Tag Archives: television

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Bill Oberst Jr.

The Last Knock

Bill Oberst Jr., one of the horror genre’s finest and most revered, chats with Billy Crash about movies, theatre, acting, Ray Bradbury, life, and so much more.

Please do not miss this interview with one fantastic and engaging gentleman. Bill Oberst Jr. is someone special who has earned an Emmy and many other accolades from being on the large and small screen over the past decade. Listen in and you’ll find out why he’s been so successful – and why he’s so respected.

Please visit Bill Oberst Jr.‘s website, Facebook, and Twitter – you won’t be disappointed.

Twin Peaks: The Owls are Not What They Seem by Billy Crash

When David Lynch’s alternative and surreal soap opera twist, Twin Peaks hit the small screen in 1992, I was glued to the show like millions of others. I couldn’t take my eyes off the television or get my mind away from the many mysteries that took residence in the bizarro town, as well as the lines that would become catch phrases (only Joss Whedon’s Buffy surpassed Lynch in that category). Twin Peaks worked because it was far removed from the typical mundane television formula: The story was vibrant and multifaceted, the acting superior, and Angelo Badalamenti’s music burrowed deep within one’s soul. Plus, it showcased the most screwed up and demented high school students on the planet.

Granted, the first season proved to be brilliant, and except for the final two episodes of the second and final season, those shows were an embarrassment and became a parody of Lynch’s vision, as well as co-creator and co-writer Mark Frost. After the show’s demise, Lynch brought a pre-quell to the world that allowed Sheryl Lee to star instead of being “wrapped in plastic.” Although he cut a tremendous amount of footage to get the film into theatres, many audience members hated the movie. I remember stepping into a venue and enjoying the film with thirty people – or so I thought. Before the film ended, only three of us remained.

This Must Be Where Pies Go When They Die

In early March, I drove to North Bend, Washington where Twin Peaks had been filmed. Just forty minutes from Seattle, the town was small, welcoming, and not weird at all.

Pulling into town on a somewhat cold and flurry kind of day, the first thing to come into view was Twede’s Café, known to the world as the Double R Diner in Twin Peaks. During filming, it was actually the Mar-T Diner until it changed hands. The place had a cool feel, though it was far more cramped than the interior reproduced for the show on a sound stage. Hell, in the real place Sherilynn Fenn wouldn’t have room to dance two steps. Then again, the actual diner had burned to the ground in 2000. The new diner was remade in the original style with that giant U-shaped counter in its center. Although I never saw a juke box, I felt like a goober for sitting in a booth and ordering a “damn good cup of coffee” and a slice of cherry pie. The wait staff had heard it all before and didn’t even flinch. The cherry pie proved to be amazing, but Dale Cooper’s coffee wasn’t as damn good as I had hoped.

A Place Both Wonderful and Strange

As for the sawmill, well, you can’t get near it – unless you want to climb a high fence and get arrested for trespassing. Then again, the abandoned brick edifice is all a bit “crumbly.” Thankfully, I had a telephoto and got some pictures though getting inside would have been cool. To do that, I’d have to find a way down onto an active dirt race track and hope my camera survived the dust and dirt that swirled about as if sawdust from the mill. I had to pass.

From where I stood to take the shots, all I had to do was spin around to take pictures of the sheriff’s office – the headquarters for the racing school. It’s here that I didn’t meet one of the Bookhouse Boys, but a kind soul who had moved to North Bend long ago because of Twin Peaks. She had been on set for the upcoming season, and like an actress from the series I had met in Seattle, she was kind but wouldn’t say anything about the resurrected show. I didn’t want to know anyway, but both women, as well as all cast and crew members, had to sign an agreement that if they leaked a word, a picture, or anything, they’d be slapped with a one-million dollar fine. Beyond the secrecy, both women didn’t want to disappoint David Lynch by saying something out of turn.

The mill and station were far removed from town, and thanks to a map of shooting locations from the tourist guide, I drove up a few miles to check out the Twin Peaks sign, which as expected, wasn’t there.

When You See Me Again, It Won’t Be Me

The high school entrance that had welcomed Laura, James, Audrey, Donna and company proved to be inaccessible thanks to a ton of construction equipment and high fences. Even with the television history and the tourist attraction angle, the façade is being refaced and will no longer look the same.

Fire Walk with Me

Leland Palmer uttered the “Fire walk with me” line from his poem during Twin Peaks’ first season. To introduce the film of the same name, Sheryl Lee, Wendy Robie, and Gary Hershberger took the stage in the theatre at the Seattle Art Museum, not far from the famous Space Needle and Public Market.

The trio took questions from the audience, and most were devoted to working with David Lynch – all positive responses, of course, even if the actors weren’t sure of what he had planned for their characters. When Hershberger went to Lynch and asked why bandages were packed so high on his head, and why he was coming on to Nadine (Robie), Lynch just leaned in and said, “Play it intimate.”

Even with all the mystery, the actors trusted Lynch and his vision, and like the audience, they went along for the ride.

Nobody Loved Laura But Us

The new series of Twin Peaks will be something special and bizarre, of course. How can Sheryl Lee reprise her role of Laura Palmer again when she’s long dead as well as Ray Wise? Who the hell knows what’s in store for us, but with Mark Frost and David Lynch in the driver’s seat for all eighteen episodes, it’s bound to be a trip.

Who knows what would have happened if ABC had let Lynch and Frost not resolve the Laura Palmer murder, which led to the ill-fated collapse of season two. Even so, an unexpected limited series is on the way that will bring new magic to the small screen.

Regardless of ABC’s ultimate idiocy, and all the questions stemming from series’ end, many will wonder if we’re in the Black Lodge or White Lodge, but the Linoleum on the floor tells us we’re in the same damn place. Here the good of Cooper and company will use the energy from the lodge to battle the demons that plague the souls of Twin Peaks, and that evil will draw upon that same energy to destroy them. One can only wonder how Lynch and Frost plan on bringing this wild world to fruition with their own Twin Peaks logic. In all honesty, I hope that like most towns, they’ll just keep on keepin’ on. Hell, what’s life without a sense of mystery? So, grab a jelly donut, turn on the television to Showtime, and enjoy where Lynch and company take us. After all, it won’t be like anything we’ve seen on the small screen since 1992.

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great in depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on TwitterLinkedInIMDbAmazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Kyle McLachlan from Birth.Movie.Death.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Thespians of Terror – Barbara Crampton

The Last Knock

Barbara Crampton has been a favorite actress to many horror fans for many moons. We celebrate her films and accomplishments, and provide more insight into the woman who rocked Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond films, as well as You’re Next and Road Games. We’ll discuss Crampton’s other appearances in film and television, her thoughts about horror cinema, and why she’s having more fun than ever with the genre.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@barbaracrampton @PhantomDarkDave @jeffreycombs @stevecourtney79 @MonsterManiaCon @MelanieMcCurdie @RealCharlesBand @AlexVorkov @RealJillyG @isaacrthorne @13horrorcom @dixiefairy @FoundFootageFan @antibirthmovie @awholelottabern @RobZombie @Marquette_Jones @Forgiving_Chris @DirectingMagic @GuyRicketts @Scream_Factory @SpookyMovies @RattleDemBonez @IOTNQDfilm @CrazyDLane @palkodesigns @12nighthorror @12DAYSTARWARS @TK007icensed @12DAYSOFMOVIES @scottia @alphabetsuccess @firstscreamto @LoveAndBananas @LoudGreenBird @GroovyBruce

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20th Anniversary by Billy Crash

 

Welcome to the Hellmouth

On March 10, 1997, creator, writer, and oftentimes director, Joss Whedon unleashed Buffy the Vampire Slayer upon the world in a television series that drew in fans from a multitude of demographics and a multitude of countries. The show featured Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, a high school student forced into accepting her fate as vampire slayer in mythical Sunnydale, California.

With a kickass theme from Nerd Herder, and her watcher Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Buffy kept her “Scooby Gang” close (Nicholas Brendon as Xander, Allyson Hannigan as Willow, and someone just as reluctant as Buffy, the “better than you” Cordelia Chase, played by Charisma Carpenter), as she tackled, drop-kicked, and staked vampires, destroyed demons, and more in an effort to thwart the Hellmouth and save the world.

Each week, we’d find something different than the average show at the time, and for a dramatic comedy/horror/fantasy/action series, Buffy had more drama in one episode than a month’s worth of “ER” or “Chicago Hope.” Unlike other television shows that entertained and faded away by morning, people just didn’t talk about the show at the office, they incorporated the “lexicon of Buffy” in their speech, much like many of “Twin Peaks” fans who know that you can trust the Bookhouse Boys, but “The owls are not what they seem.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t just a television show people talked about, but an event that changed how they talked.

Prophecy Girl

Beyond words, we had a vampire slayer who fell in love with not just one vampire, but two, while still kicking ass and never turning her back on her friends, the world, and the woman she was becoming. Other than “Xena the Warrior Princess,” it’s hard to think of another show that presented woman as strong, powerful, and self-assured, and who wouldn’t give a man the satisfaction of seeing her fail. Where men rescued women at nearly every turn throughout television history, Buffy saved every man, woman, and child she ran into. And even if she told others to run for safety, Buffy didn’t stand tall to play martyr or find sympathy or become a legendary figure, she just wanted to fight and win every damn time.

And with strong females at the center of the show, Joss introduced the love of two young women without exploitation or apology, and once again, the show only became stronger, more multi-faceted, and more ahead of the curve in social consciousness. If anything, on this front, Buffy brought us some of the most depth-ridden romances ever to appear on the small screen regardless of gender.

As Buffy grew, so did her Scooby Gang: Cordelia became a woman who respected others instead of laughing at them, Xander developed a spine, and little Willow Rosenberg became a witch of epic proportions. Others came into the gang, from vampire lovers Angel (David Boreanaz) and Spike (James Marsters), as well as Tara (Amber Benson), Oz (Seth Green), Anya (Emma Caulfield), and baby sister Dawn Summers (Michelle Trachtenberg). Wait, Buffy had a sister?

New Moon Rising

I remember when Dawn appeared at the beginning of season five. Michelle Trachtenberg not only appeared in the opening credits as if she had been there forever, but Buffy and her mom (Kristine Sutherland) acted like she’d had a room in the house the whole damn time. A head scratcher for certain, and many of us didn’t know the key to this sudden introduction, but that’s what Joss Whedon always did: He kept the story fresh without jumping the shark, having a special wedding episode, or the worst damn thing imaginable, the birth of a child. Instead, we got Dawn, unexpected deaths, bad-grrl Faith (Eliza Dushku), Buffybot, a slew of evil adults from high school administrators to scientists at a secret base, and an endless flow of demonic forces with their own cruel agendas. Joss changed Buffy like a pro bono plastic surgeon: He improved the exterior but didn’t mess with the heart and soul.

At one point, Buffy stated, “My mother said my life is fruitless. No fruit for Buffy.” But the entire show bore fruit. “Angel” became one of the best spinoffs of all time, and people even gave the failed Buffy the Vampire Slayer film another chance, where Pee Wee Herman’s Paul Reubens crushed it as vampire kingpin, Amilyn, and Seth Green played a vampire – which makes him the only actor to appear in both the movie and the series. The stars went on to other projects on television or the silver screen, and twenty years later, Buffy continues to be recognized and appreciated by first generation fans to Millennials and Generation Z as if the season finale had taken place last week.

Once More, With Feeling

Some shows have survived the test of time: “The Twilight Zone,” “Twin Peaks,” “Seinfeld,” “The X-Files,” and “Firefly” because they were “big damn heroes,” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues in that off-the-beaten path vein of absolute coolness. Yet, at the end of the day, Buffy hasn’t held up for twenty years simply because it’s cool, but it had something to say about youth, exploration, love, bureaucracy, judgment, parenting, friendship, goals, desires, humanity, and ultimately sacrifice. Even so, at its heart, at its very core, Buffy wasn’t afraid to venture into the darkest regions of the brightest characters or find blinding light within the abyss of demons. If Whedon taught us anything, it’s that there’s good and bad in everyone, and we all need to do our part to not only help bring that greatness to the surface, but to forgive those who falter at times, and give them love, respect, and a second chance.

Because when it’s your turn to save the world, you never know who’ll be fighting by your side. So hush…

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great in depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on TwitterLinkedInIMDbAmazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Buffy from Buffy Wikia.)

The Walking Dead: Too Much, or Does Lucille Save the Day? by Kim McDonald

weekend-preview-walking-dead-negan-feature-hero-800x450When the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead was over, and for most of the next day, I walked around my house in a depressed daze. I cried. I felt nauseated. I even felt a bit disoriented. What was going to happen to our group now?

I also felt relieved. Not because I wanted Glenn and Abraham to die, or to watch Rick be completely destroyed, but because I was glad the show finally refused to take the safe way out. This was The Walking Dead I fell in love with: dangerous, and not afraid to completely shred your heart to pieces. Negan is a bad dude, but he is also a necessary evil. We need a good bad guy sometimes to shake things up. Rick may need a break from the Good Guy/Crazy Lunatic routine.

I need to explain. At the end of Season 6, I, and quite a few others, were left frustrated. Once again, after so much build up, things just ended. Everyone knew Negan was coming and things were going to end badly. What we got was a lot of driving around and cut offs just at the moment of truth. I understand the value of cliffhangers, but the show had worn the concept rather thin the past few years.

It started with the Terminus storyline in seasons 4 and 5. There was such a build up that everything was about getting to Terminus. Then they were there a day and Carol busted them out. Don’t get me wrong, Carol is a straight up badass I could watch all day. And, in a sense, I feel like I have. Carol seems to be the only one not lulled into complacency the last few seasons. Sure, she makes cookies and casseroles, but she’s also hoarding chocolate and guns and threatening small boys because she understands this isn’t a soap opera and we need to be ready for shit to go down – since something is always inches away from eating your face. We also saw her begin to buckle under the strain of always having to be the clean up crew.

I wanted to know more about Terminus. The brief flashback of who they were before becoming cannibals was interesting. The group should have hung out a bit, had lunch, then realize what exactly was in the soup. The Wolves were built up too. My point is, our group has been much more dangerous and menacing than anything they’ve recently encountered. The Glenn dumpster episode felt a bit cheap and cheesy. Deus ex machina flashed brightly in my head.

This show is better than that.

The group also seemed to land on the planet of the Red Shirts. There has been a parade of peripheral characters who don’t stick around long and get killed off quickly. We aren’t given time to invest in them so their deaths, while gruesome, don’t seem to carry as much emotional impact. Case in point: When Jessie and her sons died, I didn’t really care. Good riddance to a storyline that seemed to flounder. And her kids were annoying, so it was actually a bit of a plus watching them go. I was disappointed when the Saviors who captured Carol and Maggie were killed so quickly. We all knew they were doomed, but I actually wanted to know them. No such luck.

The season 7 premiere felt like a demarcation episode. Negan is going to change everything, and I’m excited to see how our group deals with what has happened. There are new communities and interesting characters, like Ezekiel and his tiger, Shiva. Can the group stick together, or do they scatter? Can Rick bounce back now that he’s without his brothers and trusted generals? Can Carol find her purpose again after being burned out? We don’t know. For the first time everything is unknown, and it’s great. If the show is going to last, and be relevant, it has to evolve.

The reaction on social media to this episode was not surprising. I don’t remember another episode eliciting such a strong gut-wrenching response. There has been a reaction that at first confused me. Posts and articles started popping up stating the violence in the episode went too far; accusations of torture porn were thrown around. At first, I thought it was coming from morality groups who pop up now and then, feeding off the ratings explosion of the premiere. I then realized the posts were coming from people who watched the show, who were fans, and I became even more confused.

The Walking Dead is now in its 7th season. It was never a Mary Poppins show. What exactly had these people been watching all these years? As gruesome and horrible as Glenn and Abraham’s deaths were, they weren’t unique. What about when the Governor chopped off Herschel’s head, and not in one neat swing? Or when Noah was ripped to pieces in the revolving door? Did they forget? What was it about the violence in this episode that had people saying they were walking away from the show?

It has little to do with how the characters were killed, and more to do with who was killed. Glenn was the first of the original Atlanta group to die since Andrea and Merle back in Woodberry. He was Rick’s introduction to the group. He was the heart and the light, the moral compass that always guided the group back to center even when Rick was unstable. He was the everyman character we related to – a regular guy figuring it out as he went along. His death leaves us in darkness. Abraham was the fearless soldier who rushed in, and the group is less without him. So it makes sense that people are grieving. We are a species that tells stories; the characters become real. When they die, we feel the need to lash out, to blame someone. I understand. In a way, it is a further testament to the power of the episode.

Things have to be broken down periodically, and rebuilt. With all the criticism, I’ve also heard some fans say they had lost interest but were now willing to get back into the show. Horror is about unsettling us, reminding us that life is never truly complacent. I really hope that once the shock wears off, these fans will stay for the story. Great horror keeps us coming back, despite ourselves.

Crash Analysis Support Team:

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Kim McDonald rocks out on metal near Charlotte, North Carolina, and obsesses over “weirder” foreign horror films. You can find Kim’s movie reviews at loudgreenbird.com and follow her on Twitter @dixiefairy.

(The Walking Dead photo from Screen Rant.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Television Channels Horror at the Movies

The Last Knock

Yes, you read that title right. Many a horror film has included television as a horror device. Sure, there’s the phenomenal Videodrome and The Ring, as well as the much loved original Poltergeist, but have you seen the others on our list? Listen in to get those titles! Beyond that, why should an actual television freak us out and give us the heebie-jeebies? Oh, you’ll have to listen in to find that out too.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@liljsez @MelanieMcCurdie @ValeriePrucha @SiaraTyr @JessicaCameron_ @RealJillyG @AFiendOnFilm @LianeMoonRaven @thesecasey @RonGizmo @machinemeannow

Crash Analysis: Fear the Walking Dead Mid-Season Finale

Fear-The-Walking-Dead-Season-2-News-New-Details-Released

If you’ve seen the Fear the Walking Dead mid-season finale (sounds like “certified pre-owned,” doesn’t it?), then read on. Otherwise, save this post for a rainy day…

For those who have indulged in the ultra-successful The Walking Dead, “Fear the Walking Dead” may come off as “light” in comparison. Although it does not divert from the soap opera feel of the original, this series takes a different approach to the zombie apocalypse: contemplation of the new world in which we live as the the old world continues to disintegrate. No, this does not mean the characters sit in high-back leather chairs and sip expensive brandy as they ruminate, but a couple of families and new “friends” try to find some respite. They are looking for their own version of Alexandria without the threat of Negan (“Negation”) and his bloody baseball bat.

In the beginning, other than drug addicted Nick, in a consistently excellent performance by Frank Dillane, who could easily star as Eric Draven in a The Crow reboot, his family is late to catch on to the “virus” sweeping the world. Only his mother, Madison (Kim Dickens), seems to get the picture, though her husband, Travis (Cliff Curtis) takes a dumb-witted “wait and see” for almost far too long attitude. As society collapses in their little slice of suburbia, Travis picks up Daniel (Ruben Blades) and helps to rescue the rest of the Salazar family, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) and Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spindola). In short, the equally cool and contemplating, Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) joins the troupe, and gets them off shore on his yacht, Abigail. The group is off to Mexico, where Victor has a planned rendezvous with his lover Thomas Abigail (Dougray Scott).

Victor and company arrive at this Mexican vineyard/compound with a supposedly loyal Mexican staff to Thomas, who has been bitten and is near his demise. In the meantime, Celia (Marlene Forte) is clearly the bilingual queen bee who runs the roost and has a knack for converting people to her way of thinking as if she’s a politician who doesn’t simply appeal to the crowd. Victor and Thomas were supposed to take poison from Celia in the guise of “The Host” from a Roman Catholic communion – the same hosts she used to send a local congregation into some of the walking dead she keeps secure on the property. But when Victor shoots Thomas and chooses not to die along with him, Celia lays down the law and Victor has to go – along with everyone else. And what transpires sets up the several different paths and scenarios for the second half of season two.

Granted, there are many characters to enjoy on the show, especially, Nick and his intuitiveness, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and her burgeoning toughness, Victor and his refined approach to mayhem, and Daniel with his years of experience that helps him maintain calm in the heat of the moment. The mid-season finale, however, created some “out of nowhere” character issues for several personalities. All of a sudden, the cool, calculating, Daniel, who comes off as a sort of grandfather to the group because he’s “been in the shit,” suddenly falls apart with a mental breakdown we didn’t see coming. He imagines his dead wife speaking to him, and for all those he murdered in Central America during the horrific eighties where several terrorist groups fought governments, where communists fought fascists or the status quo, and involvement from the United States and Cuba led to increased turmoil, fear, misinformation, and bloodshed. Granted, we had a hint that Daniel was a little off because of what he had done in his past, but there was no inclination he would completely lose his composure and fall apart to the point where he’d have hallucinations and see the faces of those he killed in the faces of the walking dead. He went from being a survivor to a man whose guilty conscience suddenly overwhelmed him like never before, and he ultimately came to the realization that before he dispatched other souls, that as a young boy forced to kill, he had been a victim himself from political dogma. Now, if his daughter Ofelia had proven in a previous episode that she could really handle herself instead of existing in her father’s shadow, we could see Daniel acknowledging this to relax just enough to let the past overwhelm him as he looks at an ugly future of living with death on a even grander scale. Unfortunately, his ultimate collapse was not established well enough within the beginning of the story. Even when he finds Celia’s stash of walking dead family members in a large holding cell, and suddenly imagines the dead around him in a river when he was a boy, the connection is both abrupt and should have occurred well beforehand to set him off-kilter as we witness his slow demise. “Fear the Walking Dead” could have easily established this with the hundreds if not thousands of undead secured in the arena during the first season.

Nick goes from stable and insightful and wanting to maintain the family unit to becoming a sort of hermit like sage – a rebel with a zombie cause. He’s learned that if he spreads the blood of the walking dead upon him that he can walk among the zombie horde without harm. He tells Celia that he understands why she keeps walking dead family members around, as if they’re people with a sickness where they are not responsible for their actions. They are to be cared for and not condemned, and when it comes to Holier-than-though Celia, and the former junkie who’s self-assured, one wonders who is playing who. Regardless, Nick smears blood on himself, heads back to the Abigail or town, plays “zombie whisperer,” and retrieves Celia’s walking dead son, Luis (Arturo del Puerto). She puts her son behind a locked gate, a glorified community jail cell for the damned, and tells Nick that everyone can stay in the Abigail – Celia Flores – compound, but Victor still has to go because his actions led to Luis’s death. Nick has faced much adversity in his life, with drugs, personal relationships, and family, but this is a sort of rite of passage for him. He’s a man now because he completed a mission of his own doing to save his family and impress Madison, though his mother still sees him as “her little boy,” or the no good drug addict son who gave her grief for too long, and must do as she says. (Things may have been different if Nick hadn’t come off as being so cavalier when telling his mom that he could walk among the undead with impunity). Maybe this is why even as the compound collapses into fire and mayhem he refuses to go with Madison and company as if another act of rebellion as he sulks among the dead. His intent is to stay with Celia because unlike his mother, he feels their is a mutual respect between them that mother fails to provide – and she may have never provided such respect, which could have influenced his drug addiction. Regardless, the sudden shift from Nick is too abrupt.

Travis, is another one who wants to preserve the family, though he’s slow to accept what’s happening around him as he continues to apply an old way of handling things, such as contemplation, negotiation, and kindness, when he needs to step up and become a man of action – think of Ray Milland as Harry Baldwin in Panic in Year Zero!. At times, Travis doesn’t seem as invested as he might imagine because he usually takes too much time and over thinks, and seems to be mentally and emotionally trapped in a world before the outbreak, though he did get a brainstorm of sorts and buy time for family and friends when Abigail had been boarded by unsavory characters. His family is certainly not the Brady Bunch by any means, and once his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) learns that his father reluctantly stepped up and shot his birth mother in the head, the teen begins to unravel. He hates his dad, hates his step-mom and step-siblings, and engages in strange behavior: freezing during a zombie attack and almost letting Madison become lunch, walking into Madison and Alicia’s room and brandishing a knife, and holding a little kid hostage. The problem is that Chris’s decline, or maybe it’s all a grand misunderstanding, seems more conjured than anything else. One could say Lorenzo James Henrie is not conveying enough through body language to give us a look at what’s really going on behind his eyes, or maybe this is what the show’s “bible” has called for. Regardless, it’s not working.

After Chris runs off from the main house of the compound, Travis gives chase. Once he discovers Chris holding a young boy hostage at gunpoint, he disarms him. Mind you, he doesn’t punch his son in the face, which would seem warranted at this point, but bitch slaps the gun from Chris’s hand. Once again, Travis is holding back and not stepping up as he should. To make matters worse, Nick locates the pair, and Travis tells him to inform Madison that they couldn’t be found. Where the hell did that come from? Travis isn’t one to tell such a grandiose lie, or to ask someone else to do such a thing, especially his wife’s son – but since as a former junkie Nick has lied a gazillion times a day, Travis may think one more is acceptable. However, once Nick relates the lie to Madison, Nick has put his relationship with Madison into an even worse state, especially once the truth is revealed, and we know it will be. In addition, Travis’s tall tale is an absolute betrayal to Madison and their marriage. Granted, the love between the two has been strained, if at many times non-existent as if they’re playing roles for their three children. So why not simply tell Nick to relay the truth that he needs to take care of Chris and set him straight? This can revert back to Travis’s dimwittedness on occasion, but instead of standing up and being both a husband and father, he chooses to only try and be a father to his actual son, and disregards his wife and adoptive family. If so, this means Travis has absolutely no love for Madison, Nick, and Alicia. After all, if he truly loves Madison and her children, and is making this sacrifice to salvage the family unit, he would have been torn and emotional instead of stiff and stoic. However, if Travis and Madison reunite in the second half of “Fear the Walking Dead,” we should see Madison unleash an unexpected kind of fury that might leave Travis with a bullet in his brain.

The most surprising change has been Madison. She began the series strong and seemingly ahead of the curve with what was transpiring around her and her family, but now she’s become a silly smother instead of maintaining perspective. The whole family needs to step up and get into survival mode, or all is lost in this brave new world. Although she did one great act to protect her family in the mid-season finale, essentially trying to dispose of her alpha-female rival, Celia, who clearly out-alphaed her in leaps and bounds, Madison has become an almost whiny mom – even after confronting people at gunpoint to get her daughter back. However, after this latest episode, she should suck it up and transform into that alpha-female role with abandon. She could easily be a strong female character, yet maintain vulnerability as a person, and also remain feminine in the process. All one has to do is see the strengths of Nikki Alonso’s character Tank in Crawl or Die, Sigourney Weaver as Lieutenant Ripley in Alien, and even Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia in Star Wars, to grasp that we can have strong, vibrant female characters who do not become masculine. One other item is that when Nick tells Madison that he couldn’t locate Travis and Chris, she’s as stoic as Travis and only wants her son Nick to get into the damn truck. She definitely did not appear to try and hold it together because her husband was gone so she could focus on winning back Nick. Then again, as the truck slowly drives by an angry and broody Nick, Madison simply looks at him. She’s concerned to a degree, maybe because she’s a mother and feels she should be, but there are no tears, no grand emotions. Madison may not want to admit it, but she hasn’t loved her drug addict son in a long damn time. If he’s gone for good now, this will only clarify that’s been dead to her for many years.

The best aspects of the “Fear the Walking Dead” is the fact that we are in a diverse world. Travis and his son are American Samoan, we have Latinos and Latinas, and we have a black gay character in Victor who is a million miles removed from gay and even black stereotypes. Granted, we know that Victor can con and commit minor crimes, but those days are long over, and he is quite the alpha gay character, long needed in the horror genre. All too often, the gay character in horror is a feminized and sarcastic male, and the old sad joke of a single black character not lasting long in a horror film is pathetic. Let’s hope the show continues bringing in a different array of characters far removed from stock and cliche.

“Fear the Walking Dead” has a three-fold problem, however, which is a major lack of suspense, conflict among the characters has been too refined and reserved, and other than Victor and Nick, there is a lack of appropriate emotional responses from characters. Too many existing characters have yet to be defined with individual goals. No, we do not need extreme personas, but the lack of emotion and drawn out stakes only lead to a lack of a reflective emotional response from the audience. In “The Walking Dead” we are subject to never knowing who or how someone is going to perish – and that could happen at any moment for a multitude of reasons. But with “Fear”, this hasn’t really occurred. Even when the Abigail had been boarded and everyone held captive, it was hard to imagine anything bad happening to any of the characters – and if something had taken place, it most likely would not have affected us as much on an emotional level. This is because the conflict between characters has mostly been marginal or manageable. It’s not that we need a major villain among the survivors, but we definitely need a stronger sense of conviction in contrasting belief systems. Yes, Nick may have been swayed by Celia and has walked off with the dead for now, but if he stayed with the family, the conflict between mother and son would have kept the show popping. Now, we have a small group with Victor and Madison who are seemingly on the same page when it comes to survival, as Nick wanders in a little hissy fit, and Travis hangs with his son, though Travis most likely has no clue how to handle Chris, and definitely needs Madison’s insight.

There was hope that the group would have come together in great ways during the attack outside the church, but the characters seemed to go through the motions. This only led to the scene becoming something that simply happened instead of an emotional game changer for the group as a whole. Yes, Chris paused to watch Madison nearly get killed, and Nick came up with some misgivings once he had to take out a zombie child, but it mostly seemed like a matter of course though it certainly shouldn’t have been for a group that had not been tested like that on such a grand scale. They negotiated, bought time, and tried to play mind games when they were captive on the yacht, and they had to fight for it a bit when high-tailing it out of suburbia, but it was destroy or be killed with walkers surrounding them enlarge, and with everyone together fighting in one spot, there should have been more of an emotional response once they achieved victory.

In addition, “Fear the Walking Dead” must avoid the tropes of the original series. For instance, when the yacht was boarded, we have seen situations like this arise too many times on “The Walking Dead.” We need new scenarios beyond the characters being captured by a new group of bad people every other episode. The philosophy of “Fear” is worthwhile to an extent, the notion that the undead are just different and shouldn’t be condemned, but that can only go so far. Instead of working on some sort of “let’s live alongside our zombie brothers and sisters in peace,” let’s see the great depths of each character and see how they each pursue their own paths and stories as they grow and change in a new, unsettling dystopia. After all, even the serene Celia who loved her undead ones fed them human beings, and she had to get them from somewhere other than the corner grocer. And Madison, Victor and company must do the right thing according to their mindsets, even when it leads to conflict, pain, death, guilt, remorse, and hatred. After all, that’s being human, and “Fear the Walking Dead” needs those elements to keep audiences engaged.

In addition, we may see both Madison and Victor share leadership roles. As with “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” is not simply about stepping up and surviving, but forming a new family dynamic. Family is not simply a blood connection, but can be defined in any way we need it to be. Both shows have taught us that family is what we make it, and this is a poignant take on society in general, wherever one resides around the big blue marble. Simply put, find those who love, respect, appreciate, and believe in you, as you do them – and stick with them. That’s family. Not blood. Not some appeal to tradition. This means that loners, introverts, and those on the fringe can find others, connect, and move forward because they are accepted and respected, and this mutual gift could undoubtedly lead to personal improvement. For instance, Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) is a part of Alexandria, but does his best, regardless of his idiosyncrasies, to step up his game for his newer more expanded family that has seen combat in “The Walking Dead.” Once Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) gives him the nod that he’s “in” through a rite of passage Eugene has thrust upon himself, Eugene has earned his place in a new family dynamic. In addition, fan favorite, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), the once bigoted tough guy, has become the family oriented tough guy who remains complex because as distant as he sometimes seems towards others, he cares about everyone in his group and he’ll protect them anyway he can.

In the United States, there is no nationwide rite of passage. We have no real way to prove that we have become men or women through some traditional act. For many, transitioning from child to adult is a mystery. Do we become adults after consuming our first beer, or earning a driver’s license, or getting a student loan and falling into horrific debt like everyone else? Yet, in our heart of hearts, we don’t really know. This is why some join the military, or get married, or have a baby. But for us horror fans, many hope that if a zombie apocalypse were to happen that we’d step up and do the right thing for our family, however we define that term. Let’s hope the characters on “Fear the Walking Dead” do the same thing so we can enjoy a virtual rite of passage through their actions.

(Inquisitr Photo: Victor and Nick enjoying the good life before setting sail into the unknown.)

Crash Analysis Support Team: True Blood Mid-Season Rant: Do You Feel Lucky Vamp? – Guest Post from Cory Brin

We have arrived at the mid-way mark of the final season of True Blood, and the stakes True-Blood-S5have certainly been raised. See what I did there?  But are raised stakes really a good thing in this show’s send off? The way that the episodes have been playing out, I dare say, “Not so much.”

Warning, there will be spoilers following if you are not current with the show.

Leading up to this year’s premiere, the promotions posed questions such as, “Who’s safe?” and  “Who will survive?” When you couple this with the army of zombie vampires approaching Bon Temps at the end of last year’s finale, it’s easy to see that the show wanted have a conclusion dripping with action and suspense. Of course our main heroes will be in danger, but the fun will be to see what they do to overcome this new threat.

But then the advertising persisted – Facebook promos warning us that, “Everything is at stake,” and “Goodbyes are a bitch.” HBO issued bite-sized blurbs reminding us that this was the last season, and therefore nobody’s safety could be guaranteed. This year was labeled the, “Deadliest season yet,” and hash-tagged #TrueTilTheEnd.

This isn’t anything new. In a dramatic series where violent vampires are openly on the prowl, death is around every corner. This goes without saying, which makes it a little more foreboding that the advertisements were highlighting the potential demise of series favorites.  Why such the emphasis? What was their game?

Then they started dying. Tara went in the first episode, and we didn’t even see it happen.  That was a pretty lame way for a major character to go out.  Next we lost Kevin, the police officer with the slack-jawed dialect, when the Hep V vamps chose him as a midnight snack. Maxine Fortenbury, Hoyt’s over-protective mother, had her stomach ripped out when she threatened to shoot Jessica. Sadly, Alcide went down like a chump – Shot by an unseen supporter of the Anti-Supernatural Justice League. Finally, it was revealed that both poor Eric and Bill have the dreaded sickness that is killing off the vampire population.

And we’ve only hit the halfway point!

How many more will follow? Since we’ve seen them start to bring back other somewhat absent people such as Hoyt and Alcide’s father, in a “True Blood, this is your life,” styling, there is a scary chance that the show’s creators are setting up these characters just to knock them back down. There’s no telling how high the body count and bloody ooze piles will be when all is said and done.

However, what is real cause for the increased knocking off all these characters? From what we know of the plot thus far, it doesn’t seem very clear. Yes, there are the bands of Hep V vamps, but they were only responsible for two of the aforementioned kills. Plus, the A-Team seems to have already eliminated the pack that was tormenting Bon Temps.

Perhaps it’s the mounting tension between the townsfolk and their differing opinions on how to deal with the sick vampires. When citizens take the law into their own hands, there are going to be casualties. This is especially true considering these people are defending their homes and loved one. Two of those casualties were Maxine and Alcide. Though it would also seem as if this splinter group was already dispatched during the assault on Fangtasia.

But, Bon Temps is no stranger to extremely dangerous situations. This goes for humans and supernaturals alike. There have been six previous seasons where our main characters, and secondary town citizens, had to deal with a racist serial killer, a Maenad willing to make sacrifices to Dionysus, a crazed Vampire King bent on making bloodsuckers the dominate species, a Necromancer who could control vampires, and the living incarnation of the Vampire Goddess, Lilith. During all of these encounters, people have died, but they varied greatly in duration and the importance of the characters.

Now, he we are in the final season and some really well known and long lasting characters are signing off. Four important people in Bon Temps are gone after only one vampire raid, and one episode of urban unrest? When those same people survived the past six seasons? I’m about as confused as I was when nothing ever materialized from Jason’s werepanther plot.

So then, does it not seem like the sole reason for the cast list genocide is specifically the fact that the show is in its last season? Any show is of course going to add in some shockers near the end, but still, why so many? We were warned about the bloodshed, and so far they are not backing down. The season’s theme has been set and the town’s coroner will be busy…if he wasn’t already also dead.

Maybe this will all play out well, and I should just give it time. There’s a really good chance I’m jumping the gun. I want to feel like I can trust the team that is responsible for this show. But I have seen the fifth season, so this is not foolproof.

If the show continues on its murderous rampage, it will only work to destroy the legacy that it carved out for itself. True Blood has done a lot in terms of paving the way for dramatic series, special effects, and what you can do on a premium cable channel. Thank goodness it was here to show Twilight fan girls what a real vampire thriller should be.

But to adopt a mentality of being edgy and dark, only because it’s your last season, damages the show’s well-established tone. In the world of True Blood, people do die. Normally those deaths have purpose, such as advancing the plot, or evolving a character. Yet, the show has made it a point not to kill off the Bon Temps rogue’s gallery of citizens, as the town itself is the heart of the series. When everyone is together at Merlotte’s, we feel that charm that was abundant in the first season, which is what made us fall in love with the show initially.

Now, the town is in danger of being staked through said heart, even with its well-document ability to survive. Yes, the writers may be trying to establish a metaphor that the greatest danger to Bon Temps has always been Bon Temps itself, but the last season is not a great time to try this trick. When that final episode concludes, we want to believe that Bon Temps will always be there and continue to go on, even though we’ve seen the end of this particular chapter. We won’t be able to do this if the death toll continues to climb. Based on all the information we have, it seems like this is the most likely trend, with the only catalyst being that the characters are no longer needed after this season.

If this is all true, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, or at the very least seems like very weak storytelling. It would be like if all the employees got fired in the last season of The Office, or if besties started hating each other in the final installment of Friends. Could you even begin to imagine the outrage that would have followed if everyone died in the final season of Lost? These shows kept right on doing business as usual in their concluding chapters and any unique changes they made to tell engaging stories were superbly crafted and well executed.

Tara’s death wasn’t on screen. Kevin’s exit proved that the bloodthirsty vampires were bloodthirsty. Maxine’s murder may have helped bring Hoyt back into the picture, but would it have not been better to let Hoyt have a final growing moment by confronting the over-bearing matron? Alcide’s demise was the clunkiest of them all, and reeked of a slate clearing device so that Sookie would be free for Bill. Let’s be truly honest: Alcide was poorly used this entire season and his passing was more of a mercy kill.

What will this mean if a more prominent person’s number comes up? Without a need to establish a story for any future seasons, it is alarming to consider that we may lose some of our favorite characters for meaningless reasons.

I hope I’m wrong. I wish that they do have some devilish plan in place so that all of this will end well. I have my fingers crossed that need for body bags/buckets dwindles. I pray that if Eric meets the true death, that it will bring him the honor that is befit his Viking heritage. I want to believe that the scripts for the remaining episodes are sharp and purposeful.

But if the gratuitous violence on most HBO dramas in any indication, I have to ask myself one question: Do I feel lucky, punk?

Cory Brin is a Halloween enthusiast, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, a BA in History from King’s College, and is currently working on projects for the screen, the stage, and for print. Follow him on Twitter@corybrin.

(Photo from Bloody Disgusting.)

Crash Analysis: Do Horror and Television Really Work Together?

The much anticipated “Bates Motel” on A&E garnered an audience of three million – the  highest ever for the channel. Thanks to the legendary success of Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960), the epic favorite still looms large in the American psyche, so why not tune in? Personally, I didn’t care until I heard that the phenomenal Vera Farmiga would take the lead as the “beloved” mother, and Nestor Carbonell as the sheriff.

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much due to one major factor: Norman Bates’ world is too small. Thumbing his nose at American suburbia, Hitchcock showed the impossibility and despair of “finding one’s own island” in the milieu of our fabricated neighborhoods. Marion (Janet Leigh) would never find her elusive freedom, especially on Norman’s bubble of an island of his own psychotic making.

To develop a television show around a world in microcosm would prove difficult. The characters would be few, and there couldn’t be a murder each week due to small town slim pickin’s. From the get go in “Bates Motel”, Norman (played well by Freddie Highmore) discovers his dead father, with the clear indication that mommy dearest had bludgeoned the man and went off to shower. It’s not surprising the shower element made itself so prominent in the beginning, and one can only surmise that Norman will discover at some point the truth of his father’s demise.

Granted, Norma Bates (Farmiga) is a complex character with self-righteous notions, and a passive-aggressive nature that will keep her son Norman confused and ultimately at the breaking point. For Norman, he’s a good kid lost in a sea of mental chaos, with an internal rage that will only become darker and erupt in a tsunami of murderous proportions. The good news is that the complexity of character adds depth to the overall story, but how can we watch two people self-destruct for years on end? Maybe this is why the show’s creators will introduce another Bates, a brother, in the upcoming episode. (I’m curious as to their approach to this conundrum: Norman hates blood, as if a phobia, yet somehow manages to engage in taxidermy.)

The worst part about the production was the trite and cliché ridden bathroom scene, which was completely devoid of suspense. How many times have we seen a dead body stuffed in a tub while someone hit the toilet or washed up in the sink? Please.

But this small world leads to the same problem that plagues “The Walking Dead” – it’s a soap opera first, and a horror second.

In the opening of “The Walking Dead”, many were thrilled to see Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) shoot a young zombie girl between the eyes and take her out. I instantly fell in love, and thought the series would be gritty as well as relentless. After all, the previews, comprised of phenomenal special effects proved to be too riveting to ignore. In short order, however, this little band of human survivors turned out to be a whiny crew from a bad daytime soap. They indulged in lengthy tear-stained monologues while a zombie shambled along in the background on occasion. Sigh. If only bigoted yet gutsy zombie killer Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) would leave the cry baby group and its bickering, and head out on his own with crossbow at the ready, we’d definitely have something worth watching.

Reedus’s character is the only complex one in the bunch. But that’s not the worst of “The Walking Dead”: the writing’s awful. Regardless of the beloved comic books from Robert Kirkman, and artists Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, the show has major issues. I had trudged through the first season, and laughed at the big finale: Letting a grenade blow in a closed in building would leave one deaf. And to be just yards away from the CDC when it explodes in grand fashion would have shattered the vehicles’ windows. Even so, I wanted to love the show, to finally embrace a horror television series with grade A special makeup effects, and watched the first episode of season two. To have Christ on his cross, a Roman Catholic image, in a Baptist church is ludicrous – and to have two separate characters have some special time with the Christ figure to unload their woes is extremely weak.

I bailed on the soap, and all its human tears.

And although I will give “Bates Motel” another shot or two, I know the soapiness of it all will leave me no choice but to change the channel. One wonders if the forthcoming “Hannibal” series will be any better.

As for horror and television, Zacherle, Vampira, Elvira and other ghostly hosts led the way to campy frights over the decades, and even a claymation six-fingered hand on WPIX forewarned us of the willies to come with “Chiller” (See the intro here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok6uzndOmPA). We’ve had horror mixed with over-the-top comedy in “The Munsters”, “The Addams Family”, and even “Scooby Doo”. Rod Serling delivered some horrific nuggets with “Night Gallery” and “The Twilight Zone”. And the stand alone episodes of series seemed to work extremely well, from Canada’s “Tales from the Dark Side”, to cable’s tongue-in-cheek “Tales from the Crypt”, “The Hitchhiker”, and maybe the best, though sometimes disappointing showcase, “Masters of Horror”. Holy Hell, we even had a bona fide soap opera with the long-lived “Dark Shadows” from the UK. Though maybe even more diehard fans indulge in “Supernatural”, “Veronica Mars”, “American Horror Story”, Boris Karloff’s “Thriller”, and “True Blood” – to name but a few. As for mini-series, Stephen King’s stories led the charge, though most were long-winded and ultimately disappointing, such as “It”, “The Stand”, and “The Langoliers”, though back in the day, “Salem’s Lot” left me clinging to the walls and still has quite a following.

From all my years of watching far too much television, here’s the best horror related shows the boob tube ever offered:

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)

Comedic – sure. Dramatic – on a grand scale. Each episode of Whedon’s fantastic “Buffy” had more suspense and crises than any fullblown episode of “ER”, “Chicago Hope” or what have you. Thanks to the ever-changing stories and idiosyncratic characters, viewers were caught in a whirlwind of post teen angst and mayhem that kept them riveted for years.

“Angel” (1999-2004)

The most successful television spinoff of all time? This series incorporated more of a serious, brooding tone than “Buffy”, but once again, Whedon worked his magic in delivering strong characters and a host of storylines to keep viewers tuning in.

“Friday the 13th: The Series” (1987-1990)

Yes, everyone hated the name of this one from Canada, but the premise amazed: a curio shop of cursed items that our little group of heroes had to collect from very misinformed buyers. Some episodes lacked luster, but many viewers fell in love with Robey as the female lead, and kept watching. The show was cool, violent, and was dark enough to satisfy true horror fans.

“She-Wolf of London” (1990-1991)

Only twenty fun episodes exist, but the character interactions between werewolf (Kate Hodge) and doctor (Neil Dickson) made it all worthwhile. The problem had to do with the UK producers. When they dropped out, filming moved to Los Angeles, and the entire project disintegrated.

“Twin Peaks” (1990-1991)

David Lynch served up small town quirkiness on a Salvador Dali inspired platter. The bizarro show and its sideshow characters, rocked viewers’ minds with the refrain: Who killed Laura Palmer? As for horror, there are some scares in the show that rival even the best films in the genre – especially when Frank Silva came on screen.

My favorite “could have been a contender” series, was the very short-lived “Brimstone” (1998-1999). Only lucky number thirteen episodes, the series’ creators presented a wonderful project that wasn’t ready enough for the small screen. Peter Horton played Ezekiel Stone, a detective banished to Hell after joyfully murdering the guy who had killed his wife. But 113 souls had escaped from that dark realm, and the Devil (John Glover) gave Stone the job to bring them all back. Once his mission’s over, he could rejoin his wife in Heaven. Regardless of the clunky start and under-developed stories, the interchange between Horton and Glover is not to be missed. In fact, Glover plays one of the greatest Devils of all times, and his performance alone proves fascinating.

So where does that leave us?

We’ve had some spooky fun over the years, but once the comedy element is extracted, we’re left with either a usually hokey gorefest, or something that tries to be edgy – or dramatic soap operas that try way too hard. It’s as if series developers want audiences to see that horror is much more than typical “genre” fair. That’s perfectly fine, and I’m all for it, but “Bates Motel” and “The Walking Dead” need to stop with the sappy, melodramatic soapiness. Today’s producers should look at David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” (and Angelo Badalamenti’s stellar score), Whedon’s masterful “Buffy” and “Angel” series, and the story depth associated with the best of “The Twilight Zone”. Otherwise, we’ll be left with shows that look good, incorporate wonderful actors, but offer nothing of substance beyond pools of blood mixed with tears.