Ash vs. The Evil Dead, Premiere: A Review.

Show: Ash vs. The Evil Dead.
Season: 1.
Episode: Premiere, “El Jefe”.
Created by: Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 41 min.

This is a television spin off of The Evil Dead franchise (the original movies not the remake) set 30 years after the events of the original film in which Ash, now a fading in his glory womanizer, accidentally reads from the Necronomicon, yet again unleashing evil into the world which in turn draws in a new cast of characters.

This show inspires mixed feelings in terms of whether it is good or not, as it has its strengths and weaknesses.

As far as this show’s strengths are concerned, it would have to be in the cinematography and action scenes.

The Camera work in this was rather faithful to techniques utilized in the original films, particularly the use of rapid point of view shot on part of the evil force, never actually revealing the actual face of the evil except for the twisted features of a possessed person or object. Keeping this rapid fire point of view was a smart move on the show’s makers, adding an extra layer of credibility and homage as a continuation of the original Evil Dead movie franchise without having to completely relying on the premise, occasional evil giggles, and Bruce Campbell as its bridge to the source material.

The action scenes are the promiscuously gory zaniness like the kind found in the original franchise, a delightful and creepy blood fest you can’t help being riveted by. There is nothing subtle about the antagonist leading up to these confrontations (at least not much), both in the franchise and here which is as it should be when combined with the campy nature of the story.

The weaker points of this episode however lie primarily in most of the characters and some of the plot, which can’t be completely overlooked despite the good stuff.

Bruce Campbell does a good job of reprising his role as Ash, and depicting a 30 years later version of the character, poking fun at his character’s own age and declined grandeur with a sense of preserved bravado you would expect from the character within the franchise at this point in his life, so no problems with him as the lead in this episode. The problems lie within pretty much every other character. It’s hard to gauge who these characters are exactly except as one dimensional tropes that you hope will be fleshed out in further episodes, particularly the character Amanda Fischer (Jill Marie Jones), the state trooper who had one of the best action scenes in the episode. Certainly she has this bit of mystery about her, but the whole “killed my partner” (even if she was the one who was forced to do it) trope got old, was resurrected, then buried again in the garden of eye-rolling script writing clichés and without anything much else to cling to as a personal characteristic, this character comes off somewhat uninteresting despite her mystery and her good action scene.

The plot, while filled with some great action and some hit or miss jokes depending on your tastes, wasn’t exactly full bodied in terms of explanation, and the pacing was so rushed that there was little time to breath and appreciate or give a chance for a bit of character and story development. Great visuals and action is alright of course, but this isn’t a movie where that works within the limited time of a movie setting, but a television show needs more than just good visuals and actions and the occasional good joke, it needs to flesh out the characters and world around them while in concert with what it’s showing. Still, this is the premiere after all, other episodes will come along that will hopefully balance out the slight issues with character and story development.

Overall, a good start to what I’m sure is going to be a fun series that’s a nice continuation homage to the original cinematic material with Bruce doing a good reprisal of his titular role. As long as the issues surrounding the characters and the pacing of the plot are worked out, then we may have a winner in the works that can be enjoyed by old and new fans alike.

*Ash vs. The Evil Dead Trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unnLg1TPCYM

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Halloween Reviews, The Sampling.

With Halloween upon us, it seems only natural to turn to our beloved films, Horror or otherwise, to get into the spirit of things. For this Halloween I decided to focus on some more obscure (or less remembered present day) films from the past (both feature length and shorts) in a series of shorter reviews to celebrate this scare day.

The Other.

Directed by: Robert Mulligan.
Released: 1972.
Running Time: 95 min.

This is a little known psychological thriller film from the early seventies that was based on the book of the same name by Tom Tryon about a boy named Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) who played “games” along with his twin Holland (Martin Udvarnoky). As the story progresses on the family farm in a quaint agricultural community of 1935, we find that people begin to die, stemming from a mystery surrounding Niles.

Director Mulligan’s purpose in making the film was to provide a subjective experience for the spectators from the point of view of a child, in this case Niles. In the case of this film, after watching it, he does indeed seem to have done a good job of it. It is done primarily in Nile’s point of view, and there is this sort of stubborn innocence about him that refuses to move out of his imagination and into the reality around him, even when he is harshly confronted with it by his Grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen). The movie does a brilliant job expressing the more dangerous qualities inherent in imagination.

There is of course a bit of choppiness here and there between scenes. Other than Ada, Niles, and Holland, the other characters didn’t bring anything much to the film. This could be in part because there were scenes cut out of the film post-production.

Despite that, the beautiful summer atmosphere reflected Nile’s perspective of the golden moments while people dropped like flies all around him, and the Udvarnoky brothers and Hagen did a good job with their characterizations within this environment.

In the end, it’s mostly a film that uses the environment to reflect the theme of dangerous imagination combined with the folly of the matriarchal desire to preserve the child from grief. It certainly does a decent job of that, though the film can be a bit plodding her and there for those who are looking for a more brisk paced plot and visuals.

Trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMmMqWkudgA

Trick or Treat.

Directed by: Jack Hannah.
Released: 1952.
Running Time: 8 min.

This is an animated Walt Disney Short from the fifties featuring Witch Hazel who takes exception to Donald Duck playing mean tricks on his nephews, Hewey, Dewey, and Lewey who are out trick or treating, and then further humiliates Hazel by pulling on her nose and dousing her in water. Thus the rest is revenge of the witch through a spell on Donald Duck.

This was a fun bouncy animation in all its Halloween shlock that can only come from Disney during that period and in any other context outside of a Disney Cartoon, would be utterly horrifying. It’s a great little story that progresses smoothly with some enjoyable Halloween imagery.

The delightful voice talent of June Foray (the original Granny from Loony Tunes, Cindy Loo Who from The Grinch, Lucifer from Cinderella, and Rocky the Flying Squirrel, just to name a few) who owned the part of Hazel and made this fun character delightfully colorful, was the heart of this little number.

Over all a non-serious goofy little number with some standard fare music, great voice talent, and fun Halloween visuals.

View at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYpadw9O1ZM

The Brood.

Directed by: David Cronenberg .
Released: 1979.
Running Time: 92 min.

This very odd little number is a Canadian Science Fiction Horror about a single father raising his daughter while his wife is kept in a special house for the mentally disturbed run by a doctor who uses radical physiological techniques. In the process, all those whom his ex-wife has had some sort of negative history or ill fillings towards have suddenly been murdered by mysterious child-like creatures in colorful snow suits.

All around, this isn’t a movie of multiple twist endings or anything more complicated than a retribution style story from the outside, until you watch it again and realize that there are several couched themes that can be gleaned from the narrative, though from the first onset as a regular viewer, its mainly how they go about the story that is unique and very strange, thanks to its imaginative construction and great cinematography particularly in the last scene making monstrous the very act of birth itself, disturbingly so.

Despite the fact that murders are not overly creative in their deaths, this isn’t a slasher flick or a blood and guts horror, it’s the horror of creation and utilization towards murder that makes this a riveting experience. The strange discombobulating atmosphere keeps you attached to seeing where this is all going, and you can’t help but be impressed by the end, not surprising considering it’s a Cronenberg film.

In the end I could go on and on about this film and its many layers, but this is a short review section and I can’t do it justice here. I highly recommend giving it a watch more than once.

Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI32rz-Xh7U

Vincent.

Directed by: Tim Burton.
Released: 1982.
Running Time: 6.24 min.

This animated short is another of those narrative examples that show the destructive nature of imagination, particularly in children. In this case, a boy obsessed with Vincent price with aspirations to be said man.

This is Tim Burton’s first animated stop motion short with that fun unique macabre style that made him famous. Much like his later film The Nightmare Before Christmas, he utilizes the story through a poetic verse, though this short has the poem narrated by none other than Vincent Price himself during the progress of the short instead of merely basing it on it.

The short has this amazingly engaging flow, and the fact that Vincent Price did the narration, in fact he is the only vocal center of the entire piece gives it this multilevel engagement and a certain charming appeal.

For any Tim Burton fans out there, this is a fascinating artifact from the early days of his career.

View at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxQcBKUPm8o

American Horror Story Hotel, Episode 4 “Devil’s Night.”: A Review.

Show: American Horror Story.
Season: 5/Hotel.
Episode: “Devil’s Night.”
Written by: Jennifer Salt.
Released: 2015.
Running time: 47 min.

This splendid episode is one of the best yet, the Halloween turned into Devil’s Night as our main cop lead is drawn into a rather sinister dinner party, his soon to be ex will be separated from more than her husband, and one of the help gets a bit of a spotlight on her background.

Where to begin with this episode?

So much was good! The surreal feel of being drunk well utilized in the cinematography and transitions of warm to cool tones in the colour palate, the macabre setting combined with a vaguely inebriated sense of tension that wove lazily throughout the dinner party scene, as Johnny boy is furthered in his eyes being opened to the sinister supernatural shenanigans that manifest in the Hotel Cortez.

The actors, both the regulars and the guests, did a superb job, each adding a unique flare to the ensemble of the evening, drawing the viewer in with their great characterizations but all with this mutual sense of creepy factor that added in the narrative flow.

Meanwhile, the side story surrounding Alex after she finds her son and realizes that something is up right of with not only him, but with the hotel as the source was refreshing in that she didn’t dither over it all, and despite her initial bulking, her embracing of the unbelievable as opposed to John’s continued refusal to except what’s in front of him, was actually poignant of the difference between the couple and in part why they can’t work together. Alex’s choice in the end of the episode also reminded me of the end of the film Rosemary’s Baby in her choice to sacrifice herself to what she knows is wrong to be with her child. It will be interesting to see where they take Alex’s arc, which is now, thanks to this episode one of the top interesting ones.

Overall a great episode for Halloween, the show in top notch form as per usual for the holiday, Jennifer Salt wrote a tightly woven blend of freaky and titillating; the best episode so far and a good sign of the continued transition of the overall story of the season.

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: A Review.

Film: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.
Directed by: Jim Stenstrum.
Released: 1998.
Running Time: 73 min.

This is a direct to video Scooby feature that was done in honor of the original Scooby-Doo voice actor Don Messick, and one of the first of the revamped series of animated Scooby-Doo animations. It has been well received by fans and critics alike with a decent promotional gimmick of “this time the monsters are real” and smartly premiered it on Cartoon Network on Halloween.

Scooby’s mysteries have long been an iconic part of many childhoods for many of the adults out there, and seeing it made into a contemporary feature that showed a great deal of obvious effort and attention on part of the filmmakers, especially for a direct to video at the time, made this film a particularly fond 90’s recall.

So does it still hold up today?

There is just something about animation before Flash came along, a sort of fluid liveliness and detail that was its own work of art. This was a movie that had some of that great animation style that came out of the 90’s. It blended the iconic features and look of the traditional 1970’s Scooby-Doo cast with a more contemporary liveliness, with particularly good attention to the use of light and shadow and fluidity that gave it a slightly darker, more atmospheric tone.

The music utilized was a mixed bag in terms of good and bad though. With the use of an instrumental musical score closer to what you would find on a decently made horror feature, it added a nice enhancement to that darker theme. Unfortunately the pop songs in contrast took you out of the moments of the action.

From the characterization end of things, they were all somewhat decent, and their matured age was somewhat interesting to see when you were a kid having only been exposed to the mystery solving teenager versions from the original material. There is more adult concerns on part of Daphne, who seems to be the most matured of the lot, though the rest of the cast weren’t all that different in personalities from their original source materials.

From the story end of things, this was a decently paced plot, a good use of exposition without being annoying, with a few twists for the kiddies and adults both to enjoy, a surprisingly mature moment of empathy with the antagonists near the end, and some decent humour that despite being somewhat of a zany source material with some zany characters, was able to retain that excellent balance of mystery and humour thats made it so popular as a franchise.

The only drawback story-wise was that Velma’s obvious suspicious looks gave away some of the mystery before its time, and the utilization of an extra supernatural creature seemed a bit out of nowhere.

All in all, while it did have some weak moments here and there, those moments don’t overwhelm the good parts with its solid atmosphere, tension, plot progression, and excellent animation. This was arguably one of the best Scooby-doo features that came out after the original show, still holding up even to today’s standards, and well worth a watch for the family for Halloween.

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Goosebumps: A Review.

Film: Goosebumps.
Directed by: Rob Letterman.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 103 min.

This is a cinematic rendition of the premise that R.L.Stine (self plugging), the author of the popular “Goosebumps” series from the 90’s played by Jack Black, actually created real monsters that he kept locked up in original manuscripts. The main character, Zach (Dylan Minnette), breaks into Stine’s house to help his daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush), when he and Champ the sidekick (Ryan Lee), open a book and start a chain of events that releases the goosebumps monsters into the real world.

As a fan of the book series and the television show as a kid, I had been looking forward to a little nostalgia plug combined with a great story, visuals and action.

Well, to my disappointment, I only got a portion of my expectations.

So what’s the good about this movie?

The technical end of things was its strong points, a good faithful adaption to the visual styles of the creatures from the book covers, with particular kudos in design to Slappy (Jack Black), The Abominable Snowman, and the Werewolf of Fever Swamp. The action utilized its environment decently enough, and the cinematography was not extraneous, with a score that stayed neatly in the background without any distressing unneeded pop music outside of the high school dance.

Now, for the bad parts, and unfortunately, this movie has a fair share.

The opening 15 minutes was sort of meh. Some of the humour was rather cliché, tired, and somewhat detrimental for the younger generation (something like some of the 90’s humour actually) though the humour improved a little in the last hour or so, but not by much.

The beginning plot was somewhat unoriginal, but Hannah and Zach did have a decent set-up, even if both of the characters weren’t…well, they weren’t a step out of the mold let’s just say. Hanna in particular was somewhat useless (which actually works somewhat against how R.L Stine portrayed some of his female characters in his book series, particularly the leads) though I will give props to the actress who at least tried her all to work with what she was given, and there was some decent action scenes in the last hour.

The adults, with the exception of Stine and, interestingly enough, the Aunt (Jillian Bell), were useless throughout this film, seemingly there only because the movie’s relationship to reality requires adult bodies to exist. The incompetent police cliché was even stupider here and the mother, a vice principal mind you, is even more useless (another 90’s trope from many children’s programs). The necessary parental character might have actually worked better here if they had Zach move in with his aunt, say after both parents were killed off. She had a bit more of a character about her at least, even if it was a ditzy one, she actually did things and didn’t question her nephew’s credibility as opposed to his own mother, and would make Zack a more sympathetic character as well.

The pacing in the first half hour or so was also really slow, and somewhat boring. I understand the need for establishment, which is all well and fine, but by the time they got to the action; they had only an hour to work this amazing roster of monsters, which could have been further utilized in more creative ways about the town.

While there was a decent use of tension in the last hour, there was no chance for proper utilization of the monster characters with the exception of the werewolf and the abominable snowman. Even Slappy, who felt particularly rushed, being the main antagonist, never fully embraced the briefly mentioned relationship between the dummy and Stine, which was actually rather interesting for the brief moment it lasted. Some scenes with just Slappy and Stine would have benefited, perhaps looking back on his relationship with Stine,maybe even a flashback, would have really fleshed him out even more, taking him from a good antagonist into a great antagonist. Even the potential that Slappy himself might have been the original creator and Stine one of his creations was just a throw away joke, and would have been a better twist then what was offered and seen from a mile away.

In the end, everything did have an appeal to nostalgia, but that faithfulness of the material should not have extended to the faults of the 90’s clichés, tired and offensive humour, and 1 dimensional tropes, and some of these characters which got whacked with the convenient moron stick. The design of the monsters was faithful to the classic cover art, the Goosebumps standard 3 tier act (while predictable) was faithful (beginning, middle, twist), but the weaknesses common of the 90’s could have been left out of the final print, particularly if you’re trying to appeal to a new generation of watchers. Basically treat this new demographic with some modicum of intelligence and respect.

As for the adult fans such as myself who were around during the “Goosebump” heyday, watch it pretty much for the visuals, some of the action, the monster guessing game, and nod to R.L Stine’s writing style (for the most part); really nothing else here for you, I recommend sticking to the television show and books.

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Screen Squinty’s Top 15 Treehouse of Horror Segments.

The Halloween Special series which started in 1990 during The Simpsons second season called The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (Th), and has been a recurring tradition (perhaps a bit of a belated one in some cases) ever since, and has long been a personal joy of mine from the very first episode when it aired.

Each episode consists of 3 main separate segments with occasional gags in the beginning and ending. It is these separate sections which will be individually added to my top list and not so much the episodes themselves.

Top 15 Treehouse of Horror Segments (in no particular order).

1. The Raven (TH:1, Segment 3).

This segment took a classic Edgar Allen Poe poem and made it mainstream. It inspired several children of my generation to read Poe after watching the episode. Homer as the beleaguered face of the story managed to combine his cloddery with this gothic tale brilliantly. The design of the segment was well done, with this great uses of stark colour and angle to give it a creepy vibe.

2. Clown Without Pity (TH:3, Segment 1).

This fun little tale is about a cursed doll out for murder, and contains a scene that has one of the best dialogues between a regular shmoe and an Evil Shop/Frogurt purveyor on television.

3. King Homer (TH:3, Segment 2).

This was a great spoof of the infamous King Kong movie from the black and white era with the appropriately cast Homer as the ape king himself. This also has one of the best renditions of “strolling through the park one day.”

4. Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies (TH:3, Segment 3).

A great little tale of zombies that spoofs this monster genre of the period, with inexplicable library sections, and Homer living out one of his ultimate fantasies.

5. The Devil and Homer Simpson (TH:4, Segment 1).

This one is particularly good, with its clever visuals of hell, titling Flanders as the king of hell itself, and a perfect resolution to the plot.

6. Bart Simpson’s Dracula (TH:4, Segment 3).

This segment is perhaps one of the best spoofs of the Coppola’s Dracula out there. It had great plot progression, well utilized characters, excellent humour, and an unexpected ending.

7. The Shining (TH:5, Segment 1).

This is one of the best Kubrick The Shinning spoofs ever, taking some of the most memorable elements and imagery from the original movie and bringing to light both the ridiculous and the creepy that was loved about The Shining. Marge also wins hand down for her nagging dead pan reaction after she subdues Homer.

8. Citizen Kang (TH:7, Segment 3).

I always enjoy a good parody that reflects the flaws of the political system, but I loved how this one took this type of parody and managed to make it into a Halloween special without losing its parodied commentary.

9. I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did (TH:10, Segment 1).

This is a great parody of I Know What You Did Last Summer, using tension well, and as always an excellent Flanders and Homer working well together in a story.

10. House of Wacks (TH:12, Segment 2).

I enjoyed this segment particularly for its parody of both Demon Seed (primarily) and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Pierce Brosnon also seems to be having a lot of fun in this segment as well, which you can really tell.

11. The Ned Zone (TH:15, Segment 1).

This segment had some of the better plot progression, utilizing a quickly escalating series of events to which centralizes particularly around Ned in a parody of the content and narrative style of The Dead Zone.

12. Intro (TH:19, Segment Intro).

In this short, Homer tries to vote for Obama and runs afoul of the automated voting machine. It was a great condensing of political conspiracies and spoof of elections.

13. There’s No Business Like Moe Business (TH:20, Segment 3).

One of the best episodes with Moe as a central figure, if only for this one segment. This was a great parody of Sweeny Todd and musical stage production in general (it was a meta segment), and I enjoyed the byplay and musical numbers between Marge, Moe, and Homer.

14. Couch Gag (TH:24, Segment Opening).

This perhaps one of my favorite couch gags of all time. It is chock full of various film and television references that you have fun watching it tow see which ones you spot. The visuals were engaging, detailed and clever merging film director Guillermo del Toro’s (who conceived this couch gaga) unique style with standard Simpsons fare.

15. A Clockwork Yellow (TH:25, Segment 2).

A great homage to Kubrick, particularly the Clockwork Orange parody in the beginning utilizing the language and visual style akin to Kubrick films. A Kubrick fan must watch.

Overall there is many more that I could have added to the list, particularly from the earlier seasons, but I felt these were a good sampling of some of the better sequences out there. With Treehouse of Horror set to play soon, we will see if this season’s Treehouse will be worth the watch.

There’s a Man in the Woods: A Review.

Short: There’s a Man in the Woods.
Created by: Jacob Streilein.
Released: 2014.
Running Time: 3.35 min.

This rather interesting animated short utilized a narrative about how rumors can quickly spiral out of control and the consequences that happen. It is told through the point of view of a teacher (who remains nameless throughout), whose entire reputation and life is destroyed by the acts of one child fabricating a story about a man in the woods, and his mother who refuses to believe that her precious darling is behind an untrue story.

The animation style was a lovely mixture of bright colours and simple designs with a unique character style that suited the characters to a tee, seeming fun one minute, and somewhat creepy in another. The construction of the animation as a whole does well in conveying the emotion within the piece.

The plot progress is amazing on this, a good use of the short amount of time allotted to it to build the story, using an easy to frenetic pace, with an almost manic pulse in transitions that culminates into a dark but satisfying ending.

Michael Ho does a could job with his vocal infliction, adding just the right emphasis and tempo at just the right times to carry the story forward, eliciting a sense of empathy, tension and satisfaction with that last uttered line that was first made at the beginning of the short with a more harmless bent. Michael Oh has a very promising career in voice over work if he so chooses.

The only nitpick that I would give the short is that while he does an excellent job, the voice of the main character doesn’t completely jive with the age of The Teacher, sounding a little too young for what was depicted. This weakness is ultimately is overwhelmed by the obvious talent that has gone into this animation and the themes being exercised.

This is an animated short that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys poetry, animation, and important themes couched in good stories.

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The Walking Dead So Far: A Review.

the walking dead
Fanmade “Walking Dead” Title card by snarkyphilo with permission.

Show: The Walking Dead.
Developed by: Frank Darabont.
Season: 1-5.
Released: October 31, 2010.
Running time: 42-67 min.

The Walking Dead is an ongoing successful American Horror Drama television series from AMC based somewhat off a graphic novel/comic series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard about a post-apocalyptic world invested by reanimated corpses and those who are trying to survive in this new world, centering mainly around Rick Grimes in the beginning, a police officer who was shot while on duty and goes into a coma only to reawaken to find the world not how he left it.

This is going to be a long review folks, for convenience sake I will be dividing this review into obvious sections: Technical, Characters, and Story. We have 5 seasons of material to sift through so brace your eyeballs!

The Technical

Season one did a good job with special effects, setting up this corner of the world that is pretty much shot to hell quite believably, with Atlanta in particular a well rendered city that’s essentially as pulverized by cavorting corpses and napalm as one can get.

Season 2, there was less special effect as, most likely due to the hacked budget by the powers that be during that time; there was less grand show of eye candy destruction and gory mayhem. Some of the undead were still relatively decent costume-wise, though there was the odd ridiculous one that kind of makes you roll your eyes a bit, such as the walker in the well who had been in the water a little too long, and reeked of trying a little too hard to give the cast and plot something to do.

In Season three, things pick up again with better scenes involving more shambling corpses investing abandoned sites of civilization, getting the cast out and about with the scenery and the refuse of a bygone modern society. The introduction of the prison for the first time in the series provided an interesting contrast of overbearing gloomy grey confinement, into a dubious haven of stark safety that also had zombies shambling amok around the whole area. This was the best of the stationary settings so far, giving room for possibilities action-wise, and its very nature as a prison contrasted with its new status as a safe haven drama wise, particularly later in season 4. a setting should both engage the plot, the characters, and the emotion.

Season 4 we have larger light shows with creative uses of the mise-en-scene with the cars and corpses as well as more explosions to delight that little pyro in a lot of us without going overboard, though the head smashing has become so common by this point it’s lost some of its visual impact.

Season 5 had some of the better rendered scenery for creepiness and gore. The sanctuary known as Terminous, with the butchered human bodies hanging from meat hooks and the almost church-like setting of one particular room against a backdrop of this deceptively wholesome meet and greet was perhaps one of the most deliciously macabre scenes of the show thus far. This setting provided the tension for this sequence brilliantly well, and was able to convey the motivations of Terminous without outright having to say what they were in the beginning.

Sound was better utilized this season, upping the sense of the perilous nature of the environment (using the sound of cicadas as the group stumbles through the hot sun, low on water) and the heightening of tension such as the different sounds of Walkers, animals, and other humans in forest settings.

Seasons 3-5 had the best of the cinematography, the camera work providing great point of view shots and framing shots that enhanced the suspense, drama, and tension, As well as good overhead shots that were particularly effective during a scene in Season 5 Episode 5 “Self Help” when the group at one point are confronted by the sheer massive size of the wall of zombies between them and Washington. The camera pulled back into this overhead shot that gave the viewers a scope of the numbers, and its then that it really hits home just how screwed the world and the people left in it have become.

The Characters

The characters in this show is where it both some of its greatest aspects and its greatest faults. Because of the sheer number of characters that have been on this show, I will use a sampling to explain the good and the bad about overall characterization on this show.

Protagonists:

Rick Grimes played by Andrew Lincoln (This Life, Love Actually, Teachers) as the main lead character, was for the most part in the first two seasons, the standard cut and dry hero-leader that you find with shows, nothing made him stand out as anything worthwhile for a focus character, but then after season 2, and throughout the rest of the seasons, he is challenged as a person who used to have a definite sense of right and wrong, suddenly finding himself with his moral compass made increasingly off kilter as the new world wares away the niceties of common morality. You see him struggle with his sense of Self vrs. Survival, being a leader and a family man trying to get his children and his group through it all. You see his internal and external struggles and you see what he loses and what he becomes, shaped and defined through the various situations he undergoes without magically forgetting the lessons he learns as some characters do on other shows (Falling Skies for example) making him a believable character to focus on.

His son, Carl Grimes played by Chandler Riggs (Get Low, The Wronged Man) is another interesting character, starting off as your classic mildly annoying child character that is tossed into the show for the sake of variety and plot convention. Many child characters have a reputation for not being well liked by fan bases, and you can see that he is likely going down that route at first. In Season 2 however, arguably the best part about season 2, Carl goes through some major character development, and you see him mature into the situation beautifully as a real badass.

In later seasons, you get a real sense of his development in contrast when he is placed around other children and adults (particularly in season 5) and the fact that he is vastly changed and jaded, in no way a naïve innocent, even a little creepy at times between season 2-4, is made all the more stark, though they pull later on thankfully before it became a little to creepy (said creepy child/budding sociopath archetype exorcised through another child character). He has become one of the better loved child characters for his more realistic portrayal of a child growing in a world of intense survival situations.

The best character award for this show though would have to be Carol Peletier played by Melissa McBride who unsurprisingly won multiple awards and nominations for her role as well as critical acclaim. In the beginning of the series, she was nothing much of note at first, a victim character that had a douchebag of a husband and a little girl. In season 2, she developed a bit more as most of the plot hinged on finding her lost daughter to give the show something to do, taking Carol out of the role of mother for a change, giving her a bit of leg room to begin to develop. During that time, the dynamic between her and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), an ill-tempered red neck survivalist stereotype who also develops out of his archetype through the show. Through this interaction, when Daryl becomes the main character to search for Sophia, they bond over the consequences of the Sophia story arc through her resignation to her grief and Daryl his grief of failure, both developing throughout the show one of the best developed friendships on television.

The biggest developments for Carol though start during and after season 3. You see Carol develop from a victimized wife stereotype into someone who goes through loss and comes out the other end stronger for it, and eventually a rather ruthless bad-ass treading a unique line without tipping over completely into villain ruthlessness. She does retain a core of care for her fellows, though you get this fascinating erosion as time goes on, able to make the harder decisions for the group that even Rick isn’t able to face, and usually one of the first to do what is necessary. She definitely obliterated the last of the prevalent sexism that existed on the show, particularly after the disappointment of the Andrea character who’d shown some earlier promise.

Speaking of Andrea, that leads us into the weaker half of our protagonist category.

Andrea (no last name) played by Laurie Holden (The X-Files, The Mist, The Majestic, The Shield, Chicago Fire) held the most promise in the beginning as a strong character. She goes through the standard character developing loss with her sister in season one, has a strong engaging personality, and good dynamic with many of the characters on the show. In season 2 in particular, she shows an aptitude with shooting, being the first of the female cast to step out of (or because of) the shows blatant sexism of the first season. Her best episode in particular was season 2 episode 10 “18 Miles Out” providing a very sobering and realistic view on the notion of suicide, particularly after her own experience form season one.

The unfortunatness of the character comes in season 3 when Andrea betrays her friendships, independence, and overall likable personality traits for a man she barely knows. This was a disservice for her character and dropped her believability as a strong female character at that point when they tossed all that character development out the window.

That leads us to the weakest character that ever graced the show, Lorrie Grimes played by Sara Wayne Callies (Prison Break). Lori Grimes, Rick’s wife lasted part way into season 3 with reappearances as a hallucination of Rick’s after her death upon occasion. Lori was supposed to be the emotional core of the show, from what is understood from how others describe the character from the comics, though unfortunately it didn’t translate over onto the show well.

Season 1 Lori started a relationship with Shane (Jon Bernthal) best friend of her husband, which is understandable since she thought her husband was dead and Shane took care of her (not exactly the epitome of survivability herself) providing emotional support for both herself and her son as a father figure. That is all well and god, but when her husband turns up, alive after all, she drops Shane like a hot potato, showing no emotional struggle at all with the quandary of her previous lover and husband in the same camp except to not talk about it. She brushes Shane of, telling the poor guy to leave her and her son alone; the two don’t even have a conversation about it. This makes the character come across as a cold and callous beyoch, there is no better way to put it really. It makes Shane’s rage and later insanity over the issue understandable, though he perhaps should have directed it more towards Lori then Rick (though he was a bit of a dick towards Shane to).

In season 2, Lori is downright insufferable! She becomes the figure head of sexism during the show, almost a misogynist character during this one scene between Lori and Andrea where she berates her for handling a gun and being on watch instead of helping out with the more practical things like chores, and leave it to the men. In another scene she takes a car and drives off getting in an accident in the process for the stupidest of reasons, taking away from any sort of dramatic impact that the particular episode was struggling fruitlessly to provide. By the end of season two she was way to…well, Lori, to be likable. To give the actress credit though, she put her all in what she had, and you can tell the actress has a great deal that could have been brought to the table had she been utilized with a stronger written character.

The Antagonists:

The progression of the antagonists is actually rather well developed in the show, each successive one each season becoming more and more complex and challenging for the protagonists.

Shane was a sort of proto antagonist, more along the lines of a good man turned crazy by the situation, and his jealousy, and Lori. An antagonist with the concerns and failings of someone still stuck in the pre-apocalypse mentality. He wasn’t particularly strong as an antagonist in season 1 and 2 (more season 2), but he provided the necessary layer of character development for Rick and Carl through his dispatch. A decent internal antagonist, though without much depth, but served his purpose somewhat as symbolizing the shucking of the last of petty old world concerns.

The Governor played by David Morrissey from seasons 3 and 4 was the most well rounded of the antagonists. He has that being bad for the sake of it quality that can be annoying at times, but he has a ruthless amoral intelligence combined with the destroyed mentality of a man who has lost everything. There was a time where he actually does try to improve his ways, and his interactions with the Chambler family gave him more depth as a character in season 4. He also worked well as a foil for Rick as a threat factor that echoes Rick’s more ruthless side, particularly as a leader, providing a gauge by which viewers are able to judge Rick by in his own moral grayness during those seasons, particularly season 3, and the thin line that separates one man from becoming the other. The only quibble with his character would have to be the eye patch. Granted he didn’t start out with one, and how he got it was a great scene, but it’s such a villain trope that it makes you groan upon first sight going “really?” though his character did wear one in the comics (no excuse for either mediums though, trope is a trope, particularly tired ones).

Whether strong or weak characters, this show has more strong then the later, and of the strong they are always developing, interesting and investing to watch as the series progresses particularly against the back drop of a great story.

The Story

The narrative of The Walking Dead is very gripping; filled with enough action for the most part to keep a decent attention grabbing clip, yet takes the time to competently utilize its quiet moments for drama. Even season 2, which despite it being the weakest of the seasons story-wise, used the time they had for some needed character development, particularly in Rick, Andrea, Carl, and Daryl’s case.

There is a very realistic emotional core to the story that makes you truly feel for the people and the situations they are in, the most poignant being Caryl and Tyresse’s arc with the 2 sisters Liza and Mika Samuels in season 4 “The Grove” where facing the reality of the world around them versus preserving the deeply held fantasy of children having to always be protected and preserved, usually to the detriment of others. It was one of the most uniquely realistic and emotionally wrenching scenes on the show.

The dirt on their faces, the cracked lips, the dirty cloths and unshaven faces. You see the weariness and the trials and fortunes, both good and bad. There is investment in these people and their stories, because this is a mature story about struggle and survival and the drama and conflict of that which keeps this story going, and that is interesting.

The only problem story wise was season 2, as mentioned earlier, with its budget reduced significantly they were stuck with the ol’ McDonald Had a zombie shtick, though obviously things vastly improves season 3 and up, with better, and more creative utilization of environment and characters.

The habit of characters that are given just enough depth to be interesting before suddenly ganking them becomes somewhat irritating after a while as well. There’s nothing wrong with it, its good dramatic effect and can serve as a progression point in plot and character development, as well as keep viewers on their toes and as evidenced by Game of Thrones viewers like the unpredictability of it, but successive deaths of a particular type of character after a while it makes it can become old hat, losing its dramatic impact, and can even become predictable in turn after a while.

So in conclusion of this rather long review, The Walking Dead had its stumbling blocks in the beginning (the blatant sexism and season 2), but soon progressed and matured into something more with a mostly solid cast of characters portrayed by excellent talents, good visuals and effects (barring season 2), and a gripping use of drama, action and tension that has earned its current reputation as an engrossing favorite among its millions of fans all over. With what I have seen so far, I look forward to the soon to be premiering season 6.

*The Walking Dead season 1 trailer:

The Walking Dead season 6 Comic Con trailer:

*What you Wish Would Happen On the Walking Dead by CollegeHumour:

*The Walking Dead Parody by The Hillywood Show:

*The Walking Dead Cosplay Piano Cover:

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Top 10 Movies to Watch for Halloween: A List.

Here is my first list of top movies to watch, as we enter Halloweenfest with more lists, others containing more movies, television, food to watch with the movies and television and so on, so keep tuned.

I also know that there are many more movies out there worth mentioning, but I think my fingers would fall off mentioning all the great material out there, so consider it like a sampling of some of the top stuff to watch.

Top 10 Movies to Watch for Halloween (in no particular order).

1. Shadow of the Vampire.

This is a great 2000 film starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe; utilizes great cinematography, excellent character dynamic and dialogue that gives a fictional recount of the creation of the 1900’s German Nosferatu. It is filled with this great sense of style that draws the viewer in to this story of macabre obsession-at-any-cost, deal-with-the devil scenario culminating with a memorable antagonist and even more memorable ending.

*trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8QO-2hTZFY

2. Nightmare on Elm Street.

The original film of the 1980’s that started off the franchise took the slasher into the world of dreams and utilized everything that that particular setting provided to its advantage to tell this great tale, with one of the top tier memorable contemporary monsters in horror movie history.

*Trailer (fan made but good): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNs80nqdWH8

3. The Uninvited.

This 1944 American supernatural horror/romance is about a music critic and his sister who move into a house with a haunting history that is often frequented by a young woman with her own. It has this great sense of atmosphere that sucks you into the story that is unfolding, peopled by some engaging characters portrayed by some great talent. An Elegant ghost story from the black and white era.

*trailer (though you can very likely find the whole thing on youtbe): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siqSUaML-Ig

4. Arsenic and Old Lace.

This is yet another 1944 film starring the brilliant Cary Grant and a stellar cast about a man who gets recently married, but before he can go off on his honeymoon; his family throws him a curve ball of kindly madness and sinisterisim. The horror-comedy uses an excellent of cumulative build-up of events and hijinks to tell this great little number that is always a treat to watch play out.

*clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ev_v3xgxMTg

5. Scream.

A American Slasher film from 1996 written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven that takes the slasher film horror subgenre and makes it into a reflexive commentary on the slasher genre with a masked killer that spawned one of the most popular Halloween costumes of the later 90’s.

*Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23jmjs-rMGI

6. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.

A silent German Expressionist horror film from 1920 that inspired many of the great film makers (Tim Burton for example) from the time of its release to present, anything gothic, horror or fantasy in Hollywood can find some roots in this film. With its skewed design and macabre sets, its harsh tipsy angles, creative revolutionary cinematography for the period, and all working through the theme surrounding the dark nature of authority and control, makes for a brilliant must see.

*Watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP3WDQXkJq4

7. The Shinning.

Taking the premise of the Stephen King novel and running with it, this 1980 film takes a uniquely twisted method of telling a story of a devolving family with a frustrated drunk of a father in a haunted hotel through symbolic imagery.

*Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMbI7DmLCNI

8. Shaun of the Dead.

A 2004 British horror comedy directed by Edgar Wright and written by Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Pegg and Nick Frost that utilizes parody, some moments of surprising drama, intelligent cinematography an fun characters in a spoof of a zombie outbreak. It is hilarious, thoughtful, and engrossing at the same time.

*Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqQ8Y9Sjp7o

9. The Babadook.

An excellent 2014 Canadian-Australian psychological horror film about a woman and her son who lives alone and are seemingly tormented by an entity. It plays a little with expectations and the actress for the mother especially did an Oscar worth job of expressing the woman’s degenerating mentality throughout this film.

*Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5WQZzDRVtw

10. Phycho.

Is there really any need to explain this film? It is considered the grandfather of slasher horror and comes from the bows-before-his-mighty-movie-making-prowess, the father of twists himself, Alfred Hitchcock. It is a psychological thriller horror that has been considered one of the greatest movies of all time, which is not hard to believe with its brilliantly done well paced plot that pushed some boundaries of the period, enigmatic characters, and clever cinematography.

*Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps8H3rg5GfM