Friday, May 24, 2019

Attention all Friday Night Frights fans! Just wanted to let you know that the fifth book in the series, She-Wolf Take a Bow, is now available for pre-order for the Kindle. Both this version and the paperback version come out on June 21.

Pre-Order Here

Thanks for being a fan and I hope you enjoy it!

Review: Suspiria (2018)

How does one remake a horror classic? For those adapted from a novel or story, like with The Thing (1982), you hew closer to the source material instead of the original Hawks film or like with The Fly (1986), you keep elements but go off in your own direction. When the movie you are remaking is from an original script and a beloved film, as is the case with Suspiria, there is a fear that you are either going to tread too closely ala Halloween (2007) or end up being so inferior that people will wonder why you just didn't make a different movie in the first place. So when the Suspiria remake was announced, it was understandable that there was some concern about how it might turn out. After all, that film is highly regarded by horror fans and started off Argento's Three Mothers trilogy that consists of Suspiria, Inferno and The Mother of Tears. The Three Mothers include Mater Lachrymarum (Our Lady of Tears), Mater Suspiriorum (Our Lady of Sighs), and Mater Tenebrarum (Our Lady of Darkness), for those unfamiliar with his work.

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I have to say that it was bloody brilliant.

The film, directed by Luca Guadagnino from a script by David Kajganich, keeps some elements of the original but diverges enough and fleshes out the world around it enough to wholly separate it from yet build upon the mythology of the Dario Argento original. It also subverts some of your expectations, much like Night of the Living Dead (1990), so you have no way to expect what might exactly come next.

The plot focuses on the arrival of Susie Bannion at the Helena Markos Tanzgruppe in Germany in 1977, and Dr. Josef Klemperer, a psychotherapist who in investigating the disappearance of one of the dancers in the group who had been a patient of his. As Susie rises the ranks in the dance group and is plagued by nightmares and odd happenings, Dr. Klemperer discovers that the matrons in the dance group may actually be a coven of witches.

That's all I can really say without delving into too many spoilers, and this is the type of movie you want to watch without knowing much in advance so you can absorb the atmosphere and get taken along for the ride the same as the characters on screen are. It's a re-imagining of the Argento original that takes some cues and adds new ones as the tale is woven to its climax.

As Susie, Dakota Johnson display a great physicality that mesmerizes you with her dance and an emotional distance of a stranger in a strange land, of which a Berlin torn by the efforts of the RAF, as well as the intimate need to find a new mother after losing hers. In the role of Madame Blanc, the famed instructor that Susie has come to study under and also the role of Dr. Klemperer is Tilda Swinton, whose ethereal mutability throws her into the two different parts and two different genders. Swinton is one of the finest actors working today and it shows as Blanc where she can turn from severe when instructing her students to almost motherly when helping Susie along on her quest.

The lurid colors of Argento's original have been eschewed for a muted palette that mirrors the bleakness of the world outside the dance studio. It's a bold choice and one that works, as trying to imitate Argento or outdo him would be too easy a decision. This pays off in the few moments where color is allowed to come out and cover the frame and results in some stunning imagery. Equally few are the moments of grisly murder, allowing the ones we see to stand out and shock us with some rather spectacular special effects. Instead, we are allowed to bask in the escalating tension that pervades each scene as we wonder what will become of Susie in her dealings with the coven.

All-in-all, this is a worth addition to the world of horror remakes that builds upon, rather than supplants the original. At nearly three hours (six acts and an epilogue) it does feel a little long at times, but there weren't many points where I was sitting and hoping they would get to the next scene as there is world-building going on and few run longer than they have to, so there is a conscious effort to keep things moving. I was impressed enough to wonder how Guadagnino would handle the other films in the Three Mother's Trilogy and hope we get them in the future.

Suspiria is available on Amazon Prime now and is a great way to spend a night.

Check it out.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Review: Detective Pikachu

Once upon a time in college, I was pretty heavily into Pokemon. The first game had just come out and I picked up the Red version and my buddy got the Blue one and we'd battle and trade and had a blast. Hell, we even watched the cartoon. As much as I enjoyed the game, I never really got into the followups to it and I moved on to other things. I still loved those OG Pokemon though and their designs.

Going into Detective Pikachu, I wondered if nostalgia would carry me through the movie or if there would be enough substance to entertain me as well as my family. I am thankful to say that in addition to the joy of seeing those Pokemon favorites rendered in lifelike CG, the story and acting carried the movie and kept us all enthralled.

In the world of Detective Pikachu, most people have a Pokemon of their own. Some are trainers that battle with them while others just keep them as pets or friends with potentially deadly abilities, such as people do. Tim Goodman, however, is not one of those people. He used to want to be a Pokemon trainer but gave up that dream and never got a Pokemon of his own, even when friends try to help him capture one. When he gets the call that his father has died in an accident, Tim travels to Ryme City, where Pokemon and people live as equals. When he stumbles upon his father's Pikachu that he can somehow understand and that his father may not be dead after all, Tim is drawn into a plot that may bring Ryme City crashing to the ground.

While the Pokemon are admittedly the draw of the movie, Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds provide the heart of the movie as Tim and Detective Pikachu, respectively. Smith is great as Tim, a boy from a broken home who is trying to find his place in the world and regretting some of the decisions he's made in the past in terms of his father. I never though Ryan Reynolds as a wise-cracking pikachu was just what I needed the world but it turns out it hit the spot with humor that edges close to being a Deadpool-lite but never really crossing that line but still providing the laughs.

There are few bumps here and there but all in all it was a solid film that will be sure to delight Pokemon fans young and old.

Check it out.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Post-Mortem with Mick Garris

I'll be frank with you. My commute sucks. It's not as bad as some but it's definitely one of the worst parts of my day. I carpool on some days so that lessens the pain slightly. On those other days? I mainly listen to music because I don't have satellite and the talk radio around me is terrible. Lately I've been feeling extra down during the drive and was looking for some way to get me excited about being in the car for that long.

That's when it hit me. Podcasts.

I know I'm late to the party on these, especially when you have ones that have been going on for so long and won awards. I tried to listen to some when I had my own office but they never really hooked me. Then, on a whim, I decided to check out horror podcasts, in particular Post-Mortem with Mick Garris, as I saw he had interviews with a few of the horror luminaries I enjoy like Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, John Carpenter, Barbara Crampton and the like. If you are unfamiliar with him, Garris is an established film director and writer of film such as Critters 2: The Main Course, The Stand (TV mini-series) and The Shining (TV mini-series) as well as a slew of others, so it should come as  no surprise that he has such an interest in the horror genre.

I gotta say, I don't know how I slept on this so long. Garris's interview style and breadth of knowledge of the genre is just what I needed. Each episode I've listened to has been filled with tidbits and stories that I've never knew before, from John Carpenter talking about how Panavision widescreen lenses work to Barbara Crampton discussing her father's life as a carnival worker. With a running length that is around the same as my commute on a good day, this show gives me something to look forward for on the way home and back and gives me another use for my ancient iPod in addition to it just being the world's most eclectic DJ. It's like having friends in the car and having a great conversation with them every time, even if all you are doing is listening and driving them around.

I've already been through three episodes and can't wait to listen to more. I have Nightmare on Film Street and Shock Waves to listen to as well but I'm enjoying Mick Garris so much I haven't dipped into them yet. If you're a horror fan, you should definitely check it out.

What podcasts are you listening to right now?