Before CANDYMAN returns, Nia DaCosta's feature debut LITTLE WOODS arrives in theatres April 19th, 2019.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 12: “Go to Hell”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Jessica Sharzer
“Go to Hell” begins with a nice opening concerning The Seven Wonders. Filmed in black-and-white, looking like a genuine silent film including title cards in between scenes. Such an excellent sequence, which gives us background into the whole Seven Wonders ceremony and what it entails. It’s also a little creepy, too. Even if nothing weird is actually happening. Just a very good homage to the silent film era. On top of it all, one of my favourite classical piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin plays throughout – Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2. A great piece of music to have accompanying this sequence. As well, Fiona (Jessica Lange) comes in near the end via voice-over.
Then we’re back with her talking to Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). But Queenie knows what the older witch is up to, that she only wants to figure out the new Supreme in order to kill her. I don’t think that has changed, at all. Best of all, Fiona calls Papa Legba a “half–baked Beetlejuice“. I laughed aloud at this line. Such a good one from writer Jessica Sharzer. But even more fun, Fiona announces to Queenie that this coming Saturday she will perform The Seven Wonders, “or die trying“. Looks like a true competition of powers is going to go down eventually between the remaining young witches at the academy. Will Misty Day (Lily Rabe) somehow return to compete? Or will it be Queenie, Madison (Emma Roberts) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) in a trio head-to-head?
Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) is trying to find out about Misty. She tries to touch Madison, to make use of her second sight. However, out of nowhere Madison teleports from one side of the room to the other. Manifesting new powers, huh? Well, Cordelia tells her not to “read too much” into all that. Finally, after a bunch of back and forth, Cordelia lays a hand on Madison. But nothing comes. We know the truth, so is Madison manifesting more powers giving her the ability to block thoughts, to control the thoughts of others?
Down in the basement, Queenie is looking for Marie. She can’t seem to find Laveau anywhere, though. Then she’s back upstairs with a creepy voodo book, on its front is the symbol of Papa Legba (Lance Reddick). She lies back on the bed and chants in a foreign tongue. She finds herself back at Chubbie’s Chicken serving food again, as if gone back in time literally, not just in thought. Outside there’s a seemingly never ending lineup of people around the building, inside. And at the front? Legba himself. This isn’t hell, though. Not “the hell“, he says, but “your hell.”
I love the conversation between Queenie and Legba. It’s sinister, but also pretty damn darkly comical. Reddick and Sidibe are both talented in their own respects, and this brief scene is a lot of fun. When she makes it out of the chicken shack hell, Legba is waiting. He explains all about Marie Laveau and the immortality of both her and LaLaurie; turns out Delphine chopped Marie into pieces to toss around New Orleans. Yowzah. Always a nasty, rough customer, that Delphine.
Papa Legba: “Time moves differently in hell“
Perhaps a favourite scene of mine takes us back to the old stomping grounds of Madame LaLaurie, where now Delphine herself is a guide. She has a different haircut, she wears a green suit jacket and black pants looking very modern. And hilariously, Delphine is now trying to rewrite her own history and past through touring people around the house and setting people straight on the true events; though, all she does is lie. We get a nice flashback to when Delphine has a confrontation with the former tour guide – a superbly eerie moment, as LaLaurie picks up a proper tool and bashes the woman in the head; plus, a little lick of her tongue to clean some of the blood that splashes her face. I mean, what an excellent and gruesome scene! Kathy Bates is a class act and I love seeing her do horror, it’s a true treat. I always thought her performance in Misery was perfect, now she gets lots of true and disturbing horror to work with in this series.
An even better sequence happens when Queenie talks to Delphine about repentance. There’s an inclusion of lots of popular culture controversies, as Delphine is seen watching television with the likes of Paula Deen and others crawling across the screen. Awesome writing.
Then Queenie stabs LaLaurie, who starts bleeding out profusely. What happens next? The formerly immortal Delphine may finally see death, now that she doesn’t want to die anymore.
Fiona’s having her portrait painted for the academy wall. Then her nose starts to bleed out of nowhere, either from the cancer, or the cocaine. Or the cancer and the cocaine in equal amounts, who knows. She continually laments her own face, the way she looks. She’s nearing the end and all she worries about is whether or not she looks youthful. And it’s driving her towards being hateful. Only she and Cordelia have a nice little chat, which shows how much she does care about her daughter. Though, it can’t make up for a lifetime of neglect and hatefulness.
Regardless, Fiona gives her mother’s necklace to Cordelia, as a way of “saying goodbye.” Once it goes around her neck and Fiona touches her, Cordelia’s second sight returns. Only it shows her the thoughts in Fiona’s mind, the intentions – we see a massacre in the academy house, all the young witches dead, impaled, blood everywhere, even Misty returned and murdered. It’s a shocking sight, out of the blue. Even Cordelia is dead in the vision, bullet hole in her head, and Fiona is seen snatching the necklace from her neck. Returning to the light, Cordelia is now aware of what is inside Fiona, what she is really aiming at. Funny how, with the strength Fiona instilled in this scene early on, Cordelia eventually was able to realise her powers once again; all in order to figure out what her mother was actually up to. Love the irony.
But Cordelia has plans herself. She goes to see the Axeman (Danny Huston). She warns him about loving Fiona, how dangerous it can be for those who fall into the trap. Cordelia also saw more than just the massacre in Fiona’s head, she saw her plan to the Axeman behind, too. He is only a pawn to her, someone she can use to do her bidding, to get the dirty work done. “She used you,” Cordelia tells him bluntly. Will she try and use the Axeman to do away with Fiona once and for all?
At the same time, Cordelia’s also trying to track Misty down, unaware of her fate at the hands of Madison. Poor girl is still stuck down in that casket, singing to herself, over in the cemetery. So Cordelia takes Queenie out to the mausoleum, and the latter proves to have some more impressive powers. She hauls the coffin right out of the bricks. Yet Misty isn’t breathing. No worries: Queenie’s got this, baby. She also can resurrect the dead, it seems. Her voodoo game is strong.
“When the rest of the world sees a wall, we see a window.”
So Misty being back doesn’t spell much good for Madison, though, the young sassy lady is not worried too much. Then out of nowhere, Zoe and Kyle show up again. Clearly not in Florida anymore. On their way they had a confrontation with some homeless guy, which ended with Kyle snapping the guy nearly in half. Most of all, they came back because Zoe displayed a new power of her own: more resurgence. Now they all seem to be able to do intense things with their powers. Better yet, Misty shows up throwing fists at Madison, ready for a real fight. They wrestle around a little while the others watch; mostly, Misty kicks the shit out of Madison.
The Axeman shows up trying to swing his axe at everyone, pissed off and threatening to kill them all. The witches send him flying. But then notice he’s covered in blood already: Fiona’s blood. In a step backwards, we see the Axeman in his apartment with her. He’s on to her now, after his visit from Cordelia. She appears completely unaware until he mentions it. And eventually it comes – the death of Fiona Goode by the hand of her jilted lover, the Axeman.
Back at the academy with the girls, the Axeman has to be punished. His original death at the hands of the academy witches is recreated, and he dies a second, horrible, bloody death. Fitting, no?
Then we see both Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau in their own hell, each bound together in their eternity in the darkness. A truly awful, disturbing end for them both. They’re forever spending time with Papa Legba in hell. The two immortals are now dead – released from the chains of life, only to serve Legba for eternity in the same room. Day after day, over and over.
After Fiona’s portrait is hung on the wall, Myrtle alerts the girls: they will all perform, as I guessed, The Seven Wonders that Sunday at dawn. The next Supreme will be revealed, for better or for worse. And some of the others will certainly die.
Stay tuned for the next episode, the finale of Coven, fittingly titled “The Seven Wonders“.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 10: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Head” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Protect the Coven” – click here
This episode opens with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) being tended to with a cup of tea and a warm bed from Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange). Marie even admits to being over “300 years old.” They talk about their new situation only briefly. “Tomorrow we’ll draw the battle lines,” says Fiona. So we’re in for a good deal of interesting stuff.
Even better, as Marie sleeps in the night up shows Papa Legba (Lance Reddick), the voodoo father. He looks incredibly, almost impossibly creepy. Apparently, Legba and Marie have some sort of agreement. He wants what’s coming to him, the terms of their bargain they made “so long ago.” Love the choice of having Reddick play this character. He is a great talent, who has showed it time and time again from The Wire to Oz and much more. Nice addition to this season, and so late in the game.
Then we see Marie saunter into a hospital ward, lightly crying babies behind a glass door. She voodoos her way in to where the unsuspecting infants lay. The music and the cinematography here are beyond eerie, setting such a perfectly unnerving sequence. Marie picks out a cute little baby, takes him away, and runs into some armed security guards. But they’ve got nothing on her. She rolls her eyes back, they go cloudy, and then BANG, BANG! The guards are dead. What does Legba want with the baby? Does he eat them? Oh, goody. Something new and sinister to add into the American Horror Story lexicon of weird and disturbing characters.
With the fallout from Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) comes a revelation by Marie to Fiona and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson): she hired him. Now, there’s no doubt going to be further tension and problems between Cordelia and her mother. Fiona sees it as a sign of weakness that Hank infiltrated them: “You‘re not just blind, you are wilfully blind. You married Hank to prove some childish point and brought a viper into this sacred house!” They’ve now go to face the task of finding “the hive,” as Fiona calls it. They need to take down the whole group of hunters, not just one; they travel in packs, like vultures.
In other news, Misty (Lily Rabe) is weary of getting too close to Fiona, whose murderous impulses aren’t exactly secret. Fiona tries to talk Misty up, but the swamp witch is not too interested. Is Fiona driving towards something here? Surely she can’t be trying to kill another one; can she? Well, Fiona brings Misty downstairs. She has a guest to meet her: it’s god damn Stevie Nicks, a white witch in her own right apparently. As they’re introduced, Misty faints. Excellently, Fiona steps over her claiming “You owe me $5” and giving Stevie a friendly smooch. This was hilarious, and fucking awesome. Even further, Stevie sings and plays “Rhiannon” on the piano as the young witches come home. Such a fun inclusion to have Nicks here, like a little treat on top of an already delicious ice cream that is Coven.
“I‘m a huge fan of Eminem. When‘s he get here?”
“Marshall? You‘re not his type. And more importantly, you‘re not the next Supreme.”
There’s new jealousy afoot. Madison doesn’t want any of Misty and her shit, she thinks she has what it takes; her heart murmur is even gone since coming back from the dead. Madison even gives Nan shit, which prompts Nan to use mind control almost ending with Madison jamming a cigarette in her vagina. Lots of inter-coven trouble happening.
But the witch hunters are still the biggest threat to anything, whether or not the young witches are all clamouring over who the next Supreme could end up being. Cordelia tracked down the Delphi Trust, the witch hunters hub. She found out who Hank was, the son of Harrison Renard; Renard is, of course, Francais pour Fox(x). So now, Marie, Cordelia and Fiona are scheming. Trying to figure out a way to get at the witch hunters. Shouldn’t be hard to take down some capitalist pigs, right? Fiona won’t have any help from Cordelia who she sees as “tainted.” There’s a violent emotional nature to the relationship between these two. Sad, because Cordelia is a tough, smart, capable witch. Doesn’t matter, though. Marie and Fiona together? Two bad witch bitches. They set up a cross between the Salem witchcraft and Marie’s Haitian voodoo, attacking the Delphi Trust at the source of their money and causing lots of problems for the hunters. Except it might take the good out of Fiona, who collapses after their spell is cast.
Now we get more talk between Fiona and Marie. Fiona talks about her new love, the Axeman (Danny Huston). Marie explains her debt to Papa Legba, who she conjured back when she thought she was “the shit” and “shockingly strong” magic. Then in the night, Papa showed up to give her eternal life and strength. Unknowingly she “made a deal forged in Hell.” Only problem then was, she had to provide Legba with his price: her baby. And after that she was shackled to their agreement, requiring her to give him an innocent child’s soul when he comes calling. Nasty, huh? But immortality has its prices. That’s a part of why I love this season, there are very interesting portrayals of immortality between the dead coming back, Marie herself and also the curse she threw on Delphine. So it’s fun to see how immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All these situations help us understand the horrifying aspect of living forever (it’s always been horrifying to me anyways).
Meanwhile, Madison takes Misty on a walk through New Orleans. Fittingly they stroll behind what looks like a music funeral, horns and drums ringing through the streets. Madison tries to fill Misty’s head with the concept that being Supreme will bring more needless stress than it does perks, such as plenty free “merch” and “swag“. Gotta watch out for Madison, though. They end up at a graveyard, deserted except for a couple groundskeepers. Madison wants to show Misty they have equal powers; she literally raises a man from out his coffin and back to life. Certainly impressive. Trusting Madison too much, Misty ends up knocked out by a brick and tossed into the casket; Madison returns the groundskeepers to normal after they were frozen in a spell, and Misty is entombed in a small grey mausoleum. Didn’t see that coming before this sequence, honestly. But should have. Madison is just as vindictive and paranoid as Fiona.
Zoe and Nan drop over to see Joan, after they discovered at the hospital Luke is now dead. Nan wants to see the body; she needs to find out what happened to him in the end. He was cremated, but Nan knows what happened: he was suffocated by his mother. Then Nan goes wild on Joan, forcing Zoe out of the way and making Joan drink down a few gulps of bleach. Yikes – though, I can’t say I hated it. Joan deserved what she got.
In the basement of the academy, Myrtle plays away on the theremin while she and Cordelia have another heart to heart. The younger of the two feels she has “nothing left to offer this coven.” But we know different, as does Myrtle.
The worst comes when Fiona conjures Papa Legba on her own. She wants to do whatever possible to attain eternal life. Only Legba can’t make a deal because she has no soul with which to bargain: “You have nothing to sell.”
Things get dicey now, as Fiona ends up determined to kill all the others in the coven if necessary, all in order to figure out who will be the next Supreme. She has truly gone over the edge. Is this going to do her in, or the others?
The finale sees Nan discovering a newborn child meant for sacrifice over to Legba. Marie and Fiona label her a threat. Then, Legba accepts her as a substitute. The two older witches drown Nan in the upstairs bathtub, and Papa Legba deems Marie/Fiona’s union as “big trouble.” No doubt. A sad and tragic end for a character like Nan, who could’ve been a contender for Supreme had she not been disturbingly murdered.
Very excited for the next episode titled “Protect the Coven” – more wildness to come!
The Guest. 2014. Directed by Adam Wingard. Written by Simon Barrett. Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, and Lance Reddick. Picturehouse.
Rated 14A. 99 minutes.
To begin, I’ve been a fan of Adam Wingard a long while. I think the first time I actually saw one of his films it was A Horrible Way to Die, which I recently got on Blu ray and enjoyed again to the fullest. After that I got the chance to see both Home Sick and Pop Skull within a couple days. Though I enjoy his later work more, I still really dug those films. Wingard really has a different sensibility about the way he makes movies than a lot of new, young horror directors. Not to mention, Simon Barrett, who has been writing films for Wingard since, I believe, A Horrible Way to Die. Barrett is a really interesting writer; another of his works I enjoyed before his partnership with Wingard is the creepy Confederate gold horror Dead Birds. Together, the two of these guys are a great pair as writer-director partnerships go. Especially in the horror genre. I think these guys continually prove they’re the next big thing (hell – I think they’re the big thing right now) in horror.
That being said, after You’re Next, Barrett and Wingard have moved onto a slight change of pace with The Guest.
This story follows a young soldier named David (Stevens). The film begins as we follow behind him, jogging. Soon, he reaches the home of a soldier he knew, Caleb, who recently died. David tells the family Caleb wanted him to find them and give them his love. David also says he promised Caleb he’d do anything possible to help them. Anna (Monroe), Caleb’s sister, seems suspicious. However, the rest of the family, especially the mother (Sheila Kelley) and younger brother (Brendan Meyer), take a liking to David. Even some of Anna’s friends, including a sleazy sort of dude named Craig (a nice small role played by Joel David Moore), think David is the best. Eventually, David’s past comes back to haunt him. People start dying.
And soon enough, Anna starts finding things out about David; dangerous things.
The movie plays out like something we’ve seen before, and yet The Guest feels different. A lot of people focus on it seemingly being a throwback to 1980s action-thrillers, and also some of John Carpenter’s works specifically, which I agree; a lot of this film seems very much inspired by the look of Carpenter, as well as the feel of certain action movies from the 80s, most specifically probably The Terminator. Regardless, The Guest is not some 80s rehash. It’s a smart little thriller with the entertainment of thrillers we’ve known before. Yes, there are influences here. Yes, the soundtrack is most certainly a heavy lean towards the 80s.
But Barrett and Wingard both are too clever to make this just a throwback piece.
For anyone who has not actually seen The Guest yet, what I’m about to say in the next little bit has a huge SPOILER in it. So, if you’d rather not have the film spoiled, and I’d rather you not because I don’t want anyone complaining when I’ve clearly forewarned them (even though I think the whole concept of ‘spoiler alert’ is ridiculous – if you don’t want anything spoiled, stay away from the fucking internet), PLEASE TURN BACK.
So, one of my favourite pieces in the entire movie is nearing the finale. Just as things start going haywire for David, he and Mrs. Peterson (Kelley) are in the kitchen, taking cover from gunfire and such. I honestly believed David was going to protect the family. I figured we’d be treated to a massive shootout, as well as maybe a few hand-to-hand combat scenes. Instead, Barrett subverts those expectations, and David instead stabs Mrs. Peterson just before she yells to the men outside the house as she figures out his intentions. I really didn’t see that coming. Also, I think this is really clever because even earlier when David kills two other people, we don’t necessarily switch him to the bad guy. We’re still wondering what exactly is going on with him; maybe the government has done his head in, maybe they turned him into a killing machine without the off switch – who knows?
But once David kills the mother, all bets are off. We now see him as an unstoppable force. He strategically snuffs out any single person who may, or possibly may not, it doesn’t matter, become a trail leading back to him. Then from this point on things get even wilder.
This is one of the many reasons I really enjoy The Guest. Another thing – Wingard avoids going for some extended, unnecessary sex scene during a party in the film. Whereas a lot of other filmmakers might make it into a whole scene, Wingard keeps it at a very brief few shots, which gives us enough information to deduce that, yes, the two characters indeed have sex.
It’s not that I’m against sex scenes. In fact, I’m not at all. I think if the plot provides a moment where a sex scene is organic and natural, then why not? But on the contrary, if there is no need for it, if it doesn’t serve the plot or characters in any way, then why include it? Only makes for a bit of fast forward. You can either have sex or watch it on the internet whenever you want – it doesn’t need to be filler in a movie. Not for me anyways. Kudos to Wingard for not falling into the same old traps other filmmakers do. Instead, he uses every scene, every shot, because they’re all meant to be in there. Signs of a good filmmaker, in my opinion.
I really enjoyed Dan Stevens as David. I’ve never personally seen him in anything else, though I know what he’s done. His portrayal of this character was incredible. He swung between charming and handsome, to dark (still handsome) and brooding. There were times he genuinely chilled me with a few of the looks on his face; not even his words, just expressions. I think I’ll definitely have to see some of his other work. Great casting.
Though there are a few small performances I enjoyed (Ethan Embry as a small-time arms dealer, Joel David Moore as the burnt out Craig, Lance Reddick as Major Carver, the always unique Leland Orser as Mr. Peterson), the one other performance aside from Stevens I enjoyed most was Maika Monroe. She did a wonderful job as Anna. Again, I don’t ever really recall seeing her in anything else, but she was great here. This could’ve easily been played badly had they cast someone else, however, Monroe turns the character of Anna into someone less-angsty and a bit more intelligent than most young characters we see in horrors, action-thrillers, and the lot. Also, she gets to utter the final line – I absolutely love it. The way she says it, the three words themselves; it all puts things perfectly in perspective. Another great instance of casting. She and Stevens played well off one another, as well. Some really great scenes between the two.
The Guest is a fun and weird ride through what could have been a typical action-thriller, but instead comes off as the next legitimate step on the path towards greatness for Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. I think this is not only better than most action coming out post-2000, it’s also just one of the better action-thrillers I’ve seen. I recently rewatched The Terminator on Blu ray (and I probably consider that to be the best action-thriller ever), and I can honestly say, for me, The Guest ranks up there with that film.
I love the dialogue, as I usually do in movies scripted by Barrett; I never find myself stopping and wondering why someone had to say that, why the screenwriter left this in there, et cetera. The plot is a lot of fun, and Wingard really executes things well. He is great with a lot of the handheld work in his previous films, but I think with the bigger budgets his and Barrett’s talents have started bringing in his films will start to see more and more stabilized framing. Not to say handheld isn’t good, or that Wingard isn’t good at it (the opposite – as I said he is great), I just think with The Guest, Wingard proves he is capable of true beauty with more steady framing and shot composition. There are just absolutely magnificent shots here; one such action-style shot is when Craig (Moore) is running away from David, who lets him go, and eventually picks him off with a headshot from long range. Just really great and twisted stuff.
The Guest will be on Blu ray January 6th, but is also going to be available for purchase as a Digital HD release on December 16th through VOD services. As soon as you can, check this out. I’m looking forward to the Blu ray because this is a gorgeous looking film with great camerawork, a killer soundtrack, and some top notch performances.