American Horror Story – Season 7, Episode 7: “Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 7: “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag”
Directed by Rachel Goldberg
Written by Crystal Liu

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Mid-Western Assassin” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Winter of Our Discontent” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 12.55.25 AMJune 3rd, 1968. In an alleyway, in a car, Valerie Solanas (Lena Dunham) is having sex with a man for money. “Fuck you, ya little dicked piece of dog shit,” she says after he only has $5 instead of the required $10. Then she’s looking for bullets, to kill Andy Warhol (Evan Peters).
Twenty-four hours prior, we see Andy at the Factory directing one of his films. In bursts Valerie, looking for a script she gave him called Up Your Ass. He says it’s lost. She believes it’s out of misogyny. Particularly because he literally says that women can’t be “serious artists.” Yikes. The patriarchy, alive and well at the Factory.
June 3rd again. Valerie’s got herself a gun. She hides it in a bag and heads up the elevator, but Andy’s not around.
Then they run into one another on the elevator. When they get back upstairs, she pulls the gun on him, firing a couple times and missing. She berates him for his control over her before shouting and shooting: “Down with the patriarchy. Suck my dick, Warhol.” Right in the chest.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 12.58.20 AMBack to present day, after the mass shooting in which Kai (Evan Peters) was shot by Meadow, who killed herself. Ally (Sarah Paulson) is in custody, too. Harrison (Billy Eichner) tells the media his wife was motivated to get back at Trump supporters, specifically Mr. Anderson. And this leads him to election on the city council. Happy days!
Beverly (Adina Porter) finds someone waiting for her outside the TV station, a hooded woman (Frances Conroy) who calls her out, ranting about the “natural order of things” and the recent assassination. She says she knows about killing men. Interesting. She also tells Beverly how to reach her when she can face the truth.
Things are pretty locked down around Kai now. He’s got a load of blue work shirt wearing dudes kicking around, slapping each other in the face, psyching themselves up, looking after the cult’s fearsome leader. I wonder if power will warp him from what he planned on doing. Seems like “equal power” isn’t on his mind anymore, and a wedge starts dividing him and Bev. So later, she goes to see the mysterious woman from before.
At the Butchery, Ivy (Alison Pill) and Winter (Billie Lourd) sit together talking things through. Soon, Bev shows up with the woman; her name is BB Babbett. She was in love with Valerie Solanas, the woman who attempted to kill Warhol. BB saw it as the start of revolution. She tells the women about the SCUM Manifesto. Valerie made clear to so many how men – “halfapes” – were the real problem of society, the cause of violence, of capitalism, of all that is ill in the world. And boy, was she ever right! Still, violence was the only language men would ever understand.
Talk doesnt work with men
BB helped further the ultimate mission after Valerie shot Warhol, initiating their war. Later, the women of their group found a couple lovers, and shot them to death in the barrens. Better still? These women were the Zodiac, unknowingly. Zodiac was the Society for Cutting Up Men. Then we see more of the Zodiac killings perpetrated through the perspective of the women. An amazing, eerie, brutal sequence. And today, like Warhol, Kai is pushing the women aside and reinstating the boys club; the club that never ever actually went away.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 1.20.25 AMAfter the asylum, Valerie made it back to the SCUM group. She became wilder, even more radical. Her time inside changed her for the worse. She believes one of her gay members wrote the Zodiac ciphers, so she stabs him in the arm. He admits to it, and then the women take their turns helping to finish him off. You know the first stab from Valerie goes right to the dick. They lay him out in the Zodiac sign, cut to pieces, “dick and balls” stuffed in his mouth.
Valerie tries taking credit for the Zodiac murders. But the cops thought she was insane. Thus, she went insane. Women slowly started leaving, as she got scarier and scarier. Eventually, only BB remained knowing Valerie had gone off the deep end. Valerie truly laments the control of men over women, especially her – whenever people hear her name, to this day, they think of Andy instead. “I am your legacy,” he tells her in a hallucination.
BB warns the women at the Butchery, they’ll be chewed up by the world if they let men keep on ruling. They are expendable to Kai, to other men. Bev’s ready to go hard or go home, hoping the others are with her. Winter goes home to find Kai in their parents’ room, holding his dead mother’s hand. He’s ruminating about the responsibility he took on, if he’ll be worthy. He wants to count on his sister, telling her about his new social media plan, a type of manifesto. She starts seeing the hierarchy of gender in the way he talks, though. Just under the surface.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 1.26.16 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-18 at 1.32.14 AMThe women get Harrison alone down at the Butchery, then they knock him out cold. When he wakes up they’re ready to start cutting him in pieces out back. They question him about Meadow’s death. Followed by slicing through his throat with a saw. Next day, Beverly’s reporting on the pieces of Mr. Wilton dropped in a body of water, covered in a layer of pond scum. So fitting. I wonder how this will split the group apart, and how Kai will now react going forward.
Because he and BB are friends, sitting together, watching everything unfold.
WHOA. I never saw that last one coming! Christ almighty. Can’t wait for more. This was an excellent episode tackling misogyny, coming at it from all angles – how men keep women down, how other women perpetuate it, how gay men can also be misogynistic. Nobody’s safe. Great writing.
“Winter of Our Discontent” is next week. Very excited to see what goes down.

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American Horror Story – Season 7, Episode 6: “Mid-Western Assassin”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 6: “Mid-Western Assassin”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Todd Kubrak

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Holes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 12.57.46 AMAmerica for Americans,” screams Kai Anderson (Evan Peters). “We are the Wall!” his crowd chants. Then a gunshot breaks the celebration. Ivy Mayfair-Richards (Alison Pill) starts running, Harrison Wilton (Billy Eichner) telling her to go. She stops as a police presence walks onto the courtyard.
The shooter is Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson). And on the stage, Kai lies unconscious. Or dead? Oh, we’ll see.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 12.58.33 AMCut back to Ally inside her home, Meadow (Leslie Grossman) outside telling her about the cult, that even Ally’s wife is involved, her husband. This surely will make the woman’s paranoia go through the roof, as if it weren’t already. She gets a call from Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), saying that Ivy’d called him, they’re worried.
Ally goes across the street, where Harrison and Dt. Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes) are banging. She gets into the garage where Meadow’s hidden, amongst the barrels. She unties the poor wife. Only Meadow makes noise, alerting the men. They manage to get across the street to Ally’s car and speed off. They go to the Butchery, where the alarm’s going off. Why would they go there? Not that Ally’s one to think straight. Although if they go to the cops, they’ll just think she’s insane, plus there’s Dt. Samuels in the mix. So, it does make sense, I guess. And she’s also worried about Oz.
Now, Ally says: “Convince me.” She wants more proof. Meadow tells her intimate details about the cult’s plans. The trucks, that were just holding water. The dead birds, killed via poisoned feeders. All to drive people further into fear. Particularly those who don’t believe in much to begin with, because “if you already believed in something there wouldnt be room for him.” As in Kai, the all powerful cult leader.
Meadow discusses her love for him. Whereas Harrison was her friend, not a true husband, she felt Kai cared for her. He fostered her interests, made her feel special. Just like Manson did with his various women, just as many enigmatic leaders appealed to their followers throughout history. In a way, it liberated her. Of course, all liberation requires violence.
One day, however, Meadow discovered she wasn’t special, that it was all just rhetoric in order to lure her in; she witnesses Kai tell Ivy all the same things. But once you’re in with the cult, you can’t just walk back out. This made her lash out. Followed by retribution for her rebellion. Suddenly Kai ain’t so sweet and nurturing.
All this leads to her being saved when Ally showed up after she got tossed in that grave. The only way forward? Kill Kai.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 1.09.55 AMSkip to April 2017, at a city council debate. Kai’s grandstanding about the federal government, local change. Blah, blah, blah. “The boogeyman” nomenclature followed by his rant about illegals, Satanic murder, the fake news he’s been creating himself. A woman named Sally Keffler (Mare Winningham) challenges him, believing he’s, essentially, full of shit. She gives it to him in front of everybody, and quite truthfully. Afterwards, she declares a write-in candidacy for council, too. This does not bode well for her.
Sally: “People like Mr. Anderson and Trump are not the garbage, they are the flies that the garbage has drawn.”
Day after the election. Ivy meets with Winter (Billie Lourd) about their having left Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono) to a grisly fate, the bloody hand, all that. So Winter takes her to Kai. He chastises her for having done what she did, trying to prevent Gary from exercising his voting rights as a “redblooded American.” They sit down and play the pinky truth game. She admits difficult truths.
This takes us into the history of the Mayfair-Richards clan. Ally was the one to deliver Oz, to breastfeed. This drove a wedge between them, how she seemed to lord the fact of her physical motherhood over Ivy in subtle ways, the resentment because of it. Kai delves deep to the core, uncovering honesty even where it feels revolting to the teller. Thus begins the process of driving Ally insane, so that Ivy can secure custody of Oz.
Back to current affairs. Ally’s gone to the wrong person: Dr. Vincent. She’s also left Meadow there alone. Elsewhere, at home, Ms. Keffler pours a drink and relaxes, as she hears banging at her door. It’s Ally, who saw her on TV. Sally lets her in after a moment, hearing her out. They talk about the “modern day Charles Manson” corroding their city. It all sounds mental, naturally. But the woman understands how this type of thing occurs when the “patriarchys threatened.” She has very definite, intelligent ideas about men, how the gender goes horribly wrong.
But they’re fast intruded upon by the clown cult. Sally goes for her gun while Ally runs. They manage to subdue Ms. Keffler, and then Kai reveals himself. He rants against the “overeducated elites” before sitting down to her open Facebook. He posts a status in his insane worldview voice. All leading to a supposed suicide.
Kai: “Knowing stuff has no value anymore
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 1.31.48 AMWhen the suicide’s faked, they still have Ally left upstairs. She’s found by the elephant mask wearing clown. She wonders if it’s Ivy, and then she’s left alive. Oh, yes. This gives Ally the time to get back to Dr. Vincent. Except Meadow’s not there, doc says she left. Hmm. He claims there was nothing said about a cult, faking concern, as usual. She shakes him and his bullshit off.
Now we’re back at the beginning, the rally with Kai onstage. He even throws shade at Sally, for abandoning the people. What a pig. Just like his big orange papa. Ally watches nearby, she also sees Meadow in the crowd heading for the stage.
And it’s in fact Meadow who pulls the trigger on Kai. She fires on several people, as Ally pleads with her to stop, grabbing for the gun. Meadow puts a bullet in her own mouth after telling her: “This is the face of true love.”
This is how Ally’s left holding the gun in front of police, no one left to corroborate her story. Likewise, we discover it was all a twisted plan from Kai, using the love Meadow felt for him to elevate him onto a national platform. He enacts his own failed assassination using the power he holds over her.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 1.38.35 AMWow. My favourite episode of American Horror Story yet, as in out of the entire series. This just cuts to the true heart of what the title speaks to, this might be the biggest horror story of all in America, the sociopolitical landscape of the country in 2017. So much going on here. Loved Sally’s bit on the patriarchy, it’s so true, so relevant.
“Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” is next! Some people hate Lena Dunham, I don’t. If you want to argue, go somewhere else. Because I’m here for this next one. Gimme some Warhol cultish madness.

Room 104 – Season 1, Episode 3: “The Knockadoo”

HBO’s Room 104
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Knockadoo”
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
Written by Carson D. Mell

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Pizza Boy” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “I Knew You Weren’t Dead” – click here
Pic 1A woman named Deborah (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris) arrives at the motel, Room 104. She heads inside, pouring herself a mixed drink of vodka. Before taking a sip she murmurs something to herself, almost a mantra.
Soon, a knock at the door. It’s Samuel (Orlando Jones), she’s been expecting him. This is the first time they’ve met, face to face, in the flesh. He’s got all sorts of stuff with him, too. Binders full of things. Deborah says it’s “like a celebrity is in the room,” though he shrugs this off. They’ve talked a long time before meeting. Then he gets ready to change, asking for her to put a DVD in. Except there’s no DVD player, so she has to call the front desk while he changes.
When Samuel comes back out, he’s wearing an elaborate robe. He has another robe for her to wear. Can’t be wearing any “synthetic fibres.” Weird. She goes to the bathroom to put it on. She’s apprehensive, but out she goes eventually.
Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 8.38.21 PMAnother knock comes at the door: staff with their DVD player.
Samuel puts on a DVD. The Father (Tony Todd) appears speaking to “kindred spirits” whom he sees as his children. He talks of a door, different worlds, planes, so on. Lots of that good hippy cult shit. Father’s deep, soothing voice captivates Deborah; behind her, Samuel sets the mood.
Next up – the crossroads, whatever they are ultimately. This is the point of no return, the “procedure” must go on all the way now. Well, not before money changes hands, and Samuel rants about cash briefly. Another DVD plays, Father sitting at a Casio keyboard this time. He uses words similar to Scientology, such as “operators.” He plays a note on the keyboard and the next part of the procedure begins. Father preaches, going backward through life, Samuel puts his hands on Deborah’s head, supposedly cradling her brain. The intensity swells. After which Deborah goes through her memories, seeing one where her mother smacked her in the face. Next, a memory from school where her friends rejected her because she lived “on the wrong side of town.” Further and further, they look for unexplained things in her past.
Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 8.46.34 PMShe recounts another memory, walking home after school with a friend named Herman. He pulls her into the woods to show her a “knockadoo bird.” They get to a cabin where Herman claims the birds come out of the holes in its exterior. She smells something ghastly, though. He pushes her forward, saying a bird is about to come out. And when Deborah looks up close, he sticks his penis through the hole. She followed her mom’s advice, picking up a rock and smashing it. She ran away.
Next day, Herman got on with a lot of nonsense, sending her to go to see the doctor who looked after him. However, it’s no doctor she talks to, rather a magician named John Knockadoo. He floated in front of her. That day, she also got her period.
When they finish, Deborah feels no different. Samuel assures her “transcendence” takes some time, of course. There’s a last blockage keeping her from it, he says. Reels off a load of bullshit about Father’s methods concerning incomplete entities, which create these blockages in us. Apparently ridding people of them is no more difficult than popping a pimple; one deep up inside your nose. And Deborah can’t stop now, right?
She wants to stop. Samuel keeps hitting her with all that rhetoric. Wearing her down. So, she agrees. He starts running the long instrument up her nose, deeper, deeper. The creepy magician appears. Random edits of penises. Not long until she snaps, hauling the instrument from her nose and jabbing him with it.
Cut to black amidst her screams of “knockadoo” and Samuel wailing in terror.
Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 8.55.09 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-10 at 9.00.41 PMThese episodes are so weird and wild, each with their own unique, fresh twist. This was very out there. Not sure anything’s topped “Ralphie” so far. Still a lot of interesting stuff happening. Excited for more.
“I Knew You Weren’t Dead” is next.

American Horror Story – Season 7, Episode 5: “Holes”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 5: “Holes”
Directed by Maggie Kiley
Written by Crystal Liu

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “11/9” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Mid-Western Assassin” – click here
Pic 1Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) is reporting on the mayhem in her city, the smiley faces left on walls, a crime wave. She interviews city council candidate Kai Anderson (Evan Peters). But her boss Bob Thompson (Dermot Mulroney) says it’s “fake news” and sensationalism, not reporting. After she gets personal, he fires her, though she leverages him into maybe holding onto her job.
All together, the cult meets. Kai, Winter (Billie Lourd), Beverly, Harrison (Billy Eichner), Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes), and others. The rest don’t think things are going well enough, so Kai thinks they need to step up the fear, just like Beverly believes they need to be seen more widely.
And who else shows up? Ivy Mayfair-Richards (Alison Pill). You knew it was coming. Still a bit of a shock, after all we’ve seen. I wonder how far she’s looking to drive Ally (Sarah Paulson) mad. This is what keeps me curious: what’s her endgame?
Speaking of Ally, her phobias are getting worse. The trypophobia is near killing her. She scratched her neck bloody from visions of holes in it. Wounds open on her skin, a bug crawling out. Hideous. So, Dr. Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) attempts to talk with her, about where the fear comes from, deep rooted in her psyche. Things are just not good right now for Ally, life is falling apart all around her.
Pic 1AKai: “Because the perception of credibility leads to the perception of power
However, Ally sees, just barely, there was something lurking in Ivy. She doesn’t see the extent, but understands there was almost a plan to how her wife left. Flashback to September 2016, as the Butchery on Main isn’t panning out exactly how they’d hoped. And yet Ally was eternally optimistic while her wife clearly wasn’t happy. Signs. Doesn’t help that she had her brief encounter with Winter, either. Worse still, her and Oz aren’t as close anymore, she feels him slipping away, too.
We know all the angles, so we see the purposeful deception of Ally on the part of Ivy, Winter, the cult. And it’s all about to get heavier with their latest plans for setting America on fire from within.
Bob gets a visit at home from the clowns. They’ve decided on filming this murder. Each of them goes in on the guy when he goes for a knife. They start chanting “Ave Satanas” and prepare to kill when he tells them: “I have a gimp in the attic.” They find a man suspended by hooks from the ceiling. The others debate on what to do with the gimp. Kai just kills him. Because the cult is not a democracy. After all that they take Bob upstairs and finish him off, to instil fear in the public by way of a fake Satanic ritual murder. Y’know, the stuff the media and its mindless audience will devour. Proof of America’s further decline. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Cut to Beverly, innocently reporting on the news of her boss’ murder, showing footage she was supposedly sent anonymously of his death. Ooh, girl. You bad. Later, she and Kai meet at the Butchery. He laments everyone else and their questions, believing she’s his best disciple.
Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.14.18 AMFlashback to when the cult were setting up for the couple’s murder, the two white coffins. It’s methodical, like any other group working on a project. We also see Meadow (Leslie Grossman), who’s still… missing. Before the latest work of the cult. Right now, we see Meadow having issues with the disturbing nature of the work, and others, as well. This is why Kai and Beverly decide they must cut out the weak in their ranks.
We now see Ally, watching Harrison’s place. She sees him with a shovel, dragging something out through the garage towards the backyard, those barrels briefly visible. Then she spies Harrison in the window, kissing Dt. Samuels. Her curiosity sends her across the street, foolishly. She goes out back and a hole dug with a semi-conscious Meadow inside nearly knocks her off her feet. Instead of helping, she runs back home. But even if she calls the cops, won’t her story sound absolutely insane? A grave in her neighbour’s yard, his wife in it, a cop in cahoots with him making out in the living room? Instead, she calls Ivy. Yeah, great. Not that her wife believes any of it until there’s loud knocking at the door. It’s Meadow, pleading for help. Someone quickly snags her with a bag over her head. On the other end, Ivy’s with the rest of the cult, as Harrison and Dt. Samuels show up. Hmm, no Meadow, though.
And Kai, he’s worried about dissent in their cult. He gets lively, as cult leaders so often do, instilling his own fear in the pupils beneath him. Therefore, he decides they’ve got to solve one of their problems. This means killing one of their members, R.J. Who must do the deed? Their leader wants Ivy to use the nail gun, to finish their former friend off. As is the case today, an issue seems inherently two-sided, no room for any middle ground, which Kai exploits in order to get what he wants.
Thus we’re given possibly the single most savage death in American Horror Story‘s seven seasons. Yowzahs. Everyone takes a turn on the gun until the guy’s brain dead, bleeding and drooling until Kai has a lick of his wounds, then finishes him off. Quoting Hamlet all the while.
Kai: “Are you with us, or are you against us and all that we stand for?”
Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.32.01 AMBeverly and Kai play the pinky truth game. She asks about his parents, if he killed them, where they are; he doesn’t talk about that. She wants truth. He says they died three years prior. In 2014, his dad was in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident, becoming an angrier man all the time. He hated his son, his life, his wife. This sent him to The Red Pill, other similar places. Where hideous men are trained, these days. One night, he hears a gunshot, another, finding his mother shooting dad before taking her life.
Afterwards, he called his brother: Rudy Vincent. Oh, shit. They decide on not calling the cops, but taking care of things at home. It’s all about the government, the Death Tax, Rudy’s burgeoning practice. They make a pact, to deal with it themselves. This is where the pinky game emerged in Kai’s consciousness. What do the brothers do? They pour lye over the bodies, leaving them in bed to decompose in an amateur mausoleum.
Kai informs his sister Winter later about what happened. This is the start of something insane. All sorts of beginnings for Kai, his warped psyche. America isn’t safe, not with guys like that around.
Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.37.17 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-04 at 1.38.44 AMWhat an episode! This is my favourite, so far. Loving this season personally. One of the best, if not THE best to date. Just my opinion. The writing touches on so many different things wrapped up in the sociopolitical spectrum of where America’s at right now. Great, timely stuff.
“Mid-Western Assassin” is next week.

The Gothic Traditions of DARK WATERS

Dark Waters. 1993. Directed by Mariano Baino. Screenplay by Baino & Andy Bark.
Starring Louise Salter, Venera Simmons, Mariya Kapnist, Lubov Snegur, Albina Skarga, Valeriy Bassel, Pavel Sokolov, Anna Rose Phipps, Tanya Dobrovolskaya, Valeriy Kopaev, Ludmila Marufova, Kristina Spivak, & Nadezhda Trimasova.
No Shame
Not Rated. 89 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★
DW2I’m always weary of the label Lovecraftian, because often people who don’t know any better link H.P. Lovecraft to any kind of horror involving tentacles or weird cults. However, Dark Waters – alongside John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness – is one of the most Lovecraftian stories on film outside of actual adaptations of the writer’s work. What cements it as such is that it’s a modern entry in the canon of the Gothic tradition, including not only what we expect of the genre, but also using the influence of H.P. in a way that actually translates to being labelled as Lovecraftian.
Mariano Baino’s 1993 film, for North American audiences, got lost in the undertow of the general state of ’90s horror. Now, there are a bunch of fine horror films out of the decade, despite what certain critics say. But while so many were chasing after Wes Craven’s Scream-style glory, pumping out ‘teen slashers’ like there was no tomorrow, Baino focuses on a uniquely twisted story about a woman named Elizabeth (Louise Salter) uncovering the hidden history of her father in regards to a mysterious island convent full of nuns.
Between a palpably dreadful atmosphere, the Gothic qualities of the story and its plot, eerie scenes to fill your boots, Dark Waters has more than enough to thrill genre fans that want something with more substance than any number of slasher flicks from the ’90s. Even without comparison, Baino’s work is fantastic, drawing us into an otherworldly place of strange beauty while simultaneously horrifying us.
DW1Dark atmosphere is apparent from the start. A large reason comes from the setting and the natural locations. This is one of the very first Western films shot in Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Every location is organic, compelling, they also give us that sense of isolation, lost out in the ocean amongst unforgiving rocky terrain, nothing else near but sea and sky. With the isolation is the dreary, rainy weather, a perpetual storm. Even inside water drips constantly, in the bright light of day the atmosphere remains eerie, as if there’s always strange things going on just below the island town’s surface.
The villagers themselves are likewise part of the atmosphere themselves, an aspect to each and every one of them which just seems off, strange and vaguely threatening. Minimal dialogue adds an extra layer of tension and unease, effectively telling the story with sparse words and carrying the mood with a feeling that little is said on this island out in the open; the important conversations ensure under cover of shadow.
Numerous images will stick in the audience’s mind. There’s the apocalyptic, Biblical imagery of a beach filled by dead fish. There’s a pale, demon-like nun hanging on a cross, wailing, moaning. Later, a woman is burned alive in her small hut by the shore; Elizabeth cradles her after she’s pulled from the flame, her skin crackling and black and oozing. Best of all, there’s something lurking beneath the convent, far under its foundation. This thing isn’t a high budget creature. Still unnerving. Feels exactly how an ancient, god-like entity kept in an underground tomb should: decrepit, gross, awful. In brief glimpses and claustrophobic quarters, its power is inevitable.
DW3Dark Waters operates within the Gothic tradition. Atmosphere is one thing, but a Gothic tale requires certain elements. Straight away, there’s the concept of burrowing below the surface, both literally and figurative; digging under a family’s history, also a literal dig into the past, going underground, going under the convent. Our protagonist Elizabeth must dig into the history of her father, her own birth, in turn finding what’s beneath the convent, what sort of secret entity lives there and is worshipped by the nuns.
Every element of the film plays into its Gothic-ness. Those family secrets being uncovered, the isolated island convent. At the start, there’s a gruesome suicide, or so it seems first, by a nun to open the film. This all leads into more connective tissue between this modern horror film and the long string of Gothic stories which came before.
Moreover, there’s the idea of a cult, but not just a cult – this is a particularly Lovecraft influenced cult. They worship a dark, unknown god, one that remains indifferent to the suffering of real people, one who expects worship; this is the idea found in H.P’s work of man worshipping something outside of itself, something Other. In turn, this draws us towards the idea of the cosmos, how the real gods are hideous beings unconcerned with our lives, definitely not with our deaths. Ultimately it speaks to the insignificance of man. We work from a personal story, that of Elizabeth’s birth and her father’s connection to the convent, to a highly universal theme, and this allows its epic qualities – topped off by us meeting the cult god in the climax – to shine on like a dark, crazy diamond.
DW4This is perfect for any dark night, especially in October, as Halloween draws near. Dark Waters ought to be more known, deserves a great Blu ray release, too. It’s one of the best Gothic, Lovecraftian films in existence, not just of the last few decades. There are plenty of Gothic stories throughout the history of horror, Baino’s film belongs next o them, it’s a ’90s masterpiece that feels as if it could’ve easily been made in the ’80s.
If you’re looking for lots of talking, lots of killing, this isn’t your horror bag. Yes, there’s plenty of blood, in particular nearing the finale. But it’s built on minimalist dialogue, the story evoked most in the atmosphere, the actions and expressions of the characters, the locations themselves, the eerie convent. Go in expecting a literary Gothic, rather than a typically film-style Gothic. Like reading a great, strange, spooky book.
Can’t recommend this enough. Do yourself a favour this season, get hold of a copy and freak yourself out. Best viewed by yourself, in the dark, wondering what those sounds outside on a quiet, windy night are, if they’re trees, or if it’s something scratching to get in. Just hope as hard as you can whatever it is doesn’t have a tentacle, and that it isn’t hungry.

American Horror Story – Season 7, Episode 4: “11/9”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7
Episode 4: “11/9”
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Written by John J. Gray

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Neighbors from the Hell” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Holes” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.17.23 AMJump back to Election Night, November 8th, 2016. Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) reports on the early polls, the spirit of the crowds. Then we’re introduced to Serena Belinda (Emma Roberts), someone Beverly’s clearly got no time for, and may give her the green-eyed monster. Outside people chant, Winter Anderson (Billie Lourd) proclaims “Down with the patriarchy.” Ivy and Ally Mayfair-Richards (Alison Pill & Sarah Paulson) head inside to cast their votes, the former making sure there’s no “funny business” from her partner like a Jill Stein protest vote, which we already know she cast. Everybody goes into the booth, marking their respective votes. Meadow Wilton (Lesie Grossman) writes in OPRAH.
We also see Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono) being dragged in by Kai Anderson (Evan Peters). Gary’s bleeding; remember that wound we saw him with earlier in the grocery store where he works?
Welcome to Trumps America, motherfuckers!” Gary yells before returning his ballot.
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.19.35 AMA day after the election, Kai meets Harrison Wilton (Billy Eichner), his new trainer at the gym. They talk about what “flavour of gay” Harrison is, Kai says he doesn’t care about “leftist” labels. He’s a Plato guy, for the greater good of the community, the state. He says he’s a computer, works in coding. He doesn’t care about money; my guess is, he’s into power. He finds out more about Harrison, how they make him, because he’s gay, go in and hose down the loads in the steam room after guys beat off in there. This – a weak spot – is how cult leaders like Kai operate, they find that spot, then they work their way inside.
Before going home, Harrison finds Kai jerking off in the shower, so he watches for a minute. The beginning of a scary relationship. At the house, he and wife Meadow deal with the immediate foreclosure of their home, their eviction, which she’s been keeping secret. However, there are many other problems in their relationship, too. Least of which is the fact he’s not even straight.
When Harrison starts trying to give Kai the corporate bullshit, out of fear he’ll lose his job if he doesn’t produce at work, the latter of the two cuts him off. He tells him about the house, his money woes, which further brings out the cult leader in the young man: “Pain is essential, just like anger is.” His grandiose speeches prompt Harrison to go hard at his boss, spraying him with cleaning chemicals then crushing his larynx with a barbell. Then, of course, he’s got to finish killing the guy.
Afterwards, Harrison freaks out. We start seeing Kai work his magic, taking care of his new follower. Best of all, he’s a computer guy, he surely knows exactly what he’s doing, and that makes him even scarier than before. He has power, in his words, and in his digital capabilities/reach. Like Charles Manson for the digital age. That night, Meadow walks in on her husband, Kai coaxing him along, sawing apart his boss in the bathtub.
Kai: “You’re a part of something bigly
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.28.32 AMScreen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.40.59 AMKai starts digging into reporter Beverly Hope. She once reported on an accident where a man pulled a similar event to FHRITP, which happened over and over. Eventually, she kicked the shit out of a skateboarder and lost her shit. Like you can guess, it was remixed across the internet and she became a meme, a joke. Enough to drive anybody insane. So, is this another person for our cult leader to find? Will Serena Belinda become a target for her rage?
Speaking of Serena, she’s essentially sleeping with their boss, Bob (Dermot Mulroney). She was the one who reported on Beverly going into a mental hospital after her incident, as well. An aggravating situation to work in. Hard enough being a woman, she’s a black woman in a white male dominated business.
Finally, Kai comes to her. They talk together. He speaks what she wants to hear; needs to, maybe. He speaks more about fear and “weaponising” it. More than that we find out he served in the Armed Forces, went to Iraq. Claims he studied political science and feminist studies, too. Not so sure I believe him.
Serena’s taping a story, doing her best to pretend she’s personable and not a real bitch. From behind her approaches someone in a clown mask. Several clowns approach; the gang. Not long until she and her cameraman are stabbed, hacked to bloody death.
Meanwhile, the Wiltons are getting to know Kai better. Then Beverly shows up, wondering if it was him who sent the violence for Serena. He admits, wholehearted. As if we didn’t know already, this is confirmation he’s the ringleader of the clowns, they are Kai’s cult. And now, he has a die hard follower in Ms. Hope.
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.54.41 AMThe Mayfair-Richards’ are arguing, the day before election. Ivy is more active, whereas Ally is passive, like many, believing there’s no way a “reality TV” guy like Trump could secure the White House. Yet, we all know what’s happened. Out at a rally, Ivy experiences firsthand all the nonsense, even gets sexually assaulted by Gary, who pulls a Donald and grabs her by the pussy. Winter jumps in, defending her, and running him off. This is where we first witness Winter infiltrate their lives. Ivy takes her to the Butchery on Main, they have a coffee, chat. They bond over battling the patriarchy, getting closer.
After that we cut to Gary at the grocery store, excited for his chance to restore America to its supposed former glory, y’know, before a black guy took over. When he’s closing down, he finds Winter in an aisle, Ivy, too. They knock him out., then tie him up, leaving him by himself chained to a pipe so he won’t get to cast that all important vote.
Winter goes home and tells Kai what happened. Then he goes to see Gary, a saw in hand. Suggesting the only way out in time is to use it; you know where. For the privilege of voting, like so many red blooded Americans, Gary is willing to saw off his forearm. All the while the leader watches his pupil.
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 2.09.35 AMOne of the best episodes, if not THE best episode yet. Peters is so magnetic, this is some of his better work on American Horror Story. Every season he gets the chance to do something different, he has incredible range. Can’t wait for more, as well as more of Adina Porter, she is the business.
“Holes” comes next week. Gimme more intense spookiness. NOW!

American Horror Story – Season 7, Episode 2: “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 2: “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”
Directed by Liza Johnson
Written by Tim Minear

* For a recap & review of the Season 7 premiere, “Election Night” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Neighbors from the Hell” – click here
Pic 1Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) wakes to the terrifying clown with dick noses on its face in her bed. She rushes to her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) who wants to call the police, but convinces her to grab a knife instead. Anyone wonder if perhaps the wife’s in on the psychological torment? Crossed my mind. Right now, Ivy’s right alongside Ally as they check upstairs, finding no evidence of any clowns. Further making her look insane to everyone else. Worse, Ally’s continually questioning her own mental health, spiralling into a deep, dark place.
But those clowns are most certainly real. Young Oz (Cooper Dodson) knows this all too well. Having seen the clowns kill the people across the street. And now he’s being taunted by them in his own home. Or is he? Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) appears in his bedroom. Then the creepy clown from mom’s bed arrives. Not only are Ally and Oz kept in the dark as to what’s genuinely real, as is the viewer.
The moms find their boy having a nightmare. Although we know at least part of the nightmare is influenced by the real clown he saw. A terrifying mix of the comic he’s reading and the eeriness Winter Anderson (Billie Lourd) let him witness. Poor kid. Poor mom, too.
Pic 1ANow we’re seeing that video of Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) being used out of context, without his racist singing and piss balloon. Used for political purposes. A press conference sees Kai talking about the “PC police” who were trying to hold down President Trump before his election. Furthermore, Mr. Chang who was murdered recently leaves a vacant seat on the city council. A spot Mr. Anderson is running for, hoping to win.
Meanwhile, across the way from Ally a couple having things delivered in large, blue barrels, stored in the garage. This house belongs to the Wiltons now, formerly that of the Changs before they were slaughtered – Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow (Leslie Grossman), concerned citizens we also see in clips on the news re: Kai. Plus, turns out they’re only married on paper. Harrison’s gay, he gets a bit of free time now and then to go bang guys.
At the Butchery on Main, Ally has to deal with her own immigration issues. One of the staff, Roger (Zack Ward), takes issue with an employee named Pedro, who speaks Spanish when he wants everyone speaking English. Everywhere, even at her own business, she finds you can never go too far in American without tripping over a xenophobe or a racist.
Back at home, Oz is being manipulated further by Ms. Winnie. She plays the pinky game with the kid, just as Kai did with her. While this is an expected scene, nothing out of the ordinary for where this plot seems headed, there’s more to it: this is how cults work. The leader – such as Kai – doesn’t have to go out and pull people into the fear he craves, he indoctrinates one, who indoctrinates the next, so on, and so on.
Moreover, Winnie’s using anything she can from Oz to turn the family’s life into a living hell: “Youre going to give me your fear, Oz. Im going to keep it for you.”
Pic 2When Winnie leaves Oz at the neighbors’ place this freaks his parents out. They rush over, to find him in glee watching Harrison do a bit of beekeeping. Once Ally sees the honeycomb, the holes in it making her phobia throb, she nearly passes out. But it’s only a passing moment. You can imagine what sort of madness THAT is going to involve Ally in eventually.
And Harrison’s into bees because “every single member of the hive is completely committed 100% to a singular task.” Just the same as a cult. A wonderful, morbid visual metaphor.
An alarm goes off at the Butchery. Oz would rather be home alone with Ivy, so Ally heads down to shut it off and check the place out. Yeah, that’s smart. She’s trying to pull her weight, though; makes sense. Still, as the place goes quiet, the darkness stretching out, we can already feel terror coming. What does she see in the meat locker? A dead Roger on a meathook.
Naturally traumatic. Ally gets a visit from Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson). She’s missing appointments. We also see the full events of the meat locker: Roger was still alive, but when tried helping he only sank further onto the hook. Nasty. When Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes) turns up, he’s only concerned with the “usual suspects” like Pedro, wanting to know about immigration status, et cetera. He also appears to have contempt for the lesbian couple.
After all this, the Wiltons insist a gun is the only way Ally will feel safe again. Even throws in the ‘Obama was going to steal our guns’ line crazy right-wingers use, that we now know (and many of us knew then) was utter horse shit. No offence to her, it’s just not a hot idea for Ally to have a gun. Something bad can and will likely happen.
Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 1.30.16 AMSuddenly, Kai turns up on the Mayfair-Richards doorstep. Ally comes to the door, listening to his nonsense about hoping to get elected. “You need to give a humiliated man some way to redeem himself in his own eyes or else hes at risk of being drawn into darkness,” he tells her. Before pontificating more that this was how things were before the Nazis took over. As if to excuse their actions. Much like a lot of shitposting right-wing dummies on the internet do in arguments when they have nothing in their heads. He keeps playing on fear, trying to terrorise her subtly. At least for now.
Kai: “Its so easy until its you theyre coming for
Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 1.41.08 AMWinnie keeps worming into the Mayfair-Richards’ inner workings, manipulating not only Oz but Ally, as well. She draws the mother a nice bath, suggesting a glass of red wine to relax. Ah, what a perfect nanny, right? She’s already playing a bit of the seduction game, maybe setting up a hopeful moment of infidelity to further drive a wedge between the wives. Things get… touchy, in the tub.
Before anything gets too sensual, the lights go out. A clown enters Oz’s room, though tells him it’s only a dream. Harrison runs over claiming the power outage is across several states, that it’s terrorism, saying there’ll be riots and who knows what else. Real? Or the perfect way to send a multi-phobic woman into a fit of madness?
Sure enough, the clown-mobile pulls up. Quickly, they’re in the house, the power’s been cut from inside. Ally gets to her gun, then to Oz. They move for the back door. When she opens it, she sees somebody and fires out of fright. Is it Pedro? Who is it?
No matter. They’re definitely dead.
Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 1.54.57 AMOh, SHIT! Really loved the follow-up, especially considering they didn’t do more weird, sexual clown stuff like the first. While that was super creepy, American Horror Story can be better than that. And they are in this episode. Dig it. Starting to get very eerie, can’t wait for more Kai.
“Neighbors from the Hell” is next week.

American Horror Story – Cult, Episode 1: “Election Night”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 7, Episode 1: “Election Night”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a recap & review of Season 6 My Roanoke Nightmare episodes, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” – click here
Pic 1We start with clips of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump leading up to the U.S. Election 2016. Including violent events at rallies and protests, clips of the Donald talking about his wall, the Rust Belt, and Hillary fighting back.
Cut to Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) praying in front of the television as the election’s being announced: “The revolution has begun.” He chants USA happily, his hair died blue like part of the American flag, humping the TV. Across town are Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) and her friends, she literally weeps as the announcement is made while her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) consoles her.
We can tell already just by Kai’s dungeon-like basement, his near worship of the events transpiring, he’s going to be trouble. Afterwards, he blends up a load of cheesies and impersonates his hero in the mirror, complete with the little finger symbol.
And what is wrong with CNN for not giving us a trigger warning before they announce the results. I just, I dont know whats real anymore. She was supposed to win.”
Satire of both left and right is alive and well! Can’t fault Ryan Murphy & Co. for being one-sided, already giving it hard to the liberals, too. We see Winter Anderson (Billie Lourd) lamenting the election results. Kai shows up, Cheeto-faced and Trumpified. Perhaps he’s not so much a Trump fan as he is an anarchist, seeing this new Trumpmerica as an opportunity, to further instil fear in those who are now living afraid in the era of the Orange Menace. We’ll see.
Pic 1AOh, a callback to Season 4 Freak Show! Two people hump out near the lake. They joke about Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch). All of a sudden he shows up. Of course the guy pulls a gun, putting a bullet into the clown. Nothing works. Then, Twisty has his murderous fun, killing the guy, chasing the girl. Soon, he’s back at his old bus, the place is a little grown over with weeds, but still the same ole shack.
But it’s only a comic book. Twisty’s a pop culture icon, y’know. Ivy and Ally’s little boy is reading the comic when he’s meant to be sleeping. When Ally catches him, seeing the clown on the cover, it triggers a near panic attack, anxiety flaring and sending her into fits. Because she coulrophobia, an irrational fear of clowns. You can see where this is headed; a terrifying place for her. Lucky she has an understanding partner who cares for and loves her.
We see Kai dolled up a bit, speaking in front of a group about “fear” and references everything from Trump Tower to rap music in his speech about “freedom of movement” and “fear as currency.” Then this leads into his not wanting more cops, certainly not those needing overtime to watch a Jewish community centre. He’s most certainly an anarchist.
Kai is, essentially, a boiled down version of many far-right bros, believing Trump (and people he’s given legitimacy to, such as Steve Bannon) has given them a green light to create a world of chaos in America, so that when fear reigns people will come running for the supposed strong to protect them, relinquishing rights and whatever else is needed. More than anything Kai is starting to represent the wounded male ego, epitomised in one mad, violent young man.
Kai: “Theres nothing more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man
At her doctor’s office, Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), Ally talks about her phobias. How since the election, that fateful night, everything’s feeling shit, amplified in its awfulness. The world and everything in it is terrible. She also comes from the worldview of a lesbian, speaking of Obama and, for the first time, feeling a part of the American conversation. Vincent prescribes something many of us could all use: anxiety medication and less social media. Truly, though, Ally is symbolic of many people in America who’ve been having a terrible time since Trump won.
Pic 2The dreadfulness of the atmosphere in this season is already palpable. Poor Ally goes to the grocery store, experiencing multiple assaults on her senses. From loud music, creepy people in masks, humping clowns in the aisles. Through the prism of her phobias, we see her general fear of masks, of being unable to see the face of others; a parallel to the idea of her not knowing who may be a Trump supporter, who may oppose her very existence as a lesbian, so on. Later, with Ivy, it’s also a view on how many personal relationships, in various ways, have been altered by the state of America and how the election has divided people.
Also, an idea – Paulson’s character, in a sense, illustrates how many people often won’t people marginalised voices. Yes, she has phobias, many of which are irrational. However, as is sadly the case with LGBTQ voices, black voices and other voices from POC, the Indigenous communites(etc), their fears aren’t always considered.
Now we see the first interaction between Kai and the couple of Ally and Ivy. He tosses coffee on them, most likely on purpose. I wonder, has he been watching her already? Or is that coming next? Well, we already see Winter applying for a position with the couple as a nanny for their boy, worming her way in as the pro-Hillary supporter, the type of person they’d love to have around. Inside access. We cut between her interview and an honesty session with Kai. Ominous.
Out on the street Kai sees a bunch of Mexicans. He pisses in a condom, singing like a racist, then tosses it like a water balloon telling them they’re “not welcome.” While someone records in the background Kai lets the Mexican guys beat the shit out of him. Ah, the ole Breitbart-style journalism! Meanwhile, Winter’s also working on the couple’s kid, showing him creepy shit on the dark web. Like dead bodies.
Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 1.23.33 AMPoor ole Ally continues falling apart, Ivy doing her best to not go insane right along with her. It’s a tragic situation, because partly there’s some genuine mental illness happening, also because she’s spending too much time obsessing. And another part is that it’s understandable, especially as a lesbian, worrying what Pence and Trump will do to her life, her family’s life. There’s genuine concern underneath the obsession.
On the street outside the Mayfair-Richards place an ice cream truck shows up. From out of the back come several clowns, men and women. The same group who were at the grocery store. Welcome to the neighbourhood, Bozo!
When Ally and Ivy arrive the street’s blocked with cops and all sorts of flashing lots, tape blocking the road. A murder at a house nearby. Worst part is that the kid saw the clowns, now nobody else does, so this is going to look to Ivy as if Ally’s influencing their boy negatively with her phobia. Could cause a further divide in the married couple.
Doesn’t help that Winter took the kid over to the house, where he witnessed the murder of the people inside. One of whom happens to be the guy at the municipal council meeting that embarrassed Kai. Yikes. Problem being that Winter negates the story, furthering the tension and pushing the couple farther from the truth.
And Ally, she’ll never escape those clowns. Not even in her own bed.
Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 1.29.28 AMScreen Shot 2017-09-06 at 1.39.59 AMI don’t give a shit, I love this series. Cult comes out of the gate swinging, not afraid to jab at the left and right of the political spectrum. People will automatically assume this is a Trump hatefest. And sure, part of it is, or at least it’s attempting to show the real world division in America through the lens of the horror genre. I’m excited to see more, because it’s bound to get very fucked up. Judging by the premiere, anyways.
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is next week. Buckle up, snowflakes and deplorables.

JACKALS Shows Us the Meaning of Family

Jackals. 2017. Directed by Kevin Greutert. Screenplay by Jared Rivet.
Starring Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, Nick Roux, Alyssa Julya Smith, Chelsea Ricketts, Jason Scott Jenkins, Ben Sullivan, Alex Kingi, Cassie Hernandez, Alex Castillo, & Carol Abney.
Tommy Alastra Productions
Not Rated. 85 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
COVERAlthough Kevin Greutert didn’t sit in the director’s chair until 2009 when he directed Saw VI, he’s old hand in the industry, working in the editorial department as far back as Ernest Scared Stupid; he did uncredited work on big budget features like Titanic and Armageddon. So it’s nice to see his name as director on a couple recent films that are top notch horror.
Such as his latest, Jackals: a brutal horror-thriller centred on a family with deep, divisive issues, one of whom has been lured into a cult. The action begins as the family, along with a hardened cult deprogrammer take their son forcibly to a cabin in order to save him from the grip of these mysterious people. Only the cult’s got different ideas.
This is easily Greutert’s best work. Due in no small part to the morbidly exciting screenplay from Jared Rivet in his feature film debut as writer, giving us a story that doesn’t need twists and turns to be scary or wild. Together, Greutert and Rivet craft a very human, devastating movie that will eat at the heart of anyone with even half of one.
Jackals 1I dig that the film takes place in mid-1983, yet it isn’t a forced period piece. Sometimes the throwback ’80s film works, though often enough in horror it feels too much of a choice rather than a natural progression. Jackals feels at home in the ’80s because of the Satanic panic craze that swept America, the era of repressed memory therapy when far too many doctors messed up their patients by planting memories rather than digging them up. An era of confused people searching for meaning.
The son, Justin (Ben Sullivan), is terribly lost. A creepy cult’s wrapped him up with their rhetoric of madness. Scariest of all it’s not just community, it’s family the cult has provided him. Paralleled with the family he feels cast out by, in various ways, from his secretively adulterous dad Andrew (Johnathon Schaech) to his sort of alcoholic mother Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger), and most of all his psychologically abusive brother Campbell (Nick Roux).
The film’s greatest strength, on top of its bleak horror, is its examination of what makes up a family, as well as how dangerous things can happen when a family doesn’t perform its proper function. While the individual’s responsible for themselves ultimately, a family constructs the foundation of their actions and emotions. What seems like years of inattention has led Justin to feel abandoned by his natural family, causing him to seek out family in the arms of the psychotic cult.
Everything in the plot forces the broken family to either mend, or die; if there’s even an option. They’re all trying to do what they couldn’t before, save Justin. And through it all they try finding redemption, if they can bring themselves to do whatever must be done. Whether that happens you have to watch and see for yourself.
Jackals 2There’s a great moment when the family, between in-fighting, are left wondering how Justin could’ve fallen in with such violent types of people. Dear ole mom knows: “Hes a young man. Young men need to find their, drive.” Unfortunately, this drive doesn’t always wind up positive. Like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy – may as well toss Jim Jones in while were discussing cults – Justin’s drive became murder and other psychopathy.
Going along with that there are moments in Jackals which scream, or should I say howl the influence of Charles Manson. Specifically, Justin feels much like one of the Manson family’s male followers, wide-eyed, spouting insane shit. Plus the fact they call it a family specifically, at least Justin does. And that’s a concept of cults very specific to the infamous leader. Then, the howling. He howls like a wild animal, something very Manson-esque. More than that he calls his family “piggies” and that’s straight up Charlie.
Spooky moments are plenty throughout. A solid start opens the film on a POV shot of a guy murdering his family, putting on a jackal mask to join his cult friends. Then there’s the howl from Justin, returned by his family outside sounding just like a pack of animals; maybe the creepiest of all. However, there’s one kill in particular which takes the cake involving a super meticulous burning, a slow, painful death, and it’s… cruel, no other word for it. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get the job done! That’s what we’re here for, right?
Jackals 3With a grim end, void of any hope, Greutert’s Jackals cements itself as one of the best horrors of 2017. Unsettling cult members + weird masks? Check. Vicious violence? Cheeeeck. Add to that good characters with genuine depth, solid writing bringing them out through dialogue that doesn’t clunk through each scene like too many horror flicks out there, and with the tension Greutert creates it’s a nasty piece of work.
This is a grounded view of cults, their brainwashing, the later process of trying to deprogram someone from outrageous, dangerous, indoctrinated thought. There are emotional roots in the story, which make the terrifying events later all the more impressively scary. So much tension, never lets go.
Is a family only those with whom we share blood? Can others become the family a person needs or wants? People find their own families, no matter how brutal, no matter at what expense. Even if they have to violently leave their natural family behind.

Aquarius – Season 1, Episode 1: “Everybody’s Been Burned”

NBC’s Aquarius
Season 1, Episode 1: “Everybody’s Been Burned”
Directed by Jonas Pate
Written by John McNamara

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” – click here
IMG_02281967, in Los Angeles. Emma Karn (Emma Dumont) is sick of her parents Grace (Michaela McManus) and Ken (Brian F. O’Byrne) fighting. She heads off in the night with Rick Zondervan (Beau Mirchoff) to escape to a party, a place of free love, fun, weed, drinks, music. What any young person the late ’60s hoped to enjoy. Except at that party, taking a shine to Emma, is a man named Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony). The manipulation he employs in order to meet her immediately shows his character, how eerie and possessive he is as a person. He speaks of the city, its lights as a “snake” which they’ll eat before it eats them. His hypnotism already at work.
Charlie: “I know how much it hurts, like a body, soul screaming to be heard.”
We meet Detective Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny), a local cop. He’s friends with Grace Karn, she calls about her daughter going missing. They need help. So, Sam is the man to get shit done. There’s a quick introduction to his character that serves him well, seeing him miss his keys, forced to hotwire his own car to leave. At the Karn place, he meets the parents and gets more information on their daughter. It’s revealed Ken is in politics, wanting to keep his wayward daughter out of the papers, unofficially. A point of contention in the marriage. Turns out Grace and Sam, they’ve got a romantic past, too.
IMG_0230Sam starts by talking to Rick, who threatens him with daddy going to court. Quickly, we see more of Hodiak, that he isn’t one to worry about such things. He’s a renegade cop, the type that still exist but ran absolutely rampant back in the ’60s, strong arming and doing whatever necessary during an investigation.
Up at the camp with Charlie, Emma is falling in with their little roving family. He’s charismatic, interesting, he plays guitar and sings, write songs. She seems to be enjoying this new adventure in life. She hears about Charlie’s “vision” of being “bigger than the Beatles.” Thus starts the psychosis of it all.
The streets are on fire with protests. At a diner, Brian Shafe (Grey Damon) is buying drugs from Mike Vickery (Jason Ralph). In fact he’s a cop, undercover. We also see that he’s not your typical officer of the law, even gets taken down by one of his own while trying to calm down a forceful cop agitating protesters. And this fighting spirit when he’s taken to the precinct impresses Hodiak, who wants a less clean, rugged type helping him on his latest case.
Shafe (re: other cops): “If its somethinyou dont understand you wanna hit it, fuck it, or shoot it.”
Fun to see Hodiak adjusting to the new rules for cops, concerning Miranda rights. They’ve actually got cards to remember them. Just a glimpse into the times changing, and whether he likes it or not the detective has to change. Or else be left behind, or worse. The detectives do wind up finding out a bit of info on Charlie, his biker friend Roy Kovic (David Meunier), so it’s something to go on.
IMG_0231Sadie (Ambyr Childers) is one of Manson’s ladies, she reels Emma in with romantic talk about their cult-like leader. She paints him as a new age philosopher, a psychic magician. All of which makes the girl feel that this is a place where she belongs, even if she’s being cruelly indoctrinated into a place of worship.
The rest of the work is done by the silken tongue of the devilish Charlie, hauling Emma further in by speaking what she wants to hear, playing on her broken spirit. Because he’s broken, too. He talks of her mother, what she did to him as a child, a brief glimpse into his wretched soul. Then they have ritualistic sex, as the other women come in to join the pleasure.
Charlie: “I dont look at you. I see you.”
Shafe enlists Sam to help with his recent drug deal and upcoming bust involving Mike. The two partners are getting closer. They also ask a young officer named Charmain Tully (Claire Holt) in order to infiltrate a party. There, Brian finds out more about Manson, and then meets Kovic, a member of the Straight Satans biker gang. Only it gets tense when Charmain thinks she might have to fuck Kovic. More than she expected out of this little mission. So Shafe topples the biker down the stairs, beating up his leg to get them out of there fast. Further than that we see that our young detective isn’t afraid to dip into the buzz while undercover. Might this come back to haunt him?
They start digging through Manson’s history, everything from assault to robbery to anything else under the sun. They visit his parole officer, finding out the guy likes to pimp women. He’s also connected to politicians – possibly why he knows so much about Emma, connected to her dad – and movie stars, so on. Yes, Ken knows Charlie because he’s a big time lawyer, one with political weight. Should be interesting to watch the Karn family’s story play out.
IMG_0232Manson soon confronts his old pal Ken, about what he remembers; and he’s got a looong memory, good one, too. Now he needs to be put in touch with some musicians, some big names. He’s trying to move on up in the world. Then he explains about Emma being with him, taunting with nastiness. Before starting to rape Ken at the end of a blade, nearly getting the job done before a car interrupts. This is the most vicious we’ve seen in the opening episode. Not the most vicious we’ll see later on.
IMG_0235Such a good start to this series. Always liked reading about Charles Manson, a truly despicable character in the history of modern America. “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” is next, starting to unfold more about Charlie and more of Dt. Hodiak’s personal story.