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The Essex Serpent’ Review: Claire Danes, the Disrupter

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وقت القراءة المقدر: 6 دقيقة (دقائق)

Claire Danes has come in from the cold. Two years after we left her snooping around Moscow in “Homeland,” she has re-emerged in Victorian England, pottering about the coast in “The Essex Serpent” on Apple TV+. Things are still pretty chilly for her, though.
Danes plays the wealthy widow Cora Seaborne in this six-episode mini-series, an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Sarah Perry, which premiered Friday. Cora has a lot in common with Carrie Mathison in “Homeland”: She’s headstrong, charming, a little narcissistic, coping with trauma and always the smartest person in the parlor.
The show begins with the disappearance of a young girl in the gloomy marshes of Essex, which is blamed on a mysterious sea creature, and the death of Cora’s husband in their London mansion after a long illness. There are hints that Cora suffered abuse at his hands, and his death liberates her; she can do what she wants, and she follows her passion for natural history to the fishing village where the creِature was supposedly seen, thinking that it might be a plesiosaur, a dinosaur that has evaded evolution. Freed from one monster, she sets off in search of another.
There’s a lot going on inside “The Essex Serpent,” not all of it successful, though the mini-series is generally handsome, literate and quite well acted. The most pedestrian aspect is the social-change drama, in which Cora and her politically minded lady’s maid and best friend, Martha (Hayley Squires), try to empower women and help the poor. Better, though never as creepy or as evocative as you’d like, is the Gothic horror story, which sees the isolated and superstitious villagers grabbing their crucifixes and sharpening stakes as more disappearances are attributed to the serpent.
More successful still is the Victorian drama of ideas, in which Cora and a brilliant, buoyantly conceited young surgeon, Luke (an excellent Frank Dillane), stand in for Darwin and Freud, and God is represented by Will (Tom Hiddleston), a learned and rational local vicar who insists that the serpent is a product of the villagers’ imaginations but begins to have doubts.
And then there’s the associated love story, which is what you’ll take away from “The Essex Serpent,” not necessarily because it’s so sexy or interesting but because the actors involved are so hard to take your eyes off. The single Luke and the married Will (whose wife, played by Clémence Poésy, is unusually accommodating) are both besotted with Cora, while she, still scarred by her marriage, struggles to find a way to respond. The passions play out in the village and in posh London environs with entertaining displays of jealousy, tragic forbearance and smashed crockery.
As always with Danes, there is no question why the men in the story are so drawn to her character — Cora’s intelligence and vibrancy and depth of emotion leap out at you, present in every movement and change of expression. When she arrives at the coast, she is a force of nature, her powerful curiosity finally free to follow its lead, a condition the show captures when she rushes into the mud without hesitation to help a stranger — who happens to be Will — free a trapped sheep.
Dillane, who played the heroic heroin addict Nick Clark in “Fear the Walking Dead,” is Danes’s match as the callow but sensitive Luke, hitting the right mix of irritating and endearing. Hiddleston, taking a break from his duties in the Marvel universe, is perfectly fine but a little stiff and bland; that’s probably because Will has been contrived as a stick figure who mediates between Cora and the suspicious, resentful villagers.
The director, Clio Barnard, and her cinematographer, David Raedeker, make good use of the tortured, waterlogged topography of the Essex coast; the show’s opening shots, floating above the otherworldly landscape, turn it into a living thing as monstrous as the creature thought to be haunting it. And the story, under the lead writer Anna Symon, holds your interest as Claire’s determined but blithe attempt to bring “a voice of reason” to the villagers turns her, in their minds and perhaps ours, into the monster.
“The Essex Serpent” never quite takes off in the way it should, though. In common with a lot of contemporary prestige-TV productions, it seems to have worked so hard and so carefully to achieve the right surface patina that it forgot about being exciting — there are surprises in the plot, but you rarely feel the shock of real surprise, or of vision, in the filmmaking. It’s a tasteful and static enterprise that deserves attention because it comes to life whenever Danes is onscreen.

 246 اجمالى المشاهدات,  3 اليوم

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‘American Horror Stories’: Ryan Murphy Unveils New Chapters Of Fear & Frights In ‘AHS’ Spinoff Teaser

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وقت القراءة المقدر: 2 دقيقة (دقائق)

Ryan Murphy ushers in new chapters of the American Horror Story franchise in a teaser for the upcoming Hulu anthology series, American Horror Stories.

“Every episode brings you a different nightmare,” Murphy tweeted on Wednesday.

Murphy, who has been teasing American Horror Stories with posters on his social media accounts, dropped the teaser on Twitter. The brief snippet follows a rubber woman on a journey that revisits some of the most memorable locations in the AHS franchise.

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American Horror Stories is a weekly hourlong anthology series that will feature a different horror story in each contained episode. The spinoff will premiere exclusively on Hulu July 15. Earlier this month Murphy revealed that Kevin McHale, Dyllón Burnside, Charles Melton and Nico Greetham will star in the series.

During a panel for Ratched in August 2020, AHS and American Crime Story star Sarah Paulson said that she will direct some part of the series.

The tenth installment of the flagship series, American Horror Story: Double Feature, will debut on FX Wednesday, August 25.

During the May Upfront presentations, FX Chairman John Landgraf said that American Horror Stories will commence in July and conclude on Halloween. The series is executive produced by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Alexis Martin Woodall, John J. Gray and Manny Coto.

New horrors and fears await viewers in the American Horror Stories teaser – watch it below.

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 1,223 اجمالى المشاهدات,  23 اليوم

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‘Descent Into Darkness: My European Nightmare’ Is the Most Messed Up Found Footage Gem You’ve Never Seen

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وقت القراءة المقدر: 8 دقيقة (دقائق)

I’m always looking to be shocked. I want to be shaken to my core, changed by what I’m seeing, and unable to keep off my brain once the imagery has seeped inside. That’s what I look for in my horror films—and to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve been surprised or even genuinely scared while immersing myself in the genre. And then along came Rafaël Cherkaski’s Descent Into Darkness: My European Nightmare, a found footage nightmare he wrote, directed, and starred in.
I first saw the movie during the 2020 virtual edition of Unnamed Footage Festival — an incredible festival I encourage you to check out — and was immediately intrigued by its sharp spiral into depraved territory. It’s a great feeling (you know, as a horror die-hard) when a story keeps you anticipating how gruesome and debased it might become. I couldn’t stop watching until I knew. The terrifying French film is, without question, a found footage masterpiece. But the fact remains that it is highly under-watched. Because of its lack of exposure, a lot of genre fans have yet to experience the horror of this film, and what it seeks to teach us. Something tells me it would be on a lot more “best of” lists and the subject of even more essays if they had. It’s the most messed up found footage gem you’ve never seen, so strap the hell in.
Descent Into Darkness: My European Nightmare follows a bright young man named Sorgoi Prakov, a journalist from a fictional Eastern European country who has just arrived in Paris to film a documentary about the “European dream.” You know, like the American dream. Same difference, basically. However, a series of bad decisions and unfortunate incidents set Prakov on a path of self-destruction, mayhem, destitution, and madness as his project is devastatingly thrown off the rails.
The 2013 horror story has a pretty simple premise, yet its specificity is what sets it apart from just being your typical documentary-gone-wrong. The very real spiral its main character is forced down by the also very real circumstances of the film is something a lot of people are a stone’s throw away from. The tendency to imagine yourself in the same position while watching makes things infinitely more terrifying. Add the kind heart and specifically generous spirit Prakov brings to the piece and it’s hard not to sympathize with the disturbing turn of events he deals with.
The film is a cautionary tale that presents us with several lessons we can’t help but learn, mainly because the end is so brutal that no empathetic and sane human could justify the means, nor could they imagine how to make their way out of such a mental and emotional struggle unchanged. Unfiltered panic coupled with alienation can warp your brain and throw you off course, even more so if you have a mental illness you’re keeping at bay.
For an hour and a half, Descent Into Darkness fights to prove that a little kindness can go a long way— especially for those who are struggling in ways we have never and may never fully comprehend. Further, it’s an indictment on normal folks and the way we treat unhoused folks who have come onto hard times usually through no fault of their own. There is a specific and nearly existential horror in the way we alienate houseless and financially insecure people, making them feel less than for their struggles. Prakov’s sanity waxes and wanes on his descent into darkness. Those tides stem from whether or not he has been shown kindness as he struggles to get back onto his feet and make his way home.
Descent Into Darkness shows how the mental toll of those struggles and the alienation manifests inside him, and it really is far from pretty. It’s incredibly dark, but so is how we treat unhomed individuals in developed countries. Their plights are deeper and more insidious than we could imagine. But this film does a great job of helping us see that baseless physical and emotional destruction firsthand.
Aside from its smart yet simple story, Descent Into Darkness also shines through its more technical aspects. The directing—expertly tackled by lead actor Cherkaski—is incredibly smart. The filmmaker focuses on Prakov’s buttoned-up optimism at the beginning of the film and truly takes audiences down a spiral through more than just the script. The beginning of the movie definitely has a professional tinge to it to match Prakov’s initial intentions. But as we travel further down the rabbit hole, Cherkaski’s direction becomes more erratic and unpredictable. He uses quippy camerawork and fiercely smart editing by his editing team — one particularly beautiful cut between daylight and nighttime comes to mind—to support the main character’s degradation into psychosis. It’s done in such a way that the pacing of the film ends up feeling perfect, too.
You know when a film’s story feels like it’s moving unrealistically fast, or even just achingly slow? It takes you out of the story, where you need to be firmly planted throughout the runtime, and tends to ruin the experience. The way Descent Into Darkness is shot and edited, with an almost staccato mindset as the film progresses, aids in supporting the story and evens out its pace. The result is a perfectly timed, eerily orchestrated nosedive into hell.
Aside from the crucial behind-the-camera brilliance that makes this film an underappreciated gem, it’s important to highlight one of the main reasons to watch this movie if you haven’t yet: the acting. Cherkaski is electric as Prakov and perfectly balances the character’s desperate innocence—which quickly bleeds into wild depravity.
In 2010’s Black Swan, Vincent Cassel’s ballet company director character is unsure if he can trust Natalie Portman’s Nina Sayers with the lead role in “Swan Lake,” because she excels at the virtuous white swan, but may not have the bite to also play the black swan. Cherkaski doesn’t have that issue. He is the white swan and the black swan in equal measure, which makes you as sad for him as you are for the victims of his senseless violence. It’s a really natural performance. Cherkaski makes for one of the most convincing, menacing, and downright evil antagonists in found footage—maybe even horror in general.
There’s a lot to love in Descent Into Darkness, which feels like an oxymoron when you type it or say it out loud. But it’s truly a special horror film that both shocked and changed me when I was lucky enough to catch a special cut at a film festival. It’s a movie that proved to me there’s magic in horror, that it can do crazy things and that those crazy things can make you feel renewed. It’s a movie that made me appreciate filmmaking that much more. Descent Into Darkness is underappreciated, underseen, and undervalued in an oversaturated genre. So, it makes sense that it would’ve been overlooked. Do yourself a favor and change that. Pop a little popcorn, dim the lights. Just don’t expect to feel like you haven’t, too, descended into darkness when it’s all over.

 803 اجمالى المشاهدات,  19 اليوم

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‘Captive Audience: An American Horror Story’ Review: More Shocking Than Fiction

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وقت القراءة المقدر: 2 دقيقة (دقائق)

Too smart for “true crime” and far more artfully constructed than standard-issue nonfiction, “Captive Audience” revisits the case of Steven Stayner, who in 1972 disappeared without a trace and then resurfaced seven years later, with a fellow kidnap victim in tow. Those with long memories will know right off where else the Stayner family saga is going, but others will be utterly shocked—which is supportive evidence in the case being made by director Jessica Dimmock. “If you have an experience and it doesn’t become a story,” says Steven’s mother, Kay, “it dies.” Which, coming as it does near the end of episode 3, is a statement as startling as any other in this three-part series.
The word “story” is repeated at least a dozen times in the opening moments of “Captive Audience,” mostly by TV anchors and correspondents, framing the Stayner case as it led the news circa Dec. 4, 1972: a 7-year-old boy, vanishing on his way home from school in humble Merced, Calif., stoking the worst fears of parents, inspiring exhaustive searches and then, as all such stories do when they aren’t solved, going cold. The very sympathetic Kay Stayner, who says she never stopped believing her son would return, concedes that when the police contacted her in March 1980, she immediately expected the worst. “I had all this hope for all these years, and at the end I thought it was going to be bad news.”

 1,108 اجمالى المشاهدات,  19 اليوم

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