Morgan and Rick wind up in a bind. Negan discovers Jadis is far more serious about revenge than he originally thought.
Rick and Michonne go to see Jadis, who's got her hands full with Simon and the Saviors.
Eugene continues his betrayal. Tara and Daryl lead an assault on the Sanctuary, as Michonne chooses if she'll stay, or if she'll go.
Plans go ahead, even if they aren't perfect. Rick gets in over his head with Jadis. Daryl takes a risk.
On their search for Father Gabriel, Rick and the Alexandria crew stumble onto a group of people unlike any they've encountered on the road of the zombie apocalypse so far.
THE WOMAN explores the roots of misogyny in our society, as well as in our families.
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 6: “Eskimos”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Written by Jim Mickle
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “War” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Mucho Mojo” – click here
The finale has arrived, and after Trudy (Christina Hendricks) abandoned Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams), they were left with the vengeful Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) who still mourns his dead lover, Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh).
In the aftermath, Leonard’s place is covered in police tape, and Hap laments to the dog: “I miss him, too.”
We flash back to their precarious situation at the end of the previous episode. Outside, Jimmi is killing the dogs, taunting Hap and Leonard inside. The episode flashes to after it all again, as Hap starts to take down all the boards over the windows, trying to put everything back in its place. He’s sporting injuries from the shootout. Obviously, Hap is now safe from Soldier. But what exactly’s happened in the meantime?
At a literal and figurative crossroads, Trudy sits in the van. Over at the house Soldier keeps on taunting, especially about Trudy, mocking Hap for having trusted her too many times. The title of the episode, “Eskimos”, comes from a conversation about how Eskimos supposedly share women, so on. A nice anecdote. Then, from nowhere, Angel reappears. Not dead at all. In fact, she proceeds to kick the absolute shit out of Hap and Leonard. At least until the latter snaps her neck. Well now, Soldier’s really upset.
Hap: “Guns, huh? Who needs guns?” (Soldier shoots him in the arm)
Amazingly enough, Trudy does come back. She drives right through the side of Leonard’s house, crashing into Soldier, saving the two pals. At least for the moment.
In an impressive scene, Hap holds a gun on Soldier but refuses to pull the trigger. He is thoroughly a non-violent man, only when pushed to the brink. And still, Trudy pulls the trigger herself. So there’s a juxtaposition between the two lovers, as Hap is tough but doesn’t always take the hard road out, whereas Trudy usually takes the hard road everywhere.
In the bloody moments following the showdown, Trudy reveals to Hap she drowned the bird in the sink. It reminded her of their relationship, her failures. She says “I love you“, only both Hap and Leonard are passed out in the backseat. Ah, their love is always complicated by something new. Meanwhile, Trudy passes out behind the wheel and they casually roll into a ditch coming to a full stop.
In hospital, Hap wakes to a vision of Trudy, who bids goodbye. She walks down the hall with the old Hap, the long haired hippy Hap, the one with too much optimism, before having to go to jail and figure out the harshest bits of lie. A sign that the old Hap is definitely dead. And Trudy, too.
Cut back to that rainy night when little Hap and his father stopped in the rain to help the black man and his boy. Here, we see the unifying moment between young Hap and young Leonard. That night their fathers were both killed, after a car crashed into them on the wet road.
Back to their present day, Leonard wakes up to Hap sitting by him at the hospital. They’d been out several days. The two of them ruminate on their relationship, Leonard talks of the war. However, things feel fractured, and it’s possible this has forever altered their relationship. Also, Hap ends up being questioned by FBI and local law enforcement. They want to know about the job Howard and Trudy enlisted him for, as well as Leonard, and all about the car in the river, so forth. Turns out Angel and Soldier were on the radar awhile. But as for Hap Collins, he’s in the clear currently.
Hap sets out to find the hidden goods himself. Mostly, he finds old sentimentality, and a little bit of dog shit. Leading him to a ton of money jammed into the dog food. Stacks of bills inside; lots chewed, some no worse for the wear.
What I love about this series is the emotional aspect. Joe R. Lansdale writes great crime fiction, but writes even better characters within that framework. He gets into Southern Gothic at times, even a bit of a take on the hardboiled detective genre. Above all else, he is a crafty writer whose characters, particularly those of Hap and Leonard, leap off the page. Here, they are adapted incredibly well, and especially Hap is a touching, complex character. Purefoy gives a wonderful performance, nuanced, and brings out the best in Hap. So watching him cobble together all the cash, for Leonard, for the Children’s Trust Fund, it is a real class act type sequence. Because we really recognize the goodness in Hap here, despite him getting wrapped up in ridiculous schemes such as the one Howard and Trudy had going.
More than that, we see another scene of young Hap, who witnesses the police covering up the drunk driving deaths, blaming it on young Leonard’s father being a “coon” and all. So not only is there a bond between the two boys, there’s further evidence as to why Hap became the man he is now. A beautiful and sad scene all at once.
Three months down the road. Hap’s back to working in the rose field, drinking Silver Spurs by the handful at night, smoking his pipe. Then up turns Leonard, healthy, if not a little banged up. He’s got to attend the funeral of his uncle. Regardless of the rift between them, Leonard cares for the man, seemingly always did. And good ole Hap accompanies his friend to the burial. Whatever had come between them before, the wildness of the things in which they got involved, it’s now lightening, but that’s always been clear – these two are friends for life, and even if something gets in their way briefly it would have to be a life altering event for them to completely split apart.
Hap remarks how life is not like Leave It to Beaver, there isn’t always closure and things don’t always cauterize at the end of an episode, to provide relief, so it all can start fresh next time. Ironically, this is the case. For the moment, anyways. Because after Hap turns out the light stating “No more drama for a while,” below Uncle Chester’s house, buried under the floorboards, is the skeleton of a small child. What sort of misadventure will this bring in Season 2? This opens the setup for Lansdale’s novel Mucho Mojo from the Hap and Leonard series, a dark bit of subject matter, too.
Let’s root hard that SundanceTV does the right thing and gives this a renewal. Lansdale deserves it, as do Hap and Leonard because there’s so much more to explore with them – their relationship, their world and its landscape – and many stories to be told! A great, fun, and at times wild season.
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 5: “War”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici
* For a review of the previous episode, “Trudy” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
The penultimate Season 1 episode of SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard starts out after the betrayal in the previous chapter, on the part of Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) with the greasy Paco (Neil Sandilands).
But we step back in time, to when Hap Collins (James Purefoy) was a little boy, and the racism in Marvel Creek is alive and thriving. A minstrel show is put off, as people crack up laughing and enjoy it, far too much. We see little Hap and his father driving, when they notice a black man on the road with car troubles. Then the worst looks like it’s about to happen.
Cut back to the 1980s again. Angel and Soldier, with Paco alongside, have Hap, Leonard (Michael K. Williams), Trudy (Christina Hendricks) in tow. So what kind of madness will we see this time around? Surely Hap and Leonard aren’t going down without a fight.
Naturally, Trudy is disgusted by Paco, having been an intricate part of their team before. He’s a man of his own, though. Meanwhile, Leonard tells Hap: “If you see a chance, don‘t you hesitate.” For the time being, they go along to get along. They start digging up the money from their little treasure hunt. And poor Leonard’s the one designated to do the shoveling. Typical.
Except, down in the dirt there’s no money. Just an empty box. Turns out Trudy moved the cash somewhere else. Soldier takes her aside for a little heart to heart, though, she’s one tough cookie.
Love the dialogue. Not only does it keep in the spirit of Joe Lansdale, it’s just solid television writing, and keeps the scenes moving along at a nice, spirited pace. There’s wit, there’s profundity at times, others it can even be silly as hell. Dig it all around.
Soldier: “The biggest balls in this room are swingin‘ from a cooch, I gotta love that.”
With only Trudy holding the whereabouts, things might get to looking ugly. Well, not until Soldier’s had himself a nice meal of french toast a la Angel. A set of handcuffs Leonard uses in bed end up chaining him and Hap down; nice little touch there, especially his mouthy response to Paco.
But the situation is starting to get scary. Soldier is a psychotic, as is his partner/lover in crime. The headstrong Trudy will not reveal where the money’s hidden, despite Hap trying to convince her otherwise. “Who are you, Joan of Arc?” sighs Soldier. This may lead her somewhere dark and disturbing. My favourite scene so far comes when Soldier throws on some VCMG, “Spock” to be exact, and starts dancing. Right before Angel reappears with a toolbox. Lots of interesting things to use. Nothing really works on Trudy, though. Even a semi-crucifixion. Until Howard suggests they put some pain on Hap, that’ll get her mouth jawing.
Soldier: “I figured you more of a Soul Man”
Leonard: “Country got soul”
Finally, Hap reveals he’s pretty sure where Trudy put the cash – he’d seen something on her shoes which gave her away. What’s most interesting in this scene is the bond, again, between Hap and Leonard. It’s stronger than the one between Hap and Trudy, even as lovers. Because Leonard stopped Howard from bashing Hap’s face in. Then when Leonard faced a bullet, Hap stopped it all. He could’ve really stopped things when Trudy got that nail in the hand. Yet he didn’t. He saved that card for Leonard.
Ole Howard bites the dust. I knew somebody had to. But the chaos goes on. Hap’s busy leading Soldier to the right spot. Can they slip themselves out of this mess?
At the dog pens, Hap goes in to try digging out the money. Then they throw a plan into action, as does Trudy, stabbing Paco through the eye after hauling her hand off the table and using the nail in self-defense. Everything goes wild. Hap and Leonard run off, though, the latter takes a bullet. Trudy manages to do Paco in. But Angel and Soldier are still lurking about, just as ready as ever to do more damage.
Hap and Leonard go back for Trudy, holing up in the house. Outside, Soldier removes an arrow from Angel’s neck, one Hap gave her. And so Soldier watches as she fades away, whispering sweet nothings to her; a tender relationship for two maniacs, all the same. Will this only serve to make Soldier more crazy?
Right now, Leonard’s bleeding out quick, and Hap decides running is their best option. Well, Hap plans on carrying Leonard, but still – high tailing it is their only shot.
The plan gets interrupted by Soldier. And then Trudy leaves, fast as she can. Alone. Another double cross in the books for this Southern femme fatale. How are Hap and Leonard about to squeeze out of this one?
The final Season 1 episode, “Eskimos”, comes out next week. Stay with me, folks. Loving this Lansdale adaptation to the fullest!
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 4: “Trudy”
Directed by Nick Gomez
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dive” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “War” – click here
After the end of last episode, Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) find themselves taken hostage by Howard (Bill Sage) and his gang. Of course, Trudy Fawst (Christina Hendricks) and lets it all happen.
We watch Trudy take it all in. Heavy. She thinks about years ago, life before. The bird in a cage comes from Trudy here, as she tries to let one out into the wild: “It‘s time to be a bird.” Instead this turns into us seeing a bit of a sadistic side to her come out. When the bird won’t fly away, Trudy opts to drown it instead. Yikes. The look in her eyes says so much.
Out in the living room, Hap and Leonard on their knees get an explanation about Howard needing to “appropriate” their share of the money because there wasn’t enough left after the moldy portion. A potent word from Trudy – “sacrifice” – referring to Leonard and Hap giving up their share for Howard, Trudy and the crew. When Hap knows all about sacrifice.
The greasy crew, including Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands), hold Hap and Leonard at gunpoint. Hap digs a hole for them to bury the money, considering the police presence nearby. Best is when Leonard stands tall against the barrage of weaponry pointed towards him, and refuses to fill the hole in with the money; shows how he does not let anyone walk over him.
Later, Hap and Leonard end up getting Chub to talk. He gives up the plan for them to buy cocaine. That’s their plan for “sustainable income” in order to do a “Robin Hood” scheme; “to beat the system,” preaches Howard. Lots of great dialogue here in this sequence, as Hap and Leonard both give the gang a talking to, as well as take the piss at the same time. They up duct taped on the porch, bitching at each other in their unique way. Again, as I’ve said plenty already, Purefoy and Williams do such a perfect job with the characters, they really give Joe R. Lansdale’s writing justice in the sense that they make these two friends seem so believable, so natural together. You wouldn’t know but they’d actually been friends for most of their lives. Further gives authenticity to the writing, as their relationship makes everything else flow so organically.
Leonard: “Nice girlfriend you got there. Got more faces than a diamond.”
We get a deep look in Trudy during this episode; as if you didn’t know already with the title. But there are a frequent glimpses behind the mask, both frightening and also human. In the series’ current timeline, Trudy wrestles with her actions, and flashes back to the last time she really worked Hap over. I mean, she isn’t a monster. She’s a human, she is a lover. But there’s a certain amount of con artist in her, too. And ruthlessness. Yet she does question Howard: “Is this who we are?”
Chub also reveals his softer nature. While Paco’s a stone cold bad ass, Chub regrets how things went down. Further fueling the fire, Leonard tells him they don’t respect him, and says he’s just a “walking talking porkchop” in their eyes, which makes me laugh but makes me pity Chub at the same time. He refuses to acknowledge the group doesn’t particularly cherish him.
I dig the flashbacks in the series to this point. They’re never overly long, though, this episode dives a bit deeper than any yet. Still, they’re filmed in a slightly different grain, they have a dreamy feel. In this episode particularly, Trudy narrates us through some of the flashback, giving us some expository stuff but in a nice snippet-like way. They really do come off as pieces of memories.
Hap and Trudy have it out a bit, as the former sits with Leonard asleep on his shoulder, both duct taped to one another still. Trudy is going for broke on this latest scheme, following Howard – “Even if it means this?” asks Hap. So who knows what’s next for the unshakeable duo.
In the morning, Leonard decides they should just get up and go, glider on their back and everything. So they do. While Chub sleeps, they manage to get up and start heading towards the wood. They argue and bitch and get a good ways before Paco’s there, right behind them. Good effort, fellas. More duct tape for them both.
Then everyone’s packed in the van. Trudy and Howard decided on their own to only give a “deposit” for their cocaine deal, which drives Paco wild. And who are they meeting exactly? Why it’s Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh), and the maniacal Soldier (Jimmi Simpson). Certainly not going to be any trouble, right?
Things start getting brutal once Soldier calls Leonard a “nigger“, over and over, and Chub does not like that. He gets mouthy, not making anybody happy. And then Paco blows his brains out. Soldier and Angel take control of things, and Howard is devastated. It was all a fuck over. Paco did them in dirty. I knew something had to happen either way. Problem is they never brought all that money, so y’know, now they’ve got to go get that so Soldier and Angel don’t splatter everyone’s brains around the room.
Soldier: “Shhhhh. I do like to hear myself as I‘m speaking.”
On the way in the van, Soldier gets crude, wondering who Trudy is with currently. He figures it’s whoever has the “biggest ankle spanker“, which he determines is Leonard. Of course it comes out he’s gay and more of Leonard being a straight up bad ass. All sorts of focus on Trudy, taking her down a few notches. Then there’s more of Soldier getting naughty, talking about Angel, their sexual relationship. Finally, Trudy defends herself a bit and says she won’t give Soldier “the satisfaction of being scared“, which makes things incredibly tense. Even worse when the cops are parked on the road where they’re all headed. “I love cops,” says Soldier with an odd look in his eyes.
Soldier does a good song and dance until Paco pulls his crossbow and pops a cop. This starts a massacre, as they finish off the other one, and Angel shoots a few more “essential” rounds into the already dead one. This horrifies everyone in the van, naturally. Hap and Leonard are along for a very dangerous ride.
Extremely excited for the next chapter, the penultimate “War” again directed by Jim Mickle. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. It’s getting dark and dirty now.
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Bottoms”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Mickle
* For a review of the Season 1 premiere “Savage Season” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dive” – click here
After the fantastic premiere, Hap and Leonard continues with the second episode, “The Bottoms” – named after one of the Joe R. Lansdale novels.
A couple little black kids head out into the woods where someone was supposedly hung. One of the boys has a gun with him, but they end up getting creeped out and running off after finding a tree with a rope over it. Even worse, they stumble across the dead cop from the premiere’s finale – the one murdered by Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson).
Poor Hap Collins (James Purefoy) wakes up, still next to the Marvel Creek sign. He’s clearly hungover, and dying to take a leak. Hilarious, brief scene where he starts pissing on a bit of roadkill, but moves over politely: “Sorry, buddy,” he tells the dead animal.
Back over at the shack where Howard (Bill Sage) and Trudy (Christina Hendricks), and the others, lay their heads. Except everyone else is already up, including Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands). So instead of getting themselves out of there quickly, Hap and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) are saddled with Chub and Paco at the request of Howard.
Then up shows Prescott Jones (Jay Potter) trying to convert a few lost souls over to the Lord. He “sells the Lord‘s word“, apparently. But Paco comes out and drives the man off in as unfriendly a fashion as possible. I can’t help but wonder where and how Prescott will end up back in the mix. Can’t only be a one-off scene, seems too convenient.
With Paco and Chub along for the ride, off head Hap and Leonard. The four don’t get along perfectly, that’s for sure. I’m interested in Paco, what his backstory might be, especially considering the intro to Soldier at the end of the premiere episode. Paco and Leonard certainly come up against one another, while Hap smirks and goes along to get along. For now.
Later on, we get more on Hap’s character, as well as Paco. Those who know the stories already know Hap went to jail as a younger man for refusing to go to Vietnam, so there’s a whole other aspect to Hap (especially in his relationship to Leonard) we start seeing. Also, Paco was part of a group called The Mechanics; he was “a bombmaker who blew himself up“, so says Hap. And then a great scene where Chub gets stuck in a muddy pit, before the boys haul him out – Chub ends up losing his pants to the muck.
Cut to a diner where Trudy works. She serves some customers who would rather flirt. One of them knocks a drink over purposefully. At the next table, Soldier and Angel sit eating; he quickly picks up the drink for Trudy. They have an awkward encounter, too. Almost ominous. “She likes it bloody,” Soldier explains re: Angel’s meat preferences. Closer and closer come the villains to Hap and Leonard’s front door.
Back at the weird hippy ranch, Howard serves up tofu for everybody. Evidently he’s a vegetarian: “Didn‘t see that comin‘,” says Leonard with all possible sarcasm. Then there’s Howard, who we get more of – a hippy with big ideas, but no what to execute them himself. He sort of represents the worst of idealism. He has lots of plans in his head, lots of dreams. But he gets other people to do the dirty work, the hard labour. So with all his talk of being for the “have nots“, he uses Hap and Leonard like any other member of the upper class would the proletariat. They’re both expendable working hands to Howard. And Hap knows that, in his heart. He just wants money, to get out of the hole he’s in right now. Trudy says that Leonard sees the world “through dirty glasses“, but Hap replies: “Maybe the world is dirty.”
Trudy: “Maybe I should leave, so you two can put your dicks on the table, next to them toothpicks.”
Now we see more of Uncle Chester (Henry G. Sanders) in his little house. He’s writing, listening to a vinyl record and eating a bowl of oats. But he quickly collapses from some sort of pain. All alone, on the floor.
Cut back to Hap and Leonard sleeping at Howard’s place. They chat a little before falling asleep. Turns out Leonard at least likes the man’s cooking, specifically those yummy string beans. One benefit of vegetarianism.
The next morning, Hap and Leonard let the air out of the hippy van then take off on their way to start tracking down the bridge on Sabine River. Smart cookies, those two. They go hacking and slashing with machetes through the thick brush, finding nothing other than swamp ahead. Out of nowhere, Hap stops and looks happily into the forest, noticing an old sign on a tree he remembers. They step a little further and the bridge appears. One problem: “Where‘s the god damn river?” Leonard asks. It’s dried up, disappeared. The pair head to a bar, so they can lick their wounds. Leonard figures it’s probably a bullshit story out of prison, while Hap sulks. Their friendship is more and more evident all the time, just in the dialogue between these two. They know each other inside and out.
Added to that, in the background of the bar scene you can see Prescott Jones. What’s he up to? Sly dog.
Leonard has to head back into town after hearing about Chester. Trudy gives her condolences. Although, Leonard’s more concerned about Hap: “You just a ball he keeps chasin‘ into the street,” he tells Trudy. She seems to believe Leonard needs Hap more than vice versa. She doesn’t realize they both need one another.
At the hospital, Leonard visits his uncle. It’s touching to see him love his family so much, even while Chester shits all over him for being gay. Moreover, we get a quick moment between Leonard and a male nurse, which almost speaks of romance; yet it’s hard to tell. There’s a flashback then to a young Leonard, watching a dead body get wheeled by under a sheet, while a younger Chester holds him close. His uncle, no matter how surly, obviously meant something to him.
Love the scene right after where Leonard boxes a bunch of tires hung like a bag, and you can see the frustration, the anger in him bleeding out. And the male nurse shows up out of the blue, bearing food. So they do have a relationship! They did, anyways. Apparently they’ve broken up, according to the records he returns to Leonard. Meanwhile, Hap and Trudy take a drive, their relationship coming up in conversation. Love how there’s equal attention paid to these relationships, even getting in a bit of lovemaking between Leonard and his former partner. Furthermore, Trudy explains to Hap about how the new river ended up out of the old one, and where the flooding may have landed the car with the money. Impressive stuff. “A little ambition goes a long way,” Trudy says to Hap: “You told me that once.” But husband Howard’s been left out – he sees the maps with moved pins, the absence of both Trudy and Hap from the shack, and wonders exactly what’s going on.
Will Hap and Trudy get to be together again? “I‘m just not interested in the downtrodden anymore,” Hap tells her: “I‘m one of them.” She wants someone like Howard, but more like Hap and Howard; she wants the ideals of Howard, with the strength, the execution, the power of Hap. Yet clearly, after being a bit of a hippy himself, Hap has discovered what living in the lower class is like. Probably what bonded him so closely to Leonard so many years, forming their concrete friendship.
Out in a boat together, looking for the location of the car in a different spot, a lake near Sabine Island, Trudy and Hap do locate a license plate for the car. They also nearly get swallowed up by gators, or crocodiles; not sure on the biology. Then, after getting onto the shore, the two former lovers come together. Again. It’s hard to deny, their chemistry. Obviously neither of them wants to let the other go, but so much comes between them. Not when sex is on the table, though. And sex on the beach (sort of)? I mean, they’re stuck on each other.
More excitement to come surely once the next episode “The Dive” airs. Stay tuned with me, as we navigate this excellent adaptation of Lansdale further.
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 1: “Savage Season”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Mickle
* For a review of the following episode, “The Bottoms” – click here
The premiere episode of Hap and Leonard begins with a great bit of action and some good ole CCR (“Up Around the Bend”). In 1968, we watch a car chase heading through Marvel Creek, Texas. Cops are hot on the trail of a couple men who’ve clearly pulled off a big heist. In the backseat, one of them bleeds out, money alongside for the ride. Only the driver does a Dukes of Hazard jump and puts the vehicle into a river. The gutshot man makes it out onto the shore, only to pass out and let fly a bunch of bills.
In Laborde, Texas – jump two decades to 1988 – Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) work side by side on a rose farm. They end up fire at the end of the day because cheap Mexican labourers are a plenty. We get a look from Hap to Leonard, almost alerting us to their personalities immediately; Leonard proceeds to tear a bunch of roses up out of the ground. Hap is a little more calm while Leonard is the hotter head of the pair. But they’re incredibly close friends. They do a master-slave routine that might sound dumb put that way, however, it shows the close relationship between them evidently right off the start. Plus, Purefoy and Williams work so well together, their chemistry is what grabbed me quick in the opening to the episode.
Leonard: “You can take a man‘s job, but you can‘t take his cookies.”
The tension in their relationship starts once Trudy (Christina Hendricks) arrives. It’s obvious Leonard does not like her, he warns Hap – obviously Hap’s got a softer spot for Trudy than him. Leonard reminds Hap of an important thing to remember: “A stiff dick ain‘t got no conscience.” But I love Hap, too. They’re both clever and likeable, albeit in their own ways. Hap is honest and straight up, as is Leonard, but they’ve each got their distinct sense of dialogue. Further than that, we get a quick read on Trudy, as well. She apparently criticized Leonard for enlisting and going to Vietnam: “If no one would fight, there‘d be no wars,” she says revealing her innocently ignorant perspective on life.
And no sooner that they end up in bed together does she admit to Hap: “I need your help.” So does she really have all those feelings she claims? Or is Trudy more trouble than we can imagine? Probably a reason Leonard can’t stand her. So Leonard calls Hap up later, even quipping – “Nice knowin‘ ya, brother.”
Love the racial aspect of the series, in the South. All those lingering feelings of the Civil War and other bits of history still float around; to this day. In fact, that’s why Lansdale is suited to be adapted now because it speaks to some of the issues America specifically is still tackling. Even better, Leonard also brings more to the table as a character than simply being black in the South.
When Trudy offers up a supposed plan to make $200,000, all of a sudden Hap seems intrigued. Good for the pocket, bad for the love life/psyche.
Leonard: “This Leonard you talkin‘ to. Not some rose field nigger.”
Hap: “Except you are a rose field nigger. And so am I; a white one.”
Of course Hap brings the deal to Leonard. We get more of their relationship here, which is excellently adapted from Lansdale. Their bond is strong, as Hap throws a few obviously joking racial jokes around, and you can tell they’re friends for life because Leonard only throws him a smile. Then he throws a jab, the two of them boxing together. Such a good scene. Then we have Trudy in the mix, which Leonard hates. She talks about her husband Howard (Bill Sage) in prison; he ended up in jail with the man from the beginning – Softboy McCall (Trace Cheramie) – who knew about the money at the bottom of the river. Well that guy met a rough death at the hands of a crazy fellow inmate, over a brownie in the cafeteria. Now, only Howard knows the location. And Trudy wants to cut Hap in because he supposedly knows the location of the bridge on Sabine River, having been no strange to that area when he was a kid.
A local cop comes down to see the boys. Leonard’s Uncle Chester (Henry G. Sanders) got into an altercation and threatened to jam a cane up the officer’s ass – “sideways” at that. But what we see here is the other angle to Leonard and his character. His uncle has no time for Leonard’s homosexuality, apparently: “Keep your faggot hands off me,” Chester barks at his nephew.
We further see Hap’s love for Leonard, as a friend. He quietly hauls Chester aside before they drop him off and explains: “Now I don‘t like dick anymore than you do, but he does. But that‘s his business. He don‘t need you ridin‘ him on it. So you do that in front of me again and I‘m gon‘ take that cane, shove it up your ass, break it clean off. Understood?” I like that Hap doesn’t mince words and act like he’s making an excuse; Leonard is who he is, and that’s totally fine with him. As it ought to be.
More than that, Leonard shows us how fucking tough he is by knocking a big drug dealer on his ass. And I mean he really works this guy over, and quick, too. So don’t bring foolish stereotypes to this series (as anyone who’s read Lansdale already knows) – Leonard Pine is his own man. A great strong gay/black character.
Another thing I love is Hap not being a fan of guns. Between him and Leonard, they defy any pigeonhole you can try to put them in. They are not stereotypes of Southerners, yet at the same time they are very Southern. Which is a commendable aspect of these characters, obviously coming out of the original series of novels. Lansdale’s characters come out well with Mickle writing.
Another angle to the ever interesting Leonard is that he’s a Vietnam vet. Being gay and black, people might expect him to lean towards the counterculture trend that came out of the ’60s and ’70s. No, no. Not Leonard. He’s got no time for it. We figure this out once meeting Trudy’s husband Howard, as well as his buddies Chub (Jeff Pope) and the disfigured silent-type of fellow Paco (Neil Sandilands). Howard is a hugger, embracing Hap right off the bat, and trying to give Leonard one – though, he only succeeds on the former. A hilarious little scene here, which further shows us how determined Hap and Leonard are; they’ve got no time for Howard’s hippy dippy bullshit. While Howard has noble intentions, or at least acts like he does, they don’t exactly impress either of the pair. Especially not Leonard. Also, there is the fact Hap obviously loves Trudy, who bedded him while still having a husband – seeing Howard hold her hand almost drives him nuts. They’ve obviously got an open relationship. Hap isn’t into that sort of thing; he’s a lover, a real one.
Howard: “And where‘s your piece of the American Pie, Leonard?”
Leonard: “Oh, I ate mine.”
The finale of the episode is solid. Hap heads off to do a bit of emotional drinking. A suspicious blue car is at the gas station where Hap buys beer. He ends up at the sign just outside Marvel Creek, Texas. A flashback sees a young Hap with his father Bud (Ron Roggé), driving along in the truck. Bud makes a remark about a black man out in the rain, using the word “nigger” – we can see the learned behaviour here, which Hap obviously rejects as an adult. But it presses the issue of how that sort of thing is passed down by family members, in particular. At the same time, though, Bud ends up stopping to go help. Is there more to this story? Or is this showing us there was a good person underneath Bud Collins, even with his use of that horrible N-word? Either way, it tells us about who Hap’s become over the years in some ways.
At the very end of “Savage Season”, we’re introduced to Soldier (Jimmi Simpson). He’s the one sitting in the suspicious blue car at the station. A police officer goes to talk with him about a taillight, discovering Soldier’s possibly high, as well as the fact there’s a noise inside his trunk. An excellent first scene to introduce this character, plus that of the woman who slits the cop’s throat, Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh). They’re in Marvel Creek looking for Paco. Bloody and violent entry for these two, clearly poised as a big threat.
Amazing opening episode to this series. Exceeded my expectations.
The next episode is titled “The Bottoms” after one of the novels from Lansdale. Stay tuned with me, friends and fellow fans.
Let Us Prey. 2014. Directed by Brian O’Malley. Screenplay by David Cairns & Fiona Watson.
Starring Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bryan Larkin, Hanna Stanbridge, Douglas Russell, Niall Greig Fulton, and Jonathan Watson. Creative Scotland/Fantastic Films/Greenhouse Media Investment/Irish Film Board/Makar Productions.
Rated 18A. 92 minutes.
In my review for the recent Last Shift, I talked about how it built a sort of supernatural twist out of the simple premise John Carpenter used in his incredible action-thriller Assault on Precinct 13. There’s a certain amount of the small, claustrophobic feel and location in Let Us Prey which owes very much to Carpenter’s film. Otherwise this is its own beast.
Lots of people no doubt came to this film simply because they’re like me and keep up on all sorts of horror films, whether British, American, German, French, or out of any other country. Others probably saw that Liam Cunningham was on the cast list; many recent fans of his come from his role as Sir Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, on HBO’s Game of Thrones, others of us recognize him also from things like The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Dog Soldiers. Then, even further, are those who came because they’re big fans of Pollyanna McIntosh from films like Offspring/The Woman, and more recently White Settlers.
Regardless of what draws a viewer to Let Us Prey, it ultimately delivers as both a tense and savage indie horror movie. This one has teeth. Not afraid to use them, either.
PC. Rachel Heggie (Pollyanna McIntosh) is starting on her first shift, overnight, at a tiny police station out in the backwaters of Scotland. As a few prisoners sit in their cells, PC. Heggie and Sergeant MacReady (Douglas Russell – A Lonely Place to Die, Valhalla Rising) keep an eye on things. There’s also PC. Jack Warnock (Bryan Larkin) and PC. Jennifer Mundie (Hanna Stanbridge) who’ve got their own thing going on.
But it’s when a man named Six (Liam Cunningham) shows up at the police station, brought in after seemingly being hit by a car, that everything begins to change. Rachel, her Sergeant, and the other officers have no idea exactly who or what they are dealing with, and over the course of the night Six intends to show them.
I think this review is as good a time to say it as any, given that I find this movie is pretty solid horror.
With any genre really, but in this case horror, my view is that you don’t have to be original in order to be good, great even. As long as you can bring something fresh to even the oldest of concepts, something exciting and interesting, then there’s at least SOMETHING to be mined out of that effort. For instance, like I mentioned about the Carpenter film almost being a prototype for this movie and Last Shift, there’s a way to incorporate that and still be unique on its own. Let Us Prey goes even a much different route than Last Shift, in my opinion, apart from the obvious plot/story differences. What I enjoy here is that there’s horror, yet behind it all there seems to be bits of symbolism. That is to say, other than the heavy handedness in the screenplay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to enjoy it too long. There could have been much more done with all this, instead it ends up mostly as gimmickry for the characters. The barbed wire crown of thorns-style headdress? Obviously a gritty nod to the crucifixion, just fell flat more than anything because it was begging to be used for more than fodder. I’m not even religious, it’s only the fact I feel the imagery/symbolism was there to use and it ended up like discarded pieces of fat trimmed off the meat; good fat, not the useless kind. Anyways, I’m not the one who had the good fortune to come up with this whole plot and story, so kudos to the screenwriters on all the wonderful stuff they DID jam into Let Us Prey.
There are still problems.
I really don’t know exactly why Sergeant MacReady (Russell) turned into the wild religious maniac he did. I guess I do; it doesn’t work for me, though. Totally dig the confrontation between MacReady and Six (Cunningham) where the entire idea of Christianity v. Atheism came out. However, this simply doesn’t account for him going off the way he does. There was some amazingly disturbing subject matter happening in the subplot of MacReady, but it simply wasn’t thought out well enough. All the same, I did enjoy Russell’s performance because he got to go crazy and, though tempting surely, he stopped short of hamming it up.
Part of what I did love here is that this movie is a modern horror with great aesthetic things going on all around; from the visual look to the pounding, unrelenting score.
First off, the cinematography by Piers McGrail, who also shot the excellent looking (though ultimately disappointing) The Canal, is a part of what sets the overall sombre mood and tense tone of the film. Aside from an amazingly shadowy, rich textured look to many of the scenes, the composition of certain shots is absolutely marvellous. Old school style framing with these incredibly proportional shots which can, at times, box you in the way proper horror ought to, anyways.
Second, and just as important, there comes a lusciously composed score out of the mind and hands of Steve Lynch. I’ve never honestly heard anything he’s done, not that I know of, but this score is WOW – downright homage-like, harkening once more back to John Carpenter, and all at once there’s also a totally different quality to the different pieces, a heavier, more terrifying feel. Some moments really gut punch you, in the right sort of sense. Other scenes have this dreadful foreboding skin laying thick over every beautiful shot where the atmosphere seeps into your skin and really entrenches you in the world Let Us Prey presents. Hallmark of a solid horror is always nice atmosphere, in part due to cinematography and score working in conjunction as one creepy unit; this film bears those marks, more than plentifully.
While I don’t agree with certain reviews stating the police station here is a type of Limbo, or anything similar, I think there’s absolutely some Hell-ish stuff which transpires. That leads us into the greatest part about the film: the horror. Pollyanna McIntosh and Liam Cunningham are equally wonderful in their respective roles, but what gets me going about Let Us Prey is good old fashioned horror fun. From the savage antics of Sergeant MacReady, to one of the officers slamming a chair leg through a guy’s head with gory pleasure, there are more than enough moments to satisfy the gorehound horror fans amongst the pack.
The finale is somewhat lacking. Not that I’m a person who needs ALL things wrapped up in the end. However, there’s a bunch of things happening thematically and I don’t feel as if the finale and ending do enough for me in terms of closing off those themes, ones they started in on initially, so there’s a copout in that sense. I didn’t want a bow on top and a neat little present of an ending – there’s something missing. I can’t say what, but the Cairns/Watson script needed a more suitable finish, which left me walking away lacking.
Let Us Prey is a 3.5 star film, for me. The script leaves me a bit lukewarm by the end, but the performances are really great all around – even from the smaller roles – and the horror is downright nasty, as well as relentless for a good deal near the end. The problems I do have with the script are relatively minor. There’s enough tension and excitement throughout this awesome Scottish indie to keep anyone interested. If not, well there are nice frilly little action movies with bright shapes and colours for you to look at: over here we’re watching brutal horror movies!