The Horror Honeys: Come on in, Falling Water’s Just Fine!

Come on in, Falling Water’s Just Fine!

A Guest Honey Pilot Review with Katherine Wells

Falling Water (2016 - )

October has traditionally been a great time to head to the local cinema and enjoy a splatter movie with a bunch of other like-minded weirdos. For years, the Saw franchise dominated this, the spookiest of months, but there were also at least a few other offerings to choose from to get our scary on. 2016, however, is turning out to be a dud for October wide-release horror. We’ve got Ouija: Origin of Evil. That’s about it.

Thankfully, there is no shortage of great genre television. Fall 2016 brings us new seasons of Scream Queens and American Horror Story, The Exorcist TV series (ridiculously better than expected, and if you’re not watching, shame on you), and a new offering from the producers of The Walking Dead and Homeland, USA’s cryptic dream trip Falling Water, premiering October 13th.

No, this is not another meme of Donald stalking Hillary at the debate.

Falling Water follows three strangers who won’t be strangers for long: Burton (David Ajala), Taka (Will Yun Lee), and Tess (Lizzie Brocheré). All three are in professions that reward their highly intuitive natures (Burton is head of in-house security for an investment banking firm, Taka is an NYC detective, and Tess makes her living predicting youth fashion trends), and all three have been experiencing deeply unsettling dreams. For Tess, it’s the painful labor and delivery of a baby boy she never had. Burton is haunted by memories of the ex-girlfriend that got away. Taka’s burden is twofold: the time he spends in his waking hours caring for his catatonic mother is rivaled in its torment only by his dreams, which are plagued with visions of mom in various states of unrest and torture.

Man, these new Restasis commercials are getting way existential.
Like these three, we’ve all had bad dreams, the kind that make us feel dirty inside and out. They can feel so real, so intensely personal, that we wake up sick and shaking. No matter how disturbing they are, though, we’re usually able to shake off even the really icky ones in half a day or so. But what if that sinking feeling didn’t leave, and instead invaded our waking world in the form of sage strangers, piles of dead bodies, and hidden medical records that confirmed things we’d only seen in our dreams? What if we became convinced that our dreams were trying to tell us something and that, indeed, our dreams didn’t belong to us, but were part of a greater collective consciousness that implied an epic and possibly insidious master plan to control us?

The title of this (pilot) episode is “Don’t Tell Bill,” and the titular character (played by a magnetic Zak Orth) offers up the most explicit information we can hope to get about the mystery at hand. He is the narrator of the show and a puppet master of sorts, entreating a skeptical Tess with a quid pro quo: if she takes a nap next to a stranger and attempts to enter his dreams to glean information, Bill will present her with proof that she gave birth to that child she’s been dreaming about.

Village of the Damned 5: The Dream Child
Just how Bill knows about Tess’s recurring dream about a missing child doesn’t concern Tess, but once she enters the stranger’s dream (there’s no elaborate technology here, just an old-fashioned telepathy of sorts), she gets the first real inkling that Bill is not to be trusted, as Tess’s dream buddy asks her to lie to Bill about what Tess sees him doing in the dream. Trusting her instincts, Tess doesn’t tell Bill exactly what happened in the dream, and Bill gives her a piece of paper: proof of a hospital stay on a maternity ward, a stay she doesn’t remember, but which confirms her suspicion that her dreams are not merely mysterious, but foreboding.

Bill asks Tess to consider “the idea that we are all connected in ways that we can’t even understand yet.” What Burton and Taka have to do with Bill is not addressed directly, but there are plenty of indications that these two are mainlining funky imagery from the same Jungian brain soup that Tess is tapped into. The little boy that Tess never had shows up for Taka, not only in his dreams, but in a spooky moment in the real world. Taka’s catatonic mother makes an appearance in one of Burton’s dreams. All three characters encounter mentions of Topeka or Wichita, the significance of which isn’t fully explored yet. Tess and Burton even live in the same building. One gets the feeling that the three form a sort of Dark Tower-esque Ka-Tet whose destiny as a unit has not yet been made totally clear.

Making a Splash:

While Falling Water is certainly not straight horror, there are some delightfully disturbing images and moments in the premiere episode. It’s a little creepy, a little Sci-Fi, and a little dystopian. It’s also beautifully shot and edited, with music that gets downright sexy in the final scene. With its lovely flat grey and blue pallor, much of the show, even without its ample use of water imagery, gives the impression of being suffocatingly underwater.

Falling Flat:

Our three leads are wonderful actors, but the pilot episode places quite a bit more focus on the mystery at hand than it does giving us any real idea of who these somber, joyless people are. When Tess’s editor implores her to cheer up (“What happened to your smile?”), it’s laughable how hard it is to imagine Tess has ever flashed a carefree smile in her entire life.

Burton smiles almost as much as Tess in this episode
Executive Producer Blake Masters insists he and the late Henry Bromell came up with this show and its concept of shared dreaming in 2006, long before the release of 2010’s Inception; still, viewers can’t help but be reminded of its concepts while watching Falling Water. Rather than the complicated scientific dream-levels of Inception, though, this show offers heavily symbolic and lilting imagery while intimating the presence of a conspiracy of epic proportions, literally a “war for control of our dreams.” Falling Water aims to explore the truth beyond science, beyond that which we can empirically test, and even with its flaws, I wouldn’t dream of missing the second episode.

Guest Honey Rating: 3 out of 5 cups runneth over