Tuesday, November 21, 2017

We interrupt your regularly scheduled posting

With my apologies, this week's The Walking Dead recap will be late because I spent my Sunday and Monday nights bingeing my way through the back half of Netflix's Marvel's The Punisher and I just haven't watched Sunday's TWD episode yet.  I have to say that I really enjoyed The Punisher, more than I expected to.  I've never read the comics and so my only exposure to the character was through Daredevil S2.  Frankly (haha see what I did there?), I thought Frank Castle was the best part of Daredevil's second season.  I never liked Jon Bernthal in The Walking Dead but now I realize that it was his character - Shane, ugh - whom I hated because Bernthal is FANTASTIC as Frank Castle.  He can be charming as hell and then turns on a dime to be brutal/sad/scary; he has fantastic chemistry with pretty much anyone he is paired with, especially with Deborah Ann Woll/Karen.  The Punisher is truly brutal but it is also very thoughtful and if I wished it had been even more introspective/exploratory in some of its themes, it is still not the Rambo-esque bulletfest I feared it would be.

Netflix/Marvel series, in order of preferenceJessica Jones; The Punisher; Daredevil S1; The Defenders/Luke Cage* (tie); The Defenders; Daredevil S2 (as a whole because too many damn ninjas); stupid/insipid Iron Fist.

*  I'm torn on where to put The Defenders: parts of it I LOVED (anything with Jessica and/or Luke; and anything with someone giving Danny Rand shit) but then you had to have Danny Rand and Matt in his mope-y iteration which was less enjoyable.  On it's own, I liked Luke Cage quite a lot but they killed Cottonmouth too soon OOPS SPOILER and I may have dozed off during some of the later episodes.  In any event, Claire Temple should be in all the shows more.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Walking Dead S8E4 "Some Guy" 11/12/17

Ezekiel finally gets to have an episode focused on him.  We start with a bit of a flashback: getting ready before launching the big fight against Negan, dressing, arming himself, walking out into the Kingdom and giving another speech.  The man does love to give speeches, even as Carol watches, bemused, but the thing of it is, his people thrive on his words.  He encourages them, lifts their spirits, rallies them.

And then we cut to now: the field where Ezekiel and Carol's band of mainly Kingdomites lay in bloody, bloody pieces, torn to bits by the Saviors' two .50 cal machine guns.

When the shit went down, Carol was out scouting.  Ezekiel was protected by a group of his people, shielding him with their bodies.  He drags himself out from under the pile.  His leg is injured and he crawls from corpse to corpse, turning them over, looking at their faces and their massive, ruptured wounds.  He allows himself a scream to the sky ... but it is cut short when the first of the dead stirs, coming back to life.  Soon enough, the King is crawling away from a herd of walkers.  His gun is empty, the next gun he picks up is empty, he's only got his sword/cane.  The walkers converge.  Ezekiel is saved - momentarily - when a still-living soldier of his rushes up, putting down the closest walkers and helping his king to stand. 

That rescue is short-lived when a nerdy, glasses-wearing Savior kills the Kingdom soldier and forces Ezekiel to his feet.  This dude spends the next while badgering Ezekiel, telling him he's a con man with gullible subjects, waving a gun in the king's face and generally being a huge asshole.  All the while, the herd of walkers marches inexorably towards them. 

Meanwhile, Carol makes her way through the warehouse where the Saviors are packing up those giant guns.  She is a calm, competent badass and when she hides in the ceiling and then takes out five of them, it's awesome (even though it's ridiculous because she shot through the drop ceiling and certainly couldn't have seen her targets).  More Saviors show up and she has to skedaddle, out to the door yard where she watches them load those big guns onto a jeep.

King Ezekiel and his captor are cornered at a chainlink fence.  Ezekiel is in a lot of pain and is beginning to lose his bravado.  The Savior decides that maybe he doesn't need to bring the King back alive - maybe his head will do.  But before things can get much worse, Jerry is there, swinging his big ax and splitting that Savior right about in two.  Jerry picks off the nearest walkers to buy some time and then tries to break the chain holding the gate together.  When Ezekiel tells him to stop calling him "your majesty," Jerry's all, "Dude, yes I do."  The walkers come closer and closer and Jerry can't get the chain off the gate.  He and Ezekiel are trapped and soon fighting hand to hand against the walkers.  Jerry:  "Thank you, your majesty."  Ezekiel, with no trace of his Shakespearean accent: "For what?"  Jerry: "For bein' such a cool dude."

In the door yard, not far from the fence where Ezekiel and Jerry are trapped, Carol and the Saviors start shooting a lot of bullets at each other.  It's basically a standoff and a ridiculous number of bullets are wasted.  Then Carol sees Ezekiel and Jerry, pinned down against the fence. She fakes out the Saviors and manages to open another gate behind her foes.  The walkers come in and attack the Saviors, giving Carol enough time to run to the fence by Ezekiel and Jerry.  She drops the walkers there with her machine gun and gets the chain off, letting the two men in to safety. 

The remaining two Saviors drive off with the .50 caliber guns, however.  This distresses Ezekiel, since their mission had been to collect those guns, but then they catch the sound of Daryl's motorcycle in the distance.  Carol: "They're not getting away with the guns."

Another flashback, this one a little intrusive, given that the episode had been pretty involving up until this point, with Ezekiel and Carol talking and admitting that each of them made a choice to become who they are today.

As Daryl and Rick, in a jeep, run the Saviors off the road and capture those guns, Carol, Ezekiel and Jerry are on foot, trying to stay ahead of the herd of walkers.  Ezekiel's hurt leg is slowing them down and they end up trying to make their way through the woods.  They come upon a creekbed filled with barrels of toxic waste: the walkers milling around in there are pale and bloated - like that walker Ezekiel commented upon a couple of episodes ago (and we KNEW these toxic walkers would make another appearance) - and when Jerry hits them with his ax, they basically explode into disgusting white pus.  Carol, Ezekiel and Jerry try to get across the creek but there are a lot of walkers.  They struggle to get the king up the far side and he insists that he leave him there - he can buy them time.  In fact, he wastes some time by making another speech - time that would have been better spent climbing up that banking and getting away - crying out that he isn't a king, he isn't a leader, he's nothing, he's just some guy.

Just then, Shiva the magnificent CGI tiger leaps into the creek.  As she lays waste to several walkers, Carol and Jerry haul Ezekiel out of the creek.  He turns and calls to the tiger but she keeps fighting the walkers as they surround her.  Eventually, there are too many even for her and they collapse on her and begin to feed as Ezekiel screams her name.  (Apparently this is the way she dies in the comics, under a pile of walkers, sacrificing herself so Ezekiel can get away.)  The scummy water in the creek turns red with tiger blood.  I'm a little sad - yes, for the death of a CGI tiger based on a comic book tiger.

Carol, Ezekiel and Jerry finally return to the Kingdom.  They are the only ones to come back out of everyone who left.  The people of the Kingdom gather around their king, shock and sadness on their faces.  He can barely meet their gazes.  There are no speeches now.

Best episode of the season so far.  Even if the tiger had to die.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mini movie review: John Wick: Chapter 2

Ooooooooooooooo John Wick: Chapter 2!!!  Everything that was great about the first movie (and that's pretty much everything) is even moreso in JW:C2.  It is bigger than the first one, without the singularity of focus, but it is friggin' awesome.  I have decided that should I need a lost weekend, I will be marathoning The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Fury Road and the John Wicks, plus Terminator 2.  That's some of the best action going, in my opinion. 

But I digress.  Watch John Wick: Chapter 2.  So good.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Walking Dead S8E3 "Monsters" 11/5/17

How is it possible that an ultraviolent show full of flesh-eating zombies and people on the ragged edge of humanity is so fucking BORING?  And why are we three episodes in with only minimal Michonne?  Don't get me wrong - I'm grateful that we haven't much been subjected to her "chemistry" with Rick (*gag*).  But Michonne is a kickass fighter and I miss that.  Perhaps her Black Panther schedule meant she couldn't be around so much?  I suppose that's it.  Sigh.  Guess I can't put this off any longer. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

Sweet christ on a pony - King Ezekiel is STILL talking about their victories, one leading to another, and how they haven't lost a warrior yet.  He is obviously not up on his television tropes since this definitely means disaster for his war band by episode's end.  In the meantime, he and Carol and his fighters stick to their plan, remember their training and manage to decimate rather a lot of Saviors in several different places.

Morales makes Rick put his guns down and they talk and talk and fucking talk.  Nothing new is said.  Morales is all, you're a monster now, I'm a monster now, blah blah blah.  It seriously goes on for WAY too long and in addition to that being annoying, Morales calls Rick by his name practically every other sentence which makes no sense since there's only the two of them there.  Morales talks and talks and talks and no one cares, because who even remembers this guy?  And then, with no ceremony and HILARIOUSLY, Daryl comes up behind Morales and shoots an arrow into his head, just as Rick is all, "Wait - no!"  Daryl shrugs and retrieves his arrow; Rick looks stunned but that's sort of how he looks all the time now unless he's shouting at someone.

Meanwhile, outside, the Saviors have been called back into the building (where they will shortly be hunting Rick and Daryl).  Aaron takes advantage of the lull to get Eric to a quiet tree around the corner.  They pack Eric's gunshot wound as best they can and then Eric tells Aaron he needs to go back to the fight.  Aaron cries and snuffles and they both smooch and say "I love you."  Then Aaron gives Eric a rifle to defend himself and goes back to the fight, with many tearful backward glances.  You know this means Eric is going to die now, off-camera, right?  It would be touching if Eric had ever been given some depth character-wise.

Meanwhile, Tara, Morgan and Jesus are marching their captive Saviors back to the Hilltop.  Tara is very cranky about the prisoners but Jesus is insistent that they not be executed.  Morgan is even crankier about it - and seems to be holding onto his sanity by just a thread - and you know, I'm kind of with him and Tara on this.  The Hilltop is ill-equipped to contain a bunch of violent Saviors and I think this is a terrible idea on Jesus's part.  Luckily, they get interrupted when a small herd of walkers comes tumbling down a hillside into the group.  This is one of the best parts of the episode: seeing the zombies roll down the hill.  Tara, Morgan, Jesus et als fight the walkers; several of the tied-up captives get munched on.  But a string of captives take advantage of the distraction to make a run for it.

Morgan takes off after them, catches them and drops one or two.  Then Jesus catches up and he and Morgan fight about it.  Like, literally beat each other up over whether the captives should be killed or not.  Despite Morgan having his bo staff, Jesus gets the better of him with just his bare hands.  Morgan is pretty crazed here - seems like he's all all-or-nothing guy with respect to killing.  Personally, I miss Zen Morgan a bit: I think his philosophy was a tough sell in this post-apocalypse but Serial Killer Morgan is less interesting.  Finally, they stop fighting (Jesus wins, more or less) but Morgan.  Has.  Had.  Enough.  He's all, "I'm not right but that doesn't make me wrong."  As he runs off, unable to handle things right now, Tara calls after him, "Morgan! You are right!"

Meanwhile, the remaining Saviors who were shooting at Aaron's group are now inside, shooting at Daryl and Rick.  This goes on a LONG time (many, many bullets).  Neither Rick nor Daryl gets shot and Aaron's group finally comes in and picks off the Saviors.  Trouble is, there are no guns in this building like Dwight said there were.  Aaron runs out to check on Eric: there's a lot of blood under that tree, and Eric's abandoned rifle, and a walker in the distance who looks like it could be Eric.  Aaron has lots of sad feelings about this until another Alexandrian grabs him and leads him back to the rest of the group.  Rick comes out with that baby Gracie and a tearful Aaron says that he will take the baby to Maggie at Hilltop.

Meanwhile at Hilltop, that weasel Gregory has found his way home.  He shouts and begs and pleads (and is pretty funny in his weasel-osity).  Maggie makes him squirm for a while and then finally lets him in.  And then the sentry shouts for her: Tara and Jesus and their captives are at the gate.  Gregory vigorously protests letting them in and Maggie sends him off.  But she is reluctant, reminding Jesus that there are families - children - here.  Jesus pleads his case: we can't let them go and we can't kill them.  Maggie looks as though she's not entirely sure (but I'm guessing she'll let them live - and then regret it in the near future).

Rick and Daryl are the last to leave wherever it is they are.  A last Savior takes a shot at them and Rick makes a deal: if he tells them about the guns that were supposed to be there, they will give him a car and let him go - Rick gives him his word.  The Savior comes out with his hands up, tells them that the guns were moved a couple days ago (intel that Dwight apparently (?) didn't have).  Then Daryl shoots the guy in the head, dropping him.  Rick is all, but I gave my word!  And Daryl's all, dude, I so DNGAF.

Finally, King Ezekiel is crowing about his band's latest success.  Carol heads off to sweep the compound they just took.  Everyone else stands in the field and stabs the heads of Savior corpses to keep them from turning.  And then, Ezekiel catches sight of movement in a warehouse window.  He shouts for his people to take cover but it is too late: a massive volley of machine gun fire (the guns Rick and Daryl were hoping to find?) rakes the field, shredding a bunch of the King's men. That's okay just do not shoot the tiger.

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

Mini movie review: The Purge: Anarchy

After watching the first Purge movie back in October, I was fairly convinced that this series didn't qualify for horror movie status.  But I wanted to be thorough in my research and watched the second one, The Purge: Anarchy and yes, I can reiterate that I do not consider the Purge series to be horror flicks but tense action/thrillers instead.  No sense letting a quickie movie review go to waste, however!

Once again, it is the near future in the U.S.A. and time for the annual Purge wherein poor and brown Americans are disproportionately killed off, thus keeping the power in the hands of the rich white folks.  From out of this horrible night emerges a hero - played with a steel jaw by Frank Grillo - who ignores the unwritten rule that you are not supposed to save lives, only take them.  The twelve hours of the Purge become a cat and mouse game of trying to stay alive.

This movie is violent and has a horrible concept but it ain't horror.  It is compelling enough that I'll probably see the next installment as well, as from what I've ready the series gets better as it goes.  Plus, more Frank Grillo!

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Walking Dead S8E2 "The Damned" 10/29/17

I try to get my recaps of The Walking Dead up on Tuesdays:  the show airs Sundays (but late enough that I don't stay up to watch it); I watch the show straight through on Mondays; and I rewatch the show whilst recapping on Tuesdays.  This past Tuesday was Halloween and Mr. Mouse and I had gone out for dinner - we never get enough trick-or-treaters to make it worth staying home and handing out candy - and got back too late for me to want to drag out my laptop.  No big deal - it's not like anything happened.  I never thought that an episode of nothing but gun battles could be as boring as an episode of nothing but hanging around Herschel's farm, talking.  But yeah, it kinda was.

Extreme close-ups of:  Rick, Daryl, Aaron, Tara, Jesus and Morgan, all looking nervous and determined; Carol and Ezekiel, looking dazed and dusty.

Here's the thing, we now will spend the entire episode following several groups of our heroes as they execute various attacks on Savior installations.

Aaron, boyfriend Eric and a crew roll up behind their homemade armored cars and get into a shoot-out with a bunch of Saviors, some fighters and some workers.  There is much shooting of semiautomatic weapons.  Seriously, does no one reload?  Does no one worry about the finite amount of ammunition left in this world?  They shoot and shoot and shoot and no one tries to gain any ground.  The Saviors advance a little and start picking a few good guys off.  Then, apparently this has been going on for HOURS because the dead Saviors become zombified and turn on the living Saviors, who just stand there and get bit.  Because they can only fight against living people?  And how long does it take for a corpse to get back up again?  Because that seemed pretty quick.  Also, boyfriend Eric gets gutshot and Aaron is sad.  Eric's only characterizations are (1) ginger and (2) Aaron's boyfriend, so I'm not that torn up about it.

Morgan, Tara and Jesus are attacking a Savior outpost with big satellite dishes on top.  I don't know or can't remember why this outpost is important (food? weapons?) other than it is held by the Saviors.  They work their way through the building, picking off Saviors.  Morgan has clearly moved on from his not-killing-people stance (which is too bad because it made him interesting).  Jesus and Tara find a dude locked in a closet: Tara wants to kill him, Jesus wants to spare him and it turns out that Tara was right because the dude grabs Jesus and almost kills him.  Our heroes finally get the upper hand and Jesus insists on tying him up.  I'm sure that won't turn out to be a bad idea.  Meanwhile, in another part of the building, Morgan and two redshirts open a door.  The Saviors inside open fire, dropping them all before scampering away.  Some time later, it turns out that Morgan is, in fact, not dead; the two redshirts either are or are about to be.  Morgan stands up, shakes himself and then moves through the building to rejoin his team, implacably shooting a hell of a lot of people.  When he meets back up with Jesus, Tara et als., they have - against Tara's better judgment - convinced the remaining Saviors to put down their weapons and surrender.  Morgan looks like he's about to gun down the lot of them but Jesus talks him down.

Carol and Ezekiel's team is dazed by an explosion that went off at the end of last episode.  A bunch of zombies pour out of a building and they have to deal with them first, before setting off after one Savior (who set the explosion) because if he gets back to base, he'll tell Negan that they're coming.  Carol: "If he tells them we're here, it's over before it's started."  But I'm pretty sure that the Saviors are already aware they're under attack, so I'm not sure what the big urgency is.  Still, they start tracking the guy, Ezekiel doing his rah-rah-king spiel which makes his men happy and makes Carol roll her eyes.  As they track their quarry through the woods, they encounter a particularly gross walker - droopy and gloppy and swollen, with shredded flesh - and Ezekiel asks, "What befell this creature?"  I'm guessing that this will come back again at a later time but Carol brushes it off.  They keep going through the woods, tracking the runaway Savior.  He almost makes back to his outpost when another group of Kingdom soldiers appear - with Shiva.  That giant gorgeous CGI tiger pounces on the runaway Savior and kills him.  Ezekiel gives another rah-rah speech whilst scratching Shiva behind the ears.  I wonder if I'm the only one worried that Shiva will get a taste for human blood and turn on the good guys - I'm not sure a tiger can be trained to only kill Saviors.

Rick and Daryl work their way through another building, looking for a cache of guns that Dwight told them about.  It takes them a long time, picking off people as they go, working their way up floor by floor.  Rick and Daryl split up to cover more ground.  It still takes a long time.  Daryl finds a cell that looks like the one Negan held him in and he gets feelings about it.  Rick gets into a brutal skirmish with a Savior and ends up impaling the guy on a metal shelving bracket.  Then he finds a baby in a crib ("Gracie" on the wall) and gets feelings about the baby.  Then a dude comes up behind him with a gun, saying he's already radioed the Sanctuary and the Saviors are coming back.  Rick recognizes this guy from Atlanta (i.e., S1) and it's supposed to be important, I guess?  The guy's name is Morales and maybe the comic book fans are excited about this but honestly, I don't remember him at all and am having a tough time caring.

Extreme close-ups of:  Rick, Daryl, Aaron looking sweaty and worried; Morgan, Jesus and Tara with blank looks on their faces; Ezekiel and Carol with confident little smiles.

So yeah, lots of bullets, not so much actually happening.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #19 Trick R Treat

Here we are, gentle readers, the final movie of this years Scarelicious October Movie Series!  I had hoped to get to twenty but nineteen scary movies watched in a month still beats the previous record of seventeen, so I'm not going to pout about it.  I could probably squeeze one more in but there's the TWD recap to go up on Halloween proper.  At any rate, the final movie of the month is the very Halloween-y but not very scary Trick R Treat.

I'm feeling particularly lazy so here's IMBD's plot synopsis.  Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: an everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater.

This isn't an anthology; rather the stories brush up against each other on one Halloween night in a small town that goes all-out to celebrate Halloween and making the punishment of those who violate the rules of the holiday the focus of several of its vignettes. All over the internet, horror movie aficionados praise this flick as one of the best of the season and I will agree that it is absolutely one of the most Halloween-centric movies ever,  Personally, I'm more of a horror fan than a Halloween fan, and Trick R Treat is just not scary, so while I appreciate the sentiment, I was a bit meh about the execution.  Still, for those who looooooove Halloween, I can see Trick R Treat becoming a yearly re-watch.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #18 Cold Prey

As a rule, I am not a big fan of the slasher genre of horror movies.  Other than the classics that started the whole thing (the original Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, Nightmare on Elm Street and Black Christmas), I don't find them to be that good: group of kids, largely unlikable, get together for shenanigans; killer, whose past drove him to kill, starts picking them off one by one; I don't care because I don't care about any of these characters.  Cold Prey, a 2006 Norwegian slasher (a/k/a Fritt vilt), takes all the well-worn slasher tropes and does right by them.

A group of five sporty, young, attractive Norwegians - Jannicke and Eirik, Ingunn and Mikal, and fifth-wheel Morten - head off into the back country for some crowd-free snowboarding.  It is all going swimmingly until Morten takes a hard fall and breaks his leg badly.  Jannicke proves quite capable and resets his leg; the group then takes shelter in an abandoned ski resort.  The place looks to have closed in the mid 1970s and a closer look at the hotel guest book shows that someone's child was lost, leading to the closure.  After Jannicke disinfects Morten's wound and seals it shut with crazy-glue, the kids build a fire, manage to get the generator running again and make the best of it.  As night falls, Ingunn and Mikal find an empty hotel room (Room 237, in a shout-out to The Shining) and that's when things start to go bad.  The killer starts picking them off, one by one.  It is bloody but not horrifically so.  The killer is brutal but not inhumanly so.  And the kids act like normal human beings would when placed in this terrifying position.

I thought Cold Prey was fantastic.  The "slutty girl" was not, in fact, slutty.  The "annoying sidekick guy" was neither annoying nor treated like a sidekick.  Although there wasn't deep characterization for anyone, I actually liked these kids and so cared when the killer was after them - Jannicke, the kickass Final Girl, is smart, kind, thoughtful and believable.  There is a sequel, Cold Prey 2, which apparently picks right up where this one leaves off and, by expert accounts, is even better than this first one.  I'm going to have to re-think my stance on slashers if this keeps up.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #17 Village of the Damned (1995)

When I first started John Carpenter's 1995 remake (of 1960's) Village of the Damned, I was super-excited:  John Carpenter! Christopher Reeve! Mark Hamill! Kristie Alley!  And then there was some mid-90s/rudimentary CGI fog and sinister whispering sweeping across a northern California coastal town - it was going to be awesome!

Plot in a nutshell:  the tiny town of Midwich, California (population: 2,000; elevation: 33 feet above sea level (although those cliffs are certainly higher than 33 feet)) is a happy place until a weird wave of sinister whispering flows over the town, during its school fair no less.  Everyone in town - people, dogs, cows, parakeets - pass out where they are; one dude has the misfortune to faint onto his gas grill, rendering him as crispy as his hot dogs.  Concerned law enforcement and scientific types hover outside the town line until six hours later when everyone wakes up.  Most are none the worst for wear, other than the grill guy and the few who died in car crashes when they passed out whilst driving.  However, ten women mysteriously catch pregnant (including one high school "virgin" and one lady whose husband has been out of town for the last year).  The babies are all born on the same day (the virgin's baby is stillborn and Kirstie Alley's epidemiologist spirits the tiny corpse away before anyone can see it).  Also, the babies' DNA indicate that they are genetic siblings and as the years pass, these nine platinum blond kids get eviller and eviller.  They use mind control to force people to do things - harm themselves, commit suicide - until the townsfolk are cowed.  One of them, David (a baby Thomas Dekker who has the longest eyelashes ever) is not as mean as the rest, exhibiting some empathy for the scared and sad adults around him.  The government at first studies the evil children to see if they can perhaps be weaponized, but these tiny terrors cannot be controlled.

I give this version of Village of the Damned a solid meh.  It just doesn't feel like a John Carpenter movie:  the Halloweens, The Fog, The Thing (omg I love The Thing), Escape from New York, They Live, Christine ... all far and away better than this flick.  Reviews I read unequivocally prefer the original version.  The acting is decent, Christopher Reeve is very heroic and the idea is great.  It just doesn't seem to be Carpenter's strongest work.
Image result for village of the damned 1995 poster

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #16 The Hallow

When Adam, an arborist/forester/biologist/science-y type, is assigned to identify part of an ancient Irish forest can be cut down, he and his young family (wife Clare, baby Finn and good-dog Iggy) are met immediately with a cold reception.  The local townspeople believe that the forest belongs to The Hallow - faeries, banshees, etc. - and that anyone trespassing in the forest will have to answer to those fey folk.  And cutting down the trees is the worst kind of trespassing, obviously.  As Clare busies herself with settling into their amazing old stone farmhouse, including removing all the pesky iron bars that crisscross the windows, Adam, accompanied by baby in backpack and dog, identifies trees to come down.  He finds some weird, oozing black fungus covering a dead deer, organic spikes protruding from the carcass's throat.  Because he's a scientist, he takes a sample home and finds that it is aggressively parasitic, like that zombie ant fungus (Ophiocordyceps).  Well, that doesn't bode well.

Indeed, it doesn't take long before the Hallow come calling, breaking windows, disabling the family car, oozing through ceilings and floors and poking Adam's eye out.  Note to viewers squeamish about eye trauma:  this may not be your favorite movie.  Adam becomes infected/connected to the Hallow (iron burns him, light makes him flinch, he grows spikes, etc.), baby Finn is endangered and there is much yelling and screaming whilst running through the woods once the monsters make themselves known.

I feel more positively about The Hallow than negatively but I didn't love it.  I loved the setting, the practical creature effects (skittering, oozing, very yucky), the body-horror make-up was strong, the cinematography effective.  But at only 1:36, the movie still felt long, especially since I didn't much care about Adam, Clare or the baby  (I did care about Iggy the dog), and once the flaming scythe came into play, I was over it.  Seriously: there is no way that scythe stayed burning for that long.  I think part of my disconnect was also that the film couldn't decide what the monsters were.  Were the monsters really faeries?  If so, what was the point of the sentient fungus?  Was it the fungus (a la Splinter) that turned humans into the Hallow monsters? If so, how did the changeling baby happen?  Either one - faeries or fungus - would have worked but both just seemed a little undecided to me.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Walking Dead S8E1 "Mercy" 10/22/17

Holy shit - season 8?  How is it possible that I have been watching this ridiculous show for that long?  I can't believe I've stuck with it - I'm really only in it for Daryl, Carol, Morgan and Shiva the CGI tiger.  Sometimes Maggie, now that she's become a badass.  Unfortunately, there's not quite enough of any of them in this S8 opener.  Anyway, the three communities - Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom - have banded together and are going to war with Negan.

First scene:  Rick outside somewhere, sweaty, beaten-looking, dazed.  Next:  a well-put together house with Weird Al's "Another One Rides the Bus" playing faintly in the background for some reason, and  Old Man Rick, with grey hair and a truly HORRIFIC beard, opening his eyes in bed, fresh flowers on the bedside table.  It appears we will be having flash-forwards this season.  Sigh.

In the now, there are lots of preparations going on for this here upcoming war.  Blacksmithing and welding; Carol and Tara up on a building or overpass, timing a herd of walkers; Daryl and Dwight exchanging sneaky messages via arrow ("TOMORROW"); Rick (and later King Ezekiel and Maggie) making awful speeches.  Seriously: the writers cannot do an uplifting speech to save their lives.  Blah blah blah "We start tomorrow right now ..." UGH.  Just start shooting some shit already, would you?

Really, that's what most of this episode is: everyone gearing up.  There's a scene with Carl out searching for gasoline and getting spooked by an unseen person who sounds slightly unhinged but harmless, until Rick pops up, shooting into the air and chasing that person off.  Carl gives his dad an exasperated look and Rick's all, what? I shot over his head - I hope he'll be okay.  Carl:  Hope isn't enough anymore, dad.

Part of the preparations are picking off Negan's various lookouts and I now remember that Morgan is killing again (after that Kingdom kid from the end of last season), as he stabs a Savior in the back with the sharpened end of his staff.  Father Gabriel and Rick have a brief heart-to-heart.  Rick says goodbye to Judith - who has grown from a baby to a toddler seemingly overnight - and then kisses Michonne (and honest to God that was one of the most chemistry-free smooches I've ever seen).  Michonne and Carl are staying behind in Alexandria, to defend the town should it come to that.  Maggie, on the other hand, is on the front line with Rick and Ezekiel, leading her Hilltoppers.  She thanks Rick for showing her how to lead and he smiles, saying that's good because after this, he's following her.

Finally, it's time.  Carol, Tara, Daryl and Morgan start to lead a massive herd of walkers down the highway towards the Saviors' Sanctuary.  They blow shit up from time to time, the explosions drawing the herd, keeping them moving in the right direction.  Then they rig an explosive boobytrap on a route they know (from Dwight's intel) the Saviors will take to investigate the explosions.  A stray walker almost sets it off but Morgan scampers down and drops it, just before the Saviors drive through.  The trap goes off, obliterating those Savior cars.

Another couple of flash-forwards:  sweaty/sad Rick; and happy Old Man Rick, living in peace and happiness with Michonne and Carl.

Meanwhile, the main rebel contingent has driven their armor-plated cars right up to the Sanctuary, then getting out and into place, guns a-ready.  They fire enough shots to draw out Negan and his upper cadre (Dwight, Simon, Gavin, Regina, Eugene)  And there's a shitload of talking.  Ugh.  Negan talks and talks and OMIGOD WHY DOESN'T SOMEONE WITH A RIFLE JUST PICK HIM OFF?  He's right there in the open, just fucking shoot him and end this shit.  The Saviors would fall apart without him.  But no, it's Rick's turn to start talking and he offers sanctuary to anyone - other than Negan - who surrenders.

More talking.  More talking.  Negan isn't even scary anymore.  He's just annoying as shit, then he does something atrocious, then he's annoying.  Repeat ad nauseam.  Also, he drags out that asshole Gregory who proclaims that any Hilltopper who fights against Negan will be tossed out.  To which Jesus snarkily shouts, "The Hilltop stands with Maggie."  And Simon gets annoyed with Gregory and pushes him down a flight of stairs.  Heh.

Finally, the time for talking is over and the rebels open fire.  And WTF is this?  They shoot out all the windows in the warehouse.  Like using thousands of rounds of semiautomatic ammunition.  How is this part of the plan?  Does no one remember that no one is making bullets anymore?  So wasteful.

Tara, Morgan and Carol split off and Daryl leads the walker herd through the streets to the Sanctuary, setting off explosions as he goes.  When the walkers are about to reach the gates, Father Gabriel sets the armored RV to moving; it rolls into the fence and explodes, opening the Sanctuary up to invasion.  The rebels get in their cars and drive off, except for Rick and Gabriel.  Rick has Negan pinned down behind some wreckage and is wasting bullets shooting straight into the metal.  Gabriel grabs him and is all, the plan is we leave now.  Amazingly, Rick hears him, jumps in his armored car and drives off.  Gabriel is about to follow him when he sees Gregory wailing helplessly.  Abandoning the plan, Gabriel stops to pick him up.  But they get pinned down and then Gregory panics, jumping in Gabriel's car and driving off, leaving the preacher stranded and alone.  And here comes that herd of walkers.

At the rendezvous, Rick and Daryl are all, I don't think Gabriel's going to make it.  They stick to the plan and everyone moves off, heading to the next stage.  Which is taking out Savior outposts; Morgan and Tara lead one team, Rick and Daryl another, Carol and Ezekiel a third.  The good guys may start taking some casualties in this phase but we'll have to wait until next week to find out.

Back at the Sanctuary, walkers flood in.  Gabriel manages to hide in a storage trailer but unluckily for him, that's where Negan has taken refuge too.  I'm guessing something atrocious may happen soon.

Flash-forwards:  Alexandria is getting ready for a festival and Judith drags her dad outside.  He has a limp, uses a cane and is wearing pajamas and a bathrobe.  And then it's sweaty, dazed Rick, sitting under a tree with a framed piece of stained glass above him, muttering about mercy.

We close with now-Rick, speechifying:  "If we start tomorrow right now, no matter what comes next, we've won.  We've already won!"  What the fuck does that even mean?  It's borderline incoherent.  This show ...

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

P.S.  If only they would make a full series of this, I would switch over in a minute:

Monday, October 23, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #15 Maggie

Maggie, a 2015 horror/drama starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin, is a kinder, gentler zombie movie.  In this post-apocalyptic scenario, the Necroambulist (literally, "walking dead") virus affects both crops and people in America's heartland.  While farmers are able to burn their crops, dealing with people is not so easy.  The virus takes from 2-8 weeks to fully develop in people and the infected are supposed to be turned over to quarantine centers after a certain point.  Authorities insist that the infected are taken care of there, treated with compassion until their final moments, but reports circulate of people being indiscriminately tossed into huge warehouses, regardless of their infection level, and just left there to rot, the more advanced cases often eating the less sick folks.

When Maggie (Breslin) runs away from her small town farming community, her father Wade (Schwarzenegger) searches for her for two weeks, finally finding her in a city hospital, having suffered a zombie bite on her arm.  A local doctor pulls some strings for him and Wade is allowed to bring Maggie home, with strict instructions to get regular check-ups and to turn her in before it goes too far.  Although Maggie's stepmom sends the two younger children off to live with their aunt, life at the family farmhouse goes as well as can be expected.  As the infection infiltrates Maggie's body more with each passing day, the stepmom grows a little nervous; but Maggie's high school friends support and comfort her and her father is her staunchest ally, even as he knows the inevitable is coming.

A low key character study, Maggie is a horror film in name only - the biggest horror is watching a beloved family member rot before your eyes.  There are a couple of zombie moments and the makeup work, as the infection advances on Maggie, is cool.  Schwarzenegger is fantastic here, shaken and sorrowful and fiercely protective; many reviews I've read wish the filmmakers hadn't wimped out on the ending because he clearly could have handled it.  A nice little movie for people who like their zombie movies with more brains than braineaters.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #14 The Girl with all the Gifts

The Girl with all the Gifts was another suggestion by my friend Heidi B. and I'm awfully glad she pointed me to it.  This is a good entry into the subgenre of British zombie movies and while I think it's perhaps a little too long, I absolutely enjoyed it.

Melanie is about ten years old and has a tough existence.  Like a number of her peers, she is kept in a solitary cell, fed live mealworms and only allowed out to go to school, during which she is bound by her wrists, ankles and head to a wheelchair.  Melanie (and her peers) are zombie children, you see, and unlike the regular adult "hungries" that have overrun Britain, they are capable of conscious thought and able to control their flesh-eating ways.  At least a little.  Melanie is especially special, exhibiting politeness, empathy, loyalty and capacity for complex thinking.  These zombie children are being held in a military facility with research being done by Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close), who is sure she can develop a cure for the zombie fungus.  When the facility gets overrun by zombies - which, of course it does - Melanie, Dr. Caldwell, Melanie's favorite teacher (Miss Justineau, played by Gemma Arterton) and a couple of soldiers are the only ones who make it out alive.  As they make their way into London, trying to rejoin the remaining humans, the resourceful Melanie becomes very helpful.

The Girl with all the Gifts wears its influences on its sleeve: an empty, zombie-ravaged London a la 28 Days Later; the cross-country trekking a la The Walking Dead; the military a la Romero's Day of the Dead - but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.  The cast is particularly strong with Close (pretty sure I never expected to see Glenn Close in a zombie movie), Arterton and Paddy Considine as the gruff Sergeant Parks, and Sennia Nanua is very, very good as Melanie.  If you like zombie movies with a little bit of soul, check this one out.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #13 Dark Signal

And here's the third crowd-sourced recommendation: Dark Signal, proffered by Jamie G., whom I have known since kindergarten (or possibly nursery school).  Once again, I was psyched before the opening credits stopped rolling: set in Wales (I love Welsh accents!), executive-produced by Neil Marshall (I love The Descent and Dog Soldiers!) and starring Gareth David-Lloyd (the most Welsh name ever!) (who played Ianto Jones on Torchwood!) 

In gorgeous Snowdonia, Wales, where the sheep seem to outnumber the people, a serial killer is raging, attacking young women and cutting off their ring fingers, earning himself the "Wedlock Killer" moniker from the press.  Also, a cranky DJ and her sound technician are on the air for the final time before their radio station sells out to a corporate owner and goes digital.  Also, Kate, a single mom with a wheelchair-bound, non-verbal little boy, is coerced into being a wheelman for her overbearing boyfriend, ostensibly for the cash she'll be paid which might keep the debt collectors off her back for a while.  The heist takes place at an isolated farmhouse, where the Wedlock Killer has recently claimed a victim named Sarah.  While Kate waits for her boyfriend to finish ripping off the farmhouse, she is visited by the understandably unhappy specter of Sarah; unnerved, Kate heads into the farmhouse armed only with glowsticks and a tire iron.  Meanwhile, the sound engineer has invited a local psychic to the final radio show and despite the cranky DJ's skepticism, they start to pick up transmissions from Ghost Sarah.  Events start to converge, the identity of the Wedlock Killer is revealed and Kate becomes a very resourceful Final Girl.

Dark Signal seems to have gotten terrible reviews, largely stemming from lack of logic and focus (one reviewer didn't like that there are so many accents: Welsh, Scottish, English, Polish and Italian).  It may be that it can't really decide what it wants to be - ghost story or serial killer flick - but I liked it quite well.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #12 10 Cloverfield Lane

Here's another crowd-sourced scary movie recommendation, this time from my college friend Meredith T:  10 Cloverfield Lane.  (To be honest, I had already had it on my list but after she said that it freaked her out, I moved it to the head of the line.)  Only tangentially related to Cloverfield, this flick is tense, well-acted and claustrophobic and really solid until the last fifteen minutes or so when we see how it connects to the first movie.

After a car accident, runaway bride Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens in an underground bunker, chained to the wall.  Her rescuer (and jailor) is Howard, a hardcore conspiracy theorist/survivalist played wonderfully - and by "wonderfully" I mean "terrifyingly" - by the awesome John Goodman.  There's a third guy in the bunker too, a local kid who used to work for Howard and who lends enough credence to Howard's story that Michelle finally listens to it, after quite a lot of terror and trying to escape first.  During her first escape attempt, Michelle sees something outside that makes her believe.  You see, Howard's story is that something has gone very very wrong in the world above: something happened and a horrific blast (possibly atomic, possibly chemical warfare, possibly extra-terrestrial) has contaminated and killed most of the humans.  The three of them settle into a fairly peaceable domestic routine until an air scrubber breaks down.  Michelle, as the smallest person in the bunker, has to crawl through the air ducts and fix the machinery.  While in the mechanical room, she sees something else that makes her determined to escape, contaminated world or not.

As I mentioned above, the acting is fantastic here.  For most of 10 Cloverfield Lane, things are very tense indeed.  My claustrophobia kicked into high gear while Michelle was in the air ducts and later, when things go badly, they go very badly.  It's only at the very end, when things shift from tense character study to more predictable fare that I felt let down.  For the most part, however, this flick holds up.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #11 The Howling

OMG you guys - where has The Howling been all my life?  How can I not have watched it until now?  It has everything that I love: werewolves, practical effects/make-up, the 1980s (just barely) and it's only eighty minutes long!  A movie can scarcely get better than that, amirite?   Spoilers ahead!

It stars Dee Wallace (who would just a couple years later kick major ass in Cujo), as news anchor Karen, who is being stalked by a sketchy dude the press has nicknamed "Eddie the Mangler."  After a terrifying encounter with Eddie in a porn shop, Karen and hunky husband Bill head to a retreat called The Colony, operated by Karen's shrink.  There are all sorts of weirdos there at The Colony, plus some werewolves slinking around the place.  The trouble first starts with cattle mutilations, then escalates when Bill is bitten by a werewolf.  Things really kick into gear when Bill totally wolfs out whilst banging The Colony's resident hootchie-mama - herself a werewolf.  Karen freaks out and calls her producer/reporter/BFF Terry to come keep her company.  Terry is pretty quick on the uptake and starts putting things together and then everything just totally falls apart for poor Karen and her cohorts.

The werewolf transformations are outstanding, nearly on a par with American Werewolf in London's, only a bit grosser.  There are a couple of boob and butt shots, some hacking off of limbs and a reasonable amount of gore.  Super-awesome flick for those of us who love new classic monster movies with practical effects - I'll take a werewolf flick over a slasher any day!

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #10 Freddy vs Jason

I did some crowd-sourcing for movie suggestions and my friend Heidi B came up with 2003's Freddy vs Jason.  I am a big Nightmare on Elm Street fan and the earliest Friday the Thirteenth movies are not without their charms.  I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to bring Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees together to duke it out but the results aren't half bad, especially for those of us who like the older movies.

As far as plot goes, no one remembers Freddy anymore so he doesn't have any power over people's dreams.  Somehow he is able to resurrect Jason and bring him back to Springwood (the town's name in the first Nightmare movies.  The plan is, when Jason starts killing, people will start talking about and being afraid of Freddy Kreuger again, thus giving him enough power to start killing himself.  Um, okay.  The trouble really starts when Jason won't stop killing people and Freddy is unable to control him. There's the usual bunch of teenagers who figure all this out and have to battle not only Freddy and Jason but also the adults in town, who are convinced that keeping their heads in the sand will keep them alive.  The action returns to Camp Crystal Lake for the third act and while there are a couple of survivors, it's tough to say who really wins in the FvJ cage match.

For a lot of this flick, they hewed to the slasher classics.  The Final Girl is a virgin with big boobs.  The first kid killed off is an asshole who Jason slices and dices right after the poor kid has sex.  There were clips of lots of the classic Nightmare dreams (Johnny Depp in a blender - still my favorite!).  The Final Girl lives in Nancy's house from the original Nightmare.  The parents are all in on it.  There's a sexually-active tomboy in a baseball hat (oh, wait, that's a Halloween and/or Carrie shoutout, isn't it?).  All of that is excellent.  But once things devolved into a slugfest between Freddy and Jason, I got bored.  Slashers are just - to me - less interesting when the bad guys are implacable, indefatigable and nigh indestructible, even when fighting each other.

Still, Freddy vs Jason is OODLES better than Zoombies, so there's that.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #9 Zoombies

I don't know what possessed me to pull Zoombies up on Netflix the other night.  My very first note reads: "There is NO WAY this is any good.  I predict lots of bad CGI."  And holy shit, was I right.  This may be the worst "movie" I have ever watched in my life.  The introduction feels like a TV movie from the 1990s.  The acting is terrible, especially by the one child actor.  The story, as it were, is this:  for some unknown reason, the animals at an endangered species sanctuary*/zoo become infected with a virus (maybe) that turns them all into zombies on the day before the zoo opens, and all the people working there - including some truly insipid "college students" there on internships - try to get out alive.  On the plus side, the virus is not transferable to humans; on the negative side, if it had been, this whole thing would have been over much faster.

Here's a list of the completely awful CGI Zoombies inflicts upon its viewers:

  • zombie capuchin monkeys
  • eyeballs getting plucked out of a veterinarian's face by said zombie capuchins
  • zombie giraffes (I actually kind of loved that)
  • non-zombie elephants (later possibly zombified but that wasn't clear)
  • zombie lions
  • humans riding on CGI non-zombie elephants
  • zombie gorilla (also sometimes an actual dude in a gorilla suit, so points for practical effects)
  • zombie lemurs
  • CGI skull-crushing/blood spurtings
  • zombie lions chasing the jeep
  • truly appalling CGI zip-lining by remaining humans
  • zombie macaws pecking their way through glass
  • zombie eagle on fire
Other items to be duly noted.  Most of the zombie attacks/killings happened off-screen - WTF is the point of that?  This apparently took place in Canada because a rescue helicopter had ONTARIO written on its side.  When something got infected, a zookeeper said, "I have some ointments" which were obviously just a giant tub of Vaseline.  Here's one of the really good lines some guy said: "I don't see any animals.  Then again, they could be in hiding."  OSCAR-WORTHY SCREENPLAY RIGHT THERE.

I could go on, I guess, but I won't.  Here, unequivocally;  DO NOT WATCH ZOOMBIES.  Unless you're planning a drinking game around it, in which case go nuts.  (I do kind of like the poster, though.)

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #8 Starry Eyes

Ooh!  Starry Eyes (2014) is fun and totally horror-y!  What a bleak, nifty Satanic flick about just how far some people will go to make it in Hollywood.

The plot is pretty straightforward: it follows Sarah, an aspiring actress, as she navigates her currently listless existence, waiting tables at a crappy Hooters knockoff and hanging out with vapid friends, most of whom are also trying to get their break into the movie business.  Sarah is relentless, however, and while she at first seems like a milquetoast, when she finally lands an audition, her madness starts to surface.  It's fun and also brutal to watch: Sarah is our protagonist but she is also a monster, helped along by this production company whose head tells her, "Dreams require sacrifice - and so do we."

A character study at first, the tension ratchets up as does the gory and body horror - all makeup and practical effects done quite well.  Starry Eyes is a grim look at Hollywood and what some people are willing to do to achieve their dreams there - according to this movie, some people are willing to do quite a lot.  (Other positive reviews here: at Final Girl and at Roger Ebert, no less!)

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #7 The Shrine

HERE BE SPOILERS.  The Shrine is a 2010 steamer.  This guy's review is spot-on - especially when he lists all the better movies this flick steals from and also A FENCE FOR CHRISSAKES - but he liked it better than I did.  Read it if you would like some coherence.

But here, this is what you get.  (1) Briefly sketched plot summary:  an American student goes missing whilst travelling in Poland; two female journalists and a male photographer go in search of the story; it ends badly for most involved.  And (2) to change it up here, I'm just going to give you the notes I jotted down as I watched:

  • Aaron Ashmore (Killjoys)!
  • Priests and a human sacrifice
  • Nobody gets out of the shower with hair that dry
  • Creepy old Polish village, mysterious fog
  • Aaron Ashmore is the only decent actor - dialogue is pretty stilted
  • OMG WANDERING AROUND IN THE FOG FOREVER (demon statue/shrine)
  • So far, like a SyFy original
  • Do not follow the creepy little girl! Listen to Aaron Ashmore!
  • Do not open the coffins! Do not take the murder masks off the corpses!
  • These three are IDIOTS (only AA has any sense at all). I very much dislike Carmen and Sara = non-entity
  • Crossbow!
  • Is that really Polish they're speaking?
  • While the women are getting prepped for sacrifice, AA gets to dig his own grave
  • There goes Sara - oooooo the masks have spikes.  Meanwhile, AA still digging
  • Escape! Carmen is good at running barefoot through the forest
  • Carmen is hallucinating - must have been something in the fog
  • Demon wants her ... NOPE she's turning into a demon.
  • NEW THEORY: the fog infects people who go into it so the priests have to kill all the infected people before the demon is unleashed.  Priests = good guys!
  • Don't open the door, AA!
  • There goes Carmen (Exorcist-lite)
  • SO BAD
The poster is pretty cool, though:

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #6 V/H/S 2

A lot of people really hated the first of this anthology series, V/H/S - apparently I didn't but found it tiresome and a little shallow.  This second installment (V/H/S 2) was also tiresome and I'm going to shout here but WHO THE FUCK USES VHS TAPES IN 2013?  It is entirely possible to do actual stories with short movies so why can't these horror directors?  While there are some decent moments in these four shorts, the dialogue is largely terrible and the characters uninteresting.  Whee!

Framework story:  Tape 49. A couple of private investigators break into an apartment looking for a missing college student.  They find a bunch of televisions and hundreds of VHS tapes.  One investigator sits down to watch the tapes.

Phase I Clinical Trials.  An asshole gets an experimental prosthetic eye after losing his own in an accident.  There are side effects: the eye sees ghosts/malevolent spirits.  It ends badly.  My notes say: "Shit. Fake found footage films always make me queasy."

Framework.  The PIs are not alone in the apartment.  So they watch another tape.

A Ride in the Park.  A kid Go-Pros his ride on the BORINGEST mountainbike trail on the planet.  Seriously, until the zombies show up, who would ever want to watch that footage?  Oh.  Zombies show up, the MTBer gets bitten, he turns and bites other people, including the attendees at a child's birthday party - all of which is captured on the Go-Pro.  This one was pretty gory (intestines!) but also kind of fun.

Framework.  The PIs are not alone in the apartment and the girl one has a migraine and bloody nose.  So they watch another tape.

Safe Haven.  A clueless (and somewhat douchebaggy) documentary crew films a death/doomsday cult in Indonesia right at the end of days.  This one I actually liked for a while: it was very creepy with all the cult members.  Then things just went batshit crazy with lots of heads getting blown off by shotguns and skittering ceiling walkers and zombies and exploding cult leaders and demons bursting out of women's wombs.  There was a lot of yelling and squishy blood and the goat-demon is the awesomest low budget puppet ever.  So there's that.

Framework.  The girl PI is unconscious or dead so the other one watches another tape.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction.  The title of this short tells you EXACTLY what happens.  There's a dog-cam, all the teenagers are completely unlikable assholes and it's very loud.

Framework.  Everybody (or possibly nobody, it's tough to tell) dies.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #5 Lifeforce

Tobe Hooper's 1985 Lifeforce.  With a portentous voiceover to start, I was in love before the opening credits finished: with both naked space vampires and PATRICK STEWART, how could this movie not be amazing?  Lifeforce is ridiculous and waaaaaaaaaaaaay too long, but it takes itself seriously and is all kinds of mid-80s awesome.  For a horror movie about space vampires.

A joint British/American space mission on board the shuttle Churchill are exploring Halley's Comet.  They find a huge (150 miles long) alien craft that is possibly organic and of course think it's smart to send people inside to check it out.  They find a bunch of dried up space bat corpses and three beautiful naked humanoids encased in crystal boxes.  The mission commander Carlsen decides to bring the box set and one desiccated space bat back to the Churchill.  When the shuttle Columbia rendezvouses with the Churchill, there has been a fire: all the crew are dead, the escape pod is missing but the box set and the dead space bat are okay.  So the crew brings them back to London.  As it turns out, the three naked humanoids are not dead.  They wake up and go on a rampage (if one can call disappearing from the screen for long periods of time a "rampage") wherein the gorgeous Space Girl (who has really great boobs) sucks the lifeforce out of all the humans she meets.  In short time, London has devolved into a madhouse as the space vampires' victims become zombies (?).  Carlsen - who escaped the Churchill in the escape pod, did I forget to mention that? - and another dude chase the space vampires across London, including to a mental hospital where PATRICK STEWART is the head doctor.  There is a lot of fuzzy space/horror "science," vampiric victims exploding into dust, a corpse made entirely out of blood pulled from PATRICK STEWART's head and an ambiguous ending with a lot of blue lightning.

Lifeforce is much too long (PATRICK STEWART doesn't even show up until 1 hour 5 minutes and 22 seconds in (I wrote it down)) and is completely nutso.  But the animatronic desiccated victim effects are outstanding - I love that stuff.  And, really, if you can't embrace a 1980s movie about naked space vampires, you should probably just go watch Beaches again, because that's probably more your thing.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #4 The Purge

The way this country is going, I thought it behooved me to watch a Purge movie or two, you know, for research, just in case.  I like to start at the beginning so I cued up the first one, which seems like it has been out forever but really just came out in 2013.  Filmed for only $3 million (!) and starring actual actors (!!) Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, The Purge is really more thriller than horror but does offer some social commentary.

In a dystopian near-future, the U.S. has "solved" its crime problem: one night a year, "Purge Night," any crime is allowed with no repercussions.  People get all that violence out of their systems during those twelve hours, thus behaving themselves for the rest of the year.  Of course, the wealthy are able to barricade themselves inside fortified houses, leaving the nation's poor to bear the brunt of the beatings and bloody murder.  Hawke and Headey are one such wealthy couple - Hawke sells Purge Night security systems - whose night does not go as planned when (a) their sulky teenaged daughter's sulky boyfriend, who has snuck into their house before lockdown, brings a gun to convince Hawke to let him date the sulky daughter and (b) their angsty/geeky son opens the barricade to provide sanctuary to a homeless vet.  Their house becomes beseiged by a group of mask-wearing entitled rich kids who are pissed off that their quarry (the homeless vet) has been taken from them and, as it turns out, Hawke's vaunted security system is a whole lot less secure than they might have hoped.

Hawke and Headey do a good job with what they're given but the teen actors are boring stereotypes at best.  The homeless vet is barely onscreen enough to become a character; the masked Purgers provide some over-the-top menace.  It's violent but not particularly gruesome or scary - from what I hear, the later movies kick it up a notch.  I guess I'll find out.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #3 Creature from the Black Lagoon

I was too lazy to open up my computer to pull up Netflix (and we still haven't cut the cord on cable) so I thought I'd check out what free, on-demand horror movies were on offer.  I found a classic: 1954's Creature from the Black Lagoon.  An archaeologist in South America finds a webbed and clawed paw petrified in a river bank which is enough incentive to get a scientific expedition together to go up the Amazon.  A group of about eight, including white scientists and doctors, one woman, the ship's captain and some monster fodder, head upriver until the stream is too narrow to pass.  In their explorations, they manage to provoke the Creature - who had been living a peaceful existence in its lagoon until then.  The Creature picks them off one by one and carries off the lovely woman scientist until the remaining men rescue her, kill the poor Creature and head back downriver to civilization.  It's the classic King Kong scenario in which the humans are the true monsters.

This is a beautifully-shot, black and white B-movie.  At 87 minutes, it's still a little tedious: hang out on the boat; someone gets picked off by the monster; hang out on the boat; someone gets picked off by the monster; hang out on the boat; someone gets picked off by the monster.  But the underwater scenes are truly gorgeous, especially when the Creature is swimming around underneath the unsuspecting woman.  There is at least one jump scare that startled me and it's pretty well acted, all things considered.  The rubber suit of the monster, while obviously being a rubber suit, still manages to be at least a little convincing.  The whole movie is put together to elicit sympathy for the Creature who was just living its life before these dang people came and ruined everything.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #2 XX

In addition to being a fan of foreign/sub-titled horror films, I am also a fan of horror anthologies.  I like the intense bursts that come from short films, much like I love Stephen King's short stories.  XX is funky in that it is a collection of four horror shorts all directed by women, bookended with gothic stop motion interludes that, while they don't quite fit with the themes of the movies, are very charming.

"The Box" is the first vignette, about the disintegration of a family when a young boy stops eating after a mysterious stranger on the subway shows him what's in a gift-wrapped box.  Nothing his parents do will convince him to eat and when he tells his big sister what he saw, things get even worse.  There is some great makeup work here but I was left wanting more with the story.  Creepy and horror-tinged but not at all scary.

The second installment is "The Birthday Party," which is more of a dark comedy starring Melanie Lynskey as a tightly-wound suburban housewife determined to hide her husband's dead body (heart attack or maybe a suicide) on the date of her daughter's birthday party.  It's very stylish and nervous, and Lynskey's antics entertaining as she drags the body from room to room, trying to hide in a house with interior glass walls, but you really do wonder why she wouldn't just call the cops/paramedics upon finding him.  Not horror in the slightest.

"Don't Fall" is the most classic horror of the four - and, oddly, the one I was bored with: four hipster/stoner/city types head to the desert for a weekend of RV camping.  They find some pictographs and manage to awaken a monster, which rips its way through the four friends.  I thought the monster was pretty great but I didn't connect at all with the annoying campers.

The last short is "Her Only Living Son," a Rosemary's Baby/The Omen riff.  When Cora's son turns 18, she is dismayed to find him turning angry and violent.  She is even more dismayed when the high school principal refuses to punish Cora's son after he rips off a classmate's fingernails (yikes!), instead brushing off the incident because he's a "special, special boy."  Again, horror-tinged but not scary.  And look, motherhood can be scary: see The Babadook.

Ultimately, XX is a great idea in concept - I would love to see more women directing horror - it just falls short in execution.

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #1 Cronos

Welcome back to the Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series!  We're going start things off all sophisticated-like with a Spanish/English-subtitled vampire movie by none other than the fantastic Guillermo del Toro.

Cronos was Guillermo del Toro's first feature film and while it doesn't pack the punch of some of his later works, many of his hallmarks are there: clockworks, insect imagery, preternaturally calm children and practical special effects.  In this elegant but not particularly scary vampire movie, an elderly antiquities dealer, Senor Jesus Gris (played by frequent del Toro collaborator Federico Luppi), discovers a strange gadget - the "Cronos device" - hidden in the base of a sculpture.  The Cronos gadget pierces his skin, filtering his blood, and although it is very painful, it rejuvenates him, de-aging and putting some spring back into his step - to the delight of his previously bored wife.  Unfortunately, a dying millionaire has sent his thuggish nephew (played by frequent collaborator Ron Perlman, looking so young here) to find this gadget.  The millionaire has the manuscript explaining how to use the Cronos device and is convinced that it will save his life.  Senor Gris and the nephew clash; the millionaire explains to Gris that he needs to drink human blood to replenish his own so the Cronos device doesn't kill him; Senor Gris is unwilling to go full-monster and dies a noble death, surrounded by his beloved granddaughter and wife.

The pace of this movie is, to say the least, languid and I will confess that I dozed off briefly at one point - and then woke up wondering why Senor Gris was wearing his suit backwards after he escaped from the morgue.  (Still don't know.)  And it isn't scary at all, with just a little blood and practical ick effects.  But the characters are engaging and anyone who has seen del Toro's later works can see his themes developing here.  Fun stuff.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Getting ready for October

With Preacher done for the season and The Walking Dead several weeks away, I am using my time to get ready for the upcoming Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series!  I have already started stockpiling movies, hoping to beat last year's record of seventeen scary flicks.  Stay tuned for that - and feel free to share your favorite horror flicks in the comments.  

As an aside, are any of you watching American Horror Story: Cult?  I'd kept up with most of the previous seasons: liked Murder House well enough, enjoyed Asylum for the most part, was sort of meh about Coven, and thought Freak Show had its moments, as did Hotel.  But I gave up on Roanoke halfway through, not able to get on board with the show-within-a-show conceit (although I think I read that it got better as it went along - can anyone confirm that?).  And I completely bailed on Cult before the first episode even finished: I just couldn't take the combination of current politics and killer clowns.

So now I'm off to give SyFy's Channel Zero: No End House a shot.  I liked the first season - Candle Cove - while a bit slow in spots, it was just SO WEIRD that I really dug it.  Fingers crossed for this latest installment as we all could use a little more WEIRD in our lives.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Preacher recap S2E13 "The End of the Road" 9/11/17

Flashback.  Jesse Custer as a teenager, collecting money (and picking pockets) at the gate of Angelville, his family home, which does seances, Tarot card readings, divining and fortune telling, 'gator tours, finding lost pets, "gift shop closes at 5."  Around lunchtime, a truck comes out from the main house to give him his lunch and collect the morning's takings; when Jesse tries to hold out, one of the guys ("TC" and "Jody") grabs him and wrenches his arm.  After the truck returns to the main house, Jesse is so upset that he kills a friendly chicken that has been scratching around in the dirt.  He feels so badly about this that he runs back to the house and tearfully begs a woman - his grandmother, I presume - to make it right.  The woman reminds him that there is always a price for such a thing.  Jesse seems willing to pay it, whatever it is, as he gently lay the little carcass on the table in front of her.

Now.  Herr Starr has a plan in place to market Jesse as the new Messiah.  While Jesse isn't interested in wearing a fancy 11th century cloak, he is willing to give speeches in front of carefully selected groups.  In this case, a group of Catholic schoolkids.  When his speech is interrupted by "the Armenians" brandishing guns and knives, Jesse takes them all on.  First, he tries to use the Genesis Voice to get the men to drop their guns.  The Voice doesn't work - which takes him aback, and makes Starr raise an eyebrow - so he then resorts to fisticuffs.  Now, even though all the kids and nuns (and press, once notified) think he's a hero, the "Armenians'" guns were loaded with blanks and it was all arranged by Starr.  Jesse is displeased at being used but Starr is all, it went viral and now we're booked on Kimmel so this is how we get the word out about you.

In New Orleans, Featherstone and Hoover are packing up their apartment - they are no longer required to stake out the apartment since Jesse is on board.  Meanwhile, Cassidy is doing laundry (getting distracted by a thong of Tulip's in amongst his t-shirts).  When he puts away some of Dennis's clothes, he checks out a website on his son's laptop: it's a vampire site of sorts, with videos of screaming people.  He is transfixed for a moment before snapping out of it - it seems as though being good and not feeding on people is more difficult than he might have let on.  When Tulip comes back from shopping for their road trip to Bimini (lots of SPF100 and a value-sized jug of vodka), she sits beside him on the bed and talks to him about what's to come with the two of them.  It isn't clear that it's a fantasy until they start gettin' busy and Cassidy latches onto her neck, ripping out her throat with a big spurt of blood.  Seems as though Dennis's worse proclivities are getting into his father's head.  When Tulip REALLY comes back from shopping, she checks in on him and then goes to pack as he stares numbly out the window.  Something's gonna have to give here.

On the outskirts of Hell.  Eugene and Hitler run and run and run until they find themselves on the shore of a river.  Hitler tells Eugene to ask the ferryman (Charon) for passage out since he doesn't belong here, then get on the boat and cross over.  Eugene asks Hitler to come with him but the other man demurs.  A nervous Eugene approaches Charon who summons the boat and who generally seems like a nice guy.  So it's surprising when the Hell Administrator comes up to drag Eugene back to the cells and shoots Charon in the head with a (?) crossbow quarrel.  Then Hitler comes up behind her, knocks her out and clambers onto the boat with Eugene.  Blah blah blah  they get back to the world and when Eugene invites Hitler to come home with him and meet his dad, Hitler runs off and darts down an alleyway.  Because what this world needs now is Hitler on the loose.  Also, I am really not that interested in Eugene and Hitler's adventures.  I'm having a really hard time figuring out how this storyline connects with Jesse, Tulip, Cassidy et als.

New Orleans.  Tulip finishes packing (she packs pretty light) but on her way out to load the car, she notices one of the little spy cameras that the Grail installed in their apartment.  She shows it to Cassidy.  He wonders if they should tell Jesse but she's all, what difference would it make?  Tulip goes out to the car.  Cassidy grabs up the dog to leave but stops when Dennis finds Tulip's underwear in his room.  Dennis taunts him some and Cassidy is forced to admit that he doesn't think he can control himself with Dennis around.  So he pushes Dennis out the window, into the sunlight, and cowers inside as his vampire son dies a pretty horrible, burning death.  I'm not going to miss Dennis at all but that whole storyline just seemed a little pointless.

Cassidy and the dog join Tulip in the car, but then she gets out again and goes back inside to say goodbye to "Jenny," her only friend.  (After she goes, Cassidy lets the dog go.)  Jenny/Featherstone takes a few moments to get to the door and while she waiting, Tulip finds a trace of the same sticky gum that had been on that little spy camera.  When Jenny/Featherstone finally comes out, she's holding her revolver behind her back.  Tulip is also armed - but only with a screwdriver - and when the shit hits the fan, it's pretty obvious who's going down.

Jesse is about to board the Grail jet (to go to L.A., or wherever Kimmel is) when he gets a panicked call from Cassidy.  He rushes off - and Starr immediately gets on the phone to Featherstone and Hoover, calling them idiots and telling them to cancel the ambulance Cassidy has called.  Jesse gets back to the apartment to find Tulip bleeding out on the kitchen floor and Cassidy trying to save her.  The bullet went right through her and there is blood everywhere.  They can't stop the bleeding.  Cassidy begs Jesse to use the Voice and Jesse tries it, but it still isn't working.  A frantic Cassidy decides that the only way to save her is to turn her into a vampire but Jesse pulls him off her.  They fight, Cassidy nearly feral, as Tulip convulses and struggles to breathe.  Jesse holds Cassidy back and Tulip breathes her last as they watch.  Cassidy is all why? I could have saved her and she might not have been like Dennis.  Jesse, reluctantly, is all, there really is another way.

So then they are in Tulip's car, her lifeless body in the backseat, driving to Angelville.  The fear and sadness on Jesse's face is palpable.  Cassidy can't believe that Jesse let her die and says, "There's something I want to say.  Something I been meaning to tell you for a long time.  I hate you."  Jesse all but rolls his eyes: "You hate me now?  Just you wait."  And as they turn down the L'Angell driveway, that damn chicken runs across the road.

The tag: God is still alive, in a hotel room somewhere, jazz on the radio, dog costume hanging up, beer cans and pill bottles strewn across the rumpled bed.  We don't get to see Him, but when the toilet flushes and the bathroom door opens, the room is flooded with glory and light.

Previously on Preacher / next time on Preacher