FILM REVIEWS, FILMS, HORROR/THRILLER MOVIES, TECHNOLOGY, TELEVISION
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Thrilling Thoughts About ‘Black Mirror’ and Real ‘American Horror’ Stories

By LaReeca Rucker

Every now and then, I offer a list of some of the best horror/thriller movies, television shows and documentaries I’ve recently seen. Here they are:

Black Mirror: I originally began watching “Black Mirror” a couple of years ago when the first season came to Netflix. At the time, I was a little embarrassed to share with others some of the content of this British science fiction series set in the near future with a technology/social media theme.

Some of the subject matter in the first season has the potential to make viewers blush, including an episode in which the Prime Minster’s daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. She will be murdered if the Prime Minster doesn’t perform an embarrassing act that will be recorded and shared on television and social media.

blackmirrorSo after watching it, I filed it away in my brain as interesting, but edgy until I started to see numerous articles written about “Black Mirror” recently in The New Yorker – which had already labeled the television series “A ‘Twilight Zone’ for the Digital Age” in 2015 – and other publications that heralded “Black Mirror” as a brilliant warning about the role that social media and technology could play in our world in the near future. I think we see a glimmer of this daily with the new President of the United States who uses Twitter to defend himself to the masses whenever he is enraged or agitated.

One “Black Mirror” episode (starring Bryce Dallas Howard – Opie’s daughter) is about a young woman who checks her social media account throughout the day to see if her rating has been elevated or lowered. If you have a rating of 4.5 or more, you are considered an elite member of society, and this gives you special privileges, such as the opportunity to live in select apartment complexes, board certain flights, and rent certain vehicles.

The way your score is calculated is based on social interactions. If you meet someone at the grocery store and have a pleasant exchange with them, they may select your social media profile with their smartphone and opt to raise your rating by giving you points with a few clicks. The opposite is also true. If you are rude to someone in public, they may choose to lower your score.

I won’t give away any more, but if you watch the episode, it is chilling to think that we aren’t very far away from that now with certain apps and websites.

If you haven’t seen this series, Netflix has added a couple more seasons, and every episode I watched was mind-bending. It’s only been a little over 10 years since social media was introduced to the world, and it’s had a major impact in that short period of time. It’s interesting to ponder how technology in the near future will change us for better or worse. It is also frightening.

neerjaNeerja (2016): As a kid, I watched many, many movies, because my aunt and uncle owned a giant satellite dish. I think most of these dishes have vanished from the face of the Earth and are now probably buried in landfills. Dishes that large today would probably be capable of successfully contacting alien life or making new black hole discoveries.

Some of the movies I watched in the 1980s when I was a kid that were not kid movies included a number of films about plane hijackings. “The Delta Force” with Chuck Norris is one that comes to mind.

“Neerja” is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language biographical thriller that features actress Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot, a flight attendant who helped save a number of people aboard the hijacked Pam Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sept. 5, 1986. It’s a great movie about a great person who selflessly helped save many on board.

galapagosThe Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (2013): This documentary has an intriguing title, and the subject matter is interesting. The Galapagos Islands were  inhabited by a colony of Europeans in the 1930s who moved there for various reasons, and there were a number of unexplained disappearances among the residents. The documentary is suspenseful, and I think the story would be a great premise for a fictional novel or movie. A fictional interpretation might also have a more satisfying ending.

Bound By Flesh (2012): The description of this documentary reads: “Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were born in 1908, then were sold to a carnival sideshow as babies. They became huge stars of Vaudeville, but never earned a penny until they sued for freedom in 1936.” I found it interesting.

perfectsistersPerfect Sisters: This is a movie about two sisters whose mother (Academy Award-winner Mira Sorvino) has a history of being an undependable alcoholic who attracts dangerous losers. When one of the girls is nearly victimized by her mother’s degenerate sugar daddy boyfriend, they devise a plan to murder their mother.

The Green Inferno (2013): While I like thrillers and scary movies, I am not a fan of gore. Unfortunately, this movie had more gore than I bargained for. It’s about a group of college activists who travel to another country to protest the demolition of rainforest land. This becomes a regrettable decision when they encounter a tribe of cannibals. Watch at your own risk. I was interested in the film because I have seen several Eli Roth thrillers, including “Hostel,” “Aftershock,” “Cabin Fever” and “The Sacrament.” I wrote about “The Sacrament” in an earlier post.

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The Fall (2013 – ): Before Jamie Dornan was excellently cast in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” he starred in “The Fall,” a BBC psychological crime drama with Gillian Anderson. It’s about a serial killer and the detective trying to catch him. Great performances.

Hush (2016): This was an unexpectedly good thriller about a young deaf author who is terrorized by a masked man who tries to break into her house. But she is no victim. The lead actress also co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, who directed the film.

303d4638483882437f864c7e1159a4a9The Returned (2012): Several years ago, I watched the first season of the French television series “The Returned.” I recently watched the second season on Netflix. Because I liked the French series so much, I have not bothered to watch the American knock-off version.

There is some indication that the mysterious town residents who have returned from the dead are zombies, the kind that eat flesh, but if so, the plot has been as slow moving as a typical zombie’s walk, and that has made the show wonderfully suspenseful.

itIt Follows (2014): This film got a lot of great reviews, so I wanted to check it out. It’s described as a supernatural psychological horror film that “follows a girl pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter.” I can’t really explain it, but if you are a fan of the horror/thriller genre, you’ll probably want to check it out. If you remember the horror movie rules outlined in “Scream” – for teenagers, this scenario almost always results in a horror movie death.

American Horror Story (2011 -): I watched the first season of American Horror Story years ago. I loved it, but there weren’t any more episodes available at that time, so I forgot about it.

I recently found some time – the first block of time I’ve had in about two years to watch anything – and I watched four seasons of AHS about the asylum, the witches’ coven, the carnival, and the hotel.

ahsIf you watch the episodes back to back, it seems like there is an excessive amount of gore in this series, but if you are watching it one episode at a time on television, I can see why they would include something scary in each episode to keep the horror fan coming back.

I continue to be amazed by the performance of Jessica Lange, who may be my favorite actress. I also think it’s brilliant how the directors recycle this ensemble cast every season, creating new characters.

I think my favorite season was the asylum, followed by the hotel. Lady Gaga demonstrated in this show that she is a triple threat who can sing, dance and act. She was an intriguing character, and it will be interesting to see how she is revived next season.

I’ve said this many times to others, but AHS is multilayered, and the real horror is not the gore. It’s not the vampires, ghosts and witches. It’s the American horrors of our country – past and present – that are brilliantly interwoven into the stories, such as the way people with disabilities or mental illness were historically treated, racism, slavery and the ongoing horror of addiction.

There were numerous news articles written last year reporting that there were more heroin or opioid deaths than gun deaths in 2015, and we saw a number of photographs released last year by police of people (who looked dead) who had overdosed in their cars with children. According to the linked article, “more than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year — the most ever.” That’s an American Horror Story.

I also sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who remembers Sarah Paulson from “American Gothic” back in the 1990s? Remember that creepy line she delivered? “Someones at the door.” It seems like she just can’t get away from “American” horror television shows.

amandaAmanda Knox (2016) documentary: This doc seems like a cautionary tale about traveling and living abroad. It also seems like a warning about media sensationalism and how European and American reporters were hungry to latch onto anything that seemed salacious that sold papers and made headlines regarding this casebook.

It also demonstrates how women are often portrayed in the media – and in society – as virgin or vamp. There’s a book by that title – Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes – if you’d like to enlighten yourself on the topic. I read it 20 years ago for an undergraduate journalism class.

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