Review: 'Ash vs. Evil Dead: Season 2'


By: Heather Seebach

Last year, the Michigan Mafia - that is, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell - made all my deadite dreams come true when the long-awaited sequel in the Evil Dead franchise appeared in the form of a Starz television series (my review). After en epic first season full of guts, gore, and grooviness, here we are with another round! What follows is my review of the first TWO episodes of season 2: "Home" and "The Morgue."

Full disclosure: I am an Evil Dead fanatic. That means, yes, I am predisposed to love virtually anything related to the original films, but it also means I am a harsh critic when new material attempts to honor those films. This world is sacred to me. While the story in Ash vs. Evil Dead season one occasionally stagnated, I enjoyed the hell out of it overall. Ash was truly back, complete with one-liners and the same disgruntled attitude. Joining him were two fantastic supporting characters - Kelly and Pablo - who were more than just token sidekicks. So too was that Raimi sense of humor represented, even when Sam himself was not behind the camera.

So how does season 2 fare so far? Well, now that the introductions are out of the way, the series gets to gleefully jump right into the gory madness! Within the first ten minutes, every lead character's face is covered with gallons of disgusting fluid (blood or otherwise). In "Home", we catch up with Ash, Pablo, and Kelly living it up in Jacksonville, Florida when the deadite menace rears its ugly head again. The gang is forced to seek out Ruby (Lucy Lawless) in Ash's hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan. Here we meet Ash's father, Brock, played by the perfectly-cast Lee Majors. We only get a few moments with Brock Williams in the first two episodes but I already love him. He is everything you would expect Ash's father to be - exactly like him, and yet the bane of his son's existence. I cannot wait to see them (presumably) team up later in the season!


In Elk Grove, Evil Dead fans should keep their eyes peeled for fun blink-and-miss-it Easter eggs (Hint: check out the name of the local record shop). One fantastic element of Ash going home is that the story finally addresses what happened to Ash between the cabin and now, specifically how the world around Ash responded to their neighbor/son/etc. hacking up his girlfriend with a chainsaw. That is a side of it we had not seen before, so I am thrilled it is included here.

Once back in Michigan, naturally a lot of mayhem and carnage ensues. There are plenty of geek-out moments for fans, including Ash fashioning a clever new version of the boomstick; a brilliant (albeit short-lived) variation on the old Ash vs. himself gag; and so many Three Stooges gags that you would swear Sam himself must be there behind the camera. Director Rick Jacobson in fact helmed this episode but he was clearly paying a lot of homage to Raimi. There are also MANY references to the original films; so many in fact it does become a bit much. Some scenes feel a little too familiar (like one moment with Kelly that borrows from both Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness). Still, the fact that the show can now legally reference Army of Darkness is pretty great! They waste no time at all dropping references to it, and I look forward to how they use it going forward.

In "The Morgue", things are stepped up a notch - or ten. Some fans may find this episode goes too far. Personally, my mouth was agape but I was enjoying the ever-living hell out of it! The Evil Dead franchise has always been associated with b-cinema and horror-comedy, thanks especially to the second film. Still, there is an invisible line it never quite crossed - a territory where films like Re-Animator and Dead Alive fit more comfortably. And that territory is where "The Morgue" ventures with reckless abandon! It is a bit shocking but hard not to enjoy, and I promise everyone will be talking about it afterwards. This is the episode where Ash vs. Evil Dead proves it has no fear! The episode is crazy fun in other ways too, including its quirky sense of humor. Keep an ear out for the very literal record scratch gag - Raimi would be proud.


The Ruby subplot is still developing, but so far I love her creepy "kids" from the first season, now all grown up. The whole story continues to expand in interesting ways, and I am sure there are a lot of twists still coming in the next eight episodes. There is no sign of the big villain or Ted Raimi yet (unfortunately), but they are coming. It also looks like the series is relying even more heavily on prosthetics and practical blood than it did last season. So far there is significantly less CGI which is great! Furthermore, the first two episodes alone have already produced two of my all-time favorite Ash one-liners: "What the Harryhausen?!" and "Alright, you naked assholes!"

This Evil Dead fantatic is loving what she sees so far. The series continues to be gleefully over-the-top in gore and humor without restrictions (thank you, Starz). I expect we have a bonkers ride ahead of us, screwheads, so buckle up!

Ash vs. Evil Dead season 2 premieres Sunday, October 2nd at 8PM ET/PT on Starz!

'Don't Breathe' and the Controversial "Turkey" Scene (SPOILERS)


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains major spoilers about Don't Breathe**

**Warning #2: The following is a discussion about rape on film**

Fede Alvarez's thriller Don't Breathe dominated the box office this past week and garnered largely positive reviews from critics and filmgoers alike. There was, however, a moderate backlash against one particular sequence in the film. It was the very same sequence that, right when it happened, I knew people would either love or hate it. Personally, I love it and will explain why as I address some of the complaints against it. The sequence in question, of course, is when Rocky (Jane Levy) is captured, tied up, and threatened with forced insemination by way of a turkey baster. 

As any horror fan knows, rape is hardly off-limits when it comes to the genre. It has been used in ways that range from tactful to downright trashy. In my eyes, rape is a particularly heinous form of assault. Things like torture, castration, animal abuse etc. are similarly brutal tactics that are used in horror films to elicit fear and disgust. To make a good film, of course, any of these elements must be used within the context of the story and must serve a purpose. It is when rape, torture, etc. become excessive and sexualized that their use becomes trashy and cheap. Basically, anything that is done just for the sake of shock is lazy horror writing. Some people love easy, shock horror and that's okay - to each their own - but I am speaking to what I consider good screenwriting in the horror genre.

 Having said that, I will now dive into Don't Breathe. Let's get something clear: the act with which The Blind Man is threatening Rocky absolutely IS rape. That is never in question. There is a moment when he says, "I never forced myself upon her. I'm not a rapist" in regards to his other kidnapped victim. Some critics have misinterpreted that line as justifying his actions, suggesting the writers do not consider this rape. That is absolutely not the case here. The Blind Man is a delusional psychopath who BELIEVES what he is doing is morally acceptable. That line of dialogue is there to show the audience just how crazy this man is - it is NOT suggesting he is not a rapist. What he did to the previous victim - and what he threatened to do to Rocky - absolutely IS rape. This is the moment in the film when the writers want us to NOT sympathize with this guy.

Another common complaint against the sequence argues that it is a cheap use of rape for shock's sake. To that, I disagree completely. For one thing, Rocky escapes and is not raped. The THREAT of rape is enough to instill horror in the audience, but the filmmakers did not see the need to follow through on showing any actual rape (to Rocky or the other woman). Furthermore, I love how they un-sexualized the act by removing the penis from the equation. Again, it is still rape, no argument there, but the very aspect that typically serves to exploit rape scenes - the sex - is removed. We the audience are still horrified, possibly even moreso, at the thought of being violated with this man's semen and a kitchen object. I think that is an interesting, unique take on a rape threat. If anything, it emphasizes the reason rape is so horrifying: loss of choice. The very idea of being forced to carry a psychopath's child is terrifying and I doubt many filmgoers (men especially) consider that particular element when it comes to rape scenes. 



Another argument I have heard is that the sequence does not fit the tone of the film, hence why those critics feel it is used just for shock's sake. I agree that it represents a tonal shift in the narrative, but I actually loved that! Here is a mainstream film that, while tightly made, was following all the usual beats of a home invasion thriller until, suddenly, it wasn't. Suddenly, it ventured into nutty territory and it is great! And how incredibly rewarding was that moment when Rocky shoved the turkey baster full of semen into her attacker's mouth?! I did not see the whole sequence as a "shocking twist" and I am not sure why others do. Perhaps the marketing is to blame for that. I just saw it as peeling back another mysterious layer on this blind man as the intruders ventured deeper into his home. The Blind Man goes from poor disabled veteran to dangerous, sick monster. The narrative was designed to make the audience question their sympathies and I find that interesting.

Don't Breath took heat for threatening the protagonist with rape, while films with long, gratuitous rape scenes get the seal of approval from horror fans. Why is that?  Are the graphic rape scenes in I Spit On Your Grave and Last House on the Left made "okay" because they are followed by revenge? What about Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead? Raimi himself admitted he used poor judgement when he included the tree rape scene, as he was young and immature. There is that unnecessary shot of Ellen Sandweiss' naked breast. Neither Sam nor the viewer can deny that the scene was going for shock and exploitation, and yet, it is revered by horror fans everywhere, including the same people who loathe Don't Breathe's attempted-rape scene. Why is that? One answer I heard is, "Well, the tree rape is just SO ridiculous." And a man who keeps his spunk in a basement and injects it with a turkey baster isn't ridiculous? I think the tree and the turkey baster are actually alike in that way, and I wonder how much that was intentional on Alvarez's part (considering his existing relationship with Raimi).

Clearly, there seems to be a double-standard when it comes to what is "acceptable" rape in cinema. Tone, again, seems to play a role. When Straw Dogs and Deliverance did it, it was fitting, right? When the other end of the spectrum, say, ridiculously exploitative movies like Death Wish 3 or A Serbian Film did it, genre fans tolerated or even defended the use of rape. Whether the tone is serious or outrageous, rape seems to be "accepted" but not in-between, like with Don't Breathe.

I think we all can agree on this: rape is NEVER okay. It's all horrifying, and that is why horror films love to use it. The most responsible things a good filmmaker can do are, A) Not sexualize the act; and B) Use it fittingly in the narrative. Is the attempted rape a crucial plot point in Don't Breathe? Not really; however, I believe the film strongly benefits from its inclusion. By turning that strange corner, this mainstream horror dipped its proverbial toe into exploitation territory without becoming cheap and trashy, and thereby opened up an interesting, unpredictable avenue. The Blind Man's threat against Rocky elicited such gasps of horror from the crowd both times I saw this film. And it only took the implication of a horrific act to inspire that response. Hell, when he put the scissors up to her pants, I winced. I rarely ever wince. I consider that a win for horror.

I enjoyed the hell out of Don't Breathe all-around. It has fantastic cinematography and music; the tension is palpable; and all the crowd-pleasing moments really pay off. It has some flaws, for sure, but this verbal beating it has taken over this so-called "rape dungeon" sequence is unfair. I completely understand if someone has an aversion to sexual assault (or the implication thereof) on film, or feels such scenes could trigger traumatic memories, but I also do not feel that any movie should be censored for that reason. It is up to each individual to decide what to watch or not to watch. As these types of scenes go, the one in Don't Breathe is restrained, tactful, and unique. It livens up an otherwise paint-by-numbers plotline and forces its audience to think about the horrors of sexual assault in a non-traditional way.



Review: 'Lights Out'


By: Heather Seebach

It is no wonder the horror genre is taken less seriously than most, as Hollywood churns out one half-assed horror film after another. Most are remakes or uninspired sequels, and they are plagued by tired jump scares and CGI ghosts with gaping maws. The genre has become so monotonous that the films making a sincere effort often go unseen amidst the garbage. 

The best hope for a movie like that is to slap a household name on it - in this case, that name is James Wan. I am a fan of Wan's work but he is not the reason I saw Lights Out. What attracted me to this one was knowing the short film of the same name upon which it is based, and the fact that the director of said short, David F. Sandberg, was brought on-board to direct the feature adaptation. If nothing else, I love when newcomers are given a chance to break into the industry and potentially breathe new life into the horror genre.

 With his feature directorial debut, Sandberg does not break the mold (yet) but what Lights Out does deliver is a satisfying spookfest with a surprisingly solid story. The film follows a brother and sister (Gabriel Bateman, Teresa Palmer) who discover that their mother's mental illness may in fact be something far more sinister, as a creepy entity stalks the family. Sandberg and screenwriter Eric Heisserer expand quite a lot upon the short film, which had very little story. They turned a one-off concept into a full-fledged tale rather than the lazy after-thought it could have been. They also refrain from recycling everything that made the short so memorable, which is admirable.

The scares are simple and follow the old "less is more" adage, employing shadows, sound effects, and just a bit of makeup fx. It makes clever use of lights, as the menace of the film is restricted to the darkness. The shadowy creature, known simply as "Diana", is equal parts animalistic and manipulative, making her a formidable villain. Even someone as bored of paranormal films as me found myself double-taking at shadows while writing this review.


While the scares will satisfy filmgoers looking to jump and scream, the more memorable aspect of Lights Out is its screenplay that ties the supernatural into real-life issues like mental illness and domestic abuse. As the rattled mother battling grief and depression, Maria Bello is fantastic and provides some of the film's more genuinely scary moments in ways you might not expect. The relationship between mother and daughter (Palmer) also feels sincere, right down to how alike they look - damn, that's some good casting! Seriously, though, the family dynamic is believable and it is rare to find a paranormal horror film that bothers so much with expanding its characters. They are not simply fodder for a pissed-off poltergeist, but rather human beings with real-world problems bigger than the creepy dead lady in the house. 

Do not be fooled by generic trailers: Lights Out has more to offer than your average spookfest. Much like Wan's horror efforts, it is a film that respects its characters and is not overly reliant on cheap, piano-note scares. Sandberg has already been tapped to helm the Annabelle sequel, which concerns me, as there is this trend of latching up-and-comers onto crap sequels (e.g., See No Evil 2, Sinister 2) but I still hope it will be a springboard to seeing what else he can do.


Review: 'Suicide Squad' (spoilers)


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains major spoilers. Read at your own risk**

While the entire internet seems to have devolved into a playground of proverbial toddlers pissing their diapers crying over DC vs Marvel, I genuinely welcome it all. More comic book movies is fine by me! It cannot be denied, however, that DC's output has been less than encouraging, and they seem to be in this massive (and foolish) rush to catch up to the MCU. I was really rooting for Suicide Squad to be the first DC entry I could truly enjoy. I thought, "FINALLY, a DC film with a little humor, a splash of color, and some eccentricities!" Unfortunately, those qualities are barely noticeable in a film that is a sloppy, half-assed mess.

Before I start digging into my complaints, I will say up-front that I really enjoyed the cast. They are by far the strongest element of Suicide Squad. With the exception of Leto's Joker (and I will get more into that later), each character was executed suitably by their actors, even the ones you might not expect (*cough* Jai Courtney *cough*). While Deadshot's 1950s attitude toward women is a bit annoying (albeit presumably deliberate), Will Smith plays the role well. The most entertaining to watch, of course, was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. While some aspects of her character are botched (more on that later), Robbie is ideal for the role and I hope she reprises it in a better film someday. Perhaps a Mad Love adaptation?! Some of the characters are underused - or misused - but overall, the cast did a good job and seemed to have fun making this. I would still be happy to watch them play their roles again in a better sequel.

Now, onto the other 80% of the movie - the mess. What follows is intended for folks who have already seen the film, as I do not feel like I can go into detail about my specific disappointments without using some spoilers. You have been warned!

...........................................................................

Let us begin with the biggest fundamental flaw of Suicide Squad: the entire plot. After the metahuman fears that arose in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides the world needs a team who can stand up to potential threats, like if the "next Superman" is not so friendly. So her idea is to assemble a team of superhumans who can face such a threat. Seems reasonable enough, right? Of course, unlike the Marvel world, they don't yet have this abundance of superheroes to call upon (not yet - Bats is working on it), so Waller turns to supervillains. Sure, they are unpredictable and dangerous psychopaths, but all the same, I've always loved this concept. The problem is, the Suicide Squad of this film consists of exactly two metahumans (one is arguable, as he's basically just half-crocodile), and the rest are a marksman, a thief, a violent nutjob, and a guy who "can climb anything." How exactly are these people supposed to stop a villain on par with Superman?!

I hope sarcasm and hotpants can stop Superman!

This is where the story makes no sense and it irritates me because this film could have - and should have - been about the Squad being used on covert missions - say, taking out terrorists, drug cartels, warlords, etc. Situations where they were equipped to fight but it could be discrete and their deaths would be easy to sweep under the rug. THAT is the basic idea behind the Suicide Squad, but in the grand attempt to rush the DC Cinematic Universe, the filmmakers shoehorned this movie into the universe of BvS, Justice League, etc., losing logic and plot along the way. So right from the start, we are expected to believe that the United States government risks putting psychopaths and murderers on the street to stop a foe they are not remotely capable of defeating. If they are going to employ 90% humans, why not just get soldiers to do the job? It all reminds me of the plot of Armageddon, where the government decided it would be easier and more efficient to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it would be train NASA astronauts to use an oil drill. At least that ridiculous movie was fun.

That leads me to my next fundamental problem with Suicide Squad: it is not nearly as fun as it looks. The trailers looked so fun, as trailers often do, because quick cutting and quirky music choices make that look easy. In the actual film, however, those principles do not apply. Let me be clear about this: I have no problem with the music CHOICES. Yes, they are random and widely used in other media but I love the choices all the same. My problem is how the film uses them constantly, usually in lieu of a score or ambient noise. It becomes very distracting, especially over dialogue scenes. It felt like watching a movie while the radio is on, switching from one song to the next the whole time. So too is the editing atrocious, jumping around unnecessarily with useless, redundant flashbacks. As most of us know, this film was notoriously hacked up and re-shot, so who knows, maybe there is a better cut out there. Maybe some of those lost scenes even the keel, but I can only judge the final product I saw on-screen, the one we all saw, which was a goddamn mess.

Next up: the characters. As I already said, most of them were just fine. Some (like Diablo) got more backstory than I expected. The only one of the Squad who truly irked me was Captain Rick Flagg, who I renamed Captain Obvious for his obnoxious tendency to narrate scenes. In one scene, we see Kitana talking to her soul-trapping sword, saying something like, "Husband, I will avenge you"  and then Flagg literally explains, "Her husband's soul is in there...she talks to it." Seriously, Rick?

Anyway, I am not particularly invested in any of the characters except Harley and Joker so I will focus on those two - the strengths and weaknesses therein. First off: that Joker. My reaction to the initial reveal was much like everyone's else's: UGH! Still, I waited and I kept an open mind. After all, the look of Heath Ledger's Joker was unexpected, too, but he won me over in The Dark Knight. Having seen Jared Leto's version now, I can safely say, it is shit. The look is still atrocious, misguided, and distracting. Ghetto-thug Joker is a unique take, sure, but that does not mean I have to like it. He does not get a free pass for simply "doing his own thing." The man having "DAMAGED" tattooed on his forehead is more than a little obvious. And that grill gives Leto a distracting lisp. For fuck's sake, couldn't they at least ADR his voice without it? The ONLY Joker moment I enjoyed was when we showed up on the helicopter in a tuxedo with a machine gun, laughing. In that very brief shining moment, he felt like actual Joker. The rest of the movie he just sauntered around like a ghetto gangster, going, "WHERE'S HARRRLEYYY?!" and doing fuck-all else. Again, maybe those deleted scenes flesh out his character better, but I can only speak to the final product on-screen. The Joker I saw was boring and did very little of interest. To all the people saying this is the "true comic book Joker", exactly what and how much are you smoking? I saw hardly anything of the Clown Prince of Crime I know (and yes I have read many Batman comics and graphic novels). He never felt manic or unpredictable, just another dull gang banger. 

"Docthor Quinthzel, I neeth a mathine gun."

Furthermore, his relationship with Harley Quinn did not measure up, either. First of all: screenwriters, pick an origin story and stick with it. Don't give me 15 non-linear flashbacks borrowing from Batman: The Animated Series, Mad Love, The New 52, etc. PICK ONE! With the frantic cutting, the filmmakers seemed more concerned with cramming as many tiny Harley/Joker moments into a montage as they could, rather than flesh out the actual relationship. Sure, that Alex Ross shot was a cool little geek moment, but it got lost in a mess of other snippets. The thing about Harley's various origin stories is, they are drastically different, particularly when it comes to Harley making the choice. You can't throw them all in a blender together because they look cool. My personal favorite was always Dr. Quinzel falling in love with him and simply going mad from that - no chemicals or other bullshit needed. In Suicide Squad, the timeline of their relationship is all over. She seemingly falls for him, but then he electro-shocks her? She calls him "Mr. J" on the table (way too early, if you ask me) so she has already become Harley Quinn at that point. Then he asks her to jump into chemicals? Why was the chemicals scene even in there?? It was absolutely pointless and changed her in no way. Plus, Joker then jumps in after her and swoops her into his arms all romantically? Ewww!

He was WAY too fucking sweet to her in this movie. Like it or not, their relationship always has been based on pure domestic abuse but those are the characters - take it or leave it. Do not insult my intelligence by Nicolas Sparksing the shit out of Joker and Harley! When Harley first showed up in the Animated Series, I adored her because she is a strong, intelligent woman who makes terrible, self-harming decisions and I loved that she was so HUMAN. Feminism does not mean always showing women at their peak, it's about showing them honestly, emotional blemishes and all. So she fell in love with a man who physically and emotional abused the shit out of her. It's a situation many women know all too well. It's harsh but it defines the Joker-Harley relationship and to remove it just cheats fans of the characters. Were the filmmakers afraid to show him being cruel to her? Seems odd, considering Suicide Squad otherwise has a weird pre-occupation with beating women, namely Deadshot's references to punching Quinn or telling Flagg to "get up there and sort your woman" (paraphrasing from memory). Getting back to my point: Joker and Harley's relationship in this seemed way too, er, romantic. His entire role in this film is to show up and save Harley. Or he is just plain pimping her out to another thug which was just bizarre and unnecessary. That was seemingly just an excuse to have Margot Robbie dancing seductively, as far as I can tell.


True love means jumping into a vat of food coloring.

The only moment that felt like they might have gotten it right was when Joker runs the car into the river and leaves Harley for dead. It's unclear, however, and I wish they took a moment to show him deliberately, callously abandoning her. Based on his reaction in the next flashback, it seemed like he was genuinely concerned for her. Did he think she was dead? Or did he leave her because he's a prick (as he should be)? I would have liked more of that scene. They could have easily done it in the helicopter scene, too, by having him push her, or deliberately let go of her hand to try and save himself. But that did not happen - it was more like two star-crossed lovers forcefully separated. Eww. Joker is a self-centered psychopath who enjoys Harley as property but commonly abandons or pushes her in harm's way when it pleases him. I saw hardly any of that in Suicide Squad.

 Okay, enough about those two. Onto my final complaint: the villain. Before I saw the film, I was excited about the inclusion of Enchantress, as those more supernatural characters are often left on the cutting room flood (*cough* Guardians of the Galaxy *cough*). Plus, she would have been one more member of the Squad with legit superpowers. So you can imagine my disappointment when she turned out to be just a lame ass villain. Why was the subplot of her brother even in this movie? It was completely pointless! The entire Enchantress storyline was convoluted as hell, too. They use her heart to control her but when they stabbed the heart she could simply jump into some other body, but they still needed the heart at the end to kill her...but not kill the scientist she possessed, no. And did you know you can blow up a big magic vortex with regular explosives? Speaking of bombs, when they had that big bomb in the sewer, why not put THAT under the actual villain instead of just taking out her useless brother? Why not both? It is, you know, a bomb. And let's not forget how the entire ending was more like Ghostbusters than the actual Ghostbusters reboot.

More like "Kali Meh", amiright?

In summary, I so wanted to enjoy this movie. I was really rooting for it. For that reason, it is all the more infuriating to me that they fumbled the ball so badly. A nonsensical plot, heinous editing, and the lack of any genuine action sequences made for a dull experience overall. I liked the cast enough that I would give a sequel a shot, preferably if the film is put in better hands - but I am not holding my breath.





Broadway Review: 'American Psycho: The Musical'


By: Heather Seebach

In 2013, Bret Easton Ellis' controversial novel-turned-movie American Psycho became a musical stage show on London's West End. Doctor Who star Matt Smith took on the role of the unhinged Wall Street investment banker Patrick Bateman along with an original collection of songs by Duncan Sheik.

Now, American Psycho: The Musical has come to New York City with a Broadway production starring Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). The story follows the life of a 27-year-old Wall Street elite who grows weary of his life and is taken over by thoughts of torture, depraved sexual acts, and murder.

The concept may seem bizarre but Psycho is certainly not the first horror tale turned musical - productions of Evil Dead the Musical are still popping up across the US and Canada. Whereas that one turned the source material into an all-out comedy, this one sticks to the dark, existential mood of Ellis' book and Mary Harron's film adaptation.


The songs are a bit jarring in their cheesinest at first but the production soon lulls you into its dark sense of humor. Psycho is a hyper-zeitgeist of 1980s culture and Wall Street narcissism. When pinstriped-suited investors start strutting across the conference room table as they brag in song about business cards, it becomes apparent just how well-suited to a musical this story actually is. 

The original songs are enhanced by eclectic and impressive dancing (often robotic in nature, as you'd expect of this decade). Between the original numbers, there is a fantastic synth score that just screams 80s horror! Furthermore, the show incorporates 80s classics like Phil Collins and, of course, Huey Lewis and the News. 

Even more impressive than the musical numbers is the set design. From Bateman's sterile white apartment to the neon explosion of a NYC nightclub, it all nails the world of Wall Street vice and 80s pop culture. The stage incorporates a rotating floor which is used to great effect when creating tableaus, as human beings become mannequin-like in the eyes of Patrick Bateman. 


Much of the set is made up of digital screens, giving off not only a very 80s vibe but also allowing for a better glimpse into Bateman's disturbed mind. When his mental tether finally snaps, the white set becomes a horror show with panels awash in red. 

So too are the costumes and the color scheme deliberate and effective. From Armani suits and Gucci dresses to blood-spattered tighty-whities, it all brilliantly captures the deranged brain of a man fueled by vanity, cocaine, and bloodlust.

In the lead role, Benjamin Walker does a fine job. He uses a bit of Christian Bale's take on the role (as fans will want) without completely copying the performance. He has the cold deadness in his eyes in just the right moments as Bateman should.


Still, some of Walker's co-stars often steal the show away. Patrick's girlfriend Evelyn has a much more expanded role in this show than she did in the film, and actress Helene Yorke is amazing. Her comedic instinct steals every scene she is in. So too does Theo Stockman as Patrick's douchebag colleague Tim Price leave the audience in stitches. 

American Psycho: The Musical will not be everyone's cup of tea but for fans of the book and/or movie it should not be missed. Blood and music will always blend well - Little Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd are classics, afterall. If you like your blend with a sick sense of humor and some nihilistic philosophy, too, then there is an ax with your name on it. Return those video tapes and get yourself to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.


Review: 'Hardcore Henry'

By: Heather Seebach

In 2013, a music video called "Bad Motherfucker" by Biting Elbows went viral online. The first-person-perspective video featured everything an action fan could ask for: explosions, boobs, parkour, and gallons of blood. Lucky for the universe, director Ilya Naishuller got to turn that 5-minutes of awesomeness into a feature-length film known as Hardcore Henry.

The plot is new but the gimmick is the same: we the viewers see everything through the eyes of our faceless hero. In this tale, he is a cyborg soldier on a mission to save his wife from the clutches of a telekinetic psychopath named Akan (who may actually be albino Tommy Wiseau). Along the way, Henry has help from a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley).

Much like the Biting Elbows music video, Henry knows what the audience wants and delivers on it in spades. There are elaborate stunts, over-the-top gore, and a healthy dose of humor. Copley in particular chews the scenery with ease and delight. It is always fun watching that man toy with his range, and Jimmy is the ideal role for that (but to say more would spoil the fun).

The POV format is often dismissed as a gimmick. Let's face it: it IS a gimmick but when utilized properly, it can also be crazy fun. As oversaturated as the horror genre was with it, we still got fantastic entries like [REC]. Henry uses first-person-perspective to immerse the viewer in the action, not unlike most FPS video games. 

If you seek meaningful dialogue and deep characterization, obviously you need look elsewhere, but for action fans who want proper action, do not sleep on this movie. It is brutally violent, occasionally clever, and full of surprises (two words: Tim Roth). In short, it is a film that knows how to not take itself seriously and just have a bloody (literally) good time. 

Review: The Walking Dead - "Last Day on Earth"


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers about the Season 6 finale**

As some of you may have noticed, I took a break from reviewing this season of The Walking Dead for personal reasons. I'm here now with this S6 finale review not because it's important, but because it pissed me off enough to actually bring me out of semi-retirement. Yeah, that much.

Now, AMC's Negan may not be able to unleash his colorful vocabulary of expletives like in the comics but I fucking can and fucking will in this rant so if that offends you....piss off!

I....am....LIVID!

Considering how watered-down the Governor was compared to the books, Negan is the first genuine, terrifying villain this show has gotten. Everything was riding on this. Fans of the books and show alike have been salivating for fucking MONTHS over this introduction, and hanging on the mystery of who would be the unlucky bastard to meet Lucille. Would it be Glenn? Daryl? Carol? There has been SO much build-up and frankly we fucking EARNED a proper resolution!

Most of the finale was fantastic - Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes a good Negan and the tension was damn palpable. I was starting to feel nauseated just waiting for the big closing scene. And then the writers dropped the ball on the single most important fucking scene ever. Here I was waiting on pee-pee-pants city and instead we got shit-the-bed city. What the fuck was that?! 

All that build-up to absolutely NOTHING. What a goddamn, barbed-wire-wrapped slap in our fucking FACES! How can these show-runners disrespect their own fans SO much? What's worse is how this is the second time (at least) they have done it this season. ENOUGH with the cunting cliffhangers!! 

By not showing who dies, they effectively took ALL the wind out of what may be the single most important moment of the Walking Dead narrative. And for what? To keep fans lingering, eager to see what happened? NO! I have already witnessed the backlash on social media - I am not the only one who is pissed off. If anything, they will lose viewers this way. Hope you're fucking happy!

I have not forgotten what a tense episode it was - primarily thanks to the Negan dialogue that was ripped directly from Robert Kirkman's pages - but that final moment is un-fucking-forgivable. I would have understood if they needed to rein in the gore, or if they copped out and killed off a lesser character. Disappointed, yes, but understanding. THIS, however, is gutless bullshit and it's not the first time and I for one am SICK OF IT. And I am not alone. No matter who died - whether they stuck to the books or not - I would have been down for it. Thats what I found so exciting. Instead they did literally the ONLY thing that I could hate.

Thanks for the blue balls, AMC. Take Lucille and shove it up your asses. 

Current Mood: 


**UPDATE**

Okay, now that I have calmed down a bit, I can discuss the other aspects of this finale. We've clearly covered the "ugly" already, so here are the good and the bad....

The Good:

- Negan's mind games while the gang tried to get to Hilltop were great. For the first time in a long time we saw Rick Grimes out-witted, out-gunned, and terrified. Sure, it was tedious watching them drive that RV in circles across 4 commercial breaks but the tension was there all the same.

- Steven Ogg! Better known to many as Trevor from GTA V, though he also had recent memorable roles on Better Call Saul and Broad City. I love this guy! He got to play a menacing creep here, with the titular line, no less.

- Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. I've always been a fan, and he was a damn fine choice for this role. The costume is right from the page, as was his evil monologue. He's not quite as physically imposing as I hoped he would be but JDM makes up for it with his sadistic smile.

- The final scene with everyone in their knees is perfectly tense. The terror and hopelessness in their eyes, especially Rick's, sells it. And when Negan played eeny-meeny-miny-moe, my stomach was in my throat. 

- The Kingdom is coming! Fans of the comics recognize those dudes with the horses and the padding. A nice little tease of whats to come.


The Bad:

- The Carol storyline that just won't die. I have LOVED Carol since she developed her bloodthirst back at the prison but this latest character arc is plain silly. So, she says she cannot kill and is therefore useless to her loved ones. Um, she had no problem killing all those guys on the road. Enough with the forced melodrama please, just let Carol be Carol.

- They are pretty certain of an Alexandria attack and yet every single capable fighter leaves. It's cool though, they got a priest and a baby to hold down the fort!


As I stated previously, this was a pretty good finale overall, albeit ruined by an infuriating ciffhanger. I have already heard some people argue, "Well, are you surprised?" No, but that doesn't mean I can't also be disappointed and irate. Or am I expected to roll over and just accept insulting mediocrity? There are cliffhangers, and then there are complete cock-ups like this. The moment is incomplete, interrupted, and ruined. They may do this often but this is the ONE time it absolutely cannot be done. We were robbed of completion and its downright criminal.


Review: The Walking Dead - 'Start to Finish'


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers about S6E8**

The mid-season opened on a creepy note, albeit one lifted right from James Wan's Insidious, with the ever-eerie "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" playing. I don't care how dead the world is, what little kid listens to 1920s music?! That cookie monster has a serious screw loose. Or perhaps he's been possessed by Darth Maul? 


The ants were a creepy touch, I'll give them that. Presumably foreshadowing the zombie swarm. I get it now -  WE ARE THE WALKING COOKIE!

Anyway, so the tower came crumbling down and let in the zombie hoard, sending everyone fleeing for the nearest home. Naturally, all of Alexandria's mortal enemies end up stuck together - Morgan and Carol; Carl and Ron; Rick and Gabriel; etc. Grimes was actually sort of nice to the priest this episode so that was the disappointment #1.

Secondly, STILL nobody cares about Ron's grudge against Carl. They have another fight and Carl inexplicable pulls a Glenn and defends his attempted murderer. Wtf! Clearly, the apple has fallen far from the tree! On the other side of town, Carol makes a run for Morgan's place in an attempt to kill the captured Wolf but gets her ass kicked by Morgan (dammit). Why is she suddenly so shaky now? She usually would not hesitate to kill Morgan if she had to. Hell, she barely knows him. Ever since her last encounter with cookie boy, she's been "off" and I don't like it!

I do, however, love, love, love this Romero-esque shot in the garage:


Morgan's Wolf buddy gets loose and takes a hostage. I'm predicting he'll be overtaken by the hoard and that will be the end of the whole Wolves subplot that went nowhere.  Meanwhile, the walker-bitten Deanna goes all granny Rambo again and (presumably) dies facing down the walkers. That bite improved her aim, did you notice? I did have to LOL when Rick nearly ax'ed her head for touching Judith - "STILL ME!"

 Finally, Rick, Michonne, & co. cover themselves in zombie guts again and make their way dangerously through the crowd of walkers. I know the guts trick worked before when they Shaun of the Dead'ed their way through the streets but to squeeze through like that?! Eeek!


Once outside, the cookie monster starts whining, "Mom?" and we KNOW what's coming. Comic book fans were predicting and expecting at least one of two major events to go down this episode - and neither happened. In fact, nothing happened. The episode ends on...well, it's not even a cliff-hanger...it's set-up. Nothing but set-up! Fans of the books know what is coming and can at least get a tiny bit of satisfaction from that but I imagine everyone else was left feeling completely cold. How are you gonna end a mid-season finale like that?! 

Overall, this was not a bad episode but the lackluster ending leaves such a bad taste in your mouth that it kinda ruins the whole thing. They couldn't give us SOMETHING?! 

After the episode ended, there was a prologue involving Daryl, Sasha and Abraham. If you missed it, watch it right here. The trio encounters some men on motorcycles blocking the roadway. If this looks familiar to you, it may be because....


The men demand everything they have, saying it does not belong to them anymore. And for the first time, Negan is officially name-dropped! HURRY UP!!!!


Burning Questions from This Episode:

1) Why the hell did Morgan and Carol leave the doctor alone with the psychopath??

2) What the fuck did Carol trip over? Look, just because you have Jamie Lee Curtis' hair doesn't mean you have to fall down like a final girl, k? 

3) You're telling me...Deanna wasn't a zombie all this time? 

Review: The Walking Dead- 'Head's Up'


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers from S6E7**

DAMN, that episode title got me excited we might see an early entrance from Negan! HEAD'S UP?! Oh well. Speaking of Negan, can I just say how pleased I am with the recent casting announcement? Jeffrey Dean Morgan is not someone I originally thought of but he will be fantastic! He has the right physical build for the part as well as that combination of charm and danger. Bring it on!


As for this pre-midseason-finale episode, well, it was pretty good! It opens with the revelation we've all been waiting for - Glenn's fate. And just as I predicted, those guts weren't his and our boy crawled under the dumpster to escape the hoard. It wasn't so much a surprise or a relief as just "GET ON WITH IT!" C'mon, we all knew he was not dead. 

So Glenn's alive and there was much rejoicing (yayyy...sorry, second Holy Grail reference in this review already). What followed was Glenn chasing Enid around (who cares) and my favorite part of this whole episode (and maybe the whole season):


THAT WAS GNARLY AS FUCK! I loved it. Possibly the only effect to ever gross me out on this show. Even now, I regret eating while writing this review. 

Then came my second favorite part of the episode, Rick's thug life moment:


Watching him abuse Father Gabriel never gets old. Everyone wants that character to die but I actually hope he keeps on living just so we can enjoy watching Rick treat him like shit forever.

Meanwhile, Ron's got an itchy trigger finger (and we comic book fans know exactly where THAT is leading); the walls are bleeding in Alexandria; and Spencer acts like a dumbass again trying to climb over the massive herd of walkers. Further proof that Alexandrian's should not breed.

The episode really kicks into high gear toward the end to get us primed for the mid-season finale. My main gal Carol uncovers Morgan's stupid little secret (get him!) and then the freaking tower collapses! Shit's about to get real and at least 1 or 2 comic book moments will likely be fulfilled. 

I enjoyed this episode overall though it's really a warm-up for next episode. I am left with only one lingering question this week: Where the fuck is Heath??

Review: The Walking Dead - 'Always Accountable'


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers about S6E6**

It's a testament to just how bad last week's episode was that I consider this very-Daryl episode to be a significant improvement. The last thing I wanted was more focus on characters I don't particularly care about - Daryl, Sasha, Abraham - but this one was entertaining enough and teased some elements from Kirkman's comics (always the easy way to my heart).

As the aforementioned trio are luring the herd away, they are ambushed by unknown assailants in vehicles. Daryl becomes separated in the forest (a burnt forest full of crispy zombies, specifically) where he is taken prisoner by a nameless blonde fellow, a woman named Sherry, and a diabetic girl, Tina. Meanwhile, Abraham and Sasha wait out in an abandoned insurance office.

If you are a fan of the comics, the name Sherry ought to ring a bell. She was married to Dwight, who is presumably this blonde guy. His appearance and introduction on the show is very different but it's interesting that he is paired up with Daryl this episode as fans often remarked on the similarities between Dwight and Daryl (who was never in the comics). See for yourself:


As you can see, Dwight sported not only the leather vest but wielded a crossbow. Interestingly enough, Dwight steals Daryl's crossbow (twice) in this episode. One thing that is missing is Dwight's burnt face, and considering the recent forest fire and all the references to AA Pattrick Fuel Company, I'm surprised he did not show up burnt already. They may be saving that for a choice scene with Negan when he finally arrives. In any case, Dwight's entrance means that Negan & the Saviors cannot be far off. Seemingly, those guys who show up in the woods are Negan's men. Like in the comics, they force an arrangement on people that they must give them a portion of their food.  

If you listen carefully to Wade after he chops off the guy's arm, he says, "He only wanted to take this so far, and he only wants ass that's willing, you know?" In the comics, Negan was anti-rape but had many wives. Eeeeee, our first legit reference to Negan! Interesting how the director chose not to show Wade's face - I wonder if that's a casting thing, or if they want us to think these might be Wolves? 

 Daryl helps Dwight & friends escape the bad guys and offers them a place at Alexandria. I like how he used Rick's 3 questions. Attack-dog Daryl no doubt misses his master. Ultimately, Dixon's bleeding heart gets him betrayed by the people he helped, who will presumably run back to Wade (and probably Negan). I forsee an electric iron in Dwight's near future. 

"I'm sorry."   
"You're gonna be."

Meanwhile, back at the insurance office: While I find Abraham and Sasha's discussions pretty boring usually (one or the other always has a death wish, we get it), I mostly enjoyed their time together this episode. Abraham got the line of the episode as he often does: "Loose ends make my ass itch!" Plus he found cigars and RPGs! I am looking forward to when he gets the use the latter! Hopefully this episode can put to rest this pair's sub-plot. Was it implied they're gonna hook up? Ugh, come on. Can we PLEASE give Abraham something worthwhile to do with his time? It's bad enough this show wasted two of the comics' greatest bad-asses, Andrea and Tyreese, can we try to salvage Abraham? Yes, he has the occasional one-liner but he needs a good storyline, perhaps paired with Rick. 



 Lingering Questions from this Episode:  

1) When Daryl was forced to abandon his motocycle in the mud, did anyone else envision a Neverending Story/Artax moment? 

2) Who was the voice on the walkie talkie at the end? The obvious answer is Glenn but I think it's another red herring. Perhaps it's Jesus, a forthcoming character from the comic? 



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