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Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon RETURNS!!!!

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That’s right everyone! The Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon is finally back. A mini-marathon of horror movie reviews to serve as your personal home video guide for what to check out. I’ve been trying to keep it as some form of tradition after I first launched it back in 2014. Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to factor in how busy my life would be. 2015’s marathon didn’t quite finish and it sort of left me a bit empty.

This time I’m bringing it back, but there are some certain rules I’m applying to accommodate with my new free time and other work I have. Instead of a straight forward 31 blog post, there will be only 13. That calculates to 3 a week with one specially saved for Halloween. I don’t want to overwork myself. There’s a special video in the works for Jaimetud’s “special” Halloween video and one (non-Vaulting related) video I hope to get out next month.

The chosen films will be centered around one basic theme; cult classics. We are digging into the strange and weird abyss of cult classics. These range form ones you never heard of, some you pass by at the bargain bin or perhaps you have no idea these existed. I might toss in a TV series or two for variety, but the whole idea is to really get titles I’m hopeful few have heard of it. If you have heard of them, I’m certain you might want to know my two cents then.

Considering I’m also a contributor to Manic-Expression.com, I will also be posting my Horror-Wood blog posts just for a little share. For those on Manic-Expression reading this, you can get an idea of what the past blog-a-thons were like by heading over to BlockbusterChronicles.Wordpress.com.

13 films within one ghoulish month! The fun begins October 2nd! Tune in….won’t you?

Rental Corner: The puzzlement of “Spirited Away”

Disclaimer: The version reviewed for this post was the English-dub and thus much will be referred to on that cut and not the original Japanese cut. Regardless of the translation differences, it doesn’t change my opinion. 

483024-spirited-awayWhile I’m not a fan, Studio Ghibli has made a unique filmography. The majority of their movies deal with the unknown fantasy realm while keeping in tune with nature as seen in My Neighbor Tororo and Princess Mononoke while others like Kiki’s Delivery Service are simple fun. Unfortunately, those mentioned three are the only ones I have seen but I do admire their compassion to keep hand-drawn animated films alive. But of all the movies to make a mark, the one I always hear that is their crown jewel is Spirited Away. For the longest time, I never really had a moving interest to see this one or even a notion to do so. But yet, everyone couldn’t stop talking about it. Heck, it even won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. However, will all this praise and after finally getting the courage to see it for the first time, all the magic and wonder everyone was hyped up on just left me feeling underwhelmed. Needless to say, I don’t hate this movie but I felt more disappointed in the end.

fullwidth.1ea2e172The story is a basic dark fairy tale as little Chihiro is moving from her old home. We never see what this old home or town looks like as we focus on her and the parents already leaving. The father dumbfound of where to go stumbles across a set of ruins he and the mother mistake as an abandoned amusement park. As with most folklore, this takes the trope of blind parents lead to misfortune as they consume food that turns them into pigs (displayed in a rather uncomfortable scene as the eating sounds really got under my skin.)

As it turns out, Chihiro is left in the middle of a place where spirits go to relax and replenish themselves. From what kind of activity or work they do before a day of relaxing, we don’t know. All we know is that spirits at night go to this place just to kick back and relax. But here is one of the biggest concerns I have and it happens to be the setting and placement of this movie. Everyone who has talked about it praised the visuals and where the whole movie is set. So imagine my disappointment when I find out the whole story takes place within an enchanted bathhouse. You heard me right. A bathhouse were odd frogmen greet and seemly normal women (never specified if they are ghosts or creatures in disguise) are to wash the beasts after their long day. Already, I found it more perplexing as to why set the story here.

Url-2Maybe there can be something unique with a simple place like this? Is there a room or two that looks wonderful and glorious? Nope. Its just a bathhouse. Visuals like a man with spider-arms in the boiler room to a grand office that would make Mr. Burns jealous are the only highlights. Its a shame because I admit the animation looks unique with the shadings and shadows when it needs to feel menacing and bright. But I ask of all the places to set a fantasy movie, why this one? When watching the story unfold, I found nothing unique or eye-popping outside of the beastly clients that range from fat turnip creatures in a fundoshi to giant ducks. Charming indeed.

The plot, that is if you call it one, has Chihiro under the servitude of the place’s owner, Yubaba who could is very much a cross between the mythos of Baba Yaga and a bobble head of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. Chihiro has to wash and work the place in order to free her parents, who I guess remain in the form of pigs for the remainder of the movie. But most of the time, our focus is placed on the strange imagery that lay within the walls and occupy the screen. Throughout the duration, I felt there was never a single breath to allow us to look about or even take a break from such bizarre scenes like a creepy giant baby or a monster that is covered in sludge. And by the time we get to the most-talked about moment when it does get quiet on a train, all I felt was very fatigued than relaxed.

How can a movie like this pack so much material and yet everyone praise it as “originality”? You could argue its a mesh of traditional fairy tales like Cinderella (girl washes the place under control) while crossing it with traditional Japanese folklore like how dragons represent a river. But most of the time, I found myself predicting and knowing what was going to happen more than letting the story unravel itself. Perhaps being well resourceful of fairy tale tropes, I was really irked to see these “simple things” being praised as genius. These are elements that have been done before but in better tales. Entrapment under a witch like Hansel and Gretel, strange puzzles and clues to solve riddles or curses like in The Snow Queen and even a bit of Beauty and the Beast tossed in as our main girl has to wash off a monster covered in (what I HOPE looks like but I know it isn’t) sludge and mud.

spirited-awayMost of the time, I felt bad for the character Chihiro and all the stuff she goes through. Her character is only reduced to coming across a bizarre animation set piece or shouting dialogue once in a while. Even if she starts off wise like the choice to not to eat the magic food, the rest of movie has her brain taking a back seat as she gets lost in the world of spirits. I understand a place like this is new to her but why not be smart about it? For example, there is a scene when she has to give up her identity to the bathhouse owner in order to work there. Why not give a fake name so your true self can be kept from the clutches of the witch? But no, they explain she can remember her name thanks to a farewell card she got before moving from her old home. She is told by an ally of hers to keep it so she doesn’t loose her name and identity all together. But even that doesn’t pay off in the end. We never go back to the card or even feel like her own personality that she sold off is at risk.

Instead of being amazed by this world, I felt frightened to the point I barley got any sleep after watching it (true story). But even more stranger is the underlying message of how bad prostitution is. And no, this is not something that I’m looking too deep into. I did my research to see if I missed any symbolism prior to this blog post and found it has a possible underlying message on this adult subject. The fact the little girl sacrifices her name in order to gain a new identity so she can work on serving clients. The first one she has to service is dirty from head to toe and in the end she gets really greasy and grimmy after washing the monster off. One of the monsters tries to buy her service in gold. Its all there black and white. Clear as crystal. Now you could argue these are stuble underlying elements but I’m sorry. After being reminded of Deepa Mehta’s Water and reading on an interview with director Hayao Miyazaki himself, I can confirm this is another “double meaning” movie. One to serve as a fantasy for kids and the other to make a statement that really gives me uncomfortable goosebumps.

So yeah, this sounds like I really didn’t have a good time seeing this one. And, yeah its very true. For something that has grand designs, I expected something more like a grand adventure or something bigger. The simplicity of the plot and the over abundance of weirdness really killed the enjoyment. I guess what I expected was this grand and original fairy tale when what I get is more of a patchwork of traditional elements reworked into a small story. I’m okay with that but there was nothing interesting to me with the story or these characters. The more it continued, the more I wanted the film to end. I was done with the twisted place of monsters and its buffet of strange scenes that went on like no end in sight.

To compare, there is a movie that does a similar aspect but far different called Wolf Children. In my view, that is a much better movie because the story fits the simple animation and the characters have simple motives we connect to more. We got the mother Hana who has the challenge to raise her new kids but doesn’t know how. And even if she has no exact information on how to raise half-human and half wolf kids like her’s, Hana is really smart about her choices like debating on consulting a veterinarian or a doctor when one of her kids get sick. And not to mention the kids themselves trying to find a place in the world while one wants to be with nature while the other wants to be more social and open with the world. My god, why isn’t that movie getting more attention as opposed to the crazy roller coaster I had to endure?
maxresdefaultI feel like Spirited Away was created more for the crazy and insane visuals and I’m sure a lot of them will be implanted in my brain for a while. But sadly, this was not a case when I thought words got perfectly married with the animation. I understand many of you are rather upset at this point to hear my underwhelming and disappointing thoughts but no matter how much I wanted to enjoy this movie, I felt like I was getting nothing in return. An episode of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller gave more to offer than this two hour “epic” of unfocused insanity.

I am sorry. Very, very, very sorry. Deeply sorry. Sorry that I feel very indifferent to those who have a higher opinion about this movie than I do. Sorry for those who see this as a sacred cow as I walk by and question why. Sorry that I couldn’t get into a film that boasts grand images but yet has a very disappointing plot. Sorry that a good movie like this just didn’t amaze me as you did.

Spirited Away is a not a bad movie. It is just one that didn’t get my interest that much. This is a common thing that has happened once before when I had to watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon during a college course on Asian Cinema. All I saw in my view were sword fights, balancing acts on trees and a underwhelming story of past fairy tale tropes clogged together to make an original story with similar beats. Let me tell you after watching that “martial arts classic,” I was furious see a movie that everyone praised gave me nothing in return aside from imagery that belonged in a Cirque Du Soleil performance. On the other hand, perhaps history has a way of repeating itself…

Why the Hate?: Cabin Boy

Aside from the stormy box-office, it sailed on to a better life....kind of

Aside from the stormy box-office, it sailed on to a better life….kind of

This is one of those movies I remember hearing about as a kid and always been curious to see how it plays out. It had a lot that interested me. An adventure on the sea, all sorts of strange and cool monsters as well as some neat looking visuals. Again, I never saw “Cabin Boy” but knew of its existence. And when the dawn of the Internet came into my reach and began expanding my knowledge of film history, I would learn that the cult following for this one was relatively small. In fact, this movie today is decreed as so bad that many disregard it as the worst or even straight bad. Which is a shame seeing there is clearly a lot of talent behind it. Chris Elliot not only stars but also writes the screenplay, Tim Burton (who couldn’t direct due to duties with Batman Returns) produces and there is clearly a lot of effort in trying to make this a grand eye-visual please. At least in where it tries to be grand on a small scale. So what is it about this movie that rubs people the wrong way?

Chris Elliot is the innocent Nathaniel as he talks to one of the locals played by David Letterman. Chris and David used to work on the Late Night show together

Chris Elliot is the innocent Nathaniel as he talks to one of the locals played by David Letterman. Chris and David used to work on the Late Night show together

Chris Elliot plays Nathaniel Mayweather, a self-centered snob with rich folks and crass dialogue that is sarcastically harsh but funny from time to time. And I know what your going to ask, it is one of those movies. The jerk goes on a journey of self-discovery and later learns to be a better person. The character arch isn’t that interesting but you have to give Chris Elliot credit. He really tries with the material even when the scenes he’s in are hit and miss. What works best of the character in my opinion in just how crass he is to not just the poor but even the higher-class too. It shows that he’s not the kind that is into his rich lifestyle but perceived as a grown up spoiled brat. Again most of the comedy works from his child-like antics but I can see this being done better with someone like Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) or even Martin Short.

The crew of the Filthy Whore. And if that didn't make you laugh....

The crew of the Filthy Whore. And if that didn’t make you laugh….

Anyway through a huge misunderstand with a direction sign, he boards a fishing boat on accident thinking at first its a theme boat. But as the captain and crew get annoyed of his snotty attitude, the salty sailors appoint him as a cabin boy and try to find a way to get rid of him. All the while, Nathaniel tries to make things work with the grumpy fishermen as he tries to find his way to Hawaii in order to meet with his father or something like that. I guess you can sort of see the big problem here. There is little to no plot to keep an interest from time to time. Most of the movie takes part on the boat and trying to find something funny with the characters. And to be honest, a comedy can work that way but viewers like to have a story to follow or at least something engaging. This is really the weakest problem as the snobby lad goes from serving fish stick kittens for dinner to swabbing the deck with nothing but soap and his tongue. Its a movie that really feeds on jokes and gags than really giving a compelling story.

Honestly when the comedy works, it does work. There’s a scene when Nathaniel is set adrift on a small raft and has these weird illusions which does take a weird but funny turn. Chris’s material shows his innocent comedy by trying to keep positive despite the harsh conditions from using cooking oil as sun screen to going bonkers. And that’s sort of this movie in a nutsell. Its one gag after another and you wait for the next to come by. Dare I say, its one of those kind of movies you watch with a friend just to see how they react. You either laugh along or pray there is a good joke.

Chocki, half-man and half -shark. One of many unique monsters that shows how great a practical make-up job can be.

Chocki, half-man and half -shark. One of many unique monsters that shows how great a practical make-up job can be.

Also for a movie that was given a low budget, I’m surprised to see how much effort they tried to put into the special effects. In an interview, director Adam Resnick mentioned how he had a hard time trying to make this movie as it was originally meant for Tim Burton to direct. And yeah, I can see where he is coming from. Trying to attempt one’s vision is not easy unless you have someone who understands what he or she had in mind. But I think it was a good attempt. Some of the designs in the monsters have a Burtonesque quality even if  they feel simplistic. The visual look does have a Burtonesque quality even right down to those curtain backdrops. Again, “Cabin Boy” was made on a very low budget but you can tell they really tried to make something out of it. You still get some creative visuals like a ship in a stormy sea or a stop-motion ice monster. Even the make-up job on creatures like a half-man, half-shark being or a six armed goddess really shows what can be done with practical work. A testament to how well something real and in front of the camera can work compared to CGI.

Even the performances are not that bad either. Brian Doyle-Murry plays on the shipmates who knows his mythology and despite the movie he’s in you know he tries. There’s also some cameos by David Letterman and Andy Richter who get a funny line or two as well as some small running gags that are cute. I can’t say there is a bad performance or even one that was painful annoying. There were all around ok.

The Hallucinogenic Floating Cupcake...one of many iconic scenes that viewers remember

The Hallucinogenic Floating Cupcake…one of many iconic scenes that viewers remember

The only reason I can see why some viewers hated “Cabin Boy” on arrival was by how mismanaged the production was from the studio and what they didn’t know what to expect from its bizarre comedy. As a whole, the comedic tone is sort of a demented Popeye cartoon crossed with the surreal nature of Spongebob Squarepants. If this was done in better hands like Henry Selick, perhaps “Cabin Boy” would be molded into a better film. But from what I saw, I felt it was alright. I’m glad I finally got around to seeing it considering the continuing mixed reception that’s been building. It feels like a throwback to those fantasy movies of the 1930s with really cheap effects and silly stuff from time to time.  But if that’s not your kind of fun, I understand. I just think its a silly comedy that really tried. Nothing too horrible or insulting to the eyes bad but far from perfect. Give it a rent and judge for yourself.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: The Films of Dr. Phibes

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In order to discuss the franchise of a film, some deeper detail has to be made on certain character and story elements. In short, spoiler alert!

Vincent Price in one of his strangest roles yet

Vincent Price in one of his strangest roles yet

Never has it been this hard to talk about two movies that are similarly strange and yet different from each other. The Abominable Dr. Phibes predates the Saw series for its use of elaborate kills and a similar motive to the anti-hero. It stars Vincent Price in his oddest role yet as Anton Phibes, a horribly disfigured genius who was supposedly killed in a car accident but lives on to seek vengeance on nine doctors. The motive is that his wife was also in the wreckage and he blames the doctors’ incompetent for her death. Instead of going after them and axing them off with a simple weapon. Phibes bases his revenge on the 10 Plagues that befell Egypt in the Old Testament. Each doctor is given an elaborate and creative death that symbolizes one of the many wraiths of God as the police try to figure out what’s going on behind the strange deaths as Phibes is always one step ahead of the game.

It sounds simple on paper but the way the movie is executed feels other worldly. I will give props that its a quiet movie at times and doesn’t rely too much on dialogue. But the direction they take it in is weird from beginning to end. Vincent Price as always does a great performance as Phibes who takes great glee when one doctor gets killed off. The thing viewers will notice is that his role doesn’t have much lines. In fact, his character has to plug himself into a record player in order for his vocals to work. Not strange enough? How about his assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North) who is silent yet also takes joy in seeing her master’s work accomplished and keeps changing wardrobe like a winter fashion model? Or the fact that Phibes has a wind-up mechanical band that plays 1920s lounge music that takes up a good portion of the movie?

Phibes in his lair complete with a mechnical band....ok

Phibes in his lair complete with a mechnical band….ok

What bugs me is how over the top and surreal it gets to when it feels too cartoony or too silly. There are moments of campyness that either feel like it was intentional or just feel like its being taken too seriously for a bizarre movie like this. Even the police seem to think they can outsmart Phibes but find to their dumbness that he is always one step ahead. In one swing when they are protecting the next victim, Phibes is able to kill her off with flesh-eating locust and kidnap a doctor’s son in preparation for the next trap. It almost feels like this guy is a lost Sherlock Holmes villain.

The notable highlight are the kills and how they are staged. They are not ordinary, predictable and simple as one would take. We are talking about things like rats loaded in an avatar’s plane, a man’s frog mask at a ball slowly chocking him to death, another doctor frozen to death with a machine that shoots out ice and that’s just scraping the surface. I give credit for the amount of creative effort put into these kills and just how absurd they become as the movie goes on. It almost becomes funny seeing how one man can plan all of this just to please himself and that’s very much the only reason to see this movie other than Vincent Price.

One of the many strange kills in The Abominable Dr. Phibes

One of the many strange kills in The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Its obvious its going for a dark comedic route considering the crazy premise and strange imagery. But do we have to go as far by having dumb policeman that have no idea who or what they are dealing with? These are the most incompetent cops I’ve seen since the Keystone Cops. Peter Jeffrey plays Inspector Trout who has a good idea what Phibes is up to but is constantly ignored by the police until the deed is done. To be fair, Peter’s performance is really good playing a man that knows how to get into a killer’s head but it feels too serious for a campy movie like this. Even the marketing didn’t know what to make of this move and had a poster that parodied Love Story. It wasn’t till one week after they changed the advertising campaign and the movie became a hit.

I’m having a hard time recommending this one because there’s things about I do enjoy and things that bug me a bit. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is not the typical narratives style one would suspect and I have a hard time trying to figure out who I should side with. I feel bad for Phibes and want to see him take revenge but at the same time, want to see the police squad get a clue and stop his murderous rampage. Its probably the first time I felt neutral on both good and bad sides seeing Phibes has a purpose but there’s no payoff to his madness thinking he is doing right. It has a colorful yet comedic tone that saves it from being discarded as a typical horror movie.

If the first film wasn't strange enough...

If the first film wasn’t strange enough…

Surprisingly enough, a sequel emerged one year after called Dr. Phibes Rises Again which fixed some of the problems the first movie had but still felt like it was on the same level. This time, a narrative is set with Phibes trying to resurrect his dead wife Victoria. He plans to seek a way through a tomb in Egypt but has a few snags on the way. This time, we get another character named Darrus Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) who seeks the same power of eternity that Phibes does because of an elixir he keeps taking to remain youthful is getting low.

This time, we sympathize with Phibes more because he doesn’t want to exploit the key to eternal life. I’m glad to see we finally get to side with Phibes and want him to succeed. But unlike the pace of the first movie that felt tight and wraped, this one pods at a slower delivery. Its clear this one was rushed seeing how cheap the sands of Egypt look and even the inside of Phibe’s secret tomb looks almost like the underground lair from the first movie complete with organ and his mechanical band. Its obvious they didn’t take the time to think this one through and just tossed it out there to make a quick buck and see if a franchise was possible.

Robert Quarrey as Darrus Biederbeck who wishes to be one step ahead...

Robert Quarrey as Darrus Biederbeck who wishes to be one step ahead…

The Phibes traps, on the other hand, are interesting but they lack the flair and creativity that was present in the first one. This time, they are gruesome in tone and perhaps more violent. From a man that gets crushed into a tiny cube to another getting bitten by a horde of scorpions while his hands are clamped shut, its clear they went in a more bloody direction that robs the enjoyment. The first movie didn’t have to be downright graphic and bloody and I feel that is what keeps these kills from being memorable.

Peter Jefferey returns as Inspector Trout but gets teamed with another detective (John Cater) that is just about as clueless as Trout’s boss in the last film. The chemistry feels more like the Thompson Twins from The Adventures of Tintin and less like Sherlock and Watson. It just becomes too corny to the point its obvious they are set up to be comedic relief. Robert Quarray’s performance as Darrus is what nearly saves this movie. He’s very much the Moriarty of the show as he tries to be one step ahead of Phibes for his personal greed and even posses as a threat at one point.

The original "Piano Man"

The original “Piano Man”

However, Dr. Phibes Rises Again doesn’t trump the first film or come close to being as good as the first one. Its just an ok follow-up. I appreciate they try to give a narrative this time around but what made the original work (or at least when it did) was how it didn’t hold back on the strange nature of the film. Rises Again feels a bit more controlled and they way it ends feels like a sequel was meant to take place. In fact, plans for a third film were made but constant ideas never progressed further than the scripting stage. Its a shame because there was a lot of potential here and it could have done something to the horror genre in the 1970s considering it was the big turning point for horror films in general. Both movies are enjoyable but for different reasons. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is cheesy but has the right amount to keep it from being boring and Dr. Phibes Rises Again is more well-structured in the narrative even if it downplays a lot of what made the first film good. Perhaps interesting of all is how both movies end with a rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” At first I didn’t get it but then I thought about the lyrics a bit and it made perfect sense. Dr. Phibes had a wonder life till his unfortunate accident took away his happiness and paradise causing him to seek it no matter what it takes. As the lyrics go, “birds fly over the rainbow, why…oh why, can’t I?”

Rental Corner: The mystery to “Twin Peaks'” sucess

The infamous Red Room scene from Twin Peaks. One of many strange yet fascinating highlights in the series.

The infamous Red Room scene from Twin Peaks. One of many strange yet fascinating highlights in the series.

David Lynch has always been an interesting director. His films are well-noted for creating weird and unsettling versions of our own reality be it 1880’s London in The Elephant Man or the nice suburban town with a gritty secret in Blue Velvet. But never did I think his twisted and surreal nature would transition well to television with a cult TV show him and his collaborator Mark Frost worked on called “Twin Peaks.” The series lasted for only 30 episodes and over a span of two seasons. But regardless of how short-lived it became, the series has made a lasting impact among viewers and fans who enjoy its strange and other worldly tone. And I’m surprised to say I’m part of the crowd that loves a good mystery and its a shame this ended too early as I would have loved to see just how far it could go.

I will try to keep everything under a spoiler free minimum but I can’t guarantee much seeing some elements need to be explained. Most notably the huge change in tone during its second season. But even during the first seven episodes, a bizarre supernatural tone was already hinted at with the concept of dreams and ideal police methods. So I will try to keep certain things under wraps but I can’t say everything will be kept a mystery from you.

The show takes off big during the first 20 minutes of its pilot as the body of a young teenager named Laura Palmer is discovered and suddenly, the whole town is shaken up over the death of one girl that curiously meant so much to many people. This is the strongest moment of the pilot as it not only establishes characters like Laura’s parents and a few friends that knew her, but I was surprised to see how David Lynch was able to capture the emotion and feeling when a small community gets tragic news like this. Moments like where the principal of her school announcing her death to the faculty and Laura’s parents, Leland and Sarah, reacting to the unfortunate news is executed so well you can feel the amount of trauma and shock as one person at a time is saddened to hear this news.

Its not long till someone has to be brought in to figure out who killed her as FBI agent Dale Cooper (Lynch film vetren Kyle MacLachlan) arrives to investigate the case. In his first scene alone, we immediately start to like him. The hip 1960’s attitude he carries, his big but yet lovable ego, the fact that he shows concern for another’s care and safety, the fact he documents actions into a tape recorder for someone named “Diane,” his open mind to the possible directions of suspects and clues, that slick back hair and so forth. Easily, he is the glue that holds the show together. As he moves from one clue to the next, Cooper gets so invested in trying to solve the crime that we too feel his excitement. Whenever he discovers a weapon or even a piece of paper linked to the killer, you can’t help but share the same amount of feeling he has knowing Cooper is one step closer.

Aside from Cooper, Twin Peaks carries a heavy amount of amazing characters that it would be difficult to go down the line and talk about each one. Of course, each character has a quirk they live by but the unique thing is how it all gets changed during the show’s run. A good example is Ben Horne who owns a hotel suite where Laura worked at. Ben’s story-line is very unique considering the multitude of changes his characters goes through in the course of the show. He goes from acting like a conglomerate that is close to Micheal Esiner but then gets set-up and has a Howard Hughes-style break down and then tries to act nicer and take part in doing things like saving the environment even if it all blows up in his face. You start to appreciate the comeuppance he gets but then you start to see a humane side in him. In a way, his story arch has an Ebeneezer Scrooge vibe with the difference being you get see the negative reactions of his “good deeds.”

Other inhabitants of this laid back but strange place include a cast of high school teenagers that almost feel like characters from American Graffiti if developed by soap opera writers. On paper, it sounds like the average melodrama one find in things like All My Children or General Hospital but yet the beauty of it all is how well-developed these people are and you can almost relate to these kids. Audrey is the snoop/activist, James is the biker with a heart of gold, Bobby is the man you love to hate with his crazy schemes blowing up in his face and so forth. In a way, they feel like left-overs from a 1960’s melodrama but in some way it feels like a satire of the typical cliches. Yes, the show goes that route with the love triangle and even they pull a “who’s the father to my baby” plot line. But what makes these enjoyable is how much you enjoy and care for these characters. Your curious to see what direction their choice will go into wither it be predictable or surprising.

And that’s the key word here; surprising. During the show’s run, we get a slow revelation that the nice little town is not as charming as we think. Most notable are wide range of plots that go from the attempted destruction of the saw mill to a psychiatrist trying to get over his obsession with the late Laura Palmer seeing she was a recurring client. You don’t know what direction the show will go into and every cliffhanger keeps you wanting to progress on. I can’t think of a time when I saw an episode and wished it would end. You get so invested in this odd world and its people, that you want to know more about them and less of Laura’s killer.

In fact, the original intention of the series was to leave out who killed Laura and just let it slide into the background. It would have been an interesting idea had the ABC executives request the reveal during the second season. I can’t say I was disappointed when they made the revelation but I will admit, its a very shocking and disturbing reveal that will leave you breathless. After solving that case, once can imagine how hard it was to live up to the Laura Palmer story line. They tried in the second season but I feel mixed about it. For a good three to four episodes, we get nothing but filler that feels like desperation to hold the viewer’s attention. There are some nice concepts like an older women getting amnesia and thinking she’s a high school cheerleader. But then there’s stuff like Cooper getting docked down for multiple violations, a secretary that is trying to figure whose the father to her unborn child, an elderly man that accuses his late brother’s wife for killing him during making love (which caused a heart attack seeing the two were in this senior years) but they just go nowhere.

The only thing that does work is an old nemesis of Cooper’s that appears halfway in season two that is like if Sherlock Holmes’ Moriarty but plays his plans like a chess game. Its clever and well-developed but at this point, I feel the damage has been done. It was hard to try and follow up what made the first season so good and it shows. I can’t say the second season is skippable seeing I did enjoy some plot lines and ideas while doing some clever character changes. Even a lot of the town becomes more curious when you start to dig into its supernatural roots. But I can’t say its a satisfying season seeing it does have its flaws. Like I said, some storylines feel like they are going in a certain direction but they will either end in a weak way, get entirely abandoned or just go nowhere like I said. But even when Twin Peaks was showing its lumps, it still held together.

A good example is the final episode where we start to really question just what kind of town is this. Is it one that exists in reality or is there something more to it? I wish I could go in-depth but I fear it would ruin it. The final 20 minutes leads to a nail-biting climax as Cooper questions a form of reality he enters that I personally think is one of the best I’ve seen, even for a strange series likes this. And I’m sure many will be left asking for more by the end and wishing there was a third season. And that was the genius of Twin Peaks. It kept you coming back for more even when it ended on either a climatic note or an intense turning point. Its the series that left you wanting to know more about these people and they place they are in rather than the conflict they are attached to and I believe that is where David Lynch and Mark Frost’s show was at its high point. It knew at the right time when to give answers and when to leave us hanging. Though I’m sure many will be bothered by how the show ends…but that is why a movie exists….yet that is another story for another time.