Taboo – Episode 2

FX’s Taboo
Episode 2
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 1, “Shovels and Keys” – click here
screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-49-42-pmOn the tail of his refusal to sell Nootka Sound, James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) is a man apart after returning from Africa to his old home in London. Over at the East India Company, Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) isn’t happy with those beneath him, with whom he’s charged the task of killing James. And it’s either play ball, or lose your job. Meanwhile, Delaney’s in the wilderness with a shovel; he retrieves a small bag. Of money? Or something more?
Back at the house with Brace (David Hayman), James charges the caretaker with arming himself against whatever’s coming next. We find out more about old man Delaney’s last days, how he rarely ate and only drank beer from a man who sold it for cheap. The paranoia is setting into James, and rightfully so, as his father was poisoned, now there are people fitting to do the same, or worse, to him. A storm is brewing. A bad one, too.
At a ship auction, James puts in a bid of 800 pounds on a merchant vessel. He buys it under the name of Delaney Nootka Trading. Now there are many more knickers in knots. Strange is less than pleased with the news. He wants to understand – “Why did he know so much about the border negotiations?” among other things. Strange comes to believe the Americans are responsible, backing Delaney. But I think it’s all in the name of proper vengeance.
screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-57-37-pmJames finds a note with the name Atticus written on it, and he comes across the man whose name he seeks, a rough looking chap named Atticus (Stephen Graham); tattooed from head to toe, covered with butchers blood. They sit and chat. Atticus plans on writing a book, which is awesome. Furthermore, we’re told “when someone wants a man killed they come to Atticus.” We’ll be seeing more of this lad.
Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) brings a map for whom I can only assume is George IV (Mark Gatiss) in his later years, though the Prince Regent doesn’t approve of the colours for the British ships as blue when the Americans are red. He’s a bit of a crass man, both in terrible health and with an equally terrible attitude. Fuck everybody, is the basic message he sends out to all.
Along the dark harbour at night James runs into a young girl named Winter (Ruby-May Martinwood). She lives at the whorehouse, though insists she’s a virgin. She brings unpleasant news about Helga (Franka Potente) who’s conspiring to do James harm.  So off the pair go – “Are you tricking me?” asks James, perhaps knowing there’s a good chance she is, indeed. Although they have a nice little chat, and Winter feels genuine. She even asks James to take her to America one day. When they come near a ship James swims on by himself. Aboard the boat he lights a fire to blow it sky high.
At home James continues doing what he can to make sure things go smoothly with Nootka Sound. Poor Brace is caught in the folds of the Delaney family mystery, and sees nothing ahead but tragedy. Simultaneously he watches James go through all the same things as his father Horace, speaking on a strange tongue and talking to ghosts. By himself, James comes across a paper from a stage show, the name Lorna Bow circled on the back.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-8-14-26-pmOut on the town James goes to see Helga, he tells her about Winter. He susses out that Winter is Helga’s daughter, which is why she doesn’t rent the girl out. This is all a way for James to try bringing her into the fold, to help him gather intel: “Secrets to me are weapons.” Plus, he wants information on the man Winter told him of, the gent with the silver tooth. And off James goes, farther on his quest. He takes a look at the ship he’s purchased and sizes it up. Down below he feels the pull of memory take him  back to the ship he fled, the slave ship; and what other nastiness lies in those memories? Eager to find out. We get snippets of flashbacks to the ship; brief, sparse moments.
What grave sin has James committed? It’s something which haunts him, that’s all we know for sure.
He goes on trying to thwart the plot against his life. In a crude hospital he finds Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly). He’s an interesting character – a doctor, a merchant, and a spy, so James says. This doesn’t impress the man. Soon James makes clear he wants help contacting the government of the United States, and hopes Dumbarton, an American, will facilitate this for him. I guess he won’t entertain the idea, as a gun comes out and James leaves rather than test the doctor’s trigger finger.
Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) receives a letter. Inside, a large piece of crystal (is it a diamond?). Hmm. Interesting. Across town, James meets with the lawyer Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson), and lays things out on the table. “You are their whore,” he chastises Thoyt for passing information over to the EIC. And the spineless lawyer has nothing, only excuses and defeat.
Later they head over to the division of old man Delaney’s estate. Everything goes to James. this doesn’t sit well with anybody, least of which brother-in-law Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall): “That legacy is your death sentence.” Surprising everybody, however, James brings money enough to pay off his father’s debts, making some of the men present happy. Then up turns a woman claiming she was Horace’s wife, Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley). Even has the paperwork to prove it. Thoyt and James are taken quite off guard. Afterwards, the lawyer goes to see Sir Strange and the others, to whom he must confirm the legitimacy of Lorna’s marriage to Horace. They mull over what their opportunities are with this information. All roads lead again to the death of James Delaney.


The tension between James and his half-sister Zilpha is nearly unbearable. During a grand ball they lock eyes, though she is less thrilled about it, so it appears. Even their body language speaks of a more intimate relationship than just half-brother to half-sister. She feels the lure, yet clearly wants him away from her. “Did you really eat flesh?” Zilpha asks him; one of the many rumours about James and his time in Africa. For now they’re kept apart. I feel like this is simply another avenue in life that will possibly bring ruin to James Delaney. Because there are so many angles from which death and destruction come at him already, another one is bad.
Speaking too soon, as James heads out into the streets he’s finally attacked by a random assailant in the night. He’s stabbed in the guts, left to die in an alley. Not before he kills his would-be killer, biting a chunk from their neck in bloody chaos before slumping against a wall and passing out.
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What will become of Mr. Delaney?
I loved this episode, a fantastic follow-up to improve on the first one and makes things more intriguing. The writing from Steven Knight is excellent, as usual. He keeps a lot of nice stuff, plot-wise, close to the hip. Letting things unfold in a slow burn here is perfect for the mystery of James and his time in Africa. Can’t wait to see more. I anticipate there are many more conflicted feelings in regards to our anti-hero, and I’m hoping that Knight is headed where I think he’s headed with the story.

Scream Queens – Season 2, Episode 10: “Drain the Swamp”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 10: “Drain the Swamp”
Directed by Ian Brennan
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ian Brennan

* For a review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Lovin the D” – click here
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-2-35-45-pmChanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) is confronted by the Green Meanie again. She’s trapped in one of the hospital’s dark hallways, as the killer has a baseball throwing machine aimed right at, running full speed. Chanel ducks and dodges, until one of the newest Chanels takes a ball right in the head. Luckily, she’s not dead. Chanel #1 gets away, and we see it’s Ingrid Hoffel (Kirstie Alley) behind the mask.
At the same time Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) is sneaked up on by the remaining Green Meanie, Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner). But he doesn’t kill his love. They both want to try and convince his mother Jane (Trilby Glover) otherwise. So #3 runs off for a “whores bath” so they can bang, and Cascade threatens Hoffel: leave his girl out of it, or face his wrath. Things between the Meanies aren’t looking good. Uh oh.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-2-42-16-pmDr. Brock Holt (John Stamos) apologises for the hand’s actions, nearly strangling her to death, although Chanel doesn’t think much of it, other than it’s progress in their relationship. Yikes. Meanwhile, Hester (Lea Michele) is still kicking around. She’s scheming over Cathy Munsch’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) fortune, who is on the verge of dying. Hester wants Brock to help her steal all her money, then they’ll run off together: “Just two murderers with no one to murder except for each other, but we never will because we love and trust each other.” What could go wrong, right?
Out in the garden, Ingrid gets some nasty ideas when one of the new Chanels is fertilising the tomato garden. Explosive substances. Green Meanie. Murderous impulse. You know what’s coming.
Also, Chanel mixes up the fact Brock is looking at engagement rings for a pending marriage proposal. Only when Dr. Holt calls everyone to Cathy’s room, where she’s lying waiting for death to come, he proposes to the former Ms. Munsch, soon to be the new Mrs. Holt. But he works on Chanel behind the scenes, too. He strings her along.
Cassidy and #3 talk with his mother Jane. He tells her that the “killing and revenge stuff” is all her thing. However, mom isn’t so willing to let all that go. She doesn’t want it to stop until the job is done.
So the wedding of Brock and Cathy goes ahead, right there at the CURE Institute. They’re now officially husband and wife. Then as they snuggle later, Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin) comes in with information saying that maybe Munsch isn’t dying. She wants to get a sample of her brain, to test for sure. And though Brock isn’t thrilled, Cathy wants more time to be with her new husband.

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-2-53-16-pmDownstairs, Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) is still in cryogenic storage. And Ingrid is down snooping around. She gets a call from Jane, who has her own secrets with Zayday (Keke Palmer) trapped in her cellar. “Now its just you and me,” she says. But Ingrid’s more interested in her latest plan to kill the Chanels.
Things at the hospital are getting tense with Hester wanting Brock to kill Cathy. She doesn’t want to go back to prison where she has to “draw porn” so she can masturbate. Not to mention Chanel can’t deal with Brock and Munsch together, no matter what fairy tale he spun for her earlier. Later, the biopsy goes ahead. Cathy sings “Smoke on the Water” while Chanel plots on throwing her pumpkin spice latte into Cathy’s open skull, which doesn’t work as planned.
Now the verdict: no evidence of the nasty disease, but it’s inconclusive. And she’s still going to die. Maybe. Could even be extreme dehydration. Silly, no? “I only drink scotch, or vodka,” Cathy gasps in a hilarious moment of revelation. She even rinses out her toothpaste mouth with scotch. She goes on to find out the brain eating wasn’t human brain; it was lamb. She’s not going to die!
Everybody heads to the basement for a celebration, champagne included. But it’s all a trick by Ingrid. She traps them in a cage downstairs. She reveals to them all her identity, sister of Agatha Bean who was accidentally burned alive in the deep fryer during Season 1. Out of nowhere Zayday arrives, alongside Jane who doesn’t want to keep on killing after seeing the CURE Institute’s good work. Only Ingrid guns her down, and they’re all left in no better position than before. She further reveals a huge fertiliser bomb, leaving them to die. Afterwards, Denise is alive! And she’s hilariously missed a few things while in her cryogenic coma. Waiting for Denise to defuse the bomb, #5 finally admits she does have teeth in her vagina: “I didnt want to die a liar.”

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-3-06-53-pmUpstairs the crew chase down Ingrid. They head out back into the swamp. There, Cascade takes a machete right in his torso trying to save #3. In the forest Ingrid runs through a patch of muddy ground which slowly sucks her into the earth. Nobody helps. Until Munsch suddenly feels her conscience tug. She tries to save the woman, but the mud suffocates her and sucks her to the bottom.
Everything is over, and the Chanels have made it through alive. A little worse for wear. You know them, though. They’re bouncing back. #5 is doing her thing at the hospital; she and Zayday are essentially running the place. Munsch hit a rough patch when she finds out someone cleaned out her bank accounts – Hester, of course, who took off with Dr. Holt to an exotic beach on Blood Island. Where they play The Most Dangerous Game. Munsch went on to become a sex expert, like you didn’t see that coming after all her friskiness.
And Chanel, she went on to become a TV doctor with #3 as her executive producer on Lovin the C. So it looks like things have progressed for them after being hunted by the Red Devil killer, the Green Meanie(s). Things are back on track in their lives.
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Or are they?
One night as Chanel leaves the television studio, she finds a small broach in her car inscribed KKT. Who’s that in the backseat? It’s the Red Devil.


Wow, loved this episode, and loved that final scene! Didn’t expect it, honestly. Works great and maybe gives us something to expect for Season 3, which hopefully is on the radar for FOX. What did you all think about Season 2? I thought Season 1 was spectacular, and I’ve felt that Season 2 got even funnier, weirder, and wilder. Overall, a solid season.
Let me know your thoughts, and if you want another season with the Chanels, Cathy Munsch, and that sneaky Red Devil.

Taboo – Episode 1: “Shovels and Keys”

FX’s Taboo
Episode 1: “Shovels and Keys”
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-33-44-amWe begin on the open ocean. From a ship in the water comes a boat. In it is a mysterious, hooded figure. They hit land and the figure digs something from out of the ground. He reveals himself as James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy). He pushes on to a city nearby where he goes to see a dead man; interesting that he takes the coins from the man’s eyes.
Forgive me, father. For I have indeed sinned,” James tells the corpse. Is this his own father? Or someone else close? I’d bet that’s old Mr. Delaney himself, though time will well.
Between these first scenes, the eerie music of the theme and its montage of bodies floating in the water, Taboo is off to a beautifully sinister start and I already need more.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-34-24-amLondon, 1814. The streets are alive with the sound of capitalism, and people are all doing various things to stay alive, stay fed. In the midst of the city a funeral procession goes on. Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) ad Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall) sit for the funeral of her father. At that very moment in walks James.  “There walks a dead man,” someone says, as Zilpha is mortified to see her brother. Another interesting note: James plunks the two coins from his father’s eyes into the collection at church. But there’s a dreadful air surrounding the man, everyone seems to fear him. Next to the grave James seems to be doing some semi-voodoo-type stuff, saying prayers in another language, wiping a red streak of ochre (or something similar) down from his eye like a tear. So much intrigue in such a short time.
Sneaking about while everyone drinks in the pub, James comes upon his father’s lawyer, Robert Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson). Everyone believed James dead, except for his father, which everybody thought was a product of the madness inherent in whatever illness he suffered through until death. Thoyt tells James of his father’s last holding in America, although says the asset is worthless. Oh, is it now? Well, the male Delaney heir doesn’t buy into all that.
Thoyt: “If America were a pig facing England, it is right at the pigs ass.”
Dark things are brewing. Thorne doesn’t seem thrilled with James’ presence, nor with the prospect of his doing business in the wake of his father’s passing. Also, there’s a strange connection between James and his sister Zilpha; possibly an incestuous tone to their prior relationship. Hard to tell, but strongly suggested. Furthermore, James is a changed man since being in Africa, where all thought him lost. He sees everyone around him almost as a group of vile creatures.


In another, more upper class part of London, Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) rejoices over old man Delaney’s death. He’s not exactly surprised to hear about the son turning up again. He’s already had Mr. Wilton (Leo Bill) try digging up dirt on James. His mother was mad. At 11, he was made a cadet for the East India Company; a “company boy” Strange says, wide-eyed. He reached the rank of Colonel, even. Then in 1800, he fought a lot, set fires, and a ton of other craziness. Said he knew where there was treasure in Africa. In 1802, he left for Africa on his own. He was on a slave ship at one point which sank; could be where we saw him in that first scene.
But now he’s back with business to conduct. This makes Strange and others nervous. They tried dealing with Zilpha, however, James’ return makes that pointless. Will they do something underhanded? Highly likely. Especially considering… the rumours, about James Keziah Delaney.
At his old family home James finds the caretaker, Brace (David Hayman); one of the very few happy to see him. They were, and still are, close. “In all this dirty city, there is no one I can trust, apart from you,” James tells his friend. We find out more of his father, too. That he was bad near the end. He’d crouch at the fire and speak in a strange language to James. I also want to know more of his mother. I wonder if she was from Africa, or somewhere else, because it seems there’s something further to her character than just simply being the mother; she has secrets, I believe. And James, he’s seen darkness, as well.


James starts going through his father’s things. In an old office of his family he finds Helga (Franka Potente) running a brothel out of the space. She offers half of her daily take to stay, and James isn’t interested. Back at the Geary household things aren’t so smooth, either. Thorne wishes his wife Zilpha would be firmer in hand with her brother. “Delaney is nothing more than a nigger now,” he says. I feel we’re going to see a bit of liberation on Zilpha’s part. Whether that’s a good thing is left to be seen. Because there’s a weird vibe between her and James to boot.
The rumours about James in Africa involve evil, witchcraft, all sorts of nasty stuff. There’s also a boy, I assume James’ brother, who was taken in by a family. And we see that there are other reasons Delaney feels the cold shoulder of people in London, not just due to whatever he did while in Africa.
Moreover, James is trying to figure out what happened to his father in the end. All the while fighting off the madness in his own head: “I have no fear to give you,” he rants to himself, walking through the morgue and speaking to corpses. Ghosts, all around him. Particularly an African man, chains around his wrists, bloody from the neck down; he approaches James, who soon repels him. Then back with his physician friend Dr. Powell (Michael Shaeffer), he discovers his father was poisoned.
James: “I know things about the dead
Poor Zilpha’s caught in such a hard, awful place. Her half-brother, returned from his macabre adventures, is making things difficult, as well as her husband Thorne pressing her into making the decisions he requires, lording over her like a maniac. There’s a determination in Zilpha, though. She won’t be pushed over, not entirely, even if it is the early 19th century.


James brings money to Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank), who took care of the other Delaney boy while the father went mad and James went about his business elsewhere. So, is that his brother, or could it be his son?  Hmm. There’s a gorgeously textured number of layers already in this story, and I feel that this first episode is putting them out in front of us with grace. This should stretch out nicely over the series’ 8 episodes.
Up at the East India Company, James goes to talk with Sir Strange and his brethren. An uneasy meeting, for sure. They all treat him as if he were a mythic figure out of a book. “Do not pretend,” James tells them plainly. They want to talk about Nootka Sound, where old man Delaney’s last property bought from the Natives lies; a point of contention between “His Majestys government and the cursed United States.” What’s fun is that James knows much more than any of these stuffy old bastards ever imagined possible. He has quite a grasp on all that’s happening in terms of geopolitical plans and strategies coming down the pipes. He realises Nootka Sound (a sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island) will become extremely valuable, both to the British and certainly to the Americans. So the bribe comes out. And that doesn’t interest James any more than the rest of it. Sir Strange gets angry, and the look on the faces of the others spells quite the story, as James rises calmly to leave. Now they’re left with only other options. None of which will come to pass without lots of blood.


At home, James receives a letter from Zilpha. She wants the “secrets of the past buried” and now we see she and James are on two different ends of the spectrum.
What exactly will he do from here?
I, for one, am damn excited to watch more.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-12-31-13-pmWhat a great opening episode. Honestly, I expected a lot, and for me this one delivered. Great involvement of artists, from Tom Hardy (and his father Edward ‘Chips’ Hardy), to Steven Knight, to Jonathan Pryce, and of course director Kristoffer Nyholm on this first episode.
So much to come. Join me, as we take a ride with James Keziah Delaney into the dark, gritty spaces of London, and beyond!

Barrett & Wingard Deal Another Terrifying Blow with BLAIR WITCH

Blair Witch. 2016. Directed by Adam Wingard. Screenplay by Simon Barrett.
Starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, & Valorie Curry.
Lionsgate/Room 101/Snoot Entertainment.
Rated 14A. 89 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2
posterThis movie was a loaded gun for me when it hit. First, since I first saw The Blair Witch Project I’ve loved it completely. In all honesty, the marketing got to me when it was released, and for those who experienced it in the early days of internet there’s this buzz that still gets you going every time the movie plays. You get taken back to those trailers, the opening scenes, all the faux-reality, but the terrifying faux-reality that gripped horror lovers.
Second, I dig Adam Wingard and his frequent collaborator writer Simon Barrett. They haven’t reinvented the wheel, yet every project they take on is unique. They have such an excellent rapport as a director-writer team, which translates well into each film. A Horrible Way to DieYou’re NextThe Guest; each of these, for me, was a thrilling experience, albeit in their respective ways.
When it came out finally that The Woods, their latest collaboration, is in actuality Blair Witch… well, needless to say, I got excited. Taking on a sequel to one of the most groundbreaking horror films ever made, after the first fairly miserable sequel Book of Shadows failed to impress, is a monumental task. Not everyone is going to love Blair Witch. People seem to fall into a couple categories: either they think it strays too far from the original (to which I smirk questionably), or they think it’s too similar (there goes that smirk again).
Me, I find Wingard and Barrett’s film admirable, in a lot of ways. It gets more intense than its predecessor, that alone is saying something; hard to beat, but this sequel gives many of the best scenes from the original a run for their money. More than that Barrett’s screenplay, as opposed to the improvised and looser style of The Blair Witch Project, does wonders for the tension and gives the actors good stuff with which to work, ultimately allowing for better performances. Not every last person is going to love this. I do, and I hope others were as thrilled as me when they sat through its terror.
screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-8-29-18-pmOne of the immediate aspects I noticed, and enjoyed a ton, is the great sound design, helping to put it above the intensity of the first film in specific moments. There’s a feeling of being lost in the woods alongside these people because of the sound; a hovering, pulsing sound wraps the audience up, as it surrounds the characters. This, in conjunction with the camerawork – chaotic and frenzied in the more mortifying moments – makes for good scares. The original movie does well with its bare sense of reality, having the actors sent out into the woods relatively on their own and manipulated into being scared. Blair Witch succeeds in its mission to creep people out partly due to the sound and the visuals together, plus the fact Wingard did things similar to The Blair Witch Project‘s directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez.
Mainly, Wingard used an air horn in the background of scenes in order to attain the right amount of jump from actors. And some will say, “That’s what an actor is for, they should just act!” – I say nonsense. Sure, don’t go William Friedkin and fire a gun next to somebody to scare them. I feel like the air horn is fine, it did elicit appropriate reactions. There are honest places actors sometimes aren’t going to get simply because they need to be genuinely scared to get there, not pretend scared, and Wingard gets the actors under his care to that place, manipulating horror from them in an unexpected way. Moreover, the actors just haul you to the darkness of that woods and far too many times, in the best kind of sense, you’ll feel as lost as they do, disoriented, frightened, paranoid; the whole gamut of terrifying emotion.

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-9-29-03-pmscreen-shot-2016-12-21-at-9-30-23-pmThe acting is great, aside from any of the jump scares or the pure bits of scary madness. And it’s strange, because I’ve seen people complain that the acting is no good, or that it takes away from the tension. Totally disagree. Each of the actors gives it their all, as well as the fact a couple of them give absolutely awesome performances.
Wes Robinson & The Following‘s Valorie Curry as Lane and Talia, the would-be guides into the Black Hills woods, don’t only play interesting characters Barrett penned in addition to the others, they’re two of the best in the cast. Robinson particularly gets to the core of the paranoia driving so much of the story’s suspense. Once things progress to a certain point, both Robinson and Curry take us into a horrific space that gets eerier by the minute.
James Allen McCune (whose stint on Shameless was incredible) plays the brother of Heather Donahue, the catalyst of the adventure, and he does a nice job straddling between non-belief and belief until the situation becomes painfully clear near the end. I also can’t forget to mention Corbin Reid as Ashley. She plays a role that could’ve easily been lost in a bunch of blood and moaning and crying; while there’s a little of that, Reid brings an uneasy feeling to the gut when we see her character descend into the forest’s terror. Everybody involved brings their A-game, even the couple more minor characters. With a bigger cast this time, in contrast to the original’s trio, Blair Witch utilises every one of them to the fullest extent.
screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-9-36-52-pmI don’t want to spoil any of the best moments, although I have to mention one, hopefully without giving away too much. Just before the final half hour takes us into a frightening place, a scene involving the wooden Blair Witch figurines takes their presence to a whole new level. I can’t say much more – other than the actors’ reactions combined with the editing, and again the sound design, make for the moment that both shocked and pounded me into a state of horror.
Blair Witch is about on par with its original. Maybe a lot of others don’t think so, but damn it, I do. And I can’t deny that. I went into this expecting that there was a possibility I wouldn’t be thrilled. Regardless if Barrett and Wingard made this, two artists I admire and love to see working in any capacity (the latter’s stint with Cinemax and Outcast did wonders for the TV horror lover’s soul), I didn’t count out disappointment.
Yet no part of me was really disappointed. Barrett and Wingard did interesting things with the legacy of such a beloved piece of horror cinema. They refused to move too far from the film Myrick and Sánchez. Likewise, they branched out a bit, too; they didn’t retread too many paths. I loved the ending because it goes out on a similar note to the first, and in doing so almost shows us how the first actually ended. Dig it. As well, there’s an interesting conception of time in the screenplay; that’s all I’ll say. This does wonders in terms of writing to make the movie different, yet similar in a weird vein to the original film. If you want a good spoiler-filled look at this idea, check Screen Crush’s interview with Wingard here.
So even if there’s no general consensus, or even if that consensus is that this sequel doesn’t hold up, I dig this one. Barrett and Wingard confirm once again they’re worthy of helping to carry genre film forward, year after year. And who knows, maybe this will help a franchise get going, which I’d love to see. This didn’t wow at the box office, but it did make a profit for a relatively low budget film in today’s Hollywood system. I know that I wouldn’t mind seeing at least one more film surrounding the legend of the Blair Witch, no matter who takes it on. This movie proves you can update or reboot films years later without being totally derivative and without straying too wildly from what made the original so popular.

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 is the Epitome of Wasted Potential

Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. 2000. Directed by Joe Berlinger. Screenplay by Berlinger & Dick Beebe.
Starring Jeffrey Donovan, Tristine Skyler, Erica Leerhsen, Kim Director, Lanny Flaherty, Lauren Husley, & Raynor Scheine.
Artisan Entertainment/Haxan Films.
Rated R. 90 minutes.
Adventure/Fantasy/Horror

★★
posterYou’d almost expect Joe Berlinger to have done more with the concept for this sequel to Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s groundbreaking horror, The Blair Witch Project. By this point in 2000 he already did two of the HBO Paradise Lost documentaries, another great (and equally as tragic) doc called Brother’s Keeper. With the screenplay from him and co-writer Dick Beebe, I imagined Berlinger could spin his documentary style into an interesting sequel for the story Myrick and Sánchez began.
That’s not the case, unfortunately. I’m sure that even this movie has its fans, a cult following. But whereas other cult films feel justified in their love, often due to the project released at the wrong moment in time, Book of Shadows stinks not only of a cash grab, it’s also one majorly wasted opportunity.
Parts of what I feel Berlinger aimed at work. So much of it doesn’t, and falls into cheese; not even the good kind. You can watch this as a biting, murderous, supernatural satire re: diehard fans of the first film. Not well written. Although definitely, at least partly what Beebe and Berlinger tried to get across. It didn’t come too quickly after the original, that isn’t the reason this did poorly. Plain and simple, this falls well short of being a good movie. The dialogue is brutal, to the point of cringing in many a scene, then it gets far too expository to take seriously. If only the screenplay were tighter, the acting better, and most of all: if only it were found footage. That’s one of my biggest gripes. Beyond that Berlinger tried doing something that would’ve otherwise been good. Somehow he stumbled, fumbling just about every last drop of potential.
screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-21-48-amThere are a few genuinely unsettling images, I must admit. An early dream sees one of the women having a dream about drowning her unborn baby in a river, blood bubbling up from the water. It’s jarring because we enter the dream seamless, no indication, and then a nice smash cut out of this nightmarish image to see her lying in a tent. A great scene that always gets me.
These gnarly moments are few and far between.
One scene that particularly pisses me off is when the group first wake up to find all the paper essentially snowing down on them. I never judge people TOO much on the decisions they make because they don’t know they’re in a horror movie. But fuck, man. This one chaps my ass. When they’re rationally trying to figure out what’s gone on, they never once question WHY AND HOW THE HELL IS THE PAPER SNOWING DOWN ON US? It’s clearly dropping out of the sky, and they don’t make one reference to maybe looking in the trees to see if anyone is playing tricks on them, et cetera. I mean, I can forgive a lot of stupid stuff screenplay-wise in horror. I love the genre, though I know sometimes the writing isn’t perfect, even in movies I actually enjoy. This screenplay is chock full of garbage writing; glaring omission, poor and unbelievably character decisions, amongst more mistakes. Too bad because, as I mentioned, the concepts alive in the script die on the vine instead of blooming to make the sequel a worthy successor.
screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-26-41-amI can’t help but be mad at the writing. And I do know that, against his will, the studio shot some scenes to make this more a straight-forward horror, whatever the hell that means. So part of this isn’t totally Berlinger’s doing, regardless of his co-writing the script. Maybe one day we’ll get a version that shows us what Berlinger originally wanted, which would be nice. Either way, this version ends up with bad writing choices dominating everything.
So much wasted potential. Even down to Erica Leerhsen’s witch character and her worry about The Blair Witch Project reflecting negatively on actual witches, such as her and fellow Wiccans. This, along with the satirical eye towards die hard lovers of the first film insisting on the Blair Witch is real, wound up as fodder.
And that’s the frustrating part. Berlinger could’ve made this into a horror containing social commentary, satirising modern film culture, fanaticism, and other big ideas. Instead of following the first film with a powerhouse, this falls just about entirely flat. The original worked because of its reality angle, the rawness and the gritty qualities of the mainly improvised script. This one should have been capable of improving, and yet with a fully formed script this never comes close to achieving any of the goals it lays out theme-wise.
screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-32-14-amscreen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-41-22-amMaybe giving this two out of five stars is even too much. But there’s enough to keep me watching Book of Shadows, so I don’t feel too guilty; though a bit of guilt exists, all the same. Don’t get me wrong: this is a bad movie. Especially when you consider The Blair Witch Project and how great it was, in many ways. Berlinger deserves better, I’m sure there is a better cut of the movie somewhere in existence, or at least pieces of which that can be assembled into sequel worthy of what Sánchez and Myrick started.
A handful of scenes, or more so moments, does not a movie make. When I compare this with Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s recent Blair Witch, it’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t, at all. This is a huge mess. It’s a good one to throw on when you’re bored, doing something else, or for a night when you want to watch something foolish with a group of friends. And if you’re all fans of the original, it’s even more fun to laugh as you watch.
Nevertheless, you might find a couple things that appeal to you. Or, maybe it’s a total trash bin. I don’t disagree, no matter how you feel. I’m going to rally behind anyone who wants to see a Berlinger-approved cut. Behind the mess a Book of Shadows worth the time and worth carrying the Blair Witch name may exist. If the latest entry in the series spawns a sequel, themes from this failed sequel would be exciting to revisit, if they were better written and more extensively explored. Here’s to hope!

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Ten: “Three Rooms”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 10: “Three Rooms”
Directed by Jason Ensler
Written by Jeremy Slater

* For a review of the penultimate Chapter Nine, “162” – click here
screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-12-40-29-amAngela Rance (Geena Davis), under possession of the demon Pazuzu, strangles the life from her daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka), as Henry (Alan Ruck) and Kat (Brianne Howey) watch helplessly. But then Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) arrives. To fight. However, he’s worried that the “integration” is complete. He wants to believe it hasn’t happened. Hard not to believe. “Lets see the measure of your conviction,” Pazuzu challenges before tossing Tomas into the air like a doll. The demon touches him and suddenly he’s in a little room in Mexico, a house, and then he sees… Father Marcus (Ben Daniels), sitting on his bed. But it can only be a vision, something the demon wills upon him.
Because the real Marcus has been captured, at the hands of Brother Simon (Francis Guinan) and Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the latter of whom is constantly put down by everybody around her; how long until she turns on her demon friends? Well, at least Marcus has company – a still alive, still wisecracking Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan), though worse for the wear, is tied up in a chair alongside him. What Simon offers is integration. Join their legions, or die. And the clock, it’s ticking, as the nasty demon in the Brother cuts each of the priests open, letting them bleed.
Marcus: “A whole eternity listening to your poncy little speeches? Kill me now


Back in that little dream-room in Mexico, Tomas talks with Marcus. The older priest talks of integration, taunting Tomas. Can the younger of the two make it out of his own head, away from the influence of Pazuzu? The dream-Marcus urges Tomas to wake up, else he die, too. Then there’s Pazuzu still controlling Angela, the entire family. All of a sudden the demon realises there’s a piece left to Angela, something he didn’t snatch up yet. She’s still in there, the integration isn’t complete.
What I love about this episode is the dream world Slater is drawing out for us. We’re headed inside the possession rather than seeing all the external effects. Essentially, we see the cause. Angela finds herself in a dark hallway, the demon coming towards her, scraping its fingernails along the walls. It’s genuine terror.
Pazuzu: “Little pig, little pig, let me in!”
Tomas, in his dream world, confronts the death of his mother, as Marcus continues whispering in his ear. He literally confronts her death – a dead, torn face from cats who ate it off. He then sees her die, alone in bed.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-12-55-27-amNow we find out more about Marcus. He shot his own dad with a poaching rifle, which got him sent to the school where he learned his trade. Brother Simon goes at him mentally about the “lonely trail” of his life. He wants to convince Marcus into joining their plan. The parade for Pope Sebastian (Bruce Davison) looms, so the demons have bigger things to do. Things don’t look good, though. Maria’s been pushed as far as she’s willing to go, or so it seems. Worst of all, Simon has released the ash of vocare pulvere into the air. Is it going to take him? Bennett? Maria?
At the Rance house, they’re playing Spin the Hammer. Naughty, nasty Pazuzu wants Casey to bash her sister’s knees in after it lands on Kat. If she doesn’t, the demon will haul Henry’s arms off. This is a tragic moment, as Henry tries to reassure his daughters of his love for them. And before the countdown ends, Kat grabs the hammer and crushes her own knee.
Looks like the ash is taking Bennett, swirling around him, trying to draw his mind to the legion of demons. Then he gives in. “Poor little Renfield, left all alone to eat your bugs,” Marcus laughs at Maria, left behind by her demonic friends. Such a great reference and even better delivery out of Ben Daniels. Instead of taking Bennett, the plan of Marcus worked, and Maria receives the demon’s influence. The two renegade priests break free of their bonds while Maria gets what she’s always wanted.
But what worries me most is Father Tomas. Can he push through? I believe he can. He wants to, and the Rances need him. With a blade to his neck, Tomas finally breaks free of the spell. He admits to his sins, bares his soul. Afterwards, he wakes to fight against Pazuzu. Just as Casey fights against it, willing her mother to come back.
Tomas: “I have hope and I have faith. These things are not weaknesses, they make me what I am.”
Marcus: “And whats that?”
Tomas: “An exorcist


But who will win? Tomas shouts his prayers at the demon, commanding it to leave Angela. He works with every bit of his being to cast Pazuzu out, and Casey joins him with Holy Bible in hand. The whole family gathers reciting The Lord’s Prayer.
At the same time, Pope Sebastian has hit the streets of Chicago. His motorcade passes the hordes of people waiting to wave at him, to catch a glimpse. And Father Marcus, bleeding out more and more, tries hard to save him.
Cutting back and forth between these two scenes is fantastic, the tension is thick. Once the demons in the crowd at the parade start to bring everyone to their knees, and Pazuzu rages in his hallway, things get intense. Brother Simon and his crew of demons go to the Pope. Before Simon can do anything Marcus cuts his throat. The spell on everyone is broken, the Pope is rushed away to safety, and Marcus rushes off.
Angela opens the door in her mind, but not to let Pazuzu in: to invite him into a fight. She bashes his head in on the floor of the hall, closing the door on him to leave him in darkness. Outside, Angela nearly breaks in half, seemingly dead; her family left to mourn.


Father Marcus sits with Casey, who’s glad to be done with the entire mad affair. He is a sweet man and comforts her the best he can. She wonders about the others he’s helped, how many were actually saved and got better. “Hurt me all you want, but the bastards dont get to win,” Marcus assures Casey, and tells her how strong she is despite the Rances many troubles.
Off the Rance family goes in their car, headed away from Chicago and all its terrible memories. Marcus, he’s left to keep on battling for souls. What about Tomas? He wants to train to be an exorcist. He wants his new friend to stay, to teach him. Tomas has now seen the true face of God and is more compelled than ever.
But we can’t forget about Maria Walters and her friend Superintendent Jaffey (Tim Hopper), and the others; they’re still kicking around. “Sebastian was never the finish line,” Maria tells the Superintendent. I can only imagine what the demons will plan next.
Oh, and Angela, she’s not dead. In a wheelchair, but not dead. The Rance family is safe and sound out in a country house, enjoying their lives. For now.
screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-1-20-33-amscreen-shot-2016-12-17-at-1-22-16-amEven if they don’t #RenewTheExorcist, as they should, FOX did well with this Season 1. I truly hope they give this a Season 2 because there’s so much more to explore. Not just with the Rances, but with the demonic influence still on Earth. Plus I feel like Casey would make a great addition to the exorcism team of Fathers Marcus and Tomas.
Either way I loved this season so much, it was brilliantly written and the fantastic cast lifted the material up every chance they got. Cheers to all involved!

Balagueró’s TO LET is a Haunting Story of Moving Day Hell

Para entrar a vivir (English title: To Let). 2006. Directed by Jaume Balagueró. Screenplay by Balagueró & Alberto Marini.
Starring Macarena Gómez, Nuria González, Adrià Collado, Ruth Diaz, Roberto Romero, & David Sandanya.
Estudios Picasso/Filmax/Telecinco.
Rated 18+. 68 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
posterJaume Balagueró’s given us a good deal of enjoyable horror cinema. His first feature film Los sin nombre is an eerie adaptation of a Ramsey Campbell novel that still sticks with me. From there he moved on to two underrated little movies called Darkness and Fragile before rocking our world with the mostly awesome [Rec] series, as well as the tense thriller Sleep Tight.
Surprisingly enough one of my favourites out of his catalogue is this made for TV movie, To Let (original Spanish title: Para entrar a vivir) – a disturbing, haunted piece of work about a couple who stumble upon a deal too good to be true while looking for a new apartment.
This film is well-directed and Balagueró does great things in terms of tension. Not only that, the horror is visceral, exciting.
To Let could’ve used a slight tweak in the screenplay, although nothing major. The story is creepy enough to reel you in and keep you in suspense. There’s impressive cinematography, horrific twists and turns within the film’s main apartment building location, and a genuinely satisfying(/terrifying) finish.
screenshot-2016-11-02-at-9-50-32-pmThe opening is a disturbing scene with screaming noise, a bloody mother and child in a darkened apartment, eerie whispers all around them. What could be happening? And what’s already happened? Immediately, the excellent production value, considering this is a television movie, is noticeable. Really good stuff. Part of Films to Keep You Awake, the cinematography and the locations used are stunning. They picked a perfect building to film, it has a character and life of its own, which always bodes well for a horror capitalising on setting as part of the plot.
There’s a shot winding up the stairs of the building, cutting from the couple to the real estate agent, and back again, that’s so beautiful and well put together. Visually strikes you as soon as you see it. One of those touches which turns a pedestrian moment, climbing the stairs of an apartment building, into a much more engrossing series of shots.
All around there’s stellar camerawork. Good shaky camera angles and jump cuts to fray the collective audience nerves, as the situation in the apartment building deteriorates fast. Quite intense with smart use of cinematography. While we can get a clear, though still spooky understanding of the plot ahead of the main character, it is a suspenseful, tense ride due to how everything’s shot.
Maybe my favourite sequence in terms of the drawn out tension is one where our main character is trying to escape. She ends up outside a window, grasping at a drainpipe, and lord, is it ever a good scene. Makes you want to bite your nails.
screenshot-2016-11-02-at-10-16-18-pmscreenshot-2016-11-02-at-10-18-58-pmThe story plays out nicely. I truly feel the plot is spectacular and even if you can see certain things coming, Balagueró manages to subvert expectations with visceral bits of horror, pure thrills. At one point I expected a ghost story, like a haunted apartment building similar to the 1977 Michael Winner film The Sentinel. Instead it’s an altogether different tale, so human and real that the concept alone is chilling. The apartment’s inhabitants are each scary in their own way, imagining how long they’ve all been there, what’s happened to them, where they were before; a true creepshow.
At the end, the resolution is appropriately unsettling to boot. You could almost see a few movies about this awful, old apartment building with its eerie landlord, so many tenants. The scariest part of the film, to me, is the utterly horrifying concept of not having control over where you live, forced to stay in a home you don’t want.
screenshot-2016-11-02-at-10-54-41-pmOur protagonist, played by Macarena Gómez, is a treat. There are, as is the case with many horrors, moments where you’ll question her decision making, but then again, nobody’s ever been in quite this same situation. Still, she is tough, she’s relentless. Gómez draws you in and she’ll hold your attention throughout the sparse 68-minute runtime of the movie. If it weren’t for her, the characters wouldn’t be near as engaging. Playing the husband, Adrià Collado also does fine work opposite Gómez. They work great together and as the situation in the building spirals out of control, their reactions, their emotions, everything keeps you charging towards the finale.
To Let is criminally under-seen. Not many people I know have even seen it, which is a shame. It’s certainly better than being relegated to the realm of the dreaded TV movie. While Balagueró has done better work, this one is still up in the ranks of his greatest. [Rec][Rec]2DarknessSleep Tight; these are tough movies to beat. But To Let hangs in there with them and in just over an hour this story will haunt your thoughts.
It’s not easy to track down and took me awhile. Although if you’re able, this is worth your time to find. Balagueró delivers a damn horrific psycho-thriller, at times playing to expectations, other times subverting them to fantastic effect. If you walk away from this one unsatisfied, it’s fine, but I’m not sure why. Because this is the type of horror I’d put on right after watching it through, ready for another round right away. The film isn’t hard to follow. Yet the plot is engrossing, remaining embedded in the mind long after the credits roll.

WER Brings Fierce Werewolf Game

Wer. 2014. Directed by William Brent Bell. Screenplay by Bell & Matthew Peterman.
Starring A.J. Cook, Simon Quarterman, Stephanie Lemelin, Vik Sahay, Fran Drescher, Sebastian Roché, & Brian Scott O’Connor.
FilmDistrict/Incentive Filmed Entertainment/Protoype.
Rated R. 89 minutes.
Action/Fantasy/Horror/Thriller

★★★★
posterMany people put this in the found footage sub-genre of horror. It’s only partly found footage oriented. There’s use of it amongst the story, which crosses from action to fantasy to thriller in a breath.
Wer has a lot to offer. Director (and co-writer) William Brent Bell does a fine job directing, as many of his choices are what makes the movie exciting. Not everybody loved his previous works (Stay AliveThe Devil Inside). Me, I dig them both, but they’re nothing overly special. With this film Bell capitalises on his strengths, mixing in some found footage while doing his best work as director to give us impressive visuals. Certainly doesn’t hurt to have a group of solid actors.
But best of all is the werewolf component of the story. I’m admittedly not a big fan of werewolves. Not sure why. That being said, I do love the great werewolf pictures. The way Bell and his co-writer Matthew Peterman (also the writer of Bell’s other aforementioned films) weave modern science, rural v. city politics, and a drop of superstitious fantasy together is striking. The plot will grab hold and the action, the horror, they’ll whisk you away.

The first scene involves a boy being eaten alive. Of course we don’t see everything. The suggestion, what we HEAR instead of SEE, those briefly visible bits of blood and gore, it’s unsettling. To start like that kicks things into gear fast. Lots of mystery and intrigue then with a frenetic view of clips, a victim’s video statement about what happened, and the pace really gets pumping out of the gates.
Then we take a side step, as the whole thing involves the criminal investigation of this vicious attack. A.J. Cook (Criminal Minds) plays attorney Kate Moore, and she is a natural on camera. Her range works well for the role, as she must first deal with legal fallout before coming to understand exactly what’s been happening concerning the defendant picked up for the werewolf murders. Right away, this guy – Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Connor) – is one physically intimidating character. He’s shot in such a way that any movement from his is pure suspense, his quiet demeanour renders him even more a scary presence. Plus, he’s made to look like a wild animal trapped in the body of a human: hairy, dishevelled and unkempt, a shaggy dog-looking man. Both Cook and O’Connor are perfect, giving life to the characters at the centre of the storm.
Love the screenplay. Its story is compelling because there’s so much going on, from Talan’s family and his condition, to his mother’s belief that the police are targeting her son due to the state wanting their land. A proper mix of drama, horror, mystery, and some of that fantasy in terms of the werewolf angle. Bell and Peterman do well with the werewolves. When one character is scratched by Talan early on it’s nearly forgotten. Until later it becomes evident we’re definitely in werewolf territory, after tiptoeing around being sure if the story’s headed there or not. This scratch becomes an excellent part of later plot developments.
screenshot-2016-11-02-at-11-30-00-pmscreenshot-2016-11-02-at-11-42-02-pmPLOT SPOILERS AHEAD

The scene when Talan escapes custody while being examined at a hospital is absolutely incredible. There’s a strange mood and tone. Science can’t even help, it has no idea what it’s up against when they test for porphyria then accidentally trigger his true condition. A pounding score starts right along with Talan’s powerful rage, and a bloody bang sets an entirely other bran of the plot into motion.
There are great effects, from big blockbuster-type stuff to the more small makeup effects and even the bits of CGI involved. Once the finale comes around this evolves into a straight up action-horror. I consider this one of the better recent examples of action and horror as a hybrid. Sure to get the heart pounding.
This is a werewolf movie, but one that combines folklore with modern science in order to create an entirely other look at werewolves. And there’s no official explanation as to what Talan is, we’re merely led to believe what we will. The screenplay does well using our expectations against us, never implicitly moving into werewolf mythology and yet never shunning it, right down to medical diagnoses and also Talan’s Romanian blood; there are many avenues down which to travel, not pinning us solely to one answer. In this way, we wind up with more action and intensity all around, which is killer. Movies like this one, Wolfen and Late Phases, bring their own unique vision of the sub-genre with fun results.
screenshot-2016-11-03-at-12-02-40-am
Wer has just about everything I look for in a horror. Bell uses Romanian locations to his advantage, going from handheld camera to using pieces of found footage throughout. The cinematography really is nice, which is always a bonus. Not to mention there’s an A+ score – ominous strings that take on an Old World feel, crossed with some darker, electronic compositions. On the technical side this movie’s an ass kicker.
Again, I’m not the biggest werewolf movie advocate. The others I’ve mentioned, plus classics like John Landis’ landmark An American Werewolf in London, each bring their own innovative sensibilities about the sub-genre to the table. A sea of others just miss the mark, never giving us anything new.
I highly recommend Wer. Well-acted and directed. The visuals are fun, the pace becomes chaotic in the best ways. And yes: there’s a nice portion of blood. Some of the action-styled sequences will have you almost rooting at the screen. So dig in and get hairy!

SUN CHOKE & The Loss of Self

Sun Choke. 2016. Directed & Written by Ben Cresciman.
Starring Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton, Sara Malakul Lane, Jim Boeven, Evan Jones, Riley Litman, William Nicol, Joe Nieves, & Daisy O’Dell.
Lodger Films/Easy Open Productions.
83 minutes. Not Rated.
Drama/Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★
posterDisclaimerThis discussion contains large spoilers pertaining to the end of the film and its (possible) meaning(s). If you haven’t seen the film, please go watch it. Then come back and tell me what you think.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Sun Choke. Some films leave you with those nagging questions, the burning desire to know more. That might piss certain people off. And in certain cases, it pisses me off. When you don’t get enough answers it isn’t always bad. But when nothing adds up it’s hard to say a movie was any good. Long as some of the mystery filters through.
Sun Choke is the story of a young woman named Janie (Sarah Hagan from Freaks and Geeks) who undergoes radically intense treatments for her mental health, cared for by a woman she’s had as a nanny her whole life, Irma (Barbara Crampton). As the treatment gets more extreme, Janie seems not to get better but to go deeper into whatever psychosis has gripped her. Recovering from a trauma, a nebulous piece of her life to the viewer, Janie struggles on the edge of utter insanity.
This is not at all an outright horror, nor is it squarely a drama, or a mystery, or a thriller. It’s a psychological horror, a character study of co-dependency and how the will to try curing another person doesn’t always leave the person helping, or the one they’re trying to help, in any better shape than they were before. This film won’t give you all the answers, it doesn’t even particularly ask all its own questions, leaving that heavy lifting to the audience. Rightfully so.
Maybe it’ll frustrate you. Either way, Sun Choke ought to leave you with plenty to mull over in your head; for better or for worse.
img_4022There’s so much going that you might find, at times, the story is hard to follow. It isn’t deliberately sly in that Cresciman doesn’t want you NOT to understand. He employs a non-linear story, flashing now and then between past/present, while also keeping certain details from us. In this sense, being hard to follow shouldn’t make you feel stupid. Cresciman saves revelations for later. Instead of how some movies like to repeatedly hit you with twist after twist, this screenplay doesn’t come at you taht way. It milks the tension and suspense for all it’s worth.
The tension comes from this up close and disturbingly personal character study of Janie. Gradually, we unravel the layers of mystery surrounding the psychological state we find her in, and what brought her to the supremely tragic point of emotional fragility from which we begin the film’s journey. There’s an interesting aspect to Janie because she’s our protagonist, while at once we’re privy to the uncomfortable side of her as a character, too. her obsession gets to a frightening height, which in turn is psychosexual in the most visceral way experiencing the lowest moments of Janie’s transgressions.

I just want whats best for you, little girl.”

Ultimately, the suspense and tension involved in these sequences when Sadie oversteps boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour can often reach unbearable levels. I wouldn’t call this a regular horror. No, it’s all the way one hell of a psychological trip, rooted in character study. Hagan’s central performance as Janie is one of the best this year, independent film or otherwise: a fearless and simultaneously fearful role where she plays wounded in addition to being the one that created many of her own wounds. Her performance is aided by Cresciman’s writing, placing his viewer alongside Janie in a horrific headspace, further leading us to physical one filled with terror by the end.
img_4023Little girls are all fucking hateful

Let’s leave the unexplained as unexplained, for now. What do we now? Irma (the ever awesome genre star Crampton) has been the housekeeper/nanny for Janie since her mother died, and we get the feeling that’s been a long, long time (note: I’m under the impression the mother died during child birth due to the ending). They’re close like family and it’s also very evident they’re not family, as well. But Irma holds power over Janie, as a caretaker. A large part of the plot deals with co-dependence, the idea of one person as host and the other a figurative virus, living and feeding off them. What becomes clear over the course of the film is that Janie has issues with her identity, something reoccurring in several scenes (like when Irma stands her by the mirror and asks: “Who do you see?”). Something else painfully obvious is that Janie really should be in a hospital. She had a violent outbreak at a certain point, shown in a horrific, brief moment of rage and some blood, so the trauma to her psyche is very real. No matter what happened to her before, it is real, whatever’s going on inside her mind. And the fact Irma treats her, in strange ways – like using a tuning fork and whispering “Sun choke” in Janie’s ear – only serves Janie for the worse. She does not get better, only learning how to foster a greater sense of dependency; on Irma, later on a woman named Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane).
This is the point where the story speaks volumes as to the endgame of its plot. See, Janie can’t gain control of herself. She can’t fixate on a proper identity. First, she tries becoming Savannah. She finds the man Savannah had sex with, then crawls into bed with him. That is, until she decides on caving his skull in. Worth noting: during this scene, she is both on top of the man and seeing herself looking in through the window. When she figures out there’s no becoming someone else, that she is stuck with herself, Janie goes to further lengths to find control: she decides to control Savannah.
But through it all we can’t forget the odd, often sadistic methods of healing Irma tries forcing on Janie. Every treatment, the girl takes it, as if also expecting it to heal her. Her subservience to others eventually manifests in her taking back control with terrifying results.
img_4026img_4028The only thing standing between you and the abyss is how much I love you

Throughout there are fascinating visuals. These relate directly to the idea of a dissociation from the self, re: Janie. She continually gets further from her own identity, which is shown best via the cinematography and chosen shots. Such as the shot while she’s having sex with the man and she’s also a double, outside her own self, another identity. There are a couple mirrored shots, reflections, and they allow us to get a visual window into the separation happening in her head.
Sun Choke comes at you with a mixed bag of treats. Not that any of them are bad; merely mixed. There’s a weaving of genres, all leading back to psychological horror. We get intense drama, then in unexpected splashes blood flicks across the screen, jarring the viewer because of its randomness. The screenplay helps, the story doesn’t twist and turn. Rather it sort of unfolds its mysteries one by one, revealing only portions to reel us in wherever possible. It’s the suspense of watching Janie struggle, between psychosis and a health regimen of inexplicable treatments, that drives so much of the film’s gruesome excitement.
By the finale, you may either hate or love the movie. Maybe some of it is entire delusion. Maybe all the events are reality. Cresciman straddles a line where you may never know exactly what’s going on, if it’s real or something in Janie’s imagination (or just in her past), but as director and writer he maintains a level of interest, compelling the viewer to keep going, to find out what lies beneath the trauma of Janie. There’s no set meaning, for any art. Authorial intent is one thing; what the audience concludes is another. All I know is that Sun Choke has captivated me. I’ve seen it twice now and both times I’m left with questions. The sort which make me want to watch it again.

Deodato Spearheads Corruption with CUT & RUN

Cut and Run. 1985. Directed by Ruggero Deodato. Screenplay by Cesare Frugoni & Dardano Sacchetti.
Starring Lisa Blount, Leonard Mann, Willie Aames, Richard Lynch, Richard Bright, Michael Berryman, Eriq La Salle, John Steiner, Karen Black, Barbara Magnolfi, & Luca Barbareschi.
Racing Pictures.
Rated R. 90 minutes.
Adventure/Horror/Thriller

★★★1/2
posterThere’s no shame in saying you’re not a fan of Ruggero Deodato. Many have problems with how he captured certain events in Cannibal Holocaust, and to a certain extent I do agree, however, to a certain extent I don’t: many of those animal killings were brutish, but all of the animals were eaten by the tribe that were on set with the crew, so part of me feels better. How you feel is how you feel.
Regardless of that, Cannibal Holocaust does have a couple poignant things, under all the gore, to say about civilisation (maybe I should preface that with ‘so-called’) and the pursuit of media to get the best story at whatever expense necessary. And more of that comes through in this deliciously deviant little film from 1985, Cut and Run.
Instead of do a sequel to his infamous found footage classic, Deodato chose to make this film, which originally started as a sceenplay from Wes Craven called Marimba. With no funding, the studio apparently kept Craven’s script and eventually got Deodato to make it. Not sure how the original script fares in comparison to this, although anything Dardano Sacchetti-related is always of interest to me.
Cut and Run is a vicious piece of exploitation cinema, still with that heavy hand of nastiness inherent to Deodato. Personally I feel that Cannibal Holocaust, for all its faults, is the better movie. All the same this one gives it a run for its money, so to speak. With a mesmerising performance out of Richard Lynch, a story that semi serves as a fictional sequel to the massacre at Jonestown, Deodato is able to make more statements about the media, the influence of the outside world on indigenous populations(/cultures), and still keep up a high body count, as many of his fans likely come to expect.

Hideous moments of violence open up the film. The practical effects are staggering. In particular, one decapitation scene cuts away from the explicit act. Then afterwards we get a look at the amazingly executed makeup effects. Horrible as they are, it’s hard not to admire the work put into something that’s only seen on camera for about three or four whole seconds. On the whole, this flick is by far less gory than Cannibal Holocaust. No matter. Deodato doesn’t hold out on the ugly killing, he merely tones down the ferocity. That’s not say there aren’t excruciating horror scenes, as made clear right off the bat in the first scenes. This movie has its share of gore, though it takes on a more action-horror element.
And of course these opening scenes introduce us to Michael Berryman’s character, Quecho, a mad bushman in the jungle. He’s always a treat in genre pictures. The natural look he has due to hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia gives him a different look, and his height allows him to appear imposing. Add to that his maniacal abilities as a character actor of horror and Quecho is damn creepy. He’s menacing, pure brute force of a man, and his wild eyes are chilling, not to mention the bloody murders he commits.
The characters are the best part about the film, really. Colonel Brian Horne (Lynch) is an interesting one in the lead. He was a right-hand man of Jim Jones (fictional, obviously) and is said to have encouraged the violence which erupted at Jonestown along with the suicides. Lynch has an aura of eeriness, no matter what role or film he’s in. Here, he fits the bill perfect, adding a theatrical quality to this military madman. Really makes the film so much better having him in there. Just with a look, Lynch can communicate a world of terror.
screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-43-29-pmHard not to mention a score when it comes from Claudio Simonetti, Brazil-born keyboardist of Goblin. He’s done so many wonderful scores, from Deep RedSuspiriaTenebrae, and more. This ranks up there with some of his best stuff. He retains that Goblin-esque aura while paving his own way as a solo composer on each subsequent project. His music aids in Deodato’s pacing, breaking into tribal sounds during some moments, and going all-out ’80s during most others, each sound with its respective energy.
The cinematography is worthy of note, too. Courtesy of Alberto Spagnoli, whose credits include Mario Bava’s 1977 ghost flick Schock and the Peter Bogdanovich-directed Daisy Miller. This was the last film Spagnoli worked on and I’m inclined, out of what I’ve seen through his lens, to say it’s his best. Specifically he captures the jungle in several sequences with a tremendous eye. Late in the film during the final 30 minutes, it’s just perfectly beautiful cinematography. Worth the ride to watch Spangoli’s work alone.
screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-43-55-pmCut and Run is an odd, entertaining, horrific relic of 1985, mixing Deodato’s brutality with a stellar cast – Lisa Blount (John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness) to the underrated Richard Lynch and genre favourites like Michael Berryman, even Karen Black and ER‘s Eriq La Salle shows up.More than that the film’s theme of corruption, whether in the big city, Guyana, or some other jungle filled with cannibals. People like Lynch’s character, and Jim Jones, they reject other forms of leadership in order to create for themselves a cult of personality, eventually corrupting everything and anything good that ever existed in them. They leave society to create paradise only for it to collapse into hell.
Writing this in mid-December 2016, I find it hard not to connect this to current events in America. Time will well what’s going to happen. But as it stands, the fictional Lynch, even the real Jones, they wanted to get away from the supposed elites running their countries (sound familiar). They want to get away from the swamp, or drain it. Whatever. Yet they wind up in an entirely other swamp, they cultivate the same atmosphere only under a different name. Then the heads start rolling, eventually. 
Cut and Run
is nowhere near perfect. And despite that it was prescient in ’85 about how bad things could get, even while they seemed to be bad enough. Things can always get better, but they can always get worse, as well. Never forget that.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 3: “I.F.T.”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 3: “I.F.T.”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by George Mastras

* For a review of the previous episode, “Caballo sin Nombre” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Green Light” – click here
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We start on Tortuga (Danny Trejo). He sits in a little bar drinking, being an asshole, as usual. Then Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) shows up. They chat, drink. The boss man has a present for Tortuga, he missed the man’s birthday. Only the present is a tortoise, that Juan paints HOLA DEA on before the Salamanca twins cut Tortuga’s head off.
The prequel to Hank and his run-in with the head-bearing tortoise.
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In the present day, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is still watching Walter White (Bryan Cranston), checking in with whom I can only assume is Gus Fring (Giancarloa Esposito). All the while Walt scrapes the pizza off the roof. Not to mention now Skyler (Anna Gunn) is on her way home discovering her estranged husband has moved back in. Things aren’t pretty for the Whites, that’s for sure. Walt won’t budge, so she threatens calling the police. He’s willing to call her bluff. She does call, although when the police arrive they discover no evidence of him having forced his way in. He’s acting calm, rational, eating grilled cheese and potato chips with Walt Jr (RJ Mitte). As they’re not legally separated, the police have their hands tied. And by all outward appearances Walt isn’t a violent or bad man. Nobody else, aside from Skyler, knows what he’s been up to in his spare time. She’s not willing to come out and tell the police, or anyone, about Walt’s crimes.
Skyler: “Welcome home
Poor Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) reels from the death of his girlfriend Jane. He’s a bit of a broken man. In his new house he looks like a shattered soul, lost and lonely. Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) pops by to try talking him into getting in touch with Walt. Right now Jesse would rather be by himself.
Then there’s big Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), they’re out doing their thing. Hank gets a call about going back to El Paso. He acts excited, to his boss, to his partner. It isn’t hard to tell he’s not one bit excited in reality.
And those creepy Salamancas, they’re looking for a handicap van. You can guess why – papa Tio (Mark Margolis) has somewhere to go. They’re meeting with boss Juan Bolsa and Gustavo. All about Heisenberg and the near hit on him. Problem is that Tio loved Tuco like a son, and Walt betrayed him supposedly; Juan believes the Salamancas have a “right to exact revenge.” But Gus won’t have that. Business must be completed with Walt, then they can have their revenge. This may lead to a much more devastating proposition for the time being.


Continually, Jesse calls Jane’s phone to hear her voice. He dials over and over, unable to let go. And how can he? Worst of all is the fact that Walt let it happen; he could’ve tried saving her and chose not to in an effort to save his own skin. At home, Walt suffers in karmic ways: unable to sleep in his own bed, in the same house as his wife yet on another planet altogether, pissing in the sink since Skyler won’t let him into their own. Privately with her divorce lawyer, Skyler reveals that her husband cooks meth.
At a bar, Hank and Steve have some beers. Except that Hank is distracted. He sees a little drug deal action going on at one of the tables. So, to try proving his own faux-masculinity to himself, he decides on going the hard knocks route; he leaves his gun in the car before they leave, heads back in, and throws some fists with a couple tough guys. He kicks the absolute shit out of them, though it’s clear Hank has some serious shit going on in his head. Later, Steve calls him out for leaving the gun in the car, clearly understanding his partner’s fucked up.
When Jane’s line finally goes dead, this is a real blow to Jesse. The last remnant of her voice is gone, never to return. And the real world, the life after Jane now officially begins as the pain breaks through further. Thus Pinkman goes back out to the desert in the Winnebago to start cooking. Because it’s all he has left.
Skyler prepares to leave then finds Walt in the living room, a bag of money at their feet filled to the brim. He gives what he considers his explanation: “That is college tuition for Walter Jr, and Holly, eighteen years down the road. And its health insurance for you and the kids, for Jrs physical therapy, his SAT tutor. Its money for groceries, and gas, for birthdays and graduation partiesThis money, I didnt steal it, it doesnt belong to anyone else; I earned it. The things Ive done to earn it, theythe things Ive had to doIve got to live with them.”

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What will she do? Not long after she rushes into the arms of Ted. When she gets back to the house later, dinner’s ready and Walt is playing the adoring husband, doing his best to make things nice. A pot roast is in the oven, a salad made.
So after her husband rattles on like nothing’s ever happened, Skyler leans in and tells him: “I fucked Ted.”
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Wow, what an episode! The reaction of Bryan Cranston in the end after Anna Gunn speaks those words is fantastic. Utterly perfect. They’re both quality actors and they play so well off one another, one of the greatest television couples in any series.
Next episode is “Green Light” and plenty’s poised to go down.

Scream Queens – Season 2, Episode 9: “Lovin the D”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 9: “Lovin the D”
Directed by Maggie Kiley
Written by Ian Brennan

* For a review of the previous episode, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Drain the Swamp” – click here
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Chanels #3 (Billie Lourd) and #5 (Abigail Breslin) are working night shift, as is #1 (Emma Roberts). They come across a doll wearing a KKT sweatshirt, full of knives. And a bed full of swampy foliage. So obviously there’s one dressed up by Dr. Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner), and the other by Wes Gardner (Oliver Hudson).
Then the Green Meanies appear. You can bet Ingrid (Kirstie Alley) is under one of those masks, too. #3 gets saved, obviously by her Green Meanie boyfriend Dr. Cascade. When the three Meanies argue over flubbing their murders, Hester (Lea Michele) arrives to call them all together. A bit of a serial killer murder orgy poised to happen.
I dont wanna die in this outfit!”


But life goes on, of course. Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) tries to keep things on the level, as Dr. Arthur Annenburg (Ajay Mehta) is poking around with the recent disappearance of their man from the journal. Now the Chanels and their credentials will possibly be exposed. Or can Cathy keep it under wraps? She wants the trio to actually take the MCATs.
Meanwhile, Dr. Scarlett Lovin (Brooke Shields) – star of the show Lovin the D – is at the CURE Institute. She wants Dr. Brock Holt, along with assistance from the Chanels, to perform a live surgery on her show to remove a “sixteenpound tumour” from a young man’s face. Yikes, that’s wild. When Brock drops the bomb that the girls aren’t even medical students, things start going sideways. Except this is the charge the Chanels need to take the MCATs. To be on Lovin the D.
Hester holds a “Green Meanie Summit” so that “no ones feelings get hurt” and everyone gets to kill who they want. Oh yeah, just in case you forgot, Wes is Hester’s father. The four of them sit down and claim all their murders in a game show-type segment. Hilariously written and edited. Afterwards they move on deciding who’ll kill all the Chanels. It comes down to a mutiny when Wes isn’t granted the chance to kill #1, but you can bet he’s not letting that slide. Not to mention, Cascade doesn’t want #3 to die, or will he give in?

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Chanel’s got to focus and try to pass the MCAT. If she doesn’t, no Dr. Lovin, no television appearance. Pretty much left up to Brock because she’s not concerned with learning. Then, out of nowhere, he chokes her. With both hands. Seems like there isn’t only remnants of the murderous hand. Maybe something worse is going on inside Dr. Holt. And poor little Chanel, she has Green Meanies all around her and doesn’t even know it. Plus, Brock’s still trying to strangle her.
With murder on his mind Brock goes to talk with the only person he knows who can relate: Hester. “I still really wanna kill her. More than ever, to tell you the truth,” he explains. She tries encouraging him mostly. “You Dr. Brock Holt, are a killer.” Then they hook up over a dead body.
One Green Meanie kill on a newer Chanel is accomplished. Hung by the neck. #5 does her best to cover things up while Munsch keeps the visiting Dr. Annenburg busy. Wes is the one who made the kill, though he isn’t happy. He goes to Dr. Cascade and makes a case for an alliance against Hoffel, who may or may not have a plan to pin all the murders on them after it’s all said and done. Hmm.

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Poor Zayday (Keke Palmer). She’s stuck down in a well-like structure, trapped by Jane (Trilby Glover). Although she starts figuring out that Dr. Cascade is the baby in the belly from 1985. Then Cassidy turns up with his ladyfriend #3, which doesn’t please Jane, nor does she have any time for some chick who’s “waxing” her “sons knob.” So mom pits him against her and #3. He chooses mother. Now it looks like #3 must die after all.
MCATs have to be done TONIGHT. The Chanels must complete the exam, and pass, as Dr. Phil and others are trying to beat Dr. Lovin to the punch doing live surgeries. So the girls are thrust into writing the exam.
Will they pass? Yes, indeed. Turns out #5 did the best, only 3 points from a perfect score. Shiiiiiet, ladies! But what actually happened is #1 and #3 had earpieces in to Drs. Cascade and Holt. Not #5, although nobody’s super thrilled. Poor thing: “Im a genius and no one cares.” Funny and sad all at once.
With Lovin the D ready to go live, Wes has left a drugged up coffee for #1. Only Dr. Lovin winds up with an all too similar cup. Are they about to mix up their drinks? Could get interesting. Oh, yes. The host takes a drink then foams at the mouth, writhing on the floor. Dead. The show goes ahead anyways. #1 steps up and takes the lead as host while Dr. Holt goes to work on the tumour until the job is done and done well. After the show, the Chanels are offered a show of their own to replace Dr. Lovin.
#3: “Whoa. Thats a lot of tumour. Right, America?”
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Ingrid’s pissed that Wes tried killing Chanel, breaking their supposed pact. Things don’t look good for Wes, as the other two back him towards all that boiling oil Ingrid has cooking. He voluntarily drops in, his last word being “playlist” (remember from Season 1?). Fucking killed me, too funny. The other Green Meanies have themselves a bit of cover when Munsch and Dr. Annenburg stumble across a deep fried Wes. The story goes that Wes was the Green Meanie, back to try killing the Chanels. And in other news, Munsch reveals to the others she’ll be dead in a month.
The Green Meanie is dead… long live the Green Meanie!


This was a solid episode. I love the ones that really walk that line of absolute hilarity and nastiness at once, which is the case in many but a few of them are so perfectly balanced that it works incredibly well. Next episode, the finale, is titled “Drain the Swamp” and I’m hoping Ryan Murphy & Co. take a few shots at the Orange Goblin like they did in an earlier episode.

Lower V. Upper Class: THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK

The House on the Edge of the Park. 1980. Directed by Ruggero Deodato. Screenplay by Gianfranco Clerici & Vincenzo Mannino.
Starring David Hess, Annie Belle, Christian Borromeo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Marie Claude Joseph, Gabriele Di Giulio, Brigitte Petronio, Karoline Mardeck, & Lorraine De Selle.
F.D. Cinematografica.
Unrated. 91 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★
posterRiding on the coattails of The Last House on the Left, Ruggero Deodato came on hard with 1980’s The House on the Edge of the Park, another violent and borderline vile film starring David Hess as one of the aggressors. Of course Deodato is forever infamous for the found footage which started it all – Cannibal Holocaust. But this movie has some equally brutal bits, as well as has a few things to say amongst all the violence.
This is another movie that found itself on the Video Nasties list; sometimes this is a badge of honour for certain films worth the effort, others it’s simply a way of telling whether a horror is outrageous. The House on the Edge of the Park is part of the former group. Not all of its scenes play right, the screenplay could use a nice bit of work to tighten things up. Apparently Hess re-wrote lots of his dialogue, he was given half the film’s rights in order to secure him as a star, so I’m willing to bet the script suffered a bit with so much of the actor’s control exerted over the production. Despite any of its faults, this is one horror-thriller that hits deep with hints of class disparity, cruel violence, and a disturbing look at how tragic events push people into becoming someone far from themselves.
pic1As opposed to Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, this one starts out with brutal violence. Instead of lulling us into a bit of complacency Deodato begins in nastiness, then transitions into a more unsuspecting film with shades of class division in its themes, as we watch two men from a much more street life come in contact with the bourgeoisie in nasty, supremely violent ways.
Hess’ character Alex is the physical representation of hedonism – food, sex, violent delights, and more. He only cares about getting off, getting his; whether that’s rape or murder or whatever else. Regardless of this side to Alex, he is aware of his separation from the upper class; he understands his supposed place in the chain of class command. In parallel, his less menacing buddy Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) is like a more unaware, less conscious member of the lower class. He doesn’t see the people making fun of him for his apparent differences. It takes Alex to make him realise this is what’s happening, thrusting him into that violence he knows well.
When Alex and Ricky crash the party, this borders on Les Liaisons dangereuses in the form of an exploitation flick. The best way to see the class disparity is how the upper class torture Ricky, they act from a privileged position and treat Ricky like a sideshow to watch instead of someone with whom they can party. But then their treatment of people they perceive as lower class is regrettable, as Alex rises up and makes them regret their privilege and how t leads them to treat others. After this the night spins out of control.
pic2SPOILERS AHEAD!
All around the movie’s chilling. During the assault Alex begins this feeling amplifies. Everything is so quiet, there’s an absence of music. Fear is so viscerally present. However, the plot is slow going, and not in a good slow burn manner. The tension dies out after awhile which kills things. It isn’t even as violent as you’d expect, outside of a couple moments that stick. Almost a softcore porn at times, a bit boring. Although the film makes up for these missteps once Alex goes wild near the end.
One of the best moments of tension is the difference between Hess and his partner. This provides a sense of relief from some of the horror involve with the home invasion, though not much.  The ending is bittersweet – it isn’t great, Alex gets shot in the dick followed by a hilariously fun slow motion scream. But the two criminals get what’s coming to them, despite their differences and Ricky’s reluctant complicity with the crime.
In the end, the partygoers take their own revenge. Question is: are they any better for wanting to hurt and kill Alex particularly? They taunt him, pushing him into a pool, and plan to cover up everything afterwards. Not that Alex doesn’t deserve what he gets; he does, indeed. It’s simply that there’s no moral high ground for the victims by choosing to let Alex die, almost killing his partner with a dose of brutish, violent revenge. So what’s left in the end is a group of upper class people dragged down to the level of the disgruntled lower class. But following this encounter, they’re forever changed, and some aren’t sure death wouldn’t be better than living after such viciousness.
What matters is that its all over
But at what price?”
pic3Deodato could’ve done more. Once more, I feel like Hess being too involved, being given such a wide berth as to what he was able to do re: dialogue and the screenplay, this hindered The House on the Edge of the Park. He does wonderfully devilish things with the role of Alex, no doubt. Simply put, Hess should’ve stuck to the acting instead of trying to hard to take control over the writing.
Through it all there’s a sense of violent class warfare above all the nasty bits. Deodato didn’t really focus on that much intentionally, not that I can tell. Outside of using it to drive the violence. Then again, I can’t count him out. When many see no point to Cannibal Holocaust I feel Deodato, in his best works like that dangerous bit of found footage, he’s getting at what are just as dangerous ideas and messages.
Give this a chance. Although there are a good many flaws, The House on the Edge of the Park is one of those movies on the Video Nasties list that’s actually enjoyable. I consider this one of the better Deodato offerings – up there with Live Like a Cop, Die Like a ManCut and Run, and of course Cannibal Holocaust. You might not discover your favourite movie in this one, but if you’re a horror hound it’ll tickle that urge to indulge something disturbing.

HELL OR HIGH WATER: Desperation and Death in the Dirty South

Hell or High Water. 2016. Directed by David Mackenzie. Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.
Starring Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Dale Dickey, William Sterchi, Gil Birmingham, Buck Taylor, Kristin Berg, & Katy Mixon.
Film 44/OddLot Entertainment/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.
Rated 14A. 102 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Western

★★★★★
posterDisclaimer: This review may contain several spoilers concerning the film’s finale.

The prospect of David Mackenzie (director of the phenomenal jail film Starred Up) and Taylor Sheridan (Deputy Chief David Hale on Sons of Anarchy and screenwriter of Sicario) making a film together is enough to get me on board. They’re each talented. After both the aforementioned movies it’s not hard to get excited – Starred Up is one of my favourite prison stories out there and Mackenzie’s directing helped the actors shine; Sicario comes at you like a shot in the night, written with depth by Sheridan.
Post-2000, the Western has seen a comeback. Not that every really went anywhere, but it’s definitely not as popular as it was in the 1950s and 60s when cinema saw everything from High Noon to Shane to The Wild Bunch and Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy.
But over the past 15 years or so we’ve seen films like The Proposition, The Three Burials of Melquiades EstradaNo Country for Old Men, the excellent Elmore Leonard television adaptation, FX’s Justified. Most recently there was Bone Tomahawk, and you can’t forget Tarantino and his Western-styled Django Unchained, as well as The Hateful Eight.
Much as I love all these more contemporary Westerns, and as much as I consider a couple of them genuine masterpieces, none of them capture the modern spirit while paying homage to the classic Western feel, characters, and plots. Perhaps it’s the past couple years especially, one thing’s for sure – Hell or High Water epitomises the economic struggle of people clinging to old ways of life in a world moving further into modernity every minute, for better or worse.
pic1Throughout the film there’s a pervasive sense of desperation. The seriousness yet amateurish execution of the brothers and their robbery(/robberies) is quickly made evident. Both Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine) are complicit in their crimes, although the former is crazier, a little less predictable. Toby wants to secure a future for his boys. Tanner’s already been to prison, he has nothing left to lose and only money to gain. So the desperation is different between the brothers.
Another part of the story involves how, in some places like little rural towns, not-so-subtle racism is rampant. There are a bunch of perfect instances of this at various points. “Theyre not even Mexicans,” an old man says as one bank is robbed by the Howards. When ole Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges at possibly his greatest; that’s saying something) questions people on the robbery he leads with they must’ve been “Mexican, black” and later Hamilton even says to his own partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) that he knows “how you injuns like the bottle.” Hamilton represents that weird dichotomous supposed Southern gentleman who’s borderline to full-on racist at any given moment, yet a guy who’ll stand with a slight bow for a lady. There’s a lot of good writing from Sheridan, who seems intent on showing Texas in all its glory, whether that’s good or bad depends on the moment. But it’s warts and all, which makes everything feel right in place.
pic2On a technical level, Hell or High Water is beyond fantastic. The cinematography helps show a small town in an economic slump, its slightly desolate sense of atmosphere, from which the desperate characters reach out to us begging for understanding. The look of the film is simultaneously gorgeous and full of grit, a perfect combination somewhere in the middle of the two. Then there’s the score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who coincidentally did the score for another masterpiece Western (The Proposition). Their sound is perfect for the tone of the film and lifts many a scene, lending gravitas to even the tiniest of moments.
Again, I have to praise Sheridan. He writes the action well, opting not to go for all guns and chaos and instead focusing most on the characters to give us the impact necessary. Moreover, the dialogue’s the fresh kind. Not afraid to feel informal, personal, as well as the fact it’s funny at times and also deadly serious where necessary. Above all else, the Howards feel like actual brothers, Hamilton is a true old school Southern man. There’s a spectacular true to life concealed carry gunfight in one of the banks, followed by other Texans with guns waiting outside; sort of perfect, on the nose representation of how an actual robbery in the South could go down. Just all around awesome stuff continuing the screenwriting roll Sheridan is on as of late.
Tanner: “Only assholes drink Mr. Pep
Toby: “Drink up
On display in the screenplay is that dying Southern ideology of pretending racism is all in good fun, jokes and stuff, when really the laughs are only a cover for the true prejudice hiding underneath. This is clear through the tenuous partner-to-partner relationship between Marcus and Alberto, which flares up now and then getting fairly serious from time to time. Further than that, it’s tragically funny and at once awful that the cops blame blacks and Mexicans for so much crime when it’s actually two dirty white boys running around committing crimes. Classism is also there, as the two dirty white boys, like so many immigrants, are only trying to keep themselves from being fucked over ultimately by the banks and bullshit bureaucratic policy that affects the most vulnerable. In the end, it’s the elusive American Dream that’s always knocking at the door, increasing the desperation of cops and criminals alike.
pic3This is a downright incredible Western, such a great contemporary take on the genre. Hell or High Water seems standard until the tail end when the brothers’ plight opens up story wise, revealing a few things that make the film’s final ten minutes one mighty treat to chew on: “Im the man who killed your brother,” as if ripped from an old Gary Cooper flick or something with John Wayne.
All three of the leads – Bridges, Foster, Pine – are impossibly perfect in their respective roles. Bridges, whose characters feel more good ole boy than Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men and thrice as grizzled, gives one of the best performances of his career. He shines as a man who’s well cemented in leading roles yet also has the makings of an impeccable character actor. The little things about Marcus Hamilton make him enjoyable, even as you hate him.
A 5-star bit of cinema, one of the best contemporary Westerns out there; if not the best in the past couple decades. I can’t for more directorial efforts from Mackenzie, proving himself double after this and Starred Up. And if Taylor Sheridan keeps producing the work he’s been pumping out in the last couple years, he’s bound to give us lots more to enjoy.

BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE is One Blurry Line Between Movies & Murder

Be My Cat: A Film for Anne. 2016. Directed & Written by Adrian Tofei.
Starring Adrian Tofei, Sonia Teodoriu, Florentina Hariton, & Alexandra Stroe.
Produced by Tofei. 87 minutes.
Not Rated.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★posterFound footage annoys certain people. Me, I’m always willing to give it a chance. There’s a lot of good stuff out there – unique, innovative stuff. No shortage of it, but now and then you’ve got to dig through a heap of trash to find the diamonds. Be My Cat: A Film for Anne uses its found footage premise well, driving the main theme of the film: obsession.
Director and writer Adrian Tofei blurs the line between fiction and reality so well that at times it’s easy to forget you’re watching a film. Using the idea of trying to get the attention of Anne Hathaway in Hollywood, Tofei puts himself in the lead role of a director badly wanting to make a movie with her. This isn’t exactly a totally original premise. It’s the way Tofei enacts his plot, the dread which follows and everything in between that makes this slice of found footage different.
As is the case with most of the sub-genre, this entry doesn’t have much style to it. That matters not. Tofei’s acting, his eerie presence, and the raw qualities of the filming, these are elements which make this a worthwhile watch for any fans of the found footage style.
img_4032There are plenty films involving stalkers in this sub-genre, but they’re so often masked, or unseen behind the camera’s lens. Tofei is upfront and centre the entire time. This allows us a way into his mind, giving the audience a passenger side seat to the psychosis that overtakes him gradually; or maybe it’s been with him the whole time. Either way, it’s ugly. Not in a way which detracts from the story. There’s a compelling feel to watching this guy unravel.
Obsession is the theme driving everything. Underneath, this film is about the blur between fiction and reality. Philosopher Jean Baudrillard talked about the simulacra and how the world’s become hyperreal, in that everything real has more so become just a form of something fictional we all recognise (that’s a very liberal take on his extensive concept). In a way, this is how Be My Cat is structured. Tofei dives deeper and deeper with each scene into that psychosis I mentioned, along with the audience. The further he gets into the movie he’s making to send Anne, the more he feels justified in the things he’s doing. “This is the sacrifice Im making,” he tells the camera, as if urging us to believe in him. What happens is a process of dissociation. Tofei dissociates from the self, becoming his character – Adrian, himself – far too literally. Reminding us that he is in fact this character Adrian and not the real Adrian, he says: “I would never do something like this.” Real murder becomes mere character action, the progression of his psychosis is then development in his dangerous metafiction view of the world, through his film. It’s like method acting gone past the point of normal psychology.
img_4029The story’s trajectory is relatively obvious. Early on we understand there’s something not quite right with Adrian. Doesn’t take long. It’s how he takes us there that makes the plan uniquely terrifying. Adrian’s kinda crazy, kinda nonchalant attitude is unsettling, at the same time not wholly without charm either. His character, gradually flipping from fiction to reality to metafiction, engages the audience even in the slower scenes. You can’t help wondering what he’ll do or say next, which keeps you off balance, and never quite capable of pinning him down with any understanding.
A pivotal moment for his character comes when he says that “boys and dogs are bullies” when he talks about girls and cats. We hear a bit about why he likes cats, or why the character likes them. And this is one major point of division between Adrian and his fictional character Adrian. There’s a clear line you can follow, watching the dissociation get worse.
This movie isn’t built on shock value, either. You expect it to be, but what the story focuses on most is Adrian’s descent into fiction that becomes brutally real. Along the way there’s obviously blood. Rather than go for a gory mess constantly, the blood is at times partly off-screen and the full nastiness is hidden. What’s worse is one scene where a victim comes upon a slow realisation that Adrian is actually preparing to do a homemade dissection on her. Too creepy. He fully dissociates from reality at this point, the ultimate separation, and doesn’t for a single second come to grips with the real murder he’s committing.
img_4031I remember hearing of Be My Cat and just the short description, the Twitter account, caught my attention. There’s an edgy psychological aspect that sinks its teeth in and never lets go. Admittedly, I know that some may not find it as compelling. Not everyone wants to do a slow burn into madness in found footage format. And that’s fine, I understand. I suggest giving it a chance. Tofei has done something here that’s on the verge of greatness.
There are times you might feel the acting isn’t up to par. I disagree. Tofei’s uncomfortable moments are used to good effect, and that also plays into the worrisome metafiction of the film overall. The performances of the actresses are equally as impressive. When you fall down the rabbit hole of despair alongside the fictional Adrian Tofei and his unsuspecting victims it’s all the more troubling that the performances on either side of the murder-victim aisle pull you into a space where fiction gets questionable.
Can’t recommend this film enough. I’ve seen it described as revolutionary for the found footage sub-genre, as dangerous, many other things. They’re pretty much all right, as far as I’m concerned. Looking forward to whatever this guy takes on next. If Be My Cat is any indication, Tofei has an intriguing perspective on the horror genre.

Frontier – Season 1, Episode 6: “The Croaking Raven”

Discovery Canada’s Frontier
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Croaking Raven”
Directed by Ken Girotti
Written by Greg Spottiswood

* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Disciple” – click here
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The finale is here. What a first season this has been! Very impressed with my fellow Newfoundlanders. A few of my friends actually work on the show and they’ve had a great time shooting. Currently they’re working on Season 2.
With Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) being brought into the forest by Sokanon (Jessica Matten) and Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron), Fort James still firmly under the thumb of Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong), what will happen next?
Declan will be okay. Yet this is only a part of his journey; he’s a ways to go before it’s even close to over. Physically, he’s on the way to healing. He cauterises his own wound by the fire, taking it like a champ. Already he looks fit to take on Benton and his redcoats all over again.
Side note: love the theme song, it’s a damn fine introduction to the show and gets you kind of pumped. The entire score is wonderful, really. Gives the period of the series an interesting feeling.
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Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) is apprehensive about moving forward with his plans to become Governor. Although having a woman like Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle), strong and confident, cheering him on is a help. Not sure exactly how I feel about Chesterfield, given that he’s shown himself to be nasty. My only thought is whether he’ll prove to be useful down the line. Right now, Grace shows him out then discovers Harp in her back room. For a guy that everyone knows, and many are looking for, Declan doesn’t care about waltzing through the fort. Bad ass, or too easy from a writing perspective? I’m not sure. Either way Grace helps him out so he doesn’t perish. She consoles him when he weeps for his wife and his child, having been tortured and killed mercilessly by Benton.
At the same time, Sokanon, Michael, and Clenna (Lyla Porter-Follows) head back through the woods to find Declan. A fight breaks out between the two women, before Sokanon throws them both to the ground and leaves. Clenna isn’t so keen on following, but Michael’s sure in his path. Along the way she winds up falling and breaking her leg, badly.
Grace: “Ive waited so long for you. You cannot leave me. Not like this.”
Declan: “Im sorry. I have to do this.”
Meanwhile, Benton is gearing up to do in Harp and anybody in his way. No matter what: “Declan Harps head is to be stuck on the end of a bayonet and displayed in the yard.”

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Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle) and Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) are now in Fort James at the Ale House, to speak with Grace. They head out back for a drink, a chat. Grant wants to see her furs, but she’s not impressed with the surprise. Then he gets passive-aggressive, forcing her hand. She makes clear her position in Fort James is vital. But Grant, he’s a mysterious one. I’m excited to see more of his character next season. He then goes over to see Benton, who calls Grace a “whore with more ambition than sense” and that almost seems to hit Grant with unease. Then the Lord gets into a bit of tough talk. And right outside lurks Harp; something only Mr. Pond senses.
At the Ale House, Malcolm Brown (Michael Patric) sits with Chesterfield. The Captain is surprised. Then Malcolm goes on about his brothers, Cedric and Douglas (Allan Hawco); he says the former was a mess, but he’s still going to take bloody revenge. It’s only Grace what breaks them up. She takes Chesterfield aside to tell him about Grant, which doesn’t make the man too happy. He then turns violent. Now I’m sure: this guy is bullshit. I hope Grace sticks a knife in his gut.
Not long after Sokanon and Michael arrive with Clenna. And the young Irish girl’s in rough shape. She’s also worried about Michael leaving her. Not to mention she may lose a leg if Grace can’t fix it. The bone doesn’t set properly the first time, so they’ve got to break it. Then set it again.
And while things go on, Grant and Pond plot their next move. From out of the dark woods comes Harp. They’re finally face to face. “Were both committed to the demise of the HBC, are we not?” says Grant. So he and Harp work out their terms, which end with the latter knifing Benton and cutting off his head. THAT, my friends, is a plan. Plus he has Sokanon on his side. For her part, she doesn’t want to trust Michael. She’d rather they charge ahead together. However, Harp is on a one-man warpath. He tasks her with keeping Michael on their side, training him, and forging on.


Ms. Emberly goes about her sneaky business. She meets with Malcolm and tells him about Chesterfield, his daily walks. To avenge Cedric’s murder. Or is it all a ruse to get Malcolm right where Chesterfield wants him? Hmm. I’m going to bet that it’s the first option, and that Chesterfield will manage to get out alive, leaving a possibility of trouble for Grace afterwards. Just a guess. Sure enough, the Captain and Malcolm duke it out hard before Chesterfield beats him near to death, only stopping when Father Coffin (Christian McKay) interrupts.
Together again, Sokanon and Michael try to figure out what to do. He wants to be loyal to Harp, but not to let him go it alone, even if Sokanon agreed to leave him be. Michael heads out and finds his friend in the woods, determined to help. Simultaneous, we see Grant walk with Benton, as he worked it out with Declan. They talk business, as the Lord is unsuspecting of what’s just around the corner, figuratively and literally.
Benton: “You have stones, Mr. Grant. But if you think I wont cut them off and feed them to the ravens, youre wrong.”
Grant goes on to let Benton and his redcoats know Declan is in the woods nearby, waiting to kill him. A fight breaks loose, and once Benton calls for Michael to be killed, Declan chooses to save him. Landing right in the hands of Pond, Grant, and Benton, as Michael gets away. Although things aren’t sitting well with Grant and Benton, they’re still not on the same side. The Lord reluctantly lets him and Pond leave, no punishment, but the relationship’s not merry. Down in the dungeon, Harp is chained to the floor, captured like déjà vu.


While Michael must leave Clenna behind, he goes on with Sokanon and Grace – as well as Imogen (Diana Bentley) and Mary (Breanne Hill) – to enact a plan to spring Declan free. It involves gunpowder, if you couldn’t have guessed! Oh yes. And they’d better get moving. Harp is brought out to a stage, fitted with a noose round his neck, a crowd and Benton watching on.
A fire is lit. An explosion flames from the woods. Guns go off. Declan is dropped from the platform and hung by the neck, but frees his hands to break the noose. Benton tries to shoot at him and Father Coffin takes a bullet. In a climactic moment, Michael shoots Benton before he can fire on Declan. When Chesterfield tries shooting at him, he’s already gone.
Out in the hills by the ocean, Harp crawls, bloody, freezing. He passes out, alone in the wilderness. Will he survive? Will someone find him?
We’ll have to wait and see.

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What a finale! Wow, was it ever wild. The cliffhanger ending is exciting because really, even if there weren’t already a Season 2 in production (it’s being shot here in Newfoundland currently), this could end on an interesting note. But there’s more coming. And I, for one, cannot wait. I’ll have to, though. At least we can watch these over again, drink in the nicely captured period setting, locations, and the great cinematography. I have to say, the acting was damn good, for the most part, too. A satisfying Season 1 for Frontier.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell

* For a review of the previous episode, “Sing Me a Song” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, click here.
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Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is still reeling from the death of her husband, obviously. You can’t expect she’ll get over that quick, if ever. Especially not in this new post-zombie apocalypse world. At the Hilltop community, she’s getting by, as well as expected. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) is being a real dick, though. He doesn’t like anybody else looking like the big dog around his backyard, y’know.
Back at Alexandria, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts Carl (Chandler Riggs) and baby Judith, then cooks a bit of pasta and suace for dinner. Most interesting is at the Savior’s compound, where Daryl (Norman Reedus) is more and more on the verge of getting himself free; hopefully.
Nobody in Alexandria is happy, not with Negan around. Olivia (Ann Mahoney) tries her best to keep it together with a bit of help from Tara (Alanna Masterson). But Olivia’s the one who has to sit down to dinner with Negan. Pretending like they’re a happy family. She only does it to keep a promise to Rick (Andrew Lincoln), that she’d look after the baby.
We keep seeing that Morse code in Rick’s place, as well. You think that means something? I do. But we’ll see.
Of course Rick is still out and about with Aaron (Ross Marquand), attempting to get out to the boat on the lake where the place is probably loaded with supplies. At home, Rick’s son has to “pass the rolls” to the man who smashed Abraham and Glenn into bloody chunks. Because “Lucille is hungry” and so is Negan.
Possibly the most sinister opening to any episode yet, honestly. Loved it.

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Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Spencer (Austin Nichols), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) bring their latest finds to the Saviors. One of whom, a lady, hits on Spencer: “Maybe Ill buy you a sandwich.” He plays along, for the time being.
We can’t forget about Carol (Melissa McBride), in her house just outside the Kingdom. And Morgan (Lennie James), he leaves a little something on her doorstep – fruits from the garden. She likes to be on her own, she’s got plenty. Ezekiel keeps on bringing her fresh produce. But she’d rather be alone. Then Richard (Karl Makinen) shows up, too. He has something the three of them need to discuss.
Morgan: “I think youre goinsoft.”
Carol: “I think youre going.”
Out on the lake Aaron and Rick come into trouble, though they fight off the water zombies to get to a canoe in good shape. Only more walkers swarm, and Aaron’s hauled into the water. Dead? No, sir. He’s just a damn good swimmer. They both make it to the boat, in one piece. Barely. They find lots of guns. As usual, not much ammo. Rick and Aaron talk about the deal with Negan – Aaron understands, he was present for the brutality of the man. “What were doing is gonna keep people living. We get to do that. Doesnt matter what happens to us.” The title of the episode comes from Aaron’s talk about keeping people alive, taking what they can. Across the lake, someone watches them both.
At the Saviors’ compound, Daryl runs through the dark halls and ends up in somebody’s bedroom. He searches for a way out, getting some peanut butter on the way and a new shirt. Please, Daryl: get the fuck out of there. He sits first, listening to nearby voices, and then gets on the move.

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Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Maggie hang out together, talk it up. Maggie’s pregnant stomach keeps her eating constantly. Everyone in Hilltop, aside from Gregory, is a fan of her, as well as the other two. But while the expectant mother leaves, Enid confronts Sasha about a lie concerning Jesus (Tom Payne). It’s because Sasha wants to get Negan. And Enid wants in. They just want to keep Maggie out of the equation because she’s too headstrong, even with a baby growing inside her. Yet Sasha tells Enid she has to keep Maggie safe.
Back with Richard, he tells Morgan and Carol about when he came to the Kingdom, about the terrible threat of the Saviors. He wants Carol and Morgan to help him convince Ezekiel they need to take action against Negan, because “things will go bad; and when they do, the Kingdom will fall.” Thing is, he’s come across Carol at a point in time where she wants to let go of everything – the killing, the people, all of it: “I dont want anything to do with your lives, or your deaths.” Interesting to see someone like her, and particularly Morgan, turned away from violence now being forced to maybe turn back; the never ending plague of this new world.
Oh, Spencer – will you die tonight? He gets back to his once nice, well kept home, to find it in complete disarray. Negan and his crew have tossed the place. He cleans the place up, he cleans up, practises his best introduction and leaves with a bottle of liquor. Will he actually dare try something against Negan on his own? Yikes.
In Savior territory, Daryl makes it to the motorcycle lot where a guy finds him. He agrees to let Daryl go. Rather than go on, Daryl beats the man to death, as Jesus shows up just in time. Now they’ve got themselves a gun to boot.


Were all Negan
With Michonne (Danai Gurira) still holding one woman at gunpoint, she finds where she’s headed. Furthermore, we see how people are willing to die rather than go back to Negan, as the woman essentially asks to be put down. And Michonne obliges the request.
In Alexandria, Rick and Aaron get back with supplies. Over on the porch Spencer shares a glass of liquor with Negan. Something bad’s brewing in their little town. When one of the Saviors gets rough with Aaron, this leaves Rick helpless, watching on. Spencer gets a pool table into the street for him and Negan, then brings up the dissent with his leader in Alexandria. Great editing takes us from the pool balls knocking together over to Aaron’s beating, as Rick must stand there, doing nothing. Such an amazing build, between editing, dialogue, action, score. “You should know Rick Grimes has a history of not working well with others.” This takes Spencer into talking about how he believes Rick brought their town down, his family now dead. Then he offers to lead Alexandria.
Does Negan take the bait? Well, he isn’t exactly impressed that Spencer’s not out gathering things, like Rick, who’s “swallowing his hate and gettinshit done.” As he says, that “takes guts.” Oh, is that the cue? If so, pitch perfect line.
What follows is straight from the comics: Negan plays on the word guts again, then plunges a knife deep into his stomach, letting those guts fall right out, horrifying everyone watching on. Another vulgar display of power. Out of nowhere, Rosita fires a bullet at Negan and it digs right into Lucille. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, ROSITA! YOU BAD ASS MOTHERFUCKER. Wow. Did not expect that. Neither did the man himself. Plus, now he’s discovered their homemade bullets. Uh oh. “You may be stupid, darlin‘, but you showed some real ingenuity here.” It’s either give up the secret of the bullets, or get a new carved up face. Rather than carve her up when she refuses to give it up, Negan has Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow) shoot somebody at random: Olivia. Fuck, man.
None of that sits well with Rick. Except Negan wants a thank you, for not killing Carl, for taking Spencer down when he was crying mutiny. All for you, Sheriff Grimes. And Negan isn’t leaving until he figures out who mad the bullets. Eugene doesn’t let anyone else take the fall this time, he confesses. Bad news for him: he’s now Savior property. Alexandria is left devastated, without another couple members, and “in the hole” with Negan worse than ever.

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As always, Rick blames himself. For everything. Like he asked to be the leader of their group, to be the one to make all the tough decisions. He never asked for that, it was heaped upon him. Then everyone blames him when things go sideways. He doesn’t always make the best or right decisions, yet he always does the best he can.
When Michonne gets back, she tells Rick that she doesn’t want to go it alone. She wants them to go it together, to fight alongside one another. And she won’t give up hope.
At Hilltop, Maggie gets one nice gift: she gets her friends back. Rick embraces her, glad to see her again, and he gets to see she’s safe, healthy. Rick is ready to fight. He’s ready to do what’s necessary. Oh, and Daryl is at Hilltop, too. The whole gang reunited. A heartwarming scene after so much devastation and blood and hurt. One fantastic mid-season finale. Rick even gets his gun back, a figurative recharging of his will to live and to fight for a better life.


I’m so pumped for the back half of Season 7! I don’t care what anyone says, I’ve enjoyed all these episodes. Lots of fun and the show is picking up steam from a few lacklustre moves over the course of the past couple seasons. Great to see them pushing ahead.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Nine: “162”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 9: “162”
Directed by Bill Johnson
Written by Franklin Jin Rho & Jeremy Slater

* For a review of Chapter Eight, “The Griefbearers” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Ten, “Three Rooms” – click here
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With Chris MacNeil dead, where does the Rance family go from here? Angela (Geena Davis) tells her bullshit story while Pazuzu rules from inside. Henry (Alan Ruck) and Kat (Brianne Howey) don’t know much what to make of it, but it’s clear the demon works hard to cover things up. More than that, Superintendent Jaffey (Tim Hopper), possessed himself, is present. The demon in him recognises the one in Regan.
Then we see a flash to Regan, watching her daughter about to have her neck snapped. And time freezes: “Ah, together again,” says the Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney) as they become one after so long.
So what will we see from the demons, working in legion as a whole entity? Very interesting, and very troublesome.
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Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is back at home. All the people are gone, only a memorial to Chris, discarded signs, candles remain. But we’re constantly seeing Regan become more ingratiated to the demon’s personality.
In other news, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) is forever on the case. He still has the help of Cherry and Lester Rego (Keira Naughton & Ken Marks). They’ve got a line on a bit of information concerning Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). Now they’re worried that if Bennett’s in trouble, which he is, then they may know about everything – Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan), the Rances, maybe even Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) and his involvement with it all. Speaking of Tomas, he’s having dinner with the Rance family, who are getting over the loss of their grandmother and the tumultuous times they’ve gone through as of late. At the table, Casey is incredibly quiet; her eyes speak volumes. And Kat, she notices the nonchalant way in which Angela tosses of her own mother’s death. Eerie few moments. Plus a little later Henry talks about hearing a lot of voices, murmuring in his head; the voices all mash together and repeat the number 162.
The Regos are out taking pictures of Brother Simon and they might’ve been spotted. Although the old priest heads on in to meet with the Superintendent of Police, Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), and others. Then? Pazuzu arrives. They talk of Father Merrin, plans for Pope Sebastian, so on. Looks as if Pazuzu is much more powerful than any of the other demons present. So powerful, he makes just about every one of them kneel; well, grovel to the floor on their bellies. He makes Simon kiss Regan’s shoes, too. They’re all in line finally, bearing down on the “sanctimonious whores” they’ll target next.


Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) talks with Father Tomas. He offers up a bigger position elsewhere, as well as the fact they’re closing St. Anthony’s, where Tomas has his parish. And it’s through this conversation the young priest tries divulging his recent sins. However, the bishop doesn’t exactly care too much. Most of all he wants Tomas and his prying ways out of their hair in Chicago. No matter if the priest has been unfaithful to his vows.
The ever sly Father Marcus is sneaking around in the back of the church while Tomas is out chatting. They discuss the pending transfer. But Marcus knows more. He advises “mind your back” and to keep an eye out. Then he’s called away by the Regos.
Casey’s recovering, although her mind weighs heavy. She still doesn’t seem herself even if Kat tries to treat her normally. She’s feeling guilty because of the dead paramedics, regardless if it was actually her doing the killing. “You survived,” Kat tries assuring her. Sometimes, though, that isn’t enough.
When Marcus gets back to see Cherry and Lester, he finds them dead. Bullet holes in them. He says a prayer over their corpses, searching the place for a few bullets to take with the gun. At the same time Mother Bernadette receives a visit from Angela: “We shouldve killed you when we had a chance,” the nun says plainly. Thus follows the death of Bernadette, and who the hell knows what’ll happen to the other sisters who show up immediately afterwards. When Marcus gets there, he finds a massacre (note: a great instance of what sometimes we DON’T see is scarier than what we DO see).
At home, Angela talks to Casey about her possession. “At a certain point you asked for it,” mom tells her daughter. That’s so… gross. Pazuzu tries forming a bond between mother and daughter, though I can’t help feel like Casey’s going to start noticing there is something not quite right with mama.
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There’s a big ceremony going on, Superintendent Jaffey, Mrs. Walters, Bishop Egan, Father Tomas, and all sorts of guests are present. Maria takes the stage to give a little speech for everybody. She speaks of Pope Sebastian and his ray of light amongst the darkness in Chicago. Everyone’s quite excited. Some, obviously, much more than others.
In bed, Angela and Henry get close for the first time in so long. Then she starts choking him, rough. To the point it isn’t remotely fun. I think, finally, Henry’s getting that something is wrong with his wife, more than ever. I worry for him, as well. Then there’s Casey – she witnesses Pazuzu in her mother, running hands all over Kat’s body in a sexual way. HOLY SHIT, that’s disturbing. The demon wants what he wants, and that’s it. Casey can see what’s happening. She knows.
Brother Simon sits in his suite, drinking, eating oysters and other tasty treats. Definitely not what you’d expect of a holy man; he sucks caviar from his fingers and laps it all up. Before Father Marcus barges his way inside, kicking the shit out of the old demon before filling a bathtub with water and a bit of sacramental salt. He dunks the demon’s face in, asking for more info. Except Brother Simon tells him about how the coming death of the Pope is inevitable: “Romes shame, come full circle.”
Marcus is now at the mercy of Brother Simon – he’s got the bowl of ash out, the vocare pulvere dish. Is he going to try possessing Marcus?!?
Under cover of night, Casey gets Kat and her father ready. They’re leaving without Angela; the demon Pazuzu has her. But the demon wants a family meeting. Nobody’s going anywhere. Pazuzu and the girl formerly known as Regan have become fully integrated. Permanent possession. The demon then talks about their history, how God cast them all down after creating Man, et cetera. Turns out the demon is also going to have to hurt one of the family, to make sure they’re punished properly. And it’s Casey. Pazuzu chokes her until Tomas arrives: “Get the hell away from her.”


Oh shit! Another gorgeous, disturbing, compelling episode. As it’s been from the beginning.
The finale is next. Wow, I hope they give us another season. We need it. Last episode is titled “Three Rooms” and I’m not even able to imagine where it’ll take us. Hopefully FOX will renew the show, if not I’m sure Slater & Co. have a fun ending for the season to take us away.

Scream Queens – Season 2, Episode 8: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 8: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel”
Directed by Jamie Lee Curtis
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Hand” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Lovin the D”- click here
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Well, well, well – look who showed up again! It’s Wes Gardner (Oliver Hudson) from Season 1. He’s not well. So he came to see ole Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), his old bang buddy at the CURE Institute. He has a big tumour. But we find out more about what happened after the Red Devil murders. They ran away together. He grew a beard and made microbrew. Wrote a book about quarters called Quarters: An American History about “our most important coin.” She drove a wedge between him and his daughter. After which Cathy walked out on him. And now he’s basically a complete mess.
Oh, Wes doesn’t have a tumour, either. It’s a giant hairball: “Looks like Trumps wig,” mutters Dr. Brock Holt (John Stamos).
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With Chanel (Emma Roberts), #3 (Billie Lourd) and #5 (Abigail Breslin), present, Dr. Holt and Dr. Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner) reveal that poor Wes has a condition that causes him to pull out his hair and eat it. Hence the large ball of hair in his stomach. Tony Robbins screamed at him a while and then he was fine, until the ball created problems. Having Wes in the mix makes Brock a little jealous, despite him and Chanel being together. So it’ll be interesting to see how all that tension plays out.
Finally we get more Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer). She does a bunch of videos around the hospital, though her comments are constantly filled by Chamberlain Jackson (James Earl), who’s got no game at all. She lays it out straight for him about it, and that’s pretty honest of her. They don’t let that get in the way of their Green Meanie investigation. Now they want evidence, like a piece of the killer’s costume, to try tracking more information down.
Brock and Chanel hang out while he cooks, talking a bit about himself. She’s a bit too busy with Snapchat. Then they further figure out their large “age gap,” as he talks about M*A*S*H and she talks about Chumbawumba and Boy Meets World. Things get worse after they’re in bed and Chanel looks anything but aroused or interested. Brutally funny scene, especially after Brock pictures Munsch and mumbles her name in ecstasy.

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Oh no, Zayday! She’s taking a soak while the Green Meanie skulks in the shadows. Or is she? “Surprise, bitch,” she quips before shooting a taser at the killer. Then Chamberlain takes the Meanie down and a fight breaks out. And even though the Meanie makes it out, Zayday gets a piece of the suit.
Chamberlain gets a bit of help with Zayday from the Chanels. #1 does a bit of cell magic to help him out. I really like Chamberlain, he’s funny and also a good dude, so it seems. Let’s hope there’s more of him.
The wonderfully creepy character actor Bill Oberst Jr. plays a man that owns a costume shop where Zayday goes to figure out where the Green Meanie got their costume. He says that he’s used the fabric before – three scary costumes, different sizes. One in 1986. One a few months back. One only a few weeks ago. He remembers them because he got a “handy” associated with those dates. Anyways, he gives her a bit of information to go on, gets creepier, and Zayday heads off further on her journey towards the killer’s identity.
Hester (Lea Michele) offers her own help to Chanel. She believes it’s a generational thing. So they’re going to learn everything they can about him and his generation, then throw Brock a dinner party to impress.

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With Chamberlain’s phone blocking calls from Zayday until 9pm, he doesn’t get her call for help. She’s headed to see Jane (Trilby Glover), who tries slamming the door in her face. After that she invites Zayday in. Oh, my. Jane looks downright sinister, even if she’s only pouring tea. And Jane says she bought a suit back in ’86, for her brother to go kill the people who killed her husband. She also says that she raised her son to kill in case the hospital opened again, which it did under Munsch. “Why are you trying to bring logic into this conversation? You do realise that we are insane people, right?” Now I worry terribly for Zayday. She’s been drugged. What will Jane do next?
The Chanels are throwing a post-WWII-themed dinner party for Brock, as if he were born in 1920. Hilariously off base. Lots of great confusion over the “Greatest Generation” and other bits, which is perfect and timely after I just recently read a poll where a lot of people messed up the generation they think they belong in. A little later Brock is willing to work things out with Chanel, appreciating her effort despite the lack of knowledge. Only Dr. Holt also wants an affair with Cathy; a long one.
Over with Cathy and Wes, things are getting sexy. They drink, they lie together in bed. Then the Green Meanie attacks. Wes uses body spray to get them out of a sticky situation, but the killer takes off before they can find out any more.
And as I worried, Zayday’s been put in a terrifying predicament, strapped down in a well-like enclosure, the nearby sound of water. Uh oh. Meanwhile Chamberlain isn’t getting any messages, unaware of where his friend’s being kept. When he throws out some trash he ends up finding a receipt stuck in the hairball from Wes’ stomach: for a machete and chainsaw. And a piece of that green fabric. Hmm. So Chamberlain goes to see the man about what he found. Wes talks about how things went bad for Grace after the Chanels ruined her life. Turns out that Wes swallowed all that hair willingly, after getting drunk. He’s there for revenge, to use the Green Meanie as a cover for him hopefully killing the Chanels.
Remember what I said about loving Chamberlain? We won’t be seeing him again.

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Wow. I never saw this one coming! But it’s an awesome addition. I always loved Oliver Hudson in Season 1, so I’m loving that he’s actually a psycho this time around and not just a red herring. Next episode is “Lovin the D” and I can only imagine what’ll happen. A bit of eeriness creeps in with Wes back and certainly with him posing as the 3rd Green Meanie.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 7: “Sing Me a Song”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 7: “Sing Me a Song”
Directed by Rosemary Rodriguez
Written by Angela Kang & Corey Reed

* For a review of the previous episode, “Swear” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Hearts Still Beating” – click here
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I’m worried about Michonne (Danai Gurira). She found all those mattresses the Saviors burned on them and now she just can’t bring herself to believe what Rick (Andrew Lincoln) does about the way forward. And now, she’s beginning to revert to a few of her old ways again.
And Rick, he’s with Aaron (Ross Marquand), wondering about Michonne.
At the same time a few greasers sit along the road, driving the truck Jesus (Tom Payne) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are hiding inside. This is an interesting pair. Jesus is a young guy, though experienced, and a bad ass. I used to hate Carl and then he grew up, got a bit bad ass himself. They might be good together. Except Carl ditches him, very clever, and heads on by himself. This kid’s balls are too big for his own good.
When the Saviors roll into Negantown and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) comes out to inspect the latest haul, Carl opens fire with an assault rifle. “I only want Negan, he killed my friends; no one else needs to die.” The man himself is impressed: “You are adorable,” says Negan. He is a saucy, mouthy bastard. They disarm the boy, but then the leader welcomes him as a guest. As Daryl (Norman Reedus) watches nearby. Fuck, this is maybe one of the most intense openers of any episode, at least in a long while. Plus we see how big Negan’s home is, and it’s massive.
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Carl is brought inside to see what things are like on Negan’s side. The kid’s also schooled in how to be a bad ass by maybe the ultimate bad ass himself; like him or not. Everyone in there kneels before him. Gross. It’s like he gives a sermon. Or a speech in the way of a dictator.
Back in Alexandria, Rosita (Christian Serratos) doesn’t want to give things over to Negan and his Saviors. She doesn’t like Spencer (Austin Nichols) and his bullshit, either. So she and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) are going to head out. You know where: to find bullet making materials.
We see how Negan is trying to corrupt Carl. He wants to corrupt everyone he comes in contact with, and especially anybody he perceives as more helpless to his violence, such as women and children. He is really one disgusting man. He uses increments of violence to ensure further cooperation just by threat later, like reading straight out of portions of Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Did you notice Carl lean in quick while Negan turned for a second? Definitely said something. Either way, at this point I’m not willing to count out anything when it comes to Carl; whether it’s him getting killed tragically somehow, or doing something wild to get himself free.


We see more of Spencer literally hating Rick. He admits it to Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). He has a lot of strong feelings. And I can see Spencer going the way of his character in the comics. For those who read them, you know what I’m talking about. Gabriel, though – he has faith in Rick. The priest holds onto Rick’s leadership, while Spencer all but wishes for his death.
Gabriel: “What youre saying doesnt make you a sinner. But it does make you a tremendous shit. Just for now. It doesnt have to be terminal.”
Negan likes the cut of Carl’s jib. He likes that the kid is smart, a bit ruthless. He also wants to see the hole in the kid’s face where that eye used to sit. “Its like talkinto a birthday present,” he taunts. Then Carl shows him. He shames the boy, asking to touch it. Being an all around piece of shit until Carl weeps a little. And this actually provokes a response in the man. He apologises, forgetting he’s been talking to a kid. Wow. Afterwards the title of the episode comes when Negan asks for Carl to sing him a tune. In return for the men he mowed down. And the kid sings “You Are My Sunshine” for the evil nutcase, as he swings Lucille wildly in the background. “Lucille loves beinsung to.”
Oh, my. Now comes something awful. There’s an iron in the fire, and somebody’s due to get branded. Negan preaches another sermon about The Saviors, out there to supposedly save the world. Right on, dude. Someone in their crew has gone against the pack; more so against Negan. So he must be branded for his transgressions. Just like Dwight (Austin Amelio). God, that’s vicious. At least they have a doctor to tend to the burn.


Already with supplies, Rosita and Eugene get back to the bullet making factory. But he doesn’t feel good being there. The memories of Abraham lingering at that place, as well as the fact he isn’t sure about barrelling into Rosita’s half-cocked plan. However, she is damn convincing.
We see Dwight and his former wife Sherry (Christine Evangelista), they obviously still care for each other and are only apart because of Negan. The nasty leader is up trying to “break” Carl, as he does with Daryl. The kid, like Daryl, is strong. He doesn’t give the motherfucker an inch. How will Negan deal with him? Especially when Carl threatens to kill him. So instead of anything else, Negan opts to go for a ride out to take Carl home. He doesn’t notice Jesus on top of their vehicle, nor that Jesus disappears quickly. He does notice that Daryl is ready to kill him if Carl is hurt.
Underneath the door in his closet, tucked in the dark, Daryl gets a message: GO NOW. Is it from Sherry? I’d bet on it. She is a good woman, forced into unimaginable horror.
On a road lays a pile of walkers blocking access any further. This is a pile Michonne has made. She disarms a woman and orders: “Take me to Negan.” Man, everybody is just out for going after the guy alone. Instead of listening to Rick – even though he’s not perfect – they all want to go try taking Negan out by themselves.

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In Alexandria, Negan strolls through with Carl. He wants to wait for Rick to come home. He goes on to insult Olivia and her weight, then trying to have sex with her; she slaps his face, though. Good woman! Fuck that guy and his bullshit. Luckily he just decides to sit there and wait. And drink a bit of lemonade.
What follows is a hilariously soundtracked montage of Negan settling in around the house, playing darts, feeling the carpet between his toes. He discovers Judith in her crib, despite Carl trying to prevent it. Weird seeing such a horrific pig like Negan holding an innocent child.
While her dad Rick and uncle Aaron are out on their own. They come across a sign, stating a man lives past that sign and he’s ready to kill anybody getting too close. Is he dead? Or is he still somewhere out there lurking? Nearby on the lake is a boat, supplies likely still aboard.
When Spencer, Eugene, and Rosita return to Alexandria they find Negan already there obviously. He’s taken up in the neighbourhood. “Oh, I like it here,” he says with a menacing smile, still holding Carl’s little sister. Thinking about whether he’ll murder Carl and his father.

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Fuck, this was an intense episode in places. A couple slow parts, but I can see they’re setting a few things up. Lots to look forward to in “Hearts Still Beating” next.