Taboo Episodes 1 & 2 Review and Analysis

You never quite know what FX will come up with next. While the network’s programming is inconsistent overall, it is capable of producing quality works that bring out the best in actors and filmmakers. American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson was one of those shows, popping up early last year with some of the best performances from its actors we’ve seen in years. With Taboo, FX has pushed the boundaries of quality television even further. Produced in part by Ridley Scott, the series features HBO alumni such as Oona Chaplin (Game of Thrones), Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones) and Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire), and the quality of the content would not feel out of place in any of their previous work for the premium network.

Obviously, Tom Hardy is the star of the show here. He (along with his father, Chips Hardy) is listed as the show’s creator, and it’s obvious that he is working on material he truly believes in. If you’ve seen BronsonWarriorThe Dark Knight Rises, or Mad Max: Fury Road, you know what kind of performances Hardy is capable of. He has somehow mastered the art of dichotomy, often delivering nuanced portrayals of aristocracy and savagery, of tenderness and cruelty.

When it was announced that Bane would be the villain of The Dark Knight Rises, I was terrified that the amazing Christopher Nolan franchise was headed in a bad direction, hurling towards the worst period of time in the comic industry. However, Hardy’s Bane was so sophisticated and so intense that he ended up bringing depth to a character where depth never existed in the source material. Beyond that, one viewing of Bronson could cause any casual moviegoer to become a true believer in the physical and creative extremes that Hardy takes to deliver an unforgettable performance. His new character, James Keziah Delaney is no exception.

The walking embodiment of a monster dressed as a gentleman, it’s never quite clear what Delaney is up to, as he stalks the streets of London, until it’s too late. Many of his moments lumbering across old cobblestone in his flowing overcoat conjure up memories of Bane. His accent is oddly alluring and off-putting at the same time. He demonstrates moments of tenderness, but he is also capable of throwing a glare that could stop any man dead in his tracks. One can never quite tell whether a scene will be resolved by engaging discourse or by explosive bloodshed.

The story so far is that Delaney returns to London after learning of his father’s death. He has been gone for a long time, presumed dead but actually living in Africa. Rumors have circulated about some of his bizarre practices; and his tattoos, his scars, and his odd behaviors add legitimacy to the tales. He stands to inherit a crucial piece of land that is desired by the colonies of America and the English government as the American Revolution draws to a close. His half-sister, Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) had already agreed to sell the land to the East India Company before Delaney returned, and everyone’s obviously upset that he’s “back from the dead.”

The show beautifully captures the hypocrisy of the “noble gentlemen” who negotiate with Delaney throughout the first two episodes. While they’re beautifully dressed and sipping from the finest teacups in England, their collusion is more vile and disgusting than the actions of the blood-spattered butchers Delaney speaks with on the streets of London. Jonathan Pryce has been particularly interesting in the show so far, displaying an explosive temper and an air of superiority that’s fun for the viewer to hate. It’s evident that the word “taboo” is going to have different meanings at different points in the show. Because taboos are cultural by definition, perspective is going to play a major role in how the show develops. For example, high society looks down on Delaney for his connections to Africa, while Delaney is deeply moved by the fact that he accidentally purchased a boat that was once used to transport slaves.

After two episodes, much of the story is still a mystery. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that James’ and Zilpha’s relationship is complicated; and most of James’ relationship with his mother and father is still a topic of speculation. We’ve seen numerous visceral visions of Delaney’s ritualistic past, but we’ve yet to discover what it all means. Hardy has stated in interviews that the show is a slow burner that will build towards a climactic ending. Right now, it’s a pleasure just watching the characters interact in their environments.

The show can be extreme at times, and the unpredictable nature of the star performer and the structuring of the scenes intensifies the feeling that we’re looking at things we shouldn’t be looking at. However, the magnetic qualities of Hardy’s Delaney makes us feel like we should be rooting for him even when he’s lighting someone’s boat on fire with very little evidence that the man was out to get him. He’s the kind of character you want to watch intently… but from a safe distance.

After two hour-long episodes, it is clear that FX’s Taboo is both sophisticated and visceral, offering a highly engaging premium cable television experience with an A-List star on a basic cable network.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more coverage of Taboo, as well as a review and analysis of Episodes 3 & 4 two weeks from today.

New Trailer Revealed for The Belko Experiment

Orion Pictures has released a new trailer for The Belko Experiment.

The one-minute trailer gives us insight to the madness that is set inside of a locked office building where co-workers are ordered to kill or be killed.

The film is written by James Gunn (“Slither”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”) and directed by Greg McLean of Wolf Creek fame. The cast stars John C. McGinley (“Stan Against Evil”), John Gallagher Jr. (“10 Cloverfield Lane”), Adria Arjona (“True Detective”) and Michael Rooker (“The Walking Dead”).

The Belko Experiment is set to debut in theaters on March 17, 2017. Keep it locked to Horror News Network for more news on The Belko Experiment as it breaks.

 

 

New Annabelle 2 Promotional Image Released

Despite its 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes and its “B” Cinemascore, Annabelle earned $256.9 million dollars worldwide on a budget of just $6.5 million. While critics noticed a tremendous dip in quality from its source material, James Wan’s The Conjuring, fans all over the world gobbled up this creepy doll story that’s sort-of based on the experiences of Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Due to the incredible financial success of the film, New Line Cinema appears to be taking the sequel seriously. They hired David Sandberg (Lights Out) to direct, and Miranda Otto will star in the film. Sandberg has been releasing behind the scenes images to his Instagram account over the past few weeks, and now an official promotional image for the film has been unveiled:

Looks like Annabelle’s made an eerie appearance on that youngster’s bed during lights out!

Annabelle 2 will arrive in theaters on August 11th, 2017. Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more information on this project as it breaks.

 

Tom Hardy’s Taboo Premiere Scores 3.4 Million Viewers with Delayed Viewing

As traditional television service becomes more and more a thing of the past, networks are looking for new ways to measure the success and profitability of their shows. Under Nielsen’s “Live + 3 Day” TV ratings metric (live ratings plus delayed viewership on various on-demand and streaming platforms in the three days since the live airing of an episode), the premiere episode of Tom Hardy’s Taboo has earned an incredible 101 percent increase in viewers age 18-49. The FX original series, which was created by Tom Hardy and his father Chips, first aired on January 10th. On the 10th, the program was viewed by 2.2 million viewers, but the number swelled to 3.43 million by the end of the 72 hour window.

This dark and fascinating new series likely drew in more viewers due to positive reviews and word of mouth, causing more people than usual to tune in during a time of the year when new television content is sparse and viewers are still getting back into the swing of things after the holiday season. It will be interesting to see if the live ratings for Episode Two will also see a boost in viewership, or if Taboo will continue to do a lot of its business in delayed viewing. We sure do live in an interesting time period for television, where great new content can be consumed- and rewarded- in a variety of different and convenient formats.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more coverage of Taboo as it runs this season.

 

The Bye Bye Man Finishes Fifth at Weekend Box Office, Underworld: Blood Wars Slips

The Bye Bye Man finished in fifth place at the box office for the weekend of January 13, 2017, taking in an estimated $13,378,000.  While the placement doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, it was in fact the highest grossing new film of the weekend, beating fellow newcomers Patriot’s Day, Monster Trucks, and Sleepless.  The film capitalized on a primarily female and under 25 audience to double its budget in the first three days of release.

While this is a solid opening for a horror film in January, the level of competition gets stiffer next week, and the rest of the month.  M. Night Shyamalan’s  horror thriller Split will be released next weekend with the same target audience in mind, greatly reducing The Bye Bye Man’s staying power at the box office.  Also contributing to a potential steep decline for the film is the fact that the film earned a “C” Cinema Score and  a 28% critic’s score on Rotten Tomatoes.      

As predicted by Horror News Network, this trend of “one week wonders” at the box office is likely to continue due to the glut of horror films being released in January and February.  Last weekend, Underworld: Blood Wars debuted  at number four with a $13,688,751 opening, but slipped to  $5,815,000 in its sophomore frame.  Last years’s The Boy opened in a similar spot on the calendar, and actually made less on the opening weekend ($10,778,392), but the film was able to play into March, eventually earning $35,819,556 at the domestic box.  It will be nearly impossible for a horror film released this winter to experience the same longevity since new films will cannibalize the screens required to insure a long run at the box office.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more information on the winners and losers at the box office in this surpsrisingly competitive winter season.

 

 

New Netflix Documentary, Hostage to the Devil, Reveals Details About Priest Who Inspired The Exorcist

Netflix just added a new documentary to its library, entitled Hostage to the Devil, which explores the world of real-life exorcisms. The documentary reveals new key details about Father Malachi Martin, who was an Irish Catholic Priest, author, and professor. He is said to be the real-life inspiration for the book and film, The Exorcist. The documentary is named after a book written by Martin, of the same title.

In the documentary, a former CIA agent named Robert Marrow claims that Father Malachi Martin’s death was related to an exorcism he was performing on a child. Marrow states that an invisible force pushed Martin down, and he died from his injury at the age of 78.

A trailer for the documentary can be viewed below:

Hostage to the Devil can currently be viewed on Netflix. The timing couldn’t be better, seeing as the recent passing of William Peter Blatty (author of the novel and the screenplay of The Exorcist, and writer/director of The Exorcist III) and the excellent television series on Fox have renewed interest in the phenomenon over the past few months.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more news related to The Exorcist as it breaks.

 

IFC’s Don’t Knock Twice Enters an Already Jam Packed Winter Horror Schedule

As recently reported by Horror News Network, January and February’s release schedule is chock full of horror films.  Well, fans, get ready for one more: Don’t Knock Twice.  The film stars Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), and Javier Botet (Conjuring 2) and directed by Caradog W. James (The Machine). With a description straight from the school of William Castle hucksterism (“This wild supernatural shocker delivers a barrage of nonstop jolts and searing nightmare images”), the film promises more supernatural scares in the vein of current release The Bye Bye Man.

Don’t Knock Twice will be released on Friday, February 3rd opposite Rings, the third installment in The Ring franchise (after a 12 year hiatus).  Don’t Knock Twice will also be released on Video on Demand and HD Digital on February 3rd, most likely due to the direct competition from Rings and a slew of other horror films that will still be playing at your local theater.  The extent of the theatrical release in terms of screen count has yet to be determined, but just like Rob Zombie’s recent 31 which was also released on a variety of “at home” formats on the day of release, you may have a hard time finding it playing on the silver screen in a city near you.

Check out the trailer below.

 

 

Dark Horse Comics Slayer: Repentless #1 Continues the Repentless Video Trilogy

Heavy metal, gothic rock, and comic books have had a long history together.  Whether it is the legendary story of Kiss pouring their vials of blood into the ink vats that would produce Marvel Super Special: Kiss #1 in 1977 or the later colaboration in 1994 between the original “Shock Rocker” Alice Cooper and Sandman creator Neil Gaiman on Alice Cooper: The Last Temptation, comic history contains many examples of cross-overs between the world of rock and roll stars and comics.

While the aforementioned comics (as well as a slew of Kiss branded comics produced over the years) focused on the band or performers as “the stars of the show”, other comic creators have been more tangentially inspired by a band’s music.  James O’Barr often discusses how music influenced the creation of The Crow, as some chapters are named after Joy Division songs and the lyrics of Robert Smith of The Cure are found throughout the first story.

Of the two types of comics, Slayer Repentless #1 is certainly more similar to Barr’s dark comic than the spectacle of Kiss or Alice Cooper and when it comes to dark, heavy metal music, no band fits this description better than Slayer.

Dark Horse Comics Slayer: Repentless mini-series is the third installment in a series of projects from the seminal thrask metal band.  The original source material is Slayer’s twelth album Repentless (the first album since the death of founding member and guitarist Jeff Hannemen).  After the album was released in 2015, the band was approached by their label’s (Nuclear Blast) General Manager Gerardo Martinez to make a music video for the title track “Repentless”.  Budding horror director BJ McDonnell (Hatchet III) was tapped to direct and assembled a “who’s who” of genre stars such as Danny Trejo, Bill Moseley, Tony Moran, Derek Mears, Tyler Mane ,Vernon Wells and newcomer Jason Trost, who McDonnell worked with on Hatchet III.  

The video (produced by another 80’s horror alum Felissa Rose) was a big success and the band and director decided to turn the original video into a trilogy, adding videos for “You Against You” and “Pride and Prejudice” to the storyline.  The three videos tell the tale of a twisted family, steeped in white supremacy, hatred, and murder. When a member of the family (Wyatt) decides to turn his back on the group’s beliefs and criminal practices, he becomes the target of the sadistic clan.

The story continues in its third medium as a comic book written by Jon Schnepp (director/producer of the cartoons Metalocalypse and Venture Bros.) with interior art by Guiu Vilanova (Twilight Zone, Conan the Avenger).  Schnepp recently penned his own Metalocaypse Dethklok crossover with Eric Powell’s The Goon for Dark Horse (Powell also provides a gruesome alternate cover for the series’ first issue) and a mini-series based on the fictional band.

Picking up directly where the “Pride and Prejudice” video left off, the protagonist Wyatt and his fellow escaped prison comrade are “on the lam”, with some nefarious forces in hot pursuit.  The comic also contains flashback scenes from the videos, brought to the four-color medium by Vilanova, whose attention to all the gory details fits the comic and story perfectly.  Schnepp does a fine job of filling in just enough of the story to extend the narrative, but I would not recommend starting this story until you are able to view all three videos, as the comic “hits the ground running” as a true extension of the video trilogy.  It appears that future issues in the series will be able to extend the story to a greater degree without feeling the need to catch readers up to speed with what has already transpired, but at this point, issue one of the new series is a worthy addition to the source material, making the comic the last installment in a triple threat of terror and metal.

Slayer: Repentless #1 hits your local comic shop on January 25th, 2017.

 

CT Cult Classics Celebrates Friday the 13th With a Killer Double Feature

On a seasonably-chilly January night, hundreds of movie fans from across Connecticut gathered in Seymour, CT to celebrate the second-most popular date on the horror calendar:  Friday the 13th.  Connecticut Cult Classics (http://www.connecticutcultclassics.com/), the outfit responsible for “Bite Night” and “Stephen King Night”, ran an all-Vorhees double bill featuring Friday the 13th Part 2 as well as Friday the 13th Part 3 (in glorious ’80s-era 3D!).  HNN was there to share in the celebration for the latest incarnation of the spooky date.  CCC’s Larry Dwyer made sure that all attendees were comfortable, happy, and ready for the carnage that would ensue.

The packed house was treated to not only both films, but also dozens of classic movie-house trailers (Gone With The Pope, Escape From New York, Near Dark, and many more), cool raffles, and the official announcement of the first celebrity guest for CT HorrorFest 2017 (visit https://www.horrornewsnetwork.net/ct-horror/ for additional details).  Folks drove from all over to take in the bloody fun, including HNN’s own contributer Jay Kay who made the trek from New Jersey.

CT Cult Classics fans were able to drive home with a bag full of Jason goodies (the cool 80s-style 3D glasses, an exclusive pin, and more) and some awesome memories.  The next CT Cult Classics double-feature will be held at the Strand Theater in Seymour on Saturday, March 18th.  The theme will be John Carpenter Night, as The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China will be shown.  Tickets go on sale this Monday, January 16th.

 

 

Some photos courtesy of Jay Kay (http://www.horrorhappens.com/)

 

 

American Horror Story is NOT Secretly About Dante’s Inferno

Know what recent movie is about Dante’s Inferno?

This one:

 

Here’s how I know Inferno is about Dante’s Inferno:

  • It’s called Inferno.
  • Sandra Botticelli’s Map of Hell (based on Dante’s Inferno) is in it.
  • Tom Hanks has visions of Hell throughout the film that closely resemble Dante’s Inferno.
  • The villain of the film is obsessed with Dante Alighieri, and creates a virus which he calls, “Inferno.”
  • Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones follow clues based on Dante’s Inferno to stop the villain.
  • Dante’s death mask is prominently featured in the plot, and it results in the resolution of the movie.

Inferno isn’t a great film, but it’s definitely about Dante’s Inferno.

Conversely American Horror Story is definitely NOT about Dante’s Inferno!

Here’s how I know American Horror Story isn’t about Dante’s Inferno:

  • There are no direct references to Dante’s Inferno.
  • There are no indirect references to Dante’s Inferno.
  • There are no reasonable connections to Dante’s Inferno present in the show.

You see, in order for something to be about something, it has to be about that thing, barring any sort of mental gymnastics and secret codes that only the creator of the show and a fan on the computer know about.

Recently, TV Guide and other outlets released some Ryan Murphy quotes about a fan theory that American Horror Story secretly represents the different circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. The crux of the argument is that there are currently 9 seasons scheduled, and there are 9 circles of Hell in Inferno; and that some of the different characters in American Horror Story kind of represent the sins of each circle if you squint your eyes and ignore everything else that’s going on in the story.

So, for example, Season One: Murder House represents the lustful sinners of the first circle of Hell because there are lustful characters in that season. The problem with this observation is that there are lustful characters on every season of television that Ryan Murphy has ever worked on!

Dante’s Inferno is an extremely complicated work that requires the reader to have a detailed understanding of social, political and religious issues of Dante’s time and the mythological works from which Dante draws inspiration. If American Horror Story is secretly connected to the work, where is the Vestibule? Where are the contrapasso punishments? Where’s Virgil? Where’s Dante’s hubris?

TV Guide published the following quotes from Ryan Murphy on this topic:

“With American Horror Story I do like the Dante’s inferno theory. I have a theory about the show that I’ve never told anybody and probably won’t until it’s over, but that theory is a good one. I always learn a lot about my theory based on other people’s theories which is really all I can say.

I read those theories obsessively and compulsively, I cannot get enough of them, I really do. And the other actors do too. Like Sarah Paulson will talk about that all the time.”

While Murphy is obviously entertained that fans are interacting with the series in this way, the rest of his response makes it crystal clear that he doesn’t have some kind of master plan for the subtext of American Horror Story. There’s more than enough evidence out there to suggest that the theme of each season is picked at the time the team begins working on that season. Beyond that, Murphy is notably influenced by fan reactions, having adjusted the series throughout its production to meet the demands of fans. This all points to the fact that American Horror Story is a fluid series that is constantly being adjusted.

I understand why fans sometimes veer off into these directions while thinking about a show they love… they want to keep thinking about it so they make dubious connections to the rest of their literary worldview. However, it is my humble opinion that fans do a disservice to the material by trying to blow it up to be some kind of literary masterpiece when it clearly is not.

There’s so much there to discuss in American Horror Story that’s actually in American Horror Story. Let’s stick to discussing that stuff until the showmakers give us some kind of legitimate reason to explore elsewhere.