Movies, Music, and TV

Lucifer cover

Mix one pinch Reaper into a hefty dose of Remington Steele, and you have Lucifer, a throwback show that just saw its fourth season debut on Netflix after it was unceremoniously canceled by Fox last year.

Tom Ellis stars as the titular character—the devil—who has made his way to earth for an extended vacation. He owns a night club, lives his days in debauchery, and has little interest in going back to overseeing demons and lost souls in hell. Additionally, he has managed to become a civilian consultant with L.A.P.D., where he finds a strange kinship with his assigned partner, Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German).

It’s a procedural with a twist, and the similarities between Remington Steele and Lucifer are uncanny. It ranges from the basic premise—a female law enforcement professional teaming up with a mysterious, suave civilian—to character traits, like the formal ways the male anti-protagonists refer to their more competent partners: Steele, Ms. Holt; Lucifer, Detective. There are even comparable gimmicks, with Brosnan’s old movie references paralleling Ellis’s devilish now tell me… what is it that you truly desire? interrogation line.

And let it be said, Ellis makes an excellent Lucifer Morningstar. His character is charming and self-centered, and keen on pointing out that he is not evil. His job and curse are to oversee doomed souls in hell, but that, in his mind, does not make him the bad guy. That’s the core of the character, a fallen angel who is butthurt he has gotten the reputation of being a villain. It’s a very different take from what Ray Wise delivered in Reaper.

The rest of the cast holds an equally high standard, and particularly Lesley-Ann Brandt delivers an excellent performance as Lucifer’s demon ally, Mazikeen.

It might not be the most profound meditation on the Bible, but Lucifer is an entertaining procedural, and it utilizes old testament lore to great effect. Giving a character in any show an overbearing brother is one thing; making the brother an angel with daddy issues adds some well-suited twists.

More than anything, Lucifer marries the best of the lighter eighties crime fare with the current trend of working with darker mythology. It is a well-balanced show, and it brings its own je ne sais quoi to the table. Kudos to the Netflix for taking a chance on saving Lucifer. It wasn’t a huge hit on Fox, but the fanbase was rabid enough to make it worth the streaming giant’s while, and we’re all better off because of it.

Throw Lucifer in with Sabrina, and Netflix has quite the run of devil based shows going right now.


The Girl in the Photographs

Movies, Music, and TV

The Girl in the Photographs cover

There are some movies that just exist. They’re not bad, they’re not good, they’re not even average. They just are. The Girl in the Photographs is, at its heart, one of those movies, one you on the surface should forget as soon as you have watched it. But, and there is a but here! The Girl in the Photographs might not be the most memorable of ninety-five minutes you’ll ever experience, but there is one performance that serves as something more than just a saving grace: I give you Mr. Kal Penn.

Penn—best known for the Harold & Kumar films—isn’t even the star of the movie. Claudia Lee has that dubious honor, and she doesn’t get much more than the baseline horror-thriller material to work with. You know the drill: stalked by a serial killer who leaves photos of his latest victims for her to find, she now has to deal with being the possible next victim. That kind of thing. Not exactly thrillingly deep, but then, something suitable for a lazy Sunday if nothing else.

Where The Girl in the Photographs strikes gold is with Penn’s portrayal of a narcissistic photographer who becomes obsessed with the serial killer’s work. Convinced that he is copying his style, and resentful that the photos are more edgy than his work, Peter Hemmings (named after David Hemmings from the classic Blow Up, and based on real-life photographer Terry Richardson) brings his crew to the small town where the photos appeared. You can probably guess where it goes from there.

Penn is absolutely great in this film. Every snarky comment, every carefully worded insult, every aloof mannerism hit home. The Girl in the Photographs isn’t a comedy, but Penn’s character works perfectly on a Scream-type level. Each time he appears on the screen, you know something sardonically watchable will happen, and Penn clearly is having a good time with the role.

And that is all that is required, really. The rest of the movie is there to serve up this great, dark humor. It might not happen enough, but it’s always worth the wait.

Watch The Girl in the Photographs for what it is: something easily digestible. There aren’t many scares, but the laughs you get makes it worth the ride and Kal Penn is in my mind a golden god.

Bonus fact!

This was Wes Craven’s last film—he served as a producer.



Movies, Music, and TV

Terrifier cover

So, here is a rarity: a modern slasher that largely avoids the traps its contemporaries often fall into. Terrifier echoes the eighties classics when the violence was ridiculously over the top, and the antagonists had personalities distinct enough to make them equivalents to today’s superheroes. It was hard to take those movies too seriously, yet they were still suitably scary and macabrely entertaining, without going borderline snuff like many do today.

Terrifier’s seemingly straightforward plot is set during Halloween, with Tara and Dawn (Jenna Kannell and Catherine Corcoran) getting ready to head home from a party. On the way to the car, they encounter a silent clown whose behavior switches between being playful (albeit creepily so) to giving dead-eyed stares. As the clown’s actions grow increasingly bizarre, the girls head off to the car, only to find their tires slashed.

If the setup sounds like a slasher trope, it’s because it is, yet Terrifier is a stylish entry to the genre. Director Damien Leone has a background as a makeup artist, and he has put his talents well into use with Art the Clown (as his name is). The character looks downright demented.

Art and a future victimArt the clownFuture victim, part 2

Visually, too, the movie is well executed. The apartment building where the brunt of the movie takes place is claustrophobically filmed. The narrow hallways and sharp corners are aesthetically similar to many Italian gialli, and particularly Dario Argento’s Deep Red looks to be an aesthetic reference point.

David Howard Thornton’s performance as Art is terrific. The actor is a trained mime, and he shows a natural comfort with a clown’s movements and mannerisms, giving the character a real menace. Art shows similarities to an early Freddy Krueger—macabrely funny, with just the right amount of ominousness thrown in—and Thornton channels his inner Robert England well.

It is too bad there is one scene in Terrifier that is unnecessarily cruel. One can claim that’s the nature of the slasher, but the best of the genre tend to go over the top to where it is hard to take it seriously. The scene in question (and you’ll know it when you see it) is a distraction from the many things that make this a good movie, which it really is, sitting at 73% certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad for a film that seemingly was designed not to be a mainstream hit.

Bonus trivia!

Terrifier is a sequel, of sorts, to All Hallows Eve, an entertaining anthology film not unlike Tales from the Crypt. There was an actual sequel to it, too, but it was produced by a different team, and Art is not featured in it.

Images borrowed from IMDb.


The Body

Movies, Music, and TV

The Body cover

Twelve months; twelve holidays; twelve horror movies based on them. Add it up, and you get Into The Dark, an anthology produced by Blumhouse for Hulu. The series kicked off last October with The Body, a thriller which works well outside the confines of Halloween’s usual tropes.

We follow Wilkes (Tom Bateman), a hitman who has just performed a contract kill, and, as he transports the plastic-wrapped body to the car, finds his tires slashed. While mulling over what to do next, a group of partygoers spots him and compliments him on what they perceive to be his costume and prop. They agree to give Wilkes a ride to his next destination, on the condition he will accompany them to a party for a quick drink. Wilkes acquiesces, and, unsurprisingly, things deteriorate from there. The content of the package is revealed and subsequently lost; the group (sans a girl who is fascinated with Wilkes’s profession) runs off, and the chase begins.

This isn’t the type of movie cinema blockbusters are made of, and as Blumhouse is raking in cash and Oscars with the likes of Get Out and Whiplash, it makes sense to put lower budget fare into an anthology like Into The Dark. I doubt people would have lined up around the block to watch The Body, but I can see it becoming a sleeper cult hit on Hulu. It’s laudable, really: only ten years ago, The Body would have struggled to find a direct to video distribution deal. These days, thanks to streaming, studios seem more willing to take chances on offbeat films, and experiments like Into The Dark exposes the audience at large to a broader array of movies.

The Body was co-written by Paul Fischer (the author of the fascinating A Kim Jung-Il Production) and Paul Davis, and the script is solid. Particularly Wilkes and his admirer are well fleshed out characters, and their dialogue is captivating. Wilkes might have a warped view on society, but he is almost convincing in using it to justify his actions.

I’m guessing the film’s budget was limited, but Davis, who also serves as director, works with what he’s got, and The Body has a clean, concise look. The cast delivers a commendable performance, and I’d put The Body in the higher tier of V.O.D. movies. It’s an entertaining watch.

Into The Dark kicks off on a high note, then, and I plan to sit through everything it has to offer. I doubt it all will be of the The Body’s pedigree, but I’m all about being proven wrong.