The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 16: “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 16: “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple, Angela Kang, & Matthew Negrete

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Something They Need” – click here
Pic 1Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) is on the edge of life and death. I only hope she holds on. Will she? Or has she decided to choose death, once and for all? She has a dream, of being back with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). In their home at Alexandria. Quickly, she’s back with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). He’s brought her something to eat. And he has plans to use her to get things “back on track” – whatever that means, we’ll soon find out. She even gets a blueberry, smiley face pancake with eggs and fruit for breakfast. Yum. The sinister plot of Negan begins.
Pic 1ABack at Alexandria, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has his gun on Dwight (Austin Amelio), who says he only wants things with Negan and The Saviors to end. It’s all pretty tough, Daryl (Norman Reedus) doesn’t like it, neither does Tara (Alanna Masterson). Nobody really trusts him, even though he gives a passionate speech about why he’s done what he’s done. Except Daryl does know more than the others about him, about his wife, what happened with Negan. They also worry about Sasha, that Dwight may be their only lifeline to getting her back, as well as their best way to infiltrate the Sanctuary and end the reign of terror.
So they must prepare, one way or another, for Negan and his Saviors coming soon.
Poor Sasha, she keeps flashing back to Abraham. Not sure which existence is a dream. Flashing to Negan and his plan, his breakfast. Her mind is being absolutely tortured. She sees, more and more, there is no way forward with Negan other than “punishment” and death by Lucille. He wants three to die, but would settle for just one. And for now Sasha agrees: only one.
Negan (to Sasha): “Youve got me wrapped around your little finger, yknow that? And its not a man-woman thing. I mean, if you had a dick I would still have these feelings.”
Pic 2Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is figuring out what to do with Hilltop, with Gregory (Xander Berkeley) off elsewhere, and Jesus (Tom Payne) happy to help her with anything, glad to have her leading the place. What to do? They need to fight. Just depends on how, what they can contribute to help Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the rest at Alexandria in taking the fight to The Saviors and Negan. I have faith that Maggie can play a big part, she’s a force.
Then there’s another force of fucking nature – Carol (Melissa McBride). She and Ezekiel (Khary Peyton) and Morgan (Lennie James), her pals from the Kingdom are on the road together. Well, Morgan likes to go it alone, but they’re together in one sense. Ezekiel wants Morgan with them. Once again, the man cannot forgive himself or get past things long enough to help those around him. A trouble dude in troubled times. At least he has Carol and his pals from the Kingdom, and Shiva!
Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her people arrive, garbage trucks and all. They’re an odd bunch; Jadis says she wants to bang Rick later, which neither he nor Michonne like to hear. In other news, Daryl, Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Aaron (Ross Marquand) are wiring an explosive they’ll put to good use soon enough. At the same time, Negan and Co are held up in the road, coming across the downed trees knocked over by Dwight.


Sasha’s decided not to take that pill after all. What she’ll decide in the end ought to be interesting. In the meantime, her friends at Alexandria have readied for the coming fight, even Carl (Chandler Riggs) has himself an assault rifle. Everybody’s braced for war. As The Saviors and Negan arrive, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is up in front with a megaphone greeting his old friends. Nobody’s impressed with that, particularly after he tells them: “Im Negan.” Rather than suffer any fools, they opt to set off their explosive. Instead nothing happens. Jadis and her crew turn their weapons on the Alexandrians, Dwight hops from the truck with Negan. No explosions. No surprise assault. Oh, fuck.
We win
The tables have turned, drastically. Rick is not happy, as Negan gloats with everyone on his side. He lays it on thick while the Alexandrians await whatever comes next. Then, Dwight and Simon (Steven Ogg) wheel out a casket. Inside is Sasha, says Negan. He’s going to take all the guns, whatever food they can get. Rick also much choose a victim for Lucille. Plus, Daryl and the pool table go, too. Or else Sasha and a few others die.


Rick demands to see her first. So, Negan opens the casket – we get another flash of Sasha and Abraham: “Its always for someone else,” he tells her; a resonant point about The Walking Dead as a series as a whole. We also see Eugene give Sasha an iPod for her ride in the casket. She still has that pill, too. And she takes Abraham’s words to heart, in the worst way possible. She swallows the pill.
When the door comes open, a zombie Sasha appears! She lunges at Negan, then Carl takes the first shot initiating total chaos amongst the crowds. Bullets fly everywhere. Michonne wrestles with the other sniper on the rooftop. Rosita takes a bullet as Tara helps her away from the action. Jadis and Rick face one another down at the wall’s top, then she fires a shot into his side, tossing him over.
With gunfire everywhere, the Alexandrians struggle to stay alive. Jadis brings Rick to Negan, dead bodies litter the streets. The Saviors have Carl, and it seems as if he’s the next target for Lucille. Furthermore, he wants to use the bat on Rick’s hands. “I guess I gotta start all over again,” he taunts Rick. In the distance he also believes he hears Michonne dying. Somehow he stands against the tide, strong: “Youre all already dead,” Rick tells Negan.
But before any more death can come, Shiva leaps in behind them and takes down a man, scaring The Saviors and Negan away. Ezekiel, Carol, Morgan, Maggie, they all appear to push back the villains. And though the biggest baddie’s run off, he’s taken aback by the tiger, the living widow of Glenn “guns blazin‘” and sent packing with his tail between his legs. Nice to see Morgan and Rick together again, as well. Fighting side by side.
Once the smoke clears, Alexandria still remains standing, though the threats likewise live on. And Michonne, she made it out alive, if not a bit worse for the wear. She hasn’t given up, either. Not one bit.
Pic 5Back at the Sanctuary, Negan’s wondering how Sasha actually died. Eugene bullshits saying it was probably suffocation in that casket, but the boss ain’t sold. Nevertheless, he’s prepared for war. Things in Season 8 will get fucking ugly.
Although with the force of The Saviors coming down upon them, Rick and Maggie and the rest are also prepared for war. They slipped this time, managing to regain their footing. Next time, I don’t think they’ll go in trusting another group. It’s all on them now. Alexandria is full of life, with all the groups in one place for a while, each ready to fight for the person next to them.


A great season. Loved this season finale, because we ended last season and began this one on a devastating note, a weak one for Rick and everyone around him. At the end of Season 7, they’ve all regained a strength, and some they didn’t know they had, which will serve them well. We needed this progression, and as Maggie points out in her ending monologue this all began so long ago, at the beginning when Rick and each of them decided to stand for the other, to help, to love, to protect, to fight on the one side

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The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 12: “Say Yes”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 12: “Say Yes”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Matthew Negrete

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hostiles and Calamities” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bury Me Here” – click here
Pic 1Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are a great team, both in intimate relationship terms and also on physical ass kicking (etc) terms. They’re out on the road, finding supplies, scavenging what and where they can.
Michonne: “We gonna win today?”
Rick: “Oh yeah
Although they don’t find much there’s a positivity in them that didn’t exist before. Then they come across a couple guys whacking golf balls, making away with their stuff. Afterwards, Michonne wants to go back to Alexandria after being gone two days already. But Rick wants to stay on the road a little longer.
Pic 2At home in Alexandria, Rosita (Christian Serratos) stitches up a cut while Tara (Alanna Masterson) tries convincing her things will turn out fine. Rosita doesn’t buy that, she feels like it’s a losing battle. And who knows? Maybe it is, for some of them.
In the meantime, Rick and Michonne keep searching in the wilds of the apocalypse. They come across a deer in the woods, but it runs off before they can kill it. They track it and find an old high school. There also a military man, with a military gun and a bit of ammo. More than that a crazy event went down some time ago on those same grounds. Perhaps there’s “serious” guns and ammo laying around elsewhere. They get up on top of the school and discover a field out back, a carnival setup. Tons of walkers, as well as guns, lying in wait. Then Rick and Michonne have a few laughs, from falling through a roof to shooting down cans on a carny’s attraction.
But when they go through the roof, they stumble onto a few pallets of wrapped food. Score!
Note: Nicotero slips in a nice Creepshow reference with the zombie in the CASH ONLY ticket booth.

Pic 5Rosita can’t let go of all the people dead. She blames it all on listening to Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). He doesn’t have much time for her chastising. I don’t feel that it’s fair she takes it out on him. He’s come a long way compared to many of those in the group, having done a 180-degree turn from who he was in the beginning; no longer a coward, now a noble man and one who does whatever he can in his power to help the people around him.
Gabriel: “Anythings possible until your heart stops beating
Over a little dinner, Michonne asks Rick about what next – after they kill Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), take their world back. She believes they’ll have to put the world back into order then, once Negan’s rule is finished. She also thinks Rick is the man to do it. He’d rather be “reordering things together.” And she’s just fine with that.
More and more, Tara struggles with telling Rick about Oceanside, all those guns. A tough decision. Based on the greater good.
In the field behind the school, Rick and Michonne go about clearing a path through all the walkers. She takes the bulk of the walkers, as he commandeers a nearby car to help with their plan. When a military zombie’s gun starts firing, she hops into the trunk of the car while Rick hides up front, and the vehicle is swarmed by the dead. They manage to crawl out through a sunroof, which gives them a few moments to kill a few until the fence they’re inside caves. Further they’re backed up, then ingenuity strikes, as it does so often. They go about slicing and slashing and crushing more heads; the fucking Dream Team, baby! What an awesomely edited sequence, just quick cuts between each of them killing, one after another.
Out of nowhere, the deer. Rick spies it feeding on some grass. Before he can shoot it, a bunch of zombies move toward it. Not before he takes a spill and lands right in their midst. Michonne runs to him, as his gun clicks dry. Then she thinks they’ve eaten Rick. But it’s the deer. Thus begins a beastly round of killing by the ever excellent duo.


They collect a bunch of guns from the field, racking up a nice little collection, too. Then it’s on back to Alexandria. Poor Michonne’s been through a lot. I think it’s scared her, how devastating it’d be to lose Rick. She went through the emotions already in that moment. Then he admits to not sleeping lately, thinking of “everything we lost” such as Glenn, who saved him in the beginning and who he couldn’t save in the end. He reassures Michonne they’re going to fight Negan and his Saviors. He knows they’ll lose people, possibly even each other. “Even then itd be worth it,” he says. She doesn’t want to lose him. Although Rick makes clear they’re going to live from now on, not worry about just themselves, and that if he dies she’ll be the one to carry them all forward: “Its about our future.” A truly sweet, tender moment for them together.
Rick heads to see Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) with the guns – sixty-three, to be precise. She isn’t satisfied. They need more, about twice as much. A bit of haggling, then Jadis and Rick come to an agreement. Even if she and those garbage people are fucking weird as hell. I think they’ll prove to be helpful, ultimately.
Pic 10At Alexandria, Tara says she has something to tell Rick. Will she let on about Oceanside?
Meanwhile, Rosita is on a mission. She goes to Hilltop, to see Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). She wants her help: to kill Negan. Seems like everyone’s on the same page, some are just turning their pages to get there faster.
Sasha: “One conditionI get to take the shot.”


Whoa, man. I’m afraid one of them will get killed, though I’m simultaneously happy the women are taking charge. Not that I don’t feel Rick and Michonne have a good plan, they do. It’s simply nice to see a couple female characters taking the fight to Negan. He deserves it, and so much more!
Next up is “Bury Me Here” and I anticipate an intense chapter.

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple & Matthew Negrete

* For a review of the previous episode, “East” – click here
* For a review of the Season 7 premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” – click hereScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.21.10 AM
So we’ve arrived at the end of Season 6.
Open on Morgan (Lennie James). He comes across a horse in a field. Towards him walks the man who survived Carol (Melissa McBride) previously.
Back at Alexandria, Carl (Chandler Riggs) is getting ready to roll, as Enid (Kately Nacon) doesn’t quite believe in what they’re all doing. Meanwhile, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is saddling up. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) are going, too. Everyone wants to go, no matter what. Aaron (Ross Marquand) is game, as well. In other news, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is proving himself a proper savior in his own right. His character development is some of my favourite, honestly, outside of the very main cast.
Out in the woods people are whistling, unseen, and a man runs away, scared. They track him down and beat him. The Saviors? You bet. The tension of this opening, score and all, is impressive. Starts to set up an epic showdown.


On the road in the RV, Rick and crew are heading to Hilltop. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is having big time pregnancy troubles, and obviously worries. But Rick assures: “Everything weve done, weve done together.” No matter how bad things get he can always at least put a little faith in people, he’s a charming, charismatic leader. Can he save them all from what comes next?
Morgan tends to a wounded Carol. She’s in need of stitches. He wants to help more, though, she isn’t readily allowing any of that. She doesn’t want to go back.
Along the road, Rick and Abraham see The Saviors with the man they’re holding. Uh oh. It’s already starting. Out they go to meet in the middle of nowhere. The Saviors aren’t joking around and make it clear someone’s got to die. Instead, Rick has other ideas. They all slowly back off. For now, things are fine.
For now.


Rick: “You wanna make today your last day on earth?
Savior: “No, but that is a good thing to bring up. Think about it, what if its the last day on earth for you? For someone you love? What if thats true? Maybe  you should be extra nice to those people in that RV because you never knowjust like that. Be kind to each other. Like you said, like it was your last day on earth.”
Rick: “You do the same
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Morgan and Carol are alike, yet still at odds. She has to school him on how things are: we must kill if there are people around us. You don’t get to have people and have a normal life. You either get to be with people and kill, or be on your own and not have your hand forced. She pleads with Morgan to leave. “If you care about anyone theres a price, Morgan, and youre gonna have to pay it,” Carol tells him.
The most tense and unnerving part about what’s happening so far is that we know a big, tragic finale is coming, some way. Right now, they’re building up the happy moments, the emotional bits and pieces. Up until the moment The Saviors appear, once more, in the middle of the road. Always waiting, watching. Now the survivors are preparing to do whatever’s necessary. Very eerie atmosphere, as the group tries to figure out how best to get down the road.
Under his nose, Morgan finds himself deserted. Because Carol is adamant about not going back, she’s sick and tired of the new world and how it is to worry, care, love if another person is involved. I understand, sadly. Can’t be easy for anyone to exist. Aside from trying not to get bitten by zombies you’ve got to worry about all of the rest of ordinary life, too.


Another ways down the road the RV encounters a ton of walkers. They’re chained and left in the middle of the road – “a Red Rover,” as Eugene puts it. They discover things belonging to Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) attached to the zombies. Out of nowhere gunfire explodes at them from the hills. They respond and things get real tense. Luckily, they clear the road and get through. Heading deeper into the belly of the beast.
Rick is already dying with anticipation. Now he knows they’re being led in a particular direction. Worse, Maggie doesn’t seem to be doing too well. Then more trouble on the road – Saviors, everywhere. They’ve got nowhere else to really turn. At every last corner there The Saviors are, waiting for their arrival.
Morgan finds rosary beads in the street. Will there be a showdown between him and the Savior left after Carol’s massacre? Will the man find Carol? I’m terrified to find out. Not a second later does he show up. Carol finds herself at the mercy of this man. He puts one in her arm, planning to watch her die on the pavement.


Again and again we’ve been getting views of someone stuck inside a box, or somethng similar. Likely Michonne and Daryl? Who knows. Glenn? We’ll see.
The hardest part about the Maggie situation, for Rick, is watching another pregnant woman go through the post-apocalypse world. Even worse, she’s having a rough time. Hopefully she’ll last. Too many tragedies have fallen upon their group, and they’re no saints, but they don’t deserve all their hardships.
But for Carol’s part, she wants to die. Done with the world, she hopes to leave. Might come sooner than later, as the man puts yet another shot through her leg. Still, she keeps up her sarcasm under duress. Soon enough Morgan arrives. He shoots the man dead, going against his precious life philosophy. Although, it’s for a good purpose.
Afterwards, some armoured folk come out of the forest. They actually own the horse Morgan rode. The men agree to help them. Is this all it seems? Can’t trust anyone right off the bat.
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Carol: “The world doesnt decide, you decide. You dont get to walk away and get what you want.”


Through the forest stride Rick and his crew. A tree roadblock keeps them from going further, and then they witness the man from the road earlier being hung. He dies brutally in front of them before a fire starts in the roadblock. Such ominous stuff, as the Savior from earlier speaks from behind the slowly building fire, warning of the last days on earth and such. Spooky.
Everybody’s worried, obviously. I would be. At each turn they’ve encountered a literal roadblock. They decide to ditch the RV and head onward. Eugene first gives over a bullet “recipe“, one that will help them in the future. It’s a very goodbye-type moment. Touching. Plus, there’s a better one with Abraham and Eugene, an honest and beautiful moment between two friends. Definitely touches the heart, and scares me about what will happen in the last ten or fifteen minutes.
So Rick and the crew head out with Maggie, leaving the RV in the hands of Eugene. The score even tugs at the heartstrings, more than ever before on the series. It’s real epic sort of stuff. Again, this worries me. A strong setup for brutal tragedies.


In the woods, Rick and the group hear the whistles. It sends them deeper into the forest. Some of the creepiest stuff EVER on the show. When they run out into a massive gang of Saviors, things turn around quickly. The creep factor goes up, so does the pulse. Rick looks devastated already, as Eugene is seen kneeling on the ground nearby.
Welcome to where youre goin‘,” the Savior from earlier greets them all. For the first time in a long time, Rick is in a position of absolute weakness. Totally castrated, effectively. The games are about to begin. Last time Rick was made to get on his knees, he bit out a man’s throat. What will happen this time?
The light inside the box was the others, after all – Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Rosita (Christian Serratos). The gang is all back together. Lined up for the big entrance. He has arrived – Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) walks out to see them all. He taunts them about “pee pee pants” and other juvenile phrases. Then he chats with Rick. Tides are about to turn, drastically. “You are so gonna regret crossinme in a few minutes,” Negan says plainly to Rick. The law is laid down.


Negan: “You ruled the roost. You built something. You thought you were safe, I get it. But, the word is out: you are not safe. Not even close.”
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In the end, there is punishment. Negan selects himself a victim, introducing everybody to Lucille, his barbed bat, using more juvenile phrases – this time some Eenie Meenie Minie Moe. The whole sequence is so intense you’ll find yourself racing, heart pumping, pulse ready to leap out of your body. The tension is drawn out perfectly.
Only problem is AMC has decided to stick a thumb in the viewer’s eye by not letting us in on who Negan decides to kill. We’re given POV that simply lets us in on the savagery of Negan, the bloody brutality he brings to this world. Not impressed, I must say.


Stay along for the ride. Or don’t. Many say they’ll stop watching because of the ending. Me, I fucking hate it. I do. But I’ll keep watching because I have to know. Although, that being said: Season 7 has to pick up and do some different things, take different routes, figure out a fresh new formula, because after this finale I’m starting to get sick of the predictability of the series. Much as I dig the show there are serious flaws. Here’s to hoping the writers start listening to the roar of fans and switching things up. Maybe that’s what Negan will do overall. We’ll have to wait and find out in October.

Texas Chainsaw 3D: Blood, Sex, and the Saw

Texas Chainsaw 3D. 2013. Directed by John Luessenhop. Screenplay by Adam Marcus, Kirsten Elms, & Debra Sullivan.
Starring Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki-Sánchez, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, Richard Riehle, Bill Moseley, & Gunnar Hansen. Lionsgate/Millenium Films/Mainline Pictures/Leatherface Productions/Nu Image/Twisted Chainsaw Pictures.
Rated 18A. 92 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★1/2
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For anyone who doesn’t know me, or hasn’t read many of my reviews, I’m a huge fan of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The original film is still, and always will be, one of the scariest movies to me. Always. Sheer terror and absolute chaos that rarely, if ever, lets up until the end of the last reel. It was a movie my mother even told me about before I’d seen it, likewise frightening her when she was young. So despite the varying quality of the series, I’m always interested in seeing any films bearing this title. Just to see.
Texas Chainsaw 3D begins with a great premise – to start with the events after the original film, then hop ahead a couple decades. But it’s the execution of the film that really draws my ire, and that of many other hardcore franchise fans. No longer is the horrific nature of Leatherface and his clan built on anything the first two original films had going for them. In this one, it’s all about sexy young bodies, a screenplay that doesn’t think hard enough to justify its aims, and above all else a plot that goes to a ridiculous extreme, so much so it destroys any of my interest in what might happen next. Because that’s the other thing – this semi-sequel to the original still can’t cut off and cauterize the Leatherface wound. It leaves things on a note that could quite possibly spawn a sequel, y’know, later on down the road when they need a quick buck.
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Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario) was taken as a baby from the Sawyer home, after Burt Hartman (Paul Rae) and a crew o men disobeyed the orders of Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) and laid siege to the infamous house of horrors.
A couple decades later, Heather’s grandmother Sawyer dies. She leaves an old Texas plantation-style house to Heather, on the strict orders she will not sell the place.
Well after Heather and some of her friends head down there for a housewarming expedition, she starts to understand why the house ought not be sold. That’s because down in the basement there’s a special room. And inside that special room there’s a really, really special person.
So put a smile on your face: the saw is back, and the saw is most definitely family.
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This semi-sequel follows a Michael Bay-ish trend of making horror try to look sexy. Don’t get me wrong, there is a nice dose of blood and gore in this one. They didn’t sanitize anything particularly. But they did load the cast down with a bunch of late-20s-looking young men and women, the kind who wear tight and revealing clothes, the sort who look good from behind in a close-up, and so on. Some of the shots in the movie defy logic, as I don’t understand why they’re included, other than to make things tantalizing for dreary, mopey moviegoers who require ‘eye candy’. And then there’s the typical writing of boyfriends cheating with the best friend, just so Trey Songz and Tania Raymonde can get half naked, greased up with Crisco so all of their curves and creases show off well under the lighting. So I’m not knocking the main cast. In fact, Daddario particularly is a talent, she was good in her tiny role on True Detective (when she didn’t have to take clothes off). Even Songz isn’t that bad for the role he plays. There’s just a bunch of character fodder sitting around Daddario’s Heather; I can even let slide some of the nonsense shots of her here because she actually plays the character nicely. The only other person in the film that doesn’t come off as overacted, hammy, or downright stupid, is Thom Barry. His Sheriff Hooper is good, conflicted, and Barry gives us a nice performance for what little time he’s really in there. Mostly, though, the blame is on the writing. This is another Texas Chainsaw movie rushed into production, using the same formula, doing the same things, repeating history. Yes, there is a little twist to the story, and I dig the family angle. But so many things could be done better.
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Let’s talk about the 3D. Totally unnecessary. Some shots really play up the whole format, such as the chainsaw getting tossed and moments similar to that. I’ve always hated 3D in horror. It’s gimmicky anyways, but even worse in the horror genre. Practical effects are always the last bastion of any mediocre to crappy horror flick. Even some of the worst written screenplays can come across as decent if practical makeup effects help the horrific elements look properly scary. There are scenes in this one where practical effects make the blood and the nastiness look rightfully gross, disturbing even now and then. But relying on ways to push the 3D, the filmmakers ignore the good effects. The worst part is that Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, masterminds of horror for the past few decades with their shop KNB, do the special effects here, and they’re totally underused. They don’t get to really pull out all the stops. Some of the best stuff is when Heather flicks through old crime scene photos and we get a couple burned bodies, et cetera. Berger and Nicotero shine in these pieces. On the contrary, so many other moments are marred by the ugliness of CGI rearing its head and this does nothing to help the film overall.
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For the blood and gore we do get, and the terrifying savagery of Leatherface (he’s still got it even in this turd of a film), Texas Chainsaw 3D gets a 1&1/2-star rating. There isn’t a whole lot of anything to enjoy here. The unnecessary dialogue at many points, the dumb script and its many holes, the ridiculous need to try and flash Alexandra Daddario’s body (and others, too) – all this adds up to a movie that just can’t hold its own in a franchise that already has some stinkers. While it’s not the absolute worst of the whole series – that honour is saved for the entry graced by the presence of Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger – this is one modern horror that can’t possibly cut the mustard. Not even with Leatherface’s big, bad chainsaw.

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 12: “Not Tomorrow Yet”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 12: “Not Tomorrow Yet”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Seth Hoffman

* For a review of the previous episode, “Knots Untie” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Same Boat” – click here


This episode begins with Carol (Melissa McBride) in the civilized society of Hilltop, getting food ready, looking through what food they’ve already got on hand. In the woods, she keeps her killing game strong. When she sprays herself with blood – no worries, there’s a bunch of fresh shirts at home. She brings some cookies to Tobin (Jason Douglas) made from beet and acorn: “Theyre amazing,” he tells her after being coaxed into one.In pulls Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and the others. When Carol asks what’s happening, Rick only tells her: “Were gonna have to fight.”
Out comes Morgan (Lennie James). He and Carol have a chat about what he did, re: the last Wolf. She’s obviously more concerned about what Rick said than anything. The time for baking cookies is over.
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Rick holds an Alexandria town meeting. He lays out the problem with The Saviors, including their run-in with Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), and Daryl (Norman Reedus). Along with him is Jesus (Tom Payne). Rick talks about the deal, the food they’d receive. Nobody seems to object. Yet Morgan alone stands up and asks if Rick is “sure” whether or not they can beat this Negan and The Saviors. Democracy prevails, as Rick says it’s everyone’s choice. Aaron (Ross Marquand) says he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent another massacre in their town.
Carol sits alone with a book she keeps. Recorded with how many people she’s killed; she circles the number 18. We’re starting to see the other side of Carol we’ve not seen in a long time. One who is remorseful and pensive. Carol talks with Tobin who believes her strength comes from being a mother, taking care of others and capable of doing anything necessary; things he says “terrify” him. He cares for her, and they share a kiss.


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Abraham and Rosita (Christian Serratos) argue, as he walks out on her. Harshly, he ends their relationship; clearly in love with Sasha. So sad Abraham handled it this way. Meanwhile, Tara (Alanna Masterson) says the three magic words to Dr. Denise Cloyd (Merrit Wever), and they’re simply afraid to lose each other with the upcoming journey and mission towards Negan.
At the same time, Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl and Rick get a map drawn for them into Savior territory. The plan is set. Or is it?
With the group out on the road, little groups are splitting up to canvas the area. Rosita and Carol have a chat about the Wolf situation. But we know Rosita has other issues happening. Glenn and Heat (Corey Hawkins) talk about “killing someone“, getting more of the sense of how humanity changes the further people get into the zombie apocalypse.
Soon, Rick outlines what they’re about to do, and they agree to just have a look, check things out. If things look ripe for the taking, they go: “This is how we eat,” says Rick. To the side, Carol tells Rick that Maggie ought not be out there with them; at all. Probably a good point, Carol.
The plan involves bringing The Saviors the head of Gregory. They find a proper walker head, which Rick has to punch a good deal to make look appropriate. Then they’re off. We get a glimpse of The Saviors. Creepy, intimidating dudes. That is until Daryl slits one of their throats, and the operation really gets underway.


The savagery of this episode is incredible. Between the macabre Johny Depp-mold they used for  one of the fake Gregory heads, to the sequence where Rick and the others bust into the territory of The Saviors – tons of knives to the head. Everything is gruesome, yet so much is offscreen horror. Brutal and vicious, but not in the sense of showing everything. Worst of all is seeing Glenn first put a knife through a guy’s head, the look on his face is devastating. But like the man he is, prevents Heath from having to do the same, and takes another one for the team.
Abraham and Sasha get ambushed by a man. They kill him, but not before he throws the switch to an alarm. Out on watch, Carol refuses to let Maggie go and help; is this a different side of Carol emerging? One dedicated to life?
Inside the complex a gun battle erupts. Rick and his crew fight for their lives. Blood and bone flies. People are shot, stabbed, beaten to death. Corpses litter the corridors, blood stains everything.
In Alexandria, Morgan is busy building what looks like a cage. Is he going to do what was done to him? Will he try putting Rick in there? Or is possibly for Negan, intended to be a better alternative to murder? We’ll see.
Once the smoke clears, Michonne wonders “which one was Negan” and Rick sort of shrugs. One last person a motorcycle clues the group into someone watching, talking on a radio. And they’ve got Carol. Maggie, too.


The next episode, “The Same Boat”, is bound to be exciting. There could be some trobles ahead. Some very terrifying troubles at that.

The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 5: “Say the Word”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 5: “Say the Word”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang

* For a review of the previous episode, “Killer Within” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Hounded” – click here
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We start by seeing The Governor (David Morrissey) with a small girl, a walker. Her name is Penny. He’s obviously caring for his daughter even after death has come for her, then brought her back. It is a creepy, unsettling sight. Then, from his window, he sees Michonne (Danai Gurira). She is always watching now, waiting. She knows something is rotten in the town of Woodbury.
Over at the prison, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is having a tough time dealing with the loss of his wife. Carl (Chandler Riggs) handles it like a tough young man. Everyone else is trying to help the new baby. Hershel (Scott Wilson) says they need baby formula soon, so Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) agree to go on a run. Glenn (Steven Yeun) tries his best to take charge.
But Rick goes back inside the prison on a warpath, chopping down zombie after zombie. He is loosening at the seams, no doubt. And who wouldn’t be at that point?


The Governor’s busy not worrying much about other things in the new post-apocalypse life. He toasts his town on the doorstep, reminiscing on times of “Spam and saltine crackers“. Upstairs, though, Michonne slips into his apartment to get her samurai sword back. She finds a book with a bunch of names marked down. The final one? Penny, underlined. Followed by pages of small ink strokes. By the hundreds. She has to hide away before slipping out of the apartment as Merle (Michael Rooker), Milton (Dallas Roberts) and The Governor come in to grab a few supplies. Seems there’s a big party of some sort planned for that night, although Milton isn’t impressed; his experiments need power these little shindigs are leeching.
We see Michonne out investigating other areas of Woodbury. She finds a big cage locked up and full of walkers. Letting them out, one by one they fall by her sword. A bad motherfucker. This puts her in trouble with The Governor, as he scolds her for “poking around other peoplesthings“. Their moments get tense after she brings up Penny, nearly stopping his heart cold. Only that leadership attitude and demeanour comes out, he fawns like some zombie apocalypse Ronald Reagan, smiling for the cameras and doing quite another thing behind closed doors. Maybe even more like a Nixon. Or any number of nasty U.S. Presidents. Either way, he is a politician. Just a different kind in the new wasteland. He and Michonne have their confrontation, which puts strain not only on her whole existence but also her friendship with Andrea (Laurie Holden), who still remains consistently blind to what The Governor is underneath it all.


Digging graves, Glenn is busy working. He and Hershel mourn the life of T-Dog. They also worry for Maggie sharing a beautiful moment together, embracing hands through the prison yard’s fence. It is sad to see them always having to lose someone. The new life of the wasteland is unfair and cruel.
Andrea and The Governor are having a few words now. She doesn’t necessarily see eye to eye with the man, but there is a part of her which doesn’t fully trust Michonne either. Even though Andrea owes her life to that woman, for saving her among the vast loneliness of the forest. Michonne knows there is something else behind the facade of Woodbury, and Andrea won’t simply leave. She says “I think we need this“. “This place is not what they say it is,” replies Michonne.
In the tomb-like tunnels of the prison Glenn searches for Rick. Only walker bodies lay strewn along the floor. He finds Rick standing in the dark, bloody axe by his side. Blood everywhere. Rick looks terrifying. Glenn tries talking to him, reasoning, to save the man from any further grief. But when Glenn touches his arm Rick loses it for a second and throws him against a wall. Actually frightened me for a second. He tosses Glenn aside before heading back into the dark hallway nearby.
Merle has Milton out hunting for new walker specimens. They take one down, then start pulling out its teeth. What’s the deal here? Are these just for experiments, or what were all those “captive biters” for earlier – the ones Michonne found?


On the road, Maggie and Daryl find a nursery with some supplies: bottles, diapers, all sorts of things. Even a possum for dinner.
In Woodbury, we watch as Michonne and Andrea begin to leave. Only they aren’t on the same page. Then there’s Merle trying to sweet talk them into staying. Andrea says she’s tired, she doesn’t want to go out on the run surviving like they did. Their dream once upon a time was “a refuge”, but Michonne knows there are hideous things lurking beyond the periphery there in that makeshift town. The Governor is a dangerous man. Michonne leaves saying “Youd just slow me down anyway“.
When Daryl and Maggie return to the prison they bring formula, which calms the baby down. He even cradles the child, feeding her. Carl suggests naming her Sophia, maybe Andrea, Jacqui, Patricia. Only Daryl suggests “LilAss Kicker” sounds better.
At the same time Rick is down in the spot where Lori died. His mind is unraveling. He finds a a walker, shoves his gun in its mouth and pulls the trigger. It’s a real visceral, nasty kill.


Finally, some of the dirty undercurrent of Woodbury comes out when The Governor takes Andrea to a large arena style show they’ve got going on. Music is playing, fire blazes and everyone is sitting in stands clapping, yelling. Then the lights come up on several chained walkers. Out comes Cesar Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Merle Dixon. They’re fighting, surrounded by the zombies. In the stands a man hoists his little boy up on his shoulders to watch the show. Merle and Cesar square off in the ring looking like they’re having the time of their lives. When Andrea is sickened by the spectacle The Governor says it’s how they “blow off steam” in Woodbury. He reveals it’s all staged – that is what the teeth pulling earlier was, as if ‘sports entertainment’ is a required part of their camp. Maybe it is, but the whole thing seems a tad morbid to me.
In the boiler room where Rick sits by the dead walker he brutalized, a phone begins to ring. It’s sitting nearby and Rick goes to it, confused. “Hello?” he answers, as the episode cuts to black.


Interesting development. Next up is “Hounded” where we’ll see Michonne more, as well as the new state of mind in which Rick finds himself.

The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 1: “Seed”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 1: “Seed”
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by Glen Mazzara

* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “Beside the Dying Fire” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Sick” – click here
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This Season 3 premiere sees Carl (Chandler Riggs), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) looking for supplies. Afterwards, they all sit around in the living room of a bare, ransacked house. Carl gets ready to open a bunch of dog food. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Beth (Emily Kinney), Hershel (Scott Wilson) and the rest look on dismal, disgusted, but starving. T-Dog (Irone Singleton) soon hears a walker, then the group is forced to flee their momentary squat house.
Out on the road they’re looking for another place to stay. While going for a little hunt, Daryl and Rick find a prison, the one we saw at the end of last season. In the yard are zombies walking around every which way. But there is possibly a place for them to stay. Especially considering they need one badly, with Lori very pregnant, tired, and everyone needing a bit of a rest. They cut their way through the fences towards the prison buildings, using wirecutters, then closing up the hole behind them systematically. Their time on the road, obviously a good few months, has hardened them. Given them order. They’re following Rick in their new system of something other than democracy. It’s working because they seem definitely as a team, particularly without Shane (Jon Bernthal) to throw a wrench into things. Rick has them all setup at the entrance of the prison and ready to execute a plan in order to take the prison for their use.


The plan goes well. Everyone helps to clear the yard of walkers, gunning a ton of them down one after another: “We havent had this much space since we left the farm,” says Carol (Melissa McBride) rejoicing. In the evening, everybody settles down a while and has something to eat. Rick and Daryl patrol, as T-Dog and Hershel talk about plans for the prison yard going forward. They all hope it’ll be a good place for Lori to give birth eventually, too. That’s a major plus, and something they need to be thinking of, as having a child in this wasteland could easily prove to be deadly. Carol and Daryl have a nice, fun little moment together where he massages her shoulder, and she quips it “could be romanticwanna screw around?” It’s an excellently lighthearted moment in the middle of all the action. Afterwards, Beth also sings a song around the fire, putting everyone in a nice mood for once. Funny – you’d never have seen something like that happen with Shane around, would you? For some reason that’s what comes to mind at the time. Maggie joins Beth soon and the group feels at ease, if only for a short time.
Rick wants to push a bit more and get inside the prison. There’d be a ton of goods left inside: “weapons, food, medicine.” Looks like a tough job ahead, but Rick believes in his people, that they have the fortitude to through with it and make themselves a new home for however long they can.


Now we’re introduced to Michonne (Danai Gurira) – the hooded figure who came across Andrea (Laurie Holden) at the last of the season premiere. But briefly. We’ll come back to her later.
At the prison, the group heads in back-to-back through the yard, up towards the buildings. Lori, Carol, Carl stick back by the fences to lure away as many walkers as possible. There are a ton of walkers in the courtyard, some with body armour having obviously been guards. A tough fight talks the survivors awhile to get through several waves of the living dead. Maggie stabs a zombie trying to kill her then happily looks to Glenn and says: “See that?” Plenty of great practical makeup effects here in “Seed”, showcasing the always amazing work of KNB – the wizards of gore in the past 30 years of horror television and film, Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero. Best one: Rick tears the mask of a guard and his dead face comes off with it, eyeballs rolling around and gunky skin hanging around the skull. Fucking incredible.
Once Rick and Co. make it inside the prison appears fairly deserted. No noise. Not a sound or a soul, anywhere. They move further in, getting the keys from a corpse which lets them into another cell block. Still, no signs of life, or of the undead either. Lots of corpses, gunshot to the middle of the head and the like. Once things are officially cleared the whole gang moves in, settling rooms for themselves and getting prepared to nest a while. Things, for now, are looking good.


We arrive back to Michonne again. She’s taking care of Andrea who is pretty damn sick. Fairly sick herself, Michonne’s zombies are creepy as all hell. They’re on leashes, no arms, no jaws. Weird thing to do. But part of why her character is interesting. Seems like something an insane person would do, yet there she is looking after Andrea, nursing her back to health. She wants to find them a place to stay, somewhere Andrea won’t get sicker, won’t die. They have a tenuous relationship, though, clearly a decent one after months on the road together. Michonne says she’ll “go in a few days“, but hopefully they stick together as a team. Not too long after they head out into the world once more; all four of them. At least Andrea’s not on a leash.
The gang at the prison are loading up on supplies. Plenty of security gear, as well as guns, ammo, flashbangs, et cetera. At the same time, Lori worries about the virus – if the baby is stillborn, it could tear out of her. She wants to discuss with Hershel what happens if she dies in child birth, reminding him many women died before modern medicine much like the situation in which she finds herself. But she asks more of Hershel – to be put down if something like that comes up, to not make Rick do it, as he may never recover. Remember this moment because a situation down the road calls this back to mind.


Heading further into the prison, Rick leads a crew of the survivors and leaves Carl in charge back with a few of the women, including his mother. The depths of the building aren’t as clear as the outer region. Not only are there walkers, the electricity isn’t on anymore, so the place is like a tomb. Glenn smartly spray paints arrows on the wall to mark their walk, almost like an urban Hansel and Gretel. Blood and gore line most of the halls. Bodies lie hacked to pieces. Finally, around one corner is a pack of zombies. The group push back and find themselves on the run.
The horrifyingly unexpected soon happens. First, Glenn and Maggie end up cut off from Hershel, T-Dog, Daryl and Rick. The two hide in a closet together escaping an onslaught of the living dead. Then, while moving along a hall Hershel gets one big bite in his leg. A panic breaks out, as Maggie stumbles onto her father. Rick and Glenn get Hershel out of there. But to what end?
In a split-second decision, Rick decides “Only one way to keep you alive” and hacks off Hershel’s leg above the bite in his calf. Everyone understands, but justifiably are horrified. Blood everywhere. Though, Rick gets the leg off. And up behind them appear several prisoners behind a cage in the cafeteria. Uh oh.


Moving on into the new season, up next is “Sick”.

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained: Slavesploitation

Django Unchained. 2012. Directed & Written by Quentin Tarantino.
Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, James Remar, David Steen, Dennis Christopher, Don Johnson, Franco Nero, Bruce Dern, M.C. Gainey, Jonah Hill, Tom Wopat, Don Stroud, Russ Tamblyn, Amber Tamblyn, and Tom Savini.
The Weinstein Company/Columbia Pictures.
Rated 18A. 165 minutes.
Drama/Western

★★★★★
POSTERRecently I saw The Hateful Eight. Taking a step back in time, in that same universe, I went back to Quentin Tarantino’s brutally honest, raw Western (or “Southern” as he likes to call it), Django Unchained. Sometimes I actually forget how good Tarantino is. To me, he’ll always be a truly great director. A master, in fact. My favourite film of his is still, and always will be, the adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch that Tarantino did, Jackie Brown.
But I do believe Django Unchained is one of his most impressive works out of the entire filmography. Let’s face it – there are rarely as interesting, influential and weird writers as Quentin out there. He brings that to the world of slavery and America in its former days, its worse days.
Editing by Fred Raskin, cinematography from D.P. Robert Richardson, practical effects courtesy of KNB wizards Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero (fucking legends), plus a load of other talented people, it all compounds to make Django Unchained into a great Western/Southern for the modern day confronting America’s historical race issues, specifically slavery, topped with the usual wit and style of Quentin Tarantino.
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Down around Texas in 1858, a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) is being transported, along with a bunch of others like himself. Soon enough, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) shows up. He offers to buy Django, but things end up going bad. Schultz murders the men carrying the slaves, and then takes Django with him; now a free man.
With Django riding side by side with Schultz, they set out to find the Brittle brothers – whom the doctor seeks, being a bounty hunter and all. This is how Django purchases his freedom, tagging along to help track and kill a few wanted men. Perfect for the newly freed slave. He’ll have his revenge. Better yet, Schultz agrees to help Django track down and free his wife: Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington). Only problem is she belongs to the notorious slave owner Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) at the Candyland Plantation. Encountering various wild and nefarious characters, Django and Schultz work their way towards Candie with death, madness and terrifying racism always nipping at their heels in an American Southern Hell.
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One thing I love about this film is the fact it boasts an incredible amount of characters. Better yet, they’re Tarantino characters. Now, for those who do not like his style, or his characters, whatever – then they’re probably not for you in general. But I dig the way he gives us characters, often not diving too deep into their backstory – especially depending on if they’re big or small characters – which sort of intrigues me. Here, it’s not simply an ensemble cast, there really is almost an entire Southern U.S. filled with characters in Django Unchained. From Big Daddy (Don Johnson) and his nasty group of pre-Klu Klux Klan bagheads, to James Remar’s awesome Western-homage double character Ace Speck/Butch Pooch, to M.C Gainey as Bible thumping hypocrite Big John Brittle and Bruce Dern as Old Man Carrucan, to a Franco Nero cameo and a tiny appearance by Walton Goggins. So many different characters occupy the space of Django Unchained. And I know that all of Tarantino’s films are ensembles, there are often a bunch of characters. It feels to me, though, this one takes the cake. It doesn’t introduce too many either, not in the sense that too many are there to be touched on. Even Jonah Hill gets in a cameo with the bagheaded mob led by Big Daddy.
Best of all are the main cast. Foxx gives Django a ton of charisma, the likes of which no other actor could’ve given him. Hands down. Sure, maybe he wasn’t Tarantino’s first choice on the list. But he makes this film what it is, without him it doesn’t matter how well Walt dances over the wonderful screenplay. There’d be no movie without Django the character, and Foxx makes it worth every last second. From the first to the last, he gives it his all. Then alongside him, Waltz impressively characterizes an odd yet charming man in Schultz – both a bounty hunter and a gentleman, a liar and a straight shooter (in more than one sense of the term). No doubt he deserve his Academy Award. He also brings to life the other half of the film. Perhaps others could have played Schultz, though, I’m hard pressed to think of anyone whose abilities rise to the level of capability required to sell this character; Waltz has a hokey-ness about him that isn’t cheesy, it works so well, it makes Schultz who he needs to be, the perfect counterpart to Django.
I can’t not mention DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie and Stephen, played by the ever fabulous Samuel L. Jackson. They both give terrific performances in two very tough roles. Again, as I said recently while reviewing The Hateful Eight, as a white man I’ll never understand how it feels watching a film about race, especially slavery, and even more so considering this one is laced with the word “nigger”. Sadly, this is historically accurate, as the mid-1800’s were a viciously racist time in many parts of America. Candie is a savage representation of the young men who were brought up on plantations, raised into the family business of their fathers, the type of person who molds himself into the best possible version of a terrible person. DiCaprio performs this despicable man in the most terrific way possible, giving his all in a role that couldn’t have been easy. Likewise, though Jackson pulls off a magnificent performance it’s a sad character – Stephen has been bent and broken by white men, turned into a true slave, less free than any of the ones in shackles even while he roams free himself. It’s a wildly entertaining role, albeit tough to watch. Can’t imagine Jackson relished playing him, but in a way it had to be exciting, bringing to life an awful piece of history.
All these people together? How can you not find the cast beyond amazing?

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The conversation about Django Unchained is never complete without talking about aesthetics, from sound to cinematography to set design to effects. I won’t bore you too long. Although, certain names need mentioning.
In particular, there’s editor Fred Raskin. His other work as editor includes the recent (and fantastic) Western-horror Bone TomahawkGuardians of the Galaxy and others, plus he worked in various editorial positions on films like Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, Punch-Drunk Love, Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia remake, Hard EightBoogie Nights, and much more. His editing shows greatly in this one. There are times the way scenes are cut from one to the next are very Tarantino-esque, others it’s typical Western, and some are just odd; it all works. There’s a reason Raskin and Tarantino have worked together several times now. They compliment one another. Bad editing can really kill a movie, and fortunately this one is done well.
Another Tarantino regular, cinematographer Robert Richardson, makes the look of Django Unchained so slick and beautiful. Each sequence is almost done in its own style, but always captured crisply by Richardson. His eye brings to life all the colours of the South, the costumes and the set design all look so vivid under the care of Richardson as director of photography. Many great films have been captured under this guy’s lens from work by Scorsese to Stone. This is but one of those titles.
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Full stop, a 5-star film. This is one of my favourites out of the Quentin Tarantino collection thus far, but still doesn’t top Jackie Brown for me. Either way, an amazing movie. It takes on a period of history many Americans would sooner forget. Instead, Tarantino’s whipsmart screenplay goes head-on at all the ugliness. At times it may be tough to digest. Although, the actors take each character and breathe into them a wild amount of life. Everything here is working on all cylinders, from the writing to the acting, to the wonderful aesthetics brought out by all the artists on the production. I cannot recommend this enough. To the naysayers: let them keep naysaying. This is a destined-to-be classic in the Western genre, though it takes place in the South. I’ll always love this movie. When it first came out I saw it several times in the first couple weeks. Can never get enough of Tarantino.

Dystopia & Military Madness in Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead. 1985. Directed & Written by George A. Romero.
Starring Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Richard Liberty, Sherman Howard, Gary Howard Klar, Ralph Marrero, John Amplas, Phillip G. Kellams, Taso N. Stavrakis, and Greg Nicotero. United Film Distribution Company (UFDC)/A Laurel Production/Dead Films Inc./Laurel-Day Inc. Rated R. 96 minutes.
Action/Horror/Thriller

★★★★★
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For me personally, though I love each of them and think they’re masterpieces of horror, George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead is my favourite of his first three major zombie films. The post-apocalyptic feel here is even stronger than in the previous Dawn of the Dead and I can’t get enough of it.
Romero dives into more sociopolitical issues again here, as he did with the other two Dead movies. This screenplay deals with the head-butting elements of science and military in a world ravaged by the zombie virus. Most of all, though, this movie really gets down to the nitty gritty, raw side of humanity – what we, as a species, would devolve into, regressing back to a primitive state once the zombie apocalypse begins. Through the military vs. scientist dilemma throughout Day of the Dead, this microcosm of the post-virus landscape in a bunker under the ground, we’re able to see how far humans will go, or better yet how far they can fall. Even further than that, as the good Dr. Logan says “they are us“: Romero tries to introduce a clear example of how zombies are still human, merely men and women reduced to a primitive, less active and intelligent state. So what interests me most throughout this fascinating zombie film is how the line between man/womankind and our primitive animalistic self seems to only be a thin one, a light veneer barely separating the two states.
Romero knows us, better than we’d like to admit.
day-of-the-dead-handsWhen zombies have overrun the world, a dozen people – government scientists and military – live in a bunker below the earth. The scientists, led by Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) and Dr. Sarah Bowman (Lori Cardille), attempt to try and figure out how to battle the zombie virus itself. Although, Logan has some different and perhaps unorthodox ideas about the way to experiment in such things. The soldiers, now under command of Captain Henry Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) – a hotheaded and equally stubborn, violent man – do not approve of what the doctors are doing.
After the isolation of being underground starts to emotionally and mentally unhinge Private Miguel Salazar (Anthony Dileo Jr), the outside world of the living dead manages to break through, coming down below to meet the still-living.
And then, on that day, hell breaks loose.
DayoftheDead3The opening scene, to me, is one of the things I’ve always loved and found memorable about Day of the Dead. Not sure why, I suppose because there’s a creepy dream-like quality about it which sets the tone: this is going to be a nightmare. And it is, in the absolute correct sense of the word, in the right way a horror film ought to be a nightmarish experience.
Truly, this film is a haunting zombie horror. In my opinion the special makeup effects are best here. Savini gives us amazing gore to soak up. Greatest of all comes quickly, after we’re introduced to the man lovingly referred to as Dr. Frankenstein by the other scientists and the military men, Dr. Logan: a zombie on one of the operating tables leans over, ripping a strap from its arm, and reaching out its guts and innards fall out of the stomach’s cavity onto the floor, slopping in its own mess. Nasty bit! Even better, the dream imagery comes back – like the beginning scene – except much more brutal, and it emulates the zombie’s guts falling out: as Sarah lies in bed, she imagines seeing Miguel similarly lean over with his insides evacuating, then comes back to reality fast. These alone are worth the price of admission regarding special makeup effects. Savini really pulls out his big guns in this movie, taking away the comic book garishness(/awesomeness) from his Dawn of the Dead zombie work, replacing those qualities with equal excellence on top of dirty, disturbing and realistic blood. Not knocking his previous work for Romero, on the contrary – I love it (check here if you don’t believe me). There’s simply a better, more terrifying aspect to the special makeup effects here; while the cartoon-like essence in Dawn of the Dead came a subtle creepiness, here it’s an outright mortifying feeling Savini gives us. Thank you, Tom!
BEST DECAPITATION IN ANY FILM – EVER. My vote goes for a scene around the 1 hour 27 minute mark. A soldier is surprised from behind by a group of the living dead when they pin him down, each grabbing bits and pieces of his flesh, then tear his head off. My favourite part is his scream – as they start to pull the head off, neck separating from shoulders and sternum, his voice gets higher and higher until the vocal cords literally snap off, blood spurting, and the entire head is free. Amazing, amazing special effects here. Such beautiful practical work in the horror genre, really a crowning achievement as far as I’m concerned. And not just that: it’s nasty as all hell.
maxresdefaultHuman beings are shit. Romero knows this is at least partly true. One part of why I love the scientist vs. military conflict here is because each side is presented as having their faults or their wrongdoings; not every individual is bad, but neither whole side is presented as totally in the right. For instance, though the military men are all pretty much horrible human beings, except for Miguel (he’s just gone absolutely insane), the scientists are not all rosy and perfect either – Logan and his experiments are a little barbaric, mostly considering he’s opted not to tell the soldiers about using other dead soldiers for extra meat. So sure, the scientists are ultimately trying to do the right thing, in whatever way it can be accomplished. There’s still an unethical aspect to the way they’re going about the mission. What Romero does with this plot is show us how not all soldiers are culpable in the terrible actions of soldiers in general, just as not all scientists are working towards the greater good most scientists try and work towards achieving. Every side has their good souls, every side their bad. But the bad ones – man, does Romero ever show us how bad they can get when the going gets tough.
dod8Generally it’s the sense of isolation which gets to me about this Romero masterpiece – it has so much suspense and tension because of its setting, generally lending itself to an air of eeriness. Night of the Living Dead was located mostly in the farmhouse, so there is a real sense of tightness, the characters enclosed and withdrawing further into the house at times. Dawn of the Dead even dared to get a little more claustrophobic because even within the mall, once zombies started to overrun the place there was nowhere for the survivors to go, or at least limited options of where to start running. What’s devastatingly intense at times about Day of the Dead is the fact they’re all underground. Even with the helicopter up above and a way to fly off, there’s still a ton of zombies trying to get in. Plus, once Miguel does the unthinkable after his craziness reaches its peak, the zombies filter into the underground bunker. So it’s WAY WORSE than the mall in the previous movie because so far below ground there are less ways to escape than a huge building aboveground. Add to that all the human elements of Romero’s wonderfully written screenplay, you’ve got yourself a backload of tension and unnerving suspense happening on an almost constant basis.
day-of-the-dead DayoftheDead-2Another 5 star film from George A. Romero. I’m huge on his films in general, not just the zombie work. But god damn it if he doesn’t make the greatest possible use of the living dead, adding solid horror to solid writing concerning sociopolitical issues to create a unique brand of horror sub-genre storytelling. Not every last piece of his zombie movies are full of issues – some times it’s just great and vicious horror. Though, it’s hard to deny how well Romero captures the issues of the day. Moreover, still as I write this in 2015, the issues continue to stay relevant: we’re almost always living in an era where the brutality of the military and politicians with their want for war come up against more rational, scientific approaches to the world around us. Day of the Dead is a masterful horror film in general and one of the greatest zombie films ever made. Personally, it’s my favourite of Romero’s Dead series because there’s a wholly unique quality to it even above his others. If you’ve not yet seen this, please do so. Particularly if you are big into zombies – you’ll see a lot of this film’s influence in other more contemporary zombie movies, as well as The Walking Dead of course. And really, it is just a solid, effective work of horror well worth your undivided attention.

Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno Chews Up Misguided Social Justice

The Green Inferno. 2015. Directed by Eli Roth. Written by Guillermo Amoedo & Eli Roth.
Starring Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Magda Apanowicz, Sky Ferreira, Nicolás Martínez, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Ramón Llao, Richard Burgi, Matías López, Antonieta Pari, Eusebio Arenas, Sally Rose, and Paul Norris. Worldview Entertainment/Dragonfly Entertainment/Sobras International Pictures. Rated R. 100 minutes.
Adventure/Horror

★★★★
59a974d3f370f45574815cb4805e8ac3WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Finally, I’ve had the chance to see Eli Roth’s long gestating, much awaited cannibal sub-genre horror movie, The Green Inferno. Its roots very much coming out of Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, including the title (the film within a film in the 1980 cult classic), it isn’t all simply a rip-off like some people want to make you believe. Just because the plots are similar, the locations, et cetera, does not mean Roth has ripped anything off. What I see is a lovingly nasty homage, a letter to the brutal films which transformed Roth into the filmmaker he is today, and pound for pound this is one relentless bit of cinema.
Some want to say Roth is lifting all his plots, for all his films, from earlier horror movies. I don’t think so. Much like Tarantino in this respect, I feel Roth merely wants to make fun grindhouse type movies for the new millennium. He likes to show his inspiration, he enjoys making clear his influences. This is not plagiarism, so can that foolishness. People, in this day and age, seem to not understand homage when it’s done correctly. Here, we get Roth’s homage to Deodato with a whole dose of his own sociopolitical commentary much like Cannibal Holocaust had lurking underneath its grim exterior.
green-inferno-nativesIn New York City, Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is a college student immersing herself in classes and extracurricular campus life, or well… sort of, anyways. When one of her professors does a lecture on female circumcision, or better put female genital mutilation, Justine starts to get the social activism bug. Yet her roommate Kaycee (Sky Ferreira) is pretty uninterested and the two of them make fun of the campus Social Justice Warriors. However, after a little bit of time passes Justine finds herself enthralled with the idea of going to the Amazon rainforest in order to stop logging companies from destroying the forest and the tribes located there. A local activist Alejandro (Ariel Levy) and his group plan on going, so Justine tags along with them and plans to use her father – a UN attorney – as a way to draw attention to the cause.
But once the group arrives in the Amazon, things are a little more scary than anticipated. The protests get underway and even become a bit of a sensation on the internet. Then, on their way home, the plane’s engine explodes and they crash back into the Amazon… where the local tribes aren’t exactly welcoming to the people who came to supposedly save them.
The-Green-Inferno 25-green-inferno.w1200.h630Part of what Roth is doing in The Green Inferno, which he has already discussed at length through his AMA and other interviews, is taking on the Social Justice Warrior trend that has really taken off over the last couple years, due in great part to social media. Now, Roth isn’t trying to say we shouldn’t care about social/political issues. What he hates, and what many of us hate, is how so many people who fall into the SJW mentality only do it online, they’re retweeting and favouriting things, all in the name of doing some kind of activism over the internet; slacktivism. He perfectly sets up all the characters from America as these very superficial, naive and foolishly stubborn individuals who are more concerned with what’s happening on the other side of the world than what is going on right at home. This plot and story rings true in this day and age, and I think many of us are thrilled with seeing a few headstrong SJWs get eaten alive.
I found one of the most telling moments about the group’s naivety came early, in a meeting with Alejandro (Ariel Levy) and his activist group after they touch down at their destination, comes when he tells them (holding cellphone in hand): “These are our guns.” It comes off as a great line, inspirational to the other SJWs champing at the bit to get out and try to initiate some good. But in reality, the line expresses how idealistically ridiculous these so-called activists are, to think they’ll be able to infiltrate a logging operation, surrounded with militia, and not need any kind of defense mechanisms other than cameras. Such a good line which expresses so much, so quickly.
Green-Inferno-2-1024x576A few minutes past the half-hour mark, when the activists chain themselves to the trees and stand in protest together, Justine is thrown under the bus by Alejandro’s amour, Kara (Ignacia Allamand); she gives Justine a faulty lock, preventing her from being chained across the tree and secured. One of the militia is about to shoot her, however, Alejandro screams about her father being with the United Nations – AMAZINGLY TENSE SCENE! I can’t even describe those few moments, you actually fear for Justine even though she’s the main character. This is also the beginning of all the savagery and madness, from here we move back into the jungle and begin our descent into the darkness of humanity has officially gotten underway.
When the plane crashes, Roth moves the film into pretty nasty territory. The pilot gets his head ripped off by a log flying through the plane’s window, Carlos (Matías López) is impaled, a few of the group are ripped from the plane. Even one of them has their head grossly sliced by one of the still moving airplane propellors. Full on CARNAGE! Kara gets her just desserts, when an arrow blows through her neck, and then another puts her out of her misery through the middle of the forehead. It’s just outright mayhem for about five minutes until the activists are brought back to the tribal village. Nice little bits of gore up to this point, brief and momentary, but awesome; all courtesy of the incredible KNB team led by masters Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. You’ll only fall further headlong into their disgustingly awesome effects work as the film goes on.
Things really get rocking when poor Jonah (Aaron Burns) is given a drink by the tribe before being placed on a sacrificial rock – one of the tribesman (Ramón Llao) and The Edler (Antonieta Pari) quarter him up, first the eyes and then the tongue, then all the limbs. This is one of the most devastating sequences Eli Roth has yet to produce. Especially the scene afterwards, with a bunch of village women preparing and curing his body before they put it in a nice jungle oven to cook it nicely. I mean, what a brutish few moments! An undeniably scary bit of horror cinema, full of gore and shock and awe.
Screen-Shot-2014-08-21-at-1.21.06-PM-620x400I’ve already spoiled a few of these pieces, so mostly I’d like to reiterate some of the earlier points I made. Above all else, Roth’s Green Inferno makes the huge statement he means to: good intentions aside, the Social Justice Warriors blindly aiming to be activists not only do themselves a disservice, they’re doing a disservice to the issues they’re trying so idiotically to champion. Case and point comes in the film once Alejandro makes a dramatic revelation, albeit after the group are all caged in the village; we finally realize how some of these SJWs – again, these are the ones not doing real justice but merely doing it for the ‘look of being righteous’ – only do what they do in order to appear as if they’re activists, they don’t truly care much other than for personal gain. So, while many want to take Roth’s horror movie as simply a bunch of gore, body parts and nasty murder, which there is PLENTY OF, I do believe there’s a definitive and clear point beneath it all which is made. It’s not even as heavy handed as you think because Justine, and a couple of the others, certainly don’t fall in the same SJW category as Alejandro, for instance. But Roth easily makes his case and makes it well with an interesting, well-written screenplay (co-written with Guillermo Amoedo), alongside a solid helping of blood and gore.
Just a note: the last few scenes, Justine and her decisions, will put across the point of SJWs – she decides to do something selfless, all in the name of going against the stupidity of their activism which brought them into a world they did not understand, nor will they ever understand either. Then, there’s a bitch of a turnaround in the final shot before the credits, plus a SECOND ONE in between halves of the credits. Great stuff to add in, which really puts forth a few of Roth’s intentions even better and further than he’d already done throughout the film.
mv5bodmzndiwntm3of5bml5banbnxkftztgwodu4ota4nje-_v1__sx1234_sy636_A spot on homage to Cannibal Holocaust without lifting the screenplay, the plot as a whole, The Green Inferno is one of Eli Roth’s most brutal and simultaneously interesting films of the past few years. An absolute 4 out of 5 star horror movie, to me. I’m a fan of the cannibal sun-genre in horror, especially the classics like Deodato’s aforementioned grandfather of found footage and other wildness like Cannibal Ferox directed by cannibal forefather Umberto Lenzi. However, where some of those films lack in plot/story due to their insistence on explicitly showing tons of gore, simply for the sake of it, Roth excels with The Green Inferno because – despite all the bloodiness – beneath that exists commentary. Aiming this cannibal horror film at the Social Justice Warriors perverting the name of activism, Roth is able to break through from this being another shocking gorefest to achieving a bit of greatness.
1814116f9a7b44d6af79ba9cff76b981Others would have you see this as only a bunch of blood and body parts and cannibals. Me? I can see where Roth was going and I think, in a day of social media gone awry, there’s a message at the heart of The Green Inferno. If you choose to only see the gore, that’s fine, but if you can’t “make it through”, then don’t judge this film solely on the fact it contains lots of nasty, bloody effects because that’s not the main focus. Don’t let the unrelenting horror guide your opinion, look at what Roth is saying and try to understand his intentions; if you can manage to do so, this shocker may hold more than a few grossouts for you and despite any apprehension, you may just have a bit of fun. This is destined to fall in line with the great movies in the cannibal horror sub-genre, mark my words. I hope Eli Roth continues to do this sort of work because horror needs a nasty bastard like him to keep us all honest.

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 1: “First Time Again”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 1:
 “First Time Again”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple & Matthew Negrete

* For a review of the next episode, “JSS” – click here

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.49.17 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.49.26 PMBack to Alexandria once more. I’m only now just starting to review The Walking Dead, jumping in on the newest season. So look out: I’ll get back to the first season, as soon as possible.
With this new beginning, Season 6 starts as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) gives a speech to get everyone prepared – well, after a quick black-and-white flashback to the first time Rick has heard Morgan Jones (Lennie James) in a long time.
Things get dicey pretty quick once a tractor trailer slips off a cliff and throws a wrench into Rick’s whole plan.
Immediately there are hordes and hordes of zombies just pushing their way towards Rick and the crew. Loving the walkers already! Greg Nicotero – legendary makeup artists and effects man alongside partner Howard Berger – directed this season opener, so there’ll be plenty of this to come.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.49.44 PMMore black-and-white flashbacks to more of what we saw at the end of Season 5, after Rick finally went ahead and fought for him, his group, without worrying for the lives of everyone else, as he so often found himself doing.
Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) pours a little liquor out for the dead man he carries. Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) somehow manages not to kill Nicholas (Michael Traynor), bringing him back safely after all; this plays out more through the episode, showing us the compassion of Glenn and their group, as he’s not willing to totally lose himself in the madness of the zombie apocalypse. Smart, or naive? We’ll see as the season gets into gear. So far, though, so good.
Then we’re able to get a look at Morgan’s return. He sits eating with good ole Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), having another little talk with Rick now that they’re reunited. Of course, Rick has changed a lot since their last meeting; Morgan understands, because so has he, no doubt.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.50.12 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.50.59 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.51.13 PMBack in the present, Rick has everyone running like clockwork. They’re systematically working their way down roads, past rows of cars, shooting flares to create diversions for the rows of undead traipsing around.
More black-and-white flashbacks. Rick and Daryl talk about Morgan a little, about what he told them concerning the outside world, the mysterious zombies marked on their foreheads, and so on. We get more and more of a sense Rick is turning cold, colder than ever before. Or maybe he’s simply getting more rational, back to the basics. He and Morgan are slightly at odds simply for the fact Morgan is able to recognize one thing: everyone’s a killer in post-apocalyptica with the walkers.
At the same time, Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) gets to meet a few people he and the others haven’t had the chance to meet yet, other Alexandria residents, such as Heath (Corey Hawkins) who seems nice enough; he and Eugene bond awkwardly over hair, kind of.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.51.33 PMMorgan: “That’s not who you are. I know.
Rick: “Hey – you don’t
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.51.48 PMThere’s a refreshing aspect to having Rick and Morgan back in the same place, at the same time, and more or less on the same page. Because what this allows is a sort of mirror-like reflection of the two men. They’re both very similar, but again – Morgan has a strange type of clarity. Most likely gained after spending so much time alone, withdrawn from the world outside. Unlike Rick, whose entire existence since the fall of civilization has consisted of fighting for others, taking care of others, et cetera. Not to say Morgan hasn’t fought, but Rick has shouldered far too much weight he didn’t necessarily have to to all in the name of being a ‘good man’. Whereas Morgan accepts that part of being a good man sometimes in this new world is also being a bad guy, when necessary; Rick still has a hard time understanding that, reconciling the two sides of himself. Always Sheriff Grimes thinks it can only be one or the other.
Such greatness when Daryl rides his bike up over a hill, so simple: we can see back behind him on the road there are about a hundred or more zombies headed his way, following the sound of his engine rumbling. Incredible little moment! Such a wild and exciting, albeit brief shot.

A big part of this season opener is the quarry – Rick and Morgan stumble across it when they go out to bury the piece of shit Rick killed in the Season 5 finale. This is where Rick’s massive plan goes down, where the episode started. That truck which plummeted off the cliff earlier? It was holding back walkers from pouring into the surrounding area and Alexandria itself. Rick, as well as trusty Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), tries to tell everyone it’s best to take care of the problem and get it done; only a matter of time before the worst happens. Luckily, most everyone agrees. Carter (Ethan Embry) would prefer to reinforce the wall, having worked on the original structure. Daryl, Abraham and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) are each game for the plan, as well as all the other regulars like Glenn and Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan). Though, Carter seems to be a little apprehensive about Rick, after the incidents of the finale. However, lots of others from Alexandria soon pipe up to offer their help in hopes of banding together to stop an invasion of walkers from tumbling in through the walls. So Rick lays out the plan in detail for Carter and the others, even if not everyone is totally thrilled with it. Luckily, either way, Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh), head honcho in charge agrees with Rick and almost all of his ideas/plans.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.52.33 PMAgain, LOTS OF AWESOME ZOMBIE ACTION! Heads crushing, and so on. When Rick and Co. are leading the hordes down the road, Daryl on his bike holding up the front lines, there are a couple excellent bits of nasty gore. Zombies running into the sheet metal, smashing their brains. Others walking through the bits of face and brains and teeth on the ground, slopping through a tiny pool of blood. So, so fun in a gross way! Always love this sort of stuff. Nicotero has mostly only directed on The Walking Dead, including the Webisodes (plus a TV movie and a short), so he usually does some solid work in his episodes when it comes to showing off awesome special makeup effects.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.53.35 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.53.41 PMTurns out Carter (Embry) has been talking about mutiny, taking Alexandria back from Rick. They think he’s dangerous, or at the least Carter does, anyways. In a flashback, we see Eugene spy on Carter + others talking about the mutiny; Carter is about to put him away with a shot to the head when Rick, Daryl and Morgan show up. Instead of returning the favour and blasting Carter, Daryl’s appeal to Rick shows mercy. More, we get to see how Morgan is a much more dual-natured soul, while Rick remains one or the other: feast or famine, live or die, good or bad.
In the present, though, Carter and Rick reconcile, as the former admits: “You were right” as the plan plays out properly after all. Well, Carter ends up getting chewed by a walker, but everyone else appears fairly safe as it stands. Too bad, I actually love Ethan Embry and hoped he might be sticking around; not the case.
But can Rick begin to accept his own dual nature instead of leaning too far on one side, or will his inability to do so prove fatal for him/those around him at some point, too? There’s no telling where anything will go in the world of The Walking Dead. I have a feeling something tragic and devastating will happen at some point in this season.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.53.49 PMRick: “I know this sounds insane, but this is an insane world.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.54.22 PMAt the finale of “First Time Again”, what sounds like a truck horn sounds in the distance. Everyone stops, their eyes full of fear. The walkers start to move in through the woods, off the roads and where they were being coaxed into going by the crew. A great satirical little moment when the walkers head back towards Alexandria – one of those new sub-division signs pointing towards the little town, saying “You’re almost home”. Amazing final shot pulling back over the highway to reveal the masses and masses, unending, of zombies heading to the quaint little suburb where Rick and the group are fleeing home.
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.55.06 PMThe next episode, titled “JSS” (directed by the amazing Jennifer Chambers Lynch; daughter of David), should be extremely interesting. Stay tuned as I go into Season 6 with you all, Walking Deadites!

Eli Roth’s Hostel is a 21st Century ’80s Gore Flick

Hostel. 2005. Directed & Written by Eli Roth.
Starring Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, Jan Vlasák, Jana Kaderabkova, Jennifer Lim, Keiko Seiko, Lubomír Bukový, Jana Havlickova, Rick Hoffman, Petr Janis, Takashi Miike, Patrik Zigo, and Milda Jedi Havlas. Raw Never/International Production Company/Next Entertainment/Hostel LLC.
Rated R. 94 minutes.
Horror

★★★★1/2
MPW-16778I’ll not back down from the rating and love I give Eli Roth’s Hostel. He’s honestly one of those younger horror directors that’s pushing the envelope for genre filmmaking. Continually to this day, Roth is pumping out the good stuff. Not everything is perfect, however, he’s one of the few directors that truly goes for shock and awe. But not simply that, regardless of how people feel about this movie, or any of his movies, there’s always a care for building character, developing tension, and on top of all the gory horror he offers I can always manage to find myself involved in the characters and situations happening in his movies.
Not the first gore film ever made, not by a LONG SHOT – that being said, something about Hostel struck critics and viewers enough in the rightwrong spot it ended up coining the label torture porn; something which I hate, I find it stupid, and though I know what it’s meant to insinuate I don’t particularly find it at all a useful label. The only reason people initially came up with that label, I believe, is because Roth’s movie has this beginning segment where the characters have sex, they party, girls are half naked and fully naked, and so on. Then, once the fun is over, all the nasty horror begins. THAT, my friends, is why we have torture porn. Really, I think the label means to say the torture aspects of these films (Saw is another film/series labelled this way – better deserving of the title than this film) are, in a sense, fetishized. I just can’t see it in this movie.
Reason being, this is – plain and simple – a gore film. Eli Roth came up with an interesting premise, something which has set off a number of other horror movies basing themselves on the TERROR OF TRAVEL TO UNKNOWN PLACES FAR AWAY FROM HOME, and on top of his initial idea he piled on the horror, mostly in bloody, gory form.
But it’s exactly what I’ve just said which makes Hostel more than a bunch of gore and torture scenes. The fact it was successful enough it created a new label (for a sub-genre of films which already existed long before), a ton more films (such as Turistas and The Chernobyl Diaries) based on horror while vacationing, and launched the career of Eli Roth to new heights, all goes to show the influence and importance of Hostel.
Because like it or not, this one changed the game.
fhd005HST_Derek_Richardson_005Hostel tells the story of Paxton (Jay Hernandez), Josh (Derek Richardson), and Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) who are on vacation together; the first two being old friends, the latter being a new friend they met while travelling. Heading to a hostel in Amsterdam where they’re staying, very late one night past curfew, the friends are attacked in the streets by people throwing bottles from their windows. A young man named Alex (Lubomír Bukový) opens his door and saves them from the flying bottles. While there, Alex reveals a hostel where they ought to stay, a Slovak village – it supposedly has many horny, willing women who particularly love Americans.
After arriving at the hostel, and a strange encounter on a train with a Dutch businessman (Jan Vlasák), the guys meet some beautiful women, they party.
However, one by one the friends disappear into thin air, until finally only Paxton remains. When he’s able to convince one of the girls they met to bring him where she claims Josh and Oli are, Paxton finds out there are things better left unknown in the sleepy little Slovak town.
544ceb51670d0d784894dea9I think Roth’s screenplay here deserves more credit than people give it. They toss several scenes off early on as if they’re nothing except a way for Roth to whittle away the time. But if you pay close attention, or not even, if you just WATCH the damn movie you’ll see he actually bothers to set up a bit of character development.
For instance, I think when Paxton (Hernandez) tells Josh (Richardson) about the experience when he was young, seeing a girl drown, it’s a wonderful scene on its own. Then later, it comes into play as Paxton refuses to walk out of the factor and leave the Asian girl behind to die (even though we all know what happens later). Everything comes to bear here in this script and I feel like people don’t pay this enough mind. It’s not as if the screenplay is revolutionary, I’m just trying to instil the idea that Roth isn’t simply rolling through torture scenes and not worrying about dialogue, character, and overall plot. There are still great moments like these.
That SUPERBLY CREEPY scene when the Dutch businessman (Jan Vlasák) first shows up on the train and he eats the salad with his fingers is, to me, a scene that will be viewed as classic horror from the 2000s. When you look at that scene, first glance it comes off as a quick and unsettling moment. Then, as the Dutchman shows up again and again, his connection to Josh grows a little, that scene with the salad becomes something much more telling than a ploy towards awkwardness and a way to make us feel uneasy. It becomes more and finds further weight as the movie wears on.
fhd005HST_Petr_Janis_002So now I’m mostly going to talk about the makeup effects, as well as certain scenes I thought were amazing.
To start, I love when the Asian girl is about to have her toe chopped, then Roth quick edits to her friend cutting her toenails. MAN – such a tense moment. Because for all he ends up showing later on, as well as the severed head not long before that, you’d almost assume he would go ahead and show us a nasty piece of blood and gore. Or a taste. Instead, he ramps up the tension with such a simple, easy cut from one shot to another. Simple yet so damn effective.
Also, in one of the next scenes Josh (Richardson) is in a bar and there’s this excellent song playing. While he watches Paxton (Jay) dancing out on the floor, there’s this fog splitting open all of a sudden where Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) appears standing triumphant out of nowhere. It’s not even a horror moment, it’s simply an awesome bit. There’s something about that moment which strikes me, every damn time. Merely a passing dream image to the character, but for the audience it’s this weird and cool sort of shot out of the blue. Certainly couldn’t go without mentioning it.
One INCREDIBLE SCENE sees Takashi Miike as a tourist – or should I say a customer of Elite Hunting – and though Miike does not speak English, he took a role in Roth’s film, speaks one line, gives a VERY SINISTER GRIN behind those shades he always wears, and then gets into a car, driving off.
jjonb24e1xvz4jbo-e1381021600733I think, ultimately, I can’t decide which is my favourite scene in terms of makeup effects and blood/gore. There are too many fun, nasty moments in Hostel for me to say for sure, personally. It’s a real hard go of it to come up with some definitive scene, in terms of any of those qualities.
What I can say for sure is that the final half hour is UNREAL! There’s nothing but savagery, a dose of black humour, bloody and gory special makeup effects, as well as a ton of creepy and effective acting. Starting with the German Surgeon (Petr Janis) toying with Paxton, who is handcuffed to a chair, there’s just an absolutely gritty, disturbing tone. This shifts everything into gear, as Paxton eventually gets himself out of the room.
But it’s downright horrifically perfect how Roth executes the finale of this film. There’s so much going on and we get all these excellent makeup effects, one after the other. Naturally, Kings of the Horror Industry Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, as well as the other artists over at their K.N.B EFX Group, had their hands in all the nastiness involved here. Their special effects, the makeup, their casting and moulding, it’s GENIUS! Every time. I’ve never seen bad stuff from them, honestly; they’ve done work on bad films, but their work is almost always perfect. It’s one of the highlights for sure out of this one.
IF I HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE: the eyeball effect, all around, it is a killer bit of work. I mean, if you’re not disgusted and totally thrilled by that, I don’t know where your pulse is at.
fhd005HST_Jay_Hernandez_011I’m not changing my opinion, not matter what anyone says, because I don’t think Eli Roth’s Hostel is just a trashy gore horror picture. It isn’t, at all. While a lot of fans might love it merely for that, and rightfully so there’s a TON of wild gory stuff, there is plenty more to enjoy about this movie. It’s a 4.5 out of 5 star horror, I have no doubt in that.
With all the effects to boot, Roth comes out with a nice screenplay that gives up a decent bit of character development, sets a dark mood from tension to humour to gritty atmosphere, and the actors all do their best in order to make Hostel an entirely effective experience. If you don’t think so, too bad, because for me this is one solid piece of work in the post-2000 world of remakes, reboots, rehashes, and re-blahblahblahs. Roth did something daring, which paid off. His brand of horror is his own, though, he’s definitely inspired other indie horror filmmakers to do their BEST by doing their WORST to the human psyche via terror.
hostel_eli_roth_horror-5See this if you’ve not, and if you have: watch it again. Maybe if you focus on something other than the gore and the blood and the nasty bits, there’ll be something else to catch your eye. Or maybe not.

The Hills Have Eyes II: Horny Mutants

The Hills Have Eyes II. 2007. Directed by Martin Weisz. Written by Jonathan Craven & Wes Craven.
Starring Cécile Breccia, Michael Bailey Smith, Archie Kao, Jay Acovone, Jeff Kober, Philip Pavel, David Reynolds, Tyrell Kemlo, Lee Thompson Young, Danielle Alonso, Eric Edelstein, Jessica Stroup, Joseph Beddelem, Jacob Vargas, Ben Crowley, Michael McMillian, Reshad Strik, and Derek Mears. Dune Entertainment.
Rated R. 89 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★
hills_have_eyes_two_ver7Funny, as much as I find myself a Wes Craven fan, I didn’t realize until watching this again while reviewing it that he wrote the screenplay with his son Jonathan Craven. I think it’s a slight touch better than Papa Craven’s original The Hills Have Eyes Part II from 1985, which despite being a guilty pleasure of mine is still a horrid film; not in the right way, either. However, this version of The Hills Have Eyes II is still nothing great or special in any way, shape, or form. There’s little to enjoy.
I say that with a little sadness. Honestly, the original The Hills Have Eyes is a favourite horror classic of mine, as well as the fact I loved Alexandre Aja’s remake a tiny bit more even. So I expected, or more so I hoped, that maybe Aja would be involved. At least Craven was, though, his script is not very good.
When Martin Weisz was announced to direct, I’d actually anticipated something halfway decent. Personally, I am a big fan of his previous movie based on the real life case of Armin Meiwes – Rohtenburg a.k.a Grimm Love. That was a different and also horrific piece of horror mixed with drama. The real case is wild enough, but the presentation of a script written by T.S. Faull by Weisz makes things even more intense.
Unfortunately I don’t feel as if Weisz brought much, if anything, from the style he cultivated in Rohtenburg to add to this film. There are a few decently creepy moments, most of which come very early in, but there’s not enough of this or any solid script to make this into a decent movie. Rather, The Hills Have Eyes II is one of the worst scripts Wes Craven has had his hands on, and I’m left hoping Martin Weisz will recapture some of what he did with his previous film later on down the road.
21478_1Starting off we come to see how the mutants in the hills from the first film are holding a woman captive. Once she has birthed a child for them, she is killed. Afterwards, some scientists and members of the U.S Army are murdered by more mutants.
Cut to a group of National Guardsmen in training with their sergeant. They’re out on a mission resupplying scientists working in a camp in the desert, there from the U.S DOD doing surveillance; those same scientists from the beginning scenes. When a group of them head up into the hills after finding the camp abandoned, Napoleon (Michael McMillian) and Amber (Jessica Stroup) are left with the communications in punishment. In the hills, the soldiers find the mutilated bodies of the people they’re there to help. Back down near camp, Amber is attacked by one of the mutants who quickly runs off when Mickey (Reshad Strik) is returning to camp with a sprained ankle. But when Mickey gets hauled through a crack in the rocks, virtually eviscerated in one brutal pull, Amber and Napoleon realize there is something sinister at work.
Up on the mountain, everyone else is cut off from contact, and this gives the mutants plenty of things to do. What began as a routine re-up mission devolves into a fight for survival, as only a handful of the soldiers wind up alive and in good enough to shape to try and make it out of the hills alive.
the-hills-have-eyes-ii-shared-picture-china-1386828415Was there ANY need of such a disgustingly graphic opening sequence? I mean, I’m not saying the story is a bad idea. There’s no reason not to believe the hill mutant clan wouldn’t be kidnapping women in order to make babies. First of all, they’re mutants; they probably have no control over their impulses, whether to kill or to rape or whatever. Doesn’t surprise me. Second, they’re mostly concerned with survival. They kill to eat, so as primitive, basic humans – though mutated – they’re probably hardwired to try and procreate. They’re essentially cavemen.
But all that said, why show us right off the bat such an explicit birthing scene? Personally, I think there’s a way to be effective , then there’s this: hitting us over the head with gory nastiness immediately. It’s not even so much that it disgusted me – I’ve seen more than my fair share of gore and savage horror – I feel like it’s heavy handed. Even in the opening scene of the 2006 remake, there’s still brutality and a scary beginning. This one is a load of tripe.
I think had the Cravens decided to just go with the opening being the whole sequence where the National Guardsmen and the scientists from the U.S Department of Defense get attacked by the mutants, this movie would’ve opened much better. The way things start out here makes me think “Ew”, but not in the sense of being good for horror. It’s all shock without any substance.
lAgain later on in the film, there’s more mutant sex. This is something I’m really bothered by because there’s no need of it. At all. I am totally fine, as I said previously, with the plot having partly to do with the mutants in the hills carrying on their family, breeding, kidnapping women to do the deed. It’s nasty, but as a plot it’s understandable. But there’s no condoning having to show actual shots of a mutant raping a woman. Certainly there was no point to showing a GRAPHIC mutant baby birth at the very start, so it doesn’t surprise me that there was more useless shock horror down the line.
There’s a potentially creepy film in The Hills Have Eyes II. One of the big problems I had with Craven’s original 1985 sequel to his film was the fact there seemed to be a tenuous link to why everything was happening; from the dirtbike team to Ruby becoming Rachel, and so on. I like the idea of this movie as a premise – the whole National Guard angle and the DOD scientists in doing surveillance is good. Plus, I usually enjoy horror films that mix in a military storyline/action. However, with too much of the mutant sex being a focus and a much less defined atmosphere in comparison to Aja’s remake, both the Cravens and director Weisz fumble a solid opportunity to make a terrifying sequel.
The-Hills-Have-Eyes-2-DI-1There are a couple aspects I do like, honestly. To start, I did find a couple of the mutants and their makeup effects pretty awesome, as well as the fact they were unsettling. Derek Mears plays a mutant named Chameleon, whose ability to blend into his surroundings are obviously a perk for him. While it was different to see a mutant who has an ability, as opposed to merely a deformity or hideous appearance, I enjoyed it all the same. There’s an added bit of danger, obviously, when a cannibal killer can blend into rocks and walls.
Moreover, I found one of the mutants – the blind one – was a creeper. Very weird and scary! His look/face eminded me of one of the Cenobites from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and that’s always a good thing. The way he sniffed around everywhere in the darkness was terrible, in the best way possible.
So I have to say that while most of this movie is hugely disappointing, the mutants themselves and the makeup effects, their overall design, it was all pretty well executed. Doesn’t hurt that Greg Nicotero (who appeared as Cyst in Aja’s remake) and Howard Berger, along with a bunch of others from K.N.B EFX, were responsible for the makeup department, from the special effects to the hair to on-set makeup and design. These guys are classic. Even in shit films, I’m always pleased to see Berger/Nicotero & Co. in the credits because their work is usually pretty phenomenal. It’s no wonder they’ve become a staple in the horror movie business.

In the end, what hurts The Hills Have Eyes II most is that Jonathan/Wes Craven did not write a good script. I’d love to say this father-son team knocked one out of the park, because that’d be cool. Sadly, I cannot state anything so cool. The dialogue at times wasn’t too bad, yet most of the time I felt as if I was listening to a walking bunch of cliched U.S Army soldiers; the character of Crank especially made me want to punch holes in my eardrums. Even more damning is the fact that the characters themselves are pretty stupid. They make pitiful decisions. Now, I’m not one to criticize for little mistakes, or even the things people do when they’re scared – I’ve said more than once I put myself in the shoes of characters to try and feel their fear – but there’s no excuse for some of the behaviour these characters exhibit throughout the film.
What I did enjoy about the script was that Wes used little bits from his original sequel to throw in. Such as the whole hills location itself – in his first 1985 sequel, Craven had the mine shafts and all that happening. So here, there’s a much more elaborate version of that going on. Not sure if that was intentional or if the plot they wound up using simply lent itself to using the shafts, et cetera, but either way it’s one thing I liked about the film. There’s great atmosphere once down in the darkness there, as opposed to not much of anything going on before then.
Fun note – the shaft system was done by the same crew who worked on the excellent British horror The Descent, so no wonder the atmosphere and tone amped up once the film shifts to being mostly set down in the mine.
1348829106_1081550When it comes down to the nitty gritty, all the set pieces and makeup effects and interesting premises in the world do not an effective horror movie make. Although, I have to give The Hills Have Eyes II a 2 out of 5 star rating. I can’t deny there is some creepiness, from the suspenseful moments in the mine to the K.N.B makeup effects which made a couple new mutants look scary as hell.
But this Wes Craven script, written with his son Jonathan who has never written anything good honestly, is one if his worst. In fact, I’d almost say it is definitively his worst. I’d honestly put My Soul to Take, a near equally bad film, above this one; and that’s saying something! Mostly it saddens me because I hoped that with an absence of Alexandre Aja for the sequel to his remake Craven as screenwriter would make up for that. It did not, in any way.
My suggestion? Watch the original, or the remake, but this doesn’t have much to offer outside of some nicely executed effects and an eerie setting in the last half hour.

The Hills Have Eyes – A Remake with Big Scary Balls

The Hills Have Eyes. 2006. Directed by Alexandre Aja. Screenplay by Alexandre Aja & Grégory Levasseur; based on the 1977 original by Wes Craven.
Starring Aaron Stanford, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, Tom Bower, Billy Drago, Robert Joy, Ted Levine, Desmond Askew, Ezra Buzzington, Michael Bailey Smith, Laura Ortiz, and Greg Nicotero. Dune Entertainment.
Rated 18A. 107 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2
hills_have_eyes_xlgWhen it comes to remakes they can be very hit or miss. I loved A Nightmare on Elm Street – the original, also directed by Wes Craven in 1984, but the 2010 remake was atrocious, completely useless aside from a bit of a look at Freddie Krueger’s backstory. Then The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of my favourite horrors of all time, and that remake was fairly awful too; aside from a bit of gore and decent atmosphere, the remake is a waste of time.
But Alexandre Aja’s remake of the Wes Craven horror classic The Hills Have Eyes is absolutely one of the best remakes out there. So many people complain that remakes have flooded the market. Well, that’s partly true. However, you can’t forget that reboots and remakes have been around for ages; even recently I reviewed Brian De Palma’s fantastic adaptation of the 1966 series Mission: Impossible which came out in the ’90s. Even before that, A Star is Born has been remade and reworked NUMEROUS times.
So what I’m really getting at is that, as long as a remake is done correctly, as long as it isn’t a complete carbon copy, as long as it SERVES A PURPOSE, then I think a remake is fine. Why not? Sometimes it can help bring a brand new audience to the original by introducing people to a remake; not everyone goes out hunting down to see if every movie they watch has an original, nor can you expect people to automatically know. The generation of the 1960s didn’t know about Citizen Kane automatically, other film fans spread the word, and so on. Just an example.
With Aja’s remake, The Hills Have Eyes brings new themes and elements to the story, building on character, dialogue, and overall plot development. Coupled with impressive updated makeup effects, Aja is able to make this into something new from Craven’s original. So much so in fact, I prefer this remake a little above Craven’s and I have no shame in saying so. At all.

The Hills Have Eyes watches as the Carter family goes on a roadtrip out through the desert – there’s Big Bob (Ted Levine) and his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), their teenagers Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) and Bobby (Dan Byrd), as well as the eldest daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw). Along for the ride, with a slight reluctancy, is Lynn’s husband Dough Bukowski (Aaron Stanford) who frequently clashes with Big Bob over guns, republicans vs. democrats, and Doug’s job which involves cellphones. After a gas station attendant (Tom Bower) tells them where they ought to head on their trip, down a side road of course, the Carters end up blowing out their tires and running off the road.
When Big Bob goes back to the gas station and Aaron heads out in another direction, the rest of the Carter family sits and waits in the desert as the light dims out of the sky. After awhile, it becomes painfully clear to them Bob will not be coming back.
Instead, someone else is coming. And there may be more of them where that came from.
21477_4While I do enjoy the gas station attendant’s story more in the original 1977 film, I do like that Tom Bower plays the role here. He is a fascinating character actor. Here, the strength in the character is not so much anything he tells Bob, like in the original. It’s how creepy and unsettling the character is, the sadness you can feel in him just through his voice. Mostly I thought it was a good and eerie way to kick things off for the horror. The gas station attendant is our first definitive look at how terrifying things will get, which then kickstarts all the madness into gear. Plus, there is a downright amazing special makeup effect, as the attendant blows his head off with a shotgun in the outhouse. I mean – WHOA! Loved it. Just watch the credits and see how many makeup/special effects artists worked on this, and you can tell how Aja was able to secure such a gory, nasty look to so many of the effects throughout the film. This first one with the gas station attendant is the tip of the iceberg.
the-hills-have-eyes-2006-remake-aaron-stanfordIn the original, the Doug character absolutely turned out to be the saviour of sorts, while Bobby and Brenda did all right for themselves, too. Even further in this remake, Big Bog (Levine) and Doug (Aaron Stanford) have a highly standoff-ish relationship. Essentially, Bob represents the construction of manliness while Aaron, with his cellphone job, his aversion to guns, his meek glasses wearing look (a la Dustin Hoffman in Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs), he represents the less manly version of a male; at least in Bob’s eyes. So when things get insane, Doug really has to step up. He almost becomes a new man, which is marked by his newfound violence – all in the name of avenging his family and finding his stolen baby. So when he becomes the saviour in the end, there’s a much more grand, epic feeling to his actions than in the first. You really just wanna scream “FUCK YEAH!” at him while he’s taking charge. The finale is incredible all over, but it’s even better when the character of Doug has this pretty great development over the course of the film. Makes the impact even greater.
p.txt-2One of the most impressive aspects of this remake is the gore and the makeup effects. First of all, the mutants themselves each have a unique, horrifying look. Fun fact: makeup artist Greg Nicotero, well-known for so many horror movies and television shows, plays Cyst, the mutant with the halo head gear. I think one of the creepiest, aside from the big, tall guy with the axe, is the mutant with the big fat head in the wheelchair. Every time I watch this and he says “It’s breakfast time“, chills run up my spine.
A native of my province Newfoundland, the ever intriguing character actor Robert Joy plays Lizard – the most despicable of the mutants in Aja’s remake. He is the one who rapes Brenda, in one of the more unsettling scenes I’ve ever witnessed, which is saying something. Either way, I love the mutant makeup on him, his face and whole demeanour really is completely unnerving. Fits in right along with the rest of the deformities. Joy does well with the character; much of him seems based on Mars from the original, but I find Lizard ten times creepier.
Even Papa Jupiter, played by Billy Drago, is creepy. He’s the only one of the cannibal mutant family without any visible mutations or deformities. And still, he’s insanely scary. When we hear him whispering “daddy” in the darkness, it’s so strange and gets right under my skin. Then as Big Bob gets in his car, trying to take off, he whispers it once more a little louder and I just wanna throw up. So effective, even without any wild mutant makeup. Probably a testament to Dragon’s underrated abilities as an actor.
Aside from just the effects, I also found there was a great sense of choreography for the fight between Pluto and Doug. It’s a savage beating mostly with Doug taking the brunt, but it’s still well put together. Such a perfect fight for a horror movie. There’s a toughness to it, and then some blood at its finish. They could’ve easily shortened this, instead Aja made sure that the scene looks brutal; from the shots, to the actors, to the makeup of Pluto, to the editing, it all works to make that whole sequence one of the best in the film.
The-Hills-Have-Eyes-2006-DIAnother last thing before I conclude. The atmosphere all around was extremely gritty and raw. There’s a little less realism here, substituted for more visceral horror from emotions to makeup effects. However, there’s still this never ending dread that we get. A part of that is the makeup effects, the costuming, the locations, but also the score by tomandandy really makes things pump with a cold blooded intensity. Especially in the scene where Lizard is just about finished with Brenda, there’s this POUNDING distorted bass sound, a rhythmic churning, and it intensifies everything to the maximum. There are many points like this; that one is merely a favourite of mine, personally. A proper score can turn a good horror movie into a thing of greatness, which is a part of why this remake ended up working so disturbingly well.
bef911062522I think that because the makeup effects are so good, the acting all around is fantastic (especially Aaron Stanford, Emilie de Ravin, Dan Byrd, and Michael Bailey Smith), and the script is made even more relevant with issues surrounding the original atomic bomb testings by the American Government 60 years ago, Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes not only modernizes the Wes Craven classic and adds an extra level of horror, it makes a better film out of the subject matter and story.
While so many remakes wade around in the waves of mediocrity, Aja does his job with brutality, finesse, and a lot of balls. Had anyone else remade this, I’m afraid it might have gone the way of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th – under the Platinum Dunes banner flown by crap auteur Michael Bay. Rather than have such a dismal fate, The Hills Have Eyes is one of the best modern horrors of the last 15 years, taking a classic of the genre and giving it new, bloody life.