WE GO ON: Traumatic Fears & the Urban Gothic

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

★★★★
IMG_0366There are so many ghost stories out there, from literature to film, that it’s hard to come up with something original. Same can be said about all stories, everything’s just a retelling, a reinvention of an ages old archetype or structure. Yet there are always writers and directors out there coming up with new ways to show us a glimpse of supernatural horror, ways that inspire us, maybe revolt us depending on the circumstances; in this case, it takes us into the concept of life after death and how we deal with the death of others, our own impending death someday, somehow, somewhere we don’t know.
Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton deliver We Go On for those who love ghost stories and want a different perspective. They tell the story of Miles (Clark Freeman), a man shattered by the death of his father in a car accident, forever plagued by the fear of death, worrying it’s a big, black void from which there’s no coming back, making life feel nearly claustrophobic. When he places an ad with a reward of $30,000 for any concrete proof that “we go on,” Miles gets far more than he bargained for after a man Nelson (Jay Dunn) contacts him, saying he can show him a ghost.
The film takes up the Gothic mantle, set in an environment full of urban decay, and it retains that classic feeling of the ghost story while trudging through very modern territory. We Go On takes Miles and the audience on a journey through the existential crisis of fearing death, examining trauma, death, as well as how we manage to overcome them both. That is, IF we’re able.
IMG_0368

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

The fear of uncertainty is a powerful thing. This often extends to our ideas of the afterlife. For those of us who aren’t religious, there can come with this a sense of not knowing what will happen when we die. Not that the religious KNOW, but they BELIEVE, and this makes all the difference. Myself, I don’t fear death, it’s more like a release after – hopefully – a long life. However, I totally understand why some fear it. Most times this comes out of an absence within the absence of belief; if you can’t reconcile yourself with death as, for all intents and purposes here, an atheist, then there’s a gap in the concept of life and death, a glaring, empty space where fear can grow.
This is where Miles exists, in this space, and other spaces like it. He fears death, seemingly because of its uncertainty. At the same time, he wants to believe. This leads him on his quest. He’s traumatised on top of it, exacerbating his fears. So it’s interesting to watch how affected he is by this quest, too. He wants to find something, to negate his big fear. But the dark irony comes via the fact that, once he DOES find what he’s looking for it’s altogether terrifying, more so than any death where we just disappear into a void of nothingness.
IMG_0369

“I’m haunted”


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

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THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE Confronts the Cruelty of Men

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

★★★★1/2

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

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

THE GARLOCK INCIDENT: Broken American Dreams En Route to Las Vegas

The Garlock Incident. 2012. Directed & Written by Evan Cholfin; from a story by Cholfin, Ariana Farina, & Ana Lily Amirpour.
Starring Ana Lily Amirpour, Adam Chambers, Sean Durrie, Joy Howard, Alycen Malone, Sean Muramatsu, Casey Ruggieri, & Larissa Wise.
Loudcat
Not Rated. 78 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★
FullSizeRenderI’m of two minds: you can make found footage and not worry too much about ‘following the rules’ of the format so long as the story’s good, scary, exciting; or, you can make found footage while sticking to the format’s unwritten rules, working to make the film feel entirely genuine as a piece of recovered footage. The Garlock Incident is of the latter class, feeling exactly as if this film was picked up from a discarded camera somewhere out in the desert.
What makes this found footage better is not only do we deal with an intense, disturbing plot on the surface, beneath there’s much to admire. The Garlock Incident explores themes of the urban v. rural landscape, how societal norms and morality breaks down outside of the city, among others. Most of all, it acts as an overall metaphor about the deteriorating American Dream by contrasting it against the physical space of Old America.
Putting a group of friends on the road to Las Vegas, on their way to make a film directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (herself an actual, awesome director), director-writer Evan Cholfin crafts a sneaky little found footage film that teases all sorts of elements, but ultimately works on suspense, tension, and draws out a psychological horror that will stick with you well after that story comes to a close.
FullSizeRender (1)Straight away, the opening just jumps into footage; as a genuinely filmed road trip would, with no title, no opening scene like a traditional film, none of that. Not even the typical “On such-and-such date a group of…” Rather, we’re thrust directly into the characters and the plot. The immediacy of how we’re brought into the film allows the found footage format a sense of feeling genuine.
Furthermore, setting this as being footage from a film crew, of friends, heading to begin the shoot on a film gives the footage purpose. Found footage without purpose can often wind up feeling dishonest, because if doing found footage, why not make sure to pose it as actual footage that was found? Otherwise, might as well film traditionally. Lily directing the film within a film lends more authenticity.
Best part of the film is its tension, how Cholfin uses vast stretches of desert to allow isolation to take hold of the viewer. Ambient noise from the wind punctuates silent moments filled with suspense. Instead of the obligatory shaky cam filming of many found footage efforts, The Garlock Incident thrives on longer, controlled, still, silent shots. In these moments, these gaps, our imagination runs wild. These psychological spaces are where the best horror of the film works its nasty magic.
FullSizeRender (3)The haunted mining town setup evokes a sense of American Western tales meets the Gothic tradition, starting a spooky atmosphere. Works on another level, though. The old American Dream is symbolised by the gold mining town, the former path to glory which led many to their demise. Contrast that with the new American Dream, being in the movies, obviously represented by Lily and her friends making a film.
Where it all comes together is in the middle, precipitating an existential haunting. Of course there’s the mystery of what’s actually happening, are they going crazy, or is someone messing with them? Mystery gives way to paranoia, which then gives way to worse, the unimaginable. People get hurt. Some may die. As many often do, through drug overdose or otherwise, people die in pursuit of the American Dream on the silver screen. In the ghost town of Garlock exists the allegorical space where these two visions of the American Dream merge, causing chaos. This is illustrated in tandem with the editing of clips from earlier auditions for the film, candid moments amongst the group, as we see the shattered dream v. the idyllic American dream, the before and after, cutting from the happier moments to the later more unnerving and downright disturbing scenes sometimes in the matter of seconds.
Ultimately, in the face of the unknown, a perceived threat, the group’s morality is gradually questioned, some of them teetering precariously on an edge until the film’s shocking climax and quick finale. This all works towards the thematic consideration of what happens to people, socially, when they step outside the boundaries of their urban spaces, into the wilderness of the rural landscape. When these people, city dwellers, go outside their limits, their comfort even, they’re faced with the primitivity of humankind. In the end, this determines what happens to the characters, if they given in to their primitive side or not.
FullSizeRender (2)Cannot recommend this movie more. Found footage will always get a chance, from me. I’m willing to give anything a shot, because there’s a craving for the deeper subjects, the scarier stories, either supernatural or utterly human. The Garlock Incident plays with the audience’s expectations, then by the final frame you’re left reconsidering everything that came previously.
There’s a horrifying climax to the film, shot from a far physical distance. However, this literal distance cannot figuratively distance us from the brutality of its emotion, giving way to a conclusion that’s one hell of a gut punch. The last five minutes challenge us to go back, look at the events which led us and the characters to that moment, and the film’s last shot before a cut to black is expected after what preceded it, yet it’s no less shattering.
Seek this out, it’s available now via Google Play. Waited several years to see this, truly worth the wait. The acting holds up, a dreadful tension full of suspense and isolation fills the air. If you want blood, this isn’t the film you’re looking for, but if you want something that’ll creep under your skin, likely to stay a while, then you’ve found the ticket. A nice, eerie found footage film for the Halloween season.

MOTEL HELL: Farmer Vincent’s Winning Recipe is Satire (And People)

Motel Hell. 1980. Directed by Kevin Connor. Screenplay by Robert & Steven-Charles Jaffe.
Starring Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod, Wolfman Jack, Elaine Joyce, Dick Curtis, Monique St. Pierre, Rosanne Katon, E. Hampton Beagle, Everett Creach, Michael Melvin, John Ratzenberger, & Marc Silver.
Camp Hill
Rated R. 101 minutes.
Comedy/Horror/Thriller

★★★★
MOTEL2Full disclosure, I’m a party pooper.
Don’t really enjoy horror comedy, unless it’s pitch black. Mostly I prefer a good horror with tinges of bleak, dark comedy. That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of fantastic horror comedies out there. Far from it. Every few years there’s a truly excellent one, as well. From Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive right up to Shaun of the Dead and Tucker and Dale vs Evil; I really enjoyed Cooties, most recently, a film that actually made me enjoy Rainn Wilson.
1980’s Motel Hell, while not perfect, is a whole lot of fun. It’s gory and foolish and sometimes you’ll ache from the creepiness. I could’ve used it even darker, more disturbing, but still, there’s enough of that for most.
What makes this enjoyable is how far director Kevin Connor is willing to go with the screenplay from Robert and Steven-Charles Jaffe. Originally it was meant to be wilder, darker than it is already. Yet when a horror comedy’s willing to not take itself too seriously, and satire’s the aim, getting silly is an admirable quality. Whether it’s riffing off Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Craven’s Last House on the LeftMotel Hell retains its own brand of madness by being eerie and holding onto its satirical humour.
MOTEL1The film’s a satire of the horror genre, as a whole. Mostly we get the sense Hooper and Leatherface’s clan are part of that. Obviously the smoked meats is explicit, not exactly a subtle thing. Even Rory Calhoun’s Farmer Vincent feels like a more charming version of Jim Siedow from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. What we get more of here is the industry side of meat. Whereas Hooper’s indie horror classic keeps a relatively tight focus on a sole cannibalistic family, Motel Hell envisions one man using his tasty meats to feed the people, to do his part in the grand scheme of things. Ida (Nancy Parsons) is a totally different character than Leatherface, clearly, but she occupies a similar role, she’s an unthinking murderer, doing whatever Vincent needs, just as Leather does whatever’s needed by the family.
Then there’s the similar treatment of cops as Craven, whose Last House on the Left darkly juxtaposed the sadistic criminals against a couple bumbling, idiotic police officers. Here, the story’s got Vincent’s brother, a dim-witted-type of dude, jealous of the farmer, his special recipe for the meats, so on. So he not only plays the dumb cop stereotype, he’s also a corrupt one, too.

Meats meat and a mans gotta eat!

MOTEL3On top of it all is a further reaching satirical vision, extending to food, how we relate to it and how it gets to our plate. The satire blows up the idea that people don’t want to know how their meat got to their plate, that they’d rather not think about how slaughterhouses operate, what happens in them. They don’t want to know about the suffering of
There’s also the delusion of Vincent that he’s somehow doing the world a favour. He isn’t merely killing for the sake of killing, he’s got meat to chop, sausages to stuff! He’s got hungry mouths to feed. Likewise, we see the transgressive taboo of cannibalism questioning what meat are people willing to eat if hungry enough. From dog to frog to human beings. Humans aren’t solely killed or eaten, they’re treated like food from soil to the plate. Vincent plants people straight in the dirt, up their necks. This is his sort of way of turning people into food not only literally, but figuratively, as well; to assuage the initial taboo unease of eating flesh. Making it, in a sick sense, palatable (insert comedy drums) to those with qualms about consuming people.
Finally, Vincent’s delusional mind sees people as food equalling a means of population control, solving world hunger. He wonders, how bad do we want to solve these issues? Bad enough to exchange morals for full bellies? Strong enough to break one of the greatest taboos of civilised society? And plus, if people enjoy it, supply and demand, right? Who’s Vincent, a quaint American farmer trying to make a living off the land, to argue with what the consumer wants?
After all, it’s a capitalist world! Maybe this gives more weight to the final duel, the chainsaw fight calling to mind, again, Last House on the Left briefly.
A far reach, but alongside the satire of horror iconography – Vincent needs to wear the pig head as a mask in order for this to be a slasher horror, by the unwritten rules of the pantheon of Horror Gods – the pig head makes our farmer into the capitalist pig, his only interest in making smoked meats out of people was to help himself, not the world, not the hungry; only himself. While it’s hilarious on one level, it’s pretty brilliant on a symbolic plane.
MOTEL4When I watched Motel Hell for the first time only recently, I thought it was decent. Nothing more. After a week, I gave it another go, and my opinion changed, greatly. What felt a bit funny became riotous. The disturbing, darker bits came out with more emphasis. And Rory Calhoun’s performance knocked me out, his disarming charm and old school American wit making Farmer Vincent into less a creepy backwoods sort of guy than the archetypal character we expect, such as Siedow’s character in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
I’d put this off because of my slight disinterest in horror comedies, and I’m realising now, more than ever, this prejudice needs to stop. Because there are lots of brilliant, smart films like this in the horror genre which do equally as well with their comedic elements.
Absolutely recommended for any Halloween horror-thon. The perfect flick for a get together with friends in the midst of October. It’ll get you nice and prepared for the 31st with a dose of dismembered corpses and laughs in one neat package.

HELL HOUSE LLC: Quality Found Footage Terror

Hell House LLC. 2015. Directed & Written by Stephen Cognetti.
Starring Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Natalie Gee, Jared Hacker, Phil Hess, Ryan Jennifer, Lauren A. Kennedy, Jeb Kreager, Miranda Robbins, Adam Schneider, & Kristin Michelle Taylor.
Cognetti Films
Not Rated. 93 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★
Hell House 1The found footage, faux-documentary sub-genre has run wild in recent years, to the extent the horror industry’s been flooded. It’s a perfectly viable sub-genre, it’s just been destroyed like the slasher sub-genre was particularly during the 1980s. Because, at this point in 2017, the accessibility of making a low-budget found footage movie is right at our fingertips. You can take a bunch of friends out in the woods for a weekend, along with some iPhones, and by the time Monday rolls around you’ve got a little movie!
Naturally, that’s brought us to a point where there are so many found footage flicks that you can’t throw a rock without hitting one; let alone a GOOD one. But they’re out there, indeed, and they can be scary.
Like Hell House LLC, a film which uses the concept of haunted house attractions around Halloween in order to produce a found footage and mockumentary mix that ultimately gives it all a genuine feeling of realness. And isn’t that the ultimate goal of the sub-genre? To suck us into its little world, to make us feel what we’re seeing is real?
The Houses October Built was a fantastic look at the same subject, albeit from a different perspective and wholly in the found footage format. What this film does best is provide genuine scares through the use of expert suspense and tension, the atmosphere chilling from early on. The advantage of the mockumentary format is that Hell House LLC gives us the best of the haunted house attraction plot with the found footage element, on top of adding the mystery and thrill of a faux documentary. Resulting in an engaging story, not just shaky cameras and screaming and a slew of expected the sub-genre’s tropes.
Hell House 4The world of Halloween haunted house attractions is ripe for horror. The Houses October Bult was both engaging and frightening, taking us through the unsuspecting audience’s perspective inside the attractions. Hell House LLC takes us to the other side, from the perspective of a group of friends who put together haunted houses, here, they set it in an old hotel; clearly yielding scary results. The found footage aspect works perfect taking us into the action, but giving us great suspense as we watch the place come together, the eerie events which happen under the group’s collective nose. The use of a possibly supernatural backstory that comes out through the faux documentary offers an intriguing mix; whether the supernatural actually pans out becomes evident by the finale.
Story’s great. The scares are the best, though. The use of the clown mannequin is totally frightening. The moment when it appears then disappears is incredibly upsetting, in the right kind of horror way. This shtick recurs a couple times, to great effect. Worse, the second or third time around it’s more than a single character/camera witnessing the moment, pulling us further into the terror.
More subtle moments make the movie unnerving. Like a strange shot of Sara (Ryan Jennifer Jones) standing in front of a stone statue, quietly spooky. Then the strobe light scene delivers a pang of claustrophobia in the viewer alongside the character (who actually threw up in that take for real). Finally, the events of the haunted house’s opening night alluded to throughout play for us, releasing the tension built up over the course of the film. From that moment on everything descends into chaos. The finale is the icing on a creepy cake, giving the end an additional punch.
Hell House 3The Abaddon hotel here is an actual haunt attraction, previously converted from an old hotel. Like with all great locations, this one transforms the film, making it more interesting and spookier. So many found footage flicks don’t have atmosphere, here that’s just naturally taken care of by the setting. The hotel is a character on its own, akin to the lead villain in another film. This alone gives Hell House LLC fantastic atmosphere, a sense of place. As opposed to a set, the real location adds grim life to the plot, as you can imagine finding yourself in an ageing hotel, walking through its hotel, unaware of its history or what sort of entities, maybe people, are lurking within those walls.
Aside from the atmosphere, the characters and the acting keep the film steady. Found footage, almost more than any other sub-genre of horror, benefits from strong performances. The characters and their relationships here give credibility to the story, making it all feel real. More than the performances, the writing avoids a lot of expected conventions of the found footage sub-genre. For instance, the typical “You’ve ruined us all” aspect as one character’s mistakes seemingly doom the rest, and of course the question of the cameras is solved because everything is being filmed for the haunt.
Moreover, the pacing works on your nerves, as the horror never truly lets up, creeping on the viewer hard. The freaky moments pile up, the corners of your eyes get tired from scanning, waiting for whatever comes next. You expect the terror when it arrives, doesn’t change the fact it’s effective and entirely unnerving.
Hell House 2In the top ten found footage efforts of the 2010s so far. There are so many of these movies dropped on us, because it’s cheap, especially for a studio to pump them out. But even an iPhone puts you in the director’s chair. Hell House LLC, and other films like it, prove that found footage is still very much alive. Some people want to make you believe they sub-genre’s played out. It isn’t, you just have to dig through the shit at times to find the pretty little diamonds.
Hopefully director-writer Stephen Cognetti does another film soon, found footage or not. He’s got a good sense for the pacing and suspense of a horror, as well as the fact he cares about characters. Time and time again indie horror flicks pass over the characterisation for blood, over-the-top nastiness, or some other futile way of trying to fill in the gaps. When all you need are solid characters and some decent actors to bring them alive for the audience.
Hell House LLC is perfect for the Halloween season. There’s nothing better than getting paranoid while watching these friends setup their haunted house attraction, wind blowing outside, the smell of candy in the air. You can always go to a real haunt. Or just turn off the lights, flick this on, and let yourself get creeped out.

GERALD’S GAME: One Woman’s Revelatory Odyssey Into Misogyny

Gerald’s Game. 2017. Directed by Mike Flanagan. Screenplay by Flanagan & Jeff Howard.
Starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Carel Struycken, Kate Siegel, & Chiara Aurelia.
Intrepid Pictures
Not Rated. 103 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★★

DisclaimerThe following review discusses the film in-depth. As such, it contains spoilers in reference to important plot points and themes in the film. If you haven’t, get on Netflix, watch, then come back for a lively discussion.
Lest ye be spoiled!

Gerald's Game 1I’ve long adored Stephen King, ever since my mother introduced me to his books; I first saw them on her shelves, unable to read them until she said I was old enough, then I fell in love. His writing is so human, even when he’s dipping into the supernatural. Of all his novels, Gerald’s Game is entirely human, despite touching on aspects that are definitely not of this world. Best of all, the novel’s protagonist Jessie Burlingame (played here by the fabulous Carla Gugino) is at her most vulnerable in a situation requiring her greatest strengths.
King’s story explored so much of Jessie’s life, her experience with the men in it, the events those relationships further precipitated. Director Mike Flanagan and his co-writer Jeff Howard manage to illustrate all the important moments in the film’s 103-minute runtime. Sticking so close to the novel, it allows Flanagan to bring its imagery to life in a unique way that’s exciting even for readers like myself who’ve read and revered the book already.
More than that it’s the themes at play which resonate, especially at a point in time where we need more strong films taking on the horror of misogyny. Gerald’s Game explores the dichotomy of truth and lies within a marriage, how sexual fantasies – particularly rape-fantasy – turn men into dangerous foes instead of husbands to the wives they supposedly love, as well as how those titles like husband, or father, don’t mean anything when in the face of predatory men.
And all of this relies on the powerhouse performance of Gugino, whose Jessie – the centrepiece of the story, despite the title – must either transform into the powerful women lying in wait inside herself, or else perish.
Gerald's Game 2

Well, Im pretty sure you just lost your mind.”

At its core, King’s novel is a metaphor of the overall misogyny women experience at the hands of men in every facet of life. Gerald’s Game works on several levels. It’s Gerald’s (Bruce Greenwood) game to bring the handcuffs to the cabin, to spice up his and Jessie’s marriage. However, it’s also the game many men play, making a woman feel as if she has to conform to his idea of sexuality and how they express it as a couple in order to ‘save the marriage.’ Jessie must play the game with Gerald, though later on we discover how, stuck between her father and mother, young Jessie had to play an entirely different game.
The main ideas floating around from the start centre on Jessie and Gerald’s marriage. Is your partner who they truly are, or merely who you want them to be? Do they, after a time, just become our vision of their personality instead of themselves? Through her predicament, left handcuffed to the bed after Gerald has a heart attack and cracks his head on the floor, Jessie forcibly confronts herself, ultimately. Both her own identity and also her relationship to her husband, how she views him as a man and a husband; plus, how being a man is inextricably linked to any other role a man plays.
Being stuck in the cuffs is a literal event, but it’s likewise an allegorical one. Jessie’s been controlled by men, one way or another, her entire life. So now, she must wholly rely on herself to break those figurative and literal bonds and free herself, to live again and to keep on living. The later we go on, the above quote transforms into more of a gaslighting question than one we understand as Jessie actually having a mental breakdown, stuck to the bed. She has to overcome the fantasies men wish to impose on her to survive.
Gerald's Game 3

Youre only made of moonlight

Gerald's Game 4Jessie’s mental state and her perspective are, obviously, crucial to the novel, which is the major reason Flanagan creates such a perfect adaptation with his film. There’s a stream of consciousness feel, as he weaves back and forth from past to present, dropping us in and out of memory. We slip from waking visions to nightmarish sleep, blurring the edges of reality until the actual moments of genuine reality crash in, frightening the viewer as much as Jessie.
Like in the novel, the Moonlight Man (Carel Struycken), the Space Cowboy, is where the idea of the supernatural exists, on the edges of the story’s heart. We never know what’s pure fiction, dreams and nightmares interchangeably. The Moonlight Man is like a shadow cast by real life into Jessie’s subconscious, conjuring up awful things she sees between sleep and struggling to get out of those cuffs. Until the finale, where the men in Jessie’s life, from her father to her husband, come to a culmination in the worst of man – a necrophile serial killer. He was real all along. And with this reality comes the other reality: the worst she believed about the other men in her life – her paedophile father, her misogynist husband masquerading most his life as a loving one while harbouring a dark rape-fantasy – is also very real.
At the same time, the film’s ending validates Jessie, her struggle. Throughout her ordeal, she faced not only her spacial limitations, stuck on that bed, she pushed past the mental violence that’s been afflicted on her with the physical violence that accompanied it. She’ll never forget what’s happened to her. But she’ll also never let it dictate her life.

Youre so much smaller than I remember

Gerald's Game 5The victory of Jessie is what makes everything worth it. Yes, there’s horror, there’s so much tension and suspense it could eat you alive. Same as it was in King’s novel. By the end, Flanagan offers us the hope and the power in Jessie that King did, Carla Gugino’s quiet power punctuating the character’s transformation.
Again like the novel, the end is phenomenal. Flanagan gives us one important set of images in those last moments that hammer home the allegory at work. Gerald’s line “Dont ask a question you dont wanna know the answer to” becomes the crux on which the film and Jessie’s journey hang. Because she’s asked the questions, she’s confronted their answers, and still, she stands.
Gerald’s Game, for Father Gore, is perfect. Out of the park adaptation, on top of the pile with the best. Flanagan works on the viewer’s nerves, using the isolated setting and plot to his advantage, the paranoia coursing through each frame, so much so it’s the quiet moments which truly land the hardest impact.
Many who aren’t familiar with the original King novel might get a different impression just by the poster or the trailer or reading a plot summary, but this is a movie about a powerful woman. She doesn’t know she’s powerful in the beginning. It’s the transformative journey she undertakes at the hands of her husband, a microcosm of general misogyny, which reveals this power to her. For all its graphic qualities, Gerald’s Game goes for the emotional, existential terror lurking inside the relationships of women’s daily lives.

BUG’s Symbiotic Horror

Bug. 2006. Directed by William Friedkin. Screenplay by Tracey Letts; based on his stage play of the same name.
Starring Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr, Daniel F. O’Byrne, & Lynn Collins.
Lions Gate Films/L.I.F.T. Production/DMK Mediafonds International
Rated R. 102 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★★★
BUG3Forever, William Friedkin is in my top five directors. Not like he wouldn’t be in the top picks for many film lovers. He’s fantastic, both a director who can throw down with the best of the best in terms of action sequences, as well as one just as capable of creating an expert atmosphere out of mood and tone. Specifically in regard to that concept of atmosphere, Friedkin takes his film’s subjects seriously, even in a dark, dark comedy like Killer Joe. Likewise, he respects his audience enough not to pander to the lowest common denominator, as evidenced by one of the most powerful horror films ever made, The Exorcist (while many who’ve tread in his footsteps in the past few days try replicating and fall short into that trap).
While every director, no matter how genius, will stumble here or there, Bug doesn’t even come close to a misstep. Although many critics share this sentiment now the film didn’t exactly do anything impressive at the box office. That’s not the end game of art, how much money it makes. However, the artists we love deserve to make money from the things they create that entertain us, that leave us in awe of their abilities.
Bug deserved better; still does. It’s the exploration of the other side of love, the one people don’t necessarily want to talk about. Through the characters of Agnes (Ashley Judd) and Peter (Michael Shannon) in Tracey Letts’ screenplay, Friedkin manufactures a claustrophobic, feverish, disturbingly compelling portrait of l’amour fou, or shared psychosis, or whatever you want to call it. By the end, the message is clear: symbiotic relationships in humans, even if they feel like deep love, are sometimes not even parasitic , but entirely geared towards the annihilation of one singular self rather than the elevation of two whole selves.
BUG4The love bug. It bites you, and like an infection the chemical in your brain hooks you in, it hooks the other person, too. Suddenly you’re in over your head. Granted, this can work out. Did for me, does for a lot of people. But then there are the other cases, the ones where the symbiotic relationship of love doesn’t work so well; where it takes over and warps both people within the relationship into unrecognisable creatures.
Part of the film works as tragedy, watching Agnes spiral further into a relationship just as destructive as the one she was in before with the ex-con Jerry (Harry Connick Jr). Doesn’t matter that Peter isn’t physically abusive, neither is he mentally abusive. What makes it all the more tragic is how Agnes’ desperation, to be loved and to love a good man, leads her to begin sharing the psychosis of Peter. This is a living metaphor of how, at times when we’re in love we do things against our better judgement, blinded by emotion.
When you love someone you hope to connect with the same ideas and concepts. So Agnes gradually falls deeper into the madness Peter perpetuates. What starts in a blackly comic mode quickly devolves into pure insanity, with Peter descending to a state of paranoia which wraps Agnes up in a whirlwind, an unstoppable force that, at a certain stage, neither of the two lovers are able to control. Before the audience – or Agnes – knows it, the delusion has encompassed all.
One of the best scenes is right after Peter’s started with the fly paper and all the insect repellent, when Agnes’ friend R.C. (Lynn Collins) shows up. It’s easy to see the scary qualities of the relationship between the lovers with another person in their midst. Their dual insanity shines early through the perspective of another. Part of this speaks to how these toxic, symbiotic relationships can ruin other relationships in the lives of those involved.
BUG2A huge piece of what makes Bug so compelling is how Friedkin lets us watch the story. At various points throughout you’ll wonder: is Peter actually crazy? Early on it’s easy to see there’s something not right. At the same time, Friedkin leads us into a headspace where we begin feeling that anything is possible. The visuals are one thing. Sound design is a whole other beast. As the film wears on, not only are the sights questionable, the sounds lead us to believe it’s entirely possible that Peter’s psychosis is in fact reality. Coupled with the screenplay from Letts there are a handful of scenes that question the couple’s madness, while simultaneously questioning the audience’s comprehension of what’s genuinely occurring on screen.
Of course it’s the dual performances of Judd and Shannon which draw us into this world and grip us with white-knuckled fingers until the finale. Shannon is lucky enough to have played this character onstage. Apparently they wanted someone else for the lead, though Friedkin remained set on him. What’s awesome about Shannon is that he’s got this edgy handsomeness fit for a leading man, alongside an unnerving quality coming 100% from that interesting face, so at once he’s both the charming Peter and on the end he drags us into his character’s dangerous mental state of delusion.
Lord have mercy, though. ‘Cause as good as Shannon is, Judd is even better. She makes us feel, hard. The more we come to know Agnes, the worse we feel for her. But Judd cracks the heart in two, never portraying this abused, battered woman as a total victim. She’s never too strong, either. She’s fallible, she’s real and raw. Most of all Judd’s performance highlights the desperation often present in us as humans when we need to be loved, when we have so much love to give.
BUG1A phenomenal film, Bug‘s easily a favourite of Father Gore’s post-2000. Hell, it’s up there with the greatest psychological thrillers. Period. Because Friedkin is of a high calibre, his directing and his eye for how to conjure atmosphere are particularly evident due to the claustrophobic setting of the small room Peter and Agnes inhabit for 98% of the film. Like an exercise in the master’s best, most subtle qualities.
There are plenty of films out there about love, from the upbeat to the dark and depressing. Yes, this Friedkin flick is a scary, nerve wracking piece that will fuck you up. By the same token, Bug has a positive element, in that it explores a space in human relationships we’re not always willing to go. And through that, we’re able to safely investigate themes of truth, delusion, love, trust, co-dependency, all through the prism of this one relationship. Judd and Shannon together are frightening, magnetic, powerful. This movie, though steeped in a heady psychological atmosphere, is all too human. For daring to go to these places, Friedkin and Letts both are artists unafraid of confronting the darkness lurking in places where we usually expect beauty.

The Sinner – Part 1

USA’s The Sinner
Part 1
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
Pic 1Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) works in a warehouse, looking after business for a heat and air specialist company at which her husband Mason (Christopher Abbot) works. They’re a simple family, they have dinner with his parents a couple times a week and the grandparents look after the kids. Cora calls her husband a “mamas boy” for all the time they spend with them. Not to mention they work with pops at the company, too. A nice, quaint life.
At the same time it’s predictable. Friday nights are for fucking, just like everything seems to have its place, every aspect of their lives is plotted out. She has to take a pill before they get in bed. Doesn’t bode well for their relationship as we see it from the omnipotent angle. Something about Cora’s vacant eyes when they have sex is chilling. This is not a happy woman.
Bowing to the more patriarchal aspects of marriage and motherhood, she looks like a woman stuck. Not that she doesn’t love her husband or their child. She loves them so much that she appears to have forced herself into a life that isn’t what she wants. All this is without words, as well. All by way of Biel’s expressions, the way she looks at others. You can see her existing in her own head while the world goes on around her.
There’s a great metaphor in how, when they go swimming Cora goes out past the rope on her own, past where people are meant to swim. Like it’s something she has to do, compelled to. She puts herself under the water and holds her breath awhile, long as she can.
She returns to her husband freaking out a bit. “I wanted some quiet,” she tells him.
On the beach, a young couple groping catches her attention, making her feel strange. Out of nowhere Cora attacks the man, stabbing him in the neck with a steak knife, stabbing his chest, over and over telling him to “get off her.” Before Mason can pull her away, it’s over. He’s bleeding out. People are screaming. Nobody knows why it happened.
Problem is, neither does Cora. Naturally she’s carted off by the cops.
Pic 1ALooks like this is a case for Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), a bit of a grizzled dude with rough fingernails, possibly liver troubles from drinking, or could be something else. Either way, he’s out on the beach faced with the murder of the poor young dude at the hands of a stranger. Along with Detective Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood). Plenty of witnesses. But if they want to find a motive, this one’s like a needle in a massive stack of identical-looking needles.
There’s something in Cora’s past. We see glimpses of her upbringing, her praying. Only brief. It’s clear that we’ll find at least partial answers there. I don’t think this is going to be as simple as some exploitative abuse angle, though there’s no telling just yet. It simply feels bigger, more complex than that.
The detectives are meeting with Cora, laying out the next steps in what will happen from here on. They advise her to call a lawyer. She refuses. Knowing what she did, yet not sure why. She can’t produce any reason for doing so. Also, what are the shots of the black wallpaper in her head? Or is it the pattern of curtains, a duvet? Is it a key to unlocking her past? We’ve seen it a couple times now, directly linked with her. Visions. Puzzle pieces to some kind of trauma in her childhood.
Cora: “I just did it. And I dont know why.”
Pic 2Nice audio touch, as Cora suffers in her cell for the night without her medication and the sound that played on the beach before she killed the man pounds in her ears, like it’s coming through speakers. She sees images of her crime flash through her mind. So, she drops to the floor. On her knees, in prayer.
Dt. Ambrose is a troubled dude. The black fingernails aren’t liver damage. They’re bloodied, bruised fingernails from having them stepped on by a lady friend of his he goes to see now and then. Lord, Harry. Bit of S&M, baby! Dude does enjoy his drink, though.
Everyone’s life is torn apart. Mason is having a hard time, he hasn’t gone to see his wife since she’s been in jail. It’s tough. He was there, having witnessed the murder. Not understanding from where this bout of rage exploded. He mentions to Dt. Ambrose what she said after the attack to the girlfriend of the man: “Youre okay. Youre safe. Hes gone now.” As if she were saving the woman from something.
Pic 3We’re offered a glimpse of Cora as a girl. She’s meeting her sister for the first time. Her mother, essentially, blames her for the sick new baby they have. That after her, there was no more strength left in the mother for another child. All this under the guise of being a test from God. Already we can see there’s a religious angle to whatever trauma Cora experienced when she was young.
Finally, Mason goes to visit her in jail. He’s struggling to understand it all. The cruel irony is that she is in the same boat. She’s willing to admit maybe there’s “something wrong” with her. He’d rather believe it was a momentary lapse, a psychotic break out of nowhere. So obvious there’s far more to the story lurking below. On top of everything, they’re going to have to figure out where to go from here, in their relationship. She accepts what’s coming, from jail to her husband maybe having to move on. That’s not something he’s ready to hear.
Dt. Ambrose goes to see the others present when the victim was killed. The girlfriend, specifically, though she’s sedated. One of the guy’s present doesn’t have much to say, until the cop starts poking at him for not having tried to save his friend. This prompts what he’s looking for: the guy mentions his friend grabbed her by the elbow, that he was a strong guy, and it’s strange because he didn’t do anything. Ambrose susses out it was like “he let her kill him.” As if he knew her, recognised her after the first stab in his neck, then let what happened happen.
Could it possibly be? Will Ambrose pursuit it even if Cora doesn’t know it herself?
Pic 4Man, I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much. Then I realised Antonio Campos was directing this episode, and I’m willing to watch anything he does or is involved with, full stop. Biel impressed me, big time. Look forward to Part 2.

Fargo – Season 3, Episode 3: “The Law of Non-Contradiction”

FX’s Fargo
Season 3, Episode 3: “The Law of Non-Contradiction”
Directed by John Cameron
Written by Ben Nedivi & Matt Wolpert

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Principle of Restricted Choice” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Narrow Escape Problem” – click here
Pic 1Thaddeus Mobley (Thomas Mann) is at an awards ceremony, the Singularity Awards. He’s won Best Sci-Fi Novel for The Planet Wyh. Could his stories of aliens somehow connect with the interests in aliens from Ted Danson’s character in Season 2? Hmm. Either way, Mobley winds up at the bar with a man named Howard Zimmerman (Fred Melamed), a film producer. Might be the big time for young Thad. He’s whisked off to make his novel into a “major motion picture” with a studio. Although things aren’t exactly as they seem.
Howard leads him on with starry promises. “Tit for tat” is how things get done, so he tells the young gentleman. Prying money from him, as he snorts at least some of it up his nose. Isn’t hard to see where this is headed. Poor, innocent Thad is getting grifted. Hard. One thing leads to another and he’s also into the drugs, as well. He keeps on writing, but those are the least of his worries now.
Pic 1AA beautifully animated bit brings us to Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) on a plane, reading The Planet Wyh. A man next to her (Ray Wise) asks about it and they have chat. Everyone around them stares at their phones, and he laments the change in times. Me too, Mr. Wise. Me, too.
Gloria’s on a trip to California hoping she’ll find out more about the elusive Mr. Mobley – a.k.a Ennis Stussy – going off a few books, newspaper clippings. What’ll she discover? I’ve pondered it ever since we saw the first glimpse of his books.
At the motel checking in she chases down a thief, or tries to, anyway. She winds up talking to a cop named Officer Hunt (Rob McElhenney) and asks if he could run information for her, re: the case. A possibility. In her room Gloria finds a box, in the closet. A strange box with a switch that opens then closes itself. I actually laughed out loud a bit. Not the weirdest thing about most motel rooms.
We see the difference between ‘small town folk’ and the ‘bigger city crowd’ as Gloria’s one of the only people at a diner, again, not using a cellphone constantly. She asks around about Mobley, tracking down a waitress; the one who helped seduce Mobley into the dark side now near 30 years sober. “Its basically nothing but a dream,” she tells Gloria rather than dredge up those haunting memories.


At a bar Gloria meets Officer Hunt. The difference between city v. small town is so painfully awkward. A funny and brutal scene, sort of sad the way she’s treated. Meta moment for Fargo, as many viewers get a chuckle out of the Minnesota accent. But then Paul (Wise) shows up again. He makes her feel more comfortable the way he acts, they can actually talk like human beings.
More of the Android Minsky and The Planet Wyh. Great animation that I’m glad was included. Sort of helps with the at times surreal feel of the series. In this moment it’s like a dream in Gloria’s mind as she falls asleep.
The next day she’s up again searching for clues about Ennis’ previous life as Thaddeus. She goes to the Writers Guild of America and finds a script for the novel’s adaptation; curiously misspelled as Planet Why. The producer’s credit leads her to Zimmerman, living in a long term care facility. He’s in terrible shape. She asks her questions about Mobley, and old Howard goes on about “quantum something” – physics, I’d imagine. Nothing much concrete, though.
At night a note is slipped under Gloria’s door. Then we’re whisked back to Thaddeus discovering his girl used him, he and Howard. The young man’s crushed, particularly when she lays into him with vicious words. Howard chokes him then gets whacked in the brain with a cane over and over. Thad nearly kills them both before running out. But as Gloria sees it in present day, it’s only “a story.” Or is there more to the Mobley connection? Yes, you know damn well there’ll be more down the line.


We see the aftermath of that bad night years ago. Thad packing his suitcase frantically. A picture perfect dual image: the award he won and the blood on his hands. Sort of nastily poignant. At the same time, a parallel shows us Thad puking in the toilet at the thought of his deeds versus Gloria noticing a stamp for DENNIS STUSSY & SONS company on the rim of the toilet in her room; only the D is worn off. It meant a new life, new beginning for Thad.
More of the Android Minsky and his adventures, the wild animations. One of the most unique episodes of the whole series, honestly. Dig it or not, you’ve got to give Hawley & Co. their due.
Gloria and her son Nathan (Graham Verchere) say goodbye to Ennis at the funeral home, a weary life behind the old man. She gets information about fingerprints from the murder scene. Maurice LeFay, of course. How long until Ms. Burgle gets herself closer to Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)? Not too long, I’d bet. It’s gonna get real complicated real quick, and I, for one, cannot fucking wait. Such an interesting setup already. Also, what’s Gloria doing with that weird box from the motel? Keep your eye on that.


Loved the episode, it was so unique. Amazingly written, as well as flawlessly directed by John Cameron, also a producer on the series. Next episode is “The Narrow Escape Problem” – with a title like that, you can be sure there’ll be excitement, a few thrills in the darkly comic world that is Fargo on FX.

Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 4: “Sabrosito”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 4: “Sabrosito”
Directed by Thomas Schnauz
Written by Jonathan Glatzer

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Sunk Costs” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Chicanery” – click here
Pic 1We get a glimpse of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) visiting the big boss man of the cartel, Don Eladio; you know the guy. We’ve been here before, those of us who so loved Breaking Bad. Hector’s there with a man named Ximenez (Manuel Uriza), who chose not to run away with money and did the right thing for his boss(es). They also bring news of an ice cream shop, The Winking Greek, named for him. Bolsa turns up, too. He has a Los Pollos Hermanos shirt, and the Don enjoys it. Although Hector says they ought to be called the “Butt Brothers” which suggests more about Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Long have we believed him to be gay, which is fine! But these old school gangsters obviously feel different, at least some of them. He certainly makes big, big money for Don Eladio, who’s happy to humiliate Hector in front of everyone while comparing his meagre pile of money to that of the Los Pollos Hermanos delivery.
I love that this series is providing us a better look at many characters, not only Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). Because this world is populated with a lot of different people, many of whom were already worthy of more interest on Breaking Bad.
Pic 1AAfter a look into Hector’s past, we see the present. Where Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) sits in his car watching the groceteria from which Salamanca and his crew work.  He also gets an update on his granddaughter and her mom, that they’re settled in at their new place doing well. This is where we also see the start of Mike’s other life bumping up against the one he loves so much, his family; or what’s left. He chooses the right thing, for now. But the interesting thing about this compelling prequel is knowing where the characters are headed, watching that fate spell out in front of us/them.
Finally, we see Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) again. He and Hector roll into Los Pollos Hermanos to see the old man’s old pal. Only Gus isn’t around, so things get kind of tense. The whole place is on edge, especially with sketchy Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) and Nacho mean mugging on the perimeter of the store. Hector walks in behind the counter, nobody stopping him. Displaying a scary level of authority in front of everyone.
Meanwhile, upstanding citizen Gustavo Fring, local business owner, is over at the fire department delivering chicken and a kind word. Before he has to take an urgent call, alerted to the situation in his restaurant. When he returns his staff is waiting, under watch. Gus lets his employees go, full pay for the day and back to work tomorrow. Then he heads back to his office to chat with Don Hector. The old man says Gus will be his “mule” to bring product north, as well as uses a pen to clean his shoes on the desk like a rotten bastard. A nasty power play. We know how it all comes out in the end, but the trick is there’s a long, hard road to go before getting there. As always, Mr. Fring has a way of doing things. And I can’t wait to see how Hector ends up how he is in Breaking Bad, barely a shell of a man.
Pic 2Victor tries to drop off a package of money to Mike at his toll booth. Only the old fella won’t take it, refusing all that cash. Then off Victor goes again. Right now, Mike’s still resisting the temptation of a wholly criminal life, if only for the sake of his family.
In the meantime, Gus also has to explain the previous day to his staff; they’re all, naturally, very concerned. He apologises, offering them counselling, extra pay. One of the employees asks who the men were, so their boss says he once paid them money for protection, back when he first opened a restaurant. We see, more than ever, the act that this man puts on in his daily life. It was only just touched upon during the original series. Better Call Saul allows us a look at the deception in a much deeper sense, as well as the additional back story we receive makes for some of the best character development on television.
Gus: “This is America. Here, the righteous have no reason to fear.”
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is calling around to find out about any appointments Chuck (Michael McKean) has made for repairs. She discovers the place, after many calls, then cancels it. At the same time, Jimmy’s doing work on his case to make everything in court go smooth as possible.
Then over at Chuck’s, instead of a repair guy Mike shows up with his toolbox; ahhh, tricky, tricky! He drives the older McGill away with the use of power tools, so much so Chuck has to go upstairs. One of my favourite scenes this season. Our sly handyman runs the drill then takes snaps of the house from all angles. He brings the pictures and other tidbits to Jimmy for leverage. This won’t be the last time they meet, though. Just a seeya later for now.
Jimmy: “You, my friend, are the Ansel Adams of covert photography.”


That night, Gus goes to see Mike about Hector’s driver(s), the money he wouldn’t take. He makes an offer, to work for him. That’s a choice Mike isn’t willing to make blindly: “Thatd depend on the work,” he tells him. What follows is Gus making clear the reason he wants Hector alive, for now, is that a “bullet to the head would be far too humane.” What I can’t wait to see more of is how Mike slips further into deciding to work for the man.
On to a meeting with Chuck, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), and Kim and Jimmy, in the dark of course. Everyone is so concerned about the oldest McGill, his electrical sensitivity. Poor guy. The agreement for Jimmy’s confession is community service, et cetera, then Howard and Chuck nitpick the language on paper to their liking. Then the prosecutor wants an apology, one of a sincere nature. So the younger brother lays bare his regret. He also owes restitution; a little over $300, down to cents for the cassette tape. Yes, Chuck is cheap. In every way.
Kim knows there must be a duplicate of the tape; Chuck reveals it was the duplicate his brother smashed. He also tries to intimidate, but she is not one to back down. Not to mention the fact she and Jimmy are always hunting.
When Kim meets him downstairs, all she says is: “Bingo
Pic 4Yeah, baby! Love Kim. Need more of her, all the time. This was a solid episode, and next week is “Chicanery” which I know will be an exciting one again. Dig the flashback to Don Eladio and Hector, as well as more Hector in general. He is a wild old dude. Can’t wait to see what’ll happen next in all the different plots running through this series.