Friday, December 14, 2012

Beneath the Skin: How they Did the Transformation Scene in 'An American Werewolf in London'

"An American Werewolf in London" has one of the most realistic appearing werewolf transformation sequences that I have ever seen. The movie was made in a time when CG effects were very expensive, and practical effects were king. While some companies now solely rely on CG as a crutch for their movie monsters, I find that those that still do it old school tend to have monsters that are far more real looking and convincing than their digital counterparts.

It's easy to see that the CG transformation lacks the weight and terror that the practical effects bring to the table. There's several reasons for that, from pacing issues to lack a of convincing sound effects. Most of which were handled quite well by "An American Werewolf in London."

The special effects for An American Werewolf were created by Rick Baker. The sequence shown above was so good, that he received an Oscar for it.

The animatronics used to create the two minute long agonizing werewolf transformation scene were quite elaborate. There were several animatronic heads made for the facial changes of the shot. While the skin and fur are now long gone, it's easy to see how they made the forehead and cheek bones protrude, and more importantly, how they made the lycanthrope jaw extension look so good.

The sections of the cheeks and forehead move by pushing air through syringes.

The animatronics consists of a fiberglass shell, foam and wolf hair. The teeth in the jaw are larger than the actor's teeth, but smaller than the final teeth of the werewolf, which I believe is one of the things that lends to the scene's realism.

When taking into consideration that Baker was 30 years old and worked with a crew with an average age of 19, many of whom never worked on a film before, I think they did a fantastic job.

But it's not just the visual effects that make this scene scary, it's the sound effects as well.  This storyboard from the movie shows us that these sounds were desired from the very beginning of the movie design.

The sounds of bones crunching, hair growing, the feet elongating and the spine popping are so well timed, that it makes the scene all the more believable. Truly, it's a work of art that has yet to be outdone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top 13 Scariest Ghost Movies

There are a lot of ghost movies in the world, and like ghosts themselves,  some are good, some are bad, and some are downright terrifying. The good ghost movies avoid cliches and get right into the suspense and horror of being haunted by the vengeful dead.

Here's my list of the top 13 scariest ghost movies. Enjoy!

13. The Devil's Backbone (2001)

"What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber."

1939, near the end of the three year Spanish Civil War, The right-wing Nationalists are about to defeat the left-wing Republican forces. Carlos, son of a Republican war hero is dropped off by his tutor at an orphanage that is far away from civilization, where an undetonated bomb sits ominously in the courtyard. The orphanage is run by a strict headmistress  Carmen, the kind Professor Casares, and the brutal, sociopathic caretaker Jacinto who hides a terrible secret that the ghost of Santi, the boy who disappeared when the bomb fell, is desperate to share with the living in an effort to stop Jacinto from getting away with murder.

This cinematic masterpiece by Guillermo Del Toro is a wonderfully scary ghost movie that is both an allegory for the Spanish Civil War, and a terrific fairy tale all wrapped up in one.

12. The Dark (2005)

Sarah and her mother have not been getting along. Her mother thinks that a trip to visit her father in Wales will be just the thing to fix their strained relationship. But she's dead wrong.

While taking a stroll along the cliffs near the sea, they come across a memorial with a missing plate, with the word Annwyn (pronounced ah-noon) written on it. Annwyn is the Welsh afterlife, and is represented by the water.

Soon afterward, Sarah vanishes while walking along the beach and is replaced with a girl named Ebrill- the dead daughter of a local shepherd and the town pastor, who died tragically when her father, desperate to save her, gave her to the sea where she was swept away to Annwyn. In an effort to get her back by exchanging a life for a life, he convinces his followers to throw themselves over the cliffs to enter Paradise.

Ebrill did come back, but something returned with her, something evil. Soon the sheep began throwing themselves off the cliff and into the waters.

When Adele and Sarah visit James, the sheep begin to once again throw themselves off the cliff, an ominous sign that the evil that Ebrill brought with her into the land of the living has returned.

This little known ghost movie has an interesting folk-lore premise and some very creepy scenes that you have to see to believe. It is based on the book "Sheep" by Simon Maginn.

11. Fragile

Jaume Balagueró's "Fragile"  is about Amy Nicholls, an American Nurse, who gets a job at the dilapidated English children's hospital, Mercy Falls, to help transfer the last eight patients to a new hospital prior to the building being shut down for good. Soon after she starts working there, Amy learns that there is a malevolent spirit, called "The Mechanical Girl", a ghost wearing orthopedic braces that is attacking the children and breaking their bones.

This ghost movie has a tense atmosphere, and a strong female protagonist who will do anything to protect her young charges. It covers the themes of loneliness, and the bonding that occurs between nurses and children when they are patients in a hospital and suffering from an incurable, often painful, disease. Unfortunately, some nurses become too attached to their wards, and will do anything to keep them in the hospital.

The paranormal elements, and the mystery behind the Mechanical Girl is well done and creates an eery amount of suspense and dread that many other ghost movies fail to produce.

10. Shutter (2004)

After being involved in a hit-and-run accident, a photographer, Tun, starts to see white faces appear in his photos. It is soon clear that the ghost of the accident victim is haunting him, and she won't stop until she gets her revenge.

The original version of "Shutter" is a fantastic Thai horror movie that has a lot of really intense, scary moments that you have to see to believe. When the ghost appears in the apartment and begins to haunt Tun's girlfriend is when the movie really starts to get good.

9. The Orphanage (2007)

You  may have noticed that this is the second movie with Guillermo del Toro's name on it that appears on my list of Top 13 Scariest Ghost Movies. There's a reason for that. He has a great talent for story telling and interweaving historical set pieces with heart breaking tragedies and his appreciation for horror movies shows in every work he undertakes.

In "The Orphanage," Laura and her husband Carlos have moved back in to her childhood home, which also happens to be an orphanage. She wants to turn it into a home for disabled children. While living there, her adopted son Simon makes a friend with a masked boy, Tomas, and starts playing a hiding game with him, where they hide other people's possessions and Simon has to find them in order to get his wish granted.

Unfortunately, Simon uncovers his adoption papers and learns that he is HIV-positive. Angry with his adopted mother for not telling him the truth about his past, or that he is deathly ill, he runs away and hides from her. Laura desperately searches for Simon, and encounters Tomas, whom she believes is a ghost.

After six months of searching, there are strange banging sounds in the home, and other instances of paranormal activity, which leads Laura to believe that the ghosts of children that died at the orphanage are responsible for her son's disappearance.

The interaction between Laura and the ghosts makes some really good scares, with my favorite being the one where she plays a hide-and-seek game with them.

8. Stir of Echoes (1999)

"Stir of Echoes" is based on a book of the same name by Richard Matheson, which I highly recommend by the way.

Tom is a normal guy living in a working class neighborhood in Chicago. One night at a party, his wife's sister Lisa, convinces him to let her hypnotize him. Tom doesn't believe in it, but ends up being hypnotized anyway.  Lisa ordered him to become more open-minded, but instead of making him be less cynical and jaded, it actually opens his third eye and allows him to receive messages from the dead.

This movie is one of the most underrated movies from 1999. It was completely overshadowed by "The Sixth Sense," which pales in comparison.

"Stir of Echoes" is more of a slow burner, and involves a tormented man attempting to solve a murder and find the body of the dead girl that is haunting him and his son (who can also communicate with the dead). The slow build of tension and suspense allows the frightening conclusion of the movie to stick with you for quite some time. At least, I know that it did for me.

7. The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)

"The St. Francisville Experiment" came out one year after "The Blair Witch Project," and the found footage film's influence on the movie is hard to miss. It follows the same format of introducing the people involved in the ghost hunting experiment, laying down the folklore and local legends of what occurred in the mansion as a means to set up the foundation for the scares of the movie, and then proceeds to place the group of four strangers in a building over night; a formula for the boiler room plot device where some of the tension is caused by the fact that the people that are involved in the story cannot leave or run away from it.

In "The St. Francisville Experiment," ghosts of the slaves of the sadistic murderer, Delphine LaLaurie (an actual historical figure in New Orleans who has had her name slandered and has been branded as a serial killer according to local legends) haunt the LaLaurie house. A group of four people has been gathered to enter the house and spend the night. While there, they record everything that they experience, and it's soon clear that they are not alone, and that the ghosts are real.

Unfortunately for the ghost hunters, the vicious ghost of the house's mistress has remained behind, and has turned the tables on them, making the ghost hunters, the hunted.

This is one of those horror movies that are best when watched in the dark, when you are all alone and in the mood for a good scare. While there are some cheesy moments in the first half of the movie, once the action ramps up and the ghosts start to haunt them, it really gets good and spooky. Fans of "Grave Encounters" will especially like this ghost movie.

6. The Ring (2002)

Based on "Ringu" a book by Koji Suzuki, this ghost movie is about a cursed video tape. After you watch the tape, the phone rings. The voice on the other end says, "Seven days." After seven days, the vengeful hungry ghost of Samara comes for you and kills you.

The main character, Rachel, is a newspaper reporter. When her niece dies of fright, she begins investigating the circumstances surrounding her death and uncovers a cursed video tape. If she can't find a way to placate the ghost that killed her niece, she will soon be its next victim.

"The Ring" is one of those rare U.S. remakes that was actually better than the original film. In this case, it is a remake of  the Japanese horror film, "Ringu."  While some of the main plot points of the original movie have been dropped, the U.S. version added several layers to the myth of the Video Tape of Death, added character development to make us really care for the main character's young son, and overall created a well paced and scary ghost movie.

The movie was so good, that it brought J-horror into popular American culture, well, at least in many horror circles at any rate, and that's a good thing. While Americans generally don't scare as easily as the Japanese (or so I'm told), there are story elements from Japanese culture that are absolutely fascinating. The mixture of American and Japanese ghost stories has created a wonderfully terrifying movie.

Actually, "The Ring" has two scary movies in one, the first is the absolutely creepy cursed video tape that perpetuates the curse, and allows the ghost to kill more victims, and the second is a movie that is more fast paced and suspenseful ghost story than it's overseas counterpart.

5. Darkness (2002)

"Darkness" is a film directed by Jaume Balaguero, the co-director of [REC] and [REC] 2, and stars Anna Paquin in what I think is the best role I have ever seen her play.

The movie is about a teenage girl, Regina, who moves into a haunted house in Spain with her family. Her father suffers from mental breakdowns and periods of psychotic attacks, so when he first starts having problems it is thought that the stress of moving into a new home is the cause of it.

Regina's little brother Paul, suddenly becomes terrified of the dark, and claims that something is living under his bed. As her father slips further into insanity, her brother becomes more and more afraid. After observing the power outages in the home and her father and brother's behavior, she believes that the power outages and their problems are related. So she hunts down the architect of the house and learns that it was built for a dark magic ritual, and that the ghosts of the children that were killed there are roaming the halls while a dark presence is waiting to kill the last sacrificial victim.

4. Session 9 (2001)

"Session 9" is one of the best psychological horror films I have ever seen. On top of that, it is also one of the scariest ghost movies out there, which is why it is on this list.

I love ghost stories that take place in abandoned insane asylums. Between the atmosphere and the eerie backdrop of a dilapidated building that always seems to have at least one wheelchair left behind, they always manage to creep me out.

In "Session 9", Gordon Fleming and his hazmat removal crew are hired to take out the asbestos from the Danvers State Hospital, which was shut down in 1985. One member of Gordon's crew uncovers an evidence box in a tunnel beneath the hospital. Inside the box are nine tapes of therapy sessions with patient number 444, Mary Hobbes.

When Mike finds a working tape player, he starts to listen to the tapes, which slowly uncover the bizarre, twisted mind of a killer suffering from multiple personality disorder. As we learn about the personalities and what happened to Mary, the members of the cleaning crew begin to be killed off, one by one. But is it the ghost of Mary, or the evil entity that claims to possess her who calls himself Simon that is killing the men?

This low budget film more than makes up for its small pocket book with big scares and intense, spooky scenes that will leave on the edge of your seat, constantly looking behind you to make sure that something isn't standing right behind you, waiting to pounce.

3. Grave Encounters (2011)

Pouty-lips girl aside, "Grave Encounters" is one of those movies that actually earned the hype surrounding it. Really, it is. This found footage film features ghost hunters that were a part of a paranormal reality TV show called "Grave Encounters." The ill-fated sixth episode took place in the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, which was shut down years ago, and is supposed to be haunted.

What was meant to be another installment in the series turned out to be the last episode the crew ever filmed. It starts out innocently enough, with the crew interviewing people about the hauntings and talking with the groundskeeper, who shows them a window that opens by itself every night.

They lock themselves inside the building over night to begin the paranormal investigation and capture everything on camera. One by one, the crew begins to disappear, and it's made apparent that the building is not just haunted, it's sentient and has become a labyrinthine maze of horror. The ghosts of former patients and the doctors that performed terrible experiments upon them, up to and including transorbital lobotomies, won't leave them alone. Trapped in a realm of forever night, where the pitch black darkness threatens to swallow them whole while they are relentlessly hunted and hounded by the tormented souls of the tortured dead at every turn.

What I really loved about this movie is that it wasn't predictable, and it borrowed ideas from "House of Leaves" and faerie abductions, where time has no meaning and dawn never comes to bring light to the world. The terrible fate of Lance Preston and his crew induces mind numbing horror in the viewer, and it reminded me a lot of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.

2. The Changeling (1980)

"The Changeling" is based on true life events that author Russel Hunter claims to have experienced when he lived at the Henry Treat Roger Mansions in Denver, Colorado.

Composer John Russell is a grieving widow looking for solace. He moves into a secluded estate near Seattle Washington in an attempt to return to composing music and picking up the pieces of his broken life. It is soon clear that he is not alone, and the house is haunted by a violent ghost of a young boy who was murdered there years ago.

Some of the best ghost stories have settings that take on a personality and life of their own. Much like the hospital in "Grave Encounters," the Victorian house that Russell lives in has a looming presence. There are tense moments when you can practically hear the house breathing as the poor man attempts to uncover the mystery behind the ghostly apparition's origin.

The scares in this ghost movie are subtle and the tension builds up beautifully in this utterly terrifying ghost movie. Don't watch this one alone. I mean it.

1. Poltergeist (1982)

"Poltergeist" is about a middle class American family, the Freelings, who move into a haunted house. The dark malevolent forces are playful at first, but things take a bad turn once their youngest child, Carol Anne, is stolen and taken over to the other side; the Land of the Dead.

Diane and Steven Freeling have to confront the invisible forces that are manipulating objects in the home and becoming increasingly dangerous as they attempt to get their little girl back.

Once they contact parapsychologists from UC Irvine, they learn that it's not just one ghost inhabiting their house, but a whole slew of them, and they are being led by an evil presence called "The Beast," who is using Carol Anne to manipulate the other spirits and use them to its own gain. What exactly it means to accomplish is never truly revealed, but this doesn't matter.

All I know is, you shouldn't build a house on a cemetery that is still inhabited by interred corpses. It never ends well.

"Poltergeist" has to be the scariest PG movie ever made.

Never before has static on a television instilled so much horror.

Even at 30 years old, this horror film still manages to scare me. It's the clown man, that damned clown doll. Gets me every time.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

'The Walking Dead' Episode 304: 'Killer Within'

Episode 304 "Killer Within" starts with someone making a trail of blood and guts of a deer up to the prison and through an open gate. He is drawing the walkers in on purpose, to get rid of Rick and his group, and boy does it have disastrous results.

While they are out taking about how they are going to clear the corpses from the prison yard, the two remaining prisoners, Axel and Oscar, approach them and ask if they can join the group. It was hard for them to dispose of the prisoners' bodies, some of them were their friends.

Rick doesn't think it's a good idea, but T-Dog says that they should let them in. Whatever they did to get in there, the world that disapproved of it is gone, and they deserve a second chance. Rick says no, and dismisses them.

Meanwhile, at Woodbury, Michonne is checking out the National Guard trucks and takes note that there are traces of wet blood in the bullet holes. When the Governor approaches her, she asks him about how the soldiers died. He tries to brush it off like it's nothing and tries to convince her and Andra to stay in his town.

At the prison, Rick tells Glenn to take a week's worth of supplies to Axel and Oscar and send them out of the prison and on their merry way. But the prisoners don't want to leave. They are terrified of what lies beyond the prison gates, and know that they don't stand a chance of surviving on their own. Axel (who is portraying a suspicious amount of gratitude and constantly is offering to help them with things) asks Daryl if he can give his motorcycle a tune up, and is denied.

Hershel is struggling to walk with crutches and has Beth and Lori helping him learn how to walk with them.

At Woodbury, Michonne tells Andrea that she is planning on heading over to the coast, to find a boat or an island to live on; someplace away from the walkers and a lot of people. Andrea, being the doe-eyed idiot that she is, doesn't want to leave Woodbury. She likes it there and is enjoying the peace and safety of the fortified community. Michonne tells her that there is something wrong with Woodbury, and the Governor. Andrea thinks that she is being paranoid, when in reality, she really ought to be listening to her. Michonne's gut instinct has helped them survive thus far, and it's mind boggling as to why she wouldn't listen to her friend now. The only thing that I can think of is that she has been seduced by both the Governor's charisma, and the charming appeal of living in a functioning society once again. But there is a vicious ugly truth hiding beneath all of the smiles and good manners, and Andrea will find out soon enough that she once again has fallen for the bad guy.

At the prison, they are clearing out the yard as Lori and Carl help Hershel step outside. Glenn and Daryl seem happy to see Hershel on his feet, or in this case foot, again and remark on just how tough that old buzzard is. But their happiness is short lived, as the group suddenly finds themselves surrounded by walkers.

Rick runs to help as the group is separated and scattered by the walkers. Beth runs over to Hershel and they lock themselves into a fenced-in entrance to the prison. Maggie runs off with Lori and Carl and they attempt to get to a safe place in the prison cell block.

T-Dog and Carol run to shut the courtyard gate. Unfortunately, there are walkers inside the fence near the gate and one of them bites T-Dog's shoulder before he can completely shut it. T-Dog and Carol then run into the closest doorway in the cell block.

Back at Woodbury, Merle talks to Andrea about the farm where she last saw Daryl. She points it out on a map and tells him that it's been months since they were attacked by walkers and driven away from the farm. Merle is positive that if he can get to the farm he can track his little brother down. He asks her to go with him, but she refuses. Merle says that they were both abandoned by that group, and then rescued by the Governor.

Andrea for some reason, display compassion for Merle and trust, which is weird. She quickly turns the other cheek the moment Merle apologizes for the things that he did to her. I wouldn't trust that man with a water balloon, let alone my life. But maybe that's just me. When Andrea asks him if the Governor is a good man, he tells her that he was on the verge of dying when they found him. He could've left him to die, but he didn't. Instead he took him in, so yeah, he's a good man.

Back at the prison, Glenn discovers that someone cut the gate and let the walkers in. Rick suspiciously eyes Axel and Oscar when they walk up to see what is going on, and accuses them of doing it. Suddenly, the prison alarm goes off, attracting more walkers to the fence. Oscar tells Rick that the back-up generators have to be running, as it is an electronic alarm. He goes with Rick to turn it off. Someone is messing with them, and that someone is dangerous and playing for keeps.

Meanwhile, Carol tells T-Dog that she doesn't know much, but she'll do what she can to help him with his bite. He tells her that they need to keep going and they continue to make their way through the labyrinthine hallways of the prison.

Carl, Maggie and Lori are running from walkers, which are appearing around every corner. When they find themselves surrounded, Carl finds the door to the boiler room and they run inside.

At Woodbury, Merle approaches the Governor and tells him that he wants to go find his baby brother. While he understands how he feels, he can't afford to lose him and refuses to let Merle go. He tells him that if he has more information on where he was last seen, or where they were headed, that he would let him go.

Back at the prison, Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Axel and Oscar split up. Rick, Daryl and Oscar head to the back-up generators. Glenn and Axel head off to look for the missing members of their group.

Lori tells Maggie that she's going into labor. Maggie panics, she doesn't know much about helping someone give birth, she's only done it with the farm animals. Lori tells her that she'll be fine as Maggie undresses her from the waist down.

Maggie tells Carl that he's going to have to help her with his mom, but he isn't sure what to do. Lori asks her to help her stand up and she starts pushing through her contractions, but she soon starts to bleed heavily, which is not a good sign.

T-Dog and Carol make their way over to the laundry room, but their path is blocked. They are out of ammo and have no other weapons.  T-Dog runs towards them shoves the walkers away, telling Carol to run. T-Dog is attacked and killed by the walkers while Carol runs off through a set of double doors, into the laundry room and disappears. Literally. The only evidence of her passing is her scarf. Just like when Sophia ran off when they were attacked by a walker herd on the highway and left her doll behind. I honestly hope that Carol shows up within the next couple of episodes. If she winds up a walker locked up in the Governor's shed, I'm really going to be disappointed.

What's interesting, is that while I was watching the episode and T-Dog voiced his compassion for the prisoners, I joked with my S.O. that he was going to die. And, wouldn't you know it,  he did die. Just like Dale, T-Dog  voiced compassion towards an unknown element, such as the prisoners, that want to join the group in an episode and he died. Is this merely a coincidence? Or is this going to become a predictable pattern that ultimately results in a cliche, like the extras that wear the red shirts on Star Trek that are the only ones to die on missions.

At Woodbury the Governor and Andrea are having drinks in his apartment. He tells her that is first name is Phillip, and that his wife died in a car accident before the world went all to hell. Andrea thanks him and he tells her that they can leave in the morning and that they are welcome to return to Woodbury at any time, which of course, turns out to be a lie. Andrea then confronts Michonne in their room, telling her that she wants to stay. Michonne, disgusted, leaves her in a huff.

Daryl, Rick and Oscar find the generator room and enter it, only to be attacked by Andrew- the prisoner that Rick left to die in a courtyard full of walkers. Rick drops his gun and Oscar picks it up.

Andrew tells him to shoot Rick. Oscar shoots Andrew and kills him, then hands the gun back to Rick. They turn off the generator and the alarm stops.

Lori is in serious trouble and is lying on the floor. She knows that she is not going to make and tells Maggie that she is not going to lose her baby, she has to cut her open. Carl was born via Cesarean section, and the baby has to be born that way too.

Lori tells Carl that's she's proud of him, and that he's the best thing she ever did in a very tearful, heartbreaking goodbye. Carl, crying, hugs her and tells her that he loves her.

Maggie then takes her knife and slices open Lori's stomach. She has Carl help her find the uterus and gently pulls the baby out. After a moment of coaxing, the baby begins to breathe and makes mewling sounds.

Carl looks at the corpse of his mother and tells Maggie that they can't just leave her like that, she'll turn. Maggie walks away with the baby as Carl raises his gun and shoots his mother in the head, to prevent her from becoming a walker.  They head outside to find the others and Maggie is holding the baby in her arms, tearfully saying "I'm sorry," over and over again.

Glenn rushes over to comfort a distraught Maggie and she sobs in his arms.

Carl stands there, crying as Rick collapses in grief and has a total breakdown, sobbing on the cold concrete while the others look on in shock.

Friday, November 16, 2012

'The Walking Dead' Episode 303 'Walk with Me'

In this episode of "The Walking Dead" we have the return of Merle Dixon, we learn more about Michonne, and see that Andrea has not grown as a character in the slightest since last season. Sigh.

Andrea and Michonne are out walking her pet walkers when they spot a helicopter crash. Curious, they go to investigate the plume of smoke. Upon their arrival, Michonne ties her walkers to a tree. Just when she's about to go and see if there are any survivors, several vehicles pull up, forcing the two women to hide behind some bushes.

The Governor, his right hand man Merle, and some of his men investigate the crash site. The Governor makes a point to stab the dead soldiers in the head, which shocks both Andrea and Michonne. They don't know that everyone who dies, no matter the cause, turns into a walker. The Governor finds that the pilot is still alive and they remove him from the helicopter and put him in one of the vehicles.

The pet walkers become agitated at the sounds of the men and their chains rattle. Michonne panics and cuts off their heads, hoping that they weren't heard, but they've already been spotted.

Merle Dixon tells them not to do anything stupid and when Andrea turns around and sees him, she faints.

Andrea comes to in the backseat of a moving vehicle. She is blindfolded. She calls out for Michonne, who tells her that she is there. Merle shushes them and soon they find themselves being driven to a wooden gate.

Hours later, Andrea awakens. She has received an IV treatment, probably because she was dehydrated and most likely has gotten some antibiotics. The doctor that is helping her won't tell her where she is, and informs her that she'll have to talk to the Governor about that.

Merle enters the room and talks to her. We learn that he almost bled to death after he cut off his hand and that if it weren't for the Governor finding him and taking care of him, he would've died. Andrea tells him that Daryl went to look for him in Atlanta, but he was already gone. Merle wants to know if he's still alive, and Andrea tells him that the last time she saw him was last summer.

Merle acknowledges that he was quite the jerk the last time they spoke, and thanks her for telling him about his baby brother. It's important to him that he gets out there and finds him. After all he's done to Daryl, Merle still feels a sense of filial loyalty to him.

When the Governor enters the room, Michonne pounces on him and demands to get her weapons back. He calmly tells her that they are free to leave in the morning, and that they'll get them back then. She's not happy with this and immediately doesn't trust the Governor. Unfortunately, her instincts about the man are soon proven right.

Andrea asks him why he shoved a knife into the skulls of dead men, and he informs her that he put them out of their misery and that anyone who dies becomes a "biter" aka walker. They didn't know, and the revelation is shocking to both her and Michonne.

The Governor gives Andrea and Michonne a quick tour of Woodbury- the fortified town that he runs with an iron fist- and escorts them to a room where clean clothes are ready for them. He leaves a man to guard their door "for their safety" and then goes on his merry way.  Michonne tells her that they need to get their weapons and get the heck out of Dodge as soon as possible. Andrea, visibly worn, tells her that they need to rest. Michonne acquiesces, but is visibly tense, watching everyone like a cat ready to strike.

The next day, the Governor walks them around the town and tells them that there are 73 people living there, and there has been no casualties since winter thanks to his strict nightly curfew. (Yeah, right.)
He leaves Andrea and MIchonne to wander the town and bask in the sunshine while talking with the locals.

The Governor visits the helicopter pilot, Welles, and asks him what happened. Welles tells him that he is working with a group of 10 men from the national guard and that he went ahead to scout for them. The place that they were camped at became over-run with walkers and they had to make a quick getaway. The Governor fishes for more information and finds out where he left the group and promises that he'll bring them back to Woodbury if he finds them alive.

At Milton's lab, Merle and Milton are arguing about something. The Governor interrupts and tells them to knock it off. He sends Merle to speak with Andrea to see if he can't get any more information about the group that she was traveling with.

Milton shows the Governor his latest research project, the corpses of Michonne's pet walkers. The heads are still alive. He notes that once the means to eat is removed, the walkers lose interest in attacking people. Michonne is smart, as she learned this and used them as repellent to ward off the roaming herds of walkers.

Andrea and Michonne are invited to breakfast with Milton and the Governor. They are visibly appreciative of the meal and Andrea engages in small talk while Michonne sits there, ready to bolt out the door at a moment's notice.

Milton asks them if they think that the walkers keep a trace of the person they once were, and asks if Michonne knew the men that became her walker pets. Ignores the question and asks for her weapons back. Of course, the Big G tells her to just take her time and rest while she can. She doesn't need to be in such a hurry to leave, right?

Once out of earshot, Michonne tells Andrea that she doesn't trust the Governor. Stupid Andrea, being the idiot that she is, wants to stay in Woodbury. She wants to enjoy the peace while she can. Michonne tells her that it's a bad idea. Andrea changes the subject by asking her about how she felt about killing the walkers that had protected them all winter. She retorts that it was easy and leaves her standing there, speechless.

The Governor, Merle, and some guys find the squad that the pilot Welles had left. The Governor drives up waving a white flag and steps out of his car with his hands in the air, urging them not to shoot, and telling them that they found Welles, that he was injured and that they're there to take them to him. When the captain puts his guard down and walks forward to speak with him, the Governor pulls out a gun and shoots him. His men pop up behind the squad members and kills them in cold blood. They take all of the weapons and their vehicles.

This scene is just ridiculous  How could trained military men, soldiers who have survived so long after the world fell to the walkers, be ambushed so easily and taken out without being able to return fire and shoot the Woodbury men dead? Seriously? And why bother with this sequence? It's already clear that the Governor isn't someone to trust, but instead of being subtle about it by keeping things ambiguous, they outright have him become a cardboard cut-out villain who murders people in cold blood. The men he killed were strong soldiers that he could've used to protect his town, but instead of recruiting them, he decides to just kill them and take their stuff. It just doesn't make any sense.

Soon after the execution of the soldiers, the Governor returns to Woodbury and puts their new vehicles and weapons on display, making a speech to the crowd about how it was unfortunate that the men didn't survive, but their weapons and ammo will make a good contribution to the town. Andrea watches this with a dreamy look in her eye, and it's clear that she's been tricked once again into believing that the bad guy is a totally cool dude that she so needs to get with, like now.

Andrea asks the Governor what his real name is and he smiles and says that he never tells.

After curfew at nightfall, we see the Governor watching pensively out of his apartment window and drinking whiskey. He enters a private room and sits in a big comfy chair and stares straight ahead, at the rows of stacked aquariums with live walker heads in water. The newest additions to his entertainment system are Welles and Michonne's pets.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

'American Horror Story: Asylum' Episode 2 'Tricks and Treats'

"Tricks and Treats" begins with the lovely Jenna Tatum hysterically running away from Bloody Face while she attempts to find her lover's cell phone in order to call for help. She is chased into the room where her hubby had his arm ripped of, and manages to get the phone just as Bloody Face stabs the love of her live to death. Well, sort of.... Even after being repeatedly stabbed in the chest, and bleeding profusely from the gaping wound where his arm used to be, he manages to muster up enough strength to body check Bloody Face later on in the next episode. Must be all that adrenaline.

Back in the past, Lana Lang's lesbian lover Wendy is sobbing into a handkerchief,  bemoaning the fact that she was so easily badgered into signing a legal document to have Lana admitted into Briarcliff. Her friends convince her to recant her signature and get Lana out of the asylum. That night Wendy leaves all of her windows wide open while she goes and takes a shower. Whatever possessed her to do so when there is a maniac killer on the loose murdering women in their homes is beyond me.

Shortly after walking out of the shower, Bloody Face kills her. Yeah. Didn't see that one coming.

Meanwhile, Lana has been busy writing on scraps of paper the events that are taking place in the asylum. Sister Jude steals her notes and Lana tells her that even though they are gone, she will still remember what she sees. So, Sister Jude tells Dr. Arden to give her electroshock therapy to cure her of her vile lesbianism, to make her forget.

 Ummm.... The writers do know that electroconvulsive therapy only causes the patient to forget the actual event of being shocked and once the confusion subsides for the most part their memory is intact, right? Typically, most people tend to recall events that occurred during the weeks prior to treatment, but there are cases where retrograde amnesia does occur. I'm betting that's what the all-knowing and all-powerful Sister Jude is counting on. This is yet another example of the ill-informed and often fictitious medical practices that keep occurring on this night time soap opera.

Sister Mary Eunice feeds the mysterious creatures in the woods and then asks Dr. Arden about them. She gets no real answer, but he does give her a candied apple and has to convince her to eat it. Yeah, real subtle with the symbolism there guys.

It's clear that Dr. Arden is crushing on the nun pretty hard, but not in the sexual way. At least, not yet.

Afterward, Shelley the nymphomaniac, throws herself on Dr. Arden, begging him to let her go outside for 15 minutes in return for sexual favors. He smacks her around pretty good, calls her a whore and a slut, etc. Shelley yells at him about how unfair it is that a man can sleep around but a if a woman sleeps with more than one guy at a time she's crazy and a deviant. It is revealed that her husband had extramarital affairs and wouldn't sleep with her anymore, so she got several men to join her in bed. When her husband found out, he had her committed. Nice guy.

Lana joins Grace in the hydrotherapy room after her encounter with electricity. Grace is naked and looking out the window wistfully,  which of course, is Lana's only weakness. Well, that and her utter stupidity. But we'll get to that soon enough.

Lana tells Grace that there's a way out of the asylum, there is a secret tunnel that leads out into the forest that Sister Eunice used to bring her into the place. Grace agrees to go with her, as long as she can take Kit, whom she believes is innocent. Lana doesn't trust Kit. She thinks he's a serial killer and doesn't want him to tag along.

Later that night, Dr. Arden invites a whore to his house. He prepared dinner and suggestively cuts a bloody roast while talking to her about intellectual things, like music and fine wine. The whore refuses to drink or eat with him and tells him she doesn't do that so that she can keep her wits about her. Finally, someone with some freaking common sense!

Arden wipes the lipstick off her face and demands that she act more lady like. She complies, and when asked to change into a nun's habit, she goes to his room and does so. While changing, she digs around in the boxes on his dresser and uncovers a pile of photos of women that were tied up and mutilated. Looks like Dr. Arden is a sadist, and a serial killer. Hmm....

She also picks up a button or cuff link and looks at it, but hastily drops it when he walks into the room. Upon being discovered, he attempts to stop her from leaving. The brave girl kicks him hard in the groin and makes a hasty retreat. Hopefully to report him to the police. Heh.

Dr. Thredson meets with Kit to give him a psychiatric evaluation in order to determine if he is sane enough to go to tiral. Kit tells him that he isn't crazy, that aliens killed the women, and that his wife Alma isn't dead. Thredson tells him that he is insane and lets him go.

On his way out, Dr. Thredson goes to speak with Sister Jude about the deplorable conditions of the asylum. She tells him that it's none of his business as to what goes on here, and that the patients are under her care, not his. Which is incorrect. Dr. Thredson is a state sanctioned psychiatrist, meaning, he works for the government. He witnessed brutal abuse, torture, and unsanitary living conditions. He sure as hell could shut that place down, with one simple call for an investigation.

This is one of the strange things about this series. The nuns are given absolute rule over the asylum, and are treated as though they have more authority and are given the power to make medical decisions, when they're not. They're not even nurses for crying out loud!

Dr. Thredson is not deterred by Sister Jude, and goes to finish his conversation with her. He walks in on her counseling a couple about chronic masturbation of all things. When he learns that the couple have brought their boy, Jed, in to be looked at because they believe that he is possessed by the Devil, he intercedes and offers to help in any way that he can.

Apparently, Jed has grown exceedingly violent and has been disemboweling livestock while speaking in tongues, but he doesn't remember doing any of it. Sister Jude, with her miraculous powers of GETTING THINGS DONE, tells the Monsignor about the boy and convinces him to perform an exorcism on him. Dr. Thredson objects to such barbaric practices and threatens to report Briarcliff to the proper authorities. Then, two minutes later, the exorcist magically arrives, and they force Dr. Thredson to attend as there must be a certified doctor present during an exorcism.

The Monsignor kicks Sister Jude out of the room when they start, telling her it's no place for a woman to be. This of course, leaves her miffed, and unable to retaliate. Again.

During the exocism, the lights flicker. The exocist is thrown up against the wall by an invisible force, and Jed starts to scream at him in Latin. Shortly thereafter, the power goes out, which unlocks all the doors in the place.

Lana and Grace make a run for the tunnel. Grace tells her that she won't leave without Kit, so stupidly, instead of running away with them, Lana decides to scream for the guards and they are caught dragged into solitary confinement.

Sister Jude re-enters the room after the exorcist is injured, and Jed taunts her, apparently speaking in her mind and telling her that he knows who she used to be a promiscuous drunk and a lounge singer named Judy.

Judy hit a girl one night while driving home drunk and instead of turning herself in and getting help for her, she drove away, leaving her to die. We also learn that Sister Jude slept with 53 men, and masturbates to the Monsignor. What a surprise.

Soon after, Jed has a heart attack. Just before he dies, he looks at Sister Mary Eunice, who is thrown back and falls unconcious. The demon has left him and entered the simpering idiot nun. Yay.

When Dr. Arden goes to visit Sister Mary Eunice, he spots her lying on her bed, with her leg exposed. He wakes her up and apologetically tells her that he is unaccustomed to seeing her out of costume (her nun's habit). She covers up her body and they have a warm fuzzy moment. Once Dr. Arden leaves, the crucifix falls off the wall.

Lana has Sister Jude taken to her office. The nun thanks Lana for turning in Grace and Kit. As a "reward" she gets to watch them get caned for their bad behavior. Lana is forced to choose a cane, so she takes one that Jude approves of. Before Grace is canned, Kit offers to take the punishment for her and receives it.

This is yet another episode of a TV show that can't decide what it wants to be about. Is it aliens? Demons? Or demon aliens? You tell me.

The only interesting thing that happened in episode 2 is that it is revealed that it is Sister Jude's guilt over a hit-and-run that is firing her rage and causing her to lash out and physically abuse the patients of the asylum. Not a very Christian thing to do there Jude. Whatever happened to turning the other cheek?

Now you know I just had to throw a butt joke in there, right?