Horror on the Lens: Cast a Deadly Spell (dir by Martin Campbell)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have a real treat!

Produced for HBO in 1991, Cast a Deadly Spell takes place in an alternate 1948, where magic is used regularly and zombies are used as slave labor but the streets of Los Angeles are just as mean as they’ve ever been.  Fred Ward gives a fantastic performance as Harry Phillip Lovecraft, a hard-boiled P.I. who refuses to use magic on general principle.  Lovecraft, however, may have no choice when he finds himself embroiled in a case involving a magic book, Julianne Moore, and Clancy Brown!

Enjoy!

(If you want to know more about the film, check out this review that I wrote for Horror Critic.)

Film Review: The Island (dir by Michael Ritchie)


Last night, after I watched Cutthroat Island, I continued to prepare for Talk Like A Pirate Day by watching The Island, a pirate movie from 1980.

Michael Caine has appeared in some truly bizarre films over the course of his long career but The Island may be the strangest.  (According to the imdb, it’s also one of the few films that he refuses to discuss in interviews, which is kind of amazing when you consider some of the films that Caine will discuss.)  In The Island, Caine is plays Blair Maynard, a cynical New York journalist who happens to have a cockney accent.  Looking to do a story about the Bermuda Triangle, Maynard heads down to Florida.  He takes along his 12 year-old son, Justin (Jeffrey Frank), because what father wouldn’t unnecessarily put his only child’s life in danger?  Of course, Justin isn’t happy when he finds out that his father lied about visiting Disney World but all is forgiven after Maynard buys him a gun.  Justin does love to shoot guns, which will become a plot point soon enough.

Anyway, Maynard and Justin soon discover that the reason people are disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle is because they’re being kidnapped by … wait for it … PIRATES!

David Warner and the Pirates

That’s right, real-life pirates!  Apparently, centuries ago, a group of French pirates set up a colony on an uncharted island in the Caribbean.  Now, under the leadership of the savage Nau (played by the very British and not very savage David Warner), these pirates spend their time attacking boats, murdering people, and speaking in an odd combination of English, French, and Portuguese.  However, centuries of in-breeding have weakened the bloodline.  So, while Nau brainwashes Justin and turns him into a little buccaneer, Maynard is given to Beth (Angela Punch McGregor) and told to “thrust thrust.”

Yes, that’s right.  This is a film in which a middle-aged Michael Caine — complete with his trademark glasses and his “what the bloody Hell?” attitude — is turned into a sex slave.  (Again, this is one of the few films that Caine apparently refuses to discuss.)  The scene in which Beth strips the chained Maynard naked and then starts to rub Vaseline on him would be strange regardless of who played the main role but when it’s Michael Caine, it goes beyond the merely strange to becoming almost a work of outsider art.

Anyway, the movie only gets stranger from there as Justin grows to love the pirate life style and, eventually, both he and his father even get to take part in a raid on a schooner.  It’s during this raid that, from out of nowhere, a guy in extremely tight shorts pops up and starts doing all sorts of elaborate kung fu moves.  (He also makes all of the expected kung fu sounds while David Warner has a good laugh.)  It’s also during this raid that the pirates come across several packets of white powder.

“It’s a drug called cocaine,” Maynard says.

“What does it cure?” Beth asks.

“Insecurity,” Maynard answers.

It all leads to not only an impromptu wedding ceremony but also to the sight of Michael Caine screaming his head off while firing a machine gun.  I think we’re supposed to feel that the ordeal has driven Maynard somewhat mad but it’s hard to tell.  Caine has always been open about the fact that, for many years, he basically just accepted any role that was offered to him and The Island would appear to be a perfect example.  Maynard may have been trying to rescue his son but Caine’s main concern was obviously getting his paycheck and moving on to the next role.

Michael Caine in The Island

The Island is one of those movies that’s so odd that it really doesn’t matter whether it’s any good or not.  Between the strange plot and Michael Caine’s almost comically detached performance, this one of those films that, once you start watching, you really can’t look away from it.  In the end, The Island is so weird and misjudged that it becomes brilliant despite itself.

Moldy Horror: FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (Warner Bros/Amicus 1973)


cracked rear viewer

I’ve discussed the Max Roseberg/Milton Subotsky Amicus horror anthologies before on this blog. All are good, if uneven, little entries in the genre, and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is no exception. This was the last of the Amicus tales of terror, a quartet of creepiness based on the work of British horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes. I’ll admit I’m not familiar with Mr. Cheywynd-Hayes’s work, so I couldn’t tell you if the movie’s faithful to it or not. I can tell you FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is about 50/50 in the chills department.

An all-star British cast gives it a game try, though. The segments are linked by horror icon Peter Cushing , looking rather gaunter than usual as the proprietor of Temptations Ltd., an antique shop which serves to set the stories in motion. Unfortunately, the part is a waste of Cushing’s talent; I could see him in any of…

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TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (dir by Diane Keaton)


“Get a life, punk!”

— Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) in Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters”

Well, it had to happen some time.

We have reached the “Slave and Masters” episode of Twin Peaks.  Judging from what I’ve read online, most fans seem feel that this episoode was the worst in the show’s history.  Myself, I don’t know whether it is or isn’t.  I’m writing this introduction before watching the episode.  I guess I’ll know soon enough.

Interestingly enough, this episode was directed by actress Diane Keaton.  When I first saw Keaton’s name listed as director, I assumes that she must have been a fan of the show and that she lobbied for the chance to direct an episode.  However, according to Relections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks by Brad Dukes, the opposite was true.  While the cast all liked and respected Keaton as a director, there was also a feeling that she didn’t seem to actually know much about the show.  Considering that the show had suffered a severe ratings decline during the 2nd season, it seems probable that Keaton was hired to direct in an attempt to generate some new interest in the once hot show.

If that was the plan, it didn’t work.  Apparently, the ratings for this episode were so low that Twin Peaks was put on hiatus a week after it aired.  It was only due to a letter-writing campaign that ABC decided to air the last six episodes of the season.  In short, it can be argued that this episode was truly the beginning of the end for Twin Peaks‘s original network run.

So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at the 23rd episode of Twin Peaks, “Slaves and Masters.”

As always, we begin with the haunting opening credits and Angelo Badalamenti’s lushly romantic (yet ominously threatening) score.  The mood has been set.  We have returned to the world of Twin Peaks.

After the credits, we immediately cut to a close-up of a chess board.  In slow motion, the camera glides over all of the pieces.  The Queen, The pawns, the King, the Bishop, the little horsey guy.  (I don’t know much about chess, sorry.)

Suddenly, we’re no longer looking at chess pieces.  Instead, the camera is panning up the legs of Evelyn Marsh (Annette McCarthy), who is dressed in black and even wearing a black veil and — OH MY GOD, HAS THIS STORYLINE NOT BEEN RESOLVED YET!?  Seriously, when people talk about Season 2 not being as inspired as Season 1, they’re talking about this half-assed film noir rip-off that James (James Marshall) rode into after he hopped on his motorcycle and left Twin Peaks.  From the minute that Evelyn first showed up, I knew exactly what was going to happen with her, James, and her husband.  Much like the whole Audrey kidnapping subplot, the Evelyn Marsh subplot should not have lasted any longer than an episode and a half.  Instead, it’s still going on!

Anyway, the cops are talking to Evelyn and Malcolm (Nicholas Love) about how someone might have killed her husband.  Malcolm is quick to blame James but Evelyn seems a little bit more conflicted about it.  There is a funny moment when Malcolm says that James was hired to fix the Jaguar and the cop can’t figure out how to spell Jaguar.  That made me laugh but, otherwise, this whole scene felt predictable and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, at Wallie’s Bar, a dozen cops are sitting at the bar, smoking cigars and listening to opera music.  (Weird image is weird but it’s just weirdness for the sake of weirdness.)  James and Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) are in a corner of the bar.  Donna says that they need to get help but James is all like, “I don’t need nobody!”  He says that Malcolm framed him and that he just needs to talk to Evelyn.

Donna goes to call Ed but ends up having to talk to Nadine instead.  Though we only hear Donna’s side of the conversation, it sounds like Nadine is talking about her new boyfriend.  If her new boyfriend is Mike (Gary Hershberger) than that means that Nadine is now dating Donna’s ex and yet, Donna seems to be remarkably okay with that.

Back at the Sheriff’s station, Harry (Michael Ontkean) and Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) are interrogating Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Shelly (Madchen Amick).  Bobby wants to know why Harry and Cooper aren’t making more of an effort to track down Leo.  Cooper asks Bobby about the night that the mill burned down.  Bobby lies and says that Hank Jennings shot Leo.

Harry says that he’ll have some deputies watch the house.  Bobby claims that he’s all the protection that Shelly needs.  (For some reason, Bobby is acting like a methhead in this scene.)  When Bobby and Shelly leave, they pass Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), who takes one look at Bobby and shouts, “Get a life, punk!”

(We love you, Albert!)

After giving Harry an out-of-character bear hug (but that’s okay because I like it when dudes hug it out), Albert explains that he’s been sent to Twin Peaks by Gordon Cole.  He has brought with him a picture of Windom Earle, in which Windom looks like an extra in a 1930s gangster movie.  He also brings the news that Windom has been mailing different pieces of clothing to police agencies across the country.

Windom has mailed:

1. A white veil

2. A garter

3. A pair of white slippers

4. A peal necklace

5. A wedding dress

Oh my God, I said as Albert listed the items, Windom Earle is marrying Pippa Middleton!

Cooper says that the clothing belonged to Windom’s dead wife (and Cooper’s ex-lover), Caroline.  Albert says that Windom is definitely making his move and then says that Cooper looks good in the muted earth tones of a flannel shirt.  That was nice of Albert.

Meanwhile, in his cabin, Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) plays a flute while Leo (Eric Da Re) lies on the floor.  (I have to be honest that these cabin scenes between Windom and Leo made me think about Peter Boyle burning down Gene Hackman’s hut in Young Frankenstein.)  Once Leo wakes up, Windom — who was previously described as having a mind like a diamond, cold and precise — starts acting like a Satanic little wood sprite.  He jumps around the cabin.  He says a lot of evil quips.  He beats Leo with a flute and then reveals that he’s placed a collar around Leo’s neck.  Windom can electrocute Leo whenever he feels like it.  Windom forces Leo to eat gruel while Windom pretends to be a kitty cat.  “Purrrr,” he says.

(Windom’s a genius so why is he acting like a sadistic towel manager?)

We cut to Ed (Everett McGill) laying in bed with Norma (Peggy Lipton) and talking about how it’s been twenty years since they first fell in love.  They agree that it’s sucked not being together.  Suddenly, they hear Nadine (Wendy Robie) arriving home.  Norma starts to leave but Ed says, “No, no.  We may as well talk to her now.”  Sure, Ed — have this conversation with Nadine while you and Norma are laying in bed in your underwear.  That’ll really avoid any hurt feelings.

Suddenly, Nadine rips the bedroom door off of its hinges.  She comes into the room, carrying a wrestling trophy, and then jumps into bed with Ed and Norma.  Nadine apologizes for beating up Hank and then says that she knows about the two of them.  Nadine says it’s okay because she’s in love with Mike now.

Cut to the Martell house, where Harry and Cooper are talking to Josie (Joan Chen) about what happened to her in Seattle.  Josie says she doesn’t know who killed Jonathan.  Harry begs Josie to tell him the truth.  Out of nowhere, a surprisingly cheerful Cooper announces, “I think I’ll get another cup of Joe!”

(Somewhere, Joe Biden looks up and says, “Oh my God, they’re talking about me in an old episode of Twin Peaks!”  No, Joe, they’re not.  Sorry.  Maybe later.)

While Cooper’s getting more coffee, Pete (Jack Nance) stumbles in.  He has picked up the dry cleaning and can barely see above all of the clothes that he’s holding.  He and Cooper do that thing where, instead of being smart and putting the clothes somewhere first, they stand around and attempt to have a conversation, despite the fact that Pete is about fall over backwards.  When the phone rings, Pete gives the clothes to Cooper and now its Cooper’s turn to struggle to remain standing.  Eventually, Cooper puts the clothes on a chair (was that so hard!?) and then picks one thread off of a jacket.

Speaking of Josie, the phone call was for her.  It turns out that the call is from Thomas Eckhardt (David Warner) and he is wondering if he and Josie could get together.  Thomas reveals that he is responsible for Jonathan’s death.

After hanging up the phone, Thomas and his assistant, Jones (Brenda Strong), stare at a black trunk.

Meanwhile, Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) is apparently still convinced that he’s a Civil War general because he’s talking to Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) about Stonewall Jackson.  Much like all that stuff with Evelyn Marsh, this is a plotline that should have been resolved after an episode and a half.  Instead, it’s been dragged out way past the point of being amusing.  The Ben-Goes-Crazy storyline is the epitome of how Season 2 abandoned surrealism in favor of just being weird for the sake of being weird.

It turns out that Ben and Jacoby have an audience.  Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) are listening.  Johnny Horne (Robert Bauer) is rocking back and forth while wearing a Native American headdress.  And there’s a few members of the Hotel Staff, who have been transformed into some sort of marching band.

While Ben rants in his really crummy Southern accent, Jerry and Audrey leave the office.  Audrey is worried about her father but Jerry seems to be fairly indifferent.  (Needless to say, this goes against everything that we’ve previously seen about Jerry and his relationship with Ben.)  Audrey points out that, conveniently enough, she is set to inherit the entire Horne business empire if anything happens to Ben and that Jerry better do what she says or she’ll cut him off.

Audrey returns to Ben’s office, where Dr. Jacoby looks perplexed.  Audrey walks up to him and says she wants her father to turn back to normal. Jacoby says that he’s got it all taken care of.  Bobby shows up, dressed like a Confederate soldier.  Ben sings Dixie.  Can this storyline just end, please!?

Meanwhile, at Walli’s, Evelyn is still dressed in black.  Though the bar appears to be closed (there are chairs on the tables and everything), Evelyn is drinking.  Suddenly, Donna walks up to her.  Why is Donna still there?  How much school can you miss in Twin Peaks?  Why are Evelyn and Donna both hanging out in a bar that appears to be closed?

Suddenly, the bartender wanders by, lingering just long enough for Evelyn to order Donna a drink, “one that has a little umbrella in it.”  Okay, is this bar closed or open?  If it’s open, why are the tables covered in chairs?  This stuff is confusing, especially for a non-drinker like me.

Anyway, Donna gets mad when Evelyn says that she won’t help James.  Evelyn explains that life is crap.  (Her words.)  Suddenly, Malcolm (Nicholas Love) shows up and tells Evelyn to go home.  He then threatens Donna and Donna reacts by yelling and then crying.

Back at the station, Albert reveals that the thread that Cooper found was from the carpet outside of Cooper’s hotel room.  Apparently, this proves that it was Josie who shot Cooper at the end of Season 1.  Bad Josie!

After swearing Albert to secrecy, Cooper heads to Harry’s office, where Harry is playing darts.  Harry tells Cooper that the dead vagrant has been identified as being Eric Powell, a former member of the Merchant Marines.

“Powell was Caroline’s maiden name!” Cooper says.

Cooper says that this is all a big chess game to Windom.  Harry says that, if Cooper needs a chess expert, they have one of the best right in town.  And his name is Pete Martell!

At the diner, Pete shows of his mad chess skills by playing and winning four games at once.  Cooper is impressed and invites Pete to help him play Windom’s chess game.  Pete better be good because, every time that Cooper loses a piece, Windom is going to kill an innocent person.

Shelly walks into the diner and asks Norma if she needs any help.  Norma hires her back.  Then Harry shows up and says that he needs to talk to Norma.  They slip into the kitchen where Harry explains that Hank is going away for a long time.  Norma’s okay with that but I’m not.  Hank may be a sociopath but he’s hella charming.

That night, Thomas shows up at the Martell house, where he is greeted by Catherine (Piper Laurie).  Thomas appears to be slightly surprised by the sight of Josie in her maid’s uniform.  Thomas and Catherine drink wine, eat dinner, and discuss art and killing.  It quickly becomes apparent that Thomas has shown up to take Josie and that Catherine is more than willing to allow him to do that, for a price.

Meanwhile, at the Marsh house, Evelyn is stunned when James shows up in the living room and demands to know why Evelyn killed her husband and attempted to frame him.  James says that it was hella lame to manipulate him with everything that he’s been going through.  Evelyn confesses to everything.  She says that she set James up.  She says she did it for the money and also just because she felt like doing it.

Suddenly, Malcolm barges into the room and knocks James out.  Malcolm says that they can now kill James and claim that it was self-defense.   And you know what?  He has a point.  Bye, James.

Meanwhile, Ben and the gang recreate another Civil War battle.  This whole Civil War subplot is so freaking stupid that I don’t even feel like talking about it anymore.  While pretending to be General U.S. Grant, Dr. Jacoby announces that he’s surrendering.  Having won the Civil War, Ben proceeds to faint.  When he wakes up, Ben says that he had the strangest dream about being a general during the Civil War.  He even does the whole “And you were there …. and you … and you!” thing.  Anyway, Ben appears to be back to normal.

At the cabin, Windom is putting on a disguise.  He continues to torment Leo with the electroshock collar.

At the Marsh mansion, James is still unconscious on the floor while Malcolm and Evelyn look down on him.  Donna watches from outside the window.  When Malcolm repeats that they can kill James and make it look like self-defense, Donna runs into the living room and screams, “NO!”

As Evelyn watches Donna cry over a motionless James, she stands up.  Uh-oh, she’s got a gun.  Evelyn shoots Malcolm and then says that she’ll frame Malcolm for her husband’s death though I don’t think it’ll be that difficult a frame-up because Malcolm is actually guilty.

At the Great Northern, Cooper walks down a hallway and stops in front of an elevator.  He looks at a picture of Caroline that he has in his wallet.  As he does this, a poorly disguised Windom Earle steps off the elevator.  Windom goes to the front desk an drops off a note for Audrey.  (Oh, goddamnit, is this going to be the start of yet another Audrey-gets-kidnapped storyline?)  He also notices several postcards that all feature owls.  “Owls,” he says.

Cooper arrives back at his room.  He finds a white mask on his bed.  Windom Earle has been there and he’s left a taunting message.  The episode ends with Windom’s line: “It’s your move.”

Agck!

As for this episode, it definitely felt a bit off.  The main problem is that it focused on two largely uninteresting subplots — Evelyn Marsh and the Civil War — and portrayed Windom Earle as so cartoonishly evil that it’s hard to believe that he could also be the villainous mastermind that Cooper’s spent the last few episodes describing.  It was a weak episode but at least it finished off the whole Evelyn Marsh thing.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland

 

 

 

TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel)


Welcome back to Twin Peaks!

Last episode, Major Briggs (Don S. Davis) returned from the land of missing and brought with him a tale of the White Lodge.  Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) obsessed over the Civil War.  James Hurley (James Marshall) found himself trapped in a second-rate film noir.  Jean Reanult (Michael Parks) was finally killed but, when Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Harry (Michael Ontkean) returned to the sheriff’s station, they discovered that someone had left them a present: a dead man sitting in front of a chess board.

Things start with the station still in darkness.  Doctor Hayward (Warren Frost), Harry, and Cooper are looking over the dead man’s body.  The first thing that they discover is that a chess pawn has been stuffed in his mouth.  When Cooper correctly guesses that the dead man will have a stab wound in his chest, severing the aorta, Harry deduces that this is not the first time that Cooper has seen something like this.

Cooper says that he knows that his former partner, Windom Earle, is responsible.  He guesses that the victim was a vagrant who was offered a lift by Earle.  (In reality, the victim was played by Craig MacLachlan, brother of Kyle.)  Earle stabbed the man and then set off the explosion in the woods.  When everyone was distracted, Earle carried the body into the station.  “Windom Earle has been in this room,” Cooper says, “I can still feel his presence.”

At the Great Northern, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) makes a deal with Bobby (Dana Ashrbook).  She wants Bobby to help her bring her father back from “limbo land.”  “From now on, Bobby,” Audrey says, “I’m the one you suck up to.”

“What about Shelly?” Bobby asks.

“What about Shelly?” Audrey replies.

Speaking of Shelly, she is in trouble because Leo (Eric Da Re) has suddenly woken up and now she’s trapped in a dark house, with no power and a very angry husband.  Fortunately, Bobby arrives home right when Leo is about to attack Shelly with an axe.  When Leo attacks Bobby instead, Shelly stabs Leo in the leg with a kitchen knife.  Like an unmasked Jason Voorhees, the wounded Leo staggers off into the woods while Bobby and Shelly embrace.

The next morning, back at the station, Cooper watches as the body is wheeled away.  Harry gives Cooper a cup of coffee and tells Cooper that, until he is reinstated in the FBI, he is still a deputy.  “If you want this case,” Harry says, “it’s yours.”

Out in the front lobby, Andy (Harry Goaz) tells Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) that he has to talk to her about Nicky.  Andy explains that he and Dick have been doing some detective work and they think that Nicky may have murdered his parents.

“He’s nine years old,” Lucy says.

“We know,” Andy nods, “we think he was six at the time of the crime.”

Lucy is not amused.

At the Marsh place, James is working on another one of classic cars when Jeffrey Marsh (John Apicella) walks up and introduces himself.  He says that he’s envious of James’s carefree lifestyle.  He says that he’d love to talk to James about the cars later in the day but James says that he should probably be moving on.  Evelyn (Annette McCarthy) walks up and says that she is sure that she can find all sorts of things for James to do around the house.  James walks back inside the garage and Jeffrey drives away in the car that James just finished working on.  As Evelyn looks off in the distance, there is the sound of screeching tires and a car crash.

At the diner, Ed (Everett McGill) is having a cup of coffee of Doctor Hayward.  Ed is worried because Nadine wants to start dating boys and, since she’s She-Hulk now, Ed worries that Nadine could kill them with her sex drive.  Doctor Hayward suggests that Ed tell her to be home by 9:00 on school nights.  I could be wrong but I don’t think Doctor Hayward is taking Nadine’s condition very seriously.

Doctor Hayward is actually more concerned about Donna, who took the van that morning to go see James.  Ed explains that Donna is taking James some money, presumably all twelve of the dollars that were in James’s bank account.

After the doctor leaves, Norma (Peggy Lipton) sits down across from Ed.  She says that Hank is in the hospital.  He says that a tree fell on him but Ed tells her that Nadine actually beat him up.  Norma is happy because, once Hank gets out of the hospital, he will be going back to prison for violating his parole.

At the sheriff’s station, Cooper and Harry are staring at the chess board that Windom Earle placed in front of the dead man.  Cooper explains that he and Earle played a game of chess every day for three years.  Earle thought that all the answers to life’s mysteries could be found in the game of chess.

Cooper explains that Windom Earle was his first partner.  Everything that he learned about the law and the bureau he learned from Windom Earle.  Cooper tells the story (the same one that he told Audrey earlier) of how, four years ago, he fell in love with a woman named Caroline who was a material witness to a federal crime and how, when she was attacked, Cooper was not prepared and could not save her life.  Cooper adds the detail that she was stabbed, in the same way as the vagrant.  Cooper also reveals that Caroline was Windom Earle’s wife.

Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) arrives at a bar called Wallies, looking for James.  James is not there but Evelyn is.  “You look like someone who needs help,” Evelyn says.  When Donna says she’s looking for James, Evelyn says that James did some work for her and then left for Mexico.  Donna leaves, presumably taking James’s twelve dollars with her.

At the Great Northern, Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), Audrey, and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) watch as Ben continues to play with his little army men.  Ben thinks that Jerry is General J.E.B. Stuart.  Ben assures everyone that they are marching forward and only God can stop them.  “The almighty is a Southerner,” Ben declares.  Dr. Jacoby explains that if Ben can reverse the defeat of the Confederacy then he will also reverse his own recent mental defeats.  Jacoby and Ben start to sing Dixie.

At the sheriff’s station, Major Briggs stumbles in, says that he needs to see Harry, and then collapses.

When he comes to, Major Briggs explains to Harry and Cooper that, when his superiors questioned him about his disappearance, they exhibited a degree of “intolerance and suspicion” that apparently left Briggs feeling traumatized.  Briggs goes on to explain that, during his disappearance, he believes that he was taken to the White Lodge.  Briggs goes on to say that there will be much trouble ahead.  “I will return,” Briggs says, “but until that time, I will be in the shadows if you need me.”

As Briggs leaves, Andy enters the office and tells Cooper and Harry that he needs to show them something.  He leads them to the conference room, where Dr. Jacoby announces that he has spent the last few hours talking to Lana Milford (Robyn Lively) and he has found no evidence of her being crazy or cursed.  There is no way that Lana is responsible for Dougie’s death, Jacoby says.  Jacoby goes on to say that Lana has a heightened sexual drive and skills that few men could ever hope to experience.  Jacoby announces that he and Lana are going to go bowling but, as soon as they step out of the office, they run into Mayor Milford (John Boylan), who was a rifle and who demands that nobody move.

The Mayor wants blood but Cooper has a solution.  He takes the rifle and then locks Milford and Lana in the conference room together.  After a few minutes, Lana and the Mayor are in love and talking about adopting a child.

At the Martell house, Pete (Jack Nance) tells Catherine (Piper Laurie) that they forgot to pick up the hot dogs.  Catherine is more interested in telling Pete the true story of how she survived the fire and marshaled the resources to defeat Ben.  She reveals that her brother (and Josie’s husband), Andrew Packard (Dan O’Herlihy), is not actually dead and he’s sitting in the study.  Andrew explains that he and Catherine faked his death in a boating accident because a contract had been taken out on Andrew’s life by Andrew’s former business partner, Thomas Eckhardt.  Catherine also reveals that Josie works for Thomas Eckhardt and that Eckhardt will be returning to Twin Peaks to rescue her from having to work as Catherine’s maid.

At the exact same time, Thomas Eckhardt (DAVID WARNER!) and his assistant, Jones (Brenda Strong), are checking into the Great Northern.

At the sheriff’s station, Lucy is sick of both Andy and Dick (Ian Buchanan) so she brings Doctor Hayward in to talk to both of them.  Doctor Hayward explains that he called the orphanage and that Nicky is no murderer.  Nicky’s mother was a chamber maid at the Great Northern and his father was a man who fled back to Canada following the back alley assault that led to Nicky’s conception.  Hayward explains that Nicky’s mom died in childbirth.  Nicky was adopted by a loving couple who died in an icy car crash.  Six year-old Nicky heroically attempted to pull his adoptive parents to safety but failed.  Andy and Dick both start to cry.

Harry gets an alert from Seattle, telling him that the man who Josie left with, the one who Josie claims that she merely escaped from, has been found murdered.  Since Cooper is now a deputy, Harry orders Cooper to find out if Josie killed him.  For once, Harry gets to order Cooper around.

At the Marsh house, James is packing his stuff when Evelyn comes in and swears the she is in love with him.  Evelyn says that there’s been an accident and Jeffrey’s dead.  James immediately figures out that Evelyn killed her husband and set him up to take the fall.  Evelyn says that it was Malcolm’s idea and that Malcom isn’t really her brother.  As the police arrive outside, Evelyn tells James to run and go find “that young girl who loves you.”

As James tries to sneak out of the house without being spotted by the cops, he runs into Donna, who is hiding behind a tree.  They run off while Evelyn talks to the police.

In the woods, a dazed and confused Leo comes across a cabin.  Inside the cabin, a man (Kenneth Welsh) plays a flute and invites Leo to enter.  The man sits down in front of a chess board and introduces himself as Windom Earle.

End credits.

This episode shares the same flaws as a lot of season 2.  There are a lot of good scenes, like Leo menacing Shelly and Bobby or the introduction of Windom Earle, but there are also scenes that are just too cartoonish, like anything involving the Mayor and Lana.  This episode was the first and only episode to be directed by German director Uli Edel and he does a pretty good job, putting his own unique spin on the show’s signature style.

Tomorrow: “Slaves and Masters,” in which Cooper gets unexpected help in his chess game against Windom Earle.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland

Cleaning Out The DVR #20: Tom Jones (dir by Tony Richardson)


(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)

220px-Poster_-_Tom_Jones_01

Oh, how I wanted to love Tom Jones!

No!  Not that Tom Jones.

I’m talking about Tom Jones, the British film from 1963.  Based on a novel by Henry Fielding, Tom Jones was a huge box office success and it was one of the few comedies to ever win the Oscar for best picture.  Whenever you watch a documentary about the British invasion of the early 60s, chances are that you’ll see at least a clip or two from Tom Jones.  The film (or perhaps I should say the film’s box office success) is a part of 60s pop history, right up there with The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and Sean Connery shooting that guy in cold blood in Dr. No.

Up until last night, I had heard about Tom Jones but I had never seen it.

And I really wanted to love it.

The film takes place in 18th century England and it tells the story of young Tom Jones (Albert Finney).  It starts with a lengthy sequence that plays out like a silent film, complete with title cards.  Upright Squire Allworthy (George Devine) comes home and discovers that a baby has been left in his bed.  He assumes that the child was born to two of his servants and declares that he will raise Tom Jones to be a good and worthy man.

Two decades later, Tom Jones has grown up and now he’s being played by Albert Finney (who, it must be said, was quite a handsome man when he was young).  Because Tom is good-looking and kind-hearted, every woman in England lusts after him.  But Tom is in love with innocent Sophie Western (Susannah York).  However, Sophie is a member of the upper class and Tom is a “bastard,” at a time when that actually means something.

Indeed, Sophie’s aunt and uncle (played by Edith Evans and Hugh Griffith) demand that Sophie have nothing to do with Tom Jones.  They decide that she will marry Blifil (David Warner, young but already typecast as a villain).  Through clever lies and manipulations, Blifil convinces Squire Allworthy that Tom has turned bad and must therefore be exiled from his home.  Does Blifil want to get rid of Tom just so he can marry Sophie or is it possible that there’s more to Blifil’s scheming?

Before we get the answer to that question, we spend a while following the exiled Tom as he wanders around England and attempts to prove himself worthy of Sophie.  Along the way, Tom serves briefly in the army, gets into numerous fights, and has several affairs.  One of those affairs is with Mrs. Walters (Joyce Redman), who he briefly thinks might be his mother.  Eventually, Tom ends up as the lover to the decadent Lady Bellaston (Joan Greenwood).  Through Blifil’s scheming, he also ends up framed for attempted murder and facing the gallows…

And, as melodramatic as that may all sound, Tom Jones is definitely a comedy.  It doesn’t take itself seriously and there’s hardly a single scene that isn’t played for laughs.  Director Tony Richardson goes out of his way to make sure that you never forget that you’re watching a movie.  There are freeze frames.  There’s plenty of characters around to supply sarcastic commentary.  There’s even a few cases of fourth wall breaking.

As I watched Tom Jones, it was hard for me not to compare it to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.  After all, both films take place during the same period of time and both deal with a young man making his way through European society.  I would even argue that, in its way, Barry Lyndon is far more satirical than Tom Jones.  The main difference between the two films is that Barry Lyndon is all about subtext whereas everything that happens in Tom Jones happens right on the surface.

As I said, I really wanted to like Tom Jones but, seen today, the entire film seems to be trying a little bit too hard.  Tony Richardson’s direction is so manic that it gets a bit exhausting after a while.  That said, I can understand why the film was such a success when it was first released.  I’m sure in 1963 — after having to deal with decades of pompous costume dramas — viewers probably found Tom Jones to be a breath of fresh air.  Not only was it a British film released at a time when all things British were in style but it was also a film that, by the standards of 1963, dealt frankly with sex.  In short, Tom Jones is definitely a film of its time.  If it doesn’t hold up as well today, that’s because it wasn’t made for 2016.  It was made for 1963.

And obviously, if the judgment of the Academy is to be trusted, Tom Jones was the perfect film for 1963.  That said, I would have given best picture to another British film, From Russia With Love.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #62: Time After Time (dir by Nicholas Meyer)


TimeAfterTime79So, I just gave the 1979 film Home Before Midnight a fairly negative review but I simply cannot end the 70s section of Embracing the Melodrama on such a negative note!  So, before we move on to the 80s, allow me to suggest another film from 1979 that you could watch while you’re not watching Home Before Midnight!

Time After Time opens in London.  The year is 1893.  Writer H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) is having a dinner party so that he can show off his latest invention, a time machine.  Among his guests is a surgeon named John Stevenson (David Warner).  What nobody at the party suspects is that Stevenson also goes by the name Jack the Ripper and that he enjoys killing prostitutes.  When a detective from Scotland Yard shows up at Wells’s home, Stevenson jumps into the time machine and escapes into the future.  Since Stevenson does not have the “non-return key,” the machine returns back to 1893 but Stevenson has apparently escaped.

Wells uses the machine to pursue Stevenson and soon finds himself in 1979 San Francisco.  Wells had expected to find that the future would be a utopia but instead, he discovers the world of 1979 is loud, polluted, violent, angry, and dangerous.  (Kinda like the world of 2015…)  As Wells pursues Stevenson, he struggles to adjust to the world of the “future,” and he also meets a bank clerk, Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen).

Time After Time is probably the sweetest movie ever made about Jack the Ripper and that’s largely because of the romance between both Wells and Amy and the two actors who played them.  After watching Time After Time, I was not surprised to learn that McDowell and Steenburgen got married shortly after appearing in this film.  They were so incredibly sweet together!

Add to that, considering the he’s best known for playing villains and other menacing types, it’s interesting to see Malcolm McDowell plays such a gentle and nice character.  Wells’ befuddlement is charming to watch.  There’s a great scene where Amy calls Wells on a landline phone and Wells stares down at the receiver in frightened amazement.

Time After Time is a really good and likable movie.  It’s sweet and it proves that even hunting for Jack the Ripper can be a romantic experience if it’s done with the right person.  Watch it and enjoy!

Horror Film Review: The Omen (dir by Richard Donner)


The Omen

A few days ago, Arleigh shared the theme song from 1976’s The Omen as Monday’s horror song of the day.  As I sat there and listened to Jerry Goldsmith’s award-winning hymn to Satan, it occurred to me that I happen to have all five of the Omen films sitting in my movie collection.  Seeing as how this is Halloween and how the world seems to be getting closer to ending with each passing day, I decided that this would be the perfect time to rewatch the entire franchise and consider whether or not The Omen films are truly as scary as a lot of people seem to think.

So, that’s what I did.

How did things turn out?

Well, in the long history of sequels and remakes, The Omen franchise is one of the more uneven collections.  This is one of those franchises where things tend to get less impressive with each subsequent entry.  However, 38 years after its initial release, the first Omen remains effective and, in its way, genuinely scary.

If you’re a horror fan, you probably know the general plot of The Omen regardless of whether you’ve actually watched it or not.  It’s one of those films that has been so frequently imitated that it’s almost possible to watch it by osmosis.

The film opens in Rome with diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) being rushed to the hospital where his wife, Kathy (Lee Remick), has just given birth.  A priest (Martin Benson) tells him that his son died shortly after being born but that he can always just go home with an orphaned newborn that he just happens to have handy.  Robert agrees and decides not to tell his wife the truth about the child.  Robert and Kathy raise the boy and they name him Damien.  Four years later, the politically ambitious Robert is named as Ambassador to the Court of St. James.

The Thorns move to London and soon, odd things start to happen.  Damien (now played by Harvey Spencer Stephens) is a quiet boy with a piercing stare who throws a fit whenever he’s taken inside of a church.  When Kathy takes Damien to the zoo, they’re attacked by angry baboons.  A large Rottweiler mysteriously appears on the grounds of the Ambassador’s estate.  A mysterious and sinister nanny (Billie Whitelaw) shows up and explains that she’s been sent by an “agency.”  A crazed priest (Patrick Troughton) starts to stalk the Ambassador, demanding a chance to speak with him and insisting that Damien’s mother was actually a jackal.

Even more mysteriously, people start dying in the strangest of ways.  A young woman (Holly Palance) smiles as she shouts, “Damien, it’s all for you!” and then hangs herself, thoroughly ruining Damien’s fifth birthday party.  A freak lightning storm leads to a man being impaled by a weather vane.  Another person who suspects that there might be something wrong with Damien ends up losing his head in a graphic sequence that — even in this age of Hostel and Saw — is difficult to watch.

The Ambassador is contact by Keith Jennings (David Warner), a nervous photographer who fears that Damien may be planning on killing him.  Soon, Thorn and Jennings are flying to Italy and to the Middle East and discovering evidence that five year-old Damien might very well be the Antichrist.  Speaking of Damien, he and that nanny have been left alone with poor, victimized Kathy.

(“Oh, leave her alone,” I muttered as Damien attempted to kill Kathy for the hundredth time…)

As I watched The Omen, I tried to figure out why this film has held up so well.  It certainly wasn’t due to the performance of Gregory Peck who, quite frankly, seemed to mostly be going through the motions.  David Warner, on the other hand, gave such a good performance that it was almost difficult to watch.  (Don’t get attached to any character who appears in an Omen film.)   Some of the film’s effectiveness was undoubtedly due to Jerry Goldsmith’s intense score.  Anything’s scary when you’ve got a hundred voice shouting “Ave Satani” at you.

But, ultimately, I think the reason why The Omen still works is because the film generates such a palpable sense of doom.  This is one of those films that leaves you convinced that anyone can die at any minute and, considering that happens to be true in both this movie and in real life, that makes the horror of The Omen feel very real.  By the time the film ends, you’re left with little doubt that nobody in the film had the least bit of power or control over his or her own destiny.  Instead, they were all just pawns in a game that they had no hope of ever winning or understanding.  Is there anything scarier than feeling powerless?

All I know is that, having rewatched The Omen, I will never look at a plane of glass the same way again.

 

 

Quick Review: Time Bandits (dir. by Terry Gilliam)


My parents used to have some strange movies growing up. Time Bandits is one of those films that I kind of stumbled on, but grew to be one of my favorite British films. It was my gateway drug to all things Monty Python.

Produced by former Beatle George Harrison and his company, Hand Made Films and running off the success of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Time Bandits runs off of a simple premise. The Supreme Being once had a map of all the points in time on Earth. A group of his servants steal this map in order to travel through time and use it to plunder various historical figures of their loot. Granted, it’s a strange story, but if you’ve watched anything Gilliam’s done, this film actually works (or did for me when I saw it).

Our story opens with a boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock), who dreams of a more interesting life than the one he shares with his parents while watching tv. One night, a set of little people dressed in steampunk attire climb out of his closet and threaten him bodily harm unless he tells them how to escape his dimension. They manage to locate an exit, only to be pursued by The Supreme Being, who warns them to return the map they’ve stolen from him. If I remember nothing else from this film, that one scene will always stay with me.

The crew, led by Randall (David Rappaport) arrive during Napoleon’s time (played quite convincingly by Ian Holm) and manage to become generals in his army after impressing him with a rendition of “Me and My Shadow”. This, coupled with their size helped out, I’m sure. As thanks for being part of his army, they get Napoleon drunk until he passes out and collect most of his loot before finding another time portal and leaping into Robin Hood’s time. Unfortunately for the Time Bandits, Robin Hood (John Cleese) assumes they’ve arrived to give their ill begotten goods to the poor and promptly gives it all away to them.

In the midst of figuring out their next step, the Bandits run into The Supreme Being again and distract him, giving Kevin a chance to escape on his own. However, when two portals open before him, he chooses the wrong one and ends up in Ancient Greece with King Agememnon (Sean Connery), who adopts Kevin as a Prince. Before he can fully enjoy it, however, the Bandits show up and “free” from the time period he doesn’t belong in.

There’s more to the tale, but let’s just say that the Evil Genius (one of David Warner’s best roles in my opinion – he had a knack for playing bad guys) gets wind of the Map and hatches his own plan to acquire it and use it for nefarious deeds.

The beauty of Time Bandits is the world it creates. Though grounded in real time periods, the fantasy elements are pretty interesting, much like Brazil was. Giants who wear ships on their heads, Ogres and creates with cow skulls for heads make up some of the strange visions Terry Gilliam brings to this story. Overall, it’s a fun and unique tale that’s good for at least a late night viewing, and one that I return to from time to time.

Quickie Review: Black Death (dir. by Christopher Smith)


British filmmaker Christopher Smith has been flying under the radar of most of the film-going public. He’s already a filmmaker with five films to his credit of varying quality, but each showing his growth as a director with each successive release. In 2010, Christopher Smith released his sixth film in the UK with some film festival showings in the US soon thereafter. Black Death continues Smith’s work in the horror genre with this latest film a historical horror piece which tries to take a look at the subject matter of the Black Death of medieval Europe in a realistic, gritty light.

The film is set during in 1348 plague-ravaged England where a Osmund, a young monk, has a crisis of faith as he agonizes over his celibate vows to God and his love for Avrill, a young woman in town who also has feelings for Osmund. Avrill gives Osmund a week to find the answer to his dilemma and will wait for him at the marshes in that alloted time. Osmund finds his answer as templar knight Ulric (played by Sean Bean) and a group of his soldiers arrive at the monastery on a mission to find a village said to be untouched by the plague and one which might be providing a safe haven for a necromancer who has brought the dead back to life. Osmund seizes on this chance to leave the monastery and lead Ulric and his men through the marshes and to this village.

During their travel the group loses a couple men to bandit attacks and to the plague itself. They also come across a band of villagers about to burn a young woman for witchcraft. At first, Ulric seems to take pity and show compassion to this young woman, but instead kills her himself for the crime she is accused of. Ulric reminds Osmund and his men that they have no time for such distractions as they a much more important task ahead of them. A task which soon brings them to the very village which seem to be free from the plague many attribute to God punishing the sinners and other’s as the Devil tormenting the faithful.

It’s this ambiguous theme of how the Black Death was seen by villagers, soldiers and faithful which becomes an overriding theme in the film. Smith, using Dario Poloni’s screenplay, goes about exploring how those in power on both sides of the question — of whether God or the Devil was responsible for the plague — hold such a major influence on the minds of the uneducated populace. Ulric, Osmund and the group do find their necromancer, but it’s not all what they’ve expected and, for Osmund, this mission becomes a tragic one which tests his faith in God, his church and all that he’d been taught (indoctrinated some would call it) to believe. Osmund becomes the spiritual battleground from which Ulric and the necromancer fight over his eternal soul and the effect this has on the young monk turns out a surprising fashion which brings to mind Michael Reeves own historical piece and one of the greatest horror films of all-time in Witchfinder General.

Christopher Smith’s direction continues to improve and shows in Black Death as he’s able to make not just the subject of this horrific era in Europe’s medieval past, but at the same time use a deft hand to explore themes of faith, spirituality, role of religion as control and how fundamentalism doesn’t just affect those with religious conviction but also those who follow the secular path. It helps that Smith had a capable ensemble cast led by Sean Bean’s usual strong performance. Eddie Redmayne as Osmund seemed to be a one-note cipher through the first-half of the film, but once he arrives in the village his character begins to open up in complex ways that we’re never sure if he’ll fall on the side of the angels or the demons even right up to the end and even then it’s left ambiguous.

Black Death marks the latest in Christopher Smith’s tour of the horror genre and it’s many varying subjects to hone his growing craft as a filmmaker. The film ended up being entertaining despite having such an oppressive atmosphere and tone to not just the story, but to the very setting. There’s enough blood and gore spilled (using practical effects and not a sign of CGI to be seen) during scenes of fighting and torture to satisfy gorehounds who might come across the film. It also should work the mind of those also looking not just for the grue but also something to stimulate the mind. It’ll be interesting to see what Christopher Smith has next to follow-up this well-done and executed historical horror film.