[AFTERGLOW: a mini-review series of my just-finished-this impressions]

I’d been meaning to watch this film for the last few years. Can’t remember where I stumbled onto it, but it could’ve been while I was researching the backgrounds of favorite novel Roadside Picnic and novel-reading-stiiill-in-progress Metro 2033 (it’s great, but I don’t get to read much and it’s a dense book full of world-building).

So, Kin-Dza-Dza! is a Russian sci-fantasy film from the 1980s, and I’m sure there’s a lot of analysis I’m not familiar with and symbolism and such I could study and really get more layers out of it on a second viewing. But this is Afterglow, and it’s all about fresh impressions.

This film is unlike most things I’ve ever watched. I’d say elements of it could be loosely compared to the weirder aspects of Monty Python (especially Terry Gilliam’s animations), possibly by-way-of Road Warrior-light. Yeah.

Two random unrelated men, a Russian man walking to the store for his wife and a Georgian carrying a violin case, speak to what seems like a crazed homeless man who says he needs help getting home in another part of the galaxy. Turns out, he ain’t crazy. He transports the two men to a desert planet with some strange people of different segregated groups, very odd flying and driving machines, and deadly sonic weapons (demonstrated continuously by pieces of metal in the environment being sliced clean apart after these weapons are fired toward them).

This film is in no hurry, for better or worse. It could be accused of being slow, but in a way I think that’s one of its charms. It takes its time pulling you in, which by the end made a stronger bond, I feel. It also doesn’t hold your hand, and the audience learns about the people on this strange planet (and others) in step with the two Earthling characters.

I really enjoyed Kin-Dza-Dza!. The characters really grow on you and by the end, you’ve definitely had an otherworldly experience. It’s odd on a level that had to be a deliberate vision, and the characters and oddness combined to win me over.

Also, it has a great, simple soundtrack. Reminded me of another favorite soundtrack (and film), The Third Man—more in its recurring use as a theme than its actual sound.

A good friend told me there’s also an animated version of this film that came out more recently, so you might be seeing another of these mini-reviews sooner than later.



Creature Features in Review: The Blob (1988)

Creature Features in Review: The Blob (1988)

Machine Mean


 The Blob (1988) is my second-favorite 1980s remake of a classic monster horror film, The Thing by John Carpenter being the first—and if the ALIEN Trilogy (yeah, I said ‘Trilogy’) didn’t exist, JC’s The Thing would be my all-time favorite film. Now, I’m usually the first to say that JC’s The Thing is not strictly a ‘remake’, because of its alternate take on Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr.—but in his great Creature Features in Review piece on JC’s The Thing, William D. Prystauk beat me to it. John Carpenter’s take was a more accurate, more paranoid version of that novella than Howard Hawks’—and Christian Nyby’s and Edward Lasker’s and others’—The Thing from Another World, while also bringing in elements of amorphous, madness-inducing creature moments that—when paired with the snow-blasted, isolated Antarctic setting—came to…

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THE FOREST [the game] Early Access Review




Just had to check Wikipedia to help me remember when I had first started this journey through… THE FOREST… (sorry) and it was upon release of the early access alpha version—that it’s technically still in, but beta and release must be coming soon if it can be judged by features, content, and playability—in May of 2014. From the beginning, I knew there was something special about this game. Until recently, though, it was not possible to finish the game’s story, and it had slowly been unlocked and built upon with well-guarded secrecy.

You start the game as a man on a plane sitting with his sleeping son in the next seat. After picking up a survival guide book from his small plastic dinner ‘table’—a detail added more recently and a nice touch, since you’ll use this book throughout to build structures, fires, etc. from—the plane hits heavy turbulence and proceeds to break apart as it crash lands on a forested peninsula. While you come-to writhing on the cabin floor, a half-naked man covered in red paint and looking like some sort of tribal native picks up your unconscious son and leaves the back half of the plane while you lose consciousness again.


So, it’s simple—you want your son back. Except that it’s not.

Continue reading “THE FOREST [the game] Early Access Review”



[AFTERGLOW: a mini-review series of my just-finished-this impressions]

Just finished this masterpiece.

I loved this game. Can’t think of a more nuanced way to express it. I’d played the majority of it several months ago, but the intensity of the stealth-based horror sections just wasn’t what I felt like immersing myself in after a hard days work, considering many other things eating at my emotional energy since then.

Finally committed and I’m really glad I did. I loved Frictional’s first game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but I have to say that this one is my heavily weighted favorite of the two.

The horror is strong and disturbing–and heightened due to a story filled with misdirection and perfectly vague and well-paced revelations–which makes the well-written and sometimes surprisingly intimate and touching story all that much more powerful. The stealth sections are sometimes so dread-inducing that it became hard to play for chunks longer than an hour or two.

That intensity coupled with the existential quandaries and implications of the unfurling dark science fiction story really made this a special piece. I’d go so far as to call it transcendent.

I say all of this as a huge fan of well-thought-out fusions of Science Fiction and Horror, but if that’s not a combo that does much for you, YMMV.


Fright Fest: Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Fright Fest: Planet of the Vampires (1965)

My review for Thomas S. Flowers’ Machine Mean blog Fright Fest film review series. -pml

Machine Mean


[WARNING: EXTREME DIGRESSIONS, LATERAL ASSOCIATIONS, AND UNSOLICITED MUSINGS FOLLOW] To start, a confession—as much as I enjoy Italian horror (and horror in general), I’m not sure if I’d ever seen one of Mario Bava’s films in its entirety [preemptive update: since choosing this film for review and watching it through a couple times, I coincidentally had the pleasure of finally watching Blood and Black Lace at a good friend’s birthday movie party]. I’d seen a few of his son Lamberto’s, but looking over the Elder Bava’s filmography I couldn’t honestly say I could attach a title listed to a film I could clearly remember. My early days of watching Giallo and other types of Italian horror coincided with attending art/film school in San Francisco, so you’ll have to forgive my own uncertainty—as I wasn’t always completely sober while viewing a great deal of the offerings from “Le Video” and other…

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Universal Monsters in Review: The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

Universal Monsters in Review: The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

My review for Thomas S. Flowers’ Machine Mean blog Universal Monsters in Review series earlier this year. After an intro by Thomas, I give my thoughts on this enjoyable(spoiler!) film. -pml

Machine Mean


Taking a cue from the original The Invisible Man, the Return seems to keep with that same breakneck speedy opening, forcing the audience to catch up as the story progresses rather rapidly. I’m not sure if I was just totally exhausted before watching this movie last night, but it took me a while to figure out what was going on and who was who. Sure. It doesnt take Sir Sherlock Holmes to figure what the scientist is doing, or when the guards in the prison discover the remnants of Mr. Griffin’s clothes on the floor.  It did take me though almost half the move to realize who Cedric Hardwicke was playing as. Was this intentional or just the style of classic Invisible Man tropes? Who knows. What I did enjoy, other than the superb acting on all fronts, was the overall deeper theme of the movie, much like the predecessor, The Invisible Man Returns

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