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Episode 232 - Darren Aronofsky Focus: 2010's Black Swan

Though Natalie Portman won an Academy Award for her role as dancer Nina Sayers, the breakout star of the film, Black Swan, actually turned out to be Mila Kunis who prior to her role as Lily was known for television work. Now 7 years old, Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, still holds up well. Some folks would consider it a classic, and many folks will say that the film is a tour de force of acting which also includes Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder.

A prominent ballet company out of Manhattan is about to open the new season with a performance of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Director and company owner Thomas Leroy (played by Vincent Cassel) wants a new take on the ballet so he's looking for something a bit different. He wants the characters of the white and black swan to be played by the same dancer. Nina Sayers is about to find out if she is going to be the lead but as the stress, both personal and professional, begin to weigh on her, she begins to wonder if her mother, her friends, or even a supernatural presence is thwarting her.

A film bounced about a few times by your co-hosts, Black Swan makes it as an episode for discussion. With its strange and surreal visuals, a sexually charged performance by Mila Kunis, and Natalie Portman playing a mentally struggling person on the verge of breaking, the film continues to wow even if it seems to have been copied many times since. Listen to find out what Dark Discussions thinks of this modern classic.

Prior Podcast Episodes:    

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Episode 231 - KILD-TV

Horror Hound Weekend, the big genre convention held out in Indianapolis, seems to find hidden gems by new film makers. A few years back, for example, the anthology horror film Drive-In Horror Show was selected to play there. Last year, a small independent film entitled KILD-TV made its appearance, and during award ceremonies won two awards while receiving much positive feedback.

While running their local midnight horror creature feature, the skeleton crew at the local television station discover there is a murderer among them. After the disappearance of the receptionist and head engineer, a body is discovered and soon they find out all their lives are all in danger. Locked in by sabotage, the only time they can get the word out is through the computer run live three minute broadcasts usually for the skits by the horror host right before commercial breaks. Unfortunately for them, their pleas for help are taken by the television audience as part of the show's shtick.

Both Fangoria and Dread Central gave highly positive reviews to the aptly named KILD-TV. Dark Discussions was able to view the feature and include a quick interview with the director, William Collins. With high praise and awards from a top notch convention, was the movie as good as the horror reviewers have stated. Find out what your co-hosts thought of the film and then go check it out on every major VOD outlet.

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Episode 230 - The Invitation

2016 continues forward with new and interesting genre films being released that seem not to have been on many peoples radar. The movie, The Invitation, dropped upon VOD in April to very positive reviews from critics that attended screenings during its festival run. Starring some noted genre actors including Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus; Devil) and Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones; World War Z) and a large ensemble cast, the film appears to be one thing but may actually be something else all together.

Will and his girlfriend are invited to his ex-wife and her new husband's home for a dinner date that would reunite him with a group of friends that he hadn't seen in some time. Unfortunately on his arrival he is reminded about a tragic event in his and his ex-wife's past that literally tore their marriage apart. Quiet and melancholic, he floats through the night in a daze as he is re-introduced to his old friends and two of his wife's new friends. But he begins to feel as if something is amiss. That this "party" is something more than just healing old wounds and re-uniting with old friends.

The Invitation was directed by Karyn Kusama already known for her other films Aeon Flux and Jennifer's Body. The screenplay was co-written by the partner duo of Phil Hay (who's also Karyn's husband) and Matt Manfredi. Though a limited release and basically straight to VOD, some say that this may be Karyn Kusama's best film and possibly one of the best horror films of 2016. Dark Discussions talks and critiques a film that seems to have a lot more to say than what it first presents itself as.

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Episode 229 - Zack Snyder Focus: 2004's Dawn of the Dead

Don't touch the classics! Hollywood loves to do remakes of not only Hollywood films but also indy productions. But what if producers decide to do a remake in "name only"? With the success of 28 Days Later, fast zombies became a craze again and so Dawn of the Dead was greenlighted. Bringing in a first time director named Zack Snyder, the film surprised many people. It was fantastic! Moviegoers loved it! Critics loved it! And it was really a different and original film from George Romero's 1978 film.

Ana, a nurse, gets off shift and heads home to her husband. By the morning, the world as we know it has changed forever. With a pre-credit sequence that some say may be one of the greatest horror film openings of all time, the movie goes on a ride from there. Interesting people dynamics evolved: a salesman from Best Buy becomes a leader, a small time hood isn't all that bad, a security guard learns to overcome his suspicions of others, and a police officer tries to sort out where he stands.

Though hard at the time for some to accept, fast zombies turned out to be one scary monster. The screenplay, written by James Gunn (now a big time director), also uproots the tale to Milwaukee from Pittsburgh. And the addition of more characters including a stranded man named Andy on a roof of a gun store only brought more originality to what could have been a derivative tale. The film, having won a Dark Discussions poll for review, is taken up by your co-hosts in an in-depth review.

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Episode 228 - Hush (2016)

Home invasion films, woman-in-peril films, or a combination of both have been around for years. Whether straight in the thriller subgenre or specifically horror, it has been a pretty popular topic of some really good films. A few more prominent ones that come to mind from the past decade are Inside, The Strangers, and Them. Now, Hush, a new film by director Mike Flanagan has joined them and has been released by Netflix.

A young single woman is home alone in her rural wooded home. Fairly well-to-do, just out of a relationship, she spends her nights writing her next novel. Very melancholy, a bit overwhelmed with the general aspects of life and self doubt, she also has a disability, being deaf and mute. One night a masked stranger arrives at her house. Immediately he begins to terrorize her and one wonders what his actual intent is.

Appearing last year out of the blue, the film circulated the festival circuits. Blumhouse produced the film and interestingly, the bidding for the movie was won by Netflix for a direct-to-the-channel release. Receiving fairly good reviews, the movie was hyped only shortly before disappearing within the multitude of genre films available on Netflix. Dark Discussions talks about and reviews this new movie.

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Episode 227 - Nina Forever (2016)

It's been said enough that most horror films aren't released to theaters or produced by Hollywood much anymore. Most of them are now festival circuit flicks that then get released to VOD or to disc immediately. For the States, if a film is foreign, even British, it even gets less a chance to be released wide to theaters. Nina Forever, a British horror film, that received showings at such film festivals as SXSW in 2015 is most certainly one of them.

Rob's girlfriend Nina has died in a tragic automobile accident. His life turned upside down, he unsuccessfully attempts suicide. Consequently he changes drastically. Highly educated he decides instead to work as a stock boy at a grocery store to maybe regroup or maybe to disappear from the world. Soon, a pretty young woman named Holly takes a shine to him and soon the two begin a passionate relationship. However, Holly, who's successfully working for her own college degree, appears to be avid only about grief. This, within her, and Rob's own rediscovery of the meaning of life bring back the ghost of his dead girlfriend that causes strain upon both their lives and may be either the key or the obstruction to their individual journeys.

Starring Fiona O'Shaughnessy as Nina, Abigail Hardingham as Holly, and Cian Barry as Rob, the three actors shine both in realism and courage. Two brothers, Ben and Chris Blaine, make their feature debut as co-directors (while also co-screenwriting the movie). Most certainly well made in all aspects, your co-hosts talk about and review the movie. Five reviewers with five different opinions? Or was their one consensus for this quirky horror film? Listen to find out.

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Episode 226 - He Never Died (2016)

Talk about a trailer ruining a movie. It happens all the time. You see something interesting, you check out the trailer, and it gives away one of the biggest plot twists in the film. Well, the trailer for the new horror film, He Never Died, does just that. Fortunately some of your co-hosts hadn't seen the trailer, while those who did, were still able to review it even with some things spoiled.

He Never Died stars Henry Rollins as Jack, a loner, who seems to be moving in slow motion. He sleeps a lot, avoids people as best anyone can, and keeps to himself. But unfortunately for him, things keep catching up with him, including his past. His teenage daughter suddenly appears at his doorstep after not seeing her since she was a baby, some goons come to him asking about the location of one of his few "friends", and a mysterious man dressed in black seems to follow him wherever he goes. There just may be a little bit more to Jack than he's letting on.

A horror film it is, yet it is surprising quirky. Henry Rollins shines in a roll that seems made for him. Brooding with an uninterested side to his surroundings, the character of Jack turns out to be a fascinating antihero. Dark Discussions takes a look at this new film, recently added to Netflix, and where it stands among this years early releases. Also, author Patrick Lacey talks about a new blu-ray release on a new Terror Tantrum.

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Episode 224 - 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

When the film Cloverfield appeared in 2008, little was known about it but that it was written by Drew Goddard of Buffy fame, directed by Matt Reeves of Let Me In fame, and produced by J.J. Abrams. What it turned out to be was a pretty sweet found footage monster movie that took place in a destroyed Manhattan. Pretty impressive. Now 8 years later, a film dropped out of thin air with a trailer showing John Goodman and a handful of others locked away in some bunker. This film was titled 10 Cloverfield Lane and again was produced by J.J. Abrams..

When Michelle (played by screamqueen Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaves her boyfriend and heads on her way, she crashes in a fender bender, gets a concussion, and upon awakening finds herself chained to a pipe in a cinderblock room with fluorescent lighting. What happened? Why is she not at a hospital? Soon she meets her "host" Howard (played by John Goodman) who says that the outside world has been poisoned by a chemical attack and everybody above is dead. Shortly afterwards she meets another one of Howard's guests, Emmett (played by John Gallagher, Jr.), who says that Howard is actually quite right.

With the film's production hidden from the public, buzz immediately swept across the internet from fans of both J.J. Abrams and the original 2008 film. Presented to us by first time director Dan Trachtenberg, the story slowly unravels its mystery until a shocking discovery by our heroine of what really is going on. Dark Discussions talks about the link to the original film, the marketing behind it, the shift in tone in the second half among many other interesting things about the movie. Hear what your co-hosts think and whether or not its a film that you should see.

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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.