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Chanthaly (2013)



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Chanthaly (2013)Starring Amphaiphun Phimmapunya, Douangmany Soliphanh, Soukchinda Duangkhamchan

Directed by Mattie Do

Incredibly, Chanthaly is the first horror film ever made in Laos and the only film in the country’s history to be directed by a woman. It’s also only the ninth film ever made within the Marxist confines of the South Asian nation and one of the few films that isn’t just anti-capitalism propaganda. With that in mind, it’s much easier to forgive any potential shortcomings in production value, but director Mattie Do has managed to craft an affecting family drama set against a supernatural backdrop.

Chanthaly is a teenager unable to resist her father’s rule, forbidden to leave the house because of a heart condition that leaves her heavily medicated. There are numerous side effects, one of which is a deep-seated desire to rebel; and Chanthaly suffers from powerful hallucinations, causing her to believe that she’s seeing her mother, whom the father claims died in childbirth. She becomes convinced that the hallucination is really an apparition, causing Chanthaly to become suspicious and distrusting of her father and ever more curious about this mysterious figure.

The initial encounters with the ghostly figure are fairly well executed if not somewhat derivative of earlier J-horror, depicting the mother, in one particular scene, shrouded and veiled in white as she appears and reappears as Chanthaly turns the lights of her bedroom on and off. There’s also a great point-of-view shot where Chanthaly’s supposed mother crawls slowly and deliberately up the bed as she stares intensely at the camera. There’s no score to speak of, allowing the subtle sound design to accentuate these moments instead of overselling the shot. This restraint is impressive and shows that Mattie Do, again making her first ever horror film, understands that silence can make an impression just as much or even more than a piano stab.

Chanthaly Fantastic Fest 2013 ReviewThe story begins to stray from these effective moments once the figure reveals herself, leading to Chanthaly being able to cross over to the other side, finally giving her the chance to escape the antiseptic walls of her home. As a result, however, Chanthaly becomes trapped in a world she can’t escape that doesn’t extend beyond the threshold of her doorstep. Once this happens, the story is still engrossing, but Chanthaly begins to move out of the world of horror and into a story about her family with only some elements of the supernatural left intact.

If anything, once the ghost story staging wears off, as if Mattie Do herself was temporarily suffering from haunting hallucinations, a great drinking game could be made of the film’s scenes where Namkhong beer is predominantly shown within the frame. The product placement is far from subtle but not jarring, and the making of Chanthaly simply could not have happened without it. Never too distracting, if this kind of presence is required to help continue getting horror films made in Laos, it’s a necessary evil that Do and other filmmakers will happily endure.

One positive is how easy it is for Chanthaly to be shown in Laos, simply because there just isn’t enough original material to go around. The film is certainly good enough to inspire other determined Laotians to pick up a camera and start shooting.

Interestingly, the questionable legality of telling a story about ghosts in violation of Marxist doctrine forced Do to shoot a self-contained genre film where everything could take place without the government’s knowledge of what exactly they were shooting. Filming openly in the streets is probably dangerous, and this forced way of making a movie will lend itself well to the haunted house genre and darker horror films about going mad from isolation. Chanthaly will probably not be seen by many, but the few that do can bond together to form a new collective of artists in Laos that may wind up having a more powerful voice thanks to Mattie Do and her efforts and the fine performances of the actors – most of whom had never acted a day in their lives.

3 out of 5

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GOD OF WAR Review – His Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad



God of War

Developed by SIE Santa Monica Studios

Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment

Available only on PlayStation 4

Rated M for Mature

I have a very clear memory of my first experience with God of War. The year was 2004, an era before digital distribution where most people still got their demo discs from magazine subscriptions and promotional add-ons to other games. (Remember when you bought Zone of the Enders just to try out Metal Gear Solid II: Sons of Liberty? Ted remembers.) My dad was still harboring some hope that I might turn from a World of Warcraft nerd into a proper sporty California boy, and had taken me along to a beach volleyball tournament in the hopes that the scantily clad competitors would awaken some primal desire to take to the field and prove my manhood by smacking a ball over a net. It was a rather large tournament, with many tents hocking beer and SoCal approved beach merchandise, but there was one that caught my eye even more than the various well toned legs on the court. Distinctly dark and covered on the sides so that none of the beach sand could blow inside, a bold SONY logo ran lengthwise up the heavy tarp door-flap. Pleading with my father to let me inside, he reluctantly agreed as he stood in line to pay $5 for a Coors.

I was 14 at the time. There were three games on display when I walked in: Nanobreaker, Killzone, and God of War. I wanted to play Killzone as it looked most like Halo, but that station was currently occupied by a large Hawaiian man wearing some board shorts and nothing else. So I slid up to God of War, pushed the Circle button, grabbed a dude, ripped him in half, and became a man.

I do not exaggerate when I say that God of War is the game that turned me into a real gamer. I have played through every title on every difficulty. I legitimately used to buy this game—PS2 and all—for chicks I was interested in an attempt to woo them. I am as passionate and dedicated as a God of War fan comes. And just like Kratos’ godhood, it is a blessing and a curse.

I’ll start off by saying that this is a spoiler-free review. I usually don’t care about spoilers, but with a game of this size I’m doing my best to respect the frothing fanbase. That being said, I will be talking about some content that might reveal certain aspects about the story. More specifically, what characters are missing. So while I will not be talking about major events (who dies, the big twists, how it ends), I will be talking about certain things I’d like to have seen (Thor).

God of WarGod of War starts out some undetermined amount of time after the events of God of War III. Having killed all the gods in Greekland, Kratos is now living a simple life in Norseworld. We join him as he is cutting down the last tree required to make the funeral pyre for his recently dead wife Faye. Accompanied by his son Atreus, we quickly realize that Kratos hasn’t lost his god juice as he picks up an entire tree and casually carries it to his waiting boat. Upon returning home he cremates Faye’s body in an overly sentimental scene generally reserved for games where you don’t rip off jaws with your bare hands. Faye’s final wish was for her ashes to be scattered from, “the highest peak in all the nine realms,” some suspiciously specific wording that I’m sure will in no way consternate your journey.

God of War

I knew this wouldn’t be as easy as just walking up a mountain…

Kratos has some doubts about Arteus’ readiness for what lies ahead, but has to shelve that particular dilemma when a mysterious shirtless stranger shows up and challenges Kratos to a bout of fisticuffs. Possessing inhuman strength and an invulnerability to all forms of attack both physical and magical, anyone even remotely versed in Norse mythology should recognize that this is Baldur. This isn’t really a spoiler, since the game reveals this pretty soon after. Fearing that Artreus will be in danger if left behind, Kratos stoically decides to bring Atreus along, and the journey begins in earnest.

To the game’s credit, the plot stays remarkably focused on their ultimate goal. As plot barriers are introduced and the goalpost keeps getting pulled further and further away, the overall objective always remains getting to the highest peak and scattering those ashes. As a narrative framework, it’s incredibly effective. The fundamental drive remains unchanged, while still giving you the opportunity to see the world, learn about it, and kick its ass.

God of War

And kick its ass, you shall

Now the real overall narrative draw is the relationship between Kratos and Atreus. Kratos has undergone a lot of change in his years since beating Zeus to death with his fists of fury. The Kratos we see now is quieter, more controlled. He’ll still rip a dude’s arm off and beat his friends with it. He just won’t be screaming the whole time. Atreus on the other hand is a typical young boy. Full of questions, he just wants the love and approval of his distant father. It’s a dynamic that initially annoyed me—I had a checklist of father son tropes I was checking off the whole time—but it grows on you when some of the more major elements are revealed. By the end, you get the real sense that both of them are fundamentally changed by their adventure.

God of War

When your dad is a guy who routinely chops dudes in half without even blinking, this is what passes for a touching and gentle moment.

Another thing that I didn’t initially like was the combat. Going from previous God of War games to God of War (2018) was like hopping behind the wheel of a U-Haul after a lifetime of driving motorcycles. Gone are the fixed camera, the wide area combat, the leaping aerial moves, and even the quick-time events. In its place is a much more methodical and personal combat system. You now lock onto specific enemies from a persistent third-person perspective. To make up for the lack of visibility, a persistent ring around Kratos will show you the relative position of enemies and incoming attacks. You’ll switch between your three weapons (Leviathan Axe, Blades of Chaos, and fists) on the fly to exploit enemy weaknesses. Your fists deal more stun, axe more frost and raw damage, and the blades fire damage with more area of effect. You also have a number of “runic” attacks at your disposal, which function as spells with long cooldown. Atreaus will also support you in combat, firing arrows at the push of the Square button and delivering high stun melee attacks when he feels like it.

It might sound like minor differences to those uninitiated with the franchise, but this is as big of a shift as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard switching to first-person. God of War honestly feels way more like a fighting game than the previous bombastic action adventure games of series past. Gone are the sweeping flourishing combos that would wipe arenas and slay dozens of enemies at once. Kratos is far slower, and you’ll generally lock onto and deal with enemies one at a time. But it’s also far more engaging. Each enemy has a different set of strengths and weaknesses that you’ll have to master. The teleporting Revenants need to be struck with an arrow before they can be damaged. Certain enemies are completely immune to the axe. Stun is also a factor here, with a bar below their health representing how close they are to being temporarily incapacitated. Stunned enemies can be grabbed to perform God of War’s iconic finishers, which I’m pleased to say are just as gory and satisfying even without the quicktime events.

The combat isn’t the only thing that’s undergone a massive overhaul. The entire structure of the game is now semi-open world. Once you reach the main area, it’s really up to you whether to pursue the side quests or carry on with the main story. And like every good RPG worth its weight in gold and exp, the side quests are where you’ll get a majority of your kicks. There are dragons to free, treasure maps to find, favors to complete, and a whole slew of stuff to just explore. This is easily the best part of the game. Every square inch is just packed with stuff to do. There isn’t an island or cave that isn’t loaded with some kind of challenge or secret. Of the over 40 hours I put into the game, this is how a majority of my time was spent. And it was a blast.

I wish MY dad took me on exciting canoeing trips to kill monsters…

Once again without spoiling anything, you’ll also get the chance to travel to other realms. Norse mythology has nine of them, and in your travels you’ll get to see a handful. Three of them come into play during the story, two as optional challenges, and the rest are waiting for the sequel (we’ll get into that soon). Overall the diversity in challenges and settings God of War (2018) has to offer are phenomenal.

This is also the point where I need to mention that this is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. Seriously, I was floored by the visual fidelity. Every piece of armor Kratos can equip (there’s a gear system now) is packed with detail and fits seamlessly into all of the cutscenes and animations. Footprints are left in the mud and snow, faces are real and emotive, and the blood from the executions paint Kratos in a way that borders on art. I was playing on a regular PS4, and it was stunning. You can tell the moments they hid load times behind opening doors or lifting boulders, but the actual gameplay experience is completely seamless.

God of War


And there you have it. All the good stuff about God of War (2018). There’s so much to do, so much to see, and it’s all a hoot. Delving into the optional challenge content will extend your gameplay significantly, and most of it is well worth your time. This is where I have noticed most critics have stopped. This game has received more perfect 10s than Hugh Hefner’s funeral. And there’s no way I could say that the game wasn’t a great experience. But just like a pool party in a tub of jello, there are some pretty significant problems.

My main gripe comes from the story. I won’t complain about how Kratos has gone from ripping off Helios’ head because he needed a flashlight to really caring about his son’s wellbeing. Kratos is still a hardcore badass, doing what needs to be done, but he certainly isn’t sticking his thumbs in the eyes of any ocean gods. Whatever, I guess having kids really does change you. No, the major problem is that God of War (2018) is distinctly pulling its punches for a sequel.

We are introduced to plenty of new places, people, and things over the course of Kratos/Atreus’ quest. Along the way several questions will be raised both directly and indirectly. How did Kratos get here? Why is Midgard all fucked up? Why haven’t the gods done anything about it? Where are all the gods, anyways? All fascinating bits that add up to the grand and epic world of God of War. Unfortunately, we never get any real answers. Even completing all the challenges will just give you vague hints at what will be covered in the next game. By the time the credits roll, it’s like you just had salad for dinner. It doesn’t matter how pretty the salad was or how well made the dressing, you’ll just want something substantial.

God of War

There’s only so far savage axe dismemberments will take me

But hey, let’s say you don’t care about the story. Who gives a shit about the emotional journey of a dude who routinely strolls out of the underworld like he has a FastPass? Well, the lack of major events and characters has significant impact on the gameplay. Overall, there are only really three boss fights in God of War (2018). There are some minor bosses here and there (mostly the same copy/paste troll or rock monster), but this isn’t the murder fiesta of God of War III. I get that they are introducing a new franchise and want to save something for later, but in the original God of War you killed fucking Ares. Setting the bar pretty high, sure, but their replacement in God of War (2018) doesn’t even rank.

I’m also going to be a big fat baby about the challenge mode. There are two: a timed arena that you run through and try to get out of alive and another that’s just a series of fights with set conditions. You’ll have to do both of them to upgrade your gear to the highest level. The timed arena one is pretty fun. There’s enough variety and you can upgrade your gear to extend your clock. It feels like an inoffensive roguelike, with enough goals to keep you engaged. I ran through it enough time to get all the stuff, and felt good about myself.

The other challenge, which I’ll just reveal is Surtr’s Gauntlet so that I can stop being vague, is a remarkable waste of time. Initially you are given a series of 12 challenges, which is fine. Once you get to the end you’ll find one of the game’s optional bosses waiting for you, meaning you’ll most likely have to come back much later. Once the boss is dead, it will unlock the “real” challenge mode. Six new challenges appear, three of which must be completed to unlock a final challenge. Completing this final challenge with a silver or gold ranking will net you some of the highest level crafting material in the game.

God of War

Now here’s the kicker. Every time you want to try the final challenge, you have to complete three of the previous challenges. As you can imagine, this gets legendarily repetitive. A gold ranking on the final challenge is enough to upgrade a single piece of gear, and the challenge is also randomized. If you get the “don’t take damage” challenge, good luck even getting a silver. And then you have to do the whole process over again just for the privilege of trying to roll a different final challenge. I did this whole rigmarole about eight times just to upgrade one of my armor sets. It’s incomprehensibly tedious, and absurdly poorly designed.

God of War

More hell than the actual hell…

There are also some basic mechanical quibbles I had, like the overall unresponsive block. I swear to God I blocked that slam, you stupid game. The camera also had a tendency to go and take a timeout in the corner when I was pulverizing a particularly nasty giant’s scrotum, which led to some unwarranted deaths. I also wish there were more weapons, but at this point I’m just whining that this isn’t God of War III.

God of War (2018) is a fantastic game, but it’s holding back. It’s Saving all the big stuff for the inevitable sequel. Even so, it’s still a hell of a lot better than a lot of the games on the market. You’ll certainly get your $60 worth. There’s just too much cool stuff here to not enjoy it. But like my mother said to me when I announced I was going to be an English major, it’s just not living up to its full potential. This isn’t the groundbreaking experience that Breath of the Wild was. This isn’t the heart wrenching story of The Last of Us. This isn’t the revolutionary game changer of Resident Evil 4. This is a solid game that will likely be part of a beloved franchise. Just like every other game on the market nowadays. Welcome to the future.

  • Game


There’s no doubt that God of War is an amazing game that will be well liked by fans. Stunning to look at and a blast to play, it takes the series in a bold new direction in story and combat. However, for a series with such an epic and unforgettable history, it’s obvious that God of War is holding its best cards for the sequel. This is the first piece of what is sure to be an epic franchise, but ultimately it feels more like a piece than its own thing.

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Zena’s Period Blood: MOM AND DAD’s Gory Gratification



It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”

“Zena’s Period Blood” focuses on under-appreciated and hidden horror films.

Have you ever enjoyed a twisted film? You sit alone for minutes, piecing together what you just saw and attempting to validate the smile curled on your face. Your brain begins the list of contacts that need to watch the film. Stop. What will they think of you, knowing that you were the one who recommended it? You realize that this film is worth risking the relationships. With 4% battery life, you text Cynthia first. “OMG! The movie Mom and Dad! Lit af! Watch now!” You hide the phone from your ogling boss, who has somehow also made the list. Oh, crap. You realize: Cynthia has kids. The kids will be damaged if they watch this film. You return to the phone. You text Cynthia. “Make sure the kids watch it, too.” You smile because you’re a jerk. You remind yourself: this film is worth the relationship.

Mom and Dad is a film that bestows hints of coming events. It opens to a suburban neighborhood; therefore, someone will die. Brian Taylor’s name appears as the director; therefore, someone will die. Lance Henriksen, who played the cuddly gorilla Kerchek in Disney’s Tarzan, has a role in the film; therefore, someone will die. It’s daytime; someone will die. Since one plus one typically equals someone dead, let’s find out why.

Taylor introduces us to a somewhat familiar school morning. Mom and dad listen to the news and inquire about everyone’s plans for the day. Over bowls of cereal there is laughter, backtalk, and silence before the family disperses. Children take the bus, ride their bikes, walk to or are dropped off at school by their parents, which is the case with mother Kendall (Selma Blair) and teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters). After the argument from breakfast harshly concludes in the truck, Carly escapes to the high school of engaging teachers, determined athletes, cigarettes, and drugs.

By midday we sense something sinful. Parents arrive at the school hours before actual pick up time and call out for their children from the other side of doors and gates. Police and teachers firmly guard the students. Confused, one child escapes to his mother, climbing the fence and falling into arms that welcome him with a set of minivan keys excited to shank him to death. Activated by this, parents raid the football field and other parts of the school, intent on killing their children.

As with any life-threatening concern, we turn to the higher power: Dr. Oz. He broadcasts across television networks that parents are somehow being triggered to kill their children. This is referred to as rampaging. We eventually discover that static triggers them to attack. We witness the general devastation of this suburban town, but are forced to stomach the details of Kendall and husband Brent (Nicholas Cage) as they rampage after their children Carly and Josh (Zachary Arthur).

The concept of this movie was rare; still, I questioned why it had never been done before. Further research led me to footage of the movie’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where Taylor stated that one question is typically the catalyst for all of his films: What haven’t I seen before? I respect his prerequisite to challenge the status quo on all levels. One level that I appreciate is having a true horror set mostly in the daytime.

Another challenge is one I once thought was unachievable. During a hospital scene, I assured myself that Taylor would never tease with the life of a newborn. Needless to say, I will never get my sanity back, but I never had much of it anyway, so I think I’m okay.

Blair excelled effortlessly in that scene, as she did in many others. The range of raw emotions she brandished in less than ninety minutes left me floored.

Cage mirrored her performance, which was expected since he worked with Taylor before on Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Taylor is the Houdini of stretching Cage. In one scene, Brent (Cage) bares his disapproval of his current life. The teenage Brent was vivacious, speeding in the car he stole from his father, boobies whacking his face as he executes donuts in an empty parking lot. He never envisioned this present, day-to-day Brent, disillusioned in a household filled with a meek wife, a disrespectful daughter and a son whose toy placement resembled a parent’s deathtrap. Using a sledgehammer, Brent demolishes the pool table intended to be his oasis from the world.

The terror of this film flourished under a warm red and orange color palette, uncommon in most modern horrors. This left the make-you-piss-your-pants work to the unnerving camera movements and angles. Cinematographer Daniel Pearl is guilty for this torture. Truthfully, I never liked Pearl. You shouldn’t either. Why? Would you like the guy who made six-year-old you go through a whole pack of underwear in a night while watching the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre? No. You wouldn’t.

Partnered with these aesthetics is the delicious score from Mr. Bill. When I discovered that Taylor knew about this musical magician, I wrestled between delight and disappointment. Mr. Bill was my secret treasure, coming into my life with his otherworldly 2014 album Settle for Mediocrity. If emojis were professional, I would insert them here. But since they’re not, I’ll professionally say, “Mr. Bill’s music is the playlist for a panty-dropping Great Gatsby party but with extraterrestrial life instead of humans.

During TIFF, Taylor said that he didn’t understand how to convey tone. That deserves “the whatever face” emoji. He knows exactly what he is doing with tone. He also said that for many of his stories, he usually has the ending in mind first, and then he works his way backward. I did the same thing with this review. The first notes I typed will be the last of this review. Mom and Dad gave me gory gratification and will do the same for all of mankind. This is a good horror. Point Blank. PERIOD.

In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.



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TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL Review – This Sequel Delivers Hot Graboid Action



Starring Michael Gross, Jamie Kennedy, Jamie-Lee Money, Tanya van Graan

Directed by Don Michael Paul

Distributed by Universal

Anomaly. Noun. Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

That’s the best way to describe the Tremors flicks. After around the third film most franchises descend into “wash, rinse, repeat” mediocrity; yet, here we are, six films in, and the Graboids, Ass Blasters, and most importantly, Burt Gummer (Gross) are still going not only strong, but seemingly invincible.

Once again the action is taken out of the town of Perfection, but this time it heads toward a whole new landscape… one of snow and ice instead of just sand and rock. You see, with the environment changing, so are the habits of long-frozen Graboids. These wormy wonders are not content with just staying all locked into their formerly frozen places. With nowhere else to turn, a science team decides that it is high time for an authority on these friggin’ things to step in… the big guns… the big Gummers: Burt and his son, Travis (Kennedy).

Upon their arrival on the frigid scene, we’re greeted with a truly colorful and likable ensemble of characters who, along with the Graboids, turn the horror, the comedy, and the action up to 11. Director Don Michael Paul once again turns in one of the most entertaining flicks in the film’s franchise, this time even eclipsing the good time that was his first entry into the series, Tremors 5: Bloodlines. It’s obvious that the team of Paul, Gross, and Kennedy is far more cocksure of the direction that their work and characters need to take, and it shows. For a little direct-to-video sequel, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell delivers tons of monster action that almost never suffers from its smaller budget. There’s a lot to like here, and longtime fans of the series are sure to eat this one up. You just cannot help but have a good time as the monster party tone is infectious.

In terms of special features we get the serviceable basics here: The Making of Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell featurette, an Anatomy of a Scene feature that takes a look at one moment in the film that is truly a first for the franchise, and a brief inside look at Perfection’s hotspot – Chang’s Market. Nothing earth-shattering here, but certainly nothing bad either.

As long as the trio of Gross, Kennedy, and Paul are up for it, I’m certainly down for more monster-fueled mayhem; and I’m pretty sure other Tremors fans will be, too. Here’s to looking toward wherever road this series travels. Something tells me its best moments are still ahead of it, and that, too, is without question an anomaly.

Special Features:

  • The Making of Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell
  • Anatomy of a Scene
  • Inside Chang’s Market
  • Film
  • Special Features


This sixth entry into the long-running franchise feels as fresh as the first day a Graboid sucked down its prey back in 1990. That’s quite the accomplishment! Its balls belong in the Balls Hall of Fame.

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