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Movies Reviews

Wild Sci-Fi Review: The VelociPastor (2019)

Directed by Brendan Steere. Written by Brendan Steere. Starring Greg Cohan, Alyssa Kempinski, and Daniel Steere.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #4.

In this life, we’re going to come across a film title that’s going to catch our attention. I stumbled upon this movie while scrolling through my feed on Reddit. I laughed immediately with intrigue in the back of my mind. Before I watched this movie to review, I looked up articles about the movie. The film’s director, Brendan Steere, did an interview with Forbes about the movie. He states that he drew inspiration for the film when he tried to type “velociraptor” into Google, but it auto corrected to “veloci pastor.” The goof inspired him to create this bonkers B-movie with only a budget of $35,000. I was excited for what’s to come.

VelociPastor focuses on Pastor Doug Jones (Greg Cohan), whose parents were killed in front of him by a car explosion. Instead of a shot of the burning car, we get a gag with a title card that says, “VFX: Car on fire.” The film immediately is letting the audience know to not take this film seriously. After the death of his parents, Doug heads to China where he earns the ability to turn into a dinosaur. He decides to use his newfound power to fight crime…and ninjas.

Dinosaur versus ninjas.

The film is going for the outlandish to induce great, effective comedy. VelociPastor has fantastic quotes and dumb, memorable scenes that will stay with audiences after the movie’s over. Two scenes come to my mind as examples. Early in the film, audiences meet a supporting character by the name of Frankie Mermaid. Frankie Mermaid is a pimp, who asks one of his prostitutes why do they call him by that name. She responds, “because you’re swimming in bitches.” I was dead. I completely lost it. I had to pause the movie and let the laughter out. The next scene that was comical was a Vietnam flashback scene. It’s a flashback sequence where supporting character, Father Stewart (Daniel Steere), remembers his time at war. In the sequence, his lovely girlfriend randomly shows up out of nowhere on the battlefield and gets blown up by a mine. Father Stewart stands there in shock, while his war buddies talk about the mine casually. Such good shit, dudes.

Greg Cohan needs to be commended for putting forth the effort in this whacky movie. He goes all out with the dinosaur transformation scenes. The dinosaur is a giant, rubbery-looking suit that they made. It’s not Jurassic Park quality. It’s Walmart/Dollar General quality. They make the most of the dinosaur with it decapitating people and gouging people’s eyes. As for the fight scenes, they’re hilarious watching someone running around in a dinosaur outfit, who’s knocking over people dressed as ninjas. This movie deserves a shot of getting airtime on Syfy or another network.

If you enjoy absurdity, this film is for you. If you don’t like comedy, you will find this movie to be stupid and not worth your time. I recommend it for lovers of B-movies.

Overall rating: 4/5.

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Movies Reviews

Fade to Black (1980) Review: A clever psychological slasher movie.

Fade to Black. Released in 1980. Directed by Vernon Zimmerman and starring Dennis Christopher

Fade to Black, directed by Vernon Zimmerman and released in 1980, tells the story of young movie buff Eric Binford (no relation to Home Improvement), played wonderfully by Dennis Christopher, as he begins to spiral out of control committing murders based on movies that he loves. The movie appears to be a slasher on the surface but is much more of a psychological horror film with a dash of dark comedy.

Eric lives with his Aunt Stella in a cramped house. Stella is confined to a wheelchair and blames all of her woes on Eric, upset that she had to raise him. She despises Eric’s movie obsession and constantly reminds him of what a failure and disappointment he is. Not only does Eric have to deal with a controlling and abusive Aunt, but he is not treated much better at work where he is constantly berated by his boss, and harassed by two other employees Richie (played by a young Mickey Rourke) and Joey (played by Peter Horton). While out running errands for work, Eric meets a young girl named Marilyn who bears a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn is played by Linda Kerridge who looks as close to Marilyn Monroe as you can get and gives a great performance to top it off. Eric wins a date with Marilyn and then is stood up by her after he forgets about their plans. After Eric returns home, he kills his Aunt Stella by pushing her wheelchair down the stairs recreating a scene from Kiss of Death, released in 1947. A subplot in the movie features a Doctor named Jerry Moriarty (Tim Thomerson) investigating youth violence and sees a link between movie violence and adolescent violence.

One of the best things about Fade to Black is the callbacks to the classic movies that Eric is inspired by during his murder spree. Scenes from classic films are spliced into the movie to show the audience what is being referenced. Usually, I would dislike the spoon-fed scenes showing you what is being referenced but Vernon Zimmerman makes it work here using the references to let us get a glimpse into the mind of Eric as he goes insane.

The movie, at first glance, seems to be reinforcing the idea that movies cause violence, and at first glance that is what people would think about Eric. Eric is a loner who devours movies constantly and uses what he sees to inspire his foul acts, but the audience sees that his violent tendencies come not only from the movies he watched but from the psychological abuse that he has experienced at the hands of his aunt over the years–there is even some evidence that she is sexually abusive, requesting a back massage from him after she lends him money and requesting it grotesquely. Eric also comes across as misogynistic and entitled. He uses his movie knowledge as a way to hold power over people, thinking of them as idiotic if they don’t understand what he is talking about. His misogyny shows in his violence towards women and his objectification of Marilyn, who he obsesses over due to her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe.


Fade to Black is one of those movies that you know will only improve on multiple rewatches due to its more complex psychological slasher tendencies. This movie takes inspiration not only from the slashers that were being made at the time but also movies like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and the many characters of James Cagney, whose movies make multiple appearances. Fade to Black is a complex semi-slasher that deals with themes of escapism, violence, and loneliness. Fade to Black was a much more complex movie than I was anticipating and what worth the watch.

Rating 3.5/5

Categories
Movies Noir Reviews

Twin Peaks Day! Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) Review.

Sheryl Lee stars as Laura Palmer in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Happy Twin Peaks Day! Today we are looking at the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Released after the cancellation of the show, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me tells the tragedy of Laura Palmer, leading up to her murder and right before she is found wrapped in plastic by Pete Martell, played in the series by Jack Nance. While the film is primarily a prequel, there are a few moments that make it a sequel to the series, but that wouldn’t be explored fully until Twin Peaks: The Return in 2017. It has long been known that upon initial release Fire Walk With Me was met with mixed reviews; I’m glad it has been reappraised after its release and given the acclaim, it deserves, because in my personal opinion this is one of David Lynch’s best works. It is a dark and tragic tale that explores the horrors and psychological trauma of sexual abuse and Sheryl Lee gives an amazing lead performance that should have been talked about more when it was first released. By the way, there will be some spoilers in this review not only from the movie but from the TV series that preceded it, so proceed with caution.

The movie starts with the investigation of Teresa Banks, a girl who was murdered similarly to Laura Palmer and was mentioned in the TV series. FBI Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch) sends Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Issak) and Special Agent Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) to investigate. They go to the town of Deer Meadow, Washington which seems to serve as a dark contrast to the homely and Americana Twin Peaks. The police station is full of belligerent and rude cops and the diner the two agents visit is a dark counterpoint to the RR Diner, run by Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton). This segment of the movie acts as a prologue to the main story which follows Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) as she discovers the secret of who BOB is only days before her death. There are also some brief moments with Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), and a former missing Special Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) which is incredibly strange and brief and raises more questions that wouldn’t be fully explored until Twin Peaks: The Return.

The performances from Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise are amazing in this film. Sheryl Lee plays the broken and tragic Laura Palmer which such intensity, anguish, and horror that she will nearly bring tears to your eyes. Her father, and eventual murderer, Leeland Palmer, also the mysterious BOB, does an excellent job playing what is essentially two roles. There is a moment after a tense confrontation between him, Laura, and Laura’s mother Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) where he switches from being BOB back to Leeland Ray Wise plays that transition so perfectly. You can see his personality changing while the camera holds on his face. David Lynch also does a great job directing, creating a horrifically noirish atmosphere that feels like you’ve been pulled directly into a nightmare. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this movie a horror film, some moments will make you want to cover your eyes or scream.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is an incredible follow-up and prequel to what was already an outstanding series. Featuring an iconic performance from Sheryl Lee, a transformative performance from Ray Wise and immaculate direction from the masterful David Lynch, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a movie that will stay with you forever. Make sure to check out the first two seasons of the series and Twin Peaks: The Return, although if you’ve made it this far in my review, I hope you had watched the series before.

Rating 5/5

Categories
Gaming

Evil Dead: The Game Announced!

Bruce Campbell is coming back as Ash! Saber Interactive, the developers of World War Z, are helming this future title based on the Evil Dead franchise. The game will feature co-op and PVP gameplay. In the third-person game, players can play as Ash and friends against the Deadites. Players are also able to play as the Kandarian Demon and lead the Deadites against the heroes. There are multiple maps, such as the cabin in the woods. There are dozens of weapons, such as Ash’s chainsaw. Be on the lookout for this game in 2021.

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Movies Reviews

Ho Ho Horror: Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil. Directed by Lewis Jackson, Released in 1980, and starring Brandon Maggart and Jeffery DeMunn

Christmas Evil, directed by Lewis Jackson and released in 1980, felt misleading, but that is not a bad thing. I was fully expecting a cheesy Christmas slasher in the same vein as Silent Night, Deadly Night, but instead, it is more reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. It’s not anywhere near as good as Scorsese’s neo-noir classic, but it made for a unique watch and separated it from the cliche holiday slasher that I was anticipating. Brandon Maggart stars as Harry Stadling, who witnessed the lie that is Santa Claus at an early age after he saw his father, who was dressed as Santa Claus to fool the kids, being intimate with his mother. This yuletide fuckery screwed with young Harry, and years later, he lives alone, works in a toy factory, keeps a good and bad list of local children, and dresses as Santa. He is belittled at work and picked on by his co-workers even though he has recently received a promotion.

Typically, I would expect a movie such as this to dive into the gore and violence immediately; however, this movie pulls back and paints a picture of a mentally disturbed man who is plagued by loneliness. Even his brother, played by The Walking Dead’s Jeffery DeMunn, doesn’t seem to care for Harry. He is more frustrated by his brother than anything. The movie makes you feel sympathy for Harry before he explodes into chaotic violence. It makes sense that this doesn’t feature all the slasher tropes since it came out in 1980, not long after the slasher genre took hold of horror, but I wasn’t expecting a character study that dived deep into the psyche of a lonely and insane man.

Harry descends into complete madness.

I don’t know if I buy the whole concept of seeing Mommy kissing Santa Daddy breaking Harry to the point of derangement, but Brandon Maggart does an excellent job portraying a broken man. The scene when Harry glues the beard on his face and starts weeping, both tears of joy and sadness, is magnificently performed, and moments like these make me wonder why I haven’t seen Brandon Maggart in more movies. The ending of the film is also spectacular and weird, which I immensely enjoyed.

Christmas Evil is an interesting Christmas horror film that ended up being more in-depth than I was expecting. If you go into this movie expecting a Christmas slasher, you may end up disappointed. Instead, this is a character study on loneliness that owes more to a film like Taxi Driver than it does the slasher movie cliches of Halloween.

Rating 3/5

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Movies

Ho Ho Horror: Better Watch Out (2016)

Better Watch Out, Released in 2016, Directed by Chris Peckover, Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, and Ed Oxenbould

One of the activities mentioned in the classic Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams includes “scary ghost stories;” so, for the Holiday season I will occasionally be reviewing and talking about Christmas movies with a horror twist. I will be calling these reviews HO HO HORROR (I’m sure someone else was clever enough to come up with this before, and if someone else has used this title before be sure to let me know).

There is not much that one can say about 2016’s Better Watch Out, so I will keep my review short and sweet. Better Watch Out is a subversive and unique take on the home invasion genre. It offers so much more for the audience, who are expecting something much different than they get. It reminded me of a much darker version of Christmas classic Home Alone, directed by Chris Columbus and released in 1990. Unlike that movie, Better Watch Out is much darker, sadistic, and brutal in execution. The film starts pretty simple with a babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), going to take care of 12-year-old Luke, played excellently by Levi Miller–honestly one of the best performances I’ve seen from a young actor in a while. Luke is infatuated with the older Ashley, who has taken care of him before, and he and his best friend Garret (Ed Oxenbould) talk about how they can woo a woman with fear. He soon gets his chance to prove this theory after someone appears to break into the house after his parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton, leave for their Christmas party; it is from this point on that things get strange, demented, and twisted.

I won’t say too much more to preserve the twist and turns. This movie features a clever script that is reminiscent of both Chris Columbus’ Home Alone and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. The performances from everyone are incredible, especially from Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould, and Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton give fun performances with the little screen time they have. If you want a twisted, and subversive take on the home invasion genre with a holiday twist, I would highly recommend Better Watch Out.

Rating 4/5

Categories
Movies Noir

Noirvember Review: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The Night of the Hunter. Released in 1955. Directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Billy Chapin, and Sally Jane Bruce

The Night of the Hunter is a dark, southern gothic, noirish biblical fable; like a fairy tale, it explores the nature of good and evil. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is at the center of this tale; he is a dark and ominous man. He is a Revered and uses his religion to control, manipulate, and ultimately destroy lives. Christianity plays a unique role in the film; it shows how it is used not only for redemption but for destruction and death. Harry Powell uses his dark and alluring charm to draw people in so he can exploit and eventually betray and murder them. In the beginning, Harry talks to God, revealing he has killed anywhere from 6 to 12 people. Harry brings the wrath of God with him everywhere he goes. Harry acts as an Old Testament God, full of malice and destruction, and also assumes the role of an Anti-Christ figure, using religion to manipulate. He is a false prophet, using malevolence that is present in the Old Testament rather than the benevolence present in the New Testament. He has love and hate tattooed across both of his hands and tells people the story of good and evil by gripping his hands together and showing the battle between good and evil.

Harry eventually makes his way to the home of Willa Harper (Shelly Winters), whose husband has recently been hung for the murder of two people after he killed them during a robbery. Harry was an inmate alongside Willa’s husband Ben (Peter Graves), and he wants to get his hands on the $10,000 that Ben stole. Ben hid the money by giving it to his children, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), and they swore never to reveal where it is hidden. He manipulates the town folk, including Willa’s boss Mrs. Spoon (Evelyn Varden), who is immediately swayed by Harry because of his connection to God. Mrs. Spoon convinces Willa to take Harry on as a husband, and she does. Harry terrorizes both Willa and the children using his religion to guilt them and betray them.

After Harry and Willa get married, Harry condemns Willa for her sexual desires. He links a woman’s sex to birth, denying that she needs it for pleasure. Sexual females are usually at the heart of film noirs, acting as Femme Fatales; their sexuality is linked to darkness, manipulation, and evil. Harry connects Willa’s lustful desire to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Femme Fatales often fill this role as the temptatious one who brings about destruction and sin but The Night of the Hunter subverts this by having Harry’s condemnation being manipulative and his control of her sexuality as his way of gaining power. Harry eventually murders Willa after she overhears him manipulating and abusing her children so he can locate the missing money. The shot of her floating in the water is horrific, nightmarish, and also beautiful because of the wonderfully shot composition and cinematography.

Charles Laughton and his cinematographer Stanley Cortez evoke old German Expressionist films. Their use of light and shadows create a gothic atmosphere; we also see this in the production design of the film. There are sharp angles that make the world, the houses, and the landscape seem dangerous and haunted by evil. The movie classifies as a film noir, but it also is reminiscent of horror movies, specifically Universal Monster movies. There is a shot of Harry chasing the children up the basement stairs, his arms reaching out for them. He looks like a monster, hunting his prey. The scene gives off a vampiric vibe, much like the famous shot of Nosferatu’s shadow as he ascends the stairs.

Also, I must mention Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish); like Harry Powell, is a religious person; however, unlike him, she uses her knowledge for love and kindness rather than death and destruction. Harry seeks to destroy the children for lying to him, while Rachel protects them with affection and gentleness. There is a paradox in Christianity between God’s wrath and Christ’s kindness. Harry and Rachel replicate this paradox. Religion, specifically Christianity, is not all good or bad. People can use it to exploit, gain power, manipulate, and harm; or, they can use it to display kindness, love, and affection. We see the dangers of the former in characters such as Mrs. Spoon, who falls for everything that Harry lies about hook, line, and sinker. But, we also see in Rachel Cooper how she lets religion guide her to be a kind and moral person, not seeking to turn away people for their vices, but instead help them understand their place in the world. 

The Night of the Hunter was the only feature film that Charles Laughton made. It is a shame that he didn’t make more because this is one of the greatest movies of the 1950’s inspiring everyone from Martin Scorsese to Guillermo Del Toro. Shockingly it was also not well received on initial release but is now regarded as a masterpiece. It is a dark tale but one filled with hope. Everyone should watch this movie; it is an excellent and well-crafted masterpiece that shows the power of cinema.

Rating 5/5

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Gaming indie games

Spooktober Games #8: The Forest (Release Date: 2018)

Endnight Games Ltd’s The Forest is a game where players have to survive in a mysterious forest against cannibalistic mutants. Players explore the forest, find materials to build objects, and fight off the mutants. The game features a time system where players will play during the day and at night. Players are able to gather items during the day to build a fortress to halt mutants. At night, players fend off the hungry mutants, who will attack players’ buildings. Stealth is a way to attack the mutants or players can attack head-on with their own crafted weaponry. The game is on Playstation 4 and Microsoft Windows.

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Movies Spooktober

Crimson Peak Review

Cover of the Arrow Blu-Ray Release

Crimson Peak, directed by Guillermo del Toro and released in 2015, is a gothic horror tale about a girl falling in love with a boy and moving into his castle with him. Now, while that may sound like a fairy tale, the events leading up to her moving and the events preceding are quite horrific. Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, the girl mentioned above, an aspiring author who falls for the dashing baronet Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston. After the death of her father Edith agrees to move to Allerdale Hall, the mansion that Thomas Sharpe lives in with his sister Lucille, played by Jessica Chastain. Lucille is a gloomy and despondent woman who seems to be hiding something, along with her brother.

The performances from Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain are excellent, with Jessica Chastain being an absolute standout. Mia Wasikowska is good in her role, but unfortunately, her character spends the majority of the movie in a passive role with decisions being made for her rather than making decisions for herself. While this may seem like a criticism, and to be fair it is a little bit, I think it is interesting what Del Toro does with her character in the latter part of the film. While she is passive for the majority of the first half she begins becoming more active, making things happen for herself, in the second half of the movie. I find this interesting that this change comes in her character not long after she says, “Characters talk to you and transform; they make choices,” whether this was intentional on Del Toro’s part I’m not sure, but never the less it is interesting and I believe of note.

The real star of this movie is the house, Allerdale Hall, also known as Crimson Peak. The house is an entity; a dead and rotting corpse with bleeding walls. The production design done by Tom Sanders is absolutely breathtaking; I don’t think I have ever wanted to live in a broken-down house more in my life. The ghosts that inhabit the movie are also quite extraordinary. Created with a mixture of practical effects and CGI the ghosts have an eerie atmosphere about them and it is hard for the audience to fully understand their purpose and motive until the end of the film.

Crimson Peak is an excellent gothic horror that features elements of mystery, romance, and fairy tales. Guillermo Del Toro’s movie are hard to place in a box even though on the surface they appear to be simple genre films. This is definitely a movie worth checking out if you are a fan of romantic gothic horror.

Rating 4.5/5

Categories
Movies Spooktober

Classic Slasher Review: The Slumber Party Massacre

The Slumber Party Massacre, released in 1982, is a slasher movie written by author and feminist Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Holden Jones. On the surface it looks like a typical Roger Corman produced slasher flick; it includes slightly gory kills and copious amounts of gratuitous nudity, but there is more to this slasher than what we get on the surface.

The movie follows four friends, Trish, Kim, Jackie, and Diane, who are spending their night having a slumber party, and two sisters, Valerie and Courtney. Valerie is a new girl at school who lives next door to Trish. She is invited to Trish’s slumber party but opts out because she overhears Diane bad mouthing her in the school locker room. This all acts as a set-up for the killer to attack. The killer, Russ Thorn, played by actor Michael Villella, is sufficiently creepy as the near-silent slasher who without motivation begins killing these poor girls off.

What makes this movie refreshing, despite its cliched plot, are the characters who populate the film. They make stupid decisions but personality-wise they all seem like real teenagers dealing with issues of sexuality and who scored the runs in last night’s baseball game. Amy Holden Jones has spoken about how the movie is a metaphor for a female losing her virginity, and that is obvious in a scene where one of the girls sits helpless in front of the killer as he uses his phallic-like drill to kill her. The scene is even framed with the drill bit between his legs symbolizing this. The movie is often not subtle about this symbolism but that is works to the movie’s advantage steering it away from being a typical slasher and elevating it to something new and original. The ending, without giving to much away, is also something of note showing the surviving girls traumatized by the horror they have experienced.

This is an excellent early 80s slasher that was way ahead of its time. It offers an interesting deconstruction of slasher movie characters and tropes. If you are looking for a fun, cheap, and unique slasher film definitely check this movie out.

Rating 3.5/5