WE GO ON: Traumatic Fears & the Urban Gothic

We Go On. 2017. Directed & Written by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton.
Starring Clark Freeman, Annette O’Toole, John Glover, Giovanna Zacarias, Laura Heisler, & Jay Dunn.
Filmed Imagination
Not Rated. 89 minutes.

IMG_0366There are so many ghost stories out there, from literature to film, that it’s hard to come up with something original. Same can be said about all stories, everything’s just a retelling, a reinvention of an ages old archetype or structure. Yet there are always writers and directors out there coming up with new ways to show us a glimpse of supernatural horror, ways that inspire us, maybe revolt us depending on the circumstances; in this case, it takes us into the concept of life after death and how we deal with the death of others, our own impending death someday, somehow, somewhere we don’t know.
Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton deliver We Go On for those who love ghost stories and want a different perspective. They tell the story of Miles (Clark Freeman), a man shattered by the death of his father in a car accident, forever plagued by the fear of death, worrying it’s a big, black void from which there’s no coming back, making life feel nearly claustrophobic. When he places an ad with a reward of $30,000 for any concrete proof that “we go on,” Miles gets far more than he bargained for after a man Nelson (Jay Dunn) contacts him, saying he can show him a ghost.
The film takes up the Gothic mantle, set in an environment full of urban decay, and it retains that classic feeling of the ghost story while trudging through very modern territory. We Go On takes Miles and the audience on a journey through the existential crisis of fearing death, examining trauma, death, as well as how we manage to overcome them both. That is, IF we’re able.

“Your world will end. We don’t get to know when.”

The fear of uncertainty is a powerful thing. This often extends to our ideas of the afterlife. For those of us who aren’t religious, there can come with this a sense of not knowing what will happen when we die. Not that the religious KNOW, but they BELIEVE, and this makes all the difference. Myself, I don’t fear death, it’s more like a release after – hopefully – a long life. However, I totally understand why some fear it. Most times this comes out of an absence within the absence of belief; if you can’t reconcile yourself with death as, for all intents and purposes here, an atheist, then there’s a gap in the concept of life and death, a glaring, empty space where fear can grow.
This is where Miles exists, in this space, and other spaces like it. He fears death, seemingly because of its uncertainty. At the same time, he wants to believe. This leads him on his quest. He’s traumatised on top of it, exacerbating his fears. So it’s interesting to watch how affected he is by this quest, too. He wants to find something, to negate his big fear. But the dark irony comes via the fact that, once he DOES find what he’s looking for it’s altogether terrifying, more so than any death where we just disappear into a void of nothingness.

“I’m haunted”

We Go On
is the perfect example of a modern urban Gothic horror. Miles actually specifically points out his phobia of any “decay or rot.” He’s absolutely horrified by cars, he hates being in them, and it only gets worse if he’s not the one driving; even then, he barely drives himself anywhere, if at all. What’s interesting is that, within this traumatic phobia of death, there’s a fear of the modern, of the decay/rot which comes with time, with modernity. He fears the car, one of the largest, most significant symbols of modern invention over the past few centuries.
When our protagonist finally sees ghosts, they occupy a much different space than usual, in an odd place, past the airport. A decayed set of urban ruins, left behind by the rich when the airport was built; another instance of modernity setting in, disrupting. In general, Los Angeles is depicted as grey, dull and dreary, a dreaded landscape where the sun does shine, but slightly obscured, hidden behind clouds on the city skyline, the pollution of the planes jetting onto the air. In this sense, the urban landscape with its Gothic sprawl of supernatural elements mirrors the headspace in which Miles find himself.
Traditional haunted houses are subverted, replaced by drug squats, schools, the airport, and other atypical locales, the main stand-in for a horror monster – aside from the ghosts – being Miles’ fear of the car as an object of death. The car/the vehicle also breaks the barrier between living and dead, an intriguing symbol. The radio comes alive with ghostly voices as Miles drives. A bus intercom does the same later. At home, his TV appears on only to him and no one else. Technology versus the old world of ghosts, modernity juxtaposed against the past.
IMG_0376There’s a fantastic end, both morbid in one sense, beautiful in another. Miles and his journey come to a conclusion. Some may not be happy with it, others, like myself, may love it. Visually, the nightmare that opens the film comes full circle, also closing the plot off thematically. It’s not what you’d expect, and that’s refreshing in and of itself.
We Go On is on top of Father Gore’s list of best horrors in the past few years, likely in the top 25 since 2010. There are plenty of awesome horror films lately, despite what certain critics and fans will try and tell others. And in the indie world, horror is absolutely killing the competition, in any genre. This film most certainly belongs up there with the best of them lately.
Put this on your Halloween marathon list! Spook yourself alone, or get a couple friends, turn down those lights, let the ghosts get under your skin. Let’s hope Mitton and Holland do more genre work in the future, because they’re obviously a talented team with fresh perspective.


The Sinner – Part 8

USA’s The Sinner
Part 8
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Jesse McKeown & Tom Pabst

* For a recap & review of Part 7, click here.
Pic 1Cora (Jessica Biel), with the help of Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), has finally remembered what happened that night, up in the cabin near the Beverwyck Club. Or at least she remembers Phoebe (Nadia Alexander) dying, Frankie (Eric Todd) trying to save her life with CPR. She still doesn’t recall the truth about the man in the mask, the syringe scars. So Harry’s digging further into the story, the club, those involved.
And still, Cora is in jail. Trying to remember what happened. She sees that masked man. Hears him: “Tell me.” When she responds with not remembering, he soothes her with a syringe and a “good girl.” Terrifying.
So, who was trying to get her to forget what happened that night? Somebody involved with J.D. surely. But who, exactly?
Pic 1AWell, when Harry tracks down a private medical clinic looking for a guy named Duffy, Daniel Burroughs, a white guy and a black there both make a run for it. Things go haywire. Duffy pulls a gun, then Officer Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller) puts a few shots in him. Is there more to Caitlin than we’ve been led to believe? Maybe I’m thinking too much. Either way the cops are left with half answers, seeing as how one of the men’s dead.
Who shows up at jail to see Cora? Her mother, Elizabeth (Enid Graham). Her daughter tells her about the night Phoebe died, how she met a boy, fell in love. Of course mom doesn’t want to hear any of that. Although the parents never called the police that night. Elizabeth says she heard them whisper “about Florida” and running away. But with a sick girl out there? Part of me thinks Elizabeth was happy. She’s an awful, awful woman.
In court, Cora decides to say her piece. She speaks to Frankie’s parents directly, apologising. “That is not who I am,” she weeps before telling the court about the people still out there, who held her hostage, buried her sister in the woods. However, it’s all done, anyways. She gets a minimum of 30 years in jail. Looking on, Mason (Christopher Abbott) is devastated, and Dt. Ambrose is, too.
So with our girl facing 30+ years in prison, what’s next?
One thing finally strikes me is that Harry isn’t just a masochist sexually. His job, in part, is masochism. Police work, the real stuff – not dealing with stolen BBQs like he is again, after the big case is finished – is like being in a masochistic relationship, where nothing feels good, it’s all pain. And now, returning to that regular, droning work, Harry’s truly tortured. Likewise knowing that out there are the answers to a dark puzzle, the last remaining pieces.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.24.07 PMMeanwhile, Cora wants Mason, her little boy to move on. He won’t have any of that, he insists they’re coming back next week, and every week after that. I love the character development in Mason, as well. He’s been amazing. Abbott really brought out the emotions of this guy, and also we see how Mason went from a sort of jealous man to a wholly devoted, understanding husband.
Harry just won’t let up, though. He goes back to that clinic, seeking more clues. This leads him to find Maddie (Danielle Burgess). She’s got a little kid now, a girl named Winter. She changed her named, all of it. A “toxic relationship” with J.D. prompted the 180-degree turn in her life. She was there at the Beverwyck that night, but claims to have left before everybody else. But this also gets the detective aiming closer in the right direction, concerning J.D’s pill business.
Suddenly Cora’s been taken somewhere. To meet Harry. In fact, it’s the Belmont home, Frankie’s parents. She goes upstairs, but nothing seems familiar. Until she’s in a room where the wall’s paint is cracking; underneath is that wallpaper, reminiscent of the dollar bill. Hiding in plain sight. The key to her trauma.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.34.05 PMFlashback to that infamous night. Frankie calls his father to come out to the Beverwyck. He rushes there and finds a dead Phoebe, Cora unconscious on the floor. His son explains what happened, wants to go to the hospital. Yet J.D. claims he’ll tell everyone about Frankie having sex with a sick girl, high on pills. This leaves dad and the drug dealer to deal with the body, and a very much alive Cora. They even cart the two into the woods in a trunk together. They dig a hole; in goes Phoebe. That’s exactly when Cora wakes up, seeing the abandoned bus in the trees. Frankie’s dad almost kills her before deciding on a different course of action.
So he brings her home, bloody and beat up. Mom’s involved at this point, Frankie is highly disturbed to see what’s going on. After that, Cora is kept in that room, tended to by the masked man in scrubs – dear ole dad – who dresses her wounds regularly, filling her veins with drugs to send her into oblivion. He and Mr. Lambert are still tied together by their nasty deeds, leading them deeper into business together; well, by blackmail.
When it’s time, Mr. Belmont digs into her arm with a needle, making her look like an addict. He brushes her hair, washes her, buys new clothes. A pretty good cover-up. Only now Dt. Ambrose and Cora, together, have completed the puzzle. So the truth is revealed, in that the Belmonts effectively killed their own son. When Cora confronts the father, she explains “I remember your eyes” and that she understands he did it for his son. Doesn’t make it any better.
Later in the car, Harry talks about understanding Cora, about blaming himself; just as she does. We get a bit of insight into his life, his past. “We didnt do anything,” he tells her in comfort. And finally, we take a look, briefly, at why Dt. Ambrose is who he is, a masochist, a man always trying to put himself back together. A beautiful bit of backstory in a subtle moment of dialogue.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.40.50 PMBack in court, things are different. “Extreme emotional disturbance” takes a murder charge down to manslaughter. Cora is ordered to a psychiatric facility, rather than prison. She’ll get therapy, some genuine counselling; she’ll get help. And her family will be able to see her more, plus now they know the truth, the devastating events which led her to that day on the beach. Only two years, then she’s free. In some ways, this has helped Harry free himself, though ultimately he’s freedom is up to him. He has to find a way of dealing with the past: either his masochism, or emotional catharsis.
My favourite part of this series is that it helps us look into the lives of women accused of murder. Sure, there are legitimate cases. But there are far too many out there, most of which are likely unknown, where women have been brutalised by men, in so many terrible ways, leading to them committing a violent, or seemingly crazy act. Only to bear the brunt of the law where previously those men against which they acted were given leniency. The Sinner‘s examination of the case of Cora Tannetti is a great template for that whole idea, representing a microcosm of a harsher reality in this 8-part series.

The Sinner – Part 6

USA’s The Sinner
Part 6
Directed by Jody Lee Lipes
Written by Tom Pabst

* For a recap & review of Part 5, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 7, click here.
Pic 1Last we left Mason (Christopher Abbott), he was heading up to see ole J.D. with a gun in his hand. We find him there now, as a couple people leave the house. Afterwards, he heads in slow. There he finds the guy dead already. Further in the baby’s crying. Then Mason calls the cops, even using the cellphone from the corpse’s pocket. He wipes his prints off and leaves.
Elsewhere by the water he thinks back to an earlier time with Cora (Jessica Biel), a happier time when they were enjoying each other, enjoying the relationship. A lifetime of happiness ahead of them. A far cry from where they are at this point.
Dt. Ambrose (Bill Pullman) has stepped over the line with his masochism. His mistress cuts him off, understanding something’s changed with him after she chokes him out. Something that she says is “a whole different game.” Just another rough patch for Harry to get through. There’s a lot of ’em. Meanwhile, he has Detective Farmer (Joanna Adler) taunting him over the “spider in [his] brain” that is Cora Tannetti.
Speaking of our lady, she’s talking with her lawyer who’s advising to take a deal. The woman’s back is against the legal wall. But Cora wants to stick with Harry. The guy is fighting for her, too. He truly is, it’s just hard when he’s up against a major mystery and Dt. Farmer’s disinterest in his theories. He knows, though. He’s gradually finding out more about the private club out in the woods. The key to all the trauma.
Pic 1AGlimpses of Phoebe (Nadia Alexander), perpetually ill, and a slightly younger Cora, who’s now got a “sex life” after so much repression. She sneaks out to be with J.D. who also has Maddie (Danielle Burgess) around, jealous of him being with another woman obviously. He has the talk of a pimp, of a man who exploits women. A patronising misogynist.
Poor Mason was in the wrong place, wrong time. Now he’s got Dt. Farmer asking him questions. To his favour, hopefully, he tells the truth. Honest about carrying a weapon when he went to visit J.D. Best of all is that he saw the car the men left in, leading to the cops tracking it down. At least they’ve got clues that help Mason.
And when he goes to see his wife in prison, he admits that in part all of this is his fault, as well. He knew there was “something wrong” a long while ago. He couldn’t bring himself to find out what it was, in turn, essentially, allowing the suffering in the person he pledged his life to be with, in sickness and in health.
This renews Cora. But can she push Harry away from self-destruction? The only thing he has left just about, with his estranged wife Faye (Kathryn Erbe) done seemingly for good, is his job.
More flashes back to Phoebe in the hospital, not doing well at all. Cora goes to her sister and lays in bed with her. The only two people in the world when they’re together.
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.27.55 AMHarry needs to convince the rest of the department, and a judge, that he needs to take Cora back to that club. To try dredging up repressed memories, to crack the case. Lucky for our detective he once busted the judge when she had a drink too many while driving, back in the day. So, permission granted!
Again we flashback. The slick talking pimp feeds bullshit into Cora’s head, trying to convince her that Phoebe is a “vampire” feeding of her, living vicariously through her. That they need to leave and get away. This is one of the worst things he’s done that we’ve seen so far, driving a wedge between the two sisters. I can see much more tragedy growing out of this act.
Up at the club in the forest, Harry takes Cora down to the basement. Past the staircase, into those unfinished rooms where ski masks hang on the walls, stray taxidermy left gathering dust, a little room with a computer. Yet she doesn’t feel anything’s familiar down there. A bust.
Another flashback to Cora coming home late, Phoebe upset. She wants to know everything about how J.D. touches her, kisses her. So much so she wants her sister to actually do it to her, as she’ll never experience it herself. The incest goes further than just a kiss or a fleeting touch. Fuck, that’s disturbing.
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.35.39 AMOn their way back, Harry takes Cora for a pit stop. Then she wants to go back to the club, even though they’re getting late for their return. If they’re not back in time a warrant goes out automatically. Uh oh.
Up at the club he takes her in one last time. She goes into the library on her own while Harry takes a call. After that he can’t find her. She’s gone. He finally finds her at a house a little ways off from the club. She’s stuck, gazing at staircase leading down into the basement. It makes her feel physically ill.
What lies at the bottom of those stairs, in the back of her mind? She speaks the words we all want to hear: “I remember now.”
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.43.29 AMHOLY JESUS, CORA! I’m blown away, I need more. Now.
Yet, Part 7 is a week away. Dying to find out the next piece of the mysterious puzzle.

The Sinner – Part 2

USA’s The Sinner
Part 2
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
Pic 1After the surprising, devastating first episode, The Sinner continues as Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) faces the court after committing a brutal and spontaneous murder on the beach. She pleads “guilty” and prepares on facing the consequences of her actions. Detectives Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood) watch on, as does the terrified husband Mason (Christopher Abbott). Now, Cora’s ordered to psychological testing, to see if she’s fit to stand trial.
After the court adjourns, Mason comes across a police officer he knows from back in the day in school, Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller). He tries getting info out of her, but she’s too professional for that. Inside, his wife gets a visit from Dt. Ambrose, who knows that she knows the man she killed, Frankie Belmont. Although she denies it. However, it’s like she’s resigned herself to being guilty. As if she believes she’s guilty, knowing something more than she lets on.
Flashback to her life as a girl. Her father rants and raves about not being able to sleep in his own bed. Clearly, their love life has suffered because of their sick child. Meanwhile, dad looks to be sleeping in bed with one of the other daughters, young Cora (Jordana Rose), only eight. And there’s something not quite right about it, either. Christ. So much ugliness in her past that’s yet to be uncovered.
Pic 1ADt. Ambrose keeps on trying to suss out the truth. He talks to Frankie’s wife, Leah (Teri Wyble). Apparently the husband once told his friends about a girl with whom he had a relationship, something tragic happened. They had an “intense connection” but the girl was damaged. Later, an accident nearly ruined his whole life. Hmm, all about five years prior. This is interesting, ramps up the mystery to a serious degree. The intrigue’s already high, but now my Spidey senses are TINGLING!
Flashback to Mason first meeting Cora, the latter waiting tables in a nice little place. They talk a bit, he chats her up. After she’s off they go for a stroll together, getting to know one another, the usual first meet/date type of thing. It’s cute. Very sharp juxtaposition against where we are now. What this does is show us their connection, particularly we see why Mason’s so torn up. It isn’t like she wound up a serial killer. This sudden outburst of violence in her life is totally inexplicable to him, so to see their beginnings as a couple is kind of poignant.
We get a look at some of Dt. Ambrose’s rocky relationship with his wife (Kathryn Erbe). They go to therapy, but the separation between them is shocking. Not entirely surprising, still shocking. He’s not exactly the doting husband, having left her in the hospital once to go spray his plants at home. Even when she calls him out on it he’s poised to argue rather than admit he fucked up. Typical man blinded by his own bullshit.
Another flashback to young Cora, her aunt Margaret (Rebecca Wisocky) leaving a treat with her before leaving. They’re all together in vigil for her little sister Phoebe, sick, frail. We see the first semblance of a second life for Cora. Aunt Peg gives her a Delicieux chocolate bar, a little treat she takes to a secret hiding place. Where she’s got other items most likely from her aunt. She stashes them, so nobody will find her special items. Sort of how she’s stashed away all the secrets of her previous live, so deep down and in the dark that even her husband has no idea what’s gone on.
Those closest to her, then and now, they don’t truly know Cora.
Pic 2In the interrogation room, Harry gets Cora to start talking. She met Frankie in a bar five years ago on the “Fourth of July,” though he went by a different name, J.D. They took some pills, drank, dance. The song she heard on the beach that day is the one he used to play endlessly. They had sex, of course. A couple weeks later? Pregnant. She panicked, not even having Frankie’s phone number. So then she finds out he gave her a fake name.
And she stepped in front of a car on the road. No longer pregnant, banged the fuck up in the hospital, she was still clinging – for a while – her religious upbringing. Before realising God’s shit. Cut to five years later, she stabs Frankie to death on the beach. All good, right? Well, Harry doesn’t seem convinced. Not yet.
Flashback to Cora and her mom Elizabeth (Enid Graham). The little girl kneels in the yard in the middle of the night, praying to God for her sister. The recurring theme is religious fanaticism. Mom found the stash, the chocolate bar. She says “one bite” could mean God will decide to let Phoebe die. Holy fuck. It’s like everything wrong with Cora’s sister is blamed on her, in some way. A life of having sin heaped upon her, sin that isn’t her own.
Another flash to Mason and Cora in bed together, what looks like their first time. Or at least the first time Mason is about to go down on her and she almost cracks his neck in half, squeezing her thighs around his throat. When he asks what happened, she replies: “I dont know.” Although we know, at least in part. There’s a terrifying trauma in there somewhere.
Caitlin, talking to Mason, lets slip bits of the story concerning his wife and Frankie, the secret history. Naturally, it rocks him. All the while Dt. Ambrose continues combing through evidence, to find a better answer. He goes to Carl’s Taproom, where Cora met Frankie. The bartender remembers her, though confirms a different man than Frankie being with her, also mentioning she was extremely drunk. Might be possible something non-consensual happened that night. Cora is absolutely not telling the whole truth.
The big news? Harry gets over to Frankie’s parents place. Turns out, their boy wasn’t even on the same coast as Cora that Fourth of July. Oh, shit. Moreover, the cops are coming up with more lies she’s told. They have to dig much, much deeper.
Pic 3Another flashback to young Cora, her mom, sick little Phoebe. “Youre not doing your part,” the hideous mother says. She makes Cora tell her sister she isn’t better because she’s “a sinner” and took the chocolate bar. This poor little girl grew up having to bear the brunt of all the supposed sins her parents blamed on her. That could really fuck a girl up.
Ambrose: “The truth is my job
In the interrogation room Harry presses Cora harder than before. He’s getting pissed off about her lying. He even puts on the song she heard that day. You can see by the look in her eyes it dredges up horrible memories. Finally, she jumps on top of the detective, pounding him and screaming: “Im gonna kill you!” WHOA.
Mason comes to see his wife. He mentions J.D. and knowing him before they met. He’s also getting pissed. The person he pledged to love in sickness and in health won’t tell him the truth. This sends him off looking for J.D. in any place he can think, old buddies from his younger days. Uh oh. I feel something bad coming.
There’s also a tenderness we see in Harry, after he and his wife start their reconciliation. While they eat dinner a bird flies into their patio door. He picks it up, nurturing the bird and helping it fly once more. Not long later he also has an epiphany about Cora. She smashed him on the chest in specific places. Right where she stabbed Frankie. And she hit Harry the same amount of times she stabbed him, too. A pattern. She’s subconsciously repeating that pattern. I assume it’s got something to do with what happened to her as a girl.
But there’s really no telling. Cora is an enigma, wrapped in a mindfuck. Who knows what the key will be to unlock all her mysteries.
Pic 4Pic 4AHonestly, the first episode was good! Enough to get me into the whole concept. This episode blew me out of the water. I never expected the twists that came here, nor the final little revelation Harry has about the wounds. Interested for Part 3. So much dark, dangerous stuff to explore.

The Sinner – Part 1

USA’s The Sinner
Part 1
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
Pic 1Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) works in a warehouse, looking after business for a heat and air specialist company at which her husband Mason (Christopher Abbot) works. They’re a simple family, they have dinner with his parents a couple times a week and the grandparents look after the kids. Cora calls her husband a “mamas boy” for all the time they spend with them. Not to mention they work with pops at the company, too. A nice, quaint life.
At the same time it’s predictable. Friday nights are for fucking, just like everything seems to have its place, every aspect of their lives is plotted out. She has to take a pill before they get in bed. Doesn’t bode well for their relationship as we see it from the omnipotent angle. Something about Cora’s vacant eyes when they have sex is chilling. This is not a happy woman.
Bowing to the more patriarchal aspects of marriage and motherhood, she looks like a woman stuck. Not that she doesn’t love her husband or their child. She loves them so much that she appears to have forced herself into a life that isn’t what she wants. All this is without words, as well. All by way of Biel’s expressions, the way she looks at others. You can see her existing in her own head while the world goes on around her.
There’s a great metaphor in how, when they go swimming Cora goes out past the rope on her own, past where people are meant to swim. Like it’s something she has to do, compelled to. She puts herself under the water and holds her breath awhile, long as she can.
She returns to her husband freaking out a bit. “I wanted some quiet,” she tells him.
On the beach, a young couple groping catches her attention, making her feel strange. Out of nowhere Cora attacks the man, stabbing him in the neck with a steak knife, stabbing his chest, over and over telling him to “get off her.” Before Mason can pull her away, it’s over. He’s bleeding out. People are screaming. Nobody knows why it happened.
Problem is, neither does Cora. Naturally she’s carted off by the cops.
Pic 1ALooks like this is a case for Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), a bit of a grizzled dude with rough fingernails, possibly liver troubles from drinking, or could be something else. Either way, he’s out on the beach faced with the murder of the poor young dude at the hands of a stranger. Along with Detective Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood). Plenty of witnesses. But if they want to find a motive, this one’s like a needle in a massive stack of identical-looking needles.
There’s something in Cora’s past. We see glimpses of her upbringing, her praying. Only brief. It’s clear that we’ll find at least partial answers there. I don’t think this is going to be as simple as some exploitative abuse angle, though there’s no telling just yet. It simply feels bigger, more complex than that.
The detectives are meeting with Cora, laying out the next steps in what will happen from here on. They advise her to call a lawyer. She refuses. Knowing what she did, yet not sure why. She can’t produce any reason for doing so. Also, what are the shots of the black wallpaper in her head? Or is it the pattern of curtains, a duvet? Is it a key to unlocking her past? We’ve seen it a couple times now, directly linked with her. Visions. Puzzle pieces to some kind of trauma in her childhood.
Cora: “I just did it. And I dont know why.”
Pic 2Nice audio touch, as Cora suffers in her cell for the night without her medication and the sound that played on the beach before she killed the man pounds in her ears, like it’s coming through speakers. She sees images of her crime flash through her mind. So, she drops to the floor. On her knees, in prayer.
Dt. Ambrose is a troubled dude. The black fingernails aren’t liver damage. They’re bloodied, bruised fingernails from having them stepped on by a lady friend of his he goes to see now and then. Lord, Harry. Bit of S&M, baby! Dude does enjoy his drink, though.
Everyone’s life is torn apart. Mason is having a hard time, he hasn’t gone to see his wife since she’s been in jail. It’s tough. He was there, having witnessed the murder. Not understanding from where this bout of rage exploded. He mentions to Dt. Ambrose what she said after the attack to the girlfriend of the man: “Youre okay. Youre safe. Hes gone now.” As if she were saving the woman from something.
Pic 3We’re offered a glimpse of Cora as a girl. She’s meeting her sister for the first time. Her mother, essentially, blames her for the sick new baby they have. That after her, there was no more strength left in the mother for another child. All this under the guise of being a test from God. Already we can see there’s a religious angle to whatever trauma Cora experienced when she was young.
Finally, Mason goes to visit her in jail. He’s struggling to understand it all. The cruel irony is that she is in the same boat. She’s willing to admit maybe there’s “something wrong” with her. He’d rather believe it was a momentary lapse, a psychotic break out of nowhere. So obvious there’s far more to the story lurking below. On top of everything, they’re going to have to figure out where to go from here, in their relationship. She accepts what’s coming, from jail to her husband maybe having to move on. That’s not something he’s ready to hear.
Dt. Ambrose goes to see the others present when the victim was killed. The girlfriend, specifically, though she’s sedated. One of the guy’s present doesn’t have much to say, until the cop starts poking at him for not having tried to save his friend. This prompts what he’s looking for: the guy mentions his friend grabbed her by the elbow, that he was a strong guy, and it’s strange because he didn’t do anything. Ambrose susses out it was like “he let her kill him.” As if he knew her, recognised her after the first stab in his neck, then let what happened happen.
Could it possibly be? Will Ambrose pursuit it even if Cora doesn’t know it herself?
Pic 4Man, I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much. Then I realised Antonio Campos was directing this episode, and I’m willing to watch anything he does or is involved with, full stop. Biel impressed me, big time. Look forward to Part 2.

Repression Unleashed in THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA

The Witch Who Came from the Sea. 1976. Directed by Matt Cimber. Screenplay by Robert Thom.
Starring Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Rick Jason, Stafford Morgan, & George ‘Buck’ Flower.
Cinema Epoch.
Rated R. 88 minutes.

the-witch-who-came-from-the-sea-images-0068abac-94e2-43d8-9916-64630b0aa42During the early 1980s, a bunch of films were classified on a list as Video Nasties, which reached all the way back to 1959’s Obscene Publications Act – amended in ’77 to include erotic films. The U.K. stamped these films as some of them were prosecuted, others were not. The Witch Who Came from the Sea was on the list, though it later was unsuccessfully prosecuted (alongside 32 other films) and the Department of Public Prosecutions dropped it from the list.
For a time it reigned on high as one of the Video Nasty movies many horror fans were eager to see, if only for the thrill of being nasty on their own. However, this 1976 horror offering is more than just a bit of shock or a gimmick to carry thread bare chills. The Witch Who Came from the Sea is a devastating, trippy, and brutally honest movie which tackles the terror childhood abuse wreaks on an individual as an adult.
On top of that, the legendary Dean Cundey provides uncredited cinematography, and anyone who’s a horror fan will know Cundey being attached means something special – HalloweenThe FogEscape from New YorkThe Thing, just a few of his best works behind the camera. And in front of the camera in the lead role, the metaphorical and titular witch, is Millie Perkins, known for her first appearance as Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank. If it weren’t for the impeccable talents of Perkins, the dramatic horror of the story might never have played so well. She takes us down into the dark corridors of her character’s soul, and threatens to never let us go.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-21-30-pmWhat ails you, Molly?”

This might be seen, by many eyes, as exploitation cinema. Another rape-revenge flick. And in a sense, it is, but at the same time it’s so much more. For instance, the title itself and its significance to the plot is excellent. The film opens on a shot of a vast, lonely yet beautiful beach, then right on the edge of the shore we settle where the tide flows in, and here we’re first introduced to Molly (Perkins). Immediately, director Matt Cimber concentrates on the sea, and we know, with Molly walking and the tide flowing at her feet, the sea is linked to her in a significant way. Literally and figuratively, she is always at the edge of the sea, at the mercy of the tide.
What’s so intriguing right away about Molly is her fixation on the male figure. She’s taking care of her nephews, then by the beach at an outdoor gym she notices a couple muscle men working out. Seeing them, by the sea no less, triggers her into seeing the men flash between alive and pumping iron, to bloody and choked to death, as well as other brutal imagery. From the first scene, Cimber sets up all the main themes he’ll work off for the entirety of the film. I compare this opening to the way in which an author does well by starting off their novel with a beginning sentence, or paragraph, that means even more once the story is over.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-25-23-pmThose symbols of supposed masculinity (or what you might call popular masculinity) come up time and time again, from the muscles and the fit physique, to tattoos. Molly comes across many of these men. She even works at a bar, where most of the men who come in as patrons are sexist and grabby and all that. She’s surrounded by these ideals of masculinity, and for some initially inexplicable reason she doesn’t so much reject these symbols. Rather, she plays into them, and then her bloody fantasies move from her daydreams into reality. Everything masculine becomes a playground for her revenge fantasies. Men in TV ads for razors aren’t even safe; she imagines the razor used to cut a guy’s throat. Soon she’s with football players in bed rolling around and the savagery commences, to brutal effect.
All this boils down to her want for revenge. Of course we don’t discover what happened to her, nor the extent, until over an hour into the film. That doesn’t matter, we know before that there’s a deep trauma in her. One linked to the concepts of masculinity, and also to the ocean. She seems a contradictory character – at once eternally angry at big, tough men; all the same she turns around looking oversexed, driven into the arms of these same types of men.
Why is that?

Note: following this notice, I’ll be spoiling the central plot point of the film, so if you’d rather find out on your own turn back now, come back once you’ve watched and chat!

The reason Molly is so devastated emotionally is due to the horrific trauma she faced at the hands of her paedophile father. He was a sailor, and the abuse itself even happened while on the sea, the two of them in bed together. While there is a disturbing scene involving the abuse, Cimber and writer Robert Thom opted not to do anything overtly graphic. Yes, it’s still emotionally vicious and even visceral, just not explicitly disgusting. The film instead offers an, often ties, nuanced look at child abuse. Molly worships her father while her sister realises the truth. She idolises him and then falls into depraved fantasy as her repression takes hold, never knowing the source of her anger against the men after whom she lusts. At one point she even sleeps with the owner of the bar where she works, he looks like her father. So what The Witch Who Came from the Sea does best is tell the tale of a severely, tragically repressed woman wrestling with the demons in her mind.
Perhaps my favourite and the most gruesome of the imagery is after the repression finally breaks – Molly sees a haunting image in her mind of being at sea, bodies chopped to pieces, blood everywhere.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-05-37-pmSo many of these types of horrors – the rape-revenge archetype – opt to make the viewer experience the trauma alongside a victim. Despite the presence of a scene depicting the abuse, The Witch from the Sea works more on the psychological horror of Molly’s past trauma, and doesn’t require such an ugly display of sexual violence such as something like I Spit on Your Grave or The Last House on the Left. There are cryptic glimpses of flashback memories, although never are we subjected to outright nastiness.
Forever and ever this film will be associated with the other Video Nasties, and it’ll get lumped in with the rape-revenge sub-genre. But it’s more than the sum of its parts, it’s more than a lot of the other Video Nasty titles, definitely worth your time above so many tired rape-revenge scenarios that won’t ever add up.
If you’re looking for an at times surreal and intermittently brutal dramatic horror which is heavier on psychology than anything else, this is your game. If you can grab up a copy, do yourself a favour. This might look like a lot of other similar movies. You can take my word for it, even if you don’t dig it as much as I do there’s a huge chance you’ll find it unique in its execution and storytelling. Might not be perfect. It’s still a shiny little gem.

SUN CHOKE & The Loss of Self

Sun Choke. 2016. Directed & Written by Ben Cresciman.
Starring Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton, Sara Malakul Lane, Jim Boeven, Evan Jones, Riley Litman, William Nicol, Joe Nieves, & Daisy O’Dell.
Lodger Films/Easy Open Productions.
83 minutes. Not Rated.

posterDisclaimerThis discussion contains large spoilers pertaining to the end of the film and its (possible) meaning(s). If you haven’t seen the film, please go watch it. Then come back and tell me what you think.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Sun Choke. Some films leave you with those nagging questions, the burning desire to know more. That might piss certain people off. And in certain cases, it pisses me off. When you don’t get enough answers it isn’t always bad. But when nothing adds up it’s hard to say a movie was any good. Long as some of the mystery filters through.
Sun Choke is the story of a young woman named Janie (Sarah Hagan from Freaks and Geeks) who undergoes radically intense treatments for her mental health, cared for by a woman she’s had as a nanny her whole life, Irma (Barbara Crampton). As the treatment gets more extreme, Janie seems not to get better but to go deeper into whatever psychosis has gripped her. Recovering from a trauma, a nebulous piece of her life to the viewer, Janie struggles on the edge of utter insanity.
This is not at all an outright horror, nor is it squarely a drama, or a mystery, or a thriller. It’s a psychological horror, a character study of co-dependency and how the will to try curing another person doesn’t always leave the person helping, or the one they’re trying to help, in any better shape than they were before. This film won’t give you all the answers, it doesn’t even particularly ask all its own questions, leaving that heavy lifting to the audience. Rightfully so.
Maybe it’ll frustrate you. Either way, Sun Choke ought to leave you with plenty to mull over in your head; for better or for worse.
img_4022There’s so much going that you might find, at times, the story is hard to follow. It isn’t deliberately sly in that Cresciman doesn’t want you NOT to understand. He employs a non-linear story, flashing now and then between past/present, while also keeping certain details from us. In this sense, being hard to follow shouldn’t make you feel stupid. Cresciman saves revelations for later. Instead of how some movies like to repeatedly hit you with twist after twist, this screenplay doesn’t come at you taht way. It milks the tension and suspense for all it’s worth.
The tension comes from this up close and disturbingly personal character study of Janie. Gradually, we unravel the layers of mystery surrounding the psychological state we find her in, and what brought her to the supremely tragic point of emotional fragility from which we begin the film’s journey. There’s an interesting aspect to Janie because she’s our protagonist, while at once we’re privy to the uncomfortable side of her as a character, too. her obsession gets to a frightening height, which in turn is psychosexual in the most visceral way experiencing the lowest moments of Janie’s transgressions.

I just want whats best for you, little girl.”

Ultimately, the suspense and tension involved in these sequences when Sadie oversteps boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour can often reach unbearable levels. I wouldn’t call this a regular horror. No, it’s all the way one hell of a psychological trip, rooted in character study. Hagan’s central performance as Janie is one of the best this year, independent film or otherwise: a fearless and simultaneously fearful role where she plays wounded in addition to being the one that created many of her own wounds. Her performance is aided by Cresciman’s writing, placing his viewer alongside Janie in a horrific headspace, further leading us to physical one filled with terror by the end.
img_4023Little girls are all fucking hateful

Let’s leave the unexplained as unexplained, for now. What do we now? Irma (the ever awesome genre star Crampton) has been the housekeeper/nanny for Janie since her mother died, and we get the feeling that’s been a long, long time (note: I’m under the impression the mother died during child birth due to the ending). They’re close like family and it’s also very evident they’re not family, as well. But Irma holds power over Janie, as a caretaker. A large part of the plot deals with co-dependence, the idea of one person as host and the other a figurative virus, living and feeding off them. What becomes clear over the course of the film is that Janie has issues with her identity, something reoccurring in several scenes (like when Irma stands her by the mirror and asks: “Who do you see?”). Something else painfully obvious is that Janie really should be in a hospital. She had a violent outbreak at a certain point, shown in a horrific, brief moment of rage and some blood, so the trauma to her psyche is very real. No matter what happened to her before, it is real, whatever’s going on inside her mind. And the fact Irma treats her, in strange ways – like using a tuning fork and whispering “Sun choke” in Janie’s ear – only serves Janie for the worse. She does not get better, only learning how to foster a greater sense of dependency; on Irma, later on a woman named Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane).
This is the point where the story speaks volumes as to the endgame of its plot. See, Janie can’t gain control of herself. She can’t fixate on a proper identity. First, she tries becoming Savannah. She finds the man Savannah had sex with, then crawls into bed with him. That is, until she decides on caving his skull in. Worth noting: during this scene, she is both on top of the man and seeing herself looking in through the window. When she figures out there’s no becoming someone else, that she is stuck with herself, Janie goes to further lengths to find control: she decides to control Savannah.
But through it all we can’t forget the odd, often sadistic methods of healing Irma tries forcing on Janie. Every treatment, the girl takes it, as if also expecting it to heal her. Her subservience to others eventually manifests in her taking back control with terrifying results.
img_4026img_4028The only thing standing between you and the abyss is how much I love you

Throughout there are fascinating visuals. These relate directly to the idea of a dissociation from the self, re: Janie. She continually gets further from her own identity, which is shown best via the cinematography and chosen shots. Such as the shot while she’s having sex with the man and she’s also a double, outside her own self, another identity. There are a couple mirrored shots, reflections, and they allow us to get a visual window into the separation happening in her head.
Sun Choke comes at you with a mixed bag of treats. Not that any of them are bad; merely mixed. There’s a weaving of genres, all leading back to psychological horror. We get intense drama, then in unexpected splashes blood flicks across the screen, jarring the viewer because of its randomness. The screenplay helps, the story doesn’t twist and turn. Rather it sort of unfolds its mysteries one by one, revealing only portions to reel us in wherever possible. It’s the suspense of watching Janie struggle, between psychosis and a health regimen of inexplicable treatments, that drives so much of the film’s gruesome excitement.
By the finale, you may either hate or love the movie. Maybe some of it is entire delusion. Maybe all the events are reality. Cresciman straddles a line where you may never know exactly what’s going on, if it’s real or something in Janie’s imagination (or just in her past), but as director and writer he maintains a level of interest, compelling the viewer to keep going, to find out what lies beneath the trauma of Janie. There’s no set meaning, for any art. Authorial intent is one thing; what the audience concludes is another. All I know is that Sun Choke has captivated me. I’ve seen it twice now and both times I’m left with questions. The sort which make me want to watch it again.

BEFORE I WAKE: Flanagan Heads Deep Into the Dark Power of Grief

Before I Wake. 2016. Directed by Mike Flanagan. Screenplay by Flanagan & Jeff Howard.
Starring Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Annabeth Gish, Jacob Tremblay, Dash Mihok, Scottie Thompson, Jay Karnes, Kyla Deaver, & Courtney Bell.
Intrepid Pictures/Demarest Films/MICA Entertainment.
Rated PG-13. 97 minutes.

posterEver since I saw Absentia there’s always a twinkle in my horror loving eye when I hear that Mike Flanagan is directing something. Even when it’s a sequel to Ouija. I’ll watch whatever he makes, simply because he’s given horror enough in the past five years to in turn give him the benefit of the doubt. His recent horror-thriller Hush is an exercise in tension that I enjoyed so damn much.
So getting the chance to see Before I Wake this summer was a treat. Flanagan and Jeff Howard, co-writer of Oculus (another excellent little slice of horror) and Ouija: Origin of Evil, concoct a fairly impressive dark fantasy that is equal part psychological horror as it is an intense look at the drama of fractured families.
At the root of this film are ideas about emotional trauma, how people choose to heal and move on, if they choose to even do so, as well as the power of our dreams (or nightmares as it were). Flanagan directs a wonderful cast of actors, each bringing their talents to the table in exciting ways, especially Kate Bosworth whose performance as a grieving mother is one of tragic beauty. Before I Wake is not as horror as some of Flanagan’s other titles. Nonetheless, it is creepy at times, just like it’s emotionally devastating at others and tender in moments. If you like dark fantasy, a mix of light horror and heavy drama, then you’ll definitely be interested.
screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-17-41-pmThere’s a dichotomous perspective on pain and lingering trauma that parallels Jessie (Bosworth) and her adopted son Cody (Jacob Tremblay; a fine young actor after this and Room). The mother deals with her own flashback visions of her and Mark’s (Thomas Jane) son that died awhile ago. Once we start to figure out Cody has a strange power – or curse – then these flashbacks pale in comparison. At first the kid starts to conjure up butterflies. Mark and Jessie are fascinated, if not a bit weirded out. Things take a dark, tragic turn once Cody sees pictures of the dead boy, and starts manifesting his image. The couple teeters somewhere in a world between dream and reality. One minute their son returns, then the next, after Cody wakes up, he’s gone again like dust caught on the night air. This leads into a danger case of near abuse.
Longing to see her son again, not having fully dealt with the trauma of losing him – while it seems her husband Mark, though hurt, is doing slightly better – Jessie starts to manipulate Cody in order to get a glimpse of that lost part of her life. This gets even more dangerous, as it not only prolongs her healing mentally further and further, but also severely exploits this little orphaned boy being bounced around from one family to the next. Worse than that, Cody is so damaged because of his own inner demons that nobody would ever know exactly how bad until it’s too late. Not respecting or paying attention to the power of Cody’s manifestations, Jessie inadvertently puts herself and everyone else in the way of a dark force.
screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-29-43-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-32-41-pmThe Canker Man is an entity in Cody’s nightmares which kills people. Well, maybe not kills. He… takes people. They disappear. He’s very unsettling, from just the idea of him to his physical conception and how he attacks people, what he does to them. His mere reference by the boy is spine tingling. This film is horror, though more in line with the supernatural obviously. Like a dark fantasy vision of A Nightmare on Elm Street, less violent and more focused on the theme of repressed memories, the damage they can cause in many different forms. It’s a haunted house story set within the (vast) limitations of a dangerous child’s mind, a haunted house which follows Cody everywhere he goes.
So many great visuals. The butterflies are interesting on their own, then they take the form of Christmas light butterflies; even the CGI feels genuine rather than jammed into the film to make up for a lack of anything. The implications of Cody’s dream creations are huge. So the way Flanagan and Co. tackle his nightmare visions is fitting. They don’t go too wide, but just wide enough. Then there are simpler moments, such as the coffee grounds bit when Cody tries his damnedest to stay awake, as long as possible – this again calls to mind the Wes Craven classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, almost more of the story which it inspired it. It’s the Canker Man whose apparition is dreadful, in the best sense. He is like a literal cankerous growth, a terrifying bit of nightmare oozing out of Cody’s mind. His mouth and eyes, or a lack thereof, is chilling. He is the best visual way of representing what grief, repressed memory, sorrow all do when wrapped up inside instead of being let out and dealt with properly.
screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-42-39-pmI’m not huge on the finale. Despite that, Before I Wake is absolutely a 4 out of 5 star film. It’s labelled as a horror when, in my mind, it ought to be promoted more as dark fantasy. In no way does that make it any less awesome. There’s so much good stuff here. A unique look into the way grief manifests itself dangerously, an allegory, like a warning never to try replacing a dead child with another one.
There’s lots of good acting, particularly Bosworth and Tremblay; Jane gets his chances and delivers, too. You can hear that signature Danny Elfman sound in the score, joined by the Newton Brothers (OculusProxy), which adds an entirely other dimension to the visuals we experience during Cody’s nightmares. The sounds are a large element to why the atmosphere feels so dreamy.
With a few flaws, Flanagan makes an exciting piece of cinema once again. His abilities as a horror filmmaker are super impressive to me because he runs the gamut, going from slasher-type stuff with Hush, to his various trips into the supernatural from Oculus back to the fantastic indie Absentia which drew me to his work. Before I Wake is a fantastic addition to his body of work. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 6: “Church in Ruins”

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 6:
 “Church in Ruins
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (BansheeGame of Thrones)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Black Maps and Motels Rooms” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Other Lives” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.27.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.28.31 AMBeginning where we left off, the tense moments between Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) pick up. Frank sits down with some coffee, asking if Ray would like some sugar, anything else. Normally you might laugh, however, the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
I would’ve been different,” says Ray.
Of all the lies people tell themselves,” Frank replies.
I sold my soul for nothin’,” Ray says as he bursts at the seams.
That choice was in you before your wife or any of this other stuff. It was always there, waiting,” Frank tells him.

There is still a solid discussion of morality going here. Essentially, Ray Velcoro has still committed murder; no matter how we cut the cards. Frank Semyon puts it bluntest, and maybe most truthful, when he tells Ray: “Own it.” Because yes – Frank is a dirty dog, he tricked Ray into believing he was doing his wife justice by killing the man who raped her, when truly it was a point of leverage for Frank, to have a cop under his thumb.
But at the same time, Nic Pizzolatto is having his characters basically ask us – is murder ever justified? These are philosophical situations. I think people – some, not all – seem to be pissed because the second season lacks what the first had in the existentialist dialogue of Rust Cohle. When really, you just have to pay attention: it’s all there. Pizzolatto just isn’t spelling it out as blatantly as he was in the first season through Rust. More power to him – his detractors last season were complaining that Rust and his ramblings made things clunky. You can never satisfy everyone. The morality question is constantly in play, most certainly the heaviest theme going on for Ray Velcoro’s arc.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.28.44 AMProblem for Ray is, he’s supposed to be helping Dt. Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Dt. Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch).
Instead he’s at the prison confronting the actual man who raped his wife, seeing as how the man he’d killed at the word of Frank Semyon was not the actual rapist.
Tense damn scene with Velcoro here. Incredibly tense and cutting acting. The look in Farrell’s eyes always seems to speak more than he ever can with whatever dialogue he’s given – such expression in them, his whole face. I’ve long said Farrell is an excellent actor when given the appropriate material. Much the same as I feel often about Taylor Kitsch; he’s giving a great turn this season, as well.
Even worse again, Ray is having to go to supervised visits with his son. It’s painful to see their relationship because Ray wants to hold on – he doesn’t care whether or not the biological father is the rapist. He needs something other than being a cop, being a vigilante, to make him whole, and that something is being a father. Every little bit that it slips away, I can see the cracks forming in Ray’s outer shell, his ego already crumbled long ago, and the more it falls away there’s no telling where Velcoro is going to end up.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.29.54 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.30.17 AMFrank tells the son of his dead ‘colleague’: “This hurt, it can make you a better man. That’s what pain does – it shows you what was on the inside.” Here, for the first time, we can actually see that good side of Frank that does want to be a part of the world. We can see that Frank wants to be a father, and he might be a good one.
Juxtaposed with Frank and this fatherly moment, we see the deterioration of Ray and his son.
I am your father, you are my son,” says Ray. “I will always love you.” You can see the torture inside him as he grasps onto the last bits of himself. Right afterwards, he heads home and hits the booze, rails a ton of cocaine, and just gets completely obliterated. The stable little bits of Velcoro we saw, those tiny glimpses, are quickly vanishing.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.30.53 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.31.12 AMI cannot say it enough – Colin Farrell is fucking knocking this role out of the park and into the lot, smashing the windows, sending everyone home. Anyone who says different is not paying attention. I don’t care what you think of the overall plot, if you can’t admit that Farrell is nailing the character of Ray Velcoro then you’re beyond blind. His drunk and stoned scene, the aftermath, it is complete perfection. There’s no way it could’ve been played any better, it felt like watching an actual man fall apart right before my eyes.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.29.14 AMI’m enjoying where Ani Bezzerides’ arc is headed. She’s got to go in to a party where they won’t allow even a purse, so Ani and her knives won’t be headed inside. What interests me is that sexuality is a whole struggle for Ani. It’s because she works in such a macho, predominantly male environment in the police department. She has been railroaded into a sexual harassment therapy group where the men mostly just enjoy hearing Ani talk about sex – it’s a hypocritical and nonsensical punishment from the patriarchal department. To see her headed towards a situation where she’ll need to play up her sexuality, use that against men, it’s not as easy as it may sound – Ani’s sister Athena (Leven Rambin) is telling her that she’ll need to strip even, and you can see the struggle already on her face hearing this news.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.32.13 AMThings are getting murky murky here in the sixth episode.
When Ani heads to the party – using her sister Athena’s name – we see how deviant and weird everything surrounding Caspere’s murder, the events following, is truly beginning to get. Ani and a ton of other sexed up women are loaded onto a bus, their purses and cellphones taken, and herded like a sheep of cattle to the slaughter.
Behind the bus, both Woodrugh and Velcoro tail a ways back to try and cover Ani. They even rush in, as Woodrugh chokes a guard outside, both clad in black gear. Loving their little undercover type task force, it’s making things get more exciting especially with this episode.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.32.48 AMFrank is still sorting motives out on the Caspere end, trying to track down the hard drive and figure out where things disappeared to after Caspere’s place, as well as who they disappeared with, in what hands. I like how Frank has become a sort of detective in his own right here. Certainly after he and Ray have started butting heads, he has to take some of the burden on himself to figure out what has truly been going on.
Unfortunately for Frank, getting to the bottom of the Mexican side of things is bringing more death and destruction into his life. I keep thinking how Frank seems stuck in that old gangster lifestyle, try and try as he might to get out of that quicksand.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.32.00 AMThe party. Man, oh, man – what can I say about this party? Weird, wild, maybe wondrous? Sure.
Sex, drugs, booze. And of course: food! When you’re having an orgy with about a hundred or more people, you’ve got to have food on hand. People get hungry. Need to keep the energy up for more orgying.
It’s fucked up. Pizzolatto is proving there’s still enough oddity in Season Two of True Detective to keep some of the first season’s hardcore fans interested.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.33.46 AMIt’s scary watching Ani essentially walk into the lion’s den. She has no phone, no weapon, and surrounded by so many old perverts. Creepy stuff to endure at times because YOU KNOW bad things happen at these “parties”. Plus, she spots prominent members of society walking through the rooms – Richard Geldof (C.S. Lee), among others. All the girls are given some drugs to help get them in the mood, keep them going, and Ani feels the effects. This whole time I was so worried about poor Ani – she’s such a strong woman but in this situation her power has basically been stripped completely.
We get a huge glimpse into Ani’s past – she has a major flashback during the party. It actually wowed me for a moment or two, so clear and at the same time brief. There’s most definitely a traumatic assault of some sort in Ani’s past which has ultimately guided her uneasiness and uncomfortable nature with men (we see a bearded man with long hair who claims there’s a unicorn in those woods and at one point leads Ani off in a dreamy shot to an old VW van). I felt terrible for her at this party, wandering around; so many people jerking off and watching others have sex, rooms full of orgies. Nasty, rough stuff!
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.34.18 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.34.27 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.34.43 AMThere is a ton of great stuff going on throughout “Church in Ruins”.
I love how the entire way to the party, as Woodrugh and Velcoro sneak up, when Ani slices and dices a few thugs – there is a great piece of classical music playing. Amazing. This was one of my favourite series of scenes since Season Two stared, it was just so perfectly composed and put together in terms of how the camera moved, the scenes changed, the music played over top. It made that whole finale to the episode more exciting than it would’ve been already. Amazing way to amp things up.
At the end of “Church in Ruins”, we see Ani in a rough spot. It’s interesting, but disturbing all the same. Luckily her night of psychological torture brought the detectives some well deserved information.
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 2.36.01 AMA lot of plot movement going on here, plus a good deal of character development. I think “Church in Ruins” is the best episode so far in Season Two. I predict a great few revelations, some more excitement and thrill, as well as maybe even a death or two. We’ll see! Such a solid crime drama in my opinion, with plenty of elements to make it a full-on thriller at many times, but I’m sure half the internet would call me an idiot or say I know nothing about television or movies because I like this – whatever.
Tell me what you thought in the comments or hit me up on Twitter: @yernotgoinatdat – we can have a (civil) chat.
Lots of people are disappointed in this season. I am not, whatsoever. It started off a little rocky, and since then it has gotten great, week after week. Despite the naysayers. Let them keep on. The last couple episodes are going to knock my socks off.

Next week’s episode is titled “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”. It’s directed by Daniel Attias. His filmography as director includes episodes of Masters of SexBloodlineThe AmericansRay DonovanHomelandThe Killing, and even 16 episodes of one of my favourite comedies, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Particularly, I’m excited for Attias to do an episode because I love both Bloodline and Ray Donovan, which are both extremely gritty at times.
Stay tuned and we’ll find out how wild things get.