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Odd Thomas

Streaming

odd thomasThis is a film that suddenly appeared on Netflix with little publicity and I certainly heard nothing about theatrical release or even DVD. The film is based on a book by Dean Koontz but I haven’t read the original story so I can’t really say how good an adaptation it is. I found it an entertaining story and it has quite a memorable punch to its ending

Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) starts out by justifying his Odd name and for better or worse we learn that this film is narrated. This a common way of adapting novels and providing the internal monologue that is such a common part of a novel. This has the danger of making the narrator’s character seem like a smug know-it-all. Odd is charming enough to get away with it but it’s a borderline case. Anyway Odd’s mother claims it was a mistake and his name was supposed to be Todd but his father claims his mother is insane and his name was always meant to be Odd and he seems to have point since all we see of her is a couple of scenes of his mother lunging at someone with a knife and then getting taken way to a psychiatric hospital. We see even less of Odd’s father.

Odd can see dead people but Odd doesn’t just see them: he does something about it. He claims that he keeps this a secret in case he get locked away like his mother but it seems to be a secret that everyone he knows is in on. The dead people he sees are hanging around because they have unfinished business and he confronts the murderer of a teenage girl in a chase and fight across the neighbourhood that Odd eventually wins and he turns the murderer over to the police. Odd has a strange relationship with police in that the Police Chief  Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) knows about Odd’s abilities but he needs to present a case to a judge that doesn’t involve help from the dead.

Odd works as a cook in a diner where he’s very content since so much of his spare time is taken up with helping the dead. We meet his co-worker Viola (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her two young nieces. Then we meet Stormy Llewelyn (Addison Timlin) the love of Odd’s life. Stormy and Odd have known each other since childhood and he knows they are destined to be together because a fortune teller machine give them a card to say so.

Odd gets worried when a bizarre looking man that Stormy nicknames Fungus Bob (Shuler Hensley) comes into the diner and he is being swarmed by bodachs that only Odd can see, nasty looking parasitic special effects that are attracted to pain and carnage. One is bad news but there are dozens swarming around this guy. Odd decides he needs to keep an eye on him but he knows that bodachs will kill anyone if they discover they can see them.

The small town of Pico Mundo seems like such a nice place that it’s surprise that Odd finds much to do but he’s never seen anything on the scale that all the signs seem to indicate is on its way. Odd tries to investigate but he lives up to Stormy’s nickname of Pooh Bear because at times his head is full of stuffing and he notices important clues then forgets them.

The mood of the film seems to be quite light and humorous but there is a sense of the threat building and only Odd seems to have any clue that something is going to happen. When a woman called Lysette (Shuler Hensley) is killed by dogs only hours after Odd spoke to her at a barbecue he really takes it badly.

I really enjoyed watching this film and I liked the quirky characters and the set-up though there weren’t very many ghosts around. It reminded me a lot of Paranorman only this is live action and definitely for an older audience. It has a sort of indie feel about it so that will it probably not appeal to everyone. There’s a character played by Patton Oswalt who was probably more significant in the original story but has been cut down to a single appearance which is a pity. It has the feel of a TV pilot about it, but one of those pilots that makes me think about checking it out for a few more episodes.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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The Haunting in Connecticut 2 : Ghosts of Georgia

The DVD Pile

Haunting In Connecticut 2 001The title makes no sense apart for wanting to connect this film to another supernatural mystery story by the same producers. And even though is set in Georgia it was filmed in Louisiana. Of course it is ‘based on true events’ but then that is a common claim in many of these films. This film does have couple of scary moments but it really spends more time uncovering the mystery than building up the cheap jump scares. The story was okay but not exactly original

A family move into their new house in country, a house that was going cheap because it has been lying empty for many years and needs some fixing up. Of course another reason it is so cheap is that is very haunted.  The family is Lisa Wyrick (Abigail Spencer) and her husband Andy (Chad Michael Murray) and they have a young daughter called Heidi (Emily Alyn Lind) and there’s also a freeloading sister Joyce (Katee Sackhoff) who appears within a day of them moving in.

It doesn’t take long for strange things to start happening because Lisa, Joyce and Heidi are all psychic and can see ghosts. Joyce totally accepts her abilities but Lisa has rejected hers and constantly takes medication to make them go away. Heidi seems happy with her powers but Lisa is putting pressure on her to reject them too.

This becomes increasingly difficult when time after time Heidi gets information from a spirit she calls Mr Gordy (Grant James) that is not only impossible for her to know but completely correct. When Mr Gordy tells Heidi that there is money buried in the garden and Andy finds a box of old coins buried there he is convinced there is more to Heidi’s story than childish imagination which is what Lisa is trying to convince everyone it is.

They get a visit from Pastor Wells (Lance E. Nichols) from the local church who tells them that their property is historically significant as one of the stations in the Underground Railroad. When slavery was legal in some states and illegal in others slaves on the run could use the Underground Railroad which was a series of safe properties owned by those sympathetic to their cause where they could rest or meet up. The owners of these properties were called Station Masters. They find the remains of the building where those on the run could hide. Many of the spirits that they see are of those who were on the Underground Railroad did not get further than this station. Some were merely victims of misfortune but many others were victims of something much more malevolent and its spirit is also still around.

Lisa doesn’t seem to have any convincing justification for her sceptical behaviour in the film. The ghosts are real and their revelations are true and even Andy who sees nothing spooky is convinced.  In fact Andy is so supportive and understanding of Heidi’s visions that there seems to no pressure on Lisa to be acting way she does. I know she is supposed to based on a real person and people are not always rational but I was never convinced.

This film was okay but I doubt I’ll be remembering it for long afterwards. It’s one of those stories that have been done several times before with minor variations in character and some of the details. The big evil is just nonsense which might be justified if the true story involved making these same discoveries. Unfortunately the only thing that’s true is that Heidi had reported having visions of Mr Gordy and other spirits. The acting was mostly okay and there were some reasonable special effects.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Supernatural Season One Episodes 9 – 15

TV Binge

9. Home 

S1HomeThe monster this week is an angry poltergeist haunting the boy’s childhood home back in Lawrence Kansas and threatening the lives of the young widow Jenny (Kristin Richardson) and her two children who are living there. Sam had a nightmare where he sees Jenny screaming for help so now he finally has to tell Dean about his precognitive nightmares and of course Dean isn’t happy about been kept in the dark.

They try looking into what John did after the fire and learn that he visited a local psychic called Missouri Moseley (Loretta Devine) so they pay her a visit. Missouri acts as if the boys are old friends and, to Sam’s amusement, she treats Dean like a naughty child all the time, scolding him for things he’s only thinking about doing. John had come to her after Mary’s death to try and find out what killed her but though she sensed powerful evil it was gone.

Missouri goes to the house with them and her warm sympathetic manner gets them in the house much faster than whatever lie Dean was cooking up. Missouri assures Jenny that they can help and she has Dean make up some hex bags to place in house to expel the spirits. The spirit tries to stop them but they they manage to do it  just in time for Jenny to return from a trip to the movies

Missouri is sure it worked but Sam isn’t so sure and they keep an eye on the house that night. Sure enough the spirits are back and the Winchesters leap to the rescue.  Sam gets grabbed by the poltergeist but then a second fiery spirit in the bedroom resolves itself into Mary Winchester and after greeting both her sons her spirit sacrifices itself to destroy the poltergeist.

I like the scene at the end where it looks like Missouri is talking to herself about Sam and his growing psychic abilities only to reveal that she‘s taking to John Winchester.

10. Asylum

The boys get an anonymous text message that is simply coordinates and Dean assumes it’s from their father giving them a job though Sam is sceptical. The coordinates are of the derelict Roosevelt Mental Hospital in Rockford Illinois which is full of ghosts but the ghost of the insane Doctor Ellicott (Norman Armour) who ran the place gives a homicidal rage to people he touches. Sam and Dean discover the place was closed down after the patients rioted and there were many violent deaths of both staff and patients with many bodies never found so plenty of potential for vengeful spirits.

The Abandoned Asylum is a popular location for many horror films and these places are always going have stories of grisly goings on and tales of the spirits who haunt the place. This means it attracts teenage thrill-seekers. Sam and Dean find themselves having to a rescue a teenage couple as they search the place. Gavin (Nicholas D’Agosto) and Kat (Brooke Nevin) are there because Gavin thought it would be cool to go somewhere that is like a film without thinking through the desirability of becoming a stupid character in a horror film since that is the only genre of film set in this location. Dean comments on this himself when he is talking to Kat, advising to avoid wandering into haunted places in future.

Sam tries to take Katherine and Gavin out of the asylum but discovers the place is on supernatural lockdown.  He gets a call from Dean who had gone looking into a lead in the hospital’s records. This turns out to be a fake call to lead Sam into the basement and Endicott zaps Sam with his rage power.

Sam has a lot of pent up rage and he lets it all loose on Dean, his frustration at Dean treating him like kid, deciding where they go and never getting them any closer to finding John and kiling the demon. After Dean has taken out the ghost Sam tries to protest that his words were from madness but Dean clearly thinks it was Sam’s true feelings that inspired them.

Back at their motel room Dean just crashes out and falls asleep. Dean’s phone ring and Sam answers only find out it is John Winchester.

11. Scarecrow

meg-samWe start the episode with the phone call from John Winchester that was the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode. Sam has so much to talk to John about and John tells them that he knows what killed Jessica and Mary was a demon. John wants them to stop following him and tries to give them a job to take care of but Sam is furious and really doesn’t want to talk to him any more so Dean takes over, noting down names John wants them to look into.

The names turn out to be couples who all went missing on road trips across the country. They all went missing at the same time of year and all their planned routes passed through the town of Burkittsville, Indiana. They have all been sacrificed to the Vanir, a pagan god that looks a lot like a scarecrow.

This episode features the first of Sam’s huffs where he gets pissed off with Dean and he goes off on his own, this time it is mainly about their father because Dean is happy to do whatever John says.  Sam wants to go to California to find John so he heads off on his own.

Sam meets Meg Masters (Nicki Aycox) for the first time, apparently just a young hitchhiker who gets chatty with him and he confides all his troubles to her.  Meg seems genuinely frustrated when Sam rushes off to Dean’s aid when he fails to get in touch with him for a few hours.  Dean has annoyed the local much that they are going to sacrifice him to the god of the apple trees but Sam gets there just in time  save him from the evil scarecrow apple tree god

At the end of the episode we see Meg on her own getting in some guy’s car. Meg seems nice and normal until she pulls out a knife an slits the driver throat, collecting his blood in a strange looking bowl. She stirs the bowl and recites a spell then.she talks to bowl as if talking to someone we can’t hear but the gist of the conversation is that Meg is tracking Sam and Dean and she is frustrated at the order not to kill them .

12. Faith

Dean is dying after accidentally getting an electric shock when killing a monster and rescuing two children. Sam is nearly in tears as he leaves a message for his father and he is calling all their contacts to find some way of curing Dean.

Sam is desperate so tricks Dean into thinking they are going to see some sort of specialist but instead he takes Dean to a faith healer in a tent in a muddy field. Dean is of course grumpy and cynical when the blind preacher Reverend Roy le Grange (Kevin McNulty) starts his sermon.  Unfortunately for Dean, Roy heard his smartass remarks and replies to him directly calling him onto the stage to be healed.

Roy puts his hand on Deans head and something start happening and dean goes down to his knees before fainting dead away. When he wakes up his feels better but sees a strange grey skinned figure in a suit walk behind Roy and vanish.

This episode is the first time the brothers have actually spoken about what they believe. They see things all the time that prove the supernatural exists and to Sam this is evidence that God might exist too and miracles are possible. But Dean has only seen evidence of the evil done by the supernatural so his feeling is that whatever is going here is some sort of evil con.

They get Dean checked out at a hospital where tests show that his heart was never damaged. When talking about strange things happening the doctor mentions a healthy young man dying of heart attack the day before. Dean gives Sam his patented “told you so” look.  Sam looks into the death and confirms Dean’s suspicion that it matches the time he was cured. It was not a miracle that healed him but dark magic that traded Dean’s life for another man’s.

They figure out that somehow Roy has bound a reaper using dark magic. These are beings who escort the souls of the dead into the afterlife and binding them is very dangerous. They have to stop Roy healing anyone else which is complicated for Dean because he was about to heal Layla (Julie Benz), a woman Dean spoke to before and who has an inoperable brain tumour. Dean stops the healing and discovers it is Roy’s wife Sue Ann (Rebecca Jenkins) that has bound the reaper.

This seemed obvious to me since Roy’s blindness would have been a hindrance finding the ancient book of spells never mind reading from it. Sue Ann bound the reaper out of desperation to save Roy when he was dying of cancer and kept it bound out of ambition, her fall to the darkside, echoing what Dean said earlier about what evil can do to good people.

They stop Sue Ann and the reaper takes its vengeance for being bound but Dean regrets taking away the hope of those people, especially Layla. Sam has laid on a little surprise visit from Layla to say good bye and reassure Dean that she’s okay.

It is interesting to note that Dean was nowhere near as upset about his imminent death as Sam was. This a shared characteristic of the Winchester family in this series, they are literally willing to move heaven and hell  to stop each other from dying but are also willing to sacrifice themselves for the lives of others. This is really why they need each other.

13. Route 666

1120954_1348375236757_fullAfter one Dean-centred story we get another when he gets a call from an old girlfriend, Cassie (Megalyn Echikunwoke). She called Dean because her father has been killed by a ghost truck. Cassie is a journalist and Sam finds it hard to believe but Dean had told her that he was ghost hunter and that’s why she called him. Sam is shocked that Dean told Cassie the big family secret while he kept his hunter background secret from Jessica for over a year. This lapse is how Sam figures that Cassie was more important to Dean than he lets on.

The Ghost Truck appears to killing off important black men in the town and their investigations lead them back to the death of a serial killer Cyrus Dorian who targeted black men in the 60s. Cassie’s father had killed Dorian in self defence but the law at the time would not guarantee a black man a fair trail so he called his friends and they pushed the truck with the body into a swamp. The local deputy investigating Dorian’s disappearance figured it all out but covered it up. He grew up to be the mayor and also becomes a victim of the ghost truck.

Sam keeps trying push Dean and Cassie together and this works eventually. It turns out Dean opened up to Cassie about hunting because he loved her but she thought he was making up a crazy excuse to leave so she broke up with him.

The usual method of destroying vengeful spirits involves dragging the truck out of the swap then salting and burning Dorian’s body but that only seems to make the ghost truck angry so Dean leads it on a chase around the country roads while Sam tries to find another way to destroy the spirit. He has Dean wait in the grounds of an old church that Dorian burnt down when he was alive. When the truck tries to ram Dean car it vanishes away completely. Sam explains that there’s a story that spirits are destroyed by hallowed ground.  Dean is bit worried at Sam using him to bait the truck based on nearly nothing.

14. Nightmare

This episode is all about the psychic Sam plot. He has a vision of a man being killed and rushes them to Michigan to try and stop it happening but they get there too late. While they Investigate what happened Sam has another vision of the man’s brother being killed, this time he’s awake.

They find out Max (Brendan Fletcher), a young man who is the son of the first victim, with powers similar but different from Sam’s. Max is telekinetic and used his power to kill his father and uncle to pay them back for a lifetime of physical abuse. Sam has a vision of Max killing his stepmother and so they try to prevent it.

Max lost his mother the exact same way that Mary Winchester and Jessica died but instead of hunting down whatever killed her Max’s father drank and took out his anger on Max. Sam realises no matter how screwed up his life was it could have been a lot worse. When Sam is trying to talk Max out of killing his stepmother Max traps him in a cupboard.  Sam has a vision of Dean getting shot dead and his desperation seems to unleash a new  telekinetic power just like Max’s and he frees himself in time to stop Max.

Sam is very worried about his powers and whatever the demon wants with him. The most obvious fear is that he turns kill crazy like Max but Dean claims he isn’t worried because Sam has one thing Max didn’t have – he didn’t have Dean watching out for him.

15. The Benders

While investigating a possible supernatural attack Sam gets captured by a family of red neck torture cannibals who capture people to hunt and kill them. This episode is one I often miss out when I’m watching this season because… well I just prefer the other episodes.

The episode is definitely inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the family of back woods psychos who decorate their house with mobiles made of animal bones. I think there may be elements of other films that I’ve never seen but humans hunting humans is a common plot in episodes of many TV series. The Bender clan are  Pa Bender (John Dennis Johnston) and his three unwashed children and they have made some pretty elaborate cages for their victims.

Dean has to team up with a local cop Officer Kathleen (Jessica Steen) to rescue Sam but only after he convinces her not to arrest him for impersonating a law enforcement officer. Kathleen had younger brother who went missing ten years before so she understands how Dean feels. Dean thinks taking on monsters is easy compared to humans. There is logic to evil of monsters but the evil of humans is just madness.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Entertainment, Television

 

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Supernatural Season One Episodes 1 – 8

TV Binge

1. Pilot. 

marywinchesterThis first episode starts with the events that initiated everything so I’ll go into a bit of detail with it. At the home of John and Mary Winchester. Mary is awakened by noises from baby Sam’s room and goes to investigate. She sees the silhouette of a man and just assumes it is John and heads back to bed. The she hears the TV on downstairs and sees John asleep in front of it. She screams Sammy’s name and run up to nursery. John wakes up and goes upstairs to Sammy’s cot and at first he sees nothing. A drop of blood on his hand makes him look up to see Mary slashed across her stomach and pinned to the ceiling. Flames erupt around her body and John lifts Sam from his cot before the flames engulf the room and gets the boys to safety giving Sammy to Dean to carry outside.

Forward 22 years to the present and baby Sammy is now straight-A student Sam studying law at Stanford and looking forward to a future with his girlfriend Jessica Moore (Adrianne Palicki). Then Dean turns up in their apartment wanting Sam’s help to track down their father John who’s gone missing. In the intervening years John has been on a single-minded quest for vengeance against whatever supernatural entity killed his wife, hunting and killing every evil thing they come across and when his sons were old enough training them to be hunters too. When Sam left for college John took it badly and they fought so Sam has mixed feeling about seeing John again. Dean really turns on the guilt-tripping and pleading and persuades Sam to come with him.

The brothers investigate a missing person’s casein Jericho California that John was investigating and found it is a Lady in White style haunting though he left before getting rid of the ghost. These are the spirits of women who were driven mad by their husband’s unfaithfulness and murdered their children then killed themselves. Now she haunts the road and bridge where she died, getting a ride from cheating men who she kills and makes vanish.

Sam and Dean investigate the case with their usual brand of wit and deceit including impersonating state marshals which gets Dean arrested and this means he can get his hands on his father’s journal that the Sheriff (R.D. Call) has been reading. This journal has a record of every evil thing John has hunted and how it was killed as well as relevant passages copied from old books.

The ghost attacks Sam and he comes up with a very original solution – the ghost would ask to be taken home but then say she can never go home so Sam smashes the car into the house. This gives the two ghosts of the murdered children a chance to get their vengeance on the spirit of their mother and the ghosts consume each other and vanish.

They find coordinates left by their father in his journal as some sort of message but Sam wants to go back to his college and really has no interest in returning to hunting. He has no memory of his mother and so is not motivated to avenge her death Dean is disappointed but he drops off Sam at his apartment. Sam relaxes back on his bed and drops of blood hit his head. Jessica is pinned to the ceiling with her stomach slashed and there is an eruption of flames that engulf the room. Dean kicks down the door and drags Sam out to safety. Now Sam is just as committed to the hunt as his father was in his quest for vengeance.

2. Wendigo

A group of campers go missing in the wilderness at Blackwater Ridge Colorado, captured by a wendigo, a creature from Native American legends. It used to be human but it has gained powers including speed, strength and immortality from cannibalism and is a fantastic hunter.  Sam and Dean find themselves having to take care of a brother (Alden Ehrenreich) and sister (Gina Holden) who are searching for their older brother (Graham Wardle) and the smartass guide (Callum Keith Rennie) they have hired when they realise what they are up against is immune to their guns. Fortunately their father taught them what was effective if they survive long enough to use it.

Sam and Dean are following coordinates left by John in his journal as a message to the brothers hoping they will lead them to him.  Sam is twisted by grief and rage and this is making him impatient to find John and then find whatever killed Jessica but Dean tries to get him to realise that their search may take time and he can’t run on rage all the time. Their mission is to stop people getting killed by things and they have people to take care of right there.

3. Dead in the Water

The spirit of a young boy is haunting Lake Manitoc, Wisconsin and taking vengeance on those who killed him by killing their families before killing them. Dean and Sam have to keep the local sheriff’s (Daniel Hugh Kelly) daughter Andrea (Amy Acker) and his grandson Lucas (Nico McEown) from the clutches of the spirit who can travel through the pipes to attack people anywhere in the local town. Since the dead boy’s body was lost in the bottom of the lake they cannot get rid of his spirit by their usual method of by salting and burning the remains. The spirit does seem to be appeased when his killer sacrifices himself willingly to save his family.

Dean forms a connection with Lucas who is mute since seeing his father killed on the lake which reminds Dean of how he lost his mother at a young age . The boy seems to have precognitive powers and tries to warn Dean of the attacks through his drawings.

4. Phantom Traveller

A black smoky spirit creature is entering frightened air travellers and causing them to crash the planes they are on 40 minutes into the flight. This is the first demon the Winchesters come across in the series but this is very low level demon. They learn that it was a demon from the sulphur residue it left behind on the wreckage of a plane. The plan is to find the demon then exorcise it from whomever it is possesses and banishing it to hell.

They are brought into this case by a guy Jerry (Brian Markinson) that Dean and John helped before with a poltergeist so he knows this the sort of thing they deal with.  Sam learns that when John spoke about him it was with pride which surprises Sam since they had big argument when Sam left.

They learn that John has put a message on his phone telling people to contact Dean if they need help. This seems to suggest that John knows what they have been doing and Dean is right that he wants them to take over his work of saving people by hunting things.

Dean like likes to act like he is the fearless one and he certainly has no fear when taking on supernatural creatures but he’s afraid of flying in airplanes which isn’t even an irrational fear since if they cannot stop the demon the plane they are on will certainly crash.

There is a running sub-plot about Sam’s difficulties getting to sleep without nightmares that gets first mentioned in this episode and so far it’s just the recurring memory of her death and though Dean is concerned he doesn’t push it.

5. Bloody Mary

In Toledo Ohio three young girls on a sleepover are playing truth or dare and one dare is the old Bloody Mary thing – say her name in the mirror three times ans she”l gouge out you eyes. It is treated as just a stupid easy dare but the audience gets to see a spirit in different mirrors when no-one is looking. This example of the urban legend turns out to be a ghost in a mirror who kills people who have been secretly responsible for someone’s death but not necessarily the person who called her. The victims are found with dead with eyes burst and massive cerebral haemorrhaging.  Sam and Dean use ultraviolet light to reveal the names of people who have died on the back of the mirrors and they discover the link between those names and the people killed by the spirit.

Once they figure out the spirit’s MO Sam thinks he has the right qualifications to attract the spirit which basically means he’s been keeping something important secret from Dean. Though Dean knows Sam has been having nightmares about Jessica’s death Sam has never mentioned that these nightmares started before Jessica died and his guilt is that he said nothing to her out of fear of revealing the secret of his life as a hunter. Psychic Sam is a long-running plot that sees many twists along the way.

They find the original mirror that Bloody Mary was murdered in front of and Sam calls to her and sure enough she appears and attacks him but Dean manages to smash her mirror but this just frees her from the mirror. She attacks both of them but Dean holds up a mirror and her spirit is compelled to attack her own murderous manifestation and destroy itself or something.

6. Skin

Skin-1-6In St Louis one of Sam’s college friends Zach (Aleks Holtz) is arrested for murdering his girlfriend but his sister Rebecca (Amy Grabow) insists he was with her when the murder happened. They discover there is a shape-shifter in town and even though they are very familiar with the method for taking down a shape-shifter this one causes extra grief for the brothers when it takes the form of Dean and gets his face noticed by the police.

This shape-shifter changes form by shedding its skin, teeth, hair, everything and it seems to have a psychic link to whoever it impersonates so it not only looks the same, it has the same memories. While in Dean’s form it is a lot more frank with Sam about Dean’s feelings than Dean ever is. It talks about Dean’s fear of abandonment with both Sam and his father leaving him and about how much Dean has sacrificed to follow this mission and keep them together

Sam realises at the end of the episode that he really can’t have a normal life now that he has seen how much keeping things from his friends could hurt them and that Dean may be right about keeping attachments to a minimum.

7. Hook Man

Another urban legend gets an outing with a killer with a hook killing people off around the Eastern Iowa University campus with deaths staged just like in the tales children tell to scare each other. They seem to be associated with a young student Lori (Jane McGregor) who is the daughter of local church minister Reverend Sorensen (Dan Butler)

This is a fairly straightforward case with investigations uncovering a hook handed killer pastor in the past and this is the spirit who is killing people now. The only complication is that after salting and burning the remains the spirit is still active.  Sam figures out that the hook also counts as remains but it was reforged. They have to get all the silver in the church and put it in a fire to destroy the spirit. I always notice this solution as it makes no sense since this exactly what happened to the hook when it was reforged so that surely must have destroyed the spirit.

This episode didn’t have very much to do with main series story arc. There was a bit of a mention at the start of Sam’s effort to find John and the trail going cold.

8. Bugs

A series of deaths in a brand new housing development called Oasis Plains Oklahoma are caused by bugs and creepy crawlies. After investigating it turns out to be down to a Native American curse and there is no getting rid of the curse, there is just getting away from it.

Matthew (Tyler Johnston) the teenage son of property developer Larry (Andrew Airlie) gets a hard time from his dad and Sam sympathises with him and offers advice to the boy that Dean takes as an indirect swipe at their father. It seems Sam is having mixed feelings about meeting their father since in many ways he is still angry about many things but by the end of the episode he accepts he may owe his father an apology.

We see Dean raising funds by hustling pool at the start of the episode. This was mentioned back in the pilot but this the first we actually see how the boys make a living since hunting doesn’t earn any money and is quite costly at times. Sam complain that they could get day jobs but Dean is having none of that.
As soon as they get to Oasis Plain Dean expresses his disdain for suburbia with its manicured lawns but knowing Dean this is him discounting the life he could never have to convince himself that he’s lucky to never be cursed by a life of boredom.

While investigating the brothers pose as potential buyers and there is a running joke of everyone mistaking brothers for a gay couple. It is taken in good humour by Dean who even makes joke of it himself. There’s another nice scene where they go talk to an old Yuchi man who takes instant dislike Dean for trying to lie to him but happily answers all Sam’s questions

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Entertainment, Television

 

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Supernatural Season One

TV Binge

Supernatural Season 1 DVD 001I spend so much time watching TV series, binging on entire season in one go so I thought I may as well write about them. I cannot see how to avoid spoilers since even the presence of a character in one episode is often a spoiler to previous episodes, especially in this series. I’ll give an overview of the season as a whole before discussing the episodes in more depth in later posts.

Supernatural is about two brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester who travel around the United States hunting down dangerous supernatural creatures or phenomena and putting a stop to them. They have been raised in this life by their father John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) after their mother Mary (Samantha Smith) was killed by the demon Azazel in Sam’s nursery when he was a baby. Azazel’s signature method of killing is to slice his victims open and pin them to ceiling then set the place on fire. This scene is recapped at the start of every early episode so they really get their money’s worth out of it.

Sam and Dean are very different. Dean is the older brother and never lets Sam forget it, always calling him Sammy just to annoy him. He’s brash and straightforward while Sam is more studious and thoughtful. Dean is totally committed to his family and sees their life as hunters as an important task in itself while Sam hopes to see an end to their troubles and a return to normal life. Dean is always trying to live up to what he thinks his father wants while Sam questions his father in everything. These differences lead to a dramatic tension that runs through all the seasons.

Each season does have its own story arc but in the earlier ones most episodes are standalone “monster of the week” episodes where the Winchesters discover something strange is killing people and they figure out a way of putting a stop to whatever is happening. Although the episodes stand on their own there is often a development related to the main story arc and there’s usually an important lesson for one of the brothers.

The story of the first season is about the quest for vengeance for the murder of their mother and Sam’s girlfriend Jess (Adrianne Palicki). First they need to find their father who has been on this same quest for 22 years. He has left behind his journal with details of all the supernatural creatures he has dealt with over the years and it contains many scribbled notes and newspaper clippings and is one of their most valuable sources of information.

After ten episodes of running all over the country Sam starts getting the impression their father is keeping them out of the way. John does finally contact them only start giving them orders but his only pisses Sam off and he goes off on his own which is something that seems to happen at least once every season. He wants to find John right away while Dean carries on with the job that John gave them. While he’s gone he meets a young woman called Meg Masters (Nicki Aycox) who is actually possessed by a demon. Meg is a recurring character in this show and is actually working for Azazel. As soon as Sam thinks Dean is in trouble he rushes back to rescue him but the episode marks a change to increased emphasis on the search for a way to kill Azazel.

John discovered the existence of a revolver created by Samuel Colt that  according to legend can kill any supernatural creature and this is what he needs to kill Azazel. Acquiring the Colt and keeping it out of the hands of Meg and her demon buddies is a good part of the end of the season and leads to a very violent and intense climax.

This series really got off to a strong start with its first season thanks to the main characters that really get fleshed out. Sam is a fiercely independent man on a mission of vengeance and is much more similar to his father John than Dean is and this why they are always butting heads. Dean is much more committed to his family than the mission and is not prepared to see either Sam or John throw their lives away for vengeance. Dean’s the joker, the jock, the lad but that is really a front for someone who is terrified that those who he loves will leave him.

There are a few important supporting cast member who often return but none are more important than the grouchy old drunk Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) who in later seasons becomes like a surrogate father to the boys as well as providing important knowledge, helping to back up their cover stories when they are on jobs and having to listen to brothers bitch about each other. He only appears in the very last episode of the season but it is nice to see him

There is nice mix of stories with some more serious than others.There is quite a bit of humour in the stories mostly from Dean quipping and making references to films and making jokes at Sam’s expense. Late in the season in the episode Hell House the boys meet a pair of ghost hunters called Harry Spangler (Travis Wester) and Ed Zeddmore (A.J. Buckley) who think they are experts because they have website. They return in later seasons so we can enjoy seeing the brothers taking the piss out of them again. The more serious side comes in episodes like Faith in which Dean is dying and Sam takes him to faith healer. It is the first time that the series actually discusses the beliefs of the brothers.

This is series where bingeing on one season is not enough for me and I often go on to watch all the available episodes again

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Review: Twixt

The DVD Pile

Twixt DVD 001This film seems to have just appeared out of nowhere with no publicity despite being directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film is more of a supernatural mystery thriller than a straight horror film but the story seems to be just a series of things happening with no real sense of urgency to tie them together or have them make sense.

Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is a struggling horror writer touring around the country trying to publicise his latest book and he gets to small town where the locals seem completely uninterested. The local sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern) fancies himself as a writer and wants Hall to co-write a book based on an idea has based on series of murders. He offers to show Hall the body of the latest victim, a young girl with a large wooden stake stuck into her chest.

There was a terrible murder in the town in an old hotel where a paranoid religious freak that cared for bunch of young orphans murdered all the children to save their souls from corruption because he thought one boy had run away to join the vampires who live across the lake.

That night Hall has a dream that seems to have been inspired by David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. He meets a young girl called V (Elle Fanning) which is short for both Virginia the girl’s given name and Vampirella the girl’s nickname. He also goes to hotel which isn’t empty and abandoned like it is in the real world but has two people a strange old man who insists on fixing a clock and a woman who wants to serve him breakfast before picking up a guitar and singing Big Rock Candy Mountain.

V appears at the window and the woman tries to sneak out to catch her but V bites her and gets away. Hall starts following her but when he turns back to hotel he sees a dozen young children emerge from the hotel basement with a man who plays with them. V tells Hall that they are the dead kids so clearly that means the man is their murderer. Hall follows V in to the woods but she vanishes. Edgar Allen Poe (Ben Chaplin) appears so Hall asks him for help writing his story but that’s when Hall wakes up in his motel room.

The dream sequences are highly stylized with everything in subdued monochrome but there are splashes of red while V and the other children seem to be more brightly lit. Hal goes into this same dreamland a few more times, mostly to talk to Poe for advice on writing his next book.

Hall’s wife is desperate for money so Hall gets in touch with his publisher to beg for an advance which the publisher agrees to but only if Hall sends an outline with a fully fleshed-out ending. Hall’s search for a decent story with an ending is the main driving force of the plot and the murders really seem to only be a subplot.

Hall is so desperate for a story that he actually takes the idea from the outline LaGrange gave him and agrees to co-author the book with him. This is a strange decision because even if Hall is desperate LaGrange seems a bit unstable and even has model of a vampire execution machine that he has thought up for his story inspired by the stake murders.

It is a strange film that kind of wanders around feeling a bit disjointed before settling down to a bizarre ending that didn’t really wrap things up. I liked the dream sequences but the film did have a lot of them. The film features red quite a lot in the dream sequences and there are clocks all over the place which I’m sure is very symbolic.

Rating 5.5/10

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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Poltergeist (1982)

Bluray Review

Poltergeist Bluray 001This mainstream horror film from the collaboration of Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg has earned its reputation as a horror classic so it is not a suprise that there are plans to milk its reputation with a ill-advised remake. The family facing supernatural horror is format that has inspired many imitators but Spielberg really knows how to set up this type of story with a feeling of genuine warmth, creating relatable everyman characters before really bringing the horror right home.

The film opens with sound of the US national anthem being played on a TV just before the channel closes for the night. You young sprogs probably don’t remember that but TV channels didn’t run through the night stopped at about one or two in the morning and cathode ray TVs didn’t turn themselves off when there was no signal. The family dog is on the prowl for food and as it goes around the house we see the whole Freeling family. Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) is dozing in a chair in front of the TV. When the music stops the signal is switched off and the screen is covered in random dots and the sound of white noise comes from the speakers. The dog goes upstairs to Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams) who is asleep in bed. In the bedroom of the teenage daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne) the dog gets lucky and finds a packet of crisps (potato chips). In the children’s bedroom is eight-year-old Robbie (Oliver Robins) and five-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Carol Anne wakes up and goes down to the living room, She starts answering some voices she seems to hear in the static coining from the TV set and she starts calling out to the voices This wakes everyone up who all come down to see what’s happening. They are all a bit weirded out but Diane and Steve put it down to sleepwalking.

Next day is a summer Sunday afternoon in the suburbs and the establishing scene is very typically Stephen Spielberg, with the camera following a man riding a child’s bike and trying to balance an unwieldy pack of beer while a bunch of kids send a pair of remote control racing cars after him, making him fall of the bike and drop the beer. He lifts the beer which is spraying its contents in jets from the leaking cans and carries it into the house, past Dana in the kitchen and through to the living room where Steve is with a group of buddies in the living room watching an American Football match. When the channel suddenly switches to a kid’s show Steve apologizes to his buddies. His neighbour has a TV remote on the same frequency and there’s a spot of childish bickering between the two men as they duel with their remotes.

Diane is trying to tidy up the children’s bedroom and she discovers Carol Anne’s pet canary lying dead in its cage. She is about to flush the bird down the toilet when Carol Anne spots her and she has to put the bird in a cigar box and give it a funeral in the garden. Billy is watching them bury the bird from the branches of an old dead tree in the garden. He can see that there’s a storm approaching

That night when they put the kids to bed the storm is coming closer. Robbie is frightened of the old tree just outside his window, insisting that it is staring at him even when Steve tries to assure him that it is protecting them. Robbie is just little bundle of anxiety and he’s also scared of the lightning and his little sister’s large creepy clown doll. Carol Anne seems less worried but she insists on the closet light being switched on with door left half-open. Stephen just pops his head in Dana’s door and tells her to get off the phone that she tries to hide from him.

Steve and Diane sit on their bed, rolling joints while watching TV and Steve is reading a book about Ronald Reagan. The film treats the dope smoking as casually as the earlier beer drinking and it never gets raised again. It’s not a long or significant scene but considering the US government’s drug policy then and today it is probably a little statement by the writer. They start kissing and cuddling and are just about to make love when they get interrupted by Robbie who is scared of the thunder.

Steve puts Robbie back to bed and tells him about counting the gap between the lightning flash and the thunder to see that the storm is moving away. He leaves Robbie and Carol Anne counting the gaps and goes back to bed. There’s a sudden lightning strike near the house the next shot shows the two children sleeping in between their parents in their bed. The TV is on and the anthem is playing then the signal goes dead and there’s static. Carol Anne climbs out of bed and approaches the TV calling out to the voices she seems to hear in the static. A glowing wisp of light comes from the screen and seems to search round the room until it reaches the wall then beam of light shoots out of the screen and hits the wall above the bed. Everything starts shaking violently and the others wake up. Carol Anne just says brightly “they’re here.”

Next day is when things start getting freaky. After Steve has left for work and Dana and Robbie have gone to school Diane is cleaning up the kitchen. She turns her back for a moment and when she looks round the chairs are balanced in a precarious pyramid arrangement on top of the kitchen table.

When Steve comes home from work Diane is really excited and drags him into the kitchen to show him something strange. She has a circle marked on the floor in crayon and she puts a chair in the circle. The chair starts to shake then it shoots across the floor by propelled by some unseen force. While Steve is trying to process that she gets Carol Anne to put on a crash helmet then sits her in the circle. Steve catches her as she slides across the floor. They try to figure out what’s going on but they really don’t know. There’s an abrupt cut to a very curious scene where Stephen and Diane go to talk to their next door neighbour to find out if they have experienced anything strange but they end up getting badly bitten by mosquitoes and having fits of the giggles.

The night is stormy again but this time there is an unnatural vicious edge to the wind. A branch of the tree smashes through the window and grabs Robbie right out of his bed. His parents rush outside just as the tree tries to swallow Robbie into the trunk. A tornado appears and starts pulling the tree up by the roots. Steve climbs the tree and manages to get Robbie out just before the tree gets sucked up into the tornado.

This was actually all a distraction because back in the bedroom a portal of bright light has opened up in the closet into the dimension of death and is sucking everything in the bedroom into it. Carol Anne’s screams go ignored in the panic to rescue Robbie and she finds herself pulled into the portal. When the family notice she is gone everyone searches the house and Steve even searches the bottom of the hole dug for the swimming pool they are having built. It is Robbie who notices that Carol’s Anne’s voice frightened voice is coming from the TV set

Steve goes to see Dr Lesh (Beatrice Straight) a professor at the local university who has published papers on her psychic research. She agrees to come to the house with her two assistants Marty (Martin Casella) and Ryan (Richard Lawson) and whole load of recording equipment. There is a really nice juxtaposition between the feeble expectations of the researchers based on years of data and the extraordinary events that they witness in the Freeling house created by movie magic. The children’s room is chaotic with objects flying around the room and signs of a mischievous intent about the chaos as a book flaps in their faces and a spinning record is played by the needle of a compass.

In the kitchen a visibly shaken Dr Lesh tries to compose herself while explaining the difference between a poltergeist which is a short-term event around a single person and a normal haunting which is focused on a place, while a kettle moves itself across the table and light flash off and on. The definitions Dr Lesh gives suggests that this is a normal haunting but perhaps it merely reveals the limitations of labelling such barely defined phenomena. Diane contacts Carol Anne through the TV set. Carol Anne is terrified and doesn’t know where she is. Marty goes upstairs to check for natural causes of the voice like a CB radio. Carol Anne says there are other people there with her and she can see a blinding white light. Dr Lesh urges Diane to warn Carol Annw away from the light. This is the light that is supposed to be seen by those who have near death experiences and is where the souls are supposed to go when they die but Carol Anne is not dead. Carol Anne starts screaming that someone is coming for her. Diane goes to stairs and she feels something pass through her. She is covered in the familiar smell of Carol Anne and she is sure that’s who it was. She heads for the stairs but there’ a roar and they hear Marty’s screams from upstairs. He comes running back down saying that something bit him. When he shows them the marks the jaw that did is clearly huge. There’s a sudden flash of light and load of old junk drops out and fall to the floor. Then there’s another roar and a blast of air throws them all back. After that they can’t hear Carol Anne any more. Steve wants send his family away but Diane’s not going anywhere and they all stay.

That night everyone is in the living room. Steve tries to sleep in an armchair and Robbie is lying on the couch next to Diane who talks with Dr Lesh. Marty and Ryan take turns monitoring the equipment while the others try to get some sleep. Marty feels hungry and goes to get some food out of the fridge. The cheeky bastard helps himself to a chicken drumstick and lifts out a steak to cook. He puts the meat on the counter while he finds a frying pan. When he looks back at the meat it is crawling across the counter then bursts open in foetid rotten chunks. He spits out the chicken which is suddenly covered in maggots and he rushes into the toilet to rinse his mouth out in the sink. He stands up and looks in the mirror but instead of seeing his reflection he sees his hands tearing the face off a really obvious dummy head. It still creeps Marty out.

Back in the living room Ryan is sitting listening to music with his back to the monitors but fortunately these ghosts want to appear on camera and they turn it to face the stairs. Marty comes back into the room and nudges Ryan to look at the screen. The other wake up and they watch as a ghostly figure with flowing robes glides down the stairs followed by several orbs of light. When they play back the video they recorded they see that the orbs are actually human figures. What they have recorded at this house would be a radical blast across the bows of science and Lesh and her team know it, but the Freelings are not interested in shaking up science, they just want Carol Anne back safe. In the morning when the team leaves Dr Lesh tells Diane that she is leaving Ryan with them and she will be back and she’ll promises to bring some expert help.

Next day Robbie and the dog are sent off to stay with his grandmother while Dana is going to stay with a friend. Steve’s boss Mr Teague (James Karen) drops by to find out if he’s okay. Steve doesn’t want to tell him what’s going on so tells him that they all have the flu. Teague drives Steve to a hillside overlooking the whole housing development. Steve is his top real estate agent and Teague is worried about losing him to a rival. He offers Steve a house in the latest phase right where they are standing. Steve comments on the lack of available space, indicating the graveyard they are standing beside. Teague waves away his concerns, saying they have bought the land and will move the graves to a cemetery a couple of miles away. Then Teague tells him they did it before when they built the first phase Cuesta Verde in the 70s where Steve’s house is. This is significant as we learn later and Steve clearly suspects.

Back at home Dr Lesh has returned with the expert help that she promised, a small unworldly woman called Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) who has apparently been tested and those tests confirmed her claims to be a powerful psychic medium. She goes into more detail than Dr Lesh about the strange dimension where Carol Anne is trapped and adds in the detail that there is malevolent force there with her which she calls the Beast implying it’s something like the Devil. Steve is having a hard time taking her seriously with her strange childlike voice and peculiar mannerisms but Diane gets him to shut up since she’s their only hope.

Tangina takes them upstairs outside the bedroom and she tells Diane to call out to Carol Anne. Carol Anne is frightened to talk so she tells Steve to order her talk. Tangina tells them to tell her to go towards the light and Diane is worried since Dr Lesh said she was not to go anywhere near the light but this is to get rid of the many spirits surrounding her and then she gets Steve to order Carol Anne to turn away.

They can get into the bedroom now and Tangina asks for some tennis balls and rope. When Tangina tosses the tennis balls into the bedroom closet they re-appear in the same place as the old junk in the living room but covered in strawberry jam. This confirms Tangina’s idea that the bedroom is an entrance point to the other dimension and there’s an exit in living room. Steve tosses one end of the rope through and Ryan grabs the other end in the living room. Tangina plans to go in and fetch Carol Ann then bring her out and plans to tie the rope around herself and have Steve and Ryan keep hold of the ends. Diane insists on going instead.

With the rope looped around her waist Diane goes into the closet while Steve holds on to the rope. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of shouting over it but Tangina’s plan works and Diane falls out of the dimensional hole in the living room with Carol Ann held tightly in her arms. They are covered in jam and aren’t breathing so Steve and Ryan carry them into the bathroom to wash the jam off. They soon start breathing and open their eyes. After that is happiness and tears as Carol Ann is reunited with her parents in the world of the living and Tangina declares that the house is clean.

Next day Robbie returns from his grandmother’s house. They are going to leave to stay in a motel but before that Steve is going to see Teague to hand in his notice. In the meantime for some bizarre reason Diane puts the children to bed back up their bedroom then runs herself a bath. Robbie gets attacked by Carol Ann’s scary clown doll and he fights it off then tears it to pieces. Then the portal into the death dimension opens up again and it starts sucking the two children into it. Meanwhile Diane in the bedroom has been dragged up the wall then across the ceiling. Diane hears the children screaming but she can’t get in their room because of a large hideous spectre guarding the door. Everything she touches gives her electric shocks which throw her down the stairs and out the door.

Diane goes to the fence and calls out to her neighbours for help. As she looks up helplessly at the flashes of light from the children’s bedroom she slips in the mud and falls into the hole dug for the swimming pool. Decayed corpses break out of the ground and fill the muddy water around her and their bony fingers clutch at her. She manages to struggle out of the pool with help of her neighbours and they hear the children screaming upstairs. She rushes up in the room and the children are clinging to their beds while the portal drags them in. She grabs Robbie’s hand and tells him to grab Carol Anne’s Hand. Then with all her desperate strength she pulls them out of the room.

They run downstairs and coffins burst through the floor, blocking the way to the door so they run to the kitchen. Steve returns to the chaos, driven by Teague. When he enters the house there are coffins exploding out of the ground spilling their contents. He confronts Teague with the obvious fact that he only moved the headstone but he left bodies where they were buried. Diane Gets the children out the back door and they run through the garden avoiding the coffin exploding out of the ground around them

The house is collapsing in itself and the whole neighbourhood is exploding into chaos. Dana arrives back from her friends and Steve gets the family into the car and they drive off leaving the neighbours watching their house collapsing in before dragged through the portal and vanishing. Steve drives to a motel and there’s an amusing last scene of him dumping the motel room TV outside.

I think this film still holds up pretty well today and I think it is down to a timeless quality of the story of a normal family facing down a threat to stay together. The Freeling family are really believable thanks to great performances and direction. There is strong feel of the influence of producer and writer Steven Spielberg throughout the film and it seems he was a very hands-on presence even though he was also directing ET just up the road from this film’s set.

Most of the special effects are well done though some have not dated well, like the scene with Marty at the mirror. The tragic death of Heather O’Rourke at 12 of septic shock and the murder of Dominique Dunne by her boyfriend at 22 has led to the inevitable talk of this film series being cursed. These beliefs are reinforced by the story that some of the skeletons used were real. I am sceptical about these stories but it certainly doesn’t do harm to a horror film to have creepy reputation and the Bluray comes with documentaries with spook botherers. Personally I’d liked to have seen cast and director/producer commentaries or an SFX documentary.

Rating 8.5/10

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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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