Rated: R (Adult Language, Violence, Drug Use, Nudity)
Starring: Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn, and Tom Graziani
Camera gimmicks aside, this is perhaps one of the most unique zombie origin stories I’ve seen in years. It’s not just a random, evolved disease. There’s no shadow government running tests on humanity. Asteroids have nothing to do with spreading a weird virus. For JeruZalem they went back to the religious origins behind mankind’s obsession with the dead rising. Every Rosh Hashanah mankind is judged. This time around, the living fail the test and the dead rise in Jerusalem to punish them.
Tourists Sarah and Rachel are side-tracked from their vacation in Tel Aviv by a handsome anthropologist, Kevin, who suggests they go with him to Jerusalem instead to celebrate the New Year. The trio pack into a hostel run by the charming Omar and his family. Desperate to party, the ladies take Kevin and Omar out to check out the nightlife. We get a taste of the everyday conflicts between the numerous cultures jammed into the city during their escapades. They spend some time flirting with two soldiers, Omar isn’t as welcoming. For the most part, the party scenes are just that, save the splashes of stark reminders that the people living in Jerusalem do so in constant tension with one-another. It’s not until the final day of the celebration when things get weird. Violent news reports dominate the airwaves, which Omar brushed off until it was too late to take action, and too widespread to continue softening the horror for the hostel’s guests. Because they’re so slow to see the undead threat, they’re trapped in the city when it’s put under quarantine. The only way out is through a massive tunnel system; one older gentleman knows the path.
By then, they’ve had a few face-to-face encounters with the undead. These zombies are a hybrid, bringing in more demon than zombie aesthetic to the creature design. They’re rotted humans, but the final evolution includes functional wings, black eyes, and claws. Because this was shot to look like Glass footage, everything in the dark is super grainy, no matter what resolution screen you watch it on. What could’ve been a super neat zombie design is muddied in the shadows. Fight scenes where the undead are close enough to see detail are choppy. Almost all of the latter fights include several minutes where the point-of-view is seriously compromised, there’s no light, or the camera is sideways on the floor. The zombie/demons aren’t the only creature. We get one head-scratching shot of something the locals call a Nephilim. It’s massive, towering over the buildings as it strolls by. Then we kinda forget there’s a huge thing walking through the Old City and continue on.
There’s little to get to know about the characters. They wear it all on their sleeves. Sarah is emotionally scarred from her brother’s death. Rachel is tired of her buzzkill bestie and wants to party. Kevin has a niggling idea about the undead rising, but by the time he thinks past getting in Sarah’s pants, he can’t save anyone. Omar has the most depth of them all, completely stealing the show from the ladies at every turn. This is the kind of film where it’s easy to forget to spend time developing the characters because the writers are so focused on how they’d die. And die they do. We see first-hand how a living soul turns into one of the undead. Which is really ridiculous because it means the main characters knowingly tote an infected person along for the great cave escape. Spoilers: Like any good zombie movie, there’s not much hope for mankind. The ending isn’t that shocking, but does leave fans with a nice sense of dread with the closing shot of a zombie/demon swarm over Jerusalem.
JeruZalem has its faults, it really does. However, I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to watch a zombie-centric film which isn’t set in America, the UK, or Germany. The change in location and culture dictated a change in the story-telling process. Doing something different is a terrifying challenge, one genre filmmakers relish and fans lap up like warm milk—watching the same set of characters doing the same things and running from the same monsters over and over is a drag. This film is not the next NotLD, but I’m giving JeruZalem three-point-five mangled mandibles out of five. I’d add it to a marathon night of found-footage films.
Starring: Dougray Scott, Jessica De Gouw, and Elen Rhys
Here’s something a tad different, yet the movie somehow follows all the checkpoints of a solidly uninventive plot. I grabbed The Rezort to review primarily because it boasted a complete lack of pointless make-out scenes and nudity. Horror movies don’t need sex to make them interesting. Human emotions go far deeper than that. While there’s nothing horribly surprising about how this film’s plot unfolds, there’s a world of nuance in not only how the characters handle a resurgence of the undead outbreak, but it demonstrates how humanity will always manage to shoot itself in the foot when they attempt to drag war-time normality into post-war life.
Melanie survived the zombie war, but it left her an orphan. The emotional damage from years spent scrambling to survive leaves her with PTSD and an inability to move on thanks to nightmares. Someone at her support group suggests immersion therapy, giving her information about The Rezort—an island off the Australian cost filled with undead, where the rich go to pretend they’re brave and safely shoot zombies. She and her boyfriend Lewis, who fought in the zombie war with no obvious mental repercussions, decide to give immersion therapy a try. They’re tossed in with a group of others and off they go into the park, with naught but a few hidden fences keeping them out of real danger.
You see where the plot goes from there. The fences fail after a zombie activist group sneaks a virus into the resort’s computer system and it’s a race to escape before the island is torched by the government in the Brimstone protocol. The characters are, for the most part, prototypes: The Survivor Girl, Her Boyfriend With A Dark Secret, The Warrior Old Guy, The Mindless Morons, The Employee With A Heart, The Clueless Activist, and The Heartless CEO. We never form attachments to them. Hell, most of their names fly over the audience’s head up until their death scene. As each main character bites the dust, it confirms the unoriginal writing process for this script. The only character with soul is Mel, and she is the survivor girl, so we expect her to be an actual character. To show how little effort goes into the characters, it’s not even that satisfying when Vivian, the CEO, is attacked by the zombies she created and imprisoned. Here’s a character who took refugees and turned them into a profit, but without character depth it’s just a fact tossed out to sound interesting right before a death gag featuring numerous zombies tearing a body apart.
Vivian’s actions do lend to some intriguing discussion about what happens when the rich put everything they have during wartime into one venture, and then must move on once they’re found on the winning side of the war. In this case, the Rezort isn’t formed until right after the war. It comes across as a novel way to contain remaining undead while making a buck from a free resource. But what happens when there’s too many keen to relive the “glory days,” where it was marshal law and everyone walked around armed to the teeth? How does one keep up with that kind of demand when the zombie outbreak is under control? Make more zombies, of course. Just use what you have. No one will miss the refugees—a startling statement, but look at Syria. At the cost of the most fragile, the wealthy can have a weekend vacation in paradise. It’s disgusting, and exactly the same mentality countries like the USA currently adopt.
The message in The Rezort is the real take-away here. It’s not the characters having fun or even Mel mistakenly trying to cure her PTSD by participating in forced slavery. It’s the complete lack of care for the human lives affected by the war which is the story. It’s a corporation looking at people who only want to know when they’ll have a home or a full stomach again and determining their lives count for nothing except a paycheck down the line, which should petrify anyone with any concern for their fellow humans. It also just so happens that this film is shot beautifully—except for the opening shaky-cam footage—and has some rather impressive FX makeup for the zombies. Overall, I’m giving The Rezort four oozing eyeballs out of five. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’ll start a conversation about the state of our world.
Yeah, the warning is right on top this week. We’ve got a lot to discuss and little time to pussyfoot around with generalizations and all that rubbish. You guys waited months for this episode. Was it worth the anger at the producers and writers who said we’d be glad for so much time to stew over who died? Do you feel cheated by the dual deaths? How about all that brain matter on the ground, was it too much? Most importantly, are any of us really feeling the emotion between Rick and Negan or will the directors continue leading it to an awkward place where it’s laughable?
I, personally, feel cheated out of the surprise. The producers showed their hands months ago when they continuously stated that the show would gradually realign with what happens in the comic books. One death talked about constantly is Negan murdering Glenn. Hell, someone just released an action figure featuring Glenn’s mangled face as it’s shown on the page—which is almost identical to what’s on screen for that heartbreaking apology to Maggie. Almost in the same breath as the realigning statements, TWD higher-ups denied that Glenn would die. Red flag. Red flags everywhere. It was raining them at SDCC 2016. Since then, I’ve spent the time away from TWD saying goodbye to my favorite character. So when Negan first hit Glenn, my reaction was a resigned sigh. Then profanity, and more sighing. The show which constantly states they want to break boundaries and do new things is still utterly predictable.
Abraham’s brutal murder wasn’t overly shocking either if one stops for even a minute to think as Negan would when sizing up his newest assets. Manipulation is his bread and butter. One look at Rick’s people and how they handled interactions with the Saviors told Negan everything he needed to know—kill Abe because he’s ride-or-die loyal, keep Daryl because he’s mentally fragile and can be manipulated just like Rick. This is easy for Negan. Twisting people’s minds to do what he wants is the sole reason he’s not rotting in a walker’s gut. So why would an astute audience willingly overlook this? Why, TWD writers, would you go for the two characters who make the most sense if your desire was to shock, surprise, and devastate? Anyone with half a brain who tunes in regularly knew we’d lose Abraham. Daryl sells too much merchandise. Rick’s demise would’ve been awesome, but ultimately disappointing because the lead-up to the murder scene was so lackluster and drawn-out. Killing a woman would’ve started a feminist war in the fanbase. Carl was a good candidate, but he’s got too much potential to carry the show forward now. Plus in Negan-sense, he’s a carrot to dangle in front of Rick to ensure good behavior. The remaining gentlemen, as much as we adore them, just wouldn’t have the same impact. I would’ve been more shocked by that scene if Negan didn’t kill anyone, but just as pissed off with the direction the show took for the season premiere.
I mean, since when is five minutes of Rick staring at a set we’ve already seen before gripping television? He’s supposed to have a breakdown during the whole axe-fetching scene. Okay, that’s believable. So why did it involve long shots of walkers shuffling through smoke cut with the footage shown at SDCC with Lucille and the main cast? The scene felt like something from an indie band’s music video—a lone, agonized man surrounded by the cheesiest surroundings ever, just to feel spooky. Then, to make the death scenes mean even less, they show clips with Rick imagining everyone else getting a kiss upside the dome from Lucille. Why? We already know what he’s thinking. A good actor can do that, and Andrew Lincoln is no slouch when it comes to his face betraying every thought in Rick’s head.
They wanted to come into the Negan Era with a loud noise. In order to make noise, the plot’s gotta move faster than a snail’s pace. Inertia. Ever hear of it? The ball doesn’t roll and keep rolling without a hell of a push. It took the show fifteen minutes to get to the murders. I almost turned it off, thinking they’d strung us along for yet another week, and I was done if that were the case. It wasn’t, but the scene is buried so far in the episode, it does no good other than to turn stomachs. The only reason the scene is hidden in the episode is because of the backlash from the season six cliffhanger. Many fans felt as I did; we’ll watch the opening scene for season seven to learn who died and move on to another, more entertaining show which actually strives to write coherently. In a direct thumb-nosing to the noise-makers speaking against the cliffhanger, they cut together the episode just to make us wait through a couple commercial breaks. How nice of them to ensure the show makes a buck from a group who’re pretty likely to throw out their TWD fan badges after learning who died. I’m not tossing my badge in the fire just yet because I have hope the Negan era will smooth out, but it’s a near thing after this episode.
The violence in the episode really struck some sour notes across the fandom. Every complaint I see is met with a laugh. Fans derided the writers when there wasn’t enough undead violence. They scream for blood anytime a character or group disrespects the main cast. Yet the bad guy, who we’ve been warned about constantly since the show began by fans of the comics, comes in and does exactly what he’s supposed to, and it’s suddenly too much for the delicate flowers planted on their couches. Take up gardening if you can’t handle fake blood on a show centered on how messed up humanity is without actual rules to govern it. Were the close-ups too much? Possibly. I’m not one to judge. Horror and gore are my jam. I only started watching TWD to see what KNB FX could do with extended time to develop creatures and death gags; they’ve yet to disappoint. I will state that wanting a show built on the premise of killing things in order to survive to shy away from gruesome murders is like expecting a unicorn to lick away your tears while curing cancer. It won’t happen.
For the most part, we already knew what’d happen plot wise: Someone dies, Rick and Negan have a long moment to deal with Rick’s stubbornness, the Alexandria crew is absorbed by the Saviors, and Maggie wants blood, but she’s in no position to even walk, let alone lead a war. Daryl as the cause of Glenn’s death was the lone surprise for me—as I stated, I saw the death coming, just not how it’d happen. We’ve waited since Merle’s death for Daryl to be relevant to the plot again and now I want him to be the next big death on the show. Why? Because Daryl knew dang well that someone else, not him, would die for that single punch. They all knew Negan’s M.O. by that point. Abe died because of Rick’s hubris, yet that wasn’t lesson enough for everyone’s apocalyptic savior? Yeah, no. I’m beyond done with their failed attempts to make Daryl into an actual character. He’s been a two-dimensional promotional tool for so long, they’ve forgotten the character has a brain.
Now that the clunky season opener is behind us, maybe the ball will roll through season seven better. But, wait, we’ve still got a whole ‘nother group to introduce over at The Kingdom. If that episode is as awkward and poorly timed as the Negan/Rick glare-downs in the RV, I don’t know how much longer they can continue to pretend they know how to produce a show, let alone write one with so much potential for real depth and ability to shine a light on the massive problems in today’s society. They keep dropping the ball. I’m tired of waiting for someone in the TWD production office to finally pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. It’s time they returned to giving fans entertainment of substance instead of shilling the Walking Dead name and filling their coffers.
In a wicked case of, “Too soon, a-hole,” I was given Burying the Ex to review not long after Anton Yelchin’s passing. Guilt ate at me until I finally watched. It’d be a disservice to an incredible actor to not watch everything he did on the screen. Spoilers, this film delivers exactly what it promises—a lighthearted horror romance with plenty of off-kilter jokes.
The relationship between Max and Evelyn is beyond ridiculous . . . yet not completely off-base in some areas. Keep in mind, Evelyn doesn’t go off the deep, deep end until magic changes the terms of their relationship. The earlier issues Max has with Evelyn are grounded in reality. She’s holding him back from his dream to own his own horror prop shop. All their meals are vegan. Though, Evelyn does have Max’s back when it comes to his hyper-sexual, skuzzball half-brother, Travis. Brotherly love does not extend to banging chicks on your half-brother’s floor just so they don’t know where you live, just saying. There’s no love between girlfriend and half-brother. Evelyn chews Travis out every time he lets himself into their apartment.
Evelyn’s magically-amplified jealousy left a bad taste in my mouth after Olivia’s introductory scene. Evie was unhinged and so neurotic over ice cream, it hit ludicrous fast. The point was to show Evelyn spiraling out of control, eventually leading to her death. Instead, the scene killed all pity for the character and made Olivia the side chick for trying to do her job. Hell, she didn’t ask for Max’s phone number or offer him a lap dance. They both just happen to know a lot about kid’s horror-themed cereal. The clunky jealousy bleeds over to zombie Evelyn’s on-screen time, but isn’t as problematic until the film’s climax.
On the flipside, the secondary romance story is something which would make one sigh, save Max being distracted by a friggen zombie who won’t move out of his apartment. Olivia is the cool, but weird chick most people write as death-obsessed, practically sleeping in a coffin Goth. She’s funny, refreshing, Most importantly, at no point did her scenes become, “Everything you can do, I can do better,” with Olivia doing out of character things just to prove she’s not Evelyn.
On the effects side, things are a little light. Evelyn’s makeup morphs wonderfully from freshly risen to mottled, withered walking dead as the film’s second half plays out. What few other practical effects are in the film are graphic. Viewers can dang near feel the sticky embalming fluid vomit. By the way, there’s a post-credit add-on showing the FX team pumping the goo into Yelchin’s face. He reacted out of character about the same as he did in character.
Burying the Ex is an “It gets better,” note to any weirdo feeling stuck in every aspect of their life. Sure, they won’t end up with an unhinged, jealous zombie sharing their bed, but Max did eventually move on from everything holding him back and making him miserable. I give the film three and a three-quarters cracked skulls out of five.
A. Zombie Reviews . . . Pet Sematary II By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Violence, adult language, sexuality, rape)
Starring: Edward Furlong, Anthony Edwards, Clancy Brown, Jared Rushton, Darlanne Fluegel
Synopsis: After his wife’s violent on-set death, veterinarian Chase Matthews and his son Jeff move to Ludlow to rebuild their lives away from Los Angeles. Harassed endlessly by the neighborhood kids, Jeff finds a friend in Drew Gilbert, who fears his abusive stepfather, Gus. After Gus murders Drew’s other best friend, his dog, the boys take the body to the nearby Indian burial grounds—rumored to resurrect any dead buried in the soil. When evil returns, the boys realize sometimes dead dogs should be left to lie.[Official Synopsis]
Because I wanted to question every decision I’ve made this week, I opted to pick what film to watch by drawing a title from a hat. The pickings weren’t great to begin with, given my options, but I believe I scraped the bottom of the barrel labeled “Trying Too Hard.”
The script came from someone who missed the mark in the struggle to create a comprehensive love note not only to Stephen King’s original Pet Sematary script, but his works in general. Bumping up the age of the children involved brought the interpersonal drama in line with what King fans found in IT and Carrie. Where the writing failed was when the bullying never panned out to anything except trauma-porn to make the script darker. There’s no satisfying end to the bullying where lessons are learned. It just keeps going until the movie has to end.
In order to make sure viewers know they’re watching a horror flick, it takes place over Halloween week. They also included far too many unnecessary quick camera jumps to mangled animals to make up for the lacking story line. Not to mention logic jumps beyond comprehension. The bad guy died. Two thirteen year old boys hauled him up that terrifying path—for non-readers, the path to the burial ground could kill you two-thousand different ways and no one would find your body—and then dug through hard as hell dirt up there? Add in the dog seemingly capable of teleporting, plus giving Chase sex dreams with his dead wife, and it’s too much. King’s books are weird, but animals don’t usually inspire sexy things.
Casting is one of the few things going for the movie. Furlong is appreciatively creepy. Edwards makes a decent straight guy facing all the weird. Clancy Brown is a personal favorite, though his character had no depth beyond being a bully. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby, either. Too bad they didn’t get a better script to work with.
The effects are on par with the original film. There may be a few more gallons of blood in the sequel. The major time effects failed was, unfortunately, in the opening death scene. Through no fault of the effects team, though; the sequence was about two minutes too long. Better editing would’ve made it far more jarring. There’s many instances where effects are overdone in an effort to shock. Again, this completely misses the mark trying to honor King’s work.
Overall I’m giving Pet Sematary II two mangled paws out of five. One for casting, one for the effort put into the effects. This is a pass for your animal horror movie marathons. Watch Cujo or the original Pet Sematary.
Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradley, Leon Burchill, and Keith Agius
Rated: Not Rated (Contains violence, adult language, and mild nudity)
Synopsis: Barry is a talented mechanic and family man whose life is torn apart on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. His sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers & experimented on by a psychotic doctor. While Brooke plans her escape Barry goes out on the road to find her & teams up with Benny, a fellow survivor – together they must arm themselves and prepare to battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating monsters in a harsh Australian bushland. [Synopsis written by Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner]
This film came through the food slot on my cell door a while ago . . . and was promptly lost under a bone pile in the corner. I found it today and decided to give it a go—it’s not often I’m given the chance to watch a zombie flick from another country and I had hopes this would be an Australian La Horde in some way. Spoilers: It isn’t. Nor did it deliver a Mad Max vibe, as billed in the majority of press written by their marketing team. Homemade safety gear does not automatically make a film a skip away from entering the Thunderdome. Pair all this with a disjointed story telling gimmick for the first forty–five minutes and the film falls a little flat. Once they get past the getting-to-know-you bit with the characters and setting the apocalypse, it’s a tolerable hack-n-slash flick with enough comedic moments to overlook some flaws. I mean, how can one dislike a film with golden phrases like mouth farts?
One thing the movie has for it is an original approach to the ecological repercussions of the undead during the apocalypse. Surely people turning into freaky creatures at the drop of a hat means other things are wrong. Turns out, whatever airborne virus changes humans also makes combustible materials inert. How’s a guy supposed to save the day if he can’t drive? Simple, use zombies as fuel. The gas they emit is highly flammable. And smells like farts. That’s a key take-away from the film.
Okay. Not really.
As much as I enjoyed the witty banter between characters, there’s not a lot of depth to anyone except Barry. His story through the first half is gut-wrenching. However, once he gets back on track to finding his sister, the story unravels into a series of deaths designed to have little to no actual impact on the hero until he pairs up with Benny. Side note: There’s three lead characters with similar names. It’s like they got stuck on the B section in a baby-naming book while penning the script. Barry’s sister, Brooke, becomes the sole female survivor in the story. As such, she’s bogged down by metaphysical gifts to make her unique and special, and more powerful to the men holding her captive. It’s like the writers couldn’t fathom an everyday woman capable of escaping. While, yes, Brooke’s ability to control zombies is pretty neat, it becomes a plot crutch, leading to several long moments where she’s supposed to call the undead and leaves the action to happen around her, without the only woman on screen really doing anything aside from standing and scowling.
The hero zombie makeup is pretty decent, featuring sunken eye sockets and mild wounds since most zombies turn without being bitten thanks to the zombie gas in the air. However, there’s a few background zombies who get close-ups and their splotchy greasepaint makeup breaks the continuity established for the dead. It’s jarring to see four zombies in a row in detailed FX makeup with full-face appliances, only to zoom in one another which looks like their makeup took maybe fifteen minutes to apply in the back of a car with a palm-sized mirror.
Overall, Wyrmwood proved slightly disappointing. I wanted something grander, crafted with care for the genre. What they delivered needed more time in editing to make it flow better and maybe a few reshoots to elaborate more on everyone except Benny. I give the film three decaying hearts out of five. It’s an okay film to add to your zombie-flick marathon come October.
There wasn’t much left at stake personally for Ash at the end. I really wanted him to feel more in this episode, and while he did show huge growth adding his team into negotiations with Ruby at the episode’s end, it’s sugar coating on Styrofoam.
We say goodbye, again, to Amanda. Her deadite counterpart crashes the party inside the cabin after Pablo has that thing latch onto his face. True to form, she is the one to deliver the infamous, “I’m going to swallow your soul,” line during her final fight with Ash. Before DeadAmanda is cut in half, Ruby takes Pablo and the Necronomicon into the basement. Things get freakier from there.
Doomed to his own ill-advised plans, Ash goes into the cellar alone to save Pablo. Okay, Kelly could have probably talked him into a group effort, but the cabin shook Ash into the basement where Ruby gave him a vision of the night he read from the book again to unleash more evil and get laid. This is where it gets a bit clunky. We’re to believe now that the Dark Ones are down to one Dark One who wishes not to unleash evil, but control it to maintain universal balance. All the vital information about Ruby’s scheme is dumped in this daydream. Then she attempts to make a deal with Ash, one we all realize he’ll probably take at some point just to screw things up even more. It ruins the surprise.
I don’t know why Heather was ever present, other than to give them someone other than tiny demons to kill in this episode. She’s meat. Don’t get attached. She sure isn’t attached to any body part by the time the cabin literally chews her up and spits her out in a gush of blood and chunks. The wave knocks Kelly down, honestly just dirt on a turd sandwich at this point. Kelly has been thrown around, had an eye pop on her and Heather, the guy she likes looks like he’s auditioning for a remake of The Mask, she’s locked out of the cabin, and the savior she’s supposed to rely on isn’t a team player. Eventually, she sets the cabin on fire, injuring it enough for it to unlock the doors.
In the basement it’s quite beautiful. I mean, that’s what everyone says when witnessing the miracle of birth, right? Unless it’s Pablo birthing demons by vomiting huge, wriggling, uterus-looking things. The demons which crawl out are played by children. They are evil. Evil children are evil. Why do people insist on tormenting me by adding demonic children to things I enjoy? Ash fights one child demon, the others flee.
Most of this episode is fight scenes. It keeps the awkward story bits from getting too much attention while highlighting an aspect from the films everyone loves—Bruce Campbell getting hit a lot. The final fight sequences all boil down to one thing: Ash has to make a decision. Either he can kill Ruby and wait to see how the chips fall with Pablo’s possession and the unleashed evil, or he can take the deal and trust Ruby to do as she says. He tries to get the best of both worlds, ensuring safe passage for Team Badass and a little money to help them on the way. It’s not as much cash as he wanted, but they have gas money. Yes, Ash just handed the future of mankind to an evil woman for a couple bucks and a trip to Jacksonville, FL.
Ruby totally reneges on the deal, too. There’s sinkholes popping up all over the area as Team Badass trundle off into the sunset. At least we know there’s still evil to fight in season two.
I’m tired of the camera gags they use more and more often on the show to prove, “Hey, it’s from a comic book. We do comic book like things! Aren’t we cool? Don’t we do awesome, obviously cartoony things like that Dead-whatever guy?” First, they use CGI to put blood on the camera lens. In this episode, there’s more of that nonsense, plus binocular POV shots and a jump gag from Maggie’s POV shot like it was meant to be in a 3D film, not on standard cable television. We’re talking one of those monster in your face, then suddenly a knife through their head almost into the POV character, moments. They even turned the walker with the knife to give that slow dimensional pull back. Why the hell would they put in a shot which, aside from a cheap scare, doesn’t fully translate to a standard definition viewing experience? It seems like they’re toying with an idea for something down the road—maybe 3D versions on Blu-ray for season 6—and we’re catching glimpses of the man behind the curtain. It’s not my bag. None of it. 3D hurts my head. Watching them refine the process for the show’s home release is like watching water boil around food I’m allergic to.
Whoops! Watch out! Man, that was close. An episode spoiler nearly got you. They wait below.
Honestly? They could’ve skipped to the last two minutes of this episode. The whole ordeal with Carol and Maggie held captive in the meat processing plant is here to stall for time. Even the characters are stalling in the episode where they stall so they don’t blow the Negan reveal with anything considered speed or fan service. Fans have asked for Negan by name and loudly since TERMINUS was teased. Producers used it to their advantage, thinking if they keep trolling out line after setting their Negan-shaped lure, fans will gladly stay put and watch the shiny thing. Fish get bored. People get bored just as quick. They should’ve snatched that line tight ages ago and reeled everyone in for what I’m sure will be a stellar performance at least from Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Keeping us in the lurch doesn’t mean we’re eager to see what they’re withholding. It means by the time we get to Negan, who cares? There’s only so much self-inflated hype about a character people will tolerate. How many times have we all seen headlines promising a gruesome finale and Negan’s mug on our screen? Personally, if I had a dollar for each, I could afford to do makeup on my own army of undead and produce a short movie.
The plot is straight-forward: The Saviors refuse to trade Maggie and Carol for their guy Primo right away. The ladies, their three women captors, and one injured man, head to the slaughterhouse the Saviors use as a safe house. Carol plays meek. Maggie is outed as being pregnant and questioned, which leads to a lot of nothing revealed on either side. Paula, the woman taking charge, picks on Carol for being weak, does the same to Maggie for having the gall to breed given the apocalypse and all. Paula pretty much is an avatar for Strong Woman Who Needs No Man. That’s all you need to know about her. Molly is a dying smoker. I don’t know if the other woman ever gets a name. Donny bleeds out from the wound Carol gave him before they were captured after being KOed by Paula for attacking their captives to get revenge. Eventually they kill enough time to jam in a bunch of killing after the last commercial break. Carol is left alone when the Saviors, minus Donny, gear up for the trade they will turn into an ambush with their incoming backup. She gets free, using a random rosary which just happens to fall out of a walker’s pocket. Carol frees Maggie. They argue, again, about whether or not they should finish the plan or run. Carol wants to run. She’s done risking Maggie’s life. Maggie is bloodthirsty and irrational—they’ll blame her pregnancy for the a-typical character behavior, no doubt. In the end, they kill their captors, lure the backup to the slaughterhouse, and burn them. The ladies save themselves, but the menfolk and other backup are right at the door as they exit. Because in a boring as hell episode, we’ll make it all about women’s empowerment and not plot progression.
“But that whole ‘We are all Negan’ thing! It’s important!”
You’re a sheep. We know there’s A Negan. We know he’s probably not coming until the finale. Going from experience with this show, either the episode will be so much Negan, we grow tired quick or he’ll be a thirty second tease at the episode’s climactic cliffhanger ending. The Savior’s dialog is meant to be a red herring for the characters. Not us. Not in the day and age where social media ensures we know everything coming up for shows and movies. Even people who avoid as many teasers and trailers as possible are still overwhelmed with this information. There are few surprises in entertainment anymore. Negan is perhaps the worst kept considering how often people drag out interviews with the show’s actors relaying the harrowing days on set filming the finale. I’m not buying it. I can’t. They’ve talked a big game a lot lately, but cannot deliver anything nearly as solid as the prison attack story line. It’s just fluff. No substance.
I’m not sure one can write spoilers for an episode so utterly predictable, the only parts which surprised me were the few glistening moments where we saw some actual character development. Nevertheless, that’s why we’re here, to pick apart the show, find more tidbits to feed our need for decent entertainment. So many fans lay their hope for TWD’s future on the Negan storyline. This is it, the chance for the show to realign with the chaos within the comics. Producers have promised fans they’d get what they want from this whole thing. If a nap was their ultimate goal, they succeeded.
(Watch out! Spoilers lurk below!)
Maybe that’s not entirely fair. There are stellar moments in the fight at the end which made the skin on my neck tense. But, honestly, maybe five minutes of quality writing are buried deep in cliché dialog, phoned-in emotions, and Rick being Rick. Some of my favorite scenes are with Glenn and Heath.
The original survivor, Glenn, is not keen to kill again. Heath hyped himself up the moment he heard Rick’s plan at the town hall meeting—exactly the reaction their leader wanted from his little pep talk spouting how they need to “get them before they get us.” It became Glenn’s job to talk sense into the young man. A position Glenn found himself in a lot during season one. Remember the car with the alarm? Yeah, a great impulse idea, but the aftermath cost many lives and their camp. Heath may think it’s the right thing to go into the raid ready to kill, but how would he feel the day after? How about a week down the road when he remembers the way his knife wouldn’t quite go into the skull right? Killing haunts the survivors who’ve been in the wild for long. Glenn’s fault is he wants to spare Heath, retain the young man’s innocence. When it comes time for them to do some of the most intimate killing scenes on the show—attacking Saviors in their bed and dispatching them with a single knife thrust trough the eye socket—Glenn takes the kill guilt upon himself. Being no coward, Heath still gets a few kills to notch on his belt when he and Glenn hold the line to guard the enemy’s armory. But even though his kills weren’t up close and personal, Heath still flees in the morning, more than ready to go on the two-week trip with Tara for supplies.
Where Glenn grows as a character, Carol is undermined at every turn. On top of her unfounded refusal to trust Morgan—up until they created a reason with him holding the Wolf in the cell—they’re now making her the “bad boy” to ease fans into the reality of Negan’s notorious potty mouth, plus reintroducing tobacco products to the show since Daryl’s smoking has petered off. In stark contrast, she’s been acting like the town’s mother, something Tobin calls her out on during a random romantic encounter after sunset. During a day full of doubts, concerns, and knowing death is near again, Carol gathered friggen acorns to make cookies for everyone. Even Sam. It’s been a while since the show side-swiped me with emotions, but I teared up seeing the lone cookie on his grave. Then I got angry—Sam gets more care after his death than before.
Carol’s mom-ness spreads to Maggie’s welfare after the pregnant woman insists she go on the raid. Glenn gave up that fight before it started. Rick is told rather bluntly what Carol thinks, but she never spells out why Maggie shouldn’t be there. It’s more of the same when Carol and Maggie, who were left to guard the perimeter and RV, hear the alarm triggered by a Savior—Sasha kills him, but not in time—and rush to help. Carol stops in her tracks, refusing to let Maggie move. Her hesitation because Maggie will also become a mother is why the episode ended in such a convenient manner. Carol, of all the fighters they have, should understand why Maggie is at the raid. Maggie laid out the terms for Gregory. She dug this hole for Alexandria, now either she helps fill it in or it becomes their graves. In Maggie’s shoes, would Carol honestly sit at home baking? Not this Carol. Even weeks out from her last kill, this Carol wouldn’t let others take full responsibility for something she set in motion.
Short note: Abraham is an a-hole. Rosita should shoot him in the foot.
The raid itself is pretty straight-forward. The group sends Eddy to offer Gregory’s head to the Saviors. Don’t fret, it’s a walker they disguised to resemble the injured Hilltop leader. The guards take too long to examine the head, not in terms of creating tension, but it just felt like, “Oh, they’re going to be d-bags and make Eddy sweat.” After one guard fetches the kidnapped Hilltop member, the gang dispatches both guards without a sound. The Hilltop people retreat to a standby vehicle with Jesus, Tara, and Gabriel. Rick, Michonne, Abraham, Sasha, Glenn, Heath, Rosita, and Daryl enter the compound. They pair up, searching each room they pass. If the room is occupied, they kill the Savior inside. If the door is locked, they pry it open. Why the random searching? They know nothing about they layout, only a vague idea of where the armory is and the location for the pantry. The locked rooms turn up a supply closet, a marijuana growing operation, and the armory Glenn and Heath defended.
Things run smoothly until Sasha and Abraham are caught breaking into a room. After the alarm is pulled, the gang mows through the stragglers—who aren’t unarmed, but have aim like Stormtroopers. Jesus, Tara, and Gabriel join the fight. Jesus saves Glenn and Heath from the lone survivor outside the armory. The other Hilltop men take the car and head toward home. Gabriel shows his backbone, praying for a Savior before putting a bullet in his head.
At sunrise, everyone from Alexandria and Hilltop are still alive. Heath scouts the Saviors’ cars and picks one to take on the trip. He and Tara roll out without much fanfare. Michonne wants to know which dead guy is Negan. None of them, duh? Plus, not everyone died. One guy on a motorcycle makes a run for it. He’s shot down. Rick and company surround him, making demands. A woman’s voice over the radio makes her own demands. When they fail to comply, she informs them that her people have Maggie and Carol.
Of course they do. I knew the second Maggie and Carol were left on the outskirts alone that they’d become a bargaining chip. It’s easier to kidnap the women, despite Carol’s ferocity, than the men on the mission—except maybe Heath. This is how they’ll likely force the face-to-face with Negan. A kidnapping. It’s so uninspired.
So naked Rick and Michonne don’t turn Jesus into swiss cheese.
Matter of fact, once the cavalry arrives to restrain Jesus again, they somehow end up listening to what he has to say. They’re totally onboard with sending the town’s ruling council and the majority of their top-tier fighters with this stranger, as well, even after hearing he’d taken full stock of their supplies and people before essentially turning himself in to Rick. They were more suspicious of Morgan, the man who may be the sole reason Rick saw more than a week outside the hospital after his coma. Yes, Morgan snapped his Slim Jim after his son passed, but he is fully not crazy now and Carol still watches the man like he’s about the club them all to death and make sachets from their skin.
With no real concern whatsoever, Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Abe, and Jesus climb into an RV—there’s always one which just happens to be nearby—and take off toward an undisclosed location with only their vague threats to keep Jesus from driving them into a trap.
Which exactly what it looks like not long after we rejoin the gang on the road. A car, one Jesus swears belongs to his people, crashed on the roadside moments before they drove past. Now, not only are the fighters separated from the group, they’re being put directly in harm’s way for people who may still turn around and put bullets in their brain pans. There’s an urgent rescue. One of the guys, Dr. Carson, thanks Maggie and Glenn by being probably the only OB left alive in the state and offering to care for their baby. How’s that for luck?
During the entire episode, Jesus is essentially Google—feeding Rick and Maggie exactly what they need to manipulate Gregory, Hilltop’s chicken-livered and misogynistic leader. It’s all too easy, this plot. Somehow we end up at the right place at the right time for these unfortunate people to demonstrate the kind of antics keeping Negan top dog in the county. But with all the bad Negan has done—namely, his men murdering a sixteen year old boy upon The Saviors’ first meeting with Hilltop—Jesus seems not concerned at all about being in the room with two men confessing to blowing up quite a few of the boogeyman’s goons. If that were me, I’d wash my hands of Alexandria, not matter how badly we needed another trading post.
Hilltop itself is designed to resemble a walled medieval estate during wartime, with all the folk from the farms and homes under care of the lord encamped within the walls. It’s so blatant, Gregory turning out to be a world class jerk doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s even less surprising that one of his own men would then stab him, hoping Gregory’s death would secure the release of a man Negan took captive. Why did he take this guy and kill another Hilltop citizen? Gregory sent his people to deliver their usual payoff knowing it wouldn’t be enough. It’s never enough. Negan will demand more and more. Though Gregory survives, this hasn’t done a thing to teach him to grow a pair and take on the man running their lives from afar.
In comes Rick and his band of killers.
Seriously? This is where the story goes? They veer from attempting to set up a functioning ecosystem in Alexandria to hired mercenaries who’ll just kill and take what they want. These are the people Rick wants to kill, usually. But when it suits them, murder is on the table. They wouldn’t need to kill Negan so soon if they’d stopped to do the boring things like clear fields. But they need food now. Hilltop has a functioning system in place which produces enough food to send half to Negan without forcing strict rationing in Hilltop. If Negan doesn’t need that food being dead and all, Alexandria will take it. Now. Half of whatever is on-hand is cheaper than the cumulative price to keep Negan at bay via bribes.
But again, this is all too easy to follow to the conclusions the writers want. They’re trying to make fans guess who’s going to die. Is it Glenn? Negan and Glenn’s comic book story is well known, spread by every reviewer trying to make the show into something it’ll never be—an accurate reflection of the comics. They drive more nails into Glenn’s coffin during this episode, finally giving us a glimpse at his and Maggie’s child in an ultrasound. Every happy character dies on this show. It’s no surprise. Abraham seems a tad happy himself after some soul searching and a near-death experience, but he’s mostly in the story now to fire large weapons and make us question Glenn’s fate going into the season’s end. Some say golden boy Dixon will bite the big one. It makes sense, seeing as he did blow up Negan’s people.
It’s all so boring, this weird dead pool going on in the fandom. I never watched the show to see who would die. I kept watching because the characters made rational decisions in an interesting setting and the story pace never lagged so much, I wanted to wander off for a snack ten minutes into an episode. They’ve killed the Negan story line before it begins.