Night Visions – Voices (09/24/02)

nvvoices1Sandra slides into that one-ring circus of horrors, the MRI machine. There is nothing this show can do that’s any more unnerving than that. In fact they should just cancel the series right now!  Oh. [1]

Afterwards, the doctor tests her hearing, but she is still deaf as a post.[2]  It is heart-breaking as the doctor tells her the experimental procedure failed and she will be deaf forever.

She returns to her job as a courtroom artist.  Perez — Lombardo Boyar, who played the most annoying character to ever appear in the eight seasons of 24 [3] — is on trial for a murder he did not commit.  While sketching the trial, Sandra hears a voice in her head saying things like “Sticky blood.  Someone clean his hands.”  During a recess, she is able to determine the voice is coming from Detective Malone who investigated the case.

nvvoices3As Malone takes the stand, she hears “Now they pay . . . I will help you, God.”  As he is questioned about his actions at the scene, Sandra hears him say, “I put the gun in his hand” as he describes a complete different scenario at the crime scene.

She reads his mind that he blames himself for his little brother’s death. She tells him it is not his fault.  He apologizes for assaulting her and she forgives him even gives a little smile.

I trimmed out a lot of words there because I just didn’t care.  It is a fine premise, but it just doesn’t come together.  Sadly, the uni-named, quad-sensed Terrylene as Sandra is a large part of the problem.  Boyar didn’t have much to do, but was his usual caricature of a Mexican.  John Finn — best known to me as Michael Kritschgau on The X-Files — is always interesting, though.

Wish I had something clever to add, but I think that in every post.

nvvoices4Post-Post:

  • [1] This was indeed the final episode of the series.
  • [2] Other “deaf as a” autofills from Google:  Doornail, Doorknob, Haddock.
  • [3] On the other hand, he was excellent in Big Ass Spider — which tragically has been retitled Mega-Spider.  Is this the PC version?  Did too many people with gigantic asses complain?
  • Director Ian Toynton also directed one of Boyar’s episodes of 24.

Night Visions – Patterns (09/24/02)

nvpatterns03Psychiatrist Dr. Critchley (Miguel Ferrer) arrives at his office to find a police officer waiting with a prisoner.  He tells the prisoner Martin (Michael McDowell) he is being held for observation to see if he is a danger to himself or anyone else. Martin smirks and says his being there is a danger to everyone.

Martin was busted for harassing a man that he claimed was sitting on the wrong bench in the park.  Again, he says that posed a risk to everyone.  Critchley asks him about the obsessive folding and unfolding he is doing with a piece of paper, kind of an OCD [1] ritual.

Martin tells a story from his childhood.  If a bird flew on to a telegraph wire and stayed there for more than 10 seconds, nothing bad would happen to his family — other than living in the last neighborhood in America to have telegraph wires.  He did this every day.  He also flipped light switches on and off, spaced books on his shelves perfectly, avoided sidewalk cracks, any kind of ritual to keep his family and the world safe.

The story is utterly predictable as it moves from point A to point A- in a perfectly straight line.  And yet, surprisingly, it has little padding.  Somehow, this simple episode accomplishes what I could not in elementary school — it uses its time wisely.[2]

nvpatterns04Of course Martin’s OCD tics are going to be the glue that keeps the world together.  Of course Critchley is going to be skeptical.  Of course Martin is going to be found to be telling the truth.  And of course Critchley will inherit the burden that he was skeptical of.

However, without watching the episode again — which ain’t gonna happen — I can’t remember a single place it went wrong.

A big chunk of the second half is just Critchley walking round seeing the fabric of society, the laws of physics, and just plain common sense break down.  Some of it is pretty dark — his chirpy nurse becomes crabby and eventually hangs herself.

In the opening scene Critchley walks past a woman sitting in her car seat sideways, with her feet on the ground.  It is completely panned by without comment.  Kudos to the show for having the same woman in the same position later hitting herself in the head repeatedly with a shoe.  Just fun stuff!

The men are not immune.  The security guard is naked and another doctor is urinating in the hallway.

nvpatterns22Some of the effects are just goofy fun.  Signs are spelled backwards, fish fall from the sky.  Firemen show up with flamethrowers instead of waterhoses.  This lacks the added dimension to make it a Fahrenheit 451 homage, but it is pretty amusing that they are streaming fire at a Ford Pinto.  They could have waited 20 minutes and it probably would have gone up by itself.[3]

The episode is aided by the presence of McDowell and Ferrer who are always great.  And by some clever ideas and fun visuals.  Simple, but it gets to its destination without blowing up.  Unlike a Pinto.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Origami Compulsive Disorder.
  • Alternatively, Orange Clockwork Disorder in honor of McDowell.
  • [2] This still bugs me.  What the hell was I not doing?  I even took my own books to class to read during down-time.  OK, maybe it was Mad Magazine, but still.
  • [3] A comic version of the Pinto clip.

Night Visions – Switch (09/23/02)

nvswitch02This episode is rated dead last in the IMDb User Ratings, redeeming a shred of credibility in that dubious index.  As I watched it, it just seemed like a mess.  At the end, I realized it was worse than that — it was also a hugely missed opportunity.

Rather than the usual snotty recap — because it is almost recap-proof — maybe just a few observations like I had for another fiasco, Poltergeist.

I haven’t seen Pam Grier in many things, but from what I’ve seen and heard, this is a pretty unusual role for her.  She does well as the psychiatrist and not just because the rest of the cast is so bad.  But they are.

Natasha Gregson Wagner gives such an awful performance that the ending made me question whether it was a conscious acting choice.  Maybe the wooden, stilted delivery was meant on convey that someone else was doing the driving.  I don’t think that is the case, but if so, the director should have told her to moderate it a little.  Or a little less.

The director’s thought process also eludes me.  Jefery Levy did a great job with the suspenseful Dead Air.  He also made the bizarre After Life into a solid episode.  His style here is radically different, though.  Granted, he was portraying a different environment — the psyche of a trouble young woman — but this is just off-putting.  The constant jump cuts and flashing lights are just too jarring to be effective.   I would advise avoiding if you have epilepsy; or good taste.  Add Wagner’s leaden voice-over, and it is deadly.

I’m not sure I can fairly evaluate the writing because the execution was so bad.  That’s why the Grammys present separate awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.  This episode is like if Elton John were forced to live with William Shatner’s version of Rocket Man as the only rendition of that song the public would ever hear.

There are enough good points — and actual ideas! — throughout, that I tend to think the direction, the performances and the poor presentation on YouTube conspired against this script.  The end reveal is great, and like Bitter Harvest, it is followed up with another twist.

This has been a good series so far; it deserved a better fate.  This episode represents its low-point.

Post-Post:

  • Sydney says she was young when her mother died.  Natasha Gregson Wagner was eleven when her mother Natalie Wood died.  Both mothers died under questionable circumstances.
  • Her father Robert Wagner was in a TV series named Switch.
  • Director Jefery Levy co-wrote Ghoulies.

Night Visions – Cargo (09/23/02)

nvcargo09The first five seconds of this episode are just wrong and wronger . . . no, the ones after tattoo-boy‘s introduction.  But we’ll get back to that.

As well as I can make out on the crummy YouTube presentation, the camera is winding through a dark junky area . . . an alley, a construction site, a warehouse, a post-apocalyptic city?  A woman is calling out in a whisper for Sergei.  A man and a very sick woman join the search.  The woman fires up a lighter and they pass some sad souls . . . homeless, refugees?  One is eating a rat.  A drop of blood falls on the woman and they see Segei’s bloody corpse above them.

The camera pulls back through a hole to reveal that this has all taken place in a shipping container.  The problem is that the very first shot of the episode is an exterior of the ship, and the second shot is the exterior of the shipping container on-board.  This could have been a very cool reveal, but it is not just telegraphed — it is HD-transmitted to ruin the impact.

nvcargo04Crewman Mark Stevens is inspecting the area and hears the screams from the container.  He finds the Captain [1] and First Mate Taforner and tells them he thinks they might have stowaways because he hears “whispers, moans and screams” in the cargo hold of the ship, and they don’t sound like Kate Winslet.  Also, the rat problem has subsided. Taforner is suspiciously defensive and dismissive of Stevens’ concern.

Back in the titular cargo container, they discover that two more of their comrades — they all have eastern European or Russki accents, BTW — have been similarly killed. Stevens is inspecting the hold again when he finds finds higher than normal carbon dioxide levels indicating stowaways.[2]  Taforner is again angry, but Stevens tells him they have been at sea for weeks and the people could be starving — the only people ever to lose weight on a cruise.  After Taforner leaves, the woman calls to Stevens.

Through the world’s highest glory hole, she begs Stevens not to tell the Captain because he might kill them.  She does want to be let out, though, because something inside is killing them.  And the smell!  My God, the smell! Stevens finds an acetylene torch and a crowbar. As another person is being attacked, he begins cutting into the container.  For some reason he only cuts out a section about one foot square — why, you could only fit a human head through there!

nvcargo11Turns out the Captain and Taforner are in cahoots.  They tell Stevens the things inside are not human.  The Czars used them to terrorize the serfs.  The Russian mob uses them as assassins.  And as they get hungry, they feed on their own.

The Captain and Taforner [3] force Stevens’ head into the hole and the things chew it off.  In another scene graphic for TV, his headless body does a little dance before collapsing.  The camera pulls back to reveal this container is being shipped to New York.

Like many of the episodes I’ve watched, I think this would have been really good if it just had a better transfer.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Philip Baker Hall — he is usually so good that miscasting him seems impossible. They pulled it off here, though.
  • [2] This is so dumb I don’t even know where to start.  Micro-changes in air density is sounding more plausible.
  • [3] C’mon, you were thinkin’ it, too.  Dayum, I don’t care how corny it is, that song is awesome.
  • The IMDb lists a character called Dad From the Past.  I have no idea what that is about.  Even if there were a cut scene, I see nowhere to insert daddy-issues for any of the characters.

Night Visions – Harmony (09/19/02)

nvharmony02Teenager Pete Hartford is working on his homework when his mother opens the door without knocking.[1]  As soon as she sees that he is not ruining his mind listening to the rock-n-roll, she leaves.  He then puts on a pair of head-phones so he can ruin his mind with the rock-n-roll.  He should be more concerned about his mind being ruined from lack of oxygen as Mrs. Hartford comes back in and strangles him with the cord.  Another senseless death that could have been saved by Bluetooth.

Eli’s car breaks down, so he walks the 11 miles to Harmony.  He approaches a woman to ask about a mechanic.  It is strange that both of these encounters are played exactly the wrong way.  Well, maybe not exactly wrong as in diametrically opposed; but just wrong. It is hard to tell what he is trying to do.  At times, he seems to be hitting on her, and at times he seems to be indicating that he is homeless.  These aren’t usually successful in conjunction.

Similarly, when Pete’s mother strangles him, we can tell by the look on his mother’s face as she approaches that something is wrong.  There is no shock because we have had several seconds to prepare for something to happen.  You could say her approach was to create suspense, but her face does not convey the proper menace for that.

nvharmony05Luckily the mechanic is willing to get him fixed up on a Sunday.  He even directs Eli to a B&B.  Sadly it is not a B&B&TV as it has no televisions or radios.  Charmed by the small town, Eli whistles the tune to The Andy Griffith Show.  This brings the proprietor back in who claims that whistling sets off her migraines.  She institutes a no-whistling rule.  And frankly, I don’t think she hears all that many.

That afternoon, he sees a group of people dressed in black walk by the B&B.  He follows them to a cemetery.  Hey — there’s Pete’s mom!  He also sees Lucinda who had sent him to the mechanic.  She says that Pete died falling down a flight of stairs.  Her little brother Tim seems not to be a fan of Harmony as he says Pete was his only friend here.

That night, Tim breaks into the garage to steal some CDs from Eli’s car.  Lucinda tells Eli maybe this town isn’t for everyone.  People are happy here, but it comes at a price. That night Tim ups his game to B&E at the B&B as be breaks into Eli’s room.  He doesn’t steal anything, he just says “the people in this town are crazy.  They’ll kill you. They’ll kill us both.”

nvharmony04Tim knows that Pete was killed for listening to music.  That is why there are no TVs or radios, and why the landlady flipped out when Eli whistled.  He had also noticed at the funeral that they spoke the words to Amazing Grace rather than singing it.  I hope those were Jerky Boys CDs Tim stole or he is doomed.  He tells Eli that there is a “beast” in town.

Eli takes a flashlight and goes out to the cemetery.  He finds headstones for Thomas Warren (1851-1865) and Virginia Rogers (1839-1855) — teenagers who broke the rules. He sees Pete’s mother kneeling over his grave with a shotgun in her mouth.  She asks if he believes in “the beast”.  She blows her own head off, which is something you don’t see on TV everyday.

The mechanic helpfully delivers his car . . . to the cemetery . . . in the middle of the night . . . gassed up . . . his shit packed.  He is concerned about Lucinda, though.  He finds a group with baseball bats and probably some pitchforks although YouTube is too low-res to see for sure.  They have caught Tim with the CDs.  The group tells Eli that the beast is awakened by music and it will kill anyone in its path.

Turns out no one has actually seen the beast for 150 years.  The townsfolk say it is because they are careful, but Eli — who has been in town one day — claims it is a myth. He says, “You forbid music. Why?  Because music makes you feel joy, ecstasy, longing, sexual desire.  Those are all feelings that music brings and that is what you are afraid of.”  He tells them they are the beast.

nvharmony08Just to prove it, he starts singing Amazing Grace.  Then Lucinda starts singing.  Then the mechanic starts singing.  Then the landlady starts singing.  Then Reverend Shaw Moore starts singing.  I was starting to get worried, but thank God Eli was wrong — the beast appears and kicks ass.

I love a small town with a big secret.  This one has a little Gatlin (teenage deaths, a beast behind the rows), a little Stars Hollow (having to hide CDs), and a little Bomont (no music).  It is a fun ride, well performed.  I’m not a stickler for great effects.  The final beast, though, is pretty underwhelming.  However, Lucinda’s final cry that she never should have listened to Eli — and the looks on their faces — more than make up for it.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Shame on me for not working in a masturbation comment.
  • Space Trivia:  The Mechanic is Saul Tighe from Battlestar Galactica.  The actor portraying Tim is named James Kirk.
  • Title Analysis:  Meh.  I get that harmony is related to music, but how is it related to the story here?  Does it mean only harmonizing groups like barber shop quartets will be killed?  Because I could get behind that.
  • It would also work if the curse of the town’s curse enabled them to live in special harmony — dare I say, in concert — with each other.  However, there is no particular bonding or quality of life here that would make them tolerate the murder of their children.  Does the beast also hate U-Hauls?
  • Books-on-Tape must be huge here.  Why else would the kids have CD players? Yeah, I said Tape.