Room 104 – Season 1, Episode 4: “I Knew You Weren’t Dead”

HBO’s Room 104
Season 1, Episode 4: “I Knew You Weren’t Dead”
Directed by So Yong Kim
Written by Mark Duplass

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Knockadoo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Internet” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 10.27.11 PMDaniel (Jay Duplass) gets a message from Diane (Jennifer Lafleur) asking him not to text or call anymore. “Youre a child and youre a broken person,” she says. They can’t be married anymore because of it. The guy’s attempts at throwing an empty chip bag in the garbage are almost like a microcosm of his own life, it seems. Failure all but hangs from his face.
Suddenly, Patrick (Will Tranfo) shows up. Daniel acts like he hasn’t seen him in a long time, yet Patrick reminds him he lives there. They’ve got tickets to see Soundgarden, The Melvins. There’s a strange atmosphere, something isn’t quite right.
Then Patrick’s face starts changing.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 10.26.35 PMSo Daniel wakes up still in his motel bed, no message on his phone from Diane. It’s clear that Patrick died, they were best friends for years and years. He talks as if Patrick can hear him, asking him to hang out and hoping he’ll get some advice. He’s in a bad place, needing that old, close buddy again.
Soon enough, Patrick’s back. It’s clear when they’re together why Daniel is still not grown up enough in Diane’s eyes. He was obviously traumatised by the loss of his friend. Also, his first son’s name is Patrick. So now he’s asking for his buddy’s advice, he had an affair with his boss and his wife found out. He fucked it all up. Diane doesn’t want him to come home. What does he do now? His dead friend has no answers, he’s only twenty-one, he doesn’t know a whole lot about the adult world.
Just because Im dead doesnt mean Im like, this angel that can just see everything about your life, yknow?”
Soon, they get into questions about Patrick’s death. He was out in the water. He wonders if Daniel could’ve saved him, or if he was out there too, would he have died? He’s mad that his friend didn’t do more, that he essentially let him die. He wishes Daniel had called him out, told him not to go out in the water. This leads to them fighting one another. When Daniel punches Patrick he shatters like glass onto the floor.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 10.39.04 PMThat night, the old Patrick (Frank Ashmore) arrives to tell Daniel: “We cant be friends anymore.” This is the last time they’ll see one another, he’s going away. He sees the brutally painful limbo his friend’s been caught in, all these years. Ignoring the rest of his life because of what happened.
Now, Daniel apologises, lamenting what he did letting his friend down. He misses and loves him. He’s reeled in the guilt all this time, wishing he could be with his friend; dead. Patrick relieves him of the guilt, asking him to come back in from the figurative beach shore where he’s stood ever since that day.
Daniel wakes the next day to an empty room. He sends Diane a text, trying to tell her he’s willing to change to make it work. Perhaps he’s gotten past his guilt, all he needed was the good advice of his friend, the last advice he’d ever need.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 10.48.56 PM (1)Beautiful episode. Love the mix of themes and stories on Room 104.
Next, “The Internet.” Should be interesting!

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WE GO ON: Traumatic Fears & the Urban Gothic

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

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

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

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

“I’m haunted”


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

Alias Grace – Part 3

CBC’s Alias Grace
Part 3
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Sarah Polley

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 6.53.22 PMDr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) considers the sanity of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), speaking with the Reverend (David Cronenberg). He thinks about the death of Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard), how Grace had an auditory hallucination, had amnesia later. Quite the enigma, this woman. Plus, he’s only got half the story. We, the audience, have seen how she withholds certain bits of information, telling him what she thinks will be best, or will serve her best.
Meanwhile, the doctor’s got his own troubles, mental ones. Navigating Mrs. Humphrey (Sarah Manninen) at the house where he stays, his daydreams of longing for his current patient, the so-called murderess Ms. Marks. When the doc sees her again, she speaks of being mistreated by the guards, but she’s more interested in the “dark circles” under his eyes, why he’s not sleeping. It’s a case of the doctor becoming a patient, patient becoming doctor, if only briefly.
Love all the visual stuff going on, the quick edits of Grace’s ACTUAL memories, as opposed to the edited ones she presents to her doctor. We see the various acts leading up to the death of Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin), her body being tossed down into a cellar. Then we’re back to her and Dr. Jordan, talking about Mary, the poor young woman’s death. As well as what later went on at the Parkinson house. Mrs. Parkinson (Martha Burns) herself making her “swear on the Bible” that even if she knows who impregnated her friend, she will not tell; this comes with better wages, and a shining reference wherever she might find employment when she leaves that house.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 6.53.54 PMBut goddamn George (Will Bowes) still lurked, his mother knowing silently he was the one who effectively sent Mary to her grave. He tried hard to get in bed with the girl, sometimes trying to open her locked door at night. Most of all Grace knew that “once youre found with a man in your room, youre the guilty one, no matter how they got in.” And sooner or later, George was going to get inside. Terrifying.
Now we come to see Grace first meeting Nancy. Her master is Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), she’s looking for someone else to work up there, also to keep her company as a single woman with a man around. Y’know, people talk. She also says Mr. Kinnear is a “liberal master,” which feels like an oxymoron.
Grace takes the offer, though she’s warned cryptically about the man. However, thus is the choice of women, especially back then but still today: take what appears the lesser of two male evils in order to escape one male presence. It’s one way of escaping the creeping assault of George.
She gets quite the greeting, when a man accosts her as a “whore” and Mr. Kinnear knocks him out in the road. Oh, so valiant, no? Well, we’ll see. There’s certainly a foreboding, ominous sense of his character, even before he showed up onscreen. Soon Grace arrives at the Kinnear place, where several people work the grounds, including a man named James McDermott (Kerr Logan), and the whole thing just feels uneasy.
More of the divide between what’s said and what is seen, just as it was in the Atwood novel. Grace tells Dr. Jordan about the new house, the cellar, her duties, the others like McDermott employed by Kinnear.
Amongst all this we’re shown a bit of the later horror in a shot of a hand taking the earring out of a bloody ear, no doubt belonging to Nancy at the bottom of the cellar.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 7.15.21 PMAnd so forth is all youre entitled to
At the Kinnear house, Grace is introduced into the little world of that workplace. She sees both temptation and danger in various places, from Nancy’s strange demeanour to the master himself as a bit informal to McDermott seeming like a sensitive Irish dancer out in the barn. An odd place, indeed.
Note: The picture concerning the “apocryphaltale of Susanna, an addition to the Book of Daniel, is an interesting reference. A story of a falsely accused woman. Lying, lecherous old men. Everything ends swell for Susanna. But as it is in the Bible, so it is not in real life; virtue does not always win in the end. Grace is like Susanna, only left in the lurch in her current state after a lifetime of taking men’s shit. There’s also an interesting dichotomy of religion: a working class woman like Grace is unaware of the apocryphal Bible stories, versus Kinnear, a bourgeois man of privilege with access to knowledge, even so far as having a piece of art depicting the story on his wall. This is also where we begin seeing a divide in the house, where Grace starts getting to know James, seeing his view of the world separated into a class hierarchy. Although for all his Marxist ideals, he’s a bit of misogynist bastard, as well.
McDermott: “Never one to lick the boots of the rich
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 7.25.18 PMAnd so it all went for Grace. Work, work, work. In between, bits of intrigue. she also found herself watching McDermott, interested in him when she knew full well he was only trouble, in many shapes and forms. Likewise, Nancy kept her close, in a sort of dominant way of her own. All these forces tearing a woman apart.
Loved this episode! The mini-series gets better with each one. Part 4 comes next, and I’m excited already for more. Sarah Gadon is a revelation. Bless her, and bless the directing-writing team of Mary Harron and Sarah Polley. Fantastic adaptation.

Alias Grace – Part 2

CBC’s Alias Grace
Part 2
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Sarah Polley

* For a recap & review of Part 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
Pic 1Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) finds himself dreaming about Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), holding her close in the midst of the penitentiary’s yard. He’s quickly back to real life. In his office, Mrs. Humphrey (Sarah Manninen) collapses, she isn’t well. Neither is life in general going well. She hasn’t eaten since her husband left recently. And so the good doctor buys food for the house, advancing “two months rent” for her to take care of things in the interim. She’s a little affectionate towards him, naturally, making him uncomfortable. Whereas he was just longing in dreams for Grace.
Speaking of our lady, she’s at work sewing, taking care of things around the house where she works. When Dr. Jordan arrives, they speak of dreams. She tells him she doesn’t remember any, though we see a vision of Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin) near a rose garden, a cut ripping across her forehead; she begins falling, grabs her throat. Then quickly, back to reality.
Grace talks more of her good friend Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard), a wild spirit, a free woman in her heart. At night, the two women play a game with an apple peel, a superstition-style game; peeled in one piece, Grace tosses it behind her as her friend asks “Who shall we marry?” But when Mary tries, she cuts herself on the knife while peeling, ending their game.
Saddest is how they’re young, yet their lives already revolving entirely around men. Not by choice. Even Grace, she was forced out of the house by a revolting father, but it was more a choice of getting abused constantly, or working and sending money back home eternally. An entire life shaped by the horror of men.
Pic 1AAnother free spirit, Jeremiah Pontelli (Zachary Levi), shows up to peddle his wares to the women at the Parkinson home, Mrs. Honey (Elizabeth Saunders) even in her experienced years not immune to his charm. He does a good magic trick, too. Had his “pocket picked” and his “heart broken” enough to learn some tricks of his own, he says. Afterwards, he looks into Grace’s palm, seeing something foreboding. Although he tells her: “You will cross water three times. You will have much trouble. But all will be fine in the end. You are one of us.”
Pic 1BWe see bits of how difficult it was to be a women in their time. Can’t even go to the outhouse at night without a partner, or else bad things might happen. And it’d be blamed on the woman if anything did. As Grace says, a woman can’t “let her guard down.” Juxtaposed with this harsh, tragic lesson of womanhood, she wakes one morning to find she’s had her first period, believing that she’s dying like her mother. Luckily, she’s got Mary to guide her. Yet it’s still a nasty life being a woman amongst men and their misogyny. As I write this recap and review, we’re facing the Harvey Weinstein situation, all its hideousness: things have changed, but not really, not for women.
George Parkinson (Will Bowes) had to stay at home for a long while, feeling ill. He was left with so much time on his hands, nothing to do. The whole house full of women waiting on him hand and foot. Suddenly, Mary’s also very cold towards Grace. Everything’s changed, they no longer have fun together at work, no more joking. Mary’s feeling sick herself. Because she’s up the duff with George’s baby. He’s turned his back on her, as well. So convenient for men, to do what they wish then walk away when it’s inconvenient. Mary’s left to try getting him to help. What does the man do? Hands her “five dollars.” So, she has to find work somewhere where they’ll allow her to work pregnant, likely in horrible conditions.
Or, an illegal abortion. She writes a note, claiming that if she perishes then all her things go to Grace. Her faithful friend goes with her to the doctor, but Mary heads in for the procedure alone. All the horrific bits of womanhood, the things women face because of men, thrown at Ms. Marks, so quickly, so brutal. It’s awful. Particularly when Mary’s screams are heard and she comes bursting out in a terrible state.
Grace: “It was either one corpse that way, or two the other.”
Our lady tried taking care of her friend. Until one day she woke to a cold, dead Mary in bed. A true tragic end for the young woman. Thus leading others to the discovery of the “bad business” involved in her agonising death. An even sadder moment is when Grace doesn’t know if her friend’s faking, having once faked a death-like moment with her in the laundry.
Later, Grace goes into a state of disembodied shock yelling to the others: “Where is Grace?”
Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 8.20.42 PMFor it is not always the one who strikes the blow that is the actual murderer.”
This series has started out so strong, at a particularly relevant time here at the tail end of 2017. When so many women are finally able to come forward without (as much) fear as before, that their stories might not believed. Grace Marks isn’t entirely the best historical example, as there are many questions about the factual authenticity to certain claims.
However, there’s so much in her story that plays out as a microcosm of what all women go through in the course of their lives. Being a woman is harder than being a man; any man who can’t admit that doesn’t understand history, the balance of power between genders, and likely feels a false sense of constructed masculinity that’s unwilling to let them see a woman’s perspective clearly.
Can’t wait for Part 3.

Fear the Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 13: “This Land Is Your Land”

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 13: “This Land Is Your Land”
Directed by Meera Menon
Written by Suzanne Heathcote

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Brother’s Keeper” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “El Matadero” – click here
Pic 1Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) faces a new situation, as a type of leader rather than someone surrounded by those leading. She takes on a new responsibility, with everybody stuck in the pantry bunker. People are worried, some are missing. Outside is the constant gnash of undead teeth, the walkers scratching at the door. There’s also a bite inside, too. Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) and Crazy Dog (Justin Rain) show Alicia they’ve got other troubles, there’s no airflow through their vent. If they don’t do something, they’ll run out of air.
Out in the wilderness, Troy (Daniel Sharman) and Nick (Frank Dillane) are dealing with the aftermath of Jake’s death. They’ve got to figure out a way to help the people in the pantry, or else all is lost. Inside, Alicia and the others plan fast to try getting the air flowing again, and time is slipping, fast. Only way to buy time? “Fewer people.” They’ve got to “put down the bitten” – dark irony, coming from a militia man’s who’s been chomped.
Alicia levels with the others in the pantry about their predicament. She asks people who’ve been bitten to come forward. Nobody moves, until soldier boy reveals his bite to everybody, prompting others to do the same. For Father Gore, this is one of the more unsettling, subtly chilling moments of the entire series. It’s not often even ONE person will admit to their bite, let alone a handful.
Pic 1AStill, it ain’t easy. Some are very troubled by the process. However, one brave man steps up to take his morphine, to then be put down in as humane a way as possible. Alicia and her militia sidekick give him the dose, and after that he’s given quiet death. Although it isn’t so easy for the new leader to do, she takes it like most normal humans would, nearly going to pieces.
But Christine (Linda Gehringer) urges her to keep on going: “I know its Hell, but those people have done their part, you need to do yours.” Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Sadder still, she has to put down her helper when they’ve finished their work. Just dreadful.
Nick and Troy put another grenade in the distance to push the walkers in their desired direction, the latter getting a few thrills from driving through crowds of zombies. Soon, they crash, not far from the military chopper. They manage to get inside before they’re mobbed.
Down in the pantry, Christine and Alicia try keeping their minds busy, talking about their lives before the ranch, the younger of the two talking about the bond she shares with her brother, who’d do anything for her in the world.
Soon, the air quality’s getting bad, people are going unconscious. Alicia can barely see straight, too. Very scary shit. Particularly once she spies someone eating another person, reanimated, hungry. A weakened Alicia manages to pull out her knife, nearly getting a bite herself before falling over and driving her blade through the woman’s head.
That’d be fine, if there weren’t a bunch more people coming back from the dead nearby.
Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 12.15.37 AMIn the meantime, Crazy Dog and Ofelia are heading through the vent. He nearly hyperventilates, but she calms him down. We discover he was in Iraq, came back likely with PTSD. Occasionally has attacks, like that one. After going further, climbing up a grate, he goes limp and they fall together, a walker tumbling onto her. She has to pull out her gun, blowing its head off. Safe, for now.
Alicia comes to and finds more walkers, all around her. She kills as many as she can, trying to save Christine who’s passed out. Not sure if the old gal will make it either way. But our girl, she’s determined. She gets to one of the assault rifles then starts firing. Bad ass.
Nick and Troy get the chopper started, chopping a few zombie heads off. Eventually they smash the glass and start grabbing for the boys. As Troy’s starting to contemplate one of them using the remaining bullet, an explosion goes off.
Downstairs, Madison (Kim Dickens), Strand (Colman Domingo) come for Alicia, clearing out the rest of the dead. They all leave together. So it’s safe, relatively, again. They’ve got to head out for the damn once again come morning. Walker (Michael Greyeyes) and Madison tell Ofelia about her father being alive, that they’ll take her to see him. Likewise, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Nick must tell Alicia that Jake died after a bite. YET… Nick lies to his sister, for Troy. If only to spare them a big confrontation; that’ll surely come back to kick his ass later.
Problem is, Alicia’s losing faith. She’s lost it, really. She knows there is no place that’s safe, no matter where they go: “We die as quickly together as we do apart. I need to find a way to life, for myself. And I cant do that running in fear.” She wants to go on her own, someplace else, where she and Troy talked about together. And so, the family’s split up, familiar territory for them all. Nick offers to go watch her a while, to make sure she’s safe, scout the surrounding areas.
For everyone, it’s on the road again.
Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 12.46.49 AMDig this episode. Claustrophobic, terribly creepy at times in that pantry. Lots going on, emotionally and plot-wise. Can’t wait for more with “El Matadero” next week.

Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 7: “Willow Lake”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 7: “Willow Lake”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Dennis Lehane

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “People in the Rain” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “From the Ashes” – click here
Pic 1Again, love the repetition of each morning Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) experiences. Every day is exactly the same. Shows how he’s just going through the motions. His only added change are the bits and pieces of the Mercedes Killer case he works on. Across town and then right into the neighbourhood is Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), working from afar yet right out in the open, too. A tense situation that’s bound to explode sooner than later.
The glimpses of Brady in his basement are the true views of his life we’re offered, we see him as a real person down there. We see his true self, the one he has to hide even right upstairs with his mother, from his spastic dancing to Radiohead to his bomb making and other eerie behaviour, facilitated by a cabinet full of explosives, discarded cellphones, and other treasures. Plus, he’s watching Bill. There’s nothing the old detective can do that’s out of view of Mr. Mercedes.
Another interesting note: Brady and Bill are each haunted by their past; for the former it’s his dead brother, the latter his estranged, alcoholic daughter. So to watch their parallel paths in life – one a serial killer, the other a cop, though equally damaged – is very compelling.
Pic 1ABill has to “eat shit” because he needs computer help, which means he needs young Jerome (Jharrel Jerome). He feels bad, but isn’t willing to totally eat that shit. However, he does well enough to fix things between them. He needs to dig through Olivia Trelawney’s laptop. He’s getting Holly (Justine Lupe) to help them out, too. Turns out the girl’s got computer game, she knows just about as much as Jerome. She’s both quirky AND smart.
Scary stuff now, as we see Deb (Kelly Lynch) at home, drinking, where she starts picking through her son’s things. Curious about his life. She finds one of his hats. And then finds his clown mask. Oh. Shit. Afterwards, she also digs under his mattress to find a journal with terrifying, sexual drawings on the front. A veritable horrorshow, his mind.
At work, Brady hears from Lou (Breeda Wool) there’s a shake up in the store. They’re all brought into a meeting where one of those douchey corporate guys Brady met at the restaurant gives them a verbal lashing. He berates them brutally, going “fullon fucking Mayan.” So, he decides on firing Lou randomly. Security even comes to escort her out of the building. Spineless Robi (Robert Stanton) looking on shocked. The guy’s lucky Brady didn’t slaughter them all.
Then there’s a semi-awkward situation over at the funeral parlour, Silver’s – yes, Ida (Holland Taylor). That puts Bill, Ida, and Janey (Mary-Louise Parker) in a room together awhile. Slightly uncomfortable.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 11.44.00 PMDeb, along with the old journal she apparently stashed away, found a length of rubber hose. She wonders what Brady does with it, asking him face to face. She likewise shows him the clown mask, asking why he’s got it hidden in the closet. He goes on a rant about running away with the circus. She keeps on prodding, looking through the journal, lamenting not having him “committed” years ago. Deb wants her son to have changed, from the budding psychopath that clearly existed long ago. Problem is, he budded. Fully bloomed.
The next morning, Bill and Janey have a difficult discussion. She’s headed back to California after the funeral, which doesn’t sit well with him. He does his best to act normal. Clearly he’s wounded, believing their relationship to have been more meaningful. “If I stay Ill fall in love,” she says. Not something she’s prepared to do after having been deeply wounded herself once upon a time. Sad on both sides.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 11.51.13 PMJust outside the funeral procession, Brady watches on. Janey gets up to do the eulogy. A really sick moment, Mr. Mercedes right there, watching the family of the woman he drove to suicide grieve over another family member. So twisty and turny and unsettling.
Scarier still? Brady has planted another bomb. In Janey’s car. As she drives out of the parking lot he sets it off, the car exploding while Bill and Holly sit not far off. The killer drives away, leaving the wreckage behind, as well as Bill, left there with the burning remnants of the woman he’d started to love on the street, in the car’s twisted metal.
Wow. Absolutely devastating.
This episode finally ratcheted the tension up, high as possible, before just drilling us, hard. I’m fascinated by this series. I expected an event like this, though didn’t see it coming here. Devilish, tragic. I wonder how Bill will ultimately deal with this, I know he’s going to feel responsible partly. He’ll blame himself for Janey being around him, he’ll be paranoid of everyone near him winding up dead.
“From the Ashes” comes next week. Be prepared.

PET SEMATARY’s Macabre Exploration of Grief in the Wake of Death

Pet Sematary. 1989. Directed by Mary Lambert. Screenplay by Stephen King; based on his novel of the same name.
Starring Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Michael Lombard, Miko Hughes, Blaze Berdahl, Susan Blommaert, Mara Clark, Kavi Raz, Mary Louise Wilson, & Andrew Hubatsek.
Paramount Pictures/Laurel Productions
Rated R. 103 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2Pet Sematary 4Stephen King is master of the macabre, a true genius when it comes to sucking us into the lives of his characters, many of whom are real, genuine people. A theme often present in his work is that of grief, both it effects and how we deal with it in our lives. Pet Sematary, which he also adapted into a screenplay himself, is a tragic look at grief, how it warps a family. Particularly focusing on a father whose sadness over the loss of a child takes control of his life, that of his family, and becomes something altogether terrifying.
There are moments in this King adaptation, crafted by the talented Mary Lambert, that still stick in the collective mind of horror fans to this day. Many of us would be excited to see a new, fresh remake. Regardless, there’ll always remain an undeniable scariness about this 1989 classic, an effect that will not soon, if ever, wear away.
No doubt about it, Pet Sematary is a dark, depressing film that gets crueller with each passing scene. In a proper horror sense, though, not unnecessarily just for horror’s sake. We plunge the depths of brutal, raw emotion with the Creed family and their various, inescapable tragedies. All the while King turns the mirror on humanity, questioning our faith, our belief, our methods of expelling grief from our lives. Not always a pretty sight.
Pet Sematary 1Part of the profundity in this story comes out of the inability of the father Louis (Dale Midkiff), an adult, to explain death to his young daughter. In a sense, he doesn’t know what he himself believes, leading to his own bad decisions in turn resulting in plenty of horror. There’s an essence in King’s storytelling here, combined with the concept of the Pet Sematary in this little Maine town, which speaks to how adults explain the world in general to children. In that, often enough, the inability of adults to help kids comprehend big, scary concepts (i.e death, sex, et cetera) stems from their own fears, their insecurities. The horrific tragedy here being when Louis can’t deal with the death of his little boy, he chooses a fantastical belief in the supernatural to try changing the recent past. Only to create a hellish future for the Creeds.
Another excellent aspect is the use of the old Indian burial ground. Joining a few other films of its ilk, Pet Sematary doesn’t try appropriating any kind of cultural ghosts, anything similar. Instead, King makes it into a story where white people, not understanding the full implications of another culture’s beliefs and rituals, create chaos by stepping outside their own culture in ill-advised ways.
Pet Sematary 3Best of all: the imagery. From the straight up horror to a visual motif Lambert weaves into a couple of the central characters, this film is ripe with juicy terror. The entire atmosphere creeps up on us immediately, a dreamy, fog-like quality to the cinematography, coupled with the eerie sounds of the score, the angelic-sounding voices, all swelling in our ears over images of graves. The quaint Maine countryside is contrasted with images of ugly violence, including the early introduction of Louis to a man who’ll come to haunt him later, Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist), as he suffers in the emergency room after a bloody accident.
The most significant imagery involves the dead kid Gage (Miko Hughes) and his long dead aunt Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek). First, the story of Zelda, the way she looks as a character, is unsettling. Lambert chose Hubatsek to portray the ill woman, as she rightly felt this casting option would provide an extra unnerving quality for the sister, which is – for Father Gore – the film’s definitive, terrifying image. Even in the book Zelda is frightening, albeit tragically sad. Onscreen, she’s a horrorshow in and of herself.
But once you notice the clothes she’s wearing in those flashback moments, this directly parallels the look of little Gage after he’s brought back from the dead. A visual motif connects everything. Zelda’s illness, symbolised by Gage wearing a near identical outfit when he’s reanimated from the grave, is a parallel to the undead state of those buried in the Pet Sematary. Being that, it was more merciful for her to die than continue living in an already half-dead, torture state.
And why?

Sometimes dead is better.”

Pet Sematary 2Lambert and King never shy from pummelling the audience with sadness, sticking the blade in our hearts, over and over. Gage’s death is punctuated with edits of family photos underneath the screams of Louis, wailing for his son after the transport truck crushes him on the road; heavy, harsh. From there, the happiness dissipates, and the Creed family is plunged entirely into darkness.
This transformation is effectively symbolised in the hellish look of the house at the end, as it warps like the reanimated lifeform of Gage himself. Life becomes death, all that is alive then decays, rots. The whole thing culminates in a seriously disturbed ending, one that doesn’t offer any hope, not even a glimmer, really. Although it does pose further questions, about how we cope with death, and grief in its aftermath; ultimately questioning to what lengths people will go to circumvent death, the grieving process, its hideousness and wake of self-reflection.
Unforgettably grim, Pet Sematary isn’t only one of the best King adaptations because the master himself penned its script, Lambert directs this with near flawlessness. She turns the great story into a modern Gothic tale crossed with elements of a zombie movie, wrapped in a personal story of death, loss, and love. There’s also the downhome feeling of being in Maine, as the movie was shot only 20 minutes outside Bangor and Fred Gwynne offers up that small town charm so inextricably linked with King’s setting and mood. But the horror is what grabs us, never letting go. Not until the bitter end.

THE CRAZIES: A Different Romero Infection

The Crazies. 1973. Directed & Written by George A. Romero; based on a script by Paul McCollough.
Starring Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar, Lynn Lowry, Richard Liberty, Richard France, Harry Spillman, & Will Disney.
Pittsburgh Films.
Rated R. 103 minutes.
Action/Horror/Sci-Fi

★★★
posterI’m a huge fan of George A. Romero and his movies, and not just the zombie flicks either. He’s always been politically and socially aware, even if he’s telling stories of terrifying epidemics. People too often overlook the genuinely poignant ideas in certain screenplays of his simply because they’re only horror movies.
But horror is like any other genre. When a writer wants to infuse their stories with sociopolitical messages, no matter how heavy or light the infusion may get, they’ll put it in there. Night of the Living Dead, the series it begat, these were aware, conscious films that used zombies to carry various little messages Romero felt were worth exploring.
The Crazies isn’t particularly one of Romero’s best works. I’d put the Dead series and Martin above this movie, without a second thought. That’s not to say this is all bad. Romero does a few really great things in The Crazies, and regardless of whether the whole matches up to its parts his writing is still solid. There are issues with pacing, too much needless dialogue. What the film gets right is its sense of panic, the frantic nature of how people would react if an unknown epidemic came down upon their quiet little town. And yes, things absolutely do get crazy. Of this there is no doubt.
pic1After an unnerving opening scene the pace lags for an inordinately long time. The screenplay plays like a procedural, except it would’ve served better to get into more action or horror. There’s a definite intensity to the plot, there’s just a lack of any real tension. Romero could easily have done better by starting with a bigger heavier bang. The first scene is creepy, but after that it’s a near half hour before anything else significantly creepy and/or violent happens. This makes The Crazies a bit tedious for the first while. Yes, that does change. Doesn’t change quick enough.
Yet once that old lady uses a knitting needle to stab the NBC-suited man and then sits back down happily, the scary, all too human horror commences bearing down on the viewer with a frantic passion. Although the pace lacks in certain sections much of the acting is appropriately intense and even frenzied when necessary. The feeling that everyone’s going crazy, all human interactions tense, comes across well in a few of the performances. One sort of funny though perfect moment happens when a field full of infected people run mad, being gunned down at the hands of the military – the whole sequence is totally unhinged and beyond depraved, however, it’s the infected woman sweeping the grass I find interesting. This shows us violence isn’t the only option to the infection’s madness; the remnants of these people still exist.
pic2This brings us to one of the best parts about the film. What’s scariest to me about the infection in this Romero story is how the people inflicted with it seem like the same, regular people they were before, just gone totally insane – unlike zombies from Romero’s other works, these crazies aren’t hideously deformed, or even dead, they’re human beings gone utterly mental. The clearest, most precise look at this horror comes when the survivors make it to a farmhouse. Plot-wise, the movie gets most brutal and grim at this point. We see here how infection can drive people to the most sickeningly nasty recesses of their own mind.
The Crazies is one of the earliest movies involving infection/epidemic to explore the military dark side, in that as survivors from the small town try desperately to escape for safety, the army flies overhead and marches on the town, trying to kill off anyone and everyone attempting to leave the quarantine zone. This becomes a norm in the sub-genre of zombies (et cetera): the military is most concerned with covering their own mistakes than saving lives. A lot of themes swirl around the writing from Romero here, which explore the nature of war, the way science and technology have affected our war (and our morals), plus how during times of crisis not all the rules get followed. Again, so much good writing despite the screenplay’s downfalls.
pic1My chief problem with this picture is that it lacks the appropriate amount of horror. What we do get is good. There’s far too much drama and dialogue that doesn’t necessarily do justice to the characters or the plot and story. If Romero went harder at the horror in more scenes, The Crazies would be a genre classic, rather than a mediocre footnote on his career as director.
The depravity and murder comes out in full force. We’re never totally lacking. I’m not sure exactly how much of the original script from Paul McCollough, a close friend of Romero, made it into this final draft. His story, The Mad People, was given over to George with McCollough’s blessing to turn into something different. So, I’d love to know what was in that original draft, as opposed to what ended up onscreen. I feel like Romero held back something, that he maybe felt his friend had a better concept than what he’d imagined. Or who knows. Maybe he just wanted to do something different from the Dead films.
I don’t care if parts of the movie are boring. There’s always gold in even some of the lesser Romero movies. This is a 3 out of 5 star horror flick. Not his best, although saying it’s his worst doesn’t do it the right justice, either. I mean, you get to see a priest self-immolate in front of his congregation and the army, lots of wild death and mayhem. There are sections you might want to fast forward; don’t. Because in between the craziness and the little boring pieces, there’s dialogue worth hearing, other things worth noticing. You might not love it all. Give it a chance, don’t expect the exact quality of Romero’s best, and you’ll likely enjoy it enough for a nice romp on Halloween.

Of Shadows & Smart Directors: Herk Harvey’s CARNIVAL OF SOULS

Carnival of Souls. 1962. Directed by Herk Harvey. Screenplay by Harvey & John Clifford.
Starring Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Stan Levitt, Art Ellison, & Herk Harvey.
Harcourt Productions.
Rated R. 84 minutes (Director’s Cut).
Fantasy/Horror/Mystery

★★★★★
posterCertain films need their elaborate style and screenplay in order to elicit the wanted response. Others make perfectly do with a more minimal and simplistic style, opting to use that bare bones ethic to do wonders. In 1962, Herk Harvey took a break from making industrial and educational shorts, as well as documentaries, to direct the only single feature film of his career: Carnival of Souls.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love the story, the execution, all of it. I don’t think that you can watch this flick without paying attention to how great a job Harvey did as a director in terms of stretching the budget every inch possible while still making the whole production work to the best of its ability.
Harvey’s unexpected cult classic was the precursor to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and to a lesser extent Eraserhead from the twisted mind of David Lynch. Not to mention probably a dozen other movies; those are simply the closest ones after this picture. Carnival of Souls doesn’t need any blood, it came before the genre exploded and some horror relied too much on the jump scare. On – approximately – $33K Harvey filled his tale of life and death with enough atmosphere, creative camerawork, and unnerving imagery to match that of five films. If you don’t find it scary, that’s fine; to each their own.
But me? I still see those pale faces sometimes when I’m looking for things lurking beyond the veil of darkness.
pic1Low budget and a minimalist approach can sometimes push a director to make smart, economic choices which in turn make a film better as a whole. Harvey’s use of light and shadow is impeccable. Along with the makeup, this creates an otherworldly black-and-white film that feels akin to watching one of your own nightmares; maybe one from when you were a kid, one that plays all grainy in the back of your mind while you try and remember all the little bits and pieces. Right as the title ripples onto the frame over the water of a river you can feel yourself dropping into another place, another time. The graininess of the movie’s look isn’t a hindrance. It’s part of the charm.
Another large part of that charming effect is the score from Gene Moore. It’s all done with an organ, and that’s cool for a couple reasons. First, it fits with Mary (Candace Hilligoss) being a church organist, so that is kind of fun switching from music in the movie itself played by her character to the actual score; a seamless move between the same instrument becomes an interesting aural aspect. Secondly it’s a spooky background that pulls the viewer into the gloomy, morbid – though fascinating – atmosphere.
pic2Perhaps the best of Harvey comes in his directorial choices. For instance, in the scenes involving a moving car he opted not to use rear projection; this was, at the time, an industry standard for such scenes. Instead of that Harvey had these scenes shot with a hand-held, battery powered Arriflex camera, so that the scene could literally be shot in an actual car. Of course at the time these cameras and some of the techniques Harvey used were mostly involving newsreel footage, so on. These scenes give the film a nice look, different compared to other similar films at the time. On top of that, there was no need for composite shots in the car scenes, driving the already tiny budget down further. Harvey – always with his eye on the prize.
Aside from that there are a bunch of gorgeously conceived shots, too. The whole script began from Harvey seeing that old empty pavilion from the carnival, it’s only natural a big part of the movie would end up being centred around specific imagery. One shot I can never get enough of is a weird yet effective couple cuts, as we see Mary staring out her window while we cut and zoom closer, closer into the deserted carnival, to a strange, ghostly view of an empty, foggy boardwalk. It’s moments like these where you realise Harvey was firing on all cylinders.
pic3Aside from Candace Hilligoss, none of the acting is anything special. However, they don’t have to be, and she carries the full weight of the story, as her character Mary is the centrepiece. Her performance reminds me of a cross between Maria Falconetti from The Passion of Joan of Arc, and what we’d see in Judith O’Dea’s character from the later groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead (as I said, Harvey definitely influenced Romero to a degree). Hilligoss appropriately leaves the viewer feeling in a state much like her character: dazed, lost as if wandering a dream. Without having to need dialogue, she does best when it’s her face, her eyes, the body language talking; she emotes so well that the performance works in conjunction with Harvey’s directorial choices to give the film that penetrating atmosphere of absolute dread. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Harvey himself plays the quietly terrifying man whose pale, horrible, grinning face haunts Mary; the makeup is so perfect, falling in line with the film’s minimalism and working incredibly with the dark shadows of the black-and-white cinematography. He doesn’t even have to speak and yet the pale-faced man is nightmare fuel.
Carnival of Souls doesn’t feel like it was shot in three weeks, even if it feels rough around the edges at certain points. What Herk Harvey accomplished was making of the best psychological horror movies there has ever been, all without falling into any of the conventions the genre would later become known for, to our great dismay. We watch Mary’s descent into madness with the eerie man and his similarly unnerving friends creeping along the periphery of her mind, and vision, almost constantly. This is one of my all-time favourite film, especially horror. But on admiration alone for Harvey and what he did, it’s still a great piece of independent cinema, one that ought never be forgotten or underappreciated.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple

* For a review of the Season 6 finale, “Last Day on Earth” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Well” – click here
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Our episode’s title comes from Dr. Jenner at the CDC, way back when Rick said he was thankful for all the man had done for them. To which the doc replied: “The day will come when you wont be.”
Today is that day.
We start on Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), his face spattered with blood. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts him. But Rick replies: “Im gonna kill you.” The nastiness of Negan’s demeanour is so perfectly awful. He digs into Rick, already having taken his victim from the group. He takes the hatchet Rick arrived with and brings Rick into the RV with him nearby. Behind them, a pile of blood and gore.
Who was killed?
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Inside the RV, Rick cowers like we’ve never seen him do before. Hiding in the shadows. And Negan tries to clue him into the new rule of things. He challenges Rick to take the axe and do him in. But you know it ain’t going down like that. He knocks Rick to the ground, dominating him. Proving a point. “Think about what happened, and think about what can still happen,” Negan all but cackles in the driver’s seat, taking Rick for a ride somewhere.
Then we flash throuh Rick’s mind, as he sees memories of everyone in their group. Glenn (Steven Yeun), Enid (Kately Nacon), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl (Norman Reedus) , Michonne (Danai Gurira) – while Negan throws his axe from the RV into a foggy road of walkers, beckoning Rick to go get it. Our trusty leader, the onetime Sheriff Grimes, manages to get on top of the RV, hatchet and all. Although as he stares into the distance either way you can see the hope starting to fade. For the first real time, he’s a broken man. “I bet you thought you were all gonna grow old together,” Negan pokes at him more from inside.


Now we’re back to the eenie meanie miney moe. Negan goes around the line. We watch Rick’s eyes. We see the terror in the eyes of every single person. The taunting of Negan and his bat land on: Abraham. He savagely beats the brains out of Abraham’s head, smashing him over and over. Everyone watches in sickly disgust, as nothing is left of the skull and brains. Nothing. “Look at my dirty girl,” Negan calls to them horrifically. He even taunts Rosita (Christian Serratos) with the bloody end of Lucille. Then Daryl breaks loose, punching Negan.
Will he get the bat, too? No. Even Dwight (Austin Ameli) rushes in to try putting an arrow in Daryl’s skull. Negan won’t allow that. Not right yet: “Thats not how it works.” No, no, no. Another victim for Lucille comes next.
Glenn’s head is smashed in. The front caves. So suddenly. Everybody is brutalised by the sight of Glenn, his eye popping out, trying to speak to Maggie in his last moments. Negan goes on whacking away until there’s only blood and hair left on the end of Lucille. The group is left devastated.
Rick lies on top of the RV, remembering what’s happened. All to well. This is the worst and most wounded we’ve ever seen him.

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In a crazy moment, Rick jumps from the RV, using the hanged man from the bridge as a grip. With zombies clawing at him, walkers of all kinds trying to rip him apart, Negan pops them all off and saves him. He urges Rick: “Think about what can still happen.” And Rick does. He sees the rest of his group smashed by Lucille, one by one.
Back in the RV, hatched in hand, Rick makes it to Negan. A real sick game, all around. The man with the bat continues his cerebral assault, in such a villainous, nonchalant way that it’s sickening how good Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the role. When they get back to the group, Negan has Rick kneeling in the middle of his remaining friends. The Saviors put guns to the back of their heads and the wretched Lucille-holding monster calls Carl (Chandler Riggs) to the centre. He wraps a belt around the boy’s arm, puts him to the ground next to dad. Negan proceeds to mark off a spot on Carl’s arm with a marker.
Rick has to cut an arm off his son. With his hatchet. Or else everyone dies.
So, what does Sheriff Grimes do? It’s all a psyche out. Rick has been broken, in front of everyone – The Saviors, his own people, his son. He’s torn every bit of Rick apart, his soul, his manhood, his power. What a vicious cycle. Because you know it’s a cycle. Broken as he is, Rick will be coming back. He will not let this rest, not forever. For now, sure. But not forever.
Things have changed. Whatever you had going for you, that is over now,” says Negan to the crowd. He takes Daryl in the back of their van. Property of Negan. They’ve got a week to start getting supplies together for him. A new day. A new deal. Minus two strong people from their crew. People they’ll never get back, ever again. Literally left in Negan’s dust, the rest of the survivors struggle to figure out how to move on from there.

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Maggie’s the first to get up. She wants to keep fighting, even if Rick is beaten to a pulp emotionally. He also understands how bad things are right now, she isn’t acting or thinking rationally. But sadly, Rick has also lost control. He has no more power. And Maggie, she’s in a depression spiral, unable to accept that they’ve just got to go back home, pick up the pieces. Now, they take their dead friends with them and do what they can for them.
In a vision, we see all the group, happy, healthy, a baby on Glenn’s lap. As if there weren’t enough tears shed. Negan’s voice rings in the ears of Rick as they load up the RV to leave. He thought they’d all be sitting around, as in the vision, that dreamy world. These days that vision is a far cry, and Rick is realising it. Around him he’s also watching the walkers die off. Everything is dying. Everyone and everything dies.
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What a savage episode. Completely numbing. I expected Glenn’s death, but didn’t anticipate such a wildly effective execution. Love how the power dynamics are shifting. No longer is Rick the big, tough guy he was once. Although he’ll get back there it’s going to take a major event, or series of them.
Looking forward to the next episode “The Well” and what it’ll bring!