‘Crazyhead’ Episode 2: A Pine Fresh Scent – I Remember Daddy (Review)

promotional image for Crazyhead

As Crazyhead, episode two “A Pine Fresh Scent” continues the “Buffy-like” atmosphere a lot more is revealed about this demon filled verse. The demon who “hangs around” is not Raquel’s former lover, he’s her dad.

In an expository scene we learn that a demon infested her father  just before having intercourse with her mum. The end result is that she is now “half-demon” which explains her ability to see them and to royally kick their butts…sometimes.

The “Misfits” touch is still present as Raquel and Amy talk a lot about sex, jizz and, at one point, Raquel’s brother Tyler believes he is going to have wild and wanton sex with Amy.

Callum puts out the word that he wants Raquel’s father taken care of and Mercy rises to the task with a few of her minions. Amy drags Jake into the fracas and we learn how to dispatch demons. (A shard of ice driven through the chest on the surface of an ice rink.)

After killing Suzanne in the previous episode, Amy and Raquel go to buy a couple of spades to bury Amy’s former roomie. As they shop at what appears to be a giant Costco, Raquel grabs two tins of Tango and a couple of large spoons.

As they head to the till, they ask if the store sells spades. After freaking them out by alluding to the two women burying a body, the clerk then orders two spades to be brought to the checkout. He does this a number of times.

The two women then bury Suzanne in the woods.

There is still a lot of comic moments in this episode where the show’s creator leaves the Misfits template alone and pays a homage to Shaun of the Dead. (The scene in the nearly deserted store with the vapid music playing over the store’s PA system is reminiscent of the first Cornetto film and Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and the 2008 remake.)

Much of the humor comes from the fact that these two demon hunters are not necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed.  Amy, whose day job is working in a bowling alley, appears to be slightly smarter than Raquel but that may be because the half-demon girl has trouble communicating.

Callum is adamant that the trouble making demon daddy be killed and the violence displayed is, once more, less Bruce Lee and more brute force. There is a brilliant bit of fighting “backstage” at the ice rink where Amy takes a demon out with a giant penguin figure.

Another one is used to knock out Raquel, only this time it is a demon doing the damage. The unconscious demon hunter is taken out on the ice to watch her father get stabbed with a “dick – sized” bit of ice.

Raquel shows some of her demon side by telekinetically smacking down the demons threatening her dad, but too late to save him from being sent back to Hell.

Of course the big shock of the episode is when the “dead” Suzanne comes back from the freshly dug grave. Amy dreams of her bestie turning back up and while brushing her teeth, Suzanne appears behind her.

“You killed me you silly b*tch.”

Cue end credits.  It now appears that Raquel’s formula for driving out the demon inside Suzanne worked after a very dodgy fashion. What remains to be seen is whether Raquel’s father can come back and just how far Callum is willing to go.

Crazyhead is available to stream or download on Netflix. All six episodes are up on the site for binging.

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The OA: New Colossus – Backstory (Review)

The OA Logo

The second episode of The OA episode “The New Colossus” goes deeper into the backstory of Nina/Prairie. The previous episode told how Nina survived the deadly bus attack and it also explained how she lost her sight. (It was taken by a supernatural deity.)

Now Prairie tells the assembled quintet about how she came to be adopted by Abel and Nancy. Her father sends her to America to a boarding school for the blind. There she plays the violin, learns to read and is told by her remaining parent to stop speaking Russian in class the “Voi” find her.

One day she is told by her aunt and the school’s headmaster that her father has been killed. Nina does not believe it and long after she is adopted by the Johnson’s has visions that indicate her father is alive.

Before becoming Prairie Johnson, the orphaned child is taken to live with her aunt who runs a baby brokering business. Nancy and Abel have come to buy a baby boy when Nina is discovered by Nancy. The Johnson’s decide to take the small child rather than the baby.

We learn how Nina, now Prairie, met Hap and came to be with him for so long. She also relates to her  believers about running away from home after years of being forced to take medication to “calm her down.”

Prairie told her parents of her dreams, where she believed her father to be alive and it was through this medium that he spoke to her.  Nancy and Abel tape the child’s nocturnal activities and take the footage and Prairie to see a doctor.

The medical man declares that the young girl is delusional and it is he who recommends dosing Prairie up.  On her 21st birthday she goes to the Statue of Liberty in New York to meet with her father. A dream she has earlier leads her to believe he will be there.

Her father does not appear and she stays in the subway station playing her violin. Her plan is that this “beautiful net” she has cast will catch her father. Instead, Hap is drawn to the beautiful younger woman and he buys her lunch.

Hap tells Prairie that he studies NRE (Near Death Experiences) and as the girl had one in Russia, he asks her to join him at the lab. She says yes and learns, once they arrive, that Hap has tricked her and Prairie  is now a prisoner. Trapped behind a glass cage.

It is here that she learns of Homer for the first time.

This episode moved much faster than the previous one. We learn a bit more about French as well as what transpired with Prairie before she vanished and returned with her sight restored.

Hap is introduced to the audience as as usual Jason Isaacs is able to infuse a myriad of levels to his character. Zoey Todorovsky is spot on as the younger Prairie, i.e. Nina Azarova and her depiction of the transitional Prairie is brilliant.

“New Colossus” leaves the gratuitous sex scenes out although they could well return in the next episode. Steve is, despite being rescued by Prairie, a chap whose name should really be “Richard.”

Presumably, since Prairie’s nighttime ramblings have been regulated to one hour at night, the remainder of the series will deliver her backstory via piecemeal. (A bit at a time.)

While Brit Marling has been interesting thus far as Prairie Johnson, the introduction of Isaacs will definitely prove to be a game changer.

The OA is available to stream or to download on Netflix in its entirety. Head on over and check it out. Despite its almost snail-like pace and a few unsympathetic characters, it is interesting.

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The Lobster (2016): Black Comedy Served With Surrealism (Review)

Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell in The Lobster

Co-written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Efthymis Filippou was the other scribe on the film) The Lobster is a futuristic black comedy served up with a huge dose of surrealism. The film feels quite literally like the love child of Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson while any other members of the Monty Python gang could be the godparents. 

The film is quite literally the oddest thing out there at the moment.  Set in some point in the near future, the world inhabited by Farrell’s character, and a slew of other brilliant actors, is clearly dystopian.  In many ways Lanthimos and Filippou seem to be forecasting a world gone mad, one more concerned with control rather than passion.

Farrell’s character; David, falls out of a relationship and is sent to a hotel where occupants have a certain amount of time to find a life partner. Society is advanced enough to recognize the need to have two categories. Homosexual and heterosexual, although the bisexual one was removed in the distant past.

For a film to start with a voice over (by Rachel Weisz) and a blonde woman driving to a field with two donkeys, only to get out and shoot one dead, means that this feature is going to be very different and eclectic.

We learn quite quickly that the people at the hotel must find a mate within  a specific time period or they well be turned into an animal of their choice.  There are odd rules that must be obeyed and certain traditions must be followed.

Masturbation, for example, is forbidden. Yet before each “hunt,” where the guests go after loners with tranquilizer dart guns, David is gently manipulated to orgasm by a hotel maid. She rubs her bum against his crotch, a practice that Davids insists is horrible.

Each single person must hunt for a “match.” In each instance of mutual attraction, the couple must have something in common. For example, later, in the woods, David learns finds that he and the short sighted woman (near sighted) – played by Weisz – share this feature making them the perfect couple.

However, in the woods, there are also rules. Stiff and inflexible ones that result in horrible punishments if broken. Each “loner” is forced to dig their own grave, for occupation later, and they are not allowed to kiss or have sex with other loners.

This odd future world seems to be inhabited with self satisfying and simple people who do not have the ability to think abstractly. The world is full of sheep who are easily led by whomever is in charge.

While becoming a couple is the pinnacle of achievement, and necessary to prevent being turned into a horse or, as the title implies, a lobster (David’s choice.) people who are together are still self serving.

In one scene between the couple who run the hotel and the leader of the loners, played by Léa Seydoux, the leader works to sabotage the couple’s relationship.  

The message of the film appears to be that in the future, no one will be allowed to do as they wish. Everyone is controlled by one faction or another and failure to comply either equals death or transmutation into an animal.

The film is funny. John C. Reilly plays a character with a lisp. At one point three friends get into a argument and another character tells the Reilly’s character that whatever animal he become will have a lisp.

After the donkey murder at the start, Farrell’s character is checked into the hotel. He is asked what animal he would like to be if he fails to find a mate. He says lobster. Olivia Colman, the hotel managers congratulates David on his choice. “Nearly everyone,” she tells him, “chooses to be a dog. That’s why there are so many of them.”

Each character in The Lobster speak as if they are not used to doing so. The lines and dialogues between the people in the film feels stilted and unnatural. One gets the impression that the inhabitants of this world are not the sharpest tools in the shed at all.

Their needs are quite basic and their emotions follow suit. This world is quirky, unintelligent and slow.  The pace of the film is snail-like making the almost two hour film feel much, much longer. As interesting as the story is, the movie could have easily lost over a half hour.

Out of the all the cast, several were more than outstanding with their interpretation of their parts.  If there were any real complaint it would be that the brilliantly natural Michael Smiley was definitely under-used.

The film belonged to Farrell, who, after gaining around 40 pounds,  looked oddly like Kevin Kline especially with his mustache and glasses, Weisz and Seydoux, who is so sullenly and fiercely beautiful she takes one’s breath away. Ariane Labed, as the maid, is gloriously sexy in her role while maintaining  a certain ambiguity.

The Lobster suffers from a very confusing  open ended climax. Things are left hanging and one has to interpret their own definition of what happens as the screen fades to black.

Shot entirely in Ireland, the film’s countryside settings are luscious and wild.  The cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis is stunning all the more so because the unit used natural light and no makeup.

The Lobster is a clear 4.5 star film. The movie intrigues while it entertains and offers enough fragmentary confusion and surreal situations that the film’s makers could be successors to Gilliam and Anderson.  An eccentric treat with a splendid cast, this is one that should not be missed.

Christine (2016): Art Imitating Death (Review)

Rebecca Hall as Christine Chubbick

By the time one finishes watching the 2016 biopic of Christine Chubbuck there is an almost irresistible urge to take a long hot shower. This attempt to wash off the depression that settles on the viewer like a black stain would be followed up by watching something lighter, like The Wrestler.

For those not in the know, Chubbuck was a local news reporter on a Sarasota television news station who, after suffering a period of severe depression, wrote a script allowing herself the chance to commit suicide live on the Florida news show.

The obvious question here is why tell Christine’s story now, a full 42 years after the fact?  Clearly a number of people feel the need to present their version of the truth behind the act as there are two films out that deal with the subject.

Christine was written by Craig Shilowich (His first time up as writer), directed by Antonio Campos and stars Rebecca Hall in the title role. Ultimately the film attempts to show what led up to Chubbuck killing herself on live television. 

This biopic takes known facts and embellishes upon them.  It seems to change details to fit the writer and director’s take on the personality of the woman. Michael C. Hall plays George the local anchor that Christine hoped to have a relationship with and Tracy Letts plays Michael, the manager of the station who is most often at odds with his community segment reporter. 

A lot of time is spent showing how obsessive Christine was about details and her awkwardness with some coworkers. She is even shown having issues with her mother and housemate Peg (played by J. Smith-Cameron).

On top of her inability to communicate properly with her peers, according to the film, Chubbuck learns she has an ovarian cyst. This news adds to her deepening depression as it means she cannot have children after the operation.

Christine also shows that the reporter had no real sense of humor and was, despite working in front of the camera, a social inept who was almost painfully shut up inside her isolation from others.

Hall plays Chubbuck as someone who agonizes over her appearance and the smallest  details of her work.  Unconfident and seemingly unable to latch on to the station’s manager idea to make the news more “juicy” Christine is constantly out of step with the news team.

Yet, at the same time, the film shows that the reporter was technically astute, except on the newer machinery, and was able to help her co-workers make their own broadcasts smoother.

The movie also shows Christine unable to romantically connect with anyone. Her “crush” on George (Hall) is smashed down after their one date, a meal, ends with the anchor taking her to a Transitional Analysis meeting.

(T.A. started in the 1970’s and preached the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” philosophy and explained how people fell into categories like Parent, Child and so on.)

After their one dinner date, Christine also learns that George will be leaving to anchor at the newly acquired Baltimore station.  Throughout the film, Chubbuck is shown to be overly concerned with her onscreen gestures and news stories.

At 119 minutes, nearly two hours, the film runs long and spends too much time delivering whatever its message seems to be. Anyone who knows the Christine Chubbuck story already knows the ending as will anyone reading the press release of the film.

Certainly Hall does a splendid job portraying Shilowich’s version of Christine Chubbuck. Hall and Letts both deliver strong performances of embellished versions of the real players who worked and interacted with Chubbuck.

By the end of the film, however, we are left shaking our head and asking just why this was all necessary.  This voyeuristic experience of watching  a sad woman taking her own life just before her 30th birthday feels wrong and more than a little sordid.

There is not attempt to delve into why Chubbuck was so ill equipped to deal with her life in front of and off the camera. Indeed, there are not any clips available to see how the real Christine fronted her stories or reported her segments.

As the film portrays her, it is surprising that the woman had a job as a television reporter at all.

Certainly the event itself, Christine’s death on-air, was huge back in 1974. The act was covered so extensively that it is wrongly credited with influencing Paddy Chayefsky who wrote the Oscar winning film Network. In the film, Peter Finch plays a character who  plans to kill himself live on air.

However,  in Dave Itzkoff’s  “Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies” published by Henry Holt and Company in 2014, it is pointed out that Chayefsky started writing the script before the incident of Chubbuck’s televised death. It is, apparently, “just an eerie coincidence.”

Stripping away the poetic license taken with the subject matter, Christine is, in essence, art imitating death. A long depressing look at an unhappy young woman who could not live up to her own expectations.

The film is a solid 3 star film which, if viewed, should be followed by a light comedy to take the bitter taste out of the viewer’s mouth. The award winning film is rated R, presumably for the its bloody conclusion.

The Witch (2016): Turning Hansel and Gretel On Its Head (Review)

Anya Taylor Joy as Thomasin

Several things stand out in The Witch. Right off the bat, there is that heavy Yorkshire accent combined with the “Olde English” phraseology. Granted there is not one “Eee by gum” to be heard but writer director Robert Eggers’ decision to have his protagonists come from “God’s Country” was a sly bit of irony considering the circumstances of the plot and the players in it.

Another is the emphasis on the bleakness of the setting.  The downright dourness of all the early settlers who faced a new world with God in their heart and a blunderbuss at their side. Pundits today who work overtime to take the humor from this modern day world would have fit right in. Eggers’ pilgrims have no sense of humor at all.

Of course the main theme here is the simplicity of the people who believed that God almighty was to be found everywhere if they only kept him in their heart. Eggers took this belief system and infused it with a twisted version of Hansel and Gretel, with a touch of “Little Red Riding Hood,” where the witch is not vanquished at all.

Considering the dire reviews that some gave The Witch when it came out, it seems that that Yorkshire accent and all those thy’s and thee’s and come hither’s may have put American audiences off. But “by ‘eck that were how they talked” back then.

(Thick Yorkshire accents are best understood by those who come from “God’s Country.” The rest of the human race have to really work at picking out about half of what is said.)

The film does offer something else in spades though; above and beyond the woodcutter link to a Grimm’s Fairy Tale or two.

The Witch has atmosphere and a sense of foreboding so powerful it practically leaps off the screen.  Watching the film is an exercise in tension. There is also  a feeling that Eggers may well be telling his version of Job in the new world. (One of the characters actually references that particular parable.)

The moment the family are banished from the “plantation” we know this is going to end badly for William (Ralph Ineson), Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their family. Sure enough, not long after relocating Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is out playing peek-a-boo with the youngest family member when the baby boy is stolen between glances. 

Eggers throws a lot into the mix. He includes the hysteria from the Salem Witch Trials and the two smallest children of the family, after the theft of the baby, sound nothing like their parents or older siblings. The duo are thick as thieves and sound years older than they actually are.

The youngest children, after the baby is stolen, are damned creepy and disturbing.

The two  throw fits and mimic the gyrations of the young girls who were responsible for so many being punished for witchery in Massachusetts. This adds to the suspense and overall sense of foreboding that rules the film.

(There is a bit where a hand flies up to cradle young Caleb’s head, played brilliantly by Harvey Scrimshaw, and the very sight of the hand is enough to make the keyed up viewer gasp and jerk away from the screen.)

Most agree that Anya Taylor-Joy nails it in this film. Clearly this young actress is one to watch and she will be the next big thing in the acting world for a long time to come.

However, this was not a one person show. All the actors knocked it out of the park. Ineson with that deep resonant Yorkshire voice of authority, Dickie ringing the changes on her emotional toil and inner strength, Scrimshaw and his change after that meeting in the woods and the youngest actors: Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson were just brilliant.

Anyone watching this film may never want to go near a black goat again…ever. (Black Phillip was damned creepy full stop.) It may also go a long way toward explaining just how well the mixture of religious fervor and old fashioned superstition combined to create such an atmosphere of sheer dread.

It is interesting to note that one of the plot devices entailed Katherine rounding on Thomasin and making the girl’s life a misery. Since she has “come into womanhood” the mother insists that it is time for the child to leave.

This appears to be an British cultural issue and is even alluded to, in jest, in the John Ford film The Quiet Man. In the 1952 film, the conspiracy against Squire Danaher is that two grown women cannot live under the same roof. (It holds true to this day as this writer can firmly attest.)

The Witch may not be the scariest film made in 2015, it had some pretty decent competition, it is, however,  undoubtably the most unsettling and atmospheric horror film of the year.

Cinematographer Jarin Blashchke does a brilliant job in terms of lighting and each frame is nigh on perfect.  The sound is spot on while the sets and  the costumes feel authentic  right down to the smallest detail.

Fans appeared to be split in their reactions to the film. Most seeming to want or expect jump scares every two seconds. There are, at least a couple of these popcorn hurling moments in The Witch and they are far enough apart that each come as a surprise.

For those who appreciate a nuanced horror film that takes its time to set up the finale, The Witch is a 4.5 star film. It loses a half star for that, at times, impenetrable Yorkshire accent.

The film  is on Amazon Prime at the moment as well as other streaming and On-Demand platforms and available on DVD. Fans of horror films will want to check it out if they have not already. It is worth watching.