THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE Confronts the Cruelty of Men

The Autopsy of Jane Doe. 2016. Directed by André Øvredal. Screenplay by Ian B. Goldberg & Richard Naing.
Starring Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Catherine Kelly, Jane Perry, Parker Sawyers, Mary Duddy, Mark Phoenix, & Sydney (as Stanley the Cat).
42/IM Global/Impostor Pictures
Rated R. 86 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★1/2

Disclaimer: This review discusses important parts of the film’s plot + themes. If you’ve not yet seen the film, watch it, then come back and discuss. Or else, be forever spoiled!

AUTOPSY1When I saw The Troll Hunter I knew I wanted more from André Øvredal, whose talent is undeniable. That was a great, unique film that connected the Old World with the New World in interesting ways, juxtaposing folklore and mythology with technology by way of the found footage sub-genre.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe does something similar, yet the subject is wildly different. In this film, Øvredal again conjures the folk tales of the Old World, letting them collide with modern day. A father-son coroner duo, Tom (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch), encounter a Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) corpse found just below the dirt in an unfinished basement, amongst other victims of violent death. Except as the pair conduct their autopsy, looking for cause of death, they find strange links to witchcraft and superstitions of centuries ago.
There’s a mystery aspect to the plot, but the whole story is built on suspense and a severe, restless tension. Øvredal turns up the heat on us and the characters, a feeling of isolation in the basement morgue. In between it all is a look at the fragility of life, the care of bodies – specifically, women’s bodies – and the age old nastiness of misogyny.
AUTOPSY4Out of the gate, the film oozes both atmosphere and a measured style. Mood is set in the opening scene with a frank look at a crime scene, a mysterious, gruesome house of horrors, including the unknown woman, Jane Doe, buried in the dirt downstairs. Everything’s shadowy, grim, macabre, an air of uncertainty blanketing the top of the plot’s bare bones we’re fed in the initial five minutes. Such a strong start, you feel involved before actually figuring anything out, or even meeting the two protagonists.
Claustrophobia and isolation drive the film, down below ground, in a basement; further than that, in a morgue, surrounded by the dead. This ratchets the tension, as one grisly discovery gives way to another, and another, until the eeriness piles atop the characters, the audience, crushing with a steadily paced descent into supernatural terror; very human to something else entirely. Shifting from the grounded plot to a fantastical atmosphere makes the latter half land with even more intensity.
Once the finale rolls around, a horrifying fear sets in, one we cannot escape, and that claustrophobia’s become so stuffy the pay-off deals a heavy, sinister blow.
AUTOPSY3The contrast between the dead and the living is ever present. First and foremost is the care of women’s bodies. An interesting juxtaposition, seeing how living men have desecrated this Jane Doe’s body, inside and out, with such horrific cruelty, versus the way Tom and Austin, even while dissecting her for the autopsy, treat her body with care. Likewise, the way death then affects the father and son is compelling. For instance, we see that death and its continual presence in their lives hasn’t jaded them, after Austin finds a small wounded animal in one of their air ducts, and his father must break its neck to put it out of its misery. Again this contrasts them with the brutes who tortured then murdered Jane Doe.
What’s most intriguing is the film’s thematic consideration of misogyny, through the lens of witchcraft. A woman becomes a witch through the brutality of men, a metaphor concerning how men and their misogynistic violence, whether mental or physical, transforms women, negatively. And in this case, Jane Doe takes her revenge on men ni general, as well as any unlucky women caught up with them. Perfect, as the witch is directly linked to the history of misogyny, their punishment simply for being women, being free, for enjoying the sensual in life when they wish. So the fact Jane Doe, through torture and cruelty, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy in a sense is such a strong element, a wonderfully unique take at that.
Moreover, the finale shows the evil done by men is cyclical, never over. Because the woman’s been instilled with that evil, just as many women are stained by the awful actions and misogyny of men. Since time immemorial, truly. And so that cycle goes on, the body forever tainted, the horror perpetuating and living on. Even decent men like Tom and Austin are caught in the vicious whirlwind of revenge, because men as a gender have reaped such effects; that’s the point, and the Not All Men crowd don’t get that in general, it’s such a widespread problem we have to accept it’s a male problem, as a whole.
AUTOPSY2The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a fresh breath of horror, up there with some of the best of the past few years. Really fun watching the two leads unravel a supernatural mystery using science, the Old World on a collision course with modern medicine, a witchcraft story from previous centuries in present day. Øvredal squeezes the life out of the audience, in the best way possible, suffocating us with an atmosphere that does not quit.
Of course the acting all around is fantastic. But it’s Øvredal whose talents take this film to the next level. It isn’t always easy keeping things so tightly wound, so harrowing with only a sparse cast, a boxed in setting. He does it with precision, not allowing a moment’s breath or relaxation after the adrenaline kicks in hard.
I’d watch this any day of the week. After it came out, I watched it probably once every couple months until now. Something about it catches me, the atmosphere’s intoxicating. Sucker for those isolated horrors, from this sort of setting to one more like Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s an element that works wonders if a director uses it to their advantage. Put this on your Halloween list. Definitely good for a scare.

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Lore – Season 1, Episode 3: “Black Stockings”

Amazon’s Lore
Season 1, Episode 3: “Black Stockings”
Directed by Thomas J. Wright
Written by David Chiu & Patrick Wall

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Echoes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Passing Notes” – click here
IMG_0390June 2009, Ithaca, NY. A couple were running on a wooded path. Suddenly, the husband started believing his wife wasn’t her anymore, that she was an “impostor” who was trying to “destroy him.” He had Capgras Syndrome. He cut his wife’s throat, killing her. Hearing Aaron Mahnke narrate is one thing, hearing the killer himself and seeing his picture is another thing altogether.
100 years before, that wasn’t so crazy, to think somebody could take another’s place. This takes us back to Ireland for another episode of Lore.
In 19th century Ireland, “magic and superstition” were often the cause. Specifically, the changelings. We go to 1895, Ballyvadlea, a village in Ireland. Bridget Cleary (Holland Roden) was what you’d call a “modern woman.” She lived with her husband Michael (Cathal Pendred) who worked for the local creamery. She sewed, tailoring clothes that helped she and her husband do better than most in their area.
Of course, back then, a woman like Bridget drew rumours. That she was stepping out with another man. Her own husband listened to them, too. But that was no bother, she was her own woman. Michael worries about the changelings, that she’s temping them by going to a place linked with her mother, that they could take her away. Not only that, he’s quite possessive, as men so often get. Also, that’s part of the Irish cultural tradition: a man owned his wife.


However, the changelings are powerful, they can take who they want.
Mahnke fills us in about them. Changelings take abducted humans to places where there exists “fairy rings,” or portals, linking the human world to another realm. They can take on the appearance of their target, sending the real person to that realm. All sorts of symptoms could give way to belief that changelings had taken you off. In addition, methods to try figuring out if such was the case. Like holding people over fire, forcing someone to drink foxglove, and other nastiness. And sure as shit, this led to autism, many illnesses mental or otherwise, all becoming reasons to believe the changelings were at work.
There’s only 9 days from possession until a person is lost forever to the other realm.
Bridget shows up back home to her Michael and her father, Patrick Boland (John Byner), looking sick, falling over. She doesn’t seem to even recognise her husband. When Michael does a quick test with an iron cup, he fears the worst: they’ve got her. So Doc Crean (Darren Darnborough) comes, and other people in the village find out, wondering if a changeling had taken hold of Bridget. Although the doc says “bronchitis and nervous excitement,” others aren’t so sure.
Things don’t go too well. Father Ryan (Mark Ashworth) drops by to offer what comfort religion can in times like these. When he does, Michael asks him to bless a bit of medicine from a fairy doctor. The priest tells him to forget the “Old Irishery” and its folklore; all the while peddling Jesus Christ, sort of ironic. Regardless, the husband believes what he believes. You can see where this is headed.
It also involves the threat of sensual, powerful, strong women. Mahnke talks about Julia Margaret Cameron, a British photographer who took incredible pictures of women; rare for a woman in 1863. We also see, Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond, he took pictures of women, as well. In asylums. Where women could be committed by their husbands, their fathers, the patriarchy who wanted to shut women up. “Moral insanity” a.k.a infidelity was one cause for being committed. Amongst many misogynist reasons. Diamond took pictures believing women seeing themselves in the photographs would have a positive effect. Or maybe it’d only mirror their anxieties.

IMG_0399Lots more superstition surrounding Bridget, driving Michael further into the belief his wife’s been stolen by the changelings. Jack Dunne (Richie Stephens) and the others do nothing to deter that belief. Meanwhile, Bridget’s terrified they’re turning her into a fairy herself. As it is with misogyny, we learn of the man’s prior abusive tendencies, like nearly burning her face with a poker from the fire once. Her husband is sure this is the eighth day, one more to go.
What will he do? Oh, you know.
There are no such things as fairies. And if Ireland is ever going to become a part of the world, they need to go away.”
The men plan to force feed Bridget a cure. They hold her down, even dear ole dad, and Michael asks the changeling to let his wife free. All gripped by folktales and cultural misogyny. When it won’t work, they decide on using a remedy meant to be used on the verge of day nine.
So Bridget pleads with her husband, playing to his superstitious mind, saying anything she can to try thwarting him and the patriarchal plans of the village men. Anything to save herself. Ultimately, day nine came, and Michael had untied her. Father Ryan came around for a bit of mass. They tried relying on faith.
Except the husband wasn’t strong enough to have a strong woman such as Bridget as a wife (unlike Annie Oakley, whose husband Frank was beyond loyal to her and proud, too). He couldn’t handle her free spirit. It wasn’t long until he reverted to the superstitions.
He beat her, slamming her around the house. Then he lit her on fire in front of everybody, burning her while she was still alive. The Fairy Trial put Michael in the international eye, giving way to ugly Irish stereotypes.
Are you a witch? Or are you a fairy? Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?”
IMG_0403Another fantastic slice of Lore! God, they do such justice to Mahnke’s podcast and accentuate the strongest elements of his narration, adding in the scenes, plus those bits of montage from pictures to animations and everything else. One of my favourite new shows.
“Passing Notes” is 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.

Alias Grace – Part 2

CBC’s Alias Grace
Part 2
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Sarah Polley

* For a recap & review of Part 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
Pic 1Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) finds himself dreaming about Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), holding her close in the midst of the penitentiary’s yard. He’s quickly back to real life. In his office, Mrs. Humphrey (Sarah Manninen) collapses, she isn’t well. Neither is life in general going well. She hasn’t eaten since her husband left recently. And so the good doctor buys food for the house, advancing “two months rent” for her to take care of things in the interim. She’s a little affectionate towards him, naturally, making him uncomfortable. Whereas he was just longing in dreams for Grace.
Speaking of our lady, she’s at work sewing, taking care of things around the house where she works. When Dr. Jordan arrives, they speak of dreams. She tells him she doesn’t remember any, though we see a vision of Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin) near a rose garden, a cut ripping across her forehead; she begins falling, grabs her throat. Then quickly, back to reality.
Grace talks more of her good friend Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard), a wild spirit, a free woman in her heart. At night, the two women play a game with an apple peel, a superstition-style game; peeled in one piece, Grace tosses it behind her as her friend asks “Who shall we marry?” But when Mary tries, she cuts herself on the knife while peeling, ending their game.
Saddest is how they’re young, yet their lives already revolving entirely around men. Not by choice. Even Grace, she was forced out of the house by a revolting father, but it was more a choice of getting abused constantly, or working and sending money back home eternally. An entire life shaped by the horror of men.
Pic 1AAnother free spirit, Jeremiah Pontelli (Zachary Levi), shows up to peddle his wares to the women at the Parkinson home, Mrs. Honey (Elizabeth Saunders) even in her experienced years not immune to his charm. He does a good magic trick, too. Had his “pocket picked” and his “heart broken” enough to learn some tricks of his own, he says. Afterwards, he looks into Grace’s palm, seeing something foreboding. Although he tells her: “You will cross water three times. You will have much trouble. But all will be fine in the end. You are one of us.”
Pic 1BWe see bits of how difficult it was to be a women in their time. Can’t even go to the outhouse at night without a partner, or else bad things might happen. And it’d be blamed on the woman if anything did. As Grace says, a woman can’t “let her guard down.” Juxtaposed with this harsh, tragic lesson of womanhood, she wakes one morning to find she’s had her first period, believing that she’s dying like her mother. Luckily, she’s got Mary to guide her. Yet it’s still a nasty life being a woman amongst men and their misogyny. As I write this recap and review, we’re facing the Harvey Weinstein situation, all its hideousness: things have changed, but not really, not for women.
George Parkinson (Will Bowes) had to stay at home for a long while, feeling ill. He was left with so much time on his hands, nothing to do. The whole house full of women waiting on him hand and foot. Suddenly, Mary’s also very cold towards Grace. Everything’s changed, they no longer have fun together at work, no more joking. Mary’s feeling sick herself. Because she’s up the duff with George’s baby. He’s turned his back on her, as well. So convenient for men, to do what they wish then walk away when it’s inconvenient. Mary’s left to try getting him to help. What does the man do? Hands her “five dollars.” So, she has to find work somewhere where they’ll allow her to work pregnant, likely in horrible conditions.
Or, an illegal abortion. She writes a note, claiming that if she perishes then all her things go to Grace. Her faithful friend goes with her to the doctor, but Mary heads in for the procedure alone. All the horrific bits of womanhood, the things women face because of men, thrown at Ms. Marks, so quickly, so brutal. It’s awful. Particularly when Mary’s screams are heard and she comes bursting out in a terrible state.
Grace: “It was either one corpse that way, or two the other.”
Our lady tried taking care of her friend. Until one day she woke to a cold, dead Mary in bed. A true tragic end for the young woman. Thus leading others to the discovery of the “bad business” involved in her agonising death. An even sadder moment is when Grace doesn’t know if her friend’s faking, having once faked a death-like moment with her in the laundry.
Later, Grace goes into a state of disembodied shock yelling to the others: “Where is Grace?”
Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 8.20.42 PMFor it is not always the one who strikes the blow that is the actual murderer.”
This series has started out so strong, at a particularly relevant time here at the tail end of 2017. When so many women are finally able to come forward without (as much) fear as before, that their stories might not believed. Grace Marks isn’t entirely the best historical example, as there are many questions about the factual authenticity to certain claims.
However, there’s so much in her story that plays out as a microcosm of what all women go through in the course of their lives. Being a woman is harder than being a man; any man who can’t admit that doesn’t understand history, the balance of power between genders, and likely feels a false sense of constructed masculinity that’s unwilling to let them see a woman’s perspective clearly.
Can’t wait for Part 3.

American Giallo & Misogyny in NIGHT SCHOOL

Night School. 1981. Directed by Kenneth Hughes. Screenplay by Ruth Avergon.
Starring Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Nick Cairis, Karen MacDonald, Annette Miller, Bill McCann, Margo Skinner, Elizabeth Barnitz, & Belle McDonald.
Fiducial Resource Industrial/Lorimar Film Entertainment/Paramount Pictures
Rated R. 88 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★
Pic 2Night School is an ’80s film I’d not seen until just recently. It might not be at the top of the pile, but this Kenneth Hughes-directed slasher, featuring Rachel Ward’s first onscreen credit, feels less like an American genre picture, more of a European-style thriller with horror elements, as if it were a Giallo set in the middle of Boston’s mean streets.
Decapitations. Gruesome crime scene discoveries. A slick and gorgeous, at the same time gritty style. Maybe not huge on substance, though it tries, it shoots for the stars; the story attempts going into a rumination on misogyny, its internalisation by women, and the primitivity of modern man.
Of course the film never quite reaches the proper heights, marred by a little bad acting, some flimsy writing. What saves the whole thing is the directorial style, the cinematography, as well as the nasty Giallo-like kills, as if Argento and Bava were both guiding Hughes by the hand. Never derivative, simply a loving homage to the Italians.
And those decapitations! Get some.
Pic 3A gruesome scene opens the film with a decapitation, starting out strong. Unnerving atmosphere comes in right away, Boston feels ugly, scary, foreboding. Makes the viewer feel nothing and no one is safe. Right after the first kill, there’s a beautiful cut acting as a shot of blood; the camera pulls out to reveal a red coat in a crowd of people. Just a perfect edit.
Moreover, the suspenseful atmosphere is bolstered by a wonderful score that uses strings and synths to both put us in that classic horror space, and also disrupt us with the electronic bits, a solid technique in building fear – this and some clever scenes which throw us off balance, then jump in for a scare; a couple beats, no fright, a pomegranate being smeared across two lovers looking as red as blood, followed by the next scene’s beat coming with a scare. This one, two, three rhythm to the visuals cracks the viewer in the mouth when a good fright lands.
Aside from that there’s a fantastic feel of Giallo, set in America: the black leather, the black bike helmet, a shiny steel kukri knife looking bright and sinister at once, splashes of crimson blood and pomegranate interchangeably, dark alleys, hallways, shadows. The gorgeousness of the style juxtaposed with the brutal killing is striking. Part of the fun is wondering where the next head will turn up – in an aquarium, or a full sink, or who knows where else. Bunches of stylistic fun to soak in.
Then there are several images, specific shots that feel extremely rare for an American slasher film. For instance – my favourite – a semi nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and the staircase shot; it’s not the same type of shot, but it’s undeniably similar, and because it’s slightly different it doesn’t feel ripped off. As our detective heads up a staircase, the shot captures him as if he’s stuck in an inescapable spiral, the decapitation murders case spinning him around from end to the next until he doesn’t know which way is up and which is down.
Pic 1

Theres always a reason

Where the film fails is its writing. Although the bones are there, the themes lined up to get knocked down scene by scene. Instead of unfolding these themes properly, the screenplay gets bogged down in the slasher aspects.
Supposedly civilised city characters here view the jungle and primitive society as savage, however, urban serial killers are as vicious, if not more, and without ritual meaning. We’re shown the difference between the urban brutality of U.S. cities and the more primitive, sometimes spiritual nature of violence in those outside ‘normal’ society, illustrating that, at our core, we’re no different than the people living in a jungle. Except for the fact we can’t admit to our primitivity, whereas they’ve accepted it wholly.
At the centre of the story and its plot is the concept of internalised misogyny. Here, a man’s infidelity in the face of the love of a woman, a baby on the way, drives the woman to kill those he lusted after. An allegory of how far into madness the misogynistic behaviour of a man can push a woman. This isn’t jealousy, this is a woman determined to be respected, to have her body and baby and the sanctity of that bond respected. Ultimately, he also pays a dear price, too.
A college class and its professor present this aspect of primitive humanity, studying other cultures who still live in tribes in isolated parts of the world. This sets up an urban v. wilderness theme. Only writer Ruth Avergon never brings it all to fruition. It isn’t all her fault. Because the acting, for the most part all around, can’t hold up these themes. Ward gives it a shot, in her feature film debut, just isn’t enough to carry the deep sense of gravitas needed to sell the big themes at play. They’re certainly present, it’s no doubt. Sadly they never get to where they’re headed.
Pic 4Night School could’ve been much better. Still enjoyable, very much so. It’s an early ’80s gem, despite its few big faults. The way its best moments emulate Italian horror, specifically Argento and Bava, is a treat; it isn’t the only American horror to do so, it’s just incredibly stylish. A visual feast. Likewise, those visuals bring us into the shadowy, uneasy streets of Boston with such ease, making the bright, flashy moments feel bigger. In comparison to the brightness the dark feels all the more sinister.
I do wish the screenplay made more of its themes. When a slasher ups its game with additional themes there’s a memorable quality to them, aside from the standard blood and gore – in this case, heads. It could’ve still been awesome if the acting was better, too. But alas, Hughes and Avergon and the rest did what they could, do a point.
Nice flick for a group of friends. It doesn’t have any laughs, not even any unintentional ones, either. But it’s fun, it’s brutal, and the identity of the killer’s fun to find out through all the weaving the plot does. Enjoy this slasher/American Giallo for what’s it worth, just expect its best, most intriguing themes to die on the vine. Go in for the cut off heads, you won’t be disappointed in the least.

GERALD’S GAME: One Woman’s Revelatory Odyssey Into Misogyny

Gerald’s Game. 2017. Directed by Mike Flanagan. Screenplay by Flanagan & Jeff Howard.
Starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Carel Struycken, Kate Siegel, & Chiara Aurelia.
Intrepid Pictures
Not Rated. 103 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★★

DisclaimerThe following review discusses the film in-depth. As such, it contains spoilers in reference to important plot points and themes in the film. If you haven’t, get on Netflix, watch, then come back for a lively discussion.
Lest ye be spoiled!

Gerald's Game 1I’ve long adored Stephen King, ever since my mother introduced me to his books; I first saw them on her shelves, unable to read them until she said I was old enough, then I fell in love. His writing is so human, even when he’s dipping into the supernatural. Of all his novels, Gerald’s Game is entirely human, despite touching on aspects that are definitely not of this world. Best of all, the novel’s protagonist Jessie Burlingame (played here by the fabulous Carla Gugino) is at her most vulnerable in a situation requiring her greatest strengths.
King’s story explored so much of Jessie’s life, her experience with the men in it, the events those relationships further precipitated. Director Mike Flanagan and his co-writer Jeff Howard manage to illustrate all the important moments in the film’s 103-minute runtime. Sticking so close to the novel, it allows Flanagan to bring its imagery to life in a unique way that’s exciting even for readers like myself who’ve read and revered the book already.
More than that it’s the themes at play which resonate, especially at a point in time where we need more strong films taking on the horror of misogyny. Gerald’s Game explores the dichotomy of truth and lies within a marriage, how sexual fantasies – particularly rape-fantasy – turn men into dangerous foes instead of husbands to the wives they supposedly love, as well as how those titles like husband, or father, don’t mean anything when in the face of predatory men.
And all of this relies on the powerhouse performance of Gugino, whose Jessie – the centrepiece of the story, despite the title – must either transform into the powerful women lying in wait inside herself, or else perish.
Gerald's Game 2

Well, Im pretty sure you just lost your mind.”

At its core, King’s novel is a metaphor of the overall misogyny women experience at the hands of men in every facet of life. Gerald’s Game works on several levels. It’s Gerald’s (Bruce Greenwood) game to bring the handcuffs to the cabin, to spice up his and Jessie’s marriage. However, it’s also the game many men play, making a woman feel as if she has to conform to his idea of sexuality and how they express it as a couple in order to ‘save the marriage.’ Jessie must play the game with Gerald, though later on we discover how, stuck between her father and mother, young Jessie had to play an entirely different game.
The main ideas floating around from the start centre on Jessie and Gerald’s marriage. Is your partner who they truly are, or merely who you want them to be? Do they, after a time, just become our vision of their personality instead of themselves? Through her predicament, left handcuffed to the bed after Gerald has a heart attack and cracks his head on the floor, Jessie forcibly confronts herself, ultimately. Both her own identity and also her relationship to her husband, how she views him as a man and a husband; plus, how being a man is inextricably linked to any other role a man plays.
Being stuck in the cuffs is a literal event, but it’s likewise an allegorical one. Jessie’s been controlled by men, one way or another, her entire life. So now, she must wholly rely on herself to break those figurative and literal bonds and free herself, to live again and to keep on living. The later we go on, the above quote transforms into more of a gaslighting question than one we understand as Jessie actually having a mental breakdown, stuck to the bed. She has to overcome the fantasies men wish to impose on her to survive.
Gerald's Game 3

Youre only made of moonlight

Gerald's Game 4Jessie’s mental state and her perspective are, obviously, crucial to the novel, which is the major reason Flanagan creates such a perfect adaptation with his film. There’s a stream of consciousness feel, as he weaves back and forth from past to present, dropping us in and out of memory. We slip from waking visions to nightmarish sleep, blurring the edges of reality until the actual moments of genuine reality crash in, frightening the viewer as much as Jessie.
Like in the novel, the Moonlight Man (Carel Struycken), the Space Cowboy, is where the idea of the supernatural exists, on the edges of the story’s heart. We never know what’s pure fiction, dreams and nightmares interchangeably. The Moonlight Man is like a shadow cast by real life into Jessie’s subconscious, conjuring up awful things she sees between sleep and struggling to get out of those cuffs. Until the finale, where the men in Jessie’s life, from her father to her husband, come to a culmination in the worst of man – a necrophile serial killer. He was real all along. And with this reality comes the other reality: the worst she believed about the other men in her life – her paedophile father, her misogynist husband masquerading most his life as a loving one while harbouring a dark rape-fantasy – is also very real.
At the same time, the film’s ending validates Jessie, her struggle. Throughout her ordeal, she faced not only her spacial limitations, stuck on that bed, she pushed past the mental violence that’s been afflicted on her with the physical violence that accompanied it. She’ll never forget what’s happened to her. But she’ll also never let it dictate her life.

Youre so much smaller than I remember

Gerald's Game 5The victory of Jessie is what makes everything worth it. Yes, there’s horror, there’s so much tension and suspense it could eat you alive. Same as it was in King’s novel. By the end, Flanagan offers us the hope and the power in Jessie that King did, Carla Gugino’s quiet power punctuating the character’s transformation.
Again like the novel, the end is phenomenal. Flanagan gives us one important set of images in those last moments that hammer home the allegory at work. Gerald’s line “Dont ask a question you dont wanna know the answer to” becomes the crux on which the film and Jessie’s journey hang. Because she’s asked the questions, she’s confronted their answers, and still, she stands.
Gerald’s Game, for Father Gore, is perfect. Out of the park adaptation, on top of the pile with the best. Flanagan works on the viewer’s nerves, using the isolated setting and plot to his advantage, the paranoia coursing through each frame, so much so it’s the quiet moments which truly land the hardest impact.
Many who aren’t familiar with the original King novel might get a different impression just by the poster or the trailer or reading a plot summary, but this is a movie about a powerful woman. She doesn’t know she’s powerful in the beginning. It’s the transformative journey she undertakes at the hands of her husband, a microcosm of general misogyny, which reveals this power to her. For all its graphic qualities, Gerald’s Game goes for the emotional, existential terror lurking inside the relationships of women’s daily lives.

Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 5

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 5
Directed by Jane Campion
Written by Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 6, click here.
Pic 1Puss (David Dencik) comes to take Mary (Alice Englert) from Robin’s (Elisabeth Moss) place in the night. At the same time we see a surreal dream Robin has, of holding two tiny babies in her palms as she puts on a shirt, answering the door. She wakes, but the image sticks in her mind, as it does in ours. She has to break the news about their daughter leaving when Pyke (Ewen Leslie) gets there with food for breakfast. Poor dad is gonna snap soon enough. I’m surprised he hasn’t yet, he’s a good man; better than I.
Now they’ve figured out what’s going on, that Puss is prostituting Mary. Or trying to, anyways. Nearly too much for Pyke to bear. He and Robin have one another in the whole ordeal, even if Julia (Nicole Kidman) isn’t aware or into their closeness. Meanwhile, Robin’s trying her best as detective sergeant to properly put a case on the pimp, for Mary’s sake, for Cinnamon’s sake, for the sake of all the girls under his ’employ’ and those who might/will be in the future.
At least they’ve got Brett (Lincoln Vickery), he’s the only man who genuinely seems to care about the deceased China girl. He’s identifying specific marks for the police on the girl’s body, to prove it’s her, as well as to prove how well he knew her. He describes “a small gold cross” she wore constantly and some specific moles, among other specific details. Afterwards, Robin comes up against the creepy cop who wants to bed her, he’s insistent. We also see the casual misogyny of some men, as another detective says there’s “yes nos” when it comes to women; an example of the male gender not understanding that no means fucking no, full stop. Such good writing because it brings out that misogyny so many men don’t even understand is hateful towards women, erasing a woman’s right to make decisions for herself.
Pic 1ABrett is going absolutely crazy. He’s hallucinating Cinnamon, so much so he introduces his mother to her while clearly there’s not a soul there with him. That’s shocking, in such a sad way.
Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) is having troubles, worrying about her baby. Not getting much sympathy from her supposed mentor. This puts the big lady on a warpath, no time for anyone’s bullshit. She questions a woman about Cinnamon, revealing that she was a “sex worker” who’s wound up dead. Then the constable trips out, scared for her baby and making a scene. This puts the two women at odds once more, Robin and Miranda both butting heads.
Nobody ever seems to ask about Robin’s story. So she reveals a bit of herself to the constable: she’s been pregnant 4 times, 3 of those miscarriages. Through it all they become honest with one another. Miranda reveals she isn’t having the baby, right now she’s wearing a fake stomach. Shit, I didn’t expect that. We see that the whole emotional bit for the constable involves the fact she had problems getting pregnant. She went through IVF, and worried the baby in Cinnamon’s belly was her surrogate daughter until it was revealed the fetus was a boy.
Robin: “I will haunt you
The psyche of Brett is further crumbling, worse by the hour. He’s back with his friends around the table again at the coffee shop. He’s still acting like Cinnamon is alive. Not just that, he’s filming everything. Telling people it’ll be “on the news.” This sort of freaks me out. Could Brett have done something to Cinnamon? Or is he merely having a psychological break after her death?
Pic 2Miranda: “Fuck love, its a disease. People die from it.”
Despite all the shit, Mary is still in love with Puss. She seems intent on being a part of that whole lifestyle at the brothel, like she actually believes it’ll be good to be a prostitute. At the same time she’s noticing things around Silk 41, how they operate. I wonder what happens when Dang (Ling Cooper Tang) feels she’s too much a liability.
One of the girls is leaving, going to Thailand. Puss and Dang’s partner take her to go. I wonder if she’s really going, or if it’s the same way Cinnamon was leaving with a suitcase. Mary wonders, too. The rift beginning to wedge between her and the pimp, finally. I hope it’s soon enough.
Pixie, the woman from the doctor’s office where Miranda had her freak out, isn’t answering her door. Everyone is outside waiting. So they bust inside, only to find her lying in bed, stone dead. Apparent suicide. A letter left to Miranda, involving people who’ve lost touch with surrogates. Devastating, yet this will hopefully help with the police investigation, and surely very worried couples.
Pic 3Coming home, Robin finds Puss waiting for her. To apologise, he says. She’s of course got her back up immediately. Then he asks about Cinnamon, the case. He tries deflecting onto someone else, to make himself seem innocent. Except he reeks of guilt. “You should do your job,” he says. Also the girl is Thai, which I suspected but did’t know for sure. Goes to show you the label of China girl is a slight racism, in how white people just assume Asian is Chinese, or sometimes Japanese.
Julia (Nicole Kidman) isn’t overly happy to know Pyke (Ewen Leslie) is having Robin over for dinner. Nor that the birth mother’s been seeing the daughter a bit as of late. The adoptive mother gets her back up. The so-called feminist doesn’t care to know anything about Robin’s story, about what happened to make her give up her child. Luckily, the detective sergeant can laugh things off. She and Pyke have a nice little bit of wine, cheese, grapes, they talk about his past. She even gets a look at Mary’s room, the place she grew up. A touching, heavy moment. Giving her a window into her daughter’s mind, her identity. And also a pregnancy test lying on the dresser: negative. Dad worries her daughter isn’t being safe, Robin worries she’s invading her daughter’s privacy.
Pic 4Looks like Puss is trying to make himself a movie, making a set look like the jungles in Thailand. He directs women and a bunch of screeching babies, shooting with the camera himself and not letting Mary or her friend help, bossing them around. Everything he does, he’s a woman hater; misogynistic, through and through.
Meanwhile, Robin and Pyke are trying to get talking with Mary. They see the pimp waiting for her outside school like a creep. Finally, dad loses his cool, confronting the man, who pumps out his idiotic rhetoric while Pyke professes the fatherly love he has for his girl. Honestly? Broke me a bit. Ewen Leslie is a damn fine actor, man!
Together later, Pyke and Robin fall into bed. Finally. He treats her with tenderness, as opposed to so many other men in her life, almost every one of them. Across the city, Brett continues hallucinating Cinnamon. Then he heads out on the bus, telling more people to watch the news tonight. I’m starting to really worry about this dude.
At Silk 41, Brett walks in with his gun drawn. Heading for Puss. The cowardly pimp pushes Mary in front of him, heading into an elevator. Just as the young man shoots at him.
Pic 5Holy fuck. Will Mary take the bullet? If so, will she die? Oh. My. Laaawd. I’ve not been this twisted up by a cliffhanger in ages. What a powerful moment, a scary one that nearly stopped my heart.

Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 1

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 1
Directed by Jane Campion
Written by Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
Pic 1After a fantastic Season 1, which I’ll eventually get around to reviewing, Jane Campion and Gerard Lee return with Season 2, China Girl. We open on a few people sitting together to eat in a small apartment. The feeling is there’s business to discuss. In a back room are a bunch of young women, crammed together on a bed. A white man and a Chinese woman take suitcases with them, out into the night. They bring one down near the ocean, it’s heavy and hard to carry. After some trouble they toss it into the ocean. Is there a body in there? I’d be willing to bet yes.
Then we switch over to see Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) once again, after all this time. Although she doesn’t appear much better than she was the last we saw her. She’s got a letter with her, one she literally holds close to her heart. Is it from Johnno? Or Tui? Who?
Regardless, Robin’s still an officer of the law. In fact she’s higher up nowadays, a bit. teaching cops how to do their job properly. When a young officer laughs at her, things get a bit tense when she has him up as an example for the others and he asks a question that does not sit well, about her shooting Al Parker. While Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) admires her for all her work, the men are full of misogyny, piss, and vinegar when it comes to our kick ass detective. Her superiors think she’s being an “asshole” instead of standing up for herself. Ah, nothing’s really changed, has it? Men, they never change.
Pic 1AAll the while, below the ocean’s waves, a suitcase sits still in the water, a long bit of dark hair sticking from out of it. Soon, it floats to the top. You can be sure our Dt. Griffin will end up hearing tell of this case.
Adrian (Clayton Jacobson), Robin’s boss, takes her out for a drink, to chat about things and how she’s been doing. She says she’s “celibate now” after so much bullshit, nearly getting married; then, whatever’s happened between her and Johnno. He isn’t around anymore, from the looks of it. Just wonder why. Meanwhile, Parker’s putting a civil case against Robin, saying her shooting of him was related to personal issues between the two of them. The “circumstantial evidence” may not cut it, though she believes it will. Also she mentions being drugged, waking up in his bed. What we’re seeing, more and more, is the misogyny from all angles women face. Robin’s merely a microcosm of that symptom.
We also see the man from the apartment earlier, an East German named Alexander ‘Puss’ Braun (David Dencik). He’s eerie. He waits around a school for a young girl to come out, escorting her home, yet it doesn’t feel like a father-daughter relationship. Feels sleazier than that. Either way he’s no good to be around, he’s helping to run a brothel called Silk 41, full of Asian women of various ages. And now there’s a girl missing, the others worry, knowing she didn’t take her passport with her. Puss passes it off as her running off for a bit. Seeing that suitcase, we know different. He uses his pimp charm to ease his ladies’ minds. His own history’s riddled with brutality: the bastard product of a rape.
What could be worse? The young woman he pals around with is Mary Edwards (Alice Englert). And who’s she? The daughter Robin gave up for adoption.
Puss: “No one ever gives away power. Power has to be taken.”
Pic 2We hear roundabout of a girl at Silk 41 named Cinnamon, from a bunch of men who frequent the joint. The same girl the others at the brothel worry over. She’s apparently a favourite. What we witness is the undercurrent of how so many men view women as disposable, as objects, as a “transaction” and a means to an end. Whereas one guy Brett (Lincoln Vickery) actually seems to care about the girl, the others see her only as another piece of meat. He cares so much that it bothers him thinking Cinnamon would leave without telling him. A glimmer of hope amongst the shattering misogyny: at least someone cares about her, enough so it may help figure out what’s happened to her, how she wound up in that suitcase at the bottom of the ocean.
Things are shit shit shit for Robin. She’s been living with her estrange brother Liam, but things are getting too much. Oh, and that letter from before, the one Robin cherishes so dearly? It’s from Mary, the daughter she gave up. Her adoptive parents are Pyke (Ewen Leslie) and Julia Edwards (Nicole Kidman). The relationship between the Edwards family certainly isn’t picturesque. Mary and Julia do not get along, the daughter calls her a “lezzo” and doesn’t want to even hug her. Pyke is sort of caught in the middle, an easy going dude who plays referee. Makes things all the more uneasy for the fact Mary wants to bring Puss over, calling him a “professor friend” instead of that pimp she’s dating from the local brothel.
They have him over for dinner. Chatting away about Puss’ supposed research, sussing out who he is, what he’s about. Stark contrast between a pimp and Julia, a self-professed feminist who studied in great places, taught politics. Plus the pimp busts out his bullshit chauvinist rhetoric while calling himself a feminist. Enough to want to make her jump down his throat. All the while Mary thinks her mom is trying to hit on the guy. Poor young girl’s indoctrinated, like so many today in real life, into believing feminism is out to hurt women, when it’s out to help everyone, men alike.
Worse still, Puss is asking to marry their daughter. Christ almighty. Not to mention Robin’s semi-stalking the daughter she gave away to adoption, lurking outside the house and likely regretting the decision she made.
Julia: “Im just trying to survive
Pic 3 (1)Robin ain’t doing well. She has horrible dreams, so much so it wakes Miranda across the hall from her at her new place. She checks in on Dt. Griffin, who isn’t happy to have a fellow officer hear her screaming in her sleep. Nevertheless, Constable Hilmarson is hilarious and ridiculous and weird enough to make Robin feel comfortable.
Simultaneously, on the shore that suitcase drifts in, and a lifeguard pulls it onto the beach. Where it’s horrifying contents are all but clear. This sends Dt. Griffin and Constable Hilmarson down to investigate. Inside the suitcase, of course, is the body of a young Chinese girl. Surely our Cinnamon.
Pic 4Fantastic opener to Season 2 of Top of the Lake! God, I love this series. Was so thrilled to hear Campion and Lee were going to bring it back, and with a few additional talented acting talents to boot. Excited to watch where this goes. I have a feeling we’re going to go even darker, deeper than Season 1, as well.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 10: “Night”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 10: “Night”
Directed by Kari Skogland
Written by Bruce Miller

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Bridge” – click here
Pic 1We cut back to when the women were first being introduced to Gilead. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) laments the “parade of sluts” in their regular attire. Even though they’re all dressed normally. This is a hyperreality of misogyny.
They’re instructed to clasp their hands, look downward. June a.k.a Offred (Elisabeth Moss) reminisces from her present situation, about the look in the eyes of the handmaids now, sentiment only previously known in spurts, never prolonged. Now, it is all they know. They’re indentured to the patriarchy.
June is brought to a dark room. Where Aunt Lydia and other aunts insert some kind of tracking device into her, blasting it from a nail gun-like contraption into the flesh just above her ear. Such nasty stuff.
But remembering, not forgetting is important. It fuels the determined rage which June continually feels, hopefully leading to her escape from all this someday. Right now, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is taking out her frustrations on the handmaid. The lady of the house knows what’s been going on with her husband and their servant. She forces June to take a pregnancy test, after beating the shit out of her.
Whatever empathy I tried feeling for Serena is gone. She’s fully complicit in ways that go beyond any fear for her own safety. She is awful. Not as awful as the men, though. Never.
And now June is with child.
June: “They shouldve never given us uniforms if they didnt want us to be an army
Pic 1APoor June, she has to remember her first pregnancy, a much happier and safer time when she and Luke (O-T Fagbenle) were able to feel excited for the coming of their child. These days, it’s ugly. Nothing to feel good about.
We find out more of what Serena’s discovered when she confronts her husband Fred (Joseph Fiennes). There’s further evidence Serena also helped write some of the laws used to enslave women in Gilead. The same laws and misogyny her husband uses to keep her down, to literally make her feel as if she’s at fault for his lust. Like he wasn’t wretched enough already. Serena then blasts him as “not worthy” to father a child, telling him that Offred’s baby is not of his creation. Christ, I can’t imagine what this will cause.
Later on Nick (Max Minghella) discovers June is pregnant. He reacts with tenderness, though I still feel it’s very problematic. She did feel something for him when they had sex. However, the fact she even had sex with him in the first place is STILL forcible. She would’ve never otherwise done so if she weren’t shackled by the patriarchy in that nation-state. Every decision which led her to those moments in bed with Nick were forced by misogynist law. Therefore I find it difficult to find this meant-to-be-touching scene at all nice. It’s creepy.
Moira (Samira Wiley) is out in the cold, sneaking through the woods. She comes across a farm; she’s in Ontario, Canada. Across the border, finally! This is a bigger ray of hope than I personally anticipated.
Pic 2Off someplace unknown to her, June waits in the car. Serena heads into a house then comes back outside with June’s daughter, Hannah. Right there, where she’s unable to speak to the girl. This is one of the most cruel things Mrs. Waterford has done to the handmaid. Not THE most cruel; that would be holding her down to be raped. But this is so tragic, hurts the heart to see June so close to her daughter. Serena is despicable. And this has really pushed our woman over the edge.
June: “Youre fucking evil, you know that? Youre a goddamn motherfucking monster.”
Commander Putnam testifies to his sins, regarding the whole mess of a situation last episode with Janine (Madeline Brewer). The Council are sitting around discussing the offence. We see the hypocritical nature of them all, but most definitely Commander Waterford, whose own transgressions shine through clearly. Others aren’t so quick to forgive, such as Commander Pryce. So, what’s to be done? Putnam must offer a sacrifice to God, to show that he accepts his sins and the consequences. He gives over his left forearm to surgical amputation as a show of faith. Man alive, these fellas are some sick puppies. The lot of them. Bunch of perverted religious freaks.
That night, June goes to the Commander. Asking that he protect her daughter from Serena. She warns that Fred does not know his wife, the extent to which she’ll go, the depths she’s willing to sink to hurt one of her own kind. In her room June finds a packet of letters written by various handmaids, the postcards of abused and ravaged women calling out to the world for help. This is like viewing her own death, already written before her; figuratively and literally. It’s almost enough to make her want to give up. But she won’t, ever.
Pic 3Moira experiences a culture shock, going from the US to Canada. She is now an American refugee in the land of freedom, where women are still people. The biggest difference is just dealing with men, seeing a man that doesn’t treat her as an object. He processes her into the country, welcoming her to Ontario, and offering all sorts of things she hasn’t been able to do in so long. One of the basics? Read a book. So fucking sad to hear, and at the same time glorious. (Also feel good being a Canadian.)
Alone together, Fred and Serena hash out their issues. He’s looking to the future, the expectancy of a child coming to them. She is, of course, devastated that it isn’t her having a child. Just like a typical abuser, Fred plays sweet right now. He talks a good game about being “a family” after the baby is born, and after June is gone.
All the handmaids are out listening to Aunt Lydia, performing one Gilead’s many strange rituals. They take off their “wings” – the blinders on their head gear – and proceed to each pick up rocks. They bring out Janine, punished for the crime of endangering a child. Set for a fatal stoning. Ofglen refuses to comply, and she’s cracked in the mouth with a rifle. After that none of them move. Until June steps out of the line, the men draw guns on her. The handmaid drops her stone. Next is Alma, then the others, all of them. Each replying: “Im sorry, Aunt Lydia.”
Will this start a revolution? Is this the beginning of their rebellion, or will this cause something worse? I feel it’s one of the first acts that will help liberate the women. Every revolution must begin with small steps.
Pic 4In Canada, Luke and Moira find each other. She was on his list, as a family member. It’s a bittersweet reunion without June there, yet still wonderful. Just to know she is safe for now, that she isn’t alone.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 10.52.00 AM
All the while June remains in her room, under lock and key. Suddenly, men come to take her away. Although Nick says to trust him and go. The Waterfords protest, but the men take her regardless.
She’s put into the back of a vehicle, carted off. To who knows where. Punishment, or being saved? We’ll have to wait to find out.
What a spectacular finale, loved it! We know there’s a Season 2 coming, and I think that helped me with the ambiguity of the ending. I’d still have enjoyed it, anyways. There’s a lot of character development, plenty of things to get excited over for next season, and the tension was unbearable during a couple moments. Love the writing, can’t wait for next season already.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 10.58.52 AM

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1, Episode 9: “The Bridge”

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 9: “The Bridge”
Directed by Kate Dennis
Written by Eric Tuchman

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Jezebels” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Night” – click here
Pic 1Ofwarren a.k.a Janine (Madeline Brewer) goes through the ceremony of passing over her child to the infertile wife and her husband, as Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) watches on. Nothing goes as smooth as imagined, of course. The wife is a lot less understanding than the husband, even Lydia. But Commander Putnam (Stephen Kunken) manages to get Janine to hand over the baby. Such a tragic thing to watch. Every bit of this existence is tragic; to see this type of thing happen is even more emotional. She’s forced to carry a rapist’s child to term, to grow attached, then hand it over without so much as a whimper.
When they’re carting Janine off, Offred a.k.a June (Elisabeth Moss) asks Aunt Lydia if Janine is okay. The old woman says she’s fine. That this ought to serve “as a lesson.” A lesson in silence, obedience, in subservience to the patriarchy.
Afterwards, as the handmaids leave, June talks to Alma (Nina Kiri) about helping with Mayday. Receiving only a cold shoulder.
Pic 1AMeanwhile, Commander Daniel and his wife are receiving their new handmaid: Janine. She is Ofdaniel now. Another identity laid upon her like a wreath. Lydia, using a bit of old Victorian imagery, tells her to “go like an open flower” to her latest captors. Yet in these few scenes, much as this old woman is complicit in the patriarchy’s authoritarian rule, she has the well of tears in her eyes. As if it’s all getting too brutal, even for her. Hmm… I wonder…
Out for a walk with her new baby, Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) is totally ungrateful for the gift she’s been given, by another fertile woman. She longs for a more obedient girl, such as Offred apparently. And all the while she bitches to Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who still is without a child of rape to raise as her own.
Mayday does need June; so says Alma. She says they need her to go back to Jezebels, there’s a package there for them. But how will she get herself there? Will she go to Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and finagle a way to the club? This is exciting, and frighteningly intense.
She does indeed go see Fred, alone at night. Telling him of how thrilling their adventure outside Gilead’s walls was for her. She’s got a great poker face, I love it. Like playing a game of chess, she baits him. He takes it; hook, line, and sinker. She plays eager for him, and he sees eager. So, they plan for another trip late in the night once the house is asleep. And away they go, with Nick (Max Minghella) driving them as usual.
Pic 2While her husband is away, cheating and raping, Serena is at home with Rita (Amanda Brugel). The lady of the house continually worries whether Offred is with child, if she’s having a period. Not only is it all rapey, it is so invasive, so creepy and ugly. Serena may be in distress herself, she doesn’t do any favours for herself playing into the patriarchal society of Gilead. Slowly, as she realises her husband’s more buried faults, I imagine she won’t be so eager to keep chugging along complicit.
At her new home, Janine heads to the bedroom with the wife and they await the Commander. Another rape night. They go about their business and it’s even more mechanical than anything we’ve witnessed before. The wife chastises Janine when she fights it – “Be still” – before she pushes them off. Her identity is collapsing, she can’t let herself go from one man to the next, required in her hideous duty as a handmaid.
At the same time, June suffers through another rape herself. All to try getting to the package at Jezebels. She plays to his ego, talking him up. Although he believes she’s there to meet somebody, for which he’s made arrangements. In comes Moira (Samira Wiley), though under a different name working at the club. He acts like a suave lover, like he’s done them a favour and earned a few brownie points.
In the kitchen, Nick is asking questions about Offred. The woman serving him knows he’s got feelings, warning it’s a quick journey to hanging on the wall a corpse. Simultaneously, Moira is pissed at June for coming back, for spying and being part of Mayday. It’s as if this brutal new world has broken her, changed the fundamental part of who she is – a rebel, a fighter. Moreover, June thought she was dead, and that devastated her. This all puts the two women at odds, with one wanting to keep fighting and the other feeling like giving up.
Moira: “Go home and just do what they say
Pic 3When the Commander gets home Serena is, naturally, curious as to where he’s been all night. You can see the bond between them breaking, further every day. It’s a good thing, I think. Because there’s hope that Serena may someday see the light, perhaps step out of the patriarchy’s shadow and start thinking for herself again. Will she see the error of her ways? Or will Gilead swallow her whole entirely?
June is shaken awake in the morning by Serena. They take her out to the bridge, where Janine has fled with the baby. She stands at the edge above the water, child in arms. When the Commander protests, she yells about the “freaky shit” he wanted her to do and how he promised they’d run away, just the two of them. June is called in to talk her down. Janine hands over the child, then plunges into the river. She’s later carted off to the hospital and left under the care of Aunt Lydia.
Naomi: “Men dont change
Pic 4When June goes to pick up meat at the butchers, she’s given more than a cut of beef – she’s given the package meant to be picked up at Jezebels. And it’s a man handing it over. A trap? She isn’t so sure, paranoia runs high. Rather than not looking inside she curiously spies a card tucked into it; signed by Moira. YES, GIRL! YAS! Not only does she have the package for Mayday, she has hope again that her friend has not given up.
Poor Moira’s trapped at that club, her new identity as Ruby. She’s got a few little tricks up her sleeve, all the same; literally. She manages to get herself free, into a car, and out on the road. Where’s she heading first?
Pic 5Fuck yes. Great penultimate episode, so excited for the finale! Last up is “Night” and I’m hoping they’ll get our adrenaline pumping for the end of this amazing, nuanced, and brutal Season 1.