American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 11: “Great Again”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 11: “Great Again”
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Written by Tim Minear

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Charles (Manson) in Charge” – click here
* Season 8 recaps & reviews coming next year!
Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 12.50.05 AMIn a maximum security prison, Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) plays his pinky game with one of the correctional officers. He asks to see her “biker chick titties” and she complies, right before a couple of his buddies need to chat. But it’s clear his influence is still uncanny. Well, his friends are actually there to beat him down in the shower. They don’t like him throwing off the prison hierarchy. Thus begins a brutal fight, two on one. Until one guy stabs the other. He’s a pawn for the Divine Ruler, of course. And ole Kai, he’s still seeing Manson lurking around. So he also has to kill his accomplice, who deems it “an honour” to be killed by his leader.
Feels like there’s a full-on massacre about to go down. I only wonder how far Mr. Anderson will go.
Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 12.54.10 AMOn the prison yard, Kai receives a new fish named Trevor (Ian Bamberg), he’s a young man serving 25 years. Divine Ruler’s an important lad in jail. He and Trevor play the pinky game, talking truth. Kai doesn’t like Trevor’s cowardly crime, killing a kid after running him over. He sees prison as a “fertile breeding ground” for men while women tear the world down outside, needing easily influenced bros like this kid.
Skip back eleven months. Kai can’t find Speedwagon (Cameron Cowperthwaite), though Ally (Sarah Paulson) keeps him on track. He talks to the cult about their latest plans. No dice on Night of a Thousand Tates; Night of One Hundred Tates is ready for the murder to commence. They’ve done research tracking down enough pregnant women to murder. Tough task, apparently. Divine Ruler gives a gruesome presentation on how to stab, impaling mother and baby at once. Like Manson before him with black people, Kai plans to begin the female uprising after this “electoral bloodbath.”
Meanwhile, Ally and Beverly (Adina Porter) chop food in the kitchen, as the cavemen believe women should in their specified roles. However it’s more than obvious Bev can’t handle it anymore. She’s cracking up, like any normal person would in her position. Although she’s suicidal, which isn’t good. She’s so suicidal, in fact, she urges Ally to kill her. That doesn’t work. Ally urges her to hang on a bit longer.
Fuck a Manwich
When Kai’s about to boil over, Ally tells him about Speedwagon. He was busted with ecstasy, and the cops set him on Dt. Samuels. Undercover. When Speedwagon admitted this to Ally, she killed him. So Winter (Billie Lourd) didn’t betray him. He’ll use this pain, this guilt, to commit the atrocities during the Night of One Hundred Tates. Yikes. Fuelled by anger and vitamin A.
Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 1.00.30 AMAlly’s got her own plans with the FBI.
They descend on the Anderson home. Flashbangs are tossed in and an armed team come for Kai and the meathead bros. A gunfight ensues, shots fire in the dark and the smoke. People are killed, some commit suicide instead of being caught. Bev takes her chance to shoot one of the bros in the head. But in the end, Divine Ruler is taken into custody.
After everything, Ally’s trying to leave that life behind. Naturally people treat her like a famous person, though she tries evading all that shit. Bev shows up one day, talking about Kai, who’s not going to trial. She realises Ally didn’t turn her in with the rest of them. She worked with the FBI ever since right before joining the cult, pulling their strings as much as Bev, Ivy, Kai. She’s still living the lie, fairly well, too. Pretending she didn’t murder her wife; in all fairness, Ivy deserved it. All the same, Kai claims he didn’t do that one, that Ally killed her wife. Not many are suspicious, except for Bev, not that she’ll tell anybody.
Ally does her best to move on, helping Oz like a normal life. Things aren’t all fine, the infamy is hard to deal with, she’s become a “feminist icon” in the media. And Kai calls from prison one night. He’s found out that Oz is indeed not his son, enraging him further. He’s left with his “circle jerking fascists” and a prison cell for life. Only he says he’s building a true army, he’ll escape, he’ll come for her. Scary thing is he’s got the prison guards on his side, banging Gloria to keep himself with the right privileges. At the very same time he’s discovering Ally’s running for Senate. She’s running on bringing down cults, of the “twoparty system” and all the tyranny of patriarchy, for the benefit of everybody, men and women alike.
Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 1.21.32 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 1.22.07 AMWhat Ally cannot escape is her victim status, as the victim of Kai. She wants to shed that image. While Kai is alive, it’s hard to separate herself from him. First, she’ll debate Senator Jackson currently serving. In jail, Kai is doing his own shedding of an image. He’s shedding himself, his skin. He’s created another him, his new fish recruit. They’ve got him tatted up like Divine Ruler.
You know exactly where this is going. Someplace vicious, violent. A way for Kai to fake his death and get out of prison. Gloria helps him out through the gates, then he’s back in the real world again, free to do his damage.
So the debate goes ahead, Senator Jackson against Senate hopeful Ally. She stands up against the misogyny, the mansplaining, all the rhetorical devices used to hold women down. In the midst of it all Kai stands up to ask a question, setting the place on edge. He rants against the one who brought him down, he belittles Ally and all women, threatening to kill her. He finds himself double crossed.
By whom? Gloria, baby. She’s been pulling the long con for Ally, putting him centre stage. Ally helped Gloria see the misogyny under his ruse. Because women might not always be stronger physically than a man, but she can always be smarter, by far. Bev gets the last laugh when she puts a bullet through Kai’s face. Leading to Ally’s successful run for Governor.
There is something more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man: a nasty woman.”
And don’t you think Ally is gonna do things totally above board, either. She learned that sometimes you’ve gotta get dirty, especially if you’re going to be a politician. No matter how hopeful a leader.
Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 1.35.05 AMPersonally, loved this season, deeply. Sure the end is a bit rosy, that’s fine. The rest of the season really took on both sides, not just a big anti-Trump run of episodes. You can’t expect Ryan Murphy & Co. not to be liberal leaning at some point. There’s a positivity, in ways, at the end of every American Horror Story season. So you shouldn’t expect any less here. There’s always darkness, but there’s always some light, too.


American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 10: “Charles (Manson) In Charge”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 10: “Charles (Manson) in Charge”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Drink the Kool-Aid”  – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 7 finale, “Great Again” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 12.56.57 AMAt the last Presidential debate, Winter (Billie Lourd) and her supposedly feminist friends rattle on about Hillary being “more important” than Obama. In the background, Kai (Evan Peters) types on the internet about the “dumb bitches” and then he rants to the ladies about their “precious Obummer” and the “early onset Parkinsons” Hillary supposedly has, though he does have a point: American doesn’t want a woman for POTUS, and not a “shrill cuck bitch.” Likewise, the girls realise Trump is all a product, or maybe a symptom, of the wounded male ego. Kai lashes out at one of them, slapping her in the face. Yikes.
A couple weeks later, he’s sitting with Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy), who tells him of Anat, the Ancient Semitic goddess of love and war. He takes that as a sign of female irrationality, weakness, madness; typical patriarchal bullshit. He believes striking a woman is a political act. She talks about Valerie Solanas, then leaning him into politics. What’s her endgame? She claims she’s an “OG” feminist, yet believes Trump is amazing. Because he’s going to be the one to detonate the bomb of “feminine rage.” Bebe commits him to also hammering away at it, to help it explode. He’ll have to give himself over to it, his life, most likely. She uses feminism in quite an interesting way. Believing Kai and other men like him, the most horrible and influential, are a method of releasing the powerful rage of women everywhere. Unique, and dangerously compelling.
Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 12.59.52 AMPeople hate seeing Kai and his meathead militia on their various campuses and other public spaces. We see Mr. Anderson campaigning already for the senate, going for all the buzzwords, specifically “third trimester abortions,” which 85% of American men don’t understand. The typical nonsense of politicians emboldened today in the USA by the Donald. Kai and his denim dummies find protesters bearing down on them; he’s already gone paranoid, believing the Deep State is at work to take him down. Eventually, Kai gets maced right in the eyes. Luckily they’ve got white milk on hand!
At home, Ally (Sarah Paulson) works away and pretends to be the dutiful female companion to Divine Ruler himself. She and Winter navigate their own personal troubles under his regime. Continually, Winter defers responsibility to everything else around her, particularly her brother. She gets more scared by the day, yet sticks around, no matter what ugly shit Kai does.
We’re getting more “Story Time” with Divine Ruler. He’s prepared a tale about none other than Charles Manson, the Master. Skip back in time to see the crimes at Cielo Drive, where Tex Watson and the Manson family women, Sadie, Patricia, and Linda (played by Billy Eichner + Sarah Paulson, Leslie Grossman, & Billie Lourd) all engaged in the brutal, infamous murders most of us already know. We see the vicious murders recreated.
Of course Kai gets around to the ideas of Helter Skelter from Manson, hoping to trigger a race war, blah, blah, blah. Therefore, the Divine Ruler decides they need to do something huge, far bigger than just one solitary pregnant woman: “The Night of a Thousand Tates.” Uh oh.
Im the Devil, and Ive come to do the Devils business.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 1.18.46 AMGary (Chaz Bono) and some meatheads go to Planned Parenthood, looking for a list of women seeking late term abortions. But inside, he’s by himself, and a bunch of the clowns arrive, surrounding him. Kai’s got other plans for his man. They all stab Gary to death, leaving him to be found the next day. All spun as an attack on pro-life patriotism by the group the Woke Warriors. Beverly (Adina Porter) reports, as she’s instructed, but later Winter tries to help her get away, getting her a ticket out of the city. Is it real? You can never tell with the sister. Bev takes it as a test, refusing to go.
Things are getting weirder for Kai, he’s hallucinating his brother, Charles Manson, believing there are bugs planted by the federal government all over the house. There are a couple great, subtle references to the sitting POTUS, as it’s been throughout the season. However, now we’ve also got Charlie putting ideas in Kai’s head, telling him to “find the Judas,” which was, for him, Linda. She brought him down. Divine Ruler can’t let that happen, can he? Any coincidence Linda was played by Lourd, who plays Winter? Something bad’s gonna happen to the sister, I can feel it. Although it’s no good for any woman being around him. Except Ally, she plays to his paranoia; she brings him a supposed listening device she found.
Then Bebe shows up, to slap the shit out of Kai. Lamenting the “walking abortion” that is the male gender. She doesn’t like how he’s been doing things, he’s fucking up. The female rage hasn’t been unleashed appropriately, not yet. He’s lost in power, and he’s pissed everybody off entirely. He calls her down to the dirt, her cause. Before she can shoot Kai, she gets a bullet through her own brain from Ally. Jeeeesus, she’s on a warpath this season, baby! Because she’s putting herself right at the core of the inner sanctum, making Divine Ruler too comfortable to notice her plan; the one thing Bebe forgot to do herself.
Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 1.26.05 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-08 at 1.37.48 AMKai and Winter bond a bit, as she helps him shave his head and his face. They talk about knowing one another, the secrets, everything. Then he questions her loyalty. But she wonders about the people he surrounds himself with, what they truly mean in the grand scheme. She knows everyone will leave when they get what they want. She says she’ll always be there for him. So, is she truly loyal? Or is it a strategy? She admits things are difficult right now, that she needs distance for the moment. Yet he worries that her leaving will prompt others to do the same. Still, he agrees, so long as it means her ultimate loyalty.
Nah. He’s discovered her disloyalty, trying to send Beverly away. Now the tables are turned on Winter. He interrogates her in front of everybody. He asks about the bug, and also another device in the ice cream truck. Ally’s pushing the narrative, whether or not it’s true. She’s getting revenge partly through Kai. Eerily brilliant, no? Let’s hope it doesn’t destroy her before she can finish Kai and his movement off. We do see some of the meatheads are involved, at least Speedwagon. Ally’s got some tricks up her sleeve.
In the end, hallucinations of Manson urge Kai to kill his sister. And he strangles her to death on the floor.
Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 1.47.20 AMAnother fantastic episode in the best American Horror Story season to date! Seriously, it’s so great. This episode, written by Falchuk and Murphy, is a great lead into the finale. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
“Great Again” – aptly, relevantly titled to fit the rest of this season’s mould – comes to us next week. Be prepared for nastiness.

American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 9: “Drink the Kool-Aid”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 9: “Drink the Kool-Aid”
Directed by Angela Bassett
Written by Adam Penn

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Winter of Our Discontent” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Charles (Manson) In Charge” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 1.29.15 AMKai Anderson (Evan Peters) narrates the story of the Heaven’s Gate cult, their mass suicide. “Leaving the vehicles of their bodies” to ascend into the stars. All that garbage. About the theories of Marshall Applewhite, whom we get to see Peters play briefly, too. There’s mentions of David Koresh, another cult leader Peters plays for us, and the tale of the Branch Davidians, their clash with the federal government. There’s lots of talk of “divine semen,” men under Applewhite’s rule who had themselves willingly castrated, and all sorts of madness that plays into patriarchal ideology.
The “Kanye of leaders” is Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple. He brought everybody to Guyana, where they formed Jonestown. Afterwards, when a congressman showed up to see what they were doing down there, Jones fed his followers Kool-Aid, killed others, and took them all out with him.
Jim Jones: “And to me, death is not a fearful thing. Its the living thats fearful.”
The point is: cults are destructive, cult leaders are insane, and all these groups do is bring about death. Kai’s in the basement, telling all HIS followers about these men. Everybody has their nicknames, from Sandstorm to Pus Bucket to Tripod. Their leader’s trying to get through the concept of loyalty. Moreover, we discover further Proud Boys satirical links in that these lads don’t jerk off, afraid to give too much of their power over to women. Hilarious, if it weren’t actually a real group this is based on.
Wait, are we a cult? I thought we were a political movement.”
Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 1.32.57 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-01 at 1.34.21 AMAt the next council meeting, Kai rants about everything from Candy Crush to “fake news” just as all the good little Trumpites do. He wants to start regulating, or, y’know, censoring views opposing their own, the same these types claim is happening to them. The Kai Anderson Internet Freedom and Integrity Act is passed, not without a large bit of intimidation. Then the Divine Ruler announces he’ll be running for senate, as well.
We jump over to the Mayfair-Richards home, where Ally (Sarah Paulson) demands answers from Ivy (Alison Pill), why she’d join a cult, terrorise her, others, so on. Ivy essentially wanted to be told what to do, after the election loss, to not worry about trying to make her own place in the world. She cries, admitting she hated her wife. Yet it’s all a bit trite, isn’t it? And too late. She’s fed into the cult, she allowed people to die, to let Kai ascend to a god-like status. Ugly stuff.
Ally’s only still in it with Ivy for their boy Oz. Best of all, she’s overcome her fears, even so far as to give her boy a Twisty comic. Then there’s Winter (Billie Lourd), giving more excuses for her behaviour. It took for her brother Vince a.k.a Dr. Rudy to be killed before she saw the darkness. Beverly (Adina Porter) is stuck in isolation, while the women believe to escape the cult they’ll have to run away. But Ally’s done running. A bunch of the cult meatheads show up to take them to a meeting.
They’re brought to the basement, kept there like prisoners until the Divine Ruler arrives, rambling more insanity. He breaks out a big pot, full of Kool-Aid. They’re gonna “do something radical.” He spoons out a bunch of cups. However, they aren’t just for the ladies. Everybody will drink. So the leader points to each member, they must sip the poison. When one guy refuses, Gary (Chaz Bono) guns him down. Bev takes her drink willingly. So do Ally and Ivy, then Winter. The lads follow, screaming like apes.
Although none of them are being poisoned.
It’s just a test, like Jones himself did with the Peoples Temple before their actual suicides. A test of loyalty, commanded by the Divine Ruler.
Kai: “This is not suicide. It is a revolutionary act.”
Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 1.49.20 AMBack at home, Ally tries getting the women ready for escape, under the noses of the crazy men. When she and Ivy go to pick up Oz, he isn’t at school. The nanny and someone else came to get him already. Cut to the basement, where Oz sits with Kai a while. What the greasy cult figure does is wedge his way into the boy with chauvinism, talking about how everyone “has a daddy.” He uses misogyny to subtly break through the kid’s defences. Moments later it’s onto the pinky game. This is when the parents arrive, looking for their boy. Oz almost drinks a bit of Kool-Aid before they get downstairs. This leads into Kai saying that the boy is his son. He’s been giving donations at the clinic where Ally and Ivy got the sperm. Oz is even calling the guy daddy. Oh, man. This is fucking sickening. And all of a sudden the tables have turned on Ally once more.
How do the women move forward from here? Murder is most certainly on the table, as well as the fact Ally says she’s got a plan. At home, again, the wives eat together, sip on wine. Unfortunately for Ivy, the plan involves a reckoning for her, too. Her wife isn’t so forgiving of all the shit that was brought down upon her. Revenge was her cure. Ivy never suspected there was arsenic in her pasta and wine.
Ally: “I only want two things in this life – I want Oz all to myself, and I wanna watch you die. Halfway home.”

Kai tells of what happened post-mass suicide for Jim Jones. Jesus (Peters) came down and kissed the dead leader on the forehead, returning him to life. A resurrection. Complete with a high five from Mr. Christ himself. After that Jim resurrected everybody, apparently. At least that’s what the Divine Ruler tells his Proud Boys. Although Oz doesn’t believe any of that, especially when he’s searching it all on Wikipedia. The only one smart enough to question this dude’s idiocy is a little boy. But Kai rants at him, that he’s the “only one” who knows the “ultimate truth.” Sound a bit familiar? Herr Trump?
When Ally goes to pick up Oz, she discovers he isn’t there. He and Divine Ruler are off somewhere. So she heads over to the fertility clinic, looking for information on the man who is the father of her child. She’s desperate. The woman at the front desk helps her out: Kai is not the father.
That night, Ally makes Manwiches for her and Kai. They talk about Oz. When they sit for a bit of food, he asks about Ivy, so she tells the truth. He’s impressed. She also plays up to him the idea he IS Oz’s father. She had the woman at the clinic do up a fake file, to look as if he’s the one who fathered the boy. This is what will be the man’s weakness, he believes the “messiah baby” has already been born. Helps that he’s got a place to store Ivy’s corpse, up with his parents. And it keeps Ally close to her enemy, close to her son.
Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 2.18.57 AMAnother wonderful chapter of this wild season! One of my personal favourites so far. Peters is an amazing actor, he can sink into the skin of all types of characters. “Charles (Manson) In Charge” is next week. Can’t wait to see Peters as Charlie.

American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 8: “Winter of Our Discontent”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 8: “Winter of Our Discontent”
Directed by Barbara Brown
Written by Joshua Green

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Drink the Kool-Aid” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.09.18 AMDr. Rudy (Cheyenne Jackson) goes to see his brother Kai (Evan Peters), who’s now got all sorts of people around him, those muscle-bound, work shirt wearing followers. The younger brother thanks his older brother for the “edible arrangement” he sent at the hospital. That’s because Dr. Rudy couldn’t go there, considering his connection to patient Ally (Sarah Paulson). The doc is proud of Kai and they have a nice time together. Maybe a bit of family bonding, going forward. Except little bro wants to be called “councilman” from now on. Can already see the modicum of power in his slight victory going to his head.
Ivy (Alison Pill) has to serve the misogynist dickheads in Kai’s little group of sheep at the Butchery on Main. She’s not impressed with the “handmaid shit” and the “dudebros.” And Beverly (Adina Porter) understands. She brings up the council meeting recently, where Kai presented his work shirt mob as a private security force. In between is Winter (Billie Lourd), believing her brother has some master plan, whereas the other women know what’s going on already: ain’t no plan, girl.
Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.14.24 AMBut we’re given a look at why Winter is so dedicated to her brother. We zip back to 2015, when the brother-sister pair were having fun, trolling the “social justice warriors.” They got a message from a Pastor Charles (Rick Springfield) about Judgement House. When they arrive, he welcomes them with ominous, cryptic warnings. Inside, they find a room with a crib stained in blood, a woman saying she’s bleeding to death, plastic bags hanging from a mobile with what looks like fetuses in them. They quickly realise this is real, the blood on the woman is real. This is an Old Testament haunted house.
In another room is a withered junkie, connected to various IVs, dying. Another contains a man strapped in a chair, rigged to be killed with blades. Kai won’t leave, though. He insists on trying to help everybody out. He and Winter work trying to free them. Only she’s caught by Pastor Charles, luckily saved by her brother. So, they strap him into the chair, Kai turns the tables. And the blades cut him deep, through every past of the body. This, Winter says, is where things changed for her brother. Beverly gives her a week to try figuring something out with him.
Later, Winter goes to Kai. They talk, they get closer, discussing what is to come. He then claims she is to be the “mother” of a “messiah baby.” Then he proposes that Dt. Samuels (Colton Haynes) get her pregnant, while Kai gets him pregnant, y’know? That is some seriously fucked up shit. Also, she has to realise now that his worldview is inherently misogynistic, he views her as not his sister, not the girl he claims to love as family, but rather as a uterus, through which he’ll bear an Antichrist-like figure.
Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.20.41 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.23.36 AMDr. Rudy goes to see Ally, and she’s not having any of his shit. She knows he didn’t believe her. But he’s finally listening. He wasn’t so much involved as I thought before, as he was simply connected to Kai through blood. He tells Ally about it, as well as the fact Winter is their sister. He feels terribly, not having seen the picture clearly. She blames him for all the things the cult figured out, though he denies having given that willingly, sure Kai must’ve broken into his records. He promises to do what he can to put her lie back together.
Winter: “I cant believe I was at the Womens March three months ago
Down in the “holy space” of the basement, Kai initiates the ritual insemination. Beginning with All-4-One’s “I Swear” that has become a hymn now, consecrated for the purposes of the lovemaking about to commence. They’re all wearing robes, getting perfectly cult-ish. It’s a hilarious and disturbing scene in equal measure. More misogyny as the leader refers to his sister’s womb as a “receptacle.” After which Samuels has trouble getting an erection, and then sister gets too creeped out, feeling “raped.”
Meanwhile, Ally’s attempting to live, to keep surviving. She’s home, but that’s not really any comfort. She gets a visit from Councilman Anderson, she’s cooking, and he wonders if she has any “leftist salads.” She’s invited him over to eat, to give him information. She wants her son back in return. This is where she tells him that his brother’s trying to have him committed. Yikes, that’s desperation right there from her.
Ally: “Because a sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.”
Winter’s sentenced to do penance, putting trash back where it belongs because Kai does not believe in climate change or any of the liberal agenda. We get a bit more insight about Dt. Samuels, too. He catches Kai doing illegal shit, blackmailing him into business. This soon led to a different relationship between the two of them. The cult leader discovered a dangerous side to the cop, from Nazi collectables to anger towards women, and on top of that his preference for dudes. This gets a Kai lecture, straight out of the Proud Boys, about how women “take your power” when you have sex. DENY THEM YOUR ESSENCE, says Sterling Hayden, puffing away on a cigar (that’s a little deep cut for film lovers). Plus, Kai believes man on man action is an exponential build of power. What we’re actually seeing is the Charles Manson handbook to cult leadership: hypnotise your followers, then fuck them, male or female. Back to the present – Samuels tries to rape Winter, so she grabs his gun and puts a bullet through his brain.
At the Anderson home, Dr. Rudy and Beverly are brought before the “divine ruler.” Things are getting scarier, fast. We can see, with the brothers in contrast, Kai is totally losing grip on reality. Power is overtaking him. They play their pinky game, but he cuts his big brother’s finger off. Before stabbing him in the throat, letting him bleed out. Next up, Bev. Winter lied, claiming she didn’t kill Samuel, that it was Ms. Hope. The accused is taken to an isolation chamber.
And the cult has a new member: Ally.
Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.51.37 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.54.41 AMAnother fantastic episode in this wild seasons, a roller coaster. Definitely a lot of disturbing stuff happening here, though I’m glad it came out the way it did with Winter getting out from under those ugly moments. Can’t wait for more.
“Drink the Kool-Aid” is next week. Wonder if we’ll get any Jim Jones references aside from the title. I’d bet on it.

American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 6: “Mid-Western Assassin”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 6: “Mid-Western Assassin”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Todd Kubrak

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Holes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 12.57.46 AMAmerica for Americans,” screams Kai Anderson (Evan Peters). “We are the Wall!” his crowd chants. Then a gunshot breaks the celebration. Ivy Mayfair-Richards (Alison Pill) starts running, Harrison Wilton (Billy Eichner) telling her to go. She stops as a police presence walks onto the courtyard.
The shooter is Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson). And on the stage, Kai lies unconscious. Or dead? Oh, we’ll see.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 12.58.33 AMCut back to Ally inside her home, Meadow (Leslie Grossman) outside telling her about the cult, that even Ally’s wife is involved, her husband. This surely will make the woman’s paranoia go through the roof, as if it weren’t already. She gets a call from Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), saying that Ivy’d called him, they’re worried.
Ally goes across the street, where Harrison and Dt. Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes) are banging. She gets into the garage where Meadow’s hidden, amongst the barrels. She unties the poor wife. Only Meadow makes noise, alerting the men. They manage to get across the street to Ally’s car and speed off. They go to the Butchery, where the alarm’s going off. Why would they go there? Not that Ally’s one to think straight. Although if they go to the cops, they’ll just think she’s insane, plus there’s Dt. Samuels in the mix. So, it does make sense, I guess. And she’s also worried about Oz.
Now, Ally says: “Convince me.” She wants more proof. Meadow tells her intimate details about the cult’s plans. The trucks, that were just holding water. The dead birds, killed via poisoned feeders. All to drive people further into fear. Particularly those who don’t believe in much to begin with, because “if you already believed in something there wouldnt be room for him.” As in Kai, the all powerful cult leader.
Meadow discusses her love for him. Whereas Harrison was her friend, not a true husband, she felt Kai cared for her. He fostered her interests, made her feel special. Just like Manson did with his various women, just as many enigmatic leaders appealed to their followers throughout history. In a way, it liberated her. Of course, all liberation requires violence.
One day, however, Meadow discovered she wasn’t special, that it was all just rhetoric in order to lure her in; she witnesses Kai tell Ivy all the same things. But once you’re in with the cult, you can’t just walk back out. This made her lash out. Followed by retribution for her rebellion. Suddenly Kai ain’t so sweet and nurturing.
All this leads to her being saved when Ally showed up after she got tossed in that grave. The only way forward? Kill Kai.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 1.09.55 AMSkip to April 2017, at a city council debate. Kai’s grandstanding about the federal government, local change. Blah, blah, blah. “The boogeyman” nomenclature followed by his rant about illegals, Satanic murder, the fake news he’s been creating himself. A woman named Sally Keffler (Mare Winningham) challenges him, believing he’s, essentially, full of shit. She gives it to him in front of everybody, and quite truthfully. Afterwards, she declares a write-in candidacy for council, too. This does not bode well for her.
Sally: “People like Mr. Anderson and Trump are not the garbage, they are the flies that the garbage has drawn.”
Day after the election. Ivy meets with Winter (Billie Lourd) about their having left Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono) to a grisly fate, the bloody hand, all that. So Winter takes her to Kai. He chastises her for having done what she did, trying to prevent Gary from exercising his voting rights as a “redblooded American.” They sit down and play the pinky truth game. She admits difficult truths.
This takes us into the history of the Mayfair-Richards clan. Ally was the one to deliver Oz, to breastfeed. This drove a wedge between them, how she seemed to lord the fact of her physical motherhood over Ivy in subtle ways, the resentment because of it. Kai delves deep to the core, uncovering honesty even where it feels revolting to the teller. Thus begins the process of driving Ally insane, so that Ivy can secure custody of Oz.
Back to current affairs. Ally’s gone to the wrong person: Dr. Vincent. She’s also left Meadow there alone. Elsewhere, at home, Ms. Keffler pours a drink and relaxes, as she hears banging at her door. It’s Ally, who saw her on TV. Sally lets her in after a moment, hearing her out. They talk about the “modern day Charles Manson” corroding their city. It all sounds mental, naturally. But the woman understands how this type of thing occurs when the “patriarchys threatened.” She has very definite, intelligent ideas about men, how the gender goes horribly wrong.
But they’re fast intruded upon by the clown cult. Sally goes for her gun while Ally runs. They manage to subdue Ms. Keffler, and then Kai reveals himself. He rants against the “overeducated elites” before sitting down to her open Facebook. He posts a status in his insane worldview voice. All leading to a supposed suicide.
Kai: “Knowing stuff has no value anymore
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 1.31.48 AMWhen the suicide’s faked, they still have Ally left upstairs. She’s found by the elephant mask wearing clown. She wonders if it’s Ivy, and then she’s left alive. Oh, yes. This gives Ally the time to get back to Dr. Vincent. Except Meadow’s not there, doc says she left. Hmm. He claims there was nothing said about a cult, faking concern, as usual. She shakes him and his bullshit off.
Now we’re back at the beginning, the rally with Kai onstage. He even throws shade at Sally, for abandoning the people. What a pig. Just like his big orange papa. Ally watches nearby, she also sees Meadow in the crowd heading for the stage.
And it’s in fact Meadow who pulls the trigger on Kai. She fires on several people, as Ally pleads with her to stop, grabbing for the gun. Meadow puts a bullet in her own mouth after telling her: “This is the face of true love.”
This is how Ally’s left holding the gun in front of police, no one left to corroborate her story. Likewise, we discover it was all a twisted plan from Kai, using the love Meadow felt for him to elevate him onto a national platform. He enacts his own failed assassination using the power he holds over her.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 1.38.35 AMWow. My favourite episode of American Horror Story yet, as in out of the entire series. This just cuts to the true heart of what the title speaks to, this might be the biggest horror story of all in America, the sociopolitical landscape of the country in 2017. So much going on here. Loved Sally’s bit on the patriarchy, it’s so true, so relevant.
“Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” is next! Some people hate Lena Dunham, I don’t. If you want to argue, go somewhere else. Because I’m here for this next one. Gimme some Warhol cultish madness.

American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 5: “Holes”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 5: “Holes”
Directed by Maggie Kiley
Written by Crystal Liu

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “11/9” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Mid-Western Assassin” – click here
Pic 1Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) is reporting on the mayhem in her city, the smiley faces left on walls, a crime wave. She interviews city council candidate Kai Anderson (Evan Peters). But her boss Bob Thompson (Dermot Mulroney) says it’s “fake news” and sensationalism, not reporting. After she gets personal, he fires her, though she leverages him into maybe holding onto her job.
All together, the cult meets. Kai, Winter (Billie Lourd), Beverly, Harrison (Billy Eichner), Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes), and others. The rest don’t think things are going well enough, so Kai thinks they need to step up the fear, just like Beverly believes they need to be seen more widely.
And who else shows up? Ivy Mayfair-Richards (Alison Pill). You knew it was coming. Still a bit of a shock, after all we’ve seen. I wonder how far she’s looking to drive Ally (Sarah Paulson) mad. This is what keeps me curious: what’s her endgame?
Speaking of Ally, her phobias are getting worse. The trypophobia is near killing her. She scratched her neck bloody from visions of holes in it. Wounds open on her skin, a bug crawling out. Hideous. So, Dr. Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) attempts to talk with her, about where the fear comes from, deep rooted in her psyche. Things are just not good right now for Ally, life is falling apart all around her.
Pic 1AKai: “Because the perception of credibility leads to the perception of power
However, Ally sees, just barely, there was something lurking in Ivy. She doesn’t see the extent, but understands there was almost a plan to how her wife left. Flashback to September 2016, as the Butchery on Main isn’t panning out exactly how they’d hoped. And yet Ally was eternally optimistic while her wife clearly wasn’t happy. Signs. Doesn’t help that she had her brief encounter with Winter, either. Worse still, her and Oz aren’t as close anymore, she feels him slipping away, too.
We know all the angles, so we see the purposeful deception of Ally on the part of Ivy, Winter, the cult. And it’s all about to get heavier with their latest plans for setting America on fire from within.
Bob gets a visit at home from the clowns. They’ve decided on filming this murder. Each of them goes in on the guy when he goes for a knife. They start chanting “Ave Satanas” and prepare to kill when he tells them: “I have a gimp in the attic.” They find a man suspended by hooks from the ceiling. The others debate on what to do with the gimp. Kai just kills him. Because the cult is not a democracy. After all that they take Bob upstairs and finish him off, to instil fear in the public by way of a fake Satanic ritual murder. Y’know, the stuff the media and its mindless audience will devour. Proof of America’s further decline. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Cut to Beverly, innocently reporting on the news of her boss’ murder, showing footage she was supposedly sent anonymously of his death. Ooh, girl. You bad. Later, she and Kai meet at the Butchery. He laments everyone else and their questions, believing she’s his best disciple.
Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.14.18 AMFlashback to when the cult were setting up for the couple’s murder, the two white coffins. It’s methodical, like any other group working on a project. We also see Meadow (Leslie Grossman), who’s still… missing. Before the latest work of the cult. Right now, we see Meadow having issues with the disturbing nature of the work, and others, as well. This is why Kai and Beverly decide they must cut out the weak in their ranks.
We now see Ally, watching Harrison’s place. She sees him with a shovel, dragging something out through the garage towards the backyard, those barrels briefly visible. Then she spies Harrison in the window, kissing Dt. Samuels. Her curiosity sends her across the street, foolishly. She goes out back and a hole dug with a semi-conscious Meadow inside nearly knocks her off her feet. Instead of helping, she runs back home. But even if she calls the cops, won’t her story sound absolutely insane? A grave in her neighbour’s yard, his wife in it, a cop in cahoots with him making out in the living room? Instead, she calls Ivy. Yeah, great. Not that her wife believes any of it until there’s loud knocking at the door. It’s Meadow, pleading for help. Someone quickly snags her with a bag over her head. On the other end, Ivy’s with the rest of the cult, as Harrison and Dt. Samuels show up. Hmm, no Meadow, though.
And Kai, he’s worried about dissent in their cult. He gets lively, as cult leaders so often do, instilling his own fear in the pupils beneath him. Therefore, he decides they’ve got to solve one of their problems. This means killing one of their members, R.J. Who must do the deed? Their leader wants Ivy to use the nail gun, to finish their former friend off. As is the case today, an issue seems inherently two-sided, no room for any middle ground, which Kai exploits in order to get what he wants.
Thus we’re given possibly the single most savage death in American Horror Story‘s seven seasons. Yowzahs. Everyone takes a turn on the gun until the guy’s brain dead, bleeding and drooling until Kai has a lick of his wounds, then finishes him off. Quoting Hamlet all the while.
Kai: “Are you with us, or are you against us and all that we stand for?”
Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.32.01 AMBeverly and Kai play the pinky truth game. She asks about his parents, if he killed them, where they are; he doesn’t talk about that. She wants truth. He says they died three years prior. In 2014, his dad was in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident, becoming an angrier man all the time. He hated his son, his life, his wife. This sent him to The Red Pill, other similar places. Where hideous men are trained, these days. One night, he hears a gunshot, another, finding his mother shooting dad before taking her life.
Afterwards, he called his brother: Rudy Vincent. Oh, shit. They decide on not calling the cops, but taking care of things at home. It’s all about the government, the Death Tax, Rudy’s burgeoning practice. They make a pact, to deal with it themselves. This is where the pinky game emerged in Kai’s consciousness. What do the brothers do? They pour lye over the bodies, leaving them in bed to decompose in an amateur mausoleum.
Kai informs his sister Winter later about what happened. This is the start of something insane. All sorts of beginnings for Kai, his warped psyche. America isn’t safe, not with guys like that around.
Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.37.17 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.38.44 AMWhat an episode! This is my favourite, so far. Loving this season personally. One of the best, if not THE best to date. Just my opinion. The writing touches on so many different things wrapped up in the sociopolitical spectrum of where America’s at right now. Great, timely stuff.
“Mid-Western Assassin” is next week.

American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 1: “Election Night”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 1: “Election Night”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a recap & review of Season 6 My Roanoke Nightmare episodes, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” – click here
Pic 1We start with clips of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump leading up to the U.S. Election 2016. Including violent events at rallies and protests, clips of the Donald talking about his wall, the Rust Belt, and Hillary fighting back.
Cut to Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) praying in front of the television as the election’s being announced: “The revolution has begun.” He chants USA happily, his hair died blue like part of the American flag, humping the TV. Across town are Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) and her friends, she literally weeps as the announcement is made while her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) consoles her.
We can tell already just by Kai’s dungeon-like basement, his near worship of the events transpiring, he’s going to be trouble. Afterwards, he blends up a load of cheesies and impersonates his hero in the mirror, complete with the little finger symbol.
And what is wrong with CNN for not giving us a trigger warning before they announce the results. I just, I dont know whats real anymore. She was supposed to win.”
Satire of both left and right is alive and well! Can’t fault Ryan Murphy & Co. for being one-sided, already giving it hard to the liberals, too. We see Winter Anderson (Billie Lourd) lamenting the election results. Kai shows up, Cheeto-faced and Trumpified. Perhaps he’s not so much a Trump fan as he is an anarchist, seeing this new Trumpmerica as an opportunity, to further instil fear in those who are now living afraid in the era of the Orange Menace. We’ll see.
Pic 1AOh, a callback to Season 4 Freak Show! Two people hump out near the lake. They joke about Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch). All of a sudden he shows up. Of course the guy pulls a gun, putting a bullet into the clown. Nothing works. Then, Twisty has his murderous fun, killing the guy, chasing the girl. Soon, he’s back at his old bus, the place is a little grown over with weeds, but still the same ole shack.
But it’s only a comic book. Twisty’s a pop culture icon, y’know. Ivy and Ally’s little boy is reading the comic when he’s meant to be sleeping. When Ally catches him, seeing the clown on the cover, it triggers a near panic attack, anxiety flaring and sending her into fits. Because she coulrophobia, an irrational fear of clowns. You can see where this is headed; a terrifying place for her. Lucky she has an understanding partner who cares for and loves her.
We see Kai dolled up a bit, speaking in front of a group about “fear” and references everything from Trump Tower to rap music in his speech about “freedom of movement” and “fear as currency.” Then this leads into his not wanting more cops, certainly not those needing overtime to watch a Jewish community centre. He’s most certainly an anarchist.
Kai is, essentially, a boiled down version of many far-right bros, believing Trump (and people he’s given legitimacy to, such as Steve Bannon) has given them a green light to create a world of chaos in America, so that when fear reigns people will come running for the supposed strong to protect them, relinquishing rights and whatever else is needed. More than anything Kai is starting to represent the wounded male ego, epitomised in one mad, violent young man.
Kai: “Theres nothing more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man
At her doctor’s office, Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), Ally talks about her phobias. How since the election, that fateful night, everything’s feeling shit, amplified in its awfulness. The world and everything in it is terrible. She also comes from the worldview of a lesbian, speaking of Obama and, for the first time, feeling a part of the American conversation. Vincent prescribes something many of us could all use: anxiety medication and less social media. Truly, though, Ally is symbolic of many people in America who’ve been having a terrible time since Trump won.
Pic 2The dreadfulness of the atmosphere in this season is already palpable. Poor Ally goes to the grocery store, experiencing multiple assaults on her senses. From loud music, creepy people in masks, humping clowns in the aisles. Through the prism of her phobias, we see her general fear of masks, of being unable to see the face of others; a parallel to the idea of her not knowing who may be a Trump supporter, who may oppose her very existence as a lesbian, so on. Later, with Ivy, it’s also a view on how many personal relationships, in various ways, have been altered by the state of America and how the election has divided people.
Also, an idea – Paulson’s character, in a sense, illustrates how many people often won’t people marginalised voices. Yes, she has phobias, many of which are irrational. However, as is sadly the case with LGBTQ voices, black voices and other voices from POC, the Indigenous communites(etc), their fears aren’t always considered.
Now we see the first interaction between Kai and the couple of Ally and Ivy. He tosses coffee on them, most likely on purpose. I wonder, has he been watching her already? Or is that coming next? Well, we already see Winter applying for a position with the couple as a nanny for their boy, worming her way in as the pro-Hillary supporter, the type of person they’d love to have around. Inside access. We cut between her interview and an honesty session with Kai. Ominous.
Out on the street Kai sees a bunch of Mexicans. He pisses in a condom, singing like a racist, then tosses it like a water balloon telling them they’re “not welcome.” While someone records in the background Kai lets the Mexican guys beat the shit out of him. Ah, the ole Breitbart-style journalism! Meanwhile, Winter’s also working on the couple’s kid, showing him creepy shit on the dark web. Like dead bodies.
Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 1.23.33 AMPoor ole Ally continues falling apart, Ivy doing her best to not go insane right along with her. It’s a tragic situation, because partly there’s some genuine mental illness happening, also because she’s spending too much time obsessing. And another part is that it’s understandable, especially as a lesbian, worrying what Pence and Trump will do to her life, her family’s life. There’s genuine concern underneath the obsession.
On the street outside the Mayfair-Richards place an ice cream truck shows up. From out of the back come several clowns, men and women. The same group who were at the grocery store. Welcome to the neighbourhood, Bozo!
When Ally and Ivy arrive the street’s blocked with cops and all sorts of flashing lots, tape blocking the road. A murder at a house nearby. Worst part is that the kid saw the clowns, now nobody else does, so this is going to look to Ivy as if Ally’s influencing their boy negatively with her phobia. Could cause a further divide in the married couple.
Doesn’t help that Winter took the kid over to the house, where he witnessed the murder of the people inside. One of whom happens to be the guy at the municipal council meeting that embarrassed Kai. Yikes. Problem being that Winter negates the story, furthering the tension and pushing the couple farther from the truth.
And Ally, she’ll never escape those clowns. Not even in her own bed.
Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 1.29.28 AMScreen Shot 2017-09-06 at 1.39.59 AMI don’t give a shit, I love this series. Cult comes out of the gate swinging, not afraid to jab at the left and right of the political spectrum. People will automatically assume this is a Trump hatefest. And sure, part of it is, or at least it’s attempting to show the real world division in America through the lens of the horror genre. I’m excited to see more, because it’s bound to get very fucked up. Judging by the premiere, anyways.
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is next week. Buckle up, snowflakes and deplorables.

JACKALS Shows Us the Meaning of Family

Jackals. 2017. Directed by Kevin Greutert. Screenplay by Jared Rivet.
Starring Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, Nick Roux, Alyssa Julya Smith, Chelsea Ricketts, Jason Scott Jenkins, Ben Sullivan, Alex Kingi, Cassie Hernandez, Alex Castillo, & Carol Abney.
Tommy Alastra Productions
Not Rated. 85 minutes.

COVERAlthough Kevin Greutert didn’t sit in the director’s chair until 2009 when he directed Saw VI, he’s old hand in the industry, working in the editorial department as far back as Ernest Scared Stupid; he did uncredited work on big budget features like Titanic and Armageddon. So it’s nice to see his name as director on a couple recent films that are top notch horror.
Such as his latest, Jackals: a brutal horror-thriller centred on a family with deep, divisive issues, one of whom has been lured into a cult. The action begins as the family, along with a hardened cult deprogrammer take their son forcibly to a cabin in order to save him from the grip of these mysterious people. Only the cult’s got different ideas.
This is easily Greutert’s best work. Due in no small part to the morbidly exciting screenplay from Jared Rivet in his feature film debut as writer, giving us a story that doesn’t need twists and turns to be scary or wild. Together, Greutert and Rivet craft a very human, devastating movie that will eat at the heart of anyone with even half of one.
Jackals 1I dig that the film takes place in mid-1983, yet it isn’t a forced period piece. Sometimes the throwback ’80s film works, though often enough in horror it feels too much of a choice rather than a natural progression. Jackals feels at home in the ’80s because of the Satanic panic craze that swept America, the era of repressed memory therapy when far too many doctors messed up their patients by planting memories rather than digging them up. An era of confused people searching for meaning.
The son, Justin (Ben Sullivan), is terribly lost. A creepy cult’s wrapped him up with their rhetoric of madness. Scariest of all it’s not just community, it’s family the cult has provided him. Paralleled with the family he feels cast out by, in various ways, from his secretively adulterous dad Andrew (Johnathon Schaech) to his sort of alcoholic mother Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger), and most of all his psychologically abusive brother Campbell (Nick Roux).
The film’s greatest strength, on top of its bleak horror, is its examination of what makes up a family, as well as how dangerous things can happen when a family doesn’t perform its proper function. While the individual’s responsible for themselves ultimately, a family constructs the foundation of their actions and emotions. What seems like years of inattention has led Justin to feel abandoned by his natural family, causing him to seek out family in the arms of the psychotic cult.
Everything in the plot forces the broken family to either mend, or die; if there’s even an option. They’re all trying to do what they couldn’t before, save Justin. And through it all they try finding redemption, if they can bring themselves to do whatever must be done. Whether that happens you have to watch and see for yourself.
Jackals 2There’s a great moment when the family, between in-fighting, are left wondering how Justin could’ve fallen in with such violent types of people. Dear ole mom knows: “Hes a young man. Young men need to find their, drive.” Unfortunately, this drive doesn’t always wind up positive. Like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy – may as well toss Jim Jones in while were discussing cults – Justin’s drive became murder and other psychopathy.
Going along with that there are moments in Jackals which scream, or should I say howl the influence of Charles Manson. Specifically, Justin feels much like one of the Manson family’s male followers, wide-eyed, spouting insane shit. Plus the fact they call it a family specifically, at least Justin does. And that’s a concept of cults very specific to the infamous leader. Then, the howling. He howls like a wild animal, something very Manson-esque. More than that he calls his family “piggies” and that’s straight up Charlie.
Spooky moments are plenty throughout. A solid start opens the film on a POV shot of a guy murdering his family, putting on a jackal mask to join his cult friends. Then there’s the howl from Justin, returned by his family outside sounding just like a pack of animals; maybe the creepiest of all. However, there’s one kill in particular which takes the cake involving a super meticulous burning, a slow, painful death, and it’s… cruel, no other word for it. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get the job done! That’s what we’re here for, right?
Jackals 3With a grim end, void of any hope, Greutert’s Jackals cements itself as one of the best horrors of 2017. Unsettling cult members + weird masks? Check. Vicious violence? Cheeeeck. Add to that good characters with genuine depth, solid writing bringing them out through dialogue that doesn’t clunk through each scene like too many horror flicks out there, and with the tension Greutert creates it’s a nasty piece of work.
This is a grounded view of cults, their brainwashing, the later process of trying to deprogram someone from outrageous, dangerous, indoctrinated thought. There are emotional roots in the story, which make the terrifying events later all the more impressively scary. So much tension, never lets go.
Is a family only those with whom we share blood? Can others become the family a person needs or wants? People find their own families, no matter how brutal, no matter at what expense. Even if they have to violently leave their natural family behind.

You’ve Got Horror for Days? THE VOID’s Got Cosmic Dread for Weeks

The Void. 2017. Directed and Written by Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski.
Starring Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Won, Mik Byskov, Art Hindle, Stephanie Belding, James Millington, Evan Stern, & Grace Munro.
Cave Painting Pictures/JoBro Productions & Film Finance
Rated R. 90 minutes.

POSTEREveryone goes on and on about how this movie’s influenced by The Thing, which I’m sure is definitely true. I’d argue it’s more Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness than any of the master’s works. Others go on that it’s Lovecraftian, though I don’t agree totally; the filmmakers say it was their influence, and that’s fine. As I often preach, artistic intent doesn’t always have to equal concrete meaning to the audience.
Most of all, this is an original bit of sci-fi-ish horror on its own. Sure, it draws bits of heart from films co-writers Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski likely grew up watching. It throws back to the 1980s. To give their influences too much credit is to do a disservice to their horrific originality.
Many movies post-2010 seem to feel like throwback means an ’80s-type electronic score and a dark yet vibrant look. The Void has a wicked score, the sound is perfect. Best is the fact the team behind the film went with expert practical effects for the various creatures and abominations. Add these technical aspects to solid performances from one of my latest genre favourites Aaron Poole, as well as the great Kenneth Welsh (Windom Earle from Twin Peaks). This makes for one fine ride into the heart of darkness.
TheVoid1The Lovecraftian influence, the Carpenter roots, they’re fine. Gillespie and Kostanski are what matters. Their story, particularly how it’s told, works wonders on the suspense and tension which builds so dreadfully over the course of the first third of the film. Their directorial work is startling, with grim delight. We start out with an act of violence that’s inexplicable; at the time. From there, the writing-directing team unravel a tale of a cult offering sacrifices to an otherworldly entity called from the cosmos.
Production design on this one all around is fantastic. The location of the hospital is like they found a facility in the middle of nowhere, cultivating a mood all of its own. In addition, the costumes for the cult add to that atmosphere by sort of crashing down on top of the audience. When we first see them it’s a shocking moment, oh so excellent.
Not to mention the cinematography of Samy Inayeh (The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh; another great flick with Poole starring) makes everything feel hazy, terrifying, like a feverish nightmare even before the descent into utter madness and hell. The visual style is most definitely part of what gives it a throwback feel. The biggest part of that essence is the practical effects work, up there with some of the best in the genre.
TheVoid2Kostanski has an extensive background in makeup effects. He’s doing stuff on the new It, he worked on ClownGirlHouseHannibal, and even worked as an uncredited prosthetics shop assistant for 2005’s Capote. Point being, he knows his shit. He uses his chops here, alongside Gillespie, whose resume is as impressive having worked on It and Suicide Squad as assistant art director (both of which his co-director and writer worked on). He was a graphic designer on Hannibal, too. He served as assistant art director on Atom Egoyan’s The Captive, and the underrated found footage 388 Arletta Avenue is his first art directing credit. These two artists together did something on this film which amazes, in the best horror kind of way.
The creatures involved in the descent to hell, as the characters of The Void explore the hospital basement, are totally wild! Some of the best stuff out there, truly. I can see why The Thing is used as comparison. Particularly when it comes to the final monster we witness birthed; like a combination of pieces of living things. A vicious finale creation. That isn’t it, though. Throughout the movie we see various creatures, and you can’t forget the other practical effects like the blood, et cetera. That seemingly simple stuff can often get lost in the shuffle for other, lesser horrors. Not these guys. The attention to detail is what drives this whole effort home.
TheVoid3Above anything else, the end and what the film builds to from the start is the payoff. I won’t spoil it. Just to say that I love the vision these guys brought to the visuals. There’s something wholly original in the way they presented the other world, where Dr. Powell (Welsh) intends on going. Those last shots are perfection, impressing upon us without words the tiny speck that is humanity on the entirety of the universe. Gorgeous, if not also disturbing.
I gave this film a 4 and 1/2 star rating (out of 5) because The Void does what two other similar movies, Baskin and Last Shift, didn’t do despite their awesomeness: it shows us an end result. What I mean is that those other two films, kick ass as they are, sort of end in a place where there’s ultimately no traction. Not saying nothing happens, if you check my reviews of them both I’m actually a huge fan (I’ve seen Baskin at least a dozen times).
The Void goes a step further, not only in its inventiveness and practical effects monster work, it also opts to go full-on cosmic. In this way, I concede that they touch on Lovecraft and his rightful idea about man’s insignificance to other much greater, larger, non-human entities out there in the universe; gods, if you will.
Again, I don’t like to lean so heavily only on influence. Gillespie and Kostanski deserve what’s due – praise, for a breathtaking wave of pure terror, start to finish. They’ll live on with this film, though I cannot wait to see their next project. These guys are the real fucking deal.

The Path – Season 2, Episode 13: “Mercy”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 2, Episode 13: “Mercy”
Directed by Jessica Goldberg
Written by Jessica Goldberg

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Spiritus Mundi” – click here
Pic 1Here we are: the final episode of The Path‘s Season 2! What a ride it’s been, I do hope that we’re getting another season. But first, let’s see where this one ends.
Last we saw, Richard (Clark Middleton) was about to set himself and the compound, specifically the archives room where all the unburdening tapes – the blackmail weapons – are kept.
Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) and Eddie (Aaron Paul) are together with their daughter. They’re living a different life, out in the real world, in a seaside Canadian town. “Are we safe now?” Summer (Aimee Laurence) asks.
Is this a vision of the future, a life beyond Meyerism and its cult for the Lanes? Or are we seeing a dream? It looks like reality. We then see Cal (Hugh Dancy) go back to his little room with Mary (Emma Greenwell) and their newborn baby. It looks as if the Lanes finally made it out, all of them – well, aside from Hawk (Kyle Allen) it seems.
Everyone else is moving on, three weeks after the birth of Emma’s child. The events of the previous episode set off a series of repercussions that everyone’s still learning how to deal with, still understanding. Sarah’s confused; her daughter wants her parents back together, but mom isn’t entirely sure. The entire web of relationships is fractured, possibly beyond repair. Sarah tries justifying what she did with the blackmail, yet also harbours deep guilt over Richard’s death.
Pic 1AThe Meyerists continue trying to move past Richard’s death, the fire. They all lay cacti and plants at the site, a sort of ceremony. Meanwhile, Hank and Gab (Peter Friedman/Deirdre O’Connell) wonder how things will continue, as Bill and a reluctant though present Felicia (Brian Stokes Mitchell/Adriane Lenox) assure them – Cal is “good for the movement.” Right. The fearless leader’s too busy licking his wounds over Sarah that it’s a wonder he can concentrate at all. Between that and having a lovechild with Mary, one everyone’s gossiping about behind their backs.
It’s nice to finally see Eddie, Sarah, and Summer living a normal life away from the compound; too bad Hawk’s brainwashed. The three walk on the beach, they spend time in the open air without having to do any creepy, weird shit. They’re an actual family again, bound by themselves instead of some cult nonsense. More than that it’s clear Sarah’s never actually fallen out of love with her estranged husband.
On the street, Eddie runs into Abe (Rockmond Dunbar). He’s not happy that his case essentially up and ran away. He came to see Eddie, to “bring him back” to his people. Whatever that means.
Pic 2At the centre, Hawk gets an envelope from his mother reading DO SOMETHING WITH IT – the results from the Clarkesville water tests. Hmm. There’s something bigger, more major coming with that whole plotline. I’m just curious to see where Hawk takes it, and whether it changes him.
Abe drops Eddie home. Following nearby is Russel (Patch Darragh), too. Inside are the former Deniers, all meeting to figure out what’s their next step. Eddie tells them about his visions, how it isn’t clear. It’s not about seeing the finish line; he’s on a journey, like the rest of them. “I dont know if Im the one,” he tells them. He’s unsure, even with the blessing of Steve Meyers (Keir Dullea). Nevertheless there are people who now count on him, who BELIEVE in him. Of course Russel brings information back to Cal – Sam Field isn’t who he said he is, he’s been in league with Eddie. And he tells Cal of the Deniers, their hope to reform Meyerism. That doesn’t sit well, either.
Cal’s fragile psychological state is scary. When he goes home to Mary she’s asking questions about Eddie. This further reveals that Cal believes “people don’t know what they want.” He has contempt for others. But Mary’s smarter than he understands. She tells him: “You are what we want.” And she suggests something must be… done… with Eddie. So the two have a chat when Cal shows up down at the Deniers HQ. He acts quite threatening, as well as too sure of himself, full of ego. None of his behaviour will drive Eddie away, though. Unless it comes down to Sarah.
Pic 3Speaking of her, she’s out experiencing the world, dinner at a friend’s place. Then comes the questions of where she came from. Why nobody can Google her. So on. Sarah gets paranoid, so she and her daughter sneak out the bathroom window and run. They head to their house, grab a few things, and they take off. An intense scene, with a pounding score.
Hawk walks in to find Eddie, Cal, and Libby Dukaan. Troubling, not to mention the fact his father appears not as enraged or defiant as normal. A little later Cal talks about Eddie, saying he’s willing to drop all he believes in to help Sarah; funny, as this shows that Cal cares most about the movement and himself. Sadly, Mary can’t see that, not yet. Although she’s full of spite enough to try and twist things up for the father of her child; the identity of whom she reveals to Hawk, in order to stir up some trouble.
Sarah heads for the border with Summer, determined on doing the “right thing” so that her daughter can be proud of her. Will she turn herself in? Is that actually her plan? Meanwhile, Hawk goes to see his dad. He discovers the truth of Eddie as Steve’s chosen one to lead the movement. He also finds out that his dad got Libby to pay back the people Sarah blackmailed. But this also means there’s nothing going ahead with the water tests. Eddie further believes he isn’t the one to lead. Through it all, Hawk, the one who was so brainwashed, falling away from his dad, may be the one to convince him.

A great sequence cuts parallel between Eddie preaching about mercy and Cal practising a speech about loss. What we see is how Cal has to rehearse his movements, whereas the compassion for others, the speech, it all comes easy to Eddie; like a natural extension of himself. This is THE GREATEST SEQUENCE OF THE SERIES! Hands down. And all the while as we visually comprehend the differences between the opposing leaders, Sarah wanders a rock maze, trying to rediscover her own way on the path. Just amazing filmmaking here in this scene, from writing to editing to score.
One good thing, I suppose, is that Cal comes into his own as the father of Mary’s child. They name him Forest Roberts, due to his being born in the wilderness.
Sarah confronts Eddie about his choice to reverse the blackmail. He assures her that her life “will be hell” and she won’t need to look for punishment, not from the law or anywhere else. For once, she’s now the one who wants to walk away and have a family, away from a cult. She doesn’t want him to “go back inside.” She worries it’ll wash away what’s good about him.

At the compound, Ascension Day is underway. Sarah walks into the midst of the celebration, as Cal preaches his rehearsed speech. Everyone eats it up, too. They love it and him. They sing songs of Meyerism, acting like a big, happy family. Then they’re distracted by a noise from out at the gate. The Deniers have come, Eddie leading the crowd. Hank even lets them in willingly.
What a stunning moment! Some greet Eddie, others leave. Perfectly Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place” plays in the background. Soon, people walk from out behind Cal, joining the rightful Guardian of the Light. A change is coming. Just a case of who, and what, is left standing when all is said and done.
Pic 6Pic 6AI LOVED THIS FINALE! Even better than the Season 1 finale, as well. Spectacular work, especially now as we sit on the edge, waiting to see how Cal moves forward – no doubt treachery and violence are on his path – and how Eddie handles the movement, plus I can’t wait to see what Sarah chooses as her own personal way forward.
Hulu: renew this, or feel my wrath.