“The Battery”

In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t enthralled at the prospect of sitting down and investing my time in yet another film that dealt with zombies. I figured the first several minutes would provide an exposition of how earth was plunged into the abyss, and the reason for the calamity that turned the majority of the world’s populace into undead, flesh eaters. Additionally, I thought the explanation would be accompanied by clips from both real and faux news footage, or that the movie would be yet another entry into the increasingly tiresome found footage genre. Much to my surprise and pleasure, none of what I just mentioned was presented in “The Battery.” While it is true, that in the film, a zombie apocalypse has transpired, the normally front and center members of the living dead, are for the most part, relegated to the status of background players. Instead, at the heart of the film, is the relationship between survivors Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim).

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Ben and Mickey, are former minor league baseball players. Mickey was a pitcher and Ben a catcher, which in old fashioned baseball parlance is referred to as ‘the battery.’ The heavily bearded Ben, for all intents and purposes, is the pragmatist and leader of the duo. He doesn’t feel comfortable staying in one place for very long, and uses his baseball bat as a weapon to take out the zombies, and seems to have accepted the fact that fishing, hunting, and scavenging is the way he must live from now on. Conversely, Mickey refuses to kill, and chooses to get lost in the music he frequently listens to on his headphones. He yearns for his girlfriend (he doesn’t know whether she is alive or dead) and seems to want nothing more than to sleep for one evening indoors in a bed, as opposed to on a rooftop, which is something Ben insists on because the zombies can’t reach them up there. During one scene, Mickey even gets excited when he scratches off a lottery ticket that reveals he has won a thousand dollars; as if there is anywhere left to claim his cash prize. The personalities of the two main protagonists are made clear to the viewer, as they make their way across the back roads and forests of New England, with no clear cut destination in mind.

One day, they hear the voices of a man and woman talking on one of the channels of their walkie-talkies. Frank (Larry Fessenden) and Annie (Alana O’Brien) speak of a place called ‘The Orchard.’ Desperate to talk with them, and find out if the place they speak of is safe from the zombies, Mickey implores them to tell him and Ben where they are. His request is denied. Not only is he told by Frank to stay off that channel on the walkie-talkie, but that he is not welcome at ‘The Orchard.’ Annie also lets Mickey know that ‘The Orchard’ is not what he thinks it is. From that moment forward, Mickey can’t drop the matter. He keeps attempting to make contact with Annie on the walkie-talkie in an effort to convince her that he and Ben could be an asset to whatever safe-haven that she and Frank are a part of.

Will Ben and Mickey ignore the warning given to them by Frank and Annie and try and find ‘The Orchard’? What exactly is ‘The Orchard’? Is Annie telling the truth when she told Mickey that it is not what he thinks it is? Do Ben and Mickey meet other survivors during their travels? Will they eventually fall victim to the hordes of undead roaming the United States?

“The Battery” was written by Jeremy Gardner, and also marks his directorial debut. The film won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the “Toronto After Dark Film Festival.” Additionally, Gardner won the award for Best Screenplay, and both the music from the film, and the poster, won special awards. The movie premiered on October 13, 2012 at the “Telluride Horror Show Film Festival.” The runtime of the film is 101 minutes, and is a blending of the genres of adventure, drama and horror. Made for a budget of approximately $6,000, which the director raised by asking ten friends to contribute $600 each, the movie was shot in sixteen days.

My one and only complaint about the film is its runtime. There were certain scenes that could have been shortened or eliminated all together, that would have served to help the film move along at a more fluid pace. With that being said, I found the movie to be a refreshing take on a subgenre of horror that has become overly saturated in recent years.

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“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, A Creative Debut Novel With A Touch Of Brilliance”

I almost never deviate from the old proverb “never judge a book by its cover,” but there are exceptions to every rule. The novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” written by New York Times best selling author Ransom Riggs is one such occasion. While I was at Barnes & Noble browsing selections of  best sellers that had been released in paperback, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the cover of Mr. Riggs’ debut novel. It features a black and white photograph of a small female child levitating off of the ground. I picked up the book, and not being familiar with any of Mr. Rigg’s writing, I quickly looked for the obligatory blurb about the author. I learned that Mr. Riggs was born and raised in my home state of Florida, he’s college educated, has won awards for his work on short films, is a fellow blogger, and writes travel essays. Once I found out a little bit about the author, I next turned my attention to the synopsis of the book. Afterwards, I was interested enough to take it home where, several days later, I was sorry that I had finished a most entertaining read.

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The 352 page novel was published by Quirk Books and has been garnering fans ever since its original debut on June 7th of 2011. What is the book all about? Well, for starters, it is a book that you will not soon forget once you’ve finished reading it. It is a perfect literary blend of fiction and photography that mixes together to form a reading experience that is not short on thrills.

The story centers on a teenage boy by the name of Jacob Portman who is trying to come to grips with the death of his grandfather, a person he was exceptionally close with. The death is the primary catalyst which sets Jacob on his journey to a remote island, which is located off of the coast of Wales. As a child Jacob’s grandfather regaled him with adventure stories regarding the orphanage he grew up in …. an orphanage filled with the oddest mix of children ever assembled in one place. Not just odd in a freakish sort of way, but children who possessed incredible talents. At first, Jacob is quite taken with Grandpa Portman’s tales, but as he gets older the stories start to become increasingly unbelievable to him. If not for the cryptic message the grandfather speaks to Jacob before he dies, Jacob never would’ve set out on his own adventure to discover the validity of his grandfather’s stories and the truth behind the seemingly unreal home the man grew up in.

While on the island, Jacob explores the remains of Miss Peregrine’s home. As Jacob makes his way through the abandoned bedrooms and hallways of the once thriving house, it becomes apparently obvious to him that the youngsters who once resided there where indeed peculiar. Jacob has not ascertained for himself to a satisfactory degree the following: Were the children harmful? Were the children, perhaps due to some infectious disease that his grandfather was immune to, being housed there under quarantine? It would stand to reason – after all it was a remote island, which is the perfect place to keep what some might feel are society’s undesirables locked away from the so called normal children. But, most puzzling of all mysteries to Jacob, is his increasing suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the peculiar residents of Miss Peregrine’s home have not passed away, but are still alive and appear as they did decades earlier before what the island’s denizens believed were their tragic deaths.

Rigg’s main characters are both enjoyable and well constructed. Jacob is the quintessential teenager, who at times comes off at the start of the novel behaving as a slacker, but as he gains new experiences, makes exceptional growth throughout the course of the book.

Warning, spoilers to follow:

Jacob comes to realize that he has far more responsibility in the world than he originally thought. He is a young person who is honorable, valiant in the face of death, and an overall gentleman. Emma, his love interest is courageous and incisive, not afraid to fight like a mother lion protecting her cubs in order to protect both herself and the other children from harm. Her steely resolve is a front she uses to guard her heart. The remaining assortment of characters receive a smaller degree of exposure and narrative, which is completely reasonable. How many personal histories could Rigg’s have been expected to jam into his story before it became overbearing to the reader and did more harm than good in serving the flow of the novel.

Ransom Rigg’s writing is both descriptive and also very evocative. I know the author was inspired to write the novel based upon the vintage pictures he collected and I applaud his creativity, but I asked myself the following question when I finished the book: Would I have enjoyed the novel any less if the photographs had not been included? The answer is no. The photos included in “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” were a wonderful literary treat to the reader, but not essential for Riggs in crafting the page-turner he produced for the public. The book is both an adventure yarn in the traditional sense, and at other times, thanks to Rigg’s originality, a powerful literary experience that is not to be missed.

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“Housebound”

The film begins with a scene that shows a botched attempted robbery of money from an ATM machine. The crime is perpetrated by the main character of the movie Kylie Bucknell, and a male accomplice, who winds up knocking himself out and is never seen again. Convincingly portrayed by Morgana O’ Reilly, Kylie is an angry, sharp tongued, young woman, who receives a sentence of eight months from the New Zealand court she’s prosecuted in. The sentence, however, is not going to be carried out in a prison. Instead, she is being sent to live under home detention in her childhood home, with her well meaning, albeit constantly chattering mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), and her polar opposite, quiet step-father, Graeme (Ross Harper).

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Kylie is transported by two probation officers to the house in the town of Buford, where she grew up. The sign on the highway leading to her house proclaims that the town is the ‘Jewel of the Twin Coast Highway.’ Attaching an electronic monitoring bracelet to Kylie’s ankle is Amos (Glen-Paul Waru). At first he might appear to be a filler character, but by film’s end it will be clear that is not the case. Upon arriving home, Kylie acts very petulant. Even though she is confined, she doesn’t help her parents. For example, at least at the start of the movie, she refrains from helping to keep the place clean, eats a meatloaf that was prepared by Miriam for dinner without apologizing, and mainly smokes and watches television. When Miriam politely asks Kylie if she and Graeme can watch a program they like which comes on for an hour on Thursday and Friday evenings, Kylie’s response is non-verbal; opting to turn up the volume on what she’s watching as her reply. The court ordered meetings with her counselor, Dennis (Cameron Rhodes) serve to only further inflame her already rebellious nature.

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Shortly after her arrival, Kylie is listening to a call in talk show on the radio. While doing so, she hears that her mother has called into the program being aired. Miriam informs the host of the show that she believes that she and her family are not alone in the house they live in. She points not only to the noises that she hears in the middle of the night, things moving by themselves, fluctuation in the power, but also to an incident that happened years earlier. One evening, when she went into the basement to get chicken out of the freezer, she had a feeling that she was not alone and that she was being watched. Miriam turned around and saw something disappear back into the darkness. Whatever it was, it gave her such a fright, that she didn’t go down into the basement again for two months. Kylie doesn’t believe a word her mother is speaking, chalking it up to the ramblings of a bored woman whose life lacks zest. Mother and daughter already have a contentious relationship to start with, so Miriam’s belief in ghosts does nothing to bring them closer together.

One evening she hears noise coming from downstairs. Kylie leaves her bedroom to find out where the noise is coming from, which leads her down into the basement. While down there, something happens to her – which I won’t spoil for those of you who have not yet seen the film – that makes the non-believer start to rethink the validity of her mother’s story. As it turns out, Miriam is on her way down the stairs to the basement to ask Kylie to keep the noise down, when Kylie informs her mother that she thinks that they are not alone. They both hear noises and go upstairs, where they find the front door is wide open. Immediately they hear someone walking around upstairs. Kylie asks her mother where Graeme is, but it is not him because he is at work. Whoever is in the house is coming down the stairs. Kylie grabs something to hit the person with. She strikes the person a number of times, and is about to bash something else over the guy’s head, when it is revealed that it is only Amos. Kylie wants to know what he is doing there, to which he replies that he got a signal that she had breached the perimeter of where she is allowed to go. The reason he was able to respond to the signal so quickly is that he lives in the neighborhood.

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Mother, daughter and Amos go back downstairs to the basement. Once Amos learns from Miriam, that she feels that they are not alone in the house, Amos takes out his tape recorder and begins asking questions to an unseen spirit. He receives no response. The probation officer turns out to be a paranormal investigator, something he does as a hobby for free aside from his day job. He informs Miriam that he wants to set up cameras and other recording devices in the house to find out what it is that they are dealing with. That is just the beginning of the fun, which would be better for you to discover on your own while watching the movie, as opposed to me getting into more specific plot details.

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“Housebound” is parts comedy, horror and thriller, and had its premier on March 10, 2014 at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The film which is 107 minutes in length was written and directed by Gerard Johnstone. From start to finish the film hooked me never once was I bored nor did I feel the need to check how much time was left before it was finished. The director makes excellent use of atmosphere as it pertains to the house. All of the characters in the film serve a purpose, and the cast as a whole does a very competent job. There are wonderful twists and turns along the way. “Housebound” is a film that will keep most viewers guessing as to what is actually transpiring until toward the end of the movie. This is a film I highly recommend.

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“The Guest”

I can’t remember the last time I watched the same film on consecutive evenings, until recently when I saw “The Guest.” The reason being is there are always old and new film and television shows that I have not seen, that I want to watch. Additionally, there are countless books I would like to read, as well as the other writing I do apart from this blog. I actually watched the film at least a month ago, but around that time a number of bloggers, whose posts I read and whose opinions I respect, reviewed the movie, so I figured I would hold off on this post for a while.

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Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2014, the movie clocks in at just under one hundred minutes. Directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next) and written for the screen by Simon Barrett (What Fun We Were Having), the film is a combination of the action, mystery and thriller genres. The title of the movie refers to the main character, David, a mysterious, ice water running through his veins type, portrayed by Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey). The British Stevens pulls off a perfect American accent. Not once did I detect a false note. His character has an intensity that at first seems to be brewing just underneath the surface of his physical veneer, in time that intensity will be unleashed full throttle.

After an initial brief scene where he is shown running on an empty road, he is next seen knocking on the door to the Peterson home; greeting him is Laura (Sheila Kelley). David informs her that he was a friend of her son, Caleb, who was in the military and killed in battle. The grieving mother invites David in. He at first acts as if he doesn’t have much time to talk; that he was just stopping by to honor a promise he made to his fellow soldier. To help prove his association with her son, he shows Laura a picture of himself with Caleb and some other soldiers, that is sitting on the mantelpiece of the fireplace. For someone who was just stopping by to pay their respects, he doesn’t put up much of a protest when invited to stay.

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Later that same evening, while drinking beers with Caleb’s work- stressed, father Spencer (Leland Orser), David, who doesn’t have any concrete plans, is invited to prolong his visit, until he figures out his next course of action. Most viewers, I feel, will get a sense right from the beginning of the film, that there is more to David than the story he is presenting to the Petersons. Besides his mother and father, Caleb’s family includes his two siblings. There is his sister Anna (Maika Monroe), who is suspicious of David’s motives. A suspicion she attempts to confirm or have dismissed by contacting the military to inquire about David. In addition, there is Caleb’s younger brother, Luke (Brendan Meyer), who is a favorite target of the school bullies.

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TG PIC 4“The Guest” doesn’t let the viewer know the answers to David’s true purpose for coming to the Peterson home right away. The film takes its time allowing the full mystery to reveal itself. David seems like he is there to help the Petersons. Amongst other examples, there is a scene that takes place in a bar where he extracts revenge on the jocks giving Luke a hard time. Ordering the underage teenagers a round of cosmos, not the most masculine drink to offer a group of young, high testosterone guys, they don’t take kindly to the gesture. They come over to the table where David is sitting with Luke, and proceed to express their displeasure. Suffice it to say, David more than gets the better of the bullies, and lets them know how it feels to get beat on for a change. This is done, during a short, but well choreographed action sequence.

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I don’t want to discuss the plot too much, because the saying ‘less is more’ is very much a true statement when applied to this film. The less a viewer knows, before watching the movie, the better. I had only read one review before watching “The Guest,” and that review was spoiler free. I hadn’t even seen a trailer, and I am glad I didn’t. I don’t know if the film would have captured my attention as much as it did, had I known what to look for. Also worth mentioning is the pulse pounding, synth heavy soundtrack, provided by Steve Moore, that helps to set the film’s tone. Moore won the award for Best Soundtrack / Score for his work on “The Guest” at the 2014 UK Horror Awards.

I will add, that the final payoff, does, in my opinion, detract a bit from the rest of the movie. With that being said, the film in its entirety is a fun cinematic experience, that is entertaining, unpredictable and well paced. “The Guest” is a movie that pays homage to popular films from the 1970s and 1980s, but maintains a contemporary feel throughout its runtime.

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“Radcliffe Embraces His Inner Demon In Horns”

A film in which the main character is accused of murder, pleads innocence, and then sets out to clear his or her name is nothing new. “Horns” based on the 2010 novel written by Joe Hill, takes that familiar plot, and gives it a radical transformation. At the start of the film, Ig Perrish, portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe (The Woman in Black), is a tormented man, and the pariah of the small town he lives in. Most people in the community believe he brutally murdered his long time girlfriend, Merrin, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe). The only reason Ig is still free is because key evidence has been destroyed. However, the destruction of the evidence presents a double edged sword, because it could have provided proof that he wasn’t the killer.

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After a night of hard drinking, during which Ig performs a sacrilegious act while relieving himself, he wakes up and discovers he has horns growing out of his forehead. That in and of itself would be enough to freak anyone out, but along with the horns, comes supernatural power – the power to compel people who he comes in contact with to reveal their innermost thoughts and desires, regardless of how private or incriminating they might be. Furthermore, the horns give Ig the ability to make people act exactly the way he wants them to. For example, he has the members of the media, who have been relentlessly hounding him, beat each other up; informing their collective assemblage, that the winner will get an exclusive interview with him.

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Armed with his new abilities, Ig sets out to find the truth behind Merrin’s murder. Through a series of flashbacks, the viewer is shown how the relationship between Ig and Merrin began, as well as the incident that transpired a short time before her murder. It doesn’t help that a gossiping waitress, Veronica, played by Heather Graham (From Hell), is outright lying to the patrons of Eve’s Dinner about the events that took place on the night Merrin was killed. Everything she says leaves no doubt as to Ig’s guilt.

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In addition to the previously mentioned cast members, in the role of Ig’s best friend and lawyer, Lee Tourneau is Max Minghella (The Social Network). For some unknown reason, which will only be made clear to the viewer and those who haven’t read the book, later on in the film, he can’t see Ig’s horns. Not only can’t he see the horns, but they have no power over him. Joe Anderson plays Ig’s drug using brother Terry, who may know a good deal more about the night of Merrin’s murder than he is letting on. In addition to Lee, he is one of the few people who believes that Ig is innocent of the crime. Even Ig’s parents, Derrick and Lydia, who are acted by James Remar (Dexter) and Oscar and Golden Globe nominee, Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13), admit to Ig while under the power of his horns, that they think he is the one who committed the murder. Another actor of note is two time Emmy nominee David Morse (The Green Mile) who portrays Merrin’s grieving father.

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Directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension), the film premiered on September 6, 2013 at “The Toronto International Film Festival.” Written for the screen by Keith Bunin, the movie is a blending of the drama, fantasy, horror and thriller genres. I was looking forward to watching this film. I applaud Radcliffe for taking on the role of Ig. He continues to distance himself from the iconic boy wizard he brought to life on screen in the Harry Potter films. His character is someone who a viewer can feel sympathy for, and his American accent was perfect. With that being said, at least in my opinion, the film doesn’t live up to Hill’s novel. Certain events that took place in the book, were only touched on in a tertiary manner, or not at all. In addition, the conclusion of the 120 minute movie, which left out a good portion of what transpired at the novel’s end, felt rushed. I would gladly have invested an additional ten to fifteen minutes of my time watching this film, if there was more inclusion of the tree house of the mind, which I know is meaningless to those who haven’t read Hill’s novel. It was one of the parts I wanted to see shown on screen, but it was completely ignored by the filmmaker.

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While the film never had me scared, I guess depending on a viewer’s sensitivities, there are moments that some might find intense. For those of you who are afraid of snakes, this is a movie you will want to skip out on. When it is all said in done, “Horns” is certainly watchable, if for no other reason than Radcliffe’s performance, but I felt too much that went into making the book the page turner that it was, was left out.

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“Stephen King’s A Good Marriage”

At the conclusion of the film that shares the same name as the title of this blog, my first thoughts were not about what I had just watched. Instead, they were about a biography I had seen on cable several years prior. The biography was on serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and there was a period of time, where it, and biographies of other members of his deadly and disturbed ilk, were shown on the BIO channel, on what seemed a regular basis. I am not sure if the channel is contractually obligated to show each individual biography a certain number of times, but the one on Gacy seemed to be on quite a bit.

Nothing that transpires in the 102 minute thriller, “A Good Marriage,” specifically reminded me of Gacy. Stephen King, who wrote the screenplay, adapted from one of the stories in his 2010 novella “Full Dark, No Stars” was inspired by the real story of BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) murderer, Dennis Rader. BTK killed ten people in Kansas between 1974 and 1991. What I remembered hearing spoken at the end of the Gacy biography was by his sister. She said that none of what Gacy had done, in relation to his killing, and the other acts of depravity he had committed on the men he had murdered, made sense for his character. She knew him, as her loving brother John, and was crying, as she spoke of the last time they saw one another, before he was put to death by the state of Illinois. Why did the film remind me of that part of the biography? The answer is twofold: Firstly, at the heart of King’s story and the film, is the question: How can we be certain we know all there is to know about the people we love the most in this world? The individuals who are the closest to us shouldn’t be able to hide an inner monster that commits heinous acts. They aren’t supposed to be capable of extreme evil, come back home and once again resume the role of devoted, loving spouse and doting parent, without exposing to us that something with them is not right. Secondly, King took Dennis Rader and his wife, as the models for the villain and the horrified, unknowing spouse, in his story because he remembered the media hounding BTK’s wife. She was constantly asked: How she couldn’t have known that she was married to a murderer for all the years they were together.

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Directed by Peter Askin (Trumbo), the film was released in a limited number of theaters on October 3, 2014. I didn’t get a chance to see it while it was playing in the theater. Instead, I watched it a few nights ago on Netflix. At the start of the movie, Bob and Darcy Anderson are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Darcy, portrayed by three time Academy Award nominee Joan Allen (The Contender), runs a rare coin business. Bob, acted by Golden Globe and Emmy winner Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace), is an accountant. Bob shares his wife’s love of coins, and has been looking for a penny from the year 1955. He won’t purchase the penny on ebay or another website that sells coins, he wants to find the penny by chance. In addition, making one of several brief appearances throughout the film, before he is given any real screen time, is Stephen Lang’s (Avatar) mysterious character. The motives for his watching the seemingly happy couple are made clear toward the film’s end. He is sitting at a nearby bar, observing Bob and Darcy’s anniversary party. He witnesses, Bob give Darcy a gift of gold fish earrings. Bob states that he got them for her because her astrological sign is that of a Pisces. The next day, he leaves Darcy, to go on one of his frequent business trips.

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While Darcy is watching the evening news, a story comes on about the latest victim of a serial killer known as ‘Beadie.’ An individual who has raped and murdered a dozen women. His signature, after the gruesome act, is to always mail the driver’s license of his latest victim to the authorities. He does so to show how proud he is of himself, and how he views the police department as nothing more than a bunch of incompetent fools who can’t catch him. After the news story is over, while changing the channels, Darcy comes upon a slasher film; eager to change the station, the batteries in the remote stop working. Out of frustration, wanting to get the graphic images and sounds off of her television, she walks over and unplugs the cord from the wall. Afterward, she heads into the garage to find some new batteries.

While in the garage, Darcy discovers magazines that she had been looking for. Hidden amongst them, however, she discovers one of a pornographic nature. Not just a typical X-rated magazine, but one that specifically caters to those into bondage. She also makes another more startling discovery. Hidden in a piece of wall, behind the box, where she found the magazines, is an another small box, that was made for Bob by their daughter, Petra (Kristen Connolly), when she was in elementary school. What is contained within the box repulses her, not because of the item itself, but because of what she knows it could signify. Darcy goes backs inside the house and immediately goes on-line; it doesn’t take her long to come to the realization that Beadie, and her loving husband of over two decades, are one and the same person. I am not giving away any spoilers there. The trailers for the film and the promotional material make that fact known to the viewer before watching the movie.

What makes matters even worse for Darcy, is that soon after she learns the truth about the father of her children, the aforementioned Petra, and their son Donnie (Theo Stockman), Bob arrives home. He lets Darcy know, without any pretense, that he realizes after a trip into the garage and checking the search history on her computer, that she has discovered his secret identity. He assures her that he would never hurt her. Beadie he explains, is a compulsive voice in his head and that he fought it off for many years, before he gave in to what it was asking him to do. The voice was sparked from an incident from his childhood, and a friend of his who died; not, however, before giving Bob some strange ideas on how girls should be treated. He explains to Darcy that nothing positive will come from her revealing his identity to anyone. Her business would be ruined, along with the lives of their children; Petra in particular, who is getting married in the very near future. Bob makes a promise to Darcy that if she refrains from turning him in, he will stop killing.

What will Darcy do? Does she agree not go to the police about Bob, in the hopes that she can live through the night, so the next day she can do just that? Will Darcy take Bob at his word because of how he has treated her and the kids for all their years of marriage? Can she believe that a man with his proclivities can just change his ways? All of those questions will be answered by the film’s conclusion.

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The film’s violence is kept to a bare minimum. There is no gore, and no blood, which is fine. I always prefer a good story, to scenes that are just added for shock value. Sadly, however, the film also contains almost no tension. I could understand the anguish Allen’s character is going through in terms of deciding what she should do regarding Bob, however, I felt no emotional investment in her character. The original story by King is excellent. The problem, I feel, is that getting the inner thoughts of characters on screen has to be shown, it can’t be described like in a piece of fictional writing. The director demonstrated to me nothing special with this work. I am not familiar with other material Askin has done, so perhaps this was just a miss for him. I recommend this only to hardcore Stephen King fans, like myself, who need to read or see anything that has his name attached to it.

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Tales From The Darkside: The Complete Series

Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit…a DARKSIDE.

Those are the words spoken in a foreboding voice-over by Paul Sparer, at the beginning of each episode of the anthology television series, “Tales from the Darkside,” which sprang to life from the mind of director, screenwriter, editor, and sometimes actor, George A. Romero, who gave movie-goers the iconic horror film, “Night of the Living Dead.” Romero wrote the narration that appears at the start of the show as well as the ending narration; I can write with absolute certainty that when I was a child both stuck with me, from the time the show was over at night, until the sun came up the following morning. Why did mere words have such an effect on my psyche even as a young boy? Words are, after all, just that…merely thoughts written out to express oneself, and due to all of the real life horror one can usually find on the news, the words, by themselves, don’t offer much in the way of chill inducing fright, but they are not just spoken words. No, those words, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as a child, are accompanied by the eerily haunting composition co-created by Donald Rubinstein and Erica Lindsay, and performed for the show by Rubinstein.

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In the spirit of shows such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “The Outer Limits,” and “Amazing Stories,” “Tales from the Darkside” originally aired in syndication from 1983 to 1988, and each episode was a stand-alone story that would end with a plot twist. The series’ episodes spanned the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and sometimes the show would dabble in some dark humor. On occasion, when I would reflect on this show over the years, I would always think that the episodes had a terrifying effect on me. I set out to determine whether the show would have the same effect on me as it did when I was a boy. Sadly, most of the shows did not; that’s not to say they aren’t good…some are downright excellent, but things that frightened me as a child are vastly different from the things that cause my mind to be disturbed these days. I am in no way attempting to speak for anyone but myself. What may not frighten me anymore might perhaps scare the wits out of some of you.

Fans of best selling author Stephen King will be treated to two episodes penned by the master, “Word Processor of the Gods,” and “Sorry, Right Number.” In addition, works of other fine writers are showcased such as that of Michael Bishop (Would it Kill You to Smile), Robert Bloch (Psycho), Fredric Brown (The Fabulous Clipjoint), John Cheever (The Enormous Radio), Harlan Ellison (I, Robot), and Fredrick Pohl (Jem). Clive Barker creator of the “Hellraiser” movie franchise based on his novel “The Hellbound Heart,” also makes a contribution to the series. In addition, the episodes featured well known actors from both film and television. Among those making appearances were: Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing), Justine Bateman (Family Ties), Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives), Victor Garber (Argo), Sean Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Christian Slater (Heathers), and Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Even though it doesn’t have the same effect on me that it used to, I can still appreciate “Tales from the Darkside” for the following reasons. Firstly, the gore content is kept to a bare minimum. The viewer will be able to concentrate more on the plot of the show instead of, depending on what sensibilities one has, being put off by gruesome scenes of extreme carnage the likes of which can be found, for example, in the films of the “Saw” and “Hostel” franchises. Secondly, the acting is, for the most part good, and done in a way that doesn’t convey ‘hokiness’. Lastly, even though the budget was small, and the special effects would be considered not even second, but third rate by today’s standards, I feel the shows’ producers did their best with what they had to work with, and I can never fault anyone for that.

The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.

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