Posts tagged ‘Horror’

BrainDead

Well, gee whiz, that’s a bit of a disappointment … news broke yesterday that CBS cancelled BrainDead.  So … time to dig into my backlog and write this one up.  The paragraphs below were written before the cancellation announcement.

BrainDead has got to be the most brilliant show that I’ve seen on broadcast television in an extremely long time!  Invasion Of The Body Snatchers meets All The President’s Men by way of space bugs!

Everyone was excellent; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Tony Shalhoub, Aaron Tveit, Johnny Ray Gill … I could go on to name all of them, but hey, just look ’em up on Wikipedia or IMDB.  And the absolutely most brilliant aspect of the show was to have Jonathan Coulton sing for the recaps of previous episodes.  The show made me laugh, the show made me yell at the TV (in a good way), the show made me want to see the next episode right away without having to wait a week … I’m racking my (remaining) brains trying to think of anything that I didn’t like about the show, and I honestly can’t think of anything.

Alas, the overall ratings weren’t quite up to par, so I’ll be very surprised if we end up seeing any more episodes.  Especially since Tony Shalhoub has reportedly signed on for the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s The Price.  On one hand, that’s a bad thing, because I’ll really miss this show.  On the other hand, that’s a good thing … they were able to wrap things up well enough in this thirteen episode run that the season finale could easily function as a series finale.  If it ends there, I’ll be happy with the quality of the thirteen episodes that we have.  That’s far far better than shows that don’t know when to stop and keep going long after their entertainment value has worn away (Big Bang Theory and Red Dwarf, I’m a-lookin’ at youse!).

 

Fear The Walking Dead

Fear The Walking Meh, more like.

I’ve said several times before that I’m a sucker for a zombie apocalypse.  Part of me was really looking foward to this show.  I assumed from comments that Robert Kirkman made about the comics a long time ago that he would never bother to revisit the beginning of his zombie apocalypse.  For that aspect at least, I was intrigued.

And then they cast Kim Dickens.  Yay.  I adored her in Deadwood and Tremé.

The result?  Yawn.  Yawn The Walking Dead.

Problem #1: Boring zombies.

Problem #2: The main reason that they’re boring is that Kirkman & co. are using them in the pilot to threaten main cast members.  Anyone following the development of the show or being exposed to the myriad previews knows that those characters will survive the pilot.  Yawn.

Problem #3: Are any of these main characters likeable?  As much as I adored Kim Dickens in Deadwood and Tremé … um, no.  Except possibly Travis, depending on what more we see of him in the next five weeks.

Problem #4: Kirkman & co. have a built-in audience who knows exactly what this apocalypse evolves into years down the road.  Do we hit the ground running here in full-on outbreak mode?  Um, no.  Instead we spend the first hour trying to figure out if an unlikeable oh-someone-please-spare-me-by-feeding-him-to-the-zombies-now junkie is hallucinating or insane.  Yawn.

I understand the desire to go with a slow burn style of storytelling, possibly to differentiate it from the original series, but it just didn’t work for me.  From the moment we saw a flash of Cal’s gun, I knew exactly how the rest of the story was going to play out … until the damn show ended and I was left shaking my head and swearing at my television (“What the fuck, was that it?  Was that all?  They’re ending it there?!?”).

So … I’ll still tune in for the next couple of weeks to see how they end up trying to tell the story, but I am less than impressed.  I have seen the occasional bad-to-mediocre pilot end up becoming an awesome series in the past, but that’s usually an exception to the rule.  And how much faith can I possibly put in a showrunner who was a writer and creative consultant on something as insipid as Defying Gravity?  Ew.

 

American Horror Story: Freak Show

WOW!

Disclaimer: I have not seen any prior episodes of American Horror Story.  I know the basic premise, that each series is a new story, but I’ve never seen Murder House, Asylum or Coven.

Still … WOW!

Beautifully shot – I absolutely adore the cinematography and the split screens.  I really miss ol’ ’70s style split screens.  And Jessica Lange is fantastic.  “Oh no, my darling, you are confused.  You liked it here with us.  No … no … you LOVED it.”

Overall, the first episode is far more creepy than scary.  Get under your skin creepy.  Basically Twin Peaks style creepy.  I would probably consider it scary if I had issues with clowns.

This is almost as if David Lynch and Mark Frost decided to remake Tod Browning’s Freaks as a 13 episode miniseries.  I kinda get the feeling this is pretty close to the kind of series that Carnivale aspired to be.

“It’s a godawful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mommy is yelling no
And her daddy has told her to go”

Holy shit, this just turned fantastic!

 

The Dead 2

Continuing on with the “I’m a sucker for a zombie apocalypse” theme, I was pretty impressed by the Ford brothers’ The Dead and very disappointed that I missed the sequel on the big screen.  This film is billed as The Dead 2: India, but the actual onscreen title is just The Dead 2.

First thought in the opening three minutes: I bleedin’ LOVE the soundtrack.  Imran Ahmad, do you have any CDs available?  Yes you do!  Yay!

Like the original, this film is extremely well done.  Tense, believable (about as believable as a zombie film could be), and I appreciate that the Ford brothers have the requisite intelligence and courage to show us the necessary exposition instead of telling us.  Too often bad writers will cram gobs of exposition into unnecessary dialog when they could take the time to show it to us through the characters’ actions.

When I see a particular zombie apocalypse survival scenario, and I say half-sarcastically to the main character, “Why don’t you just do such-and-such?”  And then, one minute later, they actually DO it … it sends shivers up and down my spine.  I see a lot of online complaints that this sequel is not different enough from The Dead, that it is just more of the same.  This one particular moment (I can’t spoil it by telling you what it is) sets this film on a pedestal a level above its predecessor.

 

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks From The Apocalypse

If only these notebooks had stayed secret.  Then I wouldn’t feel compelled to complain about them.

This book is, succinctly, crap.

Yes, I’m a fast reader.  Yes, I’m a sucker for the zombie genre.  Yes, I’m a sucker for the first-person “found documents” genre.  Yes, I’ve been known to burn my way through books, damn the torpedoes full speed ahead, when they thoroughly engage me.

In spite of that, there is no way I should’ve been able to finish reading this entire book in under two hours.  But I did.  (And the shocked look on my daughter’s face was almost worth it.)

Why?  Because this book did not deserve me wasting any more of my life reading it.  And, much like The Rising & City Of The Dead, I kept hoping that it would get better and eventually live up to some of the online reviews.  Nope.  No such luck.

My major problem #1: this reads like a draft of someone’s first novel.  Not their first novel.  A draft.  Not even a rough draft.  There are one or two intriguing ideas buried in here, but they’re all execrebly executed.  Lo & behold, I discover it is the author’s first novel.  No surprise there.  Dr. Schlozman, you need a much better editor.

My major problem #2: The author, Steven C. Schlozman, has a medical degree.  The majority of the novel is written in the first person, by a character who has a medical degree.  But at no point in any of this did I ever believe I was reading anything written by a doctor.  My sister has an MD.  I’ve spent good chunk of my adult life hanging out with doctors, reading medical texts and medical research papers.  The quality of the writing in The Zombie Autopsies came across to me as what I would expect from someone who decided to drop out of college after one or two years in order to try making it rich writing zombie stories.  It certainly did not feel as if it was the first-person journal of an MD/PhD who works for the CDC, trying to document EVERYTHING for the next batch of poor bastards that find their way into this death trap.  Hell, the supposed CDC doctor in The Walking Dead series was far more believable to me than anything presented here.

Color me not impressed, but very thankful once again that I can get drivel like this for free out of my library so I don’t have to waste any money (only time) reading it.

Dr. Schlozman, please go back to teaching psychiatry.  I’m sure you’re far better at that.

Jekyll

Steven Moffat works the same magic for Robert Louis Stevenson that he worked for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock.  Absolutely magnificent, with tour de force performances by James Nesbitt.  Its only flaw: trying to set things up for a second series that was never commissioned.  There are times when a series (or season, as we say in the US) should stand alone, and this is one of them.  James Nesbitt continues to impress the pants off me.

The Rising & City Of The Dead

Yeah … well … I read books too, so I might as well complain about some of them.

As I think I mentioned before, I’m a sucker for a zombie apocalypse. I stumbled across comments in various fora recommending Brian Keene’s novel The Rising. The few descriptions I read intrigued me, since Keene’s zombies are intelligent and can talk, reason, and use weapons and equipment.

If you want to remain 100% spoiler-free, stop reading.

Argh. What an execrably-written waste of paper. Little did I know this is not a zombie apocalypse so much as a demonic possession apocalypse (caused by a particle accelerator experiment?!?). I forced myself to finish The Rising only to find that the book does not have any sort of ending. It. Just. Stops. The Rising was apparently written only to hook fools like me into reading its sequel, City Of The Dead, which is just as bad.

Why did I keep reading them, then?

Mistake #1: Thinking that, as highly recommended as The Rising seemed to be, at some point in the story the writing had to get better. It never did.

Mistake #2: Thinking that, in spite of the horrible writing, there must be some sort of redeeming payoff at the end of the story. Nope.

Mistake #3: Thinking that Keene can’t possibly be tying Biblical zombies … er … sorry, demons … into the old whacked-out fears about CERN’s Large Hadron Collider? Yep.

If you are interested in more precise criticisms of The Rising, go to Amazon’s page for the book, click on the 1 star reviews, and look for one titled “I only made it 9 pages…see how far you can make it!” by J. Calton. It’s a spot on itemization of the crap that I had to wade through.

The only two positive things that I took away from reading The Rising & City Of The Dead are: 1) they’ve motivated me to start writing again, because if books this bad can get published then damn near anything should be publishable; and 2) thanks to my library I did not have to waste any money to read them.