Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Scream Season 2 Episode 5

It’s a common complaint that horror movies don’t address their own consequences - that a movie piles up bodies but we never see anything beyond that, no loss to friends or families, no dealing with the survivors once they escape the clutches of the monster. After last week’s big finish, this week’s episode of “Scream” actually does try to deal with the consequences of it all, although, what could have been a Very Special episode doesn’t take too long before things continue to spiral out of control.
For those that missed it, everyone in the high school found out Jake was dead last week when his bloody body dropped onstage and his blood dumped all over Brooke. We start this week with the school on lockdown, the police are there and tensions, to put it politely, begin to mount. Before we’re done there are two brawls, Keiran and Emma face a challenge, Noah gets deeper into things with Audrey than he ever imagined, Stavo is backed into a corner by the entire student body, creepy Eli is still being creepy Eli and the new teacher continues to seem to be more than she appears, and none of it is all that good.
But, first, Brooke. Traumatized by last week’s reveal, Brooke’s our reminder that there’s more to this than a horror movie. She’s shown as mostly in shock, frozen in her Carrie-esque nightmare as cops and doctors surround her. When she does start to talk there’s a frankness to her, but a frankness that lacks the sort of sarcastic bite she normally displays. Where Brooke goes next will be the interesting part of the second half of the season. She’s never been one to trifle with, and the teases so far make it clear that’s going to be even more true. You don’t screw with Brooke.
It’s also starting to look like the days of being able to screw with Emma are coming to an end. As much as she’s been too damsel-in-distress-y this season, as this episode went on, she seemed to turn a corner and not only did she throw a right hook or two, she also took control of the end of the episode in a way that said she’s emotionally taking control of herself and the situation. This is good, if we want Emma to be one of our protagonists, she’ll need to nut up. That’s what she seems to be doing.
Lots of cellphones come into play this week, from both the living and the dead. It puts information in other peoples’ hands, that’s for sure, most notably the Sheriff and, at the episode’s closing, Noah. I won’t spoil who has what phone but, well, next week should lead to some serious twists and turns as people try to wiggle out of trouble.
It’s going to get ugly, I think. And it could be really freakin’ awesome.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Conjuring 2 Review

With so much geek culture being the thing in the mainstream right now, it’s not surprising to see horror following suit. The dark and sleazy edges of the genre have been pushed to the fringe (again) and horror is again making blockbusters - big summer blockbusters that are roller coasters of excitement as the creators gleefully make us jump out of our seats with well-timed jump scares and a seemingly endless assortment of haunted houses to exploit.
James Wan is at the center of all this, having perfected his Hollywood horror skills, which began with the first “Saw” movie and has gone from there to “Dead Silence” to “Insidious” to the first “Conjuring” movie. Is “Conjuring 2” his peak? I guess time will tell but it’s a slick and steady successor to his original that has big box office written all over it. This is not a low budget exploitation movie that happens to catch on - this is Hollywood moviemaking through and through.
The protagonists of the “Conjuring” movies are Ed and Lorraine Warren, real life ghost hunters brought to film by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The movie version sees the twosome motivated by love and God to help people who need help. While often in horror the ghost hunters are really just there to provide exposition, Wan uses the Warrens as the emotional crux of the story - it’s their faith that anchors them to reality and it’s the devil himself attacking that faith that causes conflict.
For “Conjuring 2” the story starts in Amityville briefly before moving to London and the Enfield haunting which is, essentially, the British equivalent of our Amityville horror. There’s nothing especially shocking about the concept: a family is being haunted by something inside their house. It starts with their children and escalates, until the Warrens themselves are called in.
The difference between this movie and the lesser versions that pop up is Wan’s steady hand. His kind of horror is one of timing - he leaves the camera on a spot in a dark room, sometimes something happens, sometimes nothing happens. How he manipulates that timing is where his horror comes from. When we’re comfortable, he attacks. When it’s bad, he makes it worse. It may not be genius, but it’s still pretty dang effective.
“The Conjuring 2” has a secret weapon, though, one that’s a little surprising for a horror movie these days. Whereas so much horror is bad things happening to unlikable people, there’s a real compassion laced through this movie. The family being haunted is being given enough time to breath that you do start wanting the terror to stop. Again, that compassion is carried over to the Warrens. This is not a movie where you root for the monster, for sure. Even scenes where each Warren talks to the haunted girl (a splendid Madison Wolf) tug at the heart strings without being cloying.
Still, the movie does suffer a bit from Hollywood excess. The last battle is needlessly long and puts its thumb a little too squarely on the themes of the piece. As much as the movie is based on true events - the last act is such an obvious exaggeration, it doesn’t lessen the experience per se, but it certainly takes it from something that may have happened to something that’s clearly a big, expensive action set piece.
There’s horror that makes your skin crawl and leaves you wondering why you even watched the movie in the first place. “The Conjuring 2” is not that kind of movie. This is a bright movie - a roller coaster ride where you hide your eyes but don’t lose sleep at night.
Unless of course, you hear something go bump in the night. At that point, you’re on your own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Scream Season 2 Episode 4

The biggest cheat in horror is the dream sequence - something really terrifying that our protagonist can’t escape happens, only they wake up at the last second and all is well. “Scream” has used it a couple times with Emma.
This week, most of the episode is an elaborate hallucination brought forth by some spiked booze that was seemingly sent by Jake, who no one knows is really, really dad yet.
So who DID send the spiked drink? Eli’s the one that found it but he has so many red flags that it seems unlikely he’s the bad guy ... unless they WANT us to think it’s too obvious that he’s the bad guy.
The hallucinations, of course, were all tied to the plot and themes. Brooke didn’t know if creepy Gustav was trying to help her through her sickness or trying to take her clothes off. The hallucination of Jake wasn’t helping matters any.
Audrey and Noah made out in their sickly state, only to have Zoe, on a date with Noah, join in a bit too, with both of them. Oh, and Audrey told Noah she was sorry, although she didn’t say for what. As we know, she has a LOT of things she could apologize for, not the least of which was the previous week where she was ready to bash his head in with a statue to save her own ass.
Emma ran away and may or may not have been chased by the Brandon James killer - was it a hallucnation? We still don’t know, but it did set the tone that she now thinks there’s a killer on the loose and that the madness is happening again.
For the episode’s big finale, the school announced the five finalists for their annual beauty pageant, one of whom was Brooke. As she was announced the episode went all “Carrie,” but it wasn’t a pig’s blood dumped on her head, it was Jake’s as his body fell from the rafters and landed on the stage in front of everyone.
Now that’s a cliffhanger.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Scream Season 2 Episode 3

SPOILER-FILLED WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK PART: Last week, Emma was followed by a mysterious car, that turned out meant her dad was back in town. Noah talked to the desk boy at the hotel where Piper stayed last season and found out about a mysterious storage unit where Piper kept her stuff. Audrey went to said storage unit where she found Jake’s bloody body.
Episode 3 of “Scream” keeps the momentum from last episode - Audrey’s going more and more out of her mind trying to keep her secrets - secrets Noah seems determined to find on his own. Emma has all sorts of family drama with her dad back in town and creepy Mr. Branson shows up again to give Brooke trouble.
So far the real excitement this season is with Audrey trying to get away from her hand in last season’s murders. While we still don’t know exactly how much blood is literally on her hands, we do know there’s enough. This week we saw what lengths she might go to in order to protect herself as she almost took some pretty serious actions about her best friend Noah. With a show like this, though, a major crisis was averted but, still, not knowing what Audrey would have done, but seeing what it looked like she was going to do was pretty heavy stuff.
We learned a lot about Emma’s dad and, more importantly, learned he’s been getting updates about Emma from one of last season’s victims via email. All this leads to the belief that someone wanted him back in town, the question is why. The episode made a pretty big hint about it, mind you, but there’s a lot left to do.
Again, one thing the show continues to do well is use the horror melodrama as a way to reveal the truths these characters have been hiding from for years. In this case, we learn the reasons Emma’s dad left - they’re not fodder for a murder mystery so much as they’re the end result of a normal human falling apart and losing control. It’s that underlying unhappiness that has made this show work since day one.
Oh yeah, then Brooke and friends ran into douchey Mr. Branson at a movie theater. Weird Gustav was there too and before we knew it he’d aligned himself with Brooke, Noah and Zoe (who’s hoping to get in on some of that Noah action.) It could all be teenage melodrama but, on a show like this, it could be a lot more. We did learn that Branson’s been around more than we thought and that only drove home Brooke’s frustrations with the still missing Jake. Granted, we know why Jake’s missing but the show isn’t letting anyone else know, which is a fun and morbid twist on things.
Still, the real thrill this season is seeing Audrey getting more and more trapped in her own past, with no real end in sight. At some point she’s going to have to tell someone something, right?
In the meantime, the killer came closest to taking another shot at one of the Lakewood Six tonight. It got foiled. Maybe next time it won’t.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Scream Season 2 Episode 2

SPOILER-FILLED WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK PART: Last week, Emma came home from therapy but was still crazy, Noah got more and more obsessed with finding out Piper’s accomplice, much to Audrey’s dismay, Brooke and Jack had a happy moment, then a big fight then Jake got eviscerated.
After one of the “Lakewood Six” met their untimely end last week, more weirdness seems to be finding the other survivors and Audrey keeps finding herself more and more trapped by her past and the inevitability that someone’s going to find out what she did. Kieran’s somewhat creepy cousin Eli cryptically bumped into Emma (because Emma needs more cryptic encounters in her life,) and the sheriff’s weird son Gustavo continued to give off as many weird vibes as possible to our real heroine, Brooke. Noah closed in on a big reveal as a hotel desk boy claimed he knows who Piper’s accomplice is, which, naturally made Audrey crap her pants.
Oh, and by the way, Jake’s still dead, although as the episode begins no one knows that. Brooke thinks he’s just being stubborn and his parents are out of town. But where IS Jake? Keep watching ...
Anyway, Emma’s still tormented by her past this week, freaking out when she sees a woman in the coffee house who might be Piper, and then an old crappy mysterious car starts following her around. Rather than doom herself to an entire season of self-pity, though, she makes Kieran take her to the dock where all the shit hit the fan and confront her fears. She relives the tragic finale of last season again and thinks she sees the Brandon James killer but realizes it’s only a hallucination. Happy that she’s seemingly over the trauma of last season, Emma and Kieran totally do it.
Not that Kieran’s life is without trouble as he’s been living alone since his father died, which the police aren’t too thrilled about. His aunt is talked into staying with them by the aforementioned Eli and the whole thing seems weird. The aunt seems really white trash and wants to cash in on the free room and board taking care of Kieran will provide. Eli, meanwhile, well he just seems to have something nasty up his sleeves. Or it’s all a red herring and he’s really a helluva guy. We’ll have to keep watching.
The big conflict this week is with Audrey as she freaks out when she learns the desk clerk at the hotel knows who Piper’s accomplice is. Noah’s excitement at getting closer to the story is tearing Audrey apart and seeing her take action when she needs to is a great reminder that she’s done some pretty hardcore things so far, even if we don’t know EXACTLY what, we have some kind of idea. The question is becoming: what is she willing to do to get Noah off the case?
Jake then texts Brooke back and invites her over which is odd, since he’s dead and all. All signs point to creeper Gustavo being involved with the texting but nothing’s confirmed. While it seems somewhat inevitable that Brooke would go to Jake’s and find his body, that’s not what happens. While his body IS revealed, it’s done in a far creepier and bigger way.
It’s that cliffhanger that really sets the stage for next week. Shit’s about to get real.