Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cyberbullies Get Deleted in Unfriended (2014)

Way back in 2001, Japanese horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa released a film called Kairo (a.k.a. Pulse). An apocalyptic story, Kairo told the tale of a group of Japanese college students who are investigating the death of their friend and its connection to a mysterious Web site that promised the change for the living to communicate with the dead. As the movie unfolds, it turns out that the site is allowing hordes of dead spirits to invade the world of the living, which in turn causes people to either commit suicide or simply vanish, leaving behind nothing but a shadow-shaped arrangements of ash.

The heavy-handed message of Kairo was its metaphorical prediction that the Internet would inevitably cause people's sense of community to collapse. This would lead to an epidemic of depression and dispair as more and more individuals become separated from their fellow human beings because of too much technology invading our lives.

Well, it's 2015, the Internet is as popular as ever, and the dead have yet to initiate doomsday against the living via our computers, cell phones, tablets and other networked devices. What we actually do have now are cyberbullies, and they take the center stage in Unfriended, a 2014 horror film by Levan Gabriadze. Unfriended handles the social shortcomings of the Internet much more deftly than Kairo; instead of ponderously moping over the pending death of social communities, Unfriended reveals the dangerous superficiality--and anonymous hostility--of Internet-based social relations. Read on for my complete review.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Look at Hallmark's Predator Ornament

As part of this year's annual release of Christmas ornaments, Hallmark has included an ornament based on the titular monster from the 1987 creature feature Predator. I just picked up one for my own holiday season geek tree, and here are some thoughts I have about Hallmark's attempt at turning an interplanetary big game hunter into a Yuletide decoration. Read on ...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Killer from the Past Wreaks Havoc with the Present in The Caller (2011)

The plot device of time travel most commonly appears within the science fiction genre, imagining the possibility of a technology that would allow people to freely move forward and backwards through time. Yet when time travel appears in the horror genre in films such as Donnie Darko (2001) and Triangle (2009), the story sometimes ignores the technology idea and instead depicts a reality where warps in time are just random events that happen to hapless, unsuspecting victims. Such a view is a very unnerving one, that something as inescapable and inexorable as time can also be inconceivably unstable and that people can be sucked into parallel timelines or never-ending time loops without anyone else noticing. In the case of The Caller, a 2011 thriller directed by Matthew Parkhill, the story of horrible, unexpected things that can happen when the present unwittingly shares information with the past.

The Caller focuses on Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre), a woman who just divorced her abusive husband Steven (Ed Quinn) and is looking to start her life over as she moves into a well-worn apartment complex. One night, she receives a phone call from a shaken womand names Rose (Lorna Raver) who believes that her lover is cheating on her. After a few conversions with Rose, Mary learns that Rose is calling her from 1979, and the information that she innocently shared with Rose is beginning to have disastrous consequences for the present.

There aren't many suspense thrillers like The Caller, and this one had me on the edge of my seat for most of the film. When the relationship between Mary and Rose becomes adversarial, it becomes disturbingly clear how much power Rose really has over Mary--Mary can't stop whatever Rose does in her time and what kind of impact it will have in the present. Also, according to the time travel rules of the film, only Mary can remember how things were before Rose changes the timeline; thus, only Mary understands the true horror of what is happening around her--and to her--but no one notices because as far as everyone else is concerned, the changes made by Rose were how things have "always" been.

I honestly couldn't predict where this film was going and the ending is a complete knockout, deftly using the themes and structure of the story to deliver a jaw-dropping final image. Time travel films don't get much more intense than this, so I highly recommend The Caller.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Play with Virtual RC Flying Toys in Wii U's Quadcopter Pilot Challenge

The latest waves of remote control (RC) flying toys have fascinated me, and their falling prices have tempted me on more than one occassion into actually buying one. Yet while I may be a nerd by choice, I am also a klutz by nature; thus, I'm certain that I'd somehow wind up breaking the toy within days--if not hours or minutes--after purchase. Thankfully, someone at TACS Games understands my geeky dilemma and has recently released Quadcopter Pilot Challenge as a downloadable eShop game for the Wii U. Read on for my complete review.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Available Now: We Belong Dead's Christopher Lee Tribute Issue

When horror icon Christopher Lee passed away last June, it felt like a particular era of horror cinema came to an end. Lee led an extremely impressive life, but his contributions to the horror genre--as well as pop culture in general--are truly legendary. In honor of his passing, UK horror magazine We Belong Dead has recently published a special 100 page, full-color issue as a tribute to Lee and the many memorable roles he brought to life on the silver screen.

The issue covers Lee's prolific career, from his most popular films (The Wicker Man, The Lord of the Rings series, his portrayal of Dracula in numerous films, etc.) to his more obscure work (Night of the Big Heat, Taste of Fear, Nothing but the Night, etc.). The details provided in this issue about Lee's career are exhaustive in scope, both well-researched and well-written by a diverse selection of contributors. Among the personal fan reflections about Lee and in-depth analyses of the films and studios in which Lee worked, here are some of the articles that caught my attention:

* Stephen Mosley's in-depth analysis of Rasputin: The Mad Monk, the 1966 film where Lee assumed the role of the nefarious Russian holy man. Fun trivia fact: During the course of his life, Lee actually met Prince Yusupoff and Dmitri Pavlovich, the assassins of Rasputin, as well as Rasputin's own daughter, Maria.

* Steve Gerrard's retrospective of House of the Long Shadows (1982). This film doesn't rank among Lee's best work; nevertheless, it's cast of noted horror icons included Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine. It was a rare lineup to excite any fan of classic horror cinema.

* Tony Earnshaw's interview with Jamil Dehlavi, director of Jinnah (1998). Jinnah featured Lee in the role of Pakistani leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of modern Pakistan.

* Troy Howarth's "Christopher Lee's Continental Horrors", a detailed look at films he made in Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and Spain. While some of these films unavailable on DVD and Blu-ray, Lee's work in countries outside of England and the U.S. allowed him to work with other noteworthy horror icons such as Mario Bava and Jess Franco.

Of course, this is just a small sampling of what is included in We Belong Dead's Christopher Lee issue, which also features a selection of gorgeous fan-submitted art. It's a must-have addition to the libraries of fans of Lee, Hammer Studios, and horror films in general. It cost £10 with an addition £2 in postage for UK and Europe and £4 rest of the world. You can support the magazine by buying directly via Paypal and using You can also check out the official We Belong Dead Facebook page here.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Movie Review: It Follows, But It Does Not Scare

In case you've been ignoring American film releases since the beginning of the year, a horror film called It Follows became quite the hit among film critics when it was released last March, scoring a high 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I finally got the chance to see it last weekend and while I can see why critics were impressed by this film, I felt that the end result was less than the sum of its parts. Read on for my complete review.