VIRAL: RETREAD OR WELCOME RETURN TO THE CLASSICS?

Taken on its own, the trailer for Viral, new from some of the Paranormal Activity folks, looks like a decent virus-driven-fast-zombie film. Read the comments under the YouTube posting of the trailer (seen almost 10 million times!) and you’ll see something more: those folks just hate it: it’s a rip-off of 28 Days Later or The Strain or The Last of Us or all of the above.  Take a look:

 

… and yes it is. But seriously, folks: is that a bad thing?

The zombie genre is almost by definition a imitative or anti-imitative niche. To all intents and purposes, and with only rare exceptions (Serpent and teh Rainbow comes to mind), all zombie movies are either derive from or in reaction to the tropes established by George Romero and his peeps way way in the 1950’s. The zombie movies we love (or hate) are either just like them (but better, prettier,m ore modern) or exactly the opposite of them (fast zombies, insect-like zombies, smart zombies in open rebellion, etc. etc.). So calling Viral — or any other zombie flick — “derivative” is kind of beside the point. The question is … does it work? Does it freak you out, scare you, make you jump — whatever it is you were looking for when you walked into the theater or clicked on the icon?

It’s pretty obvious: there’s absolutely nothing shown in that lengthy trailer that we haven’t seen many many times before. But never mind that: is it good? If it is, I’m in. If it’s not … well, the line for disappointing, unscary, uninspired and poorly made zombie flicks forms over tehre to the right, and it’s a long friggin’ line, people.

Let’s hope Viral doesn’t join the queue.

Opens here in the U.S. of A. on July 29.

THE NEW EXORCIST SERIES IS A HEAD-TURNER. YEAH, WE SAID IT.

Exorcist, Geena Davis, FOX Tv, Alfonso Herrera, Adriana Fonseca, Kurt Egyiawan, Vannessa Vasquez, Hannah Kasulka, Angela Ortíz

T-b: Alfonso Herrera, Adriana Fonseca, Kurt Egyiawan, Vannessa Vasquez, Hannah Kasulka, Geena Davis and Angela Ortíz

Our colleague/buddy Angela Ortiz over at SeFijaOnline got a chance to attend a screening of the new FOX series, The Exorcist, and we got to tag along. She even got to talk to living goddess Geena Davis. Listen here …

Amazingly enough, .The Exorcist series seems not to be as bad as a TV version of an ancient horror movie can be (yeah, we’re looking at you, Damian) .We also admit we could be prejudiced because Angie got to meet Geena Davis and there was free food.

In any event … check out the photos, listen to the conversations with Geena and with Alfonso Herrera, who plays a pivotal role as Father Tomas Ortega.

Alfonso Herrera

Alfonso Herrera

Geena Davis

Geena Davis

FOX’ The Exorcist series premieres September 23. See a ton more cool interviews and audio over at SeFijaOnline. We steal from them regularly.

 

Photos: ©2016 Angela María Ortíz S.

HATE SHARKS? YOU’LL LOVE THE SHALLOWS

The ShallowsBlake Lively and her spirit-animal Seven Seagull — yeah, deal with it — bring the Evil Shark icon to a whole new generation. And she’s also kind of a badass…

Director Jaume Collet-Serra has handled both horror (House of Wax, The Orphan) and straight action (Liam Neeson’s Run All Night and Non-Stop), and he brings all those tools to bear here. It’s a little — pardon us, it has to be said — shallow, but it’s never presented as anything other than a shameless thriller that brings the monster-fear of Jaws back for a whole generation. The only real flaw is that there are no dwarf transvestites in the entire film. Imagine how good it could have been…

The Shallows stars Óscar Jaenada, and Brett Cullen, too. The film is in theaters now. Check out the trailer:

THE DOCTOR STRANGE TRAILER: GORGEOUS, BUT…

doctor strangeLet’s get serious: there are, what, a few hundred thousand people — at most — who know anything at all about Dr. Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe beyond, well, “Dr. Strange.” So nit-picking about how non-canonical and, in some cases, inexplicably weird the the first real trailer for the new film, Dr. Strange, might be is…well, cripplingly geeky.

So in terms of the mass market — the recreationally ignorant who have loved the Marvel movies so far — this is … okay? Very pretty. Great effects. But if there’s a story in here, it’s pretty invisible. Weird to hear Sherlock/Smaug talking in an American accent, and what’s with the old bald lady, but okay. We don’t really know what it all might mean, Mr. Natural, but it could be cool. Maybe. Meh.

For the minority who know there Eye of Agamotto from their Crimson Rings of Cyttorak (look it up!), this whole thing is even more off-putting. Turning the venerated Ancient One, a mail Asian for the last fifty+ years, into a female Anglo — even Tilde Swinton — is not only odd, but entirely unnecessary. It’s clearly his origin story, told wildly out of order, but, so far, that’s all it is. No other characters, no conflict. No Mindless Ones, no Dormammu, no Nightmare, and if Rachel McAdams is supposed to be Clea, how did she get from the Dark Dimension to an ER, and where’s her double-spit-curl silver hair? Come on. Meanwhile that one shot of Eilfor as (supposedly) Baron Mordo means noting. The mutton-chopped bully-wizard of the comics is now just a guy with a sword (a sword) who walks away.

The production design and the special effects are obviously top-drawer, but there’s no really “Strange” there. No floating islands with flames up their butts. The costume’s just a cloak now (I miss the leopard-skin lining). And the “other worlds” they show us include a clockwork corridor I swear we’ve seen before and a real misstep: an M.C. Escher floating cityscape that makes everybody think Inception and nothing else. As for the hinted-at story of self-discovery as opposed to mystic warfare between jalous wizards? Really, folks: who cares. I know all I need to know about cinematic self-discovery. I saw Bill Murray in The Razor’s Edge. Twice.

It’s not all over. The jury — or in the case, the Living Tribunal — is still out. But take a look at the trailer and then join me in a group-chant that sounds remarkably like “meh” …

CUB: A BELGIAN BOY SCOUT HORROR MOVIE THAT WILL LEAVE YOU…UNPREPARED

cub.jpg

Yes, it’s a cheap pun, but it’s strangely appropriate this time.  Cub, available now on Shudder.com, is a well-made, smart, sick and scary horror movie from Belgium that far more than you’d expect, and well worth seeking out.

We’ve all see far too many “teens and/or children imperiled in the woods by bloody-mad killers.” So many you’d think that set of tired tropes just can’t be laid out effectively, not even one more time. And yet … here we are. This story of an entirely innocent (or are they?) Scout Troop on a weekend wilderness adventure that goes very, very badly somehow reinvigorates the subgenre, and brings new blood (you should pardon the expression) to a weary world.

Check out this effective, sentimentally wordless trailer and then click on over to Shudder.Com and experience The Cub. You can get a free trial of Shudder, but you may find that its carefully curated collection of classic and often undiscovered films is worth the modest monthly subscription.

 

DORA THE EXPLORER FOR GROWN-UPS: THIS TIMES IT’S PERSONAL

This has been out for a while, but the people at College Humor now what they’re doing…and the sad fact of the matter is, we’d go see this movie. It actually looks kind of cool…

 

BATES MOTEL RE-OPENS MARCH 7…NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON

batesWe really didn’t expect to like this show. Not even a little. The original Hitchcock film stands on its own (Yes we’re well aware of Robert Bloch’s source material, but come on: Hitchcock’s Psycho is the best-remembered horror film of its generation, for good reason.); the sequels have been notable only in their astonishing mediocrity, even when Anthony Perkins was involved (not his fault!), and the remake with Vince Vaughn…well, it’s best that we never mention the remake with Vince Vaughn, isn’t it?

Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore Bates Motel

Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore Bates Motel

So when the series idea was first announced, the notion of some kind of ‘prequel’ just sounded…well, awful. So imagine our surprise when the look was great, the writing clever and intriguing, and the performances by everyone, especially the astonishing Freddie Highmore and the impossibly perfect Vera Farmiga were just…right.

It’s been far too long, but finally the Bates Motel is reopening. Expect it at 9:00 pm on A&E on March 7. And if the trailer below is even half-true, we’re in for another darkly wonderful season. 

 

SAM RAIMI GOES COMMERCIAL (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

How many modern-day horror tropes can you cram into sixty seconds? Just ask Sam Raimi. He did exactly that in a wonderful and weird new one-minute commerical/trailer thing for Buick.

Yeah, that Sam Raimi, of Evil Dead and the first round of Spider-Man films. And you can see why he’s been having so much fun helming the new Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series for Starz, too: he knows this stuff, way too well. Check out the commercial, then thank Sam for giving us this in a very special way: run out and buy a Buick, won’t you?

SYFY’S THE MAGICIANS WILL BE GREAT FOR A SECOND YEAR

Lev Grossman’s novel, The Magicians, didn’t jump out at you as great materials for TV. It’s dark, cynical, occasionally oversexed, bitter, and just a little bit brilliant. So imagine our surprise when SyFy, that grandiose purveyor of cheese, announced it was adapting The Magicians as a series. And imagine our even greater astonishment when it turned out to be good. Now — best news of all — it’s been renewed for a second season.

Get just a glimpse of all the beautiful oddness of the series here:

 

If you can imagine Harry Potter, with disillusions, confused and desperate young people, half of whom are actually toying with the idea of cracking the world in two … you’ve found a home. And beyond the series, Grossman has written a whole trilogy: The Magician, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land, all three available on Amazon here

The Magician is on SyFy on Tuesdays at 9:00, and you can stream the first four episodes free and without verification on SyFy right now, right here:

 

THE BOY: TAKING WEIRD KIDS AND WEIRDER DOLLS TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL

There are have been countless movies about evil children, from The Exorcist to Children of the Damned, and Corn and on and on. As a tired horror trope, it is rivaled only by the moves about evil dolls, from The Twilight Zone’s “Talking Tina” all the way to Annabelle, with half a hundred in between. Now director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside and the excellent, underrated werewolf film Wer) and first-time screenwriter Stacy Menear have blended the two together into one truly creepy concent: The Boy. 

Lauren Cohan, who clearly elevates this above the typical screeamer, is having a great year. She’s still killing it (so to speak) on The Walking Dead, and — as far as we know! — will still be fighting zombies for years to come. Now comes The Boy, an it’s just now been announced that she’ll be playing the role of Bruce Wayne’s mother, Martha, in the increasingly Dark Knight-ish Superman v Batman. The Boy opened pretty strongly — it covered its $10 million above-the-line costs in its first weekend, and will probably do $25-30 in its theatrical run. And it’s more than a bit of a break for Menear as well: though this is his first produced film, his script Mixtape appeared on the industry’s prestigious “Black List” of the best unproduced scripts of the year.

The Boy opened on January 22. It’s in theaters now.

 

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