Trailer: Unbroken


Here’s the latest trailer for Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, a film that many of us are expecting will be a definite Oscar contender.

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What Horror Lisa and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #106: Finders Keepers (dir by Alexander Yellen)


Last night, the Snarkalecs and I watched the latest SyFy original film, Finders Keepers!

FK

Why Was I Watching It?

I had been watching Big Driver over on Lifetime but that film proved to be unusually disturbing and I really wasn’t in the right mood to deal with it.  Sometimes, you need to just be entertained and SyFy original movies are always entertaining!  So, after watching an hour of Big Driver, I turned over to SyFy and watched Finders Keepers.

What Was It About?

Recently divorced writer Alyson Smith (Jaime Pressly) moves into a nice, old house with her daughter, Claire (Kylie Rogers).  At first the house seems ideal but soon, cracks start to appear on this perfect fantasy of home ownership.  Claire starts to act strangely.  A crazy old cat lady (Marina Sirtis) keeps coming by the house.  Alyson does some research and discovers that the reason the house was empty was because, years before, it was the scene of a brutal mass murder.  And, of course, Claire finds a creepy doll in her bedroom and becomes extremely attached to it.

Soon, everyone who knows Alyson and her ex-husband (Patrick Muldoon) is turning up dead.  Could it be that the doll is evil or could it all be a coincidence?

Actually, there’s really no question.  That is one messed up doll…

What Worked?

SyFy hasn’t been showing as many original movies this year as they did last year.  Fortunately, the ones that they have shown have all been excellent and Finders Keepers keeps the streak going.  Finders Keepers is an effectively creepy horror film, featuring excellent performances from Jaime Pressly and Patrick Muldoon, atmospheric direction from Alexander Yellen, and a clever script from Peter Sullivan.

Incidentally, Finders Keepers probably featured one of the bigger body counts that I’ve ever seen in a SyFy film.  Nobody’s safe from that doll!

What Did Not Work?

Over the course of the film, two cats and a crazy old cat lady are killed.  As most of you know, I am about 40 years away from becoming a crazy old cat lady so that was a little bit difficult for me to deal with.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

So, beyond the crazy old cat lady and her two cats, this film also featured a vivacious, 20-something redhead who ended up being murdered by the evil doll.  And then, once the redhead and the cat lady had been dispatched, we were introduced to an incredibly efficient office administrator and guess what happened to her?  That’s right — murdered by the crazy doll.  Speaking as a vivacious and efficient redheaded office administrator and future crazy cat lady, I really have to wonder just what exactly this film had against me!

Lessons Learned

Do not let your daughter keep any creepy old voodoo dolls that she just happens to find in her bedroom.  If she won’t get rid of the voodoo doll, consider giving her up for adoption because, seriously — voodoo is nothing to mess with.

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E02 “Strangers”


TheWalkingDeadS5E02

“Nowadays, people are just as dangerous as the dead, don’t you think.” — Father Gabriel

[spoilers]

The Walking Dead as a show has never been more popular than it is now, but there’s been always a group of fans who have always had a bone to pick with the writers of the show. Some of these fans have given up on the series while others continue to watch it hoping that the series will get back on track. These fans are some of the biggest followers of the comic book series that the show is based on. They’ve bought and read The Walking Dead since the very first issue. While most remain steadfast fans of the show for it’s unpredictability in changing up story arcs and characters, there are those readers who hate when the show deviates from the comics.

These fans believe that the stories told in the comic book are strong and rich enough in drama and detail that deviating from them becomes a crapshoot in terms of quality. Yet, it’s the very deviation from the comics which has kept fans of the comics from instantly figuring out what will happen as the show moves from season to season.

The series itself never truly deviates from the main story arcs told in the comics. It’s how small details, subplots and characters get handled in different ways that the deviations come into play.

During the first four seasons of the show there’s been some major deviations on who died and who appeared and when. Characters such as Dale, Andrea, Sophia and Shane have had their roles expanded, reduced and/or changed that made them feel new and exciting (though for some characters like Andrea not so well). Even the mix and matching of subplots have kept even fans of the comics from feeling too comfortable about what to expect next.

Current showrunner Scott M. Gimple looks to be addressing this war between fans of the comics and those who have never read it by gradually pushing the show’s narrative much closer to the comics as early as the mid-season finale of season 4. Now with the second episode of season 5 the series looks to be introducing several details from the comics that should sound and look familiar to fans of the book.

First, we find the group on the move after the events of Terminus. There’s some small feeling out between new additions to Rick’s “family” with the Tara unsure whether the group would accept her since she was part of the Governor’s group which assaulted the prison and got Hershel killed. Rick and Maggie could easily have rejected her apologies of not knowing who the Governor truly was, but they understood how charismatic the Governor could be. Tara might be forgiven but time will tell if the group will truly trust her.

It’s after this brief opening that we come to the show moving towards the comic book in regards to it’s narrative. We meet Father Gabriel who looks to be a figurative babe in the woods. He’s trapped by several zombies and his reaction to being rescued by Rick and events after show him to be one with a naive sense of the new world. Rick and his people don’t know what to think of Father Gabriel. How has he survived almost two years on his own in his church without ever killing anyone (whether in self-defense or on purpose) or even make it this long without knowing how to deal with the zombies just beyond his church’s doors.

Father Gabriel already comes off as something more than what he’s telling the group. This doesn’t bode well for Rick and his “family” since whenever they come across strangers who seem willing to help they end up the opposite of helpful. Gabriel definitely has secrets he’s keeping from the group and Rick seems to have an inkling what it might be (with a little help from Carl), but he’s willing to string the good reverend along until his true colors comes out.

Now, the second part of tonight’s episode which brings the show back on track with the comics is the introduction of the “The Hunters” story arc from the books. Terminus looks to have become the foundation for this story arc. Let’s call it the prequel to what looks to be season 5’s first half story. Carol, Rick and the gang did quite a job on taking down Terminus. It was definitely not the sanctuary they’ve been advertising over the airwaves to potential survivors. Yet, the group’s complaint at Rick wanting to go back and finish the job at the end of the season premiere has come back to become a major danger to all of them.

But what part of that brings the show back on track and in sync with the comics?

The ending which has Bob taken captive by the Terminus survivors with Gareth still alive and hipstering was adapted almost scene for scene from the comic books. While it was poor departed Dale who was taken captive in the comics, it looks like that fate has befallen Bob in the show. This sequence was a major shocker in the comic book and it has a similar effect in the show since Bob has become a well-rounded character and one audiences come to care for. It helps that Larry Gilliard, Jr. has been giving good performances everytime he’s on the screen.

“Strangers” looks like the beginning of a major storyline for the show and might be a way to begin culling the group of it’s growing number. This doesn’t bode well for characters on the show not named Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl. If there’s been one thing The Walking Dead has become an expert in during it’s first four season it’s killing off characters when we least expect them to. One thing for sure is that if Rick and his people haven’t stopped trusting strangers before tonight’s episode they may just end up not trusting anyone they don’t recognize by the time the midseason break rolls around.

Notes

  • Robert Kirkman (creator and writer of the comic book) does the writing duties with tonight’s episode. There were some slow spots in the middle, but he nailed that final sequence with Bob and the Hunters.
  • The Walking Dead gets another alum from HBO’s The Wire with the addition of Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel. It’s almost a running joke now. I next expect to see Michael K. Williams, Dominic West and Idris Elba to become cast members in future seasons (not a bad idea when you think about it).
  • Rick definitely doesn’t buy fully into the news that Eugene has the cure for the zombie apocalypse, but he understands that having Abraham and Rosita along just makes the group stronger.
  • Speaking of Abraham, I wonder how much longer before Rick and he begin to truly bump heads over who will be the leader of the group.
  • Carol looks to be having a case of the “guilts” in tonight’s episode. Hopefully, they don’t string out this personal crisis too long and just have her continue on her upward trajectory of becoming the show’s biggest badass.
  • Waterlogged zombies in the food bank reminded me so much of Deadite in The Pit in Army of Darkness. Greg Nicotero promised during Comic-Con that they were going to up their game when it came to zombie make-up effects for season 5 and they’ve followed through on that promise, so far.
  • Talking Dead guests for tonight are Matt L. Jones (Breaking Bad, Mom) and Chad Coleman aka Tyreese from The Walking Dead.

Season 5

Horror Film Review: Big Driver (dir by Mikael Salomon)


Bleh Stephen King

You have to be careful about admitting that you think Stephen King is overrated.

For a year and a half, I’ve been meaning to write a post entitled “10 Reasons Why Stephen King Sucks” but I haven’t. Some of that is because I don’t necessarily think that he does suck.  I think he’s a good writer but I also think that he’s overrated and that his novel about the Kennedy assassination got so many details about Texas wrong that I don’t even know where to begin.  (However, following the rules of clickbait, “sucks” works better than “overrated.”)  Mostly, though, it’s just because Stephen King fans tend to be a bit cult-like.  Criticizing King is like saying you don’t care about Beyonce’s marriage or admitting that you find President Obama to be a dull speaker or telling Vermont to go fuck itself or listing 10 Reasons Why You Hated Avatar.  You shouldn’t do it unless you want to run the risk of dealing with a lot of angry and irrational true believers.

That said, it’s always a little bit safer to criticize the movies that have been made from Stephen King’s books and short stories.  Even King’s most slavish followers will admit that Stephen King films tend to be uneven as far as quality is concerned.  Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the best horror films of all time but it’s interesting to note that Stephen King himself rarely has a good word to say about Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel.  For reasons that I’ve never quite understood, a lot of people love The Shawshank Redemption.  Then there are the adaptations that nobody likes, like Bag of Bones and Dreamcatcher.

And then there’s Big Driver, an adaptation of a Stephen King novella that aired on Lifetime last night.  For the past two months, Lifetime has been advertising this film with short but effective commercials that featured a bloodied Maria Bello running down a dark road while a gigantic truck ominously followed behind her.  I saw the commercials and, seeing as how Maria Bello is a favorite actress of mine and how much I love Lifetime movies in general, I was excited to see Big Driver.  Then, I saw another commercial in which Stephen King was quoted as saying, “This is the film that Stephen King fans have been waiting for,” and I have to admit that it left me a little bit less enthused because, quite frankly, I’ve always been under the impression that Stephen King will endorse anything as long as he gets paid and his ass gets kissed.  (Someday, we’ll have to do a survey to discover just how many crappy books come with a Stephen King pull quote on the cover describing the book’s author as being “the future of horror!”)  And I have to admit that I resented the fact that Lifetime seemed to be assuming that I would ever allow Stephen King to tell me what was good and what was bad.  I can decide that for myself without having someone else tell me what I’ve been “waiting for.”

(I have issues with authority.  Can you tell?)

Big Driver, incidentally, is Stephen King’s take on I Spit On Your Grave.  Mystery writer Tess Thorne (Maria Bello) is raped and left for dead by a serial killer who is known as Big Driver (Will Harris).  Feeling that the police would simply say that she was “asking for it”, Tess does not report the attack but instead uses the same techniques that she writes about in her books to track down both Big Driver and his mother (Ann Dowd) and sets out to get both revenge for herself and justice for all of Big Driver’s other victims.  (Those detective techniques, by the way, largely seem to consist of knowing how to use Google.)  Along the way, Tess hallucinates conversations with both her car’s GPS and with one of the fictional detectives from her books (played by Olympia Dukakis).

BD

When I watched Big Driver last night, I actually had to stop watching after an hour.  The film was just too intense and disturbing for me to handle in one sitting.  The scene where Tess was raped was too painful to watch and Maria Bello’s performance was so raw and real that I had to change the channel.  It wasn’t the film’s fault.  It’s just that I wasn’t in the right emotional state to watch the movie.  It was a lot more intense than anything that I would have ever expected to see on Lifetime.  (Lifetime, after all, is the television equivalent of comfort food.)  So, I stopped watching after an hour and I turned over to SyFy so I could watch a much more light-hearted horror film, Finders Keepers.  Fortunately, I had the DVR recording Big Driver and I finished watching the film early this morning.

What I discovered, when I watched the rest of the film, is that Big Driver is a frustratingly uneven film.  The first half is difficult to watch and that’s the way it should have been.  But, as I watched the rest of the film, I found myself growing annoyed with Tess’s imaginary friends.  The talking GPS and the spectral presence of the fictional detective all served to make Tess look less like a woman demanding justice and more like the proverbial unstable person who shouldn’t have been messed with.  One reason why the original I Spit On Your Grave has recently been reevaluated by several feminist film critics is because the victim in that film is never portrayed as being crazy or unbalanced.  Her actions are purely the result of what has been done to her and, as such, that film is ultimately far more empowering than most critics will ever be willing to admit.   By calling into question Tess’s grip on reality, Big Driver fails to empower and, if a film like this isn’t going to be empowering, than what is the point?

Big Driver is, however, redeemed by Maria Bello’s fierce performance as Tess.  Maria Bello is one of my favorite actresses.  When you see that a character is played by Maria Bello, you know that character is not going to put up with any bullshit and she’s not going to be afraid to kick someone’s ass if she has to.  Even when the film’s script lets the character down, Maria Bello keeps Tess strong.  It’s a great and, I would say, even an important performance.

As for Big Driver‘s place in the pantheon of Stephen King film adaptations, it’s about in the middle.  It’s neither as good or as bad as it could have been but it is undeniably effective.

big-driver-stephen-king-lifetime

Horror on TV: Freakylinks 1.7 “Still I Rise”


Up until Friday, I had either never heard of a show called Freakylinks.  According to Wikipedia, it aired on the Fox Network back in the year 2000 and it deal with a guy named Derek (Ethan Embry) who took over an occult-themed web site after the death of his twin brother Adam.  The name of that website: Freakylinks.com.  (Incidentally, the real Freakylinks.com is currently for sale if anyone wants to buy the domain name.  To be honest, Freakylinks.com sounds like it should be a cheap porn site instead of a paranormal site.)  With the help of his friends, Derek would spend each week investigating paranormal stuff and then I guess posting it to his site.  I’m assuming that there was no YouTube back in 2000.  (And according to Wikipedia, I am correct!  YouTube did not start until 2005.)

Anyway, Friday night, I watched an episode of Freakylinks with my friends Janeen, Holly, Ven, Tammy, Elway, Kurt, Amber, Myrna, and Bec over at SyFyDesigns.com.  As you might guess from that list, Freakylinks appears to be one of those shows that works better if you watch it as a part of a group.  The episode we watched was called Still I Rise and it had a zombie theme to it.  Towards the end of the episode, Ethan Embry goes a little crazy.

And you can watch it below!

Horror on the Lens: The Boogie Man Will Get You (dir by Lew Landers)


Today’s horror on the lens is a short horror comedy from 1942.  In The Boogie Man Will Get You, Winnie Slade (Miss Jeff Donnell) buys an old house from Prof. Billings (Boris Karloff) with plans to covert it into a hotel.  However, one of the conditions of the sale is that Prof. Billings and his servants be allowed to live on the property.  What Winnie doesn’t know is that Prof. Billings had been conducting experiments on traveling salesman.  He hopes to turn them into supermen who can then be sent overseas to fight the Nazis.  (Kind of like Capt. America, when you think about it…)  However, his experiments have yet to be successful and have mostly just resulted into a lot of salesman being buried out in the rose garden…

However, things start to look up for Prof. Billings when he meets Dr. Lorencz (Peter Lorre), who is not only a doctor but also a mayor, sheriff, and dog catcher.  Seriously, Dr. Lorencz can do it all….

The Boogie Man Will Get You is a fun little time capsule of the time in which it was made.  For horror fans, it is mostly interesting because it features both Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.  Both Karloff and Lorre appear to be having a lot of fun parodying their usual screen images.

Enjoy!