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

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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

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 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.

A Rant About a Terrible Movie Called “Black Death”

black death

Look everyone! Here’s another trumped up male revenge fantasy of slaughtering the Evil, Vile Witch Woman who means to bring death and pain to all good, moral, God-fearing Christians! Here are more depictions of anyone who is not of that faith as being Satanic shrews and bastards! And WAIT! There’s MORE! Yes, there’s even more gratuitous showings of the slaughter of innocent females as some glorious and heroic deed carried out by holy men of God! And on top of THAT, there is BARELY a story here–I was half asleep through most of it!

Why aren’t you running to Netflix RIGHT NOW to watch this?! GET ON THIS LEVEL, PEOPLE!

Okay, it’s a movie called Black Death, and it’s about a couple of holy dudes sent on a mission to investigate rumors of a necromancer out in some marshy village. Somehow, someway, this isolated village has been spared the wrath of the Black Plague, and you know, it makes too much sense that it’s because the place is way out in fucking MARSH LAND and has no contact with city-folk. It HAS to be Satan, so these boys must saddle up thy horses and ride forth, through the Dark and Scary Woods, through the Dark and Scary Moors, to the Really Boring/Totally Average Looking Village, and shove a little bit of God’s holy light up some witch lady ass!

WOO! Feel that testosterone pumping through your blood! Feel the MANLINESS abounding! Man, it’s like I just mainlined a puree of rare steak straight off the grill, Budweiser from a can that I then crushed against my head, and motor oil right out of my souped up pickup truck!

But in all seriousness…

Sean Bean, may I just tell you that you’re better than this? In fact, every person in this movie is better than this. I should have just watched you and Carice van Houten in Game of Thrones and spared myself this mess of sloppy, pretentious film-making (fucking slow-mo for dramatic moments? Really?) and all the aforementioned sexist garbage.

Bottom Line: Avoid this movie like… the Plague! BOOM! I know, I know. I’m not just any Feminist, I’m a clever one. 

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