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Overlord (2018)

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The opening scenes of Overlord are supposed to be riveting, as planes filled with soldiers fly over occupied France and prepare to drop a team tasked with taking out a Nazi radio jamming device located in a church.  As we get to know the soldiers shortly before anti-aircraft fire starts buffeting the plain and blowing up others nearby, one thought went through my head.

When, exactly, were the Armed Forces integrated?

I should know this since this is a major historical era I have studied again and again (right answer: 1948).  But this just goes to show how even if you know something is wrong you begin to doubt the facts that you do know.  Even if the 101st Airborne had been integrated at the time, there was no way there would have been a black NCO commanding them.  There was a good third of the country that still hadn't figured out by that time that hanging people due to the color of their skin was wrong.

If you are going to stage a riveting airborne infiltration, especially one t…

The Zodiac Killer (1971)

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True crime is all the rage these days.  And why not?  Crime rates are actually down, and the types of crimes these shows concentrate on are ones that are probably never going to happen to us.  It works the same way as horror does: it's a safe scare, but amped up a notch due to the fact that it really did happen to someone.  You can feel the emotions for the victim, the fright of ever being in that situation and some sort of fascination about the person who would commit the crime.  It's all from the safety of your own home, since you know the person who did it is behind bars for the rest of their life or died years ago.

But what if the murders are still open cases and the killer has not been caught?

The Zodiac Killer is known to have killed at least seven people around the San Francisco area from 1968 to 1970.  He claimed in correspondence with journalists and police to have killed 37, but the number is in doubt.  He may also have been the one behind a number of other unsolved…

It Lives Again (1978)

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There are some things where you just have to explain that they are a product of the decade in which they came from.  Other than the fact that remakes are really just cash-ins and rarely better than the originals, the failure of a modern remake of It's Alivewas a given.  In fact, I'm not even sure many people are aware there even was a remake.  Even with the the almost overburdening attention paid to proper childbirth and child rearing these days the fear of being saddled with a "special" child is not a overwhelming.  There is so much that can be done now, and so much more understanding, than there was nearly 50 years ago.

And that is what the original It's Alive was.  Genetics was still little understood at the time, but the fears were there that a baby may not come out completely normal.  Add to that people starting to realize what kind of gunk was being pumped into our atmosphere, dumped into our rivers and generally contaminating our ground, the fear of outsi…

Crescendo (1970)

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I would hesitate to say Hammer Studios was ever really concerned about making high art.  The fact they became a classic name in horror is more the happy accident of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee being consistently in their top films as well as feeding the need to update classic monsters with a bit more blood and sex that was in line with the changing times.  Although moral activists and some critics wrung their hands wondering what this all meant and where society was going, it took just over a decade to start making Hammer look old fashioned and tame.

They sputtered on into the early 1970s, still with Dracula, Frankenstein and occasionally Dr. Jekyll or the Mummy.  They tried to add more sex and violence, but budgets got lower and scripts more outrageous.  It didn't help that there were directors out there with even lower budgets that were managing to do the genre better.  It also didn't help that, along with feeling out of step with the times, their non-monster films ha…

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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One of the best new shows I enjoyed over the last year was What We Do in the Shadows.  I was aware that it was based on a movie, and often I find it best to watch the movie first.  The reason is, especially when it comes to comedies, typically a large portion of the television show is going over the same jokes that were in the movie, as they tend to be retreads or assume most people never saw it in the first place.  Because of timing I figured I would watch the show anyway, though I was concerned that it would ruin the movie for me when I finally got around to seeing it.

I was happy to find that, though the two share the same spirit, they do not share the same characters (except for one episode, making it clear that the New Zealand crew are their own group) or, accept for laying ground rules, the same gags.  Though sharing the same name and general mockumentary style co-director Taika Waititi wisely reworked everything for the New York setting, with completely new subplots to boot. 

Us (2019)

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There are few things that scared me as a child, which is probably why I like horror films so much.  Monster movies, science fiction, old fashioned scary shows - yes, I liked a number of cartoons as well, but other than Scooby Doo (which always had comedic horror elements) I can barely recall much of any of them.  The ones I do recall, like my favorite episodes of Tom & Jerry, still had supernatural or horror elements.

Occasionally I could get myself worked up by reading too much about ghosts, but I always understood that, if they do exist, they are not something that can actually harm me.  I was keenly aware of real monsters in society, so the make-believe ones were more fun than anything else.  The Devil, like with all children, was a frightening antagonist early on, but as I left Christianity behind Satan became just another character, sometimes tragic and sometimes a monster, but no more real than the Wolf Man.

So, what is it about doppelgangers that always freaked me out?  Ch…

In the Tall Grass (2019)

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I have been a Stephen King fan since I was in grade school, and I still pick up every new novel or short story collection he releases.  It's usually a rewarding experience as well.  Few authors as prolific as King have maintained a consistent quality over the years.  He has written some stinkers, but often when you think that's about it for him he comes up with something fresh. 

Although he writes under a pseudonym, everyone knows at this point that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son.  While I would never say writing talent is something you inherit, Hill has become a popular author in his own write.  The influence from his dad is there (though, to be honest, it is there in every modern horror writer who came after him) Hill still has his own voice that is not as dark and pessimistic.  This sometimes contrasted when they collaborated on the novel Sleeping Beauties, where it felt like certain story elements were constantly trying to pull in different directions.  Particularly, …