Movie Review: The GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

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Movie Review GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, TheWarner Bros. Pictures
2016
R

“If I had a box of bad things, I’d put you in it and close the lid.”

If you’re like me, you’re a fan of the zombie movie genre, but are kind of experiencing burnout from the sheer glut of movies that feature the same old well-trodden plot that every modern zombie movie has done, ad nausium. But, you keep watching them, knowing that sometimes a real gem once in a while shines through all the other unremarkable chunks out there.

The Girl With All The Gifts was, back when it was making the fest rounds, getting a lot of buzz for being an innovative zombie movie that’s smarter than your average zombie flick. I had my doubts, but I was intrigued with the title of the movie itself, and what that meant in relation to the story itself. I finally got around to streaming the movie one weekend morning.

In a dystopian near future, humanity has been ravaged by a mysterious fungal disease. The afflicted are robbed of all free will and turned into flesh-eating “hungries”. Humankind’s only hope is a small group of hybrid children who crave human flesh but retain the ability to think and feel. The children go to school at an army base in rural Britain, where they’re subjected to cruel experiments by Dr. Caroline Caldwell. School teacher Helen Justineau grows particularly close to an exceptional girl named Melanie, thus forming a special bond. But when the base is invaded, the trio escape with the assistance of Sgt. Eddie Parks and embark on a perilous journey of survival, during which Melanie must come to terms with who she is.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: The Girl With All The Gifts is a much better zombie movie than most that are clogging the streaming. If you’ll forgive my pedantism, this is technically not a zombie movie. The infection is caused by spores, and the infected never really die and then come back to life. Which means The Girl With All The Gifts has more in common with 28 Days Later than Night Of The Living Dead. But, that’s a pointless minor quibble.

The main image used for the movie itself is something of an effective attention grabber — a girl in one of those Hannibal Lecter masks. You’re not even aware that this is going to be a post-apocalyptic pseudo-zombie movie. Well, if you haven’t read the novel this is based on first. Anyway, The Girl With All The Gifts does a great job establishing the characters and fleshing out their dynamics. The plot itself unfolds and allows you to put the pieces together as to the situation. There were some incredibly tense moments (the military stronghold breech and the immediate aftermath, for example); I have to admit, that while the premise itself is intriguing, once the survivors are off the base, The Girl With All The Gifts settles into a standard post-apocalypse survival road trip. The ending is interesting, but not all that shocking.

Overall, The Girl With All The Gifts is a very good movie that gives a good spin to the genre wheel. It’s definitely worth a watch.

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Movie Review: DAYLIGHT’S END

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daylight's endVertical Entertainment
2016
NR

The world is full of low-budget straight-to-video zombie flicks. One might say we’re overrun with a plethora of zombie movies. What we don’t seem to have enough of are low-budget straight-to-video movies that are I Am Legend-esque post-apocalyptic vampiric zombie movies. Specifically, I Am Legend-esque post-apocalyptic vampiric zombie movies that features Lance Henriksen as one of the stars of the cast. Fortunately, here’s Daylight’s End to help fill in that void in our horror subgenre.

Years after a mysterious plague has devastated the planet and turned most of humanity into blood-hungry creatures, a rogue drifter on a vengeful hunt stumbles across a band of survivors in an abandoned police station and reluctantly agrees to try to help them defend themselves and escape to the sanctuary they so desperately need.

Daylight’s End manages to be another generic post-apocalyptic action horror that checks off all the points, but doesn’t really do much beyond that to contain my interest. More character types than characters, a big macho action lead that’s stuck in constant 90s-era brood mode, and story beats that tread no new ground…Daylight’s End is an easily forgettable movie about five minutes after the end credits roll.

Movie Review: FUTURE FORCE

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future forceEcho Bridge Entertainment
1989
R

“David Harris? I’m John Tucker, Civilian Operation Police. You have committed a crime and are presumed guilty. You have the right to die. If you choose to relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest and imprisoned. I haven’t got all night.”

Imagine, if you will, a movie that conspired to mash together Dirty Harry with RoboCop (the original good one), bringing in a beer gut-sporting David Carradine to star and give it a budget approximately a quarter of that of a regular action blockbuster. The result is this experiment in schlock b-movie cheese, Future Force

After an introduction informing the viewer that in the post-apocalyptic future of 1991, we learn that the regular police forces have been replaced by a kind of privately funded bounty hunter league that goes by the acronym C.O.P.S. The biggest bad-ass member is John Tucker, who has a Nintendo Power Glove Cyber Gauntlet to help him fight the crime…which he utilizes only a couple of times, and keeps in the trunk of his vehicle. Otherwise, he relies on his swagger, a couple of pistols and his beer gut-fueled sweet, sweet martial arts moves. Of course, the corporate jerk who funds the C.O.P.S. is what you would call a bit corrupt, so while putting a bounty on a news reporter doing an expose’ on his corrupt-ness, Tucker decides that something’s amiss, and takes to protecting the reporter. Which leads to a bounty being put on Tucker. Now he has to protect the reporter, and avoid being ganked by his fellow C.O.P.S. who didn’t really like him much to begin with, and uncover the conspiracy behind everything in time to get back to doing what he does best. Whatever that is, I’ll let you know when I find out.

Future Force turns out to be the kind of sci-fi action flick that is short on both action and sci-fi. That’s not to say it’s totally bereft of both: There’s some riveting 35-mile-an-hour chase scenes, and that power glove cyber gauntlet thing that is featured so predominately on the movie poster is actually utilized a couple of times. Once by remote control, to punch a guy in the crotch. And then give the “thumbs up” before flying back to the main protagonist’s trunk of his vehicle.

Everything about this movie is low budget. The effects, the acting, the settings, the filming and editing. The fat that the “future” in a movie called Future Force is only two years off from when the movie first premiered is a major red flag. But, oh, the biggest disappointment here is David Carradine’s phoned-in performance. I didn’t expect A-level action star calibre from him, mind you…but I expected something.

I would say, overall, Future force would barely qualify as a So Bad It’s Good flick. Maybe to marvel at the ineptitude of it all. Otherwise, you’re not missing anything if you pass on this.

Movie Review: ANTISOCIAL 2

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antisocial 2Breakthrough Entertainment
2015
NR

Hey, look. It’s a sequel to one of the more mediocre Millennial horror movies I’ve had the displeasure of watching. What were the changes of there being one? I’m not certain why, but we have a sequel. And by some twisted masochistic logic that only I can understand, I was compelled to watch Antisocial 2: Antisocial Harder.

Gads, I’m already using bad humor as a coping mechanism. This is not a good sign.

So, anyway, after a voice-over recap of the first Antisocial, we find the final girl from the first movie — Sam — emerge from the trunk of a beat up car, having spent the night there to be safe from any attacks from those feral humans that were fully zombified from the Red Room virus referred to as “users”. It’s evident that, sometime between the end of the first movie and now, she managed to get preggers, as Sam is clearly in the third trimester. She then drives off in the car, which is when we realize that Antisocial 2 is going to be a Post-Apocalyptic Road Trip movie. She gives birth to her baby in an abandoned building, where the kid is immediately taken by a crazy (but uninfected) lady spouting off religious end times gobblety-gook and Sam is left to die, but of course she survives and takes off to find her kid and drive around some more. Somehow, three years go by, and while trying to score some munitions Sam runs afoul of users, who are turned away by a precarious preteen who has figured out how to hack the Users to do her dark bidding get them safely out of the way. Seems the Read Room social media chat room is still alive and well, making more and more infected Users, causing them to become kind of a hive-mind collective. It’s convoluted, yes, but let’s just go with it. Seems the preteen kid is the daughter of a crazy military scientist who ran away due to…well, he’s a crazy military scientist. Seems he’s doing experiments on not only the Users, but also the ones that are normal because they had the DIY tumor removal that was done in the previous movie, of which Sam is one of them. Of course, the two are captured by the military that the kid’s dad works for, and is brought back to the base, where it appears that Sam’s three-year-old is at. This kid, because he was in-utero during the infection, has some wicked psychic abilities, because of course he does. The military science guy does a bunch of SCIENCE! things, Sam discovers her son is alive and well an in the facility, yadda-yadda, they escape only to have things end on one of those frustrating sequel baits.

Well, I’ll give Antisocial 2 this — at least it didn’t insult my intelligence by just rehashing the same story beats and tropes as the original movie. No, instead Antisocial 2 insulted my intelligence by copying and pasting ideas and tropes from far better horror and sci-fi movies. You know the ones: Day Of The Dead (the original, as no other versions exist in my reality), I Am Legend, Zombieland (without the humor), Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, and Children Of The Damned, to name a few. I did find the concept of the Red Room virus turning the infected into a kind of hive-mind organism intriguing, and wished they explored that a bit more than what they did with the story. Overall, though, I found Antisocial 2 to be mediocre for the most part, while picking up a bit at the very end. I don’t hate myself for watching this unnecessary sequel, but I’m not clamoring for another one. I wasn’t clamoring for this one after watching the first one, but here we are.

Book Review: The STAND

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book-review_-the-standStephen King
Doubleday
1978

There’s always a choice. That’s God’s way, always will be. Your will is still free. Do as you will. There’s no set of leg-irons on you. But… this is what God wants of you.

The old Chevy came out of the Texas dusk at near walking speed, a Pandora’s box of nightmare and death. Up ahead the lights of Bill Hapscomb’s Texaco station glimmered…the box was about to be opened…the dance of death about to begin. But the survivors of the dance have learned to fear something much worse than death because the dark man is on his way. He is known as Randy Flagg, the Walkin Dude, the man with no face. He is a drifter with a hundred different names; he is the magic man; he is the living image of Satan, his hour come round again. He has summoned the weak and corrupted to his side, and the rest have been warned: Sooner or later you will have to do battle for your lives and more than your lives. Sooner or later you will have to make your stand.

This book. This book was the one that tested my metle in my quest to read as much Stephen King as I possibly could. It was the summer of 1990, between my Sophomore and Junior year in High School. This particular special edition of The Stand was just released, boasting a complete and uncut manuscript of the original, adding pages and even going so far as updating some pop culture references to make it more relevant for the ten years or so after its original publication. I didn’t wait for the mass market paperback edition; I purchased the hardcover release, and dug right into this over-one thousand page tome chronicling King’s epic post-apocalyptic tale of good versus evil after a bio-engineered virus wipes out 99% or so of the world’s population.

And in the months that followed, I read the thing. I waded through the story involving the end of civilization as we know it, and those survivors who were immune to the nasty Captain Trips virus banding together, for good or for evil. Those siding with good found their way to Mother Abigail, a centenarian living on a farm in Nebraska (home state shout-out!). Those who cast their lot with evil, though, found their way to Randal Flagg in Las Vegas. Eventually, these two groups will come together in a final battle between good and evil, with players whose motivations aren’t necessarily as black and white is that. The whole thing ends in a bang. Literally.

This book was originally published in an edited version, because the publisher didn’t think any novel would be a big seller if it was over 1000 pages. So, King did the editing requested. Then, a few years later, he released It, which is a novel that was published that’s over 1000 pages, and a massive best seller. I’m guessing that’s what allowed for the re-release with the missing pages reinserted.

Let me tell you, when I say this book was epic, I don’t use it lightly. And not just from the length, either. The story starts with the devastation of human civilization, but then it continues from there, a journey that unfolds from many vantage points. A journey with a touch of the supernatural, mind you; and maybe more than just one retroactive tie-in to the wide-spanning Dark Tower universe, which is a much more epic journey tale itself.

Anyway, I made it through in less than six months. Right on Christmas Day, 1990, as a matter of fact. Reading The Stand was something of a milestone for me, as a young and budding book geek. Also, it’s a fantastic post-modern fantasy of good versus evil that needs to be read by everybody.

Book Review: The FIREMAN

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fireman-theJoe hill
William Morrow & Company
2016

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe. Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child. Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged. In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

There’s maybe a handful of authors that qualify for my Buy Immediately Upon Release list. In case you haven’t deducted it yet, Joe Hill is on that list. Ironically, he has actually supplanted his own father from that list (if you have no idea who his father is, feel free to Google it); usually I’m very much on top of the publishing schedule. With this particular release, The Fireman, the release itself managed to get past me until a few months after the fact. Let’s just say, I was a bit busy around that time. Nephew/Godson graduating High School and all that. Family wackiness. Anyway, once I realized a new novel came out back in May, I stopped by the local Barnes & Noble to remedy this oversight as soon as I possibly could

The one thing I admire about author Joe Hill is his ability to not get stuck in just one genre mold. While Heart Shaped Box was straight horror, the followup Horns was more dark urban fantasy, while NOS4A2 was a whimsical dark fantasy; The Fireman continues in the whole genre-bending in that it’s a post apocalyptic sci-fi tale where the horror is found within humanity and stuff.

There’s an outbreak of something called Dragonscale, an airborne disease of rather ambiguous origin (was it a dormant strain reactivated by global warming? Is it a terrorist bioweapon? Is it the result of a science disaster that couldn’t be contained? You never really know), which covers the victim with black scale-like lesions that bond on a cellular level, and can immolate the victim if stress levels get too high. It spreads rather quickly, and faster than you can say “Among The Living” it’s spread to global proportions.

Enter, then, a former elementary school nurse that has decided to volunteer in the hospital where they’re housing the locals infected with the Dragonscale. This is where she first encounters the titular Fireman, who disrupts an afternoon by demanding that the young boy he’s brought with him be treated for his appendicitis. She intervenes to help the boy, and she thinks that’s the last she’s seen of this mysterious man in firefighting duds. That is, of course, until she herself starts to develop Dragonscale, right after she discovers she’s pregnant. This makes her husband freak out, causing him to leave and, in the course of time, go bonkers. She’s determined to bring the baby to term, while he decides the best thing to do is to go the Romeo and Juliet route. Or something like that. Remember, bonkers now. Anyway, she manages to escape via the help of the mysterious Fireman, who brings her to a secret encampment of others inflicted with the Dragonscale, but have learned how to not only live with it, but also commune with it. Almost like a religious experience. Which, of course, leads to the obvious outcome, with the Fireman and several others–including our former nurse–having to escape with their lives to the north, where a sanctuary is rumored to exist for those infected. On their tale is a posse of normals who want to exterminate all the infected, a group that includes the nurse’s insane husband, all while coming to grips with the new abilities the Dragonscale is granting them.

The Fireman once again proved why Joe Hill is so high on my list. The concept of what is Dragonscale and what it does to the human physiology is intriguing; but like all good post-apocalyptic stories, it’s not about the disease or the disaster, but the journey of the people who find themselves in the midst of the end of the world as they know it. And the journeys taken by the main characters in this story are not only memorable, but also brought forth this rare thing inside of me called “emotion” and “empathy for the characters”. The story itself doesn’t take any easy ways out, and can get rather gruesome at times (especially when the camp goes all Lord of the Flies on our cast), but the result was a 745 page hardcover novel going by faster than a 250 page dimestore novel. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: TOOTH AND NAIL

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tooth and nailLions Gate Films / After Dark Films
2007
R

“What’s the point of being a carnivore if all we can eat is rabbit food?”

A small group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world take refuge in an empty hospital with plans on re-building society. They rescue a young girl who is the victim of a brutal attack, but soon discover that they were followed by a savage band of cannibals known as Rovers. The Rovers begin to kill them one by one, and the trapped survivors must find a way to outwit their stalkers.

Oh, hey, another post-apocalypse flick! What brought this one on? Science gone awry? Cataclysmic natural disaster? Post-nuclear fallout? Alien invasion? None of those? Well, what was…um, the world ran out of gas? Seriously? The sudden lack of combustible fuel brought about the sudden degradation of society, turning civilized humans into instant savage troglodytes? Sorry, I don’t buy it. But, let’s just stretch out my suspension of disbelief (I’ve done it so many times before), for the sake of argument. At least tell me there’s some zombie action going about. No? Cannibals, you say? Well, that’s halfway to a zombie, I guess. One of ’em is played by Michael Madsen, but then he gets offed halfway through the movie? And the “protagonists” are a bunch of annoying little whiny drama queens that you actually start rooting for the cannibals before you even realize there are cannibals in the movie? Gads, why am I watching this movie again? Oh, right. I made a blood oath to watch all of the After Dark movies before I die. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, here you have a post-apocalyptic movie with a weak premise and a badly cribbed Assault On Precinct 13 story with the only bright spot coming from the afore-mentioned Michael Madsen, who really exemplifies the kind of actor who can take literally nothing and have fun anyway. All’s the pity, as this points out that Tooth And Nail could have been much more fun than what it turned out to be.

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