Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dissecting a Myth - Polyphemus

As I have started watching American Gods, I decided to take some time and look back at some of the ancient Gods and the mysterious lore that surrounds them. Today I will take a journey back into the vaults of time, to an era governed by gods and documented in the mythos. The specimen is a creature so horrible and hideous, his name can still strike fear in the masses. Throughout antiquity, the legend of Polyphemus, a man-eating Cyclops with a single orb-shaped eye set in the middle of his forehead would be heard throughout Trinacria (Sicily) and the Mediterranean world. Today I plan to dissect it for you. 

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the southernmost region of Italy, lying south of mainland Italy separated by the Strait of Messina. This region, consisting of nine provinces: Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Siracusa, and Trapani, has a vast history and is a modern link to the folklore of an enlightened day. At the heart of this beautiful garden lie Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano, and ancient home to our vile destructor. 

"The wild Cyclopes in Aetna’s caverns watch the straits during stormy nights, should any vessel driven by fierce south winds draw nigh, bringing thee, Polyphemus, grim fodder and wretched victims for thy feasting, so look they forth and speed every way to drag captive bodies to their king. Them doth the cruel monarch himself on the rocky verge of a sacrificial ridge, that looms above mid-sea, take and hurl down in offering to his father Neptunus [Poseidon]; but should the men be of finer build, then he bids them take arms and meet him with the gauntlets; that for the hapless men is the fairest doom of death.” - Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4.104

It is said that Polyphemus would feast on raw human flesh, devoured from the unexpecting seafaring merchants that would unwillingly cross his path, washing down their remains with raw milk. This legendary banquet, a typical midnight snack for this creature, held religiously before he retired into the depths of his volcanic lair for the evening amongst his beasts. Unfortunately, this civilization had much to fear besides the Cyclops. In mythological times, great Mount Etna was home to the forges of the Roman god Vulcan, Polyphemus, and the monster Typhon. 

If the seafarers of the day luckily survived an encounter with Polyphemus the penchant of death still burnt bright, with the six-headed monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis (two of the perils faced by Odysseus in Homer's epic poem Odyssey) surrounding the Strait of Messina 

Fortunately, for us humans, Polyphemus is said to have met his demise at the hands of Odysseus, who once became trapped in the cave of the giant, bearing witness the horror of the Cyclops grand meal (his men). Unable to escape, Odysseus showered him with wine and as he slept and pierced his eye with a burning stake, blinding the great beast. The blind giant attempted to exact revenge by sinking Odysseus' escaping ship with rocks, but failed, ending his reign over humanity and etching his name into infamy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Refuge (2013)

Once I left the softball field and caught the fourth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, it was nice to get back to finding movies that will capture my attention. The next one did just that and left me wanting more. What was it; just the 2013 post-apocalyptic tale Refuge (AKA The Mansion).

Plot/ As food and supplies dwindle and the threat of marauders becomes more apparent, the family must ultimately face the decision to either stay in hiding or go in search of an elusive mansion they've heard of - that may or may not exist.

Now that I have finished the first four episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return, it was time to get back to my usual viewing cycle and I am glad that I did. This is a film that I knew nothing about and was excited to see how this film took on the post-apocalypse environment. What I found was something that was both atmospheric and entertaining, and a film that definitely stepped outside the box when creating this world. Similar to The Walking Dead minus the zombies, but that is in no way a bad thing. The performances are solid, the storyline enthralling, the cinematography is on point, and the entire movie works. To nitpick, some of the characterizations and decisions may not be perfect, but how many are really that way. In the end, there are a ton of positives in this film and it may be one of the best low budgeted flicks out there. Yes, it does lack zombies, but it more than makes up for it with its overall quality. Check this one out; it is a great addition to the post-apocalyptic world.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Oceans Rising (2017)

After watching and being amazed by Twin Peaks: The Return last night, it was hard to sit down and write a review on anything today. There was so much going on in the first two episodes; it was one of the greatest mental journeys I have gone on in a long time. Unfortunately, my next review will be on the opposite end of the spectrum. That is the 2017 SyFy disaster flick Oceans Rising from The Asylum.

Plot/ A scientist builds a boat after his warnings of an Earth-destroying flood are ignored. But when it's evident the disaster will occur, those who maligned the scientist now turn to him in desperation, boarding the ark and seeking his answers before the world drowns in a never ending sea.

If you have been following the blog, you would know that I went through a streak of rather flawed movies recently. While some of them were bad, I can honestly say that none of them sunk to the lowly depths like this one. Actually, I am convinced that this may be the worst movie I have seen in a few years. Going in, I knew that I was going to have to suspend belief to make it through, but about 10 minutes in you will realize that it is an impossible task. There is nothing anyone could do to even imagine any of this being plausible. I understand it is a movie and it should have some of those elements, but, there are usually a few things inside the film that you can relate to. That is not the case with this one. The storyline is too unbelievable, the effects range from laughable to terrible (especially the CGI), the performances are overly flat, and the dialog and scripting make no sense. In the end, there is absolutely no reason to watch this movie. Truthfully, I think my review may even make it sound better than it is. Stay away; stay far away!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

It’s happening again! Yes, after 25 years, Twin Peaks is finally returning to the screen and I couldn’t be more excited. David Lynch and the Twin Peaks series are  two of the main reasons that I wanted to become a writer. While I knew this was on the horizon, I decided to clear my mind in preparation. That is when I decided to pick up a film from one of my favorite franchises with 2016s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

Plot/ Alice returns to where the nightmare began: The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.

Let me start off by saying that this has been one of my favorite zombie themed series and I was sad to hear that this was gong to be the final chapter. Fortunately, they decided to go out with a bang. While many people will not enjoy this mindless trip into Raccoon City for a final time (and understandably so), the non0stop action and gore is enough to keep you at least entertained if you can suspend belief for the duration. Yes, there are some strange decisions that lead to holes in the continuity between films and there are definitely some head scratching moments that actually make the movie overly predictable, but those are easily overlooked in the grand scheme. As a film, the action is well paced, the performances were solid, the gore worked, and some of the storyline did add some interesting twists to the franchise as a whole. In the end, this may not be the best movie in the series, but it was entertaining and perfect for some late night zombie fun. Not for everyone, but if you can suspend belief for a couple hours, it can be a great mindless entry.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Patriots Day (2016)

After a long day with an open house at the institute followed by an extremely hard nap, I decided to kick back and watch a film that I had heard mixed things about. That movie is the 2016 account of the Boston Marathon Bombing Patriots Day.

Plot/ The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists responsible.

This is a movie that I had stayed away from for a while but decided to hive it a shot. While I do agree there are some moments where it feels like there is some propaganda added in the dialog, it was somewhat easy to look past and focus on the movie. One of the biggest positives that I can point out is the way the film takes on an event that is still rather fresh in a viewers mind and creates something that is both entertaining and tense. There are solid performances, the pacing is strong, and the cinematography captures as authentic feel. Yes, as I mentioned earlier there were a few moments where the dialog was agenda driven (the subtle 911 was an inside job reference was an interesting choice) and there are some holes between the opening sequences and the ending, but those are rather easy to overlook when a viewer thinks of the scope of a project such as this and the actual way the  events transpired. In the end, this one was much better that I expected and a movie that is both entertaining and interesting. Check it out.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Here Alone (2016)

Lately, after finishing After the Static, I have stayed away from the realm of zombies. After spending months writing about them, I needed a break. With that book in the design process (and due out soon), I figured it was time to jump back into the arena (plus, my streak of subpar flicks needed to end). With that in mind, I decided on the 2016 zombie flick Here Alone for my next flick.

Plot/ A young woman struggles to survive on her own in the wake of a mysterious epidemic that has killed much of society and forced her deep into the unforgiving wilderness.

After my streak of subpar movies, I decided to jump back into something that I love: zombie flicks. I love that genre because to me there is potential with them that they can usually offer a viewer something different. This entry may be more of a slow burn drama than an all-out action flick, but it delivered. This was extremely realistic and focused more on the other side of the realm with the characters instead of the blood and gore of the outbreak. The atmosphere works, the cinematography sound, and the performances are solid. Yes, this one does lack the action and gore that many zombie fans prefer, but to me, that is what makes this film work. If the zombie apocalypse did break out, would you really be out there slaying them? Probably not, instead, you would be trying to save yourself by any means possible; and that is what makes this film resonate so well. In the end, if you are for all-out action, this one isn’t for you. But, if you like well thought out and atmospheric entries in the realm of zombies, give this one a chance, you will be surprised.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Freshwater (2016)

After suffering through Man Vs., I decided that I wanted to follow that with a straight low budget creature feature. Unfortunately, my selection, 2016s Freshwater, almost made me wish that I were trapped alone in the woods fighting a CGI alien.

Plot/ A new take on the classic story of a group of twenty-something kids' weekend of terror at the lake house.

And my streak of subpar movies continues. Luckily, I was somewhat prepared for that since this was a low budget creature feature, but it was still below what I had hoped for. This one was not all bad with an interesting soundtrack and a couple of decent performances. Unfortunately, the special effects, cinematography, editing, and scripting did not hold any weight and left the movie fall flat. In the end, this one is not worth your time; stay away.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Man Vs. (2015)

Now that I am settled back into a routine, it is nice to mix some horror/sci-fi flicks with working on a nonfiction project. After a lot of debate, I was so motivated after the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure to not only head back into the field but to revisit Searching the Abyss and update it with some new information and material. While I was working on that last night, I decided to kick back and watch the 2015 horror/sci-fi entry Man Vs.

Plot/ As host of the hit TV series, MAN VS., Doug Woods is forced to fend for himself for five days in remote locations with no crew, food, or water, only the cameras he carries on his back to film his experiences. Doug's in the remote woods for a routine episode until he's awoken by an earth-shaking crash. Things get weirder as it becomes clear Doug isn't alone. Someone or something is watching him.

As days go by this week, I think I am stuck in one of those cycles with my movie selections. In this case, I was somewhat optimistic that this one would break that streak, but it didn’t quite make it. While I love the premise and was excited about the atmosphere and feel as the movie progressed, the subpar CGI makes this one collapse in a major way. The storyline is interesting (albeit cliché), the performances were solid, and the visuals are decent. Unfortunately, that is where the typical found footage trappings and CGI come in and destroys the equity the film built in the early stages. In the end, there is nothing new or memorable with this one (unless it is the poor CGI). The flick starts well enough but ends with a thud. Stay away, you could definitely do much better.

Monday, May 15, 2017

American Mummy (2014)

After spending yesterday with the family, I figured that it would be a good time to jump back into the blog with another low budget entry that I grabbed at Family Video. That selection is the 2014 entry American Mummy (AKA Aztec Blood)

Plot/ A group of university students in the New Mexico desert unearth an ancient mummy, on which one of the students performs a secret, primeval blood ritual. This awakens the death-hungry spirit of the Aztec Lord Tezcalipoca, intent on finishing his centuries-old reign of terror. Soon, the mummy's curse possesses the students' souls, turning them against each other in a bid to spread his evil to the entire world.

When I picked this one up, I expected a low budget, mindless horror flick and that is exactly what I got. This one was extremely laughable from start to finish with uneven performances, strange soundtrack choices, an incoherent storyline that was a head scratcher at best, and a script that not only left many things unexplained created some weird dialog choices. Yes, there was gore and blood, but even the overall feel of the effects was nothing memorable or to write home about. In the end, I can look past the titling and the description (although keeping the title Aztec Blood would make more sense), but the execution was not there even for a low budget flick. Honestly, this one felt more like a school project that a true production. Stay away, you can definitely do much better.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Tall Men (2016)

Last night, I took some time away from the computer to head back to the Prime Stage Theater to watch the stage adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. What a tremendous production and awesome time. If you are in the Pittsburgh area and they have a show, definitely check it out. Now, it is time to get back to the blog and my next review. The movie I have chosen is the 2016 fantasy/horror entry Tall Men (AKA Customer 152).

Plot/ A challenged man is stalked by tall phantoms in business suits after he purchases a car with a mysterious black credit card.

I will be the first to admit that this was nothing like I thought it would be when I picked it up. What I found was something strange and somewhat atmospheric, with some curious premises built into the underlying storylines. The performances were solid (especially considering the budget), the cinematography interesting, and the overall feel better than I first expected. Yes, this film is not traditional horror and does creep at a slower pace, some of the dialog is uneven, and at over two hours, it may run a tad too long, but it does not totally sink the movie. In the end, this one is definitely not for everyone, and many will not have the patience to sit through it. Personally, I thought that the surrealistic elements did just enough to keep my attention.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Void (2016)

After taking a week to focus on movies that had a Cryptozoological feel, I decided it was time to dive back into the true horror genre. After searching Family Video, I sat back and decided on the 2016 entry The Void.

Plot/ Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.

It has been awhile since I found a modern horror film take me on a ride similar to the classics that made me a fan of the genre in the 1970s and 1980s. That all changed with The Void. This was one of the best horror films I have watched in some time and honestly, one that I may decide to pick up a copy of. This film has an intriguing storyline that feels like a mixture of classic Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft complete with amazing visuals and a dark atmosphere. The effects are solid, the performances decent, the cinematography works, and most importantly, this movie pushed the boundaries of horror filmmaking by creating a film that could crawl under a viewer's skin and create nightmares. Yes, there are some uneven moments with the dialog and scripting, but those moments are forgotten when you focus on the graphic images that grace the screen. In the end, this movie is a must see for a true horror fan, especially those that enjoy the works of Barker and Lovecraft. If that is you, find it, and watch it; you should definitely enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hunting Grounds (2015)

Now that I am settling in after my cold weekend camping trip, I have one last Cryptozoological based movie to finish before moving on to another genre. This one I actually finished last Thursday before the trip, the 2015 Bigfoot themed movie Hunting Grounds (AKA Valley of the Sasquatch).

Plot/ After losing their home following a devastating tragedy, a father and son are forced to move to an old family cabin. Neither reacts well to being thrown into this new world. The son's attempts to relate to his father are complicated when two old friends arrive for a weekend of hunting.

I am usually all for low budget B-movie creature features, especially if the creature is Bigfoot. Unfortunately, this one did not resonate with me in any way. Yes, the setting and cinematography seemed to be above average considering the genre and some of the storyline was interesting, but those elements could not overcome some of the flaws and allow this film to reach its potential. The character development was slow, the effects (especially the Bigfoot creatures) are poor and unbelievable, and while they tried to break some of the clichéd moments, it does not work in a coherent manner. In the end, while this one is not a complete waste of time, it is far from memorable. While it did not really strike a cord with me, I could see how some viewers would enjoy it as a mindless creature feature. If that is what you are looking for as a midnight movie, give it a shot. But, id you are like me and want something more believable, stay away.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Mothman of Point Pleasant (2017)

Last night, I had the chance to review the Boggy Creek Monster, a documentary based on the legend/movie that left a lasting impression on me and I loved it. Today, I have the opportunity to review a screener for the next documentary from Seth Breedlove and Small Town Monsters, 2017s The Mothman of Point Pleasant.

Plot/ Have you heard of the Mothman, the urban legend that seemed to be a harbinger of doom for the small town of Point Pleasant, WV in the mid-60’s? If not, producer/director Seth Breedlove and Small Town Monsters will explore the history of Point Pleasant and the 13-month period of odd occurrences that left a devastating imprint on this small Appalachian town.

While I am familiar with the Mothman and have done some research into the subject, I will be the first to admit that I do not have the same knowledge and understanding of the topic as I do with cryptids such as Bigfoot or the Jersey Devil. That all changed as I watched this documentary. Following a similar formula to the Boggy Creek Monster, the movie sets out to explore the historic profile of Point Pleasant as well as revisiting the mysterious happenings surrounding the Mothman and the potentially cursed town. This material is tremendous and provides a great background for investigators and viewers to dive into.

With this being the second film I have watched from Small Town Monsters, I can see a consistency with the production values that make their documentaries an easy and entertaining watch. The interviews are well done, the cinematography is outstanding, and the overall feel of the material makes you want to see more. One thing that jumped out was the use of CGI reenactments to marry some of the interviews together; this technique offers a great visual representation that allows the interviews sink in. More importantly with this entry, the material seems to flow in a logical manner and provides some insights and reports that are often overlooked when the story is told; this is impressive considering the short run time (72 minutes). As with every movie, there are some small technical issues with the CGI, but that is clearly budget related and is easily overlooked.

For me, possibly because of my knowledge level on the subject, I found this one much more informative than the Boggy Creek Monster, and a movie that created a timeline that I could use to base my own research into the subject on. In the end, this exploration of the legendary Mothman is one of the best documentaries on the subject I have seen and is an entry that anyone interested in Cryptozoology or urban legends must watch. Check it out when it is released on DVD and streaming platforms on June 2, 2017.