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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I Will Review Your Book If You Review Mine

Dear Fellow Indie Authors:

You know how people follow back on Twitter? Well, I propose that we enact a similar policy for book reviews. So here goes: I promise that if you comment here or private message me on Twitter, I will read and review your book so long as you read and review mine.

Barring an influx of like, fifty to one hundred books asking for my review (which I really, really don’t suspect will happen) I will write an honest review here on my blog and also on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads wherever your ebook is sold. The only payment I require is that you also honestly review my book, The Shattered Genesis, on the aforementioned channels. If we come to an agreement here or on Twitter, I will provide my personal email address, and we will hammer out the details.

Again, let me stress: The reviews I provide and the reviews provided for me should be honest reviews. I am not asking for 5-star reviews, nor will I exclusively provide 5-star reviews. However, any criticism will be constructive, not nasty, and I will try my best to focus on the positives of your work and not the negatives. I read anything and everything, even erotica (which a lot of review sites will not allow) and I do not charge a dime, though if your book is not free, I do ask for a gifted copy, simply because I am unemployed right now and paying back my heinous student loans. All I ask is for an honest review in return for my review.

Let me know if we can help each other out, and if we can, I look forward to working with you! Also, let’s see if we can use these hashtags on Twitter: #reviewtrain #reviewforareview to get this going.


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/B009KC6XBOhttp://www.amazon.com/The-Shattered-Genesis-Eternity-Rudacille-ebook/dp/B009KC6XBO

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!

That True Blood Finale Though…

In order to avoid being “punny,” I am not going to say it sucked. Oh, I’m going to say it: It SUCKED. And guess what? The Twitter consensus after the credits rolled last night seemed to agree with that proclamation. In lieu of recapping everything that occurred, I am just going to break down my feelings on each character’s ending, but first, a word on the reviews of professional critics.

That word is “SHOCKING!” It seems to be coming up frequently in the posts from the big TV and film websites. It was a “SHOCKING!” season finale. Ummm, I’m sorry, did we watch the same season? In fact, have we watched the same show? I have not been shocked by True Blood since that crazy fourth season finale, when Tara was shot in the back of the head by that crazy bitch, Debbie (haha, more puns, because she was a werewolf, and… Oh, never mind), and Eric and Bill staked Nan for insinuating that they are simply lovesick puppy dogs panting after Sookie (which, I’m sorry, is that not true? Seems like there was a lot of panting, but hey, whatever.) The fifth season was trying to be shocking for the sake of being shocking by throwing out Biblical illusions to shock the religious right who don’t even watch the damn show, so what was the point of all that? The sixth season had its moments, but as far as shock value goes, there was none; by the time Bill mimicked Jesus on the cross in the blazing sunshine as other vampires fed on his blood, I and everyone I knew were well aware that that end was inevitable. And that time-jump? Yeah, okay. Way to skim over all those loose ends by shocking us with the whole Merlotte’s-is-now-Bellefleur’s-and-Sam-is-mayor-and-Sookie-and-Alcide-are-banging thing.

So when other critics say this ending was shocking, I have to say, I really don’t think they have been paying attention. But I digress to the breakdowns.

Eric and Pam: I liked their ending the best, because for me, their story came full circle. In the first season, they were together, bonded by their shared blood and constantly kicking ass and taking names. They have always been my favorite characters, and not only because they’re both sassy and hilarious and fucking hot, but because their bond seemed so unbreakable. Of course, it got strained by Eric’s attachment to Sookie, but in the end, by whose side was Eric standing? That’s right, my girl, Pam’s. I loved that they had synthesized Sarah Newlin’s blood and become millionaires several times over and saviors of the vampire race. However, I am going to go mad feminist here and say that I found Sarah Newlin’s ending highly offensive. I get that she killed Eric’s sister. I get that she invented Hep V which wiped out half the vampire population. But as this season demonstrated, she’s essentially a confused little girl with a need to attach to those she deems more powerful than herself. She constantly needs to be the woman behind someone, not simply a woman acting for herself. First it was Steve Newlin, then the Buddhist dude, and then, in the end, she tries to attach to Pam and Eric. She even says that she will become Pam’s sexy vampire lover if she turns her, and that maybe she needs to become the “woman behind the woman” instead of the “woman behind the man.” She has no freaking identity! It changes with every person she meets, and that’s not funny, it’s fucking sad. Moreover, and more importantly, the fact that she is chained in a basement, being fed on for money, makes her essentially a sex slave. Ooh, hilarious, True Blood. I am sooooo glad she got her ultimate punishment, while Steve, who was arguably just as terrible, gets to taunt her from the afterlife, like he never did anything wrong. Once again, this is in keeping with a really, really annoying trend in movies and film, and hell, in the news, as well, where if a woman commits the same crime as a man, she must pay a far more terrible price. It’s ridiculous and dated, and True Blood should be better than this, given their other strong female characters.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about…

Jessica and Hoyt: In keeping with this trend that women are to blame for most of the problems in the world, a few episodes back, Jessica took full responsibility for her breakup with Hoyt, saying that she was young and immature, while neglecting to mention that he was a HUGE douche who was trying to restrict her to only drinking his blood when obviously, that was not fulfilling for her. And now, oh, look, they are getting married, so that Bill can walk his de facto daughter down the aisle when he had been unable to walk his biological daughter down the aisle. Forget that rushing into marriage for the sake of a dying parent establishes said marriage on a foundation so shaky, it probably wouldn’t survive a year. Forget that their problems were seemingly insurmountable before, but now, all of a sudden, in this idealized world, Jessica has come to her senses and accepted Hoyt as the love of her life, totally for her own sake, and for no one else’s… –Eye roll–

Jason and Bridgette: Was anyone shocked that they ended up with children, two of which were girls, after Jason toiled last episode about having girls who would be treated badly by boys like him? Anyone? Anyone? No? Okay. I like that Jason has finally shunned his womanizing ways and settled down with a nice gal, but can we talk about Violet for a second? She was the first to tame Jason’s womanizing ways, and I, for one, respected the hell out of how she had him tamed sexually. Given the fact that he was another puppy dog constantly panting after any willing hoo-ha for six seasons, it’s pretty impressive that Violet not only coaxed him into monogamy but also wielded all the sexual power by having him wait until he could have sex with her and passing the time by having him go down on her every night for a year. But once again, Violet turns out to be a crazy bitch who wanted to rip off Adelyn’s boobs and stick a flaming hot dildo up Jessica’s vag, some imagery that, even for this show, was a little over the top and unnecessary, not to mention a totally ridiculous turn for this character who before had seemed so powerful and in control but in the end was just another crazed jilted lover.

Sookie and Bill: If you were shocked by this, I seriously worry about you. For the past like, three episodes, Bill has been whining about how he wants to die, because it is nature’s course, and because he misses his family, and blah blah blah. Speaking of his family, there were those God-awful flashbacks which I thought were going to kill me long before I could watch Bill bite the dust. I dug that Sookie kept her fairy powers, because once again, I feel like that decision brought her story as an individual full circle. She has been grappling with her power of telepathy her entire life, she learns her origin as a fae in Season 2, and she learns to wield that power through the rest of the seasons, and I love that in the end, she told Bill that her fairydom was part of her, and she would not part with it. This was Sookie finally taking a firm grasp on her own identity, and finally claiming her power as her own. I found Bill’s insistence that she marry and have children to be somewhat touching, and somewhat annoying, because Sookie has been unsure of which life she would prefer this whole time, a “normal” human life, or one filled to the brim with vampire sex, fairy madness, and other supernatural conundrums. So when she inevitably chooses the normal life, after seven seasons of being enmeshed in the aforementioned vampire sex, fairy madness, and other supernatural conundrums, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. A lot of people on Twitter were confused as to who her baby daddy was, but again, the fact that it was just some random normal dude was not shocking to me. It was readily apparent that there was no way it was anyone we knew, because everyone else was taken. I liked the ending image of all the characters having Thanskgiving dinner outside of Sookie’s house simply for the nostalgia factor, but the fact that she seems to have permanently shunned her life with supes almost voids out the rest of the show for me. Perhaps that is extreme, but it just gives me a really sad feeling knowing that she probably will never see Eric again, and her children will grow up never knowing about Bill, though Jessica is still in her life, but like her, Jessica has also chosen a “normal” life with a human, so she is not a threat to Sookie’s new embracing of normalcy. All in all, it’s just kind of lame, and it makes me feel like all of Sookie’s life leading up to that point has just been a blip in her timeline, and not how she came to be the woman that she is today.

So there you have it, folks, my review of the True Blood finale. I am just going to pretend that the show ended at Season 4, because everything after that was so freaking predictable, and it was sadly lacking in the sex and nudity that made all of us people love this show in the first place. Plus, the violence that we also loved in the beginning had by then become repetitive and pointless most of the time. But hey, if you dug the end, I’m glad. If you didn’t, I sympathize.

At least we can all say that regardless of the shows ups and downs, we were True to the End.

 

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