Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 6: “Marion”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 6: “Marion”
Directed by Phil Abraham
Written by Carlton Cuse & Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dreams Die First” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Inseparable” – click here
Pic 1Marion Crane (Rihanna) is just pulling in to the Bates Motel, where Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) once took her. And waiting, as always, is Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore). We’re in prime Hitchcock-Bloch Psycho territory now!
In checks Marion to a quaint room, and Norman, he seems to recognise her, or something about her. He puts her right in Room 1, too. Y’know, to keep an eye on her real close, through his nifty little peephole. But Marion’s also hungry. And so we’re set up for that classic Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins sandwich scene, just slightly different. One of the reasons I love the series, the adaptation is so snappy. Always familiar yet also fresh.
Pic 1AProblem is that mother (Vera Farmiga) comes around, criticising, trying to make all of Norman’s choices. He’s accepted, as much as he can, that he is “insane” and forgets things, he dissociates from himself. He and mother are at odds, after he discovered her supposed secret. So, he’s accepted his insanity. He knows she isn’t there, but… she is, sort of. He still sees her because of Marion’s arrival. Mother disapproves of attractive women traipsing around her son. What we’re seeing here is a devastatingly sad plea from the inner part of Norman, the part that doesn’t want to be crazy. He insists on proving that mother isn’t real, which is only going to bring Norma out in worse, more full force.
Norman: “But the world is full of mad people who function, many of whom are heads of state, so I think I can manage running a motel.”
Emma (Olivia Cooke) reveals to Dylan (Max Thieriot) she found out Norma died, an apparent suicide. However, her estranged son doesn’t believe it. Despite her troubles Norma was a fighter, against all odds. It doesn’t surprise me that others would be suspicious.
At the motel, Norman brings Marion a sandwich. They sit in the back of his office, with the retro decor and the taxidermy. They talk a little, about the taxidermy; he explains it’s a way to honour the animals. Creepy, no matter how you cut it, Norman. Then eventually they come to talk of family. He says he lives with his mother. She lost her mother early on, her father didn’t want to keep her. A life on her own, essentially. He ruminates on love, caring for others – are the ones you love really the people you think they are, deep down?
Norman: “Its hard to be lonely, but its also hard to love people.”
Sam can’t get away, unable to tell Marion he’s married to Madeleine (Isabelle McNally). But he has other problems. His wife, in spite of being angry with Norman for his intrusion on their marriage, isn’t happy that he’s been stepping out. And Marion’s still left in that motel.


Tsk, tsk, Norman. Naughty boy. Using that peephole to spy on his guest as she undresses. Mother’s not going to like this, not one bit. His internal struggle is so disturbingly realised visually, audibly, as he tries not to go insane listening to mother whisper in his ear. All the while Marion steps into the shower. Uh oh.
But there’s no Bernard Herrmann score, no stabbing. Marion decides to go to reception, she wants to see the registry. To find Sam. Now, Norman knows where he’s seen her before – right there at the motel with her clandestine boyfriend. Likewise she finds out about the dude’s wife, even if she doesn’t want to believe it right away. Then Norman gives up the address, and she sees for herself. An interesting, exciting twist to the Hitchcock plot we know so well.
Marion’s pissed. She smashes up Sam’s car for good measure before heading out, which puts Sam on the bad side of both his wife and mistress. Serves him right. I wonder where this mess is headed.
That night Dylan calls Norman, they argue over what happened to Norma. “You never knew her that well,” the younger brother scolds. I can see Dylan eventually coming back to White Pine Bay, he knows something isn’t right. In the meantime, Norman’s still got mother kicking around making his mind a tough place to be. Rather than let mother make supper, he makes his own. He tries his hardest to deny her presence. She throws the place into disarray until he admits she’s real. He’s lost ultimate control, and I don’t think there’s any going back. Not at this juncture in his psychosis.


At the motel Marion’s distressed, and Norman goes to see her. He tries comforting her what little he can. She’s double fucked because her boyfriend is a piece of shit, plus she also stole from her boss(/his client). Maybe triple fucked. Considering she’s sitting on a bed next to Norman; not the rebound man she’d like to get involved with, ideally. And unfortunately for her, in the predicament between Sam and her embezzlement, she’s like a perfect victim for psycho Norman. But the good part left in him, he tries to rush her away. He knows mother is lurking. Then off into the night goes Ms. Crane.
And Sam comes looking at the motel, to find an empty room. She even tossed her cell out the window off the highway, so he can’t reach her. In the back of the office, Norma talks to Norman about his father, and then they get real. As psychosis to psycho. Mother was a tough front against things he “couldnt stand to feel.” But she says that now, he must feel those things. Knowledge is a double-edged sword. After she indoctrinates him to the truth of his life, Norman is convinced that Sam Loomis is a bad, bad man. Just like his father.
Norma: “We are two parts of the same person. Both are very real.”


Well, looks like we’ve found our new shower scene.
Norman goes into Room 1 while Sam showers. And while Roy Orbison’s “Crying” plays, rather than the iconic Herrmann score, a semi-lucid Norman stabs him to death. Blood spraying. Roy wailing in the background. Sam pulls the shower curtain down, too. What a magnificent, sick adaptation! Wow.
Norman: “Oh, mother. What have I done?”


This is now my second favourite episode of the series. Downright fantastic stuff! I keep saying the adapted writing is spectacular. Ehrin and Cuse pull out all stops here. Truly great work, all around. Love how we thought Marion was going to die as she did in the film, then they switched it up perfectly. I can’t get over it, honestly. Excited for “Inseparable” next week.

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Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”
Directed by Max Thieriot
Written by Torrey Speer

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Dreams Die First” – click here
Pic 1Now that Chick (Ryan Hurst) is officially in on the body count, how will things unfold for him going forward with Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma (Vera Farmiga)?
First of all, they’ve got to deal with the corpse of Caleb (Kenny Johnson) that’s sprawled in the middle of the road. Norman wouldn’t mind calling the sheriff, though the other two aren’t so sure about that option. And clearly Chick isn’t keen on that for being the one to have hit him. Seeing Norman navigate conversation between a dead woman and a living man is delightfully disturbing. Then Chick takes the corpse, Norman takes the groceries, and that’s that!
Can’t forget about Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). He’s been shot on a farm while heading back towards White Pine Bay. He pleas with the kid who shot him for a bit of first aid, so on. Not like Alex is going to the cops, having escaped a police transfer last episode. What motivates him seems to be just an utter need, a burning desire to get home and deal with Norman, once and for all.
Pic 2I love Chick. He’s so weird and quirky, but not too much. He is way out there. Not so far that it’s annoying or that it doesn’t fit. Sort of nice to see someone amongst this cast of characters over five whole seasons who isn’t the same typical White Pine Bay resident like all the other greasy, crooked people that exist in their small town.
Speaking of their community, there’s a new sheriff: Jane Greene (Brooke Smith). What a mess she’s inherited.
At home Norman isn’t happy with “how things are.” He and mother aren’t seeing eye to eye, he doesn’t like that things never go how he plans. More than that the two of them argue about dresses like the wild maniacs they are. And nothing feels better once Sheriff Greene comes poking around to meet Norman. Jim Blackwell, the man who came to kill him, has skipped on his parole; she found the Bates address in his belongings. She worries Alex, who’s now escaped, might be coming to cause problems. Or that there’s something both Blackwell and Alex are after, perhaps in the house, in the motel. Not good for Norman and mother to have an officer of the law snooping. She’s all good intentions. Just that… he’s a psychopath, guilty of so, so many things.
And now this ratchets up the tension between mother and son. He doesn’t even tell her about her former husband and the escape. Knowing deep down that Romero is on the way to their home.
Norma: “So I shouldve just let Jim Blackwell kill you?”
Norman: “Maybe
Norma: “Thats depressing


The more he and mother fight, the further Norman drifts towards Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He actually brings her some of mother’s dresses in an unnerving gesture; scary because he not only has interest in Madeleine, she looks similar to Norma and that’s what propels his desire most of all. There’s a great, sly little Psycho reference when she brings out his shower curtains, remarking that he must go through a lot of those; he casually replies that “Yes, yes. We do actually.” Can’t help believe that’s a nod to Hitchcock and the infamous shower scene, as Janet Leigh and the curtains alike were slashed apart.
Later on at home Norman has a talk with Chick. He doesn’t want him around the house so much. Chick feels a bit betrayed, by how much he’s done for them. Not so smart for Norman to turn his back on a guy who’s seen all the secrets. I see this having serious repercussions.
Romero makes a fake ambulance call outside an apartment building. When the EMTS arrive prepared for an overdose, he slips into the rig and gets himself a few necessities to treat his wounds. Then he does a bit of homemade surgery on the buck shot in his gut. Enough to keep him alive, anyways.
When Sheriff Greene snoops around more at the motel Norman starts putting his foot in his mouth. While he covers his ass, he doesn’t do it very well. Her suspicion is official at this point. Stupid Norman! Should’ve let mother do the talking. Except she’s a bit irrational herself. She hid Blackwell’s car in the woods after killing him. And the sheriff is searching for that very vehicle. Norman wants to be rid of it totally, and Norma insists it was wiped clean, et cetera.
So… what to do, what to do?


They argue. Norman almost kills mother. Things are not good inside this insane young man’s mind. Fractured into pieces is an understatement. Regardless, they decide on leaving the car and heading home for the night. One of the creepier scenes so far this season, just a strange, atmospheric tension, and the way it’s shot makes the moment all the more unsettling.
Those dresses belonging to mother fit Madeleine perfectly. This excites Norman, quite a bit. Or makes him happy. Or makes him want to bang his mom; who knows?! Still this precipitates a dinner between Madeleine and Norman. I wonder if it’ll get romantic. Possibly murderous, if things don’t go the way mother would want.
Chick gets a visit from Norman at his trailer. The kid wants advice, on hot wiring a car. He wants to get rid of that car in the woods. But Chick knows something’s up: “What did you do?” He’ll help, only if Norman tells him the truth. He gets it. Not the full truth: the truth about mother.
At the house, Norman tells Norma about his dinner with Madeleine. She’s not thrilled. Yet off he goes, no matter. When he shows up at her place she’s wearing one of mother’s dresses. Good lord! This is getting scarier with every passing scene. What particularly gets me is that in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Sam Loomis (played in the series by Austin Nichols) is a divorced hardware store owner. Will the history be rewritten to make Sam a widowed man instead of divorce? I worry poor Madeleine’s not long for this world.
Pic 7Madeleine and Norman make cake together, listening to Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” and falling into each other’s arms. Suddenly, mother shows up. Norman has a vision of cutting Madeleine’s throat, or of mother doing it; the blood, the body on the floor. None of it actually happened, though. He runs home. He can’t find Norma anywhere. He finds only the remnants of a man living alone.
Is this an acceptance of his psychosis? No, it’s only a deepening sense of it coming on stronger and stronger. Mother’s will is becoming terrifyingly merged with that of Norman’s, and this means nothing but more bloodshed.
Pic 8A great, great episode that had me on the edge of my seat near the end! Loving this season. Such a fascinating way to go out, plus lots of awesome adapted writing coming out of what Bloch and Hitchcock each did. Excited for more.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Tom Szentgyorgyi

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Hidden” – click here
Pic 1Caleb (Kenny Johnson) is waking up chained to the basement floor after being surprised by Norman (Freddie Highmore), dressed as Norma (Vera Farmiga). He wakes to his sister speaking to him. Only, it’s not, of course. It’s his nephew, dressed as his sister. So awfully creepy. Then there’s whatever Norman plans on doing with his uncle Caleb.
Could be a brutal end for him.
Pic 2And what about Chick (Ryan Hurst)? He knows all the secrets. He’s bore witness to the blonde wig, the odd way Norman sways across the room when he’s in his mother’s clothes/skin. They’ve formed a tenuous bond. I only wonder what Chick is getting out of this, other than maybe a bit of revenge on Caleb along the way. For now, he’s staying at the Bates house to protect Norma/Norman against the nasty uncle downstairs. Hmm. A truly strange situation, all around.
Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is being transferred from prison, and he’s another one I wonder about – he has a card up his sleeve. When they make a stop for gas and a bathroom break, he takes his chance and enacts a plan for escape.
At home Norman and his mother keep on coexisting, as best they can. She takes care of him as usual. In their creepy kind of way. He doesn’t remember that Caleb is downstairs, but she does, and she tries keeping him away from the basement. Always trying to control him. But of course Chick is still kicking around, curious about how Norman navigates his fugue state. He reveals he knows about Norma, and another tenuous bond with the other half of Norman is made.
Chick: “Were all in this sideshow together. And then we die.”
Caleb remembers his childhood with Norma, both of them brutalised by a crazy mother. Trying to survive. They had no one but each other, and despite what came later in their lives I can understand why their bond, for a time, was extremely strong. None of it matters now with Caleb chained in that basement and Chick standing guard.


Alex steals a car and then runs it off the road when he’s far enough. He makes his way back home, one mile at a time. In the meantime, Chick sits down to dinner with Norman and Norma, or y’know, one of them at least. He also brings a recorder with him. He offers to help them around the house, just for a sense of being with people after living alone so long. And what a conversation they all have together! Surreal, and crafty on Chick’s part, as well.
Later, Norman receives Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) at the motel. She clearly feels comfortable with him; bad move. But she’s having troubles with her husband, obviously. And this is a way for Norman to worm his way into her life.
In the basement Caleb hallucinates and thinks he’s hugging Norma, then her corpse. Then Norman, upstairs, finds out his uncle is trapped down there. That he’s spoken to Norma. Further than that Norman continues straddling the line between sane and utterly fucking psychopathic, as he doesn’t even understand his mother is literally dead, not just figuratively and pretending. So he heads down to talk to uncle Caleb, where mother takes over. Then both of them are hallucinating, in their own respects.
Norma: “Im sorry, Norman will probably have to kill you. I cant do it.”
Pic 5Pic 5ATrying to steal another car, Alex gets shot in the gut. What a tough, bloody journey!
Chick is continuing to record his story about the Bates family. He goes looking for a typewriter, to type up his novel. Getting ahead of himself a little on the true crime writing, though. I worry that, mixed up with the Bates’, he’s only going to get burned. Or worse.
And Norma, he had a little quality time with uncle Caleb. While thinking he was his mother. So, there are issues with his understanding: what he knows v. what mother knows. Never clear, at least for him. She wants him to kill Caleb and get this situation cauterised. Although her boy doesn’t think he can do that. Tsk, tsk, Norman – mother knows best. She advises a quick bullet to the temple.
Can he accomplish the task? We know murder’s not exactly out of his wheelhouse. He’s done plenty of heinous things before, just not all of them while fully conscious.
The answer is no – Norman can’t kill his uncle. He runs him out instead. Prompting Norma to take over and fire on Caleb. Inadvertently, Chick plays his part and accidentally runs him over in the road on the way back to the motel. Oh, shit.


Another great chapter in this last season. So many strange things converging, and now Caleb’s seemingly been taken out of the picture. Is he dead? Or just fucked up completely? Either way, Chick and Norma/Norman have their hands full with another likely corpse; at the very least, now a vegetable. Thing is, Chick has as much to lose as Norman, and their tenuous bond becomes more concrete, stuck together with blood.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Alyson Evans & Steve Kornacki

* For a recap & review of the Season 5 premiere, “Dark Paradise” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
Pic 1Norman (Freddie Highmore) is heading up to the prison. He and Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) have things they need to discuss. And that surprises the former sheriff. He isn’t exactly happy to see his former stepson. Especially considering the guy he sent to see Norma was supposed to kill him. Lots of tense mindgames going on right now. And outright threats, too. While Norman gloats, Alex makes clear he isn’t going away.
But on life goes for Mr. Bates. Another day, another act for him to perform.
In other news, Caleb (Kenny Johnson) has left. Emma (Olivia Cooke) tells Dylan (Max Theriot) she talked to him about their worries with him around. “No secrets,” she tells him. Dylan understands. Although he’s rightfully conflicted. He still has his concerns over what happened to Emma’s mother. Whether Norman did something terrible.
And Caleb, he’s back at the motel. Not knowing the truth of what’s happened there since he’s been gone. Nobody is around, so he lets himself inside the house. He quickly sees something isn’t right, the place is messy and generally looks unkempt. He finds no one. He does find a book called The Lost Art of Mummification. Creepy shit, all things considered.
Pic 2In prison, Alex gets into a nasty fight with another inmate. Taking quite the beating. Because his mind is elsewhere. Being locked up is one thing, knowing your former wife – saint or no – was killed by her son is an entirely other beast. And speaking of the beast, Norman is honing his focus on Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), whom he watches from afar. She actually offers to fix him up with someone she knows. A double date with her and her husband. Although there’s definitely a weird chemistry between them. Then we see that David Davidson is her husband, Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols). Ohhh damn, he knows a little secret, and that could be a thorn in Sam’s side. Yikes!
At home Norma (Vera Farmiga) is learning French online. Might as well keep her mind active, right? Being dead can really take its toll. She senses something, and coaxes out a conversation about Romero. A little later Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst) turns up knocking at the door with apples. And a business proposition. He’d like Norman to do a bit of taxidermy from time to time, then he’ll help sell the pieces. A partnership is born.
Caleb checks himself into a motel and finds out indirectly that Norma died. That’s rough. Devastating way to discover her supposed suicide.


Sam Loomis goes to see Norman, looking for discretion. He doesn’t wholly get what he wants. Instead, he threatens Norman. God damn, did he ever pick the wrong creepy motel manager to fuck with! As if he could know how insane Norman is, it was like a twist of fate they’ve come across one another.
No matter how unsettling the relationship between Caleb and Norma Louise, there’s still heartbreak seeing him at her grave. I don’t care. I know he’s a terrible person for what he did when they were younger. Regardless, he experiences horrible emotion having to see that Norma died while he ran away elsewhere.
Norman: “Please dont be childish, mother. Its boring.”
Out for his date, Norman plays the part of normal human being, alien amongst people in a skin suit. He asks his date all the right questions, all the while Sam stares him down, wondering if his dirty little secrets will trickle out. The two men are verbally at each other’s throats. Yet Norman is sharper, one step ahead at all times, in every way. Worse than anything mother turns up in the washroom to chastise her boy for lying about the double date dinner. Tsk, tsk, Norman. Of course he isn’t actually lying to her. She’s fucking dead. He’s only lying to himself, which is nothing new.


After getting beat up, Alex is looking to get himself out of prison. Using it as an excuse to say his life is in danger. This would get him out into the free world again. To… take care, of Norman. Like a good stepfather, whose wife the boy murdered and passed off as suicide. So messed up. Not quite as messed up as Norman, though. Who’s interested in Madeleine specifically because she looks like his mother. And that bothers Norma, even though, y’know, they’re technically the same person. So deliciously unhinged.
Seeing him become Norma in his own skin is visually interesting, also a great feat of acting on Freddie Highmore’s part. The way he embodies Norma, moving like her and taking on her mannerisms, et cetera. Amazing work. And the writing is top notch.
Meanwhile, Chick is writing it all down in one of his notebooks. Telling the story of Norman Bates. He also notices, across the bar, Caleb sitting for a drink. That’s a score left to be settled, in a massive way. But Chick knows everything about their family, the darkest of the hidden secrets. That’s a lot with which to be armed. We see that Caleb is more interested in holding Norman responsible for the death of his sister.
He goes to the house and breaks inside. But he finds nobody, again. Aside from the corpse of his dead sister in the basement. All the while Norman is running around dressed as mother. He knocks Caleb out. Right as Chick comes in to witness it all. Whoooa!


I knew this was coming and yet the way the writing manages to weave things it’s all a nice surprise. The addition of Chick as a character in the mix is an interesting one. Excited to see what happens next with him and Norman/Norma.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
Pic 1So what’s next for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore)? He’s done his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in. But mother will always live on inside him.
Well, Norman continues on much like he did before. Living in mother’s world. Except the delusion’s only gotten deeper, and we’re one step closer to the territory Alfred Hithcock explored nearly 50 years ago at this point. Poor Norma, he acts as if Norma’s still alive and well. They go about their day, eating breakfast, talking about the chores Norman has been finishing down at the motel. He’s convinced himself mother is only hiding, she isn’t dead. She had to get away from all the trouble of her life. Amazing what the tortured mind can do, isn’t it?
Pic 2And then there’s Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). I guess former sheriff. Now that he’s doing a stint in prison for being mixed up in a little too much corrupt business. That’s one of the great parts about Bates Motel: no characters, even the relatively better ones compared to others, are perfect; none of them are morally superior, they’re merely different shades of grey.
Norman runs into a shop and meets a woman named Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He, of course, rambles on about his mother. To anyone who doesn’t know him like the audience it sounds sweet. To us, it’s awfully creepy. Worse, he has some guy’s wallet. A guest from the motel? Or another grave? Hard to tell, though I assume the latter. He doesn’t remember where he got it, so he asks mother. She plays dumb and clearly knows something.
Norman: “Do you ever have the feeling that youve had the same nightmare over and over again, but that you cant remember it, you just remember the feeling of it?”
Norma: “Nope
In their new home, Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Dylan (Max Theriot) have a little baby girl, and they’re celebrating Emma’s birthday in their beautiful house. Things are wonderful; Dylan’s been promoted. Then up shows Caleb (Kenny Johnson) at the door, throwing all sorts of emotions into the mix.


Trying to find out where the wallet came from, Norman searches the motel for clues. He keeps detailed records of his whereabouts, monitoring his blackouts. One of which coincides with a receipt from the man’s wallet. Uh oh.
A man clearly at the Bates Motel to have discrete sex checks in as David Davidson. So sneaky Norman puts him in Room 1. You know why, he made that little peephole for himself, when he was spying on mother and Alex. Now he has a front row seat to the sex lives of others. Until mother calls him on the phone, interrupting his nasty little masturbatory fantasy. Even in death she controls his libido.
Added to the fact there’s luminol ordered using his credit card, something else he doesn’t remember; something mother absolutely knows about while acting like she knows nothing. They sit and have nice dinners, but underneath it’s so volatile. He can’t even bring up Madeleine and her help with the paint without upsetting their delicate balance. Knowing where Norman ends up in Psycho, it’s interesting to see things bubbling up right now between him and his dead mother. Because we know it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse.
And scarier still, Norman goes to the basement. To see his real mother, where she stays preserved, or sort of, sitting there like a doll. So at once he’s delusional and also lucid at times – the worst type of psychopath.


The next day Madeleine brings Norman some paint and brushes to sample colours. There’s an obvious chemistry between them, though she has no idea how terrifying he is under the facade. I can see a tension brewing, whether that’s sexual I don’t know yet. I’m thinking there’ll be problems with her husband down the line.
Caleb’s trying to do his best fitting in with Dylan and Emma again. Although they’re ready to give him a chance, particularly once she finds out that Caleb helped with money for her surgery. She tells him what it meant, to help save her life. On the other hand, she asks him to leave. Because of who he is, as an uncle and father simultaneously to Dylan; she doesn’t want this affecting her own child. A tough but necessary move.
Mother and Norman have an argument out in front of the motel. She isn’t happy that he’s going out to a small business owner meeting, one that Madeleine told him about. So she hauls him up to the house, to the basement. To the freezer. Where she shows him the body of the man whose wallet he’s been carrying around. They killed him. Even when neither of them fully understand who’s controlling whom in their situation. Regardless, it’s bad.
Norman: “Well, its not like weve never done this before.”


So mother and son go about ridding themselves of the corpse. And while we watch them both take care of business, it’s really just Normal lugging the body around, struggling it into the trunk, and everything else. All to Etta James singing “At Last” during their dark family outing. A nice canoe ride at night, a body dumping. Perfect for the two of them.
Except Norman still doesn’t understand why the man was trying to kill him. Why mother had to take him down. She loves to hide secrets.
Then the man’s cell rings. An inmate from prison calling – it’s Alex. He’s trying to put an end to Norman. Only now, the young man knows.


What a great opener to Season 5! Loving it already. So much in store, including the storyline that will connect us to the Hitchcock classic.
Next up is “The Convergence of the Twain” and I’m expecting big, creepy things!

THE CONJURING 2 Makes the Sequel Mighty Again

The Conjuring 2. 2016. Directed by James Wan. Screenplay by Wan, Carey and Chad Hayes, & David Leslie Johnson.
Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Robin Atkin Downes, Bonnie Aarons, Steve Coulter, & Javier Botet.
Evergreen Media Group/Atomic Monster/New Line Cinema.
Rated 14A. 134 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★★
POSTER The Conjuring was an excellent modern horror; funny enough one that gave us a story set decades ago. What sold it for me wasn’t so much the scariness as it was the acting, and of course James Wan’s directing. Patrick Wilson obviously works well with Wan, as he does with Vera Farmiga who is fantastic beyond words. Together they make a strong trio while he gives the movie its visual wonder and they add the much needed genuine drama with their powerful performances.
What The Conjuring 2 does is turn up the terror. Almost instantly. The horror works its way under your skin. The first movie was a nice romp through scary territory, as well. Just not as nerve fraying and intensely as this second instalment. Moreover, the attention paid to the character of Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) as the more damaged of her and her husband Ed (Patrick Wilson) is what makes the story even more fascinating. On top of all that awesomeness, Javier Botet plays Crooked Man, the horrific entity at the centre of the Enfield Haunting – the case which the Warrens take on in England. The possession and the haunting of the first film takes a minor backseat to the creepy Crooked Man. He will eat your god damn soul. With lots of good drama and strong characters, alongside heavy doses of supernatural terror, The Conjuring 2 is one of the best horrors of the past ten years.
Pic1 The opening Amityville sequence is not only eerie in the way Lorraine walks around holding and firing an invisible shotgun, like Defeo. What makes most of it so great is the editing, the jump cuts moving us from living to dead Defeo family victims; as if the wounds appear, not that they’re made. This could easily have come in a hyper-bloody scene where Lorraine witnesses the murders at her own hand. Instead it’s a truly unsettling opener to the story, as we see Lorraine, once more, inflicted with terrible spiritual pain. Great way to start the film off.
One reason I dig The Conjuring, both of them, is because Wan really has the goods of a classic filmmakers. His desire to shoot things in a certain way, to make it look slightly different than everything else is part of why he’s interesting. He does the jump scares, he uses techniques common to the genre. The way he does it is how he innovates. He even improves with the second film in his series. Several times when I expected him to go for the jump he went with an unexpected calm, and the tension only built up more following these moments. That’s how Wan gets the audience at times, by luring them into a one, two, three, WHAM! where we build and build to the snapping point. Finally, and only then, Wan gives up the goods and employs a proper scare to rattle us.
Rather than shoot in the typical way so many mainstream horror movies seem to be shot, Wan opts to go for a nice colour palette and a grand directorial style, aided here by the cinematography of Don Burgess (ContactSpider-ManSource Code). There’s one amazing scene where we first meet the Hodgson and just the way in which Burgess takes us around the house in a one-take (likely with a few keen cuts) shot – beginning on the outside coming in – is a spectacular instance of how The Conjuring 2 is even better, more effective than its predecessor.
MK2_2760.dng Even though both Ed and Lorraine Warren are troubled through their paranormal/supernatural work, she is the one most plagued by the visions of the demons and the entities they encounter. Wilson and Farmiga do great work together. However, she’s the one whose experience becomes the most visceral in the whole film. Often Ed is in danger, or perceived to be, yet we watch as Lorraine suffers mentally just to help others because of her gift. The scene where she sees the nun go into her husband’s office is downright spine chilling! Loved it, so much. When you get a scene that hits you in the gut with fear, it’s a spectacular bit of fun. That bit with the painting, the shadow on the wall, you’ll be pleasantly frightened, too. I hope. Best of all, in terms of acting, is the relationship between Ed and Lorraine, which Wilson and Farmiga play to the fullest. They feel genuine, warm, they appear dedicated to each other and their work. You can’t ask for more than what these two offer.
MK1_0006.dng The Conjuring 2 is one of the better horrors of the past decade. It’s also one of the best horror sequels out there. I don’t care about the Enfield Poltergeist being discredited as a hoax. That’s not why I enjoy either of these movies, I don’t come for truthfulness. These stories are based on supposedly true events. However, the entertainment and the horror is what I’ve come for, and that’s exactly what you get. Especially with the sequel – I loved the original, but this blows it out of the water in both execution and scope. The entire two hours (and a bit) are enthralling. There’s not a boring, wasted moment. For that reason, this is a 5 star bit of horror cinema. I absolutely agree with those who feel Wan is one of the better horror directors around today. Because it’s damn true. I’d like to get another Conjuring movie out of this franchise. This one stepped the game up. Moreover, it once again helps prove that not all horror sequels are worthless, that some can in fact capitalise on the excellence of the movies which came before them.

The Conjuring is a Genuine Creepshow

The Conjuring. 2013. Directed by James Wan. Screenplay by Chad & Carey Hayes.
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Haley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Marion Guyot, Morganna May, & Amy Tipton. New Line Cinema/The Safran Company/Evergreen Media Group.
Rated 14A. 112 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★1/2
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People can argue to the contrary all they want: James Wan is a modern horror master. What’s more, he refuses to abandon the genre which made him such a big hit in Hollywood, leading him to the Fast & Furious franchise and the upcoming Aquaman DC film. Just now, the sequel to The Conjuring is in theatre making giant impressions on audiences, many (critics alike) claiming it’s one of the best horrors in a long time. So I hope that once he takes off even more with his DC adaptation that Wan won’t forget from where he came. Because from the revolutionary Saw (yes I called it that; the first one only which is of course the single one he directed) to the underrated Dead Silence and Death Sentence, to the first two Insidious films (love them to death), this is a director who proves, time and again, he understands horror. Not every film is perfect, nor should you expect that. But each one takes an excellent, gouging stab at the genre and more often than not gives us new and terrifying scenes that will go down as classics in the years to come.
The Conjuring didn’t actually impress me first time around. Funny how that works, considering now after watching it a couple more times recently I feel it’s destined to be a classic of the horror genre; it already is, just needs the time to pass for an official label. But some movies work like that. They don’t always get you right away. Sometimes you watch a movie on DVD or VOD, you’re sitting at home and the attention span isn’t perfect. Sometimes you don’t notice everything right off the bat. Either way, after seeing this a couple more times I’ve come to realise how perfectly old school this supernatural haunted house/paranormal story works. Better than that, we’ve got the backdrop of a true story concerning world famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, as well as one of their big cases from 1971 in Harrisville, Rhode Island where the Perron family came under siege by the terrifying spirit of a dead witch from the 1800s.
Wan does incredible work as director, along with solid performances from the likes of Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Ron Livingston, all in order to make this into a truly scary movie. So many people complain about the horror genre being stale these days, saying there aren’t any good offerings coming out. Well, drink this one in. It’s up there with the best of the haunted house movies, and certainly one of the greatest in terms of demonic possession. You can’t ask for more than an eerie story, chillingly based on real events, and top notch acting in a horror flick.
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What I love about horror based on true stories, or supposedly true, is that I’m a real sceptic. I do indeed wish to believe, as Fox Mulder and his decorative poster both state in yearning. Absolutely. If there were some evidence of life beyond death, it might actually be comforting. Maybe it’d only be more difficult. Nevertheless, I do find myself hoping to come in contact with a ghost. On a couple occasions, I’ve questioned whether I actually did. Alas the scepticism goes on. The Conjuring does go for jump scares in quite a few scenes. What it does best is create this unsettling, dire atmosphere where the line between what is real and what is paranormal/supernatural becomes nearly eradicated.
A huge part of what makes this movie work is the dual look at and parallel between the difference between a family experiencing paranormal events v. a family standing as a physical dike against the mental anguish those other families faced. Though the Perrons find themselves completely torn apart by demonic influence, the Warrens are similarly troubled. They are essentially charged to withholding all the demons, the dead spirits, the poltergeists, whatever. They’ve got a ton of the possessed dolls and objects in their basement under lock and key, constantly threatening their own existence and their own family. So there’s a super interesting dynamic that happens between the two separate families, each tormented in their own right. This also allows for a lot of great acting between the two couples, both sets with their own issues and their different lives, so on. Other screenplays might have made this into a jumbled mess. Instead, Chad and Carey Hayes are able to use every last second of their 112 minutes appropriately, and expanding the characters, the plot with care without ignoring anything.
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Lili Taylor is actually one of my first celebrity crushes, if we’re being honest. Being a young man on the furthest Eastern Coast of Canada, I grew up watching Showcase on Channel 34. I can’t remember which movie I’d seen her in first, either Girls Town or I Shot Andy Warhol, but her beauty and her talent struck me. She’s an engaging actor. I find that even without that teenage crush, her acting speaks for itself. Here, even before any of the wild stuff starts happening with her character Carolyn there’s an excellently fun quality to her. That’s what makes the rest of the plot involving her struggle so difficult to endure. In fact, immediately from the first moment we hear and see her there’s an admirable element to Carolyn, endearing, as she and her husband have a brief little laugh while getting out of the car at their new home. Just how she laughs at him, so natural. Great talent to so quickly enjoyable in a performance. This only increases as the film wears on. Her work in the latter portions, as Carolyn succumbs to a demonic possession of intense proportions, Taylor makes the horror far too real for comfort. Likewise, as much as I only enjoy Ron Livingston mostly while watching Office Space, he does well with the character of Roger. He’s the everyman-type American dad, out in the country taking his family into their new home, then dealing with the excessively sinister fallout that nobody ever could have predicted, not in a million year. There’s a complexity to the character. Even if I don’t think he was amazing, Livingston makes the character honest, likeable. Above all, he’s real. Both him and Taylor make the family dynamic play well, in turn selling the whole situation, as it’s them at the eye of the storm. Whereas I say Livingston wasn’t anything extraordinary, without his solid performance as the father and husband of the Perron family the whole personal, human drama would not work, only in a one-sided sense with Taylor doing the heavy lifting.
Both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are great. The latter has even more work to do, being the more susceptible to the influence of the demons and the supernatural entities. Most of all they do stellar work portraying the Warrens, their relationship particularly one being under different strains than a lot of regular people. They make the Warrens into very genuine human beings. They don’t have any air of the kookish qualities many associate with modern day ghost hunters. These two allow Ed and Lorraine Warren to feel like warm, understanding, caring individuals. They’re not self-serving or narcissistic in their aims of ghost hunting. Of course that’s partly because of the real people and their efforts, but Farmiga and Wilson put their hearts into these performances. It shows in the natural way the Warrens come across. Along with Livingston and Taylor, they’re able to make the personal drama of the horror become so powerful.
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Wan’s directing is beyond amazing. Many of his choices are perfect for the horror. On one hand, he knows when to employ the use of jump scares. He understands where they fit and how they ought to be used. On the other hand, Wan is also adept at building tension, making the atmosphere of his films drip with fear. Just as Insidious works nicely using the visuals and its score to create a thick, atmospheric creepiness, The Conjuring is a haunting mix of eerie-looking images and yet another set of fittingly horrifying pieces from Joseph Bishara (Insidious trilogy). All together, these elements work to unsettle the audience at every turn, never settling to be lukewarm scary, but always trying to find the heart of terror.
After letting this settle on me, The Conjuring is one of the best horrors in so many years. There’s never too much of anything, always the correct amount. Wan finds a balance between the jumps and the subtle creeps, as well as manages to find the appropriate performances in his cast to warrant the emotional ties necessary for the horror to hit home. There’s not a lot I can say against the power of this movie. Don’t always judge right on first viewing. Sometimes your opinion won’t change. Now and then, you’ll find you were wrong. And damn, was I ever sleeping on this one. Glad I’ve taken the time to watch it more because I’ve discovered I love it and its fun, classic scares.

Running Scared Runs (Too) Wild on Crime

Running Scared. 2006. Directed & Written by Wayne Kramer.
Starring Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri, Karel Roden, Johnny Messner, Ivana Milicevic, Alex Neuberger, Michael Cudlitz, Bruce Altman, Elizabeth Mitchell, Arthur J. Nascarella, John Noble, Idalis DeLeon, & David Warshofsky. New Line Cinema/Media 8 Entertainment/True Grit Productions.
Rated 18A. 122 minutes.
Action/Crime/Drama

★★★
POSTER
I’m not a Paul Walker fan, there are only a couple movies I enjoy with him in it. This being one. He was never a bad actor, just never picked the greatest projects. Running Scared gives him a significantly meaty role into which he could chew. On top of that the entire story and its plots are super fun. This is part personal drama, part chase film, part mob movie, and more. You’ve got action, crime, lots of drama. If anything there’s almost too much involved throughout the screenplay. This is actually a great little flick, one destined for more cult status as the years wear on. Part of its flaws lie in the wild nature of the writing, the over-the-top elements get a bit tiresome. Part of its excitement also lie in the very same thing. So this movie remains a good example of when weird gets a little out of hand. Despite the nonsense, Running Scared gets exciting, thrilling, even slightly disturbing. There’s no getting past the flaws, sadly. What might have ended up a solid action-crime flick gets too convoluted for its own good, never able to grab that foothold necessary to climb past its bored trappings. While I can throw this on for fun I’m not able, or willing, to say this is anything more than a guilty pleasure. A cotton candy action movie. Lots of crime to boot. A ton of characters with quirks doesn’t make up for lack of character development and a story that’s always rushing, trying to do good on everything it’s missing. I want to love it, I do. Walker does well with his role, as do Vera Farmiga, young Cameron Bright, among others such as the always charming Chazz Palminteri. The action is a thrill, the story’s got provocative ins and outs. There’s no coming together of all the good aspects. By the finale you’re only wondering where all the potential went.
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My favourite touches…
Anzor (Karel Roden) represents the failure of the American Dream. When he talks about seeing John Wayne in The Cowboys originally it was on 8mm and they cut out the hero’s death, as it was for children. Upon coming to America, he sees the real version where Wayne’s character dies, shot, walking away. This is the perfect exemplification of that realization by an immigrant coming to the U.S., that all that idea of the American Dream is merely smoke and mirrors, it’s a fake, a movie, a plot like any other in a made up movie. It all speaks to his own situation, a Russian coming to the States, ending up as a criminal on the streets involved with guns, drugs, and everything else in that realm.
The whole structure of the story is excellent, even if the film as a whole doesn’t pay off on all the cheques it cashes via several different plot threads. For instance, the multi-layered plot involving Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) working for the mob and having to hide the gun, the gun gets taken by Oleg (Cameron Bright) and gets used on Anzor triggering his paranoia, in turn triggering a sketchy situation for Joey with his mob pal Tommy (Johnny Messner) and his father, Boss Frankie Perello (Arthur J. Nascarella), all of that sending poor Oleg out on the run where he goes from one dangerous situation to the next, travelling between scary locations, each worse than the last. So within all that there are these nice mini-chases between set piece after set piece. Cool enough. Joey gets thrown around the city and this makes for an interesting journey through the streets of, funny enough, Prague, though the setting is more somewhere like New York or New Jersey. With nothing ultimately interesting enough to carry things completely through, we’re left with just a bunch of connected scenes that feel as if they could’ve made up two movies. There aren’t enough pieces to make a whole puzzle, only little bits that connect, but only in the sense they’ve got all the same characters involved. This is a typical mob movie that tries to be more, ending in a mashed up slop by the finish of its overly long runtime.
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My biggest issue with the film is there’s no real character development in any of the characters. Sure, we do get revelations concerning our lead. Other than that it’s barely non-existent. The characters themselves are incredibly interesting. However, there’s never any time to flesh them out. We’re far too busy riding along and zipping through various landscapes, locations, different oddball settings. There’s a little bit of style, as far as the look of the film is concerned. This is neither unique enough, nor flashy enough to keep our minds distracted from the bunched up plots and the various characters tossed into the middle of them. In fact, the greatest development out of any character is saved for a feeble plot twist last in the game. Something that could’ve been used to much better effect were it given up early on. That way, more development would have come from that one point. Instead, it’s a forgettable end to a middle of the road story.
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The one thing that saves this aside from those few interesting portions I mentioned is the cinematography from Jim Whitaker, whose work includes Thank You for Smoking and director Wayne Kramer’s The Cooler, as well as other titles. Whitaker makes the look of the film sort of glossy. All the same things are kept ugly, gritty, matching the dirty cop/criminal plot playing out. In that visual aesthetic, Running Scared is able to stay captivating most of the time, even if it’s lacking in fairly significant areas such as the development of characters. You can find plenty to enjoy with the weird characters, just don’t expect that to go anywhere further. The plot is decent, though again, it never gets anywhere because saving such a juicy reveal for its finale takes away potential power. Still, throw this on if you’re looking to pass the time with a few thrills, a chill tossed in for good measure. The action and the weirdness won’t make this a classic, shooting the whole movie in its foot because of excess. You’ll be able to find something to dig, not every fun movie has to be a masterpiece after all.

Joshua Makes You Question the Nature or Nurture of Evil

Joshua. 2007. Directed by George Ratliff. Screenplay by David Gilbert & Ratliff.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Celia Weston, Dallas Roberts, Michael McKean, Jacob Kogan, Nancy Giles, Linda Larkin, Alex Draper, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Ezra Barnes, Jodie Markell, Rufus Collins, Haviland Morris, & Tom Bloom. ATO Pictures.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
Drama/Horror/Thriller

★★★★
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The creepy kid sub-genre (if that’s legitimately a thing) in horror is one that’s seen plenty of ripe material. Some of the classics dominate, such as The Omen and the lesser loved but awesome The Good Son featuring young Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. Then there are others which aren’t as great, though still enjoyable, like Children of the Corn. What makes us so worried in general about the killer kids, the little psychopaths, young boys and girls capable of murder, manipulation, and so much more, is the idea of nature v. nurture. With any representation of evil, adult and child alike, it’s a question of whether innocence is real. If it is inherent in human beings automatically and evil becomes engrained in people throughout the course of their lives. Or if there’s no such thing as innocence, and at birth humans are part of a cosmic Russian Roulette, in which children can come out on the opposite shade of that spectrum.
Joshua examines such questions of innocence. Even after the credits start to roll and we’ve watched with dread those final moments, there are no blatant answers. It may seem like everything’s obvious. Although that’s certainly not the case if you look closely. Added to the finale and its ending there are several key moments which call into question what exactly has happened. People can say they’ve got a definitive answer, and they may offer quite a deal of evidence to that point, yet there will always be a hovering air of mystery. Considering these events, when you look back on the film as a whole you start to try piecing together various theories, moving back and forth between possibilities. Ultimately, this is a strength, as Joshua is highly likely to stick in your mind, days after seeing it, possibly longer. And after so much madness you’ll start to question whether evil really is nurtured all the time after all.
Maybe innocence is far too fleeting.
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I love the natural feeling of the relationship between Brad and Abby (Sam Rockwell & Vera Farmiga). One of the biggest things about any drama, no matter what sort of genre boundaries it crosses, is that the character need to feel real. I don’t care what sort of story you’re telling, if the characters in your screenplay don’t connect with people emotionally on some level then there’s really no hope for anything else you’re attempting to do. While this movie is absolutely a (psychological)horror-thriller its main structure is an intense family drama. The foundation of which is always going to be real, honest characters. One example is early on when Brad joins Abby in bed – he’s trying to start sex, without being obnoxious, and his wife isn’t really ready yet, but he’s kissing her ass (literally), telling her how gorgeous she is, to the point of saying he loves how her armpits smell.
When the horror-thriller elements star to kick in hard there are obvious comparisons, and maybe homages, to similar films now considered classics. For instance, just Abby’s hair alone and later her pale complexion will have most people thinking of Rosemary’s Baby. As Joshua (Jacob Kogan) further manipulates his parents he becomes reminiscent of an even more actively involved Damien Thorn.
One of the eeriest scenes comes when the dog dies. The way Joshua mimics his father begins to show us how the boy might possibly be a psychopath. We know already there’s something not quite right, but this is a spooky moment. Even Brad starts to get a peek into the personality of his son, and though he soon forgets mostly about it this is a big turning point. As an audience, we’re gradually privy to more of his creepy behaviour that leads us farther and deeper into the boy’s psychopathy.
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Rockwell is a fantastic actor. He does well with a variety of characters, and this is no different. The character of Brad is complex. He’s a very loving, understanding husband, and all at once a man with needs, both emotional and physical. Later on, he becomes a sort of vilified father near the end. So as an actor Rockwell has tons with which he can work. He’s easy to relate with watching him deteriorate, and this is probably why it’s all so effective. We feel for him all the way. Alongside him is Farmiga, another awesome talent. She is always watchable, even in movies where there’s nothing too exciting going on. Here, she’s saddled with playing a role similar to the ones played by Mia Farrow and Lee Remick, only this is a much more realistic portrayal of a woman driven to madness by pregnancy and/or motherhood. It isn’t easy to portray an honest character like this, but Farmiga gives us the good and bad of a new mother, one that’s already experienced the exact same thing not even a decade before. Having seen several women go through that new life as a mother, including the rocky beginnings, I find Farmiga’s performance to be extremely on point. And when Joshua further drives his mother into psychological ruin there are some good scenes between Farmiga and Rockwell, where they give us a devastating look at a corroding marriage.
The best scene of all is the last one in the park, after Brad finally snaps. Everything about it is incredibly well executed. Love the score that accompanies the moment, very ominous and psycho-thriller-esque. But just the way Rockwell goes mental, fighting the men around him, it’s so intensely emotional. The camera draws back, panning out and giving us this almost auditorium-like view of the confrontation. Overall, a wonderful sequence.
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This is a 4-star film that I’d put up at the top of the pantheon of creepy kid sub-genre. Of course Joshua doesn’t come along with any of the outright bloody horror many of its counterparts boast. Nonetheless, it is horrific. A psychological thriller with enough viciousness to hold the attention of most. There are good performances, however, the writing is what does most of the work. Not every creepy kid flick has much innovative about its story. What Joshua doesn’t attain in its few missteps it gains back in an overall willingness to step outside the usual expectancies of the sub-genre and it makes up by subverting those ideas, giving us something altogether creepy and slightly original. The film avoids cliche at many turns simply due to the fact it opts for a plot that doesn’t dive into the supernatural. Everything is much too real and impressively believable.
Dig in, you’ll find a treat especially if creepy kids get to you. This is one boy I won’t soon forget.