<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - FILM REVIEWS]]>Fri, 07 Jul 2017 18:11:36 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[AMERICAN GODS:   EPISODE 5]]>Thu, 29 Jun 2017 06:23:23 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/american-gods-episode-5By George Daniel Lea 

Even amongst the endlessly inventive and abstruse material that American Gods provides, this episode is an oddity. 

The show seems to be intent on never being predictable; on constantly re-defining its audience's parameters and expectations in the manner of a David Lynch work. Not only does it do so in terms of story and subject, but even in the styles and mediums it presents them. 

So, the episode opens with a familiar scene; where the last two culminated, in Shadow's reunion with now-undead wife, Laura, but then quickly shifts to one of the “Coming to America” sequences which is, ironically not a “Coming to America” sequence at all, but an “Established in America” sequence, involving tribespeople from the last ice age, hunting down mammoths, making clothes from their hides, eating their meat, rendering icons in their bones and skulls. 

What makes this sequence bizarrely (but effectively) incongruous is the nature of its recording: whereas all previous such sequences have been live action, this one is rendered in CG animation, lending it a quality that is removed from waking reality, almost fairy tale or dream like in its ethos. 

The story of the tribe itself is all but wordless, exploring their hardships, their efforts to eke out a living from increasingly hostile and bitter land, turning to the divinity they have made, the god they have brought into being, to help them, who does so (purportedly) via visions visited upon the tribe's shaman, who leads them in a voyage across the hostile wilderness in search of a promised land, many suffering and dying along the way. 

It's an oddly melancholy sequence, designed to demonstrate how the divinities that pervade the show's mythology come into being, what strengthens and transforms them; how they are tied symbiotically to their worshipers, often treating them with neglect or contempt as a means of subtly facilitating expressions of faith through sheer desperation. 
​ 
It is also a potted fable of how gods can die.
 
Abandoned, forgotten, as the generations pass, the god they worshipped becomes little more than a story, then a memory, then less than that, returning to the state of potential from which it arose.
 
It's an important but subtly conveyed moment in the show's back mythology, as it lays out -largely in visual terms- what the various players are fighting over:
 
Belief; a place in humanity's imagination, where they can be revered, where they can be prayed to, where they can be feared and loved, and thus sustain themselves.
 
It also sets out the dynamic between the old gods and the new; the nature of the war they have engaged in, though as to what part charaters such as Shadow and Laura play, we have yet to see.
 
Back with Shadow and Laura, these moments of high mythology find a much-needed contrast in some extremely real, ambiguous and intense human drama, in which husband and wife have their first face to face conversation since the latter died.
 
These moments are absolutely necessary to prevent the show from flying off into mythological absurdity and abstraction; to provide some tonal variety, palate cleansing and to introduce human factors into what otherwise could be alienating:
 
Shadow and Laura are (ironically, given the latter's status) the beating heart of the show; their relationship -bizarre, perverse, borderline abusive as it can be- drives the narrative forward and provides some much needed diversion from the mystery and absurdity that comprises much of the rest.
 
This particular enocunter is intriguingly fraught, the usual tensions of a husband and wife discussing infidelity compounded to the power of N by the fact that Laura is deceased; that Shadow attended her funeral and saw her put into the ground.
 
The character's reactions are some of the most subtly engaging moments in the show thus far; Shadow attempting -with some admirable patience- to maintain a hold not only on his temper, but on sanity, half believing that he's dreaming, that he's slipped into some delirium from which he might never wake.
 
Meanwhile, Laura attempts to explain herself on all fronts, dealing with Shadow in a sardonically pragmatic manner, that is at once touching and amusing in its earnestness. She does not attempt to justify herself, does not weedle or cajole or attempt to varnish what she has done, but simply explains to him what happened and why, to which Shadow responds with restraint that is breath-stealing in the effort it clearly requires. Laura's death and the discovery of her betrayal is the cypher that drove him into Wednesday's service, into the arena of gods and monsters in which he now finds himself. 
​In a moment that might be the beginning of reconciliation, the start of healing between them, Laura feels her dead heart beat, just once, Shadow the reason why she refused her own death, why she has come back, now the purpose of her existence and the only means of her healing.
 
Leaving him momentarily, to consider, to digest the situation, she slips into the bath tub, revealing her own scarred and autopsied condition, waiting for him, wondering what will happen now.
 
Of course, it's at this point that Wednesday comes calling, Shadow attempting in vain to dissuade him, the man seemingly intent on disruption.
 
This is a consistent part Wednesday and the world he represents will play in Shadow's life in coming chapters, especially if the show stays true to the book: Shadow finding himself torn between two worlds: that of memory, which seems intent on betraying itself as a delusion, and that of the waking now, which is so bizarre and absurd as to threaten his sanity.
 
However, before they can begin to discuss the situation, they find themselves arrested, following the scam that he and Wednesday ran in the first episode; ripping off an extremely large bank and thereby garnering enough money to fund their road trip across the USA (though to what end, Shadow is still frustratedly ignorant).
 
As all factions and players have had their part in this episode, it seems a matter of balance that the new gods should also enjoy some exposure:
 
In a highly stylised sequence, the previously encountered “Technical Kid,” who seems to be the manifestation of technological modernity; the internet, memes, plastic and virtual lifestyles etc, finds himself at the pleasure of Gillian Anderson's FANTASTIC Media, goddess of TV, pop music, celebrity culture et al, masquerading as none other than David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, which Anderson clearly revels in. 
​ 
The encounter between them is deliberately oblique, suggesting certain tensions between the new gods and the old, very little laid out plainly for the audience, leaving the communication feeling bizarrely realistic and natural, despite its absurd framing.
 
Again, as seems to be the nature of any sequence involving the new gods, the show takes pains to frame them in highly stylised and artistic ways, the sequence and its scenes having the composed quality of a series of paintings, the ethos and dynamism of a 3D art installation; tonally and stylistically at odds with any sequence involving their “old” counterparts, which tend to be far more traditional.
 
Meanwhile, in one of my favourite sequences in the entire show thus far, Mad Sweeney manages to track down Laura, the Leprechaun's lucky coin burning in her breast; the mcguffin keeping her alive, the interaction that follows simultaneously threatening and hilarious, Sweeney attempting to physically intimidate Laura into giving him his coin back (since he can't take it, thanks to some unspoken law), to which she responds by beating the shit out of him.
 
Sweeney summarily arrested (“Yer an asshole, dead wife!”), Laura mistaken (sort of) for a corpse and summarily bagged and tagged, focus shifts back to the police station, where we have at last our first direct confrontation between the old gods and the new, Media (this time in the form of Marilyn Monroe) floating into Shadow and Wednesday's prison cell, accompanied by “The Technical Kid,” and finally, a figure who has been referenced but never actually seen before, and of whom the other new gods seem to be in states of perpetual intimidation: Mr. World.
 
The confrontation sets out the dynamics of the coming “war” that Wednesday is attempting to initiate; that the conflict for space within the dream-lives of humanity is not entirely about territory or resource, as Mr. World offers Wednesday all he could ever want; a place amongst the new pantheons, albeit in a new condition; one more suited to the streamlined, synthetic, commercial natures of the new gods. 
​This is what Wednesday and his ilk reject; the true basis for the war they are fomenting: not necessarily a survivalist struggle for belief (as it is revealed throughout the series that many of them are doing fairly well in this regard); rather to restore a particular dynamic between gods and their believers; one more traditionally mythological, in which stories become the stuff and basis for meaning, rather than humans being manipulated and directed like cattle through automated slaughter houses.
 
The show is cleverly ambiguous in this regard; it presents neither Wednesday nor his counterpart, Mr. World, as absolutely right or wrong; as good or evil. Both have angles; both have investments, their own agendas to fulfil.
 
As for Shadow, he finds himself slipping further and deeper into a state of incredulity as the absurdity escalates, increasingly doubting his own state of mind, not to mention what part he'll play in coming days, as do we all. 
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<![CDATA[AMERICAN GODS:  SERIES 1 EPISODE 4 REVIEW]]>Mon, 12 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/american-gods-series-1-episode-4-reviewReview by George Daniel Lea 
​ 
Following the deviant extravaganza that was the last instalment of American Gods (Arabic immigrants engaged in graphic homosexual intercourse, one of whom turns out to be an Ifriti fire demon of Middle Eastern myth), this was always going to be a problematic episode.
 
That is not to say there's anything in particular wrong with it, only that it may suffer in the eyes of some by contrast alone.
 
Tonally and in terms of rhythm, the episode removes itself from any prior from the get go, focus shifting away from Shadow Moon (at least, in his present incarnation) to erstwhile wife, Laura, who vacilates back and forth between past and present, the episode exploring how she and Shadow first met, the truly bizarre relationship they enjoyed even before the latter got himself mixed up in a mysterious game of gods and demons and mythological monsters.
 
Whilst some have criticised the episode for stretching out a back story that could have, conceivably, been told in a ten minute flash back, I find it a useful tonal palate cleanser and calming period following the intensity and emotion of the previous episode, before things start to kick into high gear once more.
 
One of the more fascinating elements of the episode is how it frames Laura, whom Shadow clearly idolises in a manner that is distorting, almost religious in its delusion. When they first meet, she is a lost and despairing individual, out of love with the world, sustaining from day to day in a job she loathes, working at a casino into which Shadow drops as a naïve and not entirely successful con-man. Having attempted to play his hand at her table and been spotted, instead of finding himself reported and detained by casino security, he is instead informed by Laura of the situation, who urges him to leave without any further ado.
 
Waiting for her outside, he seduces her -and vice versa- without pre-amble, the two finding something in one another that they assume they need, though what she takes from Shadow is far more ambiguous and less profound than what he takes from her: to her, he is a distraction, almost a hobby, rather than something in which she finds meaning. 
Everything in this small back story is framed from Laura's perspective; a sincere effort to make her more than simply an element of the protagonist's back story (as so many female characters still are, even in present day TV series), she is a complex and emotive agent, with her own ambiguities and agendas, many of which contrast or even contradict the narrative or mythology that Shadow invests their relationship with. Whilst she clearly finds some release and pleasure in him, he is simply not enough to entirely forestall the despair and darkness in her soul: she remains detached, nihilistic, quietly unsatisfied, though she can't articulate to herself why.
 
Meanwhile, in the present, where her life has unambiguously ended, she finds herself at the behest of a familiar character: her disembodied soul lost in the metaphysical desert where Anubis presides; a state where she, once again, exercises her agency, refusing the mythological rite in which her heart must be weighed against a feather, tipping the scales of her own volition, taking control of her own guilt.
 
Whilst Anubis insists that she believed in nothing and therefore will go to nothing, she refuses that proscribed fate, hurtling back to where her body lies, finding herself waking to it, though its heart has long stopped beating, its blood long stopped pumping, in a state of not only distress, but also new and uncertain processes: no longer requiring breath, her heart and entrails still, her body rejecting the formaldehyde and various chemicals swilling about it in a graphically gross and hilarious manner...
 
There's more than a hint of gallows humour about these scenes, in which the show seems intent on portraying Laura at her most disgracefully human, despite her undead condition; that her state hasn't become entirely better or worse simply because she happens to be no longer burdened by life. This in itself is a rarity for female characters, certainly romantic leads, that have a tendency to be idealised to ludicrous and dehumanising degrees by popular TV: this episode portrays Laura both in living and undead states as something entirely other; just another lost and frightened and beaten down woman, trying to make something of her existence, not known how, making mistakes and slip ups along the way, but ultimately just trying to be. 
This has the effect of making her incredibly endearing and identifiable; not some pedestal-mounted, unobtainable icon (though this is, ironically the way in which Shadow regards her), but as a human being. Whilst it's very easy to condemn her for the infidelities she commits whilst Shadow is in prison, the manner in which the show frames them makes the act more one of desperation than of conscious cruelty or selfishness; before her death, she is on the very edge of terminal despair, of abandoning life altogether, which she likely would have, were it not for Shadow, her relationship with whom she cannot fathom or define, knowing only that it endures and endures in a way that nothing else in her life ever has.
 
Her reunion with former best friend Audrey (with whose husband she continued an on-going affair whilst Shadow was in jail) is one of the stand out moments in the entire episode; funny, fraught and dramatic, Audrey herself, whilst ostensibly a supporting character, complex and engaging in her motivations, in the manner she relates and responds to Laura: whilst initially horrified that her former best friend is somehow out of her grave and walking around, her terror -hilariously played- is soon supplanted by angry and bitter bitchery, that is brilliantly portrayed; not exploding in histrionics or displays of violent contempt, but hissing and seething in exchanges that are all the more fraught for taking place in a bathroom where Laura expels the formaldehyde from her system in none too dignified a manner.
 
These exchanges are some of the most beautiful in the episode, not to mention the series thus far; the emotional spectrum of their relationship cycled through and blossoming into something new and ambiguous in the space of a few moments. Whilst far from friends, Laura does not lie to Audrey; she answers her questions honestly and without ornament, to which the woman responds with more than necessary grace, even helping Laura to sew on her arm, which became detached earlier in the episode in an encounter with the Technical Kid's digital minions.
 
It's also during these exchanges that Laura articulates both to Audrey and herself how her relationship to Shadow has changed during death: whilst she could not say she unambiguously loved him in life, she most certainly does now in death, Shadow's presence seething before her eyes like a miniature sun fallen to Earth, allowing her to follow him wherever he goes. 
​A reunion with Anubis and his cohort, Mr. Ibis, leads to a strange and ambiguous relationship, in which the erstwhile Egyptian Gods of the dead help her to repair and maintain her mouldering body, until such point as they are no longer able, when her business in the world of the living is concluded. As to what role they will later play in her strange thread of the American Gods mythology, it is left deliberately ambiguous, even for those who have read the book, as Laura's back story has been elaborated and expanded upon by significant degrees.
 
The episode ends in the same place as the last, though from a significantly removed perspective; on her reunion with Shadow, allowing the audience to regard the exchanges to follow from a position of information rather than bias: whilst, in the last episode, it would have been very easy to condemn Laura, following events in this episode, such becomes profoundly more problematic: this is not a simple case of “good guy vs. bad guy,” in which one participant is unambiguously correct and the other wrong: their reunion is a ragged, uncertain, fraught and powerful event, all the moreso, given the revelations that both have experienced, suggesting intense and potentially cataclysmic exchanges in the episodes to come.
 
It is easy to regard this episode as simple filler, given that it goes through a great deal of material simply to end up at the same place where the last one ended, but that would be to ignore the manner in which it shakes up and even inverts the audience's perceptions and position, not to mention the fantastic things it does with Laura as a female lead (and a conscious parody of female leads).
 
The show seems intent on providing all of its characters, from the most prominent to the most incidental, a degree of genuine weight and back story; motivations that make them more than mere protagonists and antagonists, heroes and villains: no one and nothing here is so clean cut: despite the existence of extreme and aspect-defined entities such as gods, demons and monsters, everything, everything, everything boasts a freight of ambiguity and uncertainty that is pleasingly human, but also serves to upset or invert the narrative roles they would traditionally occupy.
 
Far quieter than the previous, far less breath-stealing in its deviance, but still significant degrees beyond much of what popular television presently offers. 
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<![CDATA[​In Defense of Alien: Covenant]]>Mon, 05 Jun 2017 08:17:25 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/in-defense-of-alien-covenantBy Vincenzo Bilof

(WARNING: MANY, MANY SPOILERS)

In 1979, Director Ridley Scott established an entire mythos with his horror-science fiction film Alien. I am not entirely confident Scott envisioned that his film would spawn a sequel that is completely derivative of his vision; or an entire line of comic books that would include epic battles against Batman and Superman. Given an opportunity to return to the universe he created with the visually pleasing, head-scratching “prequel” film Prometheus, Scott’s latest entry into the story—Alien: Covenant–is proving to be just as divisive among audiences, if we consider the reviews so far.


Full disclosure: I loved the film, and I loved Prometheus. I am glad a lot of people don’t like either film, simply because I don’t think these movies should be enjoyed by everyone. I was inspired to write this by the review I read for Covenant on Ginger Nuts of Horror. I like “negative” reviews that provide intelligent commentary, even if I don’t agree. 
I might be over-analyzing why I enjoy these films, but I like to think we can talk about movies—or any art—and disagree over a pint at the local pub. I am going to address a variety of criticisms, but I do not believe that I am absolutely correct, and believe me: I am not going to convince you that you are “wrong”. That’s just silly, folks. 


We Are Wrapped Up in the Mystique of a Film We Watched When We Were Younger


Alien is widely considered a classic. Does the movie hold up? I would say that it does, but not very well. We have to get over the fact that movies and art have changed. As we get older, the things that we love may not be loved by others. We often think “those kids don’t get it”, but I would argue that WE don’t get it. 


I think Alien is now a ponderously slow film that revels in itself a bit too much. It is no less pretentious than Blade Runner or Scott’s latest entries into the Alien franchise. I am going to make references to the first film several times, because I believe we are too enamored with the original. Keep in mind, I am including myself in the “we” category.  


Covenant Doesn’t Answer Every Question


Do we seriously need every question answered? Maybe some people just want to know everything, which is impossible, anyway. 


For me, part of the mystique behind the first film was the mystery. Who was the “space jockey” found in the pilot’s chair? (the engineer). Why were those eggs on that ship in the first place? Did these questions keep the movie from becoming a cult classic? Audiences accepted a synthetic humanoid with a neat British accent, a monster bursting out of someone’s chest, and the fact that the only means of self-defense these fine folks had were flamethrowers (which begs the question: how come Scott’s Covenant squad get machine guns?). Somehow, audiences suspended their sense of reality for a science fiction film, and here we are. 


This was a huge problem with Prometheus, too. I am going to suggest it is not a problem at all. 


“How does the movie lead up to Alien?” seems to be the prevailing question. Here is where we will all disagree: I don’t care if these films explain ANYTHING for Alien. In fact, I am confident that for Ridley Scott, the first Alien film is a complete story and the sequels don’t exist. After all, he did not create the alien queen, and he never named the planet visited by the Nostromo. For all intents and purposes, the first film could have almost no connection to the rest of Scott’s story. 


Consider the possibilities: we’re already wondering about the murals in Prometheus and the fact that David seems to be the “engineer” of the xenomorph in Covenant (which I will refute, later). Our engineers could be all over the galaxy, all of them with different intentions. Do we need to know their intentions? Is it important to the story? Maybe in Prometheus. Was the Nostromo even supposed to receive the distress signal? 


I am going to go out on a limb and throw a few theories around. 


The first Alien had strong religious overtones, particularly in the visual presentation (just watch some of the documentaries associated with the film). In Prometheus, we are treated to murals in the engineer’s ship that seemingly depict our favorite monsters. In Covenant, we are led to believe that David created these creatures. It was his idea.


Nope. 


In fact, David indicates that his wish to “create”, has been prevented by his programing. He has this conversation with Walter, his more “advanced” counterpart (and what the hell was Walter doing with those embryo-cell-festus-things… hmmm…). However, David CAN create… or can he? Is the song played on the flute replication, or something original? Theory: David has uncovered a formula for the xenomorph; the engineers may have created the monsters in the past, and David is attempting to recreate their design. Which could also explain why the xenomorph born from the human host in Covenant is different than the chestburster from the original film. 


The religious significance: it’s all over the place in Prometheus, and it nearly seems like Scott has almost completely ditched the philosophy in Covenant. But I am not convinced that is true. In Prometheus, those murals inside the engineer’s base (and let’s not forget that those same engineers were destroyed by something), in addition to the fact that the city on the engineer homeworld looks more like a temple than it does a sprawling metropolis, points to Scott’s vision of an “enlightened” culture that has learned to not play God. Or maybe it hasn’t learned at all. 


I am convinced the engineers would want to destroy the human race only to prevent the human race from “creating” more monsters, like the xenomorphs or David. I am also convinced the engineers are also looking for their own maker—Elizabeth Shaw’s big question from Prometheus—by playing the role of God. Did we really want Scott to TELL us whether or not God exists? 


I know that Scott is going to go with the fan-service route and connect his new trilogy to Alien, but he does not have to. There is no need. We have a collision of religion and science in his films, and I love it. 




Every Character Seems Like a Complete Idiot


I’m not going to make excuses for the characters. A lot of folks who hated Prometheus cited the idiocy of the scientific “experts”. Can we go back in time and take a look at the crew of the Nostromo? Before you say, “but they were just manual labor-types”, I want you to think about the kind of training and skill that might be required of any person who is going to work on a spaceship while it’s in outer space. I’m assuming a lot, here, and I’m stretching it. But let’s assume that Ridley Scott envisioned that his characters in the first Alien film could just as easily work on the exterior of the ship as well as they could the interior. 


In Alien, a strange alien lifeform is roaming around the ship. Yet, we have a character who decides to go looking for a cat… by himself. And then we have brave Captain Dallas, who decides he’s tough enough to go into the air shafts by himself against a creature he has zero experience with. I’ve already alluded to Kane’s attempt to venture into the dark basement of a haunted house all by himself, only to try to peek at something squirming around in an egg that opens right in front of him (Kane, did you notice that none of the other eggs were open?). Alien is nearly sacrosanct as far as film masterpieces are concerned; I merely contend that the tragedy of really really really dumb decisions is prevalent in all three of Scott’s Alien movies. 


Let’s take one more step back and think about these films from the perspective of a horror film. There is certainly a “slasher” element to Scott’s Alien movies. Isolating characters only to kill them a moment later is a common thread in both slasher films and Scott’s series. Hence the idiocy, which we somehow excuse when we watch horror films. 


“Let me go and get cleaned up”. Famous last words. Dumb decision? You’re on an alien planet in an unfamiliar structure, and you know there are hostiles roaming around. Members of your team have already been violently killed. Good decision? Probably not. Does this moment mean the entirety of Covenant is “dumb” and we should “check our brains at the door” when we watch it? I would say no. 


Like a lot of folks in the audience, one thought popped into my head when a sick man was being rushed into a spaceship: QUARANTINE. I think this is a nod to the first Alien (which taught us this valuable lesson regarding quarantine—Don’t let an alien into your ship ye damn fool), when Ripley refused to let her own crewmates back into the ship because she wanted to follow quarantine procedure. In Covenant, the character Tennessee mumbles something about quarantine as the sick/injured character is rushed to the sick bay. We also have the frantic ship pilot, Faris, who helps get the characters into the sick bay and then shuts the door on them. This seems a nasty act, but a moment ago, we were muttering “quarantine” and “don’t let them into the ship”. 


While Covenant seems to provide an entire crew’s worth of cannon fodder for aliens, I believe Scott intended for us to believe that the crew was very close, and they were emotionally connected. A funeral celebration on the ship for Daniels’ dead husband after he is jettisoned into space was supposed to establish that the characters already have a bond and are quite familiar with each other, which seems to be the very opposite of the crews that Scott gave us in both Alien and Prometheus. When people you know are violently killed, there’s a good chance that rational thought makes an exit, especially if you’re stranded on a strange planet. I have convinced myself that Daniels and company believed David was going to protect them; they trusted David because they didn’t have a choice. They assumed David’s sanctuary was safe. And they did some dumb shit.


A lot of fanboys like myself have checked out the two preview videos for Covenant; first video shows us the ship’s crew enjoying a final meal before going into hypersleep, and we are treated to a James Franco appearance. The second video explains how Shaw repaired David. I don’t think these scenes needed to be slipped into the film; as I watched Covenant, I couldn’t think of a place where either scene would work. If you didn’t see those two pieces, you may have missed out; I’m not sure what difference it would have made. Scott did something similar with Prometheus by giving Guy Pearce some screen time with a TED Talks segment for Weyland Corp. The Shaw-David scene did set me up for a lot of second-guessing when David explained Shaw’s fate, though I was already convinced that David had destroyed the engineers, and this knowledge worked to my advantage because I already knew Daniels and crew were walking right into David’s bullshit. 


Take a step back. I didn’t say you were wrong. The characters truly do some dumb shit. But I’m going to argue that it’s no less dumb than a dude peering into what sure looks to be an egg… in a spaceship that has crash-landed with a dead pilot...


“Fascinating” indeed. 




Alien Rules Are Broken


I really don’t understand this one. We all seem to know exactly how long the gestation period is in a human host, which is amazing, considering we understand the biology that Scott has conceived for his story. Reminder: Scott didn’t make Aliens, didn’t make Alien 3 or Resurrection, and didn’t write the comic books. For Scott, he is under ZERO obligation to abide by any “rules” for these aliens, unless 20th Century Fox asks him for more fan-service. 


Let’s go out on a limb and suggest that the gestation period might be different depending on a number of factors that we can just arbitrarily make up in our heads. Does that work? We’ve already suspended our belief when we enter the theater: we are, after all, watching people travel through space while encountering aliens. If we’re going to banter about how “realistic” specific components about these films are, we should get Stephen Hawking on the phone. 


Why does the first Alien seem to be fully-grown when David witnesses its birth? Again: who cares? Why does this matter? Since this is the first xenomoprh created by David, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the first monster is going to be different than any others after it? Here I am throwing biology around… 


I am probably an idiot, though. Considering that these films are science fiction—and I am not a scientist—I am good at making things up so they fit into my own understanding of the film. As a writer, I like it when the audience interprets something completely different than my intention. Do we have to be right about everything? I don’t know. I guess I am suggesting that Scott’s films are “art”, and for that, I am going to have eggs thrown at me. 




Fassbender Was a Bit Over-the-Top, and Scott’s Literary/Art References Are Insulting




A reviewer for Covenant over at The Ginger Nuts of Horror suggested that Scott gave  David a bit too much of the Roy Baty character from Blade Runner. I have to ask: why is this a bad thing? Consider the following: Scott has been messing with androids for a little while now, and there’s a Blade Runner sequel in our future. Baty is an iconic villain in genre films, much like Ricardo Montalban’s depiction of Khan from Star Trek II. I make the comparison to Khan because we have the poet-warrior archetype, and it’s a favorite of mine. More Roy Baty? Not a bad thing.


The implications of an android that has seemingly become insane or corrupted leaves a lot to think about. I don’t want Scott to answer all of the questions for me, because I love the concept, especially since Scott’s depiction of an artificial person includes the caveat that they are supposed to be superior than their human counterparts in several ways, with a few shortcomings for the sake of balance. I am going on one of my stretches here; consider Harlan Ellison’s iconic short story, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” (a favorite of mine). And yes indeedy, my final connection is going to bring us to Skynet from the Terminator franchise. The superior intellect (see what I did there?) has decided that the human race is better off in absentia—erased. I think it would be too easy to write extensively about David/Skynet/Ellison, but we can leave that for a much longer piece. In short, I love the David character. Shame on me. And let’s not forget Ash from the first Alien. 


If we can forgive the literati villains from Wrath of Khan and Blade Runner, why can’t David get a free pass? Because it’s been done before? Did we say the same thing when Wrath of Khan and Blade Runner came out? They weren’t the first brooding, sexy-poet villains. 


In the Alien films, the man behind the curtain has always been “the company”: Weyland Corp. Scott finally gave us a villain with a face, and I think David’s development is complex and wonderful. I am glad that we can attach a face to evil. 


So what about that flute scene? I can’t defend the flute scene, but I will make an attempt to understand it. The theme of the discussion between Walter and David seemed to revolve around creation, and David made it clear that they are unable to create life because they are both androids. The erotic moment may underscore the sexual impotency that both androids suffer, as David points out to Walter that his counterpart has affection for Daniels, an affection that Walter refers to as “duty”. Could this have been pulled off differently? Certainly. Is the theme itself important? I think so. It seems to clarify David’s motives. I = wonder if David recreated the music for Walter to play on the flute, or if it is truly an original “creation” of David’s. This scene seemed to annoy a lot of viewers, and I think it might fit awkwardly into the overall aesthetic of the film. I think Scott intended something with music in general, especially with the John Denver song thrown in, so the literary symbolism is certainly heavy-handed. 


Scott has also chosen to remain faithful to the H.R. Giger’s aesthetic, fusing biology and technology with sexuality. Several of Giger’s illustrations make their way into both Prometheus and Covenant, which helps keep the tone consistent between all three of Scott’s films. Art itself is a prominent driving force behind the entire mythos; is it okay to feature some obvious Giger nods in Covenant and Prometheus? I feel that if we consider the inclusion of Giger’s work to be fan service or an attempt to seem overly intelligent, then we are being unfair in our assessment of the new films as they compare to the first, whereas Scott is being faithful to the original vision.  


If we can’t accept that Scott is going to give us a dose of heavy-handedness, then we probably hated Blade Runner, too. In fact, if you hate the new Alien movies, I am going to guess that the new Blade Runner is going to be massively disappointing. I could be wrong. I hope I am. I hope everyone loves it and accepts it as the greatest science fiction film ever made.  


What Happened to the Engineers? 


I was never under the assumption that David believed he killed all the engineers. I am, however, under the assumption that not ALL of the engineers wanted to wipe out Earth. 


In Prometheus, it is clear that the engineers have been travelling all over the cosmos for a very, very long time. Before the dawn of man! The fateful crew of the Prometheus lands on a planet that shows us several “military installations” all in a neat row… bases that look very much like the xenomorph eggs (faithful to Giger’s art). Our crew infiltrates ONE base, gets inside of ONE ship, and they awaken ONE engineer. What about the other ships? The other engineers? What can we assume? If all it takes is one ship to deliver a lethal payload to an entire civilization, then is it possible that the other ships were headed for other worlds?


I would argue that we have to check our expectations of what an “advanced” civilization should look like. Scott is giving us an interpretation, and we are witnessing his vision. The scene in Covenant that shows David swinging his arms while he annihilates these engineers shows us a civilization that is pseudo-primitive; where is all the cool tech? Why does their city seem like a temple? Is there only one such city on the planet? 


David explains that he has destroyed life on the engineers’ homeworld. Does the homeworld need to have flying cars or huge cities? Nah. Has their civilization “regressed” in some way? Does it matter? It’s Scott’s fantasy, and we’re experiencing it. 




But James Franco’s Character…


Died. 


The Ending Was Predictable


First, we approach this movie with a huge advantage over the characters: we know what the aliens can do. They don’t surprise us. How do you make the idea fresh / original? We’re all experts, so we can save that question for another day. Knowing what the aliens can do to our characters is part of the horror: just as we know that Jason / Freddy / Michael Myers is hiding around the corner, our awareness of the threat to the characters is used to increase tension for the audience. How does this apply to the ending? 


Tried and true storytelling method: the audience knows what is going to happen, but the characters do not. Frank Herbert's Dune is my favorite example of this: the author told us from the very start who the traitor was. Emotion is generated through your investment in the characters. We see their doom, and how it happens. The characters have a chance to avoid this doom, which is where the audience comes into play.


In Covenant, Ridley Scott showed us early on that Walter can repair his flesh. The only reason why this moment is crucial to the story is because Daniels had an opportunity to realize that Walter was an imposter on the ship. David is stapling his flesh together, and Daniels helps. This is significant. We want Daniels to realize that it is not Walter, but David. The audience holds out desperate hope that we are wrong, because we like Walter.


David gives us the sly smile when he is on the bridge; we know then, in our hearts, that it is not Walter. Even though he helps Tennessee and Daniels, we know the android is David. 


And then when David ushers them into hypersleep, we are still hopeful. We are supposed to be invested in Daniels, and we want her to lash out and kick David’s ass. Daniels is supposed to be safe, but she is not, and when the horror fills her eyes, we aren’t supposed to be surprised, because our emotions are supposed to be more deeply invested in Daniels so that we hope, until the final moment, that we were wrong about David.


I love this method of storytelling. I am one of those people who knew (SPOILER FOR A STAR WARS MOVIE WATCH OUT) that Han Solo was going to die in The Force Awakens, and knowing heightened the suspense for me. As a longtime reader of the Song of Ice and Fire series, I am still emotionally invested when I know a character is about to die in the HBO version, A Game of Thrones. This doesn’t work for a lot of people, and I realize that. I’m that teacher with copies of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men with “GEORGE KILLS LENNIE” written by other students on the inside of the covers, and when I explain to my students that the ending is meaningless without context, they trust me, and they follow me down that road. 




Conclusion/Reminder


I have zero credibility, besides the fact that I am a fanboy. Alien was the movie my parents used to pacify me while I was a young lad, though it always seems fresh and wonderful no matter how many times I watch it. Will I like every Alien film just because? Nope. I thought Resurrection was almost a fun movie, though its tone is jarringly different than the other three; and the AVP films can be enjoyed, though I am not in love with them. I have not convinced you to change your mind about Covenant, and that’s okay. After reading several negative perceptions of the film, I wanted to add to the dialogue. I might seem to be sort of a Scott apologist, but trust me when I say the third film in this new trilogy could ruin the entire thing for me, and for those moviegoers who are losing faith, it’s going to certainly take a hyperdrive leap of faith to make you believe in the director’s vision, and I can’t fault you for that. 


I think the films are frustrating in the sense that fans want answers to specific questions, and I can only guess that Scott’s goal doesn’t necessarily include providing concrete answers. “Intelligent” films often come across as pretentious or downright insulting; people who claim they “get it” also seem to be assholes. Let me be clear: I have no idea what Scott is trying to do. If I had to give this movie a rating out of five stars, I would give it 3.5, which seems to be the going rate from a lot of viewers.  Enjoyable, but not profound. It doesn’t have to be profound, though. We’ve already seen Alien, and it’s one of the greatest films ever made… 


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<![CDATA[WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER]]>Sun, 21 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/whos-watching-oliverReview by Joe X Young 
Picture
Who’s Watching Oliver has done rather well for itself on the festival circuit, gathering numerous awards with five for Best Picture, two for Best Actor (Russell Geoffrey Banks) and one each Best Supporting Actress (Sara Malakul Lane and Margaret Roche respectively), and it’s easy to tell why when you see it. Oliver has an undisclosed mental illness, but given the nature of his actions during his ‘normal’ but very OCD daily routine it’s possibly an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, which in no way validates the more abnormal parts of his day. He’s quite the visually awkward specimen, tall and slim with a look initially reminiscent of a young Elvis, in this case though it’s Costello with his lean pallid face, NHS glasses and old fashioned dress sense. Already someone who may stand out in a crowd, but Oliver stands out even more when considering that he is living in an area of Thailand where there aren’t that many English people around, which makes it somewhat implausible that he could be a successful serial killer as his description would be simple to give. ‘Last seen with tall, skinny, nerdy four-eyed white guy’ would certainly narrow things down.
I’m not entirely certain why the film is set in Thailand, as it’s never actually made clear what Oliver does for a living if anything, or how he came to be there. He carries an old camera a lot, so maybe he’s a professional photographer or perhaps just a happy amateur, does that matter though? Not really, but maybe some explanation would have been better than none. There is a big bonus to Oliver being in Thailand though, and that’s the sex trade. Whilst it’s true that prostitutes are universally available there are those who may not want to go off with someone like Oliver, but Thai women have a reputation of being less picky, so it makes sense that he would find no shortage of victims.

Another thing noticeably missing from this film is any sense of Police involvement. Women are vanishing on a regular basis, yet there’re no news reports or apparent investigations. One can conclude that perhaps they go missing with such frequency that it’s considered normal and not worth the paperwork. Suffice to say that Oliver is at liberty to routinely abduct and murder at random without any come-uppance or fear of capture.

Awards aside, all of this so far appears as if I am criticising a bad film, however that’s not the case. Some films have their moments, but not this one; it’s a constant stream of absorbing content even when nothing gruesome is happening, which is all down to the central character of Oliver. In American Psycho we have Patrick Bateman directly involving us with his narrative, and here one is similarly involved but rather than breaching the fourth wall we are a fly on it, watching Oliver as he talks to himself, constantly rehearsing what he is going to say to people, especially to his mother. (More on her later.) These moments are carefully played out, with some light scenes bordering on the romantic when Oliver meets the enchanting Sophie at an amusement park and they get on well enough that he doesn’t want to take her home and cut her up. The big deal here is that Oliver is actually a nice guy; he doesn’t want to kill anyone but is bullied into it, which in a lot of other films doesn’t quite work, but in this case it’s perfect, largely as there’s a sense that we’re not watching Russell Geoffrey Banks playing a serial killer called Oliver, but are actually watching a real person called Oliver, the acting is THAT good. We’re treated to all of the subtleties of his personality, what he is like as a disabled person when on or off his meds, and what he thinks of other people and his situation, and Banks nails it as if he is it.

Now on to Sophie. Ah, dear lovely Sophie. She’s a bit of a babe, and at first I’m thinking ‘WTF!’ why would a girl like that approach him? But then I got it. This is where personal experience comes in. A few decades ago I was sitting in a huge but empty waiting room; we’re talking ballroom size here, with chairs around the walls. I’m alone. In walks this young woman, tall, lean and easy on the eye…

She sits right next to me, not even a chair away. There were dozens of empty chairs to choose from. I’m no oil painting and have the awkwardness which comes as a package deal with Autism, so what gives? We became friends, and one day I asked her why she sat next to me that day. She replied that she would never normally do anything like that, but there was just something… With that she shook her head and trailed off. I think it’s the same way with Sophie and Oliver; he was sitting alone and she succumbed to his gravitational pull. As with Oliver, Sophie is a real person, she has an essence of compatibility and ease of personality which Oliver finds strange yet hard to resist. They are drawn to one-another and this makes everything else which goes on all the stronger in its incongruity.

The third wheel here is ‘Mama’ (Margaret Roche). There’s a back-story in which we discover that something really bad happened to Oliver when he was a kid and his Mama saved him. She’s held it over him ever since and bullies him into pleasing her by raping and killing women while she watches him over a webcam. She is however the one fly in this film’s ointment as to me she is one-dimensional and almost comically sadistic. I found Margaret Roche’s portrayal to be the least convincing of all, but given that the other characters all came across as real people that’s hardly surprising.

There’s a support cast of Oliver’s victims, all of whom were appropriately and realistically freaked out by their predicaments. As mentioned there are rape scenes, which in a lot of films don’t have a true place in the plot. I think there’s a fine line where the actions are an indication of an overall state of mind. Could Oliver just murder the women? Of course he could, but he’s not in charge so he has to do as he’s told, which compounds the violence of the assault. Fortunately the rape scenes are few, enough so we know it goes on and why, but we’re not shown it with each victim. Similarly with the murders, they are not gratuitous yet we do get the full impact of Oliver’s brutality.

Production values were all high; the sound excellent and set design for his home was suitably basic with an overall lack of glamour making everything just that little bit more ordinary.

Who’s Watching Oliver deserves a place on any horror fan’s shelf, sandwiched in between American Psycho and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. I hope it gets widespread distribution so you can all be watching Oliver too.
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<![CDATA[TV REVIEW: AMERICAN GODS SEASON ONE EPISODE 3]]>Wed, 17 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/tv-review-american-gods-season-one-episode-3Review by George Daniel Lea 

Well, if nothing else; if the rest of the series crashes and burns or descends into mediocrity (a la The Walking Dead),  American Gods will have sealed its place in televisual history with this episode alone.
 
First of all, let's address the obvious: there is a scene in this episode that EVERYONE is talking about, and with good reason: a scene that I never believed would survive translation from the book, certainly not intact, but which has, and then some:
A bit of nothing, in many respects; one of the many incidental scenes in which Gaiman is attempting to demonstrate how lush the USA is with the mythological flotsam of the peoples that constitute it, almost redundant to the wider story; more like a short story in and of itself: fluff and flavour, but presented with such power, such passion, as to eclipse almost everything else in the episode:
 
Cutting away from the main narrative, focus shifts to a young, Iranian man, well dressed, but clearly desperate, making his way to some form of professional interview. There, he waits and waits and waits, as the hours shear away, as his appointment dissolves, as the receptionist presents roadblock after roadblock, never once losing his temper, never once expressing the frustration he clearly feels. Very little said, once again, framing, music and direction suggesting theme and situation: the man a fish out of water, cast adrift and alone, desperately trying to find some anchor, away from the land of his birth, in a city that is cruel and uncaring to its own, let alone those it considers to be of other tribes.
 
After several hours of patience, he is informed that the man he has come to see has gone home, and will not be back today.
 
He leaves with a sad smile, a sweet but defeated creature.
 
Outside, he attempts to hail a cab, most of which stream on by through the rain, many soaking him through with gutter run off, until one finally stops.
 
The driver, a heavy-set, bearded man, similarly Arabic, curses ripely at other drivers in his Mother tongue, to which his passenger replies, asking him how long he has been in New York, how long he has been driving the cab.
 
This is where things start to get Gaiman-esque:
 
The man starts to talk about an ancient city, recently unearthed in the Middle East by archaeologists, talking about it as though he knows it intimately, as though he has walked there. His passenger takes this with good grace, though is clearly puzzled by the eccentricity of it.
 
Stuck in a traffic jam, the driver falls asleep, prompting his passenger to reach through the partition window and tap him awake. The man jolts, his sun-glasses -an odd affectation, given that it's clearly night and pouring with rain-, slip, revealing eyes that burn with inner fires. 
​Far from recoiling or reacting with fear, the passenger proclaims how his Mother used to tell him stories of the Ifrit; the desert-dwelling fire-people of his homeland, who sometimes take human lovers, sire hybrids with human men and women.
 
The scene is beautifully strange, not only due to the Ifrit itself (the incongruity of it driving a cab to make ends meet absolutely wonderful), but the man's reaction to it: he is not afraid, not even incredulous; he accepts it as naturally as he might exchanges about the weather. It is part of not only Gaiman's writing but the deviance that the series establishes and thrives on; characters do not react as we might expect them to; they accept what we find impossible, say what we find improbable, do what might otherwise be absurd and it works.
 
There is a sweetness to the exchanges, an intimacy that itself is fairly transgressive for a TV show of its ilk, given that they occur between two men, and two men of an ethnic and cultural origin in which such phenomena are generally frowned upon: the scene does not intend to mindlessly offend or disrupt, but presents these deviations in a manner that will create frisson and discomfort in the viewer, making them wonder how much stranger and more intimate the moment can become.
 
At the passenger's hotel, he pauses outside the cab, inviting the Ifrit to his room.
 
This is the moment that has caused a sensation amongst audiences and critical circles alike:
 
The man and Ifrit make love, in a scene that is powerfully explicit, breaking many enshrined televisual taboos concerning not only male anatomy, but the presentation of same sex romance and/or sex scenes in general: the scene is unconcerned about its presentation of the male form, framing it in such a manner that it is conveyed as beautiful, but also does not conform to proscribed standards in this regard: there is a tendency in popular media for such scenes to consist of air-brushed, plastic-fantastic pretty-boys; templates of beauty as proscribed by magazine covers, cat walks and pornography. 
​That is not the case, here; neither character is classically “beautiful;” they are men, the nameless passenger scrawny and uncertain, the Ifrit bulky and hirsute. Rather than actors chosen for their marketable prettiness, they are powerfully “normal” in terms of their looks, their bodies, their frames, which lends the scene a sense of verisimilitude it might have otherwise lacked: both actors look like they've been chosen for their roles by actual gay men, rather than by those who feel it their right or business to proscibe what gay men should find aesthetically pleasing. 
 
It is a stunningly powerful, beautiful and erotic moment; explicit without being pornographic, the sense of communion and passion enhanced by the fact that one of the participants is inhuman, the Ifrit's eyes flaring throughout, until a point of climax in which the scene shifts to the deserts of its birth, where it is revealed as the creature it is, its essence pouring into its lover in the form of liquid fire, which seems to fill and transform him.
 
Awakening some hours later, the nameless man finds his Ifrit lover gone, the hotel room empty, save for the Ifrit's clothes and effects; a gift to his lover, a wish granted; a new life here, amongst the deserts of glass and concrete.
 
The scene is notable not only because of its deviance and its explicit imagery, but because it presents such things in the manner of poetry or painting; as something beautiful and profound as well as titillating: it is a moment of breathless and stunning significance, despite being incidental to the wider plot.
 
Despite the episode as a whole being far from incidental or insignificant, the Ifrit scene is so powerful, so affecting for the viewer, it does have the quality of making everything else seem distant and unimportant, which is a great shame, as it's here that the show clearly starts to find its feet and the narrative starts to pick up pace:
 
Switching back to the exploits of Shadow and Mr. Wednesday, the former finds himself increasingly drawn into the world of monsters, myths and magic from which the latter derives: in a bizarre and beautiful dream sequence following his encounter with the delightfully murderous Czernobog, Shadow meets the third sister of the household in which he is a reluctant guest: Zorya Polunochnaya , her guise far younger than that of her decrepit siblings, as she gazes up at the stars from the roof of their apartment block, telling Shadow a story of the mythical beast they keep watch over, sealed away amongst particular constellations, and whose freedom will mean the end of all things. 
​Inspired by this encounter, Shadow challenges Czernobog once again (having lost their previous chess match and forfeiting his life to Czernobog's hammer come the morning).
 
In typically folk-loric fashion, he wins the second game, convincing the fugitive god to join Wednesday's currently oblique crusade (unless you've read the book, it will be all but impossible to discern precisely what Wednesday is up to, and what his obsession with Shadow is about).
 
Shadow acts largely as the audience's eyes and ears in this episode as the more absurd and fantastical elements escalate: not only does Wednesday convince him to partake in a fairly large scale and gratuitous con, he also urges Shadow to perform a minor miracle of his own (apparently making it snow by will and imagination alone).
 
As in previous episodes, the more mythological elements are drip-fed into a stark and unwelcoming reality, a contrast that might prove the show's undoing were they hurled together without proper framing and preparation. 
​As such, Shadow's baffelement at his apparent capacity to influence the weather (coincidence? One of Wednesday's more overt magical tricks? A lie, a manipulation?) is shared by the audience, who begin to question Shadow's nature and his part in things to come.
 
A crystallising episode; one that will undoubtedly determine whether people continue watching or if the subject matter it provides is simply too strange and deviant for them to handle.
 
But also one that justifies the show's existence no matter how it transpires from here on out; that demonstrates how profoundly the medium is evolving in certain areas, and how proscribed parameters in media and wider culture are dissolving as people slowly begin to realise how arbitrary and impositional they are.
 
We can only pray to whatever powers we hold faith in that the show continues to to deliver in its sublime deviance. 
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<![CDATA[DEVIL TOWN]]>Wed, 17 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/devil-townREVIEW BY JOE X YOUNG 
 
Devil Town from Corporeal Films is a short film at just under 17 minutes, yet 17 minutes is all that it needs to very effectively tell the tale of Patrick Creedle (Matthew Hebden), an estate agent with an attitude problem and of a ‘down-and-out’ called Driscoll (Johnny Vivash) who accosts him in the street and follows him to a coffee shop. With a tight focus on the two lead characters what could have been a dull interchange is instead a charged argument with excellent, and more importantly, believable dialogue in a script which perhaps could have been a little stronger but for an Indie film is pretty darned good. The acting is natural; we take the fly-on-the-wall seat whilst Driscoll attempts to convince Creedle that all is not as it seems in the streets of London. Both leads are flawless. There are other actors in the film, but their task is to remain unconsidered until required, and none of them in any way distract or detract from the tale as it unfolds.

Kudos to Nick Barrett for writing and directing a story which although giving more than a nod in the direction of John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’ still manages to capture the paranoia of that classic without directly aping it. The film takes place in West Hampstead, but largely in the La Brocca café/bar, a very normal location for such an abnormal story. The quality of the filming is as professional as it gets, with everything just right.

Like I said earlier, it’s just under 17 minutes long, it’s already started gathering pace on the festival circuit and will be part of a supernatural compilation due out later this year. If you don’t have 17 minutes spare to watch this you are missing out, so be sure to keep an eye out for Devil Town.

Devil Town is playing a great screening and music night in London on the 24th Picturehouses - Film information for RAW - REALITY AS WRITTEN at Hackney Picturehouse

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<![CDATA[TV REVIEW: AMERICAN GODS SEASON ONE EPISODE 2]]>Wed, 17 May 2017 15:16:41 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/tv-review-american-gods-season-one-episode-2Review by George Daniel Lea
Despite my unambiguous (and abiding) praise for the pilot episode of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, I will admit to going into episode 2 with a little trepidation:
 
More than one series of promise has failed at this point, allowing the energy and dynamism of its first instalment to falter, losing focus or coherence, spiralling out into self-indulgence and absurdity. This and the following episodes are where the series will prove itself; where viewers hooked by the pilot will decide to either continue watching or find themselves alienated.
 
It's therefore a tremendous personal joy to report that the second episode is at least as fascinaingly strange, as gorgeously deviant, as respectful of its viewers as the first.
As in the original novel, much of what the story consist of is left to implication and symbolism; very little is overtly explained. As such, the viewer is obliged to engage with the material rather than allowing it to simply wash over them; in order to fully appreciate the layers and levels of storytelling, it is necessary to have some knowledge of various mythologies (a fact that the show makes no bones about; some of its visual and symbolic references are downright esoteric, if you don't know what it's referencing). This may serve to alienate those who want their TV more easily digestible; who wish to be patted on the head and consoled by their viewing material, but...for those of us that ache for something challenging, poetic and stimulating...American Gods is increasingly where it's at.
 
The episode opens, just like the first, on a scene that is simultaneously incongruous and somehow absolutely pertinent to the story: a slave galley, a man in chains calling out to Anansi, the Spider-God whose stories and trickery are well known throughout various African cultures. Nothing is explained, no context is provided; the audience is left to interpret what this might mean in the wider context of the show for themselves.
 
It's something of a surprise to both man and audience when Anansi actually shows up, in an anachronistic guise and speaking in the manner of a (post) modern man, his clothes, his motions, his posture, suggesting the creature beneath, the brightly coloured jumping spider that is his animal aspect and the symbol of his faith. 
​Delivering a blistering speech on the future of the black man throughout US history, he explains without ornament and without cowardice what their lot will be; the lots of their children and children's children in generations to come. He stirs their passions, ignites their faith, and drives them to an act of self-sacrifice that echoes those we have already witnessed (demonstrations of faith in their darkest and most passionate seeming to be a consistent characteristic of humanity's relationship with the deities it has shaped and spawned; one that is cruel, parasitic and presented here without any compunction whatsoever: faith demands blood, in one form or another, and Gods demand faith. Therefore, the demonstration of faith and the spilling of blood are inextricable).
 
The scene acts like a small story in and of itself, echoing that of the ancient Nords landing on the shores of the Americas in the previous episode.
 
Shifting from that opening scene back to protagonist Shadow Moon, we find him surprisingly alive, following what he endured in the closing scenes of the last episode; the beating and lynching he suffered at the hands of “The Technical Kid's” thugs having proved little more than an inconvenience.
 
In any other show, this kind of absurd recovery might be taken as narrative convenience. Here, however, it has a far more sinister and profound implication, as we who have read the book already know.
 
The transition from moments of high drama and mythological absurdity to these relatively still, domestic scenes is part of the show's genius; owing to its design and framing, it makes the most banal settings look like surrealist paintings; everything has colour and vibrancy and dynamism, whilst still retaining a degree of dirt and grit. The show isn't exactly a comfortable watch: it is, after all, a meditation on the nature of human migration; on how cultures swell and assimillate those they encompass or cannibalise, on a mythological level as much as any other.
 
It's here that we encounter Ian McShane's superbly portrayed Mr. Wednesday once more, a man whose scurrilous charm is superceded only by his mystery. Again, he engages with every word and gesture, obscenity spilling from his mouth with the music of poetry, banality with the profundity of prayer. A quietly blistering performance, and one I imagine is going to be etched into cultural consciousness for a long time to come. Again, all is implication and innuendo; clearly, the world Shadow has found himself drawn into is a far cry from the faintly sleazy, criminal enterprise he expected (though there are elements of that, too). Wednesday knows him better than he knows himself; consoles and cavorts and manipulates with every word. That he needs Shadow is clear, though as to why...
​From the heightened, the emotionally fraught, the mythological to the domestic, the dramatic, the scene shifts once again, as does the tone of the episode, transporting us to Shadow's previous home, that he once shared with his wife, whom he discovered in the last episode is not only dead thanks to a car crash, but was also engaged in a torid affair with his best friend.
 
These moments of slowness, as Shadow moves wordlessly through the house, finding spectres of unwelcome memory in every room, help to cleanse the palate; slowing the pace a little, lending another layer of significance to events, but also building the character through whose eyes the audience observes this strange and yet familiar world.
 
Shadow has a chance to genuinely flex his muscles in this episode, now that the thorny business of establishment is out of the way: we see more of just how broken he is, how he genuinely doesn't care what happens from this moment on, and is only along with Wednesday because he has nowhere else to be and nothing else to live for. The scene at his former home serves to a draw a line under everything he assumed about himself and his former life, as everything is packed and shipped away, the house left empty, Shadow himself likewise.
 
Again, the landscapes and geography of the USA have as much a part to play as the nation's history, as does the accrued mythology and poetry of that nation: Shadow and Mr. Wednesday engage in the classic road-voyage across states and through their myriad landscapes, the camera lingering on them in the manner of a road movie, whilst other, older and newer forces seethe all around.
 
In a sequence of surrealism that borders on the art house, we return to Bilquis, as she sustains herself on a variety of lovers and adorers, repeating the fairly horrific scenes in which she was introduced, her hunger clearly growing as the show progresses. At the moment, these scenes are diversions from the main narrative, but in the most fascinating and brilliant of ways: they do not distract or diminish, but add fresh layers to an already towering confection; elements of surreal, almost Cronenbergian horror, along with subtle suggestions of the story arcs to come. At present, Bilquis's part in the narrative (unless, of course, you happen to have read the novel) is enigmatic; she is clearly one of the old gods, alongside Wednesday and numerous other characters, but her place is unfixed; building towards a potential confrontation in which her significance will be determined. As it stands, it's a joyous diversion to engage with her scenes, which are lit and framed in a different manner from the rest of the show; shades of deep, deep red and purple providing a dense and potent atmosphere, much of her time on screen without dialogue or explanation, everything suggested through framing and bizarre visuals. What we are left with in this episode is a suggestion that she is hungry for old states of power and glory, that she chafes at being reduced to her current condition. She is a creature of exquisite threat and potency, one that stands in stark contrast to the likes of “The Technical Kid,” who is a scrawny, whining, pathetic creature, rendered threatening only by the influence he exercises. 
Another element of the show -that is not exclusive to Bilquis, but that she emphasises- is that it isn't afraid of the human form, either male or female: it has no compunctions about portraying any of its characters in various states of undress, often contrasted against the strangeness or violence that it exhibits with equally graphic enthusiasm: Bilquis in particular is a living icon; an animated idol whose anatomy is not merely female, but the very epitome of all that is female: as much metaphor as it is flesh, and is framed as such: even though the raw sexuality of her being is portrayed graphically, it is not in any way titillating or pornographic; rather, it is rendered as a moment of profundity and horror; the means by which she subdues and seduces her worshipers, who surrender everything to her, including their bodies, in the act of coupling. She is framed in such a manner that the actress's body becomes like a painting or statue; a thing of worship as opposed to an object of ownership.
 
Similarly, Shadow's body is lingered over in earlier scenes following his assault at the end of the last episode; as beautiful, as sculpted and iconic, in its own way, as Bilquis's; the male equivalent to her aggressive female aspects. Interestingly, whereas Bilquis is portrayed as a thing of unambiguous power; a creature of absolute control and predation, Shadow is rendered vulnerable, the traditional dynamic of male/female presentations inverted; Shadow is bleeding, scarred, stitched together, every motion seeming to cause him pain, despite his rippling musculature: a creature that doesn't know its own capacities, hurtled into this world confused and powerless, not even realising what he represents. That inversion is one of the many ways in which the show demonstrates the transgression that beats at its heart, that informs its soul: this is in no way consoling television or comforting media; there is not even a suggestion of happy endings here, for anyone.
 
New additions to the cast come in the forms of Czernobog, a rendition of a Slavic god of bad luck and ill omen, here rendered in typically ironic fashion as a self-loathing but poetically minded brute who makes art out of violence, who regards killing as a form of craft that has been stolen away from him by the mechanisation of slaughterhouses. Again, little is made of this outside of the name and some vague allusions to his past; the character could easily be just an immigrant out of love with the dream he was promised; the living nightmare that America has become. It is only with wider knowledge of the mythologies that the show references that so much of his character becomes profound; every word, aspect and action metaphorical, refering to the stories and symbolism he once inhabited. Immense, wild, threatening and defeated, Czernobog is presented as ambiguously as the rest of the cast; no more a “villain” than Wednesday or Shadow himself; a lost and despairing creature, reduced from mythological glory to something desolate and decrepit. Czernobog, alongside his compatriots, the triune Slavic goddesses Zorya Verchernyaya, Zorya Utrennyaya and Zorya Polunochnaya (Morning, Evening and Midnight stars, respectively), encapsulates a core theme of the source material: that of old ways, old stories, carried like disease from their places of origin to new lands, abandoned and half forgotten: divinities reduced to decrepitude, in a manner not unlike the least fortunate of their once-believers: they are as much immigrants here as those that sustain them, and are fighting for place and purpose and identity in exactly the same way. 
​ has a wonderful effect of diminishing divinities; lending them a certain humanity where they might otherwise be ineffable and unknowable.
 
Despite being fairly hostile and threatening throughout, Czernobog is also garrulous, courteous and hospitable; a character it is impossible not to like, even when he descends into depths of crudity and discourtesy or displays outright violence.
 
The sheer strangeness and mystery of the scenes in which he occurs lends them depth and atmosphere; a sense of pervasive threat that recalls other commentaries on the state of US culture, such as Cormack McCarthy's No Country for Old Men or even Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club: here we have the fairy tale of “The American Dream;” the cultural myths on which the US sustains itself, hideously and unflatteringly exposed, but also a far broader examination of the phenomena of human migration: these gods are encapsulations and expressions of humanity, as much as humanity is an expression of them; they are ways and beliefs and stories and cultures that are slowly, slowly starving to death for want of retelling and remembrance, giving way to an entirely new and anodyne  breed; a status in which stories are dead, left in the dust in favour of deities of plastic, consumerism and politics.
 
Speaking of which, in one of the episode's stand out scenes, we meet another of the Technical Kid's breed in a moment that is as humorous as it is distressing: whilst Shadow performs a mundane task of goods shopping for Mr. Wednesday, an array of widescreen TVs flare into life, a rendition of I Love Lucy's eponymous housewife speaking to him directly, promising him pleasures and contentment beyond his dreams, if he'll only submit to work for her. This is the goddess of TV, one of the older and more powerful of the new breed, and one whose machinations I imagine we haven't even begun to explore, yet.
 
A sigh of relief, an exultant hymn: American Gods, a potential contender to be the Twin Peakes of the era. 

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<![CDATA[ALIEN COVENANT]]>Mon, 15 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/alien-covenantReview by ​George Ilett Anderson
Spoiler Alert: Look away now if you don’t want to have the…ahem, “plot” ruined for you. Alternatively, I’d heartily recommend seeing two films called “Alien” and “Aliens” instead as they have more bite and substance than this sorry assed excuse of a film. This could get messy…..
 
 
The Origin of the Faeces
 
Alien Covenant is a stupefying excursion into been there, done that land and a perfect example of the saying “once bitten, twice shy.”  I can’t think of a film in recent memory that has left me feeling quite so disappointed and under whelmed as this cinematic turkey. Oh, hang on a minute I can, it’s called “Prometheus.” This, the prequel’s sequel, is a formulaic and derivative experience that fuses the pretentious twaddle of its predecessor with the DNA of various Alien film incarnations to produce a shambling monstrosity of a film that should have been culled at birth. In other words, it’s a fucking travesty of a film.

 
I’m conspicuously aware that Prometheus is a divisive film that has as many proponents as it has detractors and Alien Covenant is no different. I’m sure there will be people who think it is a return to form for the series but as you can probably guess I’m definitely not in that camp. This feels very much like Ridley Scott attempting to reply to the negative response that Prometheus provoked by creating something more familiar and palatable to the franchise’s fans. Unfortunately for those of you who were expecting an exciting, tense and scary film experience what you are served can best be described as a dog’s dinner of a film. Alien Covenant is a confused mash of recognizable elements and sumptuous visuals offset by poor scripting, idiotic characters and a complete lack of anything resembling fear. It seems that you really cannot polish a turd.
 
I don’t know quite how to describe what a mess this film is. Much like the creatures that appear throughout the film, Alien Covenant feels like the bastard offspring of the Prometheus and Alien universes. Alas, its inability to decide whether it is a sequel to the former or a prequel to the latter gives the film a very uneven tone with pacing all over the shop. It’s a feeling that you have almost from the offset with a prologue sequence that appears to have been grafted from when this film was a direct sequel to Prometheus. We are re-introduced to Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) discussing art, philosophy and existence with his newly created “son”, David (Michael Fassbender) and the initial impression is that this is a film that has learned nothing from the flaws of its predecessor with an over reliance on vaguely conceived ideas and heavy handed dialogue.
 
We then jump forward ten years and join the colonial transport Covenant on its mission to populate the distant planet of Origae-6 with its cargo of 2000 colonists and embryos in cold storage. We have a brief introduction to Walter, a more subservient version of the David model of synthetic, before the ship is hit by a neutrino shockwave that critically damages the ship and throws the rest of the crew out of sleep. Featuring a blink and you’ll miss it cameo of James Franco doing an excellent impression of a human torch, we are quickly introduced to the members of the crew, the majority of who are easily discernible cannon fodder due to their lack of presence or characterisation. The exceptions are Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Tennessee (Danny McBride) and newly promoted Captain Oram (Bill Crudup). The scenes aboard the Covenant are visually striking but they can’t gloss over the fact that this is a ship that seems to be staffed by people who need to perpetually explain the plot. I don’t know about you but I think I’m more than capable of interpreting what is happening on the screen without a cinematic commentary track. It’s a key feature of Alien Covenant and one that gets on your nerves very quickly. This is not by any stretch of the imagination a subtle or nuanced film and that desire to explain everything that you see get very tired very quickly.
 
Anyways, back to the “plot.” So, whilst repairing the ship a garbled transmission is intercepted that sets in motion the achingly rusty plot gears defined by gravity defying leaps of logic. Establishing that the signal’s point of origin as a habitable planet that no-one appears to have noticed before, Oram decides to abandon the original mission and divert the Covenant to investigate the source of the transmission. It is but one of the many “eh?” type moments that reinforces how slapdash and contrived the film’s script is. All the breathtaking imagery and design can’t disguise that this is a movie that lacks any real substance and is heavily reliant on the familiar. From that description of events you’d think that sounds suspiciously like the opening to “Alien” and you’d be absolutely right in that assumption.
 
That appropriation of familiar elements is not restricted to just one instance and as a result Alien Covenant looks and feels like a greatest hits package. From the planetary descent (Aliens), to the Neomorphs (Alien 3 Bambi Burster) to portentous and pretentious themes of creation (Prometheus) or the finale (Alien, except with trucks!), this feels like a hodgepodge of borrowed ideas and concepts with little originality or freshness. This over familiarity isn’t helped when you have characters that are so badly written you begin to wonder whether the Covenant crew trained at the Prometheus Academy of numpty space exploration. So, deciding not to survey the planet from the safety of their sophisticated ship, most of the crew descend to the surface dressed like it’s a hike in the park and decide that safety in numbers is irrelevant to the situation and split up. Walking around the curiously lifeless planet, we are treated to excellent examples of numpty behaviour as one character prods some weird looking pods and another decides that being a spatially aware soldier is highly overrated. So, before you can say “Prometheus!” these two get infected and give birth to aliens that proceed to slaughter a large portion of the red shirts and manage to destroy their escape route as an added bonus.
 
Stranded and facing attacks by the rapidly growing Neomorphs, the surviving crew are saved by the intervention of a mysterious hooded figure. Employing their sound understanding of the Prometheus reflex methodology (panic and run), they follow their saviour to a city piled high with Engineer corpses and the comparative safety of a big temple with lots of dark corridors. If my description sounds flippant and stupid that’s because Alien Covenant is exactly that but don’t worry, things get even better once the survivors actually begin to take stock of their situation. It turns out that their saviour is none other than David from Prometheus who has been holed up alone in the Engineer city for the past decade and writing the Weyland guide to Sinister Robotics. I’m pretty sure that by this point in the proceedings I was thinking about whether the film was going to improve at all. Alas, Alien Covenant devolves further from this point onwards.
 
Alien Covenant’s inability to decide what kind of film it wants to be is demonstrated once the action moves to the dead Engineer city. Whereas the first half strongly echoes the Alien films, the second half moves in and out of Prometheus territory and attempts to find connective tissue between them. Unfortunately what you get is exposition heavy and pretentious allusions to the nature of creativity interspersed with a wholesale destruction of the mythic nature of the Alien. This section of the film continues the themes and concepts presented in Prometheus that made it such a divisive Marmite film. I’ve always been of the persuasion that Alien was effective as a film because it portrayed the universe as a cold, uncaring place where things exist that cannot be explained or understood. A key element of that is the nightmarish unknown of the derelict, the Space Jockey and the Alien and the dark, primordial fears they conjure up.
 
By comparison, Alien Covenant seeks to continue the work set down by its predecessor by explaining everything Alien in the context of some ill conceived grand mythology. Just as Prometheus demystified the Space Jockey, so Alien Covenant completely negates the terrifying nature of the Alien. This is a film where the Xenomorph is reduced to a representation of Scott’s vaguely religious ideas and concepts about the creation and perfection of life. Only here, the divine hands guiding life aren’t those of the God like Engineers but the artificial ones of a synthetic person suffering delusions of grandeur. I’m sure there’s much more that can be construed from the revelatory reveal that David is the creator of the Xenomorphs but by this point I was so numbed from how badly the film hangs together I just wanted it to end. I don’t really know what kind of quality control Twentieth Century Fox employed on this movie but the obvious answer is “not much.” Alien Covenant lurches from set piece to set piece like one of David’s failed laboratory experiments, relying on incoherent ideas and terminally stupid characters to propel the plot forward. It’s a situation perhaps best summed up by Billy Crudup’s character Oram who, upon witnessing David cooing to an adult Neomorph that has just slaughtered one of his crewmates, utters the immortal words, “None of this makes any sense.” 
 
A point reinforced by the next sequence of events that had me putting my popcorn down in disgust and eying the exit. David offers to “explain everything” and conducts a tour of his quarters that show the fruits of his labour before leading Oram into a chamber of very familiar eggs. Yet again demonstrating that he is a fully paid up member of the idiots club, he doesn’t instinctively use his large gun nor does he leg it out the chamber. No, instead he decides to peer into the top of an open egg sac with predictable results. It ably demonstrates that this is a film devoid of common sense but jam packed with face palm type writing. You have to wonder who the fuck thought that this script was ready for shooting and then you realise the blame must squarely placed at Ridley Scott’s feet. I appreciate that he can be a great filmmaker and is more than capable of producing epic visuals but as demonstrated by Alien Covenant it may be time for him to step away from anything Alien related.
 
There’s one scene in particular that really exemplifies how far the fruit has fallen from the tree where David hovers over his latest victim like an expectant father only to demonstrate his paternal instincts in a come to daddy or Christ like pose depending on your interpretation. It reminds me somewhat of that scene at the end of Star Wars Episode 3 where we see Darth Vader in all his glory only for him to scream “NOOOOO!!!!” in his James Earl Jones voice. A seriously ham fisted attempt at drama that induces more groans than gasps; it’s just bloody awful and makes you wonder whether anyone was on set going “are you sure this is a good idea, Ridley?”
 
Apart from the pretentious overtones, inept dialogue and etch a sketch characters you’d think that the saving grace would be the scary and tense atmosphere but even that has been ditched. Alien Covenant is a movie so completely devoid of anything remotely resembling “frightening” that what you are left with is copious amounts of blood and at times, badly rendered CGI monsters running amok. It’s the kind of film that is crying out for the perverse and disturbing influence of H.R. Giger to add fresh nightmare like imagery and play around with our subconscious fears or another director to add a different perspective.
 
For all its breathtaking and exquisitely composed shots and aspirations to be greater than the sum of its parts, Alien Covenant is a film that feels like it was dead on arrival. It just doesn’t appear to know what kind of beast it wants to be and as a result is a turgid and bloated mess of epic proportions best avoided.
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<![CDATA[PITCHFORK]]>Sun, 14 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/pitchforkREVIEW BY JOE X YOUNG 
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This is a mixed review; stick with it as in spite of what I start off saying, this is actually a good film. I am not sure if it is just me, but I am increasingly aware that the majority of horror films which I have seen lately are unable to deliver the full package expected. There’s quite a bit about pitchfork which doesn’t sit well, the plot is the basic bunch of young people escaping the maniac, and for the most part even that is decidedly poor. The acting is of varying quality, as is dialogue in most cases. The technical aspects of the film are spot on, with opening landscape shots being beautifully lit panoramas David Lean would have been proud of, indeed the entire production is fantastic, with a great score, perfect sound editing and much better than average special effects.
The initial setup is a throwaway plot device with a country boy who moved to New York heading back to the country with several friends in tow, part of the reason being that he has just come out of the closet and need some emotional backup as his dad disapproves of his son’s preferences. The other part of the reason appears to be that the country boy promised his New Yorker friends a barn dance, which turns into more of a disco. This all came across as a bit silly, totally unnecessary as well as unrealistic. I was almost tempted to turn it off but as I’m committed to watching everything to the bitter end, I stuck with it and was glad I did.

It’s not often that a new ‘slasher’ comes along who is actually bringing something interesting to the genre, so when the eponymous monster makes his appearance it’s actually highly welcome and refreshing.

Pitchfork is a lean mean slashing machine, very animalistic, and yes in true slasher tradition he wears a mask, which to me looks is if he skinned a dog to wear part of its muzzle. His weapon of choice is, yes you guessed it, a pitchfork, but in this instance it is just the tine end which is secured with barbed wire to the stump where his left hand should be. He is fast, brutal and highly efficient, which unfortunately means he is somewhat wasted in a plot which is a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

The usual terrors are there, the capturing and torturing of the teens, plenty of nastiness and gore. There’s a backstory to how ‘Pitchfork’ turned out the way he did, which is acceptable if nothing special. The one thing it does which doesn’t happen much in this sort of film is that there’s a younger character in danger, country boy’s little sister in this instance, and Pitchfork takes her prisoner and keeps her in a makeshift cage so her fate can be decided upon later. I won’t spoil things by telling you what happens with the little girl, as it is a great twist, one which my inner voice was cheering over.

The look of the film is great, the acting and script not so much for the majority, but Pitchfork himself and the little girl make this film stand out. I think it has the potential to introduce at least one new cult character to the horror pantheon, and it would be a shame if that didn’t happen.

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<![CDATA[10 DAYS IN AN ASYLUM]]>Wed, 10 May 2017 11:36:39 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/10-days-in-an-asylumReview by Joe X. Young 
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​I approached this film with curiosity, why was what appeared to be a 'made for tv biopic' making its way across the tables of GNOH when we do Horror reviews? Well, there are many types of horror, and this film deals with one of the worst aspects of man's inhumanity towards it's fellow man, or in this case women, thousands of them.
 
Fortunately we live in a more enlightened age, still not truly egalitarian, but certainly taking steps in the right direction even though taking a hell of a long time to get there. This film is set in America in the late 1800s, a dangerous time to be female as women had no rights and could be put into an asylum for no better reason than disagreeing with a man. It was such a common practice that very few people took much notice of it going on. The potential to be incarcerated for the flimsiest of reasons was the tip of the iceberg as once within the institutions women were routinely drugged, starved and forced to endure physical and mental abuse from those meant to be caring for them.
Familiar tale so far, one that many of us will have had some distant memory that these things used to happen and an awareness that in some parts of the world similar things still do. It's an all too real  horror. So, we're not talking a slasher pic, no demons et cetera, but instead a highly engrossing true story of a 23 year old female reporter Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, known by her pen-name as Nellie Bly whose assignment from Joseph Pulitzer was to go undercover for a week at the notorious Blackwell's Island insane asylum to expose the evils of the institutions. As you may gather by the title Nellie was actually there longer, which again was part of the problem with these institutions as once you were in there it was generally the case that one would die there.
 
The film itself appears to have fallen through the cracks, it's rather odd from various angles as there was obviously a serious attempt at authenticity. The outdoor street scenes look to be stock footage which are of a much better quality than the majority of scenes. There are some blatant CGI moments, but the majority of sets are tight, grotty and wholly believable. It still comes across as a 'made for tv' style, which is disheartening. This film, this subject and in particular the real-life character of Nellie Bly are deserving of a much 'bigger' film, one which should have a global cinema release as, to me at least, it's far too important a story for a 'straight to video' type of film. The budget, an apparently paltry by general standards $12M, seems to have been left in the bank to accrue interest as there's little evidence of money being spent on sound design, editing, lighting or indeed known actors, with the exceptions of Christopher Lambert and Kelly Le Brock.
 
There are, as one can imagine, several characters in the film, but only really two of any note, those being Nellie, and Dr Dent. Nellie Bly carries the weight of the movie on her shoulders, ably so. At first I was thinking that perhaps the actress in the role, Caroline Barry, was the wrong choice, she came across as a little too 'Jazz Hands', modern, all teeth and smiles, a stage-school darling if ever there was one. But then she started to make a lot of sense being that way. It takes a larger than life personality to accomplish what Miss Bly did, and although a little weak in places I believe Caroline Barry has proven herself in this film and could go on to land much more heavyweight role opportunities off the back of this.
 
Kelly Le Brock turns up for all of a couple of minutes in what is a tragic waste of time, she's on screen just long enough to be nasty to Nellie once, and then she's gone again. It is so sad to have seen someone once so enthralling become a bizarre cameo role, especially as Le Brock has the appearance of someone with one too many nips and tucks, which sticks out like a clown mask in a film in which most of the females wear no makeup.
 
Christopher Lambert. THE Christopher Lambert. The Highlander himself. As Dr Dent, the man in charge of the asylum, he is an oddity. The general feeling is that Dr Dent had a genuine interest in finding cures for his patients and advancing medical science, but did so with no regard for the subjects in his care, treating them as little more than inconvenient lab rats. Lambert could have phoned his performance in. This could have become a career-reviving vehicle, but with the low budget, poor production and limited distribution it kind of kills the chances, which is a shame as the character here is interesting enough to have done a lot more with and Lambert is sufficiently able to take it where it needed to go.
 
The same cannot be said for the rest of the cast, many of whom come across as more parodies than people with enough wooden performances to build a shed. The acting is quite often reminiscent of 1970s exploitation movies it's just that bad.
 
Okay, so it sounds dreadful on most fronts, so is it worth bothering with? Yes.
 
Nellie Bly was a true pioneer, a most remarkable woman, and her continued real-life exploits would make for a thrilling TV series at the very least. She is historically important and wholly inspirational, and whilst this film may be a bit of a dud, it's still better to have seen it and got some sense of the woman than to know nothing about her. In all honesty though I think the majority of people would be much better served byreading the book instead.



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