Monster Party Review: A Robbery Goes Wrong

This is my review of Monster Party, a 2018 horror film available on Shudder, where I watched it. When I decided to watch this flick, I didn’t know anything about it other than thieves rob the wrong place.

First, a quick synopsis. Casper’s (Sam Strike) dad owes 10,000 dollars to a human scumbag, and if he doesn’t pay then the scumbag will kill Casper’s dad. This need for quick cash is what motivates the crime. Iris (Virginia Gardner) works for a catering company, and has a job at a very high end house the next day. Lucky break for Casper, right? Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall) is Iris’s boyfriend, and he agrees that they he and Casper should pretend to be caterers, too, and steal whatever they can. Iris is not happy about this plan.

As you will see, as my Monster Party review continues, she has every right to be unhappy. Iris describes the family as weird and controlling, and that is evident immediately. When we first meet Roxanne Dawson (Robin Tunney) she is obviously stressed out. One of the reasons for her behavior is that the boys aren’t wearing the right clothes. Instead of sending them away and calling for replacements, she sends them upstairs. Why? To borrow clothes from her son, of course. I mean, that’s what people do, right. The daughter, Alexis (Erin Moriarty) shows them to his room.

The image shows Alexis, a young blonde woman smiling at the camera as if she knows what will happen at the monster party.
Alexis, the least creepy Dawson.

So, Casper and Dodge go upstairs and meet Elliot, a clearly disturbed individual. He makes some crude jokes about about how hot Iris is, and Dodge takes exception. This motif recurs throughout the film, and it’s always gross.

Speaking of gross, the dad Patrick Dawson (Julian McMahon) appears with bad facial hair which screams scuzzball.

The Guests Arrive to the Monster Party

After all the set up is out of the way, and the audience has a basic sense of who the players are, the guests arrive and shenanigans ensue. I want to say in this review of Monster Party that the filmmakers do a good job of setting up the tension. From the opening shots of the film that show the Dawson’s starting their day to the characters’ behavior, the filmmakers make it clear something is wrong. They add to this by having a young woman, Becca (Sofia Castro) mouth the words “Help me,” at Casper and Dodge as she enters the house.

Everyone in this film is a little weird, so there’s that. Plus, it is a horror movie, and those don’t always have the deepest characters. Still, I would have liked to get to know Casper, Iris, and Dodge a little bit better before the fun began. I am not sure what the movie makers could have done, but I wish they had tried. As it stands, Casper, Iris, and Dodge are mostly cyphers–blank slates. This works in horror films, and it mostly works in this one, but it also leaves me wanting.

So the dinner is on, as is the thieving. Iris stays downstairs to serve drinks and food while Casper and Dodge mess with the security system. They figure out a way to keep the cameras from spotting them when they go for the safe. However, there is a catch. One of them has to manually shut off the cameras every two minutes by pressing a button. Dodge gets that duty as Casper goes for the safe.

Let There Be Blood

At this point we start to get a better sense of who the guests are, and what the monster party is for. It seems these people are recovering addicts, and with help from Milo (Lance Reddick) they are beating their addiction.

In this moment, we don’t know what the addiction is, but we can guess it’s not drugs or alcohol. Roxanne begins the dinner with a speech about how she went running one day and saw a homeless man, and that was it. That’s the story.

Why does this matter? What is the point of this story? I think it is to foreshadow the reveal that these people are murderers who are trying to leave their murderous ways behind them. Which it, does in hindsight. However, when she gives the speech it comes off more as a way to remind us that these people are strange and nothing more. But, it works very well in that regard.

Meanwhile, Elliot has busted Dodge upstairs. Dodge thinks quickly and says he needs the bathroom. Elliot follows him because he’s looking for a bit of the old ultra violence. The house alarm sounds, and the blood bath begins.

Impressions and Thoughts

I am not going to go into much detail about what happens when the killing starts, suffice to say that there is some good gore and blood. If you are a fan of dismemberment, stabbings, and general horror movie violence, you should like this aspect of the film.

The kills themselves are not very inventive, and the camera frames the scenes from strange angles at times. Aside from these quibbles, the action is entertaining and easy to see. Though, sometimes the camera hides the action, or the characters do things which don’t make a ton of sense. But then, that is a common trope in horror movies.

I wouldn’t say this movie is particularly scary, though it does have some tense moments. It also gets a little ridiculous at times, but overall it was enjoyable. The fact that is is just under 90 minutes (credits included) helps keep the pacing tight and the action moving. There aren’t really any surprises or twists in it as it is more of a straightforward affair.

I loved the premise, though, and think there is some real potential for someone to come along and do something great with it. Unfortunately, those people were not the ones who made this movie.

Overall, I’d give it a 7/10 and say there are worse ways to kill an hour and a half. Lastly, if you love horror movies but don’t subscribe to Shudder, you should. It’s a great site with lots of classic films and new ones as well.

Have you seen Monster Party, and did you like my review? What did you think of this film? Let me know in the comments. I always love hearing from my readers.

Don’t Root For Villains: They’re Awful

In the past ten years or so, if not longer, an idea has taken hold in storytelling circles. The idea is that the villain should be sympathetic. Well, maybe not sympathetic, exactly. Rather, the villain should be relatable and realistic. The reasoning goes, no one is the antagonist in their own story. Therefore, readers or viewers should be able to connect with the villain. To some extent, I understand and agree with this. After all, mustache twirling villains grow tiresome right quick. However, I also hate the idea that a villain has to be complex or sympathetic, or relatable. Villains are villains because they have chosen a path that leads to harming others in order to gain their objectives or get revenge. This is not something to cheer for. Don’t root for villains.

It is not difficult for me to understand why people see the need for well rounded villains in our entertainments. As I wrote earlier, one note villains are boring. Single note heroes are boring too; there needs to be more to the characters. Where I take issue is the idea that a story is better if the villain wins, or that it’s more interesting if the bad guy obtains victory. Should the bad guy be clever? Yes. Should they be a match for the protagonist? Of course. Does that mean we need to hope they win? No. Don’t root for villains.

Is a story sometimes better when the hero suffers, or even loses? Yes. Such things go against audience expectation, which is usually a great thing. Furthermore, it sets up the idea that the hero is fallible, which is not something that is always clear. Nevertheless, if the villain wins we shouldn’t feel good about it.

Don’t Root For Villains: They Don’t Deserve It

Look at Game of Thrones, for example. (The TV Show as I haven’t read the books.) That is a show where there are very few straight up heroic characters. It is also a show where the villains tend to win more often than not. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as there is some hope that good will prevail at some point. Does it have to be all roses and rainbows for the heroes? No, but it would be nice if they somehow managed to overcome evil and win the day. But should we be rooting for Cersei? Or the Mountain? Joffrey? The Night King? Are those the characters we really want to see win? And if so, why?

The image shows the Night King from Game of Thrones. He wants to kill everyone, which is why we don't root for villains.

(Note: I started this post before the new season of GoT started, and now I add Dany to my list. To be fair, though, I have never really considered the Mother of Dragons ascending to the throne a good thing.)

Generally, the structure of stories go something like: hero is big and bold, faces villainy, villainy wins for the moment, hero wins the day. Many people find this formula boring, and I admit it can feel routine and silly. If the hero always wins, it seems like there is no reason to tell the story.

Victory at a Price

However, just because a hero wins, doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer. In fact, some of the best stories are the ones where, yes the hero, or protagonist if you prefer, wins, but also suffers. A victory that comes at a great cost to the hero is the most interesting to me. In the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Batman achieves victory over the three adversaries he faces. Each coming at a cost. The mutant leader bruises his body.

Then, the Joker murders a bunch of people and stabs Batman repeatedly. Batman beats Joker within an inch of his life, but doesn’t kill the Clown Prince of Crime. Even at the end, he fails to take action that would ensure Joker never hurt anyone again. Then Joker manages to break his own neck, rendering Batman’s code pointless. Here is a two-fold example of failing while succeeding. Bats failed to save the bystanders, and then he failed to stop the Joker. Joker did that all on his own.

Additionally, this scene provides us with a glimpse of Joker’s triumph. He failed to goad Batman into killing him, but he did murder a bunch of people that Batman wanted to save. A win for a Joker, and a loss for Batman.

Finally, still in the Dark Knight Returns, Batman fights Superman. He has a plan, and he wins, but again at a cost. Not only does bats get some broken ribs for his troubles, but he also has to fake his own death. Essentially, after this, the Batman is no more. (Until Dark Knight Returns 2, that is.)

We don’t root for the villains in this story, but their successes make Batman’s failures, and ultimate victory, more meaningful. He faces adversity and overcomes it.

Why Root for the Villains?

The real world is scary enough and is full of enough real assholes and villains . Do we need our entertainments to reflect reality so much that we watch the bad guys (or antagonists, if you prefer) win? Have we become so jaded that a heroic victory is boring and predictable?

I am not arguing for boring stories. I am, however, arguing that a story can still be interesting and entertaining, even when we know the heroes will win, most of the time. Heroes win, and they should. People read stories to escape, and a happy ending helps.

A good story about a villain you want to see reach their goal can work. I’ve read and seen a few. There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, I enjoy stories told from the villains’ perspective, as long as they still fail and get their comeuppance.

The Americans is a good example. Elizabeth and Phillip are villains presented as protagonists. However, they are evil, murderous liars with few redeemable qualities. I wanted them to live, but I didn’t want them to win.

My issue is the idea that a story is boring or uninteresting if the heroes win. The journey matters more than the ending. If you need the hero to fail and the villain to win for the journey to be fun for you, then we have distinctly different ideas about stories.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


Netflix Takes Suicide Blame due to 13 Reasons Why

Netflix takes suicide blame because of 13 Reason Why. Researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital have found that in 2017, the suicide rate among the between 10 and 17 crowd was at a five year high. This increase happened the month following the show’s debut. And now people have blamed Netflix for this increase in suicides.

The image shows a poster for 13 reasons why, the show for which netflix takes suicide blame

This is awful. I haven’t seen the show, but it’s always felt skeevy to me.
However, correlation does not mean causation. Is it possible ’13 Reasons Why’ influenced these poor kids to take their lives? Yes. Is it provable? Hard for me to say. Should Netflix have been more responsible with how they marketed this show? Probably. But, I can’t blame Netflix or this show for the increase in suicides unless I want to start blaming TV and video games for violent behavior.

I am not saying it’s impossible that this show influenced children who were already emotionally frail and a danger to themselves to take that next step. However, I am saying, it certainlty wasn’t the only thing.

Regardless, it is a damn tragedy that these kids took their own lives. It’s a tragedy their candles were snuffed out too soon. The fact that we don’t take the mental health of our children seriously is the larger issue. If we took the time to listen to and care for the children in our society, maybe, just maybe, we could prevent this.

Netflix Takes Suicide Blame, But Other Share the Blame, Too.


Instead, we tell them to suck it up when they get bullied. We shame them for getting sexually assaulted. Our continued destruction of the planet has to cause them anxiety. We allow mass shooters to bring guns into their schools. Furthermore, we pressure them to succeed in life and love. We tell them they need to do well in school. They hear the constant refrain of hard work equals success.

As adults, we instill in them the sense that they have to be the best thing ever, otherwise they are failures. It’s all too much for a teenager to take. What’s more, they shouldn’t have to. We need to be more understanding and aware of what our children are going through. Every adult has been through puberty. We know what it’s like, even if we don’t remember. At that age, it can be difficult to understand what is happening to us. Moreover, it can be difficult to understand how temporary those times are. As adults, we need to be there for the younger generations in any way we can. Not to do so is doing them a disservice.


This Netflix show may have contributed to these awful deaths, but it is far and away the main reason. Again, I am not defending the show or Netflix, but I am saying that if we are going to place blame it might be easy to blame a show, but it’s more worthwhile to take the harder route and look at our own actions and how our inaction has kept the door open for kids to think suicide is their best and only option.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Star Wars Needs Mandalorian

Star Wars Celebration 2019 happened recently, and it brought tons of news. First, of course, was the trailer for Episode IX (read my reaction here). Overshadowed by all the hoopla concerning Rise of the Skywalker, was something that Star Wars needs: the Mandalorian. Why do I say this?

The Star Wars galaxy is huge. It encompasses countless planets and citizens, and yet, the majority of the stories we have seen and read follow a select group of those inhabitants. The prequels, the Clone Wars animated series, the Original Trilogy, and the new movies all focus on the Skywalkers in some way. Now, don’t get me wrong; I dig the Skywalker saga. It is arguably what made the franchise so successful in the first place. However, with such a large canvas for storytellers to use, I am disappointed the galaxy feels so limited.

The Image shows what Star Wars needs: the Mandalorian in action. He is shooting a blaster pistol at some unfortunates.
The Mandalorian, played by Pedro Pascal. Image from the teaser trailer.

Star Wars needs to feel bigger, and finally it will because of the Mandalorian. Set five years after the Return of the Jedi, the series will give us our first glimpse of something new. Will it still rely on the films? I am certain, but I do hope that it won’t have the titular character chasing after Solo or Skywalker. In fact, I hope the characters we know from the movies are nowhere to be seen or heard. Maybe a mention of how they are fighting the remnants of the Empire, or establishing a government. Those things I could live with, but nothing more.

Star Wars Needs Original Mandalorian Stories

There are plenty of stories to tell using the premise of a Mandalorian bounty hunter (who isn’t Boba Fett) that we don’t need the OT characters. Instead, have this warrior working for a criminal organization, bringing in the rabble. Maybe he used to work for Jabba and is now freelance. I want them to use this opportunity to explore the seedy underbelly of Star Wars. As a bounty hunter, his options are limitless.

Show us new locations and introduce us to new characters. Expand the galaxy to the size it deserves. If the creative forces can do this, then I will be there for it. Who am I kidding? I am already there for it. I think I am more excited about this than episode IX, mostly because it is something new.

Han Solo was an anti-hero turned hero. Rogue One fully introduced the idea of gray morality to the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian has the opportunity to expand on this under developed aspect of the galaxy. Not everyone needs to be a big hero of destiny, nor do they have to be absolute evil. The far away galaxy needs a bit of moral ambiguity. It creates interesting and entertaining story opportunities, and helps people relate to it.

Personally, I love the good is good and evil is evil aspect to Star Wars, but I also welcome the development of a different type of character. The galaxy is a big place with enough room for all types of characters.

The Stories I Want

I am about to start an Edge of the Empire Role Playing game with some friends. They want to play bounty hunters and smugglers, and while I haven’t seen the Mandalorian, it has already helped me by providing a sort of context. Right now the idea is the players have to hunt down a Twi’lek who stole sensitive information from their boss. They need to retrieve the information and return the thief to face punishement. It’s a simple setup, but I think it has lots of potential.

As I was planning this adventure, I started thinking about the kinds of stories I want from the Mandalorian.

I want heist stories, intrigue stories, investigations and kidnappings. In short, I want crime stories set in the Star Wars universe.

In addition to the types of stories I mentioned above, double crosses always work well in criminal underworld tales. A Star Wars story about how the Mandalorian’s friends double crossed him could be a lot of fun. In fact, such a story could set up a Lone Wolf and Cub type dynamic with him turning to bounty hunting to fund his vengeance.

Stars Wars needs the Mandalorian and the stories it can tell. I have faith that they can tell good ones.

What about you? What stories or jobs do you want to see the armored warrior participate in? Are you excited for this show? Tell me in the comments.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Imperial Pilots Take the Stage

In the Star Wars universe, the aesthetic of the Empire is unmistakable. Imperial ships are gray, angular, and easy to recognize. This look helps them strike fear into their enemies and present a unified front. Unlike the Rebels, the Empire announces its presence. However, this unity also makes the Empire seem like a faceless mob of people, which is effective. What could be scarier than a faceless death machine? Here, I review how Tie Fighter #1 attempts to address that style, and answer how well it succeeds in its task.

The image shows the cover to Tie Fighter #1, the focus of my review. We see a tie pilot on the inside of his space ship.
Tie Fighter #1 Cover. Click image to enlarge

The Empire is without a doubt an evil organization, and they have proven this time and time again. First, they build a weapon of mass destruction. Then, they take a Princess and a diplomat hostage and torture her for information. Next, they use their weapon to destroy her home planet. All of these things are terrible actions taken by a terrible and oppressive government. This issue attempts to add some context to these actions, and present the other side of the coin. For example, are the Rebels really terrorists? Do they deserve what the Empire is doing to them? When thinking about my Tie Fighter #1 review, these were questions I had to grapple with.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Sympathy for the Empire

Due to the fact that the Empire is evil, one could easily assume that its troopers and pilots are also evil. This is not a bad assumption to make. When I read this comic, I wondered how the creative team would make me sympathize with its protagonists. How would they develop these characters and present them in a sympathetic light? It is a dicey question, to be sure, especially considering the current real world political climate. “Fine people on both sides,” and all that.

I am not here to talk politics, much, but it bears keeping in mind that this comic asks the readers to side with a government that murders citizens by the billions and rules with fear. This is not the first time a Star Wars comic has tackled such issues. In fact, Dark Horse had an ongoing series called Empire, and it was great. Why? Well, first of all it came out in the early 2000s. a simple time, and it never tried to make the Imperials sympathetic. Instead, it showed the whole Empire as conniving and paranoid and evil. In classic Star Wars fashion, it presented the galaxy far far away in the moral absolutes it so often deals .

Anyway, back to my Tie Fighter #1 review. We first meet Squadron 5 (Shadow Wing) as they blast some Rebel ships to hell. After a job well done, they return to their capital ship, the Imperial Star Destroyer Pursuer, where the reader catches the first glimpse of some of these pilots.

The image shows two shadow wing pilots, Lyttan Dree and Jeela Brebtin talking after a space battle. Jeela has an intense look on her face.
Click image to enlarge

Characterization Through Artwork

I like this page for a couple of reasons. One, the artists do a good job of capturing the vastness of an Imperial Star Destroyer. These things are huge, and that size is not easy to capture on the page. However, Roge Antonio and Michael Dowling do a fine job of translating that feeling to the page. Additionally, the art immediately tells us what we need to know about the two characters on the page.

Dree stands with his head at a near level angle, and has soft edges. These two elements combine to demonstrate a sense of naivety and inexperience. He is a lieutenant so he can’t be that inexperienced, but the art helps convey that he maybe isn’t strictly by the book. Actions he takes later in the issue confirm this suspicion.

Brebtin, on the other hand, is dark colors and angles. She is severe and serious. The art and her words tell us this. The difference between how Antonio and Dowling present these two Imperial pilots tells the reader all we need to know. One of them follows the book and takes their job quite seriously while the other has a more relaxed attitude towards things. If we had to choose one of these characters to be sympathetic to, it would most likely be Dree. He seems like a nice guy caught up with a bad organization, whereas Brebtin appears fully committed to the Imperial cause.

Politics of the Empire

As an organization that relies on fear to hold power, the Empire should suffer from a large amount of paranoia within its ranks. Thankfully, this issue addresses that fact, showing the fear and paranoia of the Imperial pilots on several occasions. Why is this important to me? One, it helps add an aspect of humanity to the cast. If they were all good little soldiers who never questioned the Empire or orders they would feel unrealized. Even the best soldiers have questions. Whether they ask those questions is another matter.

Imperial Paranoia. Click to enlarge.

Second, having the characters question their superiors, and each other in some instances, the creative team establishes that not all is right in the Empire. If its troops and pilots have doubts, Imperial leadership will have trouble keeping things together. As a bit of foreshadowing it works quite well.

Finally, the paranoia gives the comic a great way to further characterize Imperial forces. We see that they have to navigate an extremely rigid and authoritative system where one slip up could result in severe punishment. As readers and Star Wars fans we know this, but it helps to see it there on the page.

These elements work together to assuage the idea that you are reading about, and supposed to root for, the villains.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Should You Read It?

If you are interested in a different perspective on the Imperial vs Rebel conflict, then this issue is a good place to start. It’s got some space battle action, some intrigue, and some good characterization of the galaxy’s villains. As this is a first issue, it is mostly set up, but there are a few good surprises in store.

Of course, if you have no interest in seeing the Empire in a sympathetic light, then stay away from this book. There are, however, hints that traitorous activity is afoot. A defection plot, maybe? Or possibly, rebel infiltration? Either of these choices would add a new layer to the proceedings and offer real reasons for reader sympathy. All in all, I was entertained by it, but your mileage may vary.

Have you read this comic?

Did you love the Tie Fighter game from Lucas Arts? I did, despite playing as a bad guy. Y-Wings were just so much fun to shoot down.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about this book, this post, or Star Wars. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.

The image shows the credits page from Tie Fighter #1, which I review in this blog post.
The ones responsible for this. Click image to enlarge

Star Wars Episode IX Trailer Reaction

First of all, I want to say how happy I am that Lando is back. He’s flying the Falcon with a big smile on his face, and that is wonderful. When he didn’t appear in Episode VII, I really wanted him in VIII. So, to see him appear in IX warms my heart. My joy is only a little diminished by the fact that he won’t have screen time with Han or Leia. Luke is still possible, though. Anyway, here is the Star Wars Episode IX trailer.


And, here is my reaction:

I loved it, and I am excited for the movie. I am not a TLJ hater, though I recognize it had some issues. However, I think it presented a lot of cool ideas for the Star Wars universe, and tried to remind people the galaxy is big. How successful it was in that regard is something else. But, it took chances, and made us remember that the Force is a living thing that exists everywhere. Plus, all the stuff with Luke was gold, Jerry, gold.

Anyway, back to my Star Wars Episode IX Trailer reaction.

Good things: The Luke voice-over. I will always love hearing old, grizzled Luke talk. Additionally, his voice gives me hope that we haven’t seen the last of the character, despite his apparent demise in The Last Jedi. I want him to be an active force ghost, like Yoda as in the previous installment, mainly because I want him there to troll Kylo at every opportunity.

The image shows Rey running from Kylo's tie fighter in the Star Wars Episode IX trailer

Lando! Did I mention that Lando is back and I love it? Well, he’s back and I love it.

The opening of the trailer with Rey on a desert planet (could be Jakku, could be Tatooine), the lightsaber and Kylo’s fighter bearing down on her! Great stuff.

The image shows Lando flying the Millenium Falcon from the Star Wars Episode IX trailer, and his reactions is as giddy as mine.
Lando in the new Stars Wars movie. He looks as happy as I feel knowing he’ll be there.

Poe and Finn having more screen time together. I am not a ‘shipper, but those two characters have good chemistry. Their lack of shared screen time in Episode VIII didn’t bother me too much, but it will be nice to have them reunited.

Carrie Fisher

That final image and the laugh. Yes, those play off my nostalgia feels more than anything else, but I’m not going to lie; they did their job.

Other Exciting Things

I also like the shot of Kylo repairing his helmet. Why? Because it tells me that he is as trapped in the past as any of us. When put in the context of his remarks to Rey in Snoke’s throne room, it helps us understand that he is just a fool playing at evil.

I am not a Reylo fan, and I hope they don’t get together or are somehow related. However, I do hope he somehow gets his redemption because Star Wars is also about redemption. Reconstructing his helmet indicates he has attachments to the past, which could pave the way for him to return to the light.

Or, maybe that isn’t him rebuilding the mask. Maybe it’s someone else: like Phasma or a hitherto unknown villain. I mean, it’s almost 100% certain Kylo is remaking the mask, but there’s a slight chance it’s someone else.

The glimpse of Kylo Ren we see fighting alongside the stormtroopers intrigues me. I want to know who they’re fighting. Is it rebels? Is it poor villagers like in Force Awakens? I want it to be a contingent of First Order troops loyal to Hux. Just imagine how cool it would be if we got to see some First Order civil war infighting. Having such a subplot in the movie would do a few things.

One, it would give the Resistance/Rebellion time to rebuild, and have their own adventures. Two, it would further develop the rift established between Hux and Kylo and their struggle to lead the First Order after Snoke’s death. Third, we’d get to see evil tear itself apart: another common Star Wars theme.

Final thoughts

This is a short trailer, and ultimately doesn’t show much. Still, the trailer has piqued my excitement to see how the Skywalker saga will end. I am curious about the tittle though. What does ‘Rise of Skywalker’ mean. Is Rey really going to be a Skywalker? Is it a reference to Kylo’s redemption because he’s a Skywalker? Will Luke’s force spirit arise from the remains of his clothes and bestow the Force on the galaxy as the end of TLJ implied?

What other options that I haven’t thought of exist?

This trailer makes it appear that JJ Abrams and co have decided to toss out some things from The Last Jedi, and I am not sure how I feel about that. I know people had problems with TLJ, but it wasn’t as bad as they say, nor was it as great as its defenders say. It was entertaining with some excellent parts and some not so great moments. I do hope, however, that the ideas and answers it gave us remain, otherwise it will feel like a waste of a movie. If nothing from TLJ matters, why have it at all.?

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts and reactions to Star Wars Episode IX trailer. What do you think? Are you excited for this final installment of the Skywalker saga? Are you as happy as I am about Lando’s return? Let me know in the comments.

The New Joker Trailer is Stylish but Boring

I am a huge fan of the Joker as a villain. I really dig his craziness, and he puts forth the contradiction of silly and violent. Plus, clowns are freaky, so he’s got that going for him. However, it is difficult to make a story that features him as the main character. He works best as a villain, a response to the insanity of the world, or the harsh rigid control of Batman. In order for him to stand on his own the audience has to see him as sympathetic. And while that may be possible, it is also misses the point of the character. We should never root for the character, which is what the new Joker trailer clearly wants us to do.

The whole look and feel of the trailer wants to remind us of a 1970s flick about a man whose life is in the toilet, and suffers one too many grievances at the hands of society. In the trailer, goons attack him several times. One time they steal his sign and hit him over the head with it when he gives chase. In another scene, they beat him up on the subway. All of this takes place with his voice over about how the city is going to hell. The call backs to Taxi Driver are blatant. Of course, these comparisons make sense, considering Scorsese’s name came up quite a bit surrounding this movie when DC announced it.

Look, Scorsese has made some good films, and people like his aesthetic, especially his 70s aesthetic. However, I don’t think we need this kind of movie right now.

That’s Not Joker in the New Trailer

Sure, they call him Joker, and he wears a clown mask, and later suit reminiscent of Joker’s style. But really, the character looks to be the Clown Prince of Crime in name only. Joker is a psychopath; a sinister murderer, and rapist. We should never feel sorry for him, or have sympathy for him.

The image shows Joker in the new trailer as he walks down a hall. He is in a stylish suit and wears clown makeup.
Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. I like his suit if not much else. Click image to enlarge.

In The Killing Joke before he turns into Joker, he’s a chump and a stooge who we don’t feel too sorry for. He maybe deserves our sympathy at that point, but not once he turns into Joker. And how does that happen? He gets pushed into Acme goo and it breaks him. He doesn’t, however, becomes the resident psycho clown of Gotham because he was picked on too much.

Maybe there is some catalyzing event in the film that the new Joker trailer isn’t showing us, but even if there is I don’t know. I don’t need to see another movie about the white guy pushed to him limits and them goes crazy. We’ve seen it in Falling Down (one of my favorite movies, BTW). We also saw it in Taxi Driver. It’s happened in Death Wish, and a variety of other films, and is old hat by this point.

It’s Not a Small Movie

Plus, as arthouse as DC want this movie to look, we have to keep in mind this is a mainstream flick with a wide release. It’s not some indy film that will release in 20 theaters and blow our minds with its choices. It’s a part of a multi-million dollar juggernaut that will just reinforce the white man’s vengeance tale yet again. I am a white dude who tends to enjoy these types of stories, but I don’t need any more of them.

It isn’t necessary to tell a movie where Joker is the hero, or to try to make the audience relate to him. He is the boogeyman, an agent of chaos, insanity in an already insane world. The only Joker stories we should tell are the ones where he gets his comeuppance. Batman handing him his ass? I want to see that. Jim Gordon blowing his kneecap off? Sign me up! Barbara Gordon breaking his spine? I’ll see that movie twice in the theater. Joker is there to hate and despise, not to emulate or adore.

I am not saying audience members will fall in love with Joker in this movie, nor am I saying that’s what DC wants us to do. However, I do find it ambiguous and a little dicey that they have decided to present the new trailer for the Joker movie in this way.

On a positive note, it does have Zazie Beetz in it, and she’s spectacular. Also, Joaquin Phoenix is a good actor, so the performances should be good. It might end up being a good flick, but I won’t be holding my breath.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers


In tabletop role playing games, the term rules lawyer refers to people who know the rules. Of course, there is more to it than simply knowing the rules. If we called everyone who knew the rules a lawyer, then the term would have no meaning. No, rules lawyers are those who know the rules, and how to use them best to their advantage. In horror movies, we also see some kind of rules lawyers, and I want to talk about the top ones. How am I defining the top horror movie rules lawyers? By focusing on characters in movies that have some kind of inside or essential knowledge for survival.

I spent a fair amount of time on this list trying to think of what makes for top horror movie rules lawyers. As stated, they should have some special knowledge of the situation, and how to solve it. For example, if they are fighting vampires, they should know the rules governing vampires. Also, they should be a little weird or goofy. Finally, they shouldn’t be the main character, but rather the person the main character seeks for assistance.

Beyond just knowing the rules, they should be able to explain them in such a way that makes sense to the characters and audience members. If they can’t express themselves, then they are no good when the villains come hacking and slashing along.

I present this list in no particular order, but rather organized in the order they came to mind.

The First of the Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers

Chuck from You Might Be the Killer.

The image shows Chuck from You Might be the killer. She is talking on the phone. Played by Alyson Hannigan, she is the only woman top horror movie rules lawyers on this list.
Chuck. She knows all there is to know about Horror. You Might Be the Killer 2018. Click image to enlarge.

She is the character that inspired this list. I was watching You Might Be the Killer, and she came on as the expert in all things slasher and supernatural. I liked this element of the movie the best. The less said about the rest of the flick the better. Anyway, when Alison Hannigan appeared as the know it all, I laughed with glee. Sure, she was basically reprising early seasons Willow from Buffy with the smart and snark, not that I minded.

Why did her appearance delight me? Well, because it’s Alyson Hannigan. Beyond that, though, it made me realize that the majority of horror movie rules lawyers are men. It was refreshing to see a woman fulfill the role of the horror know it all.

Chuck knows her stuff. She works in a comic books store, has seen what seems like every horror movie ever, and has access to eldritch literature. From the moment she walks on screen the audience knows she knows what’s up. Let’s look at the criteria:

  • She knows the rules, knows the loopholes, and she knows how this story ends and that there will be a sequel.
  • Chuck is weird. She may not come off as weird, but she is. Her friend tells her people are dying all around him, and it barely fazes her. Also, like the Frogs (discussed below), she works in a comic book store.
  • She uses her knowledge to help the characters. She can’t help directly because she is so far away, but she gives them they need to succeed.

Chuck clearly has all the qualifications and deserves to be on this list.

The Second Horror Rules Expert on my List

The picture shows Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, one of the top horror movie rules lawyers
Still of Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing from Dracula 1992. Click image to enlarge.

First on the list is Van Helsing. In fact, he might be the earliest example of a character to fill the role of the rules lawyer in a horror movie. Does he fit the criteria? Let’s check.

  • Knows the situation
  • Is an academic, a foreigner, and a little weird
  • Tells the others what’s up with Dracula and how to kill vampires

So, yes, Van Helsing fits the criteria with flying colors. He understands the powers and blood lust of his adversary and lets the others know. Without Van Helsing’s involvement, Dracula wins.

He may seem like an odd choice, but it is clear he belongs on the list of top horror movie rules lawyers.

The Next Movie Rules Experts on the List

This one is a double because where there is one Frog, there is another.
The Frog brothers from The Lost Boys.

The picture shows the Frog brothers warning Sam about the monsters in Santa Carla something all good horror movie rules lawyers need to do.
Edgar and Allen Frog Warn Sam that there are Vampires Everywhere! in Santa Carla.
The Lost Boys 1987. Click image to enlarge.

These two youthful monster hunters seem to be the only ones who know what’s going on in Santa Carla, and they don’t hesitate to let newcomers know it. They are gritty and snarly in the way only 80s screen malcontents could be.

Also, they have one of my favorite lines when discussing what happens when vampires die: ‘No two blood suckers go out the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode. But, all will try and take you with them.’ It’s hilarious, and true.

How do they fit into the criteria for my list?

  • The Frogs know their stuff. They tell Sam about garlic, holy water, stakes through the heart, and even give him required reading.
  • The Frogs are weird and creepy social outcast types. They snarl and work in a comic book shop, and look at their camouflage clothing!
  • The Frogs help Sam and Michael understand the vampire threat and participate in battling the undead.

The grandpa from this movie almost made this list. He’s idiosyncratic, goofy, and a little weird. He also knows what’s going on in town, and he even kills a vampire. However, he doesn’t share his knowledge with the rest of the characters, nor does he help, so that keeps him off this list.

Enter Evil Ed, Template for Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers

Evil Ed Fright Night 1985. Click image to enlarge.

No discussion of the modern day horror rules lawyer would be complete without mentioning Evil Ed. If Van Helsing is the original horror rules lawyer, Ed brings he archetype to the modern era. As Charlie Brewster’s best friend in Fright Night, Ed fills the role of sidekick. Additionally, he is clearly a weirdo, thanks to his laugh, fashion choices, and hairstyle. Ed is the walking embodiment of 80s creepy geek weirdo.

Some people might argue that Ed doesn’t completely fit the mold because he doens’t know much more about vampires than Charlie does, nor does he believe in the monsters as much as his friend. I concede those points, however; I argue that Ed matches the criteria.

  • He is a weirdo and a sidekick.
  • Ed knows about the monsters and how to fight them.
  • He joins Charlie in his investigation into the vampire next door.

Ed may not be as heavily into the rules of horror as some of the other characters on this list, but he clearly acts as an inspiration for those who followed in his footsteps.

Finally, Randy from Scream

In a decision as predictable as it is necessary, Randy is my last entry on the list of top horror movie rules lawyers. If you had any doubt I was going to mention him, then I don’t know what to say, except watch more horror movies.

The picture shows Randy from Scream, probably the most well known of all the  horror movie rules lawyers.
Randy talking about one of the many horror rules at his disposal. Scream 1996. Click image to enlarge.

If Van Helsing is the first of these types of characters, and Evil Ed brought them into the modern world, then Randy is the culmination. (I know Anthony Hopkins played Van Helsing before Scream came out, but I am talking about characters here, not portrayals.) Randy lays out the ruled clearly and succinctly, and he gets to do so three times. Maybe four, I forget if they somehow got him to add rules to Scream 4, though I don’t think so.

Randy is probably the first character many people thought of when they saw this list, and rightly so. He made a huge impact on pop culture and the horror genre specifically. After Randy’s introduction, the idea that there were rules to survive a horror movie exited the subconscious of fans, and came squealing into the public sphere.

Let’s look at how he fits the criteria:

  • Geeky Weirdo who works at a movie store
  • Knows all about slashers and shares his knowledge with the gang
  • Doesn’t help at first
  • Tries to help in the second film and dies

So, yes, Randy qualifies, despite his lack of helping others in the first Scream movie. Still, he passes the rest of the criteria with flying colors, so he clearly belongs on this list. I suppose you could argue otherwise, but you would have a hard time persuading me.

Top Paralegals of Horror Movie Rules

I inevitably left some characters off this list either because I didn’t remember them or because I didn’t think they fit.

One character that springs to mind is Columbus from Zombieland. Yes, he offers a lot of rules to the audience, and I can see why that would make him seem like he qualifies. However, his rules aren’t really zombie specific, and even the ones which are, the other characters already know. He doesn’t share new or helpful information, check the back seat notwithstanding.

Plus, this list specifically cites sidekick status, and Columbus is clearly a lead character, so he doesn’t qualify.

When I was thinking about this list I asked some people on Twitter for their input and someone mentioned Tony Todd’s character from the Final Destination films. In my head that sounds right, but I haven’t seen those movies in forever. Therefore, I can’t agree in good faith.

What do you think of the list? Anyone you would argue against? Who would you add? Let me know in the comments.


Glow Comic from IDW Shines on Page

Glow, the Netflix series based on the real life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is on break right now. However, we are not without their hi-jinx, thanks to the Glow Comic from IDW, which tells a new story. Now, adaptations like these often leave me cold because the translation from screen to page doesn’t always work.

The picture shows the cover for the first issue of the new Glow Comic. Featured are the cast of characters in all their glory.
Glow #1 written by Tini Howard, Art by Hannah Templer, and Colors by Rebecca Nalty. Click image to enlarge.

In this case, however, the creative team behind the comic does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the show and characters’ voices. Sure, it is not the same as watching the show, but comic book Glow is better than none at all.

Ruth, as always, is the character that shines the most. She has the perfect mix of sincerity and gumption that makes for a sympathetic and pathetic character. Additionally, she often tries to get thing s done, but usually just makes them worse.

The first example of Ruth’s over-zealousness is when she goes into Sam’s office to make sure that the team really has a free weekend. Unbeknownst to her, Sam is sleeping in the office. He wakes up, catches her, and then announces that the team has a weekend gig.

Sam is quite often the equivalent of human garbage, and that characterization continues. Not only will the ladies not earn any money for the weekend job, they actually have to pay him money for the privilege of going. Unless, of course, they want to lose their jobs.

A page from the glow comic that demonstrates how awful Sam can be. The picture shows a promotional poster and the ladies arguing about the money.
Sam showing he is awful. Words by Howard, art by Templer, Colors by Nalty, and letters by Christa Miesner. Click image to enlarge.

Glow Comic Ladies Raise Money

The need for 75 dollars each is the inciting incident for this issue as the women must raise the money or risk losing their jobs. Raising money is not a new concept for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

In order to raise cash, Ruth and Debbie don their wrestling outfits and try to solicit cash from passerby. Debbie isn’t into it at first, but Ruth tackles her, starting an impromptu wrestling match on the street. As you might expect, they get the money.

Other schemes include Melrose, Beirut, and Fortune cookie making and selling pot brownies. Britannica enters a barroom quiz contest, in which she does horribly.

The rest of the team also manage to raise the money, and the team is ready to go to the big event.

The picture shows Britannica getting every answer wrong as she tries to earn money by answering quiz questions. Bash looks on in confusion.
It’s an easy joke to make, but it lands anyway. Plus, the art is so cute and whimsical that it assists with the laugh. Click image to enlarge.

Why Should You Read Glow?

You might be asking yourself why you should read this comic. The answer is simple: it’s fun to read and pleasure to look at. The art has a manga feel to it, which some people don’t like. Those people are wrong, but I digress. The look of the artwork helps capture the silly spirit of the source material, and the bright crisp colors pop on the page.

Every element of this issue works well together. The creative team clearly knows what they are doing. Plus, there is an ominous cliffhanger that sets up the next issue.

If you need more GLOW in your life (and who doesn’t?) pick up this comic.

Have you read it? Got something to say? Leave me a comment.



Genesys Magic: Powerful Spells, Generic Worlds

In 2017 Fantasy Flight Games released their Genesys Role Playing game. As a generic system, it is suitable for any world you can dream of. All you need is your imagination. I love the Genesys system for a variety of reasons, but one of the things I love most about it is how it handles magic.

The Genesys core rulebook. Here you will find how to cast powerful magic.

In so many tabletop role playing games, magic can be confusing, under-powered or overpowered, or both. Often time it depends on how much a character can learn, and what spells they prepared. This is all well and good, as far as it goes. However, it often falls into the trap of spell casters being weak at low levels and super strong at higher ones.

The Genesys magic system solves this issue in an intriguing and novel fashion. Unlike Dungeons and Dragons or other games with magic, Genesys does not have spell lists. Characters don’t learn or memorize spells. They don’t have spell slots to fill or even spell levels.

How Does Genesys Magic Work?

When you want to cast a spell in this system, you just say you are going to cast a spell. Simple, right? In fact, it might be a little too simple, but that’s where the fun comes in. Under the rules, characters can cast spells for any reason, mundane or fantastical.

However, when you cast something that would replace a skill, the target number is higher. The reason for this is to keep magic from becoming a catch-all replacement for other skills. Basically, it keeps spell casters from abusing their mystical abilities. So yes, a player could use magic to unlock a door, but the task is more difficult for them than someone using a lock-picking skill.

I can hear you asking: If you don’t learn spells, how can you cast them? That’s where the genius of this system shines. As I wrote above, you simply say you want to cast a spell and roll the dice. Sure, there’s a bit more to it than that, but not much.

The image shows the special dice the genesys system uses, and you will need them to cast powerful magics.
Genesys uses special dice, but don’t be intimidated. They are easy and intuitive, and once you grasp them the doorway to fun opens.

First, you decide what kind of spell you want to cast, or what the effect you want to happen. For example, if you want to charm an NPC into following your bidding, you describe what that spell would do. Genesys is a narrative system and is therefore quite open in terms of what players can and can’t do.

Example of Social Spell Casting

Let’s take the example of the charm spell I mentioned above. In the rule book there are categories of spells, but no specific spells. The categories are attack, augment, barrier, conjure, curse, dispel, heal, and utility. Most of these categories are self-explanatory, but none of them clearly indicate where our charm spell would come into play.

So, let’s say we want to charm our opponent using utility magic. First, we find our magic skill: it will either be Arcane, Divine, or Primal (the three types of magic in the basic Genesys rules). Then we decide upon the difficulty of the task.

Looking at our character sheet we see that charm is a social skill. This automatically increases the difficulty by one purple die. This is an opposed roll against an opponent’s Cool skill, so you would add one to their skill in order to account for the increased difficulty.

Now, we need to differentiate between the effects of the spell version of charm is compared to the skill. Because we are dealing with magic, the GM might rule that the spell is harder to resist than the skill and award the caster a blue boost die. Or, the GM might decide that the charm effect last longer or allows the caster a greater amount of control over the target if they succeed.

Once the dice pool has been assembled, you roll the dice, read the results, and decide what happens. Success could mean that the spellcaster can issue orders to the target, or turn them into a friend. As a potential drawback: failure could mean the targeted opponent cannot be the target of a charm spell or skill for a certain amount of time. It’s up to you, and that’s what makes Genesys so fun.

What About Combat Magic in Genesys?

Most players don’t play spell casters in order to run around charming town folk or unlocking bolted doors. Yes, you can use the mystic arts in these situations, but let’s face it, if you’re playing a magic user, it’s because you want to wreak havoc with powers no mere mortal should possess. Well, not to worry, this system has you covered in warm blankets on a cold day.

There are several possibilities for destructive combat magic under these rules. And, once again, the rule book is just the beginning. Really,your imagination (and how far the GM will let you take things) is your only limit.

There are several types of combat magic in this system, but I am going to focus on spells used for attacks as they are the most likely to come into play.

Casting a combat spell is similar to the mode used for casting a social one with a few key differences.

This picture shows the chart for powerful magic spells in the Genesys core rulebook. There are several options for spell enhancement mentioned on the chart.
Gaze at the wondrous possibilities for powering up your spells, and this is only the beginning. Click picture to enlarge.

As with any skill check using the Genesys system, you first have to find your relevant skill. In this case, it will be one of the mystical skills: arcane, primal, or divine. Once you know that, you have a better idea of how successful your spell will be.

Once you have determined your skill level, you now need to decide how powerful you want your spell to be. All spells start at difficulty level one (1 purple die). For additional effects, you add purple die to the die pool to simulate the increased difficulty. You can increase the range of your spell, add a quality such as fire or ice to it, give it an area of effect property, or more.

The Price of Spell Casting

Magic has a price in Genesys, no matter how powerful it is. There are a few reasons for this. One, if magic was not limited in some way, player would easily abuse it. That’s nothing against players, just a fact about people. If you give someone something that can break the world, they will probably try to do just that.

Two, if magic had no limits, then there would be little reason to play anything other than a spell caster. By adding limits to magic, the creators have ensured that the other classes remain viable options.

Third, magical limitations make the player think twice about using spells when other options exist. Magic should not be a means to solve every problem a group encounters, and it definitely shouldn’t be an easy means to do so.

How does Genesys solve this problem? Well, it makes magic dangerous to use by inflicting immediate strain damage to the caster. Strain is a measure of your ability to undertake difficult tasks. You can recover strain fairly easily, but it also runs out quickly, and if you run out, you fall unconscious.

Additionally, using magic to accomplish mundane tasks is more difficult than using a similar skill. Furthermore, if the GM deems appropriate, the character can suffer further strain from spell casting, or have any other number of damaging effects occur. All of these are ways to mitigate the potential game breaking ability of magic.

Worth a Try

If you have been looking for a different kind of magic system that allows for supercharged spells but is easy to use, check this one out. Overall, the Genesys system is fun and sensible. Their version of magic is no exception.

Have you used this system? What are your thoughts on it? What do you think of my thoughts on Genesys magic and what it can do? Let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading.