The Untenable Podcast, Episode 132: Tears in Rain, Controllers at Rest

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The one with synthetic existential dread.

In this week’s episode, Mike and Jay talk about Mike’s exploits in gaming, as well as their reactions to Blade Runner 2049 and the last Episode VIII: The Last Jedi trailer.

Intro song: “Mesa” – Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch, and Vangelis

Outro song: “John Carpenter’s Halloween Theme” – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and John Carpenter

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31 Days of Horror: Savageland

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Dir(s). Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, and David Whelan

I cannot believe how well done this movie is. They used still photos as the found artifact to piece together what amounts to be a zombie attack on a border town. There was some video used for found footage, but it was used as a device that I don’t want to spoil because it was a great way to work into the trope. Not only does it have great narrative mechanics going for it, but it also has a social conscience, which is laid bare and is rare in horror. Horror and Sci Fi can be used to communicate subtleties of social ills, but this movie wore them on its sleeve and it was fantastic. I cannot believe how well executed this movie was and how truly unnerving it was.

One of the greatest assets this movie capitalizes upon is once again its believability. With the current state of political corruption, dehumanization of minorities, and the possibility of environmental issues culminating into a natural disaster this movie is at the nexus of great horror storytelling. Couple that with effective mockumentary formatting that uses not only found audio files, but also still camera frames. Those frames show just enough to give the impression of a nightmare unfolding on the fateful night in question. It would be unfair to say that Savageland is another zombie movie to throw on the pile. And that is because while it does dabble in the zombie tropes, it is far more than just a movie of the undead attacking a border community.

31 Days of Horror: Lake Mungo

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Dir.  Joel Anderson

Lake Mungo was highly touted on Reddit and other places online, so again, as with many movies, I had a fear of being disappointed by the presentation. Yet again I was not let down. This movie moved swiftly, probably because it made very good use of the mockumentary format, which then utilized found footage to great effect. There were some great unsettling moments, such that when a major twist occurred I was floored. But what made the movie even more effective is the heart at the core of the film. The family depicted were clearly grieving so all that happened was heightened and was ultimately satisfying in its execution.

What works most for me, and what I feel creates the effectiveness of the entire framework is the chemistry of the family dynamic. The family is clearly broken by a family tragedy, but it also posits that they were already broken before the aforementioned tragedy that tears at its remaining fibers. The amount of trust given to the investigative crew that covers this family is astounding, but not unbelievable. Which also sets the greatest asset working in its favor, the believability. With this type of genre, or rather genre mashup of mockumentary using found footage within its narrative, lives or dies on believability. And this movie has it ten fold.

31 Days of Horror: The Void

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Dir. Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie  (2016)

I had a lot of fun with this movie, which is a relief because I had also heard so many great things that I was concerned that I would be disappointed. I am a fan of deadly cults in horror movies, and this movie provided that in spades, although they were not a very mobile cult, yet they were effectively menacing and omnipresent. This was also another great presentation of Lovecraftian lore and influence in a small town with major horrors. The filmmakers made a lot with very little, from what I know of of its production. Unsettling throughout and equally effective in its delivery.

The greater achievement that I find in this movie is the use of atmosphere. A seemingly empty building in what seems to also be a secluded area. And of course, there’s always the decoy character who is seemingly dispatched early on who has greater import to the plot. So many tropes, but so much fun playing and subverting them. It really shouldn’t have worked, but it really did.

31 Days of Horror: The Bay

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Dir. Barry Levinson  (2012)

The Bay surprised me, for what reason I am not really sure, other than I had always had it in my Netflix queue before it left, but never watched. I found it on Amazon Prime and added it, then decided to watch. Being directed by Barry Levinson, I think I had a prejudice against him based on his previous oeuvre, but I was mistaken. This movie had me from the first two minutes and it did not stop. Great use of the mockumentary and found footage tropes, but not predictable or lazy. Great fun and unsettling for most of the time.

The use of a post-mortem mockumentary to frame the context of the events is not necessarily new, but it is quite effective in this case. Interviewing, or possibly debriefing a survivor who is a reporter gave a unique perspective as to how all of the events unfolds. And there is an added level of realism in that the antagonistic force is a combination of nature, the sea dwellers affected by pollution, and corruption in a small town. Very fun and worth a watch if you’re a fan of such fare.

31 Days of Horror: Strayed a.k.a Perdidos

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Dir. Diego Cohen  (2014)

Strayed also had some really great moments to it, and it came from a unique perspective with its lore, involving the lesser known mysticism of Mexican Judaism. The found footage tropes are all present, even being name checked in the dialog with a reference to the structure of Blair Witch Project. The ending was well done, but there were some choppy sequences that could’ve been ironed out for a smoother ride, but it was fun.

As mentioned before, this is one that I give a pass to because its main antagonistic force is based in Mexican Judaism, which is an active community in Mexico. They are not as active as they once were, but creating a means to trap the entity, a presumed dybbuk, adds to the already well established atmosphere of the movie. There is a level of self-reference that might turn some off, but I’m so used to it this point that it does not bother me at all. Better than it should have been.

 

31 Days of Horror: Noroi: The Curse

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Dir. Koji Shiraishi (2005)

Another indie found footage horror film that is giving me a reason to believe again. This is J-Horror at its finest, and it twists some of the conventions of that specific genre and slowly sets the fuse for a powerful slow burn. I was genuinely unnerved at various points in this movie, and had I seen it in a theater I might have walked out because of the tension. So very well done. Cannot thank Shudder for bringing it for streaming, as it is notoriously difficult to find outside of Japan.

The use of folklore and religious aspects in Asian culture, as in South Korea’s The Wailing, is done quite effectively here as well. It’s a mix of horror and a quasi-police procedural type of investigative narrative and character. What’s also effective are all of the main and side characters. Usually, they are pop-ups and then missing. Not here – they are curious inclusions at first, disappear, and then play very interesting roles later in the story. Intricate plotting and effective use of atmosphere.