Movie Review: Grave Halloween (2013)

This film market itself as “J-Horror” despite the fact that it is a SyFy Original and has a predominantly white cast (even though it is set in Japan, which is another topic entirely). The main character, Maiko (Kaitlyn Leeb, who has set herself to be a big time B-Horror babe with roles in Wrong Turn 4, the three-breasted woman in Total Recall, upcoming film Wolves and a recurring role on “Bitten”) sets a college thesis project with classmates at her college in Japan (full of white people) to find where her mother committed suicide and perform an exorcism. This will be filmed. And she intends to perform an exorcism. Their journey lead them into the famous “Suicide Forest”

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We start out with vague dreams and memories from Maiko’s youth, she is on a swing and her mother turns into… pretty much the girl from The Ring. Or The Grudge. Basically, we have been down this road before.

Maiko and co., a crush, a blonde BFF and a trusty camera man come a long. They are followed by 3 bully/prankster types who disrespect “Suicide Forest” and meet the most grisly of demises… but so do others… even if their intentions were good. And that’s what ruins it, after one prankster steals a watch on the trail: we all know that they are going to get axed. But Maiko’s posse …well, it could be said that they are voyeurs, that they are interlopers, that they are exploiting the suffering of others in the name of academia; all of those things are amoral and accurate BUT that was not set in the guidelines by their cliche and stereotypical guide, Jin (Hiro Kanagawa, Godzilla, “Almost Human”).

The gore is moderate, the tension is weak, the main characters are over all well developed and relatable. But still the more pressing of matters is that the “suicide forest” is a real thing.

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Aokigahara at the base of Mt. Fuji was the setting for a novel, published in 1960 that featured a pair of lovers committing suicide, it started before then but instances of suicides and deaths have increased alarmingly since. It is said that people go there to contemplate life and death and that those who have passed permeate the trees.

Aokigahara is also the setting of Matthew McConaughey’s next film.

Ehhh, thanks for the lesson: but this only gets a 2 out of 5.

V-Wars #2

This cover:

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I hate it. It looks like a cheesy direct to DVD horror flick. It took me forever to “see” that vamp in the corner left so it appeared to me at first that the woman in the center had her hand down lipring vampire’s pants. Who ok’d this?

A reporter is held hostage by vampires, they’re saying that she doesn’t care about the truth, that she just reads lines. He tells her that vampires aren’t getting due process, that they’re Americans too. He thinks that someone is diverting attention on purpose. He throws around stats proving that humans are more violent.He wants her to tell their side of the story. Yuki Nitobe has to decide whether or not to be their spokesperson. She’s released and calls Luthor (the man from issue 1 who was an expert on vamps, his family turned) . She confesses that she doesn’t like the ratings queen that she has become.

The next day Yuki meets with a vampire named Kyra who has been badly tortured by humans. This scenario happens all the time, “We are the new minority. People are afraid of us and they hate that they are afraid.” That would be reasonable except for that vampires are dangerous and bloodthirsty. Not Kyra, Kyra is a quaker and abstains from violence even as she is being beaten and raped. 

The go to The Red House: a church/cult for vampires to worship and form community.

The black vampire who looks mostly human uses the phrase “One that, like me, can pass” Holy fucking shite with this appropriated garbage. 

Yuki and Martyn go to stop a terrorist plot. Luthor is also there along with homeland security. But when they arrive, it’s not criminals or terrorists, just an abandoned dwelling full of squatters and vagrants, but homeland security open fire while Yuki and Martyn watch in horror. The news reports it as if Homeland busted a volatile terror cell, except for Yuki who asks viewers to question what evidence or weapons they had to show. It nearly costs her her job, but she has a solid contract and great lawyers. Kyra thanks her, but then they are attacked at the Red House. The whole plays explodes. “No one saw anything.” 

She and Luthor drink their problems away and then she goes back on air and proclaims that she is always on the side of truth and she will make sure that the responsible party -no matter who they are- is dragged into the light.

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

Forever Evil #6

If you’ve been reading my reviews here, you know that I have not quite been enjoying this series. And that I think Geoff Johns is a racist/sexist ass. issue 6 has my man Nightwing on the cover and maybe we’ll get to the point for some of this instead of in-fighting between egotistical villains and inexplicably helpless females.

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I love Nightwing.

Luthor and Batman both argue and bond over their paranoia against the justice league as they infiltrate their fortress. catwoman’s wishy washy behvior prompts Batman to ask whose side she’s really on. Once inside, Batman, catwoman and Luthor stumble on nightwing who has been held in “the Murder Machine” a cell designed to hold Doomsday it’s a bomb with impenetrable walls. Meanwhile, Sinestro, Manta, Black Adam and Captain Cold throwdown against the Justice League’s evil alteregos. Highlights here are Owlman’s waivering allegiance and Black Adam’s mumbling through his broken jaw. 

Epically, the bomb only disarms if nightwing’s heart stops. He dies or they all die. we all know that Batman can’t make that call so Lex Luthor takes matters into his own hands… specifically, he Grayson’s airways into his hands after disarming Batman with his lasers and Bizzaro grabs Catwoman’s whip and apparently that’s as hard as she was willing to fight (FUCK YOU).

Nightwing’s heart stops, Batman beats the crap out of Luthor because apparently no one remembers what CPR is. That was really predictable. So stupid. 

Geoff Johns is such an asshole. everyone here is white as rice (except the aliens -doesn’t count!) and the women are dingbats. Since when is Catwoman not decisive? Superwoman didn’t even talk, sadly that might be for the best. Atomica is usually pretty wicked, but this time she was useless and helplessly watched as Johnny Quick got maimed. Captain Cold was the biggest badass. I’ll give them that though, that part was good. It was also, like, A page. 

Mazahs is now escaped. That’s alternate Shazam, it’s also Shazam spelled backwards, I’m also rubbing my head wondering how I started reading this. So the “good” and “not as evil” guys are in for more trouble.

Also, I knew Nightwing wasn’t going to die. 

Almost Human- Episode 12

Episode recap + review! + bonus Science and Tech side notes and links!

In the first scenes we see a wealthy chrome in his natural habitat: Virtual Reality golfing in his large house, when a badly disfigured man jumps up behind him. He administers a syringe that gives the man a seizure and then he sucks fluid out of the man’s body with another syringe.

At the station, Kennex receives a call from a woman he’s seeing, Samantha. He had a bad date, she kept taking phone calls and ignoring him. Dorian answers the phone and says, “Kennex can’t talk right now. He’s waving his arms and mouthing ‘no’.” Then Dorian tells Kennex that he’s boring. Stahl comes up and says that she’s been tipped about a possible homicide. EMTs said it was a heart attack, but he was a Chrome and Chrome’s don’t have congenital defects. Curiously, the body is still at the scene even though there are no crime scene techs and Stahl was tipped off by another Chrome, which means someone should have been there or the body should have been removed from the scene before it started to decay and stink up the place. Anyway, Dorian finds the injection point. The wound was contaminated by DNA of 7 different people. Who all died of the same “natural causes.”

Stahl runs down leads and pays a visit to a Chrome Club looking to obtain surveillance footage. She faces off with a snarky blonde and a handsome man asks her about her decision to be a cop. Which apparently is a long story. Anyway, he gives her the footage. She brings it back to the station and she and Maldonado look it over while talking about Stahl’s recent experience with Chromes. Stahl, usually resentful of her upbringing tries to avoid Chromes and she says that she forgot that they’re people, too. Maldonado says it’s important to be around people who are like you and understand you. To which point, Stahl says, “Is that why you keep John around.” Maldonado: “Nah, lost a bet.”

Stahl sends footage to John

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Facial recognition is reading him as 2 of the 8 victims. They also look up his Bitcoin exchange- Almost Human loves Bitcoin, however, virtual currency hit snags this week as Mt. Gox, an exchange site for Bitcoin, got hacked and lost possibly 6% of the total money invested in Bitcoin. This was due to the malleability of transaction numbers and history. Back to the plot; Rudy figures out that he’s stealing parts of people’s faces, he’s using nanobot plastic surgery. Face lifts at an atomic level. A doctor involved in the trials is questioned. The trials didn’t go well. Donors experienced arrhythmia and died, recipients were horribly disfigured. There seemed to be a lot of them. Why did they keep doing this? Kennex and Dorian find out that the person performing the surgery will need “an actuator.”

Back with the killer, he’s blackmailing his doctor into continuing the procedures. Turns out he volunteered for the original trials. He gets some new eyes at the expense of a barista.

Dorian is antagonizing John again, “They more flaws you have the more human you are. You’re very human, John.”  They’re on their way to meet an informant, “Di Carlo” (who turns out to be a little person- Bad Santa actor Tony Cox, in an exo-suit of an overweight woman). They’re at some kind of trash burning, Mad Max, punk rock Fight Club. Anyway, Di Carlo gives up the location of the actuator. They find out the man wants 10 procedures and there have been only 9 victims. They extrapolate who the next victim will be. Stahl and some others keep an eye on him, the murderer knows he’s been discovered and heads out to search for another victim.

After some leaps in logic, Kennex figures out that the killer is a DMV employee, Eric Latham. Stahl surmises that he has Body Dysmorphic Disorder and that’s why he is consumed by this need for perfection. She says he’s inundated with images of perfection and unable to cope. Which for this world means not just media but being designed from birth to look beautiful. He’s trying to speed up the procedures so that he can meet a woman, Judy, who he met online and is scheduled to meet face to face. With irony that hits like a brick, she’s blind. He meets her briefly,before the police arrive. Eric kills himself in front of John.

Kennex is thinking about Eric Latham and he decides to take a chance and ask Stahl to go have a drink. But she’s already heading out with the man from the Chrome Club, and we’re treated to a “brooding and staring off at happy people in the night while 80s music plays in the background” closing sequence. I don’t mind 30 seconds of angst.

I was really happy with this episode, there was a good balance between all the characters. Stahl, Kennex and Dorian all got to show their particular talents. Stahl got to show her investigative skills instead of somehow landing on tips and watching TV. And it addressed privilege and class. Stahl is a Chrome and having this privilege doesn’t make her a bad person, it also doesn’t make her a better person, either. Right now there is debate about using DNA of 3 people (male female and an extra donor woman) to replace mutated mitochondrial DNA and prevent birth defects. But there’s a question of “where does it stop?” and opening the floodgates for “designer babies”.  And on the surface you might say, “who wouldn’t want this? I don’t want my children to have degenerating vision/predisposition to kidney disease/go bald when they’re 17.” But what we end up with is what you saw in this episode, technology used to further divide a class line as well as race lines (all white people, dark haired males, mostly light haired females. Episode before last followed the same pattern, with the exception of one family), engineered to look perfect, have no physical failings and be geniuses. They look down on Stahl for being too blue collar, they’re meant for industry. They are meant for preserving a superior way of life for themselves. Well, that’s terrifying.

But on a smaller scale, aren’t we doing that already? People partner with someone “like them” in some capacity, if they choose to breed the child will be a product of the coupling with whatever benefits and negatives that comes with. And what’s seen by negative to some is not always the case, such as the instance of Deaf couples selecting embryos that are more likely to be Deaf. Sitcoms joke about superior cells used to make babies, such as Caroline Channing donating her “Ivy League eggs” on CBS’s Two Broke Girls while Max’s low rent genes are a dime a dozen. How far is the next step, really? The Chinese are already trying to crack the genetic code for genius by analyzing samples from individuals with IQs over 160. And if you can get it, will you be considered a bad parent if you don’t?

Anyway, a 45 minute sci-fi drama just made me think about the implications of designer genetics. I wish they would officially renew it, because it’s really good. Well, most of the time. And Kennex and Stahl are still dancing around each other, we still don’t know what’s going on “over the wall” and we don’t know where Anna is. Next week is the finale and I can’t imagine this will all be wrapped up neatly. I would miss Rudy and Dorian the most.

Fantastic Female Friday- Camille Montes (Quantum of Solace)

I know a ton of blogs do this sort of thing. Jack Flacco has “Women who Wow Wednesday” Kiss My WonderWoman has “Strong Female Character Friday” but I decided I wanted in on the action, a weekly post to celebrate overlooked or out of genre characters that I wouldn’t usually blog about.

For our first episode: Quantum of Solace Bond Girl Camille Montes 

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Her path crosses with that of 007 while he is trying to get revenge on those responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd and she’s on a personal mission to avenge her family. For his part he’s blood thirsty and out of control, he kills someone sent to kill Camille and almost catches a bullet from her gun in return. Camille had been shacking up with Dominic Greene to get closer to her target former head of the Bolivian army, General Medrano. Greene finds her out and serves her up to him. But she’s got a secret weapon. This is unbeknownst to Bond who rides in on his high horse to save her and she gets mad and fights him, he over powers her and “saves” her. He even “saves” her again later (at a party where Dominic threatens to throw her off a balcony after she drunkenly swaggers over to investors and tells them in no uncertain terms that Dominic is a con artist) and Bond earns a big eyeroll as a thank you. She makes it clear he’s a pain in the ass.

Later, after they crash land in the desert, falling into a sinkhole (surviving because she grabbed the parachute, mind you) she spills her guts about why she was on the boat with Medrano. Says she had been waiting 20 years for that shot. He apologizes. She doesn’t accept. But when they get back to the hotel and M has Bond captured for disobeying orders she double backs to extract him. And together, sans resources they go after Dominic Greene, Quantum, et al.

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After take 2 with her target (who was ready to victimize another woman) in which she fights with all she’s got to take him out, biting kicking and clawing her way to victory. Bond does eventually get to be her hero, blasting a hole in the wall and saving her from a burning room.

She asks him if she’ll be different. If she’ll sleep better. He tells her the truth, probably not. She’s sweet to him, knowing he’s afflicted with the same thirst for vengeance. He kisses her… she’s not that into it and he leaves her all dirty and badass back in town. She doesn’t need him to tell her it’ll be alright, Hell, she doesn’t really even need it to be alright. She just moves on.

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No sleeping together, no shower scene, but to keep it 007 they had to throw in Agent Strawberry Fields to get sexed up and fridged because Camille was too damn unstoppable. Camille and Bond save each other and then she leaves to figure out what to do with a life that’s her own, not fueled by rage.

For the role actress Olga Kurylenko did her own stunts in the Bond film to boast the most violent incidents (250) and was pumped not to be playing a love interest.

Now, this is about a character, not the entire movie or the opinions of casting directors, actors or producers. Which would be irresponsible for me not to elaborate: are flat out terrible. The actress who plays Camille is Ukrainian, apparently they had intended to cast a South American actress but we’re blown away by her performance and noted her confidence as a deciding factor- of this point there is no argument she’s disarmingly assured. However her decision to “tan for two days to look more Bolivian” was encouraged by producers, she also worked with a dialect coach who left her sounding like she had a mouth full of marbles. Instead of “brown-facing,” the nationality of the character could have been left vague, or not since there are white people in South America -it was settled by white Europeans who spread the Spanish language.Or they could have found another actress who actually suited their desires instead of encouraging Kurylenko to alter her look and play on stereotypes in a vain attempt and fitting the character’s ethnicity. Historically, this happens A LOT and everyone should know better and stop being so damn naive and ignorant

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