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Episode 198 - Joel Edgerton Focus: 2015's The Gift

Who's Joel Edgerton? Well, he's someone you should get to know. To genre fans, he's probably known mostly as the male lead in The Thing prequel. But since then he's done parts in Zero Dark Thirty and The Great Gatsby. Back in his home nation of Australia, one of his most brilliant roles was in the 2008 Jon Hewitt film, Acolytes, where he plays a serial killer (Dark Discussions did an episode on this movie). Recently he wrote and starred in the well received police thriller Felony. Now he directs, writes, and stars in the new movie, The Gift.

When Simon and Robyn Callen move to California, Gordon Mosley bumps into them in a store. The two men had gone to school years earlier and a pleasant exchange occurs. Later a bottle of wine is left on their doorstep with a note from Gordon with pleasantries about their new house and life. Soon Simon begins to wonder if Gordon's kindness is something more. Soon suspicions arise and secrets from our three leads begin to make their appearance. And in all cases, those secrets were better off hidden.

Dark Discussions discusses this new thriller by someone who many think may be an up and coming star. Though co-host Eric states, "this is Joel Edgerton's baby", the film also stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as the married couple who's life turned upside down. Strong performances all around, the movie may be this year's sleeper hit. Listen to what your co-hosts think.

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Episode 197 - Horsehead (2015)

Some say the very best of avant-garde cinema comes from the land of escargot. Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Roger Vadim, and Jean Cocteau to just name a few. Even more recently with the French new wave horror films by Gaspar Noé, Pascal Laugier, Xavier Gens, Alexandre Bustillo, and Julien Maury. Now French director Romain Basset with a screenplay by Karim Chériguène presents a new French horror film entitled Horsehead. Though with a bizarre title and an esoteric approach, the film has drawn numerous folks to champion it.

In this English language film, ex-UK patriots Jessica (played by French actress Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux) returns to her French home after the suicide of her grandmother. While there, she becomes sick with influenza and begins to have dreams both naturally as well as self induced about her grandmother who seems to be trying to let her know something from beyond the grave. Soon secrets about her past and her family begin to come into focus. Jessica wonders what is real as she starts seeing things that she should know nothing of.

Having played numerous festival circuits, Horsehead began building both a word of mouth as well as a distribution base where it eventually appeared on VOD platforms. With visuals that hark back to films like The Cell and Jacob's Ladder, and a story that fits nicely along side the French new wave horror scene, it becomes apparent that multiple watches may bestow more secrets to the tale. Dark Discussions discusses what they think.

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Episode 196 - John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

With his varied career, John Carpenter has had many ups and a whole lot of downs. Most of them not for the right reasons. He made a lot of great films that appealed to only a small group of fans and as a result his canon seems to draw different opinions by different folks. By the time he directed In the Mouth of Madness, his budgets had shrunk while his aspirations would not. The 1995 film was John Carpenter's smashup of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King all with an interesting avant-garde sense.

When the famed horror author Sutter Kane disappears from the public eye, his publishing company brings in an insurance investigator to find out the whereabouts of their biggest draw. Working with Kane's editor, the two decipher hidden messages both within the author's books and upon their covers that may actually lead to his home. After the two head to New Hampshire, strange things begin to happen. And our investigator's reality may be a whole lot more.

The film is part of the so-called "Apocalypse Trilogy" and in many fans' eyes is the director's last "great" film. Some wonder whether a larger budget and an added half hour to the film would have made it a mainstream hit. Others to this day try to decipher the esoteric plot devices that appear to be nothing more than throwaway scenes. Dark Discussions has gone back to review and reflect on one of the famed director's most highly debated films.

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Episode 195 - Creep (2015)

Peachfuzz? Come again, what did you say? Well, that's something you'll find out in the new first person cinéma vérité horror film by newcomer Patrick Brice who directed the film, starred in it, and co-wrote it with the other star in the film, Mark Duplass. The film is simply entitled Creep and yet originally was once titled Peachfuzz. Either way, both are fairly vague which is the best way to go into this film.

Aaron, who has responded to an advertisement for someone with a video camera and a day of availability, heads off to meet up with Josef. The job is for $1,000 and seems like a pretty good gig for a day's work. But what the work is, Aaron has no idea. Fortunately for him, Josef, though a bit eccentric, seems like an affable guy with a wonderful idea for what we find out is a heartbreaking situation. And so the story begins.

Originally the film made the festival circuits including the prestigious SXSF convention in Austin, Texas. Besides starring and co-written by Mark Duplass, generally a fan favorite, the film's audience reaction caused it to get a lot of buzz. Blumhouse Productions picked it up and by mid-2015, the film was released to VOD everywhere. Dark Discussions talks about the film and all the mystery behind Peachfuzz.

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Episode 194 - We Are Still Here (2015)

A film written and directed by a publicist? Is that possible? Well, yeah, especially when that person has written some pretty decent cult genre films prior, including 2008's slasher film, Sweatshop, listed as the best horror film of the year by the review website, Horrorphilia. Now in his directorial debut, Ted Geoghegan has put together the film, We Are Still Here, a supernatural bloodbath that has gotten great reviews from the Los Angeles Times, AV Club, Rex Reed, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, and the Village Voice.

When middle aged couple Paul and Anne leave the city and move to a rural town in Massachusetts, they expect to escape the memories of the death of their adult son from a tragic car accident. But odd things begin to happen in their new home. The boiler seems to be overheating and leaving off an awful smell, and Anne begins to think she feels the presence of the ghost of their son in the house. However, is their something more involved with the oddities in their new life?

The film takes place in 1979 which fits perfectly with the throwback experience to the B-films of the era including those from Europe. Refreshingly, the cast feels more realistic being middle aged and having none of the supermodel twenty-somethings cast as teenagers. With a brooding first two acts and a final act that heads straight down to grindhouse madness, We Are Still Here feels oddly fresh. Comparisons to Ti West's House of the Devil seem apt. Dark Discussions, with author Kristi Petersen Schoonover joining in, discuss their thoughts.

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Episode 189 - Jurassic World

Jurassic Park is now iconic. One of the very first examples of modern CGI, the film and its two follow ups amazed both young and old with bringing to life dinosaurs to the big screen in a way never seen before. But the two books in the series written by Michael Crichton were the start of it all and not only did they bring us dinosaurs, they brought us the technology on how it was all possible. Now twenty-five years since the publication of the book, the latest film in the franchise, Jurassic World, is upon us.

One thing everyone had wanted to see within the series is the working theme park with live and active dinosaurs. Jurassic World, now years later since the original tragedy that occurred in the first film, is just that. A theme park and zoo combined, Jurassic World brings the experience of another time right to the feet of its patrons. But with modern technology, genetically enhanced dinosaurs are being made and unfortunately for everyone involved, playing God just may be a bit too dangerous.

Starring Chris Pratt in a role that has made him a star, and Bryce Dallas Howard in a part that may finally be the breakout role that everyone has been waiting for, the film has become the largest grossing opening weekend film world wide ever. With its favorable reviews and audiences raving over the movie, Jurassic World has become an instant sensation and most likely the biggest film of the year. Hear your co-hosts with special guest author Kristi Petersen Schoonover discuss this summer blockbuster.

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Episode 188 - Michael Crichton Focus: Jurassic Park Franchise

Michael Crichton, one of the top science fiction and techno-thriller authors of all time, known for creating the highly successful television series ER, was at the top of his game back in 1990, when he wrote Jurassic Park, one of the most popular novels at the end of the last century. With biogenetics and DNA testing growing at exponential rates, this cautionary tale, some say, not only began the discussion of whether it was right for man to play "God" but also brought it to the "dinner table" so to speak.

The novel is about the company InGen owned by billionaire John Hammond. After finding the DNA of dinosaurs in blood left behind by ancient mosquitoes that were preserved in tree sap, his company is able to clone dinosaurs. Soon he imagines a giant theme park where folks could come to visit. Bringing in some leading scientists and mathematicians to view the soon-to-be opened park, something goes wrong that could jeopardized the concept never mind all their lives.

The book became a blockbuster film and soon a sequel to the book was written along with two follow up films. Dark Discussions talks about this part of Michael Crichton's career, his relationship with director Stephen Spielberg, and the legacy of the franchise today. With the new film, Jurassic World, now out, what better time to discuss the original franchise. Special guest, author Kristi Petersen Schoonover, joins your co-hosts to talk about the two films.

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Episode 185 -Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

Developmental hell. Where films and television shows go when the property rights or the financing or some other muddled mess causes a potential screenplay or idea to be buried. With the success of the original three Mad Max films, director George Miller was all onboard to direct a fourth in the franchise. The leading man, Mel Gibson, would return in the role as the post-apocalyptic anti-hero. But, alas, it was never made. But finally 30 years since the prior film, George Miller was able to finally get Mad Max Fury Road made.

Starring new leading man Tom Hardy as the title character, Mad Max is captured by the despot Immortan Joe to be used as a human blood bag by his followers. When Joe's lieutenant Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) decides to make a run for it with Joe's five slave girls, a chase is on. An action packed film with set piece after set piece ensues where redemption may await at then end for the ragtag band of survivors.

With a budget close to $160 million USD, the film was set to be just another overpriced and overwrought Hollywood CGI bloat of a movie. But with early reviews coming in with glowing praise, folks were suddenly getting on board with a new installment to a somewhat forgotten franchise. Dark Discussions is here to give their two cents on the first summer blockbuster.

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Episode 179 - It Follows (2015)

Festival circuits have brought numerous independent and foreign films to the attention of both genre fans and in some cases distribution companies. Some movies that got incredible buzz in the past were You're Next, The Lords of Salem, and Red, White, and Blue to just name a handful. Last year there were two films that were overwhelmingly given fantastic reviews before the masses were even able to see them. One was the Australian film Babadook and the other was a small Michigan made film entitled It Follows.

When Jamie, a young woman, decides to consummate her relationship with her boyfriend, she suddenly discovers that something or someone is following her. No matter where she goes, she isn't able to escape from the ever present "it". Soon she recruits her friends and sister to help her flee from this unwanted threat. Yet she begins to wonder if she will ever be safe again.

Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows was to get a limited release on Friday the 13th in March 2015 but after it made over six figures in four theaters, the film's VOD release was dropped and eventually the film has expanded to over 1,600 theaters in the US alone. It Follows, one of the most highly anticipated horror films in years, is now reviewed by Dark Discussions. Will they agree with what author Kristi Petersen Schoonover says is "the best thing I've seen in years"? Listen and find out.

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Episode 169 - 2015 Preview

It's a new year and there are a whole list of new movies coming. Genre cinema is now mainstream with superheroes and teen sci-fi novels being brought to the big screen almost monthly. This year a lot of familiar film franchises are bringing new additions to their canon: Sinister, Insidious, James Bond, the Terminator, Jurassic World, Mad Max, Star Wars, the Avengers.

But there are a lot of small films that are coming that have been highly anticipated such as It Follows, Krampus, Rob Zombie's 31, Greg Mclean's 6 Miranda Drive, and Simon Rumley's The Last Word. Other original material includes the Wachowski's Jupiter Ascending, Neill Blomkamp's Chappie, M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit, Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, Tom Hardy's starring vehicle Child 44, Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak, and Ridley Scott's The Martian.

Dark Discussions brings a pretty large list of a bunch of films that have been on their radar for the new year. Some are films that are so low profile that they'll be new to you. Others are higher profile but we discuss the actors, actresses, directors, and screenwriters behind them and also read into the trailers and blurbs that have been discussed throughout the internet. Get a pen and paper out and start jotting down these new films that may interest any genre fan.

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Episode 168 - 2014 Year In Review

Dark Discussions brings you their year in review episode. 2014 seemed to start out very slow for horror films but by the end of the year, there were plenty of good films to see, all readily available and not just festival films or limited release. But co-hosts Eric and Mike had a very good point which is what is determined as other genre (sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, techno-thrillers, mysteries, and exploitation) was outstanding compared to horror itself. It could be argued that 4 or 5 thrillers and sci-fi flicks were heads and above the very best genre films of the year, even over horror as a specific category.

One of the many interesting aspects of the prior year's best horror films was the cost to make them. Out of Dark Discussions definitive top 13 horror films of the year (a 3 way tie for 10th), the total cost to make them was easily less than $30M USD. This shows outstanding small budget and independent cinema but it also is dire for wide release Hollywood horror films. And to put an exclamation point on it, only one of the films on the definitive list was a wide release film.

Films weeded down for consideration for our Top 10 horror list and Top 10 genre list were just under seventy total films. And unlike prior years, your four co-hosts were very close to having consensus with the choices on both lists. Rounding out the episode includes a quick recap of 2014's genre television, books, anime, and our breakout list and worst list.

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