THE DARK TAPES: Fresh Indie Found Footage

The Dark Tapes. 2017. Directed by Vincent J. Guastini & Michael McQuown. Screenplay by McQuown.
Starring Emilia Ares Zoryan, David Banks, Jonathan Biver, Sara Castro, Michael Cotter, Denise Faro, Brittany Fisheli, Jo Galloway, Aral Gribble, Shane Hartline, David Hull, Clint Keepin, Casey James Knight, Shawn Lockie, Matt Magnusson, Anna Rose Moore, Tessa Munro, Jake O’Connor, Cortney Palm, David Rountree, Katherine Shaw, Wayne River Sorrell, Meredith Thomas, Brittany Underwood, Julian von Nagel, Ryan Allan Young, & Stepehn Zimpel.
Thunder Road Incorporated.
Not Rated. 98 minutes.
Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller

★★★1/2
Dark Tapes 1Director Michael McQuown sent me a screener for his and co-director Vincent J. Guastini’s independent film, The Dark Tapes. I’d heard of it awhile, hearing plenty of good things. Not overhyped; hyped just enough. I’m always ready to dig in on a found footage flick, no matter how tired the sub-genre seems to get with so many low budget efforts being pumped out simply to get a director and some actors a credit to their names.
The Dark Tapes isn’t a perfect movie. There are a few missteps that could’ve been avoided to make the whole thing more effective, certain tapes in the lot aren’t as good as others. Often anthologies suffer from this fate. The lesser tapes are still good. There’s nothing bad here. Each tape, regardless of its setbacks, has an eerie quality to it respectively.
McQuown and Guastini use a meagre budget wisely, choosing to use effects sparingly and, for the most part, they work. This is one of their best moves, because they don’t set the bar too high yet clearly focused on staying creepy. There are standouts in the series of tapes, presented through the narrative of being proof of government conspiracy-type stuff, the truth the powers that be suppress and keep from the people – a couple deserve their own full-length treatments. Certain segments stand up with some of the best of the V/H/S series (no surprise considering Guastini is not only an effects guy, he did work on the third entry, Viral).
Dark Tapes 2My only beef, and I’ll get to this first before discussing what I enjoyed so much, is that the directing is mostly excellent. Then, they choose to show us too much. For the longest time what we only get glimpses of in frame is what drives the pulse-pounding terror. As you can see in the photo above, that’s a startling shot. Love that moment; freezing the frame only compounds the fear. However, the directors lose some of that momentum later when they choose to show this demonic figure up close for too long. They try offsetting this with the use of camera glitches (et cetera). But it never makes up for the undoing of the fright from seeing the creature long enough we can start picking out some of the less stellar aspects of its creation.
The rest of the tapes are presented with brief shots and bits that are framed properly so that the low budget qualities don’t glare. And honestly, it’s only the one main demon in the “To Catch a Demon” segments that comes off as cheesy, which is late in the game. Otherwise, in the “Amanda’s Revenge” tape, the creatures (or whatever you want to call them) look legitimately gnarly, in the best horror sense. Particularly in that tape, we get some wonderfully old school film shots, the rickety frame, catching a presence in the distance, and it’s so genuinely perfect for the type of eeriness for which this segments is aiming.
Dark Tapes 3The tapes have an overall framing narrative, though I think that while there’s a connection between the tapes as a whole, it isn’t as connective as the filmmakers might hope. Mostly, I don’t feel that the connections are tight enough. The writing is interesting, at every turn. I can’t help think McQuown could’ve brainstormed something better to make them all into the cohesive unit the beginning (and mid-credits) speech we hear wishes it’d become. If this were tighter then it would’ve greatly improved the film.
But the stories, they’re fresh. Even in the moments some of them don’t exactly work as intended, they’re innovative. I found “The Hunters and the Hunted” was my favourite because it caught me so off guard once the revelation came, until then I expected a run of the mill bit of paranormal shlock; a proper twist, if there ever were! Also enjoyed “Cam Girls” except the end devolved into a ham-fisted mess. Before that it was wildly creepy, the editing made it feel very kinetic and full of horrific energy; while it falls apart later with absolutely no subtlety and a ton of unnecessary exposition that could’ve been given to us through imagery earlier (a missed opportunity), this segment  was insane.
And “Cam Girls” has an underlying metaphor in it, about our porn-obsessed culture that involves men watching women through their screens performing, some thinking they’re falling in love just by watching. If only the plot of this segment were worked out better, it’d be a devastating short.
Dark Tapes 5For a low budget, non-studio film, The Dark Tapes has an impressive production value. This is one of the things that keeps even the lesser pieces involving, it’s better than the average indie found footage attempt. With so many of these sub-genre flicks saturating the market, incredibly easy to make on a shoestring to non-existent budget, it’s nice to see what’s so obviously a labour of horror love come to the screen from these directors.
Sure, not every segment is perfect. A couple are scary as hell. And like I’ve yammered on, even in those segments which don’t measure up there’s still things to pique your interest. If anything, the effort the team on this film put in is astounding. Kudos to them all, I certainly hope that McQuown and Guastini do more, whether it’s in found footage that’s up to them. Without a doubt they’ve got horror sensibilities.
The Dark Tapes, warts and all, is one of the better found footage movies I’ve seen as of late, running the gamut of horror, thriller, and science fiction with relative ease. Like Tales of HalloweenHolidaysV/H/S, and Southbound, this is an anthology worth dipping into for a fright.

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Outcast – Season 2, Episode 2: “The Day After That”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 2: “The Day After That”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Adam Targum

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Bad Penny” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Not My Job to Judge” – click here
Pic 1With a car in a ravine, a police officer checks the scene. Inside is the dead body of Megan Holter’s (Wrenn Schmidt) husband Mark (David Denman). Now begins an interesting strain of the story, where we have to wait and watch as Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) and his sister Megan deal with the fallout of demonic possession in the rest of their lives.
Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) and Kyle are off to do their work. They visit Evelyn Bailey (Claire Bronson), who’s been possessed awhile. They want to know where Sidney’s been prowling. We watch as Kyle breaks out the big guns, cutting himself to draw blood, threatening the demon with his essence. Turns out that Sidney has a “partner” in all this madness. Problem is Kyle’s had enough of all the viciousness, the heavy handed way they’ve had to go about their business. Takes a toll. All the while Sidney (Brent Spiner) is off recuperating somewhere.
Pic 1AIn jail, Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) sits in his bunk patiently. Watching the world around him. I wonder to what length he’ll go, or fall, in Season 2. Seems like he’s poised for something large. A little later Patricia (Melinda McGraw) goes to see him, and he confesses to burning down the trailer where her son was supposedly staying.
Then there’s poor Megan, having terrible visions of blood at her feet, her wrists cut. Traumatising stuff that she can’t stop herself from seeing. And little Amber (Madeleine McGraw) stays wary of her aunt, knowing what she’s seen of her mother’s possession.
Kyle picks up Mark’s things at the morgue, seeing his body for the last time. Also in the morgue is a severely mangled corpse, its mouth sewn shut, insides and out decomposed and soupy. To the floor drips a similar green substance that we saw Sidney cough up earlier. Uh oh.
At the station, Giles takes flack from the Mayor (Toby Huss), about his run-in with Evelyn, Sidney, Rev. Anderson sitting in jail. The Mayor wants Giles to take a rest, let someone else take charge. But the guy wants to do some good, and bureaucracy of any kind isn’t going to help anybody; especially not himself or Kyle.


Megan is devastated by what she’s done to her husband, that she stood there watching as he bled on the floor. When Kyle tries explaining her possession, something “controlling” her – like his mom, like Alison – it isn’t easy to hear. She doesn’t really want to hear that, though. It seems like a load of shit, a way to pass off guilt. She hasn’t yet seen, or understood, the things Kyle’s seen before. He’s likewise got to try shielding his daughter Amber from what she’s seen; the girl worries about whether the “monster” will go back inside of aunt Megan, her mother. This does nothing to quell her dad’s worries, either.
At the morgue, Sidney visits the nasty corpse. He finds the drippings on the floor, and it’s as if he’s got his own worries. Down in the cell block, the Rev tries helping the prisoner next to him who’s going through withdrawal; just another way for Anderson to try patching up his own soul. Then the guy flops around on the floor a bit. Is it a junkie’s last moments? Or is it a demon awakening? “Kyle Barnes isnt here to save you,” it tells the reverend before slamming itself into the bars to get at him, until dropping bloodied to the floor.
At the hospital, Kyle goes to visit his mother. He talks briefly with Dr. Park (Hoon Lee). His mom’s body is shutting down for good. Gradually slipping away with only months, probably days, left to live. The doc expresses concern for Kyle, though he starts wondering about what Dr. Park is up to; he watches him in the parking lot. Then gets a call that Amber’s run off, just as the good doc attacks his car with a tire iron. Christ, that was creepy!
As for the Rev, he didn’t kill Patricia’s son. The body from the morgue was under the trailer for three decades. A woman killed in ritualistic fashion. But you know it’s all connected. You know it.


In the morgue the old decomposing corpse is taken by someone under the cover of night. And though I want to know why, I don’t want to know, too.
Looking through her husband’s things Megan laments her tragic loss. Although something continues calling her, out into the darkness. Ultimately, will the darkness win? Can she overcome it, so as not to let the demons conquer her?
Dr. Park and Sidney are familiar with each other. The doc is all part of the plot, and Sidney – he’s sure that Kyle is going to suffer for what he’s done.
Oh, there is so much evil afoot.
Pic 4ASeason 2 is going so well. Very dark, lots to look forward to on the horror front and the drama, as well. Fugit, as always, is spectacular, and his Kyle Barnes is a character that reels me in.

Outcast – Season 2, Episode 1: “Bad Penny”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 2, Episode 1: “Bad Penny”
Directed by Tricia Brock
Written by Chris Black

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “This Little Light” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, click here.
Pic 1Can’t go wrong with starting on a Crowded House tune! And what about the demons left lurking in Rome, West Virginia?
Right now, we see a young Kyle Barnes (Asher Miles Fallica) at the diner with his mom. Inside, the woman at the cash stares at her with malicious intent. There’s a spirit possessing her. Is it the one that founds it way inside Kyle’s mom all those years ago?
In present day, Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) heads to that very same diner, looking for someone. Noises in the back lead him to a poor, possessed soul who runs when confronted, tearing his arms apart on barbed wire to get away.
Kyle (Patrick Fugit) and his little girl Amber (Madeleine McGraw) are doing all right. Getting by, anyways. The world they live in is still a scary place, that’s not changed. Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) is kicking around, too. Filled with guilt. He burned down the trailer where Sidney (Brent Spiner) was hiding out, though the malevolent demon isn’t anywhere to be found. Anderson and Kyle aren’t on the same page anymore, as the rev doesn’t feel useful in the fight against evil nowadays.
Anderson: “You think the devil is local? Sticks to the tricounty area?”
Pic 1AMegan (Wrenn Schmidt) is being kept under close watch. She’s still not right, nor will she ever be, really. Her brother’s doing all he can to help, though between the possession and the tragedy she caused while under a demonic spell it’ll be a while before she can drag herself back from this dark, despair-filled pit. There’s also Patricia (Melinda McGraw), whose boy is gone, missing. The rev tries to assure her it wasn’t her fault, forces outside of her control took hold of the boy.
Out around town Chief Giles is trying to find the trespasser he’d been chasing earlier. The Mayor (Toby Huss) certainly doesn’t see whey he’s so bent out of shape, and nobody’s too willing to buy into much Giles is saying lately after the ordeal with Anderson and everything else that happened. Later, Kyle and Giles meet to talk about Sidney. There are still so many answers left to be uncovered, understood. Neither Kyle nor Giles understand it fully, definitely not the latter. “Makes you wonder how far this thing goes,” the chief says, wondering aloud. And that’s a good point. How far have these demons reached? I’m willing to bet a lot further than only Rome.
Anderson is trying to find a way to get past his own guilt, either by helping Patricia to find her son, or even helping himself along the road. He finds his way to a sort of backwoods-type church, where they say the darkness can be cast out if you’re seeking help. Could it be entirely the opposite? Are dark forces awaiting those who come in need at that makeshift chapel?


Kyle is out demon hunting, where he runs into Ogden (Pete Burris). He says Sidney’s gone, to the “beacon” that’s been calling him. Possibly the same place where Anderson ended up in the woods. Either way, Ogden is in bad shape – “He took my wife, he took my truck. Devil took my life, who gives a fuck?” – and dangerous, as well. After doing the bidding of his possessed wife and Sidney, he’s a ruined man. Rightfully so, for all the harm and horror he’s been a part of so long. Before the man can be of any help he blows a hole through his face.
Up with her aunt Megan, Amber tries to explain she did nothing wrong to her husband; it was the “black thing” her own father knows so well and told her about before. Smart little lady. I worry, though. She’s surrounded by so much darkness, there’s always a fear she might get sucked up in it like she came so close to in Season 1. She goes on exploring the old place where her dad and aunt used to spend time as kids, a place they didn’t associate with good memories. In the attic, she finds cousin Holly by herself. She says she’s hiding from Amber, believing her cousin made her mother sick. That’s so sad, breaks my heart.
Kyle does manage to get names from Ogden before he dies, and he gets in contact with the reverend for help. They go forward to find the remaining name left on the list: Joshua Austin (Gabriel Bateman). The boy is in the dark by himself. He tells the two Sidney and his mother told him what Kyle did was wrong, that he ought to be in trouble with the law. Kyle soon gets answers from him, then he and Anderson are no their way once more.


With a burned down house and a body inside, Chief Giles is butting heads with Officer Nunez (Briana Venskus). I can see her causing him problems sooner than later.
But the real story is that Joshua’s mother returns, and Kyle lays hands on her. The reaction of the demon is clear, though Anderson believes something isn’t right. The demon has taken her over, “too far gone” to help. This sends Kyle into a rage, wanting to end this once and for all before the demons ruin another young child’s life like they did his and his mother.
So he goes to find Sidney, finding only Joshua’s father. The man isn’t well. “You just delayed the inevitable,” he tells Kyle before attacking him viciously. When the demon starts sucking the essence from him, Anderson gets there in time with Giles to pop a few shots in the guy. We discover there’s no releasing the demonic spirit after it’s integrated itself deep enough into the human host; then, dead is dead.
At the hospital, Kyle goes to see his mother. He meets with Dr. Park (Hoon Lee) about what’s going on with her; she’s actually dying now after decades of inactivity in a coma-like state. He has to face her death, alongside everything else. Simultaneously, Anderson demands Giles put him in jail for killing Patricia’s son when he burned down the trailer, trying any way he can to rid himself of the guilt he feels crushing his soul.
Pic 4There are a lot of things happening in Rome, West Virginia! Very interesting opener to Season 2. I’m looking forward to more. This series has been great since the first episode, and I feel like they’re hitting a beautiful, disturbing, fresh stride with every subsequent chapter.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Ten: “Three Rooms”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 10: “Three Rooms”
Directed by Jason Ensler
Written by Jeremy Slater

* For a review of the penultimate Chapter Nine, “162” – click here
screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-12-40-29-amAngela Rance (Geena Davis), under possession of the demon Pazuzu, strangles the life from her daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka), as Henry (Alan Ruck) and Kat (Brianne Howey) watch helplessly. But then Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) arrives. To fight. However, he’s worried that the “integration” is complete. He wants to believe it hasn’t happened. Hard not to believe. “Lets see the measure of your conviction,” Pazuzu challenges before tossing Tomas into the air like a doll. The demon touches him and suddenly he’s in a little room in Mexico, a house, and then he sees… Father Marcus (Ben Daniels), sitting on his bed. But it can only be a vision, something the demon wills upon him.
Because the real Marcus has been captured, at the hands of Brother Simon (Francis Guinan) and Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the latter of whom is constantly put down by everybody around her; how long until she turns on her demon friends? Well, at least Marcus has company – a still alive, still wisecracking Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan), though worse for the wear, is tied up in a chair alongside him. What Simon offers is integration. Join their legions, or die. And the clock, it’s ticking, as the nasty demon in the Brother cuts each of the priests open, letting them bleed.
Marcus: “A whole eternity listening to your poncy little speeches? Kill me now


Back in that little dream-room in Mexico, Tomas talks with Marcus. The older priest talks of integration, taunting Tomas. Can the younger of the two make it out of his own head, away from the influence of Pazuzu? The dream-Marcus urges Tomas to wake up, else he die, too. Then there’s Pazuzu still controlling Angela, the entire family. All of a sudden the demon realises there’s a piece left to Angela, something he didn’t snatch up yet. She’s still in there, the integration isn’t complete.
What I love about this episode is the dream world Slater is drawing out for us. We’re headed inside the possession rather than seeing all the external effects. Essentially, we see the cause. Angela finds herself in a dark hallway, the demon coming towards her, scraping its fingernails along the walls. It’s genuine terror.
Pazuzu: “Little pig, little pig, let me in!”
Tomas, in his dream world, confronts the death of his mother, as Marcus continues whispering in his ear. He literally confronts her death – a dead, torn face from cats who ate it off. He then sees her die, alone in bed.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-12-55-27-amNow we find out more about Marcus. He shot his own dad with a poaching rifle, which got him sent to the school where he learned his trade. Brother Simon goes at him mentally about the “lonely trail” of his life. He wants to convince Marcus into joining their plan. The parade for Pope Sebastian (Bruce Davison) looms, so the demons have bigger things to do. Things don’t look good, though. Maria’s been pushed as far as she’s willing to go, or so it seems. Worst of all, Simon has released the ash of vocare pulvere into the air. Is it going to take him? Bennett? Maria?
At the Rance house, they’re playing Spin the Hammer. Naughty, nasty Pazuzu wants Casey to bash her sister’s knees in after it lands on Kat. If she doesn’t, the demon will haul Henry’s arms off. This is a tragic moment, as Henry tries to reassure his daughters of his love for them. And before the countdown ends, Kat grabs the hammer and crushes her own knee.
Looks like the ash is taking Bennett, swirling around him, trying to draw his mind to the legion of demons. Then he gives in. “Poor little Renfield, left all alone to eat your bugs,” Marcus laughs at Maria, left behind by her demonic friends. Such a great reference and even better delivery out of Ben Daniels. Instead of taking Bennett, the plan of Marcus worked, and Maria receives the demon’s influence. The two renegade priests break free of their bonds while Maria gets what she’s always wanted.
But what worries me most is Father Tomas. Can he push through? I believe he can. He wants to, and the Rances need him. With a blade to his neck, Tomas finally breaks free of the spell. He admits to his sins, bares his soul. Afterwards, he wakes to fight against Pazuzu. Just as Casey fights against it, willing her mother to come back.
Tomas: “I have hope and I have faith. These things are not weaknesses, they make me what I am.”
Marcus: “And whats that?”
Tomas: “An exorcist


But who will win? Tomas shouts his prayers at the demon, commanding it to leave Angela. He works with every bit of his being to cast Pazuzu out, and Casey joins him with Holy Bible in hand. The whole family gathers reciting The Lord’s Prayer.
At the same time, Pope Sebastian has hit the streets of Chicago. His motorcade passes the hordes of people waiting to wave at him, to catch a glimpse. And Father Marcus, bleeding out more and more, tries hard to save him.
Cutting back and forth between these two scenes is fantastic, the tension is thick. Once the demons in the crowd at the parade start to bring everyone to their knees, and Pazuzu rages in his hallway, things get intense. Brother Simon and his crew of demons go to the Pope. Before Simon can do anything Marcus cuts his throat. The spell on everyone is broken, the Pope is rushed away to safety, and Marcus rushes off.
Angela opens the door in her mind, but not to let Pazuzu in: to invite him into a fight. She bashes his head in on the floor of the hall, closing the door on him to leave him in darkness. Outside, Angela nearly breaks in half, seemingly dead; her family left to mourn.


Father Marcus sits with Casey, who’s glad to be done with the entire mad affair. He is a sweet man and comforts her the best he can. She wonders about the others he’s helped, how many were actually saved and got better. “Hurt me all you want, but the bastards dont get to win,” Marcus assures Casey, and tells her how strong she is despite the Rances many troubles.
Off the Rance family goes in their car, headed away from Chicago and all its terrible memories. Marcus, he’s left to keep on battling for souls. What about Tomas? He wants to train to be an exorcist. He wants his new friend to stay, to teach him. Tomas has now seen the true face of God and is more compelled than ever.
But we can’t forget about Maria Walters and her friend Superintendent Jaffey (Tim Hopper), and the others; they’re still kicking around. “Sebastian was never the finish line,” Maria tells the Superintendent. I can only imagine what the demons will plan next.
Oh, and Angela, she’s not dead. In a wheelchair, but not dead. The Rance family is safe and sound out in a country house, enjoying their lives. For now.
screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-1-20-33-amscreen-shot-2016-12-17-at-1-22-16-amEven if they don’t #RenewTheExorcist, as they should, FOX did well with this Season 1. I truly hope they give this a Season 2 because there’s so much more to explore. Not just with the Rances, but with the demonic influence still on Earth. Plus I feel like Casey would make a great addition to the exorcism team of Fathers Marcus and Tomas.
Either way I loved this season so much, it was brilliantly written and the fantastic cast lifted the material up every chance they got. Cheers to all involved!

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Seven: “Father of Lies”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 7: “Father of Lies”
Directed by Tinge Krishnan
Written by Charise Castro Smith

* For a review of Chapter Six, “Star of the Morning” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Eight, “The Griefbearers” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-12-42-50-am
Possession has gripped Chicago.
At a Roman Catholic Church service, Angela and Henry Rance (Geena Davis & Alan Ruck), their daughter Kat (Brianne Howey), many people are gathered. Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is leading everyone, praying for Casey Rance’s (Hannah Kasulka) safe return to her family.
Nine days prior, Father Tomas rushes Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) and a horrifically unwell Casey to see Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan). The girl is obviously close to being “integrated” with the demon inside her. All the same, it looks like Fathers Marcus and Tomas are on the same page. Right now they have to keep Pazuzu at bay. He wants revenge.
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The media circus surrounding the Rance family and grandma Chris MacNeil (Sharon Gless). Sounds as if Chris is taking her role in the family more seriously, regretting the past and what she did to their family using Regan’s plight for financial gain.
Bernadette worries if they can’t beat the demon they’ll be unleashing an “ancient violence into the world.” For his part, Marcus has more faith than anybody. Ironic, no? The man who’s been excommunicated wants to fight the forces against God the most.
With the creepiness going on in the upper echelons involving Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the police superintendent, the priest with whom Father Tomas meets, there’s no telling what might happen next. One thing is made perfectly clear: Marcus is an enemy of the Church. That means many things at the moment.
The Rances and Chris give an interview concerning Casey. Naturally, the past tries to emerge. Right away things go sour. The interviewer goes hard at them until Angela and Henry walk out. Instead of solely trying to find the girl, the media wants to dig up dirt first. Typical of certain news outlets. At the same time Casey’s being exorcised, or at least the trio of exorcists – Tomas, Marcus, and Bernadette – try doing the job. Tomas walks away with a bite, and Pazuzu smiles from inside Casey; almost loving the exorcism. So damn creepy. Moreover, Marcus feels responsible now for Casey, after the end of last episode when he nearly expelled the demon for good.
Outside of the Rance house people are holding up signs, some hateful Westboro Baptist Church-like and other more Gothic. A woman confronts Angela about Casey having killed her husband in the ambulance, calling her daughter “demon girl.” Henry quickly rushes his wife back inside.

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-12-59-51-am
Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) has to deal with all those crooked weirdos, including one of the ring leaders Brother Simon (Francis Guinan). He’s come up with a bit of dirt on the finances of those involved with the Papal Planning Committee. Oh, this is all too ominous! I’m worried for Bennett. I like him a lot, and worry his time is drawing to a close. Hopefully he proves me wrong. Seeing all those kooks around him is chilling.
At the house, Chris mentions to Father Tomas he reminds her of one of the priests who helped Regan; she’s talking about Father Damien Karras. Well, Tomas does his best in comforting Angela and her family. He has “faith,” but Angela particularly isn’t convinced. Having a demon come back for her four decades after the first possession, now for her daughter? I’d probably not be too hopeful about God, either. Meanwhile, Casey’s body is withering. And that nasty bastard Pazuzu, he’s hiding. There are literal maggots eating the girl alive, worming through her flesh. If they can’t draw Pazuzu out, they can’t finish the exorcism. If they can’t finish the exorcism, the girl dies. Even worse Bernadette feels that the case is a lost cause, and that perhaps Marcus holding on so dearly, fighting so hard might no longer be about her; is he fighting because of his own past, or does he still genuinely believe? I’m inclined to say the latter.
Angela and her mother talk seriously for the first time in a long while. Chris tells her daughter she’s a good mother. Even the girl formerly known as Regan admits that growing up in the lap of celebrity wasn’t always so bad. Further than that, she understands now how hard it had to be for Chris to watch her be possessed, virtually helpless.
Back with Casey, Father Marcus tries using love to cast out the “Star of the Morning” (but isn’t the demon itself Pazuzu from when it possessed Regan? Little confused on that one now) and make it understand it is forgiven. The girl comes to a moment, crying: “No more.”


The ever diligent Father Bennett finds himself in a precarious position, snooping around looking for clues. He locates the burned ashes of the organs used in the Ceremony of Ash, Vocare Pulvere. He’s also being watched, by one of the possessed homeless men. When he comes across a room full of dead, bloodied corpses, some of the possessed men attack. He manages to fend them off, then starts killing demons like a bad motherfucker. YES! YES! This must continue. We need more Bennett in our lives.
Tomas is slipping further from the faith, as he’s in bed with Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) and shirking those vows he took; not that I agree with his vows, but still. Although it’s not exactly as if he’s easily doing it, the whole situation evidently weighs heavy on his soul. She can tell. We can tell. He winds up going out to try getting something for his bite and gets punched in the face by a pharmacy customer. Maria bails him out. That ain’t good. She acts as a shoulder to cry on. But maybe, after being passed over for demonic possession, she’ll have a change of heart? Yeah, right.
Things at the Rance house are rough. Angela’s breaking down. She asks to have Father Tomas come over, her mind is frantic, her speech, too. She believes that Casey’s dead. “Part of me is gone,” she tells Tomas, her husband, Kat, Chris, each of them watching with a deep sadness in their eyes.


Marcus is about to administer a cup of belladonna tea to Casey when he realises “This is his design; I will not interfere.” He won’t give up on her. His faith is so pure that there’s no stopping him. And likewise, Angela isn’t giving up. Tomas brings her in and from the moment Pazuzu senses her, he comes alive once more. He is drawn out.
A sow,” the demon says looking at the woman he once knew as Regan. It is time for a brutal battle between the one who got away and that ancient evil, Pazuzu.


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What a fascinating and well-written episode! Another of my favourites, I think. There is so much depth to these characters, I can’t even imagine where to begin on that. Also, side note: the score is fucking incredible, that piano riff we hear that plays off the intro song. I mean, I honestly feel this series surprised me, many of us. It is leagues better than I ever hoped.
Let’s get geared up for Chapter Eight “The Griefbearers” next week. And how will the showdown between the demon and Regan MacNeil go? I wonder.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Six: “Star of the Morning”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 6: “Star of the Morning”
Directed by Jennifer Phang
Written by Laura Marks

* For a review of Chapter Five, “Through My Most Grievous Fault” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Seven, “Father of Lies” – click here
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After the longest break of my god damn life, The Exorcist returns after dropping the bomb that Angela Rance (Geena Davis) is in fact Regan MacNeil. We start on an old television show where young Regan and her mother are being interviewed about the whole Georgetown incident. She doesn’t remember much, though her mother insists she does. “The demon girl” obviously had to do some distancing to get away from her past since that show. I find it fascinating they did this, plot-wise, as the whole thing opens up a lot of great paths the show can take from here. Dig it wholeheartedly.
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Chris MacNeil (Sharon Gless) has shown up on the Rances doorstep. She and Kat (Brianne Howey) try to do a little bonding, sort of, while Angela is decidedly unhappy about her mother showing up. Unfortunately there’s the whole cover-up asect to Angela’s marriage, Henry (Alan Ruck), very appropriately, is upset about what his wife has hidden. Can he blame her? She was exorcised, she saw several people die – albeit while possessed – and went through a terrifying ordeal. It’s sad that she couldn’t tell her husband at some point, however, I don’t blame her.
Everyone’s clearly worried for Casey (Hannah Kasulka), who is god knows where and doing who knows what. Right now Henry wants to take his chances with the mother-in-law. All to find his daughter; she’s now on the lam and people are left dead in her wake. I’m even more worried for Angela right now. Her old life is clawing back. She even hears strange noises in her head for just a moment. All the same, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) feels pissed about not having all the facts before going into Casey’s room. “Possession is like a virus,” he tells the scared mother and makes painfully obvious what the consequences are if they can’t find her daughter in time. “Integration” – the next step – is a permanent destruction of the soul, when the girl’s soul will come inextricably linked to that of the demon. Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) feels that his counterpart is a bit harsh. They simply don’t have enough time to piss about.
A press conference is called, the Rances in attendance with famous grandma in tow. They’re the centre of a publicity carnival. But not everyone is so concerned with the Rance family. People were murdered – butchered, and brutally – recently and nobody seems too quick to seek out the answer on that. Meanwhile, we see some of the dastardly, wholesale nastiness of those that killed these victims, using the organs taken for sinister purposes. A woman at the press conference calls out the names of the victims, hoping for justice. Nobody there understands exactly the significance of those murders, not just yet.

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The police are curious about Father Marcus, having been arrested after performing the exorcism. They want to shut the whole “possession” story down, so as not to confuse the public. Of course they show Angela and Henry the pictures of what happened during the ambulance ride Casey took. Upstairs, Chris tries to talk with Kat about what happened to her mother, formerly known as Regan. A media circus ensued, partly because Chris needed to keep her career alive. She talks about the Ouija board and “Captain Howdy.” Eerie fucking conversation, to say the least. Kat believes her grandmother is victim blaming a little by attributing it all to Regan not listening about the Ouija being no good, although Chris admits she failed her own daughter ultimately.
Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) and Father Marcus are still getting a bit of help from Cherry and Lester Rego in their quest outside the reaches, and know, of the Church. And in a defiant statement, as per his bad ass usual, Marcus tells Bennett: “I dont care about Gods will.” At the very same time something terribly ungodly calls Angela over the phone, taunting her about Casey. The demon produces a horrific image for the frantic mother. All a dream. Has Pazuzu returned for Regan?
Then there’s Jessica (Mouzam Makkar), she’s left her husband and found herself a new apartment. A place where there’s no “guilt” and no “shame” for neither she, nor Father Tomas. He still resists, even though he loves her. Deeply, too. His faith has been shaken in so many ways at once it’s likely he doesn’t know where to turn.

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Poor Henry’s having a lot of trouble. With his recent head injury there are gaps in his memory. He says what held that together is his wife, his family. Most of what hurts him is the fact Angela couldn’t trust him enough to reveal her former life as Regan MacNeil. There are more problems for Angela, as well. She isn’t happy about her mother returning, dragging the media into their home all over again. “You used me,” Angela yells at Chris. Worse than any of that the coroner calls. They may have Casey.
Simultaneously, a report of wild dogs going mad in a neighbourhood prompts Father Tomas to text Marcus, which sets the renegade priest off to check it out.
At the party Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald) throws for the upcoming papal visit, Father Bennett comes across Dr. John Rexroth (Michael Patrick Thornton), whose talk of angels on Earth draws his attention. Bennett believes what the doctor is actually talking about are demons in our world trying to influence how it works.
At the coroner’s office everyone awaits the news of whether Casey is dead. In go Angela and Henry to make the identification. Gladly, their daughter is still alive. Yet surely in a great deal of existential agony. Finally, Chris and the girl formerly known as Regan embrace. Maybe those wounds can heal. Someday.
The real excitement is in the journey of Father Marcus into the underbelly of the city. He finds a tunnel filled with homeless, possibly possessed individuals. He searches for Casey, calling her name. One woman looks him dead in the eye, repeating: “Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it.” All around him are the signs of evil at work. Then from nowhere Marcus is attacked. He commands them in the name of Christ, which holds them at bay temporarily. Behind him Casey crawls the walls and the floor doing the spider walk her mother did down the stairs all those years ago.

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At the Walters party we come to discover that Dr. Rexroth, Maria herself, one of the priests, among others, are in fact working together in order to complete the vocare pulvere ritual. They even have the little bowl of ashes those killers filled with the ashes of the organs they’d stolen. Wow. I didn’t see this coming, at all. “Star of the morning” is a reference to Lucifer, The Morning Star. Brother Simon (Francis Guinan) leads the ceremony.
All of a sudden, HE IS COMING doesn’t only signal the coming of the Pope. And what’s worse is the fact there are so many influential people at that table, including the police superintendent. “Please take me” everyone around the table declares, as the priest at the table blows ashes into the air. It is in fact the superintendent who receives demonic power from the ashes, and something other takes over his body.
Everyone present looks very, very pleased. A delighted, evil laughter rises from the table. Maria doesn’t look particularly happy; she wanted to be chosen. How sad when the devil passes you over.
On the shore near the tunnel Father Marcus locates Casey feasting on a sea bird. He approaches her, reciting Christian incantation. Before the demon attacks him, trying its best to murder the priest. A perfect place, kinda. Marcus uses the water to in effect baptise Casey, releasing the demon. Then she returns, herself once more.
Except she tells Marcus: “Hes coming back. Help me.”

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This was the best episode yet! Creepiest, nastiest, wildest, most intriguing. So much going on. The preview for Chapter Seven “Father of Lies” looks insane. Seems Pazuzu is back for revenge against the girl able to survive his wrath. Excited to see what’s next.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Five: “Through My Most Grievous Fault”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 5: “Through My Most Grievous Fault”
Directed by Jason Ensler
Written by David Grimm

* For a review of Chapter Four, “The Moveable Feast” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Five, “Star of the Morning” – click here
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A demonic confrontation is upon us!
Will the power of the Lord compel this evil force from young Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka)? Can Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) band together and do what’s necessary?
The two priests sit together on a stairway not unlike the one from William Friedkin’s original classic, the first adaptation of William Peter Blatty and his terrifying novel. Above the man, a dark sky brews in metaphorical turmoil.
Inside the Rance house, Kat (Brianne Howey) sleeps, as does her mother Angela (Alan Ruck & Geena Davis). Dear ole dad Henry (Alan Ruck) is up with his daughter, in the grip of her possession. She’s chained, starting to look pretty ghastly. Henry tries to pray over her and comfort what humanity is left. Suddenly Casey speaks to her father sweetly of a “secret” and asking if he’d like to hear: “Closer,” she says. Oh, no. She pulls him tight, as the demon whispers and tongues her father’s ear. Yuck – in the best horror way. Only afterwards Henry’s acting strange.
I wonder: what did that naughty demon say? I’m sure we’ll find out sooner than later. It’s starting to sow the seeds of distrust and paranoia amongst those closest to Casey.
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Poor Kat. She’s still heartbroken, in the throes of sadness and guilt at once. She leafs through all the memories of her lost love. That is, until the noises from the room next door begin. She hasn’t yet discovered the gruesome truth of all the exorcism talk. Angela isn’t having an easy go of it, either. She feels a ton of guilt, too. All the while she tries drowning out the noise of the priests doing their duty upstairs.
And what about upstairs? Father Marcus reels off prayer at the demon, who speaks directly to Father Tomas, calling him out for being “a liar” and ranting at them both in English and Latin alike. All prior to doing a few parlour tricks, like pulling out one of Casey’s toenails – “Isnt it wonderful?” asks the demon in creepy rhetorical fashion.
Henry isn’t acting normal. He starts talking a bit about God, asking whether she’s ever lied to him. She won’t answer, and it becomes clear there’s something she’s hidden. What is it, exactly?
The demon turns up the heat on Father Tomas, speaking as his grandmother from beyond the grave. He tries to resist, as Father Marcus advises not to “let it in your head.” But Ortega fights back, tossing holy water and trying to push against the unholiness. Then the flying act starts, and Casey’s body is tossed from one end of the room to the other. It won’t stop “till she gives me her rancid little soul,” spake the demon. Both priests know they’re in for a far large, more brutal fight than anticipated.

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That Salesman (Robert Emmet Lumney) is back, of course. Literally sitting on Casey’s chest; a perfect metaphor for the life being choked out of her. And he stresses to the girl: “Bring her to me!” So is the real target Casey, or is it Kat? Or maybe he’s just talking of Casey’s soul. Who knows. I just feel like there’s more to Kat and her personal story, that it’ll play into the overall story more relevantly eventually.
Tomas hears the voice of Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) calling him. You know it’s just the demon, imitating, twisting at the souls of others. Yet in the room is a vision of her. Can Tomas repel the “unclean spirit” on his own? No, he can’t, not on his own. Marcus isn’t happy with it, Tomas is compromised, and in the middle of it all Kat gets a shocking look at her sister lying on the floor. That can’t be good for anybody.
So again, it’s Father Marcus v. demon. The nasty voice of the tainted soul comes from Casey, taunting the excommunicated priest with everything in its arsenal. “Let the blood of Christ redeem you,” he yells, pressing that rosary against Casey’s forehead. From nowhere comes a vision of Marcus’ mother, speaking to him: “You was a mistake. You was never supposed to happen.” That’s fucking rough. Oh, and Marcus, his dad beat his mother’s brains out with a hammer. She continues saying terrible things to her son, the demon rants more. But it’s not enough to take him down to the demon’s level. At the same time, Father Tomas falls down the rabbit hole with Jessica – sexually; has the demon broken him completely?


Just as I guessed, Kat called the police. This is really going to turn things into diarrhea for everyone at the Rance house, Father Marcus included. Right before he can finish things the police break in, taking him away. And the demon plays up to the expectations of the medics, the police, making it all look appropriate. Another cog in the giant wheel of its game.
From the back of the ambulance Kat sees Casey – or the demon – smile right at her. Oh, great. You already know Casey won’t be making it to the hospital. That evil force all but obliterates the ambulance, leaving the paramedics bloody and dead. Sitting in jail, Marcus hears the news of it all on television. He deciphers something the demon told him: “He is coming.” Sound familiar? Yes, yes. The papal visit.
At home, Henry keeps prodding for truth from Angela. He urges her to confess. It all has something to do with that Bible he found in the closet, with the feather, the flowers. What does it mean? Did she cheat? Did she have an abortion? What is it?
Meanwhile, Father Tomas is worried for the sin he’s committed. He’s gone against his vows. He must repent. In church he comes across Angela, she too looking for forgiveness, trying to repent for her own sins. She tells him a bit about herself and that she had an “imaginary friend” who came in the form of a little red bird. She eventually became somebody else, moving away from her old life and getting far from her mother.


But guess what? Grandma’s back. The secret is out: Angela was Regan MacNeil! No way! DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. Shit.
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What an impressive twist to this episode. I cannot wait for the next chapter, this is wild. And to think, I thought it was some cheating or abortion story. She blew that out of the water.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Three: “Let ‘Em In”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Episode 3: “Let ‘Em In”
Directed by Michael Nankin
Written by Dre Ryan

* For a review of Chapter Two, “Lupus in Fabula” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Four, “The Moveable Feast” – click here
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Five months before current events, Kat Rance (Brianne Howey) and her friend Julia (Charlotte Thomas) are driving together, talking about men. Until the conversation takes a turn to the fact Julia seems to be in love with her. Kat’s in love right back. Ah, the intrigue pours out now. After the crash, it wasn’t just the loss of a friend. It was the loss of a great, beautiful love between the two. Even more tragic. No wonder she was utterly devastated. Bad enough to have a friend die, which I’ve experienced, but to then have been in love with said friend, a likely secretive lesbian love, it’s so damn sad.
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Angela Rance (Geena Davis) hears a zealot ranting on the streets. He locks eyes with her, almost falling to the ground. Fucking weird, and definitely unsettles her. She receives Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) at the same time, who’s likewise entranced by the ravings of the man on the street. Except maybe even more.
At one of the crime scenes from the end of the last episode, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) tries getting a bit of information from some men outside. They say someone took the victim’s eyes out.
Over at the church, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) speaks with Henry Rance (Alan Ruck). We discover that he had an accident at work, some scaffolding hit him in the head and that’s why he’s been so aloof. But still, he’s worried for his daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka). No worries, though. Father Keane and his street corncob are on the case!
Speaking of Casey, she’s talking to that dreaded Salesman (Robert Emmet Lunney). He keeps showing up when nobody’s around, as we now know he’s a mere apparition of her mind; I would assume of the devil. In the meantime, Father Marcus is looking around Casey’s room, getting a feel for her personality.

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During a fancy dinner, Cardinal Guillot (Torrey Hanson) is being applauded for his efforts in planning the Pope’s motorcade. There’s discussion of the Pope going through some of the poorer neighbourhoods. Of course the Holy See team aren’t exactly excited about that, although Father Tomas gets to have his say, hoping to extract the idea of “violence” out of a discussion on the poor. He further speaks about how they have much to offer in that “spiritually they are rich.” Everything’s interrupted when that crazy street zealot turns up, burning alive outside. What a fright.
Casey sits with Father Tomas and Father Marcus in the back of the church. When the younger priest gets a bit far ahead of himself, the older, more experienced exorcist steps in to ask questions. He ingratiates himself with Casey, talking about the things he’s learned of her at the Rance house. He refers to things in terms of gardening, plants and their nature. This is all a segue into prodding at the demon inside Casey. When pushed sufficiently, the Salesman turns up behind her, looming. He whispers instructions in her ear. “He doesnt lie,” she tells Father Marcus. The Salesman pleads with the girl to get out. The room then starts to shake, lights flicker, a picture falls from the wall and smashes. Finally, the presence in her comes out, strong and in control. It talks of Gabriel, the boy Father Marcus had tried to exorcise before his neck was cracked. “The universe burst open. The eye of God dilated wide and you were at the centre of his disinterest,” speaks the demon. It knows quite a bit, which horrifies Father Tomas.
Bringing their recording to Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) and Father Bennett, the two rogue priests aren’t received too well. Father Marcus pleads that she spoke in “Aramaic” and is obviously possessed. Also, Bennett has brought along with him a letter of excommunication for Marcus. He’s naturally pissed, particularly considering he now knows the demons talk to one another, that they are “sharing information” like spies. But out he goes, kicked to the curb.

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Everyone is getting ready for a memorial to Julia, a dance performance by their company. While in the bathroom, Casey finds herself being manipulated by the Salesman, the demon in her. It pushes the curling iron against her skin, to the point she eventually begins to look to love it. Very eerie. And if you notice, she… goes lower than you might expect. Yes, that old crucifix scene has become something far more nasty and sinister.
With Marcus now booted from the church, Father Tomas wants to be taught how to exorcise demons. Because without the church, as Marcus says: “Im just a man in a room.” Ultimately, Father Tomas wants to help the Rances, to get that demon out of Casey. Marcus warns against getting too deep, that he ought to gather evidence then put it in the hands of the church. You know Tomas is not going to do that.
Before the memorial all the dancers give their props to Julia, pouring out some whiskey, drinking some. At least until Casey grabs hold of the bottle, as everybody whispers and points, wondering what she’s doing. Then when Kat confronts her she goes a bit wild. The demon’s been provoked by Father Marcus, lashing out at the golden sister. Who knows how bad it will get from here on in.
Father Tomas meets with Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the head of the committee concerning the papal visit. He tells her a story about coming to America for the first time. Afterwards, she gives him a hundred thousand dollars for his parish. She’s rich, coming from a wealthy family that makes sturdy glass. What she truly wants is help to clean up their city.

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Father Marcus, saying fuck excommunication, goes banging on doors, but Father Bennett picks him up, obviously keeping tabs on him. Marcus is worried about those murders, the body parts taken; something to do with summoning a demon. Then Bennett brings up the self-immolation of the street zealot, which was found to have no source other than the body. Hmm.
During the dance performance Casey takes off, her father following. On a train, the two of them talk, though suddenly Henry has a bit of problem and fades out. Some guys get up in Casey’s face, one specifically, and not a soul does anything to help. That’s when the evil starts to break loose, as she sees the Salesman come towards her, no one else the wiser. He kisses her on the lips, passionately. The final embrace.
And so Casey kicks the shit out of the guy. A bit… unnaturally. She starts to send men flying around the train car. The iPhones trying to film all zap out. Casey tears the skin right from the one guy’s bones: “If you want it rough, all you had to do was ask.” She further reaches into his jaw and cracks it sideways. Covered in blood, she stands wobbling. After that she goes full Regan and pisses herself on the floor. Wow.

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This was the BEST EPISODE YET! Amazing. Lots of terror, more interesting bits of character. And lots of Ben Daniels being a fucking bad ass. Love how the demonic possession is framed, using The Salesman, as a seduction. Interesting and unique.
Next is “The Moveable Feast” – nice Ernest Hemingway reference for the literature lovers.

The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”
Directed by Michael Nankin
Written by Heather Bellson

* For a review of Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Three: “Let ‘Em In” – click here
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Young boys in a dark room are ordered around by a nasty man with a thick Irish brogue. One of them is lead down into a darker part of the large basement, in whatever building they’re stowed away. The kid takes a Holy Bible with him into a long tunnel-like corridor. At the end is a man plagued by a demon possessing him.
Cut to Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) – that was little Marcus, back in the early days. Oh, I love the intrigue! In his own personal Bible, he annotates various sections. By the look of it he’s quite the devout man in his older age. Or is he merely a man trying to figure life out? Likely both. He’s troubled though, that’s more than evident.
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Angela Rance (Geena Davis) is having trouble, too. Her daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is speaking in an eerie voice, sitting alone in the dark. Whatever demon that’s possessed her is a pervert, as it turns out. And he warns Casey about her “lying, sneaking mother.” One of the creepiest scenes yet, if not the creepiest.
Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is talking with Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) about whether he might be able to conduct an exorcism. Obviously that goes over like a fart in church (appropriate joke). The modern day Catholic Church clearly looks down on all that old demon and hellfire nonsense they once preached. Ah, the ever shifting plague of Catholicism.
Meanwhile, Angela’s out keeping up appearances because that’s clearly the type of family she and space case husband Henry (Alan Ruck) have together. There’s a looming visit for Pope Sebastian on the horizon. A perfect addition for any horror, particularly one involving demons. Speaking of which, Casey calls mom in a speechless panic. At home upstairs, mom finds no Casey. The family gets home and things are feeling confused. Gets worse when they uncover a sickly nest of centipedes squirming around on Casey’s sheets. The beginning signs of evil.

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Father Marcus has broken into Father Tomas’ place. A man of many talents. Love how the difference between these two men couldn’t be more vast, as is explained easily with this harmless little act of breaking-and-entering. So it seems Keane is back in the game. He lets Father Tomas in on what’s happening with the demon, or what’s soon to happen. The guy’s definitely seen his share of shit. But there’s also Tomas, his pen pal relationship (and possibly more) with a woman named Jessica; who is she? Makes Keane, and us, very curious. Turns out there was a brief relationship of sorts before he took his vows. All Father Marcus is trying to make clear is that the demon can tell everything. It will use all of it against them.
During a lacrosse game, Casey sees an old man (Robert Emmet Lunney) wave to her in the stands. On the field she has a run in with a particular player, after which she turns into… someone else. She focuses on the other player whose leg soon snaps. Spooky.
At home the family is playing Jenga and having a laugh together. Except things take a turn when Angela lets slip her ideas about what’s going on with Casey. And the demon’s ready to play.
The next day at the church, Angela pleads with Father Tomas to get things moving. He’s reluctant because of what Bishop Egan said. They want more psychiatric evidence about what could be going on with the girl. Trying to snatch up a bit of holy water the mother winds up talking to Father Marcus. He happily gives out a bit of advice on the sly. “God helps those who help themselves, right?” he quips; a Ben Franklin quote. In the food line at church, the man with the messed up scalp from last episode goes up to Casey, speaking about her being chosen and then calling out: “Let me touch you.” He also makes Father Marcus double-take back to his childhood in the dark tunnel.
Tomas goes to meet with Jessica (Mouzam Makkar). There’s obviously a deeper connection between them than a platonic relationship. Her marriage is crumbling. His faith slips a little each time they communicate. He’s tempted by her, but that goes against his vows. So much conflict inside him. Nicely juxtaposed, though. He’s questioning his faith due to this woman, as well as coming up against something that absolutely represents the fact of his faith as reality: demonic possession.
Then there’s Father Marcus. He looks for the homeless man from the church, only to find another possessed wretch claiming he’s “the one we feared until you lost that little boy.” That oh so famous line comes out, only to get the reply: “Do I look compelled, man of God?” It mocks Marcus and his faith before leaving.

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At home, Angela and the family sit to eat. She apologises for being distracted lately and for lashing out emotionally in the wrong ways. She tries slipping the holy water into Casey’s drink, watching eagerly for its effects. Nothing happens while they sit around the table, which makes Angela feel at ease. But the demon rushes off quick when it can so that Casey can puke up that slimy green stuff. Plus haul a centipede out of her throat. Yikes. Possession is rough.
Later that night outside, the man from the lacrosse game tells her that a “glorious seed” is “breaching the soil.” He sits with her, Casey tells him everything. Clueless father Henry watches from the window to see nobody is actually there.
Father Tomas goes through Marcus’ things to repay the favour. When the older priest arrives, he’s a bit surprises, probably not expecting it from the younger man. Tomas is troubled, but Marcus assures: “Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” which is in part the Latin from where this episode’s title derives. Marcus reveals his father murdered his mother in front of him. He was later sold to the church for “five quid.” That’s how he ended up being 12, locked in a dark room with a demon-possessed man. But instead of feeling fear as that lonely little boy, he felt he’d discovered his purpose in life. Through this conversation Tomas and Marcus come to terms on themselves, as well as each other.
Note the amazing performance from Ben Daniels, a fabulous actor; he takes the material and lifts it off the page magically.

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In another part of the city an apartment of people are murdered. Their organs are put into containers and men take them away, joined on the street by the homeless man, and others, all carrying similar containers and loading them into a truck before heading out. “A mass homicide,” as it’s called on the news. Father Marcus listens to this and finds it suspicious, wondering if there’s more to it. The billboard advertising Pope Sebastian’s visit looms large in the street, the slogan HE IS COMING feeling prophetic in many ways.

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A fabulous follow-up to the premiere episode. Some interesting bits that I’m looking forward to watching play out over the next episodes. I like that they’re not going too hard and putting everything out there. While you can see where things are headed, there’s still a great bit of mystery involved.
Next episode is titled “Let ‘Em In” – hope they let Father Marcus loose, because you know he’s a wild one.

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 10: “This Little Light”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 10: “This Little Light”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Chris Black

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Close to Home” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, click here.
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The Holter place is no longer safe. Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) has been fully taken possession of by a demon. It’s infiltrated her to the core, now her husband Mark (David Denman) is dead. Her daughter and niece are still in the house, which is terrifying. Luckily, or unfortunately, Amber’s seen this type of thing before. So she knows that calling her father, Kyle (Patrick Fugit), is likely the best possible option.
Because aunt Megan is sick. Very, very sick.
When Kyle does get there along with Rev. John Anderson (Philip Glenister), they find the absolute carnage strewn about the house. Kyle discovers Mark’s corpse, bled out on the bathroom floor. All the signs of an awful scene having gone down. In the upstairs closet, he finds the girls: “It was just like mommy,” Amber cries to her dad.
Now, the search is on for Megan. She’s out in the night, possessed, headed who knows where. For the time being it’s out onto the football field, as she wanders barefoot in the grass before going insane when the sprinklers turn on.


Kyle: “I shouldve never come out of my house


Kyle and the Rev go get Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey), so he might provide a bit of help. As if anybody could help right now. They let him in on what’s happening, as well as the fact it isn’t Megan doing the killing. However, Giles isn’t so keen. Yet he’s being pressured to make sure everyone perceives the death of Mark how they wish it to be seen.
Meanwhile, Sidney (Brent Spiner) is still lurking, waiting. Whatever’s coming for Rome is definitely not going to be pleasant. Oh, and the Ogdens – Lenny and Kat (Pete Burris & Debra Christofferson) are doing his bidding, taking care of more tortured souls in the eerie basement filled with mannequins. I’m sure it’s easy to sleep down there.
Outside a restaurant Megan’s mistaken for a homeless woman. After which she runs off into the darkness again when headlights flash at her; like “some of them” being kept by the Ogdens, light is not their friend. The Rev and Kyle cruise to try finding Megan, just barely missing her on the streets. Kyle wants to get to her before the police, to pull that demon inside her out. At the same time, Giles calls Mark’s death in as an accident.
Giles wife winds up calling Kat, asking what’s going on in their town. Kat’s busy, though. She has another soul from Sidney: Megan Holter. Oh no.
Patricia’s boy Aaron goes to the Chief’s place. He plays innocent, talking about the “devil coming to town” and all sorts of things. But you know that is a mere con. He pushes his way inside the house, and all bets are off.
The search for Megan is still on. Kyle and Anderson hear from Giles: Amber is with Aaron now, surely soon to be with Sidney, too. Things are getting quite scary now. Anderson tries to make Kyle realise that Sidney is the devil in the flesh: “If this battle is to be won, it cant be won alone.” All the younger of the two cares about is his own flesh and blood, the daughter who’s been through so much already.
Kyle and Sidney find themselves on a dark road, meeting in only the headlights of a car. The devilish man in black requires Kyle to get into the trunk of his car blindfolded. Looks like we, and Kyle, might get some answers to what it all means. When he arrives at the destination, Amber’s there. Although they’re locked in a room. Sidney speaks cryptically of the demons, where they’re from, and why he’s keeping Kyle locked away; for when they “need” him. “For what?” Kyle yells after him, getting no answer. Simultaneously, Megan’s being ushered over to the other side of humanity, dropping further into the abyss of demonhood.
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Anderson’s laying in wait and comes across the little basement where Sidney has Kat and Lenny tucked away, taking care of those tortured people. The Rev helps bust Kyle out, or at least until Lenny has it out with Anderson. Securing Amber safely in the room, Kyle hulks out and finishes the door off, getting to the Reverend and pulling him out of trouble. Lenny lets some of the specimens loose, one of whom tries sucking a bit of essence from Kyle. Another of whom is Kyle’s poor sister, lost in the daze of demonic possession. She finds her way to Amber. Then her brother confronts the demon within. Megan is still in there, but the evil has taken hold. She attacks him. Trying to suck more of that essence from his body.
Once Amber puts her hands on aunt Megan, she reveals a power like her father’s, astonishing them all. It releases the black liquid from out of her possessed soul. Everybody is safe. For the moment.
Except now Megan must face the reality of Mark being dead. Kyle does his best to pass it off as an accident, trying hard to make sure she doesn’t shoulder all the blame. Anderson can’t take the weight and has to leave. But Kyle stays with his sister and hopes to help her through it, every step of the way.
The Rev has other things to do. He douses the trailer where Sidney stays in gasoline, lighting the place ablaze. Is Aaron inside? Is Sidney even home? Well, let’s hope the former isn’t the case. Because that could put Johnny in one hell of a tight spot.
Will a new day bring anything better?


Turns out Aaron’s missing, Patricia is worried sick. We can see where that’s headed. Particularly once the Rev notices Sidney driving down the street, alive and in his glory. Uh oh, to the power of a thousand. Just the look in the Rev’s eyes spell a troubled conscience.
At the gas station, Kyle and Amber gear up for a road trip. He wants to find a quiet place, where nobody knows about his and daughter’s “super power” like they take to calling it. Smart idea. Only I wonder how long that might last, either way. Not like they’re getting far. People are already staring at them; a half dozen or more standing silent around Kyle and Amber, their eyes focused solely on the pair.
The demons can sense them. They’re not going anywhere.
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What a perfect, creepy, exciting end to Season 1! Loved this finale wholeheartedly.
I hope for many seasons on this series. It’s been a great ride the whole way through, often getting exponentially better with every episode. Let’s all comb through the episodes again between now and whenever Cinemax graces us with the next bunch of episodes.

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 9: “Close to Home”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 9: “Close to Home”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Adam Targum

* For a review of the previous episode, “What Lurks Within” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “This Little Light” – click here
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Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt) is out in the woods. She crushes a piece of glass in her hand, crying. Remembering all the pain of Donnie Hamel (Scott Porter), what he did to her as a girl, what he’s caused her husband Mark (David Denman) to do, everything.
Then there’s a strange look in her eye. Are those demons? Is she headed for a possession? That would be an awful thing for Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) to have to deal with, especially considering the state of Rev. John Anderson (Philip Glenister) and whatever’s going on with the ever terrifying Sidney (Brent Spiner).
Who knows what’s around the next dark corners.
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Lenny Ogden (Pete Burris) and his wife Kat (Debra Christofferson) are leaving town. Although he’s not exactly happy with that. He chastises Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) for not understanding what’s happening, or being able to have the clarity to see what’s soon going to happen. Very ominous stuff, as it seems Len’s got a bit more knowledge than we an tell.
Taking care of his daughter while trying to take care of other things, Kyle ends up at Megan’s place. She is on the couch, not wanting to talk to anybody. He’s hoping to get his daughter back into a normal life, back to school. Even if her mother is off who knows where. But Kyle’s planning to go get her. Wherever that is.
Anderson and Patricia (Melinda McGraw) become closer now. He gives up more about his son, his former life. He’s a little embarrassed by his recent behaviour, wondering how his son might react if he were around. For her part, Patricia reminds him he is not a bad man. Furthermore, she wants them to move in together. Probably good for the ole Rev. Later, he tries to figure out a way not be replaced at the church, although there’s no guarantee that’s going to pan out well at all.
Before they can get out on the road, Kat encounters Sidney in a gas station bathroom. He’s sad she didn’t say goodbye. Well, he has a “new job” for her to complete. Uh oh.


Amber: “Youre lyin‘”
Kyle: “Why do you say that?”
Amber: “Cause thats what grownups do


Kyle’s genuinely worried for Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil), so much that he recruits his brother-in-law to help him, who gladly agrees. Particularly because his mind is changing concerning Kyle, and y’know, his days as an officer have come further to a close.
Over at the church, Rev. Anderson tries to say his piece to the board. He makes clear that he loves Rome, the people of his congregation. Then, out from the shadows, Sidney presents himself. They’re all very impressed with him, forthcoming donation included. He fronts as somebody, something else. Rather than play nice, John starts beating the shit out of Sidney, which only serves to aid the Reverend’s downfall. Giles gets called in, of course, though doesn’t see that it’s all a part of the plan Sidney has for John. Ends up with Giles slapping the cuffs on the Rev and taking him over to jail. Hmm.
Over at Allison’s, Mark helps Kyle break in: “One of the perks of not beina cop anymore,” he says while smashing a window to get the door open. Inside they have a look for anything suspicious, any sign of her or what may have happened, where she’s gone. Kyle hears a noise upstairs, but no Allison. Just an open window and wind blowing through. We get to see a bit of bonding between the brothers-in-law after Mark admits he may have been too tough on Kyle. Then he gets a call – Megan’s gone home sick. Are we seeing a demon possess her gradually? I wonder. That’ll be the final test and revelation for many people around Kyle, as well as it could mean terrifying things for Megan. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.
And then Allison’s mother Lauren shows up, finding Kyle there amongst broken glass where he’s not supposed to be. She laments the change in her daughter after the events of her marriage to Kyle. What’s most clear is that the possession of Allison altered everything in her world, from relationships to everyday life.
Giles lets Anderson go, which is not a surprise. But what is the Man of God’s next move?
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Speaking of moves, the Ogdens are on to their next job for Sidney – for the dark lord. “There is something wonderful coming,” Kat tells her husband when he isn’t sure of what they’re doing, stuffed away in some basement with a ton of mannequins. Curious. They haven’t left town, they’re tucked into their little spot. Doing what, exactly? Should be intriguing to see what they’re up to. A step up from looking after specimens in the woods.
Poor Megan threw up in front of everyone at school. Now she’s home, resting. There’s more than just worry, guilt, apprehension about the situation with Mark’s charges at work. Oh, and she’s pregnant. “Its like some kinda sick joke,” she complains to him. She doesn’t want to keep it, but Mark feels differently. He sees it as a sign. However, is morning sickness the only thing plaguing her right now?
Off Kyle goes on his own to a hospital; a psychiatric ward. He manages to find Allison, who checked herself in recently. She’s not well. Kyle tells her about his mother, about the thing “inside of her” that made her do those horrible things. He reveals his connection to whatever darkness lurked inside of his mom. He tells her as much as possible, all to make her understand it’s not some psychiatric issue, not a mental illness. It’s evil. Nothing human. Yet she tells him: “You cant protect me anymore.” And she all but relinquishes her parental rights, believing herself unfit to raise their daughter. What a heavy scene. Devastation.


Anderson finds out Patricia’s boy Aaron has been spending time with Sidney. He confronts the kid, trying to help. Only to make things worse. Sadly, the Rev is one of the only people who can actually see what’s destroying Rome from the inside out. More than that a sort of warning comes from Sidney through the boy.
Meanwhile, Megan is experiencing a strange event. She first taps her face against the bathroom mirror then slams her husband’s face into it when he checks on her. Yes, she is absolutely possessed. Now, Mark lies bleeding out on the floor, as Megan literally plays around in his blood. A process she helps along. Oh. My. God.
Over at Kyle’s place the Rev and he have a chat. John even references Sisyphus and his eternal struggle in relation to his own. He admits jealousy, of Kyle and his power. Although the younger of the two assures him: “You shouldnt be.” Because all the people around him are succumbing to madness, the possession of demons and evil forces. We now know this is only getting worse.
When Kyle gets a call from his daughter weeping, saying that Aunt Megan is sick “like mommy” his whole life gets turned further on its axis.
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What a wild, devastating, emotional, twisted ride! This episode is a candidate for best of the first season, no doubt. The finale is titled “This Little Light” and I am beyond pumped to figure out what will happen. Plus, we already have known a while that there’ll be a Season 2, so no grinding our teeth in anticipation. Let’s take the last leg of this ride before our wait!

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 6: “From the Shadows It Watches”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 6: “From the Shadows It Watches”
Directed by Tricia Brock
Written by Joy Blake

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Road Before Us” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Damage Done” – click here
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Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) watches the tape of an old exorcism. He flicks through and tries to see where he’s gone wrong in the past. The doubt he’s feeling now is what will become dangerous. Up to now it’s been easy. Without faith in himself, the Rev is not going down a good path. It’s like for all the powers Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) holds, his presence back in Rome is more disruptive, for everyone, than it is helpful. Anderson goers through tape after tape after tape. The recurring face of Mildred (Grace Zabriskie) pops up from time to time. Not to mention there’s someone locked in the Rev’s basement at the church.
He’s juggling his life outside the church, the church itself, and all the exorcism stuff at once. That cannot be easy on his psyche. He gets a visit from Patricia (Melinda McGraw), who makes clear they’ve got a burgeoning relationship, but that all gets put to an end because Anderson can’t just be honest. Not that telling a woman about demons would be easy. However, he might do something to make sure she knows it isn’t him either not being interested or having someone else on the side.
Come with me,” he tells Patricia. The Rev leads her back to the door. To show her “whats behind the curtain” and she willingly goes forward. Maybe she’s found a keeper after all.
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Kyle is out doing community service on the highway, spreading tar and fixing up lengths of road. Is that just his job, or is it community service, as in court-ordered service? A job from the way it looks. Either way, it’s something to keep him rooted in the real world. Speaking of the real world, Officer Mark Holter (David Denman) has a woman in for a bit of questioning in relation to the DNA he found out in the camper. This lady’s got nothing for him, really. She went missing for a while the year prior, says it was a Disney trip. Not sure if it’s true, but she says it all had to do with escaping a crazy boyfriend. For now, Holter’s big cop routine doesn’t get far, as Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) watches in the wings.
But back to the demon fun. Anderson does some crazy shit, cutting his hand open thinking he can do what Kyle does. Not only that, he even says fuck Kyle. He doesn’t like the boy’s hubris. Yet it’s the Rev who’s got a big chip on his shoulder about being a holy man, doing God’s work, whatever.
Meanwhile, Kyle is trying to put his time in, pay child support, be normal. No matter if the memories and the thoughts are all still there. From what he put up with as a kid, you know Kyle’s mentally capable of dealing with a lot. Stepping outside a moment he sees a car parked outside his place. It’s Patricia. She wants him to go help Anderson, though that does nothing to sway Kyle. For his part, he isn’t ready to make things worse for anyone else. He’s seen what his power does, putting his mother and that little girl into a catatonic state. At the same time it bothers him to sit and do nothing at all.


Kyle: “Crazy Kyle Barnes. Romes own Boo Radley, is that it?”
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After Kyle goes out on his porch and sees a little trinket sitting there, eerily similar to one of the figurines we’ve seen at Mildred’s home, he gets hit in the head. He wakes up to – you guessed it – Mildred. She sucks a bit of that black essence out of him. Poor guy can’t catch a fucking break, can he?
Patricia’s own son does not like her being with Anderson. Although he is very crass to his own mother, the boy makes good points about how she lets men treat her badly. But still, that’s his mom. He could have tried to be diplomatic. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Patricia. She’s interesting, both attracted to the Rev and also interested in him as a man of God. There is some good stuff to be mined from this relationship.
When Kyle comes to again there’s no Mildred to be found. Next door, he comes across Sidney (Brent Spiner). He’s still pretending to have been an old friend of Norville, taking care of his estate, that stuff. Really, he only gets closer to Kyle. He’s also got Mildred hiding out in Norville’s old place. Two sketchy motherfuckers. They talk about the whole demon situation. We begin fleshing out, slightly, their world and how they operate, why they’re on Earth. Moreover, it’s the mystery I enjoy. The intrigue gradually stretched from episode to episode. Never too much exposition. Dig the writing, hugely.
Finally we’re seeing more of ole Ogden (Pete Burris), too. He has close relations with the woman from earlier that Holter interviewed. She lets Ogden know about the questioning, and further than that it appears Ogden’s wife has a watchful eye.


Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) goes to see her brother at work. They eat sandwiches together. Unfortunately, she brings back the envelopes of money Kyle’s been sending to Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil). He also brings up the possibility of the supernatural. Only for a brief moment before they finish up. The chemistry between Schmidt and Fugit is awesome, as is the writing of the characters together, their story.
Oh, and Megan gets a call from a mysterious number. Is there trouble rearing its head with the Donnie situation? Or something else altogether?
Over at the church, Giles goes for a talk with Anderson. They talk about Mildred’s exorcism. I dig this relationship, as well. These guys are close friends. Giles even “hushed things up” over the years because he believed in what the Reverend has been doing, or at least convinced himself it was in the best interest of their little town. Things are falling apart now.
In a hospital, Megan finds Donnie laid up in bed, beaten to pieces and recovering. He wants to talk about Mark. And she’s got no idea about what her husband did. Apparently there’s a possibility of brain damage for the rest of his life. That doesn’t sit well, certainly. So blackmail is on the table at this point.


The other side is always calling Kyle. He hallucinates a bucket of tar bubbling over, rising up at him. Without much explanation he walks off the job and heads out of there. Simultaneously, Rev. Anderson is in the throes of a crisis of faith. He speaks candidly with God, wondering exactly where is his place. He admits to failure and agrees to any punishment he’s given.
He doesn’t know that Kyle is headed back to him hoping to work things out, or at the very least explore things a little further. From the basement come the screams of a possessed soul. In the church, Anderson pushes Kyle around, yelling. All the while the demon downstairs breaks out. It’s the handyman, Caleb (Abraham Benrubi). When things get out of hand Kyle touches him. Then the black essence worms its way from out of Caleb and into the air before evaporating. Afterwards, the exorcist duo strike a tenuous deal. Being that Kyle is in charge when it comes to the exorcisms while on Sunday the Rev can have his flock. As for Caleb he’s unaffected, not comatose or anything else. That’s a step up from their last job. Though what Caleb tells the Reverend is disturbing. The possession didn’t come with fear. It came with warmth. Almost scarier than pure evil. Their conversation clearly affects Anderson. Out of nowhere, the foundation of his faith seems to have been shaken over the course of the past couple episodes.


Kyle goes to Mildred’s place and confronts her.
Except she’s catatonic. Just like the girl, Kyle’s mom. He calls 911 to have her brought in, but we know what happened: Sidney has his hand in this one. When Giles comes across Kyle, he gets a bit of the truth out of him. Most of all he begins to find out more to make him understand the Rev hasn’t been helping Rome enough. In the house, Giles finds a photograph, an old one. Of a younger Sidney and Mildred outside a camper, like the one in the woods that Ogden conveniently burned to the ground. A bigger fire’s lit now under the Chief, as he tries piecing it all together in his head.
The Holter house is not well. Megan’s freezing her husband out, as the knowledge of what he did to Donnie, how that can affect their future, rattles around in her head.
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Anderson finds Sidney in his church office. The unsettling man starts revealing more of himself. Is he a big time demon, like somebody with a title – Leviathan? One of those big baddies? Or just a renegade bad ass demon from hell? He carves Anderson up savagely, though doesn’t realise Patricia’s kid – likely heading there for vandalism purposes – watches through the window.
Left alone, a bleeding pentagram carved into his breast, the Rev has more of a crisis of faith on his hands this time.
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What an amazing episode! I say this every time, but it’s true. The series gets better each chapter. I thought this was a solid addition leading into the second half of the first season. Next episode is titled “The Damage Done” and I am PUMPED.

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 3: “All Alone Now”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 3: “All Alone Now”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Chris Black

* For a review of the previous episode, “(I Remember) When She Loved Me” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Wrath Unseen” – click here
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Blake Morrow (Lee Tergesen) is with law enforcement partner Luke and his wife, being setup on a date, they’re out for a night of bowling. He starts to feel strange, sweating and ill. Only there’s something a bit more strange than it initially seems. Suddenly, he’s feeling much better, and that means trouble for his partner’s wife. She tries to fight him off, but his strength is almost inhuman. More than human. Supernatural, even. When the partner returns home with a few grocery items he finds nothing but devastation. What I love about this opener is we don’t see what this man sees, only his reaction. We’re left to assume. And likely we can assume the worst. Also, dig that Tergesen is a part of the cast right now. he is a fantastic actor, so I look forward to anything he brings to the series for whatever length he’s in there. Excellent addition.
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Reverend Anderson: “Call me old fashioned, but I think our vices should leave a rotten taste in our mouth. Helps keep us honest.”
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Kyle (Patrick Fugit) and Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) are headed out together. The younger of the two still isn’t sure how he’s meant to play his part in the whole thing. Nevertheless, he rides along. We get a bit of a look at Anderson and his son; a picture of the boy flies out the window, sending him into a frenzy. Look forward to seeing more on that. When Kyle and the Rev arrive at their destination, it’s a military facility. And Morrow’s partner Luke is there to greet them. Inside we see how badly Blake has deteriorated. What he did to Luke’s wife was savage and hideous. Clearly something has gotten into him. All too literally. In comes Rev. Anderson and Kyle, the exorcism duo. Can they help or heal this man?
Meanwhile in other parts of town, Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) and Mark Holter (David Denman) are at odds over the dead animals in the woods, and what exactly’s been going on. And Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt), she seems distracted. On her way home she sees someone that startles her. Later at school she thinks she sees the same man’s car, though it’s only a parent. There’s something intense going in there.


Anderson can’t find anything demonic hiding in Morrow. When Kyle decides to have a crack, things are a little different. “Do you know me?” he asks before grabbing Morrow by the face. The skin burns under Kyle’s touch. “Yououtcast?” mutters Morrow. A-ha! Well, there’s a bit of elaboration on the part of the demon. Through Morrow he feels charming, he’s talkative, intuitive even. They chat a little about Kyle, his life, why the term outcast fits him perfectly. What I love is the parallel that comes out between Anderson and Kyle: the former wants to chase the demons, needs to almost, to the detriment of his personal life and his family; the latter would rather not have anything to do with the power that holds onto him, he’s lost his family (likely because of this shit), and all he wants is to give all the demon hunting up to have them back. Great writing on Robert Kirkman’s part, excellent writing for the series that keeps things building and interesting.
As for Megan, she’s tracking down the man in the red car – Donnie. Her husband, he’s out in the woods where the nailed and mutilated animals were displayed, in an old camper. With his little DNA kit, Mark tries to figure some things out. The Holters have trouble headed their way, as Donnie’s apparently tracking Megan down.
And can’t forget about the mysterious Sidney (Brent Spiner). Holed up in a motel. Resting his fedora. Shaving with an old fashioned straight razor. Can’t wait to see more of this guy, as well as his connection to Kyle, his mother, that whole debacle. Should be fun to watch that develop. Oh, he’s spitting up black blood, too.
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Kyle and Anderson are at odds because the Rev only wants to get their exorcism business finished up. Morrow and his demonic influence fight back with their sassy behaviour. And Kyle, he walks away. He ends up talking to Luke whose passionate plea makes him reconsider. Anderson can’t get the job done. Afterwards, Kyle takes on Morrow and the demon inside in a bloody confrontation that ends eerily. A great sequence. This series does the supernatural horror well. The exorcism sub-genre of horror can get tired, but this gets exciting. Even better, we find our expectations subverted when not all the demons can be exorcised. Not all the victims can be freed, such as Morrow, left with a sinister spirit coursing through his body.
But maybe Luke shouldn’t have been told that. He knows there’s no way out for the evil in Morrow. So, that means other methods must be considered. Such as death. Luke opts to take the high road after indulging himself a moment. Should’ve killed the bastard.

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When Kyle goes to see his neighbour Norville, he finds the old man dead. A pool of blood underneath him, a straight razor sitting in it. We know where ole Sidney went after leaving the motel. Now how does that connect with Kyle? I guess there aren’t just demons out there looking for him. Or is Sidney one of those, too? I would think so, judging on the black stuff that came out of the kid Kyle saved, the stuff Sidney spit up, the black blood on the teeth of Morrow as he looks maniacally at Kyle. Lots of demonic shit going down.
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Another solid episode. This season keeps building up each episode with a great amount of tension, lots of character development, and similar to AMC’s Preacher it doesn’t give us too much while giving us enough to keep things interesting, allowing the interest to grow. Next episode is titled “A Wrath Unseen” – stick with me, fellow fans.

The Conjuring is a Genuine Creepshow

The Conjuring. 2013. Directed by James Wan. Screenplay by Chad & Carey Hayes.
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Haley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Marion Guyot, Morganna May, & Amy Tipton. New Line Cinema/The Safran Company/Evergreen Media Group.
Rated 14A. 112 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★1/2
POSTER
People can argue to the contrary all they want: James Wan is a modern horror master. What’s more, he refuses to abandon the genre which made him such a big hit in Hollywood, leading him to the Fast & Furious franchise and the upcoming Aquaman DC film. Just now, the sequel to The Conjuring is in theatre making giant impressions on audiences, many (critics alike) claiming it’s one of the best horrors in a long time. So I hope that once he takes off even more with his DC adaptation that Wan won’t forget from where he came. Because from the revolutionary Saw (yes I called it that; the first one only which is of course the single one he directed) to the underrated Dead Silence and Death Sentence, to the first two Insidious films (love them to death), this is a director who proves, time and again, he understands horror. Not every film is perfect, nor should you expect that. But each one takes an excellent, gouging stab at the genre and more often than not gives us new and terrifying scenes that will go down as classics in the years to come.
The Conjuring didn’t actually impress me first time around. Funny how that works, considering now after watching it a couple more times recently I feel it’s destined to be a classic of the horror genre; it already is, just needs the time to pass for an official label. But some movies work like that. They don’t always get you right away. Sometimes you watch a movie on DVD or VOD, you’re sitting at home and the attention span isn’t perfect. Sometimes you don’t notice everything right off the bat. Either way, after seeing this a couple more times I’ve come to realise how perfectly old school this supernatural haunted house/paranormal story works. Better than that, we’ve got the backdrop of a true story concerning world famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, as well as one of their big cases from 1971 in Harrisville, Rhode Island where the Perron family came under siege by the terrifying spirit of a dead witch from the 1800s.
Wan does incredible work as director, along with solid performances from the likes of Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Ron Livingston, all in order to make this into a truly scary movie. So many people complain about the horror genre being stale these days, saying there aren’t any good offerings coming out. Well, drink this one in. It’s up there with the best of the haunted house movies, and certainly one of the greatest in terms of demonic possession. You can’t ask for more than an eerie story, chillingly based on real events, and top notch acting in a horror flick.
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What I love about horror based on true stories, or supposedly true, is that I’m a real sceptic. I do indeed wish to believe, as Fox Mulder and his decorative poster both state in yearning. Absolutely. If there were some evidence of life beyond death, it might actually be comforting. Maybe it’d only be more difficult. Nevertheless, I do find myself hoping to come in contact with a ghost. On a couple occasions, I’ve questioned whether I actually did. Alas the scepticism goes on. The Conjuring does go for jump scares in quite a few scenes. What it does best is create this unsettling, dire atmosphere where the line between what is real and what is paranormal/supernatural becomes nearly eradicated.
A huge part of what makes this movie work is the dual look at and parallel between the difference between a family experiencing paranormal events v. a family standing as a physical dike against the mental anguish those other families faced. Though the Perrons find themselves completely torn apart by demonic influence, the Warrens are similarly troubled. They are essentially charged to withholding all the demons, the dead spirits, the poltergeists, whatever. They’ve got a ton of the possessed dolls and objects in their basement under lock and key, constantly threatening their own existence and their own family. So there’s a super interesting dynamic that happens between the two separate families, each tormented in their own right. This also allows for a lot of great acting between the two couples, both sets with their own issues and their different lives, so on. Other screenplays might have made this into a jumbled mess. Instead, Chad and Carey Hayes are able to use every last second of their 112 minutes appropriately, and expanding the characters, the plot with care without ignoring anything.
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Lili Taylor is actually one of my first celebrity crushes, if we’re being honest. Being a young man on the furthest Eastern Coast of Canada, I grew up watching Showcase on Channel 34. I can’t remember which movie I’d seen her in first, either Girls Town or I Shot Andy Warhol, but her beauty and her talent struck me. She’s an engaging actor. I find that even without that teenage crush, her acting speaks for itself. Here, even before any of the wild stuff starts happening with her character Carolyn there’s an excellently fun quality to her. That’s what makes the rest of the plot involving her struggle so difficult to endure. In fact, immediately from the first moment we hear and see her there’s an admirable element to Carolyn, endearing, as she and her husband have a brief little laugh while getting out of the car at their new home. Just how she laughs at him, so natural. Great talent to so quickly enjoyable in a performance. This only increases as the film wears on. Her work in the latter portions, as Carolyn succumbs to a demonic possession of intense proportions, Taylor makes the horror far too real for comfort. Likewise, as much as I only enjoy Ron Livingston mostly while watching Office Space, he does well with the character of Roger. He’s the everyman-type American dad, out in the country taking his family into their new home, then dealing with the excessively sinister fallout that nobody ever could have predicted, not in a million year. There’s a complexity to the character. Even if I don’t think he was amazing, Livingston makes the character honest, likeable. Above all, he’s real. Both him and Taylor make the family dynamic play well, in turn selling the whole situation, as it’s them at the eye of the storm. Whereas I say Livingston wasn’t anything extraordinary, without his solid performance as the father and husband of the Perron family the whole personal, human drama would not work, only in a one-sided sense with Taylor doing the heavy lifting.
Both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are great. The latter has even more work to do, being the more susceptible to the influence of the demons and the supernatural entities. Most of all they do stellar work portraying the Warrens, their relationship particularly one being under different strains than a lot of regular people. They make the Warrens into very genuine human beings. They don’t have any air of the kookish qualities many associate with modern day ghost hunters. These two allow Ed and Lorraine Warren to feel like warm, understanding, caring individuals. They’re not self-serving or narcissistic in their aims of ghost hunting. Of course that’s partly because of the real people and their efforts, but Farmiga and Wilson put their hearts into these performances. It shows in the natural way the Warrens come across. Along with Livingston and Taylor, they’re able to make the personal drama of the horror become so powerful.
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Wan’s directing is beyond amazing. Many of his choices are perfect for the horror. On one hand, he knows when to employ the use of jump scares. He understands where they fit and how they ought to be used. On the other hand, Wan is also adept at building tension, making the atmosphere of his films drip with fear. Just as Insidious works nicely using the visuals and its score to create a thick, atmospheric creepiness, The Conjuring is a haunting mix of eerie-looking images and yet another set of fittingly horrifying pieces from Joseph Bishara (Insidious trilogy). All together, these elements work to unsettle the audience at every turn, never settling to be lukewarm scary, but always trying to find the heart of terror.
After letting this settle on me, The Conjuring is one of the best horrors in so many years. There’s never too much of anything, always the correct amount. Wan finds a balance between the jumps and the subtle creeps, as well as manages to find the appropriate performances in his cast to warrant the emotional ties necessary for the horror to hit home. There’s not a lot I can say against the power of this movie. Don’t always judge right on first viewing. Sometimes your opinion won’t change. Now and then, you’ll find you were wrong. And damn, was I ever sleeping on this one. Glad I’ve taken the time to watch it more because I’ve discovered I love it and its fun, classic scares.

Possession: Jealousy, Love, Repressed Desire

Possession. 1981. Directed & Written by Andrzej Żuławski.
Starring Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen, Heinz Bennent, Johanna Hofer, Carl Duering, Shaun Lawton, & Michael Hogben.
Gaumont/Oliane Productions/Marianne Productions/Soma Film Produktion.
Rated R. 124 minutes.
Drama/Horror

★★★★★
POSTER As a lover of film I try to seek out any and all directors, writers, actors, no matter where they’re from. I pity those who won’t watch foreign language films outside what they speak because the world has so many amazing talents to offer. Other than Possession, I’ve only ever seen Andrzej Żuławski’s The Third Part of the Night. That movie left an impression on me. Although, not nearly as indelible as the one which this film left the first time I saw it. Even in the two films of his I’ve seen, Żuławski is a director and writer with a unique style. He was an artist capable of covering a wide array of topics in his career.
Possession is a hypnotic and frightening portrait of existential madness. It shows us the two sides of a marriage falling apart – the one person hooked on an unhealthy obsession and drifting away, while the other crumbles with jealousy. Filled with unnatural images, and equally littered with the honest portrayal of a marriage falling apart due to secrecy and hidden urges, Żuławski makes a movie that will linger in your blood. No matter whether you like the film, whether you despise it with everything in your being, Possession will mark you forever.
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When Mark (Sam Neill) comes home from a secretive spy mission, he discovers his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) wants to divorce. He loves her, but agrees to give their flat over to her, as well as custody of their little boy Bob. However, on his own Mark obsesses over Anna and descends into a depressing pit of madness. One day he goes to see Anna, but Bob is alone, and has been for a while; mommy didn’t come back. Soon Mark discovers Anna has a lover named Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) and it certainly complicates things.
But this is only the beginning. When Mark starts to have Anna followed by a P.I. the situation becomes incredibly strange, equally terrifying. Because Anna is stepping out on both Mark and Heinrich. She has another lover whose needs require everything of Anna. Even if those needs mean murder.
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Before any of the horror aspects truly come into play, and even afterwards, Possession is first and foremost a movie concerning the themes of jealousy, and clearly possession in terms of being with a person and feeling as if we own them, or a part of them. Mark and Anna are a married couple that comes apart at the seams. Almost immediately are we thrown into the desperate mentality of Mark particularly, as we watch him sweat out his addiction (literally) to his wife. But it’s more than to his wife, Mark acts, most of the time, like Anna is his possession. So his addiction is this owning, or the thought of owning his partner. Although, slowly Mark comes to understand how we cannot own a person. First, he hopes through love to understand it, but Anna prevents him from knowing the full truth. So he can’t find satisfaction through it this way. When he meets Bob’s teacher, the doppelganger of his wife, he slowly comes to realise that possessing a person is no longer so easy, especially when a literal double is out there walking around. But it’s not until he sees the hideous result of possession in the apartment where Anna’s spending her time that the effects and the consequences are so nasty.
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Anna is one of the most confusing, disturbing, and complex characters on film. At the same time, Mark is equally complex. Their situations are incredibly intense.
For Anna, she has this repressed emotion and desire inside her. Unlike a man, she’s held back, required to play a certain part of mother, wife, dutiful in all her roles. So when the repression finally lets loose it manifests itself in a horrific manner. Then there’s the fact all these men die, as they’re the ones who judge Anna, they follow her and oppress her desire, they hold her back from what she wants to do. Their deaths are brought about by the systematic oppression of feminine desire. And everyone’s surprised then when they find this sinister, growing mass of blood and flesh growing in the apartment where Anna goes by herself frequently. This thing is her creation, as it’s the only thing that lets her display her most base of urges, her uninhibited sexuality. What it becomes in the end is ironic, considering Mark and the creation of his own.
Parallel from Anna attempting to create a proper lover, Mark’s desire shows in the doppelganger of his wife. The teacher Helen (also played by Adjani) is the exact replica of his wife. In opposition to Anna and her repressed desires making a monstrosity of her wants, Mark’s Helen is normal – she is sensible and a sweet, gentle woman. As if exactly everything which Mark wants from Anna, who he wishes she was in another woman entirely. Better yet, we never see Anna or Helen together whatsoever suggesting they are two manifestations of Mark’s ideals. He is just as much at fault as Anna for creating the monster of jealousy and repression that comes alive in that apartment.
I don’t pretend to know what all of these things together mean, considering the ending of the film. There’s no doubt some political themes lurking in Żuławski’s writing. The setting of Berlin is interesting, as it brings up the idea of the Berlin Wall, the division, oppression, repression. You take that, mix it with the fact Mark is a spy of some sort and then there’s the doppelgangers of him and his wife. Hard to say exactly what Żuławski gets at with all these elements. But rather than creating a mess of confusing ideas and conflicting messages, Possession is a perfect balance of beauty and disturbing oddities. It’s rich in thematic pleasure while also being incredibly uncomfortable, all at the same time.
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The cinematography of Possession is wonderful for such a grim, macabre bit of film. Definitely a favourite of mine in terms of its look and feel from the 1980s. There are too many beautiful shots to name. Every inch of the film is darkened, even the exteriors of the daytime set against Berlin look shadowy, and each location feels foreboding. This feeling is epitomised by the secretive apartment of Anna’s monstrous lover, which lies cloaked in darkness, the air almost thick with a dusky fog. But then you add to the atmosphere of the cinematography all those wonderful practical makeup effects, the weird thing in the apartment itself, and Possession takes on the qualities of those best horrors out there vying for a visceral reaction. Worse and worse, the monster becomes this large, slug-like humanoid with a long tentacled, phallic organ. And the effects are impressive, the thing looks as if it might crawl right up off the screen. This movie drives at the heart, using both emotional attachment to the characters and their situation, as well as gruesome effects.
I won’t ever be the same after seeing Żuławski’s Possession. It’s one of my favourite films out there, yet I can only watch it maybe once a year. Twice, some years. Because it is a devastating piece of cinema, in many ways. Despite its viciousness and raw, open honesty, this is a work of art, a veritable masterpiece. And I’ll defend it until I die.

Another: Road to Nowhere with Satanic Nonsense

Another a.k.a Mark of the Witch. 2014. Directed & Written by Jason Bognacki.
Starring Paulie Redding, David Landry, Lillian Pennypacker, Maria Olsen, Michael St. Michaels, & Nancy Wolfe. Full Frame Features.
Not Rated. 80 minutes.
Fantasy/Horror


POSTERGenerally, I’m an internet critic whose standards aren’t overly picky. If you’ve ready more than a handful of my reviews you’ll probably notice I’ve given out more 5-star reviews than others might in their own. But I don’t necessarily mean a 5-star film is always perfect; part of my judgement, as any of our judgement is, comes from a subjective place. You can never get rid of subjectivity. However, even while I try to give certain films a break for little nitpicky things there is a limit to my understanding. I’m not going to give a shit film a great rating. I just try to cut filmmakers some slack; it isn’t easy to make a great movie.
When it comes to movies like Another, there’s only so far my sympathies extend. I’m a sucker for possession movies, or anything to do with Satan (mainly because I don’t believe in any deities or any of that stuff and I can just enjoy the darkness for what it is). There are plenty movies out there tackling demonic possession. A good many retread the same trodden area as the last, too many doing home to or straight copying from William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. The great horrors about supposed possessed people, and the entities possessing them, are few and far between. Another simply tries to mash too many things together, including too many changes in style, changes in tone, and the massive overuse of particular techniques that drive home the message that everything in this film tries too damn hard, paying off with nothing more than a couple fleeting moments worth watching.
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A baby is carried by figures in black hoods and robes. A dark ceremony commences.
Cut to 18 years later. Jordyn (Paulie Redding) is celebrating her birthday with friends. Although, her Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe) is being creepy. She brings up the fact Jordyn’s mother was at the same age as the daughter when she passed. Then Ruth goes ahead and stabs herself, screaming that “its time.”
From that moment on, Jordyn finds her life changing. She spirals into a terrifying word of demonic possession, strange desire, and so much. Soon, Jordyn becomes aware that she may just be a relation of the devil himself.
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The most grating thing about this movie is the fact half of it, at least, is filmed in slow-motion. Honestly, it is crazy. Never have I seen a technique so brutally beaten over the head of the viewer. At first before the slo-motion kicked in, I actually enjoyed the dark, sort of washed out look. But then it starts, and scene after scene is slowed down ridiculously, offering no sort of evidence it’s even used for a particular reason. Simply put, writer-director Jason Bognacki obviously couldn’t figure out a way to make it look unique, so he piled on the slow-motion. I hate to rag on a director so badly for something. It’s a really poor choice, though. The entire film drags on because of its overuse, and the repetition will just dull you to tears.
Even worse, there’s no practical work (re: effects) worth talking about. And I’m sorry to the filmmakers out there who may feel otherwise, but if you do a horror film especially and you have no practical makeup effects, instead opting to CGI things to death, then there’s no way I’m going to enjoy it. At least not to the point I’ll want to watch it again. Even if it’s half-and-half, I can dig that. In opposition to all that, Another goes for about 90% CGI and maybe, MAYBE, 10% practical. And those practical bits are so minute, I’m probably overselling it by saying there’s ten percent worth. Either way, even the CGI’d stuff looks bogus, including a terrible little showdown between two old women that could’ve been great yet comes off like some of the worst stuff from the 1980’s.
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With a bunch of awful performances, a ton of terrible effects, as well as a story that meanders from one place to another trying to cram several sub-genres into one, Another a.k.a Mark of the Witch is one of the most unforgettable movies I’ve seen in ages. There was nothing I could find here worth the time it took to watch this dud. I’ve given it 1 single star, simply because I liked the beginning, the very end, and there’s a tiny scene after the credits which looks good. Other than that this is truly dreadful horror cinema. I never like to shit all over a film, but this one isn’t worth talking up in any sort of sense. Jason Bognacki tries his best, however, it’s almost as if he tried too hard, in too many different directions. Never does the film come together properly, which is a shame. As I said, I do love a good possession horror, or anything with the devil, witches, et cetera. This simply comes with nothing much for me to be impressed by, so I can’t push myself to try praising Bognacki, or anyone involved with the film. Want a better Mark of the Witch? Try the Mark of the Devil. Not at all the same, but whatever – better than wasting your time trying to slog through this unpolished bit of horror rubbish.

Disturbing Horror for Halloween Season

There are tons and tons of disturbing horror movies out there. I’ve seen plenty of them, but the titles on this list are some of my favourites. Not saying these are the most extreme, the most hardcore, I’m not touting these as the most disturbing horror movies you can watch. Simply, I think these are a good dose of movies running the gamut from thematically disturbing to graphically disturbing, to downright weird.
Without further rambling, here are my picks for a bit of wild horror to throw on this Halloween season, if October really has you feeling like you need to test your limits on film.
Enjoy…?


Possession (1981)
ecfslbxawaseotypjpcl3ibd2prFor my full review and discussion, click here.

The title says it all.
This is probably the strangest erotic horror-thriller you could ever imagine. Even saying erotic horror seems strange, but god damn if this is not full of both horrific and at times erotic imagery.
You could say this is a character study of two people in a relationship and what the ideas of possession mean for both involved.
To say any more would be to truly give things away. Honestly, go in knowing only a very basic plot – a couple falls apart as the wife seems to be having an extra marital affair, which proves to be something far stranger. Just know that when the horror hits you it is going to smash your face into bits, it may even rock you sexually in the worst kind of way imaginable.

Inside (2007)/ Trouble Every Day (2001)
inside-1 You can be guaranteed that if Beatrice Dalle is in it, I’ll watch it! So here is an excellent Dalle double feature which you can indulge on Halloween to scare the wits out of you.
First up is the 2007 home invasion horror-thriller Inside, directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo who also directed 2011’s Livid which was on another list I did for this October. This movie is just all out horror and highly female-centric: on Christmas Eve, a pregnant woman alone at home is attacked by a mysterious woman intent on getting inside the house, as well as inside that belly. If you’re pregnant, you may want to avoid this movie honestly, or if you’re super sensitive. Because this horror escalates, from a mild creep to a roaring scare. Be prepared. Also, this whole movie’s drenched in blood and gory bits. Excellently disturbing stuff!
Trouble-Every-Day_1 Second comes auteur director Claire Denis’ version of the cannibal film, Trouble Every Day. Starring Vincent Gallo and Beatrice Dalle, this is the story of sexual cannibalism in humans, as opposed to insects; starting with a husband and wife travelling to Paris for their honeymoon, the husband investigating a strange clinic, and ending with bloody horror. Hard to explain any of the ins and outs, I’d rather not ruin it any more than I already have with this explanation. Either way, Denis is a master filmmaker, someone of whom I’m a huge, huge fan, and this is a really gripping, unsettling movie out of her works. You won’t be sorry. This is disturbing, but it does have a great script held up by a couple solid actors like Gallo and Dalle in particular on whose shoulders the movie ultimately rests.
This is a solid double feature, which really shows off Beatrice Dalle’s talents. Also, it touches on two pretty touchy elements of human nature: pregnancy and sexuality.

The Devils (1971)
THE DEVILS - American Poster 1For a full review, click here.

Maybe this might not be totally considered horror. Honestly, though, if you don’t find Ken Russell’s The Devils horrific I’m not sure how your brain operates.
Both Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave give terrific, agonizing performances in their own right; Redgrave particularly gives a transcendent performance full of religious fervour and Satanic mania.
If you’re going to see this, you need to be able to see it uncut, in its entirety, as even while the most attainable version out there is pretty wild, the uncut version of this Russell masterpiece is unbridled psychosexual horror in its finest.
Just to give you a taste: there’s a scene known as “The Rape of the Christ”. Craziest part is that this whole film, the story and its plot, is partly based on a real story. Need a nice dose of disturbing religious horror? You found it in Russell.

Three… Extremes (2004)
50aee982-8647-40fa-9644-e45f71fc4f42-3_Extremes With three short films in one, this entire anthology only runs around 118 minutes, so you’ve got a great triple feature for the price of one!
Starting off with Dumplings, from Fruit Chan, the Asian horror gets churning with the story of an ageless woman who makes her signature dumplings for other women attempting to capture the elusive fountain of youth and its secrets. Hint: there’s something in the dumplings that ought not be there.
Cut by director Chan-wook Park is the tale of, funny enough, a film director and someone with a grudge. With a trap-like setup surpassing the interest factor of anything Saw ever had to offer, this short is sadistic and incredibly intriguing.
Finally, the short titled Box comes via notorious (and awesome) Japanese director Takashi Miike. I’d like to say a little, but would rather not spoil anything. Let’s just say it involves two sisters who were contortionists, they belonged to a carnival of sorts doing a trick involving a box, and then something bad happened at the carnival. No more, or you’ll know too much! Go in knowing only this: Miike is disturbing, if you’ve not seen his other work you should maybe get ready for a tense ride. Though, each of these shorts has their own test, I find something unsettling about Miike’s approach to stories, like he knows something the rest of us don’t.
Great watch if you don’t mind subtitles. It’s a really disturbing film all over, but Dumplings and Box particularly have always stuck in my mind.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)/ Tony (2009)

For my full review of Tony, click here.
For a full review of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, click here.
1990-henry-portrait-of-a-serial-killer-poster1 You’ll always hear about John McNaughton’s 1986 shocker when realistic horror is being discussed – raw and savage, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of the most unflinching portrayals of serial killers on film. With a central performance rivalling some of the best in horror, Michael Rooker embodies the loose, fictionalization of real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas; also included is the recently deceased and wonderful Tom Towles as another loose fictional version of Lucas’ actual partner for a time, Ottis Toole. The very brutal and simplistic style McNaughton uses only serves to unsettle the viewer with such an up close and personal view of the inside of a serial killer’s mind and world.
poster23 years down the road, after the release of the McNaughton cult classic, filmmaker Gerard Johnson gives us Tony – another film loosely based on a real killer (this time it’s British murderer Dennis Nilsen the Kindly Killer), this 2009 dramatic horror follows the titular character, Tony: on the spectrum, he is quiet, shy, lonely, disaffected and disassociated. However, at home, Tony cuts up the bodies of those he kills, draining their blood down the drains and the toilet, putting body parts and organs into plastic bags which he later casually dumps into the Thames. The reason Tony is so chilling, and why it’s a great double feature with McNaughton’s film, is because the movie takes us right behind the eyes of the central character – the at times sympathetic yet horrible killer – and never once do we make our way out of his perspective. At certain moments, the film is a slow burning character study; at others there’s an ominous sense of terror. Either way, you’ll be surprised as the film goes on just how depraved this quiet man in his council flat is deep down underneath his unassuming exterior.
Put these two films on – one American, one British – you’ll get an interesting look at the two sides of one coin. Dive into the darkness of the murderous mind!

The Last House on the Left (1972)
the-last-house-on-the-leftFor a full review, click here.

With the lofty goal of making a horror-thriller version of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, itself based on a medieval Swedish ballad, Wes Craven (R.I.P) – at the time a self-professed young and angry man – brought a new style of horror to the screen. There were certainly disturbing movies before 1972, however, Craven effectively brought the ‘rape-revenge film’ to the spotlight with The Last House on the Left.
The first time you see it, something will happen. Regardless whether or not you think Craven’s movie is excellent, mediocre, or not worth the time of day, you cannot deny there is most certainly a lasting impact. After you finish this one, there is a part of you that won’t ever feel the same. I can guarantee you that. Even as, what I’d like to think is, a hardened horror veteran, having seen literally 1,000+ horror movies, there is still consistently something truly disturbing about this one; I own it on Blu ray, though, it doesn’t get played much. Only when I’m looking for a true shock do I throw this on. You may never want to watch it again, but give it one go this Halloween. You may just lock your doors and forget all about the trick or treaters.

Snowtown (2011)
snowtown-1-posterFor my full review, click here.

You may notice the prevalence of movies based on true stories over the course of this list. And here’s another: based on The Snowtown Murders in Southern Australia, Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown focuses mostly on the budding relationship between serial killer John Bunting and one of the sons of a woman he dated at the time of the killings.
A lot of reviews and comments on the internet have stated they find the movie boring, either it’s too slow all around or they feel as if nothing much spectacular happens over the entire course of the film. I just don’t get that. This is a deep character study, once more akin to the earlier Tony/Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and we not only step inside the perspective of a serial killer, we’re bound to the perspective of Jamie – the son of Bunting’s quasi-girlfriend at the time – who did commit horrific acts alongside Bunting in real life. Here, the character of Jamie is mostly seen as sympathetic, both being abused by his half-brother and manipulated by Bunting, and through him the audience is able to both understand and be horrified at Jamie’s new life. Bunting is played amazingly by Daniel Henshall in what is – as far as I know – his first film role specifically; the performance is subtle and extremely unnerving. The whole movie is very involving, if you can forgive it’s at times slow pace. In the end, you’ll be thankful if looking for a disturbing horror, because this is one that really left its mark on me. I’ve forced myself to watch it a couple times and there are scenes in Snowtown burned into my brain; things I don’t necessarily want to see or think about, yet I’m drawn to, as the dark side of reality truly comes out in Kurzel’s film.

Excision (2012)
excision-poster1Anyone know AnnaLynne McCord? I didn’t, until this wonderfully macabre and disturbing bit of cinema. When I found out who she was, what she normally looks like, I was immediately impressed with her performance in this film – not only does she do a great job in her role, McCord physically transforms into another person. To say anything much would ruin the surprise, the sick, disgusting joy you’ll eventually take out of seeing all the nasty visuals of Excision come alive before your eyes.
Basically, this is the story of a young girl’s becoming – she is turning into a woman, mentally, physically. Yet the bloody beginnings of womanhood translate into something entirely different for this high school girl. She fantasizes about crimson waves, organs, tortured and mutilated male bodies, and so much more.
I’d never seen this movie, yet picked up the Blu ray because I found the description of the film, as well as its cover art, extremely intriguing. There’s not only disturbing horror here, the screenplay is full of sass, wit, and oodles of black comedy. Plus, John Waters, Ray Wise, and Malcolm McDowell all show up, so how is that not awesome? Choose this if you want to shake up your expectations, just make sure your stomach isn’t weak because a few moments in this movie really pushed my limit and that rarely, if ever, happens. Still, I love it and could actually throw this nasty little shocker on any time.

Grimm Love a.k.a Rohtenburg (2006)
grimm_loveFor my full review, click here.

Back once more are we to the reality of killers, the depraved and sick, twisted individuals lurking out in the material world, not simply characters banished to the abstract realm of film and television. 2006’s Rohtenburg (English title: Grimm Love) examines, not using the real names, the case of Armin Meiwes who was arrested in 2002 after police discovered he found a man on the internet, a willing participant, to eat; together, they attempted first to eat his penis together, after which Meiwes killed his companion, quartered him up, ate pieces and stored the rest in his deep freeze.
There’s a romantic aspect to the main characters of the film, mirroring the real life pair – even within all the sickness, the cannibalism, each of them and their intensely depressed states, these two men connected on a level most of humanity will never know. Still, no matter their intentions, no matter their feelings after meeting one another, these two men were fatally damaged, eternally flawed. While there aren’t too many graphic bits here, it’s the emotionality and intensity of the plot which makes things disturbing, very real. If you’re able to handle such a wild ride into some of the more twisted aspects of the damaged human psyche, then I suggest Grimm Love as an interesting way to spend an October evening.

Audition (1999)/ Contracted (2013)
audition-cover2 I want to preface this double feature by saying evil comes in all shapes and sizes, all forms, all ways.
The first of two evils is Takashi Miike’s Audition; not surprisingly, Miike shows up twice on this list, first in Three… Extremes. This 1999 psychological-horror starts off with a recent widow looking to start dating again, so with the help of a friend in casting he arranges to interview (or ‘audition’) women to become his new partner. However, after meeting the supposed new woman of his dreams, the man comes to discover she is not whom she appears to be at first. Beginning with a vague romance, this Miike film typically devolves into pure madness, controlled, but madness nonetheless. With some of the most unbearable torture in film history, this is not simply “torture porn” (hate that label; read other reviews to find out why). Rather, Miike brings psychological fear to life – from the fear of meeting someone new, to the thought of losing someone you love and having to start life over again – as well as touches the deepest, most visceral nerve possible in each of us.
contracted-posterFrom the story of a female torturer, we move to Contracted, starting its vicious and horrific descent into psychological/body horror with a cold and ruthless act committed by – this time – a man. People criticized the marketing of this film because it says “one night stand”, when clearly the young female lead is actually date raped at the start. However, unless I’ve not heard all there is in terms of press, I don’t think it’s intended this is meant as a LITERAL one night stand; merely, the tagline says “Not your average one night stand” in a dark, acidic way. Because once you get into this movie, you’ll realize England is trying to make you uncomfortable. Not simply for uncomfortableness sake: there is legitimate horror here. There are bits of David Cronenberg in here, with all the attention paid to the lead character’s body deteriorating after obviously having contracted a virus from the man who date raped her. Even more than that, I think England makes a few highly poignant points about the male mind, in terms of both the man who raped the film’s lead and the man who pines for the lead’s attention. I won’t spoil anything else.
This double feature is bound to leave you shocked, in awe, and maybe not in any kind of good way. Miike’s Audition came before the golden age of online dating, so I imagine it might touch more nerves today than even when it came out 16 years ago. Moreover, Contracted is the Eric England rape metaphor film we never knew horror could produce (the sequel leaves much to be desired) and while it has things to say the most of its power comes from the cripplingly nauseating visuals. If you want a downright unsettling double feature for Halloween or leading up to the special night, this one may be your Holy Grail.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Sleepaway-Camp-Poster By now, most anyone who is into slasher horror movies, even in the slightest, has definitely heard of the 1983 classic Sleepaway Camp. Not just that, they’ve definitely heard of, or have seen, the outrageous and terrifying twist finale. I will not spoil anything in the way of its big gem.
What I will say is that this movie is one of those genuine ’80s-era slashers which is deserving of its cult following and infamy. It isn’t perfect, nowhere near that, however, I’m a firm believer this is one of those top notch slashers simply because I NEVER ONCE SAW THIS TWIST COMING! I mean, fuck M. Night even on his best twist endings, this one is the RULER OF ALL TWIST ENDINGS. Sorry, I love Memento, I love The MachinistThe Sixth Sense was a whopper in its day, and there are plenty others… but SleepawayfuckingCamp just rocks all of them out of the water. Say no more. Want a good dose of by-the-lake horror and a finale that will haunt your dreams? You’re welcome.

Antichrist (2009)
1.inddFor my full review, click here.

Lars Von Trier is a name you can say in a room and find a hundred different opinions about from just a couple people: some think he’s trash, others (mostly those who’ve only seen his recent two-part Nymphomaniac) say he’s a pornographer, then there are those of us who think he’s full of unbridled, unadulterated genius. Sure, he doesn’t always hit the mark, but what filmmaker ever has? Not a single one in history has made a full catalogue of perfect movies. But Trier, each and every time at bat, steps up and delivers something, at the very least, worthy of endless hours of conversation.
His 2009 film Antichrist is the study of many things: misogyny + misogyny’s affects on womankind, relationship dynamics, parenthood, as well as so much more thematic material. Containing two of the bravest performances I’ve seen in the past 10 years, both Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are captivating. Most of this movie touches on subject matter and themes many will find, in moments, almost reprehensible – from genital mutilation on the part of men and women, to the death of a child while his parents have sex. It isn’t all provocation and in your face, nasty horror, Von Trier touches at the heart of issues in all his films, whether people wish to recognize it or not. No matter what, Antichrist will pull you in, chew you up, then spit you out. Then lap you up and chew some more until all the grizzle of your brain is digested. You may never ever forget these 108 minutes, no matter how hard you scrub that grey matter.

Calvaire (2004)
calvaire If you weren’t sufficiently disturbed and left sleepless by Lars Von Trier, I present to you the final offering of my list: Fabrice Du Welz’s 2004 psychological horror-thriller, Calvaire.
The movie follows a struggling entertainer, a singer named Marc, whose latest and slightly sad tour takes him out into the backwoods of Belgium. When he breaks down, Marc comes across an inn through the woods, owned and operated by a Mr. Bartel, the seemingly friendly and welcoming host. After the first night, though, Marc discovers Bartel is not as friendly as once it seemed – the man first stalls on fixing Marc’s vehicle like he promised, then when he tears the battery out and other parts, it’s very clear Bartel is up to something more sinister. Trapped at the inn, Marc’s journey falls quickly into a darkness he could never have anticipated, not in a million years, and the stay at Bartel’s inn transforms into a fight for survival.
This is another one I purchased blind on DVD, not knowing anything more than the description and reading a couple reviews online, as well as based on the neat cover art. When I first saw this, I was completely floored and still, even when I’m in the right mood, Calvaire is full of uneasy moments. There’s a slow burn quality to this one and things don’t jump right out, often the pace is snail-like, yet if you can make it through and continue to watch up to the end of the finale. you’ll be well rewarded in terms of disturbed emotions. And after all, that’s why you came to this list, right? Welz’s shocking psycho-horror is full of chills, thrills, and unwanted uncomfortableness. Watch, but only if you dare.


Here ends another list for the Halloween season! I hope those of you who’ve come to find something fittingly full of shocks and super nasty will walk away satisfied. I’m sure many horror hounds have at least heard of all these, most likely they’ve also seen them, too. If you’ve got any of your own suggestions, at 4,100 films watched it may have been something I’ve already seen – regardless, I want to know what everyone else finds disturbing and what you’re watching to get the creepy October-Halloween vibe happening. Let me know in the comments what you think of the list, or if you have suggestions for other nasties I should include in my own viewing list this season.
Cheers!

Insidious: Chapter 3 is a Welcomed Creepy Surprise

Insidious: Chapter 3. 2014. Directed & Written by Leigh Whannell.
Starring Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Tate Berney, Michael Reid MacKay, Steve Coulter, Hayley Kiyoko, Corbett Tuck, and Tom Fitzpatrick. Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 97 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★1/2
Insidious-Chapter-3-poster-1
I’m a fan of the two previous Insidious films. Reason being, I think James Wan did a pretty damn good job, together with the script from Leigh Whannell, in conjuring up a tense, suspenseful, and eerie atmosphere. Above all, I love when a horror film can carry that sort of atmosphere and tone throughout its runtime. While they’re not perfect, the first two movies were scary; to me anyways. I dig a good haunted house story and Wan/Whannell provided that with Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2.
There was no surprise Blumhouse would try and pump out another one. I waited with baited breath to see exactly what might come out of it and I didn’t exactly expect that the third in the trilogy would live up to what the first two created. However, I was slightly surprised. It isn’t great, but Insidious: Chapter 3 has a good bit of that atmosphere and tone from the first two, as well as the fact Lin Shaye returns in another stellar performance as embattled demon seeker Elise Rainier. One thing I think that helps most is the fact Leigh Whannell not only writes this entry in the series, he makes his directorial debut with the third part, which extends much of the creepiness created by himself and Wan throughout the first two movies.

Taking place a long time after Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) helped a young Josh Lambert with his problems, and just before Josh’s own son Dalton went through the same trouble, Insidious: Chapter 3 begins with Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) going to see Elise Rainier unannounced. Her mother passed away and Quinn wants to contact her. Unfortunately, while trying to help Elise is clearly troubled; she advises Quinn find someone else who does the same thing and get them to help.
At home, Quinn’s single father Sean Brenner (Dermot Mulroney) tries to wrangle everything by himself. Between Quinn and her little brother Alex (Tate Berney), things are hectic.
An aspiring actress, Quinn heads to an audition. She’s looking to get into a good acting school for her post-secondary studies. Instead, out of nowhere, Quinn is hit by a car. This propels her, for the briefest of time, into The Further. After she comes back quickly, out of the darkness and back to reality, Quinn has clearly seen something inexplainable, something in another world. This sets off all the mysterious events which follow.
0c37e0c2ef44b7f252477c7f3e71111f3b898ec7.jpg__0x1500_q85I thought the writing – especially the characters themselves – was fairly solid. Once again, the family is a centrepiece for all of what unfolds in terms of The Further (see my other reviews for Part 1/Part 2 if for some reason you’ve not watched the previous movies) coming into play. For instance, the teenage characters don’t come off as too forcibly written on Whannell’s part. What I mean is that they’re smart, obviously, but they don’t say these ridiculously eloquent, elaborate things NO highschooler would ever say; I can’t think of great examples off the top of my head, but you know the types, you’ve seen them before. So that’s one thing I thought Whannell did great with because too many screenwriters – especially male screenwriters trying to write female characters –

Some people say Insidious: Chapter 3 is not as scary as the others. Me, I say there’s definitely some nice, creepy stuff happening in this instalment. Even quickly off the bat, Quinn starts seeing a shadowy figure in the distance waving to her, almost calling out for Quinn to follow. First, the figure appears in the catwalk at the theatre where she’s auditioning. Then in the streets, right before she’s hit by a car, the figure – a man – waves at her from far off once more. These little bits help to make a similar dreadful atmosphere as Wan culled in the first two films. Although here it’s different, which isn’t a bad thing. Everything is still eerie, though, Whannell brings his own style to the mix.
I also liked the little quick jump-scare of the man’s face in close-up – when Quinn slips into The Further briefly while surgeons are working away on her after the car accident, the terrifying face flashes quickly. What I love most about this is how it reminds me of the quick flashes of the demon in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist; not sure if this was intentional, but it does bring that shot to my mind specifically. Also, this didn’t make me want to have a heart attack like certain jumps do. It was brief and very effective at the same time.
Insidious3-4A huge aspect of why I enjoyed this third film is because we’re getting more out of the character Elise Rainier. Even in the slightest ways – she lays down in bed and says “Goodnight Jack” and hugs tight to what looks like a man’s sweater. So there’s depth to Elise, she isn’t merely a one-note psychic sort fo woman. And I love that, not just simply due to the fact Lin Shaye is a total badass and wonderful actress (even in her slovenly role as Landlady in Kingpin which still haunts me to this very day). Elise is a big part of why I loved both movies; I’m not huge on her sidekicks, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), but I think her alone is enough to keep anyone interested. Particularly, after we’re treated to the flashbacks showing a young Josh Lambert being plagued by demons in The Further and Elise coming to their aid, doesn’t it make you just want to know everything about her? Then there’s her relationship with Carl (Steve Coulter), who showed up in the last film, which I thought was an excellent inclusion. In this movie, we see a little more of Carl and so his character/story gets a little more broad than before.
Most of all, though, it’s Elise. She is what draws me to the franchise overall, as it’s her who has dealt most closely with demons and The Further, she knows all about it and she has all the senses. I love the scene here where she’s lying in bed, hugging her obviously late husband’s cardigan (we discover later for sure he committed suicide only a year before), and then out of nowhere she feels something, a presence, she scrambles for the light – nothing’s there, yet the air feels terrifying. Good stuff showing how sensitive Elise is to the other side opposite that of the living.
insidious33The overall aesthetic of Insidious as a franchise is something which keeps me interested. It’s the whole reason – aside from Lin Shaye – I ever bothered to go see this one.
I’m a huge fan of the score in these films. I’d not – to my shame – checked on who was the composer for the music in either of the films. So doing this review I wanted to see if it was the same person. Naturally, it was: Joseph Bishara. The reason I had to check is because, while there are plenty of similarities, Bishara does bring us some new work in the score for Chapter 3. A lot of those heavy, dreaded string bursts are still present, however, he also gives us some bright and beautiful sounding stuff such as in a few scenes with Elise. Either way, he is one part of why that finely tuned aesthetic from the series keeps going.
While the look in this film was handled by a different cinematographer, Brian Pearson, I do think he is up to snuff with how he crafts the scenes visually. Just to note, Pearson did some work as D.P on the fairly excellent series Masters of Horror, as well as a recent film I’m a big fan of – the savage and excellent American Mary. He does good stuff keeping many scenes draped in darkness, as the previous films looked. So even though it isn’t exactly the same carbon copy of style, there is a ton of similar atmosphere built up through how Pearson shoots each scene in a tone down, darkened manner.
Furthermore, the art director Jason Garner worked on the previous Chapter 2, so I think his clearly excellent work there extended to this film. For those who aren’t big on the job descriptions for film work, an art director helps to create the film’s vision in terms of locations, sets, and that in turn brings about a visual aesthetic for the film. The houses and everything which are new in this movie, they really fit in with the entire Insidious franchise world. If you watched these all simultaneously, I think they’d match up unbelievably well.

In regards to the plot, I like the character of Quinn and how she ended up in contact with The Further. Plus it plays into the whole subplot of her mother’s death, trying to reach her in the afterlife and such. It’s a great way to have spun things off from the central story of the first two Insidious films. A lot of these spin-offs can end up really spinning out of control, or just being nonsensical additions to a franchise simply for the sake of raking in money. With this movie, I don’t see it being that way. Sure – profit is the major concern of studios. However, I think especially with Leigh Whannell writing this instead of it being farmed out to writers/directors not already a part of the franchise, Insidious: Chapter 3 is able to hold up in quality near to its predecessors. It’s not as good, but I feel as if it’s pretty damn close.
Also thought it was great the way Whannell setup The Bride in Black as being an entity who actively wanted to kill Elise. This sort of explains their history, as well as why the Bride purposely got into Josh and then strangled Elise at the end of the first Insidious. Not as if there was a massive need to explain anything in detail there, I just find this movie’s script capitalized and added more depth to the other films.
maxresdefaultAll in all, I think this was a 3.5 out of 5 star film. It wasn’t perfect. My biggest complaint about Insidious: Chapter 3 is that there’s more unfunny comedy with Specs/Tucker – something I didn’t like about the others but here it’s even more unbearable with such forced comedy on behalf of the Tucker character. Very lame. Then, I also thought there was something missing about the possession angle involving Quinn. While I found Josh Lambert’s possession in the others excellent, plus Patrick Wilson played him well, I didn’t like the way they did Quinn’s possessed state. It was too similar to the rip-offs of Japanese horror in American movies. I liked lots of the stuff involving Josh being possessed, it just didn’t seem to carry over here.
The finale of the film was decent. Honestly, though, I prefer the first half to three-quarters of the film because I like the build up, the character development and a view into the already established character of Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). Mostly the last quarter of the movie I found wasn’t as effective as the scariness of the previous two Insidious entries. It isn’t bad, just doesn’t pack the punch you’d expect. If there was a stronger final 25 minutes I’d be more impressed.
Still, this is not bad at all. There’s room for improvement, yet I think Leigh Whannell did a decent enough job keeping up with the other films to make this a pretty good trilogy. I recommend seeing this, though, I’ll still always enjoy the first two more.
My personal favourite is Insidious: Chapter 2. How about you? Let me know in the comments.

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.

SPRING for an H.P. Lovecraft Vacation Getaway

Spring. 2014. Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead. Starring Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. XYZ Films. 109 minutes. Horror/Romance/Sci-Fi

★★★★★
8974892e574047b2343c9caa75e980b8I try not to go into most, if any, films with a bias – whether that be concerning the subjects and themes of the film, or the filmmakers/actors involved. However, sometimes it’s really tough. Spring is one such movie. I’m a big fan of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead ever since I first saw their excellent, not run of the mill feature Resolution. I also personally loved their part in the latest V/H/S: Viral, even if the consensus on the third installment of the trilogy isn’t exactly raving love. So naturally, the minute I first heard about Spring, I was pumped. Let’s just say, I was not disappointed in the slightest.

The film’s plot really intrigued me because I love when a story shifts gears tonally. At first, Spring is the tale of Evan whose mother just died, and on the night of her funeral he gets into a bad fight at the bar; this springboards a little, as trouble seems to rear its head after the man Evan beats up discovers where he lives. All of a sudden Evan decides it best to get away from everything, so he takes off, literally, and ends up in Italy. There, Evan meets a mysterious young woman named Louise. The both of them engage in a weird little relationship, as two people who seem to be trying to escape something or other. Evan starts to wonder exactly why it is he can only see Louise at night. Other events begin to unfold, and Evan discovers the Italian woman of his dreams may be more akin to the woman of his nightmares.
Fantastic-Fest-Spring-Movie (1)One thing I love is the H.P. Lovecraft feel happening in Spring. It’s being mentioned a lot in reviews, but it is definitely hard to deny. Mainly, there is a sense of dread which starts to build especially once Evan reaches Italy. First, he sees the carcass of an animal with a snake slithering up through its jaw bone and out the mouth. Then, a viscous looking glob appears on some trees around the farm where he finds work while on his trip. There’s another simple shot of Evan working on the farm, and in the foreground we can see, as well as most importantly hear, some insects wriggling around and moving in the dirt. I find this sense of unease Benson and Moorehead continually build really helps make things feel creepy without resorting to full-on creepiness.

Furthermore, I also dig the bit where Evan asks Louise about which languages she knows; he makes a comment about Sumerian, and dead languages. This is most certainly a Lovecraft reference, as well as a reference to other similar writers who included historical references in their own writings. I thought this worked well. There’s an excellent follow-up scene later where Louise appears to be drawing out symbols from an old book, and so I thought this worked well with the mention of those languages. I can picture something similar to this coming from a scene in a Lovecraft story. Really great work.

Along with the shift in tone, I love how Benson and Moorehead gradually bring horror into the picture. We get those creepy, crawly insect shots, but then there is an increasing sense of coming to know who, or what, Louise really is – very intense, almost nasty little moments where we see her alone, attempting to escape whatever it is which plagues her. This really first comes to a head in the same scene where Louise is drawing out the symbols on a wall; there’s a terrific animal moment, maybe not good for those squeamish about such things, which is filmed beautifully, and plays out in decadent horror style. I think Benson and Moorehead build the tension really well, then once the switch to full-on horror comes things get increasingly more interesting to watch.
Moreover, setting this film in Italy really adds to the excellent switch in tone because we’re spending these elaborate moments lost in scenes with beautiful imagery; not only the camerawork itself but the scenery of Italy is just incredibly gorgeous. The beauty of this setting really adds to a savage punch once the horror elements really start kicking. Great, great choice of location. They could have made this film anywhere, truly, but I think setting in Italy involving an American foreigner in the character of Evan just adds something untouchable to Spring.
Spring-LouiseBathtub-1The transformation scene in this film is one of the best I’ve seen – ever. There is absolutely nothing which compares to it in anything else modern, except for the wonderful werewolf transformation in Late Phases. It horrified me, and simultaneously kept me wildly fascinated. The scene following it worked really great, too. Mainly it’s the shock of seeing the transformation in the way we do I think works great; throws you off along with Pucci’s character. After the transformation we do get a little bit of exposition, but I think it stops at being too elaborate, or too heavy handed. There’s even a really great bit of comedy with Pucci on the telephone that almost helps us level out a little before everything gets even weirder. Things really spiral into darkness from this moment on, but not really in the way you might think.
The lead up to the transformation is spectacular. We do get traces of the monster yet nothing too much. Finally, once we do see the thing, the plot really churns out the goods until the finale. Congrats, big time, to Benson, Moorehead, and whoever created this gorgeous monstrosity! This creature will go down in the Horror Hall of Fame. Plus, the creature design has elements of The Thing, Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, and yet feels originally disgusting in its own right.

Overall, this film feels perfect to me. I have to give it a full 5 star rating. Though it does work on a purely straight level of being a romantic horror, I do think Spring works wonderfully as a metaphor for the monstrosity of love in its many forms. Especially considering the setup we often see in other movies where a guy or girl takes off somewhere, falls in love, yadda yadda yadda. Here, Benson and Moorehead use this familiar premise to turn Spring into something vastly different than anything else you could even consider close to the same type as this movie. These guys are a great team. I think they know horror, but they’ve also got an idea of where to take horror from here. Regardless of how you felt about Resolution there is no denying it isn’t the same, typical trash people are churning out in independently funded droves. Spring is definitely their best work so far, and I think they’re continuing on in great directions. They aren’t coming out with tired stories that have been done to death. I can’t wait for more from them; apparently there is an Aleister Crowley project in the works, according to some of the pictures and tweets from both Benson and Moorehead’s account on Twitter awhile back. I’d love that to become a reality. These guys are good, so check out Spring – it is a healthy dose of romance, some weird science fiction, and a fascinating Lovecraft influence felt throughout the film’s running time. Well worth a look, and an open mind.

Just to add – the ending was phenomenal. I think it could’ve ended in a much different way, but this finished on a really beautiful, subtle note.