Ray BradburyTheater – Punishment Without Crime (S2E7)

cover02Another bloody European episode.  At least we have a recognizable face in this one — Dr. Loomis himself, Donald Pleasence.  Despite airing 22 years after Fantastic Voyage, he has barely aged at all.  Which is a sad commentary on his 1966 self.

Pleasence is George Hill, a billionaire investment banker who is married to a woman 40 years his junior — I have no problem with that.  It is, admittedly, kind of creepy to see them together.

In an ineptly choreographed scene which involves the complex procedure of, er, opening a door, Hill sees his wife Katherine making out with a man who is also approximately 40 years his junior.

Update: I finally realized what happened.  Although the story is told 99.9% from Hill’s first-person POV, the director inexplicably switched to a third-person omniscient-POV for about 2 seconds.

So, naturally, Hill hatches a plan to a) have a robot duplicate of Katherine built (and she was built to start with, heyyyoooohhhh), and 2) kill said robot.  Having the cash, a better plan would have been to build 2 robot Katherines and not kill them.  But then, he’s a pretty old dude and this is PV (pre-Viagra).

rbpunish01The plan really makes no sense unless you look at it as a cathartic act where just going through the motions will give him some satisfaction — like Westworld.  But Katherine will still be alive.  And, by the way, will expect half his stuff to be handed over to her and her lover in the divorce.

Such is his anger that he can’t stand to wait the 2 weeks it takes Facsimiles, Inc to build the perfect mechanical duplicate of Katherine.  BTW, like all high-tech facilities in low-budget sci-fi, it has the standard completely inefficient floorplan, and is apparently staffed by one person who sits in the dark until needed.  Hill opts to be put into suspended animation until she is ready.

Naturally, once he meets Katherine 2.0 (now with fidelity!) he decides he wants to keep her.  Alas, that is not an option as she can’t be bought, only rented.  If she is an Apple product, there won’t even be a way to replace her battery.  Hill insists there must be a way he can keep her, but she has been well-programmed.  She speaks of cheating just as Katherine 1.0 did to taunt him into shooting her.  It works as he shots her and synthetic blood spills out onto the white floor.

Within seconds, a police detective arrives and arrests Hill for murder.  He is put on trial because a few hand-wringing do-gooders have decided that robots should have the same rights as humans.  He is found unanimously guilty in a televised trial that seems to be some sort of precursor to reality-TV, complete with soundtrack and stinger queues.

rbpunish03Katherine 1.0 comes to visit him in jail.  Even though the jailers know Katherine is alive, the sentence is carried out.


  • Unlike my recap — a model of economic narrative — the episode opens with a framing scene, then a flashback, then a flashback within the flashback, ending with the same framing scene.  Sort of.
  • The opening and closing scenes cover the same material, just as in Pulp Fiction.  Also, just as in that film, the scenes are not exact duplicates.  I give Tarantino the benefit of the doubt that there was a point to his changes due to shifting perspectives, or even the nature of reality.  I think it was just incompetence here.
  • Nice cell he has, with access to the prison exterior security cameras.

The Signal (2014)

signalcover01Anyone who watches way too many movies and sees this poster thinks, Moon.  If you liked Moon, that’s a good thing.  If you didn’t like Moon, at least you’re in for a surprise treat with The Signal.

It starts off feeling like a thousand other horror movies, with a small group of friends on a road trip.  Somehow it has a handheld feel even though it is not handheld, and doesn’t even use the shaky-cam. Maybe because it has an unattached odd-numbered wheel character, often the camera wielder in those films.

Jonah and the couple, Nic & Haley, are driving Haley to Cal Tech.  The vibe switches gears a little, but smoothly, to techno-thriller, showing the two guys trying to track down a hacker that had targeted them at MIT.  So, no dummies these — a major deviation from most horror movies.

Then, it is back to a horror vibe as their investigation leads them on a side-trip down a dirt road ending at a dilapidated house.  They bravely search the house, even going into the Blair Witchy, Evil Deady basement.  When they hear screams from Haley, they race back to the car.  Then we do have a bit of shaky-cam action with bright lights and chaos.

signallf01Nic wakes up in government facility staffed by employees wearing hazmat suits.  Laurence Fishburne tells Nic that what they saw at the house was an EBE.  He is otherwise tight with any info about where they are or the condition of his friends.  For his part, his legs which required crutches before, seem to not be functional at all.

Nic makes an unsuccessful escape attempt with Haley in tow — literally — he is rolling out in his wheelchair with a tow-line attached to her gurney.  The attempt is so quixotic, that it almost seems like it must have been a dream; especially as numerous workers come absurdly close without spotting them.

Nic makes a shocking discovery about his condition, and attempts another unlikely escape with Haley.  This time they manage to escape the facility and find themselves in the desert.  From here they encounter some very strange locals, and they story takes another turn into the superhero / fantasy realm.

signallf02Throughout its twists, I was consistently interested and entertained.  Several reviews have complained about pacing, but I had no issues at all.  One went so far as to give the screenplay a D grade.  There certainly is a huge question at the end, but it is the kind best left to the audience to resolve for themselves.

If I had to lodge one criticism, it would be that the Haley character is pretty much a zero. She is the reason they are travelling to California, but not for any otherwise plot-relevant purpose.  She is absent or in a coma for much of the film.  She does not assist in the escapes, being literally a drag in the first attempt. While Nic and Jonah experience certain changes during their captivity, Haley really does not.  There is evidence of surgical tinkering with her body, but no overt changes as we see in the other two.  She is Winston Zeddemore.  Except white.  And female.  And cute (sorry, Z).

Very good stuff.


  • Haley is played by the very cute Olivia Cooke from Bates Motel — I did not recognize her without the tubes in her nose.
  • My occasional prosopagnosia also prevented me from recognizing Brenton Thwaites from the very good Oculus which I just saw on April 12th (yeah, I keep track).
  • Wikipedia says Sarah Clarke (Nina Myers from 24) was in this, but IMDb does not list her.  Her, I can’t believe I would have missed.  Based on the trailers, I get the sense there were a LOT of scenes cut.
  • Not to be confused with The Signal, a 2007 horror joint that I liked.  Or according to IMDb, Signal which will be released in 2015, or The Signal which will be released in 2016, or The Signal currently in development (c’mon 2017!).

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Creeper (S1E38)

ahbabysitter03The episode gets off to a good start with Reta Shaw as Mrs. Stone.  Anyone who has watched too much 1970s TV will recognize her from usually playing a bulldog of a cleaning woman.

Mrs. Grant has been waiting for the locksmith to install a chain on her door.  Her idiot lout of a husband berates her for being afraid of a strangler — the titular Creeper — that has been terrorizing the neighborhood.

Shaw and the new janitor are discussing the Creeper and Shaw opines that the women were probably asking for it: “Decent women don’t get themselves murdered.”

ahpcreeperwomen06Mrs. Grant’s husband is a surly jerk and they appear to live in the Kramdens’ old apartment. He has just been passed over for a raise, and is currently working nights like the husbands of the murdered women. When she asks if he can switch to the day shift, he berates her.  There is never any insinuation that he is the strangler, although it seems they are about equal in their respect for women.

Mr. Grant stops off for a beer before work, maybe explaining why he didn’t get that raise, and talks to his friend Ed who had once dated Mrs. Grant.  Ed does come off as a possible suspect.  When Ed points out that the victims had both been blondes home alone, it finally occurs to Mr. Grant that maybe his wife is legitimately scared.

Ed drops by the Grant home, appearing suddenly, to Mrs. Grant’s shock.  He says he came to keep her company but won’t say how he got in.  Mrs. Grant does not believe his story that her husband asked him to keep her company.  For good reason — Mr. Grant does not strike me as a guy who would send a former boyfriend to keep an eye on his property, er, woman.

ahpcreeperwomen03Plus Ed is pretty creepy, and does try to force himself on Mrs. Grant until some neighbors complain about the noise.  She uses that opportunity to ask him to leave.  Seeing the man, Shaw wastes no time accusing Mrs. Grant of being a tart who will get what she deserves in the end, just like those other two victims.

Finally the locksmith arrives as Mr. Grant calls to apologize.  Unfortunately, he does not apologize for sending Ed to keep her company.  She tells him the locksmith has arrived and he tells her the police are saying the Creeper has been pretending to be a locksmith.

ahpcreeperellen05Hands come into frame to choke her.

So, for the ladies, another love song of J Alfred Hitchcock.





  • AHP Deathwatch:  All dead.
  • Christ!  Reta Shaw was only 43 in this?

To be fair, I’m sure he considers rape a close second

Grave Mistake (2008)

gravemistakecover0220 Horror Movies for $5.  What could possibly go wrong?  Part VII.

What a nightmare — I watched this after a long flight, half asleep and hated it.  Wanting to be fair, I started writing as I rewatched it.  As I wrote about how awful it was, I kept finding nuggets that I really liked.  I finally got to the point where I realized my whole thesis was wrong.  So I got up early and went to Panera Bread to rewrite the post.  And the wifi was out.

To be sure, it fails on every objective technical level, but it does have some fun ideas which puts it ahead of a lot of movies not included 20-to-a-box.

It actually starts out with a good gag where a man’s legs are sticking out of the cab of a pickup.  They start jiggling a little, and given the genre, it is reasonable to assume he he is being chomped by a zombie in the cab.  It is revealed that he is just drunk.  I’m not entirely sure this bit of comedic misdirection was intentional, because it is so poorly directed.  On the other hand, I’m pretty sure this was intentional:

I have no patience for PC fascists, but this just didn’t seem earned.

The drunk, and the next two people we meet — a kid and a “slow” (I think he was supposed to be slow) man are among the worst actors I’ve ever seen; I mean, like Bill Paxton bad.  The next character we meet, bearing a striking resemblance to Jesus, is maybe the only competent actor in the movie.  At this point, I can see how I formed my initial assessment of this film.

We spend a little more quality time with slow-man Phil.  If his speech impediment and krazy camo hat were not classic DSM-IV symptoms of a mental health condition, then his sloppy sandwich eating skills clinch it.  Although, he has written a Zombie Survivalist Manual, so maybe he is some kind of high-functioning savant.

I have to give the movie credit for one of the greatest cuts since 2001:  From Phil chomping on a cream cheese sandwich, we cut to a Renaissance Fair style trio playing instruments that I can’t even begin to imagine what they are.  Also hanging out are magicians, jugglers and swordsmen.  I have a feeling the auteur happened to have friends into Renaissance Fairs and thought that might be a cheap way to add some atmosphere.  And he was right.  The new actors are also horrible, but the concept is such a great non-sequitur, that much of the charm of the movie comes from this quirk, which — bonus! — is actually integral to the story later.  That is already more thought than went into Die Hard 5.

Jesus, Phil and a couple of kids see the first reports of Zombies on the TV at Jesus’ garage.  For some reason, the newscaster is played by the same actor who plays Phil.  There were 112 people in this thing — they couldn’t throw a speaking bone to one of the Zombies?  His acting as the newsman is slightly less offensive than as Phil, however, he is wearing a bizarre hairpiece which more closely resembles a beret.

The attacks begin, first on a farmer and his daughter.  Credit to the movie for allowing the daughter to clock some Zombie kids in the head with big-ass rocks.  It is so unexpected, that it is good for laughs.  She also executes a very poor spin, delivering a kung-fu kick to a Zombie’s gut — but again, kudos for having her foot go right through his rotting body.  Good stuff.

A second couple, from the Fair, is attacked just as the man is kneeling, proposing to his girlfriend.  They begin chewing on the girl’s neck.  After some absurd projectile bleeding, the man goes to his car to get a sword. Alas, he is too late and swears, “I will avenge thee!”

The drunk from the first scene comes to Jesus’ garage looking for the kid.  He realizes that toxin he disposed of in a graveyard is responsible for this Zombie attack, and mugs relentlessly for the camera to show his guilt.  With our core group under one roof, they decide to make a run for the local armory.

Along the way, there are many Zombie kills, and the group meets up with more Renaissance Fair participants including a guy in a very handy suit of armor.

Really the only unforgivable sin is the acting.  Except for Jesus, the acting is uniformly dreadful.  I mean over-the-top, mugging, hammy, 2nd grade Thanksgiving pageant awful.  It wouldn’t have cost the director anything to tell the cast — especially the drunk — to dial it down to 11.  Maybe they were going purposely over the top like Raising Arizona, but did not pull it off.

The special effects were of course not Avatar-level.  But for a low-budget movie, I adjust my expectations accordingly.  I actually find the resourcefulness kind of charming.

In all, it was not a wasted 90 minutes as I initially thought.


  • How do these small films like this or Awaken the Dead afford such enormous casts?  In this case, IMDb lists 112 people, 89 credited as “Zombie.”
  • While seeking refuge in a hardware store, a woman finds her weapon-of-choice, a hedge trimmer (more suited for dainty hands than a chainsaw, even the Lady McCulloch).  She is later seen along the road carving a zombie which presents a conundrum since it was a corded electric trimmer.
  • A Google search reveals there is no such thing as a Lady McCulloch which, frankly, kind of surprised me.
  • This same woman gets the award for most bizarre zombie kill — she shoves an umbrella in its mouth and opens it, causing its head to explode.
  • Credits for Shawn Darling: Director, Writer, “Zombie”, Producer, Film Editor, Makeup, Props, Sound, Camera, Special Features Camera, Music Editor, Score, Location Scout, Puppeteer, Visual FX and Compositing.
  • Heard on a TV:  “We interrupt this premiere of Shawn Darling’s Ghosts . ..



Tales from the Crypt – Collection Completed (S1E6)

tftccover01Starring M. Emmett Walsh and Audra Lindley, my first thought was Christ, don’t let there be a love scene.  I just saw one with Tony & Carmella Soprano and my stomach can only take so much in one week.

Walsh is a surly, bitter old man who has just faced mandatory retirement after 47 years on the job.  Now he and Lindley have more time to spend with each other, and that is not good news for either of them.  Lindley is probably legitimately nuts with her animal obsession, and this makes Walsh even nastier.

Eventually he takes up a new hobby — taxidermy — and the ending pretty much writes itself.  His first object d’art is a dog that Lindley had named after him.  He stuffs it, and further horrifies his wife with a remote that can make the eyes light on and off.  Tacky.

tftccollectiondog01The only question is which of these 2 annoying characters will end up stuffed.  You’d hate for it to be Lindley because she seems to have a real psychological problem.  You’d hate for it to be Walsh because . . . well, that would actually be OK with me.

Yet another botched ending as the character who gets stuffed absolutely should have been given the same blinking-light eyes that the dog had — leaving that out was just sloppy.


  • Directed by Mary Lambert the same year she directed Pet Sematary.  Nothing much interesting since, although Mega Python vs Gatoroid sounds promising.
  • Co-written by Battle Davis who IMDb says died 5 years after this aired, at age 42. Also co-written by A. Whitney Brown; a very funny guy who seems to have disappeared from comedy.  Maybe this episode is cursed.
  • Please let this have been a joke, just so this episode has something going for it (even though there is no pike in the tank).tftccollectionpike01