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Welcome to Notes from the Last Drive-In, Haunted MTL’s review and recap series, tackling a “bad Daddy” night with Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl. This week we cover The Last Drive-In S4E8 featuring The Stepfather (1987) and The Freakmaker (1974). So how does Daddy’s night fare compare to Mommy’s night last week?

What delights and horrors were to be found on Shudder this past Friday, June 16th?

The Stepfather (1987)

The Stepfather is a 1987 psychological horror film that best matches the “Bad Daddy” vibe of the evening. Directed by Joseph Rubin, the film was written by Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Farfield, and Donald E. Westlake, with Westlake taking screenplay duties. Patrick Moraz handles the film’s music, while John W. Lindley and George Bowers tackle cinematography and editing duties, respectively. The movie stars Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, and Stephen Shellen.

The Stepfather follows a serial killer, Henry Morrison (Terry O’Quinn), who takes on a new identity and family periodically, murdering them when he feels they have failed to live up to his ideals of a family. He ends up meeting with a widow, Susan Maine (Shelley Hack), and taking in her daughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). Meanwhile, interested parties, including Henry’s brother-in-law from a previous victim, Jim (Stephen Shellen), threaten to unravel Henry’s whole scheme.

So, how does this “Bad Daddy” movie fare? As a whole, the movie is competent but doesn’t exactly stand out. The film has become a cult classic, but that is mainly on the back of Terry O’Quinn, the only actor in the film given a compelling character. O’Quinn is fantastic as Henry, tapping into menace, rage, and Conservative-Christian geniality within an instant, sometimes within the same scene. Though he is not officially the lead of the movie, O’Quinn is pretty much the lead by having a real presence. Though many talented people are involved at all production levels here, it seems like the only person who came out of The Stepfather with something to be genuinely proud of is the future John Locke from Lost.

Poster for 'The Stepfather" for The Last Drive-In "bad Daddy" night
Pretty cool poster, honestly.

Jill Schoelen is a picture-perfect scream queen, equally beautiful and strong, but she has little to do in the film, nor do we even find a reason to root for her. Her early anxiety surrounding the new father figure makes sense, only to be seemingly abandoned partially into the third act, where it comes out again. I don’t get a real depth from her performance. Nor do I get that from Shelley Hack, either. It’s unusual how two strong actresses offer little in this movie. Jim Ogilvie’s manic performance is interesting but feels out of sync with O’Quinn’s “Bad Daddy” and ends up puzzling by the film’s end.

The writing isn’t great. The film itself doesn’t sell the sense of menace all that well, and any tension we may feel is because of the acting choices instead of story beats and scenes meant to create depth. Only two moments struck me as surprising. One was a murder with a wooden beam sold mainly by an explosively violent performance. The other was the hilarious frankness by which one plotline, woven through the entire film, is resolved in seconds. The latter was an unintended result, but I think it is indicative of some of the storytelling problems within the story. A lengthy sequence illustrates the process of preparing for murder and skipping out for a new town, but it just takes up so much of the runtime that could have helped develop other characters.

Technically speaking, this film isn’t overly impressive. I think the cinematography is suitable but only does something special in the third act featuring a long-held shot where a character gets uncomfortably close to breaking the fourth wall. The editing is serviceable as well. I have no real complaints, but I did not feel particularly wowed by any directorial choices. The music was a downside to the film; however, often grating and inconsistent with the film’s tone, the juxtaposition rarely worked. There were some rare instances when it did, but not nearly enough.

Joe-Bobservations on The Stepfather

One of the more entertaining host segments of the night was Joe Bob dipping back into the injustices of childhood, discussing the cynical world of the newspaper delivery boy. Inspired by the idyllic streets shown in the film, Joe Bob spoke at length about the scam that was the paperboy job, and we even learn that he was a paperboy as a child. It is a hilarious sequence, and you get the sense that he is still pretty heated about it today.

The big topic, beyond the background of the film and cast, which is all very interesting, was the discussion of the true-crime story that inspired the film. The murders of John List are infamous for being some of the most significant and brutal family crimes in criminal history. In many ways, the brief summation of the tragic events by Joe Bob was even more compelling than the movie that pulled from the actual murders. It shows that Joe Bob and his interest in true crime is something that Shudder would be wise to tap into for a documentary series.

Joe Bob made much hay about the exploitation background of Joe Rubin, but the real story was, unsurprisingly, about how good Terry O’Quinn is in the film. His audition was supposedly fantastic and chilling, and I would have loved to have seen that.

Final Thoughts on The Stepfather

The Stepfather is one of the more below-average drive-in movies we’ve had on the show, but that isn’t entirely bad. However, most of my enjoyment came from the wrappings of The Last Drive-In as opposed to the movie for the night’s first half. With only one character with any real agency or interest, mediocre production values, and some comically puzzling writing choices, I don’t think I could recommend much with The Stepfather beyond “see it once.” It was not just a “Bad Daddy” movie; it was also just bad.

Joe Bob Briggs gave The Stepfather 3 out of 4 stars. I give The Stepfather 2 and 1/2 out of 5 Cthulhus.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Best Line: “Wait a minute, who am I here?” – Henry/Jerry, seconds before disaster

Still of Terry O'Quinn in 'The Stepfather" for The Last Drive-In "bad Daddy" night
Terry O’Quinn: killing it in several ways.

The Freakmaker (1974)

The Freakmaker, sometimes known as The Mutations, is a seldom mentioned 1974 science horror film with an unusual pedigree and excellent, notable cast that ends up doing little to salvage this B-picture. It is a curious artifact of 1974 that, while novel, doesn’t prove compelling. Yet, Joe Bob Briggs does have his fascination for this weird little movie, but I doubt the Mutant Fam will take after it as well as they did with The Legend of Boggy Creek.

The film was directed by legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who strangely hands the cinematography duties to Paul Beeson. The film was written by Edward Mann and Robert D. Weinbach, the latter who served as a producer. John Trumper steps in as editor, while the basic is handled by Basil Kirchin and an uncredited Jack Nathan. The film stars Donald Pleasance, Tom Baker, Brad Harris, Julie Ege, Michael Dunn, and Jill Haworth. The film also features a cadre of professional circus Freaks who lend their talents and authenticity to the sideshow setting for part of the film, including Willy “Popeye” Ingram, Esther “Alligator Girl” Blackmon, Hugh “Pretzel Boy” Baily, and Felix “Frog Boy” Duarte.

The Freakmaker features a group of students (Julie Ege, Jill Haworth, Scott Antony) and a visiting scholar, Brian (Brad Harris), who find themselves in the experiments of Dr. Nolter (Donald Pleasance) and his deformed assistant Lynch (Tom Baker). The two create genetic mutants combining human and plant characteristics, pawning off the failed results to a local Freakshow. Tensions arise between the experimenter, Nolter, the experimentees, and the Freaks, led by Burns (Michael Dunn), who rallies against the abuses of Lynch.

The “Bad Daddy” theme is a bit looser with this film but still pretty apt. The movie itself, however, is a mess. The film struggles between predictable plotting, homages that border ripoffs to stronger films, and a mixed bag of performances. Furthermore, the direction is stilted, which is odd from the director of Sons and Lovers (1960).

Poster for 'The Freakmaker' for The Last Drive-In "bad Daddy" night
It’s super freaky!

The story isn’t that good. Some ideas are interesting, but the way the concepts are delivered or developed is incredibly lacking. The film opens very slowly with what feels like a student film about the fungus life cycle as a metaphor as an understimulated Donald Pleasance recites memorized pseudoscientific lines. This is one of those rare instances where even I, a mighty reviewer who has managed to stay up for every movie shown on The Last Drive-In, felt my eyelids grow heavy. This is the most egregious example of the film’s ponderous, plodding, and talky nature.

With that being said, some of the ideas expressed in the dialogue are fascinating, but Donald Pleasance, usually an actor I am excited to see, doesn’t make it work. The cloning, genetic engineering, and the like theories are well ahead of their time here, even if they are couched in verbose nonsense. The film is at its best when it directly takes from Todd Browning’s Freaks (1932), but even then, it is a pale imitation. I’d rather be watching Freaks.

The other performances are fine, perhaps with Tom Baker having the most stirring of the bunch as a Freak who finds himself rejected in both worlds. He has a deeply sad scene with a sex worker that reveals his most significant insecurity, but it is a tantalizing tease and a more exciting story that does not get explored. Everyone else is just there to fill undercooked characters, and there is little agency for any of them to act upon. The ostensible protagonist accomplishes little, and the Freaks, fascinating that they are, only have a few moments before their sudden awkward action at the end of the film.

Even from a technical standpoint, the movie does not wow. I wasn’t overly taken with the direction from Jack Cardiff, nor were the editing and cinematography particularly interesting. The creature effects were decent enough, but ironically they looked to be on par with something in an episode of Dr. Who.

Joe-Bobservations on The Freakmaker

What became readily apparent as the film started is that Joe Bob has a soft spot for The Freakmaker. I can see why, too. Even if the movie isn’t the best I have seen on the show, it is a solid drive-in movie because it hits all the marks for Blood, Breasts, and Beasts. A lot of the apparent love for the film from our favorite horror host seems to originate with his interest in the subject matter of the Freakshow. During his host segments, he spent a lot of time talking about the people he interviewed and his love of the classic Freakshow. He also brought up an important point: if we are supposed to be body positive, is it fair to remove their opportunities for work?

Between Joe Bob’s discussions of the history of the Freakshow and the people who made them possible and his exciting stories about the cast and crew, there was also a hilarious moment of self-awareness as he just could not stop talking. It was charming to see Joe Bob break during one host segment, rattling off factoid after factoid, much to the chagrin of director Austin Jennings. I didn’t laugh quite as hard as the overly long Drive-In total for The Freakmaker, but it was a hilarious moment. Maybe the best part of the “Bad Daddy” evening.

Final Thoughts on The Freakmaker

I wish I could have enjoyed The Freakmaker more. It’s a strange little “Bad Daddy” movie, and had there been a bit more passion for the project across the board, I feel something fun could have really been found. Between a weak story, some overly-on-the-nose homages to Todd Browning’s Freaks, and curiously lifeless performances, there isn’t much to The Freakmaker that I enjoyed. I see the sketches of what I feel might work as a better film, but that’s not the point of this review.

Joe Bob Briggs gave The Freakmaker 3 out of 4 Stars. I can only give The Freakmaker 2 out of 5 Cthulhus.

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Best Line: “You’re a pretty one though, aren’t you. Look, spend a little extra, and I’ll be extra nice to you. Or shall I give it to you straight? Short and sweet. Two pounds.” – An intensely affordable sexworker to Lynch

Donald Pleasance in 'The Freakmaker' for The Last Drive-In
What is the rabbit for, Donald? Donald? Donald!

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

As usual, we have the official Drive-In Totals direct from Shudder. Tweet #2 is particularly intense!

As for our Drive-In Totals for the show, we have:

  • 2 “Bad Daddy” Movies
  • 52 Weeks of Movies
  • 65 Years of Father’s Day Legislation
  • 12 Year Production
  • Overly Involved Psychologist
  • Assault and Daddery
  • Holiday Ranting
  • Evidence Dumping
  • Childhood Trauma Regressing
  • Gratuitous Bathing
  • Plate Kicking
  • Gratuitous Lifetime Movie of the Week Musical Score
  • Gratuitous Fu Description Fu
  • Leaf Fu
  • 2×4 Fu
  • Killer Quip Fu
  • Clipboard Fu
  • Freak Fu
  • Reverse Time-lapse Fu
  • Corpse Rolls
  • Darcy Cosplay: Genderbend Stepdad
Screencap of Joe Bob and Darcy from The Last Drive-In S4E8
I guess the knife prop might be a mild spoiler?

Episode Score for the Last Drive-In: S4E8 – The Stepfather and The Freakmaker

It was a night for the “Bad Daddy” at The Last Drive-In. But how was S4E8, featuring The Stepfather and The Freakmaster, as a whole? Not great, if I am being honest. It was still an enjoyable night, but the films took a sledghammer to the overall evening. The theme felt appropriate, and the film choices made sense, for the most part, but the quality of the films was a real sticking point for me. I guess I am glad I’ve seen them at least once in my life. I don’t think I’ll be seeking them out again.

With that said, however, the show itself put together by the cast and crew of The Last Drive-In was a quality one. The “Bad Daddy” theme introduced some interesting discussion topics, even if those topics were more interesting than the films themselves.

I would give this episode of The Last Drive-In 3 1/2 out of 5 Cthulhus.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

And with that, we are done for the week. What did you think of the movies? Did you have a favorite? Will you ever watch them again? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts. “Do you have any “Bad Daddy” film recommendations?

Please join us on Twitter next Friday as we live-tweet with the rest of the Mutant Fam during The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs

Want more of The Stepfather? (Sponsored)

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Movies n TV

February Titles for Arrow Streaming

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Wow, January sure flew by fast! But guess what? It’s time to see what goodies Arrow is bringing to the small screen soon. Let’s find out!

Basically a picture of everything I talk about down below.

Feb 3rd: Robert Altman: Giggle and Give In and Made in the USA

February 3 Joyce documentaries about the American indie film scene: Robert Altman: Giggle and Give In and Made in the USA (both US/UK/CA/IRE). Joyce’s documentary profile of Altman, originally produced in 1996 includes contributions from Altman, Elliott Gould, Shelley Duvall, assistant director Alan Rudolph and screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury. 

Feb 3rd: Charles Band: The Puppetmaster

February 3: Charles Band: The Puppetmaster (UK/IRE/US/CA). Triple-threat writer-producer-director Charles Band has been pulling the strings making horror, sci-fi and fantasy features since the 70s and his films were a massive part of making the 1980s home video boom, well, boom.

Charles Band: The Puppetmaster brings together many of his wildest and most fun work, from murderous pint-sized puppets to re-animated horrors, from time-travelling Trancers to a terrifying Tourist Trap, and even the re-tooled Doctor Strange movie starring Jeffrey Combs as a slightly different sorcerer supreme. And I LOVE Jeffrey Combs!

Titles Include: Puppet Master, Doctor Mordrid, Trancers.

Feb 6: Killer Tech

February 6, while shopping for a gadget for your sweetheart, ARROW uploads Killer Tech (UK/IRE/US/CA) to the service.

We all want the latest gadgets, but in Killer Tech screen time means scream time.

From cursed videotapes and phone calls to the dangers of the dark web and vicious virtual reality, ARROW’s newest, smallest, lightest, fastest, most expensive curated collection doesn’t just have the best screen, largest amount of storage and the coolest camera – it also comes with a guarantee that the newest tech equals instant death.

Titles Include: .com For Murder, Laguna Ave, Edge of the Axe.

I recommend Edge of the Axe!

Feb 10: Cinematic Void Selects

 February 10, ARROW hands the keys to the kingdom to Cinematic Void, a Los Angeles-based cult film screening series into the mouth of cinemadness. Focusing on all oddball gems of all genres, the Void unleashes an onslaught of horror, eurotrash, exploitation and gonzo action on the silver screen at the American Cinematheque. CV film programmer Jim Branscome has selected a few of his favourite films of the genre for your viewing pleasure in Cinematic Void Selects.

Titles Include: Deadly Games, Deep Red.

Feb 14:

February 14 celebrates Valentine’s Day with the perfect pairing: the undead and the living dead.

Two Orphan Vampires (UK/IRE/US): A pair of teenage girls, who are blind by day, but when the sun goes down, they roam the streets to quench their thirst for blood.

Zombie Lake (UK/IRE/US): In a small village, somewhere in France, German soldiers, killed and thrown into the lake by the Resistance during WWII, come back.

Also Valentine’s Day:

Jean Rollin: The Fantastique Collection Part IV (UK/IRE/US).

Led by the brand new and exclusive documentary from filmmakers Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin, Orchestrator of Storms: The Fantastique World Of Jean Rollin, welcome to ARROW’s final volume of horrifying dream-like sauce from the master of conjuring up erotic nightmare fuel, Jean Rollin, The Fantastique Collection Part IV.

Titles Include: The Living Dead Girl, Lost in New York, Dracula’s Fiancee.

Feb 17: The French Hitchcock: Claude Chabrol

February 17, with The French Hitchcock: Claude Chabrol (UK/IRE/US).

For five decades Claude Chabrol navigated the unpredictable waters of cinema, leaving in his wake more than fifty feature films that remain among the most quietly devastating genre movies ever made. Sardonic, provocative, and unsettling, Chabrol’s films cut to the quick with a clarity and honesty honed to razor sharpness.

Though influenced by Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renoir, Chabrol’s voice was entirely and assuredly his own, influencing in turn filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho, James Gray and Dominik Moll. His amused, unblinkered view of life and refusal to judge his characters makes his films timelessly relevant and accessible to all.

Dark, witty, ruthless, mischievous: if you’ve never seen Chabrol before, you’re in for a treat.

Titles Include: Cop au vin, Madame Bovary (1991), The Swindle.

Feb 24: King of Karate: The Sonny Chiba Collection

February 24 hits it off with King of Karate: The Sonny Chiba Collection (UK/IRE/US/CA).

Put up your dukes and prepare yourselves for brutal and lightning-fast martial arts action starring the King of Karate: Sonny Chiba.

Whether you’ve only heard of Sonny through Clarence and Alabama’s True Romance triple-bill, have seen him sword-making for The Bride in Kill Bill, or know Shinichi Chiba from way back in the 70s martial arts boom where his lethal mastery of karate, judo and kenpo made him an in-demand anti-hero to legions of fans, there’s plenty of bruising bad-assery to be had in King of Karate: The Sonny Chiba Collection.

Titles Include: The Street Fighter, Wolf Guy, Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match.

Feb 28: Millionaires’ Express 

February 28 closes out the shortest month of the year with Millionaires’ Express (US/CA).

All aboard for the all-star action-packed adventure of a lifetime as martial arts maestro Sammo Hung (Heart of Dragon) brings East and West crashing spectacularly together in Millionaires’ Express!

Sammo himself plays Ching Fong-tin, a former outlaw with a wild scheme to make amends with the citizens of his struggling hometown of Hon Sui: explosively derail a brand new luxury express train en route from Shanghai so that its super-rich passengers will have no choice but to spend money in the town. He’s not the only one with eyes on the passengers’ deep pockets, however; a gang of ruthless bank-robbing bandits are on the way, looking for a priceless map being guarded by a trio of Japanese samurai. Bullets and fists will fill the air in equal measure, but will Hon Sui Town be left standing?

Jean Rollin Collection promotional. It's kinda trippy.

Head over to ARROW to start watching now.

Subscriptions are available for $6.99 monthly or $69.99 yearly. 

ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Samsung TVs, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

ARROWEssentials curates collections based on genre, decades and themes; and ARROWStories takes a fresh look at the world of film and TV with exclusive documentaries, interviews and video essays diving deeper into the many curated seasons and titles on the platform for a richer and deeper viewing experience.

With a slickly designed and user-friendly interface, and an unparalleled roster of quality content from westerns to giallo to Asian cinema, trailers, Midnight Movies, filmmaker picks and much, much more, ARROW is the place to go for the very best in on-demand entertainment.

ARROW is also home to ARROW Stories – an ever-growing collection of interviews, trailers, documentaries and additional extras, both newly created exclusives for the service and from the company’s extensive archives. The service will be updated regularly with fresh content, new curation focuses and never-before-seen content, all selected by the ARROW team as well as the filmmakers themselves. With a slickly designed and user-friendly interface ARROW is the new alternative place to go for the very best in On-Demand entertainment.

Be on the look-out because in the coming months, ARROW will be adding Oscar-winning hits, European classics, Asian cinema masterworks, rediscovered Westerns, offbeat gems and much more as part of ARROW’s international strategy to support and celebrate the medium of film.

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Dahmer, The Good Boy Box

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I think if it were possible to awkward someone to death, Dahmer never would have had to use any other weapon. Because if episode four is any indication, the man was a walking personification of awkwardness. 

Let’s discuss. 

We start this episode with Dahmer talking with the police detectives after his arrest. He doesn’t seem to have any issue laying everything out for them, starting with the murder of the hitchhiker from the last episode. He’s seeing a psychiatrist, which feels overdue. And the psychiatrist is bringing back some memories. Starting with his graduation from high school.

Still from Dahmer with Evan Peters.

A few days after graduation, Lionel Dahmer finally decides to look in on his family. He comes home to find no one but Jeff there, drunk and scribbling out the faces of his classmates from his yearbook. 

After taking some time to blame Joyce, Lionel sets himself to the task of fixing his son. He first sends Jeff to Ohio State. Within a semester, Jeff is expelled with a GPA of .45. So, Lionel sends him to the army. And for about a year, that seems to work out. Jeff goes through basic training and everything is fine. But then, he’s discharged. 

It’s not outright said in the show why Dahmer was discharged. He later tells a woman that it was because of his drinking. But he lies and gives half-truths to everyone without any remorse. So there’s no way of knowing. 

Finally, we pick back up where we left off a few episodes ago, with Jeff’s grandmother finding the stolen mannequin in his bed. She throws it away, and he starts to unravel.

He goes to a state fair and gets arrested for masturbating in public.

Evan Peters in Dahmer.

Honestly, there are a lot of masturbation scenes in this episode and the last. Probably more than we needed.

Every time Jeff seems to get some sort of handle on his life, he manages to mess it up. He loses jobs and starts drugging men at bars. Finally, he finds himself in bed with the body of a beautiful young man he brought home the night before. 

I liked this episode. It was a deeply disturbing portrait of a mentally ill young man trying and failing to get himself together. It’s easy to feel bad for Dahmer. To feel like there should have been a way to save him from himself.

And there should have been, to be clear. Dahmer was throwing up enough red flags early enough that someone should have been able to do something.

And yet, nobody did until seventeen men were dead. It does make you wonder if it would have gone on so long if Dahmer hadn’t preyed on gay men. If he hadn’t been a white man. And maybe it should make us wonder that.

I’m sure this point will be made clear to us as we watch the second half of the season.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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The Last of Us: Episode 2: Infected

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*WARNING: This review contains spoilers.*

If you haven’t read the review on The Last of Us’ first episode, click here.

HBO’s The Last of Us‘ second episode, “Infected,” released January 22, 2023. It was directed by Neil Druckman and written by Craig Mazin. The episode takes us to Jakarta in 2003, just days before the outbreak. Dr. Ratna (Christine Hakim) is a mycology professor at the University of Indonesia. The Indonesian government orders her to examine a dead body they killed at a flour factory. During her examination, Dr. Ratna discovers Cordycep mycelium growing in the body’s mouth. After learning the full story behind the dead body, including the high infection rate and its symptoms, Dr. Ratna’s only conclusion is to bomb the whole city because “there is no vaccine for this.”

Fast forward to present day and we once again witness the aftereffects of Dr. Ratna’s discovery.

Is that everything you hoped for?

Ellie, Joel and Tess walk to the capitol building

In episode one, Tess and Joel learned an infected bit Ellie a few weeks back and are reluctant to keep traveling with her. Joel threatens to shoot her the moment she starts showing symptoms, but it’s Tess who convinces him that they need to keep going to the Capitol Building to hand the youth off to the fireflies.

One of the most exciting scenes in episode two is when the trio takes a shortcut through a history museum that is almost identical to the one in the game. They enter a dark room and all seems well until they hear a slow, ominous clicking sound nearby. An infected with torn clothes and cordycep covered body creeps around them. When it hears Joel step on a piece of glass, it attacks.

Infected: a clicker

Clickers are the third stage of infection and it takes about a year for them to reach this point after exposure. They can’t see their prey, but have an incredible sense of hearing and communicate through clicks. (If you want a real life example, they sound awfully similar to crows clicking in conversation.) More clickers enter the museum room and Joel, Ellie and Tess fight them off, brutally killing them one by one, barely making it out alive.

When the trio reaches daylight outside, Ellie realizes she was bit. “If it had to happen to one of us…” she jokes, still shaken by their encounter. But Tess is less than amused; she’s furious by how narrow their escape was. Even when Joel and Ellie have a sweet moment, the first sign of warmth Joel gives the girl on their journey together, Tess interrupts and tells them to keep going because there is still a long way to go.

The Last of Tess

After two episodes, HBO’s The Last of Us mirrors the video game while creating a brand new story. Spores moving through the air are a significant threat in the video game, but are merely a terrifying thought in the show’s universe. Instead, HBO’s version illustrates how the Cordyceps’ mycelium creates a “hive mind” in infected. If one infected is killed, a message is sent to everyone else it’s connected to.

After escaping the museum, the trio eventually make it to the capitol building, only to find that all the Fireflies they were supposed to meet are dead and gone. Tess rummages through the bodies’ clothes in hopes of finding a map, but there’s nothing. Suddenly, a runner lunges into the air and tries to take them down. When Joel shoots it, the mycelium hive mind alerts the rest of the infected outside the building. They swarm to their new pray.

Joel is in a rush to get going. But before they can all escape, it appears that Tess was bitten at the museum, too. In just a short amount of time, her bite has worsened while Ellie’s remains the same. Tess holds Ellie’s arm up and shows it to Joel. “This is real,” she cries, desperate for Joel to believe her. She needs him to keep taking Ellie out west, to wherever Marlene needs them to go. Maybe there is a cure after all.

The Verdict

Episode two continues to show promise of The Last of Us being a great video game adaptation. It maintains the game’s plot while creating new rules to make the story more suitable for TV. When the episode begins in Jakarta, we see how the world, not just the United States, is devastated by the impacts of this disease. And it is hopeful we will see the state of the present day world in later episodes, too.

Additionally, the filming of mycelium growing and spreading throughout the infected is convincing for the new hive mind theory. While spores and gas masks worked well for the game, many of those rules were still inconsistent; it’s for the best that The Last of Us‘ writers did away with spores in the show. The makeup for the bite marks and prosthetics for the clickers make the fight scenes more high stakes and terrifying. The actors, from infected extras to the main cast, are phenomenal. Bella Ramsey as Ellie especially shines, particularly with her whipsmart comebacks and various facial expressions.

It is evident the creators did not cut corners when it came to filming, makeup and casting these last two episodes. If they wanted to create as authentic an experience as possible for this video game adaptation, they did not disappoint.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Until next time, check out what else we’re watching and playing at Haunted MTL.

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