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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Open Grave (2013)



There is nothing like taking an evening out to get the blood flowing. Last night, we went to see Hairspray at the State Theatre. That movie is one of Markie’s favorites, and with her birthday in a couple days, it made for an easy gift. That performance was awesome, and I am glad we went. Getting back to the blog, I still have a couple movies I must catch up on. The first is the 2013 mystery/thriller Open Grave.


Plot/ A man wakes up in the wilderness, in a pit full of dead bodies, with no memory and must determine if the murderer is one of the strangers who rescued him, or if he himself is the killer.


I really had no idea what to expect when I picked this up. While the premise on the description seemed interesting, there definitely appeared to be many ways that this could become cliché riddled. What I found was much better than I would have imagined, complete with solid cinematography, decent performances, and an interesting storyline that kept me engaged throughout. Sure, there may have been some repetitive moments in the middle and the ending was somewhat flat, but all in all it was one of the better movies of the type I have watched in some time.  In the end, this was an entertaining and somewhat memorable movie, and one that is much better than what its generic title would suggest. Give it a shot.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Almost Human (2013)



After a few days focused on homework, as this creative writing research class is pushing my limits, I decided that it was time to jump back into the blog. While I have watched some interesting flicks recently, one jumped out to me at Family Video and made me grab it. That film is the independent alien / slasher flick Almost Human from 2013.


Plot/ Mark Fisher disappeared from his home in a brilliant flash of blue light almost two years ago. His friend Seth Hampton was the last to see him alive. Now a string of grisly, violent murders leads Seth to believe that Mark is back, and something evil is inside of him.


This was an interesting flick, and while I could sit here and mention all that was wrong with it, but I will not, because it was actually extremely entertaining in a weird way. This film has some pacing issues that really work. While it is for the most part a slow burn, once it starts it rolls along. Honestly, from the opening, and throughout the film, everything takes place in a straightforward linear fashion. Sure, the acting is uneven; there are some plot holes, and there is almost zero character development, but that is secondary to the story of this film. What is impressive is the gore, and the creative kills (and effects used on those kills) throughout the film. Sprinkle in an awesome ending and some homage to classic horror films of the 1980s (Evil Dead tree penetration comes to mind) and this one works. In the end, there is nothing truly original in this, but it is an interesting and entertaining 80-plus minutes for gore fans. Sure, it is not for everyone, but if you enjoy straightforward mindless horror, give it a shot!



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Under the Skin (2013)



After a couple days of working on some homework and finishing some writing, I decided it was time to jump back in for some reviews. While I am currently watching some alien stuff right now, it is nowhere near as surreal as the next film for review. That movie is the 2013 entry Under the Skin!


Plot/ A mysterious woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. Events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery.


This movie will definitely divide the audience, as some will love it and others will hate it. It is that simple of an analysis. Personally, I loved it! The surrealism of what is developing on the screen and in the story kept me guessing. However, I am a huge fan of surrealism and spent many hours dissecting the works of David Lynch. Yes, there are some pacing issues, there is some vague plot moments, and some of the acting has some uneven moments. That being said, this film is amazing, with stunning visuals and enough open space to allow your mind to fill in the blanks. In the end, this movie is definitely not for everyone and will likely go unnoticed by the masses. If you enjoy surrealism and movies that push boundaries, give it a shot!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Hunting the Legend (2014)



With my first week of the new quarter in the books, and finally feeling like myself again, it was time to finish the reviews on the movies I watched during my illness. As of this point, I have movie Darkroom and this found footage flick left on my list. Next up, the 2014 entry Hunting the Legend. 


Plot/ In 2008, a deer hunter was taken by something in the Alabama woods. Only his rifle, blood, and a 16" footprint were left behind... Five years later, his son seeks revenge.


I was really torn when I saw this flick. While I am not a huge fan of found footage movies, being a Bigfoot researcher, I was interested to see this films take on the mysterious cryptid. As I expected, there was nothing new with the filmmaking techniques, the acting was overdone and uneven, and the characters were poorly developed. However, I was extremely disappointed in the characterization of Bigfoot, turning the species basically into a group of large crazed cannibals. Yes, I understand that this was an interpretation, but it could not be further from the legend and a poor choice for a found footage flick. Unless you are a huge found footage fan, stay away from it!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stage Fright (2014)



I finally feel like I am back to where I was before I got sick. For most of the week, I fought through some lingering fatigue issues, as I had to return to the institute for a new quarter. With some energy now in place, it was time to get back to the block. Next up on the chopping block is the 2014 horror musical Stage Fright!


Plot/ A snobby musical theater camp is terrorized by a blood-thirsty killer who hates musical theater.


Horror musicals are always a challenge and this one was no different. While it was entertaining and laughable, I will say that there definitely was not sound balance between the slasher elements and the musical portions. That being said, the acting was solid, the concepts interesting, and there was a decent amount of blood when the gore started to flow. Sure, there were some pacing issues, the scripting was uneven, and the ending was quite predictable. In the end, this movie may not be perfect, but there was something interesting going on and it had some entertaining moments. I could quite easily see this movie take on some late cult movie followers in time, it has just enough schlock and gore to make it appealing. If you like musicals, give it a shot!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slenderman Does Not Kill, People Do ---> An Argument





The media often overplays tragic crimes, as the desire to boost ratings trumps the truth. During the process of the media sensationalizing a tragedy, a specific agenda or narrative drives the coverage. Unfortunately, when these situations occur, the root cause of the tragedy is forgotten and the public creates a false sense of reality in viewing the case. This is evident in the recent case involving the Slenderman stabbings.

Instead of determining why the alleged perpetrators attempted to murder their friend, the only fact that was brought forward by the media was the role the Slenderman mythos played in the tragedy. In the article, “Parents, Take Heed: ‘Slenderman’ and More Lurk Online,” written by James Steyer on June 4, 2014 (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/04/opinion/steyer-slenderman-kids-media/) the author takes on every other aspect of the case, except the condition of the alleged criminals. By ignoring the social or medical conditions that may exist, Steyer missed the mark and played into the practice of mainstream media propagandizing a topic. The truth may be hard for some to comprehend, but in reality, a meme such as Slenderman cannot kill, it is the medical and social issues of the perpetrators that lead to the killings.

In this over-sensationalized society, art, literature, movies, and video games play a large role in entertaining everyone, including our youth, and it becomes easy to point a finger at these areas when a tragedy occurs. The Slenderman case is indeed troubling, and there may never truly be a complete picture of what exactly took place on that day. In a way, Steyer is right: there are dark depths that can be found on the Internet, and parents should be involved in their children’s digital presence (Steyer, 2014, June 4). However, there is a lot more to this story than a character that was created as a meme.

In the Slenderman case, the facts that the media portrays are that a character created in a fictional story was responsible for the horrific stabbing. Yet, criminal and psychological experts agree that they would be surprised if a psychological problem did not exist with the 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who allegedly tried to stab their friend to death in this case (Lumpkin, 2014, June 3). It is a sad truth that medical conditions often do exist, and many are well known by the friends and family of the perpetrator(s), but go unseen by the media and the population. Instead, a target is made and that is what society focuses on.

Whether it is Slenderman in the case of this stabbing or Batman in the case of the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting, there is no doubt society has been scarred and the root cause of these incidents remain a heated debate. However, instead of a sequential investigation of the emotional, medical and social state of the alleged, the media bypassed the facts and created a narrative. Thus, preventing viewers from making proper judgment on why these events took place. By creating a blanket statement of the dangers that lurk on the Internet and warning parents to take a more active role, Steyer failed to take on the larger problems that exist in a case like the Batman shooting (or the Slenderman stabbing).

While there is some proof that violence in media does have some impact, it cannot solely be the cause. In looking at a cross-section of these heinous crimes, the mental state often comes into clarity early on and there is a high rate of mental disorders among the perpetrators (Schildkraut & Muschert, 2013). In the cross-section of crimes covered by that article, three historic cases were studied and in all three, the perpetrators had been diagnosed with some type of disorder that when coupled with violent content spawned the crimes (Schildkraut & Muschert, 2013).

This type of bias is not new to the digital age; for decades, the media has misrepresented the cause of violent crime. This is another area that Steyer missed the mark on. Tragic crimes like this take place during every decade, and unfortunately, the media creates a scapegoat instead of focusing on the root cause. In this case it was the Internet and a horror literature website.

Whether it was the video games of the 1990s, horror movies of the 1980s, or as pointed out by Patrick Joynt, the comic books of the 1950s, every decade and generation have some type of popular activity or topic that grows into a media target. This targeting even rose to the level of a Senate hearing in the 1950s as the violence, themes, and hidden homoeroticism of comics scared an over-conservative society that blamed them on the rise in what was perceived as immoral behavior (Joynt, 2006, August 22). However, in every case and in every decade, legal action against the industries has failed to reduce their overall popularity and in turn, the government and media created a new enemy to deflect society from the root cause of these heinous crimes and taboo behaviors.

The idea of using a tragedy or a crisis to one’s advantage to push an agenda may seem like a conspiracy theory, when in fact, it is an accepted practice in the media and political worlds. According to former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel, “never allow a good crisis go to waste when it’s an opportunity to do things that you had never considered or what you didn’t think were possible” (Schneider, 2011, January 11). This thought process shows exactly why characters such as Slenderman end up becoming the target for the media in the country. Instead of combating violent crime at the root, mainstream media and politicians in the country work in unison to create a specific narrative. The end goal is not stopping violent crime or determining why it happened, it is to push an agenda or thought process onto the American population, even if a large percentage of citizens do not want to see that type of change take place.

No matter what society does, or who the media decided to blame, violent crimes would always occur. In a perfect world, exposing the root causes instead of creating a narrative could eliminate these vicious tragedies. Unfortunately, with the lawmakers and media caught up being more concerned with creating a target instead of discovering harsh truths that could impact reputation and wallets of their donors and lobbyists, real progress will never be made at discovering a lasting cure for violent crime and the medical and social conditions that sit at their hearts.

References

Joynt, P. (2006, August 22). Games vs. politics. PC Magazine 25, no. 14: 114-115. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost

Lumpkin, S. (2014, June 3). Why did 12-year-olds stab friend for ‘Slender Man’?. ABC News. Retrieved
June 16, 2014, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/12-year-olds-stab-friend-slenderma/story?id=23979903
 
Schildkraut, J., & Muschert, G. (2013). Violent media, guns, and mental Illness: The three ring circus of causal factors for school massacres, as related in media discourse. Fast Capitalism, 10-1. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/10_1/schildkraut10_1.html

Schneider, M. (2011, January 11). Rahm Emanuel: Arizona shooting is a crisis that should go to waste. Mediaite. Retrieved June 26, 2014, from http://www.mediaite.com/tv/rahm-emanuel-arizona-shooting-is-a-crisis-that-should-go-to-waste/

Steyer, J. (2014, June 4). Parents, take heed: ‘Slenderman’ and more lurk online.
Retrieved June 14, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/04/opinion/steyer-slenderman-kids-media/

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Returned (2013)



As my sickness took hold this week, I could not believe the amount of movies that I had not had a chance to review prior to falling ill. During this vacation from the institute, I decided to venture into a few different genres in my viewing, as well as some more of my favorite no-budget indie entries. This next review is on a an interesting zombie flick from 2013, The Returned.


Plot/ In a world where a deadly zombie virus has infected some of the population, a single cure has been found. The cure, a treatment which stays the effects of the virus in its host. With injections every 36 hours, the Returned are able to live as though they were never bit, despite the virus still coursing through their veins. When it is discovered that the protein stock is running low, chaos hits the streets.


I am a huge fan of zombie films, but can honestly say that the market has become over-saturated and I have been shying away from them. This movie was different, as from the outset; it did not appear to fit inside the recent zombie trends. In fact, it definitely offered a somewhat new approach to the popular genre. This one is an entertaining thriller, with a solid storyline, outstanding cinematography, a dreary atmosphere, and some originality. Yes, the acting was average and there was not a lot of blood, guts, or violence, but that was fine for a change of pace. In the end, this was an entertaining trip into zombie lore and refreshing storyline. Sure, some will be turned off by the lack of blood and gore, but if you enjoy thought out thrillers, you should enjoy it. Give it a shot!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Afflicted (2013)



Well, I thought that I made it out of the woods with this stomach flu, but I was wrong. Whatever this was, I wish it on no one. I am just happy that I did not pass it on, and was able to recover enough to make it to the Comets playoff game last night. Unfortunately, we lost, but it was a great season! The unfortunate thing about my illness was that I did not have the energy to even watch any movies, so this review will be from a movie I watched over the weekend and am now catching up on, the 2013 found footage flick Afflicted.


Plot/ Two best friends see their trip of a lifetime take a dark turn when one of them is struck by a mysterious affliction. Now, in a foreign land, they race to uncover the source before it consumes him completely.


While I am not a huge fan of the found footage genre, occasionally I find one that is at least somewhat entertaining and refreshing to watch. That was definitely the case with this film. It is true that the movie is quite cliché, the idea of taking the found footage aspect and adding in the vampire twist was appreciated. Honestly, I ran out of patience with the paranormal centered varieties that have been offered up. Of course, the acting is uneven, the dialog is unconvincing, the story is predictable, and there are some plot holes that you could drive a truck through, but it is rather entertaining. In the end, this is actually one of the better and more interesting found footage movies to come out in some time. Yes, it is not for everyone (which is the case with this entire genre), but if you like found footage flicks, you should definitely check it out!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Dark Souls (2010)



While, what a difference a day makes. I am not sure what does have me, but something is beating me down. Maybe it is all of the running that I have been doing, but something has punched me in the gut and is definitely keeping me laid up. However, I still have some energy left to push out my next review for the 2010 Norwegian horror flick Dark Souls.


Plot/ A revengeful father embarks on a dark thrill ride of lost memories, conspiracy and zombie-like symptoms. Finding the mysterious darkness within is the source of the bizarre world he has uncovered.


When I grabbed this one the other day from Family Video, I was not sure what to expect. What I found was an interesting journey that again proves that foreign horror has become much more original than that of the Hollywood variety. This one, while not a zombie movie as one would think is quite interesting. A Norwegian thriller, this one has a lot to like with a strange storyline, some homages to past horror entries, solid pacing that allows the tension to grow, decent acting, and enough dark imagery to make a horror fan smile. Plus, there is a dark humor that sits at the core that keeps everything moving. Yes, the subtitles make it difficult if you are not paying total attention, but that is a minor setback to an overall intriguing horror movie. In the end, if you can handle the subtitles for 90 minutes and want to see something a bit different than the normal horror entry give it a shot. I would be worth your time.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Blood Widow (2014)



After spending some time in the giallo regions, I decided it was time to check out a slasher. While I should grab something from my movie collection (which I am pairing down at the moment), I decided to hit Family Video to see what they had. My selection for the night was the 2014 entry Blood Widow from Midnight Releasing.


Plot/ After buying a nice house in the country, Laurie and Hugh, a successful young couple, throw a party for their friends. During the wild night a few friends decide to explore the abandoned and decaying boarding school next door, only to wake an emotionally broken killer: The Blood Widow.


As a fan of no-budget indie flicks, I see my fair share of low budget horror and can pick out the inherent flaws in those productions. For the most part viewers can expect flat characters, uneven acting, poor audio quality, and some plot holes thrown in for good measure. This film could be the poster child for that, as all of those were present, within a very clichéd storyline. While I did find the killer creepy with a fascinating look, it was definitely hard to focus with the out of place soundtrack and the severe audio problems. It was extremely muted and hard to pay attention to at times. It would be interesting to see how this movie played with better audio quality. Yes, it would still be far from perfect, but it may succeed in creating some better characters. In the end, I did find this somewhat entertaining in a 1980s sort of way. Sure, there are problems in the movie and it is not great, but neither were the straight to VHS flicks I watched in my youth.


Stay Away (Short Story)



This is a micro (non) fiction piece I did for class, about a rock throwing experience with my friend Sasquatch.

Stay Away 

The southwestern Pennsylvania air was heavy as the oppressive May drought continued to plague the area. Eric and I ventured out in search of the legendary creature that some say inhabits Chestnut Ridge. Crack! A loud crash echoed through the forest; something was there stalking us.

The aroma of death drew us into the dark cave. The musk saturates the den. Random bones litter the darkness. The uneasy feelings grew louder as we ventured deep inside. Deer, rabbit, and mountain lion remains are everywhere; some creature definitely calls this dreary abyss home. Is it just a bear, or is it what we came for: Sasquatch? I thought.

Snap! A branch crashed outside the entrance; the creature was close. We ran toward the dense thicket of pine hoping to see the beast, to force the animal into the clearing. There, we will finally have proof Bigfoot was real. Crack!

 “Look, in the ravine lumbering away.” I said. We could hear the invisible specter that haunts us; we knew he was there. At once, an odd silence cut through the tension mere seconds before the huge sandstone sarsen crashed at our feet. His message was clear: Stay Away!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

City of Lust (2014)



I always enjoy spending time with micro-budget independent cinema. To me, there is nothing better than watching some of these titles as they are often journeys into strange worlds that at times make little sense. Of course, they also tend to take on more than their budgets will allow, and lead to some strange inconsistencies. The next movie does come from that cloth, the 2014 entry from Brain Damage Films, City of Lust (AKA Yellow).


Plot/ A modern Giallo horror film, This tells the story of a lonely young woman who begins an unlikely relationship with dire consequences.



As a fan of the classic giallo film of the 1970s, I was a bit torn when I saw this one of the shelves. On one hand, a modern giallo is much needed, as the classic Argento tales need a new vision. However, being a low budget flick, I knew it might be hard to capture that feel. Sure, there are many of the elements one would expect in this one, complete with the non-linear but interesting storyline, the contrast of color, strange angles of cinematography, and an intriguing vision. Yet, while interesting the uneven performances, the clear lack of a budget, and some scripting holes keep it from becoming all that it could be. In the end, I did find this an entertaining trip into a weird world.  Yes, it is nothing close to a classic giallo, but it is a flawed but interesting ride. While it is definitely not for everyone, it should be given a shot!

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Machine (2013)



The Fourth of July is often one of those days that cause mixed emotions. While I enjoy the cookouts and relaxation, the drunks with the fireworks on every corner can make it a touch annoying. But, I would prefer dealing with those idiots more than dealing with a totalitarian society that wants to control everything… Oh wait this is the Obama administration. Next up for review is the 2013 Sci-Fi / Thriller The Machine.


Plot/ Two artificial intelligence engineers come together as they work to create the first ever self-aware artificial intelligence. Things go wrong when the Ministry of Defense takes over and advances the researchers' work to the next level, teaching the AI to kill with its new and nearly indestructible body.


Sci-Fi films have been all over the place recently, with the art of the Sci-Fi / Thriller almost non-existent. That was definitely not the case with this low budget but stylish independent flick. There was a lot to like in this one with a thought provoking storyline, solid acting, and an atmospheric realm. Sure, there were some scripting issues and the ending felt a bit abrupt, but those were not a deal breaker. In the end, this was an entertaining flick with some nice visual elements. If you are a fan of the Sci-Fi / Thriller genre, give this one a look.