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Episode 347 - The Unfriended Franchise

Festival circuit films may likely be low budget, but a good many of them turn out to be hidden gems. To gain film rights, some even cause bidding wars between movie companies. One such film, UNFRIENDED, appeared at Fantasia Fest back in 2014 to positive reviews. The movie was picked up by Univerasal/Blumhouse and shown again at SXSW before receiving a general release in 2015.

In 2018, a follow up film, UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB, was released to fairly like-minded reviews. Unlike the first, however, this one removed the supernatural twist and went “real world.” The original made huge money for its smaller budget, yet the second oddly didn’t do as well, probably because of Blumhouse’s new release model. This rollout includes showing smaller productions on less screens as well as giving them a minor marketing campaign. The film however did make a profit.

Both movies, with their interesting computer screen presentation, made each more than just a found-footage film. It also gave them an interesting gimmick that mirrored real world social media. Dark Discussions takes a look at this franchise and give their thoughts on the movies.

Prior Podcast Episodes:    

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Episode 346 - The Endless (2018)

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are an interesting pair of filmmakers. Back in 2012 they made a movie that played at the Tribeca Film Festival entitled RESOLUTION. It was a bit surreal and could be considered art house horror. With its rave reviews, folks were excited for 2014 where they released the sci-fi horror film SPRING and had a segment in the horror anthology V/H/S: VIRAL. Again, praise was heaped upon them. Now, their new film THE ENDLESS has been released to possibly their greatest acclaim.

Some time ago two brothers, Justin and Aaron, escaped a UFO death cult. Now years later, neither are able to get their lives together. When a mysterious VHS tape arrives with a message from someone from the cult, the two return to the commune to try to get closure with their years before. When they arrive, Aaron discovers that the cult wasn’t exactly what Justin had told him, and soon a mystery about their future begins to unfold.

With its metaphysical characteristics, and its interesting connection to their very first movie, THE ENDLESS has been getting much attention by genre fans. As the supernatural becomes the ordinary, the lead characters try to decipher what’s happening so they can move on with their lives. Dark Discussions takes a look at this very peculiar movie and attempts to decipher its message.

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Episode 345 - Devil's Gate (2018)

Alien contact, invasion and abduction films have been around for years. From such classics as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND to the television film THE UFO INCIDENT, creatures such as the Grays have spooked us out. Though not as common as vampire or zombie films, there has been a few such as SIGNS that made an immediate impact. The new film DEVIL’S GATE is a welcome addition to underused monster.

When a mother and child disappear in the small town of Devil’s Gate, North Dakota, FBI agent Daria Francis (Amanda Schull) heads there to investigate. With Deputy Conrad Salter (Shawn Ashmore) as her guide, the two head to the remote home of Jackson Pritchard (Milo Ventimiglia), the husband and father of the missing pair. When he appears unstable, the man is arrested but soon strange things occur that make Agent Francis worry that something more is amiss.

The film is directed by first time director Clay Staub who has worked on such films as a second unit director to Dawn of the Dead (2004) and co-written by video game writer Peter Aperlo. Though a low profile film, the movie did get write ups by such places as Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times. Dark Discussions takes a look at this new film and gives their opinion.

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Halloween Boutique Psychotronic Reviews Volume 008

Welcome to the latest edition of Halloween Boutique Psychotronic Reviews – a podcast that reviews and critiques films released by boutique labels that have taken old and sometimes forgotten midnight movies and re-releases them in special editions where the quality of the picture is fully remastered, usually from onetime lost or privately owned negatives or prints.

This month is a bit different. This volume rather than doing an episode on midnight movies, I instead have focused on a subject. With June being LGBTQ Pride Month, I have searched about and found seven films specific to a lesbian theme. But unlike the typical exploitation films released by boutique companies, I’ve focused exclusively with arthouse films of the serious type.

The seven movies reviewed are of various quality, with a few being outstanding, and a handful being wonderful surprises. The films include alphabetically AWOL (2016), BARE (2015), BELOW HER MOUTH (2016), BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013), DUCK BUTTER (2018), ROOM IN ROME (2010), and SUMMERTIME (2015). Sorry for the long delay between episodes, but I am now back.

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Episode 344 - The Cured (2018)

Zombie films have been around for awhile. Heck, it’s the 50th anniversary of the release of Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s classic. After an oversaturation of the subgenre, with TV shows like The Walking Dead seeming to lose its shine, the zombie has fallen out of vogue a bit. But each year there seems to be a gem or two that shows up. Earlier in 2018, Cargo out of Australia got some notice, and now, after a long festival run, The Cured from Ireland just was released to VOD.

The Maze Virus caused havoc all over the world. People turned into “zombies” and either killed or infected more. Now, sometime later, a cure was found that turned 75% of the infected back to normal. With worries that relapses could be possible, the “cured” have to check in weekly with government officials. Senan is reunited with his sister-in-law who has been widowed after his tragic death during the original outbreak. As Senan tries to reintegrate into society, his friend Conor, also a “cured,” may know a dark secret about his friend that could ruin any semblance of normalcy that Senan has earned.

Ellen Page stars as Abbie, the American wife and now widow of Senan’s brother. The cast also includes Sam Keeley as Senan as well as Tom Vaughan-Lawlor in a screen stealing performance as Conor. With its interesting take on civil rights and a government that is there to protect, the movie does a flip in the second act where there is much more grey in this world than what was first presented. Dark Discussions takes a look at this highly anticipated movie and gives their thoughts.

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Episode 343 - Dead Man (1995)

Experimental films are always polarizing. Usually they are surreal or filled with symbolism. And all of them, at least it seems to be, are considered arthouse films. One such director, Jim Jarmusch, has dabbled within different genres during his take on the experimental film. For horror fans, his most well known movie is probably Only Lovers Left Alive from 2013. But back in 1995 he did a western film called Dead Man starring Johnny Depp.

When accountant William Blake heads west from Cleveland to Machine, Arizona, a job he applied for and accepted awaits him. But after his arrival, he finds no job. Now he is stranded in a frontier town that is very unfamiliar to him. When a murder occurs, he is shot. The bullet is lodged deep within his body, and it is unable to be removed. On the run, medically in danger, he is now a dead man walking.

Shot entirely in black and white and including numerous cameo appearances by many folks of prominence, the film received mixed reviews. Some critics felt it was plain awful while others said it was one of the best films of the 1990’s. How can such a wide polarizing range of thoughts be felt by so many different people. Dark Discussions takes a look at this patreon chosen film and give their thoughts.

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Episode 342 - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

With 2015’s Jurassic World, it showed that dinosaurs were still hip. Not only a big box office draw but also a critical success. Colin Trevorrow, the original director, along with his longtime screenwriting partner Derek Connolly, co-wrote the script for the new 2018 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Spaniard director J.A. Bayona takes the reins bringing back leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in what has turned out to be another box office success.

Three years later, after the original park has been abandoned, a volcanic eruption happens upon the Costa Rican island that the dinosaurs inhabit. Claire Dearing, with the help of Owen Grady and the Lockwood Corporation, decide to try to save the dinosaurs and transport them to another island for safety. But nefarious forces are at works where they not only want to take the dinosaurs for their own corporate reasons, but also plan to murder anyone who is in their way.

This new movie, though receiving much harsher reviews, has become an international box office sensation. Many critics feel it is silly and a bit of a retread to the prior films, but audiences are lapping it up with enthusiasm. Dark Discussions takes a look at this new entrée in the Jurassic franchise and give their thoughts on whether the film lives up to the dinosaur mayhem of the prior film.

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Episode 341 - Hereditary (2018)

Hype of a film. When it does the festival circuit, you hear a lot about it and how it is the “scariest film since The Exorcist.” That may be a whole lot of hyperbole. The hype it gets may be silly since it may not be any better than dozens of other films that have received great reviews that had less buzz. The latest is Hereditary, the debut feature length horror film by Ari Aster.

Ellen, the elderly matriarch of Annie’s family, dies leaving Annie with mixed emotions. Domineering, her death leaves Annie with issues that seem to eat away at her. While at a help-group meeting for the grieving, she meets Joan who tells Annie that one can do a séance to speak with the dearly departed. Soon strange things begin to occur that may tear apart her family.

Starring Toni Collette as Annie and including a supporting cast which includes Gabriel Byrne and Ann Dowd, the movie has received fantastic reviews from critics while negative views by audiences. Yet with the mixed reaction, the movie has already earned six times its budget. Dark Discussions takes a look at this movie and gives their thoughts.

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Episode 340 - Leigh Whannell Focus: 2018's Upgrade

Are you a fan of Leigh Whannell? You probably are and may not even know it. He’s the co-creator of both the Saw and Insidious franchises where he wrote the screenplays, acted, and directed films in both franchises. Both are horror, but most certainly different subgenres. Now in 2018, his latest film, Upgrade, has been called horror but also techno-thriller, science fiction, action, and even body horror.

In the not too distant future, Grey and Asha Trace live a very happy upper middle class life. While his wife is an executive in a robotics firm, Grey is a mechanic and specializes in antique vehicles. When he and Asha return the latest refurbished vehicle to high-tech CEO Eron Keen, hitmen attack them on their way home. Leaving Grey a quadriplegic and his wife deceased, he begins to live a reclusive life. Soon however Eron offers him a chance to be whole again. When a new special computer chip, STEM, is surgically implanted in him, he not only is able to walk again but he is now able to get revenge.

With Upgrade, a new Blumhouse release, Leigh Whannell may just have entered the ranks as one of the hottest directors in Hollywood. Getting rave reviews, merging different genres, and filling the void for techno-thriller fans, the movie got off to a limited release of 1,700 screens yet immediately making its money back in one week. Dark Discussions takes a look at this very unique film and gives their opinion whether or not it is worthy of the praise that it is receiving.

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Episode 339 - The Lurking Man (2018)

There’s independent film and then there is under-the-radar film. Independent film has whole sections that you can find on Netflix or iTunes or other streaming and VOD services, but they usually show the most popular movies. But digging deep, one has to go around the internet searching blogs or websites that seem to cover small festivals such as those that are specific to one genre like horror; way beyond Sundance, TIFF, or SXSW. One such film is The Lurking Man, a dark character study.

When Cailean, a middle aged divorcee, gets in an accident, her astral presence appears within a bubble of light. Somewhere in the darkness, a foreboding voice tells her that she is in a state between death and life. The voice continues telling her that she is in jeopardy of not only permanently being deceased, but also lost to the void for living a dreadful life. Soon her back story begins to emerge and the foreboding voice’s source lets itself be known. Cailean’s worst fears are indeed the genuine.

Based on a novel by Keith Rommel, and starring Maritza Brikisak and Dan Lench in prominent roles, The Lurking Man played festivals throughout 2017 getting high acclaim. Now available on VOD, Dark Discussions takes a look at this very unique film and gives their thoughts. Your co-hosts are joined by special guest, Dan Lench, as he discusses his role in the film.

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Episode 338 - Turbo Kid (2015)

Midnight movies, they have a special place in people’s hearts. Whether they are gore films, sexploitation, bizarro, or comedies, there has been a resurgence of them as more and more have been remastered and rereleased to the masses. With the faux-midnight movies starting with the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double feature, Grindhouse, getting a cult following, others have appeared and many are pretty solid. One, a Quebec Canadian production entitled Turbo Kid, arrived in 2015 that unlike the others, mashes together the innocent feel of the Power Rangers and early Saturday morning television shows like Land of the Lost with Paul Verhoeven’s most violent films.

In a post-apocalyptic world where water is scarce and the main transportation for survivors is the bicycle, The Kid, an 18 year old, teams up with Apple, a robot-girl, and Frederic, an arm-wrestling cowboy, to stop the evil and tyrannical Zeus from exploiting the masses and hoarding the water. On the way, he discovers a suit of power armor manufactured in the likeness of his favorite comic book hero Turbo Man. But unlike the toy he thinks it is, he discovers very soon that it makes anyone who wears it a superhero.

With its 1980’s electronic soundtrack, its throwback costumes, and its timeline now already in the past, the movie is a bit tongue in cheek without trying to be a parody. Rather it relishes in its over-the-top nostalgia while trying to present a engrossing and solid story. Dark Discussions takes a look at this homage to film from another era and gives their thoughts.

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Episode S02 - C.H.U.D. Lives! A Horror Anthology

April 27th, 2018 release of horror anthology C.H.U.D. Lives!: A Tribute Anthology. Dark Discussions interviews some of the authors of this new horror book including Ross Baxter, Chad Lutzke, and Philip Perron.

C.H.U.D. is a genre defying, cult classic film featuring monsters living in the sewers below New York. The stories in this anthology expand the world created by the film and add depth to the C.H.U.D. universe like never before. From stories of apocalyptic horror and all out monster action, to tales of underground parties interrupted by uninvited guests and evening strolls that end in death, this anthology will leave you both smiling and breathless.

Relive the fear as these original stories take you beyond the movie to events that occurred before, during, and after the scenes we remember so well.

Includes C.H.U.D. related stories by Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, JG Faherty, Mort Castle, Michael H. Hanson, Martin Powell, Ben Fisher, Jason White, Chad Lutzke, Ross Baxter, Philip C Perron, David Bernstein, Nick Cato, Alex Laybourne, Christopher Fulbright, Angeline Hawkes, David Robbins, Robert Waters, Greg Mitchell, Ryan C. Thomas, and Eugene Johnson.

With an introduction by David Drake. Compiled by Eric S. Brown.

C.H.U.D. Lives! also features in-depth interviews with Andrew Bonime (producer) and Parnell Hall (screenwriter), as well as never before seen behind-the-scenes photos from the classic 80s horror film.

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Episode 331 - A Quiet Place (2018)

Emily Blunt is one of those actresses that is able to jump back and forth between Oscar award type films and genre. With a wide range of science fiction, horror, and thrillers under her belt, and many of them well received by fans, it doesn’t surprise one that her latest film, A Quiet Place, has received phenomenal reviews. Directed and co-written by her real life husband, John Krasinski, the movie had a great marketing campaign that drew more buzz than expected.

The Abbott family lives a truly quiet life in an apocalyptic future. In a world stalked by some sort of creatures that hunt based upon sound, people are forced to not only speak as little as possible, but also not even make a sound. Headed by Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski also starring in the film), to survive they must find and farm food while also take care of their young children. Their daughter, Regan, is deaf. In a world where danger is around every corner, her disability is both an asset and also a hindrance.

With the revival of horror in 2017 with such films as Annabelle: Creation, Get Out, Split, and It: Chapter 1, A Quiet Place has joined them as a successful box office giant while receiving critical reviews equally as positive. Dark Discussions takes a look at this little film that has turned out to be big. Thoughts and opinions are pondered.

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Episode 318 - 2017 Review

We are already four percent into 2018 and some good films have come out. But last year was a heck of a year too. Dark Discussions puts together their review of all that was good and bad in 2017. Included is the consideration of 75 different films that were worthy enough to be considered as a top 20 film for genre and horror films.

Each of your five co-hosts put together a list of movies they thought were good enough to be seen by audiences. This included both a list of horror films and a list of other speculative fiction films. Afterwards we then combined them and came up with Dark Discussions definitive lists of the best of 2017. Some obvious films like Wonder Woman and Get Out appear but also little known films like The Evil Within, Radius, and Berlin Syndrome were considered.

Also included are some of our listener choices and what they felt were the best of the year. And don’t forget our top and worst scenes, scream queens, breakout star, and anything else you can think of. Dark Discussions wraps up last year in a nice tight bow and gives their listeners a good many films to go out and search for.

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Episode 316 - 2018 Preview

With January 2018 underway, it is time to visit what is coming this year to cinemas, video-on-demand platforms, as well as those genre films that are going straight to disc. Last year, horror seemed to dominate genre and there were a lot of great flicks. This year once again there seems to be a lot of great ones coming. Plus also more superhero flicks. Reboots and remakes and sequels are also arriving too.

Dark Discussions once again is back with their look forward to the new year and which films seem to interest them most. Some of the more high profile flicks spoken of include Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Annihilation, the two X-Men films, Slender Man, The Nun, and Game Night.

Some other flicks talked about include Fashionista, The Bad Man, the critically praised Norwegian film, Thelma, and a few sequels to Dead Snow and Halloween. And then at the very end we list off other films and talk about some of the latest news about movies and genre cinema.

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