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Episode 153 - As Above, So Below (2014)

It seems like never before that cinéma vérité is a format used in many horror and genre films over this past year. One could probably lose count. John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle are no stranger to the median. Two of their prior films, the unreleased Poughkeepsie Tapes and the English language remake of Rec entitled Quarantine, show they have a good footing into the subgenre. Now in 2014, they have made a new film, As Above So Below, getting wide release throughout many nations.

The film is about a young scholar named Scarlett who decides to continue and pursue the work of her father in the search of the notorious Philosopher's Stone. Her research brings her to Paris, France and the history surrounding a 14th century Parisian scientist named Nicolas Flamel. After working with another scholar who she once had a relationship with, the two along with their documentarian, hire a group of local guides that will bring them through the Catacombs of Paris below the city streets searching the necropolis to six million people in hopes of finding the mysterious and valuable artifact.

Your hosts discuss this new widely released film and whether the fantastic concept of adventure seekers exploring one of the most surreal monuments to a city's forefathers holds up to the spook factor. Included is a discussion of the success of the Dowdle brothers, this movie in comparison to other found footage films, and what determines whether a film will get a theatrical run or simply be released straight to disc or video on demand.

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Episode 152 - Robin Williams Tribute: Christopher Nolan's Insomnia

Welcome to episode 152 of Dark Discussions, our second roundtable of genre film starring Robin Williams. A celebration of the multi-talented legend and his ability to play so many various and different roles. Insomnia, an English language remake of a Norwegian film starring Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, was the film that brought director Christopher Nolan to superstardom and prominence.

Los Angeles police detective Will Dormer and his partner head off to Nightmute, Alaska to help in a case of the murder of a seventeen year old girl. Arriving as both a renowned person within his field but also as an officer being investigated for wrong doing, Dormer immediately suspects that the usual suspects are highly unlikely to have committed the brutal crime. When a stakeout goes awry, there's a new person of interest. Is a serial killer on the loose? And is the psychological cat-and-mouse between Dormer and the new suspect just the beginning down a path to amoral deeds?

With its incredible cast of Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hillary Swank, and the fantastic direction by Christopher Nolan, Insomnia was a splendid surprise in the filmographies of its two leading men. Dark, gloomy, and using its locations superbly, the film is a character study of one man's descent into humiliation and dishonor while bringing out the very best of mysteries, thrillers, and police procedurals in modern film.

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Episode 151 - Robin Williams Tribute: One Hour Photo

Robin Williams passing was a heartrending tragedy that sent ripples not just through Hollywood but also throughout the world. The ever talented comedian and actor gave the world wonderful performances in so many fabulous films. Dark Discussions co-host Eric Webster, who has been championing the film One Hour Photo since the very beginning of this podcast, suggested that we focus an episode on Robin Williams and his work in genre films. Our way to pay tribute to a great talent.

In this episode, we discuss the film One Hour Photo. Sy the photo guy who runs the photo lab at the local box store seems like your ever gracious technician. He's friendly, a strong believer in customer service, and knows that he is there to serve you. However, there is an odd air about him that makes him seem just a bit off. Is he just a quirky and kind individual or is it something else?

Starring Robin Williams and Connie Nielsen, the film is both a character study and a thriller. It follows the life of a quiet and yet sad individual who may be harboring dark secrets about himself that may just be bubbling on the surface of his psyche. But it also tears down the illusion of the white picket fence existence of "anywhere" suburbia, even going as far as being ambiguous on where the story takes place. This episode focuses on one of our generations greatest talents and is part one of our two part tribute to Robin Williams.

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Episode 150B - David Fincher Focus: 1995's Seven

In 1993, a first time director named David Fincher was brought on to direct the third Alien film of that fabled franchise. Though the script had been rewritten numerous times, Fincher's debut film, Alien 3, has become a cult classic and been re-evaluated as a great sci-fi thriller. Whether the director to this day still has some issues with it, the film brought him to international attention and from there on, he has been considered one of our modern masters.

His second film Seven (Se7en) is considered one of the best horror thrillers of the last 25 years. The film includes Brad Pitt in a role that would make him a star, Morgan Freeman in a role that would turn him into a leading man, and also Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey in early and unforgettable career roles. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, the screenplay is about retiring and glum Detective Somerset who is dragged into investigating a new set of murders based on the Seven Deadly Sins. He is teamed up with the young and ambitious Detective David Mills who is gung-ho, but maybe just a little too much.

Just as we have on every 50th episode, Dark Discussions chooses a classic and decides to discuss what the film is all about. Seven is one of those movies that really digs deep into both the human mind and people's motives. Everything from what defines evil to the way society builds and forms itself, Seven takes a look at the dark side of human life and asks many questions on what motivates us all. Get ready to listen to our second part of our 150th episode on one of the best films in genre cinema.

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Episode 150A - Bits, Pieces, and Body Parts Volume 4

Welcome to the 150th episode of Dark Discussions ... well, at least the first part. Though we have a discussion of one of the best genre films in sometime, prior to the talk, we discussed the various things that have gone on these past couple of weeks and talk about them.

Things that are brought up in conversation books: Jonathan Kellerman's The Murder Book, John Sandford's Rules of Prey, and Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. Mike and Abe give their review of Guardians of the Galaxy. Films including Lucy, Hercules, The Sacrament, Lake Placid, Burnt Offerings, and Sharknado 2 are spoken of. Television programming including Doctor Who, The Strain and The Leftovers are brought up. The manga, King's Game, is given some airtime. And (at the time), upcoming films Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Into the Storm are brought up, including our thoughts.

But also the passing of three important people in the genre occurred: Marilyn Burns, star of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, makeup man Dick Smith, and author/podcaster Lawrence Santoro. Dark Discussions speaks fondly of the three and we wrap up this episode as we get ready for Part 2 of episode 150 where we discuss ... check back in a few days.

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Episode 149 - Event Horizon (1997)

A cult classic ... what makes a cult classic and why? Well, the 1997 film, Event Horizon, is definitely one of those type of films. Similar to Alien 3, when it was first released the critics thumbed their nose at it, but the visuals and ideas behind the screenplay were very intriguing and have kept the movie alive with a group of fans vehemently defending it and giving it a second life with the home market.

Now almost 20 years later, the film has been re-evaluated, and though hasn't gained the status of other "failed films" like John Carpenter's The Thing, it still has things that make it an interesting watch. First, this is one of the early films of English director Paul W. S. Anderson, most famous for the Resident Evil films. Also the screenplay was reworked by Andrew Kevin Walker, most famous for writing Seven, most certainly leaving his mark on this film.

Dark Discussions discusses this film, a listener choice in our monthly Facebook poll, and talks about Paul W. S. Anderson as a director, the huge amount of cut and now lost footage that would be intriguing to see in a longer version of the film, and the movie's place in both the science fiction and horror genre canons. Whether the film is worthy of that cult classic status may not be answered but your hosts most certainly give it their best in the discussion rundown.

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Episode 148 - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a new reboot of the Pierre Boulle novel, appeared on the big screen. After the disappointment of the 2001 Tim Burton film, the Hollywood studio seemed to already write this new version off as a failure even before its release. However, to their surprise, the film not only received great reviews but it also drew in huge crowds and became one of the best films of the year. Now 2014 we have the follow up, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which itself has received fantastic reviews.

Taking place 11 years after the first, where 90% of humanity has died from the ALZ-113 virus (also known as the simian flu), survivors in San Francisco head out towards Muir Woods to see if they can get an electrical dam's turbines running in hope of bringing electricity back. However, they discover an unexpected surprise; the genetically changed apes from the first film have created a society there and now two civilizations are about to collide. And yet the genuine danger may not be each other but instead may come from within.

Dark Discussions talks about this new movie. The interesting thing is where each of your co-hosts are coming from. Abe had not seen the first film and is not too familiar with the older franchise. Mike beloves the original film series and comes in with a somewhat biased perspective. And both Phil and Eric are familiar with the other movies but are coming in simply looking to see a good film. Get onboard and listen to what we have to say about the new film. And honestly, there were no lame jokes about "Hey, I saw you multiple times in the film."

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Episode 147 - The Last House on the Left Retrospective

Oddly this episode was supposed to be about the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left, directed by Dennis Iliadis. However, the topic switches to the notorious original 1972 movie as well where we compare, contrast, and discuss both films and their place in genre film history.

The original, starring David Hess and produced by Friday the 13th's creator Sean Cunningham and written and directed by Wes Craven, with its famous catch phrase It's Only a Movie, shocked audiences everywhere. Raw and rough, in comparison the 2009 remake featuring Sara Paxton is well made and in some quarters (specifically Stephen King) considered a masterpiece.

Dark Discussions talks about the original's, and in some ways heavy handed, message disguised in grindhouse. We discuss Stephen King's opinion which he wrote about in a Fangoria magazine article, how the original jumped started Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham's career, why the remake is such a well received film despite its subject matter, and compare other classic genre films to the original and why the 1972 film is not considered in the same category as its contemporaries.