M. Night’s 'Servant' and festival darling 'Bloody Hell' are what you should be streaming right now

Spoiler alert: do not read this if you don't want to know what happens in season one of 'Servant.'

click to enlarge Sean (Toby Kebbell, left) and Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) deal with a missing baby and a missing nanny in the second season premiere of "Servant" - Apple TV+
Apple TV+
Sean (Toby Kebbell, left) and Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) deal with a missing baby and a missing nanny in the second season premiere of "Servant"


Servant
3.5 star(s), 30 minute-episodes, Apple TV+

[Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers from Season One]

It’s a complicated relationship that I share with M. Night Shyamalan.

On the one hand, three of his films—“Signs,” “Unbreakable” and “Split”—are among my favorite genre movies of all time. But then I wrote a pretty scathing review of “Glass,” and honestly, I haven’t heard from him since. I’m not sure if he’s ghosting me or what.

Regardless, there’s no denying that Shyamalan is a master when it comes to crafting a story hook, and clearly he has an eye for when others do it too. Case in point, Tony Basgallop, who created “Servant,” one of the flagship shows exclusive to Apple TV+, which Shyamalan both serves as executive producer and occasional director.

“Servant” is a wacky stew of conflicting narratives that somehow manages to keep you engrossed. If you’ve seen the first 10 episodes from Season One, then you know exactly what I mean.

The show chronicles the personal struggles of Dorothy and Sean Turner (Lauren Ambrose and Toby Kebbell), two mid-level Philadelphia celebrities—he’s a chef and she’s a local television reporter. The Turners lost their son, Jericho, in a tragic yet avoidable accident, Dorothy lost her mind and Sean agreed to a cockamamie scheme to lure Dorothy back to lucidity by introducing a Reborn doll in Jericho’s place.

The first season explored the consequences of tricking Dorothy, which included her hiring a nanny, Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), to care for the doll and the revelation that Leanne had the ability to resurrect Jericho, or a facsimile of the child. It ended with a bunch more batshit revelations, including that Leanne was born into a religious cult and the tease that she might be divine, as in receiving orders straight from God. Whoa.

Season two, which is now available to stream weekly, wastes little time diving back into the mess that the Turners made. The good news is that, finally, Dorothy, Sean and her brother Julian (a remarkable Rupert Grint) may all be working toward a common goal, which is finding baby Jericho, who last was seen being carried off by Leanne and the cult last year.

Being a film and TV critic has its perks, and while I can’t tell you what happens in the first seven episodes of the second season, I am happy to report that things get even crazier and the stakes become significantly higher as it appears the Turners may have incurred some Biblical wrath for their poor parenting choices.

“Servant” is the kind of show that people watch just to get a glimpse behind the curtain at how the inexplicably wealthy and privileged live and operate.

It features characters who don’t drive themselves, or they own self-driving cars. They throw dinner parties that are nearly upended by not one, not two, but three seismic events, and yet they continue on toward dessert undeterred. They work, but not in the same way that you and I work. And they’re assholes, truthfully, with few redeeming qualities, and yet we still tune in.

All of this is meant as complimentary because it’s those arms-length differences that make the Turners so infuriatingly compelling. I’m not sure if I’m hooked because I hope to see some grand comeuppance or because I’m secretly jealous of Sean’s massive wine cellar and his gorgeous four-story brownstone.

This, however, I do know: “Servant” is a better show in its second season, and that’s what matters.

click to enlarge Rex (Ben O'Toole) has a problem, and it's clearly not his workout regimen, in the unpredictable 4-star cult classic, "Bloody Hell" - The Horror Collective
The Horror Collective
Rex (Ben O'Toole) has a problem, and it's clearly not his workout regimen, in the unpredictable 4-star cult classic, "Bloody Hell"

Bloody Hell
4 star(s), 93 minutes, streaming

One of the best festival favorites from 2020 has finally arrived to stream, and I simply cannot implore you enough to rent or buy “Bloody Hell.”

From Ben O’Toole’s masterful, almost effortless turn as Rex, a douche-y but lovable lunk, to writer Robert Benjamin’s unbelievably twisted scenarios, “Bloody Hell” is a gory fairy tale that never fails to surprise or delight.

After Rex goes full action hero to single-handedly thwart a bank robbery in Boise, Idaho, only to be tried and convicted because one of the robbers killed a teller, Rex leaves the U.S. after eight years in prison to seek peace in Finland. What he finds instead is literal hell. He’s captured, loses an appendage and finds himself strung up by a cannibalistic family of psychopaths. He also meets Alia (Meg Fraser), the only sane one of the bunch, and rediscovers his inner action hero to save the day and get the girl.

“Bloody Hell” is bloody, indeed, not to mention hysterical, and wholly original.  

click to enlarge Adam (Alex Knapp) burns it all down in "Go/Don't Go," which is fitting seeing as how you too will want to set fire to your TV after watching this. - Gravitas Ventures
Gravitas Ventures
Adam (Alex Knapp) burns it all down in "Go/Don't Go," which is fitting seeing as how you too will want to set fire to your TV after watching this.

Go/Don’t Go
1.5 star(s), 91 minutes, streaming

Writer/director/star Alex Knapp’s apocalyptic love story, “Go/Don’t Go,” is admirable for refusing to compromise or offer even the faintest of clues to viewers as to what the actual fuck is happening.

But admirable, unfortunately, does not a good movie make.

Told from the perspective of Adam (Knapp), who might just be the last human left alive, “Go/Don’t Go” unspools at a glacial pace as viewers watch Adam venture farther and farther out from his safety bubble in an effort to locate supplies. These daily journeys are broken up with flashbacks to a happier time before whatever happened happened when Adam met K (Olivia Luccardi), a very patient woman willing to look past his awkward inability to engage in normal conversation.

We know something happened to K, but don’t hold your breath waiting to find out what. We also know something happened to everyone else, but Knapp doesn’t seem interested in sharing that secret, either, which makes “Go/Don’t Go” feel interminable for long stretches.

And don’t even get me started on the ending, which finally introduces something worth watching mere seconds before the screen fades to black.

click to enlarge Set in the year 2420, "Battle in Space: The Armada Attacks" features space wizards, hulking aliens and lots of starship dogfights. - Uncork'd Entertainment
Uncork'd Entertainment
Set in the year 2420, "Battle in Space: The Armada Attacks" features space wizards, hulking aliens and lots of starship dogfights.

Battle in Space: The Armada Attacks
2.5 star(s), 90 minutes, streaming

Pro tip: If ever you find yourself scrolling through New Release titles on your favorite streaming platform and you come across a new production by Hewes Pictures, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be disappointed.

“Battle in Space” is the third science-fiction or horror film that I’ve seen from Hewes Pictures, and they all share the same hallmarks. They’re typically told in short stories, like an anthology, showcase above-average special effects and usually feature solid acting.

While “Battle in Space” may be my least favorite title from Hewes, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch, especially if you’re stuck at home and you’ve nearly depleted your Netflix queue.

click to enlarge Why is Marcy (Siobhan Williams) so sad? It's not like she had to watch "Bright Hill Road" - Uncork'd Entertainment
Uncork'd Entertainment
Why is Marcy (Siobhan Williams) so sad? It's not like she had to watch "Bright Hill Road"

Bright Hill Road
1.5 star(s), 91 minutes, streaming

I recently read a review of “Bright Hill Road” that compared it, thematically at least, to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” which means I now have an obligation to tell anyone who will listen that this is not the case.

If anything, “Bright Hill Road” has more in common with “Jacob’s Ladder,” but even that comparison gives Robert Cuffley’s odd meditation on addiction, accountability and acceptance more weight than it deserves.

Here’s the basic gist: Marcy (Siobhan Williams) is both a semi-functioning alcoholic and the human resources director for a small company where an avoidable workplace shooting erupts. Shamed and shaken, Marcy decides to drive to her sister’s house to dry out, but stops at a boarding house along the way. And that’s when things get weird. The boarding house is basically the Hotel California; Marcy can check out anytime she likes, but she can apparently never leave, which means as viewers that we’re stuck watching her hallucinate and interact with the only other tenant, a not-so-reformed serial killer that Marcy may or may not have hit with her car in a drunken stupor.

On and on and on and on, it goes, until finally Marcy is forced to confront her own demons to find inner-peace, I think, while the rest of us watching are left twisting in tedium, unable to embrace the light.

Also Available as of Jan. 12

Jungleland Remember when Charlie Hunnam left “Sons of Anarchy,” destined to be the next-big-thing? Well, now he’s starring in this direct-to-DVD and streaming movie about two brothers, a boxing ring and a debt that can’t be paid.

The Twilight Zone: Season Two If you need proof that not everything Jordan Peele touches turns to gold, look no further than his reinvention of “The Twilight Zone,” which failed to catch fire after debuting on CBS’ streaming platform to great fanfare. The second season is now available to stream and on DVD.

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.

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About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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