IT: You’ll Float on the Nostalgia Too

From the title of this post, you may be thinking that Metroplague was not a fan of the recent adaptation of Stephen King’s classic tome (novels are shorter), IT. If you think we didn’t love this film, you are dead wrong.

From Bill Skarsgard stepping up his game as an actor to the excellent cast of young actors filling out iconic characters, IT could be the 2017 horror film that de-thrones Get Out for mass popularity. I’m not going to get into a heavy synopsis of the movie, just know that if you’ve seen the old ABC miniseries or read the novel, you get the gist.

Nostalgia Horror is the New Rage

The original story of IT takes place in the 1950s, which gave it a nostalgia factor for the 80’s adults who could have been young kids at that time. The 2017 film takes place in the late 80’s which is perfect for triggering the nostalgia of a modern audience that is eager to look back fondly on movies like Stand By Me, The Goonies, and Nightmare On Elm Street.

With many movies and television series, it is clear that modern directors are aiming to hit that sweet spot between being terrorized by what’s on the screen and picking out which character was “so you” when you were a kid. I like to call this Nostalgia Horror. Stranger Things did it, and I’m sure the upcoming Monster Squad reboot will do the same.

IT hits all of the marks to trigger nostalgia with its 80’s references and simply by having a group of kids that were very diverse and really could have been any of us at one time.

IT Goes for Creep Factor and Scores!

Niebolt Street
The house on Niebolt Street where something sinister dwells…

A lot of complaints that I have heard about the movie are that it wasn’t scary enough. If you look back at the original, neither was that rendition. Tim Curry was chilling as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but he had an air of comedy to his performance that made it unique and powerful when the creepiness did finally set in.

Yes, this movie has moments that could potentially ruin a child, but may not scare the seasoned adult viewer. Skarsgard’s performance as Pennywise was creepy in the sense that when he spoke there was a very child molester vibe in the scene. When he did get to where he needed to scare an audience, the direction went to the creepy imagery that the movie delivers, rather than something that could be viewed as traditionally scary.

This approach is what made the movie so special. With the creepy imagery, you were sucked down the rabbit hole that these kids were walking into. I feel that if the movie had just been scary for scary’s sake, a lot of the heart that was present in the final cut would just seem hollow.

There was that One Thing….

The movie did take some liberties to the story that we were glad were not present in the story. Can anyone say “orgy?”

No movie can be perfect, and this was no exception. There are two characters present in the movie that had their roles switched from the original story and I think this hurts the film. This is a very minor spoiler.

In the original story, Ben was a book nerd with a dead Dad, and Mike was an outcast black kid who was obsessed with chronicling the history of their town Derry.

The original story has Mike being one of the smartest and most prolific characters because he holds the knowledge that pushes the group forward.

In this movie, the roles were reversed. Ben was the history buff, and Mike was really just left to be a kid in the background. I was pretty disappointed with this choice because I feel like Ben’s original story arc had enough room to grow without stealing Mike’s thunder.

Metroplague Wants to Know Your Thoughts!

This is just one man’s opinion on the movie IT, which at this point in time is certified fresh and has already surpassed Deadpool’s  record breaking opening Thursday night numbers. We want to know what you thought about the movie. Was it everything you wanted it to be? Would you have added anything? Let Metroplague know in the comments below.

Examining Indie Horror with The Monkey Farm

Independent filmmaking is something that pretty much anyone can get into these days. With easy to access technology, affordable cameras, and proven success with prior filmmakers at national film festivals, indie horror seems like the best way to get one’s foot in Hollywood’s extremely selective door.

Metroplague recently got our claws on a preview screening of Catch Me Kill Me Production’s latest found footage horror film, The Monkey Farm. Although readers won’t be able to see this film anytime soon, we, at Metroplague thought this would be a great opportunity to not only “review” the film, but examine independent filmmakers, and the horror genre so many of them dwell in.

Indie Horror Needs Originality

With a title like The Monkey Farm the mind automatically shoots to thoughts of King Kong or Planet of the Apes, both of which have had screen time this summer. While TMF does feature a primate as its main antagonist, it keeps its story grounded in original ideas.

TMF’s story centers on a documentary film crew uncovering the evils of animal testing. Their trail leads them to the said location where the team quickly discovers that they are in way over their heads.

Independent filmmakers tend to get in over their heads when they strive for originality in a script. Yes, the concept of animal testing is new, but the idea of chasing a local boogeyman fable, while interesting, is not new, and could easily stumble into familiar territory.

TMF had a lot of original plot going for it and would get itself going on a nice slow burn, only to have one too many Rob Zombie references thrown in, taking the viewer out of the experience and leaving them wondering, “Now where have I heard that line before?”

With indie horror, homages are always welcome and can be a great way to draw in fans, but keeping your story away from the tropes of recent horror is the best way to keep the fans that you draw in.

Tip: For a great example of homage mixed with originality, check out CMKM Production’s 2016 film Fireside Tales

Indie Acting can be a Problem

One of the biggest issues with independent film, in general, is that indie filmmakers often run their ships on a tight budget and get their aspiring pals to star in their movies. This often results in shoddy acting and having the believability of the moment sucked out as if by a vacuum.

TMF, however, does not suffer this fate. Where the story is shaky, or when one line seems a little too familiar to the ears, a regular viewer will skim over it because the delivery was that spot-on. We have been following TMF Director, Ian Messenger for years and he has seemed to have learned a lesson that many indie horror filmmakers do not.

Is Less More?

Finally, we come to the idea that less is more, and everybody today wants to see a ‘slow burn.’ These types of horror films are good but can be difficult to pull off. It can be disheartening to sit through a two-hour feature, only to see the antagonist in the last 15 minutes of the runtime. Even big budget pictures like It Comes at Night and Digging Up the Marrow suffer from these issues.

TMF was entertaining and had some great lore behind it, but personally, the viewers who watched our private screening were hoping for more of the creature than what was presented. The effects on this creature were extremely cool, so it left us questioning if less was really worth it in this instance.

Support Indie Horror

No movie is perfect, and how good it really lies in the eye of the viewer. If you have not yet done so, subscribe to CMKM Production’s YouTube channel and enjoy their behind-the-scenes antics, teasers, and more. When TMF is available for rent, you bet we will push it out. This is a film, that should be seen for the craftsmanship alone. The dedication of Messenger and his crew show throughout, we just wish we had seen more of the terror that was promised.

Review: The Blackwell Ghost

The Blackwell Ghost ReviewWith shows I used to love like Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters fading from popularity among viewers due to obvious stunts or just the cheese factor, it was a bit refreshing to see a film like The Blackwell Ghost show up on my recommended feed.  At first glance, I thought this would be a film along the lines of Grave Encounters or other movies of the genre that try to emulate the feeling of watching a “true” documentary ghost show gone wrong.  In fact, I was sure that’s what it was, even after performing some light research before spending 3 dollars on the Amazon rental.  I mean, no one is making real documentaries about ghosts!  This couldn’t be the ONE true documentary where the shit hits the fan and it’s all caught on film……right?

I won’t go into too much detail on the plot since this documentary (which is what I will continue to call it) only clocks in at a tight 59 minutes.  This is a story about an average Joe who just really wants to find proof that ghosts or an afterlife exist.  The protagonist meets a man who claims to live in a haunted house in suburbia Pennsylvania.  The protagonist and his wife are invited to stay a few days to investigate, and that is our setup. This is a dude, with a normal wife, with normal equipment.  There are no gimmicky heat sensors or voice boxes used here folks.  This documentary takes ghost hunting back to its roots with a few handheld cameras, night vision effects, and nothing else.  Think Paranormal Activity (the good one), but you just never really know if the whole thing is a farce or not.

This is a documentary about a normal dude, with a normal wife, with normal equipment.  There are no gimmicky heat sensors or voice boxes used here folks.  This documentary takes ghost hunting back to its roots with a few handheld cameras, night vision effects, and nothing else.  Think Paranormal Activity (the good one), but you just never really know if the whole thing is a farce or not.

In the beginning, I just thought the main character was a doofus and played it up too normal to be believed.  But then, the documentary uses actual examples of “ghosts on film” that have gone viral over the years and sucks the viewer into this world of mystery and, believe it or not, hope, that this other world exists.  I’ll post one of the examples used in the documentary that we all probably know as enthusiasts of the paranormal.

Like I said, this documentary only has a runtime of 59 minutes, so I will not get into the details but head straight into my final thoughts.  If you are remotely interested in the subject matter of ghost hunting, do yourself a favor and rent this movie today.  It has laughs, genuine moments of fear, excellent lore, and the end of it all is truly nail biting without being over the top.  This is a VERY believable movie.

The funny part is, I have been having a hard time trying to find out further information that would lead to my knowing whether it is fact or fiction.  Honestly, I’m okay with either way and have opted to stop digging.  This was a very fun time and even watching it during the day, I was extremely uneasy.

Funny personal note:  After the documentary ended, there was a crash in one of the back rooms of our house.  Being the tough man that I am, I looked at my wife and told her to look. This movie got to me, and that is why I highly recommend it.

This is not a jump scare movie, nor one with a big budget at all.  It is a very simple haunted house documentary that achieves its goal of telling a great story and scaring the pants off of viewers.

Take out your three bucks and put it towards The Blackwell Ghost.  You won’t regret it.

HHN Editorial: What’s in an Icon? I Don’t Know Jack!

The Director, the only Icon that was semi-shared with Hollywood

On both coasts, Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights is all about one thing, the houses.  Usually,  the Hollywood and Orlando parks have some overlapping themes, like this year’s “The Shining,” but there is one thing that the parks have really never had in common.  Say it with me, “Hollywood always skimps out on an icon!!!”

Year after year, around this time before the season, I find myself refreshing the Horror Nights web page, and solving clues on Twitter for both parks, eager to get that next taste of what is to come.  Also, year after year, I see Orlando get a cool, new icon, or a re-vamped favorite like “Jack the Clown” or “The Caretaker,” while the Hollywood park chooses to go without an icon.

I have always wondered why Universal Hollywood just can’t seem to get this right.  Every year I see fans of the event plead for an icon, and every year, we are disappointed, even when HHN Hollywood makes an attempt at creating an icon.

I know, I sound like a spoiled child, but come on!  Universal aside from 2006 and

Photo Credit: Undercover Tourist; Hollywood Harry stalks guests on the backlot near Bates Motel.

2007 when you used “Jack the Clown” and “The Director” as mainly marketing devices, with little use in the actual event, you haven’t really given the fans much in the way of an icon.

At the 2016 event, there was a fine attempt to create an iconic character in “Hollywood Harry” in the month leading up to the event.  The entire Terror Tram was even themed around this character who was really, quite cool.  Sadly, the only place you could glimpse “Harry” was by waiting to board the Terror Tram, one of the park’s most popular attractions.  Even a scare zone with “Harry” would have at least created the guise of a mascot.

The scare zone tactic was tried in previous years with La Llorona as a scare zone theme, and the face of the 2010 event in most marketing campaigns.  She even came out to meet the press at the Eyegore Awards, but sadly, her scare zone was pretty sparse and seemed more like a sneak preview for the maze she would own the next two years at the event.

Eli Roth at The Eyegore Awards Photo Credit: Metroplague

Hollywood has been lucky enough to have iconic celebrities in horror sponsor mazes.  Some of them include Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper to start.  While these mazes were popular, it would have been interesting for at least one of them to create an icon in their name that would control the madness consuming the park.

This begs me to question, why hasn’t HHN Hollywood taken the steps that it’s bigger sibling in Orlando has?  Does it really cost that much more to create a new character, or even utilize characters from Orlando’s prior years in a larger scale way, OUTSIDE of the Terror Tram?  I personally feel like it would increase appeal for the event and make the event seem a little more streamlined and themed as a whole.

La Llorona meets and greets the press

Don’t get me wrong, I love my HHN Hollywood but with Orlando having original mazes on epic scales (that’s another topic), and awesome icons,  I feel like Hollywood is severely lacking in the unique aspect of its production value, especially when it shares mazes with big names like “The Exorcist” and “Krampus” with the Orlando crowd.  Where’s the reciprocation, Mike Aiello?

Orlando and Hollywood fans alike, I am dying to know what you think of the lack of icons in one park and the abundance of icons in the other.  Is there something that Hollywood has that evens out the scale for Orlando?  Let’s get a discussion going.

The Mist (Series) Recap: Seeing Through the Fog

I know the title advertises that the article below is a recap of SPIKE’s pilot episode of its new horror series “The Mist,” but in all honesty, this is more of a roast than a recap.

By now, horror fans are very familiar with the short story by Stephen King and the very highly praised Frank Darabont film starring Thomas Jane as lead character David Drayton.

When the announcement for “The Mist” television series dropped, fans all over were both excited and dubious.  Questions arose like: Will this just be a lengthy re-hash of the movie? Will such a brutal story transfer well to basic cable, with a TV-14 rating?

The answer to both questions is a solid NO! Put all expectations for “The Mist” aside and welcome yourself to the new rendition of the now classic tale.  Welcome to a “Mist” where instead of a tightly woven town with believable relationships, audiences get a town where all social tropes around race, sexuality and gender equality are basically thrown out the window in a flaming paper bag and then stomped on like an animal’s excrement.

Eager to see a new version of the Draytons? Look into some good fan fiction because you won’t find a scrap of the titular family in this version of the story.

Sure, we get the references to Arrowhead, the religious freak, and the actual Mist that overtakes the town.  After looking past that, the story in the series premeire is very slow, poorly written, and has the direction of a bad B-Movie.

I think the biggest disappointment in the pilot episode was the trauma centered around a sexual assault that occurred off screen within the first ten minutes of the show.  This has NOTHING to do with “The Mist” as a story and really felt like the showrunners were taking some major liberties in a poor attempt at thinking a rape storyline is something audiences want.   Yes, this is something to be expected from premium channels like HBO, but please, this is a TV-14 rated show.  Even TV-MA hit shows like The Walking Dead have narrowly avoided such plot lines.  The worst part about this all being involved with “The Mist” is that it is very obvious that most of the character development is going to center on this issue.

Ok, off my soapbox now, and onto the characters themselves. I’m not even going to get into any character names because for the most part, they were all so poorly developed that it wasn’t worth remembering the names. Even Frances Conroy wasn’t able to save her character from being a cliche we’ve seen a million times before.

The point is, don’t follow in my footsteps and waste an hour on this show.  I tried to like it, I really did,  but the whole point of it all really ends up getting lost in the mist.

Blood Drive Episode Recap: Welcome to Pixie Swallow

Pixie Swallows, AZ…where the Corn Dogs are cut fresh.
Photo credit: Syfy

Last week was the bloody and brilliant premiere of Syfy’s latest television series “Blood Drive.”  Metroplague was thrilled to be introduced to gritty yet fun characters like Grace D’Argento, The Gentleman, Julian Slink, and The Scholar.  Other main characters like Arthur Bailey and Christopher Carson (Thomas Dominique) fell a bit short on the excitement scale; but luckily for Syfy, boring characters are in short supply in the world of “Blood Drive.”

Episode two, “Welcome to Pixie Swallow” opens up with the introduction of customers enjoying their meals at the hoppin’ Arizona food joint, Pixie Swallow Diner; a restaurant connected to the local motel.  An upbeat, attractive, blonde waitress is shown serving meat dishes, flirting with customers, and making out with the janitor before stepping into the diner’s backroom kitchen where the audience sees the chef, her father, grinding a human leg into a meat grinder (Not a spoiler, this was in the episode preview on the network).  It is now clear that viewers are in for the cannibal content that can only be enjoyed in a Grindhouse production setting.

After the credits, it is discovered that the competitors of the annual Blood Drive have deemed Pixie Swallow as the latest stopping point to “refuel,” relax and imbibe for the night.  With this introduction to the episode’s setting, our protagonists, Arthur and Grace step in for a bite to eat.  Arthur is still intent on exposing Heart Industries after finding out they are pulling the strings behind not only the Blood Drive but society itself.  Grace is still intent on winning the race prize money to help her sister Karma, who the audience still knows little about.  Despite their risque achievement during the “climax” of episode one, both characters are still at opposite ends of the moral spectrum.  Without any spoilers, very quickly madness and cannibalistic violence ensue, and our “heroes” are forced to step up and save another member of the Blood Drive after the family of cannibals has tampered with their vehicle.

This episode also included two subplots; one involving Julian Slink, the other, centers on the fate of Chris Carson, who was captured by a secret society at the end of episode one.  Both of these stories were among the weakest portions of the episode when there really could have been more focus on the Blood Drive competitors war with the cannibal clan.

Julian Slink, at your service, for better or worse.
Photo Credit: Syfy

Carson’s plot point was completely unnecessary and trivial, coming off as an attempt at the show’s creators to make a dull character more interesting.  Unless Carson’s misadventures in the secret lair of the baddies lead to a major turning point, it may have been better to just off the character in the previous episode.

Slink’s solo venture in the plot makes sense since he technically broke the rules and allowed Grace and Arthur to live after their loss during the first leg of the Blood Drive.  The meat of Slink’s portion of the episode involves him in Heart Industries waiting room where audiences get a comedic glimpse at the depths of depravity this character is willing to go in order to get his way.

The Good:

Chef Carl grinding up the latest Filet…
Photo Credit: Syfy

The entire portion of the episode involving Pixie Swallow and the inhabitants of the diner was highly entertaining and gave viewers the violent spectacle that was expected after the pilot episode.  There was also quite a bit of body humor (pun intended) that just worked for the plot and made a tense situation for the protagonists a good time.

The latter half of Slink’s storyline was also filled with dark humor and violence but unfortunately, the action came a little too late, but not by any fault of this sections plot.

One of the shining characters on the show is Grace D’Argento, played so slickly by Christina Ochoa.  In each scene she is in, Ochoa brings a presence that fans of Grindhouse cinema will clamor for in hopes for more.  With each one liner, innuendo, or kick-ass fight scene, Ochoa proves she was born for the genre.

The Bad:

While the pilot episode shined with a look that went beyond the average Syfy production, something about the camera quality and direction seemed different and off this episode.   It wasn’t terrible production quality, but it was obvious that more money was spent on the pilot episode than “Welcome to Pixie Swallow.”  Hopefully, this was just an episodic fluke and audiences will have the slick look of the pilot episode back in no time.

Another area that hurt the show every now and then was Arthur’s dialogue.  Yes, Grindhouse dialogue is meant to be cheesy, but it wasn’t the cheese that smelled bad, it was Ritchson’s delivery of his serious lines.

While this episode overall had quite a few low points, these bad marks should not be enough to bring the Blood Drive to a screeching halt.  Sure the transmission of the show stumbled a bit this episode, but audiences were promised a deeper look into Grace’s interesting past in episode three.

Look out for weekly recaps and thoughts from Metroplague as “Blood Drive” plays out its first season.  Be sure to catch the show on Syfy Wednesday nights at 10 PM EST/9 PM CST or on Syfy.com.

Editorial: Halloween Horror Nights 2017?Announced Mazes

I have been a long-time visitor to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights event in Hollywood, California.  I have never been to the Florida event but it is a “must do” on my bucket list.  Keep that in mind, since I will primarily be focusing on Hollywood’s upcoming event and will only sprinkle in some thoughts on Florida’s currently announced lineup. 

Trouble in Paradise?

That’s right, there was some big buzz on news feeds since the 2016 event that fans were certain to get a maze based on James Wan’s Conjuring series.  Well folks, it does not look like we are going to be getting that anytime soon.  Seeing as author of the book “The Demonologist,” Gerald Brittle is currently in a lawsuit with Warner Brothers Studios regarding the producers not having the rights to properly use the likeliness of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  This is a 900 million dollar issue that Universal surely avoided during their selection process and rights acquisitions for the 2017 season.  Yes, it really sucks, but I can’t blame them for not wanting to get thrown into WB’s quicksand.  

The rumored Hollywood replacement for this maze is said to be a haunt based on horror “it” man Jason Blum’s productions.  Think of this as an anthology house that could include Get Out, Insidious, Lights Out,  Split, Sinister….the list goes on.  This house, based on which films it chooses to portray could either be amazing or complete trash if they opt to re-hash old Purge scenes that we have seen on the streets of Sunset Boulevard and on the backlot for the last four years of HHN.  Time will only tell.

Announced Maze: The Shining

After HHN ringleader John Murray finally obtained the rights to his crown jewel intellectual prouduct The Exorcist, it only seems right that fans get to step inside of another classic.  

Personally, I’m surprised that Murdy did not opt to use The Exorcist again, especially after the success of he maze which had wait times that exceeded 2 1/2 hours. So, it’s out with the old, in with the new and I am loving it!  Yes, The Shining is a slow burn of a movie with maybe 3-5 scenes that could be considered straight horror, but I feel like Murdy is going to be able to pull this one off.  Muddy describes the maze as a glimpse into going insane, and as one of the most difficult mazes to pull off.  

My predictions are we will be seeing the hallway twins in both living and dead forms, the bathroom scene, and of course, Jackie Boy going nuts on the audience with his axe through a simulated hedge maze.  I would love to see the bloody elevator scene happen, but I can’t fathom how they would pull it off without making guests wear rain boots throughout the attraction.  However, something tells me that such an iconic scene in horror will not go unnoticed by the HHN creative team.

Both parks have announced that The Shining will appear at the 2017 event.

Maze Announcement: American Horror Story: Your Roanoke Nightmare

Last year, AHS made its debut at Horror Nights where it essentially showcased three mini-houses for the Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel (my personal favorite) seasons.  I had a gut feeling that AHS would return this year showcasing Coven, Asylum and Roanoke, and I was both right and wrong in my predictions.

Recently it was announced that Orlando would get all three seasons in one house, and Hollywood would be a solo venture into the most recent season, My Roanoke Nightmare.

Roanoke promo art. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Let me preface my next statements by saying that I absolutely LOATHED My Roanoke Nightmare.  It was poorly written, played its plot too close to Murder House and Hotel, and it played with some formatting choices that just came off as a cheap gimmick.

However, while the show was a mess, I can confidently say there was enough content in the season to merit a solo house.  While I thoroughly enjoy Asylum and Coven, I’m eager to see what a solo AHS house can put out for guests of the event.

I would look forward to a scene that portrays being lost in the woods, a basement attack by the witch of the woods or Shelby, a Cannibal scene, and even an appearance by the murderous sister nurses.  Just please, don’t let it be a constant slew of Butcher characters bursting through the walls yelling unintelligible Irish slurs or us being hunted down by the damned Pig Man.  Sadly, judging by promotional pictures, Pig Man is front and center. Yaaaaaaay….

Keep your eyes peeled for more HHN 2017 announcements as the news is released on my end. Until next time, Plague Rats!

-RR