Killjoys: The Harvest (recap and review)

Still from Killjoys The Harvest John and Shyla
Before going into Killjoys, The Harvest, take a moment to appreciate the serendipitous casting of Lisa Ryder, aka Beka from Andromeda, aka Kay-Em 14 Jason X, as Keera Deen in this episode. Pause and savor the fact that the show’s makers obviously love the genre and that maybe Kevin Sorbo might be making an appearance along with many more science fiction television and film royalty.

At the end of last week’s episode Dutch provisionally hired D’Avin to be a Killjoy on her team and rather than kill the man her father targeted for her to assassinate, she captured him in order to lean why he had been chosen. This week, John goes with his brother to RAC and D’Avin applies, being accepted, by Keera Deen (Ryder) and starting at a higher rank than John, if he passes his psyche eval. Dutch is still questioning her intended target.

When the man insists he has no idea why he was marked for death, Dutch lets him go, telling the target to run and hide, she then sets fire to the room where she questioned him. D’Avin and John head to the bar and the harvest festivities are in full swing. D’Avin starts crowd control immediately and John heads straight for the bar and Pree pours him a drink.

Dutch comes in and calms things down, “I’ve got a gun and a badge, everyone calm down,” she says. Her appearance stops D’Avin from choking a man on the bar. Later John learns from a sex worker friend N’oa that her husband has gone missing from his migrant farm job at Leith. His visa is about to run out and the law says that if he is not found, she will be punished instead.

John talks Dutch into taking the job while D’Avin tries to get a RAC doctor to “rubber stamp” his psyche eval. Since he cannot go on a mission till he passes, D’Avin is to sit this one out and his brother and Dutch go undercover to find the missing Hock farm worker.

Entering the farm area as a worker John is tagged with an implant in his ear, that he soon learns is not just a deterrent but a incendiary device that explodes if he stops working. Dutch is posing as a Hock buyer and D’Avin takes the doctor to Leith Bazaar, to buy supplies, in return for her signature on his eval.

Once they arrive at the bazaar, D’Avin learns that Dr. Pawter Simms (Sarah Power) is not, strictly speaking, a practitioner of the “straight and narrow.” John is busy questioning a fellow farm worker while Dutch does some in-depth questioning of the farm owner, Martell (George Tchortov) and gets access to the farm files and the tracker in the missing farm worker Vincent Sh’ao’s ear.

When she and John run down the tracker device, they find not only Vincent’s ear but a lot more, all buried in the farmland. The question is whether or not all of the ear’s owners are dead, or just missing and why Martell has not reported it. D’Avin and Simms have a falling out after she triggers a stress attack in the former soldier and it looks like she may not sign his eval as a result.

John, whom Dutch ordered to lay low, talks to a coworker and it turns out that the ears have been cut off by the workers so they can escape. Dutch calls D’Avin to see if John has been in touch, she is tracking John’s tracker and finds it, and his ear, buried in the dirt. It turns out that the missing workers, plural, not just Vincent, are all working in the woods at a Jack “grow up”, a drug farm.

Martell discovers that Dutch hacked his system and called the authorities to report his Jack farm to avoid arrest, they are, he tells Dutch, on their way to kill everything in the woods, including Vincent and John. Dutch and D’Avin rush to the grow up and John has rounded up the missing workers along with Vincent. They, and Sh’ao, leave the area one step ahead of the deforestation ships, except for Shyla (Hannah Anderson) who says she would rather die than return to Westerly.

By the end of the episode, Dutch and John clear the air and D’Avin gets his eval signed by Simms. It looks like the doctor and D’Avin will be seeing more of one another since he has asked her to treat his Stress Response Syndrome and John gets his ear replaced.

Killjoys moves quickly and the fast pace, along with clever dialogue and some excellent one-liners makes for an entertaining show. This Canadian export is, like Dark Matter, a great example of what TV should be; fun and un-complicated. Aaron Ashmore, Hannah John-Kamen and Luke Macfarlane are a chemically viable trio of protagonists and SyFy has definite winner on its roster. Part of the #SyFyFridays line up.

The Shrine (2010): Polish Horror with a Twist

Still from The Shrine
Directed and co-written by Joe Knautz, the 2010 Polish themed horror film with a twist, The Shrine which is his second feature length film, tells the story of a journalist who is pursuing what she believes to be the next big story. Starring Aaron Ashmore (Killjoys, Warehouse 13), Cindy Sampson (Swamp Devil, The Last Kiss) and Meghan Heffern (Chloe, What If) it could be seen as a message to those who aspire to greatness, “Be careful of what you wish for” or “Don’t you think the bee story would have been safer?”

Carmen (Sampson) is a junior journalist who wrote an expose that caused a lot of problems for her publication. Her punishment is to be given mediocre and banal stories to cover. Somewhat ironically, given the mysterious virus that is killing off honeybees in the real world, she is told to investigate and write about two separate bee keepers whose bees have suddenly and mysteriously died. Finding the prospect of talking to a couple of “bee farmers” fairly dull, she tosses the assignment in the bin.

The fledgling reporter has been following her own leads and she has discovered a possible link between a local lad who has gone missing from Poland. Like others before him, the boy’s luggage showed up in an airport miles from his last known destination, a small town in Poland, and Carmen talks her boyfriend Marcus (Ashmore) and her intern Sara (Heffern) into going to the village and learning what really happened to the missing local man.

The three fly to the area and begin their investigation. They find a spot in the woods that the backpacker described in his last diary entry. A place where smoke or fog hangs in one spot. After being chased out of the small town by the locals, Carmen, Sara and Marcus double back and check out the smoke filled copse.

Sara goes into the fog while Marcus and Carmen argue. She disappears and Carmen goes in after her intern. While enveloped by the dense fog, she finds a statue of a large snarling creature clutching a heart in one clawed hand. She takes a picture and as she moves to get another shot, the statues head followers her.

This is an interesting film. Starting off as more a mystery than horror, it has all the signposts of turning into another Hostel or something very similar. However once the protagonists reach Poland, it ceases to be a mystery and goes slowly and effectively into a sort of quasi-religious horror film.

The filmmakers chose to keep subtitles off the screen when the local villagers are talking each other and the visiting Americans in Polish, although they think the reporters are British. “English?,” asks one man, “Go back to England, English, nothing for you here.” The lack of subtitles keeps the viewer in the same space as the three young American’s who cannot speak the language.

The Shrine is not too dissimilar to Ashmore’s twin brother Shawn’s horror outing in The Ruins two years earlier, it looks like the hostile townies are trying to keep the outsiders out, at first, and later to keep them there…permanently.

The twist at the ending is not earth shattering but impressive enough and although the film does end rather abruptly, but not too ambiguously, this works. The combination of no subtitles and the short chopped off ending puts the audience firmly in the shell shocked shoes of Aaron Ashmore’s character. Quite an entertaining horror film that scores a full 3.5 out of 5 and is well worth a look. True horror fans will enjoy this little gem. Steaming on Netflix at the moment.

Killjoys: Canadian Export Fun

Poster for Killjoys
SyFy is offering quite a number of fair to quality new programs this year and Canadian export Killjoys is a fun little series featuring some storylines that may not reek of originality but the cast make it work. Starring Aaron Ashmore (Warehouse 13, The Shrine), twin brother of Shawn (The Following, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as John, partner/employee of Dutch who are a couple of “bounty hunters” who work for the RAC.

Dutch, played by Hannah John-Kamen (Misfits, Dark Souls I & II), is a strong female character who has been trained by her father (Rob Stewart) as some sort of assassin from childhood. John’s brother, a decorated war hero with a kill order against him is rescued by the pair in the first episode. D’Avin, played by Luke Macfarlene, becomes a reluctant “unofficial” member of the bounty hunter’s team and in the second episode is actively helping on Dutch and John’s latest warrant.

The bounty hunter leader is surprised by her father’s re-entry into her life, Daddy dear is there to enlist her skills as an assassin and he drops off a red box. The receptacle is a reminder of her childhood and holds a weapon and a target that she has one week to eliminate.

During the latest warrant, D’Avin and Dutch bond as they try to complete the job and get off a warlike planet separated by crime lord areas and scavengers who steal anything, including things nailed down. The writing is not too shabby; episode two uses a Shaun of the Dead line, “Stop pointing that gun at my mother!”

Killjoys may not have a huge budget, but really how much is needed for a show set in a world that is dystopian at best with a lot of buildings in ruinous decay and Spartan decor for official offices and/or buildings. There are not a lot of gunfights so far and the FX are pretty impressive but nothing to write home about.

In this instance it is the actors, as mentioned before, that make this series work. Ashmore, an excellent actor by anyone’s standards, could interact admirably with a lamp. Given that his two costars are also capable performers the chemistry moves the plot forward with ease.

It is hard to pick on a program with a positive female character who is intelligent, can kick major bad guy arse and show just a bit of vulnerability. There may be a let down as the show progresses, after all this is only episode two and SyFy does have a reputation…

Before the end credits on episode two roll, there is a pretty decent shoot out and some mild hand to hand combat, performed by Ashmore, or his stuntman. The team now seem to be pretty comfortable with the two brother’s working for Dutch, after she makes the offer and those red boxes from Daddy look to be a future plot thread that will not go away.

Pretty entertaining fare, although nothing to induce too much in the way of thinking. Just a fun combination of good actors and action that does not, thus far, bore the viewer. Another SyFy offering that airs on Fridays.

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