Outcast – Season 2, Episode 3: “Not My Job to Judge”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 3: “Not My Job to Judge”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Jeff Vleming

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Day After That” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The One I’d Be Waiting For” – click here
Pic 1Sidney (Brent Spiner) is taking care of his burned, young friend, who asks about if what Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) says of him is true. And the mysterious man says that the rev’s book calls him a “dragon” and he’s been called many other things by humans of flesh and blood. He has big plans for the kid, that’s why he saved him from the fire.
Evelyn Bailey (Claire Bronson) shows up, always helping, along with Peter, who’s eager to be part of their nastiness. Only Sidney’s got no time for that shit, so he dispatches him. No more prying eyes. And the devilish man doesn’t have time for lingering attachment between humans, he doesn’t understand it; one of the most interesting traits of his character in the series, he’s dumbfounded by human beings and their emotion for one another. Exactly how you’d expect the devil to be were he personified in a body.
Pic 1ADealing with the consequences of her husband’s death, Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) has reached the lowest depths of herself. She’s dragged from the water by Rev. Anderson. He makes clear he wouldn’t judge her; not in the places he’s been himself.  Even quotes a bit of Dr. Seuss. Meanwhile, Kyle (Patrick Fugit) takes Amber to go see her mother, Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil), at the hospital. Things aren’t well between the estranged husband and wife. While Amber waits for her parents to chat, a man approaches her in a creepy manner, though a hospital attendant shows up. However, there’s something odd about her. She and the man corner Amber, and the little girl uses her own powers to fend them off; she’s just like her papa.
While she’s out on the town, Patricia (Melinda McGraw) is abducted suddenly by a man (M.C. Gainey) and taken away, to who knows where.
Anderson meets Kyle on the road to tell her Megan took off, after her near suicide attempt. She also took her daughter Holly. They’ve gone back home, apparently. Mom wants to make the house a nice place again, to live like before. Only her daughter’s sure that dad dying wasn’t “an accident” like she’s being told. I’m betting Megan is headed towards taking responsibility, in some way, which could change things irreparably for her, and maybe others, too.
And back with Sidney, Patricia’s son Aaron is being given the opportunity to “fuck this world and all the pathetic creatures in it” – first, by having to cut up a body with a pocket knife. He can’t do it, though. Yet. And Patricia, she’s not getting any answers from Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey), threatening to make waves in town if nothing more’s done, especially with Anderson let out after confessing to what he thought he’d done.


Poor little Holly, she can’t get over the trauma of her father dying. Worst of all, back in that bathroom where she stands, her mother comes in and starts having fragmentary flashbacks of when she killed her husband. Also, Holly’s got a bit of a premonition skill; is she experiencing any effects of possession? Kyle ends up finding Megan, trying to figure out her state of mind. She’s starting to believe in the demons. Not just that: she’s pregnant. Whoa.
At the hospital, Allison is befriended by Kirby, the man who approached her daughter. He talks and talks to her, as patients are making crafts. It’s clear there are more possessed inside the walls of the mental health ward. A terrifying consequence of people being seen as insane, rather than for their demonic sickness; they’re all being piled into these places. Kyle and Anderson are trying to figure out what Sidney’s plan is, and it doesn’t prove easy.
In the meantime, out on his own, the man who abducted Patricia looks to be digging a grave. Ohh, shit. And he seems crazy as hell, too.
Megan’s having more and more trouble. It isn’t a great idea that she’s back in that house, where the demon took hold of her and killed her husband. It’s bringing up darkness. Maybe more than she can handle. She finds her husband’s gun, then before she can do anything crazy with it she runs outside to try getting rid of it. Where a woman’s waiting to give her a flyer for the Beacon.


Anderson and Kyle go back to the Austin place. Great inverted shot as they walk in, as if the world is literally turning upside down and they’re entering some foul, hellish place; superb cinematography, and this lines up with the opening titles where the camera flips around and we see the upside down world in front of us. When the pair are inside, they find Joshua’s mother in distress, talking about the man from the junkyard; the one who took Patricia.
So the two track the man to the junkyard. They find Giles there, too. The man, Bob, is helping out with things. They’re trying to stop the demons by putting them into the ground, burying the problem. Now that’s a solution, I guess. They’re not all on the same page about it. Kyle finds out later that Bob and his mother were in league together, and that his “old man” was part of the trouble years ago; he isn’t the first to try stopping the demons.
Sidney goes to see someone, for help. Looks like young Joshua, though could be someone else, who pours more of that black essence into him, as the devilish dude breathes in deep.
Pic 4What a great episode! This series gets exponentially better, as well as the fact it has a great score and soundtrack alike. Lots of things to look forward to, particularly “The One I’d Be Waiting For” next week. More demons, more Sidney, more mystery.

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Heavy Metal Possession in THE DEVIL’S CANDY

The Devil’s Candy. 2017. Directed & Written by Sean Byrne.
Starring Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, & Kiara Glasco.
Snoot Entertainment.
Rated 14A. 79 minutes.
Horror

★★★★1/2
Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 8.56.09 AMSean Byrne’s debut feature The Loved Ones rocked me in 2009. It was unique and horrifying. I knew he’d give us more terror eventually. Although I didn’t think it would take another 6 years. When you wait that long and the product ends up being something altogether eerie, you thank a writer-director who so obviously digs the genre.
The Devil’s Candy gives us equal parts beauty and horror. There’s heavy metal, there’s painting, there’s a troubled father-daughter relationship and a fun family at the centre of the plot. There’s also three excellent performances from Ethan Embry, Kiara Glasco, and one of the great unsung character actors possibly every, Pruitt Taylor Vince.
What’s most exciting about Byrne’s follow-up feature is the take on possession. So many horrors out there try to do the sub-genre justice by giving their own take on the concept of demonic possession, but many of those slip into the pitfalls of a typical Exorcist rip-off. Byrne avoids that by going a whole other route, bringing the supernatural straight into collision with utterly human, family drama with an innovative twist.
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I always love when demonic possession is more than some poor, helpless young person is seized by the devil, flopping around on the floor or speaking another language or contorting into a weird human-limbed spider. A possession story becomes something else entirely when the demonic influence helps the possessed acquire wealth (fame/anything similar). This makes the character of Jesse’s (Embry) paintings like an unwitting, unspoken pact with the devil.
On the other side is Ray (Vince), whose encounter with Satan is entirely different. He’s a man with mental difficulties to begin, then he has to contend with the voice of the devil whispering in his ear. Whereas Jesse sort of takes it like a voice of inspiration, if not a sinister one, for Ray it’s like torture.
Heavy metal is the link. While Jesse listens to metal, as he paints and driving with his daughter Zooey (Glasco), Ray uses it as a means of drowning out the voice of Satan in his head. He plays the guitar, a flying V in fact, strumming deep, droning, distorted chords, which doesn’t just make his house unpleasant, it eventually draws the police. Just a whole mess of things going on, all of which add to the atmosphere of terror.
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Embry and I follow one another on Twitter. I asked him if he was wearing a Sunn O))) shirt, which he confirmed, and he also told me that, he believes, the voice of Satan here is likewise provided by the band.
Brings me to one of the things I find so unsettling about the film – the sound design. At certain moments we hear the low, rumbling voice of Satan speaking to his pawns. It’s the absolute perfect voice. Sort of rattles your bones listening to it. Along with Ray’s power chords, the heavy metal soundtrack, the sound design and the voice itself are part of the dreadful feeling the film evokes at every turn.
The storytelling is a large part of The Devil’s Candy‘s success as a horror that works hard to unnerve its audience, frame by frame, building to a roar. In parallel, we watch the stories of Ray and Jesse, like opposite ends of a spectrum. Then the paintings Jesse creates in a fugue of possession reflect the actions and events in Ray’s life, giving the parallel plots a whole new level of meaning.
A favourite scene of mine is the montage sequence of the painting Jesse works on. The paint, the brushes, the sloppy wet sounds of them together – these are, again, paralleled with the sounds of Ray with his wet mop sloshing around, soaking up blood. The whole sequence is amazingly edited. On top of that the score and the sound design make it chilling.
Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 9.56.06 AMByrne does a fantastic job providing us with an alternative story about possession and occult horror. Not saying he’s reinvented the wheel. But god damn me to hell if he doesn’t offer up a horror that doesn’t take the same old beaten path. Peppered with equally fantastic performances, The Devil’s Candy is a personal favourite of mine since 2000.
A huge selling point is the chemistry between Embry and Glasco. Their relationship as father and daughter is strained, though not past the point of no return. There’s a breaking point, yes. And that plays its own part in their relationship. What I dig is that they’re so natural. Embry’s not that old, so his character comes off as this hip guy who hasn’t exactly reconciled his hipness with also being a father; he’s a good dad, not perfect, and tries his best. For her part, Glasco plays the daughter well and her emotional range as an actress stacks up well against her adult counterparts.
From Sunn O))) in all forms – t-shirt, voice of Satan, soundtrack – to Embry and Glasco, as well as Pruitt Taylor Vince doing a bang up job as a seasoned character actor, to Sean Byrne and his atmospheric directing, The Devil’s Candy does what it sets out to do: unsettle and terrify. You don’t have to piss your pants to find something scary. What I find most unsettling about the film is the presentation of the devil’s influence, as something that simply cannot be stopped – won’t be stopped. And for once heavy metal isn’t the bringer of horror, it is a way for the horror to be evaded, a positive force between father and daughter. Underneath the possession stuff there’s a lot going on, too.

THE DARK TAPES: Fresh Indie Found Footage

The Dark Tapes. 2017. Directed by Vincent J. Guastini & Michael McQuown. Screenplay by McQuown.
Starring Emilia Ares Zoryan, David Banks, Jonathan Biver, Sara Castro, Michael Cotter, Denise Faro, Brittany Fisheli, Jo Galloway, Aral Gribble, Shane Hartline, David Hull, Clint Keepin, Casey James Knight, Shawn Lockie, Matt Magnusson, Anna Rose Moore, Tessa Munro, Jake O’Connor, Cortney Palm, David Rountree, Katherine Shaw, Wayne River Sorrell, Meredith Thomas, Brittany Underwood, Julian von Nagel, Ryan Allan Young, & Stepehn Zimpel.
Thunder Road Incorporated.
Not Rated. 98 minutes.
Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller

★★★1/2
Dark Tapes 1Director Michael McQuown sent me a screener for his and co-director Vincent J. Guastini’s independent film, The Dark Tapes. I’d heard of it awhile, hearing plenty of good things. Not overhyped; hyped just enough. I’m always ready to dig in on a found footage flick, no matter how tired the sub-genre seems to get with so many low budget efforts being pumped out simply to get a director and some actors a credit to their names.
The Dark Tapes isn’t a perfect movie. There are a few missteps that could’ve been avoided to make the whole thing more effective, certain tapes in the lot aren’t as good as others. Often anthologies suffer from this fate. The lesser tapes are still good. There’s nothing bad here. Each tape, regardless of its setbacks, has an eerie quality to it respectively.
McQuown and Guastini use a meagre budget wisely, choosing to use effects sparingly and, for the most part, they work. This is one of their best moves, because they don’t set the bar too high yet clearly focused on staying creepy. There are standouts in the series of tapes, presented through the narrative of being proof of government conspiracy-type stuff, the truth the powers that be suppress and keep from the people – a couple deserve their own full-length treatments. Certain segments stand up with some of the best of the V/H/S series (no surprise considering Guastini is not only an effects guy, he did work on the third entry, Viral).
Dark Tapes 2My only beef, and I’ll get to this first before discussing what I enjoyed so much, is that the directing is mostly excellent. Then, they choose to show us too much. For the longest time what we only get glimpses of in frame is what drives the pulse-pounding terror. As you can see in the photo above, that’s a startling shot. Love that moment; freezing the frame only compounds the fear. However, the directors lose some of that momentum later when they choose to show this demonic figure up close for too long. They try offsetting this with the use of camera glitches (et cetera). But it never makes up for the undoing of the fright from seeing the creature long enough we can start picking out some of the less stellar aspects of its creation.
The rest of the tapes are presented with brief shots and bits that are framed properly so that the low budget qualities don’t glare. And honestly, it’s only the one main demon in the “To Catch a Demon” segments that comes off as cheesy, which is late in the game. Otherwise, in the “Amanda’s Revenge” tape, the creatures (or whatever you want to call them) look legitimately gnarly, in the best horror sense. Particularly in that tape, we get some wonderfully old school film shots, the rickety frame, catching a presence in the distance, and it’s so genuinely perfect for the type of eeriness for which this segments is aiming.
Dark Tapes 3The tapes have an overall framing narrative, though I think that while there’s a connection between the tapes as a whole, it isn’t as connective as the filmmakers might hope. Mostly, I don’t feel that the connections are tight enough. The writing is interesting, at every turn. I can’t help think McQuown could’ve brainstormed something better to make them all into the cohesive unit the beginning (and mid-credits) speech we hear wishes it’d become. If this were tighter then it would’ve greatly improved the film.
But the stories, they’re fresh. Even in the moments some of them don’t exactly work as intended, they’re innovative. I found “The Hunters and the Hunted” was my favourite because it caught me so off guard once the revelation came, until then I expected a run of the mill bit of paranormal shlock; a proper twist, if there ever were! Also enjoyed “Cam Girls” except the end devolved into a ham-fisted mess. Before that it was wildly creepy, the editing made it feel very kinetic and full of horrific energy; while it falls apart later with absolutely no subtlety and a ton of unnecessary exposition that could’ve been given to us through imagery earlier (a missed opportunity), this segment  was insane.
And “Cam Girls” has an underlying metaphor in it, about our porn-obsessed culture that involves men watching women through their screens performing, some thinking they’re falling in love just by watching. If only the plot of this segment were worked out better, it’d be a devastating short.
Dark Tapes 5For a low budget, non-studio film, The Dark Tapes has an impressive production value. This is one of the things that keeps even the lesser pieces involving, it’s better than the average indie found footage attempt. With so many of these sub-genre flicks saturating the market, incredibly easy to make on a shoestring to non-existent budget, it’s nice to see what’s so obviously a labour of horror love come to the screen from these directors.
Sure, not every segment is perfect. A couple are scary as hell. And like I’ve yammered on, even in those segments which don’t measure up there’s still things to pique your interest. If anything, the effort the team on this film put in is astounding. Kudos to them all, I certainly hope that McQuown and Guastini do more, whether it’s in found footage that’s up to them. Without a doubt they’ve got horror sensibilities.
The Dark Tapes, warts and all, is one of the better found footage movies I’ve seen as of late, running the gamut of horror, thriller, and science fiction with relative ease. Like Tales of HalloweenHolidaysV/H/S, and Southbound, this is an anthology worth dipping into for a fright.

Outcast – Season 2, Episode 1: “Bad Penny”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 1: “Bad Penny”
Directed by Tricia Brock
Written by Chris Black

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “This Little Light” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, click here.
Pic 1Can’t go wrong with starting on a Crowded House tune! And what about the demons left lurking in Rome, West Virginia?
Right now, we see a young Kyle Barnes (Asher Miles Fallica) at the diner with his mom. Inside, the woman at the cash stares at her with malicious intent. There’s a spirit possessing her. Is it the one that founds it way inside Kyle’s mom all those years ago?
In present day, Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) heads to that very same diner, looking for someone. Noises in the back lead him to a poor, possessed soul who runs when confronted, tearing his arms apart on barbed wire to get away.
Kyle (Patrick Fugit) and his little girl Amber (Madeleine McGraw) are doing all right. Getting by, anyways. The world they live in is still a scary place, that’s not changed. Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) is kicking around, too. Filled with guilt. He burned down the trailer where Sidney (Brent Spiner) was hiding out, though the malevolent demon isn’t anywhere to be found. Anderson and Kyle aren’t on the same page anymore, as the rev doesn’t feel useful in the fight against evil nowadays.
Anderson: “You think the devil is local? Sticks to the tricounty area?”
Pic 1AMegan (Wrenn Schmidt) is being kept under close watch. She’s still not right, nor will she ever be, really. Her brother’s doing all he can to help, though between the possession and the tragedy she caused while under a demonic spell it’ll be a while before she can drag herself back from this dark, despair-filled pit. There’s also Patricia (Melinda McGraw), whose boy is gone, missing. The rev tries to assure her it wasn’t her fault, forces outside of her control took hold of the boy.
Out around town Chief Giles is trying to find the trespasser he’d been chasing earlier. The Mayor (Toby Huss) certainly doesn’t see whey he’s so bent out of shape, and nobody’s too willing to buy into much Giles is saying lately after the ordeal with Anderson and everything else that happened. Later, Kyle and Giles meet to talk about Sidney. There are still so many answers left to be uncovered, understood. Neither Kyle nor Giles understand it fully, definitely not the latter. “Makes you wonder how far this thing goes,” the chief says, wondering aloud. And that’s a good point. How far have these demons reached? I’m willing to bet a lot further than only Rome.
Anderson is trying to find a way to get past his own guilt, either by helping Patricia to find her son, or even helping himself along the road. He finds his way to a sort of backwoods-type church, where they say the darkness can be cast out if you’re seeking help. Could it be entirely the opposite? Are dark forces awaiting those who come in need at that makeshift chapel?


Kyle is out demon hunting, where he runs into Ogden (Pete Burris). He says Sidney’s gone, to the “beacon” that’s been calling him. Possibly the same place where Anderson ended up in the woods. Either way, Ogden is in bad shape – “He took my wife, he took my truck. Devil took my life, who gives a fuck?” – and dangerous, as well. After doing the bidding of his possessed wife and Sidney, he’s a ruined man. Rightfully so, for all the harm and horror he’s been a part of so long. Before the man can be of any help he blows a hole through his face.
Up with her aunt Megan, Amber tries to explain she did nothing wrong to her husband; it was the “black thing” her own father knows so well and told her about before. Smart little lady. I worry, though. She’s surrounded by so much darkness, there’s always a fear she might get sucked up in it like she came so close to in Season 1. She goes on exploring the old place where her dad and aunt used to spend time as kids, a place they didn’t associate with good memories. In the attic, she finds cousin Holly by herself. She says she’s hiding from Amber, believing her cousin made her mother sick. That’s so sad, breaks my heart.
Kyle does manage to get names from Ogden before he dies, and he gets in contact with the reverend for help. They go forward to find the remaining name left on the list: Joshua Austin (Gabriel Bateman). The boy is in the dark by himself. He tells the two Sidney and his mother told him what Kyle did was wrong, that he ought to be in trouble with the law. Kyle soon gets answers from him, then he and Anderson are no their way once more.


With a burned down house and a body inside, Chief Giles is butting heads with Officer Nunez (Briana Venskus). I can see her causing him problems sooner than later.
But the real story is that Joshua’s mother returns, and Kyle lays hands on her. The reaction of the demon is clear, though Anderson believes something isn’t right. The demon has taken her over, “too far gone” to help. This sends Kyle into a rage, wanting to end this once and for all before the demons ruin another young child’s life like they did his and his mother.
So he goes to find Sidney, finding only Joshua’s father. The man isn’t well. “You just delayed the inevitable,” he tells Kyle before attacking him viciously. When the demon starts sucking the essence from him, Anderson gets there in time with Giles to pop a few shots in the guy. We discover there’s no releasing the demonic spirit after it’s integrated itself deep enough into the human host; then, dead is dead.
At the hospital, Kyle goes to see his mother. He meets with Dr. Park (Hoon Lee) about what’s going on with her; she’s actually dying now after decades of inactivity in a coma-like state. He has to face her death, alongside everything else. Simultaneously, Anderson demands Giles put him in jail for killing Patricia’s son when he burned down the trailer, trying any way he can to rid himself of the guilt he feels crushing his soul.
Pic 4There are a lot of things happening in Rome, West Virginia! Very interesting opener to Season 2. I’m looking forward to more. This series has been great since the first episode, and I feel like they’re hitting a beautiful, disturbing, fresh stride with every subsequent chapter.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Seven: “Father of Lies”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 7: “Father of Lies”
Directed by Tinge Krishnan
Written by Charise Castro Smith

* For a review of Chapter Six, “Star of the Morning” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Eight, “The Griefbearers” – click here
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Possession has gripped Chicago.
At a Roman Catholic Church service, Angela and Henry Rance (Geena Davis & Alan Ruck), their daughter Kat (Brianne Howey), many people are gathered. Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is leading everyone, praying for Casey Rance’s (Hannah Kasulka) safe return to her family.
Nine days prior, Father Tomas rushes Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) and a horrifically unwell Casey to see Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan). The girl is obviously close to being “integrated” with the demon inside her. All the same, it looks like Fathers Marcus and Tomas are on the same page. Right now they have to keep Pazuzu at bay. He wants revenge.
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The media circus surrounding the Rance family and grandma Chris MacNeil (Sharon Gless). Sounds as if Chris is taking her role in the family more seriously, regretting the past and what she did to their family using Regan’s plight for financial gain.
Bernadette worries if they can’t beat the demon they’ll be unleashing an “ancient violence into the world.” For his part, Marcus has more faith than anybody. Ironic, no? The man who’s been excommunicated wants to fight the forces against God the most.
With the creepiness going on in the upper echelons involving Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the police superintendent, the priest with whom Father Tomas meets, there’s no telling what might happen next. One thing is made perfectly clear: Marcus is an enemy of the Church. That means many things at the moment.
The Rances and Chris give an interview concerning Casey. Naturally, the past tries to emerge. Right away things go sour. The interviewer goes hard at them until Angela and Henry walk out. Instead of solely trying to find the girl, the media wants to dig up dirt first. Typical of certain news outlets. At the same time Casey’s being exorcised, or at least the trio of exorcists – Tomas, Marcus, and Bernadette – try doing the job. Tomas walks away with a bite, and Pazuzu smiles from inside Casey; almost loving the exorcism. So damn creepy. Moreover, Marcus feels responsible now for Casey, after the end of last episode when he nearly expelled the demon for good.
Outside of the Rance house people are holding up signs, some hateful Westboro Baptist Church-like and other more Gothic. A woman confronts Angela about Casey having killed her husband in the ambulance, calling her daughter “demon girl.” Henry quickly rushes his wife back inside.

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Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) has to deal with all those crooked weirdos, including one of the ring leaders Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). He’s come up with a bit of dirt on the finances of those involved with the Papal Planning Committee. Oh, this is all too ominous! I’m worried for Bennett. I like him a lot, and worry his time is drawing to a close. Hopefully he proves me wrong. Seeing all those kooks around him is chilling.
At the house, Chris mentions to Father Tomas he reminds her of one of the priests who helped Regan; she’s talking about Father Damien Karras. Well, Tomas does his best in comforting Angela and her family. He has “faith,” but Angela particularly isn’t convinced. Having a demon come back for her four decades after the first possession, now for her daughter? I’d probably not be too hopeful about God, either. Meanwhile, Casey’s body is withering. And that nasty bastard Pazuzu, he’s hiding. There are literal maggots eating the girl alive, worming through her flesh. If they can’t draw Pazuzu out, they can’t finish the exorcism. If they can’t finish the exorcism, the girl dies. Even worse Bernadette feels that the case is a lost cause, and that perhaps Marcus holding on so dearly, fighting so hard might no longer be about her; is he fighting because of his own past, or does he still genuinely believe? I’m inclined to say the latter.
Angela and her mother talk seriously for the first time in a long while. Chris tells her daughter she’s a good mother. Even the girl formerly known as Regan admits that growing up in the lap of celebrity wasn’t always so bad. Further than that, she understands now how hard it had to be for Chris to watch her be possessed, virtually helpless.
Back with Casey, Father Marcus tries using love to cast out the “Star of the Morning” (but isn’t the demon itself Pazuzu from when it possessed Regan? Little confused on that one now) and make it understand it is forgiven. The girl comes to a moment, crying: “No more.”


The ever diligent Father Bennett finds himself in a precarious position, snooping around looking for clues. He locates the burned ashes of the organs used in the Ceremony of Ash, Vocare Pulvere. He’s also being watched, by one of the possessed homeless men. When he comes across a room full of dead, bloodied corpses, some of the possessed men attack. He manages to fend them off, then starts killing demons like a bad motherfucker. YES! YES! This must continue. We need more Bennett in our lives.
Tomas is slipping further from the faith, as he’s in bed with Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) and shirking those vows he took; not that I agree with his vows, but still. Although it’s not exactly as if he’s easily doing it, the whole situation evidently weighs heavy on his soul. She can tell. We can tell. He winds up going out to try getting something for his bite and gets punched in the face by a pharmacy customer. Maria bails him out. That ain’t good. She acts as a shoulder to cry on. But maybe, after being passed over for demonic possession, she’ll have a change of heart? Yeah, right.
Things at the Rance house are rough. Angela’s breaking down. She asks to have Father Tomas come over, her mind is frantic, her speech, too. She believes that Casey’s dead. “Part of me is gone,” she tells Tomas, her husband, Kat, Chris, each of them watching with a deep sadness in their eyes.


Marcus is about to administer a cup of belladonna tea to Casey when he realises “This is his design; I will not interfere.” He won’t give up on her. His faith is so pure that there’s no stopping him. And likewise, Angela isn’t giving up. Tomas brings her in and from the moment Pazuzu senses her, he comes alive once more. He is drawn out.
A sow,” the demon says looking at the woman he once knew as Regan. It is time for a brutal battle between the one who got away and that ancient evil, Pazuzu.


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What a fascinating and well-written episode! Another of my favourites, I think. There is so much depth to these characters, I can’t even imagine where to begin on that. Also, side note: the score is fucking incredible, that piano riff we hear that plays off the intro song. I mean, I honestly feel this series surprised me, many of us. It is leagues better than I ever hoped.
Let’s get geared up for Chapter Eight “The Griefbearers” next week. And how will the showdown between the demon and Regan MacNeil go? I wonder.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Five: “Through My Most Grievous Fault”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 5: “Through My Most Grievous Fault”
Directed by Jason Ensler
Written by David Grimm

* For a review of Chapter Four, “The Moveable Feast” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Five, “Star of the Morning” – click here
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A demonic confrontation is upon us!
Will the power of the Lord compel this evil force from young Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka)? Can Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) band together and do what’s necessary?
The two priests sit together on a stairway not unlike the one from William Friedkin’s original classic, the first adaptation of William Peter Blatty and his terrifying novel. Above the man, a dark sky brews in metaphorical turmoil.
Inside the Rance house, Kat (Brianne Howey) sleeps, as does her mother Angela (Alan Ruck & Geena Davis). Dear ole dad Henry (Alan Ruck) is up with his daughter, in the grip of her possession. She’s chained, starting to look pretty ghastly. Henry tries to pray over her and comfort what humanity is left. Suddenly Casey speaks to her father sweetly of a “secret” and asking if he’d like to hear: “Closer,” she says. Oh, no. She pulls him tight, as the demon whispers and tongues her father’s ear. Yuck – in the best horror way. Only afterwards Henry’s acting strange.
I wonder: what did that naughty demon say? I’m sure we’ll find out sooner than later. It’s starting to sow the seeds of distrust and paranoia amongst those closest to Casey.
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Poor Kat. She’s still heartbroken, in the throes of sadness and guilt at once. She leafs through all the memories of her lost love. That is, until the noises from the room next door begin. She hasn’t yet discovered the gruesome truth of all the exorcism talk. Angela isn’t having an easy go of it, either. She feels a ton of guilt, too. All the while she tries drowning out the noise of the priests doing their duty upstairs.
And what about upstairs? Father Marcus reels off prayer at the demon, who speaks directly to Father Tomas, calling him out for being “a liar” and ranting at them both in English and Latin alike. All prior to doing a few parlour tricks, like pulling out one of Casey’s toenails – “Isnt it wonderful?” asks the demon in creepy rhetorical fashion.
Henry isn’t acting normal. He starts talking a bit about God, asking whether she’s ever lied to him. She won’t answer, and it becomes clear there’s something she’s hidden. What is it, exactly?
The demon turns up the heat on Father Tomas, speaking as his grandmother from beyond the grave. He tries to resist, as Father Marcus advises not to “let it in your head.” But Ortega fights back, tossing holy water and trying to push against the unholiness. Then the flying act starts, and Casey’s body is tossed from one end of the room to the other. It won’t stop “till she gives me her rancid little soul,” spake the demon. Both priests know they’re in for a far large, more brutal fight than anticipated.

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That Salesman (Robert Emmet Lumney) is back, of course. Literally sitting on Casey’s chest; a perfect metaphor for the life being choked out of her. And he stresses to the girl: “Bring her to me!” So is the real target Casey, or is it Kat? Or maybe he’s just talking of Casey’s soul. Who knows. I just feel like there’s more to Kat and her personal story, that it’ll play into the overall story more relevantly eventually.
Tomas hears the voice of Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) calling him. You know it’s just the demon, imitating, twisting at the souls of others. Yet in the room is a vision of her. Can Tomas repel the “unclean spirit” on his own? No, he can’t, not on his own. Marcus isn’t happy with it, Tomas is compromised, and in the middle of it all Kat gets a shocking look at her sister lying on the floor. That can’t be good for anybody.
So again, it’s Father Marcus v. demon. The nasty voice of the tainted soul comes from Casey, taunting the excommunicated priest with everything in its arsenal. “Let the blood of Christ redeem you,” he yells, pressing that rosary against Casey’s forehead. From nowhere comes a vision of Marcus’ mother, speaking to him: “You was a mistake. You was never supposed to happen.” That’s fucking rough. Oh, and Marcus, his dad beat his mother’s brains out with a hammer. She continues saying terrible things to her son, the demon rants more. But it’s not enough to take him down to the demon’s level. At the same time, Father Tomas falls down the rabbit hole with Jessica – sexually; has the demon broken him completely?


Just as I guessed, Kat called the police. This is really going to turn things into diarrhea for everyone at the Rance house, Father Marcus included. Right before he can finish things the police break in, taking him away. And the demon plays up to the expectations of the medics, the police, making it all look appropriate. Another cog in the giant wheel of its game.
From the back of the ambulance Kat sees Casey – or the demon – smile right at her. Oh, great. You already know Casey won’t be making it to the hospital. That evil force all but obliterates the ambulance, leaving the paramedics bloody and dead. Sitting in jail, Marcus hears the news of it all on television. He deciphers something the demon told him: “He is coming.” Sound familiar? Yes, yes. The papal visit.
At home, Henry keeps prodding for truth from Angela. He urges her to confess. It all has something to do with that Bible he found in the closet, with the feather, the flowers. What does it mean? Did she cheat? Did she have an abortion? What is it?
Meanwhile, Father Tomas is worried for the sin he’s committed. He’s gone against his vows. He must repent. In church he comes across Angela, she too looking for forgiveness, trying to repent for her own sins. She tells him a bit about herself and that she had an “imaginary friend” who came in the form of a little red bird. She eventually became somebody else, moving away from her old life and getting far from her mother.


But guess what? Grandma’s back. The secret is out: Angela was Regan MacNeil! No way! DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. Shit.
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What an impressive twist to this episode. I cannot wait for the next chapter, this is wild. And to think, I thought it was some cheating or abortion story. She blew that out of the water.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Four: “The Moveable Feast”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Moveable Feast”
Directed by Craig Zisk
Written by Adam Stein

* For a review of Chapter Three, “Let ‘Em In” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Five, “Through My Most Grievous Fault” – click here
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After Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka) went wild on that young man in the subway, she’s treated to a day of happy, happy, happy – or is it a dream? – by her mother Angela (Geena Davis), as Kat (Brianne Howey) and their father Henry (Alan Ruck) wait at the table. She’s served a nasty meal of miscarried chicken fetuses. The Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney) shows up, too. Casey’s feet are held to the floor by a strange, evil-looking growth. They all want her to eat. “Why resist, darling?” asks the Salesman. She was sold a bill of goods that aren’t what they seemed in the beginning. Demonic possession ain’t all it’s cracked up to be! The demon needs permission to be let in. He doesn’t have it. Not quite yet. But it’s coming, whether Casey likes it or not.
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She’s stashed away in a psychiatric ward for 72 hours. Seeing as how she tore that dude apart on the train; not like he didn’t deserve it, the rapey bastard. Anyways, the Rance family are all struck dumb by everything that’s happened. Worried sick. Angela calls Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera), naturally, who gets to the hospital promptly. Angela knows there’s something very wrong with her daughter, and upset the church won’t help. How long until she forces the case into someone else’s hands? Well, the curling iron burns to Casey’s genitals make everybody a little more than nervous.
Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) is out rallying for his cause. He’s been given a short list of names to check out, suggested by Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan). He happens to spy a nun at one church with a suspicious injury on her face. Hmm. Then he finds that same nun – Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan) – in the midst of a circle of other sisters, in front of a possessed man in a hideous state. She stands up against the creature’s swiping at her, being pushed to the floor; Marcus nearly rushes in, although she gestures for him to stay put. Eventually, she brings the man and the demon inside him to her mercy, holding him against her chest a moment before laying him to the ground. A mysterious, powerful moment.
At the hospital, the Salesman talks to Casey about how “resistance” is ruining her beautiful face. She understands the trick behind all the seduction. However, now that she’s in pain there’s that temptation of letting go, falling headlong into the abyss. One thing’s for sure: that Salesman is god damn unnerving, every time he’s onscreen.

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Riding around Chicago on a Serial Killer Tour bus, Father Marcus is still curious about the latest murders, the organs and limbs and various human bits taken by people into the night. He’s worried for whatever is coming.
The Rances try hard to get through their predicament. Henry comforts his wife saying he’ll do what’s necessary to help their daughter. We’ll see if the help comes from Father Tomas or Marcus. I’m betting the latter. Because Tomas is busy with Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), trying to do a bit of political-type leaning in order to get higher permission for an exorcism. When I imagine Marcus would probably just go for it. Such are the benefits of excommunication, I guess. But Father Tomas, he has the will. He bones up on his study of exorcisms. Right as his almost more than friend Jessica (Mouzam Makkar). She’s found that her husband has been being unfaithful to her. Oh, my. Something else to conflict Tomas, as he wrestles with the most extreme lengths of his Catholic faith.
Over in a trailer someplace, Father Marcus sits with the tour bus guides Lester and Cherry Rego. The know Bennett, it turns out. “An exorcist with a gun,” the priest calls himself. “Evils a moveable feast,” says Lester once they get down to talking business. The Chicago crime rate is brought into the concept of evil touching down in the heartland of America. So, the body parts, “vocare pulvere” the “Ceremony of Ash” and all that comes into play.
Casey has it worse and worse by the minute at the hospital, her condition seemingly out of control. Except the Salesman comes back talking to her about nasty things. There’s no escape for her.

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Finally, Father Marcus meets Mother Bernadette, whose humour is much better than you’d expect. They’re both pretty sly characters, I love it. Their chat circles around, of course, the act of exorcism. She knows Father Bennett, but likewise understands the plight of Marcus, as well as that of the Holy Father and his looming visit. Possession cases, like crime, are heading up, up, up. Bernadette suggests Marcus doesn’t need to necessarily follow all the rules. Rather, he must take his ego out of the picture a little more.
Kat’s not happy about her sister being prepped for exorcism. Even Henry, after the train in the last episode, is on board. Although I worry about Tomas hoping to “unofficially” take care of things. He might botch it, and who knows what that’ll do. Speaking of exorcisms, Father Marcus is in the middle of the nun circle, face to face with that possessed man. He brings the demon into an embrace: “You are redeemed. You are loved.” He learns of a new approach in the fight against the devil’s legions. One with a slightly more feminine touch out of Bernadette’s handbook that just might give him the edge he needs in the battles to come.
Continually Casey is taunted by the Salesman, to let the demons inside. He chokes one of the nurses, insisting she give in and say the word. She nearly does before Angela barges in. For now the Salesman recedes. He’s not gone, only in the background again for a moment. Casey’s let out of the hospital. He’ll be back.

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With Father Marcus refreshed in the concept of exorcism, he heads back to see Father Tomas, who keeps on studying. Better than that the younger priest asks for help. He doesn’t care anymore about the rules of the church, and is willing to go all the way to help Casey. So now there’s two renegade bad asses ready to take on the devil. They prepare themselves a proper room with restraints, boards nailed with coverings in the windows, all kinds of things to make Casey’s room in the Rance house suitable for exorcism.
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Can’t wait to see what happens next. Chapter Five “Through My Most Grievous Fault” ought to be quite a trip!

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Three: “Let ‘Em In”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 3: “Let ‘Em In”
Directed by Michael Nankin
Written by Dre Ryan

* For a review of Chapter Two, “Lupus in Fabula” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Four, “The Moveable Feast” – click here
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Five months before current events, Kat Rance (Brianne Howey) and her friend Julia (Charlotte Thomas) are driving together, talking about men. Until the conversation takes a turn to the fact Julia seems to be in love with her. Kat’s in love right back. Ah, the intrigue pours out now. After the crash, it wasn’t just the loss of a friend. It was the loss of a great, beautiful love between the two. Even more tragic. No wonder she was utterly devastated. Bad enough to have a friend die, which I’ve experienced, but to then have been in love with said friend, a likely secretive lesbian love, it’s so damn sad.
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Angela Rance (Geena Davis) hears a zealot ranting on the streets. He locks eyes with her, almost falling to the ground. Fucking weird, and definitely unsettles her. She receives Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) at the same time, who’s likewise entranced by the ravings of the man on the street. Except maybe even more.
At one of the crime scenes from the end of the last episode, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) tries getting a bit of information from some men outside. They say someone took the victim’s eyes out.
Over at the church, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) speaks with Henry Rance (Alan Ruck). We discover that he had an accident at work, some scaffolding hit him in the head and that’s why he’s been so aloof. But still, he’s worried for his daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka). No worries, though. Father Keane and his street corncob are on the case!
Speaking of Casey, she’s talking to that dreaded Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney). He keeps showing up when nobody’s around, as we now know he’s a mere apparition of her mind; I would assume of the devil. In the meantime, Father Marcus is looking around Casey’s room, getting a feel for her personality.

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During a fancy dinner, Cardinal Guillot (Torrey Hanson) is being applauded for his efforts in planning the Pope’s motorcade. There’s discussion of the Pope going through some of the poorer neighbourhoods. Of course the Holy See team aren’t exactly excited about that, although Father Tomas gets to have his say, hoping to extract the idea of “violence” out of a discussion on the poor. He further speaks about how they have much to offer in that “spiritually they are rich.” Everything’s interrupted when that crazy street zealot turns up, burning alive outside. What a fright.
Casey sits with Father Tomas and Father Marcus in the back of the church. When the younger priest gets a bit far ahead of himself, the older, more experienced exorcist steps in to ask questions. He ingratiates himself with Casey, talking about the things he’s learned of her at the Rance house. He refers to things in terms of gardening, plants and their nature. This is all a segue into prodding at the demon inside Casey. When pushed sufficiently, the Salesman turns up behind her, looming. He whispers instructions in her ear. “He doesnt lie,” she tells Father Marcus. The Salesman pleads with the girl to get out. The room then starts to shake, lights flicker, a picture falls from the wall and smashes. Finally, the presence in her comes out, strong and in control. It talks of Gabriel, the boy Father Marcus had tried to exorcise before his neck was cracked. “The universe burst open. The eye of God dilated wide and you were at the centre of his disinterest,” speaks the demon. It knows quite a bit, which horrifies Father Tomas.
Bringing their recording to Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) and Father Bennett, the two rogue priests aren’t received too well. Father Marcus pleads that she spoke in “Aramaic” and is obviously possessed. Also, Bennett has brought along with him a letter of excommunication for Marcus. He’s naturally pissed, particularly considering he now knows the demons talk to one another, that they are “sharing information” like spies. But out he goes, kicked to the curb.

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Everyone is getting ready for a memorial to Julia, a dance performance by their company. While in the bathroom, Casey finds herself being manipulated by the Salesman, the demon in her. It pushes the curling iron against her skin, to the point she eventually begins to look to love it. Very eerie. And if you notice, she… goes lower than you might expect. Yes, that old crucifix scene has become something far more nasty and sinister.
With Marcus now booted from the church, Father Tomas wants to be taught how to exorcise demons. Because without the church, as Marcus says: “Im just a man in a room.” Ultimately, Father Tomas wants to help the Rances, to get that demon out of Casey. Marcus warns against getting too deep, that he ought to gather evidence then put it in the hands of the church. You know Tomas is not going to do that.
Before the memorial all the dancers give their props to Julia, pouring out some whiskey, drinking some. At least until Casey grabs hold of the bottle, as everybody whispers and points, wondering what she’s doing. Then when Kat confronts her she goes a bit wild. The demon’s been provoked by Father Marcus, lashing out at the golden sister. Who knows how bad it will get from here on in.
Father Tomas meets with Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the head of the committee concerning the papal visit. He tells her a story about coming to America for the first time. Afterwards, she gives him a hundred thousand dollars for his parish. She’s rich, coming from a wealthy family that makes sturdy glass. What she truly wants is help to clean up their city.

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Father Marcus, saying fuck excommunication, goes banging on doors, but Father Bennett picks him up, obviously keeping tabs on him. Marcus is worried about those murders, the body parts taken; something to do with summoning a demon. Then Bennett brings up the self-immolation of the street zealot, which was found to have no source other than the body. Hmm.
During the dance performance Casey takes off, her father following. On a train, the two of them talk, though suddenly Henry has a bit of problem and fades out. Some guys get up in Casey’s face, one specifically, and not a soul does anything to help. That’s when the evil starts to break loose, as she sees the Salesman come towards her, no one else the wiser. He kisses her on the lips, passionately. The final embrace.
And so Casey kicks the shit out of the guy. A bit… unnaturally. She starts to send men flying around the train car. The iPhones trying to film all zap out. Casey tears the skin right from the one guy’s bones: “If you want it rough, all you had to do was ask.” She further reaches into his jaw and cracks it sideways. Covered in blood, she stands wobbling. After that she goes full Regan and pisses herself on the floor. Wow.

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This was the BEST EPISODE YET! Amazing. Lots of terror, more interesting bits of character. And lots of Ben Daniels being a fucking bad ass. Love how the demonic possession is framed, using The Salesman, as a seduction. Interesting and unique.
Next is “The Moveable Feast” – nice Ernest Hemingway reference for the literature lovers.

One of Horror’s Most Underappreciated Sequels – AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

Amityville II: The Possession. 1982. Directed by Damiano Damiani. Screenplay by Tommy Lee Wallace; based on the book by Hans Holzer.
Starring James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Andrew Pine, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Ted Ross, Erika Katz, Brent Katz, & Leonardo Cimino. Dino De Laurentiis Company/Media Transactions.
Rated R. 104 minutes.
Horror

★★★★
posterNot sure why certain horror sequels aren’t appreciated as much as others. It’s a strange phenomenon that doesn’t always happen to crime or drama movies when sequels come out. Many people love The Godfather Part II above the original, which is fair; I do, too. Other people loved Die Hard so much that Die Hard 2, despite its many shortcomings, thrilled them to no end. Yet horror fans seem much more reluctant about which sequels they approve of, which ones they think are trash. I’m definitely in the minority here, but I love movies such as Exorcist II: The Heretic (in no way better than the original Friedkin – still an awesome, unfairly judged sequel), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (an unheralded sequel that doesn’t beat its predecessor and still manages to do great things in retrospect), and yes, Amityville II: The Possession.
Where those other two horror sequels were good but failed to outdo the originals, I feel Amityville II beats the first on all counts. You heard me.
Why is that? Well, there are a lot of reasons. You can never tell for sure if the sequel is really a sequel; it can almost act like a prequel. Of course it’s a sequel. Just fun that there’s a lot of interesting parallels with this film and the actual story of Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr’s, the man whose vicious crimes against his family inspired The Amityville Horror. Then there’s the sheer terror of the plot, a much darker vision of a family torn apart by supernatural forces than the first could ever have hoped to become. Part of the big reason why this movie does so well is that Tommy Lee Wallace wrote the script. There are those who might not agree with me, however, Wallace hasn’t been given the credit he’s due over the years. He did a handful of things that weren’t so great. But Halloween III: Season of the Witch (he wrote/directed) and It (directed both parts; wrote second part) are classics, to my mind. His work here has gone largely unnoticed except for a small group of fans worldwide. He manages to take the scariness of the series in an appropriately disturbing direction, perhaps why so many refuse to recognise the film’s greatness. Regardless, Wallace creates a much more penetrating nightmare than the original with uncredited screenplay help from Dardano Sacchetti (too many movies to list) and wonderful cinematography from Franco Di Giacomo.
If you haven’t seen this yet: do it now. If you’ve seen it and forget its greatness, it’s time to revisit.
pic1Quickly you’ll find the camera work is more inventive and fluid than the first film, as well as the fact it helps put you in a very different psychological perspective. Almost like we start to see from the point-of-view of the house, or the ghosts and demons lurking within its walls. For instance, early on when the mother is in the basement and has one of the men look in the crawlspace, a tracking shot comes out of the hole in the wall and sneaks behind her. She tells her son moments later: “Somebodytouched me.” Di Giacomo and Wallace utilise this shot to great effect. In another film we’d see the mother walking away from the crawlspace, a ghostly apparition behind her reaching to touch the shoulder, and then cut to NOTHING behind her. Instead, this makes us feel as if we’re seeing what the ghosts (or demons or whatever) are seeing. It’s a visceral shot, placing us in the ghostly perspective. This reoccurs over and over. Not repetitively, but to amplify this effect.
There’s a moment when this ends, and we then witness things normally, as Sonny Montelli (Jack Magner) is possessed. The camera techniques change, though still effective. Moreover, the narrative changes and we’re dragged through a disturbing story that decidedly overshadows the first film.
Whereas The Amityville Horror focused on George Lutz (James Brolin), his normal family, and his later complete mental breakdown at the hands of the house, Sonny’s possession comes from a darker place. The Montelli family are a troubled bunch already. Before we ever see Anthony Montelli (an excellently rough performance from legendary Burt Young) lay a finger on anybody, a bit of dialogue tunes us into his abusiveness. From there on the abusive father figure in him comes out, terribly at times. It gets worse, too. Apparently a couple scenes that had to be cut include one where Anthony forces himself on his wife Dolores (Rutanya Alda), to a graphic extent. What’s left in the film includes dialogue behind closed doors, suggestions from daughter Patricia (Diane Franklin). Once the house starts possessing Sonny, on top of making most of the family look crazy to the violent patriarch, everything gets really evil. Sonny seduces his own sister into incest, and then later murders every last one of them with a rifle; exactly like Butch DeFeo did. The original depicted an otherwise loving family man, a stepfather taking in his wife’s children as if he were their own, becoming a sinister, abusive person. The sequel taps into something more ugly, in the right kind of way for good horror, by way of the already fractured family. A large reason for this being better than the first.
pic3The big changeover scene where the possession fully takes place, crossing us over from the point-of-view tracking shots to a more steadily framed view of the horror – is what I call “the stomach scene”: we watch as the camera zooms in and out on Sonny’s body, mostly his stomach, as he sweats and screams and moans while the demonic spirit enters him. It’s a – pardon this pun – gut wrenching scene. Magner sells it totally, which is amazing considering that his only other film is the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter. But Magner, the camera technique, really takes you into his physical transformation. I also consider part of this sequel body horror. Reason being, Sonny experiences a physical shift, his skin often fattens up, getting lumpy, or getting more emaciated. The process of possession, naturally, wouldn’t be such a breeze as all of a sudden there’s a demon inside you, some ghost inhabiting your flesh. Sonny goes through a terrifyingly nasty transformation before our eyes. This culminates in an amazing scene near the end where we actually see the demon in him for a moment, breaking through the skin to emerge in all its sticky, gruesome glory. There are a number of moments where the body horror element takes hold. Each worth the time to pause on, as even the makeup is bang on.
Some other favourite moments –
When Patricia figures out her brother, or whatever’s inside him, only seduced her for the evil of the act, it’s a heartbreaking moment. Because incest is awful, first of all. Secondly, she admits to Sonny that their time together didn’t make her feel bad; she genuinely feels love for him, no matter if it’s an awfully wrong thing to do. Still, to see her shamefully admit to all that with the priest, the fact she understands Sonny(/the demon) only does it to “hurt God” is crushing.
One of the best tracking shots in the demonic POV is when it goes through the quiet house and sees a crucifix hanging on the wall. The demon makes strange noises, groaning, then tosses a sheet over the crucifix to hide it. A brilliant, brief scene that I always have to replay a couple times. It’s eerie, as well as kind of darkly humorous.
The priest flicking the aspergillum, both he and Patricia seeing it as thick bloody being sprinkled all over the bedroom, is an awesome horror movie moment. Both for the blood flying everywhere and the fact of the double hallucination. Very cool.
pic2For me, Amityville II: The Possession is a classic of the horror genre. Totally underrated, underappreciated. You don’t have to think it’s the greatest, there are still mistakes or things Wallace could have made better. I can’t discount what’s he done with this sequel, though. He outdoes the original, adds a bit of backstory (we get short mentions of a supposed witch expelled from Salem who built the house over an ancient Indian burial ground; an element reused in the original’s 2005 remake). His story of the family is beyond disturbing material, in a way that makes for a compelling supernatural-leaning plot. Finally, the camera work and the way it plays into the psychological terror is perfect; the one aspect of the film I find untouchable.
Maybe you don’t feel the same way. Nothing wrong with that, either. I only urge people to reconsider, watch the film again. This time you might just discover something that you didn’t the first time you saw it. I suggest a double bill of this and the original, compare them. This is the better movie, by a long shot. Dig in. There’s lots of horror here for a dark October night leading up to Halloween.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”
Directed by Michael Nankin
Written by Heather Bellson

* For a review of Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Three: “Let ‘Em In” – click here
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Young boys in a dark room are ordered around by a nasty man with a thick Irish brogue. One of them is lead down into a darker part of the large basement, in whatever building they’re stowed away. The kid takes a Holy Bible with him into a long tunnel-like corridor. At the end is a man plagued by a demon possessing him.
Cut to Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) – that was little Marcus, back in the early days. Oh, I love the intrigue! In his own personal Bible, he annotates various sections. By the look of it he’s quite the devout man in his older age. Or is he merely a man trying to figure life out? Likely both. He’s troubled though, that’s more than evident.
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Angela Rance (Geena Davis) is having trouble, too. Her daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is speaking in an eerie voice, sitting alone in the dark. Whatever demon that’s possessed her is a pervert, as it turns out. And he warns Casey about her “lying, sneaking mother.” One of the creepiest scenes yet, if not the creepiest.
Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is talking with Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) about whether he might be able to conduct an exorcism. Obviously that goes over like a fart in church (appropriate joke). The modern day Catholic Church clearly looks down on all that old demon and hellfire nonsense they once preached. Ah, the ever shifting plague of Catholicism.
Meanwhile, Angela’s out keeping up appearances because that’s clearly the type of family she and space case husband Henry (Alan Ruck) have together. There’s a looming visit for Pope Sebastian on the horizon. A perfect addition for any horror, particularly one involving demons. Speaking of which, Casey calls mom in a speechless panic. At home upstairs, mom finds no Casey. The family gets home and things are feeling confused. Gets worse when they uncover a sickly nest of centipedes squirming around on Casey’s sheets. The beginning signs of evil.

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Father Marcus has broken into Father Tomas’ place. A man of many talents. Love how the difference between these two men couldn’t be more vast, as is explained easily with this harmless little act of breaking-and-entering. So it seems Keane is back in the game. He lets Father Tomas in on what’s happening with the demon, or what’s soon to happen. The guy’s definitely seen his share of shit. But there’s also Tomas, his pen pal relationship (and possibly more) with a woman named Jessica; who is she? Makes Keane, and us, very curious. Turns out there was a brief relationship of sorts before he took his vows. All Father Marcus is trying to make clear is that the demon can tell everything. It will use all of it against them.
During a lacrosse game, Casey sees an old man (Robert Emmet Lunney) wave to her in the stands. On the field she has a run in with a particular player, after which she turns into… someone else. She focuses on the other player whose leg soon snaps. Spooky.
At home the family is playing Jenga and having a laugh together. Except things take a turn when Angela lets slip her ideas about what’s going on with Casey. And the demon’s ready to play.
The next day at the church, Angela pleads with Father Tomas to get things moving. He’s reluctant because of what Bishop Egan said. They want more psychiatric evidence about what could be going on with the girl. Trying to snatch up a bit of holy water the mother winds up talking to Father Marcus. He happily gives out a bit of advice on the sly. “God helps those who help themselves, right?” he quips; a Ben Franklin quote. In the food line at church, the man with the messed up scalp from last episode goes up to Casey, speaking about her being chosen and then calling out: “Let me touch you.” He also makes Father Marcus double-take back to his childhood in the dark tunnel.
Tomas goes to meet with Jessica (Mouzam Makkar). There’s obviously a deeper connection between them than a platonic relationship. Her marriage is crumbling. His faith slips a little each time they communicate. He’s tempted by her, but that goes against his vows. So much conflict inside him. Nicely juxtaposed, though. He’s questioning his faith due to this woman, as well as coming up against something that absolutely represents the fact of his faith as reality: demonic possession.
Then there’s Father Marcus. He looks for the homeless man from the church, only to find another possessed wretch claiming he’s “the one we feared until you lost that little boy.” That oh so famous line comes out, only to get the reply: “Do I look compelled, man of God?” It mocks Marcus and his faith before leaving.

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At home, Angela and the family sit to eat. She apologises for being distracted lately and for lashing out emotionally in the wrong ways. She tries slipping the holy water into Casey’s drink, watching eagerly for its effects. Nothing happens while they sit around the table, which makes Angela feel at ease. But the demon rushes off quick when it can so that Casey can puke up that slimy green stuff. Plus haul a centipede out of her throat. Yikes. Possession is rough.
Later that night outside, the man from the lacrosse game tells her that a “glorious seed” is “breaching the soil.” He sits with her, Casey tells him everything. Clueless father Henry watches from the window to see nobody is actually there.
Father Tomas goes through Marcus’ things to repay the favour. When the older priest arrives, he’s a bit surprises, probably not expecting it from the younger man. Tomas is troubled, but Marcus assures: “Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” which is in part the Latin from where this episode’s title derives. Marcus reveals his father murdered his mother in front of him. He was later sold to the church for “five quid.” That’s how he ended up being 12, locked in a dark room with a demon-possessed man. But instead of feeling fear as that lonely little boy, he felt he’d discovered his purpose in life. Through this conversation Tomas and Marcus come to terms on themselves, as well as each other.
Note the amazing performance from Ben Daniels, a fabulous actor; he takes the material and lifts it off the page magically.

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In another part of the city an apartment of people are murdered. Their organs are put into containers and men take them away, joined on the street by the homeless man, and others, all carrying similar containers and loading them into a truck before heading out. “A mass homicide,” as it’s called on the news. Father Marcus listens to this and finds it suspicious, wondering if there’s more to it. The billboard advertising Pope Sebastian’s visit looms large in the street, the slogan HE IS COMING feeling prophetic in many ways.

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A fabulous follow-up to the premiere episode. Some interesting bits that I’m looking forward to watching play out over the next episodes. I like that they’re not going too hard and putting everything out there. While you can see where things are headed, there’s still a great bit of mystery involved.
Next episode is titled “Let ‘Em In” – hope they let Father Marcus loose, because you know he’s a wild one.

Dead of Summer – Season 1, Episode 10: “She Talks to Angels”

Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 10: “She Talks to Angels”
Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz

* For a review of the previous episode, “Home Sweet Home” – click here
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The finale is directed by none other than Friday the 13th Parts II and III alumni, Steve Miner! Very exciting, as we finish off Dead of Summer‘s wildly fun and unpredictable first season.
Amy (Elizabeth Lail) has been fully taken over by Malphas, as the rest of the crew are left without much clue. Jessie (Paulina Singer), Deputy Garrett (Alberto Frezza), and Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) only have the camera with all of Joel’s (Eli Goree) taped material. At least they have some kind of proof. For now, if Malphas doesn’t decide to eradicate that, or them, too.
They shove off from Camp Stillwater, each unsuspecting of the evil still lurking in Amy. When the cop car Garrett drives goes dead, the battery suddenly shutting off, things get spooky. The demon in Amy reveals itself, saying that Holyoke (Tony Todd) left the “last piece of his soul” inside Jessie. Worst is when Amy brings out the dead t0 help her – Joel, Cricket (Amber Coney) – and now everything is scarier than ever before.
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Garrett sees his father Jack (Dan Payne) out on the dock at Camp Stillwater. He disappears into thin air. Then he wakes up. It’s the day before all the counsellors show up for summer in 1989. He tells Sheriff Boyd Heelan (Charles Mesure), a.k.a the teacher. But no real help there, clearly. I guess hanging out with a weirdo you don’t yet know is a weirdo would be much better than where they are now, running from Malphas and his legion of undead.
How do we stop a demon?” asks Alex. Right before they discover a bunch of murdered corpses in the cabin. Afterwards, Malphas drops in to cause a bit of mischief. Meanwhile, bussing all the kids away from camp Drew (Zelda Williams) and Blair (Mark Indelicato) get an eerie, urgent warning from the little boy who used to see Holyoke. He tells them to go back; their friends need help.
And they do. Garrett’s hurt, although he makes sure Jessie and Alex know: “This is bigger than us.” They’re forced to leave him behind. Such is the case when you’re in a supernatural horror mystery for real, I guess.
A flashback takes us to Blair before camp. Cricket comes to see him with a new mix tape. He’s busy washing HOMO off his car; so sad. She tries to assure him things will change now that they’re finished high school. He’s a romantic, though, and wanted to meet a guy. Sadly they take about it being “me and you forever” and things we know can’t come true because of her untimely death. In their present situation, Blair and Drew try calling the cops. I don’t know if that’ll do any good. Kudos to the writers: not often in horror does anybody actually try the police.

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Lots of creepy shit is happening now in the woods. Alex and Jessie come across Blotter’s severed head on a tether-ball pole. At the same time, Malphas-Amy is calling out to anybody left at camp to play a game of capture the flag. Except the flag “is Jessie,” the demon cackles through the speakers. That scene honestly felt like it came right out of Stephen King. Dig it.
When the cops arrive at Stillwater they’re greeted by Amy – similar to how she looked as child, informing the firefighter her family is dead: “Theyre dead. Theyre all dead.” Only problem being that she now has the place totally under control. Over the speakers, Malphas-Amy talks in the policeman’s voice; the one she’s dispatched. Because the demon needs more blood to fill the lake.
Alex tries going head-on with the demon. He gets an axe to the chest, savage and bloody. Yikes. A quick and nasty death for the poor Russian immigrant, just looking for a better life. Now, Jessie is on her own out in the forest with the demon hunting her down. Soon enough she finds Garrett, Drew, and Blair.
Either way, Jessie lures Malphas-Amy into a cabin where they circle her inside purified water along the floor. In the other cabin Garrett plays the music from Holyoke’s recording, but there’s nothing on it anymore. Remember when Amy stroked the wax before they discovered she was still possessed? I knew it. God damn you, Malphas!
Well the shit hits the fan. Undead Joel, Cricket, Deb, they all show up.
Ah – Garrett remembers the tape. It has the music on it. So he broadcasts it through the walkie into the cabin, causing Malphas-Amy and the undead great pain, repelling them.
And when Malphas is weakest, Jessie plants an axe right into Amy’s head. The blood runs out of her, the demon returning to Lake Stillwater and disappearing below the surface, hopefully never to return again.

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They’ve survived, those who are left – Garrett, Jessie, Blair, and Drew. Out in the water, the dead wade back down to the depths. A fitting goodbye to them all, as the friends watch them all go.
Plus, Townie and Braces are once again together. Or are they? He’s just a ghost. I knew it, again! He died out on that bench in the woods. Love allowed him to linger on as a spirit; the light from Holyoke gifted him the extra time to help. That’s better than what I predicted before – him becoming another undead during the last big fight.
The three remaining souls walk themselves out of Camp Stillwater, for the final time. Ghostly Garrett heads into the water of the lake, to his friends, and his father. A place for everything and every thing in its place. Life moves on with Jessie going to college, Blair and Drew road tripping to Seattle for a Bowie concert (and totally in love with each other). All is well once more.
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I honestly loved this show’s first season. Hoping there’ll be a Season 2. While it wasn’t perfect, it both played up to the horror genre tropes and also subverted expectations in that regards, as well. It didn’t have to be perfect. The nostalgia, without going too overboard, along with decent writing and interesting characters made for lots of fun.
And now Stillwater’s up for rent. What could happen there? Oooooooooh.

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 10: “This Little Light”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 10: “This Little Light”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Chris Black

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Close to Home” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, click here.
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The Holter place is no longer safe. Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) has been fully taken possession of by a demon. It’s infiltrated her to the core, now her husband Mark (David Denman) is dead. Her daughter and niece are still in the house, which is terrifying. Luckily, or unfortunately, Amber’s seen this type of thing before. So she knows that calling her father, Kyle (Patrick Fugit), is likely the best possible option.
Because aunt Megan is sick. Very, very sick.
When Kyle does get there along with Rev. John Anderson (Philip Glenister), they find the absolute carnage strewn about the house. Kyle discovers Mark’s corpse, bled out on the bathroom floor. All the signs of an awful scene having gone down. In the upstairs closet, he finds the girls: “It was just like mommy,” Amber cries to her dad.
Now, the search is on for Megan. She’s out in the night, possessed, headed who knows where. For the time being it’s out onto the football field, as she wanders barefoot in the grass before going insane when the sprinklers turn on.


Kyle: “I shouldve never come out of my house


Kyle and the Rev go get Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey), so he might provide a bit of help. As if anybody could help right now. They let him in on what’s happening, as well as the fact it isn’t Megan doing the killing. However, Giles isn’t so keen. Yet he’s being pressured to make sure everyone perceives the death of Mark how they wish it to be seen.
Meanwhile, Sidney (Brent Spiner) is still lurking, waiting. Whatever’s coming for Rome is definitely not going to be pleasant. Oh, and the Ogdens – Lenny and Kat (Pete Burris & Debra Christofferson) are doing his bidding, taking care of more tortured souls in the eerie basement filled with mannequins. I’m sure it’s easy to sleep down there.
Outside a restaurant Megan’s mistaken for a homeless woman. After which she runs off into the darkness again when headlights flash at her; like “some of them” being kept by the Ogdens, light is not their friend. The Rev and Kyle cruise to try finding Megan, just barely missing her on the streets. Kyle wants to get to her before the police, to pull that demon inside her out. At the same time, Giles calls Mark’s death in as an accident.
Giles wife winds up calling Kat, asking what’s going on in their town. Kat’s busy, though. She has another soul from Sidney: Megan Holter. Oh no.
Patricia’s boy Aaron goes to the Chief’s place. He plays innocent, talking about the “devil coming to town” and all sorts of things. But you know that is a mere con. He pushes his way inside the house, and all bets are off.
The search for Megan is still on. Kyle and Anderson hear from Giles: Amber is with Aaron now, surely soon to be with Sidney, too. Things are getting quite scary now. Anderson tries to make Kyle realise that Sidney is the devil in the flesh: “If this battle is to be won, it cant be won alone.” All the younger of the two cares about is his own flesh and blood, the daughter who’s been through so much already.
Kyle and Sidney find themselves on a dark road, meeting in only the headlights of a car. The devilish man in black requires Kyle to get into the trunk of his car blindfolded. Looks like we, and Kyle, might get some answers to what it all means. When he arrives at the destination, Amber’s there. Although they’re locked in a room. Sidney speaks cryptically of the demons, where they’re from, and why he’s keeping Kyle locked away; for when they “need” him. “For what?” Kyle yells after him, getting no answer. Simultaneously, Megan’s being ushered over to the other side of humanity, dropping further into the abyss of demonhood.
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Anderson’s laying in wait and comes across the little basement where Sidney has Kat and Lenny tucked away, taking care of those tortured people. The Rev helps bust Kyle out, or at least until Lenny has it out with Anderson. Securing Amber safely in the room, Kyle hulks out and finishes the door off, getting to the Reverend and pulling him out of trouble. Lenny lets some of the specimens loose, one of whom tries sucking a bit of essence from Kyle. Another of whom is Kyle’s poor sister, lost in the daze of demonic possession. She finds her way to Amber. Then her brother confronts the demon within. Megan is still in there, but the evil has taken hold. She attacks him. Trying to suck more of that essence from his body.
Once Amber puts her hands on aunt Megan, she reveals a power like her father’s, astonishing them all. It releases the black liquid from out of her possessed soul. Everybody is safe. For the moment.
Except now Megan must face the reality of Mark being dead. Kyle does his best to pass it off as an accident, trying hard to make sure she doesn’t shoulder all the blame. Anderson can’t take the weight and has to leave. But Kyle stays with his sister and hopes to help her through it, every step of the way.
The Rev has other things to do. He douses the trailer where Sidney stays in gasoline, lighting the place ablaze. Is Aaron inside? Is Sidney even home? Well, let’s hope the former isn’t the case. Because that could put Johnny in one hell of a tight spot.
Will a new day bring anything better?


Turns out Aaron’s missing, Patricia is worried sick. We can see where that’s headed. Particularly once the Rev notices Sidney driving down the street, alive and in his glory. Uh oh, to the power of a thousand. Just the look in the Rev’s eyes spell a troubled conscience.
At the gas station, Kyle and Amber gear up for a road trip. He wants to find a quiet place, where nobody knows about his and daughter’s “super power” like they take to calling it. Smart idea. Only I wonder how long that might last, either way. Not like they’re getting far. People are already staring at them; a half dozen or more standing silent around Kyle and Amber, their eyes focused solely on the pair.
The demons can sense them. They’re not going anywhere.
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What a perfect, creepy, exciting end to Season 1! Loved this finale wholeheartedly.
I hope for many seasons on this series. It’s been a great ride the whole way through, often getting exponentially better with every episode. Let’s all comb through the episodes again between now and whenever Cinemax graces us with the next bunch of episodes.

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 3: “All Alone Now”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 3: “All Alone Now”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Chris Black

* For a review of the previous episode, “(I Remember) When She Loved Me” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Wrath Unseen” – click here
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Blake Morrow (Lee Tergesen) is with law enforcement partner Luke and his wife, being setup on a date, they’re out for a night of bowling. He starts to feel strange, sweating and ill. Only there’s something a bit more strange than it initially seems. Suddenly, he’s feeling much better, and that means trouble for his partner’s wife. She tries to fight him off, but his strength is almost inhuman. More than human. Supernatural, even. When the partner returns home with a few grocery items he finds nothing but devastation. What I love about this opener is we don’t see what this man sees, only his reaction. We’re left to assume. And likely we can assume the worst. Also, dig that Tergesen is a part of the cast right now. he is a fantastic actor, so I look forward to anything he brings to the series for whatever length he’s in there. Excellent addition.
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Reverend Anderson: “Call me old fashioned, but I think our vices should leave a rotten taste in our mouth. Helps keep us honest.”
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Kyle (Patrick Fugit) and Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) are headed out together. The younger of the two still isn’t sure how he’s meant to play his part in the whole thing. Nevertheless, he rides along. We get a bit of a look at Anderson and his son; a picture of the boy flies out the window, sending him into a frenzy. Look forward to seeing more on that. When Kyle and the Rev arrive at their destination, it’s a military facility. And Morrow’s partner Luke is there to greet them. Inside we see how badly Blake has deteriorated. What he did to Luke’s wife was savage and hideous. Clearly something has gotten into him. All too literally. In comes Rev. Anderson and Kyle, the exorcism duo. Can they help or heal this man?
Meanwhile in other parts of town, Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) and Mark Holter (David Denman) are at odds over the dead animals in the woods, and what exactly’s been going on. And Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt), she seems distracted. On her way home she sees someone that startles her. Later at school she thinks she sees the same man’s car, though it’s only a parent. There’s something intense going in there.


Anderson can’t find anything demonic hiding in Morrow. When Kyle decides to have a crack, things are a little different. “Do you know me?” he asks before grabbing Morrow by the face. The skin burns under Kyle’s touch. “Yououtcast?” mutters Morrow. A-ha! Well, there’s a bit of elaboration on the part of the demon. Through Morrow he feels charming, he’s talkative, intuitive even. They chat a little about Kyle, his life, why the term outcast fits him perfectly. What I love is the parallel that comes out between Anderson and Kyle: the former wants to chase the demons, needs to almost, to the detriment of his personal life and his family; the latter would rather not have anything to do with the power that holds onto him, he’s lost his family (likely because of this shit), and all he wants is to give all the demon hunting up to have them back. Great writing on Robert Kirkman’s part, excellent writing for the series that keeps things building and interesting.
As for Megan, she’s tracking down the man in the red car – Donnie. Her husband, he’s out in the woods where the nailed and mutilated animals were displayed, in an old camper. With his little DNA kit, Mark tries to figure some things out. The Holters have trouble headed their way, as Donnie’s apparently tracking Megan down.
And can’t forget about the mysterious Sidney (Brent Spiner). Holed up in a motel. Resting his fedora. Shaving with an old fashioned straight razor. Can’t wait to see more of this guy, as well as his connection to Kyle, his mother, that whole debacle. Should be fun to watch that develop. Oh, he’s spitting up black blood, too.
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Kyle and Anderson are at odds because the Rev only wants to get their exorcism business finished up. Morrow and his demonic influence fight back with their sassy behaviour. And Kyle, he walks away. He ends up talking to Luke whose passionate plea makes him reconsider. Anderson can’t get the job done. Afterwards, Kyle takes on Morrow and the demon inside in a bloody confrontation that ends eerily. A great sequence. This series does the supernatural horror well. The exorcism sub-genre of horror can get tired, but this gets exciting. Even better, we find our expectations subverted when not all the demons can be exorcised. Not all the victims can be freed, such as Morrow, left with a sinister spirit coursing through his body.
But maybe Luke shouldn’t have been told that. He knows there’s no way out for the evil in Morrow. So, that means other methods must be considered. Such as death. Luke opts to take the high road after indulging himself a moment. Should’ve killed the bastard.

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When Kyle goes to see his neighbour Norville, he finds the old man dead. A pool of blood underneath him, a straight razor sitting in it. We know where ole Sidney went after leaving the motel. Now how does that connect with Kyle? I guess there aren’t just demons out there looking for him. Or is Sidney one of those, too? I would think so, judging on the black stuff that came out of the kid Kyle saved, the stuff Sidney spit up, the black blood on the teeth of Morrow as he looks maniacally at Kyle. Lots of demonic shit going down.
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Another solid episode. This season keeps building up each episode with a great amount of tension, lots of character development, and similar to AMC’s Preacher it doesn’t give us too much while giving us enough to keep things interesting, allowing the interest to grow. Next episode is titled “A Wrath Unseen” – stick with me, fellow fans.

The Conjuring is a Genuine Creepshow

The Conjuring. 2013. Directed by James Wan. Screenplay by Chad & Carey Hayes.
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Haley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Marion Guyot, Morganna May, & Amy Tipton. New Line Cinema/The Safran Company/Evergreen Media Group.
Rated 14A. 112 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★1/2
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People can argue to the contrary all they want: James Wan is a modern horror master. What’s more, he refuses to abandon the genre which made him such a big hit in Hollywood, leading him to the Fast & Furious franchise and the upcoming Aquaman DC film. Just now, the sequel to The Conjuring is in theatre making giant impressions on audiences, many (critics alike) claiming it’s one of the best horrors in a long time. So I hope that once he takes off even more with his DC adaptation that Wan won’t forget from where he came. Because from the revolutionary Saw (yes I called it that; the first one only which is of course the single one he directed) to the underrated Dead Silence and Death Sentence, to the first two Insidious films (love them to death), this is a director who proves, time and again, he understands horror. Not every film is perfect, nor should you expect that. But each one takes an excellent, gouging stab at the genre and more often than not gives us new and terrifying scenes that will go down as classics in the years to come.
The Conjuring didn’t actually impress me first time around. Funny how that works, considering now after watching it a couple more times recently I feel it’s destined to be a classic of the horror genre; it already is, just needs the time to pass for an official label. But some movies work like that. They don’t always get you right away. Sometimes you watch a movie on DVD or VOD, you’re sitting at home and the attention span isn’t perfect. Sometimes you don’t notice everything right off the bat. Either way, after seeing this a couple more times I’ve come to realise how perfectly old school this supernatural haunted house/paranormal story works. Better than that, we’ve got the backdrop of a true story concerning world famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, as well as one of their big cases from 1971 in Harrisville, Rhode Island where the Perron family came under siege by the terrifying spirit of a dead witch from the 1800s.
Wan does incredible work as director, along with solid performances from the likes of Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Ron Livingston, all in order to make this into a truly scary movie. So many people complain about the horror genre being stale these days, saying there aren’t any good offerings coming out. Well, drink this one in. It’s up there with the best of the haunted house movies, and certainly one of the greatest in terms of demonic possession. You can’t ask for more than an eerie story, chillingly based on real events, and top notch acting in a horror flick.
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What I love about horror based on true stories, or supposedly true, is that I’m a real sceptic. I do indeed wish to believe, as Fox Mulder and his decorative poster both state in yearning. Absolutely. If there were some evidence of life beyond death, it might actually be comforting. Maybe it’d only be more difficult. Nevertheless, I do find myself hoping to come in contact with a ghost. On a couple occasions, I’ve questioned whether I actually did. Alas the scepticism goes on. The Conjuring does go for jump scares in quite a few scenes. What it does best is create this unsettling, dire atmosphere where the line between what is real and what is paranormal/supernatural becomes nearly eradicated.
A huge part of what makes this movie work is the dual look at and parallel between the difference between a family experiencing paranormal events v. a family standing as a physical dike against the mental anguish those other families faced. Though the Perrons find themselves completely torn apart by demonic influence, the Warrens are similarly troubled. They are essentially charged to withholding all the demons, the dead spirits, the poltergeists, whatever. They’ve got a ton of the possessed dolls and objects in their basement under lock and key, constantly threatening their own existence and their own family. So there’s a super interesting dynamic that happens between the two separate families, each tormented in their own right. This also allows for a lot of great acting between the two couples, both sets with their own issues and their different lives, so on. Other screenplays might have made this into a jumbled mess. Instead, Chad and Carey Hayes are able to use every last second of their 112 minutes appropriately, and expanding the characters, the plot with care without ignoring anything.
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Lili Taylor is actually one of my first celebrity crushes, if we’re being honest. Being a young man on the furthest Eastern Coast of Canada, I grew up watching Showcase on Channel 34. I can’t remember which movie I’d seen her in first, either Girls Town or I Shot Andy Warhol, but her beauty and her talent struck me. She’s an engaging actor. I find that even without that teenage crush, her acting speaks for itself. Here, even before any of the wild stuff starts happening with her character Carolyn there’s an excellently fun quality to her. That’s what makes the rest of the plot involving her struggle so difficult to endure. In fact, immediately from the first moment we hear and see her there’s an admirable element to Carolyn, endearing, as she and her husband have a brief little laugh while getting out of the car at their new home. Just how she laughs at him, so natural. Great talent to so quickly enjoyable in a performance. This only increases as the film wears on. Her work in the latter portions, as Carolyn succumbs to a demonic possession of intense proportions, Taylor makes the horror far too real for comfort. Likewise, as much as I only enjoy Ron Livingston mostly while watching Office Space, he does well with the character of Roger. He’s the everyman-type American dad, out in the country taking his family into their new home, then dealing with the excessively sinister fallout that nobody ever could have predicted, not in a million year. There’s a complexity to the character. Even if I don’t think he was amazing, Livingston makes the character honest, likeable. Above all, he’s real. Both him and Taylor make the family dynamic play well, in turn selling the whole situation, as it’s them at the eye of the storm. Whereas I say Livingston wasn’t anything extraordinary, without his solid performance as the father and husband of the Perron family the whole personal, human drama would not work, only in a one-sided sense with Taylor doing the heavy lifting.
Both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are great. The latter has even more work to do, being the more susceptible to the influence of the demons and the supernatural entities. Most of all they do stellar work portraying the Warrens, their relationship particularly one being under different strains than a lot of regular people. They make the Warrens into very genuine human beings. They don’t have any air of the kookish qualities many associate with modern day ghost hunters. These two allow Ed and Lorraine Warren to feel like warm, understanding, caring individuals. They’re not self-serving or narcissistic in their aims of ghost hunting. Of course that’s partly because of the real people and their efforts, but Farmiga and Wilson put their hearts into these performances. It shows in the natural way the Warrens come across. Along with Livingston and Taylor, they’re able to make the personal drama of the horror become so powerful.
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Wan’s directing is beyond amazing. Many of his choices are perfect for the horror. On one hand, he knows when to employ the use of jump scares. He understands where they fit and how they ought to be used. On the other hand, Wan is also adept at building tension, making the atmosphere of his films drip with fear. Just as Insidious works nicely using the visuals and its score to create a thick, atmospheric creepiness, The Conjuring is a haunting mix of eerie-looking images and yet another set of fittingly horrifying pieces from Joseph Bishara (Insidious trilogy). All together, these elements work to unsettle the audience at every turn, never settling to be lukewarm scary, but always trying to find the heart of terror.
After letting this settle on me, The Conjuring is one of the best horrors in so many years. There’s never too much of anything, always the correct amount. Wan finds a balance between the jumps and the subtle creeps, as well as manages to find the appropriate performances in his cast to warrant the emotional ties necessary for the horror to hit home. There’s not a lot I can say against the power of this movie. Don’t always judge right on first viewing. Sometimes your opinion won’t change. Now and then, you’ll find you were wrong. And damn, was I ever sleeping on this one. Glad I’ve taken the time to watch it more because I’ve discovered I love it and its fun, classic scares.

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 2: “(I Remember) When She Loved Me”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 2: “(I Remember) When She Loved Me”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Jeff Vlaming

* For a review of the first episode, “A Darkness Surrounds Him” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “All Alone Now” – click here
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I’ve been waiting for Friday to roll around so I could catch this next episode of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast. Excited to see how the characters and the supernatural elements all come together, flesh out. On another note, one thing I loved right off the bat about the whole show itself is the opening credits, the theme. Spooky, foreboding, and that ambient element you can tell Atticus Ross had his sweet little fingers in there. Gives each episode an ominous start that I love. Sets the atmosphere up without anything but some random images and the score.
This episode starts with a young Kyle Barnes. Everything is so light, breezy, beautiful. It feels surreal, in the tomb of memory. We see the change in his mother happen so fast, going from the nice mother to demonically possessed in the matter of minutes. Back in present day, Kyle (Patrick Fugit) is fighting back all that horror in his mind. Meanwhile, Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) preaches from the pulpit about the only thing that can “inoculate us from the darkness” – because he’s seen it. The congregation hasn’t, but he has, and Kyle, as well. Even if the latter tries to deny that at times, despite what he witnessed last episode. And all he knew as a boy at the hands of his insanely mad mother.
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Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) has some doubts about Kyle kicking around. He goes to talk with his friend Rev. Anderson and worries about how the young man affects the town. Everyone there is talking already. But Giles is only warning the reverend a little.
Other more nasty things are happening. Some animals are cut up, nailed on his property. Yikes. I can see now how this is about to play into everything else.
In the meantime, Kyle goes to sit with his mother in the hospital, in her catatonic state. He talks about the boy he and Rev. Anderson saved. Instead of feeling good about saving his mother from a demonic force, Kyle only feels guilt for putting her in that bed. Although he’s conflicted because of all the horror she put him through. “We were all we had,” he reminisces to her in pain. To see him fluctuate between the distinct memories of her being an awesome mom and those of her in that terrifying state is tough. Fugit does a fine job selling this role. I wasn’t sold right away in the pilot, though I loved the episode as a whole. Now, with this second chapter, I’m starting to understand completely why he was cast. Never should have doubted that, as I’ve enjoyed many of Fugit’s performances.
After a bit of trouble at the hospital Kyle decides to do something a little drastic: take his mother home. Norville (Willie C. Carpenter) notices and tries to offer his help, but Kyle refuses and goes to tend to his mother. Outside, a mysterious man from the church earlier lurks, watching. Awesomely enough, it’s someone played by Brent Spiner (Mr. God Damn Data to you).


Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt) shows up with groceries and all the necessities. When she does, Kyle has a little gift. He wants it to go to his little girl, but Megan knows there’s none of that allowed. Apparently he can’t have any type of contact whatsoever. Finally, Megan breaks down and takes the gift, advising him about everything from eating better to trying to fix his life: “Just take it slow.” He’s taking care of mother right now, though. And all those horrible memories are flashing back, more all the time. He keeps imagining her locked in that closet, the same one where she’d lock him. At this point she’s locked inside her own body.
Over at a little meeting with some of the church ladies, Rev. Anderson is preaching his ideas of growing the congregation, getting asses in the seats, all that sort of things. The ladies are a little worried about Kyle Barnes and his involvement. Anderson does his best to sell his good qualities, no matter all the bad mojo surrounding him because of his past.
Out in the woods, Chief Giles and Mark Holter (David Denman) are searching for the nailed and slashed animals. They talk about how things went down with the kid, Kyle beating him up. Mark doesn’t buy any of the exorcism bullshit. At the same time, Giles doesn’t discount it. Clearly his relationship with the preacher extends to more than just a little faith.
We get a bit more on Kyle and his ex-wife, their little girl Amber, tons of stuff. Even a brief mention of the little girl locking herself in the closet; coincidence? Either way, dig it. The thing I enjoy about these opening episodes of the series is that not everything is spelled out completely. The writing gives us bits and pieces without spoiling everything with all out exposition. That makes everything more mysterious and more fun.


Giles and Holter stumble upon the animals eventually. A bunch of them, all crucified in a row. Someone’s been doing naughty business out there in the forest. They find a dirty camper along the way, scratch marks everywhere inside and blood all over them. An eerie scene.
At the Barnes place, Anderson shows up. He knows about her being taken away and isn’t happy. He tries making Kyle realize what’s best for his mother. Regardless, they’re at odds. Kyle doesn’t know why curing his mother of the demon didn’t end like it did for the boy he helped. “What if its still inside of her?” he asks the reverend. I have a feeling they’re about to start messing around with something they don’t fully understand. Unless the ole rev knows something we haven’t figured out just yet. Well, they decide to go for it. Anderson breaks out his cross, the whole deal. They lay prayers down on her. The memories come back to Kyle, all that hardship he experienced. Nothing works, and this starts to drive Kyle batty. He opens up the wound in his hand then squeezes blood onto her, in her mouth. Still, nothing happens. After things settle Anderson has Kyle’s mother brought back to the hospital where she belongs right now.
Over with Kyle’s ex-wife and little Amber, Megan sees her niece open up the gift from her father. She watches uneasily, as if feeling guilty on both sides; for helping Kyle, for not doing more. A hard position in which to find oneself.

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Part of what intrigues me most so far is Kyle’s character, the guilt he feels and the overall loss of not having a mother because of a demonic influence taking over her body, her mind, her soul. Then he has his own power that isn’t something he yet understands. All this makes for a powder keg of emotions. Later after Kyle goes home, he finds a note from Megan that his daughter loved the present. This only adds that further bit of emotion to the character and his moral dilemma. We don’t yet fully know the extent of what’s happened between Kyle and his ex-wife, the daughter, but I have a few guesses.
Oh, and before the episode closes we see Brent Spiner’s character arrive to see Kyle’s mother Sarah in the hospital. He knows her well. He knows more that we’re going to see soon. Worst of all, it torments his mother even in her coma state. Then we watch a flashback to see the demonic thing exiting her back then, choking her young son Kyle by the neck, as if claiming him for its own. What an unsettling finale to this episode.
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I am beyond excited now for the third chapter, “All Alone Now”, which promises more development in these rich characters. Really great start to this series. No wonder Cinemax has faith and already greenlit Season 2. More to come, so stay with me, fellow fans! This is a solid show with plenty to offer on both the dramatic and horror ends respectively.

Paranormal Activity’s Modern Hauntings

Paranormal Activity. 2007. Directed & Written by Oren Peli.
Starring Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, and Ashley Palmer. Solana Films/Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 86 minutes.
Horror

★★★★
paranormalactivity_posterWhen done correctly, I am a huge fan of found footage. Whether it’s using the thriller style, as I recently enjoyed in the film 419, or horror (The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal HolocaustHome Movie, and many more), I believe that if a director uses the sub-genre appropriately then it can be extremely effective. Particularly, horror movies using found footage can end up having a huge impact if it isn’t simply a gimmick, or a wasted tool in the director’s arsenal.
Even further than that, a writer (or writers) needs to know the limitations of the sub-genre, as well as where it can go. Too many writers seem to let the screenplay of a found footage film fall by the wayside, like it isn’t an important aspect so much as the visuals prove to be. Very bad way to look at ANY genre or sub-genre; you always need a good script, or at least an impressive idea to work from.
There are things I do love about Paranormal Activity, while I’ve got a gripe or two, as well. Mostly, I think Oren Peli really did an excellent job as director in cultivating an impressive piece of modern horror. He singlehandedly changed the found footage game, in my mind, after the originals left their highly impressive (and better) mark – like The Blair Witch Project and the infamous, controversial Cannibal Holocaust. Now there are plenty of others, since this film’s release in 2007, trying to work off the simple yet excellent format Peli landmarked.
This is not a perfect horror, nor is it my favourite found footage film. However, I’ve got to say that when I first saw Paranormal Activity – and to this day – there were elements and scenes which really unsettled me greatly and left a lasting impression on me. I don’t think, as a veteran in watching films and TONS of horror, that I’m easily frightened. But genuinely, at times, I found myself clenching up. Not to say I wept in terror or curled into a ball. Though, I can readily admit my muscles tightened and my heart rate pumped fast in several scenes, which is all due to the acting of the two leads and the good work of writer-director Oren Peli.
paranormalactivity1I won’t waste time relating the plot. This is one of those movies we ALL know about; if not, head over to IMDB or Wikipedia and it’s laid out pretty well. I’d like to just move into the things I liked/disliked about the movie.
An aspect of the screenplay I truly do love is how the character of Micah antagonizes the presence in their home. Starting early on, within the first fifteen minutes even, Micah begins to make fun of the whole concept of some spirit (or whatever) in the house; he plays creepy music, saying he’d like to make the presence feel at home. I always like when a story incorporates scepticism in an interesting way; Micah is a part of that, as he pretty much riles up the thing in their house.
Otherwise, one of the greatest parts in my mind about Peli’s Paranormal Activity is that the effects really started to push the envelope for found footage. Since 2007 there have been plenty more found footage films which used effects to a greater degree, but at the time this came as sort of revolutionary for the sub-genre. Before this movie, and those which followed it (both sequels and other films imitating this style), most found footage horror tended to go for the lost in the woods scenario, adding in tons of shaky cam and screaming and blood/gore here or there. Peli came along and decided to keep the camera stationary almost all of the time, which really helped, and on top of that he tried as best he could to do as much practically as possible, as well as the great majority of the film is centred so much on the relationship between Katie and Micah.
Keeping the camera in one place the way he does, Peli is able to let us relax a bit and get more into the characters and the story/plot than other found footage allows us. As I said, the shaky cam is prevalent in many other films similar to this. Even the amazing Blair Witch Project, there are a couple nearly nausea inducing sequences where the characters are running, screaming, and the camera is jostling around along with their movements; to the point where it’s tough to follow anything. Luckily, that was one of the first real found footage horror movies where shaky cam became a thing, so at the time it wasn’t really overdone.
Paranormal-Activity-3Nowadays with so many less exciting films than that trying to read in its huge footsteps, we get too many horrors using found footage and throwing in the shaky cam as a legitimate portion of the film when in fact it only detracts from the end product; we’re tired and sick of the shakiness, it’s not simply low budget and realistic it makes things look lazy. In Paranormal Activity, Peli foregoes that nonsense and allows us to get into the relationship between Katie and Micah, watching their lives unfold instead of constantly having one of them manipulate the camera, moving it around, and so on. Though Micah absolutely holds the camera at times, it’s not him running around and catching nothing except blurs. Whenever he does move it, the moment is brief, or at the least Micah is usually standing in one place. I think, albeit probably an obvious touch, Peli does his film a great service by allowing the camera to stay still a lot of the time. That way, his story comes out further, the characters are more interesting, and the plot is able to move along without the audience becoming totally unnerved (not in the right way) by the camera movement constantly shaking us out of touch with what’s happening in the film.
For this reason, as well as the fact effects are incorporated in a fresh way (not saying they’re spectacular; merely they were slightly new to this sub-genre), I truly feel Peli broke new, interesting ground with his found footage horror movie. Not only did it spawn a series of sequels, a whole franchise, Paranormal Activity – in a different way from its predecessors – had other filmmakers looking to do a low-budget horror almost copycatting everything about it.
They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery; in this case, I think it’s mostly about cashing in.
still-of-katie-featherston-in-paranormal-activity-(2007)-large-pictureFinally, it’s the acting from Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston which truly got to me. I think Sloat did a good enough job, especially in terms of being the sceptical and doubting boyfriend; he isn’t completely ignorant and arrogant in his speech, mostly he brings this aspect across through his coy, annoyingly playful demeanour. He certainly acts like a bit of a douchebag, but I think that’s almost definitely the right way for Micah to seem, as a character – it brings out that doubt very clearly for all to see.
Above all else, it’s Featherston who sells this film from start to finish. I like the character herself; she’s been followed all her life, basically, by some kind of spirit, an entity. Not that it’s a new idea. It’s how Featherston plays the character, the innocence she always seems to display and this naive but concerned nature in her. While Katie is the one who believes in it all, there’s still this naivety about her in that she’s holding onto the innocent part of herself, even while this demon/spirit/entity has latched onto her and won’t leave her, or Micah, alone. The way Featherston performs is incredible, unbelievably actually in the final half hour. Once things start getting very intense and claustrophobic in their little house, Featherston does a perfect job portraying all the terror Katie is feeling; there’s one moment where she tells Micah she feels something in the hallway, and I honestly got a fright just out of the urgency in her voice, the look in her eyes. Amazing job and makes Paranormal Activity all the better for it; anyone else would probably not have been enough. Featherston pushed this film above a ton of other found footage out there with subpar acting and lazy characters.
Paranormal-ActivityWith an undeniably horrifying final 15 minutes, I can definitely say this is a 4 out of 5 star film. There could’ve been a little more in certain parts, but overall this is an excellent modern horror. I’m not saying this will send you to bed cowering under the covers like when we were children. What I am saying is that Oren Peli did a good job directing this, as opposed to so many shaky useless found footage efforts, and he tried to instil the film with as much practicality (from plot to effects) as possible.
This is a slow burn type of horror film, in my opinion. It does well building up tension, in part that’s due to excellent actors, and in the end there’s a massively satisfying and creepy conclusion. Love the end and watching this for the first time since its release 8 years ago, I must admit I like the film more than I’d originally thought.

INSIDIOUS Takes Us Back to Classic Haunting

Insidious. 2010. Directed by James Wan. Screenplay by Leigh Whannell. Starring Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Barbara Hershey. Rated 14A. 103 minutes. Drama/Horror/Mystery.

4 out of 5 stars
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There aren’t many horror movies that feel like the classics these days, except for a few. Even some of those few are mainly retro, in that they try to cultivate that type of throwback atmosphere purposefully.
The reason why Insidious is one of the true classic-feeling horrors as of late is because it’s genuinely scary – between atmosphere, tone, and a few creepy jump scares this is the real deal.
All the same, there are a couple small flaws, but none so flawed that they can ultimately take away from the greatness of Insidious.

The film tells us the story of Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson & Rose Byrne) who, along with their new baby, their two sons Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astory), move into a new house. It seems like a dream at first, as they begin to unpack and settle into this beautiful, picturesque type home. Shortly after the move, young Dalton is in the attic and falls off a ladder, hitting his head; though he doesn’t tell his parents about the last part. The next day, Josh goes up to wake his still sleeping son, except Dalton won’t wake up. He goes into a fugue, unconscious state, which the doctors refuse to call a coma, and can’t actually describe. Renai then begins to experience strange things – first there are unsettling noises, voices speaking in whispers over the baby monitor, then later she actually witnesses sinister apparitions in the night throughout the house. Josh doesn’t necessarily understand what his wife is going through, however, he gladly believes her; even so far as moving to a new house once the terror becomes too much for Renai.
Only after the second move, in a completely different house, Renai once again experiences the strange apparitions – a little boy appears in the house, changes a vinyl on the record player, and the runs away. She follows him, but then he disappears. Josh tries to help Renai, but doesn’t know how. In comes Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey), Josh’s mother, who describes a frightening dream she had about Dalton involving a creepy dark demon. She also suggests there is someone she knows who can help. Lorraine brings Elisa Rainier (Lin Shaye) over, along with her sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) – these three claim to be able to determine if spiritual/supernatural/otherwise-inclined entities are in the house.
Needless to say, things get… different.
insidious3I’m going to start with the, very few, things I found flawed about Insidious.
Though some of the jump scares were actually awesome, I think James Wan relied too heavily on the concept to push the scary factor of this film. Insidious does not need that jumpy aspect to scare anyone. Sure, there are the tough guys who always say they’re desensitized – and that’s fine – but I’ve seen over 4,000 films, a good chunk of those being horror, and I still get creeped out. I don’t mean that I’m crying or that I can’t sleep later that night or I have to keep the lights on and my teeth are chattering and I can’t handle it – I just mean that certain imagery, ideas, dialogue, whatever it might be, still creeps me out. And the fact is Insidious has enough of that without needing to make me jump with quick cuts, people behind others suddenly.
I really liked the score, and at times it was perfect, but often it played into that jump scare tactic. The title card at the beginning and end of the movie is awesome with the sudden strings, I love that. I don’t think some of the loud and startling string/instrumental stuff throughout the score served it well. Again, the movie has atmosphere and tone enough to creep us out. If Wan kept a couple jumps, cut a good few out, the movie would be even better for me; a couple of those jump scares only worked on my fat heart, jumpstarting it, and not on my fears, my emotions.
patrick-wilson-insidiousWhat really bothered me about Insidious are the duo of Specs and Tucker. Funny enough, as most know, Leigh Whannell who plays Specs is the writer of the film, and usually I find he’s a pretty good writer at that. However, I feel like the comedic bits in Insidious – the banter between Specs and Tucker as the Odd Couple Ghost Hunters, back and forth vying to be the top investigator in their field, the techie versus the artist/writer – really did no justice to the otherwise dark, ominous atmosphere and tone Wan cultivated throughout the rest of the film. Sure, there were funny parts between Specs and Tucker; Whannell and Sampson work well together as a little team. I just don’t think the comedy, dry though it is, fits in with the rest of the movie. I mean, there are plenty horrors that are either horror-comedies or they have that dark comedy aspect which compliments the horror, and some of those work great. I’m not against horror and comedy mixing. My problem is that the rest of the movie is so dark and high on the creepscale, I just think it would’ve been best to keep the small bits between Specs and Tucker even smaller; they were already only sparse, but there could’ve easily been less. The characters work well in the context if they were simply just playing two dudes into the paranormal, helping Elise (Lin Shaye). I really loved how Specs would draw things for Elise, it added an extra creepy quality to their whole process. I feel Whannell did not do the script justice by including them in the way that he did, though, it didn’t detract enough to ruin anything.
insidious-gas-maskThe script, other than what I mentioned, is solid.
What makes the script even better are the actors playing it out, along with Wan’s excellent direction.
I think having Patrick Wilson play the part of Josh Lambert adds a lot of charisma and charm to the role, which needs it, because the character is a complex one at times. Especially nearing the end, and leading into the film’s sequel. But here, he does a great job of being that sort of skeptical father at first when his wife is claiming the strange happenings are going on, and then coming around to see the truth: a scene where Josh is in Dalton’s room after Elise has explained where the boy is, out in The Further, capable of astral projection, and he discovers drawings Dalton did which all but confirm Elise’s “diagnosis, Wilson does some incredible acting and it isn’t often you see that calibre performance when it comes to haunted house movies.
Rose Byrne is great as Renai Lambert. I felt truly bad for her right from the get-go, even worse once that one creepy ghost-like presence appeared in her bedroom, and the way she sort of unravelled at times was spot on. It was a great performance. Particularly I loved the last scene, as she goes towards Elise in the chair, and as Josh, unseen, approaches behind Renai, she turns, gasping. It put the nail in the coffin. Excellent actress.
Of course you can’t have Insidious without Lin Shaye. She is tremendous here as Elise Rainier. The facial expressions, her quaint charm and friendly manner, the emotion and energy she brings – all perfect. One of my favourite moments, still, is early when she goes into Dalton’s room and sees the demon up at the corner of the ceiling, and Specs draws out what Elise sees – the way she whispers to him, you can just hear what she says, and then coupled with the actual drawing, all made me shiver.
InsidiousI can’t not mention Barbara Hershey. She isn’t in this a great deal, only a handful of scenes, but she is solid as Josh’s mother, and I’ve always loved her acting. I bring her up specifically because I love her film The Entity, and I find that Whannell most certainly was influenced by it in his writing the script. Particularly it’s the technology and the presence of the team of “experts” which reminds me of The Entity. Not like it’s ripping anything off, but I definitely think casting Hershey had something to do with that film’s influence on Whannell and perhaps Wan as well. I’m glad, regardless, because I dig Hershey, everything from the aforementioned supernatural horror to The Stranger Beside Me to The Last Temptation of Christ and certainly Martin Scorsese’s Boxcar Bertha. I only hope her involvement has something to do with The Entity because it means Whannell, or Wan, whoever, is even more awesome than I already thought.
insidious-villainEasily this is a 4 out of 5 star film. Insidious could’ve been near perfect, if only James Wan hadn’t opted to use jump scares so often, along with a healthy dose of high and heavy strings, and the Specs-Tucker duo wasn’t so comedically prominent. There are great, scary moments here without those bells and whistles. The atmosphere is dark and deep, I really found it involving and tense. A good horror has tension and suspense in spades, and Insidious has got that, if anything. You can argue against that, but I won’t believe it. The tone is set with the great atmosphere Wan sets up, from the actual camerawork to the colours of the film. It all works together.
If you’ve yet to see it, do it now. The sequel is also great, and I love it just as much as this one, maybe even a little more.