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Episode 157 - Annabelle (2014)

With its catchy name, its known director, and its great reviews, 2013's The Conjuring was a huge success and one of the most successful horror films both critically and financially in some time. Based on the paranormal investigators, the Warrens, the opening sequence kicked off a very scary film. The scene showcases the Warrens and their investigation of a doll named Annabelle.

Now, this Halloween, a sort of prequel to The Conjuring has opened up in wide release. The film simply entitled Annabelle is a fictional origin story of that spooky and terrifying doll that made so many jump out of their seats back in 2013. The film takes place in 1969 just after the Manson murders. When home intruders break into a young couple's abode, the trespassers turn out to be more than just ordinary burglars. Soon odd things begin to happen that not only put their baby in jeopardy but also their very souls.

Dark Discussions are joined by Nate and Kristi Schoonover. Nate, one of the hosts of the Ghost and Demon Show, is an expert on the occult as well as the original Annabelle case. His wife, Kristi, is the author of numerous ghostly tales as well as the acclaimed novel, Bad Apple. With extra knowledge provided, the film is not only discussed and reviewed but is compared with the original investigation.

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Episode 156 - Kevin Smith Focus: 2014's Tusk

Talent and controversy? Big mouth and oversensitive? Well, we aren't quite sure but Kevin Smith, director and screenwriter, has been one of the most prolific cult film directors over the last twenty years. He burst onto the indy scene with his film Clerks. At the time the film was considered quite "dirty" with its graphic dialogue, and yet at the same time it was judged as a most brilliant and realistic at times depiction of young adults and their ennui.

Now, this past month, Kevin Smith has come back with his second horror film in a row. Following the mixed reviewed but well crafted Red State, his latest, entitled Tusk, is in some ways both original and yet very much a tribute to some other films of the genre. When podcaster Wallace Bryton's trip for a story in Manitoba turns out to be a dead end, he discovers an unconventional advertisement for a rented room that leads him to Howard Howe, a man that could offer topics for dozens of shows. Yet everything is sidetracked when he becomes victim of a bite by a fiddleback spider ... or maybe not?

The film stars Justin Long and Michael Parks in roles that absolutely play to their strengths as actors. The movie, broken into three distinct acts, plays around with drama, horror, and comedy and has the brilliant dialogue that Smith is well known for. However, is the film a failure or not? Would it get the attention that it has if it wasn't directed by Smith? All these questions and more are answered by your hosts in this latest episode of Dark Discussions Podcast.

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Episode 155 - Scott Derrickson Focus: 2014's Deliver Us From Evil

Halloween time is just around the corner and one of the few horror films of 2014 released to wide audiences at theaters is coming at the end of October to the home theater. Deliver Us From Evil was released early July to mixed reviews and though not a hugh success, the film was budgeted for $30M USD and earned world wide $78.5M. The director should be well known by horror fans since Scott Derrickson was the man behind the movie, Sinister, arguably one of the best horror films this decade. So does his follow up film match the brilliance of Sinister?

Deliver of Us From Evil is based off a "true" story by Ralph Sachie, a former New York City detective who has now become a demonologist. The book released in 2001 by St. Martin's Press entitled Beware the Night is based off his experiences which are presented in the film. With a soundtrack featuring The Doors and starring a pretty impressive cast including Eric Bana, Olivia Munn, Egdar Ramirez, Sean Harris, and Joel McHale, Deliver Us From Evil takes us from a black op maneuver in Iraq to the week-in-the-life of a Big Apple lawman that turns out to not be all that routine.

This episode recorded in July when other big movies such as Edge of Tomorrow and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were released, Dark Discussions decided to record the episode then yet release the episode when the film was close to home theater viewing. If you missed the movie at cinemas, by the end of October you will be able to see it for yourself. Here what your hosts have to say about genre favorite Scott Derrickson's follow up to Sinister.

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Episode 154 - I Saw the Devil (2014)

Written by the acclaimed director of New World, Hoon-jung Park, and directed by director Jee-woon Kim, who Quentin Tarantino considers one of today's best talents, I Saw the Devil widely available in the United States in 2011 blew almost everyone away who likes genre films. Violent and very extreme, the film was surprisingly praised by critics since the film crossed away from its grindhouse roots to the art house.

Soo-hyun, an agent for the National Intelligence Service, gets a call from his fiancé that her car has broken down. While waiting in the snow, she is attacked and murdered by Kyung-chul (played by Oldboy's Min-sik Choi), an active rapist and serial killer. When Soo-hyun tracks him down, rather than bringing him to justice, he decides to work outside the law and turn Kyung-chul's life into a living hell.

Part thriller and part horror, the film ultimately is about revenge. And not just how vicious it can be but also how unrewarding and primitive it always turns out. Rated as one of the best genre films of this decade, I Saw the Devil is a bizarre unorthodox ride that is most certainly rewarding to fans of horror and thriller movies. Dark Discussions put this on a poll for the listeners as a potential episode and unsurprisingly it was one of your favorites. Though the title is somewhat misleading, the film is most certainly one hell of a ride.

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Episode 153 - As Above, So Below (2014)

It seems like never before that cinéma vérité is a format used in many horror and genre films over this past year. One could probably lose count. John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle are no stranger to the median. Two of their prior films, the unreleased Poughkeepsie Tapes and the English language remake of Rec entitled Quarantine, show they have a good footing into the subgenre. Now in 2014, they have made a new film, As Above So Below, getting wide release throughout many nations.

The film is about a young scholar named Scarlett who decides to continue and pursue the work of her father in the search of the notorious Philosopher's Stone. Her research brings her to Paris, France and the history surrounding a 14th century Parisian scientist named Nicolas Flamel. After working with another scholar who she once had a relationship with, the two along with their documentarian, hire a group of local guides that will bring them through the Catacombs of Paris below the city streets searching the necropolis to six million people in hopes of finding the mysterious and valuable artifact.

Your hosts discuss this new widely released film and whether the fantastic concept of adventure seekers exploring one of the most surreal monuments to a city's forefathers holds up to the spook factor. Included is a discussion of the success of the Dowdle brothers, this movie in comparison to other found footage films, and what determines whether a film will get a theatrical run or simply be released straight to disc or video on demand.

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Episode 152 - Robin Williams Tribute: Christopher Nolan's Insomnia

Welcome to episode 152 of Dark Discussions, our second roundtable of genre film starring Robin Williams. A celebration of the multi-talented legend and his ability to play so many various and different roles. Insomnia, an English language remake of a Norwegian film starring Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, was the film that brought director Christopher Nolan to superstardom and prominence.

Los Angeles police detective Will Dormer and his partner head off to Nightmute, Alaska to help in a case of the murder of a seventeen year old girl. Arriving as both a renowned person within his field but also as an officer being investigated for wrong doing, Dormer immediately suspects that the usual suspects are highly unlikely to have committed the brutal crime. When a stakeout goes awry, there's a new person of interest. Is a serial killer on the loose? And is the psychological cat-and-mouse between Dormer and the new suspect just the beginning down a path to amoral deeds?

With its incredible cast of Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hillary Swank, and the fantastic direction by Christopher Nolan, Insomnia was a splendid surprise in the filmographies of its two leading men. Dark, gloomy, and using its locations superbly, the film is a character study of one man's descent into humiliation and dishonor while bringing out the very best of mysteries, thrillers, and police procedurals in modern film.

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Episode 151 - Robin Williams Tribute: One Hour Photo

Robin Williams passing was a heartrending tragedy that sent ripples not just through Hollywood but also throughout the world. The ever talented comedian and actor gave the world wonderful performances in so many fabulous films. Dark Discussions co-host Eric Webster, who has been championing the film One Hour Photo since the very beginning of this podcast, suggested that we focus an episode on Robin Williams and his work in genre films. Our way to pay tribute to a great talent.

In this episode, we discuss the film One Hour Photo. Sy the photo guy who runs the photo lab at the local box store seems like your ever gracious technician. He's friendly, a strong believer in customer service, and knows that he is there to serve you. However, there is an odd air about him that makes him seem just a bit off. Is he just a quirky and kind individual or is it something else?

Starring Robin Williams and Connie Nielsen, the film is both a character study and a thriller. It follows the life of a quiet and yet sad individual who may be harboring dark secrets about himself that may just be bubbling on the surface of his psyche. But it also tears down the illusion of the white picket fence existence of "anywhere" suburbia, even going as far as being ambiguous on where the story takes place. This episode focuses on one of our generations greatest talents and is part one of our two part tribute to Robin Williams.

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Episode 150B - David Fincher Focus: 1995's Seven

In 1993, a first time director named David Fincher was brought on to direct the third Alien film of that fabled franchise. Though the script had been rewritten numerous times, Fincher's debut film, Alien 3, has become a cult classic and been re-evaluated as a great sci-fi thriller. Whether the director to this day still has some issues with it, the film brought him to international attention and from there on, he has been considered one of our modern masters.

His second film Seven (Se7en) is considered one of the best horror thrillers of the last 25 years. The film includes Brad Pitt in a role that would make him a star, Morgan Freeman in a role that would turn him into a leading man, and also Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey in early and unforgettable career roles. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, the screenplay is about retiring and glum Detective Somerset who is dragged into investigating a new set of murders based on the Seven Deadly Sins. He is teamed up with the young and ambitious Detective David Mills who is gung-ho, but maybe just a little too much.

Just as we have on every 50th episode, Dark Discussions chooses a classic and decides to discuss what the film is all about. Seven is one of those movies that really digs deep into both the human mind and people's motives. Everything from what defines evil to the way society builds and forms itself, Seven takes a look at the dark side of human life and asks many questions on what motivates us all. Get ready to listen to our second part of our 150th episode on one of the best films in genre cinema.

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Episode 150A - Bits, Pieces, and Body Parts Volume 4

Welcome to the 150th episode of Dark Discussions ... well, at least the first part. Though we have a discussion of one of the best genre films in sometime, prior to the talk, we discussed the various things that have gone on these past couple of weeks and talk about them.

Things that are brought up in conversation books: Jonathan Kellerman's The Murder Book, John Sandford's Rules of Prey, and Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. Mike and Abe give their review of Guardians of the Galaxy. Films including Lucy, Hercules, The Sacrament, Lake Placid, Burnt Offerings, and Sharknado 2 are spoken of. Television programming including Doctor Who, The Strain and The Leftovers are brought up. The manga, King's Game, is given some airtime. And (at the time), upcoming films Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Into the Storm are brought up, including our thoughts.

But also the passing of three important people in the genre occurred: Marilyn Burns, star of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, makeup man Dick Smith, and author/podcaster Lawrence Santoro. Dark Discussions speaks fondly of the three and we wrap up this episode as we get ready for Part 2 of episode 150 where we discuss ... check back in a few days.

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