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I’ve watched a fair amount of silly things, but I must admit that “true” ghost shows aren’t my fave. Nevertheless, I was recently mildly entertained by parts of the (unintentionally?) funny Ghost Adventures episode called Quarantine: Extension of Darkness. As the Travel Channel web site summarizes: “The crew continues their lockdown at the Haunted Museum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guys confront pure evil as they investigate the dark corridors of the infamous basement and the room where Zak displays his collection of serial killer artifacts.”

Basic Premise of Episode

Admittedly, I didn’t pay full attention to the whole episode, as there were times where I was laughing. However, I did notice the Zak character mention Charles Manson numerous times in Zak’s serial killer museum. They also claim to have picked up cryptic, disturbing messages from murderers who have items collected in the museum. There are some cute aspects of the show, which not everyone will notice. For example, I think it’s cute that “Pandemic” is part of the title. It breeds familiarity with the viewer, who will be like, “Hey, I know what a pandemic is! Heck, I’m right in the middle of one myself!” It’s like marketing 101, right? Even if you’re not struck by adrenaline during the walk-through of the museum, they’re still subconsciously tying the show’s events into your life.

This got me to thinking: Would they do this for other newsworthy challenges, too? We’ve all proabbly herad of Japanese “murder hornets” making it to the States, and locust swarms are apparently still happening. So could there be a “Ghost Adventures: Insect Plague” season in the works? Or, hell, maybe “Ghost Adventures: Haunted By Karens.” This premise could run a little thin, obviously, but there’s plenty of potential for relatively inoffensive current event tie-ins.

I Do Believe In Spooks

As a jaded, aging skeptic, it can be tough to watch these shows without scoffing (if you haven’t noticed). Nevertheless, I have written about things like cryptids before, and I’m more open-minded than even I sometimes expect. Still, when I think of Ghost Adventures Quarantine: Extension of Darkness, I’m reminded of this famous moment from the Wizard of Oz:

It’s like I’m there, man!

This show is presented as very serious, but it’s hard for me to to take seriously. For one thing, I know that a TV network is very capable of lying, or at least bending the truth (sorry, Travel Channel, and I’ll pretend I couldn’t possibly be talking about you). I realize all hauntings might be gimmicks that could be staged, complete with special effects. In other words, I doubt the Ghost Adventurers are in danger of ever being killed, except if they were to trip on their own shoelaces.

There were moments in the episode where people appeared to be enduring a traumatic panic attack caused by ghosts (or whatever), but those moments could either be acting or simply caused by their own self-induced panic if they actually believe ghosts are real. Let’s not kid ourselves: Everything you watch on such a show might involve animations and production. You might have enthusiastic actors, musicians, and storytellers to promote the show to a larger audience and advertisers. You might have set designers, illustrators, etc.

Entertainment

Photo credit: MY Entertainment

Much like a Godzilla confrontation with Gigan, for me, it’s only there for optional giggles or guffaws. Whether they’re hunting ghosts or trying to scare a flock of mosquito-like creatures away, it’s all about entertainment. There’s even a moment (towards the episode’s end), where one of the Adventurers seems to develop an evil alter ego as if he’s possessed by a spirit (a serial killer, or maybe Charles Manson himself).

However, when even the Discovery Channel has come under fire for fake “reality” shows, pronouncements of “Our ghosts are real” just doesn’t cut it. Still, you might want to get out a bag of popcorn and check out Ghost Adventures during a spare moment.

It even reminds you in its title that a quarantine makes for good binging of goofy spooky TV shows featuring ghosts, crazy monsters, paranormal witnesses, psychics, and supernatural scares in general. I do respect if a ghost adventurer is pursuing his passion and, on some level, appreciate that his project is a massive commercial success. If “supernatural” and magical forces arise to help put food on your table, fine…but I am unconvinced.

What are your thoughts on Ghost Adventures? Let us know in the comments!

Movies n TV

Dahmer, The Good Boy Box

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I think if it were possible to awkward someone to death, Dahmer never would have had to use any other weapon. Because if episode four is any indication, the man was a walking personification of awkwardness. 

Let’s discuss. 

We start this episode with Dahmer talking with the police detectives after his arrest. He doesn’t seem to have any issue laying everything out for them, starting with the murder of the hitchhiker from the last episode. He’s seeing a psychiatrist, which feels overdue. And the psychiatrist is bringing back some memories. Starting with his graduation from high school.

Still from Dahmer with Evan Peters.

A few days after graduation, Lionel Dahmer finally decides to look in on his family. He comes home to find no one but Jeff there, drunk and scribbling out the faces of his classmates from his yearbook. 

After taking some time to blame Joyce, Lionel sets himself to the task of fixing his son. He first sends Jeff to Ohio State. Within a semester, Jeff is expelled with a GPA of .45. So, Lionel sends him to the army. And for about a year, that seems to work out. Jeff goes through basic training and everything is fine. But then, he’s discharged. 

It’s not outright said in the show why Dahmer was discharged. He later tells a woman that it was because of his drinking. But he lies and gives half-truths to everyone without any remorse. So there’s no way of knowing. 

Finally, we pick back up where we left off a few episodes ago, with Jeff’s grandmother finding the stolen mannequin in his bed. She throws it away, and he starts to unravel.

He goes to a state fair and gets arrested for masturbating in public.

Evan Peters in Dahmer.

Honestly, there are a lot of masturbation scenes in this episode and the last. Probably more than we needed.

Every time Jeff seems to get some sort of handle on his life, he manages to mess it up. He loses jobs and starts drugging men at bars. Finally, he finds himself in bed with the body of a beautiful young man he brought home the night before. 

I liked this episode. It was a deeply disturbing portrait of a mentally ill young man trying and failing to get himself together. It’s easy to feel bad for Dahmer. To feel like there should have been a way to save him from himself.

And there should have been, to be clear. Dahmer was throwing up enough red flags early enough that someone should have been able to do something.

And yet, nobody did until seventeen men were dead. It does make you wonder if it would have gone on so long if Dahmer hadn’t preyed on gay men. If he hadn’t been a white man. And maybe it should make us wonder that.

I’m sure this point will be made clear to us as we watch the second half of the season.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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The Last of Us: Episode 2: Infected

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*WARNING: This review contains spoilers.*

If you haven’t read the review on The Last of Us’ first episode, click here.

HBO’s The Last of Us‘ second episode, “Infected,” released January 22, 2023. It was directed by Neil Druckman and written by Craig Mazin. The episode takes us to Jakarta in 2003, just days before the outbreak. Dr. Ratna (Christine Hakim) is a mycology professor at the University of Indonesia. The Indonesian government orders her to examine a dead body they killed at a flour factory. During her examination, Dr. Ratna discovers Cordycep mycelium growing in the body’s mouth. After learning the full story behind the dead body, including the high infection rate and its symptoms, Dr. Ratna’s only conclusion is to bomb the whole city because “there is no vaccine for this.”

Fast forward to present day and we once again witness the aftereffects of Dr. Ratna’s discovery.

Is that everything you hoped for?

Ellie, Joel and Tess walk to the capitol building

In episode one, Tess and Joel learned an infected bit Ellie a few weeks back and are reluctant to keep traveling with her. Joel threatens to shoot her the moment she starts showing symptoms, but it’s Tess who convinces him that they need to keep going to the Capitol Building to hand the youth off to the fireflies.

One of the most exciting scenes in episode two is when the trio takes a shortcut through a history museum that is almost identical to the one in the game. They enter a dark room and all seems well until they hear a slow, ominous clicking sound nearby. An infected with torn clothes and cordycep covered body creeps around them. When it hears Joel step on a piece of glass, it attacks.

Infected: a clicker

Clickers are the third stage of infection and it takes about a year for them to reach this point after exposure. They can’t see their prey, but have an incredible sense of hearing and communicate through clicks. (If you want a real life example, they sound awfully similar to crows clicking in conversation.) More clickers enter the museum room and Joel, Ellie and Tess fight them off, brutally killing them one by one, barely making it out alive.

When the trio reaches daylight outside, Ellie realizes she was bit. “If it had to happen to one of us…” she jokes, still shaken by their encounter. But Tess is less than amused; she’s furious by how narrow their escape was. Even when Joel and Ellie have a sweet moment, the first sign of warmth Joel gives the girl on their journey together, Tess interrupts and tells them to keep going because there is still a long way to go.

The Last of Tess

After two episodes, HBO’s The Last of Us mirrors the video game while creating a brand new story. Spores moving through the air are a significant threat in the video game, but are merely a terrifying thought in the show’s universe. Instead, HBO’s version illustrates how the Cordyceps’ mycelium creates a “hive mind” in infected. If one infected is killed, a message is sent to everyone else it’s connected to.

After escaping the museum, the trio eventually make it to the capitol building, only to find that all the Fireflies they were supposed to meet are dead and gone. Tess rummages through the bodies’ clothes in hopes of finding a map, but there’s nothing. Suddenly, a runner lunges into the air and tries to take them down. When Joel shoots it, the mycelium hive mind alerts the rest of the infected outside the building. They swarm to their new pray.

Joel is in a rush to get going. But before they can all escape, it appears that Tess was bitten at the museum, too. In just a short amount of time, her bite has worsened while Ellie’s remains the same. Tess holds Ellie’s arm up and shows it to Joel. “This is real,” she cries, desperate for Joel to believe her. She needs him to keep taking Ellie out west, to wherever Marlene needs them to go. Maybe there is a cure after all.

The Verdict

Episode two continues to show promise of The Last of Us being a great video game adaptation. It maintains the game’s plot while creating new rules to make the story more suitable for TV. When the episode begins in Jakarta, we see how the world, not just the United States, is devastated by the impacts of this disease. And it is hopeful we will see the state of the present day world in later episodes, too.

Additionally, the filming of mycelium growing and spreading throughout the infected is convincing for the new hive mind theory. While spores and gas masks worked well for the game, many of those rules were still inconsistent; it’s for the best that The Last of Us‘ writers did away with spores in the show. The makeup for the bite marks and prosthetics for the clickers make the fight scenes more high stakes and terrifying. The actors, from infected extras to the main cast, are phenomenal. Bella Ramsey as Ellie especially shines, particularly with her whipsmart comebacks and various facial expressions.

It is evident the creators did not cut corners when it came to filming, makeup and casting these last two episodes. If they wanted to create as authentic an experience as possible for this video game adaptation, they did not disappoint.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Until next time, check out what else we’re watching and playing at Haunted MTL.

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Dahmer, Doin’ a Dahmer

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Episode three of Netflix’s Dahmer was, to put it mildly, difficult to watch. Mostly because it depicted an awkward and uncomfortable time in young Jeffery Dahmer’s life. But also because the pacing of this episode wasn’t great. 

We start the episode with an uncomfortable look at Joyce Dahmer. She’s pregnant, and she’s struggling. Her doctor has her on a lot of medications, and her husband doesn’t like it. He doesn’t seem to care about her emotional well-being. His concern, as he indelicately puts it, is the fetus.

Evan Peters and Emma Kennedy in Dahmer

I would think that most of us, after finding our partner sitting barefoot in a thin nightgown at a bus stop in the snow, would be putting their well-being before anything else.

We go from there to the Dahmer’s bitter divorce. Joyce gets custody of the boys and takes off with her younger son. Lionel decides to leave home, and spend his time at a hotel. This leaves Jeff at home alone, at the age of 17.

Abandoned by his family, Jeff is living his worst/best life. Mostly he’s drinking and working out. He starts going on long drives, often passing a young man jogging. This young man, as I’m sure you can imagine, catches Jeff’s attention.

Evan Peters and Cameron Cowperthwaite in Dahmer.

This episode ends with what might be the first of Dahmer’s murders and the fallout from it. 

As I mentioned earlier, the pacing in this episode was slow. It was so painfully slow. In hindsight, I think this was an intentional choice. 

While the action was slow coming, the feeling of most of the episode was incredibly intense. The viewer is left nervous every time Dahmer is alone with anybody. We know that he’s winding up to do something horrible. But we have no idea what he’s going to do, or who he’s going to do it to. 

That being said, not every scene in this episode needed to drag as much as it did. The scene with Joyce and her boss at the women’s shelter went on far too long. The repetitive clips of Jeff working out, drinking and melting bones took too long. 

It’s a difficult needle to thread, pacing. What works for one scene will just crush another. And that was the case in this episode. The scenes that work, man do they work. The scenes that don’t, though, are a slough. 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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