despair and evil, no matter how hard he tries to escape himself.


What an episode! Perhaps my favourite since the first two, though I dig them all. Can’t wait to see what happens next in the decline of James Delaney.

The Path – Season 2, Episode 4: “The Red Wall”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 2, Episode 4: “The Red Wall”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by John O’Connor

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Father and The Son” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Why We Source” – click here
screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-3-13-15-pmLast we saw Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) he got punched out poolside while drinking with old friend and possible new flame Chloe Jones (Leven Rambin). He was then carted into the ER having a bad reaction to the booze. Will he be okay? Is it a physical reaction, or a more emotional one?
We start with Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan), listening to a tape of Lisa Jackson (Megan Byrne) when she came to Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy) and Meyerism. She was helped, now Cal wants his return on that investment. Because these are exactly the types of things he does, he puts in a good deed to make up for the bad he’ll do, and so the vicious cycle goes. Now Sarah wants the tax exempt status in order to quell her guilt knowing what Cal’s done. At this point she’s no better than him, either.
Back to Eddie, he’s awake and in the hospital. Doctor Sally Hollins (Gretchen Hall) talks with him about why he’s there, why he lost it at the pool, the fight, all that. Chloe told Dr. Hollins about him spending “the last two decades in a cult” and now the doctor wants to help. Although this is nothing but opening a wound for Eddie. Especially when his brother’s suicide comes up.
screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-3-17-44-pmThings get trickier for Lisa, too. She’s been summoned to the compound, and this frightens her. So she goes to Abe Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar) and the authorities. But none of it’s easy, not for Lisa, not for Abe and the law. The higher-ups want the Meyerists taken care of, soon. Yet Gaines worries Cal will manipulate Lisa. Still no telling how Abe’s undercover work is going to go in the end, we might see something nasty happen. Right now they’ve got Lisa with a recording device, heading into the meeting willingly. Uh oh. Even Abe doesn’t look too sure about any of it.
Everyone sees Cal differently. Hawk (Kyle Allen) buys into his bullshit, as do many of the others, Noa (Britne Oldford) and certainly Mary (Emma Greenwell). However, we can see, more and more, how Sean (Paul James) looks at him with contempt. There’s an inevitable confrontation. At the same time we see the sadness of one of Cal’s lectures, as they each take turns changing the colour of the wall. All visualisation. Seeing everybody excited like they’re literally watching it change is soul crushing. And now Sean can see through Cal. It hurts for many reasons, not only because that baby’s likely not his, but rather most of all because he actually let Cal hypnotise him into that way of life.
Richard (Clark Middleton) and Kodiak (James Remar) aren’t stopping in their quest. They don’t know who hurt Steve (Keir Dullea). Kodiak is intent on finding who did, Cal or not, by any means necessary. While Richard’s worried big accusations will “harm the movement” and, rightfully, wants proof. They’ll eventually discover one kill Cal has under his belt, sooner or later I’m sure. But was it him who killed Steve? Could it have been Eddie?


At the hospital Sarah arrives to see Eddie, who isn’t impressed he’s being followed. Is he? I believe it, though I also believe she had nothing to do with that. Probably Cal, knowing his devious nature. Sarah keeps talking about knowing “your damage” and using all the Meyerist buzzwords. Simultaneously, Eddie rejects the movement and loves his wife deeply. One of the saddest parts of any of the plots in The Path.
Over in the new building Cal runs into a man who’s now homeless because of the building the Meyerists bought. He also gets a bottle tossed at him in the dark. Oh, the joys of being in a cult!
Dr. Hollins diagnoses Eddie with PTSD, giving him medication to soothe the anxiety, et cetera. She refers him to a support group, as well. “Youre free now, Mr. Lane, and you can have a wonderful, productive life.” To which he has no real response. He knows it’s true, and all the same, isn’t it tough to admit you’ve spent a huge portion of your life working towards a fraudulent goal? I think so. Eddie is caught between so many things. On top of that could be the guilt of killing Steve. At least he’s got Chloe around, she does care for him and wants to see him escape the cult, sheltered life he was living behind for good.
Hawk has a charged moment with Noa, as she rejects him for being a “boy” when they’re at a private concert together. What we do see is that Hawk’s not totally lost in the movement. Not yet, anyways. That is coming quickly. In other news, Sarah flips at Cal for having her husband followed. Then they get into their shared darkness. We see in this scene, as we do others, how the people in a cult – even the leaders – start at a point where they want to do good, they even are good people, and somewhere along the line that disappears, fading into obscurity as the individual good winds up above the good of the whole.
Cal: “You cant win. Someone always suffers.”
screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-3-34-53-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-09-at-3-39-21-pmThe day of Lisa’s visit to the commune comes. Before Cal can go meet her, Kodiak hauls him aside; he’s found a rabbit eating his strawberries. He asks Cal about the “weight of leadership” on his shoulders. Or does he see the weight of something else, and this is his way to get under the new leader’s skin? Oh, I think he’s a tricky one, that Kodiak.
Once Lisa gets to her meeting, she finds out she’s meeting Sarah. Hmm. Now Sarah brings up everything about when Lisa was there, how they helped her. This is a wildly tense scene. Then Lisa reveals she’s recording them, silently, and the meeting is over. The law thwarted. A situation getting more crazy by the minute.
Speaking of crazy, Sean goes to see Eddie. About his doubts. They sit and talk together, Sean worries about his child – that’s not his – with Mary, and everything else bearing down on him. Eddie says he wishes he could be with his family: “But, I cant have that,” he says solemnly. He tries to tell Sean that it’s all about his life with Mary, their marriage, nothing else.
Eddie: “No one can change the colour of a white wall


Later, we find out Noa’s mother is a music mogul, of some sort. Sarah then tells Cal about giving Lisa the tape of her ‘unburdening’ back, after she revealed the recording device on her. We hear more of her tape, too. She hit a kid on a scooter, a street kid she says. And then she lived with the guilt. So finally, Cal figures out there’s somebody undercover in their ranks. This visibly has him shaken; Sarah’s equally disturbed.
And Eddie, he’s decided to start taking his medication. He sees further how the damage of the cult spreads. First him, now Sean, and countless more will come eventually. He even takes off his ring, heads out to a support group and introduces himself.
Can he turn the page on Meyerism? Or will events now out of his control pull him back into the void?


Fuck, what a great series! This second season is stellar, no matter what others say. Plenty of material to keep going, plus there’s a couple extra episodes this time around.

Legion – Chapter 1

FX’s Legion
Chapter 1
Directed by Noah Hawley
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a recap & review of Chapter 2, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-4-01-17-pmWe open on a little baby. We watch him grow up to “Happy Jack” by The Who. Along the way we see he has… issues. He goes from hearing voices in his head to blowing the windows out of a cop car to being examined by a doctor, and more. The boy, soon to be a man, is David Haller (Dan Stevens). Even tries to hang himself later down the road due to the voices running non-stop.
We see David in a facility getting a visit from his older sister, Amy (Katie Aselton). He’s not happy, but he’s doing better: “Something new needs to happen soon.” He goes about the days taking his medication, suppressing supposedly crazy thoughts, mingling with the others at the Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital. Such as Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza), Wild Rusty Combs (Sidartha Murjani), among others. He drags himself through therapy, going through all the motions. A feverish dream of images comes at us and shows us the power of his mind, which ends in his bed getting smashed, orderlies with needles. Typical mental hospital stuff.
screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-4-03-29-pmAnd then another day begins, same old routine repeats. Although David’s life is disrupted, not in a bad way, upon the appearance of Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), a woman who does not like physical contact with others. She’s also funny, self-deprecating, and a pretty free spirit. The exchange she has with David next is fucking hilarious and perfectly written by Noah Hawley.
David: “Do you wanna be my girlfriend?”
Syd: “Okay. But dont touch me.”
David: “Okay
Syd: “Yeah?”
David: “Yeah
Syd: “Okay
So they’re together, enjoying one another’s company. They even hold hands – well, not really, they hold a small fabric belt between themselves. Just as good.
But soon, she’s gone. Disappeared. “They took her” according to David. An interrogator (Hamish Linklater) questions him, saying Sydney Barrett was never a patient at Clockworks. Curiouser and curiouser. Are the other people he sees mostly in his head? We find out there was no noose when he tried to, apparently, hang himself. Simply rope burns left around his neck.
The interrogator heads back to a larger operation and tells his boss: “He may be the most powerful mutant we have ever encountered.” Apparently, Division One wants him dead. Before he can figure out his powers. Deep down, he already knows they’re real despite feeling content with mental health treatment.


David gets to talking about the incident at Clockworks. He’s hooked up to machinery and asked to discuss. He speaks of when Syd left. He went in to kiss her, and this triggered something in his mind, in turn triggering a strange blast between the two sending he and Syd flying. Then David’s anger unleashed the power within. Something dark and dangerous. At the same time, something in Syd has changed, too: David sees the world through her eyes, literally, she’s no longer herself; and vice versa. And throughout the halls of the hospital, a massacre. Or, sort of one. Voices call out through the walls, no longer any doors through which to escape. Bodies, bloody, caught in the wall; that of poor Lenny. And David – or Syd – stuck in his room.
Out into the world Syd-David goes free. The situation gets nasty, though. Back in the interrogation room, David sends his powers raging, smashing the place to bits and throwing everybody around him into the air. After which he’s gassed into unconsciousness by the organisation holding him captive.
Suddenly, we see David out int he real world. Himself again? On Halloween, he turns up at the door of his sister Amy. Her husband Ben (Matt Hamilton) is surprised, as is she, to see her brother released. Not that they’re mad. Just surprised. When David’s alone, Lenny comes back to chat. In his head. She wisecracks about being killed, making fun of him for his multiple personalities, or the multiple people in his head, or whatever. “Theyre cominfor you, babe,” she tells him. And who’s coming? People who don’t like his powers. People who want to kill him.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-4-47-36-pmThe world inside David’s head is a crazy one. Rich, exciting, funny, beautiful. But they’re just symptoms of a troubled mind. An extremely troubled mind.
Particularly considering he’s still at the facility with the interrogator and his team. He’s submerged in water, connected to electrical cables. He says that Syd is gone, vanished. Taken? Who knows. David searched for her, only to be followed by Ptonomy Wallace (Jeremie Harris) and Kerry Loudermilk (Amber Midthunder). Are they the ‘they’ Lenny warned him about? They’re intent on tracking him down, hot in pursuit. Out of nowhere, he starts seeing strange visions of Syd, telling him not to stop. She’s inside his memories.
And with Syd in his memory, they concoct a plan. David slips into the water. Above him the room erupts in gunfire and the men holding him turned to burned skeletons. Waiting afterwards are Ptonomy and Kerry, and Syd. They’re all friends of Melanie Bird (Jean Smart). David’s extracted from the facility by fellow mutants and friends with weapons. An awesome sequence that’s both shot well, also edited to perfection; killer action!
The gang escape to the sea while David struggles to realise what he sees is real, and not a figment of his imagination. Ms. Bird is there to greet them and bring him away, though he continues to see a darkness following closely behind.
screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-02-19-pm


AMAZING FIRST EPISODE! WOW. Noah Hawley is a fucking king, first Fargo and now this slice of superhero heaven. I’m not even huge on the superhero stuff anymore, other than actual comics and graphic novels. Legion has changed all that.
Now, give me more.

In Defence Of & In Love With SCREAM 4

Scream 4. 2011. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Starring Neve Campbell, Alison Brie, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marielle Jaffe, Marley Shelton, Erik Knudsen, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Anthony Anderson, Mary McDonnell, & Adam Brody.
Dimension Films/Corvus Corax Productions/Outerbanks Entertainment
Rated R. 111 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★
poster-scream-4When a franchise stretches out over a few decades, often times fans – horror fans in particular – can get fickle over what they want to see. And I don’t blame them. If you’re a huge fan of a series then it’s understandable to be guarded over the original film(s), to feel like even the original director-writer team might not be capable of matching what they did so long ago.
All those ideas go out the window with Scream 4. Sure, it’s 15 years later, and the generation of young people involved has changed significantly. There’s new technology, new rules to the slasher horror game. At the core, this both pays tribute to the original in huge ways, as well as forges its own path as a worthy sequel.
Craven and Williamson don’t get every little thing right. But they worked hard to give this the same creepiness and excitement as the first Scream, providing brand new characters in the landscape of Woodsboro and never forgetting the tried true originals of the franchise. Old meets new in the best, most genuine kind of way.
Scream-4-movie-imageThere’s always a stellar opening, even in the previous, lesser instalment. Craven and Williamson do not slouch here, either. One girl complains of no character development before characters die in Saw, when in fact we watch the young women in this opener die without any development whatsoever, similar to Drew Barrymore’s character in the original Scream. Williamson’s self-referential, tongue-in-cheek writing once more, as we cut to two other women watching Stab 6. They talk about the conventions and tropes of horror, so on, and then we again cut to two more girls watching Stab 7, further questioning the genre’s trappings. You almost, for a second, believe it’ll keep going, and going, one girl stabbed after the next. Great way for Craven and Williamson to poke fun at themselves, too.
One thing I dug about the last film was that composer Marco Beltrami used new pieces in the score, alongside some familiar ones, as well. The new compositions are fresh and interesting, they make the score feel new, yet at the same time we get those old sounds. With a new sequel 11 years since the previous entry in the series, Beltrami picked up where he left off while offering depth to his Scream repertoire.
Some gnarly kills worth seeing. One of the opening girls has her throat slit, and it is downright savage. When Perkins (Anderson) is stabbed in the head some find it funny, because of the “Fuck Bruce Willis” line. And yeah, it’s funny. Nasty all the same.
SPOILER ALERT: Charlie’s death is a disturbing one, very brutal. And when Jill does her best Tyler Durden I always find it pretty sickening, though fascinating; she thrashes the life out of herself, as the dying bodies of friends and family lay bleeding around her.
scream-4-2Part of what makes the screenplay work so well is the contempt of remakes, or at least the many awful remakes out there. In a fourth film, that’s sort of confident. This is not a remake, obviously, of the original, just a continuation of the story concerning Sidney Prescott (Campbell). But still, much of what they satirise in terms of remakes – mainly through snappy dialogue from Charlie (Culkin), Kirby (Panettiere), Robbie (Knudsen) – could be aimed at sequels, and definitely at sequels a little ways down the line.
Regardless, Williamson forges on with what made the first two films really impressive, that self-deprecating, self-referential style. It’s not all satire, though. We go back to the original by way of some Ghostface killing. Such as when Kirby watches Charlie from behind a glass door as he’s tied to a chair, just as Drew Barrymore’s character watched her boyfriend in Scream. Poor Kirby’s even subjected to another scary movie game. In other films this could feel cheese-filled to the brim. In the hands of Craven and Williamson, the scene comes off genuinely tense and, ultimately, horrific.
The biggest thing I love, story-wise, is that the Maureen Prescott’s been buried; pardon the pun. There’s no stretch, as in Scream 3 at times, to try attaching her character to the motive of the killers. Rather this story puts Sidney in the spotlight, even her family, cousin Jill (Roberts) and aunt Kate (McDonnell) get dragged into the terror. Whereas Sidney’s always been the main character, technically in that spotlight, the focus of the series in terms of why the murders were happening was Maureen. This entry in the series shifts focus wholly onto Sidney, which is, for her, unfortunately tragic.
scream-4-3Effectively, Williamson’s screenplay gets back to the interesting motives of the first two films. The motives have evolved, as have the killers. Here, the killers speak to the modern murder explanation of how the lust for fame can drive unstable people to untold, utterly insane lengths. Media begets the sick mind, in that a quest for fame can become out of control when celebrity is literally but a stab away. More relevant as of my writing in 2017 than even when it came out in 2011.
Scream 4 is a whole lot of fun, and holds its share of gruesomeness. Sidney has become like her mother in a way, as once Maureen loomed over Sidney and Woodsboro, but now her daughter looms over everyone. The terror she experienced at the hands of the various Ghostface killers encompassed a further generation of her family, creating all new dynamics, and in turn a new set of killers.
The callbacks to Scream are done so well, switching up situations and characters, self-parodying and being critical of sequels and remakes even when Craven himself has produced remakes. It’s just an example of why the first movie worked, why the second was also a powerhouse. Testament to the wonderful teamwork of Craven and Williamson. The willingness of this slasher franchise to be simultaneously satirical and also deadly serious from one moment to the next is a big part of why the movies have succeeded. A huge part of why I’ll always love them, and why Craven was a master.

SCREAM 3: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Scream 3. 2000. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Ehren Kruger.
Starring Neve Campbell, Liev Schreiber, Roger Jackson, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, David Arquette, Scott Foley, Roger Corman, & Lance Henriksen.
Dimension Films/Konrad Pictures/Craven-Maddalena Films
Rated R. 116 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★
poster-scream-3For some the Scream franchise dragged on. For others, such as myself, we couldn’t get enough of it. Although it isn’t hard to admit that, at least for Scream 3, the prior quality dropped off. Not entirely. I can throw this one on and enjoy it while still acknowledging its glaring flaws. Mostly I dig that Ghostface is like a floating entity, sort of how in the Batman comics with Red Hood and the identity became one various criminals and others took up.
Craven does a nice job directing. This time around, Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, The Ring) wrote the screenplay. And one of the problems, I feel, is that between Kruger’s draft and whatever Craven did during re-writes some of the story’s problems weren’t fine tuned. Something got lost along the way.
Nevertheless, I’m still fond. Scream 3, no matter how many blemishes, is an exciting slasher, warts and all. I have my beefs, but at the end of the day Ghostface’s return is a welcomed one. The story gets convoluted, simultaneously becoming even more twisted than the overall Maureen Prescott ever was before.
scream-3-2An excellent, fine tuned opener starts the film. I’ve always loved Liev Schreiber because I have a soft spot for the Ron Howard flick, Ransom (first time I remember seeing Liev in a role). And as Cotton Weary, he’s become a wildcard-type element in the Scream franchise. His time in the second movie setup a hopeful appearance here. Unfortunately for him he’s the first killed at the hands of our new Ghostface killer. Plenty of good, brutal horror fun. Also, we get a new, sinisterly playful dimension concerning the killer’s use of the voice changer over the phone. This introduction before the title makes clear: all bets are off.
There’s honestly a lot I love about this one. So sue me. For instance, my area of study is actually John Milton and his epic poem Paradise Lost. Well, that very name is used for the character played by Lance Henriksen, an old school Hollywood movie producer, who has something to do with Maureen, mother of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell).
Once we discover the underbelly of Hollywood sucked Maureen in, Mr. Milton providing the path for her to walk on down, the reference takes on more life. In regards to Paradise Lost, it’s the story of man’s fall from grace, Garden of Eden, all that, and specifically we see Satan as the fallen angel – he goes to Earth, to try and tempt Adam and Eve into sin, so on. It’s a minor reference linked to a plot point. Props to Craven and Kruger for using it, though. An interesting little inclusion.
The two things I love most: the score from Marco Beltrami, his best stuff yet in the series, as he experimented with recording techniques to give a new sound to the familiar musical progressions we’ve heard in the other two films; and, the legitimately unsettling scenes involving Sid’s new home out in the woods, particularly when she has the dream of an apparition of her mother at the window, so creepy.
scream-3-1Biggest faults of Scream 3 are in the characters. In the mix, character development – other than Sidney, thankfully – gets lost, and their underdeveloped nature always leaves me wanting something more which never comes. Like Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), he could’ve been an awesome character. He’s left too generic to actually feel three-dimensional, and that becomes a big problem.
One of the film’s worst offences is the performance of Parker Posey. And if there is a god, strike me down, because I LOVE PARKER! I do. She’s so excellent most of the time. Here, she’s excruciatingly over the top. I don’t agree that’s part of the character; it is, only to an extent. She goes too far into the satirical where it becomes something out of a slapstick comedy, and that gives Scream an overload – the dark comedy, the self-deprecating lens, these are things Craven does well. Posey just takes it to a level that doesn’t work well with the other elements.
Herein lies the problem. Instead of mixing appropriately in a combination which compliments each aspect – such as the way the previous two entries in the series do satire and serious horror at once so well – Scream 3 wallows in a muddled tone. Feels like Craven could’ve used Kevin Williamson around to help iron things out.
scream-3-3The saving grace is truly Ms. Campbell. She’s fallen further into Sidney as a character with each movie. This time, even though she isn’t on screen as much as the first two, she anchors the rest of the performances to keep things solid. Even as other performances descend into parody instead of satire. Campbell is my generation’s kick ass Final Girl. The ultimate moment of Scream 3 is a proper bit of metafiction: Craven has Ghostface attack Sidney on the set of a new Stab movie, which is the exact replica of where she was first attacked in her home during the events of the original Scream.
I mean, it does not get any better than that!
Doesn’t matter to me that there are issues, even Posey’s terrible performance, the underdeveloped characters surrounding Sidney and the main core (Cox and Arquette are still enjoyable enough; at times the latter’s slightly irritating in this sequel). None of it matters too much. Although I don’t enjoy this one near as much as the first two, I still watch and enjoy. There are a couple classic Scream kills, splashes of blood, a depraved new addition to the Maureen Prescott story, and Roger Corman shows up for a cameo.
So maybe this doesn’t match up with any of the other entries. I actually dig Scream 4, way more than this one. But I don’t care because it mostly fits in with the entire series, and Craven still manages to freak me out now and then. I hope at least a few other people feel the same.

DON’T BREATHE or You’ll Choke on the Tension!

Don’t Breathe. 2016. Directed by Fede Alvarez. Screenplay by Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues.
Starring Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, & Emma Bercovici.
Screen Gems/Stage 6 Films/Ghost House Pictures.
Rated R. 88 minutes.
Crime/Horror/Thriller.

★★★★1/2
poster-dont-breatheFede Alvarez did a bang up job with the Evil Dead remake. Not only did he and co-writer Rodo Sayagues come on like a couple madmen upping the bloody horror, they also took the story and made it their own with a twist on the original. Coming into Don’t Breathe, I knew that with Alvarez at the helm and Sayagues in the seat again alongside him writing once more, chances are this film would be exciting.
And they did not disappoint. For most of the runtime this is a movie totally reliant, for good reason, on suspense. There’s an inarguable tension that Alvarez rarely, if ever, lets up. He gives us an ebb and flow of the suspense, a rise and then a fall; all to lull us in for the bigger jumps and surprises and jolts of pure adrenaline.
With three fantastic actors leading the way – Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, and Dylan Minnette – the story’s in proper hands. Added to that is the textured, gritty cinematography of Pedro Luque (The Silent House), capturing the Blind Man’s home in a spectacular spectrum of darkness and light, all shades of colours. There’s so much to enjoy, even when we’re taken down the rabbit hole of depravity after the secrets of the house are finally revealed.
dont-breathe1There’s something thrilling about beginning in media res, as it sets the stage to either reach that pinnacle of terror exactly as we see it, or take us on a winding road to explain it to us differently, to show us the truth and perhaps make things more intense than they once seemed. So the ominous opener of the Blind Man (Lang) hauling an unconscious Rocky (Levy) down the road in a dilapidated Detroit neighbourhood is a powerful way to start the film, as it brings up a lot of questions, ones that remain unanswered right to the last minute.
Nice character development in the beginning. Rocky isn’t just a female character, she doesn’t get tossed in and used as a generic part of the story. Some horror movies do the Final Girl trope, and not to say that doesn’t happen to a certain extent here. But before any of that happens we’re introduced to her life, the hell from which she wants to escape. It isn’t a case of young girl wants to run away and start a new life, it’s a case of young girl lives in near squalor with a horrible mother and her neo-Nazi boyfriend and she’s got to get her kid sister OUT.
What’s more is that I like the relationship between Rocky and Alex (Minnette). It gives the film a romantic sort of story, as Alex pines quietly for his good friend. And we get it without any of the forced romance, there’s no cheesy love story. Rather, Alvarez and Sayagues make it part of the characters and use it mostly as the basis for Alex’s character/his motivations. Truly a solid bit of writing in the screenplay. Too many movies fall prey to the supposed need for romantic intrigue and in the course of that ruin characters, drag out portions of story to unneeded lengths, among other mistakes. Don’t Breathe gets this angle right, part of why it’s one of the better written horrors in the last 6 or 7 years.
dont-breathe-2This next part might need a disclaimer. I’ll just say that I’m not trying to be insensitive, because I don’t meant to be, this is merely an opinion.
I’ve seen a few reviews stating they wished a blind actor were used for the part Lang plays. And I have a problem with that. This isn’t the same as a black character being whitewashed, an Asian character being replaced with a white woman, or anything racial. Logistically, could they have used an actual blind person to fill the role? Maybe. I’m not saying there’s no blind actors who couldn’t handle the part. What I’m saying is that this is a movie. There’s only so much time they can film, there’s only so many takes a crew can do, and at the end of the day I think that acting is called acting for a reason.
Lang does some of his best work as The Blind Man. Furthermore, Alvarez and Sayagues don’t write him as a cliche, trope-ified blind character in that they don’t make his sense of smell and hearing A MILLION TIMES BETTER, because while no doubt some who are blind come to use their other senses with a keen edge, being blind doesn’t make you into a superhero of some sort. Between the character as written and the way Lang portrays him, I’d hope that it comes off as genuine. Also, I applaud the fact the Blind Man is, in essence, the villain of the story. The filmmakers don’t pose as trying to put all sorts of pity on this man, instead this disabled veteran is the monster in the shadows, the big bad. And that’s a lot of fun. Able bodied people take for granted the fact we see ourselves in all lights represented through cinema. What I love here is that, for anyone disabled, they get to have the experience of being represented as the villain, and through fiction these types of scenarios and characters allow us to understand the humanity of everybody; the able bodied and the disabled alike can be heroes and heroines, villains, any kind of character. Something often times forgotten by writers.
dont-breathe-3The nature of Don’t Breathe‘s plot – robbing the home of a blind man – allows for easy suspense. The choice of shots, the tension as the would-be robbers move through his house, the dead quiet of many scenes which raises the heart rate; these put that suspense up on blast. Alvarez draws it all out as the Blind Man’s home unleashes upon us the horror held within its walls. Keeping a story basically in one location for a whole film isn’t always easy. He does so with a feel of true claustrophobia which never eases.
What a finale. The final 20-25 minutes circles around a depraved edge. The bulk of Lang’s lines come here, the delivery and the writing together are like a sledgehammer. Lang has a special, subtle way of being ferocious, which he uses to full advantage in these moments. For a minute or two you feel anything, even the most brutal possibility, is wholly possible. Accompanied by the eerie score from Roque Baños (Sexy BeastThe MachinistCell 211) these are dreadful scenes worthy of awe.
I can’t stress enough that Don’t Breathe is one of 2016’s best horror films, the consensus is astounding. There will always be detractors, of any movie, but especially horror – so many fickle fans. Many of whom love to hate movies other horror fans enjoy a ton, like they get a thrill from being a contrarian. There are certain undeniable things about films, particularly horror, that aren’t subjective, and Alvarez – by all honest accounts – gives us amazingly palpable suspense the likes of which don’t come around often enough. Let this movie sink its hooks in, I highly doubt you’ll regret it.

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER: Step Into a Place of Madness

The Blackcoat’s Daughter. 2016. Directed & Written by Oz Perkins.
Starring Emma Roberts, Lucy Boynton, Kiernan Shipka, Lauren Holly, James Remar, Peter J. Gray, Emma Holzer, Jodi Larratt, & Douglas Kidd.
Paris Film/Travelling Picture Show Company/Unbroken Pictures.
Rated R. 93 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2
screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-12-14-52-amBetween this and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, director-writer Oz Perkins (son of the great Anthony Perkins) has had a couple great years. He’s proving to be a master of the slow burn. Some might not be keen on that type of horror. Myself, and plenty others, find it fascinating; when done correctly.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (also renamed as February throughout its drawn out release) is a compelling, almost hypnotic fever dream. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it hinges on a big twist, a grand reveal. However, Perkins does tell his story through a curious lens, one that kept me thrilled to the last beat. Part of the way through the pieces start coming together and when they do the climax hits like kick in the teeth, bringing us towards a tragic and violent end.
Not everyone will find the film their cup of tea; no film’s going to touch on everything, it’s impossible. If you’re a fan of those slow burn horror efforts, Perkins offers nothing but the best. The central performances, specifically Emma Roberts and Kiernan Shipka, are totally engaging, and honestly if you can’t give them that then you’re not being honest. Above all, the style of the film, its gradually revealed plot, the score, they’ll haul you into this world and haunt you, too.
screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-12-12-44-amThe film moves in what feels like an erratic fashion, jumping between the three main young women in the story – Joan (Roberts), Rose (Boynton), and Kat (Shipka). For a little while I actually felt the screenplay wasn’t coming out smooth, then after several scenes things came together and made clear the story was non-linear. Once you settle into the plot and its progression, the film gets even more interesting; the vagary of its elements become clearer and clearer.
What I dig most is the sparse dialogue and the sense of subtlety throughout. It’s a quiet film until the madness of the last half hour. Even then it’s gentle, in a way. A genuinely unsettling atmosphere is provided through gorgeously captured, dark cinematography making the boarding school particularly, the main location of the film, feel ominous at every turn. Kudos to cinematographer Julie Kirkwood, who also worked on Perkins’ I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House and also on Bryan Bertino’s spectacular little flick The Monster last year.
Something which gives presence to the eerie darkness of the film is also the score. Beautifully strange music. Certain parts sound like a theremin, off playing in the distance somewhere. Other times an echoing, grating sound of strings, and so much more. The score altogether, every piece, fits where it sits. Just great stuff that takes the sombre mood and tone of the film to another level.
screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-12-53-19-amPerkins could’ve told this story through a straightforward presentation of scenes, moving through all the expected moves one anticipates in a film such as this one. Again, I don’t necessarily feel that the ‘reveal’ of the plot is a twist, or that it’s meant as a huge surprise. But the slow burn leading up to it makes that revelation exciting, in a darkly enticing manner. Perkins writes well without exposition, telling his story through imagery, which in turn makes the whole thing more captivating as we move through its murky mysteries.
He does a fine bit of work as director. The quick shots of a strangulation. Then a gunshot in the darkness. A view of Joan’s bullet scar. Blood on a door frame. Kat sees Rose in the corner, as an evil entity rises up nearby. All these things are so finite, brief, all vague and unnerving respectively. Specifically I love when we’re introduced to Joan. As we figure her out, the flashes of her memory are pure storytelling without the need for words.
And this is, once more, part of why the revealing moments of the story hold their weight. Because even if you’re not actually surprised by the – for lack of a better word at this point – twist, at this point there’s an anticipation built up that has you expecting something fierce. Does Perkins ever deliver. Tension snaps, then art and nastiness collide. Believe it or not, Perkins opts to show very little in comparison to what he could have shown for the sake of gruesome horror. The relatively tame nature of the final 20-25 minutes is what makes it such a gruelling experience. Then all those cryptic memories of Joan, her odd giggle in the bathroom, the scar, Kat and Rose’s situation at the boarding school, everything tangles up into a vicious burst of blood and terror.

This is absolutely one of the best horrors I saw from 2016. Perkins is a talented director and storyteller, his writing is the sort which draws me in, keeping me glued. Not everyone likes that slow burn aesthetic. I do. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is expertly written, and through that comes its gorgeous, devilish imagery to tell the story on its own. There’s no substitute for great artistry, Perkins has it in spades.
You can’t talk about this movie without mentioning the massive talents of Roberts and Shipka. They’re both utterly fabulous, gliding through the material with what looks of ease. They make their characters feel real, which isn’t only necessary it is wholly disturbing. The story comes down hard on the audience not only because of the writing, but because these two young women make Joan and Kat come off the page with terrifying results.
I keep telling people about this one because it deserves to be seen, it deserves to be studied in terms of its visuals and learned from for those who write and want to tell a story without only resorting to dialogue; this aspect I love and can’t stress enough. So many people want this type of horror, then when they get it they don’t know what to do with it. Not saying everybody has to love it. Just try and let the images and the flow of the film take over, listen to the sparsely placed words carefully. I hope that maybe you’ll get even a fraction of the same enjoyment I did, and will continue to as I watch it over and over again, relishing in its horrific glory.

Why SCREAM 2 is Better Than People Are Willing to Admit

Scream 2. 1997. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Starring Neve Campbell, Jada Pinkett Smith, Omar Epps, Heather Graham, Elise Neal, Liev Schreiber, Courtney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joshua Jackson, Timothy Olyphant, Jamie Kennedy, Jerry O’Connell, Duane Martin, Laurie Metcalf, Lewis Arquette, Rebecca Gayheart, Portia de Rossia, & David Arquette.
Dimension Films/Konrad Pictures/Craven-Maddalena Films.
Rated R. 120 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★posterscream2Disclaimer: It’s been 20 years. If you haven’t seen this yet, expect to be spoiled.

Make no mistake, I loved Scream. When it first came out my friend and I watched it together, we were maybe 12, and it truly scared us. Wes Craven is one of the masters of the horror genre. While the first film in the series took a – pardon me for this – stab at horror movies in a post-modern, metafictional style, screenwriter Kevin Williamson comes back with Craven for the sequel, Scream 2, and they not only stab again at the heart of horror cliches, as well as sequels, they genuinely up the seriousness of the story while still staying fresh and self-deprecating at the right moments.
There’s a lot people take for granted when it comes to this series overall, but especially this sequel. Everyone expected something particular, which is always a gamble when it comes to a huge movie many fans loved. But this sequel offered many things that horror fans who don’t give it the proper credit don’t often notice, at least not the first time around. Sure, the whole thing with the new Ghostface picking off victims using the names of victims from the original massacre, that’s something, and Jamie Kennedy’s Randy Meeks has more Rules to Survive a Horror MovieSequel to offer his friends and the audience.
But the true strength of this film comes in the writing of Williamson, and its execution at the hands of Mr. Craven. Running the gamut from horror parody (Stab with Tori Spelling and Luke Wilson) to the inclusion of high art and stage tragedy (Aeschylus’ Agamemnon from the Oresteia), it’s like a great piece of literary fiction and Scream 2 is better than many are willing to admit. I don’t pretend to know why, and I also know not everything is for everyone. I do know a few reasons why it’s worth reconsidering and popping on for another watch.
scream2-1Starting in the first film, Craven takes aim at many things, including his beloved genre of choice. Mainly though, he focuses his assault on the media. Gale Weathers (Cox) is a ruthless reporter, the epitome of ‘willing to do anything to get the story’ even if that includes dragging victims through the mud. By the same token, she’s also, now and then, shown as a double-edged sword, someone who, like in the case of Cotton Weary (Schreiber), also wants to get to the bottom of the truth, eventually. What’s interesting is that this sequel – and continuing in the third film – marks a transition for Gale, where she’s still clinging to her old ways but also finding out there’s another side, that reporters just need to work a little harder and they can be respected, instead of being the latest fodder generating instrument for headlines. Moreover, she’s too busy chasing the next story in this sequel to see a killer right in front of her.
Gale’s nastiest moment comes when she confronts Sidney (Campell) with Cotton in tow; an effectively awful scene concerning exploited victims, all at the hands of Ms. Weathers in her search for the next big thing to keep her fame from fading. Strange how she’s basically the precursor for people like Piers Morgan, Nancy Grace, and other media ‘personalities’ today clinging to any kind of controversy or whatever it takes to stay in the spotlight.
The opening sequence is really the nail in the coffin of media exploitation. Audiences are desensitised, something I’m sure Craven was very aware of, long before Scream 2. When Jada Pinkett Smith’s character perishes during this opener, we see the wreckage of desensitisation. People are so jaded that she literally has to die on stage for the crowd to see, to understand it’s real and not a gimmick. Further than that there’s the idea of media exploiting true crimes to turn into films, franchises, merchandise, et cetera. Everyone is so caught up in the Stab gimmick – all the Ghostface masks, rubber knives, all those toys and replicas – they probably imagined this woman getting stabbed in front of them was a marketing campaign, the next step in the film studio evolving to the times. And what’s funny is that this was released 20 years ago as of my writing, yet it’d be even more genuinely believable in this day and age than then, you could see this happening in 2017. Craven rubs in the reality when JPS hits the stage, lingering on her dead face, the blood, her cold eyes, before cutting to the title. A jarring image.
scream2-2The age old question rears its head once more in Craven’s sequel: do horror movies and violent images breed killers and/or homicidal thought? As we find out with Mickey (Olyphant), life really does imitate art like he points out, and he even plans on using it as a defence. This is spectacular for a couple reasons.
Number one, Mickey is one of the Ghostface murderers in this film and he goes against the killers of the first film, Billy Loomis and Stu Macher; they were big horror movie lovers, but were motivated primarily by revenge for Sidney’s mom sleeping with Billy’s father before their family fell apart. Mickey is wholeheartedly invested in movies as motive, the media has warped his mind and he’s going to use it to try getting off with murder.
Number two, life imitating art factors into the big finale. We start the film with a death on a movie theatre stage, we end the film with a final confrontation on a theatrical stage. Not just that, the play Sidney is a part of is Agamemnon, which is a tale of family and revenge; this directly parallels Scream 2‘s story that ultimately deals with family and revenge. When the other killer is unmasked it links to family, the first film. Then the deaths, completing the tragedy of a Greek play, add another effect to the whole. Sidney’s performance itself, her character, is a great inclusion. Plus, the audience witnesses a head trip of a rehearsal as she loses herself in the masks onstage, believing Ghostface lurks around each costume. Not only does Williamson use the Greek tragedy in parallel with his plot, the sequence at the rehearsal comes off as impressively theatrical, a nice visual and thematic few moments. All this together makes clear that the screenplay is well crafted, not just another sequel to a slasher waiting to be forgotten.
scream2-3As was the case in the original film, Williamson writes a nice whodunnit scenario, as Craven spins the words into near constant tension. Nobody here is safe from suspicion, and seeing Scream 2 for the first time is real fun because it’s a great guessing game for a while. More than that there are a couple perfect slasher horror scenes, a unique score like we got the first time around, and the returning actors – Campbell, Cox, Arquette, Kennedy – do a fine job carrying the material, sinking further into their characters this time around.
One last mention is that I love how they didn’t throw Cotton Weary to the side. He wasn’t forgotten, and the inclusion of his character, following up on his false imprisonment for the killing of Sidney’s mother, is not just good for the whodunnit mystery, it does wonders for the whole concentrated universe of the Scream series. I actually wish Weary lasted longer in the next movie, but alas, we at least get a bit more Schreiber!
Either way, this is a great sequel, one of the better and more underappreciated sequels to a slasher over the past 20 years, that’s for damn sure. I know this did well at the box office, but over time I feel like many horror fans fell out of love with it, if they ever actually loved it in the first place. All I know is that Craven directs this film at a masterful level, the suspense is unbearable and he keeps you on edge, while the story Williamson weaves adds to what made the first film so perfectly creepy and effective (in terms of its aim at media and the sensationalised way people view true crime), as well as provides serious weight to the story overall in his use of Agamemnon.
You’ll do far worse than this Craven flick if you want to throw in a sequel. Take a stormy, eerie night when the wind outside is blowing, turn off the lights, and let Scream 2 get in your head.

Repression Unleashed in THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA

The Witch Who Came from the Sea. 1976. Directed by Matt Cimber. Screenplay by Robert Thom.
Starring Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Rick Jason, Stafford Morgan, & George ‘Buck’ Flower.
Cinema Epoch.
Rated R. 88 minutes.
Drama/Horror

★★★★
the-witch-who-came-from-the-sea-images-0068abac-94e2-43d8-9916-64630b0aa42During the early 1980s, a bunch of films were classified on a list as Video Nasties, which reached all the way back to 1959’s Obscene Publications Act – amended in ’77 to include erotic films. The U.K. stamped these films as some of them were prosecuted, others were not. The Witch Who Came from the Sea was on the list, though it later was unsuccessfully prosecuted (alongside 32 other films) and the Department of Public Prosecutions dropped it from the list.
For a time it reigned on high as one of the Video Nasty movies many horror fans were eager to see, if only for the thrill of being nasty on their own. However, this 1976 horror offering is more than just a bit of shock or a gimmick to carry thread bare chills. The Witch Who Came from the Sea is a devastating, trippy, and brutally honest movie which tackles the terror childhood abuse wreaks on an individual as an adult.
On top of that, the legendary Dean Cundey provides uncredited cinematography, and anyone who’s a horror fan will know Cundey being attached means something special – HalloweenThe FogEscape from New YorkThe Thing, just a few of his best works behind the camera. And in front of the camera in the lead role, the metaphorical and titular witch, is Millie Perkins, known for her first appearance as Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank. If it weren’t for the impeccable talents of Perkins, the dramatic horror of the story might never have played so well. She takes us down into the dark corridors of her character’s soul, and threatens to never let us go.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-21-30-pmWhat ails you, Molly?”

This might be seen, by many eyes, as exploitation cinema. Another rape-revenge flick. And in a sense, it is, but at the same time it’s so much more. For instance, the title itself and its significance to the plot is excellent. The film opens on a shot of a vast, lonely yet beautiful beach, then right on the edge of the shore we settle where the tide flows in, and here we’re first introduced to Molly (Perkins). Immediately, director Matt Cimber concentrates on the sea, and we know, with Molly walking and the tide flowing at her feet, the sea is linked to her in a significant way. Literally and figuratively, she is always at the edge of the sea, at the mercy of the tide.
What’s so intriguing right away about Molly is her fixation on the male figure. She’s taking care of her nephews, then by the beach at an outdoor gym she notices a couple muscle men working out. Seeing them, by the sea no less, triggers her into seeing the men flash between alive and pumping iron, to bloody and choked to death, as well as other brutal imagery. From the first scene, Cimber sets up all the main themes he’ll work off for the entirety of the film. I compare this opening to the way in which an author does well by starting off their novel with a beginning sentence, or paragraph, that means even more once the story is over.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-25-23-pmThose symbols of supposed masculinity (or what you might call popular masculinity) come up time and time again, from the muscles and the fit physique, to tattoos. Molly comes across many of these men. She even works at a bar, where most of the men who come in as patrons are sexist and grabby and all that. She’s surrounded by these ideals of masculinity, and for some initially inexplicable reason she doesn’t so much reject these symbols. Rather, she plays into them, and then her bloody fantasies move from her daydreams into reality. Everything masculine becomes a playground for her revenge fantasies. Men in TV ads for razors aren’t even safe; she imagines the razor used to cut a guy’s throat. Soon she’s with football players in bed rolling around and the savagery commences, to brutal effect.
All this boils down to her want for revenge. Of course we don’t discover what happened to her, nor the extent, until over an hour into the film. That doesn’t matter, we know before that there’s a deep trauma in her. One linked to the concepts of masculinity, and also to the ocean. She seems a contradictory character – at once eternally angry at big, tough men; all the same she turns around looking oversexed, driven into the arms of these same types of men.
Why is that?

Note: following this notice, I’ll be spoiling the central plot point of the film, so if you’d rather find out on your own turn back now, come back once you’ve watched and chat!

The reason Molly is so devastated emotionally is due to the horrific trauma she faced at the hands of her paedophile father. He was a sailor, and the abuse itself even happened while on the sea, the two of them in bed together. While there is a disturbing scene involving the abuse, Cimber and writer Robert Thom opted not to do anything overtly graphic. Yes, it’s still emotionally vicious and even visceral, just not explicitly disgusting. The film instead offers an, often ties, nuanced look at child abuse. Molly worships her father while her sister realises the truth. She idolises him and then falls into depraved fantasy as her repression takes hold, never knowing the source of her anger against the men after whom she lusts. At one point she even sleeps with the owner of the bar where she works, he looks like her father. So what The Witch Who Came from the Sea does best is tell the tale of a severely, tragically repressed woman wrestling with the demons in her mind.
Perhaps my favourite and the most gruesome of the imagery is after the repression finally breaks – Molly sees a haunting image in her mind of being at sea, bodies chopped to pieces, blood everywhere.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-05-37-pmSo many of these types of horrors – the rape-revenge archetype – opt to make the viewer experience the trauma alongside a victim. Despite the presence of a scene depicting the abuse, The Witch from the Sea works more on the psychological horror of Molly’s past trauma, and doesn’t require such an ugly display of sexual violence such as something like I Spit on Your Grave or The Last House on the Left. There are cryptic glimpses of flashback memories, although never are we subjected to outright nastiness.
Forever and ever this film will be associated with the other Video Nasties, and it’ll get lumped in with the rape-revenge sub-genre. But it’s more than the sum of its parts, it’s more than a lot of the other Video Nasty titles, definitely worth your time above so many tired rape-revenge scenarios that won’t ever add up.
If you’re looking for an at times surreal and intermittently brutal dramatic horror which is heavier on psychology than anything else, this is your game. If you can grab up a copy, do yourself a favour. This might look like a lot of other similar movies. You can take my word for it, even if you don’t dig it as much as I do there’s a huge chance you’ll find it unique in its execution and storytelling. Might not be perfect. It’s still a shiny little gem.

RINGS: The Sequel I Never Knew I Wanted

Rings. 2017. Directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez. Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Jacob Estes, & David Loucka.
Starring Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, Chuck Willis, Patrick Walker, Zach Roerig, & Laura Wiggins.
Macari-Edelstein/Parkes+MacDonald Image Nation/Vertigo Entertainment.
Rated PG-13. 102 minutes.
Horror.

★★★1/2
posterDisclaimer: This review will contain spoilers. If you want to go in fresh, and I suggest you do, then DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW! For thou will be spoiled.

To start, I’ve always loved both the original Ringu from Hideo Nakata and also Gore Verbinski’s remake The Ring. They’re equally disturbing and eerie, in their own rights. I was a lot less impressed with Nakata doing the sequel to the remake, The Ring Two, which I’d hoped would’ve been better. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed bits. Overall I love the mythology of the original story, how the remake handled it in his own way, and of course the first film from Nakata with its truly ghostly feeling. They’re each the type of horror that works its way under your skin until it’s inside you. Remember that first hideous, dead face in the closet in Verbinski’s film? I don’t even have to watch it again to picture it in my mind.
So, once Rings was announced, I actually – honestly – did not give a shit. Total honesty. A few days ago while I had the day to myself, I wandered into Cineplex and bought a ticket. Again, full disclosure: I wanted to see Split (which I will soon). Seeing as how there wasn’t a showtime soon enough for me, Rings got my money.
Although there are a few things I didn’t like – namely the last couple minutes with its reveal, and some issues I had concerning the time frame of certain events – there were a ton of other things I enjoyed, a hell of a lot. Never expected it, either. And maybe that helped. No matter what it was, part of the credit is certainly F. Javier Gutiérrez’s directing. Plus I was impressed by the writing team of Akiva Goldsman, Jacob Estes, and David Loucka, who managed to deliver a screenplay that, while faulty in spots, felt imaginative, Gothic, and paid tribute to the original story in a fresh way.
rings1At first I felt like the opening was cheesy, as it’s the same plane scene we saw in promos recently. Then, as I sat in the theatre, it felt much more dreadful. Really pulse pounding, stressful stuff. Worked great on the big screen. This is an example of the writers bringing Samara (Bonnie Morgan) onto (and in through) the screen in intriguing ways. Later, perhaps my favourite appearance of Samara through a television screen happens as Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) hides in a bathroom – the victim tears a TV from the wall to try stopping the inevitable, and then Samara emerges as the screen lies flat on the floor, pushing her way out into the world (see: picture below). The opener and this scene alone gave us enough new, exciting appearances by the girl at the heart of the story that I feel Estes, Goldsman, and Loucka deserve a pat on the back. They could’ve focused totally on the story itself, the mythology, and left Samara’s television high jinks by the wayside, unoriginal, stale. They chose to try covering it all.
Brings me to another part of Rings I loved: the mythology opens up. The story takes us into a whole new era, literally. We bridge the gap between VHS and MPEG-4; the first interesting plot point. Johnny Galecki plays a professor named Gabriel. He ends up buying a VCR from a sale, and it winds up containing a stuck tape – you know which one! From there, this leads him into an existential search for answers after discovering, as Naomi Watts and others before him, that to survive you must make a copy of the tape, and the cycle continues. He begins a sort of secretive research project involving people watching the tape, then another person hours later watching the copy (a ‘tail’ as Gabriel calls it). Amazing setup for another chapter in The Ring‘s mythology.
rings2That’s not all, though. A man named Burke (Vincent D’Onofrio) turns up later, and the town he lives in played a significant part in the life of Samara. It also holds the key to where she came from, before poor Brian Cox and his wife had their lives – and horses – destroyed by the little girl. This is where the Gothic feel of the story comes into play. This calls us back to that feeling Verbinski tapped into with The Ring, where the country-type settings return and the Gothic sense of secrets brimming under the surface of the town come alive once more. I won’t go on and spoil the twist they have in store, because I didn’t actually expect it, though maybe I should have according to some other, more snooty reviewers. Apart from the twist, there’s such a palpably eerie feeling that hovers like a fog over the last third of the film when Julia makes it to the little town where they discovered Samara’s bones are supposedly buried. This Gothic portion is another beautifully circular piece of the puzzle, as everything in the mythology of Samara seems to circle back in on itself.
I’ve also got to commend Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz. Not that I have anything to compare this performance with, never having seen her act before, but she does good work here. Personally I love Naomi Watts, but Lutz does a far better job giving her character Julia depth, as opposed to a relatively flat performance from Watts in her role as Rachael (over two films no less). This girl Julia gets sucked into the world of the tape and Samara in whirlwind, in a much different situation than Rachael. Lutz’s is the best performance by far, a mixture of apprehension, fear, curiosity. This isn’t one of those run and scream roles, much more than that. And this young actress is someone I hope to see again soon.
RINGSDefinitely not for everyone, Rings will probably only appeal, or mostly, to die hard fans of the first remake. It honestly may not even appeal to Ringu fans, though you never can tell. Despite any of that I feel that Gutiérrez (who did a fantastic film just under a decade ago called Before the Fall) did interesting things as director, and he crafted the compelling new story into a moody, Gothic piece.
Sure, if you watched only the initial half of the film you might feel there isn’t much for this sequel to stand on. There are a couple intriguing things going for it. The real fun doesn’t start until a little ways in, when the mythology not only creeps into the contemporary world of technology but also goes back to the original and expands further. And even though I actually did not like the last few minutes when we’re revealed something that could’ve been suspected earlier, I do dig the very contemporary take on social media that’s offered in those final moments (you’ll understand more if you’ve actually seen the film).
So I’d recommend any non-jaded horror fans who are willing to stop being so judgemental constantly and ready to have fun, plus fans of The Ring and particularly its Gothic-ness, check out Rings. Have some fun. I know I did. I’m not ready for another sequel or anything, I’m just glad Gutiérrez injected life into a sequel I never asked for or knew I wanted.

Taboo – Episode 5

FX’s Taboo
Episode 5
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Ben Hervey & Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 6, click here.


At last we saw James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) he was at a party, stuck between Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) and his half-sister, his true love, Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin). And then Zilpha’s husband Thorne (Jefferson Hall) challenged him to a duel.
We open as James and Thorne are rowed in their respective boats on a foggy river. They head to a small island, a patch of land where others including Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson) wait to watch the duel. A gypsy woman owns the land, between two parishes. Perfect place for a duel, no? Pistols are inspected, and all is ready; Lorna’s even walked through the walker to the island without a boat, like a bad ass. According to the “Irish Code of 1777” they go to first blood, no second shots afterwards, and a doctor stands waiting to treat them.
When they line up and the pistols are drawn, a shot from Thorne doesn’t do much to James. Because there is no bullet in his pistol. The young man meant to help Thorne was obviously sent by the East India Company. James remarks that his life is, apparently, “more precious” than that of Thorne. Yikes. Another blow to the man’s impossibly fragile ego. However, when Zilpha sees her husband return she assumes things worked out for the better, but he of course responds with his usual half-paranoia, half-bottled up anger.
At home James is tended to by the ever faithful, ever hopeful Brace (David Heyman), whose faith does dwindle a bit in the face of his master and friend’s unpredictable behaviour. Meanwhile, James confides more in Lorna, whose interest in things is obviously more than just money; she cares. How much, who knows. But she does, enough to not want to see him dead. She meets Winter, too, who also doesn’t want Delaney to die, either. Can they help that? Or is it inevitable?
screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-2-43-51-amThe East India Company discovers their warehouse raided, as James heads off into the wilderness. He catches a man following him: “Are you King or are you company?” Instead of killing the man, he leaves him with a few nasty cuts to tell his friends about when he gets back. Back at James’ new factory Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander) is working steadfast on his gunpowder formula and things are going as planned. Four weeks to go if he’s given an assistant.
Lorna discovers a trunk at the Delaney house, one which Brace seems to hate. He’d rather burn the thing, saying that inside is “the truth.” And what exactly is that? Sounds dangerous.
In town James goes to see Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank) for a ship’s sail; the man who takes care of the boy, y’know, the one that could be James’ son, or his brother, or whatever. And this will be the chemist’s apprentice during the gunpowder process. Now, that’s an interesting little twist. Of course Atticus (Stephen Graham) is still in the mix. James asks him and his crew about the bounty on information concerning his business around the city. He claims he knows who’s considering giving him up. Then he cuts a man’s thumb off: “I am inside your heads, gentleman, always.” After that it’s off to see Helga (Franka Potente) and her harem, asking for help with the Company men. He offers the thumb up to show he’ll help them, and with a ruthless attitude.


Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) is in a foul mood with Delaney making the Company look like a bunch of idiots. “We are richer than God,” he exclaims while making clear they must squash the problem. Poor Godfrey (Edward Hogg) sits at the table, visibly worried for his safety after aiding the man the Company wants to ruin. At the same time a man from the Company searching for information, threatening one of Helga’s girls, is dispatched bloodily, left with a note on his chest to make sure there’s no misunderstandings: the devil Delaney did the deed.
And what of that devil? The Gothic feel of the series keeps poking its head through, peeking at us, and we’ve not yet understood it all. Which I enjoy. There’s plenty to keep us intrigued, or at least myself, anyways. The mystery behind James’ time in Africa, all he experienced, is gripping me. “Everybodys scared of you,” Cholmondeley tells him at one point; very fitting, and true.
In the big, old house, James searches for the Nootka Sound Treaty, signed between him and the Natives. The land was bought for gunpowder and not much else, which included his mother, something he obviously wrestles with in his soul. His mother wouldn’t play along, so she was sent to an insane asylum by Horace; shit, that’s brutal. And then amongst the papers James searches, he finds that very document.
Back with George IV, Prince Regent (Mark Gatiss), he’s eating and getting fatter, his health truly starting to decline in the decadence of his luxury. His man Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) continues advising him on the best course of action going forward, concerning the East India Company. Coop believes it best to go headlong at Sir Stuart, as they have a bit of dirt on him apparently.
Again, James meets with Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) in his cholera-ridden building. Perfect for their clandestine chats. The doctor needs his help with gunpowder, and he knows about the farmhouse, the factory James has going with Cholmondeley. So many spies, everywhere! Everybody has spies, especially an American in London. Not only that, Dumbarton even knows Cholmondeley, too. The plot thickens. The doctor wishes James to make chlorate gunpowder, a process the French attempted and one that created an undesired, massive explosion. There’s more danger now than before, and that’s saying something. Needless to say, Cholmondeley isn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect, him being the chemist and all.


In the Geary household things are becoming worse. Thorne finds his wife fantasising in bed again, prompting him into nasty violence. He beats her badly on the floor. You can already see how things will turn out for him in the end, if you couldn’t already.
George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) is called to Mr. Coop’s office, to talk about a slave ship which sank; 280 souls, even children, drowned at sea. He’s given a bit of offence, as Coop assumes he had relatives aboard, at which Chichester chuckles briefly. He believes the ship was sank deliberately by slavers, supposedly men of the EIC. Coop delivers him a letter from the Prince Regent; good news, he says. Things are about to get dicey. There’s a new commission opened into the sinking of the Influence, the slave ship, and this has Sir Stuart more prickly than you can even imagine. He sets about a frantic rush to set things in place to cover their asses.
James goes to see Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands) about the gunpowder, though she plays coy and talks of Nootka Sound, their overall deal. She pressures James to trust her, something on which he isn’t too keen. Every relationship he has is a slippery one, no matter with whom.
At home Zilpha is confronted by Thorne, with a priest wanting to exorcise the spirit of James that visits her in the night. Now by force they’re planning to relieve her of the demons, or so it seems. A terrifying prospect. The priest goes to work in his madness, basically molesting her as he recites nonsense about “evil come to the surface” and other wild crap. They leave her on the floor, they untie her. But this has done nothing, obviously, to change how she feels. Only that she hates Thorne more. So much so you can see his death in her eyes; it’s coming.
screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-30-02-amA fascinating episode, beginning with a bang and ending in a weird, wild way with plenty to offer for a setup leading into the following episode. Next one ought to be another whopper. I’m loving Taboo. Some others seem to think it isn’t so great, but I couldn’t care less. It’s interesting to me in so many ways. Let’s see what comes next.

The Path – Season 2, Episode 3: “The Father and The Son”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 2, Episode 3: “The Father and The Son”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Julia Brownell

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dead Moon” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Red Wall” – click here
screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-10-24-17-pmWe begin with Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy) giving us a talk on Meyerism, saying it must not “remain static” – these are actually the words of Dr. Steven Meyer (Keir Dullea), as he talks of Cal and Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) being Guardians of the Light. Meanwhile, we flashback with Richard (Clark Middleton) to his first time taking the drugs the Meyerists do. He trips hard then Dr. Meyer comes out to comfort him. And imparts that it isn’t for him to decide who’ll lead them after he’s gone isn’t up to him: “Thats up to the Light, man.” Ah. Now, he’s got doubts about Cal and the supposed words of the doctor coming from his lips.
screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-10-24-47-pmIn other news, Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell) is worried about first time motherhood, so the cult prays for her; Abe Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar), undercover, included. Then out of nowhere, police arrive. You can see just from the look on Cal’s face this worries him. Their mere presence enough to disturb that quiet underneath the surface. Likewise, Sarah’s worried, and she isn’t as good as Cal at hiding it; not that he’s great. Well the cops were there about Hawk (Kyle Allen) and Noa (Britne Oldford) throwing a rock through a window on their previous night walk. Nothing too serious right now.
Speaking of Hawk, he and his father Eddie (Aaron Paul) talk about the retreat he went on, that he “floated” and that he received a sign. When his dad brings the sceptical real world into the picture Hawk does not respond well. The kid doesn’t want anything to do with his denier father anymore. These are the first steps of Hawk’s indoctrination, fully he’s being submerged in the dangerous side of this so-called faith; the side convincing him, in his youthful idealism, that there’s something real about “the ladder” and all the other Meyerist nonsense. And he’s stuck between one parent who’s come to their senses, as well as another that’s also stuck between a rock and a hard place with her own faith. Later, Sarah takes Hawk to see the woman whose window he smashed, Libby Ducaan (Molly Price). She makes an offer: she’ll not worry about the window at all, if they “stop their campaign of false propaganda” involving the people of Clarksville. Libby even provides result of the tests on the water, to show she’s on the level. Is she? Or are we seeing another aspect of a cult where they can’t even see how their philanthropic ideals, in a rush to ‘be good’ in the eyes of the outer world, are being misused?
screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-10-29-53-pmThen we’ve got Abe and his wife Jocelyn (Jasmin Walker). Things aren’t going well. She knows that he’s doing important work undercover, she’s understanding. But it’s all Abe talks about, and simultaneously she has had to bear all his training, all his work, all this undercover stuff taking up his time. She feels as if the family’s being alienated. And y’know, we already see Abe getting too close to Nicole (Ali Ahn), so it’s not hard to imagine he might be slipping into Meyerism a little.
Kodiak (James Remar) is feeling terrible about what happened to Steve, believing he let the man down. All the same, Sarah’s mother Gab (Deirdre O’Connell) comforts him; they have a history, these two. I wonder will Kodiak being around cause friction? Seems like there’s an unresolved love there, or at the very least a passion.
In a not unexpected development, Hawk starts opening up to Cal, who begins playing the father figure role. Yeah, that’s going to turn out well. Nevertheless, they bond and Cal willingly steps in to try giving him direction. And across the street Eddie watches, as his son slips away, from him, and further into the cult. So he makes a split decision to confront them. Eddie tries appealing to his boy, he tries to be understanding. He’s desperate. Hawk runs off while Cal puts up a tough front, and Eddie makes clear: “I will fucking murder you before I let you take him from me.”
Together, Richard and Kodiak look over the final few Rungs, the former believing Steve didn’t write the last three Rungs. And Kodiak’s inclined to believe he didn’t. They wonder now if the man drawn on the cave in Peru, involved in Steve’s death, was in fact Cal.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-10-50-10-pmMary goes for a talk with Sarah. She reveals that her baby may or may not belong to Sean (Paul James). She’s concerned that he’ll be devastated finding out the child isn’t his (no telling what Cal will do if he knew for sure). However, Sarah has other things on her mind. Eddie contacts his estranged wife. They met and he’s clearly angry about Hawk, what Cal and possibly Sarah are putting in his head. No telling where all this is headed, but I know it ain’t good.
Note: Truly fantastic score from Will Bates (Imperium). In the next scene, this pounding rhythm takes over and drives the tension you feel mounting. This goes on for a stretch of time, as paranoia begins setting in.
On the road Eddie notices someone following him. Does he? Soon the car vanishes, and he’s relieved. Then at a gas station the car pulls up, a young guy gets out. Quickly, Eddie pumps his gas and takes off. He meets Chloe Jones (Leven Rambin) for a drink at a casino, telling her about all the madness of his life as of late. When Eddie sees the guy from the gas station this sets his paranoid mind off, big time: “Im not letting them control me, okay?” he all but yells at Chloe.
When Sarah talks to Hawk, he says he’s filled with rage. And therefore Cal will help him “channel” all that. Like an unknowingly oxymoronic statement. He further rejects his father, and his mother worries for what she can’t say: Cal is a god damned murderer, one who’s killed his own friend. Super choice of a role model. Somehow Sarah continues falling for him and she’s, essentially, asking him to offer up money in exchange for her silence re: his sins.
screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-10-59-22-pmFinally, Mary suggests to Sean the baby may not be his, and without words confirms she may be carrying Cal’s child. Uh oh. I wonder, will Sean let his old self through and take out his frustrations on the cult leader?
Sarah finds out Ducaan’s testing isn’t complete. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are needed to do the rest, which is, of course, why nobody has found anything major yet as proof. But she knows there’s something wrong. She’s trying to reassure a Clarksville farmer they’re doing their best to help. “I will take on your burden,” Sarah tells him before taking a drink of the contaminated water herself. Stupid faith, and now poison, runs through her veins.
In a car park Cal confronts Lisa about their tax exempt status. He wants their application pushed through, though she says exemptions are being pushed back for a while. Cal wants to be repaid for Meyerism helping her in a time of need. He’s being unbearably creepy, physically threatening without ever uttering a threat or raising a hand.
And while everyone else goes on with their lives, Richard and Kodiak summon the spirit of Dr. Steven Meyer. They beat drums, hoping to speak with him. Kodiak reveals Steve is “not in the light.”
Worst of all, Eddie starts having a bad reaction to the alcohol he drank with Chloe. He’s rushed to a hospital, his breathing staggered, his face going deep red. Will he make it through?


I loved this episode. The personal tensions between characters are coming to a head, and the family of Lanes is coming apart at the seams. Like a juggling act, seeing who’ll be able to carry the biggest emotional load, and who’ll succumb to defeat.

Taboo – Episode 4

FX’s Taboo
Episode 4
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight & Emily Ballou

* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-50-31-pmJames Delaney (Tom Hardy) can’t shake the memories of where he’s been, they’re with him all the time. All the while life does go on. Suddenly men from the Crown are looking for Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley), so James tells her to “hold out” and he’ll sort everything proper. In the meantime, she’s cast down to some nasty old dungeon with a filthy man putting her in shackles. Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) arrives to play his part, the rotten bastard. He threatens her physically and sexually in no uncertain terms, despicable to say the least. He urges her to sign it all over to the Crown, or else she’ll be convicted for attempted murder. And who knows what else would happen to her before she ever got into a court.
However, in the face of it all Lorna will not relent. She believes in James. This obviously angers Mr. Coop and as he further threatens her, she’s set free in the nick of time. Brace (David Hayman) is there to pick her up, too.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-52-33-pmOh, and you know that Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) has his knickers in a twist. At the same time, James is off getting what information he can from the crossdressing Godfrey (Ed Hogg). He gives over what he knows of the latest East India Company movements. Apparently there’s a “blacklist” and Delaney is definitely on it. “They cant kill you, but they will crucify your name, and crucify those around you.”
We’re introduced to an interesting character now, a wild chemist played by Tom Hollander named Mr. Cholmondeley. He gives a demonstration for a crowd, of which Delaney is a part. Later while Cholmondeley is having sex with a fan of his, James turns up awkwardly. But all’s well when gold is literally put on the table. Seems the chemist has a process he’s very interested in.
At home, James walks in nonchalant. “All part of the plan,” his trusty caretaker Brace remarks, a bit pissed. And it’s true, though. No matter the knocks he takes Delaney looks as if he’s got it all figured out, at every turn. How long will that last? He’s juggling so many things, not least of which is the taboo love he has for his half-sister Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin). In an eerie sequence she experiences a sexual moment in her bed, as in his own home James does some strange ritual, as if both connected in a spiritual sense across space and time. Weird, yet cool scene. Truly conflicting moment. Then Thorne (Jefferson Hall) shows up, drunk, soaked to the bone. Wanting her, even as he detects she was just thinking of someone else. The whole thing is twisted, though it’s almost most twisted how Thorne wants to have sex with her knowing she’s thinking of James. It’s just… a ball of awfulness.
In other news, James has Cholmondeley aiding with some pigeon and cow shit chemistry. Throw in a dash of human piss on the ash of some fire. Then, in a year – gunpowder! Well, Delaney doesn’t have a year. If they can get some saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, then that cuts the time to a month. So now there’s a new journey ahead. James must go either to Burma, or an East India Company warehouse. Hmm. You know which one he’ll pick.