Horrible Imaginings Film Festival Presents Sion Sono’s ‘Tag’: Schoolgirl Slaughter-ific

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Briefly summing up the film’s plot in a small paragraph is actually very difficult, so what we will say is that a schoolgirl on a field trip begins encountering strange phenomena that convince her more and more she’s not real.

Okay, even with the weird-ass explanation chapter at the end of the film, this is a difficult one for the average movie-goer to get. Some sequences are almost dream-like, while others have the happy slaughter of a Takashi Miite movie feel to them, and then of course there are some scenes that are almost impossible to fathom at all. The pig-faced demon groom throws me for a loop, what can I say. You’ve been duly warned, this is an incredibly weird, wild ride. But we will attempt to dive headlong into Sion Sono’s Tag, and discover what his apparent obsession with schoolgirl slaughter is, already.

To begin with, we have pretty little Mitsuko. She, like her raucous classmates, is on a bus headed for a hotel with, it’s a pretty safe bet, hot springs. Mitsuko is a little more reflective than her friends, and she gently blows away the pillowcase feathers of her play-fighting comrades off her poetry journal. Only a dropped pen saves her from an Evil Dead-style demon wind execution, one that takes out the entire bus, the other bus, the bikers and hikers, and just for an encore, the nearby telephone wires. And Mitsuko does what she apparently does best, which is to take off running.

Best friend Aki catches up with Mitsuko and just latches on for dear life, joyfully taking her friend’s shaken mind off what she thought she saw with a little class-skipping action. They bring along the girl Sur, short for ‘surreal’ because she apparently is. Sur pontificates about ripples and changing one’s fate by doing the unexpected. This, along with the almost-constant presence of Aki, seem to be key points in the movie, giving the chaos some semi-balance of plot to attempt to follow.

At this point we’ve gone off into some rather wacky territory, where the teachers are attempting to kill the entire schoolgirl student body, and, for some reason, Mitsuko in particular, with all kinds of forbidden hardware.. What can Aki do but distract them while she screams for Mitsuko to run!

But now, everything is very different. The scenery has completely changed, Mitsuko has a job and a different face and a new name, Keiko, and holy crap, we have to go, Keiko-chan’s about to get married!

Okay, sure, but … well, that’s not like any pre-wedding girlie prep I’ve ever attended. And what’s with the all-girl audience who turn into strippers? (I’m not actually kidding, and that’s the mild part of the wedding scene.) Do something unexpected and change your fate, Sur said. Certainly, no one expected Keiko-chan to go all Bride from Kill Bill on all of them with a broken bottle.

A blink, a flash, something, and we’re now running a race, with another different name and face. Izumi’s whole thing is running, apparently, her friends all reminisce about running everywhere as they grew up together, as they run beside her. Izumi-chan is being chased by the pig-faced demon from the previous face. Certain themes are beginning to bleed into each other and despite the occasional, incredibly zany visual, you remember that yes there is an underlying story being told here.

So, here we are at what may be the actual truth, with one last door left to open. Mitsuko-chan is just exhausted and confused and petrified, and it just gets worse when she hears she literally has to go through Aki-chan to get through that door.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, that would do director Sion Sono (who gave us Tokyo Tribe and Strange Circus, among many other Japanese film gems) a large injustice. I will say that it seemed like there was a small attempt at a Bladerunner feel towards the end, and that was an unexpected turn. Sono skillfully gives three important moments in a girl’s life – her carefree middle teenage years with her girlfriends, her fairy-tale wedding of course, and the first time she won any sort of large competition – and infuses them with manic energy while somehow getting his story across at the same time.

In the end, it was a totally weird movie, gigantic and frantic and lovely at parts, and while not for the casual stab at J-Horror, Tag manages to be an enjoyable romp of schoolgirl slaughter!

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2016 was justifiably proud of being the California premiere of Sion Sono’s ‘Tag’, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park!

‘Ju-On: The Final Curse’ – Just Reincarnate Already

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

So in true Ju-On fashion, the film is divided up into named vignettes and given a Memento-like sequence of events to try to follow through an already convoluted storyline. Or is it? How hard can it be to understand the rage of a wrongly executed little boy, his cat, and his mother by a crazed father? Turns out, if you’ve been following the updated backstory of Ju-On from new director Masayuki Ochiai, there is quite a bit more behind the Curse than most previously thought. But first we’re going to try to explain the vignettes, how they relate to each-other, and hopefully shed some light on a very dark film series.

First up is Mai Shono, sister of Yui, who went missing after the events of the previous film, Ju-On: The Beginning of the End. Her boyfriend, Sota, is a train station guard and he, of course, is now being ripple-affected by Mai’s splinter curse, because Mai (Airi Taira)  just can’t let the strange disappearance of her elementary school teacher sister go. Mai works as a chambermaid in a hotel, which affords plenty of opportunities for Kayako and Toshio Saeki to come haunt her in every darkened corner. Mai pores through Yui’s schoolbooks and Kayako’s old journal of madness, which certainly gets Kayako’s attention.

Next vignette is titled “Reo,” and she is the cousin of the little boy Toshio, who comes to live with Reo and her mother after both Toshio’s parents die. Reo (Nonoka Ono) is your common schoolgirl type and, boy, does she try to interact with the mute, sad little Toshio when he is taken to their home. Reo’s mother tells her that Toshio’s mother died under some odd circumstances, but not any more than that, and let’s face it, if she knew any more than that, she really should have said so. The movie kind of implies that Reo’s mother knew Toshio’s father killed his mother, the real-life horror part of it, but not anything about the supernatural counterparts or the curse itself. That Curse, which of course Toshio brought with him in the form of his poltergeisting mother, now has a new house to inhabit and a new pool of people to ripple-affect.

The next name on the list is Ena, and her vignette connects to the rest in the most disturbing way: Ena is a little girl in a hospital right across the way from the house Toshio, and his mother, now inhabit. Ena sees Toshio, and more to the point sees the nasty white spirit inhabiting that poor little boy, all through the irrefutable magic of her cameraphone, which is actually quite terrifying and relates to the Japanese fascination with spirit photography.

The next named vignette is “Madoka” (Miyabi Matsuura); she is a friend of Reo’s from school whom Reo mistakenly invites over for a sleepover, along with another friend Midori, while her mother is gone. Both school friends end up meeting Toshio, sort of, when he just poofs into the room and responds with his name in flat odd tones. It’s apparently hard for an evil spirit to act in the really-real world. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Mai and Sota are beginning to unravel from their various hauntings.

Finally, having waited with baited breath for this one, we’re served up the vignette titled “Toshio.” Assuming our audience has seen the previous Ju-On film, we are reminded of the events that led to poor Toshio’s death: the child-desiring madness of his mother, to the point where she actually voluntarily invited in an evil spirit that could give her one. That led to her telling Toshio’s father that he isn’t actually the father of her child, which led to a microwaved cat (Ehw!) and the attempted murder of a little boy who had seriously done nothing wrong. Whew! This reminder slice actually shows the evil spirit that inhabits poor little Toshio (Kai Kobayashi), who will now be referred to as Onryo-Toshio, coming out and going absolutely poltergeist-y, bugshit nuts on the psycho father, Saeki, when he tries to take a knife to his not-son. Here, I actually had to pause and reflect on the sheer beautiful insanity of this entire situation, and how all these ripple-effects of pure evil just keep going on and on, which is the whole point.

The vignette titled “Midori,” who was one of the friends Reo introduced to Toshio, as we recall, is next and the first half basically showcases the ironic haunted deaths of both Midori (Yurina Yanagi) and Madoka, poor things. Then, we focus in for a showdown when Reo goes to confront the boy Toshio, and finds Onryo-Toshio haunting his place, forever ready to shriek cat-death-evil and call in his mother, Kayako. Reo’s own mother tries to get into the fight with the nasty spirits, though why she thought a dresser in front of a door would stop ghosts, I never understood. Reo’s mother comes to the final thought and act that killing the boy Toshio will stop this whole thing, and is rather forcefully prevented from doing that by Kayako. Reo herself, the poor, friendly cousin who had done zero to deserve being involved in this mess other than being blood-related to father Saeki, tries to finish what her mother began and is literally bent into not doing that either.

We’re not done yet, because the vignette titled “Sota” (Ren Kiriyama) is next. He went to check on Toshio himself and discovered Ena watching from across the street, so of course he goes to speak with the dying girl and makes the mistake of touching her, causing explanatory visions to erupt. Onryo-Toshio apparently came, in his ghostly white form no less, cradling his dead cat, to speak with Ena. Here is the one, very brief, moment we see Onryo-Toshio be something less than total evil, as he/it speaks almost gently with the dying girl in a hospital. Though, of course, his reasons for doing so, it turns out, are completely selfish and actually pretty evil, when they’re finally explained in the last vignette. But Sota still needs his haunting to be complete, and while visions of him stalk Mai in her hotel job, Kayako isn’t going to let a little thing like a closed door and a mail slot stop her! Mai is most definitely too late to save Sota and this vignette ends with a traumatized Mai Shono staring at Kayako’s stubbornly unburnt journal, muttering about Ju-on being reincarnated, and so this will not end.

And lastly, the attempt at the wrap-up vignette, titled “Kayako” (Misaki Saisho). The queen of prehensile hair and that creepy door-closing noise herself. Mai has at long last found what happened to her sister Yui, and what became of poor defenseless Ena, too. Mai begs the ghostly shroud of Yui to just reincarnate already, to which Kayako, wearing Yui’s skin, replies, “Ju-on (hatred) will not end,” and does her final spirit of death shriek on her last victim.

The introduction of the thought of the curse itself reincarnating certainly works as a storyline that is both an end and a new beginning, but I have one issue. Never before in the entire Ju-On series has reincarnation been approached, and to just toss it in in the last two vignettes before what is supposed to be the last film in the series ends, well, it seems haphazard at best. Story has been sacrificed for traditional Ju-On ghostly jump scares, and while they are still quite fine for the scare factor, I still wished there had been time for more. But then, as the movie series states quite clearly, the curse of Ju-On never actually dies, so perhaps some other visionary director can reincarnate the series somewhere down the line.

XXX

‘Para Elisa’: Want to Play with my Dolly?

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

A college student needing to earn extra funds takes a babysitting job that turns out to be much darker than expected!

In the spirit of Women in Horror month, I decided to give this small horror offering from director Juanra Fernandez a try. Yes, the film is Spanish, filmed in Cuenca, Spain, and subtitled – try not to let that deter you. The whole feel of the movie is rather amateurish and unfinished, with many details missing, perhaps purposefully so, like Fernandez had a really great run with Para Elisa as a short horror film first, and managed to get it made into a full-blown movie. The whole thing is only an hour and fifteen minutes or so, leaving no real room for things like background storytelling, but plenty of space for some stark-staring mute dolly horror. So let’s get into this!

Ana (Ona Casamiquela) is your pretty typical college student: she’s nearing the end of school and needs ever more money, she has a drug-dealing boyfriend who just won’t take “no, it’s over” for an answer, and even a silly slut of a best friend, Ursula (Sheila Ponce) who, it turns out, is slapping skins with boyfriend Alex (Jesus Caba) when Ana isn’t looking. In the midst of yet another argument with Alex, Ana decides to take on a babysitting job interview at some creepy flat near a cathedral, and away we go!

Due to the rather short length of the film, as soon as Ana’s brief background with her boyfriend and best friend has been established, we launch right into the horror of the not-babysitting job, even during the interview. Diamantina (Luisa Gavasa), the mother of the girl Ana is supposed to be caretaking, is an extra-weird retired piano prodigy, obsessing over porcelain dolls and plants, apparently. She gleefully doses Ana’s tea with a Spanish plant that’s supposed to cause vocal paralysis, though she claims to have no real idea if that would actually work and how long it will last. But at any rate, Ana is about to become the next life-size dolly for Diamantina’s crazed daughter Elisa (Ana Turpin), perhaps forever!

One would think here would be a great place for the admittedly very creepy mother to stir up some incredible horror, turning Ana into her daughter’s dolly, but that isn’t actually what happens at all. Quite soon after explaining to Ana what her new station in life will now be, mother comes to blows with a shrieking Elisa, and next thing you know, mother’s dead on the floor. The only thing that can seem to calm Elisa when she’s like this, is for mother to play Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” on the piano, and the fact that mother is now dead doesn’t even slow Elisa down! Now it’s time to tie Ana to the bed so Elisa can get some sleep, finally, hugging her very own life-sized dolly.

But see, Ana doesn’t want that. And neither does the near-stalker-like boyfriend Alex, who gets so worried about Ana he goes to the police repeatedly before deciding to go look for Ana his damn self. Much to-do is made about Ana’s cell phone or even the house phone, if Ana can just get to it, though with her vocal cords still paralyzed, I have no idea what she’s going to do once she gets there. That is one of the finer points of this small Spanish offering, a great deal of the horrific struggle between Ana and Elisa is done in complete silence on Ana’s part, and only with childish grunts and panting from Elisa. It’s only when Elisa takes a hammer to Ana’s legs, Misery-style, that Ana is able to let loose a few piercing screams. Much fighting and searching from Alex later, it looks like Ana may have finally made it to a freedom of sorts, but it’s never a good idea to turn your back on the child-like psycho of any horror movie.

We have no idea what happened in the lives of Diamantina and Elisa to bring them to this state, whether they’ve done this sort of thing before (it’s a pretty safe bet that’s a yes), and why no one other than the scared homeless guy has noticed anything is amiss here. Sometimes when a movie works extra hard at providing the why, a good deal of the uknown-horror-scare would be sacrificed for the sake of background. I think, in this instance, the choice of the terrifying unknown and the grownup-child in search of her perfect life-sized dolly stands just fine on its own, and gives us a great, if a bit short, Spanish horror romp!

Check out the dolly collection of Para Elisa on Netflix now!

XXX

‘Deadpool’: WHAM! Maximum Effort!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Deadpool is the ultimate anti-hero for the South Park-loving, I-never-grew-out-of-fart-jokes teenager in all of us. He isn’t concerned with saving the world, preventing galactic annihilation, or wearing an X in a circle on his reds. His problem, at its core, is simple – some douche-nozzle tortures him at work, and then gets all huffy and girlfriend-kidnappy when Wade takes offense.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) proves to be a watered-down version of Deadpool’s mouth long before his skin avocadoes, and when he meets the full-grown woman who shares his sense of humor, he is in absolute lusty-love. Nearly everything in the movie comes in montages, so right after the sex-for-all-holidays tribute, comes the devastating news that Wade has seriously bad terminal cancer. Of course, the stripper girlfriend with the heart of gold and the mouth of a sailor, Vanessa, wants to fight cancer with all means available to them. Which essentially means the death-by-inches agony of long treatments and Wade just doesn’t have the patience nor stamina for that kind of dumbassery. Instead, he opts for the Agent Smith recruiting option at his local post-Special-Ops-Agent hangout, and next thing you know it’s off to the mutant factory!

You can expect anyone who’s been hopped up with mutant juice and subjected to many creative tortures, to be a bit cranky with his jailers. Ajax – excuse me, Francis – doesn’t stand a chance in hell of holding the charming-sleazy Brit bad guy of the film role, not in the face of Deadpool’s eternal give-zero-fucks snark. One conflagration later, Wade is determined to rise from the ashes like the most epic anime phoenix ever, slicing and shooting his way through the bad guys to get to the one who turned him into Mr. Potato Head! Francis (Ed Skrein) and his roadblock of a female sidekick, Angel Dust (Gina Carano), prove to be formidable foes, even when met with Wade’s blistering break-the-fourth-wall commentary!

Wade’s early attempts at costumery are terrible and hilarious and exactly what we would find ourselves doing in his boots. Here, we meet his roommate Al, who is about as far from the likes of Daredevil’s Stick as you can get, yet Wade still enjoys bantering with her in his juvenile well-meaning fashion. His bartender friend with the deadpool on when Wade’s gonna kick it does his best to help too – his efforts end up with Weasel (T.J. Miller) as a Shaggy-like sidekick, one of the few who knows both Wade and Deadpool.

The introduction of a CGI-ed to hell and gone Colossus (Stefan Kapicic does his voice) and his little sidekick — this is a mouthful — Negasonic Teenage Warhead, was an interesting choice for the X-Men cameos you just knew we had to have. Tagging Colossus for the unappreciated role of the eternal recruiter of Deadpool to the X-Men seems completely appropriate, considering the lengths Colossus has gone to in other storylines, but the translation of the mega-metal-Russian from the comic books to the big screen wasn’t what I had pictured. Negasonic (Brianna Hildebrand), on the other hand, is clearly the epitome of the New X-Men latter-day class, with her sullen teenage silences, biting commentary and ability to turn herself into a fireball bomb! And, of course, Wade’s wild and wonderful woman, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, gets many shout-outs for her completely believable portrayal of the woman to die, repeatedly, for!

That’s another thing too many people seem to be overlooking, Wade says it himself – Deadpool is actually a love story, yes, with some horror elements and other stuff thrown in, but still. Wade voluntarily had this done to him so he could live with the love of his life, the woman who shares his corrupted sense of humor and eternally perverse sexual tastes, more or less regardless of what he looks like. Far too many of my fellow geeks and freaks out there would give their entire music collection (I’m betting there won’t be a single Wham! album among them) and then some for a love like that!

There are already tons of reviews out there, all about how Deadpool breathed life back into a stale superhero genre and gave them the encouragement they needed to finally put on their big-boy pants and make an ultra-violent R-rated Marvel superhero movie! But you can’t sit there and enjoy Wade crack wise and twirl your cosplay Thor hammer to impart, “Mmmyes, Deadpool’s sleazy charm is just the thing we modern film enthusiasts need.” Deadpool is hardly the first awesomesauce R-rated superhero movie to come out, (see Watchmen for example) it’s coming out at the most serendipitous time, when we’re all so bored with the eternally bright superhero taking on the whole world of evil, we just want to see a foul-mouthed badass do a bit of the old ultra-violence. To win back the girl who’s just as foul-mouthed and awesome as he is, the only one in the entire world for whom Wade would actually be a superhero!

Do yourself a favor, fan-atics of the world – see Deadpool in the theater now! And for fuck’s sake, leave the kids at home! This movie is not suitable for children at all. You’ve been warned. Don’t forget to stay for the Ferris Bueller-style Easter egg at the end, and cast your own vote for who should be Cable in the sequel! And bonus points if you catch the Stan Lee cameo!

And yes, of course, the trailer is all kinds of NSFW, the entire movie is that way and you know you love it!

‘Contracted, Phase II’: Get Infected

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

This is what Riley (Matt Mercer) gets for being a nice guy who happens to have a crush on a girl seriously wrong for him – a Hellraiser-style hookup and love-scratch later, our nice guy is beginning to change, too. It would be ridiculous for anyone to watch this movie, clearly the sequel, and not watch the first Contracted film, but if anyone does, the film gives plenty of helpful hints as to WTF happened in the first movie, some in clearly messed up flashbacks. To reiterate, Riley had a thing for Sam, managed to get it on with her after she had Contracted the STD from hell, and her scratch infected him in the same way. The sequel cuts to Day Four of Riley being infected, right off the bat once we have the background, and we stagger right in with him.

Alice is one of the friends Riley knew and she died in the first film, so of course Riley has to attend her memorial, which his pregnant and rather bitchy-with-it sister is putting on for everyone. The sister’s husband happens to be a doctor, so when Riley starts having funny turns, he goes under the radar to him, to get his blood screened for every damned thing. Meanwhile Riley is suffering, and we get offerings of the incredible body horror that made the first film so successful, but only in — forgive me — bites. Riley is now sloughing off pieces of himself onto, and sometimes accidentally into, others around him: his tough-as-coffin-nails grandma, who still smokes and drinks and curses with him, damn it; his oh-so-pregnant sister, in the most disgusting nacho sauce you’ll ever see; even the poor little caretaker chick Harper (Anna Lore) who likes him, she doesn’t even get to tap him, her infection comes from a rather awkward kiss. Like Sam, Riley is determined to fix it himself, so there are a few terrible moments in a mini-mart bathroom, but the feeling is a lot more hurried horror, Riley always seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere once he’s had to accept what’s happening to him.

Like Sam, Riley is determined to fix it himself, so there are a few terrible moments in a mini-mart bathroom, but the feeling is a lot more hurried horror; Riley always seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere, once he’s had to accept what’s happening to him.

Meanwhile, the faceless villain from the first film has been named and fleshed, and now has a Detective Crystal Young (Marianna Palka) after him. The one determined cop after the horrific monster is a perfectly fine trope, especially done in the old Halloween manner, but it wastes valuable STD body-horror time, instead attempting to focus on the eternal horror hunt. The styles more or less fit together, but the feel is different from the first film, and the first Contracted was actually a very smart bit of indie horror. At the very least, the filmmakers took great pains to stay with the original storyline and expound upon it as much as possible.

That said, we’re denied a great deal of the terrific body horror feel from the first film, offered up as sacrifice to things like background and storytelling. The hells you say! The man who was Abaddon, known also more mundanely as BJ, gamely did all the things a crazy Satanic spreader of plague and pestilence would do, right up to the end. But, remember the theme running throughout the film — it’s even in the title, ‘Phase II’ — meaning this is the next phase of the spreading of Abbadon’s virus.

Riley and his poor little now-a-pirate girlfriend, Harper, have made it all the way to the hospital, leaving bits of themselves behind to ripple-infect others. Detective Young and Abbadon himself have made it to the hospital for the ultimate showdown, and I’m terribly sorry but here is where the movie stumbles hard. I really wanted Abbadon to slough off a whole bunch of skin, sprout demon wings and launch himself into the police and hospital denizens like Lucifer on crack! Sadly, that isn’t what happens at all. It looks like poor Riley, even more pathetic Harper, and determined Detective Young won’t be making it to the third Contracted, if there is one. We are forcibly reminded that ripples of Phase II are spreading still, beyond Abbadon or anyone else’s control, and that you could easily be infected next!

Get infected with Contracted: Phase II on Netflix!

XXX

CosLosseum 2016: Enter the Cosplay Arena

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

Welcome to San Diego’s very first CosLosseum event, where we honor every last cosplayer, from the obscure obsessions of the anime folk to the well-known lightsaber and sonic screwdriver crowds, and everything in between!

So, the first official event of the day was “The Video Games,” put on by the good peoples of MB Stage. A parody of The Hunger Games, in which all the tributes are characters from some of your favorite video games, all battling it out live for the coveted title of Player One! The audience is said to alter the outcome of the battle, by live and Twitter voting, which changes the game storyline throughout the performance.

Tyrant Queen Zelda commanded the Games to begin and put Mario (yes that Mario) and Jigglypuff in charge, and it turns out a Renegade version of Commander Shepard is the video game designer. Then we got treated to the likes of Scorpion (Mortal Kombat), MasterChief (HALO), Princess Peach (Super Mario Bros.), Paragon Commander Shepard (Mass Effect), Donkey Kong, Pikachu (Pokemon), Link (Zelda), Lady Yuna (Final Fantasy), Samu Aran (Metroid), and even Lara Croft running around trying to kill each other!

This was a live action performance, full of props and audience participation and carefully scripted fight scenes that were truly a joy to watch. All the players tried, within their various character modes, to up the audience participation, and threw their hearts mightily into those roles. You can just tell, the performers at MB Stage Productions really do care about their stagecraft. Every character got at least a few minutes of personal stage time and some fight scenes, most of which were screamingly funny and completely character-appropriate.

The front entrance hall to the ballroom where the con was held was lined with vendors and there was a whole other section of ballroom for yet more vendors. One wall had celebrity tables, where you could walk right up and talk with the likes of Rashaad Santiago and Anthony Reyes, or Sandi Sellner, Moses Moseley and others. The merchant booths themselves were great little corners of all manner of fandom – Wired Redhead Jewelry sold fantasy wire pointy-eared jewelry; the Elder Gods and their alcohol on t-shirts made an appearance with Wyngd Lyon Creations; Leelo Jewelry had flasks and coasters and earrings, oh my; a mad scientist sold geek-favorite pocket watches at insane prices. There were all sorts of Steampunk accessories available at several booths, original art prints and kawaii things and even comic books, and all that barely scratches the surface. No matter how fandom-specific a booth and its merchandise might have been, I saw plenty of money changing hands and smiles all around. Because nothing says ultimate fandom like a flask emblazoned with, ‘THE DARK SIDE MADE ME DO IT”!

Also in the front hall was an entire table set up for emergency cosplay repairs, put on by the brilliant folks at International Cosplay Corps, as they now do at many cons. There were actual freaking sewing machines set up on that table, along with helpful mobile Sergeants who carried cosplay repair kits upon their persons like the best support troops to us wacky cosplayers ever. Far from running repairs with nothing but duct tape and a prayer, these ICC Sergeants and their troopers are a walking blessing at any con that has cosplayers.

The Research for Lupus Fundraiser event was quite small but heartfelt. Dan Posey, leader of this intrepid new con in his Punisher pride costume and chains, gamely took the mic and introduced Hollaine Hopkins of the Lupus Foundation, and former Power Ranger Sandi Sellner, also a Lupus sufferer. The ladies spoke of how Lupus is becoming far too common these days, newer treatment options becoming available with research, and the ever-present need for more research to find a cure. Audience members were encouraged to speak out of their own issues with Lupus, and then the auction, benefitting Lupus research, was held. And Dan Posey proudly announced that, despite it being a small con and on the first day, they had taken in, from ticket sales alone, just slightly over $1,000 to forward towards Lupus Research for a Cure. If you want to donate to research for a cure for Lupus, go here.

A bit more wandering, money-spending and picture-taking later, it’s time for the inevitable Cosplay Costume Contest! With only a dozen or so actual entrants and six categories of prizes to win, the contest was an interesting little do-si-do of coordination. Cosplay entries included characters from The Evil Within, League of Legends, The Strain tv show, Ragnarok Online 2, Final Fantasy, and the anime Black Butler. Winners were as follows –

Group Cosplay – Black Butler trio (Sebastian, Ciel Phantomhive, Undertaker)

Best Makeup – Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Best Craftsmanship – The Evil Within

Best Performance – Master Vampire (The Strain)

Best in Show – Ragnarok Online 2

Con Favorite – Tenjo (Final Fantasy)

And that was the end of my very first CosLosseum experience. Yes, the venue was small and without the crushing crowds of the likes of Comic-Con – given some of the costumes people were sporting, trying to do SDCC in them seems like a good way to inadvertently commit homicide. The atmosphere was open and loving and genuinely heartfelt, and I bet you my favorite TARDIS dress that not only will CosLosseum be back next year, it will be bigger, more together, and always full of that adorkable Cosplay insanity fandom!

XXX

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Dark Whispers: What’s Your Horror Rating?

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome to Dark Whispers, the horror corner of the Super Villain Network – speak intently, break the rules, and may all your nightmares come true!

To help ring in the new year of 2016 with all things horror, we present to you the following: A NOS4A2 in his Rolls-Royce Wraith; the ultimate VS. showdown between two Japanese girl ghosts; Michael Meyers gets the axe; and a too-scary-for-the-MPAA Rob Zombie story!

‘NOS4A2’ is coming

So the vampire thing has been done to death (hah), especially on TV. That won’t stop various TV stations from trying to cash in on it anyway, but the AMC channel is heading a very different direction for their next major TV series.

Written by Joe Hill, the story of NOS4A2 centers around Victoria McQueen, a young mother who has a supernatural gift for finding things. While this may be considered more like a curse, as it’s slowly destroying her mind, Vic nevertheless searches for help and answers with her unique ability. Her search leads her to a Charlie Manx, a supernatural psychotic who has a penchant for abducting children in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, with the inevitable license plate, NOS4A2! Pronounced, you guessed it, ‘Nosferatu’. This sounds like a lot of fun, and we could all really use a return to non-seductive true-leech monster vampires television!

AMC is still searching for a writer to adapt NOS4A2 for television. Joe Hill is the noted author of ‘Horns,’ made into an Independent Horror film last year starring Daniel Radcliffe. Also worth noting is the fact that Hill’s father is Horror Titan Stephen King himself, and yet Hill has chosen not to use such connections to boost his solo career. Hill’s award-winning Locke & Key comic books have been adapted into an audio drama starring Tatiana Maslany, and his other novel, Heart-Shaped Box, is also being considered for a film adaptation by Warner Brothers.

The creepiest ‘VS.’ ever 

I’m a huge fan of all things J-Horror. The Grudge movies (of which there are freaking ten now, if you count the American remakes) and the Ring films in particular are favorites. So to hear that the batshit insane housewife of the ultimate haunted house is going to take on the ghostly seven-days daughter of the well and haunted VHS tapes, is for me, the greatest new year’s present I could get!

Koji Shiraishi, director of the movie Grotesque, is set to direct Sadako vs. Kayako, and the film is slated to come out in 4D in theaters sometime in June 2016 in Japan. It can’t get to the states fast enough for us! At any rate, here’s a teaser for the creepiest VS. film ever!

‘Halloween Returns’ gets the axe

We know there are a lot of Halloween films at this point. John Carpenter’s masterpiece of suspense and slashing horror made villain Michael Meyers an icon, even to this day. Rob Zombie attempted the chops to take on such a well-known monster with two of his own Halloween films. The film company Dimension, who owned the rights to the Halloween series and was planning a comeback film hopefully in 2016, have lost the rights to the series when the parent company Miramax took them back. Miramax is now shopping the franchise rights to other studios, which means instead of the new sequel Dimension was considering, set to begin after 1981’s Halloween II and reboot the whole franchise, we now have the possibility of Michael Meyers doing VS. films with other studios, like Paramount or Warner Bros. And while it might be fun to see the hockey-masked killer take on Freddy or Jason (who both already had their own VS. film, Freddy vs. Jason). I think Michael Meyers still deserved better for his psychotic legacy.

Rob Zombie is too scary for the MPAA

And speaking of Rob Zombie’s horror movies. I’ve seen every single one of his attempts at horror, from the ultimate fan-squee of House of 1,000 Corpses, to his bomb (sorry Rob) Lords of Salem, and always had strong opinions on whether or not they were any good. His takes on the Halloween movies weren’t bad, though it doesn’t sound like he will be getting to do any more of those anytime soon. Zombie’s latest take on the horror genre, 31, is having a hard time with the board of the MPAA, those stalwart people who, in theory, protect us movie-goers from our own dark leanings.

31 (which refers to October 31st, Halloween night apparently) follows five carnival workers who get  kidnapped the night before Halloween, and held hostage in this secret compound known as Murder World. These poor schmoes have 12 hours to survive the terrifying game in which the Heads, murderous fiends of various means dressed as clowns, are released to slaughter them all!

The MPAA board have twice slapped 31 with the dreaded NC-17 rating, because somehow Zombie’s killer clown porn is more mind-bendingly worse than say, Showgirls. Zombie was heard to say on his Facebook page that perhaps the third time is the charm to get the R-rating his film needs. Because your bog-standard local theater will not show an NC-17-rated film.

‘Some Kind of Hate’: Well, Bully for You

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

A tormented teenager is sent to a reform camp, where he inadvertently summons the spirit of another bullied teen, who sets out to take her revenge on all!

Every person who’s been bullied, male or female, has at some point in there reached the breaking point. That moment where it occurs to you to strike back. Regardless of whether or not you do strike back, that moment when scarlet rage pulses into black hate is one of the scariest things for a human to experience, especially at a younger age. Our Lincoln (Ronen Rubinstein) is no different, though he tries, so very, very hard, to contain his rage.

What’s with these bullies, anyway? That asshat that got Lincoln here in the first place, the jock d-bag who ruins Lincoln’s drawings and makes his nose bleed into spilled milk – he had it coming. But no, here we are landed at the “spiritual retreat” of Minds Eye Camp, the place for troubled teens out there in the cellphone-less desert. And, of course, there are yet more cliques and bullies in the retreat, one of which just won’t freaking leave Lincoln alone. That horrendous moment comes again and when Lincoln gives in to his anger with one good punch, the bullies all converge on him and leave him a quivering pile of desperate rage and sorrow, wishing death on all of them. Lincoln thinks he’s simply blue-skying death on his enemies, but as it turns out, someone was listening. Someone else who was bullied and isn’t willing to let a little thing like death slow her down.

Okay, so, next thing you know, the poltergeist of the Minds Eyes Camp has risen in her righteous revenge and fury, Moira (Sierra McCormick) of the razor blade necklace is going to unleash the vengeance of the downtrodden on all of you! And while her mad poltergeisting ways and realistic makeup job is quite mesmerizing to watch, now would have been the time to cleverly interleave a mini-backstory to each of the camp victims who fall to Moira’s wrath, in the manner of their deaths somehow relating to the reason they got sent here. Instead, a lot of what we have is brief explanations from various characters, apologies and recriminations mostly, as Moira TK’s and slices them to death. In the perfect (forgive me) cut to the bone of the sorrow the bullied face on a regular basis and how they deal with it, Moira can inflict all manner of damage to herself and transfer it to her victims, like the most atrocious voodoo doll ever. But then again, my fellow goth nerds and horror geeks out there, doesn’t the power of ghostly transference look enticing, if only for half a second?

Since poor Lincoln is the one who actually summoned Moira, she tries to convince him to join her in joyous slaughter, promising him perfectly justified wrath upon the heads of everyone who wronged them both, forever and ever. At this point though, Lincoln has had a bellyful of revenge and is trying to somehow banish Moira, however he might. Even with help, Lincoln has his work out for him, because the concentrated fury of the bullied, something nearly all of us have experienced at least once in our lives, centered in a pretty little goth chick who died because of it, is actually a rather scary prospect.

The entire movie is done in a very Spartan manner, with sets out in what is obviously some kind of defunct camp or health center out in the middle of, you guessed it, the desert. The plot is spare, but sharp and clever and moves at a break-neck pace when it gets going. The makeup for Moira is understated, but they made a concentrated effort to make her ghostly-dead look as real as possible. Moira’s makeup also allowed for a ghost to be seen, as a ghost, in broad shining desert daylight, and that is a hard thing to pull off with practical effects. (It’s near-impossible to do with CGI, just saying.) Even the underlying message of the movie, the universal undeserved rage of the bullied everywhere, is simple and still so devastating. Take the lesson from Some Kind of Hate in 2016 folks, don’t be a bully and don’t let your quiet rage get the better of you.

Feel Some Kind of Hate on Netflix!

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‘Last Shift’: Closing Night is Hell

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Rookie Officer Loren has been assigned to cover the very last shift of the now-defunct Sanford police department, completely unaware the place is totally haunted after the Paymon family massacre!

We clearly get the sense that Loren is a Good Guy … er … Gal, the cop with the heart of gold, razor sharp wit, and mad detective skills. She recites the policeman’s oath when she gets scared, clears all the corners like a trained officer would, and is polite but firm to everyone she encounters, from the nasty insane homeless man to the prophetic hooker. So, what did she do to deserve this visited upon her head? Nothing. She had the misfortune of being the rookie that got sent in to take the last shift on the last night of a haunted police precinct.

So, after getting the rundown from the elderly former lead officer of the Sanford police department, Loren is left on her own, to field whatever problems may arise from the now-defunct station. On her very own, say it with me, Last Shift. Her assignment is to wo-man the place until the bio recovery guys can come claim all the drugs and chemicals in the lab, and they can close the station up for demolition. Of course, the bio-recovery guys aren’t likely to make it to the station until the wee hours of the morning, which means Loren gets to deal as best she can with all sorts of insanity on the worst closing night of her life!

A stubborn little by-the-book-type officer, Loren determinedly tasers and stuffs away the grody homeless man in a cell after he pees inside the station and goes growling through records. She is kind enough to let the hooker Marigold have a smoke out back by the station, where she feels more safe, but is rather unnerved when the hooker recounts the tragedy in the station and starts sobbing.

“Pure evil covered this place,” Marigold breathes.

Officer Loren firmly invites our good-time gal to leave.

So, what do we know about what’s happening now? Loren’s getting a bit frazzled, some time ago there was this Bad Thing that happened at the Sanford station, the station itself is acting weird with poltergeist-like visions, and about now Loren nearly takes out the other Officer who stopped by to check up on her. Like the rest of them, Officer Price acts a little funny and manages to mention the Paymon massacre. It’s hardly coincidental and it does kind of bring across the idea the station is haunting, in proximity ripples no less, Loren with the Paymon murders. From here, things begin to speed up, and a lot of that smart, wicked horror tension that was built up in the first two acts is a little lost. Sacrificed, you might say, for piecemeal storytelling and horrific visions of slaughter.

The thing is, we know by this point the Paymons were this godawful Firefly-like family who were proud Devil (or worse, dude, whatever) worshippers, who killed themselves in the most gruesome way possible right here in the station. We don’t need to keep getting interrupted on the poltergeisting torture of Loren with these visions of the Paymon family oddities: we get it, they’re freaky, 2001 Maniacs-like Lucifer-bunnies style. That time could’ve been used to further the madness being thrust upon Loren, because really, Juliana Harkavy carried all the great horror of this movie on her own. Sure, the ghosts look terrifying, the makeup jobs are fairly good, too, but the full range of horror comes from the haunting of Officer Loren.

So we’ve come down to the end and Officer Loren has done her duty. She tried very hard to make her daddy proud, because what little girl doesn’t want that? I thought that was a low blow for the ghosts to take, but, that is kind of the point of a haunting. Officer Loren tried so hard to take out the Bad Guys, because that’s what a cop does. It wasn’t her fault she had been blinded by the madness of the Paymon specters. She, like the movie itself, gets serious props for trying. If you’re any kind of horror afficionado, you will see the ending coming. But for all that, as 2015 comes to a close and we need to take out the old to make room for the new, some wicked smart horror and one brave woman cop reminds us that sometimes closing night really is Hell.

Last Shift can be found on Netflix!

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Dark Whispers: Masked Fatalities

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome to Dark Whispers, the horror corner of the Super Villain Network – speak intently, break the rules, and may all your nightmares come true!

This week we’re bringing you all kinds of newest of the new horror, from the sci-fi adventures of furious Riddick, to the foray into 1800s Transylvania by the CW, and finally to iconic nightmare character entering the Kombat arena!

A return to the mercs of ‘Furia’

Who remembers the adventures of the silver-eyed slaughterhouse of a man called Riddick? In Pitch Black, he was a prisoner on a planet of sci-fi darkness monsters, the only badass among them who was likely to survive. In The Chronicles of Riddick, he was the Conan-like last of his Furian kind, fighting against the hordes of Necromongers, taking over whole planets with unexpected allies. The most recent film, Riddick, has plenty of to-ing and fro-ing with mercenaries, dying Furian races and scifi monsters on distant planets, but Riddick manages to evade them all with that gravelly wit and badass survival skillz. There was even a cartoon film, set between Chronicles and the most recent film, called The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, made by the creator of Aeon Flux, Peter Chung. Two video games have been put out too, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena. Whew! So what does this all have to do with anything? So glad you asked!

Star of the Riddick movies, Vin Diesel, as the title character himself, took to social media to announce a great holiday treat to the legions of silvery-eyed survivor fans. David Twohy, the writer of all three Riddick films, will begin writing the next film chapter of the Riddick universe in 2016. Called Furia, we’re all hoping this will give plenty more insight into the lost species of Riddick’s original peoples! Also, Diesel announced, there is a TV spinoff series from the Riddick universe in the works – called Merc City, the show follows the mercenaries and bounty hunters of the Riddick universe. I’m a big fan of shows like Killjoys, so this will hopefully be awesome!

The CW heads to ‘Transylvania’

Yes, it seems as though everyone is jumping on the horror-TV bandwagon. That isn’t to say that every TV network or writer group has enough talent to pull it off. Real, my-little-black-heart-adores-you-like-Hannibal horror is hard to come by. However, the CW network has a whole slew of great shows – DC powerhouses Arrow and Flash — did you know iZombie is a DC property too? —  Supernatural, the award-winning Jane the Virgin and others, and they’re now taking an official stab at horror, too!

The series is currently called Transylvania, and is set in the 1800s, with a stubborn young woman searching for her missing father. From New York to Transylvania she searches, teaming up with a wrongfully disgraced Scotland Yard detective (I’d wager on his name being Abberline), and together, they bear witness to the most famous monstrosities and villains of their time!

No word on who’s starring or when the show will air, but in great anticipation of this show, we’ll keep you posted!

‘Mortal Kombat X’ brings all the horror-pack

So, we know Mortal Kombat X is out, and they keep offering other DLC and different characters to be, from some of our more favorite horror icons. First was slasher Jason Vorhees and the horror-pack (giving costume skins for Vampiress Milena, Kraken Reptile and Pharoah Ermac), then came the scary Predator from the AVP universes, and now, they’ll be joined by a chainsaw-wielding Leatherface and the flip-side of the Predator-verse, the marauding acid-spitting alien called a Xenomorph! I can’t wait to see what their various particular Fatalities will be!

Check out the very NSFW trailer for these newest characters below!

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