Sunday, 23 September 2018

Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

Canadians can now rest easy in the event of a zombie apocalypse, according to a recent article in Narcity.

The Zombie Research Society (!) recently ranked countries with over 5 million in population to determine which ones would be most able to handle a zombie pandemic. According to the article: "They took into consideration several factors, including population density, climate, topography, gun-ownership rate, military capability, natural resources, and public infrastructure." Canada came in second with first place going to Australia.

For the full text of the article, please click here

Sunday, 9 September 2018

I Am Not a Witch

Judging from the 100 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes and the trailers I have seen, I Am Not a Witch looks like an amazing film. It is set in Zambia and is a fictional story based on an African reality: witch camps in which accused women are imprisoned, marked with white scars, and tethered to white ribbons so they will not fly. It is filmmaker Rungano Nyoni’s debut film and the UK entry in next year's Oscars for  best foreign language film.

The following is an excerpt from The Daily Beast which describes the film:

From th[e] opening salvo alone, it’s apparent that something is terribly amiss here, and that only becomes clearer when an unknown young girl (Maggie Mulubwa), wearing an out-of-place T-shirt emblazoned with the message “#bootycall,” is spotted by a woman carrying water, and promptly brought to authorities and accused of being a witch. The reason for this charge? As one adult tells the less-than-convinced female cop on duty, things haven’t been right in the area since she arrived. Then another man steps up and says that the girl chopped off his arm, only to confess that he just dreamed this took place (which is still proof, apparently!). No matter the silliness of such allegations, the girl’s refusal to admit or deny that she’s a black-magic woman—instead, she faces this madness with staunch silence—convinces regional government official Mr. Banda (Henry B.J. Phiri) that the 9-year-old is, in fact, a witch.

Thus the kid is sent to live at a camp, where one elder gives her the name “Shula,” which in Zambian means “uprooted.” No sooner has Shula been welcomed into the community and given customary tribal scars on her face—as well as informed that cutting her ribbon will turn her into a goat—then she’s whisked away by Banda to a municipal trial held at a dusty outdoor 'court.' There . . . Shula is asked to use her otherworldly powers to determine which of the suspects has committed theft. Given that ... she’s not actually a witch, she defers to her elders, who via cell phone give her loads of nonsensical advice. (Choose the nervous looking one! Or the one looking up! Or the one looking down! Or the one who’s darkest!) Yet when she randomly fingers one man, and he shortly thereafter turns out to be the culprit, her credentials are firmly established.

All is not well with Shula, however, as I Am Not a Witch movingly elucidates. A prisoner of a system that demonizes women, segregates them from the rest of the population, and then has them toil on gigantic farms—all when they’re not presiding over criminal trials or trying to bring much-needed rain to the arid countryside—Shula is an innocent victim. And an isolated one too, given that she’s decades younger than her compatriots. . . .


For the trailer, please click here.

Sunday, 2 September 2018


In the lead-up to Halloween, there are a number of new horror releases scheduled for September and October. There are horror comedies, vampires and alligators, re-makes and sequels, and even a horror musical. One of the films that seems to stand above the rest is Mandy, which earned excellent reviews at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and has very high ratings in both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

The film is directed by Panos Cosmatos, an Italian-Canadian director and screenwriter. It stars Nicolas Cage, whom I haven't seen in a movie for quite a long time. Cage is a good actor-- although in my view he tends toward histrionics in many of his roles--but he's had the misfortune of being cast in a lot of unmemorable films. Apparently, however, his acting in this movie is getting rave reviews, one critic even calling it "the performance of a lifetime".

The film is set in the Pacific Northwest in 1983 where two loners, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) have fallen deeply in love and now enjoy a quiet, peaceful existence together. Miller's life is destroyed when a band of "ravaging cultists and supernatural creatures" invades his home and kills Mandy. He now lives for one thing only: to hunt down this band and exact revenge.

I must admit that I'm not fond of revenge films, and this is a particularly bloody one. But if you're not squeamish, you might want to catch this movie, which may well become a cult classic.

To view the trailer, please click here.

The film is in theatres on September 14.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Remembering Heather Heyer

Heather Heyer died after being plowed down by a car driven by a neo-Nazi in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally last year.

I watched an interview with Heather Heyer's mother recently and marvelled at her calm demeanour and her stated purpose of continuing her daughter's message of tolerance. This, despite the fact that her daughter's grave has been desecrated by urine and messages such as "now it's okay to be white". As if there was any question that whites still control the majority of wealth and power in the United States.

Donald Trump's race-baiting has had the effect of openly legitimizing hatred and xenophobia. As Spike Lee recently said, "It's no longer a dog whistle. It's a bullhorn."

Let's remember Heather Heyer by her last post:
If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.
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Published on August 12, 2018 14:16 • 4 views • Tags: charlottesvilleheather-heyerracial-intoleranceunite-the-right

Sunday, 5 August 2018

August 2018 Horror Movie Releases

There's a litany of teen slasher/zombie apocalypse/bloodfest movies being released in August. However, there are a few movies that sound as though they might be a cut above. I haven't checked out their ratings in Rotten Tomatoes: I'll leave it to you to decide if they sound interesting.

The Little Stranger tells the story of Dr. Faraday, the son of a housemaid, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. During the long hot summer of 1948, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked. The Hall has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries. But it is now in decline and its inhabitants – mother, son, and daughter – are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. When he takes on his new patient, Faraday has no idea how closely, and how disturbingly, the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own.

See the trailer.

Down a Dark Hall

Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), a difficult young girl, is sent to the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School when her heated temper becomes too much for her mother to handle. Once she arrives at Blackwood, Kit encounters eccentric headmistress Madame Duret (Uma Thurman) and meets the school’s only other students, four young women also headed down a troubled path. While exploring the labyrinthine corridors of the school, Kit and her classmates discover that Blackwood Manor hides an age-old secret rooted in the paranormal.

Four siblings seek refuge in an old home after the death of their mother, only to discover that the house has another, more sinister, inhabitant in this haunting directorial debut from Sergio G. Sánchez, screenwriter of The Orphanage and The Impossible.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Part 5 of the Golden State Killer

This is the fifth and final post on the Golden State Killer. This series of posts is dedicated to the memory of Michelle McNamara and to all of the victims of the Golden State Killer.

As you are no doubt aware, a suspect has been apprehended in the case. The arrest came too late for Michelle McNamara, who suffered an untimely death before she could learn of the news. Her book I'll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer was published posthumously. Before her death, however, through her tireless search for the killer, she kept the case in the public eye, and I believe she deserves much credit for this. It's also noteworthy that she speculated in her book that the Golden State Killer may have been a former police officer because of his seeming familiarity with law enforcement methods and his ability to elude capture for so many decades. The individual who was finally arrested this year was in fact a former police officer.

Michelle McNamara also speculated in her book that genealogical database searches would eventually lead to the arrest of the Golden State Killer. Although advances in DNA testing in the early 21st century enabled criminologists to determine that the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker were one and the same, there was no existing match in the massive FBI national DNA database, and therefore no arrest until 2018. It was through the use of an online genealogical website that law enforcement officials were able to identify a relative of the man who would subsequently be arrested as the Golden State Killer. For the steps taken to identify the suspected killer, please see the related Washington Post article.

The question now turns to the legal, ethical, and privacy-related concerns of such forensic use of genealogical databases. The debate on this subject is only just beginning. For a related article, please click here.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Part 4 of the Golden State Killer: The Original Nightstalker

The Golden State Killer's crimes escalated from burglary to rape and finally to murder when he moved to southern California in 1979 and became known as the Original Nightstalker. (Prior to his move, he is also suspected of murdering Brian and Katie Maggiore when they came across him, as they were walking their dog, near the site of five East Area Rapist attacks. Presumably he thought they would identify him to the police.)

The Original Nightstalker's attacks began in October 1979 and lasted until 1981 with a single attack in 1986. Only the victims of his first attack survived, were able to alert neighbours through screams, and forced him to flee. The Golden State Killer fled the scene on a bicycle and was pursued by a neighbour, who was an FBI agent, but managed to escape by ditching the bike and fleeing on foot. This was the closest anyone had come to apprehending him.

On December 30, 1979, Robert Offerman and Debra Manning were murdered in their home. Neighbours failed to report the gunshots to the police, not recognizing them as such. This would also be the case in later shooting deaths.

On March 13, 1980, Charlene and Lyman Smith were bludgeoned to death in their home after Charlene was raped.

On August 19, 1980, Keith and Patrice Harrington were murdered in their home in a gated community after Patrice had been raped. They had been married for only three months. Patrice was a nurse and Keith was a medical student.

On February 6, 1981, Manuela Witthuhn was raped and murdered in her home while her husband was in the hospital.

On July 27, 1981, Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez were murdered in her home. Sanchez was shot and then bludgeoned to death, and there is speculation that he tried to tackle the Original Night Stalker because he had not been tied up as had the other victims. Cheri was raped and then bludgeoned to death.

On May 4, 1986, Janelle Cruz was raped and murdered in her home while her family was on vacation in Mexico. She was only eighteen years old.

It would be decades before the three identities that comprised the Golden Sate Killer were definitively linked through DNA analysis, which will be the subject of Part 5 of this series.