My Top 10 Horror Movies

For many years, horror has been a big part of my life.

And for the record, I am not talking about my marriage to my ex husband…

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Actually, I don’t think I was married to a psychotic clown living in the sewers.  However, no one ever saw my ex and Pennywise in the same room, so this remains open to debate.

No, I am talking horror in books and in movies.

I am huge Stephen King nut and I have been reading his books off and on since I was twelve years old.  Twenty six years, for you nosy folks!

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Of course, Stephen King was not the only thing in my horror diet.  I love pizza, but I can’t eat that every day.  And I love Stephen King, but my literary diet does need at least some variety, lest I suffer from vitamin L deficiency (literary deficiency, for the uninitiated.)

So, I read other writers.  Joe Hill does nicely in a pinch.  And I’m not saying that just because I consider him to be The Master 2.0 (I may be just a little biased, but oh well.)

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And of course, Clive Barker, Michaelbrent Collings, Joseph Duncan and quite a few others supplement my literary diet quite nicely, so I don’t have to worry about any deficiencies.

I can also turn to the screen to pick up some variety too.  In other words, there’s always movies and television.

I will be an X Phile for life.  I also love Penny Dreadful and am still officially in mourning because the series ended earlier this year.

And horror movies.  Who can forget horror movies?

Is there a better way to spend an afternoon, or perhaps an evening, than watching a good horror movie?

Maybe you snuggle up to your man and bury your head on his chest when the scary parts come on, but still peek anyway.  Or maybe you just have dogs for company, although burying your head on a dog may end up squishing the dog instead.  Or result in said dog moving REALLY far away.  REALLY FAR, maybe as much as five feet away from you!

Watching horror movies is fun.  The adrenaline rush is fun.  And horror movies tend to have some comedy in them, so you get the laughs too.  Or perhaps at least some soft core porn, since sex is usually a big part of most horror movies.

And there are so many horror flicks to choose from.  You have ones based on Stephen King books, like Carrie, Children of the Corn and that mini series with that really scary clown dude…hold on, I will think of It

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And classic slasher films.  Who doesn’t love Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the escapades of goofy old Michael Myers?

Or perhaps your bag is more dark fantasy, and you get in the mood for some Horns!

At any rate, there are lots of good horror movies out there.  And after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to write a blog post, listing my top ten horror movies.  It took a few tries, but I have whittled it down to ten, so here goes nothing!

Reminder:  this is one blogger’s opinion only.  I am aware that I probably left your favorite movie off, but I really don’t care.  And if you are going to roast me, go with slow heat, the flavors will be more developed that way.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Well, we all have to start somewhere, right?

And my somehow happened to be a movie where people died.

Lots of people died, in fact.

And in really inventive ways.

And klowns were responsible.  Killer Klowns.  And these Killer Klowns were from outer space!

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If I remember correctly, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was the first horror movie that I watched.  And it set the stage for me.

Yes, the movie is just ridiculous.  I mean, cotton candy somehow became a weapon…c’mon, man!

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And acting?  What acting?  Although, to be fair, it didn’t require much acting to die at the hands of the Killer Klowns who killed in inventive ways.

Shortly after I watched this (alternating between sort of hysterical laughter and gross out noises that only a 12 year old girl can make), I began to explore horror, in both books and films.  I became a Stephen King addict.  I started watching Alfred Hitchcock too.

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And, as they say, the rest is history.

Killer Klowns should be labeled a gateway movie.  Because it was, at least for me.

It was a gateway.  A gateway into the horror genre.  And I can’t think of a better (or is it horrible) movie to receive that honor.


9.  Candyman

Often, horror movies deal with morality…

Ok, now that you are done choking on your coffee (or whatever other beverage you may be imbibing at the moment), let’s talk about this.

Of course, sex is a theme in a lot of horror movies.  There is a direct correlation to how many clothes come off and the proximity to home base and how quickly one dies in a horror movie, it seems.

But many horror movies deal with other kinds of issues that actually don’t have anything to do with teenagers having sex.

One of these movies is Candyman.

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The villain in this movie, Candyman, was actually the son of a slave, who had become a well-known artist.  However, the man makes the mistake of falling in love with a white woman, and (literally) all hell breaks loose.  He is attacked by a white lynch mob, which cuts off his painting hand and replaces it with a hook.  The mob then smears the man with honey, chanting “Candyman”, as he is stung to death by bees.

Of course, the man continues to live on, even after death, as Candyman. a spirit who can be summoned when someone looks into a mirror and says “Candyman” five times.

Since this is a horror movie, there is someone stupid  brave enough to do just that.  And lots of people get murdered.  Lots and lots of people.  So that’s disturbing.

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But the movie is disturbing for more than just the fact that a guy can come out of a mirror and kill people.  It turns out that 26 people, all of whom were residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, have been murdered.  And the police have put forth no effort to solve the murders.  Some of these victims are children.  All of the victims are African American.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  In other words, just turn on the news, and something similar will likely pop up at some point.  Maybe.  Tragically, many people of color are murdered in this country.  If the victim is lucky, the media acknowledges the murder, and someone puts forth the effort to bring justice to the victim and his/her family.  However, more often than not, just like in this particular movie, the crime is ignored.  Or worse yet, the victim’s so-called criminal record is on display, and he or she is vilified, rubbing salt into the wounds of an already grieving family.

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Race plays a huge factor in murder, the solving of murders and policing in general in this society.  Often, there is more than enough real life horror to go around, and a ghost with a hook is nowhere nearly as frightening as our fellow man.


8.  Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Often, the line between reality and fiction is blurred.

School shootings are tragically common in this country, and some shooters have stated that the Richard Bachman book, Rage, was their inspiration for the crimes committed, for example.

But what if a fictional character can somehow come to life?

I will admit, I spent a whole summer being frightened of storm drains after my responsible camp counselor took it upon herself to enlighten us about Pennywise the Clown.  So ten year old me spent a summer assiduously avoiding being in the bathroom by herself for too long, along with jumping at every shadow…good times, in other words!

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But luckily, Pennywise never came to life, and I was safe.  Although I still stand by my statement about never having seen my ex and Pennywise in the same room, but that’s another story!

Sometimes, characters that are created become all too real.  We mourn their deaths as we would the death of a friend or family member.  Or we shake our heads when a TV show or book character makes what we think to be terrible decisions, and we feel their pain at the consequences of those decisions.

Or, these characters scare into a change of pants, and they haunt our dreams…

Like Freddy Kreuger.

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The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has become a bit of a joke, with all the sequels and even a reboot in 2010.  But when you get down to it, Freddy Kreuger is one scary motherfucker…and I will stand by that statement until my dying day!

The fact that Freddy Kreuger is believable is bad enough.  After all, guys murdering kids and our justice system letting them off on a technicality is something that happens, unfortunately.  And if I were a parent, I wouldn’t be above murder, in the interest of keeping my child and others safe from a monster like that.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes things up a level, and could be considered meta fiction, as Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp both play themselves in the movie.  The movie also stars Robert Englund, who plays himself, along with an even more horrifying version of Freddy Kreuger.

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It turns out that Freddy is indeed real, and after Heather, because she defeated him onscreen.  And no one is safe, including her family.

Works of art can often have an effect on the creator, along with anyone else who may be influenced by that particular work of art.  This is a fascinating theme that New Nightmare explores.  The deaths are gruesome, and the entire film has a strange, dreamlike quality, which makes this movie even scarier than its “source material.”


7)  Freaks

It is no secret that people fear what they don’t understand.

As someone who spent much of her life being bullied for her looks and well…for just being herself, I have first hand experience with this.  I have had people makes assumptions about anything and everything about me, even questioning my intelligence, because of how I looked.  In fact, I had few friends when I was in high school, and did not even kiss a guy until I was 19 years old.  And most of this was due to my feelings of how I looked.  And I have come a long way, but even today, I am uncomfortable with almost any kind of comments in regards to my looks, even though no one has told me I am ugly in a long, long time.

In fact, I think I dreamed of joining the circus for a time.  But since that was not a practical solution, I did the next best thing:  I rented the movie Freaks.

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Freaks deals with quite a few hot button topics, but it really boils down to is one thing:  man’s inhumanity to man, along with the fact that you can’t really judge a book by its cover.  Oh, and karma is a real bitch!

This movie is controversial to some, because of how it depicts those who may suffer from disabilities.  However, when I watched this movie, the so-called “freaks” were the ones I rooted for, and the ones who actually behaved in a humane (well, sort of, given what they have gone through in their lifetimes) manner.  However, the so-called “normal” folks were the enemies, especially the beautiful woman who tried to trick one of the “freaks,” so she could get access to his money.

I thought of the “beautiful one” as one of the mean girls in high school who was only nice to me when she wanted something (like answers to the math homework) and who would talk about me behind her back any chance she got.  However, someone finally gave her what she deserved, and she got to take a walk on the other side…

Again, karma is a bitch!

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6)  Carrie

While we are on the topic of high school and the mean girls who rarely get what they deserve, let’s talk about the movie Carrie.  For clarification, we will be discussing the 1976 version.

I have mixed feelings about onscreen adaptations of Stephen King novels.  Some, like The Green Mile, are straightforward adaptations that remain almost word for word to the source material.  Others, like 1408 and 11.22.63, are not straightforward adaptations, but still remain faithful to the spirit of the books.  And of course, there are others, like The Running Man, that share little in common with the source material, other than the title.

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Carrie is one of those adaptations that fall into the second category:  it is not a slavish adaptation to the source material, but anyone familiar with the novel can still “see” the novel when watching the movie.  The changes add to the story, rather than detracting from it.  Additionally, the performances in the movie, especially by Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek, are outstanding, and bring the movie from good to phenomenal.

Margaret White

The title character in the movie Carrie is one many of us can sympathize with.  I also rooted for Carrie when I read the book and watched the movie.  And I understood why Carrie “snapped”:  there is only so much abuse one can take from her peers before she decides that enough is enough.  Carrie’s treatment at the hands of her peers cut me to the core, as I had to deal with bullying for most of my school career, and that bullying pretty much ruined my life for years to come.  And Carrie’s death was most upsetting, although I was glad that her bullies got their just desserts.

One of the changes from the novel in the movie was the ending.  Sue Snell (who had tried to help Carrie) dreams that she is visiting Carrie’s grave, which has been defaced.  Sue attempts to place flowers on the grave, but a hand suddenly comes up from the ground, grabbing Sue.  Sue then awakens in hysterics, and is seemingly still in the dream.

That scene gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.

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5)  Jacob’s Ladder

My father was drafted during the Vietnam War and actually saw time in Vietnam.  We don’t talk about his experiences much, but, not surprisingly, Vietnam has been a huge shadow over my life.  I am also an 80’s child, so Vietnam is also a huge theme in many movies that I grew up watching, including Rambo, Forrest Gump and Full Metal Jacket.

In high school, I read Dante’s Inferno.  I was fascinated with the concept of Purgatory:  there is a stage between this life and the afterlife, where you are doomed to repeat all the worst moments in your life, before you finally figure it out, and move on to the next level, whatever that may be.  And some poor souls never figure it out, and are doomed to repeat their mistakes for all eternity.

The movie Jacob’s Ladder combines commentary on the Vietnam War, along with the concept of Purgatory.  The title character, Jacob, is troubled by horrible memories of his time in Vietnam, where he believes that he was drugged and committed atrocities.  Soon, he is unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality, as he begins to see odd things in his daily life that he cannot explain.  Jacob’s visions escalate, and he fears that he is going mad.

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Well, it turns out that Jacob is (literally) a lost soul.  See the part about Purgatory.  In other words, that creepy fortune teller is right:  Jacob is already dead.  He was placed in a body bag in Vietnam, but never accepted his death.  So he has been stuck in Purgatory and is haunted by his past sins.

It is only when Jacob faces the truth about what has happened to him, that he is able to move on.  He is led by his deceased son to whatever the next level of life is.  It is noted by the doctors that Jacob seems to now be at peace.

Like The Inferno, Jacob’s Ladder is a great metaphor for being able to let go and not hold on to something that no longer serves any purpose in one’s life (or afterlife.)  It also brings attentions to the horrors of war, and manages to still be a scary, effective horror movie.

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4)  Horns

Sometimes, we create our own monsters.  And the monster within is far more frightening than a bloodsucking vampire or a clown that lives in the sewers.

Horns explores the concept of the monster within in depth.  Based on a book by Joe Hill, this movie deals with many other themes other than “the monster within,” including family, friendship, first love and just who (or what) can be considered evil.

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One morning, Ignacio M. Parrish (note the initials), or Ig, wakes up and finds he has grown a pair of horns.  These horns are invisible (almost) everyone else, but Ig finds out that people will confess their darkest desires (and sometimes even act those desires out, having lost all inhibition) to him, as the horns seem to exude some sort of influence on (almost) everyone around him.

We also learn of Ig’s first love, Merrin, and that Merrin was murdered nearly a year prior.  Ig was accused of the murder, and no one in town believes that he is innocent.  For the rest of the movie, Ig struggles to understand what he has become, and to solve Merrin’s murder and clear his own name.  Ig also finds out that those he called friends and family are really anything but, and that he stands alone in his desire to bring justice to Merrin.

Horns appears to be a horror movie, and it is, but it is so much more.  It is a love story, a cat-and-mouse detective story and even a dark fantasy, with a lot of religious allegory.  In other words, a little something for everyone.

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3.  Burnt Offerings

Move over, The Amityville Horror  and The Conjuring.  There’s a new (well, not really) haunted house movie in town, and it goes by the name of Burnt Offerings.

Burnt Offerings may not be the movie one thinks of when anyone brings up the subject of the haunted house movie.  And that would be a grave oversight, as this movie is the movie I believe should represent the haunted house movie category.

In many ways, Burnt Offerings is your standard haunted house movie.  There is a nice young family, which includes the sweet old great aunt Elizabeth (played brilliantly by Bette Davis.)  The nice young family gets a deal for a summer home rental that is probably too good to be true.  The mother of the nice young family doesn’t listen, of course, and that spells doom for everyone.

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However, in many ways, Burnt Offerings is NOT your standard haunted house movie.  For one thing, ghosts are not a major of part of the movie. Instead, the movie relies on “real life horrors” (like a father trying to drown his child) and the house itself becomes a character, exerting its evil influence on the inhabitants.  The film also uses psychological horror, invading the minds of the inhabitants and terrorizing them with unpleasant past memories.

Oh, and before we move on to the next entry, let’s hear it for the chauffeur.  In other words, one of the many reasons I need to spend some quality time in my therapist’s chair, even as an adult.  He may have also been responsible for a soiled pair of underwear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.

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2.  Phantasm

In any horror movie, you have to have a good villain.  After all, a good horror movie is nothing without a guy (or girl, or creature) that you love to hate.

For a long time, Pennywise the Clown was that creature.  Could anything be scarier than a homicidal clown who lives in the sewers and eats kids?

Well, I think I found someone to give good old Pennywise a run for his money (or is that a run for his souls?)

Enter The Tall Man, the villain from the movie Phantasm.  Again, I can neither confirm nor deny a rumor that this man may also have been responsible for a pair or two of soiled underwear.

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Phantasm may be old (only a year younger than yours truly…yikes!) but surprisingly, it stands the test of time.  I watched this movie recently, and it scared the crap out of me all over again…yikes!

As I have said before, Phantasm is all about the villain.  The Tall Man is definitely someone I would not want to meet in a dark alley (and I will pass on his dwarfs too, thank you.)  However, I was also struck by the movie’s use of ordinary objects to elicit a sense of foreboding and outright fear.  I think I can rightfully make the statement that this the only movie I know of that managed to make a guitar tuning fork frightening.  Along with the inside of the funeral home, although those are pretty frightening anyway.  Even Mike’s bedroom was frightening, although that may have just been the 1970’s decor (something that thankfully has NOT withstood the test of time.)

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It should be noted that while I generally have no use for sequels, especially with horror movies  (Carrie 2: The Rage anyone?), I think that Phantasm II is also very good and worth watching, although it seems to be more of a continuation than a sequel.


And now, for my favorite horror movie of all time…

drum-roll-please

Poltergeist (1982)

Yes, I have chosen Poltergeist as my favorite horror movie of all time.  This may seem like an odd choice, but roll with me on this, ok?

Poltergeist, on the surface, is not your typical horror movie.  There is no violence.  There is no sex.  There is hardly even any swearing…I believe that the worst word someone uses is “damn”, and there are certainly no f bombs.  In fact, the movie is rated PG, which is, again, unusual for a horror movie.

In fact, at points, this movie could be mistaken for a Disney movie…thank you, Zelda Rubinstein!

However, Poltergeist is one fucking scary movie.  I will mince no words:  this movie scared the shit out of me when I first saw, and still continues to scare the shit out of me to this day.

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Like I said before, this movie could almost be mistaken for a Disney movie.  At first, the hi-jinks of the ghosts haunting the home of the Freeling family are sort of amusing.  Chairs move on their own accord.  Drinking glasses break.  Furniture cannot stay still.

But slowly, the hi-jinks become a little more sinister.  Carol Anne’s pet bird mysteriously dies.  And then is the matter of that tree outside the bedroom window that is not as nice as it appears…

Then, we get to disgusting, as one of the parapsychologists who pays a visit to the Freelings helps himself to leftovers one night, and finds out he is not eating chicken…

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Very quickly, things go from benign to sort of disturbing to outright fucking terrifying, as Carol Anne is kidnapped and trapped in some sort of alternate dimension, between the living and the dead.

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But the nice medium pays a visit, to help the family.  And Carol Anne is rescued.  Dad finds out that the house was actually built on a graveyard (more on that in a minute), and the family decides to pack up and move.

Case closed, right?

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Well, no.  The last 15 minutes or so of Poltergeist is the biggest roller coaster ride in any movie, as literally all Hell breaks loose.

Turns out, there is a technicality.  So…a forgetful person not only built the house on a graveyard, but kind of forgot to move…you know…the DAMN BODIES that were buried in those graves!

In other words, we are FUBAR, ladies and gentleman!

Of course, all ends well (except for that television set, but I can’t blame Dad on that one).  But the suspense came close to killing me the first time I watched this movie as a teenager…would everyone survive, or would the spirits win?  And even as an adult, those last 15 minutes get the old heart rate up…

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The other thing I like about Poltergeist is that it was made long before CGI was even an idea, so Steven Spielberg had to rely on other things to tell the story, like props, makeup, acting and oh yeah…good writing and storytelling!  There is a reason why so few movies after, oh say, 1995 are on this list:  CGI has made for lazy storytelling and has been responsible for the decline of modern horror, in this humble blogger’s opinion.

Oh, and a side note:  I may have referred to Pennywise the Clown quite a few times in this blog post, but I think that Pennywise would do well to bow down to the Poltergeist Clown, as I believe this clown should take home the honor (or is horror?) of All Time Scariest Fucking Clown in a Movie Ever.

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Well, that’s it for my all time favorite horror movies.  It was hard to whittle the list down to just ten, and I am sure a few really good movies were left off.  What it is it that they say?  Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, right?

So, check some of these flicks out if you haven’t already.  I promise you, none of them are as scary as that thing they call the Republican National Convention, but at least the makeup job on the villains is much better than the makeup job on Donald Trump!

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

And with that note, adios!  Happy viewing!

 

 

 

 

 

11/22/63: Episode 2 Recap and Review

As a child, one of my favorite shows was Quantum Leap (yes, the nerd is strong in this one).

Every week, I would tune in and watch my hero, Sam Beckett (another Hoosier who also loved physics?  Hot!) travel back in time, and avert some kind of tragedy or make better decisions to change the past.  Sometimes, we got a two-for-one special, where Sam averted tragedy, and made someone (or even multiple someones’) life or lives better in the process.

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Sure, it wasn’t always easy, and Sam frequently stumbled into road blocks.  And often there was a twist:  Sam thought he was there to do a particular thing, but Al and Ziggy would argue with him otherwise and push him into doing his “assignment.”  Or Sam would have to take a detour, which would be necessary to accomplish his “assignment.”  However, Sam would eventually be drawn back to his “assignment”, even when things were not as they seemed…

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So yes, time travel was often a difficult thing.  That pesky past that does not want to be changed…

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And our hero, Jake Epping, was reminded again of that fact in last night’s episode of 11/22/63.  In fact, I was reminded of Sam Beckett and his adventures fairly often when I watched this episode.  However, I was also reminded fairly frequently that I was, in fact, watching something has been adapted from a book written by the man considered to be the master of modern horror…

So, Stephen King along with one of my favorite childhood television shows?  Where do I sign up for that?!

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Right, I did renew that Hulu subscription…whew!

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the second episode of 11/22/63, titled The Kill Floor.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The episode begins with a young Harry Dunning, who is chased by bullies into the woods, on October 29th, 1960.  The bullies steal Harry’s pants, so Harry heads to the neighborhood drugstore, where he stashes a spare pair of shorts with his friend the pharmacist.  At the drugstore, Harry encounters Jake, who is reminded of his mission to save Harry and his family from his murderous father, Frank Dunning.

Jake asks the pharmacist about renting a room in town for a few days, and is referred to Mr. and Mrs. Price.  Mrs. Price does not trust Jake, but rents the room to him anyway, demanding a week’s payment in advance.  With the words of Harry’s essay echoing in his head, Jake heads to the local bar in the hopes of meeting Frank Dunning.

When Jake arrives at the bar, he speaks to the bartender, a young man named Bill, and inquires about Frank Dunning.  Bill immediately becomes uncomfortable at the mention of Frank, and does not appear to believe Jake’s cover story that he is in town to write a book.  Jake’s wish is granted, however, when Frank and a group of his friends arrive at the bar.  Frank is charming and charismatic, and appears to befriend Jake.  After spending some time drinking with Jake, Frank invites him to visit the local slaughterhouse, so that Jake can prove that he is “one of them.”

After arriving at the slaughterhouse, Frank demands that Jake slaughter one of the cows with a mallet.  Jake refuses, so Frank slaughters the animal without a second thought.  Jake begins to realize that his mission of stopping Frank from murdering his family will not be easy.

The next day, Jake visits the Dunning house, and tells Frank’s wife Doris that she and her family have won an all expenses paid Halloween vacation, in the hopes that he can prevent tragedy.

That night, Jake eats dinner with the Prices and makes some small talk.  However, Mr. Price opens up to Jake, telling him about his experiences as a soldier in World War II. where he was awarded a bronze star after killing a young man.  Mr. Price tells Jake that his actions were not heroic, despite the fact that he earned a medal.

Jake’s conversation with the Prices is interrupted by the arrival of Frank, who tells Jake that he wants to make up for his treatment of him the previous night.  Frank takes Jake to his butcher shop, where his badly beaten wife emerges. It turns out that Frank has beaten his wife for accepting the “vacation” given to her by Jake.  Frank tells Jake to not interfere in his marriage, and also badly beats Jake.  This makes Jake all the more determined to stop Frank, and he makes a last minute purchase of a gun.

Again, Jake is reminded that the past does not want to be changed, as he suffers a suspicious round of food poisoning later that night.  Al’s notes state that his cancer was a consequence of his attempts to change the past.  However, Jake awakens the next morning, determined to go forward on his mission and stop Frank Dunning.

Jake stakes out the Dunning house, but runs into Bill the bartender.  Bill tells Jake that he has it in for Frank Dunning, as he thinks Frank murdered his sister and her baby 12 years ago, but was never brought to justice.  Jake confesses that he has time-traveled from the future and that he knows that Frank will murder the Dunning family, but Bill is suspicious, as the murders were supposed to occur at 8 PM.  It is now 8:05 PM and the Dunning family is still alive.  Jake realizes that Frank used the back door, and hears Mrs. Dunning’s screams.  Jake runs in to the house in an attempt to save the Dunning family.

When he is inside the house, Jake tells the young Harry to hide inside his bedroom.  Frank tells Jake that he should not be there, and Jake shoots him.  However, this only further enrages Frank, who wrestles Jake to the ground.  Mrs. Dunning runs, but Harry makes an appearance.  Frank yells at his son to give him back his hammer, which he was going to use as a murder weapon.  Franks demands that his son give him back the murder weapon, but Harry runs downstairs with it instead.  Frank lunges after his son, and Jake strangles him with a piece of rope from behind, killing him, sparing the lives of the rest of the Dunning family.  Bill also appears at the foot of the stairs, witnessing the death of Frank Dunning.

Jake walks out of the Dunning house and returns to the Price’s house.  Mrs. Price asks Jake if she needs to call the sheriff.  Jake tells her that he did not do anything wrong.  Mrs. Price responds, telling him that only God can judge.  Jake then proceeds to drive out of town.

While driving away, Jake is bothered by the blood on his hands.  He stops to wash his at a street-side faucet and reminds himself that Harry and the rest of the Dunning family are still alive.  Jake then turns around, and encounters Bill the bartender, who holds up a newspaper clipping from 1963.  Bill demands to know what is going on, and ushers Jake into his vehicle at gunpoint.


 

My Thoughts

Again, if you don’t have a Hulu subscription, get one…the first two episodes alone of 11/22/63 are worth it!

But of first of all, I am remiss…

I don’t even think that I can blame the fact that tax season is frying my brain for this one…

breaking bad

Derp.  Derp derp.  Derp derp derp.  Derp…well, you get the point!

Hurr

No, I did not recognize Bevvie from the levy er Annette O’Toole in this episode.  I only saw her name on the ending credits.  Talk about out of left field…

Beverly 2

So nice one, Mr. Abrams and Uncle Stevie and whoever else was involved in this…I never saw that coming!

And of course, for us Constant Constant Readers, this was a great Easter egg…

easter eggs 1

As many who are reading this know, part of the novel takes place in Derry, Maine.  Derry is a hotbed of strange activity of the Stephen King universe, and several books are placed in Derry.  And perhaps the most famous of all the Derry books would be It.

pennywise

Yes, the novel about your friendly neighborhood homicidal clown connects to a book about time travel, nostalgia for an era lost, Vietnam and all that other good stuff!

In the novel 11/22/63, Jake actually meets Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, who are two of the main characters from It.  And all of King’s work is connected (this is a well known secret), but I think that this is perhaps one of his best connections.  Somehow, the homicidal clown in the sewers gets a tie-in to the guy going back in time trying to prevent the Vietnam War, and it all makes sense…now how cool is that?

Of course, I had a funny feeling that this tidbit would not make it into the mini series, given the fact that written material has a different “face” onscreen, if you will.  But we were given the next best thing:  the actress from a mini series that was pivotal in my origin story as a Stephen King fan had a part in this mini series.  And yes, this made sense too!  Way to feel a chill up my spine, just like the chill I felt when I read that part in the novel.

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And the use of the word “rube”…nice way to refer to Dr. Sleep, along with working in your son’s novel as well!

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So let’s talk about the visual component to 11/22/63 for a moment.

Well, more than a moment, as they deserve a little more time, since they are so great.

One aspect of the visual component of 11/22/63 that deserves some attention is the town of Holden, KY.  As I stated before, this part of the story takes place in Derry, Maine in the book.  And Derry is creepy, as any King fan will tell you.  Jake even talks of this in the book, noting that he felt quite unsettled during his time in Derry.  And I felt unsettled when shown the town of Holden, KY in the mini series.  I am sure that said friendly, neighborhood homicidal clown probably has the rights to Derry, so we had to change the location to Holden, KY.  However, the change was in name only.  I felt the same creepy vibe when I watched the mini series and wanted to warn Jake to stay away from storm drains, as a matter of fact.  So perhaps the mini series has created a Twinner of sorts to Derry…

One of my main concerns in regards to the adaptation of 11/22/63 was the portrayal of the time period, aka the early 1960’s.  King paints such a vivid picture in the book of this time period, as seen through the eyes of Jake, who was born in 1976.  And so far, the mini series is doing the same, and we see it in everything from Jake’s clothes (oh, that hat!), the cars, the neighborhood drugstore, the wallpaper in the Price’s house, to the TV dinners and even the books shown on display at the drugstore (The Flash and Batman…swoon).  The care and detail in this portrayal is just amazing, and I love it.

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Another part of the visual component I like about the 11/22/63 is the near constant reminder that we are watching something based on the work of Stephen King, aka America’s Boogeyman.  11/22/63 is not a horror story, and doesn’t really come across that way at all, but it does have its share of creepy moments.  The flies hovering around the dead animal carcass are one example (gross much?).  The use of red light when Jake is worshiping the porcelain goddess is another.  We even had someone show up in a creepy, old school bunny rabbit costume.  I don’t know how much, if any, say that good old Uncle Stevie had in all of this, but I am sure that it has his seal approval…I know that it has mine!

 

This mini series also makes good use of foreshadowing.  Foreshadowing is used A LOT by the Master, but that does not always translate well to the big screen (which is why some of his work loses its punch when translated into movie or television format).  However, this show is doing a fairly nice job of using foreshadowing.  In this episode, I was struck in particular by the tale of war that Mr. Price confessed to Jake.  First of all, this was great foreshadowing for what Jake would have to do:  kill someone so that he may save others.  I liked the implication that although killing may appear brave to others who were not in the trenches (aka Mrs. Price, who cannot figure out why her husband does not want to display his war medals), that is not always the case, and in fact the act of killing can be a cowardly thing, no matter what the circumstances or motivations behind the killing.  Also, 11/22/63 is a book that makes a statement on war, and just what, if anything, can be done to prevent it, along with the consequences of going to war, and even the consequences of not going to war.  So it seems to me that the show is setting all of this up with Mr. Price’s tale of war, although we shall see in the future episodes.

(Oh, and the M*A*S*H reference…nice one, guys!)

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And let’s talk about the bad guy…

Well, he may play a relatively small role (what I call a “major minor character”) but Franking Dunning is hugely important to the story.  For one, see the part about the foreshadowing. It seems that Frank is the warm-up for the “main” bad guy, aka Oswald. For two, Frank Dunning is a bad dude.  A really bad dude.  There are plenty of those in King universe, and Frank is just in a long line.  However, Frank stands out a little bit, because of the fact that he is not a main character, but still manages to have a huge influence in the overall story.

And in portraying Frank Dunning, Mr. Fergie er Josh Duhamel has pulled out a performance that I did not know he had up his sleeve…Mr. Fergie is not one to be trifled with!

Frank Dunning is handsome, charismatic and psychotic.  Naturally, Duhamel does not have a problem with that first part, but he also nailed the other two parts.  I know I would cross to the other side of the street if I saw him walking around town. James Franco looked the same way in most of their scenes together…the chemistry between those two was fantastic, and they played off of one another very well.  In fact, I am a little sad that Frank is now dead and we won’t get to see Franco and Duhamel together, although I do have the appearance of Oswald to look forward to.

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So that’s it for The Kill Floor.  Will the show continue to deliver?  Has Jake changed his mind about the past, or has it been changed for him?  Join me next week to find out, when we review and dissect episode 3, Other Voices, Other Rooms.  And maybe make some new friends in the meantime…

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Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

 

11/22/63: Episode 1 Recap and Review

So who here has ever wanted to travel back in time, and try to change the past for whatever reason?

*raises hand slowly*

Yes, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I have fantasized about traveling back to the past.  Giving past me a warning about her taste in men would be a top priority (geez, you would think my first marriage was right out of a Stephen King book or something).  Appreciating the good cartoons that you had to get up really early for on Saturday morning for would also be a top priority.

But even if we have the ability to travel back in time and try to change the past, should we exercise that power?  It worked out for Marty McFly in the end, but would it work out for mere mortals like me?  As painful as that first marriage was for me, my life may actually not be the awesomeness it is today (my ex still is, and always will be, King Douchey McDoucherson of Doucheville in the state of perpetual douche, however) if I did not have the experience of that marriage.  I probably would not have moved to South Carolina, where I happened to find a job in the tax resolution industry, aka my chosen career.  I would not have been able to open my home to the true thing of evil, aka a blue heeler puppy whose government name is actually Duncan.  Most importantly, I would not have met my husband, the co-parent to the thing of evil, my partner in crime, my lucky 13, the love of my life.  So as difficult as the past was, I would be afraid to change it, as I may come back to the present, and find it all jacked up, with the town bully in charge, even (per Back to the Future Part 2 Marty McFly).

candy bar pie 010

Apparently, when The Master is not writing about child-killing clowns, proms gone wrong, rabid dogs and other things to haunt my nightmares, he thinks about time-travel.  And he decided to write a book about the subject, possibly because he was bored one afternoon…

Stephen King

Yes, Stephen King has written a book about time travel.  Yes, he can take on almost any topic, and write a compelling book about it.  No, he is not just a writer of scary stories…oh the horror (see what I did there)?

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The name of this book is 11/22/63, and it centers around a school teacher named Jake Epping, who travels back in time to attempt to make a major change in history:  prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Jake was born 1976 and, like yours truly, had only an academic sense of a major historical event that shaped a generation (i.e., the generation of King and my own parents).  However, Jake learns that the past does not want to be changed, and that nearly everything he does has an effect on those he meets.  Try as he may, Jake is unable to keep his distance from the people he meets, and the relationships he forms have an effect on his mission to thwart Oswald.

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Many consider this to be the best King book ever written, and rightfully so.  So, I heard last year that it would become a Hulu mini series.  All of a sudden, I had a reason to reactivate that account.  And for the past four months or so, I have been muttering, at random, “Please be good.  Please be good. Please be good.”  After all, JJ Abrams, Stephen King and James Franco…could that combination ever be bad?

Well, the tentative answer is probably not.  In fact, this combination is shaping up to be pretty good.  And it’s pretty early still, but this combination may even be great.  I don’t want to jinx it, but I am seeing something there.  And I really like what I see, although only time will tell.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of 11/22/63, episode 1.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with schoolteacher Jake Epping, who resides in Lisbon, Maine, listening to one of the students in his adult education classes read an essay about an event that transpired on Halloween 1960.  The student, Harry Dunning, was attacked by his psychotic father.  Harry’s father killed his mother, sister and two brothers, while also injuring Harry.  This event has been traumatic for Harry, affecting his life in every way imaginable.  Jake applauds Harry’s essay, and agrees to write a recommendation for Harry so that he may obtain a promotion at his current job.

After class, Jake heads to Al’s Diner, where he meets with his friend Al, the owner of the diner.  Jake’s soon to be ex-wife Christy arrives, and Al excuses himself and heads to the back of the diner.  Jake briefly chats with Christy, and signs their divorce papers.  Christy leaves the diner, wishing Jake the best.  Al reappears a few minutes later, but is literally a changed man.  Al tells Jake that he has cancer, and looks to be dying, instead of the picture of health that he appeared to be when Jake first walked into the diner.  Jake helps Al home, and Al promises to give Jake an explanation the next day.

The next day, Jake teaches his high school English class, and tries to impart the importance of seemingly small events in history to his students.  However, most of his students are not paying attention, and one is distracted by a video of a dancing parrot on his cell phone.  The student promises to send Jake the video at the end of class.

Jake meets Al at the diner after class.  Al takes Jake back to a closet in the back of his diner, and has Jake walk through it.  Jake is skeptical until he is not longer in the closet and appears to have stepped back in time.  Al confirms that Jake indeed has stepped back in time to October 21st, 1960.  Jake appears to be invisible to most of the people he sees in this particular moment in time, although a strange looking man with a yellow card in his hat repeatedly tells him that he “should not be here.”

Al tells Jake the rules for what he calls “the rabbit hole”: every trip through the closet leads back to exact same moment on October 21st, 1960; no matter how long one stays in 1960, the time in the present will only be 2 minutes later upon return;  and going through the door will always erase what was done on previous trips to the past.

Al then proposes a trip to the past for Jake, so that Jake may accomplish what he could not:  preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Al believes that the past can be changed, although this is difficult (Al’s sudden cancer diagnosis being an example of the past “pushing back”).  Al believes that if Kennedy had lived, the Vietnam War would have been prevented, and fewer lives lost. Al also wants Jake to find out if Oswald also attempted to assassinate Edwin Walker, as the same kind of rifle was used in the assassination attempt on Walker and the killing of John F. Kennedy. Jake is skeptical, and argues with Al.  He then leaves to attend the graduation ceremony of his adult education students (Harry Dunning is included in this group).  Jake then learns from another school employee that Al will not be getting the promotion, and changes his mind about traveling to the past.

Jake returns to Al’s home the next day, and finds that the man passed away during the night.  Jake then gathers all Al’s notes in regards to Kennedy, the money Al left him and some fake identification (his new name is Jake Amberson), and returns to the diner.  He steps through Al’s “rabbit-hole”, and returns to 1960.

When Jake enters the past, he immediately gives himself a makeover of sorts, which includes a haircut, a shave and a new suit.  Jake also purchases a yellow convertible, and places an improbable bet on a sporting event at the local dive bar.  Jake wins the bet, but brings some unwanted attention upon himself.  Later that night, a man is sent to the hotel Jake is staying at to rough Jake up and discourage him from placing any more bets.  Jake is able to distract the man with his modern cell phone, and flees town.  While he is fleeing, Jake catches another glimpse of the mysterious “Yellow Card Man”, who again tells him that he does not belong there.  Jake throws his cell phone into the river, permanently cutting off his ties to his own era.

Jake then travels across the country, heading to Dallas, Texas.  While he is traveling, he is reminded that life in 1960 was not great for everyone, as he encounters segregated restrooms and is reminded of the deplorable conditions that existed for many.

While scouting Dallas, Jake meets a pretty blonde by the name of Sadie Clayton.  Sadie is a fellow book lover, and nearly leaves her pocketbook behind on the bench she was sitting on when she was talking to Jake.  However, Sadie is married, so Jake sees her on her way.

Jake rents a room in a boarding house recommended to him by Al.  He meets the owner’s son, who tells Jake that he intends on enlisting in the military when he is old enough and serving his country (and will likely die in Vietnam).  Jake attempts to contact his father in Chicago, but is again reminded that the past pushes back:  he gets nothing but static on the pay phone, along with a car that careens through the phone booth, killing the driver almost instantly.  Before she dies, the driver of the car tells Jake that he does not belong there.

Although he is badly shaken after he witnesses the car accident, Jake continues on his mission to prevent the assassination of Kennedy.  More specifically, he spies on a man named George de Mohrenschildt, who may have ties to the CIA.  Jake follows de Mohrenschildt to a CIA ralley and attempts to sneak into the event.  However, Jake is caught by security, and winds up in a room that is literally a dead end, teeming with roaches and red lights, and the space-time continuum appears to be breaking down.  Jake is then escorted out of the building by the security guards, and is again reminded that he does not belong there.

That night, Jake follows de Mohrenschildt to an upscale restaurant, and learns that de Mohrenschildt does indeed have ties to the CIA.  However, Jake is nearly burned on his arm and barely escapes a collapsing ceiling, reminders of the past “pushing back.”  When he returns home, the reminder is even more gruesome, as his boarding house has caught on fire, destroying all of Al’s notes.  Even worse, the son of the owner is burned alive and perishes in the fire.  Jake feels responsible for the death, and decides to head back to Maine and return to the present, before he causes any more damage to innocent people.

However, Jake makes a stop in Humboldt, KY on his way home, with the intention of preventing Harry Dunning’s crazed father from killing Harry’s family.


 

My Thoughts

Before anything else, let’s talk about the elephant in the room…

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Yes, the dreaded part of any book that is adapted to film…

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The Changes.

Yes, The Changes.  You know, when your character is wearing blue sneakers in the book, and the movie changed them to brown penny loafers…just what was wrong with the sneakers, Hollywood?  Sneakers are beautiful too, why do they need to be changed to meet your standards of shoe?

In other words, I am aware of some major changes to the details of the book.  Do they bother me?  Well, my inner book douche is extremely bothered by them, but I will have to keep her busy with noting the kind of shoes each character wells.  That should be a project to shut her up for a bit…

I am actually ok with the changes made to the story.  11/22/63 is a novel that consists of a lot of internal Jake dialogue.  Internal Jake dialogue makes for a fascinating book, but does not translate very well to the screen.  Movies and television consist of interactions between characters, so it is understandable that adjustments need to be made, much to the chagrin of book douches.

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However flexible I may be about adaptations, there are a few things that I am looking for in any adaptation of 11/22/63:

 

  1.  Jake’s effect on the past.
  2. The past’s effect on Jake (i.e. the people he meets, the places he visits, etc).
  3. Jake and Sadie’s relationship, which is one of the sweetest, enduring and heartbreaking relationships in any book.
  4. The character of Jake himself.  Jake has built up walls (intentionally or not), and is a man who obviously feels, but has a hard time conveying to others how he feels (we get the feeling that this may be why he is divorced).
  5. How obsessive Jake becomes in his attempt to change the past, no matter what the consequences may be.
  6. The time period Jake visits itself.  I want to see 1960-1963 in all its splendor, along with its darkness.

It’s still early to make a complete evaluation, but if I were Jake Epping and grading this, I would definitely give this a solid B.  In other words, above average, but there is still room for improvement in order for it to reach its full potential (nope, didn’t ever hear that one growing up.  not at all).

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In regards to the first item on my list, I would say that 11/22/63 is doing fairly well.  In fact, it may be doing a little too well, as the phrase “you shouldn’t be here’ is tossed around like it’s going out of style.  However, the visual representations of “you shouldn’t be here” are fantastic, in my opinion.  For one, there is the Yellow Card Man.  The producers and writers did a great job of transferring an enigmatic (on a good day!) character from the book to the screen, and making him a major player in the film.  I also loved the scene where Jake gets trapped in what appears to be a sub-sub basement room, and is immediately accosted by cockroaches under a bright red light.  This scene in particular (especially with the use of the color red) served to remind us that we are watching a visual representation of a book written by the man who many consider to be the inventor of modern horror.

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Like I said before, it is still early.  However, I am beginning to see bits and pieces of 2-5, even in the first episode.  We may only being seeing glimpses right now, but I enjoyed those glimpses immensely.  Jake’s interaction with his ex-wife Christy was brief, and his interaction with Sandy was also brief, but in watching those interactions, the show gave us some insight into who Jake is:  he may appear cold on the outside, but inside there is actually feeling and maybe even a little bit of passion.  Jake’s applause for his student Harry Dunning (another fine acting job on what I call a “major minor character”) when Harry obtains his GED also demonstrates that Jake is capable of caring, even if he doesn’t always communicate that to those he cares about (see part on why he is divorced).  Even in the first episode, we can see that the past is starting to have its effect on Jake, from the way he enjoys a piece of homemade apple pie (nothing can replace real butter.  NOTHING!), to his decision to head back to Maine, realizing that his presence is a danger to innocent people, to his decision to make a quick “pit stop” on his way back to Maine so that he may help his friend have a better life.  So far, so good.

I will say this much:  number 6.  As in, the mini series is doing really well in portraying the 1960’s, in both its glory and dark side.  The scene where Jake steps through the “rabbit-hole” back into 1960 is simply stunning.  There were the cars and the kids playing ball.  The milk truck was actually my favorite part of that scene.  There is just something about the truck itself and the shattering milk bottles that almost feels like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but also has an ominous feel to it.  Speaking of ominous, I also loved the scene where Jake finds the “colored restroom.”  This scene is powerful in the book, and powerful in the mini series as well.  It serves to remind that the 1960’s may have appeared idyllic, but were actually anything but that to many people.  History is not something that is objective, but something that can be influenced by mere observation.

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Oh, and as if I didn’t need more reminders that I was watching something based on a Stephen King book…

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Yes, I caught them.  Jake making the innocuous (well, not really) statement that he was Kennedy’s number one fan…uh huh…

Misery

And the mention of Castle Rock made me squee a bit too.  Although I really hope Jake doesn’t get an urge to go shopping there…

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So that’s it for The Rabbit Hole.  Join me next week for the review and dissection of The Kill Floor, where we see Jake take on a formidable foe:  Mr.  Fergie er Josh Duhamel as Frank Dunning!

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

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