Yet Another Brief Hiatus

Hello, all!

I must once again address all of my lovely followers, new and old, to proclaim that I will be taking a brief break from blogging (pardon the alliteration.) I have just started working again this week at my old job in childcare, and the hours are so long and strenuous that by the time I come home, all I am able to do is plop down on my bed and watch hours of Gilmore Girls or struggle through a few pages of Eternity 3. On top of trying to finish the third book (which is clocking in now at 450 typed pages, so it is almost done, YAY!), I have to finish my grad school applications (BOO.), take my GRE (Double BOO.), and keep this house a-running.

So, as usual, I will tell you all about the posts that will be featured here upon my return in a week or so!

westeros

(Image Credit: blogs.commons.georgetown.edu)

1. A post about fantasy world-building… How exactly did I make Pangaea, the land to which Brynna, James, Penny, Quinn, Alice, and Violet escape? Was it difficult? Was it easy? And what’s up with the Pangaean language? (Hint: I am lazy, so I play around on Google Translate a lot.) Also, I am not nearly as good at it as George R.R. Martin (Pangaea ain’t got nothin’ on Westeros and the Free Cities), but I needed a picture for world-building, and Martin is the man in that category.

plagiarism-Bart

(Image Credit: Watchdog.org)

2. Have you ever been watching a movie, or a TV episode, or reading another person’s book, or even just watching a commercial, and been like, “OH MY GOD. That is EXACTLY what happens in my book! They’re going to think I plagiarized!!” Well, if you have, you know it is an uncomfortable phenomenon, and if you haven’t, I am going to make you experience it. It’s the WORST.

elizabeth olsen

(Image Credit: Pinterest.)

3. FANTASY CASTING! Picturing famous people as the characters in your own books. Yes, I picture Elizabeth Olsen as Brynna, and if you’ve kept up with me in other mediums (which I know a lot of you have, and thank you for that! 🙂 ), you know who I picture as Brynna’s hot, sexy old men. But I’ll tell you here, too.

grave encountersgrave encounters 2

4. I will finally finish the post I started two weeks ago on the Review post I promised for Grave Encounters and Grave Encounters 2. Yes, I know, it’s about bloody time. (Ha, horror movie puns.) I am going to rave about one, and RANT about the other. Believe me. It’s going to get so real.

genres

(Image Credit: Pinterest.com)

5. I am a science-fiction romance, thriller, fantasy thriller author, so I am going to talk about writing genre-bending fiction, and why it is so awesome. And weird. And challenging. But mostly awesome.

Thank you all so much for being patient with me while I go through this period of adjustment. I promise that when these posts come to fruition, they are going to be amazing, mind-blowing, epic, sexy, freaking sweet… All that stuff.


If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, and be my friend follower.

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Shattered-Genesis-Eternity-Rudacille-ebook/dp/B009KC6XBO

http://www.amazon.com/Bargaining-Path-Eternity-Book-ebook/dp/B00JOOQYT4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411496318&sr=1-1&keywords=the+bargaining+path

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A Rave and a Rant About Grave Encounters 1 & 2.

grave encountersgrave encounters 2

I’m baaaaack! I know I promised these reviews over a month ago on Twitter, and I am sorry it has taken me this long to post. Life is significantly busier than it has been for a while, so blogging and shamelessly self-promoting had to take a back seat to some other more pressing tasks. But it’s all good, because here it is, y’all, as promised. Let’s rave and then rant about the Grave Encounters franchise.

Just in case you didn’t know, I will tell you that this movie was a viral marketing sensation. The trailer was viewed over 20 million times on Youtube, with the top comments still reading, “……” Now, I would venture to speculate that about ninety nine point nine nine percent of the viewing audience knows that this is not real. In fact, a quick search for “Collingswood Mental Hospital” proves that there is no such place, which I already know, because I am from Maryland, where Collingswood supposedly is. But that’s no fun, to think about it realistically. Except it is. It makes for a totally acceptable viewing experience, and I was happy to see that though Grave Encounters is a “found footage” horror, and though it begins with a policeman proclaiming that none of the film has been doctored in any way, there are few other indicators that we are really supposed to be taking this seriously. In short, the filmmakers aren’t laying it on too thick that it becomes annoying. (Paranormal Activity, here’s looking at you.)

The story is pretty standard: A documentary crew for a Ghost Hunters-type show arrives at the aforementioned Collingswood Mental Institution to shoot an episode. They have the frontman, Lance Preston (Ben Wilkinson), who stares intensely into the camera and talks in a semi-deep but fully ominous tone about the horrors that lurk within the building, and about the building’s horrifying past. They have a psychic who walks through the building proclaiming that he feels the terrible energy of all the tortured souls who died within its walls. They have the multiple camera-people. They have the moment where the camera-people, the host, and the psychic stare into the camera intensely and proclaim, “This… is Grave Encounters.” They pay off a groundskeeper to say he saw a ghost outside, and that part made me laugh pretty hard.

But it’s all bullshit. The psychic is a fake, and after his takes are over, he, Lance, and the crew laugh about how silly it is. Lance knows that he’s faking it. They all know it’s fake. It’s good TV, and that is all. The satire on these types of shows is real here, and it is hilarious. In fact, it is this satire that was part of what made this movie stand out to me as something cool and different.

Though the show is staged, the haunting of the institution turns out to be real. Are you shocked?

After being locked inside for the night, Lance and the crew discover that the stories are true; the place is infested with ghoulies and ghosties with contorted faces that were scarier the first time I saw them in The Ring, but it’s not those ghoulies and ghosties that are scary, anyway. Yeah, they provide the jump scares, which are the bread and butter of horror directors and writers, but what is scarier than that is the claustrophobia of the institution itself. As Lance and the crew try to escape, they discover that the institution has become a funhouse of sorts, with doors marked Exit opening onto long corridors, with the roof entry gone, and with time outside of the institution having no effect within its walls; one of the scariest parts comes when Lance discovers, after telling his crew that it would be light in a few hours and the whole ordeal would be over, that his watch is still ticking, and it is long past dawn outside the walls of Collingswood, but it is still the middle of the night inside. That is scary stuff, because it takes away the hope that the characters and that we, the audience, feel, when we think that soon the light of dawn will save the day. No matter what these people do, they cannot escape. The other scary parts include a certain character having a message cut into her back, and when each character begins to lose his or her minds, which reveals that regardless of one’s mental state going in, Collingswood will make you someone else.

I really dug this movie. If it had never showed the silly looking ghosts, I would have been just as creeped out, if not more so. The jump out scares were fun as always, but the scariest parts were watching these characters lose their minds, and watching as life outside the walls continues on without them. Could it be a metaphor?! Probably. But whatever. It was a good metaphor, and a good movie.

Then I watched Grave Encounters 2.

Ten minutes in, I was livid. Instead of making a sequel that expands upon the creepy claustrophobia and unique twists of the original, Grave Encounters 2 adds torture porn (which is fake, mind you, but still, if I wanted to watch torture porn, I would watch Saw or Hostel), random girl-on-girl make-outs, balls on people’s foreheads, drunken college parties, etc. etc. etc. It tries to continue the “satirical” elements of the first film by having Alex (Richard Harmon) setting out to make a convincing horror film. Now, in the first, Lance was trying to make a convincing horror television show, but still… You see the parallels. What annoys me most, though, about this movie is the whole, “Audience! You are watching a real life found film! Grave Encounters was real! And now, so is this!” Now, I know they don’t think that we actually believe this (and God, I hope people don’t actually believe it), but wasn’t that gimmick retired in the late 90’s with The Blair Witch Project? I am so over these movies pretending to be real. It was scary in the 90’s, when The Blair Witch Project was the only example of this marketing ploy. But now, it is tired. It is silly. It is boring.

This movie begins, and a half hour in, Alex and his friends have not even gone to the institution yet. I get that Alex was supposed to be investigating the first movie, so of course he would interview the mother of the first film’s main character, and of course he would try to track down the producer. Again, my issues with this come back to this movie trying to be scary by pretending that the first film is real. This is not scary. Again, this is ridiculous. This is tired. There is a lot of meta-narrative going on in these scenes, or some Inception-y film within a film shit, like the producer saying, “And they want to make a sequel! Grave Encounters 2!” and blimey, we’re watching Grave Encounters 2! How clever!

Do you want to know how many times Alex looks into the camera and mutters, in a trembling voice, “It’s all real. Grave Encounters is real?” So many times that I lost count. As if they couldn’t just leave it off with this nonsense in the beginning, they had to keep. freaking. repeating it. This is both an effort to make the movie scarier, and an effort to be clever. Another instance of this movie trying to be clever that jumps immediately to mind is when an Asian character proclaiming that “the ethnics always die first,” which, gee, could that be foreshadowing? Of course it is. Could it be an effort to satirize the horror movie genre, which would be an effort to make this film smarter than a shoddily thrown together low-budget sequel that did not need to be made? Of course it is.

So summing it up is actually very simple this time around: Grave Encounters = Good, clever, a little deeper than the surface level of most “found footage” B-movies. Grave Encounters 2 = SHIT. Pure, plain, and simple shit.

Were you expecting me to sugar-coat it? No. I won’t. SHIT.

Also, fun fact from a proud native Marylander: Though we do not have a Collingswood Hospital, we do have Rosewood, formerly known as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble-Minded. Opened in 1888, it was where relatives dumped their “mentally incompetent” family members. It was abandoned in 2009, and the through-road was closed to civilian vehicles, but it is still used as a training facility for policemen. Funnest fact of all? The university I attended is built right behind Rosewood–literally, you can see the two watch-towers from the grounds, and many students believe that the spirits of Rosewood haunt the buildings closest to the property. The entire time I attended school there, I wanted to sneak onto the grounds and investigate the 10+ abandoned buildings, but alas, we were told trespassers would spend the night in jail, and though my dad finds much of my debauchery funny, I do not think he would find that phone call funny.

Here’s a pic of three of the buildings:

rosewood(Source: https://autumn1311.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/abandoned/)

Here’s an article detailing the patient abuse scandals that eventually led to the Center being shut down permanently:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/03/baltimore_s_rosewood_scandal_wealthy_families_sprang_asylum_inmates_to_be.html

See, now that’s scary and it’s a true story. Someone make a movie about it.


If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, and be my friend follower.

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Shattered-Genesis-Eternity-Rudacille-ebook/dp/B009KC6XBO

http://www.amazon.com/Bargaining-Path-Eternity-Book-ebook/dp/B00JOOQYT4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411496318&sr=1-1&keywords=the+bargaining+path

The Judge: I Am Allergic to Schmaltz…

AJFJFJKDSKDKF OMFG RDJ is SO. HOT! I'm still dead from all the schmaltz, though. :(

I am allergic to schmaltz. No, I don’t mean rendered chicken or duck fat, I mean excessive sentimentality. That being said, I am most certainly not allergic to Robert Downey Jr., because he is literally the sexiest man to ever walk the face of the Earth. See? I established my bias early. You have been forewarned: I am a huge Robert Downey Jr. fan, so obviously, I am going to say that this is the movie equivalent of the second-coming of Christ, and RDJ is Jesus. Or at the very least, I am going to tell you that either Downey or this movie are positively destined for the Oscars. Right?

WRONG. I love Mr. Downey as an actor, a human being, and as a sex God, but that does not make me love every movie he is in. If anything should establish bias here, it is not my love of RDJ, it is my absolute, uncompromising, terrifyingly venomous hatred of the aforementioned schmaltz. Put me in front of the TV when Full House is on, and I will freaking combust, man. So when I heard the early reviews that said The Judge was full to the brim with schmaltz and tear-jerker moments and long, meaningful stare-downs between Downey and Duvall, I was like, “Dear God, my Hollywood boyfriend’s new movie is going to send me to the hospital in anaphalactic shock.”

But guess what, friends? Through the entire movie, I would be watching and my Schmaltz Censor would start droning like an air raid siren, and I would hunker down defensively in my chair, and then… Nothing happened. There was schmaltz, but even with my super sensitive schmaltz allergy, it did not make me cringe.

So my question, and I am going to be vulgar: WHAT THE FUCK IS EVERYONE WHINING ABOUT?!

Oh, right. All the other things that are wrong with this movie. Robert, baby, sweetheart, love… I’m sorry. But shit’s about to get real. Allow me to give you a “compliment sandwich” (which sucks a lot worse than you might think. Sorry. Sorry. I love you. Sorry.)

The performances were amazing. Downey’s Hank is a snarky, motor-mouthed big-shot attorney who spars expertly with Duvall’s gruff, stubborn curmudgeon, the Judge. There are moment when the two fight, and moments when they come together (there is a bathroom scene that literally made me cry (a little), because, unlike the rest of the movie, this was the only time cancer was depicted in all its awful realness, and seeing Hank care for his father in this vulnerable moment touched my really cold heart that is normally impervious to such things.) In fact, that bathroom scene is pretty much guaranteed to win Duvall an Oscar nod, and, fingers crossed, it will also win Downey one, too.

The plot is rife with cliches, though. Small-town-boy turned big-city-boy goes back to being a small-town-boy temporarily so he can attend his mother’s funeral (Oh, boy, dead parent, the catalyst for big-city-boy returning to small-town in many movies like this, and oh, look, it doubles as the “prodigal son returns” storyline, too), and while he is there, his father, with whom he has a very strained relationship, to say the least, is accused of committing a violent crime, and small-town-boy must stay to defend mean daddy. Could there be a reconciliation on the horizon!? Could there be a terminal illness to speed along said reconciliation?! Could all of this familial strife possibly have a happy ending?!

No spoilers, but… yeah. Of course it does. These movies always do, and if you have read the other reviews, then you have heard about the whole “multiple endings” thing, which really is reminiscent of the multiple fade-to-white-oh-but-you-thought-it-was-over?-It’s-not-over thing from The Return of the King. Everything wraps up in a neat little bow, and at the end of this post, there is going to be a spoiler, only so I can rant and rave a little bit. Stories do not need everything wrapped up in a neat little bow. Just because there is not going to be a sequel (we think) does not mean that a little open-endedness is a bad thing. Sometimes, having the audience ask questions and speculate about the answers to those questions is okay.

But let’s talk again about schmaltz. It is here. It is not nearly as bad as the trailers made it look. Those trailers gave me hives all over my body, because not only am I allergic to schmaltz, I am also allergic to obvious Oscar-baiting, which this movie totally is. The thing is, the story, written and directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, good. Fred Claus, BAD–Fred Claus required me to shoot myself up with epinephrine twice) is good, and I would say that at one time, it would be Oscar worthy. But today, it is part of this new trend of “everything including the kitchen sink” story-telling. Look at the aforementioned plot-points/cliches. Plus, there were so many characters who, though the actors who played them were very good, were so wildly unnecessary. The older brother, played by Vincent D’Onofrio? Well, sure, he’s needed. He’s the reason why Hank and his father are on such bad terms. Well, kind of. See, because there’s also this thing that happened in the past, and Dad looks at Hank, and remembers that thing. So that’s why they’re at odds. The younger brother, though he provides comic relief, is really only there for that purpose, and also so his hobby of filming everything on a Super 8 camera can further the plot. Which, gee, I guess is okay, even though he is clearly autistic, and should we really be laughing at someone with autism this much? After a while, it was almost as though he were functioning as a performing monkey, and that, my friends, is not okay. Every word out of his mouth was meant for comedic effect, and his hobby of filming his family functioned only as a way to further the plot, like when Hank discovers the true meaning of his father’s Chess games with a doctor. Or it was there to bring about more of these emotional (read–schmaltzy) revelations. So, what I am saying is, no, it’s not okay. Don’t treat autism as a way to further your story. Don’t treat it as comic relief. Don’t use it as ornament.  “T.! Lighten up! It’s not that serious,” you say. Wellllll, yeah, it is. You have to find the humor in life, as any parent to a child with autism will tell you, but there is a line that, once crossed, takes it too far. Like, when literally everything an autistic character says in a movie is supposed to make you laugh.

Downey and Duvall both deserve recognition for these performances, because they are able to make the audience forget about the schmaltz and melodrama and the attacks from all sides of so many different plot points, I felt like I was being attacked by one of those automatic tennis ball machines (brother could have been a Major Leaguer, injury caused by Hank takes him out, Hank’s old girlfriend has a daughter, could it be Hank’s daughter? Well, let’s hope not, he made out with her! And did I mention that Hank is getting a divorce? He’s getting a divorce, and he and his daughter have to have a heart-to-heart about getting divorced, blah blah…). That is saying something. They made me care about these characters, even when I was stewing over the use of autism as a secondhand plot-driver and as comic relief, even when I was sometimes internally cringing but not dying at the icky sentimentality. Want another example of the latter? When Vera Farmiga (who, side note, I loooooooove; Have you ever seen Running Scared? “I heard shots across the hall.” HOLY SHIT, love her!) says, in typical small-town girl wisdom, that she decided that she wanted to be the hero of her own story, I was like, “Am I watching a conversation between two adults, or am I watching a graduation speech being made?” And Billy Bob Thornton? Criminally underused. He has a total of about fifteen minutes of screen-time, and not nearly enough verbal sparring with Downey. Not cool, bro. Not cool. Opportunity wasted.

So, my verdict, to use courtroom lingo to talk about this movie, as though every other critic hasn’t done that already? I liked it. Were you expecting that? No, I’ll bet not. I’d watch it again. I hope Downey and Duvall get nominated. It is painfully cliched, it is an annoying collision of seventeen and a half different plots that could make seventeen and a half different movies, it stoked the mama bear in me who worked for two years with kids who have autism, but I wasn’t throwing up all over my bestie as the schmaltz triggered an immuno response. So, because that was my main fear going in, and because my expectations were so low, I was surprised by how much I cared about how everything turned out for Hank and the Judge, and that made me like the movie a little.

It is not nearly as glorious or groundbreaking as the stars, writers, and producers will have you believe, but it’s not as repulsively schmaltzy or freaking terrible as the trailer and critics would make you think. Keep your expectations very low and give it a shot, but maybe wait for the DVD.

I went for free. Maybe that’s why I’m not mad. Well, not mad about the money, at least.

AND NOW THERE ARE SPOILERS. AND A RANT. EVACUATE.

Can we talk about the depiction of the final days of a cancer patient? They are not spent in a freaking boat, while the patient is cognizant and able to impart a few more meaningful words. When the Judge dies, and a Bit o Honey wrapper falls symbolically to the floor of the boat, I exclaimed, in a very loud whisper, “It doesn’t fucking happen like that!” Have Hollywood writers ever seen someone die of cancer? Have they ever sat at their bedside while the person slowly becomes less responsive, less aware? Where the fuck did we get this idea that this is how people die of terminal illnesses? “But T, it’s more poetic this way. Why does everything have to be realistic?” You ask. Well, because, you know, it’s fucking real life! Drives me crazy. Sorry not sorry.

See?! I am mad!

Also, just to clarify this, more to myself than to anyone else, it is more of a sign that I respect my favorite actor when I am able to criticize him. It is way more of a sign of respect than, say, if I were to just fall on my knees and worship him every time he breathes. So, Robert, if you’re reading this, I still love you. And that’s why I can’t lie to you. And marry me.


If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, and be my friend follower.

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Shattered-Genesis-Eternity-Rudacille-ebook/dp/B009KC6XBO

http://www.amazon.com/Bargaining-Path-Eternity-Book-ebook/dp/B00JOOQYT4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411496318&sr=1-1&keywords=the+bargaining+path

Stop Me If You’ve Seen This One Before: A Review of Annabelle.

annabelle-poster

We get it, y’all: The doll is fucking scary. Pardon my French, but come on! In the poster above, she is even crying blood! So abandon all hope, ye who look upon that face, because I am reviewing Annabelle, the kind-of prequel to The Conjuring, a movie that was 100% better written and better executed, and therefore scarier than this cash-grabbing yet still kind of entertaining snooze-fest. It’s one of those movies that when people ask about it, you make that noncommittal noise like “Ehhhhhhhh” and shrug your shoulders, but it’s still worth a watch, even if just so you can look over at your friends and say, “DUDE. That doll is so fucking scary!”

Which is what I did. My girls and I from work went to see this yesterday at a matinee because, as we learned from going to see The Conjuring together, if it is too close to when we all go to bed (we all work in childcare, so we go to bed super early in order to get up super early), we’ll be tossing and turning all night. No matter how non-scary I find a movie, if I think about it at night, after I shut off my lamp and close my eyes, I’ll start thinking I hear sounds or that I feel someone standing by me. I mean, then I pass out and don’t care about the movie anymore, but still… For those few minutes, I am really scared, okay?!

Annabelle did not get to me, not in any sense except one. Because I am an aunt/surrogate mother to a toddler, any time I hear babies crying in horror movies, it gets to me. Let’s blame my unfailing maternal instincts. Let’s blame the love I have for my niece and nephew. Either way, babies crying or children being threatened in movies makes my skin crawl, but that does not mean that the horror movie I am watching is good. It just means that congratulations, filmmakers, you manipulated my biological nature that is responsible for the love and protectiveness I feel for children. Good on ya. (Not really.)

So was any of it scary??

Wellllll, the doll. Yeah, she’s creepy. Yeah, all through the movie, she shows up in weird places, or she moves around, or, at one part, her eyes get all blood-shot and terrible. But here’s the problem: We experienced that creepiness in minor doses in The Conjuring, and that was enough. Here, they try to give her an origin story (Satanic cult member slits her own throat, possesses doll to do her sadistic douchebaggery for her, blah blah), but that origin story is not nearly as affecting as the back-story for Bathsheba in The Conjuring. In fact, this “Crazy-Ass-from-Satanic-cult-possesses-doll” thing just seems like the easiest possible way to explain Annabelle’s evil nature. It just seems like the writers were sitting around and said, “Okay, what was scary in the late 60’s?” “Well, the Manson family was scary in the late ’60’s.” “Okay, Annabelle is possessed by the spirit of someone who is not in the Manson clan, but is in another totally evil Satanic cult, and that’s why she’s scary.” Is it historically pertinent? Certainly, and that is probably what the writers were going for. But to me, it’s a cop out. Yes, Satanic cults are scary, and yes, if we are to believe the evil-looking red text at the beginning of the film, dolls have been used as conduits in Satanic rituals for centuries. But the writers of The Conjuring went the Satanic route with Bathsheba’s back-story in The Conjuring. Yes, it’s true to this time period, but it’s stale now that we have seen the same story in The Conjuring, not to mention all the other movies about Satanic cults! It’s not shocking anymore. Here, the writers are trying to get us with the same gimmick twice.

Do I have a better suggestion for what Annabelle’s back-story could have been? No. But whatever. I’m not getting paid millions of dollars to make movies, and if I were, I can guarantee you I would try my damnedest not to rob people of $11 for mediocre sequel-prequel crap that recycles story-lines as well as scares.

There was one kind-of creepy moments among the otherwise “ehhh not-so-creepy” moments. Our protagonist, Mia (played by Annabelle Wallis who, ooh, scary, shares the name with the title character!!) is alone in a basement storage room when she sees a demon at the end of the hallway (a demon who, as another film critic pointed out, looks like Nightcrawler from X-Men) and even after she runs into the elevator, she can’t get the elevator to move off of that floor, no matter how many times her shaking hands push the buttons. This reminded me of the nightmares I have where I am trying to lock my door but can’t turn the lock, or I am trying to dial 911 but can’t make my fingers hit the right numbers. So Mia, realizing the elevator has been taken over by the forces of evil, runs into the stairwell, and once there, she reaches the top, and thanks to the uber-atmospheric lightning storm going on, she sees said Nightcrawler-demon crouched over on the stairs, staring up at her. This is creepy. He is not running towards her, at least not at first. He is just crouched in the shadows, looking up, and we the audience are unsure if what we are looking at is something scary until finally, our eyes register, we see it, and BOO! That’s when they get us. That is scary. That is a well-executed scare. But that only happens once in the movie. The rest of the time, it’s your typical jump-out scares, like there is a shadow behind a curtain, so why shouldn’t Mia just walk up to it so it can attack her and make the audience jump out of their seats?! Or oh, look, this was in the TV promo, where the little girl in the white nightgown is standing in the hallway, and then she runs through the door, and BOOM! She’s the fully grown, crazy-haired demon lady, and she’s screeching like a banshee on crack! Because that was the other problem, and it is a huge pet peeve of mine: every. scary. moment. is in. the damn. previews. Literally. Did you watch the theatrical trailer? Well, guess what? You just watched the first twenty-minutes of this movie. Literally. You’ve seen the murder of the neighbors, the murderers breaking into the protagonists’ house, the “I like your dolllllllllllll,” and the murder of the murderers. All you’ve missed is that these two protagonists are church-going folk, and that their neighbor’s daughter ran away to join a cult (wink, wink, what cult could she possibly have joined?!)

This movie was profoundly not scary. It was predictable. It was silly. The ending was so ridiculous, and again, such an easy cop out, that I actually sighed heavily and rolled my eyes. But the experience of seeing this with my friends made it worth the $11, and I would watch it again despite it not holding a ghostly-levitating candle to the original film from which this film spun-off. My verdict? Save your money unless you are prepared to pay for a shoddily thrown-together prequel that recycles the scares of The Conjuring. Wait for Redbox, when you can pay a dollar for cheap entertainment, and then, keep your expectations low. It’s better than other movies for which one would tell you to keep your expectations low, but it’s not good enough to warrant an hour and a half in uncomfortable seats while teenagers all around you who snuck into the theater scream at every little thing.

Though, honestly, it might be worth it if your friends are like mine, and they’ll laugh and roll their eyes right along with you at the ridiculousness of it all.


If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, and be my friend follower.

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Shattered-Genesis-Eternity-Rudacille-ebook/dp/B009KC6XBO

http://www.amazon.com/Bargaining-Path-Eternity-Book-ebook/dp/B00JOOQYT4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411496318&sr=1-1&keywords=the+bargaining+path

Creepy Dolls, Ghostly Old Crones, and Countless Cliches: A Review of Dead Silence

deadsilence

Dear Horror Directors, Writers, and Producers:

Can we talk about tired horror cliches? There is one in particular that drives me absolutely batty (ha-ha, horror puns), and it’s the idea of the Sympathetic Ghost, or the Sympathetic Psycho, depending on whether you’re watching a supernatural or a slasher film. Can I be totally honest with you? SYMPATHETIC GHOST and/or SYMPATHETIC KILLER KILLS MOVIES. Ignore the strange grammatical conundrum that is that sentence, and heed these words like I am one of the gnarled old people in horror movies (another tired cliche) who warn the young’ins not to go lookin’ for trouble. HEED MY WORDS!

Alright. I’m addressing the rest of the room now.

What brought the need to address this issue about? Gaze upon the poster above, and you will see. (Cryptic speech, another really annoying cliche.) Look upon it, and swear to debunk the mystery of this blog post, swear that you don’t know how, but you are “GOING TO END THIS THING!” (Another cliche.) Hold a lantern, turn your head on the side quizzically, slowly open your eyes a little wider as the horror of the solution to that mystery dawns upon you (oh, is that another cliche? Why, yes. Yes it is.) Listen to the creepy children singing or humming (and another cliche) and fear the gnarled-knuckled old woman with the white face powder and the dead lifeless eyes rimmed in black (Bam, Boom, Whatchu gonna do, cuz… it’s another cliche) and always, ALWAYS, look upon ANY kind of doll with nothing but absolute distrust and terror, even ones that look innocent (Cabbage Patch? Barbie? Bratz? No. SATAN!) Go investigate the dark, scary, dilapidated house/abandoned theatre/hospital/etc., telling yourself that the answer is there, and nothing bad could possibly happen, because you’re the plucky hero or heroine, and at the very least, you’ll see five minutes until the end credits, and girls, if you’re good and wholesome and shun drugs and sex, you’ll probably see the credits and a sequel! Go on. Do all of that. Become the living embodiment of every tired cliche.

Because as the GODS OF HORROR know, Dead Silence has living (or living dead) embodiments of every tired horror movie cliche there is. Zing! I have finally arrived at the point! You’re welcome.

I watched this movie way back in the day, and though I might have been too young to see it in the theater, my friends and I caught it on Pay-Per-View because it just looked so scary, bro; dolls are fuckin’ scary! I remember being mildly perturbed by it, because back when I was 14, 15, 16, 17… I was a little wussy when it came to horror movies. Seriously. I saw The Grudge when I was 13 and got so scared that I had actual, full-blown panic attacks every night before I went to sleep. My therapist said that maybe horror movies weren’t such a good idea. In fact, it pretty much infuriated her every time I watched one, and rightfully so; why would a wimpy teenager prone to anxiety and/or panic attacks watch movies that are chock full of anxiety and panic? Well, I said I was facing my fears, but really, I craved the adrenaline rush I got when I pictured myself in the scary situations I saw in the movies, all while secretly dreading the day when these films wouldn’t leave me sitting up half the night, sweating and shaking and panicking and watching the Disney Channel even though I was 13. That day came, though. Freaking adulthood. It ruins everything. Now, I watch them, and I still find them thrilling, but I don’t feel them after they’re over like I used to. I guess that’s a good thing, but I digress.

Dead Silence made it into my Review Pile of “Obsolete Movies to Watch On Netflix” because 1) It’s old; it was made in 2007, so you’ve probably forgotten about it, because it is quite forgettable; 2) It got terrible reviews, but I didn’t remember it as being too terrible, and 3) This is my blog, and I can review whatever I want, even if it’s not necessarily that obsolete, because in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been using that word incorrectly this whole time. What I realized after watching the lovely Ryan Kwanten (pre-Jason Stackhouse) fight mean old dolls and mean old ghost ladies is that 1) It is old, 2) The terrible reviews were justified only if you took the movie seriously to begin with, and 3) …That still stands. This movie is old, and in fact, it is one of the earlier movie partnerships between James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who, in case you didn’t know, made the Saw and Insidious movies together. James Wan also made The Conjuring, which is hands down one of my favorite horror movies, so I count myself as one of his fans. I count myself as one of Whannell’s fans, too, because I loved the first Insidious, and boy, are there traces of Dead Silence in Insidious and The Conjuring. It’s like Wan and Whannell looked at what worked for Dead Silence (or rather, what they thought worked) like the aforementioned creepy white-face-powder wearing, black-rimmed-eyed woman (of whom we saw the way, way scarier version in Insidious), the creepy doll (of whom we saw the way, way scarier version in The Conjuring) and were like, “Yeah, let’s take that stuff and put it in a movie with a script that doesn’t suck!” There’s even a little bit of Saw in Dead Silence, specifically in the ending, when the twist is revealed, and the Charlie Clouser music starts playing loudly and dramatically, and we see flashbacks to all the points in the movie where we should have seen the twist coming, where everything was right in front of our faces the whole time, and WTF, THEY GOT ME AGAIN! Say what you want about the Double W’s, but at least they’re consistent in their gimmicks. In fact, they improve upon them as time goes on.

This movie is positively RIFE with cliches. Almost every moment in it is a cliche. Boy loses wife in a violent murder. Boy returns home to his small town that is shrouded in the dark cloud of a sinister past to solve aforementioned violent murder of wife. Boy realizes the distinct part his family plays in the sinister past of the town. Boy is hounded by sarcastic police officer with a strange quirk that is supposed to be funny but is really just kind of dumb (in this case, the cop is played by Donnie Wahlberg, who is in Saw II, if you recall, and the strange quirk is that he is constantly using an electric razor for no apparent reason). This cliched plot line, coupled with all the cliches I listed four paragraphs ago, should have made Dead Silence one of those movies that I watched and laughed at. And I did laugh. Trust me, I laughed, and not in a good way. But goddamn it, I was entertained! The cliches are loud. They are in your face, and not because Wan and Whannell are trying to satirize them. No, they are playing the cliches fast and loose, and I don’t even think they realize it, but whatever! There were parts that made me go, “Ewwwwwwwww!” (two words: “human dolls”) and parts that made me go, “You know, the effects are terrible, but I appreciate that they tried.” Plus, I had fun going, “Oh, they did that in Insidious. They did that in The Conjuring. And that is recycled from Saw.” It’s like when I have my Tarantino binges, and I see alllllll the cool things that are totally him, like the out-of-the-trunk shots, and the dialogue that doesn’t really mean anything but is still freaking genius or hilarious, or in the case of the first twenty minutes of Inglourious Basterds, freaking terrifying and tense and crazy and awesome (and anxiety-inducing, by the way, thanks Quentin!) I love watching a huge collection of work from same actor or writer or director, because you see the little nuances and quirks and tropes and themes that make each of them unique. I don’t know, maybe that’s the English major in me, because I do it with authors, too (Stand by for my posts on the consistencies in John Green’s books and JK Rowling’s books, which I promise will be more interesting than they sound), but I just think it’s the coolest thing.

Would I recommend Dead Silence to a friend? Probably, but I would preface or follow my recommendation with, “It’s not great. It’s barely good. It is a ‘turn-off-your-brain, turn-up-the-volume-so-you’ll-at-least-jump, pretend-this-is-your-first-time-at-the-horror-movie-rodeo,’ movie. It is solely for entertainment.” And as I have said before, sometimes that’s totally okay. Just watch a movie because it keeps you entertained for an hour and a half to two hours. But usually, that’s only okay when you pay less than a dollar for the movie or you don’t pay for it at all, and though I pay for my Netflix subscription, I have countless other truly awesome movies to watch that are for more than “just entertainment,” so I ain’t even mad.

Don’t run to your computer or gaming system and watch Dead Silence right this second. Wait til you’re in the mood for a horror movie, and you’ve exhausted all the truly awesome ones on Netflix, and then give this one a watch. As long as you don’t think about the cliches or the sometimes really bad effects or the weird acting, you’ll probably be entertained. Probably. I make no promises. But I hope for the best for you. And if you hate it, go watch The Conjuring or Insidious, and if you hate them, then I don’t know what to tell you. Watch something you like, and ignore me.


If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, and be my friend follower.

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Shattered-Genesis-Eternity-Rudacille-ebook/dp/B009KC6XBO

http://www.amazon.com/Bargaining-Path-Eternity-Book-ebook/dp/B00JOOQYT4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411496318&sr=1-1&keywords=the+bargaining+path

Reason #1 Why We Never Buy Other People’s Crap: The Lassar Glass. My Review of Oculus

oculus poster

Image Courtesy of Impawards.com

I don’t like the poster with the hands over Karen Gillan’s eyes because it reminds me too much of the poster for the American remake of One Missed Call, with the mouths where the eyes should be. And when I think of that movie, I think of mediocrity, and mediocrity makes me sad.

one missed calloculus2

Images Courtesy of RogerEbert.com (for Oculus) and Imdb.com (for One Missed Call).

See the resemblance? Yeah, me neither, now that I look at them side by side. But whatever.

I watched Oculus. Actually, I watched it in theaters when it first came out, but I had not jump-started this blog again by then, so my review is coming after my second viewing. Here’s the short version: This movie is way more psychological than your typical horror film. Though there are certainly the typical horror tropes of gross-out moments (Oozing C-section scars and ghosts with bloody toothless gums and people ripping off fingernails, oh my!) and jump-out scares, the question of whether Kaylie and Tim are just survivors of a traumatic past who invented a story about an evil mirror to avoid facing that their father was a murderer or if the mirror truly does house a malignant supernatural entity was what made this movie cool. Plus, once the mirror starts playing its tricks, and we’re left to decipher, along with Kaylie and Tim, what is real and what is not, that is when the film starts making you think, and everyone who reads this blog knows I love to think (read–overthink) while I’m watching movies and TV. (See my post, “In Today’s Edition of Overthinking Things While Watching TV…”

The story goes that Kaylie and Tim, as children, watched their parents devolve from sane, rational, loving, normal people into rabid, crazy, murderous nut-jobs in the space of two weeks. When their father kills their mother (and then Tim kills their father), they are separated, with Tim going into a mental hospital and Kaylee being sent into the foster system. Before they can be parted, though, they make a promise to destroy the mirror they believe is responsible for their father and mother’s mental devolution and deaths, and years later, when Tim is released, Kaylee convinces him to join her as she makes to keep that promise.

There are three things that stand out most to me about what happens next:

1. I love love love the binary of reason versus emotion in movies, and Tim and Kaylie represent the two sides of that binary perfectly. Over his years in the mental hospital, Tim has been told that everything he remembers about the days leading up to his parents’ deaths has a totally rational explanation, while Kaylie believes that everything she saw was the work of the mirror. When Kaylie sees a lady standing behind her father in his office, she believes it is a ghost from the mirror, while Tim believes that his father was having an affair. Kaylee counters that with how she has looked through their credit card bills and saw no purchases that would indicate an affair. Throughout the movie, Tim gives a logical explanation, and Kaylee counters it with one about the mirror, or Kaylee gives an explanation in which the mirror is to blame, and Tim counters it with logic. I liked that back-and-forth, because both sides, even Kaylie’s, held weight at various times. The two sides fought, and the second one side won, the other side would swipe underneath and make me think, “Oh, well that makes sense, too.”

2. THE BACK-STORY. A creepy back-story is a MUST in horror movies. Quick personal but very much related note: When The Conjuring came out, and I saw the poster with the house in the background, and the noose hanging from the tree, I sighed heavily in irritation and wondered why everyone was saying that the film was so scary, when obviously the poster indicated the tired old back-story of a woman who was falsely accused of witchcraft or some such crime and was hanged wrongfully, and now she is back to get revenge. Can I tell you something? Sympathizing with the ghost never results in me being scared. Never. Never, ever, ever. Once I start feeling like the ghost is justified in terrorizing people, I don’t necessarily start rooting for it, but I am definitely not afraid of it. If you saw The Conjuring, then you know that I was absolutely wrong about the back-story, and that it was ONE MILLION times scarier than that (no spoilers, but it’s not the tired trope of the wrongfully accused and therefore vengeful ghost. Not at all, my friends.) In Oculus, Kaylee gives the back-story by cycling through crime scene photos of all the mirror’s former owners, and holy shit, what that mirror allegedly made people do to themselves and their families is seriously gnarly. Inside most of us, there is a desire to see grim, morbid, and macabre things, and during this part in the movie (it comes about twenty-five minutes in), I was totally immersed, and even as I was going, “Ew. Ew. OMG EW!” I kept wanting to hear more, because that mirror has one sordid history, and that sordid history is what makes it so scary. This is the hook. This is what makes us want to see what happens from here on out.

3. Kaylee is smart. She has clearly thought of everything, and that took away my ability to sit and pick apart her plan, to see where it would fail before it even began. Plus, it led to something else that was particularly scary: if this mirror can dupe Kaylee after all the preparations she made, then clearly, it is a freakishly powerful entity. This girl has a yacht anchor rigged to an intricate, timed system that will drop the anchor into the mirror with sufficient force to break it if a timer is not manually reset every 30 minutes. As Kaylee says, this puts “a loaded gun” to the mirror’s head, and will make it “eager to come out and defend itself.” The lengths she goes to account for all the variables, to plan for every change, and to ensure that she gets results (she brings a dog to show that animals disappear when the mirror is present; she puts plants around the house to show that the mirror kills them; she ensures that she and Tim eat and drink water every hour to prevent them from getting loopy and hallucinating the evil effects of the mirror, etc.) are air-tight, it seems, and yet still, the mirror is able to trick her, not only by sabotaging the experiment but by tricking her mind into not knowing what is real and what is not.

I won’t spoil the ending, because (and this isn’t really a spoiler), it obviously leaves everything open for a sequel. Normally, I hate when I realize that I have just been sucked into another franchise, because I always think (as a pessimist) that in nine cases out of ten, sequels are shoddily thrown together bastard children of their predecessors. But if this movie gets a sequel, I will definitely give it a chance, because I though this one was so cool.

So if you want something that is a little bit more intricate than your typical slasher film or ghost movie, then you should definitely check this out. It will make the logical person in you say, “Yes, Fuzzy Trace Theory, that makes perfect sense,” but then immediately after, it will make the superstitious person in you say, “But Fuzzy Trace Theory doesn’t explain why that lady chewed through a live wire and that other lady pulled out her own teeth…” Ew, ew, ew!


If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, and be my friend follower.

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Shattered-Genesis-Eternity-Rudacille-ebook/dp/B009KC6XBO

In Today’s Edition of “Overthinking Things While Watching TV,” We Observe Binary Logic! (Sound fun?! DOES IT SOUND FUN?! Good. I think so, too.)

So everyone who reads this blog knows that I just recently watched a movie that was called The Philosophers in other countries and After the Dark here in the good ole US of A. It’s a film about a group of students, under the guidance of their teacher, who imagine multiple scenarios in a hypothetical post-apocalyptic world in which each of their traits are assessed in order to determine their worthiness of a coveted spot within a bomb-proof bunker. Of course, it is deeper than even that (and that all sounds pretty deep), so it has gotten me thinking over these past few weeks since I watched it. One line of dialogue to which my mind keeps reverting is when Georgina, played by Bonnie Wright, tells her teacher that he is “a slave to binary logic.” Because now, as I think about that quote, it makes me think, aren’t we all?

I just watched the episode of The Strain called “The Disappeared,” and that’s how this whole blog post idea came to be. For the duration of this episode, Setrakian, Eph, Nora, and Vasiliy are stuck inside of a gas station store, trying to fight their way out while a hoard of vampires or the Infected, depending on if you’re talking to Setrakian or Eph, respectively, try to break in and slaughter them all. And that right there is a binary: Setrakian believes they are vampires, creepy creatures of lore tied back to one Maker, the pure-evil Master, while Eph thinks that they are people sick with a “transformative disease” that “makes them very dangerous.” So the Master is either the embodiment of some ancient evil or he is a really unfortunately powerful Patient Zero. This whole two-characters-representing-two-separate-viewpoints thing isn’t new: Remember Rick and Shane on The Walking Dead, when the issue of the injured boy they had found arose? Remember Rick and Hershel, and how Rick viewed the walkers as undead killing machines that needed to be slaughtered for the well-being of his group, and Hershel viewed them as sick people in need of his help? In the movie from which this whole question arose, After the Dark, the teacher represents logic, and Petra, his prized pupil, represents emotion, and it is readily obvious. And as I think about this, I realize that all this binary logic jazz always breaks down into just that: Reason versus logic.

Rick: They’re dead. They’re a danger to us. Reason.
Hershel: They used to be human. They’re sick. Emotion.

Setrakian: The Master made them. They’re vampires. Emotion.
Eph: It’s a virus. They’re sick. Reason.

Mr. Zimit: Only healthy doctors, engineers, soldiers, etc. have a place inside of the bunker, while poets, gelato makers, opera singers, etc. do not. Reason.
Petra: Poets, gelato makers, opera singers, etc. have a place in the bunker because they will make the other survivors happy in this post-apocalyptic world. Emotion.

There are hundreds of examples of this in books, movies, and television, because this is how most people think. All of this might be vaguely overthinking things, but hey, I’m a former English major, and overthinking things is what I do.

So, why is realizing that binary logic is not only inevitable but broken down into reason versus logic in popular story-telling important? Well, to us writers, it’s important because clearly, the reliance on this trope is an affective story-telling technique. No, I did not mean “effective.” I meant what I said. It affects us by triggering both our inclination to view things through the cold, hard lens of logic and the soft, human lens of emotion. It makes us think. It makes us question. What would I do? If I had found an injured boy in the city, and I had no idea from where he had come, and what his people were like, would I kill him to keep my people safe, or would I think that he is a human, and who am I to take a human life? If I were dealing with a hoard of rabid human-like creatures who use their long, gross tongues to turn humans into what they are, would I view them as people sick with a “transformative” virus, or would I immediately think that they were really gross vampires? Asking these questions is important while we are watching movies and television and reading. I don’t want to make it sound more glorious than it is, but when we ask these questions, we learn more about ourselves. Most of the time, I think we realize, as we assess things through the lens of this “binary logic” that we are a mixture of emotion and logic. We are, perhaps, a perfect 50/50 split. Sometimes, we realize we are more logic than emotion, or vice versa, and that’s where things get really fun. Obviously, using popular culture to define ourselves has its hazards, but isn’t the reason why we watch and read this stuff so we can have a cathartic experience, so we can place ourselves in the story and ask what we would do?

I, for one, am more emotion than reason, while the character I write the best in my series is more logic than emotion, at least at first. And that is also where things get fun: when you force yourself to view the other side, to live in it for just a little while. A 50/50 split is good, but falling on either side of the fence is where the magic happens, if you ask me.

A Country Cannibal Clan That Isn’t A Cliche?! WHAAAAA?! : A Review of “Hell.”

hell2011

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve talked about how I am going to review the lesser-known movies that I come across on Netflix. So far, I have reviewed Black Death (well, I ranted about it, and you can read that rant here: https://teerudacille.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/a-rant-about-a-terrible-movie-called-black-death/) and After the Dark (which I loved, and you can read my slobberfest here: https://teerudacille.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/ive-been-thinking-a-review-of-after-the-dark-a-movie-you-have-ignored-on-netflix-but-shouldnt/). I am on this mission a) because it’s fun, and b) because my Dad is constantly complaining that there are no good movies on Netflix.

Now, I am a huge horror fan, and one of the most brutal horror movies I have ever seen was a French film called High Tension, and one of my favorite horror movies I have ever seen was a German film called Dead Snow (it’s kind of a comedy, too, but it’s a classic, watch it on Netflix!). So when I saw that this film was not American, the Hipster in me came to life and demanded that I watch it cuz foreign horror filmmakers are just on a totally different level than American horror filmmakers, man! (No disrespect to American horror filmmakers. Or Ben Affleck.) Also, the writer of post-apocalyptic fiction in me was curious to see how this film would handle a sun-ravaged wasteland where humans can’t even go outside. Because “hell” means “bright” in German; that is where the movie gets its name, though I am sure that having us English-speaking folk think they meant Hell as in the Devil’s Mancave was intentional.

The story goes that it is the not-too-distant future and the Earth has warmed up by several degrees. Survivors search for shelter from the blazing sun and scavenge for food and water all while having to wear masks and sunglasses and various other items of protective gear. Marie (played by Hannah Herzsprung), her little sister, Leonie (played by Lisa Vicari), and this really smarmy looking dude who picked them up along the road named Philip (played by Lars Eidinger) are driving along when they are ambushed by some fellow survivors, their car is wrecked, Phillip is injured, and Leonie is taken. I know what you’re thinking: What a clusterfuck! If it were me, smarmy boy-toy would be on his own (sorry not sorry) and I’d be hunting down my little sister (who, coincidentally, I had a dream about last night that she was being held captive by employees of a local supermarket chain because I had gotten so frustrated with my dyslexia while trying to enter a produce code in one of those self-checkout lines that I had left without paying, and I saved her by stealing a cop car. Weird.) Marie does set off to hunt down her sister, but she drags Phillip along with her. It is while she is on this hunt that she comes to a big ole farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and what could go wrong, guys? What, dare I ask you silly cynics, could possibly go wrong at this isolated farmhouse in East Jesus Nowhere?

CANNIBALS. That’s what!

Now, at this point, I assumed the movie was going to go into all the typical tropes of the post-apocalyptic and horror genres: they would encounter some backwoods family who are so evil and disgusting that they would be comical if I were not suppressing my gag reflex at how toothless and dirty and incomprehensible they are. There is a backwoods family in this movie, as it turns out, but they are none of the above. They’re cannibals, yes. They are keeping Marie and Leonie in their house and plan to marry Marie to their oldest son so that she can get pregnant and continue the human race, yes. But once you look past those things (ha! As if you could or should), they’re strangely rational. They’re not the larger-than-life stereotypes of backwoodsian insanity that I expected them to be. If this were an American film (and I hate to sound like a hipster here, but I will), they would be “hee-hawin'” and spittin’ and “well, shoot!-in'” for the duration of their screen time. Here, they are soft-spoken and almost kind. It is obvious that they were a normal family who were driven to these means by these harsh and dangerous circumstances, because they had no other choice. As disgusting as it is, it was either “abduct girls to marry to our sons so we can continue the human race” or “we and the rest of the human race die,” and it was either “eat people” (cuz all the animals are dead) or “starve.” It would have been easy to hate this movie and to write it off as totally derivative if these people had come off as typical villainous country-bumpkin cannibals, but they’re not like that at all, and it was the depth of the villains that made me keep watching. Though I was thinking to myself, “I could never do that!” and though I was rooting for Marie and Leonie to get away, I could not write off the villains as just crazy assholes who were killing for fun. I like movies that make me think not in black and white (Marie and Leonie = Good, Cannibal Family = Bad) but in all the shades of gray. That was why I loved After the Dark, because it made me think “what would I do?” and it made me level reason against emotion. Hell made me challenge myself to imagine a world free of the constraints of societal norms, where only the fittest will survive, and what exactly being or becoming the fittest entails. What would we have to sacrifice in order to prolong our lives? By Hell‘s standards, surviving requires a compromising of humanity for the most part but not completely, because though this cannibal family are capturing people on the road and eating them, they are kind to the two protagonists (until the last twenty or so minutes), and they are weirdly rational. I like that it had that depth.

Oh, and also, those last few shots? After all was said and done? They made me feel feelings, and believe me, it’s hard to make me do that.

So if you’re scrolling through that endless list of titles, getting dizzier all the while, and you come across this movie, definitely check it out, because any movie that trades stereotypes in favor of more intricate character depth is worth a watch, in my opinion.

If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, be my friend follower!

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

A Brief Hiatus

To all my new followers:

Please don’t feel that you have followed me in vain, and that now, I will disappear off the edge of the planet. I have disappeared, but I have disappeared from Maryland to reappear in Florida, and I will return to Maryland (and my laptop) on Sunday, at which time I will begin blogging again.

Here are some topics to look forward to:

1. Pictures from this amazing trip to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, including all the pictures I take of the new attractions at Fantasyland and Diagon Alley.

2. A movie review of the German horror film, Hell, which is yet another really good obsolete movie I found on Netflix by chance.

3. A spoiler-free discussion of where the thus-far untitled third book in the Eternity series stands now, and when you can expect to see it in online stores.

4. My musings on the idea of “selling out” in order to gain a readership and sell lots of books, because this is something I am told to do by friends and family on a regular basis, and it drives me CRAZY. (Cuz though I may have only a small readership and literally no money made off of this book, I have a little something called “integrity.”)

5. Talking about steampunk and/or slipstream, and this really annoying idea I can’t get out of my head about writing something in one or both of those categories.

Sound good? Awesome!

If you like this post, hit the “Like” button, and be my friend follower!

I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!

Thanks for reading!

A Review of “After the Dark,” A Movie You Have Ignored on Netflix But Shouldn’t.

after the dark

Image Credit: Imdb.com

Does that poster make you think that that mushroom cloud is hypothetical? Does that tagline “Smart. Talented. Beautiful. Stranded.” make you think that those smart, beautiful, talented, stranded people are stranded hypothetically? No? Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but I am going to!

The original title (and the international title) for this movie was The Philosophers. Just let that sink in. Think for a moment about why they changed it. Did you think about it? Okay, then now you know that it was changed here in the States because American audiences are more likely to accept some mind-numbing post-apocalyptic drivel than a film that makes us think. I’m not saying that “films that make us think” and “films that take place in a post-apocalyptic setting” are mutually exclusive categories. I’ve got nothing against post-apocalyptic, speculative fiction, either in book form or in film, but let’s be honest: it’s been over-saturating the market so much lately that it is even more obviously derivative of all that came before it, and yet it still sells. Keep in mind that this is coming from a writer of post-apocalyptic science fiction, so obviously, my gripes are not that serious. But we’re being honest.

I am on a quest to review most of the movies that I watch on Netflix, because let’s be honest about Netflix, too, by saying that once you have exhausted all the big movies you have been waiting forever to watch, you are left with a bunch of obsolete titles the merits of which are unknown. The only way to determine that merit is to watch the ones interest you, and that is how I came to view this film, After the Dark,  as it is called here in the US. I chose it for no other reason than that it sounded interesting, and believe me, it was.

It goes like this:

In a classroom in Jakarta, Indonesia, a group of students is ready to suffer through their last Philosophy class under Mr. Zimit (James D’Arcy), their automatically suspicion-worthy teacher. Don’t ask me why he’s automatically suspicion-worthy; maybe it’s his British-ness (even though other characters are British), maybe it’s his dark hair and dark eyes, maybe it’s his deep voice, maybe it’s his pants, I don’t know! Like a lot of movies set in a classroom, it is hard to tell if his students are supposed to be in high school or college, and yet though these kids look to be college-age (as they always do, because twenty-something-year old actors are playing them) and though the topics they are discussing are more befitting of a college-level Ethics course than of a high school-level Philosophy class, they are in high school. On this final day of class, Mr. Zimit presents to them a philosophical query: Nuclear bombs are falling, there is a bunker built for ten, and each student has an occupation that will determine whether he or she is valuable enough to gain one of those ten coveted spots. In each simulation where the students try to determine the most appropriate answer to this query, they turn on each other and their teacher, becoming more and more volatile as this intellectual game continues.

Now, when I first looked at the poster above, I thought that this was going to be a run-of-the-mill apocalypse movie. I missed the part in the Netflix description that said the nuclear holocaust was hypothetical, but what this movie did particularly well was make us forget that the apocalypse was only hypothetical. Part of the ability to suspend our knowledge of that fact was that the simulations are run within this nuclear apocalypse setting. We watch as every student shares his or her occupation, as the other students vote, and as the winners take their place within the shelter and the losers die, as the bombs are dropping, and we watch the events play out within the bunker in real time. Obviously, they would not have shot an hour and forty-five minutes of students sitting around a classroom talking, but still, the simulations were the coolest part of the movie, because that is where the viewing audience becomes most immersed, watching these students fight for their place and die if they are not awarded one, or die regardless. It is also in this simulation that the twists of the movie come out, and this is where I go into spoilers, so if you have not seen the film, stop reading here!

SPOILER WARNING! (Seriously, stop reading.)

There were so many parts of this movie that caught me by surprise. Several parts made me literally gasp. When Mr. Zimit says in the first simulation that he is the wild card, and they choose him, and then after he is expelled from the group, it is revealed that his “wild card” is that he is the only one who knows the exit code. When Georgina (Bonnie Wright, Ginny from Harry Potter, who was great in this), so sure that she will have a place because she is a doctor, is revealed to possibly be sick with Ebola in the second simulation, thus crushing her chances of gaining entry into the bunker. When Mr. Zimit changes the rules of the game in the second simulation and says that each bunker must produce a child, and then turns on Bonnie (Katie Findlay), who is playing the soldier, after she stands up to his decree that all the women within the bunker must have multiple partners in order to ensure that a child is conceived. When Chips (Daryl Sabara) sacrifices his life in order to save Petra’s (Sophie Lowe).

And then there were the parts that made me feel feelings. This came mainly when Petra runs her version of the simulation, and chooses all those Mr. Zimit deemed unworthy of a place in the bunker. Together, they live harmoniously and happily for the full year with music and poetry and games and love, and when they step out, and are faced with death once again, they choose it willingly because they have lived so happily. Now, this is obviously an overt attempt to show the viewer the contrast between Petra and Mr. Zimit. They are emotion versus logic, morally right versus morally wrong, respectively, and are those not the central questions of Ethics? Petra is idealistic, Mr. Zimit is realistic, and while Petra makes her speech, Mr. Zimit lowers her grade from an A+ down to a C- because in his mind, her choice of emotion over logic is antithetical to what he has been trying to teach her, and as it is revealed in the ending, he has ulterior motives for wanting her to see that logic should always trump emotion, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Petra’s version of events got me thinking, and though I was touched by her idealism, I found myself siding more, in a way, with Mr. Zimit. Georgina is admitted to the bunker despite the possibility of being infected with Ebola because Petra says she will just hope that Georgina doesn’t have it, and her defense of that choice is that she, meaning Petra, and everyone else could die any day, so why worry about the future? Well, because you have been given a second chance in this hypothetical scenario, and you are choosing to possibly eradicate everyone in your bunker with a highly infectious disease. Granted, Ebola is not capable of being spread through the air, but still. It is contagious, and it is not a pretty death. I was touched by her inclusion of the poet, who never got a chance to speak for himself (because if he had, he could have said that even though what he would bring to the bunker is only art, art is cathartic and would bring joy to these people who are being cooped up in a bunker for a year) and the opera singer (who can also distract them away from their claustrophobic environment with her art form), but the gelato maker? If he were able to make gelato, I would say “hell yeah!” because obviously, good food but especially desserts make people happy. But he is shown dancing around in the corridor with a broom, to which Petra says something like, “you never know what other skills a gelato maker might have.” So… dancing with a broom is a skill? I guess it is supposed to be in the same line of what I just said, that he was capable of making people happy, but… He’s dancing with a broom. Am I missing something? Maybe. Am I simplifying things? A little bit. But couldn’t they also have said that his knowledge of making gelato could also make him knowledgeable in preparing other food, or something other than the fact that he dances in a dark corridor by himself with a broom?!

Now the ending. The film should have ended with the kids placing their books on Mr. Zimit’s desk, but then how would we ever understand Mr. Zimit’s animosity towards James, Petra’s boyfriend?! It couldn’t just be that he thinks James is a slacker who doesn’t live up to his potential. No, it HAS to be that Mr. Zimit is having an affair with Petra, and feels like James is stealing her away from him! OH. MY. GOD! ARE YOU SHOCKED?!?!?!?!?!

I was, but NOT in a good way. All of the moments I talked about earlier that shocked me did so in a way that further immersed me in the story, and this shocker just turned me away from it. How contrived and unnecessary! This “twist” comes in the final ten minutes. Petra and Mr. Zimit talk about how she and James are going to Cornell for college, and Mr. Zimit tells her James is not worthy of her because he is not a logical match for her. He is not as smart, not as dedicated to his education, blah blah blah. Forget that the only thing that James has done wrong up until this point was show up literally a minute late to class. Forget that he has been contributing intellectual thoughts into the thought experiment. But no, Mr. Zimit thinks that James is unworthy and he is a better match for Petra, I suppose, because they are both thinkers or whatever. It is certainly not because opposites attract, as Petra is emotion, and Mr. Zimit is logic, because like I said, he seems to frown on that binary. It can only be because we are supposed to be shocked.

After his conversation with Petra, Mr. Zimit goes through three simulations that mirror the three simulations his class just went through: In the first, he goes to his office after his final talk with Petra and sadly eats a sandwich alone (which must relate in some way to the first simulation ending, because the other two scenarios here parallel with the endings of the other two simulations); in the second, he goes to his office and blows his brains out (ending in violence like the second simulation); and in the third, he goes to his office and pictures Petra’s lovely face (the idealistic ending, like the third simulation). I think that it was for this parallel that the ending with Petra was tacked on. Perhaps we were supposed to be distracted away from the unnecessary plot point that threw off the groove of the movie with the cleverness of the parallel.

So did the ending kill the movie? No. I wish the movie would have ended with the kids placing their books on the desk and walking out, but whatever. It didn’t. I still highly recommend this movie, and I am still thinking about it, even a few days after I watched it. Watch it for yourselves, and see what you make of it.

God knows there is enough crap on Netflix that a movie even with a semi-bad, gimmicky ending is worth a shot, if the road to that ending is thought-provoking and shocking in a good way. Or is that idealistic?

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I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first two books in the series, The Shattered Genesis and The Bargaining Path are available in paperback and ebook form on Amazon, Nook, and Smashwords! Thanks for reading.