Session 9: Let’s Go Crazy – Netflix Review / 13 Reviews of Halloween

A team trying to clean up an old abandoned asylum find… I guess what you might expect in an old abandoned asylum?

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Gordon (Peter Mullan) is the owner of a company who takes a rush job to remove all of the asbestos in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. His crew includes: Mike (Stephen Gevedon), who knows much about the building’s history; Phil (David Caruso), his second-in-command who is dealing with a breakup; Hank (Josh Lucas), a gambling addict; and Jeff (Brendan Sexton III), Gordon’s nyctophobic nephew (afraid of the dark). While in the asylum, Mike discovers a box containing a total of nine sessions of audio-recorded interviews with a former patient named Mary Hobbes (Jurian Hughes). As they start getting to work, Mike starts listening to Mary’s tapes, finding out that she had dissociative identity disorder. Soon, strange things start happening around the asylum. It turns out that some things might be more than just a trick of the mind.

Spoiler: Asbestos is NOT the real killer.

END SUMMARY

The key to this movie is the atmosphere. It starts with the building itself. It’s a giant, sprawling relic of the past that clearly has a bad history, but it’s not as apparently menacing as many horror settings. It’s got a lot of light areas and white walls, but also a lot of hallways that quickly turn into underground tunnels. The open spaces being connected by tight and isolated rooms allows everything to go from “okay” to “oh no” at a moment’s notice, keeping the viewer always on guard. The fact that everywhere has signs of decay, death, and torment only serves to heighten the feeling that this is not a good place to be. But, again, it doesn’t always rely on dark corners and creepy hallways to have the threat. Sometimes, a room filled with an almost eerie light can provide the grounds for the feelings of dread that permeate the film. Also, it was an actual abandoned asylum, so there’s an extra level of authenticity to the creepiness.

The crew sometimes used stuff that was left in the building. Creepy stuff.

The other key to the atmosphere is how well these characters come off as authentic. They all have their own reasons for taking this job and they all are desperate to get out of their current situations. Their interactions show a closeness and a joviality. That makes it even more disturbing when, as the film progresses, their talks start to get more and more strained and aggressive. Moreover, all of them have different reasons why they might suddenly be growing stranger. One of the best parts of the film is that you can never be sure who is being influenced by what, even when the really bad things start to happen. By having almost everyone in the film being a suspect and an unreliable narrator, you can never be certain of what is real. 

You know how you joke about lobotomizing your friends? … everyone does that, right?

The cinematography in this film, while not incredibly unique, does a great job of framing shots such that you can never quite get the full picture of what’s happening, even when there don’t appear to be any supernatural forces at work. It gets taken up a notch later when we find out that someone on the crew seems to have completely snapped, but we don’t know who and we don’t know if it’s even real. When the final revelations in the film start to snowball, the certainty comes almost as a relief even as the horror rises.

Great framing and color work here.

Overall, this is a great work of psychological horror. Give it a try.

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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Cursed: A New Take On Arthurian Legend – Netflix Mini-Review

Netflix brings Frank Miller’s story of the Lady of the Lake to the small screen.

SUMMARY 

Nimue (Katherine Langford) is a young Fey woman whose kind are being hunted by Christians throughout medieval England, led by the cruel Father Carden (Peter Mullan). She is given a magic sword and told to seek out Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgard), the magician. Along the way, she meets a young mercenary named Arthur (Devon Terrell) who dreams of becoming a knight and his sister Morgana (Shalom Brune-Franklin). Nimue finds herself in the middle of a major war that will shape the future of two different kingdoms. Other supporting characters include King Uther Pendragon (Sebastian Armesto), Father Carden’s Fey hunter the Weeping Monk (Daniel Sharman), Sir Gawain (Matt Stokoe), Pym (Lily Newmark), and the Red Spear (Bella Dayne).

If she throws the sword at someone, that person is king. Screw you, Dennis.

END SUMMARY

I feel like all of the adaptations of medieval fantasy series that Netflix has been putting out lately (The Witcher, The Letter for the King) is an attempt to find their own Game of Thrones franchise now that the original has ended. So far, while I don’t think they’ve quite picked up the mantle left by that show, I have enjoyed their efforts. Out of all three, this is probably the most accessible to the casual viewer. 

It also has the most hair that isn’t on Geralt.

The show does a good job of quickly explaining most of the rules of this world. Magic is real, but most people, including the Fey, can’t use it. The Fey are persecuted by the Catholic Church and the Red Paladins. Nimue is more discriminated against than others because she is marked as being special and more magical. Moreover, it pretty quickly establishes that none of the characters will be bound by their regular roles in Arthurian Mythology. I’ve never read the original Frank Miller series, so I’m not sure how closely the show follows it. For example, Nimue, traditionally the mostly passive Lady of the Lake, takes on the role of the wielder of a magical sword and as a rebel leader. It pays just enough tribute that everyone might believe that this is the actual story behind the Arthurian legends, but that Nimue’s role was downplayed due to sexism over the centuries. Not that the show has made this explicit, yet. 

History skips the badass women on horses a lot.

The performances are all pretty solid, particularly Skarsgard as Merlin and Devon Terrell as Arthur. Both are given a level of moral ambiguity that isn’t usually found in the traditional mythos and both play it out with an appropriate level of gravitas. The show’s relatively color-blind casting is a rarity for a series like this, and it’s refreshing that not much is made of it. I am sure this is not the first casting of King Arthur by a black actor, but I damned well cannot think of another one. Skarsgard, though, gets to be the first Merlin I can think of that goes Full HAM, in the sense of being a completely unstoppable force of violence. It’s really only one scene, but it basically reminds me of the Darth Vader scene from Rogue One. It’s a group of normals versus a sword-wielding demigod, and they do not have the good sense to run and hide.

At least it’s not the King Arthur with Keira Knightley.

Overall, I enjoyed the show and I hope it gets another season. 

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.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – Ozark (Seasons 1-3): The Best-Acted Crime Drama on Television

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star as a couple who are forced to work for a drug cartel.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free for Season 3)

Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) is a financial advisor who has been laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. His partner Bruce (Josh Randall) is caught skimming millions of dollars. Facing his own execution, Marty tells the cartel that he has a plan to launder millions of dollars in the Ozarks. The cartel gives him a short time to replace all of the money that Bruce stole, so Marty moves with his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and his children Charlotte and Jonah (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner) to the Ozarks and sets up buying properties to launder money. He hires local criminal family member Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), is pursued by FBI agents Petty and Evans (Jason Butler Harner and McKinley Belcher III), and tries to work with local drug growers Jacob and Darlene Snell (Peter Mullan and Lisa Emery). Eventually Marty and Wendy set up a casino in the Ozarks to increase the amount they can launder.

Ozark - 1Byrdes
That feeling when you have to launder money in the middle of nowhere or die.

END SUMMARY

I should start by saying that I was almost certainly going to like any show that included both Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in the cast. I think that they are both unbelievably good dramatic performers who also can deliver killer laughs when the occasion calls for it. Putting them together in a dark crime drama allows for a wide range of performances, including playing very strongly into Bateman’s deadpan comedy moments that he did so well on Arrested Development

Ozark - 2Byrdes
He’s a much better father on this than Arrested Development

However, even though they are both amazing, the supporting cast in this show really brings it to another level. Julia Garner’s performance as the abused outcast of her redneck crime family is phenomenal, as is Janet McTeer’s performance as Helen Pierce, the cartel’s ruthless attorney who shows up in Season 2. Everyone has very well defined motives and watching all of them interact never ceases to create amazing scenes. 

Ozark - 3Julia
She’s just the right level of redneck. 

The writing and pacing of the show are both amazing. The show frequently escalates the stakes and changes the status of the characters, but it always feels appropriate and organic. Similar to Breaking Bad, we see the members of the Byrde family forced to take greater and greater measures to protect themselves from the cartel and the FBI, but we also see that they start to enjoy aspects of the dangerous lifestyle. 

If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend it strongly.

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.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.