This may be a reflection on my own shortcomings, but I honestly found this film too aesthetically ugly to enjoy. I think the acting was decent, the prosthetics were fantastic, and I was totally on-board with the myth-based tale they were trying to tell, but I just did not enjoy spending time with these characters at all. I watched 'Border' the same way I'd watch a medical documentary about breakthroughs in hemorrhoid surgery. Fascinating, perhaps, but not entirely pleasant. And it wasn't so much the worm and cricket-munching as it was the charmless, dull, brutish faces and the constant animalistic snuffling. Vore, especially, sneered and leered so frequently that it simply became impossible to see him as any sort of sympathetic character.
As a story about the profound revelation of one's true identity, I guess it was okay. But I don't think it needed the sexual ambiguity or genital weirdness to make the point it was trying to make. If there were an Oscar for The Unsexiest Sex Scene of All Time, this movie would win, hands down, beating out the gruesome sexytimes depicted in both Spielberg's 'Munich' and Tommy Wiseau’s 'The Room'.
Lastly, it was pretty obvious how the writers tried to make the main characters more sympathetic by cramming the script with smug pedophiles and child molester enablers. I guess it's pretty easy to make Tina and Vore seem vaguely noble when most of the human characters are supremely awful. But a more deft script could have done this much less ham-handedly.
I would only give this a watch if you're big into obscure mythic creatures of northern Europe, or you if happen to enjoy foreign films that purposefully reject Hollywood's penchant for featuring charming, beautiful people.
This episode of 'Harmontown" caused me to binge-watch the entire 'Patriot' series. And that is a very good thing, because I never would have heard of it otherwise, and it was right up my alley.
This film talks a lot about “hybrids” and things that are “more evolved”, and I think, ultimately, it may be talking about itself. Because this is a seriously overstuffed, genetically-altered mish-mash of a ’Predator’ film. And I definitely do not say this in a good way.
When the autistic kid showed up, I was like, “Okay, sure, maybe the kid’s in this just to figure out some of the Predator tech, and he’ll give his dad some important clue for the eventual boss fight.”
Nope. This kid is featured throughout the entire movie.
It’s like someone wanted to remake ’Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ as a super-violent action flick with a few Predators in it. I’m not sure why any screenwriter would want to create this freaky cinematic hybrid, but, even so, I eventually got on board with it.
Well, “got on board” in the sense that (a) I don’t mind seeing neurodiversity in film, and (b) I could tell from the first few scenes just what kind of schlock this movie was going to be, so I was willing to accept a grade-school autistic lead character in a Predator film, mostly out of a weird, detached curiosity. Let’s see where this nonsense goes, I thought. And then another character started talking about how scientists theorize that individuals on the spectrum may represent a further evolution of the human species. Wow. Now we’re talking about Indigo Children? Wild. So they went right over the top with that nonsense.
That should actually be in the title of this film. ’The Predator: They Went Right Over The Top With That Nonsense’. Because it’s not just the characters that are overblown (could anyone, for example, have predicted that this film would also be a military-themed remake of 1989’s ’The Dream Team’?). Almost every characterization is an overblown gimmick, either played for laughs or of great importance to the plot.
The violence, too, is needlessly overblown to the point of sheer ridiculousness, which is really saying something for a franchise that has featured multiple human spines being cheerfully excised. And it’s not just that the violence is surprisingly gory, either. I mean, sure, there are multiple disembodiments and several creative examples of the human body being exploded or sliced apart. We expect that. But much of the violence is so needlessly mean, and so indifferent, and so strangely depersonalizing. I lost count of the number of human shields that were used in this film. Several characters are threatened with (and at least one is dealt) an execution at the hands of a dispassionate American military. Other characters struggle with suicidal ideation, and unless I’m mistaken, they all manage to die at their own hand by one means or another. And even Jacob Tremblay gets in on the cruel, senseless bloodshed. Within ten minutes of meeting Rory, the autistic character, he has caused the violent death of a nameless frat-boy whose sole offense is having thrown an apple at someone’s head.
And, to think, I went into this film expecting the titular character to have the highest body count.
Much like how Seth MacFarlane’s ’The Orville’ relates to the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, I’m not sure whether this film wants to be a satire or a sincere homage to the series it’s trying to imitate. It’s stupidly meta in its discussions about the alien’s name, and some of the jokes it tries so hard to make by quoting the original ’Predator’ in a cringey, wink-wink sort of way (this film’s spin on “Get to the chopper[s]!” refers to a fleet or motorcycles) should clearly suggest parody, but other times this film wants you to take it dead seriously. And it’s so so hard to do this, because you’ve got cartoony Predator Bloodhounds, military parents dragging their children into active war zones, and you’ve got Olivia Munn playing a timid research biologist who, by the end of the film, has mastered every sort of military and alien hardware, and has somehow managed to grow bigger balls than Schwarzenegger ever had. I mean, it must be parody, right?
Well, finally — an episode of 'The Orville' with a traditional 'Star Trek' A-plot and B-plot. Except they were both tedious and horrible. Or at least boring and formulaic.
Any fans of this show who are interested in Bortus as a gay character are likely to be offended by the endless bickering with Klyden in front of their child, never mind the abrupt decent into crazy violence when Klyden attempted to "Moclan divorce" Bortus.
Alternatively, any fans who aren't interested in Bortus as a gay character will be bored to tears by the endless soft-porn gay holodeck scenes. From a screenwriting perspective, it's a weird sort of no-win situation... which makes you wonder, why did this get written?
I always fall in to a rant about the questionable writing on this show, because it seems like 'The Orville's writers' room insists on focusing on the least interesting elements of most 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' story lines. And it should be so easy. Did they even watch the show they are trying to satirize/homage? I, for example, don't necessary watch a space show for lengthy scenes featuring domestic disputes, or couples counselling, or blunt warnings about the perils of porn addiction.
These tiresome narrative pitfalls seem so avoidable, especially when you consider the countless books in the 'Star Trek' expanded universe that could be tapped for interesting and series-relevant plots. We'd get a better television series and some paperback sci-fi authors would be rewarded for their work. Hell, you could fudge together a better episode of 'The Orville' just from watching a bunch of 'Star Trek' fan films on YouTube.
There is part of me that feels that these shorts were made just to insult the intelligence of OG 'Star Trek' fans. Yes, I know they were a hastily-thrown-together project to keep the audience tuned in to CBS All Access (which is why they feature so few characters and mostly only the empty sets from 'Discovery'), but irregardless, they are just so dumb.
I was okay with Saru being whisked off his home world in violation of the Prime Directive. I even accepted a centuries-old deserted starship that became sentient all by itself.
But I can't overlook the stupidity of this episode, where an android replica of Harry Mudd has several flashbacks to experiences of other androids and/or to memories of Harry Mudd's own past exploits. Unless Starfleet is releasing these androids back into the wild after they've been surrendered to them, they should only have memories of one bounty hunter, no? And I'm not even going to get into the universe-breaking aspect of having androids scan as human, or why 99% of the drama contained in this episode makes no sense because it shouldn't matter to android Mudd whether he gets turned in to Starfleet or not.
I sat quietly on my geek credentials and spent the first season giving 'Discovery' chance after chance, but these four 'Short Treks' have been a real turn off. Never mind the trailer for 'Discovery' season two, which makes the impending season look more like a Marvel movie (or a bad 'Star Wars' knock-off) than an actual 'Star Trek' series. There's even a comic scene in a turbolift with a phlegm-spewing alien that seems completely lifted from 'The Orville'! What has happened to our 'Star Trek'?
I want so much to like this show, but Seth MacFarlane keeps making decisions that shoot almost every conceptual possibility in the foot. ’The Orville’ could be such a fun, meta, quirky variation on the ’Star Trek’ formula, but it falls all over itself at every turn. It should be so easy for this show to be… well, better than mediocre, but I’m losing hope that it will ever get there.
Making Captain Mercer so moody and unlikable right off the bat in season two is probably the worst mistake. Re-establishing his leadership capabilities for a season opener might be the best choice, but instead we get "depressed vibe" Captain Ed, sulking and drinking too much. It's really a waste of a good Ten Forward set. And a waste of Jason Alexander.
Also, in this era of touchy gender politics, one could also argue that Capt. Mercer misusing his authority to commandeer a shuttle to do some creepy stealth surveillance on his ex-girlfriend's private life is kind of problematic. Even more problematic when said behaviour is given a cute, dismissive nickname (a "drive-by") and even Kelly's new boyfriend suggests that it is quite common for men to take part in such stalkerish behaviour.
Ultimately, the whole argument Ed repeatedly tries to get off the ground in this episode about how True Love will solve the many practical problems of dating a subordinate on a Union ship is really a step backward. It's like he forgot all the lessons of the last season. If Mercer really wants to date/marry Kelly again, then he should resign his post as captain of the Orville and become an organizational equal with her. Problem solved. Mercer keeps asking Kelly if she loves him, when the real question is whether he loves Kelly, and if he does, why won’t he accept a demotion so they can be together? Yes, I am overthinking a dumb, contrived Seth MacFaralane relationship situation, but it doesn’t survive even the most basic logical scrutiny.
Are we really supposed to feel sorry for a guy who's depressed by choosing between being a Union Captain, and being Adrianne Palicki's main squeeze? Awww, poor Captain Mercer doesn't get to eat his cake and have it too.
Additionally, the number of sub-plots is crazy. I know it’s easy to push my glasses up my nose and be all, “Well, ’Star Trek: The Next Generation’ usually only had an A plot and a B plot, and blah blah blah,” and that might be fair, but holy cow, this episode has, like five unique and mostly disconnected sub-plots. It’s like a Spanish telenovela. Sure, the plots seem connected by Bortus’s annual Great Release, but only because the writing decides to tie them together with it.
This show is also expecting a lot, asking us to care about doctor Finn's snotty adolescent kid. First, there’s the Wesley Crusher Effect, which should have kept kids in the background on this show, but there’s also the fact that rebellious teenage kids are just annoying. Marcus doesn’t even have a root problem or character flaw that is causing him to act out. He's just easily influenced by another bad kid. Even Wesley wouldn't be so namby-pamby. And consuming illegally-replicated alcohol is an oddly specific and somewhat ballsy choice for a teenage kid’s first defiance of authority.
Just when you thought the terrible "set & setting"¹ of Aya Quest couldn't get any worse, now Steve and Teri want to soak your peepers in sananga drops, an ancient Amazonian 'medicine' made from a shrub's root-bark. Oh, and by the way, the dosage feels like putting red-hot coals in your eye sockets.
If that doesn't turn you off, check out Steve in his workshop kitchen, pouring his home-made ayahuasca from five slow-cookers into a filthy contractor's bucket. Mmmmm mmm!
"I'm not a doctor. I'm not a therapist. I'm a shaman. I'm part of that mortar between the bricks. I'm the person who's going to set here, and try to set you up so Mother Aya can do her best for you."
That’s Steve Hupp, explaining his role as ‘chief shaman’ at Aya Quest. He sure makes it sound like he knows he’s not qualified to do intensive psychological work with individuals… but then he spends the rest of this episode doing precisely that. He drags out one hack therapist gimmick after another, like a Las Vegas prop comic. Writing down sigils and burning them to release emotional baggage. Meditation while staring into a mirror². Dramatically burning the ‘old self’ in effigy. Never mind the pain endurance therapy with the eyeball-scorching sananga drops. Because “pain creates energy within the deepest realms of our minds.” Well, that’s one way to put it.
“As a modern shaman, it’s important that we plough the road of their mind while Mother Aya courses through their veins.”
Well, which is it, Steve? Do you get out of the way and let 'Mother Aya' do her work, or do you apply your complete lack of professional training and your pop-psychology toolkit to carve a fun little furrow in the psyche of your clients?
To be clear, I have no problem with sincere people sincerely trying to help people, but we all know what the road to Hell is paved with. Having an unqualified, Kentucky shaman digging into people's past trauma and vulnerability and identity confusion while they’re tripping balls is seriously problematic.
I guess it's just crazy to expect that an ayahuasca ceremony at Aya Quest might contain some of the protocols consistent with a legitimate drug trial, but they should be making some effort to keep their clients safe. Here are a few concerns, just off the top of my head:
But there are even more basic questions to be asked. Does Steve know what transference and counter-transference is? How to establish important boundaries? Does he know what secondary trauma is, and how to mitigate it? Does he know what is meant by the term 'treatment frame'? There are countless land-mines you can trigger doing intensive counselling like this, particular when you're dealing with clients who have often exhausted other legitimate therapeutic avenues. Going into a career like this with zero professional preparedness is really irresponsible, both for Aya Quest's clients and for Steve and Teri themselves.
I’m also really curious to know what contingency plan Steve and Teri might have in place for when a client becomes psychotic or suicidal. Or what happens if a client who is tripping balls simply wants to leave the premises during a ceremony. I expect there's a lengthy and well-worded waiver that gets signed long before clients show up at the trailer park. Steve frequently talks a great game when it comes to wanting his clients to completely trust him, but I suspect he has taken whatever means necessary to avoid actual responsibility should things go seriously south.
According to internationally respected Peruvian shaman Don José Campos³, in certain areas of the Amazon, there are folks called brujos / brujas⁴ (Spanish for 'sorcerer' / 'sorceress') who impersonate actual Amazonian shamans. They entice gullible tourists to consume ayahuasca in their presence because they believe it allows them to steal the tourists' energy. They have no respect for the sacred nature of the experience, or whatever medicinal effects it may have. They are only interested in using it to increase their own personal power.
I suspect that Steve Hupp is, in a way, a brujo. Except, instead of trying to steal energy or power, he's trying to appropriate acclaim and esteem and notoriety. Not only does this explain his seriously questionable and unqualified life-calling, but it also explains why he might sign up to allow Viceland to do a 6-episode documentary on his 'church' and, more importantly, it's 'chief shaman'.
I find few things as morally repulsive as unqualified people doing intensive therapy.
'Kentucky Ayahuasca' is a fantastic example of this, since it features completely untrained 'shamans' attempting to "heal" and "save" wounded and confused individuals via (a) their painfully clichéd guidance, and (b) the powerful effects of a psychoactive drug. And you can guess that the staff at Aya Quest are untrained, because they’re always gushing corny advice, like, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," and other vapid Deepak Chopraisms. As a reality-TV 'guilty pleasure’, this show is 10/10 because I feel guilty just watching it.
Steve Hupp (founder and chief shaman) was an alcoholic, a career criminal and a bank robber. Then he drank ayahuasca.
Those are his credentials, right there.
Steve holds no professional counselling degree, no certificate in family counseling, no degree in social work. No rehabilitation counselling license. Not even a bachelor's degree in psychology. There is nothing that qualifies Hupp (or his wife Teri) as mental health workers. And yet, here they are — under the auspices (some might say 'the convenient legal loophole') of their self-made religion — administering a powerful drug to troubled individuals who pay thousands of dollars to come visit their Campbellsville, Kentucky trailer park.
The sheer, incomprehensible hubris of having a life-changing experience via a rainforest vegetable tea, and then convincing yourself that this experience (with no additional psychological training at all) somehow makes you singularly qualified to administer and supervise intense, drug-fueled healing work with other individuals (let alone give yourself the title of 'chief shaman') is absolutely staggering.
From what I've seen in this first episode of this series, I wouldn't even trust Steve and Teri as trip-sitters¹, let alone allow them access to my psyche. And not just because they charge $1,990 USD for a private 'ceremony'. No, I'd be in and out of their trailer-park 'church' before they even got the ayahuasca poured. Five minutes of admiring their tacky collection of skull-related artwork, plus listening to them talk about the benefits of being injected with Amazonian frog venom, and listening to their mix-tape of Native American flute music would be enough for me. I frankly couldn't imagine a worse "set & setting"² if I tried.
Probably the most self-indulgent of all of Lars von Trier's films... and that's really saying something.
I'm sure that there are countless fascinating levels of analysis one could apply when examining this film, but I'll leave that to greater minds than my own. For my part, 'The House the Jack Built' barely held my interest for its ridiculous two-hand-a-half hour length. Is von Trier trying to absolve himself of his self-obsessed inclinations? I don't care. Is he trying to extend his typical misogynistic tendencies to a ridiculous, self-aware extreme? I don't care. Is he wagging his finger at a complicit audience who (he assumes) revels in violence for violence's sake? I don't care.
The more layers of self-referential meaning von Trier tries to cram into his movies, the less interesting I find them. And it's a shame, really, because I know he's capable of producing some great cinematic work. But these last few tiresome, navel-gazing films where von Trier endlessly over-examines his depressed, nihilistic, OCD, and/or self-loathing "artist persona" are just a bore. You can dress it up with his typical shocking visuals and boundary-pushing content, and it's still a bore. Surprise surprise, he even decides to include a bunch of explicit Nazi-atrocity imagery in this film (to the point where one of Jack's victims provides some flesh from which he fashions a grotesque trophy wallet). All in all, some really unnecessary, tasteless stuff.
What a fantastic director Lars von Trier could be if he weren't so damned preoccupied with himself, or hung up on filming offensive scenes that are so obviously designed to elicit knee-jerk moral outrage. Ultimately, they've become the emotional equivalent of cheap, horror-movie jump-scares, and von Trier should have long since outgrown such lame crutches by now.
Put down the baby duckling and the tin snips, von Trier, you stupid edgelord. Stop trying so hard to convince us that you're hardcore, and just try to convince us that you're a decent film director.
'Beast' was watchable, but mediocre. Bad timing got it torpedoed in theatres by 'Avengers: Infinity War' but even on Blu-ray there's not a great deal to recommend it. It's a moody British whodunit mixed with a family drama and a rebellious love story, and it spends way too much time waffling back and forth about who might have done what.
Jessie Buckley is quite good as Moll, the black sheep of her family looking to escape both her almost comically oppressive mother and the geography of her small Channel island. When she meets Pascal, the earthy, unrefined community outsider (picture the love child of Jason Segel and Charlie Hunnam, but roughed up and rolled around in some dirt) Moll immediately over-invests in a relationship with this sketchy dude, particularly since there's a serial killer on the loose and Pascal is a suspect with his own grim history. Moll is supposed to be 26, but she falls for Pascal like a naive tween from a 'Twilight' sequel, and it's not long before she's shacked up with him and happily poaching rabbits for dinner (or, oddly enough, sleeping in muddy potato fields whenever they have a falling out).
You can tell where all this is going pretty quick: Is he or isn't he? Well, is he? And, moreover, it turns out that Moll has her own dark backstory, so there's also the question of her intentions, as well as her capacity when it comes to violence and manipulation. Allow me to point out the blindingly obvious: The film is titled 'Beast', and we don't know which character it refers to.
At one point you might be forgiven for thinking you're watching the genesis of some quirky brit Bonnie & Clyde story. But, no, it's a pretty stock little potboiler, except for one fairly unearned Act Three twist, and, by my estimate, at least two endings too many. Perhaps this film just needed a tiny bit more confidence. Frankly, it felt like they showed this film to a focus group and, just to be safe, went back for some reshoots and patched all of the suggestions on at the end.
I hope D'Arcy Carden got some serious bonus pay for this episode.
EDIT: Come on, people. You gotta stop Like-bombing all these one-sentence, low-effort Shouts. Especially ones that are just a quote from the show or movie. Check out the @andrewbloom Review here. He took the time to write 500+ thoughtful words to really scrutinize this episode, and he should be rewarded for that, if only with a Like. And with way more Likes than this lame one-liner got.
What's more, we should strive to make these Shout & Review pages represent the best content Trakt has to offer, not the most quippy or quotey. Start Like-bombing the genuine reviewers here, and they'll stick around and add a level of depth to the Trakt we love.
I now conclude this only slightly self-serving rant.
It seems that opinions are pretty split about 'The Shivering Truth'. Some people hail it as surrealist, tripping-balls comedy of the highest order, and one of the funniest shows that they've seen in ages. As you might guess, I likely represent a somewhat conflicting opinion. For my money, it's as if somebody watched Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' and said to themselves, "Hey, I can do that, but with far less subtlety, way more stream-of-consciousness nonsense, and ten times as much blood and head trauma."
Yes, 'The Shivering Truth' does contain a heaping helping of the anxiety, paranoia, existential malaise and uncanny-valley-type eeriness found in 'Anomalisa', but absolutely none of its nuance or depth. Ultimately, this show doesn't even have anything coherent to say, really, which is really disappointing because it so easily could. Many of the topics touched on here are so taboo or unmentionable that you'd think that something bordering on intelligible might be conveyed, if only by accident. But Vernon Chatman (creator of 'Wonder Showzen' and — whoops — the screenwriter of Louis CK's quickly-buried 'I Love You, Daddy') would rather skip any thematic messaging for the delight in just being over-the-top and completely insane.
I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm coming down really hard on a trifling six-episode Adult Swim show, but seriously, some episodes of 'The Shivering Truth' play like someone wove a drunken game of Scattergories into a script. And a few are even less comprehensible than that. It's amazing, really, when you consider the copious man-hours of pretty decent quality stop-motion animation that must have gone into creating these crazy, go-nowhere fever dreams.
I will admit, an early episode examining how Chaos Theory might be exploited by physically manipulating the wings of the proverbial hurricane-creating butterflies was actually quite clever — though it's a concept possibly borrowed from Douglas Adams and his Infinite Improbability Drive — but many of the plots and sub-plots of later episodes just collapse into tedious absurdity. Some of them, like the InstaDeath episode, seem bound and determined to make you change the channel.
I'm sure the frat-boy crowd will love this show, though. It has just the right mix of weird hipster existentialism and off-limits humour, plus a few buckets of excessive puppet gore, to boot. And, sure, some of it can be kind of fun, in a Don Hertzfeldt's 'Wisdom Teeth'¹ kind of way. But, remember, 'Wisdom Teeth' is already nine years old, and Hertzfeldt has moved on to some pretty heady stuff with his 'World of Tomorrow' short and its sequel, 'World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People's Thoughts'.
It is difficult to know just how seriously this film wants to be taken. I guess that's the first problem with 'Under the Silver Lake'.
Every individual plot progression in this film relies on so many unlikely and interlinked coincidences that one eventually gets to a point where you can't help but laugh. But, then again, maybe we're supposed to laugh. Or are we? Honestly, I'm not even sure any more.
For example, not being an L.A. native, I would have had no idea what the clue RUB DEAN'S HEAD AND WAIT UNDER NEWTON could have possibly meant. But our disheveled stoner protagonist manages to figure it out by simply looking out his window. And when he follows these instructions, another layer of the convoluted plot is revealed. Except the means by which Sam obtains this clue (by applying a numerical code to an obscure band's latest song lyrics) is patently ridiculous. Plus, this scenario also means that someone would have to be observing the bust of James Dean 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case someone stopped by to rub it! It's all so unlikely as to be asinine, or something you might ordinarily assume to be dream logic, or perhaps even divine providence. But the film plays it totally straight. And this is just one clue out of probably six or seven multilayered tangents (and bizarre locations) revealed throughout the film.
It might have been worth enduring all this ridiculous plotting, if the eventual reveal was something to boggle the mind or freeze the soul. But it's nothing special, really. I mean, cults and rich idiots and gullible actresses and underground bunkers are all pretty blasé, as far as Hollywood conspiracies go. Especially when the improbable nature of the plot might suggest the involvement of an antagonist with a fair degree of omniscience. I mean, come on. There are even sections of L.A. that have been redacted from Google Maps!
The other thing that makes you wonder how seriously this film wants to be taken is the score. No word of a lie, I haven't heard such a cliché musical score since 'Leave it to Beaver'. It's all twittering piccolos and groaning oboes, and it's just so annoyingly conspicuous that it begins to feel strangely condescending. And I can honestly say that I've never said that about a soundtrack before. Worse, it makes you ask, what exactly is the overall effect they're going for here? I am beginning to feel like the treacly score and the hyperactive plot must have been some kind of inside joke. Are they trying to poke fun at certain noir tropes by making them both so obvious and cloying? Maybe. But, on another level, I'm just boggled by how bad it was. If it was this film's intention to make the audience feel like they were left out of the joke, I think it succeeded.
I gave 'Under the Silver Lake' a lot of slack because it's by David Robert Mitchell, the guy who did 'It Follows', and now I feel like I shouldn't have given it the slack that I did. Some reviewer on IMDB called this film "'Mullholland Drive' + 'Yoga Hosers'." Another said it was "'Mulholland Drive', as written by a 9th grader." I think they're both partially correct. And no offense, Kevin Smith, but surely by now you must realize that 'Yoga Hosers' was an epic cinematic shart.
I tried to take this film seriously, and I hated it and found it tedious. Literally the most interesting thing about this film was the subliminal images hidden in the poster.¹ If I should discover that it all works brilliantly on some ironic or subversive "inside Hollywood" kind of way, I'll probably still hate it. There are a few hundred things in this film I don't understand — starting with the skunk incident, why Riki Lindhome's character appeared and disappeared, what the homeless 'king' and the pirate dude were all about — but I also have no desire to dig deeper and try to figure any of it out. Did this movie need to be almost two and a half hours long? Were all those plot dead-ends essential to the story? Were they just hacky red herrings? I no longer care. 'Under the Silver Lake gave me a terminal case of plot-related exhaustion.
I love seeing pop culture artifacts examined and deconstructed, but this documentary really wasn't worth the 90-minute time investment, or the $3 on Amazon Prime.
'The Gilligan Manifesto' makes most of its arguments quite poorly, is padded with odd novelty songs and stock footage from the 1950s we've all seen a million times, and features several intellectuals speaking outside of their area of expertise. It's practically a perfect recipe for a crappy documentary. Even more curious, the film seems to believe that communism is worthy of some positive regard. Let's just ignore the fact that it has proven itself to be the most murderous social system ever devised.
The film's thesis, that 'Gilligan's Island' was "deliberately designed to celebrate Marxism and lampoon Western democratic constructs," is dubious at best. Sherwood Schwartz was a bit of a comedy hack, and the show lampooned practically everything, so it's no surprise that democratic and capitalist elements found themselves thrown into the mix. The fact that a single episode parodied a courtroom drama does not, I think, indicate an intentional, series-wide, critical skewering of the USA's judicial branch. Truth be told, you could probably piece together clips from 'Gilligan's Island's 98 episodes to suggest surruptitious support for everything from men's rights to trans activism. It doesn't mean that this represents a hidden political agenda of the part of the producers. Oddly enough, the included interview with Dawn Wells actually makes the lack of a show's agenda quite clear. Poor hack Schwartz was probably just struggling to craft coherent plot lines from week to week.
I also reject this film's assumption, by the way, that the castaways' situation was designed to represent a microcosm of post-apocalyptic American society. Yes, early episodes do focus on who should be the leader of the group (ultimately decided by a democratic vote, by the way), or how responsibilities might be distributed, but all of this is hardly surprising in a desert island survival scenario. In fact, because the show is a survival scenario, I would argue that certain socialist elements eventually appearing is no big shock at all. You'd probably find examples of this in episodes of 'Lost', as well. In small, isolated communities, there are lots of reasons why socialism might make sense in the short term. I'm Canadian, though, and I benefit from socialized medicine, so I recognize my potential bias. Nevertheless, there are no factories on the island, no free market, and even Mr. Howell's money eventually loses its meaning and influence, so it would be hard to make a serious go of capitalism on such a small scale.
Anyway, I'm overthinking an overbaked concept based on a dumb 1960s comedy series and a mediocre 2018 documentary. I'd much rather have a discussion over a few drinks with a sociologist or a cultural anthropologist or a political science major than give this film more credit than it's due by including a long-winded political thesis in my review.
Ultimately, believing that 'Gilligan's Island' was an edgy, subversive piece of political propaganda is just a little too close to conspiracy theory for my liking. Now, 'H.R. Pufnstuf'? That's a show I could totally see as designed to baffle and fragment American society. Hell, it stars a tyrannical radical feminist that's always plotting to steal a phallic magical flute! There's a doctoral thesis in there somewhere.
Big, loud and mostly dumb.
And, to be clear, this doesn't make 'Venom' a bad movie, but it does make it a forgettable one.
In fact, it's strangely meta, because this film is like a symbiote without a host. It's mushy, mostly colourless, and flails all over the place trying to find some kind of entry point. All the requisite action-movie elements are present and accounted for -- a physics-defying motorcycle chase, a face-off with a platoon of gas-masked soldiers, a final fight with the Big Bad -- but it all feels oddly rote and meaningless, even for a comic book film. Worse yet, these big set pieces all seem so contrived and go on for so long, that you might get confused about whether you're watching 'Venom' or just another Michael Bay 'Transformers' sequel. The technical expertise might be there, but there's just a degree of heart or passion that is missing.
The casting of Michelle Williams actually speaks to this, as well. You might think it'd be a safe bet to hire an transcendent actress like Williams for practically any role. But she just doesn't work here. At. All. And I say this as someone who would watch Michelle Williams read her Amazon wish list. (Seriously, go watch 'Take This Waltz' if you haven't seen it.) The problem is, she brings a level of gravity and stillness (and "old-soul-ness"?) to the role that is at odds with the film's tone. And that's on top of the incredible unrealistic decisions her character (and her new boyfriend's character) is forced to make because of the requirements of the plot.
Tom Hardy fares a little better because, as an actor, he comes with a wild-card sort of edginess that generally fits the tone, but no matter how you slice it, this is far from his best work. He's all nervous tics and hunched physicality. Much of it plays as a series of disconnected Eddie Brock vignettes rather than a holistic throughline or, you know, an actual character arc. But perhaps I'm just expecting too much from a dumb comic book movie to hope that it could be as good as The Dark Knight'. As it turns out, even hoping that this might be as good as 'Spiderman: Homecoming' is expecting too much.
This was good, I guess, for what it was.
I mean, I don't understand why Eli Roth's name is so prominently attached to this series, especially when they clearly had much bigger names involved in most of the interviews. Is he really this marketable? Because I've not seen a single Eli Roth movie (except for his the trailer for 'Thanksgiving' that appeared in the theatrical release of 'Grindhouse') and I really have no plans to. However, I have seen more Stephen King movies than I can probably count, and he appears in probably two-thirds of these episodes. I think AMC would have done much better billing this as 'Stephen King's History of Horror' and then interviewed Roth when it came to his narrow little torture-porn slice of the horror genre. After all, King has actually written an entire non-fiction book on the history of horror, entitled Dance Macabre.
Additionally, throughout the first season, Eli Roth doesn't really have a tremendous amount to contribute to most discussions, other than to proclaim that one film launched a certain sub-genre, or that another film set a new standard in gore or violence. Not exactly an erudite, highly philosophical dissection of the genre, in other words. Sometimes, the discussion is limited to, "Hey, I remember when I first watched that film, and it blew me away."
This blustery but somewhat shallow overview of (chiefly North American, and principally mainstream) cinematic horror is where this series spends most of its time, so I guess it serves as more of an entry-point to the genre than a celebration of the hardcore fan. Except it also seems happy to float spoilers for certain films, which would suggest it is aimed at people who have already seen these movies. I was thrilled, for example to see 'The Changeling' referenced during the Ghosts episode, because it's always been my favourite semi-obscure horror film. But then they just spill out its entire plot so that anyone who hadn't heard of it now has no reason to watch it. Slightly aggravating.
I wasn't a big fan of some of the sideways political commentary, either, which often popped up through editing, and will only serve to date this series. A comment about modern zombies, for example, leads to a cut to the tiki-torch carrying idiots in Charlottesville. I get what it's trying to say, but I don't watch a show like this for the wink-wink nudge-nudge political messaging.
I'm still trying to figure out how they managed to shoehorn 'Get Out' into the episode about Demonic Possession, but I guess Jordan Peele was available to be interviewed, so they had to justify his presence somehow.
What elevates this series somewhat is the quality of the interviews and the number of genre-relevant directors and actors they got on board. It seems a little odd, in a few cases, that certain horror icons got all gussied up for this, and yet are only seen once or twice in a single episode. Perhaps there are already other seasons in the chamber, and the rest of their involvement will pop up there. As well, I just noticed that there are a few extended interviews with Stephen King, Diablo Cody, John Landis and a bunch of other people on the AMC site for the show. Why these interviews weren't incorporated into the show to bulk it out a little, philosophically, is a mystery. I'd have watched twice as much interview material and half as many clips and probably enjoyed it more.
Much of the footage chosen for the series is pretty good, too, although as you might expect, the Zombie episode does conveniently focus an inordinate amount of attention on AMC's own show, 'The Walking Dead'.
If you're into horror, I guess you could check this out. By the first episode, you'll know what level of depth you're going to get, but I will say that a few of the later episodes do become somewhat richer and broader. The final Ghosts episode actually touches on foreign films a bit, with 'Ringu' and the like, and (as I've already mentioned) focuses on less mainstream films like The Changeling'.
I don't know if I watched the Special Super-Extended Director's Cut of this film, but wow, this meandering little western seemed to go on forever. When you have an embarrassment of cinematic riches waiting for you in your TRAKT Watchlist, nothing is worse than checking your progress during a film you find a little boring, and discovering that you have another 56 minutes to go.
Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind a lengthy western to spend a Saturday afternoon sinking into, but 'Open Range' was just aggressively mediocre. It's a 2003 film that feels like it should have been a made-for-TV movie in the early 90s. It wants so badly to be epic, but it's just... not. Almost every scene ends with a lengthy dramatic fade-out, every shot of stampeding horses is accompanied by a trumpeting musical score, and many of the transitions are weirdly jarring or just plain edited poorly. The slow-motion stuff in the climactic shoot-out was so cringeworthy it just made my teeth hurt. Oh, and as mentioned earlier, 25 minutes of narrative fat could have easily been removed without anyone but the director noticing.
Most of the performances were okay, I guess, but I didn't buy the Kevin Costner/Annette Bening romance for a second. And this film spends way too much time on that. You'll start rolling your eyes around about the fifth time the film returns to Doc Barlow's house. Yes, this is what I want from my westerns: long conversations about mom's fine china tea set.
Sure, it was fun to see Diego Luna fifteen years before 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story', but he's not in it very much. Michael Jeter is always fun (and does suit the period well), but Michael Gambon was over-the-top and generally horrible. Costner and Duvall were good, but Costner seemed mis-cast as the perpetually subordinate rancher, and, to me, Duvall always seems to be playing the same character.
So, let me get this straight.
It's been made clear that our four main characters — because they happened to find out about The Good Place and The Bad Place and the points system of the afterlife — are automatically exempt from ever attaining enough points to actually get to The Good Place. That was a plot point in the early episodes of this season.
But Doug Forcett, who acquired the exact same information via magic mushrooms, is apparently still able to collect points for his own afterlife benefit? How can this be, if knowledge of the afterlife disqualifies you from (for lack of a better word) 'winning'?
I really don't want to be a spoilsport about the mechanics of a light, fluffy show like this (which is why I rarely review episodes), but it seems pretty clear that they have no interest in following their own rules.
Over the past two seasons, almost every semi-rational element of this show has been sacrificed as fuel for this show's Jokes-Per-Minute rating. People don't act at all like people. The plot is increasingly off the rails. Even basic conversation has become strangely fragmented and nonsensical. Consider the following:
Michael: "What you're doing here. How you're living your life. It's just so wonderful. Can I maybe give you just a little advice?" Doug: "I know. I should donate more blood. I'll try. But the last time I went down there, they said I was so anemic they ended up giving me blood."
Who talks like that? Nobody. But Doug randomly assuming the extremely specific nature of Michael's impending advice has to happen so that it can lead to the latter part of the blood-donation joke. The writers came up with the blood donation / anemia joke, and then they twisted the dialogue into a stupid pretzel to get us there. Once you notice their willingness to pull this cheap writer's trick, most of the conversations on this show become unbearable, and you just feel led by the nose to the next increasingly-predictable gag.
And if you think I'm being unfair or hyper-critical, note that Tahani does the exact same thing only a few minutes later when Eleanor asks for her advice about something. "Is it about your grating speaking voice?" Tahani immediately presumes, for no reason, except that Eleanor's resulting insecurity is funny.
Sigh. These are the jokes, folks.
And all that's on top of what they've done to the characters. Jason has become increasingly dumbed-down — and Eleanor has become increasingly bisexual — to fuel even more jokes. It's like the writers have chosen quantity over quality. They're so insecure about the quality of their jokes (and with good reason) that they're terrified to let us stop and breathe.
Also, while I'm ranting:
Maybe don’t uncover the blurred-out spoilers below if you plan to see this film. They aren't necessarily film-ruining, but they might affect your overall enjoyment. Better yet, if you happen to appreciate westerns at all, just accept my heartfelt endorsement and go watch this fun anthology. Then come back and read this review.
’The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ is a collection of western vignettes that runs the gamut from broad and cartoony, to downright profound, to achingly heartbreaking. From what I can gather after having watched it, it was supposed to be a Netflix miniseries, but they decided to make a feature film out of the elements instead. Which is fine, I guess, but it does make it hard for fans to demand a second season.
The six stories cover many well-trodden western tropes, from the quick-draw cowboy who eventually meets a faster gun, to a woman in a wagon train of pioneers whose life becomes increasingly more complicated after her brother dies. The writing, at times, is absolutely exquisite, and the cinematography is beyond reproach.
I’m an old hand when it comes to both classic and modern westerns, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by this collection.
First, some of the narrative choices catch you a little off-guard. Perhaps the best example of that would be watching in amused disbelief as Tim Blake Nelson, recently deceased, floats up to heaven while singing ’When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings’.¹ Yes, that totally happens in this movie. And it’s fantastic. Even some of the other more traditional western stories appear to be going in one direction before taking a hard left turn. They are by no means Shyamalanesque, but the intention to mess with your expectations is clear.
Second, I went into this not knowing much about it, so every time I saw a familiar face in the cast, it was an added bonus. You may not recognize a certain disabled character here as being from the ’Harry Potter’ series, but I did, and it was a hoot. And holy crap, Tom Waits as the prospector was a revelation.² It's no shock to see Stephen Root or Liam Neeson in something like this, but look, there’s Saul Rubinek from the ’Star Trek The Next Generation’ episode where Data gets kidnapped!³ Even James Franco does well in a role you might think is outside his wheelhouse. It’s amazing how many familiar faces there are here. It's also remarkable how well they all fit the era.
Some of the vignettes are better than others, as is always the case, but there are six solid, self-contained stories spread out over 2+ hours, so none of them really last long enough to overstay their welcome. And, together, they do tend to conjure a strong sense of time and place. They are often so authentic and well-worn that they seem expertly woven from our collective subconscious of what the Old West might have been like.
¹ youtu.be/IqO7lu94Ix4² This section, titled "All Gold Canyon", is based on a Jack London story, and is available online: www.online-literature.com/london/49³ trakt.tv/shows/star-trek-the-next-generation/seasons/3/episodes/22
Looking at this reconstructed footage, it is hard to believe that we are looking at a war so historically distant that its earliest battles were fought with calvary charges. At times, you have to remind yourself that these are scenes from World War I, not World War II.
That said, though, some of the footage borders on uncanny valley-type material (I guess the algorithms to fill in lost frames are only capable of so much) and a few scenes are replayed more than once to fill the run time. Additionally, if I am really going to nit-pick here, the series of smash-cuts to a ruined body when someone was killed in the accompanying voice-over was... well, if not tacky, then at least somewhat inelegant.
While it is fantastic to have a historical record of the time, it was pretty early in the development of film-making, so there's no real visual narrative at work in much of the footage. Most scenes are just soldiers filing past the camera, or impromptu shots of platoons sitting around, eating, entertaining themselves or being self-conscious about being filmed.
The voice-over of combat veterans does help fill in what is missing, to some degree, but I still found the content somewhat thin. The film describes a creeping/rolling artillery barrage, but doesn't try to explain how revolutionary it was at the time. But bear in mind that I have had the benefit of learning about the Great War from films like 'Passchendaele and 'War Horse', or from Dan Carlin's excellent Blueprint For Armageddon series on his Hardcore History podcast.
For someone first dipping their toes in this dark era of world history, 'They Shall Not Grow Old' is a good start. But for someone hoping for Peter Jackson to make something profound or significant, or something that transcends the gimmick of the reconditioned footage, this may fall a little short.
’Mandy’ is an aesthetic tour-de-force, to be sure, but not much more. It is visceral without being symbolic, and stylish without being particularly insightful. Ultimately, Panos Cosmatos’ new film is a linear, glacially-paced revenge tale that just happens to reap the benefits of good cinematography, a cool metal soundtrack, some interesting colour choices, and lots and lots of film grain.
But it’s still a revenge tale, and (as I mentioned in my recent review of ’Revenge’¹), I think revenge tales are often too simplistic, and raise several problematic questions. Like:
On top of these high-minded concerns about the morality of vengeance, I’m just not a big fan of, say, watching Nicholas Cage employ a rusty box-cutter to slash the neck of a monster sporting a giant erect knife penis… and then maniacally bathe in and gargle the resulting fountain of blood. I understand that there is an audience for this type of over-the-top, gory nonsense. But, despite watching this film, I don’t consider myself part of that audience, and I cannot help but (if only in a symbolic sense) turn around in the darkened theater and look into the gleeful faces of the people cheering and yelling “Brutal!” and “Awesome!”
I’m certainly not opposed to violence in cinema, but to me there is something slightly alien and off-putting about being entertained by such a celebration of gleeful, gonzo brutality. When the freakish cult members roast Mandy in her own sleeping bag, and clearly take joy in it, it is intended to convey their sociopathic cruelty. But when Red takes delight in wholesale murder, I’m not entirely sure what message is being conveyed. It effectively equates Red to the cult in many ways, and this is further complicated by having Red consume the same tainted LSD the biker gang uses, and even snort their cocaine and smoke their discarded cigarettes.
Note that when Mandy gets dosed with powerful drugs, she remains resolute in who she is, while Red immediately consumes every drug available to eradicate the person he was previously. Does this make him a hero? I would argue no, but he's certainly filmed that way. I guess there’s a certain cognitive dissonance involved in the cinematic language of revenge films that I’ve never been able to resolve or unpack in any satisfactory way.
Well, it's over. Apart from the first hopeful episode or two, that was an interminable ten-episode grind.
I don't have a lot of comments about the season as a whole, except to say that every favorable review I read in advance of watching 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' (and there were lots of them) was a lie.
All the reviews that screamed that Kiernan Shipka was INCREDIBLE and SUPER-TALENTED must have been getting that sweet Netflix payola. Because, truth be told, Shipka's okay. Yeah. Just okay. Her depiction of Sabrina is certainly good enough for this stilted production, but there's a certain vacuousness that becomes more noticeable as the season wears on. Oh, and she makes a mistake a lot of young actors make — she stops acting when someone else is performing. Watch her eyes whenever Miranda Otto is spooling out some over-baked soliloquy; you can almost hear the Windows shutdown sound.¹ But I think a lot of Shipka's faults here are the result of bad direction, because she certainly did some decent work on 'Mad Men'.
And don't get me started about the reviews that proclaimed Michelle Gomez as INSPIRING and MIND-BLOWING. If you're looking for a performance completely devoid of nuance, then yes, this was certainly mind-blowing. Gomez has zero range and is always so over-the-top as Ms. Wardwell that she may as well be a caricature. Seriously, there should be a drinking game where you drink every time Ms. Wardwell is so pleased about something, it looks like she's having an orgasm. Except you'd get alcohol poisoning. The only thing her performance lacks is a stovepipe hat and a big, greasy mustache to twirl. Watch some YouTube clips of her Missy character in 'Doctor Who' and you'll wonder if she's capable of performing anything other than this character.
Many people complained about the crazy depth-of-field and distortion effects, but I kind of liked them once they toned them down halfway through the season. As an example, the subtle effect that accompanied the Greendale 13 head witch standing in the Walker family doorway was the most appropriate application.
Another problem that plagued the first season was the disconnect between the Makeup and Lighting departments. When you're using a lot of yellowish direct lighting (i.e. candles, antique lamps), Makeup really needs to take that into account, or Lucy Davis is going to look like a Donald Trump hallowe'en pumpkin.
Other quick notes:
I’m almost done. I’m almost done. Just one more trashy episode of this season and I can put this insufferable show behind me. There truly is no fate worse than being a Netflix series completeist.
Congratulations, 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina', you’ve become ’The Addams Family’. I had thought this level of cartoon plotting and characterization in mainstream television had gone extinct, but apparently not. Everything is so melodramatic and over-done and on-the-nose that it feels like hastily-penned Sabrina fan-fiction.
It must be that the showrunners got an entire first season of this show green-lit on the basis of one or two decent early-season scripts. Because if any producer worth their salt was pitched the script for this episode, they would have thrown the whole thing in a dumpster and slammed the lid. Never mind the actors, who would have fired their agents for even suggesting that they get on board with this trashy nonsense. Miranda Otto is no Cate Blanchette, but she was in ’The Lord of the Rings’, and it must be embarrassing for her to stoop to playing the infinitely broad comedy of Zelda. In an upcoming episode, she flagellates herself with a cat o' nine tails. What a gruesomely meta moment that must have been for Ms. Otto as a serious actress.
Didn’t ’Seinfeld’ have an episode where Jerry and George wrote a laughably bad TV script where Jerry gets into a car accident, and the man at fault is sentenced by the court to be Jerry's butler? Because that’s pretty much the whole sub-plot here, where Sabrina becomes Prudence’s handmaiden. As in any soap opera, this turn of events goes against everything we know about these characters, but it doesn’t matter because it has to happen to service the overall plot.
I just can’t decide if that story line is worse than milquetoast Harvey being a potential witch hunter. I mean, they’re both just objectively awful, and each seems penned by a screenwriter determined to turn this show into ’The Young and the Restless’, but I just can’t tell which is worse. Maybe the Harvey one, because the show tries to wrap it up in the Sabrina/Prudence conflict and turn it into a treatise on the validity of personal faith/belief, and it just fails completely.
Well, here we are. Episode six, and I am now officially embarrassed for the modicum of praise I offered this show during its first episode or two. I am also asking myself, why did I choose to binge this half-baked show rather than 'The Haunting of Hill House'?
Obviously, this show has no intention of leveraging either the Sabrina property (or witch lore) in any way that might be meaningful or insightful, either metaphorically or symbolically. This is now just a magical soap opera universe where social problems are based on supernatural conflict rather than the ordinary business dealings, romantic relationships or social climbing. Perhaps this show was always this sort of cheap schlock, and I am extremely dumb for hoping it would or could be anything more. It even looks like Roz is primed to enter the soap opera conflict as another supernatural player (with the cringeworthy Magic Negro trope on full display, no less). Maybe next week, Susie will get hit by a meteorite and become Super Gender Fluid Person.
It's a shame, though. One could unpack almost any sub-plot of the Harry Potter mythos and find something interesting in terms of how it might relate to our own non-magical lives. But very few elements of 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' are so relatable, and the show seems to have zero interest in making Sabina in any way noble. Whereas Harry Potter wasn't a hero exclusively because he was a wizard, Sabrina is only ever a hero because she is a half-witch. Her mystical power, not her character, tends to fuel her progress. In the Sabrinaverse, only mystical power or arcane knowledge provides the solution to a problem. Not self-sacrifice, rarely the support of friends or family, and hardly ever a quick wit.
This show's simplistic view of conflict, too, continues to grow less interesting with each episode. Its moral framework is muddled at best, and outright hypocritical at worst. Too often deception, manipulation, and threats of violence are Sabrina's first choices for dealing with her episodic problems, despite the fact that these methods are exactly what she constantly accuses The Dark Lord and her enemies of using on her. Unintentional or not, this season has really become a stark political lesson in how corrupt systems serve to effectively corrupt even the good actors struggling to bring reform. With each and every episode, Sabrina grows more comfortable being underhanded and weaving her Machiavellian intrigue.
Oh, sure, Sabrina talks a good game when it comes to the dignity of the individual (particularly in the next episode where one of the Weird Sisters wants to become the main course of the coven's cannibal Thanksgiving), but nothing that Sabrina does indicates that she takes this dignity seriously. How many times has Sabrina wiped Harvey's memory or lied to him about something he experienced? How many times has she threatened to choke someone on their own blood? Even Zelda, one of the aunts that Sabrina might be expected to seek moral guidance from, is quick to turn to blackmail (and threats toward Lord Blackwell’s unborn twins) to protect her own social standing. But who am I kidding, almost every key player in this show is amoral and murderous, and the show presents this as just a matter of course. The problem is, few episodes provide a clear hero to provide any contrast, so everything just becomes dark and grim and boring.
The exorcism is a potential moral victory over the forces of evil, but it’s impossible to take Apophis seriously with the amateurish makeup and the broad over-acting and the bad ADR. Never mind Ms. Wardwell conveniently having a copy of the banned exorcism rite Edward wrote, right there in her purse. Beyond all that, though, trying to tie the whole debacle to Susie’s (inherited?) gender fluidity was ridiculous no matter which way you slice it.
An episode of ridiculous dream-based grotesquery that could have revealed something interesting about these characters through their dreams, but instead preferred to go for melodrama, horror cliches, and the inevitable gross-out.
Another jolting two-foot drop in quality as we follow three or four boring story-lines that go nowhere.
Sabrina attends to the Tim Burton School for Poseur Goth Wannabees. Oooooooh, I get it. The whole harrowing business is a really bad metaphor for fraternity hazing. Bad because it was really not comparable to fraternity hazing at all. Most members of non-witch fraternities and sororities, for example, don’t have an innate desire to torture new members. But it’s pretty clear that the Weird Sisters seriously relish what they’re doing. It’s also clear that their end goal is to kill Sabrina, which is pretty dark. But, again, not comparable to hazing. More comparable to, oh, you know, murder.
This show doesn’t comprehend that hazing is built on a power differential between members and initiates, especially if they think that Sabrina can bring to a halt endless centuries of Witch Academy tradition just because she got some vengeful tween ghosts on her side. Also, just to highlight the hypocrisy, you might be able to eradicate hazing by dragging it into the daylight, challenging generations of silence and denial, and by providing healthy alternatives. What you don’t generally do is use elements of the hazing ritual itself to torture sorority leaders into submission.
But I think we can all agree that most of this bedtime nonsense is just an excuse to have a bunch of teen girls shove each other around while wearing lacy bathrobes (or, you know, strut around the dark woods wearing silk teddies). This show’s scripts are now approximately 22% Hollywood Producer Fantasy.
It's a shame that this potentially subversive little show is going down the same road as 'Riverdale'. Two halfway decent episodes to start the first season, and now (apparently) a quick descent into cheesy, ridiculous schlock.
I can't even discuss Harvey, his over-the-top father (and, yay, another adult character) and that embarrassing spelunkaphobia D-story. Or the ham-fisted high-school banned-books plot-line with the conveniently conspiratorial librarian and the ridiculous out-of-nowhere left-turn of Sabrina's friend rapidly going blind. Sabrina's friends seem born to suffer, and rope her in via sympathy.
There's not much about this particular episode that can be discussed seriously, and I was originally quite open to this show providing a modern take on some of the feminist/social topics they seemed ready to tackle. But so many things have gone so wrong so quickly.
I don't know how I convinced myself that I should expect anything authentic or meaningful or relevant from a show that proceeded from the same schlocky source as 'Riverdale', but I guess I'm learning my lesson. Do I have the patience to continue giving this show the benefit of the doubt? Do I even bother to binge the rest of the season? These are more compelling questions than anything found in the show.
Only two episodes in, and 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' is already starting to go off the rails.