From Serial Killer

True Detective – Season 1, Episode 8: “Form and Void”

HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 8: “Form and Void”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the penultimate episode, “After You’ve Gone” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “The Western Book of the Dead” – click here
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The Season 1 finale holds many hideous delights.
Errol Childress (Glenn Fleshler) keeps his father strapped to a bed in a tiny shack, the walls written over with red paint in rambling mad words. The whole place is a horrorshow. It’s an old plantation-style home in the Louisiana bayou, out in some swamp. Inside the house Errol’s madness unfolds. He talks in a British accent now. He and his sister Betty (Ann Dowd) roam the decrepit home and talk in strange terms. She wants to “make flowers” while her brother’s concerned with “leaving [his] mark.” Their relationship is incestuous and deeply disturbing.
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Former Detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) have Steve Geraci (Michael Harney) in their clutches. They force him to watch Marie Fontaneau on that tape from 1990. This is where Geraci comes in having come into contact with the reports. Links up to a Sheriff Childress. All those blood ties. To keep Steve from doing anything crazy, Rust has his bar owner buddy Robert Doumain (Johnny McPhail) pop a couple shots into his car from far away. Sniper style. That and some backup. From having the tape planted on him, to other little bits.
But all the while Errol is still out near all kinds of children. He’s a painter, as well as a gardener. So he does lots of jobs, all over the place. Perfect for a serial killer like him. Yet Rust and Marty are biting at the heels of his evil deeds. They’re fleshing out the Childress family tree. And then a moment of genius strikes Marty. He stares at the green ears of the supposed spaghetti man who chased that girl years ago. After a bit of talk he wonders if maybe this guy is a painter. He finds a house that’d recently been painted. Perhaps those green ears on the scarred man meant he painted that same house. They interview an old woman who owned the house. She recalls the man that did the painting had scars on his face. They get deeper into the Childress history to find the father of Errol, William.
What I love about this detail is that this is what can often happen in REAL police work. Little details that go unnoticed could break open the longest of cold cases. So it’s nice that Nic Pizzolatto went for something organic and genuine for the way they come to start following this thread. Good writing. Fun to watch.

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Both the former detectives take measures to ensure if anything happens to them, the truth will come out. Either way. Cohle has his sniper buddy with the tape, all that. For his part Hart goes to see Dt. Papania (Tory Kittles) who sort of agrees to help out in the event they need it. Then off the duo go, into the belly of the beast.
Out to the old home of William Childress they head. Rust tastes that old psychosphere rearing its head. Then once they arrive the macabre fun starts. Betty answers the door when they come knocking. But nothing feels right, certainly not to Cohle: “This is the place,” he gravely tells his partner. Marty winds up inside with Betty, as Rust has a brief run-in with Errol. The terror starts. Chasing Errol into the the deeper parts of the big plantation Rust finds himself almost in another world. The filthy house is one thing. The creepy, sprawling grounds of the old slave quarters from the plantation is spooky.
When Marty discovers the withered corpse of William Childress, he rushes off to find his friend going further into the world of Errol, the mad king. There’s an almost never ending number of hallways through the old tunnels. Each littered with symbols made out of wood, hanging objects of some eerie significance. All those markers of Carcosa and the Yellow King.
Through a tunnel of arched trees Rust comes to a skeleton, draped in yellow robes, on a makeshift altar. Then overhead he seems to see a black spiral in the sky, swirling. Out of nowhere Errol attacks him viciously. Rust takes a knife in the gut, tearing him apart. As the serial killer rips Rust’s stomach to shreds he says, creepy as all hell: “Take off your mask.” The two fight in brutal fashion once Cohle manages a few headbutts. Bleeding out, about to be killed, he’s saved by Marty who just about meets a savage death. Right before Rust pops one shot into Errol’s head, blowing his face apart.


Errol: “Come on inside, little priest. To the right, little priest. Take the brides path. This is Carcosa.”
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Afterwards, Dts. Gilbough and Papania figure out the Childress family were up to some wild shit. They’re still trying to piece it all together. At least the Dora Lange case is finally solved, though there are plenty of child molesting killers still lurking there in Louisiana, as the Tuttle family escaped without a scratch. For now, Marty sees his family and gets to enjoy at least one happy moment. Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), the girls, it all touches him especially after getting so close to death. Then there’s Rust, whose life has been changed in a drastic fashion. In the darkness of nearing death he spent time with his father, his daughter, all in some other place. He sees that there’s something else about life other than the pessimistic view he’s lived with so long. Now, he embraces the idea he might see his daughter again. “It was like I was a part of everything I ever loved,” Rust tells Marty with tears in his eyes. An amazing scene between two men who’ve been through hell and back together. Even though they stopped their evil and paid their debt, the greater evil still exists. The ending is slightly optimistic, though not entirely. Just in a microcosm. And that’s life.

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To me this was the perfect way to end Season 1. A spectacular finale that gives us equal doses of the interesting existential ideas of Cohle and the macabre, creepiness expected out of the serial killer with his Yellow King/Carcosa references (ties into Robert W. Chambers’ book of short stories The King in Yellow). Loved this season. While I’m in the minority, I also loved the second one, too. Those recaps/reviews are available over here.

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American Gothic – Episode 1: “Arrangement in Grey and Black”

CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 1: “Arrangement in Grey & Black”
Directed by Matt Shakman
Written by Corinne Brinkerhoff

* For a review of Episode 2, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” – click here
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To start, I dig how they’ve named the episodes after famous paintings, in line with the name of their series being American Gothic. Arrangement in Grey and Black is better known as Whistler’s Mother painted by James McNeill Whistler in the latter half of the 19th century. The next episode, “Jack-in-the-Pulpit”, comes from a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. So that’s at least a fun aspect to he writing off the bat.
We begin in Boston, Massachusetts. A car is crushed in a tunnel, as a couple are headed towards the wife’s parents place – this is Tessa Ross (Megan Ketch) and her husband Brady (Elliot Knight), a police officer who just got a big promotion. She’s a Hawthorne. Her father is Mitchell Hawthorne (Jamey Sheridan), her mother Madeline (Virginia Madsen). They’re a grand group, including artist and former drug addict Cam (Justin Chatwin), his son Jack (Gabriel Bateman) also a budding and excellent artist in his own right. Can’t forget Alison Hawthorne-Price (Juliet Rylance), a big mover and shaker – heading off the fact Hawthorne Concrete supplied material for the part of the tunnel collapse that nearly took out Tessa and Brady. There’s a whole bunch. And a whole bunch of things going on. Seems like there’s a run for office in the family’s current life. Alison wants to be mayor.
What’s most interesting? Inside part of the bridge that fell, jammed inside the concrete, is a belt. One used in a murder, possibly. It was linked to a serial killer committing what was dubbed The Silver Bells Murders.
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So now this is the drama. There’s confusion, paranoia, tension about to come out. Did someone in the Hawthorne family dispose of a body in a string of killings using the family company? Or could it have been an employee, someone like that? There’s many things going on. We hear talk of Garrett (Antony Starr) earlier, having his picture taken down by Madeline, so there’s obviously an immediate idea that maybe the obvious black sheep might’ve done something bad. Afterwards, we learn that Garrett is just off the grid somewhere, disappeared. Yet patriarch Mitchell goes and has a heart attack; guilt, maybe? Could he be the Silver Bells Killer? Oh my.
At the hospital while the family waits, we also meet Sophie Hawthorne (Stephanie Leonidas), estranged wife of Cam. She’s very punk rock, seems chic, though there’s clearly a bad history between the two. Inside, Mitchell recovers from his attack. He wakes up mumbling about the tunnel; why – does he worry about the structural failure, or does he worry about what’s inside? Can’t wait to find more. The intrigue is fun to start. Let’s see if the writing can keep that playing out nicely.
Later at home, we see more of the family dynamics. Tessa wants to help her brother Cam, as he searches for his drugs after being clean a whole year. So there’s a bond between family members, rather than a typical Hollywood-style rich family that we always see, siblings at one another’s throats, and so on. She helps him trying to track down the drugs he’s stashed, so they can toss it out. Only – you guessed it! – they stumble across something else: Silver Bells, newspapers about the S.B.K. murders. Ahh shit. Tess naively believes it may be the previous house’s owner. Cam wonders if perhaps their father collected memorabilia concerning the case, tracking the newspaper clippings; just as naive


Except now, everything is suspicious. Cam sees the silver bells everywhere, even in the morning staring at the shower head, that looks just like a silver bell. Creepier still, there’s stuff on ole grandpa’s iPad about the murders, so says little Jack. Man, oh, man. That is damn unsettling. I dig the macabre elements of the show so far in this first episode, despite its soapy-ish feel at times. Both the siblings are set on their own quest, each rattled by the notion their father possibly has links, somehow, some way, to the Silver Bells Murders.
Meanwhile, Tess finds long lost brother Garrett returning out of nowhere. She and Cam head out with him to the hospital. Lots of strange stuff happening, and plenty of rich family dynamics to play off. We find Garrett’s been living in Maine, reading lots of books (Stephen King maybe?). He didn’t come out for Cam’s wedding. Not Tess’, either. All the same, he seems happy to be there with them. A little standoff-ish, but glad. At the hospital, he’s received well enough. With surprise, hugs. A bit of awkwardness. Alison looks a bit shocked to see her brother.
Back at the Hawthorne mansion, Garrett settles into his old room. For however long he’ll be around. The memories of his life there are surrounding him. For some reason I don’t think they’re all so great. “Youre weird,” his nephew Jack tells him:”Its okay. Im weird, too.” When Madeline is alone with her newly reappeared son she wonders why he’s back, after saying he never would be. In another room, Tess asks her detective husband about killers, whether they seem like normal people. Similar to SBK, he mentions BTK, and how that guy seemed absolutely fine to everyone around him – a Scout leader and everything. This worries Tess, thinking of her father and the Silver Bells Murders. Still can’t count Garrett out. Next morning, instead of shaving with a razor he uses a knife, and better still claims he’s “used to” that method. Yowzahs.


The plot thickens. Cam suggests to Tess that 14 years ago, when the Silver Bells Murders stopped, their older brother Garrett simultaneously left town. Hmm. They further bring it to their powerful sister Alison. She starts believing it’s likely some type of way to smear the family: destroy Mitchell’s legacy, destroy her campaign for mayor. Problem is the newspaper the two also found, the one from their newspaper, a cartoon Cam drew. Too suggestive. Alison won’t believe the concept her father could be a serial killer, neither will she entertain the notion it’s Garrett, nor anyone else in the Hawthorne family. She’d rather put it away until after the election. Morally ambiguous. Alison says it’s a “weird box of bells” and nothing solid. I’m inclined to believe something, anything, different. For now, they agree to set things aside. Nah. Cam and Tess aren’t doing that, you can bet your ass. Again, there’s a nice soapy quality to the show that I actually dig. Not usually my thing, but these are good actors and they help sell it. The writing’s a bit dark, campy, yet still unnerving at times. There’s potential.
Scariest yet? Young Jack appears to have a bit of a sick mind. He’s doing experiments on their cat Caramel. Cutting off the tail to see what happens. Then he wants to see the vet sow it back on. You sick little freak! There’s obviously a drop or two of weird blood in this family, regardless of whether someone in it is the Silver Bells Killer. Although, this Jack moment only makes us wonder if there’s serial killer genes flowing already.


Alison finds out later that one of her little daughters heard uncle Garrett say some interesting things to grandpa Mitchell earlier. “Im gonna tell them it was you,” Garrett says quietly to his father. Oh my! This now has Alison in a mental frenzy. Me, too. There’s lots of nice intrigue to start with this episode. Lots of ways this could possibly end up, and that’s fun. This one line by Garrett might mean that he simply hates his father, hoping to use the tunnel collapse to make things seem like it was him implicating him in the murder. Or perhaps it’s Garrett having committed the crimes alone, hating his father, wanting to pin them on dear dad. Or further still, maybe father and son committed the murders together, and now Garrett wants to use his father’s death to escape the law. Who knows. Maybe it’s none of the above. From his hospital bed, Mitchell tells his wife “We have to tell the truth” and then not long after that she… helps him die. Well, you could say that. You could also say she kills him. That’d be much more accurate. Now there’s absolutely no telling which vein this story’s about to find its way through. And I think that’s spectacular.

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Lots of fun intrigue, interesting characters coupled with fantastic actors like Antony Starr and Virginia Madsen and Justin Chatwin. There is plenty of room to grow and expand. Sure, it’s campy and it has an almost soap opera-like quality in certain scenes. But overall it is enjoyable. Looking forward to “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” – what will it bring? Stay with me and we’ll find out together.

Schramm’s Visceral Psychological Terror

Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer. 1993. Directed by Jörg Buttgereit. Screenplay by Buttgereit & Franz Rodenkirchen.
Starring Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Monika M., Micha Brendel, Carolina Harnisch, Xaver Schwarzenberger, Gerd Horvath, & Michael Brynntrup. Barrel Entertainment/Jelinski & Buttgereit.
Not Rated. 65 minutes.
Horror

★★★1/2
POSTER Really good or great serial killer films are few and far between. Because directors and writers often either don’t go deep enough, or sometimes they descend too far into the tortured psyche of a killer that their crimes and murders can end up sensationalised. There’s a truly fine line to making these types of movies. One of the more contemporary examples of which I’m a huge fan is David Fincher’s Zodiac; it tackles a true story, and it also makes a known case into interesting material for a dark crime-thriller. Then there are others which go for realism in examining a fictional killer, though sometimes they end up too far from anything poignant and fall into the sensational representation of violence.
Schramm is an odd case. All at once there’s an attention for the psychological mess inside the heads of serial killers, as well as the inclusion of bloody scenes to keep the interest of the most twisted horror hounds. While I’m not inclined to love this movie, though I do own it, there’s a certain quality that makes me find it a good serial killer character study. This can be extremely difficult to stomach. One specific scene is a truly hateful thing to watch, especially if you’re a guy and feel squeamish about anything genital-related. But outside of the controversy and its rough exterior, Schramm offers an effective look at the deranged life of a serial killer, the introverted pleasures of madness, and never once lets you forget what you’re watching.
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There is a hideous amount of blood and gore that will please the most hardened genre fans and disgust the less able to cope with such brutality. One of the first (which is presented in non-linear fashion so it actually comes later in the plot’s timeline) is a brutish double murder. We start with a throat cutting – even worse, while the man tries to drink himself a nice little, tasty glass of Cognac – and then ends with a head getting whacked by a hammer. Right afterwards, we see Schramm taking pictures of the dead, posed in terrifying sexual positions for his delight; some by themselves, other photos of them together.
The single most savage scene is the infamous penis moment. If you’ve ever read about this movie in any capacity, you’ve probably heard about it. This is like watching something out of the Pain Olympics, as Lothar’s self-hatred and his disassociation with reality comes forward tenfold. His unique mix of personality disorders makes him susceptible to self-harm and extreme behaviour, plus it explains his ritualistic manner of killing and what he does with the bodies.
Perhaps more frightening, somehow, than all the bloody imagery are the flashbacks and the snippets of memory from which we begin to glean a sense of the killer himself. They are eerie. Particularly, one early cut to a flashback simply sees children running in the distance through a field, the unsettling atmosphere of an 8mm tape rolling, catching them in their natural habitat. This also leads into the fact Schramm wears a large, complicated brace on his right leg, so right away there’s the idea that something happened to him all those years ago, an event which not only shaped his physical life, but also likely did the same for his mental life, too. Within many scenes we hear heavy breathing. Furthermore, the director edits in shots of Schramm running, other feet running in a group, at times as if he’s dreaming of running again, or maybe they’re memories, who knows. There’s an ever increasing sense that Schramm has been traumatized by his apparent leg injury. He even wakes up, supposedly, to imagine his leg’s been cut off below the knee, savage and bleeding, only to discover it’s all a dream. Most of all what this does is plant us firmly in the perspective of the serial killer whom we are about to examine in full.
So much of the camera work is impressive for a production that’s mostly low budget and fairly simple. There are several key points I find wildly interesting. The first comes after Lothar picks up his friend, a prostitute, and they’re driving – out of nowhere appears this swirling shot that makes you feel as if the car is going around an off-ramp, only there is none to be seen and they’re in the middle of a road; the car spins several times as they chat, neither of them noticing, except us, the audience. This is a disorienting moment that again throws you into Lothar’s world where you feel just as estranged and disconnected to real life as him. Later, in his apartment Lothar works out and the camera sort of follows along with his movements, then soars up over him giving us a bird’s eye view down on the apartment. We constantly get the sense of inhabiting the world he knows, and this only makes things scarier.
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Living with Schramm, in his headspace and seeing his actions from day to day, can be psychologically horrifying. And it is, undoubtedly. This film has gained comparisons to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and to a certain extent they are both quite alike. However, aside from Ottis, the main focus of that film was not sexual deviancy (even though the real Henry Lee Lucas was all manners of insane and although the character does commit horrible crimes against women), but instead honed in on the pure hideousness of Henry’s evil, the perpetual killer inside him unwilling to be tamed. Our main protagonist/antagonist, if you want to see it that way, Lothat Schramm is both a killer and a complete sexual deviant. The way we spend our time in the other film with Henry watching him commit one murder after another, we likewise spend our time during Schramm with this man, no matter if he’s having sex with a blow-up doll while listening to his neighbours fuck or if he’s doing incredibly masochistic things to his body. We experience all of it, and fall deeper, farther down the pit of his abyssal mind.
The blurring of reality and nightmare is one significant aspect to the psychological elements. A most evident sequence is when Schramm is with the dentist (or imagining it at least), and as the doctor begins removing teeth, he seems to notice something else: all of a sudden Lothar has his eyes pried open like A Clockwork Orange and the dentist begins slicing open his eye socket, a dental assistant comes in to help and removes his whole eyeball. Reality and the nightmare world in Schramm’s head often collide in the most awful ways, from techniques used by the director in shooting a scene to the way things ar edited from time to time.
The most disturbing break from reality? Schramm wakes up naked in bed to find a strange vagina-like creature between his legs, squirming, its lips opening to reveal a set of ugly teeth. Honestly, this one frightened me. Repulsed me, too.
It isn’t my favourite serial killer film. Schramm isn’t easily digested. There are intensely nasty sequences which will push the boundaries of even the most hardened veterans. Myself, I’ve seen 4,200 films and many of those horror, at least one third or more maybe. And still, I find myself squeamish during a couple of overly vulgar scenes. The best part about the whole thing is that this is a quiet, more subdued serial killer tale than most you’ll find. Not subdued in its blood or willingness to show the inner workings of a sick, rotting mind, but quiet in its process. There are no jump scares like other contemporary works of horror cinema. There isn’t a masked or unknown killer. Director Jörg Buttgereit forces us to spend just over an hour (thankfully a short runtime) with Lothar Schramm, until we’ve had our fill of depravity, running blood, murder. Until no more can you deny that evil is entirely human, not a supernatural element by which people feel themselves overtaken. In the end, you’ll need a cozy blanket and a warm beverage to start heating up the cold heart you’ll be left with awhile after seeing experiencing Schramm.

Killer Casanova Wants to Kiss the Girls

Kiss the Girls. 1997. Directed by Gary Fleder. Screenplay by David Klass; based on the novel of the same name by James Patterson.
Starring Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Alex McArthur, Tony Goldwyn, Jay O. Sanders, Bill Nunn, Brian Cox, Richard T. Jones, Roma Maffia, Jeremy Piven, Gina Ravera, William Converse-Roberts, Helen Martin, & Tatyana Ali. Paramount Pictures/Rysher Entertainment.
Rated R. 115 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Mystery

★★★★
POSTER This is a film that’s always surprised me. It isn’t perfect, but uses its James Patterson roots and lots of excellent cinematic suspense to make for an exciting ride. Further than that, I’m not a Patterson reader, so I’m not sure if he generally has a dark feel to his writing. You can be sure, though: Kiss the Girls, for all its cop v. serial killer trappings, is a macabre crime story rife with mystery and wreathed with elements of horror. Patterson seems more concerned with the crime elements of his stories than diving too deep on the twisted criminals and killers Alex Cross faces. However, this is one of the Alex Cross films that successfully dips into genuinely eerie territory.
When this came out I was about 11. My mom read a lot of different novels and a wide variety of authors, one of which was Patterson now and then (mainly she and I both gravitated towards Stephen King). In turn, she watched lots of different movies. Usually, she, my dad, and I would sit down on the weekend at least one night and watch a movie together. After this came out, we rented it and watched it together. Though it on the surface may look like a typical crime thriller, this is a little better than the mediocre movies you might have seen sitting on the video rental rack in ’97. I’m sure I rented it more than a couple times back then, enjoying both Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, particularly the latter in her role as a tough survivor of the killer Casanova who helps the former in his quest to bring the man down for good. Eventually I bought the DVD, now I watch it a few times a year. Despite its flaws, Kiss the Girls is a top notch serial killer film that does what it sets out to do: chill at times, and always entertain.
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Ashley Judd is the one whose performance carries the most weight. I do love Morgan Freeman, and I love him as Alex Cross. Judd does the heavy lifting. She plays such a strong female character, which in part is the writing. Although Judd is the one that infuses Dr. Kate McTiernan with so much power. Her strength is immediate, as we’re introduced to her saving lives, boxing, and generally being a kick ass, take charge woman. Later following her escape from Casanova’s grasp, Kate becomes even further transformed. In her weakness as a victim she flips the expectations, subverting our idea of victim and becoming someone even stronger than before. She uses her pain not as a crutch, but rather takes it as an opportunity to toughen, as well as to help the police try catching the man that almost killed her. Without Judd, this role could easily be a weak link.
Similarly, despite the criticism of some, I find Freeman does well with the Cross character. I’ve never read the books, so I can’t judge how it is for the readers who come to this film adaptation. But I like this iteration of Cross. He’s a cool guy in terms of his demeanour, rarely getting too excitable and mostly remaining calculated, thoughtful, as if always one step ahead of his own brain, keeping calm to assess each situation. From the first crime scene where Cross has to talk down an abused woman pushed to murder from killing herself. This sort of initiates us into his world, his attitude and way of thinking, how he operates as a detective. And whereas certain critics I’ve seen review this movie say Freeman doesn’t seem like that hardened kind of street cop who’s seen it all, I’m the opposite – he strikes me totally genuine, someone who has seen everything there is to see, every last imaginable horror and still manages to hold onto a degree of optimism.
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For what might look like a run of the mill crime-thriller out of the mid-to-late ’90s, Kiss the Girls breaks through the mould. This is because the plot gets dark, quickly. In fact, from the beginning of the movie we’re thrust into darkness, a macabre story that starts in the serial killer’s perspective and then follows along with a detective and one of the murderer’s potential victims as they try cracking the mysterious case. Along the way, naturally, there are twists. These come as pleasantly surprising, not telegraphed and expected like so many other similar films. Near the end, a huge reveal pays off lots of the expert suspense to which we’re subjected. Some say the reveal doesn’t work simply based on certain voice aspects (you’ll figure it out after watching), and that’s nonsense to me. This is a nice, scary little twist that I’ve always enjoyed, even after seeing it so many times. Before that when we’re treated to a proper red herring, one that ties into the whole voice aspect mentioned previously, and it makes things quite disturbing. At every step there’s something nasty, layered beneath a seemingly typical story about a talented cop trailing right behind a killer. There’s never anything graphic – this film mainly gets its R-rating due to some cursing and heavy adult themes – but still, there are plenty of times the story and certain characters chill me to the bone.
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I couldn’t care less if Mythbusters ruined the ending: the finale is solid, unsettling, and in a way pretty fun. You’ll likely be surprised by the twist, if not I feel sorry for your clairvoyance. Everything which leads to the conclusion of the film makes for a highly unnerving experience. Sure, some portions of the screenplay can feel cliche or too typical of the crime-thriller genre. Still, Kiss the Girls works hard to feel slightly more horror (mainly on psychological grounds) than you’d expect, and for that it surpasses other films of its kind. With Judd and Freeman pulling out solid performances respectively, and the Patterson material used to great effect, this is a 4-star bit of work I’m always willing to throw on when I’m at a loss as to what I feel like watching. Never fails to entertain.

Wolf Creek – Episode 6: “Wolf Creek”

Stan’s Wolf Creek
Episode 6: “Wolf Creek
Directed by Greg McLean
Written by Felicity Packard

* For a review of Episode 5 “Rome”, click here.
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Finally we’ve come to a fitting mini-series finale directed by the one and only Greg McLean! Very excited to see how Wolf Creek‘s 6-episode arc finishes, as Eve (Lucy Fry) is right on the verge of her showdown with slick Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), Australian serial killer extraordinaire.
We start with Benjamin, a.k.a Jesus. He’s busy chopping up ‘roos. He’s definitely some kind of avid reader. Though it’s not always a good thing depending on what you read. Plus the fact he clearly loves alcohol a bit too much. But y’know, could be worse. I guess.
Then Eve shows up to ask about where the place in all his drawings is, where she might find the crater – Wolf Creek, as we know. After pouring out some of Jesus’ precious liquor Eve gets answers. He gives up the name, and now she’s really got her sights set on the ole Mick.
Love how McLean’s title comes up right under the park sign for Wolf Creek. Nice little touch.
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So we’re ready for a showdown now between Mick and his one victim that will not quit, Ms. Kick Ass Eve. I’m betting she meets a tragic end. Because who can have such luck against this psychopathic bushman?
And along the trail already Eve finds a nasty treat. This may only push her harder in her quest to avenge those who’ve fallen at the hands of Mick Taylor. She sits with the book of Mick’s crimes and gets a glimpse into his world. A disturbing look at his inner psyche.
Hill is alive at least. But in rough shape and at the hands of a serial killer. So alive is only relative. Mick has plenty of plans I’m sure.
The memories of Eve’s parents infiltrate every moment of her existence now. As she hurtles toward her confrontation with Mick there’s no telling how well her mental state is going to remain. She’s been strong so far, just never know. In the bush, she feeds herself by catching a nice rabbit. Even in the violence to nourish herself those images of her family dying flash fast behind her eyes.
Eve gets to Wolf Creek, only a few miles from the old Taylor place. She makes her way out there and plans carefully the next steps. Mick’s childhood home is like a junkyard, things everywhere in no particular order. Run down cars, bits of scrap here or there. Inside it is worse. The darkness swallows Eve just about whole, as she explores its dilapidated hallways and bedrooms. She even hears the memories of the walls oozing out into the present.
Then Mick comes in, almost undetected completely. Afterwards, Eve confronts him with the fact she knows why he kills – because of his sister and the tragic situation which came out of it. Well, ole Mick talks about his dear dad and all that nice stuff.
But now the hunt has broken out. Fast and hard. Eve soon finds Hill, or what’s left of him.
Mr. Taylor ends up with the upper hand. Furthermore, he offers Eve the choice: kill Hill quick, or Mick kills him nice and slow.
We come to discover Mick watched his sister die after pushing her over a hill. Then he let his father murder that man. Then he skinned him. Vile, right? That’s how the Outback serial killer was born. We’ve been given an inroad to his black heart.

 


So now, is Eve going to make her choice?
Mick makes it for her after she lunges at him. A belly full of blade for Hill has him gasping for life. At the same time, Mick slashes at his latest victim, but Hill manages to rip down a beam in the ceiling, crashing some boards and debris onto Mick. Of course that hasn’t put the ole boy out. Not yet.
He puts a knife right through Eve, in the chest, preventing her from running any longer. It’s a bad wound, too. Her lungs squeak and she slowly starts passing out. And she summons the strength to pin Mick to the wall with a whip of her spear. Two bad asses, head to head. She even taunts him right to his face: “This ones for my family,” she says before stabbing him in the guts hard. The next one’s for Hill, right in the chest.
The tables have officially turned. Or that’s how it looks.
Eve rushes to Hill, who barely hangs on. They celebrate, even if things are still rough. And bloody. After a few moments he passes: “Im so glad I met you,” he tells her.
With Mick pinned to the wall, Hill gone, Eve lights a match to the old Taylor shack. She even lays to rest with it all the book of memories, that serial killer scrapbook. She stands to watch it burn a while. Have we truly seen the last of Mick Taylor? Seems that way.
Or does it?

 

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There’s no body left after the fire. Could he have burned away that fast? Possible, definitely. As for Hill, Eve leaves him under a tree, peaceful, beautiful, and gives him to the Outback’s wilderness.
Heading on the road again after all is said and done, Eve meets the woman who’d drove the perverts off back in the first episode or two. They ride off into the sunset, and everything moves on just fine.
Except on the wind you can still hear the slight echoes of Mick’s laugh rolling. And after some credits, his truck blows down the highway once more.

 

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An amazing series. Love how Eve survived and pushed through to the end instead of a cliched ending where Mick kills her and the cycle repeats. Still, Greg McLean and Co. leave it open for a Wolf Creek 3. I’d love to see Eve incorporated again because Lucy Fry was beyond impressive, a huge star on the rise now between this and her small role in 11.22.63. Also, I’d love more Mick, can’t lie. John Jarratt is incredible. This little series came off all around spectacular in my books.

Wolf Creek – Episode 3: “Salt Lake”

Stan’s Wolf Creek
Episode 3: “Salt Lake”
Directed by Tony Tilse
Written by Peter Gawler

* For a review of Episode 2 “Kutyukutyu”, click here.
* For a review of Episode 4 “Opalville”, click here.
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After two episodes in this mini-series, I’m hooked.
This episode begins in May 2009. Setting, the Outback. A couple people are camping in the woods. And certainly you know what’s about to happen. Out pops Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), stabbing deep and fatal with his long buck knife. A car then burns in the daytime, out on Salt Lake. Nearby as we fade into the present, Eve (Lucy Fry) reads police files concerning the unsolved disappearances out in the area of Mr. Taylor’s stomping grounds. I love how this series contains a lot of different elements, ones that pop up in both films. But here they have the chance to expand into something more.
Then from out of nowhere comes Kevin (Matt Levett), the creeper that’s been watching her. He tries assaulting her in a broken down van. Though, again Eve proves her strength. First she pulls a gun on him. Second, she puts a bullet in his leg to make sure he knows she’s serious. Good person she is, Eve then fixes him up and leaves him by his car on the highway. Kev’s a real chauvinist pig, saying she basically asks for it looking how she does. Enjoy how they’ve written her consistently as a woman who takes no shit.
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Eve (to Kevin): “Shoulda shot your dick off
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An act of shedding her skin sets Eve off slightly. For the first time really since her tragic first meeting with Mick in the wilderness, she shows emotion and breaks down. Only in a vacuum, though. Because determination keeps her on track. As for Kev, he gets picked up by the one and only Mr. Taylor.
Detective Sergeant Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare) meanwhile is professionally and personally troubled. Eve is out on the run trying to find a serial killer, at the same time his wife feels a distance growing between them because of his work. He seems like a real man of duty, not some guy using work to escape his home life. So hopefully they don’t fall apart in their relationship that’d be sad to see.
Well Eve’s at the Madonna Cafe along the highway. There she meets the woman in charge, Bernie (Deborah Mailman), an awesomely sassy woman, and straight up, as well. They chat it up, of course Eve asks about the blue F100. Outside, Eve witnesses a cop have a seizure and helps him while he thrashes on the ground. What a turn of events. Will this come in handy for her some time down the line? Or is this setting up something else altogether?
Kane (Richard Cawthorne) and his buddy Ginger (Eddie Baroo) are still kicking around. The latter’s sort of pissed off with Kane and his little crush on Eve.

 


It seems Mick was jealous of the lies Kevin told him, about having supposedly had sex with Eve. So now Dt. Sgt. Hill gets a call out to where Kev’s body hangs naked from a tree, bled out, no dick. Yikes. What’s interesting about this is how we’ve seen the slight jealousy of Mick over women come out in different ways, increasingly aggressive. In the last episode, he toppled a man’s vehicle into a lake over being thwarted with a couple helpless women (luckily for those women though even if they ended up with a sleazy dude looking to bang them). Now it’s evolved into a more savage approach of castration.
Over at the Madonna, Bernie meets Mick. He’s searching for his little “American Sheila“, but she plays dumb. And out on the highway, Eve sees the blue truck pass heading deeper into the Outback.
Further on the highway, the officer Eve helped earlier seizes while driving some prisoners. The van topples sideways off the road. A prisoner named Johnny (Jake Ryan) gets himself free, and when one of the cops shoots at him he blows the vehicle to bits. So now there’s not only a serial killer out in the wild, there’s a criminal roaming about, too.
Bernie receives another visitor. This time, very late at night. It’s Kane, and he’s paying; for gas and for information. More of the great writing here, as all the threads of these stories start to come together. Because meanwhile out in the bush, Mick is doing his thing and now Kane via Bernie knows about him looking for the girl – plus, they met in the bar last episode, remember? Well all these different angles are being played at.
And the plot thickens, as injured convict Johnny comes across Eve in the broken down van. She’s obviously sceptical of his appearance, the leg irons and all. Although, she helps him out. We find out Johnny was in on an armed robbery, things went bad, so on. He’s out on a quest for revenge to find the man who put him away. He helps her out a little with the van’s wheel before heading off into the dark. So glad this wasn’t another semi-rapey exchange between Eve and a man; perfect how it was an actual convict and yet he never once advanced on her creepily. Instead, he simply walks away and says: “See ya down the road somewhere.”
Then down that road Even finds a grim totem, an animal’s head on a stick. For those who don’t remember, Mick likes to make heads on a stick. Mostly with people, but any kill will do, hey? Regardless, Eve paints herself like she’s heading into tribal warfare.

 


At the van, Kane surprises Eve. Uh oh. He gets the better of the poor girl, knocking her out cold. He zip ties her, and even a couple driving on the highway can’t help. “I need a woman to give me kids,” he says. Wow, that’s almost even creepier than regular rapey behaviour. But nothing goes on too long. She ends up shooting him in the guts after getting her hands on the gun again. Then not too long after he dies. A shocking turn of events. Once again, the woman wins out. Love that. But Ginger is waiting for Kane – they’re brothers, actually. A big man like that with a dead brother? Can’t be good news.
Madonna Cafe is seeing lots of traffic lately. Hill tries to get information out of Bernie, but she mostly just collects information from his questions. He’s looking for Mick, even has a nice composite drawing. He’s also looking for Eve. Now Bernie knows there’s just a whirlwind of shit flying around.
Out in the bush, Hill’s called out to where Kane lies dead. So many deaths all within close range of one another. There’s madness in the hills. More madness and marital troubles now at the Hill home. Sullivan finds a man in bed with his wife, so he appropriately beats the shit out of him a bit, while the dude is still naked. Then he zip ties him up and leaves. Jesus, that’s bound to cause a ton of bad things.
Kane’s friends and family mourn him. This can’t be good, either. Eve is already chasing down a serial killer. Now she’s got a cop and a clan of bad ass bikers to deal with, as if it weren’t all fucked up enough. Ginger’s setting everybody after Eve, knowing it’s her that did the deed. So who’s about to run into each other first?
And Bernie lets Eve know about everyone asking after her. She finds out about Mick heading to Opalville where he’s got a contract “shooting pigs” – the perfect setup? Or did Bernie set her up? Because on her way out to Opalville, Mick shoots the tires from under her. Once again Eve is about to be back in the grasp of the ruthless murderer.
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Wow. This series has impressed me one episode after the next. It gets better with each chapter. Next up is the aptly titled “Opalville” and I cannot WAIT to see what it has in store! So much excellent cinematography, practical effects, as well as spectacular performances through and through.

Wolf Creek – Episode 2: “Kutyukutyu”

Stan’s Wolf Creek
Episode 2: “Kutyukutyu”
Directed by Tony Tilse
Written by Felicity Packard

* For a review of Episode 1 “Billabong”, click here.
* For a review of Episode 3 “Salt Lake”, click here.
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Before diving into this episode, just need to draw attention to the wonderfully evocative opening credits to this series, which utilizes a song called “Who Killed Cock Robin?” arranged/performed/recorded by Dan Luscombe and featuring Lisa Salvo. Dig this credits sequence a ton and am glad it isn’t something generic. Gives the show a palpable atmosphere with an eerie feeling behind it.
This episode starts with Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) seemingly chained up to a fence in his little hideaway. Then we cut to him heading out in his truck, gearing up his rifle and so on. Ah, I dig how they’ve opened up this chapter. Are we to imagine this is what we’ll see later?
At the same time, Eve (Lucy Fry) is going through the file she stole from Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare). There are plenty of Missing Persons files and photos. As luck would have it, Eve ends up putting her foot in an animal trap, nearly breaking her foot. But she’s a trooper. And that’s part of why we see this moment: it hurts her, yet she manages to suppress it and move on, even if it really did a number on her. What this does is give us an idea of how strong a person she is, and what she may come up against later will require lots of that strength. Further than that, she does her best to avoid pain medication, as the addiction always rears its ugly head; an added layer to her character. While Eve takes care of her injury she gets accosted by a couple perverted rednecks. Then a trucker lady saves her ass with a gun in hand. Awesome. What I dig here so far is the two strong female characters. Obviously Eve is the main one here, our protagonist, so I’m looking forward to more of her assertiveness as this six-episode series draws out from chapter to chapter.

 


On the other side is Hill. He can only wonder exactly what Eve is up to, left helpless even as a lawman. There’s danger on two fronts: Eve is young and could easily be killed by the man she’s hunting down, as well as the fact vigilantism is never good to have on your watch as an officer. For her part, Eve continually tracks down any information possible on the whereabouts of Mick and his blue truck. Things get derailed slightly when she smashes into a police squad car. Problem is she didn’t know about the previous owner leaving weed in the vehicle. Lock up it is.
In the wild Mick is out shooting kangaroos, gutting them, cleaning up their carcasses. All that fun stuff; a pretty gruesome scene sees him doing what looks like actual gutting, as in Jarratt likely did it for real. If not, fantastic practical effects. A little more fun comes along when Mick spots people on the road, car sputtering and making noise. Probably a good prospective victim.
In her cell, Eve briefly meets a creepy criminal named Kane (Richard Cawthorne) who wants her to sing him a tune. Y’know, because she’s a Yank like “Lady Gaga” and all them. A little later Hill arrives to try taking Eve into his custody, but the policewoman who brought her in isn’t so quick to give up the little American criminal. Even impresses Kane a little trying to mount an escape. And she does crawl herself through a tiny window up at the top, making it outside. Clever, clever girl. Despite injury, those athletics are still with her. Lying to Hill, she makes it into his hotel room and they bond over some takeout food. Then we figure out she developed a “problem” after getting prescribed painkillers after a shoulder surgery – because she got drunk and fell down some stairs. The cops show up to end their evening, though she slips out again from under their nose.

 

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Eve tracks down Kane, who gets out of jail the proper way and heads home with his equally sketchy-looking buddies. Inside the house outside which she finds him, Eve locates a gun and a bag of money. Of course this leads to further chase, as Kane’s mum sees Eve. Part of why I’m enjoying the series so much is because it’s deferring the big showdown with Mick, yet builds up the character of Eve so well. In the sense we’re able to see how feisty, tough, and crafty she gets under pressure. Even up against dangerous criminals, police in an entirely different content than her home, as well as the serial killer she’s trying to find amongst the Outback. Yes, Eve is a properly solid female character in the horror genre.
Luckily as she’s chased, a junkyard owner chases the criminals off his land and Eve hides out under the cover of darkness safely.
Then we switch to the man himself. Mick drives up on two stranded women near the Wolf Creek Crater. He does the whole friendly Outback fix-it man routine. He offers them a tow and to get their car on the road again. We know this bit, though. And where they’re headed. Only from out of the dark comes another vehicle, filled with a few gentleman. Ah, the plan is spoiled. That doesn’t sit well with Mick, either. Especially seeing as how the men can fix up the problem. Also, the men see through some of his game. Or at least they think he’s simply a pervert, not a terrifying murderer. An incredibly tense scene that almost has you believing Mick’s about to kill every last one of them.
In the morning after the men have clearly camped with the women, and had quite a time doing it, the night previous comes back to haunt them. Not so bad as it could’ve turned out, but Mick has put the men’s vehicle in the lake. Definitely could’ve been much worse.
At a bar, Mick finds Kane and his buddies looking for an “American girl” who’s also looking for someone: a blue truck and its driver. Ah, now everything is coming full circle. Mick knows one of his live victims is out there looking. And simultaneously Eve has found herself a new ride, even found the dog that was keeping her company earlier. Heading into the Outback her mission is stronger than ever, as is she. Let’s see what more Chapter 3 will bring.
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Very excited now this this second episode done. Great chapter in the mini-series. Next episode is titled “Salt Lake” and I can bet we’re going to see the energy amp up big time. Stay with me, as we’ll venture further down into Wolf Creek together.