‘American Gothic’ Premiere: For Whom the Silver Bells Toll

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Meet the Hawthornes of Boston. They live a typical American dream of a large family, founded on an empire of hard work: In this case, concrete and construction by the Hawthorne patriarch, Mitch. The matriarch, Madeline (Virginia Madsen), is smooth and forever in control, doing whatever she deems necessary with grace and efficiency. The kids are all grown, some with kids of their own, some still trying for that. Allison (Juliet Rylance) has her pretty husband and observant twins girls, but she also has designs on pushing out the current Mayor of Boston and becoming the next one. Tessa (Megan Ketch) seems to be the only real sweet one of the family, which usually indicates a person with some of the darkest skeletons in the closet of all of them. How Tessa kept anything from her police detective husband Brady (Elliot Knight), though, remains to be seen. Cameron (Justin Chatwin) is the recovering drug addict and artist — there’s one in every family like this, of course — whose comics are now syndicated in more than 80 newspapers nationwide. Cam has a son, Jack (Gabriel Bateman), who at the ripe old age of not-yet-hit-puberty, blithely states he wants to become a Medical Examiner when he grows up. And then, there’s the missing one, Garret (Antony Starr), who took a powder fourteen years ago after stating he’d never, ever return to the Hawthornes.

So why are the Hawthornes coming back together? Originally, it was to plan for Allison’s mayoral campaign with her charming and seductive assistant Naomi (Maureen Sebastian). But then, there was an accident involving the collapse of a freeway underpass and, amid the wreckage, evidence of the Silver Bells killer has been discovered. Who is that, we ask? A fine question, and one that seems to be the centerpoint of at least the first season of this new show: Is a member of the Hawthorne family really the Silver Bells murderer? The Patriarch had a freaking heart attack while mayoral incumbent Allison was reassuring the people that the hunt for the Silver Bells killer will continue. While looking for a fix, Cam and Tessa stumbled upon a box that could ruin the lives of all the Hawthornes. The newly returned and very raw Garrett seems suspicious, because his disappearance fourteen years ago coincided with the cessation of all Silver Bells killer activities.

The only reason Cam’s son Jack isn’t immediately in the running for the Silver Bells murderer is that, well, he simply isn’t old enough for that. His natural curiosity and nasty “experiments” don’t have to brand him a serial killer at all of before-puberty, but the show seems to be indicating that the Hawthorne blood will out him at some point, and there might not be anything poor Jack can do about it. One would think his creative father would be better suited to aiding his Norman-Bates-like child, but no, after finding that box Cam dove back into the oblivion of drugs with his wayward wife Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas).

Garrett seems to delight in acting strange, shaving with a hunting knife and sleeping on the floor, as he does. He’s been gone these fourteen years, having sworn to his folks he would never return, but, of course, they don’t say why. The mystery of Garrett, how much he actually knows about the Hawthornes’ buried secrets, and what kind of monsters he has in his own closets, should be an interesting watch.

Virginia Madsen is no stranger to dark entertainment, famous as she is for the likes of Candyman and Witches of East End. To see her playing a character so much like a combination of Madeline Matheson and Pamela Vorhees, especially at the end of the first episode, is a real treat.

The first episode was a slow-ish burn, considering how much information on the Hawthornes’ introduction they had to pack in there, plus attempting to indicate just how long the Silver Bells murders went on and how badly they affected the citizenry. I rather like the idea that this family, who’ve achieved the American Dream though hard work and long hours, who could be any one of us out there watching this show right now, are also potentially full of treacherous lies and murderous secrets. And, like the determined final acts of Madeline Hawthorne, how far would you go, what unthinkable acts would you commit, if it meant saving your family? So many of us harbor the most devastating secrets: John Wayne Gacy was a clown for children’s parties, and Dennis Rader was the Deacon of his local church. You just never know, until it’s far, far too late.

Dig up the Hawthornes’ skeletons Wednesdays on CBS at 10:00 p.m./9:00 p.m., Central!

‘Ajin Demi-Human’: Just Die, Already

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome to the not-too-distant future, where immortal beings known as Ajin are real, and the whole world knows about them. See, some time ago there was a conflagration between two warring nations and one lone guy was sent in; he proceeded to take out every last child soldier, soak up a ton of damage, and still absolutely refused to lie down and just die already. This was, somehow, the world’s introduction to Ajin, and, though the guy was scooped up by some black-ops military group, we just know had to come from America, the proverbial cat is now out of the bag and the world now treats Ajin collectively about as well as they do mutants from the X-Men world.

None of that really matters much to Kei Nagai, he has his own concerns about getting into medical school and studies and such. The knowledge of Ajin is now part of the school curriculum, as are wanted posters encouraging anyone knowing the whereabouts of Ajin to turn them in, but hey, Kei never thought it would happen to him. He and school pals are joshing with each other after school, not paying attention, and next thing you know, Kei’s been run over by a freaking truck. And I mean run over, complete with the bloody streak all the way across the intersection, the mangled body, and the horrified driver. The poor driver, Kei’s friends, and all bystanders get to be even more horrified when that dead body begins to twitch, then rises, complete with the gut-wrenching sounds of bones snapping back into place; and everyone realizes: Oh shit, Kei’s an Ajin.

Why is Kei on the run from virtually everyone? The government prides itself on rounding up Ajin, purportedly for their own safety, but none of the mundanes really know what happens to Ajin after they go to the facilities. How much damage can an Ajin take? Can they actually be killed? Do they have extra powers? The shadowy men behind the scenes who do eventually capture Kei seem to take sadistic delight in attempting to answer these questions using poor Kei’s disbelieving person. These scenes in particular, as the black hat government doctors (if you can still call them that after watching this) attempt to see just how much pain Kei can endure before he dies and rises yet again, are particularly brutal and worth a blanch or three.

The man in the hat, also known as Sato, claims he wants to help Kei but of course has his own agenda, once it’s readily revealed that Sato is an Ajin too. Sato seems to have gone quite insane from his own torture at the hands of the same government men who experiment on Kei, but he’s also learned a great deal from it, and uses such tricks to take out scores of bad guys against him all on his lonesome. Sato is determined, with some help, to be the leader of the Ajin revolution against all those who would try and stop him, and indeed, his methods of unexpected strategy are worthy of Light Yagami in Death Note. Of course, him being completely bugshit nuts in the bargain helps make it fun, like riding the very top of a skyscraper as it crashes onto another building, laughing hysterically.

The style of animation is very different, so much more realistic than you find in many anime these days. The subject matter, dealing with torture and repeated death as it does, is far from meant for the kidlings, I don’t recommend ages 12 or under watch Ajin. The plot is somewhat similar to the popular anime Tokyo Ghoul, even down to the torture, but character reactions and far-reaching plots are rather different and take some unexpected twists. For a Netflix-exclusive anime, the show is still subtitled rather than dubbed, and this made me happy. Rumor says Ajin Demi-Human will get a season two in October 2016!

You can watch Kei and Sato die over and over in Ajin Demi-Human on Netflix right now!



‘Powers’ Season Two Premiere: Who Really Killed Retro Girl?

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome back to the continuation of the finale from the previous season, the hunt for the killer of Retro Girl, already in progress. Powers is the show about people with extraordinary powers, their long-reaching consequences, and the ordinary folk trying to live with, and occasionally police, the powers among them!

Walker (Sharlto Copley) is still keeping very much himself, despite having just defeated the psychotic murderer, Wolf, and coming off seeing the throat-slit corpse of Retro Girl laid out in a glaring statement of hate – he curses, he rages, and he absolutely fucking refuses to sit still. The Captain, of course, wants Christian off the Retro Girl case right now, considering the FBI just walked in to breathe down his neck and Walker is far too close to her death. Walker’s partner, Pilgrim got assigned to the case with Kutter, which makes no one happy, but at least someone familiar is on it in some kind of official capacity.

Did I mention the FBI? Yeah. In walks Agents Lange (Tricia Helfer) and Schlag (Timothy Douglas Perez), a dynamic duo that are giant pain in the asses as far as Captain Cross is concerned. Schlag is very obviously some kind of Power, he looks like a walking piece of granite and never speaks. And Lange, well, she has the Helfer magic to give her that give-zero-fucks attitude, which, since she’s a season two regular apparently, is just going to piss everyone at Powers Division off.

Actually, how long the Powers Division will last in the wake of the death of Retro Girl, is debatable. I still don’t get how shutting down the PD is going to help catch the murderer, but when has logic ever held sway in this grand country of ours? Zora is still laid up in the hospital after her bout with Wolf, but when she gets wind of Retro Girl’s demise, she takes off determinedly out a window. Good thing she’d been practicing her powers quietly before trying that. Speaking of practicing, our dear little wannabe, Calista, is all grown up, mostly sorta kinda, and practicing her newborn powers out there in the desert. Where, presumably, she won’t kill anyone or flatten anything of importance, as she tries so very hard to fly like Iron Man and bench press a truck.

Everyone is trying to use the aftermath of RG’s death to push forward some kind of platform or statement. Even, amazingly, the former Cobalt Knight of the UNITY trio that Retro Girl formed to fight crime way back when; he’s now Senator Bailey Brown and is trying to put forth a bill that will make the use of any and all powers illegal and prosecutable. The last member of UNITY, SuperShock (Michael Madsen), just has to show up while Christian is taking a last walk of RG’s digs and declare for vengeance.

The re-emergence of SuperShock, or Patrick, as Christian sometimes calls him, out of a self-imposed 40-year retirement, is one of season two’s main plots and so far quite intriguing. We’re led to believe that something, or perhaps a series of somethings, horrific, led to Patrick’s ultimate retirement and swearing off the regulated cape and uniform, and indeed, as he speaks with Walker about the death of Retro Girl, even now he seems a broken man. I look forward to much rampant destruction as Madsen’s battered hero glomps his way towards the truth of her death.

Unfortunately for him, right now the only real suspect at the moment is Krispin Stockley (Max Fowler), given his known association with Khaotic Chic and general dislike for Powers folk, plus that whole wrong-place-wrong-time deal. Despite the real-seeming possibility that Krispin, his little wannabe-anarchist girlfriend, and their anti-powers radicals, I think it’s highly unlikely that all of them could pull such a thing off. If they did it, they’d have to have dubious help, and other suspects are already cropping up. Don’t miss Walker and Pilgrim and all their powers and human friends and enemies, battling them and each-other for supremacy and Retro Girl’s legacy in Powers Season Two!

Powers is being shown exclusively on the Playstation Network, but for everyone else who doesn’t have such a thing, you can catch new episodes on their website here!


‘Cleverman’ Premiere: How Hairy are You?

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

It’s important to note that there are many different kinds of mythology from all over the world, and nothing makes any one of them more powerful than the other. In theory, ‘Aboriginal’ used as a term of categorization means that the thing or person you’re talking about is very close to nature and of the earliest times, when the world was newer than it is now.

So, work with me, here. The Australian Aboriginal mythology and world-creation stories are collectively known as The Dreaming. Spirits and creatures and Gods, oh my, The Dreaming is very much like its own version of the afterlife, astral spirit realms and other such stories more western folk may be familiar with. Each tribe has its own myths for The Dreaming, and each tribe also has its own Cleverman, the conduit between reality and The Dreaming, the man of power and guidance, like a shaman or a priest. Each tribe has their own methods for making their Cleverman, and I haven’t heard as yet whether or not a woman can be their shaman. For the purposes of the show (thus far), this particular Cleverman appears to be a title and power passed on to family by the previous chosen Cleverman, and boy, does it create an uproar when he does so.

Set in a futuristic dystopian society, the world has divided along the lines of species, rather than race, this time. The Hairy people, or ‘Hairies’ as they are sometimes referred to in a derogatory fashion, humanoid-like folk who seemed to have merged with animal characteristics and gone back to a harmony with nature and spiritualism rarely seen these days, are persecuted for being far less than human. Hairies live a lot longer than humans, have extra strength and a metaphysical awareness of The Dreaming, some even have their own Cleverman. But for all their interesting characteristics, Hairies simply don’t share the same DNA as humans any more, and that makes them different, which, to a good deal of humanity, means, “Destroy it before it destroys us!”

In this brave new world, the Zone has been set up, in theory, as a place for Hairies to exist (not live, that’s not living, not really) in peace and prosperity, if they can. Some humans choose to live there, or are forced to live there due to financial straits, and get nothing but flak for it. Some Hairies try to escape the Zone, for their families’ sake if nothing else, and this is how they encounter all sorts of shady coyote border-runner types, where we meet Koen West (Hunter Page-Lochard).

Koen seems, at the outset, to be the worst kind of coyote as, with one hand, he helps a Hairy refugee family sneak outside the Zone and into an illegal apartment, and with the other hand, he crushes any hope of kindness by reporting the refugees to the Authorities for the reward money not a few hours later. Then there’s this giant confrontation when the Authorities come to haul the Hairies off to God-knows-what-kind of jail, a beat-down ensues right in front of news cameras, and the youngest Hairy girl is gunned down in very cold blood.

It turns out, while all this is going on, that Koen’s uncle Jimmy is the Cleverman for his tribe, and has been involved in unnamed naughty escapades for which he feels the need to atone. Uncle Jimmy delivers to Koen a warrior’s club, a waddy, which he reluctantly accepts before Uncle Jimmy disappears to try and set other shenanigans right, before getting himself taken out. Uncle Jimmy passes on the power of the Cleverman to his chosen Koen rather than his older brother who assumed he was next in the succession line, and oh, does that make waves. At least Koen gets granted power right when he needs a torn-finger restoration.

How these things – the Cleverman succession line, the war between humans and Hairies, even The Dreaming creatures you just know are coming – all relate to each other inside the series, we will have to wait to see because, right now, it’s kind of a slow burn. Trying to keep the futuristic dystopian vibe while still having things like magic, shapeshifters, and fairies involved isn’t impossible, but it’s a tall order for only six episodes of the first season. After a very positive opening night, Cleverman gained an order for a second season, much to fan delight. The makeup for the show is brought to you by Jake Nash, production designer for Australia’s leading Aboriginal dance company Bangarra, and by the good folks at Weta Workshop, who brought us Lord of the Rings and Avatar, among many other astounding visuals.

Cleverman can be howled at on Wednesdays, on SundanceTV @ 10:00 p.m./9:00 p.m., Central!