ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Is Actually Good. Huh.

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Is this the best episode yet of Fear the Walking Dead? Rubén Blades returns and Team Zombie has thoughts. It’s Zombpocalypse Now!

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Season 3, Episode 4 “100”
Written by Alan Page
Directed by Alex Garcia Lopez

Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar (Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Timothy: So here’s what concerns me…

Dustin: That Fear the Walking Dead has actually become a well-written show that we’re enjoying, and it’s going to get our hopes up and then crush them beneath a return to the awfulness that we have endured lo these previous two seasons?

Curtis: “Lo”? Really?

Dustin: I am waxing poetic.

Mindy: This is a legitimate concern, at least based on what you two have been saying. Of course, I have just started watching this show, so I haven’t had to suffer the way you two have. Or at least the way you two say you have. Repeatedly.

Dustin: It’s been a terrible burden to bear. 

Mindy: Mmm hmmm.

Dustin: IT IS A TERRIBLE BURDEN, MINDY.

Curtis: So what’s this concern, Tim?

Timothy: Well, I’ve been looking at the viewing numbers. When the show debuted, it had about 10 million viewers, which fell to a little less than 7 million by the end of the first season.

Dustin: This does not surprise me. At all.

Timothy: The second season started with about 6.5 million viewers, and ended with about 3 million.

Curtis: Ouch. 

Dustin: At all surprised, I am not.

Mindy: And this season?

Timothy: This season kicked off with just over 5 million, which became 4.8 million by the second episode. We don’t have the +3 and +7 numbers for the 3rd and 4th episode yet, but their live numbers have fallen every episode. 

Dustin: Wait, we’ve only had three Fear the Walking Dead nights… oh. 

Curtis: They were losing viewers on the first night the show came back, between the first and second episodes. That aired back to back.

Timothy: Yeah. Fear the Walking Dead has had four well-written, well-acted, actually good episodes this season…

Mindy: And fewer and fewer viewers.

Timothy: Exactly.

Dustin: I’m not sure how I feel about being in the position of defending this show, but we are, and we do, and here is the podcast thing we do. Listen while we say nice things about a show we’ve hated while it’s good and we’re hoping it stays that way. LISTEN!

 

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Glenn Close Returns To TV As A Funny Zombie

Amazon is working to continue building their impressive collection of original television content by adding zombie comedy Sea Oak and casting Emmy winning Glenn Close in the lead role.

Close will play Aunt Bernie, a meek and unmarried woman in Rust Belt City who dies during a home invasion. Being unhappy with the way her life turned out keeps her from completely dying. She wills herself back to life as a rage-filled revenge seeking zombie determined to achieve the good life that she missed as a blue-collar living human. Bernie returns to what is left of her nuclear family, which includes a quasi-stripper nephew and two feckless nieces, who live in a low-end subsidized housing complex called Sea Oak. Once there, she demands they help her reach her goal.

The series is written by George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) and is executive produced by Jonathon Krauss with Affiliated Pictures. Lael Smith and Keir McFarlane will co-executive produce.

This will be Close’s first regular series role since FX’s Damages, where she won two Emmys for lead actress in a drama. She has won three Tony Awards for roles including The Real Ting, Death and the Maiden, and Sunset Boulevard. Some of her big screen appearances are Fatal AttractionThe Natural, and The Big Chill.

 




THE CROOKED MAN Joins THE CONJURING-Verse


[Featured image courtesy TheConjuring2.com]

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

With one sequel and three spinoffs, The Conjuring (2013) has officially become a movie universe. Along with 2016’s direct sequel The Conjuring 2, three spinoff characters from those films are now starring in their own movies.

Demonic doll Annabelle received her own movie in 2014. Last October, New Line Cinema announced that creepy-portrait-turned-menacing-ghost The Nun will hit theaters in 2018, starring Damien Bichir and directed by Corin Hardy.  This week we learned the identity of the next supporting scare promoted to feature player in the Conjuring-verse – The Crooked Man.

Annabell is just like the Elf on the Shelf, but creepy and murderous. Image courtesy Annabelle official Facebook page.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Wan and Peter Safran will be producing the film. Mike Van Waes will be creating a scirpt from Wan’s story idea. No director or stars were announced by New Line.

The Crooked Man first appeared in The Conjuring 2 as an unsettling zoetrope toy, then as a menacing skeletal man. Believe it (or not), the Crooked Man rhyme refers to events in 17th century history involving the unification of Scotland and England. The last line (and they all lived together in a crooked little house) supposedly refers to the rocky relationship between Scotland and England after unification.

The Nun – yet another delightful resident of the Ed & Elaine Warren Souvenir Room. Image coutresy The Conjuring Official Facebook page.

However … if you need to see a movie about that menacing rail-thin fellow today, you are in luck, horror movie fans.

Last year Syfy kicked off its annual “31 Days of Halloween” with a direct to television movie called (you guessed it) The Crooked Man. You can read the SciFi4Me review here.

While it’s not a landmark of horror by any stretch of the imagination, this version does a pretty effective job taking the original rhyme and using  it in a “Bloody Mary” sleepover game gone very wrong setup. (I also gave main characters in this Crooked Man credit for actually using their brains at the end to dispose of the titular villain.)

If you’re so inclined, Syfy’s version of The Crooked Man is available on multiple streaming platforms including Vudu, iTunes, FandangoNOW, and Amazon.

The Crooked Man on Syfy featured characters who used their brains to defeat evil (for once). Image courtesy Syfy.




ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Still Isn’t Entirely Awful

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Mr. Smith and the Intern From the Future join Mssrs. Adair and Harvey for more Fear the Walking Dead on Zombpocalypse Now!

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Season 3, Episode 3 “TEOTWAWKI”
Written by Ryan Scott
Directed by Deborah Chow

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark, Daniel Sharman as Troy Otto – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 3, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/AMC

Dustin: Curtis is back!

Curtis: Hi guys.

Dustin: Mindy is back!

Mindy: Hi guys.

Dustin: Tim is… still here!

Timothy: Wow. That was enthusiastic.

Dustin: I see you every week. We don’t see Curtis as much as we used to, so it’s special when he’s here. And Mindy still laughs at my jokes.

Curtis: Thanks, Dustin. It’s good to be here. Although I came here more to hang out with my friends than watch whatever this show is.

Mindy: I’ve never watched Fear the Walking Dead before, and to be honest, watching you two watch the show is as entertaining as the show is, if not more. You make the most interesting faces.

Timothy: This show does inspire reactions. Although, we aren’t hating it as much as we thought we would, based on the previous seasons.

Dustin: All twelve thousand seasons of this show. 

Timothy: Two seasons. This is season three.

Dustin: TWELVE THOUSAND SEASONS, TIM.

Mindy: You can kind of see Dustin aging in real-time as he watches it.

Dustin: And that’s with me not hating everything that happens.

Timothy: Heh. Yeah, it says something that not hating the show is the baseline we’re going with here. Anyway, sit back and listen as we talk about all the things happening on the third episode of Fear the Walking Dead’s third season…

Curtis: Sit back and listen to us laugh a lot.

Mindy: Sit back and listen to Tim bleep out all the swearing a lot.

Dustin: AND check out our other podcasts, and our new Twitch channel, and do that YouTube thing that gets us more cool YouTube things.

Timothy: Follow us on YouTube! We’re aiming to get over 1000 followers on YouTube. It would be cool if you could help us do that.

 

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Parents vs Teens vs VR Zombies On Screen in NEIGHBORHOOD 3


[Featured image courtesy jenniferhaley.com]

My first experience of the world of virtual viral marketing came along in 2001 with the premiere of the J. J. Abrams spy adventure Alias on ABC. What would happen if I typed “Credit Daupnine” (heroine Sydney Bristow’s employer on the show) into a search engine? Not only was there a website for this fictional bank/criminal front; if I gave ABC my email, informational updates regarding the show would appear in my inbox!
Alternate Reality Games  (or “transmedia storytelling”) have come a long way from the days of AOL subscription discs and dialup internet. ARG’s bring a fictional world to vivid, detailed life for a fan – and provide buzz, publicity, and email addresses for the studios that care to use them.

Retro video game imagery from the 2009-10 Sacred Fools Theater Company production. Image courtesy sacredfools.org.

As an entertaining (albiet somewhat disturbing) article from Cracked on “The Five Most Insane Alternate Reality Games” puts it “ARGs ask the players to pretend they’re living in a carefully constructed parallel universe that can include fake websites and phone numbers and even real objects hidden throughout the world … usually for the sake of promoting a two-hour movie.

The ARG framwork has been used to promote films as early 2001  (A.I. Artificial Intelligence). The J. J. Abrams produced  Cloverfield (2008) ARG used mystery to build interest, while the campaign for The Dark Knight (also 2008) is remembered as possibly the most elaborate and immersive.

Haley also wrote episodes of the Eli Roth-produced Neflix series HEMLOCK GROVE. Image courtesy Netflix.com

Now a play taking a dark, disturbing look inside a community under the spell of a horror ARG will be migrating from the theater stage to the multiplex screen. According to TrackingBoard.com, Chernin Entertainment plans to develop Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by playwright Jennifer Haley into a feature film. Haley will be penning the screenplay adaptation of her 2008 play. Besides her work in the theater, Haley also wrote several episodes of the Eli Roth Netflix werewolf series Hemlock Grove.

Poster by Mario Mendez for Las Vegas Little Theatre 200 production of Neighborhood3. [Image courtesy jenniferhaley.com]
Another staple of the horror genre – zombies – serves as the ostensible outside threat in Neighborhood 3. As their children become more obsessed by destroying the undead in a virtual version of their community, local parents find that the lines between real and fake have become hopelessly blurred. The New Yorker review of Neighborhood 3 compared Jennifer Haley’s setting and themes to the works of “David Lynch, David Cronenberg … without feeling derivative.”

Zombies a la David Lynch and/or David Cronenberg?

Now that sounds gross, weird, and very interesting.





ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Returns And Team Zombie Actually Enjoyed It

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Fear the Walking Dead is back on Sunday night, and #TeamZombie find themselves in the odd position of actually enjoying it. It’s Zombpocalypse Now!

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Season 3, Episode 1 “Eye of the Beholder”
Written by Dave Erickson
Directed by Adam Bernstein

Season 3, Episode 2 “The New Frontier”
Written by Mark Richard
Directed by Stefan Schwartz

The decision to change the format to all singing/all dancing was, oddly enough, surprisingly successful.

Dustin: Ross McCall is the actor who played Steven.

Timothy: Aaaaaand who is Steven?

Dustin: The soldier guy you thought was the crazy soldier guy from the Fear the Walking Dead webisodes. I told you it wasn’t him.

Timothy: So you did. You do have to admit though, he did kinda look like the crazy guy.

Dustin: The crazy guy was Colton, played by Michael Mosley. They only kind of look alike, but considering both of them are buried under dirt and scruff, I suppose if you squint real hard.

Timothy: I just figured it was the the crossover bit for the two. Like the 30 seconds between the second season and the kids from the airplane webisodes.

Dustin: That was pretty stupid. Surprisingly, these episodes weren’t. They were actually good. I was engaged. I WAS ENGAGED.

Timothy: I know, it’s… confusing. We’ve been so used to hating this show, that having two episodes back to back that we liked was pretty unexpected. There’s still the chance they could screw it up, but I’m not actually complaining that we enjoyed the premiere.

Dustin: There were a few moments of the stupid, but overall, we did.

Timothy: Weird.

Dustin: Weird and scary.

Timothy: But we do weird and scary here, so that’s OK too. And for more weird and scary, and also fun and informative, check out all our other podcasts on SciFi4MeRadio…

Dustin: AND our YouTube videos! We have lots of YouTube videos!

Timothy: We do. And you, gentle listeners, can help us get to YouTube 1000 subscribers, which helps us do more on the video side of things, which would be cool.

Dustin: SUBSCRIBE TO EVERYTHING WE DO!

 

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Take a Facehugger Home with ALIEN: COVENANT The Official Collector’s Edition

[Featured image courtesy Titanmagazines.com]

[Image courtesy Titan Magazines]
Your desire to buy the Alien: Covenant Official Collector’s Edition – just released by Titan Magazines – depends on two things.

First – your reaction to the movie itself. The opinions here at SciFi4Me have been trending negative. Timothy Harvey’s review and the most recent Zombpocalypse Now podcast illustrated many of the not-so-positive reactions to Ridley Scott’s latest entry in his Alien prequel series.

For myself, Alien: Covenant delivered two things I wanted after the disappointment of 2012’s Prometheus. Covenant delivered a bit more of an actual plot, along with a LOT more Xeomorphs, Neomorphs, Facehuggers, and general horror movie gross-out action.

Seeing it through my horror movie lens, I take characters making insanely stupid decisions to keep the plot moving as part of the deal. Since I just watched Covenant as a Horror Movie (IN SPACE), my expectations may have been lower and my verdict a bit brighter.

Second – does the Alien: Covenant Official Collector’s Edition deliver value for the $19.99 list price? While you can find this for less (Titanmagazines.com has it listed for $13.00 including shipping and handling), would this be worth it at full price?

The illustrations, concept art, and photography are all top notch.  Titan souvenir publications usually do an exceptional job in these areas; this Collector’s Edition is no exception. In particular, the pages illustrating the mix of digital and puppetry Visual Effects Supervisor Charley Henley used bring the Neomorph, Xenomorphs and Facehuggers to life are both gross and informative.

The Official Collector’s Edition features some impressing concept art. Image courtesy Alien Official Facebook page.

But if the visual side is everything an Alien fan could hope for while also wishing there were pages more of it, the interview features are too much of a good thing. From behind the camera, the Collector’s Edition features interviews with Director Ridley Scott, Production Designer Chris Seagers, Costume Designer Janty Yates, and Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. All are interesting and informative for the genre or movie nerd.

It is in the cast interview sections where a little editing/condensing of content would’ve been helpful.  Actor interviews start with Michael Fassbender (David/Walter), and don’t stop until Callie Hernandez (Upworth).

The actors in Covenant are all first rate, even if their roles are stock tropes like Disposable Crewmember 1. It’s not a knock on the talent of the actors involved that I remembered Nathaniel Dean (Hallett) not by his character’s name but as “Guy Who Dies Outside the Ship” and Benjamin Rigby (Ledward) as “Guy Who Dies Inside the Medbay.”

Director Ridley Scott on the bridge of the colony ship Covenant. Image courtesy Alien Official Facebook page.

Reading through these interviews, it seemed that having some of the less prominent roles featured in a condensed “round robin” style article would’ve allowed space for more photographs, concept art of important elements of the story such as David’s Laboratory of Horrors, his destruction of the Engineer’s civilization, or what actually happened to Dr. Elizabeth Shaw.

So this review of the Alien: Covenant Official Collector’s Edition is much like the reviews of the movie it promotes; really good in some parts, but maybe a bit less than I was hoping for.

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

Thanks to the Official Collector’s Edition, I do very much want to get a copy of The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant – published by Titan Books! Titan, you’ve mastered the art of the upsell!




Netflix Adapting Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

[Banner image courtesy Netflix.com]

 

The 2016 Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of The Haunting of Hill House. Image Courtesy Penguin Classics

April 2017 brought proverbial showers – along with good news for fans of off-kilter psychological horror. Various showbiz news outlets, including Variety, reported that Netflix is bringing a “modern re-imaginging” of Shirley Jackson’s iconic 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House to the small screen.

Mike Flanagan is slated to write, direct, AND Executive produce (with Trevor Macy) the 10 episode series. Genre fans who might not recognize Flanagan’s name – but they’ve probably seen a movie he edited (Oculus, 2013) or directed (Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil, both released in 2016).
In her SciFi4Me review, Teresa Wickersham noted that Hush was “quite the unexpected gem … a tight, well paced, suspenseful thriller.”

The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson’s most famous novel, stands with her 1948 short story “The Lottery” as masterpieces of subtle, understated terror. Two major adaptations brought Hill House to the big screen; a 1963 feature directed by Robert Wise and a 1999 version directed by Jan De Bont.

Fans of Jackson’s work (and decent cinema in general) can only hope the new series honors the spirit of the former while disregarding the latter. Where Robert Wise kept the mood and approach of Jackson’s novel, De Bont’s attempt aimed for summer blockbuster territory and missed spectacularly on every level. It’s one of the few movies I regret spending my time and money on. Not that I’m in the minority on this – Hill House 1999 “earned” five Razzie Awards nominations and holds a 17% “rotten” rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

There are some interesting literary avenues worth exploring before Hill House debuts on Netflix. A recent biography by Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, won a 2017  Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction. For fiction in the Hill House vein, the Shirley Jackson Awards (first given out in 2007) recognize “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.”

 




Be Careful What You WISH UPON This Summer

[All images courtesy Steve Wilkie/Broad Green Pictures]

At first glance, the synopsis for Wish Upon indicates this is just another summertime PG-13 horror movie aimed primarily at teens and/or hardcore horror fans. It reads,

“Claire Shannon (Joey King) is barely surviving the hell that is high school … So when her dad (Ryan Phillippe) gifts her an old music box with an inscription that promises to grant the owner’s wishes, she thinks there is nothing to lose … Everything seems perfect – until the people closest to her begin tying in gruesome and twisted ways.”

So far, so typical. Dumb teenager receives gift, feeds the mogwai after midnight makes stupid decision before thinking things through, then spends rest of movie desperately trying to either undo the damage they’ve caused – or simply survive to the end credits.

But looking into the creative talents involved in Wish Upon, along with a deeper dig into the horror tradition behind the story, provides hints this movie may make something special out of the standard ingredients. Every horror fan may know what is in store for Claire and her friends. But fans also know that with horror, execution is all; so let’s see who’s “behind the curtain” on this project.

Just an ordinary summer afternoon, tampering with That Which Should Not Be Messed With.

Director John R. Leonetti has interspersed directing feature films (starting with 1997’s Mortal Combat: Annihilation) with a prolific career as a cinematographer. His cinematography has been part of  genre hits The Conjuring, Insidious, and Annabelle. Screenwriter Barbara Marshall’s work could be seen in the the interesting (if short lived) FOX series Terra Nova.

I’d caption this one “Cleanup in Aisle Seven!” but it doesn’t look like this gross-out takes place in a grocery store.

Wish Upon‘s very title makes clear the influence of the classic, cautionary, “be careful what you wish for” trope. In the horror story realm, “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs is arguably the most famous – and most copied – example. Bartleby.com has a fascinating collection of essays about this story. You can read the story itself here or take a listen to an audio adaptation by Chilling Tales for Dark Nights on You Tube.

From Claire’s expression, I’d guess the whole making wishes thing has taken a bad turn. Credit: Broad Green Pictures

With an IMDB estimated budget of only $12 million, Wish Upon doesn’t have to do gangbusters to do well in financial terms.  At the very least, Wish Upon has a strong creative team behind the camera and a cast of young up-and-comers in front of it. Adding in the influence of one of the greatest short stories in the horror genre may make this movie a pleasing alternative for moviegoers who enjoy a chill of fear in the heat of summer.

Check out the official trailer below. Wish Upon hits theaters July 14, 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp8GRrrbE-A

 

 




Universal Pictures Unveils a DARK UNIVERSE of Gods and Monsters

[Dark Universe logo courtesy Universal Pictures]

If British secret agents (James Bond), custom car enthusiasts (The Fast & the Furious), and comic book superheroes (Marvel & DC Cinematic Universes), are suitable subjects for multi-picture, multi-million dollar grossing interconnected movie franchises, then why not The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and Dr. Henry Jekyll?

Universal Pictures is getting their monsters together and putting on a show — or several shows, to be more precise. This week, Universal announced plans for an interconnected series of movies under the Dark Universe banner, featuring iconic characters like Frankenstein, his Bride, The Invisible Man, and The Mummy.  Each movie in the Dark Universe series will feature a new musical theme intro by Danny Elfman along with the Dark Universe logo (seen above).

The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, is the first movie in the series; it’s scheduled for release June 9.  Universal confirmed the second film in the series will be Bride of Frankenstein, directed by Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Beauty and the Beast) and scheduled for release in 2019. Johnny Depp is slated to portray The Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem will become Frankenstein’s Monster in future installments.

Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise – the Dark Universe is certainly star-studded; along with the respected Javier Bardem and newcomer Sofia Boutelia. [Photo credit: Marco Grob /Universal]
According to Unviersal, “At its organizing principle, Dark Universe films are connected by a mysterious multi-national organization known as Prodigium.  Led by the enigmatic and brilliant Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), Prodigium’s mission is to track, study and—when necessary—destroy evil embodied in the form of monsters in our world”

A look beyond this summary at the announced talent and resources involved in the Dark Universe projects makes it clear what this series of movies is – and what it is not. For diehard fans of the classic Unviersal Monsters, realistic expectations now may save a lot of angst down the road.

The creative brain trust setting up the Dark Universe includes Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. As The Mummy press release notes, both “have been instrumental in growing some of the most successful franchises of the past several years.”

Kurtzman’s experience with multi-movie franchises includes the Star Trek, Transformers, and Mission: Impossible movies. Chris Morgan has been involved in The Fast & Furious movies since Tokyo Drift (2006). Other creative personnel familiar with the care and feeding of blockbusters includes writer/directors Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible) and David Koepp (War of the Worlds, Jurassic Park).

After being denied the throne and entombed for thousands of years, Princess Ahmanet is – rather upset. [Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
Iconic characters and franchises have to adapt – or die. But for every Star Trek relaunch or new James Bond actor that manages this trick, there is a Lone Ranger or Tarzan remake that fails to reignite the interest of the moviegoing public.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) may be the example Universal is going for – a movie series interconnected by characters, advancing each movie’s story while also forwarding a larger series-wide saga. But there is a twist. Instead of bringing comic book characters and their stories to the big screen, Dark Universe wants to take the Universal Horror icons created on the screen, and graft them onto original action-adventure tales.

Horror fans in general, and fans of these classic monsters in particular, might want to accept that these movies are not aimed specifically at them. DU looks like a series designed to thrill and terrify like The Mummy ride at Universal Studios Orlando, not inspire a creeping sense of dread and fear.

The nature of the Dark Universe mission is made clear by a quote from Kurtzman and Morgan. “When Universal approached us with the idea of re-imaging these classic characters, we recognized the responsibility of respecting their legacy while bringing them into new and modern adventures.”

Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll – and the villainous Mr. Hyde. [Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
Another concern? The star power some of the announced actors outshines whatever character is supposedly the focus of the movie. Looking at the group photo, I see Johnny Depp (not the Invisible Man), Russell Crowe (not Dr. Henry Jekyll), and Tom Cruise (not the character playing somebody very much like “Tom Cruise”).

The original Universal Monsters featured the characters first, played by actors who became famous after their turns as Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff).  While Lugosi did become stereotyped as Dracula, Boris Karloff avoided that fate. He went from Frankenstein, to The Mummy, and then to a long and varied career.

Speaking of Dracula – where is he? Aside from a skull with very prominent fangs in the VR tour of Prodigum available online, there is no hint of Universal’s heaviest hitter in the monster department – Dracula, the Lord of the Undead.

Which could be a problem. An interconnected monster universe without Dracula is like MCU without Captain America or the DCU without Batman. Donna Langley, Chairman of Universal promises “we will expand this series strategically.” Let’s hope this absence of Dracula is strategic misdirection on Universal’s part; much like DC keeping Superman out of the publicity buildup for Justice League, even though every fan knows he’s coming back in that movie.

Bela Lugosi as the amazingly fabulous Dracula in 1931's Dracula. [Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.]
Bela Lugosi as the amazingly fabulous Lord of the Undead in 1931’s Dracula. Let’s hope he’s part of the Dark Universe. [Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.]
Will Bill Condon approach Bride of Frankenstein as he did in 1998’s Gods and Monsters? The true horror in the Bride’s hissing at her prospective groom, both trapped in a world has no place for either of them moves Bride from horror and into heartbreaking tragedy. Or will Bride be another Maleficent – a movie that discards whatever darkness was in the original characters to make a feel good Girrrl Power movie about someone who’s not actually a monster, just misunderstood?

The horror genre has many winding rooms, hallways, extensions, and annexes. If it can encompass everything from the latest Friday the 13th slasher movie, the Blumhouse business model of micro-budget and interesting story, and the art house stylings of Get Out (2017), The Witch (2016), and The Babadook (2014), it can handle – and maybe even welcome – the new Unviersal thrill ride in the backyard.

 




Simon Pegg & Nick Frost Launch Stolen Picture with SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ

[Banner Image Courtesy Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license]

In partnership with Director Edgar Wright, Actor/writers Nick Frost and Simon Pegg have upended the Zombie Romantic Comedy (Shawn of the Dead, 2004), the Buddy Cop Comedy (Hot Fuzz, 2007), and the Alien Invasion Comedy (The World’s End, 2013) with their Cornetto Trilogy.

Now Pegg and Wright are setting up their own production company, Stolen Picture. And their first announced release may do the same for the Harry Potter “Unsuspecting Kid Goes to Weird Boarding School” genre. Slaughterhouse Rulez, co-written by Crispian Mills and Henry Fitzherbert and directed by Mills, introduces a “wide-eyed new boy” to a very British and very ancient boarding school.

Like Harry Potter … with added blood, laughs, and despoiling of nature.  (Photo courtesy Harry Potter Official Facebook page)

Instead of the Harry Potter formula of magic, dragons, and long-buried secrets, Slaughterhouse Rulez introduces a bit of Hellmouth opening to the school routine. According to Deadline Hollywood, the everyday horrors of a British boarding school education are forgotten after “a controversial frack site on prize school woodland causes seismic tremors, a mysterious sinkhole and an unspeakable horror is unleashed.”

Pegg and Frost may get the most of the initial publicity for Rulez, but co-writer and director Crispian Mills has a rather colorful history himself. The son of actress Haley Mills, he wrote and directed Pegg’s 2014 movie A Fantastic Fear of Everything. And before turning to writing and directed, Mills led the British band Kula Shaker.

So if nothing else, Stolen Picture’s first production has an interesting take on the usual school story.

 

 




HBO Heads for LOVECRAFT COUNTRY with GET OUT Director Jordan Peele

[Banner image courtesy HarperCollins Publishers/Jarrod Taylor]

If you read Mindy Inlow’s SciFi4Me article a few weeks back, you already know that HBO is preparing for the end of Game of ThronesSeveral thousand (OK, four five) GoT spinoffs are now being developed. But thanks to Get Out director Jordan Peele, there’s going to be at least one horror adaptation among the fantasy epics.

Earlier this week, Deadline Hollywood reported exclusively that Peele and HBO, working with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros Television, are adapting Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel Lovecraft Country as an hour-long drama. According to the article, the producers are aiming to make “an anthological horror series that reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.” Misha Green, co-creator of WGN’s historical drama series Underground, will write the pilot episode and serve as series showrunner.

Lovecraft Country begins as a road trip story in a slightly off-kilter 1950’s America.  Atticus Black comes home to Chicago from a tour of duty in Korea. He discovers his estranged father is missing, and the few clues remaining lead him on a journey to Ardham, Massachusetts … and Lovecraft Country.

Matt Ruff, author of Lovecraft Country © 2006 Michael Hilliard/MHHM

If the television version of Lovecraft Country aims to tell stories in an anthology format, there’s a wealth of folklore to tap into. It’ll be interesting to see what happens after the series tells the story in Ruff’s novel. Will the series continue to explore a Lovecraftian inspired mythos specific to the novel? Or will it move into folklore-inspired stories based on the African-American experience – like the paths taken in movies such as To Sleep With Anger (1990, Dir. Charles Burnett), Eve’s Bayou (1997, Dir. Kasi Lemmons) or Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, Dir. Benh Zeitlin)?

Jordan Peele’s Get Out maintains a 99% Fresh Rating at Rotten Tomatoes. (image courtesy Get Out Official Facebook page)

Howard Philips Lovecraft (1891-1937) has, to put it mildly, a complicated legacy in the horror genre. Alongside his undeniable imagination and creative energy is a clear record of unabashed racism.  Perspectives on HPL vary wildly; passionate defenders like anthologist S. T. Joshi (visit his blog and scroll down to the 11-24-15 entry) contrast with authors like Daniel Jose Older, who launched the petition that ultimately moved the World Fantasy Convention to drop  HPL as the image of their award in 2015.

Joshi protested the decision by returning the awards he received from the group. You can check our article on the new award design here.

Perhaps it’s easier to deal with the views of an author when they’re safely removed from our own time by a hundred years. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), my favorite Great American Novelist, created the quintessential heroine in Hester Prynne and acted as a higher-brow creator dark gothic tales along with his contemporary Edgar Allan Poe. Hawthorne also held the deeply racist views of his time.

Richard Klayman, in his essay “What Should We Make of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Racism?” quotes Hawthorne biographer Philip McFarland about the discomfort in admiring the superlative work of people who have very real faults. “We would prefer that those we admire be admirable in every way.”

Unlike Hawthorne, HPL is of our time. He is intimately connected to the changes in society in 20th and 21st century America. Books like Lovecraft Country specifically address his complex legacy and movies (like Get Out) telling socially relevant stories through the lens of the horror genre insure that we’ll be debating HPL for some time to come.

 

 




ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: Team Zombie Reviews ALIEN: COVENANT

Alien: Covenant (2017)
Screenplay by John Logan and Dante Harper
Story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green

Directed by Ridley Scott
Scott Free Productions/Brandywine Productions/20th Century Fox
122 minutes, rated R

Team Zombie got a chance to attend a press screener of Ridley Scott’s latest foray into the universe he created over 30 years ago, and Mr. Adair and Mr. Harvey sit down with Miss Inlow to have a chat about it. It… isn’t pretty.

Timothy: “Science Lady” is Karine Oram, played by Carmen Ejogo.

Dustin: I can’t remember names, you know that.

Timothy: “Capable Pilot Lady/Tennessee’s Wife” is Maggie Farris, played by Amy Seimetz.

Dustin: I liked her, but nope. Not going to stick.

Timothy: She was good in Wristcutters: A Love Story and Upstream Color, and she’s a director and writer in her own right.

Dustin: What are you doing here, with this?

Timothy: Well, considering one of the problems with this film is how it is crap at establishing relationships between characters, or even defining most of the characters outside of the jobs they do, making them either interchangeable or making some people – you, for example – have to use nicknames like “Science Lady” to remember what they actually do in the film…

Dustin: You decided to try and help me by telling me their names and who played them. You know this doesn’t work, right? Beth from The Walking Dead was “Daughter-Fodder” for two years, Tim. Two years.

Timothy: I continue to hold out hope. Demián Bichir played Sergeant Lope, the head of security. His character was married to the security guy who got sick and, well, spoilers, I suppose. That guy was Nathaniel Dean, playing Hallett, who we know was married to Lope because the Wikipedia page says so.

Dustin: I do know who played the young couple I liked, who did the things on the ship and stuff. That was Jussie Smollett and Callie Hernandez. I don’t remember the names of their characters because the film doesn’t care about that stuff either.

Mindy: So are you two going to sit here and throw shade at the film or just let people cut the chase and hear what you really think about Alien: Covenant? Sheesh. Hey Folks-at-Home? Listen to these two tell me all about the movie they saw, here on this special movie edition of Zombpocalypse Now. Then tell us what you think and we’ll be back with more undead things next week.

 




ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: The SANTA CLARITA DIET Season Finale!

Banner_ZombpocalypseNow

With The Walking Dead done for the season, #TeamZombie turn their attention to the first season finale of the darkly comedic feast that is Santa Clarita Diet! It’s Zombpocalypse Now!


Season 1, Episode 10 “Baka, Bile and Baseball Bats”

Written by Clay Graham, Directed by Dean Parisot

Timothy: Could you cough a bit more? And maybe tap on the table a few more times?

Dustin: I was sick, and you know it. And I… tap on things. Sometimes. Not all the time.

Timothy: Mmmm hmmm. You know I can’t cut all of those out, right?

Dustin: You know I don’t think about that at all, right?

Mindy: While these two descend into petty bickering, as is their wont, I would just like to point out that we did get the podcast back under 35 minutes for the first time in weeks, which would be even more impressive if the actual episode of Santa Clarita Diet we were talking about was actually over 30 minutes itself, but hey. We take our victories where we can. Also, for whatever reason, we again have a lot of air noise in the recording that fiendishly resisted removal, so maybe Mr. Harvey needs to check on the recording gear and see what the issue there is. We’ll keep you apprised, because we do want the listening part of this thing to be as pleasant as possible. 

Stay tuned for a special Movie Review edition of Zombpocalypse Now, out later this week, where Tweedledee and Tweedledum over here will explain to me what went wrong with the latest film in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant. Be advised that they swear a lot, so bleeping will be plentiful. They really are not meant to be out among the civilized peoples. 

Dustin: Hey…

Mindy: ALSO, if you enjoy this podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes and Podcasts.com, because that helps new listeners find us, and that’s always nice. If you don’t enjoy this podcast, it’s Tim and Dustin’s fault.

Timothy: Hang on…

Mindy: AND, please listen to all the other great podcasts we have on SciFi4MeRadio, because very few of them have as many squabbling children as this one.

Timothy: Lady has a point.

Dustin: It’s a fair cop. 

Mindy: We’ll see you all next week, where we’ll talk about things and stuff, and probably American Gods. Thanks for listening!

 

 




Cancellations & Renewals Part One: What Survived for the Fall TV Schedule?

Alrighty now. These last few weeks we have been getting updates to what shows have been saved and what shows are biting the dust. Plus we have been keeping track of what newbies have been picked up by the networks that just may be interesting. So below is a list (with more coming as news comes out from the remaining upfronts) so that our readers can properly plan for their 2017-2018 TV time.

Click on the links for additional stories on those shows. And if you see that we have missed your favorite genre show, let us know so we can share it with others!

Listed below are the series pick-ups we know about:

  • Black Lightning (The CW)
    • Retired superhero Jefferson Pierce steps back into his secret identity as the wanted vigilante Black Lightning when a local gang tries to recruit his daughter, a star student with powers of her own.
  • The Crossing (ABC)
    • Refugees from a war torn country seek asylum in an American town. However, these refugees are from American and the war they flee is 250 years in the future.

https://youtu.be/4qNDIe8tcr8

  • Deception (ABC)
    • Superstar magician Cameron Black’s career ends due to a scandal. So he joins the FBI to become the first consulting illusionist, using his art of deception, illusion, and influence to help the government solve crimes that defy explanation.
  • Ghosted (Fox)
    • A skeptic is forced to work with a believer of paranormal to solve unexplained occurrences in Los Angeles for a government agency.

https://youtu.be/ubbjVowDuys

  • The Gifted (Fox)
    • Two parents take their children on the run after they discover their children have mutant abilities.

https://youtu.be/4I_htkGJAZ4

https://youtu.be/qTzW9rMcbzk

  • The Inhumans (ABC)
    • The Inhuman Royal family escape Hawaii after a military take over with the goal to save themselves and the world.

https://youtu.be/6-5aJgj3TPg

  • The Orville (Fox)
    • Set 400 years in the future, a motley crew of a not-so-top-of-the-line exploratory ship, the Orville, join the divorced captain and first officer as they navigate fascinating and sometimes dangerous adventures as well as their work environment.

https://youtu.be/Yy9sKeCE8V0

  • The Passage (Fox)
    • A girl tries to save the human race from a post-apocalyptic world run by vampires.
  • Searchers (The CW)
    • A pragmatic brother and free spirited sister team up ten years after their parents death to discover their mothers terrible and bizarre stories will guide them to discover the great legends, myths, and explainable mysteries of the world.
  • Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
    • New Star Trek series, plot unknown, but it’s said to take place between Enterprise and The Original Series, and may be set in the Prime universe instead of the J.J. Abrams “Kelvin” timeline.

https://youtu.be/CKuZINgyR-c

  • Big Hero 6 (Disney XD)
    • Big Hero 6 will continue where the film ended with the continuing adventures of 14-year-old tech genius Hiro, his lovable, cutting-edge robot Baymax and their friends as they protect their city from scientifically enhanced villains while also balancing out regular life as new students at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

https://youtu.be/lERm84raglA

  • Ducktales (Disney XD)
    • The adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews as they search for treasures around the world and protect Scrooge’s fortune.

https://youtu.be/nY_xCXE0sIc

  • Ghost Wars (Syfy)
    • A local outcast in an Alaskan town must over come the towns prejudices and his own personal demons to be able to harness his repressed psychic powers to save the locals from a mass haunting that is threatening to kill them.
  • The Haunted (Syfy)
    • Four siblings reuinted after the death of their parents, trying to fix their fractured relationships so they can face the literal ghosts of their pasts in order to survive.
  • Krytpon (Syfy)
    • The show follows the Man of Steels grandfather of the house of El after they are shamed and ostracized as he fights to redeem his families honor and save his world from chaos.
  • Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger (Freeform)
    • The story of two teens with powers — she can throw light daggers, he can engulf people and objects in darkness — who are drawn together in a romantic entanglement made more complicated by the differences in their backgrounds.

https://youtu.be/411EofIqiaM

  • Marvel’s New Warriors (Freeform)
    • Six young people with powers who work and live together. However, their powers are not quite like the Avengers. They want to make a difference in the world – even if the world is not quite ready for them.
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man (Disney XD)
    • The animated story of an unsure but courageous teenage who has to learn to be a hero from the very beginning.

https://youtu.be/RmRh4o0y8Iw

  • Siren (Freeform)
    • According to legend, Bristol Cove once was home to mermaids.  A mysterious girl arrives and proves the folklore to be true which starts a battle between the townsfolk and the predatory creatures trying to reclaim their right to the ocean.

https://youtu.be/QrtY7OnVlw8

  • Castle Rock (Netflix)
    • Set in Stephen King’s fictional down of Castle Rock, each season would follow a different set of characters and storylines with intersecting themes and certain characters from previous seasons.
  • Marvel’s Runaways (Hulu)
    • A diverse group of six teenagers discover they have one thing in common: their parents are a part of an evil crime organization.

Listed below are the renewals that we know:

BROADCAST:

  • The 100 (The CW)
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
  • Arrow (The CW)
  • Exorcist (Fox)
  • The Flash (The CW)
  • Gotham (Fox)
  • iZombie (The CW)
  • The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
  • Legends of Tomorrow (The CW)
  • Lucifer (FOX)
  • Once Upon A Time (ABC)
  • The Originals (The CW)
  • Riverdale (The CW)
  • Supergirl (The CW)
  • Supernatural (The CW)
  • Timeless (NBC)
  • The X-Files (Fox)

CABLE:

  • 12 Monkeys (Syfy) – through fourth and final season in 2018
  • American Horror Story (FX) – through Season 9
  • Beyond (Freeform)
  • Channel Zero (Syfy) – through Season 4
  • Colony (USA)
  • Dark Matter (SyFy)
  • The Expanse (SyFy)
  • Fear the Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Humans (AMC)
  • Into the Badlands (AMC)
  • The Last Ship (TNT)
  • Legion (FX)
  • The Librarians (TNT)
  • The Magicians (SyFy)
  • Outlander (Starz) – through Season 4
  • People of Earth (TBS)
  • Scream (MTV)
  • The Shannara Chronicles (moving to Spike)
  • Shadowhunters (Freeform)
  • Van Helsing (Syfy)
  • Westworld (HBO)
  • Z Nation (Syfy)

STREAMING:

Listed below are the cancellations we know about:

  • Emerald City (NBC)
  • Frequency (The CW)
  • Making History (Fox)
  • Powerless (NBC)
  • Scream Queens (Fox)
  • Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
  • Son of Zorn (Fox)