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Has anyone ever heard of the 2014 New Zealand film The Dead Lands? It was written by Glenn Standing, directed by Toa Fraser, and was selected as New Zealand’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards (it didn’t get it). Well, the writer of the film decided he wanted to explore the story further and adapted it into a TV series for Shudder.

So far, The Dead Lands has gotten more promotion than any other Shudder series I’ve seen and it’s almost all been positive. However, I myself have not impressed. It certainly has potential, loads of it in fact, but the delivery needs some work. Set in ancient Maori times, The Dead Lands focuses on a warrior named Waka Nuku Rau (Te Kohe Tuhaka) and a young tribeswoman, Mehe (Darneen Christian) who pair up on a quest to stop an evil that’s overtaking their lands.

Unique but nothing original

Let me start off by saying what I like about The Dead Lands because I hate “dissing” films or series. A lot of work goes into them and they all try their best, two facts that are clear in this case. The Dead Lands is executed with a delicate mix of primal human survival and straight-up bloody violence. For a horror show, it’s pretty good. However, there are one too many flaws weighing it down.

The subject matter is what’s unique here, but that’s about it. At its core is the Maori people. It’s essentially a zombie series set within Ancient Maori legends and customs, something that should be incredibly original but outside of the supernatural elements, it’s like any other “save the world” series. The biggest flaw is the pacing, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The characters feel as if they came off a checklist; there’s the independent tough girl, the redeemed sinner, a group of skeptics, and the guy who is basically the Governor from The Walking Dead. I found it hard to get invested with any of them, especially Waka. The guy reminds me of Vin Diesel in The Pacifier.


The series tries hard to sell him as some ultrapowerful warrior. If I wasn’t told how tough he was all the time I’d assume he was just an average guy. The opening scene is him at the heart of a massacre as a narrating woman (Mehe) describes his legendary bloodthirsty nature. Then, just seconds after that, someone sneaks up from behind and kills him.

I guess hearing some guy walk through the bushes isn’t a requirement for being the world’s greatest warrior. Waka’s death is what starts the series. He wakes in the afterlife but is denied entry to join his ancestors on account of his past sins. He’s informed that there is still time for redemption, and is immediately back, landing headfirst into a zombie apocalypse.

We later learn that something has broken the world and the veil between the living and the dead has fractured, forcing anyone who dies to reenter their body and resume “life” as a walking corpse.

Despite being the headliner, Waka is not the star. The real star Mehe. A young tribeswoman who goes off in search of Waka after her village is attacked by the dead. These two are the best part of the series, but even they are damaged by the rough pacing of the first episode.

These two characters, who are the heart of the series, bond way too quickly. Their friendship develops before the end of Episode 1. They meet, try to kill each other, and then, BOOM! they’re inseparable. Even while they’re still trying to maintain the illusion that they’re just frienemies.

I understand the desire to get the story going. To move the characters past the intro phase as fast as possible but I felt that it cheapened the intimacy of their relationship. I wished we got to see it develop over time.


Mehe and Wka are the heart of the series, watching them interact is the best part. The rest is all entertaining, but it’s nothing that left me excited for the next episode.


The Dead Lands is one of those shows that needs to build up before it can really go anywhere. Episodes 1 and 2 were used to get most of that out of the way. We’ve been introduced to everybody and know what’s going on, now its time for the good stuff. Maybe I will tune in for Episode 3. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

All photos are property of Shudder/AMC and General Film Corporation.

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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Movies n TV

The Boys, The Insider



We’ve reached the second to last episode of The Boys, season four. And, as is appropriate for the penultimate episode of any show, things have to get a lot worse before they can get better.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Christmas is coming, and the whole world is getting ready. Ryan, despite being very clear that he didn’t want to appear on any TV shows or movies, has been strong-armed into participating in a Vought puppet Christmas special. He draws the line, though, when asked to sing about turning one’s parents in if they start talking about woke things.

Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

Meanwhile, The Boys are trying to keep each other together. Butcher decides to take Sameer to the rest of the team. He also gets Frenchie out of prison, hoping they can make the Sup virus necessary to finally take down Homelander. Instead, this decision means disaster for one member of the team.


What worked

I first want to talk about Ryan’s speech near the end of the episode. Because it was exactly the moral of this whole story.

Ryan’s dad is a monster. His stepdad is also kind of a monster. But Ryan is a good kid. He cares about people, about family. And while he loves Homelander and Butcher, he doesn’t want to be like them.

Even better, this speech sounded like something a kid would say. Ryan didn’t open his mouth and start sounding like a college student all of a sudden. He sounds like a kid who misses his mom and wants to live up to the good standards she set for him. And I think that’s terrific.

Speaking of Homelander, he shot himself in the foot in this episode. I said earlier in the season that his hubris was going to be his downfall, and I was right. Without Sage, he just has the same weaknesses he’s always had. He’s going to fail because he just isn’t clever enough or patient enough to succeed.

Without Sage, I think a win is in the bag for The Boys. This isn’t to say that Homelander by himself isn’t dangerous. It’s just that he’s more like a wildfire than a controlled burn. He’s going to cause a lot of damage, but not get anything he wants out of it.


More’s the pity for him and everyone else who has to share his world.

Finally, I am thrilled with A-Train’s redemption story. I love that he wants to be a good person not to save himself, but to be a good person. His honest, pure and warm reaction to that little kid smiling at him in the last episode was heartwarming. It changed him in a moment, bringing to light a goodness that he’s been keeping under wraps for a long time.

Jessie T. Usher in The Boys.

This, along with Ryan’s courageous speech, proves once again what The Boys does so well. Yes, it’s gruesome. Yes, there’s blood and balls and batshit events. Yes, someone occasionally gets ripped in half. But there is a true human goodness in the story. One that we catch glimpses of. There are good people among the monsters. There is hope for redemption.

What didn’t work

Of course, so few things in this life are perfect, and this episode was no exception. For instance, I was irritated by the insinuation that Butcher cheated on his wife.


That just doesn’t make any sense. We’ve seen flashbacks of Billy and Becca. They were happy. He was happy. He was head over heels for her. And I don’t think it’s realistic or necessary for the character to throw in that he cheated. It does nothing to add to the story, it’s just a weird and offputting moment.

Doesn’t Butcher have enough to hate about himself? Can’t we just give him that at least he was a good husband?

Finally, I kind of hate that we ended up with Annie being caught. It’s just cliche, which is something I don’t normally say about this show. It feels lazy unless they do something very clever with it in the last episode. Which, I suppose, they might.

Next up is the season finale. And with this season being as insane as it has been, I’m expecting nothing short of bloody fireworks. And I mean literal fireworks of blood. At this point, would it surprise anyone?

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

The Boys, Dirty Business



Episode six of The Boys was one of the most surprising episodes of the series so far. And that is certainly saying something. Because this season has so far been bonkers.

The story

Our episode today revolves around a party at Tek Knight’s lovely mansion. Yes, it does look just like Wayne Manor.

The Boys know that Tek Knight is working with Homelander on something, but they don’t know the details. So they decide to send Hughie in to bug the mansion.

Because that’s worked so well the other two times he’s tried to hide a bug!


It should surprise no one that this time goes no better. Hughie finds himself in Tek Knight’s basement. And by that I mean his BDSM dungeon.

Meanwhile, the party upstairs is no less disturbing. Homelander and Sage are trying to convince some well-off political donors to support a cue after the election. When pressed for details on his plan, Homelander freezes. He looks to Sage for help, but she wasn’t recently shot in the head and still in the junk food stage of her healing.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, Neuman jumps in and saves the day.

Claudia Doumit in The Boys.

What works

If I’m going to say one thing about this episode, it didn’t hold back at all. I didn’t expect them to show a character masturbating, sitting their bare behind on a cake, or spraying breastmilk into someone’s face. But every time I thought they’d cut the scene and let something be left to our imagination, they did not do that.

Derek Wilson in The Boys.

This is a dangerous move. Whenever you show the monster, you run the risk of them not being scary enough, or gross enough. As Stephen King says in Danse Macabre, to leave this sort of thing to the imagination if the reader makes things so much worse. So when they finally experience the monster, they might say that this isn’t so bad. It could have been so much worse.

But in this case, they managed to avoid that by making the scenes, especially the ones in Tek Knight’s dungeon, so much worse than I imagined it would be.


What doesn’t work

While this was a deeply disturbing episode in many ways, there was one really innocent and sweet moment.

And yes, I did have a problem with it.

Confronted by Firecracker, Annie decides to apologize for spreading rumors about her when they were kids. She tells her that she is genuinely sorry.

And I believe her. I don’t think Firecracker did, but I did.

So why is this an issue? Because I’m starting to think that Annie is maybe too nice. She is too good.


I know that Annie is our good guy. But every one of the other good guys has flaws. Hughie let his pride get in the way and took Temp V. MM hid himself from his daughter instead of teaching her to work through her emotions. Kimiko is far too closed off and has a hard time trusting others. Frenchie numbs himself with drugs. And well, what hasn’t Butcher done?

It is unrealistic that Annie is just so kind and so flawless. We all have shadows in our personalities. We all have weaknesses, we all mess up. We all do things we wish we could take back. The fact that Annie doesn’t seem to have anything like that is not just unrealistic. It’s infantilizing.

Give her some deep dark secrets. Give her something real to regret.

This was a shocking episode, even for someone fairly jaded like me. I wasn’t expecting the sort of weird sexual depravity, though I guess maybe I should have seen it coming. It was dark, upsetting, tense, and funny as hell. And with just two episodes left in the season, I can imagine the stakes are only going to get higher.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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Movies n TV

House of he Dragon: S2E4 – The Return of Trogdor!



Instead of recapping this episode, I will link you to Strongbad, so you can see something with a dragon that doesn’t suck.

See you for Episode 5!

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