[TIFF Review] ‘Halloween’ Delivers a Laurie vs Michael Showdown 40 Years in the Making

It’s been twenty years since we last saw Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) face off against Michael Myers (no, I’m not counting Resurrection). Back then she was an overprotective drunk headmistress of a prep school. In David Gordon Green’s 2018 franchise relaunch, Laurie isn’t drinking away her trauma: she’s battle prepping for it. Gone is the alcohol dependency (mostly) and her paralyzing fear of the Shape; 40 years later and Laurie Strode is a badass doomsday survivalist.

The events of Halloween: H20 may have been washed away in this canon retcon, but the experience of seeing Curtis return to arguably her most iconic role remains just as thrilling as it did 20 years ago. This anniversary rematch jettisons all of the sequels, acting as a direct sequel to the events of the original 1978 John Carpenter flick. Gone is the familial connection from Halloween 2 (though it is jokingly addressed in dialogue), as well as H20‘s petulant son with the odd bowl cut. In their place is a more franchise-friendly multi-generational approach: Laurie now has a daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), as well as a granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak).

Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride take their time setting things up. Following a mildly anticlimactic opening set at the sanitarium where Michael has been stashed away for forty years, Halloween reintroduces Laurie and her kin. The scene when a pair of Serial-like British podcasters track down the recluse smacks of exposition, but it helps to establish a timeline for Laurie and lays the foundation for her tense relationship with Karen. It seems the Sarah Connor treatment didn’t sit well with child protective services and Karen was removed from Laurie’s care at age 12, but not before the young girl was taught how to protect herself.

This strain on their relationship also extends to Laurie and Allyson. The latter is committing to forging a connection with her grandmother, but the former’s fixation with Michael Myers proves all-encompassing (rightfully so, as it turns out). These early stretches of the film mirror both the original entry and H20 by investing time in the characters, although Gordon Green and McBride are still careful not to let too much time pass without a bit of blood and gore.

This outing features a substantially larger kill count (and, pleasingly, some variety). Michael uses a transport bus accident to escape the sanitarium and while the crash itself occurs off screen, the aftermath plays out in the film’s first major setpiece: a pitch black investigation by a young boy, with lighting provided exclusively by headlights and the eerie blue-tinged fluorescents from inside the bus. A later attack at a gas station (prominently featured in the trailers) occurs in broad daylight, but is just as effective. One new element in this entry is Michael’s strength: whereas in Carpenter’s original Michael can hoist a body in the air and impale it with a knife, here he rips open jaws and nearly decapitates heads. It’s nice and gruesome.

The first two-thirds of the film adhere to the same narrative pattern: Laurie warns her family or listens to the police radio while Michael moves ever closer, with each person in between them destined to end up in a body bag. Unlike the original, there’s no discernible rhyme or reason for several of the kills. Michael isn’t tracking Laurie or Karen and he doesn’t interact with Allyson until late in the film; he’s not stalking the Strodes at all – he appears to pick locations at random. The exception to this is his attack on the home where Allyson’s friend Vicky (Virginia Gardner) is babysitting, though this isn’t presented as a strategic move.

As enjoyable as the attacks and the tension building is, it is little more than the warm-up to the main event: Laurie v Michael.

Unfortunately, the plot device that is used to get Michael to Laurie’s house in the woods outside of Haddonfield is jaw-droppingly bad. This out-of-the-blue twist feels neither justified, nor well executed and it nearly stops the film dead in its tracks (at least for a few minutes). This and the incredibly stupid response that several victims have in the face of danger are two elements that make the film feel dumb and require more than the usual amount of slasher movie suspension of disbelief. Thankfully the non-effective plot twist is right on the cusp of the showdown that the entire film is built around, which more than lives up to expectations.

All is forgiven when Laurie and Michael finally face off. Having just rewatched H20, I can confidently say that their 2018 battle is not only more sustained, it is nastier. Laurie has been planning for this encounter for forty years and while it cost her a relationship with her family, it certainly pays off against the Shape. The hidden cellar entrance in the kitchen is a focal point, but there are other fun developments that keep the extended climax both viscerally interesting and emotionally exhausting. The Midnight Madness audience was on the edge of their seats, gasping and shrieking as Laurie sweeps each room, eagerly waiting for Michael’s inevitable attack.

As for why Laurie would elect to keep a room full of mannequins? Well, that’s just another “go along with it” element.

In terms of performances, Curtis owns the film and completely knocks it out of the park.

Greer is saddled with the disbelieving character type, which mostly means that she comes off as whiny. Thankfully Gordon Green and McBride do give her one great redemptive kick-ass moment. Newcomer Matichak is solid, reliably anchoring all of the teen/high school related content, though I’m legitimately uncertain why Gordon Green only cast long, curly-haired teen boys with weird faces. Lastly, Will Patton as the sheriff with a connection to the original night’s events is fine; in truth, he isn’t really given much to do.

All in all, Halloween is a worthy entry in the franchise. The plotting doesn’t quite stick the landing, especially the one development that is so flat-out bad I docked an extra half point off, but the core cast is good to great, as is the violence and the gore. Everything really clicks at the finale, which makes sense considering the film exists to pit Laurie against Michael. And in this capacity, Halloween doesn’t disappoint.

[Review] ‘The Nun’ is a Calmly, Consistently Creepy Slice of Gothic Horror

It’s safe to say that the producers of 2013’s The Conjuring have continued to find new and interesting ways to expand upon their franchise. From the first (pretty excellent) chapter to the rock-solid traditional sequel to spin-offs (Annabelle) and prequels to said spin-offs (Annabelle: Creation) — and more on the way — it looks like James Wan and company have quietly built their own little “shared universe” of horror, and have been doing some really solid business with this game plan. It’s pleasantly ironic (at least to me, because I am old) that each of these films have found lots of younger fans despite being fairly low-key, old-fashioned, slow-burn style horror movies. Say what you will about this series, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than basic slasher stuff or yet another predictable zombie attack — and it’s Wan’s obvious affection for old-school classic horror cinema that helps keep things interesting. (Go check out his second feature again! Dead Silence is due for reappraisal!)

The latest chapter in this supernatural saga is called The Nun. It’s a grim, gloomy, understated horror tale that. truth be told, probably would have bored me back when I was a wee little 15-year-old horror geek. But as a grown-up who has grown to appreciate things like mood, atmosphere, and good acting I don’t mind saying that The Nun simply hit me in the right spot this morning. Sure, it’s a very basic (even familiar) story about two representatives of the church who travel to a distant location — in the case a Romanian convent — to check up on a reported suicide, only to be set upon by something very evil — but it’s also just calmly, consistently creepy. And let’s just be honest here; it’s nice to see a horror movie populated solely by adults once in a while. Nothing against teens and kids within the horror realm, obviously, but a flick about three grown-ups and some haunted nuns also struck me as a nice change of pace. At least as far as multiplexes are concerned.

Director Corin Hardy (The Hallow, and I don’t mean The Gallows) and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre are clearly intent on evoking the doom, gloom, and eerie atmosphere of a lovely old Hammer Horror production, and screenwriter Gary Dauberman seems to be actively challenging modern horror fans to settle down and enjoy a slightly more sedate piece of Gothic horror. From the early 1950s production design and costumes to the ominous locations tucked deep inside the haunted convent there’s an obvious attempt at delivering something slightly more mature than what we normally see in studio-released horror films. It certainly doesn’t hurt that both leads are pretty great. Taissa Farmiga, as Sister Irene, the newbie nun who suspects foul play, and Demian Bichir, as the weary but noble Father Burke, strike an unlikely chemistry as they dig into the mysteries of the convent’s history. And Jonas Bloquet provides some essential charm and comic relief as a French-Canadian ally who proves to be quite helpful indeed when it comes to curses and possessions and such.

Though it’s most assuredly a horror film, The Nun is perhaps better approached as a period piece mystery with some decidedly occult leanings. Hardy may lean a bit too heavily on simple jump scares and dream sequences for my liking (and I might have thrown a few extra characters into the mix, if only to bolster the mystery angle and provide for a few more murders!) but there’s still quite a bit to appreciate here. It’s hard to say if this particular chapter in the Conjure-verse will scare up huge crowds at the box office but it’s one that should prove to be a pleasant surprise to intrepid horror fans who eventually discover it on their own TVs.

[Butcher Block] ‘Hobo with a Shotgun,’ a Glorious Grindhouse-Style Gorefest

Butcher Block is a weekly series celebrating horror’s most extreme films and the minds behind them. Dedicated to graphic gore and splatter, each week will explore the dark, the disturbed, and the depraved in horror, and the blood and guts involved. For the films that use special effects of gore as an art form, and the fans that revel in the carnage, this series is for you.

In 2007, an international trailer contest was run in promotion of the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse. Director Jason Eisener got together with collaborators Rob Cotterill and John Davies, wrote a script, and shot a trailer titled “Hobo with a Shotgun” for a mere $150 in a few days. It went viral on YouTube shortly after and won the contest. The exposure led to a feature film version getting fast-tracked, the second fake trailer from Grindhouse to earn one (after Machete).

The feature length film takes the highlight reel of the faux trailer and expands it to a brisk hour and a half story that replaces original Hobo David Brunt for a more recognizable genre mainstay; Rutger Hauer. Also gone is the scratchy, dusty vintage film quality and replaced instead with the vivid technicolor world that feels more akin to Suspiria. Though the visual style might have been updated, the film still retains that grindhouse DNA, dialogue and all.

The plot is a simple tale of an antihero taking matters into his own bloodied hands. When Hauer’s Hobo arrives in Hope Town by way of train boxcar, he soon finds the town is under the oppressive rule of The Drake and his sadistic sons. A public decapitation is Hobo’s introduction to the town’s deep-seated corruption, and eventually, Hobo snaps. If you surmised that the film’s title should be taken literally, then you win a prize; Hobo does indeed pick up a shotgun and begins a murder spree to remove the town’s pimps, drug dealers, pedophiles, and corrupt.

Eisener’s feature take on this character feels like a vivid colored Troma meets grindhouse film, so enjoyment mileage will vary depending on tastes for crude humor and gore, both of which there is plenty. Thanks to key special makeup effects artist Zane Knisely (Hannibal, The Void, The Monster) and team, the practical effects-driven gore is a huge highlight. Heads pop off and shower surrounding characters in blood. A character takes a hacksaw to the neck of a victim, slowly driving the serrated blade back and forth into their flesh. A doctor is impaled with a sword. An ice skate is used as a knife to someone’s chest. All were handled practically, and all reveled in excess violence and blood, which wouldn’t have been easy to contend with during production.

With both Hobo and his adversaries slaughtering their way through Hope Town, forcing the citizens to pick a side, a late game summoning of two armor-clad demons, dubbed “The Plague,” adds a new level of light-hearted weirdness to balance to grit. The gore, tone, and look of Hobo with a Shotgun makes for a perfect pairing to Turbo Kid, all the more fitting considering Eisener served as executive producer for the cult hit.

With dialogue like, “I’m gonna wash this blood off… with your blood,” and, “It’s a beautiful day for a skate-rape” and a ton of dismemberment (including genitalia mutilation), Hobo with a Shotgun is example of extreme splatter cinema with heart, humor, and Troma-like sensibilities that’s sure to offend the delicate.

[Review] Shane Black’s ‘The Predator’ Leans Hard into Its “R” Rating for a Fun But Clunky Time

On the whole, the Predator franchise has an up and down history. The original is beloved (and famous now for featuring two US governors among the cast) while the sequel has interesting ideas but problematic racial elements. Depending on your canonical preferences the AvP films are either silly fun or offensive cash grabs. Finally, 2010’s Predators attempts to reboot the whole affair, but didn’t quite work.

Which brings us to Shane Black’s attempt to give the galaxy’s most dangerous hunter a new lease on life with The Predator. The new film disavows all but the original two films to tell the story of a team of misfits who band together to tackle not just one Predator, but a new suped-up hybrid (and his Predator dogs). Oh – and there’s a Mary Sue child who is on the spectrum and Olivia Munn thrown in for good measure.

If you follow the trades, the news of reshoots, botched marketing campaigns and a recent edit to remove a convicted sexual offender friend of Black’s might sound the alarm of a troubled production. Hopeful fans need not worry too much: the final cut of the film doesn’t reflect a project in peril so much as a very traditional “by the books” Hollywood blockbuster, which in 2018 may be its own cause for alarm.

Ardent Black fans will undoubtedly find plenty to like about the new film. The Predator opens in Mexico with a botched mission that leaves skilled military sniper McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) the sole survivor and in possession of the Predator helmet and glove. The crash site is quickly swept under the rug by government scientist Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) and McKenna is set up to take the fall to ensure he remains quiet about what he saw. When his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) activates the helmet McKenna covertly mailed home, however, it initiates a chain of events that brings Traeger, the Predator and a newly introduced bounty hunter Predator down on McKenna’s sleepy town.

Shane and co-writer Fred Dekker keep things moving along at a speedy clip, offsetting the deluge of expository dialogue with regular action sequences. Their other contribution is a boatload of supporting comedy characters in the form of McKenna’s makeshift team, which includes crass comedian Coyle (Keegan Michael-Key), Tourette’s afflicted Baxley (Thomas Jane), pilot Lynch (Alfie Allen), creepy/cute Nettles (Augusta Aguilera) and suicidal leader Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes).

These men become the mouthpiece for Black’s trademark crude and witty dialogue, which vacillates somewhere between “your mother” jokes and using the R-word to describe McKenna’s son. It’s unclear if Black and Dekker (heh heh) were aiming for 80s action movie nostalgia with their underwhelming dialogue and rah-rah machismo, but the vast majority of The Predator, unfortunately, lands uncomfortably close to dude-bro territory.

Thankfully the action makes up a lot of the shortcomings. The opening sequence is adequate, but things really get cooking when the Predator unexpectedly awakens at Traeger’s top secret Project Stargazer base. The ensuing death and destruction is glorious to behold as Black leans hardcore into his R rating and paints the white facility walls red. Later in the film, a battle at the local schoolyard finds creative ways to continually raise the stakes. By the time the action moves to a rock quarry and into the woods for the extended final battle, however, exhaustion and ennui have begun to set in. Even the wanton destruction of an entire army of red shirts can’t help to keep the film’s energy from flagging as action sequence begets action sequence endlessly.

Sadly the action alone can’t save the film. Black and Dekker pack the 2hr+ film with far too many conflicts. When the film unites the humans against the new super Predator, it works. When the focus shifts to the petty in-fighting between McKenna and Traeger or the narrative cuts back to Yvonne Strahovski’s Emily (playing McKenna’s estranged wife in a thankless role), The Predator feels clunky and ill-paced. Throw in Black’s near misogynistic use of female characters, including a completely unnecessary scene involving a naked Munn, and there’s a lot to criticize.

The Predator will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the original films, as well as purveyors of Shane Black’s oeuvre. As for whether this new film has the capacity to re-launch the franchise (which the tacked on coda clearly aims to do)? Unclear. The troubled reports from set and inevitable “bad to meh” reviews certainly won’t help recruit new audiences. But hey: at least we got Predator dogs!

Bloody Disgusting’s Vanessa Decker Takes Us to ‘The Nun’ Red Carpet Premiere in Hollywood! [Video]

New Line Cinema’s The Nun haunts audiences everywhere tonight, and Bloody Disgusting’s Vanessa Decker and Ryan Valdez hit the spooky red carpet premiere to speak to the stars and filmmakers behind the next film in the Conjuring universe.

Watch as Vanessa speaks with Bonnie Aarons, who reprises her Conjuring 2 role as the title character, Corin Hardy, who brings the film to life, the great Taissa Farmiga, who appears in this new film as Sister Irene, among others!

Hosted by Vanessa Decker

Filmed and edited by Ryan Valdez

[It Came From the ‘80s] Vampires, Werewolves, and Flaming Death in ‘Fright Night Part 2’

With horror industry heavy hitters already in place from the 1970s, the 1980s built upon that with the rise of brilliant minds in makeup and effects artists, as well as advances in technology. Artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Tom Savini, Stan Winston, and countless other artists that delivered groundbreaking, mind-blowing practical effects that ushered in the pre-CGI Golden Age of Cinema. Which meant a glorious glut of creatures in horror. More than just a technical marvel, the creatures on display in ‘80s horror meant tangible texture that still holds up decades laterGrotesque slimy skin to brutal transformation sequences, there wasn’t anything the artists couldn’t create. It Came From the ‘80s is a series that will pay homage to the monstrous, deadly, and often slimy creatures that made the ‘80s such a fantastic decade in horror.

One of the ‘80s most beloved vampire films is the Tom Holland’s directorial debut Fright Night. The horror comedy followed teen horror fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who discovers his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire responsible for the disappearances of multiple people. When no one believes him, he turns to local horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) for help. Throw in werewolves, monstrous bats, and melting, oozing deaths in the midge of the golden era of practical effects, and Fright Night became a hit. The inevitable sequel that followed four years later saw Jerry’s vampiric sister out for revenge against Charley and Peter, except Charley has since stopped believing in vampires. Though the plot structure is closely aligned with its predecessor, the special makeup and creature effects has a much bigger role to play.

The biggest change for this sequel is the gender swapping. With Charley now the skeptic, it’s his girlfriend Alex (Traci Lind) that teams up with Peter Vincent to save him from the big bad vampire’s clutches. That vampire is Regine (In the Mouth of MadnessJulie Carmen), an eccentric performance artist turned new horror host of Fright Night. Regine is dead set on a slow revenge upon Charley for killing her brother, Jerry, and she comes with a bigger entourage. There’s the roller skating right-hand vampire Belle (Russell Clark), bug-eating enforcer Bozworth (Brian Thompson), and flirtatious werewolf Louie (Jon Gries).

Between the larger cast of monsters and the performance artist aspect of Regine’s character, that meant a lot more room to play for the special makeup effects team. The large scope of work was a big undertaking for special makeup and creature effects artist Bart Mixon (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), stepping into the supervisor role for a major effects-driven film for the first time. He enlisted a core team of artists made up of key sculptor Brian Wade, key painter Aaron Sims, Norman Cabrera, and moldmaker Jim McLoughlin. He was also able to pull in artists Gabe Bartalos, Barney Burman, Matt Rose, and more for periods of time to work on the film.

The crew had a lot of effects to handle, from the decapitation of the bowling alley owner, Bozworth’s chest getting sliced open, Belle’s melting demise, and even Louie’s transformation sequences. It paled in comparison to the epic final battle between Regine and our plucky heroes. Pissed off, Regine transforms into a monstrous bat creature and attacks. What was originally designed to only feature a stop motion puppet eventually evolved into a full-sized bat crashing through the floor. The epic bat attack became a splicing of both stop-motion animation of the miniature bat and a massive bat puppet secured on a rod and pushed through the elevator floor.

From there, the movie has Regine transforming back to her original form to finish off Charley before suffering a gruesome death by sunlight. Mixon’s original designs for this death proved much too disgusting for director Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch), so Mixon and team scaled back to a more traditional gelatin burn makeup application. For the spectacular flaming death scene, it was actress Dinah Cancer in makeup and prosthetics, undergoing three hours of makeup application to look somewhere halfway between giant bat and human.

Despite how successful the original film was, the sequel only saw a limited release in the U.S. and didn’t fare as well as a result. From a narrative standpoint, Fright Night Part 2 most sticks to the same story beats of its predecessor. It’s the visual element that makes this underseen sequel shine, though. Mixon and his crew made a fun effects-heavy sequel that’s an improvement over the original, and Carmen is a compelling villain as Regine.

This Week’s Mind-bending, Totally Bonkers Episode of “Castle Rock” Explained

“When continuity is interrupted, everything starts to slide.”

Well, we were begging for answers. And we got some pretty crazy ones this week.

Way back in the very first episode of Hulu’s “Castle Rock, a mysterious man (played by Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård) was found deep in the bowels of Shawshank, where he had been imprisoned by the warden for 27 years. Freed from his makeshift cell, “The Kid” was asked for his name. “Henry Deaver,” he told us. He was telling the truth. We just didn’t listen.

Last week, I had noted that watching “Castle Rock” is like trying to put together a puzzle, only there are so many pieces missing and someone keeps tossing pieces from other puzzles onto the pile. This week’s episode, titled ‘Henry Deaver,’ picked up all those pieces and threw them up in the air for a mind-bending 45 minutes that essentially rewrote everything we thought we knew about the series’ storyline. And by the time they landed back down, they formed an entirely different puzzle than the one we thought we were building these past nine weeks.

A puzzle, in many ways (but surely not all ways just yet), finally complete.

So what’s going on in Castle Rock? Well, ‘Henry Deaver’ managed to answer the two main questions that we’ve been asking ourselves throughout the season thus far:

1) What happened to Henry Deaver as a young boy, back in 1991?


2) Who/what the hell is “The Kid”?

The answers to both questions are highly otherworldly in nature, with ‘Henry Deaver’ informing us that there are multiple timelines/universes that can be accessed through a portal in the woods of Castle Rock (that’s J.J. Abrams for ya). What happened to young Henry? He traveled through the portal and was temporarily trapped in an alternate reality.

Who is “The Kid”? He’s… uh… he’s actually Henry Deaver too. To break it down as neatly as possible, Skarsgård’s Henry exists in one reality. Andre Holland’s in another.

Crazy, but none of this craziness came entirely out of left field, as the character Odin explained to us what’s going on in the woods of Castle Rock back in Episode 6, titled ‘Filter’…

Other heres. Other nows. All possible pasts, all possible presents. Schisma is the sound of the universe… trying to reconcile them.

This piece of dialogue is the key to understanding the events of ‘Henry Deaver,’ which mostly took place in an alternate universe. This week, Bill Skarsgård played the role of Henry Deaver, a doctor who has just made an incredible breakthrough on his quest to correct the disease his mother Ruth suffers from, Alzheimer’s. This version of Henry returns to Castle Rock when he learns his father has killed himself, and it’s there that he finds and rescues a boy in his estranged father’s basement: a young Henry Deaver (Caleel Harris). Yeah, they went there.

After, the alternate version of Adult Henry reunites with childhood friend Molly Strand, and the two of them are led out into the woods by the young boy who we know to be Henry Deaver. It’s in the woods that the big reveal is made, with Adult Henry (Skarsgård) traveling through a portal and arriving in the show’s main version of Castle Rock (where he doesn’t belong) and Young Henry (Holland) returning to the show’s main reality (where he belongs). As for Molly, she’s accidentally shot dead out in the woods by an alternate version of Dennis Zalewski (Noel Fisher) in the alternate universe, the same man who went on a shooting spree in the other universe. But don’t worry, she’s still alive in the main reality we’ve been inhabiting.

Yes, there are *at least* two different realities for everyone in Castle Rock, and the gifted Henry Deaver has traveled between those realities. In Universe A, which the series has primarily been set in, Henry (Andre Holland) is the adopted son of Ruth and Matthew Deaver, who spent many years locked up in the basement of Universe B’s unrelated Matthew Deaver… perceived as mere days in Universe A. He grows up, moves away from Castle Rock and becomes a death row attorney, returning to the town to defend “The Kid” after he’s found in Shawshank.

In Universe B, Henry (Bill Skarsgård) is the biological son of Ruth and Matthew Deaver, who moves away from Castle Rock and becomes a doctor, returning to his hometown after his father kills himself. After discovering and saving Universe A’s Henry, Universe B’s Henry crosses over into Universe A, where he’s captured by Dale Lacy and held captive at Shawshank.

Two ordinary men. Wrongfully imprisoned due to the belief that they were each the Devil.

All along, we’ve been watching Universe A’s Henry interact with Universe B’s Henry, the two realities bleeding together without Universe A’s Henry (or us) ever realizing it. What’s the secret behind all the nightmares that have been consuming Castle Rock? Well, it seems the bleed-over of different realities has been messing with the town big time.

Never the twain shall meet, lest all hell break loose. You know the drill.

Henry Deaver’s entire existence is vastly different depending on which universe’s Henry we’re talking about (he’s a special case, after all, having been biologically created by a couple in one universe and adopted by that same couple in another), but the lives of the town’s other residents are also quite different depending on the universe. In Universe B, for example, Ruth and Alan Pangborn moved away from Castle Rock when they were younger, Ruth escaping her abusive husband in the way Universe A’s Ruth was never able to. The town itself is quite different as well, depending on the universe, with Universe A’s Castle Rock being run down and haunted by its past and Universe B’s Castle Rock presented as a much livelier, happier place.

If Universe B’s Henry was returned to Universe B, would the darkness over Universe A’s Castle Rock lift and become more like that alternate place? It seems Skarsgård’s version of Henry Deaver is indeed a plague on the town, not because he’s evil but simply because he’s been brought into a world that he’s not actually supposed to be part of. In his own world, Skarsgård’s Deaver is by all accounts a good man, leaving behind a (possibly pregnant) wife when he was displaced into Universe A. We wonder, how much time has passed in his world’s timeline?

More importantly, where does “Castle Rock” go from here? With only one episode remaining, we expect the series’ mystery box madness to only get more intriguing in its final hour.

Here’s hoping it all comes together in a satisfying way next week.

Full Trailer for “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” Promises End of the World Insanity

We’re just one week away from the premiere of “American Horror Story: Apocalypse, a mashup season that’ll bring together characters and storylines from previous seasons “Murder House” and “Coven.” The season will also mark the return of longtime mainstay Jessica Lange, who hasn’t been part of the “AHS” family since “Freak Show” back in 2014.

The full trailer has finally arrived today, teasing the end of the world… “American Horror Story” style. The world upstairs may be gone, with flesh-eating mutants prowling the streets. But underground, “Murder House” and “Coven” insanity roams free. Down there, a new Sarah Paulson villain is in charge. And she’s shaping a whole new world as she sees fit.

Oh and, uh, the Anti-Christ is down there too. This is gonna be WILD, folks.

Jessica Lange will be reprising the role of “Murder House” character Constance Langdon. “Murder House” couple Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton are also back.

Cody Fern (“Assassination of Gianni Versace”) will be playing the adult version of Tate’s evil baby from “Murder House.” He’s not just evil, he’s the Anti-Christ.

Also confirmed are Sarah Paulson as Cordelia Foxx, Billie Dean Howard AND a new character, Emma Roberts as Madison Montgomery, Evan PetersKathy Bates, Joan Collins, Cheyenne Jackson, Billie Lourd, Leslie GrossmanBilly Eichner and Adina Porter.

Taissa Farmiga is back as both Violet Harmon and Zoe Benson, alongside Gabourey Sidibe, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy and Stevie Nicks.

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (“UnReal”) and Kyle Allen (“The Path”) recently joined the cast, both actors appearing in a “guest” capacity.

“Apocalypse” ends the world and stars anew on September 12.

[Review] ‘Mandy’ is a Grimly Alluring Fever Dream

You’ve seen Nicolas Cage go crazy. You’ve seen movies about a man who wreaks blood-soaked vengeance on evil men. And perhaps you’ve seen psychedelic, post-apocalyptic hellscapes populated exclusively by maniacal cult members and horrific demonic bikers.

But not all at once. And not like this. The certifiably insane genre concoction known as Mandy takes a few elements that genre fans know exceedingly well by now — and then tosses them into a setting so weirdly compelling and viscerally intense that you’ll start to feel like you’ve fallen into a Hieronymus Bosch painting and your only guide through the madness, is a wild-eyed, blood-drenched Nicolas Cage.

Most definitely a film of two distinct (yet equally fascinating) moods, tones, and sensibilities, Mandy opens in an alternate version of 1983, and it’s not a pleasant one. Suffice to say that while Red (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) enjoy a quietly blissful life tucked away in a cozy cabin in the Pacific Northwest (the rest of the world could be a disaster zone for all we know). For Red and Mandy, things are pretty sweet — simply because they have each other. For the moment, that is.

Director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) and his co-writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn are in no big hurry to get to the incidents that ultimately lead to all sorts of hellacious carnage, and while a “slow start” would act as a stumbling block to many horror stories, in this case, the longer fuse is very welcome. We get to know Red and Mandy’s relationship in all sorts of sweet and personal ways, which helps build suspense as well as a legitimate rooting interest. In order for the second half of the movie to work, we have to get into Red’s mindset, at least a little, and that’s where character development, world building, and off-kilter atmosphere pay off in all sorts of grimly interesting ways.

“Fever dream” is a term you’ll hear a lot when discussing this movie, and it happens to be one of the most grimly alluring and consistently interesting “fever dream” movies in recent memory. Which is to say: this movie gets super weird sometimes, but it still manages to maintain a forward momentum and narrative logic that keeps one from simply tuning out. (Which sometimes happens when a flick is simply too weird for its own good.) From the production design (which descends from calm and inviting to the various levels of hell with alarming effectiveness) to Johann Johannsson‘s awesome musical score, there’s a whole lot of talent on display behind the camera.

Plus there’s not a weak performance to be found: Linus Roache is truly imposing, disturbing, and plain ol’ freaky as the cult leader, Andrea Riseborough provides the film’s heart and soul with a lovely, tragic, and (yes) kinda weird performance, the great Bill Duke shows up for a few key moments, and Nicolas Cage remains an absolute force of nature. Love the guy or not (I’m definitely a fan) there’s no denying he works his ass off, and holy crap is he put through ten types of hell in this particular movie.

If you want a bizarre and blistering revenge story set in a uniquely ominous world, Mandy has a lot to offer. If your tastes lean towards genre flicks like Hellraiser, The Wicker Man, and Race with the Devil, there’s very little chance you won’t dig this movie in a big way. And if you’re hoping for a big fat amalgamation of action, horror, pitch black comedy, bittersweet romance, and that wonderfully sweet smell of sheer unpredictability, hell, Mandy might just be your new favorite movie of the year.

George A. Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ Turns 40!

George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is often considered the best film of his game-changing zombie series. This time Romero embraced the political reputation of Night of the Living Dead and opted to aim for the jugular with his statement on the consumerism of American capitalism. He upped the gore and the humor, too, delivering a memorable classic about four unlikely allies holed up in a secluded shopping mall amidst the zombie apocalypse. Dawn of the Dead was released in Italian markets on September 1, 1978, due to a surprising partnership, before finally making its way to the U.S. six months later on April 20, 1979, meaning that this Romero favorite turns 40 not once, but twice.

After the release of game-changing classic Night of the Living Dead, co-writers George A. Romero and John Russo had a disagreement over where the series should head. Thanks to the film being in public domain, the pair branched off to deliver two very memorable zombie franchises. Russo wrote the novel Return of the Living Dead that served as the loose basis for the 1985 horror comedy, and Romero eventually continued with beloved zombie favorite Dawn of the Dead. Between not wanting to be pigeonholed in horror, working on a string of other films, and struggling to find the funds needed to make Dawn of the Dead, it wasn’t an easy path for Romero to create this sequel.

An unfinished script was passed on to an Italian distributor, who passed it on to Dario Argento. A fan of both Night of the Living Dead and the unfinished script, he flew to New York to meet with Romero and the pair struck up a deal; Argento and his partners would secure half of the budget in exchange for all foreign rights in non-English speaking territories except South America. Argento had final cut of the version released in Italy, while Romero had full control over the cut released in America that was released a half of a year later. Argento’s cut is a shorter run-time; he trimmed jokes that he felt would go over the heads of Italian audiences. He also replaced the score with music by Goblin.

The script for Dawn of the Dead was a whopping 253 pages long. Romero wrote everything in lengthy detail so he could communicate everything to the various departments as he didn’t have time to make storyboards. Filmed at the shopping mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, which Romero had discovered while securing financing for Martin, the crew had to shoot after hours and clear out every morning in time for customers’ arrival.

Romero had a clear vision for his film, but he also gave creative freedom to the 1,600 extras that came in to play zombies. He just instructed them to be the best zombie they could, with no direction on how they should move or look. Also given creative freedom was effects artist Tom Savini, whose only direction from the script was to make it look as realistic as possible. Nearly half of the gore gags in the second half of the film were improvised. One of the most celebrated zombie kills of all time, the screwdriver to the zombie ear (played by composer John Harrison), took Savini roughly two minutes to come up with.

Of course, the gore meant Dawn of the Dead earned an X-rating. Instead, Romero and producers opted to release it unrated.  In the end, only one theater refused to play the film for being unrated. The film was trimmed down to receive an R-rating in 1982 so it could play in drive-ins on a double bill with Romero’s Creepshow, but fans were having none of it and it was quickly pulled from theaters.

Dawn of the Dead traded the gloomy, depressive black and white aesthetic of its predecessor in favor of something bold, over the top, and humorous. There was no subtlety at all about the social commentary here. Dawn marked Romero’s full embrace of the political, but of his zombie world as well. These zombies weren’t just faceless killers, but distinct characters. Some of which he couldn’t bring himself to kill, like the zombie nun. He didn’t intend to have anyone survive the end of the film, but found he loved Fran (Gaylen Ross) and Peter (Ken Foree) too much and rewrote a more uplifting conclusion.

Dawn of the Dead was a critical and box office hit, and it solidified Romero’s rank as a master of horror. There’s really no wrong version to watch; all cuts of Dawn of the Dead work and it’s easy to see why it remains a steadfast favorite among fans. It was this film in the series in which Romero fell in love with his zombie world, and so did we.