Review: 'Headless'

By: Bradley Hadcroft

In 2012, Scott Schirmer gave us independent horror hit Found - now he is back, heavily involved with the brand new underground gore fest, Headless. Helmed by the special effects supervisor of Found, Arthur Cullipher, this flick will test even the most dedicated followers of the fucked-up. 

Giving a whole new meaning to "Found footage", the idea here was to re-craft Headless, the film-within-a-film that features in Found, as a stand-alone project. The premise of presenting it as an unearthed grindhouse classic -  complete with fake date (1978), faux pre-main feature trailer (the hilarious "Wolf Baby") and distressed film stock - may not be wholly original but it is startlingly authentic in its execution.

The acting is cringe-worthy at times, while the soundtrack is appropriately eclectic and uneven in tone (which I loved). The misogyny meter is cranked all the way up to eleven. Relationships are only vaguely fleshed out before the real business of ripping flesh begins. Breasts are exposed whilst roller-skating; drugs are consumed with excessive abandon; and crudeness and profanity pepper the at-times hilarious dialogue. There is much, much more reflecting the grindhouse experience in this unruly beast of a flick but I will not labor the point as half the fun is being exposed to the madness first-hand.

Review: 'The Guest'

By: Heather Seebach

The world rightfully stood up and took notice of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett with last year's hit You're Next but the duo has been churning out quality thrillers for years and their latest is no exception. The Guest effortlessly oozes cool thanks to its charmingly creepy lead Dan Stevens and a John Carpenter motif that would make any 80s horror fan a little horny.

Stevens plays David Collins, a recently discharged American soldier who shows up at the home of his fallen comrade. The grieving family welcomes the young man to stay with them but daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) is suspicious of the mysterious stranger. Before long, the soft-spoken David has shaken up the Peterson family in unexpected ways.

Right from the opening title card, this film wears its Carpenter influence with pride. Surprisingly enough, it draws the biggest inspiration from Halloween, though The Guest does not directly feel like a horror film. Michael Myers was originally known as "The Shape", a moniker that could suit "David Collins" just as well - another nameless stranger coming "home" for the holiday. Keep your eyes peeled for the blink-and-miss-it reference to Halloween 3: Season of the Witch!

There are also shades of Michael Mann throughout. The film's climax in particular, with its vibrant colors and thumping synth music, lulls you into a (Tangerine) dream. The soundtrack is comprised of goth/electronic/synth pop from the 80s to present, including the likes of Clan of Xymox, Survive, and Sisters of Mercy. You WILL be running to buy/download the OST immediately after watching this movie. It's that great, and demands a vinyl release!

In the titular role, Stevens is virtually unrecognizable to anyone who knows him from Downton Abbey. He slips into the role - and the American accent - with ease. Cool as the entire film is, I could get lost just watching his subtle expression changes. He has the same sort of seductive-but-deadly charm that Matthew Goode had in Stoker. Stevens has the face of a boy-next-door but the icy blue eyes of a psychopath, setting up the viewer in the perfect position, asking, Can we trust him? One person who says no is Anna (above), played by Maika Monroe. Once again, Simon Barrett has written a lead female who is no stereotype or "final girl." While Anna may seem like perfect jail-bait material to the equally sexy David, she is in fact a savvy young woman who sees through his bullshit.

Wingard and Barrett continue to prove they are no one-trick-ponies, taking a wide step away from last year's animal mask sensation for this quieter, trippier film. Still, fans of You're Next can expect at least two fun references and a cameo from a Wingard alumnus here. With its 80s-tastic visual flair, synth soundtrack, and Dan "British Ryan Gosling" Stevens, The Guest constantly brings to mind one word: "Cool." Even if you think you are burnt-out on the 80s/Carpenter/synth revival in horror as of late, take my advice and make room for one more!

The Guest is available On Demand, and hits DVD/Blu-ray January 6th, 2015. Special features include deleted scenes, Q&A with Dan Stevens, and commentary with Wingard and Barrett. 

Review: The Walking Dead - 'Slabtown'

By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers about S5E4**

As I live and breathe, I don't believe it - a good bottle episode! About BETH! I'm learning that I am in the minority who actually liked this episode, which surprises me. This one finally revealed what became of Beth after that mysterious car with the cross in the window kidnapped her. Thankfully it also put to rest that ridiculous theory that Gabriel took her. Despite not involving any of the other main characters, I enjoyed the hell out of Slabtown! It is full of menace, tension, and mystery, and presents a side of humanity that would absolutely exist in the post-apocalypse.

Beth wakes up at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. The last thing she remembers is fighting a walker alongside Daryl but her captors tell her they saved her life. And because of that, they add (very creepily), "So you owe us." This group of survivors is led by a cop named Dawn, who runs the hospital with her fellow male officers, alongside some patients and a single doctor. The entire time Beth is there, she is made to feel she "owes" something, which kicks off the eerie, rapey vibe right from the beginning.

 The little mysteries add up quickly - Was Beth truly found by these people after she was taken? Why does Dawn so badly want to save that man? What the fuck is going on with Joan? What is Dawn hiding? Who's ID is that? All these are soon answered but I found myself wrapped up in the little vague details.  Then you have slap-happy Dawn (who clearly has a screw loose) and the doctor who is a little too nice. Despite having only just met these characters, I was interested! Do I want a whole subplot dedicated to them? FUCK NO, but for a stand-alone episode, it adequately pulled me in.

 This episode was light on zombies but I have never been one to mind that. Give me human enemies on The Walking Dead any day! Beth faces not only liars and rapists here but a dictator-like leader who deliberately allows it all to continue for "the greater good." I absolutely believe there would be people this naive in such a post-catastrophe situation - idiots who think rescue is coming and anything that happens until then is justified. Those people are way scarier to me than zombies. But for you gore lovers - how about that cheese wire amputation, though?! Guhh.

This almost-idyllic little hospital community is very interesting, albeit maybe a little redundant after Terminus. Like Terminus, its dark side is exposed rather quickly but perhaps that is for the better. Perhaps the writers learned after Woodbury that there is no use in dragging out that "Is this town really safe?" stuff - the answer is always a resounding NO. Inside Grady Memorial, Dawn is queen and the police are her worker bees. I like how Noah explained that they left his father behind because he was "big and strong." Of course, that sort of trait would usually be encouraged in a world overrun by zombies but Dawn & co. only want weak people they can control. I think this hierarchy is an interesting notion we haven't quite seen on TWD before, and I'm pleased to meet a new anti-Rick, especially a female one. Even the idea of a self-contained community set inside a hospital, where the floor level is blocked off by walkers, is kinda awesome!

Slabtown addresses interesting ethical issues and backs them up with some tight dialogue. My favorite exchange was between Beth and Dawn (Bechdel would be proud). Dawn verbally bitch-slaps Beth with everything we the viewer have hated about Beth all along! "You are not the greater good. Out there, you are nothing - you are dead or somebody's burden." Dawn also describes their unnerving "system" wherein the "wards" must keep the officers happy for their survival. Rapey as the Governor was, even he wasn't doing this sort of thing! The fact that it is a woman (and an officer of the law) makes it all the more disturbing." To quote Joan (with another solid line): "She can control them but she doesn't because it's's easy to make a deal with the devil when you're not the one paying the price."

So Beth decides to make her escape with Noah but first she has to fend off gropey Gorman using the undead corpse of Joan who has seemingly killed herself (?). Did you notice the "fuck you" carved into the floor? I guess she had every intention of coming back and wreaking zombie havoc! Then Beth and Noah go down the elevator shaft, through the nasty cadaver pile (amazingly without so much as a dry heave), and out to the hospital parking lot. That is where we get confirmation that these people did indeed abduct Beth (as evidenced by the crosses on all the vehicles). And just when it looks like Beth is gonna leave the Noah the sucker (no pun intended) behind, he goes and bails on her! Ha, sucks to be Beth!

Review: The Walking Dead - 'Four Walls and a Roof'

By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers about episode S5E3**

The fifth season continues its gritty charge forward with this solid third episode. It begins by delivering on the scene we comic book fans were so excited to see play out: TAINTED MEAT!! Of course, it wasn't Bob in the comics but otherwise, it happened pretty much the same. That's a hard bit of monologue to pull off convincingly, too. Kudos, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr!

  In that opening scene, I also enjoyed the symbolic shot of Gareth's reflection in the window among the walkers. A bit obvious, sure, but a poignant moment that encapsulates the Terminus cannibals and how they are essentially no different than the zombies. In fact, they're probably worse because they chose to be this way.

Once the cannibals realize Bob is "tainted meat", they return him to the church and there is a walker attack. This is when one very intriguing moment occurs - someone out in the woods shoots a zombie and saves Rick from a distance. When first watching it, my boyfriend immediately interpreted that as the Termites stopping their food from being picked off too soon. I, on the other hand, immediately assumed it was Morgan, watching over them! I still lean toward my interpretation because we know Morgan is a skilled sniper! I guess this one will remain a mystery for now. If you saw it differently, please comment below and tell me why!

With Bob dying and the safety of the church compromised, Abraham & co. decide to leave. There is that great almost-showdown between Rick and Abraham. "You're not taking the bus." Shame we didn't get to see them fight! Rick gives the best Give No Fucks faces, doesn't he? We see it again when he gets the jump on Gareth & co. later in the church. How badass was that?! "Put your guns on the floor and KNEEL!" Single sexiest thing Rick Grimes has ever said - unf! Second and third might be, "We didn't want to waste the bullets" and "I already made you a promise..." respectively!

What happens next plays out very closely to the comic books. Rick's group brings the cannibals to their knees, blowing off the leader's fingers and making him beg for their lives. They then proceed to brutally butcher the Hunters/Termites with bladed weapons. It was a powerful scene in both the books and the show, so much so that it (along with "tainted meat!") was #1 on my list of TWD plots I wanted to see adapted on the show.

So Michonne gets her kitana back, Bob dies, and Abraham's crew leaves for DC. Meh. For me, this episode is ALL about the comic book moments. I did appreciate Abraham's little note, though: "The new world is gonna need Rick Grimes." I liked that because it's the first we've really seen of the Rick-Abraham dynamic from the comics. I hope there is more of that in the near future. 

The episode ends on a genuine cliffhanger - I can't even remember the last time one left me wanting more! Daryl returns from chasing Beth's kidnappers, and when asked about Carol, gets a solemn look on his face. But he is not alone. Who is it?! Beth? Carol? A third person?? I am genuinely curious, especially given the preview for next week's where we see Beth has been god-knows-where! Mostly, I fear for Carol. I am just starting to love this fucking character, don't kill her off now!!

I'd say this is my second favorite of the three episodes so far this season. The premiere is still the strongest but this had some great, bad-ass moments, and it actually left me wanting to know what's next (which is rare for The Walking Dead). 

Recap: Exhumed Films' 24-Hour Horror-thon VIII - PART 2

By: Heather Seebach

This past weekend, cult-film enthusiasts Exhumed Films held their annual 24-Hour Horror-thon at the International House Philadelphia. This event runs from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday, screening non-stop 35mm horror films and trailers! This is only my second-time attending the event, but the first time I was able to stay from beginning to end (thanks to my late arrival last year). I'm proud to say I stayed awake for all FIFTEEEN films, save for the occasional nodding off for a few minutes. And what an impressive line-up it was!

As always with the Horror-thon, the titles are kept secret until they show up on-screen. We were given hints, however, which I will list below with each blurb. Overall, this was another stellar Horror-thon with a diverse blend of cult favorites and little-seen gems, all in glorious 35mm!


The Clue: "Infamous and brutal 1970s gore/exploitation film that lives up (or down?) to its reputation as one of the sleaziest, most disturbing films of all time."

The Movie: The Last House on Dead End Street (1977, d: Roger Watkins)

Apparently a lot of the Exhumed audience hated this one which surprises me! I suppose that's because it's not a so-bad-its-good laugh riot like most other screened films? This one is a pseudo-documentary-style horror flick about a drug dealer who decides to make his mark on the world with snuff films. It's akin to later, gritty stuff like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Man Bites Dog. I was particularly reminded of the latter and, honestly, I prefer this one to MBD. There is no tongue-in-cheek "Feel bad about yourself for liking this evil person!" stuff, it's just nasty people being nasty. Yes, it can drag at times but its blackest, goriest, and creepiest moments are sure to leave a stain on your soul.


The Clue: "Ridiculously inept, anachronistic 'period piece' horror film from a divisive director folks tend to love or hate...or love to hate."

The Movie: Guru the Mad Monk (1970, d: Andy Milligan)

This is another film during which I grabbed a little nap but it's a wacky one set in the 15th century, where the titular mad monk uses a vampire lady and a hunchback (named Igor, obviously) to carry out nasty deeds for him. Aaaand something to do with a prison guard who wants to save his condemned-to-die girlfriend, who was accused of killing her miscarried gypsy-rape baby. Yeah - don't ask. All I remember from this 4AM screening is how flubbed lines were left in the movie (always good for a laugh), Guru the monk bitch-slapping someone, and how hands can easily be chopped off by lightly tapping one's wrists with an axe.


 The Clue: "Goofy, absurd, yet strangely charming 1970s creature feature."

The Movie: Bog (1983, d: Don Keeslar)

My short naps continued to fade in and out for this early-morning movie so all I can definitively tell you is it's about an aquatic monster that is awoken by redneck dynamite fishing. A scientist and the town sheriff battle the thing, along with victims' husbands. There are some really unintentionally-funny moments, often thanks to abrupt cutting between scenes or the really bad love scene. Good luck getting this song out of your head:


The Clue: "Gruesome, satirical horror/exploitation favorite."

The Movie: Mother's Day (1980, d: Charles Kaufman) 

I may have been slipping into a gradual slumber during the last two flicks but this one woke me right up! Mother's Day is a ton of fun, especially for a film with a rape scene in it! Three female college roommates get together to reminisce in Deep Barrows Wilderness Park but of course they are not alone. They are kidnapped by two sick young men and their psychotic mother. Produced by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman and directed by his brother Charles, this film works so well because the victims are actually likable with backstory, and the villains don't take themselves too seriously. It's full of humor, and takes subtle satirical jabs at rapesploitation while setting up camp for itself in that subgenre. Too many memorable scenes to name - just a fun, fun movie.


The Clue: "Clever and enjoyable supernatural 'sequel-in-name-only' that may actually bit a biy better than the original."

The Movie: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987, d: Bruce Pittman)

Speaking of fun movies, we got a one-two punch with Mother's Day followed by this! I was particularly delighted Hello Mary Lou was on the Horror-thon roster because I've been wanting to revisit it and confirm a scene that I once thought was from a Nightmare on Elm Street film. It did not occur to me before how much this one kinda has a Nightmare vibe to it - especially that freaky fucking rocking horse! Anyway, this sequel (unrelated though it may be) is awesome as hell, with gore abound, clever kills, and a villainess I want to be when I grow up!


The Clue: "Obscure, gory 1908s slasher film."

The Movie: Blood Rage (aka Nightmare at Shadow Woods, 1987, d: John Grissmer)

For me, this was possibly the stand-out gem of the marathon just because it was completely new to me - and SO much fun! There are countless big laughs - some intentional, some not. It's a rare treat (for me) to find a slasher film where I look forward to each kill and they deliver every. damn. time. Hands and heads are lopped off with hilarious results. One guy even orgasms when he dies. It's great. As the hammy killer and his innocent twin brother, Mark Soper played both roles so well that I didn't even know it was the same actor until the final scene! "That is NOT cranberry sauce!" is my new favorite catchphrase. Bonus: Ted Raimi is in this movie.


The Clue: "Totally awesome, totally creepy 'Animals Attack' movie"

The Movie: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977, d: John 'Bud' Cardos)

While not a bad movie, this one felt the looooongest to me, by far. Perhaps it's because it was the penultimate film in this loooong marathon, but most likely it's because it's kinda boring. The tarantulas are not even a remote threat until 3/4 into the film! Prior to that, it's Shatner trying to get in a woman's pants and dead cows. That's it. Eventually, we get to enjoy Shat doing what he does best - chew scenery, but gaaaawd, it dragged for a while there. The highlight of the film: Woody Strode's on-screen wife blowing her own fingers off trying to shoot a spider. Lowlight: Watching a shit-ton of real tarantulas be crushed for a movie. Not cool.


The Clue: "Zombie movie fan favorite that should be a fun film to finish the festival."

The Movie: Night of the Creeps (1986, d: Fred Dekker)

I imagine some audience members might've let out a groan at such a "familiar" title - or bailed out early for the same reason - but c'mon, it's Night of the fucking Creeps! It's AWESOME! I stayed and enjoyed every moment as if it were the first time. The humor, the gore, the genre references - never get old! What other film has a serial killer, zombies, aliens, and parasitic brain slugs?! And Tom fucking Atkins, of course! Would you believe, I still discovered something I never noticed before - the fact that the black cat is named Gordon, much like all the other characters named for horror directors. That particular one - and the meaning behind it (cat dead, details later....) - somehow passed me by previously!

Recap: Exhumed Films' 24-Hour Horror-thon VIII - PART 1

By: Heather Seebach

This past weekend, cult-film enthusiasts Exhumed Films held their annual 24-Hour Horror-thon at the International House Philadelphia. This event runs from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday, screening non-stop 35mm horror films and trailers! This is only my second-time attending the event, but the first time I was able to stay from beginning to end (thanks to my late arrival last year). I'm proud to say I stayed awake for all FIFTEEEN films, save for the occasional nodding off for a few minutes. And what an impressive line-up it was!

As always with the Horror-thon, the titles are kept secret until they show up on-screen. We were given hints, however, which I will list below with each blurb. Overall, this was another stellar Horror-thon with a diverse blend of cult favorites and little-seen gems, all in glorious 35mm!

MOVIE #1: 

The Clue: "Stylish, star-studded cosmic horror film worthy of rediscovery."

The Answer: The Keep (1983, d: Michael Mann)

My best guess based on that clue was The Visitor but I kinda figured that one has been played to death elsewhere already. Fortunately, it was actually this visually-pleasing treat from Michael Mann. Set in 1941 in the Carpathian Mountains, Jürgen Prochnow leads a squad of German soldiers who set up camp in an abandoned citadel. Some thieving soldiers inadvertently unleash an ancient being that was being held there. The creature seeks the help of Ian McKellan, a dying Jewish man. This movie is so deliciously Mann - the colors, music, smoke, and slow-motion - and the creature itself look amazing (in multiple stages)! The cast is great, though Scott Glenn in the "lead" is worthless and probably could have been written out entirely except that mysterious, intergalactic travelers are a staple of films such as this. Still, his wannabe Lance Henriksen face creeped me out.


The Clue: "Influential Asian horror movie that created its own subgenre."

The Movie: Black Magic (1975, d: Meng Hua Ho)

 This Shaw Brothers production, also called Jiang tou, kicked off the trend of "black magic" Hong Kong films that includes titles like The Boxer's Omen and Devil Fetus. This one is about dark magic magician and his series of idiotic customers who each want to make someone fall in love with them. It starts to turn into a weird episode of Three's Company about brainwashing. It's a wacky slice of entertainment for fans of HK cinema though bad movie enthusiasts will also find plenty to chuckle at. This one is full of unintentionally hilarious moments, like a reference to how a woman has 'got milk' or the scene-stealing German shepherd who is way happier than any guard dog should be.


The Clue: "Quite possibly the dumbest giant monster movie ever made."

The Movie: Godzilla's Revenge (1969, d: Ishirô Honda)

That clue was pretty damn accurate. This one is technically a Godzilla film but it's actually a shitty after-school special disguised as a kaiju movie. In it, the fat little kid from Pixar's Up daydreams about visiting Monster Island, where he meets Godzilla's creepy, pedophilic-looking "son" named Minya (see photo above). We are also introduced to Gabara, who is probably the most obnoxious Godzilla enemy ever. By watching Godzilla & son take on monsters, the little boy learns how to face his own bullies at school. Terrible as it is, the film is worth a few laughs so long as you remember there is very little Godzilla and absolutely no revenge.


The Clue: "Earnest entry in an iconic horror movie series that doesn't live up to its predecessors but is still superior to the terrible sequels and do-overs that followed." 

The Movie: Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990, d: Jeff Burr)

This is a fantastic sequel, and an interesting one because it's surprisingly light on gore. Instead, it boasts some genuinely creepy moments like our introduction to the Sawyers in this film. The little girl with the doll in that creepy room of bones is terrifying. What could have been a cheap splatterfest actually builds a lot of tension and makes its characters - both the heroes and villains - likeable! It also pays subtle tribute to its predecessors (like the photographs at the mass grave). Earnest though it may be, TCM3 is not without a sense of humor. Leatherface playing with the electronic child's toy is still hilarious. The film also has a solid cast, notably the insanely sexy Viggo Mortensen.


The Clue: "Fun, rarely screened sci-fi horror inspired by 1950s atomic monster movies."

The Movie: Blue Monkey (1987, d: William Fruet)

Who the fuck thought Blue Monkey was a good name for this film about a giant, mutated bug attacking a hospital?! Steve Railsback stars as a police detective who is stuck in the hospital when a parasite breaks out and puts the whole place into quarantine. It's not a very good film but it's amusing, especially if you like creature features. It shamelessly apes Alien but the creature FX are good and the occasional gore moment delivers. 


The Clue: "Creepy 'living dead' fan favorite"

The Movie: Pet Sematary (1989, Mary Lambert)

This movie was my opportunity to go get dinner and take a piss but of course I can tell you from previous experience that it's one of the better Stephen King adaptations that still instills fear to this day. The last third in particular - Zelda; the achilles tendon slice; reanimated Gage - is horrifying stuff. This one always delivers and what a treat to see it on 35mm!

Review: The Walking Dead: 'Strangers'

By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers about S5E2. Do not read without first watching the episode**

This second episode was not nearly as strong as the premiere but it saw the introduction of some characters and moments very familiar to fans of the comic books, no doubt due in some part to Robert Kirkman himself penning this one.

The beginning of 'Strangers' is dedicated to mending character relationships after all the chaos. Tara - who I forgot was even in this show - makes good with Rick and Maggie. Tyreese forgives Carol. Sasha and Bob are suddenly in a relationship (convenient timing - more on that later). There is also more talk about Eugene's plan for DC and the so-called cure (we all know by now he's full of shit, right?).

Then we are introduced to Gabriel, who comic book fans should recognize:

Though a few things are out of order, Gabriel's introduction to the story is pretty much right on schedule. It seems Kirkman is planning to follow his backstory pretty closely, based on those knife marks on the side of the church. I'm already loving Seth Gilliam as Gabriel - he brings just the right combination of cowardice and untrustworthiness.

I am most curious as to how this all ties into Beth's abduction. Ever since we first spotted the cross on the back of that vehicle, fans have been speculating about Gabriel. That theory never made much sense to me, however, since the priest is pretty harmless. That is not to say the show's writers couldn't have other plans in mind for him. I had simply assumed that vehicle was tied to the burial home where Beth was taken, but seeing as that locale is long gone and the car resurfaces just as we meet Gabriel, well, it's no coincidence. So I'm curious to see where that goes.

The big zombie scene of the episode takes place in a food bank full of water-logged walkers. They looked good, especially that nasty one that attacked Bob:

Still, the scene did feel a bit too reminiscent of the far-superior Big Spot! scene from the season 4 premiere (where it rained zombies). Anyway, when Bob gets attacked, it's pretty much clear to us right away that he is hiding a bite, made all the more obvious by his "One more" kiss to Sasha in the church. And I figured he would get jumped by Gareth & co. outside, but I did NOT expect what followed (and what is about to follow).


Once again, fans of the comic book should be excited because we know exactly what is coming! It was actually #1 on my list of shocking plots I wanted to see from the comics! The campfire scene played out a little differently of course, with Dale:

Even more exciting than the prospect of Bob manically laughing and yelling, "Tainted meat!" is the prospect of Rick & co. brutally murdering the Terminus crew. It is a dark path that needs to be taken and I for one cannot wait!


Overall, I enjoyed this episode, but mostly that was because I get really excited when the show follows the comics closely. As much as I've always wanted the series to go its own way and give me new material, Sophia's death was really the only original moment to wow me on the level of the books. Dale's TV death came close, as well. Every other brilliant, gruesome moment happened when the writers steered back toward Kirkman's sick mind. Hell, most of the items on my aforementioned list have only recently come to fruition thanks to Gimple. So fuck it, keep the good stuff coming! I'd rather see the same storylines I already read brought to life than suffer another boring plotline like the prison virus.

Review: The Walking Dead - 'No Sanctuary'

By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers for S5E1. Do not read without first watching the episode**

 Since Scott Gimple took the reigns on The Walking Dead last season, the show has been getting progressively darker which pleases me to no end! There were rumors that the season 5 premiere was "too disturbing to air" and while that is a dangerous amount of hype, the first episode definitely delivered! Unlike with most episodes of the show, I could not find a single complaint here.

"No Sanctuary" picks up where the finale left off, with our protagonists trapped in a traincar in Terminus. True to Rick's promise of "They fucked with the wrong people"  - yes, I'm pretending that whole "screwed" thing never happened - the gang prepare makeshift weapons to defend themselves. It is to no avail, however, when they are separated and dragged to a slaughterhouse. 

I was pleasantly surprised with the level of gore in this opening scene. As a diehard horror fan, slit throats and gushing blood do not faze me but I did not expect AMC to have the balls to show such graphic human-on-human violence. The walker kills reach ridiculously gory levels but I cannot think of another human murder that was portrayed with such graphic realism as this. Between the Governor, Lizzie, and this, the show is taking a refreshingly bleak turn and finally beginning to match the cojones of its comic book counterpart. 

Speaking of the comics, I still have to wonder if that "baseball bat smock man" was a little tongue-in-cheek reference to Negan. I won't go into specifics but if you know the comics, you know what I mean. Especially considering Kirkman's involvement with the show, there is no way the similarity did not at least occur the writers. Perhaps this means future events won't play out quite as expected? After the watering-down of the Governor, I would expect some things to be changed, but now with Gimple and his penchant for brutality, I'm not so sure anymore! We shall see.

The slaughter-floor scene is a bit predictable what with the nameless "red shirts" and the convenient saves but I thoroughly enjoyed the gore and Rick being a total bad-ass. His give-no-fucks glare to Gareth was fantastic. As soon as I saw that head-tilt, I knew shit was about to go down!

I also found Gareth to be suitably creepy, especially his calm, collected but cold demeanor and the way he knew Bob's name. The whole scene was tense and bleak in a fashion finally befitting this storyline. Rick's ruthlessness in particular this entire episode pleases me. From "Let him turn" to "They don't get to live", my man was one hard motherfucker this episode! Hopefully the gun-fearing, ghost-seeing Farmer Rick is gone for good now.

The only person who could touch Rick's beast-mode this episode was Carol, who moved up yet another notch on the total bad-ass scale when she went full-blown Rambo (in a Clint Eastwood poncho) and saved everyone's butts. The gas explosion; hiding amongst the walkers; sniping the bad guys from inside their own compound; and leaving Tasha Yar/Rachel Creed to be eaten alive - DAMN, woman! I defended Carol's actions at the prison; I loved her for how she dealt with Lizzie; and now she's finally the kind of hero that everyone can accept - even Tyreese. I'm not sure I could adore that woman any more! If Carol dies, we riot!

 The scenes between Tyreese and Martin, the guy from Terminus, were fantastic, as well. The latter was equally menacing, if not moreso, than Gareth. "You're a good guy. That's why you're gonna die today. That's why the baby's gonna die today." What a deliciously nasty line! Thankfully, Tyreese's whiney, crybaby phase ended and he got to fuck up a half-dozen walkers (true to his print counterpart) and how epic was that tackle?! There's the Tyreese I know and love!

The gore and FX were pretty solid this episode...

....even that one face-muncher who looked totally fake but still felt like a nice, old-school low-budget effect: 

Mostly, "No Sanctuary" is bolstered by strong characters, tense writing, and dialogue. I love all the backstory given to Terminus. It imagines what Rick & co could have turned into - or could still turn into - given enough time and pain. They were once good, caring people who were victimized and made to survive. "You're the butcher, or you're the cattle." Great stuff! Love a little sympathy for the devil! The use of the "THEN" bookends was a great touch.

After all the brutality and badassery, the episode ends with a tearful reunion between Rick, Carl and Judith, and between Daryl and Carol. Fangirl hearts exploded everywhere, etc. etc. A nice relief. All in all, a fantastic premiere and I am excited to see where they take it.

Review: 'Found.'

By: Heather Seebach

These days, every new indie horror that pops up is touted as the Second Coming of the genre. Cheap torture porn is considered "edgy" and people stitched ass-to-mouth is hailed as "disturbing." Frankly, I grow weary of the hyperbole. So what a refreshing surprise it was when I saw Scott Schirmer's Found. and realized it was every bit as soul-shattering as I had heard - and then some. More than that, though, it is a powerful coming-of-age drama that provokes relevant discussion on bullying and the role of horror movies in real-life violence.

Review: 'Ink'

By: Bradley Hadcroft

INK is the final part of director Andy Stewart's body horror themed trilogy of short films - preceded by DYSMORPHIA and SPLIT, respectively - and it proves to be his most well-rounded and accomplished piece of work yet.

This particular slice of discomfort pie concerns a severely disturbed young man with a novel approach to body decoration and scant regard for basic medical principles. Suffice to say, tattoos play a major part in a movie titled INK; however, it is best to go into this deranged short as bereft of knowledge as possible and just throw yourself at the mercy of its twisted imagination.

The plot of INK is in fact relatively linear but once again it is the intricacy of its cinematic mechanics that creates the fierce intensity we have come to expect from this talented director. It really is a little Swiss watch of a short.  Stewart has retained the services of his gifted crew from previous installments of the trilogy for INK and once again they prove to be consistently professional and frequently inspired. INK is never anything other than technically accomplished and as such soars high above its under $10,000 budget.

David McKeitch's sound design is by turns brilliantly subtle and nauseatingly rambunctious, and Alan McLaughlin's camerawork is precise, lean, and moody - stalking Remo Catani & Chris Goldie's atmosphere drenched sets with economy and purpose. Award-winning effects artist Grant Mason takes us on another excruciating tour of his practical make-up repertoire and strong stuff it is indeed. 

The usual wince-inducing set pieces we have grown accustomed to from this body of work are present in sharpened spades. There will be many a tightly gripped chair arm amidst the sharp intakes of breath and diverted eyes once this cringe machine blazes its way around the festival circuit. Also to be commended here is the fine editing from Jim Lang. Taking the "Slow Burn " approach benefits INK tremendously as staring at It's glowing embers is just as engrossing as when it bursts into flames.

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