Splinter

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A romantic camping trip goes awry when a couple is car jacked and held hostage by a dangerous criminal and his strung out girlfriend as they attempt to evade the law.  The situation gets worse for them once they find themselves trapped in a gas station with a gruesome monster standing between them and safety.

Spoilers

What I liked:

The acting in this was solid all around.  Dennis, the carjacker, was the best acted character in my opinion, while Polly and her boyfriend Seth were solid as well.  I usually gripe about characters being dumbed down to make things interesting but what I liked about this movie was that they established early on that Seth was a coward, he was more interested in science than anything else and it played into his choices he made in the movie.

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For instance, there was a scene where Dennis is outside of the gas station trying to retrieve his girlfriends corpse because he thinks she’s still alive.  Polly justly wanted to lock him out and just leave him for dead.  This guy kidnapped them at gunpoint, hit Polly, and threatened to kill them at several points and they had no idea whether he would go through with it or not, especially after his girlfriend was killed.  Meanwhile, Seth is yelling at Polly to let the guy back into the gas station because he’s afraid the guy will shoot them through the glass even though they could just hide behind something.  Theres also another scene where the creatures severed arm is smashed but Seth uncovers it so that he can study it, when it’s still a threat to them all, as getting stuck by a single spike is enough to turn an entire person.

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I was a big fan of the creature effects in this.  Practical effects made the creatures look gory, horrific, and real.  This was pure body horror and it was great.  The creature is some kind of slime mold that infects animals and kills them while using their corpse as a zombie to attack and infect others.  The coolest part came when the creature would absorb other creatures into its current host.  You’d have this massive creature covered in blood with black spikes jutting out of it everywhere and it’d look like a person with another person randomly mixed in.  Also, despite being in a human host, the creature didn’t move like a human at all.  It sort of moved around on all fours like an agitated animal and it looked great.  At points in the movie it’s even capable of ripping off some of its limbs which still function as normal and try to attack people.  It was like looking at Thing from the Addams Family, only its covered in blood and has black spikes protruding from it.

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What I didn’t like:

For all the trouble the production crew went through for their amazing creature effects, it was ruined by the horrible camera work.  I can tell that the creature looked amazing from the clear glimpses of it that are visible.  The sad part is, whenever the creature was attacking someone the camera would be all over the place to the point where it was too difficult to tell what was even happening on-screen.  There would also be way too many cuts during this time, I counted over thirty in a short scene lasting less than fifteen seconds.  For the movie to have such good creature design, only to ruin it with bad camera work is really disappointing.  My guess is that it had to be budgetary reasons that they couldn’t show the creature as clearly as possible.

Aside from Seth’s stupid decisions that fit in with his character, the movie did fall back on some common horror tropes such as cops being useless, and it was kind of hilarious as a result.  At one point when everyone is stuck in the gas station they hear the creature that used to be Dennis’s girlfriend on the roof of the building trying to find a way in.  While tracking it through the building they come to the front door and find that there’s a cop there with her gun drawn yelling at Dennis that she’s going to take him in and that Polly and Seth are finally safe.  So for a minute or so, this cop stays outside the locked door with her gun pointed at Dennis, telling him that he’s going to jail.  Meanwhile Polly and Seth are yelling at her that she isn’t safe and she should get back into her car.  No one offered to unlock the doors and let her into the building for some reason, I mean if she was planning on arresting Dennis she’d have to enter at some point or have him come out to her.  She attempts to radio for help at the insistence of Polly and Seth and is unable to get a response.  Still continuing to stand in the same spot and do nothing she’s attacked by the creature and killed.  The thing splits her in two and absorbs her top half, making her a part of it.  It was hilarious because within a second of her showing up on-screen I could already tell she was gonna die.  Why is it that cops never listen to what people are warning them of in horror movies?  Even if she didn’t believe them that there was something outside with her, would it have hurt her to try to enter the building?

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Final Thoughts:

Overall I was surprised that I liked Splinter.  It was a made for TV movie and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those that I liked.  Splinter had a good plot, the acting was good, and the effects were great.  Unfortunately I felt cheated by the camera work.  This is a monster movie and they were stingy with the monster.  This was sadly a movie with great potential that had it ruined by something easily fixable.

6/10

-Andre

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Upgrade

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Following a brutal mugging that resulted in the loss of his wife and paralyzed him, Grey must overcome his aversion to technology when he receives an advanced AI system.  Together Grey and STEM, the experimental AI implanted into his body, seek out the ones responsible for that night to execute brutal and gory revenge.

SPOILERS

Upgrade is a fun movie.  It takes elements of sci-fi body horror and action and mixes them up into something nice.  The best part of the movie for me had to be STEM.  STEM was a great and kind of unexpected villain.  I say unexpected because I figured it would be the villain but I didn’t expect it to be the mastermind behind everything from the beginning.  STEM forced its creator to orchestrate the mugging as STEM caused the car crash that stranded Grey and his wife in the area.  Once it was in Greys body it spent the next few days ensuring that he was constantly exerting himself to the point where his mind would be too exhausted to resist it, enabling STEM to permanently take over his body.  Once that happens Grey is stuck in a dream like state where everything was a dream and he’s woken up in the hospital with his wife next to him, meanwhile STEM has a human body which he can navigate society easily with.  STEMs character integrating into human society with his hyper intelligence and superhuman combat abilities is something I wish we got to see, unfortunately that may be only be shown with a possible sequel.

This movie had some really great action scenes as a result of Grey turning over control to STEM.  Being an AI he’d move in this fast and jerky robotic style, dispatching enemies with cold, calculated precision.  It was kind of like something out of the Matrix except STEM was way more brutal and devastating. These scenes looked pretty good and made for some pretty sick kills with STEMs lack of emotional attachment to human life and all.  The use of practical effects for the kills made them look gory and visceral and was a great throwback to old school action flicks that did the same.  Practical effects will always reign supreme over CGI in my opinion and it’s great to still see it being used in film today.

The main actor did a really good job as well.  Its interesting to see him torn between wanting revenge for his wife being murdered yet also disliking how STEM wanted to go about it.  Because of the way they’re connected to each other, Grey is fully conscious of what STEM does when it takes over.  Grey was visibly disturbed by the things that STEM did and it took its tole on him mentally, to the point where he wanted to give up his pursuit of revenge, only to be forced to coninue against his will, reduced to a passanger in his own body.

Overall, Upgrade is a great movie.  Its got great acting, a good story with a great villain, and great effects.  The mix of sci-fi body horror with action is interesting and was executed pretty well in this.  Coupled with the great use of practical effects, this movie is a must watch.

9/10

-Andre

Horror Podcasts Pt. 2

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The NoSleep Podcast

https://www.thenosleeppodcast.com/

“In the spring of 2010, a new forum appeared on Reddit.com. It was called “Nosleep” and the concept of this forum (or “subreddit”) was to be a place for people to post original scary stories about frightening experiences. It was an online version of telling spooky stories around the campfire.

A year later, as Nosleep was growing at a rapid pace, one member named Matt Hansen proposed the idea of doing a podcast where some of the top stories from Nosleep would be narrated in audiobook style. The response was quite positive and over the next few months a small group of members endeavored to put together what would come to be known as The Nosleep Podcast. On June 13th, 2011 Episode #1 was released.

David Cummings assumed the role of host and producer and it was decided to release a new episode every two weeks. Producing the podcast has been a learning experience from the start with many Redditors volunteering to narrate and help produce the shows.

The podcast has been well-received from the very beginning. Through word-of-mouth advertising the number of regular listeners has grown steadily. Reviewers on iTunes consistently rate 5 stars and the podcast ranks quite high in its “Arts” category.

The Nosleep Podcast has proudly featured stories from authors who have gone on to publish their stories. Notably, the “Penpal” series from Dathan Auerbach and “99 Brief Scenes from the End of the World” by T.W. Grim.”

The Nosleep Podcast is my favorite horror podcast by far.  The production is top-notch and the voice actors are amazing.  NoSleep has a free and a premium version.  The free version typically features the first three stories with an ad at the beginning of the episode.  The ad is acted out in horror fashion by the shows regular voice talent.  The premium version features an additional two stories, typically rounding out episodes to an hour and a half of content.  In addition, every season for premium subscribers features additional special episodes.  NoSleep also does tours where they do live shows across the US and Canada.  It’s definitely worth checking out!

 

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Pseudopod

http://pseudopod.org/

“You’ve found the world’s premier horror fiction podcast. For over a decade, Pseudopod has been bringing you the best short horror in audio form, to take with you anywhere. We pay our authors professional rates for original fiction and we reach more people every week than any other short fiction horror market.

In 2016 we celebrated our 10th Anniversary. For details, check out our YEAR10 page.

Are you new to Pseudopod? Don’t let our decade of content daunt you. We’ve assembled a list of stories that show the strength and diversity of our offerings. Check it out here (or at the “For New Listeners” link under “Episodes” on the bar above”

Pseudopod is an award-winning podcast that focuses on Sci-Fi and Horror.  Stories are user submitted and acted out by the podcasts voice actors.  Host Alasdair Stuart opens each story talking about the themes and meanings behind certain elements of the story.  The voice sometimes include recognized actors from TV shows and such.

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The Hidden Frequencies

https://thehiddenfrequenciespodcast.podbean.com/

“There are places in the dimension of sound where the walls between universes are thin. In these fragile pockets of static, lies the ability to hear the alternate realities of millions of maybe-people in countless could-be worlds; where the status quo is different from our own. With a keen ear and an open mind we may tune in to these sound waves of the strange, the bizarre and the otherworldly.

They are: The Hidden Frequencies.”

 

 

“The Hidden Frequencies Podcast was created to the great science-fiction/horror anthology shows that influenced a generation of American audiences: shows like The Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsX Minus 1Tales From the Dark SideTales from the Crypt and more.

Each episode of the show is a self-contained story: a journey to an alternate earth in an alternate time, where ordinary people must reckon with the extraordinary. Every week, The Frequencies reveal another strange, complex or horrifying world as created by skilled writers at the top of their game and brought to life by a star-studded cast of talented professional voice actors.”

 

Hidden Frequencies is AMAZING.  It’s a brand new podcasts, having debuted its first episode at the beginning of October.  It features some of the production team and voice actors of The NoSleep Podcast.  Having grown up on shows like the Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, this podcast dredges up nostalgic feelings like no other.  Production is amazing.  It’s like a more horror themed version of Twilight Zone with all the weirdness and themes from the original.

-Andre

Horror Podcasts Pt. 1

Just in time for Halloween I’ve decided to drop a few of my favorite horror themed podcasts for scary stories to keep the scares flowing!

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Knifepoint Horror

https://knifepointhorror.libsyn.com/

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The Drabblecast

https://www.drabblecast.org/

We are a weekly audio fiction podcast featuring short and flash fictions from a variety authors. Our singular focus is off-beat, funny, eclecticism in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

The Drabblecast ran its first episode in February of 2007. In the early days, Norm and college friends and then editors Kendall Marchman and Luke Coddington wrote most of the episodes. But soon a listenership grew, and the Drabblecast began publishing stories contributed by its fans. Later, professional authors got involved. Names like Tim PrattMike ResnickBen H. Winters, and Mur Lafferty have appeared on the podcast.

The Drabblecast is the winner of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Parsec Awards for Best Speculative Fiction Audio Magazine.”

Drabblecast has amazing production and Norm is one of the best hosts I’ve ever heard.  Stories are typically user submitted and the team chooses which one to produce.  Drabblecast is returning from a long hiatus, bringing its first new story to life on Halloween.

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Lets Not Meet

http://www.letsnotmeetpodcast.com/

“Let’s Not Meet is a true horror podcast. These are stories of real encounters with creeps, murderers and psychos. Told in the form of a campfire narrative, Let’s Not Meet sets out to prove that real monsters are not that of fiction novels or horror films. The real monsters are the humans that walk among us every day of our lives.
The tales told in this podcast are from the Let’s Not Meet forum of reddit.com. Join Andrew Tate every Sunday for new episodes.”
I love Let’s Not Meet for the simple fact that the stories are real.  The  reality of the storeis adds an extra level of creepiness to it knowing that people exist like this in the world and you’re one unlucky instance away from running into them and having your own story to tell.
-Andre

Beyond the Gates

beyond the gates

Beyond the Gates is a 2016 horror adventure film.  Two brothers reunite to clean out their recently deceased fathers old VHS store.  In the midst of exploring the old building they find a board game that their father had played just before their father’s death.  Once they begin playing they find themselves host to the perils of horrors from the other side.

This movie was a chore to get through.  For the first half of the movie absolutely nothing happens.  Once the main characters put the game in even the lady in the game does nothing but stares at them from the TV for the most part.  I literally had a conversation about rice during this movie that was more entertaining than anything that was happening on the screen.  The acting is mediocre and awash with blank stares and facial expressions.  The best actor was probably the creepy curator guy but he was just overly cheesy.

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The story actually has a good premise, it’s basically trying to be the horror equivalent to Jumanji except if falls flat on its face attempting to emulate it.  The game itself is just dumb.  The characters have to collect four keys that the game inserts inside of a couple of people and then forces the main characters to remove them, killing the person.  So the game punishes random people for having the audacity to know the main characters but the main characters survive no problem.

This movie is boring and not worth your time.  The best thing going for it was that some of the special effects in the kills were pretty cool.  Other than that it’s not worth the hour and a half to sit through.

1/10

-Andre’

Annihilation Review

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Annihilation is a 2018 sci-fi/horror film about an unexplainable event called the “shimmer” taking place near the southern coast of the US.  After multiple investigations into the effected area yield no results, a team consisting of five women with various specialties is sent into the shimmer to find out its cause.  Inside they find horrors that challenge everything they’ve ever known about life.

Spoilers

Annihilation has a few good things going for it, but they’re undone by the bad parts.  The cast is excellent, the visuals are amazing, and the atmosphere is great.  For me though, the writing just wasn’t up to par with everything else.  The visuals in this movie look amazing.  The shimmer is being caused by a meteorite that crashed into the area.  As a result all surrounding life begins to be mutated, both plants and animals.  As explained by a member of the team, it has effects similar to a prism, except it refracts everything, including DNA.   This leads to some pretty great scenery and designs.  The group encounters strange sights ranging from an alligator with shark-like features to plants that take the shape of a human.  My favorite effect caused by the shimmer was the zombie bear that captured the voices of those it killed.  After it attacked one of the ladies, it lures the other women to it when it screams for help in her dying voice, tricking them into believing she’s still alive.   annihilation-2018-monster-bear-review-600x300

The weakest part of this movie was the writing.  Even though this is an unexplainable, alien event there’s a lot of things that happen that really make no sense.  There are far too many moments where common sense and logic are absent when these people are supposed to be smart, on paper.  Towards the beginning its shows that the military has been sending teams into the shimmer for a few years and none of them have ever returned.  So what do they do?  Continue to do the exact same thing for years, producing the same “results,” letting them learn nothing about this thing.  When Oscar Isaacs character is shown to be the only person who’s ever returned from the shimmer he begins to spasm and cough up blood hes quarantined immediately as his health starts to fail.  The very next group that gets sent into the shimmer goes in without so much as a dust mask on with only one having prior combat training.  Obviously something inside caused him to have that reaction just as something else claimed the lives of every group sent in before yet there’s no further preparation, not steps taken to do anything different to get results.

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Some of these girls are pretty dumb.  They have a paramedic among them and when the group sees a video from a previous group, they see a soldier with his insides squirming and moving under his skin as though his intestines are alive.  The paramedic says it’s just a trick of the light and everyone looks at her like she’s an idiot.  Another scene that makes you scratch your head is when the group is attacked by the mutated alligator at the edge of the swamp.  This is a giant alligator, roughly thirty feet, highly aggressive and really strong.  They manage to kill it, and the next scene shows them in tiny boats traveling through the swamp.  I guess they were taking the risk that was the only alligator in the entire area.  At night they hole up in a facility and station someone at a guard shack to keep watch.  The facility their sleeping in is a large tower and the guard shack is roughly three hundred feet from it.  So obviously the person in the guard shack gets attacked and killed and no one even sees what happened or what did it because it was so far away.

ENDING

The ending is…… it’s so weird that a description really cant’ do it any justice, but here goes.  Portman gets to the initial crash site of the meteor and finds Leigh there who vomits out a rainbow rock, which transforms into a humanoid shape.  This humanoid shape proves impervious to harm when Portman shoots at it, then it chases her culminating in a weird scene of mimicry and hugging before it turns into a copy of Portman.  The ending is left open-ended as to whether the person we see outside in the real world is actually Portman or the alien thing.

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Overall, this is a movie that had great potential but ultimately fell on its face.  I liked it for the fact that it’s the closet to a modern adaptation of one of my favorite stories, The Colour out of Space and its interesting to see such a similar concept on-screen.  Other than that, this movie is ultimately brought down by the poor writing and sheer dumbness of the plot.  Basically this movie is dumb and made no sense, but it was amazing to look at.

5/10

-Andre’

The Endless

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The Endless is a 2017 horror movie following two brothers a decade after they escaped what they described as a UFO death cult.  The two brothers struggle to adjust to a normal life.  Justin, the elder wants to continue to try and fit in while his younger brother Aaron longs to return to the cult where he had a sense of belonging.  Once they return they come to realize that things aren’t all lies and brainwashing as they’d previously believed.

Spoilers

The Endless is a strange movie.  Its portrayed in a realistic way yet manages to portray this otherworldly weirdness at the same time.  The plot is unique, well written, and well paced.  The movie starts with more subtle strangeness, giving you the feeling that things aren’t right here then it escalates the weirdness as the movie progresses.  From the beginning you notice how Justin and Aaron look around the same age as everyone at the camp, despite them having been kids and everyone else adults when they left ten years ago.  We find out that the “leader” of the group rescued the two from a car crash that the boys lost their parents in years ago.  Once the movie hits the midpoint, that’s when whats really going on becomes more clear.  The camp is under watch by an ancient entity that can manipulate space and time.  This entity has trapped everyone in the vicinity in time bubbles that repeat ad nauseum.  Camp Arcadia is trapped in a bubble that repeats every ten years, ending with the entity consuming them only to bring them back to repeat the cycle over again.  As such the camp members don’t actually worship the entity as a cult would, they realize that they’re trapped there and they accept it as they try to live as best as they can, forever.

The acting is done surprisingly well for a low-budget indie film.  None of the actors are even b-listers but they play their roles well.  My favorite was Carl, he provides more of a comedy relief aspect because he’s so over being this entities plaything.  He’s constantly agitated and yelling off in the distance at the entity how much he hates it, only for the entity to make things worse for him.  He was crazy before being trapped by the entity, and hes even worse after, but hes funny.

I really like the portrayal of cosmic horror in this movie.  The characters try their hardest to overcome something they have no idea how to understand.  They’ve been at it for decades yet nothings changed for them.  Everyone struggles to live their lives while realizing that they’re mere playthings for this unknown entity that has them in an eternal prison.  We’re led to believe that the two brothers manage to escape before the time loop resets, trapping them in Camp Arcadia, but there’s subtle things in the film that would lead to other conclusions.

Overall, The Endless albeit a low-budget indie film is actually a pretty good horror movie.  I find myself enjoying the indie horror movies a lot more than the big studio productions.  The Endless does its own thing and builds off of its own ideas to make it a unique film.  It’s a weird movie, but in a good way.  I can’t wait to see what the director puts out for the third installation of this series.

8/10

-Andre