Legion – Chapter 7

FX’s Legion
Chapter 7
Directed by Dennie Gordon
Written by Jennifer Yale

* For a recap & review of Chapter 6, click here.
* For a recap & review of Chapter 8, click here.
Pic 1The Eye (Mackenzie Gray) is stalking, closer and closer, behind Kerry Loudermilk (Amber Midthunder). She tires to run and hide, though it isn’t easy to escape him.
And watching as always, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, a.k.a Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza). She’s got Amy Haller (Katie Aselton) in her grasp. She asks Amy about when David (Dan Stevens) first came to live with their family. Sly little visual reference to Professor X, as his wheelchair dissolves past in an image while Lenny shouts: “What did he do with it?” Hmm.


In the meantime, Cary (Bill Irwin) has found his way to Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement) in that astral plane lounge. They drink, chat. Oliver wants to help however he can with the parasite that’s attached itself to David. Apparently the monster is called Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King. He’s sequestered David in the deep recess of his own mind. The longer this goes on, the more chance Farouk takes over the body entirely. This prompts Cary to come up with a plan. A wacky one, though a plan. Starting with the diving suit.
First visit is to Syd (Rachel Keller), removing the headphones keeping her subdued in the dreamy space of David’s childhood room. Cary brings her away to a safer place, so they can talk; she already knows the whole deal. Because she’s smart. Sort of ruins his excitement of explaining in hilarious fashion. Regardless, the plan is underway.
The halls of the hospital are absolute havoc. Good thing Syd’s got special glasses to cut through Farouk’s created imagery. Cary always keeps a few tricks up his sleeve, just like Oliver.
Meanwhile, Dr. Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) is drifting through the abstract, too. She comes across the diving suit with Cary inside, as well as Oliver in the room where their gunfight went down. Only the husband can’t remember his wife, his memory’s been affected quite a deal. It’s good to have him there, if only to help think through their next steps. But it’s what Melanie does next that’s interesting. Whispering in a Rudy’s ear, who in the later part of the timeline is stuck in a wall. But for now, Cut to Syd – she slips a pair of those nifty glasses onto Kerry, thwarting The Eye on the way.


Stuck in a “mental coffin” David faces British David (fun with Dan speaking in a native British accent). His rational mind. It’s all “just an idea” and the monster’s implanted in their head. Farouk is manipulating David’s mind, and in turn the wild mutant powers he wields. Very fun seeing the two sides of David, led by the rational mind, work out the problems with logic and reason. We’re watching the visual representation of the mind at work. And eventually, rational David convinces the other part of David the monster’s been around since he was just a child. Beautifully conceived sequence, all around! References to X-Men abound in this episode. Even as David figures it out, he gives his long lost father a British accent, not yet knowing his identity.
So the monster waited, watched after being defeated by David’s father, then found David, possessing him. Torturing him and feeding off his energy. Its parasitic machinations were to regain its own power to take revenge. Usually such exposition would feel lame, overdone, tedious. This doesn’t because of a) the visuals, and b) the storytelling works because of David having this two-way conversation with himself. Glorious fucking writing and directing, all around a fantastic job in this episode particularly.


Syd and Kerry keep moving forward. As does David, breaking through room after room, many of them the same, hearing Syd call for him. Melanie and Oliver and Cary, they work on their side of things in the room of that gunfight; Oliver does some wonderful conducting on the astral plane. This is even wilder and weirder and more fun than the previous sequence. Add in title cards like a silent film as Syd calls to the others, fighting alongside Kerry, and the whole thing’s more interesting than you can handle.
This will blow your mind, honestly.
Then Lenny shows up. She (literally) crushes The Eye, who’s of no use any longer. What a wild effect, such good work! And in that frozen gunfight, The Eye’s head starts running with blood. However, Lenny infiltrates that space, tossing Oliver to the side. Free to do as Farouk pleases.
Simultaneously, Cary puts the device on David’s head, Rudy grabs hold of Lenny, and with the full influence of David’s mind the place is under his control again: he saves Syd. But takes the bullets; catching them in his hand, like a true bad ass. All is well again, at least for now. Everyone returns, and so they can return to reality once more.


And who else came back – Oliver himself. His memory not ransacked like on the astral plane. Then there’s also a divide between Cary and Kerry, the latter feeling abandoned by the former in a deep way. Although things are better, they aren’t all perfect. It’ll do at the moment.
David and Amy get time together, as well. She feels bad for not telling him about the adoption before. But she finds it cool he’s a mutant. He does, too. Sadly Amy has to stay away from her family for a while because of D3, all the madness.
Furthermore, David has flashes of the monster inside. He wants to get Farouk out of him, and fast. Before who knows what happens. Yet they can’t do that because the interrogator David long thought he was rid of at D3 returns, burned up face and all. He’s got men with guns. Threatening to kill everyone else, except David. Oh, shit.
Not to mention deep down inside him still lurks Lenny, Farouk, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes. And that nasty bastard wants out. Strangely enough, it might actually help to let the devil out to play.
Pic 5Pic 5AI keep thinking I’ve seen my favourite episode of Legion yet, then Noah Hawley & Co. come at us hard with another visionary chapter in this impeccable first season. One of the best debut seasons of any series; ever. I’d take that to the bank. So excited for the season finale. NOW GIVE US SEASON 2, QUICK! Mainline it to my veins.

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The Path – Season 2, Episode 10: “Restitution”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 2, Episode 10: “Restitution”
Directed by Patrick Norris
Written by Jessica Goldberg

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Oz” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, click here.
Pic 1Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) wakes in her hotel room, alone. She and Cal (Hugh Dancy) spent a passionate night together. But what’s next in that regard? Do they empower one another to keep being awful? Well, she’s having a dream right now. She sees Marshall the farmer down at the buffet, where she starts pounding down bacon before almost choking.
She’s actually right next to Cal, in bed. A strange dream, though with those involved in Meyerism there’s often something true in all their dreams.
Abe Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar) brings all Sarah’s blackmail to his boss. They think it’s possible to bring down the movement, although many “morally reprehensible” people won’t get their just desserts, walking away for just a couple of the higher ups. Still, that’s the usual reality for many of these white collar crimes.
Meanwhile, Hawk (Kyle Allen) is meeting up with Ashley (Amy Forsyth) for the first time in so long. He also downplays his relationship with Noa (Britne Oldford), that they’re only friends. Very clear he hasn’t gotten over Ashley, still holding onto strong feelings under the surface, and barely.
Also there’s Eddie (Aaron Paul), still in contact with Sarah’s estranged sister Tessa (Alexia Landeau). They talk about the cult, as well as the Denier Policy. He wants a group of Deniers to walk onto the Meyerist compound and say: “We exist.” Yet Tessa doesn’t believe that it can happen, or she isn’t sure. The more Eddie talks, the more she’s convinced. But it still isn’t so easy.


Back with his mother and the cult deprogrammer, Sean (Paul James) is being pried out of the movement. All the same Mary (Emma Greenwell) isn’t there, and the deprogrammer casts further doubt on all the Meyerist bullshit. Sean is paranoid, worried, and who wouldn’t be? These people play hardball.
Ashley and Hawk talk about their former relationship. Why she broke it off, got away. He has to run off, they’ve got to be back to the compound by sundown. Before that he tells Ashley about watching his mother onstage, that she talked about “self love” and things that weren’t related to Meyerism. Is he finally seeing the real light? That of TRUTH outside their cult? He and Ashley embrace with a kiss. Perhaps it’s the first step.
Hypocrites Cal and Sarah speak about “transgression” that they’ve all experienced, meditating in a group for restitution. Helping others to find their own transgressive acts, to cast them out. What nonsense. Yet there they all are, meditating and thinking of their faults, all crying. And none of them will ever really face the truth, only the veiled truth in Meyerism. At the same time, Felicia (Adriane Lenox) guides Eddie through his own meditation.
Felicia: “Rest. Tomorrow, we act.”


Sarah finds out Marshall the farmer died weeks ago. This is one of those strings of guilt that keeps tugging at her heart. I wonder if she’ll manage to get herself past all the horrible things she’s done. Can she make ACTUAL restitution, instead of feigned restitution in the form of Meyerist meditation? Not sure. If so, she’ll be going to jail. Straight up. Even if she doesn’t do it herself, Abe is on the case.
And Cal, he’s got far more than just what we’ve seen in the series weighing on his shoulders. The fact Dr. Meyers molested him long ago is the bottom of the iceberg; what he’s done throughout the episodes of this series, what we’ve seen, is merely the tip.
At the park Eddie gets to hang with his daughter Summer (Aimee Laurence). And it’s sad to see her worry about their family, dragged into all the mess of cults and the madness of her mother’s side of the family. Tragic. At home she isn’t too happy with her family and doesn’t want to do take part in their latest celebration, or whatever they do.
Simultaneously, big brother Hawk is in bed with Ashley, suddenly falling farther from the movement yet hanging on at the same time; I’m interested most in seeing his arc, what’ll happen with this new development of Ashley showing back up in his life. Best of all is her influence, pointing out how Hawk’s only moved from the control of his mother to the control of Cal. She wants better for him, to make him see he can control his own life without needing others, even her. He can be his own man.
During dinner, Tessa arrives, out of nowhere. She confronts everybody – her brother Russel, sister Sarah, her mom, her dad, everyone else. She likewise reveals she and Eddie are in touch. Nobody reacts too well, Hank (Peter Friedman) is devastated. Then Tessa tells everybody Sarah wanted to leave, too. Had her bags packed and everything. Nice; another family divide. This throws everyone into a mixed up place, even Russel, particularly considering the fact Hank sees his daughter fairly regularly and keeps it secret from others.


Sean later tells Mary about who the deprogrammer is, that she’s trying to get him back home, away from the Meyerists. Mary doesn’t like that he lied. He says he’d like to go home, with her. To make a life together away from the movement. “The only thing thats keeping me here is you,” he tells her. Love this shot – as they talk, essentially discussing life in a cage with the cult, their faces are captured through the bars of the crib they’re painting. Beautiful visuals.
More revelations: Cal offered Ashley and her family a house to break up with Hawk. She says he is a bad man, that Eddie never would’ve done that to him. This confuses and frustrates Hawk, obviously. Never easy to see the world you know and love and bought into start crumbling around you. Regardless, Ashley’s only trying to help him. She has nothing to gain. It breaks her heart to see him entrapped by that insane cult.
Eddie gets a visit from Sarah, a pissed off visit. He tries to tell her it’s all about fixing things, mending bridges. She wants him to let go of their relationship, she doesn’t want to move outside of her safe little Meyerist world; especially not after all the crimes she’s committed in the name of Dr. Steven Meyers’ movement. Next day with Felicia and Richard, Eddie tells them he doesn’t want all the responsibility of leading the movement in the right direction. He says he can’t do it. But it’s all left up to the Light, Felicia says.
Pic 5Everybody’s painting tiny coffins. They put their sins inside, to “relinquish” them, or y’know, whatever the hell they believe. Hank relinquishes the Denier Policy. Nicole relinquishes Sam Field a.k.a Abe. So basically, it’s a type of confession, in aid of their own souls. To cleanse themselves. To lie to themselves about their guilt, their mistakes.
A couple good things: Mary agrees to talk with the deprogrammer for Sean, and Gab tells Hank she wants to see their daughter again.
Cal uses this time to relinquish his mother, her ashes into the waves. To let go of her, all that she represents. Yeah, right. It’ll take far more than a bit of water to cleanse ole Cal.
On the beach, Richard burns all the relinquishing coffins in the other half of their ritual. He remembers the one bearing Sarah’s sins. He brings it to Eddie, who opens and reads, discovering his estranged wife has been with Cal, though she’s willing to bear the burden of guilt for every other horrible thing she’s done all year. This is heartbreaking for Eddie to read. Necessary, to push him towards leadership.


What I love most about The Path is its resistance to tell a clean, happy story, where the families are likely to rejoice at the end and come together again. No, it isn’t like that. The Lanes are on the brink of all out destruction; hard to tell which of them will be left standing, or faithful, once all is said and done. Such a great show, excellently paced writing with plenty of drama and mystery to steer the ship. I don’t know what others are talking about when they trash the series. Spectacular show, that I hope will have another season despite however things wind up in the remaining episodes.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 5: “Dreams Die First”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 5: “Dreams Die First”
Directed by Nestor Carbonell
Written by Erica Lipez & Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hidden” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Marion” – click here
Pic 1Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is gradually figuring things out about himself. The more he falls into the delusion of mother (Vera Farmiga) still being alive, the farther he falls into a dark headspace, half knowing he’s mad, half unable to stop the process. He wakes up with scratches on his back, not exactly sure where they came from, but Norman goes on to face the day. Only Norma’s nowhere to be found.
Where could she have gone? Clues are all he has, including a matchbook from a bar. Then Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) calls him up, says she has something they need to talk about. Hmm.
Pic 1AEmma (Olivia Cooke) finds one of her mother’s earrings kicking around, though Dylan (Max Thieriot) claims it was his mother’s jewellery. Ah, the truth on that end has yet to come out. And building that new life of his, all honest and proper, I don’t think Dylan’s going to be able to let that sit. Not forever. I suspect this will have something to do with the last few episodes, and the fate of what happens to Norman in the long run.
Sheriff Greene wants to try prying more information about former Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) – who he knew, his friends, hobbies, anything. Of course Norman only offers that he was a “lonely, very unhappy man.” She knows there’s a reason Romero has escaped, to come back to White Pine Bay and finish some previously unfinished business. She’s too smart, and Norman is up against more than he can handle, for now. He can’t simply bullshit his way out of this one, not with Sheriff Greene.
Again at home Norman can’t find mother. He seethes with rage, believing that she’s hiding or avoiding him. So he calls up the White Horse Bar, from the matchbook. Apparently Norma left her car there last night and the bartender has her keys. Has Norman been actually going OUT dressed as mother? Yikes, that is an escalation.
When Emma brings up the earring to Dylan they talk of contacting Norma. He doesn’t want any part of it, getting a bit angry. But it’s more so the fact he’s pretty sure his brother killed his mother-in-law.


Later on, Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) calls Norman to apologise for their previous evening. Her husband’s off in Seattle. She offers to drive Norman over to pick up his car; the longer they’re in contact, the more I worry for her. Especially the cold, detached way he acts, which gets worse as he tangles with mother’s influence. Still, he offers good advice for Madeleine – talk to her husband, figure things out. Soon Norman finally reveals to her that the first time he met Sam the guy was bringing a woman to the Bates Motel. She doesn’t respond well, unwilling to believe what he’s told her. Hurt, angry, she leaves.
Norman: “I sure understand what it is to be lonely, although I dont have a choice.”
Except Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) is rolling around in bed with Marion Crane (Rihanna). More than that they’re in love, deeply. She doesn’t even care about his shitty debt. Now she’d like to come down to White Pine Bay for a visit, though he’d rather she not. This starts to setup a revisiting of the plot from Robert Bloch’s (/Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of) Psycho. From what I see so far, Rihanna will make an interesting Marion, a totally different version from Janet Leigh, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. She has the sort of mysterious, alluring look the role requires.
We get a brief look at Marion’s life, her work as a notary, having to deal with arrogant men around her in the financial industry. All working towards her eventual getaway.
Pic 3Norman gets to the White Horse Bar and picks up the keys to his car. Pretty sure the bartender remembers him, probably from wearing a dress, a blonde wig, et cetera. Such a creepy, unsettling conversation, as it’s clear the guy doesn’t realise that Norma and Norman don’t know they’re the same person. Just a fantastic scene! Norman’s really going to pieces.
We’ve come to it – Mr. Lowery gives Marion the hundreds of thousands of dollars to deposit, so that it isn’t sitting at the office over the weekend. He’s also dismissive of her talent, being a bit harsher than needed. And this all but mentally seals the deal for Marion. Sitting next to the briefcase you can see the wheels in her brain turning.
Driving in the street, Norman comes across Dr. Gregg Edwards (Damon Gupton). They have a cup of coffee together. Norman thanks the good doctor for his help. He lies about taking his medication, not having blackouts. Then Dr. Edwards mentions his “coping mechanisms” for dealing with trauma – a.k.a becoming mother – and this all but sends the young man into a trance. He knows that he sees mother when she’s “not really there” and that he becomes her. And certainly Norman denies all of this to the doc, saying it never happens anymore. Yeah, right. Even a blind man would see through that.
Jumping in her little red Mazda, loaded to the gills with cash, Marion hits the highway. What I love is that we’re getting all the same plot points about Ms. Crane, only that they’re adapted to make things a little different and fresh. When a cop pulls her over, she isn’t sleeping like Janet Leigh, she’s got a coat sticking from the trunk; the cop is also played by series producer Carlton Cuse. Tense moment when she pops her trunk, worrying all that money will be found. Then, nothing. She heads on further to White Pine Bay.
Not only that, she’s calling Sam who isn’t pleased to hear she is on her way. Plus, it seems Marion isn’t in on the fact he’s a married man. What a double dealing bastard. This puts Marion in such a terrible position, essentially driven out there to him and only to soon find her way into a horrific situation at the Bates Motel.
Pic 4Dylan sits Emma down and tells her about why he cut off contact with Norma. He explains about Norman, his mental illness. That he could “do anything” in his fits of rage. He talks about Blair Watson, Norman killing his father. Then he brings up the earring, that Norma was holding onto it. Eventually, Dylan says he believes it was possible something bad happened to her mother at the motel, obviously freaking Emma out and upsetting her for not knowing sooner.
Searching for answers, Norman goes to the White Horse where he’s recognised. This is another aspect of the adaptation I love! He isn’t just going into a psychosis at home, hurting people. He’s out living a life crossdressing as Norma, hitting the bar and meeting people. This isn’t merely a way to dissociate into a state where he kills, this is a full on identity crisis. He isn’t dressing up as mother: he is LIVING as mother. Even having sex as a mother. Yowzahs, Norman! He winds up having an episode in the bathroom after encountering the man he hooked up with the night before. One of the single eeriest scenes ever on Bates Motel.
Norman: “I need my mother
That night when Emma Googles the Bates Motel, she discovers that Norma was found dead of an apparent suicide. This will definitely start bringing Dylan back into the mix of Norman and mother’s fucked up lives.
And Marion, she’s pulling up to the Bates Motel to meet Sam. While Norman is in the midst of a state of terrible psychosis. What will happen next?


Jesus, do I ever love this show! The series gets better all the time, and now with the Psycho plot in motion I’m incredibly interested in how the series will do its swan song in the final episodes. Lots to look forward to, and I do think Rihanna will impress as Marion Crane.
Next is the aptly titled “Marion” in which we’ll witness her arrival at the motel, as well as whatever that brings.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”
Directed by Max Thieriot
Written by Torrey Speer

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Dreams Die First” – click here
Pic 1Now that Chick (Ryan Hurst) is officially in on the body count, how will things unfold for him going forward with Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma (Vera Farmiga)?
First of all, they’ve got to deal with the corpse of Caleb (Kenny Johnson) that’s sprawled in the middle of the road. Norman wouldn’t mind calling the sheriff, though the other two aren’t so sure about that option. And clearly Chick isn’t keen on that for being the one to have hit him. Seeing Norman navigate conversation between a dead woman and a living man is delightfully disturbing. Then Chick takes the corpse, Norman takes the groceries, and that’s that!
Can’t forget about Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). He’s been shot on a farm while heading back towards White Pine Bay. He pleas with the kid who shot him for a bit of first aid, so on. Not like Alex is going to the cops, having escaped a police transfer last episode. What motivates him seems to be just an utter need, a burning desire to get home and deal with Norman, once and for all.
Pic 2I love Chick. He’s so weird and quirky, but not too much. He is way out there. Not so far that it’s annoying or that it doesn’t fit. Sort of nice to see someone amongst this cast of characters over five whole seasons who isn’t the same typical White Pine Bay resident like all the other greasy, crooked people that exist in their small town.
Speaking of their community, there’s a new sheriff: Jane Greene (Brooke Smith). What a mess she’s inherited.
At home Norman isn’t happy with “how things are.” He and mother aren’t seeing eye to eye, he doesn’t like that things never go how he plans. More than that the two of them argue about dresses like the wild maniacs they are. And nothing feels better once Sheriff Greene comes poking around to meet Norman. Jim Blackwell, the man who came to kill him, has skipped on his parole; she found the Bates address in his belongings. She worries Alex, who’s now escaped, might be coming to cause problems. Or that there’s something both Blackwell and Alex are after, perhaps in the house, in the motel. Not good for Norman and mother to have an officer of the law snooping. She’s all good intentions. Just that… he’s a psychopath, guilty of so, so many things.
And now this ratchets up the tension between mother and son. He doesn’t even tell her about her former husband and the escape. Knowing deep down that Romero is on the way to their home.
Norma: “So I shouldve just let Jim Blackwell kill you?”
Norman: “Maybe
Norma: “Thats depressing


The more he and mother fight, the further Norman drifts towards Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He actually brings her some of mother’s dresses in an unnerving gesture; scary because he not only has interest in Madeleine, she looks similar to Norma and that’s what propels his desire most of all. There’s a great, sly little Psycho reference when she brings out his shower curtains, remarking that he must go through a lot of those; he casually replies that “Yes, yes. We do actually.” Can’t help believe that’s a nod to Hitchcock and the infamous shower scene, as Janet Leigh and the curtains alike were slashed apart.
Later on at home Norman has a talk with Chick. He doesn’t want him around the house so much. Chick feels a bit betrayed, by how much he’s done for them. Not so smart for Norman to turn his back on a guy who’s seen all the secrets. I see this having serious repercussions.
Romero makes a fake ambulance call outside an apartment building. When the EMTS arrive prepared for an overdose, he slips into the rig and gets himself a few necessities to treat his wounds. Then he does a bit of homemade surgery on the buck shot in his gut. Enough to keep him alive, anyways.
When Sheriff Greene snoops around more at the motel Norman starts putting his foot in his mouth. While he covers his ass, he doesn’t do it very well. Her suspicion is official at this point. Stupid Norman! Should’ve let mother do the talking. Except she’s a bit irrational herself. She hid Blackwell’s car in the woods after killing him. And the sheriff is searching for that very vehicle. Norman wants to be rid of it totally, and Norma insists it was wiped clean, et cetera.
So… what to do, what to do?


They argue. Norman almost kills mother. Things are not good inside this insane young man’s mind. Fractured into pieces is an understatement. Regardless, they decide on leaving the car and heading home for the night. One of the creepier scenes so far this season, just a strange, atmospheric tension, and the way it’s shot makes the moment all the more unsettling.
Those dresses belonging to mother fit Madeleine perfectly. This excites Norman, quite a bit. Or makes him happy. Or makes him want to bang his mom; who knows?! Still this precipitates a dinner between Madeleine and Norman. I wonder if it’ll get romantic. Possibly murderous, if things don’t go the way mother would want.
Chick gets a visit from Norman at his trailer. The kid wants advice, on hot wiring a car. He wants to get rid of that car in the woods. But Chick knows something’s up: “What did you do?” He’ll help, only if Norman tells him the truth. He gets it. Not the full truth: the truth about mother.
At the house, Norman tells Norma about his dinner with Madeleine. She’s not thrilled. Yet off he goes, no matter. When he shows up at her place she’s wearing one of mother’s dresses. Good lord! This is getting scarier with every passing scene. What particularly gets me is that in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Sam Loomis (played in the series by Austin Nichols) is a divorced hardware store owner. Will the history be rewritten to make Sam a widowed man instead of divorce? I worry poor Madeleine’s not long for this world.
Pic 7Madeleine and Norman make cake together, listening to Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” and falling into each other’s arms. Suddenly, mother shows up. Norman has a vision of cutting Madeleine’s throat, or of mother doing it; the blood, the body on the floor. None of it actually happened, though. He runs home. He can’t find Norma anywhere. He finds only the remnants of a man living alone.
Is this an acceptance of his psychosis? No, it’s only a deepening sense of it coming on stronger and stronger. Mother’s will is becoming terrifyingly merged with that of Norman’s, and this means nothing but more bloodshed.
Pic 8A great, great episode that had me on the edge of my seat near the end! Loving this season. Such a fascinating way to go out, plus lots of awesome adapted writing coming out of what Bloch and Hitchcock each did. Excited for more.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Tom Szentgyorgyi

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Hidden” – click here
Pic 1Caleb (Kenny Johnson) is waking up chained to the basement floor after being surprised by Norman (Freddie Highmore), dressed as Norma (Vera Farmiga). He wakes to his sister speaking to him. Only, it’s not, of course. It’s his nephew, dressed as his sister. So awfully creepy. Then there’s whatever Norman plans on doing with his uncle Caleb.
Could be a brutal end for him.
Pic 2And what about Chick (Ryan Hurst)? He knows all the secrets. He’s bore witness to the blonde wig, the odd way Norman sways across the room when he’s in his mother’s clothes/skin. They’ve formed a tenuous bond. I only wonder what Chick is getting out of this, other than maybe a bit of revenge on Caleb along the way. For now, he’s staying at the Bates house to protect Norma/Norman against the nasty uncle downstairs. Hmm. A truly strange situation, all around.
Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is being transferred from prison, and he’s another one I wonder about – he has a card up his sleeve. When they make a stop for gas and a bathroom break, he takes his chance and enacts a plan for escape.
At home Norman and his mother keep on coexisting, as best they can. She takes care of him as usual. In their creepy kind of way. He doesn’t remember that Caleb is downstairs, but she does, and she tries keeping him away from the basement. Always trying to control him. But of course Chick is still kicking around, curious about how Norman navigates his fugue state. He reveals he knows about Norma, and another tenuous bond with the other half of Norman is made.
Chick: “Were all in this sideshow together. And then we die.”
Caleb remembers his childhood with Norma, both of them brutalised by a crazy mother. Trying to survive. They had no one but each other, and despite what came later in their lives I can understand why their bond, for a time, was extremely strong. None of it matters now with Caleb chained in that basement and Chick standing guard.


Alex steals a car and then runs it off the road when he’s far enough. He makes his way back home, one mile at a time. In the meantime, Chick sits down to dinner with Norman and Norma, or y’know, one of them at least. He also brings a recorder with him. He offers to help them around the house, just for a sense of being with people after living alone so long. And what a conversation they all have together! Surreal, and crafty on Chick’s part, as well.
Later, Norman receives Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) at the motel. She clearly feels comfortable with him; bad move. But she’s having troubles with her husband, obviously. And this is a way for Norman to worm his way into her life.
In the basement Caleb hallucinates and thinks he’s hugging Norma, then her corpse. Then Norman, upstairs, finds out his uncle is trapped down there. That he’s spoken to Norma. Further than that Norman continues straddling the line between sane and utterly fucking psychopathic, as he doesn’t even understand his mother is literally dead, not just figuratively and pretending. So he heads down to talk to uncle Caleb, where mother takes over. Then both of them are hallucinating, in their own respects.
Norma: “Im sorry, Norman will probably have to kill you. I cant do it.”
Pic 5Pic 5ATrying to steal another car, Alex gets shot in the gut. What a tough, bloody journey!
Chick is continuing to record his story about the Bates family. He goes looking for a typewriter, to type up his novel. Getting ahead of himself a little on the true crime writing, though. I worry that, mixed up with the Bates’, he’s only going to get burned. Or worse.
And Norma, he had a little quality time with uncle Caleb. While thinking he was his mother. So, there are issues with his understanding: what he knows v. what mother knows. Never clear, at least for him. She wants him to kill Caleb and get this situation cauterised. Although her boy doesn’t think he can do that. Tsk, tsk, Norman – mother knows best. She advises a quick bullet to the temple.
Can he accomplish the task? We know murder’s not exactly out of his wheelhouse. He’s done plenty of heinous things before, just not all of them while fully conscious.
The answer is no – Norman can’t kill his uncle. He runs him out instead. Prompting Norma to take over and fire on Caleb. Inadvertently, Chick plays his part and accidentally runs him over in the road on the way back to the motel. Oh, shit.


Another great chapter in this last season. So many strange things converging, and now Caleb’s seemingly been taken out of the picture. Is he dead? Or just fucked up completely? Either way, Chick and Norma/Norman have their hands full with another likely corpse; at the very least, now a vegetable. Thing is, Chick has as much to lose as Norman, and their tenuous bond becomes more concrete, stuck together with blood.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Alyson Evans & Steve Kornacki

* For a recap & review of the Season 5 premiere, “Dark Paradise” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
Pic 1Norman (Freddie Highmore) is heading up to the prison. He and Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) have things they need to discuss. And that surprises the former sheriff. He isn’t exactly happy to see his former stepson. Especially considering the guy he sent to see Norma was supposed to kill him. Lots of tense mindgames going on right now. And outright threats, too. While Norman gloats, Alex makes clear he isn’t going away.
But on life goes for Mr. Bates. Another day, another act for him to perform.
In other news, Caleb (Kenny Johnson) has left. Emma (Olivia Cooke) tells Dylan (Max Theriot) she talked to him about their worries with him around. “No secrets,” she tells him. Dylan understands. Although he’s rightfully conflicted. He still has his concerns over what happened to Emma’s mother. Whether Norman did something terrible.
And Caleb, he’s back at the motel. Not knowing the truth of what’s happened there since he’s been gone. Nobody is around, so he lets himself inside the house. He quickly sees something isn’t right, the place is messy and generally looks unkempt. He finds no one. He does find a book called The Lost Art of Mummification. Creepy shit, all things considered.
Pic 2In prison, Alex gets into a nasty fight with another inmate. Taking quite the beating. Because his mind is elsewhere. Being locked up is one thing, knowing your former wife – saint or no – was killed by her son is an entirely other beast. And speaking of the beast, Norman is honing his focus on Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), whom he watches from afar. She actually offers to fix him up with someone she knows. A double date with her and her husband. Although there’s definitely a weird chemistry between them. Then we see that David Davidson is her husband, Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols). Ohhh damn, he knows a little secret, and that could be a thorn in Sam’s side. Yikes!
At home Norma (Vera Farmiga) is learning French online. Might as well keep her mind active, right? Being dead can really take its toll. She senses something, and coaxes out a conversation about Romero. A little later Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst) turns up knocking at the door with apples. And a business proposition. He’d like Norman to do a bit of taxidermy from time to time, then he’ll help sell the pieces. A partnership is born.
Caleb checks himself into a motel and finds out indirectly that Norma died. That’s rough. Devastating way to discover her supposed suicide.


Sam Loomis goes to see Norman, looking for discretion. He doesn’t wholly get what he wants. Instead, he threatens Norman. God damn, did he ever pick the wrong creepy motel manager to fuck with! As if he could know how insane Norman is, it was like a twist of fate they’ve come across one another.
No matter how unsettling the relationship between Caleb and Norma Louise, there’s still heartbreak seeing him at her grave. I don’t care. I know he’s a terrible person for what he did when they were younger. Regardless, he experiences horrible emotion having to see that Norma died while he ran away elsewhere.
Norman: “Please dont be childish, mother. Its boring.”
Out for his date, Norman plays the part of normal human being, alien amongst people in a skin suit. He asks his date all the right questions, all the while Sam stares him down, wondering if his dirty little secrets will trickle out. The two men are verbally at each other’s throats. Yet Norman is sharper, one step ahead at all times, in every way. Worse than anything mother turns up in the washroom to chastise her boy for lying about the double date dinner. Tsk, tsk, Norman. Of course he isn’t actually lying to her. She’s fucking dead. He’s only lying to himself, which is nothing new.


After getting beat up, Alex is looking to get himself out of prison. Using it as an excuse to say his life is in danger. This would get him out into the free world again. To… take care, of Norman. Like a good stepfather, whose wife the boy murdered and passed off as suicide. So messed up. Not quite as messed up as Norman, though. Who’s interested in Madeleine specifically because she looks like his mother. And that bothers Norma, even though, y’know, they’re technically the same person. So deliciously unhinged.
Seeing him become Norma in his own skin is visually interesting, also a great feat of acting on Freddie Highmore’s part. The way he embodies Norma, moving like her and taking on her mannerisms, et cetera. Amazing work. And the writing is top notch.
Meanwhile, Chick is writing it all down in one of his notebooks. Telling the story of Norman Bates. He also notices, across the bar, Caleb sitting for a drink. That’s a score left to be settled, in a massive way. But Chick knows everything about their family, the darkest of the hidden secrets. That’s a lot with which to be armed. We see that Caleb is more interested in holding Norman responsible for the death of his sister.
He goes to the house and breaks inside. But he finds nobody, again. Aside from the corpse of his dead sister in the basement. All the while Norman is running around dressed as mother. He knocks Caleb out. Right as Chick comes in to witness it all. Whoooa!


I knew this was coming and yet the way the writing manages to weave things it’s all a nice surprise. The addition of Chick as a character in the mix is an interesting one. Excited to see what happens next with him and Norman/Norma.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
Pic 1So what’s next for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore)? He’s done his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in. But mother will always live on inside him.
Well, Norman continues on much like he did before. Living in mother’s world. Except the delusion’s only gotten deeper, and we’re one step closer to the territory Alfred Hithcock explored nearly 50 years ago at this point. Poor Norma, he acts as if Norma’s still alive and well. They go about their day, eating breakfast, talking about the chores Norman has been finishing down at the motel. He’s convinced himself mother is only hiding, she isn’t dead. She had to get away from all the trouble of her life. Amazing what the tortured mind can do, isn’t it?
Pic 2And then there’s Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). I guess former sheriff. Now that he’s doing a stint in prison for being mixed up in a little too much corrupt business. That’s one of the great parts about Bates Motel: no characters, even the relatively better ones compared to others, are perfect; none of them are morally superior, they’re merely different shades of grey.
Norman runs into a shop and meets a woman named Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He, of course, rambles on about his mother. To anyone who doesn’t know him like the audience it sounds sweet. To us, it’s awfully creepy. Worse, he has some guy’s wallet. A guest from the motel? Or another grave? Hard to tell, though I assume the latter. He doesn’t remember where he got it, so he asks mother. She plays dumb and clearly knows something.
Norman: “Do you ever have the feeling that youve had the same nightmare over and over again, but that you cant remember it, you just remember the feeling of it?”
Norma: “Nope
In their new home, Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Dylan (Max Theriot) have a little baby girl, and they’re celebrating Emma’s birthday in their beautiful house. Things are wonderful; Dylan’s been promoted. Then up shows Caleb (Kenny Johnson) at the door, throwing all sorts of emotions into the mix.


Trying to find out where the wallet came from, Norman searches the motel for clues. He keeps detailed records of his whereabouts, monitoring his blackouts. One of which coincides with a receipt from the man’s wallet. Uh oh.
A man clearly at the Bates Motel to have discrete sex checks in as David Davidson. So sneaky Norman puts him in Room 1. You know why, he made that little peephole for himself, when he was spying on mother and Alex. Now he has a front row seat to the sex lives of others. Until mother calls him on the phone, interrupting his nasty little masturbatory fantasy. Even in death she controls his libido.
Added to the fact there’s luminol ordered using his credit card, something else he doesn’t remember; something mother absolutely knows about while acting like she knows nothing. They sit and have nice dinners, but underneath it’s so volatile. He can’t even bring up Madeleine and her help with the paint without upsetting their delicate balance. Knowing where Norman ends up in Psycho, it’s interesting to see things bubbling up right now between him and his dead mother. Because we know it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse.
And scarier still, Norman goes to the basement. To see his real mother, where she stays preserved, or sort of, sitting there like a doll. So at once he’s delusional and also lucid at times – the worst type of psychopath.


The next day Madeleine brings Norman some paint and brushes to sample colours. There’s an obvious chemistry between them, though she has no idea how terrifying he is under the facade. I can see a tension brewing, whether that’s sexual I don’t know yet. I’m thinking there’ll be problems with her husband down the line.
Caleb’s trying to do his best fitting in with Dylan and Emma again. Although they’re ready to give him a chance, particularly once she finds out that Caleb helped with money for her surgery. She tells him what it meant, to help save her life. On the other hand, she asks him to leave. Because of who he is, as an uncle and father simultaneously to Dylan; she doesn’t want this affecting her own child. A tough but necessary move.
Mother and Norman have an argument out in front of the motel. She isn’t happy that he’s going out to a small business owner meeting, one that Madeleine told him about. So she hauls him up to the house, to the basement. To the freezer. Where she shows him the body of the man whose wallet he’s been carrying around. They killed him. Even when neither of them fully understand who’s controlling whom in their situation. Regardless, it’s bad.
Norman: “Well, its not like weve never done this before.”


So mother and son go about ridding themselves of the corpse. And while we watch them both take care of business, it’s really just Normal lugging the body around, struggling it into the trunk, and everything else. All to Etta James singing “At Last” during their dark family outing. A nice canoe ride at night, a body dumping. Perfect for the two of them.
Except Norman still doesn’t understand why the man was trying to kill him. Why mother had to take him down. She loves to hide secrets.
Then the man’s cell rings. An inmate from prison calling – it’s Alex. He’s trying to put an end to Norman. Only now, the young man knows.


What a great opener to Season 5! Loving it already. So much in store, including the storyline that will connect us to the Hitchcock classic.
Next up is “The Convergence of the Twain” and I’m expecting big, creepy things!

Father Gore’s Favourite 50+ Films Directed by Women

In celebration of International Women’s Day and also Women’s History Month, here’s a list of 50+ films directed by women that are downright spectacular. Spanning the genres from drama to horror to science fiction there’s something for everyone on this list.
We need more female artistry. Not only in independent cinema but in the system of filmmaking as a whole. These are just a fraction of the amazing stories women have brought to the medium.


Meshes of the Afternoon1) Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
An experimental short film from the first half of the 20th century co-directed by a married couple, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. This one’s hard to explain. For a 14-minute flick this one requires multiple viewings. Very innovative, particularly for the ’40s, but honestly it’s generally an impressive short, even by today’s standards. A great surreal film.

The Night Porter2) The Night Porter (1974)
Directed and co-written by Liliana Cavani, this 1974 drama is one part eroticism, three parts disturbing psychological torture. Some consider this an exploitation film; I don’t agree. While it has erotic elements, and of course its heavy dose of Nazism, The Night Porter is about the lingering effects of the past on the present, how evil of a certain magnitude won’t ever wash away, and more. Sure, it’s a shocker of a movie on many levels. But trust me, Charlotte Rampling’s performance, Cavani’s direction, the compelling and disturbing story, they all add up to something perfect.

Near Dark3) Near Dark (1987)
Maybe Kathryn Bigelow’s directed ‘better’ films than this one, I don’t know. I’m not the taste maker. However, this vampire flick of hers is one of the horror genre’s greatest hits. And for good reason. Vampire stories are a dime a dozen, more so when you fast forward to today. Bigelow doesn’t just populate the cast with the likes of the late, great Bill Paxton and genre hero Lance Henriksen, she infuses her horror with a bit of Western sensibility and, yes, realism (the vamps’ vehicle kitted out to block the sun is simple though classic). More than that she provides an examination of what family means in different senses through her depiction of a roaming gang of bloodsucking criminals who cross paths with a sweet, lovestruck country boy.

Boys Don't Cry4) Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Brandon Teena’s story is an American tragedy, a wound that still hasn’t closed in 2017 when Republicans are, almost more than ever, intent on making it harder for trans men and women to live their lives.
Directed and co-written by Kimberly Peirce, Boys Don’t Cry tells the tale of Teena (Hilary Swank) in unflinching detail about the young woman formerly known as Teena Brandon living her life as a boy named Brandon. Most of the movie is dedicated to the relationship he has with a woman named Lana Tisdel (Chloë Sevigny). But Peirce never shies away from the brutal realities of what happened to Brandon after mutual friend John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard) discovers his secret. This isn’t a film I can watch often, though this doesn’t diminish its importance. You need to see this film, especially if you know anyone trans and want to understand the fear many men and women live in to this day because of violent, often murderous bigots.

Ravenous5) Ravenous (1999)
There’s a lot to enjoy about Antonia Bird’s film. You could see it as a historical horror, even a transgressive satire at times. You can never say it’s boring.
Ravenous takes on the concept of manifest destiny, when cannibalism grips a remote military outpost in the Sierra Nevadas during the mid-19th century. What Bird does best is blend all the elements – Western, horror, satire, action and adventure – into an atmospheric tale that chills and also takes you on an intensely thrilling ride.
Two big welcome additions are the sprawling locations, plus one of the most unique scores you’re ever likely to hear courtesy of Blur’s Damon Albarn and composer Michael Nyman.

Werckmeister Harmonies6) Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
Co-directed by husband-wife team Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, this is one of post-2000’s most unique dramas. Don’t want to say too much. What I will note is that Tarr and Hranitzky offer up excellent black-and-white visuals, while navigating a story of decay in post-World War II Eastern Europe. Plenty of ways to interpret, many ways to enjoy. Visually this is great, and it’s shot in just under 40 single takes, giving it a lyrical quality.

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing7) Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001)
Jill Sprecher’s 2001 ensemble drama feels, in terms of story, like a film we could’ve seen from Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson. There are a number of themes at play, and for a mostly serious drama a proper dose of appropriate comedy. It’s the case who bring the A+ work alongside Sprecher and her directorial choices. Roger Ebert fittingly described the story as philosophy unfolding through the regular events of regular peoples lives; nobody can describe it better.

Trouble Every Day8) Trouble Every Day (2001)
Get used to Claire Denis, she pops up on this list a few times and she’s one of the world’s best filmmakers; female or not. She explores the darkness of humanity, at every end of the spectrum. Naturally, she expresses the feminine side of life very well, but Denis understands human beings well as a whole.
Trouble Every Day is, on the surface, a story about sexual cannibalism. It looks and acts as a horror film. Within that are metaphors for and about love, how we tear one another apart for the sake of emotional satisfaction, lust, so on. Aided by the top notch performances of Beatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo, Denis gets to the bloody, beating heart of love in an uncomfortable though intriguing way.

Monster9) Monster (2003)
In the study of abused women throughout America, a conflicted and devastating case is that of Aileen Wuornos. In this 2003 Patty Jenkins film Charlize Theron figuratively and physically embodies the executed woman, giving tender life to a marginalised, victimised soul whose trajectory in life was set in blood long before she ever made it to Florida. Lesser director-writers would’ve settled for a sensational horror bordering on hack-and-slash to tell this grotesque true story. Instead of that, Jenkins offers something more pensive, more personal, more focused on character and motivation than the crimes themselves.

The Woodsman10) The Woodsman (2004)
Adapted from a play of the same name, Nicole Kassell’s The Woodsman is an uncomfortable piece of cinema. I have no empathy or sympathy for paedophiles or those attracted to underage teens. But, like so many great works, this story challenges the limits of acceptance and to what we the viewer are willing to relate. I won’t say any more. Go into this without knowing much and it may surprise you.
The scene from the image above is perhaps the most telling, in regards to how the audience is asked to try and understand Kevin Bacon’s character, whose past transgressions include molesting a young girl. When Walter (Bacon) steps past the boundaries of normal conversation his brother-in-law Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) is no longer empathetic, he’s disgusted and almost physically assaults Walter. There are different interpretations of this moment, mostly it illustrates the fine line between understanding and contempt when it comes to these types of issues.

Deliver Us from Evil11) Deliver Us from Evil (2006)
This is a difficult documentary, so I advise anyone who’s been a victim of sexual abuse, specifically at the hands of a priest, maybe tread lightly with this one. Not only are there a few explicit descriptions of the abuse perpetrated by the monstrous Father Oliver O’Grady, we also spend significant time listening to the destruction he wrought upon his victims and their families. Documentary filmmaker Amy Berg (I could’ve put any of her films on here honestly) cuts to the core with an examination of the Roman Catholic Church’s failure to protect the most vulnerable in their care, as seen through the lens of O’Grady and his crimes.
Because make no mistake, this is a microcosm of the larger problem endemic to Catholicism. Thankfully Berg brings the issue to light with an expert documentary which leaves no stone unturned.

Red Road12) Red Road (2006)
I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling. Andrea Arnold is an English treasure. Not only is her directing and writing on point in this mysterious little drama, Kate Dickie pulls out a mesmerising, fearless performance as lead character Jackie Morrison, a CCTV operator on the Red Road Flats whose job allows her a front row seat to locating the man who irreparably altered her life.
Don’t read anything else. Go, watch. Experience this moody film for what it’s worth, and let the story sink into your bones.

In a Better World13) In a Better World (2010)
Susanne Bier covers a lot of ground with this 2010 dramatic thriller. From a small Danish town to an African refugee camp, Bier dissects the meaning and devastation of violent conflict, the constructions of masculinity, and more. The plot’s wonderfully divided between the two separate lives of one man, home in Denmark and away in Africa, as he struggles to understand the nature of violence while holding onto the man he is inside. Although the movie is great to look at and Bier’s directing is solid, it’s the story which ultimately captives, keeping you glued until the final moments determining whether the film is a tragedy after all.

Lore14) Lore (2012)
No shortage of WWII and Nazi-related films out there, though some are far better than others. At the top of the heap is Lore, based on one of the novellas from Rachel Seiffert’s book The Dark Room. Directed and co-written by Cate Shortland, the story is an uncompromising view of life nearing the end of Nazi rule, as we see the perspective of a young woman raised by Nazis and her aftermath when Allied Forces move in on their homes.
There’s so much in the film’s 109 minutes to absorb. Watching young Lore deal with the sudden disappearance of her parents in a time of intense crisis gets to me. Because she’s been raised by fascist parents to take part in a frighteningly fascist society, not the typical lead character we follow in WWII or post-WWII movies. But Shortland draws our attention to the right places, and Lore’s journey evolves into something far more compassionate than you’ll ever anticipate in the beginning.
One of the most telling moments is when Lore threatens her little brother, saying that the Americans have prisons where young people are tortured, horrible places; the irony as she subscribes to the Nazi ideology is staggering, showing us just how indoctrinated she’s become living in the world of adults ruling Germany with an iron fist.

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology15) The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)
Director Sophie Fiennes casts her lens upon philosophical cokehead Slavoj Žižek, who I’m half a fan of when he’s not spouting absolute madness and misguided wisdom. What I love is that Fiennes captures Žižek in his own world, in a sense. As he rants, often to great effect (his movie wisdom re: ideology is fairly spot on), she takes us into that world, and adorns each frame with the influence of the films Žižek discusses at length. My favourite section is where he discusses the John Carpenter classic ahead of its time, They Live, and in particular his dissection of the fight scene, which in itself is a perfect rendition of the struggle to accept ideology.

Ratcatcher 16) Ratcatcher (1999)
Certain filmmakers capture the essence of the middle to lower classes with absolute precision. One such director is Lynne Ramsay. Her 1999 drama Ratcatcher depicts 1970s Glasgow in all its visual squalor, as we infiltrate the poor housing districts populated by characters hoping for better, for more. From the striking binmen and all the garbage piling up outside, to the just as neglected inner lives of those inside the flats, Ramsay finds the beauty and the tenderness amongst all the trash.
There are two gorgeous, memorable sequences above all. One of those is a dose of magic realism you might not expect to see. When it comes, you’ll know. And you’ll never forget.

Away from Her17) Away from Her (2006)
The subject of Alzheimer’s Disease is a touchy one, like any disease that decimates a human being, physically or mentally. Directed and written by Sarah Polley, Away from Her is based on a short story called “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro. It’s a film which will rock you. Both performances by Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent are the stuff of dreams.
Polley does a stellar job in her dual role as writer and director. Not only is her work quality, the movie is directed by a woman, a Canadian, based on a Canadian writer’s story, filmed in Canada. Pinsent is even from my small hometown on the far East Coast of Canada, Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland. What’s not to love?

The Virgin Suicides18) The Virgin Suicides (1999)
You can argue that Sofia Coppola has only gotten better as a director, so that would mean her debut feature isn’t necessarily going to be her best. But while I agree she’s matured since, The Virgin Suicides is my vote for her best. It’s a great film in terms of story, directing. It’s also an important one.
Based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, it explores the utter pain of becoming a woman through eyes of young boys/men watching from a distance. At first that seems like a male perspective, and to an extent it is, when it helps capture the mysteriousness and elusive nature of femininity from all angles. Coppola was the perfect filmmaker to tackle this story, doing so with atmosphere and a deft hand for storytelling.

But I'm a Cheerleader19) But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
When I was young I saw this on Showcase. Being 15 and stupid at the time I was like “Awesome there’s lesbians” and just enjoyed seeing a couple girls kiss each other. In my maturity, Jamie Babbit’s movie became a clever satire about the construction of gender roles, centred on a 17-year-old girl struggling with her sexuality. This is where I first really fell in love with the acting of Clea DuVall and Natasha Lyonne. Above all else, Babbit directs this with vision. Regardless of what critics said at the time she does wonderful things with the look and feel of her film, pushing its themes visually going against heteronormativity and the socially constructed way our society views being a woman.

The Selfish Giant20) The Selfish Giant (2013)
Clio Barnard directs and writes this modern fable about greed and guilt, loosely inspired by Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name. Apart from the fine acting from the young lads central to the story, Barnard shows us a raw portrait of those on the margins. At times tender, The Selfish Giant gives us a look at characters recognisable to those who grew up in little places, where any feasible way to make money was a good way to make money. If you’ve a heart at all this movie will shake you, though in an eye-opening sense.

Pet Sematary21) Pet Sematary (1989)
Not sure how everyone else feels. For me, both the novel and the film Pet Sematary got under my skin. I mean, the mom’s sister Zelda? Haunts me to this day, no joke. Terrifying.
For any of those idiot men out there who have a shit opinion about women in horror, check out Mary Lambert here. Not only is this one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations on film, Lambert generally does nice work in the horror genre with this late ’80s classic.
Gruesome, eerie, intense, darkly comic; this one’s got it all!

Titus22) Titus (1999)
Despite recently discovering Steve Bannon co-exec produced this movie, and the fact it’s based on one of Shakespeare’s more obscure and ridiculously violent plays, it’s still a fantastic slice of cinema directed by Julie Taymor. Boasting a fantastically epic cast, Titus is a visionary adaptation of Shakespeare up there with Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
Colourful, savage, metafictional, flamboyant, purposely anachronistic – Taymor isn’t afraid to be different, to be her own director. She is fascinating, and this movie is full of wonders. Fuck what anyone else tells you.

Harlan County USA23) Harlan County, USA (1976)
I don’t need to tell anyone about the spectacular work of Barbara Kopple, from her documentaries to her directing on episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street to one of my favourite series’ of all-time Oz.
This documentary is raw and powerful. A look at a miners strike in Kentucky presents the class divide between Americans more than a hundred lectures and articles by people who think they know it all. Necessary viewing for any wannabe documentary filmmaker, and for anyone serious about understanding classism in American society.

Rush24) Rush (1991)
Lili Fini Zanuck’s only feature film is a top notch crime drama that goes undercover with two detectives and gets lost in the drugs. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric, Rush is one of my most favourite undercover cop dramas out there. This is another movie you want to go into without knowing much. Just that Zanuck directs the hell out of it, taking us on a ride with Leigh and Patric that’s full of adrenaline and suspenseful dramatics.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night25) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Ana Lily Amirpour has emerged as one of the more bold genre directors in the past decade, with this film and her newest, The Bad Batch. She’s got an eye for black-and-white. Moreover, she blends genres like nobody’s business!
I can’t properly describe the film without giving too much away. It’s a vampire film. It’s Iranian. It’s almost fantastical in nature, dystopian in a way existing in a place that’s otherworldly.

American Psycho26) American Psycho (2000)
Bret Easton Ellis gave us one hell of a novel when this was originally released. A wildly transgressive piece of literature. It was hard to imagine anyone translating that totally onto the screen. But, where there is doubt there is Mary Harron!
All of Ellis’ dark, satirical comedy comes out, as does the brutality and the depraved nature of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale in fine form). She really gets the book, or at least how I interpreted the book. And you can argue whether it’s all real, that’s up to interpretation; regardless of authorial intent. Point is, this is a great horror in many ways, not least of which is the fact Harron does spectacular work as director bringing Ellis and his madness to the film properly.

Wayne's World27) Wayne’s World (1992)
For years I had no idea this comedy classic starring Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey was directed by a woman. Penelope Spheeris gives life outside SNL to Wayne and Garth, as the meatheaded young party animals with their own cable access television show. One of my favourite comedies. When I did find out Spheeris was behind the movie, only made it better to understand, still as a teenager then, that a woman can party on as good as any dude. Something I should’ve known sooner.

Honeymoon28) Honeymoon (2014)
I don’t know what the consensus on this flick is, but I love Leigh Janiak’s allegory about the concept of marriage, and what it is to truly know somebody, inside out. Honeymoon is like a metaphor wrapped in body horror sci-fi, underneath an intense, claustrophobic drama. Lots of good atmosphere. When the horror comes, it arrives in spades. The acting from Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway is out of this world, which helps in such a closed environment; their paranoia, the fear is suffocating as they spend much of their time in a single space. Wonderful horror cinema, Janiak knows how to get at the soul.

Sleeping Beauty29) Sleeping Beauty (2011)
Part her own fiction, partly based on a couple novels, Julia Leigh spins a strange tale of a young woman who participates in various different occupations to make money. Some of which includes doing medical experiments, even working in a high end escort house where she’s drugged to sleep next to paying male customers. Equal parts creepy and symbolic, Sleeping Beauty is, like it or not, unforgettable.

The Babadook30) The Babadook (2014)
Jennifer Kent rocked a lot of us when she released this nightmarish psychological horror into the filmosphere. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll do my best not to spoil.
All I’ll say is this – you can interpret the film however you want, but either way it’s filled with frightening imagery reminiscent of German Expressionism, and can work on the level of a metaphor for how we deal with grief in the wake of tragedy.

Winter's Bone31) Winter’s Bone (2010)
I think Jennifer Lawrence is a bit of a knucklehead. As an actress, she is really great. Most of the time. In 2010’s Winter’s Bone, she plays a resilient young Ozarks girl left to fend for herself and her two young siblings after her deadbeat, drug addict father goes missing. Under the thumb of a ruthless community and her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes in one of his best roles), she’s left with not many choices. Just like so many in the real world like her are left destitute, in every way you can think. The directing from Debra Granik is good stuff, from the picturesque locations to the shabby little backwoods town where the plot plays out she knows how to push us into a world that not everybody understands.

Persepolis32) Persepolis (2007)
I read this graphic novel in a university course a couple years ago. It struck a chord, seeing a perspective that I don’t know too well. Marjane Satrapi adapted her own novel into this fantastic animated feature, which helps hugely – rather than put this into live action, she sticks with the cartoon format, and that holds power. Just like Maus and its Jewish mice, Persepolis helps us confront hard truths and ideas about the Islamic Revolution, what it was like in Iran before, after; it does this by being presented in cartoon, automatically pumping up sympathy, even if unknowing in the audience. No matter what, Satrapi keeps the essence of her graphic novel autobiography and shows that she’s as skilled a director as she is an author.

Amer33) Amer (2009)
Hélène Cattet and partner Bruno Forzani direct this visually stunning tale of the development of a young girl into a woman, defined by three moments in her life. Like a psychosexual nightmare crossed with an expertly paced, mysterious Giallo sensibility, Amer plays less like a film, more as an experience. Honestly, I know that’s something that you might expect a pretentious writer to say, and maybe I am. But I do know that you won’t see many movies quite like this, a unique, one of a kind piece of horror cinema.

XX34) XX (2017)
What happens when a bunch of women come together to give us an anthology horror film? We get some fresh, unnerving new perspectives, such as St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, for instance. These four shorts are each impressive in their own right, though I’d have to say “The Box” (based on a Jack Ketchum story) is likely my favourite. Still hard to choose when all of them are chilling. Some are darkly comic, others outright horrifying. In an anthology, especially if there are more than a handful of segments, you’ll often see a few really weak links in the bunch. XX offers up four thrilling short films that you’ll be thinking about for days.
Kudos to these women, I hope they all continue to scare the shit out of us in the future! Horror needn’t be a boys club. I’d much prefer the feminine perspective pump out more genre work, and I feel this movie only helps the case for that.

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things35) The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2004)
I love Asia Argento. She’s fascinating. And one of her few feature films as director, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, falls on its viewer like a hammer.
Without spoiling, this is the tragic tale of a mother who’s not fit to be a mother dragging her little boy through one messy life situation after another. This isn’t a comedy. It is outright brutal, in what it shows and what it opts not to show, too. Starring Argento and the Sprouse brothers before bigger fame, we also see appearances from the likes of Marilyn Manson, Kip Pardue, Jeremy Renner, Peter Fonda, Ben Foster, Michael Pitt, and Jeremy Sisto. The cast is varied, all of them giving their best efforts in the various sleazeball roles they play.
Be prepared – this film is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t a horror, it’s a drama. One that will grate on your nerves and wear down your psyche. However, it’s a great anti-thesis to all the romanticised versions of down-and-out families we see so often, proving that, as it says in the Bible: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Innocence36) Innocence (2004)
Lucile Hadžihalilović has two films on this list, because she’s a mesmerising talent behind the camera. Her directing is confident, even as the stories she tells fall into a space not quite of this world yet still a part of the human order of things. I know, that’s mystifying in itself. But trust me, Hadžihalilović is unlike any other.
Innocence is a film about young girls at a secluded boarding school, where new students are brought in lying within coffins, and there they being the education which takes them from girls into womanhood. You could take this and Hadžihalilović’s Evolution, also on the list, and use them as companion pieces exploring male v. female gender. This film is inexplicable until you see it. A visual feast. Furthermore, it’s a disturbing work of art.

Dans Ma Peau37) Dans Ma Peau (2002)
I won’t say much, other than a trigger warning for those who have issues with self-harm/mutilation: this is a doozy!
For everyone else, this film acts as an exploration of how we relate to our own bodies. Director Marina de Van goes into shocking detail, following a woman who develops a nasty habit after suffering a rough injury. This prompts a descent into body horror, as the viewer must come to terms with this woman and her increasingly masochistic behaviour.

Jesus Camp38) Jesus Camp (2006)
I was raised Roman Catholic, though when I hit 12 my parents gave me the choice on my own whether to go to church. I gave up, never looked back. As a grown man, I’ve decided I’m not without faith, I just don’t believe in God, organised religion, all that. I simply have faith in humanity.
When you watch Jesus Camp, you’ll see how humanity is warped. The kids in this documentary have been so viciously brainwashed that it’s abuse, to my mind. Watching some of the adults egging these kids on into realms of thought they can’t possibly understand is frightening, as well as sad and frustrating and a whole bunch of other emotions tied up together. Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing direct this documentary together, and they expose a sinister underbelly to what many used to think was innocuous summer camp-type activities.

Goodnight Mommy39) Goodnight Mommy (2015)
When two twins see their mother come back home after surgery, her face wrapped in bandages, they start to wonder: is it really their mommy under all that gauze?
Goodnight Mommy is a whopper of a film. A psychothriller we don’t often see. Sure, maybe you’ll ‘guess the twist’ early on. I didn’t. Even if I did, co-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala weave us through the story in a way that still demands respect, and fear. Not only that, the directing offers up some stellar visuals, as the story messes with our mind right to the finish.

The Turin Horse40) The Turin Horse (2011)
Another film from Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky. This time, they take on the tale of Friedrich Nietzsche, albeit in an adjacent form. When Nietzsche lost his mind, supposedly it was precipitated by him watching a horse being flogged in the street, after which he crumbled mentally. Tarr and Hranitzky don’t follow the great philosopher. Instead, they show us what happens next to the horse. We go back to the horse’s home, we see the lives of his owner and the owner’s daughter.
This isn’t for everyone. Most definitely a philosophical film, for those with an interest in philosophy. Within the seemingly monotonous perspective of the film there are questions about life, waiting to confuse and titillate.

Bastards41) Les salauds (2013)
Oh, Claire Denis; I worship at thine altar.
What a filmmaker. She’s consistently interesting, even if you don’t particularly dig each of her films. She is always asking questions about the hardest aspects of life – love, loss, pain, pride; everything.
Les salauds (English title: Bastards) is a disturbing film, on several levels. Ultimately, this chalks up to a tragedy of errors, in the deepest, most painful sense possible. The titular bastards are all around, though more often than not they’re close to us than we think. Denis explores this idea well, with Vincent Lindon at the centre of the story giving another great performance as usual.

We Need to Talk About Kevin42) We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Another magnificent human being, Lynne Ramsay, reappears on the list.
And for good reason. We Need to Talk About Kevin is a hugely important movie, based on the book of the same name written only a few years after the Columbine massacre. Tilda Swinton takes on the role of Kevin’s mother, facing the hardship of having to live on in a world where her son has committed horrible atrocities. She takes the punishment from the locals, the news, so on. And while we’re tempted to feel sorry for her, the flashbacks we experience alongside her offer a different perspective. She certainly isn’t to blame for the horror of Kevin as a young adult. At the same time, it’s hard not to see the effect an unloving mother can have on a child’s development. In so many ways this is a difficult to swallow story. In so many other ways, it’s one of the most important films since 2000.

The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears43) The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
From the directors of Amer, this is another eerie tale. I won’t say anything further, except expect more of the same (though different) visuals and in turn visual storytelling rather than a ton of expository dialogue. This is a weird, wonderful slice of Giallo-inspired cinema you won’t want to miss.

Evolution44) Évolution (2015)
Watch this Lucile Hadžihalilović picture after you’ve seen her other film Innocence. They’re each innovative looks at gender. This one turns its gaze onto the development of young boys, albeit in a dystopian, sci-fi-ish way that isn’t always easy to grasp. Despite that the film is hard to ignore. Like a bit of body horror, fantasy, and dystopian drama in one big, weird bowl.

The Hitch-Hiker45) The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
Ida Lupino was directing movies at a time when it wasn’t exactly common for women to be helming big pictures. But it’s stuff like 1953’s The Hitch-Hiker that exemplifies exactly why. In this simple story of two men picking up a dangerous man on the side of the road, Lupino does more than a couple films combined. I don’t want to spoil the goods, because she truly makes a suspenseful piece of work out of a simplistic premise. The acting is great, and the cinematography will keep you cooped up in close quarters with the titular hitchhiker on the edge of madness with his unwilling passengers, from start to finish.

She's Lost Control46) She’s Lost Control (2014)
Anja Marquardt’s She’s Lost Control is a raw drama that looks at the life of a sexual surrogate. She’s forever altered when one client with whom she works becomes erratic in his behaviour, committing a brutal act that sees her question a job she never did before and also deal with the misunderstood conceptions about her job from the people around her. Definitely a slow burning drama, but filled with enough nuanced acting that you’ll forget any slower pacing. Brooke Bloom’s central performance is better than great, she genuinely falls into the skin of her character Ronah. And when you see those last frames, you’ll feel like you’re right there in her skin, as well. Like it or not.

The Adversary47) The Adversary (2002)
When a man’s family turns up dead, his life for the past couple decades unravels and it’s discovered he’s not who he’s pretended to be all along. Daniel Auteuil turns in a staggeringly powerful performance in the lead role. It’s the way director and co-writer Nicole Garcia shows us the story that offers the film’s most intriguing aspect. Going from the man’s present to the past, and everything in between, Garcia shows us where he is, how he got there, and all the pain of everyone involved. At times a straightforward drama, The Adversary surprises with the manner in which its revelations open up for the viewer.

The Blue Light48) The Blue Light (1932)
Leni Riefenstahl didn’t just make an awful piece of Nazi propaganda. She also made and starred in The Blue Light, a hypnotising fantasy about a woman suspected of being a witch, who’s the only person in her village that can climb a nearby mountain; at the top is a strange blue light that shines under the moon. Young men die trying to follow the woman. Eventually, tragedy strikes when she entrusts the secret of the mountain and its blue light to a man who betrays her.
There’s a lot to enjoy, from cinematography to the sweeping score to the dreamy pacing and equally dreamy imagery. I only saw this recently, seeking it out before Women’s History Month specifically. And I wasn’t disappointed. Its length is perfect to match the pacing Riefenstahl attains, slowly indoctrinating us into this mysterious village at the foot of the mountain. A fantastic work of early 20th century cinema!

Pariah49) Pariah (2011)
I loved Moonlight. But 5 years before it dropped on us like a beautiful black bomb, Dee Rees brought us a story of a young African-American girl discovering and exploring her lesbianism while navigating family and friendship in Brooklyn.
While you can admire it for the gorgeously captured images of beautiful, young black women frequenting nightclubs, walking the streets of their neighbourhood, moving through the familiar spaces of their lives brought out in exuberant detail, Pariah is a tender if not tough look at this girl and her struggle. There are moments of such beauty you might cry.
And whereas Barry Jenkins’ Best Picture winner of 2016 ended on a hopeful, heartwarming note, Rees opts to end with a beat depicting the all too common fight of young gay/lesbian men and women out there just trying to be themselves.

Vanishing Waves50) Vanishing Waves (2013)
This film by director and co-writer Kristina Buozyte is a unique work of science fiction, especially if we consider the sci-fi that’s come out since 2000. It’s a very psychological piece. Above all, the visuals are to die for! What begins as nebulous, evasive story slowly morphs into something tangible as time progresses. At the beginning, you won’t know what to think. Then as you let Buozyte sink her images into you and they burrow under your skin, Vanishing Waves takes form right before your eyes. Not for everyone, but certainly a great female-directed film in a male dominated industry, where directors like Buozyte are pushing the envelope and plenty of men are directing heaps of shitty sci-fi.

The House is Black51) The House is Black (1963)
Watch this. Now. A short documentary, though no less important than one that’ll run for two-and-a-half hours. In twenty minutes you’ll experience a ton of emotions. Director Forugh Farrokhzad examines what it is to be ‘ugly’ and pits that against religion. Trust me, you won’t regret watching this one. The images are stark and they’re not always easy to watch. But all of the best documentaries touch a nerve, which Farrokhzad does with hers so effortlessly.

Vagabond52) Vagabond (1985)
Starting with the death of a young woman frozen in a field, Agnès Varda takes us back through her life leading up to where and when she’s found. This is like a snapshot of real life, in the sense that we often see these types of deaths, ones we deem sad and unfortunate, and we know nothing of this person’s life. While Varda’s eponymous vagabond isn’t a bad person, nor does she deserve a tragic death such as this, we basically watch the bittersweet flavour of her existence. And that perhaps dying in a field, free and in the open is what this vagabond wanted. Perhaps there’s more romance in her life and death than we suspect at the start. Or maybe not. The way Varda doesn’t show us everything, sometimes leaving out significant pieces for the audience to put together in a puzzle, how we get cinema verite moments of people talking into the camera about the young woman, there’s a very genuine feel of reality. We’re left to decide exactly what this woman’s life means, if anything, and how her death reflects the life she lived.

White Material53) White Material (2009)
Claire Denis, once more. An auteur.
White Material is a ferocious film, full of power. Isabelle Huppert, like always, wows in her central performance as a French coffee farmer struggling in an African country as a civil war erupts. What we see is less a political view into things as it is a personal, smaller scale look at child soldiers and what they’re made to do, as well as how the people of a country react to the violence of war in its many brutal forms. There are difficult moments throughout. In her usual awesome form, Denis often affects us more by what she DOESN’T show and merely suggests, rather than what she chooses to show. In the end, this all hinges on Huppert at the centre, a woman faced with losing everything she has in every way but refuses to just give in. Another one of her stories that’s heavy in impact, as if you’d expect any less.

The Underbelly of White Liberals & Horrific Cultural Appropriation in GET OUT

Get Out. 2017. Directed & Written by Jordan Peele.
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, LilRel Howery, Lakeith Stanfield, & Stephen Root.
QC Entertainment/Blumhouse Productions
Rated 14A. 103 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★★
screenshot-2017-02-26-at-4-19-55-pmAs a long time fan of Key and Peele, soon as the news dropped Jordan Peele would make a horror film I was beyond excited. Because in some of the skits they did, it’s easy to tell he’s a horror fan. Not just a fair weather fan, either. He’s a genuine connoisseur of the genre, far as I’m concerned.
That only becomes more evident when you’ve actually seen Get Out. I feel totally confident in saying it’s one of the best horrors since 2000, up there with others I adore such as High TensionKill ListInsideSpringSaunaThe Witch, and more.
Moreover, Peele makes this feature a total work of an auteur, a unique and inventive picture. At once it’s entirely his own, and also bears the mark of Peele’s influences on its sleeve with pride. Above all the story is disturbing, compelling, critical of social constructs of racism (and no, the liberals don’t escape scrutiny), full of psychological horror to unsettle you and mystery so thick you’re liable to feel the breath catch in your throat.
getoutDisclaimer: If you’ve not seen the film, turn back! A good discussion is going to involve spoilers, and I’d hate to ruin any of the plot for you beforehand.

In interviews, Peele has made clear he loves The Stepford Wives, particularly in that it holds a lot of social criticism within its horrific sci-fi machinations. What we get here has a vein of the William Godlman-penned adaptation, though obviously skews into the idea of racism. But it isn’t solely racism. Intriguingly enough, the story – specifically its characters – deals with liberal racism, the type of stuff not always overtly evident to those who hold liberal beliefs and spend their days believing they’re not in the slight bit racist. And the creeping sense of this racism builds, as Peele takes us inside the affluent white family of Rose Armitage (Williams), to whom she introduces her African-American boyfriend Chris (Kaluuya). The terror isn’t terror at first. It starts off as comical: Rose’s father Dean (Whitford) fawning over Barack Obama, worrying that having a black maid and a black housekeeper reflects poorly on him as a self-professed liberal, and her mother Missy (Keener) with her hypnotism bumping up against Chris’ smoking habit.
Once the facade wears off though, Get Out descends into utter terror. It’s all storytelling, character development, suspense. There’s a moment when poor Chris realises what exactly is afoot, including the depth to which it goes that he, and many of the audience, had never once anticipated. Even if, like myself, you feel that you know where everything is headed it’s how Peele takes us there which ultimately holds power.
My favourite image: directly after Chris discovers the extent and hideous nature of why he’s been invited to the Armitage estate, he notices cotton stuffing coming out of the chair to which he’s strapped. Now, this is part of his eventual escape. However, it’s a subtle little moment where we see a beautiful, brown leather chair on the outside, and the white stuffing within, as if the very image of what is happening at the hands of the Armitages. Maybe not intended at all in that way. An observation, one I couldn’t stop thinking of after the fact.
get-out-3My idea, and I’m sure the same idea of many others who’ve seen the film, is that the story is an overall allegory for the idea of cultural appropriation. Again, I likewise feel Peele is gunning at another part of the problem aside from the obvious racists. And as a mixed race man he has a unique perspective on the concept of racism, being a part of both worlds at once and seeing things from many angles. The Armitages are a rich bunch of white people whose fascination with Rose’s black boyfriend verges between obsession and bigotry, teetering on the edge as is the case in real life; something people like that don’t see on their own. When the horrific truth of the family bubbles up to the surface, it’s too late. And worse is the fact Chris saw it coming, but trusted his girlfriend to be different from the rest of her family.
This is where the core of the plot lies, in the concept that this sort of racism it exists all around us. In everybody. I can look at things I’ve said or thought in the past that, to me, felt innocuous. Through the eyes of my friends who are from different cultures, those things might appear in a different light. Peele makes his points in an elaborate way, substituting horror and mystery for what could’ve otherwise been brought out in a drama. By doing so, he makes the whole story more disturbing. There are hard hitting dramas and thrillers out there which take on racism, some of them very well. Get Out‘s strength comes from the way the story grips you, makes you laugh, disarms, then pounds you into submission with its subtle creeps.
get-out-trailerThere are a good few movies that I personally consider five-star pieces of cinema. Not all of those are actually perfect, to my mind, but they’re still fantastic. Get Out is a five-star flick that’s perfect in my eyes. I wouldn’t change a thing. And considering, for a film lover, that I hate sitting in theatre seats (being a big, tall man isn’t always fun), after the credits rolled I could’ve sat back for another viewing. It’s satisfying, rife with tension and suspenseful moments. The cast each bring their respective talents. Kaluuya’s star shines brightest. He knocked me out with his performance, carrying every scene he’s in with a grace not always present in the horror genre.
Peele’s examination of the subtle racism amongst liberal white people is something I won’t soon forget. I hope he’ll do more in the horror genre, and my hope is that he’ll continue bringing his point of view on the racial sociopolitical landscape; maybe even go a little bigger with it next time. He’s a sharp guy, dosing us with just as much hilarity, dark comedy, and satire as there is horror.
Go see this, support horror that doesn’t play by the rules. Also, white people need to watch this. You can genuinely learn some things. This is not a politically correct film, clear by all the white idiots out there already crowing that Peele is anti-white and other nonsense (I’m sure he and his white mother would disagree). And I love that someone like him has put this into the filmsphere. It belongs. Another hopeful part of Get Out‘s success is that other filmmakers from the black community, and other cultures, will push to give us their vision of their experiences. This movie’s done a ton for the genre in one swoop, reassuring moviegoers that not all horror has to be cut from the same cloth, and that compelling perspectives against the grain are out there, ready to terrify us.

Taboo – Episode 8

FX’s Taboo
Episode 8
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 7, click here.
pic-1As George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) was digging into the sinking of the Cornwallis, James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy), tortured beyond the realm of human imagination, finally received his meeting with Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) in the Crown’s dungeons.
This final episode begins with Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin), ruminating on what’s next in her life. OR, in her death. She plunges herself off a bridge into the frigid waters below after sending a last letter to her half-brother. And he’s chatting with Strange, telling of his time in Africa when an African saved him, as well as admitting to his own atrocities: “The things I did in Africa make your transactions look paltry.” They speak of Godrey (Edward Hogg), his role in the plan James has enacted. Then he offers Strange a deal. Not an easy one, apparently. Yet James always has a plan in his back pocket. Usually a bit of blackmail. The table’s set. Will Strange deliver a ship and whatever else is in Delaney’s letter? Can he?
pic-2Young Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) goes running around to see Brace (David Hayman), Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander), with letters for them written by James. Like dominoes, one after one receives whatever news and plans are at hand, including Atticus (Stephen Graham).
All the while Strange is sweating the details, and James starts in on his eerie voodoo prayers in his dungeon cell. A few of the Crown’s men go to get him, finding he’s seizing, foaming at the mouth, bleeding. Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) worries they’ve done permanent damage, though I’m inclined to believe it’s all part of the master plan. Simultaneously, on the road Atticus stops a coach taking Helga (Franka Potente) and her friend elsewhere, which ends in the death of Mr. Pettifer (Richard Dixon). A little while later Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) picks up Helga, and the young boy she tracked down confirms that James did not kill her girl Winter. It was the Company.
But most of all Strange is falling apart trying to maneuver all the pieces in order to appease Delaney, as the man himself continues pulling strings from behind the scenes. Everything is set deep into motion. Cholmondeley works on “things that go bang” and others which “cause confusion.”
Lorna goes about her business, too. She’s off to see the Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands) about certain feminine products, secrets. And powder. Ah, yes. Afterwards, alone, Musgroves pulls a knife on her visitor until finding out the details, her association with Delaney. He’s sent word about the “leaky ship” she captains.

pic-6What about James? He sits there in that cell, having masterminded the entire series of events. Now he hears Robert singing from outside the dungeon’s walls. A sign. “Im ready,” he tells his captors.
Upstairs, his account for the Crown begins. Only it isn’t what Coop and the lot expected. He reveals the nastiness about to come. His double dealing, playing both sides has ensured his own best possible outcome. Everyone else is left in his wake. So, James walks free from his chains and all his charges.
Plus, he has a ship once more! There’s also his discovery now that Zilpha has plunged into the River Thames, carried away dead to another place. This certainly won’t do him any good. He refuses to believe her death: “If she was in the river, she would sing to me. And I would hear her.” Lorna tries convincing him otherwise, but he’s lost in all that voodoo magic or whatever he believes in, thinking that he can see beyond the grave. He manages to get himself back in action, with a little help from his friends, such as Dumbarton (Michael Kelley) and laudanum. Trouble being he’s got to captain a ship from England to America. Might not go so smooth if he’s fucked up, in more ways than one. And that friendship with Dumbarton, it goes sideways. The doctor’s left strung up, sliced up, his face inked in blue. Yikes.


Cholmondeley’s got himself laced with explosives, ready to rock. At the docks, the ship is readied, and more Company men are laid to waste. Delaney is really doing a number on Sir Strange before shipping out.
Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) eats like a slob, talking with Coop about faith. Then, how many people might be dispatched for treason. He wants Delaney dead. When his right hand man protests a bit, the Prince Regent proclaims angrily: “Im the head of fucking state!” With so much death and betrayal and double-crossing afoot, no telling who’ll make it out alive in the end.
On the dock, James cuts Brace free, revealing he will not be going to America; only decent thing is that anything Delaney-owned left in England belongs to him.
With that, the plan commences. When Crown soldiers rush the dock, Cholmondeley sets off a huge explosion, killing some and disorienting the rest. After which the remainder are smoked out and gunned down mercilessly. More soldiers rush in and the rest of the guns start blazing. Lorna, Godfrey, Helga, everyone is rushed to the boat – stopping for her dropped pistol, Helga’s shot before boarding. And Lorna, she takes a bullet in the shoulder. The streets and the dock are literally and figuratively on fire; Cholmondeley is gravely wounded when some of his explosives go off. Nothing goes as well as hoped.
Eventually, those still able make it onto the ship. Away they go.


At the East India Company, Strange finds a message waiting. He still believes everything’s going according to what he discussed with Delaney. That is, until a package from Cholmondeley is set off as he opens its strings, and his office blows sky high. The end of Sir Stuart.
Brace sits quietly at the Delaney home, facing an eternity of loneliness left behind. That same afternoon, Chichester turns up to get the account of the Cornwallis, Godfrey’s account, as well. Justice will be served.
On the open ocean James and his crew sail towards America. With plenty of interesting intentions. What will they do when they get there? James has his machinations, as the American flag is hoisted up in place of the ole Union Jack.
Atticus: “I thought the gunpowder was for the Americans?”
James: “We are Americans
pic-13Whoa. Are we going to get ourselves another series? Seems like it. I anticipated this as a limited series, but I’d LOVE to see Delaney and Atticus and Lorna and the lot doing their thing in America. Could get pretty wild. GIVE US MORE! We need it now.

Legion – Chapter 3

FX’s Legion
Chapter 3
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Peter Calloway

* For a recap & review of Chapter 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Chapter 4, click here.
pic-1Dr. Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) and her Summerland facility run on smoothly, as David Haller (Dan Stevens) digs deeper into his mind. Everybody’s doing something constructive, from Syd (Rachel Keller) to Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris), and Cary Loudermilk (Bill Irwin).
Still, The Eye (Mackenzie Gray) holds David’s sister Amy (Katie Aselton) hostage. And how long until something really bad happens?
Now more of therapy, just amped up. They’re digging into the “shit that scares you the most” in terms of the largest events in David’s life where he manifested powers, believing it mental illness. We cycle back through the familiar stuff, the kitchen before everything exploded. When Melanie and Ptonomy witness what happens afterwards they’re both wowed by their new friend’s powerful abilities. Then they’re back to a memory with David and Lenny (Aubrey Plaza), high as fuck, which starts a confrontation after Philly arrives.
And once more the Devil with the Yellow Eyes returns, scaring David. The memory changes, things aren’t the same anymore. When they come out of the memory work they’ve literally transported “600 feet through two solid walls.” Yowzahs.
pic-2The continuing relationship between David and Syd is fun, not a conventional-type relationship we so often see. Of course that’s precipitated by the fact they’re mutants, or whatever you’d like to call them. Either way, she’s awesome, and it’s excellent to see a different female character in these superhero stories. In this episode, David and Syd talk about their past to one another. He also has residual physical manifestations of their switching bodies.
Syd: “Were more than just this
Later, David goes over with Cary for a few tests. A kind of stress test. This takes him back to a memory on Halloween, as he and big sister Amy go trick or treating. When their dog ran off, David ended up seeing The World’s Angriest Boy in The World come to life. Oh, and Lenny shows up, too! We watch now as he speaks to Lenny, hearing her, yet to the outside world he’s not actually talking. His brain’s lighting up as if he’s talking, but he’s not at all. Lenny is one hell of an antagonist, though. As if his mind, in general. It goes into overdrive. David levitates, followed by Syd, as well. They disappear into nothingness.
They’re transported to where Amy sits, interrogated over and over about her brother and his powers, confronted with the fact he doesn’t have schizophrenia. Rather, he’s a powerful “god.” She has no information for them. That’ll be a problem if David and Co can’t get to her in time.


Melanie doesn’t want David doing his transportation act again any time soon. Could put them all in danger. We also get a history of the place, or a short one, anyways. There’s a lot going on for them, between Amy missing, David’s powers, old friends now foes of Melanie. On top of that, Dr. Bird wants to weaponize David, essentially. He won’t let up until his sister is safe. Simultaneous, he won’t stand for putting Syd in danger, even though she kicks ass, has saved him a few times already, et cetera. They deal with it in their own way, talking it through and feeling their connection immensely without any physical contact; one of the interesting, fun things I enjoy about their relationship.
David: “To be a monster, youve first got to do something monstrous.”
More memory work!
This time, Dr. Bird puts David into sedation. They go back to see how he wound up in Clockworks. Intriguing that Syd’s powers don’t work inside the memories, not without her physical body. She actually gets to hug David, but a young, little David. Odd, yet in a way romantic across space and time.
Then strange flashes, banging around the room while they watch David’s memories. Except they’re only images Syd can see. Something tears open a wall behind Melanie and Ptonomy, creeping its hands through the gap. They lose track of one another when Syd stumbles back through various memories of David’s in succession, chasing the child version of David through room after room. She even witnesses David having sex, at one point; very weird, considering she’s unable to have human contact.
Trapped in David’s head, The Angriest Boy in the World stalks the child. And worse still, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes. Syd and Ptonomy manage to make it out of their deep sleep. Although David and Melanie remain under.


Amongst the memories, Dr. Bird still walks, looking for answers. She finds The World’s Angriest Boy in the World tucked away in a closet. She reads through the sinister book. It soon slams shut on her hand, sending her back to the couch with Ptonomy. However, the memories are scaring everybody now, not only David.
He’s got his own demons, too. Terrifying ones that won’t let go.
screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-3-33-09-amscreen-shot-2017-02-23-at-3-34-43-amWhat an episode! This series is just knocking each Chapter out the park. Hawley and the crew doing amazing work, solid directors and writers involved. Great, great stuff. Looking forward to Chapter 4.

Legion – Chapter 2

FX’s Legion
Chapter 2
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Noah Hawley

* For a review of Chapter 1, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-2-49-05-amAfter the exciting events of Chapter 1, we find David Haller (Dan Stevens) alongside Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) and the others, as one of them sings “Road to Nowhere” by The Talking Heads.
They get back to a facility – Summerland – where David meets others, including Cary Loudermilk (Bill Irwin). But the poor dude is sick, he has too many voices rushing through his head. Melanie tries to help, getting him to focus: “Theres a single voice calling your name. Can you hear it? Can you find it?”
And who’s the voice? Could it be his mother, maybe?
The next day things start in full swing. He sits with Melanie and Ptonomy Wallace (Jeremie Harris) discussing how to harness his powers, which involves looking back through a lifetime of memory.  So it begins.
screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-2-53-07-amWe see memories of David and his sister Amy (Katie Aselton), though they’re very young, maybe eight years old. They run in a field with their dog, they laugh and play. The goal is to figure out where his supposed mental illness started, then leading to, hopefully, controlling the energy of his mind. They head more and more through various memory work, and David witnesses himself as a boy with his mother. Happy memories, evidently. Also, he remembers his father as an astronomer. Those of us who know the comics know better though, don’t we?
Ptonomy: “Pretend were in a museum; the museum of you.”
Suddenly something goes wrong. The dream feels sinister, ugly. The room starts to shake, as David spins out of control. Back to the table where they all sit. David’s beginning to freak out, until Ptonomy puts him to sleep.
Another trip back sees David sitting across from Dr. Poole (Scott Lawrence). He’s twitchy, he’s nervous. The voices scatter his brain. Outwardly, he seems incredibly mentally ill. On the inside is something nobody would’ve ever been able to diagnose, in terms of regular everyday medicine and science. Moreover, we see him and Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza) together, the earlier days of their friendship. But quick as we went in, David wakes up in Summerland with Ptonomy, and has a glass of milk to settle his stomach. I love Ptonomy, too. He has memories of his entire life, right back and into the womb.
Out in the woods, searching for David, is The Eye (Mackenzie Gray) and a fleet of black dressed, gun-toting SWAT team-looking cats. They will not stop, either.


There’s still no full explanation about what happened when Syd and David changed places. Although she remembers it being “so loud” while they did, it scared her. She likewise saw the horrible entity David keeps seeing in the background, that malevolent, hideous thing. And then, Syd remembers she probably killed Lenny.
Note: This scene had some awesome editing, from the memories of Syd about what happened in the hospital to the quick cut to Lenny reciting a line David is saying to Syd. I mean, Hawley & Co are pulling out all the stops to make this series work. Dig it!
Finally, David steps in with Mr. Loudermilk for a CT-scan-type test. Well it looks like Cary’s a bit of a character himself. There’s two Loudermilks: Cary and Kerry. Hmm, I’m intrigued now, especially seeing as how he said he was talking with Kerry, and she’s nowhere to be found. Either way we tumble back into more of David’s memories, now one in which he and Amy sit together chatting about her personal life. Memories slip by quick and we’re over with David and Lenny once again; she’s trying to trade an oven for drugs. Meanwhile David is having aural troubles. When they get their drugs it’s back home to get high! Only, should someone like him be experimenting? What I love most about Haller’s issues is that we see a genuine depiction of mental illness: he hears things, sees them, he’s not sure what’s real or what isn’t, and it’s as if we’re watching a documentary sometimes on the nature of schizophrenia. Inside the sci-fi trappings is a genuine depiction of a struggle with a disease of the mind.
We’re actually watching more of the memory work with David, Ptonomy, and Melanie. They try getting to the bottom of his visions. Particularly once the eerie, dark entity shows up and it freaks him out. Then the memories are glitching, jumping time. They dig up one of David’s flashes, in his apartment when he blew the place near to pieces.


Loudermilk is trying to help David figure out where his “memories are stored.” Stubborn little things. They head back into another one and try again. He goes into a dark place of his memory where things fold back onto themselves, the voices overcrowding his thoughts. Then there’s Amy, who can’t find David at the old facility anymore. She’s distraught, wanting to understand where her brother’s been taken. And Amy winds up being found by none other than The Eye. Uh oh.
Has David discovered a further power? Can he hear and see things from across time and space? Oh, I wouldn’t doubt it.
After Loudermilk leaves him alone, amazed by what he’s seeing on his readings, David’s greeted outside the machine by that grotesque entity. Another second passes and he’s not even in the machine anymore. It’s because he blew the thing right outside and into the yard with his powers. A truly disturbed individual, frighteningly powerful.
Alas, David’s decided to leave for a couple days and figure out what’s going on with his sister. At the same time, Amy is stashed away somewhere being held by The Eye and his associates, in a dreary basement akin to an old mental hospital. What is he planning for her?
screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-3-35-05-amWhat a spectacular follow-up to the first episode. The next ought to be a thrilling experience, just as these two have been! Loving this series. Hawley is an impressive writer, showing us more of his talents here with every passing chapter.

In Defence Of & In Love With SCREAM 4

Scream 4. 2011. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Starring Neve Campbell, Alison Brie, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marielle Jaffe, Marley Shelton, Erik Knudsen, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Anthony Anderson, Mary McDonnell, & Adam Brody.
Dimension Films/Corvus Corax Productions/Outerbanks Entertainment
Rated R. 111 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★
poster-scream-4When a franchise stretches out over a few decades, often times fans – horror fans in particular – can get fickle over what they want to see. And I don’t blame them. If you’re a huge fan of a series then it’s understandable to be guarded over the original film(s), to feel like even the original director-writer team might not be capable of matching what they did so long ago.
All those ideas go out the window with Scream 4. Sure, it’s 15 years later, and the generation of young people involved has changed significantly. There’s new technology, new rules to the slasher horror game. At the core, this both pays tribute to the original in huge ways, as well as forges its own path as a worthy sequel.
Craven and Williamson don’t get every little thing right. But they worked hard to give this the same creepiness and excitement as the first Scream, providing brand new characters in the landscape of Woodsboro and never forgetting the tried true originals of the franchise. Old meets new in the best, most genuine kind of way.
Scream-4-movie-imageThere’s always a stellar opening, even in the previous, lesser instalment. Craven and Williamson do not slouch here, either. One girl complains of no character development before characters die in Saw, when in fact we watch the young women in this opener die without any development whatsoever, similar to Drew Barrymore’s character in the original Scream. Williamson’s self-referential, tongue-in-cheek writing once more, as we cut to two other women watching Stab 6. They talk about the conventions and tropes of horror, so on, and then we again cut to two more girls watching Stab 7, further questioning the genre’s trappings. You almost, for a second, believe it’ll keep going, and going, one girl stabbed after the next. Great way for Craven and Williamson to poke fun at themselves, too.
One thing I dug about the last film was that composer Marco Beltrami used new pieces in the score, alongside some familiar ones, as well. The new compositions are fresh and interesting, they make the score feel new, yet at the same time we get those old sounds. With a new sequel 11 years since the previous entry in the series, Beltrami picked up where he left off while offering depth to his Scream repertoire.
Some gnarly kills worth seeing. One of the opening girls has her throat slit, and it is downright savage. When Perkins (Anderson) is stabbed in the head some find it funny, because of the “Fuck Bruce Willis” line. And yeah, it’s funny. Nasty all the same.
SPOILER ALERT: Charlie’s death is a disturbing one, very brutal. And when Jill does her best Tyler Durden I always find it pretty sickening, though fascinating; she thrashes the life out of herself, as the dying bodies of friends and family lay bleeding around her.
scream-4-2Part of what makes the screenplay work so well is the contempt of remakes, or at least the many awful remakes out there. In a fourth film, that’s sort of confident. This is not a remake, obviously, of the original, just a continuation of the story concerning Sidney Prescott (Campbell). But still, much of what they satirise in terms of remakes – mainly through snappy dialogue from Charlie (Culkin), Kirby (Panettiere), Robbie (Knudsen) – could be aimed at sequels, and definitely at sequels a little ways down the line.
Regardless, Williamson forges on with what made the first two films really impressive, that self-deprecating, self-referential style. It’s not all satire, though. We go back to the original by way of some Ghostface killing. Such as when Kirby watches Charlie from behind a glass door as he’s tied to a chair, just as Drew Barrymore’s character watched her boyfriend in Scream. Poor Kirby’s even subjected to another scary movie game. In other films this could feel cheese-filled to the brim. In the hands of Craven and Williamson, the scene comes off genuinely tense and, ultimately, horrific.
The biggest thing I love, story-wise, is that the Maureen Prescott’s been buried; pardon the pun. There’s no stretch, as in Scream 3 at times, to try attaching her character to the motive of the killers. Rather this story puts Sidney in the spotlight, even her family, cousin Jill (Roberts) and aunt Kate (McDonnell) get dragged into the terror. Whereas Sidney’s always been the main character, technically in that spotlight, the focus of the series in terms of why the murders were happening was Maureen. This entry in the series shifts focus wholly onto Sidney, which is, for her, unfortunately tragic.
scream-4-3Effectively, Williamson’s screenplay gets back to the interesting motives of the first two films. The motives have evolved, as have the killers. Here, the killers speak to the modern murder explanation of how the lust for fame can drive unstable people to untold, utterly insane lengths. Media begets the sick mind, in that a quest for fame can become out of control when celebrity is literally but a stab away. More relevant as of my writing in 2017 than even when it came out in 2011.
Scream 4 is a whole lot of fun, and holds its share of gruesomeness. Sidney has become like her mother in a way, as once Maureen loomed over Sidney and Woodsboro, but now her daughter looms over everyone. The terror she experienced at the hands of the various Ghostface killers encompassed a further generation of her family, creating all new dynamics, and in turn a new set of killers.
The callbacks to Scream are done so well, switching up situations and characters, self-parodying and being critical of sequels and remakes even when Craven himself has produced remakes. It’s just an example of why the first movie worked, why the second was also a powerhouse. Testament to the wonderful teamwork of Craven and Williamson. The willingness of this slasher franchise to be simultaneously satirical and also deadly serious from one moment to the next is a big part of why the movies have succeeded. A huge part of why I’ll always love them, and why Craven was a master.

SCREAM 3: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Scream 3. 2000. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Ehren Kruger.
Starring Neve Campbell, Liev Schreiber, Roger Jackson, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, David Arquette, Scott Foley, Roger Corman, & Lance Henriksen.
Dimension Films/Konrad Pictures/Craven-Maddalena Films
Rated R. 116 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★
poster-scream-3For some the Scream franchise dragged on. For others, such as myself, we couldn’t get enough of it. Although it isn’t hard to admit that, at least for Scream 3, the prior quality dropped off. Not entirely. I can throw this one on and enjoy it while still acknowledging its glaring flaws. Mostly I dig that Ghostface is like a floating entity, sort of how in the Batman comics with Red Hood and the identity became one various criminals and others took up.
Craven does a nice job directing. This time around, Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, The Ring) wrote the screenplay. And one of the problems, I feel, is that between Kruger’s draft and whatever Craven did during re-writes some of the story’s problems weren’t fine tuned. Something got lost along the way.
Nevertheless, I’m still fond. Scream 3, no matter how many blemishes, is an exciting slasher, warts and all. I have my beefs, but at the end of the day Ghostface’s return is a welcomed one. The story gets convoluted, simultaneously becoming even more twisted than the overall Maureen Prescott ever was before.
scream-3-2An excellent, fine tuned opener starts the film. I’ve always loved Liev Schreiber because I have a soft spot for the Ron Howard flick, Ransom (first time I remember seeing Liev in a role). And as Cotton Weary, he’s become a wildcard-type element in the Scream franchise. His time in the second movie setup a hopeful appearance here. Unfortunately for him he’s the first killed at the hands of our new Ghostface killer. Plenty of good, brutal horror fun. Also, we get a new, sinisterly playful dimension concerning the killer’s use of the voice changer over the phone. This introduction before the title makes clear: all bets are off.
There’s honestly a lot I love about this one. So sue me. For instance, my area of study is actually John Milton and his epic poem Paradise Lost. Well, that very name is used for the character played by Lance Henriksen, an old school Hollywood movie producer, who has something to do with Maureen, mother of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell).
Once we discover the underbelly of Hollywood sucked Maureen in, Mr. Milton providing the path for her to walk on down, the reference takes on more life. In regards to Paradise Lost, it’s the story of man’s fall from grace, Garden of Eden, all that, and specifically we see Satan as the fallen angel – he goes to Earth, to try and tempt Adam and Eve into sin, so on. It’s a minor reference linked to a plot point. Props to Craven and Kruger for using it, though. An interesting little inclusion.
The two things I love most: the score from Marco Beltrami, his best stuff yet in the series, as he experimented with recording techniques to give a new sound to the familiar musical progressions we’ve heard in the other two films; and, the legitimately unsettling scenes involving Sid’s new home out in the woods, particularly when she has the dream of an apparition of her mother at the window, so creepy.
scream-3-1Biggest faults of Scream 3 are in the characters. In the mix, character development – other than Sidney, thankfully – gets lost, and their underdeveloped nature always leaves me wanting something more which never comes. Like Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), he could’ve been an awesome character. He’s left too generic to actually feel three-dimensional, and that becomes a big problem.
One of the film’s worst offences is the performance of Parker Posey. And if there is a god, strike me down, because I LOVE PARKER! I do. She’s so excellent most of the time. Here, she’s excruciatingly over the top. I don’t agree that’s part of the character; it is, only to an extent. She goes too far into the satirical where it becomes something out of a slapstick comedy, and that gives Scream an overload – the dark comedy, the self-deprecating lens, these are things Craven does well. Posey just takes it to a level that doesn’t work well with the other elements.
Herein lies the problem. Instead of mixing appropriately in a combination which compliments each aspect – such as the way the previous two entries in the series do satire and serious horror at once so well – Scream 3 wallows in a muddled tone. Feels like Craven could’ve used Kevin Williamson around to help iron things out.
scream-3-3The saving grace is truly Ms. Campbell. She’s fallen further into Sidney as a character with each movie. This time, even though she isn’t on screen as much as the first two, she anchors the rest of the performances to keep things solid. Even as other performances descend into parody instead of satire. Campbell is my generation’s kick ass Final Girl. The ultimate moment of Scream 3 is a proper bit of metafiction: Craven has Ghostface attack Sidney on the set of a new Stab movie, which is the exact replica of where she was first attacked in her home during the events of the original Scream.
I mean, it does not get any better than that!
Doesn’t matter to me that there are issues, even Posey’s terrible performance, the underdeveloped characters surrounding Sidney and the main core (Cox and Arquette are still enjoyable enough; at times the latter’s slightly irritating in this sequel). None of it matters too much. Although I don’t enjoy this one near as much as the first two, I still watch and enjoy. There are a couple classic Scream kills, splashes of blood, a depraved new addition to the Maureen Prescott story, and Roger Corman shows up for a cameo.
So maybe this doesn’t match up with any of the other entries. I actually dig Scream 4, way more than this one. But I don’t care because it mostly fits in with the entire series, and Craven still manages to freak me out now and then. I hope at least a few other people feel the same.

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

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

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

Digging Up the Past in THE TRIANGLE

The Triangle. 2016. Directed & Written by David Blair, Nathaniel Peterson, Adam Pitman, Andrew Rizzo, & Adam Stilwell.
Starring Andrew Rizzo, Lee Rizzo, Brick Patrick, Nathaniel Peterson, Ciara Rose Griffin, John Budge, Nicholas Daue, Hendra Mylnechuk, Andy Greenfield, & Karen Jean Olds.
Firework Brain/BadFritter Films.
Not Rated. 94 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★
img_3997When found footage films go for different concepts from what we see so often, there’s always a bit of worth in watching them. Not that it automatically makes them good; not at all. But credit where credit’s due. Every inch of found footage could be the exact same plot, over and over, if it weren’t for a few great titles out there. Even a few that follow the repeatedly lifted plot of The Blair Witch Project are still good, simply for the fact they’re actually scary.
The Triangle is a horror, yet it isn’t traditional. Having loved Ti West’s The Sacrament and its fictionalised retelling of the tragic Jim Jones story, my initial worry with this movie was that it might follow too closely in line with his, either ripping it off or just feeling way too similar to be any good. It actually goes in its own unique direction, to surprising lengths. The story starts out as a real documentary, in that the postcard these guys receive from an old friend is true to life. From there, reality gives way to beautifully organic plot, to strange horror bordering on science fiction.
This is one found footage flick that has great camerawork, which is an added bonus to all the weird, wild plot developments over the course of a lean 94 minutes. You won’t quite know what to expect, and part of that works on your nerves. A lot of complaints I see online are simply due to the slow burn plot. So, if that’s not your thing maybe you’re not the target audience here. I’d still suggest giving it a chance because of the unique events that unfold in front of the camera, as well as some of the questions you’ll be left asking later.
img_4001Just starting from the premise it’s an interesting way to begin this faux-documentary. A vague, mysterious opening with the postcard, holding endless possibilities. Wondering about many of those sketchy possibilities is a reason why the initial scene is kind of tense. There’s also this hopeful mood, too. Still, a lingering sense of uneasiness accompanies the postcard and even once they decide to head out after their friend there’s an undeniable apprehension inside them all. Like them, we feel on the precipice of a life changing adventure, never knowing if what’s next could be something terrible dark, or if it’s all worry for no reason. You might doubt your thoughts, which is a recurring feeling, and it’s in those moments The Triangle catches you in its tangled web.
There’s talk in the community, as it is with these types of places, about self-sufficiency. What does that really mean, in the end? What must one sacrifice in order to gain it? Or, do these cult-like people simply give themselves over to something or someone else to replace modern society (et cetera)? Often so-called self-sufficiency in these communes, in reality, requires devotion to an Other: a god, a deity, or in these situations a charismatic leader in Rizzo. And when there are these hierarchical positions amongst supposedly open, free communes, there are always secrets, things kept from people and those people kept in the dark about something. Of course we find this is truer than ever throughout the course of the plot.
Any horror, mystery, thriller needs suspense and tension. If not, there’s nothing to grasp onto and even an interesting story can end up plenty less compelling. From the time these guys get to the Ragnarok commune there’s a great deal of slow, mounting tension while the documentary crew – representative of the modern world, that old society from which the commune tries escaping – clashes with everyone they meet. Not in a totally overt way, either. That’s  one reason why it feels dangerous. There is a gruelling passive-aggressiveness about their behaviour, especially Rizzo; he’s the number one. His sense of domineering status and narcissistic attitude comes out more and more after we get to know him a bit. At first, he doesn’t seem to hold that narcissism. He’s open, welcoming, friendly, foolish. As the time passes this changes, and Rizzo emerges, subtly, as absolutely like all those other cult leaders in history. That’s his, and their, ultimate aim is to talk the talk, walk the walk, no matter what lies behind the veil. Perhaps scarier is the fact Rizzo isn’t the only narcissist in the cult, that he’s a mere figurehead for a main group who all share something in common that others in the commune don’t – what that is, you’ll have to find out on your own. Such a thick tension goes on for a long while, then once the mystery of the plot breaks the impact of the coming horror feels significant. We get time with all the main characters, not only Rizzo, so after having spent that portion of the film getting into their lives and their emotions, et cetera, it’s gripping to watch what goes on past the halfway mark.
img_3999SPOILERS: from here on in there’ll be a bunch of spoilers – turn back, lest ye be spoiled!
The commune is named Ragnarok, based on the Ragnarök of Norse mythology which is most commonly translated to mean “the final destiny of the gods.” Later in the film we discover a core group in the commune has had what they call “the dream” and it’s about being led on a journey by this shapeshifting creature, at the end of which it disappears leaving a dinosaur skull – a tyrannosaurus – and then, as one of them puts it, “at the end of the dream, were gone.” Certainly by the time this dream comes up we’ve seen the skull they’ve dug up in a nearby cave, we get the sense it has an effect on people emitting a high-pitched noise the closer you get to it. When the end of the film comes, the main group from Ragnarok who’ve had the dream are all ill, going a bit crazy, and they wander off up into the hills. We see a flash of light in the cave, and everyone is gone.
What does it all mean? Here’s my take.
One of the purposes of their commune was to try and get back to a time they felt was lost in modern society. These people reject the modern world so much that when it comes time for them to sign releases for the film crew, at first there’s significant contention. This changes, yes, but Rizzo even talks about simply not having time for the logistics because they live in the middle of a desert, no real houses, self-sufficient, so they’ve rejected that entire system of living. Point being, they wanted to go back to a lost time, a time before, another place almost. In the end, as it went in their collective dream, a nearly genderless woman comes to take them up to the dinosaur skull, and then they’ve disappeared (“at the end of the dream, were gone“). Have they been transported through time, back to another place? Did they will it to happen through their collective brain power and wanting it to be true? They strip down, almost in a primitive sense. As if going somewhere closes aren’t needed. Everything speaks to going back to the past. Right on down to the fact they’ve dug up the past, literally, by finding the fossil. We’ll never know where they’ve gone. Not for sure. We can only assume from what we’re given, and it’s good fun trying to piece the puzzle together.
img_4002I’ll probably be in the minority, although I couldn’t care any fucking less. The Triangle is an interesting addition to the found footage heap, definitely nearer to the top of the pile. When I felt it was about to rip off West’s recent Jim Jones-inspired effort, the plot threw me for a loop. Not everything was perfect. Even for a slow burn this one takes its sweet time drawing out the story.
All the same, no matter its mistakes this is a weird, worthy little movie. The camerawork is top notch for found footage, giving it more credibility than about half of them in the sub-genre. Better still, I enjoyed the performances and they help make this faux-documentary feel more like the real thing, giving the emotionally charged moments a sense of gravitas. You can do much worse than this movie, as the suspense does a fine job making the stretched out plot feel like an enjoyable breeze.
The Triangle deserves a watch. At least one. Maybe you’ll be pissed off, having felt it was a waste of time. Or maybe, like me, you’ll enjoy trying to figure out the answers to all the questions left after the finale. Either way, it makes you think. And that can’t be said for so many other found footage horrors out there. This one isn’t filled with shaky camera angles, screams, or even blood. It works on your brain until the last moment.

There’s Twice the Psychosis WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK

When A Stranger Calls Back. 1993. Directed & Written by Fred Walton.
Starring Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Jill Schoelen, Gene Lythgow, Karen Elizabeth Austin, Babs Chula, John Destry, Duncan Fraser, Jenn Griffin, Gary Jones, Terence Kelly, & Kevin McNulty.
Krost-Chapin Productions/MCA Television Entertainment/Pacific Motion Pictures.
Rated R. 94 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★
poster1979’s When A Stranger Calls is a favourite of mine. There are far too many people who either don’t know it, or they don’t appreciate it enough. Tony Beckley’s performance as Curt Duncan, the titular stranger, is the stuff of pure nightmare. And somehow, 14 years later, Fred Walton’s sequel When A Stranger Calls Back nearly hits all the same eerie notes with a different story and some of the same characters.
Walton gets a bit wilder in this sequel, although just about every bit of it works. Charles Durning and Carol Kane return again as John Clifford and Jill Johnson respectively, each hardened and experienced due to their experiences with Duncan in the first film. In the position of Kane’s Jill this time around is Jill Schoelen as Julia Jenz, a woman whose life becomes a horrorshow at the hands of a demented, relentless stalker.
The sequel goes for a more outlandish stalker. His psychosis is much stranger than that of Curt Duncan’s urge to kill. Some might find the stalker’s gimmick cheesy. Me, I find it terrifying.
screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-2-29-25-amMimicking the original, Walton starts off with a suspenseful opening sequence with Julia babysitting. However, he sets it apart from the first film by not opting for an outwardly foreboding, unnerving phone call. So much so that Walton’s actually taken the phone out of the picture by literally having it cut dead. This allows the sequel to tread its own ground rather than march straight through the original material all over again. It’s the same, yet isn’t, and the familiarity solely helps as a jumping off point for the tension. At one point Walton cuts back to shots of the doorknob, ratcheting that tension to a maximum. The viewer waiting on seat’s edge to see it turn, or move even in the tiniest way. This moment never comes. Sidestepping the payoff leaves Walton with unresolved tension, poised for a wicked crash once the perverse and threatening action of the titular stranger breaks loose.
When it gets genuinely disturbing is the second stalking. Like Duncan, this stranger comes back again after the first time. But what this guy does as opposed to Duncan is play a far more psychologically threatening game with Julia than Duncan did with Jill; not to say she didn’t suffer, but boy, this stalker is a doozy. Here, the stranger plays sick games to ingratiate himself with Julia, to put himself in her life, somehow in a twisted frame of mind. When you find out what he’s doing later in the film, it is a trip.


Having both Kane and Durning back brings with them credibility, as well as a degree of continuity instead of a sequel that feels like a cash in, put together to get a quick payday for everyone involved, maybe boost the sales of the original. This way, their characters make the story more interesting; there’s more depth, more at stake. Of course it works out well because Jill’s experience in When A Stranger Calls is sort of how we also saw Sydney Prescott in the Scream series eventually become a victim counsellor over the phone – she provides a unique perspective that plays into Julia’s predicament with her own stalker. While the stalker feels weirder in a spooky way, this sequel is less psychological horror – even though there’s plenty of that – and more a dark, emotional thriller full of mystery.
Still, Walton does play well with the psycho-horror of this screenplay. He makes Julia’s apartment into an ominous, paranoid location where each shadow means potential danger. With lingering shots and choice edits, the apartment is like a haunting character in and of itself, which lurks around the viewer, and of course Julia. Walton and cinematographer David Geddes (Legends of TomorrowHalloween: Resurrection) give the film a great look, especially considering this sequel is a TV movie after all.
There are quite a few spectacularly creepy moments and scenes. At one point, the stalker stands over Julia as she lies in a hospital bed – he slaps her over and over, and it’s so horrific because you can clearly see the psychotic behaviour brimming along the edges, past ready to break out fully. SPOILERS! SPOILERS AHEAD! When we get a look at the stranger in his element – a ventriloquist painted black, a dummy on his knee with no facial features – there’s a shocking element to this revelation. Suddenly you understand, all of it. Honestly, this scene starts out funny. Then gradually it becomes unbearable. Totally unsettling shit. Particularly once people start leaving, weirded out by this ventriloquist act, and the owner of the club all but kicks the hell out of the stranger, there’s a sad, pitiful aspect to this man. Sort of emotionally crushing because he’s obviously got issues. Although there’s no connection, no empathy for him – we’ve seen what he does. The final showdown between him, Jill, and Julia is crazy. Very fitting and just as intense. A legitimately frightening finish, at times as frightening as Curt Duncan from the original.
screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-2-29-57-amI’ll always love the original most, and I do feel that it is rightfully the better film. That being said, When A Stranger Calls Back is one of the more underrated sequels to a classic horror that, for whatever reason, never gets its due. That’s probably in part because this went out as a TV movie. Not sure why it ended up that way, because it has the makings of a genuine film and Walton follows his own footsteps lightly, treading carefully in most of the right places.
My only complaint is that I wish we were given a bit more insight into the stalker. We do get plenty later once everything kicks up a notch. But there easily could’ve been more. Perhaps that’s part of it being a TV movie. If we got a full fledged theatrical release movie from Walton on this sequel, there may have been changes in that department. We’ll never know.
Despite any small complaints, this Halloween you need to see When A Stranger Calls Back. This one gets a bit more disquieting simply for how it gets a bit more out of control with a stalking stranger even more unhinged than Curt Duncan; if you can believe it.

Of Shadows & Smart Directors: Herk Harvey’s CARNIVAL OF SOULS

Carnival of Souls. 1962. Directed by Herk Harvey. Screenplay by Harvey & John Clifford.
Starring Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Stan Levitt, Art Ellison, & Herk Harvey.
Harcourt Productions.
Rated R. 84 minutes (Director’s Cut).
Fantasy/Horror/Mystery

★★★★★
posterCertain films need their elaborate style and screenplay in order to elicit the wanted response. Others make perfectly do with a more minimal and simplistic style, opting to use that bare bones ethic to do wonders. In 1962, Herk Harvey took a break from making industrial and educational shorts, as well as documentaries, to direct the only single feature film of his career: Carnival of Souls.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love the story, the execution, all of it. I don’t think that you can watch this flick without paying attention to how great a job Harvey did as a director in terms of stretching the budget every inch possible while still making the whole production work to the best of its ability.
Harvey’s unexpected cult classic was the precursor to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and to a lesser extent Eraserhead from the twisted mind of David Lynch. Not to mention probably a dozen other movies; those are simply the closest ones after this picture. Carnival of Souls doesn’t need any blood, it came before the genre exploded and some horror relied too much on the jump scare. On – approximately – $33K Harvey filled his tale of life and death with enough atmosphere, creative camerawork, and unnerving imagery to match that of five films. If you don’t find it scary, that’s fine; to each their own.
But me? I still see those pale faces sometimes when I’m looking for things lurking beyond the veil of darkness.
pic1Low budget and a minimalist approach can sometimes push a director to make smart, economic choices which in turn make a film better as a whole. Harvey’s use of light and shadow is impeccable. Along with the makeup, this creates an otherworldly black-and-white film that feels akin to watching one of your own nightmares; maybe one from when you were a kid, one that plays all grainy in the back of your mind while you try and remember all the little bits and pieces. Right as the title ripples onto the frame over the water of a river you can feel yourself dropping into another place, another time. The graininess of the movie’s look isn’t a hindrance. It’s part of the charm.
Another large part of that charming effect is the score from Gene Moore. It’s all done with an organ, and that’s cool for a couple reasons. First, it fits with Mary (Candace Hilligoss) being a church organist, so that is kind of fun switching from music in the movie itself played by her character to the actual score; a seamless move between the same instrument becomes an interesting aural aspect. Secondly it’s a spooky background that pulls the viewer into the gloomy, morbid – though fascinating – atmosphere.
pic2Perhaps the best of Harvey comes in his directorial choices. For instance, in the scenes involving a moving car he opted not to use rear projection; this was, at the time, an industry standard for such scenes. Instead of that Harvey had these scenes shot with a hand-held, battery powered Arriflex camera, so that the scene could literally be shot in an actual car. Of course at the time these cameras and some of the techniques Harvey used were mostly involving newsreel footage, so on. These scenes give the film a nice look, different compared to other similar films at the time. On top of that, there was no need for composite shots in the car scenes, driving the already tiny budget down further. Harvey – always with his eye on the prize.
Aside from that there are a bunch of gorgeously conceived shots, too. The whole script began from Harvey seeing that old empty pavilion from the carnival, it’s only natural a big part of the movie would end up being centred around specific imagery. One shot I can never get enough of is a weird yet effective couple cuts, as we see Mary staring out her window while we cut and zoom closer, closer into the deserted carnival, to a strange, ghostly view of an empty, foggy boardwalk. It’s moments like these where you realise Harvey was firing on all cylinders.
pic3Aside from Candace Hilligoss, none of the acting is anything special. However, they don’t have to be, and she carries the full weight of the story, as her character Mary is the centrepiece. Her performance reminds me of a cross between Maria Falconetti from The Passion of Joan of Arc, and what we’d see in Judith O’Dea’s character from the later groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead (as I said, Harvey definitely influenced Romero to a degree). Hilligoss appropriately leaves the viewer feeling in a state much like her character: dazed, lost as if wandering a dream. Without having to need dialogue, she does best when it’s her face, her eyes, the body language talking; she emotes so well that the performance works in conjunction with Harvey’s directorial choices to give the film that penetrating atmosphere of absolute dread. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Harvey himself plays the quietly terrifying man whose pale, horrible, grinning face haunts Mary; the makeup is so perfect, falling in line with the film’s minimalism and working incredibly with the dark shadows of the black-and-white cinematography. He doesn’t even have to speak and yet the pale-faced man is nightmare fuel.
Carnival of Souls doesn’t feel like it was shot in three weeks, even if it feels rough around the edges at certain points. What Herk Harvey accomplished was making of the best psychological horror movies there has ever been, all without falling into any of the conventions the genre would later become known for, to our great dismay. We watch Mary’s descent into madness with the eerie man and his similarly unnerving friends creeping along the periphery of her mind, and vision, almost constantly. This is one of my all-time favourite film, especially horror. But on admiration alone for Harvey and what he did, it’s still a great piece of independent cinema, one that ought never be forgotten or underappreciated.

SCREAM Slashes to the Core of Media Exploitation

Scream. 1996. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Starring Drew Barrymore, Roger Jackson, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Courteney Cox, W. Earl Brown, Rose McGowan, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schrieber, & Henry Winkler.
Dimension Films/Woods Entertainment.
Rated R. 111 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★1/2

Spoilers: It’s been 20 years. I guess if you’re young, you wouldn’t have seen it, or just haven’t yet gotten around to watching. For the rest of you: expect the spoilers, you’ve had two decades to see this movie. I’m going to spoil the shit out of it.
posterWhat can I possibly say about Scream that hasn’t already been said? Not much, probably. But it’s a slasher flick I enjoy endlessly. I still remember the first time I saw it – myself and my best friend, author Josh Goudie, nearly shit ourselves in unison when the phone rang as we watched the movie’s killer torment Drew Barrymore during the opening sequence. One of the undeniable kings of horror, Wes Craven worked at doing something different, fun, and still made it nasty.
There are lots of good ways to look at Scream, in terms of its metafictional moments and the self-referential screenplay. Beneath all that it’s simply a damn good horror. First-time screenwriter Kevin Williamson blew the doors wide open on his career with a sly script. And as grim as the plot gets, there’s always a funny yet never cheesy streak running through the dialogue, which constantly keeps you aware of the fact that neither Craven nor Williamson take themselves too seriously; in an excellent way.
Atmosphere, mood, tone. Combine these elements with the top notch screenplay out of Williamson, and Craven made a slasher that will continue to stand the test of time. It doesn’t feel dated 20 years on. Better yet, the screenplay is almost more relevant in this day and age when slut shaming is, tragically, all too common.
Scream is the story of when innocent women come up against angry men. It’s also a comment on the effects horror has in its viewers, how the sins of a parent (in this case the mother) are often held against the children, as well as how the media – including film – exploit the tragedies of victims.
pic1Let’s talk about the opening, okay? I mean, it was a stroke of genius for Barrymore to get axed early in the first reel. Spectacular move to throw people off, making clear: nobody is safe. This is one of the single most memorable slasher movie openers in the history of cinema, both for its snappy post-modern dialogue referencing everything from Freddy Krueger to Michael Myers to the Friday the 13th franchise, and also for the ghastly level of brutality heaped upon poor, helpless Drew. There’s a sense of menace building with every redial of the phone, the tension in the young woman’s voice getting thicker. Suspense is perfectly illustrated via the exploding Jiffy Pop on the stove top, acting as a timer, until all that tension is stretched razor thin, tight over the scene. Afterwards, Craven brings it all crashing down with the violent, tragic moments just before the film’s title slashes across the screen, and the plot begins unfolding.
Honestly, annoying as she is Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) is one of the best characters out of the cast. She is the singular embodiment of Williamson’s thematic exploration on exploitation of tragedy. Her reporting style like somebody you’d now see on TMZ, the way she used Sidney Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) mother and her vicious murder to write a book, it’s rife with ideas about how the media wrings dry a tragedy to get ratings. Gale is a microcosm of the phenomenon where death, killers – especially serial killers – are all treated like a payday. More often than not, the victims’ families are barely considered, their feelings irrelevant in the face of money and ratings. Now, there’s also the fact that Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) is clearly innocent, as we discover after also finding out the real killers are Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu (Matthew Lillard). This is a small reminder that even some of the sleaziest media types can be useful, every once and awhile. Nevertheless, Gale is an excellently written character, played to perfect annoyance by Cox.
pic2Craven is a master of suspense, and this film is no exception. Perhaps some of his best work in terms of suspense and the tension he draws out. He’s king at turning familiar places like the high school bathroom and a garage during a house party – supposedly safe places – into spaces of full-blown terror. Particularly the house party I find interesting. He takes the safety of a crowded house and renders it precarious as the archetypal empty house from so many other movies in the genre. Yes, it empties later. But even before that the packed party is eerily filled to the brim with danger, evidenced first and quite savagely by Tatum’s (Rose McGowan) death while grabbing a few beers in the garage.
With A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven took the sense of safety out of sleep and dreams; no longer was it that dreams couldn’t hurt you, not when Freddy was kicking around. With Scream, he and Williamson make even your closest circle of friends fiendish and subject to suspicion. Not only friends, your teachers, your principal, the local cops. Anybody: the killer could be the one closest to you, and certainly with the revelation of the Ghostface killer(s), this proves might true. As if teenage years aren’t tough enough in terms of trust, Sidney experiences a violation of her most basic trust, infiltrated in an intensely emotional, personal way. Also, the fact the mask of the killer is a blank ghost sort of represents that anonymity even further than the physical mask itself: the blank, unknown face can be anyone, the black costume hiding body shape and size, the anonymous quality of a costume getting even deeper. The nightmare for Sidney is that the one she struggles to trust the most is one of the two killers trying to tear her life to bloody shreds.
pic3So many things to love about Craven’s movie. Scream has lots of fun bits in terms of references – Billy talks about The Exorcist and then Linda Blair shows up as a reporter later on; the “In your dreams” exchange between Sidney and Stu is an homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street; Billy Loomis’ name itself is an homage to Dr. Samuel Loomis from Halloween; Craven actually shows up as a dishevelled janitor named Fred, in the same Krueger costume from the original film. In terms of metafiction, this has all kinds.
I can honestly say Craven made a near perfect slasher. His game is on point and the ’90s would never have been the same if he and Williamson hadn’t shattered our perceptions of what a slasher movie had to say. Instead of solely relying on gore and a hidden killer, Scream involves the horror fan by playing to the tropes, even talking about them through motor mouth Randy (Jamie Kennedy in the only role he was born to play), as well as subverting the expectations we have concerning the slasher film sub-genre. Although, that isn’t to say Craven doesn’t get bloody. He does, and the whole effort is all the better for it. Because what’s any proper slasher without the right blood? No fucking slasher at all.

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER: A Flashy, Slashy, Trashy Good Time

I Know What You Did Last Summer. 1997. Directed by Jim Gillespie. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson; loosely based on the novel of the same name by Lois Duncan.
Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Johnny Galecki, Muse Watson, & Stuart Greer.
Mandalay Entertainment/Summer Knowledge LLC.
Rated R. 101 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★1/2posteriknowwhatyoudidlastsummerAfter Scream, horror fans out there seemed to only want similar movies. That’s fine, because I see stuff all the time and think “I wish there was more of this!” Problem is you have to draw the line. At a certain point we just need something different. And not every slasher, or horror in general, has to break the mould. Now and then it’s nice to just have a plain ole slasher, a simple ghost story. Whatever the case. So for Kevin Williamson, part of I Know What You Did Last Summer undoubtedly meant to show people he wasn’t intent on solely doing metafictional, self-referential horror. He also liked the slasher sub-genre that his screenplay for Scream took its jabs at, which is great! Why can’t a writer poke fun at a genre that he enjoys? Having a sense of humour about your own tastes is a mark of intelligence in my book.
For all its glaring flaws, I Know What You Did Last Summer has its fun with a loosely adapted story from the novel of the same name by Lois Duncan. It’s unfortunate that Duncan’s own daughter was murdered, she really didn’t like that they made this into a slasher, not one bit. Having all the empathy in the world for her, the book is one thing and her life is another.
Williamson’s script isn’t twisting and turning in the way we’re necessarily spooked by the reveal of the killer or anything. That’s not what this film is about. He examines the lives of four pretty, privileged, young white people who made a hideous decision not to report a murder, choosing instead to assure their promising, bright futures are not derailed. What follows is a wave of revenge, the consequences of guilt come back to punish them all. Like watching the conscience wreak havoc in horror form.ikwydls1The opening scenes before our flash forward a year or so set things up well. When horror has a palpable atmosphere, the story can be forgiven a few faults, even the acting. Director Jim Gillespie does great work with his debut feature, adding atmosphere that’s full of suspense and tension so quickly. From the first scene up until the flash forward, everything is dark, the mood and tone feels so ominous. Once the flash forward happens we’re plunged into the light. There’s a fascinating contrast between the dark subject matter and the sunny seaside town in which the story is set makes for an unsettling feeling, part of the film’s quietly creepy atmosphere.
Once the changeover between dark and light happens, the danger is everywhere. Constant. Around every last corner and each little turn is the potential for any various brutal death, in the name of the slasher sub-genre. We get a bit of brutality, too. Although not quite as much as you’d expect. One moment I always enjoy is how when the unknown, hook-handed killer chases down Barry (Ryan Phillippe), and we know he’s about to get killed barbarically. Only he doesn’t get killed, he’s left alive. Usually this isn’t the case for slashers unless dealing with a Final Girl situation. So that’s a nice little spot in the screenplay which works. Then, the delay of a kill amps up the tension a bit. Another shot I find effective is when Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) opens her trunk, a dead body inside covered in crabs; so fast, short, like a shot to the brain. Awesome horror moment.
ikwydls2One major weak link is Phillippe. Strange to me because, honestly, I usually dig him. He overplays the character, there’s no nuance at all. Surprisingly, someone I don’t often enjoy saves the acting: Ms. Love Hewitt. I’ve never really found her that interesting. The character of Julie James is one devastated by guilt of not stopping the cover-up of her friend’s crime, although no less guilty than any of her counterparts in the fateful act on that deadly summer night. She express the guilt without going into psychosis mode like Phillippe. Definitely helps to have her in the cast, as she remains the foundation of all the drama.
Sarah Michelle Gellar is decent here, as well. The sequence featuring her going to bed then waking up to a tiara on her head is sinister, totally drenched in suspense with great shots. She sees the tiara, the SOON in lipstick across her mirror. Such a beautifully executed sequence that leaves a dry lump in the throat. Gellar sells it well, going appropriately wild when need be.
This is also the gateway to more suspense, as the pace picks up speed. The movie builds steam from here to start churning on the terror. Slasher kill scenes don’t really open up much until late in the plot, which is fine. That’s a plus, as this gives time for everything else to develop. One of the best death scenes is that of Gellar: like our wait for more blood, this draws out awhile, until the Hook corners her and the killing blows are punctuated by fireworks in the sky. Amazing. Because at its base, this film is a warning to the rich, disaffected kids of America – they may not get caught by police, but the killers out for revenge in slasher pictures will find them, no matter how many summers pass. As Gellar’s Helen Shivers is stabbed bloodily to death, the Fourth of July fireworks in the sky, you can’t help but see this slasher as a deeply American movie on many levels.
ikwydls3There are a bunch of ways I Know What You Did Last Summer could’ve been improved. For one, that Phillippe performance needed toning down. Secondly, there needed to be more slasher gore, in my opinion. Part of me feels Williamson went a bit soft instead of going full-on slasher madness because he felt necessary to separate from Scream in any way possible.
But I don’t care. Doesn’t matter to me because there’s still a decent movie in there. A couple performances work, and the bloody bits we do get are worth the time. That July 4th scene is so good, so subtly terrifying. There’s some trashy stuff, a couple slick and flashy sequences. There are a few lessons to be learned on top of everything else. These young, privileged white boys and girls opt to try covering up what they did, not knowing the full story, and everything imaginable comes down upon them in return. I Know What You Did Last Summer is a slice of slasher cinema which aims to freak you out, simultaneously preaching to the teens who flock to see these types of movies about shady morality. Unexpectedly, the moral message works while other pieces don’t, and I dig enough of it that every Halloween this movie makes an appearance on my viewing list.