TERMINATOR is Faltering Without its Horror

Kyle Reese was a rightfully scared man. He had an intensity and urgency that a healthy fear can bring out of someone. The hero of The Terminator, a soldier of the post-apocalypse, he’s prone to nightmares of the cold, brutal future he’s been sent from.

He was battle-tested, brave, resourceful and resilient, but don’t confuse courage and cunning for an absence of fear. Kyle was nakedly afraid of what he had to face in order to save Sarah Connor.

Sarah, understandably, was even more terrified of the T-100 (and Kyle, initially), being a civilian stalked and hunted in the middle of the Los Angeles by something even a station full of policemen can’t protect her from. By the second movie, however, that which (barely) failed to kill her has made her stronger. She becomes a hardened survivalist, more fighter than runner, willing to break bones to secure her future, her son’s future, and by extension humankind’s. She is fearsome and fearless during her escape from the hospital… until she once again sets eyes on the thing that hunted her in the first film. read more

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MARIANNE is Everything I Wanted for Halloween

I have a deep affection for horror stories that can tackle serious emotional, historical and/or socio-political  topics with intelligence and thoughtfulness. I have all the love in the world for more nuanced, patient, and layered horror fiction. Recent stories like The Babadook or The Witch, or one of my personal favorite horror films, A Tale of Two Sisters, come to mind. I can watch those movies again and again throughout most of the year.

Not so much, however, when it’s Halloween season. read more

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Movie Review: ONE CUT OF THE DEAD

I know I’m pretty late to the party on this, but allow me to be the latest person to confirm all the praise that has been heaped upon One Cut of the Dead. No, it’s not even a little bit scary, but yes, it’s incredibly entertaining. It’s the good-time bloody zombie movie of the decade; rivaled only by Zombieland, even though the movies end up being quite different. It’s a movie that even people like me, who are largely exhausted by even the thought of enduring yet another zombie story, can enjoy. read more

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Movie Review: HELL HOUSE, LLC TRILOGY

My queues across various streaming services are out of control. I’m going to put a dent in these queues and review the movies that I think are worth writing about. And for October, I’ll naturally be even more focused on movies befitting what I consider the “Halloween Season.”

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The first film in the Hell House, LLC trilogy is a fairly remarkable achievement to my eyes. It has a lot going against it as far as my personal peeves go. It features an overly obvious name (the town and haunted hotel are called “The Abaddon”), something I’ve railed against fairly recently here. The reasoning for its characters staying in the haunted hotel (and even continuing with the original plan to use it as a haunted house attraction) long after they’ve caught supernatural activity on film, or directly experienced it themselves, or have been confounded by the mysterious disappearance of someone they work with, is flat out foolish. It’s only implied in the first movie, but confirmed in the second; the characters stay behind strictly for financial reasons. Their business would fail if they abandon the project. Listen, I get it, I’m an adult, and I get that financial burdens could indeed be scarier than an innocuous haunting, but at the first sign that the ghosts are deliberately screwing with you, or may be malevolent (and given the name of the place, much less its history, it’s easy to assume the worst about the ghosts’ intentions pretty early on) and one of your colleagues vanishes, I think the fear of staying in the “Named-After-the-Cousin-of-Hell-Itself Hotel” outweighs the fear of falling behind on bills while you search for a new gig after your business failed. read more

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Movie Review: STAGE FRIGHT (1987)

My queues across various streaming services are out of control. I’m going to put a dent in these queues and review the movies that I think are worth writing about. And for October, I’ll naturally be even more focused on movies befitting what I consider the “Halloween season.”

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Perhaps my least favorite type of horror character–even more so than “obnoxiously precocious child” or “skeptic turned denier”–is the “irredeemable a-hole.” You might know the type: they’re specifically designed to be the person you’re really rooting to see killed, but personally, I’m usually rooting for them to not exist in the picture at all. I just find them too often overly predictable and uninteresting, whether their actions actually help drive the plot (think Yon-Suk in Train to Busan) or don’t serve any purpose at all other than to be loathed (think Carter from Final Destination, or Carter from The Final Destination). Occasionally, however, you run into a character that technically belongs to this category, but who’s either funny enough to at least be tolerable, or who crosses over into being redeemable. Think Steve and C.J. (respectively) from the Dawn of the Dead remake. read more

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GHOST STORIES – When Revelation Undercuts Execution

Spoilers ahead for the 2017 film Ghost Stories, as well as a handful other films that share its big twist.

I can’t remember the last time a plot twist in a short story, film, television series or novel truly startled me. The ones that come to mind at the moment are from Unbreakable and Fallen, but both of those are from before I even reached drinking age. The final twist of Us also stood out to me, but just made me think, “Oh, okay,” rather than, “Holy shit! Didn’t see that coming.” Surely some other “unpredictable” twist must have had an impact on me in the last fifteen years of movie watching, but I can’t think of one at the moment. I’ve enjoyed–even loved–plenty of other movies that featured a twist, but the twist is rarely near the top of the reasons why most stories stand out to me. That leaves me to believe that the plot twist, one of the most deliciously irresistible devices available in any writer’s toolbox, is somewhat overrated. Not bad, just not the thing that ought to be the most important element of a story in most cases. read more

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The Problems with Paying Writers with “Exposure”

Generally speaking, exposure alone can be worth it. The television show Shark Tank provides easy evidence of that. For any not inclined to immediately click out of this post, the linked inc.com article breaks down just how beneficial an appearance on the show can be to a business that has a product to sell directly to consumers, regardless of whether the business hooks a “shark” as an investor. Bombas socks, for instance, got passed on by every investor on the show, but nonetheless saw their sales skyrocket. I even looked into buying a pair, but just can’t bring myself to spend quite that much on socks; even so, I’d have never even known of Bombas if not for the Shark Tank appearance, and the stats evince that the same applies to many other people. 1 More importantly to many other buyers. And that’s just one example of many from the inc.com article. In many of those cases, the owners of the business come out ahead by not getting an offer, since they get an increase in revenue without having to relinquish any of their business interest (at least not since Mark Cuban killed ABC’s previous policy of demanding a percentage of any company’s equity or royalties in return for just appearing on the show). read more

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Movie Review: HEARTS BEAT LOUD

My queues across various streaming services are out of control. Starting this summer I’m going to put a dent in these queues and review the movies that I think are worth writing about.

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As long as it’s executed at least fairly well, I’m a sucker for a sweet, sentimental story. I have been for just about all of my adult life, I think. Asian action flicks, ghost stories and small, well-acted pictures with big, warm hearts; those all probably have the shortest distance to travel to get on my good side. read more

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Movie Reviews: AMSTERDAMNED

My queues across various streaming services are out of control. Starting this summer I’m going to put a dent in these queues and review the movies that I think are worth writing about.

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For a little over an hour, Amsterdamned is a very competent, above-average little-seen slasher. More watchable and creative than many other largely unknown horror flicks, it is the kind of film that die hard genre fans would be happy to find, although it doesn’t quite rise to “hidden gem” status. read more

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Movie Review: ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE

My queues across various streaming services are out of control. Starting this summer I’m going to put a dent in these queues and review the movies that I think are worth writing about.

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Movies like Always Be My Maybe are an example of why I’ve eschewed a proper rating system. No stars,  no letter grades, no score, just thoughts captured in paragraphs eventually leading to a summation. If I had to rely on a rating I’d be dissatisfied with however many stars or points or thumbs that I “awarded” to Always Be My Maybe. I can’t think of a grade I could give it that wouldn’t be too high or too low or both. What’s the ideal score for a romantic comedy that is exceptionally funny, not really romantic, repeatedly stumbles when it comes to characterization and drama, but nonetheless features exceedingly likable actors who make the characters acceptable when they shouldn’t be? read more

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