Amazon Prime has released season 3 of their excellent original series Goliath and I pretty much binged the thing in one night. While the first entry set the stage for a darkly funny, deeply emotional and consistently eccentric brand of storytelling, season 2 diverged from that into the decidedly perverse and unconventional in terms of a narrative bereft of catharsis, obvious beats or satisfactory resolution. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, it was just… different. This third season both continues to trailblazer those off colour paths and also gets back to the roots of what made the first season such an engaging genesis.
Billy Bob Thornton’s Billy McBride takes on the case of his old buddy (Griffin Dunne) whose wife (Sherilyn ‘Audrey Horne’ Fenn) has a deep connection to their past and has now died under mysterious circumstances. This eventually pits McBride and his trusty motley crew up against the deranged Blackwood clan and their acolytes, an elite society of billionaire ranchers who are corrupt to the bone, willfully malicious and have been stealing the county’s water for their own gross financial gain. Led by brother and sister Wade (Dennis Quaid) and Diana (Amy Brenneman), they and their peeps prove to be a titanic adversary for Billy & Co. and the story here feels fresh, funny, immediate and fully fleshed out right down to the smaller roles and one episode arc players. I love this show because it doesn’t just cast ‘of the moment’ stars, attractive young blood or flavour of the month hotshots like a lot of other stuff, it delves back into the collective cinematic and televised past and pulls out some truly talented people that we maybe haven’t seen onscreen in the past decade or so but certainly haven’t forgotten and recall with a smile as soon as they show up. As such we get excellent work from folks like Beau Bridges, Illeanna Douglas, Julia Jones, the great Graham Greene, Monica Potter, musician Paul Williams and season 1 villain William Hurt who comes back with a nasty vengeance here.
Thornton rocks the McBride role, cultivating the jet black humour, deadpan self deprecation and fiercely guarded but incredibly soulful empathy that make the character come alive and the performance stick in your mind. Nina Arianda returns as ruthless scene stealer Patty Solis-Papagian (pronounce it wrong and I wouldn’t wanna be you) and steals scenes harder than she ever has, this girl whips up Emmy worthy work and makes it seem effortless. The season focuses a lot on the villains and their struggles as well as their wicked acts, particularly Quaid and Brenneman who are both flat out phenomenal. There’s this kinky, just plain wrong aesthetic between the two of them but they never seem like moustache twirlers or one note monsters, always complicated and conflicted. You get a sense of region, of history and of real human strife on their side of things and I heartily applaud all artists involved for the work put in to invoke such a world and such reactions from me. The narrative is airtight to this season too and feels as conclusive as a hammer blow while still leaving plenty of room for more story and keeping one ever present, omniscient antagonist in the wings for more storytelling later. Also kept up is the strange, experimental and increasingly surreal style, and you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Dennis Quaid take peyote and dream that he’s singing Conway Twitty’s Some Say Love to an auditorium packed with other Dennis Quaid’s. He’s got some pipes too. All in all this is such a rich, unique and invigorating piece of storytelling and I hope they never cancel it.
Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is a harrowing film, one with enough perverse psychosexual energy, dripping southern atmosphere, stalker suspense and domestic trauma to raise the dead from the swamps of North Carolina where it takes place. Technically a remake of an old 60’s black & whiter with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, I have to give Scorsese’s version the edge no matter how controversial that opinion may be, he just had the freedom to take it further and not have to be so tame as films were back then. He also benefits from having star Robert Deniro in the hot seat as Max Cady, a monstrous, homicidal lunatic out to get Nick Nolte’s Sam Bowden, the slick heeled lawyer who put him away for years. Disclaimer: this is a thoroughly fucked up, highly disturbing film that goes to places you don’t even want showing up on the fringes of your nightmares, and doesn’t shy away from showing these atrocities in wild screaming life. Cady is an extremely clever, resourceful southern gentleman when he wants to be, and when the facade comes off he’s an unabashed, mass murdering psychopathic beast who will get at Sam any way he can, including the harassment and abuse of his wife (Jessica Lange) and teenage daughter (Juliette Lewis). It’s a setup for a wild ride of a thriller that seldom lets up once the wheels are rolling, and flies towards a conclusion set on the bayou that will raise hairs. Lewis, in one of her earliest roles, was rightly nominated for an Oscar, her simultaneous terror and mesmerization when Cady eerily seduces her is magnetic. The Mitchum and The Peck have two fun cameos too, the former as a sceptical cop and the latter as a hilarious, bible spouting asshole lawyer who shamelessly defends Cady. Nolte and Lange are charismatic in their scenes, but this is Deniro’s show all the way, and he creates a villain for the ages. Whether he’s beating up the guys Sam hires to beat him up, cackling maniacally in a movie theatre to piss everyone off, giving off violent rapey vibes to both Lewis and Lange or using freaky disguises to follow them all around, he’s a charming, ruthless boogeyman that has since become iconic. This is one of the premier psycho thriller of the 90’s, an intense, evocatively shot southern gothic freak show that has only gotten better with age.
Stir Of Echoes is not outright horror, not plain old thriller but rests somewhere in between, a nerve frying festival of suspense and the type of scares which send those lovely shivers down your spine. Kevin Bacon plays Tom Witzky, an ordinary dude who agrees to be hypnotized, just for funsies, by his sister in law (Illeanna Douglas). As soon as he’s under, he’s subjected to a terrifying and confusion vision that suggests violent torment. It turns out that he’s one of the fabled ‘one percent’ of humans who are so succeptible to hypnotism that they unwittingly soak up other psychic energies in their vicinity. Something, or someone from the other side has found him and latched on, which is bad news for him and us, as we get to sit through several sequences that will cause you to need new pants. The initial vision is nothing outright or discernable; just images and abstract impressions that eventually serve as clues. That’s what makes it so creepy though. Someone being murdered is someone being murdered, but specific, harrowing little glimpses unnerve us all the more in their fleeting nature. Reminds me of that infamous videotape from The Ring in it’s style. Tom finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery, never sure whether the forces guiding him are on his side or pose a threat, always hit with a sense of dread upon turning every corner. This is the only kind of horror that actually scares me, in the true sense of the concept. Creeping, uneasy and subtle, where anything could be haunted and the scares aren’t predictable. What’s more, it’s a smartly written, tightly paced, remarkably well made film. One of the best paranormal thrillers out there, plain and simple. There’s a sequel with Rob Lowe (of all people lol), but I’ve avoided it thus far, it looks kind of cheap. Stick with this original fright fest, it holds up wonderfully.