The Viewing

The Viewing ★★★★½

The Viewing is a horrifying artistic feverdream, that is just as much a one-of-a-kind spectacle as Panos' other films before it.

God, it feels so nice to watch a new Panos Cosmatos thing, especially one entirely unexpected like this one. Mandy is my all time favorite movie, and Beyond the Black Rainbow was one of my favorites. The familiar visual language of both films paints a picture of the inside of Panos' mind better than any other director I've seen. You watch his movies and see the lighting turn red, you know that we are about to see a very visceral scene. You see a triangle door lit up in an unusually dark scene for his movies, and you know we are about to enter the gates of hell. We're always somewhere in the late 70's to early 80's, and it has almost the exact visual identity of a movie that came out back then. It's more like what you remember a late 70's early 80's movie looking like in your mind.

So, where do we begin here? This is a script packed with all character and character defining actions and, made stronger by the actors who play them. The biggest surprise to me was Eric Andre, of all people, who is the most serious role I've ever seen for him, and it makes me want to see more of him, frankly. He works brilliantly with Panos' very dissonant style. He is so deathly serious, but the one or two small moments you see that are classic Eric Andre that really show why he was a perfect cast for this. He's funny, but most of the time he reflects the audience and the discomfort we're feeling basically the entire time we are at this house.

Other strong stand outs include Charlyne Yi, who plays basically an awkward but likable nerdy scientist, Steve Agee as an overly critical sort of asshole novelist, and Peter Weller as the elderly rich man who gets the whole story going. The premise is that Peter Weller's character invites people with their hands in the media and sciences to his home to see something that he won't reveal to any of them. He's invited a music producer, an Uri Geller-like media personality, a novelist, and a scientist, and we also get to meet his two helpers, a chauffer experiencing a lot of trauma and a doctor who is at his side. I don't want to reveal much of this, because I think the mystery box element is strong with this one, and the last thing I would ever want to do is not give someone a reason to watch a movie from one of my creative inspirations, but the fact I know all of them so well off the top of my head should be a testament to the script here.

They all feel super rich and fleshed out, despite what is less than one hour to tell its story. A huge part of that can be attributed to the very roundtable-like build up this one has. It has a slow first few minutes, but once the incredible Peter Weller character meets with them, it's next to impossible to take your eyes and mind off the screen, and Panos will remind you how close those two things happen to be.

It's a very dense script, exactly what I expected from the exact same writing and directing combo that made Mandy. The small comments tells you everything about these people, and you have to pay close attention or else you're going to make it. A good director can make a great episode with a script like this, Panos makes it a masterpiece, because his visual storytelling is something to behold. He trusts his actors to tell the story with close ups on their faces, and uses a lot of fades and drawn out uncomfortable shots with lighting behind them that overpowers the actors in front of them, but in a weird way it only serves to enhance them. Colors evoke emotions. Panos knows this, and uses them to their best advantage.

Moreover, he keeps things familiar but he's not a one trick pony. I think people can look at this, Mandy, and Beyond the Black Rainbow and see his unique visionary style, and they're similar enough thematically that you can imagine all three takes place in the same world, states and years apart, but I feel like I get something new every time with his work. This one really shows him balancing a big cast, an interesting scene, and very witty dialogue.

I could not have been more happy to have been surprised by this episode's existence on the day it dropped, and I love this man. I don't rate TV shows often on Letterboxd, even if I've seen them, but the best episode to an incredible series that are basically one hour short hour films on their own? I think this one deserves it. It doesn't even need Del Toro's monologue to work, but it makes his already great show even greater. I'm already hoping we get a second season so more of my horror favorites get handed fat Netflix checks to make what they want.

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