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Bad Code (Book)

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Bad Code

Bad CodeWritten by Leigh Dovey


Strange things are afoot amidst the isolated Nevada Desert in Leigh Dovey’s self-published sci-fi/horror Bad Code, and unfortunate protagonist Matt Walker is about to find himself right in the middle of it.

After losing both his job and girlfriend in short order, Matt sets off with his best friend, Johnny, for a lengthy outback motorcycle trip with the intention of undertaking some serious self-reflection and life adjustment.

Following a chance encounter at high speed with a naked man in the middle of the road, the two friends wind up worse for wear – rendered unconscious with their bikes wrecked.

Awakening in a converted railroad car on the outskirts of the secluded town of Folly, Walker is shocked to find himself in the care of aging war veteran Alvin Mcready and – more unbelievably for him – Alvin’s hulking, fifteen foot tall robot named Tyson.

But they aren’t alone. Alongside them in Folly live a selection of Alvin’s fellow ex-soldiers, and each of them is trapped within by the presence of The Machine – a highly advanced piece of cybernetic war-tech that wants all of them dead… on its own terms.

You see, Folly is home to a military science research, development and testing facility, and each of the men stationed there had a purpose – to provide their own memories of their time at war to The Machine, in order to gift it with the ultimate selection in in-built knowledge of survival in conflict. But things have gone awry, and The Machine has inherited not only the men’s combat abilities, but each of their individual regrets, moments of terror, loss, and outright madness.

Clad in the skin of its creator, as though to do so somehow makes it human, The Machine seeks to rid itself of the insanity that rules its artificial mind by purging the denizens of Folly one by one – hand-picking them from the cowering group and crucifying them atop the nearby hill for all to see.

With all routes of escape rendered impossible by The Machine’s incredible speed, strength, and selection of all-seeing video feeds, the men have little option but to sit around and wait to be picked off – a fact that regularly sees the rise of internal disagreements of the verbal and physical kind, as this group of volatile characters are forced to simply await the inevitable.

Author Dovey, previously known for his film and novel adaptation The Fallow Field, imbues Bad Code with a pace that rockets along almost as quickly as the mechanical monster at the centre of it. Getting Walker and Johnny into Folly and introduced to the threat as fast as possible works very much in his favour, allowing the overruling tension of the situation to bubble away in the background while the more immediate confrontations between characters fire off.

Walker is an easily identifiable everyman – fed up with his lot in life, he takes this opportunity to get out there and throw a punch at the world. Initially, he has no intentions of playing the hero, but as curiosity and circumstance collide to make him the only realistic hope for the group, he’s forced to stand up for humanity and take any shot he can get at reaching the outside world. Johnny, on the other hand, spends most of the novel incapacitated, failing to amount to much but a simple device for emotional manipulation of the reader when it comes to Walker’s feelings for his friend.

More interesting than him are the rag-tag group of battle-scarred soldiers residing on The Machine’s hit list – from the wiser, cool-headed leadership figures to the coiled-spring brutes almost constantly pulling knives or guns on their fellow man, the action in Folly stands consistently entertaining in a pulpy, B-movie ensemble sensibility. Sure, most are little more than angry soldier archetypes, but it’s a fun time around them nonetheless.

Which is also very much how Bad Code feels – like a cult sci-fi/horror/action flick straight out of the late ’80s or early ’90s, pumped full of testosterone, imaginative excess and bombastic set pieces. The Machine is a formidable, and interesting, foe, even if its internal monologue comes through as occasionally overwrought and unconvincing in its attempts to convey the electronic insanity of its mindset. Initially, it’s like a creepy invader… stalking its way down to Folly with the intention of inescapably dragging a chosen screaming victim off to a torturous death – even the lesser-model robots that the humans have on their side are no match whatsoever for The Machine’s superlative technology and killer instinct, and thus can offer their fleshy compatriots no real protection beyond distraction.

Later, though, things get much more action-packed as The Machine adopts a role akin to a cross of a Terminator and Predator‘s legendary Hunter. It’s also at this point that the real gory stuff begins, and from there Bad Code rushes headlong down the kill list with nothing on its mind but entertaining you. And that it does.
Dovey’s prose works best when he keeps it simple in this particular novel, and with only a few moments of stunted exposition or overly flowery language to be found he does an admirable job of keeping it together. A big problem, however, is an apparent lack of proofreading before publication. Grammatical errors, typos and instances where a word has obviously been substituted without fixing those next to it pop up much more frequently than makes for totally comfortable reading – especially when the pacing is generally so well handled. The finale, too, is much too throwaway a moment – The Machine’s final motivations (and quite a thematically important point of the story) delivered in an awkwardly on-the-nose, expository manner rather than a more effective descriptive approach. It brings the whole thing to a close with a crashing halt, rather than the necessary bang.

Still, while Bad Code is little more than creative, pulpy schlock, it’s schlock that makes for a fun time curled up with a book and enjoying robots beating the living hell out of each other while ripping fleshy meat bags to pieces. Good times, man. Good times.

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The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life

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Starring Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson

Written and directed by David Freyne


Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.

Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.

The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.

Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.

Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.

Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.

The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.

  • The Cured
3.5

Summary

The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.

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Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed

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Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim

Directed by Brian Coyne


Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.

Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.

So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.

  • Film
1.5

Summary

I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.

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Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone

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Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters

Directed by Jeff Houkal


Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?

Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”

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