post-apocalyptic

All posts tagged post-apocalyptic

It Comes at Night Sheds Light on Human Nature

Published June 11, 2017 by rmpixie

It Comes At Night (2017, 1hr 31 mins.)

 

How will the world take the dissolution of society as we know it? Will we isolate ourselves, band together or give in to our basest instincts? We’ve already taken the zombie route in the post-apocalyptic world with many films and shows including The Walking Dead, but Trey Edward Shults’ film It Comes at Night, which debuted at the 2017 Overlook Film Festival, takes us to these uncomfortable places by exploring the horrors of human nature when faced with an unknown threat.

Paul (Joel Edgerton) Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenaged son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), live in a boarded up rambling house deep in the woods. Society has fallen to an unknown illness, leaving the family to fend for themselves away from cities and those who could be carrying the disease. When Travis witnesses his grandfather falling to the disease and his father’s matter-of-fact disposal of the body, the experience has left him with vivid nightmares and in a state of shock.

When the family catch an intruder in their home, they find that he is just looking for a safe haven. Will, the intruder (Christopher Abbott), has his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) hidden in an abandoned home nearby and are equally terrified of contracting the disease. After a tough interrogation from Paul, he invites Will and his family to come and live in his forest fortress since Sarah feels there is strength in numbers. With the new family comes a renewed sense of hope. This is short-lived however, as human contact pits man against man and each is tested to do the right thing to stay alive.

Shults’ film is a build-up to a big lesson in human nature. The limits of how much we trust our fellow human being is complicated with our primal fears, denial and what we believe to be true. Perceptions are key in this film, as well as perspectives. Shults and his cinematographer Drew Daniels are very skilled at showing us perspective through the camera lens. With wide forest shots, close-ups lit only by a lantern, and slow-moving stedicam shots as we glided through Travis’ nightmares, they switched the mood from dread to terror effectively. The smart use of limited spaces also created an interesting way to focus on the isolation of this new world and internal turmoil. Claustrophobic and myopic, we get a sense of what the characters are feeling in this tense story.  It was also interesting that Shults doesn’t reveal character names until well into the first act.  It’s as if names don’t matter anymore because relationships seem difficult to maintain in this harsh place.

The performances were amazing. Edgerton played Paul with a restrained melancholy, giving us a glimpse of the comfortable teacher’s life he left behind, replacing it with a steel-hearted survivalist mode. Ejogo was a contrasting softer side of his forced strength, steering him away from a total lack of compassion.  While she was a strong character, she was able to show some vulnerability instead of the stoic “stiff-upper lip” stereotype for Black female roles. They were great choices for the protective parents, and Abbott, most known for his role in Girls, impressed as a desperate man trying to survive the aftermath of this diseased environment. The standout for me however, was Harrison Jr. His portrayal of Travis was riveting, and his character served as a barometer for humanity. His sweet nature and sensitivity combined with his terrifying nightmares made him the most present even though he seemed to be in another world. It’s not explained if this was attributed to the constant traumatic events or what appeared to be a slight mental disability. Whatever the case, his was a portentous existence guiding the audience through the brutality of this new world.

Paul (Edgerton) and Travis (Harrison Jr.) search for menace in the forest.

The flaws and degradation of humanity in this film left me feeling profoundly sad, but the hype about it is true. It’s a different type of horror film and a must-see for all of us in this era of desensitization and brutality. You’ll be left thinking about survival and the tough lessons that makes us examine the basics of who we are as humans.

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Face Off Season 8 Episode 14: The Fantastic Finale!

Published April 15, 2015 by rmpixie

The Season 8 finale was a fantastic one!  Right after the final three artists were chosen, McKenzie revealed the first surprise for the “most difficult finale yet”.  They would need help, and it came from the eliminated artists from this season!  After Darla, Logan and Emily picked their teams, they came back to the lab, complete with a red carpet, the following day.  McKenzie had monitors numbered 1 through 3, and a board covered with words.  The artists were puzzled, but were really jazzed when they heard what the finale challenge would involve:  create a team of 4 characters to star in a new film franchise, pick the genre of that film from the numbered monitors, and they would also have one minute to grab words that described that genre from the large board.  The team would then have five minutes to create a title for their film using those words.  There was also another surprise-their reveal stage would be at the Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park where a live audience would vote on their favourite team of characters on their own incredibly themed set!

Darla picked Rob, Stephanie, Daniel and Anthony to be on her team and chose monitor #1 that revealed the fantasy genre.  They came up with “The Spirits of Eden”.  The characters were elementals that worked to keep evil out of the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were banished.  Air, or wind, was represented by a faun who also personified a woodwind instrument.  Water was a merman water spirit, Fire would be a beautiful woman with flames around her face, and Earth would be a worm wrapped around a tree.  Coach Laura was not too confident about the worm character.  She thought it wouldn’t be attractive, so she helped Darla hash out a better concept for Earth.  The final design was an Earth goddess with a tree trunk dress and mushrooms incorporated into her body.  Mr. Westmore told her to keep the face soft for the water spirit, bring the mushrooms into the face of the earth spirit, and add some red to the fire spirit’s flames.  Darla was worried about her flame sculpt, but figured it out.  The end result gave me chills!!  I loved her elemental spirits.  The colours were beautiful, and my favourite character was the faun.  She was just beautiful and the chest piece was to die for with all the detail.  Neville thought she nailed the genre with the earth spirit showing a high-resolution detail.  Glenn loved the air element because the horns and chest piece was sculpted to be a wind instrument, and Ve loved the blending of the facial prosthetic pieces.

The Spirits of Eden characters on Team Darla

The Spirits of Eden characters on Team Darla (pictures from Syfy)

 

Logan’s team included Ben, Greg, Julian and Alan.  He got the sci-fi genre from monitor #3 and their movie title was “The Fortress”.  His characters were inspired by Dr. Moreau, creating intelligent lab animal experiments that fought against lab testing.  He created a lizard commanding solider, an armadillo weapons expert, a mechanic skunk and a hammerhead shark assassin.  Coach Rayce liked his concept and wanted him to make sure his team members were on the same page to make all the characters cohesive.  Mr. Westmore advised them on the anatomy of each character, and the only issue Logan had was keeping Greg on track with the fabrication.  He didn’t want to lose time with unnecessary work, telling Greg there was “no time for hot gun, only enough time for tape”.  His characters looked great!  Ve loved the skunk’s subtle paint job and the colours; Glenn loved the shark’s face and biomechanical elements with each character; and Neville thought actors would be inspired to play the characters Logan and his team created.

Team Logan's characters from The Fortress

Team Logan’s characters from The Fortress (pictures from Syfy)

 

Emily chose Jamie, Kelly, Regina and Adam to be on her team.  Monitor #2 revealed the post-apocalyptic genre and the name of the film was “Paradise Reckoning”.  Her concept was a Wizard of Oz journey with mutants, and they are brought together when they find a human baby.  Her characters consisted of  a man who was in a car accident and was now covered in broken glass; a man who was in an explosion and made of wood; a former bomb squad member who was now made of metal, and a female assassin fused with leather.  Mr. Westmore told her to pay attention to her paint job for the wood character and for Adam to add some burn elements to the metal character.  Emily created glass out of a silicone material and made sure it stuck even though it took up a lot of her time.  She was in a bit of a frenzy, but took charge when she needed to.  In the end she didn’t get everything painted as she wanted, but her final looks were really cohesive.  The audience made the Wizard of Oz connection, and the judges loved it.  Ve liked the assassin’s  leather bodice and paint jobs; Neville thought it was ambitious and very creative; and Glenn thought it was an intelligent concept and loved the windshield chest piece she took so much time to perfect.

Team Emily's Paradise Reckoning characters (pictures from Syfy)

Team Emily’s Paradise Reckoning characters
(pictures from Syfy)

 

The audience at Universal had a blast looking at each set of characters, and voted on their favourite.  The judges agreed with their choice, because Darla was the winner of Season 8!  I was ecstatic!  I knew she had the talent, she just had to find it in herself to be confident and do what she does best, which is beautiful, complete makeups!  She wins a V.I.P. trip to one of Kroylan’s 85 international locations, a 2015 Fiat, and $100,000 in cash.  Coach Laura was also a winner, making her a two time champ of the show, which is a Face Off first!  Congrats to Darla, Laura, and all the finalists because they were phenomenal!  See you in July for the next season!

Wyrmwood TADFF 2014

Published November 9, 2014 by rmpixie

wyrmwood

Wyrmwood (2014, 92 mins)

Australian films seemed to be a hit at this year’s TADFF with films like Housebound and the much-anticipated The Babadook, so when I heard about Wyrmwood, I was all in.  Described as Mad Max with zombies, I really couldn’t pass this one up, and I’m glad I didn’t.  It is definitely a different take on the post-apocalyptic zombie film, and one I think action movie fans will enjoy.

Similar to the aftermath of a falling star from the Book of Revelations, a weird stellar event creates zombies that run amok in the surrounding Australian countryside and cities.  Family man Barry (Jay Gallagher) has to scramble to save his wife and daughter, and after an urgent call, sets out on a quest to find his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey). He meets up with other survivors, including the kooky Benny (Leon Burchill), in very tense circumstances, and they band together to battle zombies that emit strange green fumes and become more active at night.  They realize these zombies can be of great use, and their larger purpose is also being discovered by a dancing mad scientist played by Berryn Schwerdt, who has captured Brooke and uses her as a guinea pig.  Little does he know that Brooke will exceed his expectations.  Both siblings have their trials to deal with before they can ever think of reuniting, and things stay consistently hairy until the bitter end.

The After Dark team let the audience know that this film took a long time-several years actually-to finish, and the end result is a pretty crazy ride.  Mixed in with some brutal action and zombie kills, there are also some decent laughs to be had along the way, the most memorable punctuated by the literal Benny.  His goofy observations are backed with a lot of heart and heroics that make him unforgettable, and it is always nice to see some much-needed diversity in horror films.  And the kick-ass Brooke is one of the most unique final girls ever.  Talk about girl power, and she sports possibly the best smokey eye for zombie killing I have ever, ever seen!

brooke

I’m still a makeup artist at heart so here is Bianca Bradey as Brooke and her kick-ass smokey eye.

I only had one issue with the film.  I would have loved a back story about the mad scientist, billed as “The Doctor”.  He was one of the more compelling characters and I can’t resist a great bad guy.  I wondered if his home base lab came equipped with a disco ball or whether he was wearing a ruffled disco shirt under his haz-mat suit.  I call for a prequel starring The Doctor and the gorgeous Captain played by Luke McKenzie, who battles Barry in the film’s final act.

For the die-hard, jaded zombie movie fan, I think Wyrmwood will be a pleasant surprise.  It breaks convention with tons of action and an inventive storyline.  Definitely worth a watch!

*If you have a keen interest in Australian film, check out Curnblog.  There is a 5 part series listing the top 100 Australian films of all time, and it is excellent!

 

Book Review: BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman

Published August 13, 2014 by rmpixie

bird box

BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman (Ecco/HarperCollins 2014, 272 pages hardcover)

 

It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review, but I think I’ve been waiting to be consumed by something I couldn’t put down.  BIRD BOX did that for me.  With a creeping certainty, this debut novel by Josh Malerman (who is also the lead singer of the band The High Strung), presents an unfathomable situation that denies us the cherished sense of sight in a neat, horror wrapped package.

Malorie is afraid most of the time.  Five years after the world literally goes mad from seeing unnamed creatures, she must find a safe house, give birth, raise and train two children to live without their sense of sight, and attempt to survive in this new environment, all while blindfolded against these things and the madness they bring.  This story takes us from Malorie’s first fears as the world goes crazy around her, to the dull ache of inevitable doom that lurks beyond a locked door and covered windows.

What really stands out for me is Malerman’s use of language.  I like writing that gets to the point and is descriptive without mincing words.  He creates a survival based story with stark but far from basic prose, hitting hard with short, staccato sentences that imprints a clear image without the frills.  His use of flashbacks reveals the story at a pace that leaves you wanting more, creating a sustainable suspense that carries right through to last page.

I was also impressed by his female protagonist. Most men who write from a female perspective can be called out by something that doesn’t ring true, like a silly turn of phrase or situations that a woman knows would never happen.  This is especially true for male horror writers who use the realm to depict women in a one-dimensional way, for instance, immediately choosing hysteria for women once a crisis appears.  Most of them also throw in gratuitous sex that follows the typical horror book formula:  man + woman+ post-apocalyptic world/horror crisis=ridiculous sexual interlude.  Malerman doesn’t do that here which is so refreshing.  While a lot of horror fiction focuses on the almighty penis enduring in a post apocalyptic world, raping and pillaging as a new society is built, his is a quieter, more tense representation of such a world.  Malorie is strong but shows her weaknesses without exploiting her sexuality.  In fact, each character is preoccupied with the dangers at hand, not the next place where they can have at it in a bunker.

The voice he creates for Malorie is honest and very believable, from her skepticism to the blossoming of her maternal instinct and growing terror, to her reactions to other survivors she encounters.  I admired how he skillfully builds the panic that Malorie feels as her situation worsens, keeping the reader alongside the character and the foreshadowing to a minimum.

BIRD BOX has been compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is fitting, but I immediately thought of Kate Bush’s 1986 song Experiment IV about a sound that could kill.  In both instances, the loss or corruption of these basic senses makes for a real sense of terror and dread.  Comparisons aside, I think Malerman has made a place for himself in the horror genre, and I can’t wait for his next book.

My only criticism?  That the story ends.  I actually felt like shaking the book to see if more words would fall out.  I would love to read a sequel, however I am praying to the literary gods that they don’t make a movie out of this book.  Maybe I lack vision (no pun intended), but this story should live in the reader’s head instead of the big screen since it deals with internal struggles and unseen threats.  If you enjoy survival horror fiction as much as I do, read this book.  Malerman has given us horror that messes with your head, things we take for granted, our basic human nature and the will to survive.

*BIRD BOX has been nominated for the 2014 Kirkus Prize.

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