Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Bloody Sunday: À l'intérieur Edition

(Because it sounded ridiculous to say "Inside Edition", I chose to use the French title.)

Poor Sarah (Alysson Paradis) - she really had a horrible Christmas.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Banshee Chapter (2013): Drugs And Techno Don't Mix, But Create Great Suspense!

Review by Marie Robinson

I had good feelings about The Banshee Chapter (a.k.a. simply Banshee Chapter) from the moment I heard about it, and my gut was not wrong.

The film begins with footage of James Hirsch (Michael McMillian, True Blood), an aspiring writer who becomes fascinated with an alleged hallucinogenic drug that the U.S. government once tested on unwitting patients, with disturbing results that have been kept secret ever since. James acquires the drug, which is described as a pure—and therefore much more potent—batch of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from “friends in Colorado” and gets a buddy of his to film him as he ingests it. It isn’t long until James and his sober friend are visited by some mysterious malevolent entity, which results in the disappearance of the pair.

After hearing about the incident, old college friend and investigative journalist Anne Roland (Katia Winter, Sleepy Hollow) decides to embark on a mission to uncover the truth not only about James’ disappearance, but also the truth about the drug. Nothing could ever prepare her for what she finds, which include sinister government experiment tapes, cryptic radio broadcasts, and the horror of the cosmos. She is joined by a Hunter S. Thompson-esque character named Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine, The Silence of the Lambs) who can help her piece together the rest of the mystery; but finding the answers could be deadly.

Dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT, is a hallucinogen that when ingested offers an intense and immersive experience. While on the drug one may feel completely separate from reality, and many have reported seeing strange, celestial beings. There is a subculture that believes that these sights and experiences are not merely hallucinations, but actual transcendence. Such was the subject of the 2010 documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule. DMT is found commonly in mammals, and has been located in the human brain where it acts as a neurotransmitter. Since DMT has been discovered in the pineal gland, it is thought to be one of the chemicals released when one dreams… and dies.

A few years ago a friend of mine turned me on to a very peculiar variety of shortwave radio broadcasts called “number stations”. Number stations are characterized by an artificial voice reciting numbers and/or letters. The voice, played only against crackling static, is more often than not female, and sometimes sounds like that of a child. Sometimes the voice gives way to a stream of choppy music that sounds similar to me like that of an ice cream truck. The nature of these encoded broadcasts is essentially unknown, but is often speculated as being government-run stations used to transmit messages to spies. Whatever they really are, they are downright eerie.

The Banshee Chapter is an impressive directorial debut from Blair Erickson that incorporates elements from both found footage and mockumentary subgenres in an intriguing and creative way. The film is smart, entertaining, and—oh, yes—scary. There were plenty of chilling moments that had my skin crawling, and I jumped out of my seat more than once. The story is not only presented in a stimulating way, it is also a compelling story with feelings of Arthur Machen’s “The Great God Pan” and overtones of H.P. Lovecraft. A particular story of Lovecraft’s, “From Beyond”, is directly referenced in the film, but the similarities go deeper than just that.

Treat yourself to something different than all those possession films flooding the box office, and maybe even get unnerved by The Banshee Chapter.

*And below is a sample of one of the many "numbers stations" out there....

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Bloody Sunday: Evil Dead (2013) Edition

 Thought I'd try something new with the Sunday Bloody Sunday feature. Every once in a while I would put up a week dedicated to one theme or film, and that's what we have here.  The newest Evil Dead movie was chock-full of the red stuff. (Hard to pick just six pics!)
So here's one of the first new theme weeks: 

Friday, January 10, 2014

We Are What We Are (2013): And Today's Special Is.......

I've expressed my undying indifference to remakes many times in the past on this very blog, even trashed several along the way.  And though I'm always hoping against hope for filmmakers to come up with original ideas (i.e. Jug Face, thank you very much!), I have witnessed  some very good - perhaps even excellent - remakes over the years.

Movies such as The Thing (1982), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Fly (1986)...all of these are downright smashingly great, there's no doubt.  And even to some extent, films like 2010's Let Me In showed that a re-envisioning of a movie can work, even if it's only a few years since the film has been done. 

I do tend to find that sometimes if the film is foreign it's easier to experience as a remake, as Let Me In did, as well as a film from this past year that is ending up on quite a few year-end honors lists, with good reason.

We Are What We Are, directed by Jim Mickle (Stake Land, Mulberry Street), is a prime example of how to do a remake right.  I was so impressed with this film from start to finish. It presents a subject so taboo in such a way that we ultimately feel sorry for the family involved, and truly hope it all works out - when in reality we should be locking them up and throwing away the key.

If you've already seen the first-rate original, then you'll know what subject I'm talking about. I don't think I'm giving anything away by telling you that the Parker family has a disturbing secret. A fairly nasty one that is steeped in their family's old-time traditions and apparently one that they (at least the father) are unwilling to deviate from.

Suffice it to say, daughters Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner) are becoming increasingly more disenchanted with the family's customs and even more so when tragedy befalls their mother as she gathers supplies at the local market.  She suffers what appears to be a stroke and meanders outside the store. Meanwhile, a serious rainstorm whips through the small town, causing flash flooding. In her confusion, she slips and falls, hitting her head and lands in a drainage ditch that swiftly fills with water, effectively drowning her in quick order.

Even as the family grieves, Iris, as the eldest child, is expected to assume the matriarchal duties of the household. This includes preparing the family meals - which unfortunately does not consist of just opening a box of Kraft macaroni & cheese.   As her father Frank (Bill Sage) spews his religious bullshit and directs his impressionable younger not to be afraid and to follow Jesus, Iris is busy getting reacquainted with a local boy she went to school with who is now the sheriff's deputy.

As the Parker family grieves and makes their own special blend of homemade soup, the town doctor begins to investigate and furthermore becomes suspicious after his dog uncovers a bone that has washed up from the constant deluge plaguing the town. Naturally, it's not an animal bone, causing Doctor Barrow (the always impeccable Michael Parks, Red State) to realize there's something fishy going on in his little town. Add in the fact that there have been several people that have gone missing within a thirty mile radius of the town over the years (including the Doctor's own daughter), and he is forced to consider what the facts are blatantly telling him.  He also discovers something else too bizarre to comprehend.  The Parker family mother, upon autopsy, was showing signs of a rare disease known as Kuru - which is prevalent only in tribal regions of Papua New Guinea.
Google it, people.

We Are What We Are is honestly fantastic. Even though the story is nothing if not incredibly bleak, and the material is certainly beyond the pale, anyone watching the film won't be able to look away.  The performances are all stellar, but Childers and Garner are just sublime. I haven't been that impressed with acting in a horror film in years (though again, mention must be made of Jug Face and in particular Lauren Ashley Carter). The depth of feeling they exude so effortlessly makes them seem well beyond their young years. It would be hard to choose one over the other, but if pressed I'd have to congratulate Julia Garner for her stunning and honest portrayal. She is assuredly a blossoming talent and one to watch.

Also thrown in for some relatively important pivotal scenes is Kelly McGillis in a supporting role as a caring neighbor helping the family through their grief.
The littlest Parker family member Rory (Jack Gore) is a bright little spot in an otherwise morose and weather-beaten (yet excellent) storyline that rivals any depressing period film. His life seems relatively unchanged, even without his mother. And to hear the poor little guy always complaining of being hungry certainly pulls at your heartstrings. Until, that is, you find out what's for dinner.

So don't write off this remake because it came so soon after the original 2010 Mexican thriller.  If you've seen that one (as I have) you may have reservations, thinking you don't need to see another re-telling so soon. You'd be wrong.  The stories differ very much,  aside from the premise. And both are quite worthy of a look.  But if I was being completely honest (and why wouldn't I be?), I think I prefer this Americanized version about twice as much.
 Definitely one of the best of 2013. Hands down.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Upcoming Must-Read: James Newman's 666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions: Test Your Horror Acumen!

I'm not generally the type of blogger that makes a big deal about press releases and I almost never post the one sheets and DVD covers of upcoming films or books, etc.  There are news sites that are custom-made for things like that, and I typically leave them to their business.  But when an author I really like has something new coming out, I tend to make an exception.

James Newman - author of one of my favorite books in the last several years, The Wicked (review here) - has a new book coming out the end of this month, and I think it's something every horror fan will want to get their hands on.  I have a copy of said book that I am just getting down to reading, so a review will be forthcoming, but I wanted to make mention of the formal press release, as it does explain a bit of what you're in for. 

From the official press release: 




Ever been called a “weirdo” because you know more about Night of the Living Dead than you know about current events?  Do people look at you funny because you have no interest in reality-TV but you can name every film in which Vincent Price appeared?  Do you feel like an outsider because you’ve never cared about sports, yet you cheered at the top of your lungs when some kids played soccer with a severed head at the end of Hostel, Part 2?  If you would rather visit Count Dracula’s castle than take a trip to the beach . . . if you’d prefer hanging out with Pinhead, having lunch with Leatherface, or babysitting for Rosemary instead of spending time with your real friends and family . . . this book is for YOU.  Test your film knowledge with 
666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions compiled from over a century of genre cinema!

Now available from Post Mortem Press,
666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions guarantees hours of fun for trivia-loving film fanatics who welcome a challenge.  Covering the history of the genre from silent movies like Nosferatu to modern-day blockbusters like The Conjuring, no bloody stone is left unturned in this collection of questions divided into seven categories:  Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, Ghosts & Demons, Maniacs & Madmen, It Came From Another World, and Miscellaneous Madmen.  In the end, fans will grade themselves against the “Who Will Survive . . . and What Will Be Left of Them?” scoring system, proving once and for all whether they’re “Just Another Victim” or a true “Master of Horror”. 
Fangoria Editor Chris Alexander called
666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions “a chump-stumping shock cinema party book of the highest horror order!”.  Adam Minarovich (“Ed” from AMC’s The Walking Dead, screenwriter of Chop and Pawn Shop Chronicles) said “(it’s) a must-read . . . worth crawling out of your grave for!”

About the Author:  James Newman has been obsessed with horror since he was just four years old, when his father took him to see The Incredible Melting Man.  His published works include the novels Midnight Rain, The Wicked, Animosity, and Ugly As Sin, and the collection People Are Strange. 

666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions
is scheduled for release on January 28, 2014.  For more information visit:, or the author’s official website:

This is James' first non-fiction outing, and it looks to be something special.  After just reading the first few introductory pages, I know this is written by someone just like me: a crazy-obsessed horror fan whose life revolves around the next great horror film or novel.

I know this from comments like this one:  "I’d be willing to bet my entire DVD collection that nobody here in my little hometown in North Carolina lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps horror movies and horror literature like I do."  And this one, which I think encapsulates the reason that many of us watch horror in the first place:  "When things get to be too much in the real world . . . when the bills pile up, or the boss just chewed out three-quarters of your ass . . . what better way to push it all aside than losing yourself in Seth Brundle’s infinitely worse problems in Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly? Or to laugh at Ash’s splatstick escapades in the Evil Dead series? Step away from the real world for a while, won’t you, and pray that a van full of harmless hippies guilty of nothing more than believing in astrology and picking up hitchhikers ultimately survive The Texas Chainsaw Massacre . . . ."

When someone that feels this passionately about horror gives fans the gift of something a little different, a book that challenges us fans to see just how much we know about the genre we love so much, well that's what I call a must-read.  I love trivia, and when you combine that with horror, well I'm just over the moon.
After answering the first ten trivia questions (in the "vampires" category) correctly, I knew this was the book for me!

 It's going to be a blast, and I hope you'll join me!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mindless Movie Monday: The Secret Village (Warning: You'll Fall Asleep Before The Secret Is Revealed!)

While the premise of The Secret Village (beautiful young journalist seeks headline story by investigating the sinister history of a small town) seems intriguing, this film is pretty much a dud from the word go. I truly believe that anyone that would give this film an outstanding review is either related to someone who worked on the film or has quite possibly fallen and hit their head.

Rachel (Ali Faulkner) is a journalist that is staying in a small western Massachusetts town so she can look into some apparent ergot poisonings and other strange happenings that occurred as recently as a few years ago. (Of note is the fact that back in 1692, ergot poisoning was thought to be the cause of the apparent "bewitchments" of several young girls that eventually led to the deaths of proclaimed witches in Salem village.)

 No one in the village wants to talk to Rachel except Paul (Richard Riehle), who warns her people will not want her snooping around. He agrees to give her some back story but almost as soon as he starts talking, he winds up dead.

There are lots of folks walking around in black ritual cloaks, a freaky ghost-type woman who is in desperate need of a hair appointment, and mysterious strangers leaving notes on Rachel's door warning her to leave town. Borrring!

Rachel has a new friend, Greg (Jonathan Bennett) - a screenwriter who at the beginning of the film moves into the adjoining room of her rented house to work on his script. By the halfway point they are kissing and getting to know each other better, which feels just a little too convenient. When she divulges the mystery she's working on to him, he soon disappears, leaving her alone to face the "pure evil" alluded to on the cover of the DVD. Yeah, not so much.

The film just meanders on at such a ridiculously slow pace that you could probably could read a magazine or even do your taxes and not miss anything. There's a lot of walking around in the woods, searching houses for clues, mundane chase scenes, people injecting others with mysterious liquids in syringes, and basically a whole not of nothing going on. Not in the least bit frightening, I honestly could have fallen asleep several times. Zero zero zero thrills!

The acting is completely wooden, with sadly not one actor really having any redeeming quality about them. I really think most of the problem is the lame script, but the cast didn't seem to be able to pull themselves out of the abyss and make the material any better.  The lead actress is doing her best to look like Kristen Stewart, and perhaps she's hitting her mark in her quest to emulate her, for there are countless surprised expressions and rolling eyes, but no actual depth of feeling or acting chops to speak of.

Perhaps the worst element of the movie is the ghastly soundtrack.  With polarizing blasts of sci-fi-esque tones that have no real theme, it is just awful.  It matched nothing going on in the film, and the sound editing was awful as well, with loud and obnoxious noises combining with quiet dialogue you can barely hear.

I won't discuss the twist at the end because it's just not worthy of a mention.

I seriously had trouble getting through this movie. It was SO lackluster that when my husband came home from work and saw me trying not to pull my hair out he asked why I didn't just turn the damn thing off.  But I have sat through this crap-fest so that you don't have to.  Take my word for it.
Two thumbs down.