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Prometheus (2012)

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PrometheusStarring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Patrick Wilson, Logan Marshall-Green

Directed by Ridley Scott


We don’t see projects like this very often. Having the creator of an untouchable classic return to a disgraced franchise after 30 years is the rarest of rarities, something that normally exists only in the dreams of die-hard fans. After enduring a string of bad “vs.” movies, I never thought we’d see Ridley Scott return to the world of Alien – especially with the carte blanche to turn the series in a completely different direction. Whatever you think of his approach, everything about Prometheus seems like the kind of project that the Hollywood system was designed to destroy.

An event film with this level of hype and speculation is bound for divisive reactions so let’s get this out of the way: If you’re expecting another Alien, prepare to be disappointed. In fact, Prometheus is about as much a prequel to that film as Temple of Doom is to Raiders of the Lost Ark. While it technically predates the events in Alien, this is mostly a spin-off movie that explores a different part of the universe entirely.

The story follows inquisitive archeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, giving a terrifically vulnerable performance), who discovers an ancient star map in the caverns of Scotland. Theorizing that it was left by mankind’s creators, she joins a scientific expedition aboard the spaceship Prometheus led by Captain Janek (Idris Elba) and ventures out to the ass end of space hoping to literally meet her maker. Needless to say, very bad things await them. The journey is funded by the real villain of the series, Weyland Enterprises, so it’s not long before suspicious activities arise thanks to company woman Vickers (Charlize Theron) and ship android David (played to perfection by Michael Fassbender).

I’ve actually heard people say that Alien isn’t a horror film because it takes place in space, which is completely daft. Scott’s 1979 classic is pure unadulterated horror – with a few light sci-fi elements – that exists solely as white-knuckled suspense. Prometheus is a film that falls on the other side of the coin: it’s a brainy science fiction story that flirts with the kind of provocative ideas you never see in big-budget movies. Questions of science, faith and philosophy are explored against familiar Giger-esque backdrops, only this time Scott abandons the claustrophobia and quiet dread of Alien in favor of an epic scope full of wonder and awe. Sure, there are a few classic skin-crawling moments (including a sequence that rivals John Hurt’s chest-bursting), but the script by John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof is more concerned with exploration and big picture questions than straight-up horror. In essence, this is a quest movie that’s more King Kong than deep space slasher.

On a technical level alone, Prometheus is a visual masterpiece. Scott, known for his strong sense of cinematography and production design, has taken his craft to the next level thanks to technological advancements; the 3D images here lend a depth to the landscapes, caverns, and ship corridors that are truly breathtaking. I’ve never been a proponent of 3D (always paying for the 2D screen at the multiplex), but this is easily the strongest argument for the medium and makes you realize how misused it’s been these past few years.

The dividing factor for audiences – hardcore fans in particular – will no doubt be how Prometheus treats the mythology. When James Cameron took over the series, he methodically explained Alien by taking us through the life cycle and firmly setting the rules. Scott isn’t concerned with that kind of stuff and throws the series right back into its H.P. Lovecraft roots. In his world the threat has no system or order. It’s a giant petri dish of chaos, and as a result the menace is something far less tangible. I won’t spoil what fleshy things crawl out of the abyss, but I will say that the lack of a central boogeyman might turn off those purists who want more of the same. Personally, I found it refreshing. Ultimately we’re left with more questions than answers (we’re dealing with the writer of “Lost” here), but in the world of Alien that’s always best.

That said, Prometheus has its share of problems, mainly in the character department. While Rapace, Fassbender, and Elba deliver endearing characters, the rest of Prometheus’ crew consists of one-dimensional piss ants and faceless red shirts. Theron fills the token “evil company” role as ice queen Vickers, but her constant scowling gets old real quick. The same goes for Sean Harris’ surly geologist while Logan Marshall-Green isn’t given much to work with as Shaw’s squeeze. The rest of the cast is comprised of little more than featured extras, and as a result there isn’t much impact when people start dying. Even by comparison, the Marines in Aliens and the prisoners in Alien³ stood out more than these unlucky souls.

This, combined with a few pacing problems, leads me to believe that there was a lot of material left on the cutting room floor to satisfy a summer movie runtime. While the first half moves at a perfect stride, once all hell breaks loose, there’s a handful of moments that feel lost in the rush to the finish line. For a film of this scope, Prometheus definitely clocks in a tad short, but these problems could easily be corrected with an Extended Version — which is almost always a given with Scott’s films.

Ultimately your enjoyment of Prometheus depends on your expectations. Those wanting a giant creature feature or major insight into the mythos will come up short while more open-minded viewers reap the rewards. This is a grand film designed to ignite your imagination and give birth to endless theories like only great science fiction can. It certainly isn’t a masterpiece on the level of Alien/Aliens (then again, it’s not even working on those levels), but it’s a satisfying return to the universe and successfully revitalizes a series that was left for dead.

4 out of 5

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.43 (7 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 4.14 (14 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.41 (17 votes)
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