Luca Guadagnino carves out his own territory in horror cinema history with his remake of Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA
PUPPET MASTER II joins the ‘better than the 1st movie’ club alongside other sequels that managed to outdo their predecessors.
URBAN EXPLORER's not a good movie, but it has plenty of things to say about how we sometimes choose to hide the past rather than confront it.
Jack goes back to the lodge with Ernest, causing trouble with his wife. And in the desert, he and the team begin new tests.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 8: “Blood Bath”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the previous episode, “Test of Strength” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” – click here
After the blood already shed, an episode titled “Blood Bath” sounds quite promising.
Opening on Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy), we begin with her lamenting about Dandy (Finn Wittrock) to a psychiatrist. He believes institutionalizing the young man may be in order, but she won’t have that word bandied about in the same sentence as his name. We see flashback to a young Dandy playing sadistically with a young version of Gabourey Sidibe’s character. She claims no was “an affront” to him, a “battle cry”. He had a history back then of killing small animals, as well as terrorizing others. Until one day a boy he played with frequently vanished, no doubt as a result of Dandy’s nasty predilections. The boy was “never seen again.” She, of course, does not reveal all the “recent incidents” to her psychiatrist which brought on all her worries. No, let’s not mention all the murder.
Just a little note: the more I watch the opening each episode, the more I think Freak Show‘s credit sequence is the creepiest to me. Very unsettling with all the messed up animation and the clowns and the macabre imagery. I loved Coven, and all of them, but this one is particularly wild.
Everyone is out searching for Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) – Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), even Dell (Michael Chiklis), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) is there too. Out in the woods, Jimmy stumbles across the clothing of the little one. It is brought back to Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) in a box. She weeps for the tiny girl, who they all believe was taken and killed by some animal in the night. A sad scene, especially knowing what we know after last episode. Although, Ethel (Kathy Bates) seems unimpressed. She thinks it’s all bullshit: “Thought you‘d be high as a Limehouse whore by now,” she says dryly entering Elsa’s tent. A slap across the face for Ethel comes later; we know the truth, but I can understand how Ethel believes all that’s precious to Elsa is “the roar of the crowd.” Only problem is this will cause undue friction between these two, and it makes me worry when anyone crosses paths in any way with Elsa. She’s out for herself and herself only.
Things get tense between Ethel and Elsa. Eventually when the situation gets very hot, ready to boil over, a gunshot goes off putting a hole right through Elsa’s leg; the wooden part, anyways. To the surprise of Ethel, who didn’t even realize he own supposedly close friend was a so-called freak herself.
Another of my favourite sequences this season comes with more flashbacks to Elsa and her past in Germany. We get more Danny Huston, who comes back as a doctor who made Elsa new legs after they were taken from her by the sick men who made those vile films. I think there is such amazing chemistry between Huston and Lange, they are two incredible acting talents and I love that Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk brought them together once again after Coven giving them another romance, yet an entirely different kind of one. Such power in this black-and-white flash back sequence.
And then, before Ethel can get revenge on Elsa for betraying her trust, Elsa wings a knife right into her eye. Ethel dies then and there. The titular bath of blood has commenced.
Enter Stanley (Denis O’Hare). His greasiness helps Elsa cover up the murder of Ethel, staging it as a suicide and featuring a performance from Ms. Mars to rival any other performance of hers before. She steps up the dramatics in order to match the ridiculousness of their cover-up plan. Everyone is devastated, not least of which is her son Jimmy (Evan Peters), whose life only gets worse and worse as the time goes on. Headlong into depression Jimmy goes, pushing Maggie (Emma Roberts) away. During the reveal of what happened we go between the present and when Elsa/Stanley set up the scene to have Ethel’s body decapitated in one of the most strange suicides ever.
Elsa is out recruiting once more in the hospital wards. She finds a large woman named Barbara (Chrissy Metz) who gets invited into the troupe. She’s renamed Ima Wiggles and gets fed on the hour every hour. Even more than that, Jimmy begins to fall into her arms in an eerily Oedipal lust for a large woman after his mother died.
Over at the Mott House, Dandy is entertaining Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe). Her housekeeper mother hasn’t phoned in so long. Gloria shows up, nervous as usual and especially so seeing as how she knows exactly where mama Dora is buried. She tries to convince Regina her mother is off buying squash somewhere. Not going to work at all. Then Dandy ends up in psychoanalysis with Gloria’s psychiatrist, but it’s all sort of under wraps. Only he figures it all out, he’s not exactly stupid: just fucking crazy. This drives him further mad. He talks about tribes in Papa New Guinea and how they would eat the defeated tribe, their chief – he wonders if it’s possible to “take someone‘s power by eating their flesh” or if you could just get it done by “bathing in their blood.” Hmm, will we see a true to life blood bath tonight? Certainly seems like now that Regina threatens she’ll go to the police if her mother isn’t back by suppertime tomorrow.
Possibly my favourite bit of this season sees the fed-up freak women join together – Eve, Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett), Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins; RIP, she passed away today), along with the newly minted ‘Lizard Girl’ Penny (Grace Gummer). First they come together over Ethel, who was a “survivor since the day she was born.” Desiree gives an impassioned speech to the women about how they must rise up, take hold of their lives, because the law doesn’t care about them. They decide to go and kidnap Penny’s father Vince (Lee Tergesen). They will have their cathartic revenge against all terrible men by taking revenge upon Vince for what he had done to his own flesh-and-blood. They attack him in his home, drag him back to one of the trailers at the tent city. Then, Vince experiences a good old fashioned tar and feathering. Such a savage and intense moment, yet it’s perfect; Vince deserves everything he gets.
Later on, Dandy goes home. He is enraged with life, his mother, everything. He reveals he’s the product of incest, and a father who did things “to those little girls.” Gloria is astounded by his demeanour. As he goes to put the gun to his head, she cries that she couldn’t go on in life without him. To which he replies with a bullet through her forehead.
Afterwards, we see the titular bathing, as Dandy bathes in a white tub in his lavish room: filled to the brim with his mother’s blood.
“I was born of deadly sin. You knew what father had done to those little girls. You knew the risks of breeding with your cousin. You‘re no better than the Roosevelts.”
“How dare you say that name in this house!”
As the insanity escalates, Father Gore’s looking forward to the next episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre.”
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 4: “I Am Anne Frank: Part I”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Mad Men, Shameless, Ray Donovan)
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the previous episode, “Nor’easter” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” – click here
The beginning of this episode begins, appropriately due to the title, as a young woman (Franka Potente) is brought to Briarcliff. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange)
Meanwhile, poor Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) is in the clutches of Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). She thinks he’s about to kill her – legs already chopped off and what not – but Arden chillingly exclaims that “after this you‘ll probably live forever” before injecting her in the neck with some unknown serum. This is more of the mad doctor showing off his penchant for doing bad things to the patients at the asylum.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is still being smacked around and examined by Arden. After finding the strange bug-like metal implant in Kit’s neck, the Dr. Arden is determined to find out who (or what) is spying on him, or who’s been manipulating the young man.
Kit and Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) are getting closer, as she discloses the truth of why she’s at Briarcliff. Apparently, having discovered someone murdering her father she hid away and tried to survive the massacre. Supposedly she’s been framed for it all.
So Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Shelley, and the Mexican (who was actually killed) are assumed to be gone, while it was actually Lana (Sarah Paulson), Grace, and Kit who’d tried to escape. Lucky for them, but not for the others.
Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) tries his best, all he can do in his power, to help Lana. He knows there’s something more inside of her than simply an asylum patient, an inmate locked away to rot. Thredson says he can get her out if he can show Briarcliff and the bureaucracy that she’s been cured; though, she plainly tells him she’s been “this way” all her life. We’ll see how rough things get for Lana as the episodes go on. I do love how the show tries to examine some of the atrocities the LGBTQ community has faced, particularly in this case at the hands of psychiatric hospitals and religious run mental hospitals such as Briarcliff. Good way to use a horror show, to examine these types of issues and situations.
Thredson also tries his best, again, to do what he can for Kit Walker. Young Kit is still being persecuted for the crimes of Bloody Face, denying it every step of the way. Dr. Thredson thinks he merely disassociated because of what happened, the murder he committed; Kit does not agree, however, he agrees to go along with Thredson’s plans to hopefully escape the death penalty. Thredson attempts to get Kit to face his crimes, but it’s tough going for the young man to even being to believe he killed his own loving wife Alma (Britne Oldford).
It turns out the young woman (Franka Potente) who’d been admitted at the top of the episode claims her name is Anne Frank. She throws a fit in the recreation room when Dr. Arden walks in, claiming that he was in Auschwitz.
She explains about living on the streets of Germany, too sick to tell anyone who she was, and then eventually Anne supposedly met an American soldier from New Jersey. She did not want to ruin the martyrdom of her ‘story’, so remained dead to the world.
Anne then tells Jude about how Dr. Arden is not who he seems – he was in fact an S.S officer at Auschwitz, Dr. Hans Gruber. There are parallels between him and Josef Mengele immediately: the first we see of Gruber/Arden in this new context, he is being very friendly with two twin boys, twins who were not seen again. Furthermore, he began to take women away and brought them back sickly, in poor health, sworn to secrecy. So it’s obvious Arden is a sort of Mengele archetype, doing his sick experiments on the Jews.
And if the story is true, now he’s experimenting in his Nazi ways on Briarcliff inmates. All in the name of science supposedly.
Regardless, now Jude has even more of a reason to be suspicious of Arden. Though, it’s likely Anne is not Anne at all, there is still a palpable feeling to what Jude hears and we can see it has stuck in her craw, that it will not let her rest. Fun to watch where this development may head.
After a wonderful dream sequence where Lana sees herself accepting a journalism award, giving a speech while still traipsing around the asylum, she rushes to Oliver and wants to start her therapy right away. It’s very clear, if wasn’t before, Lana has become fixated on getting out, her determination may be both a good thing, as well as her downfall.
Grace and Kit move closer and closer. She doesn’t care what his crimes were, whether or not he is Bloody Face or if he’s innocent; it’s obvious Grace cares for him, on some level.
They have a brief and heated encounter in the bakery, where Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) finds them having sex on one of the bread tables. This, naturally, lands them up in the office of Sister Jude. A little corporal punishment is sure to be doled out. The new and sassy Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) picks out her choice of rods for Jude to use, however, the older nun believes sterilization for the both of them is in order.
But after Grace is taken away, the demonic Mary leaves Grace’s file open on the desk for Kit to read. And this is the first time Kit sees, for real, what exactly happened for Grace to arrive in the asylum.
Once the both of them are back in their cells, Kit confronts Grace and she tells him the truth: it was she who killed her own father. However, Kit comes to accept her as she’d equally accepted him no matter what he’d done. A true bond forms.
Harkening back to “Tricks and Treats“, two detectives show up questioning Arden about his encounter with the prostitute at his house. She reported he roughed her up, as well as the fact there was S&M pornography in his dresser, alongside Nazi memorabilia; this last bit especially peaks Jude’s interest. Though they cannot arrest him, now Jude has more fuel to the fire.
When mentioning her worries about Arden to Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes), Jude reveals to him she believes the new patient to be Anne Frank. Sadly, this makes Howard believe there is a bias she has towards Arden, that there is an obsession Jude has over the man which is slightly unhealthy. Truly all she wants to do is protect a man she cares for, and slightly loves/lusts for, but Howard is linked up slightly with Arden somehow, which taints him. Worst of all, Howard accuses her of drinking again because of the drunkenness she displayed during their screening of The Sign of the Cross, and it’s evident she feels slightly defeated by the Monsignor.
Shockingly, right after Jude leaves Howard calls Arden in his lab, warning “they‘re onto you” and advises to clean up anything that may need to be cleaned up – NOW! I’m interested to see how this plays out and exactly what it is binding Howard to Arden in such a devious way.
Back to poor Lana, who is undergoing aversion/conversion therapy – a practice no longer undertaken by anyone serious in the psychological field, I’m sure it’s probably not even legal anymore; at least not in the way Thredson administers it. First, with a strong morphine drip and a bucket in front of her, Lana is exposed to pictures of women, sexy stuff, including her now dead lover (due to Bloody Face), and the morphine prompts her to throw up, hopefully meant to turn her away from the lust she feels towards women by reminding her of that disgust next time the feelings reoccur.
Worst of all, Thredson brings a male patient, Daniel (Casey Wyman) in to help in the conversion aspect of her therapy. She has to masturbate herself while touching his penis, but the sickness of the morphine comes back and ruins everything.
This stuff is SO INTENSE and highly disturbing. Again, though, I’m highly pleased Ryan Murphy and the writers are examining some of the things involved with psychiatry many experienced during the 1950s, even up until the 1980s in some cases. It’s wild that it ever went on, but great a show like this has the balls to confront these issues head-on.
Dr. Thredson comes to Lana and gives her the picture he had of her lover. He promises not to let her rot in Briarcliff. There is hope now at the end of the tunnel, a light shining, and Lana finally has something to care about, she’s not simply fighting to survive but rather there is a kind of redemption coming. At least, we hope so.
Kit Walker is also coming to an end of a tunnel, in a sense. He feels crazy and wants to try and figure out WHATEVER the truth might be in the end. While talking to Jude there’s a great moment when he says that the aliens he supposedly couldn’t have been real, and she gives him this look, signifying Oh yes they could be, as we know that during her drunken state she’d actually seen one of them briefly. So I love how there’s this weird dynamic happening now with Jude and Kit, even while she does still think he’s the killer of women for which the police have been looking.
The end of the episode is HUGE!
Dr. Arden hauls Anne Frank in to his lab, threatening her. But all of a sudden she pulls a gun, one she managed to wrestle off one of the detectives before they left Briarcliff. She shoots Arden in one of his legs. Then, right before the credits run, she opens a door: Shelley is inside, her face is deformed and hideous, bulging out with sores and puss, croaking out “Help me.”
Whoa. What a kicker.
Can’t wait to review the next episode, the second half this two-parter “I Am Anne Frank: Part II.” Stay tuned!
Fury. 2014. Directed & Written by David Ayer.
Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peňa, Jon Bernthal, and Jim Parrack.
134 min. Rated R.
David Ayer’s new thriller Fury is by far one of the most brutal and honest films set during the Second World War ever made. Not only does it present the agony of war, it also works as a great character piece.
Brad Pitt leads the cast as Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, a sergeant who rides aboard the titular tank, Fury. Alongside him are his three most trusted men. However, after one of those men dies the crew is saddled with a fresh young army recruit (Lerman) hauled from desk duty to fight in the second Battalion. The five men continue through Germany together, killing every Nazi they find, and try to hold onto their humanity in the face of war and death.The film looks beautiful and everything feels very real (this also marks the first time an actual Tiger tank has been used on a movie set). Ayer shot with film instead of digitally, which gives Fury a very bleak, grim feeling as the tanks and the troops behind them trek through miles of mud. The way it’s filmed gives an almost nostalgic feel reminiscent of other great war pictures. No doubt there will be more than a few comparisons to the blockbuster Steven Spielberg film, Saving Private Ryan. Regardless of its predecessors, however, this film holds its own as one of the best World War II films out there.
Fury is not delegated solely to bombs, bullets, and the horrific images of war. Ayer wonderfully crafts the film from its opening with a blurry shot of a figure on horseback. It moves slowly through an area where a fight has recently occurred. Bodies lay everywhere. Ashes and fire are all around. The figure, a German, comes into view riding a pale white horse: one of the Four Horsemen, symbolizing death. Wardaddy ambushes the man, killing him, and sends the horse on its way. For a moment he has driven death out. Later, we see the white horse again galloping away once more. When the film nears a close you begin to understand Ayer’s use of symbolism.
Fury is mainly about what war does to those who engage in and are surrounded by it. It is a film about men trying to hold onto their humanity under the most gruelling conditions. One of the central struggles of the characters is their justification of death as preventing worse deaths for others. How does a man keep on being human even after holding a gun to another man’s head and pulling the trigger? And what if a man is forced to do that is worse? Ayer explores these dilemmas throughout the film with help of some stellar acting on all parts.
Pitt earns his keep as a continually interesting actor. His portrayal of Wardaddy is fairly subtle and restrained. He looks and acts the part of a haunted war veteran. In solitary moments where the camera sticks on him Pitt conveys a side of war not often seen, as he fights with the emotion inside him trying to escape. The supporting cast is just as top notch. Shia LaBeouf proves capable of playing a quiet character instead of the usual loud cockiness he displays. Joe Bernthal, best known from AMC’s The Walking Dead and Michael Peňa who starred in Ayer’s earlier film End of Watch, are both in fine form playing men who have seen and done too much to simply return to normal after the war is over. However, it is Logan Lerman that really shines. Playing the rookie soldier on the tank crew alongside Pitt, he displays great acting talent, and conveys the terror of many young men drafted and thrust into battle during World War II without ever having so much as fired a gun. Overall the main cast works together to depict the weary strain of war on those who’ve fought.
I cannot recommend Fury enough. The cinematography is something to behold and really captures the grit of World War II’s muddy trenches. Honestly, for a dark look at war this movie is dripping with gorgeous shots. I love the camerawork. Certain shots here were just perfect. Ayer really set the tone with an overall atmosphere of tension. There was literal fog often rolling over the war fields, and it help to create the mood: a sense of dread hung over each scene.
There are fairly divided opinions on both Shia LaBeouf and Brad Pitt, and depending on which side you fall it could skew how the movie plays, but I believe they each put in a fantastic performance here. This is a tightly scripted film driven by the emotional force of the actors.
I’ve seen a review or two saying this movie was “so grim” and other such statements. One reviewer even claimed he felt like he “needed a hug” afterwards. I mean, there are so many things wrong with this way of thought. A movie, unless otherwise specified, is not meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Especially not one about the brutal nature of war, and during World War II no less. This is all about the grim picture. This is meant to make you feel unsettled and even a bit terrified, at least for the characters. I can never stand when people feel they have to like a character, or be made to feel good because of a character’s actions or by the plot – whatever. It’s all about whatever the character or plot is intended to do: final cause. This is the purpose of Fury – to unnerve you, displace your feelings and take you out of those comfort zones. Just as it must have felt for any of these men to be drafted and stuffed into a tank together. To be shoved out into the fields of some town in another country, on another continent. To be told you’re going to either live or die – there is no middle ground.
So, in essence, Fury should really make you feel conflicted in certain ways, it should absolutely leave you with a grim feeling, and looking for hugs afterwards. If so, it has absolutely served its final purpose.
There are countless war movies out there. What sets one apart from the pack is its honesty. Ayer pulls no punches about the realities of war from the script to the action sequences. Many war veterans often say that the real heroes never came home; Fury is a cinematic testament to this statement.