Two years ago when frequent collaborators Danny McBride and David Gordon Green announced that they were joining forces again for a Halloween franchise sequel, I squealed. With Green’s indie-film roots combined with McBride’s dark sense of harsh humor, I felt pretty confident that their vision for a modern-day Halloween sequel would fill a void in the hearts of the franchise’s fans everywhere that craved a worthy sequel, after the countless corny and painful-to-watch ones that have notoriously tainted the Halloween franchise over the years (I’m looking especially at you, “Halloween: Resurrection”.) However…after months and months of numerous media clickbait articles about the production of the upcoming film, with headlines that contained quotes from McBride and Jamie Lee Curtis proclaiming that this movie was “legitimately scary,” a lackluster trailer release in June, and just the annoyance of straight-up over-saturation of the film’s highly anticipated release, I grew worried. After all, when the people who are behind a film can not stop talking about it to the press, that typically leads to disappointment and disaster. I thought, Who actually says that their own movie is ‘scary’?! Just let the damn movie speak for itself! But now that I’ve caught one of the upcoming film’s earliest screenings at Salem Horror Fest, I can thankfully say that I was wrong for worrying so much. Aside from a few nitpicky flaws, David Gordon Green’s Halloween is solid.
The Apocalypse has finally come. Wednesday night brought us the highly anticipated first episode of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE, the Murder House and Coven crossover season premiere, appropriately titled “The End,” and, as was expected, it gave us some pleasure, while also leaving us desiring a little more.
Literally beginning with a bang— and riffing on the self-obsessed aloofness of the people living within Southern California— “The End” opens with characters played by Leslie Grossman, Evan Peters, and Billie Lourd receiving the news about a nuclear attack, as they witness the crowded streets of L.A. filled with panicked people, stop-dead traffic, and threatening sirens coming from who knows where. The apocalyptic horror tropes are all present here: explosions in the sky, newscasters sadly bidding their final farewells to their families, SWAT teams rushing to the scene…all things that we’ve seen in various other forms of this subgenre (minus the zombies, for now.)
In what could only be described as Ryan Murphy’s horror version of the Marvel cinematic universe, Apocalypse will eventually bring back some of our past favorites, but for now, we meet many new characters portrayed by AHS mainstays. Leslie Grossman and Billy Eichner play yet another contentious married couple—this time, Grossman is Coco, a spoiled heiress who selfishly leaves Eichner behind, as she takes off in her family’s private jet, leaving him to fend for himself in what’s left of Los Angeles. Billie Lourd takes a proverbial step down from the intriguing character Winter that she embodied last season—this year, she’s a bland, subservient assistant to Coco, named Mallory, with very few lines. Lourd has shown her potential last season, so hopefully she gets utilized more. After his compelling performance last year as cult leader Kai, Evan Peters tries his hand at a more flamboyant character named Mr. Gallant. A hairstylist that resembles a lovechild between Elton John and Billy Idol, Mr. Gallant has a deadpan sense of humor, quipping things like, “I want to die,” and “Maybe it’s time we eat somebody,” while simultaneously singing and dancing to The Carpenters’ songs. Hopefully we are given more emotional depth for our characters in future episodes, because thus far, they are fairly entertaining in their own ways, but disappointingly cartoonish and emotionally inept…
A group of selected survivors— including Peters, Grossman, and Lourd— are taken to a dimly lit/electricity-free/old-school style refuge called Outpost 3, which we learn is somewhat of a torture chamber that is disguised as a safe space, and is run by the mysterious “Cooperative” that we have yet to learn much about. This brings us to our gratifying dosage of AHS queens Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates: Paulson is intimidating as Ms. Venable, who lords over the Outpost with her cold stares, ominous walking cane, and regressive worldviews. Bates is equally chilling as Ms. Venable’s cohort Ms. Meade, with her close-shaved, jet-black faux hawk and lack of facial expressions, which always make you curious about what she is thinking. The two of them make a deliciously sadistic pair of villainesses, as we find out that they are running a much more malicious sanctuary than their hierarchy, the Cooperative, is aware of. Additionally, if you didn’t notice, Erika Ervin (who played Amazon Eve in season 4’s Freak Show) is also back as one of the militant members of the Cooperative, but we didn’t get to see much of her yet. Can’t wait to see which characters these three badasses slap the hell out of next episode.
Apocalypse brings us a few new faces, one of which we are dying to see more of: Ms. Joan Collins. Others, including Ashley Santos and Kyle Allen, are snooze-worthy thus far, but, if we’ve learned anything from seven prior AHS seasons, the body count will eventually rise, and these guys may not last too long anyway. We can surely predict that, despite Venable’s warning, there will definitely be “unauthorized copulation” occurring, in a possible Adam and Eve-like fashion, in which their urges will be tested. When it comes to AHS, the sex occurs as often as the blood flows. That being said, with iconic actors like Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Frances Conroy, Connie Britton, and Taissa Farmiga set to return to the show in subsequent episodes, we don’t really need all these newbies.
If there is anything that the show is trying to hint at thus far, it’s that surviving this end of the world scenario doesn’t equal thriving. In Outpost 3, life is miserable for the group, as they are forced to eat vitamin cubes and possibly a stew made out of a former survivor that was contaminated by radiation, aptly named “Stu.” As the elite members of the group rock regal purple formalwear, and the “servants” of the group don gray, separation of class and value is obvious, although anyone and everyone is at risk of dominatrix-like “punishment” from Ms. Venable and Ms. Meade. As the episode jumps to eighteen months in the future, the group is hoping for some form of rescue, which never comes.
The premiere’s final moments are arguably its best. After 45 minutes of introducing us to the season’s new canon with fresh characters, we are rewarded with the moment we’ve been anxiously awaiting. As we hear the lyrics of a familiar song from early Murder House episodes— “But tonight, You belong to me, Just to little old me” — a cloaked man arrives and reveals himself to be none other than grownup Michael Langdon, played by The Assassination of Gianni Versace breakout star Cody Fern— complete with luscious, long locks that give off Interview with a Vampire vibes— who is already sending chills down our spines. Michael claims that he has arrived to take as many (or as few) people to a shelter that contains more supplies than Outpost 3, although we get the feeling that his intentions are much more menacing than that. As you may remember from season one, Vivian was raped by the ghostly Rubber Man (aka Tate Langdon) which turned into a pregnancy that brought us Michael, aka the Anti-Christ baby, destined to usher in “the end of times.” And here we are.
Tonally, “The End” is all over the place. Apocalypse has brought back the camp, for better and/or for worse. The episode is overly concerned with returning to the snarky sense of humor that was contained in Coven. Some one-liners are a hit, while others are a total miss. (One particular miss being Grossman’s comparison of her cold-pressed juice to “turtle shit.” Meh.) With all this attention to cynical humor, we need more darkness, more scares! We get hints of gloom throughout the episode, between the scary, Darth Vader-like hazmat suits, to the brutal gun shots to the heads of both humans and horses, and to the shades of grays and ambers within the bleak cinematography, which gives us a gothic-feeling atmosphere. But still not enough.
As AHS fans, many of us enjoy a degree of fantastical plot lines and campy dialogue—however, the show does have a reputation of taking things too far, and winds up losing our interest by midseason. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that we all want to see how this crossover storyline, with all of its Ryan Murphy-branded twists and turns, will play out. We’re just craving a lot more scares and a few less quips to make the rest of the season’s ride more satisfying.~
Is there any singular aspect of life that is more horrifying than losing the people you love by forces beyond your control? A24 Productions’ Hereditary takes us through all stages of grief and then some, to say the least. I was lucky enough to attend an advanced screening on Thursday night (before its wide release on June 8th) and I haven’t been able to shake it off ever since. It’s only June and we’ve still got the new Halloween and Suspiria remake to go, but I’m positive I just witnessed my favorite horror film of 2018.
All you should know going into this: Directed by Ari Aster (his first feature-length film, by the way) Hereditary opens with an ominous obituary post against a black screen, before gravely introducing us to the Graham family, who is mourning the loss of their elusive grandmother/mother Ellen. In a series of utterly horrific and tragic events, the Grahams are forced to each deal with their grief in their own (often toxic) ways, while simultaneously feeling as if they have been cursed by who they may be related to.
As if you didn’t hear already, John Krasinski (Yes, that adorkably nice guy who plays Jim from The Office) has co-written, co-starred, and directed A Quiet Place, a post-apocalyptic movie of sorts, that tells the tense tale of one family that is trying to successfully live in a world where sci-fi-like creatures with immaculate hearing capabilities will hunt (anyone who’s still left) who make any sort of sudden noise. We meet the Abbott family, initially consisting of Lee (Krasinski), Evelyn (Krasinski’s real-life wife Emily Blunt), deaf daughter Regan (crucially portrayed by real-life deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward), (each impressive actors in their own right, by the way) at “Day 89” where they are still getting used to the idea of having to remain silent for their survival at all times. Tragedy befalls them, and they are forced to continue on within this grief-stricken, emotionally-stalling, and devoid-of-most-communication environment they are living in.
I remember the first time I had heard that the seventh season of one of the very few shows I actually watch on TV, American Horror Story, was going to be centered around the 2016 election: I cringed and said out loud to myself, Oh no, Ryan Murphy, baby! What are you doing?! I just could not imagine reliving the truly horrifying real-life nightmare that was last year’s presidential election again- but alas, here I am, reflecting on last night’s season finale, feeling super depressed that it’s all over, yet satisfied at the outcome of what has become my favorite season of AHS to date. Ironically, this season, Cult- that I originally thought would be an annoying replay of one of the worst times of modern American history- actually became an entertaining escape from the bullshit of the things that are happening right now. Who would have thought? This is my thorough review of American Horror Story: Cult. Continue reading
As much as a small part of me cringes when I hear a new horror film being described as an “art horror” (a little pretentious), I usually tend to agree that these films- including The Babadook and It Follows- are pretty damn good pieces of cinema. 2016’s Raw is no different. I’ve been searching for Raw for some time now, and since its recent release on Netflix, I finally got a chance to see what all the fuss was about myself… Continue reading