Showing posts with label vampire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vampire. Show all posts

Ghastly Gias Glance: The Dunwich Horror

As the resident horror aficionado I feel it’s time to get into the Halloween spirit (pun intended).
To get into said spirit, I watched the 1970 film The Dunwich Horror. It’s an adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name and stars Sandra Dee (Nancy Wagner), Dean Stockwell (Wilbur Whateley), and Ed Begley (Dr. Henry Armitage). The film is currently abailable on Netflix streaming, though I warn you now of the 1 star rating (Rotten Tomatoes gave it an optimistic 20%).
Pretty sure Lovecraft would be spinning in his grave
I find it difficult to express just how terrible this movie is. To begin with, almost nothing happens, just lots of boredom. To make the synopsis more entertaining, here is my version of events (warning: spoilers): "Anti-social shut-in from the country has lots of family issues and can’t play well with others, particularly the townsfolk. He tries to check out a book in the library, then befriends an uptown girl and invites her over for tea. They bond over a lovely weekend of sketchy rape drugs and weird dream 'adult relations'.  He reads her some Latin from the library book, bursts into flames, and then falls off a cliff.”
There’s a bit more happening towards the end of the movie, but most of it is just a slow dribble of boring. In a good horror movie, this down-time would be spent building up suspense and intrigue; it’s called a "slow burn" (which was masterfully achieved by Alien). It should give you an inkling of ‘there’s something not quite right’ and make you want to find out more. 
That does not happen here. Much of the movie involved Wilbur making bedroom eyes at people. I believe this was supposed to be Presence from Vampire mythology: the ability to control the minds of others. But with the super bushy eyebrows, massive sideburns, and crumb-catcher mustache on Stockwell it just looks silly, despite his deep penetrating eyes... yes Wilbur, I will follow you...
Aside from being bored, another issue I had with this movie was the ‘stupid villain syndrome’. Wilbur’s master plan is to bring back the Great Old Ones to wipe humanity off Earth... except that he’s a human too. Well, he’s part human – but enough that the Old Ones would probably kill him too. He’s taking one hell of a gamble that they won't destroy him (or maybe he just doesn’t care?). Or maybe he read some part of the Necronomicon that we’re not privy to: "P.S. - If you have any Great Old One blood then we totally won't kill you, we promise! For realsies!"
Music and sound were two other complaints from the movie. The music set the wrong stage for a horror movie; it sounded right out of a daytime soap. I kept expecting the words "These are the Cthulhus of our lives" appear across the screen. Additionally, the sound quality was poor enough to be distracting.
The script needed help as well. With stars such as Sandra Dee and Dean Stockwell, the issue was not lackluster acting as much as it was the lines did not do the actors justice. A large portion of Sandra Dee’s screen time was spent writhing around and making sexual moans. Her character was supposed to be having horrible nightmares, but the dreams were just wonky and odd. I usually would be the last person to say this, but the satanical dream sex went on way too long. It was just spliced together bedroom eyes, flashing bare legs, and a nightmare-moan-writhing Nancy. 

A lot of Stockwell’s screen time was spent on close-ups of his eyes (it’s Presence time!) or very slow, drawn out, unnecessary motions during the ritual scenes.
Other examples of poor writing:
  • A woman in labor at the beginning of the movie was thrashing, sweating, and making... sexual moans? This seemed to be a theme for any intense female acting in this movie: giving birth, being attacked by a monster, sleeping, etc. Sexy moans are always great, but thematic writing typically requires a range of emotion depending on the scene you’re portraying. I grant that some actors can get away with one look for all occasions, but these actors were neither Nicholas Cage nor Derek Zoolander
  • A doctor gives a medical diagnosis for the aforementioned pregnancy to the effect of "Her insides were all torn up." Four years of medical school at their finest! 
  • The Necronomicon is supposed to be a super rare book, but it just sat in an unlocked case without humidity and temperature control… or security systems of any kind… 
  • The monster of the movie attacks people with long prehensile snake appendages and, in one case, strips the victim naked and plays with her well before killing her. 
  • An old man feebly swings his staff to attack someone, but ends up hurling himself down a flight of stairs. In another fight scene, a security guard runs across the room, directly into an outstretched pole and impales himself.  (NO.  No movie, this is not how anyone anywhere fights.  People don't do this!)
  • Finally, when the "good guys" are facing Wilbur one of them says, "He's not responsible for his actions!"  Mister, he is trying to destroy all humans on Earth, I think he might be a little freaking responsible. I guess it is possible he’s being controlled by the Great Old Ones, but this is never mentioned. 
At least this movie does one positive thing: it gives us much better insight as to why Admiral Calavicci decided to join Project Quantum Leap. Either he wanted to go back in time and change things so the final ritual worked, or he figured that leap technology would yield insight into how to bring the extra-dimensional entities to Earth. It also makes sense as to why Prof. Armitage's son ended up investigating creepy happenings in Transylvania
He's so much happier here!
If you’re currently saying to yourself, “Self! What the hell is Elder Gias talking about?” let me introduce you to the "Gias Unified Movie Protagonist" theory. Similar to the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis, all characters portrayed by an actor are either the same character wherever possible or ancestors/descendants of the character otherwise.  I can go into it in more depth and analysis another time, but with it you get some weird things happening like Judge Doom founding DirecTV.

I am very disappointed with the offerings of H.P. Lovecraft stories-turned-movies. The movie In The Mouth of Madness was slightly better despite being a very poor re-imagining of the amazing Lovecraft classic At the Mountains of Madness. If you have not read it, I highly suggest you do, though it is long for a short story. The Re-Animator is, in my opinion, probably the best Lovecraft movie adaptation.
This movie was so bad it wasn't even laughably bad.  It would be like an MST3K movie without the witty comments (which is to say, terrible!).  Please don't see it unless your goal is to see every movie ever made.
Recommendation: High!  You should totally watch this classic masterpiece. Totally. You clearly don't need to read my above review to tell you anything else about this movie. Reviews are unimportant. All that matters is the TL;DR at the end, right?  Seriously, go back and read the review or you will get what is coming to you from this TL;DR.  "! ! Cthulhu Fhtagn!"
Fortunately we're all likely more familiar with this Dunwich Horror

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This Week in Geekdom

Whew! The past few days have been a whirlwind of awesome. There will be a full recounting of all the fun demos, conversations with developers, and dealer hall hijinks next week. In the meantime, you can check out pictures from PAX East 2014 on either our G+ or our Facebook page. Otherwise, I'm just hoping that this post is even remotely coherent as I'm presently both endorphin-riddled and exhausted. It was a pretty interesting week in Geekdom, even excluding PAX, so let's get down to it.


**SPOILER ALERT** Archie Comics is about to undergo some major changes following the death of a major character.

Extinction Parade is a graphic novel from Max Brooks, the author of World War Z. The guys at Adventures in Poor Taste conducted this interview to get the background on this vampires-versus-zombies saga and how Max feels about the future of the undead-dominated genre.

Though the rebooted version of Teen Titans is set to conclude on April 30, the series won't be dark for long. Beginning July 1, DC will be re (or re-re) launching Teen Titans with writer Will Pfeifer and artist Kenneth Rocafort at the helm. 

More from QxM here!
Check out these gorgeous retro-inspired posters of the ladies of DC comics as WWII-era pinup girls.


The Syfy network and Eureka producer Karl Schaefer are teaming up to produce at least 13 episodes of a new zombie drama series. The forthcoming show, titled Z Nation, will be the first of several such zombie-centric TV releases due out this autumn hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the Walking Dead. Reading over the premise of Z Nation, I couldn't help but think that it sounded eerily familiar to Y: The Last Man. Speaking of which, why hasn't that been made into a series yet?


Battlestar Galactica has already gone through five, count 'em, five incarnations on the small screen, but apparently there's enough interest in the property to potentially bring about avatar number 6 (how appropriate). Universal Studios confirmed that they are in the process of preparing for a movie version of Battlestar. The cinematic version is slated to be a 'complete reimagining', much to the dismay of Edward James Olmos fans.


We've chatted before about Schrodinger’s cat and concept of the superposition of states, but why can't that concept be applied outside of quantum physics? Arkady Bolotin of Ben-Gurion University provides this potential explanation.

While we're on the subject of all things quantum, researchers at Durham University offer this articulation of how they used quantum techniques to build the world's first entanglement-enhanced telescope.

The next few weeks are going to feature not one, but two total eclipses. Click here for all the details on these forthcoming celestial events.

On Thursday, astronomers announced the possible discovery of the first observed 'exomoon'. 

In the weeks following this breakthrough concerning the probable origins of our universe there's been a deluge of related questions that have cropped up in response. Not least of which amongst these is "How can the universe have been formed from nothing?" Well, Dongshan He and his peers at the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics may have an answer for that.

Getting something from this case, a universe.

File this under Real Life Transformers: a helicopter that can become a truck. 


It never fails. There's a horrific act of violence and it takes the media mere nanoseconds before the blame is shunted upon 'violent video games.' Well, according to this new study, the feelings of aggression that players experience does not appear to be at all tied to the imagery or narrative of a game. 

Esports has been a burgeoning force in global entertainment for years now, but just how popular are they? Red Bull breaks down this gaming juggernaut in these five factoids.

General Awesomeness

Decades after Knight Rider went off the air, fans are still keen to pay tribute to their favorite talking car. Case in point is this insanely detailed replica of KITT, which was just auctioned off for $152,600 USD.

I leave you guys with this Lego video shout out to a staple of the host city of both PAX East and the Care and Feeding of Nerds. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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Upcoming Awesomeness in 2014!

A very happy 2014 to everyone! Here's hoping that your holidays were awesome and that the year has gotten off to a great start. 2013 was chock-full of nerdy goodness and 2014 looks as though it's set to deliver more of the same. Love it.  In the spirit of good-things-to-come, we're going to kick off the new year on the Care and Feeding of Nerds in the same way we ushered in last year: with a rundown of all the geeky brilliance that's scheduled to come our way in the next 12 months.

Original image by Silver Gryphon Games
 This year's offerings are categorized below by media type and have only been listed if they have a definitive release date during 2014. Those titles with potential debuts or vague "sometime in the second half of the year" timetables (like the 5th and final season of Warehouse 13) can be featured later on when they have at least a specific month for release. 


Helix (Syfy) - A team of infectious disease specialists travel to the Arctic to investigate a potential outbreak of a novel virus but their inquiry may have consequences for the entire human species. The show is guaranteed to run at least 13 episodes and will premiere on January 10th.

Archer (FX) - Season 5 of the misadventures of Sterling Archer and the rest of the ISIS crew will hit the airwaves on January 13th.

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Part 2 (AMC) - The mid-season finale saw once tight-knit group of survivors cast to the winds and left to very uncertain fates. The zombies will shamble again beginning February 9th.

The Venture Brothers - We waited 2 years for Season 5, but thankfully only have to wait a fraction of that to be able to watch the episodes at our leisure. The season will be available on both DVD and Blu-Ray on March 4th. 


Despite the fact that the lion's share of cinematic chatter flitting about at present pertains to films that we won't see until 2015 at the very earliest, the movie lineup of 2014 is nothing to sniff at. In keeping with the trend of the past several years, sequels and reboots (and even sequel-reboots) make up the majority of 2014's movie fodder, but there are a handful of novel titles in the mix. The year in geeky films is as follows:

I, Frankenstein - Dr. Frankenstein's infamous creation has likely never seen this much action as he finds himself caught in the midst of a centuries old war.
The LEGO Movie - Will Farrell, Channing Tatum, and Elizabeth Banks lend their voices to this animated tribute to the greatest of all building blocks.
Robocop - The first of 2014's reboots; Detroit's newest enforcer of justice.
Vampire Academy - The world is riddled with various vampire species, some friendly to humans and others less so. A specialized school trains dhampir to maintain the blood-sucking, immortal balance.
Winter's Tale - A burglar falls in love with an heiress just as she dies in his arms. When he later learns the secrets of reincarnation, he sets off to alter the past and save her.
The Wind Rises - The newest offering from Hayao Miyazaki tells the tale of a man who designed fighter planes during World War Two. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt voice the English-language version of the film.
Welcome to Yesterday - A group of teens stumble across plans to build a time machine. Teenaged hijinks ensue.
300: Rise of an Empire - The death of Leonidas' soldiers at the hands of Xerxes' horde rallies all of Greece to the defensive.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman - The adventures of world's smartest dog and his loyal boy.
Muppets Most Wanted - Tom Hiddleston and Salma Hayek comprise part of the ensemble cast of this latest installation in the Muppets menagerie.  
Divergent - Beatrice Prior has a very unique mind; that makes her dangerous and a viable threat in the futuristic dystopia she inhabits.
Captain America: Winter Soldier - Everyone's favorite shield-wielder returns to grapple with his place in modern society and in S.H.I.E.L.D.s self-styled mandate to protect humanity.
Transcendence - Johnny Depp plays a terminally ill scientist who doffs his mortal coil and uploads his consciousness into a computer.
The Amazing Spider Man 2 - Peter Parker faces all new threats, not least of which is his discomfort with being a superhero.
Godzilla - The Kaiju response to last year's Pacific Rim? Perhaps.
X-Men: Days of Futures Past - Wolverine is sent through the past in a desperate attempt to prevent calamity for both mutants and humans.
Maleficent - Angelina Jolie stars in this film about the greatest of all Disney villains
Edge of Tomorrow - Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt repeatedly relive the last day of an epic battle to save humanity from invading aliens.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Five years have passed in the dragon-addled land of Berk and two dear friends find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict that threatens the nascent interspecies peace.
Transformers: Age of Extinction - Michael Bay loves him some giant form-changing robots in this fourth installment (yes, fourth) of the franchise.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Watch the trailer. Enough said.
Jupiter Ascending - Mila Kunis plays Jupiter, a remarkable human in a universe where humans are the lowest of the sentient species.
Guardians of the Galaxy - A jet pilot is stranded in space and must bring together a diverse team of highly specialized aliens to combat new cosmic threats. Also, Rocket Raccoon!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Michael Bay continues to manhandle our childhoods. Ugh.
The Giver - Long considered 'unfilmbable', this classic young adult book about adolescence in an ostensibly perfect community is slated to get the Hollywood treatment.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - Six years after our first visit, we return to the eponymous urban den of ill repute.
The Maze Runner - In a post-apocalyptic world, a boy has his memories erased and must try to piece together his past in order to bolster his chances to escape a colossal maze.
Dracula Untold - A merging of vampire mythos and historical account of Vlad Dracul.
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 - The 75th Hunger Games ended in chaos and Panem is plunged into bedlam. Katniss struggles with the role she is given in the new Rebellion.
The Hobbit: There and Back Again - Dragon, Orcs, Laketown, attempted Dwarven reclamation of sacred homelands and Sauron's shadow continues to darken Middle Earth.

Board Games/RPGs

Most board game publications gain formal traction during the second and third quarters of a given year, but there's still much to look forward to! Every single one of the independently designed games featured in last year's SPIEL post successfully funded their respective Kickstarters and are set to become physical, playable games as soon as March!

Asmadi - 2014 is slated to be a very busy year for the publisher. Consequential, Innovation: No Place Like Home, Equinox, and Impulse should all be hitting store shelves in the very near future. You can still order the "final draft" version of Impulse here.

PC/Video Games

Transistor - The star of last year's PAX East is presently in a fully playable alpha and is on track to make its exclusive PS4 release date in March (it will release to PC later in 2014).

Dark Souls 2 - The sequel to the original ARPG will be available on PC, XBox 360, and PS3 in mid-March.

Titanfall - The creators of Call of Duty attempt to bolster their signature format by adding giant robots to the mix (because giant robots make everything better). This title is an Xbox 360 exclusive.

Infamous: Second Son - Set seven years after the events of Infamous 2, this open world ARPG is coming exclusively to the PS4 on March 21.

And this is just the beginning! On to an excellent year ahead!
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Book Review: The Twelve

Hey there readers. With the approach of the holiday season (though some retailers would have us believe it actually arrived months ago), we may find ourselves starting to gear up for long hours spent either waiting for or being in transit. This, coupled with the modicum of newfound freedom I have whilst waiting for my advisor to complete another round of thesis edits, was the fodder for this week's post. Oh reading for pleasure, how I've missed you. 

This limited window in which non-assigned reading can be consumed was almost immediately filled with a book that I'd been eagerly anticipating for more than 2 years (which, of course, is a drop in the bucket of waiting for the next book in the a Song of Ice and Fire series). I say 'almost' because the very first thing to grace my free hours was The Hobbit, which was due for a re-read before its upcoming cinematic debut. It just so happens that said text is also a great post-apocalyptic tale for those of you out there like Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, "anticipating" that whole doom of humanity thing that's supposed to go down in about a week.

The focal book is The Twelve by Justin Cronin, the second volume in his epic trilogy, The Passage.

Wait, the middle book of a trilogy? Can I feasibly tackle The Twelve without reading its predecessor first?

Could you? Yes, definitely. Do I recommend it? Eh, not so much. With a gulf of years between installments, Cronin takes pains to recap the events that took place in the first book (which shares a title with the trilogy itself) in order to get both previous readers and newcomers to the series up to speed. While you can mentally back your way into the various characters and occurrences that took place in The Passage, doing so will involve some careful reading that may detract from your overall experience with The Twelve. Also, partaking in the first book will prepare you for the unorthodox devices that Cronin continues to use in the second (more on this in a minute though).

**The following review assumes that you have read The Passage. While there are no explicit spoilers, some tidbits may give away certain things if you have not read the first installment of the trilogy.**

The vamps look kinda like these guys (note the lack of sparkles)
Akin to The Passage, a very large portion of The Twelve is spent building background knowledge, the narrative of which is then punctuated by massive, non-sequential leaps in time. Despite this flux, readers will be instantly reminded of the periods which are critical to the story itself. A sizable percentage of the first half is spent in and around year zero (2014), the year in which a secret US military agency accidentally unleashed their manufactured, bat-derived virus onto an unwitting populace. Meant to create a race of super-soldiers, the virus instead creates vampires (not sparkly BS vampires, but creatures that would be more at home in 28 Days Later) and these critters then lay waste to nearly all civilization in North America. This time, we get to see year zero at ground zero, literally the fates of those unfortunate enough to be denizens of the metro-Denver area and, later on, all those who lived west of the Mississippi River.

This, plus some interludes about eighty years AV (After Virus) and a couple snippets of text from an academic conference a millennia later, is all essentially a lengthy introduction for the second half of the book. We get several pieces of the puzzle we were abruptly left with at the end of The Passage, though some are markedly more useful than others. Despite Cronin's attempts to leave a trail of proverbial bread crumbs for readers who may not remember each individual from the preceding volume, it's often difficult to recall just why a particular exchange or series of events is important without first conducting a series of Google searches. A brief, annotated list of pertinent characters would have done wonders to facilitate the transition from book one to book two. Additionally, though the annihilation of a continent is, in itself, exciting, Cronin deliberately tamps down any tension around the initial outbreak and resulting events so he can instead pen a character-centric crescendo. The result is extremely uneven pacing, even when the narrative is not skipping centuries, with an enormous amount of ink being spilt on relatively trivial matters while legitimately important occurrences merit nary a sentence.

It's something of a grind getting through that first half, not going to lie to you guys. Is it worthwhile? Potentially, but if, and only if, you keep in mind that this is the second novel in a trilogy. Intrigue abounds and there's action aplenty, but, as mentioned, few satisfying answers or conclusions. This is to be expected of the bridge volume in a series of three, but something that definitely needs to be taken into account if you decide to tackle The Twelve.

Once we get past the lengthy world building, we're incrementally reunited with the protagonists of The Passage. Five years have passed since the rather sudden ending of the first book and the former Colony members are nigh-unrecognizable. Mashed under the weight their precarious, fragile existence in a world where humans no longer occupy the top tier of the food chain, the intrepid band of ex-Californians has been rent asunder and scattered to the winds. We encounter each character in turn as we learn more about the nature of the vampires (called "virals" and a host of other names in the text) and just how close humanity lies to the edge of oblivion.

The force shunting the human race towards said fate are the vampires that owe their altered physicality directly to the Twelve, the eleven test subjects originally dosed with the manufactured virus and Zero, the sole survivor of the event that allowed the virus to cross over from bats to humans. These 'familiars' tend to lack the mindless rage and hunger that characterize the majority of their hemophilic brethren and, in at least one case, can attract a following of their own. These second-generation vampires fancy themselves the next step in evolution and the book's second act is a thorough layout of the designs they, and their creators, have in mind regarding the domestication of what few humans remain alive.

The book suffers from many of the same shortcomings as its predecessor: the uneven pacing, the frequent overwriting, the deep-seating sense of self-importance, and the use of tired tropes long since rendered inherent to the genre. At times Cronin's use of that last entry border on unintentional comedy, Oh an ideal summer's day spent picnicking with innocent children just outside the walls that guarantee our safety from bloodsucking rage monsters. What could possibly go wrong?   
Cronin makes a clear effort to tighten up his writing in The Twelve. Gone are the pages-long meanderings of internal monologues and, once the action gets going, there is a genuine build to the drama and excitement. All this, unfortunately, tends to be overshadowed by everything in the above paragraph. The characters ring hollow and approach caricature in some instances. Still, the questions that naturally come to mind as one attempts to imagine Cronin's painstakingly crafted universe are strikingly interesting, even when the story itself is not.

Overall Grade: C-

Bottom Line: If you liked the The Passage and could put aside Cronin's authorial flaws then you may enjoy The Twelve. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, then you may also enjoy this book. If you're neither of those two things then this probably isn't the book for you. Hell, even if you are both those things the book may still come as a disappointment. Ultimately, it's a question of your willingness to go along with Cronin's style or, if you are willing, if actually tackling the nearly 600 pages is at all a worthwhile venture.
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