Frontier – Season 2, Episode 6: “Keetom Takooteeoo Maheekun (The Return of the Wolf)”

Discovery’s Frontier
Season 2, Episode 6: “Keetom Takooteeoo Maheekun (The Return of the Wolf)”
Directed by David Frazee
Written by Rob & Peter Blackie

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Cannonball” – click here
* Season 3 recaps & reviews to come next year
Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 1.09.11 AMMichael (Landon Liboiron) and his crew, including Wahush, canoe over the waters with their stolen pelts in disputed territory. They work quickly to avoid detection. In the meantime, Governor Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) is back at Fort James, trying to find Declan (Jason Momoa) who’s stuck somewhere within its limits. Unfortunately for the big man, Charleston (Demetrius Grosse) and McTaggart (Jamie Sives) are in the clutches of the redcoats.
Grace: “Dont be naive; no man respects a whore.”
Poor ol’ Grace (Zoe Boyle) is navigating so many tough waters at once, between the Governor as her rotten husband and Imogen (Diana Bentley) believing working in the sex trade, by force, gives her some kind of respect amongst the men of the fort. It’s all a real mess. Not to mention she runs into Declan out in the streets.
Getting tortured, McTaggart is pressured because of his military service, deserting his post, and he nearly gets one of his most precious appendages chopped off. That is, before Imogen shows up. She’s been keeping an eye on Grace, which doesn’t bode well, seeing as how she’s running around in the shadows with Harp.
Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 1.17.41 AMSpeaking of, Declan advises Grace leave Ft. James. It’s also overly clear, as it’s been a while, that they’re in love. He runs from it, and she does a bit, as well. But in the end they’ve fallen into each other’s arms. Right as the Governor and his men are outside, searching for half-Native, half-Irish rebel. He’s ready to go HAM. She goes out to confront her husband, who’s giving the ale house over to Imogen and putting her under arrest: “Until death do us part, Grace.” God DAMN, that’s fucked up.
Sokanon (Jessica Matten) is accompanying the young girl Veronica (Star Slade), coming upon her people’s land. She tells them of what is happening to their people, their girls and young women, what the white man is perpetrating against them; not only violence, sexual violence. What’s most interesting to me is the relevancy, the timeliness of this story being told, as what happened to this young Native girl is the same as what Canada’s government did to Indigenous peoples with the residential schools. “Child, youve had your tongue stolen from you,” Kamenna (Tantoo Cardinal) tells Veronica, which you can bet is a white name given to her by ignorant caveman who couldn’t bother to learn pronouncing her real name.
In Montreal, Elizabeth Carruthers (Katie McGrath) is found bloody, beaten to death in the dirt. Douglas Brown (Allan Hawco) is left reeling, knowing Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle) is behind her murder. This leaves him and Malcolm (Michael Patric) to put their heads together, to do what brothers do and work as one, get back at Grant through business. They later find out Josephette (Karen LeBlanc) runs the company even though Douglas owns it after Ms. Carruther’s death. Certainly puts a knot in things. Soon, they come to an agreement, all three working together so Grant doesn’t get what he wants after his hideous act of violence.
Meanwhile, in the woods, Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) leads a party of people, including Clenna Dolan (Lyla Porter-Follows), to where Elizabeth was supposed to be meeting Harp and his people. Hmm, I wonder how that’ll go over. Already feels sketchy when Michael comes ashore, finding Clenna and Cobbs waiting for him. The young Irishman is shocked to hear Elizabeth is dead, now he’s left to make a deal for the pelts with Cobbs, proxy for the wealthy, ruthless American.
Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 1.23.48 AMThe situation between Grace and Chesterfield is intense, scary. He rages at her, figuring out that she and Harp are involved. But she isn’t going to take his anger, she won’t let him run her over. And she is not prepared to give up her connection to Harp, either. Even if it puts her in a terrifying predicament. Although she says now she’s leaving the fort, never to return.
Cobbs continues pressing Michael, who won’t budge. When Sokanon arrives she isn’t pleased to see Harp isn’t there with her man. Doesn’t make things any easier. She won’t give over her share of the pelts, whereas Michael wants to sell them and at least make something for their troubles.
Still being tortured, McTaggart won’t give an inch to his torturer, no matter if Charleston urges him to just talk and get it done. That’s because he’s luring the man in, so that he and Charleston can get themselves free. Hard bastards! Dig it.
In other hard bastard news, Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong), Chaulk (Kathryn Wilder), and Mr. Darragh (Joel Thomas Hynes) are rowing ashore, having set into motion their grand mutiny with just a few easy strikes. What’s next for this shabby trio? Well, Chaulk ends up at the ale house, which is getting even more brutal than before with Imogen left to run the place. Mary (Breanne Hill) is forced into prostitution. Only she seduces the man looking to force himself on her, long enough to put him out like a light and toss him in the cellar. Proper.
Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 1.38.22 AMOn the shore, in the mist of the shady deals, Clenna shoots Wahush right in the chest. He dies right there in front of Sokanon, telling her there are redcoats heading up through the forest, too. Sokanon is ready to kill Clenna, the only thing preventing her being Michael and a bunch of guns pointed at them. A bit of silver won’t change Wahush’s death.
That hard as Siberian bounty hunter Vlad (James Preston Rogers) hasn’t died, he’s back in Fort James, looking to settle his score with Harp. Our big rebel warrior is intent on getting away with Grace, but he has to face the Siberian first; at the same time, Chaulk takes Grace away by gunpoint. Holy fuck. Vlad and Declan beat each other mercilessly, two hulking monsters throwing each other through windows, tables. They fly into the ale house, where the Governor and the redcoats are drinking. Everyone lets them fight. Vlad gets the upper hand, beating Declan near into the dirt. Until he sees Grace from the corner of his eye, Benton escorting her away from the place, giving him strength. He overpowers Vlad, biting off his nose and impaling him on his own spiked armour. Sadly he’s left at gunpoint, the redcoats surrounding him on every side.
Everyone is torn apart. Michael and Sokanon are divided. Grace is in the clutches of Lord Benton and Darragh. And Harp, he’s again captured by the British, left in an utterly helpless position. Before Chesterfield can put a bullet in him, Harp tells him that Benton is there. This prompts the new Governor to let Harp chase down their mutual enemy, putting two enemies together fighting a common goal. Maybe Chesterfield has a heart left in him after all, somewhere deep down.

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 1.56.46 AMBRING ON SEASON 3! This season really picked up steam the further it went, so I’m glad to see a different outcome than Harp locked away, captured like before. Changes the game, in new ways. Can’t wait to see what the team behind Frontier does next year. They’re into production now again in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Prime time coming up for the snowy cliffs, all that stuff. Wonder if they’re going to take some of the action further, across the pond? We’ll see. Biting my nails already.

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Frontier – Season 2, Episode 4: “Mutiny”

Discover’s Frontier
Season 2, Episode 4: “Mutiny”
Directed by David Frazee
Written by Adriana Maggs

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Wolf and the Bear” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Cannonball” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 12.40.18 PMIn Montreal, we find Malcolm Brown (Michael Patric) running into Declan Harp (Jason Momoa). The big man needs a buyer for pelts. He wants to get a meeting with Elizabeth Carruthers (Katie McGrath) via Malcolm’s brother, her new husband Douglas (Allan Hawco). Of course he wants a bit of money for the trouble. But he takes Harp, along with Charleston (Demetrius Grosse), to meet the widow. She’s pleasantly surprised. They chat briefly, and she invites him to her place for dinner that evening. While McTaggart (Jamie Sives), Charleston, and Harp plan, there’s always Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) lurking, plotting, keeping an eye out out for Mr. Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle).
What a devious business, the fur trade.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 12.41.18 PMWhat about Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron) and Sokanon (Jessica Matten)? They’re watching the root cellar, the storehouse. It’s obvious they care for one another, yet the divide between their worlds is always evident, as well. In the meantime, they’re going to talk with Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) for more help with their latest plans. Except that Grace isn’t around, she’s in Montreal. There’s nastier stuff about within the fort itself, as women like Imogen (Diana Bentley) have to sell themselves to the awful men there, and Mary (Breanne Hill) is only safe because she tends bar. It’s a hideous situation. One that Sokanon hates to witness.
Out on the ship, Chaulk (Kathryn Wilder) and Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) hear the vicious whipping of Mr. Darragh (Joel Thomas Hynes) before he’s tossed in a cell, as well. The Lord is getting his brutishness back. I suspect he’ll be staging quite the mutiny soon enough.
At the Carruthers house, Elizabeth and Douglas receive Harp for dinner. The others, including Malcolm, have to eat in another room, of course. Ah, the class divisions even amongst friends and family! What a time. Harp works on establishing a “business relationship” with the widow. The two end up talking alone together, about the fact Declan is known for “hunting men” not beaver. She wants to know about the death of his wife, he briefly speaks of Lord Benton, though without naming him. He’s mostly concerned with everyone who lives “in the shadow of the HBC.” He’s a revolutionary, and she’s impressed enough to want to give him a chance. They’ve struck a deal.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 12.48.20 PMSokanon is finding it difficult amongst the evil of white men. Young girls and women prostituted for petty coin. A young Native girl at the ale house is unknowingly sold to an officer, she’s attacked in the back room by him. Mary refuses to allow it. She stabs the officer in the neck. When he fights back a bit, she stabs him with another knife in the top of the head. They’ve got quite a crime to cover up. Governor Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) is mostly drowning himself in alcohol, letting whatever happens happen.
On her journey, Grace is with Jean-Marc Rivard (Paul Fauteux). She tells him of her father’s death, a couple years ago. She never went to see him when he requested. Now she’s going to fake that her father is still alive with Rivard’s help, so that she won’t lose everything back home.
Charleston: “White folks are white folks. No offence.”
McTaggart: “None taken. Im Scottish.”
When Grace goes looking for her father’s things, speaking with an innkeeper (Codco alumni Greg Malone), she finds his seal, which ought to help trick people into believing him not dead. There’s also suggestions that Grace didn’t have such a wonderful relationship with dear ole dad.
On the streets, Charleston is taken hostage by Pond when he goes for the gunpowder, letting McTaggart and Harp get away. Uh oh. His “black loyalist” line doesn’t do him any good. On the ship, Chaulk and Benton put together a plan to have the ship turn around, spoiling the water to force a return to land.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 12.58.10 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.07.46 PMPond is using Charleston as a bargaining chip against Harp. So the big guy goes into the street willingly. He’s not afraid, even with a bounty out on his head. He heads off with Pond and his men, leaving Charleston in the street, McTaggart in an alley. Harp is brought to the town square, thrown in the stocks. Grant shows up gloating, wanting to offer the big man a way out if he gives up information concerning the widow. But you know Harp’s not having that shit: “Youre blocking my view,” he quips from his precarious position.
Can McTaggart get his buddy out? Maybe he and Charleston make a proper team. They acquire a few items necessary for the task of freeing Harp. Then, Vlad (James Preston Rogers), that unkillable Siberian offers to take the big guy to his trial. At the same time, Rivard stumbles onto the scene; he rushes back to tell Grace. McTaggart unlocks Harp, setting into motion quite a bout of chaos, as Charleston waits in the wings with a rifle. Grace gets there just in time with the sealed declaration from Chesterfield concerning the bounty being dropped. BAM! What a woman. Although Harp hates to hear what she’s had to sacrifice personally to get it done.
At Fort James, Sokanon and Michael run into Mary and the young Native girl disposing of the officer’s body. They help get rid of him. Sokanon fears for the girl, wanting to get her back to her people, to be safe. Mary knows this is best. Sad to see here the disconnect between the young girl and her rightful home, taken away to the cities, assigned a dehumanising job, forced to speak English versus Sokanon, a strong warrior for her tribe.
Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.10.40 PMWonderful episode! A favourite of mine so far. Glad they’ve already announced a Season 3. “Cannonball” comes next. Excited to see more action.

The Sinner – Part 5

USA’s The Sinner
Part 5
Directed by Cherien Dabis
Written by Jesse McKeown

* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 6, click here.
Pic 1Flashback to Mason (Christopher Abbott) and Cora (Jessica Biel), when little Laine was just a baby. “Slept through the night” for the first time. The typical things parents experience together. Just as quick, we’re back to the present with Mason, his parents Ron (Robert Funaro) and Lorna (Patti D’Arbanville) helping around the house. Then comes a call.
Another flashback shows a slightly younger Cora, an older Phoebe (Nadia Alexander), as they were planning a getaway from the ruthless religious household in which they existed with their mother Elizabeth (Enid Graham). They were saving up cash, looking for apartments, trying to find Cora a man. All under their parents’ nose.
Back out at the bus in the woods, Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) looks over the human bones found nearby in the ground. Things are getting more tense in the case. He’s also got state police involved now, like it or not. He and Detective Farmer (Joanna Adler) go to question Cora together about recent developments. Only it’s all hard to explain, to anyone outside of her and Ambrose. Even he isn’t entirely sure what’s going on just yet.
Cora: “I didnt kill anybody
Farmer: “Else. You didnt kill anybody else.”
Pic 1ALooking around a ways off from the body site, Ambrose stumbles onto a piece of private property. He walks in to the gate, around it, and finds a massive estate sprawling over the land. Quite the place. He gets inside, finding a staff member at the place, getting a few answers and hopefully more to come. Wandering around he sees a bit of wallpaper that might just be the kind Cora spoke of before.
A strange twist of fate, as Cora winds up at a religious group in jail. Listening to their prayers she flashes back to being in that place, with the masked man, the wallpaper. She’s under the bed, an I.V. tipped over on the floor. “Howd you get all the way down there?” asks the masked man.
This is the theory I’ve had for some time – she was drugged, forced into prostitution. When she and Maddy escaped from that place, the latter was killed, buried out in the woods. Guaranteed. Or perhaps there are more twists and turns yet.
The Tannetti family are being ripped apart. People are spray painting their vehicles with KILLER BITCH, dumping garbage all over their lawn. Mason’s parents are fed up. He’s barely hanging on by a thread.
There’s also more going on in Ambrose’s life, too. He and Faye (Kathryn Erbe) have a marriage in a death spiral. She regrets their bit of reconciliation, feeling he’s not there even when he is physically. Back at the station, he’s being chastised for “barging in” on the club at the estate, a high profile guy there representing the place and its interests. Oh, you know some shady, fucked up shit is going on up there. YOU KNOW.
Pic 2Dt. Farmer is barging on ahead herself, without consulting Ambrose. She busts J.D’s girlfriend on the drugs, hauling her in for questioning. She’s already pursuing charges against Cora for the dead body. Well, we see that she’s also accusing our detective of being sweet on the accused. I don’t think it’s that, at all. I feel like he genuinely cares and wants to find out what happened to her, to know the truth. He’s got his issues, no doubt. He’s a brutal masochist. But a cop in love with a suspect, no sir.
They do have a connection. It’s one of trust. She calls him, wondering if she ought to take the latest offer. However, he wants her to hold on, so he can chase down his lead on the club.
On the street, Mason’s father is beaten by J.D. with a baseball bat. Holy shit. Then we cut back to see Cora when she first meets J.D. on a dark road, ironically helping her out of a bad jam with a potentially creepy dude. After that it’s off to a house party together. Immediately he’s working his charm, pretending he wants to get to know her. A very Manson-esque personality. All brings us to her losing her virginity to him.
That night when she got home there’s a scene. Mom calls her a “whore” while Phoebe is hyperventilating, worrying over her big sister. Quick cut back to the present, as Dt. Farmer grills Cora about J.D. and the found skeleton. Meanwhile, Ambrose is back up at the club poking around, he finds a staircase leading to the basement; looks familiar, only without the wallpaper. Further in are masks hung on the wall in the dark, ones we can recognise easily.
But can Harry break the case wide open before Farmer uses her fake sympathy on Cora to make a deal? Our girl’s not having any of it. What’s worse is that Mason is heading for J.D. with a gun in hand. Both of Laine’s parents might be in jail soon. Uh oh.
Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 1.56.49 AMEvery episode of The Sinner is heavy as hell. New things come to light with each chapter, the darkness gets deeper and scarier, the emotions more intense. Part 6 is next week, and I don’t know how they’ll top this one. Although I say this every week.

The Sinner – Part 3

USA’s The Sinner
Part 3
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
Pic 1Cora (Jessica Biel) lies in bed, in jail, dreaming of home. She later talks with a psychologist, who takes her back through old memories of being 13. She’s asked what she’d tell herself, back then. She replies: “Run.”
Out on a trek, in a stark juxtaposed shot from the inside of Cora’s cell, Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and his semi-estranged wife Faye (Kathryn Erbe) are hiking, and he is sweating it out fierce. At the station, he’s not entirely thrilled with the psych report, as it doesn’t seem out of whack. He’s wondering about the song that played on the beach, the one which triggered the exact identical response in the interrogation room with her. Psych says it’s possibly linked to PTSD.
Harry: “So, shes somewhere else, and shes stabbing someone else.”
At home, Mason (Christopher Abbott) is continually dealing with the fallout, the media attention. His wife calls, asking to see their boy. She’s in a bad space, though the father doesn’t sound averse to bringing him to see his mom. One ray of light in the life of Cora. Only that doesn’t turn out so well, once Mason doesn’t bring their child to see her, realising this could and likely will be a long, difficult road. After finding out things from the cops about her former life.
Harry goes to see the Laceys, adopted family of Cora – Elizabeth (Enid Graham) and William. They say she ran away five years, about the Fourth of July, a day before. Of course mom calls the girl selfish, so on. Sick little Phoebe died only weeks after Cora ran off. It’s obvious just from being around them something wasn’t right between the two adopted parents and Cora.
Note: We keep getting the wallpaper imagery, and now we’re going deeper inside. A great visual representation of going deeper into the walls of a home, discovering what’s actually inside as opposed to whatever it might look like on the outside.
Pic 1AWe see more of Cora having nightmares. Terrible ones. She loses her mind in the night, having a dream of a woman telling a man to “give her another hit” and then someone steps right down on Cora’s chest, it cracks. As guards come to subdue her, she pleads they don’t put anything in her arm. When they pull up her sleeve they see the dried, cracking wounds of an old injection site, a veritable crater. Same goes for her other one, too.
Before Cora met her husband, after she left home, she got hooked on heroin. But there’s a deeper story. And Dt. Ambrose is going to get digging. He finds out something else, that Cora had a new visitor recently: Margaret Lacey (Rebecca Wisocky), the cool aunt. Seems Cora disappeared a long while, then showed up at a detox centre. Elizabeth refused to have a “whore” and a “degenerate” living with her, so aunt Mags took her. Yet she blames herself for ignoring the “signs” of something larger wrong. Like a large, jagged scar on the top of Cora’s head, one her aunt never discovered the story behind.
Quick flashes to the old Lacey home, Cora as a teenager. Dad isn’t happy sharing a room with his daughter, so long. There’s many nasty things going on beneath the curtains here. So then dad takes sick Phoebe, transplanting her back into the room with Cora, where the two girls eye each other with a strange emotion running like a current between them. Afterwards, they have an awkward discussion. And Phoebe, for the one slowly dying, is surprisingly more free than her sister, knowing about sex, even reading a stashed magazine she took from the hospital.
The further Harry gets into the details, the more he sees a sort of spiralling abyss into which he’s falling. Someone named Caleb Walker brought Cora into the rehab facility several years before. It also didn’t look like she was a regular junkie, she was clean, wearing new clothes. Strange, no? Meanwhile, Harry’s got himself a problem. He might be fixing things up with his wife, but he’s still hooked on his dominatrix lover; she purposely spills oranges in a grocery store, watching him as he dutifully picks it up.
Pic 2More flashes back to the past. Elizabeth finds the magazine from the girls’ room, and so Cora takes the blame, admitting to her apparent sins. “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” she and her adopted mom pray together, kneeling painfully on a line of dry white rice (at least that’s what it looks like) in penance. It’s the little sister who later must try getting through to the older, to show her all this religious stuff is bullshit. That’s when the two bond mischievously over makeshift communion, wine and crackers, lying on the floor next to the crucifix together. Interesting to see how the young would choose to worship Jesus over how the older, more foolish deem it necessary to be afraid of God, to be scared of his power. These two merely tell Christ they love him, caressing his wounds.
Phoebe: “Cora, God doesnt listen.”
Sitting around with people at home, Harry has to listen to other people talk about their perceptions of Cora’s case, from what they know in the media. One guy’s pontificating too hard for his liking, so he gets a bit mouthy. That night he and Faye try connecting physically again.
Mason is still looking for J.D. and he’s tracked him to a bar. They wind up in a bit of a fight after the guy’s nonchalant about the whole ordeal. This puts the cops on Mason, luckily Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller) helps as much as she can, what little she can.
Back at prison, Harry brings in the tools of the trade, asking Cora to show him how she shot up heroin. Except it seems she doesn’t know much about the process, really. So, what exactly happened to her back then? Was someone force feeding her the drug? Oh, I’d bet on that. She barely remembers the two months she was gone; “fragments,” she tells Dt. Ambrose.
Pic 3Was Cora forced into prostitution? It seems like an almost human trafficking-type scenario, a pimp plying her with heroin to sell her off. I can’t help believe it’ll never be so simple; ugly, but not simple. We get a last flash, of that room with the black wallpaper, a man in a strange mask, kind of like a ski mask, and he asks: “How are you feeling today, Cora?”
Pic 4Whoa, this episode – like the one preceding – blew the lid off my expectations. There’s so much more to this story than I ever thought. Can’t get enough of the mystery, plus the well drawn characters like Harry Ambrose, who make the picture that much more complete. I’m frothing for the next episode! Part 4 is next week.

KING COBRA’s True Crime Penetrates the Broken Heart of Gay Porn

King Cobra. 2016. Directed & Written by Justin Kelly; based on the book from Andrew E. Stoner & Peter A. Conway.
Starring Garrett Clayton, Christian Slater, Molly Ringwald, James Kelley, Keegan Allen, James Franco, Robby Johnson, Rosemary Howard, & Spencer Rocco Lofranco.
RabbitBandini Productions/Yale Productions/SSS Entertainment
Not Rated. 91 minutes.
Crime/Drama

★★★★
Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 2.54.37 PMBefore I heard of this Franco-produced flick I’d not actually heard of the real life owner of Cobra Video, Bryan Kocis. He founded the gay porn studio, but also dealt with various legal struggles throughout his life: from charges of sexual assault on a minor, corruption of a minor, to bankruptcy and more. A difficult life, indeed. If even the basics of this tale are true, Kocis was a deviant who believed he fell in love, all the while exploiting the boy he said he cared about.
King Cobra is a fast tracked version of the Kocis story, with Christian Slater playing a stand-in for the real man, a man named Stephen. The object of his affection? Sean Paul Lockhart, a.k.a gay pornstar Brent Corrigan; played by baby-faced Garrett Clayton. What comes out is a story full of themes from the post-modern American dream to obsession to the struggle for love in industry where people aren’t people, they’re merely objects to be owned; by a producer, by millions.
Going in I thought there’d be a cheap exploitation aspect to the film. Not saying there isn’t a fair bit of skin. Director-writer Justin Kelly includes as much as he has to, in order to further explore the betrayal and deception at the heart of the story. And this, above all, is what matters most – the broken hearts left behind in the wake of the porn industry.
It’s known that the real Lockhart has said this story has “contempt for queer culture” and that it mocks pornography. The first I don’t agree with, whatsoever. Especially when the men are shown in an honest light, at all angles, never judged. As for the mockery of porn, I don’t agree; however, I do think it’s critical of the industry. Of how we allow the buying and selling of people, all culminating in the shocking real events that the story illustrates so vivid.
Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 2.57.46 PMThe dark side of the industry is in full effect throughout King Cobra. Aside from the relationship between fictional Kocis and Lockhart, which brings up issues of sex with a minor, the plot goes even darker with Joe (James Franco) and Harlow (Keegan Allen); most of all the latter. Harlow’s story is sad – the saddest – full of despair and loneliness and a search for happiness that’ll surely never end. The hurt of his character is terrifyingly real, and Allen plays him with a haunting, dead-eyed look.
Harlow and Joe represent the desperate side of the industry, the men who resort to prostituting themselves. On the other side, Stephen’s obsession with Lockhart turns their relationship into one of pimp and prostitute, too. Like a pimp, Stephen wants total control over Brent, so much so he makes the whole thing into a personal and legal battle; something which goes terribly wrong, for all of them. Meanwhile there’s Lockhart in the middle just trying to make money and find a nice man. Like a postmodern American DreamNightmare.
Moreover, Stephen represents a side of the gay community we don’t often see when we get those normal, positive looks at regular gay men and lesbian women (which are important in their own ways for representation). What he, and his real life counterpart Kocis, illustrate is how some men almost go back into the closet even though they’re out. They don’t fully accept themselves. In his case, it’s because he likes underage boys. It gets so bad that Stephen lives in a “cookie cutter community” and he’s there amongst his neighbours, all the while he takes Brent and other young men inside, out by the pool, and films them fucking. He lives in the open, though keeps a barrier up between him and the world.
KingCobraImmediately, the stylised cinematography with its neon glow and filtered shots grabs attention. We feel as if we’re in an actual porno most times, not from the actual bare skin onscreen but the visual style. At other times the frames are draped in shadow, the way most of the characters are all under a cloak of darkness, living their lives on camera yet also behind it in the figurative dark spaces of life from one trick to the next.
The performances hooked me in. Allen is my favourite, he’s intense and brooding without being overtly animated; he makes you feel the darkness of his character Marlow. Alongside him as Joe, the ever interesting Franco provides us with a ferocious, unrelenting character whose sexual appetite does not mix well with business.
Still, the best performance of all has to be from Slater; his late career is proving full of surprises from Nymphomaniac to Mr. Robot and this film. Stephen isn’t a likeable character, he’s a sleazy guy. But Slater doesn’t play him sleazy, he somehow imbues the guy with a heart, no matter how dark. He’s a desperately clingy man, one who uses his powerful position as producer to rope in young boys with whom he can play, and hopefully control. He’s sad, he’s nasty. And there’s so much humanity to this otherwise monstrous man with Slater in the role.
What I love most about the character is that the writing allows him to be who he is, instead of trying to pretend like the gay community can’t have any bad apples. The real Lockhart’s criticism feels unfair, though admittedly I’m not a gay man and so my opinion isn’t the be all, end all. That being said, I think the best representation for any community, any race (et cetera), also involves those bad characters along with the good.
Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 3.45.27 PMThere’s a major loss of innocence in King Cobra. One thing Marlow makes very clear is that everyone has a story. What people see on that screen, the flesh and the orgasms, is the end result of victimisation, of broken hearts and broken dreams. It is what comes at the end of a long road of pain. I don’t care if you think that’s not cool of me. Personally, I don’t support the porn industry. Nor do I judge anybody; I used to watch it, then awhile back made a personal pledge not to engage with it any longer. I just don’t think it’s healthy, you can’t fault me for that.
Neither can you fault the film. These characters are real people, if not dramatised for the sake of entertainment. Their story is largely real and is, aside from what actually happened to Kocis a.k.a Stephen, also the story of many others who’ve been sucked into the undertow of the exploitative, violent industry of pornography.
King Cobra doesn’t ask or answer any big questions. It looks deeply at the damage done to people who’ve fallen prey to the predators in the industry, as well as those who were preyed upon before and then came to the industry later only to be re-victimised. If you have a level head about the topic in general, this movie’s for you. There isn’t any judgement. Then again, people like Kocis deserved to be judged, only they don’t deserve what he got, either.

Avoid The Bunny Game & its Needless Misogyny

The Bunny Game. 2010. Directed by Adam Rehmeier. Story by Rodleen Getsic & Adam Rehmeier.
Starring Rodleen Getsic, Jeff F. Renfro, Drettie Page, Coriander Womack, Gregg Gilmore, Loki, Curtis Reynolds, and Jason Timms. Death Mountain Productions.
Unrated. 76 minutes.
Horror

No ★s
bunny_game_ver2Sometimes there comes along a film that is so dreary and needlessly graphic that I question why it was ever made. Now, before anyone says “Well if you can’t handle it then that’s not the film’s problem”, let me tell you this – I’ve seen plenty of disgusting, disturbing, outrageously graphic, gory, and beyond fucked up films in my time. I’ve seen a little over 4,100 movies in total. Many, many of those are horror. I’ve seen my fair share of good horror, as well as a lion’s share of terribly made, awful horror movies. I own Cannibal Holocaust, which is a nasty piece of work, and I’ve actually seen Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom one more than once occasion – don’t ask me why. Plus, I’d actually consider those good horror. Then there’s the type of stuff I’ve just about perished while trying to watch, like the absolutely terrible August Underground stuff; pure, utter tripe, does nothing for the genre except make it look awful. Realistic? Sure. Realism does equate to quality, though.
So when I say that The Bunny Game is a grim and dreary, nasty piece of work, I’m saying it in the sense that it is all that but nothing comes of it. It’s not a good film overall. Ultimately, this is one of those brutal horror films which goes nowhere with what it’s trying to accomplish, and by the end you’re just wondering: A) why didn’t I turn this off sooner?, and B) I hope nobody makes a sequel to this one.
Either way, the result of The Bunny Game is not, as some no doubt paid crew members have spouted off on IMDB and other sites, in any way the reinvention of the genre. No way, shape, or form is it anything close. I never like to rag too hard on a film, but unfortunately for this one I just cannot find the words to express anything enjoyable or positive about any aspect of this muggy turd.
IMG_1084 Bunny (Rodleen Getsic) is an unfortunate soul, left on the streets – who knows what her sad story truly is – and resorting to prostitution.
She goes from one motel room to the next, searching for another meal, trying to stay high and alive. She squats and pees on the side of the road because she has nowhere else to go. She’s also so coked up that she passes out; one of Bunny’s customers goes ahead and has sex with her anyways, then proceeds to loot the bag she carries around constantly. After waking up to find the trust backpack empty, she loses her mind. But it’s just back out on the street once more, on to another miserable day.
Finally, she gets picked up by a trucker who wants to do some drugs with her; he needs a pick me up after a long stretch on the road. But that’s not all he wants – Bunny is taken hostage, thrown into the back of his truck, where a camera is setup, there are chains, and the trucker has plenty of sick games in mind for the poor, lonely girl.
IMG_1085 IMG_1086At times we’re treated to these shots that go on for what feels like eternity, and I’m truly at a loss as to why they’re in film. I get that the trucker guy this insane dude, is supposed to be developed slightly before things get going into the brutality full-on. However, having this man just walk around a little, smoke some cigarettes, drive – I mean, what’s the purpose? Perhaps if there were some nuisance, subtlety in this character, or in the performance, there’d be a reason to focus so much on him in such a languid, boring way. The camera’s not doing anything interesting, we’re simply watching this man. There’s nothing going on much in his face, in his mannerisms, though, I suspect there should be. We’re just not seeing much.
Then he climbs into the back of the truck with Bunny, who is out completely cold, and the real misogyny and nastiness begins. I honestly loathe the stupid “torture porn” label because I think it’s stupid, although I realize what the label is meant to convey. That being said, I’d go ahead and say this is the concept of “torture porn” at its worst, at the most base and vile it can be on film. We’ve got to watch this mental trucker suck on Bunny’s nipples, play with her earlobes and other weird sexual stuff. It’s fine to have a character that deranged in the movie, but why do you have to explicitly show all this stuff? Only makes things disgusting. There’s nothing scary about what he’s doing, it’s the same as watching a badly lit, poorly shot pornographic movie that’s all about sadomasochism and extreme bondage. That’s pretty much what this whole section felt like, as he trucker revels in having Bunny captured in the back of his truck’s trailer. You don’t have to go subtle on every last creepy/scary scene. For me, though, I find there needs to be some sort of tension through not having to graphically see every last bit of the nasty business. Adam Rehmeier says fuck that. Leave nothing to the imagination.
Also, just the fact that the trucker does a bunch of nonsense supposedly “crazy” stuff, it really took me out of things. So much overacting. Awful, really. I thought it was bad, others think he’s some kind of amazing villain. Seriously? I couldn’t get into it. One bit of bad shlock after the other. Huff gas – go crazy – laugh – tell Bunny to shut up or shhhh – repeat.
IMG_1077The black-and-white also did nought for me. I honestly gave The Human Centipede II a star or so just because I found Tom Six’s use of black-and-white pretty interesting in some of the more tame scenes. They gave it a nice off-kilter feel that was very creepy. Here, The Bunny Game feels like it used black-and-white to try and force the idea that this is somehow an innovative or interesting film. There is nothing good about the movie and the use of black-and-white only made things more dismal; not in a good sense.
Ultimately, the whole movie is a bunch of perverse nonsense, mixed with Rodleen Getsic screaming at the top of her lungs a little, plus a ton of quiet, boring moments with the trucker doing nothing at all. Honestly, I don’t jump on a film for the sake of jumping on it. I’m actually one of the types who is often a fan of films people hate – not as a rule, there are just a handful or so of movies I love that others despise (like Exorcist II – fucking love it!). But I just simply can’t bring myself to like what Adam Rehmeier has done here. There’s nothing inspiring in terms of the horror genre, it’s a retread through territory we’ve seen before, just as nasty, but there are plenty of so-called “torture porn” films out there which aren’t this terribly made or as horrid for no purpose.
IMG_1080 IMG_1081I also saw, maybe on Bloody Disgusting or a similar site, that someone said this was extremely well edited. Is that truly their opinion? My good lord Satan. If they think this is masterful editing, I don’t want to see what they find to be bad examples of editing. Because this is, at times, like a black-and-white music video on crack. There’s a frenetic quality to it that’s absolute irritating, as well as fairly useless in my opinion. I really hated the way this was edited, and to think others found that to be one of its best, probably its only, good aspect – I can’t fathom what other poor movies they think contain nice editing. There’s not a moment where I found myself impressed by any of the technical side to The Bunny Game. I’m not trying to be mean: there’s nothing here that’s any good.
IMG_1079In all good conscience, I cannot give this film a single star. On IMDB, you can’t give 0 ratings, so if you happen to come across my ratings page on there and see it has 1 star, versus my 0 here, just remember: they won’t let you do it.
There is not a solitary redeeming aspect of The Bunny Game. It aims to be terrifying and disturbing, and while it may come across as the later at plenty of moments there’s nothing overall scary about this film. There’s not an ounce of suspense or tension in the whole lot; that’s enough to kill any horror. The acting is bad. There’s mostly a lot of yelling and screaming and spitting and weird touching and sexualization at every near, but no good acting, the script is complete trash, and the thing is filmed poorly.
I suggest that you see this only if you’re a completist, or if you’re one of those people who gets off on terrible horror that borders on the line of being the recreation of a snuff film. Otherwise, pick up a better bit of horror and have yourself an enjoyably creepy view! This didn’t make me feel anything, not for a second, and if a horror doesn’t scare me, even in the slightest sense, I don’t see what the point of it is in the end.