Movie Review: Young Frankenstein (1974)

young-frankenstein-1Our local Cinemark offered a big-screen viewing of 1974’s comedic horror classic “Young Frankenstein” featuring an introduction with the still-amusing and surprisingly spry Mel Brooks. Mr. Brooks took viewers on a tour of the movie studio’s back lot, showing sights such as the brain depository door, complete with brain-in-slot and a fabulous mural of the film. He shared the origin of the story, which was star Gene Wilder’s idea. Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks co-wrote the script. Mr. Brooks pitched a gorgeous coffee-table book with glossy photos from the filming of “Young Frankenstein,” suggesting those who purchase a copy not actually drink their coffee atop the book itself.

 

Fox distributed the movie which filled the screen with black and white delight, introducing Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a scientific-minded neuroscientist and professor who, though the grandson of the famous Victor Frankenstein, disavowed any interest in his infamous ancestor’s work. He changed the pronunciation of his name to further distance himself from any unpleasant association with this “cuckoo” relation. When Frederick Frankenstein discovers he inherited the ancestral property in Transylvania, his life changes. He leaves his professorship and socialite fiance, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) for the long journey to his ancestral homeland.

young-frankenstein-2There he meets Igor, brilliantly portrayed by the incomparable Marty Feldman, who consistently broke the “third wall” to address the audience directly in characteristic Brooks-style. Igor, complete with moving hump and lazy ways, offers his services, just as Igor’s relative acted as Victor Frankenstein’s lab assistant. Cloris Leachman plays the stern Frau Blucker whose very name inspires horses to scream. She harbors a secret love for the deceased Doctor and desires the successful completion of his life’s work. Teri Garr plays Inga, an enthusiastic lab assistant and eventual love interest. A haunting melody and a read through Victor’s private book “How I Did It” (featuring paraphrased excerpt from Mary Shelley’s famous work about the modern Prometheus) lead Victor and Igor to grave robbery, a trip to the brain depository, and a dusting off of the old laboratory. Peter Boyle played the hulking, reanimated monster who befriends a flower-picking little girl and a blind man (Gene Hackman).

 

Suspecting nefarious happenings and monster-making, the villagers, led by Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), rise up with flames, chains, and pitchforks. Unaware of the complications, Elizabeth stops by for a platonic visit with her fiance, but she falls victim to the monster’s amorous attentions. Chases, a little soft shoe, the “sweet mystery of life,” and a brain-swap later, and the movie concludes with a happy wrap-up.

 

young-frankenstein-3Brooks rented and used props from the original 1931 Frankenstein movie from Kenneth Strickfaden for $5. In previous Frankenstein productions, Mr. Strickfaden’s set contributions were not acknowledged, and Mel Brooks made certain to mention him in the credits. Sentimental nods to the old movies pepper the scenes. Brooks used nostalgic opening credits, musical scores by John Morris, and fading transitions. He insisted the movie be filmed in black and white, losing a deal with Columbia by this insistence. He hired Gerald Hirschfeld, relying on Hirschfeld’s artistic expertise, and for love of the production, the cast worked for scale wages. Although Mel Brooks did not act in the movie, he did provide “voice” for a werewolf, Victor Frankenstein, and a shrieking cat.

 

“Young Frankenstein” was a critical and box office success. It garnered awards and award nominations as well as acclaim. The lasting appeal of this film allow it to appear on such lists as “Total Film Magazine’s” List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time, Bravo TV’s List of the 100 Funniest Movies, and The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest American Movies. The US National Film Preservation Board selected it for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2003.

 

Mel Brooks adapted the story for stage. Its run on Broadway from November, 2007 until January 2009 earned Tony and Emmy Award nominations.

During his conversation about the film, Mel Brooks admitted it was the finest of the films he wrote and directed. Gene Wilder said it was the favorite movie he created.

TV Review: Scream Queens Season One

scream-queensSeason 1 of Fox’s dark comedy series premiered on 22 September, 2015, the brain child of creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. With an avant-garde approach to social commentary, they create the worst possible stereotype of an elitist sorority headed by the quintessential “mean girl,” Chanel Oberlin (portrayed with an articulate poise by Emma Roberts.)
When the new dean of Wallace University, Cathy Munsch (acted by a true scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis), threatens to close the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority unless they open their house to all interested pledges, a number of “undesirables” flood into the halls of the anorexic and shallow. Grace Gardner (Sklyer Samuels) pledges, hoping to learn more about her departed mother who love her time as a Kappa. Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer) tags along with sass enough to temper Grace’s naivety.
A killer, donning the school’s Red Devil mascot uniform, enjoys a killing spree, and the main targets are those in the Kappa Kappa Tau house. Trying to keep the body count down and the press quiet, Dean Munsch hires security guard Denise Hempfield (Niecy Nash), and the Kappas host a national representative of the sorority, Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad.) One of the pledges reveals an unnatural attraction for death and dying, another a love for candles, and a third an obsession with Taylor Swift.
As the body count rises, the mystery deepens.
Existent members of Kappa Kappa Tau (KKT) are all called Chanel, since getting to know their real names proved unnecessary to its president. Chanel number 2 is portrayed by the ever-vapid Arianna Grande, #3 by Billie Lourd (who makes earmuffs an integral fashion statement), and #4’s death bore nothing more than a mention in the pilot episode. Abigail Breslin portrays Chanel #5 who can’t chose between twin lovers. Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), one of the Dicky Dollar Scholars, dates Chanel, but finds fidelity difficult. His friend Boone (Nick Jonas) dislikes the hold Chanel has over his friend.
Everyone in the cast is a murder suspect. Twenty years earlier, one of the KKT sorority sisters died after unexpectedly giving birth during a campus party. Any of the co-eds on campus could be the child and perhaps the murder. The Dean has a storied past, Grace’s father has an unhealthy obsession, and the even the cleaning lady has motive. Dead bodies disappear. The murder mystery advances as red herrings and clues vie with a death-per-episode. The Red Devil employs ingenious ways to achieve its ends. Who knew a lawn mower could be so deadly, for example.
Scream Queens is not frightening, except to think such stereotypically awful, self-absorbed elitists might exist. The language and adult references are over-the-top, prompting a Rotten Tomatoes Reviewer to write that the show is “too tasteless for mainstream viewers and too silly for horror enthusiasts…” However, for film enthusiasts, picking up the nods to past films is interesting. Jamie Lee Curtis studied her mother’s iconic Psycho role for one of the episodes, capturing nuances of the famous shower scene.
With dark, sniping social commentary, Scream Queens explores the cruelty young people visit upon each other, the prejudices of the elite, and obsession with image, youth, and money. In one scene, a sorority sister exchanges “words” with her killer while he threatens her in her own room. She takes a moment out to update her social media status during the murder.
The show won a Critic’s Choice TV Award for most exciting new series, a People’s Choice for favorite new TV comedy, and won an award for its excellence with hairstyling and makeup. Several of the cast earned nominations for awards as well.
Season 2 of Scream Queens is scheduled to premiere on Fox on Tuesday, 20 September, 2016. The new season is to move the action from the New Orleans college campus to a hospital setting in LA. The producers promise three Halloween episodes, more deaths, and a new mystery.

Movie Review: The Suffering

the-sufferingAn estate appraiser heads out to the country to spend a few days at an old farm with the caretaker and his help to…well, appraise.  It’s clear from the first day that there are secrets buried within the history of the property and slowly things surface that make the appraiser’s job a difficult and disturbing one.

I loved the idea of the innocent protagonist being an appraiser, as it gave a great reason for his snooping about in areas that otherwise would be too spooky to go.  So rather than the audience growing frustrated at the idiot who insists on nosing about in those dark nooks and crannies that no one has any business going into, we are given a rationale behind it.

Aesthetically the film was pleasing, as was most of the acting, but three fourths into it things started heading downhill.  I don’t think I quite rolled my eyes but I certainly could have.  The acting turned south when a new character came out of nowhere who probably could have been left out altogether, followed by some very random scares that left me thinking there was no way the film could be redeemed at this point.  It seemed that things were starting to happen for no apparent reason other than cheap scares, and questions rose that I didn’t think would ever get answered.  It began to feel like a different writer/director took over, with the genesis of a good idea that ran on nothing but the fumes of jump scares (though some of which were genuinely creepy) and a protagonist who’s only real “suffering” was receiving a hearty blow to the head every twenty minutes–concussions on the regular.

But then the end came and it did indeed manage to pull itself together and answer almost every question I had.  Overall the film was well made, some legitimately creepy scenes and perfect for that modern crowd who will get a kick out of jump scares.  Just remember to wait it out.  There’s a zinger of a twist hiding there that ultimately redeems most of anything you may consider inadequate.

TV Review: Stranger Things (2016)

Stranger Things 1A Netflix Series Reviewed by Kerry E.B. Black

“Stranger Things” starts off with a flashback bang, a scientist frantic to leave a facility with flashing lights and ominous sirens. Action moves on to a nostalgic-feeling small Indiana town and a group of nerdy twelve-year-olds. When one of their group, Will (Noah Schnapp), doesn’t return from a Dungeons and Dragons gathering, his single mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) seeks help from the police who inform her in 99 out of 100 cases, the missing kids is with his parent. “What happens the other time?” She demands. This series explores the 100th case, and so much more. The continued investigation reveals secret government experiments, turns up a claustrophobic little girl (Millie B. Brown) named 011 with extraordinary powers, and supernatural worlds.
Against their parents’ wishes and orders by the Police, the kids, headed by Mike (Finn Wolfhard), search for their friend, dancing closer to dangerous and unexplainably “Stranger Things.”
Stranger Things 2Engaging characters, good acting, a Goonies-like feel, and an authenticity of motivation makes “Stranger Things” an interesting viewing experience. Each episode written, produced, and directed by the Duffer Brothers seems like an installment in a series, building the tension and sentimentally nodding to horror from the 1980’s. The first season consists of eight creepy-fun episodes that aired on 15 July, 2016, all punctuated by a brilliant soundtrack.

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

ghostbusters-1Before its premier on 15 July, 2016, internet trolls raised an unholy hoopla about filming a remake of the classic 1980’s film, Ghostbusters, with comedic women as leads. Writers Paul Feig and Katie Dippold nodded to the original while presenting their own spin on the beloved franchise.

Movie action begins with Professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) meeting the dean about her tenure. To her horror, a paranormal research book she wrote with school days friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) becomes available for sale and ruins her advancement. Gilbert teams up with Yates and engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), forming what the media calls “The Ghostbusters.” Friendly, street-wise, and knowledgeable paranormal witness Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) joins, quickly becoming the most sensible member of the group.

Although peopled with a nemesis, unsavory mayor and staff, and of course plenty of spooks, the plot stumbles at times. The comedic acuity of the leads never quite gels, as though they present a caricature of themselves instead of proving again their usual, effortless comedic chops. The staggered dialogue is not always witty and is often peppered with off-putting pseudo-technobabble. Yates’ best interactions are with a negligent food delivery person, while Holtzmann begins as more of a teenage boy than an intelligent, almost steam-punk slick mad genius. Holtzmann is at her best when introducing inventions. Patty provides transportation and some great lines, and Gilbert should have been arrested for sexual harassment when the team hires Kevin, their receptionist.

Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin, an incompetent receptionist hired for his good looks, bordered on appalling. Hemsworth’s acting isn’t in question. In fact, “Thor” seemed to enjoy poking fun at himself. The writing, however, portrayed the sort of vapid beauty the likes of which haven’t been seen since Marilyn Monroe or Christina Applegate’s “Married with Children” role. Feminism is about equality of opportunity and acknowledgement of ability. To portray the receptionist as the very worst sort of dumb blond smacked of absurdity. In a reversal of the traditional roles, the team launches a rescue mission after the villain possesses Kevin, setting up a dance scene opportunity left unrealized until the very end of the flick.

ghostbustersThe special effects glistened with fluorescent slime, and some of the ghosts were quite beautiful. Plenty of familiar characters make appearances, and the cameos abounded. The new Ghostbusters struggle for acceptance, a way to climb above the “Ghost Girl” taunts from Gilbert’s youth. They react with enthusiasm when they encounter a fully formed apparition. Even when the tide of public acceptance turns against them, they bond together acknowledging, “We’re all Ghost Girl.”

Ghostbusters 2016 conjured some of the nostalgic feel of the original film while providing goofy, effects-heavy, summer fun. Some great potential setups fall forgotten, such as a charlatan tour guide who introduces the first class-four apparition at the haunted manor house or the real motivation behind government sweeping government cover-ups. However, Ghostbusters 2016 is better than Ghostbusters 2 or its resultant cartoons. It even delivered a mini-startle on an occasion. In all, as Holtzmann said, “Booyah, emphasis on the Boo.”

“We ain’t scared of no ghosts.”

Movie Review: The Rite

the riteAlthough there is debate as to the genre, “The Rite” packs thrills and dark subject matter into a religious film some feel qualifies as horror. Colin O’Donoghue portrays Michael Kovak, an American man whose family insists he become either a mortician or a priest. Rejecting his father (Rutger Hauer) and his preparations of the dead, Michael instead takes religious instructions at St. Osmund. After becoming a Deacon, Michael tries to withdraw from the priesthood, but his mentor, Father Mathew (Toby Jones) encourages him to take a prestigious two month course about exorcism in Vatican City instead. Father Mathew further explains Michael’s academic scholarship could be converted to over one hundred thousand dollars of student loan debt if he did not take the opportunity. “I see potential in you,” Father Mathew explained, pointing to Michael’s calm and lack of squeamishness. He compliments Michael’s handling of an accident victim’s request for last rites.

the rite img 2Michael travels to Rome and meets teacher Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds), a reporter named Angela (Alice Braga) seeking an understanding of possession, and Father Lucas (the impeccable Anthony Hopkins), a Welsh Jesuit exorcist. Michael struggles with his faith. He rationalizes apparent possessions, including that of Rosaria (Marta Gastini), a sixteen-year-old who became possessed when her father raped and impregnated her. Father Lucas enlists Michael’s aid in exorcising the girl, but unable to discover the demon’s name, Rosaria remained in its power. After she attempts to kill herself, she’s institutionalized, miscarries, and dies. Consumed by guilt, Father Lucas became possessed and turns to Michael (and Angela) to perform the exorcism. Michael battles his own doubt, believes in the supernatural, and saves the man from the demon Baal.

“Demons are the Devil’s foot soldiers,” and knowing their names gives exorcists power over them. “The Rite” provides a dark, atmospheric, and authentic look into an ancient religious ritual. Several scenes leap from their gloom to make viewers startle as well. Adapted from a true story by Matt Baglio by Michael Petroni, director Mikael Hafstrom released his film on 28 January, 2011. Although it does not feature vomited “pea soup,” “The Rite” does deliver regurgitation of palm-length nails, impressive contortions, and dark makeup transformations. Anthony Hopkins’ performance shone, and although his accent slipped several times, Colin O’Donoghue’s portrayal of conflict rang true. There were several untranslated scenes in Italian. Although they added to the feel, not understanding entirely what transpired annoyed me. The movie unfolds with methodical realization that some viewers find plodding but which mirrors the main character’s path of understanding.

Retro Movie Review: Death Becomes Her (1992)

death becomes her 2What do you get, when you decide to tell a tale where money is no object, vanity and ego have no limits, and revenge knows no bounds?

You “pretty” much get Robert Zemeckis’s modern Gothic horror-comedy from 1992, DEATH BECOMES HER.

Co-written by Martin Donovan and David Koepp earlier on in their collaborative relationship, Zemeckis was riding high on the crest of a wave of success when he decided to take it on, having already put out ROMANCING THE STONE, BACK TO THE FUTURE and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston, one of the leaders at ILM (now LucasArts), had his work cut out for him. CGI effects were still yet in their infancy, and many of the gags that DEATH demanded pushed the envelope, as they were of a brand of cinematic trickery that had never been attempted before.

As it stands today, watching this and thinking of the many advances in the field, (the magnificent dragon effects of GAME OF THRONES for one excellent example), the effects work does look a little dated by today’s standards. But what makes this a standard classic that fans can come back to time and again is the clever, blackly funny script, Zemeckis’s stylish direction, and the game performances of three of film’s most capable and talented actors, all working in tandem together here for the very first time.

You can think of DEATH BECOMES HER as a really well-developed, extended version of TALES OF THE CRYPT, (a series that Zemeckis also helped produce), but with less schtick, less gore and more mordant wit. “Frenemies” from childhood, severely insecure and neurotic film and stage star Madeline Ashton (MERYL STREEP) and equally introverted would-be author Helen Sharp (GOLDIE HAWN) have been bitterly competitive with one another, with Madeline usually coming out the winner, always managing to steal Helen’s beaus from her.

death becomes her 1It all comes to a brutal head, when Helen’s current fiance, the schlubby-but-brilliant plastic surgeon, Dr. Ernest Menville (BRUCE WILLIS, in one of the most atypical roles of his entire career) falls under ‘the Ashton spell’. Literally marrying Ernest right out from under her, Madeline causes her friend to transform into a psychotic, obese cat-lady, whose sole obsession of taking her revenge on her homewrecking BFF sends Helen to the nuthouse. Which is where she finally makes a ‘breakthrough’….

Meanwhile, Ernest and Madeline are living a Beverly Hills married lifestyle straight out of an Albee play. He’s become a henpecked, alcoholic loser whose surgical skills have so deteriorated, he operates mainly on cadavers now, making them look more ‘presentable’. When she’s not doing really bad musicals based on Tennessee Williams plays, (the film’s opening number is hysterically unforgettable), she’s dallying with much younger lovers in a desperate attempt to hold onto some kind of illusion, that her once-radiant looks are not failing her.

After a couple of really bad episodes that remind her of how futile her efforts to hold onto youth are, Madeline encounters the mysterious Mr. Chagall (Ian Ogilvy), who in turn directs her to Lisle Von Rhuman (a radiant and sublimely over-the-top Isabella Rosellini), who has the answers, it seems, to all of her problems. But what Lisle has to offer is much, much more expensive than what Madeline can write a check for. It’s also where the story begins to take its darkly funny EC Comics-style turn.

Here’s where we part company with any potential spoilers. If, like me, you’ve seen this movie about eighteen times, then you know that spoilers aren’t even possible. If you’ve never seen it, then I envy you the joys of being able to discover it for the very first time.

Playfully spanking the Hollywood conventions of beauty and vanity, and poking gleeful fun at all of the people who take both way too seriously, Donovan and Koepp’s sharp script afforded the three leads a rare opportunity to parody their own iconic images and reputations, and they dig into it with gusto. None of their characters are particularly nice people, to themselves and definitely not to each other, and are the complete antithesis of the kind of roles they usually are called upon to portray, to say the very least. Streep as a faded ingenue, Willis as a wimpy milquetoast and Hawn as a psychotic, revenge-driven femme fatale had the time of their lives here, and it shows.

Death-Becomes-HerZemeckis helms the proceedings accordingly, calling back to everything from old Hollywood Technicolor melodramas to ‘hag horror’ pics like WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, and HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE, and does it with the same sure sense of style and twisted humor that made his other like-minded efforts like ROGER RABBIT, a delight to watch, even in repeated viewings. Favorite John Carpenter DP Dean Cundey matches him frame-for-frame, and frequent musical collaborator Alan Silvestri provides a great score that’s kind of a wink/nudge homage to Bernard Herrmann by way of William Lava, (the composer for many of Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes features, appropriately enough.)

Scream Factory has done their usual stellar job of transferring this to Blu-Ray, where – dated opticals aside – the film looks as gorgeous as its stars do…even when for certain reasons, they don’t. And though the extras are kind of sparse by comparison to other releases, it’s still a kick to have Zemeckis, Cundey, Koepp and producer Steve Starkey discussing the making of this now horror-comedy staple.

DEATH BECOMES HER gets a definite four-out-of-five stars from this reviewer, plus a strong recommendation for all readers to add this to your DVD/BR libraries in lieu of just renting it. (You can thank me later.)

50th Anniversary of Dark Shadows

dark shadowsOn 27 June, 1966, ABC introduced an American Gothic Soap Opera. It aired after school, targeting a teenage audience, and despite a slow beginning, the show garnered a following. It ran until 2 April, 1971, resulting in 1225 episodes exploring the angst-filled lives of the wealthy Collins family of Collinsport, Maine.
“Dark Shadows” leaned on inspiration from classic writers such as Poe, Bronte, Shelley, and Wilde. After a year, the series introduced its most popular character, Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), a Vampire with an infatuation. Ghosts, werewolves, witches and warlocks, and man-made monsters joined the cast. Action began when Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), an orphan with unknown ties to the Collins’ legacy, travelled by train to the Collins’ Manor to serve as governess for the reclusive Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s (Nancy Barrett) two children, Carolyn (Nancy Barrett) and David (David Henesy).
The series made use of flashbacks, time travel, and a parallel universe. Actors often portrayed more than one character or returned as ghosts. A storyline set in the late 1890’s aired in 1969 and boosted ratings. The series next introduced the idea of unseen forces, Leviathan, controlling matters, which did not inspire as much enthusiasm from its viewership, and ABC cancelled “Dark Shadows” on 2 April, 1971. Its cancelation left several storylines unresolved, including disclosing Victoria’s parentage.

barnabas collinsCreator Dan Curtis said he came up with the idea from a dream. Art Wallace wrote for the series and Sy Thomashoff designed the sets. Robert Cobert created the musical score which earned a Grammy nomination and reached the Billboard Hot 100 charts. “TV Guide” ranked the television show “Dark Shadows” among the Top Cult Shows Ever. It was released in syndication, and movies inspired by the series were released in 1970 (House of Dark Shadows) and 1971 (Night of Dark Shadows). NBC aired a remake of the series starring Joanna Going as Victoria and Ben Cross as the 200 year old vampire, Barnabas Collins, which ran from 13 January, 1991 until 22 March of the same year. Tim Burton directed a 2012 comical cinematic release of “Dark Shadows” starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas.
During the height of its television popularity, “Dark Shadows” also found its way to novelizations, features in magazines, and comics. Board games, coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, and a View-Master reel sported “Dark Shadows” images.
Episodes are available on Hulu and available for purchase through various media outlets. There is talk in Hollywood of a revival series.

Movie Review: The Abandoned (2016)

Director: Eytan Rockaway, Writers: Ido Fluk (story), Ido Fluk, Stars: Jason Patric, Louisa Krause, Mark Margolis

The AbandonedDescription from the official film site: Take a terrifying plunge into the warped mind of a disturbed young woman. Desperate to get her life back on track, the unstable Streak takes a job as a security guard, working the graveyard shift at a once upscale, now abandoned apartment complex. But on her first night on duty, she discovers a horrifying presence lurking deep within the bowels of the decaying building. With her nerves already on edge, Streak must confront demons both real and imagined as she struggles to keep a grip on her sanity.

abandonedframe1I enjoyed The Abandoned. It was entertaining. Krause and Patric carry the film, and they are drawn especially well.  The location is beyond fantastic and the atmosphere is rich. But it isn’t scary. Not even a little. It feels like a mild Hammer made for TV chiller with a M. Night Shyamalan-style twist ending tacked on that, while not expected, wasn’t very surprising. I think had the film been a bit more ambiguous, it would have played better.

Again, I liked the film. It is worth a view. It’s on Netflix streaming. And while I can’t say I am crazy about The Abandoned, I do encourage you to see it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

TV Review: PREACHER

Preacher posterSo, after having spent the last few months threatening to “give it to us but GOOD”, AMC finally fulfilled that threat a couple of weeks ago by debuting PREACHER, the launch of a freshman series from two minds known more for subversive comedies, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the graphic novel series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Now before I go any further, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit to having never read the series. This may be a good OR a bad thing, depending on how much of a ‘purist’ you are when it comes to these kinds of adaptations. I know there are certain properties I feel pretty strongly about, but this was not one of them. I went in armed only with the intel I have gleaned from some wiki pages, and from my longtime best buddy, who happens to be my comic and graphic novel ‘guru.’

Just based on first impressions alone, AMC hasn’t served us up anything this “batshit-crazynuts” since Sheriff Rick Grimes had to off a not-so-cute little zombie pre-schooler, in the first season of THE WALKING DEAD. And folks, you know that in terms of TV time, that happened EONS ago.

I’m pretty sure Seth and Evan knew that they had to come HARD with some wild shit right out of the gate, and it seems they had no problem doing THAT whatsoever. The opener treats us to a ball of extraterrestrial force hurtling through the Milky Way, towards Earth, where it proceeds to find itself a suitable living host, in the form of several random holy men. Emphasis here on the word “SUITABLE”, because the unlucky ones who aren’t? Well, the resulting rejections are pretty explosive…as in more explosive than you would be after a 12-taco-5-bean-burrito-binge at T-Bell.

preacherframe1Meanwhile, in what seems like completely random fashion, we are introduced to three vividly unique characters, starting with our titular lead, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper, who plays Tony Stark’s dad in the MCU). Jesse is not very good at this religion business and he knows it, barely hanging on to his congregation, spending more time rearranging the letters that some sterling wit chooses to change up each Sunday, to display some pretty raunchy messages. But with his church being in a place like ‘Annville’, Texas, something like that is pretty much par for the course.

Next up is Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), with the smile of a viper and an Irish brogue thicker than an entire bottle of Jagermeister. He appears to be the hosting bartender and life-o’-the-party aboard a private jet seemingly, filled with rich Wall-Street-asshole types, but a marked-up Bible in the men’s room indicates to him that his clients are a lot more than that. Here, we get introduced to one of several intense action sequences that seem to explode out of left field (lots of things exploding in this pilot), and oh, by the way…did I happen to mention that Cassidy is a vampire?

preacherframe2But wait…before you even get a chance to catch your breath, here comes Priscilla Jean Henrietta O’Hare, aka “Tulip” (Ruth Negga), and her introduction is every bit as badass as Michonne’s was on THE WALKING DEAD, if not moreso. Fighting for her life against two men in a speeding muscle car, smack in the middle of a Kansas cornfield, (and the way this sequence is put together is nothing less than amazing), she enlists the help of a couple of local kids to further hamper the efforts of more ‘bad guys’ who try to come for her. The results are not good for THEM, of course, but for Tulip, they are – to quote the two tykes – “AWESOME!”

And that sets the tone and the stage for the rest of this eye-popping pilot, as the dynamics between Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy are established, and not to mention that strange force, which reappears to change the game completely.

And you know me…I love my character actors, and I didn’t think I could get anymore excited about this series, until I spied W. Earl Brown (DEADWOOD, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) in the cast, as the Sheriff of Annville, Hugo Root, whose son, Eugene (Ian Colletti) is a friend of Jesse’s. Eugene’s nickname is “Arseface” in the books, from what I understand, and when you see him…well, you’ll understand why. He’s another of the many colorful characters that will have an important part to play in this majorly messed-up story.

If you are more than familiar with Ennis and Dillon’s series, none of this will be new to you. But if, like myself, you haven’t seen panel one of the graphic novels, it will definitely occur to you that PREACHER is not your grandad’s style of storytelling. In fact, we’ve been waiting for some time to see what the next level looks like after GAME OF THRONES and THE WALKING DEAD. This, folks, is just one series that is bringing it. Yes, more questions than answers are provided, as with any good show that you’ll want to follow, to obtain those answers.

preacherframe3From what I understand, PREACHER has been on the boards for a couple of decades, and had been turned down by several major cable outlets before AMC snapped it up. Well, the enthusiasm and love that Rogen and Goldberg have for this property shows in every frame, from casting to visuals, and pulling in BREAKING BAD scribe Sam Catlin ensures that even though they can’t just rip the stories off of the book’s pages, and splatter them all over the screen verbatim, there won’t be the kind of sugarcoating or watering-down that most of the books’ fans feared it would be. Looks like AMC invested wisely.

I know that these guys can count ME as being on-board to see where Jesse and his pals are going with this.