HAIL MARY, GORE ALMIGHTY-AMERICAN HORROR STORY:ASYLUM

It has taken me a few weeks, and I have gotten behind a little, and now catching up but I am just about back on track with the second series of AMERICAN HORROR STORY showing FX/FOX in the UK now.

As with the first series, expectations were built up quite high, with very stylish and at times again arguably controversial poster imagery and visual themes. But having seen the first series, we must now be more prepared and ready for similarly twisted and depraved terror a second time around right?

With good credit to the creators they did announce the brave and intriguing step of bringing back the actors, but this time in very different roles and with a totally new location for the narrative. This offered some skepticism and curiosity until the series finally began a couple of months ago.

Alright, so this time we have the story set in a classically spooky mental asylum setting, which while is possibly good choice for the horror genre that it resides in, it could initially seem a lazy choice and even become thin on ideas quite quickly. Well, in the first couple of episodes it began really quite sudden and disturbingly intense, chopping between time frames, but this we had become used to from the previous season.

It was suddenly actually very brutal and modern with some dizzy chaos and gore around as a new mysterious monster known as ‘Bloody Face’ stalked corridors. It was, derivative of some recent notorious horror movie styling, and similar to the SAW franchise, and so this then lowered my new hopes. But, after a couple of episodes the main new characters settled into place, and a new dark tale was unraveling once again.

We are presented with a young couple- young white man and his black lover. She dies soon enough-but did he kill her? Two lesbian lovers at a time when it had to remain total secret, one of them soon is taken into the asylum and blackmailed. Through this again, the actor Jessica Lange plays Sister Jude, a truly warped and dangerous nun who controls and manipulates the patients and other around her there.

While Lange now plays a disturbed and satisfyingly chilling evil nun, there are similarities between this and her character in the earlier series. Even so, she is still one of the most reliable and entertaining reasons to keep watching.

Evan Peters, who last time was the sick and conniving young grunge ghost, now plays Kit, a young man tricked and confused over the death of his loved one, and his own guilt or involvement. Now, it is interesting to see him portray a new character who is conflicted and mourning, and for the most part, one of the good guys. There is also some very strange and mysterious connection with him and potential supernatural forces which is curious.

There too, have been some new actors arriving, new guest stars most notably Joseph Fiennes portraying an at first very selfless and helpful holy man who may provide future dark edges. Gradually two other actors from the first series returned-Zachary Quinto, playing Dr.Olivier Thredson who appears helpful but soon becomes a difficult character, and then also Frances Conroy-the aged French maid in the first series now a shockingly impressive and sudden marvelous new character, whom I will hold back from revealing for those who have not yet seen her this time.

So far, there have been a good few comments about how the show has changed, the violence and gore, the new characters, plot lines and content. Some people are not happy with the possible misogyny, sexism, repetitive and sex-obsessed nature, the kinky nun imagery.

Controversy and extreme reaction is nothing new to this show, as it created and caused unrest immediately with the first series, and was almost bound to do so again. In fact, the creators must have certainly hoped for that once more.

Do I think that they have gone too far this time? Is it just lacking in real inventiveness and new ideas, while churning out predictable horror cliches and what would only shock your grandmother, if that?

I do believe that this second season could have been edited down quite a lot, a couple of episodes chopped out. While I have been enjoying watching the exploration of the main characters and narrative, some of it has dragged along perhaps far too slowly.

Thankfully, by mid-series it does seem to have found the original stronger beginnings and headed along back on track again, after a few more very twisted and grizzly events. Heading now toward the end of the series, it could reach a very dramatic and revelatory climax which it does hold the potential to show us.

What do you think of this second run so far? Has it been more successful and rewarding than the first, or has it dropped below expectations already?

There is now talk of a third season, and all three then somehow being linked by the narrative together. This is pleasingly mysterious and bold but could of course simply be hype to keep the show on air. One very large and epic connected dark horror world could be a very stunning thing, and to see it become that would be a genre triumph indeed.

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MOON(2009)-FILM REVIEW

I have watched it now. I feel like I can sit relaxed with the rest of you now. It has taken a fair while to view this impressive film, and if there is blame to be aimed, I think it goes to the marketing and advertising for the film. But then how else could it be sold to us?

MOON was a small and modest debut movie from Duncan Jones, who more recently directed another great film called Source Code which had a very tense time-travel theme. This first feature certainly stood apart from other science fiction films on release, as it is a very quiet, scaled down situation and reasonably small budget movie.

I do know most classic science fiction movies, and personally I could watch some repeatedly for days on end such as two of my favorites-Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey and the lesser known cult film Silent Running. These are two films which have huge influence upon MOON.  Duncan Jones knew this and I am sure did not at all try to hide this at all, and the film pays recognisable homage to these classics.

The film started off with a sudden quick intro montage, which sets the back story and explains how the main character Sam, is working on the Moon. From there it soon goes on to show us this lonely man, content with his quiet work but revealing increasing signs of nervous paranoia. This far in, it sadly begins to look like just yet another well crafted tribute to Kubrick’s 2001. If you have never seen that film-go and watch it this minute okay-then at this point, MOON is probably very interesting and will keep you watching. But knowing the sci-fi classic 2001, I did need much more in this set up to stop me from switching off early.

Well, thankfully Jones chose the suitably skilled actor Sam Rockwell to play the lead role, who is almost the only character we see on screen for the majority of the movie-well, the only actor mostly. It most certainly is Rockwell who carries this film along, and for one actor it is definitely one of the most impressive and captivating performances that I have witnessed in a long while.

I had not personally been a huge fan of his from other roles that he had played in films previously, but in this movie it is probably his most suitable and fine played performance in his career so far.

Other than bringing to mind the epic visions in space of 2001 and the quiet rebellious nature of Silent Running, MOON also shares many similarities to the Solaris films. Most notably from early on, we see Sam alone on his lunar station base, but he does maintain an artificial relationship with his computer Gertie. The director Jones knows that it would be almost impossible to escape comparison to 2001’s Hal, so we simply go ahead with this similar calm-voiced computer (voiced by Kevin Spacey).

Then like Solaris, soon enough the film reveals and inspects the pressure put upon lone characters left out in space, with the continued irregularities and depression growing in and around Sam.

Already, even with the danger of the film becoming just another sci-fi copy, Rockwell holds us watching until soon enough a finely original and engaging narrative comes to us.

It is one of the more very existential, thoughtful and philosophical science fiction movies but do not let that make you turn away. It does have some very outstanding visual imagery around a future Moon, and from the start is directed very well visually.

It is not as vaguely cryptic as 2001 or simply as casual as Silent Running, and probably is the more emotionally engaging and touching of all three movies. This is a tragic tale, but comes to pull together a rewarding conclusion, in another way similar to the Danny Boyle film Sunshine, where we see how Earth continues on however it can even beyond future space exploration.

After a couple of years of negatively assuming Moon to be far too close to 2001 in existential deep sci-fi posturing, I have seen an original movie which was worth the wait and one that I now, like many others, highly recommend to be seen.