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Brooklyn 45, Nefarious, The Black Demon, Baby Oopsie, Morgan, and Society
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 233
We’ve got six more movies and a short film this week:
We’ll start with the 2023 Shudder Original, “Brooklyn 45,” a WWII-era ghost story— sorta. We’ll then go to prison in “Nefarious,” also from this year. After we watch our short film, “Canary,” we’ll watch an outrageous killer-doll film, “Baby Oopsie.” We’ll then wrap it up with “The Black Demon” from 2023.
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For our bonus films, we have:
“Society” (1989) - A very strange body-horror movie with, um, “social” commentary.
“Morgan” (2016) - It’s an insane, killer robot!— or is it?
Exclusive Giveaway for the newsletter:
We have FIVE completely free copies of “The Black Demon” to give away, and we’re only announcing it here! The first five people to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org will get it. Note that it’s a promo code that you redeem through the Redbox app, so you’ll have to set up a free account through them. There’s no cost or trick involved, really!
Check out all our books with one easy link: https://brianschell.com/collection/horrorguys
Here. We. Go!
Brooklyn 45 (2023)
Directed by Ted Geoghegan
Written by Ted Geoghegan
Stars Anne Ramsay, Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm
Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was interesting as it plays out in real time, and mostly just in one room. The acting is excellent, the script was interesting, and there are some horror elements for sure. But the ending left us unsatisfied. There should have been more there.
It’s between Christmas and New Year’s 1945, and the war is over. Bob and Marla Sheridan arrive and meet Major Stanton, whom Bob calls a war criminal. She doesn’t believe he did it. They all go into Lt. Col. Clive “Hock” Hockstatter’s place, and the Major welcomes them all. Major Paul DiFranco is already there, and has been drinking all day.
Marla works at the Pentagon now. Clive mentions how Marla used to interrogate prisoners for information. “America’s finest interrogator,” he says. They’re all there because Clive’s wife Susan has died, and he’s all alone for the holidays. Archie complains that the press is calling him a war criminal, but the others all say it’ll blow over. Bob, Marla’s husband, is the only real outsider and he’s obviously uncomfortable.
They all drink a toast to dead-Susie. Clive says he’s been doing a lot of reading in the six weeks since she committed suicide. He’s been reading up on the supernatural– ghosts and so forth. He’s not saying he believes any of it, but he does want them to humor him by having a seance. Paul thinks it’s silly, and Bob doesn’t think it’s a good idea either.
Clive gives a long speech about death and what happens. Eventually, everyone agrees to go ahead with the seance. He has Susan’s bloody handkerchief, and that creates some alarm in his guests. They all hold hands, and Clive calls for the spirits. There’s a beating at the closet door. Clive warns that they can’t break the circle before they end the seance.
Paul thinks it’s a silly trick and says as much. Susan’s locket comes to life and “points” at each of them. Clive tells the spirits “Force your way into our world with all your might.” He then pukes up a big white glob that turns into a visible ghost and they hear Susan’s voice.
Things get weird, and Clive and Paul break the link. They didn’t finish the seance, so the door is still open– they can try again. “It’s real!” They all believe it now. Clive pulls out a pistol and shoots himself so he can be with Susan.
Suddenly, the closet door breaks open and a woman spills out, all tied up. It’s the German next-door neighbor that Clive took as a prisoner. Paul pulls a pistol on her and demands answers. Susan called Marla last September to come and interrogate Hildegaard; Susan was going crazy even then.
There’s a lot of talk about whether or not Hildegaard is a former Nazi, and now that the war is over, does it even matter? We have a long discussion while Archie and Paul talk about killing Germans and Hildy puts them both in their place.
Archie and Paul suddenly turn on each other. Archie asked Paul to lie for him at the war crimes testimony. Archie killed many children in a kindergarten on Clive’s orders. Marla is appalled, but even Hildy stands up for Archie; these things happen in war.
Archie shoots the door and the windows, but the windows don’t break. Paul still won’t unlock the door. Finally, Marla gives up and says she’ll confirm Hildy’s status as a Nazi or not.
Marla, the interrogator, goes to work with a needle under Hildy’s fingernail. She declares that Hildy isn’t a Nazi, but Paul isn’t convinced. Still, he relents and puts the key into the lock– it disappears. The door eats his key.
Clive’s dead body starts talking. “Somebody is going to kill that Nazi.” There’s a great deal of screaming. Marla comes to the conclusion that the seance never ended, so the “door” to the other side is still open.
They all sit down and hold hands, including dead-Clive. Dead-Clive says the war isn’t really over. They all see Susie’s ghost, and she accuses Hildy of killing her. The ghost says it wasn’t suicide– Hildy murdered her.
Archie begs to get out “Send me to prison; send me to Hell.” The door opens, and it does appear to be Hell on the other side. He closes the door again. Paul attacks Hildy, but Bob grabs the gun and makes him stop. Paul threatens all of them. Clive sits up and demands, “Kill her!”
Paul rushes Bob, who shoots Paul in the head. Then he shoots Hilda. The door unlocks, and he opens the door now opening to the normal-looking hallway. Marla, Archie, and Bob leave and go outside. Archie says he’s going to admit the truth of what he did in the morning.
It all takes place in one room, in real time. There’s some supernatural stuff early on, but the bulk of the drama comes with the handful of people in the room arguing.
The acting was excellent, the character drama was really good, the special effects were somewhat minimal but perfectly adequate. It’s all very good, but the ending was very weak. I was expecting some kind of twist or fallout, but that wasn’t it. When the ghosts got what they wanted, they left.
Kevin pointed out afterward that we didn’t really know whether Hildy killed Susan or not. Susan was crazy in life, so maybe she was still delusional after death. We just don’t know. If Bob knew he was going to shoot Hildy, then why shoot Paul, who only wanted to shoot Hildy in the first place?
Directed by Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon
Written by Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon
Stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Jordan Belfi, Tom Ohmer
Run Time: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was very hit and miss. The performance from Sean Patrick Flanery was amazing, and Jordan Belfi kept up with him. The basics of the script is interesting. There are some chilling moments. But there’s a lot of just two guys sitting in a room talking. There are several plot points that don’t work like that in the real world. And there’s a wrap-up scene that neither of us enjoyed.
Dr. Fischer writes something in a book, straightens his MD certificate on the wall, and then leaves. We next see him jump off the roof of his office tower as credits roll.
It’s the day of Edward Wayne Brady’s scheduled execution, and there are many protestors outside the prison. Dr. James Martin arrives to evaluate Brady before the execution. The warden offers to let him just sign off and go home, but Martin wants to do it right, shame about Dr. Fischer’s death, but they aren’t going to delay the execution again.
The warden says Brady is a master manipulator and a genius; he’s sure to try and convince Martin that he’s insane so that he won’t be executed. All the guards leave the cell, leaving Brady and Martin alone together in a room.
Brady already knows all about Martin’s background. Brady says he made Fischer commit suicide. He wants Martin to write his story. He says he’s a demon and cannot really die. He name is “Nefariamos” or “Nefarious” for short. He’s twitchy, fast-talking, and crazy-looking.
Brady says that before Martin leaves today, he will have committed three murders. He describes the stages of his possession of Brady. His work with Brady is done, and he wants to be executed. He won’t die, but Brady will. Martin calls in a chaplain for insight, since he’s an atheist.
Brady gives a whole diatribe against atheists like Martin. A light bulb explodes overhead. “Probably just a coincidence,” Nefarious says. Father Louis comes in, and Brady isn’t happy to see him. Louis doesn’t believe in demons either, but he also doesn’t stay long.
Martin wants proof that Brady’s a demon. Nefarious wants Martin to “invite him in.” Martin, still an atheist, tells him to go right ahead and possess him. Nefarious lets the real Brady talk, and he says he didn’t want to kill anyone, the demon forced him to.
Brady, back to being Nefarious, says Martin killed his own mother; it was a medically-assisted suicide ten years ago. That was Martin’s first murder; two to go. Martin still thinks that Brady has a dissociative disorder. The two talk about theology for a long while.
Martin says that he thinks that Brady believes all this and is mentally incompetent and unfit for execution. Brady argues with him; he wants to be executed. Brady asks Martin about his girlfriend’s planned abortion; he says sacrificing babies has always been a thing. That’s two murders. Martin calls his girlfriend on the phone to tell her to stop, but she’s already gone in for her abortion.
Martin is sad and talks to the warden. The warden points out that Martin only has one more hour with the prisoner. How did Brady know about the abortion?
Brady talks about modern slavery and about how evil humanity already is. Brady wants Martin to write the book of his life, a dark gospel. Some guards come in and pull Martin out of the room; the warden has found a scrapbook journal in Brady’s cell that has pictures of Martin as a child; he knows everything about him through all his life. There’s also Brady’s dark gospel book, fully written. The warden gives Martin an incentive to sign the papers on Brady.
Brady uses those too long restraint chains to his advantage and tries to strangle Martin. There are four or five guards in the room who do nothing until after Brady lets him go. Martin signs the papers that Brady is completely sane and competent to be executed. That’s the third murder, just like Nefarious said.
The warden recommends that Martin just go home, but he wants to watch the execution. There are the usual execution preparations, and they take Brady to the electric chair.
Martin watches as Brady makes his final statement. The clock winds down and they throw the switch. Twice.
Martin hears in his head, “You should have accepted my offer,” and starts twitching. He grabs a detective’s gun and holds everyone at bay. He tries to kill himself, but the gun doesn’t fire. The police tackle him.
One year later, Martin appears on the Glen Beck show. He’s written a book about Brady, rewriting the dark gospel as a warning to humanity instead of what Nefarious had in mind. He tells his story, but there was nothing wrong with the gun or bullets– it must be a miracle!
This isn’t how an execution works. They wouldn’t do a mental evaluation hours before the execution; that would have been done long before. Also, they don’t execute people at a secret time of day, it’s always heavily publicized. The chains holding Brady’s hands to the table were way too long, and that became a plot point. Kevin came up with all this before the five-minute point. There are a lot of factual problems with this one. Would they have allowed a detective to carry a gun into the execution?
I’ve heard this film called religious propaganda. It certainly makes a number of anti-abortion arguments among the less-obvious things but (ignoring the epilogue) it wasn’t much more religious than, say, “The Exorcist.”
Sean Patrick Flanery acts his heart out between his two personalities. It’s good in the beginning, but it gets very old, very fast. By the twenty-five minute point, I was looking at my watch. It’s like a play, set in a single room with two guys making speeches at each other. The segment with the execution was pretty brutal and realistic.
And who actually decided that Glen Beck, of all people, would play the voice of reason in the end? The whole final segment, with the interview, was unnecessary and boring.
Short Film: Canary (2023)
Directed by Taka Tsubota
Written by Jasper Chen
Stars Barron Leung, Andrew Hayden Kang, Matthew Mitchell Espinoza
Run Time: 17:58
A couple of guys talk about starving and lack of food. A man writes in his diary and something we don’t see happens outside, which upsets him. The others tell him to come in and shut the doors so the “spiders'' don't see him. Will help ever come? At least the rain will drive them off for a while.
We then flashback to the group driving into the forest one night during break…
As we flip back and forth between good times in the car and the nastiness of the present “Lord of the Flies” situation, we eventually start to figure out what’s going on. Which is worse, the monster outside or the monster within?
It looks good, and the acting is fine, but it ends abruptly without any resolution to the monster plot or the “social” plot.
Baby Oopsie (2021)
Directed by William Butler
Written by William Butler
Stars Libbie Higgins, Joseph Huebner, Justin Armistead
Run Time: 1 Hour, 10 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was quite a trip of strange people and a very strange doll. There’s lots of dark humor and generous amounts of gore. Good soundtrack too. We call it a win.
We open with Sybil Pittman working at her sewing machine. We see lots and lots of dolls all over her house. She turns on the camera and starts her recording. She has a show about reclaiming and restoring dolls. The doorbell rings, and Mitzy yells for her to get the door. Credits roll.
The postman is in love with Libby; the unicorn-scout girl selling cookies is not a fan. Sybil’s stepmother Mitzy is just horrible. Sybil opens her package, and it’s a really scary-looking old doll head with “Baby Oopsie” printed on the back. They rent out a room to Kristy, but Mitzy doesn’t like her either. Mitzy wonders if Sybil is still crazy.
Sybil gets to work restoring the ugly head. She improves it quite a bit, but it’s still hideous. She explains her love for dolls to Kristy, who is really very nice to her, telling her to stand up for herself.
Ray Ray comes over and gives Sybil a package left on his doorstep by mistake. She gets robbed by some kids shortly after; Oopsie is in her handbag and hears everything.
At work, Sybil receives a strange pentagram gear in the mail. Her boss is condescending and mean and gets a final warning about being late.
She goes home that night and continues working on Oopsie. Ray Ray comes over and gives her a pep talk, but she doesn’t appreciate him. Later, Mitzy starts yelling about nonsense and Baby Oopsie’s eyes glow bright green.
Oopsie is supposed to be the highlight of her next show, but his voice doesn’t quite work yet. Sybil puts the funky pentagram gear inside the doll to fix it, and he works perfectly now– it laughs maniacally. We see it looking around as its eyes move. Sybil then goes to sleep.
Baby Oopsie runs around looking for a knife “The bitch is back,” it says, assaulting the other dolls. Oopsie then strangles Gator, one of the robbers from earlier, trash-talking him the whole time.
Oopsie then returns home to find Mitzy throwing away many of Sybil’s dolls. Things go very, very bad for Mitzy after knocking out Sybil. When she awakens, Kristy and Ray Ray are there, but there’s no blood and no body. She tells them about the killer doll, and they think she’s got a concussion.
Baby Oopsie confesses everything to Sybil, who starts doubting her sanity. She locks the doll in the trunk of her car. Oopsie needs to murder to stay animated. Worse, Sybil gets fired and her bank accounts are frozen.
Sybil thinks it over and decides that maybe Baby Oopsie was right all along. She goes home and dismembers Mitzy. Ray Ray helps her load the heavy garbage bags into the car. Baby Oopsie kills Karen, Sybil’s former boss, and it’s not pretty.
Baby Oopsie wants to kill the nice gardener, but Sybil likes him. They fight, so Sybil Googles “killer dolls” and learns all about “Demonic Toys.” Meanwhile, Oopsie kidnaps the Unicorn-Scout.
Sybil and Ray Ray go hunting in the basement while Oopsie attacks Kristy in the bath tub– with a toaster. Sybil gathers her tools and we get a “weapons montage” as she prepares for battle. After a quick battle, she throws plastic solvent on it and pulls out the magic gear.
Earl the mailman comes over and mentions that Ray Ray was the one sending all the doll parts. She goes over to Ray Ray’s house and finds him doing a Satanic ritual. His own army of dolls jumps on Sybil.
On the next episode of “Doll Whisperer,” Ray Ray guest stars, telling how to build your own “best friend…”
Kevin says it’s “Gollum Meets Chucky.” Yeah, that’s about right, but a hundred times better than it sounds!
Produced by Charles Band, the man behind the “Puppet Master” and “Demonic Toys” series. The music and audio are excellent, one of the things that made those other series stand out.
I like how Sybil imagines killing her tormentors. She wouldn’t do it herself, so Oopsie was a dream come true (even if they’re covered in blood). The doll is a great prop, and it is horrendously ugly and surprisingly expressive.
It’s cheap. It’s low-budget. The acting isn’t great. That said— we loved it!
The Black Demon (2023)
Directed by Adrian Grunberg
Written by Carlos Cisco, Boise Esquerra
Stars Josh Lucas, Fernanda Urrejola, Venus Arial
Run Time: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
From the publisher:
Now streaming on Redbox On Demand, Josh Lucas stars in the heart-pounding action thriller, THE BLACK DEMON. An idyllic family vacation turns into a fight for survival when they encounter a ferocious megalodon shark that will stop at nothing to protect its territory. Stream THE BLACK DEMON instantly on Redbox today for the ultimate battle between humans and nature. Rated R. From Paramount Pictures.
From the Horror Guys:
There are some thrills and chills and decent action scenes, so there’s a lot to like here. It’s not amazing, a little predictable, but entertaining overall. If you’re a fan of “sharks gone bad” movies, this one is worth checking out.
We are told of a legendary, godlike shark that only comes when summoned. We open on two men, one a diver, out late at night, checking out the base of an oil rig. Why they are doing this at night is anyone’s guess. We see the diver looking at a clock that looks an awful lot like a countdown timer a bomb would have, attached to the rig. The diver is eaten, as is his tender and the boat he’s on. Credits roll.
Tommy, Paul, Ines, and Audrey drive in their car on vacation somewhere in Mexico. Paul is there to inspect and possibly decommission the huge oil rig out on the horizon. He knows the area, but it’s been a while and the whole little town has gone way downhill; even the hotel has closed down.
They soon run into El Rey, who’s not into gringos at all. Wife Ines takes charge and rescues Paul from an assault. Tommy steals something from a local shop. El Rey takes them to a place to stay and mentions protection from a demon, but Paul doesn’t believe any of it and soon leaves on a boat to the oil rig.
The boatman says the oil rig woke up a demon from the deep; that’s why everything is so bad in town. Paul smiles at the ignorant man. The boatman gets off and sends Paul the rest of the way on his own; he won’t go near that place.
Back on the beach, Tommy points out to Audrey and Ines that there are no birds here, which is weird. Local toughs notice the trio, and things soon escalate into Ines breaking a bottle over some guy’s head and running away back to their car… which has flat tires. She offers a different boatman a handful of cash to take them out to the oil rig.
Paul arrives on the oil rig, and it appears to be deserted. He finds two men and a little dog. They see Ines’s boat approaching and start making a bunch of noise– we see a huge shark destroy Paul’s boat. Audrey falls into the water, and we see lots and lots of body parts floating down there. They watch as the second boat is swallowed whole by the most outrageously huge shark that ever was.
Chato, the man from the rig, says he doesn’t know how long the beast has been out there. He says it’s not just a shark, it’s a megalodon. The radio’s broken and there’s no way to signal the company. “Nothing works!” Also, it’s been leaking oil for months, but Chato says the company was well aware of it.
Paul thinks he can restore power, but someone will have to go down in a diving bell. Chato says the thing is an extension of an old god, Tlaloc, who wants revenge for the company’s environmental damage. Paul, of course, is skeptical, but there is a big shark out there.
Chato and Junior, the other mechanic, go down in the diving bell to restore power. They find the bomb that was planted in the pre-credit sequence, and it’s got about two and a half hours left. The shark eats the diving bell and Junior, but Chato swims to the surface.
Paul and Chato talk about the bomb. Paul hallucinates seeing nearby ships. “It makes you see things’ it plays games with your mind,” Chato explains. They argue about Paul’s shirt color - from the company, and Chato calls Paul a company puppet.
Tommy finds little ritual figurines all over the rig. Inez finds some scary-looking environmental reports, all signed by Paul, who knew all about the environmental problems. Tommy sets the little figures into a toy boat and floats them out into the ocean. Suddenly, everyone winds up in the water, but everyone gets out unscathed. Ines calls Paul the monster since this is all his fault.
Paul admits that the rig has failed every inspection since it was built, but he thought he could fix it. It was either fake the reports or lose his job, a really good paying job. He’s also pretty sure that the bomb was placed there by the company to get rid of the evidence of all the corruption– and him, personally as well.
The kids work on patching up an old escape raft. Paul accuses Chato of not trying to escape before; he was willing to destroy the rig and save his village. Still, they all come together to pray to Tlaloc.
Paul says his goodbyes and puts on a wetsuit. Chato gets the whole family outside and into the escape raft. Paul fixes the oil leak and cuts the bomb loose and goes looking for the giant shark. He calls on the radio and says goodbye to everyone yet again as the tear-jerky music plays.
As the bomb’s timer counts down, Paul swims toward the shark and it swallows him whole before blowing up excessively. Not long after, El Rey comes to pick up the people on the raft, including the dog. As they sail away, the entire oil rig just sort of falls apart and sinks.
Evil corporations– what’cha gonna do?
As soon as we saw the bomb, we knew exactly how this would end, and we were right.
They were able to see the oil rig from the beach, but there is clearly no land in sight at all from the rig. I’m pretty sure vision works in both directions.
The sets are cool, and the situation is interesting and unique. The acting, direction, and special effects are middle of the road. The plot is very predictable and overly melodramatic, but well executed for what it is. This is not “Jaws” or even “The Meg,” this is more of an isolation-with-a-time-limit thriller.
Directed by Brian Yuzna
Written by Zeph E. Daniel, Rick Fry
Stars Billy Warlock, Concetta D’Agnese, Ben Slack
Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This moves along fairly slowly in the beginning, almost too much so. It purrs along as a so-so 80s horror flick, building just a little until… There’s a jump to body horror in the third act that is way out there. It was worth the wait.
Bill Whitney walks through the old house and wanders through the dark, empty place. He pulls a knife out of a drawer and wanders around until his mother wakes him up; was he sleepwalking? Bill talks to his therapist the next day. He bites into an apple and sees it’s full of worms. Credits roll.
Bill and his friend Milo talk about stuff until David Blanchard arrives. Bill’s sister Jenny doesn’t want to see David; they’ve broken up. David attacks Jenny, so Bill throws him out. Billy imagines seeing something under Jenny’s skin.
Bill gives a speech about the school’s dress code and brags to Dr. Cleveland, his therapist. Bill doesn’t feel like he fits in with his parents; could he have been adopted? Bill sort of accidentally watches his sister taking a weird shower.
Bill goes to the beach with his girlfriend Shauna, who wants to go to Ted Ferguson’s party. David tells Billy that he put bugs all over his family’s house, and he plays the tape for Billy. It’s about his parents telling Jenny about sex and arranging partners for her. Then there’s a recording of a really strange-sound sex scene with lots of screaming. Jenny’s father has found one of the microphones, and he tells Judge Carter about it.
Bill gives the tape to Dr. Cleveland. The doctor plays the tape back for Bill, and it’s all normal and innocuous. “If you don’t follow the rules, bad things happen,” he warns. He calls David for another copy of the tape, but David doesn’t survive until their meeting.
Bill goes to Ferguson’s party and meets Clarissa, whom he has an immediate crush on. Bill and Ferguson get into a fight, but that just turns Clarissa on. They soon have sex until she gets all bent out of shape. Shauna and her friend are watching the house from her car. They spot someone strange going into the house; it’s Clarissa’s giant, burly mother who coughs up a hairball.
There’s drama with Shauna the next day. He goes inside to find Mom, Dad, and Jenny having a little orgy, but they all act like it’s perfectly normal. They tell Bill that he’ll make a great contribution to society.
Bill and Milo go to David’s funeral. Petrie tells Bill that he has something to talk about, and they set a time to meet. Petrie doesn’t live long enough for the conversation. Bill runs to Clarissa’s house to call the police, and the two of them go back to the scene of the accident. There’s no body or blood; the police are not amused.
Bill gets up in front of the school and talks about David and Petrie and the society that kills to keep its existence a secret. Then Petrie walks onto the stage, perfectly healthy. Milo says he followed Bill to the meeting last night, and he saw some weird stuff.
Bill goes home to confront all the adults, but Milo spots an ambulance arriving. The ambulance guys grab Bill as his doctor injects him with something. Milo follows them to the hospital, where the nurse says Bill is in the morgue. We cut to Bill, in a regular hospital bed. He wakes up and walks out. Milo thinks it’s all some kind of setup, but Bill seems fine with all of it now.
He goes to Clarissa, who warns him not to go home. He goes straight home and grabs a knife. There’s a whole crowd of people there, and they’re all in on it. Judge Carter makes a speech about how entertaining this hunt has been. He especially likes “the shunt.” His parents tell Billy that he never was one of them; a different race from them; a different species; “not one of us.” Dr. Cleveland says it’s all just a matter of good breeding.
Milo and Clarissa’s weird mother watch people arrive at the party. The ambulance men lead in someone else with a leash. It’s David, not dead at all. The judge talks about Billy as if he’s going to be dinner.
The crowd tears off David’s clothes and starts merging with him and consuming him. Everything is slimy and veiny, and they all literally dig into David. Clarissa feels bad for Billy and releases him before it’s his turn. Dr. Cleveland chases Bill around the house with a giant leash and even bigger hands. Billy soon finds out how weird his own family really is.
Everyone “pulls themselves back together” to humiliate Bill further. Bill challenges Ferguson to a fight, and it’s all treated like a kind of duel. Somehow, Bill turns the tables on Ferguson and kills him from the inside out. As winner of the duel, he’s allowed to escape with his friends.
Bill, Milo, and Clarissa run outside and drive away.
It’s pretty slow-moving in the beginning, even toward the direction of being boring. Once the conspiracies start stacking up, it gets better. It’s a satire about the upper class sucking the life out of regular people, but it’s maybe a little too obvious and beats you over the head with that message.
Still, the body horror in the climax is second to none and absolutely over the top. I’d definitely recommend the last twenty minutes, but I’d fast forward over the rest of it.
Directed by Luke Scott
Written by Seth W. Owen
Stars Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie
Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was very heavily a science fiction action thriller. But it has the horror elements of the creation of life forms and the problems that can arise from that. And there’s some good violence and with a sprinkling of body horror thrown in. There was an amazing cast, realistic effects, but a story that was a little predictable. Overall quite entertaining.
We open on a security camera view of a cell. A woman comes in and tells the prisoner that she hasn’t been able to talk anyone into letting her out yet, but she came to have lunch with her. The prisoner wipes everything off the table and stabs the woman viciously. Credits roll.
We hear a phone call from Jim Bryce to Lee Weathers, who is in Risk Management. He doesn’t want “another Helsinki,” so she needs to handle the L-series with care. Ted Brenner, the project manager, welcomes her to the old house where the team lives on an isolated estate. Lee is ready to get right down to business, but Ted is more hesitant. Dr. Amy Menser is the behavioralist, and we see that she’s weird. Skip is the nutritionist, and he cooks and feeds everybody.
Lee talks to Kathy next. She’s the woman who was attacked in the pre-credit sequence. She’s lost an eye, but she swears it was her fault, not Morgan’s. “I shouldn’t have confused her.” Lee says, “Morgan is not a she; she’s an ‘it’.” Kathy says Lee is lying about wanting to help; “You’re an assassin.”
Dr. Ziegler brings Lee up to date on the creation of synthetic DNA and nanotechnology. It’s a bit of well disguised exposition for our benefit since Lee knows most of the science already. Morgan was their third attempt, and there’s lots of footage of their progress. She was walking and talking within a month. She’s a hybrid biological and electronic organism. When they talk about “the incident,” Morgan wasn’t allowed to play outside anymore, and they think that is what upset her. He calls it a “setback” but still thinks the project is on-track.
Lee finally meets Morgan, who looks like a young adult even though she’s only five years old. Morgan knows exactly why Lee is there; to evaluate her viability as a product stream.
There's dinner where all the characters discuss “the product.” Dr. Cheng finally comes in and Lee speaks to her in Chinese. They briefly discuss the Helsinki incident; thirty people became nine within an hour. “Those were crude prototypes,” says Dr. Ziegler dismissively.
That evening, Amy goes in to talk to Morgan, but she turns off all the cameras first. She just tells her to be herself on the big test tomorrow, and it appears there’s some romantic attraction there, or at least genuine affection.
The following day, Lee puts a pistol in her belt and goes downstairs to meet Dr. Shapiro, who will be doing Morgan’s AI psych evaluation. He’s in an arrogant hurry, and he’s also very rude to Ziegler. He doesn’t agree with talking through a plate of glass which is there for his safety; he wants to be in the cell with her. So they reluctantly let him in.
Morgan says she’s sad about what happened to Kathy. We flash back to Morgan killing a wounded deer to put it out of its misery the day before the incident with Kathy. Then she seems to read Dr. Shapiro’s mind, or at least is extremely deductive. The two talk about her feelings, and he builds up the stress to confuse her. She proceeds to tear his throat out with her teeth. Darren comes in with a tranquilizer gun, but Morgan flips the dying Shapiro around to take the dart. Morgan then turns off the power and runs out of the lab. She goes outside and runs into Amy just as Lee shoots her in the back with a tranquilizer.
Dr. Cheng tells Ziegler that their project is a failure. He disagrees, but she has rank. She sends him to the house. Cheng orders a lethal injection for Morgan, who promises to do better. Cheng leaves with tears in her eyes. Everyone cries, and Darren and Brenda refuse to give her the injection. Lee goes in to do the job, but Amy shoots her with a tranquilizer. Ted locks Lee in the cell and won’t let her out.
Everyone gets busy packing supplies and records in preparation to flee with Morgan. Darren tells Morgan that everything’s going to be OK, but she kills him with the lethal injection. Ted comes in with a gun, which she promptly takes away and uses on him.
Morgan and Lee talk about things. Morgan and Amy get outside, where Morgan kills Brenda.
Back inside the house, Dr. Cheng makes a failure report to corporate, saying Morgan is no longer viable. She was designed to be a super-soldier, but they were trying to make her more human. Morgan goes back inside and kills Cheng just as Skip starts finding bodies. Lee very athletically gets out of the cell and goes back inside for Morgan; she finds Dr. Ziegler, who has committed suicide.
Morgan jumps out and attacks Lee, but Lee can fight too. We soon get a car chase with Amy and Morgan getting out of the compound and Lee in hot pursuit. Lee ends up running into a tree and the other two get away. She’s injured, but Skip drives up, saying he knows where they’re headed.
Amy and Morgan get to the lake, something Morgan has always wanted. When Morgan figures out that Lee’s in the woods, she goes after Lee, but Amy begs her not to. Before long, they’re fighting again, and it’s pretty clear that no human could take that much damage– not either of them. Eventually, Lee gets impaled on a tree and Morgan runs away.
Morgan goes back for Amy, who pulls a gun and begs her to stop. Lee returns and knocks Morgan into the lake and drowns her. Lee then shoots Amy to clean up loose ends. She goes back to the car and kills Skip.
Back at corporate, Jim Bryce praises Lee for “following her directives, even though there were unavoidable issues. The L-9 was the inferior program.” They should stick to the L-4 stream… like Lee.
The cast is amazing, so obviously, the acting is good. Everything, even the outdoor scenes, have a gloomy gray filter. The special effects are surprisingly minimal and decent. The “twist” at the end that Lee was artificial too was predictable enough that we had it within the first ten minutes.
Awesome cast. A somewhat predictable story. It was good, but there’s nothing new here.
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