Creepshow S01 E01 Two Tales of Horror

Creepshow S01 e01 premiered on Shudder recently, but I hadn’t had a chance to watch it. Well, that has finally been rectified, and I am happy to say it was worth the wait. This episode, like all the upcoming ones, apparently, has two stories in it. I like this format because it gives us more bang for our buck, and helps ensure there is all meat, no filler.

The picture shows the logo from Creepshow S01 e01

The first story, Gray Matter, is a telling of the Stephen King story of the same name. It’s about a teenage boy, Timmy, and his Daddy. I read the story yeas ago in middle school, so I don’t remember all the details. I do remember that it was creepy (duh! it’s King), and the show definitely lived up to that promise. The plot is simple. Timmy’s Momma dies, leaving him and his father alone together. Daddy, who always enjoyed his Friday night Harrow’s Supreme beer starts drinking excessively. Then, he loses his job and starts watching afternoon soaps. Grief does strange things to us all.

When we first meet Timmy, it is in a general store on the night of a big storm. He has come for a case of Harrow’s. The Sheriff and the town doctor are in the shop, shooting the shit like always. These little moments between characters establish their relationship and let the reader know this is something they do. As far as quick and effective world building and place setting, there are few better ways to do so.

As the story continues, we learn that something nasty has happened to Daddy, after all this is a horror story. I won’t reveal too much about the details, suffice to say there are some gruesome effects and a good sense of dread throughout the short.

Creepshow S01 E01 House of the Head

This is the second story of the episode, and while the colors are a little brighter, the story is just as dark, if not darker. House of the Head tells the story of a little girl and her dollhouse, so already it’s freaky. I mean, come on, dollhouses can be quite scary. Not always, sure, but more often than not. Or is that just me?

Anyway, Evie, the girl, has a new ‘one of a kind’ dollhouse–which adds to the unease. Anytime something is ‘one of a kind’ in a horror story it’s never good. It’s never, oh, that car is one of a kind; it will get you where you need to be and never break down. No, it’s more, that car is one of a kind and it will kill all your friends and drive you to madness.

The dollhouse is nice, though, and Evie has inhabited it with a nice family called the Smithsmiths. They have a dog, a son named Ethan, and all is well when Evie leaves for school one morning. However, things change quickly. Upon her return home she sees that a new inhabitant has move into the house: a disembodied head.

The picture shows the head of the house of the head from Creepshow S01 e01
Hell No! I see that, I’m burning the damn house down!

If I found this head in my dollhouse, I would freak. Not Evie, though. She’s just all, you don’t belong here, whatever. As things progress she gets more and more creeped out by the head, but she never loses her wits. She just buys more dolls that she thinks can solve the problem for her. I won’t say how things end, but I will say Evie is full of hope when she leaves the dollshop with her new Native American doll.

Thematic Similarities Between Episodes

Overall, Creepshow S01 e01 is a strong start to the series. The two tales they chose resonate thematically with each other because they both present children dealing with horrific events. Also, they act as a nice contrast to one another. Gray Matter is shot in odd angles and has a very dark aesthetic. The lighting is dim or nonexistent, which really amplifies the feelings of terror.

House of the Head on the other hand, is brightly lit, and shot in wide open frames. Even though most of the action takes place in Evie’s bedroom, the episode never really felt claustrophobic to me. Despite the well lit shots and feeling of space, there was still a strong feeling of unease in this story as well.

I wouldn’t say that either tale is particularly scary. There aren’t jump scares or things like that. But, I will say a feeling of fear and despair permeates them, which is a different kind of horror. It may not scare you in the moment, but it has greater potential to keep you awake at night, turning your head at noises in the dark.

Final Thoughts

One thing I didn’t like was the repetition of ‘Daddy’ in Gray Matter. They used it so much that it became annoying, and I wanted them to find a synonym.

Something else that was cool was all the Stephen King references in Gray Matter. There is a missing pet board with Church and Cujo. There is mention of something scary in the sewers. And I am sure there were more that I missed. And while I loved the references, I did find them a little distracting because I wanted to pay attention to them as well as the story. Still, I did appreciate them.

Oh, and the nod to John Carpenter’s The Thing at the end of Gray Matter was great, too.

Have you seen Creepshow S01 E01? Did you like it? Leave your thoughts in the comments please. I will be reviewing the episodes as close to their premiere as possible. A new episode drops every Thursday (Friday for me). I will try to have my review up by Saturday my time. It might be difficult, though, because my internet in China is not always 100% reliable.

Thanks for reading.

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Alien Nation Ahead of Its Time and Of Its Time

I re-watched Alien Nation last night, and that movie was ahead of its time. Well, maybe that’s not quite the right way of looking or thinking about it. Maybe it is better to say that for as much progress we as a society have made, we haven’t moved much beyond a lot of the issues the movie addresses. So, in that sense, it was very much of its time, and that time is still now. Or something. I don’t feel great today, but I wanted to write this while thoughts are still fresh.

The picture shows a poster of Alien Nation, a movie that still resonates with its message welcoming immigrants.

The movie is a buddy-cop in the 1980s tradition with aliens as the twist. Matthey Sykes (James Caan) is a grizzled detective who loses his long time partner and friend during a shootout with some Newcomers (aliens). In one of the most movie things ever, he’s on the job the next day and volunteers to work with the LAPD’s first plain clothes Newcomer detective: Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). Sykes laughs at that name, refuses to call him Sam, instead naming him George. So far, except for the aliens, things are pretty standard.

Alien Nation Poses Questions About Immigration We’re Still Answering

But, that’s the thing that makes Alien Nation both ahead of its time and a product of its time. The film makers present the Newcomers, and humans’ reactions to them as multi-faceted. Yes, there is a lot of bigotry and fear of the aliens. Sykes identifies himself as a bigot. And in a movie trope that has gone by the wayside–the man on the street exposition interview–a college student laments having to compete with Newcomers, who are smarter and generally more talented than humans. To some degree, this fear is understandable. The Newcomers aren’t just from another country; they’re from another world. It’s hard not to miss the immigration allegory because it’s not really an allegory.

What amazed me as I watched it this time (I’ve seen the movie quite a few times) is how similar its language is to today’s conversation concerning immigration. You’d think that in the 31 years since this movie hit theaters , we’d have found a way to move the conversation forward. However, the difference is, the movie makes a statement that while there may be some bad apples, overall we should welcome the aliens.

One of the most interesting statements concerning immigration the movie makes is that we all have things in our past we are ashamed of. Before coming to Earth, the Newcomers lived as slaves. To keep them strong and productive, their masters gave them a drug called Jabroka. Jabroka is analogous to PCP, and it is bad news. All of the Newcomers were on the drug, and it is their secret shame.

More Commentary on Immigrants and Immigration

George expresses this when he tells Sykes about the drug, which a cadre of rich and powerful Newcomers, are now attempting to produce on Earth. George tells Sykes that if humans knew about the drug and what it does to Newcomers, they would be afraid and turn against their planet’s new inhabitants.

I like that it’s the rich and powerful Newcomers–the best and brightest of the bunch–who are the criminals. This isn’t a street gang operation with thugs. This is methodically planned and requires resources. Plus, Terrance Stamp plays the main villain, and he’s always a treat.

Something else that struck me about how Alien Nation was both ahead of its time as well as of its time was this speech from George to Sykes:

“You humans are very curious to us. You invite us to live among you in an atmosphere of equality that we’ve never known before. You give us ownership of our own lives for the first time, and you ask no more of us than you do of yourselves.I hope you understand how special your world is; how unique a people you humans are. Which is why it is all the more painful and confusing to us that so few of you seem capable of living up to the ideals you set for yourselves.”

That right there says it all, and makes this movie as relevant to today’s conversation concerning immigrants as it was in 1988.

So, there’s some of my thoughts about Alien Nation. I hope you enjoyed reading them. Let me know what you think of the movie, its message, or this post in the comments.

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Leroy Quade Transhumanism Horror

A while back, I backed a horror magazine called Creeper on Kickstarter. You can click here to buy the magazine as it is out now. (I get no money if you buy it.) In the magazine there is a story called Ground Control to Leroy Quade, and it’s transhumanism horror at its finest. In case you don’t know what transhuman is, here’s a brief primer. The idea of being transhuman is merging humans with technology. It is the stuff of science fiction, but it is slowing turning into reality. Cybernetics, brain chips, shared biomechanical consciousness are all part of the larger scope. It is also a possible means to immortality, or at least extended lifespans.

The picture shows the cover to Creeper Magazine 01, which contains the transhumanism horror story Ground Control to Leroy Quade

Ground Control to Leroy Quade presents a transhumanism nightmare of horror with surprising ease. The tone of the story sets the reader up for the inevitable gutpunch, but does so in a way that we feel safe. The story lulls us into a false sense of security through its main character. Leroy is detail oriented and a creature of habit. He is a futurist, but doesn’t want to live forever; wants to do things, help people, improve the world. He visits his mother in a nursing home, and has a casual relationship with a woman. Put simply, he is an average man.

Then, he has a doctor put a chip in his brain. The chip allows him to always be working, even when he is dong other tasks. He eats and works; sleeps and works; fucks and works. It’s a godsend to his productivity.

However, as this is a horror story and not a happy go lucky one, something happens and the chip begins to take over his life. That’s as far as I’ll go for spoilers.

I Enjoyed The Transhumanism Horror of Leroy Quade to Ground Control

I read this story last week and it has stuck with me. The author, Ganzeer, uses precise and simple language, making it easy to read. However, just because the language is simple and straightforward does not lessen the impact of the words or the complexity of the ideas. In fact, they enhance it. Any time a writer can present high concept ideas in an easily understood fashion is excellent. I appreciate ability like that.

I really liked this story, not only because of Ganzeer’s way with words, but also because it explores a topic interesting to me. Human-machine hybrids fascinate me because they seem so out there, but at the same time like a real possibility. Admittedly, I have not read much of it, but what I have has sparked my imagination. The prospect is exciting and terrifying at the same time.

What do you think about futurism, transhumans, and the merging of flesh and machine? Let me know what you think in the comments. Oh, and seriously, buy this magazine. The $4 pdf is worth it for this story alone. Thanks for reading.

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Battle Supremacy Evolution Switch Review

I’ve been looking for a fun space simulator/shooter for the Nintendo Switch for a while, and I had hoped Battle Supremacy Evolution was it. Unfortunately, it is not. Granted, I have not spend a ton of time with the game. Okay, I’ve only spent like 5 minutes with it. However, that is enough for me to know I am going to hate it.

The image shows the title screen of Battle Supremacy Evolution for the Switch, the topic of this review.

What’s the problem? It’s not the graphics as they are decent. And, it’s not the soundtrack, though there is nothing special about it. So what is it? Simply put, it’s the controls.

The controls on Battle Supremacy Evolution for the Switch are atrocious. They make the game unplayable for me. What’s wrong with the controls, you ask? In a nutshell, everything. First and foremost, the player uses the left stick to move the vehicle, while they use the right stick to target. In theory, this could work, but the execution here leaves me wanting. The controls are not responsive or smooth enough for satisfying game play. I spent my first battle driving in circles as I tried to control the tank as well as target enemies.

One neat feature of the game is your vehicle transforms. You can drive a tank or change into a jet. I had hopes the jet controls would be a little bit better than the ground vehicle. To an extent, they are, but they are still clunky and frustrating. Which is too bad, really, because fuck yeah! I can be a tank or jet and blow shit up!?!? How cool would that be? Super cool, in theory. In execution? Not so much.

Battle Supremacy for the Switch Feels Like a Bad Port

I think this game is a port of a mobile game, which would explain some of the issues I have with it. On the other hand, I would have hoped that the developers would have taken advantage of the system’s capabilities. However, they didn’t, and the game suffers from their shortsightedness.

The game retails for $9.99 on the eShop, but I didn’t pay that. Instead, I used my Nintendo coins, but I wish I had saved them for something better. So now, here I am out a bunch of coins, stuck with a game I don’t like, still in search of a good space shooter. I know Everspace exists, and that’s the game I really want. However, $39.99 seems like a steep price to pay. Maybe one of these days I will.

Have you played Battle Supremacy Evolution for the Switch? What do you think of it? Am I way off in my review? Should I give it more of my precious time? Let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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Deadlands: Hell On Earth Role Playing Game

When I was in college I ran a Deadlands Hell on Earth table top role playing game for a group of friends. There were five players and me, the GM. We played almost every week, on a Sunday. We were often hungover from Saturday night shenanigans. And Friday night. And Thursday night. We drank a lot.

The image shows the cover of the main rulebook for Deadlands: Hell on Earth

When we started, I was in a pretty good place. Sure, I was single (had been for a while) and a drunk (also for a while). But, I was also doing well in school, had made lots of friends, and mostly felt good. Depression reared its ugly head every now and again as is its wont.

And, I was happy to find people to play RPG that weren’t D&D with. We maintained the game for about 18-24 months. I don’t remember exactly because it’s been over 15 years since that time in my life.

I do remember that the group was good. We had a decent mix of experienced and new players, but everyone invested themselves in the game, which is important. If you’ve never played RPGs before, know that player involvement makes everyone’s jobs easier, especially the GM’s.

The first few sessions went well, if memory serves. We played about three hours each time, and there was laughter, excitement, and character deaths. I wrote the adventure and let the players guide the story, as is my style. There are other ways to play Deadlands: Hell on Earth, certainly, but that’s how I ran my game.

Showing Up to Deadlands: Hell on Earth Became a Small Struggle

Eventually, things got more difficult. My depression kicked in more than before, and school responsibilities took over the group. Still, we made an effort to show up nearly every week. Sometimes we would only play for an hour. Other times, we would get together but not play. It was those times that I especially felt bad. See, if the players show and you give it your all and it’s a bad session that’s one thing. It’s something else if they show and you go through the motions. I am not saying that’s what I did, but it felt that way to me sometimes. As I am sure it did to the players.

There were times when I didn’t want to play. I felt down and depressed and didn’t want to put the work in. Other times I didn’t know where the story was going, or why we were still playing. I realized then, as well as now, it was my issues. Depression, lack of self-worth, burnout. My friends always seemed willing to get in the trenches and sling some dice. For that, I am and was appreciative.

How Do You Measure RPG Success?

Thinking about it now, we had more successful sessions than not. I wrote a lot of the campaign we played, but I also used pre-written modules. It was, I think, a good mix of both.

Overall, I think the game was successful as evidenced by the fact that the players continued to show up to play, and we usually seemed to be having fun. Not always, but that’s life, right? Eventually, as it happens, life got in the way and the game died. Friends quit. I moved away.

I will always remember it fondly, though. It was the longest game I’ve ever been involved in, and the bonds of friendship are still there.

What’s the longest you’ve ever been in a single campaign? What keeps you coming back? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading this small reflection on a time in my life that I look upon with happiness despite the negative feelings I sometimes had.

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It: Chapter 2 has Scares and Heart

I wasn’t a big fan of It, part one, and I was wary of whether or not It: Chapter 2 has scares and heart. Well, I went and saw it today, and I have to say I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I might be. Did I like the movie? Short answer: mostly. I will explore the longer answer in this post. There won’t be many spoilers in this post, but there will be some. I have warned you.

The image shows a poster for It: Chapter 2, a movie that has scares and heart

I am a huge fan of the novel, but as I wrote in my reaction to the trailer, I understand separating book from film. They are two different mediums, and the novel is so large, there is no way any movie could cram everything in. In that vein, It: Chapter 2 succeeds because it has scares and heart in equal measure.

Things start off strong with a quick flashback to the end of the first film, then we move to 2019, and things never really slow down.We begin at the Derry Canal Days festival, and follow the homosexual couple of Adrian Mellon and Don Hagarty. Don is from Derry and therefore knows the town is mean and nasty. He tries to impress this knowledge on Adrian, but his lover ignores him. Then, some small town bigots jump them and beat Adrian to a bloody pulp.

It: Chapter 2 Has Scares and Heart Thanks to Humans

Sure, monsters are scary and thanks to modern technology, they look good, too. However, I’ve always found the people to be the scariest part of horror films. By that, I mean horror is at its best when it has a human element. Most of the time, that element is the heroes fighting monsters. However, humans acting like monsters is terrifying. Just think about it. We know monsters aren’t real. Unfortunately, human monsters are all too real. All we have to do to see them is to look at the world around us. Humans behaving terribly is relatable, and is something so true we can’t ignore it.

Soon after the brutal business with Adrian and the local yokels, Mike Hanlon makes his phone calls to the rest of the Losers. These calls bring them back to Derry to face the clown once and for all.

All of the adult actors put in fine performances, but three stand above the rest. Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James Ransone do a lot of heavy lifting, and carry large portions of It: Chapter 2, providing heart in the face of scares.

It’s difficult to discuss the movie without giving things away. Instead, I will just say that there were some highly effective scenes in this film. There were a few good creepy moments, some humor, and a surprising amount of feeling. I was worried the film was just going go through the events of the book like a checklist, which wouldn’t be any good. But, they didn’t go that route, and the movie was better for the choice.

Strange Choices Hobble It: Chapter 2

While it is safe to say that I enjoyed this movie overall, I have some gripes about it. Gripe number one is the character changes. As I stated before, changes happen in adaptations. That is a simple fact. Sometimes, the changes work well, and other times they don’t work at all. In the case of It: Chapter 2, the changes hamper the scares and heart found in the film.

What changes? You ask. The first big one is Mike Hanlon. In the novel, and the original mini-series, Mike was well-spoken and well-grounded. In the newest version, however, he is neither of those things. Could the direction the filmmakers took his character have been interesting? Of course, and to an extent it was. But, those changes also opened the door for character inconsistencies from all the Losers. The movie makers made an interesting choice with Mike, but it didn’t fully work for me.

Another odd choice they made for this film was the Henry Bower’s story line. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with it. But, if I think deeper about it, I have to say it felt rushed. Again, there’s just not enough time to fit everything in and give it room to breathe. I accept that. Still, a little more focus on Bowers would have benefited the flick.

There were other choices and changes that irked me at the time, but were so small that I can’t remember them now. I did like the running joke about Bill and his endings. That was a small, and welcome, change.

Final Thoughts

Overall, It: Chapter 2 has scares and heart and is entertaining. It tries to do too much sometimes, and gets muddled with mythology. Additionally, it relies heavily on CGI and doesn’t always give its players time to breathe and grow. Still, the acting is serviceable to excellent, even if adult Ben looks like some free spirit d-bag and doesn’t have much of a personality.

Have you seen It: Chapter 2? What did you think of it? What do you think of this review? Let me know in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading.

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