Movie Review: DEATH BY METAL

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death by metal
MVD Visual
2018
NR

  • Here comes DEATH’s probing and pulsing rock doc, DEATH BY METAL, pulling back the palm fronds of DEATH’s origins in Altamonte Springs, Florida, and latching a narrative hook into the headstrong Chuck Schuldiner juggernaut for fifteen gratifying if sometimes frustrating years. As the baby steps become giant leaps, the stable of supporting players grows and continually shines in its own devious light. Excitement grows as Schuldiner, his band, and the world around him evolve, and the music grows ever-more outrageous and bombastic. DEATH’s threat morphs from simple zombie attack to multi-headed mega-monster hellbent on absorbing entire planets. Then suddenly, Chuck is just gone, and the lights go out. The formula for movies about bands dictates that victory is seized from the jaws of mortality in the final act. This is where things get weird. Chuck Schuldiner perished during the moment of heavy metal’s weakest ebb, and possibly the quietest moment of his own career. The drawling guitar demon in the kitty cat shirt will not rise again to tour county fairs, swap one-liners on late-night TV, and jam with Judas Priest at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But this documentary itself joins reissues, partial reunion tours, and an international reawakening as part of a decade-long ascent for DEATH to its proper place of high dominion. As you read these words and watch this film, Chuck Schuldiner and DEATH return to glory, and the legend itself becomes an eternal encore.

If you’re a metal-head (and if you’re reading this, chances are good you are one), then you have probably at least of heard of the band Death, and its enigmatic leader Chuck Schuldiner. I first discovered the band by way of Circus Magazine: I came across a full-page ad for their then-about to be released album Leprosy in a 1988 issue of the mag. I was intrigued by the cover art, to say the least, in the same way that I was intrigued by the cover art of the horror movie videotapes at the local Applause Video store; meaning, I dug the way it looked, but chances are I wasn’t going to be owning it any time soon. I was 13, maybe going on 14, and was fully entrenched in the more accessible forms of hair metal and hard rock at the time. I was a handful of years off from getting into the harder, darker and faster stuff. I do recall seeing a poster of the album hanging on the door of a fellow psyche ward inmate later that year, though. Point is, even before I actually got into Death, I was aware of their presence and importance in the extreme metal history.

So here we have, then, the documentary of Schuldiner’s life and career with one of the most legendary bands to have come out of the metal scene, named after Death’s demo, Death By Metal.Directed by Canadian filmmaker Felipe Belalcazar, Death By Metal is a rather in-depth look at the history of Schuldiner, the formation of the band that would eventually become Death, from the early years through various setbacks, the evolution of the band’s sound over the decade, personnel changes and seven album releases, his work in the band Control Denied, and his untimely passing at the age of 34 from brain cancer in 2001. Featuring archival footage with interviews not only with Schuldiner and the band, but also with his family, various death metal bands that were inspired by Death, former band members, and others in the business that had dealt with him. What this documentary doesn’t do is sugarcoat things when it comes to presenting Chuck’s personal and career issues. There are stories here that include the good times and the bad, and some of the stories are fascinating enough to warrant their own full-length documentary.

Overall, Death By Metal was a very satisfying documentary, giving some insight behind the mind and actions of one of the legendary godfathers of the early Death Metal scenes. Chuck’s story is a tragic one, but also should inspire anyone who has a love for the music. I watched this on Amazon Prime, so it was just the documentary I watched. However, on the physical DVD copy, there’s also a personal interview with Chuck’s mother, a featurette that gives a brief history of the Tampa death metal scene, interviews with Obituary, Autopsy and others, and a full concert at the Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI, recorded on November 30th, 1991. I would definitely check out the actual DVD if you can, but the bare bones streaming of Death By Metal isn’t a slouch, either. Recommended.

Movie Review: COUNTDOWN

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countdown
STX Entertainment
2019
PG-13

“If this is a curse, since they come from the devil and his demons, then curses can be broken. All you have to do is prove the devil is a liar.”

  • When a nurse downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

Countdown was another one of those stylish, modern-tech based horror movies that came out in the later part of 2019 that, after witnessing the trailer for it at the theater, I sort of knew it was a kind of movie where I was not going to be catching in its original theatrical run. Probably not even checking out immediately after it hit DVD and/or streaming. The gimmick was far too cheesy: A smart phone app that counts down to the very minute when you die. It seemed like a movie tailor-made to rely too much on jump scares and arbitrary manufactured tension over nothing. As the reviews for this flick started pouring in from the sites I usually rely on to gauge whether a movie is worth my time or not, it was rather unanimous that Countdown was another horror flick big on gimmick and not much substance to go on.

I of course, just watched the rental a couple of months after it came out. I didn’t say I would never watch Countdown. Just, not immediately. No, I definitely watch my fare share of mediocre ho-hum type horror movies, so one afternoon I threw it on to watch as I got some other stuff in the general vicinity done.

Turns out, Countdown is definitely one of those types of movies where you don’t have to pay too much attention to and still maintain a solid idea of everything that’s going on. The movie opens with a bunch of teenagers at a party, playing inane drinking games. One of the group stumbles across the Countdown app and downloads it, and so all of them decide to download the app, and whoever has the least time to live has to drink up all the beer on the table. Of course, one of them has only a few hours to live, and despite logical objections from her boyfriend, she dies mysteriously as the clock on the app runs out. Fast forward to a few days later, when an LPN has just been upgraded to RN, and is taking care of the boyfriend of the dead girl, who is due for a surgery to fix his mangled leg he sustained the night of her death due to drunk driving (trust me, the two incidents are not related), but he too downloaded the app, and his time is apparently up right when he’s scheduled to get the surgery. Everyone else thinks he’s jumpy, but of course, the kid dies mysteriously in the stairwell. So the RN decides to download the app herself and see what’s up. Turns out, she has a bit less than a couple of days to go herself. As it turns out, the closer you get to the end time, you start seeing visions of dead people and start freaking out about stuff. She tries to get a new phone, but the app just re-downloads itself to it; she tries to get it hacked and changed, which seems to work at first, but then it reverts back to its original time; finally, she seeks down a priest who has some tricks up his sleeve to deal with what he believes to be the true entity behind the app: the DEVIL! It’s then postulated that, if anyone either manages to live beyond the countdown’s end, or dies before the countdown is supposed to end, then the app’s curse will be lifted, and the Devil gets squat. So they try that first part out by hiding out in a salt circle (right out of the Hollywood exorcism book, there), but the Devil is a bit more clever than expected. I mean, he’s been doing this for a long, long time; about the only two times in recorded history where he’s been beaten by his own game was by Jesus, and some redneck in Georgia who was really good at playing the fiddle. So that first attempt backfires badly. So then our main protagonist decides to go with the second option, but do so in a way that will make you shake your head and go, “whatever, sure.” But then we get an ending setup for a sequel that I hope and pray will never, ever get made, for the love of all that is good and holy.

Overall, while I really don’t think that Countdown was the utter piece of ka-ka that everyone was declaring it to be–you just had to wait for the 2019 Black Christmas remake to top that list in a handful of months–it is still a very derivative, predictable and boring exercise into making a ubiquitous pop culture thing into a scary horror movie. I will admit that the premise itself is interesting; however, they stumbled mightily by making this a straight horror movie. Instead, they should have went the smart British dark comedy route, with the Devil trying to get backers for his startup app, and letting the wackiness ensue from there. And I’m just some stupid middle-aged American.

The cinematography is fine, and actually gets some good spooky atmospheric touches going. And I will admit that the supernatural expert priest was the highlight of the movie, and wouldn’t mind to see a movie staring just him. The design of “the Devil” in his appearance was pretty decent looking, if not something that came out of later seasons of Stargate: SG1. Otherwise, the acting is serviceable–borderline annoying with the teenage kid sister character, but that’s par for the course really–and there were more than one instance where my intelligence felt insulted. Meaning, Countdown isn’t necessarily horrible, but is maybe geared more for 12-year-olds looking to watch something “scary” at their sleepover to feel “edgy” and stuff.

Darker Musings…

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Images flashing in my brain: Me placing the business end of a pistol in my mouth, chewing on the cold metal, tasting the oil and metallic tang; numb emotionally, pausing, savoring the eternity between now and when my finger rests on the trigger…one question remains, do I close my eye? Or do I leave them open to see what happens after my brains are splattered behind me? Sweet, instantaneous oblivion, or will there be a lingering couple of seconds as reality melts away from my sight? I shall never know…

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366 DAYS OF METAL: “Born Dead” (Death)

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Article: POKIN’ THE SHEEP + KILLING JESUS

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skull spiderI do admit to being what others would refer to as provocative. Blame it on my tendency to not being satisfied with mere pat answers, or just taking things at face value. It’s not that I set out to play Devil’s Advocate with everything and everyone; part of my wrestling with my faith involves examining things from multiple angles and perspectives and not settling into a comfortable pathos.

For instance, I once made a shirt that said What Would Satan Do? Aside from being a response to the popularity of the What Would Jesus Do? merchandise that was everywhere at the time, I think that’s a good question for Christians to consider. Wise as serpents and innocent as doves, and all that.

One particular shirt, however, seemed to really get under everyone’s skin when it really shouldn’t have. I was at Cornerstone 2002, and was perusing the merch tents one hot and sultry afternoon. One table set up sold an array of shirts, one of which had I KILLED JESUS in big letters on it. This shirt called to me. It perfectly communicated, in shirt form, that because of my sins Jesus died on the cross. I was found guilty, but Jesus died in my place to atone for my sins. Also, the cotton blend was lightweight yet durable, and most importantly, it concealed my upper torso. So, I bought it, and immediately changed into it outside behind the merch tent.

To put a context to the reaction to the shirt–earlier in the fest, I was wearing the previously mentioned What Would Satan Do? shirt. Nobody bats an eye. As a matter of fact, I had a couple of people ask where they could buy one for themselves. I change into the I KILLED JESUS shirt, and suddenly I find myself unable to go ten minutes without someone stopping me to ask what my problem was. What was I thinking, wearing a shirt that said I KILLED JESUS at a festival that catered to Christian music and arts? You would have thought I was wearing the Cradle Of Filth shirt that said JESUS IS A [derogatory misogynist slur] on the back. Several times, I had to explain the meaning behind it, that not only did I kill Jesus, but they did too, for the same reason. It finally got to the point where I began answering with, “He got better,” and left it at that.

Mind you, I’m far from naive, thinking that everyone who attended Cornerstone was a professing Christian and were familiar with the core doctrines of the faith. But, I did find the nature of the questions and statements interesting. Could it be that, in this day and age, that the reason for Christ coming in the first place is becoming taboo in Christian circles? I admitting to any kind of sinful nature, and thus necessitating a perfect sacrifice for atonement, just not in keeping with living a victorious life? Or are some just simply unaware of Jesus’ death and resurrection to begin with? Like, they read the Gospel accounts and just stop reading when things get to the Last Supper, like shutting off Old Yeller before the dog gets rabies, unaware of the ending?

Or, perhaps they are aware of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but are still squicky to admitting it was our sins and separation from God that lead to His death on the cross? We’re quick to place the blame on the Jews, or the Romans, or whatever. I know all too well, however, it was I who nailed Him to the cross. As well as you. And everyone else who has ever lived. And I will continue to admit it openly: I killed Jesus. But fortunately, it didn’t end there.

I am a great sinner. But I serve a great Saviour. Cheers, my wonderful freaks…

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Obligatory Memorial Day Post (2017 Edition)

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arlington cemeteryToday is Memorial Day here in the United States of America, where I dwell. A day where we remember and acknowledge those veterans and soldiers who have fought for our freedoms in the past, and are currently fighting for them now. Also a day to remember the loved ones that have shuffled off this mortal coil, some far too soon.

Since I hold my family to be a very important part of my life, I thought I would take a moment to share a list of the names of the family members I remember fondly while growing up:

Bill Wheatley (Great-Grandfather)
Charlotte Marie Case (Great-Grandmother)
Robert Case (Grandfather)
Esther Case (Grandmother)
Gerald Strand (Grandfather)
Betty Strand (Grandmother)
Orland Krohn (Grandfather)
Fern Krohn (Grandmother)
Douglas Erickson (Great-Great Uncle)
Natalie Erickson (Great-Great Aunt)
Janice Nuzum (Great Aunt)
Bill Rabe (Great Uncle)
Murial Rabe (Great Aunt)
Barry Rabe (Second Cousin)
Janet Donahey (Aunt)
Janel Case (Sister)
Allen Donahey (Cousin)
Jerry Donahey (Cousin)

…this is not a complete list, of course. And by no means is it by order of importance. These are the ones that I remember as have being part of my life. There have been others, and there will be others to come. Such is the nature of living.

Anyway, happy Memorial Day, and thank you for all who have served, and are still serving in some capacity. Cheers, all…

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Well, here we are. The end of another year. And as a year, overall, I think it’s safe to say that the majority opinion is that the year of our Lord Twenty-Sixteen SUCKED on so many levels, I’m pretty sure its effects can be felt on alternate dimensions and frequencies. Yes, there were a lot of celebrity deaths this year; however, this being a personal bligity-blog of mine, I’m not going to focus on all of those (though I really could, there have been many childhood favorites that have fallen this year). Instead, to at least make an acknowledgment of the ones that have been an inspiration to me, I’m going to pepper this post with YouTube clips of some favorites of mine while I wax nostalgic for the past year. However ugly it was.

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t start off with perhaps one of the biggest losses my family had this year: In the very first week of June, my Grandmother Betty Strand passed away. She was always a constant anchor in my life, as she was a strong, tenacious and lively cornerstone of the family, raising three children on the farm and being active in the community and such. Her loss has left a void in the lives of many.

And as long as we’re on the subject, along with Grandma, two Great Aunts also passed away this year: Aunt Janice and Aunt Muriel. Aunt Janice was Grandma’s younger sister, and was also a presence in the family growing up. Aunt Muriel was Grandpa Strand’s sister, and was another presence in the family growing up. We have a big family, and for better or for worse, we’re still pretty tight as a unit. I’m thankful for that, and thankful for having known them.

In July, there was a massive shakeup at the church I was attending. I really don’t want to go into the details (as we’re still healing and moving on), but suffice to say, there was a split. And after much deliberation, I decided to go with the ones who left, in helping to be a part of the healing and moving on. A new church was birthed out of what essentially started as a Sunday morning therapy group for those who were hurt from the split. Fortunately, this wasn’t formed out of spite, but out of a genuine desire to continue to serve God and Christ Jesus despite of the circumstances. Almost immediately, we’ve been seeing the Holy Spirit work with us to that end. In case you’re morbidly curious, here’s the website to peruse.

Of course, no year-end blog post would be complete without mentioning all the wackiness that happened in the culture. And this was probably the wackiest of the wacky. As in, the world just threw up its collective hands and went, “Okay, we all go crazy, now.” Besides all the celebrity deaths (which, as of this writing, still hasn’t stopped, it seems), who could forget the year-long freak show that was this round of Presidential elections? To quote one of the best parts of the movie Resivuar Dogs, “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right”. On the left of the Presidential ring, the Senator wife of a former President. To the right, a business mogul/former reality show producer-star/comb-over enthusiast with little to no political experience whatsoever. After months and months of mud-flinging, passive-aggressive public whining, really bad ideas and desperate character assassinations (among other things), at the end of the day, it turned out that we all collectively stepped in some Trumpy-Dumpy. Gads, that episode of MST3K is so endlessly quotable. And given the fallout and the various updates on how Trump is lining up his next four years…yeah, this might make 2016 seem like the Golden Years in comparison. We shall see, as always. The road to Idiocracy stretches out ever before us. Still, I’m trying to figure out why so many of my fellow professing Christians seemed to treat his election as the next best thing to the Second Coming of Jesus.

And lest the Presidential elections overshadow the other bits of wackiness of the year: Britan decided to leave the European Union, citing “It’s not you, it’s me” and further stating “We can still be friends, though,” before deleting them from their Facebook lists; a cartoon frog is now declared a “hate symbol” because…reasons, I guess; the President of the Philippines threatened to burn down the UN; for several months, the entire country freaked out over clowns (well, moreso than usual); and last but certainly not least, there was that Dakota Access Pipeline protest that got rather ugly before an agreement could be made, only to have the protester’s point made for them by the pipeline itself. Delicious irony.

Okay, on to some more pleasant stuff. For all the downers, at least there were some really really good \,,/METAL\,,/ that was released: Megadeth came back in form with Dystopia in January, and then Anthrax released the melodic-yet-heavy For All Kings in February. Babymetal released Metal Resistance in March, which was more of the mutated J-Pop/Metal hybrid I somehow find irresistible. Death Requisite released some rather good death metal with their Revisitation release, while I found myself disappointed with the debut release from Becoming Saints, Oh The Suffering. Ricky Puckett unleashed his In Darkest Dreams project with The Vanishing, a much-needed injection of dark and brutal for my earholes. And then Hell apparently froze over, as Klayton dropped a surprise brand-new Circle Of Dust album, Machines Of Our Disgrace. And finally*, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Metallica releasing Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, which turned out to be quite decent.

On the movie front, this year started off strong with the most excellent Deadpool. The year had some decent ones, like 10 Cloverfield Lane (a lot better than what I expected), the new Ghostbusters, the Magnificent Seven remake, the Pete’s Dragon remake, Suicide Squad (surprisingly decent), and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (sorry, no review posted yet). The rather good movies this year were Captain America: Civil War, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Star Trek Beyond, Doctor Strange, and of course, the year’s capper, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Of course, there were some stinkers in this year’s mix, which for me were Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Independence Day: Resurgence, and the surprisingly “meh” X-Men: Apocalypse.

And last, but certainly not least, in the more happier aspects of my personal life this year: This last Spring both my Nephew/Godson Christoper Rinas and one of my cousin’s eldest son Trevor Donahey graduated High School. Gads, I’m old.

So, that’s my year in a nutshell. To quote from one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H: “Here’s to the new year. May it be a damn sight better than the last one, and may we all go home before it’s over.”** Take that as you will. Whatever you do, celebrate heartily, but also somberly. Don’t be stupid. Me, I’m going to be doing my yearly Haunted New Years horror movie marathon whilst deciding what part of the clutter in my domicile is going to get the heave-ho. And there may be a bacon pizza in the mix, somewhere. Until next year (see what I did there?), I remain your humble servant Uncle NecRo. God bless, my wonderful freaks.

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*– While I did review the new Klank album, the official release isn’t until January 13th, so that’s actually one to look forward to.

**– Season 9, Episode 6: “A War For All Seasons”

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