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The Walking Dead S714: The Other Side

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[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]

 Well it had to happen eventually, didn’t it? After five solid episodes of The Walking Dead in a row we were probably overdue for a dud. That’s not to say “The Other Side” is without its moments, but it’s far too late in the day (and the season) for such a meandering, talky episode.

The cold open is played mostly without dialogue, which works very much in its favour. We see a montage featuring Maggie (Lauren Cohan) teaching classes in knife yoga (and blade chuckin’), we get a glimpse at the bun in her oven via an ultrasound. We see Sasha (Sonequa Martin) sketching a map of Negan’s HQ with help from Jesus (Tom Payne) and even a beat where Maggie gives some food to a brooding Daryl (Norman Reedus). The message of this latter beat is clear, Daryl may still blame himself for Glenn’s death but Maggie doesn’t. Then Rosita (Christian Serratos) arrives and joins up with Sasha and the talking begins, along with the eye-rolling. I’ve dubbed this idiotic pairing of Sasha and Rosita ‘The Spite Girls’ and their grand plan ‘Operation Dipshit’. Proceed accordingly. Cue opening titles.

After a brief bit of dialogue where Jesus reveals to Maggie that he’s gay (which middle America must just love!) Sasha spends a whole scene trying to rationalise Operation Dipshit to Jesus and Enid (Katelyn Nacon), but it falls flat. It’s hard to believe any character would think Rosita’s plan is a good one, much less Sasha who, while moody, has proven herself capable and intelligent before this.

Then the Saviors arrive, headed by Simon (Steven Ogg) and the Spite Girls exit through a previously unseen secret tunnel hidden under a woodpile that looks like something out of Get Smart. The Saviors want Daryl but he and Maggie hide in the basement.

Operation Dipshit gets off to a slow start because the Spite Girls can’t find a car that works. The problems are further compounded by the fact the pair don’t actually like one another very much, and after Rosita spies Sasha’s necklace from Abraham, she snipes: “Like it? I made it.” Later Sasha suggests that maybe this suicide mission would be better with less suicide, and Rosita harrumphs like a moody teenager who just had her Joy Division collection confiscated until she cleans her room.

Back with the Saviors, Simon menaces everyone while slimy Gregory (Xander Berkeley) brown noses to an embarrassing degree. Eventually it becomes clear that Simon needs to take Doc Carson (R. Keith Harris) who is the brother of the other Doc Carson (Tim Parati) that Negan turned into a woodfired pizza in “Hostiles and Calamities”. Gregory almost stands up to Simon but buckles like a belt when Steven Ogg turns on his “Trevor from GTA V” crazy eyes.

Daryl and Maggie have a slower, less elegant version of the scene in the cold open where Maggie affirms that she doesn’t blame Daryl for the death of Glenn. It’s an adequate moment but in an episode that struggles to find momentum it’s not exactly adding anything new.

The Spite Girls flog a car from some rowdy zombies and make it to The Sanctuary. Looking through the sniper scope they see Eugene (Josh McDermitt) supervising security near his metal-headed zombies. Rosita seems to think Eugene is “playing an angle” but Sasha doesn’t look as sure.

Then the Spite Girls remember they used to be pretty decent characters and bond over shared memories of Abraham, with Rosita filling in her backstory on why she’s so good at defusing explosives and flogging cars. Spoiler alert: it’s because she’s had a lot of shonky exes. The ladies attempt to take a shot at Negan but can’t get a clean one off. Looks like it’s time for Operation Dipshit to begin!

Moving in close, Rosita attempts to “rescue” Eugene who literally starts crying and runs away, apparently to tattle to Negan. Jesus, Eugene, that Stockholm Syndrome kicked in fast, eh mate? Sasha pretends like she’s breaking through the fence but is in fact trapping Rosita on the outside. Sasha has decided it’s not “Rosita’s time” and runs off, shooting a henchman on the way. Rosita looks like she’s ready to have a massive dummy spit when she turns and spies a figure with a crossbow nearby. Is it Daryl? Is it Dwight? We don’t know because flabbergastingly that’s where the episode ends.

“The Other Side” is an adequate 45 minutes of television but for the ante-penultimate episode of Season 7 it can’t help but feel like a bit of a fizzer. Hopefully this will mean the next two eps are thrill-filled crackers, because god knows we don’t want another season six finale cliffhanger situation. Don’t let us down, Walking Dead, or there will be strongly-worded tweets, by crikey!

 
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Michal Imielski: Directing Cannibal Kids in Dead Sunrise

In the Parramatta-shot zombie horror feature, Dead Sunrise, a group of friends stumble across an abandoned laboratory and accidentally unleash a plague of undead children. Made on a shoestring, it's managed to impress festival audiences around the world. We caught up with director Michal Imielski.
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Get Out

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Horror movies are traditionally not kind to African Americans. Black characters tend to feature in genre films as comedic sidekicks or surly thugs – both archetypes destined for a messy death before the end credits roll. There are exceptions, of course, George A. Romero’s allegorical zombie flicks, Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) both feature black protagonists and cult classic Demon Knight (1995) has a black heroine, played by Jada Pinkett Smith. Movies like this tend to be the exception, however, so when a film like Get Out comes along it makes an impact.

Get Out tells the tale of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) a young black man who is heading into the country to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). It’s a premise rife with comedic potential and uncomfortable social commentary and the first half of Get Out plays like a slightly squirmy, extended version of a Key & Peele sketch, which makes sense as the film is directed by one half of the duo, Jordan Peele himself. Allison’s parents, Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) trip over themselves to prove how progressive and cool with race they are – Dean even suggests he would have “voted for Obama a third time if [he] could” – but it soon becomes clear something darker is happening at the Armitage house and these pleasant-seeming white people have a terrible secret.

To describe any more of the plot would be to head into spoiler territory and that would be a great pity. In fact you’re better off seeing Get Out with as little foreknowledge as possible, even the trailer trades in spoilers and half the fun of the movie is unravelling the (admittedly not terribly complex) mystery at its core.

Get Out is about mood rather than big shocks and gore. Stylistically it feels like a modern, race-focused Rosemary’s Baby – although white privilege stands in for Satan here, and the ultimate reveal comes from a very different place. Jordan Peele’s knowing direction showcases his lifelong genre veneration and the film drips with atmosphere and tension. The social subtext of being an uncomfortable black man in a casually racist white community is both fresh and confronting and adds a new dimension to a well-worn narrative.

Ultimately Get Out is an effective, thought-provoking, slow-burn thriller.It’s a moody horror movie with moments of levity rather than a horror comedy, and offers a rare example of a film that manages to say something incisive and entertain at the same time. If you’re even vaguely interested do yourself a favour and go see it without watching trailers and remember: never trust whitey.

 
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Killing Ground

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A young couple on a road trip, Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer), run afoul of two opportunistic back-block predators, German (Aaron Pederson) and Chook (Aaron Glenane), in Killing Ground, an assured survival horror from debut feature director, Damien Power.

Killing Ground is the latest in a long tradition of Aussie “don’t go into the bush” terror tales; Wolf Creek is only the latest, most visible example, but Power is savvy enough to draw influences from deeper cuts, such as 1978’s Long Weekend. While the two Aarons provide the most immediate, unnerving threat to our wayward city couple, the setting itself is also a villain. This is a classic Bad Place narrative. We’re casually informed at one point that the isolated camping ground where Power sets his horrors is the site of of an Aboriginal massacre, and it’s no accident that our lead antagonist is played by the Indigenous actor Pedersen (Mystery Road) in an incredibly menacing turn. A sense of foreboding is established early on in the proceedings that never lets up, only growing inexorably heavier and more agonising as the inevitable atrocities loom nearer.

The sense of terror is heightened considerably when the film makes the bold choice of splitting its narrative, jumping back in time to explore the fates of an earlier set of victims once Ian and Sam discover an abandoned family tent at their remote campsite. It’s a clever conceit, subverting the usual straight-forward plot construction of the survival horror genre.

It also ups the body count significantly. Power doesn’t shy away from confronting and, at times, genuinely upsetting imagery, although when it comes to actual depiction of brutality and assault he knows when to let viewers draw their own conclusions from what is implied onscreen. There’s a stark, harsh matter-of-factness to the violence we see; the film doesn’t bother with exotic weaponry or elaborate, ritualised tortures, instead reminding us that a cruel man armed with a rifle is terrifying enough. It’s the plausibility of the scenario that chills; add to that an element of child endangerment (a toddler is thrown into the mix at one point, and the film milks the poor mite’s terrible vulnerability for all its worth) and there are times when Killing Ground is almost unbearable.

In that good way, of course. Horror fans are in for an absolute treat here; Power and his team understand the conventions of their genre and know exactly when to subvert them and when to double down. Killing Ground might lack an iconic figure like Mick Taylor around which a real cult audience could form, but it’s the real deal; a taut and torturous journey into darkness.

 

 
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The Walking Dead S7E12: Say Yes

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[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]

It’s almost always good news when Greg Nicotero directs an episode of The Walking Dead. Nicotero started out in the world of special makeup effects, learning under the tutelage of the maestro, Tom Savini, and honed his craft on the set of George Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985). What this means in practical terms is that Nicotero knows how to shoot zombie action and always delivers something fresh and memorable, which isn’t bad for a television series in its seventh season.

Nicotero’s latest, “Say Yes”, is also his nineteenth episode and the man shows no sign of running out of new ways to deliver fresh twists on ambulatory corpses, but more on that in a moment. First a quick recap.

The cold open has Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Dana Gurira) moseying around the countryside in what could quite honestly be its own spin-off show called Scavengin’ and Lovin’ with the tagline “they loot, shoot and occasionally root!” It’s a jaunty little sequence and really plays to the rarely-seen lighter side of both characters, although as Rick suggests they keep on pushing further out the ominous music clues us in to the fact this might be a terrible idea. Cue titles.

Back at Alexandria, Rosita (Christian Serratos) is being unnecessarily dickish to Tara (Alanna Masterson). There’s nothing wrong with Rosita being mad that her ex was clobbered into a fine patch of skull porridge but her petulant, adolescent reaction is winning her no friends. She pops off to find firearms (a recurring motif of “Say Yes”) and is almost eaten by a large mama zombie that looks like it washes itself with a rag on a stick. Rosita lives but scores nothing for her troubles except a kid’s toy gun. Damn you, American children and your realistic-looking toy weapons!

Back with the A plot, Rick and Michonne fall into some supplies. Literally. The roof of the building they’re on collapses and it’s food for all. Even better the nearby carnival is brimming with military zombies who are all packing some serious heat. The loved up duo enjoy each other’s company, and the freshly-found food, as they prepare to take down the zombies in the light of day. Michonne asks Rick “What happens after we win?” Rick claims he doesn’t want a continuation of the Ricktatorship, but would be happy to rule as partners with Michonne. This seems like a sensible course of action.

Meanwhile in the B plots, Rosita is unnecessarily dickish to Father Gabriel for a while and Tara wonders aloud to baby Judith (aka Lil’ Ass-Kicker) if she should tell Rick about the Oceanside community.

Back at the carnival of the damned, Rick and Michonne embark on a mission to clear out the fairground and claim their weapons. At first things run smoothly, with the dead going down nice and easy, however when a well-armed walker accidently pops off a few rounds things turn south and the pair have to improvise. This is the meat of “Say Yes” and it’s totally worth the wait. Seeing two of the show’s most capable characters dispatching zombies, changing weapons on the fly and just managing to escape from certain death is a thrill. Sadly, however, Rick falls off a ferris wheel and is devoured by zombies.

Oh, alright, that doesn’t actually happen – but for a few moments Michonne thinks it does and it sours the mood from dry levity to something darker. Later Michonne laments that she can’t lose Rick, but Rick disagrees. “You can lose me,” he says in a surprisingly nuanced argument for The Walking Dead, “It’s not about us anymore, it’s about a future.”

Then we’re back to Junktown where Rick does some more sexy bartering with Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), queen of the Scavengers (aka Heapsters) who agrees to fight but only after she receives yet more weapons. Tara has wrestled with her demons and approaches Rick, apparently to tell him about the Oceansiders. Things are moving forwards and the plan appears to be gathering steam.

The episode concludes with Rosita approaching Sasha (Sonequa Martin) but instead of being unnecessarily dickish, she proposes the pair of them join forces and take out Negan by themselves, alone, with a single sniper rifle. It’s a plan so bad that the term “face-palmingly fucking stupid” is woefully insufficient a descriptor and yet apparently rendered simple-minded by grief Sasha agrees as long as she can fire the killing shot. Odds are high that at least one of this pair won’t be back for season eight.

“Say Yes” is a solid, fast-paced and frequently funny episode that skillfully matches striking imagery – fairground zombies, a walker falling to pieces in Rick’s hands, a wandering deer amidst the carnage – with genuinely solid character work in the A plot. The notion that society could, and indeed has to, continue after our heroes are gone is a strong one and perhaps hints at a potential endgame for the series.