Nov 28, 2014

WATCH: THE MACHINE

 
It’s inevitable that the idea of what defines humanity appears in every film about robots. The most famous robot movie of all time, The Terminator, would not even explore this idea until its superior sequel. And Blade Runner, perhaps one of the most divisive films of all time, had already beaten it to the punch.

The Machine is more like Blade Runner than any other film that also explores this idea of organic versus synthetic life, while bringing with it a hypo-technical style recently modernized by director Joseph Kosinksi in his films TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, but only after the look had already been established in Kubrick’s 2001.


Vincent (Toby Stephens, "Black Sails"), a scientist experimenting in synthetic life, is in a tough spot. Though he’s willingly working for and accepting money from the defense department of a very future government to work toward recycling fallen human soldiers and turning them into warfare robots, he’s actually doing so to try to find a way to help his young daughter, trapped inside herself by a severe cerebral palsy-like condition. Ava (The Pact’s Caity Lotz) is Vincent’s new hire and someone whose own previous experimentation in synthetic life has made Vincent sure she’s going to be the one who helps to realize his theories and brings them to fruition. Well, that she does – after she’s killed and resurrected as a sentient robot.

It’s here we ask that question again. What is humanity? Is it flesh and blood, the brain, the heart, or the soul? All of that? None of it?

Wait a minute! Robots?? Run!


The Machine is a great little film, aided by beautiful cinematography, great performances, genuine emotions, an awesome retro synth score by composer Tom Raybould, and a refreshingly serious non-Will Smith take on the sub-genre. If you’re looking for balls-to-the-wall action, then you’re going to be waiting until the last ten minutes. If you’re looking for some kind of horror/thriller hybrid, then you’re not going to get that really whatsoever. But if you’re looking for a philosophical discussion on what humanity is, wrapped around a familiar but not overdone story, you haven’t been able to do better than The Machine since Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Nov 27, 2014

CANNIBALLESSE

In 2011, Indonesian police arrested a 29-year-old cannibalistic woman who admitted to killing and eating up to 30 girls and then her husband. She kept the human meat in her refrigerator to eat when she pleased. The woman also confessed to cooking human meat for her friends and relatives at dinner parties held at her house. She blamed her inner desires for killing and eating the people and said she would do it again if she had the chance.



Story and image source. 

(In case you missed the joke...Happy Thanksgiving.)

Nov 24, 2014

BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE BLOB (TWLIGHT TIME)


The Film

Ah, The Blob. A film that harkens back to that magical time in horror history when films were remade because someone had a good idea and a good approach, instead of saying, "Well, it's been five years. Let's remake it again."

Long a childhood favorite of mine, for not only terrifying me to death and keeping me away from all kinds of drains for days, but also for introducing me to my first ever horror heroine crush, Shawnee Smith, The Blob works nearly as well as it did then. Normally the things that would hold back a lesser picture, including the dated (but still perfectly acceptable) special effects and the hilarious fashion senses of some of our characters, The Blob has always been good enough to surpass those shortcomings caused by the passing of time and still present a fun, nasty, gooey, and ultimately harmless good time.

You all know this one: a meteor carrying a strange jello substance from space (or was it?) crash lands on Planet Earth and begins gooing up its inhabitants. Only one man it seems can stop them, even though dozens try. That man is the hilariously-haired Kevin Dillon and the still-adorable Shawnee Smith (call me!).

 

Because of the time in which it was made, The Blob relies solely on practical and in-camera effects, only resorting to opticals for a couple scenes. They've been trying to get a new version of The Blob off the ground for years, and once it arrives, I can only imagine the absurd amount of CGI that will be sliming across silver screens everywhere.

To tell someone who's never seen it that a space-foreign (or is it???) slime begins to suck people into itself, where it strips flesh from their bones and causes the blob to increase in size and oh by the way it's actually scary at times - the end of that conversation doesn't bode well.

A wonderful cast of character actors fill the background, including a regular of Frank Darabont (co-writer on The Blob) named Jeffrey DeMunn, who appeared in both The Shawshank Redemption as the lawyer who sends Andy Dufresne to his fate, and one of the guards in The Green Mile. Oh, he also played Dale in "The Walking Dead." Perhaps you've heard of it. And perhaps you knew he'd been acting for thirty years before he played a filthy man in a bucket hat for which he'll now always be known (on Twitter). (Bitter hipster fan-boy rant over.)

The Blob not only manages to work not just with its concept, but in spite of it; it also has no qualms in breaking some serious horror-film taboos. It eats a kid! A kid! Take that, kid!

I'm grateful that Twilight Time was able to resurrect this title from full-screen DVD obscurity and clean it up and add a few bells and whistles.

Speaking of:

The Picture

The Blob looks fantastic. Right from the beginning the opening credits on screen look brand new. Colors are bright, blacks contain the requisite amount of grain, though it's not overwhelming. Other reviewers have noticed a softness in some background shots, but once the opening credits are done, that seems to subside (at least to me).

The Sound

No complaints here with the DTS mastered 5.1 track. Dialogue is crisp and clear, the score by Hoenig sounds great, and the screams of the dying sound like they were recorded yesterday! Look out, goo is coming!

 

The Supplements

The Blob offers an isolated music score track (by composer Michael Hoenig); audio commentary with director/co-writer Chuck Russell, moderated by Shock Till You Drop's editor Ryan Turek; “Friday Night Frights at The Cinefamily,” a Q&A with Russell; and two trailers. The commentary is exhaustive - not one single second of silence - but the conversation between Russell and Turek is interesting, and the former drops some interesting tidbits, which includes who was almost cast in Kevin Dillon's role, as well as Dillon's awesome rock-n-roll hair. I found it extremely fascinating to hear Russell discuss how he'd been seeking The Blob remake originally with New Line Cinema, and though they were interested, they had another project for which they felt Russell was well-suited: Nightmare on Elm Street 3, which is still considered the best sequel in the Nightmare franchise, even besting Craven's own return with New Nightmare. In his commentary, he offers up a valuable piece of advice to wannabe-filmmakers: don't go into a meeting pitching only one project, because ultimately you're going to be pitching yourself.

Tech Specs

LANGUAGE: English
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition / 1.85:1
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH
1988 / Color
95 MINUTES
RATED: R
REGION FREE
Limited Edition of 5,000 Units (SOLD OUT)

Overall

The Blob is a classic. It's rare to say that a remake of something is a classic, and also bests the original. But this edition of The Blob is, and has. The new blu release from Twilight Time is a fantastic edition to their catalog and your collection. (Having said that, good luck on eBay getting your own copy, as this is now sold out.)

(Thanks to Rock Shop Pop for the screen grabs.)



Nov 23, 2014

DEATH STAIN

A stain, shaped like a human body, can be found on the concrete floor of the Athens Mental Health and Retardation Center in Athens, Ohio. According to legend, this stain marks the location where the body of a patient, Margaret Schilling, lay undiscovered for several weeks back in 1979.

A team of forensic scientists recently tested the stain to determine whether it’s a genuine human decomposition stain, or if it was created artificially. They published the results of their investigation in the Nov 2008 issue of the
Journal of Forensic Sciences (vol 53, no. 6), “Analysis of Suspected Trace Human Remains from an Indoor Concrete Surface.”

Their conclusion: Yes, it’s a human decomposition stain, although the stain has been made more prominent over the years by attempts to remove it:

Margaret’s body was probably in contact with the area of the stain for a period of 4–5 weeks. During this time, significant decomposition is known to have occurred, indicating that the room was apparently warm enough to facilitate bacterial degradation. During this time, anaerobic bacterial decomposition could have taken place in the contact areas between the concrete and the heavier, fatty areas of Margaret’s body, such as the buttocks, back and shoulders. Bacterial action is supported by the odd-numbered fatty acids found in the residues. Such decomposition, facilitated by the moisture naturally present in Margaret’s body, formed free fatty acids from the lipids in her subcutaneous tissue. This process may have been accompanied, in part or in whole, by the basic conditions provided through contact with the concrete. During the 4- to 5-week period in which the free fatty acids were being formed, and in any subsequent washing over the years, at least half of the sodium ions were displaced by calcium ions from the concrete. The result is a waxy residue of mostly calcium palmitate which is up to 2 mm thick in certain areas of the stain. In most areas of the stain, the waxy residue also resides in surface pores in the concrete, consistent with the suggestion that removal of the stain was attempted on at least one occasion.

At some point since the removal of Margaret’s remains in January of 1979, the floor has likely been treated with an acidic chemical— probably Blu-Lite (20.5% phosphoric acid)—to lighten the color of the waxy residue and of the concrete. The chemical etching was not uniform across the entire floor surface, however, but was selectively restricted to a shape that resembled the apparent outline of a human body.

Original source unknown.