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In this episode of What’s Kraken, Zeth interviews Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner from the recently released Elevator Game on Shudder.

Real skull. Don't ask. You wouldn't believe it if I told you.

Movies n TV

Ghostbusters, Frozen Empire

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Released in March of this year, Ghostbuster’s Frozen Empire is the latest in what is now a four-part series that began in 1984. And, unlike most series that get a modern reboot, this series just seems to be getting better.

The story

Our tale begins in 1904. Firefighters from the same firehouse we are all familiar with are dispatched to save a building that is, well, kind of the opposite of on fire. In the middle of Summer, a whole room has frozen solid. The people inside are frozen in place. As this scene fades away, we see a woman dressed in strange brass clothes, holding a ball that seems to be whispering something.

Flash-forward to modern times, we see our Ghostbusters flying through the streets of New York, chasing a massive sea monster ghost. They manage to catch the ghost but are called into the mayor’s office for property damage. And, surprise, the mayor is Walter Peck, the minor villain in the original films.

Among Peck’s complaints is that Phoebe Spangler is underage. He insists that she be benched until she’s eighteen.

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This, of course, means that Phoebe is the only one there when Ray receives a strange ball in his shop. A ball that has so much kinetic energy that it breaks his tools. A ball that is, of course, whispering.

Dan Aykroyd, James Acaster, Finn Wolfhard, Celeste O'Connor and Logan Kim in Ghostbusters Frozen Empire.

What worked

What the Ghostbusters series has gotten right is that it’s never lost sight of the original film. It is one consistent story with new elements added. The music is similar in each. The characters are consistent from film to film. And, maybe the most important part, the original characters have aged and changed in ways that make sense.

This movie was also full of nods to original fans. Seeing Janine suited up was a fantastic moment for me. But it’s also great to see Ray, Peter and Winston as leaders and advisors.

Another thing I loved about this film was the actual creep factor. This is the first Ghostbusters movie that had some actual creepy moments. Right in the first scene, the frozen dead hand rolling around on the record player was eerie. The ghosts were creepy, except Slimer. Some of them looked like they might do some damage.

Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts in Ghostbusters Frozen Empire.

Finally, it was so cool seeing all of the Ghostbusters coming together. All three original characters fight with the seven new ones, and aided by Janine, Melody and Nadeem. It meant something that it took all of them to fight Garraka. And even then, they just barely stopped him. It raised the stakes and felt epic.

What didn’t work

I will say, this movie could have had more detail. There were a lot of storylines in this movie. Trevor trying to come into his young adulthood by battling Slimer himself. Phoebe deals with the fact that she feels like an adult and isn’t treated like one yet. Her love affair with Melody. Nadeem discovering and coming into his birthright. And, of course, everyone coming together to defeat Garraka.

With so many stories in play, it was going to be impossible to treat all of them with the time and respect they deserved. And one story I felt needed more attention was the story of Melody. I want to know why she was hanging out playing chess in Central Park. I want to know why there was a diner with her name on it. I want to know why Garraka chose her to get close to Phoebe. I want to know so many things about this character and there was just not enough time. This was an almost two-hour movie already, there was not enough time because they did too much.

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All in all, though, this is a small complaint. Ghostbusters Frozen Empire was funny, creepy, heartwarming and a lot of fun. It’s something you can watch with little ones and adults alike, and everyone in the room will have a good time.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, A Killer Comes Home

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Episode two of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was more true crime than supernatural. It was the horrific, dark tale of a serial killer who escapes from jail and comes back to his hometown for revenge. And boy, does he find it.

The story

This story begins with a man coming out to his front porch to find a mysterious package wrapped in newspaper. He opens it to find a rotting, maggot-ridden head that he certainly didn’t order.

The head was placed there by a killer named Allan Legere. In 1986, Legere brutally murdered a couple in their homes during a robbery. For this, he was sentenced to life in prison.

However, he escaped from prison in May of 1989. Enraged at his old hometown, he returns there and starts a brutal killing rampage. He wants revenge on the people who wronged him. At least, the people he believes wronged him. Rather than focusing on the police who arrested him, or the judge and jury who convicted him, he decides to go after the journalists who reported on the case.

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Of course, he also murders a whole bunch of old ladies for some reason. And a priest.

Annette Holland in Suburban Screams.

Legere is still alive, and still in prison. But as he’s escaped once, many people believe he might do so again. And if he does, he’ll almost surely try to pick up right where he left off.

This tale is told from the point of view of the journalists, Rick MacLean and David Cadogan. Both men have been deeply impacted by this incident. They are still shaken. And still very, very angry.

What worked

This episode was far better than the first, right from the maggot-headed start. The gore was intense. The story was horrifying. And it’s made even more horrifying, knowing that it is, for the most part, true.

The thing that made this episode stand out is that it feels so much like several beloved horror stories. I would suggest that this story inspired John Carpenter’s Halloween, except that that movie came out in 1978. The events in this episode took place from 1986 to 1989.

To realize that a person could cause so much pain, and take so many lives, is possibly the scariest thing most of us can imagine. And while this story is, sadly, not unique, it is certainly worse than most.

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What didn’t work

After watching this episode, I can only really think of one complaint. There is a scene with the first victims, two elderly ladies. The first woman is home alone when someone begins hammering on her front door. We are meant to believe that it is the killer, but it ends up being her sister with a lovely salad. But if the two sisters lived together, why was she knocking to be let in? I can only believe that this is meant as misdirection to the point of being a jump scare. And this feels cheap. Especially when the rest of the episode was more on the level.

Is it True?

While I do think parts of this episode were, let’s say dramatized, I do think this happened. There are just too many facts that would be far too easy to look up. To my dismay, the part that is easiest to look up is the horrific deaths of many innocent people.

This was a much better episode than the one that preceded it. The story is compelling and frightening. It is well told, both from the survivors being interviewed and the actors recreating the moments of horrific history. I’m hoping that the rest of the season is more like this episode, and less like the first.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

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This time on Nightmarish Nature we will again explore some of the more fetid fungi and plants, this time focusing on those that imitate rotten flesh in order to attract flies. Among the best known of these are the Stinkhorn and the Corpse Lily or Corpse Flower. The Language of Flowers be damned, literally…

Fungi

Many of the fungi in the Stinkhorn family erupt in mushrooms that reek of rotten flesh and sprout from a white sort of egg sac in various forms, the common type being a phallus like structure with a white body and olive head. The Beefsteak fungus resembles, well, a cut of beef oozing blood. And some mushroom bodies of the Clathrus genus bloom in elaborate lattice structures or devil’s tooth and devil’s fingers that resemble terrifying alien beings. These odoriferous fetid fungi grow in decaying wood material and use their stinky attributes to attract flies and other insects which will then spread the spores from their fruiting bodies. They truly look like something out of an outer space or aquatic nightmare.

Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh, drawing by Jennifer Weigel.
Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh.

Plants

Some plants also utilize pungent putrid odors to attract flies and other insects, in part to aid in the pollination and dissemination but also to attract insect matter for their own needs, to absorb the insects for valuable nutrients that they cannot otherwise obtain. The largest flowers in the world bear many of these characteristics, also being among the stinkiest. And some pitcher plants mimic rotten flesh to attract flies upon which they “feed”.

The Titan Arum of Sumatra and Indonesia is a plant that over time produces a huge flower somewhat resembling a calla lily but larger as the plant body stores enough energy to do so. While Calla Lilies are often used to symbolize rebirth and resurrection and can be associated with death, often in a funerary setting, the huge Titan Arum does more than that, strongly mimicking decaying flesh in order to attract flies. These flowers can grow to almost 8-feet tall and bloom for only about three days before wilting; they are a huge draw at botanic gardens when flowering because of the rare nature of the event and the remarkable presence that the flower has, in both size and smell. The US. Botanic Gardens has a page devoted to this plant here, where you can even track previous blooms.

Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

Another noteworthy flowering plant is Rafflesia, a parasitic flower native to Indonesia and Malaysia that feeds on the liana vine and grows from a sprouting body bud into a huge flower over the course of five years. Its flowers, once finally formed, can grow to almost a meter across and resembles something out of a horror film. These too smell of death and decay to attract flies in order to cross-pollinate. You can learn more about these unusual plants on this video from Real Science here.

Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

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