These aren't your mama's exorcisms!
Ever wanted to take a trip to hell? Well, wait for a better ride. Trust me.
FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee”
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Written by Jeremy Slater
* For a review of Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula” – click here
Here we are at the premiere of The Exorcist, a new series based on the classic from William Friedkin and based on the novel by William Peter Blatty.
We start on a familiar image, one of a man in a long coat and a brimmed hat walking, bag in hand, to some destination; it is Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels). In the distance are strange and unsettling noises.
In a brighter, more sunny place, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) gives a sermon to his congregation, which includes Angela and Henry Rance (Geena Davis & Alan Ruck), as well as their daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka). Off near the street outside after the service, Father Tomas sees a man who he believes is speaking to him, mouthing words. But when he talks to Angela a moment, turning back, the man is no longer there. At the same time, something seems off about Henry. In church he’s aloof, heading home he is distracted and not altogether there. Is headed for demons, possession and the like?
Ortega has issues of faith going on. Maybe. His sister Olivia (Camille Guaty) believes he doesn’t want to be a priest anymore, that he’s in love with a woman named Jessica. Of course, he denies it. Looking forward to more of that.
In Mexico City, Father Marcus sits disillusioned yet firm in that “the power‘s in the repetition.” Another priest, Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan), has come to try talking sense into him. Although he didn’t anticipate Marcus having a gun. There’s more to him, as we’re seeing a man of the church, a man of god whose path clearly strays from that of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. And why? What drove someone to take the vows of priesthood but then divert to his own method? On his own again, he tries to help the boy that’s been possessed at the moment. He prays, flicking holy water at the beast inside the boy, the one that speaks to Marcus by name.
Back at Casa del Rance, Angela hears odd noises, whispers in the walls. She shakes it off quickly, though something clearly bothered her. Then we find the other sister Catherine (Brianne Howey) upstairs, depressed, in her own world. So is dad going to get demonic? Or is it going to be Charlotte? Hmm.
Love the digital organ system that plagues the organist – the ancient church and its customs meet the modern world. More importantly, this takes Father Tomas downstairs into the dark basement for a little jump scare when Angela turns up looking for him. She’s worried for Catherine, saying there are “things going on in the house.” Such as furniture moved, books thrown all over the floor, voices in the walls. Y’know, standard haunting madness. Angela straight up believes a demon is trying to take Catherine. Father Tomas explains demons are a construct of the church, as a way to rationalise through “metaphors” in regards to mental illness, et cetera. But Mrs. Rance can’t take those answers. She knows better. Particularly once a bad omen flies into the window: a raven gets stuck and bloodied smashed through a crack in the glass. Nasty.
Ortega goes to see Catherine. She doesn’t put much stock into the thoughts of others. Not after losing someone close to her in a car accident. She’s merely in a depressed state after such an emotional trauma. Nevertheless, the family sits at the table eating along with Father Tomas, too. More and more we see the fact Henry is not who he was once. Catherine notices it, even if she’s the only one who says anything. I continue to believe he’s the one that’ll be possessed, one way or another. He gives Ortega an ominous sort of message about Father Marcus. This sets the young priest aflame wondering: who is this man? He has visions of Keane, the young boy’s possession, the exorcism. Until the boy jumps from his bonds, his neck twists around, and his spine breaks. Fuck, that’s vicious.
Father Tomas meets with a man called Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). He’s a little cryptic, offering up the supposed right question to be asking next: “What now, God?” Out of the corner of his eye, Tomas spies someone familiar. He follows the man to find it’s Father Marcus and tries to chat him up about demonic possession. However, the older man is pretty reluctant to say much. Finally though, Ortega gets more out of him and he reveals the circumstances of that possession Tomas dreamed. It seems that Father Marcus has become afraid of what lies beyond, as he’s seen it up close and personal, the damage it can do in the real world and not just in the spirit. His faith is quite broken.
Eventually Father Tomas goes to see Angela once more. They have a heart to heart about God, their faith, family. He’s driven by the pure faith in his heart to help the Rances in their distress, no matter what it is truly. Then, upstairs comes a noise, a scream from one of the girls. In the attic, Ortega finds Casey lurking, killing rats without touching them, moving in an extremely weird way. Once Angela turns the lights on, nothing is as it seemed a moment ago. Casey is fine. Nothing looks out of the ordinary. But one thing’s for certain, Father Tomas is shaken; badly. Great throwback in this sequence to old school music from Friedkin’s classic with “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield playing – we see Ortega walk off in the night, and simultaneously Father Marcus gears up, ready to take on this next possession.
I personally loved this premiere episode. It doesn’t remake the original film, it’s merely an extension, inspired by Blatty’s work. I say give it a chance! Next up is “Chapter Two: Lupus in Fabula” and I think it’ll bring some great stuff. Ben Daniels is a favourite of mine, so I look forward to what he brings. And you can’t go wrong with Geena Davis, either. Plenty we can expect from this series. Let’s see if it holds up in the second episode.
Season 1, Episode 9: “Close to Home”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Adam Targum
* For a review of the previous episode, “What Lurks Within” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “This Little Light” – click here
Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt) is out in the woods. She crushes a piece of glass in her hand, crying. Remembering all the pain of Donnie Hamel (Scott Porter), what he did to her as a girl, what he’s caused her husband Mark (David Denman) to do, everything.
Then there’s a strange look in her eye. Are those demons? Is she headed for a possession? That would be an awful thing for Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) to have to deal with, especially considering the state of Rev. John Anderson (Philip Glenister) and whatever’s going on with the ever terrifying Sidney (Brent Spiner).
Who knows what’s around the next dark corners.
Lenny Ogden (Pete Burris) and his wife Kat (Debra Christofferson) are leaving town. Although he’s not exactly happy with that. He chastises Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) for not understanding what’s happening, or being able to have the clarity to see what’s soon going to happen. Very ominous stuff, as it seems Len’s got a bit more knowledge than we an tell.
Taking care of his daughter while trying to take care of other things, Kyle ends up at Megan’s place. She is on the couch, not wanting to talk to anybody. He’s hoping to get his daughter back into a normal life, back to school. Even if her mother is off who knows where. But Kyle’s planning to go get her. Wherever that is.
Anderson and Patricia (Melinda McGraw) become closer now. He gives up more about his son, his former life. He’s a little embarrassed by his recent behaviour, wondering how his son might react if he were around. For her part, Patricia reminds him he is not a bad man. Furthermore, she wants them to move in together. Probably good for the ole Rev. Later, he tries to figure out a way not be replaced at the church, although there’s no guarantee that’s going to pan out well at all.
Before they can get out on the road, Kat encounters Sidney in a gas station bathroom. He’s sad she didn’t say goodbye. Well, he has a “new job” for her to complete. Uh oh.
Amber: “You‘re lyin‘”
Kyle: “Why do you say that?”
Amber: “Cause that‘s what grownups do”
Kyle’s genuinely worried for Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil), so much that he recruits his brother-in-law to help him, who gladly agrees. Particularly because his mind is changing concerning Kyle, and y’know, his days as an officer have come further to a close.
Over at the church, Rev. Anderson tries to say his piece to the board. He makes clear that he loves Rome, the people of his congregation. Then, out from the shadows, Sidney presents himself. They’re all very impressed with him, forthcoming donation included. He fronts as somebody, something else. Rather than play nice, John starts beating the shit out of Sidney, which only serves to aid the Reverend’s downfall. Giles gets called in, of course, though doesn’t see that it’s all a part of the plan Sidney has for John. Ends up with Giles slapping the cuffs on the Rev and taking him over to jail. Hmm.
Over at Allison’s, Mark helps Kyle break in: “One of the perks of not bein‘ a cop anymore,” he says while smashing a window to get the door open. Inside they have a look for anything suspicious, any sign of her or what may have happened, where she’s gone. Kyle hears a noise upstairs, but no Allison. Just an open window and wind blowing through. We get to see a bit of bonding between the brothers-in-law after Mark admits he may have been too tough on Kyle. Then he gets a call – Megan’s gone home sick. Are we seeing a demon possess her gradually? I wonder. That’ll be the final test and revelation for many people around Kyle, as well as it could mean terrifying things for Megan. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.
And then Allison’s mother Lauren shows up, finding Kyle there amongst broken glass where he’s not supposed to be. She laments the change in her daughter after the events of her marriage to Kyle. What’s most clear is that the possession of Allison altered everything in her world, from relationships to everyday life.
Giles lets Anderson go, which is not a surprise. But what is the Man of God’s next move?
Speaking of moves, the Ogdens are on to their next job for Sidney – for the dark lord. “There is something wonderful coming,” Kat tells her husband when he isn’t sure of what they’re doing, stuffed away in some basement with a ton of mannequins. Curious. They haven’t left town, they’re tucked into their little spot. Doing what, exactly? Should be intriguing to see what they’re up to. A step up from looking after specimens in the woods.
Poor Megan threw up in front of everyone at school. Now she’s home, resting. There’s more than just worry, guilt, apprehension about the situation with Mark’s charges at work. Oh, and she’s pregnant. “It‘s like some kinda sick joke,” she complains to him. She doesn’t want to keep it, but Mark feels differently. He sees it as a sign. However, is morning sickness the only thing plaguing her right now?
Off Kyle goes on his own to a hospital; a psychiatric ward. He manages to find Allison, who checked herself in recently. She’s not well. Kyle tells her about his mother, about the thing “inside of her” that made her do those horrible things. He reveals his connection to whatever darkness lurked inside of his mom. He tells her as much as possible, all to make her understand it’s not some psychiatric issue, not a mental illness. It’s evil. Nothing human. Yet she tells him: “You can‘t protect me anymore.” And she all but relinquishes her parental rights, believing herself unfit to raise their daughter. What a heavy scene. Devastation.
Anderson finds out Patricia’s boy Aaron has been spending time with Sidney. He confronts the kid, trying to help. Only to make things worse. Sadly, the Rev is one of the only people who can actually see what’s destroying Rome from the inside out. More than that a sort of warning comes from Sidney through the boy.
Meanwhile, Megan is experiencing a strange event. She first taps her face against the bathroom mirror then slams her husband’s face into it when he checks on her. Yes, she is absolutely possessed. Now, Mark lies bleeding out on the floor, as Megan literally plays around in his blood. A process she helps along. Oh. My. God.
Over at Kyle’s place the Rev and he have a chat. John even references Sisyphus and his eternal struggle in relation to his own. He admits jealousy, of Kyle and his power. Although the younger of the two assures him: “You shouldn‘t be.” Because all the people around him are succumbing to madness, the possession of demons and evil forces. We now know this is only getting worse.
When Kyle gets a call from his daughter weeping, saying that Aunt Megan is sick “like mommy” his whole life gets turned further on its axis.
What a wild, devastating, emotional, twisted ride! This episode is a candidate for best of the first season, no doubt. The finale is titled “This Little Light” and I am beyond pumped to figure out what will happen. Plus, we already have known a while that there’ll be a Season 2, so no grinding our teeth in anticipation. Let’s take the last leg of this ride before our wait!
Season 1, Episode 9: “Finish the Song”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Craig Rosenberg
* For a review of the previous episode, “El Valero” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Call and Response” – click here
Back in ole Ratwater, we find ourselves discovering more about The Cowboy (Graham McTavish). In a saloon the patrons all listen to a man singing. When The Cowboy arrives, returning for his vengeance, he finds the preacher (Justice Leak) with whom he recently had a run-in before the devastation of his family. The preacher tells everyone about the “Butcher of Gettysburg” a.k.a The Cowboy before them. They’re all horrified. When the holy man asks The Cowboy whether he’ll succumb to the love of Jesus Christ, the reply is not subtle whatsoever: “I love my horse. I love my wife. And I love my little girl. As for Jesus, he can join us all in Hell.” Out come a bag filled with decapitated heads, then his dual-wielded guns. The end for everyone in that saloon is not a happy one. It is bloody, merciless. It is an act of absolute hatred because of what’s happened to him and his family. Even the poor singing man from earlier gets knocked off. As does the man using the player piano. Our Cowboy, he pours himself a drink, as a massive storm bears down on Ratwater.
What a god damn opener. One of the best, if not THE best, so far in this first season. Amazing stuff. Heavy.
Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is carting Jesse (Dominic Cooper) off to jail. He’s also asking where Eugene (Ian Colletti) is, what’s happened to him. Custer only says he sent the boy to hell. Well, Hugo isn’t happy. He’s giving the preacher a little story about what happens to kid killers in jail, as if Jesse would have actually killed a young man like Eugene. Then with an “I‘ll see you Sunday,” Jesse tucks and rolls out of the cop car leaving Root completely stunned. There’s that old thief spirit.
In other news, the two angels, or whatever they are, DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke) are out for a stroll on a rainy Texas evening. They’re looking to go on a trip. “We wanna go to hell,” DeBlanc makes clear after their travel adviser suggests Nova Scotia, Canada, or maybe Tasmania. Fiore makes it clearer: “MUCH further South.” Anyway, they get it all done. Even after Fiore almost has to bang the lady out back. But the arrangements are made, all above board. Or, as above board as it can get with dudes from heaven trying to get into hell.
Over at Tulip’s (Ruth Negga) place, we find her and Emily (Lucy Griffiths) trying to take care of the ole vampire himself. Tulip lets goody two shoes Emily in on the fact Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is an ancient bloodsucker. Poor guy is trying to regenerate after proving himself to be a creature of the night to Custer. Taking a lot to get him back to good health. Now, Tulip tells Emily she couldn’t care less about Jesse, as he’s done enough to break her trust already. Oh, and Emily even readily admits to dating Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe). Well she does a good job pretending it’s “cool.” Learning a bit from all the liars around her. Tulip? She’s gone to “kill a man in Albuquerque.” So Emily gets left to feed the starving vampire all on her own. When she gets too curious, opening the door more than a crack, Cassidy – still burnt, bloody, a hideous creature – snarls at her.
Chilling under a bridge, having breakfast and a bit of wine, Jesse hangs out with some homeless friends. One of whom is quite curious as to how Jesse plans on bringing God right to church, as he so claims.
DeBlanc and Fiore are worried about being separated, so they don’t want to call heaven and settle things that way. Then they suggest a coin toss for whether they go to heaven, or to hell. When they do a double or nothing flip they get heaven. Excited, they then find out their precious phone is missing.
DeBlanc: “You left a telephone with a direct line to heaven‘s throne under the bed!”
Fiore: “I thought it was clever. Who checks under the bed anymore?”
Miles gets a call from Emily. Turns out Cassidy got out of the room, as he cried for help. A trick? Regardless, the trusty mayor heads over to the O’Hare place. Strange noises, guinea pigs and rabbits in cages squeaking.
Then we find out Emily’s figured a way to get Miles out of her life, after watching a bit of Psycho on television and hearing Norman Bates talk about how we’re all stuck in our lives, unable to break free. This single mother has found a way to break free. That involves feeding Miles to Cassidy. Two birds with one stone: Miles isn’t creeping around Emily, forcing himself into her bed + Cassidy can heal. Also, we get a nice shot reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining, as Emily keeps Miles locked in the room just like Jack Torrance pressed himself against the freezer door, ranting to his terrified wife outside. And the sounds of Mayor Person meeting his nasty demise.
At the motel, Sheriff Root finds a blood spattered room. In the tub, a woman with her arms and legs cut off. “Kill me,” she begs. Looks like the angelic duo had to leave her behind. As Root contemplates helping the woman die, our awareness makes it a tragic moment. He has no idea the trouble he’s about to cause once he strangles the dying… thing… to death. She reappears behind him before leaving the room.
DeBlanc and Fiore have to leave everything behind after they get on the bus to hell. This is the exact same spot where Walt and Jesse were respectively meant to meet the extractor nearing the end of Breaking Bad.
Over at the O’Hare house, Jesse turns up. He sees Cassidy in his low, dangerous state, curled in the corner. On the floor is the corpse of Miles. We see the two friends discovering everything about each other. Will Jesse accept Cassidy once more? “I‘m not goin‘ anywhere,” Jesse tells him: “You saw me too, Cassidy. The worst part of me.” He apologises for letting the man burn in front of him. “You put me out, that‘s what matters,” replies Cassidy. And then they’re off, getting rid of the mayor’s body. Putting all that’s right in its place.
Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) is looking forward to seeing the preacher fail inf ront fo everybody at church on Sunday. Should be quite a show when the “greatest lie ever told” gets the rugged pulled out from under it.
The phone to heaven’s throne? Jesse has it. However, not being an angel doesn’t exactly make it easy for him to make a call. He does make a call on a regular phone, though. To Tulip. He recounts having pancakes with the homeless people, which reminded him about a story a few years ago when they were on the run from some Rodriguez Brothers; about pancakes, M&Ms, and essentially about how much he cares for her. “For me, it‘s just you ‘til the end of the world,” Jesse says while Tulip sits in Albuquerque, a man tied to a chair in front of her, a meat tenderiser in her hand.
We flash back through moments with The Cowboy. All those horrific events which led to him killing everyone in that saloon. Like going through his own personal hell.
Back at the bar, him having a drink, the storm starts to rage outside. The walls shake and everything is about to fall down around him. Yet The Cowboy drinks away.
Then we can hear footsteps coming down a dark, barely lit hallway. The feet then step onto the saloon floor, all the bodies, the bloody squishing beneath them. DeBlanc and Fiore stroll up to the bar, as our Cowboy draws his guns. “You want this to end? You want to be free of all this? We have a job for you,” DeBlanc explains to the man. Before getting a bullet in the face. Afterwards, Fiore explains they need him to kill somebody: a preacher. Ah, and things keep on coming together.
In Annville, Jesse and Cassidy dig a hole in the night, somewhere along the desert. They’re digging for angel hands from the bodies Cassidy already buried. Alongside the rest, they lay Miles to rest. So with a line to God now, is Jesse going to use those angel hands to try and convince him to come to church on Sunday? Have mercy.
My favourite episode yet! I’ve said that a couple times, but this takes the cake. Amazing. Through and through. The mystery and suspense of the series has never been better (or paid off more) than in this chapter. Finale is titled “Call and Response” and you can be sure we’re about to see something spectacular, on all fronts.
Season 1, Episode 7: “The Damage Done”
Directed by Leigh Janiak
Written by Nathaniel Halpern
* For a review of the previous episode, “From the Shadows It Watches” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “What Lurks Within” – click here
Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) is trying to heal up the wound Sidney (Brent Spiner) left in his chest, the pentagram. Takes quite a few cotton balls, bit of alcohol, some Q-Tips. Even then the blood still seeps out of the cuts. A little while later Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) arrives, obviously none the wiser. They’ve got a card game apparently. And Anderson hasn’t missed one in well over a decade. So Giles is curious when the Rev doesn’t want to play. He knows there’s something else going on. Rather than talk, though, he wants to play. It’s clear, even when the Mayor (Toby Huss), Ogden (Pete Burris), and the Chief are sitting around with him that the Rev is not himself. He is completely out of sorts. Meanwhile, Giles keeps pushing at Ogden about his whereabouts when the fire started out at the trailer. Then the man gets upset, as they nearly come to blows. Anderson even gets thrown to the floor.
This all leads to Giles figuring out what happened to Anderson at the hands of Sidney. The Rev, for his part (bless his foolish heart), wants to expose his assaulter. He knows who Sidney is, he wants to fight the evil with the good.
Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt) is off early in the morning. She’s still troubled by what she’s discovered about her husband Mark (David Denman). Is she going somewhere to deal with Donnie? In other news, Allison Barnes (Kate Lyn Sheil) is having some strange flashbacks. To when her daughter was screaming, in the closet. Like her father, Kyle (Patrick Fugit). You can see the heaviness of the memory in Allison’s eyes, all over her face.
Speaking of Kyle, he’s having a bit of trouble. In Rome, it’s Remembrance Day. Seems 29 people were lost in some type of accident. Now Kyle flashes back to his buddy Russ, as the two get off work one day. They chat about family life, going for a beer. When Kyle goes to shake his hand before heading home, there’s a brief moment where Russ hauls back, almost singed by Kyle’s touch. You can see that Russ was shaken. After the flashback, Kyle receives a visit from Giles. He’s wondering why the guy even bothered sticking around in Rome. Moreover, he wants to know what Kyle knows. About what’s happening in their quaint town. Especially after Mildred.
The big Remembrance Day celebration is poised to get going. While Anderson is preparing to give a little speech, he also sees the mysterious Sidney strolling about the town square, smiling like a creep.
Giles winds up out at the burned trailer with Kyle. He’s starting to get curious about Ogden. He wonders if Ogden is like Mildred, and if it can even be fixed. The Chief levels with the man. He feels Kyle has “a stain” that he wants to “wipe off” himself. “That says something about who are, truly,” Giles tells him.
After his recent brush with true evil, the Rev is starting to loosen up with his semi-girlfriend Patricia (Melinda McGraw). Even further he finds Sidney in a barbershop. They talk quite cryptic. Or at least cryptic to the barber in the background. Until Anderson goes ahead and invites Sidney to his regular poker game. Yeah, that won’t be awkward. Having a demon, or the devil, or whatever/whoever he is at the table, playing with his old buddies. Actually, please, I want to see that.
In an drawing by her daughter Amber, Allison notices she has no face; Amber does, Kyle does, not her. We start seeing that the little girl is apprehensive of her mother when she says: “I don‘t know what face to draw.” God damn that was creepy.
Over at the town square, Kyle tries to get a handshake from Ogden without drawing too much attention. No demon. Just an asshole. Ogden makes it clear there’s lots of love lost when it comes to how people feel about Kyle. Not only is there the situation with his wife, he didn’t go to work that day when the big accident happened. So a guy like Ogden isn’t letting that go. Regardless, there’s something a bit horrifying about the man.
And Megan, she goes to pay Donnie every last cent she has to get him to leave their family alone.
Allison continues trying to figure out the hazy bits of that time she can’t recall. It comes back over her in waves. She strangled her daughter, or tried to, anyway. Side note, can I? Kate Lyn Sheil is amazing. I love her acting, a revelation as the episodes pass. In this scene she does a fantastic job selling the fear that wracks her instantly after remembering what she’d done.
Well, Ogden tells Giles to “look the other way” and now it’s far more than obvious he’s done something bad. Something worth the cover up. At the big celebration, Anderson then gets up to say his piece. In the crowd Kyle touches hands with Kat Ogden (Debra Christofferson); is this what her husband’s been trying to keep secret, that his wife is possessed by a demon?
Afterwards when a monument to the 29 fallen is unveiled, a red pentagram is spray painted on its chest. What this does is start to make the Rev seem crazy to the townspeople. It begins alienating him. He talks about the demons, the exorcisms he and Kyle have performed, and this just makes everyone look at him like a madman. He even points out Sidney – to anyone else, a seemingly normal man with a nice hat. “That man, he is the devil, and he left his mark,” Anderson screams before revealing his own pentagram, just like the statue. Ah, the devil’s plan is working perfectly. Kyle takes the Rev away, but Sidney’s little game has worked out nicely for him.
When Mark goes to see the Chief, we see the walls start crumbling. That money Megan gave Donnie? Didn’t do shit. Lawyers are involved now, the dash-cam footage revealed. Uh oh. Big time uh oh. When Mark tells Megan what’s going down, she nearly has a heart attack. She’s been played for an absolute fool. “This is never gonna end,” she weeps. It all makes them fight. Before Megan bursts out telling her husband exactly what Donnie did to her all those years ago, finally.
Over at his place, Kyle finds Allison and Amber waiting for him. That’s interesting. We know that Allison is wising up to her whole situation, what likely happened. At least in part. Putting his daughter to bed, Kyle hears Amber talk about the “cold” and “black” stuff that left her mother. Unlike her father, Amber was spared. We get to watch a loving scene, if not spooky for a moment, between a father and his little girl. Following that, mom and dad reconnect, both emotionally and physically.
Only when Kyle wakes up, he finds Allison gone, a short note. She realised that something terrifying happened to her, some forced made her do a bad thing to her daughter. Which in turn prompted her own husband to have to do a bad thing to her, too. But now Allison has decided to leave. I wonder how this will work out, particularly when people in town discover he’s suddenly got custody. Yet also, what’s going on with Allison? She reconnects with her husband suddenly, then takes off. To who knows where.
What a solid episode, a surprise all around. Really dig this one, as I’ve said plenty throughout this first season. A great, solid series full of good writing and smart choices. Can’t wait for the next episode titled “What Lurks Within.”
Season 1, Episode 6: “From the Shadows It Watches”
Directed by Tricia Brock
Written by Joy Blake
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Road Before Us” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Damage Done” – click here
Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) watches the tape of an old exorcism. He flicks through and tries to see where he’s gone wrong in the past. The doubt he’s feeling now is what will become dangerous. Up to now it’s been easy. Without faith in himself, the Rev is not going down a good path. It’s like for all the powers Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) holds, his presence back in Rome is more disruptive, for everyone, than it is helpful. Anderson goers through tape after tape after tape. The recurring face of Mildred (Grace Zabriskie) pops up from time to time. Not to mention there’s someone locked in the Rev’s basement at the church.
He’s juggling his life outside the church, the church itself, and all the exorcism stuff at once. That cannot be easy on his psyche. He gets a visit from Patricia (Melinda McGraw), who makes clear they’ve got a burgeoning relationship, but that all gets put to an end because Anderson can’t just be honest. Not that telling a woman about demons would be easy. However, he might do something to make sure she knows it isn’t him either not being interested or having someone else on the side.
“Come with me,” he tells Patricia. The Rev leads her back to the door. To show her “what‘s behind the curtain” and she willingly goes forward. Maybe she’s found a keeper after all.
Kyle is out doing community service on the highway, spreading tar and fixing up lengths of road. Is that just his job, or is it community service, as in court-ordered service? A job from the way it looks. Either way, it’s something to keep him rooted in the real world. Speaking of the real world, Officer Mark Holter (David Denman) has a woman in for a bit of questioning in relation to the DNA he found out in the camper. This lady’s got nothing for him, really. She went missing for a while the year prior, says it was a Disney trip. Not sure if it’s true, but she says it all had to do with escaping a crazy boyfriend. For now, Holter’s big cop routine doesn’t get far, as Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) watches in the wings.
But back to the demon fun. Anderson does some crazy shit, cutting his hand open thinking he can do what Kyle does. Not only that, he even says fuck Kyle. He doesn’t like the boy’s hubris. Yet it’s the Rev who’s got a big chip on his shoulder about being a holy man, doing God’s work, whatever.
Meanwhile, Kyle is trying to put his time in, pay child support, be normal. No matter if the memories and the thoughts are all still there. From what he put up with as a kid, you know Kyle’s mentally capable of dealing with a lot. Stepping outside a moment he sees a car parked outside his place. It’s Patricia. She wants him to go help Anderson, though that does nothing to sway Kyle. For his part, he isn’t ready to make things worse for anyone else. He’s seen what his power does, putting his mother and that little girl into a catatonic state. At the same time it bothers him to sit and do nothing at all.
Kyle: “Crazy Kyle Barnes. Rome‘s own Boo Radley, is that it?”
After Kyle goes out on his porch and sees a little trinket sitting there, eerily similar to one of the figurines we’ve seen at Mildred’s home, he gets hit in the head. He wakes up to – you guessed it – Mildred. She sucks a bit of that black essence out of him. Poor guy can’t catch a fucking break, can he?
Patricia’s own son does not like her being with Anderson. Although he is very crass to his own mother, the boy makes good points about how she lets men treat her badly. But still, that’s his mom. He could have tried to be diplomatic. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Patricia. She’s interesting, both attracted to the Rev and also interested in him as a man of God. There is some good stuff to be mined from this relationship.
When Kyle comes to again there’s no Mildred to be found. Next door, he comes across Sidney (Brent Spiner). He’s still pretending to have been an old friend of Norville, taking care of his estate, that stuff. Really, he only gets closer to Kyle. He’s also got Mildred hiding out in Norville’s old place. Two sketchy motherfuckers. They talk about the whole demon situation. We begin fleshing out, slightly, their world and how they operate, why they’re on Earth. Moreover, it’s the mystery I enjoy. The intrigue gradually stretched from episode to episode. Never too much exposition. Dig the writing, hugely.
Finally we’re seeing more of ole Ogden (Pete Burris), too. He has close relations with the woman from earlier that Holter interviewed. She lets Ogden know about the questioning, and further than that it appears Ogden’s wife has a watchful eye.
Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) goes to see her brother at work. They eat sandwiches together. Unfortunately, she brings back the envelopes of money Kyle’s been sending to Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil). He also brings up the possibility of the supernatural. Only for a brief moment before they finish up. The chemistry between Schmidt and Fugit is awesome, as is the writing of the characters together, their story.
Oh, and Megan gets a call from a mysterious number. Is there trouble rearing its head with the Donnie situation? Or something else altogether?
Over at the church, Giles goes for a talk with Anderson. They talk about Mildred’s exorcism. I dig this relationship, as well. These guys are close friends. Giles even “hushed things up” over the years because he believed in what the Reverend has been doing, or at least convinced himself it was in the best interest of their little town. Things are falling apart now.
In a hospital, Megan finds Donnie laid up in bed, beaten to pieces and recovering. He wants to talk about Mark. And she’s got no idea about what her husband did. Apparently there’s a possibility of brain damage for the rest of his life. That doesn’t sit well, certainly. So blackmail is on the table at this point.
The other side is always calling Kyle. He hallucinates a bucket of tar bubbling over, rising up at him. Without much explanation he walks off the job and heads out of there. Simultaneously, Rev. Anderson is in the throes of a crisis of faith. He speaks candidly with God, wondering exactly where is his place. He admits to failure and agrees to any punishment he’s given.
He doesn’t know that Kyle is headed back to him hoping to work things out, or at the very least explore things a little further. From the basement come the screams of a possessed soul. In the church, Anderson pushes Kyle around, yelling. All the while the demon downstairs breaks out. It’s the handyman, Caleb (Abraham Benrubi). When things get out of hand Kyle touches him. Then the black essence worms its way from out of Caleb and into the air before evaporating. Afterwards, the exorcist duo strike a tenuous deal. Being that Kyle is in charge when it comes to the exorcisms while on Sunday the Rev can have his flock. As for Caleb he’s unaffected, not comatose or anything else. That’s a step up from their last job. Though what Caleb tells the Reverend is disturbing. The possession didn’t come with fear. It came with warmth. Almost scarier than pure evil. Their conversation clearly affects Anderson. Out of nowhere, the foundation of his faith seems to have been shaken over the course of the past couple episodes.
Kyle goes to Mildred’s place and confronts her.
Except she’s catatonic. Just like the girl, Kyle’s mom. He calls 911 to have her brought in, but we know what happened: Sidney has his hand in this one. When Giles comes across Kyle, he gets a bit of the truth out of him. Most of all he begins to find out more to make him understand the Rev hasn’t been helping Rome enough. In the house, Giles finds a photograph, an old one. Of a younger Sidney and Mildred outside a camper, like the one in the woods that Ogden conveniently burned to the ground. A bigger fire’s lit now under the Chief, as he tries piecing it all together in his head.
The Holter house is not well. Megan’s freezing her husband out, as the knowledge of what he did to Donnie, how that can affect their future, rattles around in her head.
Anderson finds Sidney in his church office. The unsettling man starts revealing more of himself. Is he a big time demon, like somebody with a title – Leviathan? One of those big baddies? Or just a renegade bad ass demon from hell? He carves Anderson up savagely, though doesn’t realise Patricia’s kid – likely heading there for vandalism purposes – watches through the window.
Left alone, a bleeding pentagram carved into his breast, the Rev has more of a crisis of faith on his hands this time.
What an amazing episode! I say this every time, but it’s true. The series gets better each chapter. I thought this was a solid addition leading into the second half of the first season. Next episode is titled “The Damage Done” and I am PUMPED.
Season 1, Episode 7: “He Gone”
Directed by Michael Morris
Written by Mary Laws (The Neon Demon)
* For a review of the previous episode, “Sundowner” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “El Valero” – click here
Eugene (Ian Colletti) has disappeared. After Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) told him to “Go to hell” it’s as if he’s literally done exactly that. Now, the preacher’s left to wonder if those powers of his might not finally have gotten out of control. For the time being he doesn’t seem to mind. Are those powers twisting the person he is into someone he would’ve never wanted to be? Either way, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) witnessed what happened. Can he keep that a secret? Probably not. And for a century old vampire, he’s actually got a bit of a moral compass, for some things.
But where is Eugene exactly? And are the demons in hell going to figure out that Jesse has Genesis because of this? We’ve already got heaven in the mix with DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke) on Earth trying to get it back.
Despite his transgressions, Jesse is starting to realise the power within him might be a bit too powerful. To accommodate his congregation the preacher has put chairs outside, a loud speaker fixed on the awning above the entrance. As his voice bellows out there, a bit of good still inside Jesse knows there’s something not right. Even worse, poor Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is wandering around asking about Eugene. Won’t be easy to explain that one away.
There’s still Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), as well. He hasn’t changed totally, other than that he’s there to do the bidding of Genesis, not God. He still listens to livestock and the creepy tapes. His Civil War model is bloody and brutal – a tree reminiscent of the one The Cowboy passed on his way into/out of Ratwater stands with someone hanging from it. Could Genesis have something to do with the revenge of The Cowboy back then? There’s some relation. Odin’s still drinking, still in a bad mindset. No telling what’s going to happen next in his little tale. Only going to get worse for Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe), too.
We flash back to a younger Jesse sitting outside the principal’s office. His father, John Custer (Nathan Darrow), is there to see why Jesse and little Tulip are in trouble. Young Donnie Schenck “lost a nipple” in the altercation. What we see is how the romantic duo of Jesse and Tulip got so close, as their childhoods were essentially intertwined. As a boy, Jesse was a religious kid. Said his prayers. Cared about being good.
In present day, Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) is up to her old tricks. She runs, barefoot, through neighbourhoods holding her high heels. She pulls a kid off a bike, all to get a pair of pants. Her uncle’s – he passed out on the front steps again. Sad to seethe home life she’s been subjected to for her entire existence. Even the local mascot shakes his head walking by, seeing the uncle passed out as Tulip sits frustrated on the steps.
And Jesse, he’s meeting with Emily (Lucy Griffiths) to see what his day holds. Lots of business to take care of, naturally. Meanwhile, Eugene is still nowhere to be found. The weight of that hangs on Jesse, but I fear there’s more of him changing due to Genesis than he’d like to let on. Cassidy worries for his pal, revealing he witnessed what happened with Eugene in the church. He wants to help out. To boot, Emily hears a bit of what’s going on. Great. That’ll make things go smooth. When Tulip arrives, Cassidy antagonises her about the fact she’s staying around, cooking dinner, acting like a housewife instead of taking off to get revenge. They get into a bit of an argument over who knows Jesse best, and whether he and Cassidy are actually friends. But most of all Cassidy finds himself worrying about what Genesis might mean for any relationship Tulip has with Jesse.
Another flash back to John Custer and the kids. Jesse and Tulip developed a bond at a young age, promising themselves “to the end of the world” in reference to their undying friendship, and later what became an undying love. Two parts of one soul. Except that they were separated by Texas Human Services, taking Tulip away to place her in a proper home. Later that same night Jesse prayed for his father to die and be sent to hell.
Will Eugene meet Jesse’s father down there?
Back to the present, Odin heads to see the preacher. He confesses to having done a “terrible thing” – not the one you’re thinking of, but the fact he let his own family down with the business not thriving like they did once. Well, Odin wants the deed to the land they agreed upon signed over. Appears Quincannon isn’t exactly turned over to Christ. He says he isn’t saved, not at all. He wants the land. Or else – what, I’m not so sure. There might be some trouble on the road ahead. One thing’s certain: Jesse has underestimated the power, he does not understand it entirely.
Dinner between Jesse, Emily, Tulip, and Cassidy gets awkward. At least before Sheriff Root arrives. He still hasn’t found his boy. Obviously, he fears the worst. Right at that very moment the oven catches fire. Flames burst out. The perfect touch. Almost like Eugene is calling out from the fires of hell. After Jesse lies to Root about not seeing the kid, Cassidy lets the preacher have it with a fire extinguisher to his face. “We all make mistakes, don‘t we?” Cassidy agrees, and starts wondering what they can do to get Eugene back.
Now we discover what happened to Tracy Loach, “prom queen, queen of everything.”
Eugene confessed his love to Tracy and was rejected. Instead of letting it go, Eugene blew half her head off then tried to do the same to himself. Holy. Fucking. Shit. That is even more intense than I’d imagined on my own. Wow. Still, Jesse is not God. He can’t act like it, and that’s exactly what he’s doing right now. Cassidy knows it, we know it. Only Jesse hasn’t figured that out yet. He is all but lost in the magnificent power of Genesis. And when he finds out about Cassidy’s identity, what will he do? The old vampire takes his shirt off, stepping into the sun, and that fire extinguisher is now for more than just fighting.
More and more now, Jesse is alienating everybody around him. First it’s Cassidy, then Tulip. Poor Emily’s stuck in the middle with no clear idea of what at all is happening. He starts alienating her, too.
Then we flash back to John Custer. He tells his little boy Jesse to hide under the bed. Someone breaks into the house, cracking the preacher with baseball bats. He’s dragged out to watch his father have a pistol pointed at his head. Of course the boy blames himself, having prayed for his dad’s death. Back in present day, Jesse literally tries digging through the floor to find Eugene screaming: “Come back!”
Oh, and Quincannon is headed with a ton of men and a bulldozer, straight towards the preacher’s land. Yikes. Lots of excitement ahead of us.
A nice chapter to follow up Eugene’s disappearance into the great below. Next episode is titled “El Valero” and we’re closing in on the end of this first, glorious, gruesome, fun season! What a series. Can’t wait for more.
Season 1, Episode 4: “A Wrath Unseen”
Directed by Julius Ramsay
Written by Robert Kirkman
* For a review of the previous episode, “All Alone Now” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Road Before Us” – click here
Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) presides over a very small funeral for poor Norville, after Kyle (Patrick Fugit) found him bloody and murdered at the end of last episode. And then Sidney (Brent Spiner) shows up, claiming himself as a “friend” and claiming Norville must have been distraught over the loss of his wife. Sidney says he’s in town to take care of Norville’s affairs, all that stuff. What a god damn liar. Although I can’t wait to see more of his character. He’s sinister, as we know it was him to have done the need. Or at least it’s highly likely, anyway. So I want to know his full deal. I suspect he’s a demon, but won’t jump to say anything. I’ve never read the source material, I wouldn’t know where this is headed. I can only judge by what we’re given. And I dig the slow burn nature of the plots coming together.
Anderson is an interesting character, too. He has a bunch of keepsakes at home. Little trinkets he keeps from the exorcism work he performs. When he touches them the memories come flooding back, of the demonic possession he’s seen, the victims of said demons. Tragic life to live. In other parts of town, Mark and Megan Holter (David Denman/Wrenn Schmidt) are happy. At least they seem to be, even if she’s got other things happening in her life that he doesn’t know about – Donnie Hamel (Scott Porter) kicking around town and all. He actually shows up while they’re out at dinner. He brings up awkward conversation and while Mark does his best to be polite, his wife is rocked by his presence. There’s a very aggressive element to his presence. More plot and character development/history to come out. I’m sure there’s something deep lying behind their relationship.
Then we get more of Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey), this time at home with his wife and friends, Mr and Mrs. Ogden (Peter Burris & Debra Christofferson). When they’re alone, Giles passes the gold watch over to his buddy. With that, this plot thickens.
At a bar, Kyle runs into Donnie. The whole family clearly has a connection to him. That comes up quick and violent after Kyle attacks him right off before they’re both tossed out of the bar. They fight some more outside. Mostly, Kyle gets his ass beat down. “Always playing the guardian angel,” Donnie smirks above him: “Haven‘t you figured out they don‘t exist?” Next morning Kyle calls his sister. He’s not willing to “ignore” whatever it is that’s happening(/has happened) between them. For the time being he promises not to do anything too drastic. Something big is behind all this and I’m intrigued as hell.
Later on Kyle goes to see Anderson, who’s busy cleaning up the cemetery, picking up trash. The Rev lays it on his younger friend, saying that to get into this whole thing and help people, to fight those demons while using that gift of his there’s a need for people to trust him. They don’t right now. Lots of talk, then his dust up with Donnie. No matter what’s going on there is a good bond between these two. Because really, they’re the only two who know for sure that there’s something dark going on, that the devil is more real than many are willing to believe. And it’s no big religious thing, at least not to Kyle. It’s merely a stand between good and evil. Well the exorcist duo head over to another house, the door has a German “Willkommen” on the door. Inside Anderson sees a few ceramic boys on the window ledge and starts to have flashes of what he’d thought of earlier while touching the trinkets he keeps as souvenirs. Meanwhile, Kyle goes in to see Mildred (Grace Zabriskie). She knows all about Kyle. She alludes to him beating his wife, and in general having a problem with violence. Mildred has trouble sitting down, but when Kyle goes to help her it all but sears her skin. The whole thing is incredibly unsettling, which sends Kyle out fast. We discover more about Mildred, how she’d supposedly been exorcised. And Anderson says she’s been in church for the past couple years, singing, praising Jesus. Could he maybe be a bit too naive? Perhaps the fresh eyes of Kyle Barnes are really needed to figure out exactly how devious the devil can get in his work.
Out on his own, Giles is suited with rifle in tow for a trek in the woods. He’s back at that dirty old trailer trying to find out more about what’s going on out there.
Poor Megan is twisted up over the appearance of Donnie in her life again. Her husband’s worried, and their life is being affected. She can’t even think of anything related to Donnie without getting upset. Then we get a flashback from Megan, she peeks through a bathroom door before running to her room, towel on, and then who I can only assume is a young Donnie corners her, crushing the tail of her white stallion toy on the floor. In the present, Megan takes out a gun and holds it with a look of intent in her eyes.
On the street Mark picks up his brother-in-law Kyle, who reluctantly gets in the cruiser. They go for a beer. Mark wants to talk about Donnie. Right away you can see the look on Kyle’s face change, his entire body language and demeanour becomes more tense. “Is that him?” asks Mark. He obviously knows about whatever happened, just not who did it. We find out Donnie was a foster kid that their family took in and he abused Megan. Yowzah. Lots of explosive stuff about to happen. Disgusting that Mark had to figure it all out this way. Furthermore, Kyle tells Mark about how when he found out what Donnie was doing, he started sleeping on the floor of Megan’s room. So more and more he’s painted as less of a bad guy, and even Mark comes to see him a bit differently, even after all the stuff with Kyle, his wife, his child – something we still have yet to fully discover ourselves.
At the hotel, Megan confronts Donnie. She wants him to leave and he tries saying that he’s changed, that he was a “fucked up kid” and nothing like that anymore. Not sure how this will all play out. I’d like him to get shot, Megan definitely has her gun. Though I doubt she’ll do that.
Anderson is back to visit with Mildred. After the incident with Kyle he wanted to be sure she was all right. Truthfully, he’s doubting his own work. He believes Kyle may be right, underneath it all. He questions Mildred about her grandchildren, the fact she doesn’t want to be around them these days. This is a truly eerie scene. I love it. “What if we like who we become?” Mildred ponders out loud to the Reverend. It becomes clearer by the second there is still something demonic, something evil lurking inside that woman, and it’s obviously gotten better at concealing itself beneath her skin. The Rev finally admits to Kyle he didn’t get the job done on Mildred. Off they go on their merry way, exorcism kit in hand and ready to fend off evil once more. Only Mildred’s daughter won’t allow them in, she knows what Anderson did to try and get the devil out of the old woman before – the demon tells lies, of course.
In the woods, Giles sees his old pal Ogden throw a load of gas over the trailer then proceed to burn it down. Ah, more developments.
Out on the highway Mark pulls Donnie over. He orders the man out of his car, and you can feel the tension fatten up, so thick you could cut it with a knife. And in this day and age you can be sure the dash cam catches Mark beating the hell out of Donnie, throwing him to the roadside, laying into him. At home later that night, Mark gets a call from the Chief to run all that evidence he collected previously down at the trailer. But now Mark has to deal with his own morality, he has to live with himself. No doubt Donnie deserves all he gets, though this whole thing has definitely damaged Mark’s moral core.
The worry in Kyle for the mistakes Anderson has made mounts. He worries now for his own wife Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil), even if she’s got a restraining order on him. What if the Rev has failed to exorcise many demons, not just Mildred? Might mean a ton of dark souls are out there waiting to be saved, or trying hard not to be.
In the trees somewhere, Megan sets up a bunch of glass. She smashes it with a hammer taking out her rage in the privacy of the forest. The pain inside her has to come out, and luckily she isn’t doing anything nuts. I thought she’d have killed Donnie, or maybe she was heading down to do some target practice in preparation. However, I think what we’re seeing is that she is a good person, she’s been degraded and abused terribly yet she chooses to take out her aggression without hurting anyone, putting her in juxtaposition with her husband. Here, the person that was abused isn’t the one wanting the revenge, or at least she isn’t taking it herself. The man always has to step up and make it about his own feelings and his own rage. At the same time there’s a division between people willing to step over the line when necessary and those who will never step over it on principle. Mark is a good man, but this episode sets up a big duality between those who choose to take care of evil firsthand and those who would simply rather try to get past it, however they can.
A great episode. Love this series so much already. Some think it’s too slow, I find the pace extraordinary. It sets things up well and gives us a chance to speculate, before the plots and the characters develop. Lots of surprises, lots of creepiness. Can’t wait for the next episode!
With a list for the disturbed, one for zombies/living dead/infected, a 31-day map of horror and even a list for Halloween-ers who aren’t horror fans, I’ve come to one with a special disturbing dedication: blood and gore and uncomfortable pains!
While the other disturbing list is a bunch of general unsettling movies, this one is based mainly around effects and the visual nastiness. Now, these aren’t meant to be the BLOODIEST, or the wildest gore imaginable, nothing like that. The movies on this list are some of the ones with the effects I enjoy most, the nastiest depictions of violence, and so on, which I’ve found throughout the 4,100 films I’ve seen in the past 30 years.
Hopefully you hardcore horror fans will enjoy some of these and you’ve probably seen a few, if not all. Either way, let me know what you think and if there are any others you enjoy that ought to be shared.
Anthropophagus (1980)/ Absurd (1981)
A perfect double feature if you want a big helping of senseless violence, relentless terror and creepy atmosphere. These two landed on the Video Nasty list during 1983; they were also prosecuted successfully.
Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagus sees a group of friends on a Greek island terrorized by a tall cannibalistic man of mysterious origin. No more explanation needed because there’s honestly nothing much else to say. It’s the way D’Amato shows everything, his style, which really makes this something to see. Truly nasty bit of work. Goes well together with a want for blood, guts, and flesh wounds of all shapes and sizes.
Moving on to 1981, D’Amato comes back with a spiritual sequel to his earlier Anthropophagus from 1980 – Absurd is the story of a priest chasing down a monster whose blood coagulates incredibly fast, rendering it near impossible to kill, and its killing is unstoppable.
This isn’t near as good as Anthropophagus, still it is some more savagery from D’Amato whose nastiness knows no bounds at times.
A ton of head action here: no, not a blowjob, I’m talking heads being drilled, heads being sawed, et cetera. If you’re in need of a bit of rough violence, this is certainly the ticket. However, as I said, D’Amato doesn’t come back near as good with this film as he did with the previous.
These two films make an interesting, nasty double feature. Don’t say I didn’t warn you – not plot heavy, but definitely thick with murder!
Blood Feast (1963)/ Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
The second double feature (out of 4) on this list, it’s another one with both titles from the same director. This time, it’s the Godfather of Gore, Mr. Herschell Gordon Lewis.
The entree: 1963’s Blood Feast.
While this is by no means a great film, it’s definitely ambitious in terms of the blood and gore. With Blood Feast – the story of a killer slaying women in order to get blood to appease an Egyptian goddess – Lewis began introducing the world to his vibrant brand of gore horror. Right from the very beginning of the film, its first sequence comes off totally awesome and bizarre; a proper portion of H.G. Lewis signature style gory makeup effects. So pretty much immediately you’ll know whether or not you’re in for his type of filmmaking. I dig it and think it’s nasty as hell. This is one ridiculously fun and equally rotten bit of gore horror.
After Lewis shocked with the previous little blood & guts flick, he came back swinging with a much better film the next year: Two Thousand Maniacs!
This one is the story six people who find themselves trapped in a town, deep down amongst the Southern U.S. and one by one they’re killed, as part of a celebration/their revenge for the town being destroyed in the Civil War.
Talk about bloody! The poster does not lie. Early on in the days of splatter horror movies, H.G. was rocking it hard. Furthermore, there’s a real dreamy quality to Lewis’ filmmaking and I feel that’s a part of appreciating what he does; sure, it’s kind of cheap, yes it is also tame compared to things today. But is it really tame? I don’t think so. Either way, there’s a certain atmosphere Lewis creates which not a lot of people take into account. Sort of an avant-garde-trash mixture. Bless him. This is a wonderfully fun and bloody piece of work.
These two Hershell Gordon Lewis movies work so well together, though, the second is much better. This gives me my fill of organs and bleeding cuts and slashed throats and more. A perfect Halloween splatterfest!
My full review is here.
One of my three favourite Davids – another one comes later (and the third is my dad) – Lynch dropped his first feature film onto the midnight circuit in 1977 with the existentially horrifying and viscerally churning Eraserhead.
The story… ah, if you don’t already know what this movie is, there’s no real point trying to explain it. Maybe best put: the story of a man living in an unbearable industrial landscape, whose girlfriend gets pregnant and then they both must deal with it after coming out a tiny monster. Oh, and don’t forget the woman who lives in the radiator.
A whole mind trip of a film, this Lynch masterpiece has tons of the existential dread happening, from start to finish. But the visuals – holy fuck, the visuals! There are moments even some hardcore horror hounds find nauseating, simply because of the way Lynch shows us his imagery. I won’t ruin anything for those who’ve not seen it. Needless to say, you may never look at a turkey or chicken again in the same way once you’re ready to carve it up.
Fun note: Lynch still says to this day no one has ever really pinpointed what the film is about, for him.
Dans Ma Peau a.k.a In My Skin (2002)
This French film is the story of a woman who experiences a bad injury while at a party, then becomes increasingly obsessed with self harm – serious cutting.
A lot of people might find themselves flinching throughout large portions of this one. Honestly, it’s a tough piece of cinema. The amount of nasty cutting and self-violence here is extraordinary. Perhaps what makes the blood and makeup effects here so devastatingly effective is the fact we get inside the headspace of the main character – also the director and writer, talented woman – and come to actually care about her, maybe some of us will identify with her. So this takes it to another level. Go into this expecting you may turn it off due to discomfort.
Hostel (2005)/ Hostel: Part II (2007)
For my full review of 2005’s Hostel – click here
For my full review of the sequel – click here
Another double bill, again each from the same director. This one would actually make a great quartet feature with H.G. Lewis, come to think of it.
Say what you want about Eli Roth, he’s effective. Can you honestly say the special makeup effects in Hostel aren’t well executed? If so, you’re kidding yourself. You might not like how Roth plays out his film, you may not even like the content. There’s just simply no fucking way you’re convincing me the blood and gore here isn’t properly nasty.
Hostel came out and turned up the label “torture porn” (get what it implies but hate the term). The whole thing, to me, is a sleazy masterpiece of bloody horror. Its first half plays like a roadtrip comedy with the three dudes, cut with bits and pieces of murder. Once the second half begins, Roth takes us on a gory ride. That eyeball effect? Come on… don’t let whatever your opinion of Roth/the movie overall may be cloud your judgement: this is some hardcore brutality. There are plenty more bits to “enjoy” when it comes to all the bloody goodness, the eyeball is my favourite.
I wasn’t expecting a good follow-up, honestly. Regardless of that, though, Hostel: Part II is one hell of a sequel from Roth. Of course the end turns out to be a nice little feminist twist, but most of the film sees a trio of women in peril, as opposed to the three dudes from the first. The savagery is just as prevalent here. Love the homage to Erzebet Bathory with the bloodletting bath scene. Also, I’m always a big fan of piece of shit men getting their dicks cut off. So there’s that.
Both of these films are incredibly horrific, in their own ways while still being similar. Even better than that, I find the sequel Roth came up with did well with creating an entire universe with the story, going deeper into the global club of psychopaths who round up victims for murder tourists to have a go at. On top of all the bleeding and the screams and the terror, there’s also a cherry of a decent plot, too.
Island of Death (1976)
Back to another of the infamous Video Nasties. And I’m not putting this on the list all due to it being on there, either. Only awhile ago did I actually get the chance to see this, but christ… what a doozy.
In 1976, director Nico Mastorakis put out Island of Death after seeing how well Tobe Hooper did with his indie shocker The Texas Chain Saw Massacre only two years before. Except without much of an intent, as I feel Hooper had with his own film, Mastorakis only wanted to bring the awe with a sadistic and perverse plot based around a British couple – who say they’re recently married yet are actually later revealed to be a brother-sister incest duo – wreaking absolute havoc on people while visiting a Greek island. Strangely enough, for two inbreeding siblings, they kill people who they deem sinful.
You’ll find yourself, most certainly, struggling to get through this because it’s not particularly good, in regards to plot or story. Neither is it overly well-acted. It’s the brutish violence and boundless depravity which will take you in. The blood flows and the gory scenes will make you understand easily how this ended up on the Video Nasty list.
Masters of Horror: “Imprint” (dir. Takashi Miike) (2006)
My vote for most disturbing segment ever made for television – Takashi Miike’s Imprint from the horror anthology series Masters of Horror.
Miike has turned up on another list I did for Halloween this year (for his 1999 horror-thriller Audition). He comes back here again with a vengeance.
Without giving away too much, an American traveler who once visited Japan for a time goes back for another trip. When he looks to find the geisha with which he connected so emotionally on his first visit, she is nowhere to be found, and he soon begins to unravel the devastating mystery surrounding her disappearance.
Think it sounds okay? One of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen, and it was a television episode; though, it wasn’t allowed to air if I’m not mistaken. I bought the two seasons of this show and found myself blown away by this one in particular. Lots of nastiness from one of the true masters, Takashi Miike.
For my full review, click here.
A personal favourite of mine, David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is similar, in a few respects, to what he was doing in eXistenZ later down the road. However, they’re definitely different, vastly so, as this 1983 classic goes much harder and more metaphorically at the body horror sub-genre.
Sleazy TV producer Max Renn (James Woods) searches for the ultimate in raw, real content for his channel. In his search, Max comes across an ultra-real show named “Videodrome”, featuring what seems to be actual snuff and torture, et cetera. Slowly drawn in, his quasi-girlfriend Nick Brand (Deborah Harry) goes to audition for the show, having an interest in masochism particularly. What happens next takes Max to the brink of reality and sanity at once.
Cronenberg is one of the genius filmmakers of cinema, even better that he’s Canadian (as I am one; he’s a national treasure). He’s very much an auteur, I would say he’s pretty much the king of body horror. Even further than that, I’d definitely say Cronenberg is at least ONE of the godfathers of the sub-genre. Lately he’s moved a little bit away, which is fine. You just cannot deny his power. Some of the effects here, provided by maestro artist Rick Baker, are simply unforgettable – the fleshy VHS tape, the mutilated/deformed bodies, and so on. Plus, on top of all the body horror, as is his style, Cronenberg also gets into how we relate to media, whether movies or television, what have you. Very interesting movie and also harrowing in terms of its body horror imagery.
Haute Tension (a.k.a High Tension a.k.a Switchblade Romance) (2003)
For my full review, click here.
Alexandre Aja is a favourite of mine, in terms of modern horror filmmakers who have emerged over the past 15 years. He’s vicious, funny, he’s displayed – in some of his films – that practical special makeup effects still have a place in post-2000 horror, it isn’t all about CGI. Most of all, I think he wears the biggest and best of his influences on his sleeve.
The story of Marie and Alexia, two college friends – they head for a vacation back to Alexia’s parents home in the country, deep in the cornfields. On their first night, a killer comes knocking at the door. Systematically he murders the family, except for Alexia – all the while, Marie is hiding upstairs in a room at the top of the house. Marie manages to slip into the killer’s creepy truck before he whisks Alexia off. This begins an intensely vicious night of cat-and-mouse maneuvering, swimming in blood.
I never once saw where this horror movie was going the first time I saw it. Then when you watch it over and over again, which I’ve done (because I fucking love it), it’s interesting to watch knowing where it will go and still find yourself enthralled. There are some of the most perfect special makeup effects in High Tension. It has such a great 1970s/1980s horror sensibility, one of the biggest reasons why I can’t get enough of this Aja masterpiece. Some will tell you the twist is something you’ll see coming. I don’t believe that; people who say those things, some of them anyways, are usually just naysayers unable to point out anything particularly bad about a movie they don’t like (for whatever reason). You’ll be blown away, or in love depending on how sick you are like myself, by all the blood and gore from start to finish. Plus, the performances are incredible, even the near mute killer. This one is a definite shocker you need on the Halloween movie marathon list. If you don’t dig subtitles, get over it or miss out on a fantastic piece of modern horror-gore cinema.
Macabre (1980)/ Demons (1985)
Moving on to our next – and fittingly final – double bill: back to back Lamberto Bava madness!
To start, the 1980 horror (amazingly it is loosely based on a true story) Macabre. This one is insanely fun in the sickest horror sense. A woman is reeling from the death of her extramarital lover; they were in a car accident and he was decapitated. After a 12-month stay in an institution, she gets out and heads back to the apartment where she and her lover would meet to make love and be together. Soon, her landlord begins to suspect there’s still something going on between the woman and her lover.
So that description alone should intrigue you + the poster art there! To tell you the truth, the poster itself I’ve got there is a bit telling. But still, not like my description wasn’t either. If you want some nasty horror dealing with dead bodies and psychosexual tension, this will make any Halloween properly disturbing with a nice spate of – you guessed it – macabre imagery.After Macabre‘s more subtle story, believe it or not, is the 1985 cult classic Demons. For those who don’t know, Lamberto Bava is the son of revered Italian horror/giallo director Mario Bava (see: A Bay of Blood & more). So while his father was an absolute powerhouse overall in cinema, not someone I would banish to simply being a great genre director but a true artist, Lamberto doesn’t quite rise to that height. That being said, he is still an amazing horror director. Demons is an all-out barn burner: a bunch of people are trapped in a theatre, home to demonic entities, and they proceed to kill/possess everyone possible inside. Honestly, there’s nothing else to say about the plot – it is what it is, and that’s all right. This is one wild piece of horror, similar to a zombie film yet these are demons; the more they possess people, the greater their numbers. Not only that, the special makeup effects in this one are gnarly and awesome as hell. You have to put this one on if you’re watching Lamberto Bava, it’s a wild ride, and a nice contrast piece to Macabre, a very different sort of horror. These two movies together will really get your blood flowing. Turn Halloween into a night of terror with this double feature full of depravity and utter chaos.
It’s strange because so many people seem to have seen Lucky McKee’s The Woman from 2011, yet inexplicably ignore its predecessor – the 2009 indie Offspring.
Based on a novel by Jack Ketchum, and subsequently his screenplay for the film, this is a tale of the remaining cannibals from an old clan who move in on a nearby town and begin to wreak havoc on its people.
There are some intense bits here, especially with the inclusion of the feral children in the clan; one scene immediately comes to mind when a woman walks into her kitchen, only to find blood and body parts and kids nibbling on the tasty little bits they’re holding. This is one really macabre story and its execution I find pretty damn good; not perfect, but good enough. Not sure why this one has a super low rating on IMDB, perhaps some might find it cliched or overdone, I don’t know really. The mind of Jack Ketchum comes out pretty nicely, to my mind. He is a unique and terrifying writer.
Either way, I do know this has enough satisfyingly disturbing bits of gore and morbidity in it you might spend a few minutes before bedtime making sure no cannibals are hiding out in the kitchen.
For a full review and examination of this shocker, click here.
Loosely based on the real murderer Werner Kniesek, Angst is the tale of a madman released from prison, after which he brutalizes and murders a family in their small home.
Truly, to me, this 1983 cult horror film out of Austria is actually an examination of institutionalization crossed with an already violent psychopath, almost the meeting of two immovable forces crashing against one another. Right from the first scene, we know how madly gone the psychotic (Erwin Leder; best known from Das Boot) has become in his time through the prison system.
And that’s part of why Angst is so powerfully disturbing – aside from the messy, bloody bits, the entirety of the film has us knocking around in the head of this man. We’re never given any of what’s going on outside of him, anything from a different perspective, but rather this depraved killer is our guide, our sherpa into the heart of utter darkness.
If your Halloween season hasn’t been viscerally disturbing enough, get ahold of Angst. It’s becoming better known over the past few years, particularly with the Blu ray release, however, it’s still not widely recognized enough in my opinion. There are easily drawn comparisons between John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Though, trust me: this movie is far different, it gets deeper into the brain matter of its killer and really tries to strip things down to push us into the main character’s uncomfortable headspace.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
This 1975 Pier Paolo Pasolini-directed shockfest is one you’ll undoubtedly see turn up on most of the disturbing horror lists out there. Anybody in their right mind will find this completely raw and hateful nasty, no doubt about that. The most hardcore horror fans readily admit this is one insane piece of cinema.
While I do think there’s a major part of this movie speaking to fascism, et cetera, the majority of what you’ll find incessantly horrifying here is the imagery. And it’s not subtle, not even for a hot second.
Think – have you ever thought to yourself “I’d love to see a movie where people commit sodomy, eat human faeces, then throw in some violent torture/murder and a suicide to boot”? If so, this one is for you!
Okay, I don’t make this one sound in the slightest appealing. Because it’s not and I’m not trying to fool you here. This is a list of disturbing horror to do solely with imagery, effects, and so on. You won’t find a more visceral piece of cinema ever, maybe. Many argue this has no purpose, but under all its nasty and in-your-face nausea, Pasolini had something to say with Salò and after all these years – four decades later – people are still debating it, still fighting it, the controversy surrounding the film and Pasolini himself continues to burn in the public heart of film lovers. So can you say, either way, love it or hate it, that Pasolini’s movie is not effective? You’re kidding yourself if the answer is no.
Putting this one on could ruin October for you; the entire month. But if you’re adventurous, and a little messed up, pop this in and rock out to the Pasolini mindfuck machine.
Thanks for reading another of my Halloween lists this year. Once more, as always, I’m hoping you’ll find at least one flick to put on during October. Especially the closer it gets to the 31st. This list will induce shock and awe, I know it does for me. These are all pretty wild movies, to me. If you have any other suggestions for blood, guts, skulls and assorted nasty stuff, please drop a comment and let me know in what sort of madness you’ll be indulging over the next couple weeks.
Insidious: Chapter 3. 2014. Directed & Written by Leigh Whannell.
Starring Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Tate Berney, Michael Reid MacKay, Steve Coulter, Hayley Kiyoko, Corbett Tuck, and Tom Fitzpatrick. Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 97 minutes.
I’m a fan of the two previous Insidious films. Reason being, I think James Wan did a pretty damn good job, together with the script from Leigh Whannell, in conjuring up a tense, suspenseful, and eerie atmosphere. Above all, I love when a horror film can carry that sort of atmosphere and tone throughout its runtime. While they’re not perfect, the first two movies were scary; to me anyways. I dig a good haunted house story and Wan/Whannell provided that with Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2.
There was no surprise Blumhouse would try and pump out another one. I waited with baited breath to see exactly what might come out of it and I didn’t exactly expect that the third in the trilogy would live up to what the first two created. However, I was slightly surprised. It isn’t great, but Insidious: Chapter 3 has a good bit of that atmosphere and tone from the first two, as well as the fact Lin Shaye returns in another stellar performance as embattled demon seeker Elise Rainier. One thing I think that helps most is the fact Leigh Whannell not only writes this entry in the series, he makes his directorial debut with the third part, which extends much of the creepiness created by himself and Wan throughout the first two movies.
Taking place a long time after Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) helped a young Josh Lambert with his problems, and just before Josh’s own son Dalton went through the same trouble, Insidious: Chapter 3 begins with Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) going to see Elise Rainier unannounced. Her mother passed away and Quinn wants to contact her. Unfortunately, while trying to help Elise is clearly troubled; she advises Quinn find someone else who does the same thing and get them to help.
At home, Quinn’s single father Sean Brenner (Dermot Mulroney) tries to wrangle everything by himself. Between Quinn and her little brother Alex (Tate Berney), things are hectic.
An aspiring actress, Quinn heads to an audition. She’s looking to get into a good acting school for her post-secondary studies. Instead, out of nowhere, Quinn is hit by a car. This propels her, for the briefest of time, into The Further. After she comes back quickly, out of the darkness and back to reality, Quinn has clearly seen something inexplainable, something in another world. This sets off all the mysterious events which follow.
I thought the writing – especially the characters themselves – was fairly solid. Once again, the family is a centrepiece for all of what unfolds in terms of The Further (see my other reviews for Part 1/Part 2 if for some reason you’ve not watched the previous movies) coming into play. For instance, the teenage characters don’t come off as too forcibly written on Whannell’s part. What I mean is that they’re smart, obviously, but they don’t say these ridiculously eloquent, elaborate things NO highschooler would ever say; I can’t think of great examples off the top of my head, but you know the types, you’ve seen them before. So that’s one thing I thought Whannell did great with because too many screenwriters – especially male screenwriters trying to write female characters –
Some people say Insidious: Chapter 3 is not as scary as the others. Me, I say there’s definitely some nice, creepy stuff happening in this instalment. Even quickly off the bat, Quinn starts seeing a shadowy figure in the distance waving to her, almost calling out for Quinn to follow. First, the figure appears in the catwalk at the theatre where she’s auditioning. Then in the streets, right before she’s hit by a car, the figure – a man – waves at her from far off once more. These little bits help to make a similar dreadful atmosphere as Wan culled in the first two films. Although here it’s different, which isn’t a bad thing. Everything is still eerie, though, Whannell brings his own style to the mix.
I also liked the little quick jump-scare of the man’s face in close-up – when Quinn slips into The Further briefly while surgeons are working away on her after the car accident, the terrifying face flashes quickly. What I love most about this is how it reminds me of the quick flashes of the demon in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist; not sure if this was intentional, but it does bring that shot to my mind specifically. Also, this didn’t make me want to have a heart attack like certain jumps do. It was brief and very effective at the same time.
A huge aspect of why I enjoyed this third film is because we’re getting more out of the character Elise Rainier. Even in the slightest ways – she lays down in bed and says “Goodnight Jack” and hugs tight to what looks like a man’s sweater. So there’s depth to Elise, she isn’t merely a one-note psychic sort fo woman. And I love that, not just simply due to the fact Lin Shaye is a total badass and wonderful actress (even in her slovenly role as Landlady in Kingpin which still haunts me to this very day). Elise is a big part of why I loved both movies; I’m not huge on her sidekicks, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), but I think her alone is enough to keep anyone interested. Particularly, after we’re treated to the flashbacks showing a young Josh Lambert being plagued by demons in The Further and Elise coming to their aid, doesn’t it make you just want to know everything about her? Then there’s her relationship with Carl (Steve Coulter), who showed up in the last film, which I thought was an excellent inclusion. In this movie, we see a little more of Carl and so his character/story gets a little more broad than before.
Most of all, though, it’s Elise. She is what draws me to the franchise overall, as it’s her who has dealt most closely with demons and The Further, she knows all about it and she has all the senses. I love the scene here where she’s lying in bed, hugging her obviously late husband’s cardigan (we discover later for sure he committed suicide only a year before), and then out of nowhere she feels something, a presence, she scrambles for the light – nothing’s there, yet the air feels terrifying. Good stuff showing how sensitive Elise is to the other side opposite that of the living.
The overall aesthetic of Insidious as a franchise is something which keeps me interested. It’s the whole reason – aside from Lin Shaye – I ever bothered to go see this one.
I’m a huge fan of the score in these films. I’d not – to my shame – checked on who was the composer for the music in either of the films. So doing this review I wanted to see if it was the same person. Naturally, it was: Joseph Bishara. The reason I had to check is because, while there are plenty of similarities, Bishara does bring us some new work in the score for Chapter 3. A lot of those heavy, dreaded string bursts are still present, however, he also gives us some bright and beautiful sounding stuff such as in a few scenes with Elise. Either way, he is one part of why that finely tuned aesthetic from the series keeps going.
While the look in this film was handled by a different cinematographer, Brian Pearson, I do think he is up to snuff with how he crafts the scenes visually. Just to note, Pearson did some work as D.P on the fairly excellent series Masters of Horror, as well as a recent film I’m a big fan of – the savage and excellent American Mary. He does good stuff keeping many scenes draped in darkness, as the previous films looked. So even though it isn’t exactly the same carbon copy of style, there is a ton of similar atmosphere built up through how Pearson shoots each scene in a tone down, darkened manner.
Furthermore, the art director Jason Garner worked on the previous Chapter 2, so I think his clearly excellent work there extended to this film. For those who aren’t big on the job descriptions for film work, an art director helps to create the film’s vision in terms of locations, sets, and that in turn brings about a visual aesthetic for the film. The houses and everything which are new in this movie, they really fit in with the entire Insidious franchise world. If you watched these all simultaneously, I think they’d match up unbelievably well.
In regards to the plot, I like the character of Quinn and how she ended up in contact with The Further. Plus it plays into the whole subplot of her mother’s death, trying to reach her in the afterlife and such. It’s a great way to have spun things off from the central story of the first two Insidious films. A lot of these spin-offs can end up really spinning out of control, or just being nonsensical additions to a franchise simply for the sake of raking in money. With this movie, I don’t see it being that way. Sure – profit is the major concern of studios. However, I think especially with Leigh Whannell writing this instead of it being farmed out to writers/directors not already a part of the franchise, Insidious: Chapter 3 is able to hold up in quality near to its predecessors. It’s not as good, but I feel as if it’s pretty damn close.
Also thought it was great the way Whannell setup The Bride in Black as being an entity who actively wanted to kill Elise. This sort of explains their history, as well as why the Bride purposely got into Josh and then strangled Elise at the end of the first Insidious. Not as if there was a massive need to explain anything in detail there, I just find this movie’s script capitalized and added more depth to the other films.
All in all, I think this was a 3.5 out of 5 star film. It wasn’t perfect. My biggest complaint about Insidious: Chapter 3 is that there’s more unfunny comedy with Specs/Tucker – something I didn’t like about the others but here it’s even more unbearable with such forced comedy on behalf of the Tucker character. Very lame. Then, I also thought there was something missing about the possession angle involving Quinn. While I found Josh Lambert’s possession in the others excellent, plus Patrick Wilson played him well, I didn’t like the way they did Quinn’s possessed state. It was too similar to the rip-offs of Japanese horror in American movies. I liked lots of the stuff involving Josh being possessed, it just didn’t seem to carry over here.
The finale of the film was decent. Honestly, though, I prefer the first half to three-quarters of the film because I like the build up, the character development and a view into the already established character of Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). Mostly the last quarter of the movie I found wasn’t as effective as the scariness of the previous two Insidious entries. It isn’t bad, just doesn’t pack the punch you’d expect. If there was a stronger final 25 minutes I’d be more impressed.
Still, this is not bad at all. There’s room for improvement, yet I think Leigh Whannell did a decent enough job keeping up with the other films to make this a pretty good trilogy. I recommend seeing this, though, I’ll still always enjoy the first two more.
My personal favourite is Insidious: Chapter 2. How about you? Let me know in the comments.