Eleven tracks down her long lost sister, for better or worse.
When heavy metal collides with demonic possession, and the devil becomes a painter: Sean Byrne's follow-up feature, THE DEVIL'S CANDY.
Monster. 2003. Directed & Written by Patty Jenkins.
Starring Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Lee Tergesen, Annie Corley, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Marco St. John, Marc Macaulay, Scott Wilson, Rus Blackwell, Tim Ware, Stephan Jones, Brett Rice, Kaitlin Riley, & Cree Ivey. Media 8 Entertainment/Newmarket Films/DEJ Productions.
Rated 18A. 109 minutes.
For those that don’t know the entire story, Aileen Wuornos was indeed a serial killer. She murdered men. She was a prostitute, one that had been abused, supposedly raped, tortured, and one who took emancipation from a life of sex as business into her own hands when there was nowhere else to turn. And that was the ultimate problem concerning Aileen’s long, tumultuous life. Starting from an early age she was frequently beaten, while naked, by her adoptive father. At the age of fourteen she got pregnant, later putting the boy up for adoption in 1971. She was actually married to a multimillionaire by age twenty, which later ended in a restraining order against her and an annulment. This was also around the time Lee started getting arrested, charged with assault and battery, among other things. When she finally wound up in Daytona, drinking in a gay bar, she met Tyria Moore who’d become the one big love of her life. It was in Daytona the trail of bodies behind Aileen – affectionately known as Lee to those close to her – started piling up.
And this is where director-writer Patty Jenkins’ Monster comes in.
Wuornos, by all accounts, had trouble with the truth. Most of all after her arrest in 1991. What Jenkins does is examine Wuornos in those days after meeting Moore – here named Selby – and the steady decline of her mental state from the time of her first murder onward. In a realistic style alongside a great script, Jenkins uses the fascinatingly honest, brutally true-to-life performance of Charlize Theron as the centerpiece of a discussion about everything from murder to prostitution, to how we judge prostitutes when they say they’ve been sexually assaulted, love, as well as so many other themes in between. This movie is a great film from the early 2000s containing one of the single best performances ever seen in the history of cinema.
There’s some great editing in this film. When Selby and Aileen first stay together in the hotel, after she’s murdered her first victim, things are so light and lovely, which then switches quickly into the stone cold realities of this woman’s life: we cut fast to Aileen in her stolen car, spraying down the windshield and wiping off any of the last bloody remnants inside to make sure it’s not a rolling DNA lab. This is one of the most evident points where we see the division in Aileen’s life, between the woman she wants to be and the woman she is/has become. An instance of when good editing and writing come together to create a sorrowful look into the inner life of a character, especially heart wrenching due to the fact Aileen is a serial killer, as well as partly a very tragic case.
What is part serial killer picture is also part indictment of our general society, which chews people like Aileen Wuornos up and spits them out. Aside from her alleged rape (I only say alleged because Aileen was the only person left on Earth who knew the truth for sure about that particular event), one of the first truly sad scenes is the montage sequence where Aileen heads out looking for a job. First just seeing her dressed in a nice little outfit while looking terrifyingly rough is semi-comical, which might explain Jenkins once telling an interviewer the film was meant to be played as a lighthearted comedy with bits of the murders tossed in amongst everything else. Secondly, when Aileen then goes on to a law office where she hopes to get a secretarial job, the treatment she receives is downright appalling. Then when she freaks out, it’s as if she is being the unreasonable one, but the man provoked her into that behaviour, and furthermore we continue to see how the system is not designed for people like Aileen. One poignantly tragic moment is when Selby is being chastised about Aileen by her aunt, who basically says
Basically, a long and ruined life led Aileen to where she ended up. Having been used and abused most of her lifetime she wound up doing all she was ever conditioned to do: prostitute herself and sell her body. The saddest part to me is that one way or another, Aileen was likely to become a killer. Because if she didn’t willingly start killing men that she felt were assaulting or raping her then there’s still a high probability she would’ve likely, at some point in life, contracted HIV and spread it. Aileen wasn’t some high class escort, she lived on the street going from one situation to the next in desperation, so there’s a huge chance HIV would’ve come along. But the biggest, saddest irony lies in the fact that if Aileen was telling the truth about the original john she killed in the beginning, it’s likely this rape and assault which pushed her into killing the others, even if they never assaulted her themselves. Not to excuse her crimes, they are horrific and inexcusable. It just begs attention paid to the systemic abuse of low class prostitutes that are living dangerous lives on the fringe of society, no protection, barely any mind paid to their situations and their struggles. Eventually the levee has to break, somehow, somewhere down the line. Aileen represents one of the most perfect cases of a woman pushed too far. People want to act like a prostitute gets what she deserves, whatever that means, as if selling her body to survive and get through life effectively relegates her to a life of rape, torture, and all around terror. As if she asked for that. But Aileen asked for none of the life she was given. The title of this film accurately describes Wuornos, yet it has more than just the surface meaning that she is a monstrous person. This title refers further to the monster which society made her, the serial killing creature into which society molded her.
Obviously the most impressive piece of Monster is Theron. Not just the physical transformation, though that is perfect. She not only takes on the physical appearance of Wuornos, she also gets the mannerisms and the phrasing, everything, so dead on correct. If you’ve ever watched any of the documentary material on Aileen, specifically the films made by Nick Broomfield, you’ll find it undeniable how accurate Theron portrays this woman, from top the bottom. Emotionally, this role is heavy, and all the various traumas of Aileen are not easy to illustrate onscreen. Theron proves that empathy reigns supreme, as she crawls inside the skin of this woman, whose story is sad but still altogether scary to relate to. We do, though. We relate in the most unnerving of ways, and that isn’t solely on the writing by Jenkins, fleshing out many important moments in the later stages of Aileen’s days. Theron opens the door to that empathetic viewing, which ultimately makes Monster one of the more compelling films to look at a true story about a serial killer. Yes, there are graphic moments. Even those are tactfully written and handled with solid directorial choices on Jenkins’ part.
With Theron’s powerhouse acting talent this movie doesn’t have to linger totally on the murder, the blood, the rape, none of that. Instead those lie on the peripherals of the film, adding their touches lightly, as Jenkins chooses to focus on the emotional, sentimental aspects of Aileen’s life. In doing so, Theron is able to show off her skills, and the movie reaches a height many other biographical films concerning the hideous legacy of serial murderers often can’t manage to attain. This is a 5-star masterpiece of a crime film. Even better, it’s based in real life, the melodrama is almost non-existent. Not only is Monster one of the best films in the past 16 years, it is an excellent movie period. And Theron’s performance as Wuornos will forever go down in history as one of the greatest. She deserved and still deserves all the accolades heaped upon her for this role because it is tremendous. To make people care about someone who has killed, a bunch of people, is truly remarkable, and to bring forward some of the issues in this film is brave on both the part of Theron and writer-director Jenkins. Truly a phenomenal work of cinema.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 3: “Save the Last One”
Directed by Phil Abraham
Written by Scott M. Gimple
* For a review of the previous episode, “Bloodletting” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cherokee Rose” – click here
We start on Shane (Jon Bernthal), shirtless in front of the mirror, shaving his head in the sink. He looks dead on the inside. Cut to him and Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) trying to escape the building where last we saw them in “Bloodletting”. Over the top in voice-over, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) tells his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) about the time Shane stole their principal’s car in high school, as they sit with their comatose son Carl (Chandler Riggs). The parents are obviously stressing, worried Carl won’t make it through. But most of all, Loris wants Rick to eat and stay strong for him. For all of them. Also, she doesn’t want to hear him talk about Shane and make her guilt any worse than it already is at the present moment in time.
In the R.V. out on the highway, Daryl (Norman Reedus) can’t sleep. Between Carol (Melissa McBride) crying in bed and Andrea (Laurie Holden) loading bullet clips, there is no rest. Nobody is exactly tired. With Sophia out there and in who knows what sort of condition everybody is on edge and not quite right. Andrea and Daryl go to look for the girl. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) isn’t too pleased with their plan, but that’s no matter.
Glenn (Steven Yeun) and T-Dog (Irone Singleton) arrive back at the ranch. They meet Maggie (Lauren Cohan) properly on the porch. She brings them inside and Glenn greets with “painkillers and antibiotics“. Things are fairly grim inside with Hershel (Scott Wilson) tending on Carl, as Rick and Lori still sit close with their son. Everybody is aimed at getting the boy better. “Whatever you need,” T-Dog tells them all. Things are tense waiting to see whether or not Shane and Otis get back, and with the proper equipment. Tough decisions may be on the horizon.
Bits of Daryl comes out. His rough childhood and such, through a conversation with Andrea as they search for Sophia. We can tell that Daryl grew up in a typically hillbilly fashion, absentee parents, almost dangerously. It’s nice to get things like that out of characters without a ton of exposition. Just little stories along the way rather than crowding each and every episode with too much character development. The characters grow organically, at the right pace, which is something I’ve enjoyed greatly up to this point now at Season 2’s first beginnings.
Lori and Rick are at odds. She seems to think death may be better than living in a terrible world with the zombies. Rick is never a quitter, under any circumstances. It’s discouraging for Rick, as a father, a parent. She talks about Jacqui, how she “doesn‘t feel it anymore” and it’s clear that Rick doesn’t “accept that“. More talk of what Jenner told Rick, though, it is subtle and brief. What was it? I know already, but still it intrigues me to see how Rick deals with knowing it the whole time and nobody else does.
Shane is still trying to make his way out of the high school, flooded with the living dead. His ankle in a bad way, backed up against a fence. There’s a feeling of everything falling down on top of him. Groans and grows on every side. Then Otis appears, shooting off a few walkers. Reunited they start making their way to safety. At the ranch, Carl wakes up and things are stable for only a few seconds before he fades off again, seizing savagely.
Maggie and Glenn have a talk together. This is the beginning of a relationship between the two, which starts with him trying to pray, and her interrupting. It’s a nice little talk between the two involving God and the human need to keep on surviving, “no matter what happens“.
Shane does whatever it takes to survive. But in the worst kind of sense.
Hershel decides they have to make a choice on Carl. Shane and Otis don’t arrive on-time, so things have to start going. The I.V is setup, Carl is moved onto a surgical table, and Hershel begins preparations for the surgery. Then Shane appears. He has everything required, all the equipment. No Otis; he died.
Maggie is upset by the death of Otis, as Glenn comforts her. They bond slightly over who they’ve lost and what has happened to each of them since the fall of mankind and society. Her mother is gone, step-brother. Everybody has lost someone and they take comfort in the fact so many of them are going through the same situation. Good news comes as Hershel announces Carl is stable, though, he feels at a loss as to how to break the news to Patricia about Otis. A tragic thing for anyone to have to do.
Shane is getting dark and scary, his eyes showing all the guilt and hate he feels inside; this brings us back to the scene from the opening where Shane shaves his head in the sink. Fitting enough, he is given clothes to wear: they belonged to Otis. I worry about where Shane is headed as a character and exactly what he’s fixing to do, where he is going to go, down which path. He flashes back to the moment where he left Otis, seeing it again. Otis is left behind for the zombies to chew on while Shane takes his opportunity to get away, letting them eat after putting a bullet in Otis’ leg. It is a vicious, cold-blooded moment where the true nature of Shane’s existence shows. He is a bad man who will do whatever serves him best, in that moment. There is nothing he won’t do, as evidenced already by his behaviour with Rick, Lori, and now with what he’s done to Otis. He shaved his head because part of his hair got ripped in the struggle between him and Otis. A disgusting act of cowardice by a twisted man. This is going places.
More and more, the second season of The Walking Dead gets intense. Stay with me and I’ll review the next episode, too: “Cherokee Rose”.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 2: “Bloodletting”
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by Glen Mazzara
* For a review of the previous Season 2 premiere, “What Lies Ahead” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Save the Last One” – click here
This episode takes a step back from Carl (Chandler Riggs) being shot in the woods, right in front of both his father Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane (Jon Bernthal).
Starting out, we’re flashed back to before the fall of humanity. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is at the playground, talking about Rick to her friend. They talk about the troubles of their relationship. Lori says they were “married so young” and perhaps that’s part of their issue. This scene is actually the moment where Shane tells Lori about the shooting; the one which puts Rick in the hospital bed where he’ll lay until the zombie apocalypse comes. Shane tries to takethe blame for the situation, as they look at Carl coming towards them with a smiling face.
Now, we’re back in the present with Rick – this time it’s Carl who took a bullet. Such a tragic parallel. Father runs with his dying son in his arms. The man who accidentally shot him is Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who runs almost dragged by Shane, telling them to “talk to Hershel“. Up at a big ranch house, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) calls out to her father Hershel (Scott Wilson). He has a bunch of supplies and takes Carl into a bed where he begins trying to treat the boy. Others are working around Hershel – his daughter Maggie, his other daughter Beth (Emily Kinney), Patricia (Jane McNeill). It’s a frantic, bloody scene. But now there’s a new influx of characters for the series. The Walking Dead just got stronger.
Rick is rightfully devastated, worrying for his son. Otis feels terrible for what happened. He’d been out hunting and then the worst happened all of a sudden. Meanwhile, the other group is still in the woods. Lori heard the gunshot and worries. Daryl (Norman Reedus) says to keep moving looking for Sophia, which Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) agree with, as well as Carol (Melissa McBride). On they go, sadly. Now there’s two children at terrible risk, possibly on the verge of death. Poor Carl and Sophia. Not a world made for the children, or the weak, the sick. Not for anybody, I suppose.
Back out on the highway, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) is fiddling with car parts while T-Dog (Irone Singleton) seems restless, worrying about everyone still being gone. Likewise, Dale worries about T-Dog; the cut on his arm is pretty rough and giving him trouble. An infection is on the loose, which makes Dale even more concerned.
Bits of gruesome imagery. The highway is just like one long extensive cemetery. Creepy as all hell.
Dale: “Listen, your veins are very discoloured. You got a hell of an infection there. You could die from blood poisoning.”
T–Dog: “Oh, man. Wouldn‘t that be the way? World gone to hell, the dead risen up to eat the living and Theodore Douglas is done in by a cut on his arm.”
Little Carl soldiers on as Hershel extracts the bullet fragments from his wounded side. Amazing to have someone like Hershel there. The wasteland could be even worse without someone having medical knowledge. Rick donates blood for Carl and also worries that Lori is out there, not knowing a thing about Carl.
But things are bad. Carl needs actual surgery for Hershel to figure everything out. They need a respirator, its equipment, sutures and so on. Otis suggests the high school, where a FEMA shelter had been setup, which probably has supplies. Shane agrees to go out, and Otis wants to tag along; he feels responsible for everything. Otis was a volunteer EMT, so he knows what they’re looking for and Shane takes him out on the road. A dangerous journey, but necessary.
Out of nowhere, Lori and the group are found in the woods. By Maggie. On horseback. Daryl is sceptical, although Maggie takes Lori and rides back to the ranch after telling her what’s happened to her son. Things are tense. Up on the road, Glenn tells Dale about Carl being shot. The group are split up, but only temporarily.
Hershel and Rick have a chat on the porch. The former is a family man just trying to make sure his own survives. Hershel relates the zombie virus to AIDS, but Rick tries to tell him: “This is a whole other thing.” He doesn’t yet realize what’s happening, saying that’s it is simply “nature correcting itself” and that eventually things will set themselves right. So terribly misguided, it seems. But a good man.
Out headed towards the high school, Otis and Shane try to keep from drawing attention to themselves. A massive horde of zombies is crowded around the building. A medical trailer sits on the opposite side from where they hide. At the same time, Daryl, Dale and the others on the highway try to decide whether or not they should stay or go, in regards to Sophia. They send Glenn with T-Dog, out to the farm. My favourite part of the episode? Daryl has his brother Merle’s stash of drugs, a massive Ziploc with a ton of bottles in it. Appears “Merle got the clap on occasion“, as well as other things. Amazing little moment in a ton of bad, dark times.
The most interesting part of the episode, though, is definitely when Shane and Otis find themselves in a tough spot. Trying their hardest to get the medicinal supplies Hershel needs to operate on Carl, they’ve put their lives on the line. Tons of zombies are diverted for a little while after they fire off a couple flares from a police cruiser. This gives them time. And they need time, as Carl’s condition gets worse with too much of it passing.
Otis and Shane find the items they need. But going back is a lot more difficult than it was getting in. Trapped in a building’s entrance they both try to figure out some way forward through their insurmountable predicament, facing row after row of zombies.
Next episode, after this exciting cliffhanger, is “Save the Last One”. Can’t wait to review and recap that one, after seeing it again. Stay tuned.
13 Sins. 2014. Dir. Daniel Stamm. Screenplay by David Birke & Stamm; based on the original source material 13: Game of Death by Chookiat Sakveerakul & Eakasit Thairatana.
Starring Mark Webber, Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley, Ron Perlman, and Pruitt Taylor Vince. Entertainment One.
Rated R. 93 minutes.
The beginning of 13 Sins signifies an entertaining, at times shocking, and wild rollercoaster is about to kick in gear. I love when, right from the get go, a film tells you it’s both appropriate to laugh your guts out, and also be creeped out or horrified – whatever the moment calls for.
We open with an older man who is being introduced at some sort of reception. He proceeds to tell some filthy jokes, and then cuts a woman’s finger off in front of the entire crowd. Everyone panics. People flee to the doors, screaming and trampling like cattle. As he reaches into his pocket while a police officer holds him at gunpoint, he’s shot. However, what he reached for was a cellphone. It promptly goes off with a ringtone of Julius Fučík’s “Thunder and Blazes – Entry of the Gladiators”.
Cut to Elliot (Webber) whose life is in shambles. He is about to get married, he already takes care of his disabled brother Michael (Graye), and his elderly, hateful father (Bower) is on the verge of needing to move in with him. Not to mention he is suddenly fired from his job for “lacking balls”, essentially. Then, out of the cold blue, Elliot receives a phone call; his phone goes off with Fučík’s orchestral arrangement, which confuses him. This sets off a contest, starting with the harmless killing and eating of a fly for thousands of dollars, leading him into the dark heart of man. The tasks, 13 to be exact, of the contest go from making a child cry, to dragging a dead corpse into a diner for a cup of coffee, and worse.
Love the plot. Although this is based on 13 Beloved, I like this one better. The horror in this one gets pretty wild. I’ve seen a lot of gore and the like, but there’s something about the thrills in this movie that really work well. Elliot is basically a man in the worst position of life; he faces a grim future of looking after a father he doesn’t exactly get along with, as well as watching his younger disabled brother get sent back to a snake-pit institution where he’ll likely never get any real help or understanding. There’s something about Elliot, as a character, which speaks to a lot of people. Especially today – the economy isn’t exactly perfect. There’s something about Elliot and his desperate need for money, the need making him do all sorts of crazy things, that makes the things he does even more horrifying. Really great adaptation from the original film.
Webber does a pretty good job with the character of Elliot. He doesn’t immediately just jump into everything; there’s a hesitation to him that feels natural. Though he does dive in after awhile. Around 45 minutes into the film comes a moment where there’s really no turning back whatsoever for Elliot. He is hesitant, however, it doesn’t take a lot at this point. He’s got everything bearing down on him. A meeting with some people from earlier in his life, high school, basically tips him over the edge – that last push. From there, he’s more into the game, and willing to really let go of himself. Webber gave a good performance here, I can’t deny that.
Ron Perlman isn’t in there a whole lot, but fills out that role nicely. As does Tom Bower, who plays the crust old dad to Elliot; I always love this guy, honestly. Devon Graye, as a supporting character, was really awesome. He didn’t make the character of Michael seem ridiculous, as some actors tend to do with portrayals of disabled people; he kept it realistic, and there were times I just really loved his dialogue (especially when he was talking about “making eyes” at some girl from the same institution – great lines and well-delivered!). Everyone in smaller roles, even Pruitt Taylor Vince with his very brief parts, did excellently in rounding out the cast.
What really drives this are the tasks themselves, though. There is a disturbing quality to it all because, as I said, Elliot is sort of hesitant in the beginning, but soon he just immerses himself in this bad ass side of his personality discovered through the sick gameshow. At first it’s sort of just fun and weird. Eventually, it gets a lot darker, and a lot more intensely personal for Elliot. I mean, as time goes by you sort of expect things to get crazier, yes, but it continually surprised me from moment to moment. I don’t often find myself surprised. Particularly when it comes to horror – there are lots of good films, certainly, just not a lot of surprising ones, I find. This was one of those genuinely surprising films at times. Not always, but when it mattered.
Another aspect of the tasks is the social commentary: the people playing this game do increasingly terrible things all for the sake of money. As the tasks get wilder, more dangerous and sadistic, you think of all the things people in our real world do for money. This remake really works because it comes at a relevant time when people in North America still struggle with the shit economy we’ve had on our hands for the past 8 or 9 years (not saying it’s anywhere near being the worst situation – clearly there are worse – but this film is definitely specific to North America & arguably mostly America specifically).
Anyways, it’s a really good bit of commentary for a horror-thriller. Also, once you understand the game has been happening for years and years, it goes wider than a specific point in time – it speaks to those who are economically and financially challenged, for whatever reason, who are often pushed into a position where they’ll do anything at all just to get out of the hole in which they’ve found themselves. This movie definitely has some good stuff to say, aside from being a twisted little horror.
The whole backstory of the game itself was pretty interesting. Pruitt Taylor Vince’s character gives us a bit of exposition on the whole process of the game, how far it reaches, how long it’s been going on, and so on. This, I really enjoyed. You could almost have a bunch of these films if they really wanted; you could move backward in time, back to when the game first originated, et cetera. I found that part really awesome, and unsettling. Very cool addition.
This film, for me, was a definite 4 out of 5 stars. There were pieces I think they could have edited differently, or altogether cut out, which would have fixed the pacing. There are times it teeters too closely to comedy when it should stain within the horror vein; it could still be horror-comedy, but sometimes there is just a bit too much levity than expected. This doesn’t ruin the film. It’s a really great little horror-thriller, which certainly does the job. The finale impressed me hugely. I did expect there would be some sort of twist – I did not, however, expect the twist we were given. Maybe some suspected it – I’m always suspicious of people who say they always guess endings and such – but me, I was taken aback. It didn’t throw me on the floor or anything, but I was shocked for a minute. Real good suspense near the end. Thoroughly enjoyed how the film closed out.
I’d highly suggest this film for anyone looking to watch a nice little horror-thriller. There are some really great moments of horror, lots of tension and suspense, and a couple nice performances. Specifically, Webber does a really nice job with his character.
You won’t be disappointed if you give it a chance. A lot of fun with a few gasps and shocks thrown in for good form.