12.19.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 42: "It's a Wonderful Podcast"


Tis the season and the M.C. crew are feeling the Christmas spirit. This week we review [or re-review in my case] SANTA'S SLAY (2005) and THE DAY OF THE BEAST (1995). Plus the Top 5 Xmas movies [non-horror] of all time. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Part of ShitMas 2014 at Shit Movie Fest!











 


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12.12.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 41: "Santa Claus is coming to town...and he's pissed"


More holiday jeer this week as Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I review TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980) and [in my case, give another look at] CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980). Plus a look at the Top 5 Xmas horror movies. Part of ShitMas 2014 at Shit Movie Fest!











 


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12.05.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 40: "Happy Fucking Holidays"


This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I get into the holiday spirit w/two fun and wholesome Xmas classics, THE CHILDREN (2008) and NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975). Plus the Top 5 Worst Xmas movies of all time. Listen to this episode or Santa gets it! Part of ShitMas 2014 at Shit Movie Fest!











 


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11.19.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 39: "MST3k Part 1: The Joel Years"


This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I take a look at Mystery Science Theater 3000 and review 3 episodes: POD PEOPLE, THE BEATNIKS and ATTACK OF THE (THE) EYE CREATURES. Plus we countdown the first half of our Top 10 'So Bad They're Good' movies (#5 -1 will be featured on episode 40).











 


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11.15.2014

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

DIRECTED BY
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

STARRING
Addison Timlin - Jami
Veronica Cartwright - Lillian
Anthony Anderson - Lone Wolf Morales
Travis Tope - Nick
Joshua Leonard - Deputy Foster
Gary Cole - Chief Deputy Tillman
Edward Herrmann - Reverend Cartwright
Denis O'Hare - Charles B. Pierce, Jr.
Spencer Treat Clark - Corey


Genre - Horror/Slasher/Thriller/Mystery

Running Time - 90 Minutes


PLOT
Every Halloween, Texarkana, Texas screens the 1976 cult classic THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. One night in 2013, Jami (Addison Timlin) and her boyfriend Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) are attacked by a man dressed as the infamous "Phantom Killer", murdering Corey and wanting Jami to send a message to the rest of the town about his presence. Traumatized and wanting answers, Jami decides to investigate the incident in order to figure out who the new "Phantom Killer" is. As she learns about the real events from 1946 that THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was based on, the Phantom Killer murders more people, repeating the events that the original killer had committed.



REVIEW
1976's docu-drama/horror film, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, is an interesting one. It's not the greatest horror film out there, or the most memorable. But it was based on real events in Texarkana during the mid-1940s, and inspired countless other horror films that were released afterwards - including the look for Jason Voorhees in his first grown-up appearance in 1981's FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. The 1976 film had its issues [a dumb comedic bumbling police squad sub-plot comes to mind], but its storytelling is interesting and the Phantom Killer himself is pretty creepy [especially since he was never caught].

I was very curious about a new version of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, since I felt the original film could have used an update of sorts. Ryan Murphy, producer of Glee and the American Horror Story series, was brought on board to bring this movie to life. As a fan of American Horror Story, I was very interested in how this new version would play out. The original film wasn't a thrilling film, using simplicity and subtlety to bring suspense and menace to the big screen. Would that even work in 2014? Surprisingly, 2014's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN works better than it ought to, especially when you realize it's more of a homage to the original rather than a remake.

Good Things: I really enjoyed how "meta" THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN plays with its narrative. I'll get to my thoughts on the actual story later, but I did enjoy how this film is very well aware of the 1974 film's existence, as well as the true life events that inspired both films. The murders in this film are copied from the murders from the original film on purpose - just so a new generation could remember the original terror Texarkana suffered during the 1940s, instead of celebrating it by releasing the 1974 film annually for box office receipts. I also liked how our main character, Jess, researches the murders through old newspaper archives, and even talks to the son of the director who gave us the original film [played by actor Denis O'Hare]. I was expecting a full-on remake that updated what the original film presented. And while we do get that somewhat, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is more of a pseudo-sequel that happens to be very aware of itself and its status in the horror community. Many filmmakers use the "meta" technique to sound clever or smart, failing most of the time [thanks SCREAM!]. But I think THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN gets it mostly right, as I was never sure where the film was going while certain scenes were re-created in front of me.

I thought the visual presentation was extremely polished. Producer Ryan Murphy is no stranger to giving us polished horror with American Horror Story, having director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon steer away from the documentary feel of the original film, giving us a nice looking slasher flick that's definitely 2014. The film is well paced, well shot with great angles and slick editing, and even delivers nice tension and suspense at times. The kills are never really gory, but there is blood. And I liked that certain sequences from the first film are re-created in a good way, paying homage to these classic moments. The trombone-knife scene is back, which I liked in context within the scene it happens in [hate crime, or just wrong place wrong time?]. There's also the stalk-and-slash through a field that was taken from the first film, in which a female victim tries to hide from the Phantom Killer after her lover is shot through the window of his home. I also thought the red herrings and the twist ending were interesting, even if the twist didn't really reach its potential [more on that later]. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is just a nice looking picture [thanks to cinematographer Michael Goi] that flows really well. Then again, we didn't have to watch bumbling cops cross dress for whatever reason, ruining the pace of the film. So definite upgrade there.

I also thought the acting was solid here. Addison Timlin is very solid as Jami, our lead character. She was totally convincing in the role, as I bought her journey and her trauma throughout the film's runtime. I also thought her voiceover stuff was done nicely as well. The rest of the cast is great as well - especially Anthony Anderson, Gary Cole [playing a great douchebag as always], Edward Herrmann as a reverend, and Veronica Cartwright as Jami's grandmother. I thought the acting here was a lot better than the acting in the 1974 film.




Bad Things: I think my only gripe with 2014's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was the narrative. Now, it's not a terrible story or a badly written script. It's fine for a slasher film that's self-aware of the true story and film that story was based on. But there seemed to be things that wanted to be brought up that weren't expanded on at all.

The main issue was Jami's backstory. While we get bits of it during the film, the film seemed to imply that her past related to the recent murders. Why would the killer spare her life so she could spread the message that he's returned if she wasn't important to him in the first place? I figured there would be a deeper connection between the two. Maybe they were related. Maybe he has history with her family. Or maybe the guy was just infatuated with her somewhat. Whatever the case, it was never really clear what the deal was. I like backstories when done right, and especially if they relate to the plot and its conclusion. But Jami's past never really does, which makes it a lost opportunity. At least her flashbacks were interesting on their own. I just wish they mattered more in the bigger spectrum of things.

I also didn't really like the film's third act. The story leads to a twist ending that's been done before, but one I didn't see coming in THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. I was all for it until I realized it was fleshed out much at all and didn't really make a ton of sense once it was all said and done. I'm sure the ending was just meant to shock viewers and try to fill in the pieces on how it's considered possible. But I wish it resonated longer and meant more by the end. It started out interesting and just fell apart second by second, lasting all but three minutes. It's a shame because I think if the final act was better, the film would have been a lot stronger than it actually was.

And of course, the characterization for everyone but Jami could have been better. I know a slasher film isn't known for deep characters and relationships, but THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN seemed to want to be a more dramatic level of slasher. While the characters are interesting archetypes, they all seem to be red herrings and suspects within the mystery of the Phantom Killer. Instead of caring about them, we're judging them to see if they're really the culprit. This doesn't really hurt the film much at all, but a little more variety and depth with the characters would have been nice.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WRITING THESE THINGS I'VE LEARNED

- Watching the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is considered God-less. I guess if that's the case, watching any of the TWILIGHT films is like burning in purgatory for the rest of time.

- Pointing a gun at his head, the Phantom Killer tells Corey to take off his pants. Man, this MAGIC MIKE XL audition is no joke!

- "This is for Mary. Make them remember." Damn right. 227 was a great show! Show Marla Gibbs and Jackee some love!

- The Phantom Killer brought back the trombone-knife kill, stabbing a gay kid from behind. I guess he wanted to slide his trombone into his ass, I mean brass section.

- A lady was frightened by a scarecrow. If she only had a brain...




THE FINAL HOWL
2014's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was a pleasant surprise. Rather than a remake, it plays out more as a sequel that's well aware of the true events from the mid-1940s, as well as the 1974 film based on those true events. The acting was solid, the polished direction was stylish and looked great, and the whole "meta" angle was an interesting take on the story - working pretty damn well in the process. I do wish the mystery was handled better, as well as that twist in the final act that didn't really have enough time to resonate. It didn't click for me at all. But overall, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a nice homage to the 1974 film for a modern audience. Definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the original film, or just slasher-mysteries in general.




SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4



11.13.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 38: "War is Hell"


To celebrate Veteran's Day here on the podcast; Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I review Bob Clark's DEATHDREAM aka DEAD OF NIGHT (1972) and Buddy Giovinazzo's COMBAT SHOCK (1984). Plus the Top 5 War Movies of all time. Come for the zombie soldier, but stay for the roasted baby.











 


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11.05.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 37: "Schlock Fu? Kung Faux? Chop Sucky?"





This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I review RAW FORCE (1982), DEATH MACHINES (1976) and BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN (1974). Three so-bad-they're-good martial arts turkeys just in time for November.











 


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11.01.2014

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)

DIRECTED BY
Kaare Andrews

STARRING
Mitch Ryan - Marcus
Sean Astin - Porter
Ryan Donowho - Dobbs
Brando Eaton - Josh
Jillian Murray - Penny
Currie Graham - Dr. Edwards
Solly Duran - Camila
Lydia Hearst - Bridgett
Claudette Lali - Katia


Genre - Horror/Virus

Running Time - 91 Minutes


PLOT
On an island laboratory, a man named Porter (Sean Astin) is being quarantined by a group of scientists, due to the fact that he seems immune to a flesh-eating virus that has murdered everyone he has come in contact with. Frustrated with the fact that he's being treated like a lab rat, Porter takes drastic measures to make his escape.

Meanwhile, Marcus (
Mitch Ryan) is a former frat boy who is now marrying into a rich family. For a bachelor party in the Dominican Republic, Marcus' friends decide to treat him for a drunk and drug filled lash hurrah on a yacht and on a nearby island. After a swim in the ocean, Marcus' brother (Brando Eaton) and his girlfriend (Jillian Murray) notice rashes on their body that causes the flesh to peel off the bone. As the fear spreads, so does the contagion, making Marcus and his friends search for help at the nearby lab on the island.

REVIEW


It's hard to believe that CABIN FEVER was released twelve years ago in 2002 before SAW, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and even the influx of all these remakes/reboots were made. While not a perfect film, it manages to be a lot of fun and it made Eli Roth a star director in Hollywood, whether people liked his work or not [which seems to be the case these days for some reason]. A sequel was later released in 2009 called CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER, directed by favorite indie horror director Ti West. It was so bad, West wanted to take his name off of the film, albeit unsuccessfully. Now in 2014, CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO has been released to the world [you can watch it on Netflix Instant] - supposedly acting as a prequel of sorts to the first CABIN FEVER. And while PATIENT ZERO is light years ahead of SPRING FEVER, it still manages to be a pretty pointless film.

Good Things: The most obvious thing I can commend is the gore. Sandy Arias and Vincent Guastini did a very good job elevating the silly gore effects that appeared in SPRING FEVER to something more cringe-worthy and nasty that resembled the gore from the first film. The "going down" scene with Brando Eaton and Jullian Murray, where Eaton comes up with the lower part of his face covered in blood, is a highlight. The evolution of the rashes that appear on the infected is done believably. We get people vomiting blood. People get their faces eaten. And we get a great catfight between Murray and Lydia Hearst where the two ladies tear each other part - literally. I think the best part about it all is that the gore effects were done practically instead of CGI. If CGI was used, I couldn't even tell. So great job.

I also thought the acting was fairly good as well. Sure, the younger actors weren't the greatest and you probably didn't care about their one-note characters. But I thought they fit their roles well enough to be watchable. The real star for me was Sean Astin, who I was surprised to see in a film like this honestly. He could have just coasted on his name and collected a paycheck with a less-than-inspiring performance. But Astin really gave depth to what should have been a one-dimensional character. Astin made Porter complex, with his frustration, desperation, and even sadism towards the end. Honestly, I wish the film was just about him and his situation without the other characters involved. I thought Astin carried his portions of the film really strongly.

Speaking of Porter, I thought any scenes involving this character were the most interesting. We've already seen the classic group that deals with the infection, leading to terrible things at the end. But having a character who is immune to the flesh-eating virus was a nice development. And I like how Dr. Edwards saw Porter as a way to become famous, sacrificing his own staff as lab rats to see what would happen, while trying to create a cure for his own worth rather than to save others. Could these scenes be more developed? Absolutely. But it was something different for this franchise and I liked how serious and adult it was presented.

And hats off to director Kaare Andrews for directing a nice looking film that visually connected itself to the first CABIN FEVER. Andrews showed a lot of confidence in his visual style, handing both sub-plots pretty well while giving each one a different tone and feel. The cinematography was strong, with the use of an isolated island and its laboratory to good use for some cool shots and angles. The editing was strong and it was paced well. Definitely an upgrade from SPRING FEVER for sure.



Bad Things: For a film called CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, it barely focused on Patient Zero [Porter]. While we do get multiple scenes with Porter and his situation, PATIENT ZERO is still more concerned with the token partying characters who unknowingly contract the virus, with the gore effects being the stars once the virus takes over. It's not like these scenes are terrible. In fact, this generic setup for the virus spread has some cool moments and even decent character arcs that are revealed towards the end. But like I mentioned - Porter's scenes are adult and well-written. The bachelor party is your typical debauchery and profanity laced stuff one would expect from a film like this. I think with a title like PATIENT ZERO, it should focus on Patient Zero. I get that you need young, good-looking peeps to have sex, get naked, and get dead by a flesh-eating virus. It's good for the bottom dollar. But it just looks generic next to a more interesting sub-plot that could have explained a few things and maybe even led to more installments before they were scrapped for a remake [don't even get me started on that!].

Speaking of explaining things, isn't PATIENT ZERO a prequel? If that's the case, shouldn't it have given us info on how this virus came to be? This film doesn't even touch on that, starting when the virus had already killed people. Also, why is Porter immune to the virus, but everyone else isn't? Again, never explained. If the Patient Zero deal wasn't going to be given a fleshed out arc, I would have preferred an entire film with the other characters, with the film presenting itself as a direct-to-DVD/Blu sequel that improved on its predecessor. I thought it was a missed opportunity. I would have liked to have known the origin of this virus. I guess we'll never know now.




THE FINAL HOWL
I was surprised how much I liked CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, especially since I really disliked CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER and wasn't expecting much at all. It's not a great movie and it feels more generic than it ought to, considering the title. But Sean Astin is pretty solid as "Patient Zero", elevating the film for me quite a bit. Plus Kaare Andrews' direction is confident and the gore effects are pretty sweet. If the film had given us some info on the flesh-eating virus and focused on the "Patient Zero" aspect more, this review would probably be a lot different. But it settles on familiar territory and doesn't give us enough reason as a must-see film. If you liked CABIN FEVER and/or neat practical gore effects, PATIENT ZERO is definitely worth a look. Otherwise, quarantine yourself from this one.




SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4



10.30.2014

Midnight Confessions Bonus Episode: "A Midnight Confessions Halloween Special"


This week we celebrate our favorite time of the year. Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I wax nostalgic about Halloween TV specials of history past, we count down the Top 10 Horror Movies of all time and round things off with a review of the heavy metal horror classic, TRICK OR TREAT (1986). Plus we spin some great halloween themed tunes along the way. Happy Halloween, Freex!










 


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[REC] 3: Genesis (2012)

DIRECTED BY
Paco Plaza

STARRING
Diego Martin - Koldo
Leticia Dolera - Clara
Xavier Ruano - Father Albelda
Alex Monner - Adrian
Ismael Martinez - Rafa
Miguel Angel Gonzalez - John Sponge
Sr. B - Atun
Emilio Mencheta - Uncle Pepe Victor


Genre - Horror/Comedy/Virus/Demons/Found Footage

Running Time - 80 Minutes


PLOT
Koldo (Diego Martin) and Clara (Leticia Dolera), a young happy couple, are excited to be together on their wedding day in front of family and friends. The beautiful ceremony goes off without a hitch, as Koldo and Clara are announced husband and wife. However, during the reception, Uncle Pepe Victor (Emilio Mencheta) - who was bitten by a dog earlier in the day and is under the weather from it - turns demonic and bites his wife's face. This starts an outbreak where the reception is overrun by demonic zombies. The couple is separated, but quickly do whatever they can to get past their obstacles to reunite. If not, looks like the honeymoon is out.

REVIEW




Like I have already mentioned recently, 2007's [REC] is not only one of the best "found footage" films ever made [probably top 5], but [REC] is also one of the best horror films in the last ten years. 2009's [REC] 2 tried to recapture the first film's quality, but didn't manage to do so - even though the sequel is a watchable flick that continues the story in an interesting way. Somewhere along the way, the directors of the two films - Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza - decided to go their separate ways to direct their own individual sequels. Balaguero signed up for [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE, which will be released on Halloween. Plaza signed up for [REC] 3: GENESIS, a sequel that occurs during the events of the first two films, but with different characters within a different situation. Plaza, probably feeling that the "found footage" trend felt a bit tired, decided to only use that technique for 20 percent of the film, relying on regular cinematic mode for the rest of the runtime. Plaza also added more comedic situations and a love story to separate it from the previous two films. While the changes are appreciated, it will divide fans of the first two films. [REC] 3 is one of those films you'll like or you won't. While I do enjoy it on an entertainment level, it doesn't really fit within the franchise to me.

Good Things: I think the best part about [REC] 3: GENESIS is the acting, especially from the two leads. Leticia Dolora gets more of the screen time as Clara, our blushing bride. She's beautiful, smart, and tough. Delora handles a chainsaw quite well, becoming your typical final girl. I do think her transition from bride to badass chick who can kick your ass happened way too quickly to be believable, but Delora manages to make it work for the most part. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Deigo Martin is more of the comedic lead. He's involved in the more silly situations, dressing in a suit of armor and using a sword with hesitation. I thought he was very good in the role. And whenever the two shared the screen together, I really liked their chemistry. The other actors were good too, especially Ismael Martinez as Rafa and Miguel Angel Gonzalez as John Sponge. But Delora and Martin carried the film well.

Speaking of Delora and Martin, the love story between Clara and Koldo worked for me. I'm sure some [REC] fans hate the romance in what was once a bleak franchise. But I liked the stuff leading to the wedding, the actual ceremony, the fun reception, and even the characters' motivations to find each other through the apocalypse because of the love they shared for each other. The love aspect was written well, and helped by two actors who convinced you that they really cared for each other. And I thought the ending, which wasn't the greatest, at least made sense for the characters. I could see an actual loving couple handle the situation like these two did.

The direction by Plaza mostly worked as well. I loved how [REC] 3 seemed to be playing off a DVD of wedding footage, with the first act being shot on camcorder as we're introduced to our characters, the situation, and the spread of the virus. And while security cameras and phone cameras shoot more footage every now and then, I'm glad Plaza decided to ditch the handy cam and shoot most of the film with an actual camera lens, cinematic style. The cinematography by Pablo Rosso was absolutely gorgeous. I liked the locations used and how certain human vs. monsters scenes were shot. There was some nice tension at times and the film had a quick pace. Yes, the film probably shouldn't be called [REC] 3 due to the abandonment of what made [REC] [REC]. But it's a welcome change since the "found footage" trend got old pretty quickly.

Of course, the gore is pretty great. We get a lot of people getting bitten. We get a decapitation. Someone gets split right in half. A face gets mangled by a kitchen appliance. Some really bloody stuff. Wouldn't be a [REC] film without it.



Bad Things: I think my biggest criticism is the tone of the film. I don't mind Plaza wanting to put his own twist on the story by making things more comical than tense and/or scary. It worked for EVIL DEAD II. For better or worse, it kind of worked for the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise as well for a bit there. The thing is that those films were pretty funny. [REC] 3 didn't really have that same effect on me, no matter how hard it tried. Yeah, John Sponge was cute the first time we see him. But when he appears again to repeat the same joke, it made me roll my eyes. The armored suit was a bit silly during moments where a serious tone was needed. Even some of the kills play for laughs. It was amusing to watch, but nothing made me laugh or think this was the greatest horror-comedy ever. Silly is fine, but it needs to stay constant. The tone was uneven for me.

I also disliked the way the infected was presented. Here's a case where I liked how they explained things in the previous film, only for this explanation to ruin things in the next one. For one, the infected all acted differently. Some viciously ran and attacked people like the ones from the first two films. But then, we see infected people stumbling around like Romero zombies. Which one is it? Also, I really hated that the reflections of the infected revealed the demon that started this whole epidemic to begin with. It was a bit silly for me. Then, the whole ending with how the infected were stopped during mid-attack. I understand how it came to be, but it just felt lame. Meh.

I also felt that [REC] 3 didn't really capitalize on the ending of [REC] 2. Yes, [REC] 4 will deal with that. But not even mentioning it, or including something related to it, makes the franchise feel disjointed. The comedic tone of this installment, which is the total opposite of the serious tone of the previous two films, only makes this film feel like the black sheep of the franchise so far. Some have called this the HALLOWEEN III of the [REC] franchise so far, and it's not hard to disagree with them.

And while I liked the characters in this film more than I did in [REC] 2, they weren't used enough for me. The side characters were given a bum rap, exiting the film way before they needed to. I felt like I was getting to know certain peeps during the film, but they end up getting killed just when they got interesting. I get Plaza wanted to keep the pace going quickly. But this [REC] film actually had likeable characters that deserved more screen time.



THE FINAL HOWL 
While a fun sequel, [REC] 3: GENESIS doesn't really go full force in continuing what was established in the first two films. The acting was solid, the change in direction [aka getting rid of the "found footage" aspect] was appreciated, and the characters were more likeable than the ones in [REC] 2. But the comedic tone didn't work for me fully and I disliked how the infected was presented. Paco Plaza delivers with the violence and the quick pace, which will satisfy most people. But I was expecting to like it more than I did. I respect Plaza doing his own thing with this installment, even if I feel it's the lesser of the three [REC] films so far. Definitely worthy of a watch if you're a fan, but third time is not the charm with this one.



SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4



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