Stranger Things 2 Ep. 9 - "The Gate" - Dread Central
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Stranger Things 2 Ep. 9 – “The Gate”

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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!

Here we are, the season finale of “Stranger Things 2”. We made it to the end and now there is only one thing left to do – starting counting down the days until season three hits.

To jump right into it, on the previous episode “The Mind Flayer” we ended with Eleven showing up to join forces with the rest of the main cast inside the Byers house as everyone prepares for the final battle with the evil Mind Flayer and his Demadogs. Mike is instantly pissed at Hopper for hiding Eleven from him and proceeds to try and beat him up. Hopper isn’t having any of that shit and pulls Mike to Will’s bedroom and calms his ass down.

Meanwhile, Eleven meets the new cast and reunites with the old. Then after a quick series of re-introductions Joyce takes Eleven to see comatose Will. She then shows Eleven Will’s secret message to “Close the Gate” and asks Eleven if she thinks she can close said gate if she can get close enough to it. Eleven just stares off into the distance as the (synth) music rises and we:

Cut to credits.

As we fade back from the bright red credits sequence we find – wait, what? Mike’s mother in the tub? Reading romance novels to candlelight? Oh… this is gonna be good. But, damn, instead of a Mike’s mom spin-off episode we get Max’s brother at the front door. The Red Ranger proceeds to mercilessly hit on Mike’s mom and we as an audience can’t blame him. Who knew Mike’s mom was such a hottie? Nice.

After some heavy flirting Billy heads on his way and we rejoin the gang at the Byers house. Eleven tells everyone that she can close the gate with her mind, but Mike reminds the gang that this could very well kill Will. Joyce then gets the bright idea that if they whisk off Will to Hopper’s cabin in the woods, they can make him really, really hot and that should expel the Shadow Demon inside him. This is because the Shadow Demon hates heat – for no reason that’s ever explained. But whatever. We’ll go with it.

Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan head out to the cabin in the woods with Will as Hopper and Eleven head off to close the gate once and for all. Back at the Byers house, Dustin and Steve take the dead Demadog and put it in the Byers fridge (haha) and then the gang comes up with the plan to head into the tunnels and kill the Upside Down.

But then Billy shows up… Steve meets him outside because he’s a hero now and Billy punches him straight in the face. The battle that we’ve been waiting for all season is now upon us and Steve seems to be holding his own. Until he isn’t. But no worries, Max shows up with some “Knock Will Out Juice” and uses it to knock out Billy.

That’s it? Really? That douche deserved the wrath of Kahn, not a nap. Especially after beating Steve’s face to absolute shit. But I guess we have to take what we can get and murdering Max’s brother may have been a bit too much. Meh. I would have used that spiked bat on his strategically feathered dome.

While Billy is getting his ass all kinds of NOT kicked, Joyce and Nancy and Jonathan arrive at the cabin in the woods and begin setting fires and setting up space heaters. This should be interesting.

Meanwhile, Eleven and Hopper show up at the sinister energy plant of the hill and get to work on closing the gate. On their way down to the gate, they find Dr. Owens still alive and kicking. Why this dude gets to live and poor old Bob the Brain had to bite the big one is beyond me, but fair enough.

While gates are being mind-closed and Will is being exorcist-ed by space heaters, the rest of the Scooby gang steals Billy’s bitchin’ T-Bird and heads to the pumpkin patch, aka the entryway into the blue underground tunnels below Hawkins. Plus, we get a sweet payoff to Max’s “Zoomer” line from a few episodes back. Good times.

Down in the tunnels, Mike and the gang douse the vines in gasoline while Will’s ex-possession by space-heaters seems to be going well. Then Steve lights the vines on fire just as Nancy straight up stabs Will with a white-hot fireplace poker. Both of these things happening at the same time seems to cure Will and the Smoke Demon hits the road in a shrieking puff of smog. But I’m sure that’s not the last we’ll see of old Smog. Get it? Smog. Hurm.

Then down in the hell beneath the energy plant Eleven and Hopper ready themselves to close the damn gate and get this shit over with. They board a platform thing and Eleven goes about her whole deal. You know the one: holding up one hand and scowling at the demon gate while her nose starts to bleed. However, then a miracle happens – Eleven steps up her game in a HUGE way… by holding up TWO hands and bleeding out of BOTH nostrils. Holy shit. This just got epic! NOTE: I wish I had a sarcasm font.

All being a dick aside, it was pretty epic that Eleven started levitating. It reminds us all that the series seems to be setting up Eleven to become this series’ Dark Phoenix. Mark my words. Maybe not next season, but the one after that, Eleven will be the main villain. Until she is “saved” by Mike’s love (or some shit) in the final episode.

Until then, Eleven will continue to be the show’s “hero” of sorts and I’ll have to learn to deal with that. Teaming her up with Hopper this past season did wonders for making her character more sympathetic, but really, was sympathetic ever the issue with her character? No, I don’t think so.

After she closes the gate – with relative ease – we cut to “One Month Later” and find the energy plant getting shut down with Murray(!) waving the military off with the biggest shit-eating grin I’ve seen in years. Well deserved.

We then cut to the high school’s “Snow Ball” dance and here is where this f*cking 33-year-old dude got the feels big time. Not only does the Steve and Dustin relationship have a great payoff with Dustin feathering his hair up with Farah Fawcett spray, but then (gasp) it doesn’t work! Not only doesn’t Dustin get the girl (Max) but he – get THIS shit – doesn’t get to dance with one single girl.

Just when things are looking darkest for our favorite character, Dustin, who else but his first season dream girl Nancy Wheeler comes over and asks him to dance. “Out of all my brother’s friends, you’re my favorite. You always have been.” This was one of the sweetest moments in the series altogether and if it didn’t give you the feels, check your pulse because you may be a sociopath, Dexter.

As man-tears worthy as the Dustin payoff was, it wasn’t the moment that got this guy the most. The moment that brought me to fully dry cry involved (shockingly) Eleven. Yes, little Eleven and Mike’s dance and kiss was about the sweetest thing I’ve seen outside of a f*cking Disney movie. And I have no issue baring that to you guys.

When Eleven walks into the dance all John Hughes-style to The Police’s “I’ll be Watching You” and finds Mike all alone – by choice, mind you – I realized something: these are kids. No duh, but stick with me here. No matter the supernatural elements they’re forced to face and the horrible things adults have done to them in the past, they are still children and the fact that they find the power to fight all these very adult fears is a massive triumph.

Add to that the killer exchange the two share with Mike asking Eleven to dance. She says, “I don’t know how.” And Mike says, “Neither do I. Want to figure it out together?” And the waterworks started. Last season I didn’t buy Eleven and Mike’s kiss because she was basically E.T., and their kiss did little for me as it was basically like watching Elliot laying a big fat one on his extraterrestrial buddy. Not cute, sweet, or emotional.

Not so on this go around.

This time not only have the two grown up substantially, but they have both fought for the last 9 hours (our time, 353 days their time) to get to each other. Demadogs, Shadow Monsters, Mind Flayers and bully older brothers, etc. These two conquered them all just to get to this moment. And you can tell as they dance it was all worth it.

Now before I lose my “Man Card” altogether (too late) let’s skip to the end and sum up.

Hopper and Joyce share a cigarette out front, and Max and Lucas share a kiss themselves. Sweet moments, sure. But nothing compared to Lucas and Nancy, and Mike and Eleven.

The whole thing then wraps up with a wide angle showing us that the Shadow Monster is still alive and well, and overlooking everything these characters do at even their best moments. Darkness is coming – back. And it’s only a matter of time (about a year, right?) before their problems start up again.

But for now, all seems right. We’ll take the happy endings we can get. And I don’t know about you, but this season finale and this season overall put a smile on my face that is sure to last for at least 353 days.

See you guys next season!

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.1 (21 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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