Author Archives: Chris

Last Ones Out

Another zombie movie, this time out of South Africa! With a weird poster that does not accurately reflect the title of the movie. So that’s weird.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a fresh new take on zombies, Last Ones Out isn’t it. Hey look, there are a few survivors out of a hospital who have banded together. Hey look, the jerky American is making everyone hate him. Honestly, I’m bored just trying to think of more things to say.

The zombie movie you actually want to see is One Cut of the Dead. I’m not reviewing it because I watched it hosted with commentary, and it’s a relief to not have to, because honestly I don’t know that I could do so. But it is probably going to be my most highly recommended movie of the year, even if you don’t like zombie movies. (Yes, even if you, specifically you, don’t like zombie movies.)

The only “downside” is it’s exclusive to Shudder, so you have to watch it there.

The Last Showing

A few years ago, pre-Iron Fist on Netflix and decidedly post- whichever was the last Freddy Krueger[1] movie, Finn Jones and Robert Englund decided to face off in a movie theater, for supremacy!

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Actually, without Englund’s brand recognition and the movie streaming on Shudder to make it really clear what you’ll get, The Last Showing spends at least the first act of the movie being a character study on how we dispose of the elderly, for really no reason at all. Not-Freddy has worked as a film projectionist for decades, but due to his unwillingness[2] to get certified on the latest digital equipment in a classroom with sixteen year old part timers, he has been relegated to serving popcorn and sweeping and the kinds of things that the aforementioned sixteen year olds usually end up doing.

So he snaps, of course, and Not Danny Rand and girlfriend randomly end up as the focus of his snapping. Everything else is plot spoilers and a different character study in how just because you think you’d be great at something doesn’t make you great. Not all dreams can come true! But there’s the kernel of a serious film buried down in the middle of the running around a theater yelling at killers and toying with victims that is the schlocky meat of the thing.

The irony is that Englund is and has always been a pretty good actor, and dropping him in the role of someone who is not as suited to a thing as he believes himself to be is a little mean-spirited.

[1] To me, though, he’ll always be Willy in V
[2] Not because he resents the technological upgrades, but because the new equipment is legitimately easier to use in the first place and he doesn’t need the training, only the cert, and man, certs for their own sake are dumb.

Summer of 84

I watched another movie this week, which was Summer of 84. This is a pretty basic horror movie which combines Gen X childhood nostalgia for the summer of our youth with Rear Window. And now I have to come up with more to say.

It is not a complaint that I can sum up the movie that succinctly. There’s something to be said for nostalgia, especially when it’s nostalgia for what other people had. I never really made friends in my neighborhood, the way I read about in Stephen King novels or see in kid movies from the 1980s and earlier. Like, I definitely had friends, but private school through elementary (or, and this is plausible, most of the kids my age in my neighborhood were just assholes) meant that I never made close local bonds with those people. So any hanging out was a carefully scheduled affair, not just going outside on a summer evening for a giant game of hide and seek, or constant contact via walkie-talkies no matter how late at night. Also, the suburbs are different from small towns.

Anyway, that’s really the movie. Teenage newspaper boy and friends in a cluster of small towns where a serial killer has been murdering tween and teenage boys, even though tween was not a word that existed at the time. And one of them (guess which one!) thinks he saw something suspicious happen across the street, at the home of the bachelor cop on the cul-de-sac. And either the kid has an overactive imagination, or the cop is legit terrifying, which all depends upon your perspective and your expectations about how the movie will go, and I wish I could add something I found offputting, but it would guaranteed be a confirmation spoiler about which movie they’re making. Maybe in a comment, if anyone cares. (Note that this being a horror movie does not inform that tension’s outcome, because there’s definitely a serial killer, no matter whether it’s the neighbor cop or not.)

Hack/Slash: Resurrection

Some time back, I came to the [second] end of the Hack/Slash comic series, a little disappointed that it really was over this time. Well, joke’s on me, because three years later, someone came along and tried again.

The Resurrection series is another continuation by another author, but this one is a little more successful because she understands that the point wasn’t tying up loose ends from previous big stories, it was getting to the root of what makes Cassie appealing and restoring the status quo by bringing someone back. I mean, spoilers, but it’s really right there in the title, innit?

Basically, it’s this: Cassie is done with monsters, living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere making money off Twitch subscribers, which may be the most modern thing I’ve ever read in any comic in all of history. Except an acquaintance of her mother has opened a summer camp nearby, to help the victims of slasher trauma be strong and ready instead of ripe to get angry and disturbed and turn into more slashers themselves. And except zombies keep showing up outside her trailer. And except the nearby prison seems awfully suspicious. Before you know it: new story, continued from the prior series but without the weight of almost any continuity to worry about.

Worthwhile!

The Outer Worlds

I played a game!

In even more shocking news, I played a game within about half a year of its release![1] I’m, uh, I’m actually having a hard time wrapping my head around that one. So, The Outer Worlds is a sci-fi RPG in which you wake up to a colonial civilization in decay and have to work out what to do about it. See, everyone came to the system from Earth about 70 years ago in two colony ships, except the second ship never showed up. Not to get too on the nose politically (primarily the first couple of groups), but the system is divided into approximately four groups.

  1. The Halcyon Holdings Corporation, who sponsored the outbound flight and even now works to develop new products for the many inhabitants of the Halcyon System
  2. The employees of the ten companies that pooled resources to form the HHC, mostly indentured to pay for their passage, and mostly unable to see a path to buying their full freedom from the situation, and that’s not counting the ones who haven’t really thought about wanting to
  3. Dangerous marauders who have broken free and now prey on society
  4. A handful of independents who through either corporate success or unlawful escape now live free of corporate restrictions, but at the mercy of the aforementioned marauders, not to mention the deadly beasts who roam the worlds and, sometimes, corporate troopers looking to enforce the original code

And now there’s you, a recently awakened colonist from the second ship, which is not lost after all, it just arrived extremely late, and by then enough water had passed under the bridge that the Board of the HHC decided… but I suppose now I’m getting into details past the first hour of play, so I’ll leave it here.

The story of this world is a delight. I can see lots of options I could have taken differently that would have had major impacts on the outcome, and some of them I would even want to see, only, who has time for playing for another 40-50 hours? The path I took, I have very few regrets about, so that’s nice. Plus the one sidebar about 90% of the way through the game that had me laughing in delight about one sublime moment of full character immersion for easily 30 minutes, before I restored and played like an adult instead.

The gameplay is… well, it’s fine, right? This is largely a shooter RPG, as I think they all are now, and it has companions, which means that your companions will always screw up your ambush and use up half or two thirds of its effectiveness. Which is a bummer. And the inventory system is nightmarishly bad. But on the bright side, once you acknowledge that there’s no way around that fact, it mostly melts away into irrelevance and just becomes the thing that makes you play a couple few extra hours than you would have in total. But if I had cared less about the plot and characters, I would have stopped playing quickly in frustration over just how bad it is, and never gotten past that threshold.

The story and backstory of the world definitely end up with more questions than answers, even as the story of the game concluded very satisfyingly. I very much want a sequel, and… I think I want that sequel to not include character importing, because my character’s story is over. But I’d hang out in the universe again from a different POV, no question.

[1] There is no question, in retrospect, that this is quarantine[2]-related. But I started in January, so it’s not solely due to quarantine.
[2] Note to future generations: It’s the Covid-19 coronavirus quarantine of 2020, not some weird personal thing or one of the other quarantines you will have learned about in your history classes.

Snowpiercer

There are only two things you actually need to know about Snowpiercer.

  1. What happens in the movie is this: Captain America fights a train. …well, okay, everyone in a train, not the train itself. But I’m not joking. If you want to see a movie where Captain America fights a train from one end to the other, this is that movie.
  2. The premise of the movie is this: What if we actually listened to scientists about global warming and the looming danger to our species, and did something about it, and the thing we did was seed the sky with some kind of science chemical that would lower temperatures, and we did this seeding via the contrails coming out of planes, and the end result was that oops, over-correction, the world is completely frozen now and has been for the past 17 years, and everyone is dead except for this one train full of people.

I’m not even kidding. The premise is don’t listen to the science on global warming, or we’ll all die because of chemtrails. I’m not sure a movie has ever made me this angry this quickly. It was less than two minutes in!

Anyway. If you can get past that (and maybe you shouldn’t be able to), the rest of it with the train-fighting by Steve Rogers[1] is mostly entertaining; I think the highlight is the truly surreal sushi dinner, but there’s also all the fighting and shooting and dark humor about classism and religion. Taken as a whole and with a different initiating event, I might have liked it quite a bit.

Also, though, it doesn’t make a lick of sense if you think about how any of it works. Like, nevermind the why of it, if you just accept that the planet froze and there’s a train going around the world with the last survivors of humanity on it? And also there are sharp, militarily enforced divides between the haves and have nots? No part of that survives really any scrutiny at all. So, y’know, turn your brain off.

[1] Okay, I may have exaggerated a few times. It’s not literally Captain America, it’s just Chris Evans in a slightly different role than normal. That said, I didn’t think Knives Out had Captain America as a murder suspect, so.

Bodom (2016)

In 1960 (this is all true) some campers at Lake Bodom in Finland were murdered in a fairly sensationalist fashion, and the crime has never been solved. I’m not sure why this was such a big deal during the past decade, but that crime was the subject of two identically named Finnish horror movies recently, the first found footage, and the second (this one) a… I don’t know. Reimagining? That’s not exactly right, but it’s close enough, I guess.

See, there are these four modern teens, and they are going camping on the site of the famous murders. The nerdy guy wants to go because he’s a crime nerd and wants to do a re-enactment. Maybe to see if he can solve it? Dunno. And his friend is going to be supportive (he has a cabin up there, just ask him), plus for reasons of his own[1], which relate to the girls who are going: one of whom had some kind of recent trouble with a fire[2], and the other of whom had some kind of recent trouble with a bunch of nude pictures of her at a party without her knowledge, or consent, or consciousness, with the result that she’s sort of a school pariah now and also her hyper-religious, overbearing father is slut-shaming her for something that, even were it shameworthy to do, she didn’t even do it. Because religion.

Anyway, there’s a lot of character and backstory going on for four campers in the woods at the site of some brutal unsolved murders of other campers in the woods. And then things start happening.

Long story short: it’s worth it, check it out.

[1] I’m not sure if it’s because of comics, but that phrasing always sounds unnecessarily dramatic and not a little bit ominous.
[2] It’s hard to watch subtitled movies and work. I’m getting better at it, because damn does Shudder traffic in foreign horror, which would be fine otherwise!, but as it is… Anyway, I’m getting better at the balance, but I skimmed the scene where they mentioned the fire, and then it never came up again, so I din’t know how relevant it actually was?

Darling (2015)

The most important thing I can probably say about Darling, I said to my wife a few minutes ago. “Oh no,” I said, “I forgot to finish my movie [that I was watching yesterday]. …wait. No, I did finish it.”

So anyway, there’s the 20-something house caretaker lady adjacent to what I think was a New York skyline, and she’s told by the person hiring her that it’s “the oldest house in the city, rumors of hauntings, last caretaker young lady jumped off the roof, haha, I shouldn’t be telling you this.” But no worries, she stays anyway. And the house is appropriately spooky and noisy at night, with lots of loud, 1-5 frame cutaways from her trying to sleep to disturbing close-up faces under blaring random noises.

Later, a businessman on the street returns to her an upside-down cross on a necklace that she found in a drawer and then left in the drawer, because she had just dropped it[1]. Also, there’s a narrow door at the end of an implausibly equally narrow hallway that she cannot open.  And the drain in the shower looks dissolved away by acid, more of a portal to the unknown than a proper drain. And then stuff starts getting weird.

And you know what? I should be there for all of this! Well, except the random loudness. I think the single most annoying thing was the “look what I learned in art film school!” moment when she was [spoiler removed] with a hacksaw, and the underlying sounds were street construction equipment instead of what that would actually have sounded like. But I digress.

My problem here is, there’s no payoff. Was she slowly going crazy because she’s imbalanced, or because the house? Did almost anything that happened actually happen, or was it all because she was slowly going crazy? Was the creepy room at the end of the legitimately creepy hallway[2] a real thing, or just some room with a stuck door? They’re calling it a paranoid freakout, and, I guess it was that. I just don’t know what character(s) my sympathies should lie with, or really, frankly, almost any aspect of what happened. You would think a 78 minute movie would not manage to be too long, and yet here we are.

Oh well, can’t win ’em all.

[1] That is, she shouldn’t have been able to drop it on the street because she returned it to the drawer. Get it? Spooky!
[2] Seriously though. 10-15 foot white hallway, culminating in a door maybe 1.5 thin people wide, and the hallway is exactly the same width as the door, with no other doors along the sides, and only a sharp corner to the rest of the house at the entrance end of the hallway. I think that creepy, creepy, “probably they built it for the movie because who would ever have that creepy of a hallway?” hallway was at least two thirds of the film’s appeal for me[3].
[3] I mean, even before I decided I didn’t like the movie in the first place; the 2/3 comment is supposed to highlight how effectively creepy it was as a visual, not how little i liked the rest of the movie. (It’s more like 95% of the appeal after the fact.)

Fool’s Fate

I have not finished many series lately. The Walking Dead wrapped up a few months ago, and before that… I don’t know. It honestly might have been the Wheel of Time. Which is going back nearly 10 years I think? One conclusion to draw from this is that I have really way, way, way too many started but unfinished trilogies on my to-read shelf. Another is that there are definitely people who need to do more work on finishing their series, and here I am looking mainly at GRRM. But I think the first conclusion is definitely a relevant one, is all I’m saying, and maybe I’ll do something about that in the next months.

That turned out to be a bigger digression than I thought. Because, I finished Fool’s Fate yesterday, and, okay, that is not technically the end of a series. Maybe it was at the time, and then Hobb decided she could write more after all? I don’t know, but I know someone told me that it felt like the end of the series, and that this person was 100% right. If nothing else were written in this world, I would be… honestly, I’m so satisfied that to some degree I’m concerned about there being more written.

The first trilogy ended with the plot crisis averted, but the character crisis fully embraced, and that’s kind of how I’ve thought of Hobb’s writing as a result, despite evidence to the contrary since. The second trilogy ended with both plot and character crisis averted, but with the acceptance that the world was still turning.

[Because of the author, mild spoilers lurk below.]

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Cold Skin

Remember that weird-looking (or perhaps I mean surreal-looking) movie about the people in a lighthouse dealing with mermaids? So, I never saw the one you’re thinking of, but I did see Cold Skin, which is as far as I can tell the same movie but a few years earlier. Probably there are differences?

In this case, anyway, the narrator arrives on a remote island to document a year’s worth of weather patterns, because it’s 1914 and that’s how people learned things back then. Via British people with notebooks living in cabins on remote islands. Only, the prior year’s weather documenter is nowhere to be found, and the only witness is the lighthouse keeper, who has armored up his lighthouse like a medieval fortress with multiple layers of those pointed stick emplacements you use to keep out zombies or armies of such size that forward pressure from the soldiers in the back ranks impales people until the sticks aren’t a problem anymore.

Thereafter follows a rollicking good monster movie which is also a meditation (and an unexpectedly timely one at that) on how people cope with isolation. And a number of other things that it would be very spoilery to go into, but I was surprised by just how much I liked this. Then, later, it turned out to be an adaptation of a Spanish novel, and I became less surprised, as sure enough it is in retrospect a very literary movie. In tone and pacing, I mean. And also in depth. (This is, to a minimal extent, also a pun.)