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Episode 164 - The Walking Dead First Half Season 5 Recap

Turbulent production history, polarizing characters, changes from the source material, sometimes melodramatic, and yet its the only show in decades that has beat out the National Football League in television ratings. That show, The Walking Dead, continues to have phenomenal ratings. The program shows that zombies, indeed, are not actually dead. Walking dead, yes, but dead as a plot device? Absolutely not! Zombies as antagonists are still possibly the most viable monster in genre fiction. Yet the survival of the characters and the danger from other humans oddly overshadow the walking dead.

Now in its fifth season, the Walking Dead has flourished as a television franchise. Though it has its warts, it still has given us some fantastic horror on the small screen. Grindhouse flare, a much larger and less clichéd diverse cast, and some generally fun times, the show is a favorite of not just genre fans but even mom and dad.

Dark Discussions for the first time since way back on episode 16, we are focusing on the show. Specifically discussing the first half of season five, your co-hosts give their thoughts on the Terminus escape, the Atlanta hospital story arc, the deaths of some important characters, the DC journey, the new diversity in the cast, and the entrance of gay characters, an Episcopal priest, and of course the zombies.

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Episode 163 - The Babadook (2014)

First time film director, Jennifer Kent, presents to us The Babadook, which she also wrote. This Australian film had been doing the convention and festival circuits to what has been grand praise. Unlike some of the more aggressive horror films of low profile which have also garnered praise, The Babadook has been able to avoid the backlash of folks that are turned off by more extreme, darker, or gimmicky fare. As a result it has garnered amazing reviews from both the passive viewer as well as hardcore genre fans.

The story is about a widowed mother, Amelia, and her young child named Sam. Sam is a very imaginative but also a very distressed child who seems to have various social and behavioral issues not unlike many youngsters, if a bit more extreme. When an unaccounted for children's book appears about a fantastical creature named the Babadook, strange things begin to happen. The book, though presented as any child's tale, instead talks about death and is drawn in a very grim and gothic way. Is Amelia being shadowed by a stranger? Is a supernatural monster haunting her child? Or is it something else completely?

Dark Discussions talks about The Babadook and its encompassing hype that has followed it as it slowly was released through various VOD platforms. Is the film an original tale that is making it transcend other indy or foreign films? Is it the most scariest film that director William Friedkin has stated? Is it the best horror film of the year as some early lists have stated? Listen to find out.

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Episode 162 - Ed Sanchez Focus: 2014's Exists

Ed Sanchez, one of the co-director's of The Blair Witch Project, has been quite prolific since that ridiculously huge indy hit. Though he hasn't gotten a wide release of his films since, he has directed a number of gems including Altered, Lovely Molly (which Dark Discussions states was the second best film of 2012), and a segment of V/H/S 2. Each was either written or co-written by Jamie Nash. As with Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett or Jim Mickle and Nick Damici, the two seem to be a pretty dang good team.

Their new film, 2014's Exists, is actually the third film this year about a sasquatch, or better known as Bigfoot. Shot in the found footage style, the film is about a group of five young adults that head out in that oh so common cabin in the woods for fun and sun. But one of them brought a bunch of cameras along since the area of Texas they are in is known as a sighting of the mysterious and legendary monster. With a quick setup, a short intro, and some spooky music by composer Nima Fakhrara, the film becomes a nonstop ride that doesn't let up until the very end.

Dark Discussions is joined by Kristi Petersen Schoonover, author of Bad Apple and Skeletons in the Swimmin' Hole, to discuss this new film by the duo. Is it better than the prior two Bigfoot films from this year? Is it more than that and actually a top genre/horror film of the year? Your co-hosts discuss the movie and where it stands up against other Bigfoot films as well as genre cinema as a whole.

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Episode 161 - Nightcrawler (2014)

Little known screenwriter, Dan Gilroy, probably most well known as the husband of actress Rene Russo and the son of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Frank Gilroy, comes out of nowhere to direct and screenwrite the new film, Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal in a career defining role. The film is a dark and gritty thriller about a young drifter who lands up filming violent and disturbing images for television's nightly news.

Louis Bloom, an unscrupulous man with no direction in life, happens upon an accident along the side of the highway. Pulling over he sees a freelance crew filming the rescue. Soon Louis has his own camera and emergency scanner and is out and about Los Angeles arriving at recent accidents and crimes. Soon he's selling his own footage to the local news station. As his success grows, he quickly begins on a road that may lead to his own transgressions.

Also starring Rene Russo and Bill Paxton, the film has unanimously won over critics. Based off the feedback of the press, the film may land up on many best of the year lists. And yet, along with other highly rated films with wide releases, Nightcrawler all but disappeared from theaters. Your co-hosts discuss the failure of the film at the box office, the acting of Jake Gyllenhaal, the commentary the screenplay says about the press, and whether Dark Discussions agrees that it is one of the year's best.

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Episode 160 - Guillermo Del Toro's The Strain

Late during the first decade of the century, director Guillermo Del Toro was a bit before his time. Why not a horror television show? Each week, the same characters, in a running show but all based around horror. Sounds a bit like The Walking Dead maybe? American Horror Story? Hannibal? Well, in 2007, you guessed it, television producers nixed Del Toro's idea. But his agent suggested such a good idea shouldn't just be trashed. Why not make it into a novel? And so The Strain was born.

The Strain (2009) and its follow up books, The Fall (2010) and The Night Eternal (2011), co-written with Chuck Hogan, of Prince of Thieves/The Town fame, was about the fall of humanity to an ancient disease that turned people into raging monsters. A form of vampirism based upon viral infection, the tale follows a group of eccentric and unique characters including CDC doctors, Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez, pest exterminator Vasiliy Fet, pawnbroker Abraham Setrakian, and wealthy billionaire Eldritch Palmer.

Finally five years after the first novel's release, this predecessor to today's horror television finally received its television debut and has been picked up for a second season. Dark Discussions talks about the books, the first season of the series, the positives, the negatives, the differences, and why you should check out both forms of media. Readily available on iTunes and Amazon prime, and to debut on disc December 2nd, the show's first season is readily available to all.

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Episode 159 - The Purge Films

Totalitarian states have been a staple of genre and speculative fiction for years. George Orwell's 1984 may be the most famous since it crossed into the classics. With pressures from globalization, economics, tribalism, population growth, war, religious fundamentalism, natural resources, and so many other things, a bleak and desperate future seems inevitable. In 2013, well known screenwriter James DeMonaco adapted his latest screenplay, The Purge, to a major motion picture.

Starring Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and Rhys Wakefield, the film takes place in the near future where once a year, the government allows an evening of violence and chaos. When the Sandlin family mistakenly lets into their home a homeless veteran, a group of purgers surround their house demanding the handing over of the man. Rather than acquiesce, they decide to defend their home and their values.

Well received and made for $3M USD, the film went on to gross $89.3M USD. A second in the franchise, The Purge: Anarchy, came out in 2014 to even better reviews and was also a box office success. Though the film was in the same "universe" as the first, the style was completely different. With the recent release of the second film to disc, Dark Discussions talks about the two films and their significance.

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Episode 158 - David Fincher Focus: 2014's Gone Girl

Hugely successful novels many times are turned into not so successful movies. There are exceptions. Mario Puzo's The Godfather, John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, and Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. The one thing in common the three have is that the screenplays were written by the novelists as well. The most recent, Gone Girl, has been brought to film by the highly successful director David Fincher. Included in the cast is a big star: Ben Affleck; an actress that has suddenly become a household name: Rosamund Pike; and a cast of supporting actors of some note including Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, and Kim Dickens.

Amy, a beautiful young socialite, is famous as the character based off her parent's children's book series, Amazing Amy. She is now living in Kansas City in a McMansion community, married to Nick, a man she fell in love with back during their years in Manhattan. Has life been what she had hoped? As the film begins, she has disappeared in what appears to be a very violent crime. Soon fingers begin to point towards Nick as clues both intentionally and not appear. And everyone is asking what happened to Amy?

David Fincher, arguably one of the best directors of our time, has brought to the screen one of the most successful thriller/mystery novels of the decade. A best seller when it came out, some say the film has topped even the book. Loved by critics, loved by audiences, and pulling in huge money at the box office, is the movie really as good as everyone says? Dark Discussions gives their two cents on the movie and discuss genre favorite David Fincher.

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Episode 157 - Annabelle (2014)

With its catchy name, its known director, and its great reviews, 2013's The Conjuring was a huge success and one of the most successful horror films both critically and financially in some time. Based on the paranormal investigators, the Warrens, the opening sequence kicked off a very scary film. The scene showcases the Warrens and their investigation of a doll named Annabelle.

Now, this Halloween, a sort of prequel to The Conjuring has opened up in wide release. The film simply entitled Annabelle is a fictional origin story of that spooky and terrifying doll that made so many jump out of their seats back in 2013. The film takes place in 1969 just after the Manson murders. When home intruders break into a young couple's abode, the trespassers turn out to be more than just ordinary burglars. Soon odd things begin to happen that not only put their baby in jeopardy but also their very souls.

Dark Discussions are joined by Nate and Kristi Schoonover. Nate, one of the hosts of the Ghost and Demon Show, is an expert on the occult as well as the original Annabelle case. His wife, Kristi, is the author of numerous ghostly tales as well as the acclaimed novel, Bad Apple. With extra knowledge provided, the film is not only discussed and reviewed but is compared with the original investigation.

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Episode 156 - Kevin Smith Focus: 2014's Tusk

Talent and controversy? Big mouth and oversensitive? Well, we aren't quite sure but Kevin Smith, director and screenwriter, has been one of the most prolific cult film directors over the last twenty years. He burst onto the indy scene with his film Clerks. At the time the film was considered quite "dirty" with its graphic dialogue, and yet at the same time it was judged as a most brilliant and realistic at times depiction of young adults and their ennui.

Now, this past month, Kevin Smith has come back with his second horror film in a row. Following the mixed reviewed but well crafted Red State, his latest, entitled Tusk, is in some ways both original and yet very much a tribute to some other films of the genre. When podcaster Wallace Bryton's trip for a story in Manitoba turns out to be a dead end, he discovers an unconventional advertisement for a rented room that leads him to Howard Howe, a man that could offer topics for dozens of shows. Yet everything is sidetracked when he becomes victim of a bite by a fiddleback spider ... or maybe not?

The film stars Justin Long and Michael Parks in roles that absolutely play to their strengths as actors. The movie, broken into three distinct acts, plays around with drama, horror, and comedy and has the brilliant dialogue that Smith is well known for. However, is the film a failure or not? Would it get the attention that it has if it wasn't directed by Smith? All these questions and more are answered by your hosts in this latest episode of Dark Discussions Podcast.