An Olympic Horror Film Review: Fatal Games (dir by Michael Elliot)


Like all good people, I am currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics!  As a result, over the past two weeks, I’ve been watching and reviewing a lot of Olympic-themed films.  Today, I watched the 1984 slasher film, Fatal Games!

If you look at the poster above, you’ll see that Fatal Games was advertised as being a film about “America’s Olympic hopefuls … competing in the Fatal Games!”  That’s kind of true.  The Olympics are frequently mentioned throughout Fatal Games but technically, no one in the movie is actually a member of the Olympic team.  At least not yet.  Instead, they’re all students at a special athletic academy.  Apparently, it’s supposed to be a high school, though we don’t ever see anyone taking a math test or attending English class or anything like that.  Instead, it appears that everyone at the school spends all day practicing gymnastics, swimming, or running.  In fact, it appears that there’s only 20 students at the school and, at most, 5 members of the faculty.  Maybe it’s meant to be like that school that all of the clones attended in Never Let Me Go.  Either that or it’s just an indication that Fatal Games was an extremely low-budget film.

Anyway, seven of the students have just won some sort of regional competition and now they’re getting ready for nationals!  And, if they win at nationals, they’ll get to go to the Olympics.  However, they might not even make it to nationals.  Someone is stalking the blandly likable athletes and using a javelin to pick them off, one-by-one.

Interestingly, it takes people a while to notice that the number of potential Olympians is steadily dwindling.  Instead, people say stuff like, “Hey, have you seen Nancy?”  “Not for a few days.”  “Hey, have you seen Sue Ellen?”  “Didn’t she got to San Francisco to see her boyfriend?”

Well, I guess it’s understandable.  It’s not like anyone in the film is going to school to develop their critical thinking skills.  They’re athletes.  Who cares about all of the people mysteriously disappearing?  They have athletic stuff to worry about!

Fatal Games is pretty much a typical mid-80s slasher.  Interestingly enough, it’s structured like a giallo.  The murderer dresses in black and we get all of the required close-ups of the killer’s gloved hands.  The film introduces several potential suspects but doesn’t reveal the killer’s identity until the final ten minutes.

Is it the overly critical track coach?

Is it the creepy doctor?

Is it the nurse who is worried that the athletes are being injected with too many hormones?  (Obviously, she’s seen Goldengirl.)

Is it the swim coach?

Or is it her girlfriend, the swimmer who didn’t qualify for nationals?

Is it the gymnast whose grades are slipping?

Could it be the other gymnast who is always telling jokes?

Or the runner who has father issues?

Or is it Joe, the token weird guy?

They’re all given a scene or two to establish that they have a potential motive for wanting the seven aspiring Olympians dead.  When the killer and the killer’s motive is finally revealed, it’s so over-the-top and stupid that you can’t help but admire the film for actually going there.  The filmmakers obviously said, “Forget trying to make sense.  WE’RE GOING FOR IT!”

Anyway, the main problem with Fatal Games is that the murderer uses a javelin and, as a result, there’s a lot of scenes of the killer running through narrow school hallways, carrying this goofy-looking javelin.  Don’t get me wrong.  Javelins are sharp and scary and I wouldn’t want one thrown at me.  But still, when someone spends more than five minutes running down a narrow hallway while carrying a javelin, it just looks silly.  Let’s not even think about the logistics of using a javelin to kill someone in broad daylight without anyone else noticing.

That said, as silly and predictable as Fatal Games may have been, there were a few moments of inspired lunacy.  I already mentioned the ending, which is so over-the-top and silly that you can’t help but admire it.  But there’s also a few shots that are genuinely effective.  A scene where the killer suddenly appears in a doorway was handled well.  There’s also an oddly dream-like sequence in which a swimmer practices in the pool, little realizing that the killer is floating underneath her.  How did the killer get in the pool, with the javelin, without anyone noticing?  Who knows?  It’s still an effective scene.

Finally, I have to mention that Fatal Games opens with a song called “Take It All The Way,” which is so generically 80s that it’s oddly brilliant.  It’s almost as good as Graduation Day‘s “The Winner.”

Fatal Games is currently available for viewing on YouTube.

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 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland)


Welcome back to Twin Peaks!

This episode starts with Major Briggs (Don S. Davis) explains what happened the night that he disappeared.  He says that he remembers “stepping from the flame, seeing a vague shape in the darkness, and then nothing until I found myself standing next to the cooled remains of our campfire the next morning.”  While Briggs is saying this, he’s sitting on a stone throne in the middle of what appears to be a lush rain forest.  Briggs says that hypnotism will not help him conquer his amnesia because his memories are “immune to regression.”  He does, however, remember seeing a giant owl.

Suddenly, Briggs is in the conference room at the sheriff’s office, describing the owl to Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), Doctor Hayward (Warren Frost), and Harry (Michael Ontkean).  Harry asks Briggs what exactly his work involves.  Briggs replies that information is classified but some information has to be revealed for the good of the soul.  Briggs asks if they are familiar with Project Blue Book, the Air Force investigation into UFOs.  Briggs explains that Project Blue Book was officially disbanded in 1969 but it still continues in an unofficial capacity.  Briggs says that they are looking for a place called “The White Lodge.”

At that exact moment, two MPs step into the room and announce that they have arrived to take the major back to the base.  “Colonel O’Reilly’s orders,” they say.  (Colonel O’Reilly or The Cigarette Smoking Man?)  Despite Harry’s objections, Briggs leaves with the MPs.

In another office, Denise (David Duchovny, who would later continue the work of Project Blue Book in Twin Peaks‘s spiritual successor, The X-Files) is pressuring Ernie (James Booth) to make the call to Jean Renault.  Cooper comes in and eats doughnut while Ernie finally makes the call.

(This episode was directed by Todd Holland, who also directed several episodes of another show famous for its David Duchovny guest spots, The Larry Sanders Show.)

With the call having been made, Cooper checks with Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), who says that she checked all of the personal ads in all of the national newspapers that Cooper listed and she did not find any mention of Windom Earle or any chess moves.

At the diner, Ed (Everett McGill) gives Norma (Peggy Lipton) a five dollar tip and also slips her a note telling her that they need to talk.

At the Johnson house, Leo (Eric Da Re) is still spitting up on Shelly (Madchen Amick) and Shelly is still complaining to Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) about having to do all the work.  Bobby tells Shelly that she is looking at Ben Horne’s new apprentice and that he has better things to do than hang out with her and give Leo bubble bath.  Shelly slaps him.  Bobby leaves.

As the Marsh house, James (James Marshall) finally calls Ed and lets him know that he’s okay.  James says that he needs a favor.  As Evelyn (Annette McCarthy) listens, James says that he needs Ed to get all of the money out of his savings account.

“That’s only $12, James,” Ed says.

Once James has arranged to receive all twelve of his dollars, Evelyn asks him to tell her about his life in Twin Peaks.  James talks about Laura and, how after she died, he felt as if she had stolen his life.  James and Evelyn kiss and James notices that Evelyn is wearing sunglasses to hide a bruise on her face.  Evelyn tells James that she needs his help.

Back at the diner, Nadine (Wendy Robie) sits down at the counter next to Mike (Gary Hershberger) and asks him if he wants to share a piece of cherry pie with her.  “Oh Lord!” a horrified Mike shouts.  Mike explains that he wants nothing to do with Nadine.  He doesn’t want to talk to her.  He doesn’t want to walk with her.  He doesn’t want to see her.

Nadine replies with, “Mike Nelson, you are the handsomest boy I know and I would really like it if you and I could go out on a date.”  She kisses him, leaving Mike stunned.

After being questioned by a suspicious Hank (Chris Mulkey), Norma leaves to see Ed.

Harry comes to the Martell house and demands to know why Josie (Joan Chen) did not move into his place and why she is working as Catherine’s maid.  Josie says she is no good for Harry.  Harry disagrees and soon, they’re kissing as passionately as Nadine tossing a teenager at wrestling practice.

At the Great Northern, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) discovers Ben (Richard Beymer) on the floor of his office,  wearing a gray Confederate uniform and recreating the Civil War with miniature army men.  Ben explains that a war has broken out between the States and that he can not do anything until the war is over.

Norma arrives at the Hurley house and tells Ed that he is the last thing she thinks of before she goes to bed and the first thing that she thinks of when she wakes up.  She wants to be with him.  Ed has no problem with that.

At the Sheriff’s station, Cooper and Harry watch as Hawk (Michael Horse) gets Ernie wired up for his meeting with Jean Renault.  Ernie talks about serving in the Korean War.  Cooper tells him to focus on the here and now and they talk about how they’re going to set up Jean Renault.  Cooper says that he wishes he could take part in the operation but he’s been suspended by the FBI.  Harry deputizes Cooper.  Denise steps into the office and is now wearing a suit.  “You can call me Dennis,” he announces.

Andy (Harry Goaz) and Dick (Ian Buchanan) are breaking into an orphanage, searching for information on Little Nicky’s parentage.  Dick finds Nicky’s file but then a happy couple step into the office.  They are the Burnstons and they have arrived to see Donnie, the child that they will be adopting.

“Where is Donnie?” Mr. Bursotn asks.

“Little Donnie is dead,” Dick replies.  “Dead-tired, I mean!  I’m afraid Little Donnie isn’t feeling up to snuff.”

Andy suggests that maybe they should leave but Dick insists on “helping out these nice people.”

While this is going on, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) is knocking on the door of the Hurley house.  When Ed answer, Donna says that she needs his help.  She says that she can’t find James.  Ed says that James has left town but not to worry because he will soon have $12.

Donna leaves and then Norma slips out the back door.  No sooner has Ed finished saying goodbye to Norma then Hank pops up and punches Ed.  Nadine comes home from cheerleading practice, just in time to see Hank beating up Ed.  Since Nadine is now She-Hulk, she has little difficulty beating the crap out of Hank.

At the Great Northern, Ben is discussing Confederate war strategy with Bobby.  Bobby leaves the office and tells Audrey that her father has gone insane.  Audrey says that Dr. Jacoby is going to see Ben tomorrow.  “Don’t worry, baby,” Bobby says, “Bobby’s on the case.”  While they talk, Catherine sneaks past them and enters Ben’s office.  Ben recognizes Catherine and asks if she’s come to gloat.  “Well, go ahead and gloat,” Ben says, “I have defeated General Meade.”  Catherine says that, despite the whole attempted murder/insanity thing, she still loves Ben.

At the Marsh mansion, James reveals that he has fixed Evelyn’s car.  They drink champagne to celebrate.  Evelyn tells James that she can always tell what he’s thinking and then asks him for his plans.  She asks where he will go and James says he doesn’t know.  Evelyn tells him not to leave.  They kiss, with James not realizing that they are being watched by Evelyn’s brother, Malcolm. (Nicholas Love).

Outside of a farmhouse, Cooper watches through a pair of binoculars as Ernie and Dennis talk to Jean Renault (Michael Parks) and Preston King (Gavan O’Herlihy).  Renault notices that Ernie is sweating, like a man wearing a wire.  Ernie explains that he is naturally a heavy sweater.  However, the sweat causes the wire to short circuit and soon, smoke is coming from Ernie’s shirt.

Realizing that Cooper is watching, Renault comes out of the farmhouse, holding Dennis and Ernie as hostages.  He demands that Cooper show himself.  When Cooper steps out from hiding, Renault demands safe passage across the border.  Cooper offers a trade.  If Jean releases Dennis and Ernie, Cooper will agree to take their place as the hostage.  While this goes on, Harry orders Hawk to call in the state police.

That night, at the Marsh mansion, Evelyn leaves behind a sleeping James and goes to Malcom.  “How’s our baby boy?” her brother asks, “Lucky baby boy.  Lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky….”

Back at the hostage standoff, the state police have arrived and even Andy is aiming a gun at the farmhouse.  Inside the farmhouse, King tells Jean that he wants to make a deal and then make a run for it.  Cooper, who has been beaten up, replies that the police will not make a deal and they will not let them run.  Surrender is the only option.

“Okay,” Jean says.  The only question is whether they give up quietly or if they kill Cooper first.

“Then we both die,” Cooper says.

Jean says he doesn’t care if he dies.  He just wants to avenge his two brothers.  He explains that everything was quiet until Cooper showed up.  After Cooper showed up, Bernie was shot in the woods and Jacques was smothered in a hospital.  Jean knows that Cooper did not kill either one of them but he suspects that Cooper brought “the nightmare” with him.  Maybe, Jean explains, the nightmare will stop if Cooper dies.

King says that he doesn’t know what Jean’s talking about but that they have a problem and it has to be solved.  King looks outside and sees a waitress approaching the farmhouse.  Is it Norma?  Could it be Shelley?  No, it’s Denise and, as soon as she entered the farmhouse, she reveals that she has a gun in her garter.  As Denise slams King against the wall, Cooper grabs the gun and kills Jean.

At the Johnson house, Shelly lies on the couch while the power goes on and off.  When Shelly gets up to investigate, she discovers that Leo is not in his bed or his wheelchair.  Instead, Leo’s standing in a corner, smiling at her and saying her name.  Shelly screams as the lights go out.

At the Sheriff’s office, Cooper, Harry, Hawk, and Andy arrive and Lucy tells them that someone called in to say that there was a bomb hidden in the woods.  Then there was a huge explosion and all of the lights went out.  As Hawk goes to turn on the backup generator, Cooper steps into the darkened station.  Using his lighter for illumination, Cooper discovers something.  He calls Harry into the station and tells him to come alone.

In Harry’s office, a dead man (played by Kyle MacLachlan’s brother, Craig) has been propped up in front of Harry’s desk.  On the desk, in front of the man, is a chess game.

Windom Earle has come to Twin Peaks!

This was an okay episode.  I can’t bring myself to care about anything that’s happening with James but “Checkmate” did a good job of wrapping up the Jean Renault plot and setting up the show’s next big storyline, Windom Earle.  Again, I was surprised to see that the whole Nadine goes to high school subplot holds up a lot better than I thought it would.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with “Double Play,” in which the history of Windom Earle will be revealed!

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

TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel)


Twin Peaks

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Twin Peaks!

Here we are at Episode 12 of Season 2, “The Black Widow” was directed by Caleb Deschanel, who happens to be the father of Emily (Bones) and Zooey (New Girl). The episode opens with Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) paying a visit to Ben Horne (Richard Beymer). Ben is somewhat down on his luck, having learned the truth about Audrey’s (Sherilyn Fenn) visit to One Eyed Jack’s and Hank (Chris Mulkey) informing him that the brothel has been taken over by Jean Renault (Michael Parks). Ben gives Bobby a mission to follow Hank and get him on film, handing him a camera. Anything mischievous or crazy, Ben needs it for blackmail.

On the way out of Ben’s office, Bobby watches a screaming Lana Milford (Robyn Lively, who I found out is actress Blake Lively’s sister) as she runs through the hallways. Given the title of the episode, I think we may be able to get an idea of what happened.

Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is finally settling down in Twin Peaks, and with a realtor in his office, he’s given two options for Open Houses. Being Dale, he leaves the decision to chance with the flip of a quarter. The quarter spins and lands on the picture of a third property that was left out. The realtor tells him that the property is known as “Dead Dog Farm”, and no one really stays there long. It’s the place for Dale and he asks to see it right away.

Judy Swain (Molly Shannon, SNL)  from the Happy Helping Hands Organization stops by the precinct to speak with Andy (Harry Goaz), Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Dick (Ian Buchanan) about little Nicky (Joshua Harris). Judy has some interesting news on Little Nicky. It turns out that his parents were killed by mysterious circumstances, and he was bounced around to various homes. Judy doesn’t say whether Nicky had a hand in his parents death, but we can figure the best course of action here maybe to get those Megiddo daggers from The Omen and take that little kid to a church.

TP-Molly Shannon

Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) calls out to Andy as they have to make a run to the Great Northern. A tragedy has occurred. Sure enough, the next scene gives us the recently deceased Dougie Milford (Tony Jay) laying in bed. Doc Hayward (William Frost) declares it – a heart attack. Apparently, Dougie was in the throes of passion when his heart gave out. Mayor Dwayne Milford (John Boylan) says his brother couldn’t refuse a beautiful woman, and on seeing Lana in the hallway, he calls her out as a witch and a succubus. Hawk (Michael Horse) approaches Lana and attempts to console her, listening to her state that she’s cursed. Her Prom Night date in High School tried to kiss her, but his braces malfunctioned, leaving him with a lockjaw. Knowing a thing or two about curses, Hawk tells her not to worry and that when things go down, he’s the man. The scene ends on a laughable note.

Gym Class at the High School. The coach introduces the newest member of the wrestling team to her peers, Ms. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie). She challenges her crush Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger) to a sparring session. Mike sets Nadine up in a grapple hold, but she easily tackles him to the ground. She manages to also put him in a head lock and even body slam the poor fellow. Mike is down and out for the count, waiting for someone to throw a python on him and call it a day. In the next scene, we see a damaged Mike as he makes his way down the hallways of school. He reaches Donna and begs her to help him get Nadine off his back. She tells him that maybe an older woman is what he needs.

At Evelyn Marsh’s (Annette McCarthy) residence, James (James Marshall) meets Malcolm Sloan (Nicholas Love) Evelyn’s brother and the family chauffeur. If you recall from the previous episode, James is staying with Evelyn to fix her husband’s Jaguar. He was given the job by his sister, and without it would have probably gone on to drink himself into a corner. He alludes to the idea that her husband Jeffrey (John Apicella) beats her often, and to get back at him, she damages his things. Apparently, she was the one to put the Jaguar in traction. Malcolm leaves James to deal with the info he’s just provided.

Irene Littlehorse (Geraldine Kearns) brings Cooper to Dead Dog Farm.

A tiny digression here. Angelo Badalamenti has a sweet eerie tune here that sounds very much like something Charlie Clouser (Saw, The Collector) would have worked on. The closest contemporary sound I could find was as a song called “Talk to Me” by Porcelain Raft. If you get a chance, give it a listen. I wouldn’t be shocked to discover Badalamenti was an influence to them and others. This might also explain how Trent Reznor’s involved in the Revival.

Anyway, Irene and Cooper find that Dead Dog Farm was recently visited. As they go inside, they discover more clues. It appears someone’s been there in the past few hours (how Cooper realizes that is beyond me, but he’s Cooper. He deals in luck and sorcery, we’ll just accept it). He discovers baby laxative in the sink, and cocaine in a chair. With a smile, he tells Irene that they have to contact the Sheriff. The trail has become hot, and he wasn’t even trying.

Dick and Nicky are at their campsite, and Dick is trying to fix a flat. Nicky is being somewhat annoying by playing with the steering wheel and honking the horn. Dick yells at him, and Nicky puts himself out of the way, somewhat happy at the mayhem he’s caused. However, when the jack on the car gives way and almost injures Dick, Nicky runs and hugs him, worried about if he died. Dick seems a little surprised by this, and it’s something of a bonding moment between them. Then again, perhaps Nicky was just setting a trap for Dick.

At the preceinct, Truman and Cooper are talking with Colonel Riley(Tony Burton) regarding Garland Briggs’ (Don Davis) disappearance. There appears to be a connection between some messages from deep space that pertain to Agent Cooper. According to the Colonel, the source of the messages weren’t from space, but from an area very near to, or practically in Twin Peaks. The Colonel mentions that Briggs’ disappearance is a very serious thing with extreme ramifications to national security.

At the Marsh residence, James is finished fixing the Jaguar. He asks Evelyn about her husband, about what he’s done to her. She argues the point, but after a kiss and the honk of a car, she goes on alert. Jeffrey has come home, and she runs out to meet him.

Audrey meets Bobby at the Great Northern, congratulating him on the job he’s acquired with her father. She also asks him if he’d be willing to work with her as well. Misunderstanding the meaning of business, he leans in for a kiss, which she deftly evades. He smiles, saying he likes the way she thinks and heads to Ben Horne’s office.

That scene bothered me a little, and this may have to do with the idea that at the time, Lara Flynn Boyle was dating Kyle MacLachlan. Since the two of them were together, it supposedly caused a bit of a rift between she and Sherilyn Fenn. The setup that would have possibly led to an Audrey / Cooper courtship was derailed and by this point, it looked like the writers weren’t entirely sure of where to put Audrey in the scheme of things. As long as she was far from Cooper, it worked out. That’s just my speculation.

Audrey snoops in on Ben and Bobby from one of the cubbyholes in the lodge. She sees that he was able to get the pictures for Ben, though to what end, we’re not sure.

Josie (Joan Chen) is doing maid duty for Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) to pay for her scheming against here. There isn’t much to the scene save that Catherine is relishing where she has Josie here.

Cooper records something for Diane, saying that the response to Windom Earl’s first move was printed in the local paper, but he received the response to that move the day before. He understands that Windom is one step ahead of him, and needs to find a way to change that. He also points out that in the time since his suspension, he’s looked for a home, and he has to worry about his defense, which could be a problem.

Just in time, Audrey knocks on the door, presenting Cooper with a package. Inside are the pictures from Ben’s office. Pictures that include Ernie Niles (James Booth). Audrey’s happy here, considering that the information may actually exonerate Cooper, but before she could continue, Cooper’s door knocks again. This time, it’s Denise Bryson (David Duchovny), who is introduced to Audrey.

Tp-Denise-Audrey-Coop

“They have women agents?” she says, shaking Denise’s hand, a glint in her eye that suggests she may have found her calling.

“More or Less.”, Denise responds. Audrey thanks the both of them and kisses Cooper (Finally!!!) before leaving the room. It’s here that Denise points out something I missed in Audrey’s age. Cooper smiles, telling Denise that with her change in perception and identity, he assumed girls wouldn’t factor into all that. Her response is simple and it’s an effective close to the scene:

“Coop. I may be wearing a dress, but I still pull my panties on one leg at a time, if you know what I mean.”

Norma (Peggy Lipton) and Ed (Everett McGill) have a small moment over Pie about the lives they planned, and the plans that didn’t work out. She touches his hand, and says that they can make new plans, but this falls within earshot of someone holding a domino in their hands. Hank perhaps? We’re not shown. They better be careful.

Dick comes into the Precinct, pulls Andy aside and whispers that Little Nicky may very well be the Devil. Called it. Totally called it.

Mayor Milford is in Truman’s office with Truman and Doc Hayward, looking to press charges against Lana over his brother’s death by sex. He yells that she won’t get a red cent of Dougie’s money and storms out.

And here’s one of the best scenes of the episode, if short. Hawk, standing in the doorway of the room with Lana (playing the Ingenue) behind him asks the men in the main room (Hayward, Andy, Truman, and Dick) for some Irish creme to add to Lana’s coffee. Dick breaks into Act 1, Scene 5 of Romeo & Juliet, with Hayward joining in. They’re all transfixed on the redhead in the room, which reminded me of both Rita Hayworth’s introduction in Gilda, the cover models in some of the detective stories that Erin has posted here on the Lens, and Lindy Booth’s character in Cry Wolf. When everyone disperses, a phone call comes in on the line, which Lucy picks up. She finds, however, that she’s unable to reach Truman, Andy or anyone. Walking back to the room where Lana was in, she opens to door to find everyone laughing and listening to Lana’s stories. Even Andy is caught up in the magic. This, of course, infuriates Lucy, who leaves and slams the door behind her. I would have loved to know if slamming the door had any effect on the guys in the room. Whether Lana presents any kind of danger is unknown at this point, but that honestly was a great setup if we do find she’s a Femme Fatale.

We’re back at the diner, with a pair of heeled legs that step into the room. Ernie Niles is having dinner when Denise slides into the seat across from him. Taking out the pictures that Audrey stole, she informs Niles that he’s guilty of a parole violation and unless he helps her (she says, reapplying her lipstick), she’ll do everything she can to make sure he stays there. It’s a cute little scene.

We then find Ernie being interrogated by Cooper and Denise in a cabin under the midst of a thunderstorm. Ernie confesses he had about four kilos of coke, and Denise has him set up a meet at the Dead Dog Farm, where she’ll meet him as a drug trafficker. On realizing that Denise is more than who she says she is, he kind of has a bad reaction and runs to the restroom.

Cut to the Marsh residence. Screaming. Glass breaking. James wakes up to these sounds and when Malcolm steps into the room, he asks if Evelyn will be alright. He states that he once thought revenge, but she stopped him for both of their sakes. This leaves James wondering if he should intervene.

The final scene of this episode has Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart), weeping over the loss of Major Briggs. Bobby has a great moment here where he tells her of the dream his father had about him and his future. During the storm, the lights go out, and in the darkness, we find Major Briggs suddenly in the living room. How did he get there? Where the heck was he?! He asks Bobby to fix him a drink, and when asked if everything’s alright, his answer is simple.

“Not exactly.”

And isn’t that always how is it in Twin Peaks? That’s the episode. This one was actually really good, and so far the show is holding up well. Tune in tomorrow for “Checkmate”, the next episode in our Marathon.

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

Horror Film Review: The Boogeyman (dir. by Ulli Lommel)


So, last night, we finally got a proper storm here in Texas and wow, was I happy!  Quite frankly, it’s not October unless you’ve got thunder, lightening, and howling wind.  Of course, I also ended up getting caught out in the middle of it all and ended up getting soaked just from running from my car to the front door of my house.  Seriously, it’s amazing how quickly your life can turn into a wet t-shirt contest.  (Once I got inside, I did what anyone would do and jumped on twitter so I could tell everyone I was soaked.  “OMG, I’m so wet!” I tweeted, with the most innocent of intentions.)   Anyway, as I dried off, I watched The Boogeyman off of Fearnet.  No, I’m not talking about The Boogeyman that starred the oldest son from Seventh Heaven.  No, The Boogeyman I watched is a genuinely weird little artifact from 1980 and it was directed by the infamous Ulli Lommel.

A hybrid of Halloween, the Exorcist, and probably every other horror film that had been released up to 1980, The Boogeyman opens up with siblings Willy and Lacey spying on their mother having sex with her creepy boyfriend who is wearing a nylon stocking over his face.  So, naturally, Willy grabs a butcher knife and stabs the man to death.  This act of violence is reflected in the bedroom mirror and, not surprisingly, this leads to the dead boyfriend’s evil spirit getting trapped in the mirror.  Or maybe it’s just the evil of the act itself.  Or maybe it’s … well, there’s a lot of possibilities and it’s hard not to consider them all because the film considers none of them, beyond the fact that the dead boyfriend is still in the mirror (which, let’s give credit where credit is due, is actually a pretty neat idea for a horror film).

Anyway, we jump forward 20 years and now, the brother and sister have grown up.  They both live on a farm with their judgmental, self-righteous, ballet-hating aunt and uncle.  (Okay, I’m projecting a little here because I have relatives who remind me of both of these characters and I always hated having to spend any time with them over the summer because I always knew they’d be all like, “Look at us, we’re  farm folk, we’re better than you and who needs books or ballet when you got foul-smelling chickens and cows that’ll kick you in the face just because they feel like it…”  Seriously.)  Willy (now played by Nicholas Love) has been mute since the day he brutally butchered his mother’s boyfriend and oddly enough, no one seems to be disturbed by the fact that he’s a murderer.  (“He’s a good boy,” his uncle says at one point, “I just wish he could talk.”)  Lacey (played by Suzanna Love) is married to Jake Scully (Ron James) and they have a son.  Judging from the uniform he’s wearing when he’s first introduced, Jake is apparently some sort of law enforcement guy.  He’s also a total and complete chauvinistic toadsucker who (though it’s never acknowledged in the film) is pretty much responsible for every terrible thing that’s about to happen.

Lacey is suffering from intense nightmares (the nightmare sequence, by the way, is one of the film’s genuinely disturbing moments) and she keeps waking everyone up at night with her screams.  Well, of course, Jake can’t have this because they’re farm folk, after all!  So, Jake has to act like a man about it and chastises Lacey for not suppressing her feelings.  When that doesn’t work, he drags her off to a therapist.  This would seem like a good idea except for the fact that the only therapist in their little rural community appears to be John Carradine.  Carradine grimaces through his three scenes, tells Lacey that she should go back to her childhood home and see that it’s just a normal house despite its history of brutal murder, and then leaves to collect his paycheck.  

Lacey says she doesn’t want to go back to the house where the most Hellish thing ever occurred.  Jake tells her that she’s being silly and that she’s going to go relive the worst event of her life whether she wants to or not.  Seriously, Jake sucks.

So, Jake drags Lacey back to her childhood home.  The house is now inhabited by two teenage sisters and their obnoxious little brother who spends his time running around and screaming, “Boogeyman!” at random.  He’s kind of a brat but don’t worry — he eventually yells “Boogeyman!” one too many times and ends up getting his neck crushed by a falling window.  That scene, by the way, genuinely shocked me because you just don’t expect to see little kids dispatched so graphically.  But he really kinda deserved it, if just to keep him from growing up to be like Jake.

But before the little boy gets killed, we get to watch Lacey and Jake wander through the house.  It turns out that, even though the house has changed owners, the exact same mirror is still hanging in the bedroom.  Lacey looks at the mirror, sees her mother’s dead boyfriend’s reflection, and proceeds to shatter the mirror into a hundred pieces.  Jake replies that she’s being silly and proceeds to put almost all the broken shards of the evil mirror into a paper bag so he can take them back to the farm with him.  Why?  Well, because he’s Jake so anything he does must be right…

Of course, by bringing the mirror to the farm (and then deciding to put it back together — really, Jake?), Jake has also brought the evil spirit of the dead boyfriend with him as well.  Once again, Jake sucks.  Though, in his defense, Lacey was having nightmares and Willy nearly strangled a neighbor girl, before John Carradine even suggested going to the house.  And mom’s dead boyfriend liked to wear a stocking over his head but was he really evil?  After all, he’s the one who ended up getting stabbed to death…well, regardless, now people start dying and eventually a priest has to come up to the house and try to remember the final scene of the Exorcist.  So, thanks a lot, Jake!   

The Boogeyman is one of those odd films that always seems to pop up on TV and hidden away in various DVD horror compilations.  Through no fault of my own, I’ve actually seen it a handful of times and every time, I’ve discovered something else that doesn’t really work.  The last time I watched it, I found myself concentrating on just how unconvincing all the actors (with the exception of Suzanna and Nicholas Love) were.*  Slowly but surely, I found myself growing obsessed with actor Ron James, who played Lacey’s husband with all the style and charisma of a cardboard cut-out.  (Of course, it doesn’t help that James was playing a character who, to put it charitably, is kind of a sexist pig.  “C’mon, Lacey, cheer up!” he says as he forces her to visit the house where the most traumatic event of her childhood occurred.)  Whenever the movie hit one of its many slow spots, I asked myself, “I wonder if Ron James gave up during the first day of shooting or the second?” 

And yet, oddly, this is a film that’s stuck with me.  The film has an effectively Southern gothic atmosphere to it and even the stiff performances and unnatural dialogue help to give the film a certain dream-like atmosphere.  I know quite a few people who argue that Ulli Lommel is the worst director of all time** but he actually comes up with some effectively surreal and disturbing images.  The sight of the dead boyfriend, with a nylon stocking pulled down of her face, suddenly staring at Lacey from the mirror is genuinely frightening, as is Lacey’s nightmare in which she’s bound and gagged by a knife-wielding assailant.  The idea of mirrors storing everything that they witness is an intriguing one and there’s a nicely surreal sequence in which poor, mute Willy paints over every reflective surface he can find.  Whether by intentional design or not, these flashes of genuine fright and oddness are all the more effective because they’re surrounded by such mundane material.  The end result is a film that’s either brilliant or terrible depending on which point you actually start watching it. 

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* Actually, the Loves were pretty bad too.

**By the way, the worst director of all time is Rod “Straw Dogs” Lurie.