Dead of Summer Episode One :Patience

I know what I was expecting when I heard about Dead of Summer, so I wasn’t going to watch this show. But now I’m intrigued. I don’t, as a rule, watch movies, or shows, involving serial killers, unless there’s a very unique take on the subject. It turns out that Dead of Summer, no matter how much it may look like a retread of Friday the 13th, may not actually be about serial killing, which is what I  found so refreshing.

In the first episode, we get our usual cast of characters, who show up at a re-opened summer camp, that had been closed after a horrible tragedy. Actually that’s not our opening scene. The opening scene involves Tony Todd, as the last surviving member of a suicide cult, of some kind, who drowned themselves in the nearby river.He is subsequently killed by some angry townspeople.

rs_1024x759-160607100543-1024-dead-of-summer-cast-freeform

So whatever tragedy befell the camp, before our new crop of teenagers showed up, is not the only tragedy in that area. Our  second clue, that this show might not be what it seems, is the teens who are there for the summer are reunited from one of the years before the camp closed, and they all know each other, except for the virginal looking new girl, who turns out to be not quite as innocent as she seems either.

There are the usual cliches like the shady locals warning people to stay away, the nosy sheriff, who looks like he may be hiding something too, the cranky groundskeeper, and the camp director, who seems oblivious, but is more than a little sketchy herself.

The cast is the usual grab bag of cliches as well, or so it seems. There’s the hot, sexy skank, the pre-occupied, brainy black guy, the rebel who barely speaks, and the usual J.Crew catalog models, along with the gay best friend, but these people aren’t exactly as they seem either.

maxresdefault (2)

Everyone has secrets and some of them are both literally, and figuratively, haunted by their pasts. The new girl has been seeing the ghost of a little girl at the camp, while suffering from some dark regrets, from her own past, involving a former friend.

The black guy starts seeing images of Tony Todd in his videos (he’s the group’s video chronicler), which is pretty frightening, if you’ve ever seen Tony Todd. He has also been getting some significant eyeballing from the camp director. I don’t yet know what any of her eyeballing means but she’s either totally cougaring him or hates his guts. I’m not sure.

So far, no one has been serial killed yet, and this may or may not occur, what with ghosts running all over the place, the groundskeeper knocking off deer and leaving them laying around to fertilize the lawn, and the sheriff investigating the groundskeeper, for being an ass, as far as I can tell.

 

I found the show really interesting. It started off doing some expected things but then introduced a few ideas I wasn’t looking for, like ghosts, so now I’m asking questions, and that’s always a good first step to loving a show.

Its not a particularly heavy show, but its definitely not a comedy either. Everything is played for straight and the actors are acceptable. Actually, what surprised me was that the characters were likable. I usually end up hating the characters so much that I root for the killer to get them. But I genuinely like these people. There are a couple of bland ones, and they all do the usual cliched activities, like telling scary stories to each other around the campfire, but they’re not ugly to each other just for fun, or obnoxious, or anything. They’re not mean to the new girl for funsies, and they take the gay character in stride without a blink, and don’t try to haze, or shame, the truculent, quiet, rebel. Even the ones you think are just there to be pretty act relatively intelligent.

Dead_of_Summer_1x01_15

The show’s atmosphere is just a tiny bit of camp (no pun meant). Just enough to let you know its okay to laugh at some things but mostly its a drama.

So, I will be checking out a few more episodes, although most of my reviewing for the Summer is done. (I will continue with my regularly scheduled programming in the Fall, though.) This looks much more interesting than Outcast, which is totally not capturing me.

For those of you who are still not sure, Dead of Summer is from the creators of Once Upon a Time and airs on The Family Channel, which is now called Freeform

 

 

The Monster: It Follows (2014)

There have been a lot of words written about this movie. About how great it is, how its the scariest thing since sliced bologna (which is delicious and horrible, btw), about its sense of timelessness. I’m going to discuss the monster, the demon that infects people through sexual activity, and what is it’s meaning to the main character. These ideas are not set in stone, this is just me speculating about  the events in the film. I just think its too easy to think of the demon infection as a form of STD, or that the film is only about sex. It is about sex, but the underlying theme of the film is much deeper.I think it’s  about the inevitability of death, and the various anxieties that young people have about being alive.

A conventionally pretty blonde girl, Jay, is infected with the curse from a  young man named Jeff (aka. Hugh), when they have sex. She is cursed to be followed by a demon that will eventually kill her. It can look like anyone, but she’s the only one who can see it.  Although the sex between them is consensual, the aftermath is filmed like a kidnapping and rape scene (which is not  graphic). Jeff ties her to a wheelchair in a carpark, where they await the monster’s arrival. While they do that, Jeff lays out the ground rules about what will be happening to her. How Jeff came by these rules is unclear, but  he still doesn’t make for the most reliable of narrators.

image

Jeff dumps Jay on the street outside her house, where she is found by her sister Kelly, and her neighbors: Yara, a friend of Kelly, and Paul, a childhood friend who has a serious crush on Jay. There’s also her neighbor Greg, a handsome young man,  who lives across the street, and loves to wash his car. (Jay once slept with him in high school.) Paul, Kelly, and Yara were sitting on the porch playing Old Maid, (the point of which is to get rid of the Old Maid card by secretly getting someone else to accept it. You lose the game if you die holding that card.) Given the subject matter of the film, this is not a coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence that Yara is reading excerpts from Doestoevsky’s The Idiot for the rest of the movie. The only passages she seems interested in reading out loud are the ones about dealing with the inevitability of death ,which is also not coincidental, considering the book itself isn’t actually about death.

image

There are  mild sexual relationships between all the characters, which I believe informs a lot of the film, and has some bearing on the movie’s monster. For example Yara expresses some mild jealousy over how pretty Jay is to Kelly, who agrees. Jay was Paul’s first kiss, after which he kissed her sister, Kelly. Its well acknowledged by everyone that Paul has a crush on Jay, though  she doesn’t seem unduly bothered by it. She truly must not be because the demon never appears to her as Paul. Although Kelly and Yara relentlessly tease Paul for it, he is good-natured about their teasing, and the four of them get along well. There is also the little neighbor boy, who appears to be maybe thirteen or fourteen, who regularly spies on Jay while she swims in her backyard pool. Jay knows about “some” of his spying, and at one point good naturedly calls out that she can see him watching her.

Jay’s world appears very boring, without any  great amount of tension or drama between her and anyone else, but I think what this movie proves is that Jay’s world is full of a great number of deep seated terrors. Some of these are  the conventional fears of pretty young women everywhere, and some of them are unique to Jay. I think the monster is an expression of some, if not all, of these fears. Essentially its an id monster.

The first time Jay sees the demon, is just after her infection by Jeff in the carpark. It appears in the form of a naked young woman. It is unclear if Jeff is seeing something different from what she is seeing, however. I think it appears as whatever fears it can glean from its victims minds. Either that, or Jay  is simply having a very bad nightmare, where the monster chasing her, always looks like something she’s secretly afraid of. I think the naked young woman represents Jay. She just had sex, she’s drugged, groggy, deeply afraid, cold and half naked, in an abandoned carpark. I think the demon shows up as a generic fear of being naked and vulnerable in public, (much like any anxiety dream where you show up at school missing your pants.)  Later, as the demon becomes more attuned to Jay’s mental state, it appears as much more specific fears.

The next day, Jay is examining herself in her bathroom. She doesn’t know that the neighbor boy is sitting on the roof and spying on her through the window. As a pretty blond girl, she knows that people look at her all the time, but this is one of the few instances where she is being gazed upon and doesn’t know it. Her privacy is being violated, not just by the neighbor, but by the filmgoer.

image

The second time Jay sees the demon, things get a bit more specific. The monster becomes more detailed in its terrorizing of her as the movie progresses. As Jay attends school the next day, she sees (there are lots of window shots in this movie,windows are symbolic),  an old woman, slowly walking towards her. Although the woman is wearing nothing more than an old hospital gown and slippers, Jay’s reaction to her is entirely out of proportion to her appearance. To anyone else, the appearance of such a person at school would be puzzling, maybe even disturbing, or laughable, but Jay is seriously frightened to the point where she runs out of class. Note: during that scene, the teacher is reading an excerpt from “The Love Song of J. Albert Prufrock”, a poem about a man who is getting older, while he  dithers on about some important thing he was supposed to have done earlier in his life.

The monster (the old woman/the old maid) may be symbolizing Jay’s fear of getting old and not having accomplished what she set out to do in life. It is obvious that Jay is attending some kind of community college, so  she may not even have in mind what she wants to do with her future. She doesn’t seem particularly interested in her future either.  Earlier, on one of her dates with Jeff, she played a game with him called Changing Places, where the objective is to pick a person from the crowd and have  your partner guess who you chose. Jeff chooses a small boy, and when she questions Jeff about his choice, tells  Jeff that he is only twenty-one and has his whole life ahead of him. Jay could just as easily be discussing herself but she allows Jeff to humorously sidestep the seriousness of her question.

Jay, in a panic, goes to see Kelly and Jeff, at their job. She’s having some difficulty explaining why she was so frightened, because her fear doesn’t make any sense to them, or her. Paul promises to spend the night and make sure nothing weird happens, even though Kelly roughly teases him for it.

image

I do have to make note of the fact that whenever the  characters are talking in Jay’s house, there’s usually an old movie playing. Even the background dialogue of the movies they’re watching is something that will play into the later plot of the film. For example, before her date with Hugh, Jay stops to speak to her three friends sprawled on the living room couch, watching what I think is Forbidden Planet which is about an invisible entity terrorizing a space station, that appears to be made  of electricity, and hates water. This movie playing in the background isn’t a coincidence either. Everything in the movie, from the soullessly downbeat, electronic synth music, to the background conversations between seemingly unimportant characters, and the camera moves themselves, has a purpose. Clocking in at a quick ninety minutes, nothing in the film is wasted. The film seems longer than it is because it’s so dense with meaning and imagery.

Later that night, Jay sees the demon for the third time, and this instance is much more disturbing, and more specific, in its iteration. Hearing glass breaking, Paul checks to see what happened but can find no one. When Jay goes to check, she finds a girl in her kitchen, who looks as if she’d  recently been raped and brutalized. Her hair and clothing is wet, torn and dirty. She is wearing a single sock, a torn red bra, and appears to be urinating on herself (as  brutal rape can sometimes cause incontinence). She is partially nude and her arms appear to be tied behind her back, while her face appears bruised. She is very obviously a victim of violence. Its impossible to name any pretty young woman for whom rape is not one of the great fears of life. It certainly appears to be one of Jay’s great fears.

Jay panics and runs screaming from this encounter, as well. Once again, she is completely unable to explain what she saw, or why she’s so scared, while Paul and Kelly both insist that there is no one else in the house. When Yara attempts to enter the room, she is followed by an extraordinarily tall man. This is also not a coincidence. The director says he tried to find the tallest person he could for that particular scene. This may mean that one of Jay’s great fears is growing big, (i.e. getting fat).  Jay runs away again, biking to a nearby park, where she can see all around.

image

Kelly ,Yara, Paul and now Greg, catch up to her and its at this point she decides to  go on the offensive. She needs to understand what’s happening, and the only person who can explain it, is Jeff. It turns out that Jeff isn’t his real name. His real name is Hugh, which the friends find out, when they investigate the house he rented in town. He left behind some personal objects, along with porn magazines, which lead some reviewers to speculate that Hugh was a rapist and that was how he got infected, when he raped the girl who gave it to him, but I reject that idea. I think the demon can only be passed on by the willing. I don’t think you can pass it on to someone who doesn’t accept sex with you. Its why Hugh goes through such pains to woo Jay, over several dates, and then carefully explains things to her afterward. She needs to know what’s happening to her, because the longer she stays alive, the longer he can stay alive.

The porn magazines are not a coincidence either. Earlier, when Jay confessed to Paul she was having trouble sleeping , the two of them reminisce about finding some porn magazines,  when they were children. When their mothers caught them with the books, spread out on the front porch, they each got the sex education talk, the next day. The movie is suffused with seemingly innocent sexual conversations, and even those conversations that are not about sex, pertain to the characters and plot, in other ways. It is during this same conversation that we learn about the sexual history between Jay, Kelly, and Paul.

The windows of Hugh’s abandoned house are strung with tin cans, to alert Hugh, if anything tries to get inside. The movie is especially terrifying because the creature isn’t dumb. It has a certain level of sly cunning. One of its tactics for reaching its prey, if they are indoors, is to break a window and slither its way inside, as it did at Jay’s house.

They find out Hugh’s real name, and address, by visiting his high school. One of the more interesting parts of the movie is when the camera does long panning shots of whatever environment Jay happens to be in. The viewer spends that time warily looking for the creature. In some sense we have become like Jay. We have been infected too, since we can see it. Constantly on our guard against the creature’s appearance. In some scenes, the demon can be spotted slowly walking in the background, but since it can look like anyone, it may take several viewings to spot it. While visiting the school, the demon can be spotted,twice, slowly walking towards the school, and then Greg’s car, in the form of Jay’s friend Yara. What makes these scenes especially frightening is we can see that the real Yara is in the car with Kelly and Paul.

still-of-maika-monroe-lili-sepe-and-daniel-zovatto-in-it-follows-2014-large-picture

The group visits Hugh’s house, and the door is answered by his mother.  The only parents we see in the movie are mothers.  In fact there are no adult males at all in the film. They are all entirely absent. It would be easy to believe that they are all at work, except there are little clues that make me think that most of these teens fathers, if they’re mentioned at all, are dead. We never see Paul’s or Yara’s parents. In fact, Yara spends the entire movie at Jay’s house. Even Greg’s father is absent, although we see Greg’s mother a couple of times in the movie.

The conversation with Hugh is unhelpful. He doesn’t have any more to tell them than what he first told Jay, other than he can still see it, even though its not after him. He urges Jay to pass it on to someone else. Greg is indignant and blustering with Hugh. He wants to protect Jay. You start to get the sense that Jay is something of a hot commodity. Both Greg and Paul would love to sleep with her and this would be a great excuse to talk her into it.

image

Greg takes everyone out to his father’s lake house. This is the only  time that anyone’s father is mentioned. We don’t know if  Greg’s father is dead, just that he’s gone. The fourth time Jay sees the creature, it attacks her on the beach. It’s a quiet scene so the viewer sits, breathlessly, waiting for the creature to appear in the background. It walks up behind Jay in the last form we saw, Yara, and grabs her hair. This is the first time when anyone other than Jay can see a manifestation of the creature. Except for Greg, who conveniently chose that moment to go pee in the bushes. All Greg can see is people running and yelling. Paul is the only one who has the presence of mind to attack it by hitting it with a chair. The creature releases Jay and hits Paul, knocking him backward. This is  our first real evidence that the creature is an actual physical thing, just invisible. Every other time the creature interacted with physical objects, it happened off screen. So anyone can be harmed by it, but if they can’t see it, the creature is not interested in hurting them.

The day before, Greg took Jay out to teach her to shoot,  and then hid the gun in the boathouse. Jay and the others run to the boathouse where she retrieves the weapon and shoots at the Yara creature. As I said, earlier, Yara expressed some mild jealousy about Jay, and I think the creature takes Yara’s form because Jay knows about that, and has some anxiety about other girls being jealous of her prettiness. She seems to have no problem shooting at what appears to be her friend, so there may be some suppressed hostility there. The longer the demon stays mentally attuned to Jay, it starts taking  forms that are specific to Jay’s personal  life. Just like in dreams, where the images represent things, and people, that are specific to you. Only in Jay’s case the nightmare is made manifest.

The bullets stop the demon, but the effect is only temporary, as it gets up and continues its approach, attacking the door of the boathouse after Jay locks it. Greg insists that no one is there. He can’t see anything and thinks that his guests have damaged the door. The next time Jay sees the demon, it has changed form again, as it crawls through the broken door. This time it looks like the neighbor boy who is always spying on her. Even though she was good natured about it, Jay may still have some anxiety about his watching her. Its possible Jay may have some general anxiety about being stared at,  made manifest in the form of the neighbor who constantly spies on her. Or that she has some latent desire to hurt him for always watching her.

The_Entity_in_one_of_it's_forms

As Jay exits the boathouse, the demon follows and switches form to that of her sister, Kelly. Now, we have to talk about Kelly for a moment. Throughout this entire ordeal, Kelly’s behavior has been exemplary and truly admirable. Although she’s the younger of the two, you can tell she really  loves and cares deeply for Jay. She has been kind, loving and supportive, saying and doing all the right things during Jay’s  panic attacks. She repeatedly states that she loves Jay, that she worries about her, and that she’s scared too. She never attacks, scoffs, or attempts to minimize Jay’s fear. She wants to help her sister, and to do that she needs to know what’s happening, and what Jay is seeing. At one point, Jay accuses her of not believing her, but Kelly shrugs that off. That’s not important. What’s  important to her is that her sister is in pain and she wants to help, no matter what. Kelly sticks by her side throughout the rest of the movie, even going so far as to move into her room at night to  make Jay feel better.

That the demon takes Kelly’s form may be an indication that all is not well in their relationship. Jay may have some freeform anxieties about whether or not Kelly actually loves her, or is jealous of her. She may think that Kelly doesn’t believe her and is just humoring her. Jay doesn’t appear to have any friends other than these three, or four people, and Yara seems more Kelly’s friend than Jay’s. Jay may be jealous of their friendship and scared of her feelings about it. During the movie it  becomes obvious that Kelly also has a crush on Greg, and Jay may feel threatened by that as well.

It-Follows-Each-Other-1

Fleeing in Greg’s car causes Jay to have an accident, where she passes out. Waking in the hospital she discovers she has a broken arm, and is terrified that the demon is walking toward her in the hospital. This is interesting. The demon is always stalking its victim, but the only time we ever see it get close to them, is during the day. The perfect time for it to attack would be when they’re at their most vulnerable, but that’s not what happens. During the movie Jay falls asleep or passes out but the creature never attacks then. It’s a possibility that it can only track its prey when they’re awake. When they’re asleep, maybe it can’t mentally feel them. But that’s just my speculation.

Jay decides to pass it to Greg while she’s in the hospital. Greg is more than happy to sleep with Jay. He makes it clear, he doesn’t believe in the demon, for one moment, and over the next few days, Greg sees no sign of it. I think the reason it takes so long to find Greg is that it’s harder for it to tune into his mind. Greg is the usual, cocky, self assured, handsome guy. He’s seems pretty laid back, with few insecurities, so the creature may have difficulty latching onto any of his fears. What anxieties he does have, he seems honest about, unlike Jay’s  fears, which she keeps a secret, even from herself.

Several nights later, Jay sees the demon approach Greg’s house in the form of Greg . I think it takes Greg’s form for Jay’s  benefit. The only person who can see it is Jay, and Greg was the last person she slept with. I think Greg’s safety is her most immediate and loudest fear, which is why it takes this form, when Jay sees it break into Greg’s house, through a window. She runs over to warn Greg but is unsuccessful, as the demon takes the form of Greg’s mother and gains entrance to his room, pausing just long enough to give Jay a significant look, as if to warn her that it hasn’t forgotten her. It seems  like the demon found one of Gregs anxieties after all. It’s still unclear exactly how Greg dies, as it happens off screen. When Jay looks into the room, she can see the demon straddling Greg, as if it were having sex with him, but both of them are fully clothed, and Greg is already dead.

screenshot-56

Jay runs from the house, with the demon, now back in its Greg form, hot on her trail. She drives far into the woods and exhaustedly falls asleep on the roof of her car. The next morning, she spies a lake and three young men on a boat. She swims out to the boat and has sex with at least one of them. I say at least one, because to pass it on, she only needs to sleep with one of them, but it’s unclear if she slept with all of them. Having very deliberately passed on the demon, she heads home and barricades herself in her room, where Paul finds her and tries to persuade her to sleep with him. I think she refuses Paul because she’s aware of how badly he wants her, and she’s reluctant to get him killed. She is already full of guilt over whichever of the young men on the boat will die, and is still grieving over Greg.

Paul is the only person thinking outside the box in this film. On the beach, he was the only one to attack the demon, and now he comes up with the idea of electrocuting the demon in water. Since Jay’s  backyard pool has been destroyed, possibly by Jay or the demon, it can’t be used. Much has been made of how stupid Paul’s plan is, even by the director, but you have to remember, the movie operates on dream logic. It’s not supposed to make sense. Just like in dreams, it  has its own logic particular to the dream, and nothing will be explained to the viewer.  It’s also a callback to the movie they were all watching in Jay’s  living room earlier in the movie.

image

Jay and the others take a carload of electrical objects to the public pool and wait for the demon to appear. This is its last iteration and it takes the form of Jay’s  and Kelly’s father. Some people have theorized that their father may  left them because he was guilty of molesting one of the girls. When Kelly asks what Jay sees, Jays response is, “I don’t wanna tell you.” I disagree with this theory. It think their father recently died, possibly in the past few months. A recent death could also explains all of the character’s  lackluster approach to living, at the beginning of the film, and everyone’s flattened emotional effect. This also explains why Jay and Kelly’s mom drinks so much. Every time weve seen their mother she has a liquor bottle, or glass of alcohol, nearby. The family may be in mourning. It appears as Jay’s  father because he represents Jay’s  biggest, and greatest fear, the fear of sudden and  unexpected death.

The demon does appear to be reluctant to enter the water with Jay. It’s unclear why. Is it because water is Jay’s safe place? Will the water harm it? Will it be weaker? When the creature decides to throw the electrical objects at Jay, rather than get in the water, Paul forces it in, by shooting it with the gun he stole from Greg’s boathouse. Once again, the demon is only temporarily incapacitated as it struggles to pull Jay to the bottom of the pool, but Paul shoots it several times. When Jay climbs out, and looks back, all she can see is a spreading bloom of blood in the pool.

Jay decides to sleep with Paul after this. It’s unclear if they believe the demon is destroyed, or if Jay is simply being cautious, and making sure at least one other person can see it. Yara gets in one last reading about death from her novel, while lying in the hospital, recovering from an accidental shot by Paul, during the pool skirmish. Later, we see Paul driving by prostitutes. It is strongly implied that he may have passed it on to one, but this isn’t something made clear.

image

The movie ends with Paul and Jay, walking slowly down the street, holding hands. Their love doesn’t seem genuine, although Paul seems quite happy. The viewer can see a figure slowly walking towards them, in the background. My theory is that the demon isn’t dead and that the two of them will continue passing it back and forth each time they have sex. On the other hand the demon may not be able to focus on just one of them long enough to kill them, or a monogamous relationship keeps it from killing its prey. But again that’s just my speculation.

Here are some links to reviews, speculation and interviews about it Follows:

http://geektyrant.com/news/the-ending-of-the-horror-film-it-follows-explained-by-director

It Follows exists out of time in a paranoid nightmare

*This person rightfully brings up the constant water motifs in the film along with several other things I missed and some other speculations about the monster. Water is indeed a very important factor , per the the lakes, faucets, pools, and rain, but as of yet, I’ve seen no explanations or fan theories for its meaning.

http://www.backofthecerealbox.com/2015/03/it-follows-FAQ.html

*I found this article to be especially informative. No, I haven’t actually listened to the film’s commentary myself but this was fun to read.

https://filmschoolrejects.com/18-things-we-learned-from-the-it-follows-commentary-3a4c39261ceb#.keyz9mz23

ETA: The first version of the entity, that Jay sees, appears in the form of Hughe’s mother. It’s the reason she looks so shocked when Hughe’s mom answers the door.

The second to last version of the entity we see, is the naked man on the roof. It’s not her father, becasue we see her father last and he’s fully clothed. This man is larger and naked, but I haven’t yet figured out the significance of this character to Jay.  This is also the only time we ever see the creature stationary. (Just like in dreams, there appear to be certain rules, until those rules are broken. One of the rules we’ve seen is that the monster keeps moving, until it doesn’t. )  What’s more interesting, and chilling, is that it’s on the roof, seeking another way into the house, via the window, since Jay has blocked all the doors, and it may have gotten that idea from the neighbor boy, who had climbed the roof to peer at Jay in the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penny Dreadful : Good and Evil Braided Be

 

The titles are especially apt this season. This episode we get glimpses of all the characters, most specifically their good and bad sides. Most of this episode consists of people dealing with their memories and coping with their aftermath. We find out what John has been doing, a curious setback for Vanessa and Dr. Sweet, we follow Ethan and Hecate’s travels, and our horny little immortal couple, Dorian and Lily. The episode hops around from person to person,but rather than recapping it in that manner I’m going to tell what each character was doing individually.

Ethan and Hecate:

9395397_penny-dreadful-takes-a-couples-retreat_8d1af68e_m

These two are riding around in the desert getting shot at by Rusk and his posse. Ethan wakes up in a barn and finds Hecate waiting for him to come back to his senses. She insists that the two of them have a future together, even after Ethan makes it clear that he hates her guts. (Ethan seems to hate everybody but Vanessa.) Hecate is blindly devoted to him, normally an admirable quality, but for that reason alone, she should probably come to a bad end.

She and Ethan stop to steal some horses from a small ranch, but when the owner protests this via shotgun, Hecate slits his throat and then proceeds to kill the rest of the family, too. Ethan can’t seem to do anything but watch in horror. Does that make him complicit in their deaths?

 

Kaetenay/Malcolm:

Kaetenay and Malcolm are hot on Ethan’s trail. Kaetenay tells Malcolm that if they don’t recover Ethan the destruction of the world is imminent. He even knows all about Hecate and has visions of Ethan, so  I wonder if this is just  the typical Mystical-Indian tropes or something more than that? Malcolm asks why Kaetenay needs him and susses out that maybe Ethan doesn’t  actually trust Kaetenay, no matter how lovingly K. talks about him.

He and Malcolm find the  bodies of the rancher and his family, and Kaetenay’s behavior becomes more desperate. You can tell because his attitude becomes even more snippy than usual. I am loving Wes Studi in this role. He appears to be having waaay too much fun.

Renfield/Vanessa:

e48e1e7d55464911c987f8d1fdfb1bee

Renfield has been listening to Vanessa’s  therapy sessions which Dr. Seward has been recording. He continues to behave nervously around Vanessa, and has become so obsessed with her, that he writes her name over and over again (ala The Shining) in his journal. We also catch the classic moment when he eats a fly. This is a very juicy (pun intended) role for this actor and I hope he’s really enjoying it. Keep in mind, that what Renfield  overhears in Vanessa’s therapy sessions, will later be conveyed to Dracula, and his minions, which is something that will play out in the rest of the episode.

 

Vanessa/Dr. Seward:

26177849324_ce740ce0f4_b

Vanessa and the Doctor argue about Vanessa’s  confessions to her in therapy, including the fact that they’ve met before. The Doctor insist that what Vanessa told her is nothing but delusions. At one point, Vanessa grabs the Doctor’s  hand and reads her tragic past. Only then does the Doctor look half convinced. Vanessa asks to be hypnotized, so she can see the part of her past that was lost to her memory, and the doctor agrees. This is something that will play out in the rest of this episode and the next.

 

John:

John (Victor’s creature) is finally back in England. He stops in Limehouse, where he finds Vanessa just standing about, but she’s actually waiting for Dr. Sweet. The two of them have a date and John is delighted to see her happy and holding hands with him.

Some of John’s memories of his human life have been returning and he’s decided to seek out the family he left behind when he died. He finds them but their situation is dire. His little boy is dying, and his wife is so poor, that she has gone to work in one of the many smokestack factories dotting the landscape of Victorian England. It’s a horribly dirty life for the two of them and John is naturally brought to tears. They were not rich when he was alive but at least he held a steady job (which we will find out at the end of the episode, exactly what that job was) and they were all relatively happy and healthy, living in Limehouse.

 

Victor/Henry:

“Good and evil braided be”, seems to be some kind of catchphrase that Victor invented because even though it sounds like a book quote, I couldn’t find that quote anywhere. (If anyone knows where that quote is from, let me know becasue my Google-Fu was no good with that phrase.) He and Henry discuss the serum Henry created and Henry relates how it only has temporary effects on his patients. Victor says he can solve that problem, simply because he is awesome.

During their conversation, Henry becomes more and more excitable, and manic, and I kept expecting him to Hulk Out  at any second, but the show is being very coy about the existence of Mr. Hyde. I do wonder if Henry has been taking the serum, but I’m not convinced, as he’s been trying to ween Victor off  morphine and him being addicted to something would be both  paradoxical and hypocritical.

Dorian/Lily:

I have no idea what Lily’s new young ward’s name is so I’m going to call her Lily 2. What happens between Dorian, Lily and Lily 2 , is the most disgusting part of the episode, which is saying something when we were just watching Renfield eat bugs.

Lily and her protege take lunch at an outdoor cafe and Lily is being coy about her plans to destroy, or take over, the world. I’m not clear on exactly what she wants to accomplish, but she disdains the efforts of the Suffragettes, who are too loud and boisterous to get anything done. I get the feeling she has no firm plans either, but it does seem to involve an army of former sex-workers, I’m guessing. It’s disturbing listening to Lily 2 talk about her abusive past. I know she must be an adult but she looks all of twelve years old. She has this dewy little face, like a baby, so its even more  disturbing when Dorian has her kill her father, later that evening,  and then the three of them have bloody sex over the corpse.

I know this was done for shock value because it went on for way too long, and I was kind of bored and kept getting distracted by the liveliness of the blood, which still looked pretty wet, right up til morning. I just kept wondering why it wasn’t getting tacky, and why  the three of them were  able to move, without getting stuck together. No, I’m not going to show a picture of them cuz…yuck!

Dr. Sweet/Vanessa:

141656183Z1Y61DQ

Honestly, this is the sweetest, cutest, most delicious relationship in the show, since we already know that Sweet is Dracula and that he’s been pursuing Vanessa for years. We already know that his endgame is for her to become his bride, to that end, we get to watch him actually trying to woo her, and he’s fairly successful at it. Hell, I love the guy, even knowing who he is and that he’s a big fat liar.

1003223_3_3423913_07_800x600.jpg

The two of them meet in Limehouse because Sweet asked Vanessa out this time. (For their first date, Vanessa had asked him.) So, the two of them have been regularly seeing each other. At one point he tells her she’s beautiful, in a kind of off-hand way, that makes Vanessa smile, and he holds her hand when they visit the house of mirrors. So even though he is evil personified, he is doing everything right that you do on a date, and I wonder where he got his skills cuz I would totally date this guy, (except for the whole, “he’s a lying bloodsucking fiend, who has been spying on me” thing.)

Based on the things Vanessa told Dr. Seward, Dracula spins her a sob story about how he’s also in mourning for his lost wife. (I have no idea if this is a real story, or one he made up to win her sympathies, but I suspect its a lie.)

Penny-dreadful-Good-and-Evil-Braided-Be-3x03-promotional-picture-penny-dreadful-39567251-3600-2400

At the House of Mirrors, Vanessa is approached by one of Dracula’s minions, who has been following them all evening. He insinuates that Dracula is very close by (well, yeah!) and that she’s met him  before, in the place of her lost memories and Vanessa is very shaken by this. She was trying to leave her past behind, with Dr. Seward’s help, but it just won’t leave her alone. She abruptly breaks off her date with Sweet ad tells him she can’t ever be with him.

Sweet doesn’t like this shit at all. He has been working really hard for possibly weeks, months even,  to woo this woman, slowly and very, very carefully, winning her trust, getting her to like him, bringing her out of her shell, and enjoy his company, and its all been completely undone. Now he’s got to try some other tactic to get close to Vanessa and he doesn’t like that one bit.

When he figures out that it was his own minion, who undid all his hard work, he has his other minions eat him.

Vanessa undergoes a hypnosis session with Seward which reveals she spent some time in a padded room at an insane asylum, and that one of her orderlies was John.

ba70c95faa984f34cf8a5f72e9ed5d88

Hannibal Season Two : Su-Zakana

 

Parallel:

(1) :  similar, analogous, or interdependent in tendency or development (2) :  exhibitingparallelism in form, function, or development <parallel evolution>b :  readily compared :  companionc :  having identical syntactical elements in corresponding positions; also :  being such an element.

Wow, this one has parallels running all over the place. Somebody better stop them before we get hurt.

Su-Zakana is one of my all time favorite episodes because it stars the weird, and lovely, Jeremy Davies from Saving Private Ryan, Ravenous and Justified. Here, he plays Peter Bernardone, a character who is a close parallel to Will Graham. Bryan Fuller has stated that Bernardone is a stand-in for Giovanni Di Petro Di Bernardone (the Italian) otherwise known as St. Francis, the patron Saint of animals.

In this episode, Will and Jack, while ice fishing, blatantly lay out their  plan to use Will as bait, to get Hannibal to incriminate himself as The Chesapeake Ripper. This is a very delicate game. Will, essentially, has to go undercover and  sidle up to the beast by convincing him that he is just another beast like him, all while not actually becoming the  beast he’s pretending to be.

Will has to look into the abyss and hope he isn’t destroyed by it looking back at him.

hannibal-s2-ep8-1

Its interesting watching Will and Jack’s  smooth, and easy camaraderie, after all they’ve been through together. Their venture is not only going to require Will to do some serious acting, but Jack as well. I’m still not sure Jack entirely believes Hannibal is The Ripper, or if he’s just going along with Will’s plan as a means of atonement for believing Will was The Ripper. Has Will convinced him? I know that later Jack is convinced but I’m not certain when this moment occurred.

We next see Jack and Will at Lecter’s house, eating the fish Will caught earlier. Will has cannibal jokes, for which he is rewarded the side-eye from Hannibal and Jack, and Hannibal counters with the term, “Nietzschean Fish”, (words  that can only be dreamed up in the mind of Bryan Fuller). They’re both shameless flirts. Hannibal seems especially jovial. Will is back in therapy with him, Alana is in his bed, Chilton is out of the way, and Jack suspects nothing. Hannibal is in a happy place right now.

The theme of this episode, from the title (su-zakana is  a small dish used to clean/refresh the palate), to the discovery of a murdered woman sewn into the body of a dead horse, is renewal and rebirth. The renewal of Jack’s and Will’s collaboration in capturing the Ripper, and solving serial murders, and  the renewal/rebirth of Will and Hannibal’s therapeutic  relationship. There’s lots of mentions of cocoons and chrysalises.

This episode also introduces the Mason/Margot Verger portion of the Thomas Harris’ book, Hannibal. Margot has been sent to therapy with Hannibal for trying to kill her abusive brother Mason, after he broke her arm during a sexual assault. Hannibal  always wants people to fully and completely experience their darkest self, so encouraging her to wait until a better moment to kill him, or getting someone else to do it for her, would naturally be his advice.

1a20209284744b8ccb875dcd778b2c7c.jpg

Note Margo’s high collars, the high broad shoulders of the suit, her severe makeup  and dark clothing. (Its almost samurai in appearance.)  This has the effect of giving  her a prim, hard look, in keeping with her dour facial expressions, subdued manner of speaking and her mental state, after her brother’s violation. Her clothing is like armor.  This is a woman who is utterly drained of emotion, and resigned to her fate with Mason, or she has just gotten so good at hiding what she’s  feeling, that it has become a habit with everyone. (Or she could simply be resentful of having to be in therapy.) Contrast her attitude towards Hannibal, after he advises her she should kill Mason, with before he offers that advice. And contrast her facial expressions in therapy with the expressions she wears when talking to Mason, or Will Graham.

In the book,  Margo Verger is a grotesque stereotype of a transgender man. Actually, in the book she’s not transgender, at all. She wants to be a man because then can she inherit the Verger Fortune. I think Bryan Fuller took offense at this character too, changing her significantly for the show, jettisoning all the insulting stereotypes, and just making her a lesbian, (or bi-sexual. She does sleep with Will later in the season.)

Later that evening, after Hannibal and Alana have sex, Alana expresses bafflement at Will resuming his therapy with Hannibal. She’s concerned that Will has ulterior motives and will try to hurt Hannibal again, (entirely in keeping with Alana’s fiercely protective nature.) Hannibal tells her that Will tried to hurt him because he thought he was protecting Alana from Hannibal, which we know is a load of horse pucky, as Will didn’t know the two of them were sleeping together, at the time he tried to have Hannibal killed.

Jack calls Hannibal to a crime scene involving a murdered woman whose body had been stuffed into a dead horse, and Hannibal says that this is a situation that calls for Will Graham’s expertise. Will’s assessment is that whoever killed Sarah Craber is not the same person who stuffed her into the horse and that his motive  for her was rebirth.

An examination of Sarah Craber, by Jack’s forensic team, releases a bird that was entombed in the woman’s chest. This bird, which looks like a small crow or raven, could signify the release of her soul. Such birds have a mythology of being “psychopomps”, creatures that carry souls from the land of the living to the land of the dead. (Think the movie The Crow.)

2.8_Pferde

After examining the crime scene, Will and Jack interview Peter Bernardone, a disabled man who works with animals, in a kind of personal mini-zoo. Bernardone is a mirror to Will Graham. Like Will, he also has an unusual brain disorder, that because of a previous brain injury, does not allow him to look at an object and touch it at the same time.  There is also a real world version of this condition called agnosia (the inability to process sensory information),  usually caused by a brain injury. The syndrome gets worse when Peter is under stress. In a sense, he and Will have impaired vision. Unlike Will, he is a genuinely gentle soul that has never actually harmed anyone. (Will has shot one man, and attempted to arrange the death of another.)

Will  starts that whole bonding thing with Peter. Like Hannibal, he really cannot seem to help  stop himself and I suppose he can’t. In the book, Red Dragon, Jack makes an observation about Will’s behavior with other people, how he would mirror their  body language, or adopt their accents or speech patterns. Jack, initially, thought Will was mocking these people, but soon came to realize that Will was entirely unaware of what he was doing and I will assume that’s the case here, as Will  immediately tailors his voice and body language, to adjust to Peter’s condition. He speaks in a warm and compassionate manner, not just because Peter is emotionally fragile, but because  I’m sure he sees himself in Peter, as well. He believes Peter when he says he’s innocent, understanding the importance of affirmation because he didn’t receive any from his “friends”when he declared his own innocence.

tumblr_nlbnt1c0vU1r2a4nyo9_1280

Hannibal’s  mantra to both Margo and Will is, “Doing bad things to bad people makes us feel good.” Will, in his conversations with Hannibal, confirms this. Its not exactly untrue as this is the very thing that fuels people’s need for revenge, or rooting for the villain to get his comeuppance, in movies. Basically, it feels good when the bad guy gets it, especially when you do it yourself.

In Will’s next session with Hannibal, they discuss Will’s new outlook on the world. His rebirth, as it were. Hannibal does wish Will would move past what he thinks Hannibal did to him, and focus on the bigger picture of accessing, and freeing, his murderous tendencies, focusing instead on what he’d like to do to Hannibal.

Contrast Will’s authoritative, “Don’t lie to me,” to his pleading with Hannibal in season one, not to lie to him. Here, Will is calm, assertive, and in firm control. This is a command, not a request.

Both Hannibal and Alana are suspicious of Will’s return to therapy with Hannibal, although he doesn’t bring up this subject with Will until after Alana mentions it.Will’s excuse is that he can’t talk to anyone else about what’s happened to him, that he  still fantasizes about killing Hannibal, and it is only now that he finds Hannibal interesting. (This statement is a callback to the season one episode, Apertif, when Will said the two of them would never  be friends because Hannibal was uninteresting.)

The forensic team determines that Sarah Craber’s body was not the only one, and find a field of 15 bodies, from which hers had been taken, and stuffed into the horse’s corpse. At the scene, Zeller offers Will an apology for not believing him about being the Chesapeake Ripper. He feels guilty because he thinks if he had supported Beverly in trying to re-determine Will’s innocence, she would have confided in her team and would still be alive. He is probably not wrong. This makes me like Zeller a little more because he’s kind of a dick.

There is also a sub-theme in this episode of people bullying and manipulating those under their authority. In a later session with Hannibal, Margo discusses how she reached the point of trying to murder her bother. So we have Margo being bullied and degraded by her brother, who was their father’s favorite and  heir, so Mason controls all the money. Hannibal advises her to wait for a better time to do it or find someone to do it for her.Then there’s Peter Bernardone being manipulated by his social worker, Clark Ingram, to take the fall for his serial killings, and Will Graham who has also been abused and manipulated by Hannibal, his psychiatrist.

Will manages to gently coax the information from Peter about how he found Sarah’s body, and that it was his social worker who  was her killer. He hasn’t told anyone because he doesn’t think he would be believed. Will makes a point of letting Peter know he believes him, and calls Clark in for an interview.

Clark2

Clark Ingram is interviewed by Alana. This is a scene that showcases what Alana does and how good she is at it. Basically, her job is what Hannibal was called to do when he first met Will, assessing people’s mental capacity to go to court, hold certain jobs within the organization, or assess types of mental illnesses, as she did in season one, with Abel Gideon.

During the interview, Alana appears to be a lot less obtuse than she’s usually shown. She was mostly clueless during season one when it came to assessing Will’s mental state, and I think the entire audience for this show agrees with me, when I say I winced every time she and Hannibal were shown having sex. Its  telling that she and Hannibal never seem to show any other forms of affection outside of bumping uglies. I had the impression that the two of them are not in love. They definitely like each other but its more like friends with benefits, or each other’s side piece.

I think Alana’s problem is that once she’s close to a person she completely loses any ability to be objective, which I can fully understand. Its just that in practice, on the show, its something that makes her appear kind of dense. Here, she masterfully manipulates Clark to get him to show his psychotic side. Clark blames Peter for the deaths and is let go. There’s a interesting, antagonistic exchange between Jack and Will about the interview. Will expresses some bitterness to Jack during the interview, recognizing his situation in Bernardone’s, of not being believed, when he pointed his finger at an authority figure. Jack tells him he pointed in the wrong direction. Both of them are putting on an act for Hannibal.

Clark immediately goes to Bernardone’s mini-zoo and sets free or kills all of his animals as retribution for Peter’s accusations. There is a marked difference in tactics between Hannibal and Clark. These two psychopaths are very different. Clark, like Chilton, isn’t nearly as smart, or subtle, as Hannibal. Hannibal actually does care about Will, (although he doesn’t seem to know the extent of his feelings for him), and sees Will, mostly, as an equal. Clark doesn’t see Peter as an equal or a partner. He isn’t trying to elevate Peter to a higher self. Clark views Peter much the way Hannibal views the people he eats.(They mean nothing beyond their use to him.)

Hannibal too, lacks empathy but is attempting to transcend that  by understanding Will. He seems to realize that his lack of empathy hampers his relationship with Will. Clark isn’t doing any such thing. He isn’t trying to understand Peter and doesn’t care about him, and isn’t trying to be friends, nevertheless, Will can’t seem to get past the parallels in these two relationships.

Peter returns to find all his animals gone, and is confronted by Clark.

Will, understanding that Clark is guilty, and perhaps sensing that he will retaliate against Peter, heads out with Hannibal to make sure Peter is okay. In the car, Hannibal points out the similarities between their situation and Peter’s, and Will’s need to save him. He tries to assure Will that he’s got his back and Will is not alone.

It’s interesting that we almost never see Will driving anywhere. We know he can drive and owns a car but I bet none of you can tell me what the make and model of that car is, either. He almost always seems to be falling asleep in someone else’s car. Hell, I don’t even know what make of car Hannibal drives, although we can be sure its a high-end European model because that just seems like his taste.

hannibal-su-zakana_featured_photo_gallery

They arrive to find Peter alone in the barn, with the body of another horse, and suspect Peter has stuffed Clark’s body inside, since that’s the kind of thing he does. However, unlike Sarah Craber, Clark isn’t dead, and in one of Hannibal’s more disgusting pieces of imagery, in a series filled with such things, we watch a grown man crawl out of a horse’s  corpse.

Filled with righteous fury, on Peter’s behalf, Will threatens to shoot Clark but he is stopped by Hannibal, who convinces him that Clark is not a worthy substitute for Hannibal. This is not an act on Will’s part as he actually does pull the trigger. It is only  Hannibal’s thumb, coming between the hammer and firing pin, that saves Clark’s life. Hannibal is naturally proud of Will’s willingness to kill but doesn’t want him wasting all that murderous energy on Clark, as its not so much rage at Peter’s situation that has him in such a state, as rage against Hannibal’s behavior towards him, Hannibal says Will should save all his anger for him.

And yes, we can talk about  another image of Hannibal cradling Will’s head, the seat of Will’s intellect and emotions, and the part of him that Hannibal considers the most important, and most often does so when attempting to manipulate Will to some goal of his. Over the course of the series we get  several shots of Hannibal touching Will’s face or head, whereas Will rarely touches Hannibal, and never initiates touch, even when circumstances would make it excusable. Whenever Hannibal touches Will, Will often passively allows it, neither pulling away, nor protesting the treatment.Though many fans view Hannibal’s physical behavior towards Will as that of lovers, and Fuller himself states that it is a love story, I often viewed their dynamic much like   that of Mason’s and Margo’s relationship. You have an older, paternalistic,  authoritative, and abusive sibling, who  dominates a younger, rebellious one, and touch is just one more item in their arsenal of manipulation.

In therapy, Margo has much in common with Will. She often states what Will’s actual feelings are towards Hannibal. When  Hannibal asks if she loves her brother, she emphatically states that she does, which is why she can’t bring herself to kill him, even though he is abusive to her,   nevertheless she still plans to kill Mason someday, this parallels Will’s feelings and plans for Hannibal.

Notice how the scenery and plot spirals down into the story of Will and Hannibal as the season progresses. When the series began, the story and settings seemed more open and expansive but as the plot begins to focus more and more on their relationship, the settings become darker, more intense, with less humor. Everything begins to feel  more claustrophobic as  there is nothing that seems to  happen outside of the handful of people in the series, Jack, Alana, Will, and Hannibal, and there are fewer and fewer daytime and outdoor scenes. Even though Will is no longer actually confined, as he was in the beginning of the season, the viewer  starts to feel confined by the tightening closeness of the plot, lighting, and set.

Also as the season progresses notice the change in Will’s attire from the first season. The closer he gets to Hannibal in his bid to capture him, we see less of the StagMan, but Will does start to emulate Hannibal in other ways, much like Franklyn, Hannibal’s first patient from season one. Will’s clothes have become darker and he wears lots of blue, as a callback to his confinement in the blue jumpsuit at he hospital. Like Margo he wears protective high collars, or scarves, and not just because it seems to be winter forever on this show. Notice that characters who feel especially vulnerable, in this series, often wear dark, armor-like clothing, high collars and neckwear, (Abigail, Will, Margo). Characters that don’t feel that way, and are more open about their feelings, wear more open clothing, in lighter colors, like Alana, Mason, and  Hannibal.

For more on Hannibal’s style of dress:

Stylishly Executed – The Clothes of Hannibal & How To Dress Like Lecter

 

 

Hannibal Season Two :Yakimono

The second half of season two often begins with one or more characters thoughtfully engaging in some personal activity. Since they’re often alone we can’t hear what they’re thinking and are left to makeup any story that we prefer.

I like to think the characters are pondering the events of the last episode. This time its Jack’s turn, as he sits, listening to Miriam Lass’ calls to his cellphone, interspersed with scenes of Jack’s forensic team, processing the evidence from Miriam’s body. We watch as she is being fitted with her new prosthetic arm, to replace the one Lecter gave to Jack. We’re left to speculate on Jack’s feelings during this interval, as surely he must be feeling a tremendous weight of guilt and shame, for having believed Miriam to be dead, and hence, never searching for her. (Outside of HannibalLand,  we know a trainee would never have been sent to questions suspects or witnesses in such a case.)

img_1158

Miriam tells Jack she was actually treated well by the Ripper (calling back to Lecter’s statement to Bella that he employs an ethical butcher and does not believe in unnecessary suffering of animals), when he kept her and even when he took her arm. (Remember, Cassie Boyle’s lungs were removed while she was still alive, which sounds  horrific, except after hearing Lecter’s statement,  we realize she probably never felt anything, if he drugged her before cutting them out.)

All of this must take place over the course of several weeks perhaps,  as it takes time to be fitted with a prosthetic anything.

*Bedelia must have at some point heard, or read, Miriam’s testimony, or got the information from Lecter, because she uses this same claim that she was mentally manipulated, and heavily drugged, to avoid being arrested by the Italian Police, in season three.

Miriam claims not to remember the killer’s voice but she does remember his voice. So Jack, covering all his bases, (because I still don’t think he actually truly believes Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper), calls Lecter in for an interview with Alana. This is also something that wouldn’t happen in real life, as she and Lecter have a personal relationship, and this would be seen as a serious conflict of interest, on Alana’s  part. It matters not as Miriam points the finger away from Lecter during the interview. She doesn’t recognize his voice.

Hannibal - Season 2

 

Will is quietly released from the hospital. Chilton confronts Will as he leaves and Will warns him that he is now on Lecter’s shitlist. Gideon has disappeared, so now he and Chilton are the only two people who suspect anything might ever have been done to Will, and Will is not in any particular danger anymore, because Lecter wants to be his friend. Will urges Chilton to confess all his sins to Jack, shine a light on his relationship to Lecter, and try to convince Jack that Lecter is guilty of being The Ripper.

The thing that most humanizes Lecter is his love and admiration for the very worthy Will Graham. The thing that dehumanizes Will Graham is his warm regard for Lecter or certainly that’s what Will thinks. He believes his regard for Hannibal lessens him and that is also one of the primary reasons Hannibal must be destroyed. In destroying Hannibal Will believes he can save himself. But he also understands that in destroying Hannibal he would also destroy himself, because as horrible as it sounds, Hannibal is also the source of Will’s greatest happiness. Hannibal fully accepts him. Contrast that with Jack, for whom his special skills are merely tools, Alana, who would rather analyze him, and Chilton, who’d like nothing more than to dissect him. Everyone in the show, except for Hannibal, treats Will as if he were a two headed bug.

Hannibal wants nothing more from Will than understanding and acceptance. He is very happy to let Will point his high powered perception at him. And, he wants Will to be at peace with the darkness inside him, instead of constantly fighting against it. Is this not the purpose of a good friend?  To want whats best for you? That what’s best for Will is also what’s best for Hannibal is really beside the point.

Fuller has done such a tremendous job of humanizing Hannibal, that like Will, we often forget that Hannibal is a monster. It’s a testament to Fuller’s  skills that he can put us fully in Will Graham’s shoes regarding his feelings for Hannibal. He can show us Hannibal committing his crimes and we’re  still capable of forgetting what he is during the span of an episode.

On his way out of the hospital Will also encounters Jack, and Will is understandably bitter that Jack wouldn’t listen to him about Lecter, when Jack tries to apologize. But Jack seems willing to listen now, after he tells Will of the finding of Miriam Lass. Will explains that the finding of Miriam is not definitive, that any evidence found with her will point away from Hannibal. Jack tells him that Miriam has already stated that her kidnapper was not Lecter.

Hannibal - Season 2

Jack takes Will to the place where Miriam was found and Will analyzes the scene. He tells Jack that he can’t simply accept Miriam’s word for what happened to her. His point is that he had Hannibal in his head for less than a year, and look what happened to him, so imagine having Hannibal in one’s head for two years. Will fires up his superpower and with almost no evidence, except his knowledge of how Hannibal thinks, discerns that The Ripper wanted Miriam to be found and that Jack can’t trust any of this to be what it seems.

Will goes home to find Alana and the dogs waiting for him. He has a few sassy words for her too. He knows she’s in a relationship with Hannibal. She seems worried that he’s going to try to have Hannibal killed again. Once again, Will impotently warns his “friends” that Hannibal is not to be trusted, and once again, they don’t listen.

willhannibal

Instead of doing what Will told him to do, which is confess his sins and throw himself on Jack’s mercy, Chilton chooses instead to offer his pro bono services to bring Hannibal to heel. He offers to help Miriam recover her memory, which is exactly what Hannibal wants. This is a design that is months in the making. Keeping Miriam alive, making her believe that Chilton is her kidnapper, and finally, contriving that all of the final pieces come together to put the two of them in each other’s orbit.

Will goes to visit Miriam . As the only surviving victims of The Chesapeake Ripper, they have much to commiserate on. Will suspects she has been as much mentally manipulated as he was.

Later that evening, Hannibal has an encounter with an intense Will, in his kitchen. (Once again he has to get in a dig at Will’s aftershave. He does this once per season, as a running personal joke.) This is the prefect opportunity to kill Hannibal, but Will abides within the law, and doesn’t murder him in front of the open door of his refrigerator. He says he’s there to finish their last kitchen confidential,  interrupted by Jack’s bullet.

Hannibal - Season 2

Will warns Hannibal that his memories have all returned, he’s no longer sick and Hannibal should watch his back. In other words, Will is letting him know,  “Shit is on, bro’. Put on your game face!!” Will pulls the trigger but the chamber is empty.

Jack, as part of Miriam’s therapy, takes her to Hannibal so he can recover her memories. The evidence from Miriam, that the last thing she remembers is a picture of “Wound Man”, points to Hannibal because he fits the profile. But Alana throws Chilton under the bus (not the first time she will do this) by suggesting that Chilton also fits the profile. She states reasons why Chilton might want Hannibal to take the blame. (Yeah, thanks Alana. That’s not biased by your dislike of Chilton, at all.) In attempting to implicate Hannibal as The Ripper, Chilton only drew attention to himself.

Hannibal puts the final touches on his grand design. Chilton arrives home to find the legless, armless, body of Abel Gideon, breathing its last, in his basement office. He tries to escape but encounters Hannibal wearing his plastic suit. Hannibal drugs Chilton and kills the Federal agents who were sent to take him into custody. Chilton wakes to find himself coated in blood and  a massacre.

VUbWaZu

Chilton runs to Will Graham for aid, while the forensic team finds evidence of “Wound Man” in his office. Instead of helpingChilton, Will calls Jack.He’s trying to tell Chilton, in a roundabout way, that he has a plan for taking down Hannibal and proving once and for all that he is The Chesapaeake Ripper. He just needs Chilton to be patient. Chilton still manages to be pretty funny, though. When Will says running would make him look guilty, Chilton has enough sass to reply that Will didn’t run and he still looked plenty guilty.

Chilton ain’t having any of that, though. When he finds that Will called Jack ,he holds Will at gunpoint, before running away. Will tries to tell Jack what’s really happening but Jack is seriously pissed that he’s lost two more agents and won’t listen to him. He chases Chilton down and apprehends him in the woods behind Will’s house.

We have conflict of interest again, as the same team that processed Beverly’s body, is the same team that gets to process evidence from the man they believed killed her. This is a serious breech of ethics in real life. This is how I know that Hannibal takes place in some alternate world, where crazed serial killers lurk around every corner, nobody owns a television, its always winter, and there’s only one forensic team for the entire nation. I’d also like to point out, once again, that psychological profilers do not participate in arrests and nether do forensic teams, as a general rule.

43bf00450a2948cec8a3f15d1233b550

It is Alana who gets to interrogate Chilton. Once again a serious breech of ethics as she is  known to have an antipathy towards him. As these are his colleagues, neither she, Will, or Hannibal would be called in to consult on his case. Miriam, finally put within orbit of Chilton, executes the final part of Hannibal’s plan. She is triggered by Chilton’s voice into grabbing Jacks gun and shooting Chilton.

Hannibal is delighted to find that Will has shown up for his former evening appointment, although he is wary that Will might try to shoot him again. He is unaware that this is part of Will’s new, more subtle, design to capture The Chesapeake Ripper, by cozying up to Hannibal, and getting him to incriminate himself. (Its interesting that Hannibal has Will’s old appointment slot still open.)

 

Music featured in the episode:

 

 

 

Clothing:

hannibal-suits-s02e08.jpg

hannibal-kgb.jpg
Hannibal’s KGB Look
hannibal-boring-dad.jpg
Hannibal’s Serial Killer Dad Look

 

 

Note the change in Will’s wardrobe after his release from the hospital. Previously seen only in rumpled beiges, denims and brown (earth tones), he is now seen dressing in much cooler colors, grays , blacks and very deep blues. Is this meant to indicate the greater darkness in his nature now?  Is this supposed to match Hannibal’s darker wardrobe? Since it’s always winter, he wears a lot of high necked garments, and I wonder if this is in tribute to Abigail’s scarves from season one.

Also, note the change in his silhouette. It’s straighter, slimmer, more rectangular, with sharper angles in the shoulders and at the waist. It has the effect of making Will look noticeably taller and more refined and elegant, which is not a way he could’ve been described in the first season. This new style of dress is a reflection of the clarity and sharpness of  his mind and purpose. This is man without fear, who is wholly confident in what he’s doing. We’ll see more of this confidence in the next episode.

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepy Hollow: Incommunicado

I know it seems like it’s been a while since I did a Sleepy Hollow review, but its only been one, (okay, maybe two), episodes. See…what happened was, I was sort of waiting for something to happen on the show. Don’t get me wrong. The show is enjoyable as far as character relations but plot-wise, its been kind of, well…boring. Its hard to write about a show when nothing in particular happened on it other than, Hey!… the characters were friendly with each other, things are moving apace.

There! I said it. The plot has  been boooorring!

This week something happened on the show. (By something, I mean somebody made some decisions, and there was some physical movement that didn’t involve Jenny and Joe kissing.)

image

 

The  Hidden One comes out of hiding to take care of his Witness problem once and for all and  invades Crane’s sanctuary, trapping  them both  inside. In trying to kill Ichabod, He Who Needs to Remain Hidden activated that little sigil that Abbie had been worshiping, and Crane had been investigating.

Not being the brightest penny inside the Archive, The Slightly Less Hidden One, keeps pouring his powers into it, thereby setting up an imminent explosive event. It’s up to Abbie and Pandora to set aside their differences and rescue their beloved (and only semi-beloved-getting on my damn nerves-Hidden One, on the part of Pandora).

In the meantime, a banshee has been attracted to Sleepy Hollow by Pandora’s invitational spell, and started screaming at people. Pandora claims she needs the creature alive, in order to rescue the menfolk, but Abbie doesn’t like it. Jenny doesn’t like it either because she and Joe are the ones to have to capture it.

So, once again the group gets split up as they have different tasks. Joe, Jenny, and Foster have to capture the banshee and have a good plan, but Joe  kills it, “accidentally on purpose”, when it goes after Jenny.

image

Pandora still needs a monster to work her spell, though. Joe, who has had his monstership, as a Wendigo, re-instated last episode, is drafted to participate in the spell. It looks painful for Joe but Jenny seems to hurt the most just watching it. I’m still not sure how I feel about their relationship. I kinda wanna be happy for them because they are cute together and have good chemistry, but aren’t they like brother and sister? Didn’t they grow up together? If someone wants to chime in and tell me what to think about the two of them, I will happily adopt your stance, cuz I got nothing.

Anyway, using Joe isn’t enough. Pandora, conveniently, needs a piece of the box that used to be a repository for her power but got destroyed in one of the last episodes. Needless to say, Abbie is not buying this bushwa, but gives the pieces to her anyway and the day is saved. The Now Yet Again Hidden One goes back into hiding.

image

Along the way, the Semi-Hidden One and Pandora give up some secrets, so its not like Abbie and Crane got nothing out of this event. The Post-Hidden One reveals that being a Witness involves blood-lines and that Crane had no choice about whether or not he’d be one. I thought we already knew this? Anyway, this is a major event for Crane, who evinces surprise that he is ,in fact, a special snowflake, after all.

Crane and The Contemptuous  One have arguments about the nature of god and man. Mr. Hidden is thoroughly dismissive of all human achievement. I wanted to know what he, The  One Formerly In  Hiding, had ever contributed to the world in his overlong existence, in comparison to say… The Artist Formerly known as Prince,   but the writers and directors didn’t ask me, and chickened out on asking the question themselves. And oh, yeah, the sigil is from Thura or something. Was that important?

Pandora confesses to Abbie that she was the one who got the Her Hidden Man  imprisoned in the first place, which HO conveniently overhears, because Ichabod’s sigil is capable of spying on Abbie.

image
SLEEPY HOLLOW: Nicole Beharie in the ÒDark MirrorÓ episode of SLEEPY HOLLOW airing Friday, March 4 (8:00-9:01 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Tina Rowden/FOX

At the end of the episode things look bleak for Pandora as HO decides he’s going to give her what for, for getting him locked up. Hopefully, this will put the final nail in the coffin of their relationship, and Pandora will team up with Abbie and Crane, to kick The Once Again Hidden One’s ass back to the Catacombs.

I kind of liked this episode. It wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t spectacular either. I liked the banter between Crane and Abbie, which is always charming, and Crane got to eat some pastries and give good speech. (I just enjoy looking at him. I know I’m shallow.)

Hopefully, this Friday, something important will happen on the show, so we can have something to talk about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Horror Story: Hotel – Be Our Guest

I’m only a tiny, little bit disappointed at the season finale of American Horror Story: Hotel, for going out with a whimper instead of a bang. It’s like the writers chickened out and decided that everybody deserved happy endings, even though a lot of them had been acting like total shits all season.

Don’t get me wrong. I had feels, everybody’s stories got wrapped up nice and neat and Denis O’Hare gets to steal the show as always, but I really did want the hotel to be burned down so all the ghosts could be free. The writers decided that’s not a good idea, though.

So, the Queen is dead! Long live The Countess! In the aftermath of The Countess death, she’s a ghost who can no longer leave the hotel and a more fitting end, I wouldn’t have written myself. The hotel has now been taken over by Iris and Liz, who sell off the Countess’ art, to fund their redecorations and grand reopening.

The reopening attracts travel critics, who quickly get offed by the hotel’s ghosts. Namely Sally, who is  bitter and unhappy and Will Drake, who is bored because he’s dead and trapped in the hotel.

This is too much for Liz and Iris, who decide to hold an intervention to beseech the ghosts to stop killing the guests. If they keep killing the guests, the hotel will go out of business and the building could be destroyed. James March comes down on Liz and Iris’ side in the debate because if the building isn’t condemned by 2026, then it will be declared an historical landmark, which can’t. After which the ghosts can kill all they want, I guess. This meeting is also notable because you get  to see that they have become a kind of community, who care about each other.

Drake and Sally refuse to cooperate and Iris and Liz decide they need some one on one attention to get them on their side. Iris introduces Sally to Twitter and Snapchat, after which she blossoms, realizing she need never be alone again because of social media. Perfect! That is not a solution I foresaw, but it makes perfect sense. After all, Iris found a new life that way, too. It’s hilarious as Sally really gets into it. She takes pictures of everything but herself, she writes a blog, she cries with happiness, rather than pain now, and even throws away her junk.

Good job, Iris!

Liz makes the point that the ghosts need the living because the living are their bridge to the outside world and relevance. So maybe let them live, and stop killing them for shits and giggles.

Liz agrees to help Will Drake rebuild his fashion empire, which has been languishing since his disappearance, by becoming it’s figurehead. This is a success and Liz makes arrangements for Will’s son to be housed at the Thatcher Boarding school, although Drake doesn’t believe he should ever see him again.

But Liz isn’t quite as happy as you’d think. She still misses Tristan, and Iris, concerned for her happiness, hires a psychic (Sarah Paulson in a dual role) to talk to him in the afterlife, but Tristan refuses and won’t say why. On the other hand, Donovan, who managed to escape being trapped in the hotel, is in a happy place and wants Iris to know he loves her.

Liz, disappointed with Tristan’s cold shoulder, gets on with her life, witnessing the birth of her grandadaughter and being a part of her daughter-in-law’s life, until she discovers she is the only woman in LA who is in the late stages of prostate cancer. She tries to make the best of things, by asking the community of hotel ghosts to kill her, so she can spend eternity with them because they’re her friends, and Denis O’Hare is so good at this, that I almost teared  up.

Almost.

His friends are about to get started brutally killing him but the Countess shows up to deliver the coup de grace. She and Liz reconcile  before the deed, as they damn well better, because they’ve got to spend all of eternity together now. Staring down at her dead body, Liz is surprised by the appearance of Tristan, who says he didn’t want to contact her because he wanted her to have a full life and not live in the past with his memory.

Hold on! I’m a little verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves! Query: Where the Hell is the Countess’ mutant baby? And who is taking care of it? Discuss!

Many years pass. The psychic comes to the hotel again. This  time she wants to contact John Lowe, The Ten Commandments Killer. John shows up and we learn that he is dead, but can only come to the hotel once a year along with all the other killers, Aileen Wuornos, Richard Ramirez, Gacy and Dahmer. It’s also the only time he can see his vampire family, except for Scarlett, who has grown into a remarkably well adjusted young lady, after being shipped off to the Thatcher School, too. Scarlett can visit her little brother and never aging Mom anytime, but Dad can only be seen on Halloween night. It’s a bittersweet reunion.

Having gotten her wish and interviewed the TCK, the psychic gets drugged and accosted by the other serial killers. They agree to let her live if she never tells anyone about them, and Ramona, who can leave the hotel and terrorize her anytime she wants, is there to let her know she’ll be watching her. She runs out of the hotel and doesn’t darken its doors again.

Overall, I liked this season. It was uneven, and more concerned with spectacle than plot, but then AHS is always like that. I really wish there had been more depth and more artistry. The show really needs to play up the unreality and dreamlike state, the way it did in the first season. I enjoyed this season more than the last one, which was kind of depressing. This was a  more joyful season, even if  was full of pretty people being stupid and doing awful things, and I was kind of disappointed that many of them did not get their comeuppance, but I can live with happy endings, too.

Angela Bassett was hilariously bad as Ramona. She was the worse actor and obviously having waaay too much fun with that character. The scenery is just totally shredded by the time she’s finished talking. I think she needs to stick with movies, if possible because television is just too small for her. Denis O’Hare was awesome as Liz. I didn’t even know who Denis was before this, having paid no attention to his career. As for Liz’ wardrobe! Dayyum! She was totally rockin’ those frocks, the bald head and the high heels! She was the epitome of style and grace, holding her own in every scene against Ramona  and Iris. I have to give a shoutout to Kathy Bates too. Every season she brings her A game, and so she did here. It was a quieter role than Liz and the Countess, much less glamorous, but that’s why her character arc was so lovely.

I’m given to understand that Lady Gaga won an award for this show. I don’t begrudge her that. I was very happy for her, as she did some great amateur work, and this is a good beginning and  good encouragement if she wants to keep acting. She shows some promise, but Denis deserved “all teh awards”. Denis O’Hare and Kathy Bates had the two most touching character arcs and the finest performances of the season.

And that was worth watching, if no other reason.

So long American Horror Story, until next season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geeking Out About: Cabin in the Woods (2011)

 

I’ve finally gotten around to watching this movie all the way through, from the beginning, and I loved it. It’s definitely entered the pantheon of my favorite horror movies.

I initially didn’t pay much attention to it, not because I don’t trust Joss Whedon, who is the producer of this movie, but because the trailers had me thinking I knew what I was going to be in for, and I’m sick to death of cookie-cutter horror movies. Based on the trailers, I thought  I had a pretty good bead on what the movie was about. Boy! was I wrong.

From the opening credits and the first five minutes, I thought I knew what this movie was  about. I was so wrong. After an hour, I thought I had a pretty good idea what was going on, but had no idea why. I didn’t find out why until the last thirty minutes, and then it all made perfect, but insane, sense.

If you are a horror movie fan, this movie is hilarious because you will recognize every horror film trope ever filmed. It’s like watching a movie based on horror Easter Eggs. The movie perfectly explains why all horror movies have the same ten little Indians motif of young people being killed off in isolated locations, (a horror movie trope that I am heartily sick to death of), why there are always five or more and why they’re always stereotypes: a whore, a fool, an athlete, a  scholar, and a virgin.

image

On the surface, the movie does seem pretty comedic, and it’s billed as a comedy, although not like any monster comedy I’ve watched, and by the end, it’s a lot less funny. The characters do all of the required stupid shit that young people do in such movies, like running out into the woods to have sex after reading passages from that forbidden book in the basement.

Most of the humor is in spotting the next horror movie reference and in having your expectations upended. The interstitial moments involve a group of office workers celebrating the death and destruction of the people that appear on the many movie screens in their offices, which I found puzzling at first. Later, I found that part of the movie to be the most fascinating and  I kind of wish someone would make an entire movie entirely centered on the day to day of these people’s job.

This movie is very, very meta. Think “Scream” level meta. It’s is very self aware.

Also, if you’re a fan of horror movies, you will spend the last thirty minutes playing spot the monster, and probably yelling stuff at your TV, like WHOA! or WHEW! Every kind of monster you have ever seen in a movie, and a few you haven’t, in a giant, crazy, smackdown free-for-all. Giant snakes, Hellraisers, mutant bats, zombies, Japanese ghost girls, and since this is Joss Whedon, some ballerina action. There’s even a mer-man. Whoa, not pretty!

image.jpeg

The funniest moment in the movie is when nine Japanese schoolgirls, trapped in a room with one of those Ju-On ghostsgirls, triumph by singing her into the shape of a happy frog. (Don’t even  try to understand what the Hell I just said, just go watch the movie.)

I would watch an entire movie based just on the last thirty minutes of this one!

image

And no, Cabin in the Woods does not stint on the gore. My only drawback was that some of the scenes are too dark to see clearly and the trailers don’t give you any clue about what you’re walking into with this movie. The trailers are a drawback to getting people to initially watch it, but then the “not knowing” is the point, I guess.

Another thing I wasn’t expecting was caring about the characters. Whedon and the director do such a good job of fleshing out these characters, that even knowing the huge stakes involved, I was still rooting for them. I wanted them to live even though it would’ve been pointless.

Why yes, there are a few Whedon alumni  present. Amy Acker from Angel and Tom Lenk of Buffy fame, make an appearance. Thor…I mean Chris Hemsworth, is also present, and the trope that he is going to be the hero of this movie and save the day, especially after his little “I’m going to save everybody” speech, is neatly turned on its head.

I want to say the movie was a lot of fun and yeah, I was laughing, at first.  But the longer I watched, the more tragic it became, and by the end I realized the movie was telling me that cheering for the monsters to win in these type of films is perfectly understandable and a good thing because its necessary.  It also makes you little better than the office workers who are doing just that, which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t found them to be unlikeable, and hated identifying with their depravity.

There is a massive amount of death in this film (and if you’ve watched the movie, you know there’s more to come after it’s over). I couldn’t actually root for anybody in this movie. Not the monsters who are utterly necessary to the plot, and not the office workers, who kind of deserve to die because they know exactly what’s going on. They’re  sort of  monstrous, too.

I kind of wanted everyone to win, although for purposes of the plot, it’s simply not possible and that’s the genius of this movie. Somebody in this movie, either the monsters I cheered in other films, or the  characters I actually liked, (the fool and the virgin), have got to lose for the plot to make sense.

image

 

Oh and keep a look out for a surprise cameo at the end of the film. I won’t tell you who, but I promise, you will squeee! with delight. Really, the only person missing from this movie was Lance Henriksen. I’m guessing he was busy at the time.

There’s not a movie in the world  that cannot be elevated by simply adding Lance Henriksen, even though Cabin in the Woods needs none.

 

 

Geeking Out About: Mid-season Series, Maybe

Frankly, I think I have enough stuff to watch without being inundated with new shows this January. I think its very inconsiderate for television to air all these great shows, all at the same time, and in such a way that I don’t have any time to look at them, but that said, I am looking forward to some new stuff that I may or may not like.

I can’t promise anything, though. I’m going to use the same tactic as used this Fall. I’m going to start watching these shows and then weed out the ones that just don’t make the cut. But even if I don’t review them or even like them, I ‘m  still eager to try them out:

Shows like:

The Magicians:

This is one of the top shows I’m looking forward to this season. I loved the books, (I’m still reading the third book. The second book is okay but not  as good as the first) and the characters look not so different from how I imagined them. I don’t like that it looks sort of like a sexier version of a CW show, but the books are described as Harry Potter with sex and drugs.

 

 

The Expanse:

I’m a big fan of Thomas Jane, and this looks like an outer space, noir, mystery mashup  thing I would like. It s probably a little more  Dashell Hammett in Space than Outland.

 

Childhood’s End:

Nope! I never read the book, nor do I have the urge to read it now. I know a little bit about it because scfi fans keep talking about how wonderful it is, but I’m interested strictly in the show. Now that its actually a series, I don’t want to spoil all my questions by reading the books. Its really nice to see the SYFY channel start actually trying to be a science fiction network  after having gone so wrong, in the past.

 

 

Rush Hour:

I really really want to like this because I liked the movies but the actor they have here only reminds me that he’s not Chris Tucker. He’s just not  funny. Also, there might be some racist yellow peril and Asian sexism in here, that I can’t abide. I don’t see this show being much of a rival for Into the Badlands.

 

 

Damien:

I can watch just about anything with angels and demons in it and I’m a big fan of the original movies, so this is right up my alley. I’m looking for a certain amount of depth from this one.

 

 

Legends of Tomorrow:

This just looks like fun. Good mindless fun. This will probably be playing in the background while I do other stuff.

 

 

The X-Files:

I was a fan of the original but I don’t expect the dynamic of the old show to reassert itself, but it is nice to see this show make a comeback.

Agent Carter:

I lost interest in this show about four or five episodes into the season. Its not a bad show, it just wasn’t compelling enough to hold my attention in a sea of other, better shows. I really like the idea of a female led show but it made my shit list when it had no WoC in it in NY city (which had a massive population of PoC, during that time period), and the fandom got on my last nerve with BS about how WoC need to wait their turn while White women get theirs. (These are people who need to learn the definition of the term intersectionality.)

I’m hoping the show does better on the diversity front now that it has moved to LA, but I’m not holding my breath, and no, I still don’t want anything to do with the fans of this show.

 

There will also  be the staple shows like Supernatural, Sleepy Hollow, American Horror Story, and The Walking Dead.

I know I haven’t been doing any Sleepy Hollow recaps but I just have not the time. I haven’t stopped watching it or liking it, though.

Coming Soon: Ash Vs. The Evil Dead Review, some more movies, and a Jessica Jones Overview.

Hopefully I can get some Meta Essays out for Hannibal, George Miller’s Feminist credentials, and Tropic Thunder (although that one is a long shot. I haven’t even started it yet), during the hiatus.

So many promises, so little time.

This should be like Field of Dreams. if I write it, y’all  will show up and read’em. Right?

American Horror Story: Hotel : Flicker

Alright What plot points will remain from last week’s episode. Will the writers remember the The Countess has a baby? Will they remember that Sally is still on the show? Will they remember Tristan is dead?

Let’s find out.

AHS-1379-Jackson-001

Will Drake (Dayyum, Cheyenne Jackson is foine!) and son are touring the hotel as deconstruction begins. He tells his son about marrying Countess. The construction workers have a problem, though. It turns out to be a secret corridor with monsters that eat the construction workers. Are they vampires? Cannibals? Just crazy gray haired senior citizens?

images (5)

 

John is undergoing psychiatric evaluation  at a hospital, after shooting up his kitchen last week. He confesses to feelings of entrapment, confusion and overwhelming events. He was nearly fired after he attacked his partner at work, a guy I recognize from Supernatural, once again,he’s  playing a cop.

Iris shows the bodies and hidden corridor to Countess and even she’s scared of what’s there. The hungry ghosts, or whatever they are, attack another guest.

Flashback to The Countess in 1925, on a film set with Valentino, who is the spitting image of Tristan, conveniently. I thought that was the last I’d seen of that actor, but hey!keep him on the show doing something.

the-one-weird-thing-about-american-horror-story-hotel-solved-valentino-in-real-life-719783

She’s enamored of the handsome actor. Shes so cute! And Gaga really pulls off the wide-eyed innocent waif act and even back then she was a snappy dresser. He seduces her in his home, until his wife, Natasha, shows up. They double team her, there’s the required sex scene and then cut to…three months later, when she’s been vamped.

James March opens hotel Cortez, when The Countess hears of Valentino’s death she is overcome with grief. I guess I’m supposed to believe by this reaction that she possessed some overwhelming love for him and his wife.

It turns out the he isn’t actually dead. He and Natacha are both alive. They ask her to travel to Europe with them.

She leaves them to marry March, and she later discovers, he is a serial killer. Well, this explains why she’s got commitment issues.

(Flashback once more, as  Valentino tells her how he came a vampire, shot in the style of the 1922  Nosferatu, by H W Murnau, who was himself a vampire. He decided to change Valentino as he has predicted the demise of silent films.)

John discovers the restricted ward at the hospital and decides to investigate Andrew Hahn in room 153. He finds a little girl named Wren instead. She’s a witness to one of the serial killers crimes. She also killed the security guard who interrupted the killer, which is why she’s locked up.

After which ensues the weirdest but most boringly important/unimportant conversation in television history, with the two of them whispering at each other. Well whattaya know? Wren is somehow acquainted with The Countess too. What. A. Surprise!

Nevertheless, Wren promises to help John catch his killer, if he gets her out of the hospital.

Ya know, at some point ,we are going to have to have the writer stop pulling plot points out of his ass, or maybe I’m just feeling grouchy because tonight’s episode was especially tiresome. It’s not a bad episode but none of my favorite characters have showed up, nobody did anything egregiously stupid, that i can yell at my TV about, and nothing astonishingly crazy happened, The writers remembered that John is looking for a serial killer, and that aspect is the least interesting plot of the show.

images (6)

At the end of the episode, its revealed that March bricked up Valentino and Natacha in the hotel, and those are the two people-eaters who were released at the top of the episode, and have since been chowing down on various guests.

The Countess goes to have dinner with James March, who confesses that he had  Valentino and his wife confined inside the walls of the hotel, because he was jealous. The Countess is appropriately horrified as she probably thought that Val and Natacha had left her. This explains her attitude towards the vampires she makes.

Natacha and Val leave the hotel, as Iris  watches and wonders who the Hell they are.

John and Wren escape the hospital. Wren, one of The Countess’ many vampire children, throws herself in front of a truck after telling John his killer is at the Hotel Cortez. So, I guess that conversation was important after all, as Wren confessed she was really tired of  “all of this”.

Tonight’s theme was very obviously “Love Hurts”!

Stephen King Scared the S*** Out of Me (Part Two)

(This post is a coda to the previous one about Stephen King stories that most affected me. This post features the same list but is about the nature of fear in each of these stories. This post is dedicated to:

https://cadburypom.wordpress.com/

AKA: By Hook Or By Book)

I’m fascinated by the subject of fear. What am I afraid of? Why am I afraid of it? What is it about this particular movie, or that story, that strikes a  chord in me but maybe no one else? I think fear is something deeply personal and unique to the individual. What terrifies me is not going to do the same for you, although all our fear is really the same fear.

What scares you, may manifest as that something YOU haven’t personally experienced, or place you’ve never been, or heard of, and can’t imagine going to. Although, really, it’s all the same place.

I live in a relatively sheltered world. I always have. I’m well loved by my family and for the most part, the people in my orbit, have not been unreliable or monstrous. Most of the truly horrific things that have happened to women I know, have never happened to me. Other people’s emotional troubles don’t scare me and I don’t read those types of stories because I’ve been in those spaces. Those spaces hold no fear for me. I’ve already taken the tour, seen the layout, even rented for a while.

I think the reason why these particular stories and novels strike such a chord with me, is the idea of a my rather undramatic existence being  broadsided by the inexplicablle, or the inevitable. I’m a rational person who looks for the explanations of things. It’s one thing to worry about that girl snubbing me at the Lane Bryant, but what if it’s some thing that has no earthly business being in a suburban shopping mall. And why is it pretending to be a sales clerk?

Fear is personal. Like The Thing, it manifests as something unique to the individual. For some people it takes the form of loss of a child. For others it’s loss of self. But for some of us, it takes a more direct approach. This is the fear of dying.

The Sun Dog:

hellhound-e1372963031862

I spoke abut this story’s relevance to me in an earlier Stephen King post here:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/stephen-king-saved-my-life/

Kevin receives a Polaroid camera for his birthday, that seemingly takes the same photograph over and over, an image of a large Black Dog. It’s not an accident that the dog is black. In mythology, the Black Dog, Black Shuck or Hellhound, is often a portent of death. King just makes all this  literal. The dog isn’t just a portent of  Death. It is actually Death. What makes this story especially terrifying, is this malevolent entity is, clearly and specifically, stalking Kevin. Because fear is personal. One could argue that the dog represents Kevin’sfear of dying, or the loss of his childhood, or that the reason the dog appeared is because he’s at the crossroads of maturity and innocence…blah, blah, blah.  That’s  okay, if you wanna get deep, but sometimes a steak is just a steak.

When the dog catches him, everyone and everything Kevin loves will die.

This story can be found in the anthology Four Past Midnight.

1408:

1408-5224d4d5d09ec

In my opinion, 1408 is one of the most terrifying short stories ever written. 1408 is about dying, brutally, horribly, knowing that it’s coming and not knowing why or how. When Gerald Olin gives Mike Enslin a complete rundown of just how many people have died in room 1408, that’s when the chills begin. That he memorized the  sheer number of deaths, and how they occurred, speaks to just how much he fears that room. Especially when he also states that hotels do not like to keep empty rooms. The fear reaches  its peak, when you realize that 1408 is not haunted in the traditional sense. In fact, the room isn’t haunted at all.  It is a trap, that looks like a room. This is a recurring theme in Kings fiction, as well.

If you’re one of those people who loves to list, name, catalog and alphabetize, then this story will either have you  biting your knuckles in suspense, or mad as a wet hen, because nothing is spelled out for you.

King has a knack for imagining the inexplicable. I prefer the short stories because there’s  a wealth of details that make you care, in a very short time, about its characters and no explanation for what happens to them or why.

The movie is not this story, however. You will be disappointed, so watch the movie first.

This story can be found in the anthology, Everything’s Eventual.

Gray Matter:

GrayMatter2

One of the first Short stories I’d ever read by King. I was maybe twelve or fourteen and it was King’s first anthology, titled Night Shift. It’s a simple story about a man who drinks some bad beer and begins to change into something. Told from the point of view of his terrified son, it takes on another dimension of horror entirely. Once again, as in The Shining, there’s the transformation of a parental figure into something malevolent, dangerous and unreliable. A lot of King’s stories consist of such elements. The trustworthy adult, item, or event, that goes horribly wrong, after which order may, or may not, be restored.

This is the entire premise of The Stand.

One of the standout chills, in Gray Matter, isnt about the actual monster, but a tale  within a tale, of a man who comes across a giant spider in the sewers. Spiders, and sentient goop that eats people, are definitely my “things”. My personal manifestations of death often take the form of monsters.

There’s a Gray Matter short film available on YouTube. The story is available in the anthology, Night Shift.

The Mist:

mistendingspos_large

Sometimes being scared is just fun. Sometimes people just want to run up to that sleeping bear and poke it, or double dare to go into the neighborhood haunted house. With stories like The Mist, you get to experience the feeling of danger, without actually being in danger. With horror stories you get to walk right up to death, look it in the eye and run away.

Once again, though, it’s the humans who are the real monsters. Mrs. Carmody is as much a manifestation of death as the creatures in the mist. The death of reason, of sanity, of a mind that has completely surrendered to irrationality. She’s  the sort of person people dismiss or make fun of, but drop her into an intense event, where she appears to have answers, and you will produce a monster.

The Mist is a perfect example of putting twenty people in a room with death, and getting ten different reactions. You have the deniers, what is called “The Flat Earth Society; people who refuse to believe that anything bad is happening. They’re not going to die. They go into the mist and are promptly eaten. Some people react with the bluster of toxic masculinity, some of them run away mentally or physically. Some of them try appeasement to alleviate their fear, including the idea of human sacrifice. Is this not some of the twelve stages of grief?

There are actual monsters in this story. All of them huge, all of them dangerous and disgusting. My favorite manifestation, of course,  is The Leviathan, a monster so awe-some, it might as well be a god.

This is a story I often think about. (Usually when I’m at the grocery store.) I look around at the people shopping and wonder which people will try to bargain, which will run away, which ones will try to fight. And which coping mechanism will I choose? I like to believe I’d fall into David Draytons crew, but who knows?

Fear Changes Everything.

The movie was beautifully and faithfully realized by Frank Darabont in 2007. (Mr. Darabont is incapable of making a bad King movie.) The story is available in Skeleton Crew.

Battleground: 

sgd_emmy-20071004230743

The first time I saw Toy Story I was really creeped out by the Army men and this story is why. As a child, who hasn’t imagined their toys coming to life and having adventures?  Battleground is the evil, Anti-Toy Story, about a hitman who kills a toymaker, (Why?) and gets a special package delivered to his Penthouse, that contains real, live, Army men, who proceed to kick his ass all over his apartment, even though Renshaw fights valiantly. One manifestation of death fighting another, and losing. I remember when I first started reading the story. I remember thinking it would be fun, and it was.

Until I ran into one of those personal fears, we talked about earlier. It’s all fun and games, until the manifestation starts to resemble someone you know.

I grew up during the Cold War and had recurring, horrifying dreams of dying by fire. Any  of you who understand that era, and read Battleground, will understand why the ending seriously threw me. Those of you too young to remember that era, Google “Cold War” and “MAD” then go read the story. In a Stephen King story, anything can be a manifestation of death.

This story was faithfully filmed for the television version of the  Nightmares and Dreamscapes anthology, and starred William Hurt, as Renshaw. Those of you old enough to remember Karen Black’s Trilogy of Terror, will be heavily reminded of Richard Matheson’s short story, Prey, from that movie, (Go see it! It’s on Youtube.) and if you look really close, you can see a special object in Renshaw’s personal collection.

After that, go read the sequel to Prey, titled Quarry by Joe Lansdale.

Mile 81:

Mile_81_

I just re-read this story. I probably shouldn’t have done that at 3AM, but sometimes I’m not too smart about such things and it took some time to go back to sleep, but that’s okay. One of the themes that often crop up in a King story is the malignancy of inanimate things. A something that has personally chosen to kill just you.  From  Chattery Teeth, to The Monkey, to Trucks, King has a knack for making us think a little more deeply about the objects we use everyday. How the unexpected and unexplained can happen in  the most innocuous situations.

A nondescript Station wagon pulls up to a deserted, highway rest stop and proceeds to eat any human beings that come close to  it. King takes a basic premise, something we’ve all done at some point, and makes us think twice about it. Who hasn’t been the Good Samaritan, who stops to help some distressed driver? Hell ,even I’ve done it. But in King’s world, being good does not save you. The monster in this story preys on our desire to help others, to do good deeds, to be good people.

When it rains, it rains on the Just and Unjust alike. -Matthew 5:45

The Road Virus Heads North:

Road Virus

Who hasn’t had  that dream where something is,relentlessly stalking you and there’s no  escape? King is very good at writing variations on this theme. Like Keven Deleven,  in The Sun Dog, you have a someone who finds an object with a malevolent being attached, which seems to exist for the joy of killing them, specifically. In the Road Virus, the killer is, like the Terminator, like The Black Dog, yet another unrelenting  version of Death.

Richard Kinnell is a horror writer who finds a painting, with a sordid history, that greatly appeals to him. As he becomes increasingly disturbed by it, and after several attempts to rid himself of the painting , he realizes that the car in the painting, driven by The Road Virus, is stopping at all the places he visited after its purchase, and murdering the people he came in contact with. The horror here isn’t just that The Road Virus means death for Kinnell, but for anyone who wanders into Kinnell’s orbit. In King’s universe, being innocent can’t save you, either.

Are you beginning to sense an overall theme here? The relentless, unstoppable, inevitable unknown, is one of the deepest most primal fears of mankind. Nearly every story of fear is about the inevitability of death and almost no one has written more successful variations on it, than King.

The inevitability of death is the reason mobsters threaten families, wives get fridged, and children get kidnapped in book after book, and movie after movie. Humans have crafted entire fictional industries around the flight or fight reflex, the idea of fighting death, running away from death, or bargaining with death.

Every Action movie where the world gets saved by the heroes, who kicked death’s ass, every Thriller in which the manifestaion gets defeated by “The Final Girl”, its Jaws, The Terminator, Jason, Freddy,  Darth Vader, its Mrs. Car out. Every monster is just another manifestation of the inevitable, only in real life, the monster always wins because nobody gets out of here alive. How do you process that?

Its only in fiction that we get to win. To alleviate the terror of knowing we won’t.

This is why I read King.

In part three, I specifically discuss, why I’m scared of The Man In The Black Suit.

American Horror Story : Room Service

Okay, this is the point in  the season when things start to get worse and some direction begins to emerge. Up to this moment, we’ve had characters making one bad decision after another, but now all those decisions start to bear fruit. (Maybe. I stopped trying to predict what these writers would do a long time ago.)

I know John Lowe should never have chosen to stay at the Hotel Cortez, Donovan should never have chosen to turn his mother, Alex should never have been vamped, and I’m pretty sure there will be some repercussions for The Countess and her new boy toy. We’ve had enough of James March and Co. Let’s see what fresh Hell all these other characters are getting up to on Devil’s Night.

Alex starts a vampire plague at an elementary school. This is, I guess, how things start to go horribly wrong. While these other characters are all in the hotel, making their little personal life choices, some real shit is about to go down. Alex, having been  turned by The Countess, goes to her job as a pediatrician and turns a terminally ill boy. He goes on to kill his mother before heading off to school, where he turns one of his classmates, kills his teacher, turns the entire class, and urges them to eat the staff, but not before the staff can call the police for help.

The police arrive and usher all the infected children out of the building and  into the loving arms of the parents who will all be dead, by the next episode.

image

See, this is what I mean by the Countess not being the brightest penny in the wrapper. She’s just turning people into vampires, willy-nilly, , essentially creating more competition, and not having any control over how her “Gets” are behaving themselves. Once her blood-children are out of her presence, she doesn’t have any idea what they’re doing or who they’re turning.She gave no thought to the idea that Alex has access to lots of sick children and when Alex made her choice, all she thought about was being with Holden. I’m holding both of these dill weeds responsible for the apocalypse that’s’ about to befall NY.

Oh, alright! In Alex’s defense she was out of her mind with hunger and not thinking straight, although that’s mitigated by the fact she wasn’t thinking straight when she wasn’t sick.

Donovan, the little schemer, takes his sick mother to see Ramona. The he and Ramona  hatch a plan  to use Iris to get close to the Countess .Iris, once again gets no say in this.(Gob forbid anyone ask her what she wants.) I’ve developed an actual liking for this character, now that I’ve been provided with some of her backstory. Yes, Donovan hated her, but Donovan has his own issues and is probably more than a little biased. We only ever got to see Iris through his eyes. Now that we can hear Iris’ assessment of herself, she turns out to be a lot more sympathetic as a character. Although. my sympathy for all these characters is mitigated by the thought that they are all murderers.

image

Iris goes back to the hotel and tries to avoid being detected as a vampire by the Countess but Liz Taylor knows right away what’s happened to her. Now I know why I love this character so much, after Liz Taylor gives her  backstory. The Countess did two good things. She hired  Liz to help run the hotel, after encouraging her to embrace her true self as transgender. Its fun watching Liz and Iris  bonding. Liz tells Iris her story, only after Iris admits she was scared of broaching the subject, and insulting her. Liz tells her she can’t hurt her feelings, because she’s been insulted by people who made it their life’s work. It occurs to me that Liz is right. She would be well used to people trying to hurt her. Liz can handle herself just fine.

download (3)

John Lowe gets fired after his night out, after raving about people pretending to be famous killers, in his boss’s office. Later he wakes to find Sally in his bed. She plays the spurned lover, when he tells her to get out. her face is always dripping lots of tears. That’s just weird. You’d think her tear ducts would’ve locked up by now, and refused to produce anymore.

After two pretentious young guests keep giving Iris hell, Liz encourages Irisnot  to take any more of their shit, embrace her inner bitch and let loose. Liz does for Iris ,what the Countess once did for her. Iris, after realizing her unique position, takes Liz’ advice and kills them both. I was kind of rooting for her too.I don’t often cheer for the violent deaths of innocent people but I really, really hate the rude, and those two guests were written to be professional assholes.

Alex is reunited with Holden.The Countess hires her as the children’s nanny. Can I just roll my eyes harder and harder at Alex’s dumb ass. One of the least sympathetic characters in the show and that’s a remarkable feat when you consider how highly oblivious of everything John is.

download (4)

If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get to see the vampire apocalypse The Strain should have been.

Okay I was half right. Things have started to get worse but I have no idea where the writers will take this. For all we know they might just as soon forget all about the vampire plague that happened at the school, in favor of making us watch the Countess have have sex with Ramona.

Who knows?

Geeking Out About : Slither

If you are a fan of what I like to call Slime-Horror, then you will love Slither. Slither is an awesome amalgamation of all the best horror movies of the 80s. It has everything. Slime from the 1988 version of The Blob,  slugs from  the 1986 Night of the Creeps, possession from 1988s Night of the Demon, zombies from Reurn of the Living Dead, aliens from Aliens. The creators threw in everything but the kitchen sink.

Starring Malcolm Reyn… err, I mean Nathan Fillion, fresh off his stint on Firefly; the gorgeous Elizabeth Banks, who is a surprisingly fearless comedian; and Michael Rooker, (from anything), the movie is in the best 80s tradition of comedic Horror. Gregg Henry, as Mayor Jack McCready, (recognize the name?), provides much of the comic relief as, what is quite possibly, the most profanity spewing character ever seen in a movie. Seriously, the guy can’t say even the most innocuous things without cussing.

image

This movie is James Gunn’s love letter to the Comedy Horror genre and secured entry into my pantheon of great film directors. The movie is disgustingly fun and funny, and if you’re not bothered by profanity spewing rednecks, you will love it.

Grant Grant is totally in love with his wife, Starla, who he rescued from a life of poverty, and he’s surprisingly loyal to her.  (I felt sure he was the kind of abusive character who would not be averse to a little side action), until the night he’s possessed by an alien from space, in the form of a needle to the back of the neck. After that his behavior becomes erratic, sneaky, ravenous and  neighborhood pets start disappearing.

image

When he attacks Starla and kidnaps a local girl, (the same girl who witnessed his possession, the night she was hoping to get a little love action from Grant), Sheriff Pardy and Starla craft a scheme to capture him, but the plan goes horribly awry when they stumble across the bloated body of his kidnap victim.  Complaining that she’s terribly hungry, her body bursts open, releasing a flood of slugs that take possession of their human hosts, make the victim’s dead bodies extensions of Grants will, and force them to at lots of meat. As Starla calls it, “It’s a concious disease.”

Sheriff Pardy must rescue his town, Starla, (who he’s been crushing on since they were children), himself and possibly the entire world, as that’s Grants endgame. Along the way there’s some bukkakke action, zombie killing, a lot of profanity, slug swallowing, deer punching, drama. meat eating and did I mention lots of goo, glop, and slime. It’s a gloriously disgusting film.

image

Nathan Fillion has wonderful comedic timing, while Elizabeth Banks is even funnier as she mostly approaches the movie with a completely straight face. Her character seems to think she’s in a Soap  Opera, which is a great foil for Gregg Henry’s character, who seems to know he’s in a Horror movie and is totally not having any of this shit.

Some of the funnier moments are the reactions of all the characters to the situation they’re experiencing. They have exactly the sort of reactions, and make exactly the kind of comments, you’d expect people, who believe they’re in a seriously fucked up situation, to make. Their facial reactions, to the disgusting shenanigans we see, exactly  mirror the audience reactions.

I’m sure you’re starting to notice that my Horror movie tastes have a definite theme. For me, humor is an integral part of horror, alleviating the stress of watching difficult images or feeling scared. Humor and horror are two sides of the same coin and deeply connected. Its the reason why some people’s reaction to fear is laughter or jokes.  I’m not a fan of torture-porn, for example, because there’s little humor to make the gore watchable.

For me, watching horror movies is often a cathartic experience, and the ability to laugh at the over the top ridiculousness on screen, is a part of that experience. Movies with lots of gore, but without the humorous component, only make me feel worse, and there are times when I can appreciate that feeling, but not very often. Its not that I won’t watch such movies, at all. I do enjoy some movies that are straight horror, but usually such movies have a limited amount of blood (it Follows, Cloverfield), social messages (Dawn of the Dead), or  romance as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

image

There’s also the nostalgia factor. I grew up during the great Horror Movie Glut of the 1980s, and the vast majority of those movies were often Horror Comedies. Some of my best memories are of sitting in a movie theater, laughing my ass off at the antics of a possessed hand, or a scaly gremlin. Comedic moments will allow me to sit and watch films I would normally be too frightened to look at, (like Arachnophobia), especially since I suffer from the disorder. I have an exceptionally difficult time watching any version of The Blob or any of the Saw films. The comedic elements of these films are kept at an absolute minimum. As a result, since I’m unable to depressurize from the gore with laughter, I just become more stressed.

It would be near impossible for me to watch Grant Grant the Alien, in the scene where he is choking  Starla with his arm tentacles, as domestic abuse is never funny to me. I can even appreciate,  that its not the abuse, itself, that’s being made fun of,(its played completely straight), but the  reactions of the other characters to the sight of Grant’s tentacles, that makes the scene funny. Or the scene where Bill Pardy, witnessing some astonishing level of gore, says exactly what I’m thinking,

“That is some seriously fucked up shit!”

image

Slither is available on DVD and for rent on Amazon.

Geeking Out About : Scary Vampires

Vampires have never been scary for modern people. Many of the ravenous creatures on this  list are, I suspect,  an offshoot of zombies and perfect for Halloween viewing. These guys are not cute and cuddly. They don’t twinkle. You will not be taking long walks in the moonlight with them. They’re not interested in sex. They don’t care if you’re beautiful. We’re  going to bring back  sexy some other time, because its almost Halloween and you guys need some good vampire recs for the big day.

The scariest vampires for Halloween are from:

30 Days of Night (2007):

image

I was supposed to do a big review of this movie but realized the plot really doesn’t have enough depth for a full review. The plot is pretty simple: Lots of people get killed. In Barrow Alaska, for thirty days of the year, the sun doesn’t rise, and some vampires get the bright idea to infest the town and eat the citizenry. They’ll get to have thirty days of complete debauchery and they mostly succeed at this plan. Sure, their leader is killed on the last day before sunrise, but it hardly matters because the vampires would’ve had to leave anyway. This is not one of those victory type movies, with a happy ending, which I found surprising, because I expected the filmmakers to change it up from the comic books, which are also pretty bleak.

image

The vampires are animalistic, vicious, relentless, ravenous creatures, that  are also highly intelligent. They can plan ahead, play tricks to lure out their prey, and even have their own language, with pithy mottoes. Not that they’re especially deep thinkers, but the humans don’t  stand a chance. Crucifixes and wooden stakes don’t work on these vamps, but no fantasy, horror or scientific explanation is ever given for why or how they exist, either. Humans can be transformed by surviving a single bite and beheading is about the only thing that kills them.

I think we can all agree that any sequels should be ignored. There are two many good movies in the world, to be watching bad sequels.

Blade 2 (2002):

image

I think this movie is better than the first one, because Guillermo Del Toro directed it and Guillermo is more awesome than not. Technically it’s not actually a horror movie. It’s an action movie with horror elements, and those elements are some of the most ugly and disgusting vampires ever put on film.

Actually, there are several types of vampires in the film. There’s Blade, the Day Walker; the human looking vampires, susceptible to silver and garlic; and the scientifically created vampires, which were created in an effort to make day walkers like Blade,  but have gone horribly wrong and feed on other vampires. They are immune to everything but UV rays and even the natural vampires are terrified of them. Yeah, the boogeyman has a boogeyman, too.

The science-vamps, as they rightfully should be called, (although that might be slightly misleading),  are also fast, relentless, and  utterly ravenous creatures, that are still intelligent, but only slightly more than zombies. They have mouth tentacles, leak any extra plasma from blood drinking, and still manage to be predators after they’re dead, so cutting off body parts doesn’t work either. Think The Strain, only done correctly.

I think we can all agree that, once again, the sequel should be completely ignored in favor of watching this movie several more times.

Let The Right One In/Let Me In (2008/2010):

image

Let the Right One In, and it’s American counterpart Let Me In, are two of the scariest child vampire movies ever made. I think perhaps they’re the only child vampire movies ever made. You know that bulldog determinism children can display when they want something? Now couple that with the insatiable desire to feed on blood and a child’s basic level of emotional manipulation, and you have a pretty horrifying combination, and these films perfectly capture that. These are not adults in the bodies of children, the way they’re usually portrayed in film. These are actual children, who  don’t grow up mentally or emotionally, bringing a new level of horror and sadness to child vampirism.image

The movies are also great depictions of the horror of just being children, (the uncertainty of parental care, and bullying), even if they don’t live forever.

Fortunately, there are no horrible sequels to this film. Yet.

From Dusk Til Dawn (1996):

This movie starts off as a heist film that unexpectedly turns into a horror movie about halfway through. Seth and Richie Gecko stumble across a nest of Mexican vampires, (in the series they’re called Culebras), while on the run from the police, after a bank heist.  They, the hapless family they’ve  kidnapped, and the other denizens of the bar where the vampires make their nest, have to fight for their lives, when the vampires decide to stage a massacre/eat in. The vampires, led by Santanico Pandemonium, (played by a stunning Salma Hayek), are clearly the bad guys, even though the bar itself is, in the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, “a wretched hive of scum and villainy”.

image

These vampires have snake venom, super strength, and forehead bumps, like on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. There’s a lot of stake action, crossbows, and sunlight burning, by the end. I need not tell you that almost none of the humans make it out alive.

And yes, you should ignore the sequels. That’s a law.

Fright Night (1985):

Charlie has a vampire problem. There’s a vampire living next door who is after his girlfriend. With the help of a fake vampire slayer from TV, portrayed wonderfully by the late, great Roddie McDowell and his crazy best friend, Evil Ed, who is played by Stephen Geoffreys, (and one of the highlights of the movie), he aims to take it down.

image

On the surface, Jerry seems like your typically suave, gentleman vampire, but he’s really a horrific monster, who just wants Charlie to mind his own business. Jerry makes the list because he creates some seriously ugly vampires, who look more like land-sharks than people, but are not mindless. They can think,  act and even pretend to be their normal selves, but once they vamp-out, are utterly determined to eat you. Jerry is very close to the classic style vampire, only prettier. He can entice with his eyes or voice and turn into a giant bat like creature.

I should not have to keep reminding you to ignore the sequels. You know the rules.

Near Dark (1987):

I gave a full review for this movie some months ago. The vampires in this movie look human, don’t have fangs, are immune to bullets, but that doesn’t mean they can’t kick some ass.  The vampirism in this movie is depicted as an affliction that can be cured. They’re not the mindless eating machines of the other films, which somehow makes them worse, because they are  in full possession of their faculties, are not nice, aren’t interested in nice and probably can’t even spell nice. They’re barely nice to each other, let alone their food.

Salem’s Lot (1979):

image

I saw this movie, for the first time, when I was about ten years old and Barlowe the Vampire King, scared the shit out of me. Of course, at that age, I didn’t know that he was based on the Max Schreck role,  from Nosferatu. The movie is full of images that never left me and are still effective today.

The vampires in Salem’s Lot are the full on supernatural kind. Crucifixes repel them, holy water glows in their presence, they can turn into fog, fly, and there’s lots of hissing, as these are the more animalistic vampires. The vampires created by Barlowe are also the classic sirens. They’re intelligent, fast, vicious and highly intelligent. They have the ability to enchant and entice their prey through sight and voice.

Barlowe, himself, never says a word for the entire movie, and still manages to be one of the most menacing vampires in movie history, with his pasty skin, siphon like teeth and clawed hands. He’s a total bad ass, with whom  you will not  feel any urges to swap spit under the moonlight, unless he tells you that’s what you want.

There is actually a sequel to this movie. Surprise, surprise! Need I remind you, that the most entertainment to be gotten from it, is the happiness of knowing that you watched something else, instead.

Unfortunately, most of these films are not available on Netflix, although they can be streamed through other sources and all are available on DVD.

Happy Screaming!

Geeking Out About : Return of the Living Dead (1985)

As a general rule, I’m not interested in zombie movies. (I love zombie books and TV shows, so go figure.) Back in the 80s there was, thanks to the Dawn of the Dead franchise, a brief surge in zombie movies and I did watch and mostly enjoy them. My favorite, however, is this one, which is a sequel to the original Night of the Living Dead. I didn’t really enjoy the original, as its message was just too dark and depressing, for my tastes.

Not that I want zombie movies to be happy affairs, I just prefer a slightly lighter tone. Return of the Living Dead doesn’t touch on many deep subjects and is mostly light in its  tone, although the situation becomes increasingly grim by the end of it. There’s a point where you just know, none of these characters are going to get out of this movie alive.

image

And what a colorful array of victims we are presented with. Two very disparate groups of people, (who look like punks, geeks and an odd blend of the two), who somehow became friends. When I was a teenager, I thought this collection of people rather far-fetched, but as I got older, I realized it wasn’t that strange because the group’s common core is Freddy, played by Thom Mathews. I can see his best friend as a child, growing up to be Scuz, along with his girlfriend, Trash, played by Linnea Quigley. Freddy’s girlfriend, a very straight laced, suburban girl named Tina, would have a couple of friends, too. Trash could have a friend or two, (although I suspect most are probably Tina’s friends, as Trash is sullen and unlikable even to her own boyfriend), and out of this scattering of people, two different groups would find a way to get along with each other.

They’re all waiting for their linchpin to get out of his new job at a medical packing warehouse. This is Freddy’s first day on the job and he’s being schooled in his new position by Frank, played by James Karen, who walks Freddy through the process of packing up medical supplies to various colleges and universities. This mostly consists of throwing things in boxes, along with packing peanuts and …well, that’s it.  Its such a low end place that the warehouse only seems to have two employees,  Frank and Freddy. Frank gives Freddy a tour, which includes some storage capsules in the basement. When Frank slaps one of the capsules, he unwittingly releases the gas inside(and a rotting  corpse) and the two of them are poisoned and pass out. Well that’s what they think happened.

image

Which means nothing to Freddy’s friends who are tired of waiting for him to get out of work. Do you ever have a moment where you are watching a movie, from twenty or more years ago, and wish the characters had cell phones? If they did, it would be a very different movie. Freddy’s friends could’ve simply waited wherever they were until he called them, and then showed up later to be killed by zombies, rather than heading into the  nearby cemetery because who doesn’t want to “play around” in one of those.

Meanwhile, Frank and Freddy discover that things in the warehouse have gone horribly wrong, as the cadavers and split dogs have come to life. I love the special effects in this movie. I think one of the most chilling moments is the split dog scene. There’s a  great buildup and reveal for it, and the practical effects still stand up to scrutiny, today. Its an awesomely disgusting scene. It’s hard to choose just one of those, though, becasue the movie is filled with them. In a panic, the two call their boss, Burt, to oversee their mistake and tell them what to do.

Now that the gas has been released, and this occurs mostly in the opening credits, it makes its way outside, where storm clouds are lying in wait, to rain it back to earth, over the cemetery, and  over the people “playing around” in it. This makes me wonder if all those characters were poisoned, like in the show The Walking Dead, and if they’d not died from zombie bites, would they still have died and resurrected, the way Freddy did, who received a more concentrated dose.

image

The gas also reanimates a corpse inside the warehouse and Freddy, Frank, and Burt spend some time beating it up, but not even sawing off the head does anything to stop it from rampaging. They finally deal with it by chopping it up into smaller pieces. Pieces that won’t stop moving.

The three of them carry the moving pieces over to the crematorium next door, run by Ernie, and this is how the rest of the movie is spent, basically. Freddy’s pals, Burt and Ernie, Frank and Freddy, spend much of the movie running back and forth, between these two buildings, barely staying one step ahead of the growing number of corpses trying to eat them.

There’s always the question in such movies, why don’t they call for help? Well they do, and call emergency services, who show up, and are promptly eaten.

Linnea Quigley, one of the better known Scream Queens, spends a not insignificant amount of the movie naked, which is great news for fanboys. The zombies in the movie are the fast kind and, unlike in the original movie, these talk.

image

Take note that Frank and Freddy are dead, from the moment they wake up on the floor of the basement, after they’ve been exposed to the gas. They feel horrible but are otherwise indistinguishable from living beings. We only find out they’re dead after a couple of paramedics announce that the two of them have no heartbeat, or blood pressure.

This movie is full of some great setpieces , one of which is a conversation that Ernie has with the upper torso of a rotting,  female corpse, in which he asks why the dead eat the living. Her response is that eating human brains relieves the pain of being dead. It certainly looks it and the intact spinal column, seen writhing over the medical table, helps bolster her argument.

image

But the movie isn’t all chills. There are more than a few laughs and even a few touching moments, as when Casey and Chuck, previously at odds, grasp hands just before their imminent death, and Frank immolating himself in the crematorium’s oven because no one wants to live as a dead man.  The zombies talk, but most of them say nothing important except to cry, “Brains!” The acting is sometimes pretty funny and occasionally the conversations are hilarious. These are the kinds of conversations that can be had no where else, except by people who are panicking, during a zombie apocalypse.

And in the final clincher, all that running around, trying not to be eaten, ends up completely worthless anyway, as the government, which had been searching for the capsules containing the gas, decide that the best way to handle a zombie outbreak, is to nuke the entire site from orbit, and spread the gas into the wider earth’s atmosphere!

Thereby starting a brand new, and much bigger, round of Zombie Apoclaypse.

Bleak? Sure. But you’ll also have plenty of laughs on your way to the end of the world.