A decent little slasher flick, like an American Giallo, that could've been so much more.
A waste of a slasher. All the more frustrating for the potential it held.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 3: “Handidates”
Directed by Barbara Brown
Written by Ian Brennan
So with that poor young man, warts and all, burned to a crisp, Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) puts the ladies on notice: there’s another serial killer lurking about! Duh, Chanel. Although she goes on accusing #5 (Abigail Breslin), as well as suggesting she had a part in some of the first murders last season. Just being a proper bitch. But #3 (Billie Lourd) is the voice of reason. Somehow. Before they can figure out what to do, Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) herself shows up. You know she wants things covered up just as bad. She also lets slip that she may be dying, although the girls don’t fully catch on right away.
Out in the swamp, #1 and #5 get into a “comparative wetlands” argument, a good bit of typically hilarious dialogue. Just like back in 1986, a body gets dumped into the waters. Only somebody is watching in the woods.
Meanwhile, Randal (Kevin Bigley) seems to have gotten better. No more freaks out. Suddenly the Green Meanie arrives for a brutal, bloody slasher kill. Yowzahs!
The ladies are gone back to see Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele) in her Hannibal cell. “Sweating to the Oldies 2” is a bit of a psychological torture on her while she rots away in there apparently. Quid pro quo. “A room with a view” becomes A Room with a View, which does not help with Hester who pushes hard to get a transfer over to her hospital. Munsch ain’t playing that shit, though.
Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) has issues with a serial killer running loose in the hospital. He’s worried about Dr. Brock Holt (John Stamos) and his transplanted killer’s hand. Well, Chad and Holt get into a “sperm off,” or they almost do. Afterwards we see Holt’s hand get a bit wild, too. The whole scene is drop dead hilarious, even once Munsch disses Chad as possibly being the worst lay she’s ever had. I loved the first season. This season is already defying any expectations I might’ve had about this one not being as good. Almost better already.
Dr. Cassidy Cascade, Chanel #3, and Munsch talk with a woman named Sheila Baumgartner (Cheri Oteri). She has orgasms, constantly. Not in a good way. So Dr. Cascade does his best to start a course of treatment. Later, he and #3 are alone cleaning up in the morgue. He mentions to her that Chad was in there earlier chopping up bodies and swearing a ton. Great. More than that he tells #3 that he’s dead. Like a “Highlander” who must wander the Earth. Haha, jesus. I’ve never watched Lautner in anything before, to be totally honest. He cracks me up in this role so far.
Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer) and the Chanels are hanging out together, as #1 rants and raves about her skin. All of a sudden, Zayday has an epiphany while paying Scrabble and playing the word nurse.
Again in the showers Chad confronts Dr. Holt. Naked. “Just airin‘ out my scrote, bro,” he tells Brock before also letting him in on the fact he’ll be doing the new hand transplant to get rid of that pesky serial killer organ.
Out on a hunt, the Chanels, Zayday, Munsch, and the ever hilarious Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) go to where Hester suggested they start on their search for the truth behind the Green Meanie. Turns out they discover the guy behind Esrun skin cream was there the night the Green Meanie killed all those people. He was paid $5-million to keep his mouth shut, all from the hospital. He claims Nurse Thomas (Laura Bell Bundy) told him a story about the year prior, when a doctor and nurse threw a dead body in the swamp. So is the woman whose husband died, or the child she later had?
Idiot Chad is trying to prepare for the big hand surgery. However, Munsch shows up to reveal Chad is actually her “prime suspect.” Holt cannot be the killer, she says. Nobody’s out of suspicion fully. Not yet. There’s certainly a bit drama building between Dr. Holt and Chad. Something nasty will come of it.
Together, #3 and Dr. Cascade try figuring out Mrs. Baumgartner’s problem. #3 gets into the yoga pose she was in when the orgasm problem began. Things get slightly sexy, before the doctor recreates what happened to make Sheila slip into full-time orgasm mode. A-ha, they’ve cracked the case! Like a millenial slasher version of House.
Things aren’t going well for Chad. He’s trying his hardest to impress Chanel. He even goes ahead, asking her to marry him. Yet in the distance is Brock, watching strangely. An eerie moment.
#3 and Dr. Cascade get a bit freaky right after surgery. I mean RIGHT AFTER. Eventually they move back to a bed, at least. Music troubles make their sexy times a bit tough for the first few moments. Cassidy’s worried about his deadness. So he shows her a thermometer for proof.
Surprisingly enough, Chad tries asking Dr. Holt to be his best man. Truthfully he has cold feet about it, he wants help to go through with the marriage. Brock agrees, though I can’t help wondering: what’s his endgame?
Chanel #1 is beaming. She wants #3 to be a bridesmaid. Zayday, too. She only wants #5 as a ring bearer. Dressed like a dog. Hahah good lord. The wedding’s tomorrow because rich white people are crazy.
After Sheila Baumgartner’s recovered and heading home she says the media has been alerted of the great care at Munsch’s hospital. Nothing lasts long, as Sheila sees the Green Meanie down the hall, tossing a scythe at her long distance. Sheila has her head lopped off. Chamberlain Jackson (James Earl) gets a slasher across the belly. But Zayday? She only challenges the Meanie: “Let‘s go, bitch.” The killer runs off, leaving the question, why Zayday?
We get an awesome Hannibal mask on Hester when she’s brought over to the hospital. With the Esrun lead, Denise pulled some Quantico strings to get her transferred. Things are only getting creepier though, as Hester’s sure the Meanie has killed again already.
At the Chanel-Radwell wedding things are underway. Poor #5 is wearing her dog collar. A few witnesses, including Munsch, are waiting. And wait they do. You didn’t think Chad Radwell was getting married, did you? Nope.
Or is it more than that?
When Chad’s dead body falls from the ceiling of the church right next to Chanel, all bets are off.
Who is the Meanie? My early bet is on Dr. Brock Holt, or the mysterious Ingrid Hoffel (Kirstie Alley). There’s no proof yet, really. So let’s see what happens in “Halloween Blues” next week.
Oh, in case you want to rock out to the wedding song before Chad’s bloody entry, here’s “Baby Love” by Regina from 1989.
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 1: “Scream Again”
Directed by Brad Falchuk
Written by Falchuk & Ian Brennan & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “The Final Girl(s)” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Warts and All” – click here
The bitches are back, bitches!
This season opens on October 31st, 1985 (just seven days after my birthday). In a hospital people are partying. But one woman’s husband is in trouble, and she can’t find anyone to take her seriously. Until they come across Dr. Mike (Jerry O’Connell), who – after a bit of prodding – takes care of the man. He and one of the nurses plan to dump a body out back in a swamp, let the animals and nature take care of him. She talks about the “Green Meanie” – an urban legend from when she was younger, a monster that stalked the swamps. Now, heading to the present, are we going to see someone taking revenge for this crime? You betcha.
It’s 2016. Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) is all over the place as the face of “new feminism.” Meanwhile, hands Doctors Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner) and Brock Holt (John Stamos) are taking care of a Ms. Catherine Hobart (Cecily Strong); an unfortunate lady who’s had to deal with werewolf syndrome. So we come to find out it’s Dr. Cathy Munsch. She received the honorary doctorate they “stripped from Bill Cosby.” Mostly she’s a lot of talk. As usual. But she’s awesome, and she opened up the hospital. Via voice-over, Cathy takes us back through how she got to this point. A fun little romp with Jamie Lee Curtis; ever cool, ever hilarious in a dry, sly way.
And what about the Chanels? Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), #3 (Billie Lourd), and #5 (Abigail Breslin). We go back over their court case, the involvement of Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) in her crack up testimony during trial. There’s a bit of Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele) on tape claiming “double jeopardy” while arguing with Denise: “It‘s single jeopardy!”
Then there’s Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer). She’s in med school, trying to get by like many students. Munsch is swooping in on her, offering to pay for her tuition, offering a position at the hospital. Too good to be true? Well, Zayday takes her up on it. Whether that’s a good thing will have to wait a while.
Starting her schooling, technically a direct entry residency, Zayday meets the obnoxious Dr. Cascade and the weird Dr. Holt. Particularly we get a story about how Holt actually lost a hand a few years back. Lost a ring in the sink, garbage disposal got turned on, and VOILA! These days he’s doing surgery like a magician. His speech is both tragic and hilarious – the way he keeps hitting things, scaring Cascade and Zayday made me laugh. Lots of eeriness, all the same. Cascade seems like an ass, as well as the fact he’s strikingly cold to the touch. Best is when Chamberlain Jackson (James Earl) shows up. His charm is undeniable, if not a bit in your face.
Zayday makes a big with Munsch to get more women around the hospital. You know what that means. Oh, yes.
Chanel and her “idiot hookers” are back. Everybody hates them now to the point they’re having shit thrown at them in the streets. They majored in Communications, they all got jobs. Not exactly what you’d think. Especially after ending up poor, tired, and knocked down a few social pegs. Once Munsch shows up, everything changes. Naturally the girls are sceptical of the former Dean’s extending her hand, asking them to enrol as students and work at the hospital. But really, what else will they do? Their arrival throws Zayday for a loop, too.
So the fashion clash begins when the Chanels realise they have to wear scrubs. Although things feel more palatable after seeing Dr. Holt taking a shower. Curious: #5 notices a tattoo, sort of like a coat-of-arms with an H in the shield. Hmm. Anyway, the girls each have their jobs. After a bit of brutally funny banter on the term ‘ghosting’ as per Munsch: “Isn‘t ghosting when you do a number two and you look down at the paper and there‘s nothing there? And so you stand up and you look in the toilet and there‘s nothing there either because the turd somehow got shot down the hole before you even flush?”
The Chanels don’t have much bedside manner. Neither do Dr. Cascade or Dr. Holt, the first rambling on a Nietzsche-like thought and the other texting. Poor Catherine, the werewolf lady, is trying to get a bit of sense out of the doctors. Only one providing that is Zayday. We also get introduced to Ingrid Marie Hoffel (Kirstie Alley), R.N., who doesn’t have time for Chanel or any of their bullshit. Speaking of which, Munsch puts the Chanels on academic probation because of their treatment of Catherine earlier. Everything quickly feels like it’s crumbling beneath the Chanels after discovering they also don’t get paid, only free room, board, so on. So they head back to their room and brainstorm about what to do next: find a cure for “werewolf girl” first.
Chanel goes to talk with Dr. Holt about Catherine’s case. We see a bit of his weird, transplanted hand. In the midst of everything, Holt and Chanel figure out there may be a testosterone problem in Catherine, which prevents any further hand madness. Thus starts the fierce competition between Zayday and the Chanels. After a bit of treatment, Catherine loses ALL her hair. Not just a little. Every last bit. They give her a bit of a makeover, so that patches things up for now. Making Munsch’s hospital look great and pissing Zayday off.
#5 is on graveyard shift while the other two have dates. While she helps Catherine with a bit of hydrotherapy, someone watches in the shadows. #5 opts to get in one, as well. Both of them locked in a tub. Smart move, dummy. Then, a green-masked intruder appears with a couple blades in hand. He puts on a bit of music for the occasion. Before lopping Catherine’s head off.
And we end on a last chop: is it to #5? Or to the head? Or maybe just a last scare? We’ll find out next week.
An exciting, weird, creepy first episode for the second season of Scream Queens! Really loved this one. Can’t wait to see “Warts and All” next. Lots of promise, new characters, new setting, and a fun mask for a new killer, too.
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 5: “How to Stay Alive in the Woods”
Directed by Norman Buckley
Written by Erin Maher & Kay Reindl
* For a review of the previous episode, “Modern Love” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dharma Bums” – click here
We open on a young Joel (grown up version played by Eli Goree) and his older brother. Of course Joel has the camera out, but his brother’s more concerned with looking fresh for the ladies, as one would. They’re quite different, though the older one looks out for his brother. Through their window a strange noise comes. Does he know more about Camp Stillwater than he lets on?
Well, out at camp in ’89, Joel and the others are together. Everybody’s wondering where he go to with camp supervisor Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell). For his part, Alex (Ronen Rubinstein) thinks they hooked up. Once they start talking about hookups, everyone realises nobody wants to talk any further.
So the counsellors are all out with the kids, hiking in the woods and getting ready to do some camping. Just so happens there’s a “blood moon” coming out tonight, too. Cricket (Amber Coney) leads the little campers, as Jessie (Paulina Singer), Amy (Elizabeth Lail), Drew (Zelda Williams), Blair (Mark Indelicato) and the rest follow along. Despite any of their faults the group seem pretty damn good with the kids. When little Francie (Lia Frankland) has her asthma act up, Jessie and Joel help her calm down.
Out of nowhere, The Tall Man (Tony Todd) appears. Amy’s face runs with blood, an open wound in her head. Joel tries to catch it on camera then realises there’s nothing there. Amy’s fine, no Tall Man. Ahhhh, damn.
Another flashback to Joel’s younger days, watching everybody get ready for prom. Only his older brother Michael isn’t ready yet, still upstairs. When Joel goes to find him he discovers his brother dead in the bathroom; a suicide. An awful, terrifying moment in this boy’s life. Further than that it is probably the most hardcore scene so far on Dead of Summer. Surely this event left a mark on young Joel, forever scarring him.
In ’89, Joel is helping “pitch Deb‘s tent” and the others are out doing their thing, hanging with the kids, so on. Meanwhile, Jessie is still bitching at Amy for supposedly digging Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza). Amy doesn’t remember kissing him, though Jessie seems to believe she saw it. A vision, or reality? This isn’t the only confusion going around. We come to wonder: is Joel imagining more than we’ve seen? Has he hallucinated having sex with Deb? When he semi brings it up, she doesn’t act like she remembers. So many strange things happening.
When flashing back to his own prom, Joel starts seeing The Tall Man, just like his brother did. I only hope the end to his story does not finish like that of Michael.
While out in the woods, Cricket saves Alex from stepping into a bear trap. She also has paranoid thoughts about everything going on at camp. She knows there are odd, possibly evil things going on around there. One thing I love is that she has a shirt that says DREAMER on it; coincidence, as she’s had creepy dreams about the camp. More worried about Joel, though. He sees The Tall Man frequently. And then the apparition tells him ominously: “Kill Amy tonight, or someone else will die.”
Blair feels bad for what happened in the previous episode between him and Drew. Although there’s no resolution quite yet. Then there’s the fact Joel is hearing The Tall Man constantly over his shoulder, commanding him to kill Amy. How long until it all breaks, or Joel breaks? Zipping back to Joel’s prom, we see that he essentially inherited the same madness which plagued his brother, leading him to suicide. Such a tragic plot. I never expected Joel’s backstory to turn out this way. Especially seeing as how he’s hallucinating much more than The Tall Man. He’s making up whole events in his mind, only serving to drive him farther into the darkness of his mind. When he checks the tapes he made, nothing he remembers is how it once seemed. Catching Deb in the window with her shirt off now shows her reacting like most would, shutting the blinds, and Joel has to question everything he’s seen up to now.
While everyone else is having fun, roasting marshmallows and relaxing around the fire, Joel keeps hearing The Tall Man in his head. Requiring a sacrifice. Strangely enough, as we flash back to Joel’s prom, we see a large blood moon-like prop behind the DJ playing the music. Just like the blood moon out during their night at camp.
Deputy Sykes ends up at the eerie old cabin, the one where we’d first seen The Tall Man in the premiere. Jessie winds up there, as well. He explains the story of the man, Holyoke, and how he was a spiritualist leader of some sort; a cult. Garett believes there are Holyoke followers still lurking around Stillwater. Oh, how right he is. In the cabin Jessie comes across a door in the floor containing an old doll, a cuff link belonging to Garrett’s own father, as well as a recording of Holyoke.
As Joel heads to try and help the little asthmatic girl, Sykes and Jessie listen to Holyoke’s recording; he urges his followers to take the “potion” and to relieve themselves of the world. Ah, good ole suicide cult. Plays more into Michael, what he did. But will it play into Joel’s next chapter? Back at prom, he beat a guy to a pulp thinking it was Holyoke when it was just another student. In the woods at camp, he finds himself alone in the woods with Amy despite trying to keep away. She sees the fabric of his reality slipping, as Holyoke, unseen, commands for Joel to kill her. Before the poor guy puts a knife to his wrists she helps stop his delusions.
Joel lets Drew, Amy, and Blair into his life. He tells them about his brother’s suicide, the apparitions, and admits to having the same “sickness” now. His worry is that he’ll turn out just like Michael: “I need help,” he asks, as they all support him. Everything starts coming together when Jessie comes back with a picture of Holyoke. There’s still scepticism on some parts. But Amy definitely knows there’s a dark presence there. When the little Russian boy tells the counsellors he’s also seen Holyoke, everybody finds their summer getting a lot scarier.
Amy: “This place, it feeds on our weaknesses.”
In the woods Alex waits for Cricket. Problem is, she gets thrown onto a bear trap in the dark by one of the masked cultists. Dead and gone. I loved her. So sad. And she was only heading out for a bit of young love.
What a good episode! Loved this one. Tragic, creepy. Even some veritable nastiness at the beginning. Can’t wait for the next episode – “The Dharma Bums” – another chapter moving us closer
Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 3: “Mix Tape”
Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
* For a review of the previous episode, “Barney Rubble Eyes” – click hereclick here
* For a review of the next episode, “Modern Love” – click here
So the episode name’s been changed to “Mix Tape” and that’s fine because instead of sticking to song names, this one sort of encompasses the idea of being born in 1980s, or having lived through it. I was an ’80s baby, but obviously grew up in the era of mixtapes. I know the pain (and pleasure) of recording one tape to another, messing with the PLAY and RECORD buttons, all that. Nice slice of nostalgia we all love.
This episode opens on Carolina “Cricket” Diaz (Amber Coney) after stepping out of the camp showers. It’s a typical eerie slasher scene. Including flickering lights, darkened halls, a bit of piano music in the background. And of course Cricket heads out into the dark to get back to the cabins, putting her in harm’s way. Luckily for her she gets away with no incident. Only in the forest surrounding her lurk people in strange masks, almost occult-like or pagan masks. Something else lurks about Camp Stillwater.
Being set near the end of the ’80s, Satanic Panic is in full swing. We get a look at Cricket’s home life before camp, as her mother worries about the whole issue (or non-issue, as it turns out). The Diaz family are loving. While Cricket worries about her weight, her father Hector (Alex Fernandez) tells her that she’s “special” and it doesn’t matter that she isn’t exactly like women on television. At camp, Blair Ramos (Mark Indelicato) catches Cricket writing those nasty things about herself on the wall. What’s her endgame there?
Everyone else is doing their thing with camp in full swing. Alex Powell (Ronen Rubinstein) is dealing with the fallout of Blotter getting dosed – Amy Hughes (Elizabeth Lail) isn’t exactly convinced of Alex’s innocence. Of course Jessie Tyler (Paulina Singer) is being her usual asshole self while Drew Reeves (Zelda Williams) continues to glide under the radar, mostly.
We get a look at Cricket and Blair in high school, before camp. The title of the episode comes from Blair telling her she wants something more than sex, she wants something “mix tape” – romantic and all that. Now we know, Carolina only wants to get laid. Back at camp, she finds a note that neither she nor Blair wrote on the wall.
A great moment of editing and writing collide here. When Cricket wonders who else could’ve written on the wall, the scene switches to Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza) looking at a picture of The Tall Man (Tony Todd). Perfect.
When Cricket goes out to where the note suggested, she finds a fire blazing. Around it in the darkness stand those people in the pagan masks. A chase ensues. Then Cricket wakes up. Nice play! That next morning, Carolina is distracted and off in another world. She tells Amy and Jessie about the masks, the fire, all the strangeness of that dream. There’s a lot of paranoia already floating around. Excellent ingredient for any slasher horror, or horror mystery, however you want to categorise the show.
In high school, we see more of Cricket. A guy approaches her at a party and the slightest bit of attention leads her into the house with him.
Back to Stillwater. Deputy Sykes is out at the old cabin, the one where we initially saw The Tall Man at the series start, he looks at the piano. He finds a strange key that doesn’t make any noise, one marked with the same Satanic-like symbol as The Tall Man’s book in his picture. Hmm, interesting. All the while the pagan masked people watch Sykes.
Out to meet her admirer, Cricket comes across Damon (Andrew J. West) the drug dealer. Sykes interrupts this little moment, of course. But mostly Cricket seems disappointed to have not found Alex. Back to high school, Cricket sees the aftermath of having gone with that guy into the house, as he totally blows her off, laughing at her in the hallway. When we cut to camp, Blair is still trying to help his friend. Cricket is still plagued by having issues with her body, wanting to be a slut simply because that’s the high school marker of popularity.
In other news, Joel Goodson (Eli Goree) is trying hard to continue the burgeoning relationship with Deb Carpenter (Elizabeth Mitchell), the camp’s head honcho. He even drops a Harold and Maude reference, talks about Five Easy Pieces. Some admirable references, I must say.
The danger is gradually coming towards Cricket. She thinks Alex is after her, but he’s more interested in Amy, who in turn is not interested in him. However, a lie concocted by Jessie and perpetuated by Cricket gets them all out on the town, in the bar, away from Amy. When Cricket realises things with Alex aren’t going anywhere, she gets into a bit of uncharted territory. She wants to make him jealous, but the way through being Damon doesn’t exactly make anything less dangerous.
Joel is busy splicing reels together for their big film night, as Amy hangs out and they chat about reality, Time Bandits, all kinds of things. We find out, more than we already knew, that Amy is “super zen” – how Joel puts it. She doesn’t care about meeting guys. She wants to make friends and enjoy herself at camp. Meanwhile, we zip back to high school where Cricket is still struggling, hard, with boys and body image. When she goes home after school Cricket finds her father having just hopped out of bed with a younger, more thin woman than her mother. Yeah, because that’s going to help her issues. Poor girl.
Cut back to camp – Damon takes Cricket for a ride. She figures out he wrote the note in the cabin and even punches him in the face. “Every camp has a whore,” Damon says in front of the whole group. Alex takes a swing at the guy, knocks him around pretty good. Fairly eventful.
At the same time as Alex and Cricket head back to the cabin together, Drew locks lips with Blair. Yowzahs. Everybody’s making out now with Alex and Cricket following suit. Bitter irony: as they fall on the floor, likely about to have sex, she finds Blotter’s mix tape that he made her. What a juxtaposition that is to see. Back in high school, Carolina tells her mother about seeing her father with another woman. Seems that mom knows. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and this really bothers her daughter. “Women like us, sometimes we have to settle,” her mother says in a sad, tragic moment. But at camp, this memory propels Cricket away from the mistake she’s about to make with Alex. She and Blair meet up later and now she’s finally realised he was right about wanting the mix tape-type love.
Simultaneously, Jessie and Sykes – Braces and Townie – are rekindling their old romance. However, Sykes stops short of embracing her. Is he now interested truly in Amy? Or just not interested in Jessie? We’ll see.
Around the woods still waits the pagan masked cult. They’ve even got Cricket’s shoes, the ones she thought were lost, the ones that were in the mud in her supposed dream. When the shoes get dumped in the lake, we also get a look at Blotter’s cut off hand still holding a baby bottle full of juice. Nasty, nasty business.
The next day Amy tries building a bridge between her and Jessie. She knows Jessie’s grandmother didn’t die, as the concocted story went earlier, but does so with a tongue firmly in cheek, trying to make Jessie feel bad as possible. In other news Sykes is tracking down more information relating to The Tall Man, Camp Stillwater, and whatever madness has been linked to their joint history. He finds a soldier’s journal from 1871 talking about Holyoke, some kind of occult leader, as well as all kinds of further craziness. We understand now that The Tall Man is known as Holyoke. Though his boss doesn’t believe any of it, Sykes is stuck. Will he uncover more truths long buried?
There’s still mystery circling around Ms. Mitchell, too. The box she keeps at her cabin is shrouded in dark, purposefully kept secret. She places it in a closet. Inside, there’s also a pagan mask. Much like the one worn by those people creeping around the camp grounds. Oh, Ms. Mitchell; what treasures you hold! Then we also see Damon slipping into one of those masks, a couple friends along with him. All the while things from that soldier’s diary repeat – the deer eviscerated, the cult. Things are getting incredibly dark.
With a bit of Jane’s Addiction playing in the background, Cricket puts on her nice bikini and hits the beach for a bit of volleyball. Her body almost knocks Alex flat. But the real good stuff is happening with Damon, those masked people, as they conduct a ritual. They even brought along The Tall Man’s skull – ahh, now we understand what he wanted with those bones. The skull, a deer’s heart, and the promise: “Her blood will bring yours.”
And when Amy goes into the lake to retrieve an errant volleyball, she witnesses the water boil with blood. A horrific image appears to her – a stag’s head. The sky above gets dark suddenly and everyone starts running inside. Amy gets struck by lightning and floats face first in the water. At the shore, Damon and his cult buddies realise it isn’t Cricket they needed; it’s Amy.
Very cool episode. Everything’s not perfect, but it is exciting, dark, and has a lot of interest going on with various characters. Some people and reviews claim the characters are thin and underdeveloped. I don’t know what show they’re watching.
Stick with me. “Modern Love” is up next. I can’t wait to see what more macabre delights this series has in store.
The Loved Ones. 2009. Directed & Written by Sean Byrne.
Starring Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson, John Brumpton, Andrew S. Gilbert, Suzi Dougherty, Victoria Eagger, Anne Scott-Pendlebury, Fred Whitlock, & Leo Taylor. Screen Australia/Omnilab Media/Ambience Entertainment/Film Victoria.
Rated R. 84 minutes.
The number of films where women are kidnapped and subjected to the vile torture of misogynistic men is uncountable. How many, even worse, take on the rape-revenge angle whilst requiring a man to take revenge for the women, as if she were some helpless child? Well, for once, there’s a (g00d) film which subverts the expectations of the sub-genre: The Loved Ones. Within a typical framework, writer-director Sean Byrne crafts an emotional, darkly comic, gruesome horror-thriller out of eerie performances and outright nastiness. However, nothing in this is simply made to shock. The plot takes us on a twisty-turny journey, even if the outcome isn’t entirely unexpected. But that’s the mark of a great movie sometimes when it takes an archetypal setup, something we’ve all seen time and time again, and turns everything on its head. Perhaps what I love most is that the antagonist, the villain of this horror is a woman. She holds no quarter, either. Her brutality is equal to if not more than a man’s and she has no problem showing it off. Along the way we’re treated to other atypical bits of plot, as well as a wonderfully twisted sense of storytelling. And I’ll be damned if the visual style of the film isn’t groovy.
Brent (Xavier Samuel) is learning to drive. His father is in the seat next to him, singing along to tunes on the radio. They laugh and joke, they poke fun at one another. But when Brent looks away for a moment to his father, a bloody young man with a large heart and two letters carved into his chest wanders across the road. Brent swerves and they hit a tree.
After his father’s death, Brent finds it hard to cope, both with his own terrible guilt, and the brutal emotions of his mother. Although, he does have a girlfriend named Holly (Victoria Thaine), and she provides a much needed refuge for him, plus there’s his good friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) who sticks by his side.
But one day while out smoking weed and off in his own world, Brent is abducted. He wakes up to Lola (Robin McLevy) and her father (John Brumpton). That day, he had to turn down Lola when she asked him to prom. Now it seems as if she and ‘Daddy’ have their own plans. Along with a rotating disco ball, paper crowns, fried chicken, knives, and even a power drill, Brent is about to have his own prom with Lola.
A night he’ll never forget. Especially when he finds out what they’re hiding in the basement.
We see our main character seemingly express a deathwish by hanging back from a cliff’s edge, as if daring himself to let go. But when he slips slightly, barely regaining traction to keep himself hanging on, it’s evident he doesn’t actually want to die. Just a nice little early touch I found enjoyable, which added to his character in a perfect way. You can see how caught between living life and feeling guilty he is, and it so obviously wracks him constantly with a pain of indecision; he can’t tell whether to be guilty, or to move on, which any of us obviously would after losing a parent in a car crash that was, sort of, your fault. Watching him struggle between the two ends of the spectrum is difficult, but only in the way we feel heavy emotions for his character from the start. More than that, he ends up in the worst fight of his life later on, so to see his self-imposed near (possible) death juxtaposed with the very real threat of death put upon him by Lola and Daddy, it’s an interesting contrast to say the least. Then you add the fact Brent feels the guilt of his father’s death, he probably did want to die. That all changes once he’s placed into the hands of others who will, no doubt, bring about that death. Without spoiling anything, the stakes get even higher, much larger once Brent discovers a few more things later on.
Xavier Samuel isnt someone I’ve seen much of. Though, the few times I have seen his performances I’ve always enjoyed them – for instance, Bait wasn’t even a good movie, highly average, and I still thought he played well in it. But here, as Brent, he brings out the range required. Impressive performance. His ability to play the depressed and devastated side of Brent is easily seen, almost immediately in the first frame after his father dies. Then, once things at Lola’s house get more and more serious, he brings out the anger and the tormented rage inside him that’s been boiling for so long, and it unleashes onto the screen.
Still, even with John Brumpton doing awesome work as her Daddy, the star of the show is Robin McLeavy’s Lola. The only other thing I’ve seen her in is the AMC series Hell on Wheels, and she does a fantastic job there, too. But Lola – what a piece of work! Imagine Jeffrey Dahmer, except as a teenage girl, and she’s got a strange psychosexual relationship happening with her father, and VOILA! C’est Lola! McLeavy is totally twisted. Her presence at the beginning, in that first scene asking Brent to prom, is wildly unassuming. Even with her on the cover of the film looking ominous, you still don’t get any of that from her initial appearance; she seems like an innocent, sweet little thing. Slowly, McLeavy brings out her manic side with all she’s got. Her danger is evident, crystal clear with each frame after the next, after the next. She becomes this unstoppable force, almost like a female Michael Myers, walking through the fields and stalking towards her next prey. So to see the savage finale it was a real treat. Never once does Byrne treat Lola as a woman, in the sense that he doesn’t act like he has to be delicate with this character simply due to her gender. He takes her all the way through to every deadly little conclusion instead of prancing around the details, whittling away at her character to try and make her sympathetic. She’s one of the most unsympathetic horror characters I’ve seen in ages, and each time I see this film I’m always amazed at how perfectly Lola is written, really giving us a subversion of the expected tropes in the genre. For once, a woman gets to be the true slasher-style villain. And does it ever kick fucking ass.
One of my favourite horror-thrillers in the past decade. A 4&1/2-star affair. It is never apologetic and always at its finest, most gruesome form. The Loved Ones takes the typical kidnapping-torture sub-genre and does something interesting with it, instead of trying to go over and over the same territory. It certainly hits familiar notes, it’s not the most revolutionary thriller to come out. But it has heart, as well as a touch of ingenuity. Plus, as I said, there are never any apologies, in the sense that Sean Byrne goes for broke, he treats his female killer the same way he would if the character were male. And these are the types of things I like to see in horror. When we can treat genders separately in terms of their stories yet equally in terms of their stature as weighty characters, horror (or any genre for that matter) only gets better. It’s a change, and change is good. Check out The Loved Ones – it’s a brutish romp through an old neighbourhood, with a different spin, lots of bloody goodness, and the candy coated visuals make this dark subject shine.