SYNCHRONIC [Beyond Fest 2020 Film Review]

By: Joe Meyers 10/6/2020

We’re huge fans of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s films here at The Podcast Macabre. So, to say I was excited to score a ticket to see their latest movie at the Misson Tiki Drive-In as part of Beyond Fest 2020 is an under statement. SYNCHRONIC is easily their most ambitious movie to date. Set in New Orleans, friends and paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) begin to see increasingly bizarre deaths as they work the night shift.

Steve is the single, party, and “play the field” guy while Dennis is married to Tara (Katie Aselton), and has kids. Secretly Steve longs for what Dennis has, while Dennis seems to have hit a “midlife crisis”, and feels trapped by his family. The guys eventually tie a new designer drug, Synchronic, to the odd cases they’ve seen just in time for Dennis’ teenaged daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) to disappear after taking it while hanging out with friends.

The lives of both Steve and Dennis begin to unravel in different ways, leading Steve to go around town in an attempt to purchase all of the available Synchronic so nobody else would get hurt from the supposedly harmless drug. At one of his stops Steve is confronted by a man who wishes to purchase the Synchronic from him at triple what he paid for it. Steve declines, even when offered $2,000.00. We later discover the man is Dr. Kermani (Ramirez Monsef), and he designed Synchronic. As Dr. Kermani reveals the truth behind, Steve is sent on a time-traveling journey in an attempt to rescue Brianna.

I love the premise of SYNCHRONIC, and the visuals people see as they get high on the drug are impressive. Anthony Mackie was a clear standout for me, but the whole cast delivered. My only complaint there is Katie Aselton as Tara didn’t get nearly enough screen time. As with their other films, Benson and Moorhead utilize every cent of the budget they can on screen. The effects work looked great, and nothing made the movie seem budget constricted or small.

Fans of Benson and Moorhead should definitely check SYNCHRONIC out when they’re able. Anyone who loves time-travel stories would do well to get their eyes on the film as well. It’s a great addition to their filmography, and further promises nothing but great things for their future. In a pre-recorded intro to the film Benson and Moorhead revealed they’re quarantining together because they’ve been working on their next project, which went into pre-production as of yesterday. They didn’t drop any hints at what it’ll be about, but I’ll be there to watch whatever new adventure they wish to share.

Episode 232 – From A24 to XYZ

Focusing on the production companies behind a lot of great indie horror in the past decade, we share our personal 15 faves from A24 Films, Oscilloscope Labs, Spectrevision, and XYZ Films. (Letterboxd companion list link in show notes.)

Episode 232: https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/podcastmacabre/PM_Episode_232_Final.mp3

Letterboxd Companion List: https://boxd.it/8MZJq

Episode 230 – Happy HoopTober! (with special guest Cinemonster)

We’re making our lists and checking them a dozen times as HoopTober 7.0 is upon us on Letterboxd. And who better to have on to talk about it than the mad genius behind it, Cinemonster! Please enjoy this fun as hell interview and maybe join the challenge yourself. (Check all the links in the show notes, too!)

Episode 230 – Happy HoopTober! (with special guest Cinemonster!) https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/podcastmacabre/PM_Episode_230_Final.mp3

Cinemonster’s HoopTober Se7en Challenge List: https://letterboxd.com/cinemonster/list/hooptober-se7en-we-have-such-masked-socially/

Jenny’s HoopTober List: https://letterboxd.com/tattooedjenny/list/hooptober-70/

Joe’s HoopTober List: https://letterboxd.com/gotmewrong/list/hooptober-70-2020/

Chris’s HoopTober List: https://letterboxd.com/duckman/list/hooptober-se7en-whats-in-the-letterboxd/

Jon Ursenbach’s Charity Drive HoopTober List: https://letterboxd.com/erunion/list/hooptober-7/

ruinmysleep’s 499 Nights of Female-Fronted Frights: https://letterboxd.com/ruinmysleep/list/365-nights-of-female-fronted-frights/

Letterboxd’s 250 Top Horror Films: https://letterboxd.com/darrencb/list/letterboxds-top-250-horror-films/

DEVOLUTION: A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF THE RAINIER SASQUATCH MASSACRE [Book Review]

By Joe Meyers

I like to think most people my age discovered Sasquatches the same way I did, the Bigfoot episode of IN SEARCH OF… that originally aired on April 28, 1977. As I would have only been two years old at the time, it was surely a rerun sometime during the show’s initial six year run that I caught. Young me was glued to the television screen from the moment Leonard Nimoy began speaking and the synth theme music played. Just the still photo from the Patterson-Gimlin film alone turned me into THE X-FILES’ Fox Mulder, I *WANTED* to believe. So, when I found out Max Brooks, author of the amazing Zombie epic WORLD WAR Z, was releasing a book about Bigfoot it was immediately added to my summer read list.

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DEVOLUTION is about a reporter trying to piece together what happened to the people living in a secluded, high-end, eco-friendly community of Greenloop about a year after a volcanic eruption of Mount Rainier. The story unfolds via journal entries kept by Kate Holland, a Greenloop resident who is still missing at the time of the investigation, interviews with experts on zoology, and a Forest Service officer. What begins as a tale of people trying to live in harmony with Mother Nature turns into a nightmare when the residents discover they aren’t the only living things in the area searching for food and survival.

After the eruption of Mount Rainier, Greenloop is cut off from the outside world. The one access road to the community is impassable and the drone deliveries from Seattle they relied upon for food, supplies, and other goods were no longer possible. As the group tries to decide the best course forward, do they wait to be saved or venture out to find help?, it becomes clear the wildlife, spoiler…it’s TOTALLY Sasquatches!!!!, has taken an interest in them.

While I appreciate the amount of research that must have gone into this novel, I will say the first half of it was a struggle at times. None of the characters were really grabbing my interest at first, and it all felt more like set up than world and/or tension building. Thankfully that all changed around page 130. Once we get the first clear Sasquatch interaction with the community the book had me locked in tight. The final half of DEVOLUTION s the pure definition of “page turner.“

Even with my feelings on the beginning, the sheer quality of the last half of the book has firmly planted this on my “I recommend” list. Especially if you’re a fan of Max’s and/or a fan of Bigfoot. While I read the book, I have to say the audiobook cast looks like it’s more than worth a listen. The cast includes Max Brooks himself, Judy Greer, Jeff Daniels, Nathan Fillion, Mira Furlan, Kimberly Guerrero, Kate Mulgrew, Kai Ryssdal, and the always incredible Steven Weber.

Legendary Entertainment optioned the book for an film just prior to the novel’s release by DelRay on 6/16/20. I’m looking forward to who they tap to write the script, and seeing how they translate the DEVOLUTION’s journal entry sections to on screen action. Fingers crossed it’s not a “film adaption in title only” situation, because certain events in the finale were edge of your seat intense. Plus, like with my beloved Werewolves, we don’t get nearly enough good Sasquatch horror movies and I believe a more faithful adaption of this source material could be one of the good ones.

Episode 227 – Drive-In Double Feature: THE STUFF (1985) and STREET TRASH (1987)

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Get ready to get gooey as we dive deep into the melting mayhem of THE STUFF (1985) and STREET TRASH (1987) in this edition of Drive-In Double Feature.

Episode 227 – Drive-In Double Feature: THE STUFF (1985) and STREET TRASH (1987)

What In The Hell Is Chris, I mean, Joe Watching Now? MANTANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE)

By Joe Meyers

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a mushroom trip…”

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A little over a year ago I was at a get-together with my girlfriend’s family, and found myself in a conversation with a lovely, horror loving couple, Ed and Toni. At some point Ed asked me if I’d ever seen ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE, and went on to say it was basically the horror version (possibly part inspiration?) of GILLIAN’S ISLAND. To say I was immediately curious about the film would be an understatement. I loved GILLIAN’S ISLAND as a kid, and I would often come up with horror scenarios for the characters after watching episodes.

It took me some time after my chat with Ed and Toni before seeing MANTANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE), but it was worth the wait. This 1963 film was written by Takeshi Kimura, directed by the legendary Ishirō Honda, and was loosely based on William H. Hodgson’s short story, “The Voice in the Night.” Starring Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Tachikawa, and Yoshio Tsuchiy the movie really is about a trip on a yacht that wrecks off the shore of a seemingly deserted island…and yes, the characters feature a skipper, his mate, a professor, a wealthy man, and a celebrity among others.

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As the group makes their way across the island they discover vast growths of strange mushrooms, and eventually come across a shipwreck on the shore. Exploring this ship they find evidence that whoever had been onboard was likely conducting nuclear experiments, possibly the cause of the mutated mushrooms. The longer they’re on the island to more certain individuals begin to unravel. At first they all agree to not eat the mushrooms, but as food is in sort supply some fail to keep that promise. The result is distrust between the members of the group and, once the mushrooms begin to alter the mind and body, upgrades to terror and paranoia. Honda always said the film was about drug addiction, and how people can loose themselves in their addiction. That social commentary does come across in the script, however, the DOCTOR WHO-like make up effects for the Mushroom People has this film far more memorable as a 1960’s slow burn, monster movie to me.

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I enjoyed the movie, but I’d actually love to see an update of this plot idea. While MANTANGO is beyond tame by today’s standards, I think a reimagining/remake could really ratchet up the body horror. Using modern practical and visual effects, as the mutated ‘shrooms take over from the inside out, it could be as dramatic a difference as John Carpenter’s THE THING was from THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. If you’d like to take the (longer than three hour) tour with these castaways over a 90 minute runtime as well, you can currently find the film listed as ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE on Amazon Prime.