Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Scott Wilson, David Morrissey, Emily Kinney, Chad Coleman, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.
Directed by Various
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
“The Walking Dead” came into its fourth season with expectations for the show at an all-time high. And the creators delivered in spades. (This is loaded with spoilers, btw, so if you somehow haven’t seen it yet, stop reading here and just go away from this piece knowing the show still kicks major ass).
From the epidemic at the prison to the return of The Governor, the showdown, and everything that happened after the characters scattered, the show was so packed with action it’s hard to list even a fraction of it.
But in addition to the usual high-intensity content we normally get from “The Walking Dead,” Season 4 also brought us something else: in-depth character studies. Sure, we’ve gotten to know Rick and Carl quite well. But we really don’t know much about some of our favorite personalities on the show. Take Daryl Dixon, for example. He doesn’t exist in the comic book world and all we’ve really known is that he’s a badass and his brother Merle was a big dickhead. Season 4 expanded what we know of Daryl and gave us a better look into what makes him go. The same goes for Michonne.
However, it was these character-developing episodes that disappointed some fans during their original run on AMC. Fans didn’t want to wait an entire week for the newest episode of “The Walking Dead” only to have it feature just one of the storylines while they were left to wonder what was going on with everyone else. And that is the real beauty of binge-viewing “The Walking Dead” Season 4 on Blu-ray. You get all this important information about your favorite characters that the show’s creators haven’t had time to work into the show previously, and you don’t have to wait a week for the next segment. You can watch Beth and Daryl burn down the old house and then immediately check in with Carol, Tyreese, and Lizzie looking at the flowers.
And the mention of Carol and Tyreese brings up another positive for binge-viewing this season. The timeline works better, and Carol is a great example. Rick kicks Carol out of the group in Episode 4, “Indifference,” which originally ran on November 3, 2013. The following episode is basically Rick returning to the prison, telling Hershel about Carol, but no one else. Following that, there are two Governor flashback episodes, then the prison invasion, the mid-season break, and the episode reuniting Rick and Carl with Michonne. So when Tyreese and Carol reunite on the train tracks, it’s February 16, 2014. The time span on the show was only a couple of days, but it was over three months for the viewers to get to that point. Binge-viewing allows things to make more sense and makes a good thing even better.
“The Walking Dead” has proven itself to be a pit bull of a television show. Any week, at any time, it can lay the smack down on the audience in a way that few other programs on television can do. We knew going into the mid-season finale that something big was happening. And they gave us one of the greatest episodes in the history of the show. But who expected “The Grove”? Episode 14, we’re just kind of cruising along through the second half of the season on our way to Terminus, and we get… “Look at the flowers, Lizzy,” one of the most heart-wrenching episodes in “The Walking Dead” or any television show in recent memory. “The Walking Dead” has the power to floor its audience at any time. And it does so many times in S4.
The content of the season was phenomenal. The show elevated Hershel to an iconic level and then took him from us in the most brutal and emotional of ways. We saw The Governor rise again and bring another onslaught to Rick and his people. The separation and reunion of Glenn and Maggie was fantastic. We were introduced to some new characters like Abraham and Eugene, who will certainly have a future impact on the show. And perhaps most importantly, we got our Rick back. Andrew Lincoln has never been more effective in his role as Rick Grimes as he’s been this year. In this one season he’s brought Rick from a man striving for a peaceful existence to a man who finally realizes that this isn’t a world where a peaceful existence is possible, and sometimes you just have to bite a guy’s ear off.
Season 4 did have some slow sections, but it may only stand out so much to viewers because we’ve become used to “The Walking Dead” being consistently explosive. Taking the time to slow things down a bit when the characters were separated will undoubtedly allow the writers to delve deeper into the minds of the individuals who were highlighted this year, particularly Daryl and Michonne. Beth can also be included on this list if she’s not a McTerminus burger yet. (That’s not a spoiler, that’s a guess!)
And what would a Blu-ray of “The Walking Dead” be without some killer special features? This five-disc set is absolutely loaded with them. It contains “Inside ‘The Walking Dead,'” which features a five-minute segment on every single one of the 16 episodes. The “Inside” segments feature all the stars from the show as well as creator Robert Kirkman, producers, and directors. They are fascinating looks into the show that bring up things you may have missed and help to tie all the content in together. There is a “Making of ‘The Walking Dead'” feature that is broken up into 16 segments, one for each episode. These five-minute goodies also feature all the key players in the selected ep and focus on things like the F/X used, unique set design, etc. Anything that makes a specific episode stand out is mentioned in these vignettes.
There are tribute segments entitled “Hershel” and “The Governor Is Back” as well as a piece called “Drawing Inspiration” that shows how some of the imagery in Episode 9, “After,” was gleaned directly from The Walking Dead comic and how important the comic is for the show creators to use as a reference guide.
There is a bit entitled “Society, Science & Survival” on how the college of UC Irvine based an online class (that had 65,000 students from 90 countries) on “The Walking Dead” as well as a great 20-minute chat with Greg Nicotero and his crew from KNB EFX as they talk about everything from tribute zombies to detailed specifics on some of the most memorable F/X on the show. There’s even a detailed look at Rick’s journey from wannabe farmer back to brutality.
There are audio commentaries on five different episodes, three extended episodes, and a load of deleted scenes. You get all “The Walking Dead” Season 4 you could possibly want with this set with nearly 12 hours of show and all the special features on top of that.
“The Walking Dead” continues to be one of the most beloved shows on television. Although programs like “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones” have brought the pack closer to “The Walking Dead,” it continues to thrive as the current leader of genre television. And the erosion of quality in shows like “True Blood” and “Dexter” prove how difficult it is to maintain an excellent product over an extended period of time. “The Walking Dead” continues to do that as the fan base continues to grow. This Blu-ray set is a fantastic way to remember the most explosive season yet of America’s favorite zombie-flavored television show.
Blu-ray Only Special Features (click here for full release options and specs)
– Episodes 9 (“After”), 14 (“The Grove”), and 16 (“A”)
– Inside THE WALKING DEAD
– The Making of THE WALKING DEAD
– Drawing Inspiration
– The Governor Is Back
– Society, Science & Survival
– Inside KNB EFX
– A Journey Back to Brutality
– Deleted Scenes
– Episode 1 (“30 Days Without An Accident”): Audio Commentary with Executive Producer and Showrunner Scott M. Gimple, Executive Producer/Unit Production Manager Tom Luse, and Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Supervisor/Director Greg Nicotero
– Episode 5 (“Internment”): Audio Commentary with Executive Producer and Showrunner Scott M. Gimple and Actor Scott Wilson (Hershel)
– Episode 9 (“After”): Audio Commentary with Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Supervisor/Director Greg Nicotero, Co-Executive Producer Denise Huth, and Actor Danai Gurira (Michonne)
– Episode 12 (“Still”): Audio Commentary with Director Julius Ramsay and Actor Emily Kinney (Beth); Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Angela Kang and Actor Norman Reedus (Daryl)
-Episode 14 (“The Grove”): Audio Commentary with Executive Producer and Showrunner Scott M. Gimple, Executive Producer Denise Huth, and Actor Andrew Lincoln
4 1/2 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5
The Midnight Man Review – Don’t Hate The Game, Hate The Players
Written by Travis Zariwny
Directed by Travis Zariwny
Travis Zariwny’s The Midnight Man is largely a robotic hide-and-seek slog, yet if dissected in butchered chunks, smaller bites range from delicious destruction to utterly incompetent character work. Judging by the bloodthirsty opening sequence alone, you’d think Zariwny is about to blow our morality-siding minds. A sad misconception, I’m afraid. After our hopes skyrocket, mechanical plot devices are pinned to a storyboard with the utmost lack of exploration. The Midnight Man’s game is afoot, but these players would barely compete against an opponent crafted from brick and mortar. Can someone calculate a handicap for them, please?
Gabrielle Haugh stars as Alex Luster, a caring granddaughter to Nana Anna (Lin Shaye). One night, upon the request of her not-always-there relative, Alex rummages through attic trunks for a silver-backed hand mirror. Instead she finds a nondescript wrapped box with what appears to be a game inside. Her crush Miles (Grayson Gabriel) has arrived by now, and after an incident where Anna requires medical attention from house-call doctor Harding (Robert Englund), the two friends begin playing whatever it was that caused Anna to screech in disapproval. You know, the only rational decision.
At the risk of sounding like a smug CinemaSins video, The Midnight Man would surely bomb any horror IQ test. Zariwny’s *first* piece of introduced information after discovering Midnight Man’s altar is quite simple – DANGER. DO NOT PLAY. IT JUST CAUSED A WOMAN TO FAINT. Nevertheless, our braindead sheeple follow careful rules to summon Mr. Midnight Man into their house – because, as horror movies have proven, tempting occult fates is buckets of fun! At least the characters don’t confess romantic feelings and makeout while another friend who joins the game late – “Creepy Pasta” obsessed Kelly (Emily Haine) – could already be in the Midnight Man’s clutches, that’d be – oh, right. That happens.
Senile Anna is another story altogether – Zariwny’s grey-haired red herring in the worst way. Lin Shaye injects so much destabilized madness into this energetic, midnight-perfect role, elevating herself into a stratosphere well above The Midnight Man itself. Whether she’s screaming about Alex’s disgusting blood, or ominously whispering dreadful remarks through a housewide intercom, or beating Robert Englund to a pulp with wide-eyed psychosis – well, if you’ve seen Dead End, you *know* the kind of batshitery Shaye is capable of. Her genre vet status on display like a damn clinic here.
Shaye – and even Englund – aside, scripting is too procedural to salvage any other performances. Kelly doesn’t even deserve mention given her “bring on death!” attitude and enthusiastic late entry INTO AN URBAN LEGEND’S DEATHTRAP – a poorly conceived “twist” with less structure. This leaves Grayson Gabriel and Haugh herself, two thinly-scripted cutouts who couldn’t find a more repetitive genre path to follow. There’s little mystery to the gonigs on, and neither actor manages to wrangle tension (even when staring our Midnight friend in the face…thing).
Scares are hard to come by because Zariwny opts for a more “charismatic” villain who talks like Scarecrow and appears as a dyed-black, cloaked Jack Skellington. He can form out of clouds and is a stickler for rules (candles lit at all times, 10 seconds to re-ignite, if you fail he exploits your deepest fear). Credit is noted given this villain’s backstory and strict instructions – which does make for a rather killer game of tag – but the need to converse and expose Midnight from shadows subtracts necessary mysticism. He’s a cocky demon with masks for each emotion (think woodland death imp emojis), but never the spine-tingling beast we find ourselves hiding from.
This is all a bummer because gore goes bonkers in the very first scene – with underage victims no less. One young player gets decapitated, another explodes into a red splattery mess (against fresh snowfall), but then a vacuous lull in process takes hold. It’s not until Alex’s fear of blood and Miles’ fear of pain that we get more eye-bulging squeamishness, then again when Kelly’s bunnyman appears. A no-bullshit, bunny-headed creature wearing a suit, which plays directly into Kelly’s deepest fear. When Zariwny gets sick and surreal, he scores – but it’s a disappointing “when.”
I take no pleasure in confirming that any small victory The Midnight Man claims is negated by kids who should’ve been offed for even thinking about a quick playthrough of Anna’s old-school entertainment. Invite him in, pour your salt circles and try to survive until 3:33AM – sounds easy, right? If the demon plays fair, you bet! But why would ANYONE trust a demon’s word? Makes sense given Alex and Miles’ ignorance of more red flags than a Minesweeper game, and a thrilling chase these bad decisions do not make.
The Midnight Man begins by striking a meteoric horror high, only to plummet back down towards repetitive genre bumbling once the game’s true – and less enticing – plot begins.
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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