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Scream Queens – Season 1, Episode 5: “Pumpkin Patch”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 1, Episode 5:
 “Pumpkin Patch”
Directed & Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “Haunted House” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Seven Minutes in Hell” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.49.41 PMThe fifth episode of Scream Queens kicks off with Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and the Chanels – new addition Hester (Lea Michele), #5 (Abigail Breslin), & #3 (Billie Lourd) – they’re planning a Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser. Both Fergies – the Dutchess and the Black Eyed Peas frontwoman – are coming, little whoops from #3. Seems they’re mostly letting the original Chanel down, yet she’s laying down the law.
The Wives of Fallen Presidents = theme for the Chanels. Hilarious and morbid all at once. Of course, Chanel #1 chooses Jackie Onassis – stylish as she was certainly. More constant bickering between #5 and #1, though, now Hester is puckering up and kissing lots of ass becoming the new go-to-girl for Chanel #1.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.50.06 PMFar as I remember, this is the first episode we’re treated to the full-on Scream Queens theme song and an elaborate credits sequence. At first I kinda thought it was a little lame, but it grew on me. More great music comes out in this episode in terms of the overall score throughout various scenes, so I’m loving the electronic stuff from the credits to everything else. Works so well for the show’s aesthetic.
Back to the task at hand – Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer) has been abducted and everyone is gathered at the sorority, or at least everyone of interest and pertinent to anything happening. Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) gives another ridiculously foolish speech, trying to plea for an open campus instead of Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) opting to cancel Halloween and shut the place down. A curfew is enforced and the Chanels are pissed, as the Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser will not get to go ahead.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.50.26 PMHester is rounding up Chanel #5, as well as others such as Jennifer (Breezy Eslin), in order to try and oust Chanel #1 from the presidency.
In class, #1 gets bothered by her professor before getting taken out by police to one of their cars. Hilarious sequence, I loved it.
Then a quick shift to Zayday, who finds herself holed up in some basement-like room. Down the halls, we hear Culture Club, Boy George belting it out, as the Red Devil’s workshop is presented to us. He stands up above Zayday, holding a puppy, just like Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Awesomely executed homage, all around in this scene.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.51.13 PMPete (Diego Boneta) and Grace (Skyler Samuels) are worried about Zayday, obviously. But everyone else seems pretty unconcerned. In fact they’re downright horrid and could not care any less. The Chanels are all pretending to eat and way too busy to be bothered with anything else – like a twisted version of the Lost Boys from Hook except they were poor and actually had no food to begin with, unlike these stuck-up sorority ladies.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.50.36 PMWhen Grace goes for help trying to find her father, dear ole dad Wes (Oliver Hudson) is in bed with Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad). Awkward bedroom interruption scene, as Grace and Pete walk in on the two of them banging. Real good moment, though. A crack up; Pedrad in particular makes me laugh out loud often.
Even better scene is right afterwards when Chanel #1 is talking away, as if to her Chanels, yet it’s in jail. She has a few “besties for life” after having impressed one of them with Chanel-O-Ween presents last year. I mean, if you don’t find this stuff funny, totally fine. But to me, it is hilarious! I’m not even a big horror-comedy fan yet I find myself consistently in laughter while watching Scream Queens.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.51.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.51.52 PMDenise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) and Dean Munsch are bonding, hilariously. Nash is one of my favourites on this series so far, her character is way too funny. Security guard Denise is stuck on Zayday actually being the killer, though, we clearly know the difference, don’t we?
And while everyone sensible, or half sensible, is trying to find Zayday – in some way – Chanel #1 and #5 are still having at it, back and forth. Ultimately, #1 wants her Pumpkin Patch and she will god damn have it.
Roger (Aaron Rhodes) and Dodger (Austin Rhodes) help #5 light all the Jack-O-Lanterns for the fundraiser. The designer ended up making a life-size replica of The Shining‘s hedge-maze, full of snow, so we get another fun homage in this episode. As the Red Devil chases them all, Roger and Dodger give us lots to laugh at, arguing with #5, making her choose one of them. However, eventually one of the brothers gets disemboweled by the Red Devil, his guts flopped out in his lap. Sick! Awesome scene in the maze, both full of laughter and again harkening back to Kubrick’s creepy (loose)adaptation of Stephen King.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.52.26 PMThe rest of the crew – Pete, Grace, Wes & Co. – go searching for Zayday, taking along the proper weaponry and defense mechanisms. They find their way to where we saw the Red Devil earlier, in his/her workshop, and even stand atop where Zayday was kept. Is she still there? No, only the red velvety pillows on which she was last seen sitting.
Bit of a Saw homage here, as well! Lots of stuff happening. Denise and Gigi come upon a room much like something out of one of the Saw films. Another quasi-homage back to Silence of the Lambs with the Red Devil using night vision to move around a room. And just when you think the Devil is caught, they’re gone again. Or is it really how it seems? We saw Gigi in the old house where the hag supposedly lived, so can we trust her saying Gigi saying the Red Devil cranked her in the head before taking off? Hmm.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.52.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.52.52 PMZayday shows back up at Kappa House triumphant. Just in time for the big vote for presidency of the sorority.
Flashback to the Red Devil wining and dining Zayday back at the workshop, as he hauls her up from the pit where she’d been kept. Managing to stab the Devil’s hand and take off, she was able to get back in one piece.
Of course, no one believes Zayday until Grace runs in confirming the story of the lair, the romantic dining set, et cetera. Still though, the vote is on!
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.53.24 PMNice creepy sequence with Gigi walking alone, the Red Devil following behind. FINALLY – they meet! They are officially in cahoots, now we know for sure Gigi has something to do with what’s going on in the overall plot. Unsettling stuff, who knows where this will head now.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.53.34 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.53.41 PMLooking forward to the next episode, “Seven Minutes in Hell”, directed by a regular Ryan Murphy brother-in-arms Michael Uppendahl. Stay tuned for the next one, fellow fans! I’m still loving these episodes, one by one they add up to more excitement and more horror and tons of laughs.

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The Bleeding Religion of Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs

Martyrs. 2008. Directed & Written by Pascal Laugier.
Starring Morjana Alaoui, Mylène Jampanoï, Catherine Bégin, Robert Toupin, Patricia Tulasne, Juliette Gosselin, Xavier Dolan, Louise Boisvert, and Jean-Marie Moncelet. Canal+.
Rated R. 99 minutes.
Drama/Horror

★★★★★
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Martyrs is most definitely a bloody, gory, savage film from beginning to end. Of course those bits alternate, as well as the fact Pascal Laugier builds up tension very nicely at so many points. But there’s no doubt about the savagery contained within this horror movie.
There have been many gory movies in the history of horror film. From Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast and Wizard of Gore, among others, to stuff like Saw, then classic horror such as many of Fulci’s films and Dead Alive from Peter Jackson. So there are many ways in which gore can play a part in a horror movie. It can either be so-called “torture porn” (those who’ve read my reviews before know my stance on this dumb label; I only use it for ease), or it can serve a purpose of some sort. What I’m saying is that gore need not be useless, just some element thrown in to make a horror more scary, more effective. It can be used as a means to an end, rather than an end in and of itself.

To me, Martyrs is one of those films with all the blood and gore to satisfy even the most desensitized horror hounds, but even further it has heart, character, and a ton of interesting, complex story to boot. Laugier has a masterpiece of horror here and I think that the writing helps to elevate this from simply another gore picture, to a profound horror which leaves its visceral, bloody mark on the viewer long after the credits stop rolling.
vlcsnap-2013-06-10-04h02m56s84The movie starts with a quick scene of a young Lucie running in a tanktop and underwear down the street, screaming for help. She’s brought to an orphanage where she comes to bond with a girl named Anna.
Years later, grown up Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) goes back to the little house from which she’d escaped years earlier, running away bloodied and in a frenzy, then kills the mother, father, and the kids inside. Calling Anna (Morjana Alaoui), the two women then begin to try and pick up the pieces. Only Lucie seems to be having trouble with something inside the house. After the unthinkable happens, Anna is left to try and figure out how to proceed from then on. Only, the house hides more secrets, things Anna couldn’t possibly anticipate. As she goes down into the basement, discovering what amounts to a whole complex underneath its foundation, things are revealed which will shake her world and her beliefs forever.

Watching this again for the dozenth time or so now, I forgot how awesome the music was during the moments with the ‘thing’, as it first encounters Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï). It has this almost heavy metal, ominous, pounding rhythm. Very intense. Then the rest of the film there’s also more nicely composed score. Alex & Willie Cortés do the music in this film. They also did music for an interesting independent film called Eden Log, also worth checking out. This was the first time I’d noticed any of their work, and other than the aforementioned film I haven’t seen anything else with which they’ve been involved. Doesn’t matter; their work here speaks for itself. I thought it worked well with so many of the tense scenes. A good bit of music helps to increase the mood, which Laugier helps set through dreary atmosphere and even a bit of the unexpected in there, too.
947476557For the first half an hour when I saw Martyrs initially, I had no real clue what was going on. While I knew roughly that something obviously happened between Lucie and the family she slaughters, when the ‘thing’, the terrifying and hideous woman first showed up I couldn’t figure out what the hell was beginning to come out.
We get bits and pieces, slowly, then finally the plot starts to filter out. This is ultimately the greatest part about the film. Laugier puts the gore together with an innovative, refreshing story, and this makes the entire gorefest so much more worth it for the thoughtfulness on Laugier’s part.
And in the meantime, the gore and the effects are incredible! The first woman, the ‘thing’, looks out of this world. As if her outer layer of skin had literally been peeled off. I mean, kudos for that. Then comes the woman whom Anna later finds in the basement; when she’s trying to take the metal blinder thing off the woman’s skull, it actually made me cringe once or twice. I’ve seen a ton and that still got to me. Gnarly!
Perfect work in terms of special makeup effects. I have to mention Benoît Lestang – other work includes: The City of Lost ChildrenBrotherhood of the Wolf, and Amen. Then there’s also Adrien Morot whose credits range from Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming film The Revenant, to NoahX-Men: Days of Future Past, to smaller work on indies like Rhymes for Young Ghouls and Canadian television series Durham County starring Hugh Dillon. In Martyrs, these two artists come together to make some truly effective, disturbing, and nasty work. Wonderfully macabre business!
martyrs-pascal-laugier-francia-canada-2008I don’t think there’s any possible way two actresses other than Morjana Alaoui and Mylène Jampanoï who could’ve done a better job with these two characters. There’s a true, evident connection between the two women. Even though there’s not a particularly massive amount of character development, nor do we get to know either of the women overly well, the deepened relationship between Anna and Lucie is clear, as they’re both there for one another. Particularly the fact Anna obviously loves Lucie, maybe more than just a friend. Yet either way, she did so much for Lucie, to try and help her get past whatever it was that happened to her as a young girl in that awful house. So with a small amount of time, Laugier is able to setup a perfectly believable and emotional relationship between the two women while not having to focus too directly on any expository dialogue, or even flashbacks of any sort.
Martyrs2008720pBluRayx264-CiNEFiLEmkv_20140712_234042243.png~originalThis leads to another aspect I loved – the backstory for what is going on in the house. There’s so much more going on than I’d ever imagined from the start of the story. Once things kick in, as Anna is left behind following Lucie’s tragic death, they really take hold of the jugular.
After a while, the story comes out that these people were a part of some larger, obviously heavily funded, operation in which people were essentially being groomed into martyrdom. This is martyr in the sense of being “witness”, or bearing witness; in this film, it is bearing witness to what lies beyond death in the afterlife. Like a sick type of experiment – well, not like, that’s exactly what it is: an experiment. They take humans – especially girls apparently because they’re even more resistant to the pain overall; tougher and built for martyrdom – then they subject the human body to everything, to and beyond the limits of what a person can handle. I think I found all the pictures of the previous martyrs especially chilling! First, we see them almost meaninglessly as Anna walks through the newly discovered, sterile-like environment in the basement. Then later on, it’s all explained, and the gorefest which preceded everything begins to truly mean something.
Now, whether or not you think that something is a load of crap or not, that’s another story. I thought it was twisted and depraved and perfectly suitable. In a way, it subverts our expectations of horror films that get labelled stupidly as “torture porn”. We expect this is all just sick pleasures and people getting off by torturing others. Yet the deeper Anna takes us into the house and its catacombs beneath, the chambers and labs and rooms below, there seems to be more and more to this supposed torture. I thought the script was an excellently refreshing horror on Laugier’s part and it’s nice to see something with all the earmarks of a typical gory horror, which ends up being more than a sum of bleeding and dripping parts.
martyrs-05There are a bunch of ways you can look at the film, if you want to dig deep into as a metaphor or analogy of some sort. Whatever way you cut it, I think there’s a lot to offer in the story of Martyrs. You can look at it as ultimately the story of what lengths some people, under the guise of “faith” will go to figure out if there is anything beyond the pale of death. You can also look at this as how society, many groups in particular, heap all the weight and harshness of the world onto women; as the villainous lady in the film says herself, women are better at taking the pain, they have a higher threshold and tolerance for it, therefore they make the perfect candidates for this imposed and supposed martyrdom. We’re able to digest Laugier’s work in any number of ways, but regardless it’s stellar. I think you can take from it what you will – at face value, or something with a little more value under the skin.

This a masterpiece of horror, as I’ve said before. Absolutely 5 stars. Pascal Laugier has an incredibly twisted eye for horror and I think he brought all this forward in Martyrs. Truly great horror movie. It has everything from an interesting backstory, well-written characters, great performances, and on top of all that there is a near non-stop gore machine pumping out the wonderfully macabre and nasty makeup effects.
If you’re a horror fan, you need to see this honestly. I think if you take the time to let the plot sink in, take the ride for the first 20 minutes to half an hour, this will really get under your skin. Plus, if you watch it on Blu ray the sound and visual quality is extraordinary. Couldn’t get enough.
There’s a good deal of interesting work here that doesn’t often come along in horror anymore. One of the best modern horrors I’ve seen. Period.

INSIDIOUS Takes Us Back to Classic Haunting

Insidious. 2010. Directed by James Wan. Screenplay by Leigh Whannell. Starring Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Barbara Hershey. Rated 14A. 103 minutes. Drama/Horror/Mystery.

4 out of 5 stars
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There aren’t many horror movies that feel like the classics these days, except for a few. Even some of those few are mainly retro, in that they try to cultivate that type of throwback atmosphere purposefully.
The reason why Insidious is one of the true classic-feeling horrors as of late is because it’s genuinely scary – between atmosphere, tone, and a few creepy jump scares this is the real deal.
All the same, there are a couple small flaws, but none so flawed that they can ultimately take away from the greatness of Insidious.

The film tells us the story of Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson & Rose Byrne) who, along with their new baby, their two sons Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astory), move into a new house. It seems like a dream at first, as they begin to unpack and settle into this beautiful, picturesque type home. Shortly after the move, young Dalton is in the attic and falls off a ladder, hitting his head; though he doesn’t tell his parents about the last part. The next day, Josh goes up to wake his still sleeping son, except Dalton won’t wake up. He goes into a fugue, unconscious state, which the doctors refuse to call a coma, and can’t actually describe. Renai then begins to experience strange things – first there are unsettling noises, voices speaking in whispers over the baby monitor, then later she actually witnesses sinister apparitions in the night throughout the house. Josh doesn’t necessarily understand what his wife is going through, however, he gladly believes her; even so far as moving to a new house once the terror becomes too much for Renai.
Only after the second move, in a completely different house, Renai once again experiences the strange apparitions – a little boy appears in the house, changes a vinyl on the record player, and the runs away. She follows him, but then he disappears. Josh tries to help Renai, but doesn’t know how. In comes Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey), Josh’s mother, who describes a frightening dream she had about Dalton involving a creepy dark demon. She also suggests there is someone she knows who can help. Lorraine brings Elisa Rainier (Lin Shaye) over, along with her sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) – these three claim to be able to determine if spiritual/supernatural/otherwise-inclined entities are in the house.
Needless to say, things get… different.
insidious3I’m going to start with the, very few, things I found flawed about Insidious.
Though some of the jump scares were actually awesome, I think James Wan relied too heavily on the concept to push the scary factor of this film. Insidious does not need that jumpy aspect to scare anyone. Sure, there are the tough guys who always say they’re desensitized – and that’s fine – but I’ve seen over 4,000 films, a good chunk of those being horror, and I still get creeped out. I don’t mean that I’m crying or that I can’t sleep later that night or I have to keep the lights on and my teeth are chattering and I can’t handle it – I just mean that certain imagery, ideas, dialogue, whatever it might be, still creeps me out. And the fact is Insidious has enough of that without needing to make me jump with quick cuts, people behind others suddenly.
I really liked the score, and at times it was perfect, but often it played into that jump scare tactic. The title card at the beginning and end of the movie is awesome with the sudden strings, I love that. I don’t think some of the loud and startling string/instrumental stuff throughout the score served it well. Again, the movie has atmosphere and tone enough to creep us out. If Wan kept a couple jumps, cut a good few out, the movie would be even better for me; a couple of those jump scares only worked on my fat heart, jumpstarting it, and not on my fears, my emotions.
patrick-wilson-insidiousWhat really bothered me about Insidious are the duo of Specs and Tucker. Funny enough, as most know, Leigh Whannell who plays Specs is the writer of the film, and usually I find he’s a pretty good writer at that. However, I feel like the comedic bits in Insidious – the banter between Specs and Tucker as the Odd Couple Ghost Hunters, back and forth vying to be the top investigator in their field, the techie versus the artist/writer – really did no justice to the otherwise dark, ominous atmosphere and tone Wan cultivated throughout the rest of the film. Sure, there were funny parts between Specs and Tucker; Whannell and Sampson work well together as a little team. I just don’t think the comedy, dry though it is, fits in with the rest of the movie. I mean, there are plenty horrors that are either horror-comedies or they have that dark comedy aspect which compliments the horror, and some of those work great. I’m not against horror and comedy mixing. My problem is that the rest of the movie is so dark and high on the creepscale, I just think it would’ve been best to keep the small bits between Specs and Tucker even smaller; they were already only sparse, but there could’ve easily been less. The characters work well in the context if they were simply just playing two dudes into the paranormal, helping Elise (Lin Shaye). I really loved how Specs would draw things for Elise, it added an extra creepy quality to their whole process. I feel Whannell did not do the script justice by including them in the way that he did, though, it didn’t detract enough to ruin anything.
insidious-gas-maskThe script, other than what I mentioned, is solid.
What makes the script even better are the actors playing it out, along with Wan’s excellent direction.
I think having Patrick Wilson play the part of Josh Lambert adds a lot of charisma and charm to the role, which needs it, because the character is a complex one at times. Especially nearing the end, and leading into the film’s sequel. But here, he does a great job of being that sort of skeptical father at first when his wife is claiming the strange happenings are going on, and then coming around to see the truth: a scene where Josh is in Dalton’s room after Elise has explained where the boy is, out in The Further, capable of astral projection, and he discovers drawings Dalton did which all but confirm Elise’s “diagnosis, Wilson does some incredible acting and it isn’t often you see that calibre performance when it comes to haunted house movies.
Rose Byrne is great as Renai Lambert. I felt truly bad for her right from the get-go, even worse once that one creepy ghost-like presence appeared in her bedroom, and the way she sort of unravelled at times was spot on. It was a great performance. Particularly I loved the last scene, as she goes towards Elise in the chair, and as Josh, unseen, approaches behind Renai, she turns, gasping. It put the nail in the coffin. Excellent actress.
Of course you can’t have Insidious without Lin Shaye. She is tremendous here as Elise Rainier. The facial expressions, her quaint charm and friendly manner, the emotion and energy she brings – all perfect. One of my favourite moments, still, is early when she goes into Dalton’s room and sees the demon up at the corner of the ceiling, and Specs draws out what Elise sees – the way she whispers to him, you can just hear what she says, and then coupled with the actual drawing, all made me shiver.
InsidiousI can’t not mention Barbara Hershey. She isn’t in this a great deal, only a handful of scenes, but she is solid as Josh’s mother, and I’ve always loved her acting. I bring her up specifically because I love her film The Entity, and I find that Whannell most certainly was influenced by it in his writing the script. Particularly it’s the technology and the presence of the team of “experts” which reminds me of The Entity. Not like it’s ripping anything off, but I definitely think casting Hershey had something to do with that film’s influence on Whannell and perhaps Wan as well. I’m glad, regardless, because I dig Hershey, everything from the aforementioned supernatural horror to The Stranger Beside Me to The Last Temptation of Christ and certainly Martin Scorsese’s Boxcar Bertha. I only hope her involvement has something to do with The Entity because it means Whannell, or Wan, whoever, is even more awesome than I already thought.
insidious-villainEasily this is a 4 out of 5 star film. Insidious could’ve been near perfect, if only James Wan hadn’t opted to use jump scares so often, along with a healthy dose of high and heavy strings, and the Specs-Tucker duo wasn’t so comedically prominent. There are great, scary moments here without those bells and whistles. The atmosphere is dark and deep, I really found it involving and tense. A good horror has tension and suspense in spades, and Insidious has got that, if anything. You can argue against that, but I won’t believe it. The tone is set with the great atmosphere Wan sets up, from the actual camerawork to the colours of the film. It all works together.
If you’ve yet to see it, do it now. The sequel is also great, and I love it just as much as this one, maybe even a little more.