Directed by Various
Released by Paramount Home Video
Damn fine coffee. Cherry pie. Owls. A lady with a log. Wrapped in plastic.
These images and phrases have become part of the public consciousness thanks to “Twin Peaks”.
In the early nineties, a TV series created and conceived by David Lynch and Mark Frost took everyone by surprise and its impact on television and popular culture came to a surprise to everyone involved in the show. Launching with an incredible pilot with the hook of “Who killed Laura Palmer?” that drew viewers back each week, by the time the short series had run its course, ending on a hell of a multi faceted cliffhanger that left many characters in life threatening situations, “Twin Peaks” had indelibly left its mark.
A second season was not only ordered, but a full season of twenty two episodes (with a feature length first episode) was assigned and work began in earnest.No one predicted that the hottest TV show on television would be fighting to stay on TV and end up cancelled by the end of its second run.
The debates rage about what killed “Twin Peaks”. A move from Thursday nights to Saturday nights? The TV studio pressuring the creators to solve the mystery of Laura Palmer’s murder before they had really got their next main storyline off the ground? The weirdness of the show moving from the background to the foreground?
Whatever the reason, time has passed and like far too many shows that were cancelled early, “Twin Peak”’s stamp on television cannot be debated and its popularity remains strong. In fact as I write this, this very box set is creeping up the top 10 DVD charts on Amazon.
Watching the second season again, it’s hard not to reflect on how it lost its way … but I have to say that my favorite episodes of the show undoubtedly come from season two, even though my least favorites do too.
“Peaks” begins as it left off at the end of season one: Compelling and believable even as the weirdness ramps up. Early on we’re treated to a couple of Lynch-directed episodes, the first admittedly containing the worst moment of “Twin Peaks” involving a guitar and a pitch shifted James, but his second (episode seven), which finally reveals Laura Palmer’s killer is still one of the most shocking and downright scary moments from any television show I have personally seen.
From there the Laura Palmer storyline is quickly resolved leaving … Well, the next big plot line, the Windom Earle storyline, was still just being seeded into the show and all that is left are sub plots. Up to that point, “Twin Peaks” had had one central plot tying its huge cast of characters together, but without that, the show was reduced to a slightly weird soap opera. While the Windom Earle storyline slowly starts to build, it isn’t really until episode sixteen that it becomes the driving plot for the series and the show finally starts to pick up again.
On TV “Twin Peaks” was treading water for months, but watching the season again on DVD I’m surprised at how quickly that middle patch of episodes flies by and before you know it the cast is involved in a storyline as gripping as the murder of Laura Palmer. Things build and build to an incredible climax in the final episode, again directed by David Lynch, where the show dives head first into the kind of weird brilliance that Lynch is famous for.
That final episode does resolve the Windom Earle storyline, but leaves us with a huge cliffhanger. There’s no question watching that last episode that they were hoping for a third season, but it wasn’t to be, leaving many of our favorite characters in dark and uncertain territory, indefinitely in limbo.
Perhaps that is part of why “Twin Peaks” has endured, perhaps not, but while some may argue that season two killed “Twin Peaks”, the first third and the last third are as good as the landmark first season and deserve to be revisited again and again, however rough it got in the middle.
If you haven’t seen all of the second season, if you were one of the many people out there that lost interest midway through its run now is the perfect time to give it a second chance. However if you are reading this review, I’m going to presume that you, like me, have probably had Season One of “Twin Peaks” sat on your DVD shelf for years. Maybe like me you’ve had a set of bootlegs sat next to it, or the VHS tapes stacked high … but all the same you probably felt as I did that there was a big gap in your DVD collection. A Season Two of “Twin Peaks”-sized gap.
The first season of “Twin Peaks” may have been missing the pilot (and like me you’re probably still waiting on a DVD of the pilot up to standard) but it was an incredible box set. Great packaging, some interesting commentaries, a whole set of interviews, great menu design, and most importantly incredible picture and sound quality. With all that’s happened to the rights for the show since that successful release, I’ve always been concerned that when Season Two finally hit DVD that it wouldn’t have been done with nearly the same care that Season One was given. In fact when it was finally announced the first things my eyes noticed was that where Season One was labeled as a special edition, Season Two isn’t.
I’m a huge “Twin Peaks” fan, a multi-year attendee at the Twin Peaks Festival, and the Season Two discs have always been a hot topic of discussion. I remember having a chat with Josh Eisenstadt (featured on that Season One set), rightly considered the biggest “Twin Peaks” fan of them all, and he was dubious as to whether or not Season Two would see as much care taken with the transfers as Season One was.
Just glancing down the list of features on the box set it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t the definitive box set we were all hoping for. The packaging is just three small plastic cases in a cardboard box instead of the cardboard fold out. There are no commentaries. There’s no DTS sound tracks.
Having the DVD set in my hands finally after all these years, my initial reaction was one of disappointment; don’t get me wrong, I was glad they were finally here, but it still wasn’t what I was hoping.
Putting a disc in, the first impressions aren’t so good either. I think I know what they were going for with the menus, as they kind of remind me of a lot of promotional material for the show from the time it was airing, but the retro look is a bit basic and doesn’t come close to what was done for season one.
On each disc but the last one, you’ll find a list of episodes without chapter menus (though unlike some David Lynch films there are at least chapter points, set at the commercial breaks) and a slim extras menu featuring the log lady introductions (the quality of which is pretty awful) and an interview with someone involved in the making of the show.
But one thing that you can’t complain about is the price. The set is about the same price as the original series was when it came out, but you have to remember that the first season is seven episodes long, where as the second is twenty two; over three times the episodes. Heck, if you wanted to pick up the First Season now, used copies on Amazon start at more than $150.
So even though the set doesn’t feature as much extra goodies, it has a lot more stuff and it gets the most important thing of all right: Image and sound quality.
To say the sound quality of the set isn’t as good as the original is no sleight against it, as the original really went above and beyond what you’d expect from a TV show. While there is no DTS this time around, Paramount has still gone to the effort of remixing the shows into Dolby Digital 5.1 and I can’t complain about the sound quality of the mix. It’s a top drawer Dolby soundtrack with all the atmosphere and clarity that you could want from a show that you’ve been stuck watching on VHS or poor quality bootlegs for god knows how long.
So while it’s less of a revelation than the original set, it is still a revelation and the video quality, the one thing I thought they’d skimp on, the one thing I thought they wouldn’t match, I’d have to say they’ve at least equaled. While the episodes aren’t quite at the same bitrate as the originals (with four episodes per disc instead of two) the transfers are everything I hoped for, with the colors feeling even more alive and natural than they did on the first box set.
Watching the opening credits from both, I’d give season two the edge, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve always rated the first season as one of the best looking TV box sets and certainly the best looking TV box set of anything released before the mid nineties. You will still see the odd scratch or blemish, but it’s never anything more than minor and it doesn’t remotely detract from the experience.
What extras there are are certainly nice, too. The interviews spread out across the six discs (with a pretty substantial number on the last disc) are generally relevant to that part of the season and contain a lot of interesting information, a surprising amount of which was new even to someone like me who obsesses over the show.
It’s nice to have the log lady introductions, as bizarre as they may be, but as I mentioned before, the quality of them is pretty poor. You have to concentrate pretty hard to make out what she’s saying (not that it makes much sense anyway) which is a real shame.
Finally on the last disc you have an interview grid. Similar to what was found on the last disc of season one, but a bit less extensive and a lot easier to navigate.
I can’t commend the job that’s been done on the transfers enough and they are the reason that for anyone interested enough in “Twin Peaks”, that despite being a little short on extras and despite the presentation of the set not being on par with the first, that I whole heartedly recommend the set.
It may not offer as much insight into the behind the scenes experience as hoped, but the quality of the episodes themselves leaves nothing to be desired, and when it comes down to it, that’s really all that counts, especially when you look at the price tag the set has when a season of this length and reputation could easily have been around $100.
Anyone who owned the original set would be doing themselves an injustice not to pick up this solid box set, and I’d go as far to say that even if you don’t, try and find it for cheap and pick them both up.
“Twin Peaks” really did change television forever and was the most remarkable television show since probably “The Prisoner” in the sixties. Without it, shows like “Lost”, “Wild Palms”, “Carnivale”, “Northern Exposure”, “The X-Files” and many more would have probably never been commissioned, and at if they had, they’d have been a lot more run of the mill.
4 1/2 out of 5
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
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.
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.
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.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
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.
- 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.
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.
The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!
Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey
Directed by Alan Lougher
The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.
When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”
Ultimately chilling in nature!
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