Outcast – Season 2, Episode 8: “Mercy”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 8: “Mercy”
Directed by Daisy Von Scherler Mayer
Written by Jeff Vlaming

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Alone When It Comes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “This Is How It Starts” – click here
Pic 1For the first time in so long, we see Blake Morrow (Lee Tergesen) in his jail cell. He’s worried. “Its not supposed to be like this,” he laments after a fleeting vision of Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a.k.a “The one who ends it all.” He warns everything’s about to end. To others, the rantings of a crazy man.
And who’s there witnessing his death in the small audience? Dr. Park (Hoon Lee). Hmm. I’m continually interested in the doctor, and we keep getting more.
Pic 1AKyle worries about his sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt). But he ain’t doin’ so hot, either. His wound isn’t altogether healed, not by a long shot. He goes back over to the hospital to try finding help under the radar. He finds one of the demon host doctors and strong arms her into stitching him closed. Not long after when he can’t find his mother Kyle winds up getting arrested.
At the same time, Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) wants to get his hands on Sidney (Brent Spiner). Although Dakota (Madelyn Deutch) wants to go for a softer approach. She wants to get all the information she can from him instead of letting the rev get too handsy. Anderson manages to get down in the cellar with Sidney, taunting and toying.
So Blake isn’t dead. Not anymore. Park’s brought him back, he has a purpose for the man surely. Hoping to figure things out before the Great Merge comes down. To find out how they can live in the world as they are without having to use humans as hosts.
At least Kyle wasn’t actually arrested. It’s a friend of former Chief Byron Giles (Reg E. Cathey) who picked him up as a favour. Now, these two are trying to figure out what to do next, and Kyle wants to follow the steps of his father before him, as well as see what the people from the Lighthouse know. Added to that Junkyard Bob (M.C. Gainey) is suiting the Giles’ up with ammunition and guns.
Kyle: “It wasnt you
Byron: “Fuck that excuse, it was me. I shouldve been stronger.”
Moreover, we now discover that the demons they have a “collective memory” which Blake is out around Rome trying to tap into so he can find Kyle.
Pic 2Soon enough Megan runs into Blake. He says he was saved by Anderson and Kyle. So now he’s going to find out exactly where one of them is for certain. Shiit. Meanwhile, Kyle looks through the van Bob buried, the corpse inside. Turns out that Helen Devere “needed their light” and stole it from the beacons, like Simon Barnes and his son Kyle, now little Amber. Then Simon mercy killed the damaged beacons. That’s a YIKES moment if I’ve ever seen one.
At the Lighthouse, Megan arrives with Blake in tow. He then ends up talking to young Holly, they bond briefly. Right as soon as Kyle himself shows up. Bigger things are happening at the moment, too. Nobody can coax Anderson out so Kyle finally gets the job done, and they find a butchered Sidney inside, bloody and weak. Alive, though.
When Megan goes to the doctor she’s sent to see, she starts feeling strange. The woman tells her: “We are the chosen ones.” Ugh, this isn’t sounding good at all.
At home, Byron and Rose have dinner by candlelight. Their lives are much more worrisome as of late. They’re posted up with lots of guns. Doesn’t stop Nunez from lurking around outside, threatening him. So he blows her foot off before putting a bullet through her neck. Hot damn, Byron!
Pic 3Before the supposed doctor can do something terrible to Megan, she’s interrupted by Blake. Who strangles the woman to death and saves the day. Is he going to use this AND Megan as leverage over Kyle?
Speaking of, Kyle’s figuring out what they ought to do with Sidney. The white-haired devil talks about the man he chose as a host, a serial killer apparently. Then says the outcast can help him and the others change the world. Yeah, that sounds great.
Over at the coffee shop, Dr. Park and the rest of the council meet once again. Talking of Sidney and his big talk/no action. The doc has his own design on what they need: “Fuck the merge. No, to finally crawl out of the shadows,” this is his plan. Not only that he’s poisoned the other council members. Mutiny is right.
And where’s Sarah Barnes? She’s lying in a bed. Cared for by a man (C. Thomas Howell). Is this the long lost Simon Barnes? If so, whoooooa.
Pic 4Another fine chapter in Season 2. Love that Howell is part of the cast, he’s an awesome character actor with lots of good television roles under his belt over the past decade. Can’t wait for “This Is How It Starts” – the penultimate episode of the season. And Cinemax, you best be ready with that renewal pen; or else!

Advertisements

Outcast – Season 2, Episode 7: “Alone When It Comes”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 7: “Alone When It Comes”
Directed by Josef Wladyka
Written by Helen Leigh

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Fireflies” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Mercy” – click here
Pic 1When in Rome… yeah, that’s not gonna work here. Or maybe it does work for Sidney (Brent Spiner).
At home, Kyle (Patrick Fugit) and Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil) and their daughter Amber (Madeleine McGraw) scramble to figure out what’s next in the wake of all his girls have learned. He knows the demons are coming after them now. “Theyre out in the open,” he tells Allison. He knows that likely “half the damn town” are on their way for him with Sidney and Dr. Park (Hoon Lee).
Speaking of the hacking, white-haired devil, he and Park are having a look at a boy, precious cargo he fucked up. The doc is clearly one of the other higher up demons, and they talk of The Council, which I’m sure we’ll discover more of later, too.
Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) and Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) rush to Kyle’s place, they worry for what’ll happen if Kyle isn’t around. But the Barnes family has to get away, at least for the time being until he can think up a plan.
Pic 1AWhat about Rosie (Charmin Lee)? She’s been up to a few things, without her husband Byron (Reg E. Cathey) in his weakened state. She’s been real busy getting shit done. But is she safe?
In Kyle’s absence, Megan and the Rev get closer. She tells Anderson once about hating him, because she didn’t believe what Kyle was going through as a boy, instead believing he was toying with Kyle. Now she knows, far too well, that the truth about demons is real. Then he mentions the Lighthouse.
Amber: “The monsters like us
On the road Kyle notices someone following them. Or believes he does, anyways. His behaviour starts scaring his wife, though his daughter’s well versed at this point in demonology and many of the nasty creatures’ tricks. Up at the junkyard, Kyle looks for Bob Caldwell (M.C. Gainey), hoping he’s got a car for him. Bob is a little worse for wear yet always fighting.
Anderson takes Megan out to the Lighthouse, to see Dakota (Madelyn Deutch) and her congregation of sorts. The Rev also tells her that Kyle isn’t actually dead. Everyone there recognises Megan instantly, as if they know her. It’s because they recognise her struggle. They’ve struggled, as well.
In other news, Evelyn Bailey’s turned up dead. Chief Nuñez (Briana Venskus) has sent for former Chief Giles to be brought in, warrant and all. Byron gets a cell to himself, though not all the officers are giving him the cold shoulder. Nuñez, of course, isn’t one of them. She’s one of THEM; if you know what I mean.
Pic 2Across town the big, bad boss Sidney goes to meet the Council for coffee. He tells them Helen Devere was “successful” in her work. That he’s trying to figure out how she nearly brought about the Merge. But the Council is waning in their support for his little experiments, they want action.
Dakota and Megan talk alone, they discuss the sins of those who’ve been touched by demonic presence. Dakota tells her she can’t remember most of what she did while under the evil influence. She was a junkie on the street, later chewing the face off her boyfriend/dealer in a fit. Whoooa.
Sidney’s slow breaking down, his coughs worse every day. He falls in the parking lot, mocked by Park who thinks the Merge isn’t their only hope. Well, he also has his own ideas about how the demons might learn to live on Earth. He just isn’t keen on telling. Heading off, Sidney winds up putting his car off the road from coughing up black liquid.
Along the road Kyle and his family find a blockade, construction work being completed. He’s too paranoid, so they turn around only to see the car that was following earlier waiting. He drives off into the trees, but they run the car into the bushes.
A face we’ve not seen in awhile, Kat Ogden (Debra Christofferson), meets with Rosie. She’s been lured. Rosie fires a shot at her, but they trade blows and the demon is strong in Kat. Can’t put Mrs. Giles down, though. She knocks Kat over a railing and puts a finish to another demon infested soul in Rome. Bad ass.
At the station, one of Giles’ former officers believes in the devils. He says he had troubles one time, that maybe this was the cause. Now he’s into “old school” Jesus, y’know. And this officer believes in second chances, letting Byron out from distrust of Nuñez. Hell yeah, baby!
Pic 3Sidney’s still kicking, walking along the road until someone picks him up. He heads back to town in rough shape. Over at the Lighthouse, Anderson follows Dakota into the woods as she goes on by herself. To a cellar a ways out. He finds what they call a dormitory, and he knows better. They’re going to be keeping somebody down there. Then he sees it’s Sidney himself.
In the forest Kyle, Allison, and Amber are surrounded by a large group of people. Nuñez at the helm, wondering where the Barnes family are headed. They don’t want anybody leaving Rome. No, no, no.
What about Byron? He gets home and Rose has finally come back. She’s injured, full of Kat’s blood. This worries her husband, obviously. But it worries him more that she’s been a busy bee, doing the work they need to do. However, the noose in their little town is tightening. Something Kyle knows all too well, as he and his girls are pursued by the group with Nuñez. That is until Junkyard Bob turns up to save them, ploughing through the roadblock and nearly running the new chief over.
But Kyle won’t go. He lets Bob take the girls and leave. He faces the crowd, taking Nuñez to the ground while Amber burns a demon off Bob to get them free. He puts a hand over Nuñez’s face until she’s nearly drained of life, and watches while his family gets out of that demonic place.


Such a killer episode and an emotional, intense finale. Also, we’re getting ready to see a great battle. Kyle is ready, as are others including those at the Lighthouse. You know he’s going to hook up with them soon enough, via Anderson. And what about Dakota & Co. holding Sidney in that cellar? What do they have planned?
Next episode is “Mercy” and we’re closing in on the latter moments of Season 2. Sincerely hope Cinemax is smart enough to renew this for Season 3. Or else!

Outcast – Season 2, Episode 3: “Not My Job to Judge”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 3: “Not My Job to Judge”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Jeff Vleming

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Day After That” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The One I’d Be Waiting For” – click here
Pic 1Sidney (Brent Spiner) is taking care of his burned, young friend, who asks about if what Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) says of him is true. And the mysterious man says that the rev’s book calls him a “dragon” and he’s been called many other things by humans of flesh and blood. He has big plans for the kid, that’s why he saved him from the fire.
Evelyn Bailey (Claire Bronson) shows up, always helping, along with Peter, who’s eager to be part of their nastiness. Only Sidney’s got no time for that shit, so he dispatches him. No more prying eyes. And the devilish man doesn’t have time for lingering attachment between humans, he doesn’t understand it; one of the most interesting traits of his character in the series, he’s dumbfounded by human beings and their emotion for one another. Exactly how you’d expect the devil to be were he personified in a body.
Pic 1ADealing with the consequences of her husband’s death, Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) has reached the lowest depths of herself. She’s dragged from the water by Rev. Anderson. He makes clear he wouldn’t judge her; not in the places he’s been himself.  Even quotes a bit of Dr. Seuss. Meanwhile, Kyle (Patrick Fugit) takes Amber to go see her mother, Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil), at the hospital. Things aren’t well between the estranged husband and wife. While Amber waits for her parents to chat, a man approaches her in a creepy manner, though a hospital attendant shows up. However, there’s something odd about her. She and the man corner Amber, and the little girl uses her own powers to fend them off; she’s just like her papa.
While she’s out on the town, Patricia (Melinda McGraw) is abducted suddenly by a man (M.C. Gainey) and taken away, to who knows where.
Anderson meets Kyle on the road to tell her Megan took off, after her near suicide attempt. She also took her daughter Holly. They’ve gone back home, apparently. Mom wants to make the house a nice place again, to live like before. Only her daughter’s sure that dad dying wasn’t “an accident” like she’s being told. I’m betting Megan is headed towards taking responsibility, in some way, which could change things irreparably for her, and maybe others, too.
And back with Sidney, Patricia’s son Aaron is being given the opportunity to “fuck this world and all the pathetic creatures in it” – first, by having to cut up a body with a pocket knife. He can’t do it, though. Yet. And Patricia, she’s not getting any answers from Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey), threatening to make waves in town if nothing more’s done, especially with Anderson let out after confessing to what he thought he’d done.


Poor little Holly, she can’t get over the trauma of her father dying. Worst of all, back in that bathroom where she stands, her mother comes in and starts having fragmentary flashbacks of when she killed her husband. Also, Holly’s got a bit of a premonition skill; is she experiencing any effects of possession? Kyle ends up finding Megan, trying to figure out her state of mind. She’s starting to believe in the demons. Not just that: she’s pregnant. Whoa.
At the hospital, Allison is befriended by Kirby, the man who approached her daughter. He talks and talks to her, as patients are making crafts. It’s clear there are more possessed inside the walls of the mental health ward. A terrifying consequence of people being seen as insane, rather than for their demonic sickness; they’re all being piled into these places. Kyle and Anderson are trying to figure out what Sidney’s plan is, and it doesn’t prove easy.
In the meantime, out on his own, the man who abducted Patricia looks to be digging a grave. Ohh, shit. And he seems crazy as hell, too.
Megan’s having more and more trouble. It isn’t a great idea that she’s back in that house, where the demon took hold of her and killed her husband. It’s bringing up darkness. Maybe more than she can handle. She finds her husband’s gun, then before she can do anything crazy with it she runs outside to try getting rid of it. Where a woman’s waiting to give her a flyer for the Beacon.


Anderson and Kyle go back to the Austin place. Great inverted shot as they walk in, as if the world is literally turning upside down and they’re entering some foul, hellish place; superb cinematography, and this lines up with the opening titles where the camera flips around and we see the upside down world in front of us. When the pair are inside, they find Joshua’s mother in distress, talking about the man from the junkyard; the one who took Patricia.
So the two track the man to the junkyard. They find Giles there, too. The man, Bob, is helping out with things. They’re trying to stop the demons by putting them into the ground, burying the problem. Now that’s a solution, I guess. They’re not all on the same page about it. Kyle finds out later that Bob and his mother were in league together, and that his “old man” was part of the trouble years ago; he isn’t the first to try stopping the demons.
Sidney goes to see someone, for help. Looks like young Joshua, though could be someone else, who pours more of that black essence into him, as the devilish dude breathes in deep.
Pic 4What a great episode! This series gets exponentially better, as well as the fact it has a great score and soundtrack alike. Lots of things to look forward to, particularly “The One I’d Be Waiting For” next week. More demons, more Sidney, more mystery.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee”
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Written by Jeremy Slater

* For a review of Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula” – click here
screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-12-28-41-am
Here we are at the premiere of The Exorcist, a new series based on the classic from William Friedkin and based on the novel by William Peter Blatty.
We start on a familiar image, one of a man in a long coat and a brimmed hat walking, bag in hand, to some destination; it is Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels). In the distance are strange and unsettling noises.
In a brighter, more sunny place, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) gives a sermon to his congregation, which includes Angela and Henry Rance (Geena Davis & Alan Ruck), as well as their daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka). Off near the street outside after the service, Father Tomas sees a man who he believes is speaking to him, mouthing words. But when he talks to Angela a moment, turning back, the man is no longer there. At the same time, something seems off about Henry. In church he’s aloof, heading home he is distracted and not altogether there. Is headed for demons, possession and the like?
Ortega has issues of faith going on. Maybe. His sister Olivia (Camille Guaty) believes he doesn’t want to be a priest anymore, that he’s in love with a woman named Jessica. Of course, he denies it. Looking forward to more of that.
screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-12-32-40-am
In Mexico City, Father Marcus sits disillusioned yet firm in that “the powers in the repetition.” Another priest, Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan), has come to try talking sense into him. Although he didn’t anticipate Marcus having a gun. There’s more to him, as we’re seeing a man of the church, a man of god whose path clearly strays from that of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. And why? What drove someone to take the vows of priesthood but then divert to his own method? On his own again, he tries to help the boy that’s been possessed at the moment. He prays, flicking holy water at the beast inside the boy, the one that speaks to Marcus by name.
Back at Casa del Rance, Angela hears odd noises, whispers in the walls. She shakes it off quickly, though something clearly bothered her. Then we find the other sister Catherine (Brianne Howey) upstairs, depressed, in her own world. So is dad going to get demonic? Or is it going to be Charlotte? Hmm.
Love the digital organ system that plagues the organist – the ancient church and its customs meet the modern world. More importantly, this takes Father Tomas downstairs into the dark basement for a little jump scare when Angela turns up looking for him. She’s worried for Catherine, saying there are “things going on in the house.” Such as furniture moved, books thrown all over the floor, voices in the walls. Y’know, standard haunting madness. Angela straight up believes a demon is trying to take Catherine. Father Tomas explains demons are a construct of the church, as a way to rationalise through “metaphors” in regards to mental illness, et cetera. But Mrs. Rance can’t take those answers. She knows better. Particularly once a bad omen flies into the window: a raven gets stuck and bloodied smashed through a crack in the glass. Nasty.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-12-41-26-am
Ortega goes to see Catherine. She doesn’t put much stock into the thoughts of others. Not after losing someone close to her in a car accident. She’s merely in a depressed state after such an emotional trauma. Nevertheless, the family sits at the table eating along with Father Tomas, too. More and more we see the fact Henry is not who he was once. Catherine notices it, even if she’s the only one who says anything. I continue to believe he’s the one that’ll be possessed, one way or another. He gives Ortega an ominous sort of message about Father Marcus. This sets the young priest aflame wondering: who is this man? He has visions of Keane, the young boy’s possession, the exorcism. Until the boy jumps from his bonds, his neck twists around, and his spine breaks. Fuck, that’s vicious.
Father Tomas meets with a man called Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). He’s a little cryptic, offering up the supposed right question to be asking next: “What now, God?” Out of the corner of his eye, Tomas spies someone familiar. He follows the man to find it’s Father Marcus and tries to chat him up about demonic possession. However, the older man is pretty reluctant to say much. Finally though, Ortega gets more out of him and he reveals the circumstances of that possession Tomas dreamed. It seems that Father Marcus has become afraid of what lies beyond, as he’s seen it up close and personal, the damage it can do in the real world and not just in the spirit. His faith is quite broken.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-12-56-43-am

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-1-09-47-am
Eventually Father Tomas goes to see Angela once more. They have a heart to heart about God, their faith, family. He’s driven by the pure faith in his heart to help the Rances in their distress, no matter what it is truly. Then, upstairs comes a noise, a scream from one of the girls. In the attic, Ortega finds Casey lurking, killing rats without touching them, moving in an extremely weird way. Once Angela turns the lights on, nothing is as it seemed a moment ago. Casey is fine. Nothing looks out of the ordinary. But one thing’s for certain, Father Tomas is shaken; badly. Great throwback in this sequence to old school music from Friedkin’s classic with “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield playing – we see Ortega walk off in the night, and simultaneously Father Marcus gears up, ready to take on this next possession.
screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-1-15-22-amscreen-shot-2016-09-24-at-1-18-45-am
I personally loved this premiere episode. It doesn’t remake the original film, it’s merely an extension, inspired by Blatty’s work. I say give it a chance! Next up is “Chapter Two: Lupus in Fabula” and I think it’ll bring some great stuff. Ben Daniels is a favourite of mine, so I look forward to what he brings. And you can’t go wrong with Geena Davis, either. Plenty we can expect from this series. Let’s see if it holds up in the second episode.

FRIEND REQUEST Combines the Horror of Facebook with the Horror of Witchcraft

Friend Request. 2016. Directed by Simon Verhoeven. Screenplay by Verhoeven, Matthew Ballen, & Phillip Koch.
Starring Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, Liesl Ahlers, Shashawnee Hall, Susan Danford, Lee Raviv, & Nicholas Pauling. Wiedemann & Berg Filmproduktion/Seven Pictures/Two Oceans Production (TOP).
Not Rated. 92 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★1/2
poster I was one of the few people who actually found Unfriended a lot of fun. Not perfect, or near it. Just plain old fashion fun. Also made good use of its gimmick, being told solely through webcams and the various computer screens of the characters. Friend Request doesn’t opt for the gimmick. Rather, director (and one of the script’s co-writers) Simon Verhoeven goes more for the story in order to use its whole online scenario to get at more complicated, sinister aspects. The story isn’t anything convoluted – a young, lonely outcast befriends a sweet, popular type, only eventually she gets too clingy and her new popular friend decides to cut the poor lonely girl out of her life; then the outcast commits suicide. What follows is similar to the other aforementioned horror movie.
But where Unfriended doesn’t particularly get into any origins of the entity controlling the forces swirling around its characters, Friend Request moves into the supernatural realm and allows the internet to become just as haunted as any decrepit old houses on a dark, isolated road.
With a few bits here or there that could’ve been better, I’d be kidding myself, and lying to you, if I didn’t admit this little flick is an effective, chilling bit of modern horror using its premise wisely. Makes you think twice about who you might have on your friends list, too.
pic2Personally, until Fear the Walking Dead I didn’t see Alycia Debnam-Carey in anything. She’s great on the show, hopefully her character won’t die anytime soon because she is good fun, a solid young actress whom I had no idea was Australian! Alycia’s able to provide a very genuine lady whose predicament is all too easy to relate to for many of us. She doesn’t come across like a horrible person the way another screenplay might portray her. The writing puts her in an impossible situation while she nails the character, dragging us into empathy (sympathy for those who’ve experienced similar yet far less extreme situations).
After the big incident and the unfriending on Facebook involving lonely Marina (Liesl Ahlers), her guilt is crushing. I love when someone’s acting comes purely from their face, their eyes; that’s the mark of a good actor. Alycia has that quality, which surprisingly not all actors do. She uses that to her advantage in many scenes. Instead of a shrieking, wailing Scream Queen wannabe, she offers a little better of an emotional connection.
I absolutely love the score. No two ways about it. There are a few throwback-type electronic pieces, as well as lots of other equally interesting piano compositions. Gary Go, whom I know nothing of, and Martin Todsharow (who scored the soul crushing and semi-controversial 3096 Days) help make the atmosphere eerie. Underneath each frame their sounds pulse and pump and the tension ratchets up fairly nicely most of the time. Alongside the dark, shadowy cinematography, the music helps incredibly with the film’s suspense, cultivating a mood so thick you could scrape it off.
pic4Love the story. For those who might insist this is the same thing as Unfriended, the main character of both these films are completely different, two wholly separate types. Laura (Debnam-Carey) is not a bad person, as I mentioned earlier. She’s simply caught between a rock and a hard place in terms of Marina and how they come together. Unfriended deals more with the concept of bullying, as well as the consequences in a horror-ish sense. This movie uses a falling out between acquaintances and a later act of suicide all to get into a more supernatural story. We dive into witchcraft, possession, these areas. And it works because the writers don’t go for all the same tricks. There are jump scares – boring. Still there’s a nice portion of scary moments that do better by working their way under our skin before pouncing.
One of my favourite moments is when Kobe (Connor Paolo in one of his better performances as of late; love this kid) is looking through various things to try getting to the bottom of Marina and the darkness surrounding her – he winds up in a room with the lights flickering, screens flashing a demonic-looking face. Very unnerving. Then right after that is another creepy moment, as we watch Tyler (William Moseley) succumb to a buzzing sound in his ear, only to pull a black wasp from deep inside; yuck, and awesome. From here the horror comes on full force. Before that, we got flashes and brief scenes of horror goodness. The rest of the film is pretty solid on the bloody bits.UnfriendSure, it’s not great. For me it’s good enough. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see Friend Request. I can only hope once it gets a wider release in early October that people will give it a chance. There’s nothing here to reinvent the horror wheel. Not sure why people hold each film to that standard. You don’t always have to create some new situation or plot device or anything of that nature to make a good movie. This one had solid blood and gore – the bits with Marina’s mother later on, though brief, are spectacularly gruesome – the actors, specifically Alycia Debnam-Carey and Connor Paolo, made the characters and their stories worthwhile. Best is the sense of doom, the dread sitting over the whole movie. You never ever feel like a happy ending is anywhere nearby. And to my mind that’s an atmosphere any horror can hope to have. It isn’t one of my favourites, nor is it one of the better modern horrors. It’s just enjoyable. So relax, have fun. Let the witchcrafty madness get under your skin a little.

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 7: “The Damage Done”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 7: “The Damage Done”
Directed by Leigh Janiak
Written by Nathaniel Halpern

* For a review of the previous episode, “From the Shadows It Watches” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “What Lurks Within” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.10.17 PM
Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) is trying to heal up the wound Sidney (Brent Spiner) left in his chest, the pentagram. Takes quite a few cotton balls, bit of alcohol, some Q-Tips. Even then the blood still seeps out of the cuts. A little while later Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) arrives, obviously none the wiser. They’ve got a card game apparently. And Anderson hasn’t missed one in well over a decade. So Giles is curious when the Rev doesn’t want to play. He knows there’s something else going on. Rather than talk, though, he wants to play. It’s clear, even when the Mayor (Toby Huss), Ogden (Pete Burris), and the Chief are sitting around with him that the Rev is not himself. He is completely out of sorts. Meanwhile, Giles keeps pushing at Ogden about his whereabouts when the fire started out at the trailer. Then the man gets upset, as they nearly come to blows. Anderson even gets thrown to the floor.
This all leads to Giles figuring out what happened to Anderson at the hands of Sidney. The Rev, for his part (bless his foolish heart), wants to expose his assaulter. He knows who Sidney is, he wants to fight the evil with the good.
Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.10.26 PM
Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt) is off early in the morning. She’s still troubled by what she’s discovered about her husband Mark (David Denman). Is she going somewhere to deal with Donnie? In other news, Allison Barnes (Kate Lyn Sheil) is having some strange flashbacks. To when her daughter was screaming, in the closet. Like her father, Kyle (Patrick Fugit). You can see the heaviness of the memory in Allison’s eyes, all over her face.
Speaking of Kyle, he’s having a bit of trouble. In Rome, it’s Remembrance Day. Seems 29 people were lost in some type of accident. Now Kyle flashes back to his buddy Russ, as the two get off work one day. They chat about family life, going for a beer. When Kyle goes to shake his hand before heading home, there’s a brief moment where Russ hauls back, almost singed by Kyle’s touch. You can see that Russ was shaken. After the flashback, Kyle receives a visit from Giles. He’s wondering why the guy even bothered sticking around in Rome. Moreover, he wants to know what Kyle knows. About what’s happening in their quaint town. Especially after Mildred.
The big Remembrance Day celebration is poised to get going. While Anderson is preparing to give a little speech, he also sees the mysterious Sidney strolling about the town square, smiling like a creep.


Giles winds up out at the burned trailer with Kyle. He’s starting to get curious about Ogden. He wonders if Ogden is like Mildred, and if it can even be fixed. The Chief levels with the man. He feels Kyle has “a stain” that he wants to “wipe off” himself. “That says something about who are, truly,” Giles tells him.
After his recent brush with true evil, the Rev is starting to loosen up with his semi-girlfriend Patricia (Melinda McGraw). Even further he finds Sidney in a barbershop. They talk quite cryptic. Or at least cryptic to the barber in the background. Until Anderson goes ahead and invites Sidney to his regular poker game. Yeah, that won’t be awkward. Having a demon, or the devil, or whatever/whoever he is at the table, playing with his old buddies. Actually, please, I want to see that.
In an drawing by her daughter Amber, Allison notices she has no face; Amber does, Kyle does, not her. We start seeing that the little girl is apprehensive of her mother when she says: “I dont know what face to draw.” God damn that was creepy.
Over at the town square, Kyle tries to get a handshake from Ogden without drawing too much attention. No demon. Just an asshole. Ogden makes it clear there’s lots of love lost when it comes to how people feel about Kyle. Not only is there the situation with his wife, he didn’t go to work that day when the big accident happened. So a guy like Ogden isn’t letting that go. Regardless, there’s something a bit horrifying about the man.
And Megan, she goes to pay Donnie every last cent she has to get him to leave their family alone.
Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.29.39 PM
Allison continues trying to figure out the hazy bits of that time she can’t recall. It comes back over her in waves. She strangled her daughter, or tried to, anyway. Side note, can I? Kate Lyn Sheil is amazing. I love her acting, a revelation as the episodes pass. In this scene she does a fantastic job selling the fear that wracks her instantly after remembering what she’d done.
Well, Ogden tells Giles to “look the other way” and now it’s far more than obvious he’s done something bad. Something worth the cover up. At the big celebration, Anderson then gets up to say his piece. In the crowd Kyle touches hands with Kat Ogden (Debra Christofferson); is this what her husband’s been trying to keep secret, that his wife is possessed by a demon?
Afterwards when a monument to the 29 fallen is unveiled, a red pentagram is spray painted on its chest. What this does is start to make the Rev seem crazy to the townspeople. It begins alienating him. He talks about the demons, the exorcisms he and Kyle have performed, and this just makes everyone look at him like a madman. He even points out Sidney – to anyone else, a seemingly normal man with a nice hat. “That man, he is the devil, and he left his mark,” Anderson screams before revealing his own pentagram, just like the statue. Ah, the devil’s plan is working perfectly. Kyle takes the Rev away, but Sidney’s little game has worked out nicely for him.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.39.25 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.39.41 PM


When Mark goes to see the Chief, we see the walls start crumbling. That money Megan gave Donnie? Didn’t do shit. Lawyers are involved now, the dash-cam footage revealed. Uh oh. Big time uh oh. When Mark tells Megan what’s going down, she nearly has a heart attack. She’s been played for an absolute fool. “This is never gonna end,” she weeps. It all makes them fight. Before Megan bursts out telling her husband exactly what Donnie did to her all those years ago, finally.
Over at his place, Kyle finds Allison and Amber waiting for him. That’s interesting. We know that Allison is wising up to her whole situation, what likely happened. At least in part. Putting his daughter to bed, Kyle hears Amber talk about the “cold” and “black” stuff that left her mother. Unlike her father, Amber was spared. We get to watch a loving scene, if not spooky for a moment, between a father and his little girl. Following that, mom and dad reconnect, both emotionally and physically.
Only when Kyle wakes up, he finds Allison gone, a short note. She realised that something terrifying happened to her, some forced made her do a bad thing to her daughter. Which in turn prompted her own husband to have to do a bad thing to her, too. But now Allison has decided to leave. I wonder how this will work out, particularly when people in town discover he’s suddenly got custody. Yet also, what’s going on with Allison? She reconnects with her husband suddenly, then takes off. To who knows where.
Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.53.01 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.54.37 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.59.08 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-23 at 11.02.57 PM
What a solid episode, a surprise all around. Really dig this one, as I’ve said plenty throughout this first season. A great, solid series full of good writing and smart choices. Can’t wait for the next episode titled “What Lurks Within.”

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 5: “The Road Before Us”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Road Before Us”
Directed by Craig Zobel
Written by Robin Veith

* For a review of the previous episode, “A Wrath Unseen” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “From the Shadows It Watches” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 9.57.51 PM
Allison Barnes (Kate Lyn Sheil), estranged wife of Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), locks her door then starts to head for bed. She finds her daughter Amber playing, talking about drinking the “black poison.” She uses her dolls all to similar to what likely happened between her mother and father. Eerily reminiscent, for sure. Outside, Allison sees a car sitting in the darkness – inside sit Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) and Kyle. The torn up husband worries for his daughter, he worries about if whether a demon still resides in his wife. Anderson tries to talk Kyle out of anything foolish saying he can go and talk with Allison. The younger of the two worries about Mildred (Grace Zabriskie), and that Anderson can’t tell on his own anymore. They’re at odds.
So Kyle calls up his sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) asking her to help setup a meeting between him and Allison. Bad idea. The sisterly advice is he’ll only fuck his family up more. Megan offers to go see them herself, a good woman.
Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.03.02 PM
Police Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) goes to see his buddy Fire Chief Ogden (Pete Burris) about the blaze down at the little shack. Of course he doesn’t get much. Though, without being too heavy on the puns here, a fire is lit under Ogden. He knows there’s more to Giles than just a bit of talk.
Meanwhile, Kyle and Anderson head over to see Roy Marcus (Jason Davis), who’s had an experience close to that of the Barnes family. Roy’s daughter is out on the streets now, as things have taken a turn for the worse. He’s a broken man. Not hard to see. Although Kyle is still not sure about the Reverend’s abilities after Mildred, and after their experience with Blake Morrow previously; both of which make him wonder if the demons can’t be expelled completely all the time.
At Allison’s place Megan arrives, unexpected. She tries to talk closely with her sister-in-law. She expresses her worry for Allison, for Amber, their well being. The young mother seems off, though it’s tough to tell whether that’s demons. Because it could easily be the fact she’s just under a ton of stress. There’s still love on Allison’s part for Kyle, just no trust, as Anderson pointed out earlier. She knows he’s a good father, but he also has a danger in him. Or, well, that’s the way it’s perceived. She, and Megan and many others, still don’t know the truth behind what really went on between them. For her part, Allison knows something is “blocking the truth” after discovering there are pieces of her memory missing.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.13.44 PM
On the road again Anderson takes Kyle to see another soul he’s… helped. The guy is another broken down sort. His pet store is shut down. The wife left, got the house. Something is not right with him immediately – Kyle notices he strays from his handshake. So the young exorcist grabs the guy by his shoulders and things set off. The former pet store owner grabs his gun, pointing it at the duo before they take off. Smart idea. Only there’s a demon left sitting inside that man. Now they’re both incredibly worried for what the rest of the people Anderson has ‘saved’ are doing, out there, maybe still possessed. Then Megan calls Kyle, letting him know something isn’t right with his estranged wife. He wants to go see her. Uh oh.
In the meantime, Sidney (Brent Spiner) makes his way out to the Barnes residence. He  looks around, in the closet, the kitchen. Everywhere. Even straightens up a picture before laying down in Mrs. Barnes’ old bed. Over at the station, Officer Mark Holter (David Denman) brings Chief Giles some results from his work down at the burned down trailer. An ID and everything. Well, turns out they’ve got the “DNA of a missing woman” that was present at whatever happened in that creepy little camper. Giles suggests before making a big deal to do some follow-up and figure out whether the woman is actually disappeared. But Giles, he worries more, as Ogden is clearly into some troubled shit.


Kyle foolishly goes to see Allison. He wants to talk and does his best to make her feel comfortable, going so far as to take steps away from her off the porch. When Amber shows up things are brutally awkward. She calls her mother a bitch and says she wants to go with her father. In the midst of it all Allison accuses him of trying to turn their daughter against her. Not the case at all. However, we see a moment when Kyle ends up touching her, just for a second, and she flinches. The flinch of an abused woman? Or of a woman possessed by a demon?
Flash back to Allison waking up, beaten, bruised in a women’s shelter. She can’t remember anything from the trauma. Kyle admitted to beating her, though nobody knows the truth, and it all upsets Allison.
In the present, Giles goes to see his old buddy Ogden; gun ready to draw and everything. He talks about their friendship: “I might go so far as to say best friends, maybe,” says Giles. He’s clearly been hurt by the lack of trust between them. Yet Holter calls with news about the missing woman: she isn’t missing. Hmm. The plot thickens, so literally. There’s still something going on with Ogden, obviously. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly what.
Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.25.31 PM
The devious Sidney goes to see Mildred. Right away, she understands who he is, no introduction necessary. That’s creepy. They have their chat about physical possessions, how they keep busy as human lifeforms, so on. Sidney wants to know about Kyle Barnes, planning on taking care of him and the Reverend Anderson. Moments later Mildred tries to suck the life out of Sidney, just as the demons often do to Kyle. Does this mean he and Sidney are similar, or one in the same? Very intriguing, brief moment. Mildred mentions something about “the merge” which almost seems like an event the demons wait to see.
On the streets, Kyle and Anderson are out looking for the missing, possibly possessed daughter of Roy Marcus. They find her and she leads them down into the subway tunnels. And she is most certainly still afflicted with a demonic influence. She rambles some madness at Kyle before attacking him, trying to suck that black force out of his body. A battle begins that soon sees Kyle being wrapped up in the black, fog-like, oozing substance from within the possessed girl. Just like his mother, she’s left catatonic.


Sidney: “Humans are so desperate to express their individuality, to separate themselves from each other. Seems so short sighted.”
Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.52.17 PM
Allison discovers a trail of blood in her house. Or she thinks so, until discovering it’s red paint Amber tracked in from the garage to throw around the walls. This prompts the little girl to hide in a closet, so painfully similar to the way her father once hid from his own mother. We can see the direct parallel. At the very same time, Kyle is tearing himself up over the Marcus girl, now lying in a hospital bed; again, exactly like his own mother. So many things are directly paralleling his own existence and his life that it’s like a weight bearing down on his chest. Reverend Anderson believes those souls are “in Gods hands now” while Kyle isn’t happy with any of it. None of it is holy or redemptive to him. No miracles. “Cause no ones fuckinlistening. If your God is out there, hes laughinat you,” Kyle berates Anderson.
Back home, Allison is waiting for Kyle. He can’t explain exactly what it is compelling him to protect her. She also wonders why he hasn’t apologised for what happened, seeing as how he’s a chronic apologist, even for the smallest things. This makes her curious and begs the question: did he really do it? Then she goes in to kiss him. She touches him. Nothing bad happens. They embrace. “Youre safe,” he tells her quietly. Allison doesn’t understand, but can’t remember on her own. She begs to know the truth. But he can’t. The truth is too unbelievable, no matter how true. A rift still exists between them and unless Allison witnesses a possession, or experiences it again herself, there’s no telling if it will ever close.
Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.57.06 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.58.43 PM
An amazing episode. The best so far, in my opinion. What a great chapter to this first season. Can’t wait for “From the Shadows It Watches” next!

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 4: “A Wrath Unseen”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 4: “A Wrath Unseen”
Directed by Julius Ramsay
Written by Robert Kirkman

* For a review of the previous episode, “All Alone Now” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Road Before Us” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 1.15.14 PM
Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) presides over a very small funeral for poor Norville, after Kyle (Patrick Fugit) found him bloody and murdered at the end of last episode. And then Sidney (Brent Spiner) shows up, claiming himself as a “friend” and claiming Norville must have been distraught over the loss of his wife. Sidney says he’s in town to take care of Norville’s affairs, all that stuff. What a god damn liar. Although I can’t wait to see more of his character. He’s sinister, as we know it was him to have done the need. Or at least it’s highly likely, anyway. So I want to know his full deal. I suspect he’s a demon, but won’t jump to say anything. I’ve never read the source material, I wouldn’t know where this is headed. I can only judge by what we’re given. And I dig the slow burn nature of the plots coming together.
Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 1.17.02 PM
Anderson is an interesting character, too. He has a bunch of keepsakes at home. Little trinkets he keeps from the exorcism work he performs. When he touches them the memories come flooding back, of the demonic possession he’s seen, the victims of said demons. Tragic life to live. In other parts of town, Mark and Megan Holter (David Denman/Wrenn Schmidt) are happy. At least they seem to be, even if she’s got other things happening in her life that he doesn’t know about – Donnie Hamel (Scott Porter) kicking around town and all. He actually shows up while they’re out at dinner. He brings up awkward conversation  and while Mark does his best to be polite, his wife is rocked by his presence. There’s a very aggressive element to his presence. More plot and character development/history to come out. I’m sure there’s something deep lying behind their relationship.
Then we get more of Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey), this time at home with his wife and friends, Mr and Mrs. Ogden (Peter Burris & Debra Christofferson). When they’re alone, Giles passes the gold watch over to his buddy. With that, this plot thickens.


At a bar, Kyle runs into Donnie. The whole family clearly has a connection to him. That comes up quick and violent after Kyle attacks him right off before they’re both tossed out of the bar. They fight some more outside. Mostly, Kyle gets his ass beat down. “Always playing the guardian angel,” Donnie smirks above him: “Havent you figured out they dont exist?” Next morning Kyle calls his sister. He’s not willing to “ignore” whatever it is that’s happening(/has happened) between them. For the time being he promises not to do anything too drastic. Something big is behind all this and I’m intrigued as hell.
Later on Kyle goes to see Anderson, who’s busy cleaning up the cemetery, picking up trash. The Rev lays it on his younger friend, saying that to get into this whole thing and help people, to fight those demons while using that gift of his there’s a need for people to trust him. They don’t right now. Lots of talk, then his dust up with Donnie. No matter what’s going on there is a good bond between these two. Because really, they’re the only two who know for sure that there’s something dark going on, that the devil is more real than many are willing to believe. And it’s no big religious thing, at least not to Kyle. It’s merely a stand between good and evil. Well the exorcist duo head over to another house, the door has a German “Willkommen” on the door. Inside Anderson sees a few ceramic boys on the window ledge and starts to have flashes of what he’d thought of earlier while touching the trinkets he keeps as souvenirs. Meanwhile, Kyle goes in to see Mildred (Grace Zabriskie). She knows all about Kyle. She alludes to him beating his wife, and in general having a problem with violence. Mildred has trouble sitting down, but when Kyle goes to help her it all but sears her skin. The whole thing is incredibly unsettling, which sends Kyle out fast. We discover more about Mildred, how she’d supposedly been exorcised. And Anderson says she’s been in church for the past couple years, singing, praising Jesus. Could he maybe be a bit too naive? Perhaps the fresh eyes of Kyle Barnes are really needed to figure out exactly how devious the devil can get in his work.
Out on his own, Giles is suited with rifle in tow for a trek in the woods. He’s back at that dirty old trailer trying to find out more about what’s going on out there.


Poor Megan is twisted up over the appearance of Donnie in her life again. Her husband’s worried, and their life is being affected. She can’t even think of anything related to Donnie without getting upset. Then we get a flashback from Megan, she peeks through a bathroom door before running to her room, towel on, and then who I can only assume is a young Donnie corners her, crushing the tail of her white stallion toy on the floor. In the present, Megan takes out a gun and holds it with a look of intent in her eyes.
On the street Mark picks up his brother-in-law Kyle, who reluctantly gets in the cruiser. They go for a beer. Mark wants to talk about Donnie. Right away you can see the look on Kyle’s face change, his entire body language and demeanour becomes more tense. “Is that him?” asks Mark. He obviously knows about whatever happened, just not who did it. We find out Donnie was a foster kid that their family took in and he abused Megan. Yowzah. Lots of explosive stuff about to happen. Disgusting that Mark had to figure it all out this way. Furthermore, Kyle tells Mark about how when he found out what Donnie was doing, he started sleeping on the floor of Megan’s room. So more and more he’s painted as less of a bad guy, and even Mark comes to see him a bit differently, even after all the stuff with Kyle, his wife, his child – something we still have yet to fully discover ourselves.
At the hotel, Megan confronts Donnie. She wants him to leave and he tries saying that he’s changed, that he was a “fucked up kid” and nothing like that anymore. Not sure how this will all play out. I’d like him to get shot, Megan definitely has her gun. Though I doubt she’ll do that.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 1.49.53 PM
Anderson is back to visit with Mildred. After the incident with Kyle he wanted to be sure she was all right. Truthfully, he’s doubting his own work. He believes Kyle may be right, underneath it all. He questions Mildred about her grandchildren, the fact she doesn’t want to be around them these days. This is a truly eerie scene. I love it. “What if we like who we become?” Mildred ponders out loud to the Reverend. It becomes clearer by the second there is still something demonic, something evil lurking inside that woman, and it’s obviously gotten better at concealing itself beneath her skin. The Rev finally admits to Kyle he didn’t get the job done on Mildred. Off they go on their merry way, exorcism kit in hand and ready to fend off evil once more. Only Mildred’s daughter won’t allow them in, she knows what Anderson did to try and get the devil out of the old woman before – the demon tells lies, of course.
In the woods, Giles sees his old pal Ogden throw a load of gas over the trailer then proceed to burn it down. Ah, more developments.
Out on the highway Mark pulls Donnie over. He orders the man out of his car, and you can feel the tension fatten up, so thick you could cut it with a knife. And in this day and age you can be sure the dash cam catches Mark beating the hell out of Donnie, throwing him to the roadside, laying into him. At home later that night, Mark gets a call from the Chief to run all that evidence he collected previously down at the trailer. But now Mark has to deal with his own morality, he has to live with himself. No doubt Donnie deserves all he gets, though this whole thing has definitely damaged Mark’s moral core.
Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 2.02.04 PM
The worry in Kyle for the mistakes Anderson has made mounts. He worries now for his own wife Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil), even if she’s got a restraining order on him. What if the Rev has failed to exorcise many demons, not just Mildred? Might mean a ton of dark souls are out there waiting to be saved, or trying hard not to be.
In the trees somewhere, Megan sets up a bunch of glass. She smashes it with a hammer taking out her rage in the privacy of the forest. The pain inside her has to come out, and luckily she isn’t doing anything nuts. I thought she’d have killed Donnie, or maybe she was heading down to do some target practice in preparation. However, I think what we’re seeing is that she is a good person, she’s been degraded and abused terribly yet she chooses to take out her aggression without hurting anyone, putting her in juxtaposition with her husband. Here, the person that was abused isn’t the one wanting the revenge, or at least she isn’t taking it herself. The man always has to step up and make it about his own feelings and his own rage. At the same time there’s a division between people willing to step over the line when necessary and those who will never step over it on principle. Mark is a good man, but this episode sets up a big duality between those who choose to take care of evil firsthand and those who would simply rather try to get past it, however they can.
Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 2.04.30 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-25 at 2.07.13 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-25 at 2.13.38 PM
A great episode. Love this series so much already. Some think it’s too slow, I find the pace extraordinary. It sets things up well and gives us a chance to speculate, before the plots and the characters develop. Lots of surprises, lots of creepiness. Can’t wait for the next episode!

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 1: “A Darkness Surrounds Him”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 1: “A Darkness Surrounds Him”
Directed by Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next, The Guest)
Written by Robert Kirkman

* For a review of the next episode, “(I Remember) When She Loved Me” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 9.35.18 PM
Cinemax has blessed us. Let us indulge in the Adam Wingard-directed pilot of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast, shall we?
Even the credits sequence here is awesome, a nice ambient and unsettling bit of music over eerie imagery. This first episode begins with a boy that’s definitely not quite right. When he smashes a bug to death with his head (/face?) this only confirms suspicions. Downstairs his family is arguing. When he pops down to see them, covered in blood, they’re too busy arguing to notice at first. The way the boy moves is so creepy, you can tell his head is messed up. Finally, his mother notices he’s not eating chips like he was at first. Now it’s his finger.
Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 9.35.34 PM
Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) is playing some cards with some colleagues from the local fire department and the local holy man Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), too. They get interrupted by an urgent phone call from a Mrs. Betsy Austin (Lacy Camp). She owns the little boy, Joshua, whose body’s definitely being possessed by something.
At a rundown-looking house, Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) is sleeping. He dreams of another time before the nasty dilapidation of his current situation. He sees a woman, himself with her. But a knock comes at his door, he snaps back. In a room nearby there looks to be some things belonged to a woman. Instead of answering the door Kyle wanders around his home ignoring it. Finally, he opens the door and it’s Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt). Clearly a friend, but he is at a distance. She thinks he’s “punishing” himself. He doesn’t want any of her shit, or her charitable friendship. The house is his childhood home, he doesn’t feel like leaving.
Yet it isn’t all roses in his memories. Living with his mother there did not always feel like family time. By the looks of it his mother was possessed, similar to young Joshua. She’d lock him in the closet and that’s where he’d stay, for who knows how long. A traumatized young man. Why does Kyle want to stick around, though? How is it healthy? Or might there be unfinished business, a reason to stay close?


We discover Kyle shouldn’t be calling somebody. The woman in his dream. For her part, Megan does her best to encourage him positively. While they’re out shopping Kyle runs into some people who knew him. They also suggest he head back to church for a good rip roarin’ sermon. They further tell him about Joshua, who’s “fallen prey to dark forces“, which starts intriguing Kyle.
At the Austin house, Father Anderson is calling out the dirty demon. It starts kicking the shit out of everybody. Brutally. One awesome exorcism scene that both calls on films we know, plus adds its own creepy stuff.
Furthermore, it seems as if Kyle was once under the influence of Anderson. Yet now we know Anderson ain’t full of shit. Megan wants to have him over for dinner, though he isn’t so keen. He’s her adopted brother. And apparently people have… ideas about him, particularly nowadays. She’s married to Mark (David Denman) and he definitely does not want Kyle around. This is obviously a point of contention between the married couple. Surely we’ll see that develop the more this season goes on, as Kyle’s being around will impact a lot going forward. His little niece reveals a possible clue: she says he hurt his little girl, now Kyle isn’t her daddy. This upsets him, then he leaves. If this is really the case, that’s a devastating, heavy thing, and certainly paints Kyle as a character in a wholly new light within this first episode.


Kyle calls the woman he isn’t supposed to. She knows it’s him without his saying a word, and it unnerves her. He borrows his neighbour’s car, a man named Norville (Willie C. Carpenter). He heads over to the Austin household, asking for Reverend Anderson. Then inside he goes. Evidently to help. Anderson believes Kyle stopped whatever was happening to his own mother, so apparently he’s got a gift. Possibly.
Within the room, Kyle comes face to face with evil: “I know you,” says the thing inside Joshua. The way Kyle approaches it is from a rational, adult perspective. He sees it as nothing more than a kid pretending to get out of school. But the demon in the boy talks more about things he shouldn’t know, about the pictures in the pantry on the door, all those things. It’s terrifying. He evens scratches like Mrs. Barnes. “So long have we tried to find you Outcast,” the demon explains. Then it jumps Kyle, sucking something out him as Kyle flashes back to when his mother seemed to have done the same. What a god damn unsettling moment.
Afterwards, Kyle only has one bit of advice: run. He doesn’t have any faith or belief in a higher power. Pretty much the very opposite. However, it was what happened in the Barnes house that turned Reverend Anderson into an exorcising machine. So they’re at two different places, which is an interesting juxtaposition between the characters. Look forward to more of their relationship.


The tortured childhood of Kyle is awful. We get more flashbacks, as he goes to visit his catatonic mother in the hospital. He remembers being locked in that closet, similar to how she’s now locked inside herself, imprisoned in her own body. Some justice, I suppose, for all that terror. Later, he and Norville chat together, eating some stew. We discover Norville knew something terrible was happening when Kyle was a boy. The crew of characters that we’re being introduced to is excellent. I’ve never read the comics, though I certainly will not. And I’m already intrigued to see where a lot of these plots and threads end up weaving.
Kyle goes back over to the Austin place with Anderson. He starts to figure out further similarities between Joshua and his mother. First it’s the light that burns their skin. Then they begin to torture the demon, trying to hurt it. But the thing is strong and it fights hard. Sucking more of the essence out of Kyle, at least until he gets the upper hand and starts beating Joshua a bit. Love that this show has a grown man beating a little kid, evne if there’s a demon inside him. He goes a bit too far, but then the demon bites him, and Kyle’s blood burns him badly. Ah, interesting. The Outcast has power. Because this sends projectile, black vomit spewing out of the kid before dissipating into smoke-like fog. Luckily, back to the real world comes the boy, a little worse for wear but alive.
Of course Kyle ends up in cuffs after the whole ordeal. Although, he’s let go and Mrs. Austin doesn’t want charges pressed. Thankfully. That’d open up tons more cans of worms in Kyle’s life. As if he needs anything tougher to push through.


At the end of the episode, Kyle goes back to his house alone.
Then we flash back to a time before. Something had been possessing his wife, hurting his child. Love that we’re only getting bits and pieces, so as to draw it out. Keeps me wanting more. “Come and get me,” Kyle speaks into the dark sky at whatever darkness is surrounding him, right before the credits roll. Gnarly. Dig that line so hard.
Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 10.29.16 PM
Stay with me. When the series officially airs, as Cinemax has only given us a taste just yet, I’ll be continuing on following this series. Adam Wingard is a favourite director of mine, so I wish he were sticking around (at least he isn’t that I know of other than directing the first episode). Nevertheless, I have faith in Robert Kirkman, as well as Cinemax after The Knick and Banshee.
This one’s going to be a wild ride.

THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN: An Alzheimer’s Nightmare

The Taking of Deborah Logan. 2014. Directed by Adam Robitel. Screenplay by Gavin Heffernan & Robitel.
Starring Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, Michelle Ang, Brett Gentile, Jeremy DeCarlos, Ryan Cutrona, Tonya Bludsworth, Anne Bedian, Randell Haynes, & Jeffrey Woodard.
Casadelic Pictures/Bad Hat Harry Productions/Jeff Rice Films.
Rated R. 90 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★
POSTER There’s nothing more horrific than Alzheimer’s disease. It affects the people with it and those around the one afflicted in various ways, from physically to emotionally. I can’t particularly think of many horrors, if any, that have tackled this idea. Only recently another film called Dementia touched on similar issues of mental illness, though much differently. The Taking of Deborah Logan takes on the faux documentary found footage style with a plot that follows a camera crew filming a woman with Alzheimer’s, as well as her daughter who takes care of her, and essentially it’s a thesis project for one woman involved. Through this lens, we’re able to get an inner circle view of the struggle with a terrible disease. Or is there more lurking behind the frame, waiting to be exposed?
First feature director Adam Robitel, along with Gavin Heffernan sharing duties on the script, brings us a vision of illness that almost plays as an entire metaphor. As the plot progresses we begin to realise there’s other things happening. Perhaps something far more sinister than Alzheimer’s. Robitel makes solid choices as director, but above all he’s aided by a breathtakingly powerful performance out of lead actress Jill Larson in the titular role. While the screenplay could have used one or two tweaks throughout, for the most part this is one of my favourite found footage films in the past decade.
Some short, basic talk here before diving in.
I’ve got an issue. Lots of people complain about people here walking into rooms that are dark and not turning lights on, as if you’d walk into somebody’s rooms throughout their house and flick lights on when you’re a guest in their house. Sarah (Anne Ramsay) is obviously a member of the household, but when they’re looking for her mother they also don’t want to frighten her. Jamming the lights on if she were hiding might frighten her, shock the senses. If you know anything about patients with Alzheimer’s, last thing you want to do is frighten them. So y’know, their safety trumps your being scared of dark corners. And honestly, what changes if you turn on a light? Deborah is still possessed with the darkness of a serial killer from beyond the grave, she’s still going absolutely mental. Switching the light on doesn’t solve shit.
Also, YOU DON’T ACT LIKE YOU KNOW ABOUT HORROR MOVIES WHEN YOU’RE ACTUALLY IN ONE! You can’t bitch about people not turning on a light because something scary could happen possibly, because they’re not thinking a monster is behind the door, or a killer is about to jump out at them. Not everybody automatically switches a light on, especially if they’re using a camera. Why would they? Also, if you’re trying to creep around without people seeing you – a.k.a when you’re going places in the house you might not be welcome like in a couple scenes (such as when the window slams shut via Deborah) – then there’s no reason to turn on a light and broadcast your location.
My god. Do I really have to explain these things? Nah. Maybe I’m reading online comments too much. Anybody smart enough can decipher this shit on their own. Let’s move on.
Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 2.01.13 AM The screenplay is pretty great, aside from a few little bits and pieces. Otherwise, the characters and the plots are exciting. In particular, both Jill Larson and Anne Ramsay have great characters. Daughter Sarah is a complex character that we actually never fully understand, though we’re privy to a nice few mentions that give us an idea of her identity, her personality. Love how they briefly mention that she’s lesbian without having to make it a huge deal, as if it’s abnormal. Rather it just helps to make up part of character and adds different elements that keep us interested. The fact she’s lesbian plays into the relationship she has with her mother, who is Old Timey to say the least.
Then there’s Larson. She is downright fantastic. Some of the looks and the facial expressions alone are worth their weight in terror. The way they make her look, from framing of the shots down to the makeup they’ve done her, is an added aspect to make her unsettling. But it’s all in the performance. No matter how many practical effects or anything they throw at the camera, Larson is always the most interesting piece of the puzzle. I have to say, it’s hard to imagine such an impressive performance coming from somebody I’ve personally never seen before, other than in bit parts like Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and only recently in HBO’s Vinyl. Regardless, she keeps me glued to the screen from start until finish. Her presence is infectiously frightening, and part of why this movie is a chiller.
Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 2.25.38 AM Deborah (in French): “Your blood will feed the river
Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 2.41.57 AM Scary is a subjective term. Everyone is scared of different things. The Taking of Deborah Logan scared me. Not as if it broke me, not at all. It compels me each time I see it.
One of the first scenes that legitimately jarred me was when they capture Deborah playing the piano in the dark, “Three Blind Mice”, and as the bare light in the frame starts to fade more the look on her face is chilling. Say what you want, and again scary is subjectively understood/felt, but if you don’t find that one bit is creepy then I’m not sure what you dig. And it’s not like I pissed myself. It’s just eerie.
Later when they go up into the attic (WITHOUT TURNING ON THE LIGHTS, YOU FUCKING CRY BABIES), the moment they set eyes on Deborah and then starts talking in this horrifying voice it nearly makes my blood run cold. As well as the fact the practical makeup effects on her are nasty, and well done.
Wandering in the hospital corridors (WHANNN NO LIGHTS WHANNN) is pretty damn creepy. And sure, they didn’t turn on the lights. But again, they had flashlights first of all. Second, again, they probably didn’t want to startle Deborah and send her running. After all they were dealing with a woman that had essentially kidnapped a little girl. So they likely were trying not to spur on any further erratic behaviours. I don’t know, fuck me right? Whatever. This whole sequence was unsettling and had me creeped out. In the end when they see the ‘snake mouth’ happening, that part really got to me. Amazing and filled with untold terror.
The finale is a wildly scary ride. It was unpredictable to me, and all the better for it. Despite its few flaws here or there, The Taking of Deborah Logan is a 4-star bit of horror cinema. It’s one of the better found footage efforts out of the last ten years and maybe one of my favourites ever. I’ve seen plenty of detractors online. That’s totally fine, again subjective. I love this movie and any time I’m lost for a found footage flick this gets popped in the DVD player. Robitel will be directing the next Insidious film, a franchise of which I’m a fan, so I wish him luck. Hope he brings the creepiness he cultivated here into that project, putting his own spin on the fourth entry. Because here he’s done one hell of a job as director. Proper scary madness.

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 3: “Nor’easter”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 3: “Nor’easter”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Ray DonovanMad MenShameless)
Written by Jennifer Salt

* For a review of the previous episode, “Tricks and Treats” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-47-02-pm
Back to the framing narrative of Asylum now, as we see Bloody Face once again stab poor Leo Morrison (Adam Levine) to death, then break into the cell where Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) is trembling in fear. Between the two, as Leo is not completely dead just yet, they manage to knock Bloody Face down and stab HIM to death with a small ice pick (one once used for prefrontal lobotomies).
However, it turns out two more Bloody Face-masked young guys show up and shoot the Morrisons dead. I guess it was another serial killer enthusiast situation. Sort of like Season 1’s “Home Invasion” did it, but slightly different.
Except out of the darkness comes the real Bloody Face – or is it? Now we’re in present day, Bloody Face was killing back in 1964. So what exactly is happening here, anyways? Well, writer Jennifer Salt, as well as creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, have interestingly eerie subplots we’ll see coming out in this episode. Even further, this will all stretch out over Season 2 and gives us plenty to enjoy.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-47-22-pmBack to 1964, as Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) receives mail Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) delivers for her. The newspaper on her desk appears to Jude as one from 1949 – harkening back to when she hit a girl with her car, then took off. It’s easy to see Jude is starting to unravel slightly.
While she’s in the kitchen downstairs getting more bread ready to bake, she has flashbacks to the killing of that girl. Her mind is breaking bit by bit. Putting more pressure on her aside from this is Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto). He wants to try and make things more light for the patients; her corporal punishment is frowned upon by scientific men such as himself.
Well, Sister Jude has some plans to help the patients through the big storm planning to blow through. She is getting a projector sent over so that the inmates can watch 1932’s The Sign of the Cross. But all good intentions can’t hold back the floodgates of her own mind, washing away sanity. It seems she’s starting to think like some of her inmates more than a wife of Christ. Paranoia is gradually working its way into Jude’s brain with every episode now that goes by, especially since last episode’s encounter with the demon inside Jed Potter. She even has guard Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) keep tabs on Thredson in order to determine if he’s “on the up-and-up.”
The new Mary Eunice has arrived. Everything about her has become different, more confident and… devilish, might I say. The way she holds herself talking to the inmates, you can see right from Lily Rabe’s acting that it is Satan himself hiding within her bones. I love Rabe’s performances in American Horror Story, she does such a wonderful job in the horrific universe of the series.
Moreover, Mary Eunice – as the devil – begins to wreak havoc amongst the halls of Briarcliff. First, she seems to blow on The Mexican (Gloria Laino) who appears to see beyond the Sister’s surface; she prays and prays as Eunice walks over to her and casually blows air at her. Then, she temps the alcoholic Sister Jude with communion wine, as well as wearing some bright red lipstick she claims came from Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell).
At the same time, Arden is still examining Kit Walker (Evan Peters). Last episode, he found a tiny piece of something inside Kit’s neck, embedded below the skin. He deemed it too hard to be a tumour, now in this episode he finds it’s a strange bit of technology; the pieces he dug out of Walker come together by themselves, almost magnetized. Arden does not yet know it is from the extraterrestrials. He thinks it is some form of government looking for him, trying to “infiltrate my labs.” We’ll see this develop more now, as Arden comes to figure out the truth behind what has actually happened to Kit.


Sister Mary Eunice goes to The Mexican’s room. It’s clear the woman is afraid of Eunice, and rightfully so: the possessed nun brutally murders her, stabbing her in the throat with a massive pair of scissors, then stabbing her more all over the torso. Luckily, Sister Mary has a good place for disposal. Out in the forest, where Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) caught her feeding something at the end of the first episode, Mary dumps the body for some weird creature hissing out in the bushes.
What I love about the devil is that he’s non-partisan. Inside Mary Eunice, the evil Satan goes after anyone and everyone in its path. Not just Sister Jude. Mary goes to see the doctor and she taunts Arden with sex, seducing him saying “Im all juicy.” But the doctor wants none of it; at least he pretends not to, anyways. We know he has a thing for nuns, after his date with the young prostitute went awry. He only denies what he wants most likely because of fear it will out him in some way. Regardless, I just love how Sister Mary Eunice has been taken over by the devil, and even the other evil entities in Briarcliff aren’t safe from the devil; he will use and abuse everyone.
Almost even better, the devil pits Dr. Arden versus Sister Jude even more than they’d been butting heads before now. This also helps to setup an event later on in the season, which is MASSIVE! I won’t say anything about that at this point, but just remember: this tension between Jude and Arden becomes larger than simply a few arguments in the basement like in “Nor’easter.” Even Arden sees that Jude is “coming apart at the seams.” Perfect foreshadowing scene here that comes to bear later on down the road.
We also see the first meeting between Lana Winters and Dr. Oliver Thredson, most likely her only hope in escaping the horrors of the asylum. Neither of them realize Bloody Face has already killed Lana’s lesbian partner, but she tells Thredson to get a message to her in hopes of eventually getting her out. This is the start of an excellent relationship throughout Season 2. There is such a wealth of plot and character between Thredson and Lana that if they hadn’t had two wonderful actors like Paulson and Quinto, this would’ve been a drab storyline; with two great talents, it works incredibly well, time and time again until the end of the season. Great stuff in its beginning here!
Thredson later goes to see Wendy, but discovers there are similarities between her disappearing and some of the Bloody Face victims. A devastating blow for Lana, in several ways.
Already, only three episodes in, Jude is having great troubles. She receives a call from beyond in her office – the girl she struck and ran down 15 years ago calls her on the phone, even her broken glasses turn up in front of Jude on the desk. So, sadly, Sister Jude falls down through the tight neck of a bottle again. She picks up the booze and starts drinking. This doesn’t help when The Sign of the Cross is put on for the inmates; she stumbles and mumbles her way around, introducing film night for everyone, and it’s clear to all she has had more than a drink or two. I feel bad for Jude, but again like Ben Harmon in Season 1 she is the type who is hard to like. At the same time, it isn’t hard to pity Jude even if she has committed horrible acts of violence, and essentially murder. However, this too will flesh out more once the season pushes on further and you might be surprised where the story of Jude Martin leads by the final handful of episodes.


The end of “Nor’easter” is most compelling.
Prisoners try to escape – Kit, Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), and Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) – while the storm rages. Sadly this doesn’t turn out very well for anyone, least of all Shelley who finally ends up in the hands of someone she does NOT want to be with at all. The others end up out in the storm and they come across what lay in the woods, the things Sister Mary Eunice was feeding for Arden – and it is HORRID.
Best of all is Jude – she wanders around trying to find The Mexican with the guards, but cannot find her. What Jude does come across, though, is a drunken glimpse of a horrific and ugly extraterrestrial creature. Amazing moment where a nun comes in contact with such a strange being!
All the while, Arden is raging against both Sister Jude and Mary Eunice, marking up a statue of who I can only assume to be the Virgin Mary with lipstick, shouting WHORE. He then comes across Shelley, and yes – into his hands she falls. This is terrible for her, as Arden is not just a misogynist, he is a depraved sadist.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-54-06-pm
This episode’s finale sees things end on a savage note, so we can expect the next one titled “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” will go further down the dark and seedy rabbit hole; it is directed by Michael Uppendahl once more, which is excellent for continuity amongst the season. Stay tuned for more depravity and blood and murder!

The Amityville Horror Never Lets Truth Get in its Way

The Amityville Horror. 1979. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Screenplay by Sandor Stern; based on the book by Jay Anson.
Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, Murray Hamilton, John Larch, Natasha Ryan, K.C. Martel, Meeno Peluce, Michael Sacks, Helen Shaver, and Amy Wright. American International Pictures. Rated 14A. 117 minutes. Drama/Horror.

★★★★
tumblr_my6iwqtjYe1qh35m6o1_1280 When it comes to the haunted house movies that go for the possessed angle – the house driving someone crazy or literally possessing them – I still think The Amityville Horror is near the top of my favourites. Different than The Exorcist where that’s a demon, I love this even without all the true story aspects of it, which are likely a hoax as far as I’m concerned. But that’s a discussion for another time.
This movie just creeps me out. I mean, when the priest is in that room with the flies covering his face, then all of a sudden you here it softly first – “Get out” – the priest looks around in awe and it says once more, louder and raspier this time – “GET OUT” – every time I see that part, I know it’s coming, and consistently it freaks me out. Love it! Always enjoy a movie which continually scares me any time I watch it over the years.
Plus, there’s something about the idea of a house’s history affecting the people who live in afterwards that gets to me at my core. Because, although I don’t believe in any life after death, I’m forever sceptical at the same time. I’m always questioning. So, I can’t fully discount that there may be something we don’t know about yet, something that could be proven eventually. For me, watching horror movies is not always about realism. In this type of film, you have to try and remove yourself a little from reality, but at the same time you can still stay slightly grounded. Just imagine, what would you do if a house started driving you crazy? What could you do, really? When I watch horror, I’ll usually try to put myself in the shoes of the characters involved. That’s one reason this movie scares me because if I were in that house with James Brolin going slowly mad, I’d probably have been terrified right to the bone.
TheAmityvilleHorror1The Amityville Horror is based on the, supposedly, true events which transpired in the house of George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder) – where years before, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. murdered his family in cold blood as they slept at night. Moving in with their children, the Lutz family find a great new home; spacious, a boathouse out back with a small dock, good land. Once moved into their house, strange things begin to happen. George begins to wake up every morning at 3:15 AM on the dot. The young daughter starts talking about an imaginary little girl named Jodi who actively becomes more and more involved in her life. Even a priest comes to the house trying to bless the place when Kathy sends request, but he is driven from the premises by some evil force, screaming at him, sending him away by any means. Things get worse and worse, and slowly George seems to be sucked into whatever terror lays beyond the veil between the living and the dead.

I think a part of what makes The Amityville Horror work is the family dynamic. When considering the real supposed story, George Lutz (Brolin) is the husband of Kathy (Kidder), but the children are his stepchildren. Apparently he was not exactly the perfect stepfather and he was a bit tough on them. He’s running a business and everything is on him, so while the house exerts its evil influence over George his business begins to suffer. Then Kathy is of course concerned about him, trying to figure out what’s going on. There are so many things at play within the Lutz family. It’s as if the house feeds off any already negative energy or presence within its walls, it uses that to generate more of the negative energy still left over from the past. That’s what makes this movie real interesting for me.
TheAmityvilleHorror2In the early scenes as Brolin and Kidder stroll through the house, there’s some really excellent editing which truly caught me off-guard. I didn’t expect the quick cuts to, what ultimately are, the murders of Butch DeFeo Jr. These are the murders of course that happened in the now haunted house. I love how they’re incorporated here. As I said, some spot-on editing. Great stuff from editor Robert Brown, whose work includes Damien: Omen IIBrubakerThe Pope of Greenwich VillageThe Lost Boys, and Flatliners. Kudos to him for the stuff in this film. He has a real touch for the horror genre, as far as I’m concerned.

All the little touches are creepy. Such as George’s waking up at exactly 3:15 AM. This is supposedly the time when Butch DeFeo killed his family in their beds. So even though the supposed hauntings are inspiration for this, and I don’t believe the real story in so far as I’m concerned, I still find the whole thing utterly unsettling. The movie stands well enough on its own for me.
Still, the part that has always gotten to me the most is the scene when the babysitter gets locked in the closet. Damn, does it ever work on my nerves. I always feel so bad for her because I don’t like closed spaces, so I think if I’d have been locked in there – by a child or a ghost or whoever – I would lose my mind eventually. Plus, the blood on her knuckles, rapping on the door, beating against it; such a vicious image. Then the light goes out, and to this day, no matter how many times I’ve seen it my spine will chill. From bottom to top and back again. Great, spooky stuff!
axe-terrorThe reason my love for this movie endures is the atmosphere. Time and time again I’ve said it: atmosphere and tone, these are things which work for me. If a movie has those and can keep up relatively nicely with a bit of solid dialogue, add in some decent characters and you’ve sold me!
Stuart Rosenberg, as far as I’m concerned, is a classic director. Not everything he did was perfect, but I think he has enough wonderful pictures under his belt we can look back on his career to say it went well. He did some great ones – Brubaker with Robert Redford, Cool Hand Luke including the classic performance of Paul Newman, and The Pope of Greenwich Village featuring Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke in maybe the performances of their careers or at least close to it. So, I’d throw this film on the list. He’s good at crafting tension and suspense, in everything he has done. Most certainly here. There are a ton of moments that have me held close to the screen each time I see the movie. Some of the shots of the Lutz house are downright ominous and foreboding, I absolutely love them. That iconic red filtered shot of the Lutz house from the outside is KILLER! Dig that one, so much.

A particularly favourite shot of mine is at almost the 40 minute mark. George (Brolin) is putting wood in on the fire. The flames are crackling and licking up. You can barely see his features, but the fire casts on his face in a reddish glow; his beard/goatee looks as if it were the devil himself. Then, as he leans back, the glow leaves and he looks like a frightened man, losing his mind. Perfect stuff.
Not only do I love the shot, we get to see a great bit between Kidder and Brolin. The look in Brolin’s eyes is insanely perfect. He is one great actor, man. I’ve always thought that, anyways, aside from this movie. But there is something in his face, a great gift of expression, which works like a charm for the character of George Lutz. While I love a movie like The Shining, I’ve always agreed with Stephen King when he says that Jack Nicholson sort of starts off crazy; I mean, you get that typical Nicholson feel right from the very beginning in the opening car scene. Here, with Brolin’s depiction of George Lutz, it gives the genuine feeling that he is a man who is going crazy. At the beginning he’s definitely a sombre guy – I attribute that mostly to the fact he’s a bit of a serious guy, lots of stuff going on with his business, buying the house, probably how a lot of people might be in the situation. There’s something, however, which changes as time goes on, and as opposed to something like Nicholson’s performance – which I do enjoy – there’s that honest feeling something is going seriously awry in the Lutz house.
large amityville horror blu-ray10Margot Kidder is no slouch either. Ever since seeing Black Christmas and the under-seen/under-appreciated Brian De Palma horror-thriller Sisters I have been in love with this woman! Wonderful, talented actress. She is a true great. Her performance here matches the intensity of Brolin at the right times and we really get the feeling this is a woman who loves her husband, as she tries so hard to help him hold onto reality, but also works to the bone trying to protect her children.
Oh, and Rod Steiger – bad ass. Constant bad ass. I love him in this and I could watch it a hundred times just for his scenes because they’re enough to make you stand up and shout. He’s a classic actor and this is one role that will always, always come up when I think of his name. Solid stuff out of him, as is to be expected. He plays a typical role we’ve seen, a million times since, yet it’s one I would rank up there with Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist. Absolutely.

While I love this horror movie, tons, I’ll only be able to say it’s a 4 out of 5 star film. There are a few points of dialogue I’m not too keen on, mostly when it concerns other characters outside of the Lutz’s themselves. I think at times the script in general could’ve been tighter, mainly to compact things a bit more. Great film, in spite of its dubious “true” roots – still, I tend to find it’s a little longer than it needs to be. I think with Brolin and Kidder, with Steiger thrown in for good measure, this movie didn’t need to be close to 2 hours long. A solid hour and a half would’ve done the job quite proper.
Either way, it is a classic of the genre and will forever be a favourite of mine in the haunted house genre. Near the top. Great performances are what drives the best bits here, as well as good atmosphere and quality editing. Always recommend this to anyone who has to see it.

EVIL DEAD Gets Remade with Plenty Blood & Guts & Demonic Possession

Evil Dead. 2013. Written & Directed by Fede Alvarez; based on the screenplay by Sam Raimi.
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, and Rupert Degas.
TriStar Pictures.
Rated 18A. 91 minutes.
Horror

★★★★
evil-dead-poster So, to start, I want to just say that I love the original Evil Dead. I don’t think the remake is better, not at all. However, I think that as far as remakes go this one does a pretty good job at updating things and changing perspective just enough so that it isn’t a carbon copy of the original from Sam Raimi.
Of course there are obvious similarities and there are things which feel identical, but Fede Alvarez has really brought a script that tweaks Raimi’s original to make it his own while simultaneously remaining a remake of the beloved horror classic.
While this Evil Dead is stripped of the comedic element Raimi infused the film with – or should I say the man, the one and only Bruce Campbell really executed that aspect – this incarnation has replaced the comedy with absolute fear.
Now, before we go any further – this is how I feel about being scared by a horror movie.
When I say that a horror creeps me out, that it’s disturbing or scary, unsettling, any of these descriptors, I don’t mean that I’m sitting there in the dark cowering, that I can’t sleep at night. I’ve not been that scared in a long, long time. But I’m still scared by things in horror films. For me, there’s disturbing and creepy things going on in Evil Dead and it doesn’t mean that I’m up all night, terrified to turn out the lights; just means I’m unsettled by certain elements.
So when I say that this film replaces that comedic essence of the original with an air of terror, don’t try and say that I don’t understand what is scary or what is not. We all have our things. This remake comes with a lot of heart, good performances, and a ton of big fat horror balls.
mola-monster-macabro-a-dual-review-of-the-evil-dead-2013-remake-002Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake begins with David (Shiloh Fernandez) meeting with his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) at a cabin in the woods. Their friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) are also there. Everyone’s gathered to help David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) do a homemade rehab, like a willing intervention or the second half of one anyways; she is a recovering heroin addict. Unfortunately, for more than one reason this won’t be near as easy as they’d imagined it would be.
A smell keeps bothering Mia, as if something is dead. Eventually they discover a door in the floor, leading to a room full of strange artifacts, dead animals, and other weird things. One of which is Necronomicon.
In a terrible decision, Eric keeps picking at the book, determined to look inside and read things he’s found. He releases something from its vile and wicked pages. Soon enough, the things Mia does to try and get out of her rehabilitation become more and more violent, more heinous, as if she’s not only jonesing for heroin: she is possessed.
But the possession doesn’t stop there. It won’t stop. Not until they’ve all been deal with.
Evli-Dead-movie-photos-5I’m not exactly a huge fan of remakes. There are some I do enjoy – Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes, that’s one I’m a particular fan of, and even though some hate it I thought Rob Zombie did a fun and disturbing job with Halloween. However, a lot of the remakes we get are sad, glossy jobs, then again much of those are the Michael Bay produced trashjobs like the jeans commercial that was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel’s ass, the pitiful Friday the 13th reboot, as well as the downright shameful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But to my mind, I think that the Evil Dead remake does justice to the original. It isn’t better, though, I can’t say that it’s any less fun. To me, anyways.
Because the premise of the film is the same – people get possessed and terrorized by a host of demonic presences at a cabin in the woods. Still, Fede Alvarez changes things a little. Now we’ve got a new reason for these people being in the woods; not a massive game-changing move, but it’s enough in the script to make this his own, a remake yet fresh in a way. Evil Dead was awesome the first time around. This time, we get a bit of a different spin. Because even as things get creepy for the friends, before it all gets out of hand, there’s still an element in their minds which says “Mia is just tripping and getting crazy from withdrawals”. Of course, that changes, and then some! I just thought it was a good twist. Alvarez could’ve simply just updated things enough to feel like the 2010s, but he chose to bring something different and make the characters a little less similar to the first movie.
We get lots of awesome reminders to harken back to the original, I just feel that Alvarez did a nice job with adapting things and switching some stuff up. That’s what a remake should do. Yet people still want to trash it and say it’s garbage, yadda yadda. Whatever, man.
bigEvilDead33-evil-dead-redband-trailer-2Love how the little electric meat cutter is first seen slicing up some quite raw – pork, I think it is. Can’t be sure. Either way, I thought it was great when you can juxtapose how viciously the electric kitchen accessory comes into play later. Not that this is anything super innovative concerning horror movies, I just love when a film does that in an effective manner. Alvarez could’ve just used the thing as a gimmick, thrown it in there wildly, but instead he takes the time to set this up early on so that you either remember it and enjoy seeing it come back into the movie in such a brutish way, or you’re just surprised; that works, too. I like that Alvarez makes specific use of the tool early within 15-20 minutes, especially watching it cut through some meat. Later, as it does some real cutting, it’s that much better.
There are some great effects all around – the face slicing, that whole part, I really loved. Even when Eric tries to back away, he slips and cranks his back on the toilet seat. That was just perfect. I love when horror doesn’t try to be perfect with its choreography; in horrific, terrifying moments there would definitely be so much clumsiness and ineffective escape. This was a classic moment like that.

A favourite line of mine from the movie I thought was darkly comedic yet a good piece of writing – the script recognizes horror movie tropes and how characters often don’t question each other enough. David is trying to rationalize what has been happening, saying it could be a virus, to which Eric replies:
What kind of virus makes someone cut off their face with a piece of glass?
XGoQCqgOpcdgucLvhlIu0m75kl0I thought that Jane Levy was superb as Mia. From start to finish. There’s one scene particularly, the look in her eyes as she talks with her brother David – right after the forest has come alive and raped her – it is classic horror cinema acting, right there. If you say different, fine, but you’re blind. I liked Levy in the first season of Shameless, after which she was replaced/left. Here, I got to see her do some excellent work. Once she becomes Abomination Mia, it is really something.
What I love most about the Mia character is once the Abomination has hold of her, the make-up effects are beyond incredible. Excellent, gruesome stuff. Plus, the voice is creepy as all hell. I love when a film can go for great practical effects. Sure, there are pieces of CGI mixed in there no doubt, but so much is done practically with make-up special effects.
That part with the electric meat cutter is savage! I thought that was just pure gritty gore horror. So much in this movie, definitely once the last half hour starts to roll, is balls-to-the-wall gory horror fun. It is supremely nasty at times, in the best sense of the word when it comes to scary movies.
And I mean, the original Evil Dead was meant to be a wild horror. A bit of comedy mixed in, but mainly horror. That’s what we get here: in droves. It keeps coming and coming, over, over, until the last scene finishes. There’s a ton of blood, lots of pain and torture and death. It is what horror is all about, in the end. If people disagree, I understand. Well – I don’t. I’ll just agree to disagree.
485929_276672722465628_547675212_nI loved this remake. It’s one of those I’ll put on the list of remakes I truly enjoy because it deserves to be on there. For me, this is a 4 out of 5 star horror. I think a lot of diehard fans of the original are big time upset because Bruce Campbell isn’t Ash and Ash isn’t the big hero – instead we get a female hero, a recovering drug addict who overcomes the insanity of the demons pressing down on her, her friends, and that cabin out in the woods.
There are for sure a couple points I didn’t like, mainly those had to do with dialogue; some of it certainly could’ve been tweaked. Yet overall, I love the script because I thought Fede Alvarez did a wonderful bit of work adapting Sam Raimi’s original into something a little more today and a bit different. Because if a movie being remade simply goes for everything the original did – same story and effects and twists and characters – what is the point then? Why even do it? I’ve never understood shot-by-shot remakes, like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (even though I dig it simply because it’s an update with new actors while most hate it and I love Van Sant regardless). At the end of the day, it’s useless to remake something that way, even if it’s enjoyable; you’re not bringing anything new to the table. Even enjoying something like Van Sant’s exact duplicate of Alfred Hitchcock, I can’t say it’s a good movie because Hitchcock did it already, exactly the same.
So basically, Alvarez here with Evil Dead impressed me by not having to copy everything completely identical, even if so much of it is familiar and obviously derivative of the first. It doesn’t matter that it’s a remake because Alvarez has given it enough heart and effort to say that this is a worthy effort. One of my favourite remakes out there, and will continue to be, no matter what other reviews might try and have me believe. This is a lot of fun, a LOT of gore to the point of absolute savagery at times, and a solid central performance from Jane Levy.
Groovy.

William Friedkin Gets to the Pulse of Fear with The Exorcist

The Exorcist. 1973.  Dir. William Friedkin.  Written by William Peter Blatty, based on his novel.  Starring Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, and Linda Blair.  Warner Brothers.  18A.  132 minutes.  Horror.

5 out of 5 stars [Movie]
5 out of 5 stars [Blu ray release]

By now, everyone has either seen The Exorcist or knows all about it.  Simply put, it is the story of a young girl who is possessed by some type of demon; her non-believer mother eventually gives in and realizes what she needs is not modern medicine, not psychology, but a Catholic exorcism.  This is the plot of the film.  From there, the wild bits begin.
1380897081_1What I’d like to talk about instead of the plot itself are the effects because on the Blu ray release from Warner Brothers there are tons of amazing special features.  The best, and my most favourite, is one called “Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist“.  This basically features tons of shots from behind-the-scenes, filmed originally without sound [explained to be because they wanted the extra filming to be inconspicuous to Friedkin who might’ve gotten annoyed had they been dragging more crew around the set than was needed], and over top we get interviews with everyone from Friedkin to Blatty to Blair, to people working on the crew.  It is amazing.

One of the moments I absolutely just died for was when they show two things.  First, is a moment where Reagan [Blair] attacks a man.  Friedkin wanted a shot following the man all the way down as he fell to the floor, shot tight looking right at his face, as if from Reagan’s point-of-view.  This is brilliance right here.  Friedkin clearly has an innovative spirit.  We watch as they show the contraption they’d built to do just that one shot – it is the best thing ever.
Second, they show a bunch of shots detailing the house set for the film.  I should have known, from how some of the camerawork goes, the house was a set, open at the top and such, but just to see them doing actual shots going up the stairs with the rig they’d built to get the camera operators up and down in smooth ways.  It is crazy.  Beautiful, really, to see all the effort that went into making this film so god damn great.
Exorcist11Another aspect worthy of note in regards to The Exorcist is the lighting.  At one point on the “Raising Hell” documentary, they talk about the use of wires in the bedroom; for pulling people, as well as objects, around the room in certain shots.  It looks perfect on film, but to hear Owen Roizman [Director of Photography] talk about how he had the wires painted in broken formations of black and white so it would make the wire less visible on camera, it is an absolute treat!  These tiny tricks of the trade are really cool to hear from the mouths of those involved in the production.

Later, we get to watch as Roizman talks about all the wire work, including how they dragged all the furniture around in Reagan’s room during those frenetic scenes.  It’s wild.  I knew it had to be practical the way they’d accomplished such shots, but to actually see it and watch the process is something special.  Roizman especially has a very nostalgic memory of the production, and a lot of his comments, especially concerning a young Linda Blair and her performance/attitude on set [which seems to be remarkable for such a young actress at the time], are great to hear.  These features really help give The Exorcist even more appreciation amongst its fans, and genre fans in general.

Exorcist8

One of my favourite things about DVD and Blu ray is the fact we get commentary on a film while watching it.  Probably one of the best things to come along with the advent of these new technologies.  William Friedkin’s commentary on The Exorcist is fascinating and pretty damn informative.  Even in the first few moments, Friedkin puts to bed any notions people have about the opening scenes not belonging in the film.  He explains why it is there, what it means, and I love it – I understood anyways, but it helps to actually have a director of a film say “this is the reason”, and having it match up with what you thought.  I’m sure most people who love the film get it, it’s just better to hear it right from the horse’s mouth [disclaimer: William Friedkin is a human man, he is not a horse.], and know for sure.  Even further, you get a lot of really interesting tidbits and facts about the production of The Exorcist.  Just delightful to hear Friedkin talk about his experience filming the opening of the film in Iraq, how he was there without the protection of U.S government, and telling us about how he enjoyed the Iraqi people and their hospitality.  Very neat.  Hearing the director talk over beautifully framed and perfect looking images on a high quality picture of the film is sublime.

The film itself is an astounding 5 out of 5 stars.
The story works on its own, but Friedkin really hammers it home.  The acting from both Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn is on point.  Burstyn is one of the greatest actresses ever to grace the screen.  Here, she really excels, as a mother who doesn’t believe in religion or any of that stuff yet soon comes to understand the devil has taken hold of her daughter, seeking out the help of priests; not many could pull of such a horror role, but Burstyn is so wonderfully natural here.  Blair did a fabulous job as a young girl.  It’s incredible to think she was able to do such a role and give the performance she did.  On the Blu ray documentary, she talks about how Friedkin would often shelter her from the reality of what she’d be doing onscreen by joking with her; Friedkin himself talks about it, and it seems they really had a cool relationship, a lot like an uncle and niece sort of thing where he coaxed her into some of the scenes by tickling and teasing and the like.  You can tell Friedkin works well with actors and actresses just by how Blair, at such a young age then, was able to work with him and give it her all in a tough role.  Combined with the effects and the pure intensity of Blatty’s writing, the performances lift The Exorcist above a lot of trashy horror that was coming out in the 1970s and makes it an absolute masterpiece of filmmaking.
1380821626_1The Blu ray release is far beyond the state of perfect.  So many special features are available here, you’ll take days and days to get through it. “Raising Hell” is absolutely the best of them all, but there is more than just that.  You get a real in-depth look behind the making of The Exorcist.  I couldn’t believe how much bang for my buck I got when purchasing this, especially seeing as how HMV recently had it there for less than $10 [the ultimate steal of a lifetime if there ever was one!]. It is really worth it if you enjoy the film.  You get some great inside looks at the make-up effects Dick Smith pulled off; a master of the trade.  Those alone are almost worth the price of the Blu ray, just to see him work at the craft.

Anyone who has yet to see this, go buy a copy now.  If you’re a horror fan especially, don’t sleep on this.  When I first saw The Exorcist I was about 15 years old.  It didn’t really affect me at the time.  However, I still enjoyed it alot.  Years later, I revisited the film, and I couldn’t get over it.  For days, the story lingered on me like cigarette smoke.  I could not shake it off.  Burstyn and Von Sydow really pulled me in and rocked my world.  The performances and the effects, it all got to me.  It’s now one of my most treasured Blu rays, as well as one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen.  Once again, this is a film that has no hype – the hype is very real, in fact.

And if you don’t get a chill running up your spinal fluid into your brain when you hear the repeated line from early in the film, “Father – could ya help an old altar boy?“, then you know what?  Check your pulse.  Because the rest of us are absolutely terrified.