Saturday, 16 June 2018

Movie Review: Friend Request (2016)

Friend Request (2016) has to be one of the spookiest movies I've seen in a good while. I'll be completely honest with you, I watched a good part of it while using my blanket as a shield. I even *cough* dove beneath the blanket once or twice. Shit freaked me the hell out. (Which, of course, amused Jay. Lol.)

The imagery in this film is just fantastic, especially in the clips you see on the Facebook account for "Ma Rina". We're talking creepypasta stuff, here. When I saw her profile, the first thing I said to Jay was, "I'd hit 'friend' in a heartbeat. That's my kind of freak." Though that might say more about me than the movie. 🤣

Friend Request also cleverly overlays social media boxes and info over the film. It's a great way to do it. Sometimes, movies with a heavy social media influence get lazy and just focus on the messages or whatnot for ages, which slows the action and leads to the movie just being boring. Not the case with Friend Request. By using overlay for the friends number, messages, etc., it keeps the plot going while still giving viewers vital information.

Let's talk plot. Alycia Debnam-Carey's Laura is a college student and an honestly nice person -- which makes the horror even better because you don't want anything bad to happen to her. (No one cares what happens to the douche in a horror movie, right?) All Laura wants to do is be nice to loner, Marina (Liesl Ahlers). She doesn't do anything wrong. She doesn't deserve what happens to her. It's some of the scariest horror there is, when karma takes a vacation.

Laura's horror over not being able to delete her social media account is one I think a lot of us share, even if we don't realize it. Anything can go viral these days -- from that video your friend snuck of you picking your nose to the one you captured of that dude barfing in an alley. No experience belongs to just us anymore.

In that way, social media in Friend Request could be seen as an allegory for identity. Who we are can be twisted and blown out of proportion (not often by a killer witch, though, to be fair) and there's nothing we can do about it. That's what makes Friend Request such an effective horror film.

I'm pretty sure the meaning of Friend Request is supposed to be something along the lines of "Social media is bad!" but, honestly... I picked up on two other, more prominent themes. One, don't talk to strangers. That's some pretty solid advice, right there. Don't our parents teach us that as soon as we learn to talk?

The other theme is much more toxic, and one I take issue with. It suggests that the weirdos of the world are evil and dangerous. Speaking as one of the world's weirdos, I'd like to say, "Nuh uh!" Movies like Fiend Request need to stop making the outcasts evil murderers because that teaches the people watching them to treat the outcasts (even more) poorly. What is it Albie says? "Treat people like scum, they start ACTING like scum."

Okay, one more grumble before I move on. I am more than a little tired of rape being used as a plot device. Of the last four movies I've seen, three of them had women (and, worse, young girls) being raped... well, just because.

Fuck off with that shit. Rape is not a plot tool!

Yes, sometimes it's absoutely necessary to explain and develop a person's character. On the other hand, not every pissed off woman has been a victim of rape. The patriarchy gives us so many other reasons to be pissed off.

Oh, and not every woman who has been rapd becomes a psycho killer.

This mini-rant isn't directed at Friend Request; it's directed at the film industry as a whole. I wanted to make that clear because, sometimes, the hubs assumes my indignation reflects dislike of a film -- and it doesn't always. Certainly not in this case. I loved Friend Request.

The acting is good, the plot is solid, and the jumps are scary as shit. You can't really ask for more from a horror movie. (And, honestly, a lot of horror movies fail to nail even one.) Friend Request scared the crap out of me when I watched it and, after, I had to sleep with the lights on. Yeah... let's say I slept. 😳

If you've seen Friend Request and want to discuss it, I'd love to hear from you. If you have a suggestion for similar movies that I might enjoy, get in touch. Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Movie Review: Evilspeak (1981)

Evilspeak is a forgotten horror movie from 1981. It stars Clint Howard as Cadet Stanley Coopersmith, who summons Satan through a computer after finding a . If you think Clint Howard is an unlikely lead, you're right -- but Coopersmith is an unlikely Satanist, so the role is perfect for him.

While clearly influenced by movies like The Omen and Damien: Omen II, Evilspeak is just as clearly a product of the Digital Age. It reminded me a little of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode where they scan an old text and accidentally release a demon into the network.

But with more pigs.

I may or may not have been incapable of watching the first five minutes of the movie because of a laughing fit triggered by mishearing "Sacrifice!" as "Suck an ass!" 🤣

Such a child!

I wasn't expecting anything when we sat down to watch Evilspeak. We've been through so many modern horror films that we decided to just start picking random old movies to see how bad they are. I'm worried that Evilspeak may have set the bar too high for movies to come...

Yes, there are bad wigs and tits in the first five minutes of the film. ("Suck an ass!") I promise it gets better from there, though.

I was actually impressed with Evilspeak's diversity. (I know, I don't say that much in reviews.) You'd forgive it for being a little whitewashed, being set in a military academy, but it's not. Not only are there people of colour in perfectly respectable roles, Coopersmith is a total dweeb (I can say that, being a dweeb myself.) and there are chubby people about, too. There is a gay slur, which is disappointing, but considering the time Evilspeak was made, it could have been a lot worse.

The computer graphics are exactly as clunky as you'd expect from a 1981 movie. They get pretty trippy as Richard Moll's evil Father Esteban gains control of Coopersmith's er... borrowed? computer. Honestly, though? Yeah, it's funky as shit, but it works. Maybe it's because it's so Eighties, or maybe it's just a perfect blend of evil and technology (I'm not going to ask if such a thing exists 'cause, you know, Facebook.) but the graphics fit the movie perfectly.

This is one of those "video nasties" that Britain went nuts over in the Eighties. It is a little gory, but nothing compared to what we're used to these days. Still, the combination of devil-worship and intestines was just too much for Britain's nanny state.

(I'm thinking we need to have some kind of video nasty marathon, with introductions from Beast-man himself... what'd'ya think?)

There's a touch of Carrie White in Stanley Coopersmith. Like Carrie, you're with him when he decides to get his revenge. I think all us dweebs can agree that the Bubba Caldwells (Don Stark) of the world get away douchebaggery far too often. If you could call down an army of ravenous pigs to gnaw on your tormentors, then burn the place down, wouldn't you?

Just me? Hmm. I might need to rethink my morals. I mean... my favourite part of the film is when a nail flies out of Jesus's palm to kill the priest so... yeah.

Evilspeak is a bloody fun movie (and I mean that in both senses of the word.) It kept my attention -- minus a few minutes when I had to look away because I can't handle animals being injured -- and I would watch it again. And, honestly, I'd summon all kinds of evil, too, if someone did something to my dog.

If you've seen Evilspeak -- or, if you're interested in a video nasty marathon -- let me know. Also, get in touch if you've got a different opinion of this movie (or any movie we review). Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

The Great Courses Plus -- A Great Way to Learn?

I recently took part in a month's free trial of "Unlimited Video Learning with the World's Greatest Professors" via The Great Courses Plus. Sadly, I only had time to complete three courses. I wish I could have done three times that!

The first course I took during my trial month of The Great Courses Plus was The Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History taught by Professor Craig R. Koester. Koester has an easy, smooth style that makes listening to him a pleasure. I could listen to that voice all day!

This course consists of 24 Lectures, each roughly thirty minutes in length:
1. Revelation and the Apocalyptic Tradition
2. Apocalyptic Worldview in Judaism
3. Apocalyptic Dimension of Early Christianity
4. Origins of the Book of Revelation
5. Issues Facing Revelation's First Readers
6. God, the Lamb, and the Seven Seals
7. Seven Trumpets, Temple and Celebration
8. The Dragon and the Problem of Evil
9. The Beasts and Evil in the Political Sphere
10. The Harlot and the Imperial Economy
11. The Battle, the Kingdom, and Last Judgement
12. New Creation and New Jerusalem
13. Antichrist and the Millennium
14. Revelation's Place in the Christian Bible
15. The Apocalypse and Spiritual Life
16. The Key to the Meaning of History
17. Apocalyptic Fervor in the Late Middle Ages
18. Luther, Raedicals, and Roman Catholics
19. Revelation Takes Musical Form
20. Revelation in African American Culture
21. The Apocalypse and Social Progress
22. Awaiting the End in 1844 and Beyond
23. Rapture, Tribulation, and Armageddon
24. The Modern Apocalyptic Renaissance
I chose The Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History because, in a few stories I'm working on, the apocalypse plays a big part. Honestly, I didn't see how there could be twelve hours worth of lectures about The Apocalypse -- and I certainly didn't think I'd still be interested at the very end! But, it remained interesting and I actually found myself wanting more. (I also worked out the details of those stories and even sketched out a couple more so... score!)

The second course I chose to take was Why Evil Exists, with Professor Charles Mathewes, Ph.D. This one was slightly longer, with a total of thirty-six (approximately) thirty minute lectures:
1. The Nature and Origins of Evil
2. Enuma Elish -- Evil as Cosmic Battle
3. Greece -- Tragedy and The Peloponnesian War
4. Greek Philosophy -- Human Evil and Malice
5. The Hebrew Bible -- Human Rivalry with God
6. The Hebrew Bible -- Wisdom and the Fear of God
7. Christian Scripture -- Acopcalypse and Original Sin
8. The Inevitability of Evil --Irenaeus
9. Creation, Evil, and the Fall -- Augustine
10. Rabbinic Judaism -- The Evil Impulse
11. Islam -- Iblis the Failed, Once-Glorius Being
12. On Self-Deception in Evil -- Scholasticism
13. Dante -- Hell and the Abandonment of Hope
14. The Reformation -- The Power of Evil Within
15. Dark Politics -- Machiavelli on How to Be Bad
16. Hobbes -- Evil as a Social Construct
17. Montaigne and Pascal -- Evil and the Self
18. Milton -- Epic Evil
19. The Enlightenment and Its Discontents
20. Kant -- Evil at the Root of Human Agency
21. Hegel -- The Slaughter Block of History
22. Marx -- Materialism and Evil
23. The American North and South -- Holy War
24. Nietzsche -- Considering the Language of Evil
25. Dostoevsky -- The Demonic in Modernity
26. Conrad -- Incomprehensible Terror
27. Freud -- The Death Drive and the Inexplicable
28. Camus -- The Challenge to Take Evil Seriously
29. Post-WWII Protestant Theology on Evil
30. Post-WWII Roman Catholic Theology on Evil
31. Post-WWII Jewish Thought on Evil
32. Arendt -- The Banality of Evil
33. Life in Truth -- 20th Century Poets on Evil
34. Science and the Epircal Study of Evil
35. The "Unnaming" of Evil
36. Where Can Hope Be Found?
Mathewes's delivery wasn't as flawless as Koester's, maybe, but his enthusiasm for the subject matter was infectious. The Post-WWII lectures were the most interesting for me. I definitely recommend taking these two courses together, by the way. They fit well together, complimenting and completing one another.

My favourite of the courses I took, though, was Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature, which was taught by Professor Thomas A. Shippey, Ph.D. The thirty minute (ish) lectures include twenty-four captivating characters:
1. Frodo Baggins -- A Reluctant Hero
2. Odysseus -- The Trickster Hero
3. Aeneas -- The Straight Arrow
4. Guinevere -- A Heroine with Many Faces
5. The Wife of Bath -- An Independent Woman
6. Cressida -- A Love Betrayed
7. Beowulf -- A Hero with Hidden Depths
8. Thor -- A Very Human God
9. Robin Hood -- The Outlaw Hero
10. Don Quixote -- The First of the Wannabes
11. Robinson Crusoe -- A Lone Survivor
12. Elizabeth Bennet -- A Proper Pride
13. Natty Bumppo and Woodrow Call -- Frontier Heroes
14. Uncle Tom -- The Hero as Martyr
15. Huckleberry Finn -- Free Spirit of America
16. Sherlock Holmes -- The First Great Detective
17. Dracula -- The Allure of the Monster
18. Mowgli -- The Wolf Child
19. Celie -- A Woman Who Wins Through
20. Winston Smith -- The Hero We Never Want to Be
21. James Bond -- A Dangerous Protector
22. Fairy-Tale Heroines -- New-Style Princesses
23. Lisbeth Salander -- Avenging Female Fury
24. Harry Potter -- Whistle-Blower Hero
This is the type of course I would have loved to have taken in university. My favourite lectures were the ones on The Wife of Bath and The Color Purple's Celie. I wonder if Shippey ever considered doing a course on feminism through literature? If these lectures were anything to go by, it would be fascinating.

I chose courses relevant to my interests but there are no shortages of topics to pick from. The Great Courses Plus offers everything from Dog Training 101 to Mysteries of the Microscopic World. It's a cliche, but there's something for everyone here.

The Great Courses Plus website is user friendly. It's well-organized and clean, which makes it easy on the eyes. "My Watchlist" keeps track of your courses, allowing you to reorder them as necessary. Each course remembers where you left off and automatically starts the next lecture, proceeding seamlessly. You can also sync the site to your other devices, making it easy to carry on with your courses on the go.

There are a few things I thought would have improved the site, mind. While the lectures were interesting, I would have liked to have followed them up with a quick quiz to check understanding. It would have been good to have a forum as well, to discuss the courses with other users. The lack of these options doesn't detract, though. They would just improve the overall experience. 

You're wondering about the important stuff, right? You've been reading all this thinking, 'Oh, just shut up and tell me how much it's going to cost me!' Well, if you were expecting brevity, you came to the wrong place! (Lol.) But, seriously, The Great Courses Plus is fairly priced. Extremely so, in fact. You can choose to pay for your subscription to The Great Courses Plus either monthly (less than £20) or yearly (less than £200.) You really can't go wrong.

So... do I think it's worth it? Absolutely. The Great Courses Plus is ideal for lifelong learners. As soon as I can figure out how to fit the monthly subscription fee into my budget, I'm coming back! Try out The Great Courses Plus for yourself and let me know how you go on.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Movie Review: Forbidden Planet (1956)

It's hard to watch Forbidden Planet (1956) as both a feminist and a nerd so I'm going to put my issues with the film's treatment of women (well, woman) to the side for now and focus on the sci-fi aspect of this one. You ready?


I don't know exactly what I was expecting when we put Forbidden Planet on, but it definitely wasn't a clean, sharp sci-fi masterpiece with surprisingly good graphics. If I was expecting a hokey, hard-to-watch cringe-fest, I got schooled.

Forbidden Planet follows the plight of a starship crew, headed by Leslie Nielsen' Commander Adams, as they investigate a colony they lost communication with. When they arrive, they find only Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), still alive.

Well, Dr. Morbius, Altaira, and one big honkin' secret.

I won't lie. I wasn't exactly hopeful when the movie started. It just pulpy enough to make me think, 'This is one of those sci-fi films mama warned me about, isn't it?' Then, it pulled back to show the starship -- a flying saucer! -- and I was certain of it. But then the movie started in earnest and all I could do was stare, open-mouthed, at the awesomeness of Forbidden Planet while Jay laughed at me.

When the crew members walk over to what was obviously a transporter -- a freaking transporter! -- I had to pause the film to wail, "Everything I know is a lie!" Because... because... transporters started with Star Trek, right? Right?!

So, so wrong.

Are you laughing at me as hard as Jay did? Like I said, this film schooled my ass.

As if the transporter incident wasn't enough, the ship's crew (as far as I know, the ship is a C-57D Cruiser but I don't think they actually give it a name) examine the planet and say that there are no signs of civilisation. No signs of civilisation, not no signs of life. I didn't think a movie from the Fifties would make such a distinction.

The crew's uniforms are also remarkably practical (and sparkle-free) for a sci-fi movie. Oh, and the crewmen refer to the organisation they work for as the United Planets. What? No... the United Federation of Planets was completely original and groundbreaking!

...wasn't it?

And, let's not forget that the crewmen have freaking communicators!

Okay, I think I have to say now that you can't call yourself a sci-fi nerd until you've seen Forbidden Planet.

I'm going get back to the film because I've been dying to talk about Robby the Robot!

Can we stop and take a moment for the poor schmuck stuck inside Robby the Robot? That could not have been an easy job! (Robby could be controlled offstage, too, but still.) Marvin Miller gave voice to Robby the Robot but, as far as I know, the operator inside the robot was unnamed.

Robby is the perfect embodiment of Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics. If you're not familiar with them, they go like this:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

As advanced as he is (he can speak 188 languages and manufacture just about anything, including bourbon), Dr. Morbius makes it quite clear that Robby is just a tool. Whn he orders Robby to attack him, it nearly fries the robot's circuits.

I adore Robby the Robot (and not just because he made a guest appearance in Columbo's "Mind Over Mayhem") He's clunky and awkward (like me) with lots of moving bits and inadvertent sarcasm. Did I mention he can make bourbon? Get me a Robby!

It's interesting that, while they are clearly capable of space travel, the crew are surprised by Robby. They even say, "You are a robot, aren't you?" I find it amazing that the crew didn't know exactly what they were seeing, that robots were such a new concept. Hard to believe, isn't it?

I'll go on about Robby all day if I'm not careful, so let's move on to his creator, Dr. Morbius. You know, in typical B-movie fashion, that Morbius is bad news because of the way he looks. He's dressed in black and also has a goatee and a window's peak. That's the B-movie equivalent of a siren screaming, "Bad guy! Bad guy!"

In Dr. Morbius's defence, though, he doesn't know he's the baddie until the end. There's a very good manifestation of what they think is the monster when it attacks the ship one night. They try, unsuccessfully, to electrocute it. Although it doesn't work, it does light the monster up in a remarkably effective way.

The monster, which Jay warned me would seem hokey, was freaking cool. It was like the lovechild of Night of the Demon and Fantasia. Part of its effectiveness lies in the fact that it's the one and only time you actually see it. For the most part, the threat is invisible.

Viewers eventually learn the planet's original inhabitants accidentally annihilated themselves by bringing their inner monsters to life. Whoops. They left behind a massive (and somehow still functional after two thousand centuries,) wildly geometric, underground lair Dr. Morbius uses to boost his already enormous IQ.

Don't be too impressed; they all have enormous IQs.

You've probably noticed that I've avoided Morbius's daughter, Altaira up to now. That's because I can't talk about Altaira without igniting just a little feminist rage and I hesitate to do that because I don't want you to think I'm hating on the film. I loved Forbidden Planet. Sexism was just, sadly, part of the time the film was made in.

I'm going to try to skim over a few of the things that bothered me, without condemning Forbidden Planet for something it couldn't help. Here we go:
1. There are no women among the starship's crew, although we have to assume that there were women among the scientists who colonised the planet.

2. Altaira changes her outfit a dozen times or more. The outfits are skimpy and glittery, of course. Also, she's always barefoot.

3. And... she is either just dumb (despite having a solid education) or a hopeless flirt. She's just so happy to see young men for the first time and is easily tricked into kissing them.

4. Did I mention she can't be any older than nineteen -- if that? Yeah.

5. The wolf-whistling when the crewmen see Altaira. Adams even uses the phrase, "space wolf." Sheesh.

6. Adams blames Altaira for the men chasing after her. He orders her to cover up, then blatantly oggles her when he walks in on her swimming nude. 
It could be said, from a modern, feminist point-of-view, that Forbidden Planet is a movie about eighteen guys trying to get laid (and one guy trying to get drunk.) But that really doesn't do this classic justice. Even a whopping dose of the sexism endemic of the time can't touch the epicness that is Forbidden Planet.

This one's the grandfather of all the sci-fi we love so much. It really is a must-watch for fans of the genre. I'd go so far as to say you can't call yourself a real fan of sci-fi until you've seen Forbidden Planet.

What are your thoughts on this one? I'd love to know what you thought. Also, I'm wondering what other sci-fi movies I've missed out on. If there's a sci-fi movie I should see, let me know and I'll it to my list.

Cover Reveal: Locked In

Time for a cover reveal!

Here's the cover for 'Locked In', an anthology coming soon from Thirteen O'Clock Press.

My short, "Her Daughter's Demon", will be part of this creepy collection.

I'll keep you updated on the release date, when I've got it!

Monday, 11 June 2018

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: CHAINS

Who's chained? Where are they? What are they? What are the chains holding down/stopping escaping/securing? Chains. We see them, we use them. Now, write about them.

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Chains – ‘your story title’”
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Guest Spot: Meagan's Jammin' Summer Party Playlist

Today, I'm going to hand the blog over to Meagan so she can tell us about her Jammin' Summer Party Playlist

Let's see what she has to say...

To me, summer is really a time of parties, fun, friends, drinking, cruising around, freedom, recklessness, truly living, and of course, summer love. But this summer I am also consumed with nostalgia, as well as pain, fear, and sadness, so my list reflects all of those mixed emotions - but still makes a jammin' party playlist!
1. "Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful
2. "Smooth - Santana ft. Rob Thomas
3. "Summer Sunshine - The Corrs
Lose Yourself to Dance - Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
5. "Hot in Here - Nelly
6. "Till the World Ends - Britney Spears
7. "Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Ray (Cedric Gervaise Remix)
8. "The Original High - Adam Lambert
9. "Blow" - Kesha
10. "Cool for the Summer" - Demi Lovato
11. "Summer Breeze" - Type O Negative (Cover Version)
12. "Cruel Summer" - Bananarama
13. "Summer Wine" - The Corrs and Bono (of U2)
14. "Pump It" - Black Eyed Peas
15. "Mambo #5" - Lou Bega
16. "Let's Get Loud" - Jennifer Lopez
17. "Azul" - Cristian Castro
18. "The Boys of Summer" - Don Henley
19. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" - Backstreet Boys
20. "Dancing" - Kylie Minogue
What a great list! "Hot in Here" is one of my favourite summer tunes!

This was insanely hard!

I have a whole list of "honorable mentions" as well that didn't quite make the top 20: "Under the Boardwalk" - The Drifters, "Heat Wave" - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, "Summer Girls" - LFO, "Miami" - Will Smith, "Summer of 69" - Bryan Adams, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" - Bob Marley, "Summertime Blues," - Eddie Cochran, "This is How We Do it," - Montell Jordan, "Drop it like it's Hot," - Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell, "Summer Daze," - Nick Holder, "This is How a Heart Breaks," -Rob Thomas, "Whenever, Wherever" - Shakira, "Stop Me From Falling" - Kylie Minogue ft. Gente de Zona, "Wipe Out," -The Surfers, and MORE!

That's our very last playlist! What did you think of it? 

Thanks for sharing, Meagan!