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Well that escalated quickly.

Welcome back to Lovecraft Country. We’re diving into the second episode in our recap and review series. Did the second episode live up to the pilot? Let’s find out.

Atticus meets Christina’s father, Samuel Braithwhite

The story so far…

In “Whitey’s on the Moon,” Tic, Leti, and George find themselves in the comfort on the gigantic Braithewhite lodge. Leti and George are quick to succumb to the material pleasures (accompanied by Ja’Net DuBois “Movin’ On Up”). Tic is less inclined and more suspicious, particularly given he seems to be the only one with a recollection of the Shoggoth attack the night before.

The trio is guided by and managed by William. He tries to pacify them until a specific event, but Tic’s compulsion to uncover his father’s location makes that difficult. Tic, Leti, and George visit the village of Ardham to find Montrose, Tic’s father, but Tic’s increasingly erratic behavior alarms his companions. Their memory loss only makes it appear that Tic is suffering from PTSD from his time in Korea. Following the sound of a whistle like the one heard in the woods, the trio stumbles onto a stone tower where it is obvious Montrose is being held. They are confronted, however, by a tiny, racist dog-keeper who manages to force them out of the area.

On their return from the village, George recalls something Tic’s mother had mentioned, about her ancestor, Hannah, who escaped her master’s home during a fire. The Braithwhite Lodge is a replica of the old lodge which burned down, and the ancestral Titus Braithwhite, a slave owner, is the likely source of Atticus’ own birthright to the Braithwhite family. After this revelation, they are saved from another Shoggoth attack by none other than Christina Braithwhite, who has bailed out the crew several times.


As the trio awaits the part in the planned event concerning the Order of the Ancient Dawn, who George learns about when he finds his way into a massive library, they are beset by psychological tortures and observed by the old, white members of the order in the lodge. George and Atticus are later invited to a dinner to celebrate the upcoming ritual Samuel Braithwhite has planned. There George and Atticus, having pieced together Atticus’ role in the ritual to open a portal to Eden, exert Atticus’s authority as the repository of the ancestral Braithwhite’s power as a direct descendent of Titus.

Able to get to the stone silo and rescue Montrose, finally, the mission almost goes south until Leti saves them from the dog-keeper. They then uncover Montrose’s secret escape tunnel, meeting him outside. The reunion isn’t happy as Montrose is a difficult father and explains he wrote his letter out of duress. In the escape from Ardham over the bridge, they smash into an invisible force field, wrecking the car the procured for the escape.

There, Leti and George are shot by Samuel who forces Tic to comply with the ritual. Christina, in the preparation for the ritual, commiserates with Tic and gives him a ring that seems to have been tampered with. The ritual itself channels energy through Tic’s body and opens a gateway, not to Eden, but what might be the past. Tic sees his ancestor, Hannah fully pregnant, and the ritual backfires, destroying Titus and the other members of the Order of the Dawn before collapsing the entire lodge. Atticus makes it out by following the path and vision of his ancestor, Hannah, who seems to be holding a special book.

Regrettably, however, George succumbs to his gunshot during the escape from the lodge and lies dead in the back of the car, cradled by Montrose.

Magickal sigils mark the invisible barrier out of Ardham

How it worked out…

The second episode continues the “fun” streak established in the first episode but delivers little in the way of horror which might be disappointing for some Lovecraft fans. We get moments of full-on Magick including spells, rituals, and runic markings. It does establish fun mysticism in the show and though we do not spend a lot of time in Ardham, the village itself felt sufficiently time-locked. There is a lot of cool stuff referenced or caught in fleeting glimpses in the episode but little in the way of establishing mood or tension. Everything was so breezy and quick that ultimately the episode suffered. There was a lot that happened in this episode but by the end, I just felt like I had been denied a solid three or four-episode arc. The pacing of this hour was bizarre to me mashing in what seems to be what might account for an entire half-season in some other show to about one hour of run time.

The end result is not entirely pleasant. The reference to other chapters of the Order is a good sign, but to just kind of blow through the setting and some creepy intrigue seems to be a symptom of the Bad Robot-style of production. I mentioned last week that there was an Abramsification of Lovecraft and sadly the second episode seems to have doubled down on it. Thankfully, the show’s addressing of race and racism continues to be the strong-point.


Lovecraft’s work really only succeeds due to sustained tension. In that regard, Lovecraft Country is succeeding strictly because of how it is handling the anxieties around being black. Every interaction between Tic’s group and the white residents of Ardham carries that tension that grows and becomes horrifying. The monsters and magick end up as just fun window dressing, but it comes off as cartoonish than mysterious and mind-blowing.

The introduction of Michael Kenneth Williams and seeming departure Courtney B. Vance feels like a strange turn. Tic already has enough to deal with, killing off his uncle (and possible father) in order to bring in his emotionally distant father (who is possibly not his real father) just feels pointless. In a series driven so heavily by men of color, it feels needlessly cruel to eliminate one of the characters so suddenly. At least Game of Thrones used Sean Bean for a whole season. Courtney B. Vance gets dropped in episode two. There is probably a larger plan involved in George’s fate and we’ll probably be seeing him again in the season, but not having read the book and watching the show as a casual viewer, I can’t help but feel annoyed at what seems like an unnecessary death. I am looking forward to Michael Kenneth Williams in the weeks ahead, though.

Too bad it came at the cost of a such a strong character.

The reliance on CGI in the first two episodes is a problem as the artificiality of the show proves to be a bit too much in week two. Dodgy CGI involving a groin-snake and sweeping camera moves around the Braithwhite estate detracted from, rather than enhanced the story being told. CGI on a TV budget can look good, but the second episode missed the mark, wildly, seemingly pouring most resources into the Shoggoths and Tic’s dream sequence in episode one. The ritual sequence and subsequent destruction of the estate failed to impress.

The second episode stumbles with the monsters and mayhem but continues to handle the anxiety and trauma of the Jim Crow south with panache. At this point though, the series may be Lovecraft in name only. I rate Lovecraft Country‘s second episode “Whitey’s on the Moon” three Cthulhus.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
Christina’s ring seems to have tampered with Samuel’s ritual

Miskatonic Musings

A lot of biblical references this week among other references to the Lovecraft canon and other literary works.

  • Montrose directly mentions the Necronomicon before he is corrected by George.
  • I am unsure how inspired by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (and Alastair Crowley) the show’s Order of the Ancient Dawn is inspired by, but given the pageantry, I’d argue this is very much a direct reference.
  • Yes, that was a Wicker Man in Ardham.
  • The Jeffersons theme still slaps. The show’s usage of anachronistic music is a wonderful touch. Gil Scott-Heron’s “Whitey’s on the Moon” punctuates the ritual scene. Quite a fitting mashup and brilliant, biting satire. Marilyn Manson’s “Killing Strangers” also really sells the trauma at the bridge.
  • A reference to The Count of Monte Cristo is made when Tic’s Trio uncovers Montrose’s escape tunnel from the stone silo in Ardham. George references it directly.
  • The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson is mentioned directly by George as he is dancing with the illusion of Dora. It also seems to have inspired the plot of this episode.
  • Weird fiction authors mentioned/referenced in this episode include Algernon Blackwood and Clark Ashton Smith.
  • The biblical allusion to the snake and Eve shouldn’t be hard to miss, particularly when one interprets the snake as a phallic symbol as many scholars have.
  • The biblical verse Genesis 2:19 drives part of the plot. It is also the title of a painting in the show by “Joseph Tannhauser,” but in reality, the painting is “The Naming of the Animals” by John Miles.

Do you think I might have been too harsh with Lovecraft Country? Let us know in the comments.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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Movies n TV

Shutter Island (2010): Review



Leonardo Dicaprio’s films rarely disappoint. It was interesting to see him flex different acting muscles in this psychological thriller Shutter Island alongside Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams. When I say that I was not expecting such a turn in the story, I mean that my jaw was pretty much on the floor the entire time. Without any further ado, let’s dive into its mastery, shall we? 

A cliché setup done right 

We have been here before a million times. A character stumbles into a scene to solve a mystery. Everyone is acting just the right amount of suspicion to make you wonder. Dicaprio’s Edward ‘Teddy’ travels to an extremely remote island where a woman goes missing from a psychiatric institution. He’s experiencing migraines and flashbacks to his murdered wife while receiving little to no help from the hospital staff. 

Teddy soon suspects that the hospital is experimenting on patients which fuels his theories on what happened to the missing woman. Things take even more of a turn when his partner also disappears. Unsurprisingly, everyone insists Teddy came to the island alone. Feeling like he’s losing his mind, our protagonist finds out that this is exactly the case. He is a patient in the hospital and the entire investigation is an attempt to get him to understand the truth. 

Leonardo di Caprio stands in front of the camera looking down, concerned with Mark Ruffalo looking baffled in the background

While the whole ‘it was all in your head’ trope has a bad rep for the fans of any genre, this film uses it masterfully. Watching it for the first time not knowing what to expect is obviously a shock and then watching it again, looking at all the clues that were the which you missed – that’s a treat on its own. After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using cliches if they are done the right way. 

Things that go bump in our minds

A huge part of this movie’s storyline is Andrew’s inability to process the truth. The roots for it stretch far beyond the plot twist. Andrew is unable to acknowledge that his wife is mentally ill and believes that moving them to the countryside will fix everything. After she murders their children, he is further pushed into the world of delusion, convincing himself to be a hero because he couldn’t save his own family. 

It’s interesting to note that in his delusion, Andrew is the one who set fire to their house. Is this a little sliver of his mind whispering the truth to him? Is it his subconscious villainizing himself out of contempt, searching for answers that are never going to come? Andrew’s psychiatrist pointed out that his moment of clarity has happened before, only to be undone quite quickly. Perhaps it was easier for Andrew to shut it off rather than live with the knowledge that he could’ve done something to prevent a terrible tragedy. 


Overall thoughts

Shutter Island is a movie that provides both the entertainment value you would expect from a suspense thriller and a deeper layer of thought. Coated with a perfect atmosphere and amazing acting, it’s a piece that will definitely hold the test of time.  4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Wheel of Time, Daughter of The Night



We’ve reached episode four of Wheel of Time, which means we’re halfway through the season. While it doesn’t seem like much has happened so far, this is the episode where things start heating up.

The Story

We begin this episode with a flashback. Ishamael is raising something dark and twisted. As we watch, it takes the shape of a woman.

More on that in a bit.

Meanwhile, Nynaeve is healing from her time in the arches. She is quiet and withdrawn. She’s also awkward and uncomfortable around Egwene now that she’s initiated and Egwene is not. Her new friendship with Elayne isn’t helping.


But the three girls come together when Liandrin tells Nynaeve that Perrin has been captured by the Seanchan.

Zoë Robins, Madeleine Madden and Ceara Coveney in Wheel of Time.

However, Perrin is no longer in the clutches of the Seanchan. He was rescued by Elyas and a pack of beautiful wolves. Beautiful and deadly AF by the way. If you have any fear of dogs, this episode might not help that.

Elyas explains to Perrin that he is a Wolf Brother. This means that he can communicate with the wolves, and eventually will gain some of their abilities. While Perrin and Elyas don’t exactly get off on the right foot, he does find a fast friendship with one specific wolf. After a time, he introduces himself by showing Perrin an image of himself jumping up and down. From this, Perrin assumes his name is Hopper.

Finally, we return to Rand. He and Selene have been off in the mountains. They haven’t done much more than each other so far.

And that’s exactly what it appears they’re about to do when Moiraine bursts into the cottage and cuts Selene’s throat.

Rand is surprised and furious until Moiraine explains that the woman he knows as Selene is the Dark Friend Lanfear. With this shocking revelation, the two run off into the night.


What worked

It should be a surprise to no one that I loved the wolves in this episode. Hopper himself was worth an extra Cthulhu. But this is not just because dogs are cute. It’s also because the dog playing Hopper just does a great job.

On a more serious note, I loved how Nynaeve responded upon coming back to the real world. She isn’t okay.

Zoë Robins in Wheel of Time.

And it’s a good thing that she isn’t. Too often in fiction we don’t see the fallout of emotional damage. Hell, we don’t usually see realistic fallout from physical damage.

But she is hurt by what she experienced. And you can tell. That’s realistic character building, and we don’t see that enough.

I also really appreciate the special effects in this episode. The first time we see Lanfear, she’s eerie. She’s frightening. Part of this is thanks to Natasha O’Keeffe, who does a great job. But the effects are what really sells this.

What didn’t work

If Wheel of Time has any fault, it’s that there is far too much sitting about and talking about things. In this case, there’s a lot of standing about and talking about things. Some of this was necessary, and some of it could have been done better. Honestly, there just has to be a better way to convey that characters are struggling.


This was most apparent with Rand and Selene/Lanfear. Honestly, anytime the two of them were on screen it was a great time for me to catch up on Instagram.

This might come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but Rand is supposed to be the main character. And here we are, four episodes into an eight-episode season, and so far all he’s done is mess about with his emo girlfriend!

That being said, the story is starting to pick up. With four episodes left, I can’t wait to see how far we go.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Elevator Game, a Film Review

Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks.



Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks. It adapts the supernatural myth and creepypasta of the same name while providing an original plot. This unrated Shudder exclusive stars Gino Anania, Samantha Halas, and Verity Marks. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to interview Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner about the film.

Ryan seeks to find answers to his sister’s mysterious disappearance. To do this, he infiltrates a myth-busting web series that seems to have some ties to her final confirmed moments. Desperate to force a confrontation, he encourages them to play the elevator game. Unfortunately, there seems to be more truth to the myth than expected.

A woman bends backward to look over at someone. The street she's on is red and ominous.
ELEVATOR GAME’s Samantha Halas as the 5th Floor Woman

What I Like about Elevator Game & as an Adaptation

I am lucky to have additional insight into the development hell this movie overcame due to COVID. It’s commendable that the film manages to make it of that, even if it requires a lengthy delay of the film.

Usually, I provide a separate section for adaptation quality. However, the source material remains the ritual, which Elevator Game performs accurately. While the myth inspires many creepypastas, Elevator Game doesn’t directly take or adapt any of these works from what I’ve seen. Instead, it makes its own film based on the legend.

As the Fifth Floor Woman, Samantha Halas creates an eerie and disturbing character. While I won’t go so far as to say terrifying, she certainly makes an impression. The revelation that the stunts and performance are all her, as an actual contortionist, I give her more credit.


Gino Anania, given a more complex role than most of his cast members, really does bring a strong performance that creates either friction or synergy with his cast members. I suppose I wanted more of these interactions as some cut sooner than appreciated.

Another amusing element is that the entire motivation for the plot to follow is a forced advertisement from an investor. Something about the chaos being a product of appeasing some investors feels uncomfortably real.

The alternate reality remains surprisingly effective. To be clear, it’s not impressively realistic but stylistic. It genuinely seems like an alternate world with a skewered impression.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes or Trigger Warning

I feel weird mentioning this, but endangering a sister’s life to push the brother’s story forward seems a common trend beyond one form of media.

No discredit to the actors, but the romance feels rushed and unnecessary. Without going into too much detail, to avoid spoilers, there is synergy between the actors but little chemistry in the plot.

A woman holds a man's arm as an elevator door closes.
ELEVATOR GAME – Verity Marks as Chloe Young and Gino Anania as Ryan Keaton

What I Dislike or Considerations

Elevator Game remains set in providing a B-movie experience. Its tight budget leaves little room to surprise the viewer visually. While I am surprised at what it accomplishes, it’s far from overwhelming. This film also remains the first production of Fearworks, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m interested in the future, but Elevator Game leaves much to grow from.

Rebekah McKendry may have a directorial style that influences dialogue, but the line delivery evokes an overexpression that’s common in Lovecraftian films. I say this not as a direct negative, but it remains a required taste best known before viewing. As this isn’t Lovecraftian, I fear it removes some of the reality and tension of those haunting elements.


Many of the characters feel underdeveloped, making me wonder if cutting these roles might lead to more invested characters. While the performances hit their marks, a tighter cast might give each role more to work toward. As this is a tight cast already, it seems an odd issue to rectify.

Final Thoughts

Elevator Game provides an interesting B-movie experience for those who know the legend. For those expecting something different, this film may not work for you. This film overcame a lot to exist but doesn’t break the mold. While I am excited to see Fearworks pursue further ventures toward its ambitious mission statement, I find Elevator Game falling short of its goal.
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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