Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Mountain Monsters (2013)
Mountain Monsters reaches new heights of absurdity... and I love it!
Once upon a time the "most successful" cryptozoological TV offering was arguably Finding Bigfoot. I hated it from the get go, primarily because at it's core it's nothing more than an exercise in ego run amok, courtesy of Matt Moneymaker, self obsessed showoff who is totally and completely full of himself (as well as a copious amount of far less desirable waste material) and really does a disservice to the crypto field.
Enter Mountain Monsters. Yes indeedy, it's pure hogwash from start to finish. But what they're doing with their third season is at least unique in its scope, and that makes it far more watchable than it has any right to be. Asserting that different Bigfoot clans throughout the Appalachians are constructing heretofore unseen elaborate burial grounds and teaming up with the chupacabra and hell hounds is a stroke of genius and it's a wonder no other crypto show has tried to connect the dots like this before. Add to that the whole "now we're being stalked by mysterious investigators" and you've got a pseudo reality show without peer. Do I really need to quantify why I still tune in to watch a bunch of delusional (at best) backwoods hillbillies yank on my leg for 45 minutes? I think not. Now let's get out there and get that sumbitch!
Ghost Stalkers (2014)
Could this be parareality TV's next hit?
Ghost Stalkers. Don't let the title dissuade you, as there's a lot to like here.
Right off the bat, production values are solid. The mood is somber and low key, a refreshing change of pace from the "in your face" approach that some paranormal investigation shows take. Also nice was the lack of jump scare cliffhanger nonsense leading into commercial breaks. The process feels matter of fact, academic even. I even like the font choice that they use. The aesthetic is more akin to a classic horror film than a reality show, and it works to this show's favor. The "solo investigator camera" isolation factor is also a fantastic approach, and frankly I'm surprised no one else had thought of it before. Which leads me to the hosts.
Disclaimer: I've known John Tenney since the mid 1990's and he's always impressed me with his infectious need to know the unknowable and understand the unknown as well as his critical thinking skills. I suspect he's always been like that. And while he definitely has a playful, mischievous side to his personality, both in his approach to life and the study of the paranormal, at the end of the day this is something that he takes very seriously. He and I have had many long and spirited discussions regarding the nature of things beyond our capacity to reason, and it's impossible not to respect his wealth of knowledge on all things paranormal as well as his open minded approach to the attempted understanding of various phenomena. I was relieved to see this side of John's personality on display for the show. We don't know what the true nature of hauntings are, or what ghosts and demons really are, and John does an excellent job at avoiding the usual routine of labeling these unexplained forces with trite and perhaps even incorrect categorical markers. His "detective noir" investigative technique is unique and true to his personality, underscored here by his manner of dress. Truly awesome.
Chad on the other hand, while not exactly the weak link, is a bit more suspect in his approach to investigating. I can appreciate his determination to meet his fears head on in order to gain understanding of the unknown, and while his "nervous Nellie" disposition has come under fire, it's actually preferable to the aggro intimidation approach that other ghost show investigators take. It must also be said that Chad is a professional actor, which undermines many of his reactions to what he's experiencing. How can we be certain that it's all legit when he's trained himself to play make believe for a paycheck? In all honesty, we may never know.
Can't comment too much on the tech that David Rountree brings to the location, though I'd think that if a legitimate wormhole/vortex detector (used in the pilot episode) had actually been constructed, it would be put to regular use in various applications, not just the study of haunted houses. His laser grid for Episode Two on the other hand was far more low-tech and yielded some very interesting evidence... more on that in a moment.
Locations. This is where I had the most issues, specifically in the Whispers Estate episode. Take for example the attic where the "vortex" is suspected to extend. In the same corner, there's a small table with a candle holder and a skull. Whether it was set up by the producers of the show or it's an actual fixture of the estate, it's reeks of trying too hard and/or kicking the hornet's nest. The same can be said of some of the decorative choices such as paint color, black drapes, creepy dolls etc. It's a psychological setup that immediately creates the necessary mindset that something is very "wrong" here and dark forces are sure to manifest, because look how creepy this place is. If the owner of the estate would make the effort to make the place at least look normal and the experiences persisted, then we'd really have something interesting. Last thing: Gwen's story of being "pulled through the vortex". No follow up questions about what she saw and experienced? That's a grand claim, and to leave it unresolved is a capital offense for a show of this nature.
The Springfield Hospital episode however was different. Apparently John and Chad were given first run of the place, and while there was plenty of disrepair within the buildings (sometimes at dangerous levels) there was also a refreshing absence of graffiti and "set dressing" that we see in other supposedly haunted locations that are open to the public. The heartbreaking history of the facility and its many buildings provided an emotional backdrop for the investigation, illustrated by the audio evidence captured on multiple cameras. But it's Rountree's laser grid that yields the most compelling evidence of the investigation, suspect though it may seem. We definitely see "something" that breaks the field for a fleeting moment, and if there truly wasn't anyone else in the building, then they indeed captured something remarkable. Due to John's personal veracity, I'm inclined to believe that the footage is legit, but you'll have to see for yourself and decide. It should also be noted that Chad's hysterics reach record highs in this episode, but they serve more as a tension breaker and are relatively harmless. A very strong second episode for a show that already demonstrates strong promise.
All told, Ghost Stalkers gets far more right than it gets wrong, and should be awarded major points for its inspired methodology and refusal to be another cookie cutter paranormal program. Definitely worth a look.
A Talking Cat!?! (2013)
Just kill me now.
I defy anyone to make it through this direct to video disaster in one sitting. I know I couldn't. There is nothing, NOTHING even remotely redeemable about this mess. Zero production values, a canned and looped music score that would be far more fitting for interrogations of enemies of the state, painful performances from has been's (WTF how desperate were Kristine DeBell and Johnny Whittaker in order for them to debase themselves like this?!) along with a talentless cast of young up and comers, and -the coup de gras- the most unbelievable "talking cat" effect you will ever see. This entire video (I refuse to call it a movie) is an endurance test for only the most brave of souls. Your rage will set in after the first fifteen minutes, and from there on out it's a battle of wills to see who will emerge victorious. Many have tried. All have perished. Consider this your only warning.
Paranormal Witness (2011)
Could be the best paranormal TV show in recent history...
Not since the glory days of the original run of Unsolved Mysteries have we had it so good! After being forced to suffer frat boy ghost hunters and dumbed down ADD-addled supernatural expeditions that go nowhere while frustrating the viewer, along comes a program that shows just how effective a return to the tried-and-true formula of "let the eyewitness tell the story" along with solidly cast and executed reenactments can be. Having totally missed out on this show until a few days ago (happened upon it on Netflix instant) both the wife and I were stunned to find that this show totally delivers. Emotionally engaging and often times frightening, it's been one winning episode after another. Granted, we have yet to peruse the second season and hopes are high that they don't alter the formula with the same inane sensationalist flash that makes most other paranormal shows nigh unwatchable. Will continue to follow this series with great interest!
Life in a Day (2011)
Should have been 10 stars, had to deduct for Animal Death scene (SPOILER)
My wife and I were both absolutely engaged with this from the opening frames; funny, poignant, moving, this one was a winner and I couldn't wait to recommend it to friends and family.
And then the cow slaughter scene hit and the feelgood express stopped cold.
I get the "day in the life of cultures all around the world" aspect of this project, but I have two questions: 1) Who in the FVCK sent in that footage in the first place, and what was the point? 2) Why did the producers decide that it was important to include that footage in the finished product? What could have and should have been required viewing for everyone, of all ages, all over the planet was immediately relegated to "Faces Of Death" status. Was the cow sick? Did it need to be put down? Was it an animal experiment? Was it a statement about factory farming? With no context by which to judge it, it simply hits the screen like a sledgehammer to the stomach. No warning. No rhyme or reason. If the producers were going for a "life and death" thing, the quick scene of the goat getting its throat cut should have sufficed. But to show a helpless cow trapped in a metal corral getting stunned in the head (TWICE) and then getting stabbed in the throat AND THEN watching it bleed out was simply overkill in a bad way.
If the significance of including such a graphic and depressing scene is lost on me, I can accept that. I'm a realist. I don't live in a happy shiny bubble and I know that there are worse things than that that happen on a daily basis everywhere. I eat meat. But what certainly seemed like a celebration of human existence (its ups and downs included) was, in my humble opinion, tragically marred by this.
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
The three things that will make you hate yourself for watching this film...
Lorraine Gary's hair. And her shoulderpad wardrobe. Gone is the strong yet understated character from the first and second films. A capital offense.
The shark roars like a dinosaur. Allow me to repeat this. THE SHARK ROARS LIKE A DINOSAUR. Not only is this physiologically impossible, it's also f*cking stupid.
Ellen Brody has flashbacks of her husband's climactic face-off with the shark from the first film. And then she rams/impales the beast with the broken prow of her boat. And the shark EXPLODES. (Note: after viewing the alternate ending where she still rams the shark but only impales it, causing massive trauma and bleeding out of the beast, I've come to the conclusion that the production team and/or the executives responsible for the final product were clearly out of their goddamn minds.) This film is total balls. And not in a good way. You have been warned.
Caught this one for the first time on SciFi channel the other night and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't only a solid episode, but one of the very best TZ has ever produced. On Thursday We Leave For Home is one of the best written, emotionally resonant and well acted episodes in the shows entire history. I kept trying to guess the trademark "ironic twist" that I knew had to be coming as the end approached, but my guesses were totally wrong, and when the coda finally hit, it was one of the most effective gut punches ever, even by TZ standards. You really felt for Benteen, the defacto leader who only wanted what was best for his people, which was wonderfully underscored by the suitably downbeat ending. Hats off to Msrs. Serling and Whitmore. A stunning success. Highly recommended.
Bekushiru: 2077 Nihon sakoku (2007)
Everything "Appleseed Ex Machina" should have been!
Went into Vexille on the heels of the disappointing Appleseed Ex Machina and was BLOWN AWAY. Everything about this is top notch; the storyline, while involved, is still easy to follow and very engaging. You care about characters when they die, even the ones with limited screen time. For a standard (read: non HD) disc, the image is fantastic, though I watched it on a PS3 so the upconverting may have helped. The surround sound mix is totally immersive and goes a long way to bring you into the story. The action sequences, while somewhat derivative, are brilliant and very well staged and executed. All of this is served spectacularly well by the music, which is a combination of Oakenfold's signature breakbeat techno and selected songs by other artists, and is never off putting or out of place. Also, the anime style, a blend of cell shaded 2D and CGI, is reminiscent of Appleseed, only a bit more fluid and stylized. The Japanese audio track is solid as to be expected, and to my surprise the English dub is actually very well done. Bonus points for that.
All told, Vexille is a must buy for cyberpunk, sci fi and anime afficionados, and is definitely reference material for your home theatre system.
The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)
"It scared me then, and it scares me now..."
"I been livin' in these bottoms fer all my life, and I ain't never seen nor heard no monster!" Good for Herb Jones, but tell it to poor Bobby Ford after his hair raising "hand through the bathroom window" encounter with the Fouke Monster! This flick is an absolute gem... I have vivid recollections of catching this on Saturday afternoon TV as a kid in the 70's and being equal parts riveted and terrified. In fact, thanks to this I STILL can't handle being in the woods for a prolonged amount of time. The low budget totally works in its favor, prompting director Pierce to con the locals into appearing as themselves; case in point, the amazing scene of elderly Willie E. Smith blasting away at the creature with his shotgun from the front porch! Other images forever burned into my soul: the shocking closeup of the cat that was "frightened" to death, the little blond kid running through the field at sunset as the creature's creepy howl-scream echoes in the adjacent woods, and yes, the "Hey Travis Crabtree, wait a minute for meeeee..." sequence. So glad to see this on DVD finally, and yes, it scares me now as it scared me then. HIGHLY recommended.