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On Killjoys, the stork needs an assist from the dork to get a baby delivered

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Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 p.m. E.T. on Space. Photo courtesy Bell Media
Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 p.m. E.T. on Space. Photo courtesy Bell Media

Spoilers for Killjoys Season 4, Episode 4 – “What to Expect When You’re Expecting… an Alien Parasite,” follow.

If last week’s episode was about the Jacobis brothers and their relationship, this week is about the line between Hullen and human. Killjoys has always had a pretty nuanced approach to the Hullen, with a common theme being that most humans who became Hullen were already pretty much Hullen to begin with. Though this seems a bit circular, consider people like Delle Seyah or Fancy, who showed little change between their original and transformed selves. The main arc of Killjoys seasons one and two was, in part, discovering that the R.A.C. primarily existed to find those broken enough to survive the transformation, something that also defined Dutch and Khlyen’s relationship. The birth of Delle Seyah’s child, and the need to cure Johnny, bring this line sharply into focus, examining the Hullen who showed the least and most changes following their transformation.

Dutch’s storyline this week on Killjoys is a two-parter, comprising her past struggle with the Lady in the green and the desperate need to cure Johnny in the present. Her war with the Lady primarily takes place within her own memories, and it’s an ugly one. As Khlyen said in episode one, whether or not the Lady would break Dutch was a question of when, not if. And, as she admits at the end of the episode, she broke, telling the Lady everything. As always, Killjoys’ willingness to give Dutch flaws and failings remains a shining spot of the show, especially compared to similar characters like Dark Matter’s nearly perfect Two.

The final flashbacks in this episode to the war in the green also gives a really interesting dynamic to Aneela and Dutch’s relationship. Since the last episodes of season three, Dutch has been defined by her willingness to die to stop the Hullen, with her only desire being to be recognized as someone who mattered. This bleeds over into her internal conflict over essentially being a clone of Aneela. The fact that Aneela told her that she didn’t give her life only to see Dutch throw it away is more than just a statement of a maternal bond, it’s a re-affirmation of Dutch’s personhood by the person who was previously trying to erase it. That the episode ends with Aneela placing herself in danger as the Lady’s captor in the green also shows a different side to Aneela and begs the question of who she would have been had Khlyen not erased her memories. She was clearly mentally damaged before, but maybe Dutch could have made her into something better. It’s sad to think that Alvis and others were collateral damage in the fight to keep the Lady imprisoned.

As for the Lady, she is decidedly… whelming? The Lady has been foreshadowed for nearly a year now as the big bad looming large over Hullen. While it was interesting to find out that she’s older than the Hullen, and consider them her tools, her actual personality and motives are fairly generic. The arrogant evil spirit looking to break out into the real world has been done before. The main problem is that the Lady just feels too human, too evil-arrogant-wizard, for an alien queen ruling a vast hive mind. As always, this is subject to change and development, and it’s not bad, but it’s also less creative than would be expected from a show as inventive as Killjoys.

It was important to cover the scenes in the green first, because Dutch’s tone in this episode really comes together towards the end. From the second she awakes, there’s a sense of impeding doom about her, a desperate need to get the answers to her stories out of Johnny. It’s very un-Dutch-like, but it finally clicks when she reveals that the Lady gave her a glimpse of the future, and it is not pretty. In essence, everyone dies, with a Hullenized Johnny being the primary instrument of their demise. The fact that it’s Johnny who is the instrument of doom is an interesting note, with now both Dutch and the Lady seeing him as the key to their struggle.

This also gives D’avin a chance to really shine in a fantastic confrontation with Dutch in an early scene. Until this season, D’avin’s relationship with Johnny always took a backseat to Dutch and Johnny’s own sibling relationship. But when Dutch berates him for turning Johnny Hullen, D’avin finally gets a chance to remind Dutch that she’s not the only one who loves Johnny, and that she doesn’t get to possess him (something Johnny himself stated last season). It continues the trend of D’avin taking responsibility for leadership within his adoptive family, and it’s a welcome addition to D’avin and Dutch’s dynamic. If it’s going to work, she needs to respect his decisions, even when it comes to mutual loved ones like Johnny. It’s a conversation rich with the unspoken memories of prior episodes, a further sign of Killjoys’ incredible emotional continuity.

This brings us to Johnny, poor, poor, conflicted Johnny. As noted above, this episode is about what it means to turn Hullen, and Hullen Johnny is terrifying evidence for what that does to such a loving person. The pain of constantly regaining and losing human emotions for him is so horrible that he attempts to commit suicide. If anything is evidence of how strong Johnny’s emotional core is, that’s it. While the episode gives a nice reunion moment between Johnny (back to his normal self after being cured by Zeph) and Dutch, it would have been nice to see him talk a bit with D’avin as well, considering how much they went through last episode.

All of these storylines lead to the main core of the episode, the birth of Aneela, D’avin and Delle Seyah’s child. While Zeph has definitely been growing over the course of the show, she really comes into her own here. She’s the one who not only saves Johnny’s life after his attempted suicide attempt, but cures him along the way. She also shows some interesting maturity when she allows D’avin and Dutch to make the final call as to going forward with her proposed treatment. In the past Zeph has had a lot of trouble respecting other people’s wishes, so the fact that she respects their decision is a nice touch. Plus, like D’avin, she also manages to establish herself by pushing back against Dutch, with her fantastic line of “I don’t tell you how to shoot, don’t tell me how to science.”

Zeph’s discovery becomes the crucial tool to solving Delle Seyah’s problems. The show does a fantastic job of increasing the tension in each of the scenes where she tries to give birth, from comedy to all the way to terror. The humour is well-grounded as always in the show’s established universe. Delle Seyah’s hilarious naiveté as to how hard childbirth was going to be (as Zeph points out, “it’s called labour for a reason) is a callback to the fact that the nine families never give natural birth themselves.

Killjoys Season 4 Episode 4 - What to Expect When You’re Expecting… an Alien Parasite. Photo courtesy Bell Media

Killjoys Season 4 Episode 4 – What to Expect When You’re Expecting… an Alien Parasite. Photo courtesy Bell Media

With an ever-growing baby, the only solution available is a C-section. The only problem is, Delle Seyah’s Hullen healing factor is being turned up to 11 with the baby, preventing an incision from being made. This causes a return to this episode’s theme of what it means to be turned Hullen. After an attempt to weaken her Hullen response fails, the only option is to cleanse her. But Delle Seyah clearly doesn’t want to be cleansed. Compared to Johnny, she was already Hullen to begin with. The parasite has only served as a straight up upgrade with no cost to her already dead conscience (as last week’s review noted: eugenic death camps).

This is nicely highlighted by a confrontation with Pree late into the episode. As noted in last week’s review, the show has taken an uncomfortable direction with Delle Seyah at times, almost forgetting her horrific past actions (at the risk of being a broken record: eugenic death camps). It was nice to finally see Pree remind her (and the audience) that she murdered a dear friend of his in his own bar, and that he was happy to return the favour. Delle Seyah at first takes this in her usual amoral way (in a later scene she knocks him out and calls him an arrogant waiter), but also seems to finally be on a path to some remorse.

When Zeph severs her spinal column, we don’t see her give birth. Instead, the scene focuses on her memories flashing before her eyes. Murdering Pawter, the bloody disaster at Prodigy, Johnny killing her, her relationship with Aneela. Between her facial expression and her memories, this might be a first step in her coming to terms with the monster she became.

Delle Seyah also gives D’avin a final opportunity to remind the audience where he stands. As noted last week, the fact that she was carrying D’avin’s child seemed to cause him to forget a lot of what Delle Seyah had done to those he loved. The fact that he was willing to shoot Delle Seyah (and risk his child) when she tried to kill Dutch (she believed that Dutch had abandoned Aneela to die in the green) is a powerful statement of the relationships he values most. It’s also fitting that it’s D’avin who comforts the child when the baby begins crying. He’s also been at his best when serving as a father/big brother figure to others, and he clearly is ready to be a dad.

In short, this week’s cleansing of both Delle Seyah and Johnny was an excellent opportunity to explore what humanity means to those characters. For Delle Seyah, it means building something she might have never had, for Johnny it’s about reclaiming who he was. But it’s about more than just that. Through Delle Seyah and Johnny’s struggles, we see D’avin solidify his role in the Killjoy family and firmly express where his loyalties are, despite the awkward position this child places him. For Dutch, it’s about coming to terms with the terror she faced in the green, and perhaps fully recognizing that Johnny, as crucial as he is to her and the galaxy, doesn’t belong to her. For Zeph, it’s about maturing into a full-blown member of the family, standing up for herself while still respecting others. In short, the fact that Killjoys is still evolving its characters four seasons in is just one of the reasons why it’s must-watch TV on Friday nights.

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Calgary Underground Film Festival

CUFF 2019: Director Rob Grant on the tension (and dark comedy) of HARPOON

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From director Rob Grant (Mon Ami, Fake Blood), Harpoon will make its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival. Photo courtesy CUFF
From director Rob Grant (Mon Ami, Fake Blood), Harpoon will make its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival April 28. Photo courtesy CUFF

Adrift on the seas on a luxury yacht, three friends find themselves stranded without food or supplies and quickly realize their survival is less than assured. An official selection at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019, Harpoon will make its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) April 28. 

The Mutt spoke with director Rob Grant prior to the film’s screening at CUFF. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.

THE MUTT: Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of Harpoon?

ROB GRANT: I had a great relationship with my producers (Knuckleball director Michael Peterson and Kurtis Harder) from a film called Fake Blood. I pitched Mr. Peterson on this idea that was a mix between Polanski’s Knife on the Water but by way of Seinfeld characters on the boat. I grew up in Vancouver, and the original idea was, “Well, I spent a lot of time on a boat, we could go take a boat out to the ocean and try to isolate ourselves out there.” Once a budget came into play and the idea grew, suddenly we were shooting the interiors of the boat in a set in the middle of freezing winter in Calgary, and shooting the exteriors on a boat in tropical Belize down south.

TM: Was it difficult for you to balance those comedic elements and still find a way to ratchet up the tension?

RG: It was very difficult, and there were a lot of discussions about that. When you have to give the elevator pitch, you have to say: “This is the genre and this is what it means.” But I subscribe to the logic that in life you can feel in one moment that you’re in a love story and the next minute in a horror movie, and that’s the way real life actually works. But it seems a little more rigid in movies. We were aware of potentially disrupting viewers’ experiences of watching the movie. (We thought) a movie could, or should, be multiple things at once. We’re willing to accept that there’s going to be some audience members that are going to reject that as a movie experience, but we wanted to try it.

Harpoon director Rob Grant said premiering the film at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019 was a very validating experience. Photo courtesy CUFF

Harpoon director Rob Grant said premiering the film at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019 was a very validating experience. Photo courtesy CUFF

TM: Can you tell me more about those influences you mentioned? I’m curious about how you mixed something like Seinfeld with more traditional thriller elements.

RG: Hitchcock’s Lifeboat was definitely in there, as well as Polanski’s Knife in the Water. But I had to still find the dark humour in it, and Seinfeld came up specifically because as much as we all find the Seinfeld characters enduring, they’re very much in it for themselves. They’re worried about their own outcomes. So I tried to use a lot of that. As much as these people like to say they’re looking out for each other, the second it becomes a survival story they’re all kind of in it for themselves. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia was another one, not only for mixing drama and humour, but definitely because the narration was less focused. It sets up what’s going to happen without speaking to much on the nose about what you’re about to see.

TM: I understand there’s some great gore and effects in Harpoon. What was your approach to that, and what effect do you think that has? 

RG: I’ve explored the effects of violence in cinema with Fake Blood, and this was an extension of that. The entire movie, these people speak very casually and aloof about the things that potentially will need to be done without actually considering what that entails until suddenly when it happens. I felt like it would be a good idea to make sure that was extremely violent and horrible, not only because we’ve been teasing up to this moment, but I do believe there’s a certain element that people do not consider the actual realities of having to do something like that. So it’s very shocking, very brutal, it’s like, “ha ha ha this was all funny to discuss” and now that it’s happened it sucks the wind out of you. That was a very intentional decision.

TM: What do you think Harpoon does in a unique way when compared to other similar films? What do you hope the audience walks away with?

RG: I hope when people leave the cinema that it wasn’t the movie they were expecting, that it was a little bit of a different take. I do think it’ll challenge them depending what their expectations are. I just hope they’re expecting something interesting in the genre, and that they’re along for the ride.

Harpoon makes its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival April 28. For tickets, click here

Click here to read our roundup of 9 Canadian films playing at CUFF 2019.

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Calgary Underground Film Festival

CUFF 2019: The story behind Uwe Boll, the so-called “worst filmmaker” ever

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F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story dives into the background of the notorious filmmaker, featuring a number of interviews with colleagues, critics and with Boll himself. Photo courtesy CUFF
F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story dives into the background of the notorious filmmaker, featuring a number of interviews with colleagues, critics and with Boll himself. Photo courtesy CUFF

Director of the critically-maligned video game adaptations Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead and BloodRayne, Uwe Boll has long held a unfavourable reputation in the film industry not only due to the perceived quality of his films, but also due to his antagonistic response to his online “haters.” 

But a new documentary, F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story, seeks to better understand the firebrand filmmaker, diving into Boll’s past through a series of interviews with colleagues, critics and Boll himself. 

The Mutt spoke with F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story Vancouver-based director Sean Patrick Shaul prior to the film’s Alberta premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival April 27. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.

THE MUTT: How did you first become acquainted with Uwe Boll?

SEAN PATRICK SHAUL: I first met Uwe Boll on the set of Assault on Wall Street. I worked as a crew member with him. Seeing him work was so fascinating. The way he directed was like no one I had ever seen before. He was such an interesting guy. That was almost 10 years ago and I ended up working on a TV show that was shooting in his restaurant. That was how I came across the idea for the documentary. The idea was to look at someone who is widely known as the world’s worst director. It was more asking, “Why was he considered that? How did he get that title, and whether or not he was.”

TM: As his persona on the internet developed, did that mesh with what you knew of him? Did you feel he was being portrayed in a way that was inaccurate?

SPS: I had seen some of his movies and I understood the reputation he had. He also fuelled that himself through the internet, engaging with all of these trolls and these critics. He takes it head on, which is fun to watch. But I had no idea what he would say when I pitched the documentary to him. Within five minutes, I realized we had a lot in common. He was excited about the documentary, excited to have that side told of it.

Vancouver-based director Sean Patrick Shaul first encountered Uwe Boll on the set of the 2013 action thriller Assault on Wall Street. Photo courtesy CUFF

Vancouver-based director Sean Patrick Shaul first encountered Uwe Boll on the set of the 2013 action thriller Assault on Wall Street. Photo courtesy CUFF

TM: How does Boll feel about being referred to as the “world’s worst director”?

SPS: He thinks it’s very unfair, which I guess I would agree with. Art is subjective, so it’s hard to say whether something is good or bad. But I think he’s also aware of the type of movies he was making. He didn’t think he was making The Godfather. He knew these were video game adaptations movies, so his expectations were low with those. But he has made more personal films (since then), but he already had this black cloud following him around. It stalled his career in that way. I thought that was really interesting – he made 32 movies, but by his fifth movie, people had already written him off.

TM: Why do you think Boll feels the need to respond to his trolls and his critics online?

SPS: I think he’s a very proud guy. He’s aware of his accomplishments and I don’t think he can let a comment like that go. If someone has the motivation to go after him online, he has the equivalent motivation to fire back at them. He hasn’t really calmed down on that too much. I think he’s currently banned from Twitter for going after trolls. It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek for him when he goes after these people. He enjoys it, he likes engaging with them. It became part of his personality. As much as it hurt his career, it also helped his career in a way.

TM: In spending time with Boll, what surprised you about him as you got to know him better?

SPS: Before, I thought he was kind of an asshole, from his online persona, I thought he was just kind of a jerk. Through meeting him, I realized he’s a super sweet guy, he’s a really, really genuinely nice guy. He cares about films, he’s a real film guy. He knows all of the classics, he’s seen all these foreign films – he’s a real cinephile. But there’s something about him not being able to pull that off. All his favourite movies are the classics, but for some reason he can’t make those films himself. He was kind of handcuffed by all these tax loopholes and funding schedules, that he would have to pump these films out in a certain timeframe to get the tax credit. There’s a lot of reasons his earlier films turned out the way they did. They didn’t turn out the way he envisioned.

TM: Given that he knew the documentary wasn’t going to be all positive, why did Boll want to participate?

SPS: I think he just wanted someone who was looking at the larger picture instead of comparing him to a Tommy Wiseau or a Ed Wood. He wanted to explain himself a bit. The articles and the small kinds of podcast interviews don’t really give him enough time to explain himself, or they ask the same five questions. Almost every headline is “world’s worst director” – I think he wanted to look at something deeper. But he wasn’t shying away from that title. I told him early on in production that we’d be definitely looking at that angle and talking about it. He was more than happy to look at it. Most people would want this buried, but he looked at it head on. “I have that title, but let’s look at why.”

F*** You All: The Uwe Boll story plays April 27 at the Calgary Underground Film Festival. For tickets, click here.

Click here to read our roundup of 9 Canadian films playing at CUFF 2019.

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Acquainted takes a raw and honest look at modern love

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Acquainted stars Giacomo Gianniotti and Laysla De Oliveria as Drew and Emma, two high school classmates who discover sparks between them upon reuniting, despite the two both being involved in committed relationships. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media
Acquainted stars Giacomo Gianniotti and Laysla De Oliveria as Drew and Emma, two high school classmates who discover sparks between them upon reuniting, despite the two both being involved in committed relationships. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media

In Acquainted, a new romantic drama from Toronto-based director Natty Zavitz, high school classmates Drew (Giacomo Gianniotti of Grey’s Anatomy) and Emma (Laysla De Oliveria of The Gifted) reunite with each other at a bar and instantly connect, discovering they share some serious chemistry. Problem is, the pair are both in serious, long-term relationships.

The script for the film was partly inspired by the deterioration of Zavitz’s last major relationship, said producer Jonathan Keltz (Entourage, Reign), who also plays Allan in the film.

“(Zavitz) sent me the script almost four years ago and I just connected so deeply and was so blown away by his script,” Keltz said. “(I was blown away) by how defined his voice was. I was completely moved by it.”

Inspired by films such as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset trilogy, Acquainted is an honest look at relationships and adulthood, exploring the subject matter with introspection. Keltz said the film examines fidelity and infidelity from a judgement-free place.

Alongside Gianniotti and De Oliveria, Acquainted also stars Johnathan Keltz (Entourage, Reign), Rachel Skarsten and Parveen Kaur. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media

Alongside Gianniotti and De Oliveria, Acquainted also stars Johnathan Keltz (Entourage, Reign), Rachel Skarsten and Parveen Kaur. Photo courtesy Red Eye Media

“The characters are not villains or victims. It’s a raw and honest look at being in relationships, to have these type of things happen and how to deal with that,” he said. “The relationship with the self and the seeking to find out who you really are is really what’s crucial to the building of a relationship with somebody else.

“It’s about taking the time to do that work that puts you in the best position to be a partner with somebody and to be an adult in this world.”

Many of the cast and crew on Acquainted have worked in Toronto’s film community for years, making the set of the film a reunion of its own. 

“In front of the camera and behind the camera, (the film involves all) kinds of amazing artists. It’s really a Canadian film and a Toronto film,” Keltz said. “It’s not trying to either hide that or beat you over the head with that.

“I think that’s done in a very unique way, and in a way that is both Torontonian and Canadian but also universally and commercially viable.”

Keltz said he thought the film would be emotionally affecting to audiences, offering perspective that could help to contextualize modern love and relationship.

“I think this is a really raw and honest and beautiful film about what it means to be in love, to be heartbroken, to be devastated, to be inspired and to try and build a life for yourself and figure out what that means,” Keltz said.

Acquainted is now playing at Cineplex Movies Yonge and Dundas in Toronto, International Village in Vancouver and at Landmark Cinemas nationwide.

Next up on The Mutt: With maturity and depth, An Audience of Chairs reflects on mental illness

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