Ready or Not, Review by Case Wright (Dirs. Matt Bettinelli and Tyler Gillett)


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The will to survive is a strange thing. Why do some people give up their wallet or purse to a mugger freely and others snap and fight to the death? Back in the days when I could jog, I was in Central Park early on a Sunday and a mugger tried to take my little POS MP3 player.  I could’ve done the smart thing and given it up, but something just clicked and I started punching and punching.  His face was total shock and he wandered off.  He wasn’t threatening my life, but it didn’t matter if he were, I would’ve acted the same. And Yes, my 93 tracks ranging from Springsteen to Modest Mouse remain safe to this day.  Ready or Not tests whether Grace (Samara Weaving) has the will to survive and she didn’t even have an ipod to protect.

The people hunting people is almost a sub-genre, but this movie had style.  It’s got horrible and quasi-incompetent murderers, a tough but vulnerable heroine, and lots and lots of BLOOD!

Grace is set to marry into a family of rich asshats who treat her like garbage.  Well, except for Daniel (Adam Brody) the brother of Alex – the groom to be.  Daniel thinks she should leave because she’s too good for his worthless family.  Daniel has a point.  The aunt is a mean spirited jerk and all of the people who enter the family are pretty desperate in one way or the other, making them agreeable to participate in their lethal affairs.

Grace decides to marry Alex anyway even though the family’s shitty personalities are on full-display.  The honeymoon begins and Grace must choose a card because she is entering the family.  A creepy box has a playing card and determines which card; sometimes the game is Chess, Checkers, or Hide and Seek.  If Hide and Seek is chosen, the family will hunt the new entrant to the family and sacrifice him or her to Satan- In-Laws … Am I Right?!!!

Grace picks hide and seek and the game is a foot….dun dun dun! This kicks off a lot of suspense and humor as Grace fights her in-laws to the death.  Grace asks her new husband Daniel why he didn’t warn her that his family is a bunch psycho killers?  His response: You would’ve left me.  Daniel, you suck! We all hate you Daniel…A LOT!

The family hunts Grace all over the estate and she gets hurt and screams….and Screams…AND SCREAMS! Samara Weaving’s screams are THE BEST EVER.  They are a mixture of gutteral staccato and high pitched terror and they are legit real.  All other scream queens before her must hail the new Queen.   Here is an example of Samara’s amazing scream queen skills:

RIGHT?!!!! She’s is legit awesome – a throwback and beyond to the glory days of horror. She’s a mix of vulnerable and badass, cunning and funny, basically she rocks this entire movie! Everyone should go see this movie tonight!

Yes, this review is a little brief, but I don’t want to spoil too much.  Enjoy!

 

“Titans” S1 Ep 10 & 11; “Koriand’r” & “Dick Grayson” Review by Case Wright *Spoilers*


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Do you know the exact moment when you sold your soul?  Or when your soul is forfeit are you so far gone that you don’t notice?

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Dick Grayson started as the damaged hero and ended with nothing.  He’s a tragic hero whose pride destroyed him.  He became seduced to believe that his pain allowed him to decide life and death, causing him to commit the paragon of sins: Patricide.  As you look at the 11 episode arc, you see Dick losing his identity as Robin, and in doing so, he loses his moral compass and his soul.

I reviewed these last two episodes together because they flow as one episode.  It could’ve been titled The Last Temptation of Dick Grayson.  Unfortunately, he made the wrong the decision and we see his soul die. Not only was the story brilliantly written, but these two episodes had a creepy factor that was palpable.  In fact, the story began and ended in a haunted house.

In the previous episode, Starfire starts choking Rachel.  Dick and Donna burst in and Starfire stops, but the damage has been done and Rachel’s mom insists that Starfire leave.  Starfire does and Dick and Donna follow.  Rachel’s mom has successfully separated the group.  We learn that Starfire is an Alien and needs to stop Rachel from unleashing her father Trigon who is basically the Devil.

Rachel has been trying to keep from using her powers because she can’t control them and they seem inherently evil because … well … they are.  Rachel’s mom as it turns out is still all about Trigon AKA Satan and she really wants her some Satan.  In order to do it, she needs to get Rachel to use her evil mojo and pull her dad out of a mirror.  Rachel’s mom accomplishes this by infecting Gar through a haunted mirror.  Rachel’s mom tricks Rachel into pulling her dad out of Hell because only he can save Gar.  Well, she does and Gar is healed by Trigon, but evil is now unleashed upon us.  How did this work?  Rachel was manipulated and seduced.  She knew that her father was likely pretty pretty bad, but she was willing risk us all to help her friend, making the act selfish, but disguised as altruistic.

Dick Grayson enters and he is in his idealized reality, but not all is well.  First of all, he’s in Southern California, which is almost a hell dimension all on its own.  Dawn is his wife and he’s got another baby on the way AND they both have left the hero business behind to pursue a life of….well let’s just assume real estate? They probably have some really cool pictures of themselves on local benches.  In fact, Minka Kelly should really be on ALL advertisements at all times.   

Jason Todd arrives in a wheel chair and informs Dick that Batman has run a muck, killing the villains instead of beating them to near death, which is …. better?   Dick returns to Gotham and is continually manipulated by Satan that Bruce can’t be stopped without killing him.  Dick fights his way through the mansion and upon seeing that Starfire was killed by Batman, he gives into his wrath and commits patricide.  By giving into this final act of evil, Dick becomes Trigon’s minion.  Dick even gets evil eyes, but I didn’t not to use a screen cap of that because it might spoil visually.

These episodes and the season as whole take a deep dive into PTSD and human weakness.  Dick was filled with bitterness and pain and when he burned his Robin suit he also burned the last vestige of his hero identity.  When he kills Bruce, he wasn’t in costume; he was just angry Dick Grayson who wanted to get back at his Dad.  Dick answers the question for us posed at the beginning:  we don’t know when our soul is forfeit because we left all our scruples behind getting to that point, therefore, we become a husk of a human being capable of anything.

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Titans, S1 E1, Review By Case Wright (Dir. Brad Anderson)


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Titans isn’t your Dad’s superhero show, unless your Dad was awesome and loved Watchmen and if that’s the case he EARNED the World’s Best Dad mug!!! This is also different because it’s on the DC Universe subscription site and you’re like ….

But Case, I already already have Netflix and Hulu and Comcast and a burgeoning Methylphenidate habit because I’ve got this Calculus exam and I’m afraid of losing my funding….I mean …..smoking. 

My response is:

DROP HULU and get this subscription!!!! You get digital access to EVERY SINGLE DC Comics, Movie, show, anime, tv series, and this AWESOME SHOW!!!!

Back to the show!!!

The show takes place in Gotham? NOPE.  Metropolis? Nope! Vaguely Vancouver? Well….

It takes place in Detroit! The story revolves around an Angry PTSD Robin.  Honestly, it’s pretty accurate!  I have friends that have looked for trouble and found it.  They see a guy beating up his girlfriend or harassing a lady and they mete out the justice right there.  That’s who Robin is.  He’s angry and worked for Batman: a rich guy who liked to beat the snot out of troublemakers.  I am not saying it’s right and I never indulged in that kind of wrath, but I understand.  The law can be supine when it comes to justice, it’s good at order, but justice…not so much.  This is the world where Robin and the other Capes live.  A world where the justice is instantaneous and the world shrugs.  It comes from a real place.  Afghanistan and much of the World operates the same way: the criminal justice system is corrupt, incompetent, feckless or all three, leading people to embrace extra-judicial solutions, but their vigilantes wear surplus fatigues instead of costumes.  By far, that’s why we failed in Afghanistan, the Taliban could offer something we could not: instant brutal justice.

The show is brilliantly written by Geoff Johns and Greg Berlanti. If you don’t know who they are: Wonder Woman, Arrow, Smallville, Flash, and everything with the DC on it- they did.  If you notice the fast pace and lived-in dreariness, that’s all Brad Anderson. He directed the pilot as well as the Hawk and Dove episode.  Brad is a veteran of the show The Killing- a gritty dark murder mystery that takes place in the greatest city on Earth- SEATTLE. He is a David Fincher 2.0 with his brutal dystopian realism.  Every shot is almost always near winter as if the seasons themselves have given up.  The cities are as decaying and broken as their inhabitants.

The story starts rolling with Rachel Roth who is confused, angry, and on the run.  She watches her mother get killed by an unknown assassin and she goes scary as shit and whoops ass!  Then, she flees for Detroit and is nearly human trafficked, but her alter ego warns her in a reflection because it has to be done in the most creepy way possible.  I am not sure if keeping this girl alive is really in humanity’s best interest.

This forces her path to cross Dick Grayson (Robin) who has left Batman to become a Detroit Police Detective.  He tries to be on the right side of the law for awhile, but he sees child abusers go free and dons the cape again to mete out justice. By mete out justice, he beats people within an inch of their lives: see below! After Robin gets his 30 lbs of flesh, he gets pulled into a mystery surrounding a girl named Rachel Roth who just might be the harbinger of the apocalypse.   Side note: I have known A LOT of cops over the years; the Army’s lousy with them.  Brenton’s portrayal is very accurate for a long-term detective: he self-deprecates, but he’s really hard to know.  I would have him make some more practical jokes or kid around more a bit.  Most guys like that hide their feelings in humor a lot, but other than that, it’s flawless.

There is one scene, which is in a gif below: Robin is cleaning up his weapons after beating people nearly to death and that reminded me of my Soldier days.  You finish your training exercise or patrol.  Maybe you fought. In any case, it’s over.  Everyone gets quiet, some shirtless, all the cleaning implements are placed neatly, and you methodically clean your weapons in a very zen activity. This was a great and accurate detail.

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Our next hero is Koriand’r – she has no idea who she is, but she knows how to dress.  She’s a mix of badass, sexy, and neck breaking! She does all three.  There’s Russian dudes out of nowhere and she goes full-on Firestarter and burns them to DEATH! You feel almost kind of bad for them. Almost.  She has a 70s soundtrack wherever she goes.  I’m starting to blush.  Anyway. She ascertains that she needs to go to Detroit and find Rachel Roth.  In this show, who doesn’t realize that?!

The show cuts back to Rachel who meets Dick, but she’s kidnapped by a very unlucky man.  Rachel wakes to see her mother’s killer.  Wow, did he pick the wrong lady to mess with! Dick goes to rescue her, but Rachel’s dark nature takes over, she enters and explodes her would-be killer!!!! It’s AWESOME AND GROSS!!! Dick becomes her protector.  Kordiand’r is on her way to Motown. We even meet Beast Boy who likes to commit petty theft as a green tiger.

This series is the best show on television. PERIOD.

If you like my work, read the rest of it, retweet it, re-blog it, tell my editor @lisamariebowman that you like my work.  Of course, if you hate my work, I suppose there’s got to be a pill for that.

Sabrina S2 Ep1, Epiphany, Review with Spoilers by Case Wright


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October came early this year! It’s time to once again get down with the baddest witch this side of Massachusetts.  As you know from my previous reviews of this show, I’m a bit biased: I am a fan.  In fact, I was looking forward to this next installment since October. Well, I can say without a doubt that the Season 2 Premiere of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, “Epiphany”, was an episode that was made.

A lot of shows go through a Sophomore Slump- the underwhelming return of a beloved show.  By the end of the episode, all the characters that were the most interesting were diminished.  It was still fun to watch and is very entertaining and it’s not Season 2 Stranger Things terrible, but I hold this show to a higher standard: and I mean it!!!!

Season 1 was all about failure and corruption.  Sabrina set out to save her town and herself.  Not only did she endanger her town, she became so corrupted by ego and hubris that the price was her very soul.  It was Shakespearean with a David Lynch vibe.  Season 2 was less than, not to say it can’t or won’t get back on track because it likely will, but this was not great.

The episode was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Showrunner) and directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan who did ….. okay. The direction had the suspense of wet toast.  Not everyone can do suspense and horror and this was sub-awesome.  It sufficed as a recap episode, but not much more.

The plot is that Sabrina wanted to become the “Top Boy” of the witch academy and her love interest Nick is the favorite because he’s a dude.  Suzie who is now Theo wanted to try out for the all-boys basketball team.  I was excited to see them fight the patriarchy and all that, but they did so in the weakest way possible: they cheated.  Sabrina needed to complete three trials versus Nick.  The first one: she won because the Weird Sisters (including Zelda) who for no reason at all like Sabrina now and gave her the answers.  This really bugged because it was not fair to her character.  She’s Sabrina! She’s supposed to be this badass; anyone can win by cheating.

This theme is further reinforced by Sabrina fixing a basketball game so Suzie could win.  Suzie wanted to get on the boy’s team, which is a fair challenge and a good one for this show to tackle, but she was legit terrible at the sport and could only win because Sabrina cheated for her.  This is not empowering. It showed that Sabrina had no faith in Suzie and most importantly it made Suzie look stupid because she never noticed that she went from the beginning of the game from being the Generals to the Globetrotters?!  Suzie was diminished, Sabrina was diminished, and I was insulted by it.  It would have been so much better if Suzie was like WTF?! Why am I so great all of a sudden and then saw that Sabrina was cheating for her, the smile fades from her face, and then Suzie walks off the court.  This would have set up some good conflict with Sabrina, especially since she doesn’t really have any foes right now.

Roberto Sacasa needs to understand the characters he created.  Suzie, Ros, and even Harvey to a MUCH lesser degree were very aware of what was going on around them throughout season 1, making Sabrina’s unnoticed intervention on Suzie’s behalf a lot tougher sell.

There was a subplot of  Evil Three King Demons trying to mess with Sabrina because they were afraid she would ascend.  This could get interesting.  My hopes are high on that one.   This series is still fun, but if it continues down this lazy path it will be more of a guilty pleasure that I watch on the elliptical or something on while I fold the laundry.

 

 

*SPOILERS* Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 E8: The Burial, Review (Dir Maggie Kiley)


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Happy Devil’s Eve!!! I would like to take a moment to tell Jason Blum to hire this Director A LOT!!! From Jumpstreet, she throws us off and builds suspense with her camera angles and moves.  We’re right there with the characters in the thick of suspense in the first seconds!  It almost has a found footage feel to it.  THAT TAKES SKILL! JASON, HIRE HER! A LOT!!! SHE’LL DO A GREAT JOB AND MAKE YOU LOTS OF MONEY!

Back to the review!

Maggie Kiley understood the theme of the episode immediately: Corruption.  Mostly, she uses close-in one-shots and two-shots, drawing us into these conversations where all of our characters are being slowly cozened into full darkness.

We quickly learn that Harvey’s brother Tommy is trapped in the mine and presumed dead. The drunkard father moves ahead with funeral plans right away to get insurance money.  All of these characters are under stress, which is when the easy corrupt always seems to present itself.  We learn from Hilda that their ground brings people back from the dead and in no way should give Sabrina any ideas to commit necromancy.

Furthering the theme of corruption, as the funeral is held, Sabrina violates Harvey’s will for the third time in the season.  She has used her power to make him forget, make him safe, and make him strong.  As pressure mounts, she continues to become more and more comfortable in overriding Harvey’s will.  The series is amazingly complex in that none of the characters end the season with clean hands.  They all are slowly corrupted in some way.  It brings home the slow pernicious temptation that humankind always faces in times of a crisis: To do right thing or the easy thing.  In this show, everytime Sabrina overrides Harvey’s will, we bear witness to it sending her going further down the path of darkness, giving up more and more of her humanity and bringing her closer to Satan.

And who is there at every turn to nudge Sabrina down the easy path of darkness: Mary Wardwell.  She never tells Sabrina: Raise Tommy From the Dead!!!  No, that’s not how temptation works.  She presents the means and opportunity, allowing Sabrina see this viable opportunity to make things all better.  Mary does it over coffee.  It’s innocuous, but the option is presented.

Throughout the episode, it’s brought up that she never asked Harvey if bringing Tommy back from the dead is what he would want. Once again, she is being tempted to substitute her will for his.  In going down the path of resurrection, Sabrina is not only substituting her will in place of Harvey’s, she is substituting her will for the very will of God himself.

Why is this working on her? Evil is attractive.  I have met people that were actually evil.  They appeared normal, but they were not.  They committed terrible acts. Why? Each time I was confronted with these men, their actions were done out of arrogance and expedience.  They knew the act work and because they knew could do it.  That’s the heart of evil: convenience and arrogance.

Ambrose is given clemency from his house arrest by Father Blackwood. With it, comes fealty.  The shot is pulled closer and closer just more actively to bear.  Then, once proposed, the shot backs off.  As if to say, I’m just here to help.

Aunt Z is corrupted as well, but hers is a lot more direct and in keeping with the show’s raging hormone.  She has a torrid affair with Father Blackwood.  It is STEAMY! Honestly, this is the most relatable bad act on the show.

Sabrina learns that the sisters were responsible for Tommy’s death. She conflates vengeance with justice.  They caused harm, so I can use them and harm them in order to correct a greater harm.  In doing this, Sabrina convinces herself to commit murder.  You could argue that it was temporary, but it was pointed out that it was still murder in order to bring Tommy back.

When you hear presumably Tommy banging on the Harvey’s door; it’s straight up terrifying.  The last shot is the hand on the doorknob- Brilliant!

I’ve written about this before how you could have a great director who can’t direct horror.  Maggie Kiley knows what she’s doing. I was riveted.  I can’t wait to see more of her art!

 

*SPOILERS* Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 Ep 7: Feast of Feasts, (Dir. Viet Nguyen) Review-


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Happy Horrorthon Home Stretch!!! Devil’s Eve is today.  Devil’s Eve is the day before the Great Samhain rises from the ground and goes door to door selling auto insurance at competitive rates…as the Druids taught him.

Those last reviews by Lisa were awesome as usual- Check them out, like them, and get Mia Farrow to live tweet while reading them!

Episode 7, Directed by Viet Nguyen, focuses around jealousy, betrayal, and corruption. Viet Nguyen is typically a film editor who occasionally directs.  I’m not sure if horror is where he is best suited to direct.  He usually directs action iZombie/The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow, camera shots that zero in on main characters with long still shots from below to reflect their larger than life hero or villain status.  The problem is that these long shots tend to diffuse the suspense that horror needs.  Take a look at the horror directed by Guy Norman Bee or Josh Stolberg.  The shots are at eye level with a slow push-in.  These people at your level and can get YOU.  Viet has done great work, but as I have written in other reviews Horror directing is a specialized art form where building suspense is its beating heart.

The story focus was narrowed.  Instead of an overarching drama piece where Sabrina straddles two worlds like a witchy Gilmore Girls, it’s a personal story of a father betraying his daughter with courtly intrigue.  The Feast of Feasts commemorates the bodily sacrifice to her fellow starving witches to eat her.  This story gives another piece to the backstory of the town vs the witches and how the townsfolk massacred the witches years ago.  It’s like the Taylor V Sutton feud, but with more goth makeup.

Each witch family in the coven in Hunger Games style has to send in a tribute to be “Queen”.  The Queen embodies Freya by getting massacred and eaten by the coven to celebrate Freya’s sacrifice.  The main course is chosen by lots.  Sabrina’s annoyed that her Aunt Z participates in the drawing and insists on being part of the drawing to see if Aunt Z will speak out that the ritual is barbaric.  Does it work? Not so much.  Sabrina and Prudence go head to head and Sabrina is picked to be Prudence’s servant and Prudence draws the dinner card.

The storyline meanders a bit and it focuses around courtly intrigue and headmaster ascension… yawn.  Turns out the drawing was rigged by the Headmaster’s wife who knows that Prudence is the Headmaster’s illegitimate child and threat to her kid because of a possible inheritance dispute….boring.  When I reviewed Stranger Things, there was a mediocre episode too.  Overall, this episode is not perfect, but good enough. The episode ends with Prudence’s toadies causing a mine cave-in, which sets off a very cool story arc!!!!

Cheers!!!

The Revenant (The Waaaaay Better One) Review by Case Wright


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The Revenant …. nooooo not the one where Leonardo Di Caprio gets Bear Married (Bearried?)…this is the one where David Anders (iZombie- Blane) and Chris Wylde become crime fighting zombies in Los Angeles!!!! There are certain films that are just fun.  So, pop open a PBR, hang with your buds or your SO, and enjoy a truly great Vampire/Zombie film.

The film was directed, written, edited, and special-effected by D. Kerry Prior.  This film is totally in the same vein as Evil Dead.  Many people making the film knew one another, D Kerry Prior wore many hats, and they managed to show it at many festivals and did well.  This is a great example of how fun horror can be without a lot of money….IF you have a good script and dedicated people working with you.  This is so amazingly over the top; there is even a scene where a disembodied head speaks with the assistance of a sex toy on his vocal cords.  You just don’t see that everyday!

The film takes the idea that Vampires are basically zombies, but still sapient after their reawakening; therefore, they call them Revenants as in returning.  Yes, they still drink blood, but they look like zombies with the rotting and the yellow eyes and such.  D. Kerry Prior took the idea that if they are still sentient post-return maybe they’d use their invincibility for good.  And what is best thing a person can be you ask?????  A Zombie/Vampire/Crimefighter.  Yes, they fight crime!

The film begins in Iraq with Sergeant Bart Gregory (David Anders) who gets shot and turned into a a Revenant (zombie/vampire) by a baby zombie/vampire who is pretty gross.  Bart’s body is shipped home and reanimates.  The only knock I give the film is that Bart goes from SGT to Lieutenant from one scene to the next, but you just have to let it go.  Bart relies on his friend Joey to adjust to his new Revenant undead lifestyle.  They learn that not only does Bart survive on blood, but there are a panoply of criminals in Los Angeles waiting to be tapped for Bart’s plasma needs.

Eventually, Joey gets shot during one their criminal harvests and Bart turns him into a Revenant to save him. Then, they have an awesome montage of killing and blood eating.  It’s just great! All the while, there is a subplot of his relationship between Bart and his girlfriend Janet who eventually get turns as well.  This creates a Yoko situation and Joey and Bart try to kill each other.  Joey flees and tries to harvest on his own and ends up getting decapitated …. and the head lives!  Bart has to put Joey down, leaving Bart with no reason to unlive.  Bart tries to commit suicide in a number of interesting ways and it just doesn’t work.  I won’t give away the ending, but it’s pretty interesting.

I’ve seen this film about five times and I’ve been entertained every…single…time.  After I first saw it, iZombie premiered shortly after with David Anders as the main villain, making this movie doubly awesome because we got to see David Anders pre-stardom.  There are a number of low-budget TERRIBLE horror movies and I’ve watched MANY of them.  This film is testament to how far you can push this genre creatively and still do it on low-budget.  I highly recommend it as a must see!