Posted by The Lam | Oct 7, 2015

Deathgasm is the latest Kiwi produced horror flick to hit stateside.  It tells the story of a group of teenaged metalheads (in a band called Deathgasm) who discover the ancient lyrics and staff music from a legendary yet reclusive metalhead named Rikki Daggers.  One evening during band practice, they perform the ancient music, metalcore style.  Unbeknownst to them, the music puts them into a trance like state inviting demons to possess all people nearby.  Death, blood and guts ensue as the demons ravage the quaint neighbourhood.  It’s up to Deathgasm to stop the demon takeover.

Deathgasm is not good by any traditional or conventional sense.  However, if you’re heading into the movie knowing that it’s a horror movie about a bunch of teenage metalheads and demon possession, then you need not look further, because Deathgasm delivers on that front.  It’s a niche genre that the niche audience will enjoy; bystanders need not go further.  The movie also plays for comedy, and perhaps knowing its audience, it goes for the raunchy type.

For me, Deathgasm did what it was supposed to do.  There was a bit of a problem with pacing I found.  I was hoping for more hits and kicks, but the middle section slowed things down a bit.  I think perhaps it was the problem of having to juggle with a number of ideas; those of horror, comedy, bromance and romance all at once.  However, where it lacks in story and pacing, it makes up for in its production value.  Given the lower budget, the gore factor is high and the little animated signatures in the introductions gives it a fun flair.

I didn’t love the movie, but I enjoyed it once, and I don’t need to come back to it.  It’s fun for an October release and perhaps more fun watching with a group of friends.  Until next time, later geeks!

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Posted by The Lam | Oct 1, 2015
MIssoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

Released earlier this year, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town is the latest effort by acclaimed author Jon Krakauer, who's written such renown titles as Into the Wild, Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven

The book deals with real stories and accounts of rape and sexual assaults in the college town of Missoula in Montana, USA during the 2000s to 2013.  Missoula is described as not only a college town, but one that is in love with the college’s football team.  The town loves its football team.  There is a strong sense of spirit and camaraderie, amongst the football enthusiasts.  Which makes the book all the more distressing as he recants multiple stories of rape, specifically involving those in the college football team.

Krakauer tells a number of stories of rape in Missoula, however, the crux of the book focuses primarily on two cases: one of Allison Huguet and another in Cecilia Washburn.  These are two stories with two different outcomes, however, are perhaps representative of the activity that was going on within the campus.  More than just providing insight into sexual assault, Krakauer focuses on an even tougher subset of this type of crime, namely, the idea of acquaintance rape.  This is the act of being raped by someone you know.  Krakauer provides us with a full picture of each story.  We learn not only about the rape incidents but also about their general upbringing and lifestyle, their personal struggles with being victims, the courtroom battles and the fallouts from those trials.  In both cases, the accused rapists were star football players from the college football team, and friends of the victims.  The stories become more difficult to read as we learn of how the victims become even more victimized.  With the girls bringing the accused to trial, they are shamed by the community for bringing such negative light and publicity to their beloved football stars.

Krakauer also dives into the justice system, and how the existing system is unfit and perhaps too antiquated to handle the trials and cases involving acquaintance rape.  At one point, the crimes in Missoula become so rampant that the government at the national level has to dive in and investigate the lack of attention given by the local justice system regarding these cases.

The book is mired in some controversy, as some say that his opinion appears too biased while others question why he chose to zero in on Missoula, a town that he admits within the book where the average rape occurrence is no more than the national average across the US.  Krakauer makes no qualms about his bias though.  At the conclusion of the book, he tells a personal story of how the subject matter landed on his plate in the first place.  And perhaps it’s from this angle that lands him the biased edge.

Despite the different controversies surrounding the book, it is still a fascinating read and educational, as someone who is unfamiliar with the idea of acquaintance rape.  Most of the time, when I read about stories of rape and sexual assault in the news, it is often cases where someone is assaulted by a stranger.  In fact, Krakauer sheds light on this perspective.  The sentiment that I have is quite common; he states that most people associate rapists with someone hiding in the dark gloomy shadows with a ski mask on.  The truth is, a lot of times, this isn’t the case.  The rapist can be anyone and even someone you know.  Even more unfortunate is that a lot of times, the cases of acquaintance rape go unreported.

Missoula is a grim read, but a worthwhile read and one that sheds light on a crime that we don’t always hear about.  Until next time, later geeks!

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Posted by The Lam | Sep 27, 2015

I know a lot of you out there feel the same way, but it's worth mentioning anyways, but the older we get, the less free time it feels we have.  And unfortunately, that's one of the reasons why my posts have been so sporadic, if not altogether non-existent.  I haven't had as much time to enjoy as much geekery as I've wanted to, and even less time to sit and write about them.  I really enjoy writing about geek related stuffs and actually a friend was asking me about my blog writing a month or so ago.  It encouraged me to dabble at it again.  As a friend once said to me, it’s that reflection and that dissection that graduates the medium to an art form.  And so it's a new initiative of mine to try and write at least one post a week about something... anything!

If I had to choose one, I think the geekery that took the biggest hit has been movies.  I feel like with gaming, books, comics and TV shows, it's easy to fragment the medium into save points, chapters and episodes without hindering the overall experience.  But with movies, it's intended to be consumed in one sitting experience, so to fragment a movie is to take away some of its joy and its intended method of consumption.  This is all to say that I haven't watched as many movies recently.  You can see from the links on the right hand side, which logs all the 'new' movies I've seen each year, the aggregate amount diminishes with each year.  Moreover, I find that when I’m watching a movie at home, I get distracted much easier.  I’ll be on the phone or laptop every 15 minutes to check up facts about the movie and cast and so forth.  I’ve learned that I’m much better at watching movies within the theater, where I can’t (or shouldn’t!) pull out my phone or laptop.

Unfortunately, these days I have to really pick and choose what movies are worth investing my time in.  Double unfortunately, most of the ones that don't make the cut are B-movies or DTVs, only because most of the time, let's be real, they suck.  And I guess my tolerance for ‘suck’ has decreased.

That all being said, it is with my distinct pleasure to write about Wyrmwood.

Wyrmwood is a post-zombie-apocalypse movie in Australia.  The story, as simple as it could be, is about a man named Barry who’s trying to connect back with his sister during the zombie invasion.  The sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a group of masked men and scientists, for mysterious and unknown purposes.   Like a lot of zombie flicks, it’s a movie that involves a treacherous journey and survival.  Lives are lost, limbs are severed, heads are blown along the way.

I first heard about Wyrmwood at the Toronto After Dark FIlm Festival in 2014.  Me and my friends saw a promo for it during another feature and it was scheduled to play that week, however, tickets were sold out.  It looked highly stylized, with characters armed in Mad Max type gear, and slow-mo zombie killing.  What more could you ask for!

If you don’t like zombie movies, this one won’t soon change your mind.  Overall, they try a few new things, but it’s not enough to be radically different from what you’d expect from a zombie movie.  However, what it does, it does solidly.  And for a low-budget feature, it is very good.

According to its Wikipedia entry, the budget for the movie was $160,000... which is quite astounding!  It doesn't look or feel like a $160,000 movie!  The cinematography is one of the best qualities about the film.  There is a lot of shaky cam style.  But it's quite gritty, in your face and visceral.  The way the movie is shot really makes you feel like you are right there in the thick of all the blood and guts.  There is a lot of slow-mo camera use as well!  You might akin this shooting style to something you'd expect from a Zack Snyder movie, that with a much larger budget.  The makeup and practical effects are great as well!  It's just amazing sometimes what a movie can do with so little money versus those Hollywood schlockbusters that can do so little with so much money!

But I’m going to be nitpicky about its adverstising campaign *slips on geek glasses*.  The posters and ads in general for the film describe it as a mix between Mad Max and Dawn of the Dead.  Aside from the existence of zombies, I don't see the comparison with Dawn of the DeadDawn of the Dead, both original and remake, were about people stuck in a mall with zombies.  Not the case with Wyrmwood.  I wonder if they meant the lesser reputed Day of the DeadDay of the Dead was about military and scientists experimenting on zombies, which DID happen in Wyrmwood.  So, uh, yeah!

If you like dumb-zombie flicks, you can go no wrong with this one!  And for a change, we get to see it in an Australian setting, so that’s a win!  Until next time, later geeks!

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Posted by The Lam | Sep 17, 2015
SCREAM the TV Series! Don't watch it!

Scream the TV Series.  What a shitfest!  And although I know why I decided to give the series a shot in the first place, I don’t know why I stuck through it all!

Scream follows a bunch of white teenagers in the town of Lakewood as they explore and investigate the brutal murders of one of their friends, a popular and promiscuous girl from their highschool.  The murder sparks memories of the town’s sordid past, that of a previous murder spree conducted by a masked serial killer.  The killings and the style just seem too similar.  As the investigation continues, so does the body count.  Everyone from the jocks, the lesbian, the English teacher and the mayor (to name a few), are all suspects.  And behind one or more of those faces is the masked Lakewood killer.

Scream the TV Series is the television successor to the slasher film series by the late Wes Craven.  Although the two share the same name and general plot structure (i.e. of a whodunit?), the soul and the spirit of what made the movies work did not carry over.  I should note that the original Scream movie holds a special place in my heart, which is why I even decided to give the series a shot in the first place.  I attribute it with fueling (or refueling) my love for horror back when I was a teenager in the mid to late 90s.  I loved the premise, the witty dialogue, the characters and the mask!  The film was fresh and FUN as a satire on the slasher genre; a genre that all but disappeared during that period.

So unlike the movies, the TV show’s story was boring, the characters uninteresting and the mask looked like shit!  Yeah, they changed the mask!  Although in hindsight, I’m glad they changed the mask only so that it’s less tied with the movies.

See!  They changed the mask!

But back to the true gripes.  These are some of the worst characters I’ve seen in a TV show.  There is just about zero characters that you’re cheering for.  Even the main protagonist is despicable!  I think that’s the main reason why the show doesn’t work.  If you can’t get behind any of the characters, why would you care that someone is killing them all off?  Why would you care about any of the history?  The script can be cringe-worthy too.  There is Noah, who plays the geek-centric meta character, similar to Jamie Kennedy’s character from the films, with some of the worst lines and such forced name dropping of pop culture references.  However, every one in ten times, he does strike gold, such as when they are being stalked by the killer and decide to split up: “I did not agree to split up.  I am not retiring in 3 days.  I will NOT be back”.  Clearly, he understands horror tropes.  I think of the whole batch, the only redeeming character is Audrey, the outted lesbian character.  It’s very clear that she’s the best actress on the show, and although script is weak, she does the best with what she’s given.  She seems less bland than every other character.

Oh I should also point out the diversity of its cast!  There is none!  It’s a town full of white folks.  Actually, they had one asian person as part of the teenage troupe… but guess who gets killed early on?  That said, I can’t knock the show for the lack of diversity.  I mean, if they’re going to mock horror movies, then this is apropos.  Typically slasher movies of yore were only filled with Caucasian casts, so if the show did this intentionally to pay homage to its forefathers, then I get it… (except, I just don’t think the show was that smart to do that!)

The structure of the story itself follows closely to the movie – specifically, the whodunit structure.  Characters would disappear at opportune times, only to reappear and provide a weak excuse.  Other characters would say something offkey, with a dramatic music beat to suggest some evil intention.  There are a lot of dramatic pauses and a lot of looking out blankly into the distance.  All are really obvious red herrings though, weak attempts to throw off who the killer is.  It’s a tricky game to play actually.  Since the movies already chose certain archetypes to be the killers, the show has the unenviable task of trying to pick someone new.  If it’s the boyfriend and his psychotic buddy or the boyfriend’s mother and an attention seeking friend, it’d be too obvious.  But maybe they went the obvious route!  I’m not trying to spoil anything!  But I will say when the killer(s) is/are revealed, it was a huge letdown.  In fact I was like, “huh?  Who is that?  Oh.”.  Overall, the series just lacked the overall tension that existed especially in the first movie.  I still remember the very first time I watched it, how tense I felt because I didn’t know who Sidney Prescott could trust.  They just all seemed so believable!  Who was the damn killer!!!

2015!  Diversity!

In the season finale, they tease the direction of the forthcoming season.  They present the idea that an accomplice killer may still be on the loose.  If this is so, this is a complete departure from the Scream series.  With each film, you never knew going in who the killer(s) were.  If what they’re teasing is true, it would be the first time that they broke this tradition in the series.  However, as the whole show itself is full of red herrings, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just another swerve for the audience.

The show airs and is produced by MTV.  So every time there’s a musical number, there will be a pop-up at the bottom of the screen informing you of the artist and the single.  Apart from that, there’s no real MTVness to the show. 

And on that note, for a show that’s on cable and aimed at teens, it doesn’t do too bad in terms of blood and gore factor.  You never see full blown violence like in Walking Dead or any number of HBO shows, but they show you enough such that your imagination can take you the rest of the way.  The kills aren’t the most inventive but then again, the kills were never the reason why I liked the Scream movies in the first place.  It was always based on story and mystery, never the ingenuity of the kills.

Strangely enough, in a few weeks, Fox is releasing their own slasher homage TV series called Scream Queens.  It’s a show by Ryan Murphy.  Draw your own conclusions.  Although I don’t think it will be a deep show, I think it will be all sorts of fun and acceptable for what it is.  Just watching the trailer shows that it’s a bit more self-awareness and overall fun!

That said, don’t watch this show.  Don’t buy it’s DVDs or Blu-Rays.  It’s not worth your time.  If you’ve never seen them, you’re better off watching Scream 1 and 2… (3 and 4 weren’t that great).  Until next time, later geeks!

(Which one looks more fun to you?)

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Posted by The Lam | Sep 11, 2015
Ms. 45 (1981)

What a bizarre movie!

Ms. 45 is an exploitation flick released originally in 1981.  It follows the life of Thana, a young, mute seamstress working in New York who is raped twice in a single day.  Traumatized by those events, she goes on a killing spree, randomly killing men with a .45 caliber gun.  Thus, Ms. 45 was born.  At first, she seems to have a motive – to dispatch any male person who would attempt to take advantage of her.  But later on, the motive becomes blurred, as she targets random men making out with their girlfriends, not related to or threatening Thana in any way.  In its bloody denouement, Thana dresses as a pistol wielding nun (don’t ask why, there are no answers) and goes on a shooting rampage at a club that her friends are attending.

Ms. 45 is one of the first full length features by renowned director, Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, King of New York).  Much like his other movies, Ms. 45 goes for the gritty New York feel, showing us the dirty and ugly side of the city.  The movie has an undeniable 80s vibe, with its thick paint red blood and the blaring saxophone soundtrack.  It’s an era that is hard to escape.

The movie was panned in its original release but has since become a cult hit.  The movie is not a good movie by any conventional means.  The story is senseless, but perhaps that’s the appeal.  It’s more about the intrigue to see what she’ll will do (kill) next.  She’s so unpredictable.  She kills for the sake of killing.  And because she’s a mute, she doesn’t really get to express why.  That said, it does become a bit tired.  Because there isn’t a strong motive, the story isn’t interesting.  And because she’s always killing with the .45, the kills aren’t interesting either.  It’s like a slasher movie with the same slash.

What is fascinating though is the real life history of, Zoe Lund, the young actress who played Thana.  Apparently, she was only 17 at the time when the movie was filmed, but lied about her age to get casted.  She was a talented young woman – a musician, a writer and actress.  She co-wrote Bad Lieutenant, often regarded as Ferrara’s best movie.  The most fascinating thing about her is that she was a very staunch and vocal supporter in the use of heroin.  To her, it was nothing to be hidden, she was proud of its use and its effects.  Quote Ferrara, “Zoe was one of these people who thought heroin was the greatest thing in the world, and she did until the day she died”.

She died tragically in 1999 at the young age of 37 from heart failure as a result of cocaine use.

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Posted by The Lam | Sep 1, 2015
The Girl on the Train!!

I want to preface this by saying that I don’t usually read these types of popular fiction books – the kinds that you typically find at the front of a Chapters or an Indigo “Heather’s Pick” – but after reading such heavy stuff during the past month, I just wanted a lighter fare.  I briefly read the synopsis on Amazon and decided that this fit what I needed.

The Girl on the Train is a mystery story that is told from the perspective of a few different characters.  Firstly, there is Rachel, who is the titular girl on the train, an alcoholic young woman, who rides a train into London everyday for work.  During her daily trips to and fro, she begins to recognize some of the characters who live along the railway.  Not knowing them in person, she begins to develop characters and back stories for them – in particular, a couple whom she names Jason and Jess.  She sees increasingly odd behaviour between the two, and one day, notices that Jess disappears.  We also follow Anna, the current wife of Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom.  She is an insecure woman who reveals her claws to protect those close to her.  Interestingly enough, Anna and Tom live along the rail and are never too far from Rachel’s eyes.  And finally, we follow Megan, a young and mysterious woman who lives a few doors down from Anna and Tom.

All these perspectives revolve around the disappearance of the young woman, “Jess”.  But with inconsistent stories and shady motives, whose story can we really trust?

Ultimately, the story is enjoyable, although I don’t feel like the third act stuck the landing.  It’s not a complete mystery with what happened regarding the missing woman and who was involved, but it just felt like the motives were a bit tried and brought nothing new to the table.  You can really see the story brought onto the silver screen (note that the filming rights were purchased by Dreamworks!).  It has that broad general appeal that will make the film a success.  However, I did have a problem with some of the writing.  For example, we learn early on that Rachel is an alcoholic.  From then on, it seems that every other page during Rachel’s story, talks about how she wants a drink.  We get it.  She’s an alcoholic.  She likes to drink.  The point doesn’t need to be brought up so often.  It’s at these moments where I rolled my eyes.

This is author Paula Hawkin’s first major book release and is a worldwide hit.  She’s written a few romantic novels in the past under a pseudonym, but the Girl on the Train is the first penned under her real name.  There is much comparison out there with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and it’s very easy to see where the comparisons are coming from.  They both follow the beat of a thriller/suspense story with bouncing perspectives.  The trust of the perspectives in both stories is always in question, so there’s that same sense of dread, tension and forebodingness.  And perhaps it’s this aspect that brings the closest comparison.  I should note that I haven’t read Gone Girl, only read the book which I understand follows the book quite closely.  Overall, if I had to compare the two, I enjoyed Gone Girl more only because the ending was a bit more ambiguous and open ended.  The Girl on the Train follows a more conventional story arc and thus, ends how you would expect things to end.

As a popular fiction novel, it’s an enjoyable read and it’s never offensive.  But if this isn’t your usual thing, you’re not missing out on too much!  Until next time, later geeks!

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Posted by The Lam | Aug 21, 2015
Remembering Satan

I've been on a reading kick as of late, all with nonfiction books strangely.  And it continues with Remembering Satan.

Remembering Satan tells the harrowing true story of the Ingram family, from the small town of OIympia, Washington during the mid to late 80s.  Paul Ingram is described as a humble father and family man; a man in love with his wife and children.  His family includes two boys and three girls; of which two of the girls are twins, although one was mentally challenged.  He was a reputed member of the small community, working as a deputy sheriff in Olympia and also in the role as the Republican chairman in Thurston County, Washington.  They were also heavily involved with the church community.  The family at first attended Catholic services (of which was Paul’s background), but later started attending a charismatic Christian church of which the family found more connected to.

During one occasion, his daughter Ericka, who was a young adult at the time, was away on an all-girls church retreat.  The retreat included seminars and workshops, including a charismatic and prophetic guest speaker from the Washington area.  During one of the seminars, the speaker was giving out all these visions, of different fantastical things she saw involving some of the girls at the retreat.  In one particular vision, she saw a girl who was abused by a family member.  Ericka knew it was her, however, she had no memories of the abuse.  After attending counseling sessions with a therapist, memories that she had blocked out were recovered.  As a child, she was raped by her father, Paul Ingram.  And this went on through her adulthood, even as early as a month before the retreat.

When these accusations were revealed, Paul Ingram was quickly detained.  He was interviewed by some of his former peers and although he had no memory of the actual occurrences, he never disputed that it was a possibility.  Through hard questionings and long interviews, Paul also began to recover memories.  They’re few at first, but as they progress through the process, they become longer with more gruesome details.

We learn that not only was the father involved, but it was a incestuous family ordeal; the brothers and mother were also implicated.  The alleged abuse occurred from childhood to adulthood.  Soon, we discover that it was a whole sex ring involving a number of different members and friends of the police department.  Could the detectives on the case even trust their own peers?  Even more earth shattering was that not only were sex crimes being conducted within their own home, but the crimes also involved Satanic ritual abuse with sexual torture, animal sacrifice, baby sacrifice, and who knows what else.  Interviews with other family members followed a similar route, with details appearing hazy at first and more clear later.

However, at a certain point when the stories became so fantastically grotesque, the detectives and psychologists who interviewed the family members started questioning the plausibility.  They started noticing contradictions in the stories.  They found less and less evidence.  The question is raised of if these events actually occurred or were they falsely recollected memories?  And if so, how could this happen with all the members?

Remembering Satan is a fantastically written and unbelievable true story.  I could not stop flipping pages and read it through in just a few days.  The whole story, the implications, the denouement are fascinating.  Throughout the book, the reader is left wondering who they can trust.  Author Lawrence Wright doesn’t just provide us details with the case, but he also provides his research on the psychological topic of recovered memories and of Satanical ritual abuse.

The book was written by Wright back in 1994.  Wright is fast becoming one of my favourite writers (at the very least, my favourite nonfiction writer).  I’ve now read his Looming Tower (2006), Going Clear (2013) and now Remembering Satan.  I’ve also got Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David (2014) lying on my shelf, ready for attention.  The way he dissects a topic with meticulousness and from an unbiased point of view really draws in the reader.  I actually wrote to him this summer wondering whether he was working on a book on ISIS (I mean, if I’m going to read a book on ISIS, I would trust his research!), but he responded with “not yet”, rather, he was working on a book regarding the evolution of terror.

The book is over 20 years old, but the true story it tells is intriguing and timeless.  It’s worth the read!  Later geeks!

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