Spoilers for Killjoys Season 4, Episode 3, “Bro’d Trip,” follow.
Last week on Killjoys, Johnny got greened, we discovered that somehow the Company has competition in the dystopian capitalism field, and Delle Seyah realized that (Hullen or not) trusting the person whose fiancée she murdered maybe wasn’t the best of ideas.
This week opens up with the Jacobis brothers on a road trip, and it is fantastic. Killjoys hasn’t really explored the relationship between the Jacobis since the end of the first season. We’ve seen flashes of both their good and bad sides – from their easy joking banter to Johnny’s dislike of being under his brother’s command – but it’s also been a pretty stable dynamic. At the end of the day, Johnny and D’av’s relationship with Dutch has been more important than their relationship with each other, and they aren’t together on missions that often either.
There’s something deeper to this as well. Johnny is the heart of the team, a foundation for those around him. Throughout the show he’s tended to help others above helping himself, and the only one who can really bring out his true feelings is Dutch. By contrast, Hullen Johnny gives us an unfiltered look into his darkest thoughts, and… hoo boy, the poor guy has some issues.
Everyone around Johnny has always regarded his ability to give a damn in an uncaring universe as his greatest strength. As Khlyen saw in episode one of this season, Johnny’s heart may be the key to stopping the Lady, but the problem is that Johnny appears to disagree with this assessment. This isn’t exactly new. Last season, we saw just how pissed he was that Dutch had been holding him back to prevent him from being “corrupted,” in her view. Johnny has clearly wanted to be something more than just the caring little sibling to Dutch and D’av, especially since Pawter’s death. The past two episodes have given him what he wanted, but at the expense of his heart – and it’s been fascinating.
It’s D’avin’s reaction to Johnny finally getting this power that really makes this episode tick. Throughout Killjoys, D’av hasn’t ever really reckoned with his brother’s insecurities. The primary tension between the two has always been D’av’s abandonment of their family, which has shifted over time into D’av’s anger at Johnny’s seeming inability to forgive him or fully recognize that he has changed. It was great to finally hear D’avin open up to Johnny about this anger as his little brother recovered from saving the two from the warden’s men. But the fact that D’av just walked back into Johnny’s life and was automatically better than him once again, the original sore point? That’s been more of a silent problem until now.
“Bro’d Trip” is where D’avin finally reckons with what Dutch realized last season – that maybe Johnny wants to be something else. Towards the middle of the episode, he recognizes that Johnny is now supernaturally strong while being even smarter, and realizes that maybe this Hullen version of his little brother won’t want to give it all up to go back to being “a hug wrapped in a puppy.” The fact that he thinks this is a “maybe” rather than a certainty until the end of the episode goes to show how blinded he is by the vision of who he wants his brother to be.
The final fight between the two at the pool of green serves as a fantastic capstone to the episode and a nice callback to their fight in the first episode of the series. Whereas at that point it was Johnny trying to bring his brother to his senses, now it’s D’av trying to force Johnny to go back to being someone he might not want to be. It’s also the first time we really see Johnny get the upper hand on his brother. And, if there’s a line that summarizes Hullen Johnny, “Now I have the charms, the smarts and the muscle – what do you have?” is it.
While this review has so far mostly focused on the Jacobis brothers, “Bro’d Trip” also deftly weaves Delle Seyah into their dynamic. Johnny treats the road trip as a sort of “babymoon,” a last ride for the two before D’av’s baby changes their relationship forever. He also addresses a problem I’ve had with the show since the last episode of season three.
The relationship between Delle Seyah and the brothers has been surprisingly cozy so far, considering how utterly vile of a person she’s been. As first this had worried me a little bit, as Killjoy’s treatment of Jellco last season had never sat right with me. However, this week we finally see Johnny vocalize what we’ve all been thinking, as he reminds D’avin that – surrogate mother of his child or not – this is the woman who kidnapped Dutch, killed Pawter, and whose girlfriend stole his genes for her alien baby. Even more importantly, we also see D’avin fully acknowledge the damage Delle Seyah has caused Johnny. With the episode ending on the impeding birth of D’av, Aneela’s and Sayah’s child, it’s exciting to see where Killjoys takes the relationship between the two.
By contrast to the brothers, Delle Seyah’s plotline is a pretty simple one this episode, if a little bit problematic. Much like in season three, she finds herself at the mercy of a truly vile character and manages to maneuver her way to safety (and get a little revenge while she’s at it). She also shows some flashes of kindness for once, giving one of the organ farmers a ticket off the planet as part of her deal with the authorities. If Delle Seyah was a fresh character introduced in season three as Anneela’s love interest, this turn at being a protagonist would likely work a lot better. The problem is that Killjoys is a show that has always had a strong emotional continuity throughout. Conversations between the main cast are interspersed with references to prior episodes (including last week’s hilarious tease for the potential need of D’avin to… “Sabine” Johnny). This strong continuity makes it incredibly difficult to watch Seyah in any other role than a pure villain.
This is the woman who (beyond murdering Pawter in cold blood), tried to turn Westerly into a world of eugenic death camps. Yet the showrunners have been increasingly portraying her as an anti-hero since season three, despite the fact that she’s still the same murderous, power hungry, amoral snake she’s always been. The villain/ally turn worked in shows like Farscape because the villains were often sympathetic from the start, and usually showed some kind of remorse or evolution. Delle Seyah has shown neither, and it results in her statement in last week’s episode that “oh God, we are a family” feeling hollow and unearned. As entertaining as she is, and as slimy her opponents are, the feeling still remains that it’s probably better that she loses, especially since (as Johnny noted in season three) her child may be the harbinger of the death of all non-Hullen life.
To catch up with the rest of the crew, we see Pip (the bribe taker) and Pree (the side taker) experience their first mission as newly deputized, neutral and non-corrupt Killjoys by helping Zeph take back control of Lucy before the ship kills them. Pree continues to shine as one of the most joyful characters on television, with his idea of a funeral (singing, booze and burly men) sounding like one hell of a time. However, it’s Pip and Zeph who see the most development here. While they were entertaining last season, they were also pretty one-note – Pip was the goofy mercenary hacker and Zeph was your classic awkward geek. Here, the show continues to flesh the two out, with Pip serving as a conscience for the somewhat colder Zeph as they muck about with a Hullen’s brain. It’s also nice to see that Zeph has retained her tendency to overlook Johnny, with Pree having to remind her that (after, or even before, Dutch) the most likely person Lucy would listen to would be Johnny, not D’avin.
However, where Zeph and Pip really come into their own is when they are discussing what their relationship means now that they are safe again. Their first conversation clearly expressing desires and setting boundaries was incredibly refreshing to see. Zeph’s fusion of copious sex into her thinking process is a fantastic addition to her character, while Pip showed a lot of maturity in the way he expressed his wish for something more while also respecting Zeph’s emotional boundaries. As always, Michelle Lovretta remains one of the best portrayers of sex and relationships in television.
In short, “Bro’d Trip” serves as an excellent emotional foundation for the rest of the season. Even if took an alien parasite, D’avin finally knows what his brother is going through and how his relationship with his child will impact the crew. Meanwhile, the Killjoy family continues to grow as Pip and Pree join the team full-time. The best part is that all of this lies under the shadow of the struggle for Johnny’s soul, a struggle that may be the key to stopping The Lady. With the episode ending with a wounded Dutch stumbling out of the green, and Delle Seyah about to give birth, things are really picking up in the J.
There Are No Fakes is a shocking journey into the world of art fraud
Some of the best documentaries of the past two decades involve hard left turns – films that begin in one direction but end in another due to events that unfolded during production. There Are No Fakes, directed by Jamie Kastner, joins that select company of documentary as its comedic opening slowly morphs into something much darker.
There Are No Fakes centers on the work of Norval Morrisseau, the Indigenous Canadian artist of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation, sometimes referred to as the “Picasso of the North”. Morrisseau, who died in 2007, sought to remove forgeries of his art from the marketplace, establishing the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society in 2005.
After Kevin Hearn (of Barenaked Ladies fame) buys one of Morrisseau’s paintings, he starts to doubt its authenticity and discovers a bizarre feud consolidated around Morrisseau. It’s this conflict, and the dark secrets hidden beneath it, that form the backdrop of There Are No Fakes.
Kastner (The Secret Disco Revolution, Free Trade Is Killing My Mother), who was friends with Hearn in high school, learned through conversation about Hearn’s ongoing lawsuit surrounding the Morrisseau paintings. It became clear to Kastner that such a story would be perfect for his next project.
“It was almost unbelievable. There was so much crazy stuff in this story, I couldn’t quite believe it,” Kastner said. “I told him if I was going to proceed with it, though we were friends he would have no editorial control. As a journalist, I would be talking to both sides, and he agreed.
“I went off on my own doing my own kind of digging and research. Lo and behold, everything he told me and then some turned out to be the case.”
As the story unfolded and as Kastner continued to meet a succession of larger-than-life characters, he found himself shocked at what he uncovered. Bringing footage back to his editor provoked a similar reaction.
“He’d say, ‘Holy f***!’ Then I’d do another one, and he’s quite an even-keeled guy, and he’d say ‘holy f***,’” Kastner said. “So it was a series of ‘holy f***’ moments. I tried to recreate that experience for the audience.”
Documentaries can often unfold much as expected, with a known story dictating the outcome of the production. But given the fluid situation surrounding the events of There Are No Fakes, Kastner followed the story as it led him, knowing he had been handed an incredible gift.
“It’s definitely a privilege and a responsibility (to tell this story). You’re dealing with the legacy of one of our most important artists,” he said. “You wind up dealing with very serious issues of abuse of different kinds, so I felt a real responsibility.
“You have to handle it very carefully as a documentary filmmaker. It really is so unique and unusual and special and horrific and inspiring and a whole range of things that you don’t usually get in one film.”
There Are No Fakes made its world premiere at Hot Docs 2019, receiving highly positive reviews. Kastner said the film provided fascinating insight into the legacy of Morrisseau, touching on multiple problems still at play in Canada.
“It’s a very dramatic story. People can’t believe that they’re real people. They seem like characters out of some HBO series or something,” Kastner said. “I think it’s a very entertaining, edge of your seat, jaw-dropping type of story that happens to be a documentary.”
There Are No Fakes will screen at multiple locations throughout Canada in July 2019. For more information, click here.
Next to read on The Mutt: Tantoo Cardinal propels Falls Around Her in first leading role
Isabelle brings psychological terror to an idyllic neighbourhood
In a quaint New England neighbourhood, a charming young couple (Adam Brody and Amanda Crew) find the perfect home to move into. But what they find in that home complicates their dream to start a family, as darkness and paranoia emerges in director Rob Heydon’s Isabelle.
Following in the footsteps of other psychological horrors such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, Isabelle comes from a screenplay written by Donald Martin (Milton’s Secret). Having grown up watching genre films like The Omen and The Shining, Heydon approached the project looking to put his own stamp on psychological terror.
“Reading the script, I just got into it cold. Then once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down,” Heydon said. “I thought a lot about what other references it could be like and how I could help bring something to the story and the storytelling.”
Much like other films in the genre, Heydon’s intention for Isabelle was to emphasize the psychology of the terror as a priority. That meant slowly building up the characters and introducing new elements throughout the runtime of the film.
“In a sense, it’s trying to tell a story in three arcs and build the audience’s expectations up to the third act,” Heydon said. “We used the combination of cinematography and editing and music to bring the audience into the mind of the main character and have the audience experience what our main characters are going through.”
The strength of the cast – which includes Brody, Crew and Zoë Belkin as Isabelle – was essential given the nature of the material. Brody was the first to sign on, but other cast members took longer to materialize.
“Amanda Crew wasn’t available at the same time. So it took almost two years to put together the cast,” Heydon said. “But when their calendars lined up, we also got some amazing talent to surround them. Belkin, Sheila McCarthy, who played Isabelle’s mom… we were really lucky.”
Isabelle shot in Hamilton, Ont., with old Victorian homes posing as New England. Beyond the locale, Heydon said the cost savings attained shooting in Hamilton were significant.
“In Toronto, to rent a house for a day might be 10 or 15 thousand per day. In Hamilton, we were lucky to get three houses right next to each other for 20 days for $20,000,” he said. “You just can’t find that anywhere in Toronto.”
Having initially premiered in South Korea as part of the Busan Film Festival (along with fellow Canadian horror Lifechanger), Isabelle will now open to a larger release in Canada. Heydon said genre aficionados should find much to enjoy in Isabelle.
“I’d say read what the film’s about and check out the trailer – I think the trailer says it all. And if you’re interested, come check it out,” he said.
Isabelle begins its theatrical run in Toronto June 28 at the Carlton Cinema. For more information, click here.
Next up on The Mutt: Horror materializes in unconventional ways in Things Fall Apart
Horror materializes in unconventional ways in Things Fall Apart
Those familiar with Hussein Juma, director and writer of Things Fall Apart, know that it’s somewhat fruitless to attempt to fully summarize his work. That’s largely by design – Juma himself says he enjoys injecting ambiguity into his projects.
But more than that, what’s exciting about Juma as a director is his ability to create a sense of atmospheric dread based heavily on context and character and not cliché. So horror fans on the hunt for films that are likely to surprise should take note of what Juma says about his first feature, Things Fall Apart.
“If you like arthouse cinema, things that are going to challenge you and even scare you a little too, I think this film would be for you,” Juma says. “If you’re interested in new ways to tell stories, in indie cinema and the way it can reframe things and put them in different contexts, I think there’s a lot to think about with this film.”
That unique approach to story was evident throughout Juma’s 12-episode web series Horse Mask, a surreal horror that centres around a missing daughter, a forest and many mysterious masks. Though Things Fall Apart is Juma’s first feature, he says working on Horse Mask helped prepare him, given the fact that the runtime of that web series evens out to be around the length of a feature.
Set during a dinner party, Things Fall Apart lets audiences act as a sort of fly on the wall as tensions and emotions emerge.
“Things progressively get more tense between the characters. I think there’s a good balance — there are those moments where you’re going to feel uncomfortable, there are moments where you’re going to be scared, there are moments where you’re going to feel like, ‘What the hell is going on right now?’” Juma says.
Furthering his desire to tell a story in a fresh way, Juma says he employed improvised dialogue throughout Things Fall Apart, making up 80 per cent of the dialogue. Though actors were provided with full scripts, dialogue was written in beats that guided where conversations would go.
“When we finally selected our actors, we extensively rehearsed it multiple times. That was a really cool process,” Juma says. “I had a bare-bones, skeleton idea of where I wanted each conversation to go, but these actors got so into it and took it to interesting places. (Many times) I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s great. We have to keep that.’”
The cast, which includes Chengis Javeri (one of the leads in Horse Mask), Bobbi Goddard, Gina Lorene and more, was already familiar to Juma, giving him confidence that they would be able to pull off the improvised dialogue. Juma says surrounding himself with smart, funny people led to a number of happy accidents that made their way into the finished product.
Other times, Juma says he would play off what he knew about the actors themselves.
“If I could see even a sliver of tension between them in the real world or a sliver of something in a look that I see, I can kind of harness that in the film,” he says. “I think that worked really well in terms of when I wanted to play someone against another person. Because I worked with them before, I knew things I could whisper in their ear before a take to throw them off.”
Ultimately, Juma says he wanted to make a film that he would want to see himself. Based on his track record, it’s likely that horror fans looking for a surprising, experimental feature with strong character work will find it in Things Fall Apart.
Things Fall Apart plays June 2 at 2 p.m. at the Globe Cinema in Calgary. For more information, click here.
Next up on The Mutt: The story behind Uwe Boll, the so-called “worst filmmaker” ever