Critters – “The Ballad of Billy Zane”

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 There were a few things I went into this movie unaware of. One, that it would genuinely scare me. Two, the possibility of gaining a new workout song for the rare gym trip. And best of all, I had no idea Critters would treat me to prime, 80’s Billy Zane. Say one thing about this movie, say it has Billy Zane sporting the “wrap your sweatshirt around the waist” look.

If you want to know my feelings on horror films be sure to read the first few paragraphs from my The Sacrament review (not so subtle plug!). Casper is my favorite “horror” film of all time. I’ve sent the people at TBS letters advocating Casper should be played twenty four hours straight on Halloween. One day, perhaps.

So the idea of tiny furry aliens invading a quiet farm town seemed harmless, and it probably is to anyone over the age of six, but I had to turn the light on half way through the movie. The “crites” steal a spaceship, forcing what I can only describe as a half human/half Jabba the Hutt creature, to hire bounty hunters. These two were the real deal. They had bodacious space guns, the ability to transform into a rock star, and would kill in my weekly bowling league.

As I understand it, this movie was a response to the popularity of Gremlins. The latter is definitely a better movie, but Critters I found to be much creepier. Just looking at the theatrical poster gives me the willies. The crites are balls of fur with a smile full of razors. It’s what I imagine the design would be if they were to ever make a Cheshire Cat horror flick. They attack like the spiders in Arachnophobia. Seemingly shot out of cannons, these little guys can end your existence in the blink of an eye. Zane took a flesh eating Furby to the stomach! It’s horrifying. At least Gremlins had the decency to give us Gizmo. There was a good mix of both comic relief and cuteness relief.

The acting was surprisingly good for what the movie was. When I watch actors in scary films all I’m really looking for is if they look frightened. That’s it. Especially with all the CGI we use today I understand it might be difficult to get worked up over a green screen. Just put in the effort. Don’t pull a Tara Reid like in Sharknado 2: The Second One. I mean come on Tara, it’s a sharknado for goodness sake.

You could do worse when staying in on a Saturday night. This coming fall I suggest giving Critters a try. You’ll scream, you’ll sigh. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (E.T. fans will). The plot moves fast. They know we want the fur and they give them to us quick. Okay, not really. But the twenty minutes it takes for them arrive goes fast. There’s that 80’s vibe that stays with every movie from the decade. It’s like driving down to the shore, smelling that sea salt air. Not only is the ending satisfying, but it sets up for a sequel. Oh, just one sequel you ask? One sequel may be enough for that hack movie Gremlins. Critters consists of three sequels, four movies in all. Double its supposed better half! That counts for something, right?

The Walking Dead – “No Sanctuary”

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If nothing else, The Walking Dead knows how to do a premier episode. They tend go heavy on the zombie killing, light on everything else. “No Sanctuary” was no exception. After four seasons I can’t say I’m disappointed, this isn’t exactly the show I turn to for deep fictional meaning.

Carol rescues the gang with the help from some of her walker friends. More specifically Rick, Daryl, kicker from The Waterboy, and Glen were saved just in time. Did anyone actually think they were in harm? The whole lining them up sequence was a bit cheesy to me. Rick makes a promise to the lead cannibal that he has a machete waiting with his name on it. Probably the most bad ass moment of the show.

The plot didn’t real move all that much. The whole group escaped without a scratch, reunited with Tyreese and Lil Ass kicker. Daryl and Carol shared a nice moment, but I’ve never cared for their lingering romance. I don’t want anyone in Daryl’s life other than his crossbow. I have to assume that we haven’t seen the last of Terminus, Rick still has a promise to fulfill.

I’m not sure there’s another character on TV who didn’t deserve a punch in the face more than the kid who was going to snap Lil Ass kicker’s neck. For some reason I don’t think Tyreese killed him, though. Those punches were deadly, no doubt, but his status was strangely left in the air. That punk kid had the best line of the episode. “That’s kind of like saving an anchor when you’re stuck on a boat in the middle of an ocean”, in regards to saving babies. Well, he’s not wrong. Enjoyed their interactions more than the zombie attack personally.

My favorite moment came during the after credits scene, Morgan hovering behind Rick and friends the whole way. Any time we get more from that actor I’m all in. He’s been part of two of the best episodes this show has ever done, and it’s not even arguable. Now that The Strain is over it’s up to The Walking Dead to fulfill that horror element in my television life. So far, so good.

The Strain – “Last Rites” and “The Master”

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Well folks, that’s all she wrote for season one of The Strain. I’m not completely sure what the viewership numbers are like. Are many people watching? For those that are, do they like it? Does the show have its own subreddit? How passionate is aforementioned subreddit? What I know is this. The show has moments that are very good, and equal amount of moments that are very, very, VERY bad. It’s quite the balancing act, but one where I think the good prevails. After all, I’m still watching week after week.

Last Rites focused mainly on “Young Setrakian”. It’s revealed that Eichorst conned his young nemesis by trapping him underground, leaving Mrs. Setrakian unprotected. Eventually Setrakian escapes, but it’s too late. His wife has been turned, eager to reunite with her loved one, leaving him no choice but to sever the head from the body. Hopefully this wasn’t the last of the flashbacks. Any involvement between Eichorst and Setrakian (of all ages) is gold. Plus, I want to find out why there is such vehemence towards The Master. Clearly he’s the reason behind all of this, but on a personal level it seems Abraham should want to end Eichorst just as bad, if not worse. Gus takes his rival Creem hostage, leading to an ambush by strigoi. Just when all seems lost, guess who saves the day? That’s right. Hooded vampire assassins! They make their glorious comeback this episode and give Gus a taste of his own medicine via kidnapping.

Our finale squeezed a bunch of things into the shows final hour. Some important, others not so much. Eldritch Palmer is healed, albeit not for eternity. If he wants to live forever he still has to pay his dues (much to his chagrin). Apparently that starts with killing a woman in the CDC, and promoting, by force, Everett Barnes to “guy who can make sure NYC still will not be quarantined”. Oh, and Palmer’s bodyguard finally called it quits on his boss. Looking forward to him joining with the good guys.

Cool hooded vampires explain to Gus what is happening. Basically there’s a vampire turf war, and Gus has proved to be….resourceful. He’s good at killing strigoi and can move during the day. That’s all you need on the resume to bang with these dudes. Hooded Gus is probably my most anticipated moment for Season Two. Meanwhile the gang go The Raid on The Master. I’ll give them credit, they came pretty damn close. But as it turns out, not even the sun can kill that goofy looking bastard. Setrakian is deflated, Nora is chain smoking, and Eph can’t end his boring ex-wife. I was entertained throughout, which is fairly true for the show itself. Amidst all the bumps in the road I kept driving. So after one season let’s break down some pros and cons.

PROS

  • When focusing on Eichorst, Setrakian, and Fet the show is on another level. As I’ve said in almost every other review, Eichorst vs Setrakian is thrilling television. From the visit in jail to the subway encounter, it’s all been gravy. Then we have the legend that is Vasily Fet. He plays the “Daryl” role for this show, and while it is obvious that’s the shows intent, he doesn’t come off as a cheap knockoff. I’m still not positive on the origin of his accent but I’m assuming Eastern European.
  • The set pieces are fantastic. Both of the attacks on The Master, the previously mentioned subway chase of Eichorst, and of course, every time Hooded Vampire Killers pop up. They are the ultimate clean up crew. Not to mention all the strigoi attacks. From the coroner getting gang-fanged, Gus’s fat friend wreaking havoc in the police van, or that opening with the dumb ass taxi driver. Every attack generates some moderate pumping of the heart. Even if the stingers always somehow miss our main characters.
  • I’m going to go give props to the overall story. Where The Walking Dead feels like it makes up a new direction for the show each season (probably due to the rotating show runners), The Strain clearly has an endgame. The plotting this season did leave for much improvement, but each major event feels like it’s leading to something bigger.
  • Sean Astin

CONS

  • For the most part the special effects were what we come to expect from Guillermo, but every time we see The Master it’s just…awful. I can’t stress this enough. He’s goofy as hell. Alan Sepinwall made a good point. In this show less really is more, akin to Jaws. His face is ridiculous. His nails need to be cut. He needs a new look. Maybe adding Eph’s hairpiece will help…
  • …speaking of which. Yeah I’m still not over his hair. It’s killing me. Can we sign a petition for it to be removed for Season Two? Honestly, I don’t think people will care if Eph is just suddenly bald at the beginning of next season. A quick, “Hey, summer in New York is hell”, and boom we’re in.
  • I know I just praised the set pieces, but the actual fighting of strigoi is pretty offensive. When you watch Daryl one shot zombies it looks bad ass. So when I see Setrakian swipe and strike heads like a seventy year old man would, it comes across poorly. The only one who looks like he is realistically killing them is Gus, which I suppose makes sense since he was chosen as part of the Hooded squad.
  • The family storyline sucks. Enough with Eph, his kid, and ex wife. They should of gotten out of town. Too much time is spent on those characters when we want to see more of the previous three I mentioned. I’m fine with Eph, but why can’t it be about his struggle with what’s happening to mankind. All he ever knew has been rocked, scientifically and religiously. This is a man that’s never killed before, why not spend more time on that? I loved the contrast between him and Fet, and who would be better off leading. I’m okay with Nora being the love interest for now. Don’t spend too much time on it, kill her off sooner rather than later. The British chick is a stronger female character, anyways.

So that’s it. A solid first season for FX’s vampire drama. It’s been bumpy but there’s no reason those bumps can’t be smoothed out for the Season 2 premier. If there were many fans of the show hopefully they all check out the books. Reading!

 

The Strain – “Loved Ones” and “The Third Rail”

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The Strain is not a good show. The actors are putting in some of the worst work of their career (I want to support my fellow “Bald Brother”, Corey Stoll, but him and his wig are making it difficult), the dialogue has more cheese in it than any calzone I’ve ever ordered, and much as I trust Guillermo when it comes to special effects, I can’t help but laugh every time I see The Master.

Yet I keep coming back, Sunday after bloody Sunday. If I don’t find out what happens at the end I’ll go crazy. As terribly written as they are, I’m invested in all the main characters. Eph, Fet, Setrakian, and Gus at least. I look forward to the showdown between Eph and his, now Strigoi, wife. I want Fett to live up to his true potential in this new, infested world. There are bigger plans for Gus whether he knows it or not, and I’m eager to see where his path leads. And most of all, I want to witness the end of Setrakian’s story. I want to continue seeing into his past and living in his present. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and Abraham has two dishes reserved especially for Eichorst and The Master.

You can’t change what you love. When it comes to post apocalyptic disaster stories, I’ll always support it. Even the amateur hour that is The Walking Dead maintains appeal. There’s nothing like seeing humanity have their world turned upside down.

Kelly is the new pupil of The Master, Gus has gone nomad, and the “Old Jew” wants to take on a nest full of Strigoi. Bring on the last two episodes.