Netflix Review – Daybreak/The Last Kids on Earth: Two Takes on the Same Idea

Netflix decided to apparently green-light two shows, one for kids, one not, based around the idea that the world ended and left only the young.



The bombs went off and it turns out that they didn’t kill everyone. They just killed most of the adult population and some of the kids. Many of the adults were turned into “Ghoulies,” basically zombies that repeat the last mundane thoughts of their former selves, but a few have become more monstrous abominations. Our protagonist, Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford) is a high-schooler with a lot of survival skills that have made him successful during the apocalypse. Together with supergenius Angelica Green (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and Samurai/Jock Wesley Fists (Austin Crute), he seeks to survive the end of the world and rescue his dream girl Samaira Dean (Sophie Simnett), who is actually pretty badass in her own right.

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Also, the wisecracking jerk with a heart of some metal.

The Last Kids on Earth

A bunch of portals opened up on Earth and it turns out that they didn’t kill everyone. They just killed most of the adult population and some of the kids. Many of the adults were turned into Zombies, which are zombies and I don’t need to explain further, but there are also more monstrous abominations. Our protagonist, Jack Sullivan (Finn Wolfhard) is a middle-schooler with a lot of survival skills that have made him successful during the apocalypse. Together with supergenius Quint Baker (Garland Whitt) and Barbarian/Jock Dirk Savage (Charles Demers), he seeks to survive the end of the world and rescue his dream girl June Del Toro (Montse Hernandez), who is actually pretty badass in her own right.

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… Not entirely unfamiliar.


So, I’m sure I’m not the only one that has pointed out that these are pretty much the same show, but for different age groups. Both shows include a heavy amount of fourth-wall breaking narration not only by the protagonist but also by the side characters and deuteragonists, both shows include a number of references to other media to shortcut their world-building, and both shows literally make a reference to gamifying the apocalypse. Not that either of these are the first things to do any of those, but I find it odd that both series came out only a month or so apart and have so many similarities.

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Although, only one show does the traditional “people are the real monsters” arc.

That said, in most other aspects, the shows are wildly different. Obviously, the biggest is that one is live-action and the other is animated, and, ironically, the animated one is adapted from a book while the live-action one is derived from a graphic novel. One is only a single episode so far lasting 60 minutes, while the other is ten 40-50 minute episodes. One is for mature audiences, containing intense gore and cannibalism, and one is for kids, featuring more cartoonish violence (though more than I would have expected). The monsters in Daybreak are either mutated animals or more humanoid aberrations, like the “Witch” Ms. Crumble (Krysta Rodriguez) and Mr. Burr (Matthew Broderick), while the monsters in The Last Kids on Earth range from Kaiju to Eldritch abominations to mutant squirrels (okay, that’s the same). It’s like watching two different people take the same elevator pitch and expand it. 

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One series has Ferris Bueller as a principal, which is pretty good.

So, here’s my review of each of the shows individually. 


Pretty well done. The acting is great, particularly Matthew Broderick and Colin Ford. It has a great sense of humor about itself, such as naming the main character’s love interest Sam Dean, after the leads in Supernatural, a show where Colin Ford played a younger version of the main characters (I’m told that didn’t happen in the comic). The idea of each of the high-school cliques evolving into roving rival gangs was pretty fun, particularly as you observe their interactions, though it drops away as the plot becomes more focused on a central antagonist. It’s a little flashback heavy at times and definitely a little exposition heavy, but it’s still entertaining. The biggest problem is Josh’s plotline being focused solely on finding his ex-girlfriend, something that becomes increasingly ridiculous as the stakes keep raising on everyone else. It also contains a lot of the same tropes that you’d expect from an apocalypse setting, with some working and some not. Still, I enjoyed the series. 

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Cheermazons are a thing.

That said, having now researched the comic a little, I found out that the series is set in the first-person, something that would have been super interesting for a high-school post-apocalypse series like this. Admittedly, it would probably have gotten old quickly, but I still kind of want to see it. 

The Last Kids on Earth

Also pretty well done, though short. The monsters are creative and the main character is believably flawed. It also contains a lot of shots of the main characters trying to find some comfort and enjoyment in the apocalypse, like turning various acts into “achievements” complete with video game symbols. It also helps that, while the main character is good at surviving, the “damsel” he aims to rescue is far superior at combat. Also, he’s a total stalker. While the protagonist of Daybreak is looking for his girlfriend, the love interest in this is someone that Jack Sullivan just has a crush on. Still, he’s a middle schooler, so it’s a little bit forgivable. 

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He’s not super smart, but he has… heart?

Both of these are pretty good and I would recommend checking them both out. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Living With Yourself: Twice the Rudd is… Pretty Good (Spoiler-Free)

Netflix casts Paul Rudd in two roles in a new show and it really only works because it’s Paul Rudd. But it does work.


Miles Elliot (Paul Rudd) is a copywriter who has grown unhappy with his job and with his life. His wife, Kate (Aisling Bea), is an interior architect who has also started to become unhappy with his constant negativity and his refusal to actually participate in their fertility treatments. While at work, one of his co-workers, Dan (Desmin Borges), tells him to go to a new spa which helped him immensely. While at the spa, Miles runs into Tom Brady who claims it’s effective, because Tom Brady doesn’t mind giving himself an advantage using creative means. After paying for his treatment, something goes awry and Miles wakes up buried underground. He escapes back to his house only to find another version of himself there. It turns out that the spa secretly makes “superior” clones of people and dumps the originals. Now Miles and New Miles must figure out how to make their situation work.

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They both can crane their necks.


I don’t think this counts as a spoiler, but I’ll tell you that this show manages to blow by most of the clone tropes pretty quickly, which I appreciate. It helps that the clone in this case is not supposed to actually be Miles, but an improved version of Miles created through some sort of gene-manipulation mumbo-jumbo. Never mind that it’s ridiculous that they can somehow pull his memories from his DNA, they also somehow determine what genes are good or bad for his career and home life. Still, they do a good job of showing that, while the new Miles may be improved with regard to some things, he’s not necessarily truly superior in all areas. If this sounds slightly like an episode of Rick and Mortyyeah, it 100% is like that, only with longer-lasting implications and less Rick Sanchez. The plot doesn’t exactly go in the ways you think it probably would or should, which can be either refreshing, annoying, or both, depending on what you’re looking for.

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Yes, they might fight at one point.

The thing is, this show wouldn’t be as good without Paul Rudd. He manages to convey the two characters, who are supposed to be almost the same person, with enough nuance that you actually can keep track of which is which even when it’s not obvious from the circumstances. It helps that he makes you feel like each of them is on their own emotional journey, dealing with an almost impossible situation. Mostly, he’s just… really damned likeable as both characters. You don’t get the good/evil twin, they’re just both people trying their best. I will say that Aisling Bea does a great job of portraying a wife who was in a rough patch in her marriage and who suddenly finds herself getting an opportunity to both be with the man she loves and leave behind her baggage at the same time. The show does make her an eventual focus and her agency, subtle at first, becomes more pronounced.

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Even a woman married to Paul Rudd can get bored.

The show has a habit of showing an episode from one Miles’s perspective, then doing the next episode from the other side, which only works some of the time, but when it works, it works. Most of the supporting characters do well in the show, although it is very focused on the three leads. I particularly like Alia Shawkat, AKA Maeby from Arrested Development, who plays Miles’s sister who takes the development of suddenly having 2 brothers in great stride, and Jon Glaser as her… husband(?) who, while only in it for a minute, is pretty funny. 

Overall, I enjoyed it, but… mostly just for the Rudd.

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Halloween Review/Netflix Review – Head Count

This indie horror on Netflix tries to bring a new take on the shapeshifter horror and doesn’t live up to its potential.


Two brothers, Evan (Isaac Jay) and Payton (Cooper Rowe), go on a hike in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. They run into a group of people who are on a similar hike and Evan hits it off with one of the girls, Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan). Seeing that his brother wants to get laid more than he wants to hike with him, Payton tells Evan to go with their group while he continues to hike. That night, having smoke and drank and partied a bit with the group of nine strangers, Evan is asked to tell a campfire story. He reveals that he doesn’t know any, so they have him read a creepypasta online, which is a poem about a monster named “Hisji” who comes when you call its name five times. Naturally, he reads it five times.

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They’re a reasonably attractive and appropriately diverse group.

Later, when he is in the hot tub with Zoe, he sees a figure standing in the distance and watching them. The pair go inside and it’s quickly forgotten over the revelry. However, as the weekend goes on, unusual things start to happen. Eventually, it’s revealed that the Hisji has the power to become a doppelganger of the members of the group and control their actions to a certain extent, so chaos and confusion abound.


I’m kind of regretting doing some random horror movies for this series, because I keep getting movies that aren’t particularly memorable. This was the first movie by director and story creator Elle Callahan, so I guess I should give it some leeway, but… well, Murder Party was a low-budget first-time director’s work and it’s way more memorable than this. But, the show must go on. 

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I like that the shot literally has lines converging on the leads, so… that’s neat.

This probably would have been a really good short film, but it just doesn’t have the power to sustain my attention for 90 minutes. The idea of a monster who appears and can take the shape of anyone has been done before, including in John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of the best horror movies ever made, so this movie tries to set it apart by making the monster obsessed with the number five. Why five? Maybe because Candyman used five and the creators love Tony Todd. Whatever the reason, it’s obsessed with five and a LOT more time in the film was dedicated to that than was necessary. Similarly, a lot of the time was filled by having the teens engage in a lot of activities that people in their forties thing people in their twenties do, like a very awkward game of “Never Have I Ever” or talking about drugging each other. This wouldn’t be so bad if it ever built up to anything, but the stuff they do and say never feels like it actually comes up again later, nor does it really develop any of the characters except maybe Zoe. The movie is relying on a slow-burn, but it feels more like a slog at points. If you can cut 30% of your runtime and nothing is really lost in the movie, then you probably need to reconsider your film. 

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There’s about 10 minutes of just staring at things.

It also doesn’t help that the movie’s monster seems to be a metaphor for something that doesn’t quite work. Now, if you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m a fan of the traditional use of horror movies as a metaphor, though I don’t think it’s required. In this movie, it feels like the monster was supposed to be a metaphor at the beginning and then about halfway through production, they realized it’s dumb. The movie makes a big point at the beginning of showing that Payton is really into pure living, probably due to a past with drugs (I think they said something about it, but I didn’t write it in my notes and I am NOT rewatching this). He has given Evan a lighter that stays a focus throughout the movie. The group in the movie are all heavy users of marijuana, they clearly also do other drugs, and they drink a lot. While those are all qualities that are pretty common among victims in horror films, in this movie, I feel like in this it’s more fundamental to the story. The monster appears as a different version of the characters and frequently encourages them to indulge in more vices, essentially through peer pressure. Through its machinations, it causes an atmosphere of paranoia and confusion. It could very easily be a metaphor for drug use and how it can destroy you. Even the way that the monster kills people would be easily made into a solid conclusion for that, but… it’s not. I can’t say anything more than that, they just seem like they had a metaphor and then changed it like two-thirds of the way through the movie. But even if they HAD done that, it wouldn’t really have worked, because… they’re kids drinking and smoking pot. That hasn’t really been a thing worth getting killed for since Reefer Madness. Like I said, without the resolution working for it, this doesn’t quite feel like a coherent theme, but I also feel like they have too much about it for it to not have at least been considered.

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And this, the focal shot of the film, contains nothing really related to any theme.

I also find it weird that this movie essentially just invokes a Creepypasta, with almost no mythology really given for the monster. We find out later in the film that this monster is apparently associated with at least one family dying, so I’m curious if, in the world of this film, someone realizes “holy crap, demon monsters are real” after the movie is over. While I know that a lot of people appreciate movies where the monster is pretty much unexplained, like It Follows, the issue is that the Hisji appears to have no definitive rules, gaining powers as the movie goes on. Since we know basically nothing about it, there’s nothing saying it can’t do that, but by that logic it could spontaneously turn everyone into dolls at the end of the film, and… that probably would have been more interesting. 

Overall, this movie isn’t a bad first outing for a director, but it definitely needed a little more flavor. 

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Netflix Review – Raising Dion: Strong Single Mom > Supervillains

Netflix debuts an adaptation of a comic about a single mother raising her superpowered son.


Nicole Reese (Alisha Wainwright) is a single mother raising her son Dion (Ja’Siah Young) after the death of her husband Mark (Michael B. Jordan) in a freak storm. She is shocked one day when she finds that Dion can move objects with his mind, something he cannot quite control yet. Nicole and her husband’s best friend Pat (Jason Ritter) struggle to keep Dion’s abilities secret from the world while also dealing with the impact this development has on her and her son. 

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Also, working with the busing system.


The best part about this show is that, for the most part, the focus is on the difficulties of being a single parent, rather than on superheroics. Except for when she’s worried that Dion is going to get caught by some assumed shadowy government agency or something like that, Nicole treats him just like a normal kid. We also see Dion handling most situations like he was a normal kid. He has issues with other students. He has trouble making friends. He gets embarrassed when what he enjoys isn’t “cool.” Most of the time, this is just a drama about single parenting.

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Their interplay is strong.

That isn’t to say that the superhero elements aren’t well done. The powers and abilities that Dion manifests are interesting and his difficulties in using them are understandable. He’s a child who has unbelievable power, so naturally he doesn’t focus it well. Hell, he doesn’t focus well in general, because, again, child. When he uses his abilities, they frequently spin out of control or operate on a bigger scale than he intended. This means that he’s dangerous not only to himself but to everyone around him. Worst of all, he likes seeing his powers work, because of course he does. Who wouldn’t? I mean, Peter Parker enjoyed being superstrong and sticking to stuff and that’s significantly less interesting than seemingly limitless telekinesis. Also, without spoiling too much, he gets to use them in the traditional “end of a superhero arc” capacity and it’s pretty fun to watch. 

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Granted, he also sometimes abuses them.

The performances in the series are excellent. I do admit that I’m sad that Michael B. Jordan isn’t in it too much, as he’s just… so damned good in everything. I mean, the man was good in Fant4stic, and that’s basically the equivalent of overcoming cinematic ebola. Still, the rest of the cast are no slouches. Alisha Wainwright does a great job portraying a mother who suddenly is dealing with an unnatural situation but still trying her best. She makes us feel the concern that permeates her every action towards Dion. Ja’Siah Young is also excellent as Dion. He’s so likeable and conveys his childish curiosity so well that you do believe he’s moving all of the stuff with his mind. He also gives realistic responses to issues with others. He cries, he whines, he gets upset easily, but he also has unnatural resolve when he needs it. Jason Ritter manages to probably portray the widest range in the series and it’s all believable, to the point that you will be very uncomfortable at some parts.

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He also does rock that coat.

The problem with the show is that the script is just pretty mediocre. The effects are decent for the budget, but it never really grabs you the way that a show like this should. It just doesn’t find the hook.

Overall, I enjoyed the show for what it was. I recommend giving it a shot. It’s not Stranger Things or The Good Place or something that strong, but it’s still good. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Halloween Review/Netflix Review – BoJack Horseman Season 5: Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos

I got a request for a Halloween episode of BoJack and I cannot resist going into it.


Taking place in a world populated by humans and anthropomorphic animals, BoJack Horseman is a show about an equine equity actor named BoJack (Will Arnett) who had a popular, but critically panned, show from the late 80s through the 90s. In this season, he is having a career resurgence on a new detective series. His closest companions are his feline ex-girlfriend and ex-manager Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), his ex-roommate Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), his ex-ghostwriter Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and his rival and Diane’s ex-husband Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins). BoJack is an alcoholic and chronically depressed in addition to a host of other vices. In the episodes leading up to this, BoJack had developed an opioid habit after sustaining a back injury, had started sleeping with his current TV co-star, and had just discovered that Diane knows that he almost slept with the daughter of a former flame. 

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Stop smiling, Todd!


This episode takes place over the course of 4 separate Halloween parties in 1993, 2004, 2009, and 2018. It turns out that in 1993, Mr. Peanutbutter mistook BoJack blowing him off as an invitation to host a Halloween party. So, he invited himself, all his friends, and his first wife Katrina (Lake Bell) over to BoJack’s house. Each of the Halloweens features Mr. Peanutbutter bringing a different wife/girlfriend (or his “Boo”) to the party. In 1993, he took his then-loving first wife Katrina; In 2004, he takes his second wife Jessica Biel; In 2009, he takes his then-girlfriend Diane; and in 2018, he takes his girlfriend Pickles Aplenty (Hong Chau), and yes that’s her real name. 

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Diane went as Baby Bjorn Borg. BoJack is the only one who got the joke.

At each of the parties, Mr. Peanutbutter screws up somehow, resulting in him causing a rift in his relationship. In 1993, it’s that he keeps abandoning Katrina to talk to other people against her request, resulting in her talking to Ben Stein and Tim Allen and becoming an adulterous and cruel ultra-conservative. In 2004, he fails to protect Jessica Biel from seeing a mummy, reminding her that she didn’t get the part in the Brendan Fraser movie (she auditioned for the role of the mummy). In 2009, he pressures Diane into going to the party even though she hates parties. In 2018, he talks about his exes to Pickles, including Diane, who is at the party. He realizes that all of the women he dates start out happy and fun, then end up being bitter and mean. Diane tells him that it’s because he keeps dating women in their 20s, while he’s now in his late 40s. They don’t change because of him, they just outgrow him. After Diane consoles Pickles and tells her that Mr. Peanutbutter does always love every woman he’s with, including her. She then reminds him that she’s so much younger than him by saying they’re gonna party more.


So, this episode definitely is something that has to be watched and re-watched to really make complete sense, because they constantly cut between the time periods to draw parallels between the stories. In a brilliant stroke, however, you can almost always recognize what year it is in any scene by what costumes people are wearing. The costumes are probably the best part of the episode, but more on that later. 

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Also, the cast of the X-Files shows up in the 1990s.



One of the major themes throughout the show, and one that BoJack himself had recently elaborated on, is that there are no such things as happy endings. That’s because everyone in the show is so caught up in Hollywood (or Hollywoo as it is called in the show) that it tends to blur their reality and, in TV sitcoms, there can’t be happy endings. Because, if everyone’s happy, there’s nothing to watch. BoJack’s inability to ever improve himself in any meaningful way is tied to the fact that he is a sitcom character. However, this episode shows us that Mr. Peanutbutter suffers from the same futility of change, but in a different way. He can’t grow up, something that does NOT affect the women in his life. In each party, Mr. Peanutbutter acts essentially the same, even though it’s over a 25 year period, and each party ends essentially the same. The same is true for BoJack and Princess Carolyn. This is possibly the scariest theme in any of the things I’m going to go over this Halloween: That no one can ever really change for the better. All change is only temporary, because the show must go on, and we’re all the characters that have to become simpler over time so that the grand audience can follow it more easily. We’re leads in our own story, but that means we can’t ever be more than we are when we finally are being observed.

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We grow older, but not up.

Note: I don’t believe the above, but the idea that maybe it’s true horrifies me.

What makes it worse is that we know how Mr. Peanutbutter’s relationships are going to go because we’ve seen what they’re like in other flashbacks in the show. Katrina will become abusive to him, but will say it’s because he never listens to her, the thing that he promises to do in this episode. Jessica Biel will become obsessed with her own fame, even claiming success from movies like Stealth, possibly because Mr. Peanutbutter can’t stop her from being reminded of her failures like he did in this episode. There’s an entire episode about a fight that occurs between him and Diane because he hosts a surprise party for her, even though he tells her that he won’t ever force her into another party. He never learns to listen to others, no matter how much he loves those other people. 

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He drives Diane to break plates. Impressive.

The only other major revelation in the episode is that Todd only became BoJack’s roommate because he offered to hang out so BoJack wasn’t alone after his dad died. It adds a layer to their relationship off of such a simple act.

Also, I can’t help but appreciate the effort that went into all the costumes at the parties. There are three people who wear the same costume each year: Princess Carolyn who goes as Amelia Earhart, a roach who wears a Beetlejuice costume, and a moth who goes as a ghost, but eats more of his costume every year, finally finishing it off in 2018. Other fun costumes are dependent on the year. In 1993, there’s a costume of Ellie Sadler from Jurassic Park and a pair as Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. In 2004, Jorge Garcia from Lost is dressed as Shrek, there’s a woman as a female version of Cast Away, Mrs. Incredible from The Incredibles, three girls as the Plastics from Mean Girls, a Jack Sparrow, and a very untimely costume that’s a Bugs Bunny knock-off wearing a shirt for the movie “Space Jelly.” In 2009, there’s an octopus as Octomom and a cat as Keyboard Cat. In 2018, there’s a maiden from The Handmaid’s Tale and a Wonder Woman outfit. 2004 likely has the most timely references because the Jessica Biel plot is based more on costume jokes. 

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Also, Scooby Doo costumes. That might be a documentary in this world

The best part about the use of the costumes is to remind us that even if we don’t change, the rest of the world does, but not in a meaningful way. Pop culture moves on, but people are people. Some people get older and leave, like Hank Hippopopalous (Philip Baker Hall) from 1993 and some new people come in, like Flip (Rami Malek) in 2018, but the way the party goes is still the same.

Overall, this is a great episode of the show and of television in general. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Halloween Reviews/Netflix Review – In the Tall Grass: A Solid Adaptation of a Complicated Idea

A mind-bending horror story by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill gets adapted by Netflix. 


Becky Demuth (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) are driving across the country. Becky is six months pregnant and trying to find a way to get rid of the baby. They stop by a cornfield near an old church in what I think was Kansas in the book and hear a small boy named Tobin (Will Buie, Jr.) calling out for help. The two go into a field of tall grass and get separated quickly. They discover that the cornfield warps time and space, keeping them from finding each other or a way out. They discover that Tobin’s mom (Rachel Wilson) and dad (Patrick Wilson) are also in the grass field, as is Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), the father of Becky’s child. As madness and confusion start to set in, the group has to find a way out of the field. 

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Also, there is naturally weird stuff IN the grass.


So, the story this is based on is ironically much more simple and straightforward than the movie, the opposite of what usually happens with adaptations. This ends up making the movie more in line with the themes of the story involving confusion and uncertainty, with Becky’s uncertainty about her pregnancy mirrored with the uncertainty of the people in the grass. The book attempts to throw off the reader by having characters take actions they know to be logical only to get impossible results. The film has the advantage of being able to show an objective viewpoint of the unimaginable physics of the grass, with some of the shots being extremely unnerving. While the fact that we aren’t as close to the feelings of the characters as we are in the book, the acting and the cinematography still get the point across. 

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The church goes from hopeful to horrifying in mostly the same shots.

Most of the film isn’t traditionally scary. You’re not dealing with monsters or zombies or whatever. Instead, it’s the fact that the world that our characters are in does not follow any laws that we base our reality on. Events don’t happen in order. Time doesn’t flow at constant rates. Directions mean nothing. Standing still doesn’t mean you aren’t moving. Everything is broken and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s extremely off-putting and eerie, leaving you feel uncomfortable the entire time. The one thing that is certain in the film is death, revealing that the only thing that is beyond the reach of the grass are dead things. 

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*Insert Ominous Music*

The acting in the movie is solid, though I admit that it’s the atmosphere that makes it scary. Patrick Wilson remains a treasure and his ability to play batsh*t crazy makes for a lot of entertainment. The thing that he ends up finding inside of the grass isn’t exactly explained, but that’s part of the horror. The movie ends significantly differently from the book, although it does contain one of the most disturbing elements in the book’s ending. If you read the story, this is still worth seeing.

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Seriously, kudos to his crazy.

If you like psychological horror or, to a lesser extent, cosmic horror, give this one a watch.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – The Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in Years

Netflix gives us a prequel to Jim Henson’s film The Dark Crystal and it captures the spirit, imagination, and pants-crapping horror of the original.


The Planet Thra is a living entity which shares its life force with all of its creatures through the Crystal of Truth, a mass of concentrated energy. Of all of the lifeforms on Thra, the most favored are the Gelflings, a race of small humanoids who ruled over most of the planet through their seven kingdoms. A thousand years ago, two new races arrived on Thra, the Uru Mystics and the Bird-like Skeksis, cracking the crystal in the process. The Mystics secluded themselves and studied the mysteries of Thra while the Skeksis took control of the Crystal of Truth and started to drain the energy from it, causing it to become the Dark Crystal. As the custodians of the Crystal, the Skeksis rule over the Gelflings, who believe them to be benevolent and immortal. However, the Skeksis have discovered that they can make themselves nigh-indestructible by consuming the essence, the life and soul, of Gelflings. It’s up to three Gelflings – Rian, the Warrior (Taron Egerton), Brea, the Princess of Knowledge (Anna Taylor-Joy), and Deet, the underground seer (Nathalie Emmanuel) – to stop the Skekis’ plan to devour their world.

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Let’s assume this has already been airbrushed on a van.

END SUMMARY (Spoilers for the original film The Dark Crystal)

If you haven’t seen the original film The Dark Crystal, I honestly cannot recommend watching it first. As this is a prequel, I think that it might be better to watch this series and then watch the film to see how eventually the whole conflict resolves. If you have, however, seen the film, then you will know from the beginning that this story wasn’t going to be super happy.

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The part where our leads are basically the last of their kind bodes poorly for their parents.

The Dark Crystal was a pretty dark venture for a movie made by the guy who brought us The Muppets. Jim Henson was pretty honest from the beginning that he intended the film to be terrifying to children. He believed that it should be a throwback to the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales, because, much like Secret of Nimh director Don Bluth, he thought children benefited from being scared as long as they got a happy ending. This theory was fully tested in The Dark Crystal, which starts off with a showing of the horrifying Skeksis and only gets worse from there.

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As opposed to the mystics who are mostly just goofy.

The Skeksis are one of the best villains ever created for a children’s movie/TV Show, because they’re simultaneously horrifying and cartoonish. They’re essentially giant, clumsy vultures with absurd voices that often act so over-the-top in their indulgence of vice that they seem almost harmless, right until they reveal that they are doing things that would make Cobra Commander blush. In the movie, that includes torturing sentient creatures, eating said creatures, genetically creating monstrosities, and, oh yeah, drinking the life-force of Gelflings to stay young. In the film, it’s implied that they’ve killed and devoured most of the Gelflings for this purpose. This show is the beginning of that process and contains some of the most grim and genuinely horrifying implications of it, ranging from forcing Gelflings to betray their own kind for safety to making it clear that they’re not just eating the Gelflings, but sucking their total souls away and condemning them to eternal torment. Some of the scenes genuinely made me feel scared, despite the acts happening to puppets. Seriously, my stomach churned with the screams.

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They are also just dicks most of the time. Like… total dicks. 

The main narrative of the show is the traditional fantasy fare, with all of the characters going on a quest across the various realms of the world of Thra, with a number of side characters undergoing their own arcs. Much like with the film, a lot of the character arcs actually belong to the Skeksis and their internal politics, particularly the rise and fall of the Chamberlain skekSil (Simon Pegg) from his position as the favorite of the Emperor skekSo (Jason Isaacs). We also deal with the conflicts between the seven kingdoms of the Gelflings, particularly of the All-Maudra, the queen of the race (Helena Bonham-Carter). Basically, this is more a story about the world of Thra and its eventual fate than of any of the characters. Despite this, most of the characters are distinct and well-crafted, even though they’re mostly archetypes. 

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The one on the right with the spoon is even a Paladin.

The puppetry is what you would expect from the Jim Henson Company and the set pieces are wonderful. The sheer size of the world they created and all of the creatures that populate it is a worthy expansion from the source.

Also puppet swordfights.

Overall, I think this was a great prequel to the film, even if, by implication, stuff’s gonna go bad from here. We haven’t quite gotten to the events of the movie, so they could still make more episodes of this, and hopefully will, but whether they do or not this was well made. I enjoyed it. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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