conspiracy

All posts tagged conspiracy

Hamlet of Horror: A Look at Wayward Pines

Published June 5, 2015 by rmpixie

waywardpines

Wayward Pines (T.V. series, 2015)

 

Being isolated in one location, be it a small town or a mysterious island, is a terrifying concept in horror and sci-fi since as humans, most of us have an insatiable lust for freedom.  Classic representations of this theme in The Stepford Wives, Twin Peaks, and Lost makes us uneasy as secrets, the supernatural and suppression take control, while (in my opinion) the excruciating Under the Dome puts us (or at least me) asleep with unseen threats and captors.  The latest contribution to this roster, Wayward Pines, is a weird take on the isolated, sleepy town that is not what it seems.

Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is a secret service agent searching for two of his colleagues.  On his way to their last destination of Wayward Pines, Idaho, he is involved in a car crash, and disoriented, staggers into the small idyllic town hidden in the mountains.  He ends up in a deserted hospital under the care of Nurse Pam (Melissa Leo) and soon discharges himself when he realizes he has no wallet, no phone and no contact with the outside world, frantically searching for answers and trying to keep his grip on reality.

Wayward Pines’ tightly wound Sheriff Pope (Terrence Howard) and the townspeople are a strange bunch, and not forthcoming with any information due to the town’s restrictive code of conduct, save for a bartender named Beverly (Juliette Lewis) who becomes Ethan’s guide in this surreal hamlet.  He soon learns he cannot leave, and the agents he is looking for come to different, and sinister, fates.  Ethan’s wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) clings to the hope that his disappearance can be explained, and her determination to find him matches his to leave the locked-down town.  What makes this story all the more interesting is Ethan’s previous breakdown from a case gone wrong.  He felt he could have prevented the disastrous outcome and his hallucinatory symptoms from the past makes the viewer wonder whether his experience in the town is real.  There is also a strange difference in timelines that has him, and some inhabitants, confused.

Wayward Pines is based on a trilogy of books by Blake Crouch, who was so influenced by Twin Peaks in the 90’s that he basically wrote an homage to the series.  Produced by M. Night Shyamalan, who also directed the pilot, this series is bubbling with secrets and nuances.  I have to say I was a little concerned when I heard Shyamalan was involved, as I had visions of The Village and the train wreck that movie was; but having read the first part of this trilogy, the writing for the show is smart and illustrates the suspense and atmosphere of dread that is so prevalent in the book.  Along with Crouch, series creator Chad Hodge also streamlines the action in the novel, which was at times overly descriptive, to create intrigue that slowly reveals what will hopefully be a first class ticket to bizarro-land (in a good way).

Oscar and Emmy nominees grace the cast with the likes of Terrence Howard and the acclaimed Toby Jones as Dr. Jenkins; and I love Matt Dillon who is one of the most underrated actors around, as well as the always fabulous Juliette Lewis and Oscar winner Melissa Leo as the nasty, ball-breaking nurse Pam.  It is great to see mainly big-screen actors take the leap to television, which may draw a larger audience.

While not for everyone, I really hope this show goes the distance.  It took me a few episodes to warm up to Wayward Pines, but after reading the first book for a better understanding of the story and this past 4th episode of a 10-part season that may or may not be a one-off, things are starting to get really interesting.  It is similar to Twin Peaks, and perhaps to some degree Lost, but it also stands alone with a uniquely weird twist that, if the show stay true to the books and doesn’t go off the rails, will blow some minds out there.

 

Wayward Pines airs Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET on Citytv in Canada and Fox in the U.S.

*Looking for the books?  I searched high and low, visiting several book stores in my hometown with no luck unless I wanted to place a specific order, but your best bet is to download the free Kindle app and get a digital copy from Amazon here.  Please note that the first book is entitled “Pines” and it is a decently written, easy read.

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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.

 

Predestination TADFF 2014

Published November 12, 2014 by rmpixie

predestination

Predestination (2014, 1 hr 37 mins)

 

TADFF Sci-fi Night’s stand out film brought us a truly different take on time travel, love and self-exploration with the must-see Predestination.

A time travelling agent on his last assignment (Ethan Hawke) must cross decades in order to foil the elusive “Fizzle Bomber”, a criminal that has decimated countless buildings and killed many.  Placing himself in the ’70’s as a bartender for his investigation, he meets a mysterious writer.  After hearing this weathered stranger’s bizarre life story, the agent decides to help him get revenge on a scorned love in exchange for his service as a temporal agent, taking them down a paradoxical rabbit hole of a journey.

This unique film, based on the short story “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein, and written and directed by Daybreakers creators the Spierig Brothers, doesn’t try too hard to make you understand the plot.  Rather, it takes you on a winding road that will connect and reconnect in very surprising ways.  It will certainly keep you riveted, and that winding road of a story is well paved and free of any extenuating obstacles to muddy the plot.

Ethan Hawke is slowly winning me over.  I have never really been a fan, especially since Gattica and those saccharine romance movies, but he was impressive in this role.  I saw an openness from him that really conveyed a refreshing artistic maturity.  I also like the loyalty that is evident with the Spierig Brothers in terms of casting him in another one of their films which surprisingly, doesn’t get tired.  And Sara Snook will surely be noticed for her excellent portrayal of the mysterious stranger and all the subtle and not so subtle changes in the character.

The production was sleek, the sets meticulous and inventive, and the costuming was amazing.  Having to cross many eras and staying true to each decade was executed with great accuracy.  And hats off to the makeup department.  From the flawless period beauty makeup to Snook’s convincing transformation, they did an amazing job.

When screened at the festival, there was no North American release date, but it will now be in theatres as of January 2015, so go see it.  I applaud the Spierig Brothers for taking on such a complex story and bringing moviegoers something different.  It may take you a moment to wrap your head around it, but this futuristic film noir of sorts addresses some interesting issues about gender and power, and there is an underlying thread that actually warmed my heart of stone.

 

Dark Skies and Crumbling Dreams

Published June 23, 2013 by rmpixie

darkskies

 

Fellow Horror fans, my apologies for not posting something sooner.  I suffered a lack of inspiration and couldn’t find my kitsch appreciation groove.  It was a flat-line for a while, and I looked for days for something to watch; sometimes stopping midway during a film that I couldn’t bear to finish, which is rare since I’ll watch anything!  Never fear though, as I have a renewed interest and there seems to be some great films out there, so this pixie is happy again!

One film I was interested in was Dark Skies.  I saw this come out a few months ago, and missed it in the theatres, so I was anxiously awaiting the dvd release. I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this moody, alien abduction story.

Lacy and Daniel Barrett (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) seem to lead an idyllic, boring suburban life.  Two sons, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett), a nice house and barbeques on the weekends.  It’s great, except for the fact that Daniel, who was laid off, can’t find a job and Lacy, a real estate agent, can’t sell any houses.  They are also plagued by bizarre, nightly happenings. Each night, the events get stranger, and every day, the family becomes more stressed. Food scattered and half eaten on the kitchen floor, various household items impossibly stacked to the ceiling and a disturbing bird incident seem like mild annoyances after weird seizures start to affect the entire family.  When there is evidence of abuse with their sons, Lacy and Daniel are pushed to believe that these events aren’t coming from the boys, a prankster, stress or even this planet.  Enlisting the help of Edwin Pollard (J. K. Simmons), an abduction and alien expert, Lacy and Daniel prepare to accept the unbelievable, and hopefully get their life back.

I liked the mundane, suburban backdrop for this alien abduction story.  The American dream of raising a family and having a ‘normal’ life becomes a nightmare.  The aliens and the disruptions they create are a great metaphor for the lack of control over our lives in general.  I think this film got panned generally because some reviewers thought it was either too clichéd or was a thinly veiled dissertation on right-wing fears of being invaded by foreigners.  I see it as a tad tongue in cheek.  Most plod along only hoping for the house, the car, the job and 2.5 kids.  When things don’t happen as we expect, who you gonna blame, “India and China”? That’s who Daniel’s ‘everyman’ neighbour blames.  But no, it’s not “them” (gasp!).  What better explanation for kids acting up, stress on a marriage, and medical oddities than aliens?  I am a fan of the show Ancient Aliens (and have a secret crush on Giorgio Tsoukalos-the crazy hair guy) where scholars give compelling evidence of aliens being here all along.  Heck, some believe we carry alien DNA.  Who am I to argue?  Better to blame the aliens than ourselves.  I actually like to blame “The Man” myself, who just may have a slightly gray pallor to his skin and lots of probes…but I digress.

Director Scott Stewart (who also directed Priest and Legion), did a decent job with the mood of Dark Skies.  Although I though the pacing was a tad slow, you could feel the foreboding tension building as we move through the story, and I loved the simplicity of the film.  Special effects were minimal but effective to make this story believable, and I found the stark quality to each scene brought the characters and their emotions to the forefront.  And speaking of characters, I though the cast did a good job in portraying the regular suburban family, but the stand out for me was J. K. Simmons.  I have been a fan of his since OZ where he played Vern Schillinger, the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood and someone you just loved to hate.  Usually he nails various gruff, abrasive roles, but this time around, he is very quiet and subdued.  His character Pollard is quite different from the clichéd alien conspiracy theorist.  He believes because he knows.  He has given in to the reality of aliens among us and also lives with a bunch of cats which is great in my books.  Pollard has only a few moments in the film, but he brings in a touch of comedy and is a great transition to the tense finale.

Dark Skies is a great addition to the abduction genre.  Stewart creates an interesting film that takes everyday family stresses in the all American clueless home and gives them a more sinister origin.  Definitely makes you think about that weird mosquito bite, or why that bird keeps looking at you funny…

Favourite Scene:  When Lacy learns that dogs will go berserk when aliens are near, she races to the local pound.  Stopping in front of a particularly nutso German Shepherd named Clive who is described as “Aggressive!!!”, she makes a clipped statement rather than a question, “What about this one?…yeah” to son Jesse.  Yeah, Clive will do.

Most Memorable Line:  When talking to Pollard about why they have been chosen by the aliens, Lacy asks, “What makes us so special?”, to which he flatly replies, “Nothing.”  It’s true.  The aliens are just messing with us because we are boring lab rats.  Not like we’ve solved any problems here on Earth, or stopped any wars for world peace, or treat each other any better.  Earth is probably the worst truck stop in the universe…

 

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