October Positivity: You & Me, Us, Forever (dir by Dave Christiano)

A 2008 film with an incredibly unwieldy title, Me & You, Us, Forever, tells the story of Dave (Michael Blain-Rozgay).  Dave is an advertising exec.  Originally from New York, he now lives in North Carolina.  He has only recently gotten divorced and he’s still struggling with his feelings.  His ex-wife makes it a point to call him from her new boyfriend’s house so that his name will appear on Dave’s caller ID.  Dave’s teenage daughters only spend a limited amount of time with him and, even if they are surprisingly open to playing Scrabble with him, it’s obvious that they’re growing up without him.  Dave’s business partner says that Dave needs to move on and just put his faith in God.  Dave, however, would rather think about Mary (Sandi Fix).

Mary was the girl that Dave dated during his senior year of high school.  He broke up with her while he was in college and he’s always regretted it.  He starts to think that maybe his life would have been perfect if he had just married Mary.  Dave’s business partners points out that God didn’t want Dave to marry Mary.  (But did God want Dave to marry the woman who cheated on him and now taunts him by calling him from her boyfriend’s house?)  One thing that no one mentions is that neither one of his daughters would exist if he had married Mary.

Even after Dave starts attending a Christian support group for divorced people and meet a single woman named Carla (Stacey J. Aswad), he can’t stop wondering about Mary.  Even after he finds out that she is now married and has a very good life with her husband and her family, Dave cannot stop thinking about Mary.  Even though everyone tells Dave that it’s a bad idea, he is determined to go to New York and see her.

The main problem with Me & You, Us, Forever (other than that really long title) is the fact that Dave’s dilemma is presented as being a crisis of faith when, in reality, he’s just an immature and selfish man who is having a midlife crisis.  Everyone keeps telling Dave that God doesn’t want him to try to get back together with Mary but really, you don’t have to be a Christian to realize that Dave’s plan isn’t a good one.  You just need common sense!  I’m sure that a Muslim would have been just as quick to tell Dave that seeing Mary was a bad idea as Dave’s Christian business partner was.  For that matter, I imagine many atheists would have had the same opinion.  Dave’s a jerk, regardless of his religious beliefs.

This is a Dave Christiano film so, not surprisingly, there’s some talk about how divorce is the work of the devil.  In reality, it’s sometimes best for people to get divorced.  Good people get divorced for a lot of reasons and it’s not always as simplistic as one person screwing up while the other essentially remains blameless.  (For instance, Dave never considers that his wife may have left him because she could tell he was still obsessed with an old high school girlfriend.)  My parents got divorced and it wasn’t necessarily easy for me and it led to me acting out in a lot of ways when I was younger but, all these years later, I’m now mature enough to understand that it was exactly what they needed to do.

This film is a long 91 minutes.  There are conversations that just seem to go on forever.  That said, I do think that  Christiano did an okay job with the scene in which Mary and Dave finally talk about their past and their present.  That scene was handled with a sensitivity that’s missing from most of the movie.  As well, I think Stacey J. Aswad gave a good performance as Carla.  She made Carla into a sympathetic character.  I couldn’t help but feel that she deserved a better friend than Dave.

Horror On TV: Circle of Fear 1.14 “Death’s Head” (dir by James Nielson)

Circle of Fear!?

What happened to Ghost Story!?

Fear not, they’re the same show.  Apparently, Ghost Story was struggling in the ratings so William Castle changed up both the show’s format and the title.  Ghost Story became Circle of Fear and, sadly, Sebastian Cabot was dumped as the show’s host.

The first episode of the new Circle of Fear era featured Janet Leigh as the wife of a man who loves insects.  Unfortunately for him, Leigh hates insects.  This, along with an adulterous affair, can only lead to murder and that, of course, can only lead to the moths coming for revenge.

That may sounds silly but let me tell you, I totally agree with Janet Leigh when it comes to moths.  If you want to see me run out of a room, just point out that there’s a moth flying around.  Agck!

This episode originally aired on January 5th, 1973.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Planet of the Dinosaurs (dir by James Shea)

This 1977 film begins with a bunch of goofy-looking astronauts crash-landing on a desert planet. After their spaceship slowly sinks into a lake, the astronauts try to set up camp so that they can wait to be rescued. Unfortunately for them, there’s some dinosaurs living on the planet and the astronauts soon find themselves being stalked by prehistoric predators!

Now, it’s true that I said that this was unfortunate for the astronauts. However, it’s very fortunate for us the viewers because the dinosaurs are a hundred times more adorable than the astronauts.  Indeed, the astronauts tend to be out-of-shape and the men have made some truly unfortunate hair decisions.  The female astronauts, meanwhile, all seems as if they should be posing in front of a car at an auto show.  Everyone delivers their lines with a good deal of forced drama, destroying the myth of the calm and cool astronaut.  Sorry, Tom Wolfe, but there’s no right stuff to be found amongst this crew. Again, we are fortunate that this is one of those low-budget sci-fi films that made use of model dinosaurs and stop motion animation.  There’s something just undeniably fun about watching a bunch of hammy, unknown actors pretend to be terrified of what appears to be a child’s toy. (The most menacing of the dinosaurs is a dead ringer for the dinosaur from the Toy Story films.) Planet of the Dinosaurs is a deeply silly movie but, if you’re a fan of dinosaurs and old timey special effects, you’ll find a lot to enjoy. Just don’t make the mistake of taking anything about it seriously. Of course, the fact that the majority of the astronauts look like they should be dancing under a disco ball instead of exploring space will probably ensure that you stop taking the film seriously long before even the first dinosaur shows up.

In fact, my only real complaint about this film is that there simply aren’t enough dinosaurs. Yes, there’s a T-Rex. And yes, there’s that one-horned dinosaur that looks like a really dangerous armadillo. There’s a few other dinosaurs as well but, to be honest, I feel like a Planet of the Dinosaurs should just be crawling with them. Instead, it appears that there were only six or seven dinosaurs on this planet.  I guess it’s possible that there could have been more dinosaurs on the other side of the planet but still, the planet seemed to be pretty sparsely populated.  Maybe the other dinosaurs were hibernating.

Now, you might be wondering how all these dinosaurs showed up on the planet. Early on, one of the astronauts establishes that the planet is on the same “evolutionary track” as Earth, it’s just several years behind. So, apparently, there are dinosaurs on every Earth-like planet. I guess that’s fine but I was hoping for a Planet of the Apes-style reveal, with the Statue of Liberty or some other monument suddenly showing up. A planet where dinosaurs evolved from men? That would have made the movie a true classic!

Even without the Statue of Liberty, Planet of the Dinosaurs is fun. Silly, but fun.

A Blast From The Past: The Vanishing Lady (dir by Georges Méliès)

In this short film from 1896, Georges Méliès shows off not one magic trick but actually four.  He makes a woman disappear.  He makes a skeleton appear.  Then he makes the skeleton disappear and then he brings the vanishing lady back.  Today, of course, we all know how these tricks were done but just imagine how audiences in 1896, many of whom were still amazed that movies could exist at all, would have reacted to this short film.  This film provides a look into a simpler and more innocent time.  Watching this film, I found myself wishing that I could feel the wonder at a movie that someone in 1896 would have.  Sadly, audiences are far more jaded today.

Personally, I liked that both Méliès and the Vanishing Lady stepped back onstage to take a little bow.  Even in those early days of cinema, they understood the importance of connecting with the audience.

Game Review: Approaching Horde! (2022, Craig Ruddell)

Your nightly routine is interrupted by the zombie apocalypse!  With your wife and most of your neighbors now turned into denizens of the damned, it is up to you to manage a ragtag group of ten survivors and find a way to survive the end of the world.

Approaching Horde! is a resource management game where you assign each of the survivors in your group a specific task.  There’s a lot that need to be done and the more survivors that you assign to each task, the quicker it will be completed.  The problem is that if you assign too many people to one task, the other tasks won’t get done.  If you have too many people working on a zombie cure but not on growing food, the survivors will starve.  If you have too many people growing food but not working on a cure, your people will be well-fed but they’ll be eaten as soon as the zombie horde arrives.  Fortunately, you can send some of your people out to look for other survivors.  The more people you recruit into your camp, the quicker you can get things done.

It’s a challenge but that makes success all the more rewarding.  Fortunately, the game comes with adjustable difficulty settings.  I found the easiest setting to be pretty difficult but then I was played at the hardest setting and realized just how crazy the zombie apocalypse can get!  I enjoyed this game and, due to its format, it’s one that can be played over and over again.  Trying to survive the end of the world is certainly addictive!

Play Approaching Horde!

Retro Television Review: One World 1.13 “Love Is A Many Splinted Thing” and 2.1 “Love and Foster Kids Aren’t Always Blind”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Fridays, I will be reviewing One World, which ran on NBC from 1998 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

The Cast of One World

This week, the first season of One World ends with a new couple and the second season begins with a shocking break-up.  Let’s dive right into it …. because we’re living in one world….

Episode 1.13 “Love is a Many Splintered Thing”

(Directed by Chuck Vinson, originally aired on December 12th, 1998)

As the first season comes to a close, Ben and Jane finally go on their first date together.  Unfortunately, because they are both foster kids, they’re not allowed to live under the same roof if they’re dating.  Ben is willing to move out but Jane doesn’t want to be responsible for breaking up the Blake family.  At first, they decide to set aside their feelings for the good of the family but then they decide, “Eh, who cares?”  And good for them!  Nothing should stand in the way of true love.

Meanwhile, Sui tries out for the Olympic soccer team and …. doesn’t make it.  But she gets a pep talk from an older player, who assures Sui that she is the greatest young soccer player in the world and that she’s destined to be a big star.  While discussing knee injuries, the older player says that she’s been to rehab “more times than Robert Downey, Jr.”  Ouch!  Take that, future Iron Man!

Finally, Neal gets the phone number of a girl named — hey! — Lisa but then he loses it when Cray and Marci accidentally donate his pants to charity.  When he sees someone who might be wearing his pants, he enlists Cray to pick the man’s pockets.  Cray ends up getting arrested as a result.  Are these kids ever going to get off probation?

Anyway, as far as season finales go, this one wasn’t bad.  The dialogue got a little bit heavy-handed, as often tended to happen  whenever TNBC tried to get dramatic.  But, after 12 episodes, the cast definitely felt like a real family and the chemistry between everyone was believable.  Jane and Ben seems like they’ll be a great couple!

Or will they?  Viewers in 1998 would have to wait an entire spring and summer to find out!  However, readers today can find out right now.

Episode 2.1 “Love and Foster Kids Aren’t Always Blind”

(Directed by Mary Lou Belli, originally aired on September 11th, 1999)

Two months after he and Jane became a couple, Ben is no longer living with the Blakes.  He’s moved into an apartment so trashy that it floods whenever it rains.  However, he and Jane are now a couple.  Unfortunately, Jane is no longer in love with Ben.  It turns out that, according to Jane, “trust and love aren’t the same thing.”  After Jane and Ben break up, Ben can safely move back into the house.  Yay!

But wait, the Blakes have adopted another teenager, Eddie.  And Eddie’s blind!  Surely they’re not going to kick out a blind kid.  Oh wait, it turns out that Eddie’s just faking to get special treatment.  Once Neal figures out that Eddie can see, it becomes perfectly acceptable to kick Eddie out and back into the system.  Ben moves back in and, like magic, the show is back to where it all started.  Well, that was convenient….

In fact, it’s all a bit too convenient and considering what a good job the show did bringing Ben and Jane together, it’s hard not to be disappointed with how cavalierly it broke them up.  Seriously, if Jane and Ben can’t make it, what hope is there for the rest of the world!?

We’ll find out next week.

Scenes That I Love: The Job Interview From The Shining

I don’t care what Stephen King says.  Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining is great.

One of King’s big complaints about the film is that Jack is obviously unhinged from the start.  King is right that Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance as being someone who has a few screws loose even before he starts to work as the caretaker.  But it works for the film, as can be seen in this scene in which Stuart Ullman tells Jack about what happened to previous caretaker.

Incidentally, Barry Nelson’s performance as Ullman is seriously underrated.  Ullman is a far more interesting character in the movie than he was in King’s book.  For that matter, the same can be said of just about every character in the movie as opposed to the way King envisioned them in his novel.  Maybe that’s the main reason King doesn’t like this movie.  Kubrick understood King’s story better than King himself did.

International Horror Film Review: The Lift (dir by Dick Maas)

I almost always take the stairs.

There are reasons for this.  A big one is for the exercise.  I’ve always liked my legs.  Why wouldn’t I want to take care of them?  (As my mom used to say whenever I complained about inheriting her nose, “Yes, but you also inherited my legs so stop crying!”)

As a lover of films, I appreciate the fact that stairwells are very cinematic.  When I’m taking the stairs, I’m thinking about Vertigo.  Sometimes, if I’m in the right mood, I’m thinking about Barefoot In The Park.  I’m thinking about Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  I’m thinking about all of the Bond movies that have featured twisty staircases.  I’m thinking about all of the romantic comedies that have featured people kissing in the middle of stairwells.  I thinking about climbing a fire escape in the rain.  I’m thinking about all of the famous shots of people moving up and down staircases.

Another reason why I avoid elevators is that I like the symbolism of going up the stairs.  I like the idea of ascending, step-by-step.

Of course, the main reason for taking the stairs is that I find elevators to be incredibly creepy.  When I was seven or eight, I heard a story on the news about a woman who got her necklace caught in the doors of an elevator and, as a result, she was decapitated when the elevator started to move.  AGCK!  I’ve never quite gotten that image out of my head.

The minute those elevator doors close, you’re pretty much trapped until the elevator reaches the next floor.  And even then, there’s no guarantee that the doors are actually going to open.  There’s always the possibility that the elevator could get stuck between floors and you could be trapped in that little room for hours or even days.  Even worse, someone else could be stuck in there with you and that person could be a stranger.  That person could be carrying a straight razor or they could just have bad breath but either way, I wouldn’t necessarily want to be trapped in an elevator with them.  And don’t even get me started on the possibility of an elevator cable snapping and the elevator plunging down 30 flights at breakneck speed.

Seriously, elevators are scary!

The 1983 Dutch film, The Lift, is all about one very scary elevator.  For, instance, the elevator stops moving after a lightning storm takes out all the power in Amsterdam and four people end up trapped inside of it.  When the power is finally restored, the elevator doors still refuse to open.  Eventually, the doors have to be forced open.  Fortunately, the four trapped people are saved before they suffocate but a few others aren’t so lucky.  One elderly man falls down an empty elevator shaft.  A security guard is decapitated when his head gets stuck in the elevator doors.  A janitor vanishes.

Felix (Huub Stabler) is assigned to figure out why the elevator is malfunctioning.  What he discovers suggests that the elevator has a mind of its own.  Of  course, no one believes that and Felix becomes obsessed with proving his theory.  He becomes so obsessed with the building and the elevator that his wife leaves him.  Felix’s only ally is a reporter named Mieke (Willeke van Ammelrooy),  Mieke is investigating Rising Sun, a computer company who was responsible for designing the system that runs the elevator.  Are the deaths the result of a corporate incompetence or is Felix correct?  Is the elevator alive?

The Lift works precisely because it understands that elevators are creepy.  More than being about a haunted elevator, The Lift is actually about the absurd amount of trust that people put into technology.  (This is a theme that’s even more relevant today than it probably was in 1983.)  People get on the elevator because they’ve been told that it’s safe and that there are safeguards in place to prevent any problems.  Even when the elevator starts to malfunction and otherwise behave in a threatening manner, people still assume that it’s a problem that can be easily fixed because they’ve been told that it was designed with the most advanced technology available.  More than just being a horror film about a haunted elevator, The Lift is a film about society that has put such blind trust in technology that it doesn’t know how to handle things when the system develops of mind of its own.  People may have been conditioned to trust the system but, when the elevator comes to life, everyone’s going down.

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1980

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at a very important year: 1980

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1980

Inferno (1980, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Romana Albano)

Without Warning (1980, dir by Greydon Clark, DP: Dean Cundey)

Friday the 13th (1980, dir by Sean S. Cunningham, DP: Barry Abrams)

Maniac (1980, dir. William Lusting, DP: Robert Lindsay)

City of the Living Dead (1980, dir by Lucio Fulci, DP: Sergio Salvati)

Dressed To Kill (1980, dir by Brian De Palma, DP: Ralf D. Bode)

Night of the Hunted (1980, dir by Jean Rollin)

The Shining (1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick, DP: John Alcott)

Horror Film Review: Dead & Buried (by Gary Sherman)

The 1981 horror film, Dead & Buried, takes place in the small town of Potters Bluff.  It seems like it should be a nice place to live.  The people are friendly.  The scenery is lovely.  The town is right on the coast of the ocean so the view is great.  It’s a bit of an artist’s colony, the type of place where you would expect to find Elizabeth Taylor painting the sunset while Richard Burton battles a hangover in the beach house.  It’s the type of small town that used to by very popular on television.  It’s just one Gilmore girl away from being an old CW show.

It’s such a nice town.  So, why are so many people dying?

That’s the mystery that Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) has to solve.  Actually, it’s one of the many mysteries that Dan has to solve.  There’s also the mystery of why his wife, Janet (Melody Anderson), has been acting so strangely.  And then there’s the mystery of what happened to the person who, one night, Dan ran into with his car.  The person ran away but he left behind his arm.  When Dan gets some skin from the arm analyzed, he’s told that the arm belongs to someone who has been dead for at least four months!

Who can explain all of this?  How about William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), the folksy coroner who seems to enjoy his work just a little bit too much.  In fact, Dr. Dobbs seems to be a bit more than just a tad eccentric.  One would necessarily expect a coroner to have a somewhat macabre view of life but Dr. Dobbs seems to take things to extreme.  Is it possible that Dr. Dobbs knows more than he’s letting on?

Dead & Buried has a reputation for being something of a sleeper, a deliberately-paced and often darky humorous horror film that had the misfortune to be released at a time when most horror audiences were more interested in watching a masked man with a machete kill half-naked teenagers.  Because the studio wasn’t sure how exactly to market Dead & Buried, it failed at the box office and it was only years later, after it was released on home video, that people watched the film and realized that it was actually pretty good.  And make no mistake about it, Dead & Buried is a fairly clever horror film, one that is full of effective moments and which does a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere.  If I’m not quite as enthused about this film as others, that’s because I do think that it’s occasionally a bit too slow and the film’s twist ending, while well-executed, didn’t particularly take me by surprise.  This is one of those films that you enjoy despite the fact that you can see the surprise conclusion coming from a mile away.

In the end, Dead & Buried fills like a particularly twisted, extra-long episode of one of those old horror anthology shows, like Night Gallery, Twilight Zone, or maybe even Ghost Story.  It’s a nicely done slice of small town horror, featuring a study lead performance from James Farentino and an enjoyably weird one from Jack Albertson.  Though the film is not heavy on gore, Stan Winston’s special effects are appropriate macabre.  Even if it’s not quite up there with Gary Sherman’s other films (like Vice Squad and Death Line, to name two), Dead & Buried is an entertainingly eccentric offering for Halloween.