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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.

Prior Podcast Episodes:    

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Episode 193 - The Gallows (2015)

Blumhouse Productions, a film company formed out of the success of the first Paranormal Activity film, is one of the most prolific production companies of horror films, both cinema and VOD. With contracts with major production companies, including Universal, Blumhouse is able to get many of their films into cinema complexes. And those that don't make the grade, land up on VOD and still get a large audience. Many of the films have become classics and well received such as the aforementioned Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Insidious, and Sinister. Others not so much. Their latest release is The Gallows.

Twenty years ago during a school production of the play The Gallows, an accident occurred that lead to the death of one of the students. Now, the head of the drama club, Pfeifer, along with her drama teacher, have decided to put on the notorious play this school year. When her co-lead, Reese, recognizes his inexperience he is talked into sabotaging the set by his friend Ryan so to postpone the production. Cassidy, Ryan's girlfriend, comes along but soon their plan goes amiss and Reese's acting may be the least of their worries.

Made with a budget of only $100,000 USD, the film on its opening weekend grossed almost ten million USD. Cassidy Gifford, the daughter of football player Frank Gifford and TV talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, leads the personalities of what is otherwise an unknown cast. Dark Discussions comes together to give their thoughts on the movie and genre cinema as a whole.

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Episode 192 - Guillermo Del Toro Focus: 2006's Pan's Labyrinth

Some love him and some don't, but Guillermo Del Toro for the record does make films that folks seem to talk about. With his love of magical realism, dark fantasy, and comic book flair, his films seem to grab a large cult following if not the large audience both he and producers seem to expect. Not surprisingly there is a running joke that his name is attached to everything under the sun but with his type of imagination, it's not surprising.

His 2006 film, Pan's Labyrinth, was one of those genre films that seemed to break the mold and get a critical response more positive than most. Being a period piece, the idea that the lead character may be an unreliable narrator, and the film's fantastical setting could just be something within a young girl's imagination gave it more a literary panache than the normal genre film. In some ways it was less a genre film than it was marketed as.

Dark Discussions' co-host, Abe, chose this one as a potential topic for the podcast and our listeners agreed by voting for it in our user choice poll. Joining us is author Kristi Petersen Schoonover who, just as co-host Mike, had never seen the film until right before recording the episode. Now nine years since its release, here another take on what some say is Del Toro's best film.

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Episode 191 - Kevin Bacon Focus: 1999's Stir of Echoes

Richard Matheson was one of the most famous horror writers of the twentieth century. Though he passed away only a few years ago, he continued to leave his mark to the very end. Authors like Stephen King praised him as one of his greatest influences of the scary novel and many of his tales have been made into movies and television shows. His 1958 novel, A Stir of Echoes, was in many ways a predecessor to such stories as The Sixth Sense, The Changeling, and The Others, in plot but also turning the ghost story into more of a mystery than a horror tale.

In 1999, the book was turned into a movie starring the always reliable Kevin Bacon in one of his best dramatic roles. The film, though not as successful as its contemporary film, The Sixth Sense, was considered a well crafted movie and worth its critical praise. Roger Ebert even called it a commentary on the rot and decay of the modern neighborhood, where secrets lie hidden behind a bogus exterior.

Co-host Eric has been championing the film for sometime and had even suggested it as a possible topic for the podcast a few years back. With a consensus by his co-hosts, the crew decided to take a look at this somewhat forgotten gem and give it another life. Now sixteen years old, the film seems to still have give the chills that audiences saw at its original premiere.

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Episode 190 - Gantz

Aliens walk among us. So says the franchise Gantz. Gantz, which started out as a Japanese manga (or graphic novel), back in the year 2000 by artist/writer Hiroya Oku, has since gone on to a two full seasons as an anime series and also two full live action films. In all cases, the three versions have become highly successful and critically well received. Jason Lloyd of Horrorphilia stated that Gantz is was one of the best genre films of year when it was released as two live action films.

When an indigent person happens to fall off a subway platform, two older high school students, Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato, independently jump down to help him. Unfortunately minutes into the story, both die in the tragic accident. Yet each finds themselves soon after in an apartment looking out on the city of Tokyo unaware how they got there. With them are a group of other strangers from various walks of life and in the center of the room is a giant black metallic ball that will soon determine their final fate.

Gantz happens to be both a science fiction story in the vane of both cyberpunk and techno-thriller subgenres with strong and graphic horror elements. Yet the largest critical reception of the franchise is the misanthropic arc the story takes while it leads to an eventual ambiguous deliverance. Though showy with its grindhouse and exploitation elements, the story of a handful of condemned individuals tells a lot more than its surface elements. Co-host Abe joins Phil for his very first appearance on Dark Discussions, now finally released as its own episode.

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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 187 - Poltergeist: Then and Now

Why not bring one of the biggest Hollywood stars together with one of the most iconic horror directors of the 1970's. Producer Stephen Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper come together in 1982 with the legendary production, Poltergeist, a new take on the ghost story. The word itself means a rumbling ghost in German and refers to an entity that simply doesn't haunt but instead manifests itself by actually disturbing the items and people within its surroundings.

Everything seems great with the Freeling family. They have three beautiful children, Steven Freeling is successful at work, and his wife Diane seems to be the perfect mother. But suddenly their tranquility ends when bizarre happenings occur within the home they live in. Soon one of them goes missing. As they bring in paranormal investigators for help, Steven discovers something about the neighborhood itself that could be causing all the commotion.

The film brought to the world the iconic phrase "They're here" and has become known as not only a classic but possibly the very best ghost film of all time. With its great performances by Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, and the three child actors, plus the iconic performances of both Oscar winner Beatrice Straight and Zelda Rubinstein, Poltergeist continues to be associated with iconic film. Now, in 2015, a remake has been made. Can it match the original? Listen to the episode to hear what Dark Discussions thinks. Author Kristi Petersen Schoonover joins the crew to talk about the two films.

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Episode 186 - Kevin Bacon Focus: 1990's Tremors

By the end of the 1980's, slasher films had become a parody of themselves. Overplayed, many of them even became comedies, but slowly horror began to change and the monster movie had a brief revival with films like Pumpkinhead, Alien 3, The Lair of the White Worm, and the surprising hit, Tremors. Having landed Kevin Bacon as a lead, the film with its eclectic cast of stars including Fred Ward, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire, made for a budget of $11M USD earned over four times that.

Perfection, a small dying town in Nevada with no more than 20 residents, resides hours away from the closest community. When two handymen find some of the locals dead, it's believed that a murderer is on the loose. Yet oddly peculiar seismic activity has occurred in the area. Joined by a seismologist participating in a university study, the three do a bit of detective work which leads to the discovery that there is a larger threat out in the desert.

Tremors with its character humor, 1950's science fiction throwback horror, and its investigative procedural genus, the movie became a cult classic spawning multiple low budget sequels. Celebrating its 25th anniversary from release, Dark Discussions gives their take on a film that reinvigorated horror and monster films at a time when the genre was at a low point.

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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.