AKA Exposition and Witticisms
Who said romance is dead?
We kick off the great saga of Buffy with the lamest date ever – Welcome to the Hellmouth. A Sunnydale high school graduate of indeterminate recency has brought his petite blond friend to see the gym roof. Apparently the petite blond agrees that this is lame, because she gets all snarly and attacks.
Credits: Howling! Guitars! Cheerleaders! Potions! Stakes! Dancing! Hero formations!
Maybe high school is the real Hellmouth
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wakes up from a cryptic nightmare. If the boxes in her bedroom weren’t expository enough, her mother’s urging to not be late to (or get kicked out on) her first day at her new school lets us know she is new in town.
Meanwhile, a teenage boy is clinging for dear life on a skateboard he evidently got that day. This is Xander (Nicholas Brendon) friend to Willow (Alyson Hannigan), resident nerd. She agrees to help him with his trig and suggests he pick up a specific text in the library, “where the books live.” Xander and pal Jesse say the phrase “new girl” back and forth in increasingly distressing ways.
Buffy meets with Principal Flutie (you can call him Bob, but should you?). He desperately wants to give her a clean slate, but he backtracks pretty quickly after learning that her expulsion was the result of burning down a gym that was full of totally not-vampires.
As Buffy is leaving the office, she quite literally runs into Xander. He helps her pick up the spilled contents of her bag with all the goofy charm he can muster. So much charm, in fact, that she forgets her wooden stake.
In class Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) shares a textbook and many Sunnydale social insights with Buffy, including the need to identify losers on sight. She invites her to The Bronze that night shortly after insulting Willow’s dress – a bold move in lime green pants, Miss Chase.
Slay it ain’t so
In a suspiciously ornate library a suspiciously British librarian named Mr. Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) thrusts a book labelled VAMPYR toward Buffy. But Buffy hates archaic spellings so she quickly leaves.
Since her plan to acquire textbooks has fallen through, Buffy seeks out the tutelage of one very confused Willow. Xander tries to be way too witty (aside from his “tiny fences” joke he makes when returning her stake. I’ll give you credit for that, X). Cordelia runs up to let Buffy know that gym is cancelled due to the dead guy in someone’s locker. Buffy responds in the totally normal fashion of asking if he had holes in his neck and was drained of blood.
Cordelia does not have that information, so Buffy makes easy work of tearing off the gym door and checking out the scene for herself. After confirming her fears re: vamps, she has it out with Giles. He lectures her about her sacred duty as Slayer, his sacred duty as Watcher, and the extra-supernatural nature of Sunnydale. Buffy is well aware of her responsibilities. She is also aware that it is a lonely life. Slaying meant to be a secret identity situation, a la Bruce Wayne/Batman. Too bad Xander was in the stacks and overheard the whole thing.
We quickly cut to a super dramatic, quasi-religious underground monologue given by a very large vampire.
Then we are back to Buffy. She is struggling to pick out an outfit for tonight, a task she was good at once upon a Slayer-free high school experience. Her mother is trying very hard to remain positive about their move.
On her way to The Bronze, she senses she is being followed. She does this slick little handstand maneuver to turn the tables on her pursuer. He calls himself a friend (but not hers), refers to Sunnydale as the “mouth of hell,” and warns of a harvest. Oh, and he gives her a cross necklace.
[At this point, omnipotent as I am, I warned my first-time viewer husband Trav that this is the least dramatic we will ever see this character. He does not believe this can be possible.]
At The Bronze Buffy and Willow get to know each other a little. Willow details her friendship with Xander (he once stole her Barbie). She also describes her difficulty speaking in front of most guys. Buffy gives her the most generic carpe diem life advice ever. The she spots Giles and excuses herself to confront him.
[Trav cannot emphasize enough how distressed he is that Giles is hanging out at this teenage club.]
Buffy gets out some interesting insults, including “skanky” and “textbook with arms” (only one of which is appropriate for a librarian, and I’m not elaborating on which). At the same time, Giles chides her on not honing her
Spidey Slayer senses to locate the vampires that are definitely in this club. She wins the argument with a fashion technicality. But this is a short-lived victory, because she sees that the vampire she spotted is leading Willow outside. Buffy tries to intervene but only succeeds in nearly staking Cordelia, who now officially hates her. We see that at that moment Jesse is talking to our petite blond vampire from the beginning, Darla (Julie Benz).
The “why” in Vampyr
Back underground our monologuing vampire, Luke, is monologuing a much uglier vampire out of a red hot tub. This is the Master. He is 1) apparently trapped underground by a mystical forcefield and 2) very hangry. MonoLuke informs him that Thomas and Darla are out hunting for him now.
On her way to save the day, Buffy runs into Xander. He fesses up to eavesdropping in the library earlier. He then insists on helping her help his friends. Darla, Thomas, and their “dates” have wound up in a mausoleum. Jesse is slightly paler than before because Darla had a nibble on the way over. When Buffy and Xander arrive at the scene, Buffy stakes Thomas. He disappears in a cloud-of-dust effect that I will give due credit to for it being 1997. While she fights Darla, Xander and Willow carry Jesse out only to be surrounded by more vampires. In the mausoleum, a new player has entered. He throws Buffy into a coffin and MonoLukes his way all the way to a “To be continued” card.
I asked Trav for a one-sentence review for this episode: “All I can think about is how creepy the librarian is coming across.”
Welcome to the Hellmouth is a fairly pilot-y pilot, what with the exposition, but it’s pretty dang fun and sets you up for action, fun dialogue, and the hope that that SFX will improve along with way. (2.5 / 5)
Where to watch Welcome to the Hellmouth (sponsored links!)
Cadaver (2020), a Film Review
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal and currently available on Netflix.
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal. This unrated film stars Thorbjørn Harr, Gitte Witt, and Thomas Gullestad. As of this review, the film is available on Netflix.
After an apocalyptic event, the survivors endure in a hopeless world. Among these survivors are Leonora (Gitte Witt), Jacob (Thomas Gullestad), and Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman), a family fighting the hopelessness of a lost world. Leonora desires to keep her daughter (Alice) hopeful, and when a theater opens in their decrepit city, she thinks she has found the solution to their despair. However, they will all soon learn how desperate people have become.
What I Like from Cadaver
Cadaver takes on a unique focus for a post-apocalyptic movie. While most in the genre tackle the question of where you find hope, the theatrical lens is not one I’ve seen before. It blends these two unique environments together for a pleasant concoction. As a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I must admit I find my niche in the everyday lives of someone in such a world.
Leonora’s (usually called Leo in the film) dreamer nature in this horrendously hopeless environment creates a sympathetic contrast. This dreamer nature doesn’t excuse some of her choices, but she evokes sympathy. While most post-apocalyptic entries provide this balance of hope and survival, Leo’s creativity and passion for the arts give her hope and a more focused ideal.
The relationship between Leo and her husband also creates a nice contrast, as Jacob plays the rationalist and survivor. In this decision, both characters provide that post-apocalyptic dynamic of survival and hope. These interactions allow both actors opportunities to create friction as they pull the plot from their differing perspectives.
I had the chance to listen to the dubbed version, which sounds good. I’m not much for dubs, especially on Netflix, but they did Cadaver with respect and a focus on quality. At the very least, it’s competent and doesn’t distract from the viewing experience.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As hinted at earlier, there are some dumb decisions in the plot. While many fall within character traits, the actions don’t escape criticism. This flaw becomes incredibly repetitive when characters make the same mistake.
Implied suicide occurs throughout the film with one shown incident, but there are circumstances that change the context slightly. A world this bleak invites this depressive and dangerous state as a normality. However, one should prepare if this is a trigger.
What I Dislike or Considerations for Cadaver
Again, some decisions had me roll my eyes and endure the plot. This reaction isn’t exactly the experience I seek out in my horror. It’s more haunting to make sensible, or even intelligent, decisions and still endure unavoidable or unforeseen consequences.
It’s likely that nothing in Cadaver surprises you, which underutilizes the interesting premise. There are unique elements, certainly, but never a twist I didn’t see coming. It’s in that execution that Cadaver falls flat and fails to engage a viewer.
The film doesn’t exactly haunt the viewer, but the bleak world effectively depicts the hopelessness of a post-apocalypse. Don’t expect much genuine horror, but you can expect an appropriately uncomfortable and unnerving experience. In short, viewers of Cadaver likely want a unique twist in their post-apocalypse, not a traumatic horror.
Cadaver remains a unique viewing experience by adding a slight twist to its post-apocalyptic story. While not a haunting masterpiece, this bleak film will have you feeling the characters’ struggle. While lacking sensible decision-making skills, they are certainly sympathetic survivors struggling in a hopeless world. If this is your niche, it’s certainly worth a view.
(3 / 5)
Wheel of Time, What Might Be
Episode three of Wheel of Time was easily my favorite so far. It’s dramatic, dark, and speaks to the growing concerns about evil invading the world.
Let’s begin with Nynaeve. After showing little to no progress, Liandrin thinks she’s ready to go through the Trial of The Arches. This is an initiation that all Aes Sedai have to go through to become a sister. It’s dangerous, not totally understood, and doesn’t have a great survival rate.
One would think some cooler heads would prevail and not let the very new person do this so early. Especially since Nynaeve seems to have some issues with impulse control.
But she goes into the trial, seeing first a scene from her childhood where her parents are attacked.
The point is to walk back through the arches, leaving her family behind. This she does, but doesn’t look very happy about it. Her second trial involves finding herself back in Two Rivers, where a horrible plague has ripped through the people. Again, she has to walk away from the people that she cares about and come back to reality.
The third test is a little more tricky. It appears that Nynaeve comes back covered in blood, with no memories of what happened.
Terrified, she runs from the castle only to find Lan waiting for her.
In the real world, where Liandrin and the others are waiting for her, she simply never returns.
This shakes Liandrin. She decides she’s done holding Mat against his will, and lets him leave. Excited, but also smelling a trap, he takes Min with him.
Still not sure why she had him to start with, but I guess it’s cool that she let him go.
Meanwhile, Rand is working with a familiar face at his hospital. It’s Logain, who we might remember as the false dragon from season one.
Rand would love some advice about channeling as a man. But it appears that Logain might really have lost his mind.
My favorite scene in the episode was the one involving Perrin and Lady Suroth. This scene was perfect.
First off, the character design for Lady Suroth was just perfect. Without moving more than a hand and the crook of her mouth, she manages to be terrifying.
The massively scary nails help, as does the headdress that is both beautiful and reminiscent of an insect. The sort of insect that seems likely to bite and lay eggs under the skin of a victim.
Her absolute authority was terrifying. Uno certainly learned that.
What was more scary, of course, was who was standing next to her. Does she think she’s the one in charge? Or is she perfectly clear on where stands?
What didn’t work
One thing that I don’t love about this season is, unfortunately, not likely to change. It’s true in the books, and it’s true in the show.
The ensemble cast structure doesn’t work for me.
It fractures the story in too many directions. It’s too busy, there’s too much going on. At the same time, there isn’t enough going on with individual characters for me to establish an interest in all of them.
I care what’s happening with Egwene and Nynaeve. I care what’s happening with Perrin.
I don’t care as much about Rand right now. And she wasn’t as involved in this episode, but I don’t care about what Moiraine is going through either.
That could be because the world is coming to an end and they’re refusing to be team players. But maybe that’s just me.
Overall, this was a fun episode. It feels like pieces are being put into place. The characters are getting ready for something big. Something that we can only see the beginnings of.
Something that they clearly don’t think they’re ready for.(3.5 / 5)
American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain
American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.
Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.
Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.
But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.
Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.
You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby.
AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.
Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.
This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us.
I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.
This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.
What didn’t work
Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!
Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here.
I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.
I feel like they’ve been railroaded.
All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring. (4 / 5)