American Horror Story: Asylum

The second installment of American Horror Story comes courtesy of Asylum. With the twisted success of Murder House and the returning of many of the cast, Asylum promises to be scarier and more disturbing. Revolving around the events of a mental institution in 1964 and the attitudes towards mental health at that time( as well as murder, deceit, religion and possession), Asylum is on taboo breaking form from the get go and unravels with fiendish delight and a whole lot of twisted horror to match. Be warned, spoilers will follow in my review.

Briarcliff Manor is a mental asylum in 1964 Massachusetts to house the criminally insane. AHS Asylum PosterIt is run by the ambitious Monsignor Timothy Howard(Joseph Fiennes) and is maintained by the vicious Sister Jude(Jessica Lange) and childlike novice Sister Mary Eunice(Lily Rabe). The sinister Dr. Arthur Arden(James Cromwell) treats the patients but is secretly conducting illegal experiments on many of them for his twisted medical research. Into this disturbing atmosphere comes Lana Winters(Sarah Paulson), a secretly lesbian journalist is trying to find a scoop on the place and expose the cruel procedures that the patients endure at the hands of the staff. Also, a young man by the name of Kit Walker(Evan Peters) has been admitted to the facility after he is accused of butchering his wife and many other women. He is suspected of being the renowned killer Bloody Face, although Kit protests his innocence and says that a strange life form has kidnapped his wife and how she is still alive. Lana gets more than she bargained for when she trespasses into the secrets of the asylum and the cunning Sister Jude craftily has her admitted as a patient at the brutal asylum. Traumatized and brutalised, Lana has her world turned upside down as she realises the power that Sister Jude and Dr Arden possess. Other patients in the facility include the mysterious Grace Bertrand(Lizzie Brocheré), a young girl accused of murdering her family and Shelley(Chloë Sevigny), a troubled nymphomaniac who often tries to tempt the evil Dr Arden. Lana has to adjust to her surroundings and attempt to escape the asylum before it is too late, with the at first reluctant help of Kit and Grace. Elsewhere, strange creatures lurk in the woods out of sight but always hungry. Dr. Oliver Thredson(Zachary Quinto), a new psychiatrist arrives and begins to question the gruesome treatment of patients. A young boy is possessed and after an intense exorcism, the demon inside of him transfers itself into Sister Mary Eunice. This causes her personality to alter drastically as she transforms from timid girl to sly and manipulative woman. BriarcliffWe get flashes to the present where a morbid couple visit the rundown Asylum and get much more than they had intended to in grisly fashion. There’s even an appearance from the Angel of Death(Frances Conroy) who appears to those who want to die and bestows them with a death kiss. And to top that off, each of the main characters has deep dark secrets that begin to slither out into the light.

The most prominent aspect of inducing terror is the setting, full of long, unending corridors and laboratories for sickening experiments. The visual style of harsh contrasts between light and dark, as well as jittery cuts, builds up tension and establishes this season as a creepy force of nature that won’t let go. The house in the first season may have been terrifying, but in Asylum they up the ante in terms of creepy environments.The disturbing title sequence will no doubt send shivers down the spine with its mix of gruesome experiments, stormy weather and ambiguous religious icons to the strains of the eerie theme song. Asylum exploits the deep fear of being locked away and not being believed with Lana as the embodiment of the audience’s concern. Ahs LanaThe 60′s setting allows Asylum to delve into taboos and social issues of the time, such as lesbianism, abuse of power and prejudice. It may be just a show, but Asylum does show in sometimes graphic detail how misunderstood and intolerant people were about mental health back then and how far we have come today. Religion and hypocrisy surrounding it comes under the spotlight in even more uncomfortable terms as the clash between faith and passion arises within the many members of staff as events spiral out of control .Once again American Horror Story isn’t afraid to push boundaries and make for disturbing viewing. It is almost certain that you won’t be sleeping soundly after viewing Asylum.

With members of the first season cast returning as well as newcomers, Asylum more than delivers on the acting front and adds another jolt of terror into an already scary brew of chills and carnage. Sarah Paulson makes for a relatable central heroine in Lana, with her melding of brutalised fear and burgeoning strength, as her yearning for escape increases and she tries anything to free herself from confinement. Jessica Lange once again steals the show, this time as the cruel and vicious Sister Jude. Yet rather than make her a one-dimensional monster, Lange fleshes out the character to show her vulnerability and regret for her past actions. Sister JudeInitially a boozy lounge singer, she became a nun after her involvement in a hit and run accident. Through her vows, she tries to atone for her crimes but realises she can’t run from her past forever. Lange runs the gamut of emotions from A to Z and delivers very impressive work. Lily Rabe comes a close second with her bewitching and challenging role as the novice Sister Mary Eunice. At first she is a sweet-faced and caring girl who wants to impress Sister Jude, but after her possession she morphs into something very different as her innocence is poisoned with the taint of evil. Ahs Sister Mary EuniceA sly, sexually provocative and twisted woman, she now delights in tormenting those around her as she slips out of her innocent nun’s habit and into the personification of the Devil. Rabe carefully shows this transformation with subtle assurance that is very unsettling to watch. Evan Peters is fearful and confused as the accused Kit, whose story of abduction starts to play a big part as the season goes on. James Cromwell is evil personified as the sinister and imposing Dr. Arden, whose experiments get out of control as his mental state crumbles and his treacherous past comes back to bite him. Joseph Fiennes makes for a self-righteous and beatific presence as the Monsignor in over his head, while Zachary Quinto subtly contributes care yet a bristling menace to his role as the new psychiatrist. Lizzie Brocheré and Chloë Sevigny are also effective as two of the inmates at the asylum;Brocheré adding mystery and whispery uncertainty and Sevigny with her mix of sexuality and fear. Frances Conroy is impressively ethereal and wise as the Angel of Death, who makes many appearances towards the end of the season.

Unpredictable and filled with many twists along the way, Asylum is a provocative and terrifying entry into the American Horror Story canon.

Sneakers

Film Title

Sneakers

Director

Phil Alden Robinson

Starring

  • Robert Redford as Martin Bishop
  • Dan Aykroyd as Mother
  • Sidney Poitier as Donald Crease
  • David Strathairn as Whistler
  • Mary McDonnell as Liz
  • River Phoenix as Carl Arbogast
  • Ben Kingsley as Cosmo

An enjoyable and light-hearted caper movie, Sneakers boasts an all-star cast and a sparkling script as well as ratcheting up the tension at various times.

Martin Bishop runs a San Francisco team known collectively as ‘Sneakers’, their job is to break into security systems to check the effectiveness of them. Sneakers posterThe rag-tag team comprises of former CIA operative Donald Crease, Mother, an electronics technician and conspiracy theorist, Whistler, a blind man with exceptional hearing and enthusiastic whizz kid Carl Arbogast. Everything is going fine until the NSA contacts Martin. They have information regarding his past as a student radical that could have him imprisoned. The case will be dropped if Martin and his team can recover a black box from a prominent mathematician. Although reluctant to help, Martin sees that he has no choice if he wants to avoid his past coming back to bite him. Enlisting the help of his team and well as his old flame Liz, they manage to track down the box with their combination of technical skill and smarts. This is when the twists arrive and the mathematician is murdered. It seems this black box is a codebreaker that can used to break into even the most secure building ever. Martin and the rest of the team must decide what to do before it falls into the wrong hands and as they soon become embroiled in a web of crime and espionage with a face from Martin’s past coming back to haunt him.

A script brimming with comic interplay gives Sneakers a humorous edge and allows us to root for the characters and believe the long-standing camaraderie that they have with one another.Phil Alden Robinson directs with brisk assurance and verve, giving us the many dangerous incidents that the team find themselves in a warmth yet a deep seriousness and suspense. The various technological aspects of the case are presented in striking visuals, a standout scene being the team cracking an important anagram using the pieces from a Scrabble game and Whistler’s extraordinary hearing and computer skills. The scene features initially slow cuts between the two factions of the team that quicken in time with the score as the code is eventually cracked. This gives the film an enjoyable factor and makes it a cracking crime caper peppered with humour and an abundance of twists. Tension is also high in the scenes of the team sneaking into a secure building in order to retrieve the stolen box, and trying to avoid the hi-tech sensors employed to ensure no one can enter undetected. Some of the technical jargon may become confusing and the narrative may lull in various places, but for most of the duration Sneakers is a sparkling and fun crime caper. James Horner provides the lively score of trickling piano and unusual percussion to give the feelings of danger and a race against time for team.

Heading the all-star cast is Robert Redford who sends himself up a little with his mix of charm and wit in the role of Martin, the leader of the ‘Sneakers’. Dan Aykroyd is a hoot as the conspiracy theorist who won’t take no for an answer. Sidney Poitier plays the role of the former CIA operative with ease and eye-rolling humour as he is the one who often disagrees with rash decisions by younger members of the team but finds himself going along with it, albeit under duress. David Strathairn steals all the scenes he is in as Whistler, the blind man with amazing hearing whose skills are invaluable to the gang in their times of need. As the main female in the movie, Mary McDonnell shows that it’s not just the men who can have fun with her sharp performance as Liz, the former girlfriend of Martin whose smarts and good looks come in very handy with this most complex case. In one of his last roles before his untimely death, River Phoenix gives a nervous exuberance to the role of computer whizz kid Carl, the youngest member of the team who is constantly on the lookout for an attractive woman in his life.  The weak link in the chain of excellent performances is surprisingly Ben Kingsley as a face from Martin’s past with villainous designs. We all know that Kingsley can play the villain in his sleep, but he isn’t given enough screen time to make him a compelling adversary for Martin and his team.

Bristling with light-hearted charm, excellent performances and caper shenanigans, Sneakers is if nothing else an enjoyable movie with style and humour.

 

 

Scream 3

Film Title

Scream 3

Director

Wes Craven

Starring

  • Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
  • Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
  • David Arquette as Dewey Riley
  • Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie
  • Scott Foley as Roman Bridger
  • Patrick Dempsey as Mark Kincaid
  • Lance Henriksen as John Milton
  • Matt Keeslar as Tom Prinze
  • Jenny McCarthy as Sarah Darling
  • Emily Mortimer as Angelina Tyler
  • Deon Richmond as Tyson Fox
  • Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary

The third entry into the original Scream Trilogy, Scream 3 doesn’t meet the standards set by the first Scream and second film. Yet it does wrap the series up with some witty humour and genuine scares. Scream 3 may be the weakest of the bunch as it falls into the trap of many horror clichés that the other films so greatly lampooned, but it does have some merits that make it enjoyable including the acting and suspense.

In the opening scenes, we see Cotton Weary has now become a major celebrity with his own talk show. As he is driving home one night after filming a cameo in the latest ‘Stab’ movie, he is contacted by none other than Ghostface who proceeds to kill his girlfriend. When Cotton arrives, he is beaten by Ghostface, who asks where Sidney Prescott is. Scream 3 posterRefusing to answer, Cotton is stabbed to death. Sidney, since the events of Scream 2 has isolated herself in the Californian mountains under tight security, hoping to escape the nightmares of her past encounters with Ghostface. Meanwhile, reporter Gale Weathers is drawn into the investigation of Cotton’s death after a photograph of Sidney’s mother is found near his body. It seems the killer has his own agenda by targeting the stars of the latest ‘Stab’ movie in the order in which the die in the script and an interest in drawing Sidney out of her cocoon with some revelations about her late mother. Reuniting with Dewey, Gale begins to investigate the relevance of Maureen Prescott’s pictures with the added help of Jennifer Jolie, the flighty actress playing Gale Weathers in the ‘Stab’ flick. As the body count begins to pile up, Sidney realises she must break out of her isolation and once more face off with Ghostface in order to rid herself of the pain he has caused her. Sidney Prescott Scream 3Yet as we are told via Randy’s video message, with this being a trilogy all bets are off and the usual rules of the horror movie have now been turned upside down.

As I previously mentioned, Scream 3 does not match the heights of the film before it. Part of this is due to the script, which for the first time isn’t written by Kevin Williamson. Whereas he managed to balance the horror and the humour, this one features too much comedy in it and the film suffers as a result. The descent into horror conventions is also a downside as the characters in the past two movies where self-aware of these and mocked them. At least we have Wes Craven’s direction which helps to create many suspenseful moments including a haunting scene in which the isolated Sidney dreams of her mother dressed in ghostly white, who warns that everything she touches dies. Adding to the suspense of the picture is once again the gothic score of morose chanting and slithering drums.

For all of its flaws, at least we have the talented principal cast to fall back on. Neve Campbell once again brings strength and underlying vulnerability to the role of Sidney, who realises that to exorcise her nightmares she must do battle with Ghostface. We see the growth of Sidney in this film and how she can now capably defend herself when threatened with her mind as well as her fists. Courteney Cox shows how Gale has softened but still can’t resist getting her hands on the latest news scoop. She has excellent chemistry with David Arquette as Dewey as the two quietly resume their romance whilst overcoming obstacles. Out of the newer cast, Parker Posey steals the show as Jennifer Jolie, who believes she is better than the real Gale Weathers and has interesting ways of getting into character. She is funny and fawning with her over the top remarks and highly strung personality that really give the film a jolt of much-needed humour. The rest of the supporting cast, which includes Patrick Dempsey, Jenny McCarthy and Emily Mortimer are unfortunately lumbered with uninteresting roles and are purely there to be the victims of Ghostface. Even Liev Schreiber who played Cotton so well in Scream 2 is murdered within 10 minutes of the film starting.

So all in all, Scream 3 doesn’t make as much of an impact as the first two movies. But saying that it does have some effective scares and performances that manage to wrap up the trilogy in a good but not great way.

Scream 2

Film Title

Scream 2

Director

Wes Craven

Starring

  • Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
  • Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
  • David Arquette as Dewey Riley
  • Jamie Kennedy as Randy Meeks
  • Jerry O’Connell as Derek
  • Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary
  • Timothy Olyphant as Mickey
  • Elise Neal as Hallie
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar as Cici Cooper
  • Laurie Metcalf as Debbie Salt
  • Jada Pinkett as Maureen Evans
  • Omar Epps as Phil Stevens

Following on from the first Scream movie, Scream 2 is a sequel that doesn’t diminish the impact of the first. Rather it expands on the greatness of the first by fleshing out the characters, making the deaths more elaborate and poking fun at the usual run of bad sequels that follow on from a successful horror movie.

Two years after the gruesome events at Woodsboro, survivor Sidney Prescott is now a college student who is trying to put the pain behind her and start again. Scream 2 posterThis seems to be going relatively well as she is still good friends with movie nerd Randy, has new best friends in the form of funny Hallie and film lover Mickey and a sensitive boyfriend named Derek. She is even excelling at acting and her first production is coming up very soon. This attempt at letting go of the past is shattered by the news of two murders by someone in a Ghostface costume at the screening of ‘Stab’, a movie based on the book by Woodsboro survivor and newswoman Gale Weathers. Sidney Prescott Scream 2The media turn its attentions to the college and Sidney as the body count begins to rise. On top of this, Cotton Weary( the man Sidney accused of murdering her mother) arrives on the scene looking for fame and forgiveness from Sidney. With a  copycat killer beginning to replicate the past murders committed by Ghostface, Sidney is still very much the target for the twisted psychopath’s sinister games. Banding together with returning police officer Dewey and the opportunistic Gale, she must once again do battle with Ghostface if she wants to survive the brutal events that surround her. But who can Sidney really trust as the killer continues to strike in increasingly brutal ways? Witty in jokes on sequels, a much higher body count and believable characters make Scream 2 a worthy sequel.

Wes Craven continues to direct with assurance and atmosphere as well as capturing the post-modern ideas of film sequels and the expectations. The satiric script complements this by upping the stakes in terms of the gore and violence in the film, whilst commenting on the debate surrounding whether we are too easily influenced by violence in the media. Ironically, a key scene involves film students discussing the declining qualities of horror sequels. Scream 2 thankfully doesn’t fall into this category because of its mix of dark laughs, elaborate deaths and commendable work from the cast. Whilst the dark humour is kept intact, the horror is perfectly balanced with it and generates some chilling sequences and a genuine shock or two. Scream 2 Gale chaseThese include Sidney performing Cassandra as part of her acting major and being stalked by someone who resembles Ghostface and Gale trying to evade the killer in a pulse-pounding chase by hiding in a recording studio as he gets closer and closer. The score once again is an eerie listen with melancholy percussion and strings capturing Sidney’s fear of everything starting again and the resilience she must use to face her enemy the second time around.

Neve Campbell contributes another impressive performance as the heroine Sidney. We see how strong she has become since her first encounter with Ghostface but also the hints of vulnerability that lie beneath the surface. Campbell imbues Sidney with a very human quality that makes her a relatable heroine thrust into these brutal circumstances and trying to find the best way to survive it. Courteney Cox is similarly effective as Gale, who for all her ruthless ambition is actually quite scared underneath it all. Her budding romance with Dewey is a highlight as they bicker with one another but can’t deny the spark. David Arquette is earnestly charming as Dewey, who now walks with a pronounced limp following his almost fatal encounter with Ghostface in the first movie. Jamie Kennedy yet again provides trivia and movie lingo as the lovable Randy, whilst Liev Schreiber is suitably menacing and fame hungry as Cotton Weary. Timothy Olyphant and Elise Neal both make impression in their roles as two of Sidney’s college friends and Jerry O’Connell is sensitive as Sidney’s new boyfriend Derek. Sarah Michelle Gellar has a small but memorable role as the gorgeous sorority sister menaced by Ghostface. Laurie Metcalf is twitchy and fawning as the news reporter Debbie Salt who idolizes Gale. Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps are the two students whose graphic deaths spark the media circus.

Satirical and bloody in equal measure, Scream 2 is proof that sequels don’t necessarily herald the death of a franchise.

 

Scream

Film Title

Scream

Director

Wes Craven

Starring

  • Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
  • Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
  • David Arquette as Dewey Riley
  • Jamie Kennedy as Randy Meeks
  • Rose McGowan as Tatum Riley
  • Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis
  • Matthew Lillard as Stu Macher
  • Drew Barrymore as Casey Becker

Wes Craven’s seminal horror movie of the 90′s that rejuvenated the genre, Scream is a fresh, darkly funny and suspenseful movie that is still a real blast to watch.

The film begins with blonde bombshell Casey Becker answering the phone whilst preparing to watch a slasher flick. The caller soon turns threatening after flirting with her and begins to taunt her into playing a game of horror movie trivia. Her boyfriend is tied up outside and is subsequently gutted when Casey gets an answer wrong. The terrified girl is then stalked by the masked caller who eventually stabs her to death and hangs her body from a tree. Scream PosterMeanwhile, teenager Sidney Prescott is trying to adjust to life with the upcoming anniversary of her mother’s brutal rape and murder. Sidney is also contending with her boyfriend Billy who wants intimacy with her but can’t seem to get close. Sidney’s other friends include the sassy Tatum, movie nerd Randy and goofy Stu. The slaying of Casey and her boyfriend becomes big news in the town of Woodsboro( covered in the news by resident bitch and anchorwoman Gale Weathers and investigated by the not so bright Dewey, a cop and brother of Tatum) with everyone suspecting who the twisted killer could be. All the students are sent home for fear of their safety with a curfew put in place. It soon becomes clear that this killer has watched one too many scary movies as more grisly murders occur and Sidney is seemingly the main target. With the body count rising, will the terrified Sidney be able to survive the encroaching bloodbath? In-jokes to many slasher flicks, inventive and gory deaths and credible performances make Scream a refreshingly excellent exercise in the horror genre.

Wes Craven directs with a flair for the material and perfectly manages to balance the grim and knowing humour with scenes of blood-soaked savagery. The endless list of inventive deaths also breathes fresh life into the generic tropes of the genre, with the chilling opening a clear highlight of terror and suspense. The biggest asset that raises Scream above many horror films is the self-aware script that lampoons conventions and gives the proceedings a jolt of off-kilter humour. The scene in which Randy explains the rules about surviving in a horror movie to other students at a drunken party is both a witty commentary on the repeated formulas of horror movies and a subversive nod to the seen it all attitudes of movie-loving teenagers. Scream also gives us a genuinely creepy villain in the form of Ghostface. With his twisted love of horror movies, chilling games and menacing voice, he is a common fixture on Halloween night and has been imitated countless times in so many movies. Marco Beltrami provides Scream with a spine-chilling score of haunting voices and sinister synths.

A splendid cast encompass their roles with wit and believability. Sidney PrescottNeve Campbell is emotionally convincing in the role of the terrorized Sidney, who goes from vulnerable girl to strong and resourceful survivor as she is galvanised into fighting back against her masked attacker. Playing the role with quiet conviction and buried strength, Campbell makes for a great heroine of horror that you can root for. Courteney Cox makes a fabulous impression as the ruthless and bitchy Gale, who will do just about anything for a scoop or her name in lights. David Arquette contributes goofy charm to the part of Dewey, who is often clueless on matters of the case. Jamie Kennedy is a hoot as the movie geek Randy, imbuing the part with a nervous and manic energy while Rose McGowan is feisty and sexy as Sidney’s best friend Tatum. Skeet Ulrich is mysterious and slightly menacing as Sidney’s boyfriend Billy and Matthew Lillard is great at playing the slightly hyper Stu. Drew Barrymore makes the opening to Scream memorable as the blonde lovely tormented and eventually butchered by Ghostface.

Hip, witty and above all scary, Scream is a horror movie that shouldn’t be missed.

American Horror Story: Murder House

I thought it was about time I got back to reviewing some television, after the success of my posts on that topic. This time I will be reviewing the creepy American Horror Story, which has become one of my favourite TV shows as of late. From the first time I watched it I was gripped by the nature of it and how each season changes characters and settings in line with an anthology. Horror is easily one of my favourite genres and American Horror Story delivers it in spades and then some. So without further ado, here is my review of the first season, subtitled Murder House. Please be aware that spoilers will follow in this review.

Psychiatrist Ben Harmon(Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien(Connie Britton) and their unhappy teenage daughter Violet(Taissa Farmiga) move into an old mansion in Los Angeles. The move has come about after Vivien caught Ben cheating with one of his students and her painful miscarriage. Ben hopes the move can repair the deep void left in their marriage. ahs murder house posterThe mansion itself has quite an alarming history of murder and scandal since its opening in the 1920′s, with the last owners allegedly being killed in a murder/suicide. As the Harmon family settles in, strange and mysterious events soon take hold as the house is a haunted plane for the deceased who can’t let go of the house, although the family are initially unaware of this fact until later on. A housekeeper by the name of Moira O’Hara(Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge) appears and in a strange turn of events appears old and peculiar to women, but seductive and nubile to men. A horribly scarred man named Larry Harvey(Denis O’Hare) warns Ben of the house and that it drove him to kill his family by torching the place. A strange creature lives in the basement and on more than one occasion unleashes fury on the unfortunate. Murder House ConstanceMatters aren’t helped by the intrusion of Constance(Jessica Lange), a bitchy but intelligent neighbour who knows a lot about the house but only drops hints on the sinister nature of it and her daughter Addie, who has some sort of personal link to the creepy house. Vivien becomes pregnant after sleeping with a figure in a gimp suit who she believes is Ben( in actual fact, Ben was downstairs sleep walking when this act happened) and begins to believe there is something unholy about the baby she is carrying inside of her. Ben’s former flame Hayden shows up with unexpected news that leads to tragic consequences.Add to this, the increasingly troubled Tate(Evan Peters), one of Ben’s patients who takes an interest in troubled  Violet and horror begins to engulf all who step foot in the house and refuses to let go. Twists and turns a plenty unravel in this disturbing yet gripping series of television that will make you shiver with fear and plague your dreams with its mixture of sex, death and all things horrific.

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have created a series that takes old clichés and breathes new life into them. Everyone has seen the haunted house formula been done in movies, but having it on TV adds another dimension as tragedy and horror unfold.American Horror Story American Horror Story is not afraid to push the envelope either, with copious amounts of sex, twisted crimes such as copycat murders and psychiatry all coming under the spotlight. The intense visual style contributes to the feeling of uneasiness as the house reveals its sinister nature, the jittery cuts back and forth give the show a creepy edge. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the title sequence, which in itself acts as a mini mystery as it travels through the basement of the house and reveals the mutilated body parts from botched experiments and melancholy old-fashioned photographs to the sound of distorted instruments.

The structure of the episodes deserves praise as it features flashbacks to the past traumas of the house, then in the present shows the repercussions of them in terrifying fashion. The most frightening of these traumas and travesties is that of an ether addicted doctor, Charles Montgomery and his nervy socialite wife Nora, who performed backstreet abortions in the 20′s. After a girl secretly had one of the procedures, her boyfriend found out about it and took revenge by snatching the couple’s beloved baby son. The boy was later found horribly mutilated. The crazed doctor began to fashion body parts from various creatures in order to bring his son back, but instead created a Frankenstein like beast that now resides in the basement.  The ghosts of the couple still haunt the house, with Nora still searching for her baby. The music of the series is an eerie mix of old-fashioned strings and ominous percussion, perfectly  capturing the clash between the old ghosts who populate the house and the new residents.

A game cast of talented actors give life to these characters, even if a lot of them are unlikable people. Dylan McDermott embodies the selfish ways of Ben who has cheated on his wife and wants to rebuild their relationship, but whose demons and the ominous house stop him from doing so. Connie Britton is sympathetic and quietly strong as Vivien, the wife terrified of not just the house but the baby growing inside of her. Out of the characters in this series, Vivien is the one who you root for the most. Taissa Farmiga is suitably gloomy and filled with angst as Violet who falls into a strange relationship with the disturbed Tate. Tate and VioletThe two have a creepy and morose chemistry with one another which highlights how dangerous Tate can be. He is played with sly menace by Evan Peters, who also manages to delve into the vulnerable side of this disturbed soul as his past is eerily revealed to us. The almost perverse relationship forms a creepy story arc that slowly descends into unspeakable terror. Stealing the show has to be Jessica Lange as the intrusive Constance. With her Southern accent, penchant for stealing and subtle hints about the past of the mansion, she is riveting to watch. She delivers some great one liners with a diva like authority and also gets to show the hidden depths of this intelligent woman who isn’t to be trifled with. Frances Conroy is caring and insightful as the benevolent spirit Moira, who has a history with Constance. While she is kind and knowing, her other face is the opposite. Young Moira O'HaraPlayed by the gorgeous Alexandra Breckenridge, the young Moira is a seductive tease who tempts Ben with her innuendo filled lines and skimpy French maid outfit. Her presence adds to the sexual side to the series as well as the creepy atmosphere of horror. Rounding out the cast is Denis O’Hare as the scarred Larry, who is menacing and mysterious in equal measure, whilst providing some dark humour to the disturbing proceedings.

Not for the faint of heart, but twisted and disturbingly enthralling throughout, the first season of American Horror Story really has me excited for the next season and what it has to offer.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Film Title

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Director

Frank Tashlin

Starring

  • Tony Randall as Rock Hunter
  • Jayne Mansfield as Rita Marlowe
  • Betsy Drake as Jenny Wells
  • Joan Blondell as Vi
  • Henry Jones as Henry Rufus
  • John Williams as Irving La Salle Jr.
  • Lili Gentle as April Hunter
  • Mickey Hargitay as Bobo Branigansky

A riotously funny satire on the advertising agency of the 50′s featuring the colourful direction of Frank Tashlin, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? engages with over the top humour and the comedic talents of Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield. Some of the barbs may not be as witty as they once were, but most of them come off well in this lampooning of celebrity hype, movie stars and advertising. Along with his previous satiric venture The Girl Can’t Help It with Jayne Mansfield, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a success for Frank Tashlin.

Rockwell Hunter, commonly called Rock, is a writer for TV commercials at a prestigious agency on Madison Avenue. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t high up on the success as some of his superiors. The company is about to lose the account for the lucrative ‘Stay-Put Lipstick’. With his job on the line, the hapless Rock concocts a plan to keep them in business. will success spoil rock hunter posterHe sees the curvaceous and ubiquitous actress Rita Marlowe, the girl with the ‘Oh so kissable lips’ and decides she may be the key to securing the account. Little does Rock realise what he is letting himself in for. Rita wants to make her ex boyfriend and muscle man Bobo jealous after he gave her the brush off, and Rock provides the perfect opportunity for this by walking unaware into the plan. Soon Rock is snapped up by the press as Rita’s new lover and he is forced to play along with this charade in order for Rita to agree to the lipstick deal. This of course has a bad effect on his relationship with his fiancée Jenny, who feels slighted by this attention to his so-called relationship with the glamorous Rita. Will Rock begin to see that fame doesn’t bring happiness? All will be revealed in this comic satire on the nature of celebrity and the mad world of advertising.

Frank Tashlin brings a comic glee to the proceedings and lampoons the outrageously colourful world of media with gaudy colours and over the top set designs. The witty and acerbic script pokes fun at celebrity culture and the price of fame with exaggerated moments of hilarious humour, the most funny being Rock chased by female fans and barely managing to get away. Some of the quips don’t quite have the zing that they once had, but the use of lampooning and mocking of Hollywood is still enjoyable to watch. A jaunty music score encapsulates the sarcastic view of stardom with an exuberance that is hard to resist.

Tony Randall is a joy to watch as the hapless title character, caught up in this hilarious situations because of his ambition. Jayne Mansfield delivers a funny performance by sending up her blonde bombshell image to the max with outrageous glee. With her squeaky voice, outrageous get ups and comic timing, she is a standout in a talented cast. Betsy Drake is quietly effective as Rock’s neglected fiancée, while Joan Blondell is on wise-cracking form as Rita’s right hand woman. Henry Jones and John Williams contribute humour as two of Rock’s co-workers who cajole him into the scheme to get Rita’s signature. Lili Gentle is gushing and adoring as Rock’s niece who idolizes Rita Marlowe and Mickey Hargitay(Mansfield’s then boyfriend and later husband) is a hoot in the small role of the muscle man who split up with Rita and accidentally spills the gossip of the ‘relationship’ between Rock and Rita.

Outrageous and satiric, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter is a humorous look at the media with colourful direction and comic performances.