Tag Archive: Stephen McHattie


Review by C.J. Bunce

With all the Netflix series being rolled out this year, October Faction might get overlooked.  It’s the latest monster series based on a comic book and it arrived on Netflix this past weekend.  Based on Steve Niles and Damien Worm’s graphic novel/comics of the same name, both the TV series (created by Sleepy Hollow and Stargate’s Damian Kindler) and the comics are a darker spin on The Addams Family–the comics even darker than the TV series, which is closer in tone to Riverdale, Charmed, and Stranger Things than, say, Grimm or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Unfortunately it’s not as well-constructed or visualized as any of those series, but it may be worth the time for fans of horror or stories of students with super powers.  It’s the super powers angle that demonstrates how closely linked superhero series are with supernatural and horror stories in the 21st century–Swap out a few words, monsters for malevolent aliens and witches and warlocks for superheroes and you’ll find October Faction has the same story beats as, say The Umbrella Academy or The Boys.  October Faction has an easier to digest, more accessible story than both of those series although the production values lack a certain tightness in editing and cinematography style.  It also could use a soundtrack that better matches the charging, creepy pitches found in Netflix’s three trailers for the series.

This is a story about a husband and wife and their twin 17-year-olds, and how the twins handle learning their parents belong to an age-old network of monster hunters.  Tamara Taylor (Bones, Altered Carbon, Lost, Serenity) is really in the driver’s seat as Deloris, the mom who always seems to have the right firearm close by, joined by husband Fred, played by J.C. MacKenzie, a character actor TV audiences have seen in dozens of police procedural series and movies, including The Irishman, The Departed, The Shield, and Hemlock Grove, as a father who is looking forward to a rest from the monster work.  If you agree MacKenzie is a ringer for a younger Matthew Modine, you might convince yourself October Faction is a prequel to Stranger Things (he also evokes Ed Begley, Jr.).  MacKenzie’s casting is an odd choice, like starring old school Fred MacMurray or Robert Young as a modern, mouthy murderer of monsters.  But he might grow on you.  The kids are more interesting: Newcomers Aurora Burghart plays Viv, an angsty teen who sketches morbid miscellany and can’t understand why she sees things before they happen, and Gabriel Darku is Geoff, her gay brother who is lost leaving behind his old friends for the family’s most recent relocation–and who also thinks he sees the deceased dead.

The level of horror and gore is about that of Shaun of the Dead, enough to establish genre while not becoming a full-on slasher show.  At first this appears to be another story of the Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers variety–black and white good and bad guys and monsters that are evil because ugly, unfamiliar, and different things are always evil.  Fortunately the story catches up in time and the theme becomes that of fellow monster series Grimm, that not all monsters are bad, and sometimes humans are the worst threat of all.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

So many books chronicle seasons of hit television series, but a new release for BBC’s Orphan Black takes viewers beyond the norm.  Like the incredible behind the scenes access we saw in Firefly–A Celebration, Abbie Bernstein’s new book The DNA of Orphan Black shows how the unique science fiction series creates its magic.  In 2013 we first saw Sarah Manning watch her doppelganger step out in front of a train.  Who knew how many clones we’d meet in the series, and how many roles Tatiana Maslany, last year’s Best Actress Emmy winner, could play in a single scene?  It’s not so difficult to wrap your head around the characters of the series because Maslany plays them all so well.  But when you try to list your favorite characters on the series, you momentarily forget “they” are a single actress portraying so many incredible people, and none like anyone you’ve seen before.

In The DNA of Orphan Black fans get unprecedented access to the development process, as told by the show’s creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson.  We learn how Maslany sees each character and created the nuances of each personality.  And we learn from the supporting cast, plus makeup designer Stephen Lynch, hair designer Sandy Sokolowski, costume designer Debra Hanson, art director Jody Clement, and production designer John Dondertman, and more.  Wrapping up its series finale in only four weeks, Orphan Black doesn’t have anything left to hide.  So we learn the tricks of the trade, and how the sleight of hand by the production team has created such complex scenes like Helena’s dream sequence and the clone dance party.  How do viewers know we’re not seeing Maslany’s Rachel, but her Krystal posing as Rachel?  Makeup designer Stephen Lynch explains how.  You’ll learn great tidbits about the show, like how the hair designer created only one “hero” wig for each of Maslany’s characters (each cost $5,000 to $8,000).

The DNA of Orphan Black is not just another TV show souvenir book.  It’s full of behind the scenes images, but it also includes surprisingly detailed interviews, thanks to author Abbie Bernstein (whose last book, The Great Wall–The Art of the Film, was one of the best film art books we’ve reviewed at borg.com).  You’ll see from the table of contents (below) that not only does Maslany provide a few pages of content as lead actor, as found in many TV books, each of her characters gets separate discussion as they would if they’d been played by different actors on any other series.  So as a fan you can get right to your favorite performance by Maslany.  Equal to Bernstein’s handling of the sestra clones is her attention to the key secondary characters: Felix (Jordan Gavaris), Art (Kevin Hanchard), Donnie (Kristian Bruun), Siobhan (Maria Doyle Kennedy), Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), the Castor clones (Ari Millen), and probably most significantly, Maslany’s acting double, Kathryn Alexandre.

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Breslin Haunter

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of ghost stories, and I’ve lamented before how hard they are to find among all the slasher horror gore fest flicks that pass for scary fare these days.  So I’m always excited to stumble across a new one on film.  One such recent discovery is Vincenzo Natali’s quiet Canadian production Haunter, starring Abigail Breslin (Maggie, Ender’s Game, Signs), Peter Outerbridge (Orphan Black, Nikita), Michelle Nolden (RED, Lost Girl, Everwood, Nero Wolfe), and veteran TV fixture Stephen McHattie (Adam-12, Kojak, The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Quantum Leap, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, Haven, Watchmen, 300, A History of Violence).

It’s 1984, and Lisa Johnson (Breslin) feels stuck in a rut:  Every day is just like the next.  Just like the next, and she’s the only one in her family of four who’s noticed.  The same Walkie-Talkie wakeup call from little brother Robbie (Peter DaCunha), the same pancake breakfast, the same friendly quarrel with Mom (Nolden) over the same load of laundry.  (“I did the laundry yesterday.  You just don’t remember that I did.”)  Wearily she trudges though clarinet practice, Dad fixing the car in the garage, a conversation about a birthday celebration that never comes, and the same episode of Murder She Wrote.  Until one morning, she’s startled Awake by a creepy noise in the laundry room, and discovers that her house, and her family, are at the heart of a long history of dark secrets.  And another girl—another family—needs Lisa’s help, if she’s ever to escape the time loop.

Haunter-Abigail-Breslin

Many parts of Haunter will feel familiar, maybe even derivative—but that’s OK.  In some parts it feels like a remake of The Others, and there are echoes of The Ring and every knockoff of Groundhog Day you’ve ever seen.  (See one of our early takes on time loops at borg.com here).  But it works, and it works well.  Lisa’s world is tightly focused and claustrophobic, and her navigation of several parallel timestreams is seamless and gripping.  Director Natali, known for his work on projects including Orphan Black, The Returned, Hannibal, and The Strain, has richly layered the film with finely wrought symbolism, from the leitmotifs of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” playing throughout, to Lisa’s Souxie and the Banshees concert T, to the dark fairytale iconography Lisa must wade through to learn the truth.

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