Tagged Damien Thorn

Joshua Makes You Question the Nature or Nurture of Evil

Joshua. 2007. Directed by George Ratliff. Screenplay by David Gilbert & Ratliff.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Celia Weston, Dallas Roberts, Michael McKean, Jacob Kogan, Nancy Giles, Linda Larkin, Alex Draper, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Ezra Barnes, Jodie Markell, Rufus Collins, Haviland Morris, & Tom Bloom. ATO Pictures.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★★
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The creepy kid sub-genre (if that’s legitimately a thing) in horror is one that’s seen plenty of ripe material. Some of the classics dominate, such as The Omen and the lesser loved but awesome The Good Son featuring young Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. Then there are others which aren’t as great, though still enjoyable, like Children of the Corn. What makes us so worried in general about the killer kids, the little psychopaths, young boys and girls capable of murder, manipulation, and so much more, is the idea of nature v. nurture. With any representation of evil, adult and child alike, it’s a question of whether innocence is real. If it is inherent in human beings automatically and evil becomes engrained in people throughout the course of their lives. Or if there’s no such thing as innocence, and at birth humans are part of a cosmic Russian Roulette, in which children can come out on the opposite shade of that spectrum.
Joshua examines such questions of innocence. Even after the credits start to roll and we’ve watched with dread those final moments, there are no blatant answers. It may seem like everything’s obvious. Although that’s certainly not the case if you look closely. Added to the finale and its ending there are several key moments which call into question what exactly has happened. People can say they’ve got a definitive answer, and they may offer quite a deal of evidence to that point, yet there will always be a hovering air of mystery. Considering these events, when you look back on the film as a whole you start to try piecing together various theories, moving back and forth between possibilities. Ultimately, this is a strength, as Joshua is highly likely to stick in your mind, days after seeing it, possibly longer. And after so much madness you’ll start to question whether evil really is nurtured all the time after all.
Maybe innocence is far too fleeting.
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I love the natural feeling of the relationship between Brad and Abby (Sam Rockwell & Vera Farmiga). One of the biggest things about any drama, no matter what sort of genre boundaries it crosses, is that the character need to feel real. I don’t care what sort of story you’re telling, if the characters in your screenplay don’t connect with people emotionally on some level then there’s really no hope for anything else you’re attempting to do. While this movie is absolutely a (psychological)horror-thriller its main structure is an intense family drama. The foundation of which is always going to be real, honest characters. One example is early on when Brad joins Abby in bed – he’s trying to start sex, without being obnoxious, and his wife isn’t really ready yet, but he’s kissing her ass (literally), telling her how gorgeous she is, to the point of saying he loves how her armpits smell.
When the horror-thriller elements star to kick in hard there are obvious comparisons, and maybe homages, to similar films now considered classics. For instance, just Abby’s hair alone and later her pale complexion will have most people thinking of Rosemary’s Baby. As Joshua (Jacob Kogan) further manipulates his parents he becomes reminiscent of an even more actively involved Damien Thorn.
One of the eeriest scenes comes when the dog dies. The way Joshua mimics his father begins to show us how the boy might possibly be a psychopath. We know already there’s something not quite right, but this is a spooky moment. Even Brad starts to get a peek into the personality of his son, and though he soon forgets mostly about it this is a big turning point. As an audience, we’re gradually privy to more of his creepy behaviour that leads us farther and deeper into the boy’s psychopathy.
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Rockwell is a fantastic actor. He does well with a variety of characters, and this is no different. The character of Brad is complex. He’s a very loving, understanding husband, and all at once a man with needs, both emotional and physical. Later on, he becomes a sort of vilified father near the end. So as an actor Rockwell has tons with which he can work. He’s easy to relate with watching him deteriorate, and this is probably why it’s all so effective. We feel for him all the way. Alongside him is Farmiga, another awesome talent. She is always watchable, even in movies where there’s nothing too exciting going on. Here, she’s saddled with playing a role similar to the ones played by Mia Farrow and Lee Remick, only this is a much more realistic portrayal of a woman driven to madness by pregnancy and/or motherhood. It isn’t easy to portray an honest character like this, but Farmiga gives us the good and bad of a new mother, one that’s already experienced the exact same thing not even a decade before. Having seen several women go through that new life as a mother, including the rocky beginnings, I find Farmiga’s performance to be extremely on point. And when Joshua further drives his mother into psychological ruin there are some good scenes between Farmiga and Rockwell, where they give us a devastating look at a corroding marriage.
The best scene of all is the last one in the park, after Brad finally snaps. Everything about it is incredibly well executed. Love the score that accompanies the moment, very ominous and psycho-thriller-esque. But just the way Rockwell goes mental, fighting the men around him, it’s so intensely emotional. The camera draws back, panning out and giving us this almost auditorium-like view of the confrontation. Overall, a wonderful sequence.
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This is a 4-star film that I’d put up at the top of the pantheon of creepy kid sub-genre. Of course Joshua doesn’t come along with any of the outright bloody horror many of its counterparts boast. Nonetheless, it is horrific. A psychological thriller with enough viciousness to hold the attention of most. There are good performances, however, the writing is what does most of the work. Not every creepy kid flick has much innovative about its story. What Joshua doesn’t attain in its few missteps it gains back in an overall willingness to step outside the usual expectancies of the sub-genre and it makes up by subverting those ideas, giving us something altogether creepy and slightly original. The film avoids cliche at many turns simply due to the fact it opts for a plot that doesn’t dive into the supernatural. Everything is much too real and impressively believable.
Dig in, you’ll find a treat especially if creepy kids get to you. This is one boy I won’t soon forget.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 9: “The Devil You Know”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 9: “The Devil You Know”
Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Written by Glen Mazzara & K.C. Perry

* For a review of the previous episode, “Here Is Wisdom” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Ave Satani” – click here
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After the shocking events of last episode, the penultimate Season 1 episode is here! I desperately hope this gets a second season. Damien Thorn (Bradley James), Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) – they all need more time.
We start here as Ann meets with someone trying to track down her daughter. Little does she know. Of course this will cause some major mayhem when Ann figures out what’s happened. No telling what kind of reaction a woman like that might have in the face of personal tragedy. Although, she is sort of like the devil’s lover, or well… she wants to be his lover. Or something weird.
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Sister Greta (Robin Weigert) and Simone (Megalyn E.K.) are busy with the aftermath of what’s happened with Veronica. She isn’t dead, surprisingly, but on her way. Greta decides on holding her. Possibly for her own good. Meanwhile, Damien and Amani (Omid Abtahi) are talking about the possibility of the Antichrist, the idea that Damien is the heir to that throne. Certainly it’s nonsense to Amani, intent on rationality. At least their way forward is together despite whatever else is going on, reality or otherwise. Damien needs all the friendship he can get. He wants Amani to get close with Veronica more now in order to get information.Damien wants to get to the bottom of the whole corporation with Lyons (Scott Wilson) and Ann at the forefront, knowing there is absolutely more than meets the eye. The good friend agrees to do his best.
And then there’s Detective Shay (David Meunier). He looks like a madman when bringing up the strange things that happen around Mr. Thorn. Nobody believes him, but Shay knows there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes. He doesn’t know the extent, though suspects a great deal. His bosses have him turn over his gun and badge citing mental health as the problem. Sadly, we’re aware of the truth. I see danger in Shay’s future especially now with a suspension. He might choose to go after Damien, investigating more on his own, which will only throw him right under the bus.


Finally, Veronica reveals Ann knows about the church’s involvement, Simone getting them into the whole mix. Greta talks a good game to try convincing Veronica of her mother’s evil. “Is that a mothers love?” asks Greta. “You dont know shit about me,” replies Veronica. Not much more information is coming out of this one. She is fiesty.
Another detective comes knocking at Damien’s place. He brings the news about Charles Powell, the therapist. Suspicion is growing around the Antichrist, more and more, even without Shay on the case officially now. Because all the little bits add up. And that’s why I dig this series and why Glen Mazzara has done a great job, along with all the various writers, because you wonder – in a real type setting, a real world, how would these events so obviously linked together somehow be explained? Well having these cops involved is one way of tackling that issue.
Back to Damien. He wants to meet with Sister Greta: “I have nowhere else to go,” he quietly pleads with Simone. Amazing to see the nun meet with the Antichrist. She asks to see the Mark of the Beast. He obliges. But she does not recoil, Greta understands his struggle. “You are Gods child,” she assures him and recognizes his suffering. He lets her know about the incidences at the VA hospital, his visions and so on. Turns out those seven people at the hospital he came across represented the Seven-Headed Beast of Revelation. On top of that, Simone now finds out her sister was taken by something… otherworldly, something evil. An intense few moments and a great instance of solid writing. Earlier aspects get explained in a way that isn’t forced, very organic to the plot. Dig it.
Poor Amani gets taken by some masked men while everything else is going on. Now I’m quite worried for him.
Greta later takes Damien by herself, sending Simone upstairs – and she gets locked in with Veronica. Uh oh. Is the renegade nun planning something? In the meantime, Ann’s got Amani in her custody. They’re having a little chat. Or more like she calls him down to the dirt with an eloquent almost Shakespearean jab. She further wants information about the nun, though Amani plays it cool. Until she convinces him Greta will kill Damien, which finally breaks his stand. There may be a big showdown coming. Yet things feel strange, uneasy. Highly unpredictable.


Damien: “What if I really am the Antichrist?”
Greta: “Then that is Gods will


Alone together, Greta and Damien talk more about his being the actual Antichrist. Resulting in her using one of the daggers of Megiddo to stab him. Cut to her wrapping him in thorns on an altar-like slab. SHIT. Greta, you bad motherfucker. That is some raw biblical vengeance, for sure.
Detective Shay is literally sweating the case out. I knew it – he’s at home, studying pictures, looking over crime scenes, and trying to figure out what is going on with Damien. He knows the murders, the events around him – the dogs, the burning car, the therapist killing Powell – are all being heavily influenced by Thorn. Somehow. “There are monsters,” Shay tells his little boy. And his boy creepily whispers in his ear: “The devil did it.” From the god damn mouths of babes. No sooner does Shay’s husband whisk their kid away do more visions plague the crumbling detective.
Over at the rectory, Simone mounts an escape from the room with Veronica. But down at the altar, Damien’s held in thorns, his 666 being cut into by Greta as some dark figures in black watch on behind her. Wicked little bit of gore here! Also, we see that 666 is literally carved right into the poor guy’s skull. Gnarly as all hell. The group then proceeds to lower Damien into a hole in the ground, so he can be “reborn” apparently. His screams echoing through the woods are viciously chilling. Once he’s in the hole it is just more ghostly, haunting hallucinations for Damien, as he envisions demons poking through the ground trying to get at him, themselves wailing and gnashing away. A truly terrifying little sequence. Simultaneously, Veronica ends up getting an Evil Dead-style death via tree, except without any penetration – well, sexual penetration. So this is one fucked up, awesome episode. Horrifically pleasing.

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Shay winds up sneaking himself into Damien’s place. Then he hears his son out of nowhere, voices whispering. A small figure appears behind him. From the sink in Damien’s photo lab he hears the boy’s voice before being startled by a creepy image. This sends him rightfully running back out the door.
But Damien doesn’t get to do that. He’s trapped in that hole, the visions of those seven people from the hospital attacking him, nowhere else to go except stay put. Up above the hole, Simone shows up, but the damage is done. Down there Damien goes absolutely mental. A bloodcurdling noise emanates from the hole, as does Damien. He rises up while everybody watches on. Ominous music makes the scene even more heavy. Is he reborn now? Greta tries stabbing him again, only he stabs her. Without any feeling, any remorse.
The Antichrist has risen. Or has he? Safe to say the evil is flowing in him, and he’s starting to give in to the pulsing hell inside him.


Excited for the Season 1 finale, “Ave Satani”, and can’t wait to see how the team ends things. My hope is that Season 2 will get a greenlight. Mazzara and Co. deserve the chance to flesh this out for at least another season, possibly with another couple episodes – 13 would be a perfect little fitting number. Regardless, they got better and better every episode here and made this into a good one. Let’s have a devilish finale together, fellow fans!

Damien – Season 1, Episode 8: “Here Is Wisdom”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 8: “Here Is Wisdom”
Directed by Tim Andrew
Written by Sarah Thorp

* For a review of the previous episode, “Abattoir” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Devil You Know” – click here
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So many things happening on Glen Mazzara’s excellently macabre series Damien. First, there’s the Antichrist himself, Damien Thorn (Bradley James), whose search for the truth is bringing him further into madness. Then there’s everyone around him.
Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is off on her quest for truth, too. After speaking to Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert) in the last episode, Simone’s further energized to find out exactly what’s going on with Damien. Simone and Greta track down the dagger of Megiddo that the assassin dropped in the sewers. But what does this mean? Will they just have to kill Damien, is that the only way? Surely it is.
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Speaking of Damien, he’s in therapy. He picks up a copy of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre briefly. Mostly, he feels like he’s “whining“, and his therapist says he’s got PTSD. What’s most fun about this scene, to me, is that we’ve got the actual Antichrist here. That’s part of the premise. Regardless of where things go, how well they get there, Damien is the Antichrist. And here he is, sitting with a therapist and talking about his feelings. Amazing. At once it’s dark and disturbing, as well as darkly hilarious. Damien and his therapist talk about existential crisis, the toughness of making choices, mentions of Sartre.
Meanwhile, Detective James Shay (David Meunier) is getting shit on even though he knows there’s something shady about Damien. Yet there is the fact Charles Powell (Joe Doyle) just murdered a man, on his own (or was it?), and quite brutally at that. So for now, eyes are off Mr. Thorn.
For his part, Damien is dealing with a little boxed up gift left at his door. It contains a bloody little present. A tongue. Inside it, a roll of film. He’s interrupted by Detective Shay – wow, what timing! This is a tense scene, especially when Damien realizes the very person Shay is talking about, Cray Marquand, had his tongue removed. And it’s right there on the table, barely hidden from the cop. Great writing here. Plus, more intrigue concerning Powell. I’m excited to see how his crazy ass is going to play further into Damien’s story from here on out. As if there’s not enough going on for the poor Antichrist.


Cut to Amani (Omid Abtahi). He’s figuring out some things about Damien’s place getting trashed. With a favour from a buddy, he sees Veronica Selvaggio (Melanie Scrofano) outside the apartment. Uh oh.
And then there’s Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey). She’s looking to have a dagger of Megiddo destroyed. A friend breaks out his welding torch. Except the dagger is completely resistant. It will not be burned. Those are some powerful blades.
Now Amani is meeting with Simone and Sister Greta. All their heads are put together now. Greta mentions they’ve suspected someone has been looking out for Damien for years, likely now she believes it to be Rutledge. Also, Amani reveals he’s sleeping with Veronica. But going back to try and get information from her? Is that really smart? I doubt it. Because he’s not subtle enough. And if she sniffs out that he knows more than he should it is bye-bye Amani.


Now Damien is developing the film from the tongue of Cray. When he shines the film under his infrared bulb, every frame is the same but for the last: a solid black frame with the word REMEMBER scratched in. Off Damien goes, followed by Shay. But then the detective’s car shuts down. He’s back in the way of evil. The car locks itself. It catches fire, trapping Shay inside. He just barely manages to escape before the whole thing goes up. Narrowly escaping death. Again. Wonder if this guy will end up getting the axe. I hope not because he’s pretty bad ass.
Damien has officially remembered. He goes to see Powell in a little trailer in the woods. They’d cut classes and go down there back in the day. Charlie’s convinced Damien has killed people, intentionally. “Ive always believed in you,” says Charles. Of course Damien doesn’t see the burning of Powell the same as the burned man himself. And it turns out there are “others“, “nobodies” that Charles murdered… all for Damien. “So, who should we kill next?” he asks a visibly distraught Damien.
The Antichrist almost fully comes out of Damien when he nearly beats the life completely out of Charles, raging, punching him. Now, he may actually become a murderer.
At the same time, Shay is falling apart at home. His son’s drawing a car fire and that freaks him out, naturally. He’s been lying to his husband, though. That’s not cool. Bigger issues on his plate for the time being. He’s a brave dude, heading out into the dark of the forest after all the creepy events starting to cloud around him. He ends up out at the place where Charles and Damien met. He finds Charlie, beaten and raving: “The Devil did this.”
More and more, Damien falls apart, as well. He lets all the anger inside him out to his therapist. She does her best to convince Damien he’s still a human being, that he has a handle on his life, his choices. But the spiral of Damien’s life and delusions are plummeting faster towards something intense.


Damien: “Is that not our responsibility? When we encounter evil, shouldnt we destroy it?”
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Amani finally confronts Veronica, about her mother Ann, her boss. He outright threatens her over Damien, saying he’ll kill for his best friend. She says that their relationship is real. How can you trust her? Well, Amani doesn’t know exactly what’s been going on at the top of all this insanity. Either way, he is pretty serious about it all ending. Not just them, but the whole thing. Only now he’s a part of the whole mess.
Back to Ann goes her daughter. Now that’s another secret out in the wind. So now Ann has got to get some work done. “No more carelessness,” she tells her daughter and puts away the dagger of Megiddo she now knows cannot be destroyed simply by fire.
Greta and Simone do a little bit of bonding. Looks like Greta is pretty on the level. Only I fear for both their safety. Problem is a whole lot more good people are going to die before this is all over. I spoke almost too soon.
Veronica is out looking into Greta, following her in the dark, which attracts Simone’s attention. A very suspenseful sequence shot in the shadowy hallways, lit by stained glass windows. Finally, it’s Veronica who ends up with a bullet in her. Yikes! What will Mama Rutledge do about this now? I can only imagine what wrath that’ll unleash.


Over at Damien’s place, Amani comes to lay bare the truth. He was an unwitting pawn in their game. He also lets Damien know about Ann’s daughter. But further than that Damien realizes it’s his fault Amani is even caught up in this entire debacle.
Worse than anything, in jail Charles receives a therapist. The same one as Damien. She lets slip, very purposefully, that Damien wishes he was dead. She’s a part of it clearly. It all upsets Charles, believing Damien loves him. “Youre not a true servant, youre a liar,” she tells Charles before stabbing him in the neck violently, relentlessly, with a nice sharp pen. Blood everywhere. Did not see this coming all around. Great, gory horror for a few moments.


Anybody who didn’t make it past the pilot episode has been missing out on the all the true horror scenes. This one was a doozy. Dig it. And Dt. Shay is too late to save Charlie, but puts a few bullets in the psychotic therapist. The title of the episode? Right on the pad she’d used for scribbling before murdering Mr. Powell.


What a great chapter in this series. Next up is “The Devil You Know” and it’s the penultimate Season 1 episode! Very exciting. Mazzara and Co have only improved since the beginning. I do hope A&E will give this a chance to develop even further. Season 2 is needed.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 4: “The Number of a Man”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Number of a Man”
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
Written by Nazrin Choudhury

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Deliverer” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Seven Curses” – click here
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What will Damien Thorn (Bradley James) encounter next? Last we left him, Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) was working her wiles against his fragile mind. And it turns out she is more than just obsessed.
Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is trying her hardest, too. In order to stay away from an evil approaching. Can she manage to keep free of it? She digs up some sort of chicken fetus-like creature from her bathtub, and it’s no doubt an ominous moment.
Damien’s busy fighting with whatever is inside him. Having a shave, he nearly feels like cutting his own throat. But the feeling passes. In his bathtub, he finds a tie clogging the drain – of course, the tie of the man from last episode. Which he then brings to John Lyons (Scott Wilson), whose council is no good. As we now know the older man, posing as a dear friend, is merely one of those watching along as Damien slouches towards his destiny as Antichrist.


Detective James Shay (David Meunier) gets some footage of Damien’s chase in the subway, which produces a strange, ghostly effect while being watched. More to be curious about. Meanwhile, Amani (Omid Abtahi) tries to convince Damien into taking a break from everything, taking it easy. Everyone’s worried. Even Shay arrives later to talk more with Damien about all the events surrounding him lately.
Damien and Shay head down to the cop shop for a longer chat. The cat and mouse thrill of the plot picks up, as the detective knows there’s something going on. But due to all the supernatural madness, he can’t exactly place everything correctly. Yet there’s Damien on CCTV, running after the man who died on the escalator. His proximity to the nastiness as of late, consuming those around him.
In the boardroom, Lyons addresses his staff. He even has Ann “say a few words“, in all the irony. She talks a good one about togetherness, compassion, and all sorts of similar things. Nice speech by a woman no doubt well versed in watching people die. “Nature of the beast,” she tells Lyons: “Pardon the pun.” Turns out afterwards that Ann didn’t leave the tie, but either way, she and John form a sort of partnership. For the time being, Ann goes along.
Shay is getting closer and closer to a theory of what’s going on. He knows Damien’s pulling “some freaky shit“, and that involves dogs. He shows Damien the hall where he was also attacked, right in the station. But the cop’s more concerned with trying to push the young man into a confrontation. Poor damn fella has no idea what he’s up against. Plenty of tension between these two. Something intense is certainly rearing its head, and soon there’ll be trouble. Lots.


Damien: “People who come after me dont fare so well


In the police station, a man confronts Damien, calling him a serpent, “The Destroyer“, and when he grabs some scissors Damien attempts to stop him from stabbing someone. Seems he only wanted to stab himself. In the groin. Whoa, what a vicious moment! Bloody, creepy, and foreboding.
With lighter things to worry about, Amani’s trying to get Damien a job. He is a true friend, one who knows his partner is a great photographer. So he kicks a little ass in an interview for him.
Ann receives Detective Shay at her place. He’s suspicious about the “special room” Damien told him about. The whole thing sounds like something from a mystery-thriller novel, a bad one, though, she leads the cop to her supposed panic room: “I never use it. I never panic,” Ann tells him. Well, she cleaned out the basement and there’s nothing to be found, which obviously paints Damien in a worse psychiatric light.
But now Amani is running into trouble. The protege of Ann Rutledge, Veronica Selvaggio (Melanie Scrofano), is circling around like a vulture. No doubt readying herself to clear Amani from the life of Damien. Convenient for Ann, too. Whom will escape any scrutiny for anything that may happen.
As for Simone, her mother is getting some voodoo-style witchery going on to help with her latest fetus in the bathtub troubles. She doesn’t feel too into it, but her mother and the witch doctor are awfully serious. And things get… pretty wild.


A little while later, Ann collects Damien from the station. Though he’s clearly not happy with that situation. Damien gets violently serious with Ann, threatening to kill her if that’s what’s required. Don’t forget – Ann has a serious BDSM thing happening, so who knows what she’d be into. “The day will come,” she tells Damien before walking off into the night. You creepy, sly bitch.
Damien gets a visit from Simone. More of the 666 prophecies. She brings up the visions since her sister died, the prevalence of the birds, and more. They’re both being torn apart, in different ways. He talks about the things he’s seen, in war photography, and that suffering happens; that’s it. There is no higher power with a purpose. Hard to hear, though, necessary. Only Damien will soon realize there is something else behind it all. a great, dark power.
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Damien: “Kelly died. And a bird is just a bird.”
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At home, Detective Shay and his husband have a nice little life together. Except up shows another hound of Hell, and it’s got an eye on their little boy. It lures the child out towards the swimming pool. Uh oh.
Then Shay finds the boy underneath the pool cover, dragged about by some mysterious force. The whole sequence is terrifying, as something evil tries to drown the boy. But Shay, he fights back. One of the most unnerving scenes out of the series so far, and certainly doesn’t help a kid is involved. However, Shay now knows there’s something bigger, something more horrific at play than simply Damien.


Next episode, “Seven Curses”, should be another exciting one. This was a fun episode and I’m enjoying with Glen Mazzara and Co. are doing, as the show gets better with time. Stay tuned for me with me.