Movie Review: Devil Incarnate (2013)

Graci Carli stars (sort of) as a woman named Holly who has recently married. Her husband is played by Rod Luzzi. And they are a typical young couple ….who get cursed while on their honeymoon and Holly ends up pregnant with the child of Satan.

Emily Rogers plays Holly’s sister in law, Marissa. She’s queer and adorkable and video tapes everything like Wes Bentley did in American Beauty. Bafflingly; There are no pictures of her on the internet.

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Usually the “devil baby” plotline is a deal breaker. It’s over done. While that’s still true, the characters are far less annoying than their counterparts in other films. The focus shifts from Holly to Marissa early in the film, Trevor isn’t blind to the horrors that his wife is experiencing because of the chance to grow his progeny. Marissa is the first to notice that Holly is behaving oddly -from seducing Marissa and yelling at her in Latin, to making sexual advances towards Trevor’s father.

For reasons unknown, Marissa captures most of this on film. The sheer volume of memory cards required is irrational.

But Marissa’s odd fixation with Holly and her retelling of increasingly strange events to her pre-law BFFL on Skype is charming.

And no one says anything ridiculous like “We have to save the baby !!!!!!!!!!1” when Holly really starts becoming dangerous. Trevor and Marissa head back to the site of the honeymoon, Cassa Dega, to rectify the situation.

The plot doesn’t make as much sense as it could. The reason Holly is carrying the devil spawn is because she was cursed by an old woman, the curse had come to a family after years of infertility. It is revealed that Holly was adopted but the implications weren’t clear to me.

Everyone in the film is relatively unknown and I think that it’s helpful in this case. Found footage movies are just plain everywhere lately and I’m not sure that much was added by having Marissa be a nerd with a camera except aside from an excuse to use edgy camera angles and bad lighting.

3/5

From Dusk Til Dawn- Episode 8

“You made me want you like a dog.” -Richie

The episode begins with (shocker) a flashback. But this time it’s back to the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors. Carlos coming to the New World.

Seth is about to kill Texas Ranger Freddie, who has been bitten, Seth worries that he’s about to turn, but Robert Patrick talks him out of it. With a gun. Scott is in the tunnels. And Richie is with Santanica Pandemonium. 

Freddie and Carlos’s swordfight is pretty epic. It finishes with Carlos pouring salt in Freddie’s wounds and taking a big bite. But Freddie has an ancient bloodline and he won’t change.

We get Santanico’s backstory. She;s vicious, but it’s because she’s cursed.

Kate’s dad almost comes clean to her about her mother’s demonic possession as they go deeper into the tunnels and hit a “roadblock with a deathstick” man with a shotgun who’s been in the tunnels for sometime holed up in a supply room (the Sergeant. Kate, her dad, the professor, and Seth load up on weapons and get ready.

5 centuries ago, Carlos feed Santanico from her chains in the temple and became her servant. He worships her. We see how he was changed into the serpentine vampire and then took down his fellow explorers. He cries for himself and the monster he has become. But this is what he wanted: a fountain of youth, power, eternal life.

Scott got turned. He is informing on Santanico for Carlos. He looks like one of those Buffy style vamps.

The Sergeant tell them that the temple messes with their heads, that he thought he was in Falluja. He’s never going back out there. The rest do. Kate envisions her mother committing suicide right before she is taken. She’s about to be stabbed when the others find her.Team Human is quite outmatched when the Sergeant busts in and sacrifices himself.

Richie is on death’s door and Santanico is compelling him to be turned. As the episode ends: she sinks in her fangs.

The intensity was ramped up in this episode. Of course that came with some tropes. Only black man in the horror show dies almost immediately. Combat veteran on TV? immediately means he has PTSD. STOP. Stop it.

Other than that? Good shit. Loving the addition of Jake Busey

31 Horrifying Days- Day 6: Dead Before Dawn (2013)

A bunch of college kids accidentally unleash an evil curse that causes people to kill themselves and turn into Zombie Demons, aka ZEMONS! (Or dombies, Cassie Hack knows)

So, essentially the plot is somewhat Evil Dead: people driven crazy enough by a curse to eat their own hands or play with a hornet’s nest or set themselves on fire. The characters are Breakfast Club style archetypes, something that plenty of horror flicks: from Cabin in the Woods to Detention of the Dead has tried with more or less success. It also adds slapstick humor to horror elements in a way that’s very reminiscent of “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil”.

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The main character, Casper Galloway (Devon Bostick, Art of the Steal) has been afraid of his grandfather’s occult shop since his father died there when he was a child. He agrees to watch the store and when his crush, Charlotte comes in he tries to show off by showing her this cursed urn. Which breaks. The group unknowingly concocts the world’s most inane curse: Anyone they make eye contact with kill themselves and become zombie demons who will try to kill them with hickies and if they French kiss them the zemons will be their slaves, and if they don’t break the curse before dawn they’ll be cursed forever.

With a plot that includes death by zemon hickies, it’s obvious that there are laughs to be had. Some of those come from Casper’s grandfather played by the legendary Christopher Lloyd, who even drops a “Great Scott!” in for good measure.

The group splits up initially with only Casper concerned about the curse they created. But when night falls and the town starts turning demonic, they quickly realize their peril. 4 group members Charlotte, cheerleader BFF Lucy and football players Dazzler and Patrick end up turning both teams. Seth Munday works at a convenience store and runs into a large portion of the town. Becky turns her blind date while Casper accidentally causes his mother’s death. With pandemonium ensuing they are in a race against time to stop the curse. There’s also a couple love connections. 

This film is mostly fluff. The characters act younger then they should and there’s no real uncharted territory being pioneered here. Still, it is enjoyable.

There are some interesting running jokes (hot dog mug, for example). And the plot is simple but cohesive from start to finish. Low on gore, but there’s bucket of blood and creative ways to die.

But is it scary? Nope. Not by a long shot. The set up is amazing. I adore the concept of the characters creating their own curse. But even with the copious amounts of blood, it’s too cartoony to fear.  

The characters aren’t more than tokens. One black character, action chick with bow and arrow, quirky beta male, crush, rival, “slutty” cheerleader, stoner dude… it’s been done. There’s not much depth. Well.. there’s not really any depth. 

2.75/5

31 Horrifying Days- Day 4: Thinner (1996)

Visually, this movie has that creepy thing happening where everything looks clean, shiny and bright… but it all looks a little too good to be true. Billy Hallbeck might be the poster child for gluttony. The overweight lawyer’s appetite doesn’t stop with Doritos and fine desserts, he’s  pompous, self absorbed and money hungry. He’s just won a big case when a “gypsy caravan” comes to Fairview. After a date with his wife, she’s giving him road head to distract him from thinking about food when he runs over an old “gypsy” woman, the old woman dies and Billy feels no remorse, his status ensures that he doesn’t see jail time and he feels no remorse for his actions. On the way out of the court, he’s approached by a long haired old man named Tadzu who touches his face and says just one thing: “Thinner.”

And Billy does get thinner. First 2 pounds a day, then 4… then more. 40 pounds in 2 weeks. And it only becomes more rapid.

His wife who has tried to put Billy on every fad diet is at first pleased, but quickly becomes concerned. She asks him to see his doctor, who tells him “Your blood work is 5 by 5” (was that really a 90s phrase?! Faith Lehane said that all the time)

Billy gets more and more manic, constantly shovelling food down his throat to slow the effects of the curse, he checks in on his friend who helped cover up the accident and finds he is turning into a lizard man. His wife tries to check him into a clinic but he goes on the hunt for the caravan. He find them. They are not so forgiving. 

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Tadzu laughs in his face while smoking hot Gina Lempke (Kari Wuhrer, Anaconda, “Sliders”, Maria Hill in “Avenger’s Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” and the upcoming Sharknado 2:the Second One) chases him off with a slingshot. He keeps pursuing them as he drops pounds and starts losing his grip, he increasingly holds his wife responsible “Was I giving myself a blowjob?”  He becomes so thin that he is frail and sunken and enlists “Criminal Minds” actor Joe Mantegna to coerce the gypsies into lifting the curse.

The Roma relent… eventually. But there’s only one way out of the curse: pass it on. Will Billy die clean or with blood on his hands? Will he accept responsibility for his actions? For most writers, the outcome would be assured but with Stephen King behind the source material… 

So fucking obviously: “Gypsy” is an ethnic slur. And in this film the caravan are very much a scary and magical other. Which is classist, racist and bigoted. “The white man from town” AKA Billy is a parody of yuppie culture. So there are other exaggerations, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that they are completely stereotyped and repeatedly called what is an ethnic slur. Yeah, yeah, someone’s gonna tell me that no one was PC in 1996. More valid, the fact that Billy and the other lawyers are terrible people who are greedy assholes and probably bigots and racists. 

Also, the overweight main character who lives in a house full of chips and is a gluttonous asshole who can’t walk up a flight of stairs? Offensive.

But is it scary: Yeah, a little? It’s actually a bit creepy. The special effects make up and eerie lighting enhance the mood. It’s never really possible to root for Billy. He’s not a good person. And there’s no reason to feel bad for him. So as the tension ramps up… you’re never really hoping that Billy gets out alive but somehow you still get caught up in the fast pace of the film. Mostly this is due to Robert John Burke (“Rescue Me”, 2 Guns) and his crazy eyes, he and his cursed friends convincingly manic behavior keeps the intensity and creep factor alive more than the story itself. 

3.5/5

31 Horrifying Days- Day 3: The Mummy (1932)

 

 

Archaeology is a good field to get into, if you’re waiting for something weird to happen to you (it’s right up there with “hacker” and “journalist”) just ask Indy, Lara Croft and Wonder Woman villain Cheetah. They are surrounded by ancient artifacts, steeped in tradition, their creation often based in superstition and faith at a time when more of the world was unknown. And we crave that, even with information a couple keystrokes away; humans still want to think there is more, that there’s mystery to be found in the past and something bigger and often more magical than textbooks imply.

There’s no exception for these adventurers. Dr Mueller (Edward Van Sloan- Van Helsing in 1931’s Dracula) warns against it, but Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron, Mayor of Hell) lead an expedition and uncovers the previously undisturbed, and reportedly curse tomb of Imhotep… and his assistant, Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher, Svengali) reads a scroll out loud that brings the mummy back to life. Norton immediately loses his mind. In a crackle of laughter he tells his colleagues what has happened with a “You should see the face on him” 

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Boris Karloff stars in the titular role. Imhotep makes his way back to Cairo, he was cursed after being mummified alive and now he seeks to be reunited with his love Ankhesenamon. 10 years later, under  the name Ardath Bey, he recruits the archaeologists to dig up her tomb with the plan to use the Scroll of Thoth to resurrect her. Until he finds Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann, whose last role was nearly 55 years later in 1986’s Raiders of the Living Dead) who bares resemblance to Ankhesenamon. Imhotep puts her in a trance and she starts speaking in ancient Egyptian. Dr. Muller’s son is smitten with Helen, and he fears for his son’s safety.

Still: HE REFUSES TO BURN THE SCROLL OF THOTH because he’s an academic. And true academics love their work more than common sense, much of the time. The scroll is important. Important to them. Even after they find what Imhotep is planning. Even after Dr. Muller is influenced by Imhotep’s power.

The focus shifts to Helen as she is slowly captivated by Imhotep, she remembers herself as Ankhesenamon and she becomes more and more compelled by Imhotep as the film progresses. She finds herself shifting between the two identities as danger closes in. Imhotep’s plan is to kill her, mummify her and then raise her again. 

Glaring issue with this movie: The main players are not black or brown. Most presume the majority of Ancient Egyptians to have been of Asiatic/Middle Eastern descent, with those in Southern Egypt presumed to be African. The only black person is Imhotep’s “ancient blood” “nubian” slave, played by Noble Johnson, an African-American actor who played “exotic characters” in the black and white movie days, and was often relegated to slave, tribal chief, cannibal, and lots of Native Americans. He had founded his own studio in 1916 which catered to Black audiences and showcased Black actors and directors, however the Great Depression and lack of resources lead to the studio’s closing. Noble Johnson had roles in 146 films, but most from major studios were steeped in stereotypes. Helen is said to be “part Egyptian” and the actress is of Eastern European descent. Unfortunately, very to be expected of the era (although, a mixed race couple would have been taboo, as well and that was overlooked for plot). 

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Women in horror: The Mummy was co-written by Nina Wilcox Putnam who also came up with the 1040 tax form, weird.

But was it scary? Nope. Not in the slightest. The plot is preposterous. He has to kill her and resurrect her. But why? And how does a mummy get away, anyway? he wouldn’t have known how to drive, seems reasonable that someone would have spotted him. But they were all distracted by Norton’s meltdown.. whatever. It’s not scary. It’s a fun flick, though. Ridiculous, over the top, interesting, the beginning of action-horror. But most of the “scares” come from Boris Karloff glaring menacingly at the camera:

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Doesn’t quite hold up.

3/5

Fantastic Female Friday: The Crimson Avenger

AKA Jill Carlyle.

Justice Society of America member, Ultra Humanite plot thwarter, bad ass, highly educated, super powerful.

Jill Carlyle was technically the third Crimson Avenger. She was also the most powerful. Jill Carlyle was a lawyer. She took up the original Crimson Avenger’s guns after failing to convict someone who was obviously guilty. In pursuit of justice, she purchased pistols at a pawn shop. From the origin story comes something very potentially Batman meets Dexter. Unfortunately, this was set forth by Geoff Johns, who I think is an misogynist ass. And racist. I hate him. Which is unfortunate, the Crimson Avengers third incarnation was a fucking bad ass.

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The good: Carlyle was the most powerful of the three, she got added bonuses of teleportation and was able to dematerialize in order to avoid enemy attacks. She can’t die and she can’t miss. The original crimson Avenger, Lee Walter Travis (1938), was a trained soldier with martial arts skills who worked as a reporter and was the first official masked crime fighter. The second Crimson Avenger, Albert Elwood, made his single appearance in 1963, he was more trouble than he was worth. In 2000, the third Crimson Avenger found the guns and sealed her fate. Jill was something terrifying, she wasn’t some masked vigilante, someone hiding the skin around their eyes and toting a smoke gun; she took up the cause for a righteous reason and ended up cursed. Left with an eternally bleeding wound on her chest that made the hyper-masculine Lee Travis’s golden “bullet-esque” costume look weak. It’s deeper, the knowledge that if you set out to do the right thing you might get more than you bargained for. You might not be able to stop. 

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But unfortunately, a great character was undone by bad writing. During the time when she joined the JSA to team up against the Ultra-Humanite and Thunderbolt, Jill’s personality was consumed by the power of her weapons. (In the same string of events, the only other female; Powergirl, was artistically strong and stunning, but unnecessarily catty and impulsive to the point of incompetence- not that impulsive and irrational behavior is out of the norm for her. And the only other African American character was the one who accidentally gave the Ultra-Humanite a Genie that made him be able to take control of ALMOST all the world’s superheros. (Jakeem does set it right -but after a pep talk from HourMan… like I said, Johns doing inclusion.. HA!) 

At the end of the “Stealing Thunder” story arc we get a good glimpse at Jill. Ready for a new assignment, she wakes up in an electric chair, out to avenge Charles Durham. Charles Durham was framed. She gets to tell her story, and she shares that Lee Travis was cursed too, but left it behind for a costume and a sidekick, the curse was broken until she picked up the guns. The guns compel her, the holsters never come off (how does that work?) and she ends up after Wildcat -who helped save everyone from the Ultra-Humanite. 

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Jill Carlyle, educated black female from Detroit, from an unapologetically urban background, drawn to violence by grief -the way so many heroes are… Jill could have been more, if crimefighting was an itch she needed to scratch (a la Dexter) if she went home at night rather than turning into mist and drifting off to her next assignment she would have been more. It is a great disservice that she did not have more agency. 

That being said: Carlyle’s justice was universal. Wildcat didn’t get a free pass. He framed a man who died as a result. No amount of good deeds on the side made up for it. Jill Carlyle does not believe in affluenza. Jill Carlyle does not care about your upbringing, your excuses or who you know, she doesn’t care if you’re a “nice guy” or a pillar of the community. Her justice is universal. She can stop anyone who stands in the way.

And she does. Even the impervious Power Girl. 

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Jill Carlyle: “I am on no one’s side.” 

She spares Wildcat after hearing his testimony, he committed his crime for the same reason that she took up the guns. It was the only way. She fights against her curse and saves him. Using strength and will against the curse upon her. And sets off for a more worthy kill. 

She has been absent from The New 52! But I’m holding out hope that she can find a home under a worthy pen somewhere in the DC Universe.