Scintillating Sci-fi

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Hunters: A Strieber Portal to Alien Invasion

Published April 13, 2016 by rmpixie

hunters

 

A weirdo DJ playing a song by the 80’s band OMD, frenzied looking bunnies, and a terrified woman in a cage.  That was enough to keep me watching the new TV series Hunters based on Whitley Strieber’s book Alien Hunter.  His 2013 book series is summed up with an excerpt from the book’s website www.alienhunterbook.com below:

“In Alien Hunter, which is the first in what will be a series, I have created a character, Flynn Carroll, a cop who ends up working with alien cops to clean up alien criminals on Earth. Flynn has a powerful motive: they took his wife and never returned her.

He’s a man obsessed. He wants revenge, and he wants his beloved Abby back. When he’s recruited by the most secret police unit in the world–the Alien Hunters – he finds his true vocation and becomes the single most dangerous force any alien criminal could encounter on Earth. Bad news for them, good news for us. Dangerous news for Flynn.”

The Alien Hunter series is par for the course for Strieber, who is well-known for his accounts of alleged abductions by “visitors” in his earlier work Communion, as well as his classic horror contributions with The Wolfen and The Hunger which were made into feature films.  He has been a prolific writer over the decades, a believer in aliens and other-worldly beings, and a fixture in the sci-fi/horror world.

The first episode of Hunters is actually quite good.  What sounds like typical sci-fi fare translates well on the small screen.  We are introduced to main characters right away in an action-packed chase.  Secret agents hunt a sleeper cell of nasty aliens in the opening scenes, and we also meet Flynn Carroll (played by Wolf Creek’s Nathan Phillips), an FBI agent who searches for his missing wife.  He has PTSD from being a war veteran, a troubled charge in his dead partner’s daughter, and a slight drug problem.  He’s a mess, but already a likeable character, and is suddenly thrown into the secret anti-terrorist world.

Flynn (Nathan Phillips) and Regan (Britne Oldford)

Regan (Britne Oldford) and Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips)

 

The Exo-Terrorism Unit that we see in the show opening is led by Truss Jackson (Lewis Fitz-Gerald), a gruff no-nonsense agent who oversees Regan (Britne Oldford), Briggs (Mark Cole Smith), and Page (Stephen Anderton).  They are traumatized by the loss of Page within the first few minutes of the episode, and the relationship between the remaining agents become strained as the aliens elude them again and again.  The lead “terrorist” alien McCarthy (TV bad guy Julian McMahon) masquerades as a DJ who loops OMD’s Maid of New Orleans, is violently pesky, and McMahon plays him well.  There’s a juicy twist with agent Regan whose character I already love.  She’s a tough gal and I’m hoping her complexity is expanded in future episodes.  There’s also plenty of weird alien autopsy scenes and exploding alien faces.

Julian McMahon as McCarthy the evil DJ alien

Julian McMahon as McCarthy the evil DJ alien

 

I’ll forgive that the production is filmed in Melbourne, Australia and being passed off as the U.S. (although not very well masked), and that the Aussie cast can’t hide their accent for long, because it’s actually an engaging, gory and action-packed show right from the start.  With the show creator Natalie Chaidez, the brains behind Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Heros and executive producer for Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, as well as executive producer Gale Ann Hurd of The Walking Dead fame at the helm, there’s sure to be much more alien mayhem to come.  I love the guttural alien growling, the over all menacing feel to the story, and, well, there is a random kitten and a bunch of bunnies (that have yet to reveal their significance) running around after all!

I recommend checking this show out.  The reviews have been generally harsh, calling it generic Syfy series fare, but I can dig it and I’m giving it a chance.  I think it has potential and great cross-over for horror and sci-fi fans alike.

Hunters airs on Syfy Monday nights at 10 p.m. and on Showcase same night and time in Canada.

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Dark Moon Issue #3 Scares up Sci-fi Horror for Halloween!

Published October 28, 2015 by rmpixie

darkmoon3

Dark Moon Issue #3

Art by Benedick Bana

It’s almost Halloween and Dark Moon Comic is all about the treats.  To Freematik, creator of the innovative motion comic, this holiday is about sharing creativity, and to celebrate the launch of the first comic last Halloween, the third and last part of their introductory sci-fi horror trilogy will be released for free on October 29th.

The first two issues brought us a team of survivors beamed to a mysterious moon as the Earth is hit by a deadly meteor.  They are led by Dante, the scientist responsible for saving them, who finds the moon has perils of its own in the way of hostile and hungry creatures.  Surrounded by these beasts, they discover an alien outpost and take cover while trying to figure out their next move.  As they explore the base, they find out what the beasts are and how they got to the moon.

The third installment finds the group’s numbers dwindling and Dante reflecting on the remaining survivors fate.  His inner process comes to the forefront as he feels the guilt of placing them all between a rock and a hard place, and he is desperate to get them off of a planet teeming with bloodthirsty creatures.  And if some of you were wondering, we also learn what has happened on Earth after the meteor hit.

Once again, Dark Moon transports you to a brutal place.  We see aliens run amok and a conflicted leader who wills himself to save this random group of characters.  It was nice to see more back story for both the Earth’s fate and Dante’s relationship to each of the fallen.  Of course, the artwork is absolutely stunning with all the near 3-D detailing accented by bursts of vibrant colours, and the sensory experience is completed with the trippy soundtrack.

I think the average comic reader could get used to this, spoiling them with HD visuals, an engaging story and the added hip-hop fusion scoring.  These mini movies will keep you wanting more story and more creatures, so here’s hoping Freematik and artist Benedick Bana will surprise us with something in the near future (but not like, death by meteor near future…)

Check them out on Twitter : @DarkMoonComic

and their deviant art site: http://freematik.deviantart.com/ to check out issues 1 and 2 so you’ll be ready for the alien chaos in issue 3…all for free!

A Scary and Stranger Slice of Life

Published April 27, 2015 by rmpixie

A good horror or sci-fi movie can scare or fascinate us on the big screen, and most of us can leave the fantasy in the theater.  But what if the overly-friendly neighbour or that strange light in the sky happens in our real lives?  Some of that real life horror has been committed to film, documenting the stories of ordinary people, or seemingly so, who have lived these very experiences.  For them, especially those who lost loved ones, it is worse than any Hollywood nightmare, and for those who stand by their convictions it is a lesson in tenacity.  Here are a few titles that resonated with me, and although they may not be your first choice for a Saturday night flick, they give a voice to folks that either lived through some real horrors, or had some allegedly real, and really weird, experiences.

 

myamhorror

My Amityville Horror (2012, 1 hr, 28 mins)

This documentary focuses on Daniel Lutz who lived in the famed Amityville House with his family when he was a child a year after the gruesome murders. I missed this doc when it screened at Toronto After Dark Film Festival a few years back, so I finally sat down to watch a very strange and eerie account of what he went through.  His reluctance to reveal his true feelings and the damage done to him is evident in his large blue eyes, and I cannot tell you what I believe other than his life was a tortured existence for many years during and after his Amityville experience.  It is a must see if you want some understanding of the media storm surrounding this famous haunting.

 

 

 

cropsey

Cropsey (2009, 1 hr, 24 mins)

I was completely drawn into this Staten Island, N.Y. story.  The filmmakers and natives to the area, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, explore the small town legend of Cropsey, a crazed killer of children said to roam the wooded area around the abandoned Willowbrook State School.  Their quest to find the truth behind the Cropsey boogeyman reveals stories of missing children, heartbreak, a terrible history of mismanaged and abusive hospital facilities, and the slow but sure persecution of real suspected killer Andre Rand.

 

 

 

jefdfiles

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012, 1 hr, 16 mins)

Short but informative, this film, with the help of reenactments, forensic and personal accounts, shows us how a seemingly friendly but introverted man charmed his neighbour and the detective in charge of questioning him despite being one of the most notorious serial killers of our time.  Don’t expect a grand exposé here, rather it gives you a snapshot of what people thought of him, how they related to him, and how he got away with murdering his victims for many years due to the shortcomings of the police.  This documentary will definitely make you paranoid when a stranger is unusually nice to you.

 

 

 

hiddenhand

The Hidden Hand:  Alien Contact and the Government Cover-up (2013, 1hr, 20 mins)

Abductees and scholars speak on the presence of aliens on Earth in this 2013 documentary.  What may sound like loopy hoo-ha ends up coming from some more than credible witnesses like military officials and the sixth American astronaut Edgar Dean Mitchell, as well as celebrated authors like Whitley Strieber, Jim Spark and David Icke.  Several accounts of alien abduction likened to being “tagged like deer” and many cover-up conspiracies fueled by greed are discussed, and details on ties to The Vatican and Area 51 will peak your interest in this hotly debated subject.  If you follow the vein of thought, this slightly dry but interesting film will lead you to think that alien visitation is more common than you think, making the Fox Mulders of the world proud.

 

 

 

billymstory

The Billy Meier Story (2009, 1 hr, 34 mins)

“Billy” Eduard Albert Meier has been in contact with aliens for most of his life, and is known for his prophetic messages that he relays from the Plejaren alien race.  With an early life that James Bond would envy,  Billy Meier has seen other worlds and world leaders; he has opened his own organization that publishes the prophecies of his alien friends and their spiritual teachings among other things, and he has allegedly seen the future.  This documentary takes you from experts who try to debunk his U.F.O footage, to mental health officials that try to certify any kind of craziness, and testimonials from his faithful followers.  It will certainly make you stroke your literal or figurative beard and scratch your head in wonder as you listen to some compelling information.  Despite the somewhat cheesy looking spacecraft footage and drawings of his alien informants that look like the European Jesus and Beyoncé (which would explain a lot), this movie really strikes a nerve as the world goes to Hell in a hand basket, and sadly, we don’t need aliens to tell us this.

 

Ex Machina and the Puppetry of the Patriarch

Published April 26, 2015 by rmpixie

exmachina

Ex Machina (2015, 1 hr 48 mins)

 

Artificial intelligence has been debated for many years about whether it will be the downfall of humankind.  Stephen Hawking has famously warned against developing A.I., citing its dangers of a total takeover of humanity.  Writer Alex Garland, the mind behind Sunshine, and The Beach, gets his directorial debut with Ex Machina, where the controversy goes much further than A.I. and into the realm of misogyny and male superiority.

Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) is a coder that has won a contest to work at the secret research facility of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a reclusive computer genius and mogul who has created a Google-like company called Bluebook.  It is here that Caleb learns of his task:  to test the artificial intelligence of Ava (Alicia Vikander), a fully functioning robot who just might be too real to handle.

This film has been getting rave reviews, and objectively, I can see why.  The writing, the sets, and the acting are all top-notch, not to mention the incredible C.G.I. involved in creating Ava’s mechanics and the pulsating heartbeat-like scoring, however as a woman, and a woman of colour, I have to call foul on several points.  ****(If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read any further!)*****

First, Nathan is a genius but he has no respect for women, as we see with his treatment of Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), his beautiful and silent housekeeper, as well as Ava, his creation of the moment.  His ego and false sense of superiority also gets way ahead of him as he manipulates all who come in contact with his world, giving the character full license to behave badly.

My second point comes from the notion of sexuality and race.  In 2015, there are still many issues with race and gender, and it becomes more complex and insidious as we forge into the future.  With the character of Nathan, we get an idea of his sexually dominant leanings as Caleb gets to know him. When Caleb challenges Nathan’s choice of a female robot instead of a grey box to house the A.I., implying that results would be skewed due to Caleb’s attraction to Ava, Nathan uses the example of a preference for Black women, or “chicks”, when describing nature’s ability to hardwire humans for seemingly random attractions.  This example was obnoxious and kind of played out, and I wondered why Nathan didn’t use Asian women as an example instead because plot wise, that was obviously his preference.

Nathan’s odd choices for a genius would soon be illustrated with his perverse collection of A.I. dolls, where there is a distinct difference.  Just in case there were some of you wondering if Ava was the only choice, never fear, because Nathan also builds Asian, Nordic looking and Africa-American prototypes, used, abused and hung up in their own little closets.  What is extremely poignant to me is that the African-American robot Jasmine (Symara A. Templeman) had a beautiful body like the others, but no face, and later on, no head.  To everyone else, this may not be of any interest, but to me it speaks volumes.  I see it as a not so subtle knock to Black women and their standing in society; the faceless, objectified plaything that really has no merit or garners no understanding.  She is just to be used and discarded.  The same fate happens to the other prototypes, but they at least have faces, an identity, albeit one-dimensional.

Dear reader, if you have come this far, please stay with me for a moment longer.  As a woman who has loved horror and sci-fi since I was a child, I get that it has been a mostly white male dominated genre.  I get that women are objectified in many ways, and as a woman, I have to pick my battles, because there is a thing called context.  I cannot feel anything but disappointed with the writer’s choices in this case because I see through them.  I identify with that faceless Black robot because it is a perpetuated sexual stereotype that Black women are still seen as sexual chattel but not valued; that their opinion and intelligence is disregarded, illustrated by the robot’s missing head.  Garland takes racial stereotypes further with Nathan’s Japanese housekeeper Kyoko, who is portrayed as completely subservient.

Thirdly was the amount of nudity.  I am not a prude, and I have seen my fair share of nakedness and violence in horror and sci-fi films.  Most of it is unnecessary and cater once again to the male heterosexual viewer, and I have come to an unfortunate and begrudging acceptance when a female body part is flashed or slashed on the screen.  Nathan’s brutality with his naked creations was, however, disturbing and overdone to me, as was Ava’s transition into “flesh and blood” which seemed, without body-shaming Vikander, if that was in fact her body, creepy and a tad too pre-pubescent.

Garland’s United Nations of lady-bots was perhaps a step in the right direction, but the blatant misogyny and stereotypes, including the one of the God complex male genius whose first inclination is to make himself a robot harem, all but clobbered this viewer over the head.  In the end, Ava may have cared more about her own motivations than the plight of women, (after all she isn’t real right?), and some may think that her final actions were a battle cry for feminists, but it just seemed heavy-handed, predictable and buried any accountability for the treatment of women in the film.

This story could have been much more than a mad genius working out his sexual fantasies, and I’m going to assume that many people are going to dismiss my findings as overly sensitive or they ignore the fact that Nathan made fake women; that they weren’t real and therefore gave him license to abuse and lord over them at will.   I pose to those people this question:  Why, in this day and age, is a film that is considered smart and a potential representation of our future, still using male dominance and misogyny as a baseline?  I would hope in the realms of fantasy and science fiction we could get past that and be more progressive but obviously this is not the case, as women in technology fields still struggle to find their footing (can you say Gamergate?).  Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it is.  It’s truly a shame that Garland, who penned one of the greatest female characters in horror, Selena played by Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later, has come up with such a disappointing view of women masked as a dialogue on artificial intelligence.

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