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    “THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT” (Movie Review)

    From the title and the interview clips in the first few minutes, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT appears to be framed by an inquiry into the creation of haunted attractions, and their relation to the human urge to scare and be scared. Then, up comes that oh-so-familiar text line: “The following footage was shot by five friends…”

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    “AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW 401: Monsters Among Us” (Review)

    There isn’t much room for normality in FREAK SHOW. There’s never been any in AMERICAN HORROR STORY, at all. Three seasons of fluctuating between unending ghoulishness and spritely trash, the delicious wrong of this anthology series has seen a few constants: a roving, dizzying, dazzling camera; bad bitches as played by Jessica Lange; and a thematic through-line of being ostracized. In its fourth season, the second of which is fully period-set, co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have dipped further back into an atmosphere of repression (1952), one that circles the free-flowing madhouse of a carnie sideshow full of freaks and outcasts and those unwelcome in ordinary society. It is perhaps AMERICAN HORROR STORY at its least subtle (that’s something!), and yet as season premiere “Monsters Among Us” unfolds, also its most focused. 

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    “LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU” (Movie Review)

    Riding high on the wave of unforeseen success created by his arty 1990 dystopian flick HARDWARE, Richard Stanley turned next to a passion project adaptation of H.G. Wells’ THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU—which, after years of expending chutzpah and actualizing willpower, the South Africa-born writer-director somehow manages to get his provocative, imaginative take on the story green-lit by New Line with Marlon Brando installed in the lead role… 

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    “INNER DEMONS” (Film Review)

    It’s no surprise that indie horror has embraced found footage, considering the leeway given by the shooting style and low budgets. For every independent release, there also seems to be a new justification for the found footage element, often times presented as a gimmick to differentiate from the fan-repellent studio fare. Sometimes, that gimmick is precisely the reason why the film is so effective; not just in ingenuity but in execution as well. Such is the case for Seth Grossman’s INNER DEMONS, a found footage possession film that is a little familiar and a little goofy, but also genuinely engaging.

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    “HANNIBAL: SEASON TWO” (Blu-ray Review)

    Despite ratings that pale to those of THE WALKING DEAD, there’s little doubt that Bryan Fuller’s HANNIBAL is more fun than any horror show currently on television. By existing in its own universe and playing by its own logic, HANNIBAL is able to deliver excellent drama, tremendous performances and some of the most shocking gore ever presented on network television. Beyond that, HANNIBAL is a show of utter confidence; often delving into the surreal and perturbed, the show trusts it’s audience to go along for the journey no matter what weird direction they may be taken.

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    Joe Dante’s “THE BURBS” (Arrow Blu Review)

    Joe Dante hit the cultural zeitgeist hard with GREMLINS, delivering a knowing horror comedy for kids at the peak of an era in which children were swallowing up genre VHS rentals at a record pace. The film was such a hit that it afforded Dante about a decade of Hollywood freedom to make strange, self-conscious, genre-bending comedies like THE EXPLORERS, INNERSPACE, MATINEE and GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH. None of them were particularly successful as Dante’s sensibility was always too dark, sardonic, and knowing for massive crossover success beyond that inexplicable Christmas monster movie hit. However, the man’s entire canon from the period has gone on to become cult classics and one in particular seems to only grow in popularity.

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    “CLOSER TO GOD” (Fantastic Fest Review)

    Out here in the real world, the marriage of medical inquiry to ever-evolving technology has eradicated plagues, advanced life expectancy dramatically, and provided a good deal of the planet’s inhabitants with a standard (and quality) of living that has vastly expanded our ability to pursue individual dreams and aspirations in ways those who previously trudged through human history could not even begin to fathom. (On this point, see Matt Ridley’s epic 2011 tour de force, THE RATIONAL OPTIMIST.) There are, of course, tragic and deeply disturbing examples of vile excess in the pursuit of a purported common good—the Tuskegee experiment, MKUltra, Project 4.1, profoundly immoral and heinous animal experimentation, the Burke and Hare murders—but, generally speaking, the benefits that have redounded to we the living via our collective (and overwhelmingly non-psychotic!) march of progress are, in context, nearly as fantastical as they are miraculous. 

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    “ASMODEXIA” (Movie Review)

    There have been so many exorcism movies by now, especially in the last decade, that it almost seems beside the point to complain about them. Better to seek out the more interesting variations on the well-traveled form, one of which is Marc Carreté’s ASMODEXIA.

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    “PIECES OF TALENT” (Movie Review)

    There has been much buzz around the more uncouth corners of the Internet about Joe Stauffer’s über-bloody, self-distributed indie PIECES OF TALENT—and if this writer may be blunt, I was not terribly optimistic about it. For one, the title seemed a bit tone-deaf and clunky, and the concept—goonish serial killer kidnaps, tortures, films and murders folks to make his masterpiece—was not my cup of crimson.

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