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.

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Quarry – Season 1, Episode 7: “Carnival of Souls”

Cinemax’s Quarry
Season 1, Episode 7: “Carnival of Souls”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy

* For a review of the previous episode, “His Deeds Were Scattered” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “nước chảy đá mòn” – click here
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Nixon and McGovern are going head to head in the news. Mac (Logan Marshall-Green) hears about Eugene Linwood on the news, too. Then Joni (Jodi Balfour) brings up talking to his father Lloyd (Skip Sudduth) about selling the house. It’s listed now, so too late to have a real discussion. He’s not overly thrilled. Not at all. On top of PTSD and being seen as a war criminal after coming home from Vietnam, Mac’s home is slipping away. But Joni only wants to help. She doesn’t want him drowning under the weight of what The Broker (Peter Mullan) has him do for money. Mostly Mac hates that Joni takes the responsibility on as her own. That’s how it works, though. When two people are together, for better or worse, they both take on each other’s pain.
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So where does business take ole Quarry next?
Well, Karl (Edoardo Ballerini), he’s keeping an eye on the fat man, Credence Mason (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), a veritable maniac of a Southern gentleman. And The Broker, he waits out by the pool for Mac at the Conway place. At least Mac’s down to $12K now. Whittling away at the debt. The next job is indeed Mr. Mason.
Down at the station, Detectives Tommy Olsen (Josh Randall) and Verne Ratliff (Happy Anderson) are mulling some of the former’s obsession over the Cliff Williams murder. Verne doesn’t think there’s anything worth looking at, but Tommy can’t let go of believing Mac is up to something nasty. And we know he’s right. Tommy talks about Quan Thang, believing Mac brought all that horror back home to Memphis with him. “Unless youve been to war you cant judge a man who has,” Ratliff explains. That is a very good point, even when we’re talking about murder for hire.

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On the topic of murders, Karl is a bit of a nasty bastard himself. He’s killing like a champion marksman, picking up errant packages of heroin to take home for The Broker and Oldcastle (Tom Noonan). A proper happy family. And The Broker’s making moves in the Memphis scene. Perhaps a bit of hubris? Karl doesn’t think it’s exactly a smart idea, which falls on deaf ears.
In his bathroom, Marcus finds a bag full of money: the cash his dad stashed away. Oh, shit. He puts it away for the time being and says nothing to his mother Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird).
More Buddy (Damon Herriman) and his mother Naomi (Ann Dowd). She helps him trying on clothes for a big day. They argue over the word “twat.” He shows up over at the dealership to talk with The Broker about their gun racket. Buddy wants to take their enterprise to the next level, he doesn’t want to be the middle man anymore. But his boss doesn’t like the sound of that plan, much to Buddy’s dismay. More than that The Broker sort of digs in with a remark about his “artwork” that explains his cutting out of pictures, et cetera, last episode. Now Buddy and Mac are on the road together, no matter if Buddy just had his dreams crushed.
They’ve got to go look after Mason. He’s a big deal in Dixie. So getting at him requires going through a few others. While they wait and watch, Buddy winds up asking Mac about his service, a little direct. Essentially, he levels about committing murder. He used to “keep count” on the number. “Until one dad I didnt,” he explains. They get lost in talk to the point Mason creeps up on them. They use the excuse of being gay, looking for a spot to be together alone, so as not to blow their cover. Except Mason ain’t dumb. He knows there’s trouble. The boys done fucked up, what will they do now?

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The Broker shows up like a greasy bastard at the Conway house, while Mac is gone. He pretends to be from down the road, looking at the place. Curious as a cat. Then he gets the story of Mac supposedly having a “new job” and that they’re relocating. God damn, this isn’t good.
In the world of Mr. Mason there’s heroin missing, naturally. Him and his boys try to figure out what happened, if somebody’s trying to make moves on them. Credence proves himself a smart man, he understands already what’s gone on right under his nose. He laments it more than gets angry.
It’s nice to see Ruth connecting with Moses a.k.a Felix (Mustafa Shakir). Although she’s busy working and later that night it’s Halloween, so that means she’s too busy to go with Felix for dinner. Rain check for next week, though. I hope the business side of Moses doesn’t encroach too hard on this burgeoning relationship. Ruth deserves better.
And then there’s Tommy, fucking up his relationship with Sandy (Kaley Ronayne) because he used her brother’s death to get into her bed. Now the whole thing is gone sour. She wants to let go of things, he wants to hang on, and that adds up to nothing easy for them.
One of Mason’s boys sits back watching Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls on Halloween night. He gives out candy at his door to trick or treating kids. One of the next knocks happens to be Buddy and Mac, and things get tricky, indeed. Toes get blown off, a foot gets put in the hot oven. Only the guy passes out from Buddy being too “results oriented” for his own good. Poor ole Mac, he sees that Asian mask lurking outside the door with trick or treaters, as Buddy covers his face and gives out more candy. Fittin that Harvey’s film is on television – a movie about a woman seeing dead people all around her, much like Mac. He’s riding in his own personal carnival of souls. After Buddy gets the information needed, he kills their man, then he and Mac can head out.

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But there’s problems at home. Joni calls and he rushes back. Nothing’s happening, just a little freak out on her part. Despite it all, Mac is a good man. He comforts his wife when she needs it, he does whatever he can. What’s the latest problem? Tommy is following him. Right back to meet Buddy, and on to the next stop. Shit. Straight to Dixieville.
Mason’s gang are loading a pinball machine up with drugs to ship out. Outside, Buddy and Mac prepare to drop the hammer; the former popping a bunch of pills and downing some booze beforehand. ‘Cause that helps, right?! A point of contention between the pair. When they go in there are surprises, more men showing up. Nothing ever goes as planned.
Just like when Dt. Olsen pulls his gun, standing behind Mac as our anti-hero mutters: “What the fuck?”

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Great cap to another fine tuned episode! I love this god damn series. I need several seasons, more and more. Please, give it to me now Cinemax. We’re already at the Season 1 finale next episode. Wow. Renewal is imminent, if not the network is certifiably nuts.

The Unknown Horror of Suburbia: 388 ARLETTA AVENUE

388 Arletta Avenue. 2011. Directed & Written by Randall Cole.
Starring Nick Stahl, Mia Kirshner, Devon Sawa, Aaron Abrams, Charlotte Sullivan, Krista Bridges, & Gerry Dee.
Copperheart Entertainment.
Rated PG. 87 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★1/2
posterFound footage sometimes doesn’t feel like its actually been found. There are movies in which I forgive the sin. Others feel as if they’re lacking because they need that real quality to make it effective. 388 Arletta Avenue is one of those found footage horror movies that uses its sub-genre gimmick to an advantage.
Instead of being from the victim’s point of view as is often the case, or being a more handheld and personal-type journey with a serial killer like The Poughkeepsie Tapes, director-writer Randall Cole goes for a definitively 21st century setup to play upon suburban fears of being watched, not knowing who’s really in the house next to them or walking their streets. This way, the antagonist of 388 Arletta Avenue comes off as more omniscient, more inescapable than many others in found footage.
There’s definitely a bit of room for improvement. Nick Stahl is excellent in the lead role, though I feel like the rest of the cast is underused, or improperly used. Either way he’s left to kind of carry the weight. Luckily he is a top notch actor when given the right material. As a husband in distress, one whose own rush to judgement and sketchy past only makes things worse, Stahl really keeps the viewer glued to his plight, wondering what could possibly happen next.
pic1Immediately, Cole places us in the shoes of voyeur. We are doing surveillance on James (Stahl) and Amy Deakin (Mia Kirshner), just as if we were the unseen protgaonist ourselves. And just as immediately the strange events begin swirling around the married couple, specifically James when he finds a burned CD in his car – one he didn’t make – and songs on his computer to back it all up. There’s a quick addition of tension into the plot between these two characters. It starts fast with such tiny intervention from the unseen stalker, you begin to imagine how bad it can manage to get from here on in. If this were real life, if you knew you hadn’t burned some CD, wouldn’t paranoia kick in?
After Amy goes missing, James starts to find himself getting creeped out more and more. Right alongside the viewer. There’s an oxymoron moment of playfulness crossed with sinister behaviour when James finds an e-mail in his inbox, sent from his own e-mail, saying “Meow” followed by “The Cat Came Back” playing on the stereo when he gets home. Probably the most awesomely eerie scene of the film, really gets me.
Everything gets interesting once Bill (Devon Sawa) comes into the picture. He’s an Afghanistan veteran. Just so happens that James and his friends bullied him mercilessly back in high school, to a degree (we assume) was pretty embarrassing. James assumes more with each strange event in his house that Bill is taking his revenge.
pic2FROM HERE THERE’LL BE SPOILERS. This verges on becoming about PTSD, how those mistreated might wind up taking out their disorder in chilling ways after coming home from war without anything to keep them properly occupied. It also hints at questions about morality, as well as how we hope to make amends somehow after being bad people for no reason. Whether that’s even possible if what you’ve done has ever really damaged a person. However, once figuring out who the true antagonist of 388 Arletta Avenue is there’s further reaching consequences of the events at hand. The surveillance, the depth of what this strange knows, it’s genuinely upsetting. Love it. Gives you that sick feeling in the gut, and wondering: who knows what about you in this day and age?
For a found footage horror-thriller, the screenplay is atypically tight. Most of these sub-genre flicks aren’t exactly well scripted. But Cole does well filling the duties of director and writer at once. The atmosphere is heavy, and he juxtaposes moments of emotional horror with songs you might not expect. Shaun Cassidy’s saccharine sweet bopper “Da Doo Run Run” plays a couple times; gets gut wrenching once slowed down to a crawl. “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb will never feel scarier, becoming less an R&B love ballad and more a morbid anthem. Moreover, Cole does well choosing places to position the camera, from the bedside table alarm clock to car vents to one positioned in the best place to watch James’ bed from overhead. Add to that the stalker has a camera on him, there’s a heart-pounding scene when James nearly catches him hiding in the closet – a daring move. You almost feel as if James is about to die right before your eyes, then a very brief cat-and-mouse chase breaks out. Awesome sequence.
pic3I personally enjoy the hell out of 388 Arletta Avenue. I dig found footage, but I know there are plenty of tired entries into the sub-genre out there. Because so many either copy too hard and rip-off their predecessors, or they just don’t do anything to make the found footage gimmick worth watching.
Randall Cole makes good decisions as director. At times the screenplay could easily have been added to and given more meat on the bones. Yet the core is strong. Again, Stahl is one of the big reasons this movie works. He is terrifyingly effective in that you both empathise, maybe even sympathise depending on your own experiences, with his situation (re: Bill particularly), and also see how he devolves quickly, violently in a dark place when faced with all the stalking directed at him. Throughout this tense 87 minutes Stahl keeps your attention by making you feel every last emotional sore spot.
Highly recommend this flick for your found footage viewing. Any time people want an underrated horror using the guise of found footage, I’m always quick to add that this really sticks to the gimmick and uses it as an advantage. No shaky camera throughout the entire runtime to make you sick. You get a solid lead performance, an eerie supporting one from Sawa, and Cole delivers most of the time in his directorial work. I’d bet you’ll get at least a chill or two after throwing this on during a dark, lonely night. This one removes any sense of safety from the home – what once was a happy couple’s safe haven becomes a house of modern horrors, set in motion by an unseen, never identified stalker who has infiltrated James’ life inside out.

TAXI DRIVER Rides Through the Moral Soup of Murder

Taxi Driver. 1976. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Screenplay by Paul Schrader.
Starring Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Savage, Joe Spinell, Martin Scorsese, Harry Northup, Albert Brooks, Peter Boyle, & Victor Argo.
Columbia Pictures Corporation.
Rated R. 113 minutes.
Crime/Drama

★★★★★
POSTER Forever, until the end of time, Martin Scorsese is one of my favourites. His directing is some of the greatest of his generation, as well as all time. He has a way of captivating the audience with a subject, never letting go. As a director, the way he paces a script from the page to screen is part of why I find him so fascinating.
Taxi Driver has come to mean many things to many people. Some take it plainly as a classic film from Scorsese featuring Robert De Niro’s biggest performance, the one which propelled him into the stratosphere of Hollywood and cemented him as proper method actor willing to even drive a cab for a while to get into a character’s skin. Others recognise it as a deeply important, poignant movie that tackles the PTSD of a Vietnam vet in an usual way, not focusing on the act of war but rather what exactly happens when a man comes home to try living normally afterwards. There’s a lot to unpack. I’ll try to work with what I find most interesting, which involves the visual aesthetic, the score, and the many ways Scorsese pushes us to see the world through the eyes of our disturbed vigilante protagonist, Travis Bickle.
Rest assured, you’ll not learn anything that’s been said before. Nevertheless, these are my thoughts, and the reasons I dig Taxi Driver so god damn deeply. The reason why I watch it once every few months, each time as if it were the first.
Pic4Pic2 The slight suggestions of many psychological moments in Travis’ head are hinted at impeccably. In this film, you can see how tuned in to the character’s inner workings Scorsese found himself as a director. For instance, in the diner when Travis goes to hang with his cabby buddies, his racism – or at the very least his racist-leaning thoughts and ideas – becomes immediately clear with a brief shot of him looking at the black men sitting nearby. It’s so short, yet you can tell by the way Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman manage to make the shot look there’s a deep seated sense of racism in Travis. These come in handfuls throughout the screenplay. Even in the last couple shots we’re given this amazing series of shots where Travis looks in his rear-view mirror, that paranoia and fear, that anger, every last drop comes back fierce. If only for a moment. Enough to make us question whether a violent episode will again strike in Travis’ life (I believe it will). Same as in the diner scene. Of course we later get more of Bickle’s inner feelings, but for the time being that single shot allows us to speculatively enter his thoughts. His look, his previous glance at the man Peter Boyle’s character introduces him to, these tiny pieces add up to give us a pathway in. Although it isn’t particularly a pleasant path. The morality with which we’re confronted in the journey Travis takes, a dark and often nasty journey, is never easy to stomach. Ultimately, drawing us into the inner world of this man is a technique for gearing us up towards the big moral dilemma Schrader’s script poses. That is to say, Travis kills men in the finale who, by most accounts, probably deserve to die; they’re all complicit in prostituting a minor(s). But he also only killed those guys because he failed to murder a politician. His killing them was a diverted murder. Either way, Travis was going to kill. Can we still accept that he, in the process, did a good thing? Or is that all tainted by his lust for violence? A hard question to answer.
Pic1 Overall, the cinematography is fantastic. The editing – by Tom Rolf and Melvin Shapiro, before the collaboration between Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker – is another perfect addition. The way so many of the scenes are cut adds that definitive 1970s style. Moreover, it helps everything flow well, which is the primary goal of any editing. There are lots of instances where the editing can make or break a picture’s worthiness. Luckily, Taxi Driver is put together so that every little cut only serves to make the flow and the look and feel of the movie unique. My personal favourite instance of where the shots and the editing collide in perfection: when Scorsese’s unstable character gets into the cab he asks Travis to look up to the building across the street, and not only does he verbally guide him, the sequence is edited so that we literally follow Bickle’s eyes as they go up the building, across a couple windows until landing on the right one. It’s an impressive, underrated scene that doesn’t always get mentioned. Even better is the fact that the Scorsese character is effectively a catalyst, the antagonist who plants a truly ugly seed of violence in the mind of Bickle.
Something else worth mentioning is one of Bickle’s speeches. He poses in the mirror, drawing his gun, all the while a voiceover recites: “Listen up…” And what I love is how he screws up, then starts over. We see the well-rehearsed character that Travis has become even in his own life; he is a creature of habit, one of rehearsal and practice. This shows there’s no fixed identity to which he subscribes. He’s still trying to figure it out.
On top of the visual aesthetic, the final score of Bernard Herrmann’s career. Apparently Brian De Palma suggested Scorsese use him. And what a great decision. The various compositions have an eerie tone, as well as at times an outright scary feel. His arrangements give us a feeling of, at times, being in a horror film. All the while there’s a very dreamy feel. The rise and swell of the horns, lulling down into the background after flaring up, it’s a famous soundtrack, as well as a fresh and exciting one.
Pic3 This is a 5 star, flawless piece of cinema. I haven’t bothered to mention De Niro specifically because what’s to say? One of the most famous portrayals of an outsider on film, and one of the most famous characters in the history of moving pictures. His outrageous dedication to the craft of acting makes for something spectacular to behold. Travis Bickle comes alive with each and every viewing, every time becoming more and more disturbing, as you dissect the layers of his performance, and also the layers of Schrader’s writing.
The man with the plan is Scorsese. Naturally Schrader instilled his script with portions of his own feelings, re: isolation. However, it is the strong directorial hand of a young Scorsese which crafted this picture into an iconic piece of art. There’s too much to talk about in a single review, or a single conversation. For years I’ve gone over and over the details, the imagery, the music, every element. I’ve tried to dissect all the pieces to figure out how I feel about Travis, how we’re meant to feel, what exactly Scorsese and Schrader want to say with their work. All I know for sure is that I love this movie. Whatever else there is comes as a bonus – the deeper meanings, the imagery. In the end, the story is enough to make me stick around. Only helps the whole package is put together with expert care.

Maryland: A Post-Modern Analysis of PTSD

Maryland (also billed as Disorder). 2016. Directed by Alice Winocour. Screenplay by Winocour & Jean-Stéphane Bron.
Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy, Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant, Percy Kemp, Victor Pontecorvo, Franck Torrecillas, Chems Eddine, Philippe Haddad, Jean-Louis Coulloc’h, Rachid Hafassa, David Colombo, & Rabia Elatache. Dharamsala/Darius Films/Mars Films.
Rated PG. 98 minutes.
Drama/Thriller

★★★★1/2
POSTER
There have been plenty cracks, as of late, at tackling PTSD through cinema. Some good, some not so good. It’s all in the way you go about it. You can show many sides. Each person suffering with the disorder can experience it much differently, depending on the event which triggered the symptoms. Along comes Alice Winocour, writing alongside Jean-Stéphane Bron, giving us Maryland; a film that so deftly handles PTSD with suspense, tension, and a few good thrills.
All the elements are in place here to have made a proper thriller, filled by interesting interpersonal drama and a couple heady doses of action. First, there’s Matthias Schoenaerts, whose talents at doing more with his face, expressions, body language than many actors can manage to do with their entire repertoire. Second, Diane Kruger gives her character more weight than simply being a poorly written female character tossed in to give the plot a feminine angle. And finally you can’t deny Winocour’s talent as a director. Personally, I’ve not yet seen anything else she’s done so far. Shame, really. Because clearly she knows how to make magic on the screen. Not only is there a great look, Winocour combines the visual aesthetic with one impeccable aural feast, from sound design to the soundtrack itself by Gesaffelstein. Honestly it’s one of the better movies of its kind in the last few years. Like I said, the PTSD film has really become more of a thing again since the Invasion of Iraq, and everything soldiers have been mixed up in since. But Maryland offers up a look into that type of mind, one fractured deeply by the horror of war (and perhaps later the necessity for a life filled with violence). We don’t get all the typical moments you’d expect. Rather, Winocour shows us the genre we’re convinced is in front of our eyes, then makes it into something else more interesting.
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One of the immediate elements of the scripts is the paranoia. A technique Winocour uses that we’re given often in a film that leans towards a psychological story is that for the better part of the whole runtime we’re right alongside, behind, near Vincent (Schoenaerts). Sometimes we follow behind him. Others we’re at mid-range, as he talks to others, interacts with Jessie (Kruger) and the various people at the Maryland estate. Further than any of that, Winocour uses the cinematography of Georges Lechaptois to draw us into the sometimes hallucinatory headspace of Vincent. We’re not always sure exactly when reality ends and the PTSD working overtime within Vincent’s poor head begins. In fact, the very final shot has such impact due to the fact we’re consistently drawn into a place where the reality we witness is undermined by Vincent and his penchant for hallucinating. While the major events of the plot are clearly real, that final shot begs to question exactly how unstable is Vincent, as well as whether he’ll ever be able to fully heal again. Or maybe it’s real. You can never be sure. Although my two cents? I think the final moment is a hallucination. Essentially, he retreats into that world inside his mind when he’s all alone. Aside from seeking out violence, or violent situations, because of his time in the war – who knows what happened to him over there – Vincent likely works in security still due to the fact he needs to be near people, he has to have noise to occupy his brain. You’ll notice that while Vincent does have a couple moments of intense stress, most of the party is a distraction to him. It’s only once he gets to a quieter, less populated area of the party does his paranoia get into overdrive. Interesting little distinction.
The music from Gesaffelstein pushes certain scenes to the limit of psychological suspense. A tension ratchets at times until you think either you or Vincent are about to burst. People will pass off the music as “derivative of ’80s synth-pop” (something I actually read online if you can believe that) when it’s just electronic excellence. Plus, as I said, the music then works in conjunction with the cinematography and Winocour’s directorial choices to make the mental state of Vincent a thoroughly visceral experience. That sequence at the beach? The heavy electronic notes ramble until Vincent’s able to calm himself. And that whole minute or so is an exercise in how to draw out a tense scene. This of course leads up to another wild moment, which confirms for sure if Vincent is seeing things or if it’s all real. Nevertheless, on numerous occasions the visual and aural elements of the film combine to make the action and the drama exciting in equal measures.
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Schoenaerts is beyond a good actor. He has all the wonderful energy of a De Niro or a Pacino, a Hackman, a Hoffman (Dustin or Phillip Seymour), a Vincent Cassel or a Jean-Paul Belmondo, anybody you can think of really. He’s got the physicality to play any number of tough guy characters, already proving that in spades through his performance in my favourite film, Bullhead. However, he gets to show even more of his acting chops here (even though I still prefer that one). The way he paves a path into the world of Vincent, that inner paranoid inside the hulking exterior, is fascinating. His vulnerability is always present. He’s this big time security guard, and at the same time he has this gaping wound in his soul that comes out from time to time, piercing the outer shell of his military swagger, that built up, constructed masculinity. Again, as in the aforementioned performance, he taps into that side of masculinity, what it means to be a soldier in modern times/what it means to be a man, as well. It lifts the film up with how deep the performance goes, right to the last drop.
Likewise, Kruger does a pretty solid job, too. She plays a woman wrapped up in something that she doesn’t exactly understand. At first, she’s hesitant to treat Vincent with much more than awkward, casual conversation. Then, as events evolve and change her perception, she’s forced to rely on a man she does not know. Moreover, she has no idea of his real personality, the PTSD he deals with on a regular basis. So to watch her performance along with what we know, it makes for good excitement. Jessie isn’t a character just left helpless, she’s a mother also ready to shield her child from any danger. Added to the fact Kruger doesn’t play her as helpless, nor is she a waif-like woman. The bravery in her comes out after she plunges into a dangerous world with a man charged to protect her against whatever comes next, as she never gives up or hesitates to do what’s necessary.
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I can’t say it enough: Maryland is a god damn amazing movie. I’ve not stopped raving about it since getting the chance to watch it recently. There’s a soft spot in my heart for filmmakers who take a chance on subverting genre expectations. While many think this is a typical story from seeing the trailer, once you get into the mix and let Alice Winocour take you for a pulsing, frantic ride right next to Vincent, the irreparably damaged soldier, you’ll find out this film is something more than its foundation suggests. Schoenaerts and Kruger sell the characters, giving us more to latch onto than any number of recent movies trying to ride off the success of stuff like Taken. This film shows us the tough guy protecting the woman we’ve seen all too often in a different light. The well written screenplay takes on PTSD, using sight and sound to push the envelope. All the while serving up some piping hot action and thrills in the midst of its engaging drama.
And if you don’t find yourself impressed by the surprise of Maryland, you may have an empty chest. Not an empty head; this isn’t a cerebral drama in that there’s anything utterly life altering being presented. But the excitement is such that by that last shot, if you’re like me, you’ll want to watch the whole thing over again to pay closer attention.

Banshee – Season 4, Episode 4: “Innocent Might Be a Bit of a Stretch”

Cinemax’s Banshee
Season
4Episode 4: “Innocent Might Be a Bit of a Stretch”
Directed by Everardo Gout
Written by Chad Feehan

* For a review of the previous episode, “Job” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Little Late to Grow a Pair” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 1.34.18 AM We open on Lilith Bode (Jennifer Landon) having dinner with a mysterious man who seems an awful lot like the serial killer roaming around Banshee. He’s got some seriously weird shit going on – horn implants in the forehead, an upside down cross on his torso, a massively creepy piece on his back. Wow. And meanwhile, as Lilith cleans the dishes after dinner, he’s got himself a new victim in a secret room by the pool table. Yikes. What an opener! This might be off the wall, but it’s intriguingly off the wall.
Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 1.36.17 AM Cut back to three months ago. Rebecca (Lili Simmons) is taking care of Hood (Antony Starr). He asks her why she’s even there, why she’s running around messing with the people in that wild little town. He cares for her, or cared for her. He essentially lost Carrie, Siobhan died. Now that Rebecca’s gone, his worst nightmare has basically come true. Every woman he’s loved has ended up either disappearing from his life, or dying.
Present day. Sheriff Brock Lotus (Matt Servitto) is questioning Hood about whether he knew Rebecca was pregnant. They chat about his relationship with Rebecca. Brock treats him like any other perp, which rightfully so he should because that’s his job. But it’s harsh. Their history is storied, so I guess Brock is taking out all those frustrations he’d ever had on him now. And he’s just totally convinced Hood killed Rebecca. Only Hood knows the difference, obviously, but more than that he can tell this is the work of a nasty killer.
Randall Watts (Chance Kelly) is before the Parole Board at prison. Instead of pleading for his case, he simply rants and raves, spitting racial epithets, threats, everything at the people there to question him. So back in the box he goes. There’s something more going to come of him and the Aryan Brotherhood. I wonder if it’s all-out war.
Meanwhile back at home, Job (Hoon Lee) is having trouble readjusting to life on the outside. At the same time, Hood is starting to go crazy already on the inside. He paces his cell remembering what jail was like the first time. Carrie (Ivana Milicevic) turns up to see him for a few minutes. She even offers her house as collateral, if bond is ever on the table. For now all she can do is lend moral support.
One of the men from Watts’ parole hearing finds Clay Burton (Matthew Rauch) in his car. Uh oh. I see there are big developments coming now. Perhaps Proctor needs Watts out of jail to sort his men. Proctor’s also got Mrs. Hopewell slightly on his trail getting information from Deputy Kurt Bunker (Tom Pelphrey), though he’s also in turn under the watchful eye of Deputy Nina Cruz (Ana Ayora).
Bigger things are happening. Proctor shows up to take Hood, saying he’s paid the bail. Things get amazingly tense. At least until Special Agent Veronica Dawson (Eliza Dushku) arrives to shut the whole thing down. Oh, how things never change in Banshee, right? Amazingly Proctor gives Agent Dawson an ultimatum, twenty four hours or else he’s obviously going to start doing things his way.
Finally, back to the serial killer. He and Lilith have a twisted thing going. They like to do some weird Satanic sacrifice type play, licking up blood. All that.
More importantly, Agent Dawson sits in for a chat with Hood. Luckily his prints and all those tidbits were switched by Job way back when, so there’s no surprises on that end. But he’s still stuck in a room with a federal agent. She tries to bullshit the bullshitter, and he calls her on it. She straight up asks if he’s guilty, to which he replies “no“, and that’s that.


Carrie tracks Kai to where Calvin Bunker (Chris Coy) runs the big drug operation. She calls Kurt about it, which surprises him. They’re getting closer and closer to being found out, one or them, or both. As Carrie is pushing her luck, and Nina keeps her eye close on everyone, Bunker particularly.
As for Kai, we cut to four months ago. He’s thinking of a conversation with his niece Rebecca. He gives her the news of the Aryan Brotherhood taking care of the drugs, instead of being her responsibility. She’s not happy, as usual, being passed over constantly like a child. Sadly, their relationship was on bad terms when she died.
At home, Carrie finds Job rooting around at her weaponry. And there’s a ton of it. She has big, big plans.
The serial killer and Lilith are busy putting finishing touches on their victim, along with what seems like a congregation of people. A nasty, unsettling scene.Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 2.04.55 AM Seems like Calvin is having troubles. He’s drinking away his troubles having doubts about Watts and his deal with Proctor. There is a situation about to rear its head: “Watts has to fuckingo,” says Calvin after a shot
Job insists Carrie take him out with her, as she’s headed for trouble. He continually has little flashes back to his time abducted by those military rejects. He snaps out of it long enough to try stopping Carrie, but she wants no part of it. She’s doing what she has to do to get through the rest of her life. And more power to her. She proceeds to walk in and start setting fire to the place like a god damn wild woman! This whole series of scenes is awesome. She kicks a lot of ass, as per usual for Carrie. The music, the cinematography, Carrie’s bad ass attitude, everything clicks perfectly for another well executed action sequence. Outside Job watches explosions start and his PTSD is triggered. But Carrie gets to run away from a nice big blow up in slow motion, like a real action hero. Fucking gnarly! Dig it. Now let’s watch, see how Kai and the Nazis deal.
More Agent Dawson now. She busts in on a crack house. A raid this is not. She picks up a lightbulb pipe and puffs a good one. Can you say personal demons? Oh my. This is never good. A high ranking law enforcement official on extremely heavy drugs. She’s almost completely functional, though. Doesn’t even miss a call on her cell.
A new body has turned up. The ritually killed girl was dumped near a river. Dawson meets Lotus to check the whole thing out. A real nasty bit of work.
At home with his wife and son, Calvin goes further insane. The cracks are wearing thin. Then Watts show up at his door. And wow – Watts’ daughter is Calvin’s wife. Never saw that coming. Even crazier seeing as how Kurt’s been screwing around with her. But as for Calvin, things only seem to get worse and worse.
Better news for Hood – he’s out, with the killer striking again.
Kai can’t stop flashing back to four months prior. At his home, he sees Rebecca with a man. She almost taunts him as they head back to her bedroom. Back in the present, he drinks and drinks and drinks. He rages, too. There’s nothing good to come of that, either.


With Hood sprung from jail, he ends up in the company of Agent Dawson. Uh, Hood… man… you’ve gotta stop going with your dick all the time. At least that’s what it’s looking like to me. Another woman, another possible devastation.
Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 2.25.55 AM Nice episode. Very unexpected. The next one is titled “A Little Late to Grow a Pair” and promises lots of interesting things.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 5: “Seven Curses”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 5: “Seven Curses”
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Written by K.C. Perry

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Number of a Man” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Temptress” – click here
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On we spin into the abyss, right alongside Damien Thorn (Bradley James).
This episode begins in the darkened halls of a basement; a hospital, in fact. A little girl shows up to proclaim that the “beast” is on its way. Foreboding, definitely.
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Speaking of Damien, he’s off to the hospital meeting with a doctor who specializes in PTSD amongst veterans. He sits and waits for seems like forever. Then it’s as if he’d never even walked in, completely ignored by the woman at the front desk. Damien runs into the mother of the boy he saved on the subway platform. He’s brought up to see her husband, Alex (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who’s happy to meet the man who saved his son. Damien even offers to take pictures of his struggle, what he’s dealing with post-service in the military, and the couple agrees. It’s amazing to see the humanity of Damien, as well as is atheism. Amazing lead character.
Afterwards, as he takes pictures of Alex in water therapy, Damien almost sees the poor guy drown. As an entity lurks just below the surface. It’d be tough if the darkness in Damien were to claim someone such as Alex, whose life has already been covered in darkness. When Alex reveals he’s “ending” his life, that it’s the best option for everyone in his family, it really shocks Damien to his core. Even more than that Alex wants his suicide photographed, he wants the truth of the veterans like him told, in raw, graphic nature. But how can someone agree to photograph that? It would be devastating. Yet Alex asks: “Isnt that what you do? Bear witness?”


Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is busy trying to connect Damien to the death of her sister. All the while, Amani (Omid Abtahi) is convincing her otherwise. He lets slip the fact the old woman was in a ton of pictures, apparently “photoshopped” by Damien. Not the case, though, and Simone knows it. She’s sly. Perhaps her intuition may land her in a bad place, instead of in one of power. Especially if she gets too close to the truth.
Then there’s Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey). She’s looking concerned, asking questions about her motherhood, wondering if she “kept all the wolves at bay” and so on. This whole thing with Damien is tearing her up inside.
At the hospital, Damien’s trying to find Alex, who evades him at almost every turn. He even sees the vision of a little girl in the hallway, the one with a messed up. In the dark halls of the lower levels, Damien searches for Alex. Like something out of Jacob’s Ladder we’re plunged into the very heart of madness. Hanging prosthetic limbs, hospital attendants dealing drugs, creepy whispered voices in the background. Slowly, Damien follows Alex father down the rabbit hole.
Everywhere he goes things are strange, otherworldly. He cannot find solid footing. Each room is another strange nightmare. What an amazing sequence, both in writing and in execution, from editing to makeup effects to overall direction. Perfect, and terrifyingly upsetting, unnerving, all of it. Certainly gets to Damien, as well.


Ann makes a call: “I need two men, now. I have someone who needs a bit of housekeeping. No, no, not that. Yes, its him. Dont hurt him; too much.” An extremely ominous conversation indeed, and the fact Ann has tears in her eyes is also creepy.
Cut to Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert). She’s trying to make off with one of the Seven Daggers of Megiddo, to leave for New York and take care of the beast. Although, the patriarchy wouldn’t want that now, would they? A woman running off and taking care of church business. The mystery surrounding her character is hugely interesting. She has no time for the male-run church, either. Only as far as she needs to pretend. Which is fucking awesome.


Getting closer to some kind of truth, Simone finds the pictures at Damien’s place. At the same time he’s trying to work his way out of the hospital. He calls her right as she’s standing in his place, looking through the pictures. Worst time for her to be there – the two men Ann called for show up. They trash the place and toss everything, wrecking lights and furniture, everything. Luckily, they don’t find Simone.
But poor Amani, he’s still hanging around Ann’s protege, Veronica (Melanie Scrofano). When is his number due to be punched?
Damien goes back to see Alex. The injured vet is ready to take the drugs, to fade away. And Damien is ready to take the photographs of his suicide. An emotional, devastating moment here. What a scene. Both men struggle to do what it is they need to do; Alex with the needle, Damien shaking behind his camera.


Later on, Damien heads to the house where he lived years ago as a boy. The picture of his family still hangs looming large. He has a look around the old estate. Sits in the old red convertible in the garage. And he has his own plans for suicide. He prepares the garage, taping up the cracks in the door. He readies himself to inject drugs into his veins. The carbon monoxide is flowing.
Except something will not allow it. The hounds of Hell arrive, an entity peels away the duct tape from the door’s cracks. The Beast cannot die. He will not. Eventually, the dogs drag him free of the smoke, and he ends up waking to the night air. Not yet, Damien. Satan hasn’t gotten all he needs out of you.
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Next episode promises to be more demonic fun. This was a great one, very powerful, full of weight, and trippy, too. Next up is “Temptress” – stay with me, fellow fans!

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 3: “Thank You”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 3:
 “Thank You”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Angela Kang

* For a review of the previous episode “JSS” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Here’s Not Here” – click here
IMG_2192Back at it again, we’re coming round to see where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his gang are on their way home to Alexandria from the quarry.
He and Glenn (Steven Yeun), plus a bunch of their crew, run through the woods frightened for what is coming behind them, all the walkers loose from the quarry. Rick radios back out to the road where Daryl (Norman Reedus), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) are slightly unaware of the trouble at hand.
Naturally, former Sheriff Grimes has a plan. He makes it very clear they need to only worry about themselves. Problem is the original Alexandrians are a bit uneasy about things. Michonne (Danai Gurira) does her best to quell the fears, though, Rick is fairly vocal about things and many of the others, such as Heath (Corey Hawkins), are pretty worried for their safety. Off Rick goes on his own like the superhero he is, or wishes to be. Everyone else heads back towards home.
IMG_2193In the woods, Glenn and Michonne try leading everyone back. Unfortunately a couple people are overcome by zombies, bitten or otherwise. An errant shot by a scared group member hits someone else creating more mayhem.
Back out on the road, Daryl has a plan of his own. Always thinking, always ready. He speeds off leaving Abraham and Sasha driving in the car. “I’ll be back,” he yells driving up the road.
It’s too bad David (Jay Huguley) was bitten. He and Michonne talk on the road, he tells her about the woman he’s with – Betsy – and how they met, so on. Touching moment made even worse by the fact we know he’s going to turn, or die before that happens.
Then Glenn tells Michonne how badly he has to get home. I feel bad because something is going to happen, all due to Nicholas (Michael Traynor). Earlier on there’s a moment when he almost goes into shell-shock, PTSD, something; he quakes and his vision went blurry. Each time he comes into the frame I can’t help wonder: how will he fuck the group over this time? I hope he proves me wrong, in the best ways, but I doubt it. Highly.
Super creepy scene when Glenn-Michonne group stumble into a pet store. All the animals are dead in their cages, starved and likely dehydrated. One of those strange hit you in the chest moments. You imagine all the different little situations people (and animals) found themselves in after the zombie apocalypse came raining down. Sad, tragic, chilling.
IMG_2194 IMG_2195 IMG_2197Glenn has a plan, and I do not like it – he wants to go light a building on fire. Can’t get any worse? Nicholas offers to draw a map to a feed store, something best fit for a blaze. I’m just not at all sure of this guy, I know he’ll eventually either die or cause death because of his messed up mental state. When Glenn pulls out Hershel’s watch, I cringed a bit. A bad, bad omen. Off on his own and everything, like some ritual.
Another lone wolf on the road, Rick meets up with a small crowd of walkers. He pulls out a knife, nonchalant, then the animal Rick is back in his eyes. He takes them down bloodily, easily. I love Rick Grimes.
Heath and Michonne have a confrontation. Out comes the truth for Heath, the hard reality. She impresses on him the fact sometimes you have to do things which “make you afraid of yourself“. And it’s true, Rick and Michonne, most of their group, they’ve all had to terrible things, awful and unspeakable actions that changed the very fiber of their DNA. None of them are the same, and those people in Alexandria have not experienced anything close to that.
IMG_2198Gunfire starts to ring out back in Alexandria. This sends Glenn and Nicholas, who tags along despite my best hopes, on the run a bit faster. Meanwhile, walkers are on the move down the street, so Michonne and everyone in the pet store have to stay put at least for the time being. But soon enough a few zombies appear in a closet, Michonne chops them and causes a bit of noise. Outside, a wall of walkers keeps lurching towards them literally covering the entire street. They begin a fight to move forward, blasting out the doors and heading down the street. One of the girls gets nabbed by the living dead, her guts chomped into and fed off eagerly, zombie after zombie.
Rick made it back to the big camper near one of the sheet metal walls. His intensity is unmatched in “Thank You”. Even when he bit into that man’s neck near the end of the fourth season, even in many of the insane moments he’s found himself, Rick has never been so primal. Each time we see him, he’s getting more and more vicious. Might as well be frothing at the mouth.
IMG_2199The intensity in the episode rises further, as the separate groups – Michonne and friends, Glenn and Nicholas – rally to corners of the small town they’re in, trying to discover some way, any way out.
Glenn and the idiotic Nicholas end up trapped in an alley, backed up against a fence and awaiting the onslaught of walking corpses. They each fire into as many brains as possible, then haul out their knives for close combat. Can it get ANY SWEATIER? Shit, man. The suspense and the tension had my heart racing. Not to mention their moments are inter-cut with Michonne nearly getting swamped and bitten. Though, luckily she makes her way up and over a fence. The already bitten David is eaten alive by the horde and everyone else makes it out alive.
IMG_2206But Glenn and Nicholas have to get up on top of a dumpster in order to keep away from the rabid walkers. It’s at this moment when the PTSD swells up inside Nicholas, everything slowing down, his hearing just about gone – he tells Glenn, “Thank you“, and shoots himself in the head. They both topple into the zombie crowd and immediately find themselves engulfed.
It’s tough to tell exactly because there’s a possibility it was Nicholas… but the scene as it stands makes us see/believe Glenn is being eaten. Blood spurts out, guts are ripped with hungry hands into hungrier mouths, and Glenn screams into the air. Heart wrenching scene. I almost couldn’t take it. Is this truly the end for Glenn? If so, I don’t know… I’m pretty broken, honestly. His character has been great, amazing dynamic with several of the others, and it’ll be sad if this is his fate.
IMG_2207 IMG_2209 IMG_2210 IMG_2213Later on, Rick calls on the walkie back to Glenn, not knowing what’s happened. Of course, he gets no answer. In fact he gets no answer from anyone, except for Daryl and the road crew. He tries instilling them all with more courage, telling them not to be afraid; Abraham confirms over the radio they indeed are not. Tough bunch of people. They basically have to trust, as Rick says, the fact everyone back at Alexandria can handle themselves properly in such a situation.
Out of nowhere Rick is attacked in the camper. Two men are on in him, after wild gunshots he knocks them down, pumping two shots of his own into them respectively. He finds a jar of baby food on one of them in a sort of bittersweet moment. Then up along the side of the camper he spies people sneaking. Firing an assault rifle through the sides he annihilates them, presumably anyways. In the side mirror, it looks to us like at least one of the dead people is a kid. Things get mentally worse for Rick before the vehicle won’t start, and out of the forest come a ton of walkers.
And then, with zombies coming from every which way, an aerial shot shows the scene from way above, we come to an end.
IMG_2216 IMG_2219So god damn excited for the next episode, titled “Here’s Not Here”. Head back over here next week and I’ll have a review queued up. Until then, Walking Dead-ites!

Hannibal – Season 3, Episode 8: “The Great Red Dragon”


NBC’s Hannibal
Season 3, Episode 8: The Great Red Dragon
Directed by Neil Marshall (Dog SoldiersThe DescentGame of Thrones)
Written by Nick Antosca and Steve Lightfoot

* For a review of the previous episode, “Digestivo” – click here
* For a review of the next epiosde, “..And the Woman Clothed with the Sun” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.28.52 AMI want you to know exactly where I am. That way, you can always find me.” The words of Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) resonate through Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). He’d only just told the bad doctor how he wished not to know where Hannibal was, so that he couldn’t find him. Now, with Hannibal turning himself over to Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and the FBI, we turn over to the part of Thomas Harris’ books where the cannibalistic doctor is behind bars, looking at the world around him, as Graham will eventually come to look for his help.
Why would he need Lecter’s help?
Introducing – Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage). We’ve finally come to the Red Dragon storyline in all its glory; that is, the Tooth Fairy has finally arrived. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.29.31 AMThe introduction to Dolarhyde is unsettling. He almost orgasms while looking at a magazine with William Blake paintings in it (namely The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun). He works out in excruciating form. He gets tattooed, and Francis even looks for a set of nasty old false teeth; chomp chomp. Then, he bows in his attic in front of a Blake painting, the tattoo of the Great Red Dragon on his back. Quite a creepy opening for this episode.

I think that the end of this season, with all the Tooth Fairy/Francis Dolarhyde business, will go out with a huge bang. There’s so much creepiness happening with Armitage portraying Dolarhyde. This guy is incredible! So much of that character involves the actor being alone, wrestling with his inner self that’s busting out. The visuals that Hannibal as a show has brought really serve the Dolarhyde story well; some excellent shots including shattered glass, the moon. I anticipate the Dolarhyde portion of this season will go off well, episode after episode. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.30.28 AMNow, Hannibal is in his memory palace. He sits and listens to a young boy sing a hymn, presumably in one of the Italian churches he admires so much. All the while, in reality, Hannibal is cuffed to the floor, chained up wherever he goes, and his DNA samples are being taken. Finally, Hannibal stands in a big cell with clear glass.
BUT WAIT – TIME JUMP! Three years have passed.
Hannibal is having a chat with Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas). He envisions it as another chat in his grand old office. However, he’s behind bars and wearing a jumpsuit. That being said, Hannibal does seem to have garnered a bit of privilege; no doubt he offered information which lead to some sort of deal being struck. He’s able to have a bit of decent food and drink, some books and such.
Congratulations, Hannibal – you’re officially insane,” Alan calmly tells him in a matter-of-fact tone. Even with the perks, he’s still a mad cannibal doctor. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.30.17 AMSplendid scene between Hannibal and Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza). They eat a dessert which Hannibal once made for him, but with cow’s blood “only in the derogatory sense” he tells Chilton.
What I love about this scene is how Chilton basically taunts Hannibal with the idea of the Tooth Fairy; you can just about feel Hannibal boil with jealousy, wishing he could still be out indulging his violent, nasty little pleasures.

Part of my love for Hannibal as a television show is how Bryan Fuller keeps everything recognizable to readers, yet fresh all the same. There are twists and turns that I understand as a reader/fan of the Harris novels, however, the way Fuller brings them in and twists them in his own right, switching up characters and certain events from the books (as well as their film incarnations); it really works magically. That’s how I feel, anyways. Plus, the visual nature of the show really works with so many of the themes going on. Added to the fact it’s just incredible to watch and look at. I find it so invigorating not to have every single little bit of character/story given up through dialogue. We get so much via visuals that I think it’s part of why NBC cancelled it, and part of why a lot of people seem to trash it. They don’t spoon feed everything to the viewer. Sometimes it may actually benefit for people to have read the books and seen all the movies, more than once even. Because there are bits of character (particularly I think of Mason Verger who was explored but only partly in the series) which come out that aren’t written blatantly for us through the script and dialogue. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.31.11 AMWill Graham is a ways down the road now, with a wife and a boy he’s adopted as his own. Things seem great, only Jack shows up needing help with the new Tooth Fairy murderer out there killing families under the moon. Graham reluctantly goes along to help, mostly because his wife Molly (Nina Arianda) insists due to the fact he would have done the right thing, and she worries that this man is killing whole families.
If I go, I’ll be different when I get back,” Will tells her.
So we’re seeing a different side to Will now, the part that really began in Harris’ Red Dragon. Will has been scarred by Garrett Jacob Hobbs, he has been scarred even deeper by Hannibal Lecter. Now, as Jack comes knocking, we can see that at least partly, certainly never fully, Will has let go of that side of himself; he has tried to let go of the hold Hannibal had over him. He knows that going back to the what he does best will cause problems, but ultimately also understands he might be the best man to bring down a killer such as the Tooth Fairy.

Our old lives hover in the shadows,” Hannibal writes to Will in a letter. “It’s dark on the other side, and madness is waiting.

Watching Will Graham walk around inside the latest crime scene, courtesy of the Tooth Fairy, is a spectacularly chilling ordeal. It rings very much close to the Michael Mann-directed Manhunter scenes with William Petersen; there’s a raw, subdued quality about Mann’s scenes that I think really come through here. Not only that, Fuller shows us how Will is not coping well with having to go back into this mode of thinking. Before he is able to see the design of this killer, Will almost hyperventilates before going into GrahamVision. It’s a great, disturbing scene.
You can feel Will’s hesitation, his reluctance at having to go back into his own twisted mind to capture the thinking of another, much more violently twisted mind. Fuller knows what he’s doing, and I continue to believe that, despite my fondness for Petersen in Manhunter, there is no doubt in my mind that Hugh Dancy is the ultimate, definitive portrayal of Will Graham. Not only does TV allow for the ability to stretch out the character, really get into the meat of his development, but Graham simply embodies everything I think Graham is about; there’s that loner-ish presence, his nearly autistic spectrum attitude at times, and the PTSD of his work truly comes through, especially at this point in the series.

There’s one amazing moment as Will proclaims “This is my design” where he represents perfectly two symbols from the Harris universe: the wings of the Great Red Dragon and the wings of the blood eagle. Mostly I think it’s intended to be the Red Dragon, but I thought it was also reminiscent of that angel-like look the blood eagle attains; it has that essence of transformation, which the Red Dragon encompassed, as well. Either way – fantastic visual! Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.31.29 AM I find it another great twist on the part of Fuller to have Will Graham suggest to Crawford, instead of the opposite, that it might be best for him to go see Hannibal – “before I’m driven to it through desperation,” Will tells Jack. Not only is it fun to switch things up, this serves a great purpose: we see how addicted to that sick relationship with Lecter he truly is, we see the sickness of Will’s inability to let go by him going back. He doesn’t actually have to, he is capable somehow on his own, but there’s a part of Will that never wanted to let Hannibal out of his life. Good form, Fuller. Good form! Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.32.06 AMThe end of the episode was classic, as we see Will and Hannibal come together, face to face for the first time now in three years. It’s a perfect moment while they greet one another and then cut to black. Neil Marshall – a fantastic director in his own right – does well at the helm of Hannibal‘s latest episode. He goes for some wild visuals, but does not go as deep and out-there as some of the other episodes of the series, and certainly some of the earlier episodes of this freaky new season. I can’t wait to see more now that Armitage is in the mix playing Dolarhyde. Getting really interesting.
I love the duality between Hannibal and Dolarhyde which is being set up. Hannibal has always been the villain, but I think we’re about to see him in a much more evil, malevolent light than ever before. Awesome scene goes from Hannibal collecting clippings about the Tooth Fairy, to Dolarhyde collecting his own scrapbook of Hannibal the Cannibal clippings. Super creepshow stuff! Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.30.58 AMStay tuned, I’ll be back every week reviewing each episode. Next one is titled “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun”.
For now since this has been sadly cancelled, forge ahead with me as we unfortunately say goodbye TO THE GREATEST SHOW ON TELEVISION RIGHT NOW!