LEATHERFACE: An Iconic Killer’s New Awakening

Leatherface. 2017. Directed by Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury. Screenplay by Seth M. Sherwood.
Starring Stephen Dorff, Finn Jones, Lili Taylor, Nicole Andrews, James Bloor, Sam Strike, Sam Coleman, Vanessa Grasses, Simona Williams, Christopher Adamson, Julian Kostov, Jessica Madsen, Boris Kabakchiev, Ian Fisher, Velizar Peev, & Dejan Angelov.
Campbell Grobman Films/LF2 Productions/Lionsgate
Rated R. 90 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
Pic 1There’s a lot to live up to for this movie. I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely into the idea at all, in any way when it was first announced. Once I found out the French filmmaking duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury were directing, I was sold. Their brand of horror is efficient, creepy, often brutal and raw. Perfect to try handling an entry in the ever expanding franchise of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Leatherface is an interesting film. Its screenplay, by Seth M. Sherwood, fits in as a prequel to the original Tobe Hooper classic, directly, though liberties are taken in a fresh way to make the character of Leatherface and his family feel new. What the audience winds up with is a road movie, slasher-style, a Texas Chainsaw horror with a bit of mystery as to the identity of who’ll later become the iconic killer himself.
What’s best is that beneath the horror are questions of identity. The origins of the character are changed, just a touch. The core remains the same. The saw is still family. We’re just given a new look at how a horrific serial killing maniac like Leatherface can come about, giving horror fans an entirely different yet still familiar glimpse of the Sawyer clan and what makes the infamous killer tick.
Pic 2

I wish I was somebody else

At its core, Leatherface explores how the character could become a killer in a real life, gritty family situation. Whereas the original, played by the gloriously brutal Gunnar Hansen, was a mentally challenged man who turned into a psychopath, this Bustillo and Maury film explores a story where a relatively sane child grows up in a harsh, terrible environment, whisked away by the government to an equally dismal, institutional setting where his worst urges are only buried with corporal punishment/abuse and medication, then experiences events which ultimately diminish his mental capacity.
The main theme is identity. A fracture occurs in the killer that’s irreversible. Leatherface goes from a boy taken from his family to, later, a young man who’ll do anything for his family, including things he wasn’t capable of before. He grows, yet in a way he fractures and becomes a smaller, more primitive version of himself.
While Mama (Lili Taylor) gets a big place in the warped psyche of her killer son, Dorff’s cop character also plays a role in his identity. He’s hellbent on revenge for the death of his daughter at the hands of the Sawyer clan. He stamps all the family as killers, depraved lunatics. This puts the boy who’ll transform into Leatherface in a psychiatric facility, fermenting the parts of him that’ll turn psychopathic down the road. The renegade cop further plays his role in being the one to tear up Leatherface’s boyish good looks, necessitating the need for a mask. And, boy, is the first mask ever a crude one, perfectly fitting in a utilitarian sense.
Pic 4

Whatd I tell you about outsiders? They fill your head with lies

Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of my all-time favourite movies, horror or otherwise. Its impact on horror and the indie film industry as a whole is undeniable. What I enjoy here is that Leatherface doesn’t try to reinvent every last little bit. Sherwood’s screenplay opts for a few of its own unique additions, though the central aspects of Hooper and his film remain, as well as his and Hansen’s original vision of who Leatherface was meant to be, a faceless man with only the identity imprinted upon him by his family, by killing.
If you don’t want a backstory, then don’t watch a prequel. Simple as that. This story is definitely interesting. It’s got plenty of good gore, some intense horror movie kills expected of a film in the Texas Chainsaw franchise. It doesn’t retread all the same ground, giving us a change from the archetypal view of the film’s antagonist as a mentally challenged man gone homicidal. I love the original character, but I also love this one. On top of it all there are several wild scenes, including a horror-style Pulp Fiction moment in a diner, the origin of Leather’s mask, a quick tour around the Sawyer house, and one brutish kill at the end.
Watching and wondering which character will later become Leatherface is a blast, the reveal isn’t necessarily altogether unexpected by the end. Although how they give the audience that final treat is fantastic. In between is a horrific road movie that plunges the depths of the tortured human soul.
Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.37.20 PMGive this a chance and Leatherface, he’ll get under your skin.

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Slasher – Season 2, Episode 7: “Dawn of the Dead”

Netflix’s Slasher
Season 2, Episode 7: “Dawn of the Dead”
Directed by Felipe Rodriguez
Written by Amanda Fahey

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Drone” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “The Past is Never Dead” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 9.35.34 PMFive years ago. Talvinder (Melinda Shankar) and Dawn (Paula Brancati) are close. Talking together about the future, what it’ll be like fully entering adulthood, how they should move in together.
A macabre match cut takes us from Dawn twirling her fingers through Tal’s living hair to the dead hair on the corpse’s head. Then she winds up toppling the remains over onto her.
Meanwhile, Peter (Lovell Adams-Gray) and Keira (Madison Cheeatow) have found the snowmobile, covered in blood and gore. Plus, no gas, no Renée (Joanne Vannicola) – well, at least not much. There are bits left. And did the killer leave Mark (Paulino Nunes) alive? Yes, he’s alive, but definitely busted up bad from getting hit by the snowmobile. Not only that, the killer’s got their gun.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 9.37.08 PMSuspicions are high, Keira wonders if it was Dawn who could be the killer, even if Peter isn’t convinced. Jump back to five years prior. Dawn and the other counsellors teach kids to do all kinds of stuff, like archery. She was particularly close to one dude, Ryan. This is also when we see Owen talking to Tal, pressing her to go out with him, being creepy.
Oh, and Owen? He’s Wren.
Guys dont like it when girls upstage them
Nothing gets any better at the retreat. Peter thinks Mark is the killer. Mark finds one of the pictures from the files on Renée, and it’s Peter. So, you know he’ll be thinking Peter’s the killer. And it’s a vicious cycle. The isolation up north has got them all starting to go a little crazy, on top of the fact a serial killer is murdering them all, slow, steady.
Five years ago again. Tal and Dawn talk about the latter sleeping with a married man; her stepfather, in fact. She “wrecked” her own home, doing it to get back at her mother. At Camp Motega, she didn’t want to add to her “body count” – interesting choice of words – and so she intended on taking it slow with Ryan. This is where we see her bonding, deeply, with Tal.
At the cabin, Mark puts a pill in Peter’s beer, as they all sit around trying to forget their grim reality, at least for a moment. They try a game of Never Have I Ever. Seems like Peter has to drink a lot, he’s done some shit, y’know.
He has a flashback to five years before, he and Tal lying together out in the woods. She tells him about moving in with Dawn when they go back home, what they ought to do about their relationship. He made some promises, ones he appears to want to go back on. He wanted to have the cake and eat it, too. Breaking her heart a bit. Later, she listens to Dawn talking lovingly of Ryan, and she laments the love she just lost.
And the drugs are kicking in on Peter. He stumbles outside, so Mark locks the door. Dawn was a part of it, of course. Fucking treacherous. Keira’s the only one who seems to not believe in what the others are sure of already. Things are getting really ugly.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 9.56.35 PMGo back five years. Dawn wants Tal to talk her up to Ryan. The trusted friend goes to him, trying to work her magic. He asks if Dawn ever mentions him. She gives him a generic answer, not talking Dawn up whatsoever. Tal’s doing what she does, acting deviously behind the backs of the people who seem to like her; she lies about Dawn’s stepfather, making it out to look like she was molested. God damn, girl! Nothing to get killed over, not even close, but lord, she was a piece of work.
In the woods, Peter is stumbling, drugged on ketamine, out in the cold. At the cabins, Wren and Judith (Leslie Hope) hook up in one room. In the living room, Dawn tries getting closer to Mark, in a genuine way, talking to him about her past. She also admits that all that’s happened is because of her, her friends. She wants to own up to the guilt.
Five years ago, once more. Tal lies to Dawn that she’s not Ryan’s “type” because he likes really skinny, small girls. This clearly devastates her friend. That night, Dawn gets drunk and starts getting a bit wild in front of everyone, talking to Ryan. But he mentions the stepfather stuff, and then she realises her friend is not actually her friend.
Out in the woods, Peter comes across a shrine, bloody, candles lit. Above it is a mannequin, hanging by the neck. Back at the retreat, Judith finds the gun in Wren’s jacket; the one the killer supposedly took from Renée. She nearly uses it on him, deciding not to at the last moment. Uh oh.
Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.10.34 PMPeter goes back to the cabin, more information now, but when Dawn lets him inside Mark runs at him, knocking him out. After that Keira is pissed. She believes maybe Mark is the killer now. Yet there’s a piece of Andi’s hair in Peter’s pocket. So strange, so creepy.
Go back again, five years ago. Dawn and the other girls plot against Tal. They go from silly little pranks, to more serious things. They want to “scare the life out of her.” They decide to put her on trial, leaving her in the woods to walk home alone. The game was set.
Present day, Judith’s having trouble, worried Wren is the killer. She considers blowing her own brains out, until he finds her out there. He confesses his love for her. She says she loves him, too. However, when Mark comes running towards them, Wren shoots him in the head. Dead. Holy shit.
Not much to say now. One last episode. “The Past is Never Dead” comes next, and we’ll finally understand every last little secret, every betrayal, all of it.

Slasher – Season 2, Episode 5: “Out of the Frying Pan”

Netflix’s Slasher
Season 2, Episode 5: “Out of the Frying Pan”
Directed by Felipe Rodriguez
Written by Lucie Pagé

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Night of Hunters” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Drone” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.34.19 PMFive years ago. Talvinder (Melinda Shankar) is building tents, having trouble, so Noah (Jim Watson) helps her out selflessly. She comes on to him a bit, conning him into doing stuff for her. The picture of the hideous acts which later occurred is being painted, one stroke at a time. Not long later, Noah sees Tal heading into the woods with a beer and friends. Peter (Lovell Adams-Gray) and him both have a thing for her, obviously the former has a better idea of what was going on; he says “move on.” A whole fucking mess amongst a group of friends.
Now, Noah’s lying in a bus after being raped by Glenn aka Benny (Ty Olsson). A far cry from hoping to get laid by a fellow counsellor. Horrific. While his captor sleeps, he picks up a kettle and tries beating him with it. That doesn’t go over well, at all.
Out at the camper, Peter and the others have found the corpse in the freezer. They look around to find any clues about who it was, who owns the camper. They find the actual Glenn Morgan’s ID.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.36.34 PMJudith (Leslie Hope) tends to Megan’s dead body when Wren (Sebastian Pigott) shows up. He believes they’ve opened “Pandoras Box” and that anything could happen now. I’m still unsure about him. Out in the living room, Dawn (Paula Brancati) is still standing accused of poisoning the woman, denying it to Renée (Joanne Vannicola) and Mark (Paulino Nunes). This is when Peter and Keira (Madison Cheeatow) come to tell them about Glenn’s true identity, which isn’t totally received so hot right away. But some of them will go looking for Benny.
Speaking of, he’s strangling Noah to death. His victim manages to toss a bit of fire around and lights the place up, trapping his captor inside the bus. Benny gets out, not before Noah escapes for the time being.
Cut back to five years ago, when the group of friends has taken Tal out to the forest, calling her out. Andi (Rebecca Liddiard), Dawn, and Susan (Kaitlyn Leeb) lead them, warning of a “punishment.” She’s sentenced to spend a night out there alone with nothing, just what she’s wearing. She pleads to Noah, getting no help. Present day again. Everyone’s looking for Noah now, the bus burning in the distance. They hear him screaming for them. Benny takes off further in the darkness. He goes back to the cabins, breaking through the window and strangling Renée until she’s unconscious. Judith runs and hides from him as he stalks her through the halls. Thankfully, Renée puts a bullet in the big guy, incapacitating him for the time being.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.45.23 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.49.03 PMOle Benny’s in trouble, tied to a chair, helpless. When Mark comes out with food and water, he has questions for him. He asks about the snowmobile, the poison in the food. He claims he’s “not a killer.” He fesses up to one murder, naturally, that he’s Mr. Ironside, saying that killing Glenn wasn’t a planned thing. Meanwhile, Keira and Dawn help Noah get his clothes off and clean up. Such a terrible, tragic scene. This is when the women discover he’s been raped, as well.
Back to five years ago again, as Tal chases after the group pleading for them not to leave. They taunt her while they go. Peter protests, whereas Noah calls her a “skank” and starts a fight with him, calling him “Benedick Arnold.” Before they leave, Tal brings up something about Susan, a girl named Marcy Rae; they made out, and when Susan outed her she killed herself. Plus, Tal trots out everyone’s secrets, blackmailing them to take her back out of the woods. Noah yells at her, prompting her to call him pathetic, going hard at him. So he runs after her, angry enough to kill, maybe?
Present day. Renée, Peter, and Mark discuss what to do next. They realise that Benny may not be the serial killer. So, what’s their best option? Could lure the real killer using him. Renée’s fixing to get answers of him, believing he killed Antoine, and she starts slicing the guy up with a box cutter. And she’s barred the door so nobody can get inside. Soon, he admits to it just to try ending the torture. This is when she peels a strip off his arm, followed by cutting his throat open.
Pain changes us
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.09.38 PMOutside, Noah finds a fire going. But it’s not any of his friends there. He’s stumbled onto the parka killer, who tosses gas on him and lights him ablaze. Immediately we cut back to Noah charging after Tal that night five years ago. He tears her shirt open, then he’s about to rape her right on the truck. Peter rushes in and hauls him off. Holy shit. This sends Tal running into the woods, the others shocked at their friend’s actions. Peter punches him in the face before going after Tal. This has everyone actually worried about the girl instead of murderous.
Present day once more. Everyone wakes up, wondering if they’re safe since Benny is dead. Nobody can find Noah, though. Peter and Keira head out to look, coming to the remains of the fire: Noah on top of Tal’s skeletal remains.
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.21.04 PMSuch a great season. I am obsessed. Just gets more grim with each passing episode. Hard not to love if you’re a slasher fan. “Drone” is next.

Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 10: “Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 10: “Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Dennis Lehane & Sophie Owens-Bender

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream” – click here
* Recap-reviews of Season 2 to come on release, as it’s been confirmed the show’s renewed!


A different opener for the finale. Suddenly, in the dark, former Dt. Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) wakes to “Danny Boy” playing. Nearby is a trail of blood smeared through the hallway, out into the kitchen, everywhere. The side of the house is covered in a streak of crimson. Outside is a wheelbarrow with an eviscerated corpse in it. In the trees, a bloody leg. The Mr. Friendly jingle plays. In the driveway, Bill sees his daughter as a girl, Holly (Justine Lupe), and Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) all eating ice cream with the ice cream man himself, Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) who greets him with a pleasant, sinister smile.
Then there’s Ida Silver (Holland Taylor), she takes his gun, tells him to go “have some fun” while Mr. Mercedes serves him up his favourite fudge treat.
But then his daughter’s taken by Brady. When he goes back inside, everybody in his life is dead, murdered brutally. He’s quickly attacked by a rabid, beast-like Brady who tears him apart, ripping his flesh, eating him. Terrifying fucking nightmare.
Such a great contrast to the other episodes, all of those so similar, the same song, the record player, the breakfast. Now, we’ve come to the end of Season 1, and Bill’s in a vastly different, scarier headspace than he was before, worried for the safety of everyone near him.
IMG_0330At the police station, Dt. Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence), Dt. Izzy Torres (Nicole Barré), Captain Brooke Hockney (Debra Monk), and Bill watch the confessional tape Brady recorded before the supposed end. As he rants about his delusions of grandeur, his mom, the “lead boots” of conscience against which his life raged, the lie that his mom died because she wanted to turn him in – he can’t even admit HE was the one who accidentally killed her, a pathetic human. He goes on about history as “scar tissue” and gobbles up a bottle of pills at the same time. Until it looks like he passes out, falling into the lens.
Bill’s thanked afterwards by Capt. Hockney for his involvement, as well as tasked with helping out more while they check for bombs at his place, other places Brady might’ve left a bomb behind. They also get a bit of help from Lou Linklatter (Breeda Wool) concerning where Robi might be.
At the electronics shop, corporate douche Josh (David Furr) realises the killer is the one who setup a display recently, to attract kids and their parents. Nothing’s found. However, better safe than sorry, right? Bill’s house is safe, too. He and Pete have a beer on the front step, chatting, the latter admitting they found an escape tunnel down in Brady’s lair. Quite possible he’s out, alive, plotting.
And yes, he is, of course. Like we all knew. So sinister. He’s got another bomb, he’s putting the finishing touches on it. He has a wheelchair, as well. Underneath which is where the explosives are neatly hidden, nobody any the wiser about its capabilities. Oh, shit.
IMG_0331Josh goes looking for Robi. When he notices his car’s there and nobody answering at home, he calls the cops again. Pete, Izzy, and Bill come to check the place. In the apartment they find no one, nothing. Although Josh notices after a moment there’s no rug near the kitchen like before. So Izzy begins doing minor forensics, spraying luminol around a few areas, locating the presence of some interesting fluids – a large splash on the wall, the floor, some reaching out to the kitchen cabinets. A macabre, fluorescent crime scene.
This is when they call the morgue, to confirm the corpses, and discovering that most likely it was, indeed, Robi left in bed with Mama Hartsfield. So Cpt. Hockney and the rest try determining what Brady’s next move is, what to do in the preemptive hope they can combat the killer.
Speaking of, Brady’s shaving his head, going with a new look. Is he planning on a suicide bombing mission in that wheelchair? Simultaneously, the cops are wondering which events might be targets, a gala, another career fair event, so on. Without a specific threat, they can’t cancel anything. So they add security, they’ll keep their eyes open. Problem is even the shaved head could throw them off his trail, for just enough time to detonate those explosives.
Poor Bill’s haunted, seeing the images of his nightmare over and over. He also believes there’s no way Brady is going for another career fair, just as WE see the killer in his wheelchair, wearing glasses, bald head and a suit to boot. Brady’s at the gala, same place as Holly. Dear lord, no. Bill knows something bad will happen, he rushes for the gala, calls Ida and tells her to get someplace safe; our former detective knows the killer’s going for people he cares about.
IMG_0332In a portable outhouse, Brady opens the wheelchair and produces the bomb. Out on a stage, a speech, a look at the Edmund Mills Art Center opening in the community. In the crowd Bill looks hard for his man, he stumbles onto Holly and asks her to get out of there fast. And Jerome, he’s there with his family. So many in peril.
Lou’s also kicking around, having a drink. Near the bathrooms, she runs into none other than Brady in his disguise: “Shouldve worn sunglasses,” he quips. He stabs her in the stomach before hopping back in his wheelchair. Right at the same time Jerome takes the stage, introduced for his achievements, his getting into an Ivy League college, as he himself introduces a young choir. THE TENSION IS KILLING ME!
The killer doesn’t finish Lou off, so she shouts for help. Bill hears her calls, finding her, and getting somebody to call for an ambulance. She tells him about the disguise.
And wheeling into the middle of the crowd Brady readies himself to detonate. Onstage, Jerome starts clearing people out after Holly alerts him. Bill points his gun into the crowd as they run, Brady holds the detonator ready. But before anything can happen, Holly cracks the killer in the face, beating him relentlessly, and Jerome grabs the device. All to “This Little Light of Mine” in the background. Amazing sequence.


In the aftermath, Holly and Jerome are heroes. Bill’s been vindicated already, as his hunches over the Mercedes Killer case turned out to be entirely warranted. Meanwhile, Brady’s a vegetable in the hospital, our former detectives goes to see him every day: “If he ever flatlines, Ill show up and cremate him myself.” He leaves the hospital after whispering into Brady’s ear, making clear he isn’t going anywhere no matter if the killer’s brain dead or what.
There’s still a flicker. We can hear The Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” playing, the radio in his brain hanging on and on. I wonder…
IMG_0336Loved this finale! Wow, just filled with atmosphere and suspense, tension to fill your boots. Season 2’s been announced already, so I’m very interested if they’ll take into account Finders Keepers, or if they’re going for a whole angle of their own. Exciting stuff to consider in the interim.

Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 8: “From the Ashes”

AT&T Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 8: “From the Ashes”
Directed by Laura Innes
Written by Bryan Goluboff

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Willow Lake” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 12.13.38 PMIn the aftermath of Janey Patterson (Mary-Louise Parker) being blown to bits, former detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) wakes to a morning harder than those before it, a little less light in the world, and he’s not as inclined to hop out of bed and get ready. Things have changed. Well, except for Mr. Friendly’s Frosteeez driving through the neighbourhood, Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) at the wheel.
So, what does the ole copper do now? Keep drinking, for one. Try to keep the bad thoughts at bay. He decides to have another chat with Mr. Mercedes on their private chat. This is when the killer begins digging in, hard. Upstairs, the killer’s mother Deborah (Kelly Lynch) is watching the news about the car bombing, trying to cook and be normal. Part of me wonders, if mom is going to be his ultimate downfall, in some shape. It’d be perfect for the Oedipal-type tragedy this story becomes in its best moments.
And Bill, he still has Ida Silver (Holland Taylor) looking out for him, though he tries to make her realise that people who get too close to him are in danger. Last thing he needs is to get further involved with Ida, in any kind of relationship, putting her in harm’s way. Just another thing to eat away at him.
At the Hartsfield house, Deb’s cooking away. She eats a piece of meat out of the pan to test it. Not long afterwards she goes into near convulsions, throwing up, bleeding. Why? Because remember those burgers Brady made, the ones with the rat poison? Yeah. That’s what she used to cook. When he finds her, she’s in the midst of a brutal death. He tries to make her throw up, only to watch her die there on the kitchen floor in front of his eyes.
Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 12.20.51 PMMommy’s dead, so the son goes about taking care of the mess, disposing of her body. Actually, he doesn’t get rid of it. Not yet, anyways. He drags her upstairs, putting her to bed and covering her with a sheet. Laaawd, it’s Norman Bates all over again!
Pete Dixon (Scott Lawrence) is looking for his old partner, concerned about Bill. Our man’s rushed off, wanting to see his daughter Allie (Maddie Hasson), telling her about what’s happened, the killer, that anyone connected to him could be in the line of fire.
Josh: “We sell the future.”
Brady: “Here? The toilet doesnt even flush.”
Things at work, they must go on for Brady. Corporate douche Josh (David Furr) is there to get things rolling on the transition to a super store. Lou (Breeda Wool) shows up for a minute; we find out she’s sued the place, plus she throws an excellent bit of lesbian-flavoured sass right in Robi’s (Robert Stanton) face. She’s actually there to talk to her friend. Brady called her, apparently, frantic. He makes up a story about his mom’s “angina” and passes it off. But she’s too smart to take that as the truth.
Down at the station, Bill talks to his buddy Pete. Things look bad because the vehicle Janey was in that exploded was registered in Bill’s name. So now the retired detective has to explain his relationship to her, why she was in the car, all that. For the record. Meanwhile, the Mercedes Killer gets home to Ken Brock (Tom Nowicki) standing on his doorstep, a FedEx package in his hands. He was meant to have lunch with Deb, she obviously didn’t show up. So the son makes up a story, she went with a friend to Indiana; “an old dream they had.” Yeah, that’s not suspicious, at all.
When Bill gets home he sees a Mercedes in front of his house. Gun drawn, he goes to it, and inside sits Holly Gibney (Justine Lupe). She needed to make sure he was okay, after Janey’s brutal death. No matter how isolated he tries being, Holly, Ida, they genuinely feel concern for the man. Across town, Brady’s left with nobody, isolated to a dangerous point. Without mom, there’s nothing for him.
Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 12.52.50 PMWhen Holly decides on staying the night at Bill’s place, avoiding her mom, she symbolically takes the place of his daughter, sleeping in her bed. We also find out the tortoise belonged to Allie, the reason why he ever kept it around. In the morning, the retired detective finds Holly working on the computer, having invited Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) over to crack more of the case.
They come across sound bytes on Olivia’s computer. The voices she heard? They were genuine sounds from the Mercedes murders, victims, recorded by the killer, sent to torment the poor woman. He was running a remote program, playing the sounds whenever he wanted, driving her mad. But, someone had to at least get in at the laptop once, physically, before working remotely. This prompts Bill to take more evidence to the police.
When Holly and Bill go to Pete, the cops suss out more information. They ask about where she bought the computer. This may lead back to the store where Brady works, if she had any work done there. The noose could tighten for the killer. Saddest part is that Bill has to sever ties with Holly, send her back home; he can’t let his shit hurt her. A tragic parallel to Allie, whom he had to turn his back on in order to help her. Bill’s life is a long, circular shitstorm.
In the meantime, Brady called in sick to work. However, Robi needs another corporate suck-up, the super store changeover, blah, blah, blah. He’s offended that the young man won’t come in. And I see a very rough confrontation between the two coming, soon.
Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 12.53.03 PMMr. Mercedes may be gearing up for something big, an arts centre opening prompts him to dream up a “celebration” of his own. He even shares this idea with mother; yes, Norman is alive and well in modern day. He lies in bed with her, talking about when he “had a girl once.” The only other lover aside from mom. He says he wanted to know about a different life. Yet now, he only wants the one he had with her. At least until he goes out in a blaze of horrific glory.
Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.07.33 PMFantastic, insane, brutal episode. That death scene was one of the most terrifying things on TV in a long, long time. Cannot wait for more, there’s so much happening and poised to happen there’s going to be a big release of tension coming up. Not sure who’ll snap first, Bill or Brady.
“Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream” is next week, promising something deliciously evil.

Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 7: “Willow Lake”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 7: “Willow Lake”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Dennis Lehane

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “People in the Rain” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “From the Ashes” – click here
Pic 1Again, love the repetition of each morning Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) experiences. Every day is exactly the same. Shows how he’s just going through the motions. His only added change are the bits and pieces of the Mercedes Killer case he works on. Across town and then right into the neighbourhood is Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), working from afar yet right out in the open, too. A tense situation that’s bound to explode sooner than later.
The glimpses of Brady in his basement are the true views of his life we’re offered, we see him as a real person down there. We see his true self, the one he has to hide even right upstairs with his mother, from his spastic dancing to Radiohead to his bomb making and other eerie behaviour, facilitated by a cabinet full of explosives, discarded cellphones, and other treasures. Plus, he’s watching Bill. There’s nothing the old detective can do that’s out of view of Mr. Mercedes.
Another interesting note: Brady and Bill are each haunted by their past; for the former it’s his dead brother, the latter his estranged, alcoholic daughter. So to watch their parallel paths in life – one a serial killer, the other a cop, though equally damaged – is very compelling.
Pic 1ABill has to “eat shit” because he needs computer help, which means he needs young Jerome (Jharrel Jerome). He feels bad, but isn’t willing to totally eat that shit. However, he does well enough to fix things between them. He needs to dig through Olivia Trelawney’s laptop. He’s getting Holly (Justine Lupe) to help them out, too. Turns out the girl’s got computer game, she knows just about as much as Jerome. She’s both quirky AND smart.
Scary stuff now, as we see Deb (Kelly Lynch) at home, drinking, where she starts picking through her son’s things. Curious about his life. She finds one of his hats. And then finds his clown mask. Oh. Shit. Afterwards, she also digs under his mattress to find a journal with terrifying, sexual drawings on the front. A veritable horrorshow, his mind.
At work, Brady hears from Lou (Breeda Wool) there’s a shake up in the store. They’re all brought into a meeting where one of those douchey corporate guys Brady met at the restaurant gives them a verbal lashing. He berates them brutally, going “fullon fucking Mayan.” So, he decides on firing Lou randomly. Security even comes to escort her out of the building. Spineless Robi (Robert Stanton) looking on shocked. The guy’s lucky Brady didn’t slaughter them all.
Then there’s a semi-awkward situation over at the funeral parlour, Silver’s – yes, Ida (Holland Taylor). That puts Bill, Ida, and Janey (Mary-Louise Parker) in a room together awhile. Slightly uncomfortable.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 11.44.00 PMDeb, along with the old journal she apparently stashed away, found a length of rubber hose. She wonders what Brady does with it, asking him face to face. She likewise shows him the clown mask, asking why he’s got it hidden in the closet. He goes on a rant about running away with the circus. She keeps on prodding, looking through the journal, lamenting not having him “committed” years ago. Deb wants her son to have changed, from the budding psychopath that clearly existed long ago. Problem is, he budded. Fully bloomed.
The next morning, Bill and Janey have a difficult discussion. She’s headed back to California after the funeral, which doesn’t sit well with him. He does his best to act normal. Clearly he’s wounded, believing their relationship to have been more meaningful. “If I stay Ill fall in love,” she says. Not something she’s prepared to do after having been deeply wounded herself once upon a time. Sad on both sides.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 11.51.13 PMJust outside the funeral procession, Brady watches on. Janey gets up to do the eulogy. A really sick moment, Mr. Mercedes right there, watching the family of the woman he drove to suicide grieve over another family member. So twisty and turny and unsettling.
Scarier still? Brady has planted another bomb. In Janey’s car. As she drives out of the parking lot he sets it off, the car exploding while Bill and Holly sit not far off. The killer drives away, leaving the wreckage behind, as well as Bill, left there with the burning remnants of the woman he’d started to love on the street, in the car’s twisted metal.
Wow. Absolutely devastating.
This episode finally ratcheted the tension up, high as possible, before just drilling us, hard. I’m fascinated by this series. I expected an event like this, though didn’t see it coming here. Devilish, tragic. I wonder how Bill will ultimately deal with this, I know he’s going to feel responsible partly. He’ll blame himself for Janey being around him, he’ll be paranoid of everyone near him winding up dead.
“From the Ashes” comes next week. Be prepared.

Mr. Mercedes – Season 1, Episode 5: “The Suicide Hour”

AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Suicide Hour”
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Bryan Goluboff

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Gods Who Fall” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “People in the Rain” – click here
Pic 1Another day, another hard wake to the world for Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson). Repetition, this is Bill’s life in retirement. He wakes up, washes off the booze of the night before, tries to eat something sensible. Meanwhile, Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) is around the neighbourhood in his ice cream truck, hacking into everything the former detective owns.
Then Brady takes the time to over to where he ran all those people down. He listens to soft music. Afterwards, he decides to have a quick stroke because the memory’s leaving him horny. To the thought of running those people over, the blood, the screams, the cracking of bones, mixed with moments of him and his mother Deborah (Kelly Lynch) in their incestuous relationship, he brings himself to orgasm, and quick. Yuck.
There’s a lot of tension between Bill and Ida (Holland Taylor), now that she’s seen him cosy with Janey (Mary-Louise Parker). And even though he has bigger, more pressing issues on his mind, he could’ve at least talked to her before moving on to Janey. Later when he gets home it’s as if someone has been there. The needle is down on a finished record. A cut up apple with cinnamon sits on the cutting board in the kitchen. Hmm. On his computer he looks at surveillance video, noticing time missing. “In my fucking house,” he mutters. Things are gradually getting more suspenseful. There’s a big, ugly payoff down the road.
Pic 1AFlashback to when Brady came across Olivia Trelawney (Ann Cusack). He was taking items out to her car for her, a good employee. This is when he casually imprinted the codes for the locks using his little universal remote. The meagre beginnings of a vehicular serial killer.
When Brady gets to work Lou (Breeda Wool) shows him the story about Ryan the Nazi being killed on the road by a truck. She also says she had “fantasies that he was dead.” Clearly she didn’t cause it; we know who did. What he’s doing, his murderous impulse, is causing real life anxiety for those around him, let alone the deaths of others. Oh, and Robi (Robert Stanton) wants to groom Brady to be the new manager after he moves on up the corporate ladder. Can you imagine him in a managerial position?
Bill’s trying to figure out his computer troubles with Mr. Mercedes, so naturally he talks with Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) who tells him about all sorts of other technological things. For a guy like former Dt. Hodges, one step away from Luddite, this is all nonsense jargon. But still he does listen. He’s also got his old pay Marlo Everett (Bill Kelly) digging into things, mentioning that whoever’s moving things around at Bill’s place is working similar to Charles Manson, whose favourite pastime was “creepy crawling.”
Back at the Hartsfield home, Deborah laments not getting to see her son more. Like they used to, y’know. He’s busy working so much, and making rat poison burgers for a supposed BBQ. I would not go anywhere he invited me. Fuck that.
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 12.51.06 PMJaney’s mother Elizabeth (Katharine Houghton) is having a lucid day, so Bill goes to the home where she lives to speak with her about Olivia, her death. She tells him about her friend “Gerald” who was her pen pal, saying he and Olivia had the “same demons.” Of course mom knows better, she knew Gerald was Mr. Mercedes. Then her daughter went off the deep end, saying she must “go with him.” Only he didn’t go. When Elizabeth figures out it was Bill who hounded Olivia for the police, she drives him out. This also puts him and Janey at odds a bit, as she too believes he was part of her sister’s guilt.
So now we’re figuring out what those rat poison burgers are for: that sweet, sweet Golden Retriever. As Brady prepares to lay it out for the pup, he’s just barely spotted by Jerome before he can take off. That kid is TOO smart not to, eventually, piece things together more. You just wait.
Once Brady gets home he finds firetrucks, smoke billowing out of the place, fire alarms ringing. Things are fucked up. They’ve had a few false calls to their place, resulting in a fine. Or else they go to court. Drunk and likely pilled up Deb didn’t hear anybody knocking, or even the alarm.
The split with Janey has Bill deep in the bottle. Across the way Ida’s still keeping an eye out, occasionally. Jerome got a digital camera for him, though. Something he can mount. He also mentions to Bill about the strange car, the guy who drove away. And just like everyone else Bill pushes away he does the same with the young kid. Sadly, everyone’s only trying to help. He seems intent on self-destruction.
Bill: “What does it look like Im doin‘? Im drinkina whiskey, pacinup and down. Reflectinon being a total fuckup, ‘cause thats what fuckups do.”
During the evening, having a drink, Bill gets on the Blue Umbrella to chat with Mr. Mercedes. They do chat. Very antagonistic, very venomous on both sides. Although our former detective has a casual, nonchalant disposition. Until the killer begins poking at personal details, such as his daughter, who’s changed her last name to her mother’s maiden name, who is a drinker like him. He wants Bill to kill himself. Except our man battles back with taunts about his sexual abuse, his likely past. This gets further under the killer’s skin than he gets under the cop’s.
Was it mommy?” asks Bill: “Is it still mommy?” The jabs get harder, deeper. The old detective gets more confidence by the minute, particularly after he discovers how bad it hurts Mr. Mercedes to talk about his mother. I wonder, though… will this provoke Brady one step too far?
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.18.26 PMWell, the situation at the Hartsfield home isn’t exactly any better. Both mother and son are equally scarred, traumatised by the past, by their relationship. Mom being rejected by her boy sends her into a tailspin.
And neither is Bill’s life a dream. He wakes to the same recurring nightmare every single day, destined to just keep chasing after the killer, unsure if he’ll ever catch him or if he’ll die trying.
Great series, and every single episode finds some new aspect of King’s story to bring out, as well as add to, deepen, expand. So many solid episodes that are building to a wild, unhinged, surely bloody confrontation. Just no telling how many others will suffer first. “People in the Rain” comes to us next week. Vroom, vroom!

Scream Queens – Season 2, Episode 4: “Halloween Blues”

FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 4: “Halloween Blues”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “Handidates” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Chanel Pour Homme-icide” – click here
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After the bloody events of Chanel Oberlin’s (Emma Roberts) would-be wedding to Chad Radwell ended with his death, she weeps over the body, as everyone wonders exactly what’s happened. Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) is of course ready for the whirlwind of another serial killer in her midst. Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) continues with her conspiracy theories, as everybody goes a little mad. #5 (Abigail Breslin) oversteps her boundaries and sets Chanel off on a rant against them before being carted off in a fit of madness. Taking the lead is Denise, but can she be trusted? I’m not saying she’s a murderer, though she is completely god damn foolish. We do get a window into Chad and Denise’s roleplaying, involving some Brokeback Mountain stuff. Weeeeird.
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So Denise dresses like Mrs. Chad Radwell for Halloween. She and Munsch go to see the Lecter-ish Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele), who spouts mostly ominous bullshit.
Everybody gets together for Chad’s will – his family died on the way trying to stop him from marrying Chanel. Haha, dig it. Turns out that Chad – in sound mind and “bitchinbody” – leaves his estate to Cathy Munsch. Wow. And he changed it just before dying. Hmm, coincidence? Red herring? Either way, Chanel absolutely flips out, charging at the accountant reading the will before beating the shit out of him a bit.
But there’s still Chanel-O-Ween! She decides to send out terrifying gifts this year to separate herself from the masses: “For my disgusting hippo fans.” And they positively eat it up to ridiculous lengths.
In other news, Dr. Brock Holt (John Stamos) checks Chanel out, she’s not feeling so hot. From mind to body. Can’t be nice having another serial killer in her life. Is it Dr. Holt? Or maybe the literally dead Dr. Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner)? No telling for sure, not yet.
At home Chanel wakes up after taking the colloidal silver Brock gave her for a rash on her leg – to find her skin is blue. As if things couldn’t get any worse for the rich white girl.

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The night before Halloween, Denise is setting up decorations on one of the hospital’s floors at the nurse station. Then the power goes out. Uh oh, Mrs. Chad Radwell! In the darkness of a nearby room the Green Meanie comes at her. They tussle a bit, but you know Denise can kick some ass, boy. She gives the Meanie a run for his money, eventually pulling a gun. Although the green killer makes off without taking a bullet. This sends Denise to get Hester: she’ll be wearing an anklet for the Halloween party, then later she has to give up the killer’s identity. Even gets a Jason Voorhees mask to put on. Denise then hilariously goes on to mix up Michael Myers as being played by Mike Myers, y’know, after Wayne’s World. Love her and love the dialogue the writers give her.
Lots of shade thrown around between Chanel and Denise, as they stand toe to toe in their costumes. And again, more of the roleplay between Denise and Chad – this time, American Beauty. Christ, this episode is awesome and funny, too! Lots of movie references flying around usually. This episode is on another level, and doing so wisely.
Finally, Chanel goes to see Holt about her tinted skin. He says there’s no cure. Yikes! Well right now Holt also has himself an alibi, he can’t be the killer – he was boning Munsch while Chad was killed. Holy christ, Cathy gets around, doesn’t she? Good on you, ma’am. But now Chanel is taking off, sick of all the bad luck she’s immersed in. Then someone in an Ivanka Trump outfit turns up, silent, trying to murder her. No change in that luck. Oh, and it’s Hester underneath that mask. Where’d she get it, though?

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Tsk, tsk, tsk. #5 is outed now. Zayday (Keke Palmer) and #3 (Billie Lourd) reveal they helped #5 find herself an Ivanka Trump costume earlier in the day. GASP! COULD IT BE? Nah, we know the truth. However, everybody turning on #5 – more so than usual – isn’t any good. It doesn’t look good having her left all alone, especially during the Halloween party. Chanel warns her plainly: “If you show up to that party, well kill you.”
October 31st hits and the party is on. Zayday is Isis – no, not like caliphate-style, like the Egyptian goddess. Again, hilarious! Then#5 turns up as Ivana Trump, not Ivanka. They make a super funny and kinda disturbing point about the Donald and his daughter. Then there’s the fact Ivana is still wandering around, Hester in disguise. She disappears through the halls when a Halloween party full of people turn up puking and going crazy. Seems that they were bobbing for apples and ergot (a fungus) was growing on them, making people quite sick. Although, Zayday doesn’t believe that diagnosis from Dr. Holt, she challenges him.
Meanwhile, Denise and Chanel are conducting a Ouija board ceremony, fighting over the dead Chad Radwell. He event contacts Chanel over his goat, the one he keeps for milk – being lactose intolerant and all. He also tells Chanel he loved Denise more than her, but doesn’t quite get to tell her about the killer before everyone rushes off somewhere.
And all alone is #5 just as I suspected. As if Ivana Trump hasn’t been through enough married to Donald all those years. Eventually Ivana comes across Ivanka. Hester doesn’t kill #5. She lets the Green Meanie do it instead. Ohhhhh shit.

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With the help of a girl dressed as Snow White, Zayday and the others figure out what happened at the party. She saw the Green Meanie changed out the apple bobbing water: the water got dosed, as I suspected again, with DMT. Yowzahs, very wild. Anyways, things are settled at the hospital. For the time being. But maybe the Meanie didn’t want to kill him. Perhaps he needed “a distraction,” as Zayday notes. Now, there’s trouble.
Denise comes across a stabbed #5, and once more she’s also confronted with the Green Meanie. The killer tosses a punch bowl all over Denise before shocking her with some paddles. Is she dead, or can her heart take it?

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An awesome, exciting episode. Really dig this season so far. Next up is “Chanel Pour Homme-icide” and I bet we’ll get more Hester, too! Can’t wait.

DAHMER: The Eerie Psychological Biopic

Dahmer. 2002. Directed & Written by David Jacobson.
Starring Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Artel Great, Matt Newton, Dion Basco, Kate Williamson, Sean Blakemore, Christina Payano, Tom’ya Bowden, & Mickey Swenson.
Blockbuster FIlms/DEJ Productions/Peninsula Films.
Rated R. 101 minutes.
Biography/Crime/Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2
screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-7-50-50-pmI’ve long been interested in the criminal psychology of serial killers. In no way am I ‘fans’ of them, as certain sick puppies out there describe their interest. What’s so compelling is trying to figure out how the human mind could possibly warp so savagely, twisting into the wretched form we find in serial and spree killers, vicious murderers, criminal sociopaths, so on.
Jeffrey Dahmer is someone I studied in high school, as well as university. I wrote a long paper on him for a Law course, which brought me into the hideous world of his crimes. He is one of the most reprehensible of all American killers; that’s saying something, too. A lethal concoction of alienation, an inability to accept his own homosexuality as normal, and a deep, sick desire to find a willingly compliant sexual partner led Dahmer into the darkest path possible.
Director-writer David Jacobson’s Dahmer is far more powerful than most give it credit for, and if this was your first time seeing Jeremy Renner – as it was for me – the quiet intensity of his performance is a massive part of that power. The film takes us headlong into obsession, cannibalism, on a journey through Dahmer’s memories of a dangerously wasted existence.


Starting out we get a brief view of Jeffrey Dahmer (Renner) working at the Milwaukee Ambrosia Chocolate factory, where he was employed in January of ’85. It isn’t simply the job that makes this starting point interesting. A few minutes into the film Jeffrey sits in the break room. He has three chocolate men (Santa maybe) in front of him on the table, as he starts in on chowing down on a sandwich; saving the chocolate fellas for a succulent dessert. An uncomfortably scary moment. A bloody, chocolatey metaphor for his crimes, like we’re about to see a horrific Willy Wonka prequel. Perhaps the best way to start out the events of Dahmer’s life.
What’s scariest to me about the screenplay is how well it makes Jeffrey appear outwardly normal – quirky, odd, though normal. And the disarming looks of Renner, his charm, they him all the more worrying; his seemingly normal qualities to the outside world are what many peopled noted about him later in real life. Before the first 15 minutes are out, the viewer’s been immersed in the criminal life Dahmer crumbles into, already too familiar with his nasty routines. The first turning point is when Jeffrey eyes a department store mannequin, long before those who don’t know his real story discover his affinity for mannequins – and why – further leading into his ultimate fantasy of an unmoving, quiet sex partner, or a sex zombie, as Dahmer himself believed.
screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-7-53-58-pmI love that Bruce Davison plays Lionel, Jeffrey’s father. He and Renner have wonderful chemistry. Their scenes together ratchet up the suspense because there’s this wait, a hope that maybe Lionel will discover these atrocities. Yet, as we know by the real story, this will never come. For instance, the box scene where father and son, alongside grandma, argue over a little box the former kept as a boy – clearly, Jeffrey has something inside he doesn’t want his father, or anybody, to see. There’s so much tension here, a lot of emotional acting from both men. A real heavy dose of personal drama, likely akin to what Lionel truly experienced with his son. It’s the revelation of what’s actually in the box afterwards which truly shocks, disgusts, and the tip of that Dahmer iceberg suddenly grows into a mountain.
However, the gay bar scenes are the most unsettling. This is one of the really psychological scenes, as Jeffrey seemingly steps outside of himself. He sees the image of himself, a bit younger and nerdier, standing alone across the street. He then heads inside the gay bar. While this is an exploration of Jeffrey’s sexuality, worse than this it is his discovery of the perfect hunting grounds. Jacobson directs this to perfection, as the alienation of Dahmer becomes painfully clear. The social awkwardness of Jeffrey is evident, and then his menace reveals itself after he starts initiating non-consensual encounters with gay men he drugs. Moreover, Jeffrey longed for a willing sexual partner, one that goes beyond consent: he wanted a lifeless man, to use, to not be judged by, and to degrade at his own will. The sexual violence here is sickening, although there’s a slight bit of restraint. During this sequence, Andrea True Connection’s “More More More” playing over top, the editing and the lighting, everything is so eerie. We watch as Jeffrey finally transforms from that awkward, shy, closeted gay man into an unfeeling, drunk, hideous monster right before our eyes. Later, the monstrous qualities of Dahmer come through even better – the lighting in his apartment, his bedroom and bathroom specifically, are tinted red, like a men’s room in Hell’s basement. And while the movie wears on, the lighting gets darker, as we get a further grip on this man’s evil.


What I love most is the screenplay. Jacobson gives us a full look at Dahmer’s life in the way that we follow the killer through his mind. Flashing from past to present, back, forth, is not only a narrative choice. Jacobson gets the viewer into the headspace of Dahmer. The past events of his life obviously affected his psyche deeply, and so we slip in and out of memories – mostly bad to rotten – in order to make the film feel like an experience of Jeffrey’s life through his thought process. Notice the significance of the events which bring him back to specific stories. Through this, we see the uncomfortable pain that at least partly dragged Jeffrey into a life of depraved murder.
Dahmer is a hugely underrated bit of horror. The entire film as a whole is upsetting because you’re forced to both watch Dahmer commit horrible crimes and simultaneously peer through the window of a despicable man’s undoubted, deep sadness. You’re never asked to like him, but the narrative makes us have to watch his story from a certain standpoint. A great move from director-writer Jacobson.
There’s a lot to enjoy about such a macabre horror, from cinematography to the music (which really helps the atmosphere; the score and soundtrack alike work well in combination). It’s the imagery I find most striking. So I leave you with this: watching his first murder, Jeffrey becomes a tragic sort of figure (even if he was an inexcusable cyst on the human race), and skipping to the present timeline of the film after witnessing that event we then see him cut a dead man open, reach inside, all to literally try touching someone’s heart. Maybe not a pretty image. A deafening image in its own right.

ANGST: You’re in His Head & He’s in Yours

Angst. 1983. Directed by Gerald Kargl. Screenplay by Kargl & Zbigniew Rybczynski.
Starring Erwin Leder, Robert Hunger-Bühler, Silvia Rabenreither, Karin Springer, Edith Rosset, Josefine Lakatha, Rudolf Götz, & Renate Kastelik. Produced by Kargl.
Rated R. 79 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★★★
posterAustrian director Gerald Kargl has never made another feature film other than Angst.
So how is it that a man whose only other credit is a documentary short came to make a 5-star piece of horror cinema? How did that film go on to influence other filmmakers, most notably Gaspar Noé? Usually such competent artists in any genre go on to at least make a couple other movies. Rare are those who are one and done.
Yet Angst stands up firmly against some of the similarly great horrors of its kind. I’m one of the biggest Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer fans on the planet. To me, this film is even better. Kargl captured one of the purest psychological perspectives in the genre possible. It’s hard to imagine until you’ve seen the film. Trust that the experience is worth at least one view. There are no doubt even some horror fans who’ll believe this too much, that the violence goes past what’s acceptable or that the way it’s filmed renders all that too intense. I don’t blame anybody for their personal sensibilities.
You simply can’t deny the power of a good film. Especially if it accomplishes whatever it set out to do in the start. For Kargl, he likely wanted to represent a serial killer’s point-of-view in the most organic form. Through technique, innovation, and plenty of murder, Angst reaches its goal.
pic2An alternate title for this film is Schizophrenia. The feeling of this, even the titular Angst, comes across in the way people look at The Psychopath (Erwin Leder). We get the sense of them looking at him, not the camera, and their gaze pierces him. Or their perceived gaze. Jump cuts make the flow of some scenes unbearable; not in a bad way, they jolt you and make watching this guy totally unnerving. After getting out of jail, he goes to a diner and eats a sausage. This scene alone is just brutal to watch, in that the way he eats, how he perceives people staring at him (and maybe they are; I would be). Really great psychological approach.
There are films which put us in the perspective of a character, then there’s Angst. Kargl manages to drop us right into this man’s shoes, to the point of being beyond uncomfortable. We get used to his face, the minute details right down to the moles. Leder is expressive, his eyes alone tell the story. But his whole face and the way he shows us the pain of this man with it is why this character terrifies. Any less of an actor wouldn’t be able to compel us to keep watching such brutality as The Psychopath delves into. And believe me, that’s no joke. I’ve seen worse, although the primitive goriness of this character’s worst fantasies, enacted on helpless victims, is something to behold. Truly. There’s a ferocity in the way Kargl shot the film which translates directly into how shocking everything becomes. The rig used to keep the camera focused up on Leder’s face provides a well of eerie shots to make the perspective of The Psychopath one of pure fear for the viewer. Watching this killer work through his demons is nauseating, for the sheer goriness and the filming techniques combined.
pic1I’m not sure if anything’s disturbed me more than when The Psychopath attacks the old woman in the house. As her false teeth fall to the floor, there’s a sense of a loss of innocence. Or just an absolute defilement, an attack on the sanctity of how we treat the elderly; how we treat anyone for that matter. It terrorises me watching those moments in particular. Maybe that’s silly to say in contrast to some of the other shocking things The Psychopath lays upon that family. Doesn’t change how that scene gets under my skin. All the more uncomfortable are the close-up shots on the guy afterwards, his open, saliva-filled mouth, the sweat, his heavy breathing. Another one comes not long later, as he goes about drowning one of the family members. Some shots going under the water are disturbingly beautiful. This trend continues. Kargl hypnotises the viewer with a constantly innovative way of shooting scenes that you’re lulled into a complacent state before he breaks out the real blood.
Within this scene is the key to The Psychopath’s own psychopathy: his family. During the time we watch him traipse through this house, perpetrating atrocities, he’s talking to us in voice-over. Hearing about the troubled family running parallel with all the nasty visuals, the taunting way he goes about taking revenge on this family for the problems with his own, it’s almost sickening at times.
The most striking image? Two visions: one of utter heinousness, one of pure and simple beauty. After The Psychopath has done possibly the nastiest of his crimes, he lays in a pool of blood and his own vomit. We cut from a dark tunnel at night to a bright morning, and a little wiener dog who followed from the house. Cut back to The Psychopath lying on top of a corpse, blood everywhere; he’s fallen asleep. Something about this juxtaposition of shots is unforgettable. Much like the film as a whole.
pic2Leder is hugely underrated in general. This movie proves that easily. I’m left wondering exactly why Kargl never directed anything else after having produced such a monumentally interesting and equally horrifying vision of a serial killer. Angst is a giant of the genre. More people should know about it, and a recent release on Blu ray will hopefully start seeing to that. With a few choice filmmakers championing the film’s effectiveness, as well as its brutality, more people continue to come across this gem. It is a dark and gruesome piece of work. If you’ve seen it, you know why there’s merit. This isn’t merely a Video Nasty you can write off as trash because you have an aversion to brutal horror. Kargl directs this flawlessly to make The Psychopath’s problems, his methods more evident than possibly any other film in the history of cinema. There are no answers, other than the basic ones. But if you’re looking to find a horror experience filled to the brim with biting, visceral terror, Kargl has you covered.
I am forever in awe of this movie after finally having seen it awhile back. Never will I forget the first time. Surprisingly to those who’ll probably hate the movie, I watch it more than a few times a year. You should, too. It’ll toughen you up.