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.

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.

Friday Night at the Video Store: Killer Party

by Jenny

 

If you grew up in the VHS era, you likely have fond memories of hitting the video store on a Friday night, a world of cinematic possibilities awaiting you. If you are not “of a certain age”, then welcome to this nostalgia-soaked, slasher-filled trip to the wonder of the video store experience. Don’t worry-we won’t charge late fees!

For this first installment of the series, we are going to visit the world of the 1986 classic, Killer Party. And by “classic”, I mean wonderfully absurd and soooooo very 80s.

Directed by William Fruet (Friday the 13th: the Series), with a screenplay written by Barry Cohen (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), this is one of those movies that I chose basically solely on the cover art, which was a common tactic of movie selection back in the day.  This movie was shot in October of 1984, and released in 5 theaters, making an unconfirmed total of $900.

 

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The movie starts with not one but two false starts. In the first fake-out, we are at a funeral, mourning the death of Annabel Pitswolly Couslove. There are tears, except from daughter-in-law Stephanie, who is giving some classic soap opera side-eye. She stays behind when the service is over, and tells the deceased that she hopes she burns in hell. In response, Annabel drags Stephanie into the coffin, which is brought to the crematorium by a headphone-wearing mortuary worker who can’t hear the screams coming from the casket, or notice the tremendous shaking of said casket. As Stephanie begins to go up in flames, we realize that this scene is actually playing at a drive-in where we meet April and her boyfriend, Stosh. April’s magnificent crimped blonde and pink hair isn’t even the most 80s thing about this movie, believe it or not. She runs into the concession area to get popcorn, and is surprised to see that there is no attendant, and steals a giant tub of popcorn. When she goes out to the car, Stosh is gone, and the movie onscreen has devolved into pure screaming chaos. Soon, April’s life also devolves into chaos, as she’s attacked by zombies. Yes, zombies.

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But, in the second fake-out in the first ten minutes of the movie, it’s not a zombie movie-it’s a music video, for a song called You’re No Fool by the generously-bandanaed band White Sister. As April is dragged away by dancing zombies, we meet the first of our protagonists, Phoebe, played by Elaine Wilkes (Sixteen Candles), who was watching the music video (for you youngins, music videos were a thing once, on that channel with all the skanky reality shows on it.) Between us, Phoebe has always been my favorite character in this movie-as a teenager, I thought her style was so badass, from her curly mop to her red shoe/white shoe/white sock/red sock footwear. From there we meet the other two heroines-Jennifer played by Joanna Johnson, (The Bold and the Beautiful), and Vivia, played by Sherry Wilkes-Burch (Final Exam). The girls are pledging Sigma Alpha Pi, but Jennifer, who quickly reveals herself to be the doomsayer of this flick, is having doubts.

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She is, of course, completely right to have her doubts. They have the snotty sorority sisters to deal with, led by Veronica (Alicia Fleer), and the absolutely un-PC frat brothers from Beta Tau, who lead to the T&A scene that was required for an 80s slasher. The sexual harassment throughout this movie has not aged very well, and the majority of the male characters are pretty gross, but this ends up being the least of the girls’ problems.

After the boys attack the girls with bees in a successful effort to see their bits (not even joking), the house mother goes to a gravestone and tells “Allan” that the girls are going to be using the house, and that it was time for to let go. Then she goes to the house in question to hammer nails into the railings, you know, for safety. And here’s when shit gets real, as we see the first of many murders.

I won’t give the play-by-play on the rest of the story, because you really need to watch it, but let me just give the disclaimer that this movie suffers from a cornucopia of ideas, and a full-on assault by the MPAA, which resulted in a shortage of murder and gore onscreen. There are so many different tells of the murderer, from an apparently severe case of athlete’s foot, to an old school scuba suit/trident ensemble. Honestly, I’m still not 100% who the prolific murderer is, or why he doesn’t wash his feet, but let’s just say he’s prolific, knocking out the coeds quicker than mono.

This movie has everything-slashers, every 80s college trope, light nudity, possession, goat eyeballs, and even a handful of murderous pranks. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be confused, which was not atypical of the Friday night video store adventure. Definitely worth a watch, preferably with Jiffy Pop.

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Episode 178 – Streaming Screams: Spring 2019

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In this installment of our quarterly Streaming Screams series, we bring you over 60 recommendations of movies and TV series currently available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Click the link in the show notes for the Letterboxd companion list for this episode.

Episode 178 – Streaming Screams: Spring 2019

Letterboxd Companion List

[Film Review] THE MEG

by Joe Meyers

THE MEG

Release Date: August 10, 2018 * Rated PG-13 * Run time: 1 hour 53 minutes

Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Screenplay by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber
Based on the book, “Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror”, by Steve Alten

Starring:
Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor
Bingbing Li as Suyin
Rainn Wilson as Morris
Cliff Curtis as Mac
Winston Chao as Zhang
Shuya Sophia Cai as Meiying
Ruby Rose as Jaxx
Page Kennedy as DJ
Robert Taylor as Heller
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as The Wall
Jessica McNamee as Lori
Masi Oka as Toshi

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I could go into detail with a traditional film critique of THE MEG, but why? I’m sure there’s at least a dozen of posts out there with some variation of  the “Meg is Meh” hacky review shredding the films for its flaws. This won’t be one of those, I assure you. Instead I’ll simply ask some questions to start.

Did the trailer for THE MEG make you go “Hell yeah!!!” when you saw you were getting a Jason Statham verses Megalodon film? If so, go see the movie. Did the trailer make you think it looked stupid, and ridiculous, and you’ve got five other films currently in the cinema that’s on your watch list? Then, skip THE MEG and go see one of them instead. Do you fall anywhere in between those two examples? I’d advise you just wait for streaming, VOD, DVD, or Blu-ray.

For me, THE MEG was just as dumb, nonsensical, crazy, cheesy, and fun as I thought it would be…and I enjoyed it from start to finish. I do wish we would be able to see the original film they wanted to bring us, in all its bloody R rated glory. The cast did feel a bit wasted in what morphed into an action-horror-comedy, but as both director Jon Turteltaub and star Jason Statham have said in recent interviews “it is what it is.” I’m paraphrasing, of course.

At the end of the day this falls in line with ALLIGATOR, LAKE PLACID, DEEP BLUE SEA, and the like. Nobody will argue they’re near JAWS in quality. However, THE MEG will fit nicely into a human versus beast movie marathon alongside them all. So, whether you catch it (no pun intended, I swear) at the cinema soon or at home with family and friends, surrounded by pizza and tasty beverages, in a few months, just know that you’re getting exactly as they advertised…Jason Statham fighting a big, damn prehistoric shark for nearly two hours.

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[Film Review] Hereditary

by Joe Meyers

Written and Directed by Ari Aster

Starring:

Toni Collette as Annie
Gabriel Byrne as Steve
Alex Wolff as Peter
Milly Shapiro as Charlie

Release date: June 8, 2018
Run time: 2h 7min
Rated: R

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Have you ever been in your bed at night, and were suddenly convinced someone, or something!, was lurking in the darkness just waiting for the perfect moment to get you? Those moments where you hear noises behind you and your imagination runs wild with what it could be. Those goose-bump causing, adrenaline pumping seconds between thinking you see something in the corner of your room and realizing it’s the pile of laundry you put in your chair. Those terrifying occasions where your fear causes your heart to beat so loudly you think it can be heard from the other side of the house, and your mouth goes dry just as that bone-chilling tingle radiates throughout your entire body…that’s what HEREDITARY was for me.

In his first feature film, writer-director Ari Aster has crafted a horror movie that stands shoulder to shoulder with recent genre entries like THE BABADOOK, THE WITCH, and IT COMES AT NIGHT. The movie tells the story of the Graham family hurtling into a downward spiral after the death of their matriarch. That is all of the plot I’ll mention in this review, as this is a film best seen with as little information as you possibly can. I’d managed to avoid the majority of the hype surrounding its festival screenings, and all reviews prior to seeing it last Thursday night. I’m thrilled I went in without any real knowledge, or expectations, about the movie.

Aster is masterful as a writer-director here, and anything he does going forward will be on my radar. HEREDITARY is a slow burn family drama built on bleak tension, creepy moments, and oppressive dread. It won’t be for everyone, but people who love that type of horror should be thrilled. The movie doesn’t rely on jump scares, instead giving the viewer a plethora of creepy scenes that the camera lingers on. You don’t get quick edits where you’re on to the next thing here. No, Aster makes you wallow in the moment, he draws you into the film, and you experience the events along with the characters. It’s been a while since a movie has gotten under my skin, and into my brain, like this one has.

Speaking of the look of the film, Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski has put together a beautiful movie. Much of it takes place at night, and there’s many moments of something just being on the cusp of coming out of the darkness that’s done amazingly. The way the shots are framed just draws you in, and you can’t help but feel terror for the characters involved. The production design by Grace Yun, art direction by Richard T. Olson and the work of art department, and set decoration by Brian Lives are all glorious as well. They had to build the house that’s in the film from scratch, and the fantastic job they did shines through in every frame.

Colin Stetson’s score was nearly a character all on its own. It’s stunning, haunting, and used perfectly throughout the movie. The score combined with the sound design helps push you into that dreadful, creepy feeling for nearly the entirety of the film’s run time. I know A QUIET PLACE, deservedly, gets praise for its sound design, but I think HEREDITRY is neck and neck with that movie. If you see it at the cinema, grab a seat in the middle-middle of the auditorium and let the sounds envelope you as the horror unfolds before you.

Finally, I have to talk about the cast led by the brilliant Toni Collette, as Annie. There’s been chatter about her getting an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her work here. I’m hopeful what GET OUT did at the Oscars last year will leave that door open for her this year. She’s utterly impressive and amazing in this role. Right there with her for me was Alex Wolff, playing her son Peter. I wasn’t familiar with him before seeing HEREDITARY but he does incredible work here. He does some seriously emotional heavy lifting in the role. Rounding out the family is Milly Shapiro, as the quirky and creepy daughter, Charlie, and Gabriel Byrne as the husband and father, Steve. Shaprio immediately enters the list of all-time creep kids in horror movies for me. What she can do with just a sound, a facial expression, or a body movement is impressive in building her character. While Byrne doesn’t get some of the meaty moments, he deftly handles the role of the family member trying to hold everything together as he watches it slip through his fingers.

As with all horror, this is super subjective. What I find terrifying, creepy, and nightmare inducing you may fund dull and boring. Earlier in this review I mentioned THE BABADOOK, THE WITCH, and IT COMES AT NIGHT. If you were a fan of any of those movies I think HEREDITARY might be your bag too. For me, this has become my favorite film at the near halfway point of 2018 and I can’t wait to see it again.

 

This Week in Horror News [12/22/17]

By Joe Meyers

Hello, Fright Fans! We’re off for the next two weeks (although there will be another “Field Trip” episode available on, or around, New Year’s Day), but here’s some horror-related news items to keep you “in the know”:

 

  • Netflix renews German original series DARK for a second season. “DARK is set in a German town in present day where the disappearance of two young children exposes the double lives and fractured relationships among four families. In ten, hour-long episodes, the story takes on a supernatural twist that ties back to the same town in 1986. Written by Jantje Friese and directed Baran bo Odar (Who Am I – No System is Safe), DARK is a chilling mystery-drama-series: an intricate puzzle full of twists. Slick camerawork and realistic performances enhance a textured web of curious characters, all of whom have a connection to the town’s troubled history, whether they know it or not.” This is one I’ve not had the chance to watch for myself yet, but hope to binge at some point soon.

 

  • At the end of Season 1 Fox’s “The Exorcist” was on the bubble for renewal due to its ratings. At the end of Season 2 series creator Jeremy Slater tells Entertainment Weekly that the series is once again in limbo. This time it’s due to the uncertainty surrounding the recent 20th Century Fox/Disney deal.

 

 

  • Elvis is back in the IDW comic series “Bubba-Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers.” This comic book prequel to the original story by Joe R. Lansdale, adapted in a 2002 film starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, is co-written by Lansdale with Joshua Jabcuga, and illustrated by Todd Galusha. The story revolves around President Nixon tasking “the King” with taking on extraterrestrials. Watch for issue one in March 2018.

 

 

  • While we’re still waiting on the “What We Do In The Shadows” sequel “We’re Wolves” fans of  will get a return to that world in the new spinoff television series “Wellington Paranormal.” Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement bring back Shadows’ police unit members Mike Minogue and Karen O’Leary to hunt ghosts, werewolves and to deal with demonic possessions. Six 30-minute episodes are due to air in mid-2018, but there’s no firm release date for countries outside of New Zealand at this time.

 

  • Deadline reports that Amazon will pass on all three of its 2017 Fall Pilot Season Shows. This includes “Sea Oak”, a zombie comedy starring Emmy-winner Glenn Close. Close was to play Aunt Bernie, who died in a home-invasion only to return as a zombie hellbent to to “get the life she never had.”

 

  • The 1956 psychological horror film, “The Bad Seed” is scheduled for a remake at Lifetime. Rob Lowe will direct and star in the movie, as the father of young girl who just may be the “personification of evil.”

 

  • “Another WolfCop” filmmaker Lowell Dean shares his thoughts on the future of the franchise in an interview with Tom Holland’s Terror Time. As a huge fan of the first film, who’s dying to see the sequel when it’s available, I hope we get more down the line.

 

 

  • While Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is expanding nationwide today, you may also currently catch Part 2 of “Trollhunters”, his wonderful animated series, on Netflix.

 

  • As briefly mentioned on our “Stranger Things” Season 2 recap episodes, David Harbour revealed to Variety that Season 3 might not be released until 2019. 

 

  • The sixth installment of the “Tremors” film franchise will be titled “Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell”, and it’s set for a may 2018 release. Burt Gummer actor, Michael Gross, also revealed that he will not appear in the now filming “Tremors” television series, and Kevin Bacon’s character, Valentine McKee, will not appear in the film.

 

That wraps up this week’s horror news. Check back with us this time next week for another recap of the happenings in the wonder world of horror.

“Get Out” scores a hat-trick at The Gotham Independent Film Awards

by Joe Meyers

Yet again we’ve gotten proof that 2017 really is “The Year of Horror Movies.” Last night writer/director Jordan Peele, and his debut feature film “Get Out”, won big at The Gotham Independent Film Awards.

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Jordan Peele took home the award for Best Screenplay as well as the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award. Although “Get Out” lost Best Feature to “Call Me By Your Name” it did receive the Gotham Audience Award. Sadly, the Best Actor Award went to James Franco for his turn as Tommy Wiseau in the upcoming “The Disaster Artist” over Daniel Kaluuya for his brilliant performance as Chris Washington.

However, a horror film just being nominated for five awards is amazing much less it winning three of the five categories. The genre has long been dismisses and forgotten, with rare exception, during award season. Last night firmly put “Get Out” in the spotlight as we approach more award ceremonies over the next few months, and that’s nothing but great news for the horror genre, horror filmmakers and horror fans.

“Get Out” poster art by Francesco Francavilla