What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – Evils Of The Night (1985)

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(Be warned, dear readers. Ahead there be plenty of spoilers.)

The short and sweet premise for this slice of aged cheddar written and directed by Mohammed “Mardi” Rustam out of the glorious 1980’s is a group of aliens are kidnapping teens and co-eds between the ages of 16 and 24 to harvest their platelets to use in a scheme for maintaining their immortality. So I guess Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce wasn’t the only “space vampire” movie to come out in ’85, eh?

Admittedly, the poster for this one caught my attention while perusing the listings on Amazon Prime in preparation for our latest Streaming Screams episode. The one shared above is actually toned down when compared to the others that have her nipples standing out like thimbles. Then I read the cast list, and it sounded like the casting director was playing one of the weirdest games of Mad Libs ever. Check this list out:

  • John Carridine (aged film legend of many a horror and sci-fi film)
  • Julie Newmar (Cat Woman herself!)
  • Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligan’s Island)
  • Neville Brand (Sadly, his last film role. I always loved him in Tora!Tora!Tora!. He was also in Mohammed “Mardi” Rustam’s Eaten Alive! in 1976.)
  • Aldo Ray (A talented character actor I remember best as Sgt. Muldoon in John Wayne’s The Green Berets.)
  • Tony O’Dell (One of the Cobra Kai members in The Karate Kid)

But even after this incredibly odd list, one name truly caught my attention: Amber Lynn.

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You see, Miss Lynn is an adult film star who played a prominent role in my adolescent development. To put it another way: She was the star of one of the first porn films I ever saw. And Evils Of The Night was made during the prime of her very active career. Along with Miss Lynn, there are a few other adult film actors and actresses who appear. Trust me: Watch the movie, and you can spot them. Or just cheat and use IMDb. The rest of the cast is a bunch of actors who only did one or two things, if any, after this. But back to discussing the film . . .

Within the first 10 minutes, you know exactly what you will be getting with this one. You have a space ship landing and two couples making out in the woods somewhere, oblivious to anything but gettin’ it on and smoking the devil’s weed. The more amorous of the two couples (who also happen be played by two of the aforementioned adult film stars) quickly strip down and get down. While the guy is standing with his back to a tree and has his girl bent over and facing the other way, a rope is wrapped around his neck. It’s kind like auto-erotic asphyxiation, but there is no auto or erotic to it.

At first you may believe that both couples have been killed off, but wait! They have only been incapacitated by Kurt (Brand) and Fred (Ray), the guys from the local gas station that have been recruited by the aliens to kidnap specimens for them.

Cut to Dr. Kozmar (Carridine), Dr. Zarma (Newmar), and Cora (Louise), the alien scientists, standing around one of the young bodies being drained of platelets as Dr. Kozmar gives a wonderful bit of brief exposition that felt like it was lifted straight from a classic sci-fi film of the 50’s. Nearly reminded me of some of the bits from Plan 9 From Outer Space but done better.

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Billy (O’Dell) makes for an escape but gets blasted by one of the high-heeled guards using a ray-gun ring. One the same guards that we just saw groping at each other for no discernible reason in the hall after taking one of the gurneys from Kurt and Fred. The outfits on the guards really are impressive.

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Wishing I found a better picture for the full effect. This is when the thigh groping is going on.

Without further ado, we jump to the next day and a beach party full of co-eds, various levels of clothing, and generic 80’s synth pop/rock music. The hair, the make-up, the music, the clothes, all of it cements what decade this film is in. Another product of that era that somehow slipped my mind is a term I haven’t used in years: Preppies. Every guy in this falls firmly into that little category.

As the night falls, some think of camping out while most of them head off for making out. The song made for the following scene felt like a total rip-off of any popular duet love song of the era, but the use of it felt even stranger as they cut back and forth between Ron and Nancy, the engaged and tender couple, and Eddie and Joyce (Lynn), rutting like dogs in heat in an abandoned house. Seriously about the dog part. Eddie gives Joyce one of the most gratuitous tongue baths you’ll ever see.

Some of them are kidnapped by good old Kurt and Fred, and this leads to one of the more laughable moments for me. After Ron wakes up half-dressed in the back of Kurt and Fred’s truck, he stands up, looks at them coming at him, and calmly asks “Hey. What’s going on?” right before they try to grab him and he finally gets a clue to run!

During that same night, the remaining trio of Heather, Connie, and Brian, are all kidnapped in one way or another as well. Connie did try to escape during her abduction. An escape attempt that included some of the most polite terrorized door knocking I’ve ever seen. Sadly for her she was knocking on Cora’s door.

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Connie, Brian, and Heather are in a bit of a pickle.

Nancy works on her own escape from the hospital the aliens are using as a base, and the trio are tied up in the basement of Kurt and Fred’s gas station. As Heather gets free of her bonds, Kurt comes down with plans to molest Connie before handing them over to the aliens. During her struggle to get out of the basement, Heather and Kurt end up doing a tag team reenactment of Driller Killer with Heather on the losing end. Connie then manages to get free and clocks Kurt with a wrench. You know, the wrench you see her grab when she sits on the floor and then has to reach behind and pick up again even though she hadn’t dropped it?

Connie gets up stairs and takes out Kurt with a car from the lift, crushing him, but Fred returns and beats her and ties her up for killing his best friend. Nancy arrives just in time to save Connie from a coup de grace by blasting an air hose in Fred’s right ear. A blast so strong that blood sprays out his left ear. …. Yeah.

Anywho, while Fred runs after an escaping Heather for several more minutes, the aliens decide to cut their losses and leave, and Brian finally gets his shit together and gets out his bonds and the basement. As Brian battles with Fred to save himself and Nancy, the departing alien ship blasts Fred with a laser to tie up a loose end. Credits.

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Aldo Ray (Fred) gets killed by a ray.

I noticed I was getting a bit long-winded in my review here, so I did leave out some of the other gem moments in this. If you are a fan of cheesy, drive-in films, this one should be right up your alley. It felt like it was a beta version of something you’d find on Cinemax now, and I would love to see this done in a kind of “MST3K After Dark” style. That really needs to be a thing.

Until next time, Fright Fans, keep it weird and keep watching!

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – Baghead (2008)

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[A quick preface of concept before the real post begins.

I feel that I’m known by my friends, family, and our listeners to be the guy that will watch all sorts of obscure, foreign, and/or indie films. With that in mind, I’m launching a regular series for our web page here where I’ll chat about something I’ve recently watched for the first time that fits the bill. All films discussed in the series will be things off the beaten path for most folks but may be familiar fare for others. Either way, enjoy the ride. Feedback is always welcome, too.

… Let’s begin.]

You know how you scroll through the catalog on a streaming service (Shudder in this case) and add a bunch of stuff to your queue just because it sounds interesting? But then you never get around to watching some of those selections until said streaming service says the movies will be dropping from the site soon? C’mon, we all suffer from this malady. Right?

Anyway, such a notice prompted to finally settle in and watch The Duplass Brothers’ Baghead. Released in 2008, the film made its world premiere at The Sundance Film Festival. The story centers around four friends who want to make their own independent film to make the jump to stardom from their current status of playing extras.

The film opens with Matt (Ross Partridge), Chad (Steve Zissis), Catherine (Elise Muller), and Michelle (Greta Gerwig) sitting through a screening of a rather pretentious art house/indie short film created by a friend of Matt’s, Jett Garner (playing himself). Inspired by Jett’s work or spurred on by jealousy, the quartet retreat to a remote Californian cabin to hammer out a script of their own that they can star in.

The brainstorming session devolves into something similar to any group project I saw in college (complete with note cards!), and ideas are supported or shat upon, depending on who brought it forward and who is trying to sleep with who. I guess I should say at this time that Matt and Catherine have an on-again-off-again history, and Chad has a crush on Michelle. Michelle likes Chad, too . . .  but like a brother. After much alcohol and little progress, the group heads to bed.

Manipulations continue when everyone gets up in the morning, and Matt presents the brilliant idea to do a horror film featuring a killer who wears a paper bag on his head. Simple yet effective. But as the day leads into night, a new mystery arises after someone wearing a bag on their head scares Michelle in her room. Finger pointing ensues, and concerns grow that they may not be alone in the woods after all.

After watching this, I can see some of the foundations being laid for the future films of Mark and Jay Duplass, namely Creep and Creep 2. Besides the cabin used in this reminding me a lot of the one in Creep 2, the documentary/found footage style shown here becomes further refined in those films. Even though Baghead isn’t a documentary or found footage movie, the handheld shooting and incredibly intimate camera work makes it feel almost like a documentary. Add to this the natural, improvised feel of most of the dialogue and interactions and the dark humor, and you definitely have the template The Duplass Brothers evolved the Creep films from.

While I did clue into where the ending was heading (keeping things mostly spoiler-free in these reviews), it still worked for me. I must add, though, that one of the funniest moments in the movie for me involved one of the most epic wanking interruptions ever. Seriously, I almost did a spit-take across my laptop screen!

An added bonus of this film is the “Hey! Isn’t That ______??” component you can get with many indie films. Besides Ross Partridge (Matt), who is now known to most folks as Will Byers’s deadbeat dickhead of a dad, Lenny, on Stranger Things, we also are treated to Greta Gerwig, before Francis Ha. …. Excuse me. I should have said Golden Globe and  Oscar nominee (screenplay and directing) for 2017’s Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig.

All in all, I recommend giving Baghead a viewing if you are a fan of the Creep movies. Or even if you’re not a fan of them. Whatever your bag is, man.

Until next time, Fright Fans, keep it weird and keep watching!

“We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties . . . “

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Hey there, Fright Fans! Chris here with an update on the podcast.

We are 85% there on getting the recording issues sorted out to get back to providing our listeners with the best listening experience possible. There will not be a new episode posted this week since we are still sorting it out, but we do plan to have a new episode recorded and posted this time next week. In the meantime, enjoy a couple more classics that have been added to the archives on Libsyn and into the streaming feeds.

Thanks for bearing with us, dear listeners, and be on the look out (or on the listen?) for new contests and prizes coming your way in the near future!!

Making His List & Checking It Twice: Chris’s Top Ten Christmas Horror Films

Feliz Navidad, Fright Fans! Here’s hoping your days are merry and bright as we wind our way through the holiday season. And what better way to celebrate than to watch some great Christmas-themed horror films! From the darkly funny to the just plain dark, I’ve put together a top ten list of my personal favorites to provide some suggestions and inspiration for your own festive viewing. In no particular order, let’s get things started!

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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This classic seasonal-slasher made quite a bit of controversy back in its day, both for its ad campaign and for the bashing it gave the Catholic church. Young Billy is traumatized first by seeing a man dressed as Santa kill his parents, and then by the nuns in the orphanage he and his brother are sent to. Fast forward to 18-year-old and buff Billy who finally snaps and goes on a slaying spree, punishing those who have been naughty.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

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As anyone who listens to the show knows, I’m a sucker for anthology films. Add in the Christmas spirit and William Shatner as a radio show host helping link the stories, and you have a delightfully dark Canadian offering that became an instant favorite for me when I saw it for the first time last year. The four interwoven tales involve zombie elves, changelings, haunted schools, and (as the poster shows) Krampus, and each is a great stand alone as well. If you haven’t seen this one yet, it’s currently on Netflix in the US at the time of this posting.

Krampus (2015)

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Speaking of Krampus, the first time I ever heard of this european folk tale was from a Christmas short done for The Venture Bros. cartoon. The idea of essentially an “anti-Santa” seemed kinda cool. It was only a couple of weeks back that I finally watched this Christmas creation from Mike Dougherty. As one of the hugest fans of Trick ‘r Treat, I had been meaning to watch this before now, but it was more than worth the wait.

As the extended family begrudgingly draws together for Christmas, young Max has lost his faith in Santa and Christmas because of all of the fighting and failing family dynamics. Max and his family soon find themselves on the naughty list as Der Krampus comes calling. Some nice twists and surprises in this one, and the minions of Der Krampus are creepy as hell!

Gremlins (1984)

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Anyone who doesn’t agree that this is a Christmas classic is someone you should reconsider associating with. Seriously. Can you really find any faults with this film? With Joe Dante’s direction and Chris Columbus’s writing, Gremlins is pitch perfect in playing out as a monster movie for the holidays. Add in a dash of Phoebe Cates telling the urban legend-ish tale of why she hates Christmas, and you have many genuinely dark moments in what is often seen as a lighthearted movie.

Better Watch Out (2017)

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This is the newest movie on this list since:
1) It was released in October of this year, and 2) I saw it only 5 days ago.
I was genuinely surprised by the directions this film took me in a story that made me laugh, cringe, and even jump once or twice. Tweenage Luke has been crushing on his babysitter, Ashley, for a while now. As Ashley prepares to leave town for school, Luke sees it as one final chance to show her how he feels when Ashley comes over one last time while his parents (played wonderfully yet briefly by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton) go out for the night to a Christmas party. But a potential home invasion puts a kink in Luke’s plans.

Now the trailer for this gave me an “R-Rated Home Alone” vibe when I saw it several months back. Man, did this turn out to be so much more and in the best ways possible. I highly recommend giving this one a viewing, fright fans.

Christmas Evil (1980)

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From Better Watch Out, we go next to film that has the alternate title of You Better Watch Out. Another 80’s classic, inspired in its own way from the “holiday slasher” boom created by John Carpenter’s Halloween, Christmas Evil tells the tale of Harry Stadling. As a child, Harry was obsessed with Santa Claus. Cue the childhood trauma of his little brother telling him Santa’s not real and then seeing Santa (Daddy) groping Mommy by the tree later that night. We then jump to an adult Harry who is still obsessed with all-things Christmas and even works in a toy factory. But after one too many episodes of abuse from his naughty co-workers and neighbors, Harry flips and begins his own rampage of rewards for the good and retribution for the wicked.

This film was great fun to watch because of all the of “Hey! It’s that guy/lady from that thing!” moments for all of the random actors and actresses in this from before they became well-known. Also, not enough can be said about Brandon Maggart’s performance as Harry. You really believe in him, even after he snaps and starts killing. He just has such an earnestness about him as his falls further into his psychosis.

Body (2015)

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Here’s another new edition to my list. I love finding new-to-me and fairly unknown films like this. Three college friends, Holly, Cali, and Mel, get bored during Christmas break and venture off to an empty mansion that Cali says is owned by her rich uncle. All is not what it seems, and then the girls are found in the house by the groundskeeper (played by Larry Fassenden). Accidents will happen, but lies and fear of jail compound and complicate things. At only 74 minutes (and about 5 of those are credits), this plays out as a tight little thriller with many brutal and tense moments.

The Children (2008)

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Set in the British countryside, a family gathers over the Christmas break for fun and feasting. Soon that all turns to fear as the aforementioned children begin showing signs of illness. Beyond just your basic cold, this infection leads the kiddos to try to kill the adults! Well done creepy kid movies always wig me out a bit, and this is one of the better ones of this millenia. Again, as with all the films on this list, I highly recommend it.

Rare Exports (2010)

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I do believe this was the first Finnish film I had ever seen, and I instantly fell in love with the mannerisms, the dark humor, and general tone of this great film. Set in remote Finland, a corporate archeological dig on Christmas Eve makes a terrible discovery and release Santa Claus from an ancient burial mound. Enter Rauno, a local reindeer butcherer, and his son Pietari, who find many of the reindeer being killed, presumably by wolves. But it’s so much more than that, which makes for a fun and entertaining story. You will never look at the Santa Claus legend, or that of his “elves,” the same way ever again after watching this one.

Black Christmas (1974)

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Last but surely not least, we have a certified classic. This one sets the tone and technique for the vast multitude of slasher films that came after it, including Halloween. A sorority house with a handful of girls who didn’t go home for the holidays is stalked by a crazed killer. To this day, “Billy” remains one of the most creepy and demented killers out there for me. Never fully seeing his face but frequently hearing his psychotic raging, director Bob Clark crafted a brilliant film that shows you just enough. And apparently making one Christmas classic wasn’t enough for Mr. Clark. Nine years later, he would take us home for the holidays again with a more mainstream seasonal favorite: A Christmas Story.

As an extra treat, here are a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut for me but are still worth a watch:

Santa’s Slay (2005) – Starring Bill Goldberg (yes, the pro-wrestler) as Santa. Chock full of quippy one-liners and the murder of a whiny Fran Drescher in the first 5 minutes.

Tales From The Crypt (1972) – Another great anthology film from Amicus Studios, the segment “And All Through The House” featuring Joan Collins would later be remade as an episode of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt TV series.

Sint (Saint) (2010) – In this offering from the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) is portrayed as a murderous bishop who returns on every full moon December 5th to kill anyone in his path. I didn’t really dig it, but I have several friends that do.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987) – “GARBAGE DAY!!” . . . Need I say more?

Have any of your own favorites that didn’t make my list? Share them in the comments here or on our Facebook page.

On that note: “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. “

An Evening with “Get Out” Writer-Director Jordan Peele, Moderated by Larry Wilmore

by Joe Meyers

On December 14th, 2017 the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, CA hosted a screening of “Get Out”, with a post-film Q&A with writer-director Jordan Peele and moderated by Larry Wilmore . The event was co-presented by the Writers Guild of America West as part of the “Groundbreakers screening series.” *The following will contain extensive spoilers about the film, including the ending.*

GetOut_FINAL_SM_1024x1024Poster by Francesco Francavilla

This was the second time I’d screened “Get Out” at the cinema, and it was my third viewing over all.  It was already in my top ten favorite films of 2017 before this viewing, but it might have now cemented a place in my top five. What really struck me was how the movie still held me under its spell, despite already knowing what was to come. When Catherine Keener‘s Missy Armitage first places Chris Washington, played flawlessly by Daniel Kaluuya, in “The Sunken Place” I still felt the panic for the character that I did the first time. When Chris tries to leave the Armitage home, my pulse was still racing and heart pounding while Allison Williams‘ Rose Armitage toys with him about finding the car keys. Many films with “twists” tend not to hold my attention on repeated viewings because the entire film is seemingly built around that one moment. My reactions proved to me “Get Out” is much more than its reveal of what the Armitages, and their cult like “secret society”, are up to with The Coagula Procedure. It’s not only enjoyable upon repeated viewings, but it might be even better. 

After the screening Larry Wilmore introduced Jordan Peele for a roughly hour long talk about the film, from its conception, to the writing process, casting, and Jordan’s experiences filming his first feature. Jordan was candid about everything that went into creating the finished film, and what follows are some highlights of that conversation.

  • The original spark leading to “Get Out” came from a dream Jordan had. He was walking through a bank lobby when suddenly the sound dropped out. When he turned around everyone in the lobby was starring directly at him in silence. Jordan called this a “fear of unwanted attention”, and when “Get Out” evolved into a horror movie about race he tied this fear to his experiences as “the only black guy at a party.”

 

  • Jordan worked on the outline of the film for five years before pitching and selling the idea. Even though little had been written down, he had the entire film in his head. Some of the biggest hurdles with writing the script came from getting, and keeping, the correct tone.  He didn’t want to veer into a Wayans brothers parody, but Jordan also didn’t want it to tread into “Funny Games” territory, which he deemed “too dark, and unpleasant.”

 

  •  He summed up the vibe he was going for as exploring the premise of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” with the tone of “The Stepford Wives” and the meta-commentary on the horror genre of “Scream.”

 

  • While the film’s target audience was African-Americans, Jordan didn’t want to alienate the rest of his audience. So, he worked to approach showing that point of view in a way that would promote empathy by drawing everyone into having “the black experience” while watching the movie. This led to Larry Wilmore congratulating us all on being “honorary black people for the last ninety minutes.”

 

  • Jordan listed Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Quentin Tarantino among his “director inspirations” for “Get Out.” He went on to talk about how he always believed the best movie ever would be from combining Spielberg and Kubrick, and that he considers Tarantino to be one of the most influential directors of his generation.

 

  • “The Sunken Place” was conceived as a representation of oppression. In his mind this was a stand in for systematic racism, the true monster in “Get Out”, as well as the prison industrial complex, lack of representation in the film industry, and lack of representation in the horror genre.

 

  • Jordan was careful to allow the film to build tension, with strategically placed releases. To him the most effective horror films build terror throughout, and the ones that don’t tend to be scarier in the beginning, but far less so in the final act. He named “The Blair Witch Project” as a perfect example where “nothing happens the whole film, and then it ends with a guy standing in a corner” but it pulled audiences in by building a sense of dread, and allowing their imaginations to fill in the gaps.

 

  • A back story was generated for the “secret society” depicted in the film. In Jordan’s mind they were descendants of the Knights Templar. Instead of gaining eternal life via the Holy Grail, they worked to use science to perfect what became Coagula. Instead of bidding money in the “BINGO scene”, he imagined they were bidding priceless artifacts they would have inherited down through the generations. 

 

  • One of the genre tropes Jordan wanted to explore, and exploit, was the “white savior trope.” Audiences are so used to having at lease one white person in the film be the “good guy”, he used that in an attempt to keep suspicion away from Rose. In an earlier draft of the script Rose attempted to talk Chris out of leaving after the family dinner scene. Jordan realized that was a dead give away that she was evil. After that she became the one challenging the police office after their accident with the deer, the one pointing out the casual racism her family displayed, and not trying to talk him out of leaving when Chris decided it was time to go.

 

  • Casting was just as important as finding the correct tone. At first Jordan resisted hiring anyone for the role of Chris who wasn’t African-American. He felt they needed to have lived the experience in order to effectively play the character. During a Skype conversation with Daniel Kaluuya, Jordan realized Daniel “got it on a primal level.” Daniel recounted his experiences with racism, being wrongfully arrested, and being the only black guy in a space. At that point Jordan conceded this wasn’t an exclusively American phenomenon, and allowed Daniel to audition.

 

  • In his audition Daniel performed the scene where Chris is first hypnotized by   Missy Armitage. Jordan said it was so perfect he could have just recorded it, and put it right into the film.

 

  • LilRel Howery as Rod Williams, was allowed to ad lib while filming. Jordan said LilRel still delivered the scripted dialogue but it came off better, more natural, when he told him to “do it your way.” 

 

  • While Rod was used for comic relief, and a tension release, Jordan was careful to never have him be a joke, or be jokey. He wanted Rob to be grounded, realistic, and a voice for what the audience may be thinking as events unfolded.

 

  • An audience member questioned why an Asian man was present at the Armitage party, when everyone else was white. Jordan explained that there was no real deep meaning to that, but he did want to show that their secret society was small and localized. He also wanted to give a nod to the Asian photographer at the end of “Rosemary’s Baby.”

 

  • The original ending had Chris killing Rose on the road during his attempted escape. Instead of Rod showing up, the police do, and Chris is arrested for murder. The movie ended with a flash forward to six months later and Chris in prison. Jordan felt he had to make a statement here as during the Obama era he didn’t think real conversations about race were taking place.

 

  • This ending was shown at test screenings, and it wasn’t well received. Jordan decided to rework the conclusion to what it is now. He said he was still able to address what he wanted to because the audience’s initial reaction to seeing the police vehicle lights is thinking that is how the movie would end.

Jordan’s reason for making “Get Out” was that he wanted to see his favorite horror movie that didn’t exist yet. Hopefully he keeps that mindset throughout his career, because it more than served him well here. He’s certainly on my list of “must watch” writer-directors now, and a much-needed voice in the industry.

The Podcast Macabre is now available via Google Play Music

by Joe Meyers

As of today we can be heard via Google Play Music! When we decided to move to our own website after the retirement of Geek Planet Online, one of our main goals was to expand our reach. This is, hopefully, the first of several announcements in the coming months regarding various platform availability. Until then, thanks for listening and help spread the love by ranking and reviewing the show.