Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #9: Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning

Happy Halloween, everyone!  As this is, in fact, October 31st, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is officially the last scary movie of this year's movie series.  I may have to do one more, however, since this is hardly a fantastic movie to end things on.  It's too bad, really, since I like Ginger Snaps so much.

This time we're in 1815, out in the West somewhere (filmed in Alberta), and the sisters are back, Ginger and Bridgette.  They're out wandering in the woods, for reasons that are never made clear, and they find an abandoned Native American camp that is shredded and liberally doused with blood.  A little further on, Bridgette steps in a bear trap.  Ginger is unable to free her but luckily a handsome young Native American man stops by with his pet wolf.  He gets the trap off the dark sister and leads both girls to a nearby fort.  The soldiers at the fort are pretty strung out; they've barricaded themselves in but are running out of food since their supplies are late.  Some of the soldiers are nice to the girls, some leer at them, some are just this side of psychotically violent.  That night, Ginger gets up for some water, hears a noise and investigates.  She finds a deformed boy locked in a room and the boy bites her.  Of course, this is how Ginger becomes infected by the werewolf virus.  The girls decide to leave the fort but before they can, werewolves surround the enclosure and attack; the deformed boy is also attacking people from the inside.  Blah blah blah, various 19th century fighting against practical effects werewolves, lots of people die.  The sisters manage to get out and barricade the remaining soldiers in the fort.

Here's the thing.  This movie is slow.  The acting and effects are fine but the dialogue is weak and there's not much of a plot.  Hell, Ginger doesn't even go full-wolf so the stakes never seem that high.  I guess this is supposed to be a story of how the "curse of the red and the black" got started and passed down, but that doesn't make sense and doesn't sync up with the first movie.  Is this supposed to be a standalone, but using the same actors and characters as the first one?  Both Ginger and Bridgette are anachronisms, spouting very non-1800s dialogue.  I dunno.  I give it a meh.

Possibly next up: An American Haunting

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Walking Dead S4E3 "Isolation" 10/27/13

After a strong start to the season, we slow way back down again for E3.  Lots more folks are sick, lots of people talk about it and Carol makes a behavioral change which is supposed to be character development but which just seems abrupt.

As the episodes open, twelve more graves are being dug as the sickness ravages the prison population.  Meanwhile, Tyrese shows Rick, Daryl and Carol the still smoking bodies of Karen and David.  He is wild with fury, shouting that they were murdered.  He and Rick get into fisticuffs: Tyrese unable to deal with his rage and Rick letting his inner killer loose just a little.  Daryl pulls them apart.  It's a rough, horrible scene and you can just imagine how this might be how zombie apocalypse survivors would live - violence always lurking just beneath their skins.

There is lots of walking and talking, bandaging wounds and talking, digging graves and talking.  Everyone is stressed big time since this isn't something they can actively fight - you just sit around and wait for the next person to get sick.  Sasha comes down with it, and Glen, and little Lizzie too.  Quarantine is strictly enforced for the sick folks but even Dr. S gets sick as he tries to help the patients.  The council meets and decides to send Daryl and Michonne out after antibiotics, heading to a veterinary college fifty miles away that Herschel thinks maybe won't have been scavenged like human hospitals and pharmacies.  Bob the medic volunteers to go too and Daryl recruits Tyrese as well.  Tyrese is reluctant to go until he learns that his sister is sick.  Before he leaves, however, he pushes Rick hard to find out who killed Karen and David.  He also asks Carol if she would look in on Sasha for him while he's gone on the meds run.  She says she'd be happy to - but once he's gone, she freaks out a little, knocking over some water barrels and sobbing.  So, we're to understand that it was Carol, then, who killed and burned Karen and David.

The healthy children, plus Carl and Beth, plus Herschel, go into isolation in the administrative offices in the hopes that this will keep them healthy.  Herschel gets fidgety, though, and decides to go out into the woods to gather elderberries - he has remembered that his wife used to make elderberry tea to help combat flu symptoms.  Carl sees him leaving and goes with him to protect him.  They gather a bunch of berries and only run into a couple of walkers who aren't really threats - one is just a torso, stuck under a tree, and the other has a bear trap stuck around one of its legs.  Herschel and Carl don't even take out the zombies (I guess Herschel is trying to keep Carl from killing as much as possible) and return to the prison unmolested.  Maggie finds them and yells at her dad, not wanting him to go into the quarantine area.  Rick comes up and backs Maggie up, begging Herschel not to do it.  The old man is adamant: "We risk our lives every day.  I can save lives and that's reason enough to risk mine.  And you know that."  He takes his berries and enters the quarantine.

Carol sneaks out to fix the water hose.  The fence zombies don't notice her at first, until she starts banging the hose around, trying to clear the mud out.  Rick sees what's going on and runs to help her as the zombies converge on her.  Carol clears the hose and fights off the zombies, running for the fence.  Rick shoots a few to help clear the way.  Once back inside the fence, he says, "We decided to do this tomorrow."  She replies, "We don't know if we get any tomorrows."

The group on the meds run is in a low-riding muscle car that is just eating up the miles.  Daryl plays with the radio and they are all startled to hear a voice.  But then, just around a blind corner, there are thousands of zombies, a huge herd, and the car is quickly stopped and surrounded.  Daryl tries to back up, running down a bunch of walkers and getting the car's axle stuck.  They decide to make a run for it.  Daryl, Michonne and Bob jump out of the car, hacking, slashing and shooting their way to the edge of the woods.  Tyrese just sits in the car, ignoring Bob's shouts to him.  Finally, Tyrese gets out of the car and starts swinging his hatchet, but the walkers surround him quickly.  The other three watch, resigned, knowing the odds are against their rescuing him, then turn and run into the woods.  They pause in a clearing, turning to face what is following.  A few walkers lurch out of the woods and then, incredibly, Tyrese staggers out, covering in zombie entrails but seemingly unbitten.  His team collects him and they keep running further into the woods.

Back in quarantine, Herschel feeds his tea to Dr. S (who repays him by coughing blood all over his face) and Glen.  Glen is frustrated, pissed off to "be taken out by a glorified cold" after all they've been through.  Herschel chides him gently and tells him to think positive thoughts.

Rick finds Carol outside, lugging water around.  He tells her that what she did was stupid, going outside like that.  He says, "You know, you do a lot for us.  For the kids.  You sacrifice a lot.  Is there anything you wouldn't do for the people here?"  She looks at him ... and then my damn DVR cuts off the last little bit.  But this is where it comes out that yes, Carol killed Karen and David and burned their bodies to try to stop the infection from spreading.  Because I didn't see it, I don't know if she feels badly about it or not (and "not" would be a big jump for the character - but then so is killing innocent people, I think).  But at least we won't have to go through weeks and weeks of Rick doing his investigation.  Now we'll just have to deal with the aftermath.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #8: Dog Soldiers

Omigosh, Dog Soldiers, where have you been all my life?  Why has it taken so long for us to find each other?

Neil Marshall's solid debut (several years before the brilliant The Descent) is about a squad of British soldiers, out in the wild Scottish highlands on a training exercise.  There have been some recent disappearances in the area but they're not too concerned, ribbing each other, telling war stories, bitching about missing the big soccer match ... until they come across the remains of a Special Operations squad that has literally been ripped to shreds.  The soldiers (including Kevin McKidd and Sean Pertwee) are efficient, effective and loyal to their squad, responding as well to the unimaginable situation as they can, putting down their blank-filled training guns, picking up the S.O.'s real guns and retreating to an old farmhouse to make their stand against a pack of gangly, determined and very hungry werewolves.

This is what I've been waiting for all month: a monster movie with characters I liked and could tell apart, and who acted sensibly and realistically, with a couple of jump scares, a little humor, some nice tension builds and gooey red gore, plus lovely Scottish accents and some Highland cattle thrown in for good measure.  It isn't particularly scary although it is plenty violent - lots and lots of bullets are fired, until the soldiers run out of ammunition and then they make do with whatever they have on hand - and the blood and guts are plentiful.  The werewolves themselves are just great.  You don't get to see them very clearly until the last third of the movie; when you do see them, they're all done with practical effects - actors in werewolf suits - with no CGI in sight.

For those of you who are good at math, basically: Aliens - space + Scotland - aliens + werewolves - $$$ = Dog Soldiers.  I love-love-love this movie - so much fun!

Next up: more werewolves with another Ginger Snaps entry

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #7: My Bloody Valentine

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a slasher movie fan.  So when I do decide to watch one, I try to go for a classic one.  I was actually looking forward to watching 1981's My Bloody Valentine, one of the earlier entries into the genre.  Many horror fans are quite fond of the original MBV and I was therefore completely disappointed when I opened my DVD mailer to find the 2009 3D remake instead.  (Yes, I still watch DVDs by mail.  Don't judge.)  It wasn't until I actually started watching the damn thing that I realize how frigging disappointed I was.

Here's the plot synopsis:  A mine in Who-the-Hell-Cares, Pennsylvania, had a cave-in, due to an error by the mine owner's son, Tom Hanniger.  A bunch of miners were trapped but only one - Harry Warden - survived because he killed all the others to save the oxygen.  After his rescue, he somehow ended up in a coma until waking up in 1999, going on a rampage in which he slaughtered half the hospital staff and then pick-axing his way through a bunch of local teenagers who picked the mine's Tunnel No. 5 in which to party.  He was shot by the sheriff and buried out in the woods; Tom Hanniger freaked out and left town.  Ten years later, TOTALLY COINCIDENTALLY, on the day that Tom (Jensen Ackles) returns to town, a masked and pickaxe-carrying miner shows up and starts killing townsfolk left and right.  The serial killer is, of course, presumed to be Harry Warden, back from the dead.

I'm sorry.  I just ... I can't.  This movie is so very bad.  Unlike the original, the remake only has the most tenuous connection to Valentine's Day.  There is no suspense whatsoever.  I guessed the true identity of the killer within ten minutes.  The acting is terrible.  Even horror icon Tom Atkins can't save this bad, bad movie.  Here are some quotes from my notes:  "I am so bored.  Why do you suppose I'm still watching this?  This is by far the worst - at least The Convent was entertaining.  I really wish Blockbuster had sent me the original one like I wanted.  Also: way too long. [...] Tom Hanniger is crazy and this movie blows."  I still want to see the 1981 version but I'm going to have to take a break from My Bloody Valentine for a while first until I can forget I saw this one.

Next up: Dog Soldiers

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Walking Dead S4E2 "Infection" 10/20/13

Eeuw.  Some unknown creeper stands at the prison fence at night, feeding live rats to the walkers on the other side.  No wonder the zombies cluster there if they're being fed.  Who the hell is dumb enough to do that?

Here's a dead (haha) giveaway in a show as grim as this one: when anyone is at all happy, things are going to go to shit for them shortly thereafter.  With that in mind, Tyrese and Karen are canoodling in the prison library.  He asks if she wants to spend the night in his cell (in Cellblock C, I believe) but she says no, not yet.  They kiss goodnight and she heads off to the shower room to wash her face before bed.  For the first time in a really long time, I had to watch this show through my fingers, just for this scene, knowing that Zombie Patrick was in the shower room, just sure that he would lurch out at her.  (Good job, show, with the suspense.)  But Karen goes back to her cell (Cellblock D, I believe) unscathed and Zombie Patrick staggers after her, unheard and unseen.  He pauses at her cell's door, then moves further down the line when he hears a cough.  Inside the sleeping cougher's cell, Zombie Patrick kneels down and tears the sleeper's throat out with his teeth.  Blood spurts up as Zombie Patrick chows down, and the dying sleeper can't even cry out because his voice box has just been eaten.

Here's something that I would do: even "safe" inside the prison, I would close my cell door for sleeping, just in case.

In the morning, over on Cellblock C, Rick gets up at 6 and wakes Carl so they can go do their farming.  Because that's what they do now: no more guns, no more killing, no more life-or-death decisions - just compost and cucumbers.  Meanwhile, on Cellblock D, Zombie Patrick lurches out of the bloodied cell, looking for someone else to chew on.  The dead sleeper he'd been eating has zombified in the meantime and gets up himself, his intestines falling sloppily to the floor from the hole Patrick chewed in his stomach.  Outside, Glen and Maggie wake up from their night in one of the guard towers, and Michonne saddles up for another one of her scouting/searching runs.  (Do you suppose it's the Governor, hiding out in another part of the prison and feeding the rats to the walkers?  Long shot, I know.)  On the far side of the field, the fence is looking wobbly from the weight of the walkers; Carl asks Rick if he can help clear some of them out and Rick says no, cucumbers.  The idyllic morning is then broken by gunshots echoing out of the prison.  Rick runs for the cellblocks.  Michonne hears the shots too and turns her horse around.  Carl lets her in through the first gate but can't get the second one open in time - it's really a two man job - and two zombies sneak in, swarming over Michonne.  Carl grabs a rifle and gets one of the walkers and Maggie runs out and offs the other one, then helps the limping Michonne to safety.

Inside Cellblock D, it is utter and horrific mayhem.  There are zombies everywhere, many of them bleeding from their eyes and ears.  People and children are screaming and running everywhere.  Rick, in his new, pacifist role, will only help carry children to safety ... until he can't avoid it anymore and, with many an angsty look, starts taking zombies out with a tiny pocketknife.  Daryl, as usual, is a big ol' hero, dispatching walkers with panache.

Carol helps some big, burly guy to his bed, noting the bite on his arm and preparing to amputate it to save him.  Then she notices that he also has a bite on the back of his neck - and there's no saving that.  She asks him if he wants to say goodbye to his two little girls, Lizzie and Mika.  He asks Carol if she'll look after the girls like they were her own.  Of course she will.  She brings the girls in and their father dies.  Carol tells the girls that she has to take care of him before he turns.  Lizzie, the older girl, says she should do it because she's family - holy hell she's only about ten years old! - and Carol gives her the knife.  Of course Lizzie can't go through with it so Carol does, sticking the knife into the man's ear while his daughters wail.

As Daryl and Rick finish cleaning up, they notice that some of the walkers have no bites or other wounds - they just died, bleeding out of their orifices.  After consultation with Herschel and some of the new guys who appear to be doctors, it is suggested that a horrible and aggressive strain of flu has descended upon the prison, causing pleurisy and the bleed-outs.  Herschel the veterinarian says that birds and pigs can be flu carriers and they should do something about Rick's piggies.  He also points out that this sort of sickness is highly contagious and the whole prison population could be at risk.  A little while later, the governing council meets to discuss quarantine:  anyone who might have been exposed will go to Cellblock A (formerly known as "Death Row," but at least it's clean) while anyone showing signs of illness will be housed in clean cells down in the Tombs for observation.  Some guy named David and Tyrese's girl Karen have been coughing so off to the Tombs they go.  Because that's not FORESHADOWING or anything.

Rick goes out to help Daryl dig some graves and Daryl tells him that he was glad Rick was there in the cellblock with them.  Rick is all, I'm not much use without a gun, and I have no intention of taking it up again because whine-whine-whine I made too many bad decision and almost lost my son self-pity-more-whining.  Daryl's all, look, you earned a break from the action but if you see anything that needs doing or fixing, we'd sure like to hear your opinion.  Then Maggie runs up, screaming for them to help: the zombies are caving in the fence.  The three of them, plus Sasha, Tyrese and Glen, race to the fence and start poking walkers in the head.  Yes, even new non-violent Rick is back to killing zombies, although he grimaces before picking up a pike and getting down to it.

Inside, Beth wraps Michonne's ankle, feeling sad about the widows and orphans and "why don't they have a word for someone who has lost a child?"  Subtle, show.  Then baby Judith spits carrots up all over Beth's shirt and she thrusts the baby at Michonne so she can go clean up.  Michonne protests at first, then softens, cradling the baby close and crying silently.  Beth sees her and lets her have her moment.  Nice acting by Danae Gurira.  In another part of the prison, Carol finds Carl while he's making grave markers and asks him not to tell Rick about her teaching the little kids how to use weapons.

Out on the fence, Sasha finds the gnawed rats: "Someone's feeding these things?" But there's no time to contemplate this because the fence is totally caving in.  Rick, stepping up and making a big decision in a time of danger, despite his earlier protestations, shouts to Daryl to get the truck because he knows what to do!  What they do: Daryl drives the Jeep (why the fuck haven't they welded a top and sides onto that completely open vehicle?) towing a trailer; Rick rides on the trailer next to a big wooden box.  They drive around behind the fence zombies and then they go chumming for zombies.  Rick reaches into the box and pulls out one of his beloved piglets.  He slashes one of its legs with his knife and then drops it to the ground, where the swarming zombies immediately pounce on it.  They drive a little further from the fence, drawing more zombies off, and repeat with another piglet.  Again and again, Rick's face and chest drenched in piglet blood, until all the pigs are gone.  It's one of the most heartbreaking scenes of this whole damn show, actually, with the terribly sad music, the poor squealing piglets and (I can't believe I'm saying this) Andrew Lincoln's solid acting.  On the plus side, the walkers have all moved away from the fence and Glen, Maggie, Sasha and Tyrese are able to shore it up.

Afterwards, Rick dismantles his pigpen and burns it up, trying to eradicate any possible infection.  He tosses his blood-soaked shirt on the fire too - which makes sense because, as Carrie White can tell you, pig blood just won't come out.  Carl joins his dad and tells him what Carol's been up to: Carl thinks Rick should let her keep doing it.  Rick agrees with him, to Carl's surprise.  Then, even more surprisingly, Rick opens his toolbox and pulls out Carl's gun, handing it back to the boy.  He pulls out his own gun and holster too and straps them back on.  Thus endeth Farmer Rick, I guess.

In the final scene, Tyrese walks through the Tombs, carrying a bouquet of flowers for his sick girl.  But there's no one in Karen's cell, just a thick smear of blood on the floor, as though a body was dragged out of the cell and down the hall.  Tyrese follows the trail of blood outside where he is staggered to find two charred and smoking bodies - one of them identifiably Karen; the other presumably David, whoever he was - a gas can on the ground beside them.  My god is this show grim.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #6: Land of the Dead

George Romero's Land of the Dead (2005) is another one of those movies that I wasn't that impressed with while I was watching it but that I decided I liked better the longer I thought about it.  It's set some time well after the zombie apocalypse and, quite frankly, the zombies are winning.  Some enterprising humans have fortified a small city pretty well; it's bounded on three sides by rivers, with the bridges and four side well barricaded.  In addition, the 1%ers have taken over the luxury high rises, making them the ultimate gated community called "Fiddlers Green," where they live as though the ZA never happened.  Outside the Green, however, on the streets of this city, the rest of the population lives in poverty, kept complacent by the booze, drugs, gambling and other assorted sins thoughtfully provided by the richest guy in the Green, Dennis Hopper.  Hopper sends crews of guys out of the city, to the small towns that are overrun with zombies but not picked clean by humans, to bring back medicine, food, booze, etc.

These crews, led by Simon Baker and John Leguizamo, are savvy and well-armed, and they've got a secret weapon against the zombies - a massively armored truck called "Dead Reckoning."  They shoot off fireworks which distracts the zombies so the humans can do their raiding.  It's a pretty solid system, until they hit one town where, horror of horrors, the zombies seem to be evolving.  They're holding onto vestiges of their former lives - musical instruments, tools - and one of them, a huge guy wearing mechanics coveralls with the name tag "Big Daddy," is even more advanced than the rest.  He starts communicating with the other walking dead and leads them towards Fiddlers Green.  It used to be that the worst thing about zombies was how relentless they are.  With them using tools and figuring things out, hope for humanity's survival is getting dimmer.

I've watched a lot of Walking Dead since my last zombie movie and, as such, I've gotten used to zombie violence.  LotD is a little bit gorier/gooier than WD but not by much, so I didn't find it that scary.  Big Daddy is all kinds of awesome, though, and not something you want leading a charge against you.  Land of the Dead is a solid zombie flick and although I put it fourth out of Romero's four best, after Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, it's a damn sight better than a lot of the other genre entries out there.

Next: My Bloody Valentine (original recipe)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #5: Ravenous

Ravenous (1999) is a weird, little, kind of gory, kind of funny, low budget movie - just the thing for this month's movie series.

Captain John Boyd, Mexican-American War hero, is a troubled man.  First, he's not really a hero: left for dead on the battlefield, he was dragged behind enemy lines and stuck in a pile of dead soldiers, their coagulating blood running into his mouth.  With a surge of vigor, he climbed out and single-handedly took over a Mexican fort.  His commanding general thinks he's weird, however, and sends him off into the California wilderness to be stationed at the remote Ft. Spencer, deep in the Sierra Nevadas.  There are eight soldiers there - Boyd, Colonel Hart, Private Toffler the chaplain, Private Cleaves the layabout, Private Reich the psycho soldier, Captain Knox the drunkard, and a pair of Native American siblings, Martha and George.  When a starving man (Colqhoun) wanders out of the wilderness, babbling about his wagon trail being stuck in the mountains and reverting to cannibalism to survive, the bored soldiers head out to see if they can rescue anyone.  It's a trap, of course, and Colqhoun is the wendigo - the man imbued with strength and power from consuming other men - and he makes mincemeat of most of the rescue party.  Colqhoun recognizes a kindred, cannibal spirit in Boyd, and delights in tormenting him.  Boyd doesn't want to eat human flesh again because it's wrong from a moral standpoint; Colqhoun is the wily devil's advocate and, out in the middle of nowhere, it's difficult to resist him.

First of all, Ravenous has an amazing cast for a movie I never even heard of before:  Guy Pearce as Boyd; Jeffrey Jones (the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) as Col. Hart; Robert Carlyle (The Fully Monty) as Colqhoun; Jeremy Davies/Toffler (Lost), David Arquette/Cleaves, Neal McDonough/Reich (most recently the blond psycho from Justified) and John Spencer (Leo McGary from West Wing) as the grumpy general.  The music is incongruous, perky compared to some of what goes on on-screen.  The gaping wounds and spurting blood are over the top but not particularly gruesome.  Jones and Carlyle have some pretty funny lines and seem to be winking at the camera more often than not, while Pearce is his usual dour self.  The movie is a little slow in spots and runs a tad long - at 100 minutes, they could probably have trimmed at least 10 minutes away - but I thought Ravenous was a surprisingly entertaining, if not awfully scary, scary movie.

Next:  Land of the Dead

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Walking Dead S4E1 "30 Days without an Accident" 10/13/13

In the aftermath of last season's finale (and, by the way, I did read the next comics to see what is supposed to happen but I can't remember because I repressed it all because the comics are GRIM, man, and I don't like them), the prison folks seem to have a pretty good life going.  Daryl regularly brings new people into the prison from his scouting runs, which diversifies the population.  They've got a nice garden and a pigpen with a litter of piglets (where'd the piglets come from, show?), so they're working on supplying their own food.  Regular supply runs bring back batteries and other necessaries.  They've got some power and running water hooked up.  The biggest threat is the ever-increasing swarm of walkers pushing against the outer fence: to try to thin the herd, a regular crew goes out to the fence to stab the clustering walkers.  But they keep coming, more and more, and the people have to keep an eye on them.

There's now a ruling Council in place, its members include Daryl, Carol, Herschel, Sasha, etc., but not Rick, who seems content to be a dad and a farmer, and check on the snare lines occasionally.  Herschel does admonish him to carry his gun when he goes out there, although Rick doesn't want to and is all angsty and "I'm broken" about it.  Daryl is way popular with the newbies - almost as much so as with the viewing audience! - and it's pretty cute the way Carol teases him about the fandom.  Glen and Maggie are still Glen and Maggie and, well, I'm just going to get this out of the way because it doesn't go anywhere: at the start of the episode, they think she might be pregnant, so Glen insists that she not go on the day's supply run; by the end of the episode, they know she's not pregnant and they are both relieved.  Also, Beth and newbie Zack (played by Veronica Mars's Kyle Gallner, but don't get too attached to him) have a little thing going, but Beth doesn't seem to be as into it as he is.  Oh, and Carl seems to be normalizing a little bit, acting like a delighted kid when Michonne brings him a stack of new comics that she picked up on her last scouting trip - she's on a Governor hunt.

That pretty much brings us up to speed on everyone.  There are two "plot" lines in this episode: Daryl, Michonne, Glen, Sasha, Zack and newbie Bob (who doesn't look at ALL like a "Bob") go on a supply run while Rick checks the snares.

Supply run.  The store they're hitting is a big box store, unrealistically unlooted, supposedly because the Army commandeered it and set up fences around it.  They also crashed a helicopter on its roof and that'll be important later.  After a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of character work, in which redshirt Zack tries to guess what Daryl's job was pre-apocalypse (he calls it "the Turn") and Michonne laughs her ass off at his guess of "homicide cop," they go into the store.  Bob stares for a while at the bottom half of a zombie before he goes inside.  Then, as ominous music swells, the camera pans up to the building's roof where we see the top half of the zombie, plus dozens of more mobile walkers and that helicopter.  (We get it, show.  There's danger up there.)  Inside, everyone pushes their shopping carts around, filling them with items from their lists.  Bob pauses in the beer and wine section, tempted by a bottle of wine.  He thinks about hiding it in his jacket but then puts it back.  (We get it, show, he's an alcoholic which may prove problematic at some point.)

More immediately problematic: the shelf he returns the bottle to collapses and the whole case tops over on top of Bob, pinning him.  The others rush to help him, unaware that the roof walkers have heard the noise and are wandering across the roof.  When the roof walkers get over where Daryl's crew is trying to free Bob, the roof starts collapsing under them for some reason.  This next action piece is pretty cool: one at a time, the walkers fall through the roof.  Sunlight streams into the store from the holes in the ceiling.  Some of the walkers splatter - one awesomely dangles by his intestines for a while - but most of them struggle to their feet and go after the humans.  For all their experience, Daryl's crew has a tough time with these walkers: Glen gets knocked down before getting free; Tyrese almost gets chomped; Bob just manages to hold off a walker before Daryl drags it away and lifts the case off him.  In the end, only Zack gets eaten, first with a bite to the Achilles tendon, then getting his throat ripped out.  Everyone else runs away, just as the helicopter falls through the weakened roof, crushing the beer, wine and walkers beneath it.

Snare lines.  Rick comes across what he at first thinks is a walker but which turns out to be an emaciated, filthy and ultimately batshit crazy woman.  She looks as much like a zombie as you can look without actually being a zombie.  But Rick doesn't know the extent of her craziness at first, although he is wary of her.  He gives her some food and she asks if she and her fiance Eddie can go back with him to his camp.  Rick says that he'll need to meet Eddie first, and ask them three questions.  They talk as she leads him through the woods to her and Eddie's campsite.  She seems very fragile,brutalized by all she's gone through.  There's a lot of talking.  They finally reach her campsite, which is neat and tidy.  She hurries off to one side, greeting Eddie, but Rick looks around in bewilderment, not seeing Eddie anywhere.  Then, screaming, she lunges at Rick with a knife.  He knocks her away easily and she starts crying, saying that Eddie is weak, slowing down, and he needs something fresh to eat.  Then, miserably, she asks Rick to not "stop it," because she can't be without Eddie.  Realization dawns over Rick's face and, over his aghast protestations, the woman guts herself.  Rick drops to his knees beside her.  As she slowly bleeds out, she asks him what those three questions were.  Rick: How many walkers have you killed?  How many people have you killed?  Why?  Her answers:  Eddie killed all the walkers.  Only herself.  And, because you can never come back from this.  After she dies, Rick staggers to his feet.  He spares one glance for the twitching, squirming burlap bag sitting beside the fire ring, then walks away home.  It's a nice touch to leave Eddie to our imagination.

Wrap-up:  Daryl tells Beth about Zack's demise.  She feels bad but doesn't cry about it, instead giving Daryl an awkward hug.  Rick tells Herschel that he's nearly as nuts as the crazy lady and Herschel's like, no, you aren't and you're not going to be.  I think Herschel is as over Rick's melodrama as I am.  Finally, one of the new kids, Patrick, who is a Daryl-fanboy and Carl's friend, gets up in the night, coughing and sweating.  He staggers to the shower room and passes out in there.  As the episode ends, we see Patrick's dead face, blood drying around his eyes, ears and nose.  And then his eyes pop open, zombie style.  I don't imagine that's not going to be good for the rest of the prison dwellers, either having a zombie or a plague inside with them.

Overall, this was an okay episode, if it's just to be looked at to set the stage for the upcoming season.  The "plot" lines didn't advance the story at all, and I don't feel like I know any of the characters any better than I did before I watched it.  We'll see how the season goes.  Fair warning: if Daryl dies, I quit.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #4: Severance

Unpolished and in need of at least one more rewrite, but still entertaining and perfectly serviceable, Severance (2006) is the latest installment in this year's FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series.  A seven-person team of low-level executives from Palisade Defense, an arms-manufacturing company, are on a team-building retreat somewhere in Hungary/Romania/Serbia.  (The movie was filmed on location in Hungary but the hapless executives have no idea where they are.)  When the main route to the luxury lodge to which they are headed is blocked, the nervous bus driver abandons them on the roadside, refusing to drive down the scary secondary road.  Thus stranded, they decide to hoof it.  The road takes them to a spooky and abandoned building, however, and despite putting the best spin on their situation, it is by no means a "luxury lodge."  The next day, while a couple of them hike out to find a cell signal, the other five play paintball in the gloomy woods.  This is when hell starts breaking loose - the bus driver is found dead; a bear trap mangles one of the paintballer's legs - and the group is stalked by menacing figures, chased back to the not-luxury lodge and then picked off one by one.

This flick is a little uneven, with broadly drawn characters, most of whom get no development, including the bad guys - they aren't supernatural Jason/Michael types but just actual people for whom we never get clear motivation.  Final Girl Laura Harris (of Dead Like Me fame) is the best of the bunch, and it's fun to see her resolve coalesce when one too many of her coworkers gets slaughtered.  The strongest points of the movie are its ability to crank up the atmospheric scares and then back off the tension (I watched a good portion blurrily, over my glasses, sure that something awful was about to jump out) and its humor.  Severance isn't quite funny enough to qualify as a horror-comedy a la Shaun of the Dead, Black Sheep or Slither, but I did laugh out loud several times, which was also nice for diffusing tension.

Severance isn't my favorite kind of scary movie - I much prefer monsters or supernatural horror to stuff like this that could possibly (however improbably) happen in real life.  But this little movie was certainly scary, gory and funny enough to enjoy.

Next:  Ravenous!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #3: The Convent

The 2000 low (low-low-low) budget horror flick The Convent starts promisingly, gets bogged down in stereotype and terrible acting, and finishes in a not-quite-inspired spate of lunacy.  This movie is nuts, and very occasionally even in a good way. COMPLETE AND UTTER SPOILERS FOLLOW.

We open in 1960, at the St. Francis Boarding School, as a renegade Catholic schoolgirl bludgeons, shoots and burns alive a bunch of nuns and a priest or two, all whilst chain-smoking and knocking back slugs of whiskey.  Whee!  Then, unfortunately, we jump ahead 40 years to a bunch of idiot college kids breaking into the closed and abandoned St. Francis.  The kids are true horror movie stereotypes, including a Goth girl, a cheerleader, a jock, a dweeb, a loud mouth and a good girl.  They get busted by the rent-a-cops (Coolie plays one of the cops!) and then most of them go off to a diner, leaving Goth Girl behind to get snatched up by the most moronic group of Devil-worshiping humans you've ever seen.  The Devil-'shippers sacrifice Goth Girl, who upon her demise becomes possessed by demons (which is made evident by their Day-glo/black light makeup).  The other kids go back to rescue their now undead friend, become separated (as you do in horror flicks) and picked off one by one by the demons, except for the dweeb and his good girl sister.  Clarissa, the good girl, escapes to town and convinces Adrienne Barbeau to go back to the convent with her to rescue her brother.  Adrienne Barbeau is "Christine," the nun-killing schoolgirl from 1960, and she informs Clarissa that the nuns she killed were demons then and they're demons now.  Christine and Clarissa return to the convent and shoot up the place, and then Christine kamikazes the convent with some convenient explosives, taking out all the demons (and herself) while Clarissa, her dweeb brother and Boozer, a Boston terrier belonging to one of the dead college kids, escape back to school.  As a coda, Boozer, now possessed by a demon, goes for Clarissa's throat back at the dorm, leaving the dweeby brother as the sole survivor.

Items of note:  There's a totally bizarre scene where Clarissa and the cheerleader have a complete conversation while using adjacent Porto-o-Potties; the camera switches from door to door depending on which girl is speaking.  Adrienne Barbeau is a total babe/badass.  The producers seemingly used tempera paint for the demon blood.  Gore-hounds will note the literal shower of blood, the "facial," the intestine-eating and the poor decision to have sex with a demon while tripping on 'shrooms.  Best line of the movie: "My brother's gonna be the new Antichrist?  Mom's gonna be pissed!"

Let me be clear that this is not generally a good movie (although, to be fair, some horror movie experts whose opinion I respect love it tons and tons).  It strives for camp and in some places it is pretty funny, plus , the jittery demon-nuns are pretty rad.  I can forgive the low budget and the bizarre effects.  But the acting and the dialogue are SO BAD that 84 minutes felt like 184.  Let's hope that this is the low point of this year's FAFMSSOMS.

Next up: Severance!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #2: Daybreakers

With 2009's Daybreakers, we have a perfect example of an R-rated horror movie that's not the least bit scary.  It's 2019 and 95% of the world's population has been turned to vampires.  The vamps have kept it business as usual - global economics, social lives, school - life's schedule just shifting out of daylight hours since the UV causes them to burst into flames.  The problem:  with just 5% still human, there's not enough blood to sustain the population.  As blood rationing is instituted across the globe, and the impoverished classes slowly starve and devolve into feral, nightmarish creatures, reluctant vampire scientist Ethan Hawke works in a fancy lab for a high tech blood supply company, trying to synthesize an artificial blood substitute.  Ethan (not his character's name but who cares, really?) is sympathetic to the plight of the nearly-extinct humans race and becomes involved with a band of them, led by former vampire Willem Dafoe.  In addition to saving what few humans they can from the vampires' blood farms, the rebels want to get word of the cure out there.  It turns out that there are two cures: (1) burn the vampire out of the person with sunlight (extinguishing the flames before the inflicted turns into a crispy critter) and (2) get a vampire to drink a cured vampire's blood, which reverses the affliction.

Were you bored reading that?  Because I was bored writing it and I was bored watching it too.  Daybreakers is just boring.  There is no suspense whatsoever, no tension to the story.  The big bad is a businessman, ferchrissakes, played by a scenery-chewing Sam Neill.  Ethan Hawke, seemingly unaging in real life, sulks through the movie with nary an expression change.  The film gets its R rating from a few F-bombs and some squishy, bloody vampire violence, none of which is any worse than anything seen on True Blood (which at least is entertaining).  On the plus side, Daybreakers is short enough and I can get through almost anything if it's only 98 minutes long.

Next up (I think): The Convent

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #1: Friday the 13th Part 3-DI

The first movie of the Fourth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series is a pseudo-classic, Friday the 13th 3-D.  It's classic in that it's an old school F13 slasher and it's where Jason picks up his hockey mask; it's only pseudo because it's really kind of lame.  Wherein lies the lameness?  Terrible synthesizer music, an absolutely threadbare plot (even for an old slasher), an unsympathetic Final Girl (until she kicks it into gear in the last 20 minutes or so) and not much connecting it to the prior movie - even going so far as to rewrite Part 2's final scene.  Also lame: the 3-D of it.  I don't have a 3-D television (who does, really?) but even so it was obvious what effects were supposed to come leaping out of the screen at you, including a TV antenna, flapping laundry, a rattlesnake, a rat, a joint being passed, a yoyo, fruit being juggled, popcorn, a spear from a speargun and an eyeball.  Only the last two have any bearing on what was happening in the movie.

What happens in F133D is this: a bunch of young people go to an old farmhouse, purportedly on Crystal Lake, for the weekend.  They're all thinly-drawn stereotypes: a couple of stoners, a hot Latina, a couple who have sex all the time, a truly annoying nerd, a BMOC and his Final Girl girlfriend.  There's an incident with some bikers at a local store and the bikers follow the kids back to the farmhouse for payback, but the bikers all get offed - by good ol' Jason Voorhees, who is on the prowl after killing a white-trash couple a few miles up the road - before the kids even realize the bikers are there.  There are various sex-and-drugs shenanigans and then Jason starts picking them off.  Final Girl Kris, after pretty much being a whiny bitch for the whole movie, actually kicks some ass once she's the only one left, pulling a knife out of a dead friend and stabbing Jason twice, whacking him in the head with a length of stove wood, putting a noose around his neck and rolling him out a window so he hangs.  She survives the movie but is totally batshit bonkers by the time the police drive her away.

Some of the kills are fairly creative, and there's a high body count: (1) Harold/cleaver to chest; (2) Harold's wife/knitting needle to spine; (3) Foxy/pitchfork through neck; (4) Loco/pitchfork in gut; (5) Ali/machete; (6) Vera/spear through the eye; (7) Andy/machete through his junk; (8) Deb/machete through chest whilst lying in a hammock; (9) Shelly/throat cut; (10) Chuck/electrocuted; (11) Julie/red hot poker through the gut; (12) Rick/head crushed.  Good times!

Next movie: Daybreakers