Sunday, August 20, 2017

Movie Review: The Ruins (2008)


I read the original book version of this movie back in 2014. I liked it and it earned four stars on Goodreads, and this past weekend I found the movie was now available on Hulu, so I threw it on.

I was very pleasantly surprised. 

Movies based on books seem to be very hit or miss. Most of them take characters and a few major scenes, and then leave out some important details, while making up other parts that were never in the book. 

I think I'm getting ahead of myself though. 

FAIR WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!

The Ruins is about a group of young 20-somethings, coming up on the end of their trip to Mexico. They meet a few others, and someone produces an old, hand-drawn map to some local ruins. They head out, and the map ends up being correct. As they get there though, they become cornered by a group of locals who suddenly prevent them from leaving. 

Left with nowhere to go, they head deeper into the ruins, discovering the remains of an archaeological expedition. Injuries mount as they explore, until they discover the vines covering the structure are hungry for blood. The vines themselves creep along, mimicking sounds they want to hear, grabbing, stabbing into their wounds, devouring them alive. With nowhere to go and a hungry enemy closing in, they turn on each other, until only a few remain. 
The last two, a couple, devise a plan to get her away past the natives. It works, and she escapes, while her boyfriend pays for the plan with his life. 

Now, as I was saying, this movie follows the book pretty damn closely! Closer than any other adaptation I've ever read. Of course, a lot of details are left out in order to cram the main story into the time allowed. The Ruins is no different in that, however, they leave in enough small details that if you've read the book, you won't be disappointed. 

There is a single, major difference from the book though, the girl's escape, potentially spreading the spores. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It sets up a sequel, to be certain, but the way the natives had the entire ruin surrounded, I'm not sure how much I believe the boyfriend's simple distraction would have worked. 

Regardless. The movie is well made, with lots of tension, believable characters that you like, and a realistic enough scenario. If you like horror, this should be near the top of movies to see. It might not be a classic in the usual sense, but given time, it may become one. 




~ Shaun


Monday, August 14, 2017

Duwall Manor - The Oak Tree

Duwall Manor sits in the deep country of Mississippi, the property backing right up to the Delta National Forest. Like many of the stately manor houses built in the early 1800's, it has a long history, with several prominent families residing within its walls.

The current owners are unlisted, leaving the property likely bank-owned after a forclosure. Why it remains off the market in that case is a puzzle, but many of the people who live near the building whisper that it was actually abandoned, by both owners and bank. The home and land left to rot and hopefully be reclaimed by the wilderness with the prayer that nature might bury the property's history.

In spite of this, every so often someone finds the land and insists on trying to claim it as their own, so the building remains in fairly good condition. The roof, for example, was redone as recently as 2011.

The owners never last, however. Most abandon the property altogether after a few years, a few have even willingly gone into bankruptcy than live there or try to sell it. None of them answer the singular question that is always asked of them.

"Why?" 

While more recent activity remains shrouded, much more is available with a simple trip to the county library, where the property has its own file of newspaper clippings and property maps. 

The earliest clipping dates back to 1824, only a year after the house was first completed, then owned by the Duwall family, headed by Abraham Duwall.  

The local sheriff was told to visit the property after no word had been heard from the family in weeks. 

When he arrived, the family's horses were feeding in the front yard, untethered. 

At the front door, nobody answered. He found the door unlocked and went in. The house was immaculate. Beds were made, everything was clean, everything was as it should have been. The only thing amiss was the large meal which had been laid out on the table and now sat there rotting, covered in flies, mold, and maggots. 

Something out the back window from the dining room caught the sheriff's eye and when he went to investigate, he found himself standing before a massive oak tree on the backside of the house. 

Dozens of nooses hung from its thick branches as different heights. The highest was easily thirty feet off the ground. All of them sat empty, only swaying from a slight breeze that blew up from the woods further back on the property. The sheriff circled the tree, and finally counted 43 nooses. Enough for the entire Duwall family and all their servants. 

Then the sheriff found what was left of them. To the left side of the oak was a hollow in the base of the tree. It was stuffed full of skulls. 

The sheriff came back later with help and excavated the hollow. All they found were skulls, picked clean of any flesh at all. While they couldn't be sure the remains were the Duwall family and their servants, the numbers matched. The sizes matched too, between adults and children. 

The remains were buried in a corner of the property, though any markers designating their graves have been long lost to the present day. 

What happened to the Duwall family was never solved. 

-attached to the back of the news clipping is a memo. 

"If you go out to the tree on a foggy night, you can still see the outlines of the nooses hanging from it. If the fog is thick enough, with a bright moon, you might even see the silhouettes of the bodies." 


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Gremlins Vs Critters: The Fight Part Two

See the first part here.

Gremlins (9) vs Critters (5)

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One of the critters rounded a corner, fleeing Scratch's gunshots. In the corner was another Gremlin, just ignoring the ruckus and poking at a keyboard, singing a little song to itself. The computer screen flipped through spreadsheets and data, while the gremlin continued punching random keys, changing numbers and file names.

The critter jumped at the chance, bouncing over and grabbing the gremlin's face in it's mouth. Instantly the scaled green beast started flailing around as the critter chewed through the scales and flesh and started biting into the bone. One clawed hand smashed the computer screen, reaching in and digging claws into wires and circuits. Sparks shot everywhere as the electricity shot up the gremlin's arm and coursed through the two. The critter's eyes bulged, then exploded, and the furball let go, falling onto the floor, hair sizzled and smoked. The gremlin fell over too, coughing, smoke billowing out of its mouth. It blew a smoke ring before passing out.

The other critters rolled carefully around the edge of the room, watching out for more gremlins now. One bounced up onto a table to get a better view of the carnage of the room. It looked clear. There were the two on the floor shot full of spines, snoring peacefully away, the splatter of dead Crites. It turned back to the others, only to see them staring back in horror at the wing-like ears that rose up behind it. It turned back and the gremlin ducked back under the table, leaving the Crite swinging back and forth from the otherwise empty looking room and the critters still huddled together on the floor.

Then it turned back and found itself face to face with the gremlin for a moment before it was stabbed with a pair of syringes, random chemicals shooting into it while the gremlin laughed. The critter started to swell as the combination of chemicals produced gases inside it, blowing it up like a balloon, gas leaking out of its mouth and around its eyes before lifting up from the table, bouncing against the ceiling, where it stayed.

"Fuck this shit!" The last three critters rolled up, bouncing as fast as they could for the door. A hapless gremlin stepped out in front of them from around the corner of a desk and the three of them laid into it, eating through its body in seconds and continuing on. They made it to the door and bounce through into the hallway, one, two, then the door slammed shut on the third one, squashing it between the door and the frame. The other two paused only long enough to look back, then bounced down the hall as fast as they could deeper into a building only further infested with gremlins.

Scratch opened the door back up, admiring his handiwork at the green slim and tufts of hair that showed the Crite he'd caught in the door when he'd slammed it shut. He squinted down the dark hallway after the other two and cackled to himself.

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Victor: Gremlins

Final count
Gremlins: 2 dead, 3 incapacitated
Crites: 8 dead

What happened

Looking back at the creature analysis, it became pretty clear who would win. The Crites had real viciousness and intent to kill on their side, but they seriously lacked in durability, intelligence, and any kind of reach. They're small and relatively fragile, so rely on two main things: fear and numbers. The Gremlins have no fear of anything but light, and in a scenario like this where it's equal numbers, the Crites just lost the things they needed to pull it out.

Their spines are strong enough for a single shot to put down a grown human, but we've seen in movies that even people shot with a dozen spines or more don't suffer any extra ill effects, and are back to normal within a few hours once they're removed, so there was no chance of getting a kill from them unless they could follow up and devour their victim, which they couldn't do in this setting.

Likewise, their ability to grow larger with enough food was a non-item in this fight as there wasn't enough food, or time for them to take advantage of it.


On the Gremlin's side, they have an extremely high durability and an immunity to pain which meant even with an arm eaten off and a Crite still chewing on them, they still weren't out of the fight. It also meant that in cases like electrocution which would take them both down, the Gremlin would likely still survive while the Crite wouldn't.

You also can't disregard the Gremlin's penchant for mischief combined with their natural aptitude for damage. The syringe Gremlin for example, was likely just messing around by grabbing two syringes and sticking them in the Crite, but by its own nature, likely grabbed a combination of chemicals that would react in a destructive way when combined.

Put simply, the Gremlins could, on a 1-to-1 basis, take everything the Crites could dish out, and return it right back, while the Crites turned out to be paper tigers.

What do you think? Do you disagree? Is there something I left out? Leave a note in the comments or hit me up on social media!

~ Shaun

Monday, July 31, 2017

Gremlins Vs. Critters: The Fight Part One

So, we've been over both the Gremlins, and the Critters. The only thing left is the fight itself.


Scratch sat on top of the computer, the claws on his feet clicking against the screen as he curled his toes. Just under a dozen others were all that were left in the lab. All the other gremlins had spread out into the building. He was content to sit in the lab for now, security guard's pistol in one hand, flask of who-knew-what in the other. 

A furball rolled across the floor. Why it attracted Scratch's attention at first, he wasn't sure, but he knew it was something interesting when it stopped in the middle of the floor and then changed direction. It rolled over to one of the other gremlins and came to rest in front of it. Then unfurled. It stood there, looking around, then at the gremlin in front of it. Now everyone's attention was on the creature. 

The closest gremlin reached out, poking the furball. Once, twice, then the creature opened a mouth as big as itself and bit down onto the hand. Everyone laughed as the injured one swung it's arm around the furball still attached, gnawing it's way further up the arm. The furball chewed it's way up the arm to the shoulder, then lept up and bit off the front of the gremlins face, causing it to finally stop flailing and fall over. 

Suddenly, several other furballs rolled out onto the floor, from under the tables, under the cabinets, all converging on the downed gremlin and latching onto it. In seconds, nothing was left but bones. The rest of the gremlins kept laughing, all except Scratch, who's eyes narrowed as he watched the unfamiliar little furballs. They weren't mogwai, that was for sure.

Then the furballs rolled up again and took off in different directions, bouncing towards the gremlins scattered around the room. One of the critters bounced up at Scratch, who watched it amused before swinging the pistol around and putting a bullet through the furry black ball. It fell onto the table next to him, neon green blood oozing out of it. 

A second one bounced up at him. Scratch dropped the flask and cocked his clawed fist back, punching it in mid-air, sending it flying across the room and splattering against the wall. At the sound everything else in the room stopped and turned to stare at the green smear on the wall. 

The gremlins started laughing again, one of them, wearing a baseball hat, grabbed the leg of an overturned table and broke it off with a quick yank. It turned to the closest critter, still frozen as it stared at the mess on the wall. The gremlin croaked in its soft voice, "batter...up...". The critter barely had time to turn, eyes bulging, before the table leg sent it flying across the room and adding a second splatter. 

The second splat broke the spell on the rest of the critters, sending them rolling for cover. Scratch dropped down off the table looking around as he wandered over to another pair of gremlins that were poking at the bones of the one that'd been eaten. The room was silent as the gremlins looked around for where the furballs had gone to. 

Suddenly the critters were all together, popping out from around the corners of a smashed desk. One lowered its head and a spine shot out, spearing the gremlin to Scratch's right. The target immediately fell back, snoring loudly. The rest of the critters lowered their heads as well, launching spines as Scratch grabbed the other gremlin to his left, using him as a shield. The hapless gremlin was shot with a dozen spines and went limp, snoring as well. Scratch continued to hold him up while shooting back with the pistol. One, two more critters exploded before the gun ran out of bullets, but it was enough to scatter the furballs again. 

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So we started with ten to a side. So far in this battle, we have 1 Gremlin down, (3 if you count the two that are going to be asleep the rest of this little encounter) and 4 Critters. The Gremlin leader doesn't have his gun anymore though, so maybe the Crites can turn it around in the second half. 

This is going to be long though, which is why I'm breaking it up into two posts. So what do you all think so far? Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments below or on social media! 

Gremlins vs Critters. 9 vs 5 



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gremlins Vs Critters: Critters

Now to look at the other side of this match-up! In the Blue corner, the ever-insatiable Critters! If you need a reminder of the other side, the Gremlins, click here.

The Crites have four movies to draw from, and are much more focused on killing than the Gremlins. In doing research online for this series, I have found a few other places that have tried to answer this question of who would win, and most of them put the win in the Crites' column.

I'm still going to go over their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses here though, to ensure the match-up is as accurate as I can make it.

Strengths

1. Eating Machines.

The Crites are pure eating machines, with bottomless stomachs and their huge mouths have three sets of razor sharp teeth. They will eat literally anything they think could be food, and they also use their teeth and mouths to get to prey. They'll chew through doors, eat down chairs, and shred tires to stop potential food from escaping. In addition, they can go into a kind of 'Piranha mode' where a small group of them can strip a body of flesh in a matter of seconds.

2. Tranquilizer Spines

Probably the Crites most unique ability, is that they have spines among their fur that can be launched like darts. The spines are strong enough to pierce steel, and are coated with a venom that puts other living things to sleep when struck. A single spine has enough venom on it to put a fully grown man to sleep. That being said though, it doesn't seem to be a venom that can kill. People hit with multiple spines fall asleep faster, but even after being hit with a dozen, they recover fairly quickly once the spines are removed.

3. Ball form

The Crites arms and legs are short and stubby, so they get around by curling up into a ball and rolling and bouncing along after prey. In this form, they are extremely durable, taking hits from baseball bats, and other objects and simply bouncing off of them. They can also fall for substantial distances without being hurt. In addition, they can spin in place, supercharging themselves for a speed boost or to let them bounce straight up from a stationary position.

4. Growth

One of the Crites rarer abilities is that if they actually manage to eat enough of something that actually counts as food, they can grow to much larger sizes. The average Crite is about the size of a soccer ball when it's curled up, but the example we saw in the movie produced one that stood over six feet tall standing upright. It certainly stands to reason that with enough food, they could continue to grow and reach truly monstrous sizes. This would takes time though, and tons of food.


Weaknesses

1. Intelligence

Crites aren't very smart. As I said, they're eating machines, and they don't discriminate very well between things that are food and things that aren't. They're happy to bite into electrical cables, swallow explosives. and down random chemicals. They don't know how things work, and get caught in machines pretty easily. They also can't recognize things that are dangerous until they see one of their fellow Crites go down from it. Even then, they aren't quick to run away and tend to get stuck in place for a few moments.

2. Durability

This goes along with the lack of intelligence. They're bottomless pits when it comes to things that are edible, but they can easily eat things that kill them. The aforementioned explosives, electrical cables, and chemicals are all things that killed them after being eaten. The lack of durability extends to their outsides too. They've been killed by everything from being stepped on to a falling ceiling fan, and they die to firearms as easily as just about any other animal.



There we go! The combatants have been examined. Both sides have strengths and weaknesses that can either lead them to victory, or a crushing defeat. Check back next week when I go over one possible scenario for a confrontation between these two terrible monsters. What do you think of the strengths and weaknesses? Have I missed anything? Do you have any predictions for the fight?

~ Shaun