The Exorcist – Season 2, Episode 4: “One for Sorrow”

Fox’s The Exorcist
Season 2, Episode 4: “One for Sorrow”
Directed by So Yong Kim
Written by Rebecca Kirsch

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Unclean” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “There But for the Grace of God, Go I” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 11.56.36 PMFather Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) is with Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson), in that Antwerp dungeon. With the frail Sister Delores (Karin Konoval) circling the stone floor, a circle of candles around her. Music plays, and she calls to the priest: “Dance with me, Devon.” Uh oh.
Back in Washington, on the island, Rose (Li Jun Li) is heading to get the young girl Harper after the incident with her mother. Andy (John Cho) is more than willing to help out, taking her in. So he lets all the kids know. They’re not totally receptive, but he makes clear that “good families only get bigger.”
I’m starting to wonder, though. Is Grace (Amélie Eve) real? She storms out, down to the doorstep outside. But it’s not clear if anyone else sees her. We haven’t actually seen her interact with the other kids, or Rose, have we?
Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 12.02.58 AMFather Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) calls his sister Olivia (Camille Guaty), checking in for the first time in a long time. She tells him men from the Church came looking for him recently, now he worries, so he hangs up quickly. He does the smart thing, breaking the SIM card out of his phone, shattering it. In the meantime, he helps patch Father Marcus’ (Ben Daniels) arm. They’ve also got to figure out what to do from here. Or more so Tomas who doubts himself.
On the island, a Fish and Wildlife Agent named Peter Morrow (Christopher Cousins) comes to check out the dead bird situations. Shelby (Alex Barima) doesn’t think it’s as easily explainable as it’s made out. He still sees it as an omen, something dangerous. Andy, naturally, believes Peter’s word that it isn’t anything crazy.
Rose and Harper meets with the priests. The little girl is quite attached them, particularly Marcus. He tries to keep Tomas on point, too. The younger priest worries about the damage he’s done, that he could do in the future.
In Antwerp, Bennett confronts Sister Delores. He doesn’t realise that she’s been integrated. Mouse keeps her around because she knows of the “vermin in Vatican City.” That will prove useful if true. There’s also mention of the demons talking about the priests who saved the integrated girl, in Boston. That’s why they’re possessing exorcist, killing those who they can’t posses.
Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 12.05.16 AMWhile the other kids play, Andy has a tea party with Grace. During which she gets a little heated, and the place starts to shake. Shit, that’s no good. At the very same time, Father Tomas hears the whispers of demons over the forest when he and Father Marcus arrive with Rose and Harper on the docks. A creepy sequence, these two scenes together. Quite ominous.
Tomas: “Were not heroes
Marcus: “Dont listen to him; I am.”
So the priests meet Andy, Harper meets the kids – except for Grace, off on her own, shaking the place. Verity (Brianna Hildebrand) does her best to be nice to Harper, show her around, tell her about Andy (he’s “relatively woke“). It’s nice to see more of Verity, I thought she’d be a cold character for some reason. She’s turning out much better than that. Also sweet to see her be good to a girl who’s been abused for so long.
In the hall, Tomas hears footsteps, Grace lurking behind him somewhere. He’s distracted when Shelby comes to speak with him. The young man’s troubled, that’s obvious. The priest can tell, without him saying much. He mentions it to Marcus afterwards. But with the doubt after what happened with Harper, it’s hard to judge. For both men. Marcus is willing to entertain the idea, enough to look around the place. Marcus gets talking to Peter, who’s down on the shore looking around. He’s found a Pacific blackdragon. This type of thing is a “deep sea predator.” So, why all the way inland? Hmm. That, the dead birds. Plenty of proof of strangeness on that island.
Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 12.20.15 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-21 at 12.24.01 AMBennett questions Delores, asking her true name – the demonic name – but eventually he just gets a spit in the eye. The demons believe the “days of the exorcist are over.” That’s not going to stop Bennett. He’s been through a lot. She mentions an “old grey lion” and a “cub” – a reference to our two priests. He’s distracted a moment, then the demon attacks, throwing ash in his face, pulling him to try strangling him to death. Before Mouse shows up to knock her off; she believes they need to go after a demon of great power, which will then lead them to the others in the Vatican.
Talking more, Marcus and Peter get to know each a little better. The priest wants to know more about the island itself, as well. Peter’s a thoughtful sort of fella. He’s also definitely got a slight crush on the priest, inviting him for a tour on the boat; declined, sadly.
At the foster home, Tomas is getting worse vibes from the place. Later that night, Harper and Verity get a bit closer, painting their nails together. And while she’s lying in bed, Rose sees a shadow in front of her, it shifts and moves strangely. Simultaneously, upstairs, Harper has a nightmare about her mother. Very eerie.
Tomas is having trouble, he let the demons in and it’s causing him grief. He’s trying to figure out what’s going on in that foster home. And Marcus, he can’t feel God lately, “his touch” or his voice. He’s an “empty pitcher.” He’s spent his whole life in devotion to God, so without God, what is he? Who is Marcus Keane without religion? Regardless, the priests both realise something ain’t right on that island.
Andy is outside with Grace, she wants to do better for him. While they are, Verity comes home. She see something strange out there. Possibly because Grace doesn’t exist? Verity goes up to see what he’s been doing in the attic, where he supposedly tucks the little girl in for the night. When she gets up there, there’s nothing on the door, inside there’s no child’s bed only his wife’s old art supplies, mouldy, maggoty sandwiches on the floor. No Grace.
Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 12.45.20 AMSeason 2 is just getting better and better. Seriously, I loved Season 1, and this is shaping up to be as good, if not better. The themes are going wider, the character development is so wonderfully impressive, consistently, as well. Can’t wait for more.
“There But for the Grace of God, Go I” is next week.


Slasher – Season 2, Episode 8: “The Past is Never Dead”

Netflix’s Slasher
Season 2, Episode 8: “The Past is Never Dead”
Directed by Felipe Rodriguez
Written by Aaron Martin

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Dawn of the Dead” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.40.55 PMFive years ago. Dawn (Paula Brancati), Peter (Lovell Adams-Gray) and the rest of the friends are carefully enacting their calculated plan to get revenge on Talvinder (Melinda Shankar). The poor soon-to-be dead girl is none the wiser, either. The rest of them with their cold, evil faces lying just beneath the exterior. They take her out to that spot in the woods with the lit torches. They’ve got her “on trial.”
She’s made to stand in the middle of a circle. They all call her out, starting with Andi (Rebecca Liddiard). Conveniently, Andi doesn’t blame Peter, which Tal uses against her. Susan (Kaitlyn Leeb) calls her “nothing.” Eventually Dawn has her say, feeling utterly betrayed; she’s the one who really has the most genuine reason. Peter doesn’t bash her, instead apologising to his girlfriend for what he’s done.
Cut to a little later, when Noah (Jim Watson) almost rapes her on the truck. Then she’s rushing off into the woods, the others worried for her. But Tal won’t turn back. She winds up tripping and smashing her head. They find her in a ditch. She seems dead, so they all react with horror. They drag her off, she’s still alive. Andi smashes her head, she still won’t die.
And Dawn takes the rock, smashing her once more. Noah takes his turn, as well. Laying the killing blow, it seems.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.45.18 PMWren (Sebastian Pigott) is heading back to the cabin, after killing Mark, and Judith (Leslie Hope) is pleading with him not to do anything else terrible. He’s bent on revenge. They let him take the fall for Talvinder’s disappearance. All she asks is that Keira is left alive. Other than that she tells him: “Theyre all yours.”
Back at the cabins, Judith reels off a lie about Mark, that he was going to kill her. And she says she shot him. Taking the blame. Lulling Dawn in. Except the young woman doesn’t believe it, she knows it’s lies. Everybody’s too paranoid now, anyway. So many things happening right below the surface.
Five years ago. The friends are reeling in the aftermath of what they’ve done, people are asking where Tal has gone. They’re trying to figure out the next course of action. Their lives changed for the worse, and they had to either deal or go to prison for the rest of their lives.
Present day, the gang at the retreat hear a snowmobile. A woman named Janice arrives looking for her boyfriend, Gene. A bit late, y’know. He’s in pieces out in the shed. She thinks We Live As One are a “cult,” but Peter tries explaining, asking for help. Janice has room for one on her machine; Judith tries desperately to send Keira, only Keira won’t have it, wanting it to be Dawn, so she might get medical attention.
But Wren, he’s intent on killing more. He wants Judith to help and she won’t, he starts getting worse. He’s a sad, lonely, murderous man. He says she’ll “die alone” and she grabs him, throwing him at the mirror. Except nobody’s there. Just her. Ohhhh, man. That’s creepy. Soon, Peter and Keira find her, bloodied, unconscious. They put her to bed, then decide they’ve got to find Mark’s corpse, confirm he’s dead. Peter heads out while she stays to look after Judith.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.03.04 PMJudith has worse problems. She continually hears Wren in her head, commanding her: “Kill them!” She speaks to herself as herself, and also as him. We jump back five years. Wren a.k.a Owen leaves his cabin at Camp Motega, and in slips Dawn to drop a piece of Tal’s jewellery into his things. A frame job. That’s nasty.
Present day, Peter comes across Mark’s dead body. Nearby he sees the footprints, he tries re-imagining the crime. He knows something’s not right. Elsewhere, Dawn and Janice try getting out of the forest, but they stop a moment across the way from the parka killer, who fires on both women, bleeding Janice out. Dawn makes it away, though she’s soon shot in the river. Who’s behind the mask? Judith.
At the cabin, Peter finds Keira unconscious, propane filling the house. Then he sees a bunch of letters in Judith’s room. They’re from Wren, in jail. To his mother, Judith. WHOOOOOOOOA. That’s a seriously twisted relationship, on more than just one level, too.
Peter does the only thing he can, carrying Keira through the woods. Only to run into Judith. She says one lives, the other dies. A tough choice. We’re finally seeing the full extent of things now after a flashback, why the noose was in that shrine Peter found – Judith has hallucinated Owen, the entire time. He hanged himself in jail.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.07.35 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.13.10 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.15.34 PMWhat will Peter choose? Life? Death? He puts the noose around his neck and steps from the ledge over the shrine, hanging himself as Judith watches, flashing to images of her son slowly dying. But another surprise, as well – up the river, Dawn is still alive, on shore, and two hunters find her there bleeding profusely.
When Keira wakes up she sees Peter hanging. She also finds a letter Peter wrote to Talvinder’s parents, confessing to the crime, trying to give them closure. Admitting that Owen was innocent, they laid the crime on him.
Its time my friends and I paid for what we did
Skip ahead a bit. Keira is safe, back home. She meets with Dawn, who’s preparing to turn herself in to the police, to atone for her terrible sins. From a distance, Judith watches them, still followed by the haunting ghost of her son. Neither of them have forgotten Dawn, they’ll wait until she’s free. Then, well… you know.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 11.29.51 PMFantastic season! God damn. I wish I didn’t fly through it, but such is the age of Netflix. Plus, it was even better than Season 1, which I was big time digging right from the get go. Honestly this season had even better writing. Not to mention the twists were even bigger, wilder. And the gore went up a big notch, from an already grim first season.
Truly hope Netflix will do another season. At least one more. C’mon! Please?!

Slasher – Season 2, Episode 4: “Night of Hunters”

Netflix’s Slasher
Season 2, Episode 4: “Night of Hunters”
Directed by Felipe Rodriguez
Written by Naledi Jackson

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Saint Sebastian” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Out of the Frying Pan” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 3.56.36 PMGlenn (Ty Olsson) is busy throwing up the bits of Antoine (Christopher Jacot) he ate out of the frying pan. Go back one year. He’s serving time in jail. He tries to school a new inmate on how to act, looking out for him. The younger man doesn’t want any help. But Glenn makes him aware: “In here, you aint shit.”
Back to present day. Renée (Joanne Vannicola) and Mark (Paulino Nunes) find the bloody mess left in the shed. The trunk formerly hiding the corpse of Talvinder (Melinda Shankar) now full of blood, organs, and limbs. Renée promises what’s left of Antoine she’ll root out the killer. God damn, what a gory moment!
Poor Renée. She and Antoine had a different relationship, so full of love for one another regardless. People were dying already, now it’s hitting her very close to home. The old dream of a nice community up north is deteriorating worse with each episode, with each drop of blood.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 4.01.21 PMEverybody’s affected, obviously. In secret, Mark takes the gun to Dawn (Paula Brancati) and advises her to protect herself, her friends. Everybody gets together after, Keira (Madison Cheeatow) wants to get to the bottom of things. Glenn foolishly accuses Noah (Jim Watson) of maybe having “carved” Antoine into pieces, so the younger man tries revealing the cook’s real name. When they go upstairs, the original bottle’s not there. Makes Noah look crazy, a liar. Peter (Lovell Adams-Gray) reluctantly tries vouching for him, but Keira wants him kept under watch until the killer’s found.
Elsewhere, Judith (Leslie Hope) is continuously struggling. The safe space of the retreat has devolved into anything but, a playground for a brutal killer. Wren (Sebastian Pigott) keeps on comforting, trying to get closer, acting as protector. Something about him doesn’t sit right with me. Also can’t get a read on her, either.
Outside, somebody looking similar to the killer shows up. Not the same parka or glasses, but so similar. Peter chases them when they run off. They tackle her: a woman named Megan.
She’s been trekking the wilderness, something her and a friend who passed away used to do together. Everybody at the retreat is paranoid, particularly Renée. She’s unravelling, getting crazier. Culminating in a crack across the woman’s head with a vase. On her, they find a permit to be in the park from 8 AM the day prior. She more than likely has nothing to do with any of it.
Glenn’s quite a threatening guy, from his time in jail to in the room with Noah alone. In a way, it’s jail all over again. Everybody stuck there. He calls it his “castle.” He threatens Noah just like that young inmate before. If things get any worse around there, I’m worried about how far this dude is going to go. Predator, written all over him.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 4.18.23 PMAnd Megan, she’s stuck with a busted head, wondering what could happen next. Peter attempts to make her comfortable, apologising for the others getting out of hand. He tells her about Antoine, Andi, Susan, how they’re all terrified of a killer somewhere out there, stalking them down one by one. He asks if she knows of a shortcut anywhere to get out from the retreat. Doesn’t matter much with all the snow, a storm raging.
Noah escapes through the locked room by the window, out in the storm. He makes it to a camper in the woods. We go back two months before to the camper, where Glenn finds his young friend from jail out there. The guy’s going up to join the “intentional community.” He wants to start his life over. You can see where this is going already. Glenn wants to go along, but you can see his buddy isn’t thrilled. They just aren’t the same sort of people.
Present day in the camper, Noah sees a trail of blood leading to a freezer. Oh, good. Inside is something scary, so he takes a picture and gets the hell out of there. A smart move, actually. So long as he makes it to the cabins alive again. You know that won’t happen.
Up in the kitchen, Dawn is cooking, Mark lends her a hand. Seems Antoine was a “freegan” – he foraged for his food, finding what he could in order to limit participation in a consumerist economy/society, that whole deal. That means plenty of different vegetables and herbs to make dinner. Afterwards, Peter sees Noah is gone and so they set out to look for him..
Back again two months, in the camper. Glenn’s really wearing out his welcome, his friend less enthused with every kilometre. Then the younger of the two says he’s past jail, their relationship. He wants a new life. This hurts Glenn, it’s clear they had a sexual relationship back then; not entirely a consensual one, surely. And now he goes too far, beating his old cellmate ruthlessly. The plot thickens. Current day, Glenn has Noah all to himself, out in the wilderness, hidden away in an old school bus. There’s no good ending for this situation.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 4.37.29 PMWhen Dawn tries helping Megan up to bed, the woman loses her mind, screaming. Then she foams from the mouth, vomiting. She’s hallucinating, and then she tosses herself over the stairs, convulsing at the bottom. Dead. When everyone talks, suspicion falls on Dawn when Mark says he wasn’t there while she was serving up the stew. Then they find poison berries in a bow of it on the table.
In the forest, the friends look for Noah. They come to the camper, though no one’s inside. They see the corpse in the freezer. Cut to two months before, as Glenn – the former Benny Ironside – introduces himself to the people at We Live As One. He lies and makes certain they accept him, as a man willing to change; he uses his old friend’s idea of starting anew as his own. Welcoming a murderer into their fold.
The same guy about to “play a little game” with Noah, out in that bus, all alone by themselves. A hideous moment.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 4.48.07 PMThe end was fucking brutal, hard to take. Although I saw that one coming, just didn’t think they’d go so graphic. Yikes.
“Out of the Frying Pan” – aptly titled – comes next.

Alias Grace – Part 3

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

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

Maryland: A Post-Modern Analysis of PTSD

Maryland (also billed as Disorder). 2016. Directed by Alice Winocour. Screenplay by Winocour & Jean-Stéphane Bron.
Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy, Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant, Percy Kemp, Victor Pontecorvo, Franck Torrecillas, Chems Eddine, Philippe Haddad, Jean-Louis Coulloc’h, Rachid Hafassa, David Colombo, & Rabia Elatache. Dharamsala/Darius Films/Mars Films.
Rated PG. 98 minutes.

There have been plenty cracks, as of late, at tackling PTSD through cinema. Some good, some not so good. It’s all in the way you go about it. You can show many sides. Each person suffering with the disorder can experience it much differently, depending on the event which triggered the symptoms. Along comes Alice Winocour, writing alongside Jean-Stéphane Bron, giving us Maryland; a film that so deftly handles PTSD with suspense, tension, and a few good thrills.
All the elements are in place here to have made a proper thriller, filled by interesting interpersonal drama and a couple heady doses of action. First, there’s Matthias Schoenaerts, whose talents at doing more with his face, expressions, body language than many actors can manage to do with their entire repertoire. Second, Diane Kruger gives her character more weight than simply being a poorly written female character tossed in to give the plot a feminine angle. And finally you can’t deny Winocour’s talent as a director. Personally, I’ve not yet seen anything else she’s done so far. Shame, really. Because clearly she knows how to make magic on the screen. Not only is there a great look, Winocour combines the visual aesthetic with one impeccable aural feast, from sound design to the soundtrack itself by Gesaffelstein. Honestly it’s one of the better movies of its kind in the last few years. Like I said, the PTSD film has really become more of a thing again since the Invasion of Iraq, and everything soldiers have been mixed up in since. But Maryland offers up a look into that type of mind, one fractured deeply by the horror of war (and perhaps later the necessity for a life filled with violence). We don’t get all the typical moments you’d expect. Rather, Winocour shows us the genre we’re convinced is in front of our eyes, then makes it into something else more interesting.
One of the immediate elements of the scripts is the paranoia. A technique Winocour uses that we’re given often in a film that leans towards a psychological story is that for the better part of the whole runtime we’re right alongside, behind, near Vincent (Schoenaerts). Sometimes we follow behind him. Others we’re at mid-range, as he talks to others, interacts with Jessie (Kruger) and the various people at the Maryland estate. Further than any of that, Winocour uses the cinematography of Georges Lechaptois to draw us into the sometimes hallucinatory headspace of Vincent. We’re not always sure exactly when reality ends and the PTSD working overtime within Vincent’s poor head begins. In fact, the very final shot has such impact due to the fact we’re consistently drawn into a place where the reality we witness is undermined by Vincent and his penchant for hallucinating. While the major events of the plot are clearly real, that final shot begs to question exactly how unstable is Vincent, as well as whether he’ll ever be able to fully heal again. Or maybe it’s real. You can never be sure. Although my two cents? I think the final moment is a hallucination. Essentially, he retreats into that world inside his mind when he’s all alone. Aside from seeking out violence, or violent situations, because of his time in the war – who knows what happened to him over there – Vincent likely works in security still due to the fact he needs to be near people, he has to have noise to occupy his brain. You’ll notice that while Vincent does have a couple moments of intense stress, most of the party is a distraction to him. It’s only once he gets to a quieter, less populated area of the party does his paranoia get into overdrive. Interesting little distinction.
The music from Gesaffelstein pushes certain scenes to the limit of psychological suspense. A tension ratchets at times until you think either you or Vincent are about to burst. People will pass off the music as “derivative of ’80s synth-pop” (something I actually read online if you can believe that) when it’s just electronic excellence. Plus, as I said, the music then works in conjunction with the cinematography and Winocour’s directorial choices to make the mental state of Vincent a thoroughly visceral experience. That sequence at the beach? The heavy electronic notes ramble until Vincent’s able to calm himself. And that whole minute or so is an exercise in how to draw out a tense scene. This of course leads up to another wild moment, which confirms for sure if Vincent is seeing things or if it’s all real. Nevertheless, on numerous occasions the visual and aural elements of the film combine to make the action and the drama exciting in equal measures.
Schoenaerts is beyond a good actor. He has all the wonderful energy of a De Niro or a Pacino, a Hackman, a Hoffman (Dustin or Phillip Seymour), a Vincent Cassel or a Jean-Paul Belmondo, anybody you can think of really. He’s got the physicality to play any number of tough guy characters, already proving that in spades through his performance in my favourite film, Bullhead. However, he gets to show even more of his acting chops here (even though I still prefer that one). The way he paves a path into the world of Vincent, that inner paranoid inside the hulking exterior, is fascinating. His vulnerability is always present. He’s this big time security guard, and at the same time he has this gaping wound in his soul that comes out from time to time, piercing the outer shell of his military swagger, that built up, constructed masculinity. Again, as in the aforementioned performance, he taps into that side of masculinity, what it means to be a soldier in modern times/what it means to be a man, as well. It lifts the film up with how deep the performance goes, right to the last drop.
Likewise, Kruger does a pretty solid job, too. She plays a woman wrapped up in something that she doesn’t exactly understand. At first, she’s hesitant to treat Vincent with much more than awkward, casual conversation. Then, as events evolve and change her perception, she’s forced to rely on a man she does not know. Moreover, she has no idea of his real personality, the PTSD he deals with on a regular basis. So to watch her performance along with what we know, it makes for good excitement. Jessie isn’t a character just left helpless, she’s a mother also ready to shield her child from any danger. Added to the fact Kruger doesn’t play her as helpless, nor is she a waif-like woman. The bravery in her comes out after she plunges into a dangerous world with a man charged to protect her against whatever comes next, as she never gives up or hesitates to do what’s necessary.
I can’t say it enough: Maryland is a god damn amazing movie. I’ve not stopped raving about it since getting the chance to watch it recently. There’s a soft spot in my heart for filmmakers who take a chance on subverting genre expectations. While many think this is a typical story from seeing the trailer, once you get into the mix and let Alice Winocour take you for a pulsing, frantic ride right next to Vincent, the irreparably damaged soldier, you’ll find out this film is something more than its foundation suggests. Schoenaerts and Kruger sell the characters, giving us more to latch onto than any number of recent movies trying to ride off the success of stuff like Taken. This film shows us the tough guy protecting the woman we’ve seen all too often in a different light. The well written screenplay takes on PTSD, using sight and sound to push the envelope. All the while serving up some piping hot action and thrills in the midst of its engaging drama.
And if you don’t find yourself impressed by the surprise of Maryland, you may have an empty chest. Not an empty head; this isn’t a cerebral drama in that there’s anything utterly life altering being presented. But the excitement is such that by that last shot, if you’re like me, you’ll want to watch the whole thing over again to pay closer attention.

The Path – Season 1, Episode 1: “What The Fire Throws”

Hulu’s The Path
Season 1, Episode 1: “What The Fire Throws”
Directed by Mike Cahill
Written by Jessica Goldberg

* For a review of the next episode, “The Era of the Ladder” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 12.34.35 AM
The new Hulu series begins in New Hampshire. A desolate landfill-type location, some sort of disaster area, with various types o people everywhere. Up pulls a van, beeping loudly. Out of it emerges Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy), as well as a team of others, and they proceed to start saving people. Later, we come to discover there was a tornado.
Immediately one of the things I loved about this pilot episode is the cinematography. Really beautiful stuff. With Hulu in the game now, also putting out the Stephen King adaptation 11.22.63, the tv arena is getting wider.
Cut to Eddie and Sarah Lane (Aaron Paul/Michelle Monaghan). They’re at the dinner table surrounded by others, everyone hand in hand reciting some type of ritualistic grace. We’re directly in the midst of the cult, smack dab in the middle of conversations about their practices, and so on. Sarah’s worried about her husband, whose recent return from Peru seemingly prompted a change in attitude. There is definitely something off, whatever that may be.
A short time later, Eddie gets a text that sends him off. Not before he and his wife connect intimately a little.

Everything about the opening ten minutes is eerie. There’s an unsettling air about these first few scenes. When Sarah creeps about the house listening in on husband Eddie, there’s some great suspense. And that sets the tone for what’s likely to be a bit of an unnerving drama. At least that’s the initial feeling that this episode lays out.
Now we’re at the compound. A gated little community, guard at the front. Everything is quaint, almost too perfect. Everything is built and structured to look very country.
And at the center of it all, or at least lead puppet: the enigmatic Cal. He is charming, he reads people well, and his history with Sarah clearly runs deep. We get a little snippet on someone named Doc, who Cal claims is in “lockdown” working on a book. Hmm. Is this some L. Ron Hubbard-esque character, a Jim Jones kind of man, or someone altogether different?
One of the people saved by Cal and his crew is Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell). She’s had drugs problems, it’s clear, and now this cult is going to nurse her back to health. To her, it’s as if the sky has opened up and Heaven shined down. But perhaps it’s more than it seems, perhaps not all it appears on the surface. She’ll have to wait and see.
An interesting aspect of this series already is Hawk Lane (Kyle Allen). He and other children of the cult members have to deal with life at school, following their beliefs in a modern world with bullying. That to me is something worth including, and hopefully will get more time to play out.

We get a quick scene with a woman named Alison (Sarah Jones). She tries to go talk to an elderly couple, but two men stop her on the street. Is she trying to reconnect with her old life? Are they preventing this from happening? This could be our first view into the darker side of life in this little community.
Mary Cox is being introduced to it herself. Sarah says she was “born into” this way of life, and that Cal came to the group as a young boy. There’s talk of “rungs” on a ladder, obviously parts of their belief system – the titular path, most likely.
Then there’s Eddie. He gives a sort of inspirational lecture to the newest recruits. He talks about his brother, Johnny. Sadly, Johnny hung himself, and Eddie found him. What’s most interesting is how he and Cal are incredibly close, so much so the latter already knows the story. Front to back. The community is clearly one built around close relationships, intimacy. But quickly we move into talks of “Meyerism“, books – because there’s always more than one – and more spurts of the ladder everyone climbs. Most importantly, the foreboding presence of Cal is so evident already. As is the doubt in Eddie. His faith is slipping; an amazing edit takes us over to Eddie reading to his daughter, poignantly giving us an exclamation point on his situation.

In a quiet room, Mary goes to see Cal. She undresses for him. His reaction certainly isn’t one of professionalism. He admires her a little before putting the clothes back on her body. For the time being, Cal’s playing it safe, which then prompts her to spill all the awful secrets in her past. “All my life I had this fantasy, one day an angel would float down from the sky and save me,” Mary tells him. Cal, for his part, spews some quasi-Scientologist madness, or pseudo-psychiatric nonsense. Either way, Mary doesn’t particularly buy it.
Another point to mention. The score in this episode is impressive. Both tense and subtle, it swells, pulsing underneath many of the scenes adding something properly ominous to the atmosphere. Props to Will Bates.
More on Eddie, as he takes off in the middle of the night. Not without Sarah on his tail. She follows him right to a motel. An affair? Could her husband be that sort of man?
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.03.55 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.10.34 AM
Jump back three weeks. Peru.
Eddie’s sweating out a pretty intense hallucination. He sees his brother, the one we’ve just heard of, and it brings him to tears. The shaman there encourages him to talk with his brother, which he does. To interesting results. He ends up staring through a doorway into some light. What does he see?
Forward, again in the present.
Things are obviously no longer the same for him. He Googles “Is Meyerism real?” and other such phrases, seeking out the elusive truth. His text messaging is to someone claiming to have such a truth. They cryptically communicate awhile, put off a little by the impromptu lovemaking in which Eddie and Sarah engage. Nonetheless, he’s been altered. Beyond that door, we only manage a glimpse of some sort of hospital equipment. Keeping someone alive? What could it be? The mystery is amazing, so palpable and full. Especially with the writing, which weaves us back through events we’ve seen already in the episode, giving us new insights, et cetera. Great work all around. The character development is slow, yet very full thus far while holding back just enough.

Eddie: “I think that I am having doubts

Maybe letting on too much, Eddie questions things about Doc to Cal. In front of everyone. A little out of line, from the looks of Sarah, and the slight apprehension, or faked apprehension, on the part of Cal. Appearances are a big deal here, they’re everywhere; people are keeping up a mask. At least Cal is, anyways.
Has Eddie discovered something about Doc? While Cal is fronting the whole thing, talking about what Doc is up to, writing, so on, is Doc really lying somewhere, barely alive, kept breathing by machinery? Is that what Eddie saw when let into the inner sanctum? Maybe he’ll discover the madness of the cult, just as people like Paul Haggis did in real life after figuring out Scientology was all about Xenu and a ton of fucking insanity.
Now, the whole mystery is wrapped up in a family drama. This edgy thriller is built inside a compact emotional framework. And Eddie, off in that motel, is talking to Alison. A highly interesting development.
Meanwhile, Sarah goes to see Cal. She talks about their early days together. “Your hands were like fire,” says Sarah. Things are deteriorating in the world of the Lanes, she keeps saying Eddie “transgressed“, but they’ve got no clue as to what he’s actually been up to.

We finally get a look at one of their little services. Interesting enough, Cal gives a bit of a speech on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. He goes over the “shadows of reality” and other talking points. He uses this to shape people and their minds. The way Cal uses his charisma, his natural charm, is almost dangerous. We can already see him peddle his heavy influence. An excellent performance from Dancy, love this turn from his other great role as Will Graham on NBC’s Hannibal.
Funny enough, Cal talks about not being able to live knowing what one knows, without breaking free of the chains which bind us. Same thing Eddie struggles with.
The part of this episode that’s most interesting is when Mary brings Cal back to her trailer park home, to meet dear old dad. To make everything “right“, as Cal had put it earlier. Such a terrifyingly quiet nature about Cal that explodes wildly, unexpected. His is a deep flowing rage. Juxtaposed with him lecturing people on Plato, it is a powerful scene.

Cal confronts Eddie later about what Sarah told him re: motel meeting.
Then we discover what Eddie saw, cut alongside his meeting with Alison. It is in fact Doc, Stephen Meyer (Keir Dullea), in an almost 2001: A Space Odyssey-like homage, laying in bed, hooked up to hospital equipment, as Eddie explains: “There is no light.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.36.37 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.38.07 AM
I love, love, loved this first episode. What an odd, beautiful, well-filmed and written, expertly acted pilot. Look forward to taking in the second episode ASAP.