Welcome back to Dread Central’s daily recap/reviews of the second season of Netflix and The Duffer Brothers’ “Stranger Things”. You can find our recap/review of the previous episode right HERE. Now let’s get to it!
The previous episode of “Stranger Things 2” ended with good old sheriff Hopper digging a hole in a pumpkin patch and then falling right the hell into it. This new episode “Dig Dug” begins with Hopper stuck in this new labyrinth of blue underground tunnels and getting spit on by weird Upside Down plants.
The hole Hopper fell through then covers itself up above him, leaving Hopper super screwed.
Cue awesome synth opening credits.
One of the (stranger) things we’d like to point out at the top of this article is that this episode is the first of two directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding f*king Nemo). Just a cool note in our eyes.
Back to the actual episode, we begin with Nancy and Jonathan getting a hotel room for the night so they can fuc– plan the next stage of their tape-recorder attack on the big bads in the energy planet on the hill.
Nancy and Jonathan sit in separate beds, like this way the Dick Van Dyke show, and talk about girlie things such as feelings and whatnot. In fact, the conversation gets so “girlie” that when Nancy quietly asks Edward Furlong’s clone “What happened to us?” I dry cried like Mike’s little blonde sister that the series has seemingly forgotten existed.
Elsewhere, Will Byers springs up from his bed after having just experienced a nightmare, and I fully expected him to scream out, “Kiss her, Jonathan!” but instead he says Hopper is going to die or some shite (fat chance) and then rush off to draw more pictures. Cut to Hopper alone in the tunnels not worried at all that sentient cave-vines are out to do him harm. The man even smokes while he’s down there. Trust me, don’t worry about Hopper. He’ll be fine.
Next, we meet Lucas’ family, who are already much more lovable and interesting than Lucas as evident by even this quick scene. Lucas’ adorably bitchy little sister smoothers waffles with syrup (her and Eleven will really get along when they meet, huh?) and Lucas’ dad gives his son the funniest dad-look I’ve seen outside of this meme.
We then join Dustin as he orchestrates an elaborate ruse to convince his mother that their orange and fat cat just ran away from home and wasn’t, you know, eaten to death by his pet Lovecraft monster.
Speaking of Dart and Dustin, we are then treated to what we have no issue calling the best scene that has ever been presented in this Netflix original series. Here Dustin dons all the hockey pads he can find and slaps down a trail of Bologna slices in an attempt to lure Dart in the backyard and slapshot him into the cellar.
In fact, Dustin running through the house dressed like Goldberg from The Mighty Ducks, spouting an endless repetition of the “s” word is our favorite thing we’ve seen on TV this year. Yes, even better than Agent Dale Cooper’s return to “Twin Peaks”. Well, maybe not. But it’s close.
Now, being that the show’s writers know they have just created pure television nirvana with the Dustin vs Dart scene, they only felt that it was fair to then hit us with a prolonged scene featuring Eleven.
In this scene, our curly-haired hitchhiker shockingly switches things up and spends the scene holding her hand up to things and bleeding from the nose. This character’s going places I can feel it. Maybe we’ll get her holding up TWO hands and bleeding from BOTH nostrils by the end of the season. Finger-crossed.
All jokes aside, Eleven finds her birth mother and goes for a visit. The chick from A Horrible Way to Die and Alien: Covenant doesn’t want to let Eleven in because the child might be dangerous (or a Girl Scout). So Eleven mind-opens the door (bleeding slightly from one nostril) thus making the chick who got yoked by piano wire in You’re Next reason the little kid is harmless and should be welcomed into her home – with her invalid mother – with open arms.
Meanwhile, Nancy and Jonathan head out to the middle of nowhere to meet up with everyone’s new favorite character Murray Bauman played with whip-smart comic timing by Brett Gelman. We seriously love this guy. And is it just us or does he remind you of a character that would be on The Simpsons? Not sure why.
Murray takes the teens inside his conspiracy theory lair and shows them his massive “What the sh*t happened to Barb” board. Nancy and Jonathan then let him know they are about to blow his mind and we cut away to Mad Max showing up at the arcade. Turns out her favorite game “Dig Dug” (natch) has crapped out. Sucks. But being that Max and Lucas had a fight the last episode we realize that this has all been an elaborate ruse – now on Lucas’ part – to get Max alone.
Once in the backroom of the arcade, Lucas tells Max everything. The whole shebang. And guess what? Beverly Marsh 2.0 doesn’t believe a word of it. Way to go, Lucas. Mike would have sold the sh*t out of that story and had Max crafting spiked bats out of arcade games within minutes. Where is Mike by the way? Oh, yeah, the drawings.
Mike and Joyce put together the final pieces of Will crayon-map and now know where Hopper is! Kinda. Actually, the map makes no sense to them and so they have to wait for good old Samwise boyfriend to show up and decipher the puzzle. Which he does! Duh. Because we all know how much Mikey Walsh loves a good treasure map.
With Dart now locked up in the family cellar, Dustin goes on the hunt for his buddies. Any one of them will do. Turns out he can’t find a single one of them so in what is possibly the greatest set up since Freddy met Jason, it seems Dustin and Steve Harrington will be pulling buddy cop duty from here on out. Bring it on.
Meanwhile, Eleven realizes her catatonic mother wants to speak to her, so she mind-travels into that pitch black nothingness and confronts her. Turns out momma Eleven got pregnant and then Pvt. Joker from Full Metal Jacket stole her baby. Mamma Eleven then goes on a shooting spree at her local sinister energy plant on the hill and gets her entire personality electroshocked out the back of her head.
In short, Eleven’s mamma is a badass. Like Pam Grier in the 70s badass. Let’s see that spin-off.
We then cut back to Nancy and Jonathan at Murray’s house of crazy where they finish telling him everything. The whole shebang. And being that it’s Nancy’s adorable-ass that tells the tale, not Lucas, Murray believes every word, unlike Max. I smell a team up coming our way. And possibly the world’s creepy three-way. We’ll see.
The episode then wraps up with Joyce, Mike, Samwise and Will going to the pumpkin patch of doom and rescuing Hopper from a bunch of vines. The government goons then show up like they were scheduled and proceed to burn the whole tentacle mess to the ground with blowtorches. But that doesn’t go so well.
Turns out Will is super connected to these vines (and thus to all the other Upside Down entities, right?) and starts convulsing like Linda Blair from the second half of The Exorcist. I see where this is going…
We then cut to credits on what just might be our favorite episode of “Stranger Things” thus far. The episode was funny as hell, fast-paced (relatively) and gave us our first true introduction to Brett Gelman’s sure to be classic character, Murray Bauman. What more could you ask for?
Needless to say, we’re excited as hell about the next episode “The Spy”. Not only are we set to get more Andrew Stanton-directed awesomeness, but this episode left us with the promise of Steve Harrington and Dustin Henderson becoming the new Riggs and Murtaugh of Hawkins.
We cannot wait.
Check back with us tomorrow for our recap/review of “Stranger Things 2” Ep. 6 – “The Spy”
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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