From September 2016

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 2”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 2: “Chapter 2”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of Chapter 1, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-56-18-amLast we left Matt and Shelby Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr. & Sarah Paulson in the “dramatic reenactment“; André Holland & Lily Rabe in the documentary-style clips), things were bad. Shelby’s lost in the woods, finding a strange torch wielding cult (including Wes Bentley) and a man whose skull has been… partially removed. The strange woman Shelby thought she’d run over chants in the darkness (Kathy Bates), a group of people surround a man having a pigtail nailed to him. Terribly creepy little cuts.
After running and running, Shelby stops a moment. Only to find more madness. “I never thought about what could be in the wilderness, hiding in the dark,” the real Shelby recounts. We see Bates’ character lead a strange ceremony involving a man put up on a cross, a pig’s head stuck on his shoulders. Shelby takes off again until passing out in the middle of the road, where Matt’s sister Lee (Angela Bassett) finds her. Of course it all sounds mad to the police and everyone else. Poor Shelby. God damn. Ultimately she too believes it’s the “mountain men” trying to drive them out of the house.
A very bad, tragic misunderstanding.
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-59-39-amscreen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-01-50-amWe get to see more about Lee now, she and her ex-husband Mason (Charles Malik Whitfield) exchange their daughter Flora (Saniyya Sidney) for a while. Yeah, that’s a great fucking idea. Bring a little girl into a haunted house, or at the very least a house out in the country being laid siege to by hillbillies. Anyway, things kick off real quick once Lee finds Flora talking to somebody upstairs. Who? Oh, just somebody named Priscilla. Who isn’t there. A ghost? Or something more? Lee does the smart thing and pries a bit. “She said shes tired of all the blood,” Flora responds when questioned about Priscilla and her bonnet. When Lee literally finds one laying around, she gets spooked.
The great thing about any haunted house film or show is that part of everything is the human, psychological drama happening. There’s Lee and her girl, as well as Matt and Shelby, everyone with their own issues, taking things in differently.
That night more pig noises come from outside. Shelby takes action and insists on tracking them down, so Matt tags along. In the dark, out amongst the trees, they get separated. As one would expect from any horror. When they find each other, they come across a large stick figure with a pig’s head on top, roasting in fire; the skin and meat hanging below dripping into the flames. “This was beyond having a cross burned on your lawn. There was something demonic about it.” the real Matt speaks through voice-over.
With a bit more evidence this time, the police reluctantly look into what’s happening around the Miller’s place. Then a phone call comes through to Matt in the night. Except the phone’s disconnected. In the shadows, he finds an apparition: mean nurses tending to an old, frail and sickly woman named Margaret (Irene Roseen). They can’t hear Matt, but he watches on as one of the nurses tells their patient “Youve been warned” before blowing her brains out with a revolver. Now he’s seeing terrifying things, it isn’t only Shelby anymore.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-14-57-amThis incident sets things into a frenzy. The police, as suspected, can’t find anything to backup Matt’s story. He starts questioning the integrity of his brain, literally, after the incident in the city. Problem is the cops are gradually getting less interested in helping, which isn’t all that abnormal by real world standards.
When Mason shows up for Flora, they can’t find her. It used to be a game she played with them. This time, not finding her may have something to do with the house. They find Flora in a crawlspace talking to Priscilla, who disappears quickly. Apparently Flora tried to make a trade: a doll for their lives. Seems Priscilla is homicidal. And it’s not just her. Flora warns her parents: “Theyre going to kill us all. And save me for last.” Fuck. That’s eerie. Dad hauls his daughter off and things aren’t looking any better for Lee as a mother. Especially considering she started drinking afterwards, off the wagon again. She broke a few things. Shelby’s not happy to find knives in the ceiling, although we can guess that probably wasn’t Lee. Those nurses are creeping about, too. In her drunken state Lee sees a lot of things from pigtails to pig heads and it’s one bad hangover she’s headed for in the morning.
There’s a little girl hanging around outside to boot, which sends Matt and Shelby outside. They come to a trap door with a ladder leading below ground a ways; hmm. Inside are a number of things including tapes in a camcorder. On them is a man named Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare). He speaks frantically saying things like “Im not what I am” and generally in distress over “forces that will not let me sleep.” He speaks of the house and its forces wanting to kill him. He further assures the viewer he’s not crazy. Then Cunningham tells us of his book about two nurses – Miranda and Bridget Jane. Oh yes, you guessed which nurses. Twisted bitches. They killed people with specific names to spell out MURDER. Everything got even wilder as it went on turning into one of those epic, insane tales of true crime.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-24-14-amMore craziness to set the Millers off. Peeling away wallpaper, Matt finds the unfinished word MURDE written on the wall. Everything gets more real at this point. They keep on listening to Cunningham’s rambling tape. Doesn’t help any, except to frighten the shit out of them further. Scariest yet is when the tormented doctor heads inside the house with only his camcorder, night vision on, to guide him through the silent hallways. “Show yourself,” he yells to whatever’s in the dark. Before something, someone appears and startles him. And downstairs, a butcher’s knife with blood on it is stuck in the front door.
They just wanted to leave. Not so easy, though. No getting out of that mad house. Everything amps up a notch after Lee shows up with Flora again. When she’s clearly not supposed to have here there. More of that impulsive Lee behaviour already. Her brother tries to talk sense into her. Shelby tries talking the ex-husband down from calling the cops.
But can Mason get there to take his daughter away before anything worse happens? The little girl whom I assume to be Priscilla beckons Flora to come outside, out near the trap door in the field. Then she goes missing. The adults start to search frantically.
In a clearing, Lee finds her daughter’s yellow sweater at the top of a thin, ridiculously tall tree, its trunk looking almost stained with blood. They stand below, not sure what to do next.
And what can they do?screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-42-05-amscreen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-42-58-amVery pumped for “Chapter 3” next week. Some people keep complaining, and I have no idea why. I love the re-enactment stuff, it adds a fun twist to the show. I’m still feeling like there’s going to be an angle to all that. Just like My Amityville Horror had its drama, My Roanoke Nightmare is going to bring something with that faux-documentary posing as a real documentary. Mark my words.
Also, did you catch Lady Gaga in her brief appearance? She shows up a couple times early on. Very unnerving look to her character. Can’t wait for more, of everything!

 

 

 

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Scream Queens – Season 2, Episode 1: “Scream Again”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 1: “Scream Again”
Directed by Brad Falchuk
Written by Falchuk & Ian Brennan & Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “The Final Girl(s)” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Warts and All” – click here
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The bitches are back, bitches!
This season opens on October 31st, 1985 (just seven days after my birthday). In a hospital people are partying. But one woman’s husband is in trouble, and she can’t find anyone to take her seriously. Until they come across Dr. Mike (Jerry O’Connell), who – after a bit of prodding – takes care of the man. He and one of the nurses plan to dump a body out back in a swamp, let the animals and nature take care of him. She talks about the “Green Meanie” – an urban legend from when she was younger, a monster that stalked the swamps. Now, heading to the present, are we going to see someone taking revenge for this crime? You betcha.
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It’s 2016. Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) is all over the place as the face of “new feminism.” Meanwhile, hands Doctors Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner) and Brock Holt (John Stamos) are taking care of a Ms. Catherine Hobart (Cecily Strong); an unfortunate lady who’s had to deal with werewolf syndrome. So we come to find out it’s Dr. Cathy Munsch. She received the honorary doctorate they “stripped from Bill Cosby.” Mostly she’s a lot of talk. As usual. But she’s awesome, and she opened up the hospital. Via voice-over, Cathy takes us back through how she got to this point. A fun little romp with Jamie Lee Curtis; ever cool, ever hilarious in a dry, sly way.
And what about the Chanels? Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), #3 (Billie Lourd), and #5 (Abigail Breslin). We go back over their court case, the involvement of Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) in her crack up testimony during trial. There’s a bit of Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele) on tape claiming “double jeopardy” while arguing with Denise: “Its single jeopardy!”
Then there’s Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer). She’s in med school, trying to get by like many students. Munsch is swooping in on her, offering to pay for her tuition, offering a position at the hospital. Too good to be true? Well, Zayday takes her up on it. Whether that’s a good thing will have to wait a while.

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Starting her schooling, technically a direct entry residency, Zayday meets the obnoxious Dr. Cascade and the weird Dr. Holt. Particularly we get a story about how Holt actually lost a hand a few years back. Lost a ring in the sink, garbage disposal got turned on, and VOILA! These days he’s doing surgery like a magician. His speech is both tragic and hilarious – the way he keeps hitting things, scaring Cascade and Zayday made me laugh. Lots of eeriness, all the same. Cascade seems like an ass, as well as the fact he’s strikingly cold to the touch. Best is when Chamberlain Jackson (James Earl) shows up. His charm is undeniable, if not a bit in your face.
Zayday makes a big with Munsch to get more women around the hospital. You know what that means. Oh, yes.
Chanel and her “idiot hookers” are back. Everybody hates them now to the point they’re having shit thrown at them in the streets. They majored in Communications, they all got jobs. Not exactly what you’d think. Especially after ending up poor, tired, and knocked down a few social pegs. Once Munsch shows up, everything changes. Naturally the girls are sceptical of the former Dean’s extending her hand, asking them to enrol as students and work at the hospital. But really, what else will they do? Their arrival throws Zayday for a loop, too.

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So the fashion clash begins when the Chanels realise they have to wear scrubs. Although things feel more palatable after seeing Dr. Holt taking a shower. Curious: #5 notices a tattoo, sort of like a coat-of-arms with an H in the shield. Hmm. Anyway, the girls each have their jobs. After a bit of brutally funny banter on the term ‘ghosting’ as per Munsch: “Isnt ghosting when you do a number two and you look down at the paper and theres nothing there? And so you stand up and you look in the toilet and theres nothing there either because the turd somehow got shot down the hole before you even flush?”
The Chanels don’t have much bedside manner. Neither do Dr. Cascade or Dr. Holt, the first rambling on a Nietzsche-like thought and the other texting. Poor Catherine, the werewolf lady, is trying to get a bit of sense out of the doctors. Only one providing that is Zayday. We also get introduced to Ingrid Marie Hoffel (Kirstie Alley), R.N., who doesn’t have time for Chanel or any of their bullshit. Speaking of which, Munsch puts the Chanels on academic probation because of their treatment of Catherine earlier. Everything quickly feels like it’s crumbling beneath the Chanels after discovering they also don’t get paid, only free room, board, so on. So they head back to their room and brainstorm about what to do next: find a cure for “werewolf girl” first.
Chanel goes to talk with Dr. Holt about Catherine’s case. We see a bit of his weird, transplanted hand. In the midst of everything, Holt and Chanel figure out there may be a testosterone problem in Catherine, which prevents any further hand madness. Thus starts the fierce competition between Zayday and the Chanels. After a bit of treatment, Catherine loses ALL her hair. Not just a little. Every last bit. They give her a bit of a makeover, so that patches things up for now. Making Munsch’s hospital look great and pissing Zayday off.

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#5 is on graveyard shift while the other two have dates. While she helps Catherine with a bit of hydrotherapy, someone watches in the shadows. #5 opts to get in one, as well. Both of them locked in a tub. Smart move, dummy. Then, a green-masked intruder appears with a couple blades in hand. He puts on a bit of music for the occasion. Before lopping Catherine’s head off.
And we end on a last chop: is it to #5? Or to the head? Or maybe just a last scare? We’ll find out next week.

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An exciting, weird, creepy first episode for the second season of Scream Queens! Really loved this one. Can’t wait to see “Warts and All” next. Lots of promise, new characters, new setting, and a fun mask for a new killer, too.

Fear the Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 12: “Pillar of Salt”

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 12: “Pillar of Salt”
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo
Written by Carla Ching

* For a review of the previous episode, “Pablo & Jessica” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Date of Death” – click here
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In the villa, a family of three – mother, father, daughter – looks to be escaping. They quietly make their way through, past the empty streets and sleeping people, to try getting through the wall of zombies. Papa cuts open a walker and they all paint themselves, trying to make it through the wall like that. This opening sequence is chilling. An aerial shot craning upwards, wide on the ground, shows us how many of the zombies stumble around in the fenced off area. The family, luckily, gets out alive.
Then out of nowhere comes a vehicle. Some men confront the father. Marco Rodriguez (Alejandro Edda) pulls his gun on them, eventually forcing them into the vehicle, too. And off they go.
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Ofelia Salazar (Mercedes Mason) is off on her own. She’s doing fine. Killing zombies, taking care of business. A lot easier just to watch one person’s back. But then again, there’s nobody to watch yours except you. That isn’t always easy. For now, Ofelia finds herself near the ocean on the beach in a little house. She remembers life, before the fall and the zombie apocalypse. Her fiancee, their plans. All that’s long gone, painful memories at this point.
Back at the hotel everybody does their part to get things going. They’re locking the gates, making sure the electrical systems and generators are running to the best of their abilities. A garden’s being planted. Madison (Kim Dickens), Strand (Colman Domingo), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), they’re actually enjoying themselves for the first time in so long. Although Alicia worries for her brother, Nick (Frank Dillane). Speaking of Nick, he’s spent the night with Luciana (Danay Garcia). They’ve found about the family taking off in the night; the father was the one who helped get water for the villa. So Nick and Luciana have to take charge.
Tragedy strikes when the mother of the bride stabs Strand for having dispatched her daughter. Some of the hotel survivors try helping Victor, as do Madison and Alicia. One of the survivors studied in med school. He works to keep Strand alive.
When Alejandro (Paul Calderon) discovers the family missing from their villa, he isn’t happy. Mostly he feels slighted, so it seems. There’s something more here. Something boiling. I feel like Alejandro is wearing a mask, or at the very least hiding something.
Problem at the hotel is Ilene (Brenda Strong), the grieving bride’s mother. Madison lays down the law: “If anyone raises a hand to another, theyre out. Any of us; gone. Thats how it has to be. Thats the only way this works.” And such is the grounds for a new, primitive society in the hotel.
Nick is starting to wonder about Alejandro, who, for his part, doesn’t exactly appear calm and collected like he did once. He and Luciana want to head out to take care of their business. Except now Alejandro says nobody leaves their villa, for as long as he says. Hmm. That’s definitely sketchy.

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Elena (Karen Bethzabe) and Madison are on the road to seek out medication and supplies to help Strand. They bond a bit, as Elena tells her own personal story, more than we’ve heard yet. And just so happens it involves drug addiction, or someone of hers addicted to them. Something Madison knows too well. Her own son was lost in the drugs. At the same time, he’s lost in Mexico. Stuck in Alejandro’s little “colonia” (a creepy word if you think of this) – the villa he’s ruling over.
But the villa and the hotel are connected. Madison and Elena head to that big supermarket the gang controls, that’s where they go for the medical supplies necessary to treat Strand. Will this soon bring Nick and his mother together? Alejandro’s kept Nick from going anywhere today, so the reunion will have to wait. While Madison and Elena do their shopping, Marco is upstairs questioning the escapee father about the colonia from which he ran in the night. When Madison gets wind, via Elena, that an American came with Luciana about the drugs, things get tense. She flips, wanting to find her boy. Before Elena has to get them out fast.
Well, Nick is worrying more by the minute. Alejandro is gone paranoid, to the extreme. Acting like he’s been burdened with everything. He requires faith. “So you want me to just follow you blindly?” Nick finally outright inquires. However, it’s only more control Alejandro wants. That’s how it seems to me. Either way Nick doesn’t want to be under anybody’s thumb. He’s worried most about people going without water, and that Alejandro keeps pressing people not to leave, under any circumstances. You know the former junkie won’t have that. His philanthropist side has emerged larger with every episode he’s in. Simultaneously, he softens the hardened exterior of Luciana slowly.

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Everything’s slipping. On the rooftops, Nick spies Marco and his henchmen with binoculars: looks like they’ve found Alejandro’s colonia. Uh oh.
Back to Ofelia – she flashes to memories of her mother Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola), talking about men and how you find the right one, et cetera. All those things she’d be thinking on the edge of a marriage. Her mother also talks about the violence of where they lived, and that leaving their original home wasn’t a struggle; they had to leave. They did not want to “live in fear” everyday. Griselda says she’d do anything on Earth for her family: “That is love.” On her own in the zombie apocalypse, heading back towards the USA, Ofelia understands her parents more than ever.
At the hotel, everybody’s going a little crazy. Elena isn’t pleased with the way Madison is acting after possibly hearing of Nick. She turns on the hotel lights, she’s made everything difficult with Marco and their crew. Madison is letting her head get clouded and Alicia doesn’t see things the way her mother does; not about the new world, not about Nick and what he did or where he’s been. Lot of tension between these two.
Although, out in the darkness Travis (Cliff Curtis) can see the hotel lights. When they shut off, he walks in their direction; alone. His son is nowhere to be seen.
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This was a stellar episode! Loved the twisting  bits wondering if Madison will finally find Nick, the intrigue about Alejandro and his paranoia. And now Travis is on his way back to his wife, hopefully having either put his son down or left him with those crazy dudes.
Next episode is titled “Date of Death” and I have a feeling we may see a cast member depart. Will it be Strand? I hope not. Someone else, please. I dig Victor. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Quarry – Season 1, Episode 2: “Figure Four”

Cinemax’s Quarry
Season 1, Episode 2: “Figure Four”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy

* For a review of the premiere, “You Don’t Miss Your Water” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Mouthful of Splinters” – click here
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Mac ‘Quarry’ Conway (Logan Marshall-Green) is probably feeling sort of lost. He’s sitting by the pool listening to tapes Joni (Jodi Balfour) sent him while he was serving in the Vietnam War. Back when they were in love, before he found out about her affair. Before he killed the man who was sleeping with her. This opening sequence is great, watching the paperboy, Joni in her room, Mac by the pool, as the tapes play over top. All the while her lover lies dead in his garage. That’s where paperboy comes in: he finds the man crushed under his previously jacked up car.
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The couple are barely hanging on. Not sure how long that’ll last, either. Detective Tommy Olsen (Josh Randall) is looking into the death of Arthur, the one-legged man. His partner Detective Verne Ratliff (Happy Anderson) doesn’t seem as dead set on it all, but time will tell. Meanwhile, Mac meets the ever strange Buddy (Damon Herriman) and they head for a drink. Although it’s not a friendly one really. Mac’s tense about where the deal with the Broker (Peter Mullan) goes next. “Theres no good news in this world,” Buddy tells him. Either pay the money, or, well… we all know how these stories go, and Mac does, too. At the same time, Joni and her friend Andrea (Heighlen Boyd) discover the former’s lover dead, his house a crime scene.
Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her family try to get on after Arthur’s death. Things weren’t perfect before, so they definitely aren’t doing any better now. Mac shows up to pay a visit, though, and Ruth appreciates it. He isn’t there just to check up. He’s poking around trying to find out where Arthur hid the money from the Broker. He cares for his friend, Ruth, but right at the moment it’s only fear and self-preservation that drives him. When he leaves Ruth’s place somebody watches him not far away.
Mac looks more flustered by the minute. He heads over to his father’s place. He isn’t there, only his wife. The one who doesn’t want Mac around. He barges his way in there, drinking up liquor and acting fairly passive aggressive. After leaving abruptly he doesn’t look any better, though he at least makes it home to fall in bed. Except it’s the bed where his wife cheated on him. He drunkenly, sadly, hilariously tries to get the mattress out before giving up and punching the shit out of it.

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Detectives Ratliff and Olsen sit in a bar drinking. Turns out Olsen knew the deceased, Joni’s lover. He wants to keep the case, just finds it “weird” to have known the victim. Naturally. I can see that he’ll be a bigger part of the show moving forward, at least that’s what I imagine. Knowing the guy, plus being police, naturally he’s going to want to find out who murdered him.
At home, Joni finds the vinyl rocking, Mac on the floor, a torn up and bloody mattress in the hallway. He is absolutely wild. Scaring her slightly. I can see that. All the same I totally understand Mac. He went to serve his country, now he’s home and his wife cheated on him, his country doesn’t want to take care of him, the one guy who knew exactly what he’d gone through died on a dirty apartment floor. Life for Mac Conway is absolute fucking shit. But now, after seeing the crime scene briefly from outside, Joni worries what he’s capable of when pushed too far. Murder; that’s what.
Buddy meets with a connect named Joe Don (Owen Harn) to get some guns. He’s a haggler. Trying to knock things down a few notches. After awhile this doesn’t make Joe too happy. What we see here is the intimidation factor of Buddy. He’s not a big man. Commanding, though. And in a split second – “No cussin‘” – he stops Joe in his tracks. Then brokers a proper deal. We already know that Buddy’s likely gay, or at least a bit feminine. Joe almost offends him by offering up a gift: a gun with a nice pink handle. Buddy takes the piece and does not look pleased.
Working at the newspaper, Joni gets called in by Detectives Ratliff and Olsen because of her connection to the dead man under his car. Of course Quan Thang comes up briefly. Mostly, we can see that her affair is probably going to come out eventually. She knows it. The worry is barely containable, she starts having a panic attack at the thought of what could happen. And paranoia’s setting in, as well. She winds up stealing evidence, one of the tapes.

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Mac goes out for a night of Dixie Wrestling with the Broker. They chat. Well, the Broker does, and Mac resents their even being there together, not wanting to deal with what’s to come. What’s noticeable in this scene is the Southern racism – Confederate flag flying, a Mandingo wrestler in the ring being booed as he inches towards victory. The Broker has a line on what’s happening in the investigation, assuring Mac nothing’s coming of it just yet. Mac starts to think Joni’s in danger, but the mysterious Broker only wants him to do more work, and in turn to provide more money for him.
A man named Moses (Mustafa Shakir) dines where Ruth works, he befriends her while she takes his order. He keeps a watchful eye on her. There’s something more in it. He slips back into her house, knowing she’s at work. He looks through the place. But soon the family comes home and he has to make a quick getaway.
Out at the gun meet, Buddy brings Quarry to do his deal with Joe Don. All of a sudden things get sketchy. Guns are drawn on the boys. When shit gets real, Buddy proves he’s not some “cocky little faggot” like Joe taunts with vicious bigotry: he chops big Joe in the throat, starting a gunfight. You know with a guy like Quarry on his side things manage to come out well for them. After a bit of messing around, anyways. Great acting all around from Logan Marshall-Green and Damion Herriman, plus a spectacular showing of practical special effects that will really wow even a horror fan. Intense. The car chase is fun, too.

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Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) and the Broker catch up with the banged up pair. Yet through all the violence there’s just as much sense in what’s happening at home as what happened in Vietnam, for Quarry. Or, now he’s transitioned back to Mac after the dirty deeds are done. He already had to become someone else over there during the war. Now, that someone else is hard to define because he’s becoming a monster at home just like he was as a soldier.
The episode ends with Joni listening to a tape from Mac. Full circle to the episode opening in the opposite way. After she listens to a tape of her and her lover, that is. While she does that, Mac tries to find a bit of love elsewhere; a bit of physical love. They’re certainly drifting apart.
And the man following Mac, he heads up to the house, knocking on the door. Before Joni gets to answer, the credits roll.
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Until next time. Following episode is titled “A Mouthful of Splinters” and there’s no telling what kind of mess Mac and his criminal alter ego Quarry will get into next. No telling what’ll happen at all. So much exciting development here. So much pain and suffering, so much paranoia, all kinds of ways the plot(s) can go.

31: Creeps, Clowns, & Chaotic Terror

31. 2016. Directed & Written by Rob Zombie.
Starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Kevin Jackson, Malcolm McDowell, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson, Richard Brake, Pancho Moler, David Ury, Lew Temple, Torsten Voges, & E.G. Daily.
Bow and Arrow Entertainment/PalmStar Media/Protagonist Pictures.
Rated R. 102 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
posterI’ll defend Rob Zombie to the day I die. You can say you don’t like him, you don’t dig his brand of horror; that’s totally fine. To each their own. You can’t say objectively that everything he does is bad. Because that simply isn’t true.
31 is a markedly different piece of horror from Mr. Zombie. It’s so clearly in his style, from the way he directs to how he writes his characters. At the same time, this is even more savage than his previous efforts with scarier characters, and we’re not given too much explanation so as to ruin the effect of his various maniacs. There is the recognisable Zombie directing, the old school 1970s-type freeze frames and his unique brand of dialogue. He’s just decided to take it up a notch.
The game at the heart of Murderworld – where Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell), Sister Serpent (Jane Carr) and Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson) bring their victims – is truly terrifying. Not something we haven’t seen before. Zombie makes the gimmick worth it. This isn’t some kind of Saw building setup with booby traps. No, Father and the Sisters have gathered together the worst of the worst killers, assembled their massive warehouse like a carnival of rooms and let those murderous clowns loose to play. Along with Zombie’s dare to be disturbing these clowns are something to behold.
pic1Totally dig the opening scene with Doom-Head (Richard Brake). He’s capable of channelling sinister energy, which comes out nicely here. The way Zombie has everything open, before we discover the pastor sitting on the other side of the shot awhile later, it’s as if Doom-Head is speaking right to us, the viewer. He tells us a tale before the kill. Of course he’s talking to the pastor. But it’s a neat way to get things going. Compounded by the fact it’s shot in black-and-white, there’s something jarring. Essentially, it’s the prologue to Zombie’s tale of horrific madness. A no-nonsense immersion into the stark terror for which Zombie so clearly aims. We come back to Doom-Head later, as he’s the ultimate main villain of the film. When we do, Brake goes into full awe mode, as he quotes Casablanca, Che Guevara, as well as has ferocious sex while watching Nosferatu, among plenty of other insanity; and it works. He’s a showstopper. Watching him put on the makeup is a transformation of acting and editing. Brake pumps himself up in terrifying form screaming “Im not crazy Im in control” then punching himself in the nose a ton. Meanwhile, the cuts leading up to his little chant flash around, skipping, like a schizophrenic fit, and then Brake’s face turns from a smile to a frown; the blood runs cold watching him become a vision of disorder.
The crazy clowns are each pretty gnarly! Sick-Head (Pancho Moler) surprised me. I feel like there was too much time spent on his character. Otherwise, he’s nasty. From the Nazi-Hitler fixation to the fact he’s a tiny man, it hits that shocking spot just right. The ones who disturbed me most were the pairings: brothers Psycho-Head (Lew Temple) and Schizo-Head (David Ury) wielding chainsaws, threatening sexual violence, looking like the sort of child molester clowns we all feared as children; then there’s Death-Head (Torsten Voges) and Sex-Head (E.G. Daily), a walking Freudian horror nightmare. Out of the two pairs, Sex and Death are the most bloodcurdling. Their size is off-putting, Death looming so tall and Sex so tiny. Death is physically intimidating and really strange-looking; Sex is tiny, violent, cute in a way that doesn’t make me feel good, and scary as fuck. While I do think Doom-Head steals the show because of Brake’s startling performance, the rest of the gang are equally well written by Zombie to give them all their own frightening elements.
pic1Zombie’s always guilty of a few writing mistakes. Mostly, he often doesn’t trim some of the fat. Like Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie) when she gives us the cliche “You wanna know whats going on inside my head; Ill tell you whats going on inside my head” before, yes, telling us exactly what’s on her mind. More than that I also find the character of Panda Thomas (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) poorly written. Could be that Hilton-Jacobs’ performance is super forced and annoying, too. Not sure which is the worst part of it. Either way, Panda isn’t as interesting as some of the others.
There’s lots of gritty, stylish directing on the part of Zombie, though. For all the slack in his writing he makes the whole film visually interesting. Whether it’s sticking to that ’70s practical effects driven horror and old school editing (those awesome swipe transitions at certain points make the movie feel like a comic book), or stylised sequences such as the showdown with Sex and Death, Zombie finds a way to bring something more than turning the camera on and letting the blood flow. He promised his most brutal film yet. I’ve seen some reviews out there who don’t think he’s accomplished that. I disagree. He’s definitely done disturbing before. Although, never before has his disturbing material reached such an adrenaline-fuelled, frenzied height of ferocity. In the best horror loving sense, it’s beyond fun.
pic2There’ll be constant detractors of Zombie because they just don’t like him, for whatever reason. There are legitimate horror fans who can’t get into his style. I respect all opinions, long as you can back them up. But for me, 31 is a blast. Some of my favourite horror is the more cerebral sort, the kind you can get lost in and think about constantly. In high regard I also hold the horror which purely scares me, to the bone. Doesn’t have to be an elaborate, twisty story to make me feel creeped out. Brake, among the other Heads, does enough to get to me, let alone some of the general blood an gore tossed in. SPOILER ALERT AHEAD: the ending does it for me, when we see Father Murder and the Sisters change back to their normal lives, and yet Doom-Head can’t let go. Yeah, the others are clearly sick, but how Doom can’t change back without finishing the game, you see how utterly lost in the delusion he’s become. A simple, horrifying conclusion.
I feel there are things Zombie could’ve easily changed, made better. A couple performances aren’t what they ought to be. Once more, Brake saves the day, as do Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Meg Foster (of whom I’ve always been a big fan). But Brake, he is the supervillain of the Heads, the violently crazy clowns of Murderworld. He gives me an actual fright, in the quieter, more subtle moments. There’s a pulsating electronic score at times, not the typical Zombie stuff (with help from John 5), which helps with much needed tension. The camera is chaotic, and also there are beautifully framed shots that linger: later when Doom-Head chokes Charly, their eyes are intercut in closeups, mirrored again right before the final shot. I do think Zombie, amongst all the viciousness, keeps improving as a filmmaker in a lot of different ways.
At the end of the day Zombie sets out to do what he wanted: to get fucked up, disturbing and nasty. He wants to get under your skin. Maybe if you think there’s too much violence, he did his job. Maybe if you feel the Heads are all too much, he did his job. And perhaps if you don’t feel like there’s enough violence, like Zombie didn’t deliver on the dripping blood and sloppy gore, then I don’t know if we were watching the same film.

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 1”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 1: “Chapter 1”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-25-amThis year’s theme? My Roanoke Nightmare. Delicious.
We open on a series of talking heads. Almost seems like an Amityville Horror sort of thing, too. My Amityville Horror is a documentary by the man who was a child during the supposed Lutz story, and this seems to mirror its style a bit.
Well, Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) are a married couple. They tell us about their relationship, what they do for a living, so on. They talk about the “worst night” of the their lives when Matt is randomly knocked out by some gang of kids. He nearly died because of their foolish brutality. We see Sarah Paulson playing Shelby and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, like reenactments of that night. Sadly, Shelby lost her baby on that evening. After the event they took a trip out into the wilderness: “We werent city folks,” Matt says.
Out in the woods is an old farm house. A massive backwoods mansion. The house is cheap, just like the one the Lutz family fell into buying in Amityville. They snatch it up, now owning a surely haunted house. Shelby knew it from the beginning, in the back of her mind.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-34-amStrange banging in the night already starts Shelby and Matt off on a rough note. Interracial couple, rednecks kicking around. They’ve had troubles before, but were more than willing to fend any trouble off. Nothing’s too great. When Shelby’s home alone it starts raining teeth. TEETH! That’s pretty fucking unsettling. Of course no teeth are left when Matt gets back. To be expected when you live in a haunted Southern mansion. I mean, even the house, the big windows upstairs, the shape, it’s so reminiscent of The Amityville Horror. Not in a bad sense. Dig the homage.
One evening while cooking, home alone, Shelby sees two young women pass in the hallway, staring at her. Nice bit of tension, as she goes to check out where the women went. Finding nothing, only a suspenseful moment or two. Later when she relaxes in the hot tub outside until somebody holds her under. She calls Matt, who gets home quick, and the police, of course. Although the police don’t care much. Lots of paranoia swirling already. The couple aren’t sure anymore what to believe. So I LOVE the cinematography so far this season – the house especially looks ominous even in how the shadows cast over everything, big windows everywhere like eyes, darkness crowding around them.
Living in the house only gets worse, as you’d imagine. Weird noises get Matt out of bed and he finds a mutilated pig on the porch outside. He doesn’t tell his wife, he assumes it was the redneck boys who wanted to buy the house. So like a smart person, he hooks up lots of cameras and a nice security system hooked to his phone. Better yet, he gets his sister Lee (Angela Bassett) to go out there and look after Shelby. Lee was a bad ass cop, whose injury from getting shot on the job led her to taking medication a bit liberally. One day, really lit up on pills, she chased a serial rapist and her addiction was discovered. This got her fired, before wreaking absolute havoc on her personal life; she lost her husband, even her daughter. A sad, human tragedy.

 

 


Nothing changes in the house. Just because a security system’s in place and a former cop is looking after Shelby doesn’t mean whatever inhabits that house is going away. Paranoia runs mad now with another person kicking around. Only makes it easier for Shelby to confuse ghostly apparitions with Lee moving things, walking around, et cetera. An added interest is that Lee is still an addict. She asks Shelby not to drink, though I’m not sure how well that will hold up. On the other side is the fact Lee is also sceptical of her sister-in-law.
Then the house starts working on Lee. A lone wine bottle rolls across the floor at her, so she assumes it’s Lee being a bitch. “Why would you do something like that?” she questions Shelby. Now the accusations fly between the both of them. Meanwhile, Matt gets a text from his automated security: people in hoods carrying torches have headed through the gate up to the house. Oh, my. He tries to call the ladies, but they’re too busy arguing.
Suddenly, Shelby and Lee are interrupted by a videotape playing on the television, the strange noises from the night coming out – then on the tape appears a pig-headed man in the wilderness, squealing and bloody. Like anybody would be, the women are terrified. The hooded people with their torches get inside the house while the pair hide, and Matt rushes from a couple hours away to try getting home. When the ladies finally come out of hiding there are tons of creepy stick figures a la Blair Witch Project hanging about the house. Cops once more do nothing.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-45-55-amscreen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-59-43-amWhen Matt is back he watches the video, only getting angrier at the local hillbillies. He still doesn’t want to leave; Shelby takes off in the car thinking only “fight or flight.” On her way she hits somebody in the road (it’s Kathy Bates and she just walks it off). Shelby chases her into the nearby woods and gets lost. She winds up finding more of the stick figures that were hung in the house, which sends her running into a place where the earth below seems to breathe. Deeper in she comes across a man missing some of his scalp and skull, brain exposed. And in the darkness lurks a man holding a torch, among many others holding torches – Wes Bentley’s character. We’ll just have to wait and find out who he is, as well as what happens to Shelby out there.

 

 


I don’t care what any of these other horror sites are saying – they probably won’t continue watching after the first episode of the series, anyways. So fuck ’em. This was a great start to the new series. Fun references, eerie shots and sequences, a bit of character intrigue and gritty development. “Chapter Two” will likely be good fun.

Fear the Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 11: “Pablo & Jessica”

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 11: “Pablo & Jessica”
Directed by Uta Briesewitz
Written by Kate Erickson

* For a review of the previous episode, “Do Not Disturb” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Pillar of Salt” – click here
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Victor (Colman Domingo) and Madison (Kim Dickens) are trapped in the hotel bar. Surrounded by a wall of walkers. They do their best to start taking out zombies, one by one, when Madison can hear Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) calling out from somewhere. Bad ass mom starts taking charge, as she and Victor cover themselves in dead blood to mask their scent. Slowly, they push through the throngs of living dead to get out of the bar. The pair climb up to a balcony, at least away from the walkers a moment. Certain areas of the building are just – pardon the pun – dead quiet. Not a soul around. Strand believes maybe, if it came down to it, Alicia would leave: “To survive.” And for a second Madison almost believes that.
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They keep hydrated, stay vigilant, as outside the zombies ramble around. From a way off they hear living people banging on a door. It’s Alicia and Elena. Reunited again. Strand’s not exactly happy to see strangers, though.
Back in the protected Mexican villa, Nick (Frank Dillane) is adjusting to some kind of new life. He’s trying to make up for his recent mess, offering his services to Alejandro (Paul Calderon). He wants to use his junkie experience to make things right. Out comes that old side of Nick he left behind him. Alejandro watches on as Nick shows off a little drug magic to “2020” by Suuns. Nice, fun little sequence to add in amongst the horror of it all.
Madison doesn’t want to leave Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) behind, not without knowing for sure where she’s gone. Strand and Alicia don’t think it’s worth it, as Ofelia didn’t think they’d make it anyways. She probably left on her own. At the same time, Elena lets the group know about some supplies still kicking around the hotel. Victor and Madison go to try talking with a man named Oscar (Andres Londono), although that’s not exactly easy at first. After dropping their weapons, Madison takes charge: “Im tired of runnin‘, Victor.”
She tries to convince Oscar and his people they need each other. First, they need to clear out all the zombies. Only they don’t want Elena to stay because of what she did. Kinda understandable. But then again, I might’ve locked people inside that room too if I were here. You can’t be sure. Barbaric? Sort of. Smart? You betcha. Either way, Oscar’s willing to give up some keys for the hotel. That’s a start. As for Strand, he isn’t convinced with Madison believing they can make a home out of the hotel.
The story of Alejandro’s bite comes out, as he was “beaten by the living” he was simultaneously “bitten by the dead.” Luciana (Danay Garcia) brought him away from it all, to their villa. And death never came for him somehow. All because Alejandro tried saving a poor junkie that was mistaken for a walker. Ah, emotional intrigue between these two. I like their chemistry as characters together. A new relationship and connection for this season to feed off.
Then words comes to the villa: they’ve found Pablo dead, Luciana’s brother.

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At the hotel, Alicia, Strand, everybody pitches in to clear the hallways and rooms. Madison leads everybody in doing what needs to get done. Alicia says it’ll “take weeks” for them to get everything cleared, every floor, each building. Mother and daughter get a bit of time together, Madison apologises for her perceived failures as a mom. I really enjoy Fear the Walking Dead because of the amount of smart, tough female characters so far. These two, of course, being some of the best.
Nick now has his own trailer in the villa, a place of his own. Semblance of a normal life. He doesn’t necessarily want it. Alejandro insists. First thing Nick does? Touch the ceiling. Not because he’s too tall. Because it’s a room, four walls. For the first time in a long time.
The hotel clearing takes on new form, as Alicia’s come up with a plan to use the high riptides in order to get rid of some walkers. Alicia and Hector start luring them outside. Inside, Strand and Elena open up doors, Madison gets zombies piling through the halls. They draw hordes of the undead out the doors and onto the pier. Madison is the one to take the long walk alone, locked on the pier with the zombies, pushing further and further. The others plan to get her on a small boat at the end. Madison jumps off and the zombies, like lemmings, go toppling after her into the water. Luckily, Hector and Alicia are there to scoop her up.
Later, everybody celebrates with a nice dinner together, candle light, wine. Strand goes off and winds up talking with the former groom, the one who lost his bride. “I wont let you touch her,” he tells Victor. She’s not lost, but she certainly isn’t herself anymore. Eventually you just have to let go. That goes for Victor, as well.
Oh, and the bride’s name was Jessica – hence the Pablo (Luciana’s brother) and Jessica of the episode’s title.

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Again, I enjoyed this episode. A few inconsistencies, though nothing major for me. People complain about the cell phone? There’s no guarantee that was Alicia’s cell. She could have easily found it in the hotel, so chill, nitpickers.
Most of all I enjoyed Madison and Alicia this week. They are a great mother-daughter combo: smart, fierce, determined, flawed. Awesome stuff. Excited for “Pillar of Salt” because I can’t wait to see a few of these threads develop further, and maybe we’ll see more of Chris and Travis, too. They’re at a crossroads, which I’m dying to see resolve, or explode.

Quarry – Season 1, Episode 1: “You Don’t Miss Your Water”

Cinemax’s Quarry
Season 1, Episode 1: “You Don’t Miss Your Water”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy

* For a review of the next episode, “Figure Four” – click here
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A man lies face down in the water at the edge of the shore. This is Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green). He’s seen better days. At least he’s alive. Stubmling down the shore further Mac sees a man and shoots him from behind, putting another bullet in him after he’s down. Then into the river he goes.
But time hasn’t gotten there yet. This is Mac’s future.
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In ’72, Mac’s returning from Vietnam with his buddy Arthur (Jamie Hector). At the airport they’re greeted by Arthur’s wife Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird). Coming home is a surprise for Mac’s wife. That’s pretty nice. What’s not so nice is that Mac and Arthur were “implicated” in a massacre that happened in Vietnam. They were cleared, but obviously the sentiments back home feel differently. I dig the story within the first ten minutes because it’s a side of American military history we don’t often get to see, other than a few choice movies. Quarry sets up a unique look into the lives of men who were in the army during a dirty, especially underhanded (at times) military conflict.
So Mac gets back to his place. Inside he finds “Tupelo Honey” playing, his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour) cleaning the pool. A better reception than at the airport.
Outside, a familiar face from the airport, Buddy (Damon Herriman), is lurking strangely and taking pictures of the house. He’s also got an arsenal of weapons in his trunk. All the while the happy couple relax inside with a joint, swim in the pool. Except Mac has strange visions after diving below the water, nearly choking before pushing above the surface. Of course he pretends it’s nothing. Yet the strange image of an Asian-looking mask in the pool lingers in my mind.
Later that night Mac gets a hang-up call. This almost immediately creates paranoia. You can tell just by the look in his eyes.
Back in his neighbourhood, Arthur plays some ball with his boy Marcus (Joshua J. Williams), as Ruth is busy making a nice breakfast. They’re a sweet little family, glad to have papa home once more. Arthur’s busy heading out to try and find work; another struggle for many of the men coming home from Vietnam, sadly. A problem that still persists to this day, too. He has an interview where the white man who sees him in won’t even shake his hand. From there it doesn’t look so hot. No management position like Arthur imagined. He fought for his country, now they’ll have him doing whatever grunt work they can find.
A welcome home party sees Mac and his father Lloyd (Skipp Sudduth) sit together awhile. Every relationship has changed, except for Joni it seems. The wives are the most understanding of everybody. Lloyd lets his son know he’s not welcome around the house, his wife doesn’t approve of all that stuff Mac got involved with over in Vietnam. I assume they’re talking about something similar to what we now know as the Mỹ Lai Massacre. Only wonder exactly how involved both Mac and Arthur were.
Looks as if Buddy is working for the Broker (god amongst men Peter Mullan), keeping an eye on Mac for some reason. Perhaps they’re preying on newly returned veterans.

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Out looking for work, Mac finds further resistance to him being home. Nobody seems to want to have anything to do with him. It becomes more clear by the minute Mac will have to figure something else out. “Two tours, one hundred and fiftysix dollars, sixtyeight cents. Your thank you for your service card mustve got lost in the mail,” he laments looking at a cheque from the government. Terrible to see how veterans were being treated, and in some cases still are; Mac’s situation is a microcosm. Judging by the episode opener, he’s been left with no other choices. Nobody wants to help him, employ him.
Until the Broker shows up on the deck of Mac’s pool. He has a bit of an offer. Including if Mac makes any trouble, a man named Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) inside with a gun. The “opportunity” is refused. The Broker has a line on how desperate Mac is beginning to get, how badly he needs income. “All you gotta do is pull the trigger,” he explains to Mac. They chat a bit about why Mac went back to Vietnam. Things end abruptly before Joni gets home. Not before Mac straps a shotgun underneath the bed.
At a garage, Mac finds the mechanic there as greasy as any criminal, doing anything he can to fleece customers. So what’s the difference, really? Meanwhile, poor Arthur’s breaking his back in a mill for shit pay, wondering exactly why there’s nothing better for him either. The two of them discover they’ve been approached by the Broker. Arthur is totally fine with doing contract killings, although Mac is understandably reserved. After Vietnam a man’s morals have been degraded. “If you do this, you are who they say you are, man,” Mac pleads with his friend. To which he replies: “We already are what they say we are, where you been?”

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The damage to Mac’s psyche is clear. He almost wants to kill a man who tries to assuage his guilt about the Quan Thang Massacre. Instead, he hugs the man. Tightly.
It isn’t long before Mac has changed his mind. He and Arthur have a look at the job they’re up for currently. The Broker gives them guns, plus a file full of information on the target. Arthur and Mac scope the guy out, start doing some recon. When the time is right Arthur sneaks into the man’s apartment. Problem is he’s shot by someone waiting in the dark. Across the way Mac watches through binoculars, horrified by the turn of events. He heads in blasting on his own. The two men wrestle with him awhile, but Mac gets the upper hand on one, as the other runs. So sad to see Mac and Arthur survive Vietnam, only for the latter to die on the floor of some dirty apartment. Then having to see his friend be buried, feeling alone in the midst of all those people with the knowledge of what happened; this is excellently visualised showing Mac literally alone, the people around him disappearing momentarily.
The Broker calls Mac up to let him know he’s now officially on the hook for $30K. They’re also meeting up at the quarry to discuss everything further. Oh, I can see the sinister way all this is headed. Things are already deteriorating between Joni and Mac, a little. They start arguing over a misplaced Otis Redding record; not exactly fair on his part. But the divide is beginning. I only hope he doesn’t manage to push her away because she’s about the single person on Earth who seems to understand him on any kind of level.
Out at the quarry, Mac meets the Broker. Certainly the veteran has himself covered, shotgun and all. The Broker’s smart, though, and has a sniper on a nearby ridge covering them, as well. Quarry becomes Mac’s new nickname. Also, the veteran will have to do a few things for the Broker. Surely to make life more complicated than any easier.

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Over in that lonely room, Mac goes to see Buddy about what’s next; another file. At the same time, Buddy makes himself a spiked bat while they talk. Next target is Cliff Williams (Daniel Brunnemer Hall). A lot of great dialogue from Buddy in particular here. Love this scene. His bit about the “unexamined life” is a perfect work-in of philosophical thought into an unexpected scene.
When Mac follows Cliff he arrives at his own house. So, he heads up along the side, crying, hearing his wife inside with that man. They get naked together, Mac trying not to reveal himself just yet. An awful situation to experience. All a setup by the Broker to show him what’s happening in his own life. Afterwards, Mac goes to see Cliff in his garage; that’s where his Otis record went. Yikes. Fucking harsh, Joni. Death comes harsh for Cliff, too. The transformation of Mac into Quarry is happening fast, the descent into nothingness egged on by this brutal betrayal. And job done for the Broker.
Back at his house, Mac puts on Otis, so that Joni can hear. He swims laps in the pool. Without words they understand one another. Just no telling where they go from here.

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This is one of the BEST opening episodes of a series I’ve seen in awhile. Great story, great characters. Plenty of intrigue. And it’s timeless, the subject matter, the themes. Can’t wait to see the follow-up episode titled “Figure Four” – guaranteed it’ll be another intriguing chapter. The acting is phenomenal from Logan Marshall-Green. I’m beyond pumped for more.

Aquarius – Season 2, Episode 13: “I Will”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 2, Episode 13: “I Will”
Directed by Jonas Pate
Written by Mike Moore

* For a review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Mother Nature’s Son” – click here
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Season 2 finale, we’re here! I hope there’ll be more. Although because of NBC not treating the show with proper respect it deserves I’m not holding my breath on Season 3.
This possible series finale begins on August 7th of ’69 in the early morning hours. Former detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny) is start off retirement by trying to track the killer of women who recently rang him up at home. Sam heard a fire engine going, so he tries to track down any calls in that area to narrow things down. Alongside is Officer Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) doing her best to help. He soon comes up with where he believes the perp to be, the neighbourhood he seems to remember from some time ago. He follows the man into a diner; his name is Gerald Dunn, they shake hands. Sam begins an uneasy conversation with Dunn. Neither willing to openly say anything about why they’re there. Except Hodiak makes clear he’s eager for retirement: “Kinda looking forward to doing whatever I want. To whoever I want. Ill see youround, Gerald.”
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Ken Karn (Brian F. O’Byrne) has the money from his wife, and I assume Hal Banyin (Spencer Garrett), as well. He’s brought some for Charlie Manson (Gethin Anthony). Brought a bit of lovin’, too. Yowzahs. Doesn’t help him or his daughter being involved with Mr. Manson. Especially after he starts hearing more about Charlie’s “Helter Skelter” prophecy.
Over at the precinct, Ed Cutler (Chance Kelly) isn’t happy about Charmain or Detective Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) doing their respective things. He’s funny, though, and that’s all right. Poor junkie Shafe is suffering through his addiction AND not having his wife Kristin (Milauna Jackson) around anymore.
For the time being, Sam enjoys a little respite from murders, dead women and such. He and Billie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) have a bit of breakfast. She isn’t too thrilled about his addiction to chasing down suspects. I guess she’s right about him, and at the same time he only wants to do good. Speaking of which, he’s got Dt. Shafe knocking on Mr. Dunn’s door, hauling him down to the station while Sam Goes for a look inside the house.
And what does he find? A secret, nasty little dark room. Photographs everywhere. At the station, Gerald prints #1 DETECTIVE and SAMSON BENEDICT HODIAK, over and over on a pad of paper. Oh, he is a creepy man.

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With everything going on, Grace Karn (Michaela McManus) is trying to keep her head straight. She finally reveals to her political lady friend the truth about her daughter Emma (Emma Dumont). Where’s Emma, exactly? Heading out on a “creepy crawly” and trying to calm her father down. He’s worried for his daughter. His sad, brainwashed, pregnant daughter. Charlie’s sending Tex (Cameron Deane Stewart) off on a mission. To do some terrifying things; painting the walls with blood, using knives. It’s August 8th, after all. Soon enough, Sharon Tate, among others, will be bleeding to death tragically. Because Charlie’s reading to “make history.”
Meanwhile, Shafe has to let Gerald go. He and Hodiak know this is the killer, but alas – the law. Charmain helps the fellas figure out an important piece to Gerald’s story; he was married to a pin-up girl who wound up dead, just like the women he murders and poses.
Out on their mission, Tex, Sadie (Ambyr Childers) and the others start Helter Skelter into motion, as Tex murders a man in his car up the driveway to their destination.
Hodiak finds pictures of him in the developed rolls of Gerald. He then rushes to a crime scene where Billie lies murdered viciously. Now, we see where this is all leading.
Charlie rambles on to Ken about his race war plan and hiding beneath the Grand Canyon, as his “children” head inside the Tate house. Tex continues his murderous rampage: “Im the devil, and Im here to do the devils business,” he eerily explains to one of his victims. Watching on, the pregnant Emma is horrified by what comes next. One by one, people are dispatched violently.

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At home, Gerald is gathering up some things. Problem is that Sam Hodiak has come to pay him a visit, gun in hand. Seems that Billie got a vicious beating, no typical M.O. from Dunn. And so Sam starts in on the guy: “Im gonna hurt you, Gerald. Im gonna hurt you until you tell me everything.” The whole thing comes down to Dunn being put in jail by Sam, not being there to protect his wife when she was killed. But Gerald taunts, wanting to get shot. Shafe turns up to convince Sam otherwise. We discover the dead woman was in fact Billie’s sister; still awful. At least she wasn’t also brutally killed.
The Tate house is being absolutely torn apart. Tex puts a knife in Emma’s hand and commands her to go finish off anybody that’s left. She only warns a man staying in the guest house not to come outside, or make a peep. The Manson Family starts to leave, as Emma witnesses the last of the killings take place, a horrified look in her eyes. Once it’s all over they write “something witchy” on the wall for their master. Simultaneously, Ken and Charlie have an intense confrontation leading to Karn’s death.
When everyone shows up again, Manson flips because none of his little plans turned out appropriately. No witchy words other than PIG, knives left behind. He throws a tantrum, deciding he and Emma are headed back to the Tate house.
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So does Sam kill Gerald?
Mans a sick animal,” Hodiak explains to Billie, as she pleads for him not to shoot Dunn. It takes every ounce of will power in him not to, but Sam doesn’t shoot after all. He relinquishes the gun and hugs Billie with all his strength.
Over at the crime scene, Charlie orders Emma to get things done. They fix the place up a bit to his liking, although it’s still an absolutely horrific thing to see. For a second time, Emma leaves the house, nearly 6 in the morning on August 9th. Tex clears Ken’s body out back at Spahn Ranch. Everything’s in (dis)order.
At the station, everybody hears about the murder concerning Sharon Tate and her friends. Big time news, as Cutler takes the call. He even opts to tell Hodiak “you just unquit.” Things are about to get serious for the whole of Los Angeles. The Hollywood Divison station is gone mad.
Over at the Tate house, Shafe is covered in blood and holding the medallion Emma left behind. You know, the one Sam gave to Emma awhile back. Ah, the deeper connection for Hidoak to this case has come out.
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What a fucking fantastic episode! Gruesome, intense, gritty. All sorts of aspects that makes this series excellent. Again, I can only hope they’ll renew the show. If not, we’re left with a lot of interesting things that could have and SHOULD HAVE been.
Please, NBC: do the right thing. At least give them a Season 3 to clue up on a proper note. I want to see Hodiak on the hot trail looking for the Manson Family, all the while junkie Shafe trying to piece together his life and do his job, PLUS WE NEED MORE CHARMAIN TULLY! Please and thank you.