The Umbrella Academy

the umbrella academy

Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is the networks newest comic book superhero series.  Following a mysterious unexplained phenomenon in 1989, forty-three previously not pregnant women across the world spontaneously give birth at the same time.  Seven of these babies are adopted by eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreeves as he founds the Umbrella Academy with the intent to train them to save the world from a coming apocalyptic event.TUA_101_Unit_00831.0

Hargreeves unfortunately, isn’t the best caregiver and his detached and uncaring personality leads to the children growing into very dysfunctional adults.  Each has their own problems and personal demons to overcome as they’re reunited for the first time in years following Hargreeves unexpected death.

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It’s a series that combines good story writing, character development, and visuals.  It’s not your typical costumed superheroes beating up bad guys schtick.  It’s a broken family who happens to have super powers struggling to overcome their differences and their past to save the world together.  It’s a new and welcome addition to Netflix’s take on superhero TV shows and I hope for similar ventures in the future that bring to life more comics outside of DC and Marvel characters.

8/10

-Andre

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Overlord

Overlord

On the eve of D-day the remains of an American paratrooper division try to carry out a crucial mission to help the allies.  Trapped behind enemy lines in France the group finds themselves surrounded by German soldiers as they try to remain hidden.  As the group approaches their destination they come to realize that the Germans have a supernatural weapon that they’ve kept hidden here.

Overlord is a movie that attempts to mesh together different genres to varying degrees of success.  It’s primarily a war movie with a lot of action and elements of thriller and horror sprinkled in.  The war scenes in the movie were pretty generic.  Now that doesn’t mean that they were bad, if you’ve seen any war movie based around WWII you’ve seen this movies war scenes.  I found myself expecting more horror based on what was shown in the trailer.  Unfortunately, what horror there is doesn’t come to fruition until the second half of the film and even then its still diluted with action sequences.  I wanted to see more of what the Nazis were experimenting with but we get a quick glimpse before the protagonist runs away.

Overall, this isn’t a bad movie, but I expected more from it.  The acting was solid, the story was good, and the visuals were good.  Although the first half of the film was ok, the second half seemed to drag at times, culminating in a predictable fight with the big bad and rounding out with a cheesy happy ending.  It’s definitely watchable but not really memorable.

6/10

-Andre

Await Further Instructions

await further instructions

A highly dysfunctional British family gathers together one night in preparation to celebrate Christmas.  When they awake in the morning they find themselves trapped inside their home by a mysterious indestructible black substance.  Their only clue to whats going on is the mysterious message broadcasting on their TV, “stay indoors and await further instructions.”

SPOILERS

The beginning premise was interesting to me.  The film was set up in a way that I kind of expected it to be like another take on the famous Milgrim experiment and show how people succumb to their perception of authority.  The family sees the message on the screen and think that its a message from the government and that they’re being isolated after a terrorist attack or something.  I thought that the plot would lead to it being revealed that they were part of a secret govt experiment and being drugged to see how they’d react in such a situation.  About halfway through the movie reveals that it was robotic aliens or something to that effect.  It was stupid and made no sense.

I found myself hating all of the characters in this from the beginning, even the protagonist. There’s the protagonist, his girlfriend, his overly controlling father, his mom, his stupid sister whos pregnant, her idiot husband, and their racist granddad.  The protagonist arrives with his girlfriend who’s Middle Eastern and almost immediately his family starts making racist comments.  I often found myself wondering why the protagonist even came back.  Surely he’s had plenty of Christmas’s with his horrible family over the years, why now does he return with his girlfriend and act surprised when they’re still horrible people and treat him and his girlfriend like dirt?

The father is probably one of the worst characters I’ve seen in a movie in a while.  He remains completely obedient to the messages on the screen, often forcing his family to comply to their detriment as he believes the messages are keeping them safe.  His entire character is frustrating for the simple fact that if he took a second to actually think he could’ve saved some of his family.  For example, the TV tells them that they need to be vaccinated and a ziplock bag with six syringes falls from the chimney.  The syringes have no caps indicating that they’ve been used, more importantly no one even knows what the substance inside is they’re being asked to put into themselves yet the father injects himself, then forces everyone else to.  This leads to a violent bloody death for the grandfather.  For some reason, this doesn’t shake the fathers belief in the TV messages at all, in fact it strengthens it.  At this point this movie became pure comedy for me because it only got worse from there.  After “vaccinating” themselves the TV tells them that one of them is infected.  With what? Who knows?  Who cares?  The family then decides that it has to mean the girlfriend and they lock her away in a room with the dead grandfather.  No one bothers to point out that the protagonist would most likely be infected as well since they’ve spent all their time together but whatever, I’m checked out at this point.

Around this point the movie falls flat on its face.  The messages on the TV continue to change based on whats going on with the family.  At one point the father and son in law torture the protagonist because the TV said there’s a sleeper agent among them.  Meanwhile as more and more of his family dies the father continues to just obey what the TV is showing him.  At one hilarious point, the TV starts to pretend that its Jesus as the father begins to pray to it.  It just continued to get more and more ridiculous, culminating in the TV showing a message to a newborn telling the baby to worship it.  I guess the director forgot that babies cant read.

Overall this movie had potential to be a lot better than it ended up being but ultimately fell flat on its face.  Even though the characters were really unlikeable they were played pretty well.  It’s an interesting movie, but they payoff isn’t worth the time investment.

4/10

-Andre

 

Splinter

splinter

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

Upgrade

upgrade

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