David Bruckner's THE RITUAL confronts issues of past v. present by way of a pagan death god. Cool, right?
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 5: “Say the Word”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang
* For a review of the previous episode, “Killer Within” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Hounded” – click here
We start by seeing The Governor (David Morrissey) with a small girl, a walker. Her name is Penny. He’s obviously caring for his daughter even after death has come for her, then brought her back. It is a creepy, unsettling sight. Then, from his window, he sees Michonne (Danai Gurira). She is always watching now, waiting. She knows something is rotten in the town of Woodbury.
Over at the prison, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is having a tough time dealing with the loss of his wife. Carl (Chandler Riggs) handles it like a tough young man. Everyone else is trying to help the new baby. Hershel (Scott Wilson) says they need baby formula soon, so Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) agree to go on a run. Glenn (Steven Yeun) tries his best to take charge.
But Rick goes back inside the prison on a warpath, chopping down zombie after zombie. He is loosening at the seams, no doubt. And who wouldn’t be at that point?
The Governor’s busy not worrying much about other things in the new post-apocalypse life. He toasts his town on the doorstep, reminiscing on times of “Spam and saltine crackers“. Upstairs, though, Michonne slips into his apartment to get her samurai sword back. She finds a book with a bunch of names marked down. The final one? Penny, underlined. Followed by pages of small ink strokes. By the hundreds. She has to hide away before slipping out of the apartment as Merle (Michael Rooker), Milton (Dallas Roberts) and The Governor come in to grab a few supplies. Seems there’s a big party of some sort planned for that night, although Milton isn’t impressed; his experiments need power these little shindigs are leeching.
We see Michonne out investigating other areas of Woodbury. She finds a big cage locked up and full of walkers. Letting them out, one by one they fall by her sword. A bad motherfucker. This puts her in trouble with The Governor, as he scolds her for “poking around other peoples‘ things“. Their moments get tense after she brings up Penny, nearly stopping his heart cold. Only that leadership attitude and demeanour comes out, he fawns like some zombie apocalypse Ronald Reagan, smiling for the cameras and doing quite another thing behind closed doors. Maybe even more like a Nixon. Or any number of nasty U.S. Presidents. Either way, he is a politician. Just a different kind in the new wasteland. He and Michonne have their confrontation, which puts strain not only on her whole existence but also her friendship with Andrea (Laurie Holden), who still remains consistently blind to what The Governor is underneath it all.
Digging graves, Glenn is busy working. He and Hershel mourn the life of T-Dog. They also worry for Maggie sharing a beautiful moment together, embracing hands through the prison yard’s fence. It is sad to see them always having to lose someone. The new life of the wasteland is unfair and cruel.
Andrea and The Governor are having a few words now. She doesn’t necessarily see eye to eye with the man, but there is a part of her which doesn’t fully trust Michonne either. Even though Andrea owes her life to that woman, for saving her among the vast loneliness of the forest. Michonne knows there is something else behind the facade of Woodbury, and Andrea won’t simply leave. She says “I think we need this“. “This place is not what they say it is,” replies Michonne.
In the tomb-like tunnels of the prison Glenn searches for Rick. Only walker bodies lay strewn along the floor. He finds Rick standing in the dark, bloody axe by his side. Blood everywhere. Rick looks terrifying. Glenn tries talking to him, reasoning, to save the man from any further grief. But when Glenn touches his arm Rick loses it for a second and throws him against a wall. Actually frightened me for a second. He tosses Glenn aside before heading back into the dark hallway nearby.
Merle has Milton out hunting for new walker specimens. They take one down, then start pulling out its teeth. What’s the deal here? Are these just for experiments, or what were all those “captive biters” for earlier – the ones Michonne found?
On the road, Maggie and Daryl find a nursery with some supplies: bottles, diapers, all sorts of things. Even a possum for dinner.
In Woodbury, we watch as Michonne and Andrea begin to leave. Only they aren’t on the same page. Then there’s Merle trying to sweet talk them into staying. Andrea says she’s tired, she doesn’t want to go out on the run surviving like they did. Their dream once upon a time was “a refuge”, but Michonne knows there are hideous things lurking beyond the periphery there in that makeshift town. The Governor is a dangerous man. Michonne leaves saying “You‘d just slow me down anyway“.
When Daryl and Maggie return to the prison they bring formula, which calms the baby down. He even cradles the child, feeding her. Carl suggests naming her Sophia, maybe Andrea, Jacqui, Patricia. Only Daryl suggests “Lil‘ Ass Kicker” sounds better.
At the same time Rick is down in the spot where Lori died. His mind is unraveling. He finds a a walker, shoves his gun in its mouth and pulls the trigger. It’s a real visceral, nasty kill.
Finally, some of the dirty undercurrent of Woodbury comes out when The Governor takes Andrea to a large arena style show they’ve got going on. Music is playing, fire blazes and everyone is sitting in stands clapping, yelling. Then the lights come up on several chained walkers. Out comes Cesar Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Merle Dixon. They’re fighting, surrounded by the zombies. In the stands a man hoists his little boy up on his shoulders to watch the show. Merle and Cesar square off in the ring looking like they’re having the time of their lives. When Andrea is sickened by the spectacle The Governor says it’s how they “blow off steam” in Woodbury. He reveals it’s all staged – that is what the teeth pulling earlier was, as if ‘sports entertainment’ is a required part of their camp. Maybe it is, but the whole thing seems a tad morbid to me.
In the boiler room where Rick sits by the dead walker he brutalized, a phone begins to ring. It’s sitting nearby and Rick goes to it, confused. “Hello?” he answers, as the episode cuts to black.
Interesting development. Next up is “Hounded” where we’ll see Michonne more, as well as the new state of mind in which Rick finds himself.
Southbound. 2015. Directors: Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath & Radio Silence. Screenplay by Roxanne Benjamin, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Susan Burke, Dallas Richard Hallam & Patrick Horvath.
Starring Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Kristina Pesic, Fabianne Therese, Nathalie Love, Hannah Marks, Dana Gould, Anessa Ramsey, Susan Burke, Davey Johnson, Mather Zickel, Karla Droege, Zoe Cooper, Justin Welborn, David Yow, Tipper Newton, Matt Peters, Maria Olsen, Tyler Tuione, & Kate Beahan. Willowbrook Regent Films.
Rated 18A. 89 minutes.
Anthology films, especially those of the horror variety, can either end up being extraordinary, or very mediocre. The V/H/S films (sharing several of the same producers as this film), in my opinion, are pretty damn good; for the most part. Some thought they were a mixed bag. I actually loved the third one, Viral, most of all, even though so many thought it was terrible. Either way, there’s always a gamble inherent in putting different stories, no matter their genre, together into one whole anthology. You can divide people easily that way.
But fans of The Twilight Zone and other similar horror/science fiction might appreciate Southbound in the same sense I did. There really is something for everyone. That is, for everyone interested in the dark, macabre corners of the imagination. I’ve seen reviews dubbing this as a mixed bag. Not sure how they felt that way, but it’s all subjective. Me? I found myself dropping jaw several times, loving each scene and simultaneously wanting the current segment to end just so I could see what would happen next. As a lover of both horror and science fiction, the cross between the two genres is subtle, though, it is clearly evident. Maybe it’s not even science fiction, but rather a supernatural aspect. Either way it’s got that Twilight Zone vibe, as I said, and in a way that does not come off as a copy of anything from the series or movie. I’m not even sure if the filmmakers even intended to make this feel that way. Yet it has an amazing sense of homage without ever really trying to reference The Twilight Zone or any other films in particular. Mostly, the directors and writers come together to present us with one of the best anthology movies out there. Period.
Instead of attempting to briefly describe any plots, I’ll forego the usual format. Instead I want to focus on the impressive elements of each segment, without spoiling anything too much, or if possible at all.
“The Way Out” has an excellent monster, or whatever you want to call it. Super neat! Unique, too. Not saying there’s never been a drawing like it before, probably there has been. But as far as horror movies, even science fiction go, I’ve not seen a creepy creature like this in a long time. It’s part skeleton, part demon-ghost, part smog. Definitely a fun addition, and one that looks unsettling, especially when it stands (floats?) off in the distance like some supernatural Michael Myers waiting at the end of the street.
Overall, I dig the opener. It is an eerie sci-fi romp with bits of horror. Plus, I like that we’re not given a ton of exposition here to try and explain all we’re seeing. It fits and works perfectly for an anthology film with a bunch of shorts together, as you get just enough then walk away wondering: what sort of place is this? Added to that, it’s a killer way to start off an anthology. Really throws you off balance, in a proper way.
Second short – “Siren” – isn’t overly unique, nor are there any impressive effects really. That being said, I dig the relationship between the female characters at the center of the plot. And I also think less is more, in certain cases. Again, like how the first introduced some interesting things then left them fairly open, this one gives us a taste of the main characters and their lives, who they are, but it’s only a slice. We don’t get everything, and it’s one of the big reasons why I thought, despite its shortcomings, this segment works so well. There is a lot of creepiness happening and the build up to the reveal of what’s going on is definitely tense, at times darkly comic, as well as the fact we get Dana Gould playing a super weird dude.
Then there’s the connection between each short. Everything happens out on the highway, a desolate stretch of road where it seems nothing but terror happens. I especially like how the second and third connect, as it involves one of the women from the second in an absolutely mortifying sense. The writing in most of these segments is pretty fun and dark as hell.
In this third one, “The Accident”, there is some truly gory, gruesome work in the practical effects department, and I am ALWAYS a sucker for well executed blood in a horror. Although I found the second segment lacking in awesome effects, going more for lackluster work, this one makes up for that big time. “The Accident”, for me, is most similar to the vein of many great Twilight Zone episodes, and the movie, as well. It has a truly unsettling vibe from beginning to end. And who doesn’t find abandoned hospitals a creep-out?
“Jailbreak” gets really out there, too. If the point of being in Hell hasn’t come across strong enough yet, boy, oh boy – does director Patrick Horvath ever hammer it home in this short! Horvath and Dallas Hallam wrote this, and they directed/wrote the fascinating slow burn Entrance from 2011; a movie that, to this day, has not yet washed off me. Here, though, there’s a much more wild, supernatural, nasty angle to the story they tell. I won’t spoil it because there are a couple truly WTF moments you need to see going in blind. On top of everything else, the practical effects in this segment are outrageous; in the best fucking way.
My favourite out of this anthology is the final segment, “The Way In”. Above all else, the way this connects to the other segments is absolutely spectacular. Truly, it is wonderful and dark and weird. I wasn’t expecting this finisher to connect everything so perfectly, as if cauterizing the plot and its various threads. The build up in this segment I enjoyed incredibly, which then devolves into madness after everything breaks. Finally, it’s the very last few moments that reconnect the beginning and end of the entire anthology. I can’t say too much about this one, for fear of spoilers. I will say this – the beginning of this short lulls us into a real everyday type of crime feel, as if we’re about to see a typical thriller that we’ve seen a hundred times, and from there propels us through a vicious, quick and adrenaline-fueled segment which caps things off with the right touch.
Absolutely a 4.5 star film. Like I said: a favourite anthology of mine. This will be going up on the Blu ray shelf once it’s out, but for now you can snatch it up via iTunes. There’s really a lot of good stuff here and anybody who says it’s uneven may just not be into the style of this entire movie. Everything connects so well, as if a tiny thread runs through every segment to tie it all up, sewn nicely and stitched at the seams. Hopefully the team behind Southbound and V/H/S continue to do these anthologies, as I feel they’re really getting better at them all the time. Plus, different directors and writers come in, so the blood is fresh. This one contains a good deal of talent, heaps of the damn stuff.
Southbound, and movies like it, are the reason why I adore genre films.