Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E01 “No Sanctuary”


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“Be the butcher or you’re the cattle.” — Terminus Mary

[spoilers]

If people were asked five years ago that a show about the zombie apocalypse was going to be one of the biggest shows on TV then most people would be straight out snickering. Zombies, even just five years ago, was already being seen as overdone. Everything was zombie this and zombie that. Yet, on the basic cable network AMC, we see The Walking Dead coming into it’s fifth season stronger than ever and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

It’s worth repeating that there’s a set of critics and viewers out there who remain dumbfounded as to why The Walking Dead remains such a popular hour of television despite the inconsistencies in writing, character growth (if any) and direction. This is the show that fired it’s creator and first showrunner halfway through season 2. His replacement would also get the axe once season three ended.

The Walking Dead has been called the soap opera with zombies and to an extent it is just that. It’s a show that lives and dies on the melodrama. At times this has been to the show’s benefit, but when it doesn’t work then certain episodes and story arcs just fall flat. Yet, we’re now starting season 5 and it’s a season premiere that doesn’t take it’s time (as some have complained) and pretty much hits the ground running from it’s cold opening right up to the final scene.

“No Sanctuary” begins with a jump back in time as we see the Terminus crew as prisoners in their own compound. We hear screaming in the background and those in with Gareth bemoaning the fact that they let the very people holding them hostages in. It’s a time when the Terminus people were just like Rick and his group. They tried to do the right thing, but this time around their trust and good nature backfired. Now the Terminus people are in charge and keeping Rick and his people prisoner and four new faces since captured since the end of the last season.

Throughout the episode we see the change come to Rick (already seen at the end of season 4) that he must be brutal if he’s to keep his people safe. It’s something that he has tried to avoid since the pilot episode. Even when up against the Governor and his lackeys there was always a sense that Rick was trying to find a peaceful solution to a crisis. Rick has always been one to try and stick to his own personal sense of justice and order throughout the season, but tonight’s episode saw more and more of it chipped away as the banality of evil as shown by Gareth and his Terminus survivors.

To say that tonight’s season premiere was action-heavy would be an understatement. With Greg Nicotero doing directing duties, the episode had the sort of epic scope in terms of action, violence, gore and character moments that fans of zombie fiction crave. Nicotero is still at his best when coming up with ways to rip people to pieces and the many ways zombies look and get destroyed, but with each episode under his belt as director he has improved. And for a show where it’s writing has been criticized nonstop tonight’s episode by showrunner Scott M. Gimple kept things moving. Every piece of dialogue was meant to bring some insight into the mindset of the character (Gareth who has taken pragmatism as a way to justify his turn to the dark side) or a way to move the scene forward.

If there was fear going into season 5 it was that the writers might linger and stretch the Terminus storyline (at least keep Rick and his group as prisoners longer than needed) the way things lingered in the Greene farm, will the Governor attack or won’t he and then the half a season spent getting the different survivors heading towards Terminus in season 4. We didn’t get that with “No Sanctuary” and while it’s a sure bet that not all Terminus people died at least the show will continue to be on the move instead of remaining static for no reason.

There are still many questions left unanswered after tonight’s episode. One major question being where the hell is Beth and who is holding her prisoner (if she is a prisoner). There’s also the question of this cure that Eugene is suppose to know that can reset the zombie apocalypse back to zero. At least we learned that one can come back from the exile the way Carol did as the episode ended. Despite being glad to see that it Carol was alive and she was instrumental in freeing him and the rest of his people, will Rick just forget what she did and take her back in unconditionally. Maybe Rick finally understood what Carol told him during their supply run back in season 4. When things have be to be done they have to be done right then and there for the good of the group.

As a final great moment that should be a major tease for fans of the show….we see the return of fan favorite in the form of Morgan Jones who looks to have left his sanctuary back in Rick’s old hometown and now trying to find his way back to other survivors (or tracking Rick if that’s the case).

Notes

  • We see the return of Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham) as Sam, the survivor with the basket of fruits in season 4’s “Indifference”, just before he gets a baseball bat to the back of the head and then his throat slit over a steel trough.
  • We have a new intro sequence that’s a bunch of new images taken from past episodes to start the credits intro. Maybe this is a sign that the show is now turned the corner from the Darabont and Mazzarra era and the show is firmly in the guiding hands of the Gimple.
  • There was a lot of MacGuyvering in tonight’s episode as the survivors still trapped in the “A” car were down to making makeshift weapons from pocketwatch chains, belt buckles and pieces of splintered wood. Rick and his people really showed that Gareth and the Terminus people were “fucking” with the wrong people.
  • It took four seasons, but Carol has graduated into biggest badass in a show that already loaded with them. Carol is the biggest BAMF on this show as it stands.
  • I’m sure the Carol and Daryl ship will be sailing along smoothly now that the two has reunited. Caryl shippers worldwide are breathing a sigh of relief.
  • Even though people thought Mr. Flashlight and ponytail in the flashback that bookended the episode was going to be big baddie Negan from the comics it looks like he’s the crazy dude Glenn let out of the container who was subsequently eaten by zombies. So, reports of Negan and Lucille were mistaken.
  • Talking Dead returns with Greg Nicotero (make-up FX wizard and show director), Scott M. Gimple (series showrunner) and Conan O’Brien as guests.
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Horror on TV: Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction Episode 4.7


It’s time for another episode of Beyond Belief!  This episode was originally broadcast on July 22nd, 2002 and host Jonathan Frakes appears to be even more amused with it all than usual!

Can you figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction?

Duke Tries A Halloween Marathon…Part Three


So, I have made it 11 days! I am going to try to keep it up, but there are some personal changes, job wise, possibly going on in the next week or so and I might not be able to continued watching 1  horror film a day. I will still continue to watch as many as possible, and keep posting the reviews in parts such as this – there just might not be as many films, or they might not be as frequent.

Duke Tries A Halloween Marathon…Part One

Duke Tries A Halloween Marathon…Part Two

October 7th: ‘Willow Creek’ (dir. Bobcat Goldthwait)

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‘Willow Creek’ is a found footage horror film that is essentially ‘The Blair Witch Project’ meets Bigfoot and it is pretty damn effective…for about 20 minutes.

The story here is simple, a couple is filming an excursion into the Six Rivers National Forest to find the site of the infamous Patterson-Gilmin film (you know, that grainy footage of some dude in a fur coat). Before trekking into the wilderness they interview locals of Willow Creek, a town that is filled with believers and non-believers, both of which pretty much make their living off the Bigfoot image. Things begin to get fishy when a group of locals start to threaten the couple and tell them to go home. Of course they don’t take this advice, and instead head into the woods. Things turn from bad to worse pretty quickly as something, or someone, starts to terrorize them during the night.

This is a film that takes a very long time for anything to really happen. Much of it is just spent trying to build some level of suspense, and set up some possible mystery about what or who is in the woods. It doesn’t really work for a few reasons.

Mainly, because like most found footage films this one has a lot of scenes that have NO real reason to be filmed. Many of which just involve the two characters driving, talking about whether or not they believe in Bigfoot. They are supposed to be making a documentary apparently. Most of what they are filming is interviews; so why the hell would they be filming conversations that aren’t interesting footage in regards to either the film, and aren’t worth recording even if they are possibly trying to remember the trip? It seems like the sole purpose of it is to show tension building between the couple…but it kills the logic of the style, taking you out of the “reality” they are trying to create.

Once things do get going it basically just becomes another ‘The Blair Witch Project’, with characters in a tent hearing noises and movement outside – but are the scares during these scenes effective? Hell yes. There is one incredible 20 minute long shot of the characters just sitting in a dimly lit tent as something outside is making noises and throwing things at them. It is quite an unsettling scene that gets right under the skin. Unfortunately it doesn’t last. By the time the next morning arrives things become a little too familiar, going from homage to straight up copying, and it isn’t hard to predict where things are going from there as the characters find themselves going in circles and losing their cool.

Other than that 20 minute stretch the film doesn’t really have anything else going for it. Sure the leads are likable and manage to keep you invested when tension is low. But that is only until their personal problems come to the surface. These two really need a whole different film to work things out. This is a bit of a spoiler, but like, yeah dude, really smart to propose to your girlfriend in the woods after receiving weird threats and finding your camp ransacked…oh, she rejected you? She says it is too soon? Maybe cause YOU DON’T EVEN LIVE TOGETHER? Why this scene is even included makes no sense to me. We don’t care enough about these characters to want to see their romantic life. And this minor conflict has NO bearing whatsoever on what came before it or what follows.

It all ultimately resulted in a film that is worthy of admiration for one great and truly eerie scene, but nothing more. It was just impossible for me to get over so many of the glaring character and film making issues to consider it anything special. And as the dust settles, I find myself now more annoyed than anything by how just disappointing it was. Because it DID have something there for a few minutes. If only. So I don’t really recommend it. Honestly, you are probably better off just checking YouTube for the long take I mentioned.

October 8th: ‘Re-Animator’ (dir. Stuart Gordon)

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‘Re-Animator’ is an utterly ridiculous horror “comedy”, in the vein of ‘Dead Alive’, that relies almost completely on some crazy visual gags to create a fun and bat shit crazy – but also totally hollow – viewing experience.

The film is about a medical student whose new roommate is secretly working on a formula that he believes can bring the dead back to life. When he finds out – after a hilarious mishap with a zombie cat – he gets caught up in the weird experiments his roommate is doing in their basement. As they progress, their target for test subjects grows from cats to humans; at the same time their egotistical professor discovers their work and wants to claim it as his own.

There isn’t much to say here. The story is rather simple and moves at a very fast pace. This leaves no room for any sort of reasonable character development. I understand this isn’t trying to be some serious horror film, but the gore, effects and humor alone weren’t enough to keep me truly invested. With so much on the line for the characters, I just wished I cared at all about any of them.

Still, it is a fun watch, mainly because of how cartoonish it gets at times, so I’d recommend it if you are looking for something with a light tone, simple narrative and plenty of gore.

October 10th (Watched two to make up for missing the 9th): ‘Hellraiser’ (dir. Clive Barker)

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‘Hellraiser’ is at times a grisly horror film with some great truly grotesque visual effects. It is almost completely ruined however by a lackluster and poorly paced first hour.

The film is about a man who moves into his childhood home with his wife; a wife who had a secret affair with her husband’s brother. Little do either of them know that the brother died in the house’s attic while opening a mysterious puzzle box, known as the Lament Configuration, disappearing without a trace. After an accident, the blood of the husband lands on the attic floor causing the brother’s body to re-materializes as a bloody skeleton. He uses the wife to secretly bring men to the attic so he can kill them and slowly regenerate his body. All the while, the husband’s daughter Kirsty suspects something weird is going on and tries to find out what. She discovers that the puzzle box opens a portal to some other dimension filled with “demon” Cenobites – who essentially dabble in the most extreme forms of sadomasochism one could imagine. They want to take the brother back, and also have their eyes on Kirsty.

Practically nothing eventful happens throughout much of the story. I understand a lot of it is to set up the finale, but it could have easily been condensed to allow for more to happen in the third act. There is no development of the characters in the first hour. We know fairly quickly who the adult characters are, as well as their intentions, and so did not need so much time focusing on them. The first hour is literally just the wife bringing men to the brother to be killed. Instead, the film should have focused more on Kirsty, the young daughter, who is the focus of the film in the final 30 minutes. She is the only character anyone could really care for in the whole film and yet she is thrust into danger with so little time spent developing her that any real sense of suspense over her safety is absent.

I think why I found this so disappointing was that it sets up such an interesting horror universe that did intrigue me. There is definitely a lot more to these Cenobites than we are told; and they are frightening enough to have been present and a source of scares for more than the little screen time they get here. These are all really personal gripes, and the film is not a failure. As a whole I quite enjoyed it, I just think it missed a chance to be truly great. With that said, for what seems like one of the first times in a while, I am actually now interested in seeing what the sequel of a horror film has in store.

October 10th: ‘Hellbound: Hellraise II’ (dir. Tony Randel)

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‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’ is the sequel to the first ‘Hellraiser’ film, and like the first is a wonderfully sick, twisted and gory horror flick that luckily, in my opinion, puts the focus were the first should have.

The film takes place right after the original left off with Kirsty in a mental ward. She tries to explain to the doctors and police what happened to her parents, but of course no one seems to believe her. No one except one doctor who has studied the Lament Configuration, the puzzle box that started it all. Based on the information he gets from Kirsty’s story, he uses the bloody mattress of Kirsty’s mother in law to bring her back to life and open the Lament Configuration. In doing so he, Kirsty and another girl at the ward – Tiffany – get trapped within the realm of the Cenobites, essentially a labyrinth of horror. Kirsty tries to find her way out with Tiffany, while also fighting off her evil mother in law, and the doctor who is turned into a Cenobite.

The first half hour was truly disappointing. It spends pretty much the entire time flashing back to the events of the first film. Considering this came out shortly after the original – and because I can only imagine those that saw this were people who already saw ‘Hellraiser’ – there was absolutely no need for any of this. Plus, because the ending to the first was were all the action was, I was hoping that would have carried over. Sadly, it was just more waiting around for something interesting to actually occur. Luckily this time it didn’t take an hour.

Once things did get going, the film turns into a twisted and warped mind trip, with the Labyrinth using nightmarish memories and gruesome visuals to confuse and frighten Kirsty and Tiffany. It is not really at all scary, but the craziness of it all is so fun to watch. Plus, it expands on the background of the Cenobites, actually making them more than two dimensional villains.

As with the first, the visuals here – specifically the make up and costumes – are very well done. In particular, I love the way the muscles were constructed when there is ever a skinless body. With all the detail that went into them, along with the creativity of some of the demons, it offset how grotesque the gore could be. In other words, I’d have been more grossed out if not for the fact that I admire it all so much.

Despite the issues I had with the first half hour the film works. It works even better when watched back to back with the first. I do ultimately think I liked this one more, but I highly recommend both ‘Hellraiser’ films…a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever say. Now I have to decide whether I want to delve deeper into the franchise…

October 11th: ‘Les Diaboliques’ (dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot)

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‘Les Diaboliques’ is a cold, dark, clever and meticulous horror thriller. One that slowly lays out its plot, piece by piece, reaching an unnerving level of confusion and suspense. All ending in a wonderfully twisted, and at one point quite terrifying, finale.

To go into much detail about the plot would ruin the experience, and to give away the ending would be criminal – the film actually ends with a plea from the filmmakers for the audience to not give anything away. So I will just say that it has to do with the wife and mistress of a barbarous school Headmaster, plotting to rid themselves of his cruelty. But things do not go as planned, and a mystery filled to the brim with suspicion and fear slowly unfolds.

It might sound simple or familiar – and I am guessing at the time it wasn’t viewed that way – but ignore that, because the film is neither; instead it is truly quite brilliant and near perfect. It contains a totally adsorbing narrative that requires, and earns, every bit of the viewers attention. It creates a genuine atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty that is hard to shake.

It does it all through its technical excellency. The direction, fixating on certain locations or items to ratchet up the tension of already thrilling situations, is phenomenal and sets the tone very early on. The performances are also very good, as is the writing, with almost every character having some flaw or secret, which may or may not implicate them in the mystery at hand. It does its best to keep you guessing, and it works right up to the very last frame.

Looking back, I guess I should not be surprised by just how great the film is. It was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot who also made ‘Wages of Fear’ – arguably the tensest film ever made. It was also a masterpiece, and although I might not yet place ‘Les Diaboliques’ in that category, it is definitely not far from it.

Horror on The Lens: Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula (dir by Joe Chappelle)


So right now, if you wanted to, you could go down to your local theater and you could watch Dracula Untold and maybe learn about the origin of Count Dracula.

Or you could just sit here and watch the 2000 film Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula below!  As directed by Joe Chappelle, this film is definitely low-budget but undeniably effective.  Rudolph Martin does a good job playing the title character and it’s always fun to see Peter Weller in a film like this.