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Episode 208 - Ridley Scott Focus: 2015's The Martian

Save Matt Damon. First with Saving Private Ryan, then with Interstellar, and now with the new Ridley Scott film, The Martian. The film itself has more interest than the running joke of saving characters Matt Damon has played. First, it's about the director. The Martian has been considered by many as a bounce back movie for one of film's most famous directors. Second, it's about the source material. Writer Andy Weir's incredible journey of getting his novel published is a tale in itself. Third, it's about the screenwriter. Drew Goddard has been behind the screenplays of such favorites as Cloverfield, World War Z, and The Cabin in the Woods. But what about the story itself?

During a NASA Mars landing in the near future, a sandstorm hits sending debris that slams into astronaut Mark Watney. With a short timeframe for takeoff, the crew leave him behind believing he has perished in the harsh Mars environment. Back on Earth, an observing technician notices satellite shots of the landing site where things have moved ... and not arbitrarily. Mark Watney lives! With no communication equipment, low resources, and alone on an empty planet, this "Martian" must survive while in someway find a way to contact his would-be rescuers.

A smash hit, The Martian has stormed the box office world wide. Surviving weekly challenges, it's one of a few recent films to not only win box offices weekly but to remain a top grosser for months. With an all-star cast including some fabulous genre favorites including Sean Bean, The Martian has received rave reviews from both critics and audiences alike. Dark Discussions discusses Ridley Scott's latest film and the book behind the blockbuster.

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Episode 207 - Stake Land (2010)

Back in 2007, a couple of filmmakers appeared on the horror scene as the potential next big thing. Director Jim Mickle and actor/screenwriter, Nick Damici, had their debut film picked up by After Dark 8 Films To Die For. The film, Mulberry Street, played limited release before it found a following on disc. It's take on the everyday life of an apartment building in Manhattan during an apocalypse was both a thrilling action piece and a great story about its eclectic characters. A few years later, genre favorite Larry Fessenden produced their follow up, Stake Land, which was a thrilling departure from the atypical vampire film.

When a teenage boy's family is killed during the vampire apocalypse, a mysterious man simply entitled Mister becomes his guardian and the two begin the trek from southern Pennsylvania to Ontario in their search for a safe zone. On their journey they are joined by a number of other drifters who all seek the same as they: safety, happiness, and family from each other.

Stake Land was immediately received with glowing reviews. Both fans and critics loved the coming of age tale and the unspoken love that the characters had for each other as they sorted out their part within their new "family". Plus with vampires being nothing more than monsters, horror fans were ecstatic by the ruthlessness of one of their favorite monsters. Dark Discussions talks about this 2010 film and gives their take on a movie with much symbolism, both obvious and not so much.

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Episode 206 - Guillermo Del Toro Focus: 2015's Crimson Peak

Gothic fiction has been one of the most popular fiction for not just years but centuries. Most historians believe Horace Walpole's 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto was the very first – candles blowing out, gusts of wind, shadows in the dark, mysterious strangers – all these things are nothing new to us, but during Walpole's time, it was fresh ... original ... new. Film picked up on it and such movies as the Universal and Hammer films were awash with the traits. Modern director Guillermo Del Toro's latest film, Crimson Peak, is in ways a throwback to those films as well as the gothic fiction they grew from.

Young Edith Cushing, who's mother passed away years earlier, is visited by an inventor and his sister to see if her family would invest in his mining invention. After a brief romance, the two marry and head back to his family's estate, Crimson Peak, in the rural England countryside. Soon mysterious ghosts appear to Edith which slowly reveals a great mystery of secrets both about the mansion that she now resides in as well as the family she has married into.

The film produced fairly decent reviews by critics and yet completely disappointed at the box office. Genre and Del Toro fans alike seemed to avoid this curious movie that some say was more gothic romance than gothic horror. Dark Discussions gives their opinion of the film as well as discuss the marketing of the movie, what type of folks would enjoy it, and how they would categorize it.

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Episode 205 - Trick 'r Treat (2009)

What a novel idea – make a horror anthology focusing on Halloween. Writer/director Michael Dougherty originally created an animated short entitled Season's Greetings focusing on the mystique of Halloween. Unfortunately it was little seen. However a few year's later he was able to do a film entitled Trick 'r Treat (produced by Bryan Singer). The film included a number of well known character actors and actresses including Brian Cox, Anna Paquin, Leslie Bibb, and Dylan Baker (among others).

In "anywhere" U.S.A., Halloween has come. Following a small child in a scarecrow costume, we meet the small community and some of its residents. A group of sexy college girls get their costumes and head out to a bonfire party in the middle of the woods. The local school principal gives out candy to both nice and not-so-nice children. The grumpy old man shuts off his lights and refuses to celebrate. A group of children head out to find the truth about a local legend.

The film had public screenings back in 2007 and received many good reviews. Buzz began to spread across the internet, yet the months passed with little news. Finally, in 2009, the production studio unceremoniously released it straight to disc in 2009. Immediately the film became a hit, re-launched the career of Anna Paquin as a scream queen, and became a holiday viewing tradition right next to John Carpenter's Halloween. Dark Discussions talks about this cult classic and gives their opinions.

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Episode 204 - Eli Roth Focus: 2015's The Green Inferno

Gore and blood, a big deal in cinema? If you look at 1960's through 1980's exploitation cinema there were plenty of films that were wall to wall with it. David Friedman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Wes Craven, Sergio Martino, Pete Walker, Umberto Lenzi, Sean Cunningham, Ruggero Deodato, and Lucio Fulci are just some of many purveyors in such movies. But in 2002, the first film to bring back that type of movie was Cabin Fever by Eli Roth, beating out Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses by a year. Torture porn was born. Now, Eli Roth has released his latest film paying tribute to a subgenre of gore films, the cannibal film.

When Justine, a young naive college student, joins a progressive group for superficial reasons that wants to save a rain forest from demolition, she and her fellow protestors land up as captives of a local indigenous tribe. Soon they discover that they are looked upon as food and one by one they begin to become dinner for the tribe.

The cannibal subgenre was one of the most notorious horror genres to appear in the 1970's and Eli Roth, a fan of old exploitation cinema, has helped promote and reignite interest in the films for newer generations. Filmed for only $5,000,000 USD and being saved from release hell by Blumhouse Productions, the movie has already made back its money back while generating buzz among both genre fans and mainstream folks alike. Dark Discussions takes a look at Eli Roth's latest release and gives their opinion.

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Episode 203 - These Final Hours (2015)

The party to end all parties. When the end of the world happens, why not go out in a bang. An afternoon all day rave. That's what the new film, These Final Hours, by Australian director/screenwriter Zak Hilditch seems to focus on; a quest by the lead character James (played by genre favorite, Nathan Phillips). He wants to get to this party after a meteor strikes Europe and a ball of fire is only twelve hours away to finish off Australia and the rest of the world. Not post-apocalyptic, but completely apocalyptic.

James, a young man, depressed at the fate of himself and mankind, leaves his lover to head to his friend's end of the world party. Drink, drugs, sex ... a place to disappear into pleasure before death. But on his way he saves a young girl from a horrible end and suddenly he's put into a quandary: should he use his last hours alive essentially to pass the time or should he instead do something meaningful. Just maybe his own belief system has given him little choice.

Part thriller, part human drama, These Final Hours asks more questions about not only one man's "journey" but essentially the human condition as a whole. Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek, Chernobyl Diaries, Dying Breed) channels James and his story of the prodigal son and the existential passage to deliverance that ultimately the character seeks. Dark Discussions along with guest host, author Kristi Petersen Schoonover, discuss their thoughts on this intense thriller focusing on the end of the world.

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Episode 199 - Wes Craven Tribute

This is one episode that the Dark Discussions co-hosts in no way wanted to do. At least not for these circumstances. Horror great, director/writer/producer/cinematographer Wes Craven has passed away. One of the handful of early 1970's directors that melded horror for the next three decades, his death was unexpected and surprising to many fans.

Usually the greats are remembered for one specific film, or they leave the genre and go off and do other things, but Wes Craven remained as a horror director to the very end. He is known for two iconic films and many more great ones. One time Dracula and Frankenstein were the costumes that children wanted to dress as at Halloween, but Wes Craven's creations of Ghostface and Freddy Krueger have added to the iconic monsters of horror.

From his early work with Friday the 13th's Sean Cunningham on the movie The Last House on the Left all the way to this year's MTV television series, Scream, Craven's horror career spanned forty-three years. Besides his most celebrated films, Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street, other films such as The Hills Have Eyes and Red Eye continue to be loved. Your co-hosts talk about the legend known as Wes Craven and the legacy he has left behind.

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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.