The Exorcist – Season 2, Episode 6: “Darling Nikki”

Fox’s The Exorcist
Season 2, Episode 6: “Darling Nikki”
Directed by Jason Ensler
Written by Franklin jin Rho & Adam Stein

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “There but For the Grace of God, Go I” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Help Me” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.02.04 AMWe’re seeing the aftermath following Andy (John Cho) coming face to face with the demon haunting him, in the form of his dead wife, Nikki (Alicia Witt). Little Grace is gone, so now they can be together. He’s trying his best to deny what’s happening, but it’s all too real. “Now you have me,” she tells him.
Young Truck (Cyrus Arnold) is gone, taken to another place after his seemingly violent incident recently. The others are left feeling awful, in their own ways. I worry for Harper (Beatrice Kitsos); wouldn’t it be the worst brand of fate for a girl who was made to seem possessed by her crazy mother to actually get possessed by a demon at some point? I feel like the demon’s going to have a lot of nasty fun around that foster home.
What about Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera)? Things aren’t well. The older of the two isn’t exactly thrilled his younger partner went back to the foster home. However, Tomas knows there’s a “presence in that house.” He reveals what he’s discovered. But it’s clear he’s not right in the head, letting the demons in has done him no good. He further mentions the mysterious rock he’d found in that room at the house. The priests begin seeing that the demon might’ve been here for hundreds, thousands of years, using the island as its “hunting grounds.”
Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.05.31 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.07.03 AMAt the facility where Truck is being housed, Rose (Li Jun Li) and Andy visit with him. He’s scared, too. He talks of a person in his head, telling him he had to hurt Verity (Brianna Hildebrand). Interesting that he casually identified the voice as a woman. In the meantime, Andy’s wondering about the future of his foster parenthood, the home, worried they’ll shut the place down after all that’s been going on. He also wonders if his wife is the one who talked Truck into being violent. Worse, he’s caught between reality, hallucination, and it’s getting scary.
At home, Harper and Caleb (Hunter Dillon) talk more about the “island witch” before Andy interrupts. The kids clearly feel the tension, they just don’t know why things are SO tense. Outside, Rose receives a visit from the exorcists. She mentions the stress levels, things getting wildly emotional. While it’s a bit far fetched to her still, she’s coming around. At the very least, she’s seen their honesty – they figured out what was wrong at Harper’s home, with her mother. So she knows they’ll actually investigate before assuming an exorcism necessary.
Thus, the priests come around for supper. I wonder how Nikki is going to respond, those men of God so close to her territory. She’s already tightening her grip on her husband. No telling what sort of madness is about to occur.
Elsewhere, Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) and Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) are headed to see an old familiar face: Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald). God daaamn. Lady’s looking rough, too. Integrated as a motherfucker.
Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.19.45 AMDuring dinner, Tomas says Grace, during which Andy uncharacteristically makes little silly comments. Already, the demon, via Nikki, is influencing him starting at a very basic level. Harper then brings up the fact the priests are exorcists, making things… pretty, pretty, pretttttty tense. This takes us into a conversation about religion v. psychology. A teleological sort of talk. Conversion therapy, re: Verity, also comes up from Andy; for his part, Tomas apologises on behalf of his faith, the Church, for what they did to her. But you can just FEEL THAT SUSPENSE! LORD ALMIGHTY! A little later, upstairs, Harper tells Marcus about hearing a voice in the woods, speaking to her, believing it was the island witch.
What’s Madam Walters been doing since Season 1, anyway? Right now she’s facing an IV full of holy water for her veins – super unique method of interrogation for a demonic presence – if she doesn’t give up any information to Mouse and Bennett. She says, as a “rotting socialite,” the other demons have abandoned her, she serves no purpose anymore.
Alone together, the adults at the foster home chat. Marcus is turning the screw, whereas Tomas is a bit more subtle. They talk of Andy’s fostering the children, his history. He tells them about why he and Nikki became parents. Slowly, the priests can see the demon playing with her toy. Ole Tomas is having visions, as well; yikes. And Nikki, she keeps on turning up, manipulating her husband. Tension ratchets up further when Marcus hauls out that mysterious rock from the room upstairs. Why did Andy keep it around? What does it mean? Ain’t just a rock. The renegade priest pushes more and more until Andy starts getting upset. Rose accidentally reveals she brought the priests in to help, and that’s gonna cost her, I bet.
In the house of the shoemaker there are no shoes
Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.29.33 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.31.12 AMTomas excuses himself and Marcus reluctantly, leaving Rose, the kids under that roof with Andy and his demon. The priests aren’t actually going to leave, they just don’t want to get arrested. They figure things are going to get physical, it’s the only way. Problem is Tomas is also struggling with the curse of those visions he’s having. He’s got Marcus on his side, and that’s as good as the entire Roman Catholic Church, far as I’m concerned.
In her sick bed, Maria is about to die. Bennett presses for some info before she’s finished off. They find photos of the renegade priests nearby, hearing more about the “little cub,” Father Tomas; the demons are working to take him over. Moreover, the demon in Maria speaks as Marcus, speaking of something that happened at the abbey two decades prior involving Mouse. Sounds scandalous. Mouse puts an end to it with a bullet to Maria’s brain. In a hail of glass, Bennett gets a nasty wound.
Back at the foster home, Andy gets closer to Rose, they go to bed together. Uh oh. Is the demon seducing Rose? Will Nikki kill the woman? Starts getting freaky for Andy, seeing Rose and his wife together during a hallucination. Meanwhile, there’s other troubles: Harper’s mom came back to find her. She’s taking her daughter back, by violent force if necessary.
Andy’s fully hypnotised by the demon now, just as Marcus and Tomas arrive to try saving Harper from her mother. Things are reaching a boiling point. Everyone’s lifted from the floor throughout the house as Nikki tosses Rose around the bedroom. Andy chokes Rose. In the hallway, Tomas wrestles the mother. Until Andy comes out, picking up a knife, and exerting demonic force of his own. He stabs the woman, right in front of everybody, gutting her open from belly to neck. Andy convulses on the floor, the priests approach with prayer and their crucifixes.
Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.37.35 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.45.35 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-11 at 12.46.12 AMWill they save him? Will they save the others? No telling, not yet. ONE OF THE GREATEST EPISODES OF TELEVISION ALL YEAR!
“Help Me” comes to us next week. Bite your nails until then.

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The Exorcist – Season 2, Episode 2: “Safe as Houses”

Fox’s The Exorcist
Season 2, Episode 2: “Safe as Houses”
Directed by Deran Sarafian
Written by Adam Stein

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Janus” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Unclean” – click here
Pic 1We open on the Vatican. Studying, deep in the Officio Di Esorcismo, is our friend Father Devon Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan). Apparently he’s having trouble, the tribunal wants his evidence. In a court of appeal, he presents the council his case. He speaks of the “integration” when there’s a “permanent fusion” between human soul and the demon. Then he explains his belief about those who’ve already integrated having infiltrated the Roman Catholic Church, at every level.
And then Cardinal Guillot (Torrey Hanson) arrives, to testify about his supposed demonic possession. Nobody believes Father Bennett’s story, though he’s insistent about the man: “I know who you are.” After that Guillot sets about proving he isn’t a demon. He’s poured a small chalice of water to bless and swallow back. Nothing happens. So the tribunal is satisfied. They’re only concerned with the rogue priest, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels).
Speaking of Marcus, he and Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) are still in that barn, at the hands of those angry men. And one of them’s a cop, Jordy (Warren Christie), so that makes it all the more uneasy.
Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 9.11.49 AMAndrew ‘Andy’ Kim (John Cho) is fixing up the boards over the well, explaining to social worker Rose Cooper (Li Jun Li) there’s never anything like that around their place. Although she worries, it was an intense situation. At the foster home, the kids take care of themselves pretty well while Andy has things to deal with; Shelby’s (Alex Barima) even invited by a neighbour, a farmer, to view the birth of a lamb, clearly he has an interest in medicine, maybe veterinary work.
Elsewhere, in the barn, Marcus tries explaining to Sheriff Jordy his wife Cindy (Zibby Allen) has been taken by Lucifer, “the Morning Star,” and they’re her only hope. Naturally, these men don’t believe this religious insanity. Until Marcus talks about things he shouldn’t know, by any natural logic, from being with the demon in her mind. However, if she dies, those men are going to kill the priests.
Back on that Washington island, Rose questions Caleb (Hunter Dillon) about what happened the night before. If he wanted to hurt himself. The kid doesn’t want to talk about it. Obviously something’s up. We further find out about Andy’s wife, who it seems committed suicide, or at the very least died because of deep, emotionally traumatic issues.
Marcus keeps warning Tomas of his “unnecessary risks.” He talks about a friend, back during his training, who walked into a room with a demon and did not come back out for six months. He worries for the younger priest’s soul, whereas Tomas believes he’s jealous. Oh, Father Ortega’s getting lost, and fast.
Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 9.16.15 AMThe men take Father Keane and Father Ortega to the hospital, after Cindy’s had quite a… fit. They’ve cleared the place out, but there’s streaks of blood, bits of gore in the hallways. In a nearby room, Cindy’s got a man held hostage. She’s in the full grips of the demon, contorting her body, frothing black bubbles from the mouth. She speaks in cryptic scripture-like sentences, chewing pieces out of the man’s face, gouging him open. Then she takes off into the ceiling like an animal.
So sweet. Sweet like stolen candy.”
Father Bennett’s discovering his office and exorcisms in general within the Church are being undermined; the integrated are most certainly infiltrating. At least he’s got himself a few friends left, behind the scenes. Such as Cardinal Caro (Philip Craig) who shares what he knows in private.
Poor Caleb bites into an apple finding a mouthful of squirming maggots. He spits them out, rinsing his mouth. He runs into Verity (Brianna Hildebrand), but he’s acting strangely. Later, he goes to talk with Andy – he says last night, he was with Verity, that she made him go out to the well and stand there, counting to ten. He says she left him. Is this the truth? Could Verity be possessed? Or is it him, playing tricks?
Next door, Shelby watches the lamb’s birth. Only there are issues with the delivery, the other animals even seem to know. When they remove the baby it breaks out of its sac, looking like some sort of demonic creature. And it has to be put down.
Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 9.22.08 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-07 at 9.27.24 AMIn the maternity ward, Cindy has lots of babies to enjoy. Marcus and Tomas confront her. It’s quite difficult, when she has her hands on a child, power over the others in the room. Suddenly, Tomas begins singing a familiar song to the woman, but she grips Marcus by the throat, choking him powerfully. After a moment, she sings along with Tomas. He manages to get the baby away from her. Giving his partner enough time to tackle Cindy, reciting the necessary prayers.
Shelby goes out in the woods at night. He prays to himself, though soon the forest is filled with hideous, terrifying sounds. At the foster home, Andy talks to Verity. She denies taking Caleb out there at night, admitting to taking him there earlier that day. So, who’s lying? It makes the girl look untrustworthy, given her apparent history of trouble. Andy’s worried about her, and Verity is pissed that he would believe she’d try to hurt one of her friends. Then there’s little Grace (Amélie Eve), stuck in the middle.
The priests keep battling. Except that Tomas is being pulled deeper into the demon’s mind, his own mind. He’s called to another place with it, as Marcus loses a grip on his friend. In a dark church, Tomas meets with Cindy, she points him toward the confessional. The demon tries to turn him further against the other priest, as Tomas inside and Marcus outside fight to save Cindy. And eventually, she comes back to the world in the hospital. That evening, Father Bennett calls Marcus to let him know the Vatican are coming for him, the integrated within its ranks. So this means he’s got to get moving.
This is where the priests get closer to the Washington Island, on which the foster home is situated. Where Andy’s seemed to have cleared things up, thinking Caleb went out there as a ritual sort of thing. At least that’s what he tells Rose to keep the kids together. But in the night, outside, Andy finds there are more troubling things going on around the place after finding bloody hand prints on his door, and Shelby, holding the bloody lamb fetus in his arms: “Theres something in the woods.” So fucking creepy.

Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 9.45.28 AMFantastic follow-up to the premiere. Also love how we’re not sure WHO is going to be possessed at the foster home, or who’s ALREADY possessed, because there’s a swirling bunch of events happening that takes us in many directions.
“Unclean” comes to us next week.

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

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

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

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

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

Lars von Trier’s ANTICHRIST Dissects Catholicism’s Misogynistic Roots

Antichrist. 2009. Directed & Written by Lars von Trier.
Starring Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, & Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm. Zentropa International Köln/Zentropa Entertainments.
Rated R. 108 minutes.
Drama/Horror

★★★★★
POSTER Lars von Trier is one of my favourite auteur writer-directors in the industry. I don’t care how foolish he may sound at times. Because one thing I’ve always felt interested me in his writing particularly is that there’s often a huge amount of his anxiety, his depression, which bursts onto the page. You’re never going to find a happy von Trier flick. Just does not happen. Yet that’s not to say each of his films are an exercise in endurance. Many of them deal with difficult subject matter, both figuratively and quite literally in many cases, and they’re tough to watch in their respective ways. However, as a filmmaker von Trier challenges himself and his audience at once to engage in a creative discussion about things that we don’t often talk about openly as a society. On top of that list is the discussion surrounding religion, in particular here Christianity, in terms of its negative effects. In an increasingly secular world we still aren’t allowed to criticise religion as freely as we ought to, not always. Due to extremist terrorism involving people who take Islam much too serious in a fundamental sense, most people want to turn the critical eye that way. Fair enough. But never forget about all the other hideous effects of other religions, too. If we’re pointing a finger we must point it in all the right directions.
The Catholics, under whom I grew up, have an awful, secretive organisation that has destroyed and killed enough people in its antiquity to be considered a terrorist group. To this day they’re still ruining lives, across the world, as the reluctance to actually take care of paedophilia within its ranks has made the Roman Catholic Church a frightful institution. And remember: the Bible also advocates stoning and other ridiculous violence, it is not different than the Quran in that sense it’s just that Islam grew out of a much different breeding ground than Christianity. So, for some reason, our modern society that believes it’s so incredibly progressive and critical of all things often fails to turn its eye to areas it still holds dear.
That’s why we have artists, creators, those who wish to examine aspects of society and our lives which others aren’t so keen to shine their lights on. Lars von Trier’s Antichrist dives deep and horrifically into the territory of theology, aiming his criticisms at the creation myth of Adam and Eve, their existence in the Garden of Eden, and how all that misogyny born of the supposed first man and woman created by God lingers to this day; in our actions, in our history, in our institutions. It is everywhere. And then we act surprised when that misogyny breeds various forms of violence. A tough lesson, as well as one that can extend beyond misogyny, to our views on the suppression of human beings in general.

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Pain, Grief, & Despair: The Three Wise Men

From the moment of the funeral onward, both Dafoe and Gainsbourg give shattering performances in their roles. Those shots as they march with the casket before she falls over are so emotional, very fragile represented not only with a bit of handheld camerawork. The actors, though so brief in these shots, bring all that grief to the front with little effort: Dafoe stumbles on, tired and a walloped by that grief, as Gainsbourg looks frail, falling to the ground in a heap. This is the start. We’re then plunged into an abyss of emotion, fear, paranoia. Such a thematically powerful film here becomes weighted in the central performances. After all, they’re the only people featured outside of a couple extras right at the beginning, the baby. Dafoe and Gainsbourg are challenged with incredibly unsettling character development and plot points. In fact, portions of the screenplay are so ideologically dangerous that many actors would likely have read it then promptly told von Trier “no thanks” and moved on. Nevertheless, both these wonderful specimens of the craft bring their acting talents to Antichrist, allowing accessibility and relatible qualities through them.
While Dafoe offers his best, Gainsbourg, to me, is the ultimate star. She is the vessel through which von Trier asks questions about the roots of our societal misogyny. Within the construct of the horror genre, von Trier uses these characters as avatars. They represent ideas, rather than solely one person or another. For instance, Dafoe presents us with a symbolic view into how women are treated by psychiatry in general, how our society puts women in a category where they are the mother, they are supposed to be the nurturer, these are the things which they’re told; how to act, how to feel. Nature dictates, is how they put it. Nature is what supposedly makes her the mother, the giver, et cetera. Man uses nature to say a woman has the reproductive system, so she must care for the child, and she must HAVE the child, she can’t abort it. These are only a few of the conservative-minded favourite things to use nature for, to legislate and oppress and repress.
Pic1Because of all this, She (Gainsbourg) must take the brunt of the psychological torture. She receives all the guilt while He (Dafoe) is the supposed healer. But more than that He is representative of the unhelpful man, the one who acts like the white knight in satin armour yet is inefficient at successfully helping the woman to whom he runs so protectively. He is a psychiatrist who is also her husband. He serves as the archetypal male who places himself in the position of saviour, the only man to whom She can go: here, She is riding on the whim of both his sexual desire and his professional curiosity. Therefore, Gainsbourg’s role requires much more depth simply because of her predicament, the character’s situation and eventual development. Certainly Dafoe goes through a wild ride; no doubt. But there’s an obvious weight to the performance of She that Gainsbourg shoulders impressively. She is so bound up a system of misogyny that it’s expressed through internalised misogyny through her – first it’s her thesis, then it gets deeper to a physical level where she wants to be used, to be hurt, and this goes on exponentially until She commits the most unthinkable act. However, it is an unthinkable yet symbolic act of smashing the patriarchal system used to oppress her: nature. She literally smashes – SPOILER ALERT! – the penis, then mutilates herself, all in a desperate act to not only symbolically crush the male dominance of her life, her gender, but also to rid She and He of their surface level gender identification. In a horrific genre climax, von Trier imagines a place and time without gender, and at the same time, through She and Gainsbourg’s fabulously delirious performance (and the actions He is goaded into), illustrates some of the terrible consequences of misogyny as deep rooted as that of the Catholic ideology.
Pic3 In the end, Antichrist does not work from its title in the sense of some Book of Revelations-style story. Literally, von Trier explores how Catholic theology is, at its root, anti-Christ(ian). Through a discussion on misogyny, centring around the debilitating events of the lives of She and He following the death of their child, the film exposes how fundamentally certain teachings, such as that of Adam and Eve, rely on an anti-female perspective, or at the very least an unflattering vision of the female role in society.
The entire opening sequence serves as the basis of the couple’s tragedy. It further represents the eating of the apple by Even in the Garden of Eden. Simply because the first question many have in the even of a child’s death is where was the mother; sometimes it’s where were the parents, but the immediate thought on most minds is the mother. Because of the gendered way we perceive parenting. In this case, She was having sex instead of watching her child. After that the burden of guilt is most heavily placed upon She, rather than He; from outward influence such as society, as well as from internalised feelings as a result of that outside element.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the film, is von Trier’s visual aesthetic and its direct connection to the film’s overall discussion. Every inch is textured and vivid, even the most dark visuals pop out through the screen. That darkness is perfect because it parallels the disturbing nature of the plot. Lots of great digital cinematography. Plus, there’s a nice combination of computer effects and practical effects that works well together. It’s more than that, though. There isn’t only a gorgeous, dark aesthetic throughout. The imagery is more than baseless, moving pictures. For instance, a central theme to the film is a fundamental misogynistic element in the story of Adam and Eve, which has further extended into our societal view of women. Another way to view the term fundamental is the word radical, which Marx (in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right) describes as to grab something by the root of the matter, but that “for man, the root is man himself.” Here, the root of misogyny is man, as von Trier shows us. This begins in the hospital after She collapses – the camera zooms in closely at the beautiful flowers near her bed, but, just like David Lynch’s initial zoom in on the Americana lawns of Blue Velvet, it zooms even closer to the ROOT of the flowers, the stems themselves, as well as the stagnant, dirtying water now at the bottom of the vase.
And that’s only one single shot saying so much. The imagery continues, and it continually comes through the images of nature. From deer giving bloody birth on the run, to a chaotic little fox, the creeping arms substituting as ROOTS of a tree. This is one of my favourite von Trier experiences because I feel like his symbolism has never been so strong and so brutally vivid as it is here.
Pic3 I know there are people who will be entirely, thoroughly, with every ounce of their being, be revolted once the finale of the film is done. A director friend of mine actually threw his Blu ray of Antichrist in the trash because he’d never be able to watch it again. It is a damaging, tough to watch, disturbing film. I will never deny that.
Great art can, sometimes, be that way. We can’t discount something simply on the grounds of its being uncomfortable, or something that’s scary for whatever reason. If, like some reviews would have you believe, von Trier were making a movie with the sole intent of being misogynistic, then I’d be much more inclined to dismiss it. What many accuse him of perpetuating is exactly what he’s attempting to dissect. He wants to expose part of the Catholic theology, one with which many of us have lived, some still do. No secret in his past films that von Trier is a convert to Catholicism. Through this film, he contemplates a contemporary allegory of the Garden of Eden. His Adam and Eve – He and She – are the stand-ins for the various positions of men and women in how misogyny is perpetrated, as well as its effects.
While you might see things differently, I don’t discount that. Each person brings their own biases, their own interpretations, their own emotions to viewing a film. If you see something else in Antichrist, I’d love to know. For me, it’s a 5-star piece of cinema that is often overlooked, or underappreciated and unfairly maligned. Lars von Trier is a quality filmmaker whose usual label of provocateur is not really appropriate. Yes, he is provocative. Above all else he is an artist. He is willing to take a chance, to either fail or succeed in his eyes and those of the audience. I hope he keeps taking those chances. This is an important film that requires understanding, as it deals with a topic with which the world is gripped lately. Maybe if more people were willing to call religions – ALL religions – on their hypocritical, often dangerous attitudes and ideology, the world might be a better, safer place. For now, we have art to do what it can.

Monty Python’s LIFE OF BRIAN is Religious Satire at its Best

Monty Python’s Life of Brian. 1979. Directed by Terry Jones. Screenplay by Graham Chapman/John Cleese/Terry Gilliam/Eric Idle/Terry Jones/Michael Palin.
HandMade Films.
Rated R. 94 minutes.
Comedy

★★★★★
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Growing up in Newfoundland on the far edge of Canada, I was subjected to quite a bit of British television and comedy in general while growing up. Particularly, my dad introduced me to Monty Python when I was about 10-years old. After that, an actor friend and myself would do little bits inspired by Python at our school festivals and talent shows; dressing up, putting on voices, doing anything we could to get our Python on.
When I get older and could truly appreciate a lot of the social, political, religious satire in Monty Python’s best work, their comedy became something even more important to me. Behind the silly voices and strange animations from Terry Gilliam, and all the upfront nonsense of it all, this is one masterful group of comedians. Together they’ve left an indelible impression on the face of comedy, one that can never be denied nor will it ever be forgotten.
I’m not sure what I think their best overall work is, it is a hard decision to try and make. While the group, especially John Cleese, have said they think The Meaning of Life is one of their weaker works, that’s actually one of my favourites to be honest. At the same time, everything they do is magic. Certainly, Life of Brian is undoubtedly the greatest religious satire of all-time. Their offhand treatment of the life of Jesus Christ becomes the work of genius, from penis jokes to puns to a perpetual mockery of all things Christian, Monty Python’s Life of Brian will always be a definitive classic in the comedy genre.
Life-of-Brian-1979Brian Cohen of Nazareth (Graham Chapman) is born on the same day as Jesus of Nazareth. They both diverge on different paths of life, however, Brian keeps getting confused for a Messiah. Along the way, Brian meets all sorts and kinds. Joining a resistance against the Romans in Judea, Brian unwittingly becomes more of a prophet than he’d ever intended. In fact he doesn’t much aspire to be anything of the sort, instead this leads him on much the same path as poor ole J.C.

I think it was blessed are the cheesemakers’
A-ha, whats so special about the cheesemakers?
Well, obviously its not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

slifeofbrian1979m720ptoNowadays when so many take quick and easy jabs at religion in all its forms – whether it’s the Roman Catholics or the Muslims or the Evangelical Christians or Santería – I always love to go back to some of the best religious satire there is: Monty Python.
While there are most certainly more than a share of cheap jokes, as there usually ends up being – and I always love some good quick and easy shots – the intelligence overshadows it all. The way Python takes on issues which are far ahead of the time is insane.
I love the scene where Eric Idle’s a man who wants to be a woman; every single time that god damn scene kills me. Idle himself is funny enough. The way John Cleese and Michael Palin play off him is riotous.
Afterwards when Brian Cohen meets the members of the resistance, I can never stop laughing.

Brian: “Excuse me – are you the Judean People’s Front?
Reg: “Fuck off – Judean People’s Front. We’re the People’s Front of Judea! Judean People’s Front.
Francis: “Wankers.569a0f76685d4499afc21fbbbd504727

Part of the strength of Python, obviously, is that there are so many characters they can play with the lot of them on board. However, I really do love the fact it’s Graham Chapman who plays Brian. There’s something about an openly gay man satirising the life of Jesus Christ that warms my heart. Especially seeing as how this was made just before the turn of the decade in 1979. Part of Chapman’s love of satire towards Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church I’m sure was born out of the injustices he faced as a young gay man growing up in 1950s/60s England. A lot of great bits throughout the whole of Python’s work, but so direct here with Chapman as Brian Cohen. He’s perfect, too. Plays that sort of sweet idiot that Brian is so well. He can play such a range of different comedic parts, this type of character he nails spot-on here.

Brian: “I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly.
Girl: “Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: “What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right – I am the Messiah!
Followers: “He is! He is the Messiah!
Brian: “Now, fuck off!
Arthur: “…..how shall we fuck off, O Lord?maxresdefault

Then there’s some cheap stuff as I call it – but I don’t mean that in a bad way. I simply mean the quicker, easiest jokes. And still, under the control of Monty Python even the silliest little jokes can bring about the biggest laughs.
For instance, Michael Palin’s whole bit as Biggus Dickus is beyond funny. Apparently he was actually daring the extras to laugh – they were told to stand and try not to. So there’s greatness there. I can only imagine what filming this, or any Python work must have been like.

Palin is a good one for those bust out laughing bits. When Brian talks to the old man chained to wall – Palin in a raggedy costume and beard – it brings tears to my eyes. He goes absolutely mad, ranting and raving to Brian, laughing and grovelling for the Romans. It’s an awesomely satirical little scene.
Pontius Pilate is another hilariously played role from Palin, included is an excruciatingly misunderstood lisp. When he has Brian Cohen struck in the face by his Centurion guard (Cleese), the way Chapman reacts to the slap is unreal. I don’t know why, it simply cracks me to pieces. Cleese keeps on slapping Chapman, and the reaction is priceless each and every time. This is another example of what I say when I mean the cheap jokes – it isn’t an insult, I’m only referring to the easier, less thoughtful jokes. They’re still some of the funny moments which get me most to be honest. Even while there’s enough well-done satire to fill your boots, those dirty, silly jokes get me as much, or more.
Another classic bit is Brian with the aliens. I mean, only in Monty Python would you get that intergalactic stuff mixed in with the religious aspects of this story! Perfect.
When the spacecraft crashes and Brian walks out, the guy says “Ooh you lucky bastard“, which for whatever reason strikes me extremely funny. I always love the British accent and the way it can make things funny sometimes simply by virtue of how it can sound; even while something in essence may not be funny, the Brits can make me laugh with how they say certain things, the inflection and purpose in their voice.
So many incredible scenes throughout Life of Brian. I can never have enough time to go on about every last one. I’d like to at least go through a few more.
In the market, when Eric Idle’s character won’t let Brian Cohen walk away without haggling it’s pure gold. Just plays upon all the socioeconomic daily lives of people in the supposed time of Christ.
Need to mention John Cleese more because his subtle, laid back comedy styling is impeccable. His exchange with an old man Matthias is a riot!

Matthias: “Could be worse
Centurion: “What you mean, could be worse?
Matthias: “Well, you could be stabbed.
Centurion: “Stabbed? Takes a second. Crucifixion lasts hours. It’s a slow, horrible death.
Matthias: “Well at least it gets you out in the open air
Centurion: “You’re weird
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The greatest part, in my opinion, is the way the crowd of people latch onto and follow Brian Cohen. It’s a perfectly satirical take on the mob of Christianity, people gluing themselves to Jesus Christ and his words, following him blindly and foolishly even in the most silly, irrelevant rituals culled up out of nowhere from nothing but perceived clues and nonsense. Amazing stuff illustrated perfectly as they fight over the left-behind sandal of Brian, as he runs away from the mob believing him to be some type of saviour/the Messiah. Makes me laugh uncontrollably watching them get into a tussle over his shoe, pondering the meaning of what its being left for them to find might reveal in the grand scheme of the teachings of Brian Cohen.

Brian: “Who cured you?
Ex-Leper: “Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along, minding my own business, all of a sudden, up he comes, cures me! One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone. Not so much as a by-your-leave! ‘You’re cured, mate.’ Bloody do-gooder.lifeofbrian

The scene with Brian jumping in the hole with Terry Jones playing a man who’d taken a vow of silence for eighteen years is COMEDY GOLD. As Cohen jumps down, he lands on the man’s foot prompting a loud shout. Then of course the man figures what the hell – he shouts and screams because the vow is broken. I mean, if that’s not a nice laugh, what is? Little silly bits like this take on a whole new form with Python. What might seem like a dumb joke elsewhere is hilarious because the Pythons SELL IT! Always their triumph: each and every one of them is a master at selling the comedy. This is merely one scene where we get to see that so clearly. A ton of those throughout Life of Brian.
But then even further, the crowd following Brian mistakenly believes he cured the silent man of his 18 years of silence. It puts me into fits each time. The whole scene at that juncture is beyond funny.

Reg: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?1DgyEbHUGtDdPoGdZcKYq8Z2AkF

There are too many instances of perfect comedy throughout the film. When Brian wakes up, opens his window naked to a ton of followers in the street, I’m tearing up. Again and again, this movie puts me into fits of laughter. I’m a die hard Monty Python fan and I’ve got no problem giving this a full 5 star rating. Not only that, Life of Brian is absolutely the greatest religious satirical comedy ever made, and perhaps the best that ever will be made. It came at the right time, with the right laughs and jokes included, from the right group in Python. Nothing can beat it.
If you have not seen this, please do soon. This will never feel dated to me, it’s so perfectly relevant because it takes on a lot of funny things within Christianity, and religion in general at times. So do yourself a favour, check this comedy out and your funny bone will thank you!

NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN’s Religious Parable

Nothing Bad Can Happen. 2014. Directed & Written by Katrin Gebbe.
Starring Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Alexander Gersak, and Annika Kuhl. Celluloid Dreams.
Not Rated. 110 minutes.
Drama/Thriller

★★★★1/2

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While I usually try not to go too deep into personal theories of a movie, if it appears to me as metaphorical, Nothing Bad Can Happen feels very much to me like a film meant to be taken as metaphor, and with that, I feel like this review will mostly focus on my subjective interpretation.

The film follows a young man named Tore (Julius Feldmeier) in Hamburg who attempts to build a new life in a religious group, The Jesus Freaks. After having a seizure during a rock band’s performance, a man named Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak) helps him out, and brings him to safety at his home. There, he begins a relationship with Benno and his family. Eventually Tore even moves into a small guest area at Benno’s home. However, things soon become darker, more sinister for Tore than he could have ever anticipated. A battle of wits begin, as Benno begins to mentally and physically torture Tore. Though the young man clings to his faith, Benno becomes more sadistic as time goes by, ultimately inflicting some of worst punishment possible on Tore.
Toretanzt_JuliusFeldmeier_SwantjeKohlhof_TORE_SANNYThis is apparently based on a news article director/writer Katrin Gebbe read. While I have not searched out the article in question, I still believe Gebbe uses the, at times brutal, story as a way to discuss religion. In particular, she looks at how those who are constantly, and consistently, abused over and over by their religious institutions still keep their faith – often going so far as to excuse the abuse. Furthermore, the actions of Benno as the movie progresses make you realize he was initially trolling for weaker prey when first meeting Tore – once he saw the younger man seizure, he knew this was his victim. Also, you can obviously realize after some time Benno is not Christian any sense whatsoever – much how I feel about those who abuse their power to rape and abuse those without it using their religious position to conceal their actions (those people do not truly believe in anything – religion or otherwise).
23_Toretanzt_0026652_ASTRID-AnnikaKuhl_TORE_JuliusFeldmeier_BENNO_SaschaGersakThis method Benno uses is exactly how the abusers, using religion as their cover, choose which person to subject to their torturous desires. Much like the rapists using the Roman Catholic Church to cover up their heinous sexual assaults on countless, seemingly never ending boys and girls. And still, the abuse reigns on as people continue to bow at the altar of these corrupt churches. Without ruining the ending, there is very little optimism in the finale of Nothing Bad Can Happen – there is a half and half, bittersweet sort of finish. One side speaks to us so that we can learn from all these abuses, and hopefully some who face this abuse also can get away eventually. On the other side, we see how faith can get someone through terrible, horrifying trauma, and yet at the same time could really destroy one’s self altogether. As much as Gebbe based this on supposed true events, I really do believe this is meant to be a metaphor of the larger-scale abuse going on throughout many religions – not simply the Catholics, as I mentioned (I was personally brought up Roman Catholic due to my mom and I living with my grandparents for the first 8 years of my life & when finally given the chance by my mother and father a few years later I gave up church for the rest of my life). Every religion has, and is capable of, abuses, and this almost says to me alone that religion is not as wonderful and miraculous as those who practice their individual religions regularly would have you believe. Nothing Bad Can Happen explores all these things, and more, through a very dramatic film while also incorporating real savage moments of psychological horror.
14_Toretanzt_IMG_9721_TORE_JuliusFeldmeierThe absolute best part of the film is its central performance. Julius Feldmeier plays Tore brilliantly. The whole film is quite subdued and what I call “quiet” – there isn’t any action, it’s all based around the drama of the script.  In these “quiet” films (I’m not generalizing – just stating for the purpose of this review), I find actors often get to really get into the scenes more, in terms of character. Sure, action stars can really get into their own characters, but in films like Nothing Bad Can Happen where the plot does involve or incorporate any big set pieces, special effects, or other things et cetera et cetera, actors have nothing else except for the dramatics of their character and the scenes to focus on. All of the subject matter here is very heavy, and Feldmeier gives a great performance as a young man who is determined to find his way through life, and everything that comes with it, through his belief in Jesus Christ. As somebody who does not take part in organized religion, an actor has to do some serious work for me to empathize with a character who is almost blinded by his faith. Regardless, Feldmeier does such a good job as Tore it was impossible not to feel for his character. With every degrading act Benno unleashes on Torre, both the determination and pain coming through in Feldmeier’s performance tightened the tension of the film, as well extended my empathy tenfold for the character. Really great stuff. I believe this is the first feature film Feldmeier has been a part of, and I do hope to see him again soon after this one.
303541.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxNothing Bad Can Happen didn’t reach Canada until 2014. Because of this, it is absolutely one of the best films I had the pleasure of seeing this past year. I’ve included it on Fathersonholygore’s Best of 2014 List. There’s something about this film which captivates me, and I believe most of that is due to the fact Katrin Gebbe gives us a dose of reality while also spinning the story into a much larger fabric representing the universal abuse of the weak, and possibly gullible, followers by their own religious institutions.
NOTHING-BAD-CAN-HAPPEN-excluisve-620x400The film itself is a real great work of drama with thriller elements, and a healthy dose of horror, to my mind anyways. This is absolutely a 4.5 out of 5 stars for me. I can’t wait to get a copy on Blu ray because there are no doubt bits and pieces I missed when I first had the privilege of seeing the film. Highly recommended. Keep an open mind – an inquisitive, free mind – and think about the bigger implications of Nothing Bad Can Happen. A real powerful work from Katrin Gebbe – someone who I again hope to see more from in the near future.

William Friedkin Gets to the Pulse of Fear with The Exorcist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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