Bird Box

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A mysterious occurrence creeps over the world’s population.  No one knows what it is or what causes it, the only thing that’s certain is that those that see it are compelled to suicide.  The few remaining survivors must then struggle to exist in a world they must navigate through while blinded in order to survive.

Spoilers

What I liked:

The acting in this ranged from good to great.  Sandra Bullock as Malorie the protagonist put forth a great effort as a single mother trying to keep herself and two children alive during the apocalypse.  I liked her character arc as she went from a reluctant, unattached pregnant mother to five years later being the guardian of two children she tries to distance herself from but ultimately comes to love as her children.  For instance, she literally names the children Girl and Boy as well as makes them call her by her first name.  At one point she had a decision to make where while traveling in a boat down the river they would hit rapids and someone would HAVE to look in order to help her navigate.  She decides that it has to be one of the kids, Boy initially volunteers to look and she tells him no and that she will decide.  She then stares at Girl for a bit.  In a flashback we learn that Boy is in fact her biological son, whereas Girl is the child of a fellow survivor whose mother died immediately after birth.  Her immediate refusal to allow Boy to be the one to look and prolonged look at Girl made me feel like she would be more comfortable with Girl being the one to sacrifice herself since she didn’t feel like she was her mother.  There was also a scene where everyone ends up separated from one another and once Malorie and Boy are reunited and calling for Girl, Boy tells her that Girl is afraid of her.  Despite all of the hardships, once they make it to a sanctuary Malorie finally gives the two children names.  Girl is named Olympia, after her birth mother while Boy is given the name Tom, after the man who served as their surrogate father until he died before they reached sanctuary.  Other than Bullock the rest of the cast gave a good performance, but nothing really stood out to me.

I was also a fan of the monsters, demons, spirits, or whatever they were.  Even though the movie never specifies what it is or even if there is an actual creature, I liked the concept.  I like to think that it has to be some kind of sentient life form since it can not only make people see their worst fears, it can speak to them and try to manipulate them into removing their blindfolds and looking at it.  It has an element of Lovecraftian horror to it, in that there are cosmic beings that are so beyond human comprehension that merely laying eyes on them will drive a human mind to insanity or worse.  The closest thing we get to seeing what the monsters might look like is through the drawings of Gary and a creeping shadow over one of the video monitors from an earlier characters death.  It’s the unknown aspect that I like best about it.  It allows you to come up with your own interpretation of what you think the characters might be seeing.  I prefer this approach rather than if the movie had spent all this time hyping up the monster only for it to be disappointing.  It may not be something that works for everyone but it worked for me in this case.

What I didn’t like:

The inconsistencies in this are glaring.  For instance, the monsters and their effect on people.  With the vast majority of the population looks at one, their eyes morph before they kill themselves.  For some reason that’s never explained, crazy people are able to look at them without being driven to suicide or practically any ill effects, yet they’re driven to force other people to look at the creatures.  The movie shows us several of the crazies, all of which have seen the creatures, yet some of them have the morphed eyes and some don’t.  Take Gary for example, he shows up outside of the home the survivors have holed up in and when they let him in, he appears normal and even has normal eyes.  By the next day or so we see his eyes morph as he starts drawing his pictures of the monsters.  I thought it could have been due to seeing the pictures as we saw a character have the suicide response from looking at a creature through a security monitor, yet another character looks at the same pictures that Gary does to no effect.  So how was Gary able to hide his morphed eyes, or was there a delayed response to seeing the creatures somehow?  There’s a group of crazies that drive around in cars and they don’t have the morphed eyes, yet Malorie encounters a crazy on the river that does have the morphed eyes, as well as a guy they encountered in an earlier scene in the supermarket.  There is also the fact that the monsters seem to be everywhere, yet we have to see them approach people to effect them.  When Gary forces a survivor to look outside she immediately kills herself, same with another survivor that was locked in the garage.  Was there a monster sitting outside the entire time waiting for someone to look out, or are they just there always?  It’s not like they’re being forced to wait with their eyes open for a creature to appear.  During the climax we see that Malorie is being chased by the monsters, as we can see them physically effecting the plants and trees around them as they move through them.  So would Malorie have been fine if she’d taken off her blindfold as long as she didn’t look behind her?

The monsters are also shown to physically exist as bushes rustle, trees shake, and leaves are moved when they move through them.  There is also a scene where the survivors are navigating in a car using its proximity sensors and everything goes off at once in an area where it shouldn’t indicating one of the monsters is near, as it shakes and rocks the car.  So….why can’t they open doors or forcefully remove people’s blindfolds themselves?  How is it that survivors can navigate the world completely safe with only a blindfold if these creatures are physically present?  How is it that they’re only present outside?  Whenever a survivor enters a building they can remove their blindfold and look around without issue, they only need them outside for some reason.  Are the creatures vampires?  Do they need permission to enter buildings?  How can they be physical entities, yet unable to break a window, open a door, or touch someone?  But if they’re not physical entities, what is stopping them from just going into a house and appearing in front of people?  No one wears blindfolds indoors it would be easy for them to get everyone.  It doesn’t make sense.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, Bird Box is a fairly average movie, with a below average plot propped up by great acting from Sandra Bullock.  The rest of the cast puts forth solid acting performances but the plot is lacking.  There are major inconsistencies that pop up and drag down for the movie for me.  Its entertaining, but at certain points it boring and drags.

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

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’

A Quiet Place Review

a quiet place

A Quiet place is a 2018 sci-fi/horror  movie starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt.  The film is about a post apocalyptic world in which blind aliens that hunt by sound have managed to effectively destroy human civilization.  The story follows a family of five as they struggle to stay silent and avoid the monsters roaming around them.

Spoilers

A Quiet Place is a movie that thrives off of the dark tone that it sets.  Within the first few minutes of the movie we see the youngest kid get killed as he activates a toy rocket whose noise immediately draws a monster to him.  This sets a somber tone for the film as it shows just how vulnerable and how quick things can go bad for them.  After the youngest child’s death we see how each family member blames themselves for it in their own way.  The parents struggle to prepare the remaining two children for survival in this hostile world while preparing to give birth to a baby and the danger that would immediately place them in.

The atmosphere and use of silence in this movie is extremely effective.  For the most part you only hear the sounds of the wind blowing and rustling trees or the sand shifting under footsteps.   The family is alone, and they are trapped.  The father works in the basement of the house attempting to establish contact with governments from various other countries but hears nothing.  All along the walls around him are newspaper clippings giving small glimpses of what led to the current predicament of the world.   There’s personal notes he has indicating that there are three creatures in the area, information documenting how they hunt, and his search for any weaknesses they might have.

This film uses great attention to detail to show how the family survives day to day in a silent world.  Early on when the family is scavenging through a store for supplies we see that they all use sign language to communicate, Krasinski and Blunts acting shines during these scenes since the only way they can convey emotion is through their body language and facial expressions.  The entire family travels barefoot all the time on paths that they’ve made by laying sand on the ground.  They lay sand through the grass, on concrete, an on the bridge that they cross.  There’s even tiny details like when they’re scavenging the store, from the appearance of it, its been scavenged quite a few times yet there is an entire section of unopened bags of chips that remains untouched as the noise would draw monsters.

Although this film is great in many other areas, there were a few plot inconsistencies and unrealistically dumb decisions made by the characters that subtract from the movie in my opinion.  For example, the monsters hearing tends to fluctuate.  In one instance we see them come from however far away they were to kill raccoons that were squeaking, yet in other scenes when a character is a few feet from them they don’t react to heavy breathing or a heartbeat.  The monsters also don’t react to each others sounds.  You’d think if one monster went tearing through the woods to hunt down the source of the sound it just heard that other monsters would be attracted to the first monsters sounds but that doesn’t happen.  There’s also another instance of inconsistency where a creature rips through a grain silo as though it were made out of tissue, yet the same creature has difficulty trying to get into a car.  Perhaps the biggest plot issue of all is that these creatures managed to topple every government and kill everyone.  From the fathers notes and the news clippings its stated that they’re completely bullet proof because they have armor yet towards the end one of the creatures is killed when shot in the head with a shotgun.  Granted it’s head flap things were open because it was listening, but through the whole movie we see that they constantly open these things when they’re hunting.  During their takeover of the earth, at some point, someone had to have shot one of them in the head and realized that they’re vulnerable when they’re listening, which is what they’re constantly doing.  I just have a hard time believing that creatures that cant rip through a car and die from getting shot in the head can kill off most of humanity.

Then there are the decisions that make no sense.  When the kid is killed off at the beginning of the movie, its because he’s trailing behind the family and no one sees that he has the toy.  Why would you leave your youngest child to bring up the rear when there are monsters that hunt by sound running around you?  Towards the end of the movie the father is killed by a monster when he screams to draw its attention away from his kids trapped in a car by it.  The father was shown to easily be the smartest character in the movie, when the monster was going after his kids, they weren’t making any noise in the car, the slightest distraction would’ve drawn its attention away.  The movie shows them stop to go after white noise on a TV, or a ticking egg timer before it even goes off.  The guy could’ve thrown the ax he was holding off into the cornfield as a distraction without getting himself killed.

Overall I was a fan of this movie.  The acting from the two leads was great, the atmosphere and the tone really draw you into the movie.  If not for the inconsistencies I would rank A Quiet Place as one of my favorites.

7/10

-Andre

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies

With each new year, the date is starting to resemble those in Science fiction movies. Our reality is close to those futuristic ideas in classic novels.  In honor of that fact, here’s a list of my top Sci-Fi movies.

*Note: Quotes taken from IMBD.

1. Event Horizon (1997) “A rescue crew investigates a spaceship that disappeared into a black hole and has now returned…with someone or something new on-board.”

2. Aliens (1986) “The planet from Alien has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, the rescue team has impressive firepower, but will it be enough?” Aliens designed by H.R. Giger. Oscar Winning film.

3. Pandorum (2009) “A pair of crew members aboard a spaceship wake up with no knowledge of their mission or their identities.”

4. Sunshine (2007) “A team of astronauts are sent to re-ignite the dying sun 50 years into the future.”

5. Minority Report (2002) “In the future, criminals are caught before the crimes they commit, but one of the officers in the special unit is accused of one such crime and sets out to prove his innocence.” Oscar Nominee.

6. Abyss (1989)”A civilian diving team are enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.” Oscar Winner.

7. Star Wars – All of them. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) Won 6 Oscars.

8. Terminator (1984) &  Terminator 2 : Judgement Day (1991) “The cyborg who once tried to kill Sarah Connor must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from an even more powerful and advanced Terminator.” Won 4 Oscars.

9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) One of my favorite movies of all time. How far would you go to get over a relationship? Would you erase the memory of that person? Won an Oscar.

10.  Matrix (1999) “A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.” Won 4 Oscars.

Want more? Check out this great post of the Top 40 Greatest Science-Fiction Films or IMDB’s Best/Worst Sci-Fi Titles.

Leave your favorites in the comments!

-Sabrina