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Wynonna Earp decks the halls with boughs of Bulshar

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Wynonna Earp airs Fridays at 9 p.m. E.T. on Space. Photo courtesy Bell Media
Wynonna Earp airs Fridays at 9 p.m. E.T. on Space. Photo courtesy Bell Media

Spoilers follow for Wynonna Earp Season 3, Episode 6, “If We Make It Through December.”

We bid adieu to Jolene, Queen of the Hypnotic Pastry, last week and although I’m glad we can rest easy for a whole two seconds now that Waverly’s life isn’t in immediate danger, I can’t help but think about the stupendously massive spread we would’ve been treated to if she managed to stick around in Purgatory until at least January…

Well that’s enough of those pesky hypotheticals. Merry Earpmas in August! Wynonna opens this week’s episode, titled “If We Make It Through December,” with how I open my everyday life – looking longingly at herself in the mirror rocking a Christmas onesie, wondering when this aesthetic will become the next fashion trend. She and Mama delightfully banter amongst themselves throughout the opening and Doc decides to live out an actual dream I believe many Earpers have, wherein he busts onto the scene wielding a relatively healthy-looking tree he chopped down with his bare hands. If Mama isn’t a fan of the Holliday splendour, I will gladly volunteer as tribute.

Nedley has the ultimate “getting-too-old-for-this-shit” moment when he encounters a fully-grown adolescent chasing after what he believed to be “Santa” – actually being Bulshar in a raggedy cape. The kid clearly bypassed every Christmas season because anyone with half a morsel of Christmas cheer would know Santa wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a fedora.

As folks deal with the presence of Bulshar Clause, we’re treated with the reveal of Waverly’s parentage. Particularly, how Mama’s relationship with Julian paved the way for the angelic Waves we all know and love. Initially, Mama decided to take the Tywin Lannister route of adult child rearing – that is, a parent gutting the absolute hell out of a freshly-killed animal as he/she bestows wisdom upon their curious offspring. Thankfully for my gag reflex, we instead got a summery flashback of a happy pregnant couple that featured a tiny sprinkle of adultery and abandonment. Waverly experiences an obvious bout of existentialism as she wonders about this mystery figure she had no idea existed until recently, along with the notion that she is a friggin’ angel!

On the flip side, Doc and a mustache-less Jeremy have a heart-to-heart about Jeremy’s romantic prospects, and watching Doc attempt to decipher modern-day references could truly work as a spin-off on its own. Jeremy chooses the “be direct” approach to relationships, which takes us to what I assume is a direct copy of a Santa’s Workshop where we find Bulshar’s victim from the beginning of the episode and – gasp! – Park Ranger Robin! I guess the kidnapping trees needed a few extra hands for the workshop (or they’re controlled by Bulshar – either sounds plausible.)

Wynonna awkwardly flirts with Charlie Fire Services as “The Sound of Silence” plays within the walls of Nedley’s brain. She and Mr. Services head back to HQ with a cup of blood-soaked snow waiting to be analyzed by Jeremy. We ultimately learn that Bulshar needed descendants of the first families of Purgatory to be separated and alive from other residents for some nefarious purpose. Both the missing kid and Robin derive from families who simply can’t get enough of Purgatory, thus we’re treated with a sequence where the two watch as Bulshar force-feeds a screaming man (whose ancestors betrayed him one time at Band Camp) a peach core and green slime. We all know this is the rightful punishment for those who don’t eat their vegetables.

The crew brainstorm ideas on how to rescue the abducted, with Haught producing the key to finding them because she is just that amazing. Wynonna also high fives herself after declaring that she’s watched Carrie (1976) because everyone else left her hanging (clearly because they were too enthralled by her fabulous taste in film). In stellar Earp fashion, she and Charlie rescue those kept by Bulshar to a montage set to a techno version of “Jingle Bells,” something I never thought I needed in my life until today. Although I am all for Wynonna sharing the mistletoe (and then some) with a hunky firefighter, it’s a bit heartbreaking seeing the growing tension between her and Doc. I guess the whole concealing-a-vampire-wife thing can cause some strain in a platonic relationship. Jeremy and Park Ranger Robin kiss and plan a date for “leftover tofurkey burritos” and although he is ridiculously cute, that… sounds absolutely disgusting. A stellar facial structure cannot make those words combined together sound appetizing.

Wynonna Earp Season 3 Episode 6 - If We Make It Through December. Photo courtesy Bell Media

Wynonna Earp Season 3 Episode 6 – If We Make It Through December. Photo courtesy Bell Media

While a majority of this week’s Wynonna Earp is spent on the Bulshar victims’ rescue, the progression of Wayhaught’s arc is executed brilliantly throughout. Both Waverly and Haught experience immense character growth not only with their relationship but individually as well. Providing justifiable growth for a loving fictional couple is a daunting task and the showrunners have continuously nailed it every week. Waverly’s interactions with Bobo throughout the series have been riveting to watch because you never truly know if he is to be trusted or not. As we’ve seen throughout the series, Waverly clearly understands this idea and, although her curiosity gets the best of her, she doesn’t allow herself to be hypnotized by his words. She processes what he reveals about himself threatening Ward and, though Bobo claims he will let her know where Julian is if she frees him, she refuses. Now that Mama chose to release him, my distrust for both he and Mama is amplified and that just excites me! Haught manages to score the promotion she has deserved since season one and we didn’t need to endure a 10-minute standoff with her questioning Waves as to why she hasn’t had her mind blown by the news. The two have evolved beyond needing to analyze every possible thing wrong with the other – they’re a regular, loving couple who communicates and apologizes when they’re in the wrong. PLEASE give us more!

We end off on Doc and Wynonna getting off with their respective partners. Wynonna is treated with the romantic setting of a Christmas tree farm while Doc visits with a distraught Countessa who endured the wrath of Bulshar’s bee keepers. If there’s one thing we’ve known for sure about Doc Holliday throughout Wynonna Earp, it’s that the man loved being immortal. After experiencing life as a mere lowly mortal, he agrees to apparently be turned by Countessa – meaning we could potentially see the Hollidays on vampire adventures for the next few centuries. Bah humbug, yet another day in Purgatory!

“If We Make It Through December” featured the development of numerous characters and it only worked to make me adore this season more and more. After spending two seasons establishing the foundation of the Wynonna Earp universe, we’re now witnessing the complexities that come with everyday life – managing relationships, professional achievements, learning you may be a different species than what you initially believed you were – just typical day-to-day components that occur during one’s existence. The episode is essentially the climax of what has been festering in Nedley’s psyche since the beginning of the series: that he’s tired as Hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. Thankfully for us, he can continue binging the 27 seasons of Pretty Little Liars as Sheriff Haught continues protecting the residents of Purgatory alongside Waverly, who simultaneously belts out beautiful ballads while taking down bad guys with her trusty shotgun.

My 3 Favourite W’s of the Episode

I would now like to turn your attention to my 3 Favourite W’s for this episode of Wynonna Earp. These consist of favourite Wynonna Insult, Wayhaught Moment and Waverly Expression – the three pillars of any Wynonna Earp episode.

Wynonna Insult: “Queen of the Damned, meet King of the Dense.”

Wayhaught Moment: The sheer adorability that was the opening few moments with Waverly comforting Legola — er, Nicole — with her journey to Clausehood was frankly too much to handle. Also Nicole saying she always knew Waverly was an angel. Ugh, they’re so great.

Waverly Expression:

Wynonna Earp Season 3 Episode 6 – Jolene. Photo courtesy Bell Media

What did you think of “If We Make It Through December”? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Ghezal Amiri on Twitter.

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There Are No Fakes is a shocking journey into the world of art fraud

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Directed by Jamie Kastner, There Are No Fakes is a shocking feature-length documentary that centres on the work of Norval Morrisseau. Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions
Directed by Jamie Kastner, There Are No Fakes is a shocking feature-length documentary that centres on the work of Norval Morrisseau. Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions

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.”

Norval Morrisseau of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation was sometimes referred to as the "Picasso of the North". Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions

Norval Morrisseau of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation was sometimes referred to as the “Picasso of the North”. Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions

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

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Isabelle brings psychological terror to an idyllic neighbourhood

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Starring Adam Brody, Amanda Crew, Zoë Belkin and others, Isabelle returns to Canada for a theatrical run starting June 28. Photo courtesy GAT PR.
Starring Adam Brody, Amanda Crew, Zoë Belkin and others, Isabelle returns to Canada for a theatrical run starting June 28. Photo courtesy GAT PR.

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.”

Isabelle made its world premiere in South Korea in October 2018, and has since played at 33 film festivals around the world. Photo courtesy GAT PR

Isabelle made its world premiere in South Korea in October 2018, and has since played at 33 film festivals around the world. Photo courtesy GAT PR

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

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Horror materializes in unconventional ways in Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart, the first feature from director/writer Hussein Juma, plays June 2 at the Globe Cinema in Calgary. Photo courtesy Hussein Juma
Things Fall Apart, the first feature from director/writer Hussein Juma, plays June 2 at the Globe Cinema in Calgary. Photo courtesy Hussein Juma

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.’”

Through using improvised dialogue, Juma says he was able to capture the essence of a dinner party, complete with moments of levity, tension and awkwardness. Photo courtesy Hussein Juma

Through using improvised dialogue, Juma says he was able to capture the essence of a dinner party, complete with moments of levity, tension and awkwardness. Photo courtesy Hussein Juma

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.

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