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Curtains

index.jpgMy first impression of curtains is that it looks like an old 80s detective show – a Magnum PI or Columbo… We head into a crumbling old mansion as an actress is being admitted to the psych ward (I heard the director played by John Vernon – you won’t recognize the face but that voice is unmistakable from tons of television and animation ) She has an outburst and find herrself in a straitjacket and the movie begins in earnest. Turns out she’s getting herself committed just to do research on the role.

Elsewhere another actress is murdered and then the director gathers all the other prospects for the role to a house for the night. It’s a confusing narrative to say the least, but at least once we get to the house things seem to make sense. The mystery feel pervades the with the masked killer only shopping.jpgvery occasionally coming out to slice up a new victim has a very slasher style. Indeed if not for the slight gore and nudity, I’d be absolutely certain that this were a TV movie.It’s certainly slow enough

Curtains is the weakest entry in this set – and very much feels like it doesn’t belong in this collection. This one is a pass. Enjoy the other three movies in this collection and don’t bother with this one.


Camp Cold Brook

I wasn’t aware that Camp Cold Brook was going to be a ghost hunter mock buster, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. These frequently turn out well.

It’s a really good set up though. We’ve got this haunted squad show and it’s about to be canceled. However the producer has made a deal… One more episode, but it is a special, and if it does amazing numbers, maybe they come back. It’s life or death for them. It’s do or die time.

The haunt squad arrives in a creepy little small town with plenty of doomsayers telling them not to go in. It’s a good way of giving us some of the backstory. It was a tragedy of the camp… Which cursed it cost 30 deaths in order to bring her child back. I set up, I don’t usually get witches in these sort of ghost hunter shows. In any event, it’s time for day one where they’re sitting at homebase in the main office, rigging lights and installing cameras. The special cameras are mounted on gimbals so that we don’t get anything particularly shaky cam. Good way of explaining away no more professional grade video we’re getting.

The first act does an excellent job of establishing the backstory, while the second act is working a lot harder to establish a mood. We start to get some activity, and it’s not subtle at all. The filmmakers here want to make it perfectly clear if something is happening here. The attacks are actually fairly aggressive as well for the second act. You can kind of feel the transition over into the third act though when an assistant tries to leave. Whatever’s here of course isn’t going to let them leave but now it’s time for the third at twist. Ghost hunters mother lives in the area, and she knows about the haunting as well. She knows, because ghost hunter grew up here and was a part of the curse… Only, he doesn’t remember and that’s a bad thing, because these ghosts have a good reason to want vengeance on him.

The film isn’t satisfied with just one plot twist neither, there’s still a few surprises in store here, but I don’t wanna give it all away. This one’s a really good one for you to see gotten watch. A good solid horror film with some genuine creep to it


The Hills Run Red

index.jpgOne of the things that I ‘m always struck by in Parker’s work is how he evolves and grows as a filmmaker. The Hills Run Red is the kind of film I almost expect him to make when not bound by the house style of Full Moon. There’s horror and thriller mixed together in this, with a grittier take than the sort of thing we’d seen before with him.

The Hills Run Red is the story of a young filmmaker trying to research and document the making and existence of a notorious cult film by the same name. To this end he tracks down the director’s daughter who is the only surviving cast member (shades of Manos!) and together with his small crew, they make the pilgrimage to where the movie was born.

There’s still buckets of blood and a masked killer in this film, but it’s far more layered images2.jpgthan The Dead Hate the Living. It’s not as straightforward a story, and it’s not really until you get to the end that you realize just how much misdirection there’s been here.

Mixing obsession, degradation while it twists the heroe’s journey archtype, the Hills Run Red may just be Parker’s best work.


Want to steal everyone’s Left Shoe?

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Zombie Walk fall 2022

In  a time when Zombie Walks are growing more and more scarce, it’s nice to know the Monster walk in Lakewood is still going on strong. I’m even happy to see there was a nice uptick in attendance. Fall is usually the smaller one, with a lot of the zombies already at work in the local haunted houses just before October. But the middle of September gives everyone a good chance to get in the Halloween mood and try out new makeup and characters before heading into the gloom and smoke and strobe lighting of their respective haunted attractions. Good to see some friends like Mark and Craig back up  and really interesting to see Epislon spearheading the whole thing.  It’s a good day to be a zombie in Lakewood. And if you don’t believe me….just take a look at the pictures below!

 

 


Pyewachet

 

The cover of Pyewachet is eerie and incomprehensible, but when the film opens up in a barren woods in the middle of autumn, with some chanting over the imagery, we know exactly what’s coming up. It’s going to be a witch movie. Misfit girl with creepy patches on her book bag wanders to school hall and gets picked up in a car blaring heavy metal music to go home. Her bedrooms lined with black metal band posters and she trudges through an emotionally distant home where the mom is a drunk is still mourning her dead father and doesn’t really care where she goes and what she does. She hang out with her friends, reads books like an occult primer and gets nervous around her not-boyfriend.

One night she comes home to discover that her mother has signed a lease on a new home up north, and that they will be moving shortly. She retreats to her bedroom upstairs and loses her self in her impressive collection of occult books.
You can almost feel the detached sensation of walking through life knowing you’re being ripped from the home that you really want to be out in the front if you know. They argue, and she runs into the woods, furious and despondent. It’s in those words that she will begin her ritual. There are soft noises in the woods, and the crow caws as she’s summons something.

The next morning, the door is ajar and there’s dirt tracked into the house. It’s creepy but nothing else a mess. Lee and her mother head into town for some shopping. Halloween decorations are up. Lee seems to be getting along better with her mother, Mom‘s concern over the cut on her arm actually seem to bond them. But now they’re strange noises in the house, footsteps at night and shadows on the wall. Dark figure clings there in creeps around her room as she sleeps.

And then she wakes in the Woods.

At this point she seeks help from her friends, one of them comes with her to spend the night… mostly because she’s hoping to see weird stuff happen!

She does. Something comes to her in the night and in the morning, she’s fled into the car, terrified and shaking. She’s adamant, she’s not going back inside the house… But she won’t talk about it either.
The entity that Lee’s unleashed can only be stopped if she performs the ritual in reverse, asking forgiveness each time. And time is running out, because once it’s finished it’s task, it’s coming for her
The film feels like an interesting low budget mix of The Witch and Insidious. It’s done well enough to give me the creeps and even goosebumps during parts of the climax in the third act. They show you just enough to scare you, while leaving enough to your imagination to keep you uneasy. It’s incredibly well written and well shot and genuinely scary. This one’s absolutely a high recommend
85% of the cast is under 25
Moving to a new house
Kind of cultist
CGI monster
occultic symbols (bonus if hidden)

Critters 4

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indexI got to be honest, I’m kind of a sucker for the “in space”  entry of any horror genre. Jason X and Leprechaun 4 our among my favorites in those respective franchises. It took Hellraiser two tries, but they did get it right with Event Horizon. More than most franchises though, Critters is uniquely suited for the space episode, considering that the wee little beasties are aliens in of themselves.

The previous film set us up for this, with the critter eggs being loaded onto an escape capsule that would then float around in space undisturbed, kind of like Buck Rogers. It’s found by a group of salvage people and they run it to a Terran space station  which is eerily abandoned. The critters hatch and begin to do their thing while the crewmates squabble.

It’s actually an impressive cast, with the ship being captained by Anders Hove, the vampire from Subspecies, engineered by Brad Dourif of Chucky fame, and piloted by Angela Bassett. The computer indexvoice on the space station also just happens to be hammer horror alumni and bond girl Martine Bestwick.

On the space station, where they’ve been conducting illicit experiments, the critters lay eggs while our heroes attempt to contain and require them. The movie manages to infuse the general fun of critters with the sci-fi genre and general Critters franchise feeling. Filmed back to back with part three it’s not surprising that they are able to maintain a consistent tone. It’s notable to see some of these actors in early roles but ultimately becomes disposable and silly entertainment, but definitely get the extra points for me for being in space!


Werewolves of the Third Reich

Werewolves of the third reich starts off with a title card telling us it’s 1944. Probably a good idea, and the setting is beautiful. A brick bar that feels like it’s in a basement, with well it light glinting off the bottles. Our main character, Maddog, starts a fight with a Nazi which turns into a shoot out in the bar. They’re good at tension, but that Beretta his partner is holding his way out of place.

We passed the credits to chapter 1, which takes place at a prison camp where the women have more anachronistic hair. It’s an experiment camp, where they’re testing out chemicals and serums on the prisoners, making progress on their biological warfare efforts, even enough for a scientist to deliver a report to the least convincing Hitler I’ve ever seen.

Flashback to the execution of a traitor and his family, filled with CGI blood splatters from the same pack everybody else uses, and then a return to the scientist who talks about combining human DNA with wolves. I’m glad to finally hear something about wolves because we’re a half hour into this thing and I haven’t seen a single werewolf. That takes us to chapter 2, with a couple of our army men arguing.  The junior officer is tossed into the back of an empty van with a group of guys headed for lock up. Stories in the van before we shift back over to the more interesting Nazi scientist, working in his lab. He needs a male and a female, according to his brain research. Meanwhile, the MP then get stopped by a blockage in the road… A suspicious stack of logs. It’s an ambush, but it does provide the prisoners with a chance to escape.

Meanwhile a mad scientist is cooking up a reanimator style serum to turn ordinary men into wolf hybrids. His first test subject is his guy his wife is having an affair with.

It’s just past an hour before we finally see this first werewolf. The thing is, it’s not really a werewolf as much as a monstrous mutant. I’ve always preferred Lon Cheney wolfmen to the American werewolf in London style, but this thing isn’t either. It’s more man than wolf. Practically hairless, with a fair looking appliance on his face. The cheating wife is so heartbroken that she injects herself with a serum to, just in time for the merry band of prisoners to find the installation and launch their own assault.

The good news is we finally get to see the werewolves strut their stuff… Bad news is there’s only 10 minutes left in the movie.

At the end of the day, this entire film comes off looking really cheap. It’s got that unflattering shot-on-video sheen to it, and they make a common mistake that low budget reductions fall into. When you do a period piece, everything has to look period. Not just the army uniforms, not just the Nazi uniforms (which are okay), but the haircuts, the beards, the house interiors, the photographs all of it. On a low budget production, it’s too easy for stuff to slip by or for “good enough” to be the standard of the day. These locations never feel genuine, and the characters just don’t look right. Some pinup hair and harsher make up would’ve gone along way on some of these characters… Even if it were out of place, it’s a sort of thing we expect to see… The sort of thing that conveys the era to us. The uniforms tend to be badly fitting and made from fabric that fails to convince… No matter how historically accurate they may actually be. And the fact that they don’t really commit to the werewolves, makes this a massive disappointment.

More a shame, because somebody had a clever idea, but not the skill to truly develop it. I don’t get to know this group of soldiers well enough… In fact, we really learned More about the mad scientist and his wife that we do about our heroes! I want these army guys to be people I can root for, a group of heroes that I want to revisit again and again, in sequels down the line. I think that’s something they could’ve accomplished… The templates are all there, but they failed to stick the landing and instead of becoming heroic arctypes, they really end up just being cardboard cut outs, and it’s a shame. Werewolves of The Third Reich is a hard pass both for werewolf lovers and fans of natziploitation.

 

 

Mad Scientist or science gone wrong

Girl is in love with Monster

Bad CGI (common, afterFX, same old blood packs)

 


I Like To Hurt People

indexI like to hurt people was billed as a documentary, and maybe it is… But Donald Jackson presents it as a linear narrative – far more like a feature than a documentary. It lends itself to this format, because of the inherently staged nature of wrestling, pushing a story line  right alongside the gladiatorial combat. Indeed, this feels familiar, with plenty of ringside interviews and grandstanding to inter cut between staged scenes .

We get backstage imagery of one Wrestler threatening the cameraman, spectators at the snack bar discussing the current match, backstage antics and the like. The most notable of these kind of scenes is one with wrestlers waiting in their car to meet their opponents. The camera captures perfectly, their shock when Andre the giant emerges, gargantuan and bigger than life from his ride. I’m going to go on record right now and say this movie is worth the watch just for this and to see more Andre.

In great part, this is the story of heel wrestler Edward Farhat, better known as the Sheik. In the early days of television, the Sheik almost single-handedly escalated the violence and commercial appeal of professional wrestling with a style that was “Hardcore” long before that genre of wrestling ever existed. Steve Slagle, a student of wrestling, wrote in The Ring Chronicle that ”perhaps no other wrestler is more responsible for influencing the current generation of ‘hardcore’ wrestling than the one and only Arabian madman known as the Sheik.” “I like to Hurt people” follows the 6 foot tall, 247 pound villain as he cuts through the wrestling world, changes managers and fights his way through with a showdown against Dusty Rhodes : the American Dream on the horizon. This is professional wrestling, it’s old images2school. It’s not the glitzy polished events we’re used to seeing with the WWE. These wrestlers are a barrel chested, big guys with less muscle definition, but every bit as much attitude and big personality as you have ever seen in any pro wrestling event. There is blood here too, not quite as much as you might see in the underground hard-core wrestling circuit that 42nd Street Pete promotes , but more than what you are probably  used to in your average royal rumble!

I find it particularly amusing to watch Andre the giant literally lift people up over his head and then toss them out of the ring.

In the background, we have the President of the “Stop the Sheik” movement attempting to derail the upcoming match, and get the Sheik out of the circuit. It’s a subplot that helps to hold the entire story together between matches. Interestingly enough, this wasn’s part imagesof the original pitch, but was added in years after the footage was shot to pad the run time and give the film more structure. Eventually the “Stop the Sheik” movement ends when the man behind it just… disappears!

Contrived subplots aside, there’s still plenty of interviews, giving you a clearer picture of why the wrestlers do what they do and what it means to them. It keep the film feeling like a documentary, even as it unfolds as more of a hybrid.

“It’s how I found true meaning. I like to hurt people”

Jackson isn’t content to just cover mainstream wrestling though, we get a side story about a female wrestler named “Heather Feather” who really wants to wrestle a man. Jackson documents  the arm wrestling match that leads to the images.jpgreal thing. We follow her into the ring for what is billed as the first pro wrestling match between a woman and a man. It’s a novelty act, but an Ernest one. Jackson not only covers women’s wrestling but also matches with little people – as brutal and pitched as any fight you can imagine.

Back on the mainstream circuit, trouble arises, and the shiek’s manager quits and has to be replaced by an even more colorful character. The Sheik continues on, bringing his boa constrictor with him to the ring and bowing to it before the matches. He rarely speaks, and what he does say is in Arabic, spoken in sinister tones. In the back on his limo, he and his manager ride off to the future.

When we talk about Donald Jackson, we usually like to focus on the bad films. But I’m going to come straight out and say this is a good movie. How can I tell? Because I don’t like wrestling. I may know some of the names because they are pop culture, but I do’t have any interest in the form or genre. Nevertheless, I was completely sucked in. I was riveted by this film on a subject I don’t care a bit for. It goes on Ebay from twenty to fifty dollars.Do your self a favor and scour the goodwill, salvation army and other thrift stores to find a battered old VHS copy of this.

 


Run away!

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Ouijageist

Ouijageist is the definition of direct to video Dollar tree horror. But I gotta say, the opening credits actually looked really good. A man running away from an unknown threat, finding a dead body in a barn… just across from a wooden box labeled “witchboard“ whispers come from the box. And the man hesitantly picks it up. In the distance, I figure stocks in through the woods.

The story takes place somewhere in England, with a news report about the man from the woods.- And young woman named India with a new baby moving into a new home (you may notice her landlord just happens to be character Karen Harper, played by Lesley Scoble in Amityville Playhouse a couple of years prior in 2015, placing both movies in the same universe). By the way, the witchboard has found its way into her backyard. She picks up the box and her mother looks at it and literally says “I wonder what’s inside?”, A Ouija board. It’s literally written on the top!

Well, India is settling in… Looking for a job, lunching with friends, and of course, playing with a Ouija board!

The haunting starts subtle at first… A nervous dog… A baby gate knocking someone down the stairs… Children’s alphabet blocks form in the words “you are mine“ spirit then lures the baby into a bathroom where scalding water is pouring into the tub… did that really just happen? We cut to a graveyard… Surely they didn’t…

No they didn’t. It was the girl who tripped earlier… She knocked her head into a coma and finally gave up the ghost – if you’ll pardon the expression. It’s her funeral, but Linda is now naturally a little nervous about her baby, and doesn’t wanna leave her with the sitter too long. To make matters worse, the dogs run away.

Meanwhile, the Ouija board whispers.

There’s a knock on the door, and Linda goes to answer it… And somebody throws the severed head of her dog at her. Let me tell you something, this film is going hard. Now the kids or animals are safe! Linda breaks down in tears crying “why are these things happening?“ Well, it’s because you messed around with a Ouija board you stupid bimbo, and even worse, you did it in an apartment that’s haunted!

Linda takes the boys to a antique dealer to try and sell it… He gives an interesting history, do you have the wood back to certain forests in Germany and having some age to it. 

The exchange is interrupted by Linda‘s loser ex, the father of her baby. He’s trying to make a good, get a job and shop with some money. But that sure is a curious looking scar on his hand… Almost like a pentagram,? He freaks out, with ruins edging into his face, spitting hot coffee and pestilence at Linda… Then shows up dead in the river.

Next up, I was wrapped through the legs of a ladder on wet concrete. Great way for the house goes to crack somebody’s head open. Oh and when a priest walks in? I can’t imagine anything that would anger accursed house more. It’s enough for it to actually generate a creature coming up through the pipes to attack the priest. Shaking silverware, and flashing visions over a rumble of demonic anger. They’ll be no blessing of this house!

Like many horror movies, this one really does start ramping up the action and the FX for the third act as it turns into more of a zombie movie… and It’s actually surprisingly good. It doesn’t hurt that the entire movie is 84 minutes… And it doesn’t need to be any longer. What it needs is more money and some better access to special effects. But they try… Man You can see they put their heart and soul into this and did an amazing job with the resources they had. The effects may be average, but they’re well thought out and quite proficiently employed. I like it. I really do… In fact, this is one of those movies I really wish I could see remade with a bigger budget and better resources for the ghostly effects. The fact that they made this as good as they did, tells you you have some fairly good filmmakers here. 

It’s still a recommend, but go into it with your “what it might’ve been“ goggles on.

Q


Puppet Master : The Littlest Reich

Sometimes I’m wrong.

It’s funny, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about Puppet Master, the Littlest Reich. I’ve heard nothing but good things admittedly. But, the thing is, once puppet master started leaning into the whole World War II stuff all the retro puppet Master stuff, you got less interesting to me. I like seeing the killer puppets in modern times killing modern people. Watching them kill Nazis is cool for a single movie, but I wasn’t interested in seeing a bunch more of that. And of course if puppet master is famous for anything, it’s going back to the well. Let’s face it, we have a couple movies in the middle that are basically just clip shows, and we were right in the middle of a phase in American society where the phrase punching Nazis was getting popular.
So I kind of skipped the littlest Reich for the longest time. Right up until I found a copy on Blu-ray at the dollar tree. Well, we would delay no more.
What do you mean it’s not World War II? Oh crap.
We’ve got a slacker working at a comic book shop, returning home after a bitter divorce and getting ready to sell his vintage to lawn puppet. It’s kind of blade, but it’s kind of not. The film in general is very much a reboot in the spirit of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or rob zombies Halloween. They’re taking the idea, doing some of their own thing, but still trying to show some respect. There’s a convention coming up celebrating the puppet master, and people from all over the country are bringing their puppets to be auctioned off. It’s a good set up. And our hero brings his new girlfriend as well as his partner in crime from the comic book shop and off they go on the road trip. With this many people gather together, along with this many killer puppets… Naturally, mayhem ensues, And it’s a race against time to survive the killer puppets… And perhaps, prevent Toulon from rising from the dead.

The thing that really struck me about this film, was how gory it was. Seriously, they’ve never been afraid of bringing the blood, but this one is a whole new level, going both gory and disturbing with some of the kills. It’s actually everything that I could possibly want from the series, and I’m shocked at just how good this entry is. That’s not even mentioning brilliant appearances from Barbara Crampton and Udo Kier! It’s enough to make me definitely want to see more and check out what this new generation of Puppet Master is all about.

Kazokukon 2022

Glass City Center, Toledo, OH Aug 26-28

 

“I’ll give them this, I at least admire the effort.“

I hate to say it, but Maddie’s right… I’ll give them props for trying, and the show wasn’t a complete waste of time, but if I had to use one word to describe this convention, it would be “disappointment“.

It was a rush for us actually, I literally hadn’t heard of the show until about 5:30 Saturday night, when a post asking for help judging their costume contest came across my feed. Up until then, I’d seen no social media references, no posts, no idea that it existed. Nevertheless, while there wasn’t enough time to get out there Saturday, I figured Maddie and I could make the trip Sunday, so I ran upstairs, gave her a heads up, and we started pulling Isabella and Archduke Levouis for the next day. I couldn’t help but notice that the map they had on their Google doc seemed awfully small… Especially considering how large the venue was. Nevertheless, the photos looked reasonably active, and it was only an hour and a half to Toledo, so we would just hope and that it felt bigger in person.

The day started off well enough, I managed to hit a Toledo Burger King on the way there to use the breakfast coupon I’ve gotten at fantasticon.  It was only good in Toledo, and I was delighted to actually get back into town to use it. We found parking on the city street, a mere half block away. We got ready and walked over to the building. We found one sign that said “event entrance”… But when we went into those doors, we saw a shockingly empty building. It was empty enough to make us wonder if we were in the right place or if things were still going on. We turned left, walked around to look, and couldn’t find anybody. We ended up outside and a gentleman in the parking garage directed us to the correct floor. The elevator deposited us right where we had started, and so this time we went right. We were able to find the entrance to the show that way, that we did have to ask one more time while we were in the building.

We apprehensively walked to the admission table, a plain table with no adornment, set against a black background. A guy dressed in a schoolgirl costume looked up at us, apparently annoyed that we were taking him away from his phone.

“Did you pre-register?“ “I replied no and he gruffly cut me off.

“ $20. CASH.”

Fortunately, that’s how I planned to pay anyhow, and Maddie handed him over a $50 bill while he distractedly rummaged around for her change.

There were no signs there leading around, although the very basic blocky map was available. We wandered into the first enclosure that we found, only to be pitched a professional photo op. Not what we’re looking for. We wandered a little further down and noted board games and video games in one section, and finally reached the other end of the convention space where there was a panel just about to get started. Around the corner was the oddly spaced dealers room, a small section comparatively but packed with an interesting variety of dealers. Nevertheless, the whole time, we couldn’t help but notice how empty everything was. Indeed, even in the dealers room, there were multiple tables that were bare, looking like they had hoped for more vendors than had shown up.

Things were a little easier once we got to lay of the land, but this is a small show, with not a lot going on Sunday. We sat and listened to most of the panel with ninja Dan, and managed to make it back for anime idol, I sort of singing and dancing competition. Another event though that was really poorly planned out… With large gaps between the performances. The moderator actually had to jump up and sing some of his own songs to pad the time and it really came off as clunky.

Not all was bad here. While the vendors room wasn’t huge, it did feature a really interesting and diverse selection of dealers. Maddie grabbed a really nice little charm from demon slayer, as well as a grab bag of stickers and prints and stuff. I made my way over to one of the booths to grab a stack of comics… Those are having a hard time going through the long boxes. The things were packed quite tightly, and I like dexterity and gloves. Nevertheless, I found a few Star Trek that I’ve never seen before along with some other fun stuff I’d been meaning to dip my toe in. These boxes in particular were set up as dollar boxes, but a note on the sign revealed they were actually dollar… or less boxes. Plenty of issues inside were $.75 or $.50, and that was actually a nice pleasant surprise. I got a pair of pretty chopsticks from my other daughter, and splurged on a beautiful dragon themed dagger for myself. That’s the thing about going to a convention… If the show starts this is disappoint you, it’s still up to you

I have the end of the day, I think they bit off more than they could chew. They tried to throw a huge anime show but weren’t prepared adequately for the logistics. There’s not nearly enough programming or events or even guests to justify their entry fee. I can understand why it Has to be that expensive, the venue isn’t cheap. But this is the sort of show that really should’ve been started off smaller, out of the HW Hall or a college gym. They could’ve filled that up just fine. It also needed some more promotion, and perhaps should’ve taken baby steps in growing itself. This is the sort of show that really would’ve benefited from joining forces with a local anime club or something like that. On its own, there weren’t enough volunteers to help guide and run events, and the entire flow of the layout is wonky and confusing. And they need better signage and more logic to how things are displayed. If I had any advice, it would be cut your ticket price in half (and reduce it even further for Sundays, when you’re n

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it was a wildly successful show and I just didn’t notice… Perhaps I was just there at the wrong time. I’ll give you that, Saturday would’ve been a much better day to go. If I’d known about it, that’s what I would’ve attended. But nevertheless, I’m seeing a lot of rough edges here… And perhaps it’s just because it’s their first year. I’m going to cut them some slack for that, but honestly… Unless I hear about some significant changes, I doubt we’ll be back next year.

 

 

 


Moscow Zero

DollarindexDid you ever buy a movie, solely based on the location? That’s exactly why I grabbed this copy of Moscow zero. The film promises us a dark journey into the depths of the underground catacombs below Moscow, and it does not disappoint.

We have Vincent Gallo as a priest looking for his mentor, being led by some local guides. We flashback frequently to the mentor charting the ruins and investigating. Along the way we find homeless communities that survive midway below the city, and who are intent on sealing up these particular catacombs because they fear dark spirits within. The ghosts are indeed there, the souls of a group of children who fled persecution to hide in these catacombs, eventually perishing alone in the darkness.

It’s all wonderfully moody and eerily lit, although I wish they could’ve made the ghosts a little spookier and added to the atmosphere. Val Kilmer is prominently featured on this cover, but he’s a minor character at best – this being right after his peak and at the beginning of his decline. He still brings his trademark charisma to the film, but it’s the main cast that do the real heavy lifting and brilliantly create a suspenseful trek through the dark and rocky catacombs below the deapths of Russia. It’s absolutely worth a look if you can find it used or the cost of a rental.


Cabin Fever : Patient Zero

OK Cabin Fever Patient Zero, you’ve got quite a bit to prove. Because here’s the thing, I’m not a big fan of the original. I mean I don’t hate it, I think I’ve watched it twice back in the day. Those two times were both on VHS, so that let you know about how long ago it was. I haven’t sought out the remake or really any of the sequels, but I’ll admit, seeing a familiar franchise name like this on the shelves of dollar tree, and noticing Sean Astin in the credits… OK. I’m good. It’s 94 minutes, so that’s manageable, especially on one and a half speed. But, Patient Zero, you have a lot to prove and I’m going into this defiant.

The contagions already underway, and people are trying to contain it which gives you an idea of what kind of movie this will be. Sean Astin is in custody, playing a character named Porter. He is the only non-asymptomatic carrier of this disease, and his family is dead.
Elsewhere, how much younger cast is arriving in a part of the world where everybody skin as far more darker than ours. Central America? There’s a lot of Spanish language going on hi there. Either way we have a wedding coming up along with the traditional festivities… And the bachelor party. And the bachelor party is taking itself out on a yacht to an abandoned island that the locals won’t go near..
How strange. When snorkeling they find no fish… Not until they come across a cove of desiccated fish corpses that is.
Meanwhile, in the B storyline, Sean Astin is getting poked and prodded, and infecting the staff at the secret government facility. I’m curious if the sea storylines ever meet up..
Back at the campsite, the rashes started. I can’t say I’m feeling too sympathetic. They’ve made most of these characters far less likable than the ones in the original… But then again that’s because they’re just there to die I guess,  and douchebag totally deserves the most heinous squirting scene anyone has ever seen. In search of helpers here, it’s time to explore the abandoned building on the other side of the island.
Oh my God. It’s a building for an Astin was in isn’t it? (yes, yes it is) This is a time jump isn’t it? (No. It’s not.)
OK, at this point I’m just here for the gore. And to be fair, pretty girls skin ripping completely off her arm… Definitely worth the price of admission. Also, are those zombies?
There are some seriously action going on in the last act, and a couple of very impressive bit of blood. What I can say about this film, is that it’s an excellent sequel to the Cabin Fever series. it does everything a good sequel is supposed to do. He expands the world and pushes the mythology a bit. Not a ton, but a bit… It’s a pretty threadbare mythology as it is. If you’re a fan of this series and these movies, you’re gonna like this. If you’re a Gore hound, you’re gonna like this. Seriously, more skin less people than Hell raiser!  It’s almost my thing… But not quite. It’s close enough though, where I can see why people really dig this. Moreover, I gave them huge props for actually giving us a definitive answer as to the origin of the cabin fever virus. This is one of those few criticisms I have George Romero, that he would never give us a firm answer as to where the zombie virus came from. Cabin Fever manages to do so intelligently, dramatically, and without getting in the way of the story.. (Stick around for the end credits which flesh out the initial mention out) It’s actually A soft recommend.

Secret of the Clown

index.jpgThe shadowy silhouettes and well done kills that begin Secret of the Clown give us a promising open, though someone needs to teach these guys about set lighting – things are so dark you can barely see anything. The glimpses of the monsters arms though, there mummified and awkward – unsettling and a good introduction. Once we get into the film proper though, the tension keeps up, with quick cuts of the murders and an occult ceremony happening as a young woman research is something in the local well lit library. The parking lot has the same lighting problems though, and I’m afraid this is going to kill the whole movie. The sound mix as well, it’s muddy, Almost as if the entire thing has been ADR. The quick cuts however keep coming as the young woman takes a shower – she’s obviously experiencing visions.

In the background, there is a creepy clown doll – and it’s left behind when Val walks out on her boyfriend. The boyfriend talks about how she thought the clown protected her. One of his friends smashes it in anger, and that’s when strange happenings begin.

Bobby is haunted by the ghost of his friends who died, and visions of things happening in the house – something is controlling this haunting, and he wants to get to the bottom of it. He brings in a psychic in a very exorcist like scene – and together they begin trying to figure out what haunts the house. The battle to find the killer and rid the house of it’s haunting is quite compelling – I wasn’t expecting so much of a haunted house kind of film. There is elements of American Werewolf in London and The Exorcist here. The imagery is frequently compelling and well crafted, with a surprisingly shoppingexcellent set of twists towards the end. When we finally see the clown itself, it’s a genuinely good design – tattooed and clad in rags. The face itself is the only part that really resembles a clown. It’s a great concept, but held back by and inexpert execution. That’s really the problem with the entire film. Great ideas and a definite vision, but the entire thing is dragged down by the low production values.

At the end of the day it’s still recommend, but only for people who can see past The production as it is and can see it for what it could’ve been.


Devil’s Revenge

Right off the bat, I feel like the devil is trying to convince us it’s going to be good stuff. The credits roll over scenes from the movie, much the way a syndicated adventure show credits would… Like they’re trying to assure us that there’s something good in store, despite the cheap cover art.

We have a group of men exploring a cave, but it’s not going well. Things get even more sinister when they find a chamber but obviously man-made… And filled with bones. He’s located the relic he’s looking for, but at what cost? The whole thing actually gives me very Stephen M Smith vibes… And that’s interesting. There’s a definite for boating here, and things start to go very wrong very quickly as figures appear in the cave, and people begin to die. You don’t need to tell Dude twice. He is out of there!

At least, he’s getting out long enough to resupply and mount another expression… This doesn’t go over well with the wife, but he’s desperate to get back there, so he can break a curse on the family. Even as he argues with the wife on the phone, the demons send a heart attack his way and he crashes the car in the ER, the demons watch.

They look good too… Someone spent some serious money on these outfits, and having a bunch of them around, with their dead, black eye sockets almost gives me a blind dead feeling. They may be just a little bit too proud of them though, as they’re constantly showing them in full light, and Wall and make up holds up, too much time just standing around on screen does sort of push your suspension of disbelief.

Back from a heart attack, the vision continue there’s almost no attempt to make this into a bit of a head trip keeping your balance and throwing strange imagery at you. I’m not complaining, considering I came into this thing mostly for monsters… And William Shatner. However, the trippiness comes off almost as intrusive and repetitive rather than leaving you off-balance. Still, strange looks from the people around our hero and the general sense of unease in the air manages to set up an effectively paranoid mood. All the people around him shift in an out of being avatars for the demonic.

Time to go talk to dad. Shatner, at his horse farm. He explains that for long time, the Rockies trying to make him find his only way to break the curse… And the fact that he didn’t destroy it… But he just disturbed the relic… It kind of just pissed everything off.

So now it’s time to go back to the cave… This time he’s bringing his entire family

This is kind of where it falls apart me. I realize we’re heading into the third act, and this is kind of their way of raising the stakes, but it really doesn’t make sense. And as we see him wandering through the cave with his family, it’s almost like a spelunking vacation. “Look at this!”… “Let me tell you stories about how this happens”… It belies the seriousness of the mission and undermines the gravitas of question through hostile territory to break the curse. Moreover, even as our Aztec  ghosts make their way to confront our family I am unconvinced that any carnage is gonna happen here… Maybe the dad could die, but I can’t believe anyone is in any real jeopardy. I can’t see that working thematically. It also feels like we’re in a pattern of running away from this cave and coming back and running away and coming back. It feels redundant and repetitive, but then again so there’s a lot of this film.

Another big problem is the lighting. The entire thing is just looks so flat… And as I mentioned, these suits are frequently shown and fully lit. That does nothing for their effectiveness. Director Jared Cohen really needs to move past his TV movie roots for something like this and light everything just for the sheer beauty of it. Creating more room in the caves and playing with the shadows and ridges on these excellent suits would go a long way towards creeping up these monsters. I give them props for understanding how to enhance the suits with CGI, adding some motion to the mandibles, and creating just enough glow and smoke to make them fantastic. On the other hand,that he’s using the same old cgi blood packs  is painfully obvious, and he’s all about bad CG explosions. That works once, maybe twice, and in the distance… but they look really bad here, up close, front and center.

The real shame of all of this is there’s a good idea here. A good story somewhere, but it needs a lot of work. The pacing all over the place, fast where it needs to be slow, and slower it needs to be fast. The movie itself is about 20 minutes too long, and focused on the wrong things I think. All of the family drama really should’ve been background, with the movie itself focus more on the cave expedition and heightening the whore there. Some flashbacks to the plot exposition and curse may have worked better… And perhaps a longer, slower descent as the hauntings grow and drive our characters to find the relic would’ve been more effective.

It might be fun if you just turn your brain off to watch a rubber suit monster movie with William Shatner, but I’m disappointed because it really could’ve been so much more.


What could go wrong?

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Satanic Panic

Satanic Panic starts off with pizza delivery. A bunch of people delivering them actually. Seems like a good place to film. We get a variety of delinquents that she delivers to until she gets a call for Mills basin. One of the other drivers tells her it’s a messed up area… You got a delivery boy, but you come back at delivery MAN! So, our girl fires up the Vespa and heads out.

It just so happens that she’s delivering to a satanic cult… Although it sounds a lot like a motivational speaker seminar… this is bad for the pizza delivery girl, because it’s Beltane, sacrifice, and she’s a virgin.

She escapes and seeks help at the next house she comes to… But what happens there is, well, indescribable. While she’s there though, she rescues another girl, and tries to call the police. Of course, the cult intercepts and comes looking for them. At this point, it almost feels like race the devil, if it were a comedy. And this absolutely is a comedy. The Satanists may be deadly and ready to kill, but they’re also bizarre and hilarious. Their yuppie characters and it’s just bizarre.

The girls escape into the night, but the coven is still in pursuit. They create a monster out of the soul of one of the unfaithful to seek out the refugees.

Turns out the girl that was trapped at the other house is the daughter of the coven leader. She helps explain the plot, while securing the next house they hiding. Salt around the windows and doors, things like that, and after our girl gets attacked by some very expensive sheets, the witches daughter sets her down for a drink to explain the plot.

We get a voodoo attack, we get to read entrails, we get an ice pic through the skull. The film brings the gore.
The trees are alive in the dark woods and the girls are captured. The ritual begins and pizza girls belly swells as she prepares gave birth to the demon. And then… To fuzzy bunnies.,

I’ll admit, the ending is a little deus ex Machina, and I would’ve preferred something more clever. Something that shows the ingenuity of our hero. Nevertheless, everything else in the movie is so well done, as long as you’re just holding on for the ride,… Well, it’s a good ride. You’re going to enjoy it.


The Pale Door

The Pale Door begins with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe.
“While like a ghastly rapid River, through the pale door, A hideous throng rushes out forever, and laugh – but smile no more.“

I don’t know whether this is pretentious or a good omen for the move they’re trying to set. Still, it’s from Shudder, which gives me a lot of confidence. It’s presented by Joe Lansdale, and features interesting credits over an ancient book of the occult. Blood drips onto the book, and while I don’t recognize anyone in the credits, the production values are very high and exactly the sort of thing I expect from Shudder.

On the other end of the credits, a western family prepares to defend themselves from the group of men who have shown up in the dead of night. The father dies and we fast forward 15 years to the older brother, now a wanted outlaw and his younger brother working on saloon. It really is a by the numbers sort of western at the beginning… Shoot out in the street, wanted posters on the walls, and then we head over to a train robbery.. that’s where things go wrong. On the train, there’s not nearly as much gold or money as they expected… But there IS a girl chained up, locked in a box. In the ensuing scuffle, the older brother gets shot, and she offers to take them back to her hometown, where there would be doctors. She says it would be a reward for her safe return. Still, it’s all incredibly suspicious..-she takes them to the town square, to the local saloon which is also the local House of ill repute. Everyone is welcoming. Overly welcoming.

The ladies take the men up to the various rooms and prep them… And this is where everything goes awry. Monster creeps along the ceiling, unseen. The women seduce the men, also doing curious things, such as saving  clippings of hair.

All of thier heads snapped to attention when they learn younger brother is a virgin… and that he’s never taken a life. The Madame, sits him down to explain the plot. We get a flashback to her life before these days. She was accused of being a witch, and strung up to burn, even while pregnant..and all of it, 200 years ago.

Upstairs, the women transform into monsters witches, and begin the killing. Cowboys versus witches, guns versus claws and knives. It’s gloriously bloody and incredibly fun. It’s a far more effective idea than Cowboys versus zombies or aliens… And we’re only just now entering the third act I have passed the halfway mark.

It’s a brilliant design. The witches are basically the traditional look… Pointed nose, long chin and sunken eyes… But burned. All of them, burned at the stake… And survived
They clear the cat house, but wolves wait for them outside. The Madame commands the witches in the walls to kill the rest, but bring the boy to her. It doesn’t matter. They make their escape… Except the older brother is still back in town with the witches and younger brother is determined to go and rescue him. We had into the final act on a suicide mission… Cowboys versus witches.

This is good. It’s shockingly good. Like I said, it works better than some of the other matchups like Cowboys vs Aliens or Cowboys vs Zombies or even the creepiness of Dead Seven or House 2. The witches fit the aesthetic and the era and the actors commit fully to the idea. This is a genuine Western, and at the same time it’s a genuine horror film. It knows exactly how much each to put in, with all the gunplay and prairie dust you expect from a Western, and all the blood and horrific monsters you expect from a horror movie. This one’s a high recommend.


Jurassic Dead

Do you know how Jurassic Park manages to spend the first hour talking about the science of re-creating dinosaurs? Well Jurassic Dead managers compress that all into the first four minutes of the film, as well as showing it getting stolen by Army men who look like mafia gangsters.

During a time of great peril on earth, a group of scientists emerging took control of a secret military bunker deep in the desert… Evil will unleash it’s monstrous secrets to destroy earth… Five commandos set out to elimminate the threat… Out of the five commandos, two survived.

We find the scientist teaching college level courses… Like a community college level reanimator. Of course, reanimating a cat in front of his students, gets him canned and not looking both ways before crossing the street gets him hit by a car.

We get a brief text message telling us that the scientist survived and is taking over the installation, but there’s five commandos headed to take him out.

That’s when the astroids hit the planet. Looking for help, a group of for college students accidentally enter a military installation… The same one the five commandos are entering to try and take out the scientist creating the zombie dinosaurs.

The editor likes a lot of smoke FX. Also, lockdown. Holographic bad guy says it must be safe. Also, time to release the zombie dinosaurs.
Everybody seems to think that they have to do that shot from Jurassic Park where the feet hit the ground… and it never works. Still, it’s a good way to kick off commando versus zombie dinosaur action at the 41 minute mark.

It actually starts with a fistfight. Zombie dinosaur is down, but not out… And the CG and green screen are strong. Interestingly enough, though, the dinosaur is actually not CG. It is indeed, a guy in a reasonably impressive dinosaur suit, wearing green suit, and frequently composited against a green screen… The defect actually makes him look CG frequently, after being filtered and cleaned up and of course the close-ups aren’t much better. (better paint job, or even just a light brushing of KY jelly would have done wonders!). Still, I got to give them props for using a suit instead of a computer generated beastie.

By the way, you know how zombies work don’t you? If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie. If a zombie dinosaur malls you, you still become a zombie!
It makes for some interesting dynamics and we end up having more than just a dinosaur to worry about in this bunker.

That’s really all I have to say about this film. The excess of CG make it feel like a video game. The sets are frequently digital (swapping in an out with several real sets the filmmakers were allowed to film at a local haunted house… A brilliant decision, and I’m glad they had the opportunity. You can tell the difference ) with layers of digital FX and lighting overlaid on top of the film., and costumes really look like thrift store zombie hunter cosplay. Hyper computer generated reality was distracting in big budget forays like Sucker Punch and Sky Captain and it’s every bit as distracting here… Even if the budget makes it a bit more forgivable. as long as you know what you’re getting into, It’s entertaining on 2X speed, it would be ideal for a horror host to play with. But overall, it kind of belongs at the dollar tree where I found it.

 

 

85% of the cast is under 25

Bad CGI

Mostly one location

Copyright free name that sounds like another franchise (Amityville, Ouija, ect)

Mockbuster

science gone wrong


Geekfest 2022

Look, I’m as surprised as anyone. I was certain that geek fast was dead. I mean, the plague killed bigger and more powerful conventions than them… And they already missed a year here and there even without those complications. It’s a difficult event for the library to mount, a lot of variables a lot of planning. I really wouldn’t have blamed them for just deciding to sit this one out.

I’ve actually only heard that they were coming back about three weeks ago. Definitely not much more than two weeks before the event itself, and it was so close to Neo Comicon  that I wasn’t sure if we really had it in us to do two back to back shows. Still, it’s a show I like, being one of those more programming driven events. Maddie hadn’t been out to this thing since all the way back in 2016, and she found herself really looking forward to it, another chance to bring out her my hero academia costume and connect with other people. So, Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and headed out.

I was taking a chance bringing out my Borg costume for this one… Star Trek is passé these days, and Star Wars is real the real attention is at. Still, I was pleased to discover I wasn’t the only person and track garb there. This event draws a lot of boomers and Xers, with children that they’ve raised on Star Trek. I was surprised at how often I was recognized, not only by adults, but by teenagers! Around the corner at one point and one of the vendors piped up “now there is the scariest summer of my life!“. He was of course referring to the Star Trek next generation cliffhanger “the best of both worlds“. I nodded. “It’s funny, but of all the two-parter is they did after that, they never quite managed to get you to those same stakes.“ The vendor agreed. “During that third season,“ he told me. “They’ve gotten into the habit of always resolving everything within the last five minutes… But we got closer and closer to the end of this episode, 10 minutes, five minutes, three minutes, and I found myself wondering how tehy were going to wrap this up. I spent all summer nervous and wondering what was going to happen when the show came back.“. I remember that summer too. I mentioned to him that I was certain that Captain Picard wasn’t coming back to the show, that he’d be taken off with these bad guys, and that Patrick Stewart would basically go off and go back to Shakespeare while Commander Riker would take command of the enterprise for the remainder of the series pack. It was fun chatting with somebody about this and reminiscing about the days when Star Trek was genuinely good and had such cultural relevance.  As I wandered around, I made sure to menace the other people in Star Trek costumes, and was surprised to how many there were… In fact, I wasn’t even the only one carrying around a triple! There was a great looking doctor crusher with a triple in her jacket pocket. It seem to be behaving better than mine, considering I couldn’t get mine to sit on my shoulder the way it’s supposed to. I managed to get it attached just before pre-judging for the costume contest and about 20 minutes before I had to walk on stage for the main competition. That’s really my main goal, to have him ride out on my shoulder so that I can remove him and display him to the audience. I’ve gotta remember to use a better magnet the next time though.

That pre-judging was a problem. One of the main events that Maddie and I were looking forward to was a screening of Howls moving castle. The Akron Summit public library has a massive auditorium with a large screen… Just about movie size, so they get to see this on the big screen is a real treat. However, the movie was screening from Eleven to One, and pre-judging was at noon! It didn’t help that Maddie and I were a little late getting in as well, so we probably missed about 20% of the movie, but we did get to watch was every bit as good as we remember, and incredibly fun to watch on a proper screen with a good sound system.

Costumes were in abundance, despite the fact that the costume contests itself was a little lightly populated. Queen Anna Boleyn shuffled through the doors as I was making my way out for a swag dump, she waved a wand at me to vanish the evil machinery! She would occasionally come up to me throughout the convention with a screwdriver adjusting my mechanics. Another running joke was the way that R2 D2 seem to keep running into me. The R2-D2 builders club had a table downstairs with the 501st Legion, creating of nice Star Wars presence there. But occasionally the droid would roll his way upstairs and mingle with the rest of the people. It would see me and Emmett allowed high pitch scream, as I’d come over and scan it and examine it for the edification of the crowd. At times I almost felt like a little droid was following me!

I’ll say this, not only did Geekfest return, they veritably exploded. It’s bigger than I’ve ever seen it before, with them really pulling out all the stops. I remember the days when this show was basically maybe a half dozen tables up by the auditorium, mostly library personnel making buttons and playing games with the kids, one panel room and maybe some improv going on in the main auditorium. This time around they utilized all four floors. Star Wars characters on the ground floor along with a cosplay repair station… I can’t even tell you how amazing that was! When fingers started popping off my glove, I was grateful to be able to use their hot glue gun to put myself back together. Also video game rooms downstairs with retro video games and custom ones made by one of the guests. Another floor had board games… Some of them giant size. A couple tables in the middle were reserved for first timers playing dungeons and dragons. Another floor gave you a chance to explore strange history, along with a table of comics to give away. The vendors and artists were spread out as well. Instead of a handful of tables… A group of vendors that are slowly growing more and more numerous over the years, you could now find artists and vendors scattered throughout the library. There are tables around the length of the entrance, and then spread down below the atrium, and then even more nestled in between the bookshelves and rose and valleys of the library. It’s a fascinating set up, and the library actually went out of its way to draw attention to them by issuing kids a “passport“ where they can get stickers from each booth… Trying to collect them all, and thereby visit all of the guests. This is all in addition to the art show that was going on on the ground floor, one that you could vote  in for People’s choice award… And constant panels and games going on in the two conference rooms in the atrium. Indeed, the overlap was so great, that we always seem to be running from event to event, particularly towards the end when we were coming out for the costume contest lineup. Maddie was none too pleased to have to leave her panel to get in line. “They were going to give away BOOKS at the end!” She lamented.

Still, despite all the challenges, as we drove home, Maddie and I agreed this may just have been the best convention we went to this year. Being so program driven just makes for a far more entertaining experience, and is exactly the sort of thing that will keep Maddie (who’s convention attention span is usually about 2 to 3 hours) completely occupied for over five hours. It’s also a great place to make new friends, something that kiddo is discovering and taking full advantage of.

Here’s the thing, the festival bills itself as a mini comicon? I don’t think so. There’s things I’m much fuller convention experience than a lot of the ones that we pay much more money to get into. It’s also become one of our favorites, and will be back next year.

 


Critters 3

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indexWhat the heck is Leonardo DiCaprio doing in this movie!?

Outside of our returning bounty Hunter, I don’t actually recognize anybody else in the film, but that’s OK, because they’re set up and ready to go, this time move in the action primarily to a single location. While we start off on a road trip with critters arriving, they eventually infest themselves into a condemned building that the landlord is trying to kick everybody out of. It turns into a long night as the surviving tenants and the landlord’s son try to rid the building of the evil critters.
It’s great to see the bounty hunter back, and it’s fascinating to watch Leo – I was hoping he’d get eaten but no such luck. with a solid cast, it feels very by the numbers but that’s index1really what you want from such a film. It ends with a twist though. The bounty hunter is not allowed to destroy the last two eggs, as it would be genocide… These are the last two in existence as far as they know. An escape pod is sent for the eggs and he gets trapped in it – setting us up for the fourth film, Which will give us our first real departure from the formula in the series.


Last Man on Earth

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Morgan! Come out Morgan!

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