Pascal Laugier's INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND works as a brutal horror, and also an examination of storytelling as a means of escape or survival.
Sean Baker's latest feature explores the socioeconomic divide sitting right on the doorstep of your favourite family vacation spot.
When Rick, Carl, & Michonne go on a run together into the old Grimes hometown, they come across someone unexpected.
SyFy’s Channel Zero
Season 1, Episode 4: “A Strange Vessel”
Directed by Craig William Macneill
Written by Erica Saleh
* For a review of the previous episode, “Want to See Something Cool?” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Guest of Honor” – click here
With Mike Painter’s (Paul Schneider) daughter Lily (Abigail Pniowsky) at his mother’s step in Iron Hill, will we discover more secrets behind his childhood? In 1988, Mike and Jessica talking about Eddie, the kids starting to go missing. Then Mike shows her a Pirate Percy doll his brother made recently. No sooner does Candle Cove come on, the skull-headed figure announcing: “Do you sense it? Something is coming. A strange vessel is headed for the cove!”
In the present day Mike tries to figure out how his daughter got all the way back to his hometown, at grandma Marla’s (Fiona Shaw). Lily’s spaced out, no answers for her father. But you know that deep down Mike understands this connects with Eddie, the other missing and dead children. And maybe Marla understands that, too.
Standing in the hallway of the hospital Jessica (Natalie Brown) can clearly see there are multiple children all witnessing strange things. Candle Cove characters appear all over the wall in kids’ drawings. At least Jessica’s kids are making up. Uh oh – she also notices her boy Dane is missing a tooth. That’s because Katie has it, and the grin across her face as she looks at it is disturbing.
While Mike tries to explain to his wife their daughter showed up in Iron Hill, Jessica goes to see her husband, Sheriff Gary (Shaun Benson), as he sits behind bars. I mean, he fucked up. He’s still convinced Mike is dangerous, advising his wife to go home and get his gun, to keep it close. Just in case. However, husband Gary isn’t aware that his wife’s reconnected online with Mike as of late, before his breakdown and his trip home.
Amy Welch (Luisa D’Oliveira) is busy running things at the station, between actual work and turning down a fellow officer’s sort of sweet advances. I hope to see more of her. It’ll be nice to have her take on a bigger role at work because of Gary’s situation.
Switch back to ’88. Jessica doesn’t particularly like Eddie much, preferring Mike’s company. Especially seeing as how Eddie went pretty weird after watching too much Candle Cove. In the present Jessica meets Lily, who’s still pretty spacey. When she asks the little girl what she likes, Lily replies: “I like pirates.” Oh, for fuck sakes! Then, in the wall of the living room, she pulls out the Pirate Percy doll. She also says she isn’t Lily. Her doctor dad tries to do his thing, analysing; is Lily channelling the spirit of her dead uncle Eddie? Speaking of, we go back to ’88 again when he tells Mike about how every time they send somebody off to Candle Cove, “it gets stronger” – the Tooth Child? Regardless, there was a division between the brothers, and clearly Eddie felt that slipping, worried his brother would love a girl more than him. Tragic, really, as well as part of growing up, figuring life out.
We get a strange reenactment in the shadows, what looks like kids wearing papier-mâché replicas of the Candle Cove characters. Then there’s an amazing matching shot of young Mike and Eddie playing cards, which then cuts to Mike playing cards with his daughter; more evidence of the fact she’s channelling uncle Ed. Also, a terrifying figure lurks in the shadows as father and daughter/brother play. What is it? A pirate?
Only problem with the whole channelling dead Eddie thing is that it really gets to Marla. She’s a good woman, whose family was just torn right open. Mike has been immersed in this weirdness his entire life, or most of it; she’s only been experiencing the truth behind everything recently. And she doesn’t know exactly how to handle all those emotions. Hopefully she’ll be able to keep it together. At the same time, Mike talks to his brother through Lily; about his murder. Basically Eddie’s soul needs to get put to rest. Until then Lily ain’t Lily.
Those creepy mask wearing kids are no doubt those crazies Mrs. Booth has been training. Deputy Welch winds up talking to the old teacher, worried about what she saw them doing recently by the roadside – stabbing the shit out of a mannequin. They speak a bit of ’88, Jacob… then we’re back to that time once more, as Eddie goes to see Jacob Booth. Oh, my. I can see it coming now. Candle Cove comes on. Mother hugs her son Jacob tight, kissing him with tears in her eyes. Is she doing what I think she’s doing?
Eddie once tricked Jessica and tried sending her to Candle Cove. So brother confronts brother. Eventually, Mike gets the upper hand by pulling back those injured fingers on Eddie’s hand and running off. Present day once more, there are other nasty children skulking about. Amy tries to track down those kids at the school only to stumble into a darkened room where computer screens with Candle Cove screensavers pop up. On she goes to the gym where the mask wearers shout “Protect the ship” before Amy interrupts. Jesus, these kids are creepy.
Mike and Jessica go the morgue where Eddie’s body lies shelved. They’re taking the next necessary step to try returning Lily to normal. They burn his remains out in the woods. Simultaneously, grandma can’t seem to keep her eyes off her granddaughter, the spirit of her dead son looking back. If all this works, that spirit will be gone soon enough. Good, and sad in a way for Marla.
In other parts of Iron Hill bad things are on their way. Deputy Welch is at home with her Chinese food, the friendly law enforcement suitor from earlier in bed next to her. Little does she know there are awful kids coming for her. In a last minute move she heads over to see Mrs. Booth. No answer. So Amy finds the spare key and lets herself in. Noises lead her down to the basement. There she finds unpleasant jars, a Candle Cove doll, a dead Daphne being feasted on by a cat. GET OUT, AMY!
It seems the masked kids didn’t go to see the deputy after all. Jessica discovers them in her home, wielding knives. They start stabbing her, so she pulls the gun. But who could kill a kid, right? This sends her outside, as the kids crowd her in the little pool and stab her repeatedly under the watchful eye of Mrs. Booth.
Later in the night Lily wakes. She’s herself again, finally. Although she doesn’t remember a single thing. It was all a “nightmare” her father says. But the nightmare’s just beginning.
What a savage episode. This one frayed my nerves, genuine fright a couple times. There’s just this true sense of dread and suspense. I never expected Jessica to come across those kids. That really threw me for a complete loop.
Next episode is titled “Guest of Honor” and I’m in awe trying to think of what they’ll do next on this series. Love this show. Give me another 5 seasons, right now. So many great, classic Creepypastas they could use.
For all its faults, this adaptation of Stephen King does have teeth; sharp ones.
This is a spectacularly creepy Norwegian horror worth letting under your skin.
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.
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.
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 one‘s 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: “I‘m 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?
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.
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.
The Gift. 2015. Directed & Written by Joel Edgerton.
Starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Allison Tolman, Tim Griffin, Busy Philipps, Adam Lazarre-White, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce, Mirrah Foulkes, Nash Edgerton, David Denman, Katie Aselton, David Joseph Craig, & Susan May Pratt. STX Entertainment/Huayi Brothers Pictures/Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 108 minutes.
Joel Edgerton is a triple threat – he can act, write, and direct. The first thing I’d seen him do as a writer was the exciting film The Square. That same year, he put in a stellar acting performance as Ian Wright in the underrated dark thriller Acolytes. Next, he was spot on Barry ‘Baz’ Brown in David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom, and another solid screenplay in 2014 for director Michôd’s The Rover. So to see him in The Gift with all three barrels blasting, starring on top of directing and writing together, it is truly phenomenal.
While this movie wasn’t exactly as great as the hype suggests, Edgerton does craft a very deep, at times highly disturbing thriller with lots of human drama and intrigue, weaving the story of two men together in adulthood concerning a terrible secret from when they were children. Most of all, Edgerton explores how we never really know people. Not fully, not all of them. Some hide things, unnerving and even awful things. And this is a story about when those secrets in the past crawl their way into the lives of people in the present. Often with horrific consequences.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn Callum (Rebecca Hall) are a well put together married couple. They eventually want to have children, but other than that everything is wonderful. Until along comes Gordon ‘Gordo’ Moseley (Joel Edgerton), an old high school acquaintance of Simon. He starts showing up unexpected at their home, usually bearing a gift. Except this continues and continues to an odd length. Soon, Simon feels he has to tell Gordo to back off.
However, the past is tricky. Not everyone, even those married and close to one another, knows the people around them completely. Everybody has a secret. It just so happens some are worse than others. And the secret Simon’s been hiding is certainly worse. As the presence of Gordo in their lives starts to threaten their plain, enjoyable existence, Simon and Robyn are confronted with how the past can taint the present forever.
Aside from Edgerton, whom I dig, Jason Bateman is part of why I immediately found myself drawn to The Gift. He’s someone how has impeccable comedic timing and delivery, so to see him in something darkly serious is interesting. He does a good job with the character of Simon. What’s fun is that the character begins at one end of the spectrum, commanding our empathy for the situation in which he finds himself, as well as the fact his wife is inadvertently drawn into his past. Then by the end of the movie we’re questioning exactly where the loyalties lie as viewers. He is no longer worthy of our empathy, but at the same time we’re left to question how much punishment he actually deserves. One thing’s for sure, the true colours show and we finally see who Simon was all those years ago.
There’s also Rebecca Hall, she is a treat as usual. Here she gets a better role than most of the other films I’ve seen her in, as the character of Robyn is complex, endearing, and of course once the movie has run its course there is so much more involved. She plays the role well and she definitely has chemistry with Bateman, even Edgerton, too.
And Edgerton, he does a fine bit of work. Gordo is a nerve wracking character who’ll make you nervous almost every last second his face is onscreen. Whereas Edgerton often has a fairly built physique, or a manly build, whatever you want to call it, Gordo is more sheepish. He isn’t lost of confidence, not at all. But physically he isn’t imposing, he is sort of odd, awkward, and that makes him even more menacing in a way.
The sad and smiley faces are something that warn you right away. Gordo’s stuck as a young boy, one used to writing notes across the class with pretty girls, smiley faces and all. This is an immediate clue, even from the first smiley, that something is amiss. Of course he’s a bit creepy all the time. There’s something about the notes, the smiley and later sad faces drawn on, which bring your attention to something traumatic. People who go through various kinds of trauma at a young age can often find themselves stuck in that age, often times for the rest of their lives. So later, once things are uncovered more and more, we’re clued into the fact that these little droplets of character actually mean something. It’s weird from the start, but gains further eerie significance after more story details fall into our laps. That’s part of why Edgerton’s script is really enjoyable. Despite being a fairly slow burn for most of its run there are so many moments to hook you in, keep you glued to what’s happening.
Spoiler Alert: if you’ve not seen the film, do not go on. I’m about to discuss & spoil the ending.
Personally, I don’t think Gordo raped Robyn. To me he doesn’t seem like that type, no matter if he’s a creep. And above all, because he didn’t need to do that. All he required was the seed of doubt. Plant that in Simon’s head once and it’ll never go away. Simon would spend the rest of his life wondering, likely afraid to say anything about but all the while allowing it to consume him. That’s the greater revenge, in my opinion. Now there are some people I saw complaining about the rape angle being used here as a plot device, and I identify as a male feminist, so I understand there are films which really do exploit these types of situations and events. The Gift is first and foremost about the specter of abuse, rape, sexual assault. Because going back to the original events which spurred Gordo on, they were fictitious. So why not give Simon a taste of his own medicine? That’s what it all hinges on, in my opinion. Gordo wanted Simon to experience exactly what he did. Right down to a big fake-out.
Ultimately, this is definitely a 4-star dramatic thriller with a good dose of mystery. Joel Edgerton’s done a fantastic job crafting a tense story. With the stellar main trio of performances this script comes alive. Sure, it is slow and at times moves with a snail’s pace. But that’s never a bad thing if the plot is compelling. And The Gift is absolutely compelling, if anything. It engages you with a highly adult story that stems from childhood, making you question how people change, can they actually change, is it possible to shake off the devastation of the past, among many other questions begging for an answer. The finale might shake many people. Even as a seasoned horror veteran, the end of the film is still shocking in its own right. Regardless, the whole ride is worth taking. Hopefully Edgerton takes on some more films soon as director because he’s got incredible sensibilities for directing in terms of shot composition, pacing, all the necessary elements. Only a few flaws to be found, but otherwise this is a taut, suspenseful piece of cinema.