DEVIL’S GATE Opens Up the Genre at the Tribeca Film Festival
Devil’s Gate will give you splinters. It’s a taut thriller with layered, underlying themes that never seems to be the movie you think it is at any moment you think you know.
Texturally, the film looks like it will hurt if you get too close. The jabs this film offers aren’t just in the peeling paint and parched landscape but in the gritty ways the characters interact and the story that unfolds with increasingly unexpected turns.
From its opening scene, it appears you’ve checked into a traditional horror movie, complete with a lost stranger on a solitary road and a creepy farmhouse. Horror tropes literally hang from every available beam. So when what you expect to happen next never materializes, it quickly becomes clear that this movie is already one step ahead. Technically listed as a Sci-Fi Thriller, it never lets you forget its horror heritage. In a movie world where Scream and Cabin in the Woods have deconstructed the genre, Devil’s Gate uses these images to remind you and make you feel a certain way, but it relies on tight storytelling and fierce acting to tell its story and draw you in.
Most good movies in these genres have metaphorical meanings: the endless consumerism of the zombie, the red scare of the body snatcher, the fear of industrialism and automation of the stitched-together monster. The one behind Devil’s Gate is the fear of the other, and Clay Staub, the director and co-writer, wastes no time in making Federal Agent Daria Francis (Amanda Schull) the subject of that fear. A wife and child (Bridget Regan and Spencer Drever) have gone missing in a small town. While all indicators point to the husband Jackson Pritchard (Milo Ventimiglia), relationships in this small town are so intertwined that Sheriff Gruenwell (Jonathan Frakes in a small role that will have you asking, “does he – is he?”) and his deputy, Colt Salter (Shawn Ashmore) tell her to focus her energies anywhere else. She’s the pushy outsider who doesn’t understand him like they do. However, Agent Francis is not about to be cowed by the misogyny and distrust she encounters. She has a job to do, and that commitment is heavily colored by the outcome of her previous case.
It is in Agent Francis’ backstory and soon her investigation where a main theme of Devil’s Gate emerges: Every character is caged by their beliefs. At various points throughout the narrative, those psychological cages are opened and the characters are faced with freedom or the choice to withdraw. Shawn Ashmore’s Deputy Salter shines in his moment when his naive, green lawman stops solely following instructions and chooses to do what he thinks is right – with spectacular consequences. Milo Ventimiglia gives Pritchard’s cage a terrifying darkness touched with beautiful moments of tenderness and despair.
Agent Daria Francis is the hero of the story, and Amanda Schull brings her to life with conviction. Director Clay Staub revealed that the original script called for a male FBI agent, so it was refreshing to see Ms. Schull tackle another strong lead in a role typically given to a man. While none of the characters ever let us forget that the bizarre circumstances have them frightened, they manage to hold onto their humanity. Yet no matter how frightened, no matter how bizarre the situation is, Agent Francis manages to maintain laser focus on her goal: to uncover the truth, consequences be damned.
Devil’s Gate is not a one-trick pony where the whole story is supported by a few twists. It thoroughly explores and tells a story with purposeful, sentient characters, while nodding thoughtfully to the genres that inspired it. If twisting, genre-bending films make you squeal with joy, then put Devil’s Gate on your list of must-see movies this year.
VISITING HOURS at BATES MOTEL – Emma Says Goodbye, Romero Says Hello
Season 5, Episode 9 “Visiting Hours” Written by Scott Kosar Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
[All images courtesy A&E/Cate Cameron]
Despite a little bit of filler in the RomeroWatch story, “Visiting Hours” brought this season’s three parallel storylines (Dylan & Emma, Romeo, and Norma/n) together with plenty of heartbreak all around. Emma says goodbye to a mother she barely knew while Romero adds to his lengthy list of felonies on his way to a reunion with his stepson Norman.
“Visiting Hours” opens with a snippy Mother (Vera Farmiga) grudgingly putting up with the indignities of being booked for multiple counts of murder in the 1st Degree. Electronic fingerprinting, mug shot — so undignified! Over at the Bates place, Sheriff Greene (Brooke Smith) oversees a mass of crime scene techs sweeping over the grounds.
Even if Mother refuses to talk, there’s plenty of physical evidence being collected. A deputy’s discovery of the suitcase belonging to Emma’s mother is one-upped by a tech discovering Chick’s (Ryan Hurst) body slumped over his typewriter in the basement. Poor Chick; he died as he lived — an unpublished writer.
Dylan (Max Theirot) is stunned to see Emma (Olivia Cooke) pulling into the parking lot of the King’s Motel. He embraces her tightly as Emma explains, “I want to be here to help you with this.” Her concern turns to shock as Dylan breaks the news of her mother’s death; he knows Norman is responsible.
After all they’ve been through, realizing the truth about Norman may break their relationship. Even as Emma reassures Dylan that “it’s not your fault,” her emotions rapidly shift to vengeance. She doesn’t want to hear Dylan say anything supporting Norman. At this point, Emma swears she’ll kill him herself (though she will have to get in line behind Alex Romero, of course).
Unfortunately for Norman, Mother’s strategy for resolving the “pickle” they’re in amounts to declaring “I didn’t do it – so Not Guilty!” She’s not as thrilled by Julia Ramos’ (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) news that even with a best-case scenario, a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity verdict will land Norman in a mental institution for life. To Mother, physical death or life in a mental institution mean the same thing: hell. Mother puts her Norman act into overdrive, telling her attorney, “everyone has multiple personalities, Julia.”
This interview with her client compels Julia to visit Dylan and Emma. She begs Dylan to attend the preliminary hearing. Given the amount of evidence gathered by the state and what’s she heard and seen from her client, Julia needs Dylan to be at the preliminary hearing. Dylan is Norman’s connection to humanity; she needs all the help she can get putting Norman’s illness front and center.
Emma goes to White Pine Bay’s only funeral home. She arranges for a less expensive cremation for the mother she had no relationship with in life and will now never have a chance to know. Emma’s stoic act breaks down when she makes her pilgrimage to Norma’s headstone. Emma cries openly by Norma’s headstone. “I’m so sorry, Norma. I miss you.”
At least she chooses a memorable spot to disperse her mother’s ashes. In sight of majestic snow-capped mountains, Emma shakes the ashes free while “Crimson and Clover” reverberates around her.
Dylan, prompted by the photos of his mother and brother, attends Norman’s preliminary hearing. He avoids the front row seat reserved for him by Julia Ramos and sits in the back row. Both he and Madeline Loomis (Isabelle McNally) leave the courtroom after hearing the matter of fact descriptions of the gruesome deaths of Joe Blackwell, Audrey Ellis, and Sam Loomis.
Madeline angrily asks Dylan, “How did he trick you your whole life? You knew. How can you live with yourself?” She was only fooled for a couple of weeks, although the whole “giving you my dead mother’s clothes” bit should’ve been a gigantic red GET AWAY FROM NORMAN flag.
By the light of the most annoying neon sign ever, Emma and Dylan tell each other about their respective days spend attending hearings and dispersing ashes. Guys, I know that that incessantly flashing neon light represents the hell you’re going through right now, but please — those pieces of fabric hanging over the window are called curtains and they were invented to help you get some sleep.
The next morning Emma bids a sad goodbye to her husband, but does not proceed straight out of Crazytown. She stops at the White Pine Bay jail to visit Norman. As the visit proceeds Emma sees how completely the Norman she knew (or thought she knew) has vanished into Mother. Mother’s Norman act works about as well on Emma as it did on Julia — which is to say, not well at all. “It’s me, Norman. Your Norman, your friend.” Emma sadly asks “Can I talk to Norman?” Mother smirks: “He’s sleeping.” Tears welling in her eyes, Emma asks Mother to “tell him I miss him.”
After a meandering conversation with a fellow gas station customer regarding differences between the 1968 and 1968 Dodge Fury models, a stop at Maggie’s (Jillian Fargey) house to use her computer and refuse her tempting offer to flee to a life on the lam in Montana, former Sheriff Romero is ready for his final act of suicidal vengeance.
Alex makes an after-hours visit to the White Pine Bay jail. He adds to his long list of felonies by taking the receptionist hostage, rounding up every deputy in the building, shooting one in the shoulder. Romero tops off the crime spree by taking Norman and the thoroughly terrified receptionist off on a field trip. Norman stammeringly demands to know, “What do you want from us, Alex?”
***Somebody snuck in a very deep reference to the infamous true crime case that inspired Robert Bloch to write Psycho. The judge at Norman’s hearing, the Hon. Sybil Meredith Gollmar; the judge at Ed Gein’s hearing? Judge Robert Howard Gollmar.
~ This week’s swingin’ 60’s Hit Parade includes
“Call Me Irresponsible” – Bobby Darin version
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – Beach Boys
“Crimson and Clover” – Tommy James and the Shondells
The final episode of Bates Motel, “The Cord,” airs Monday April 24 on A&E at 8/9 Central.
ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: Another Dose Of The SANTA CLARITA DIET
With The Walking Dead done for the season, #TeamZombie turn their attention to the darkly comedic feast that is Santa Clarita Diet!
Season 1, Episode 4 “The Farting Sex Tourist” Written by Michael A. Ross, Directed by Ken Kwapis
Season 1, Episode 5 “Man Eat Man” Written by Chadd Gindin, Directed by Marc Buckland
Timothy: I have to admit, waiting to watch this show on Sundays with you people is getting harder.
Dustin: It’s bad enough that Mindy has already watched all the episodes.
Mindy: I regret nothing.
Timothy: I regret a lot of things. But not watching this show. It’s just really good, and I’m tempted to skip ahead, is all I’m saying.
Dustin: I have three children and I have no time to skip ahead, SO DON’T YOU DO IT, TIM HARVEY.
Mindy: He seems pretty insistent about that.
Dustin: He does. I AM NOT GOING TO BE THE ONLY ONE NOT KNOWING WHAT’S GOING ON.
Timothy: Why are you shouting?
Dustin: You’ve seen my dining room, and the mountain of laundry that is vexing me. IT IS VEXING ME.
Timothy: We shall do our best not to vex you. Speaking of reducing the vexing, we do have a sponsor for our podcasts this month, the link to which you can find directly below, at HumanCharger.com. You can get a discount if you use scifi4me as a coupon code!
THE NUN Gets Her Star Turn in THE CONJURING Franchise
[Images courtesy The Conjuring 2.com]
I was not a fan of The Conjuring 2 – it was the “One Dishonorable Mention” in my “Five Great Horror Movies of 2016” linked below. But I acknowledge being in the minority on this one. With an 80% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a worldwide gross of 320 million dollars (from a budget of 40 million), The Conjuring 2 had plenty of positive reviews and moviegoers worldwide who chose to pay good money to see it.
The Conjuring (2013) didn’t just spawn a sequel, but also a 2014 spinoff starring Annabelle, the creepiest doll since Chucky. And like its parent, The Conjuring 2 has its own breakout supporting prop – a Night Gallery worthy portrait of an unquiet Sister menacing paranormal investigators Ed and Elaine Warren. As noted by the Hollywood Reporter last year, The Nun will be leaping off the canvas and into theaters in 2018.
More recent news about the director and at least one of the stars of The Nun indicate that this latest addition to the Conjuring family may turn out to be a spinoff (like Annabelle was to The Conjuring) that’s actually scarier than the movie it sprang from.
In February of this year, Corin Hardy was announced as the director of The Nun. If you’re asking “Corin Who?” you’re not alone. Hardy is best known for The Hallow (2015) – a “Nature Strikes Back” story set in rural Ireland. The Hallow is a small indie movie that uses atmospheric locations, practical effects, and Irish folklore to create a sense of dread to go with the scares. Check out Hardy’s website to see his other work, including the short film “Butterfly.”
If nothing else, The Nun has a director who knows how to create a unique look and atmosphere – in a horror movie that is more than half the battle.
Another promising sign is the recent announcement of The Nun’s leading man. Mexico City-born Damien Bichir, besides appearing in television series Weeds and The Bridge, also earned a Best Actor nominee in 2012 for A Better Life. He’ll be playing Father Burke, “dispatched by Rome to investigate the mysterious death of a nun.”
Anabellegrossed 257 million worldwide (against a budget of 6.5 million) and created a fun, scary “evil doll” movie from another movie’s prop. With the creative talent announced so far, The Nun may do the same with an equally creepy supporting player from the Conjuring franchise.
THE BODY (of Evidence) Points to Norman on BATES MOTEL
Season 5, Episode 8 “The Body” Written by Erica Lipez Directed by Freddie Highmore
[All images courtesy A&E/Cate Cameron]
Last week, Freddie Highmore made his Bates Motel writing debut with “Inseparable.” This week Highmore again pulls double duty; working behind the camera as director as well as starring as Norman Bates in “The Body.”
This third to last episode moves with intensity as it chronicles Mother’s increasingly desperate attempts to fix the awful “pickle” Norman has landed them in.
Norman (Freddie Highmore) sits in the Bates home living room, eyes shut. We hear Sheriff Greene’s (Brooke Smith) voice as if from the bottom of a well. She asks, “Can you open your eyes? Can you look at me?” But if Norman opens his eyes, he’ll see Mother stomping furiously towards him.
He shuts his eyes – then opens them. Mother is gone. Norman works up the courage to defy Mother and speaks directly to Greene. “I need my meds … I can’t be in this house. I’ll tell you everything.”
Dylan (Max Theriot) doesn’t even wait for the EMTs to finish stitching him up before racing out the door. Before Norman’s driven away, he promises to get a lawyer for Norman, “Please let me help you.”
In the police interrogation room, Norman may be fuzzy on the exact location of the well where Sam Loomis rests; as Norman explains, “I just was not myself that night.” Greene speculates that Norman is just acting out for attention but he’s emphatic on that point. “I am not lying about this. I killed Sam Loomis.”
A deputy does give Norman his meds – but doesn’t bother to stay and make sure Norman takes them. Which, surprisingly, he does. Mother senses the threat to her existence and forces Norman to vomit up the pills (Vera Farmiga’s face as Mother daintily drops the toilet paper she used to induce Norman’s vomiting? Priceless)
After the abuse comes the forgiveness. Mother takes Norman in her arms and croons,”You’re sick. You’re weak. You’re not equipped.” She’ll take care of everything.
Norman replies that this is one situation Mother can’t take care of. Mother agrees; she can’t – “not with you here.” Last episode Mother sweetly volunteered to take over if things got to be too much for Norman to handle. With so much at stake, she takes the lead and bashes Norman’s head into the toilet seat. She’ll wake him up after things are safe again.
Turns out Dylan hung on to some mementos from his Season One and Two pot-farm employee days, like business cards for local criminal defense attorneys. In a very Twin Peaks-esque diner, attorney Julia Ramos (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) finishes her eggs, bacon, and coffee. Dylan explains (or tries to) the complicated Bates family history to an outsider. Missing mother-in-law and glass-smashing brother included.
Dylan believes Norman “needs to be in a mental facility. He’s crazy … he’s not a bad person or a criminal.” Apparently Dylan’s never heard of the legal concept of “guilty but mentally ill?” At least his heart’s in the right place and he’s paying for Norman’s attorney.
Back at the White Pine Bay Jail, Mother as Norman has had enough of being cooped up like a criminal. She condescendingly informs Sheriff Greene, “Actually Jane, I’d rather leave. I’d very much like to go home now.”
OF COURSE Mother in her arrogance believes it’s as simple as that; throw a hissy fit and get out of jail. Unfortunately, calling the Sheriff’s bluff results in Norman being arrested, not freed. “Enjoy your accommodations.”
Both in the initial meeting with Julia Ramos and a later interview with Greene in the presence of his attorney, Mother as Norman manages to insult the brother providing the attorney, the attorney herself, AND make a mess of attempting to frame someone else for the many bodies showing up.
Mother takes this opening and attempts to frame Madeline Loomis for murder with it. Madeline was a lovely woman and turned to Norman for solace from the pain of her husband’s adultery. What Norman felt for Madeline was “madness.” But as his mother often said, Norman was “too naive about beautiful women, and my mother was always right.” Greene lets Norman talk, on and on, saying nothing but letting the recording device get it all down for posterity.
Unfortunately for Mother, dental records trump any attempt to frame Madeline Loomis. The second body in Lake This Is Where We Hide The Bodies is identified through dental records as Audrey Ellis, Emma’s missing mother. Greene has Norman perp-walked back to the interrogation room to cool his heels. Mother reassures Norman that it’ll be over soon and he can come back when they get home. After all, she misses him.
Then Greene enters the room. Mother taunts the Sheriff – it’s nice of her to visit, but Norman has nothing to say. Greene informs Norman that since he’s also being charged with the murders of Jim Blackwell and Audrey Ellis, he doesn’t have to say anything.
Romero Watch Featuring Chick Hogan
Yay! Chick (Ryan Hurst) Is Back! Our favorite White Pine Bay weirdo pulls into the motel parking lot, listening to classic 70’s folk crooner John Denver with a freshly dead racoon in a sack for Norman. Stopped by the police from barging his way up to the house, Chick reveals his actual name (Charles Hogan). In return, Chick deduces that such a massive police operation could only mean one thing for Norman – a murder investigation.
Chick is sincerely relieved Norman’s not dead. But his arrest does leave the Bates house empty and need of a caretaker …
Former Sheriff and Current Escaped convict Alex Romero continues his implacable journey to avenge Norma’s death. He steals his gun from a sleeping Maggie (Jillian Fargey) to wander the empty Bates Home. Seeing phantom visions of his wife everywhere, Romero finally falls asleep on her bed.
But he isn’t alone with his memories. Through the vents, Romero hears a muffled dialogue. He follows the voices to Norman’s cold storage shrine that formerly held the corpse of his mother.
Amid the dead flowers and candelabra, Chick Hogan listens to the tape of his demented dinner with Norman and “Mother” while he writes his masterwork. Dressed like Grizzly Adams gone mad, Chick admits, “this looks weird.”
Unfortunately for his survival odds, Chick decides to respond to Romero’s basic question -what are you doing here? – with an only-from-Chick soliloquy praising the demented magnificence of Norma and Norman.
Romero slowly loses patience with Chick’s ramblings. Chick tells him that Norman dug up his mother, put her on private display, then got rid of the body before the police showed up, building his monologue to a truly magnificent finale.
“He dug her up! The artificiality of scripted drama doesn’t hold a candle to True Crime!”
Alex unceremoniously shoots Chick straight between the eyes. Chick, silenced at last, falls to his keyboard and we hear the tiny “ding!” of the return bar.
~ to his brother’s belief, in many states Norman could be found to be BOTH mentally ill AND a criminal. Oregon follows a Guilty Except for Insanity guideline, governed by a Psychiatric Security Review Board.
~ If you were wondering “Remo Who?” with respect to who gave Dylan “Julia Ramos, Attorney At Law” card, you’re not alone. Back in Dylan’s career as a pot farm flunky, Remo Wallace was a co-worker.
~ Chick Hogan, a John Denver fan? He’s listening to “Back Home Again” as he pulls into the Bates Motel for his “business meeting” with Norman.
~ Mother as Norman describes Sam Loomis as a “nasty, nasty man” and a Madeline Loomis throwing herself on Norman echoes Mother in Psycho haranguing Norman about “young men with cheap, erotic minds,” and Norman remarking, “She might have fooled me, but she didn’t fool my mother.”
~ The next to last shot of “The Body” is Sam Loomis’s corpse being pulled out of the well. The last shot of Psycho – Marion Crane’s car dragged out of the pond.
Timothy: It’s good to have a responsible adult around. Anyway, sit back and listen to the three of us talk about a zombie show that is actually supposed to be funny, and please rate and comment on the show, wherever you listen to this podcast of ours!
Blumhouse and Sony Shopping For Horror Adaptations
It seems the studios have gone shopping with horror on their list. Recently Blumhouse Productions acquired the video game adaptation of Five Nights At Freddy’s and Sony won an auction for screen rights to the graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.
Originally, Warner Bros. and New Line had the rights to Five Nights At Freddy’s, announcing the project in 2015. It was supposed to be helmed by Gil Kenan, who directed The Poltergeist remake, with Seth Grahame-Smith and Roy Lee producing. Then all went silent, except for an update from game creator Scott Cawthon stating that “the script was being worked on, but was taking long to put together.” The film was pulled from production a few months ago and several studios started circling in. Now, game creator Scott Cawthon has posted on Twitter an image of a director’s chair with the name Freddy in front of a screen that says Blumhouse Productions.
Based on the 2014 game Five Nights At Freddy’s, the player works the midnight to 6 AM shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, similar to Chuck-E-Cheese. Stuck in an office, watching security cameras to monitor, they realize the life sized animatronic animal characters can roam freely at night. The player never sees them move, but they do and if (and when) they find you, they kill you. The goal: to get out alive. The game was so popular, a sequel was released a few months after the original. The third installment was released in 2015 and takes place 30 years after the first Freddy’s.
A partnership with Blumhouse Productions seems appropriate for this film. They have a built in audience for low-budget horror flicks, with the success of movies like the Paranormal Activity series, The Purge series, and the last two films from M. Night Shyamalan, including Split. The games gimmicky straightforward survival horror story with weird characters and jump scares makes Blumhouse a perfect home.
No one is currently attached to the project, so it appears Blumhouse will start anew.
Now for fans of a softer horror flick, then Sony’s new acquisition may be more their speed. They have won an auction for the screen rights to Emil Ferris’s graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. Sony beat out three other studios for this project, mixing B-movie monsters, pulp horror, and a murder mystery with some Holocaust history.
The story follows Karen Reyes, a 10-year-old precocious, inquisitive girl who lives with her mother and brother in Chicago during the late ‘60s, during at time of political chaos. A social outcast, Karen spends her time drawing, watching horror movies, identifying with monsters and romanticizing herself as a werewolf girl with fangs that protrude from her lower jaw. She befriends her upstairs neighbor, Anka, a Holocaust survivor. When she is murdered, Karen sets off to find the killers, a search that leads her through Anka’s life in Nazi Germany. The story is littered with monsters, real and imagined.
Fantagraphics Press released Monsters in February 2017 and it immediately received glowing reviews. The book is not told in sequential panels like most comic/graphic novels. Instead, it is shown through Karen’s sketchbook, with intricate ballpoint pen style drawings.
Bradley Gallo and Michael Helfant will produce for Amasia Entertainment. Palak Patel from Columbia Pictures will join them. Currently, Sam Mendes is in early talks to develop through his Neal Street banner, producing and possibly even direct.
Ferris received her MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and was an illustrator and toy sculptor. At the age of 40, she became paralyzed from the waist down and lost the use of her right hand after contracting the West Nile virus. She taught herself to draw again by duct taping a quill pen to her hand. She now can walk with the help of a cane.
The book took six years to create. Always fascinated by monsters, she would watch werewolf movies as a child and find herself sympathizing with the wolf. In an interview, she states, “I’ve always felt like [monsters] were kind of heroic because they were facing something. Becoming a monster sometimes isn’t a choice that you have. We’re all that; we’re all ‘the other’ in one way or another.”
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is Emil Ferris’s first novel.
Mother and Norman – INSEPARABLE Partners in Crime on BATES MOTEL
Season 5, Episode 7 “Inseparable” Written by Freddie Highmore Directed by Steph Green
[Images courtesy A&E/Cate Cameron]
How can Bates Motel top the death of Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) last week in “Marion“? By charting through the post-Marion Crane story giving Norman (Freddie Highmore) a bit more agency while revealing how determined, tenacious, and ruthless Mother (Vera Farmiga) can be when her existence and relationship with Norman is threatened.
Add in a whopper of a misdirection reveal and you’ve got one heck of a script — written by Freddie Highmore himself.
“Marion” put a Bates Motel spin on the Psycho Shower Scene to create something new within the classic. “Inseparable” borrows directly from the film; the first thing we see is Sam’s open, “dead-still … fish-like right eye.” Bloody faced, Norman stands mute against the bathroom wall. He doesn’t even notice Mother bustling in with her fully-stocked cleaning cart. “I know you’re in shock … You can think about the meaning of life later. Right now, we’ve got s**t to do.”
Mother’s non-helpful pep talk continues on their midnight ride to dispose of Sam’s body. But somebody’s beaten them to Lake This-Is-Where-We-Dump-Corpses. What looks like the entire White Pine Bay police force is parked by the shore as a body (most likely the missing Joe Blackwell) is retrieved from the water. Norman vomits. Mother sighs. “It’s going to be a long night.”
Luckily for Norman, Mother’s kept her eyes open for other spots to dump bodies since they can’t use the lake “this time.” He asks her, “How many bodies are they going to find in that lake? How many times have we done this?” Be careful with your questions, Norman. You may not like the truth Mother tells you.
One comically inept trip to an abandoned well in the forest and Sam Loomis is history — for now. Norman continues to be amazed at Mother’s knowledge of things like “chop shops” that will give money for cars. Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst) didn’t give him any money for Jim Blackwell’s car!
Norman and Mother walk home after a long night of evidence disposal. Mother wonders where she left the Luminol. Norman, still apparently in shock, wonders if he should just turn himself in. With a combination of concerned care and and unstated threat, Mother offers to “take over” if things get to be too much for Norman to deal with.
Our murderous duo arrives back at the motel just in time for Norman to completely fail at deflecting Detective Arbogast Sheriff Greene’s (Brooke Smith) kind but persistent questions regarding the motel, guests at the motel, and those odd tire tracks in the parking lot gravel. Oh, and by the way, “multiple” bodies were recovered from the lake nearby. Norman nervously babbles his way through a very unconvincing story about recommending the lake to guests and getting started on “Linen Day” before Sheriff Greene takes her leave.
Whew! Norman now has time to drag a wheelchair (?) from somewhere in the house, drag Norma’s corpse out of cold storage, bury his mother in the shallowest grave in Oregon before promising, “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” If Norman isn’t consciously trying to turn himself in yet, he’s unconsciously leaving plenty of clues for the White Pine Bay Police.
To make Norman’s day even more crap-tastic, Dylan (Max Theirot) pulls up to the house! No naptime for Norman yet. Norman apologizes for not telling his brother of Norma’s death. Seeing Mother behind Dylan, Norman whispers to his brother, “I do miss our Mother, so very much Dylan … I can’t even tell you.” Dylan, puppy-dog eyes full of tears, says “I don’t think you’re well, Norman,” and offers to stay for a few days.
Norman (finally!) goes to take a nap after leaving his brother with a Norman Bates Sandwich Special for lunch. Dylan opts for a self-guided tour through a home full of pictures, dust, and wilted flowers. He breaks down in tears in Norma’s room. Even in death, Norma’s ability to guilt trip the men in her family is uncanny.
Poor Norman. Mother wakes him up from nap time to deliver another veiled threat; this time it’s about Dylan. He’s a nice boy, they all love him, but “he’s never really understood us. We can’t have him in our lives anymore.” Norman must get him to leave — with the silent promise that Mother can take care of the situation if Norman cannot.
Dylan will not give up on Norman. But trying to help his brother sets in motion a confrontation with Mother that almost costs Dylan his life. He stops at a pharmacy in White Pine Bay, asking them to contact Dr. Edwards (Damon Gupton) for a prescription refill. The pharmacist has to tell a shocked Dylan (and an equally shocked audience) that Dr. Edwards has been missing for about a year and is presumed dead.
A stunned Dylan tells the pharmacist his brother needs his medication or “something bad will happen.” Too bad he (or the pharmacist) doesn’t go to the police with this information. Dylan gets a few pills and heads “home.”
Madeline, loitering by the motel, delivers a helpful “my husband Sam Loomis is mysteriously missing” plot point to Dylan before leaving her only scene of the episode.
As is Tradition in the Bates home, a tension-filled dinner (in a remarkably cleaned up kitchen) ends in disaster with food on the floor, broken glass, and attempted murder. Dylan begs Norman to take one of the pills he brought. Norman in return begs Dylan to “just leave me be and let me live how I need to live.” Pill in hand, Norman walks to the sink to get a glass of water.
Mother “just wants to talk” to Dylan; she turns from the sink and addresses her eldest son. Mother loves him very much, but can only be a real mother to one person. Dylan means well, but he is in the way.
Down comes the water class on Dylan’s head, followed by a knife wielded by Mother. Dylan, stunned and bleeding, sees Norman fighting with himself; we see Mother viciously fighting to break free and kill Dylan. Norman manages to take control, shoving Mother off the table before scrambling to the phone.
Norman calls 911 and says words that sets Bates Motel on a fascinating, uncharted course.
“My name is Norman Bates, and I killed Sam Loomis.”
~ RomeroWatch – Former Sheriff and Current Prison Farm Escapee Alex Romero is still recuperating at the home of former flame (?) Maggie (Jillian Fargey). Romero is feeling well enough to frantically search Maggie’s home for his gun after a good breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and sausage.
~ This season began two years after Norma’s death; Dr. Edwards “disappeared” one year ago. The coffee talk scene between Norman and Dr. Edwards in “Dreams Die First” was all in Norman’s mind.
When (and how) did Dr. Edwards become such a threat to Mother’s existence that he had to die? Will we get to see THAT flashback? Congratulations to the entire Bates Motel crew for pulling off the rare (and tricky) “Sixth Sense” twist.
~ In a Hollywood Reporter interview after “Marion,” Executive Producer Carlton Cuse used an interesting word with respect to Norman killing Sam in the Bates Motel version of “the shower scene.”
“There was a very clearly designed progression in terms of his culpability, and that was his journey as a character as a serial killer. It’s weird to use those words, because I don’t think we ever thought of him as that. We thought of him as someone who was troubled and had this horrible psychopathology and it’s just getting progressive, and it’s part of that progressive journey as he becomes more and more on the hook for his actions.”
Good News – Norman Bates is getting some agency in his story and some responsibility for the many crimes in his wake. Bad news – the Norman of Bates Motel may end the same way as Norman in Psycho – with the son subsumed completely into Mother.
~ Mother remembers the Luminol – so important for the “micro cleaning” of Room One.
~ Oregon does have the death penalty – for aggravated murder. However, there is currently a moratorium on executions.
ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: The Rest of Your WALKING DEAD Life
It’s the season finale of The Walking Dead on this week’s Zombpocalypse Now! Mr. Adair and Mr. Harvey have thoughts!
Season 7, Episode 16 “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” Written by Scott M. Gimple & Angela Kang & Matthew Negrete Directed by Greg Nicotero
Dustin: We didn’t talk about the bicyclists!
Timothy: Yes, there were, in fact, bicyclists.
Dustin: Because bicycles are eminently sensible means of transportation in this world of The Walking Dead. This world where you bitch constantly about the fact that all the gas would have expired years ago, so none of the cars we see all the time would actually work.
Dustin: All the time. You say it all the time.
Timothy: Not all the…
Dustin: All the time.
Timothy: Fine. I have said it, from time to time. And there were people on bicycles. Terrible people.
Dustin: The worst people. And we talk about all the worst people on the season finale! On our podcast! Right here! Zombpocalypse Now! We even have a sponsor!
Bloodrunners (2017) Written by Michael McFadden Directed by Dan Lantz Speakeasy Pictures 95 minutes, not rated
[All images courtesy Dan Lantz]
In the rural New Jersey community of South Hampton, a small and thoroughly corrupt police department spends most of their time before Prohibition ends collecting bribes instead of enforcing the law. As Bloodrunners begins, two of these cops are checking out the newest joint in town, a jazz club called Chesterfield’s.
Jack Malone (Michael McFadden) is the older, alcoholic mentor to younger (but equally corrupt) younger partner Sam (Dan McLaughlin). While the club clearly makes money serving illegal booze, Jack suspects they have a larger operation – which means more money for the police to extort. Unfortunately for Jack, Dan, and every human in South Hampton, these bootleggers are much smarter – and deadlier – than anyone realizes. Whoever’s running Chesterfield’s isn’t just out to separate customers from their money; they aim to literally bleed the town dry.
In my previous article on the release of Bloodrunners, I noted the potential of different elements mixed together in this movie to result in an entertaining popcorn movie for viewers.
Placing a classic horror movie character type in a historical setting? Worked pretty well for Interview with the Vampire. And pitting an “evil” supernatural character against a group of scummy humans creates an interesting “who do I want to see win” situation (done to perfection in From Dusk Til Dawn).
Does Bloodrunners successfully mix vamps, jazz, and small town Americana? Surprisingly well. Let’s start with what works.
Dan Lantz didn’t just do triple duty as Director, Production Designer & Cinematographer for Bloodrunners. He’s also credited with the concept and co-creating the original story with writer (and leading man) Michael McFadden. With an estimated production budget of $180,000 (if IMDB is correct), every penny is on the screen.
Lantz has made a very small budget movie that never looks it. Whatever its faults (see below), Bloodrunners transports you to the past, especially during any scene set at Chesterfield’s when the band is playing. The jazzy music throughout the film – credited on IMDB to Bruce Greenwald as arranger/studio musician and Jerome Danoff and F. William White IV as studio musicians – was, for me at least, a key element pulling me into the story. The special effects served the story, instead of the other way around.
Another element pulling Bloodrunners together is the performances. Ice-T gets top billing as suave, ruthless vampire boss Chesterfield. But the supporting members of his vampire clan/business model also shine. Slinky singer Alexandra (Julie Ek) loves torturing townsfolk almost as much as singing. Peter Patrikios plays the human (and more importantly in Jim Crow-era America, white) figurehead Victor Renfield with relish. Renfield loves serving his vampire masters – and duping cops too blinded by greed to notice the truth until it’s too late.
Star-crossed lovers Anna (Airen DeLaMater) and Willie (Chris James Boylan) play the two humans in town we actually root for. Cigarette Girl/Betty Boop wannabe Rita (Tina Marie Connell) can’t carry a tune in a bucket but did make me smile.
What doesn’t work in Bloodrunners? Some aspects of the story that got the most screen time proved not as interesting as bits with much less.
We get to know a lot about why Jack Malone became an alcohol-sodden wreck; WWI and a Vampire medic played a big role. But his story isn’t as interesting as the amount of time the movie devotes to it. Which means less time for things I wanted more of – from the spectacularly creepy Vampire Dungeon below Chesterfield’s to the suave, mysterious and deadly Mr. Washington. The whole concept of a traveling coven of vampires, moving from town to town with a – shall we say – unique business model deserved more screen time than the story of Jack Malone’s Bad War Experience.
Bloodrunners may not be greatest vampire movie I’ve ever seen. But it is a fun, entertaining B-movie with performances and production values that belie its small indie budget.
Bloodrunners is available on DVD/BluRay, as well as multiple streaming platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, and Vimeo On Demand.
Check out the official Bloodrunnersweb page for more trailers like the one below, movie clips, and photos.
LORE Announces Robert Patrick Joining its TV Series
If you listen to podcasts, you’ve probably heard of Lore, Aaron Mahnke’s “bi-weekly podcast about the dark historical tales that fuel our modern superstitions.” The podcast runs in 30-minute shows and discusses the origins of various folklores, like vampires, zombies, and haunted locations, as well as horror-based mysteries throughout history.
Right now, it’s #22 on the Top Charts on iPhone’s Podcasts app, and it has a 5-star rating. It has over 3.2 million monthly listens and was started just two years ago. It was also announced awhile back that it’d be getting its own TV show, and while news has been basically nonexistent about the series since, the show finally revealed its first cast member!
Robert Patrick, who has an impressive list of credits under his belt like Final Destination, The X-Files, Scorpion, and True Blood, will be joining his Terminator 2 producer, Gale Anne Hurd, on the set of the Lore TV series. While we don’t know much more than that, it’s rumored that he’ll have a “meaty part” on the show.
Patrick is set to film his part later this spring while on a break from filming Scorpion. Lore will start out with a ten episode first season through Amazon. Hurd will executive produce the series along with Mahnke, Howard T. Owens, Ben Silverman, and Brett-Patrick Jenkins. The series plans to be released late this year or early in 2018.
Season 5, Episode 6 “Marion” Written by Carlton Cuse & Kerry Ehrin Directed by Phil Abraham
[Images courtesy A&E/Cate Cameron]
Last week “Dreams Die First” gave us Bates Motel Presents – The Marion Crane Story. This week, “Marion” goes towards, into, and beyond the most shocking moment of the first slasher movie (spoiler alert – it concerns a shower).
Former Sheriff and Current Prison Escapee Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is (we hope) still recuperating. Emma and Dylan (Max Theriot and Olivia Cooke) learn of Norma’s supposed “suicide,” and experience the callousness Norman (Freddie Highmore) displays towards any family member not named Mother. And, of course, Marion Crane checks in at the Bates Motel.
Marion (Rihanna), a bit soggy but still looking fabulous in her crushed blue velvet coat, waits for Norman to descend the looonnggg set of stairs from the house. Norman nervously offers Marion an “off-season stormy middle of the night” rate of $60.00 (he doesn’t mention Room One’s Peeping Tom special). Marion signs in as “Marie Samuels.” Norman helpfully points out the Bates Motel stationery before going back to the house; he’s going to make Marion something for dinner.
Norman prepares a ham sandwich for Marion while beginning an episode long knock-down drag-out battle of wits between what’s left of his sanity and the Mother (Vera Farmiga) in his head.
It starts quietly. Mother nitpicks Norman’s choice of wheat for a ham sandwich. Norman uses a very large knife to Marion’s sandwich while deflecting Mother’s verbal jabs. “What game are we playing tonight, Mother?” Mother slices an apple. Norman argues, “You don’t exist. I made you up … You have no power over me and I’m going to prove it.”
Norman’s big act of rebellion? Having dinner with an attractive woman. Norman watches Marion eat “like a bird” and they exchange sad stories of their respective childhoods. Norman’s stuffed birds blindly observe.
Marion spins a mix of probable truth (only child, mother died early, shunted off to an aunt in Miami) with some lies (she’s from Los Angeles). Norman paraphrases one of Anthony Perkins’ most famous lines, bemoaning “the private traps that everyone lives in” including the family trap. “We need people, but that need can destroy us.”
A call from Lying Philanderer Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) breaks up dinner. Norman gets an earful of Marion tearing into Sam while his handy spy hole offers a voyeurs-eye view of Marion preparing to take a shower in Room One. Norman becomes more aroused. Mother reminds him, “I’m with you Norman, don’t forget that. This is why you need me.”
Now Bates Motel takes a major swerve from the original Psycho story. Marion stops her shower, hastily dresses, and insists on seeing the motel registry. She heard Madeline (Isabelle McNally) screaming in the background during her call to Lying Sam. If Norman would be so kind to let her look at the register, she can make sure he’s OK.
Norman sees a golden opportunity to get even with Sam Loomis. Last week he spilled the beans to Madeline Loomis about her husband’s affair; now he informs Marion that her boyfriend is married. She doesn’t have to check the register. Norman knows the address and happily writes it out for her.
Marion sees the truth and trashes Sam’s car. Sam runs out to confront his girlfriend. Madeline sees the truth and promptly locks Sam out of their house.
Back at the Bates place, Norman attempts to make another sandwich, ignoring the feast Mother has prepared. He rebuffs her attempts at domesticity. “Don’t pretend you’re her.” In retaliation, Mother trashes the kitchen, screaming “Is that real? Say I’m real!” as plates smash on the floor and dinner is swept off the table.
Norman buckles and admits Mother is real. She turns off the fury and embraces her son. We see Norman standing alone, leaning into her embrace amidst a disaster zone of food and broken crockery.
Norman returns to the motel and sees Marion’s car is back. Marion herself is kneeling in a room strewn with clothes, gazing at the $400,000 she stole for Sam. Norman gingerly moves some undergarments out of the way and sits on the bed next to Marion. Bad decision. He becomes more and more agitated. He begs her to leave: “Get out of here while you still can.”
She does. Marion takes the money and hightails it out of White Pine Bay. A cell phone flies out the window as she speeds away.
But someone has to get murdered Room One! Thankfully, Sam Loomis stumbles in. No girlfriend around to hear his (fake) apology? Sam decides to clean up while waiting for Marion to respond to a message she’ll never get.
In the motel office, Mother gives Norman the fruit of the poisonous tree — knowledge of good and evil. “You get the truth Norman, but also the pain.” Mother exists because of men like Sam Loomis. Mother kills for Norman because as a child he couldn’t protect Norma from Sam Bates’ physical abuse. Now Mother and Norman are “equal partners.” It’s time for adult Norman to do what the child could not.
Norman protects Madeline the way he couldn’t protect his mother. He stabs Sam Loomis to death and asks, “Mother, what have I done?”
Dylan and Emma
Back in Seattle, Emma shows Dylan the White Pine Bay Current headline from two years ago — “Norma Bates, Business Owner, and Local Sheriff’s Wife, Found Dead in Apparent Suicide.” Dylan calls Norman, who is cold, flippant and dismissive to his half-brother. Dylan changed his phone number and cut off contact. It’s Dylan’s own fault Norman didn’t tell him their mother was dead. After a few minutes, Norman cuts Dylan off with a curt goodbye and hangs up.
~ Composer Chris Bacon’s music throughout this episode channels the surging nervous energy of Bernard Hermann’s iconic all-strings score for Psycho.
~ Poor Sam Loomis. From Philandering Lying Liar Who Lies – to Philandering Lying Liar Who Is Now Dead.
By assigning the Shower Scene to Sam, there’s an interesting change in the dynamics of the Psycho story, along with a shift of the meaning of this scene within the overall Bates Motel story.
In Psycho, Marion was murdered by Norman As Mother because she was a woman and (in my opinion) she made a choice to break free of her trap. Marion chooses to return to Phoenix and face the consequences of her actions. Norman, stuck in his own trap, can’t stand to see anyone else break free. Most importantly, we knew Marion; we understood her motivations and were shocked by her death.
Sam Loomis is murdered by Norman as Norman because he is just like Sam Bates. Because he’s been pretty much a constant lying jerk to everyone he’s met, the murder of Sam Loomis is, while not meaningless, more like the murder of (as TVTropes.com calls them) The Unlikable Victim (well, they call is something else that begins with an A- and ends with -le).
Sam isn’t really a character whose death we care about except in how it moves the story along; watching him die is not much different than observing Jason murdering Stupid Camp Counselor #1 in a Friday the 13th movie.
~ Actor Austin Nichols, in an interview with Yahoo, mentions that there were certain aspects of Psycho they show runners wanted to adhere to, and The Shower Scene is one of them. Check out this anatomy of the Psycho shower scene from The Guardian then re-watch the last few minutes of “Marion” to compare the two.
~ Nice bit of symbolism of the apple handled by Mother, uneaten by Marion, but given to Norman when he learns the truth of what Mother represents in his mind.
~ Since Marion sounded like an only child, looks like we won’t see a sister named Lila snooping around the Bates Motel. Previews for next week’s “Inseparable” show Madeline Loomis looking for her missing husband instead.
A concern of remakes: will it be as good as or better than the original? When David Cronenberg remade The Fly in 1986, not only did it exceed expectations but also became a quintessential example of the ‘body horror’ genre pioneered by the director. Now Fox is in talks with J.D. Dillard to “re-adapt” the film.
Based on a short story by George Langelaan, The Fly is the story of a scientist whose work backfires, causing him to mutate into a grotesque human fly. Kurt Newmann produced and directed the original 1958 film starring Vincent Price. Two sequels followed it: Return of the Fly (1959) and Curse of the Fly (1965). After the remake in 1986 and its sequel, The Fly II in 1989, the project lay dormant. In 2009, Fox was in talks with Cronenberg for his sequel, but it fell through due to budgetary disagreements.
Dillard would co-write the script with writing partner Alex Theurer. They would definitely bring a fresh look at the story, but there is no word on how much they may change the story. They have some background in the horror genre with their drama thriller Sleight. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival’s Next section last year and was acquired by WWE Studios and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse. The story is a blend of science fiction and street magic story set in Los Angeles. A young street magician is left to care for his sister and turns to drug peddling to keep a roof over their heads. When he gets in too deep and his sister is kidnapped, he is forced to use his skills to rescue her. Sleight will be released April 28.
Currently the two are in pre-production on Sweetheart, also for Blumhouse. Alex Hyner helped them co-write the horror-thriller that stars Dope’s Kiersey Clemons. They will most likely finish this project before diving into The Fly.