Dec 19, 2014

BLU-RAY REVIEW: MINDWARP (TWLIGHT TIME)


The Film

Filmmakers, especially horror ones, were sort of obsessed with the idea of computers and artificial intelligence during the 1990s. Lawnmower Man comes to mind, as does Ghost in the Machine and Brainscan. None of these films are of any particular merit, but it's not really the fault of the horror genre per se. For fun, we can throw The Net into the mix for proof that big-budget Hollywood projects could be equally ludicrous. Hell, perhaps you remember the sexually charged Disclosure from 1995, a serviceable thriller starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore (back when she still gave a damn about trying to act) that features, by today's standards, a frankly hilarious virtual reality third-act climax whose special effects were on par with the latest episode of "South Park." No one was really making any pro-computer films because they were still considered a new technology (at least at the consumer level), and, as with all "new" things, people didn't know enough about them, and hence were terrified of them.

Mindwarp is something of a different beast - it has more in common with 2001 than any of the above films, and also includes a dash of Mad Max and Total Recall. It presents on a philosophical level the danger not of computers in general but of our dependence on them. On this wasteland formerly Earth following nuclear fallout, human civilization was divided into two groups of people: The first group consisted of those who escaped the blast into a permanent indoor environment where they can plug into computers all day and pretend to be anyone, anywhere, at any time in history. (These plugs go into the back of the neck, by the way, so suck it, Keanu. Mindwarp was here first.)

One of these hiders is a young woman named Judy, confined alongside her mother, who has grown tired of the artificiality of it all and demands to SysOp (the Systems Operator) to free her and allow her entry to the outside world so that she may see for herself what the "real" world is like. Well, its exactly there where Judy meets the other group of people: scavengers destined to hunting rodents to survive, covering themselves head to toe in furs and burlap to shield themselves from the sun (and those who don't turn into drippy gooey mutants). As you can imagine, some of these outsiders are really really mean and it causes all sorts of havoc. Along the way, Judy meets Bruce Campbell, one of these scavengers just trying to survive. Things go fairly well, and each begins to learn about how the other half lives, but then things go badly pretty quickly and Judy is kidnapped by these mutants where she meets Lord of the Mutants, Angus Scrimm. Only one person will save the day - guess who!



Fucking Mindwarp. What a quirky, well-meaning film. At times both philosophical and entirely stupid, well made and...not so well made, it's the kind of harmless Blockbuster horror shelf fodder that I frankly miss. Regardless of the success that Mindwarp obtained, it's easy to tell that everyone involved in this - from director Steve Barnett, co-writer John D. Brancato (hey, he wrote The Net!) to its cast of Campbell, Scrimm, and Marta Martin - believed in the film they were making, because it shows. Everyone's on board, even for the silliest of aspects, so for that alone Mindwarp deserves at the very least a round of mutant applause. Despite the at-times overused Day of the Dead-ish themes of, Mindwarp still feels fresh - enough that a surprisingly large amount of fans were ecstatic when this film was released on blu-ray. While I don't share their devotion to this particular film, I definitely understand the passion for high-definition releases of cult films. (You should've seen my face when I heard about The First Power being released on blu.) So, for that alone, (and the below), Mindwarp wins the day.

The Picture

Something of Mindwarp's cultural significance or popularity with film audiences frankly shouldn't look as good as it does. Granted, it looks every bit its 1992 shooting age, but in all probability it couldn't really look any better. The film's first act takes place either in brightly lit and sterile interiors, or a blazing, sun-drenched mountainous landscape exterior, and so the film's generous layer of grain gets lost - either in the bright blue sky or the blanket of white snow - leaving behind a clean foreground. However, the film looks even better when things get dark:

The Sound

No issues here with the 2.0 DTS-HD MA. The score by Mark Govenor is finely integrated with the remaining sound scape. Dialogue is clear; ambient noise, especially at night, is effective. And if you're wondering why you hear so many animals across a land that was ravaged by nuclear warfare, that just means you're thinking too hard, so KNOCK IT OFF. IT'S MINDWARP.

The Supplements

Mindwarp's features are rather light, offering only an isolated score by composer Mark Govenor, a theatrical trailer, and the usual liner notes provided by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo. A disappointing supplemental package, to be fair, but, to be fairer, this is Mindwarp we're talking about. If Twilight Time didn't step in to bring this title to blu, it's incredibly doubtful any other specialty distribution company would have bothered. 

Tech Specs

LANGUAGE: English
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition / 1.85:1
AUDIO: English 2.0 DTS-HD MA
SUBTITLES: English SDH
1992 / Color 96 MINUTES
RATED: R
REGION FREE
Limited Edition of 3,000 Units

Overall

Mindwarp is goofy, corny, and was destined for late-night Sci Fi Channel. But there's also an undeniable charm about the whole thing. A film with a rather pessimistic view of the future that features philosophical conversations about God, love, "what is real?" mixed with mutant cannibals, swords and leather, scary women with green gooey syringes. Take Bruce Campbell, add some Angus Scrimm, remember that this film is "presented" by Fangoria, and just enjoy it for what it is: an early '90s cheese plate.

About Twilight Time 

“We are, ourselves, collectors. We are, ourselves, lifelong movie buffs. We are putting [these specific titles] out, and if we didn’t put them out, it is likely that they wouldn’t come out. And we are going to try to put them out in the way that we would like to see them, which means that we are always going to try to have the best picture and sound that we can.” - Nick Redman, Co-Founder, Twilight Time


(Screencaps courtesy of DVDTalk.)

Dec 17, 2014

FOOTSTEPS

When I was in college, I used to ride the bus to my grandmother's house once in awhile and stay the weekend. It was nice for me to get a chance to sit and talk to her, and it also gave me an opportunity to help her out with odd jobs around the house like changing light bulbs, putting screens in the windows, etc.

She lived (and still does) alone with no pets in a two story bungalow-style house. I always slept in the same place-upstairs and in the bedroom all the way at the end of the hallway. Not sure why that was always my spot, since she has two other empty bedrooms, but that's the one I always used. The bedroom is T-shaped, with the head of the bed at the top center of the "T" facing the "leg". The door to the room is positioned in the right side of the top of the "T" if you're laying in bed on your back.

Anyway, I had been up late watching TV, long after my grandma was asleep in her room. I was getting sleepy at around 2AM and decided to call it a night. I climbed the stairs, walked down the hallway, and covered up in bed. I lay awake for longer than I expected to, but was finally just starting to doze when I heard it.

Something starting tapping on the carpeted floor at the opposite end of the room. It literally sounded like someone had crouched down and was rapidly and rhythmically drumming their hand on the floor. I immediately froze, my body tensing up, listening to what my logical mind kept trying to insist was either my imagination, or was coming from somewhere outside the room. It wasn't. The house was quiet, with the exception of that continual tapping coming from several feet past the foot of my bed.

The room was far too dark to see anything, but I was too afraid to try and get out of bed and make it to the light switch. Finally the tapping stopped, and I lay there still not moving, trying to keep my rapid breathing quiet, my heart pounding in my throat. Then it really got bad.

A few seconds after the tapping stopped, I heard the distinct sound of light footsteps approaching the bed. The steps came straight to the foot of the bed, and then diverted and came around the side of the bed and stopped RIGHT BY MY HEAD! At this point, I was terrified at a level I've not experienced before or since. Whatever was standing there by the side of my bed was between me and the door and lightswitch. I remained frozen, unsure of what to do, and unsure if I'd be able to move if I wanted to. There was silence for about 30 seconds, during which I got the impression that something was studying me intently. Then the footsteps started up again, slowly and unhurriedly walking back toward the foot of the bed, around the foot, and up the other side. Again, once they reached the head of the bed, they stopped. Silence again for around 30 seconds, and then the light, methodical footsteps moved back to the far side of the room, and stopped.

I lay there still terrified for a long, long time. Looking back, I wonder why I never got up and turned the light on. Eventually, I somehow managed to drift off into an uneasy sleep, and didn't have any further incidents for the rest of the night.

Still to this day have no clue what that was all about, but I've stayed in that room many times since, and never had any problems.

Story source.

Dec 15, 2014

CRYPT KEEPER

While visiting the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY today, I was peeking into a crypt and trying to see in. It was too dark to see anything.

The only opening was this cross in the door so I tried using the camera flash to light up the inside. The flash went off but it didn’t seem to do anything but bounce off the stone. Then when I got home I uploaded the photo and saw this smoke-like image inside the tomb.

I don’t know whose tomb it is, I didn’t even think to look when I was there. I will have to go back and see if I can find it. This cemetery is massive. That is How I saw the image as well but others see it this was, also a female but more of a 3/4 view of a face, if you take the left eye of the skeletal face, that would be the only (right) eye and to the left of that is the shape of a nose. Below this the mouth, I don’t know if that makes sense but I am not sure how else to explain it.

Story and image source.

Dec 14, 2014

FINAL PLUNGE

Buffalo Courier Press photographer I. Russell Sorgi did a little impromptu ambulance chasing on his way back from another job. He wound up snapping photos of a woman standing on a ledge at the Geneese Hotel, as she waved goodbye and started her fall, he reloaded the camera in haste and caught the last second of her life, frozen in time 15 feet above the cold sidewalk below. Her name was Mary Miller.

The photo was used in a psychological study and it was found that 96% of the people given the photo didn’t even notice her on first examination of the shot.

Dec 13, 2014

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? 1X11: THE TALE OF THE DARK MUSIC

If you were a budding horror misanthrope in your early teens during the ‘90s, then you not only remember, but cherish, this long-running Nickelodeon series about a group of variously ethnic kids meeting in the woods at night to trade spooky tales. Perhaps you remember President Gary's opening remarks during the first episode: "We're called The Midnight Society. Separately, we're very different...but one thing draws us together: the dark! Each week, we gather around this fire to share our fears and our strange and scary tales." The stories were creepy, corny, fantastic, or pretty stupid, but we all remember that nervous knot in our stomachs beginning to tighten as the legitimately eerie opening title sequence began (which includes that awful clown-doll from which I used to avert my eyes). You didn’t know if the groundwork for nightmares was being laid, but you sat, rapt, waiting to see.  So grab your weird bag of magic dust and toss it in the fire. It’s time to see if you’re still afraid of the dark.



The Tale Submitted For Approval: 

"The Tale of the Dark Music"

The Submitter: Eric

The Current Midnight Society Administration: Gary (President, Glasses); David (Vice-President, Administrator of the Useless); Kiki (Secretary of War/Ass-Kicker, Name-Taker); Eric (Director of the Office of Management and Budget/Minister of Looking Smarmy); Betty Ann (Ambassador to the United Nations/Gary’s Unspoken Mistress); Kristen (Trade Representative/Socialite); Frank (Intern/Socialite).


The Jist

Have you met Andy Carr? He's pretty sad because he's a child-of-divorce who wears pink shirts. Plus he looks like Vern Tessio from Stand by Me with all the fat sucked out of him, so it's weird. He's recently moved into a new house, which his mother inherited from a dead uncle she barely knew (until the time comes for the necessary exposition, that is), but the family still has money problems, so Andy tries to help out with bills by delivering papers, as is rite of passage for every boy.

While tossing papers one day, Andy meets his new neighbor, Koda, who looks like David St. Hubbins from This is Spinal Tap, but somehow even less bright, and who also has his own terrible rock'n'roll theme song that shreds at his every appearance. The two engage in confrontation which ends with Andy sprawled across the ground on his back while Koda stands above him and looks like a big-game hunter from a cartoon - he might as well have his hands on his hips. He's basically welcomed Andy to the neighborhood, but in the way bullies do it.

"Please don't hurt me anymore, Mr. Springsteen."


Down in the basement of his new house, Andy sees an old radio, which is connected to the power of the kitchen wall switch upstairs. After flipping on the radio, a wooden door in the basement swings open and a voice booms from the darkness, telling him to "come on in."

Andy shits every pair of pants he's ever owned and runs up the stairs screaming for his mother, who for some reason believes that there is a monster in that dark room and approaches it with a hockey stick to brain it, all while he continues screaming about his encounter.

It said, 'Come on in so I can suck your blood!' or something!" Andy totally fucking lies. Man, what a liar!

She opens the door to reveal it's nothing more than an old root cellar, and most importantly, it's monster-free. She says the "monster" was likely nothing more than rats (twice), leaky pipes, or the old radio - all in succession. Mom tsk-tsks and leaves while his bratty little sister likely says something asshole.

Andy thinks having a dark basement room that talks to him is pretty far-out, so he casually begins asking his mother about his Uncle Niles, as well as the history of the house. He learns from his mother that his uncle was a weirdo outcast whom none of the neighbors liked and who was apparently pretty well-off, financially, even though he didn't have a job. She also casually mentions that he was also found dead...in the house...in the BASEMENT. THIS IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO HAVE.

Later, Andy's down in the basement again when that old wooden door swings open again. Out of it comes the scariest fucking thing anyone has ever seen:

"♫ It's all about my face, 'bout my face, 'bout my--"


Andy, who inexplicably still contains shit within him after his previous brush with the door, screams his mouth off and tears ass out of there, dropping even more shit into his Lees. One would think that'd be enough to not only avoid going into the basement ever again, but to also commit suicide ASAP.

Get this, though: motherfucker goes back into the basement!

What?!

What is this?!

Andy! Did you somehow miss the Suzanne Somers monster that came out of the dark toward you? It had DOLL HANDS AND A DOLL FACE.

Kids!

Well, that dreaded door swings open again and this time there's an entire carnival inside the room, complete with balloons, roller-coaster, terror, and popcorn cart. Some type of carnival showman tries to tempt Andy into coming inside the room, and it kinda seems to be working, as Andy wants all over that carnival, but then the showman really blows it by turning into a screaming skeleton.

After being near-raped by this carnival skeleton, Andy realizes that music is the trigger which calls forth the root cellar of evil. Instead of doing anything about it, he instead flees on his bike and directly into Koda's fist of fury. Because we have to REALLY develop dislike for Koda, he picks up Andy's bike and throws it under the wheels of a dump truck, forever rendering Andy a non-wheeled pedestrian.

"I'm gonna beat on you for the rest of your life," Koda assures Andy, and us all.

Viewing audience, Andy's had enough. He goes home, turns his basement into a murder trap, and then lures Koda there with the aid of a brick and a bit of the ol' smart-assin'. It works like a charm, and Koda chases Andy down into the basement through a bulkhead door. After promptly locking every potential exit, Andy flips on the radio from the switch in the kitchen and blasts some hardcore rock music all over the basement. Koda screams all the fucking Poison lyrics out of his brain and is eaten by the monster room.

The room thanks Andy for the meal and gives him a new bike, even offering him all kinds of additional treats, should he continue to feed the room one asshole after another.

And you just know Andy is totally into this idea, because he makes this face:

"Blowpops for dinner."

The Reaction

My reaction? Here's my reaction: Andy fucking MURDERS a child at the end of this episode - premeditated, root-cellar-terror, rock'n'roll murder - and I LOVE IT. So far the scariest thing "Dark" has had to offer was a cigar-chomping clown who sounded like Pumba from The Lion King, and that was way back in the beginning of the season. All these episodes later, we've achieved child murder. And not only that, it's pretty much implied Andy's going to murder his sister, too. Yes! Take that, everyone!

God, if I had a murder room that left no trace evidence, I'd use it ALL. THE. TIME. In you go, Shia Labeouf!

Also, I like to think that Midnight Society's Eric read my previous episode recap ("The Tale of Jake and the Leprechaun"), during which he was that night's storyteller, and was so rattled by my extreme hatred for both his episode and himself in general, that he found a way to travel back in time, bump Betty Ann's dumb story about a haunted roller-rink (probably) out of the way, and butt in line so he could make it up to me with this episode's twenty-one minutes of madness.

Is It Scary?

That weird woman doll with creaky limbs is. Oh, and Koda's hair. Laugh!

Is It Corny?

More like scorny! Which is another way to say scary when you're not really putting a lot of effort into your jokes!

Is It Stupid?

To describe this episode out loud to someone makes it sound stupid, but no, it's not stupid when you watch it. It's actually kind of fucked up.

How Bad Is The Acting?

Pretty bad. TO THE BONE.

Does The Kid Deserve His Terror?

Of course he does.

Look:

Andy goes into basement, door opens, voice in darkness tells him "come in."

Andy goes back into that basement, where a door opens, a human-sized fucking creep-doll comes out of the dark and tells him to play with her.

Andy goes back into that basement, where a door opens and an entire fucking carnival, somehow, is IN that room, and a showman turns into a skeleton and grabs his wrist.

Fool Andy once, shame on you; fool Andy twice, shame on him; fool Andy three times, die from the mysterious monster room.

Unless you're asking if Koda deserves his terror. Well...of course he does. Did you not see his hair? Plus, he was kinda mean.

A romance so forbidden, it was for-boned-en.


Why Does That One Kid Look Familiar?

Graham Selkirk, as Andy, has been in precisely one thing. Try to guess what! As a bonus, I'll tell you that Leif Anderson, who plays Dickhead the Bully, has actually been in some pretty high profile films. And he played such roles as: "Sound Man," "Policeman," and "Chevy Owner."

How Canadian Does Everyone Sound?

The constant guitar shreds that complement every appearance of Koda is so fucking rock'n'roll American that I can't even hear all the non-American stuff. Hang ten, dudes!

An Eric Douchebag-Ism

Eric gets things going right away by forgetting to wait for Frank to walk him to the meeting spot because Frank's afraid of the dark, for which Eric openly mocks him using the douchebag baby voice. Why wasn't Eric killed by Jeffrey Dahmer? He was Canadian, too, wasn't he?

Final Thoughts

At the end of the episode, Frank breaks the fourth wall, and normally I'd call him out on doing this because he's neither Jonathan Demme nor Spike Lee, but I'm gonna just let it go.

I'm...really scared of Frank.

Welcome to my nightmare.



On the Official Gary Creeper-Shot Rating Scale...



I Award "The Tale of the Dark Music..."

  

  

Four Gary Creeper Shots

  

I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed. (Splash sound.)