Saturday is Horror Day #66 – Freaks (2018), The Conspiracy

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Freaks (2018)

 

Chloe (Lexy Kolker) is seven, but she’s never been beyond her front door, kept inside by her vigilant and paranoid father (Emile Hirsch). He cautiously schools her on what to say if someone asks her who she is and what she likes, even though that isn’t her name at all. Chloe longs to go outside. Her mother is dead, and all she has is her father. He tells her that when the time comes she will go across the street to live with the neighbors, and Nancy will be her new mother. Chloe wants a mother more than anything, and that day can’t come fast enough.

 

Chloe peeps outside when her dad is sleeping, although he tries to stay awake as long as possible, saying he can’t protect her when he’s asleep. She spots an ice cream truck, and she really really really wants an ice cream. The older man in the truck (Bruce Dern) looks her way and smiles at her. One day Chloe sees the girl across the street getting ice cream and she tells her in her mind to bring her one, and she does. Then the man himself shows up and takes her to his truck, saying they’re going for a ride. The odd thing is he has a photograph in his truck. When Chloe asks who that is, he says it’s her mother… his daughter. And they have to rescue her. But her mother is dead, so how can that be?

 

Freaks is set at a time when some members of the population have developed certain powers which set 

them apart from the others, and they have been labeled as freaks by the rest, who are terrified of them and what they can. Scientists predict that each generation of freaks is stronger than the last. Chloe’s mother Mary (Amanda Crew) single-handedly destroyed the city of Dallas. Chloe’s father works to keep her safe, but his powers only work when he’s awake.

 

Chloe has some astonishing powers of her own. She can get into people’s heads and make them do things. Grandpa is positive he can use her to rescue her mother. The concept reminds me of the TV series The Gifted, but they were ore of an offshoot from the X-Men universe  and these are just ordinary people with extraordinary powers.

 

I was really glad Bruce Dern turned out not to be the neighborhood pervert. He seems at odds with Chloe’s father but eventually they decide to work together for the common good. The movie is well done, the story is great, and so is the acting. But at the same time, it’s bleak and harsh, and not something I would choose to watch again. Look for Grace Park as an FBI agent, last seen on Hawaii 5-0. I’ll give this movie 4.5 Stars.

The Conspiracy

Two filmmakers, Aaron (Aaron Poole) and Jim (James Gilbert) are making a documentary about conspiracy theorists, particularly Terrance (A.C. Peterson). But in the middle of filming, Terrance disappears, his apartment ransacked, the multitude of clippings he had tacked to his walls torn down. 

 

 

Aaron and Jim pursue their investigation, which leads them to the existence of a secret society known as the Tarsus Club. They discover an informant, Mark Tucker (Bruce Clayton), who helps them gain entrance to the club, which is holding some sort of meeting in someone’s expensive home in the middle of nowhere. The club is populated by obviously wealthy, established members of society. Jim and Aaron and welcomed as new members, and told to enjoy The Hunt.

 

The two young men find themselves in over their heads, continuing to film as the hunt begins.

My first problem with this film is that it always felt like a film, never a documentary. If you’re going to 

say it’s a documentary, it should feel like one. I understand the filmmakers are making a point about conspiracies and getting to the truth of the question of who is in charge, who pulls the strings. But I found my attention wandering early on, and I found it hard to maintain interest, or even to care about these guys and their so-called documentary.

Is the Tarsus Club just a stand-in for the Masons or the Illuminati or some other group of the week? Personally, I believe the wealthy control everything, but I don’t think they all hang out together and plan what’s going to happen. I believe they have their own spheres of influence and control things accordingly.

 

At the end of the film, the film goes horribly wrong for the two young men in a way they hadn’t anticipated, and then one disappears. Just not a lot of meat to this story, and I think it was just not worth filming. I’ll give it 1.5 Stars.

Film Review: Sanjuro

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Sanjuro

 

Iori Izaka (Yuzo Kayama) is the nephew of the chamberlain, Mutsuta (Yunosuke Ito). He hopes to enlist his uncle’s aid in making much needed reforms in the village, but his uncle doesn’t seem interested. The superintendent, Kikui (Masao Shimizu) is very interested, and tells Iori to gather his friends quickly so he can speak to them. As the young men discuss their plans, they are startled to discover that they have been overheard by a ronin sleeping in the next room. Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune) is quick to tell them why they are wrong and, without even knowing either the superintendent or the chamberlain, he can describe them to a tee. Too late, he realizes the meeting is to take place at the spot where they are. And actually they are already surrounded. If they are to survive, they must listen to Sanjuro.

 

Sanjuro bluffs his way out of the situation with the men, and garners an invitation from vice-chamberlain Muroto to work for him. They learn that Iori’s uncle has been kidnapped and his wife and daughter are being held. The young men protest when Sanjuro tells them they need to rescue the women first,claiming that they must save the chamberlain. But common sense prevails when Sanjuro reminds them they don’t even know where he is being held, and perhaps the women have overheard something. Through the use of Sanjuro’s crafty plan, they rescue the women. Mutsuta’s wife (Takako Irie) is grateful but serene. She advocates that they not use so much violence, but that isn’t always possible. Especially when the young men don’t listen to Sanjuro and attempt to carry out their own plans.

 

They hide in one of the young men’s homes, which just happens to be next to the home of Kurofuji, one of Kikui’s allies. Who would look for someone under their very noses? The enemy is cunning too and lead them on wild goose chases because the young ones are so quick to react. They just might ruin one plan too many!

 

Sanjuro is the sequel to Yojimbo, with Toshiro Mifune once again playing the titular character, a wandering ronin. I liked this film as much as I liked Yojimbo. It definitely made me laugh at times.  I loved the interplay between Mutsuta’s wife and Sanjuro. I think he would prefer not to kill either, but sometimes he is pushed into a situation where it is inevitable. She is a great character, and so is her daughter Chidori (Reiko Dan). Once again, the cinematography and direction are excellent, as is the soundtrack. Definitely worth watching. I give this film 5 Stars.

Wednesday Briefs: June 15, 2022

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

The Garret Farm: Part 34 by J Ray Lamb

Jason was finally gone and the farm settled into mid-spring. Trent was busy from sunrise to sunset with preparations for the spring planting. Sandy suddenly found himself in charge of a fence building team to cordon off the winter wheat section that Claire had meant to fertilize. Trent couldn’t use that acreage for anything during the warm season so it was decided to fence it off and make it an extra pasture for the summer.

The rest of the farm was moving on from the drama. Colin had his hands full turning the farm into a full live-in facility…

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Book Review: Pluto, Vol 4 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Pluto, Vol 4       

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 19, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci-Fi Manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Dr. Ochanomizu discovers a discarded dog robot and decides to repair it, since it reminds him of a dog he and his wife once had.  He is being pressured to send more robot troops to the Persian kingdom, which he doesn’t wish to do. His grandson Takashi messages him to talk about the strange tornado he and his mother saw. The dog’s owner shows up as they are talking, having tracked the dog through his GPS. All seems well, until he reveals his name and demands that the Professor summon Atom so he can fight someone!

The Professor refuses to give in to Goji’s demands, but Goji tells him he can control tornados… even where they go and who they target! Atom appears unexpectedly and tells the Professor that Uran is responding to a call!  Atom goes to her rescue, but tragedy ensues.

Gesicht continues to have bad dreams, unaware that he has been targeted by a man who thinks he killed his brother. Adolf is unaware that his bosses don’t wish him to succeed in his mission as they have other plans for Gesicht, and he is very necessary to these plans. Gesicht goes to see Dr Hoffman, unaware that the doctor knows someone has been fiddling with Gesicht’s AI. Meanwhile, Adolf makes a detour to his brother’s grave, and narrowly avoids being killed!

Gesicht’s vacation is put on hol, after the untimely death of Atom, and his new assignment is to protect Adolf Haas. How ironic is that? Haas’s son is totally smitten with the detective and is excited to meet him. Gesicht accompanies Haas to work, where they learn of the death of another robot creator, this time the creator of Epsilon. Haas gives Gesicht some info he ran across in a Persian prison his company installed systems for. Gesicht finds some disturbing information. Someone is after Professor Hoffman! After Gesicht saves Adolf’s life, he starts to reveal everything about the anti-robot group he is in.

So much going on, so many bad people with bad agendas. Another good robot gone! It’s heartbreaking. I find it satisfying that Adolf has to put up with Gesicht protecting him. Maybe now he’ll realize that Gesicht didn’t kill his brother… if he doesn’t manage to kill Gesicht first. Another great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Film Review: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Following the death of her husband, Empress Wu (Carina Lau) has been regent, but now she is to be inaugurated as empress. An enormous statue is being constructed for the occasion, but it’s imperative that it be completed on time. However, during an inspection of the statue, an official goes up in flames, burned to death. But how? The Empress’ chaplain, speaking through his special deer, suggests that Detective Dee be put on the case. But Detective Dee has been imprisoned for the past eight years, following his denouncement of the empress’ regency!

Under the watchful eye of Pei Donglai (Chao Deng) and Shangguan Jing’er (Bingbing Li), Detective Dee (Andy Lau) is placed in charge of the investigation, but only after the second mysterious flaming death.  Jing’er has been given express orders from the Empress to guard Dee, while Pei mistrusts him immensely. There are those who believe the deaths were caused because the men were disrespectful of the talismans placed on the statue. But Dee doesn’t subscribe to that particular theory. Yet he’s at a loss to explain their spontaneous combustion. Can he solve the mystery before the scheduled inauguration?

 

This is definitely a very interesting whodunit, with a lot of twists. Detective Dee is a great character, 

unconventional and yet very steadfast in his loyalties, remaining true to his principles. I wish there were more movies featuring Andy Lau as the detective, but the next two films are actually prequels about the younger Dee. I’ll watch them too, of course.

I loved the action sequences, the story was well-written, and I felt the film had great direction. All of the actors did a good job, but I especially enjoyed watching Andy Lau. This was a fun film to watch. I give it 4 Stars

Saturday is Horror Day #65 – Rampant, Phantasm II

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Rampant

There is unrest in Joseon. Some people fear that the king is far too interested in impressing the nearby Qing dynasty of China than furthering the cause of his own people. One who believes this is the Crown Prince (Kim Tae-Woo), who is determined to aid his people by the acquisition of  European arquebuses. But the plot is discovered and the prince must commit suicide. Unbeknownst to him, the Europeans have brought more than guns, they have brought zombies.

The Crown Prince’s younger brother Prince Ganglim (Hyun Bin) has been in exile in Qing for some ten years, during which time he excelled at drinking and womanizing… and swordsmanship. He returns at his brother’s request to take care of the pregnant Crown Princess. But the Minister of War, Kim Ja-joon (Jang Dong-Gun) has no wish for that to happen. When Ganglim and his companion, Hak Su (Man-sik Jeong) arrive in Jemulpo, they are beset by assassins, and then find themselves up against zombies. 

 

Having seen the demons first hand, Ganglim and Hak Su head to the capital to warn of what is going on. But things are worse than he expected. And no one believes him, not even the Minister of War. Which is odd as he is the one who brought it to pass. As the number of zombies continues to grow, Ganglim realizes it is up to him to save the kingdom.

 

I really liked this film. From the previews, I had thought it was a werewolf movie, but no, it’s zombies. It might not be quite as fast-paced as Train to Busan, but I was won over by Prince Ganglim as he turned from playboy to zombie killer, one worthy to be a king. His companion Hak Su is hilarious, and the repartee between the two is very funny.  Well worth the watch. I give it 4 Stars.

Phantasm II

Mike  (James Le Gros) has been in a mental institution for about seven years, after telling the fantastic story of what happened to his brother, including the Tall Man and his evil dwarfs. Gradually coming to realize he has to tell the doctors what they want to hear, he manages to get released and heads immediately to the cemetery. Reggie (Reggie Bannister) finds him there.  Reggie doesn’t really believe Mike and he’s just trying to protect him… until they reach Reggie’s house and see what the Tall Man has done! Now it’s war!

Mike and Reggie are determined to destroy the Tall Man, and he isn’t hard to follow, but he is hard to catch. Reggie picks up a hitchhiker on the side of the road who he is attracted to by the name of Alchemy (Samantha Phillips). There is something odd about her. Mike thinks she’s been in his dreams, but in those she’s been dead. Mike can’t help but think about Liz (Paula Irvine) and is intent on finding her. Unknown to him, her grandpa has died and she is helping her grandma through the ordeal of the funeral. Things go very wrong when her grandpa unexpectedly comes back from the dead, thanks to the Tall Man.

 

When Reggie and Mike take Alchemy to her hometown, she finds it sadly changed over the past ten 

years. In fact, it’s become like a ghost town. They decide to stay at the bed and breakfast owned by Alchemy’s mother, although it too is boarded up and vacant. Now it’s time to deal with the Tall Man and his minions once and for all!

The second installment of the Phantasm franchise has its moments, both humorous and creepy. I’m glad Reggie survived the first film, he ends an element of both humor and humanity to the film which Mike lacks. I could do without his hitting on the first woman he sees, but whatever. What I don’t get is when Mike and Liz are reunited after seven years, how she recognizes him so quickly and how they feel compelled to suck face while standing inside an open grave, in the middle of dealing with the Tall Man. Call me crazy, but that sort of thing can wait, surely. 

Angus Scrim as the Tall Man is the best thing about the film. More of the mysterious pronged orb that flies through air with reckless abandon and cores its victims. Now I am confused as to how it knows who to attack. See the movie and ask yourself the same thing. All in all, not bad. I’ll give it 3 Stars.

Film Review: The Great Battle

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 The Great Battle

When Emperor Li Shimin (Park Sung-Woong) of the Tang dynasty invades the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo, he is met in battle by forces led by General Yeon (Nazeeh Tarsha). Yeon believes his defeat is due to the refusal of one of his commanders to obey his orders to send troops to the battle. He brands Commander Yang Man-Chun (Zo In-sung) a traitor and dispatches the head of his cadets, Sa-mul (Nam Joo-hyuk) to the Ansi Fortress to kill Yang. Sa-mul is from Ansi and is loyal to his general and doesn’t even know Yang, so he agrees to under take the mission.

On his arrival, Sa-mul encounters Yang just outside of the city. The commander is helping an older couple whose wagon has become stuck. Yang isn’t stupid and he figures out why Sa-mul is there, but welcomes him anyway, and tells him that he can carry the flag in battle and stand next to him, thus showing the people that he is fighting. Just then word arrives that Yang’s two lieutenants are at it again, and Sa-mul follows everyone to see what the fuss is about. A conflicted Sa-mul follows Yang at night and begins to see what the commander is really like and he begins to question his mission.

 

The Emperor decides to attack Ansi Fortress next and is determined to take it. The odds certainly seem 

in his favor, as he has 200,000 men to the 5000 men defending the fortress. But Yang refuses to be defeated, and he devises plans to keep the wolf at bay. But how long can he keep this up without some sort of reinforcements? And how likely is that considering General Yeon wants him dead?

This was a really good film, one I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the human element as the young Sa-mul began to think for himself based on what he saw rather than just blindly obeying orders. I laughed at parts, and at others I cried. The battle scenes were magnificent and truly epic. You can’t help but root for the underdog against the Tang oppressors, and you can’t help but admire Commander Yang. I give this film 5 Stars.

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 63 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 63    

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 3, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The faux luchado is playing havoc with the Soul Reapers. It’s time for a hero, eh? Or maybe even a villain?  Enter Renji! He tells Rukia to go on, he can handle this by himself. The Quincy, whose name is Mask de Masculine, has a sidekick, an ardent fan named James. But maybe James serves a different purpose, something necessary to the Mask’s success. And maybe Renji has learned a thing or two during the time of his own training.

Uryu goes to see Yhwach but His Majesty is asleep, according to his aide. It’s obvious he has no liking for Ishida, probably jealous that he has been appointed successor. Even so, he decides to tell Uryu a couple of things he should know about Yhwach and the Quincies, including the engraving ritual, which has already been performed with Uryu.

Rukia runs across As Nodt, the Quincy who stole Byakuya’s bankai.  He asks her, “Will he come here if I kill you?” and she replies, “He may”. He attempts to instill fear into her but Rukia turns the tables on him, in a way he hadn’t anticipated.  And of course Byakuya arrives in the nick of time.

Yachiru is having a good time, despite Kenpachi’s absence, stealing from the Quincies, to Isane’s amazement. But that fun may have just come to an end…

Don’t underestimate anyone, even the luchado.  He has more going on than he appears to with his little superfan James. Even more interesting is the way Renji has grown and developed his skills. Pretty damn cool! Still watching and waiting for Uryu to make his move. It was nice to see Yachiru after so long. I hope Kenny comes back to her soon. And I hope she and Isane will be okay. Gotta wait for the next volume!

Wednesday Briefs: June 8, 2022

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Ancalagon: Chapter Ninety-three by Cia Nordwell
 

“I insist you call Seedrah to investigate this,” Sloval said.  

“He is,” Garjah said shortly. “Who do you think is outside looking for the launch source for the projectile orbs? This room should have been secure, with many different layers of checkpoints between here and any entrances or exits from the compound. Therefore he is investigating outside of the room, and I will handle the security matters inside.” Garjah crossed his upper arms. “Unless you have revoked my status publicly?”  

They hadn’t, and we all knew it. Therefore the Kardoval had to let Garjah do his job or risk creating

 

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Saturday is Horror Day #64 – Black Sunday (1960)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Black Sunday


When a witch (Barbara Steele) and her minion (Arturo Dominici) are burned at the stake after first being forced to endure the mask of Satan, they vow to wreak their vengeance. Two centuries later, two doctors,Dr Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) and Dr Gorobec (John Richardson) are on their way to a medical conference. when their carriage breaks down. While the driver fixes the carriage, they stroll about some nearby ruins and discover a strange tomb. The older doctor recounts the strange tale of the witch and the mask. The coffin is accidentally damaged, revealing the mask and the body. They pull it off, only to discover how well preserved the body beneath is. Shrugging it off, they continue to the next town and take a room.

In a nearby castle live Prince Vajda (Ivo Garrani) and his son Constantine (Enrico Olivieri) and his daughter Asa (Barbara Steele). A medical emergency requires a doctor and the two older physician is summoned. When he doesn’t return, the younger doctor learns through an eyewitness that the man who came for him was a stranger, not Boris, the stablehand. Boris is later discovered murdered. Alarmed, Dr Gorobec heads to the castle.

 

Strange things are afoot including secret passages and various clues which lead them to believe the witch intends to be reincarnated in the body of the princess. It seems that there are vampires afoot. How can they be combated?

Despite the fairly common storyline, Black Sunday stands out for the way in which it was filmed. It’s stylish and rather elegant, enhanced I feel by the black and white film, although clearly color would have been a choice in 1960.  It also stars Barbara Steele, considered to be the queen of the 1960 horror genre. The film is Italian, but I saw it dubbed, which probably detracted from the overall effect, but I had no choice. Even so, it has a very Italian Gothic feel and is not short on chills and shivers. Worth watching. I give it 4 to 4.5 Stars