Horror Film Review: Unsane (dir by Steven Soderbergh)


Oh, Steven Soderbergh.

Seriously, I know that everyone in the world is always going on about how brilliant he is but I have to admit that I always approach his film with a bit of trepidation.

I mean, yes, Soderbergh can be brilliant.  He’s made some legitimately great films, some of the best that I’ve seen.  The Informer! holds up brilliantly.  So does Traffic and The Girlfriend Experience.  Even a film like Logan Lucky remains amusing on a second viewing.

And yet, at the same time, he can be one of the most annoyingly pretentious directors around.  Contagion was a raging bore and, with Haywire, Soderbergh squandered the potential of Gina Carano.  Che started out strong before turning into a dull Marxist tract.  With the exception of Out of Sight, his friendship with George Clooney always seems to bring out the worst instincts in both men.  And don’t even start with me about the Ocean’s films.  Have you tried to rewatch any of them lately?

Whenever I start a new Soderbergh film, I find myself wondering which Stephen Soderbergh am I going to get.  Am I going to get the Soderbergh who is a crafty storyteller and a good director of actors?  Or am I going to get the pretentious Soderbergh who always seems to think that he’s doing all of us favor by lowering himself to make a genre film?

With Unsane, which was released way back in March, I got both.

Claire Foy plays Sawyer Valentini.  A year ago, Sawyer was working at a hospice when the son of one of her patients became obsessed with and started stalking her.  Fearing for her life and realizing that the police weren’t going to be much help, Sawyer moved away from home and tried to restart her life.

Seeking help for dealing with her trauma, Sawyer makes an appointment with a counselor at the Highland Creek Behavioral Center.  What she doesn’t realize is that Highland Creek is a scam.  The papers that she signed at her appointment allow her therapist to hold her for a 24-hour evaluation.  When Sawyer resists and attempts to call the police, her stay is extended by seven more days.  Every time that Sawyer demands to be released, she’s judged to be a threat to herself and others and more days are added to her stay.  As another patient explains it, Highland Creek basically holds onto its patients until their insurance runs out.

If that wasn’t bad enough, things get worse when Sawyer meets the new orderly (Joshua Leonard).  He says that his name is George Shaw but Sawyer swears that he’s David, the man who has been stalking her.  Of course, no one listens to her when she tries to tell them.  After all, she voluntarily committed herself to Highland Creek….

Unsane received a lot of attention because Soderbergh shot the film in secret with an iPhone.  The end results of Soderbergh’s experiment were mixed.  At its best, this technique gives the film a gritty look and it visually captures the shaky state of Sawyer’s sanity.  At its worse, it’s a distraction that leaves you feeling that you’re supposed to be more impressed by how Soderbergh made the film than by the story being told.

Fortunately, Soderbergh gets two wonderful performances from Claire Foy and the reliably creepy Joshua Leonard.  Foy brings just the right combination of fragility and strength to the role of Sawyer and she gives such an empathetic performance that you get involved in her story even if Soderbergh’s style is often distracting.  As for Leonard, you’ll recognize him as soon as you see him.  He’s a character actor who specializes in playing off-balance people and he’s memorably menacing in this film.

I probably would have liked Unsane more if I didn’t always have the feeling that the movie was mostly made so that Soderbergh could show off.  Whenever I see one of Soderbergh’s “genre” films, I get the feeling that he’s looking down on the material and that my reaction is supposed to be one of, “Soderbergh’s such a genius that he can even make crap like this entertaining!”  (You get the feeling that Soderbergh might be willing to make a B-movie but he’d never be caught dead actually watching one.)  That said, regardless of the motives behind it, Unsane was actually an effective and twisty psychological thriller.

If nothing else, it was better than Haywire….

Stranger Things: Season 1, Episode 8: The Upside Down, ALT Title: Hop’s Redemption


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Cold Open:  Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  Joyce is screaming and Evil Modine enters.  He conveys with cold calm that six people were taken this week and tries to bully Joyce like he did Karen.  Joyce isn’t having it.  Henchwoman is having people taser Hop … A LOT!  He tells them that he knows everything about they did.  They propose to have him overdose.  He counters that they arm him and let him and Joyce go.  How does Hop fit into his pants with balls that big?!

High school:  The boys are at the school and restless.  They realize that Nancy and Creeper are gone.

Joyce’s House: They set up several booby traps and the xmas lights, which sets up an inconsistency in the storytelling.

Evil Modine comes to Hop.  Hop convinces Evil Modine to to arm him, release him AND Joyce, and allow him to pursue the monster.  He offers to forget about him and their project and he’ll tell him where El is, if he agrees to his terms.

Hop and Joyce get spacesuited up and enter into the belching gate to the Upside Down.

ROLL CREDITS:

The Upside Down: Hop and Joyce are looking for Will.  The respirator noise causes Hop to Flash to happier times.

Hop is in the past… clean-shaven, with his wife and daughter, and happy.  His daughter starts to wheeze.

The Upside Down:  Nancy and Creeper cut themselves to draw out the Postmodern Vampire.  She wonders how she will know when the monster will be coming, which brings us to the story hole: Why would she be screwing the lights back in before if she didn’t know that they had a purpose? Steve bangs at the door and forces himself into the house. They both try to get him to leave and Nancy even pulls a gun on him, but then the lights flicker, the monster appears, and Steve’s brain breaks a little.  They run to Will’s room.

The Upside Down:  Hop sees the destroyed Castle Byers and a teddy bear causes him to FLASH.

Hospital Room:  He is reading to his daughter who is bald from cancer.  When he’s done reading, he goes into the hospital stairwell and sobs.  Poor Hop.

Joyce’s House: Steve freaks out and runs to his car, but he sees the lights flickering and decides to become a hero.  The monster appears behind Nancy and Creeper.  Steve jumps in and starts hitting the monster with an upgraded baseball bat.  The monster gets trapped in the bear trap.  They set the monster on fire and it disappears.  There is smoldering monster blood in the trap.  My best guess of what smoldering Vampire Monster smells like is anything on the Arby’s menu.  

The Upside Down:  Hop and Joyce are in her home and they see the blood from the monster.  The lights start turning on in Joyce’s house.

High School: Dustin finds pudding. We get it; he’s the fat kid!  Mike talks to El about how his family will quasi-adopt her. Jibber Jabber Jibber Jabber, they kiss.  Then, Evil Modine and his Goons arrive to retrieve El.  The boys and El run.   They make it into a hallway and are cutoff with ….Goons to the Left and Goons to the Right and she’s the only El in town! [Sung]

El uses her mojo and melts/explodes the brains and eyes of the Henchwoman and several goons.  This brings us to bad ideas: New Coke, The Edsel, Qwikster, The Zune, Grease 2, and cornering a pissed off teenager with lethal mental Superpowers.  Hop and Joyce pursue the monster and follow its bloodtrail to the library where Hop has looked for love.

High school: The boys get grabbed by goons and El is passed out from mental exertion. Evil Modine hugs her and promises to make everything better to make her better.   The lights flash.  Mike sees the blood, the monster breaks through the wall, and envelops Evil Modine.  Once again, it’s a monster, who hunts at night, and searches for blood.   NOSFERATU!!!!!

The Library:  Joyce and Hop are in the public library.  They see skulls everywhere and viney gooeyness.  Lastly, they see Will with a monster snake attached to his mouth.

Flash to Hop’s daughter’s Hospital Room:  We see his daughter intubated and dying.  She flatlines.  The scene is intercut with Hop watching his daughter dying and him removing Will’s monster snake from him.

High school:  The goons are fighting the monster and losing.  The monster enters the room where the boys are hiding and Lucas tries to kill the monster with the slingshot for some reason.  The monster is flung and pinned against the wall.  El is awake with red eyes and is really pissed.  She looks back at the one boy she ever loved, says good bye, and then using her mind – she creates a bright LIGHT ….AHEM … A Bright Light like the Sun and destroys the monster by disintegrating both herself and it.

Hop and Joyce:  Hop is doing CPR on Will with Joyce’s help to revive Will.  In saving Will, he will have also released himself from the prison of his grief. We flash to the Hop’s dying daughter with doctors failing to save her and we see the beginning of his beard.  However, in the Upside Down, Hop is able to save Will and, in doing so, himself as well.

High school: Karen arrives and hugs her son.

The Hospital:  Will awakens to his family.

The Waiting Room:  Everyone is waiting for Will to wake up in the hospital.  The tragedy has brought them together as one community, one tribe.  When the boys hear that Will is awake, they run in and jibber jabber a bit.  Hop goes outside and is picked up by goons, but in a friendly way.

ONE MONTH LATER:

Snow has begun.  The boys are playing D&D again.  Creeper picks up Will and gets a present from Nancy, but we rapidly see that she isn’t his girlfriend.  It’s a camera. HMMMMM, not sure if that will improve Creeper’s prospects of staying out of handcuffs. 

Hop Goes to the station and gets some food and makes some wise cracks.  He drops off some eggos in a dead drop, which is presumably for El.

Joyce’s House: It’s all fixed up because the town must have pitched in together.  Will heads to the bathroom and barfs up a slug monster, flashes into the Upside Down, and doesn’t tell anyone because I guess mash potatoes were all he could think about at that time.

ROLL CREDITS

This has been so much fun!  Demand more with all your might!!!

 

 

Stranger Things- Season 1, Episode 6 – The Monster; ALT Title: Are you there God? It’s me, El.


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Cold Open: Creeper is calling for Nancy. She is lost in the Shadow World.  In her haste, Nancy is has passed the exit and his alone in the with the monster.  Creeper sees the tree portal, then Nancy’s outstretched arm, and pulls the love of his life back into the Light World like a forceps baby.  The tree’s portal closes.

Roll Credits.

Steve is driving with his crew all worried about Nancy.  He uses his much improved Ninja Skills to go up to Nancy’s bedroom, but is frozen with shock and rage at the sight of Creeper comforting Nancy on her bed.

Joyce’s House:  Hop is mentally exhausted, but pushes through it.  He explains that he saw Will’s room because there was a kid’s bed and kid’s drawing on the wall.  However, when Joyce asks, “Was [the drawing] good?”  Hop describes it as a kid’s drawing.  She shows Hop an example of Will’s very good artwork.  Hop realizes that all this time that he’s been looking for another kid.  David Harbour plays this scene with a mix of realization and rage that they did this to yet another kid.  I haven’t seen acting this good since the Robert Mitchum or Gary Cooper.  In five years, he’ll be holding an Oscar.  

Mike’s house:  Nancy showers off her evil goo.  She has Creeper sleep in her bed.  Maybe, he’ll take some photos of her when she sleeps? You two deserve each other. 

Hop and Joyce:  They go on a quest to find El’s mom, using his library research.  Given that was a trolling ground for Hop, I didn’t mean to have that previous sentence to read vaguely dirty.

Nancy’s Room:  Nancy Nancy Drews (sorry had to go there) a theory that the monster is a predator, who hunts at night, and detects blood.  HMMMMMMM, whatever could it be????  They decide to set a trap.

Mr. Clark’s house:  He is visited by Evil Modine’s Blonde Henchwoman and is duped into revealing the boys’ identities with promises of nerdy tech programs for promising youths.

Flash to El: Evil Modine brings El a one-dollar Target store plant because he wants to her to make contact and he’s obviously cheap.

El wakes in the woods.  She puts her wig on to become a normal girl again.  She looks into the water seeing herself as a freak, a monster, an ersatz girl.  El tosses the wig and screams her energy into the lake.

Mike’s House:  Karen uses her bobby pin to gain access to Nancy’s room, expecting to find a sleeping kid.  Instead, she sees an empty bed and the indications that a boy spent the night.

Lucas’ House:  The boys try to make up. It’s a bit corny, but in a good way.  Lucas is determined to find Will on his own and he’s convinced that El is a traitor.  Dustin insists that it was pretty awesome; she threw him  into the air with her mind.  Lucas’ face says it all- that’s why she sucks, SHE’S NOT HUMAN!

El decides to go shopping for some Eggos.  She’s dirty, she’s weird, and the villagers are scared.  FLASH to the Evil Bathtub:  El is being submerged into the dark world -the in between space that separates our world and the Shadow World a membrane that acts a terrible bridge.  Back to the store where once again, we find a dickish manager.  She calls the manager a Mouth Breather; it’s pretty awesome.  He tries to stop El because she’s leaving the store without paying and El’s like – LEGGO MY EGGO! BOOM- The sliding glass doors explode.

Hop and Joyce:  They arrive at Terry Ives’ home to ask her about her daughter.  She is catatonic.

Lucas: We see him leaving to find Will.  He sees a white Hawkins Power and Light van. Dustin and Mike, separated from Lucas, discuss why Lucas is upset.  Dustin explains that Lucas is jealous because he’s being replaced by El.

We learn from Terry’s sister that she got into MK Ultra in college.  They gave Terry loads of LSD, put her in the salt water tank, but she was pregnant.   This gave her baby enhanced superpowers.  This is an obvious nod to Dean Herbert’s Dune, when Lady Jessica takes the Water of Life when she was pregnant; thereby, giving her daughter Alia superpowers. Yep, I just laid some nerd knowledge on you! Boom!  Terry’s sister explains that Terry believed she would have telekinetic and other badass powers; we flash to El’s mojo badassery throughout the series.  All the while she describes this, there is baby music playing in the background that is extra creepy.

Lucas uses his compass and arrives at Evil Modine’s Government Facility.

Nancy and Creeper find supplies to set their trap.  When they go outside, she sees the movie theater marquee – All The Right Moves Starring – Spray Painted – Nancy the Slut Wheeler.  She’s mortified.  She hears spray paint cans being used and finds Steve and his cohorts.  She slaps him.  Steve starts insulting Creeper and Creeper kicks Steve’s ass.  The cops arrive and in a funny accidental assault on a police officer, Creeper is arrested.

Hop and Joyce: She’s devastated that it’s been 12 years since Terry saw her daughter, meaning she may never see Will again. Hop explains that there’s still a chance.  He explains that he’s been through what she’s going through, but his daughter was taken permanently, but he will get Will back to her.  People in pain will sometimes lash out because a person tries to share their pain, thinking that the sharer is trying to make it about themselves.  WRONG! Don’t be that way! Pain is not unique.  There’s sympathy and empathy.  Sympathy- wow, that sucks.  Empathy- I felt your kind of pain because this happened to me.  This is a vulnerable act of sharing, creating intimacy and intimacy is the bedrock of any relationship. 

Hop gets a call that Creeper was arrested.

Back at the Police Station, Nancy brings Creeper some ice for his candid photo taking hands.

Lucas:   He sees a bunch of Hawkins Power and Light vans.  Lucas realizes that the government is on to them.

The Bullies find Dustin and Mike at the Quarry.  The World’s Smallest Bully (WSB) catches Dustin and threatens to cut out Dustin’s baby teeth, if Mike doesn’t jump into the quarry. The tension builds and he jumps.  The boys run to see a likely dead Mike; instead, Mike is suspended in mid-air and hoisted back to the top of the cliff.  We cut to El who has her signature bloody nose.  She shoves one bully into the air and breaks the WSB’s arm.  El says, GO!  The bullies do.

Flash to In between dark room: She sees the monster and approaches.  She reaches out to it’s scaly skin and touches the creature.  It shrieks at her with a head full of teeth.  El’s terror is so great that she releases a huge energy burst that tears a hole in our dimension, linking our world to the shadow world and the Monster.

Back to the quarry, El confesses she opened the gate; therefore, she is the monster.  Mike eschews that notion- You saved me El. They all hug.

Dustin, Mike, and El have return to Mike’s house and the Hawkins Power and Light Van is waiting for them.

 

Stranger Things- Season 1 Episode 5- The Flea and The Acrobat; ALT Title: Hop is my Spirit Animal.


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Cold Open:

Evil Modine’s Government Facility: Hop is being a total badass and sneaks into the facility. He sneaks around the facility and hides in rooms as evil scientists go by in the halls.  He goes through biohazard plastic and is about to head to the entrance to find Will.  Hop runs into the shittiest security chief ever and kicks his ass and the ass of a Military Policeman. Hop – you win the badass award of 1983.

Joyce’s house: Lonnie is getting Joyce liquored up and generally trying to take over her life. Lonnie – who might be one of the earliest Mansplainers – tries to convince Joyce that all of this in her head.  This show is really good at showing people’s reaction to grief and potential mental illness. The people are marginalized, ignored, and bossed around. It’s especially poignant because the show is postmodern gothic horror and the way “normal characters” deal with the people they can’t understand is truly medieval.  

Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  Hop continues to search for Will.  He finds a room with a kid-sized bed and a drawing of two stick figures and a cat- a call back to where Evil Modine tried to harness El’s powers to diminish the local feline population.  Hop’s face is cool rage.  He’s certain that they have Will.

The director intercuts the boys’ discussion and Hop’s search for Will. The intercut between the boys’ discussion and Hop’s search is truly gooseflesh inducing. El is completely drained.  The boys are going over what was said on the AV equipment.  Lucas emotes that he is really tired of this shit.  Hop has his pistol drawn and is being pursued by Evil Modine’s goons.  The boy’s describe the World of the veil of shadows.  Hop finds the elevator that leads down to the gate to the shadow world.  Hop enters a hallway that the boys describe as – out of phase.  There is evil snow coming down around Hop.  Hop enters the room with the main portal to the shadow world and is grabbed and drugged.  This story really grabs at the ancient themes of storytelling- Hop is the sullied knight on Crusade looking for redemption and he plays it perfectly!  Fade to Black.

Roll Credits:

Joyce’s House:  Creeper arrives home to see his Mom drinking and generally hanging out with Lonnie.  Poor Creeper.

Funeral:  Lonnie holds Court and shakes a lot of hands as if he is the man of the family and not a human-turd.

Hop’s Home:  Hop wakes with sweat stains and surrounded by pills and booze.  Hop tears his place apart like he’s looking for Rebel Plans of the Death Star.  After much destruction, Hop finds what he’s been looking for- a listening device in his light fixture.

Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  Evil Modine has decided that the monster is hanging around Will’s home.

Post Funeral:  Nancy and Creeper are making plans to hunt down and kill the Monster.  He gets a pistol out of his father’s glove box.

High school: A fake AV Club Repairman investigates the equipment that was fried by El.

The Wake:  The boys go up to Mr. Clark and they have him lay some science down on them.  Are there alternative universes? You bet! Does Mr. Clark know about Dungeons and Dragons? Right again!  Does he explain that someone would have to create immense power to create a tear into another dimension much like the plot of Bioshock Infinite? OH YEAH!!!  BTW, this tear could destroy us all and wonks up compasses as well.

Hop’s House:  The deputies arrive and talk to Hop.  They think he’s a bit nutty and we find out that Barb’s car was found at a bus station.

Joyce’s House:  Lonnie talks about the Statler Corporation and how they need to be held accountable as he does some pretty shitty home repair.  This gives Joyce a moment of clarity that perhaps Lonnie is infact a dirtbag.

Mike’s House:  Dustin is experimenting with the compasses.  He explains to his friends that the compass is not facing True North; instead, they must be pointing to the Evil Gate.

Joyce’s House:  While Lonnie is showering, Joyce snoops in Lonnie’s stuff and discovers a personal injury attorney’s flyer.

Mike’s House: Nancy talks to Steve.  It’s boring.

Joyce’s House:  Joyce fights with Lonnie and tosses his ass out of her house.

Hop’s House: Hop is exhausted and calls his estranged wife.  We learn that after their child’s death, she left, and now has a new family.  Poor Hop.

The boys are trying to get to the portal via the local railroad tracks.  El flashes to Evil Modine.  He has her focus on a Commie.  To accomplish this task, she must get into a scary bathtub with a helmet on her.  Huh? The boys notice that El is acting stranger.

 Nancy and Creeper are walking through the woods hunting for the Monster.  They argue about her and Steve. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Joyce’s House:  Joyce hears banging at her door and thinks it’s Lonnie.  In fact, it’s Hop holding up a sign for her to be quiet.  He looks at all of the lights that are up in her home that he must now check for listening devices and says, “Oh Jesus”.  I have had to inspect Christmas Lights a time or two and it is a pain in the ass!

Junkyard:  Dustin realizes the compasses are not leading them to the gate.  Lucas discerns that it was El misleading them using her powers, discovering fresh nose-blood on her sleeve.  She explains that [the gate] is not safe.

Joyce’s House:  Hop’s finished checking the lights.  He explains to Joyce that they bugged his place, they took Will, Will’s body was a fake, and she was right all along.

Lucas emotes that El likely opened the gate and that she might be the monster!  Lucas and Mike fight and El launches Lucas into the air.  El flashes to the evil bathtub.  She goes to a totally black room with water in it that looks identical to the kill room in “Under the Skin”.  Under the Skin is a must watch!  She hears the commie talking and goes up to him.  He can’t see her.  While she is broadcasting the commie’s speech, she hears something horrible.  A monster using sonar.  She flees.  We return to the Junkyard and Lucas comes to and storms off.  El has also disappeared.

The Woods:  Nancy and Creeper come upon a dying deer.  They decide to put it down.  In an act of knight-like chivalry (AHEM), Creeper attempts to shoot the deer.  It is pulled into the darkness.  Creeper and Nancy split up to look for the deer.  Nancy sees a hole in a tree that is covered with evil slime and decides to go inside it alone and without any weapons because she’s really really smart.  Nancy enters the shadow world and sees the Monster crouched and feeding on the deer.  She attempts to back away and crushes a branch. The Monster turns and it’s face opens in four quadrants to reveal nothing but teeth and rage!

Roll Credits!

elizabethstranger-things-netflix

 

 

Stranger Things- The Body, S1 E4; ALT Title: Hop says to the world – WTF?!!!


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Cold Open:  Hop is at Joyce’s home and she is acting way crazy and the decor doesn’t help her case for her sanity.  She explains that Will must be alive because she talks to him through the Christmas lights – as one does.  He explains that when his daughter died, he saw her everywhere and she will go crazy if she keeps this up.

Mike’s House:  Mike’s pissed at El.  El is playing with the Walkie Talkie and doesn’t understand his outrage.  He yells at her, making her focus even more.  She hones in on Will’s frequency in the shadow world with her mojo and he is singing The Clash. She nose bleeds. Good call back!  Mike calls Lucas and explains that Will is alive.

Roll Credits

Mike gets the guys together and convinces them that Will is alive and El can communicate with him.

Hop talks to Creeper as the State medical examiner is showing Joyce her dead son.  She storms out convinced that the body is not Will’s.

High School:  Steve is concerned that Nancy will reveal that he was drinking.  Nancy acts all high and mighty chastening Steve for being self-centered.  Word, Nancy?! Really?! WORD?! WORD?! The Hypocrisy Gods all just had a collective stroke! WTF???!!!  Nancy storms off (we hope that she will look up the words Hypocrisy and Frenemy!)

Creeper argues with his mom in public.  She screams that she saw a monster without a face and that Will is still alive.

The boys decide to dress up El up like a girl to infiltrate the school’s AV Club tech room because the transmitter is stronger.  This has created a number of E.T. comparisons, but honestly, so they put her in a dress?!  Big Whoop!  Mike says that she is pretty.  This leads to a very sad moment when El looks into the mirror.  She sees the girl, the normal girl, that she could’ve been, if not for Evil Modine.  Evil Modine better hope he never crosses paths with El again.

Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  They send a tethered Red Shirt into the evil membrane to explore the shadow world.

High School:  Nancy is being questioned by the deputies.  They treat her like the bad friend that she is.  We learn that Barb’s car is gone.

Hop is interviewing his local medical examiner and learns that the State Police took over the autopsy and it was all kinds of fishy.

The boys nearly secret El into the AV Club to do her mojo and communicate with Will, but they are stopped by Mr. Clark.  He insists that they all attend the assembly and then the AV Club is theirs to use.

Nancy gets home and Karen disappoints me as well.  Karen is mostly concerned with her daughter’s promiscuity and not the disappearance of Barb – Nancy’s purported best friend.  Apparently, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the bob. Maybe, Nancy’s sociopathic selfishness was learned behavior.  Karen, you’re in a timeout!  Nancy storms upstairs and looks at Creeper’s photo of Barb and notices the Monster in the side of the photo.

Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  Evil Modine is able to communicate with the Red Shirt.  Red Shirt is a term of art from Star Trek TOS. When a person in a Red Shirt was sent to investigate something, the result was a dead Red Shirt.  Red Shirt exclaims that he is not alone.  The tether jerks wildly, they attempted to pull the Red Shirt back, but all that is retrieved is a bloodied harness. Yeech.

High school:  The bullies are joking and laughing about Will.  Mike confronts the World’s Shortest Bully (WSB) and, when he turns, Mike shoves him.  The WSB attempts to attack Mike, but is frozen in place by El who also makes him urinate on himself.  Then, a teacher appears and breaks up the altercation.  I guess since it was the 1980’s the teachers were all doing cocaine somewhere and were too busy to monitor a gymnasium full of students.  

Funeral Home:  Nancy is talking to Creeper.  She shows him the Monster figure and he can’t explain it.  He’s about to blow her off, but she mentions that she saw something in the woods.  Creeper asks if it didn’t have a face?  Nancy freezes.  They are starting to believe.

Hop is questioning a guy at a bar; the bar guy reveals that he was the one who found the Byers boy. Hop discerns that the man was lying to him because he claimed that quarry was owned by the government, but infact it was privately owned.  Outside, Hop lays a serious beat down on this bar guy who really spills the beans.  Bar guy reveals that he was told not to let people too close to the body.  There’s a 1980s creepy sedan in the background that Hop chases with his pistol drawn.  Hop realizes that he is firmly in the deepest of shit.

Meanwhile, at the coolest thing to ever happen in an AV Club Room anywhere … ever: El is honing in on Will.  She flashes back to when Evil Modine has her look at a picture of a man.  She thinks he wants her to kill him.  Not a big stretch to think that.  Evil Modine wants her to hone on him and have her repeat back what she hears.  We travel to a room where the man in the photo is saying a series of random words.  Back to El, she not only hones in on him, but broadcasts it on the PA system.  VERY COOL!  Evil Modine realizes that El is way beyond his understanding.

We return to the AV Club room.  They hear banging.  Will and his mom are talking through the wall.  Will goes to the tear that the monster created the night before.  Briefly, they can see each other and the boys and El can hear the communication.  Joyce hears the monster coming and she tells Will to run.  Then, BOOM – the equipment shorts out!  Joyce grabs a sledgehammer from her Shed and breaks a huge hole in her wall, but all she sees is the cold and all she hears is winter birdsong.

High school darkroom:  Creeper and Nancy are in the darkroom and he enlarges the portion of the photo of the monster.  While they are waiting for the enhancement to develop, he describes how he likes to observe people.  Creeper, please stop saying things like things like this.  It’s creeping me out.  It’s not really creeping Nancy out. I do not understand Nancy – AT ALL.   The picture develops and the Monster is in focus.  YIKES!

Hop goes to the morgue.  The State Trooper on guard is reading “Cujo” – AWESOME!  Hop is crossing the Rubicon! He punches out the Trooper, enters the morgue, and struggles with what must be done.  He takes Will’s body out and pauses and then, takes out his knife.  Hop must know if this is actually Will and he is throwing everything away to find the answer. His knife is above the deceased boy’s chest and he makes his incision. No blood.  He cuts deeper and finds- cotton.  It’s not Will.  Hop’s face says everything- WTF?!!!

Joyce’s house: Lonnie, the deadbeat dad, returns to Joyce.  They hug.

Hop walks up to the Evil Modine Government Facility with bolt cutters and breaks in!

Thank you for reading!!!  LIKE IT!!! I am also glad because technically I might be a Millennial.  I’m young again!

HOP Believes

Stranger Things-Holly, Jolly S1 E3; ALT Title: Joyce seems bonkers!


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Cold Open: Barb wakes in the shadow world, covered in goop, and hunted.  The scene is juxtaposed between Barb being hunted by the Monster and Nancy having awkward relations with Steve.  Barb tries to make it out of the empty pool that is covered in evil mucky vines.  Barb looks like she might make it out, but the monster grabs her legs and yanks her into the doom. Poor Barb.

Roll Credits.

Post-coitus, Nancy can’t wake Steve up and wonders if she is just a notch for him.  Nancy goes home and is confronted by her mom.  Nancy, you are running for sociopath levels of douchebaggery.  

We arrive at Joyce’s house of insanity. Creeper wakes up to his mom talking to herself. Joyce tries to explain to Creeper that it’s fine because she can talk to her dead son through the Christmas lights.  Creeper is truly devoted to his mom.

Basement: The boys prepare to look for Will, with El as their guide.  Lucas brings practical things: compass, knives, and a slingshot. Dustin – the fat kid – brings snacks.  Groan.  They devote a lot of time to Lucas’ wrist rocket; this better payoff later! Dustin emotes that none of their weapons matter because they have El the Jedi with them.  There are a number of great shots in this show of ladies trying to hold back their disbelief- this is no exception.  Dustin tries to make his point how Yoda El is by having her levitate a toy Millennium Falcon. Her expression is priceless!  We see later that levitating a toy is small potatoes for El.

High school:  Nancy is concerned for Barb. No, just kidding; she’s worried people think she’s a skank.

Hop takes his deputies to the Evil Modine’s Government Facility.  He gets some static from the guard, but Hop smooth talks his way through the gates – that’s how it’s done son!

El’s hanging out alone at the house, levitating the Falcon as an afterthought.  She heads upstairs and has a PTSD flashback of Evil Modine having her use her Mojo to crush a coke can.  She does and her nose bleeds.

Joyce heads to her job and gets christmas lights, christmas lights, and more christmas lights.  Donald does his best to not say anything horrible for a moment and mostly succeeds.

Evil Modine’s Government Facility: Hop and his deputies are being shown around.  Hop sees the tunnel that he believes provided ingress for Will.  Hop notices video cameras and asks to see the tapes.  They oblige him with some doctored tapes.  Hop notices immediately that there’s no rain in the background of the video.  This begins Hop’s inexorable journey down a path from which he cannot return.  After Hop and the deputies leave, we push in on the vent that leads down to the basement portal to the shadow dimension.

Mike’s house:  El is exploring Nancy’s room.  A life of a normal girl is laid before her.  A life with girlfriends and music boxes that was stolen from her by Evil Modine.

High school:  The boys are looking for rocks for the sling shot.  They get bullied by the world’s shortest bullies … again.  Mike gets shoved and literally takes it on the chin. Creeper is developing his pervy photographs and gets totally busted by another student photographer.

Joyce’s house: Joyce has finished decorating her home for Insane Homes and Gardens: Christmas Issue.  

Hop goes to the library and we discover that at some point he slept with the librarian and never called back.  She sasses him, but he and the deputy continue researching and discover MK Ultra and a connection to Dr. Brenner.  Side Note: MK Ultra was actually a real thing.  The US Government sought out highly intelligent children and had them exposed to drugs. One of their notable alumni was none other than The Unabomber; they left a lot of wreckage in their wake.  For the budding creatives out there, if you are writing a historical fiction of any kind, tether your story to something that actually happened; it will allow your entire story to ring true.  Hop is convinced that these government people have Will and suspects the boy might not even be dead.   He sees that Brenner is linked to a number of missing children. Hop is gonna lay down a smackdown!  BTW, Hop’s slow arc back to the living is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

I am going to make a critique about this scene.  Hop pulls into the library parking lot front-end first; cops and uniformed people don’t do that. It makes egress that much more difficult.  If you’re a director, back the cop cars into the spaces.  Thanks!

Karen shows up at Joyce’s house with a casserole and tries not get too much crazy on herself.  Karen’s toddler sees the lights blink on. She follows them to Will’s room and begins to see the monster push through the wall.  She’s gonna need some therapy!

High school:  Nancy, showing a scintilla of humanity, calls up Barb’s mom and then lies that she saw Barb at school.  Side note: Gentle Readers, if you have a “friend” like Nancy in your life, save yourself some anguish and cut them out like the cancerous tumors that they are. 

Creeper sees the photographer colleague with Steve and his crew.  They mock creeper and take his creepshots.  Nancy arrives to see this.  She watches as Steve breaks Creeper’s camera.  Nancy notices a picture of Barb and shows renewed concern.

El is near power lines waiting for the boys to arrive.  She sees a cat and flashes to when Evil Modine tried to make her kill a cat with her mind because I assume … Evil Modine is a “Dog Person.” He orders goons to drag her into solitary.  El kills one by smashing him against a wall and the other with a neck break that she does with her mind! YIKES. After El dispatches the goons, Evil Modine shows her what appears to be the first real affection that she has ever seen and says, “Incredible.”  CHILLING!!!!  Side note to Mike: Mike, if you ever plan on breaking up with El, DON’T!

High school:  Nancy is hanging with her lame group and decides to try to look for Barb.

El and the boys are walking the woods.  Mike tries to play off his chin wound as an accident, but El gets him to share and Mike teaches her the term “Mouth-breather.”

Nancy finds Barb’s car.  She hears rustling and briefly sees the monster who only kills at night.  Ahem.

Joyce tries to talk to her son through the lights.  Then, she writes the alphabet on the wall in a move that starts 10,00o gifs and communicates with Will Ouija Board style.

Nancy goes to her mom and admits that Barb is missing…. Finally!

Hop is called to the quarry.  They leave in a hurry.

El leads the boys to Will’s house.  She has tracked him there through her mojo, but can’t explain the concept of parallel transdimensional movement and the boys get annoyed. Sirens are spotted and the boys see Will’s body recovered from the quarry.

Joyce is talking Ouija board style to Will and he tells her to R U N!!! Then, the monster with no face pulls its way through the wall and she leaves.

The Quarry:  When the boys see that it is Will’s body, they get pissed at El, because they thought she would be able to find him alive.

We hear Peter Gabriel singing Bowie.  *Sniff*  Creeper arrives home and hugs his mom as the police sirens approach to tell her the grave news.

Cheers!!!!

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Stranger Things: The Weirdo On Maple Street S1 E2, ALT Title: I’m a really shitty friend. – Nancy


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I will be honest- this is not my favorite episode in the series.  We don’t see the monster until the last act and it’s more like a setup for episode 3.  However, it should be noted that a B-rating for Stranger Things is like an A-rating for any other show.

The cold open begins with a still soaking wet El on Mike’s basement couch.  The boys aren’t sure what to do with El. Then again, given the boys we’re talking about, it’s pretty clear that they wouldn’t know what to do with any girl.  There’s a very good showing not telling moment in this scene: Mike offers El some clothes and she attempts to disrobe in front of all of them, revealing her lack of any socialization. Lucas continues to emote that this is total bullshit. SIDE NOTE: I feel pretty bad for Lucas; he’s the only one of the group that wants to live in Rationality Land. Every minute Lucas spends with his friends he must think: “I live in the f#cking suburbs and THESE are my friends?! FML!!!” El again shows her tattoo as her name, which gives me the worst creeps every time as it is so tied to the holocaust and how El was indubitably thought of and treated by Evil Modine.

Roll Credits.

Joyce is going slowly crazy in her casa of poverty.  Hop arrives and notices immediately the burn marks on her phone.  He’s been up all night looking for a son whose discovery would, in some small way, relieve the pang he feels for his daughter’s death. Joyce insists that Will called her.  Hop doesn’t believe her because she only heard breathing.  Hop remains unconvinced, causing Joyce to lash out – “Don’t you think I’d know my son’s breathing, wouldn’t you know your daughter’s?!” In this moment, we watch Hop’s heart die a little.  Creeper goes up to Hop outside because he wants to question his dad with Hop.  With a not so soft punch to the chest, Hop refuses him.

Back at Mike’s house of psychics and valedictorians who are aroused by bathrooms, Mike is trying to explain how he will reveal her to his parents.  He explains what he believes is the clear path forward, but El listens politely and says – NO.  She makes a finger gun maneuver to show that if he tells, they all will die.

We cut to Evil Modine; he learns that the Monster is in Hawkins.  His lack of emotion is chilling.  I wonder what GS Level sociopaths achieve in the Federal Government? Do they start out as an 11 or just go straight to 14?

Cut to Hawkins High School, where Nancy continues to be a Toxic Friend to Barb. Then, Barb gets shit on by everyone nearby.  Poor Barb.  Steve and his henchmen plan a pool party where Barb gets to be both a driver for Nancy and a fifth wheel. Nancy, you really suck.  The cool kids see Will’s brother Creeper hang up missing poster creepily. Nancy tries to console him before it gets all awkward and stuff.  Then, Creeper leaves and goes on a roadtrip to see his shitbag father.

We cut to Lucas getting further exasperated by his friends who want to harbor a whacko. Lucas must be downing two pepto bismol bottles a day at this point!

Creeper drives to his Dad’s place and flashes to a time he listened to The Clash with Will.

Joyce goes to work.  This is where we meet Donald.  Donald is a Huge Dick.  Joyce needs an advance, a phone, and some smokes.  He parts with the needed requests like Joyce is a heroin addict trying to steal from the till.  Before we hate on Donald too much, last night his wife told me to say hi to everyone- Take that Donald!!! 

Evil modine and his henchmen go to Will’s house and find oozey monster stuff in the shed where Will was taken.

We cut to Mike’s house.  Mike is playing hookey and managing to bore to death a girl who has been a putative prisoner for her entire life.  Mike …. Buddy, I get that long-planned D&D scenarios and AV Club membership hasn’t adequately prepared you to talk to girls, but there are some opportunities for growth here.  Face it, if a girl who’s only been around Evil Modine is bored by you, maybe you should reflect a little on your life-choices and hobbies? Just saying.  El ignores Mike’s blabbering and walks like “Lamb” in the film “Witness” to point to Will.  Mike realizes that she has seen Will and might know where he is.  The scene in Witness:

 

Witness– Great Film, see it!  Mike’s mom comes up to check on him.  Mike needs to hide El from his Mom and puts El in a closet, causing a horrific flashback where she was tortured by being put in isolation by Evil Modine whom she called Papa – Evil Modine, you suck.  After this scene, it should be clear to everyone that Stranger Things is as much like E.T. as Hostel is to Rick Steve’s Europe on PBS.

We cut to Hop who is called to the Diner where he finds Burly Diner owner is dead. We also find out that he was Hop’s friend.  Poor Hop.

Creeper arrives at House of Shitbag Dad.  Shitbag Dad is everything you’d expect: he has a floosy strung out girlfriend, a washed out face, blames everyone else for his misfortune, and judges everyone because they aren’t “Real”. Will’s not there either.

We return to Mike’s bedroom.  The guys are all there and arguing over what to do about El. Lucas is ignored … again for trying to speak some reason to his idiot friends.  Lucas is about to tell the grownups everything and opens Mike’s bedroom. Bad idea- El puts on her serious face and uses her Carrie/Akira powers and slams it shut, not once, but twice. El’s nose is bleeding from her Carrie/Akira mojo exertion. Poor Lucas.

Hop interviews a local who was close to the Late Burly Diner Owner.  The Local remembers a kid with a crewcut, giving Hop a glimmer of hope.  Another search party has slight success because the Sheriff is guided by Mr. Clark to a shred of clothing, which they believe is Will’s. The camera pulls to a great shot of the evil government building angled up to give it a look of …. you guessed it- an evil castle. BOOM!

We go the House of Steve.  He chugs a beer and it really arouses Nancy.  But how? There’s not a single toilet outside!!!

Hop is now at home in bed next to a random lady.  He goes out into the cold and reflects on how his life and town have gone to total shit. Poor Hop.

We’re back to Mike’s house where El takes the boys to the tabletop board and turns it over to the black side of the board to convey that this is where Will is.  He is in the black, but he’s not alone.  She takes out the Demagorgon action figure and puts it next to Will.  Poor Will.

Creeper is out in the woods looking around.  He hears a scream.  Creeper investigates and discovers that teenagers are having a pool party.  Creeper does the natural thing and furtively takes secret candids of Steve, Nancy, Barb, and the rest.  We can only hope Creeper kept his pants on the entire time.  I’m certain Creeper’s conduct will get you the Death Penalty in Indiana. In the future, Creeper changes his name to Mike Pence and pursued a career in politics. Barb tries to fit in by shotgunning a beer and cuts herself. Poor Barb; Creeper takes photos of that too.

Back to Joyce’s house.  Joyce gets a call and it burns through the phone again- Donald is going to have a shit! The lights flicker and The Clash comes on – Good Cuckoo Clock moment!!!  Cuckoo clock- if you’re going to mention something unique in a story, it needs to payoff or have meaning later in the narrative that moves the story forward.  The lights begin to flash on and off and she feels the presence of her lost son, but another presence manifests – an evil one- and it nearly pushes through his bedroom wall like a stretching condom.

Back to  Steve’s house.  Everyone except for Barb ends up jumping into a pool to lame 80s generic rock.  Barb gets ditched by Nancy so that she can can have relations with Steve. Creeper takes more pictures, including one of Nancy undressing.  You just know that Creeper will end up being arrested on a Japanese Subway one day.  Creeper takes some more photos of Barb sitting on a diving board.  He’s out of film and must wind the camera with his full attention, thereby, missing a greatest scene of the episode.  Barb’s wound drips blood in the water.  Yes, blood! We see a brief shot of the Monster’s evil face before it takes her into the abyss.

Remember, you read it here first!  The monster hunts at night, for blood, and takes his victims back to his lair like a …… you guessed it – A Vampire!!!

The episode concludes with Barb getting rescued and Nancy getting chlamydia. No such luck.  Poor Barb is gone into the Monster Zone and Nancy is having fun.

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Thanks again, Gentle Reader.  If you liked this review, please like it, retweet it, and tell Lisa Bowman!