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Month: October 2016

American Horror Story S6E7

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Blair Switch

With this season, AHS confirms itself as a true innovator in the horror genre and as superior TV. Four more cast members bite the dust in gory fashion, with two more being either wounded or cured as meat for the original Polk family. Two of the survivors are force-fed said meat. “I’m not used to all this carnage”, laments Audrey Tindall (Sarah Paulson) at some point, and even though we are, at least onscreen, we both laugh at the incongruity of the statement while wondering how the current madness and mayhem can sustain three more episodes. By now, 75% of the cast has been killed, but there is no sign of any slowing down. Episode 7 is fast and furious; it’s also the funniest so far, if only for the recurring bleeped curse words.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that in spite of the 75 cameras installed in the house the skeleton directing crew meets a prompt demise, as they have no idea what they’re up against. There’s only time for the proverbial “Did you get this?” before they all, well, get it. Bipolar Mary Agnes Winstead (Kathy Bates) is on a rampage, and she goes on chewing up her scenes with the lightness of touch of her beloved meat cleaver. She now speaks in tongues and perform self surgery after being shot. It’s like she is auditionning for the part of the Blair Witch but alas, as glorious as she is in the role, she’s not The Butcher, and her meeting with her idol puts an end to her career. She has a brilliant last line, which is both hilarious in its mundanity and, when you give it some thought, deeply disturbing. AHS doesn’t look at reality TV and found footage kindly; in fact this is the first season of the series to approach its subject matter with such meanness. There is nothing of the tenderness towards ordinary people, mental patients, persecuted witches, freaks or addicts that permeated the previous seasons.

Considering, Dominic Banks (Cuga Gooding Jr), might well end the one survivor as he’s tasked by production to be the villain of the piece. Unaware that no one is behind the camera anymore and that the show will never air, he only has ratings in mind and keeps on corroding Matt and Shelby’s relationship, implying that his short-lived affair with her was scripted by production. The irony of having an Academy Award™ winner gloating about screen time in a TV reality confessional is not lost on any mean-spirited viewer, and you need to be at least a bit mean to enjoy the series anyway. It also makes one wonder, what if more reality TV was that talently written?

And it goes on and on, making most horror movies exhaustingly churned by Hollywood look, sound and feel so politically correct, so last century. There is the scene of the three damzels in distress shakenly brandishing their smart phone at each other in the darkness of the woods. There is the revelation of the true reason why reluctant Matt joined the show, immediatly followed by an outrageous head-bashing, then by the most incongrous “Please, let me have the crowbar”. There is, of course, the most effective spoof ever of the most spoofed-to-death Blair Witch scene. How could have they missed that one.

By their own admission, the AHS cast is like a repertoire troup now. The eagerness with which they kill, torture or even eat bits of each other elicit giggles; it is what allows the series to remain tongue-in-cheek at its darkest moment. Their is a feeling of companionship even though they gleefully eviscerate or castrate their fellow cast members. For this, the series is never sordid or guilty of what this season stands against: it’s Grand Guignol of the first order.

Oh Reason, where are thou? We have three more episodes to watch and the suspicion that nothing is yet what it really is. Three more layers to be peeled from the onion, with the expected tears to go with it…

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American Horror Story S6E6

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The Talented Mr Replay

Is it a surprise that the 6th episode of AHS 6th season is such a game changer? Probably not, we all had our doubts about where My Roanoke Nightmare was going to begin – and end – with, so let’s rewind and try again. The audacity of such a volte-face is a delight which will surely alienates some of the casual viewers; but what a pleasure it is to feel the finely oiled clogs of such a perverse machinery switching to second gear. Falchuk & Murphy’s series, for its inherent camp and taste for provocation, understands that admitting its fakeness is the only way to appear genuine in the 21st century. This was already at the heart of Nip/Tuck, or lack thereof.

So: after My Roanoke Nightmare was a smash hit in 2015, its conceptor Sidney James (Cheyenne Jackson playing the Big Bad Wolf for an audience of little red riding hoods) aims higher by switching from documentary to reality TV for the sequel, Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell. The concept: a reunion of the original protagonists and their re-enactors in the house on Sappony Road, equipped for the occasion with myriads of cameras and practical jump scares. The objective, apart from turning on the heat under a pressurised cooker filled to the brim with traumatised egos, seems to have Lee finally admitting that she killed her husband. Well, that’s the self-righteous excuse sold by the production anyway.

In the best tradition of reality TV, success was not kind to the show stars. Matt and Shelby are separated since she had an affair with Dominic Banks, the actor playing her husband, while Audrey Tindall, the actress playing her, comforts this season’s dedication to improbable accents when she’s revealed to be British (Sarah Paulson, for all her talent, is no Meryl Streep). She’s now wed to Rory Monahan, the gay ghost (Evan Peters) and they are quite the love birds.

Agnes Mary Winstead, the actress playing The Butcher, has pushed Method a bit too far and is under a restraining order from the show after threatening to kill them all, in character. Kathy Bates, either foaming at the lips or fake-smiling her way through an over-rehearsed “I am a real person”, is the season’s crowning achievement. She is quite a piece of work, this woman. Also Monet Tumusiime (Angela Bassett, Where did they find that name?) has developped the same drinking problem than the original Lee, which is quite unfortunate as alcohol is – legitimately – presented as “the secret sauce for reality TV”.

To proof, Matt doesn’t take well Dominic’s appearance on set, even though he gloomily states after his outburst that he’s not sure they will survive this time. In fact, a sober title card informs us viewers that the programme was never aired because everyone involded died. But one. Two characters are duly dispatched in the course of the episode, leaving one expecting a four episode found footage slasher version of Ten Little Indians. What a treat.

Some things still feel off, though. Where’s Flora, Lee’s daughter, for instance? Are there more twists in store? Whatever happens next, mission accomplished for this season: having reality haunting fiction instead of the contrary is a deft move and a very smart idea. Plus they show a wedding video, a bloop reel and recording of 911 calls. Such debunking of trash TV and phoney marketing has to be commended.

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American Horror Story S6E5

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The Butcher, In The Motel Room, With The Meat Cleaver

This all seems fishier by the week, folks. We are only mid-season and what would have been the final showdown in a lesser, less sneaky series has already happened, draped in the nobility of an 18th century flashback (or “re-enactment”, as it is duly titled) and quotes from Daphné du Maurier to Mark Twain. Something is definitely off with this documentary, even though the way they keep recaping what happened before and how they feel makes it a decidedly perverse hommage to its apparent form. And remember, we had a glimpse backstage and it felt weird, “weird” being of course a relative notion in the AHS universe.

The aforementioned flashback allows us to reconnect to Evan Peters, playing Edouard Philippe Mott, a wealthy decadent land owner and slave trader suffering from acute social phobia, which led him to leave his wife and heir in hectic Philadelphia (natch) to build the house on Sappony Road. He lives there surrounded with paintings, because “art never judges”, unlike his domesticity: Mr Mott shares more than a master and servant relationship with his mixed butler, Griffith. “Let’s rouge each other’s nip***s” he said in another feast of outlandish accent.

During one night of unproper conduct in the master bedroom, scary noises are heard in the house: all paintings have been defaced, precipitating Mr Mott in a fury leading to the death of everyone under his roof. Tomasin the Butcher was not prepared to let go of her land as soon as the 18th century, even though she left him build the house for some reason. Impalment adds one item to the already abundant catalogue of deaths met by this season’s characters, and that’s not mentioning the “being hammered to death after having been half eaten alive” moment happening later on.

Mr Mott helps our family in peril because his social phobia stay acute in death and he’s not willing to share the house with three other souls. They escape by a tunnel digged by the slaves, and CGI is used to great effect for candle light to reveal Mr Mott’s ghost face. Not surprisingly, the North Carolina woods are not the safest place for Californian yoga teachers…

Frances Conroy plays Mama with a fierce Souther drawl and a complete poker face when she sums up the Polk situation to Matt and Shelby, captured by the inbred family during their precarious escape: she cures human flesh and they have a deal with The Butcher. They provide her with victims to be bled and she leaves them growing cannabis in the outback. The deal is 200 years old, which must make the Polk family the oldest dealers in the free world.

When all seems lost, the Butcher’s family feud reignites like a sacrificial pyre, allowing Matt, Shelby and Flora to escape with Lee’s help after she has finally be cleared of any involvement in her ex-husband death by fire. Happy ending, even though Shelby is haunted by her Roanoke nightmare, with the Butcher splitting her head open with the meat cleaver.

These initial episodes likely were the longest prologue a series ever dared to deploy. Five down, five to go, to grip us in what one guesses will be another way completely. That’s brave. One can’t wait to see the next episode and will review it as soon as he’s aired. Until then, let’s all rouge our nip***s!

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Ghostbusters (2016)

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Nobody Hurts Kevin!

It’s 2040 and the President is a plant. Absolute powers have been transfered to the Ministry of Fan Service. By consequence, tampering with cult movies is subject to prosecution or, should one better say, persecution. The 2030 Nervermore Act establishes in adamant terms that in the wake of the major Ghostbusters crisis of 2016, no male cult character can ever again be played – or, as the law says, “impersonated” – by a woman, nor any cult movie ever reinterpreted in the presumptuous light of gender blurring. The “Hanny Sola” amendment, dismissed by only one vote, transgender Delaware Junior Senator Cherry Onthecake’s, aimed at enhancing punishment up to lapidation by frozen pizza.

It is time in our cultural history to take a moment revisiting the root of that major inflection in our movie policy. Who would think by now that it all started with the perverse endeavour of remaking an early 80s alleged masterpiece featuring four no-lifers, retard SFX, Sigourney Weaver, and lots of goo? Problem was, the project involved replacing the four useless doofus by, it hurts one to even mention it, well, let’s cut to the chase, no really, oh well OK. Women. Obviously lesbian women, considering they were either fat, black, or quirky. Or smart.

To add insult to injury, the same criminal “reboot” included replacing Sigourney Weaver by Kevin, a male bimbo, all made of “pure muscle and baby-smooth skin”. But no brain, a pure object of female lust, so superior in any physical way to any fan of the original movie that one of the worst “gags” – the evil geek taking possession of the bimbo’s vacant brain and uttering the infamous line “Thanks for the upgrade!” was legitimately perceived as devious, deviant, and castrating. Cult movies prior to oldies but goodies Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey are exclusively male territory, as explicitely stated by the Nevermore Act’s preamble.

What is to infer from the previous three paragraphs? If the massive backlash this year’s version of Ghostbusters suffered from angry fans of the original demonstrates anything, it’s actually twofold: given time, anything is likely to becomes iconic, however worthless it was to begin with, and those for whom it becomes so have the potential to become integrists. The original movie was an ugly piece of parody, hardly better than an episode of Scoobidoo, featuring four nerds fighting Play-Do in the most regressive fashion. This one is hardly a good movie, but it’s undeserving of the Titanic reputation copy-paste, retweet and gregarious reflex has built for it in a matter of weeks. it has “the most hated trailer on Youtube” ever. One means, come on. We are not in rational territory anymore there, we are in a fast food culture of disposable hate and trolling.

One would take the new version of Ghostbusters anytime on the original one. It’s not a good movie by any means but at least it has four gifted female comedians as heroins instead of the usual band of brothers. It’s plagued by enough stupid references and cameos for three or four features but it has the decency of throwing Bill Murray by the window. Chris Hemsworth has never been better and his dance number on the final credit is alone worth the price of admission. “Nobody hurts Kevin”, indeed, except everybody tried to, and succeeded, although Kevin is eye candy with a pea in his head, triggering giggles, not outraged bigotry. Viewing advised if only to measure what all the fuss was not about.

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American Horror Story S6E04

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Children Of The Corny

Kathy Bates’ command of 17th century English is nothing but impressive in this episode, in which is exposed what happened to the vanished Roanoke colony, or possibly what happened to the demons who were responsible for the colony’s vanishing. That point is rather moot. It seems that the colony relocated in North Carolina, land of plenty, abundant harvests being ensured by a demonic pact with the local spirits, especially the Witch of the Woods, played by Lady Gaga sporting a tiara of antlers, a rather tame fashion statement for her. As long as virgin blood will fertilise the soil, the colony will live long and prosper, even in death. Human sacrifices of another kind, involving the Piggy Men, apparently help, too, even though how the two relate to each other in that particular cosmogony remains a blur so far.

Lady Gaga’s command of the same dialect is far from being stellar, though. She kinda sounds Transylvanian, which fits her relatively Bathory behaviour but also feels rather weird for a vintage Dutch immigrant. Does immortality tamper with your speech? One is sure they will come up with an explanation for this. Anyway, the Witch has needs, “woman needs” and her lust is set on Cuba Gooding Jr, who conveniently forgets everything of his unholy cavorting with an evil pop star with bad dental hygiene.

The thing is shaping rather well, one thing. The Piggy Men are repulsed by the magical word “Croatoan”, except when they’re not. During six days preceding the Red Moon, see, spirits are not only allowed to roam the earth but also to kill, and this Ghost Golden Week is just starting with nefarious consequences. Even though gore is more suggested than splattered, this episode features a mass murder with a meat cleaver, a dismemberment and a disembowelment (“It’s one thing to know about disembowelment but to actually witness one is something else entirely”, states one character with sagacity=. Also, Denis O’Hare makes an all too brief appearance as the keeper of the haunted house who, rather like Donald Trump, forgot to pay his taxes one year, allowing our hero couple to acquire the property. Elias Cunningham, his character, knows where Flora is, gently playing in a clearing with Priscilla the ghost girl and a couple of Piggies. Unfortunately, rescuing the little girl ends in a debacle and a Saint Sebastian death.

A body count of twenty or so is enough to spend a pleasant 50′. The recurring theme of the series appears to be the unability for the spirits of the dead to leave the place where they have met their demise, as was the case from Season 1: House to Season 5: Hotel. The ghosts, in any case, seem to be as divided as their living counterparts; and we are anxious to know what will possibly happen to Crickett Marlowe after his undignified exit.

This is getting pretty juicy, see you soon for the next episode!

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Life’s Too Short: Blindspot (2015)

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Doe Be Doo

On an empty Times Square, an unattended piece of luggage triggers a Bomb Squad intervention. Its content is alive! With whole body tattoos as only clothes, Jane Doe appears. “Are you guys seeing this?” asks a cop willing to make sure his buddie also enjoy the view. Abrubt cut to rural Kentucky, the Hostage State.

Jane Doe suffers from “constant permanent amnesia” which sounds like a mouthful and means she has forgotten anything but her Civil Rights. Her tattoos change all at once after a scanner scene reminescent of Michael Crichton’s Looker. “She’s puzzling”, concedes Special Agent Kurt Walker, who manages not to have any mouth AND suck eggs. The head doctor, on his way out when he heard there was a kettle boiling and felt like a cup of tea, agrees. Jane Doe is a non-entity created for the sole purpose of puzzling you, Special Agent. That’s why she has your name tatooed on her back.

Jane Doe is moved to a safe house. “There is a couch, everything you need”, she’s told. She does not know what she likes to eat but she speaks Chinese so food should not be a major problem. Just do not eat the couch, Jane.

Once it is established she is an ex-Navy Seal, and therefore an Action Jane Doe, Blindspot breaks an unspoken rule of TV series: “Thou shalt not try to build suspense on the heroin’s life being threatened during the pilot”. It just doesn’t work very well, even with the help of a poker-faced Chinese suicide bomber inside the Lady Liberty. Suffices to say that one tattoo saves the day, making Action Jane the human version of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And as a cliffhanger, she willingly became so. An eternity of solving ink riddles in the most incongruous way possible is looming, making this series the retard cousin of The Blacklist, meaning what The Blacklist has become during its third season.

Dialogue are far from good, but at times they could hardly get better:
– “It was right under our nose!
– No, behind her ear.”
You know the drill. Life’s too short.

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Friend Request (2016)

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Through A Screen Darkly

Starting as a cautionary tale about cyber-bullying, Friend Request morphs into quite something else along the way to a rather predictable ending but is a pretty enjoyable ride. The prologue, in which a lonely student commits a decidedly foolproof form of suicide, is a mistake, as it makes one suspects too early that more than the power of Facebook friendship is at work in the ordeal faced by Laura, a nice girl whose online popularity takes a sudden nosedive when she decides, half from pity and half from an ill-advised taste for gothic graphics, to befriend otaku in residence Marina, the one ugly goth chick with zero friends and stickers on her laptop.

What the movie does best is visualising the dark cormers of Marina’s loneliness, switching to animation scenes which make complete sense considering her personnality. She’s very tortured, Marina, and she doesn’t take rebutal in a graceful way. After she pushes too hard to be invited to Laura’s birthday party and discovers, as the diligent little stalker she is, that the alleged romantic diner with the boyfriend includes in fact everyone but her, she has one of her mood swings, involving tearing off her own hair and hacking into Laura’s profile to send the suicide video to all her contacts. Most of them moderately enjoy the view and her popularity starts decreasing, wittily measured by an onscreen counter. But that’s only the beginning of her troubles as her friends start dropping like flies or, more exactly, wasps.

Marina is a social ghost, with no real name or social security number. Should the movie have sticked to that it could have been better, the conflict between virtual popularity and social inexistence a nifty idea, actualising the Single White Female formula for the Facebook generation. Granted, it would have required a major suspension of disbelief, but that’s the paradox of our day and age: it’s easier to write Marina as an actual witch than a tech wizard, because it allows all sorts of (sometimes successful) visuals, like in a scene where a computer room becomes a spooky art installation.

Machines do not connect well with witchcraft. One of the first movies to attempt this unholy union was Evil Speak, a 80s turkey in which the kind of guy we now call a nerd used a computer to evoke a demon from some ancient evil book, allowing revenge on his jock bullies. The same kind of naive technological possession is at work here, including printers with endless toner cartridges and undecipherable source codes. Some better ideas appear to counterbalance this weakness though, like the analogy made between the computer screen and the dark mirror used by witches, or the Facebook unwanted friend request as an occult spell, potentialy harbouring death and destruction.

The death scenes are quite interesting for an amateur of the genre. the first one relies too heavily on witchcraft, another writing mistake further screenplay polishing could have avoided, but they get better. A Linda Blair moment at the hospital elicits giggles; there is nevertheless something truly spooky about someone so intent on dying that she tries again, differently, as soon as she wakes up.

In the end, evil wins because there is no end to it. Friend Request, in spite of its imperfections or limits, is a legitimate way to spend some time wondering what our lives would be like if Mark Zuckerberg was a wizard in more than the technological sense.

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The Slow Disappearance of Meaning and Truth

Invasion Of Privacy

Too many people ignore the risk of posting their boarding pass online, so eager they are to show their friends, and the world, what jet-setters they are. Deleting your name or your seat number is an elementary precaution, but the same information and much more are stocked in the easily decoded barcode. So it has to go too. Even then though, some private information can remain for all to see, as demonstrated below:

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