Frontier – Season 2, Episode 1: “Dead Reckoning”

Discovery’s Frontier
Season 2, Episode 1: “Dead Reckoning
Directed by Brad Peyton
Written by Sherry White

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “The Gallows” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, click here.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 2.43.54 PMWe start in the Northern Territories, shot in my beautiful home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. On a snowy hilltop is Declan Harp (Jason Momoa), bloodied, injured. Someone comes upon him, an old friend, Jean-Marc Rivard (Paul Fauteux). He sends the man further north in a boat after tending to him a little.
At Fort James, Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) announces there’s a reward of “two thousand pounds” for the head of the rebel Harp.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 2.45.36 PMIn disputed territory, a group of Natives run through the forest. Alongside them is Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron) and Sokanon (Jessica Matten). Everything’s been changing, none of them knowing where Harp has ended up yet. Michael’s headed to Montreal on trading business, fur to sell.
Back in Fort James, Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) is suffering in bed, giving orders to Cpt. Chesterfield who isn’t exactly loving his employment. The older man is unimpressed with him. He threatens to send Chesterfield back to London to an even more subordinate position. The younger of the men believes he has much to offer, though Benton compares him unfavourably to a lesser “chimpanzee.” Meanwhile, Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) is dealing with her own new life in the changing conditions around Fort James. She and Chesterfield are still working together, but Benton has an iron grip on the place. She advises to talk to the others around there; they aren’t the only ones unhappy. He starts talking to the men, airing his grievances, and others absolutely agree that Benton is a “madman.”
In Montreal, Michael goes to sell his pelts in the marketplace. We also see Elizabeth Carruthers (Katie McGrath) about, trying to do her own dealings in the fur trade. Although she comes up against male resistance, she’s not one to back down. This has Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle) considering his own options behind closed doors after Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) brings back the information, spying on Elizabeth. Lord, Pond is creepy. Him and his blood lipstick. Yuck.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 2.58.40 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-19 at 2.53.07 PMIn Fort James, Cpt. Chesterfield has Benton removed as Governor. He asks a Captain Gray to take him into custody. They’ve ousted him, implicating him for the murders he committed. Of course the old man cries foul, but it doesn’t look like things are going to go well for him. All’s proper under the HBC charter. Chesterfield is left as Governor for the time being.
When Declan wakes he’s disoriented. He’s in a tipi, being cared for by a Native man. He gets a bite to eat, warms by the fire. But he’s in a goddamn state, looking horrible. At least he’s still alive, still surviving. Trying to make his way back to friends. Back at the bar in Ft. James, Grace and Rivard realise they have to somehow get word to Harp, to warn him of bounty hunters after him following the reward. Lots of bad lads looking to collect. Like one giant bastard, prison tattoos over his face. He stomps a man’s head in outside the bar for sassing him inside, vicious and bloody.
Up in Montreal, Michael’s chased down, someone saying he thieved pelts from them. One of the Red Coats grazes him with a bullet as he runs off. He’s saved by two Native men in the woods, they put arrows in the Reds and take Michael away. Out of the woods, he sees Sokanon come.
You can only break the circles of revenge with forgiveness
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 3.09.28 PMGrace isn’t pleased with the man stomped to death outside her bar. She asks Chesterfield why the place isn’t safer. She makes a bold suggestion: drop the bounty for Harp, she’ll marry the new Governor. A “united front” in their little fort. If the bounty’s gone, the influx of people will slow a bit, at least the really dangerous ones. But, poor Grace. I wouldn’t want to be married to that dude.
At work in Montreal, Clenna Dolan (Lyla Porter-Follows) works away, until she’s discovered by Elizabeth. The woman marvels at the young girl’s beauty, wondering why she’s working away in such a place, but also a bit dismissive of where she came from in a “dirty little rat hole.” She plans on using Clenna to help in her plan for maneuvering around the fur trade. The young girl brings a gift to Mr. Grant from Mrs. Carruthers. In the case she delivers is a decapitated head. Quite a message; it nearly topples Grant. Still, there’s a ways to go before Elizabeth gains the respect of all these stupid, sexist men. Not to mention Clenna’s in trouble when Cobbs gets hold of her, putting her a torture device similar to the rack, twisting her limbs until they break.
In a dark dungeon, Douglas Brown (Allan Hawco) is released. He’s immediately brought to Elizabeth. She’s freed him, needing him as a husband to pretend to run the company in that misogynist world. Still, Douglas won’t accept, at least until the threat of that dungeon is back on the table. He wants access to her money and “certain comforts.” Thus, they’re married on the spot, not even time for him to wash his arse.
Back at Ft. James is another marriage, as well, Chesterfield and Grace signing the appropriate papers to become man and wife. Not much ceremony. Then again, so many women married back then for many reasons. Sadly, Grace finds out very quickly the new Governor is a little reluctant to remove the bounty. Maybe he’s going mad with power, believing he can take what he wants. He makes clear Grace must go to bed with him before the bounty’s revoked.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 3.23.16 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-19 at 3.30.36 PMSokanon is discovering she may have to leave Harp behind, as her people suffer while he’s lost someplace else. The men of her tribe hate seeing their girls, raped by white men, while they sit back and do nothing. They want to take action. And further north, Declan slowly readies himself to try getting back, to help in the fight.
On his trek through the woods, Rivard encounters the tattooed Frenchman, the bounty hunter seeking Harp.
Uh oh. Lots of wild shit about to go down! Frontier is fantastic, a full-throttle action series with lots of drama and thrills along the way. Season 2 is looking nice already, so I can’t wait for the next episode.


HELLRAISER: Come to Daddy

Hellraiser. 1987. Directed & Written by Clive Barker.
Starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, Robert Hines, Frank Baker, Kenneth Nelson, & Gay Baynes.
Rivdel Films/Cinemarque Entertainment BV/Film Futures
Rated R. 94 minutes.

Hellraiser1Clive Barker is one of the most unique horror writers in literature, his perspectives and the way he understands the horror of people just as well as he does that of demonic spirits and other monsters are what make his brand of scary so visceral, even if it’s just his words on the page. He holds power as a writer, in his ability to cut to the core of humanity, no matter how deep into the supernatural he winds up going in any given story.
Starting as his novella The Hellbound Heart, the story became his own screenplay for Hellraiser; his directorial debut. And he took the genre world by storm, thrilling and disturbing in equal measure, and these aspects of the film aren’t mutually exclusive. Part of the film’s excellence comes out of its taboo-ness, its depiction of everything from abusive love to the sometimes dangerous links between sex and death, pain and pleasure.
Ultimately, it’s the utter existential horror within a film dealing in the supernatural that sells Hellraiser as so horrifically effective. No matter how you feel about it, regardless you’ll remember the first time you saw it. Barker immediately drops us into this hellish landscape of his creation, never once letting go up to the final frame.
Hellraiser2This is like something ripped from a Freudian nightmare. Frank (Sean Chapman) is a man interested solely in hedonism, living his life in pursuit of the flesh. To a hideous degree. So much so, he becomes the personification not only of the sex drive in man, but also the death drive; speeding headlong into death, self-destruction, all via lust. This journey into the heart of pleasure leads him only to the terror of death, a violent and painful corporeal reckoning. This calls to mind la petite mort – the little death – which links the concept of the orgasm to death, a loss of consciousness, a brief, little death, as it were. Frank experiences much more; a real death, a big death.
Within all this is the idea of knowledge, as a potentially dangerous force. The BDSM aesthetic of the Cenobites shows off the dichotomy of sex and death. But it’s their purpose as characters in Hellraiser that speak to knowledge in this manner. Here, knowledge is of carnal origin, a transformative power, in that it is a painful process. To know everything, one must experience everything: the good and the bad, sweet with sour, and of course, pain alongside pleasure.

“Come to daddy”

A huge theme, obvious with the sopping wetness of Barker’s gory imagery, is that of the desecration of bodies. The story juxtaposes lust for the body v. the bloody destruction of the body. This is mirrored in the larger theme at play, concerning abusive, dominant love; BDSM is a perfectly healthy thing for people to enjoy, so long as they’re safe, consensual, et cetera. However, BDSM can often be perverted into a one-sided, abusive relationship, where the signs of BDSM are present yet the intentions and respect for one partner is completely gone.
Frank and Julia (Clare Higgins) represent the ultimate destructive love, built on lust. The power of their lusty love reaches from beyond the grave, the intense physical connection they share driving her to gruesome acts. In a macabre irony, sex and pleasure is what kills Frank, in turn what allows him his return to the corporeal world: Julia uses lust, the gaze and sex drive of men, to exert her own death drive, which also leads to the reincarnation of her dead lover.
Frank’s need for blood is symbolic of the draining effect an abusive, brutal relationship can have on a woman. Although Julia doesn’t give her own, she must give Frank blood he needs to become whole again, as it is in abusive relationships; the abuser uses the abused to make themselves feel whole, or good. Frank, then, is a metaphor of the abusive lover, surviving on the blood and pain and suffering of others, at the real cost of his subjugated lover.

“Jesus wept”

Barker goes hard at Christianity, poking around at the idea of BDSM relating to seeming celebration around the crucifixion of Christ that religion seems to perpetuate, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. What he does best in this film is subverting Christian iconography, turning the Cenobites into not just a group of supernatural creatures from a psychosexual realm, but a pseudo-religious convent built on sexual terror. First, we see the Christmas light shrine of a Jesus statuette in Frank’s room. Then there’s Larry catching his hand on a nail, bleeding profusely, mimicking and mocking the wounds of Christ nailed on the cross. And finally, the above quote from Frank inside his brother Larry’s skin, which is the shortest verse in the Bible; this is linked to the tale of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the grave after his weeping.
In addition to viciously satirising Christianity, Baker’s film merges body horror with the supernatural. The house becomes a carnival of terror, the tone of the film is dark and dangerous feeling like anything could be around the next corner, foreboding dread surrounds the characters. It’s the nasty gore, the bodies being ripped and torn and generally brutalised, and the menacingly oppressive atmosphere, that compliments all the heavy themes within the story. No space in Hellraiser is ever safe, there’s no rest for either the audience or the characters.
You can’t go wrong with this film. It’s one of the greatest of all time, and definitely out of the ’80s. This is perfect for a dark, stormy night, when the wing is howling at the door and in through the cracks, and you’re already feeling paranoid. Pop this one in, let the cathartic fear commence.

WE GO ON: Traumatic Fears & the Urban Gothic

We Go On. 2017. Directed & Written by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton.
Starring Clark Freeman, Annette O’Toole, John Glover, Giovanna Zacarias, Laura Heisler, & Jay Dunn.
Filmed Imagination
Not Rated. 89 minutes.

IMG_0366There are so many ghost stories out there, from literature to film, that it’s hard to come up with something original. Same can be said about all stories, everything’s just a retelling, a reinvention of an ages old archetype or structure. Yet there are always writers and directors out there coming up with new ways to show us a glimpse of supernatural horror, ways that inspire us, maybe revolt us depending on the circumstances; in this case, it takes us into the concept of life after death and how we deal with the death of others, our own impending death someday, somehow, somewhere we don’t know.
Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton deliver We Go On for those who love ghost stories and want a different perspective. They tell the story of Miles (Clark Freeman), a man shattered by the death of his father in a car accident, forever plagued by the fear of death, worrying it’s a big, black void from which there’s no coming back, making life feel nearly claustrophobic. When he places an ad with a reward of $30,000 for any concrete proof that “we go on,” Miles gets far more than he bargained for after a man Nelson (Jay Dunn) contacts him, saying he can show him a ghost.
The film takes up the Gothic mantle, set in an environment full of urban decay, and it retains that classic feeling of the ghost story while trudging through very modern territory. We Go On takes Miles and the audience on a journey through the existential crisis of fearing death, examining trauma, death, as well as how we manage to overcome them both. That is, IF we’re able.

“Your world will end. We don’t get to know when.”

The fear of uncertainty is a powerful thing. This often extends to our ideas of the afterlife. For those of us who aren’t religious, there can come with this a sense of not knowing what will happen when we die. Not that the religious KNOW, but they BELIEVE, and this makes all the difference. Myself, I don’t fear death, it’s more like a release after – hopefully – a long life. However, I totally understand why some fear it. Most times this comes out of an absence within the absence of belief; if you can’t reconcile yourself with death as, for all intents and purposes here, an atheist, then there’s a gap in the concept of life and death, a glaring, empty space where fear can grow.
This is where Miles exists, in this space, and other spaces like it. He fears death, seemingly because of its uncertainty. At the same time, he wants to believe. This leads him on his quest. He’s traumatised on top of it, exacerbating his fears. So it’s interesting to watch how affected he is by this quest, too. He wants to find something, to negate his big fear. But the dark irony comes via the fact that, once he DOES find what he’s looking for it’s altogether terrifying, more so than any death where we just disappear into a void of nothingness.

“I’m haunted”

We Go On
is the perfect example of a modern urban Gothic horror. Miles actually specifically points out his phobia of any “decay or rot.” He’s absolutely horrified by cars, he hates being in them, and it only gets worse if he’s not the one driving; even then, he barely drives himself anywhere, if at all. What’s interesting is that, within this traumatic phobia of death, there’s a fear of the modern, of the decay/rot which comes with time, with modernity. He fears the car, one of the largest, most significant symbols of modern invention over the past few centuries.
When our protagonist finally sees ghosts, they occupy a much different space than usual, in an odd place, past the airport. A decayed set of urban ruins, left behind by the rich when the airport was built; another instance of modernity setting in, disrupting. In general, Los Angeles is depicted as grey, dull and dreary, a dreaded landscape where the sun does shine, but slightly obscured, hidden behind clouds on the city skyline, the pollution of the planes jetting onto the air. In this sense, the urban landscape with its Gothic sprawl of supernatural elements mirrors the headspace in which Miles find himself.
Traditional haunted houses are subverted, replaced by drug squats, schools, the airport, and other atypical locales, the main stand-in for a horror monster – aside from the ghosts – being Miles’ fear of the car as an object of death. The car/the vehicle also breaks the barrier between living and dead, an intriguing symbol. The radio comes alive with ghostly voices as Miles drives. A bus intercom does the same later. At home, his TV appears on only to him and no one else. Technology versus the old world of ghosts, modernity juxtaposed against the past.
IMG_0376There’s a fantastic end, both morbid in one sense, beautiful in another. Miles and his journey come to a conclusion. Some may not be happy with it, others, like myself, may love it. Visually, the nightmare that opens the film comes full circle, also closing the plot off thematically. It’s not what you’d expect, and that’s refreshing in and of itself.
We Go On is on top of Father Gore’s list of best horrors in the past few years, likely in the top 25 since 2010. There are plenty of awesome horror films lately, despite what certain critics and fans will try and tell others. And in the indie world, horror is absolutely killing the competition, in any genre. This film most certainly belongs up there with the best of them lately.
Put this on your Halloween marathon list! Spook yourself alone, or get a couple friends, turn down those lights, let the ghosts get under your skin. Let’s hope Mitton and Holland do more genre work in the future, because they’re obviously a talented team with fresh perspective.

THE TUNNEL: Hidden Horrors Beneath Sydney, Australia

The Tunnel. 2011. Directed by Carlo Ledesma. Screenplay by Julian Harvey & Enzo Todeschi.
Starring Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, Goran D. Kleut, James Caitlin, Ben Maclaine, Peter McAllum, Shannon Harvey, Arianna Gusi, & Russell Jeffrey.
Distracted Media/Zapruder’s Other Films/Dishs
Not Rated. 90 minutes.

TUNNEL1Father Gore always has time for found footage. Even better if it’s in the faux-documentary style. The Tunnel is the story of a documentary crew heading, unauthorised, into the tunnels underneath Sydney, Australia. What they wind up finding is more than a government cover-up of overspending and waste.
While this does follow a familiar path, bringing to mind the groundbreaking Blair Witch Project, there’s a genuine air of unease that follows the characters as they go headlong into a mystery they don’t quite understand. Found footage can often lose tension to the shaky camera, screaming and other too loud noise, among other things. Here, the tension holds up, and the documentary style takes us through the various stages up to the sinister events which the crew experience.
Perhaps why The Tunnel is so effective is because it takes on a real world issue, crafting an interesting plot within that familiar story constructed as a news exposé. The natural feel of the characters, the homeless people they encounter in the tunnels, the story of the tunnels themselves, this all builds up a whole world for the film instead of just feeling like an isolated environment for 90 minutes.
TUNNEL2The faux-documentary lends an air of authenticity to the film, so the events which lead up to all the genuinely creepy horror midway through feel natural, the characters seem real. Best of all, the organic traits of The Tunnel make this better than three-quarters of the found footage out there, avoiding the typical “Turn off the camera” arguments and the expected moves of a lesser film. That being said, certain aspects, in the end, are the same we’ve seen before. Luckily, it all builds and releases a heavy dose of tense fear.
Unique locations add to the film’s feel, made possible by the plot itself.
The whole thing is just like an investigative series you’d expect to find on the BBC or another similar network. There’s an almost Gothic atmosphere, as the news crew venture deeper into the tunnels below Sydney there’s a sense something ancient, amongst mentions of the tunnels having been used as air raid shelters during World War II. Long before the evil down there becomes more concrete later on, it’s a s if the place is a haunted house, only in the form of a series of tunnels, homeless squats, and forgotten spaces lost to time.
Things take an eerie turn with Trevor the homeless man’s scene. Unnerving. Early on there’s a gut feeling something isn’t quite right, prior to any other hints of terror. Once the news crew start experiencing scarier and scarier events, recalling Trev’s brief but memorable freak out comes with the knowledge this man was giving them a warning without words.
TUNNEL3It might’ve been nice to at least get a tiny bit of elaboration on the evil lurking down in the tunnels. However, the way it’s left for what it is on the surface is a testament to the trauma of people like Trev, the other homeless who are left shells of themselves – if they’re lucky enough to still be alive – and are unable to articulate the monstrosity of whatever’s down there.
Simultaneously, we can dig out our own meaning. WWII, the Holocaust, these were modern events which shaped the world, not merely Germany. After these modern warns, the psychological traumas of people suddenly took off, generational or otherwise, and largely they were forgotten. Because post-WWII was a time of celebration, when fascism had been defeated and the world looked hopeful, full of opportunity. Our societal ills were hidden; or, society wanted to keep them hidden. This leads us to the homeless, who’ve literally crawled down into the forgotten tunnels of the war, a fittingly metaphorical space for them.
And down there, a danger grows, some brutal mutation. It feeds on the homeless, the forgotten and discarded people of our collective society. The government doesn’t care too much because it’s solving part of their problem without doing the work; out of sight, out of mind, right?
TUNNEL4The Tunnel genuinely freaked me out. It follows a lot of similar veins as the found footage classics we know and love. Yet it doesn’t go to all the same places, it plays with our expectations from the documentary standpoint while offering up nice frights weaved through the plot while we see it play out via found footage, the tapes shot by the crew themselves. This mix is something I really dig in the sub-genre, and it works for director Carlo Ledesma.
Sure, if you don’t like found footage already, you’ll probably not like this one, too. But give it a shot. This doesn’t suffer from many of the mistakes other similar films do, it’s a smart and well paced piece of work. Ledesma’s pacing is rhythmic, lulling us into a comfortable feeling before bringing out a creepy moment or two until finally falling all the way into a chaotic finale.
Might be a great flick for a group of people in October. You’ll all jump at least once or twice. The characters aren’t archetypes, they’re actual people, flawed and full of shit sometimes; other times, they’re intelligent and raw, honest. Things get emotional, they get weird, and what’s down in those tunnels? Pretty chilling. You could almost see The Tunnel as an unaired special on a news networks, uploaded years later to YouTube as part of a conspiracy people try to unravel.

Slasher – Season 2, Episode 1: “Six Feet Under”

Netflix’s Slasher
Season 2, Episode 1: “Six Feet Under”
Directed by Felipe Rodriguez
Written by Aaron Martin

* For a recap & review of Season 1 episodes, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Between Good and Evil” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.57.49 AM5 years ago at Camp Motega. A group of friends head into the woods, drinking, having fun. They’re counsellors at the camp together. Yet there’s something sinister about to happen. Talvinder (Melinda Shankar) walks into a clearing where there are torches lit. One of the other girls tells her she’s “on trial” for being a “nasty bitch.”
Uh oh. Not looking good.
Cut to everyone dragging a bloody body out into the deep woods, some are taking it better than others. Only Talvinder isn’t dead, she starts screaming, bleeding from the face. Peter (Lovell Adams-Gray) tries to take her out of there, to the hospital, but his buddy jumps him. Then the dying girl is dragged back into the dark.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 11.01.20 AMPresent day. Simon (Kyle Buchanan) wakes up with Andi (Rebecca Liddiard); she’s one of the young women who were in those woods that night. He wonders what keeps plaguing her. It’s very obvious she’s keeping a big secret from him, ever since they got together.
And everyone else from the woods that fateful night seems to be headed back there to the camp. In the midst of winter, they go back to where they all lost a part of their soul. Noah (Jim Watson) tries cheering up the mood in the car but nobody wants to hear it. They get to a station on the way up, a man named Gene (Jefferson Brown) helping them gear up and planning on guiding them to their “old stomping ground.” There’s a lot of tension in the air, though Gene doesn’t realise he’s hanging around with a bunch of murderers.
What’s very clear is that Andi is having the hardest time, everyone’s concerned; also obvious there was something going on, to some degree, between her and Peter, as he apologises for how things were after what happened five years ago.
This is gonna be akiller weekend.”
On they go, up to the We Live As One retreat house. Cut back to five years prior. Andi’s breaking Tal into the whole counsellor job at Camp Motega. Now we see Andi and Peter were a couple. Perfectly, they have a movie night complete with a – you guessed it – slasher.
Back to present day. At the retreat are a bunch of people doing yoga, led by a friendly couple, Antoine and Renée (Christopher Jacot & Joanne Vannicola). Nice “corpse pose” before the lesson’s finished, too. They run a nice retreat, everybody does their part to stay, a happy little family. The reason why the friends are there? A resort’s being constructed, and a tennis court is likely to be built right over where they buried Tal. They further mention someone named Owen, who was a suspect in the girl’s disappearance. Certainly their arrival brings the curiosity of their hosts, Gene particularly wonders why they’ve come up in the dead of winter. A woman there named Judith (Leslie Hope) feels bad energy with the strangers around. Rightfully so. Although no one else worries, and they should. But such is the way with the yoga hippie-types.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 11.13.41 AMPoor Gene is trying to relax in the sauna when snowballs start pelting from outside. From nowhere, someone in a hooded parka attacks him. Chainsaw to the guts, running the blade right up through him to the shoulders. A nice cut takes us from spilling guts to a steak slapping into a frying pan.
Glenn (Ty Olsson) is a member of the community at We Live As One, barely there two months. He’s not a vegan like the others, he doesn’t dig yoga. Renée tries her best with him but it’s kind of a lost cause. He is also immediately a bit suspicious about the friends when Noah comes around stuttering nervously like a dummy.
The friends get out into the woods where they left Tal’s body. However, after they move the rocks from the hiding place they find nothing; no skeleton, no remains of any kind. Somebody’s moved her corpse. But whom?
We’re discovering more of the people at the retreat, as well. Judith has a self-harm problem. She and another man named Wren (Sebastian Pigott) discuss the group of strangers, believing they need to be on guard, at least until they find out more about them. And, well, we know they’re right. We watch the group, frantically discussing what to do now that Tal’s body has vanished. Peter suggests going to the cops, he thinks it’s the only way to find “closure,” or else they’ll all be haunted. Susan (Kaitlyn Leeb) doesn’t agree, she’s married with a child. Nobody other than Andi and Peter feels confessing would do them any good. So, they’re all divided.
More about others at the retreat. Mark (Paulino Nunes) has scars on his back that look like bullet holes. In true Slasher style, this is only seen on the surface level. Those revelations are best left for later.
Andi: “This secret has killed every single relationship in my life
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 11.20.37 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-17 at 11.26.36 AMBack to five years ago, slasher movie night. Tal sits with Peter while Andi heads for more popcorn. They chat and get to know each other a bit better. They actually get physically closer. You can see where this is headed, as she’s obviously trying to worm her way between the couple. Cutting to present day, Peter just wants to come clean and face their fate, whereas Andi’s beginning to wonder if that’s the right thing after all. And an argument starts splitting them apart, too.
Andi goes for a smoke alone outside, she winds up talking with Mark awhile. He tries to give her some of that enlightened-type advice. He parallels some of what Peter says about her, that she spends her time in a victim mentality. It’s partly true. Also partly clear that she’s strong, if she wasn’t she’d have cracked long ago. Will she take this “second chance” in all respects? Will she do what’s right, or what’s best for her?
She heads out to the woods with a shovel. There, she sees foot prints. Farther in she discovers Tal’s remains strung up from the streets, smiling its deathly grin. From behind, the killer in the parka attacks Andi. Simultaneously, Peter looks for her, wondering where she’s gone.
Andi wakes with her four limbs tied to posts. She screams for help. Nobody there but the killer, who cuts her throat open from each side as she gargles on her own blood, choking. Peter soon comes to find her bled out. Back at the retreat, everyone is shaken up by the news, they try to call out and get some help. Meanwhile, the friends are all stressed and full of fear. A message left on their wall, a warning.
Go back to five years ago. The friends argue before finishing Tal off, Dawn (Paula Brancati) leading the charge. Until Andi deals the finishing, nasty blow.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 11.45.34 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-17 at 11.49.55 AMWOW. I didn’t expect this good of an episode, honestly. I loved Season 1, more than a lot of people. Yet this opened so strong, so vicious, full of the good stuff. Lots of interesting characters, their various motivations, so on.
“Between Good and Evil” is next.

Ossorio’s Templar Zombies Return in THE GHOST GALLEON

The Ghost Galleon. 1974. Directed & Written by Amando de Ossorio.
Starring Maria Perschy, Jack Taylor, Bárbara Rey, Carlos Lemos, Manuel de Blas, & Blanca Estrada.
Ancia Century Films/Belén Films
Rated R. 89 minutes.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 2.10.03 PMAmando de Ossorio‘s Blind Dead series is one of the more unique of the horror genre, specifically in the zombies/undead category. We’ve seen lots of variations on people risen from the dead, whether it’s George A. Romero and his own Dead series, Haitian voodoo from Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow, or the Umberto Lenzi classic which brought the fast moving zombie to the mainstream, Nightmare City.
What’s so enjoyable about de Ossorio is that he took zombies and mixed them with pseudohistory, using the very real Templar Knights and transforming them into Satan worshipping mad men (in real life they did dissolve after charges of heresy) who crawl from their tombs at night to stalk the Spanish countryside, searching for victims to quell their blood lust.
Although The Ghost Galleon isn’t one of the best films out of the series, it’s still a weird, eerie trip through a fog-laden landscape, going from land to the desperate darkness of the sea. The Knights themselves are always great, but in this instalment of de Ossorio’s series there isn’t a whole lot else to enjoy. With a couple lofty themes floating around, the film could’ve been better. But it’s still probably good enough for a Halloween Horrorthon.
Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 3.01.59 PM

The Good

De Ossorio works up plenty of eerie atmosphere, as usual. The mood’s established early on, as we’re drawn into the Old World feel of Spain, an unsettling fogginess surrounding everything, particularly the titular galleon. Part of the fog is also more than just atmosphere, it helps get across the otherworldly feel of the Templar Knights, like their world beyond the grave is literally a whole other world, an entire dimension unto itself.
Moreover, the score does a fantastic job at elevating the atmosphere. Once on the ship, things get impressively spooky with a hypnotic swirl of synthesizers taking us through to that other realm, guiding us, with buoying timpani notes discombobulating us; the feeling of heading into a dream is palpable, the fog like that barrier between sleep and rest. The score, from start to finish, is one of the biggest reasons the atmosphere ultimately works.
Apart from the technical side of the production, there are lost themes that could’ve been used to de Ossorio’s advantage. For instance, there’s a setup of the Old World v. the New World, starting with the capitalist businessmen exploiting women and their bodies – i.e. New World – only concerned with their money than with human safety. They walk themselves right into the hands of the Knights Templar – i.e. Old World – and this is their undoing. That’s what you get, capitalist scum! The concern of the businessmen solely for economics and image (view in the media, et cetera) leads them towards a dangerous resolution. This is all present underneath, it just isn’t used any further than surface level optics. Too bad, because a zombie film of any sort can always become more than the sum of its parts when there’s an additional plot/story/thematic level.
My favourite part of the film is when the cross is used against the Knights Templar. A clever subversion of Christian iconography for which the knights originally stood. In their turn to Satan, they expelled Christ from themselves, which is then used against them as a repellent. Neat little moment.

The Bad & the Ugly

A major aspect of why The Ghost Galleon doesn’t hold up to the other, better entries in the series is the acting. Not everyone is awful; most are, sadly. This doesn’t need a Laurence Olivier, nor does it need a Vincent Price. But it could’ve used much better performances. Think of Dawn of the Dead with Ken Foree, beloved to the genre, Gaylen Ross, and even the rest of the cast who were fantastic. A couple decent performances could’ve turned this into a good zombie film.
The pacing is slow, and that’s fine; if it weren’t for the fact the plot feels boring. All these Blind Dead films are similar, there’s no reinventing of the wheel here as far as writing goes, not in any of them. However, de Ossorio’s other undead Templar films – particularly the first, Tombs of the Blind Dead – have a great pace, keeping you engaged, waiting for the next scare or the next kill or whatever weird follows.
It’s the pacing, above all, which makes this a hard film to sit through without wanting to fast forward. I watched it all, and until the finale, there’s really nothing special to talk about outside the general atmosphere, plus the zombie Templars themselves. Sure, there’s a couple gnarly deaths, a decapitation, it just never amounts to anything better than that.
Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 2.47.59 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-15 at 3.00.52 PMIt’d be hard to argue de Ossorio had no influence on the zombie sub-genre of horror. Certainly not as deep as Romero, probably not even close to Lucio Fulci, either. But there’s no doubt certain elements in the Blind Dead lingered on, inspiring other filmmakers along the line in subtle ways.
Such as the iconic scene later in this film where the zombie Templars emerge from the ocean waters, relentlessly chasing their intended prey from the galleon to land. This watery rise precedes Shock WavesLand of the Dead, and others (in fairness Luci’s Zombi had some good water zombie action; this one has a horde of them instead of just one). Just great to see this kind of thing, knowing de Ossorio’s films aren’t lost to time or relegated to the realm of admiration only amongst the most ardent genre fans. They’ve certainly influenced a few horror filmmakers out there.
This isn’t one of the best Blind Dead films, not even close. It’s barely a mediocre bit of cinema, honestly. A two out of five star affair. Yet, as previously mentioned, it has some enjoyable moments in between the languid pacing and a lot of bad acting, some good practical effects and weird images. And for a near Halloween, this is a nice addition to any zombie movie night.

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE Confronts the Cruelty of Men

The Autopsy of Jane Doe. 2016. Directed by André Øvredal. Screenplay by Ian B. Goldberg & Richard Naing.
Starring Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Catherine Kelly, Jane Perry, Parker Sawyers, Mary Duddy, Mark Phoenix, & Sydney (as Stanley the Cat).
42/IM Global/Impostor Pictures
Rated R. 86 minutes.


Disclaimer: This review discusses important parts of the film’s plot + themes. If you’ve not yet seen the film, watch it, then come back and discuss. Or else, be forever spoiled!

AUTOPSY1When I saw The Troll Hunter I knew I wanted more from André Øvredal, whose talent is undeniable. That was a great, unique film that connected the Old World with the New World in interesting ways, juxtaposing folklore and mythology with technology by way of the found footage sub-genre.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe does something similar, yet the subject is wildly different. In this film, Øvredal again conjures the folk tales of the Old World, letting them collide with modern day. A father-son coroner duo, Tom (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch), encounter a Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) corpse found just below the dirt in an unfinished basement, amongst other victims of violent death. Except as the pair conduct their autopsy, looking for cause of death, they find strange links to witchcraft and superstitions of centuries ago.
There’s a mystery aspect to the plot, but the whole story is built on suspense and a severe, restless tension. Øvredal turns up the heat on us and the characters, a feeling of isolation in the basement morgue. In between it all is a look at the fragility of life, the care of bodies – specifically, women’s bodies – and the age old nastiness of misogyny.
AUTOPSY4Out of the gate, the film oozes both atmosphere and a measured style. Mood is set in the opening scene with a frank look at a crime scene, a mysterious, gruesome house of horrors, including the unknown woman, Jane Doe, buried in the dirt downstairs. Everything’s shadowy, grim, macabre, an air of uncertainty blanketing the top of the plot’s bare bones we’re fed in the initial five minutes. Such a strong start, you feel involved before actually figuring anything out, or even meeting the two protagonists.
Claustrophobia and isolation drive the film, down below ground, in a basement; further than that, in a morgue, surrounded by the dead. This ratchets the tension, as one grisly discovery gives way to another, and another, until the eeriness piles atop the characters, the audience, crushing with a steadily paced descent into supernatural terror; very human to something else entirely. Shifting from the grounded plot to a fantastical atmosphere makes the latter half land with even more intensity.
Once the finale rolls around, a horrifying fear sets in, one we cannot escape, and that claustrophobia’s become so stuffy the pay-off deals a heavy, sinister blow.
AUTOPSY3The contrast between the dead and the living is ever present. First and foremost is the care of women’s bodies. An interesting juxtaposition, seeing how living men have desecrated this Jane Doe’s body, inside and out, with such horrific cruelty, versus the way Tom and Austin, even while dissecting her for the autopsy, treat her body with care. Likewise, the way death then affects the father and son is compelling. For instance, we see that death and its continual presence in their lives hasn’t jaded them, after Austin finds a small wounded animal in one of their air ducts, and his father must break its neck to put it out of its misery. Again this contrasts them with the brutes who tortured then murdered Jane Doe.
What’s most intriguing is the film’s thematic consideration of misogyny, through the lens of witchcraft. A woman becomes a witch through the brutality of men, a metaphor concerning how men and their misogynistic violence, whether mental or physical, transforms women, negatively. And in this case, Jane Doe takes her revenge on men ni general, as well as any unlucky women caught up with them. Perfect, as the witch is directly linked to the history of misogyny, their punishment simply for being women, being free, for enjoying the sensual in life when they wish. So the fact Jane Doe, through torture and cruelty, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy in a sense is such a strong element, a wonderfully unique take at that.
Moreover, the finale shows the evil done by men is cyclical, never over. Because the woman’s been instilled with that evil, just as many women are stained by the awful actions and misogyny of men. Since time immemorial, truly. And so that cycle goes on, the body forever tainted, the horror perpetuating and living on. Even decent men like Tom and Austin are caught in the vicious whirlwind of revenge, because men as a gender have reaped such effects; that’s the point, and the Not All Men crowd don’t get that in general, it’s such a widespread problem we have to accept it’s a male problem, as a whole.
AUTOPSY2The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a fresh breath of horror, up there with some of the best of the past few years. Really fun watching the two leads unravel a supernatural mystery using science, the Old World on a collision course with modern medicine, a witchcraft story from previous centuries in present day. Øvredal squeezes the life out of the audience, in the best way possible, suffocating us with an atmosphere that does not quit.
Of course the acting all around is fantastic. But it’s Øvredal whose talents take this film to the next level. It isn’t always easy keeping things so tightly wound, so harrowing with only a sparse cast, a boxed in setting. He does it with precision, not allowing a moment’s breath or relaxation after the adrenaline kicks in hard.
I’d watch this any day of the week. After it came out, I watched it probably once every couple months until now. Something about it catches me, the atmosphere’s intoxicating. Sucker for those isolated horrors, from this sort of setting to one more like Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s an element that works wonders if a director uses it to their advantage. Put this on your Halloween list. Definitely good for a scare.

TERRORVISION’s Intellectual Decay

TerrorVision. 1986. Directed & Written by Ted Nicolaou.
Starring Diane Franklin, Gerrit Graham, Mary Woronov, Chad Allen, Jon Gries, Bert Remsen, Alejandro Rey, Jennifer Richards, Randi Brooks, Sonny Carl Davis, Ian PAtrick Williams, & William Paulson.
Empire Pictures/Altair Productions/Lexyn Productions
Rated R. 83 minutes.

TV3It’s ultra disappointing when a horror movie feels geared towards something bigger than the sum of its parts, because there’s a sense of loss, that you could’ve gotten more, and it might’ve been awesome. Plenty of movies, of any genre, end up that way. They’re lost in their ideas, muddled in a less than competent screenplay, then often actors giving sub-par performances can truly put the nail in the coffin of even halfway decent writing.
TerrorVision has a fun concept, centred on a family who’ve recently installed a new satellite system, so they can enjoy new programs, from fitness to MTV to all the dirty movies they can fathom. But instead of that they get a hungry space monster, yearning for tasty humans to gobble.
In an age where technology was beginning to skyrocket at an unbelievable pace, like never before and in wildly new directions, this movie holds so much more than it gives us, unable to allow it to flow correctly. It’s fun enough for a group of friends to put on and laugh along with, sadly it’s more disappointing than it is enjoyable when all’s said and done. I’ll forever curse it for not expanding on its exciting themes, not even giving us top notch horror, or comedy, or anything it’s aiming to accomplish.
TV1Can’t get enough of the awesomely weird opening scene, a science fiction start on a distant planet before we get a glimpse of a satellite signal bounce around space; one that’ll surely cause shit on planet Earth. Immediately then, Earth. Including the uber-80s clothing, the hair, the workout program fad the wife is into, an MTV-loving daughter, conspiracy theorist grandpa an artefact of the ’70s lingering. The family consists of a less likeable human cast of The Simpsons, a quintessentially media obsessed American household.
Satellite, the new technology of the age, is used as a thematic device for the unknown, as if their signals reaching into outer space were inviting extraterrestrials and creatures from other dimensions not only to our planet, but directly into our individual homes. Sort of a horror movie allegory about an era of new technology in terms of national security, only rather than the Russians as the baddies, it’s alien lifeforms crawling right into the U.S. citizen’s living room.
Likewise, there’s a whole commentary on television and technology, in which aliens are literally coming out of the TV set through the satellite, devouring people. Just as the programs on television devour brain cells, at least supposedly, if you ask an old guy like grandpa who’s still waiting for the Viet Cong to knock down his door. This feels specifically ’80s, satirising the whole concept and making fun of peoples fears, decades ago, of new media rotting the brain of the youth, of everybody. Today, it’s smartphones, computers; then, it was TV, the boob tube (a sexist nickname for TV that fits right in with TerrorVision). Satellite must’ve felt akin to a figurative bomb dropped on the collective societal consciousness for some folks.

Intellectual decay!”

TV2Ultimately, none of these big themes develop any further than these initial thoughts. It’s all cheese, cheese, wrapped in more cheese. Some is good, in that so-bad-it’s-good-type of horror way. But lots of it is plain bad. This would’ve been a brutal, great satire if it weren’t so intent on being as sleazy and gross in the wrong ways. Beneath the shit are relevant themes, even today, not put to proper use, wasted on a near slapstick horror-comedy. Fun now and then. Mostly the bad cheese, lame acting, and more ’80s catchphrases than you could ever anticipate in a million years.
I’ll admit, I cracked up when the father changed the satellite to channel 69, blatantly repeating the number in front of the whole family as some porno flickers (after all they’re a swinger couple). And the greasy alien monster effects are campy, with a glee that’s admirable. To think, they almost had Frank Zappa scoring this, which definitely makes odd sense; better off he didn’t, after seeing the final product.
Just so unhappy with the fact this had huge potential, winding up totally lost.
TV4There’d be further things to discuss about TerrorVision had it played out its themes to a deeper extent. And even if not, the horror – or the comedy – was also capable of lifting this out of mediocrity. Truthfully, it isn’t even exactly mediocre, either. This is close to forgettable, if it weren’t for the first scene, and the alien monster, its creepy eyes.
If you want something solid out of director-writer Ted Nicolaou, check out Ragewar or the unique Subspecies for his better work. He’s good. This film isn’t an example of his talents, though you can admire where he was heading in his screenplay. Unfortunately it didn’t translate to the screen, and if his directing here were better, maybe it’s fate would be different.
If you’re looking for something to laugh along to, this is an appropriate horror movie for the Halloween season. You, a group of friends, maybe drink every time a crude reference pops up? There’s one October night set! Just remember, you’re not going to be blown away, and if, like me, you dig on those themes, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Take it for what it’s worth: mindless, numbing entertainment. If you see any weird aliens talking through the screen at you, though, turn that TV off.

Lore – Season 1, Episode 2: “Echoes”

Amazon’s Lore
Season 1, Episode 2: “Echoes”
Directed by Thomas J. Wright
Written by Glen Morgan

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, “They Made a Tonic” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Black Stockings” – click here
IMG_03471903, Virginia. People didn’t want an insane asylum in their neighbourhood, so they were all transported to a place outside Washington, D.C. Only on the way, the patients crashed. Two went out into the forest. One of the them wound up hanging from a tunnel, a note talking about the Bunnyman. The other man, Bunnyman himself, escaped. More killings followed. But eventually, the man was run over by a train.
However, as Narrator Aaron Mahnke tells us: this story’s not true. No records about any of it, from the inmates, the asylum, to the murders. What is it about “the insane” that fills our minds with dread, as well as fills our horror stories?
IMG_0348IMG_0349Bethlehem Hospital in Europe is one of its oldest, founded in the 1400s. At its front are statues of “melancholy” and “raving madness.” The place’s name got clipped from Bethlehem to Bethlem to Bedlam; yes, that’s where the term originates! And at this hospital, the named Bedlam came out of the torturous methods of supposedly treating the mentally ill.
In 1930, a new facility was built at Bethlehem Hospital, though that doesn’t mean things got a whole lot better. In 1946, we meet Dr. Walter Freeman (Colm Feore), who wanted to get rid of the asylum, to fix both the individual and society’s ills in one fell stroke. We see him treating a patient named Salie ‘Ellen’ Ionesco (Victoria Petrosky). She lies on a stretcher with a guard in her mouth, a bit of jelly on the temples, and then it’s an electroshock. Followed by the prefrontal lobotomy technique, also known as the transorbital leucotomy, the crude severing of nerve pathways in a lobe of the brain. Back then, it was called a cure. Except it was more like making a human zombie. Ah, modern medicine! Scientific advancement! Hope for psychotics to “return to their communities“!
At the cost of what, though?
IMG_0350Dr. Freeman and Dr. James Watts (R. Keith Harris) would go on running with the prefrontal lobotomy. Later, Bedlam was featured prominently in an article exposing the horrific conditions at the their hospital. Yet, on they went with that ole transorbital lobotomy, their term. A cheap, easy method that you can do right at the office with no drugs even. Yikes.
But, you see, Dr. Freeman went a bit nuts. At one point, Dr. Watts found him in the office with two of the medical picks stuck in a patient’s two eyes, like a pin cushion. We go to a scene of Dr. Freeman, his wife Dr. Marjorie Freeman (Kristen Cloke), Dr. Watts and a bunch of other doctors, as the man himself shows off a procedure he’s doing on a man named Allan (Michael Bullard).
With a sinister smile and tone, he reels off his numbers – 400 lobotomies in asylums with only a small number of deaths and other fuck ups. It’s a mad moment. One colleague protests after the electroshock, but the wild doctor goes on ahead with the procedure, and his colleague vomits at the sight. Everyone sees the ghastliness up close for themselves.
The only thing this accomplishes is making it easier for those who are nursing them
In the aftermath of fascism’s death and the end of WWII, people embraced the lobotomy, which sent Dr. Freeman into the stratosphere. People saw it as a way to easily take away the horror of mental illness, to calm those with the mental pain of their afflictions. So much so it reached the rich and famous, such as Warner Baxter, one of the two Best Actor recipients at the Academy Awards. He had brutal arthritic troubles and sought out the lobotomy as a cure.
IMG_0353His most famous case, hidden away, was Rosemary Kennedy. At birth, she suffered brain damage, severely limiting her intellectual capabilities. This led her to acting out, causing trouble. So the Kennedy patriarch went to Dr. Walter Freeman in order to remedy their problem. The procedure rendered her permanently disabled, “silenced by the age of twentythree.”
In 1946, Dr. Freeman took his sons and a nephew camping and hiking. One son fell into the river and went over the falls, drowning, found lodged between rocks a week later. A horrible accident. Certainly did no favours for Walter and Marjorie’s relationship, either. Not that they were doing so hot before. He’s an all around terrible man, as a husband, as a doctor.
Thorazine eventually showed up to “calm patients.” It revolutionised modern psychiatric science. Of course Dr. Freeman doesn’t dig it, he doesn’t believe Thorazine or any other drug will replace the lobotomy. No, sir! At the same time, Dr. Watts wanted to give it a try, to leave lobotomy behind, accompanied with the academic work of others calling the procedure what it is: an abomination.
Cut to 1960. He’s got a patient in for the lobotomy. A little boy named Charlie, his mom can’t discipline him or get him to act like a good boy. Oh, this is ugly. He’s electroshocked. He gets the pick in the eyes. And a few years later, he was booted out of the medical practice.
So, Freeman went around the country visiting his lobotomy patients. Seeking redemption, or some affirmation he’d been their saviour. In 1972, he died. His headstone has a hole at the top, a fitting, if not eerie marking of a life with a hole in it that he was never able to fill, ultimately.
IMG_0354Wow. This episode was even better than the first! Love Lore. Truly, Mahnke does fine work. Really gets under your skin in many ways.
“Black Stockings” comes next.

SOLE SURVIVOR: Metaphor of the Dead

Sole Survivor. 1983. Directed & Written by Thom Eberhardt.
Starring Anita Skinner, Kurt Johnson, Robin Davidson, Caren L. Larkey, Andrew Boyer, Daniel Bryan Cartwell, Wendy Dake, Stephen V. Isbell, & William Snare.
Grand National Pictures/Moviestore Entertainment
Rated R. 85 minutes.

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 11.56.14 PMBefore there was Final Destination, there was 1983’s Sole Survivor. Although the plots are different, the influence and homage is certainly there. But Thom Eberhardt’s Sole Survivor involves a woman named Denise Watson (Anita Skinner) who survives an aeroplane accident, the only survivor, after which she begins seeing the dead coming for her, everywhere.
This is an ’80s horror movie that, somehow, slipped by many. However, there are so many places where the influence of its themes and imagery exist, to this day, from the aforementioned Final Destination series to David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and more.
Although Eberhardt’s film works just as a great undead horror story, it’s also works on a more broad scale.
At the centre of the story, Denise’s plight is symbolic of survivor’s guilt, in that many who’ve survived catastrophes, genocide, a mass shooting (et cetera) later feel guilty for having lived while others died. Here, this concept is symbolised by the imagery of the dead coming back to find Denise, and hopefully take her with them. Also a parallel to the inescapable fact of death, that it will come for us all, no matter the circumstances. Much like the creeping death in Romero’s zombies, these undead in Sole Survivor are the epitome of death’s inevitability.
SS1For Eberhardt’s directorial debut, before he did the fantastic Night of the Comet, this is a well executed piece of horror cinema. In a decade with an overabundance of horror it’s easy for a few films to slip through the cracks, in comparison to other bigger names of the era, during a time where Michael, Freddy, Jason were wreaking havoc to big box office numbers. What sets this apart from similar films involving the dead coming back to life is the atmosphere, from bleak images to a constant air of dread and suspense throughout.
The opener is a scene that, today, you’d expect would involve a much larger, more expensive, wild action set-piece. Instead, we’re given an effective start to the film that’s inventive rather than over the top. This is where the dread starts, with bloody carnage, an airy industrial drone, a scattered scream here or there, and a catatonic Denise in the midst of the madness.
Definitely a predecessor to Final Destination, only a hell of a lot more subtle. Terror creeps in slow, the build up burning and the eeriness always present yet just in the immediate background. It Follows has much of the same atmosphere, giving us an awesome homage in a scene where Maika Monroe firsts sees the titular ‘it’ on her college campus; absolutely influenced by one the earlier moments when Denise discovers the dead have come back for her, nobody else able to see it. Even further, how Denise discovers what’s going on through the cryptic warnings of a second party, just as Monroe’s character does, as well. This just goes to show that Sole Survivor has far more influence than its reputation might let on, ingrained in the collective film-going mind either consciously or unconsciously.
SS2The survivor’s guilt metaphor works on several levels. One being the visual motif of Denise being able to see the dead, while others are wholly unaware, even if the walking corpse is right next to them. Many of the film’s best dreadful scenes come out of the rock and a hard place where Denise exists, trying to survive as the dead try just as hard to kill her, at the same time unable to explain to others fully what’s happening to her. This symbolises the struggle of the actual mental affliction of survivor’s guilt, in that it is an invisible illness. Unlike a broken bone, mental health hurts on an altogether emotional, existential level, in turn producing physical effects. So, following the metaphor through, Denise must suffer in silence, as many do with their mental health, and nobody outside of her can understand the nature of her suffering.
Sole Survivor perhaps works best on this metaphorical plane. The film’s awesome, creepy. But the pacing is off. A slow burn can be enticing, can compel a viewer to stick with the story and the characters. This film has too much of it, and so rather than be tight with those suspenseful moments and scenes, that chilly tension, it comes off in many scenes as too tedious for its own good.
There’s no doubt the finale is thrilling. That doesn’t entirely excuse some of the needlessly slow, drawn out sections that could’ve been more efficient, and at times maybe an extra bit scary. That being said, the very end of the film is perfect. And nasty to boot.
SS3Cryptic messages from a psychic. The previously dead rising. A woman descending into paranoia. These descriptions could signify a bunch of movies. Yet one of the best fitting the description is Sole Survivor. Dread, suspense, a dash of blood; these are all fine and dandy. Add to that the central performance of Anita Skinner, whose presence and range suck the viewer into the character, in turn the story. Each eerie moment takes us deeper into her perspective, the perfect atmosphere to explore her guilt.
Highly recommended, particularly for fans of the 1980s in horror. And especially if you want to see early influences on It FollowsFinal Destination, and other works of the genre. Tension, ghostly and gruesome apparitions, a killer score full of swelling synth and typical horror movie tracks that make the mood all the more unnerving at the right times. It isn’t a perfect film, but Sole Survivor deserves better than being forgotten, belonging up there next to some of the best the ’80s ever had to offer.