It is regrettable that Swamp Thing was not renewed by DC Universe before the second episode aired. More to the point, it is regrettable that the show was not renewed, period. The second episode of Swamp Thing is a strong expansion of the pilot. Of course, it presents a great deal to chew on.
The Story so Far
There are two major plot-threads to track during this episode.
Abby and Alec
Reeling from the apparent death of Alec Holland, Dr. Abby Arcane continues her CDC work in Marais. The illness from the swamp is still spreading. Local police have also tied up a solid source of information by turning Alec’s lab into a crime scene.
She finds comfort with Liz Tremane and meets Liz’s partner, Margeaux. Abby and Liz then seek out potential leads for Alec’s information. Abby visits Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) in an attempt to gain access to the lab he funded for Alec’s research. Avery ultimately refuses to grant the CDC access to the research as it is all proprietary. However, he and Abby find some form of reconnection regarding the death of Avery’s daughter, Shawna.
Abby and Liz later make their way to the room that Alec rented from Daniel Cassidy (Ian Zierling). Cassidy is a former actor and video-store owner. Abby finds some video logs from Alec and watches them for evidence. Ultimately, she finds herself missing him. During this time, she learns that Susie has fled the hospital into the swamps.
Susie has a mysterious connection to the Swamp Thing and seeks him out in the swamp. However, she accidentally witnesses a game officer being murdered by two men hired to retrieve the mutagen dispersal devices. Fleeing from the particularly malicious of the pair, she is rescued by the Swamp Thing in a particularly brutal sequence.
Abby tracks down Susie who is with the Swamp Thing. On a boat with Matt Cable, Susie reveals to Abby that the Swamp Thing is frightened and alone. She also says his name is Alec.
A Family of Secrets
Regarding the Sunderlands, Maria (Virginia Madsen) consults Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) about the pain of losing her daughter. Maria has been dealing with it for years. Trying to help, Xanadu uses her powers to bring comfort. Yet, the balance of good and evil has shifted in the swamp. Xanadu warns Maria to move on from her pain. She does not, however. At the end of the episode, she is seen with a manifestation of the long-dead Shawna, in her bedroom.
Avery, meanwhile, is using his power in town to clean up the mess that came with the mutagen research. Concerned the research is responsible for the illnesses, he summons two of his consultants. These two are Caroline and Jason Woodrue (Selina Anduze and Kevin Durand). He tasks them, the inventors of the accelerant, to determine if the accelerant is at fault for the local illnesses.
What Stood Out
Swamp Thing’s second episode is a strong follow-up to the pilot that continues what works about the show. The show is all in when it comes to the mutilation and mutation of bodies both to and around the Swamp Thing. One particularly grizzly sequence features a psychic connection between Susie and the Swamp Thing. In shock and pain, he tears away chunks of his form, which Susie feels. Each tear is visceral and has amazing Foley work.
Relationships between characters are also developing at a solid pace, even as new characters are introduced. The scene between Abby and Avery is excellent and provides a genuine bit of catharsis with some menace. This week features Abby working with officer Matt Cable who is still very much nursing a flame for her, even after she left Marais. Naturally, there is some tension there that does not manifest at the most appropriate time.
The key relationship that develops here is, oddly enough, Abby and Alec. Abby doesn’t quite know how she felt about the rogue scientist, but the scene where she watches his video logs is incredibly sweet. It makes for a good way to keep Andy Bean on the show, even as Derek Mears takes over as the Swamp Thing.
The death of the man who was chasing after Susie is also incredibly gross and satisfying. With any luck, the show will be able to keep up that intensity throughout the remainder of the series.
Final Verdict on Swamp Thing
“Worlds Apart” serves to wrap up the basic narrative of the pilot episode in a very satisfying way. It also establishes the new normal of the show with the Swamp Thing quickly being introduced into the action as a violent and mysterious force. The show is also not being weighted down by questionably written relationship drama and instead, these characters are proving to be quite compelling.
The show is still quite dark, visually, and that could be a problem in the long run. We’ll see.
(4 / 5)
Two particularly significant DC Comics connections appear this week in the form of Daniel Cassidy, also known as the Blue Devil. Jason Woodrue, also known as the Floronic Man, also makes his first appearance. How far the show is willing to go with their storylines remains to be seen, however. We are likely not going to see an empowered Daniel Cassidy, though wrapping up the season with the origins of the Floronic Man would make a lot of sense.
The show also presents a much different, more voodoo-oriented take on Madame Xanadu. They have also made her blind as well. Her scene with Maria Sunderland was a real treat, so this should be a great interpretation of the character, despite being outside of the comics wheelhouse.
Please continue to join us each week for the remaining episodes of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing.
Movies n TV
If You Don’t Woe Me by Now
This is the second to last episode of Tim Burton’s Wednesday. And it’s kind of exactly what I expected it to be. But is that a bad thing? Let’s find out.
(Missed my last review? Click here to read it now.)
We begin at the funeral of the unfortunate Mayor Noble. While Wednesday seems to have been an invited guest, someone else in attendance isn’t.
Uncle Fester, played by Fred Armisen.
His visit couldn’t have come at a better time for Wednesday, as almost all of her friends aren’t talking to her. When Thing is brutally attacked, it’s even better luck that Uncle Fester is around.
This attack on Thing spurs Wednesday to speed up her search. With her uncle’s help, she breaks into the Nightshade library and finds that the monster attacking people is called a Hyde. A creature that can only be called upon by someone else.
This means that instead of one killer, we are looking for two. And Wednesday is pretty sure she knows who the killers are.
But of course, she’s still an idiot teenager, so she goes right ahead and confronts one of them, Dr. Kinbott, by herself. This has results that surprise no one.
After this, Wednesday learns her lesson and gets Sheriff Galpin involved to catch her suspected monster. Their relationship seems to be getting better after he caught her and Tyler in the Crackstone tomb watching Legally Blond and didn’t rebuke them. Maybe he’s softened on the idea of Wednesday dating his son.
Or maybe he wanted to use her to get around needing a search warrant for Xander’s art studio. Because why follow the law when you can risk the life of a teenager by sending her in to start grabbing up evidence in a flagrant disregard for the safety and rights of two kids?
Because that’s exactly what happened. Honestly, poor Xavier has gone through so much trying to be friends with Wednesday.
When you’re a fan of a certain genre, you’ll find yourself recognizing the beats of a story before they even happen. For instance, a murder mystery will often have a moment, right near the climax of the story, where it seems like the case is solved.
This was that episode. It appears like the case is solved, but it’s all a little too easy. And too early in the episode. Now, I don’t consider this a bad thing. It’s an expectation of the genre. Especially because this is a show for a young audience who might never have seen this before. And in this case, just because I saw it coming didn’t mean it wasn’t satisfying.
This one was satisfying because of the implications. The real monster is revealed now. And if you’ve figured out who it is, you understand how difficult a job Wednesday is going to have to prove it.
One thing I like about Wednesday is that there is no dishonesty in this child. If she thinks something, it comes right out. So of course she had no problem confronting her therapist as soon as she started putting the pieces together. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that she expects other people to behave like her. To be honest, at least some of the time. To attack from behind, and attack people other than herself to get her point across. Because, sadly, good people tend to judge others in the ways they would behave.
I loved the addition of Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester. And I wasn’t expecting him to do a good job, honestly. I’m quite used to Christopher Lloyd as Fester, so this was kind of shocking. But as always, he was great. He brought a sense of levity and joyous foolishness that this character should always have.
All in all, this was a great episode. My biggest criticism is that the twist ending isn’t as unpredictable as one might like. When you’ve been a selfish prick to everyone around you, and all of your friends are done with your shit, but one person is still fine with it, that person might just have some ulterior motives.
There’s just one episode left, and I’m excited to see how the story wraps up. I have high hopes for it. And I’m just thankful that the season has exceeded the rather dismal expectations I had for it at the beginning.
(3.5 / 5)
Movies n TV
The Beach House, a Film Review
The Beach House (2019) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, and Jake Weber.
The Beach House (2020) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown. This film stars Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber, and Maryann Nagel. As of this review, this film is only available on Shudder.
Desperate to rekindle their strained love, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) escape to a beach getaway. They soon learn to find that family friends of Randall’s father, Mitch (Jake Weber), and Jane (Maryann Nagel), also had a similar idea. After getting used to each other, a mysterious fog engulfs the town. Unfortunately, they realize too late the danger they find themselves in.
What I Like
Body horror gets under my skin, and The Beach House certainly lives up to the standard. There’s something magical about creatures terraforming your body to their preferred environment, turning humans into nothing more than conscious prisoners in their own flesh. While I wouldn’t consider this film the most traumatic or unsettling example, it utilizes wonderfully grotesque scenes.
Aside from the body horror, the film drops a few Cosmic Horror–or Lovecraftian–vibes that go together perfectly. Another favored genre of mine, this combination ensures the odds are overwhelmingly against our human leads.
Beyond the grotesque, visuals might not overwhelm but certainly succeed in their goal. Several scenes provide an intentionally tranquil experience that contrasts with the grotesques and improves their effectiveness.
In terms of performance, each actor hits their mark. While some roles require less effort, each contributes to the plot as intended. The standout performance goes to Liana Liberato’s Emily, who acts as co-lead. She simply has the most to work with and lives up to the part.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As “body horror” should indicate, this film will hit hard for the more squeamish viewer. While horror by nature has some amount of grotesque, body horror brings that grotesque to the next level. While I don’t particularly find The Beach House hitting harder than its competition, it certainly respects its chosen genre.
What I Dislike or Considerations
A few scenic montages may hit or miss depending on your interpretation. While I have my own theories, that speculation goes beyond the scope of this review. Many of these scenes overlap more philosophical conversations and musings that may annoy or add layers. This strategy seems a common practice in Cosmic Horror, which forces characters to rationalize the irrational.
It’s hard for me to understand how secretive or known this event is supposed to be in the film’s world. Individuals know something outside of the town, with evidence implying governmental knowledge. This information creates a contrivance–perhaps, even a plot hole–because the characters had to reach this isolated town without any opposition.
One of the visuals didn’t exactly grab me. While I won’t go into too much detail, an effect looked too visually similar to a common animal that barely survives rain. It’s hard to be threatened by that. It also doesn’t exactly match up with some of the other visuals. Even the creatures that look similar to it still look different enough to provide a more alien assumption.
There are moments when the infected chase our main characters by crawling at them. While the context works, with injured characters helping to sell them, I can’t help but find these scenes amusing as opposed to frightening. Yes, it’s certainly visually different from the plethora of zombies out there, but it’s also less frightening than zombies that leisurely walk to their targets.
The Beach House combines cosmic and body horror to create an uncomfortable film that tests its characters. For those who enjoy these genres, it will certainly entertain you, but I doubt it will frighten you. I imagine the mood to watch it again might strike me, but I’m not entirely certain it will stand the test of time. (3 / 5)
If this movie suits your fancy and you want more, Honeymoon seems an appropriate recommendation.
Movies n TV
Every Secret Thing, a Film Review
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, based on Laura Lippman’s novel.
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener. This R-rated film stars Diane Lane, Danielle Macdonald, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Banks. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name, the film adaptation is accessible through MAX and DirecTV.
When a little girl goes missing, Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) spirals into an all too familiar tale. As pressure mounts, Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) become the leading suspects. The strained frenemies unravel under the attention and reminders of their shared past.
What I Like
The film unravels in a non-chronological structure but makes it easy for the viewer to follow. It helps that the age difference clearly divides the younger actors, who change actors. One casting choice resembles their older counterpart, and the acting reflects a strong direction for their shared role.
Unreliable narration remains expertly communicated with scenes that change perspectives depending on whose perspective we view them from. This choice adds a reason to view the film twice, providing extra ambiguity for some of these events.
The camera gets up close and personal to an uncomfortable degree, which almost certainly presses the actors’ performances. This choice places the viewer in the character’s perspective and limits us from others’ perspectives to add extra credence to these biases.
Every Secret Thing provides a spiraling mystery that unravels with several twists and turns. Assuming the novel provided the outline, this film executes these points and keeps a consistently engaging experience throughout the runtime.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Child abuse and neglect remain the central plot points of Every Secret Thing. Little of this abuse appears in scenes, but there is no escaping the danger children are in throughout the film.
Self-harm and suicide are shown throughout the film (once in the case of suicide) through one specific character. It isn’t glorified or romanticized nor addressed with particular sensitivity. For those sensitive to these subjects, it might be triggering.
Racism, the assumed motive for the bi-racial victims, plays a small role in the film’s narrative. However, character motives remain more complex, but going further spoils some elements. This film decision does create the reality that bi-racial children are the victims of child neglect and abuse in the film with little additional context. It does invite uncomfortable speculation, but speculation it would be.
Sexual assault is another concern for viewers, specifically statutory rape. This issue seems particularly mismanaged, considering the survivor remains an antagonist. One can be both survivor of assault and an antagonist of a film without needing to discredit the assault. While little appears of this issue, and the manipulation angle can indicate a perspective shift, it’s hard to refute how the film wants to represent this attack.
What I Dislike
Loosely tied to the above point, one character seems mentally off and purposely so. This point doesn’t inherently create an issue, but there seems to be a choice to make this character a mastermind. Perhaps this is better addressed in the book, but the execution is far from perfect here.
A newspaper montage reveals essential information which feels oddly misplaced. Practically the entire setup for the film appears through this montage, which creates the necessity to read these headlines in the minimal time given.
As a horror, nothing but the events are haunting. Children being abused or kidnapped always haunts, but the terror of this remains secondary to the mystery. While the mystery is nice, this film won’t particularly scare the seasoned horror fan.
Every Secret Thing unravels a mystery of opportunism, selfishness, and deception. While the movie won’t haunt the viewer, it certainly unravels a mystery that shocks them. The nuanced and deceptive characters add a layer of engagement that creates a unique experience, but I doubt this movie will linger in my mind.
(2.5 / 5)