Mr. Mercedes – Episode 1: “Pilot”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by David E. Kelley

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, “On Your Mark” – click here
Pic 1We start in 2009, in Ohio. Extremely early in the morning at a City Jobs Fair. People are lined up outside through a roped walkway. Everyone waits patiently, some introducing themselves to one another. Others aren’t entirely happy to be there, not into the socialising. Regardless, everyone there’s starved for work, from the older folk to a young mother with her baby and every sort in between.
Suddenly, a Mercedes pulls up. Lights beaming onto the crowd. The driver slides on a clown mask, breathing heavy. Then he drives directly through the people, barrelling forward at top speed. People scream, running away fast as they can.
But some don’t escape. The driver ploughs over them, including the young mom and her child, a man helping her. Tons and tons of bodies lie bloody, crunched, smashed to bits in his wreckage. Holy christ, what a brutal sequence! When the smoke clears, Detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) turns up on the scene to survey the carnage and begin an investigation along with fellow lawman Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence). The senselessness isn’t immediately evident. Pete thinks the driver “lost control” of his vehicle. Hodges knows better.
Pic 1AWe jump ahead, two years later. Looks as if Dt. Hodges is a bit rough around the edges, lying in his own wreckage now. Mostly consisting of beer cans, cigarettes, and peanuts. Bit of a mess, in more ways than one. He’s got a lot of time to himself these days. Him and his friend Fred, the tortoise in the backyard. Seems they’re sort of at the same pace. He still has dinner with Pete, keeping in touch after his retirement.
One thing’s clear, though – Bill’s got unfinished business. Like many cops who’ve retired with unsolved cases. He doesn’t even feel like himself. While Pete and a local waitress named Sheila (Tuesday Beebe) try keeping him on track, as does nosy neighbour Ida Silver (the incomparable Holland Taylor), there’ll always be something not right with him. He just slides further into the bottle.
Bill: “Ever notice everythings upside down on a spoon?”
Sheila: “Maybe thats how life is, hon. Spoons just got it figured out.”
Perfectly with The Ramones playing “Pet Sematary” on the radio, we’re introduced to Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway). He works at a store dealing in electronics, computers, all that sort of thing. He’s got a regular life, he and co-worker dealing with shitty customers and a corporate cut-out boss. And his boss, oh, man: a piece of work! He’s basically jealous of Brady’s talent with computers, cutting him down a peg at any corner possible.
We see that Ida’s nosy because she’s looking for a companion, at least a sexual one. But underneath all that – she’s a proud lady, after all – there’s a genuine concern about Bill. She doesn’t want to see him waste away, she’s seen it before. She doesn’t want him to have “retreated from the living” just because of retirement. So, despite her sort of snooty attitude at first, she’s genuinely worried the man doesn’t have any purpose. And without purpose, without telos, what IS a man?
Pic 2Well, there’s still a purpose. Deep down there somewhere.
Particularly after he gets an e-mail addressed from Mr. M. Subject line: Long Time. We see a clown mask briefly. Then the screen switches to a smiley face, speaking to him with an electronically disguised voice. Taunting about his retirement, his weight gain, and the fact he never solved his case. Up come a bunch of pictures of the victims driven down outside the City Jobs Fair. He even tells the former detective he wore a condom that night, for fear he’d ejaculate and leave evidence. The whole video is wildly disturbing, and totally terrifying.
So if there wasn’t purpose before, if he didn’t consciously care about it already, now Bill is paying attention. Now, he has something he must do. If not, he’ll likely suffer the rest of retirement in a haze of insanity.
We also cut back to Brady, his mother Deborah (Kelly Lynch) worrying he’s working too many hours. That he’s “all work and no play” – sound familiar, Stephen King fans? Similar to another fella named Jack. She worries more about him, that he’s never had a girlfriend, that he’s withdrawn, even if he’s a smart guy. Oh, and it turns out mommy has other things on her mind. Things no mother ought to be doing with her son, y’know, like incest. Yikes. Although Brady leaves before things go too far. Instead he spends time alone stroking one out rather than go all the way. Man, that’s unsettling.
If you didn’t know already, Brady is Mr. Mercedes.
Pic 3Pic 3AThe fun will-they won’t-they between Ida and Bill continues. She’s not happy she showed him a nude on her phone and he wouldn’t look at it. She insists he looks. He does, if not a bit reluctantly. I hope they continue this relationship, on any level, because Gleeson and Taylor together’s like some kind of sweet magic.
When Bill clicks a link on his computer with a smiley face, it goes to a short few clips of Mr. Mercedes driving through the people in the crowd that day, the clown mask, his distorted laughter. A fucking evil thing to witness.
Bill: “Now personally I think closure is overfuckingrated, but the nightmares, the panic attacks I could do without.”
So he’s poking around more, asking Pete questions about the case. His friend doesn’t want him to obsess anymore, like he did at the end of his career. Later, he ends up at the electronics store where Brady works. He’s looking for a surveillance camera, though he doesn’t come in contact with the young man. A slick moment of near chance.
Afterwards he heads to a towing lot. A place he’s evidently been quite a few times. There lies the bloody, beat up Mercedes kept in storage. Just seeing it leaves the retired cop in agony, imagining all the people being run over in those seconds of brutality. He sits in the driver’s seat, as if imagining himself driving.
Pic 5At home he gets the camera installed with help from a neighbour kid who does stuff around the house for him regularly, including with the latest e-mail business. And who else is rolling around the neighbourhood? It’s Brady. One of his other jobs is as a Mr. Friendly’s ice cream truck driver, serving up scoops for the kids, and fucking with Hodges, tossing a tennis ball with a smiley face into the yard for him to find.
Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 5.15.26 PMMan, oh, man! I did not expect the first episode to be so damn good. Much as I love King, I’m always sceptical going into a film or television adaptation of his work. Which is a bonus when it’s actually fucking great. So much to love here, and not least is the use of punk rock in the soundtrack. Love it!
“On Your Mark” is next week, so stay tuned. We’re going to get deeper into this creepy little world of Mr. King’s together.

 

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Discovery’s Frontier – Pilot: Capitalism, Colonialism, Blood; Oh, My!

Discovery’s Frontier
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Brad Peyton
Written by Peter Blackie, Rob Blackie, & Perry Chafe

* For a review of the next episode, “Little Brother War” – click here
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In the world of fur trading, we start in disputed territory where things have gone violent and bloody. A man named Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) is seeing to it that those on that land, land which doesn’t belong to them, feel his wrath. He’s sending a message to the British: this is war.
In London, at the Hudson’s Bay Company, Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) is getting report from Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) about what Harp has done. We also discover Declan is half-Native, half-Irish. Seems Chesterfield is a bit of a cocky fellow, hoping to rush in and take care of the man. But Benton is smarter, knowing Declan could be a much bigger problem than just a little bit of rebellion. He wants to use the rebel leader an “example.”
Around Gravesend Pier a few thieves are trying to keep themselves in food, hoping to survive, and not sure how long they will. They soon set their sights on a ship full of redcoats. They want to steal a bit of gunpowder to hawk off, make a handful of coin.
Along a river in disputed territory, Harp finds Jean-Marc Rivard (Paul Fauteux). They’ve got dealings together, each of them fairly skilled in the art of business. Harp is trying to get a meeting with Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle). Although Rivard tells him the furs they’ve been given so far aren’t enough. Declan says he’s going to make a deal with the Cree. Hmm. Is that wishful thinking on his part?


The thieves – Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron) and Clenna Dolan (Breanne Hill) – sneak onto the boat for the gunpowder in the night. They’re crafty, this crew. Michael warns Clenna to be careful with handling it or “the last thing thatll go through your mindll be your arse.” On deck, they’re headed off by a couple of men, and their friend is stabbed to death, thrown overboard. Clenna makes off into the dark, as Michael does his best to weasel a way to safety; for the time being he stows away below deck. Doesn’t help when the ship is off to sea and he’s just waking up. Fuck sakes, Mikey. That is the last place you want to be. Not even like they’re close to shore, either. Right out on the open ocean. Let’s hope he is crafty enough to get himself out of there safely. As for Clenna, she’s been caught and locked away.
Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) tends bar at a tavern. She knows quite a few people. One man has no money for drink, so he trades a few secrets on the HBC for a glass. Good Christ, the stuff she has to endure. A drunk governor rambles on about Lord Benton and there’s talk of him coming over to bring his own wrath to Declan Harp. However, Grace puts it in perspective: “What he brings is opportunity.”
Eventually Michael’s found below deck. Before he gets tossed overboard, Lord Benton gives him a chance to redeem himself. When what he tells the Lord is true Benton kills another man in front of everybody. Then puts a ring back on his bloody hand. One ruthless bastard. Michael winds up getting a spot on the boat, though surely he’ll have to make himself of use. Chesterfield meets with Benton later, they talk about the competition “choking off” their fur trade endeavours. They set their sights on Harp as a demonstration of power. To snuff out any further competition. Benton tasks Smyth with tracking down Declan, reaching out via their similar Irish blood. To take the deal Michael wants Clenna released and his charges dropped. But is he going to like making this deal with the devil down the road? I think not. I guarantee that.
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Samuel Grant receives a greeting from Rivard. The fairly fancy Grant is trying on a sealskin coat. His trapper friend requests him to a meeting with Harp. Doesn’t seem like the man is interested. Rivard all but begs him. Of course Declan’s reputation precedes him. What we’re seeing here are the various power struggles, so many people rushing to capitalism that there is a struggle to climb to the top. In the end, Grant agrees to a meeting. Only if the notorious man comes to him in Montreal.
At Fort James – far as I can tell, this fort was located in disputed territory somewhere between Quebec and New Brunswick, likely closer to the latter (see here) – Michael winds up in a predicament when a redcoat is murdered. Father Coffin (Christian McKay) helps him on a whim and gets him away from a bit of trouble. The priest claims himself as the guide Smyth is seeking. Coffin reluctantly says he’ll take him to Harp. Eventually, anyways. I get the feeling Coffin’s a greasy con artist. And he is, indeed!
On Benton’s ship Grace goes to see the Lord. She sets the record straight on Michael not having anything to do with the murder earlier. She also tries to ingratiate herself to the Lord, make things easier for herself. She winds up taking a maid named Imogen (Diana Bentley) on to help at the tavern; the “eyes and ears” for Benton, like you could’ve guessed.
Chesterfield goes to the tavern and questions a barmaid named Mary (Breanne Hill) about Michael, under the eye of Grace. But that isn’t much help. This Chesterfield is a rotten bastard. Even chokes Mary, at least until Grace pulls a blade on him.


Out amongst the woods Coffin leads Michael towards wherever they’ll find Harp. The younger man reveals to the supposed priest he “has no choice” except go forward and meet the fur trader. Oh, if only the redcoats didn’t find them. Or perhaps that isn’t the case. Coffin probably wasn’t going to take him to the right place; the con artist thing and all. So the two are held captive. That night Natives led by Sokanon (Jessica Matten) attack the camp, killing the redcoats. They whisk Coffin and Mike away.
Trekking through the woods they work their way across the a river to a camp inland. There, they meet Harp; he’s covered in blood, having worked on an animal recently, doing a bit of skinning. Michael admits to looking for Declan, yet the man himself doesn’t believe that. Most of all nobody is impressed with the priest.
And young Mike Smyth has a choice: give up information on Lord Benton, or “join the priest.” Death is around the corner. Just depends on how much.

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Not all of this first episode impressed me. Enough of it did that I’m excited to see the second episode now. Some of this was shot in my home province of Newfoundland, so it’s nice to see our locations on display. Both Momoa and Liboiron have me interested already. Very much looking forward to what they’ll do respectively and together.
The following episode is titled “Little Brother War” and I’m hoping there’ll be a good bit of action to get us going hard into the rest of the season. Here’s to more Frontier!

Banshee – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

Cinemax’s Banshee
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by David Schickler & Jonathan Tropper

* For a review of the next episode, “The Rave” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 9.06.10 PM Banshee‘s pilot episode begins on a prison yard. The unnamed protagonist (Antony Starr) is leaving. Although, it is tough to get a read on him. He heads off down the train tracks into nowhere specific. Along the way he hits the bar, bangs a bartender. All the things any man who’d just gotten out of jail would probably want to do.
We know he can jack cars easily because he picks one up for a ride. In the city, he goes to see the fabulous Job (Hoon Lee), whose enthusiasm to see an old friend isn’t exactly bursting at the seams. Our protagonist starts to beat the shit out of the place until Job gives up what little he does know. Seems Job is a bit of a hacker, and he knows where one Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic) lives; obviously someone they both know, and someone that means a great deal to our main man. As he leaves, there are men waiting for him. He smiles, as if expecting them. Then leads the bastards on a chase through the streets. A wild one with bullets and everything! Even an overturned bus. This Cinemax series really starts out with a nice bang. Full-on thrills. This sets up an obviously wild identity for the so far unnamed lead character. And that’s also intriguing, that we don’t get to know him well enough to know his name, but get a glimpse of his unbalanced life.
The first time I watched the series I was very struck by the theme song and the score overall by Methodic Doubt. Different, edgy, melodic, heavy. Dig it.


Another highly intriguing aspect of this series is its inclusion of Amish culture, which we can see as our protagonist heads into the town of Banshee. We’ll sore more of that later. For now, we’re introduced to Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen). He’s the local gangster of sorts. Immediately his reach is apparent, having slipped out of court and the prosecution of Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell).
More importantly, now we meet Carrie. She’s married to Gordon. So what does that mean or her relationship to the mystery man? Well, she has a whole life there. A husband, two kids. She nearly has a heart attack after spying a man in her garden; seconds later, he’s gone. Upstairs, Gordon smokes pot in the shower, leaning out the window; he’s got some kind of shoulder injury, it seems. The build up of not knowing exactly who the protagonist is, what his relationship to Carrie is either, it really makes things interesting. Of course, going back and knowing what I know after all these seasons, it isn’t a surprise anymore. Yet still fun. The writing is top notch and makes this pilot episode spectacular.
So our guy ends up at the bar of Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison). He was a former cruiserweight boxer. They bond a little, talking about Sugar’s boxing career, so on. Again, we get no straight answers from the lead. Except that he did time; so did Sugar. This solidifies their bond. Sugar is one of the lucky ones. He’s got a bar, some credibility. From the bathroom comes a man named Lucas Hood (Griff Furst). He’s the new Sheriff in town, came in quick not being voted in and all. So fast he hasn’t met anyone there yet, and the guy who brought him in died suddenly.
Not as sudden as a couple armed men show up to spoil things. All the while, Hood eats his steak dinner. The robbers don’t like that. A confrontation brews, our mystery man looks positively nervous – but not because he can’t handle himself. He gets into the mix. The robbers and the new Sheriff end up dead. Uh oh.
So what do two ex-cons do with three corpses, “on ofem a cop“? Sugar says he’ll take care of it because one way or another those guys were coming with bad intentions. For now, the mystery man is off the hook.Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 9.27.52 PM So he goes to see Ana – or, Carrie, as she goes by now. He wants to know about the kids, specifically her daughter Deva (Ryann Shane), her age. They’ve obviously had a long, storied romantic history. She mentions someone named Rabbit. So clearly their past must involve criminal activity. He wants his cut of their final job. She claims the diamonds were taken – all $10-million. There was a life this guy dreamed of outside the walls of that prison – 15 years inside – and now it all crumbled away. He has nothing left whatsoever.
He shows up to help Sugar with the dirty deeds. Considering there’s nothing for him elsewhere. And when they’re about to bury the Sheriff, his cellphone rings. It’s Mayor Dan Kendall (Daniel Ross Owens). Our mystery man, on a whim, to take up the identity of Lucas Hood. Of course Sugar doesn’t like the prospect, but off he goes. Now our mystery man has a name: it’s Lucas Hood.
He gives Job a call – all the while washing off the badge, as if washing away his old identity, too. Having a hacker friend, one of the best to boot, is always great. Especially if you’re a major criminal like Hood. We find out from Job that Hood is one of the most notorious thieves in the U.S. What fun this whole mess will bring.
Flashbacks tell us brief bits about Rabbit. They stole from him, which was clearly a mistake. He’s obviously a powerful figure. We’ll certainly discover more soon.
More Kai Proctor, too. He and Sugar have a casual relationship, knowing one another for quite some time. A couple of Kai’s guys went missing, so he’s checking around for where they might’ve ended up. But Sugar is able to keep him off the trail for now.
And Carrie, she’s starting to have some troubles. With her husband she starts remembering her days with Hood, their life together, their sex. All those old feelings come rushing back. She has a new life now, those feelings will only serve to disrupt all that.
But Hood, he’s busy becoming Hood. He meets with the Mayor and starts kicking things off. So far so good, as the guy has no idea what Hood looks like anyways. Perfect fit. At the same time, Job is having trouble staying in one spot, as the men who hunted Hood in the streets of the city earlier are now coming for him. A hacker as tricky and sly as Job isn’t going to let a couple guys in suits with guns be the end of him. When he figures out they work for Rabbit, he manages to slip out of the situation and detonate some explosives in the building. Not only action packed, Job’s character comes out in this sequence; we understand he is also a pretty serious criminal in his own right, having those kind of measures ready at the drop of a hat.
Hood is brought down to the cop shop – the Cadi, an old Cadillac dealership with only half a name hanging on front of the place. Nevertheless, everyone there is top notch from Brock Lotus (Matt Servitto), Siobhan Kelly (Trieste Kelly Dunn), to Emmett Yawners (Demetrius Grosse). When Brock takes Hood out on a drive through town, they come across some guys lead by Cole Moody (J.D. Evermore) giving an Amish man a hard time. Naturally the tough guy in Hood has him right in the middle of things. We now start to understand Hood’s character further, too. He isn’t simply a thief. He is a bad ass motherfucker. Four guys try and take him on, but his skills are beyond them. Then Kai shows up. The Amish guy? We find out later he’s Kai’s dad. That can’t mean anything good for those guys beating up on him.
Here we get a bit of the Amish angle. It’s clear Kai is shunned by the community, as his father won’t look at him or speak to him.Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 9.52.31 PM Briefly, Hood encounters Carrie’s daughter Deva – he bumps into her, lifting her wallet to read her ID. Now he has suspicions about her age. Is it possible that’s his daughter? Carrie did lie about her age, so that’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Over at the slaughterhouse, Kai is teaching lessons. He’s summoned Cole to talk about his behaviour earlier, especially when he called Kai’s father a “fucking Dutchie“, which the Amish find terribly offensive. Kai lays a beating on Cole, knocks out his teeth, then makes him put the things back in before leaving. The toughness of Kai is obvious, too. Love how all the characters are developed so well in this first episode. Really makes you want to keep watching.
We find out more about Kai. His secret life at home. He likes when women dress up in Amish clothes before they have sex. That’s some weird, creepy shit. A bit of repressed sexuality somewhere along the line before he broke out of the community, no doubt.
There’s even a bit about Siobhan. She has a brutal, reddened scar on her shoulder near her neck. What could that be from? Definitely something significant, or else it wouldn’t have been included.


Finally Sheriff Hood – the fake one – is being sworn in. An amazing sequence that shows him during the swearing in ceremony, side by side with him investigating a crime he himself committed. Job creating the new identity. Sugar getting his belt back, clearly bought by Hood. All wrapped into one nice montage.
A big party at Proctor’s place draws everyone in town – the Hopewells, the police, Hood, everybody of any importance. In the background, always, hovers Kai’s personal bodyguard Clay Burton (Matthew Rauch). Best of all, Hood comes face to face with Carrie again, plus her husband. What a surreal, shocking moment. Furthermore, Hood meets a few of the big players around Banshee, including Chief Benjamin Longshadow (Russell Means) and his son Alex (Anthony Ruivivar). So the identity is sinking in, more and more.
Carrie isn’t pleased about him sticking around, though. That’s bound to keep generating tension and driving forward much of the plot. He loves her and isn’t about to let that part of his life completely slip away. Also, he needs her skills to open a safe; the one he stole from the scene he’d been investigating.


Carrie: “Sorry, Im not myself tonight.”
Hood: “No? Who are you then?”


Out of nowhere, Cole knocks Hood over with a punch. Trouble is a’brewing. He heads into the party with a gun, literally gunning for Proctor. Only Hood takes him down with one shot, surprising everyone. More surprises, as Carrie freaks Gordon out with a bit of ninja-like behaviour. Lots of layers, this episode. What will the death of Cole bring for Hood? Barely there a minute and he’s already killed a few people.
But the finale of the episode takes us to the infamous Rabbit. His man survived the explosion at Job’s place. These guys are Russian mob, and Rabbit seems damn scary. He won’t stop until both Ana/Carrie and Hood are found.
Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.10.19 PM Stay with me for a recap and review of the next episode “The Rave”, which gets Hood into the mix of Banshee and the police department, as well as more of history clawing back to his present. Love this series, and really enjoying watching it over another time, recapping, reviewing closely.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by John Wells
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a review of the next episode, “We Don’t Hurt People” – click here
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David Michôd’s 2010 film Animal Kingdom was a tour-de-force in acting, tension, and the story of a family’s widening darkness. Of course set in Australia and telling the story of a crime family coming up violently against the police, Michôd did a great job drawing out an impressive drama that was riddled with secrets, power struggles, and so much more.
This new series from TNT begins right where the film did, too. Joshua Cody (Finn Cole) watches his mother overdose, and die. The paramedics come for her. Later, he’s forced to call his grandmother, Smurf (Ellen Barkin), to tell her the bad news. When grandma arrives she goes through her daughter’s things, y’know, in case there’s anything worth taking. Or anything that needs to be taken.
So Josh ends up having to go live with Smurf. They’ve been estranged for a decade. Over at grandma’s the place is like a palace, with nice vehicles outside, all the toys, a pool table inside. On the table next to some strawberries are stacks of cash, bundled. Looks like the Cody family are definitely into some shady shit.


So now we’re introduced to some of Smurf’s boys. Close family friend Barry ‘Baz’ Brown (Scott Speedman), plus two of her sons Craig and Deran Cody (Ben Robson/Jake Weary). They’re ready to party, as it seems is the norm. Grandma is busy getting cupcakes and other grub ready. For the time being, Josh is in the room where his uncle Andrew – a.k.a Pope (Shawn Hatosy) – usually stays.
But outside, the gang are a little at odds. Deran wonders if they can trust their little nephew. The others aren’t so sure, either. They’re wary of him because they don’t know what their now dead junkie sister Julia “put in his head“, but Smurf lays down the law and tasks them with figuring it out. “The kid is in until I say he isn‘t,” explains the matriarch.
Meanwhile, Josh’s mother is still on the hook for money to a local dealer. He knows Josh, he knows where they lived, so what’s stopping him from tracking the kid down? If he really wants that cash. So there’s a lot for the guy to deal with, right after the death of his mother. Lots of feelings delayed. At the same time, Smurf’s house is a veritable party place where her sons frolic. It’s a very free, weird atmosphere. Even more than the original film, which was odd enough re: the relationship between mom and her sons. Smurf wears a revealing gown, showing off her body, as Craig storms out from his room naked. No secrets, though. That’s the strange message that does come across here. There is nothing hiding anything between Smurf and her boys, even if it ventures over the semi-incestuous border.


The uncles take their nephew for some surfing, to try and “suss him out“, as commanded by their mother. And after a confrontation with some other surfers, Craig puts a piece in Josh’s hand. He runs them off and they end up with a couple new boards for themselves.
Life is a general party for Smurf and the boys. A life too good to be true. Baz and his lady Catherine (Daniella Alonso) are usually around, their little girl, too. Big pool parties, all the time. Joints, beers, liquor, women. Lavish lifestyle on the regular. Josh slowly tries to become a part of the clan and get used to this new way of living.
Then, out of nowhere, Pope arrives, almost clandestine. He frightens Josh a little. And now we’re introduced to Pope, his history of bank robbery, jail, so on. There’s a bit of resentment in the air, as he makes clear the time served, out loud, for everybody to hear. His disposition is quiet, subtle. But anyone who knows actor Shawn Hatosy knows he can be volatile, so I look forward to him picking up on the role Ben Mendelsohn played so well in the original.
Josh is on the precipice of becoming part of a dangerous group of individuals. There’s obviously a good person in him. He doesn’t quite fit right in, even holding that gun with his uncle Craig at the beach. But it’s obvious there is a disconnect between him and the things his family are doing.


Speaking of fitting in, Pope isn’t happy with how things are after his jail sentence. Things have changed. Not that they’ve moved on, but naturally a criminal enterprise has to switch things up a little after one of its major players goes to jail. He wants back in, though, Smurf and Baz have to keep him slightly distant.
The worst part is that while Josh is part of the family, by blood, the rest of the family and Baz are not sure about him because he has this total other part of him, a life outside the family. This makes him a liability.
Meanwhile, Baz and the Cody brothers are out preparing for a job. They round up a bunch of junkies, lock them in a vehicle overnight to get it smelling terrible. What are they up to?
Later on with Uncle Pope, Josh talks awkwardly. Well Pope goes on about Josh’s mother, how they were twins, shared a room, all that sort of stuff. He genuinely seems to reach out in their moment together, even if Josh isn’t sure what to think. Either way there’s a budding connection between this uncle and his nephew, maybe that will go somewhere. I wonder how they’re planning on adapting things, so it’ll be interesting to watch the plot and the characters develop in a series.


At the cemetery, Josh finds his family confronted by a neighbour, Dina (Karen Malina White). She knew Josh and his mother, warning him about the family, what Julia did to keep him away from them all. A tense moment. We’ll surely see more of Dina at some point. I only hope nothing bad will happen to her at the hands of the Cody brothers.
Nobody’s all too upset over the death of Julia. The brothers aren’t torn up much. Smurf seems a little thrown of, but not as much as most mothers if their daughter died. Although, it’s obvious Julia pushed away from the family and their ways.
More of Pope trying to get back into the organization. On the side, away from everyone, Baz agrees to let him in on their job a little, without telling Smurf. The arrival of Pope is bound to bring about trouble, in many ways.
Josh gets to hanging out more with the family, his girlfriend Nicky (Molly Gordon) along for the fun. There is a lot of awkwardness which hangs over the crew. At times, Pope eyes Catherine – is there some sort of previous relationship with them? Then there’s Uncle Craig, who plies Nicky for money into catching food in her mouth; this sets up an underlying sexual tension, especially after she tucks the money into her bra afterwards. With all the odd, incestuous behaviour at grandma’s place, this only makes things more tense. A little later Craig is snorting coke in front of everyone, tempting Nicky, though, she opts not to go ahead; in her eye, a sparkle flickers, and there’ll be more to that eventually.


There is a truly eerie presence to Hatosy’s Pope here in this first episode. He even carries Nicky off to bed quietly before Josh finds him standing over her, breathing heavily. Jesus. This doesn’t totally shake Josh, but it obviously gives him an eye into some of the deviousness of his uncles. Next morning, Josh encounters more of his family and their weird behaviour. Pope just walks on in and stands there with his nephew, who is naked in the shower. We constantly see there are no boundaries, no hidden secrets or moments between any of these people. It’s discomforting, unnerving, and yes, downright frightening at times. There’s not even a sexual nature to the semi-incestuousness I’ve mentioned. It’s more like an absolute disregard for any individuality, they’re all just a collective, and nothing is kept secret; not actual secrets, nor the body.
But now we figure out what the junkies and their fluids were for – the boys are pulling a job and want to “keep the crime lab busy“, so aside from being absolutely disgusting for them to endure, it is a rather genius idea forensically.
At home, Smurf is not happy about Pope taking Josh out for some criminal fun. Pope gets very physical, both with Josh and even his own mother. There’s an awful, ugly tension between son and mother here in this scene. Nevertheless, he tells Josh: “You pass.” What a fucked up family, man. Their relationships are incredibly strange, extremely close. Josh doesn’t want much part of it right now. But with the death of his mother there isn’t anywhere else he has to go.


Baz and the Cody brothers pull off their heist. It’s a real smash and grab, which works perfectly with the piss and shit and puke covered SUV they prepared. Only they never expected a run-in with police. This puts a bullet in Craig’s shoulder, too.
Simultaneously, Josh discovers his inner bad ass. When the drug dealer from earlier tries to collect on his dead mother there’s trouble. Josh knocks the gun from his hands, turning the tables, and ends up walking away fine; piece and all. So while there’s a part of his family that can be useful, to teach him not to lay down and take shit, most of it is a dangerous mixture that will prove toxic. Still, he doesn’t see that. All he gets right now is the glamour, the fun, the excitement, all the wild partying.
Then he sees Craig being patched up. Both sides of become more clear. It’s even creepier, too. With Uncle Deran crying in his mother’s lap in the next room. So many angles. When Josh and Pope have a talk later, the uncle tries to make him more at home in the family. Will Josh slide further into their grip? It’s tough to tell.


Excited to see where the series goes from here. The pilot is promising. Not perfect, and nowhere near as amazing as the original film, but it has things to build on. Lots of intriguing plot to mine, great characters to develop. And the acting is stellar to start, especially from Hatosy and Barkin. Stay tuned, we’ll see more again soon enough.

Slasher – Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Chiller’s Slasher
Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot
Directed by Craig David Wallace
Written by Aaron Martin

* For a review of the following episode, “Digging Your Grave With Your Teeth” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 4.00.55 PM
The pilot for Chiller’s first series Slasher starts on Halloween in 1988, giving us a setup for the events to come. A husband and pregnant wife discuss Halloween plans, whether he’ll stay home with her instead of going to a party with his friend Alan. She tells him to take the scarf off his cowboy outfit, it’s too “Liberace“-looking. Then at the door arrives an ominously masked man who’s let in without question, assumed to be a friend obviously. But afterwards his friend Alan shows up. This immediately causes worry: “Whos that?” asks Alan. The murder begins, which gets pretty vicious before the killer slams the front door to the world. Police find a man with makeup around his eyes sitting there, holding a crying baby. Wow.
I’ve got to say, despite anything that might come later, this opening is appropriately savage for a series calling itself Slasher. We’re given a pretty neat little scene to start things off.


Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath) and her husband Dylan Bennett (Brandon Jay McLaren) move back to where she was born, in the town of Waterbury. They actually move right into her parents old house. So we know where this is headed. It’s got a great premise for the slasher sub-genre of horror. The cinematography is fairly solid, too.
Sarah and Dylan do their best to settle in. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Sergeant Cam Henry (Steve Byers). He’s an old friend of Sarah, so we have one of those almost staples of the slasher sub-genre – both the old friend and the young lawman in the hometown. Then she expresses to Cam wanting to meet with Tom Winston – the man that murdered her family. Yikes. Also, there’s the married couple Robin and Justin (Christopher Jacot/Mark Ghanimé), they’re her landlords. Fun characters. Although, I worry for them; maybe everyone around her is about to find themselves in danger.
Verna McBride (Mary Walsh) calls Sarah’s mother a “dirty slut“, right to her face. There’s obviously some kind of bad, bad blood between Verna and Sarah’s family. What could it be?
All these hometown secrets, the small town mindset, will surely come into play as the plot move on in this series. Sarah wants to start digging into the murder of her parents, and being a good husband Dylan goes along to get along. Helps a bit that Dylan is editor-in-chief for the newspaper in Waterbury. But when they watch a clip of Winston, his rage coming out on camera, it affects her deeply.


When Sarah sees someone following her, they wear a mask like the one worn during the murder of her parents. This begins a typical slasher chase scene, out in the dark, the shadowy streets at night almost swallowing her whole. Luckily, Dylan arrives and they end up coming across a group of young guys, which puts him at odds with them. Not a great start for them in the neighbourhood.
But one of the guys doesn’t leave. He ends up coming across the killer. Who does some serious damage to the kid. Already we see this slasher’s brutality. Must be someone else copycatting right? Or are we so sure?
Well Sarah goes to see Winston after all. He’s almost excited to see her, but she tells him: “You need to stop smiling.” She gives him a good earful about her life, what he did to her through killing his parents. But before she ends up walking out on him, as he can’t keep taunting, Winston says: “You have to immerse yourself in the past, Sarah; all of it. Find out what was goinon in your parents lives 30 years ago, find what was buried in that house. No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar so that those that enter may see the light.” This spurs her on slightly, as it would. Even if this man’s a killer, his demeanour is too calm and too rational to completely ignore everything he’s saying.


Turns out there’s a reason why Verna hated Sarah’s mother – she made some pornographic movies with Peter, the husband of Verna. Definitely has a Scream-esque vibe. Although, it’s not copying. Just sort of a wink and nod to the Maureen Prescott plot of those films. Love how there are direct and indirect homages to the sub-genre’s most prevalent titles. This will surely continue as a recurring presence.
Verna’s over in the Bennett place snooping around. At the same time, Sarah shows a picture from the porn she found to Cam, who confirms it’s Peter McBride. Mystery swirls around the deaths of Sarah’s parents, yet Cam believes some things are “better left undisturbed.” Does Cam know more than he says?
Sadly for Verna, she is quite disturbed once finding the porn playing on the television at Sarah’s house; further than that, she removes the tape. Uh oh. There’s no telling what this could do to a woman like Verna, alone in that big house, lots of time to go crazy while drinking wine and obsessing over the newly discovered evidence. At the door someone rings, but when she answers no one’s there. More of the usual slasher elements. Leading to Verna’s encounter with the killer. And it is gruesome.


After seeing shadows in the window, Sarah makes the mistake of leaving her house, door open, and heading over to Verna’s place. Is writer Aaron Martin purposefully letting Sarah do this? If so, I’d say excellent use of typical slasher movie moments. If not, another long line of dumb slasher movie mistakes. Either way, it puts Sarah in the house where Verna was just being butchered. And she finds Verna before a brief encounter with the masked killer. A fall down the stairs renders her unconscious, left by the killer to survive along with the Peter McBride porn tape laid on her chest.
She wakes up in the hospital where Dylan and a police officer wait. Sarah tells the officer it was “the Executioner“, not Winston but “someone dressed like him“, which makes both men sceptical. Lots of interesting confusion is about to begin. Cam ends up hearing about the Executioner rumour from a woman on the street, and it definitely worries him in some way. What’s he keeping under wraps? There’s something.
Poor Dylan is slightly conflicted, being EIC at the newspaper. He does what’s possible to keep her out of the headlines and the aims of his journalists. Only so much he can do, though. He’s also personally interested; he ought to be, perhaps he needs to be wary of what’s coming next. And there’s more to Cam, too. His father is a local priest, he even promises to catch the killer, as if there’s more than simply duty. Is there more behind Cam, possibly his father? Excited to find out more.
This pilot sets up a good deal of suspense and tension. Lots to work off with Verna’s death, as well.


Sarah tries to get more out of Winston after the murder of Verna, to see if he has some stake in it, if he’s egged on a copycat. He’s willing to help her, though, has nothing to do with it. “McBride died for a reason; why?” he asks. There’s an almost Hannibal Lecter-Clarice Starling vibe happening in this episode finale. Even some Se7en-ish stuff leaing towards the Bible as a reference for these new murders. Again, not copying. The homage is an interesting part of what makes Slasher work. It isn’t metafictional, but rather it comes to us through allusion to all this other material. It’s fun, and this series is fun.


Not a perfect episode. That doesn’t matter. I’m still excited to see what will happen and grow out of all that’s been setup here in the pilot. Stay tuned with me for a recap and review of the next episode, “Digging Your Grave With Your Teeth” – soon to follow!

Scream Queens – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 1
: “Pilot”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ian Brennan (Cooties)/Brad Falchuk/Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the next episode, “Hell Week” – click here
IMG_2013Just to start, I loved Ian Brennan’s writing and acting in Cooties, as well as the fact I’m a huge fan of the Brad Falchuck-Ryan Murphy FX series American Horror Story (all my reviews so far are here). So I walked in biased, but still, I do think the best parts of these three writers show up in the Pilot episode for the new series Scream Queens.
The opening of the episode is one that sort of hammers you. Not even the immediate blood – which is proved to be something else than you might originally believe it is – but afterwards, once you see the girl in the bathtub, after having given birth in the tub, that’s when things rocked me. I paused and went “Whoa”. In a great, horrific way.
An immediate thing I loved about this Pilot is that the horror is so obviously there, yet it’s a good riot. Some viewers said it tried too hard. I don’t think so, personally. Right from the minute all the people at the party were rocking out to TLC’s “Waterfalls”, I thought to myself: I’m going to love this.

Who told you you could have a baby here tonight?

So the setup is, after the shocking death of this young mother in the bathtub, twenty years later the horror TRULY begins!
Straight away, after those two decades have passed, we meet Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) – possibly the most irritating and heinous young woman we’ll ever come across. She’s the sorority queen, the one who tortures young pledges (is that what they’re called? I don’t know; that frat/sorority shit is so dumb – great fodder for comedy-horror). Her character comes across as heavy handed at first, but I think it’s going to serve the story well. We’re already seeing these unlikeable characters, not strange within the horror genre, and no doubt SOME of them – probably not Chanel as Emma Roberts seems to be the star here – will find death at the hands of a masked murderer.
Aside from Chanel, there are her unfortunate numbered others – Chanel #2, #3, and oddly #5 (respectively: Ariana Grande, Billie Lourd, Abigail Breslin); there was a #4, but she got meningitis and obviously couldn’t hack it, right? These Chanels are the ones who take the brunt of Chanel #1’s awfulness. There’s also Ms. Bean a.k.a White Mammie (Jan Hoag) who is there to seemingly please Chanel constantly and do anything she ever wants, no matter if it’s important or nonsense on a whim.
Aside from the “bitches”, there’s the new girl on campus Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels) and her wonderfully energetic roommate Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer). Grace has a very loving father, Wes (Oliver Hudson) but her mother passed away. So with the sympathetic view of Grace from the beginning, it’s easy to see she’ll likely not die – at least not as early as any of the other mean spirited, awful young college girls.
IMG_2017I also like the other random characters such as Nasim Pedrad’s hilarious Gigi Caldwell, with the strangest fashion sense I’ve ever witnessed; she’s always a treat, whether on Saturday Night Live or elsewhere. Also, I think Lea Michele is flat out HILARIOUS as Hester. From the very first moment we see her character, the way she talks, the freeze frame: fucking funny as hell. She’s awesome.
Furthermore, I thought Diego Boneta as Pete is a good addition. I don’t think I’ve ever personally seen him in anything before, but he’s going to serve well as a decent male character, I think. We’ll see as the time goes on. The stuff with Pete and Grace was good, as well as just the dynamic between Pete and Chanel; the fact Pete is a bit of a reporter works in a fun way with everything else going on at the campus.
IMG_2018 IMG_2019 IMG_2020There is a pretty good setup of despicable characters mostly, which only extends once we start to meet some of the other students around the campus. Like Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) and his sidekick Boone (Nick Jonas), the DUDEBROS. Oh man. What’s awesome here, though, is the fact Murphy and Co. are setting up all these types to be bait, to be victims; Murphy particularly knows horror, so well, as does Falchuk and I’m starting to believe Brennan does, as well. So we’re getting this cast of killable characters introduced in comedic fashion. Instead of following typical horror formula all the way, as a television series Scream Queens has the ability to flesh out ALL the characters, including some of the more nasty and hateable ones. This is something I particularly find interesting because usually in horrors, especially a lot of 1980s films, these asshole-like characters often get killed off too quickly to ever be anything but annoying. I’m not saying you’ll grow to like these characters, not all of them, however, I do think even the frat douchebags and the sorority assholes will come to be more than simply one-dimensional meat for kill scenes.

Not only do we get Jamie Lee Curtis in this show, as the acidic and sly Dean Cathy Munsch, but we get Curtis doing some excellent work. Granted, it’s only the pilot. Still I see the kernels of an excellently developed character here. Just the way she lays in bed with that young guy, the banter, the joint smoking, plus Curtis looks AMAZING (and I think always has); I think that scene alone is wonderful. But it’s the back and forth between Dean Munsch and Chanel Oberlin (Roberts) which truly got me going. Because it was funny! Not only funny, Curtis plays well off Roberts in terms of their characters – the older woman who has seen it all, knows the tricks, probably pulled a ton of them herself VS. the younger, brattier, more foolishly confident and conniving sorority queen with, sadly, the world in her palm. There’ll be lots of good stuff between these two, you can count on that, and it will only get better as the episodes wear on. At least here’s to hoping.
IMG_2025Let’s talk cinematography and score. I personally LOVED the look and sound of the entire episode! There’s an ominous score at parts in the opening sequence. It’s once the synth, poppy score kicks in during the introduction to Chanel that the music takes hold. I’m a sucker for fun, electronic style music in a score. Works wonders here. Then we get the dark stuff again during moments of horror or tension.
In terms of cinematography, there are moments where I definitely get an American Horror Story vibe. Not frequently, though, honestly. I dig the way this has a similar feel in terms of darkness, but the look has this very neat and tidy thing going on which is different. There’s also this beautiful contrast between that pristine, pretty style and the horror which turns up over and over. It makes the horror – dare I say – much more fun.
IMG_2026Finally, I have to mention the GNARLY kills which I totally dig.
The deep frier death of Ms. Bean (Hoag) was so nasty and incredible. When she pulled her face out, the deep fried bits of her skin were so wild. Not only that, I absolutely cried – I mean tears for real running out of my eyes – when Zayday (Palmer) responds “Yes you do“. Watch it, you’ll know what I mean. Perfect delivery. This also goes to show how Keke Palmer is going to be another excellent part of the cast, in my opinion. Funny lady!
IMG_2024 IMG_2022Ariana Grande’s kill scene was absolutely a riot. I thought it made fun of modern day youth culture – smartphones particularly – so well and it had me in stitches.
There’s definitely a Sinister homage with the sequence at the end, with the ride-on lawn mower. One of the first things I thought, as the camera catches the light on front of the mower in that perspective view, is one of the found footage tapes from Sinister; not a rip-off, but a nice homage to a pretty awesome modern horror movie. I also think the earlier scene with the burning skin was a very Cabin Fever-ish homage, but maybe not, though I really suspect it leans in that direction.
IMG_2016 IMG_2028 IMG_2029This was a fun episode. Not perfect, but definitely sets a wild, funny, and at times horrific tone we’re not always treated to on television. Looking forward to watching and reviewing the follow-up episode, “Hell Week”.
Stay tuned with me! More #ScreamQueens to come.

Fear The Walking Dead: Series Premiere – Review

AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Adam Davidson (The FollowingHell On Wheels)
Written by Robert Kirkman & Dave Erickson; based on the graphic novel series by Charlie Adlard/Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore

* For a review of the next episode, “So Close, Yet So Far” – click here
IMG_1738The opening scene of Fear The Walking Dead is a doozy to me. A nice open throat, a man stumbling around in a worn down church, zombie woman eating a face with a knife sticking from her belly. I found the atmosphere of the scene combined with a tense chase pretty awesome, plus the guy playing Nick (Frank Dillane) ejecting himself from the church and into the street where he’s hit by a car looks genuinely frightened.
So this initial moment makes things exciting. Nothing like starting things off on a wild and creepy moment to get viewers interested. Furthermore, I found for at least a few minutes I wasn’t totally positive if Nick was a junkie, or if he was in the first throes of becoming a part of the walking dead horde. Very cool how they played with that whole angle.
IMG_1739There’s a bunch of family drama at the start of this pilot. A lot of people online seem to be lamenting this, wanting more of the zombies. But what you’re not getting, if in that camp of viewers, is that this is NOT The Walking Dead. We’re beginning at the very start, not in media res of the apocalypse like Rick Grimes in the initial episode of the original series.
So if you’re not interested in that – fine. Just don’t say it’s a bad show; first of all it is the pilot, second you can’t judge it badly because you don’t like drama and want zombies. The zombies, at least in the pilot, are not the first and foremost element of what is happening. We’re watching the world as it is about to plunge into the darkness we’ve come to know on The Walking Dead.
IMG_1740There’s a big mix of families happening. We’ve got Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) whose son happens to be Nick, from the start, so that’s enough trouble for her as it is. But then she’s involved with Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) whose ex is Lisa Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez). Then amongst them of course is Nick, as well as Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), plus Travis’ son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie). At first I found it a little confusing, mostly because it was introduced quick and brief upfront. After a little time, though, I settled in and it was interesting to me. The family represents that sort of mixed racial family that I’m sure is fairly prevalent nowadays in a place like Los Angeles; where this spin-off is set. Some I’m sure will cry that Robert Kirkman, the creators, the writers are all trying to be a little “PC” by making it such a family, but I think it’s more realism than pandering.
IMG_1741What I enjoy in this pilot episode is how Travis (Curtis) tries to listen to Nick (Dillane). Unfortunately for him, the things Nick is saying are far too real. When Travis goes to the church Nick crawled out of – a place where it’s essentially “junkie communion” as he puts it himself – there’s little to verify his story, however, the mood and tone are ominous. He doesn’t necessarily think the zombie apocalypse is upon the all, but Travis does tell Madison (Dickens) he thinks something terrible happened there. Mostly, it all speaks to him wanting to help himself as a father, a stepfather, and just feeling the need to given Nick a hand.
IMG_1742 IMG_1743Looks like there are complains about how Fear The Walking Dead has such a junkie-centric thing happening in its first episode. Although, if you look at it wouldn’t a junkie den like that church be a place an epidemic could start? Who knows, really. To me, it’s a place nobody cares about; they are the throwaways of society. So if a guy like Nick shambled out of a place like that, no doubt people would toss off anything he says. Especially if he’s saying someone ate another person. Nowadays it would spread around social media, everyone would claim BATH SALTS, then move on to the next thing. By the time anyone turned around, the apocalypse would be in full-swing and the cities would begin to fall all around us as we’d be in no position to head anything off. So, to me, I found this beginning fitting because it feels genuine, from the relationships to the entire situation of Los Angeles.

I love the scene with Travis as he’s teaching the class about Jack London and his story “To Build A Fire”. Highly ironic when one of his students says he doesn’t care about learning how to build a fire; when asked why not, he replies “I got a stove”. The irony, of course, lies in the fact we already know what’s coming. We’ve seen The Walking Dead, we’ve seen all the zombie horror movies, we can understand that eventually all of these people we’re seeing right now will NEED those skills. If not, their furthering survival is at risk of a quick extinction. So maybe some might say this scene is heavy handed. To me, it follows a great tradition of horror films – from classics like John Carpenter’s Halloween to newer films following it such as It Follows – in which there are these wonderful scenes that speak to thematic/plot elements we’ll see as the story progresses.
IMG_1744There’s solid atmosphere throughout this whole pilot, honestly. From the grim opening with Nick in the church, spilling into the street, to scenes in the hospital – an old man in the bed next to Nick goes into cardiac arrest or something similar; moments later an eerie older woman smiles at Nick, staring. Small bits like this, as well as the look and feel of the scenes themselves, really make for quite a bit of tension.
Moreover, Nick takes off from the hospital, so in terms of plot things get suspenseful. We’re already aware the zombies are out there; the apocalypse has begun officially, whether the characters realize this or not. While Nick saw it, he is a junkie and does not know for sure if he saw a zombie, or if it was the drugs, or if it was drugged madness on the part of the other junkies in that church. So he’s out on the streets, he picks up a burner cellphone, and there’s this wretchedly ominous feeling to the scenes. We’re left wondering exactly how this sad junkie will make out once things start to get insane out in the streets of L.A.

Another thing I love is that the setting is Los Angeles. So while we as the audience hear helicopters and sirens going around, thinking this is the beginning – knowing it – these sounds are commonplace to the characters, as L.A is one hell of a busy city at all times. Never stops, even the helicopters flying over different neighbourhoods. Those characters would not automatically assume that the apocalypse had begun simply because of sirens and helicopters and police cars and ambulances going mad.
Then after a scene with Madison and Travis, once they’ve sped off from the highway, the next day at the school everyone watches a clip from the nightly news, where they’d been near the highway; EMTs are attacked by people on stretchers. Most assume it was drugs, maybe shock as Travis points… but us? Well we know the difference already, even before the characters themselves come to understand what is happening.
Enjoy the inclusion of cellphones, with a bunch of the high school characters watching online videos of the events from the previous night. It seems like a joke to some, yet school is let out early. There’s a sense of chaos brewing. Everything from the music, to the evacuation of buildings, the sound design with more choppers flying about and voices in the air. It’s a great build up towards the episode’s finale.
IMG_1745A scene between Calvin (Keith Powers), who is obviously a friend and dealer both, and Nick is incredibly well done. There’s a genuine terror in Nick; he’s not simply addicted to drugs, he has seen something terrifying and it’s rocking him. Not just that, Calvin is clearly paranoid because Nick’s mom came to him, he’s afraid that Nick has been saying things that ought not to be heard. Very foreboding feeling to the car ride Calvin takes Nick on, as we’re pretty much expecting him to blast the poor junkie away, which we fast discover to be the truth.
Though, it isn’t a drug dealer and a gun Nick needs to be most concerned about. When his mother and Travis show up to get him – after he’s killed Calvin in self-defense – Nick takes them down to where it happened. However the body is not there.
Do you see? DO YOU SEE?
Nick is looking crazier and crazier. Still, we know something is going to happen, something is already going bad.
THEN THE SCORE KICKS IN! That music we know well from The Walking Dead – deep bass, distorted, heavy. In the dark red tunnel, Calvin reappears and he is zombified. Thus begins the zombie apocalypse, which ushers in Fear The Walking Dead.
IMG_1746 IMG_1747 IMG_1749 IMG_1750This episode, while slow to some, is a solid opener to the series. Others wanted a ton of zombie action right away. I stress again: this is not the show you’re looking for! We are getting a slight prequel, once that begins right on the cusp of the apocalypse we’ve already been smack dab in the middle of during The Walking Dead. So it’s only natural to see a lead up to the actual zombie epidemic breaking out.
I guarantee the second episode will pick up in pace and intensity, as well as there’ll be more gore and zombies for everyone. I’m a fan of all that stuff, too! For those who’ve not read this blog, most of what goes on here involves horror one way or another. So I am a massive horror fan, love the gore and the blood where I can get it. At the same time, I do love the drama involved in a good horror series or film. It’s what makes the horror more real, more visceral.
For me, this pilot was great. An incredible mix of family drama, tension, and bits of horror. Really felt like the world going on as normal, right before the zombies descend on Los Angeles. Even more, not a moment did I find myself checking the time; in fact, I had to stop and see how much time was left simply because I hoped it would be at least 15-20 minutes more, as I’d been enjoying the episode that much. Looking forward to a second episode – it’s titled “So Close, Yet So Far” and is directed by Adam Davidson (Hell on WheelsThe Following). One thing I’m sure of – poor ole Nick is going to have some rough withdrawals as the zombie epidemic commences. It’s gonna prove pretty interesting, if anything.

Stay tuned! I’ll be keeping up with each episode of AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead. I’m also soon starting to review The Walking Dead from its first season onward, and I’ll do each episode of the new season once that comes on, too.

American Horror Story – Murder House, Episode 1: Pilot

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 1 – Pilot
Directed by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Running With ScissorsThe Normal Heart)
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the next episode, “Home Invasion” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-9-22-59-pmYou’ve got to admire a series that opens things up in the way Ryan Murphy introduces us to his world with this pilot episode. Not only is it creepy, Murphy lays out the familiar pattern we see running through the entire series: flashbacks which speak to the present day events. Plenty of shows and films use flashbacks, but the way American Horror Story overall as a series uses them is such an intriguing technique, which the writers and directors pull of elegantly, as well as quite horrifically. What I love so much about this aspect is the fact that Murphy has only directed 3 episodes of the series – including the first episode of the newest season, Hotel. So, although he is a creator of the show along with Brad Falchuck, it’s still amazing to see how much influence he has had over the entirety of the series. It’s a continual thing we see in each season, how the flashbacks all come to bear on current day events we’re seeing.
With the opening of Murphy’s pilot we get to see a young Adelaide Langdon watching a creepy, and no doubt haunted, house all by herself; we’ll get to know Addie plenty as the season wears on. Up come a couple redheaded little shits, twins, who are mean to Addie and head inside to cause havoc.
screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-9-25-18-pmImmediately, there’s this eerie sense about the house. Of course, once inside the redhead twins find much more than they bargained for upon entering. There’s this absolutely horrific, brief image of a figure in the dark – awful hands and terrible looking teeth, gnarled, vicious coming at them. I thought that was an excellent start to the horror.
Then there’s an amazing tonal shift. We meet up with Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) who has recently miscarried, as is expected the experience was horrible. After a doctor’s appointment, Vivien heads home to her beautiful home. But in the kitchen she thinks there’s a noise from upstairs. Calling 911 and taking a knife from a block in the kitchen, she heads upstairs only to find her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) obviously in bed with another woman. Though, we never see her. Outside the room, pleading for forgiveness, Ben gets cut on the arm by the knife Vivien is holding. More words from little Addie echo out of the past, words she’d spoken earlier to the twins: “You’re gonna regret it
Love the opening theme; quite creepy. Also, as we go on through these reviews just know I’m all the way caught up – I watch the episodes as they come on, it’s only now I’ve started to review them. So, what I really dig is how Murphy has another opening done for each one to go with the theme of every season. Anthologies, when done effectively, are so much fun in so many ways! American Horror Story is at the top of the anthology heap, as far as I’m concerned.
Lots of fun characters introduced here in the Pilot. Soon, we see the family move into a new home – the creepy house from the episode’s opening scene. Vivien and Ben, along with their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), move on in and then we get to meet more of the cast.
The always amazing Jessica Lange plays Constance Langdon – a Southern belle living in Los Angeles. Not only that, she is the mother of Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), who just so happens to barge on into the kitchen and frighten an unsuspecting Vivian with more prophetic creepiness: “You’re going to die in here.” From these two, expect tons of craziness throughout Season 1.
Evan Peters is Tate, a troubled kid sent by his mother to see the new therapist in the city, Ben Harmon. They talk about death, dreams and visions of death and blood and murder. Sick things Tate has inside him. Meanwhile, Tate sees pictures of himself with blood running down his face – other shots show him walking down the hallway, just as the dream he has described, with a macabrely painted face, skull art, and a black trench coat. Very cool and disturbing stuff already! Tate, from the get-go, was always one of my favourites in Season 1.
I love the imagery right off the bat, all the visions going on every which way. Also, the scene where Ben all of a sudden goes downstairs, lighting the fire, only to have Vivien interrupt him wondering what he’s up to. It’s such a weird, dreamy scene, and even Ben doesn’t realize if he’s awake or dreaming. This begins more weirdness to follow.
Furthermore, there’s the fact Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy) shows up – she was the maid of the house. It seems she pretty much comes along with the house. But there’s something else about Moira, she’s a shapeshifter.. of sorts. While Vivien Harmon sees an older Frances Conroy, Ben Harmon sees Moira as Alexandra Breckenridge – a young, taut, sexified girl in a French maid’s outfit, legs up to her throat in fishnets. So I love the duality here and the dynamic this introduces into the Harmons’ lives.
It’s as if the house is pushing them all, further and further. With every single turn.

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Certainly, the tension between husband-wife duo Vivien and Ben Harmon sets up so much of what we’ll see going on throughout Season 1. What I enjoy about this whole angle is that, similar to a movie like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, not only is the family inside the house contending with the house’s evil, they’re battling their own demons.
While I love Dylan McDermott, his character Ben is the type you hate to love. He’s obviously flawed, as he cheated on his wife in her weakest moment. Then he tries to blame her saying that it was him in his weakest moment, that “you got a dog” when she ought to have been cuddling up with him at night.
So the intensity of their family situation, the anger Vivien has towards Ben and the perceived hostility he has in his head towards his own wife, it all adds to the already supernatural forces so obviously at work in the house.
The creepiest, of course, is when Vivien has sex with who she believes to be Ben, dressed up in the latex-looking suit they’d found hanging earlier in the attic; a weird S&M, tight black getup. All the while, thought she sees visions of Ben, her husband is downstairs holding his hand over the oven’s burner. Immediately we know that American Horror Story means to get up to some awfully strange, intense business.

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As well, we get views of the evil looking person/thing from earlier in the episode’s opening sequence. Tate has Violet bring a girl over – the one who slighted her hardcore during her first day of school – and in the basement he intends to scare her. However, Violent sees it all, too. Something horrible, ugly, fierce. It’s balding, stringy hair, and the teeth in its mouth look yellow, jagged. I LOVE THIS! So terrifying.
Denis O’Hare plays Larry Harvey, a man who has obviously been in a terrible fire – half of his face is burned, better yet it’s melted. He warns Ben about the house, after lurking around, skulking at the edges of Harmon’s peripheral vision. Larry claims he killed his family and burned down the house, all due to the house, the voices of the house inside his head – he said he was like “an obedient child.”
We’ll watch how his character plays further into the plot of Season 1 as it moves along. Nice introduction to this character.
Two fantastic actresses – Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy – have the chance to go head to head. However, it’s brief. Yet within those few moments they share a great scene, as Constance (Lange) tells Moira (Conroy): “Dont make me kill you again.” This is another relationship we’ll see more of once the episodes roll on. Intriguing to say the least.
One other thing I love in this first episode is the use of the music from James Wan’s Insidious. A neat little touch. This technique is employed time and time again in Season 1, which I find is a nice nod to the genre fans out there. It says that Murphy not only understands the horror genre, he is also a fan.

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Great episode. We’ve seen so much setup in less than an hour, it’s almost overwhelming. But not quite!
Stay tuned for the next episode, “Home Invasion”.