Horror Review: Fear the Walking Dead S1E04-05 “Not Fade Away” & “Cobalt”


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“Sometimes all we can do is not enough.” — Dr. Bethany Exner

[some spoilers]

Fear the Walking Dead has been a mystery to some audiences and critics. If there was something the original series was criticized on it was that it’s writing throughout it’s current run has been uneven. There would be some great episodes and some good ones, but then some go nowhere episodes that stops any sort of momentum a particular season was having. The Walking Dead deserved some of the criticism leveled at it’s writing and how some of it’s characters appeared one-note for too long. Things began to improve once Scott M. Gimple took over a showrunner beginning with season 4. yet, some of the damage had been done by a very uneven first three season.

One thing The Walking Dead was never lacking was it’s creativity when it came to the zombies and the violence around them. Greg Nicotero and his KNB EFX crew never flinched from whatever hellish idea the writers were able to come up with. It’s probably one of the main reasons why the show has succeeded so much despite flaws in the writing and characterization. People were willing to tolerate the soap opera-style character interactions if it meant the flesh-eating and the headshots came a-plenty.

The first half of Fear the Walking Dead didn’t have much of the zombie action. It was a bold decision by the writers to stay on the path that brought the early days of the zombie apocalypse to life. This was a show that didn’t already have zombies taking over and with civilization having fallen by the wayside. It was still a world where everyone went about their daily routines. Sure the first episode gave some hints that something was amiss, but not until the final minutes did we finally see our first zombie. Even after that initial reveal at the end of the pilot the writers kept the zombies more off-screen. When they did appear it was as one or two.

Episodes four and five, “Not Fade Away” and “Cobalt”, continued this trend of keeping the zombies at arm’s length and off-screen. We saw Travis and Madison’s neighborhood turned into a safe zone by the National Guard who had been deployed to help contain and combat the spreading infection. Some took the military’s arrival with optimism (Travis) while others saw their arrival as a sign that things were just going to get worse and that things might already be too late to save (Daniel).

These two episodes were some of the strongest in this shortened first season of Fear the Walking Dead. We got to learn more about every character, but mostly we learned just how differently each parent of the core group reacted to the growing situation. These were reactions that were as varied and complex as any we’ve seen in any of the characters in The Walking Dead.

Each parent tried to do what they thought was best for their immediate family. On one end of the moral spectrum we had Travis who tried to serve as a sort of de facto mayor of the walled-off neighborhood. Become the person that would be the one who dealt with the military liaison when it came to his family’s and, to an extent, the neighborhood’s well-being. So far, throughout the this short first season, Travis has come across as the sort of enlightened, civilized man who tries to reason and talk things out instead of acting out rashly and on instinct. This sort of personality is what we as a society want to keep the wheels of civilization moving along problem-free. But as we’ve seen this has also become a weakness as things progressively begin to get worst. Travis can’t seem to see that the rule of law and reason seem to be fighting a losing battle with the need to survive.

Yet, despite Travis’ coming off as some sort of pacifist we get a hint of logic to his seeming weak-willed madness. He sees the world crumbling around him and as a father and role model he has tried to be that moral center to his circle of family and friends. Even when what he’s seeing chips away at his belief that those in power will protect and save them, Travis tries to remain that strong, moral center.

The opposite seems to be true for the other father in our group, Daniel Salazar. This character has been quite the revelation in this series. We first meet him in episode 2. He comes across as a leery, but good man like any immigrant in the US looking to make a new life for his family. But with each new episode we learn a bit more of what makes Daniel tick. He’s a father whose past history before coming to the US hints at chaos and bloodshed. He has seen how crisis could spiral out of control in a blink of the eye and he sees that now with the arrival of the military. He doesn’t trust too many outside his wife and daughter and when he does, as the case with Madison, he does so begrudgingly. He’s adaptable to the ever-changing situation the way Travis is not. He’s willing to resort to immediate action to solve a problem or to find a solution. There’s a darkness in him that’s the current situation has awoken once more and it terrifies him, but he allows it to emerge nonetheless in order to keep his family safe.

Throughout these two episodes we see the recurring theme of authority in its many forms (parental, civilian and military) trying to do their best to keep the situation from spiraling out of control, but they despite all their efforts they fail due to that basic flaw that humanity can’t seem to shred and that’s the inability to work together at the most dire situation to solve the problem.

Both Travis and Daniel try to do the best they know how to navigate through and around the encroaching apocalypse. They succeed in some way, but in the end all their efforts still don’t amount to much as everything right from the start of the crisis has been stacked against them. All they could do now is try and save those closest to them.

The question now as we head into the season finale is whose path will ultimately be the best one to navigate in this apocalypse.

Will it be the Way of the Open Palm that we seem be getting from Travis?

A path of sticking to one’s moral center and principles. To try and keep oneself from sliding back into one’s darker impulses as we’ve seen signs of in these two episodes.

Or will it be the Way of the Closed Fist that Daniel seem to be following?

A mentality that requires quick thinking and direct action even if it means allowing one’s darker side to take hold in order to survive. It’s a path that looks to be well-suited for this apocalypse, but one that also brings with it a set of unknown dangers.

So, while the series has so far lacked in major zombie action and the gore quotient has been tame in comparison to The Walking Dead, it has one-upped it’s older sibling by allowing for it’s cast to grow as characters. Whether they all turn out for the better remains to be seen, but in the span of 5 episodes they’ve become full-fledged characters and now the finale will see who will remain steadfast and who will break.

Notes

  • “Not Fade Away” and “Cobalt” were directed by Kari Skogland. Meagan Oppenheimer has writing duties on the former with David Wiener being responsible for the latter.
  • It’s been nine days since the events of episode 3 and it looks like both the National Guardsmen and the neighborhood are fraying at the edges. It doesn’t help that the unit commander is a reservist who also happens to be an LAPD policeman on a power-trip.
  • Still no sign of Tobias. It looks like his own place might be located in the unsafe and unwalled “dead zones” the military have been doing sweeping patrols for the past nine days.
  • Sandrine Holt comes in as Dr. Bethany Exner. Not her first time in a zombie production. She was also in Resident Evil: Apocalypse as Raccoon City news reported Terri Morales.
  • Ruben Blades is turning out to be the MVP of the series, so far. I guess being a government torturer in his native El Salvador during it’s time of troubles is turning to be a good skillset in the coming zombie apocalypse.

Season 1

Late Night Cable Horror: Erotic Ink/Love Is a… Dangerous Game (2011, dir. Eddie Powell)


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Two things first:

1. I saw the TV cut of this movie, not the original X-rated version. I could see a few edits, but they were only during the sex scenes to bring it down from hardcore to softcore.
2. I am assuming no one reading this is actually going to see it so I am going to talk about the ending. If you are that one person that is going to see it, I recommend it. Go watch it.

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The movie opens up with a couple running through what looks like a storage area of sorts. Maybe a backroom of a museum or something. Immediately you know that this is not like other late night cable movies. It actually has a budget, better actors, an actual script, real camerawork, etc. Presumedly someone is chasing them, but we never see them. They make it to a particular place where they kind of just give up and she asks him to make love to her as if it’s their last day on Earth. They do just that, but this is miles above anything in the other movies I have reviewed. It’s like two people are actually having sex here. And I don’t mean the difference between simulated and unsimulated. Then the film cuts to a woman reading the story of these two characters before cutting back to them. It zooms in on a door handle, their scared faces, then boom. The book is closed.

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This is our main character named Paulina Connelly (Natasha Nice). She was reading a book by her favorite horror novelist named Wes Mueller (Richie Calhoun). Connelly writes children’s books, but she would like to try her hand at a horror or thriller novel. Enter her boss.

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He’s a little frustrated because he just had a 23 year old lady try and pitch him her 300 page autobiography. He of course explained that she’s 23, what life does she really have to write about. Now Connelly sits down and drops the bomb on him that she would like to write a horror novel. He tries to talk her out of it saying that’s quite a shift considering she started a series of books called “Molly the Magical Meerkat”, but she’s insistent, and he gives in.

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Now she goes to her sister and her husband to talk about her idea. They think it’s a terrible idea to want to write stuff like Wes Mueller. To them it’s obvious that he’s not right in the head to write some of the stuff he does. The sister kind of reminds me of Lilith from Cheers. Anyways, we now cut to Wes Mueller and he does seem a little odd.

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Yep, he’s just standing out there with his chainsaw. There’s no explanation given here. We just see him out there holding it with his eyes closed.

She cold calls Mueller and tells him she’s a fan. Turns out he knows who she is cause his niece is a big fan of her books. They have a few phone calls and we get more hints that Mueller is a little weird.

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Then it’s back to the sister and her husband who inform her that Mueller was once in a mental institution.

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The girl on the right is Jacky St. James who wrote the script for the movie. She has written numerous films like this and directed many of them as well.

Believe it or not, there was no sex scene during any of that. But now we get two in quick succession. First, we find out that the sister and her husband are not so puritanical as they seem. The sister knows about Mueller because she secretly reads his stuff. In fact, she has her husband sneak up on her as if he’s going to kill her. Then they have sex.

Back to the boss and we find out Mueller dropped off a cactus for her. Before that conversation goes anywhere Miss 23 comes in with a cookbook to pitch him. He points out that she is an English major, so what does she know about cooking. She doesn’t, but she does know a thing or two about how to get her way a la Baby Face (1933). By that, I mean she sleeps with him. This scene, like all the sex, is well acted. Especially this one because all of her moaning and reactions feel faked. Considering the quality of all the other sex, I think this was done on purpose since she is just using sex to get what she wants. She’s not actually enjoying it.

Then something happens that would never happen in any of the other late night cable movies I have watched so far. The sister surprises Connelly while she is in the shower, but they don’t join each other to go at it. She just drops off a gift, gives her a hug, and leaves. Then Mueller shows up right after the sister leaves.

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They talk it out and she realizes that he really is okay. Quirky for sure. I mean part of his writing process is to go outside and mediate while holding a chainsaw. He also willingly checked himself into a mental hospital for research. This is when we get the best scene in the whole movie. She gets the brilliant idea to have him over to her sister’s place and do his best to freak them out.

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He keeps just cutting at the meat without eating it and giving psycho looks at them. It’s pretty funny.

After they’ve had their fun messing with her sister, they go home and have sex.

Then we get the final scene of the movie when she returns to her boss with a manuscript for a new book. She wrote a romance novel based on her experience with Mueller. As the boss points out, “people aren’t always who they appear to be”. That’s the ultimate lesson of this film. That’s when she leaves. He pulls out a picture of himself. Proceeds to cut off the head. Then we see a picture of the 23 year old with a man, his head scratched out with a marker. He then places his own head over the other man’s. Yep, people aren’t who they appear to be. THE END.

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Well, almost. After the credits roll, we get a quick shot of the sister coming in on Connelly and Mueller in bed together, screaming, and then passing out.

I really enjoyed this one.

Halloween Havoc: THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (Allied Artists 1959)


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William Castle was The King of the Gimmick Films. A natural born showman, Castle got his start grinding out B pictures for companies like Columbia and Monogram. By the late 1950s, television dominated the country’s entertainment audiences, and box offices suffered. Castle made the film MACARBRE in 1958, handing out $1,000 life insurance policies from Lloyd’s of London to patrons “in case they died of fright” while watching the movie. MACARBRE drew money, and for his next flick, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, Castle had a plastic skeleton wired up to float over moviegoers heads during a crucial scene.

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THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is your basic “haunted house” movie, with seven disparate characters forced to spend the night at the gloomy house. Vincent Price plays ultra-rich Frederick Loren, host of the party, who offers five strangers $10,000 dollars to stay at the supposed “murder house”. His wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart at her bitchy…

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Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 3.16 “Nothing in the Dark”


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In this episode of The Twilight Zone, Gladys Cooper plays an elderly woman who lives in such fear of death that she refuses to even open the door of her apartment. Then, one day, a young policeman (Robert Redford) is shot outside of her apartment and Cooper is forced to finally confront the world.

This episode was directed by Lamont Johnson and written by George Clayton Johnson. It originally aired on January 5th, 1962.

The Daily Horror Grindhouse: Dead 7 (directed by Garrett Clancy)


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I recently opened up Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares DVD box set from Mill Creek and went searching for a movie to review for October.  The movie that I picked was Dead 7, a slasher film from the year 2000.

Dead 7 — or, I should say, the version of Dead 7 that I saw — got off to a pretty bad start when the douchebag pictured below appeared on the screen.

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Speaking in a low, guttural voice that I guess was supposed to sound scary, this guy introduced the movie and explained that it was about a meth dealer who tossed a deaf kid in a hole and who suffered an appropriate fate as a result.  Okay great, I thought.  But then the guy kept talking and, to be honest, his voice was so annoying that I have no idea what he was talking about.  It reminded me a bit of that old episode of Saved By The Bell where the gang found the old radio station and Screech got to host Screech’s Mystery Theater.

However, Dead 7 should not be judged by that introduction.  For one thing, I get the feeling that the introduction was tacked on by the film’s distributor, Brain Damaged Films.  (In fact, the credits even state that the intro was filmed by a separate director.)  And once you get past the intro, Dead 7 is actually a fairly effective slasher film.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  According to the imdb, Dead 7 was made for $7,000 and it definitely looks like it was made for $7,000.  This is an ultra low-budget film and it really doesn’t do anything to redefine the slasher genre.  This is one of those films where a group of people do something bad in the past and then, a few months later, they die as a result.  There are no great surprises but still — when taken on its own terms, Dead 7 is an effective film.

Just as the toadsucker in the intro promised, a group of meth dealers toss a deaf kid into a mine shaft and leave him to die.  Three months later, the kid’s odd sister, Venus (Delia Copold) performs some sort of odd ceremony in the wilderness and soon the meth dealers and their girlfriends are all dying in various bloody ways.  Can you figure out what’s happening?  Of course, you can!

That said, Dead 7 definitely works.  Garrett Clancy makes the best possible use of his low-budget, filming with a constantly roaming camera and using properly askew angles to keep the audience off-balance.  The gore is surprisingly well-done for such a low-budget film and, while the acting won’t win any awards, all of the lowlifes are appropriately scuzzy.  (Delia Copold probably gives the best performance in the film, especially when taunting the main dealer.)  The film ends on a properly ironic note and, all in all, watching Dead 7 is not a bad way to waste 72 minutes in October.

Criswell Predicts From Now To The Year 2000!


Criswell Predicts_From Now To Year 2000_1968Charles King was born in 1907 in the back of an Indiana mortuary.  He was born long ago in the past and he lived in, what for him, was the present.  But his mind saw only the future.  Charles King would become better known as the Amazing Criswell.  Along with writing a daily column entitled “Criswell Speaks,” Criswell also appeared in such films as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Orgy of the Dead.  Though death came to this great man exactly 32 years ago today, his words and his vision live on.  According to Criswell himself, his predictions were proven to be correct 87% of the time, a little less than always but a lot more than often.

In 1968, Criswell published his first book, Criswell Predicts From Now To The Year 2000!  You can still find copies of it in used bookstores and occasionally, you will find someone selling it on Ebay or Amazon.  For those of us in the year 2015, it makes for an interesting read.  Here are a few of Criswell’s predictions from 1968:

Criswell predicted that, by 1980, we would be able to perform our own home facelifts for just $5.00 a pop.

On page 115 of Criswell Predicts, Criswell wrote, “I predict an outburst of cannibalism that will terrorize the population of one of the industrial cites in the state of Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh. Mass mournings will be held for the victims. A smile will be unknown. The fate of this city of Pittsburgh will never be forgotten… Date: November 28 to December 21, 1980.”

Criswell predicted that, on August 9th, 1970, Fidel Castro would be assassinated by a woman.

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On page 57 of Criswell Predicts, Criswell wrote, “Las Vegas, Nevada, March 10, 1990: The very first Interplanetary Convention will be held in the new Convention Center on the famed Strip with colony citizens of Mars, Venus, Neptune and the Moon in full representation; Governor Sawyer will make the opening welcome address.”

Criswell predicted paste-on bikinis for girls and clamp-on bikinis for boys.

On page 79 of Criswell Predicts, Criswell wrote, “London, England, will be the target of this heartless killer from outer space. The meteor will strike in a heavily populated sector of London and will hit with unprecedented force, rocking the earth for hundreds of miles and slightly shifting the position of the earth. Shocks will be felt as far away as Paris, Lisbon, Denmark, Australia, India, China, South Africa, South America, and Washington, D.C. I predict that the once proud city of London will be a tomb of death. Entire slum areas will be completely wiped out. Date: October 18, 1988.”

Criswell predicted that nudism would become more popular in the United States and that, in 1971, the Supreme Court would legalize public nudity.

Dayafter1On page 107 of Criswell Predicts, Criswell wrote, “I predict that on February 11, 1981, there will be an abortive attempt by a foreign power to bomb the United States with atomic missiles. Most of the missiles will be destroyed by anti-missile missiles, but several will be only driven off course and will drop on the helpless state of Vermont. The death toll on that date will exceed 50,000 persons.”

(Lisa Marie asked me to note that this is her personal favorite of Criswell’s many predictions.)

Criswell predicted that the U.S. capital would be moved from Washington, D.C. to Wichita, Kansas.

On page 105 of Criswell Predicts, Criswell wrote, “I predict that South Dakota will become the first state to legalize prostitution and the sale of marijuana. I predict that a group of ruthless men will control the state government of South Dakota in the late 1970s and their open traffic in prostitution and drugs will cause repercussions throughout the country.”

Criswell predicted that the teeming metropolis of Denver, Colorado would be destroyed on June 9th, 1989 by a pressure from outer space that would cause all solids to turn into a jelly-like mass.

Let us take a few moments to pay respect for the dead of Denver.

And lastly, Criswell predicted that the last day of life on Earth would be August 18th, 1999, at which point a black rainbow would stretch across the sky and, through forces that we cannot begin to comprehend, suck away our precious oxygen.  Only 200 American and Russian space colonists will survive the final destruction of Earth.

As Criswell himself might say, “Can you prove it didn’t happen?”

Criswell, R.I.P.

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Horror Trailer: Bone Tomahawk


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We never have enough horror set in the Old West. It’s a setting that should be rife with infinite possibilities for some very scary storytelling.

When we do get Old West horror they tend to be direct-to-video and low-budget affairs. Now don’t get me wrong low-budget horror sometimes are some of the most effective. The closer it gets to it’s grindhouse roots the better. Then again some do end up being a pile of turds that end up getting relegated in the dollar bin at supermarkets.

My hope is that the latest Old West horror starring Kurt Russell will be the former and not the latter.

Bone Tomahawk made it’s premiere at this year’s Fantastic Fest and from all intents and purpose had a very positive reception to it’s genre mash-up of cowboys vs cannibals. Now what better way to follow-up The Green Inferno but with another cannibal fare set in the dusty plains and canyons of the Old West.