THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 1 minute

MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Violent and Sexual Content, some Graphic Nudity and Language

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Written by: Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone & Bill Camp

Yorgos Lanthimos has been recently known for his bizarre dark romance/comedy THE LOBSTER, one of my favorite films from last year. So I was more than a little excited when I found out that his next project was a psychological horror trip. Having finally seen THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER on a screen near me, I can safely say that I love this movie. DEER is a mixture of unnerving beauty, disturbing storytelling, grim hilarity, and haunting horror. If Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and Michael Haneke had a coke-fueled orgy and decided to collaborate on a film, the end result would look a lot like THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER.

KillingDeer 1

Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a cardiologist who seems to have it all. He lives in a great house, has a rewarding career, and cherishes his loving family: wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), teen daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy), and young son Bob (Sunny Suljic). Steven has also taken awkward teenager Martin (Barry Keoghan) under his wing, but this friendship takes a dark turn as it appears that Steven’s family has somehow been cursed by Martin’s mere presence. To say anything further, would be delving into spoiler territory and I don’t want to do that…because KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is one hell of a freaky ride.

KillingDeer 2

When I say that DEER is a disturbing horror film, that’s not to imply that there’s a lot of bloody violence or nightmarish plot twists. On the contrary, KILLING’s story is simple, extremely simple, and yet viciously effective. This script puts the viewer into Steven’s headspace and poses a tense question of what the viewer might do in a similar unthinkable scenario. The film also flourishes with an unusual visual style that immediately throws off the viewer’s perception. Lanthimos shoots certain scenes in a way that makes the background seem exaggeratedly large and the characters appear smaller. This weird use of wide shots naturally generates an uneasy mood.

KillingDeer 3

Besides its foreboding cinematography, KILLING OF A SACRED DEER also (pun fully intended) kills in its script and characters. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman are especially good as the doctor and his concerned wife, while Raffey Cassidy serves as the couple’s oddball daughter. Meanwhile, Barry Keoghan (who had a small role in DUNKIRK) is fantastically creepy as Martin. I’ll remain vague on the plot’s nasty bits, but this simple story evokes a lot of tension out of its characters and their increasingly desperate decisions.

KillingDeer 4

KILLING doesn’t spell specific points for the viewer and lets us interpret certain actions for ourselves. As a result, I found specific moments to be morbidly hilarious and other audience members seemed deeply disturbed by them. SACRED DEER is a movie that will impact different viewer’s sensibilities in profoundly different ways, but still remains just as scary and haunting for everybody who digs on twisted cinematic oddities. I was impressed at how well the film balanced its scenes of family drama, darker than dark laughs, and bleak horror. These varying tones are combined in a way that feels special, in a similar way to the director’s previous arthouse genre mash-up THE LOBSTER.

KillingDeer 5

My sole complaints about KILLING OF A SACRED DEER are minor nitpicks involving the soundtrack and an unnecessary epilogue. A lot of this film’s soundtrack is atmospheric, moody and seems to echo similar notes to the chilling score from Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING. However, there are spots where SACRED DEER’s music almost seems to overpower scenes in a distracting manner. While moments without dialogue make sense to include the loud horror-sounding score, there are points where it nearly drowns out the dialogue. This may have been an intentional filmmaking choice, but it’s a distracting one.

KillingDeer 6

DEER has one hell of a memorable movie moment during its finale. It’s a sequence that will surely be on the minds of every audience member long after the film has concluded and will likely get brought up in damn near every spoiler-filled conversation. It would have been the perfect shocking final note to conclude on, but the film ends with an unnecessary epilogue that spans out for an extra three minutes and feels like it just didn’t belong. This might be a personal preference, but I would have much rather gone out in a stunned silence that followed the memorable moment right before the epilogue.

KillingDeer 7

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER isn’t quite up to the same level as last year’s THE LOBSTER. However, it’s not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. I’d argue that it’s pretty fucking fantastic, though it suffers from an occasionally loud score and an unnecessary final three-minute epilogue. If you are into dark, twisted, psychological horror flicks, then you’ll definitely find something to love here. Sometimes, all you need is a simple scary story told in a compelling way that’s not without a sick sense of humor. KILLING OF A SACRED DEER executes that in twisted elegance.

Grade: A-

STRANGER THINGS 2 (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 7 hours 38 minutes

Directed by: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy, Andrew Stanton & Rebecca Thomas

Written by: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Justin Doble, Paul Dichter, Jessie Nickson-Lopez & Kate Trefry

Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser, Linnea Berthelsen & Brett Gelman

Over a year after STRANGER THINGS debuted as a massive Netflix hit and gained a dedicated fanbase, STRANGER THINGS 2 hit Netflix just in time for Halloween. While many Netflix subscribers binge-watched the entire second season over its opening weekend (myself included), I couldn’t help but feel that the series had gone through a noticeable decline in quality. STRANGER THINGS 2 brings back the characters that you know and love, but slow pacing and unbalanced storytelling really knocked this season-long sequel down a peg.

It’s been nearly a year since Will Buyers (Noah Schnapp) was rescued from a parallel dimension and he seems to be suffering from supernatural-related PTSD. Will’s trauma-fueled flashbacks might actually be current visions into “The Upside Down” and something very dangerous might be looking back at Will. Meanwhile, Will’s friends (Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) begin a tepid friendship with new kid Maxine (Sadie Sink). Also, preteen psychic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is trying to find a way to get back to a depressed Mike (Finn Wolfhard), all while protective police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) keeps her under his watchful eye. And…this season also has interdimensional monsters and another tattooed psychic, but it takes a while to reach that point.

I want to make something clear, STRANGER THINGS 2 is fun. I like STRANGER THINGS 2. It’s a good season, but there are problems that cannot be ignored. This season’s flaws irked me enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of its nine episodes. One of the first problems arrives in the noticeably slower pacing. It seems like the viewer has to wait for a long while for anything of major consequence to occur within the first four episodes. A majority of the season’s first half is spent introducing/developing a couple of new characters, showing that Will has interdimensional PTSD, and delivering 80s nostalgia through the five (eventually, six) child characters. The GHOSTBUSTERS homage was funny and all, but what was really accomplished by showing that?

STRANGER THINGS 2’s off-again-on-again pacing and messy storytelling wouldn’t be so annoying, if the show didn’t try to distractingly shoehorn a few subplots in early on. The season’s very first scene involves a mysterious new character “Eight” (played by Linnea Berthelsen). Besides a useless opening prologue, Eight doesn’t return until the seventh episode(!) and this character didn’t have much of a purpose to serve at all in the grand scheme of the season’s story. Eight’s presence feels like arbitrary set-up for STRANGER THINGS 3.

To further harp on how dull and out-of-place Eight’s subplot was, she played a large(ish) role in Eleven’s storyline. Millie Bobby Brown’s performance is just as great as her work in the first season and she receives a bit more to do this time around. However, that damned seventh episode grinds things to a halt as a few episodes seem to forget about her presence altogether. It might have been better to intersperse her subplot alongside the craziness occurring at a nearby lab and Will’s increasingly alarming behavior. Instead, it felt like the writers and showrunners said “Oh shit! We have a ton of Eleven’s scenes and need some place to put them. Let’s just dump them all into the weakest episode of the season and grind all building momentum to a halt for an entire hour.” This was distractingly sloppy storytelling through and through.

For all of its messy pacing and distractingly uneven subplots, STRANGER THINGS 2 remains fun and entertaining. The storyline of Max joining the gang, the ever-present threat of her psycho older brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), and a subplot about Dustin getting a secret otherworldly pet are fun to watch. One of the first season’s weakest points becomes this season’s biggest strength: the teenage drama between Natalia Dyer’s Nancy, Charlie Heaton’s Jonathan, and Joe Keery’s Steve.

As potential sparks fly between Nancy and Jonathan, Steve proves himself to be a better babysitter than a boyfriend (it helps that he’s adept with a spiked-bat against monstrous “Demogorgons”). I also thought it was extremely clever how the Duffer brothers took the inexplicable “Justice for Barb” movement that erupted in the wake of STRANGER THINGS and made that a crucial plot point during STRANGER THINGS 2. Brett Gelman also has a brief but hilarious role as a conspiracy theorist in this highly entertaining, intriguing storyline.

As far as STRANGER THINGS 2’s supernatural hijinks are concerned, the season has no problem in further fleshing out “The Upside Down” and its monstrous inhabitants. This season also has a big bad, though the finale’s “to be continued” final shot indicates that it will wind up possibly being a series’ big bad. The monsters are enjoyable to watch (there are multiple beasties in this season) and later episodes milk tense scenes for all that they’re worth. I won’t name names or spoil specific details, but this season’s most irksome character dies a painful death. It’s likely that this character will become Season 2’s equivalent of Barb. People will probably love this person and I’ll be just as baffled by the inexplicable fan following as I was for the briefly glimpsed Barb. Seriously, Barb was only in three episodes and barely a character. Why is she so special?

STRANGER THINGS 2 is fun, but suffers from an overall step down in quality. In some ways, this second season tries to be more ambitious than the first season (more monsters, Will is in a different kind of peril, and there’s the looming threat of a secret organization). However, this second season is too slow in its first half, has one annoying subplot that seems to be obvious set-up for STRANGER THINGS 3, and one episode that egregiously grinds everything to a halt for an hour. STRANGER THINGS was great and STRANGER THINGS 2 is only good. Though it references everything from GREMLINS to GHOSTBUSTERS to more King/Carpenter/Spielberg nods, STRANGER THINGS 2 seems to have unintentionally become the ultimate homage of disappointing (but still enjoyable) 80s sequels. I hope that STRANGER THINGS 3 pulls things back up to the quality of the stellar first season.

Grade: B

STRANGER THINGS (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 6 hours 38 minutes

Directed by: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy,

Written by: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Jessica Mecklenburg, Justin Doble, Alison Tatlock & Jessie Nickson-Lopez

Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp & Joe Keery

It’s been out for over a year and I’ve finally gotten around to watching Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS, a homage-filled love letter to 80s horror and science-fiction. Created by identical twin brothers who really love Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and John Carpenter, STRANGER THINGS is addicting entertainment from beginning to end. It’s safe to say that if you loved 2011’s 80s throwback SUPER 8, then you’ll probably love STRANGER THINGS too. This is like somebody threw FIRESTARTER, E.T., STAND BY ME, and other 80s horror/sci-fi creations into a blender and pureed them into a fine cinematic concoction!

The time is November 1983. After playing an intense game of D&D with his friends, 12-year-old Will Buyers (Noah Schnapp) disappears into thin air. This isn’t a simple kidnapping or abduction, because there were strange lights on the night that Will went missing and there also might be an unidentified creature on the loose. Meanwhile, a little girl with a shaved head, simply known as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), shows up at a nearby diner and is being hunted by a very dangerous secret organization. Soon enough, Will’s concerned friends (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin) run into Eleven, Will’s frantic mother (Winona Ryder) experiences odd happenings in her home, and the depressed town police chief (David Harbour) finds himself caught up in a deadly conspiracy…and I haven’t even mentioned Barb (a fan favorite for some reason).

STRANGER THINGS’s first season has a lot going on within its fast-paced eight episodes. There are many subplots that weave themselves in and out of each other, connecting to a much bigger narrative. At first, it seems like this season contains lots of little mysteries, but these little mysteries make up one large sci-fi adventure. I found myself struggling to describe this season’s premise in one paragraph, because so much stuff happens in this show. There’s never a dull moment, even in the spots where the series slows down to develop its characters and builds itself up during the first episode.

It’s worth mentioning that STRANGER THINGS is astounding on a technical level. The cinematography looks phenomenal and the effects work is of the same quality that you typically see in summer blockbusters. The Duffer brothers clearly had careful eyes towards their creation and Netflix gave them the financial means to bring their 80s-centric vision to life. STRANGER THINGS also knocks it out of the park in its soundtrack, which consists of lots of great 80s tunes that never get distracting in a style-over-substance manner. Song selections are put into the background noise, hammer home the emotions of certain scenes (especially in the episode three’s emotional climax), and even make their way in as plot points. At any rate, STRANGER THING’s use of music is pretty damned ingenious.

Solid narratives that pay loving homage to 80s entertainment and great production values wouldn’t be nearly as effective without believable performances and well-developed characters inhabiting them. STRANGER THINGS delivers in its performances across the board. Finn Wolfhard is compelling as young leader Mike, while Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin serve as Will’s two other friends/sidekicks. Winona Ryder sells her role as a desperate mother who’s being driven to the edge by paranoia, coming off as a nutjob to anyone around her and yet actually experiencing pretty strange things. David Harbour plays Jim Hopper with a combination of biting sarcasm and a tragic backstory.

Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, and Shannon Purser make up a teenage subplot that is also connected to the strange supernatural happenings. Though this subplot threatens to become clichéd and is easily the weakest spot of an otherwise stellar season, it does have its charms and doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong. It’s just a bit too familiar and sticks out in a show that seems to have been made based off nostalgic love for other stories and movies. At any rate, Shannon Purser’s Barb has become a fan favorite for some reason. I don’t see why, but maybe I’m just not seeing the charm about this nervous, nerdy ginger who’s barely in the show.

STRANGER THING’s real show-stealer comes in young Millie Bobby Brown’s performance as Eleven (a.k.a. El). With only occasional lines of dialogue, Eleven somehow becomes the most fleshed out character of the entire season. We see flashbacks that give us ever-emerging details about her traumatic past. I felt sorry for El and, at the same time, rooted for her to kick some ass. When she lays down the supernatural smackdown on a few bullies and ultimately comes into her own as a strong young heroine, I was ecstatic. El was easily my favorite character of the entire show and she also reignited my hunger for Eggo waffles (you’ll understand when/if you watch the series).

STRANGER THINGS is pretty friggin’ great and lives up to its much-hyped reputation. This first season is filled with great effects, a rockin’ soundtrack, solid acting, and fast-paced storytelling that lovingly references loads of 80s horror/sci-fi. Though it might be a tad too homage heavy for some viewers, this very well could go down as one of Netflix’s best series. My only minor complaint comes from the angsty teenage subplot that seems to stick out in the midst of everything else, but I loved STRANGER THINGS through and through. If you haven’t watched this show yet and you’re a fan of horror/sci-fi, then jump on this immediately!

Grade: A

JIGSAW (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Sequences of Grisly Bloody Violence and Torture, and for Language

Directed by: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig

Written by: Pete Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg

Starring: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Cle Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein, Mandela Van Peebles & Brittany Allen

I recently reviewed the entire SAW series to prepare myself for this final review of 31 Days of Horror 2017. Though I loved the SAW franchise as a horror-obsessed teenager who would gobble up anything genre related, I have since come to recognize the series’ many problems that stick out like severed thumbs. The first three SAWs are legitimately good horror flicks. They can be ridiculous and contain bad acting, but they’re very fun, gory, and suspenseful. SAW IV-VII range from mediocre to downright terrible. Seven years after the supposed FINAL CHAPTER, we have the eighth SAW film: JIGSAW. You know what? It’s not half bad. I even kind of, sort of had fun watching this film, which is more than I can say for about half of the crappy flicks in this series.

Years have passed since Jigsaw Killer John Kramer’s (Tobin Bell) bloody demise, but a recent string of bodies are popping up and they appear to be Jigsaw victims. Detectives Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Hunt (Cle Bennett) are searching for the identity of this new killer, while forensic pathologists Logan (Matt Passmore) and Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson) aid in examining the gory remains. Meanwhile, a new Jigsaw game is progressing with five people being placed through a series of deadly scenarios. Is there a new Jigsaw killer or has John Kramer somehow come back from the dead? Will anybody survive these new “games” and what will be left of them?

Maybe it’s the seven-year gap between SAW films or maybe it’s 2000’s nostalgia, but I enjoyed JIGSAW more than I initially expected. In some ways, JIGSAW sticks to the conventions of the series in painfully faithful fashion. In others, it deviates a bit to bring us something that feels more cinematic and makes old clichés fresh enough to entertain. Whether it’s the clear visuals, a new setting, better acting, or the legitimately freak traps, JIGSAW is the fourth-best entry in the overlong torture-porn franchise and an added bonus is that you don’t need to sit through any of the other SAWs in order to latch onto this film’s entertainment factor.

One big benefit that separates JIGSAW from lesser SAWs is that the audience has no idea who the new Jigsaw is. Even though we saw John Kramer’s throat get slit open (in SAW III) and we witnessed his autopsy (in SAW IV), there is a sneaking suspicion that the film might go totally bonkers and bring him back into play…with some convoluted explanation, of course. However, there’s an equal (or slightly better) chance that a copycat serial killer is on the loose and picking more hapless victims who “don’t appreciate their lives.” The list of potential suspects is rather large and the script does its best to keep viewers on their toes. Even though the ending is packed with loads of convoluted twists and turns (choosing to reuse certain plot points from earlier in the series), I walked out of the theater relatively satisfied.

Another leg up that JIGSAW has above IV-VII is that these victims are legitimately horrible people. Laura Vandervoort, Paul Braunstein, Mandela Van Peebles, and Brittany Allen all deliver better performances than a majority of past SAW victims. That isn’t exactly high praise, but it is worth something. Each character is a scumbag for one reason or another. While Jigsaw’s reasoning in IV-VII was as ridiculous as a cop caring too much about saving other people’s lives or a chain smoker deserving to have his lungs crushed, the motives behind these people being “tested” are pretty sound as flashbacks gradually reveal their life-wrecking sins. Characters’ scumbag nature makes their trap scenes very fun to watch as dismembered limbs fly and blood flows freely.

Speaking of which, most of JIGSAW’s traps go back to the idea of “simpler is scarier.” There were scenes that had me on the edge of my seat as characters tried to navigate through these “games” in one piece. That reaction hasn’t occurred in this series since SAW II. One scene involving razor-sharp cord is especially intense and another moment with a flooded grain silo elicited a vocal reaction from me. Other traps don’t show their true nastiness until they’ve concluded. However, there are two ridiculous devices. The silliest trap involves skin-slicing lasers, but that scene’s fun execution distracted from its sheer stupidity. Also, the setting of a booby-trapped farmhouse is a nice change of pace from yet another booby-trapped warehouse (or a booby-trapped abandoned zoo/asylum that resembles a booby-trapped warehouse).

JIGSAW’s script simmers with plot holes. I had fun watching this film in a theater; but afterwards, it’s pretty easy to tear the story apart by punching holes into its flawed logic. Unlike SAW I-III, JIGSAW relies on the killer basically being omnipotent (impossibly knowing certain things about characters’ pasts and correctly predicting the future). There’s also an unbelievably egregious reuse of a twist ending that was cool the first time around, but got progressively lame as IV, VI, and VII reused it. At least, JIGSAW’s ridiculously convenient plot developments are executed in a fun way and ends things on a relatively high note. Also, JIGSAW has a refreshing sense of humor about itself and the cinematography appears better than any of the previous films. Both of those things greatly aided this film’s fun factor.

JIGSAW is surprisingly entertaining and more than serviceable for longtime SAW fans and newcomers alike. Even if (like myself) you aren’t fond of half of the series, you might wind up enjoying this one on its own merits. The humor, crisp visuals, and attempts to put fresh spins on the SAW formula make JIGSAW a decent time. I’m not going to lie and say that I think this film is on the same level as the first three SAWs, but it remains quite fun nonetheless. If you like gore, guts, convoluted plot revelations, and twisted traps, you’re likely to find something of value in the surprisingly decent JIGSAW. I just hope that they don’t try to milk more sequels out of this franchise because this torture-porn throwback was fun, but its conclusion doesn’t exactly leave much room to work with in future installments.

Grade: B-

CHANNEL ZERO: NO-END HOUSE (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 4 hours 17 minutes

Directed by: Steven Piet

Written by: Nick Antosca, Harley Peyton, Mallory Westfall, Don Mancini, Erica Saleh, Katie Gruel, Lisa Long & Angel Varak-Iglar

(based on the creepypasta THE NO-END HOUSE by Brian Russell)

Starring: Amy Forsyth, Aisha Dee, Jeff Ward, Seamus Patterson, Sebastian Pigott, Jess Salgueiro, Melanie Nicholls-King & John Carroll Lynch

Creepypasta (modern online horror stories/urban legends) and the Syfy Channel sounds like a disastrous combination. Fortunately, CHANNEL ZERO (Syfy’s creepypasta series) delivers small-screen chills in ways that few other horror shows have ever been able to accomplish. AMERICAN HORROR STORY wishes that it was this scary, clever, and imaginative. CHANNEL ZERO’s first season (CANDLE COVE) reminded me of something that Stephen King might have written in his heyday. CHANNEL ZERO’s second season (NO-END HOUSE) is even better than the already great first season. CHANNEL ZERO: NO-END HOUSE is creepypasta adapted into a genuinely scary visual thrill ride.

Margot Sleator (Amy Forsyth) is still coping with her father’s (John Carroll Lynch) tragic death. In an effort to cheer up and do something fun, Margot and her friends (Aisha Dee, Jeff Ward, and Seamus Patterson) decide to visit an internet-famous haunted house. The ooky spooky attraction has six rooms, each one is supposedly scarier than the last. However, this supposedly fun time transforms into a psychological nightmare as the No-End House’s scares quickly become personal and last far longer than originally expected. I’m being purposely vague, lest I spoil any of the nasty surprises that NO-END HOUSE’s ever-twisting narrative has up its sleeve.

Much like the first season’s plot, Brian Russell’s creepypasta is treated simply as a starting point for a more complicated tale. To be fair, I highly recommend that you check out (at least the first two parts of) Russell’s creepypasta because it’s easily my favorite creepypasta. I was pumped to watch CHANNEL ZERO’s second season and certainly wasn’t disappointed by the final product. This six-episode miniseries is messed up in plenty of ways…and almost none of them are violently gory. There are bits of nasty violence sprinkled throughout the six episodes, but NO-END HOUSE’s frights come from a combination of eerie suggestion, nightmarishly bizarre imagery, and a dark psychological horror story.

I was very impressed by the performances in NO-END HOUSE. Syfy Channel and good acting are two things that you never typically hear uttered in the same sentence, but NO-END HOUSE is the exception. Amy Forsyth is particularly great as the ultra-depressed Margot, who finds a form of twisted comfort in the titular haunted attraction…though her life may be at stake for it. John Carroll Lynch steals the show with genuinely emotional flashbacks and also becomes a terrifying presence as this miniseries progresses onwards. I won’t say too much, but Lynch’s later scenes paint him as a conflicted character and I loved his moral dilemma that the series also throws onto the viewer’s conscience.

Aisha Dee plays Margot’s best friend, Jules, to near-perfection. Dee’s character is deeply flawed, but has good intentions at heart and wants to do the right thing…while also trying to survive the No-End House. Jeff Ward’s character is believable for most of the miniseries, though he does get too hammy during the finale. Seamus Patterson has fun in dual roles and remained an interesting presence throughout. In having these different friends overcoming/succumbing to their horrific personal trials, NO-END HOUSE juggles multiple plotlines for most of its six episodes. This approach was wise as each character’s storyline may have served as fodder for its own season, but combining them all into one trippy scarefest insures that there’s never a dull moment.

NO-END HOUSE’s production values look great and this season’s concepts are huge. Even though NO-END HOUSE revolves around the horrors of a single haunted house, the scale and magnitude of the season far surpass anything in CANDLE COVE. The constant barrage of legitimately freaky imagery ranges from disturbing to just plain odd. An atmosphere of suffocating dread hangs over every episode and never really lets the viewer get comfortable (a great quality for a suspenseful horror story). I was constantly on edge and frequently wondered how in the hell this might end. The twists that NO-END HOUSE takes in its second half are especially unnerving and downright ballsy.

My only complaints with NO-END HOUSE stem from Jeff Ward’s hammy acting in the finale (that’s not aided by a few lines of clichéd, stupid dialogue) and one storyline that felt like it was cut too short for no real reason. Admittedly, this subplot’s conclusion was a shock. The more I think about it though, the more I feel like it might have ended early purely for the sake of focusing on other characters and not because it was a suitable/believable ending for that storyline. I hate being vague, but it’s really easy to spoil spooky surprises in NO-END HOUSE.

Syfy Channel has done it again! They’ve managed to pump out another creepypasta miniseries that’s well-written, has great production values, and is one of the creepiest things I’ve seen on the small screen in quite some time. In a world where THE WALKING DEAD has become a zombie soap opera and AMERICAN HORROR STORY tries way too hard to be edgy, it’s great to have a legitimately freaky series like Syfy’s CHANNEL ZERO. Though it’s not without a couple of noticeable flaws, NO-END HOUSE is well worth a look for horror fans who enjoy creepypastas and want disturbing psychological frights (as opposed to pure gory shock value).

Grade: A-