Tagged God

Miltonic Creation & Destruction in ALIEN: COVENANT

Ridley Scott's continuation of the Alien franchise explores the act of creation, drawing major parallels to John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost.

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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.

Preacher – Season 1, Episode 4: “Monster Swamp”

AMC’s Preacher
Season 1, Episode 4: “Monster Swamp”
Directed by Craig Zisk
Written by Sara Goodman

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Possibilities” – click here
* For a review of the next episode “South Will Rise Again” – click here
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We open on a young woman running from something or someone unseen. There are other women. Then there are gunshots, headshots, men with strange suits, all in a foggy forest, swamp-like area. One of them is Clive, from the whorehouse when Tulip (Ruth Negga) cleaned everybody out. They’re only playing paintball. Until one of the women falls into a hole in the ground, a deep, dark one.
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Skip back to when Jesse (Dominic Cooper) was only a young boy. His father preached in Annville. Now, in the present, Jesse Custer tries to do his best in the same position. Then there’s Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) who’s got his own questions about the two men, Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef), that keep coming for the preacher. Side note: I love the getup Cassidy puts on to go out in the sun, it’s amazing and hilarious. Also, Cassidy is trying to warn Custer of what’s to come re: his new found powers, but the holy man just won’t listen.
Over with Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown), a body’s being hauled out of the mud; the girl from earlier. Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) is there having his say, and it becomes more clear by the episode who runs their little town.
Meanwhile, Emily (Lucy Griffiths) dealing with Jesse and his renewed sense of enthusiasm. She suspects deviousness, though he plays dumb. She heard things about Jesse and the bus driver, all that.

 


We get more looks at Jesse as a boy, his father whipping him in front of the other kids after catching him smoking – a habit that wasn’t whipped out of him. He’s still on the pack.
Cassidy is still scheming with Fiore and DeBlanc. They tell him about being from heaven, sort of like angels as he assumes. We discover the song DeBlanch sang a couple episodes ago to lure out the thing in Jesse is that entity’s favourite song; dig it. Better than all that, Cassidy gets a bit of cash out of them to buy some drugs. Y’know, because Jesse apparently has a thing for “controlled substances” and that’s a perfect opportunity for the old vampire to get his buzz on. Imagine being an ancient bloodsucking creature with nothing to do but waste time. Why not get wasted?
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Quincannon meets with Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe), and he doesn’t look too pleased with some of the Mayor’s latest meetings. We begin to figure out with every new scene featuring Quincannon how he’s a disaffected, scary sort of man. He doesn’t show much emotion, which is scarier than someone that freaks out. He merely takes a piss right in Miles’ briefcase. “Plain as pie,” like the man says himself.
At the motel, the heaven-sent henchmen wait to either hear from Cassidy, or hear from someone on the other end of their strange telephone.
People are remembering the dead woman at the whorehouse. Only Tulip doesn’t have time for any for Clive and the other men, nor the women for running around in underwear being hunted down by men with paintball guns. Furthermore, we get a bit of history: Tulip’s mama was a prostitute there, reason why she and Mosie (Frances Lee McCain) – the owner – are so close. But the anger in her comes out. She walks into one of the girls rooms, thinking she’s swinging a bat at Clive, and whacks the guy right out the window.
Luckily, that guy was Cassidy. A piece of glass stuck in his neck won’t be the end of him. Tulip tries to help the guy, bringing him to the hospital. Where he sneaks off and she finds him drinking blood packs. Yikes. Cat’s out of that bag.

 


More flashbacks. Papa Custer goes to see Odin Quincannon, as a young Jesse sits outside waiting. Something bad happens in the office, and Jesse knows it. “Some people just cant be saved,” his father tells him. In present day, Jesse helps Odin with a large model, painting little soldiers and placing them on the landscape. Quincannon paints while Jesse brings up new things about the church, as well as Odin’s lack of attendance over the past few decades. The business man doesn’t have any time for the invisible man in the sky. Well, the preacher makes a deal: come to Sunday service, if he isn’t sold then Odin receives the land that once belonged to Jesse’s father.
During the service on Sunday, a new sort of sermon comes out of Preacher Custer. He talks in a more raw, upfront tone, inflammatory at times even. He charges them with being “sinners” and that they’ve strayed from the right path. Jesse’s plan is to turn Quincannon over to the Lord, in turn convincing everyone else. Of course Odin does not initially move over to the side of God. Not until Jesse breaks out his power, compelling him to “serve God” and then BAM – Quincannon is on the side of the Lord. Praise Jesus. Or… praise something.

 


The two heaven henchmen hear their weird little phone start ringing. Someone up above is calling. But who?
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Another great episode. Love the slow build up, as we get one little bit of information after another, gradually turning into something bigger, something wilder. The next episode is titled “South Will Rise Again” and I’m excited to see more. Lots of naysayers, naturally. Let them nay say. I say dig it with me, if you do.

The Witch: Religious Madness and Persecution in Early America

The Witch. 2015. Directed & Written by Robert Eggers.
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Bathsheba Garnett, Sarah Stephens, Julian Richings, & Wahab Chaudhry. Parts and Labor/RT Features/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Code Red Productions/Scythia Films/Maiden Voyage Pictures/Mott Street Pictures/Pulse Films/Special Projects.
Rated 14A. 93 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★★
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People will tell you that The Witch is overhyped, that critics are simply trying to sell Robert Eggers’ feature film debut  as something more than it really is, or rather that anyone calling the movie a modern horror masterpiece is, to put it plainly, full of shit. I’ll put my two cents in to say Eggers has made an impressive, unapologetic horror about witchcraft, religion, repression, and above all paranoia. Eggers’ talent is enormous as a director, not to mention he brings with him the further talents of cinematographer Jarin Blaschke (who will no doubt see a spike in his being booked for future films), as well as a host of others who elevated this picture to its level of art. The quiet and subtle essence of the film is its strongest point. Around the edges of all the amazing cinematography and direction is a score from composer Mark Korven, which at times calls to mind classic horror films and at others brings its own feeling while keeping you on edge, engrossed in the moment and continually wondering what may come next. There are so many things to love about The Witch, from its look and entire atmosphere to the cast whose willingness to go all in on the characters makes each scene worth relishing.
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The year is 1630. In New England, William (Ralph Ineson) and his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) live as devout Christians, so much so that they do not fit in with the colony, and William’s refusal to conform with the church sends them out into the wild on their own with their children Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), Mercy (Ellie Grainger), Jonas (Lucas Dawson), as well as the newborn infant Samuel.
After settling into their new life, one day Thomasin plays with the baby. But out of nowhere, Samuel goes missing. They search for  aweek for the child, to no avail. While Katherine is distraught, blaming Thomasin for the disappearance, the children believe it is a witch hiding out in the forest, stealing and eating babies. William, steadfast in his religious ways, assures Katherine of their favour with God, that he is merely testing them. However, once Thomasin goes into the woods hunting with Caleb, and only she returns, the search is on once more. Only this time, even William begins to suspect his daughter may have been wed to the devil.
As religious paranoia and repression take hold, the family’s land becomes haunted. And the devil slowly but surely creeps his way into their hearts and minds.
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I’ll admit, maybe Eggers isn’t for all horror fans. My expectations, though they were huge and still paid off, were also subverted, completely. There were many times I expected things to happen, or the plot to go a certain way, yet Eggers defied me at nearly every turn. There isn’t anything particularly revolutionary in terms of plot here, but the way in which it plays out is lots of terrifying, horrific fun. The dialogue may be a problem for some, as I’m sure not every horror fan will enjoy the Early Modern English dialogue. But that’s part of why I love the screenplay, we truly feel in the time and part of what makes everything so scary is that the story feels real. So all the different elements to the movie make each aspect seem true to life. Part of what sometimes angers me in period pieces is that the characters don’t speak properly for that period in time (we see much of this similarly in films that have people supposedly Russian or German speaking English only with the respective accents; another piss off we sometimes have to endure for Hollywood to make the stories they want). The Witch brushes that off by having the dialogue all in Early Modern English, which drives home, along with so much of the natural-looking cinematography, the authenticity. Furthermore, I love the way Eggers keeps us guessing. Without revealing too much of any actual plot detail, other than the obvious, what intrigued me most is that we’re never quite sure whether or not what we see is reality, if everything in each scene is truly taking place. At least not until the plot develops more and certain events (see: Caleb and the apples) force us to realize exactly what is happening. Again, not an overly fresh idea as a whole, but certainly Eggers takes it and puts his spin on it, absolutely providing us with a fresh take on an old tale. And the fact there was lots of research put into the writing in terms of looking at actual records (et cetera) from the period that still remain, folktales and other bits of writing as well, only makes the movie more enjoyable for its attempts at getting things right.
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The dark beauty of the film is very much a result of Eggers’ direction, Jarin Blaschke on duty as cinematographer, and Mark Korven creating a tense, moody score to compliment their work. Even shots of the forest itself seem ominous, as it stands tall and shadowy in the midst of day, the stands of trees casting a deep sorrow within the woods. Putting Korven’s score on top, Eggers shows us ominous, foreboding frames of the vast wilderness, which itself almost becomes as terrifying as the witch out there. The natural lighting of the interior scenes, inside the family’s small barn or its main house, casts everything in long shadows, flickering on the walls and on the faces of the characters; again, this technique amplifies the authentic feeling of the entire film. The rich texture of the movie’s look makes things feel perfect, as if you’re right there in the trees watching them go by, right next to William as he chops wood, or in the field with the children playing.
Best of all, though, are the brief and unsettling scenes where we see the witch herself. Barely do we ever get a straight look at her, but still, she is a devilish presence. Very early on we’re treated to a scene where she mashes up what we’re to believe is a baby, smearing its blood all over her body, all over a large thin tree, and every last bit of this is covered in shadow, so that there’s barely much you can see. What you do see is disturbing. It sets the tone for everything to come. Another aspect of the film I dig, that Eggers gets the macabre atmosphere going almost from the start, within very little time. So much so there is rarely a moment without tension, not many moments where you’ll feel able to breathe a sigh of relief. Just another reason this film is a modern work of horror art.
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Aside from the technical aspects, The Witch is dominated by powerful acting. Each of the actors brings their role to life, even the young kids who add their own authenticity to the scenes. Particularly, both Ralph Ineson and Anya Taylor-Joy are magic here, as they are both faithful, religious people in their own rights, but who end up walking down quite different paths. Taylor-Joy does spectacular work with the character of Thomasin, which isn’t easy, and especially once the finale arrives I found myself hooked on her eyes; watching just her face in those last few minutes will chill any warm heart. Ineson is perfection as William, a man trying to keep his faith and family together as one, and a father confronted with the ultimate evil at his doorstep, invading his home; his delivery of lines will keep you glued, even if Early Modern English troubles you, as he can reel you in with just a look, a motion. Two excellent performances heading an already solid cast.
5 stars go to Robert Eggers and . Everyone in the theatre with me today seemed transfixed, whether they liked it or not. Certainly this isn’t a film for everyone, and those looking for a modern horror with all the modern cliches will be disappointed. Likewise, don’t go in expecting the same thing as It Follows or The Babadook, two other notable modern horror movies that did well recently. The Witch is entirely its own brand, despite taking on a timeworn sub-genre in witchcraft. This creeped me out royally at many points and I’m liable to see this again someday soon, as the atmosphere and the entire production itself really hit the spot, I’d love to experience it another time around. Until it hits Blu ray; then I’ll watch it to death, whether I die or the disc dies first remains to be seen.