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Episode 216 - The Revenant (2015)

Big names, big budget, and big story. Though its a film that was released in New York City and Los Angeles late 2015 to qualify for the Oscars, The Revenant, the new film by Academy Award winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, spread to all theaters early January 2016. And interestingly, the reviews mostly positive have a bit of mixed feel. 83% positive reviews on RottenTomatoes seems pretty sweet for any film. But for a film that received more Oscar nominations than all the rest?

Based on the non-fiction novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, by Michael Punke, the story is about the true escapades of frontiersman Hugh Glass and his journey of deliverance after his trapping party is massacred by Arikara, his body is broken by a grizzly bear, and his life is turned upside down from betrayal and treachery in a time that was uncultivated and a place that was remote.

The film has become a huge success with audiences and continues to be a top ten performer at the box office. Dark Discussions talks about numerous things: the controversial grizzly bear scene; are the award nominations valid?; what was some of the symbolism in the film?; changes between actual events and what we see in the book and further in the movie. With a heated debate and a wide range of opinions, this episode become topsy-turvy. Also, author Patrick Lacey offers a new segment to the podcast giving a quick review in his Terror Tantrums.

Prior Podcast Episodes:    

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Episode 215 - The Forest (2016)

Aokigahara forest, also known as the Suicide Forest, is a place outside of Tokyo, Japan where yearly dozens of depressed, mentally ill, and lonely people go and take their own life. Melancholy and depression are stronger emotions than folks may think, and mental illness is something many societies aren't proactive about. Yet such a beautiful and majestic place as Aokigahara has such a heartrending reputation. Why? How come?

Oddly, the new movie, The Forest, is not the first film to focus on this strange place. The 2007 film Forest of Death by The Pang Brothers (most famous for The Eye) starring Shu Qi was probably one of the most popular. This new film starring two hot television stars, Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney, was released earlier this January to mediocre reviews. Natalie plays a pair of twin sisters where one, Jess, a teacher of English in Japan, goes missing and Sara, her sister, heads off to find her. Soon a hidden past begins to catch up to them and Aokigahara may be the key to both redemption and death.

First time director Jason Zada takes the helm from a script co-written by Nick Antosca (attached to the upcoming Friday the 13th reboot) and Ben Ketai (writer for the upcoming film, The Last Word, directed by Simon Rumley as well as the upcoming sequel to The Strangers). With its roots in the Japanese horror films of the early 2000's, The Forest brings us a slow burn with a mystery to discover what is truth and hallucination. Dark Discussions talks about the first major Hollywood horror film release of 2016 and gives their opinions.

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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.

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Episode 212 - Michael Doughtery Focus: 2015's Krampus

Believe it or not, the anthology Halloween horror film, Trick 'r Treat, was first debuted to audiences back in 2007. So it has been eight years since writer/director Michael Dougherty had done another feature film. Oddly, Trick 'r Treat was unceremoniously dropped on Video-On-Demand without much fanfare. Some wondered if Dougherty's fate with the studios was one and done as director. But companies like Legendary Pictures and Universal thought otherwise and they released his latest Christmas themed horror film Krampus this past December.

Within Teutonic mythology, a demon named Krampus comes to households instead of Santa if a child has been bad or lost their Christmas spirit. Omi, the paternal grandmother of young Max, tells a story about this awful creature to her young grandson late within the film. Is the strange happenings both inside and outside the house just the result of the massive blizzard that has snowed them in or is it something more sinister that has come to teach both the family and the local town a lesson.

A surprising hit, Krampus not only received splendid reviews but also pulled in the box office, the number one thing that executives care about. The film, with its dark wit and scary set pieces, is assured to become a new holiday classic, though not necessarily family oriented. The Dark Discussions co-hosts talk about the latest film by Michael Dougherty and give their review.

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Episode 211 - Anthony DiBlasi Focus: 2015's Last Shift

Folks may not be aware of director/writer/editor Anthony DiBlasi but he's been fairly prolific in the horror genre these past six years. Having made his debut with a Clive Barker based movie, Dread, which was part of the After Dark 8 Films to Die For circuit run, he followed that up with Cassadaga, a serial killer film with a supernatural twist, and the 2013 horror film Missionary. Now his latest, Last Shift, after a successful run on the festival circuit, was released this year on VOD.

Second generation cop, Jessica Loren, on her first day on the job, is to babysit the closing of the old precinct building waiting for the hazmat folks to take away the confiscated drugs and other chemical related evidence. Yet unbeknownst to her, this night will not be like any night she has ever experienced before. Her father had been killed during a shoot out with a murderous cult some time before and now the past may be coming back to haunt her.

The film, besides being directed and co-written by DiBlasi, was also edited by him. With its one location shoot, the film's claustrophobic sense permeates the screen. Your co-hosts take a look at the film and give their opinions on the movie. DiBlasi may be an up-and-coming talent that may have already arrived without many folks knowing it yet.

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Episode 210 - Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

B-movies have been around for years, from the Universal horror films to the 1950's science fiction thrillers. In the 1960's the grindhouse and exploitation flicks continued the trend but with more graphic content including blood and nudity. Films like Blood Feast, Night of the Living Dead, The Defilers, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, among others gained cult status. Then the 1970's drive-in flicks carried the torch. Films like I Drink Your Blood, Foxy Brown, and The Big Bird Cage were a handful, and some even became more than cult films ... they became classics.

One such film was the 1974 movie, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. With its shocking title, its promised exploitation, and its "based on a true story" claim, the film immediately gained notoriety. Yet the tight and unsettling story by co-writers Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper, the brilliant directing by Hooper, and the top notch acting by (at the time) unknowns, let the film catch on and today it is considered not just a drive-in horror film but an all time classic, no matter the genre.

With the passing of star Gunnar Hansen, in tribute, Dark Discussions has decided to do an episode on this groundbreaking film that brought the grindhouse through the "front door" and eventually into the mainstream. Last year the lead actress, Marilyn Burns, also passed away. The film happens to be 41 years old now, and your co-hosts reflect on its legacy, what it meant to horror (and exploitation) cinema, and their personal feelings on what some say may be the greatest horror film ever made.

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Episode 209 - Circle (2015)

You're in a mysterious room. You don't know how you got there. Fifty or so other folks you don't know are there too. Suddenly you find out that you can't move off the little red dot your standing on. If you do, you die. Then a timer begins to count down every two minutes. If you don't vote for someone in the room to die an electrifying death, a person is chosen randomly. That's the puzzling premise of the new science fiction film, Circle, written and directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione.

As our fifty "prisoners" try to figure out what to do and how to survive, each has to come up with their own plan. Should they team up with others of the same mindset? Should they be a survivalist and try for self preservation at any cost? Shall they abstain from the whole process and either die a pacifist or self sacrifice? Soon personalities begin to come out as evil, cynical, humanist, bigoted, Christian, utilitarian, and partisan. All begin to battle it out for what's the right thing to do.

Some may say Circle could be at times heavy handed, but others could say the personalities of the folks are the same as those we see by trolls or bloggers. And how to decide what to do? If you decide to participate in this horrible game, is the choice who dies first by age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, intelligence, beauty, public standing, or some other arbitrary trait? An interesting concept of a film which leads to your co-hosts reviewing and discussing this interesting new genre flick.

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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 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.