Midnight Confessions Ep. 101: "Despite all our Blood Rage, we're still just Neon Maniacs in a cage"

Halloween season begins and we're starting with a couple 80's slashers to kick things off. This week we're taking a look at BLOOD RAGE (1987) and NEON MANIACS (1986). A new Murderock tune from their upcoming EP is premiered, plus music by Slayer, Black Sabbath and Anthrax.


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Blair Witch (2016)

Director: Adam Wingard

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry

Genre - Horror/Witchcraft/Found Footage

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Who knew that after 17 years, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT would still maintain a legacy that spearheaded a new wave of found footage horror films, for better or for worse? Even though 1980’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and 1998’s THE LAST BROADCAST did the found footage deal first, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was the first film to use the internet in a powerful way to market itself to a broad audience. With multiple mockumentaries and advertising on billboards, websites, and television networks, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT turned a $60,000 project into a $248.6 million blockbuster in the summer of 1999. It also proved what a hot commodity low-budget filmmaking is, causing studios to cost their losses and produce low budget films for a huge profit. Many believe this started the downfall for the horror genre, but no one can deny how powerful THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was to audiences and to critics alike.

Of course with any successful film, a sequel was quickly made in 2000. It was so widely-panned by audiences and critics, that a third film was dropped. A video game series was created soon after, but it was considered so unplayable, the video game series bombed. Everyone considered the BLAIR WITCH franchise to be dead in the water.

…That is until earlier this year at San Diego Comic-Con, when director Adam Wingard (THE GUEST, YOU'RE NEXT) revealed that his film THE WOODS was really a BLAIR WITCH sequel in secret. Audiences at the event praised the film, with glowing reviews popping up on multiple websites who were able to catch the film by surprise. The buzz by this new BLAIR WITCH film led to a wide release, hoping to resurrect the franchise back from the dead. Now that BLAIR WITCH has been released to audiences hoping for the simplicity and creep factor of the original, all I can say is - why did they even bother?

Almost two decades after his sister Heather has gone missing after investigating the Blair Witch legend in Burkittsville, Maryland, James (James Allen McCune) is the subject of a documentary for his college friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez). Apparently after watching some recent footage from 2014, James believes Heather is still alive and wants to go to Burkittsville to find her. Lisa, best friend Peter (Brandon Scott) and his girlfriend Ashley (Corbin Reid) reluctantly agree to go with James to document Heather’s search. Along with two locals who found the 2014 tapes (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry), the six of them head into the same woods that plagued the characters of the first film. After a few nights there, supernatural occurrences make the group very aware that maybe the Blair Witch isn’t just a myth after all.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I was never a fan of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT until recently. I went to an early screening prior to the film’s wide release, and wondered why I was the only one in the audience who left without feeling scared or unnerved by this movie. I’m one of the few who enjoyed 2000’s BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 right from the get go, preferring it over the original film. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I came to truly appreciate the 1999 original, respecting how simple and honest it was in terms of acting, direction, and its narrative. It helps that most found footage films that have been released since have been terrible, and nothing but business decisions rather than love for telling a good story. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT changed a genre and I can finally see why people embraced it so heavily at the time. It has a heart and a soul.

I wish I can say the same for the 2016 sequel. Reboot? Re-quel? With all the hype this new Adam Wingard film has received, it was a total let down and mis-fire for the director. BLAIR WITCH is not the worst found footage film ever made, but it’s definitely one of the most pointless. After 16 years of not having a BLAIR WITCH movie, I consider that a massive disappointment.

Let’s get the positives out of the way. BLAIR WITCH has some really good actors struggling with a tired narrative. I found all the actors likable in some way, making me care for them while they’re dealing with some supernatural stuff. James Allen McCune brings an earnestness and naivety to his role, making us understand why he would want to seek out his missing sister - even though we know it’s a dumb move and will end up creating more of a problem. Callie Hernandez is pretty great as Lisa, bringing a warmness and intelligence to the film. Her and McCune have an easy chemistry that I wish was explored a bit more. Brandon Scott brought the laughs as Peter, providing us with commentary for the audience about this whole thing. His interactions with everyone around him was very believable. Corbin Reid, Valorie Curry, and especially Wes Robinson provide tense moments that clash with the other characters. I think the best part of BLAIR WITCH is the cast. I just wish they were in a better film.

I also thought some of the cinematography by Robby Baumgartner was quite nice. The woods look pretty similar to the ones from the original film, with some nice overhead shots via a drone, and good framing and composition during important scenes. It’s all digital footage, but it’s nice looking footage.

And at least the final 20 minutes tries to be tense and creepy. I wasn’t affected by any of it, but I can understand why others would be. If you remember the ending of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, it’s pretty much the same but expanded. You see more of the shack. You see glimpses of a woman roaming around in there. You learn why one of the characters in the original was standing in the corner. Compared to the rest of the film, the final moments actually tries to expand on some things and scare audiences. It’s not perfect storytelling, but I appreciated that it tried to twist around what the original film had accomplished to meet its own goals.

The rest of the film, however, just left me feeling mostly nothing. Lionsgate will call this a sequel, but it’s definitely a reboot. Besides the James-Heather angle, everything else is pretty much a carbon copy of the 1999 film. The only differences are that we have more characters, the technology has been advanced (drones!), and our characters are aware of what happened in the original film. Characters go into the woods to document the search for Heather, as well as the legend of the Blair Witch. The characters hear noises. The characters see the memorable Blair Witch stick figures all over the woods. The characters get lost in the woods and start in fighting. They eventually find the shack and enter it to bad results. Every beat might not be the same, but BLAIR WITCH is just a modern retelling of the original film. Except, the original film had a simple narrative with memorable dialogue and character interactions that have stood the test of time. BLAIR WITCH offers no surprises, no twists in the story - it’s very similar to the first film. And after 17 years, audiences deserve more than that. If you’re not going to expand on the original story, what’s the point?

I also thought Adam Wingard’s direction wasn’t all that good. I’ve been a fan of the man for many years now, even when others haven’t been all impressed by THE GUEST, YOU'RE NEXT, and A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. But this is his worst film by far. It’s all shaky cam for the most part, to the point where I got a headache. People in my theater actually ran out, covering their mouths with their hand as if they needed to vomit. The last half of the film is just overwhelming with shaky cam. The editing is a bit off at times, and sometimes you wonder what you’re looking at - which takes away from some of the mood’s effectiveness. I also found it quite silly that every single character needed cameras to document their search, making me appreciate the one camera direction of the original film. Switching between perspectives between characters makes me question why this was even found footage to begin with. It plays out like a traditional narrative, only using the benefits of the found footage theory when it needed it. The worst thing about Wingard’s direction is that his voice is completely lost. Instead of BLAIR WITCH feeling like a Wingard movie that happens to be a BLAIR WITCH sequel, BLAIR WITCH is a sequel that just happens to be directed by Wingard. Anyone could have directed this and I would have never known it was Adam Wingard if I wasn’t told that it was. It’s a shame because Wingard has an eye when it comes to telling stories. BLAIR WITCH just feels like he used the same script from the original and just edited it for 2016. It’s a shame.

I really wanted to enjoy BLAIR WITCH more than I did, considering the crew behind this sequel and considering filmmakers had 17 years to really create something fresh in the BLAIR WITCH narrative. But the film just felt like any other found-footage film I’ve seen in the last few years - just with better acting and a bigger budget to give us a more polished picture. Instead of expanding on Heather’s disappearance, the Blair Witch legend and how it affected the other characters, it’s just the same old same old. People bash BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2, but at least that film tried to be different and wanted to tell us something. 2016’s BLAIR WITCH doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know.


1.5 Howls Outta 4


Midnight Confessions Ep. 100: "A Look Back at 100 Episodes"

This week we take a look back at some of our favorite moments on the show. Yes, this is a lazy "clip" show--bite us, it's a free podcast.


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The Blair Witch Project (1999) & American Psycho (2000) [Jay's Movie Talk Takeover Special]

For Episode 38 of Movie Talk, It's the last of the Takeover episodes and taking over this episode is yours truly!
Listen as I talk about my recent appreciation of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and looking forward to the new sequel.
I also discuss about how much I love AMERICAN PSYCHO and how it basically made Christian Bale a star.

Thank you for listening
Outro Song
Hip To Be Square
Huey Lewis and The News
Special Shout Out too BloodGuts&BluRay of the Coretemparts network
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31 (2016)

Rob Zombie

Sheri Moon Zombie - Charly
Jeff Daniel Phillips - Roscoe
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs - Panda Thomas
Meg Foster - Venus Virgo
Richard Brake - Doom-Head
Malcolm McDowell - Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder
Judy Geeson - Sister Dragon
Jane Carr - Sister Serpent
E.G. Daily - Sex-Head
Lew Temple - Psycho-Head

Genre - Horror/Action

Running Time - 102 Minutes

*Review can also be found at That's Not Current*

There’s no doubt that musician/director Rob Zombie has become a controversial figure in the world of modern horror. His love of the 70’s grindhouse aesthetic, and white trash rednecks who make sailors blush with their profane language, have divided horror fans to the point where fans of the man have been bullied by those who aren’t - and vice versa. Personally, I respect the man for having a true vision and sticking with it for the most part. He’s had some great films [THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, THE LORDS OF SALEM] and some questionable ones [those HALLOWEEN movies], but you can always take something positive from each one of his films.

Now in 2016, Rob Zombie has unleashed his take on “The Most Dangerous Game” called 31. It has already separated the horror community just from its limited theatrical release alone. Is 31 as bad as some say? Is it the “best Rob Zombie film” like others have claimed? Better grab your weapons, because half of you aren’t going to like what I got to say…

It’s Halloween night in 1976, and five traveling carnival folk (Sheri Moon Zombie, Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Kevin Jackson, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) end up on a deserted road blocked by a row of scarecrows. Suddenly, they’re abducted by a trio of rich socialites (Malcolm McDowell, Judy Geeson, and Jane Carr) to play an annual game called 31 - a dangerous game where they must survive for 12 hours while being hunted by psychopaths dressed as clowns. If they survive, they will be set free - even though no one has survived a game of 31.

I was really excited for 31. Unlike some people who will already hate a Rob Zombie film even before they’ve seen it, I actually look forward to Zombie’s films since they’ll provide at least some sort of horror entertainment on first viewing. Zombie’s last film prior to 31, the beautiful and haunting THE LORDS OF SALEM, wowed me on first watch in theaters, showing such a maturity from Zombie that he hadn’t displayed in his filmmaking career. So while I knew that 31 would go back to the grindhouse tone of Zombie’s first features, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, I was hoping it would at least contain the maturity and quiet brilliance that THE LORDS OF SALEM had possessed. Unfortunately after watching 31, I couldn’t help but feel that Rob Zombie regressed as a filmmaker, playing it safe rather than stepping out of his comfort zone.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. As with every Rob Zombie film, his love for classic rock infuses the story he enjoys telling. The soundtrack for 31 is really great. Hearing songs like James Gang’s “Walk Away”, The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’”, and Aerosmith’s “Dream On” really sets a tone and setting for 31. Plus Rob Zombie’s score with John 5 adds some atmosphere to the film. No complaints here.

I also enjoyed most of the acting in 31, particularly by the actors portraying the villains. Richard Brake steals the show as Doom-Head, a sociopathic clown who is considered the game’s cleaner - taking care of the loose ends in case the other clowns fail. Brake opens the film with a chilling, yet sophisticated monologue that draws you right in. And his entire role during the film’s final act is just wonderful and mesmerizing. Brake is one of the more underrated character actors that deserves more notice. He’s the highlight of the film. I really liked E.G. Daily as Sex-Head. She looked hot and portrayed her crazy character in a cute and sexy way. I even liked Pancho Moler as Sick-Head, making me laugh with his Nazi character. By the way, how can you not like a Nazi who happens to be a little person and Latino?? The irony is hysterical. The socialites played by Malcolm McDowell, Judy Geeson, and Jane Carr do well with their limited roles, bringing some class to 31. As for the protagonists, only the ladies really stood out for me. Sheri Moon Zombie has become a joke to Rob Zombie haters, but she does well as Charly. She has a bit of Baby Firefly in her, but uses it for good instead of evil. But Meg Foster really gave a great performance as Venus. Tough and sympathetic, Foster grounds the film in a way the film doesn’t really earn. If she was the main character and written as well as she was, I probably would have enjoyed 31 more.

I also thought the violence fit the story of 31. While not as gory as I was expecting, considering Zombie’s previous films, the action is definitely brutal and sometimes intense. Throats get sliced open. We get decapitations. We have blunt trauma to the skull. We stabbings and gunshots. 31 is not a pleasant film, but what else do you expect out of a Rob Zombie film? It fits with the whole grindhouse tone very well.

And I also felt some of Zombie’s direction was good, even if it wasn’t his best work. I enjoyed the set pieces and liked the lighting and mood of 31. The transitions that were still-frame and would transition vertically to another scene were a nice touch. And the film looks dirty and gritty for the most part, which fits Zombie’s aesthetic.

Unfortunately, the rest of Zombie’s direction wasn’t great. The shaky cam just annoyed me, taking scenes of violence and making them barely understandable. They lost their effectiveness because I could barely see what was happening. Shooting some of these sequences in close up didn’t help matters either. I’m not sure if this is what Zombie had intended, or the MPAA stepped in and Zombie had to censor himself. And the pacing was off at times - with a first act that felt like it came from a different film, to a dream sequence that didn’t add a whole lot but was fun nonetheless. People knock Rob Zombie’s films, but even the haters can respect and admire his vision. Unfortunately, even 31 fails at that. The visual presentation felt old hat and seemed like he de-evolved from what he had achieved with THE LORDS OF SALEM.

The biggest culprit of 31 is the script itself. I never found Rob Zombie to be the best, or most articulate, screenwriter in Hollywood history. But Zombie can bust out memorable characters, especially on the villain side, with dialogue you could quote long after the film has ended. The only character that really gets a memorable presentation is Doom-Head, but I already praised Richard Brake enough. The villains are a lot of fun, written as well as they could be, coming across as all memorable and different. But when it comes to our heroes, I really didn’t really care about what happened to them or not. Zombie never portrays them as real people until it’s too late. In 2002, these foul-mouthed, sex-crazed characters without much character development weren’t that much of an issue since the colorful villains balanced them out. But the villains aren’t really the focus of 31, having us followed main characters who are paper-thin and just come across as stock characters that audiences won’t really care live or die. Meg Foster’s Venus works the best since she comes across as a human being from the start, taking charge of things and actually displaying a heart and soul when it comes to certain situations. Even Sheri Moon’s Charly is okay since her dialogue gives away on how tough and independent she is. But the male characters honestly have no real arcs, making their acts of survival ring hollow.
I also had issues with the game itself. 31 is a variation of “The Most Dangerous Game” premise that has been used in multiple films [THE RUNNING MAN, TURKEY SHOOT, THE HUNGER GAMES, BATTLE ROYALE], with each one explaining why this game is happening and presenting some sort of commentary about social or class issues. 31 doesn’t even bother with that. Why is this game happening? Why are these three socialites taking pleasure in this? How come the villains all have to dress up as clowns? How come the psychopathic villains end the game when the time ends? There was no real good sense of time in the narrative, especially at the end, and there’s no real purpose other than violence. Maybe that works for some people, but I need a bit more than that. There’s one thing to capture people and play a murder game with them without reason. But if you do this every year, there has to be a reason for the madness. And Zombie never presents us with one. Mystery is good, but not for a premise like this.

And I really disliked the ending of the film. I won’t spoil things, but I just threw my hands up in frustration, expecting more. I guess I was expecting the ending to take a different turn, but it left a dissatisfied taste in my mouth.

31 is a film I wanted to love, but felt nothing but disappointment once it ended. Rob Zombie has proven himself to be an interesting filmmaker, presenting ideas that most mainstream horror directors won’t touch to go against studio expectations. But 31 feels like a step back from his previous work, giving us glimpses of greatness and promise that would have been presented better with a rewrite or two. I liked the villains, but didn’t care for our “heroes”. The direction was a mixed bag. 31 wants to fit in the world of HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, but just makes itself feel inferior to those two better films. 31 isn’t a terrible film and Rob Zombie fans will definitely find something fun with it. But I was expecting more and it just wasn’t made for me. Maybe with a rewatch, I’ll appreciate it more than I do now.

2 Howls Outta 4

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