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.
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.
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.
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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