DAVE MADE A MAZE; Or, the Artist Matures

Dave Made a Maze. 2017. Directed by Bill Watterson. Screenplay by Watterson & Steven Sears.
Starring Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Nick Thune, Adam Busch, James Urbaniak, Frank Caeti, Scott Narver, Stephanie Allynne, Kirsten Vangsness, Scott Krinsky, Timothy Nordwind, & John Hennigan.
Butter Stories/Dave Made an LLC/Foton Pictures
Rated 14A. 80 minutes.
Adventure/Comedy/Horror

★★★★
Dave Made a Maze 1The opening scenes during the first ten or fifteen minutes feel like a comedic version of Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, where our main character’s not so much an explore who buys a home, he’s a young slacker artist bummed out with his life who creates a cardboard maze which proves much bigger, more dangerous on the inside than the outside.
Is that enough to hook you? Because though it sounds like an odd fantasy, and it is, there’s more than meets the eye. Just like Dave’s titular maze. Director Bill Watterson takes us into the maze just as much as he takes us inside the mind of the story’s protagonist.
In its best moments, Dave Made a Maze speaks to how an artist’s work loses its authorship becoming part of a larger community; this is where the inherent pressure for the artist to create at a regular pace comes from, at its core. The film also explores questions about the power of imagination, how the dedicated artist’s life takes on meaning only in their work, plus how dangerous their imagination can become when not correctly focused.
And in Dave is every young, struggling artist who feels lost, disenchanted with the realities of being an artist in the modern world. The maze, then, is life. Whether one survives it is entirely up to them, though we all get by with a little help from our friends.
Dave Made a Maze 2Dave (Nick Thune), like most artists, worries he’ll never make anything whole or complete in his life. Worse, he believes he’ll never effectively change anyone’s life through his art. He hates what he’s become, that he can’t support himself being an artist like he wants. He feels that he even bores his parents.
So, in his worry, Dave cobbles together this maze. An amalgamation of bits and pieces, an indecisive mix of styles, influences, all throw together. An unsure, immature artist creating something he doesn’t quite understand. Therefore, how is anyone else supposed to? This is where the power of imagination takes hold, and we get into the concept of authorship.
Once an artist authors a piece of work, it’s in the world, a part of it. In a sense, it belongs to everyone else then. No matter how an artist hopes their work will be interpreted, ultimately art is in the eye of the beholder. This brings other imaginations into the mix. Literally represented by a film crew in the maze with Dave and Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani). All these other people represent the reader, or the viewer, however the art is presented. But once others are involved, so are their imaginations.
Here, the maze begins changing, responding to them; or, the maze comes alive in how they respond to it. In a situation like this a work of art can become out of control. Added to that, a lack of one meaning becomes no meaning, nothing fixed, always changing. Part of what Dave must learn throughout their time stuck inside the maze is that he has to accept loss of control as a part of the artistic process. He fears it, but he has to accept it, or else he’ll never finish anything out of worry they’re losing authorship over their work. An artist simply has to complete their work, put it out there, and leave the rest to others.

Is this permanent?
Nothing in here is

Dave Made a Maze 3The film works as an overall metaphor for maturing, either as an artist or as a human. Dave has to find himself, he has to learn how to follow through in life instead of always searching for that one big thing that’ll break him into fame and money. In essence, it’s the concept of growing up, realising that things take work and time, life doesn’t come all at once. On the flip side, you also can’t wait around for life to happen; you’ve got to make it happen.
A well executed visual is how the cardboard of the maze comes alive, taking its power from the imagination of others. Even further, it absorbs or swallows the blood of those who succumb to its various booby traps and pitfalls. This is the perfect image of how figuratively art, even when successful in the end, can suck the life out of the artist.
In keeping with the mood of the subject, the dialogue and the interactions between the characters is hilarious. Beneath it all is a dark edge, but it keeps the audience chuckling nonetheless. Dave’s struggle at thirty, wanting to give the world his art but not able to finish anything properly, moving along from one thing to the next convinced he’ll change his life in a single work of art, all this combines a truly raw, real story – despite its fantastical elements – illuminating a real struggle many often face when they want to dedicate their life to artistry, of any type. Again, whether Dave, or anyone, makes it through the maze towards the understanding necessary to get past that space, is left to be seen.

Everyone are assholes
Is
Everyone is assholes. No, that doesnt sound right.”

Dave Made a Maze 4There’s a lot to love. Best are the stellar performances that help draw us into this strange little world, even as we’re dumped into it immediately the characters are believable, lovable, people with whom we can relate. Makes it much easier to tumble down the corridors of an endless cardboard maze in the living room of an apartment.
An unpredictable maze, deaths by cardboard, blood, drama, romance, friendship: this film has it all! In a sea of unimaginative films being pumped out for the sake of commerce, Dave Made a Maze is a shining ray of optimism, a beacon of hope crossing from an adventure flick with wry comedic chops to a semi-horror. This story has plenty to say outside of being a fun romp. But, boy, is it fun. When a story takes me effortlessly into its contained universe, making me feel like all else disappears for the time I’m sitting in front of the screen, it’s done its job. If it speaks to my soul, that’s a bonus.

Advertisements

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 6: “No Mo’ Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1The finale of Season 2 opens, years ago, as a boy – little BB with the red shoes – is chased into the old church, past that familiar gate. Someone grabs him and smashes a rock into his head. The man removes the gate, takes the kid, then at the lake tosses him in tied to the thing. Others watch on, then they leave, disappearing into the mist. Are they spirits? Watching on as history is repeated and repeated?
I have a feeling we’re soon going to learn more in this last episode.
Pic 1AHap and Leonard (James Purefoy & Michael K. Williams) reminisce on religion’s “strong medicine” v. its “strong poison” in relation to Rev. Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood), his insane murders. A devastating thing for their East Texas town to wallow in, as the church holds a ceremony for all the boys lost. Everybody’s there, from Sheriff Valentine Otis (Brian Dennehy) to Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack), Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson), and many more. The greasy, insincere Sheriff takes the pulpit, shelling out verbal sympathy for the families. Blah, blah, blah. And certainly our heroic pair get no thanks or recognition for their role in, essentially, solving the case on their own. Best of all, in this scene we get to watch Hap and Leonard do their BEST buddy comedy routine, with a lot of pitch perfect dialogue.
Hap: “I aint never been more proud to be an atheist than I am today
Leonard: “Amen to that
Stella and the other mothers who lost their boys do know the truth, that the eponymous duo are the ones who actually figured out what happened, giving them all closure.  Sadly, Hap still has one worry – that Hanson and Ms. Grange are getting together. Likewise, Leonard comes home to find Raoul, who’s tracked down Ivan’s (Olaniyan Thurmon) father; the kid is going home. And much as our man tries to pretend like he’s hard, Leonard is going to miss him; their bonding over Huck Finn and his adventures was sweet. Also, I’d love to see Raoul and Leonard get back together. They’re good.
AND POOR MEEMAW! I miss her. In her wake, Florida and others are left reeling with the news of the reverend, a man who pulled the wool over all their eyes. Left without Meemaw’s wisdom to get through it all.
Florida drops a bomb on Hap: “I always saw myself with a black man.” This is a gut punch. Whoa. Poor fella.
Hap’s got other things in mind, though. After seeing a curious number of angel figurines at Meemaw’s place while he and Florida pack everything up. Across the way, Leonard hears Chester speak to him from somewhere else, saying that the work isn’t done. Hap and Leonard now believe that BB was killed by someone other than the reverend. And I’m pretty sure we all know that someone was Sheriff Valentine Otis, who’s receiving a visit from Dt. Hanson about those red shoes and the very same line of questioning as our duo have on their minds.


Hap and Leonard get talking to Hanson’s partner Charlie Blank (Douglas M. Griffin). He’s reluctant to say much, after his trouble from shooting TJ. But they’re further on their journey now. Towards the truth. They’ve got their eye on the big bad sheriff. Only he’s got his eye on them, too. He’s much too craft. Then, at the diner, they notice the waitress Miriam has a chain: it reads BB.
The boys go see Miriam at home. They show her the BB chain, which shocks her. Such a sad thing to watch, especially when she’s been serving that old bastard every day at the diner. All that’s left is what Hap and Leonard will do, while they try to figure out how to handle Valentine, and when’s the best time for that. Not only is the history of BB with them, the history of the deaths of their fathers, covered up and forgotten is at their backs.
Leonard: “Things change, Hap. People dont.”
They lay what they know at Valentine’s feet. They want to know the truth, about everything. He acts nonchalant about the entire thing. A revelation comes: BB was Valentine’s son, he wears the same chain with the initials around his neck. The mystery thickens. “That boy was the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me,” he explains, and how he couldn’t claim the kid because of the “colour of his skin.” Then they reveal that Fitzgerald never killed BB, which disturbs him terribly.


And who killed him? Just as it’s revealed, we see Judge Beau Otis walk in. He’s visibly upset by the talk. We know now, it was the rightful son upset over the illegitimate child his father had with a black woman who killed the boy. WHOA! Holy fuck, did not see this coming. Great suspense and mystery in the writing led to this moment. The father knocks his son into an empty pool nearby, splitting his head open wide. A sort of strange, bittersweet moment as Hap and Leonard watch the man who killed their fathers die at the hands of his own.
In the meantime, Hap his dad’s old repair truck fixed up with the nice, fresh decal on the side for Bud Collins’ business. He and Leonard head out for a drive, where they bring the old gate back to the church and put it in place again. Full circle, as the two put it.
Leonard: “Yknow, in the end, its always me and you.”
Hap: “Just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto
Leonard: “Yeah, wellcmon Tonto.”
And as they leave the church, the spirits of those who died there, the boys, those taken by the KK, and sweet Meemaw, they appear again in their rightful places, able to move on from the darkness.

Pic 4CAn amazing Season 2! With a distressing, dark cap at the end where we see a tree with a noose in it, and in the yard a woman finishes putting KKK linens on the line. OH, baby. Give Joe Lansdale, Nick Damici, Jim Mickle & Co. the greenlight, SundanceTV! We need a Season 3. Pronto. With plenty of mojo.
Pic 4D

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 2: “Witness”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 2: “Witness”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Thomas Schnauz

* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “Mabel” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Sunk Costs” – click here
Pic 1Chuck (Michael McKean) is locking up for the night, having a cup of tea before bed. Diligently making sure the doors are locked, peeking through the windows. He has someone watching out at night, sitting in the dark at all hours. He’s waiting for something to happen. Anything.
Pic 1AA couple guys are waiting with a tracker. From a distance Mike (Jonathan Banks) watches them with his own tracker. He’s getting closer to figuring out who has a beat on him, his comings and goings. Could this all be a test? Is someone recruiting him to test out his skills? Or just somebody keeping tabs on a crafty guy like himself? Hmm. Whatever it is, Mike’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.
And then he follows a guy, in the night, into morning… all the way to, you guessed it: LOS POLLOS HERMANOS! God damn.
Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is meeting with a woman named Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker) applying for a job in the office. She meets with Kim (Rhea Seehorn), too. They check out her resume, her experience, so on. They need somebody organised, to keep the place afloat. Kim isn’t sold, but Jimmy wants to hire her. Something like this is going to play directly into the plot, at some point in Season 3. When, exactly? Francesca will play a big role, in some way, shape, or form. Maybe she’ll wind up seeing Jimmy do something shitty, or she’ll flip on him for some reason, or who knows.
Mike calls Jimmy at the office: he wants him to go into Los Pollos Hermanos, to keep an eye on things, the guy with the bag whom Mike previously followed. Ah, the beginning of how Mike and Jimmy come into contact with Mr. Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Jimmy has breakfast starting out his spy duties. Soon the man with the bag arrives and our hapless lawyer tries to keep him in his sight.
FINALLY, our first look at Gus in a couple years! He sweeps up around where Jimmy sits, and the man with the bag, too (does he sweep something up from the guy? Is that their sneaky system?). Mike gets no information that helps from Jimmy, walking away empty handed. For the time being.


Mike keeps on Los Pollos Hermanos, determined that he’ll find out what’s been going on. It’s a tiring job, one he no doubt was prepared for all those years as a cop. Soon, a black SUV pulls into the restaurant rather suddenly, backing into the rear out of sight. Then it’s gone again in a rush. Who’s driving? Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui), our old pal from Breaking Bad. Another lead to follow.
At the McGill/Wexler offices, Ernesto (Brandon K. Hampton) can’t go in, so he phones Kim. She goes out to meet him and he’s so obviously stressed, with the information he knows from hearing Chuck’s clandestine tape. He wants to tell Jimmy about it, but doesn’t want to get in trouble because of helping his friend. So, he opts for Kim, whose view of Jimmy has once again shifted.
Gimme a dollar,” she tells him – the same he did with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman when they had him in the desert, hood over his head. They’ve now got attorney-client privilege. He spills the beans, involving his emotions over Chuck, wanting to cut him some slack mentally. Only the tape exists now. Note: when Kim’s talking to him, and he’s peeling tape off the newly painted wall, at first (before he gets frustrated) he uses the technique his big brother Chuck taught him last episode; he can never escape him, even when Chuck is screwing him over, eternally.


Still following that tracker, Mike is out in the middle of nowhere. He’s lead to a gas cap in the road, a cellphone waiting on top. And surely when it rings, on the other end are instructions for where to go.
In other news, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) is sneaking around in the neighbourhood near Chuck’s place trying to remain unseen. They have a little secret meet. Howard’s getting impatient with all the nonsense, all the money spent on private investigators, et cetera. All in the name of trying to snag Jimmy for his crime. He wants to get on with “alternate strategies” and finish with Chuck’s paranoia.
No sooner do they finish their conversation does the younger brother show up, pissed off and ready to beat down the door. Which he does. He flies into a rage and calls out Chuck over his betrayal. He breaks open the desk to find the tape, then cracks it into pieces. Could likely mean only more trouble for Jimmy, as there are witnesses to his frustrated outburst.


Man, oh, man! What’s next for the Brothers McGill? Nothing good.
Coming up is “Sunk Costs” and I’m so intrigued to see more of Gus + Mike, as well as what Jimmy must deal with in the fallout of his actions here in this episode.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Joe R. Lansdale

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “No Mo’ Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams) have found the carnival at the end of the Idaho-like bus route. They see the ghost of Chester, we see them as boys. And the old man tells them, once and for all: “Finish this.”
Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) is dealing with Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and it isn’t all roses, either. At the same time, Hap and Leonard are staking out at Meemaw’s (Irma P. Hall) place where she looks after young Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), who’s not entirely loving being shut in. Lord knows I love me some Meemaw! Ms. Hall is a treasure, and you can see her having fun playing the role. In other news, TJ (Kelvin Brown) helps our boys sneak out of the house under Sneed’s (Evan Gamble) nose.
TJ: “Nobody expects the retard
And now, Hap and Leonard get themselves labourer jobs with the carnival to go undercover, to try rooting out the killer of those boys. Is it all so simple? Well they run into an old friend, the flexible and fun Judy Punch (Bonnie Morgan); she’s too “old for the pole” nowadays, so, carnival it is!
Pic 1AOur titular heroes are on the constant lookout for any clues as to who killed the boys. Everything is suspicious, from behaviour to tattoos to look; anything could mean danger. Leonard drops a nice Ray Bradbury reference calling a tattooed carny serving food The Illustrated Man. They ask Judy if there are any noticeable candidates, and she suggests a few possibles giving them something to chew on. She also gets her hands on employee files for Hap, as well as hopes he’ll put a couple hands on her, too. Instead, he clings to responsibility. To do right by the missing, murdered boys that have piled up over the years. Somehow, despite her wonderful abilities, he refuses. Now that’s some strength, especially for ole Hap.
Judy: “I may not be as limber as I used to be, but I can still do more with six inches than a monkey can with a hundred feet of grapevine.”
Then there’s Leonard, searching the trailer of the tattooed guy. Turns out he’s a big bear of a man in the bedroom, ready to play. And those tattoos, they’re for sobriety. Poor Leonard barely makes it out alive, away from the sexual tyrannosaurus.
Back at Meemaw’s, Ivan is bored out of his mind. Can’t stand reading. Though she tries to show him the joy of it, that it helps you live a life inside the pages without having to always go out, letting you get into the trouble with Huck Finn without having to get into the trouble yourself. But the kid isn’t down for that.
Pic 2Hanson and his partner follow Florida to a garage, where she finds her own way inside. Where Hap and Leonard have been putting up their investigation links, the pictures of the boys, everything they’ve discovered so far. Leading the detectives right to it all. And y’know what they think immediately. Moreover, Sneed tracks them to the carnival, so an APB is out, as Ivan happens to stroll in. Another boy in danger.
In Judy’s trailer Hap and Leonard look over the employees, but the latter’s not sure they can take on an investigation of this size, just the two of them. Police are likely better equipped, yes; do they care as much? Doubt that. Regardless, the cops are already there, searching them out. As is Florida, trying to find them first. She finds Hap, and Leonard tries to get the Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) to get his group of kids out of there in case something bad goes down. After all, it’s the “third Saturday of every October” and tonight is that night.
This whole sequence is edited to perfection, taking us from Hap to Florida, to them together, to Leonard. Hap and Leonard writer Joe R. Lansdale’s (who wrote this episode) daughter is in this episode, too; we see her now and then. But this sequence is so well done, executed with expert directing and writing in combination.
Best part – Leonard saves Hap from arrest on the back of a horse! So Texas, so awesome.
Pic 3When they get out to the crypt, they find TJ there. With Ivan in the car. The big man says he’s “making angels” and that he put Ivan to sleep. Shit. A shotgun cocks in the background, then out comes the Reverend Fitzgerald. He and TJ were doing God’s work, supposedly. WHOA! I actually wondered if this was the case, the reverend that is – I didn’t see TJ coming – but dismissed it, and this surprised the hell out of me.
Rather than go down like that, Hap and Leonard get the jump on Fitzgerald. Then TJ joins in the fight. The boys break out into a brawl, as Leonard kicks the shit out of the (un)holy man with some of that military training. Before much else happens the cops arrive, to find the rev with a shotgun trained on the boys. Nothing more can be said before Fitzgerald turns the gun on himself and blows his face off. Poor TJ wanders out into things, as well. And Hanson’s partner fires on in him preemptively. Brutal stuff. At least Ivan’s not dead!
Now the corpses of those 13 boys in the crypt are uncovered, what Hap and Leonard had been finding out on their own is given credence instead of them getting blamed. Heroes who won’t get any credit, most likely.


Only thing is, someone has to tell Meemaw the truth. Hanson comes to do it, but Leonard offers. So it’ll be easier from someone she knows personally. Oh, just thinking of it breaks my heart. She takes it on herself, believing it her fault. She did all she could do for the boy, the rev turned him bad, manipulated him. “I thought if I just loved him hard enough…” she tries explaining to Leonard. Meemaw believes the devil followed her after that church was burned by the KKK all those years ago. Bless his heart, Leonard tries convincing her that’s not the case. And she does make a good point about the transformative power of love – Chester changed Leonard, Florida changed Hap.
Then we’re given another blow. Meemaw, as if done with life, gives up and dies right there in front of the pair. Like all of life’s unfairness toppling around us, in the background while they lament Judge Beaut Otis celebrates re-election. Nasty stuff.
Pic 5God damn you, Joe Lansdale! For making me cry tonight. Bastard (I actually love you, man). What an episode. Didn’t think the series could get any better, and then it tops my expectations. “No Mo’ Mojo” is next, the Season 2 finale. SundanceTV better give us another season or I’ll riot.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Klick” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Witness” – click here
Pic 1We start Season 3 with another black-and-white flash forward into the future of Jimmy McGill a.k.a Saul Goodman a.k.a Gene the Cinnabon manager (Bob Odenkirk). Nancy Sinatra croons “Sugartown” as we watch his daily life at the Cinnabon in the mall. Far from where we saw him in Breaking Bad, juxtaposed beautifully with the place we follow along in the current timeline of Better Call Saul; one of the fascinating parts of the writing and the progression of characters is how Gilligan & Co. pull off making his journey into a, at times, non-linear adventure. In turn, this keeps things fresh even though we already know where Jimmy/Saul ends up down the road.
What I’m most interested in is where Gene goes from this point post-Breaking Bad, or if he continues on in his purgatorial existence, a fitting end for a greasy guy such as himself. Eating lunch alone on a bench he winds up seeing a sketchy young man who looks to be hiding, in trouble. Rather than let the kid go on, he rats him out to the cops. Then in a burst he tells the kid to say nothing, and advises him to get a lawyer. That old Saul came loose, even for a second. Gene’s not as measured as he once seemed. Later while glazing some buns he passes out. Yikes.
Pic 1ATo the current timeline. Jimmy and Chuck (Michael McKean) are back where we left them, when the younger brother confessed to his brother believing no one else would hear. Not knowing Chuck was hiding a tape recorder the entire time. All the while Jimmy thinks everything’s well, or at least stable. A situation he can manage. The brothers reminisce about being younger, triggered by The Adventures of Mabel which Jimmy finds in Chuck’s bookcase. For the first time, they actually seem like brothers. Not for long, though. The older of the two reminds with an ominous tone: “You will pay.”
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is doing her best to keep her chin up, too. Despite the rollercoaster of a life she has sitting next to Jimmy. He’s not exactly a dream dude to be involved with in business, or in friendship, love, et cetera. Eventually I have to believe Kim won’t be able to reconcile her morality with being on his side. She already knows he’s not on the level, but just doesn’t realise how deep the well of deceit goes. But as always, the problem is that Jimmy’s such a likeable loser that it’s very tough not to root for him.
Jimmy: “For ten minutes today Chuck didnt hate me. I forgot what that felt like.”
Meanwhile, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) hears Chuck’s tape of Jimmy and the confession. Certainly the secret recording isn’t enough to hold up in court; Chuck knows. So why have the tape at all? Does it involve Kim?
Of most interest to me is Mr. Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He was out in the desert, and found a note telling him to get away. A warning, but from whom exactly? Mike does the smart thing, speeding away from the scene then checking his car for any kind of devices; nothing. He heads to a scrapyard and has a closer look. And I mean a CLOSER FUCKING LOOK. Mike uses every last ounce of his training to look through the guts of his car, inspecting each inch with precision. Like he can smell it yet can’t seem to find the thing.
Finally, he discovers something hidden in the gas cap. THE GAS CAP! An ingenious, tedious place to hide a tracking device. That’s some next level deviousness. But now Mike has some idea, a starting point leading to whoever’s keeping an eye on him so close.


Jimmy receives a visit from Captain Bauer (Brendan Fehr), one of the military gentlemen whose eyes he pulled the wool over when needing to cut a commercial. Anyways, he’s not happy. Slick talkin’ Jimmy tries to sell him a load of horseshit, that doesn’t work. Either Jimmy takes the ad down or “therell be hell to pay.” He doesn’t dig that, so he threatens to take it to court and win. The captain advises him, in his own way of speaking, that eventually Jimmy’s going to get what he deserves. From the flash forwards and seeing Breaking Bad, we know this to be true.
With his newly acquired knowledge, Mike switches out his gas cap to head off after work. At an old warehouse he meets his friend the veterinarian (Joe DeRosa) to get himself some gear. Pricey, too: $1,000.
Back to Kim, over at Mesa Verde she’s doing great work. As always. Worse still she knows the treachery, the guilt eats her. How long before it eats her alive? Every time she hears about Chuck and his supposed mistake, it’s like a stab in the gut. Also, in the office – that rainbow… any imagery connections to that in Season 2? I’d like to revisit that.
Over at Chuck’s place, he has to get Ernesto to help him change batteries in the tape recorder. The thing is on when he changes them, he hears a bit of Jimmy confessing. This sends the old gentleman into a fit of anger, trying to make sure Ernesto won’t ever tell anybody about what he’s heard. “There could be terrible consequences,” Chuck convinces him with a torrent of quasi-threatening language.
Pic 3Mike, Mike, Mike; what will you think of next? He’s like the counter-intelligence king of the streets, using all that police knowledge from busting criminals, learning their ways, to fuel his own criminal enterprises. Except right now it’s like espionage, trying to discover who’s on the other end of the surveillance on him. He’s reversing the cat and mouse aspect of the dangerous game that’s being played, or at the least trying to do so. And he loves pistachios. Fucking loves them. I don’t blame him, either; they’re great.
After a long night of waiting, Mike sees a vehicle stop. Someone retrieves the GPS tracker from the gas cap then they’re off into the night fast as they came. So, Mike has a lead on where they’re headed.
Want to take a guess? Might have something to do with Los Pollos Hermanos, maybe?


Great start to the season! I don’t care if people say the show’s slow moving. It’s meant to; the storytelling and the character development and the plot moves are all spectacular. Great music and score, as well. Excited for “Witness” next week. Welcome back.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Written by Abe Sylvia & Ione Lloyd

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Holy Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1A young Hap and Leonard are at the fair. Even back then Hap was in love with Florida, though worried he wasn’t good enough. And the pair loved one another, Hap and Leonard, even then. Unafraid to show their affection for each other. In the garage, present day, Hap (James Purefoy) wakes to find Sneed (Evan Gamble) and a few other cops there to arrest him. Now he’s in a cell across from Leonard (Michael K. Williams), in for the arson he committed. Hap’s in for kidnapping Judge Beau Otis, whom he recently discovered is epileptic; wonder if that’ll come into play again down the road, or if it had anything to do with his killing of their fathers. Hmm.
Pic 1ASheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) has a talk with Hap about whether he’s a “troublemaker.” He does not want any trouble with his brother; he is poised to be the new county judge. So it’s either leave things alone with Beau and go home, both he and Leonard, or else it’ll look grim. And no more digging around where neither of them belong. Some rough talk. In an interrogation, Leonard’s dealing with Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and his racist partner, neither of them being too friendly. As always, Mr. Pine won’t do the dance, not for a black cop or a white cop or anyone else that wants him to tell lies about himself.
Leonard: “And we aint no brothers. Slack or no slack.”
At least he’s out of jail, and Hap, too. Neither of them immediately see a way forward. It’s all over, so Hap heads out to work and Leonard goes to check on Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon). They did their best. That’s all they can do, right?
Florida (Tiffany Mack) has an awkward meeting with Hap at the diner after she didn’t show up for his and Leonard’s arrest. It wasn’t hooking up that made her stay away, it’s the fact they’re constantly in trouble and poking around in some dangerous business. What I love about this episode so far is that Hap seems to be having some strange daydreams, from hooking up with Florida to the Village People. Over with Meemaw (Irma P. Hall), Leonard and Ivan get closer. Then Leonard notices the picture of the church on her mantle, where the gate stood. A troubling thought. It was long ago, when Meemaw was a girl. She tried putting out the far the Klansmen set, burning her arms. Such a sad thing to see when she tells Leonard of what happened that day.


Dt. Hanson is looking at the child’s body in the morgue. His partner Charlie is worried that he’ll be caught “tampering” but it’s only the fact he knows there’s more afoot. Hanson pushes on, he’s starting to feel there is more than meets the eye. Suddenly, Sheriff Valentine arrives, as the detectives hide. The old man is there to visit the body. He has the shoes. Holy fuck. And with the detectives watching on unseen he puts the little red shoes right in the body bag, signing off forms for the medical examiner. Washing his hands of the situation, the body off for cremation. Or so he thinks. There is no way Hanson will let this sit on his conscience, at least not forever.
I love how, using the same line of dialogue, Hap and Leonard both figure out the gate is from a church. It’s just excellent writing, and they each deliver the line is such different yet similar ways that the respective scenes are perfect. Hap does a bit more investigating, trying to figure out if the church he’s located is the one where the gate stood years ago. During a charity boxing event at the church, he gets in on a boxing match and things get heated in front of Florida and the audience as Hap and the pastor throw fists. Ultimately the white boy goes down, not without a decent fight.
Meanwhile, Leonard’s tracking down information on the church. And he’s haunted by the ghost of his uncle Chester, as well as Illium Moon.


Leonard: “Goddamn peckerheads all think alike
Hap: “I thought it was great minds
Leonard: “In your case, peckerheads.”
The pair are getting closer and closer, finding their way to where Old Hope church used to stand. All that’s left are the bricks of the foundation, nothing much standing. Then they fall right through an old, broken floor. Through the basement they find coffins labelled with years. Inside, more children. Disturbing, to say the least. Now the boys have got themselves a handful; way more than that, two arm loads. They set themselves up an investigation, connecting dates, names of the missing boys. An elaborate puzzle they’ve got to put together, because it looks as if whoever’s been taking those boys and killing them isn’t done with whatever they’d planned.
Hanson and his partner are distraught over what they’ve seen. Although it’s the former who’s more interested in actually digging out the truth. Not just that they’re in the dark, struggling for clues. Hap and Leonard are further ahead in their investigation than the actual police force. A great testament to the lack of care put into missing black children; we think it’s bad today, it was even worse in the ’80s.


Hap and Leonard are trailed by the police on the latest leg of their adventure. They pop in to see Stella at the salon. She’s sly, as are the other ladies sitting around getting their hair done. Great moment as Stella tells the cops to find her missing son while they’re so concerned with tracking down the pair. Then the other mothers show up. Hap and Leonard are the only ones looking for the missing boys.
Love the sequence set to Johnny Cash’s “Wayfaring Stranger” as the pair ride a bus, all the young black boys and girls around them. What would otherwise be a beautiful sequence of all the smiling faces, the youthful innocence, is a tragic sight; seeing Hap especially look at them is like a gut punch, knowing any one of them could go missing and barely anyone would flinch as is the case with BB and the others. Haunting sequence, one of the best in the series as a whole.
Pic 4DArriving at a carnival, now knowing part of their map of the missing boys links to the busses and Idaho, Hap and Leonard have more to go on. BB’s little body has been cremated, but the shoes aren’t gone yet.
The next episode is “Pie a la Mojo” and it looks intense! Pumped to see what goes on next in this stellar adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s characters and novels.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 3: “Holy Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 3: “Holy Mojo”
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Written by John Wirth

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Ticking Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bad Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Some little black boys and girls play near a graveyard, some hide and seek. Off in the distance are hooded Klansmen on their way towards the church. The children are rushed into a basement, as the white hoods march closer with gas and ropes fashioned into nooses. But one little girl doesn’t make it down, witnessing the burning of her church, the hanging of a groundskeeper. A brutal, vicious moment. She continues to count for hide and seek; better than watching.
Pic 1APresent day, we see Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) on their way up to Moon’s cabin, talking about Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack). When they arrive, they find a van in the river with Moon inside, dead. Now the pair worry for what happens to Leonard. Hap wants to move the body, though his trusty buddy tells him: “Thats bad mojo.” The chemistry between Purefoy and Williams is so charming and undeniable, they’re perfect as Joe R. Lansdale’s eponymous characters. Instead of reporting anything to the police the boys sink the van further in the river, to keep on with their own investigation. They also stumble upon the steel gate to which the child under Chester’s house was tied; where the hands remain.
Florida goes to talk with Judge Beau Otis (John McConnell) about recusing himself from the Pine case. She uses the information about Hap and Leonard’s fathers against him, though he acts high and mighty, refusing to bend. She pulls a nice little power move before leaving, eating one of his fries.
At home, Hap goes over clues in the case, putting together all the evidence he can gather. Looking over maps, newspaper articles. Meanwhile, Leonard looks after Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), cooking for him and trying to imbue the boy with a sense of personal responsibility. He then gets a visit from Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) with a warrant to search the place. Ivan takes off, tossing the secret box he holds onto Melton’s (Sedale Threatt Jr) roof. Hmm.


Florida wants the boys to talk to Moon, so Hap’s got to do some covering. Wonder if it’ll take long before the truth comes out. Time being, “dirty old man” Hap can’t keep his eyes off Ms. Grange. She has her hands full with the case, butting heads with Dt. Hanson over Officer Sneed (Evan Gamble) lurking around after assaulting Leonard. Worse than that Sneed spied Ivan tossing that box. Can’t imagine where that’ll lead; someplace nasty.
One good thing – Hap and Leonard find Ivan stowed away in the truck, and he says he knows where the gate came from, he can take them there. One bad thing? Hanson and Florida go to find Moon, and the detective comes across evidence suggesting he’s nowhere to be found. Uh oh.
That good thing, it ain’t so good when Hap and Leonard end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, and a group of neighbourhood women surround the boys. They want them to hand over Ivan. Afterwards, they go to see Stella (Shirlene King), the lady in charge. When they tell her about investigating the disappearance of all those boys, she’s got information that may help – the gate came from a church – and it’s possible her boy was one of the boys taken.
Leonard: “Aint no runninfrom your shadow
Judge Otis shows up at the gas station where Hap works. For a fill-up, and a talk about Leonard. A sassy talk, especially for a man who’s a judge and killed a couple people while driving drunk. For that, Hap cuts up some equipment under the guy’s hood and lets him go on.


Stopping at a store, Leonard comes back outside to find Ivan gone. And a cheap cigar left behind smoking. Sneed? I’d bet on it.
Broke down on the road, Judge Otis is met by Hap in the tow truck. He busts out one of the guy’s windows, then forces him into the woods. He tells the Judge a story about an old man and the dog he loved, a bad, sour dog. One day a kid was bitten by the dog, right in the chest, in the heart. Before Hap can bash the Judge’s head in, he nearly has a heart attack. He leaves the man in the woods to run off eventually.
At a diner, Sheriff Valentine Otis (Brian Dennehy), father of Beau, has a talk with Florida. About jobs, who’s doing them well, who isn’t, on top of what’s been going on in their little East Texas town. Looks like the Otis family are a gang of alcoholics, a running familial trait. Not only that, they love making threats. “Be careful,” Sheriff Valentine warns Florida before heading out.
And Leonard, he goes to see Sneed. Catches him in the bath. Just so happens Leonard brought a bit of salt, a radio; to get the conductivity going for when he tosses the thing in – except the unsuspecting officer doesn’t realise it’s a battery-powered radio. He also grabs a handful of Sneed’s balls, squeezing, looking for info about Ivan. Sneed gives up information about Melton, which is where he brought the boy. Leonard goes to Melton’s, finding Ivan shot up with drugs by the nasty dealer and his friends; he brings the kid to Meemaw (Irma P. Hall) then goes to clean up the neighbourhood.
Pic 4AFlorida goes to tell Hap he needs to lay off Judge Otis, or else Leonard’s ending up behind bars. She wants him to be honest, about everything. He reveals that Moon is dead, though she knew. And a bit of honesty goes a long way to getting the two together, which Hap was leaning for since he met Florida.
While they get down, Leonard gets busy. As in molotov cocktail busy, tossing some fire into Melton’s place and watching it burn. On the roof, the box burns, too; what was in it exactly? We’ll never know, likely. Something to incriminate Leonard, and luckily Ivan chose not to leave it at Chester’s for anyone to find.
What’s most interesting? Meemaw has a photo on her mantle. One of a church, and standing in front of it is the gate to which that child’s body was tied. This is the church we saw those Klansmen attack in the opening scene. BOOM!


What a stellar followup to the second episode. Just awesome adapted writing, the characters are so vivid and intriguing. Purefoy, Williams, Mack, everyone is doing a fine job with the performances. Can’t wait for “Bad Mojo” next week! What do you think the boys will get up to? And can Florida help Leonard avoid the slammer?

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 2: “Ticking Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 2: “Ticking Mojo”
Directed by Maurice Marable
Written by Abe Sylvia

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Mucho Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Holy Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Young Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon) wakes in the bed at Leonard’s (Michael K. Williams) place, a bit disoriented and rightfully scared. Then he runs into the old man from the van. He chases the boy, but Ivan gets the jump on him. The old man finds something hidden in a vent on the wall, like an old lunchbox.
Ivan escapes then waits in the weeds for a chance to run. Only he can’t once a bag is thrown over his head and he’s whisked off.
Pic 1ALeonard’s in jail, of course. Fingered in a lineup by Melton (Sedale Threatt Jr), who got pissed on last time by Mr. Pine. He meets with his attorney Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) and Hap (James Purefoy). Things don’t look great. They’re okay, for now. Except he’s got to ride out the weekend in jail. The police are also flooded with lots of black women, looking for their missing children, wanting to know more about the investigation. Heartbreaking and tragic.
Florida and Hap try to rally the mothers, all of them knowing the police aren’t doing anything for the missing kids. So it’s another case of Hap being placed in a position to help; both the community and his best friend Leonard. However, the mothers all reveal that Chester Pine came to them in a suspicious way, every last one remembering his name. Very troubling. We discover Chester put Florida through law school. Huh! Then again, as she notes: “Thats what they do.” As in those who prey on children.
One of the officers interviews Leonard, along with a sac of oranges, a hammer, some books. Old torture techniques. In the meantime, Hap tries to get in to see his buddy with some Nilla wafers. He’s too drunk. And Leonard takes a hard beating before Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) stops the psychopath cop.
Pic 2At a black church Hap shows up to sit with Florida, stopping the congregation in their tracks. She refuses, so Meemaw lets him have a seat in her pew. Hilarious to see him clap with no rhythm next to all those happy, celebrating black worshippers. Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) preaches about the sheriff’s department not helping. And right then Sheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) strolls in to take the pulpit. He and Judge Beaut Otis stand up there together, Valentine talks about trying build bridges, blah, blah, blah. Nobody’s buying it; not the congregation, not Hap, either.
Meemaw (pointing to Hap): “You see that man standinthere? That is the only white man I like.”
Otis: “What about Jesus?”
Meemaw: “Jesus wasn’t white
In his cell, Leonard gets a visit from a creepy old man. Is he the man from the van? He does some voodoo stuff, sprinkling a line of salt in front of the cell. He hands over a book. One about cowboys, from Leonard’s childhood. Inside are hollowed out pages containing a chicken’s foot. Next day is court. No bail for Leonard and a trial in six weeks. Judge Otis is definitely one of the racists running things behind the scenes in East Texas.
The bombshell? Otis is the one who ran down Mr. Collins and Mr. Pine on that dark, rainy road. Holy fuck. Hap now has something he can hold over the judge’s head to get Leonard out on bail.


With Leonard out, Florida and Hap try to get him laying low. He isn’t happy. Worse still, he doesn’t like that they’re leaning towards Chester being involved in some shady shit. Either way the truth is coming out. Whether it’s a truth Leonard can handle dealing with is another story. But he packs up and gets ready. Meanwhile, Raoul is worried about Ivan. This leads Leonard to discovering his broken cowboy that’s been there since he was 9; the one Ivan smashed on the man’s head. This and the pennies on the windowsill, a chicken foot hanging from the ceiling, all leads them to a man named Elia Moon – the eerie old man, who also spends quite a deal of time near children.
Off go our two brave self-made detectives. They find a shack up in the woods, booby trapped, the entire place covered in dead animals and skins. They stumble onto the old man hiding in a closet. He’s been waiting. An odd duck, though seemingly harmless. He says Chester was actually trying to figure out the mystery of the missing boys before he died.
At the same time, it’s revealed Melton is the one holding Ivan. And he wants the boy to hide something at Chester’s house.


Over at home Leonard sees Ivan is back, acting like nothing’s wrong. Later, Raoul also reveals to Leonard he’s been seeing somebody. Upstairs, the kid a box Melton gave him: is there incriminating evidence inside? I’d bet on it.
Hap gives an alibi for Leonard in 1986. They were seeing a Howard Hawks double feature: The Big Sleep and Red River. Or y’know, that’s what he says. “Devotion” as Florida puts it.
Back at Elia’s place the old man is worried about “bad mojo” in the air, as all his hung up beer bottles start falling from their strings and smashing all over the ground. An omen? It sends Elia off in a rush. He sees a vision of a little black boy, covered in blood. Right before he drives into the river. Another blow to the case for Leonard.
Pic 5Just a perfect followup to the first episode in Season 2! SO MUCH MOJO.
Bring it on, baby. Give me more.

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 1: “Mucho Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 1: “Mucho Mojo”
Directed by Maurice Marable
Written by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Ticking Mojo” – click here
Pic 1AThere’s a dark secret buried, one that Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) will soon stumble upon. This season we open on someone disposing of a young person’s body, tying them, then dumping their corpse in a lake. Terrible things go on unseen. But it doesn’t take long for them to emerge for all to see.
Back again to the world of the ever fantastic Joe Lansdale!
Hap’s picked up the remains of Trudy; ash in a box. And while he loved her, that’s one less giant mess in his life. Everything for him is messy, from relationships to his piece of shit car door. He gets by for now working as a mechanic. In other news, Leonard’s at home getting a hard back massage from his boyfriend Raoul. He’s got problems with neighbours, too. Nothing that a cane can’t stop, or a bit of piss in the face. What I love about Leonard is he’s gay and black in the late ’80s, so there are bound to be more situations that arise from that, living in the South and all. A little later, he steps through a floorboard in his dead uncle’s old place: now he’s found the secrets long ago covered up, forgotten about.


Leonard: “The dead dont give a shit about what happen toemtheyre dead.”
The two friends go digging under Chester’s floorboards more, inspecting the skeleton they’ve found. It’s a child, a small one.  Same sneakers as the one dragged from the lake. Now Leonard wonders if his uncle knew, especially considering how long Chester lived there and how decomposed the body is currently. So, what next?
A kid runs off with Trudy’s ashes, sending Hap and Leonard on a chase. Then the box gets tossed into a garbage truck driving past. Instead of letting it get away, Leonard stops the truck to get Trudy back.
The boys alert the police to the body under Chester’s house, which marks the place as a crime scene. But you just know them two are gonna get up to something soon enough. The old lady across the street doesn’t believe Chester had anything to do with the body, though the police – Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) in particular – are investigating with suspicion. And someone in a van lurks around the neighbourhood. Very likely the one responsible for that body’s existence.
Leonard talks with Dt. Hanson at the precinct, as Hap talks with another detective. Some uncomfortable conversation comes up when Hanson says “you people” enjoy little kids; he means homosexuals. Nasty. Likewise, Hap faces scrutiny about his status as a conscientious objector during Vietnam, all the mess they got into with Trudy and the rest of her friends. After all that they discover there were no feet or hands or sneakers on the body. Was this the work of the man in the van? Hmm. Either way, a lawyer named Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) arrives to help the boys in their predicament.
Florida: “Dont underestimate mecause Im beautiful, Mr. Collins.”
Pic 2I love watching Hap watch Leonard and Florida pass the hot sauce between each other, putting a load on their food. Such a perfect look, as he tries to get himself a taste and they just keep on shaking the bottle.
After food they start picking through the mystery in their neighbourhood. Meemaw across the street offers what little help she can. Hap and Leonard keep an eye on Chester’s place from hers, and they also have a heart to heart about Trudy. In the morning they meet Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood), who does a bit of preaching, though neither Hap nor Leonard are too interested in religion. He talks about Sodom and Gomorrah, fittingly foolish with a proud gay man at the table.
When Leonard goes over to check on his house, he finds Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), the kid who stole the ashes. He’s nearly dead from an overdose. Unable to locate the kid’s parents, Raoul convinces Leonard to take care of the boy for now in their place, to which he very reluctantly agrees.
One of the detectives goes to meet Hap at the garage where he works. He wants to know more about the sneakers they saw on the body. On top of that he’s suspicious of Leonard being a “darkie” and all. And you know are man doesn’t approve of that shit, so he dismisses the detective rather fast.
Pic 4Trying to dump Trudy’s ashes off a bridge, Hap drops the box in the river. Like the man he is he goes in after it diligently. Then he scatters them onto the water around him, soaking in Trudy, and strangely happy.
At home, Leonard puts Ivan to bed. When he takes the boys shoes off he sees his name written on them, similar to the BB on the red sneakers. Suspicious? Or nothing at all? Either way, right now Leonard’s being taken in by police. Great, now Hap’s going to have to get his ass in gear while his friend is locked up behind bars.
And outside the house sits the man in the van, watching. Who is he?


What a spectacular start to Season 2! Love, love, love this series. Lansdale’s writing, his characters, the atmosphere, it is all palpable in the adaptation by Damici and Mickle.

Take a Baaad Trip, Man: 1986’s HOUSE Brings the Horror of Vietnam Back Home

House. 1986. Directed by Steve Miner. Screenplay by Ethan Wiley, from a story by Fred Dekker.
Starring William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz, Mary Stavin, Michael Ensign, Erik Silver, Mark Silver, & Susan French. New World Pictures/Sean S. Cunningham Films.
Rated R. 93 minutes.
Comedy/Fantasy/Horror

★★★1/2
posterFor years I searched out a movie I knew I’d seen as a young boy, only to come up short. I looked through so many titles, watched so many trailers. To a point where the scenes I did remember felt akin to those of a dream just out of your reach; you know the images, you just can’t play them. Finally, it felt like I’d literally dreamed the whole movie up. Then I was flicking through George Wendt’s filmography and I came across the one I’d been looking for all these years: the Steve Miner-directed House.
In the early ’90s, I was about 6 or 7 at the time, this 1986 horror-comedy came on television, late in the night. I wasn’t supposed to be up, but my mom and I lived with my grandparents, and my grandfather would watch whatever with me then eventually fall asleep. So here I am, House is on and Rated R, in my glee. What I saw, at the time, horrified me. It’s meant to be a comedy with horror involved, yet I found nothing funny. All the strange moments and scenes piled together in my mind. Years passed with odd images of a bloated female zombie, bright nails; a man wrestling a zombie dressed like a soldier; fleeting bits of Vietnam; among so many other little things that kept with me.
Watching it now, House isn’t great. Nonetheless, a lot of fun. The goofiness is sort of endearing. Above anything, the horror is still there, plain as day. And though many people will watch, laughing from time to time, I’m into my thirties and Miner’s film still manages to make me feel uneasy.
pic1Something that makes the money more enjoyable as an adult, for me, is that Roger Cobb (William Katt) feels like an actual writer, a genuine person rather than a character. The way he tries to get writing, then goes off on tangent after tangent, is so true to life. As a writer, I know the feeling, and I know others who feel the exact same way. Writing an article or review is one thing. Writing fiction is an entirely other level of brainpower. So Cobb does his best to keep distracted, even if he wants to get the novel finished. That’s when something far more sinister than a break from work takes hold of him.
The entire Vietnam subplot of Roger’s past is actually disturbing. Juxtaposed with the comedy, there’s an attempt to lighten the tone. Still keeps things spooky. Some of what lingered with me over 20 years is this whole part of the character. He is torn by regret, guilt. Another aspect is that his guilt gets exacerbated by the fact he’s seeing monsters in his aunt’s big, old house. He sees one, shoots it, then realises it was actually his estranged wife. While his predicament gets played for ghastly laughs awhile, until the finale we’re left with horrible assumptions, believing him to have killed his wife accidentally, trying to cover it up, and thinking his brain has utterly melted. This makes much of the movie fearfully tense under all that yuck-yuck comedy, sort of like being in hose shoes, right there with him the whole time.
Something that horrified me as a boy, and does to this day, is the bloated female zombie, the corpse of Roger’s wife. The high pitched voice reminds me of Judge Doom when he devolves into his toon form. Disgustingly effective. The scene with this bloated corpse always made me feel strange and ran a chill up my spine. A little later there’s another unsettling image – the huge marlin mounted on the wall comes alive, moving creepily, the whole body writhing and the eyes moving. Not sure why, it’s hideous. Especially after Roger blows a hole in it and the big eye rolls around in its head. Yuck. When Roger has his first confrontation with the spider-like monster in the closet, that’s another moment which still kind of rocks me. Has a very John Carpenter’s The Thing feel to the creature design. That’s one of the scenes I remembered for years.
pic3SPOILER ALERT: Here, There Be Spoilers
It’s really the end I find worth your time. Maybe the rest will come off as too slapstick comedy for you to take any of it seriously. And, can’t forget, it’s meant to be comedy. I merely feel there’s more horror than people remember, or are willing to admit; genuine horror. Such as when Roger faces his final terror. A tentacle and an arm grasp him through the mirror – a great shot, well executed – and pulls him through, to the nightmarescape of his Vietnam memories. I love that moment because it follows through for all those cliched jump scare mirror moments across the genre, actually giving the mirror some horror qualities outside of scary reflections popping up behind characters.
The finale is an intense, emotional struggle for Cobb. He’s left to fight Big Ben (Richard Moll), only Ben is dead, zombified. Scariest aspect is that, essentially, Roger must let go of his past, or else ultimately sacrifice his own son. Naturally, he manages to overcome and literally fights his demons to the death; a.k.a he beats Big Ben’s ass, like a champ. Add to that the Big Ben zombie makeup effects are the best of the film. Actually a formidable, intimidating, menacing creature – a skull and bones soldier, back from ‘Nam AND the grave. Makes the end, even with its cheesy final couple moments after, worth all the nonsense earlier.
pic3I like Steve Miner. He’s made a lot of stuff I couldn’t care less about, truthfully, yet he also has a few films under his belt for which I eternally admire him. I mean, he made one of the later Halloween films that didn’t totally suck. There’s Friday the 13th Part II and III. Recently he did a great episode for the series Dead of Summer.
What I’ll always remember fondly is House. There’s more inside than people think. Definitely the comedy detracts from its better, serious elements. That doesn’t matter to me. What works, really works. Any time I can thrown this on, but it’s always best saved for October, closer to Halloween the better. You’ll dig this for a group of friends. Throw it on, have a laugh. Don’t sleep on Miner, though. Under those chuckles you’ll also discover a bit of weirdness, something nasty, maybe even a legitimate fright or two.