“Endure and Survive,” The Last of Us‘ fifth episode, released Friday, February 10 (a couple days early because February 12 was Super Bowl Sunday). This episode goes into the story of Henry and Sam Burrell, the iconic brothers fighting for their lives in Kansas City, Missouri.
*This review contains HEAVY spoilers*
Through the Tunnels
We last left the Burrells holding Ellie and Joel at gunpoint. The beginning of “Endure and Survive” backtracks to 10 days or so ago, where the brothers are hiding in an attic, away from Kathleen and the FEDRA-resistance group. The two have a tight relationship. With Henry in his mid-twenties and Sam being only eight (a few years younger than Sam in the video game), the two rely on each other for survival. Henry has to be twice on guard for Sam not only because of his young age, but because Sam is also Deaf. The two communicate through American Sign Language and an erasable sketchpad, both of which are used heavily throughout the episode. The silence of their languages adds an even greater immersion of tension to the terrifying world.
After a week in the attic, the brothers run out of food and are forced to find new shelter. This leads them to discovering Ellie and Joel. Henry makes it clear that he and Sam do not want to hurt anyone; instead, they need help escaping the city. With some convincing from Ellie, Joel reluctantly decides to team up with the brothers. The four make a plan to travel through the maintenance tunnels, where Henry is almost positive no infected reside.
Fortunately, Henry is correct. The crew is safe from infected and discover an underground community, where families lived free from infected, FEDRA and enemies alike. They hide out in what appears to be a schoolroom; Joel and Henry sit down to talk while Ellie and Sam bond over their love for the Savage Starlight comic series.
While the journey to this scene contrasts from the game, its identical set design and intimate dialogue sums up a large part of the Last of Us is all about. More than a shooting game, it is a deep study of humanity. Humans are shaped through their experiences and that shapes their behavior and decisions. With the help of good writing and acting, these characters feel and are real.
The realness of these characters is a large reason for The Last of Us’ success. The writers in both the game and series are not asking for us to forgive Kathleen or any other characters, including Joel, who enact tremendous pain and suffering on others. They are not providing an excuse for their actions. Rather, The Last of Us illustrates that humanity is complex and not a binary of black and white or right and wrong. In times of desperation, people will do what they can to survive even if they know it to be very, very wrong.
In both the game and show, Sam asks if the infected are still people underneath the disease. An answer is never provided and we are left to ponder this horror of an existence alone.
Endure and Survive the Bloater
The tunnels spit the group of four out into a desolate neighborhood in the dead of night. They feel a rare sense of security before a sniper shoots them back into reality. Leaving Henry to watch the kids, Joel makes his way to the sniper, shoots him down and clears a path for the rest. Suddenly, Kathleen and her crew of tanks roar through the streets. Joel shoots down one of the tank, which crashes into a house and blows up. But Kathleen’s army is strong, and this attack is nothing compared to what else she has up her sleeve.
The crew of four are, in a word, fucked.
When Henry finally decides to show himself, begging for Kathleen to let the kids go, he is interrupted. The destroyed tank sinks into a large hole in the ground. Everyone is silent, shocked by what they’ve witness, unprepared for the monstrous hoard of infected that cascade out the hole.
Now Kathleen and her army have an enemy greater than our protagonists. Everyone fights off the infected with their guns and machines, but no one can take down the bloater, a behemoth and one of the final stages of infection. The creature is ruthless as it rips people’s heads off and deflects bullets like flies.
Despite all the odds being stacked against them, Ellie and the Burrells somehow manage to escape. They rest for the night in a little motel. When morning comes, Sam is no longer himself. He was bitten during their encounter with the infected, and has transformed overnight. He attacks Ellie. Henry is forced to shoot his brother and, succumbing to grief and shock, himself.
Joel and Ellie are once again on their own. Before returning on their journey west, they bury the brothers beside each other and Ellie places Sam’s sketchpad with the note “I’m sorry” on his grave. They now make their way to Tommy’s.
“Endure and Survive” is, by far, the strongest episode in this impressive series. If one needed to sum up The Last of Us in its entirety, episode five could do the job. It has all the moments of action, sincerity, comedy, hardcore action and intense tragedy. All of these elements are included while pacing the story and . All the actors in this episode stand out, but Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Montreal Woodard truly shine. Their performances of these iconic brothers brought Henry and Sam to life and, despite how short their stay, will be dearly missed. (5 / 5)
We can anticipate to catch up with Tommy 20 years after the events in episode one. We can expect perhaps another slower episode like episode 4. This is a rather slow part in the game (minus the various shootout fights). However, this show is great at throwing a few curveballs, so we’ll just have to wait for Sunday, February 19.
Until then, make sure you check out the other shows and games we’re watching and playing at HauntedMTL.
Movies n TV
The Invitation, A Film Review
The Invitation is a 2022 horror thriller directed by Jessica M. Thompson and written by Blair Butler, starring Nathalie Emmanual.
The Invitation is a 2022 horror thriller directed by Jessica M. Thompson and written by Blair Butler. This PG-13-rated film includes the talents of Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, and Stephanie Cornelissen. As of the time of this review, it is available for free to Netflix subscribers.
Growing up in the system, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) tries to find relatives through the program findyourself. She finds success through a distant cousin who is more than eager to meet her. With the promise of more family desperate to meet her, this cousin (Hugh Skinner) convinces her to visit this family in England to attend a wedding. When a Lord named De Ville (Thomas Doherty) becomes smitten by her, life begins to look up. But she learns her host, this estranged family, and even De Ville have ulterior motives.
What I Like
Nathalie Emmanuel and Thomas Doherty have good chemistry. It may not be exceptional, but De Ville charms with a confidence that Thomas Doherty hardly needs. With the fact that he’s a lord, it’s easy to see why the passion develops.
Another key performance is Stephanie Corneliussen’s Viktoria, who plays a towering and intimidating figure. Her natural friction with Evie makes her an interesting creative foil to the lead. I might even say this friction remains the selling point for me.
One final praise in chemistry is the friendship between Evie and Courtney Taylor’s Grace. If Viktoria plays the foil, Grace plays the voice of reason. The actresses work well off each other and make me wish Taylor’s role was a bit bigger.
However, one of the best performances comes from Sean Pertwee’s Renfield, who is so needlessly aggressive that it almost borders comical. To me, it’s more impressive that this performance still lingers and feels genuinely threatening. The nature of the role can easily fall into that camp, but Sean Pertwee’s calm exterior makes him seem like a man ready to bash a skull into a wall.
There are some surprisingly good scares. While they aren’t exactly haunting, it sets up the expendable view the elite families have for the working class around them. The horror remains the strongest in the beginning.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
An animal does die in The Invitation, for those of thus who don’t mind the deaths of people but do mind the death of birds. It’s sudden and feels almost unnecessary. I personally don’t have a trigger for it, but I recognize it as a common dealbreaker. From a story perspective, I wanted more context or purpose.
A specific name, no spoilers, reads like a first draft from the script. It shouldn’t take too long to figure out why. I find this goes into a larger problem of predictability. There aren’t many surprises you don’t see coming a mile away.
What I Dislike
Let’s start with that name. I wasn’t expecting to be surprised, the trailer reveals enough, but it’s a bit on the nose. The reference is understandable, but The Invitation remains a reimagining. I don’t see why there couldn’t be an additional update. Or maybe use the default name and own the reference?
As mentioned, the film has its moments but don’t expect true horror, that tasty dose of terror. The Invitation plays it safe, which feels like a waste of talent. I don’t know what was behind the scenes, but I almost wish I didn’t enjoy the casting so much with how basic the execution remains.
While I haven’t lingered on a plethora of negatives, it’s where it lacks creativity that brings the viewing down. The Invitation has many enjoyable elements, but together it falls flat. If the premise sounds interesting to you or the cast lures you in, The Invitation will satisfy your viewing pleasure. But I feel like there could have been a greater movie buried within, which always makes it less satisfying. (2.5 / 5)
Movies n TV
2023’s ‘Summoning Sylvia’ is a Faboolous New Film
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I was asked if I wanted to cover the new “LGBTQ horror” film, SUMMONING SYLVIA from director/writer duo, Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse.
New LGBTQ horror can feel either very outrageous and full-on camp like Death Drop Gorgeous, Ticked Off Tr*****s With Knives, or You’re Killing Me.
Or they can be very cerebral and dramatic like Raw, Lyle, and Bit.
So, which route would SUMMONING SYLVIA take?
Summoning Sylvia’s Plot:
It’s the bachelor weekend for Larry (Travis Coles) and his three best friends (Frankie Grande, Troy Iwata, and Noah J. Ricketts) have booked an entire weekend to spend together in a historic house. They’re set on getting glam, party games, drinking appletinis, eating fancy snacks, and the pièce de résistance — a séance to summon Sylvia (Veanne Cox), the murdering mother and resident ghost.
However, what they didn’t plan on was Larry’s new brother-in-law (Nicholas Logan) to crash the party and open up new doors to dark pasts…
I was expecting to enjoy this movie enough. Nothing too much, nothing too little.
With a lot of LGBTQ horror comedies, they typically have the same jokes and punchlines. And as much as I love big dick jokes and bottoming jokes as much as anyone, but it gets to be…a lot. It gets stale. It gets boring.
And worse, inauthentic to the characters and plot.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, this caters to a very specific type of gay subculture, but it was authentic in its celebration. When Larry wipes off his eye makeup, knowing that his very straight and close-minded new brother-in-law is coming, it’s heartbreaking. It’s watching him wash a piece of his happiness away in a very quiet and sad moment. We understand his character completely in this small and subtle gesture.
The cinematographer (Matthew Roveto) did a fantastic job at focusing in on Larry throughout the film, reminding us that Larry is the focal point, regardless of the story. This was HIS story, even with other shenanigans happening.
And I’m really shocked to find out that Travis Coles hasn’t done that much in front of the camera yet, spending most of his experience as a crew member. His range and rawness are there throughout the film. As Larry, he was playful, nurturing, and self-conscious. For a silly-billy movie about ghosts and gays, he effortless portrayed a lot of depth.
And in fact, the whole cast has real magnetism and cohesiveness that I often find lacking in many horror movies. It’s the common trope of “friends find a haunted house”, with an emphasis on “haunted house” but very little thought on the “friends” part.
The warmth that the characters had, even the catty diva Nico (Frankie Grande), was convincing and magnetic. The cast gelled well together and were believable as friends who sass each other and maybe (like many queer circles) have little crushes. The relationships in Summoning Sylvia were genuine and charming.
Also, the editing (Sara Corrigan) with the ghosts in the past and the characters in the present was incredible and stylized. The editing was so effective and precise, it delighted me every time I saw it.
The costuming and sets were so much fun and showed the juxtaposition between the ghosts and the guys. From dark and drab to light and…well…gay. Each character had his own design and brand, which was easy to pick up. All of them were dressed beautifully and Sylvia was foreboding and gothic. Pure perfection.
The only thing that I had a bit of a hard time with was…
Brainroll Juice : The Ending of Summoning Sylvia
The ending was a bit messy. Everything was kind of happening all at once, like a sloppy Joe sandwich coming out at all ends.
And we haven’t really talked about Harrison.
So, I know. I get it. People are awful. They get weirded out by things they don’t understand even to this day. And there’s a suspicion that some of what Harrison says and does in this movie are because he’s under the possession of Sylvia.
And regardless of that or not, I was really hoping that there would be another twist. Because Nicholas Logan’s acting isn’t bad. It’s good as a stereotypical cis-het white male as the villain. And the ending is the same as many other endings with the same, er, beats (I’m trying hard not to give this away). And while I applaud Larry for standing up to him, I wish there had just been a different twist.
It’s a safe ending. It’s a trope ending.
And that’s not necessarily bad, but I just wanted it to veer into new and fresh territory. I wanted more from the ending.
Now, this was a short movie, and perhaps there was a longer ending, who knows. I would have loved a little more time to clean up the sloppy Joe mess and tie things up more gracefully, but obviously that wasn’t in the cards.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t ruin the movie, it just doesn’t hit as strong as the rest of it.
Are you looking for a fun gaycation with a spooky house and an awkward new addition to the family? Look no further. SUMMONING SYLVIA is funny, charming, and will lift your spirits. (4 / 5)
The Horror Collective is excited to announce the North American theatrical and TVOD release of their LGBTQ horror comedy Summoning Sylvia. Written and directed by Wesley Taylor (Smash, The Spongebob Musical) and Alex Wyse (Marvel’s Iron Fist, soon to join Broadway’s Good Night, Oscar), the hair-raising romp tells the story of a gay bachelor party that takes a spooky turn when sinister spirits are suddenly summoned.
The Horror Collective will release Summoning Sylvia in theaters nationwide March 31, 2023 and on Cable VOD and Digital HD April 7, 2023.
Movies n TV
Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube Channel
Youtube is a great place for those of us who like a spooky story. There we can find a mixture of true tales and cutting-edge fiction. These range everywhere from amateur footage to professionally crafted videos.
Today, we’re talking about a hidden YouTube gem, Scary Fairy Godmother.
The channel launched in December 2014. Since its birth, there has been just one topic of discussion. The fey is not to be trusted, and in fact, is something to be feared.
Some of the stories on this channel are fiction. But some are claimed as first-hand accounts of dangerous interactions with fairies.
Now, whether or not we believe in fairies isn’t the point of this review. I am only here to talk about the level of entertainment to be found on this YouTube channel.
A recent video titled Melsh Dick (don’t laugh) was a common fairy tale. A girl is lured away from her friends by a boy who claims to be her cousin. He doesn’t give her a name, they never do. Fortunately, the girl escapes. Others haven’t been so lucky.
A favorite video of mine, being a city dweller, was Urban Fairies. This video consisted of eight encounters with fairies in an urban setting. Many of these encounters are nice. There’s a beautiful swirl of lights seen out of an apartment window. A person is lured into a city park by a lovely young woman who might or might not have been human. And another person receives some personal and sage advice from what looks to be a homeless man while she’s out walking her dog. All of these stories were delightful, reminding us that magic can be found in any setting.
For creepier encounters, we turn to the video House Fairy Horrors. Warning, you might not be as thrilled about the Elf on a Shelf after this one.
In this video we hear the tale of a goblin that took over one room of a person’s house, chasing out anyone who tried to go in. A young child sings to scare sprites out of their home, only to have them hold a grudge and return years later. There’s even a shadow man who seems to encourage a vegan lifestyle.
Some of the videos have themes, like frost fairies or encounters with fairy royalty. Some are eerie tales plucked from Reddit, real life or imagined.
Of course, the creepiest tales are those where people are lured into the forest by the fey. You’ll find several of these stories on Scary Fairy Godmother. It always seems to be in good fun, until one finds themselves lost.
These stories might not seem very scary to us. The tellers of these tales come away without a scratch after all. But consider this. The only time we’d hear about a fairy abduction is if it fails. We do not know what happens to the others, only that they’re not around to tell us.
How many people went missing in your town last year?
From what we can gather from these videos, we are never safe from the fey. They can reside in our homes, our cities, and our parks. They can even reach us in our dreams. What they want with us may vary. Perhaps it’s just to give us a scare. Maybe they enjoy playing tricks on us. Or maybe they’re vengeful, angry at the disrespect mankind has shown to the environment, and eager to punish us for our abuses. Whatever the reasons, it’s probably best if we steer clear.
The Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube channel is one with staying power. The fan base is small, but it’s growing. It’s a great one to throw on while your hands are busy, or if you just want a soothing voice to tell you a scary story. So if you’re a fan of the creepier side of life, do yourself a favor and check it out.(3.5 / 5)