Tag: horror (Page 1 of 9)

The Exorcist on Fox

‘The Exorcist!’ – UPDATED

Fox has brought a version of The Exorcist to the air and it’s fun, as much fun as a show can be that kills a cute tween in the first episode.

(This is a two-part post. The first part was posted on October 5, 2016. The updated review is posted below.)

One Episode in: The Exorcist!

After the first episode, the plot isn’t 100% clear. But you can bet the farm that there’s going to be some exorcisms! The excellent Geena Davis is holding together a family after some accident or stroke left the father with one of those movie/TV versions of dementia where he’s still pretty nice, but doesn’t know a lot about what is going on. Hey, and the dad is Alan Ruck from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off who is doing some interesting character roles in his later career. Geena has two teenage daughters and boy are they a a handful, especially since on has been possessed by a demon. Geena Davis goes to see her priest, who thinks that she is going around the bend, but agrees to go to the house anyway. He has been having dreams about an exorcism and works out reasonably quickly what is going on.

Alan Ruck and Geena Davis in 'The Exorcist'

Alan Ruck and Geena Davis in ‘The Exorcist’

First off, I’d like to point out that Criminal Minds is still on the air. I watched about three episodes years and years ago, and bagged it because I just didn’t like the idea that they would catch a super secret serial killer every week! Too many! I think most serial killers are more like Jeff Dahmer than Hannibal Lecter, meaning that the whole works can be brought down by one sensitive-nosed neighbor. I think Mandy Patinkin left for the same reason I did: too much ick. That’s show has been on 11 seasons! It has survived cast shake-ups, retooling, and some vicious shin kicks to the producers!

So why not a season or two of exorcisms? I think it can work. It’s a rich subject and I know I’m not the only one who likes it when stories cherry pick weird stuff from the Bible to talk about. Can you imagine actually being on the Vatican’s anti-demon payroll? That would be a pretty sweet gig!

I don’t believe that this has anything to do with the movie or book, The Exorcist. But who knows where Max Van Sydow is going to turn up? He was in Strange Brew and was recently on TV in Game of Thrones, although that one seems like a pretty great gig. I was really excited for his one minute in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The lead is Alfonso Herrera, playing the dreamy Father Tomas. I gotta admit that I was really caught off guard by how charming Tomas is. Herrera brings a lot of charisma and some interesting world-weary drinking to the character and really kills it. I feel like Herrera is going to be a big star (and may already be in some Spanish-speaking country).

Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels in 'The Exorcist'

Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels in ‘The Exorcist’

This is going to sound weird, but I kept thinking of later Clint Eastwood movies whenever Father Tomas talked, in Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, there were these young priests who tried their very, earnest best to help cranky old Clint see the light. Father Tomas is from this school, friendly, approachable, and willing to tell people when they are being nuts. You get the sense that they told the older executives, “This ain’t your father’s priest!”

The Exorcist is a good story, but it’s looking like they are thinking long-term and setting up a really complicated story. So you have to watch and pay attention, which can be not what I really want to do on Friday nights. But if you like horror movies, this is some quality stuff with a fine ensemble cast. Geena Davis!

Part Two – The Exorcist

(Some minor spoilers, which you probably didn’t watch any way. Actually, in this case, one of the spoilers would have made me more likely to finish watching if I had known earlier.)

The Exorcist was a difficult show to get excited about watching and it sat on my DVR for a long time. It was gross and upsetting and the most interesting thing about it wasn’t revealed until the fourth episode. And there’s something about the Christmas season that makes me less likely to watch a lot of TV horror. But if you like exorcism stuff, it’s probably not going to get any better than this.

First, the interesting spoiler I mentioned earlier. Sure, the movie tie-in seemed tenuous at first. But then there was the revelation that Geena Davis’s character turned out to be Regan, the little girl who was possessed in the movie The Exorcist. So the whole series started to make a lot more sense and somehow seemed more important when you learned that. Sure, Regan isn’t a character who you know a lot about. In the movie, you learn a lot more about the possessing demon and his colorful use of the English language. On the show, the possessed Casey, the demon, always calls Geena Davis, “the sow,” which is funny to me. And then adding the amazing Sharon Gless as Regan’s mother? Excellent. Cagney is always welcome in my living room.

THE EXORCIST: L-R: Geena Davis and Alfonso Herrera in the "Chapter Ten: Three Rooms" season finale episode airing Friday, Dec. 16 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jean Whiteside/FOX

Geena Davis and Alfonso Herrera

You know what I really like on this show? The effects.

In times of scares, special effects can be a crutch. And yes, The Exorcist uses some special effects, particularly some creepy eye stuff. But on the whole, you momentarily glimpse effects like the great ’70s Catholic horror movies, like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby, with a soupçon of the splatter-fest spewing of The Exorcist movie. The Exorcist TV show really hits the sweet spot between all those, not trying to go much beyond them. In short, the effects are very stylish, but it’s still network TV.

You know another thing that I can’t get enough of in horror? Ass-kicking priests. There’s a moment where Ben Daniels walks into some kind of horrible storm drain or something that even the rats are getting the hell out of. Inside is a host of the worst deals humanity has to offer, mental illness, diseases of the body, and other depraved horrors only hinted at, and when someone finally confronts him, the first thing he says is, “I don’t want to hurt you.” Badass. And another priest, the dreamy Alfonso I mentioned in my first blush review (above), is having all these temptation problems with a young married woman that he is straight-up in love with. It’s crazy! And yes, there are also ass-kicking nuns! Like a whole nunnery full of them!

I mentioned Rosemary’s Baby before? There is a bunch of the city fathers and mothers right out of that movie. There are people who you should be able to trust who are actually devil worshipers, twisted souls who have killed and desecrated many people to try to get a demon to possess them, literally begging to be taken over. And yes, there’s some nauseating sexual aspect to all this too. But in this case, the perverts have a plan, a big one, that all has to do with an upcoming papal visit that is probably not going to go too well. But the conspiracy is deep and interesting and worth watching if you’re into secret cabal situations.

And I should probably mention that this show had one of the most tasteful incidents of a priest performing oral sex on an underage girl that you are like to ever see on network television. I think I actually coughed up some tea during the most “What the hell?!??!” scene I had seen in a long time.

So if you’re not a horror person, stay far, far away from this show. It’s just horror. But if you like schlocky horror of the Catholic variety, this would make a great binge next Halloween or whenever you’re feeling it. The acting was good, the story was fun (in its sick way), and there was a nice visual sense and style to it.

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Demons, Dolls & Milkshakes / Nelson W. Pyles

‘Demons, Dolls, & Milkshakes’ Review

Demons, Dolls, & Milkshakes marks the novel debut of HWA author Nelson W. Pyles. Pyles’ short stories have been anthologized and this was not only a fun ride, but a nice entry into longer pieces of work.

Protagonists span from a bullied teenager to an unemployed, chain-smoking woman to a demon trapped in the body of a poorly sewn doll, plus a slew of supporting characters with their own agendas and foibles. Those milkshakes from the title make an appearance too. Each character is fleshed out and relatable; even the supernatural beings had issues that the reader could connect with and find examples of the same problems present in their own life.

Kick ass heroines are a dime a dozen, but Kat is something special—she’s shaken up by the paranormal encounters that have forced themselves into her unsuspecting life, but then gets over it and turns their world on its ear. I’d like to think I’d be like her if something so bizarre as demons raging in my living room and the walking dead appeared at my door one day.

Neapolitan milkshakes and fuming demons = a good night in

Two parts of Demons, Dolls, & Milkshakes surprised me—and I love written works that can do that! What I thought was a frame story to set up the main plot blossomed into so much more; it was essentially a second central plot disguised as a frame story. When characters from the original plot joined realistically and seamlessly into the second, the entire book just became that much more raucous. It was a twist I hadn’t expected.

The mythology behind the supernatural elements was original as well. Using familiar names and ideas such as the legend of Lilith as a primary demon isn’t uncommon; adding a unique spin to central idea of demon’s motivations is. So many supernatural-focused novels stick with the tried-and-true or the safe route; the demons here have a rich backstory that is well thought out and credible. If the author was so inclined, there could be several stories within their history that would be interesting to discover. Coupled with realistic reactions from their human counterparts and snappy dialogue, it’s a fun read.

Even skipping between locations and time, the entire novel was a nice change from so many first works that try to be as pretentious as possible to give themselves credibility. Although there aren’t any deep lessons to be gleaned from Demons, Dolls & Milkshakes—except maybe that the Devil is called the Prince of Lies for a reason, and that should be a red flag not to believe anything he says—it’s a recommended book for an easy, enjoyable read.

Demons, Dolls, & Milkshakes is available through on-line retailers in trade paperback and eBook format as well.

The Offering

5 Short Horror Films that Really Freak You Out

Even though I watch and enjoy horror year round, in light of the Hallowe’en season, I thought I’d share some of my favorite short horror films. Each of these films runs under 15 minutes, so they’re good when you just have a little time and don’t want to sit through a whole feature.

Don’t let their short length lull you into complacency, though—these will haunt you. They are available to watch through You Tube and Vimeo. For better viewing, watch with the lights off. For piece of mind, watch them with the lights on.

 The Captured Bird, 2013, 7 minutes

If you like your horror films surreal, this Canadian entry is for you. A young girl wanders into a Gothic house—what could possibly go wrong there? She finds otherworldly beasts and may or may not have unleashed them on the world . . .

The cinematography is gorgeous in this one. The colors are rich but muted, but that in no way detracts from the piece. It inhances the ethereal feel of it all, and sharply contrasts with the horror she discovers. The CGI used is good for a movie with a lower budget than the latest Hollywood drivel.

Directed and written by Jovanka Vuckovic.

[button size=medium style=less_round color=green align=none url=http://youtu.be/5MbsPRxNFwE]Watch on YouTube[/button]

 

The Offering, 2013, 8 minutes

Families. Idyllic or dysfunctional, we can all relate to the fact that each and every family has their own traditions that may seem outlandish or just plain bizarre to outsiders. That’s what binds families together: A common, shared history. When that history, that tradition, is making offerings to an unseen evil being, it helps to be on the same page with what needs to happen. It helps even more to not forget a vital component of the offering.

This is a tightly woven slice of life. It is the only one with dialogue, and the conversation is both familiar irritated banter between a father and son, and unsettling in what they leave unsaid.

Directed by Ryan Patch. Written by Michael Koehler.

[button size=medium style=less_round color=green align=none url=http://youtu.be/Wpov7iKacNo]Watch on YouTube[/button]

Lights Out, 2013, 3 minutes

I believe this short film has been seen more frequently than the others, but it still deserves a mention if you haven’t been exposed to it yet. A primal fear—being afraid of unknown things lurking in the dark—has rarely been so carefully crafted and done as this movie. Its looming sense of horror comes from the fact that we’ve all been in the position the protagonist is in, seeing something not quite right out of the corner of our eye in the dark. As adults, we can rationalize through it, but what if all our reasonings fail, we try to allay our fears with countermeasures, and none of that works? Then we learn there are things that go bump in the night, and we’re right to be fearful of them. Directed by David Sandberg. [button size=medium style=less_round color=green align=none url=http://youtu.be/HmqPdXOczrw]Watch on YouTube[/button]

Fantasy, 2011, 3 minutes

THIS FILM IS NSFW AND NSFKs. I love Lovecraftian short stories and novels. Lovecraftian movies, however, can leave much to be desired. This short animated film (it is technically a music video) is an excellent example of taking the themes Mr. Lovecraft spouted and making them work visually. No dialogue in this one, it’s just the story of four teenagers who break into an indoor swimming pool for some naughty fun. They’re beset by an unearthly horror that invades and transforms three of them; the fourth, the virginal girl, makes her escape. At least, that’s what is supposed to happen in hackneyed tropes, isn’t it? She makes her escape, yes, but ends up even further into the nightmare than she could ever imagine. This is the most visceral, goriest short film of the ones listed here. That’s not what makes it good horror. There is no explanation as to why any of it is happening, and that’s what makes it so effective. It’s just the wrong place at the wrong time, and exposure to something beyond the comprehension of the frail human mind. It is truly one of the best Lovecraftian short films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.

Directed by Jérémie Périn. Written by Laurent Sarfati & Jérémie Périn.

[button size=medium style=less_round color=green align=none url=http://vimeo.com/30798517]Watch on Vimeo[/button]

The Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley, 2005, 12 minutes

Hands down, this is my favorite short horror film. Ever. I’m going to throw some buzzwords at you: Atmospheric. Claustrophobic. Relentless. And now some words that aren’t quite as cliqued, but sum it up perfectly: Uncompromising. Sly. Gibbering. (Don’t fault me for using a word in the title as a word to describe this movie. It is, eloquently, gibbering.) No dialogue here; no dialogue needed. The actor in this piece says more with his expressions and his increasingly frantic actions than some actors do with a full range of vocalizations. You can see his frustrations. You can feel his confusion and mounting terror. Watching his descent into madness—or is it simply his daily tribulations?—is a harrowing experience. I’ve watched this film multiple times. The musical score is spot on perfect, driving the tension. The occasional cacophonies are stark and jarring, and fit with the unsettling smash cut edits of bicycle gears and chains. Those shots of bicycle chains fascinated me, because on first viewing I thought they were nothing more than filler bits. I’ve since come to realize those bicycle chains are a visual analogy of Mr. Ghormley: they are endless, repeating loops, just as he is in his situation. To have such an unexpected deepness to a short film puts many commercial, big budget productions to shame. Directed and written by Steve Daniels. [button size=medium style=less_round color=green align=none url=http://vimeo.com/4593544]Watch on Vimeo[/button] People say there are no original ideas in Hollywood; that everything is simply recycled and overdone. To that I reply that you need to turn your attention away from Hollywood and look for these and other gems done by independent filmmakers not under the pressure to spoon-feed the average audience and make millions and millions of dollars. Original ideas are out there! These short films, and many others, are available if you look for them.

 

5 Short Horror Films that will really freak you out!

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