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Episode 255 - Paul Schrader Focus: 1976's Taxi Driver

Some say the 1970's were the golden age of cinema. Censorship was lax, society was (not much unlike today) angry, and moviemakers began making more controversial films that hit not only modern issues but also the time period's emotions. One young filmmaker named Paul Schrader hit the ground running. From the midwest, with a background completely different than his contemporaries, he brought with him tales of ennui, harshness, and fury. His second screenplay was turned into the film Taxi Driver which became one of the most important and greatest films in cinema history.

With Martin Scorsese directing, the tale is about Travis Bickle, played by Robert Deniro, who becomes a cabbie that is willing to work late night hours. As he drives and sees the seedy side of New York City, his thoughts turn to anger and rage. Unfortunately he may be more than just angry. He may actually be mentally unstable. As he unsuccessfully asks for help, he turns his attentions to two young women. One named Betsy, played by Cybill Shepherd, is a campaign worker that seems happy in her everyday life. The other named Iris, played by Jodie Foster, is an underaged streetwalker that has fallen under the spell of a pimp, played by Harvey Keitel. Travis inserts himself into their lives on a mission to save both from the two sides of the "machine" that they happen to be stuck in.

Other cast members include Albert Brooks, Peter Boyle, and a young Joe Spinell. The film was also the last score of Hollywood legend Bernard Hermann before his passing. With its success, Paul Schader would go on to write multiple screenplays and direct critically acclaimed films. Dark Discussions turns their attention to the 40th anniversary of the release of this masterpiece and talks about their feelings about this important film.

Prior Podcast Episodes:    

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Episode 254 - Sun Choke

There's been a lot of low profile genre films that have popped up and gained critical responses. Sun Choke, a new film by director Ben Cresciman, seems to be another receiving a high score on the review site, Rotten Tomatoes. Starring television actress Sarah Hagan, and costarring screamqueens Barbara Crampton and Sara Malakul Lane, the cast is a three piece character driven film that has the three actresses collide in a shocking conclusion.

We are introduced to Janie (played by Sarah Hagan) recovering from some sort of mental breakdown. Irma, her caretaker played by Barbara Crampton, uses a form of complex holistic therapy to bring Janie back to normalcy. When given some independent freedoms, Janie heads out about town and meets a pretty young woman named Savannah (played by Sara Malakul Lane) who she begins to follow. Soon, Janie's recovery becomes stunted and her fragile mind once more deteriorates.

Technically the film is beautifully made. The score by Bryan Hollon is magnificent and the editing, cinematography, and set design are fantastic. Dark Discussions takes a look at this low profile horror film and digs deep into the symbolic nature of the storyline. Does the positive critical response to the plot equal the strong technical aspects around the film? Listen to find out what your co-hosts think.

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Episode 253 - Rob Zombie Focus: 2016's 31

When a rock musician's love of horror movies merges with his music, you get some pretty good material. Rob Zombie, the lead singer of White Zombie who also has had a very successful solo career, moved into film making in the early 2000's. His early pictures, House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, were a throwback to old drive-in films before the faux-grindhouse film was even hip. Now in 2016, he has returned to his horror film roots with the new exploitation horror film simply entitled 31.

When a group of carnival employees head off to the next gig, their way is blocked. A group of Halloween scarecrows sit in the middle of the road. Getting out of their RV to examine, they soon are kidnapped and brought to a large industrial building where they are entered into a game entitled 31. On the run from a group of psychopath killers, they are told one thing. If they can survive the night, they will be granted their freedom and also their lives.

After unsuccessfully having some other films brought to fruition, Rob Zombie opened up a crowd funding page for his new film, 31. As a result, the film was almost entirely funded by horror fans. Set in 1976, and with a throwback feeling, with subtext of the exploitation of the poor, the film received fairly good reviews by critics. The question is would the fans agree. Dark Discussions talks about this new film by one of horror's most talked about filmmakers.

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Episode 252 - Blair Witch (2016)

The internet can be an excellent marketing tool for a film. Back in the early days of the world wide web, the Blair Witch Project, a found footage film directed by the duo of Daniel Myrick and Ed Sanchez, became an online phenomenon. With the creation of the faux documentary The Curse of the Blair Witch, and the belief by many that the movie footage was real, the movie took off and became a world wide success.

There was a follow up in the year 2000 entitled Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 but it was received with little fanfare. Now in 2016, a new film about the mysterious witch has appeared. Filmed under the false title The Woods to keep it under wraps from movie fans, horror genre favorites Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett were brought in to direct and write this new project.

Dark Discussions went to the theater and are now back to review and critique this new Blair Witch film. Having the talents who brought us such fantastic films as A Horrible Way to Die, The Guest, V/H/S, and You're Next, could this new film be the next great horror film? Listen to find out what your co-hosts think.

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Episode 251 - The Wailing (2016)

Demon possession, witches, ghosts, or what could be a biological infection that turns people into mindless zombies. That's what you may ... or may not get from the new South Korean horror film, The Wailing. The movie was written and directed by the genre favorite Hong-jin Na, who's serial killer film, The Chaser, received rave reviews and attracted an international audience. However, The Wailing seems to even top that where it has received a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from English language reviewers.

In the small, rural, mountain community of Goksung, a wandering foreigner of Japanese decent arrives and sets up home out in the woods. Soon villagers begin to go insane, come down with a grotesque rash, and begin to murder people including their own family members. Local constable, officer Jong-goo, probes the deaths and soon his investigation leads back to a woman dressed in white. What appears to be random crimes, soon begins to follow a bizarre pattern.

The Wailing could be called an art house horror film. With its long running time (almost three hours), its slow pace, and its peculiar mystery, the film would not seem to be for the typical horror fan. Yet being well made and delivering chills at the right moment, the movie has won over many folks besides the critics. Dark Discussions takes a look at this new Korean horror film and gives their opinion.

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Episode 250 - Alfred Hitchcock Focus: 1960's Psycho

A definition of a phenomena. Well, Psycho, the 1960 film by Alfred Hitchcock would qualify. Based on the novel by H.P. Lovecraft's friend, Robert Bloch, the book was brought to the attention of the famous director. Eventually Joseph Stefano, known soon as a producer/writer for the Outer Limits, was hired to write the film adaption. Soon stars such as Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh were cast. And unlike Hitchcock's recent films of the time, Psycho was a low budget affair, using a television crew for filming.

The story is about a young woman named Marion Crane who is in a passionate affair with a small business owner. Unable to pay his bills, she steals $40,000 from her employer and is off and running to bring him the money. When a rainstorm causes her to spend the night at a small motel, the proprietor of the establishment, Norman Bates, has small talk with her which gives her the strength to correct her mistakes to head back to her home and return the money. While staying the night at the motel, things change unexpectedly which results in one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history.

Dark Discussions has hit another milestone. Their 250th episode! As has happened in the past, we have critiqued a great genre classic every 50th episode, deciding upon the amazing spectacle known as Psycho this time. With its mystique as the first slasher film, and most certainly one of the best films in movie history (no matter the genre), Alfred Hitchcock's amazing piece of celluloid gives your co-hosts a fine topic for such an important highlight.

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Episode 221 - Dan Lench Focus: 2015's Circle (Redux)

Back in November of 2015, co-host Philip discovered a new video-on-demand science fiction film entitled Circle had been released. After recommending it to co-host Eric, the two convinced the crew to do an episode on this little film that had to say a lot.  It talks about society, social structure, and the human psyche in, if not an original way, a very unique way. A group of strangers find themselves locked away in a dark room with each standing on a orange-red circle upon the floor. Get off, you die. But more horrific, every two minutes you have to vote a person to die; if you don't, someone randomly dies a horrifying death. The film asks, what would you do?

With episode 209 of Dark Discussions released, actor Dan Lench, playing the oddly titled character Rich Man, heard the episode and not only gave feedback but twittered the link to the show to his followers. Soon, his agent, Lisa Berman, did the same. Dark Discussions reached out to Dan and asked him to appear on the show so we could not only learn about him, but for him to give us his comments about the film as well as give us more details on its production.

Things learned include behind-the-scenes facts such as how the soundstage was made, its location was in the same building as a Chinese laundry, an actor on the final day (having been on the Broadway stage production of the Lion King) sang a magical song, how parts were cast, and how Dan himself almost lost his role to the biggest star of the film! Get ready for a unique episode of the podcast and meet the great, funny, and talented Mr. Dan Lench.

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Episode 214 - 2016 Genre Review

Okay, a new year has arrived and now being mid-January, the first genre films have reached theaters and VOD. Films like Body, The Forest, and The Boy have had their January release. Yet going forward, more films are already on their way including some big budget flicks, independent cinema, as well as festival films that are now making it to wide release.

Do you like super heroes? Well some humongous films (both DC and Marvel) are coming. Zack Snyder's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil Wars, Doctor Strange, Deadpool, and Suicide Squad are only a handful. Sequels and reboots? How about Star Wars: Rogue One, The Conjuring 2, Independence Day: Resurgence, Godzilla: Resurgence, and Annabelle 2 to name a few. New festival circuit horror? Films like Vvitch, February, and the Devil's Candy are coming. And intense thrillers? They include Triple 9, The Green Room, and Jack Reacher 2.

As co-host Mike has said, many of the best films to come we may not even know yet. Independent flicks, low budget horror, and foreign films just appear on VOD or theaters and overwhelm everyone. What is the next Ex Machina, These Final Hours, or It Follows? Dark Discussions tries to figure out all this while giving their thoughts on what we know. Get a pen and paper ready and start writing down the titles we go through.

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Episode 213 - 2015 Year in Review

2015 is over and depending on your viewpoint with horror and genre films, it was a great year or a good year. It certainly wasn't a bad year. Films, with their variety, seemed to have something for everyone. We got disaster movies like San Andreas, post-apocalyptic films too, many being low budget like Z for Zachariah and These Final Hours, to big budget ones like Mad Max: Fury Road. Strong as always, the non-horror genre flicks such as science fiction, fantasy, and so forth were dominated by Hollywood while horror, as in recent years, has been more small budget and independent flicks, even with M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit.

Dark Discussions co-hosts saw numerous films with co-host Mike probably able to see the most. With seeing so many flicks, your co-hosts were able to compile their top 24 horror films of 2016 and their top 11 2016 other genre flicks (sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, mystery, exploitation, action). No matter what list we discuss, there were some obvious choices that appeared such as Star Wars, Mad Max, Jurassic World, It Follows, and The Martian. Some surprises too made the top of the lists including low profile flicks like Bone Tomahawk, Creep, Zombeavers, and Predestination. But some of the littlest of films roared to the top too, like Ex Machina or The Gift.

Other things discussed include a whole group of listener opinions, their top films, and what they thought of 2016. And your co-hosts also discuss some of the most prominent and successful scenes, characters, and stars from both the best and worst. What a year it was and with so many films to consider, listen up and see what the podcast has to say.