The Fifty-Third-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

Unlike the scream lady, I was actually able to like George up on the old webternet!

It sounds like quite an accomplishment, but it's no Coral Castle, that's for sure.


Tales From the Darkside 208: Distant Signals

Yay, it's one of the episodes I've been waiting for! Not the terrifying one whose title I can't remember, of course, but rather the one where Darren McGavin plays... actually, why get ahead of myself? Let's just handle the episode like normal, huh?

A man in a fancy suit shows up in a Hollywood agent's office with an offer that no man could refuse. He wants to contact the writer of a detective show called 'Max Paradise' from the mid-sixties, and he's willing to pay a suitcase full of gold just for the meeting!

Ah, a suitcase full of gold. There are just so many reasons that wouldn't work...

Naturally the rich man representing some 'foreign investors' gets his meeting. “Smith” wants something simple - for the show's creator to put the show back into production. It was canceled with six episodes left in the season, and Smith would like them to write and film those episodes, including the finale that reveals the resolution of the mystery that hung over the entire show - just who was Max Paradise, amnesiac detective?

He's even tracked down the show's star, Darren McGavin, who'd become a washed-up drunk in the decades after the show went off the air. The show's creator agrees to come back in exchange for two million dollars, so long as Smith can get everything else back into place.

Smith visits with Darren, now a pathetic drunk, eking out a living as a bartender in a run-down joint. He's skeptical about the idea of coming back to the entertainment industry, but Smith insists that the show can't go on without him - and his investors are very keen to see the show go on. Smith even offers Darren a set of 'vitamin pills' which he guarantees will get Darren whipped back into shape in time for the start of shooting!

Smith walks through the old soundstage with the show's creator, and explains that while the creator might have thought of Max Paradise as nothing but failed, cliched piffle, there was a raw poetry to it that has resonated among a certain audience - he can even quote the show's dialogue by heart, despite the fact that the show was aired some twenty years earlier, and Smith couldn't have been more than a few years old when it aired! So, have you figured out the twist yet?

The show begins filming again, with a newly youthinated McGavin ready to recreate his greatest (and only) role-

Hard-boiled detective Max Paradise! Except he can't do it! There's too much pressure, and he breaks down during a table read. Smith goes to visit him at his rat-hole, offering a pep-talk. It seems that Darren's alcoholism has taken away all of his confidence, leaving him too weak and cowardly to act. It seems that Smith has an answer for that problem, too - his version of a Vulcan mind-meld!

With all of Darren's problems solved, the show is ready to shoot, and it looks surprisingly good for people shooting on a Tales From the Darkside-sized budget. Although maybe they were doing so many one-room shows this year in part to pay for this one. Who knows?

Seriously, now - why aren't more things shot in black and white? I really don't get it.

Everything goes well, and the last episodes of the show are in the can, giving Smith the satisfying resolution that he's been craving all these years. Now just one question remains - who, exactly, is this show intended for? Smith remains oblique, but he offers just enough clues for Darren to develop a theory.

His idea? That there's a planet on a nearby star who's been getting television signals around twenty years after they were originally sent out - and for one reason or another Max Paradise spoke to them profoundly enough that when it was canceled, they used all of their futuristic technology to ensure that the story got an ending. Ah, if only that sort of thing could happen here, right?

And yes, before you ask, I'm fairly sure that that episode of Futurama was a parody of this - which isn't a huge surprise, given that this is by a wide margin the best episode of Tales from the Darkside I've yet seen.


Slushie Bear Hates You. Or Does He? Yes, He Does.

This is Slushie Bear. You may recognize him, as he lives on the sides of various buildings, as well as in window displays. Rushing to capture a picture of him for a photo essay I'd planned entitled “Slushie Bear Hates You”, I quickly discovered the logical flaw inherent in attempting to take a picture of him in the daylight, and outside of his habitat.

Entering the video store in which he resides, I captured some improved photos of him. It was only then, when gazing at an unobstructed view of the creature, that I realized something.

It's not simply that Slushie Bear Hates You. It's that Slushie Bear intends to molest you.

Thank god he's held tight behind those bars, lest some manner of tragedy ensue for the poor people forced to work in the vicinity of such a monster.


Suspect Behavior 113: Death By a Thousand Cuts

It's High Noon in a mall as a nervous, sweaty man stumbles his way through the crowd. Is he sick with a disease? Are they finally doing the ebola episode of our dreams?There are weird pauses in the episode as he passes people, as if he's scanning them for some reason - spotting an old man across the hall, he quickly follows the guy into a bathroom and shoots him in the face! But why - and why did he nervously check his watch beforehand?

Oh, it's because someone is holding his wife/child hostage, and will kill them if he doesn't kill a stranger. How do I know that's the plot? Because essentially this exact thing happened in the game Heavy Rain. Which I was not fond of. Not boding well for the episode, guys, ripping off a mediocre videogame like that.

In a nice touch, the gun has tape on the handle which would theoretically repel fingerprints:

Just like in the Godfather! Which, contrary to the findings of recent polls, I have actually seen. Even the part where Talia Shire's husband beats her up just so she'll call Sonny into town to help, which sets him up for the tollbooth ambush. Was that an obscure enough plot point that I've proven my Godfather Bona Fides? Because if you'd like, I could name the five fake crime families of New York in the movie! Actually, come to think of it, I totally can't. But Alex Rocco played Moe Green, who was a fake version of Bugsy Siegel, which I totally didn't get until I saw Godfather 2!

Okay, back to the show - where Forest is making a speech about the philosophy of murder to an FBI class. In an amazing coincidence, the subject is what drives people to murder! He feels that we all have darkness inside us, and the serial killers they're studying are people who've simply given into their darkest urges. I guess this is because explaining that serial murder is caused by a combination of bad genetics, childhood abuse, and availability of victims was a little too long for the scene?

Simms shows up and springs Forest - they've got a case! In a nice bit of continuity, the last face in the slideshow is William Sanderson, from a bunch of episodes ago!

Although, given the plot of that episode, shouldn't it have been a splitscreen of him and his son?

Back at base they get the details of the case - three victims with completely different characteristics. A homeless woman, a drug dealer, and a grandfather - the only connection is that each one is a life that a random person might justify as being less valuable than the life of the of the loved one they were trying to save! I know this because I played Heavy Rain, but how long will it take the team to find out?

They try to figure out why the guns are all identical, hoping to catch some insight into the connection, but there just isn't enough to go on. So they're off to Dallas! Meanwhile, the killer puts the latest picture on the wall. Who is he, and why is he doing this? Hopefully we'll learn more after the opening credits!


Criminal Minds 425: To Hell...

We're back with the homeless and disenfranchised this week, as a wounded black man (bad legs) goes searching through the slums of Detroit, looking for someone. He's got a gun - is it a victim he's searching for, or something more benign? I'm guessing the second, because they rarely show us the killer's face in the first second of the episode. While he's busy searching fruitlessly, the real killer is abducting a drug user-

While driving a car similar enough to the black guy's that you'd almost suspect that the show was imply that he's the killer! And you know what? Maybe they are, and I'm just so used to the show's structure that I'm immune to their games. In any event, guy getting strangled is, like all teaser victims, not long for this world.

The black guy calls it a night, heading for the border to Ontario at Port Huron. He gets across the border with no trouble - because we're not crazy about that stuff - but then he freaks out, pulls a U-turn, and smashes through a checkpoint booth-

Which is way worse-constructed than you'd expect it to be! The black guy surrenders peacefully to the Canadian authorities, and suggests that they call the FBI, since he's apparently responsible for ten deaths in America! He's lying, of course, but I don't know why he wants to create an international incident. Presumably he has a good reason. More importantly, though, if you're ever considering doing something like this, don't do it at the border crossing - crash your car through something in front of a police station on the other side of a border. When the border cops hear that you're a mass murderer they might decide they don't want the hassle or paperwork and simply toss you back to the Americans.

The black guy claims that he's been abducting homeless people and dumping them in Canada - turns out he's a soldier, and he's missing a left leg. The team profiles him on spec before flying to Canada, but none of their insight is important because he's obviously not the killer. Who is the killer? We'll be finding out after the opening credits!


How did I Spit on Your Grave become a movie about the rapists?

I have no interest in rehashing the first half of either one of these films - they contain extended rape sequences which I'd rather not have watched, so we'll just leave a comparison of that aspect of the two films, whether one was more objectionable than the other, and why, to another, stronger-stomached reviewer. I'd prefer to focus on the bizarre choice the filmmakers made to change who the movie was about halfway through.

The original 'Day of the Woman' is told almost entirely from the main character Jennifer's point of view. She travels from New York, she meets the locals, she gets brutally attacked, she exacts her vengeance. There are only a small number of scenes in the movie in which she doesn't appear - two of which are key. One involves the local ruffians fishing and getting drunk, letting their petty hatreds reinforce one another until they're tuned up enough to do something awful the next day (a scene that appears in the remake), in the second scene, where the four increasingly paranoid rapists gather at a diner to try and figure out why their supposed murder victim hasn't been discovered by the police yet.

That second scene, just a small moment designed to let the viewer know why they haven't come back to check on Jennifer's body, makes up the content of the entire second half of the remake 'I Spit on Your Grave'.

In the 2010 version Jennifer disappears from the story entirely for an entire month after her rape and attempted murder. The rapists return to their lives, assume everything has gone back to normal, with only the missing corpse as the last unresolved piece of the puzzle. What's Jennifer up to all this time? She's hiding in the woods, regaining her strength, and transforming herself into a horror movie villain.


TheAvod Wishes Ian a Happy Birthday!

I don't know Ian, of course, and the birthday-wishing doesn't actually take up all that much of the show, but still, all our best wishes go out to Ian on this, a day one day after his birthday. And that's the problem with recording early, people.

So, with birthday wishes out of the way, it's time to take a look at what TheAvod is covering this week!

It's the badly-titled Chopping Mall, the badly-overrated Hobo With A Shotgun, and the just plain bad 8213 Gacy House!

I know you're dying to hear more about those, so just swing on over and right-click on this link, which will allow you to download it for your listening pleasure! And don't forget to pop over to theavod.blogspot.com (link over there on the right column) and vote on this week's poll!


The Fifty-Second-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

This can't possibly be as depraved as it seems... can it?


Tales From the Darkside 207: The Devil`s Advocate

A satanic piano last week, and a devil's advocate this time? Am I detecting a theme, or a lack of creativity? Anyhoo, this week's episode looks like it's going to be a Talk Radio kind of deal, with Jerry stiller playing it as a basically one-man show where he, Mandrake, talks to a series of spookier and spookier people on the radio until there's a scary twist at the end. Or so I've come to expect, anyhow. The first thing Jerry does when arriving at the studio is complain that he was almost late because someone died in the front seat of his car, which is profoundly odd. Who would break into a stranger's car to (presumably, he doesn't give a lot of details) OD on some manner of drug?

In a telling point about Jerry's personality, the dead body is less of a tragedy and more of an inconvenience - the only point which he complains about is the fact that the police delayed him for a whole hour! Jerry then starts up his talk radio show, inviting people to call in and complain about insensitive, incompetent cops like the ones he tussled with that night.

His callers don't comply, however, instead calling to complain about their own life problems, giving Jerry a chance to heap abuse on them. Which leads me to wonder: who would ever call this man, and why?

When we return from commercial, we get a little glimpse into Jerry's backstory while he yells at some farmers, Alan Partridge-style. Apparently he's a fifty-something year old man and he doesn't have a family! Peculiar, no? Then one of his callers talks back to him, pointing out that while they might be losers for listening to him all night, he might well be the real valueless person, since he's got nothing better to do with his time but spew hatred into a microphone for the people of America to listen to.

It's during this exchange that I noticed how Jerry's appearance had slightly changed. Here he is at the beginning of the episode-

Now take a look at him near the halfway point-

Is all the hatred literally turning him into a devil? Is that the ironic message?

We get a little more explanation for his condition in the monologuing - his entire life has been a chain of tragedies, parents killed in crimes, wife in a coma, child killed by drunk drivers! Is there any part of the man's life that hasn't been touched by awfulness?

At the end of one particular call he notices that his engineer has disappeared, and he tries to take a call himself. Then something bizarre happens: he gets a call from someone claiming not to have a phone - and she's 'calling' from the year 1922!

Also, Jerry is now a werewolf.

Okay, I think I cracked it - he's in hell, and the dead guy in the car was him, finally killing himself at the end of a life of misery! Prediction... locked!

Jerry grows increasingly disconcerted by all the calls he's getting from back in time - although not as disconcerted as he is by the fact that the broadcasting room's exit has been walled over!

Now that he's trapped, once and for all, it's time for the big reveal. Jerry gets one last call - this one from Satan himself, who congratulates Jerry on filling the world with hatred, fear, and prejudice. All of this time he's been bringing souls to Satan by merely hating on the radio! Who could have guessed?

Also, I guess we now have a good sense of what George Romero (who wrote the episode) feels about the American culture of right-wing talk radio.

In the end, Jerry finally accepts his new role as hell's full-time radio host, taking calls from the damned in his new demonic guise.

So... no happy ending this week, huh?


Saturday Night Live RapeWatch: Justin Timberlake Edition

For a Timberlake season-ender, this was a relatively weak episode, relying on rehashed sketches, and rarely giving its host any decent material to work with. If it weren't for the fun novelty of having Lady Gaga essentially co-host, appearing in a number of sketches, it would have been utterly forgettable.

Of course, I'm not here to talk about the show proper, but rather track its inexcusably objectionable content. Things started out terribly with a sketch about Strauss-Kahn being jailed and finding himself in a cell with two black men who are surprisingly well-informed about the goings-on at the World Bank. Naturally, it ended with a rape joke, because SNL writers couldn't think of anything other than the most obvious possible out. That was, thankfully, the sum total of the rape jokes last night - but not the end of the homophobia, which reared its ugly head again in an appearance by Stefan, and a return to the tunnel of love, which this time ended with a gay proposition, as opposed to a murder. Odd that they would consider that 'raising the stakes' in the second appearance of the sketch.

Anyhoo, here's the tally-

Rape: 1
Homophobia: 3

That's it for the season, folks! See you back here next year, for more hyper-aware overcriticism!


Suspect Behavior 112: The Girl In The Blue Mask

The episode kicks off with a blood-soaked figure monstering his way through the woods. Is it a Jason? A Madman Mars? Some other manner of boogins? Nope. He is missing half his face, though, the sight of which manages to scare a couple into running for the hills!

It seems the man was a marine who'd been camping in a private military park, which is apparently a real thing. Who knew? The team isn't able to track down any similar crimes, so they head over to the crime scene to look for evidence. The team tries to figure out how the killer could have crept up on a soldier, who was theoretically a light sleeper! They assume he must have been taking sleeping pills, and move on. They then describe the likely events of his death which, naturally, have nothing to do with helping catch the killer, and are kind of a waste of time!

The autopsy reveals that the man was hammered into submission before his face was carved open, which is a decent clue, but again, not a lot of help. They finally do find a connected case, though - a runaway girl's body was found, with the left side of the face removed! Garcia gets a profoundly stupid line, when she announces that the victim was alive for hours after the attack - how could they possibly know that if the corpse was found weeks later, badly decomposed, having been partially stripped by scavengers?

The combination of wooden hammer and worker's rag leads them to believe they're looking for a blue-collar killer. The fact that an airgun was used to separate the second victim's skin for easy removal, improving over the technology of the knife that was used the first time, suggests to the team that the killer isn't actually trying to kill people, just steal their skin in the best way possible! It's just that he sucks at it. So why could he be fixated on skin? Well, based on the title, I'm going to guess transplant?

They show a family member the marine's effects, hoping for a clue - and they find one! The plastic cooler didn't belong to him, and must be the killer's! This confirms my transplant theory, although I can't blame them for not getting to it as fast as I did. After all, they don't know the title of the episode. Hey, I thought this place was a working gym-

Now they're using it to store an examine evidence (that hasn't been fingerprinted or processed)? Does that creepy old janitor know about this?

For the record, yes, that's Forest picking up - with his bare hands - the cooler that they've just identified as belonging to the killer. Half-wit.

He also has a crazy plan, stupid enough to win him the Prentiss Award of the night:

Okay, first off - you don't know when it finished melting, so what are you going to base the reverse-timing on? Also, you don't know how much dry ice was in there, which could throw off your timeline by as much as hours, even if you had an endpoint. Finally, how do you know he didn't drive a van to his hunting ground, and fill the cooler from a larger container of dry ice only when he arrived? They'd better not pursue this idea, because there's nothing about it that isn't idiotic.

Oh my god, this episode gets stupider and stupider - blonde walks in and points out that the killer can't be looking for new skin for his own disfigurement, it has to be someone else. Why? Because if it was his own skin that was damaged, he'd just use a piece of his own body as the source for the replacement flesh. Which means the stolen skin has to be for someone else!

Wait - what? If there is another person involved (which there is, obviously - title gives that away), wouldn't giving that person a graft from elsewhere on their own body make more sense? This is based on a kind of solopsistic logic that suggests that there's some central difference between yourself (I can only have permanent grafts from my own body) and other people (but anyone's skin should work on anyone else, right?) - more to the point, though, since they're clearly dealing with a crazy person who believes that they can steal skin from people and use it to fix a face, why are they expecting him to have a rational understanding of the limitations of the insane science he believes in?

Meanwhile, the killer shocks a woman to sleep with a taser, and carves off part of her face. For some reason, even though he cooler clearly has a scalpel lying atop all the ice-

The killer elects to do the actual cutting with a rusty, broken razor blade.

Amazingly the woman is fine, and is able to tell them that the killer said he 'promised' to get the skin. Meaning it has to be for a young woman. Given the type, they guess that it's likely a father seeking out skin for his daughter, which is borne out by a cutaway to the home where the killer keeps her captive.

I'm calling it right now - she's perfectly fine under the mask. There are only two possible twists at the end of the story - the mask that he forbids her to remove covers no injuries, or she's just a corpse he imagines is alive. They've already done the corpse thing twice (Mitch Pileggi on regular CM, the lynching guy on this one), so I'm betting she's fine. Why am I so sure that the episode will have to have a twist? It's a terribly written crime show. Of course it's going to end with a twist.

A surgeon confirms that not only can skin not be put in a cooler and expected to survive, but even if you sewed it to someone's face, the recipient likely wouldn't survive the resulting infections. This isn't stopping the killer, though, who's already planning to kidnap the woman who works at the bakery where he's buying his daughter's 16th-birthday cake! Oh, that's right - it's her birthday, and the new face is supposed to be a present!

There's more evidence from the body offering them clues - there was paint in the wounds, which means that wherever the compressed air gun was charged up, there were particles of paint lying around. That's solid evidence which will hopefully point them to his career!

Okay, this show just went off the rails. While talking about how the killer might be trying to remake a face not because it's injured, but rather because it's not beautiful enough (idiocy! Although it's tipping off the twist ending), blonde starts making the case all about her, and complaining that at her sister's swearing-in ceremony, their dad referred to the sister as 'the smart one', making the blonde 'the pretty one', it's explained. She plays the victim for a little while, wondering why her father doesn't know how much she's hurt by things like that, and I'd like to point out that maybe he's not entirely wrong. I mean, if you were the smart one, maybe you'd be a judge too, and not fifth banana on a team of dangerously incompetent would-be crimestoppers.

They try to figure out what kind of profession might allow people someone to think that they're a decent enough surgeon to sew a new face on. Mick suggests that he might be a tailor (like in Silence of the Lambs!), while Simms offers 'Taxadermist'. They decide to run with taxidermy, looking for anyone violent in the area. They find a guy just a few miles from the park - a man so crazy that he attempted to kill a bear with a knife! Apparently it didn't go very well, although I'm not surprised, give the guy's weediness:

The team heads out to talk to him, and winds up ambushed for their troubles.

Yup, he blasted out their front window with a shotgun, yet managed to miraculously avoid harming any of the three people inside. How is this possible? Terrible writing! You know, writer/producers - you could have just had him shoot out their radiator.

The show then goes all edgy and handheld to show their action packed raid on the house. Which includes, and I'm not kidding here, Forest Whitaker throwing a flash grenade - which he apparently carries at all times - in through the window. Also notable in this scene? Mick still idiotically refuses to put his finger on the trigger of his gun, despite being literally three seconds away from firing.
Cool that he bought James Bond's gun, though. Got to give him that.

Busting in two things because immediately evident. 1: It's too early in the show for them to have caught the real killer, and 2: this-

Is profoundly not the weedy guy from the viewscreen earlier in the show. Check it out-

What's going on here? Was the role recast or something?

While the team figures out that the poacher isn't the killer, the captive breaks into her dad's workshop, and finds some bloody tools and butchered pig parts - it's the victims for the transplant practice he's been doing! Which for some reason includes a string of razor-blades connected by plastic.

The captive confronts her father about the dead pig, and it turns out that he's the weedy guy from the screengrab earlier-

So, what, they just stole a shot of Simms in front of the board from later in the episode? Weird. Anyhow, he berates her about not messing this his stuff, and demands that she not question his plans to use madness-influenced surgery to fix her face.

Out at the poacher's cabin, an amazing coincidence leads them to the killer - it turns out the poacher ran a stitching class, and one of the students wanted to pay by trading some painting services! That matches the paint in the wounds! This should lead them right to the killer - who, BTW, heads over to the bakery and kidnaps that girl. This leads to the second-most preposterous line of the episode-

Yeah, 'unsub' is a ridiculous niche term that profilers invented so that they could pretend they were smarter than people who say 'suspect' or 'killer'. No way on earth a uniformed cop uses it.

Based on the name from the cake, they start searching for painters with a daughter with the unusual name 'Kristi Anna'. Oh, and this scene back at the base is clearly where that shot was stolen from. Blonde continues making the case about her - to the point where Forest has to follow her out of the room to discuss her daddy issues. Yawn.

There's just one guy with a history of spousal abuse, and it turns out that after kidnapping his daughter, he held her face too close to a stove! Yikes! Since they know that he owns an air compressor, they reason that the kind of painting he does must involve airbrushing, so they make the leap to stencil work! This gets them the name he's living under, and the team rushes to the house, just in time to save the teen who's about to be cut up!

Wait, what? Time was of the essence, and how were there no police officers closer to the house?

Well, whatever. It's time for the reveal of the big twist, but before it happens, the show reveals that it has maybe the worst message of all time. In trying to address her own daddy issues, blonde (whose name is Gina! Hopefully I'll remember that when writing about next week's episode. Although since it's the last one, I doubt it will matter) explains to the daughter that her father was motivated by love, and that 'some fathers will do anything for their children'.

Yes, she actually says that. She tells the daughter that it's essentially her fault that those two people were murdered, and the third mutilated. At this moment she could have said 'it happened because your dad is a madman whose guilt drove him into complete psychosis - making him completely responsible for all his actions, and you are every bit as much of a victim as the people he killed'. She didn't, though. Because she's a horrible psychologist.

Oh, and as predicted, the daughter's face is fine-


Except for another three minutes of Gina making the case all about her, and asking for approval from Forest, her father figure.

1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?

Um, no. Carefully gathered evidence and amazing coincidence were responsible.

2 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?

They were - except for the unbelievable coincidence.

So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?

1/10 - Even if there had been good psychology used, I'd have docked this episode all of its points for the incredibly bad job Gina did of comforting that victim. You suck at life, Gina.

Would this episode have played out any differently had the regular team been running things, or was there some advantage to having a rogue Red Cell that operates 'outside the bureaucracy'?

Another week, another Suspect Behavior that could have served as a massively disappointing Criminal Minds script.


Criminal Minds 424: Amplification

This week's episode starts in a public park, full of children and youths alike. A sinister man goes walking through it - is he up to something? Almost certainly, given the show's subject matter. The man drops some grass, checking the wind, then scatters anthrax into the air! We know it's anthrax because A: It's a white powder, and B: The show has yet to cover the whole 'anthrax' storyline, which is odd, given their love of tearing things from the headlines.

The next scene gives us a look at a dying mother and child, who, naturally, are merely the tip of the iceberg. People rush to the emergency room, but it's almost certainly too late to do anything. The team is called in to consult in the middle of the night, and as they arrive we learn that Reid's gun fixation has officially gone completely out of control.

He's wearing the gun on his stomach (which would basically make it impossible to sit down comfortably) in the middle of his office. While Derek and Emily-

Aren't even armed! Someone's got to take this guy aside and have a conversation with him. Soon.

Also, he needs a haircut.

They get the word about the mass poisoning - 25 people around Anapolis, Maryland have gotten sick, and twelve have died! The government is keeping the attack a secret, so people won't panic. Or, to put it another way, so the show won't have to attempt to show the kind of mass panic that would erupt if such an announcement were made. This guy shouldn't be that hard to catch, though - only an incredibly highly-trained scientist with access to anthrax would have the capability of developing something like this.


Adventures in Fake Journalism: Path of Evil

Like Harvest of Fear, its direct predecessor, Path of Evil features some fairly bizarre examples of fake newspaper headlines. Most of them use the bizarre Latin filler text that appears in HoF's stories, along with a variety of little errors-

'An 5-year old'? Other than minor nitpicky things, though, the papers are generally competent enough at filling in backstory during their flashes onscreen - although it's not always vital information. A new viewer needs to know, for example, that Jake was stabbed-

Carpenter was jailed for the Harvest killings-

And that Billy is credited as the hero who helped save the day-

Before Jake was arrested for beating him up!

Those are all perfectly helpful articles, which makes me wonder why all the other ones that just restated the opening sequence-

Were featured. We know full well that his parents were killed, filmmakers. You showed it happening.

Two of this movie's fake articles are worth singling out for a little more attention, however - one because the text of it is so bad that it has to have been a Simpsons-style joke meant for anyone willing to freeze-frame it-

Amazing, huh? Then, right at the end, there's an article which, unlike everything else in the montage of fake news, actually features a fake story, as opposed to filler text.

So here's the story, since it's not really legible in that size-

Retired Sheriff William Newton proves he still has the law in his blood.

Devil's Lake M.E. Carpenter arraigned on 24 counts of murder.

(left column)
If you asked former Devil's Lake Sheriff William Newton what he though his plans were for this spring, it certainly wasn't going to be chasing former colleague medical examiner James Carpenter through the streets of Devil's Lake and then eventually firing the shot that ended 24 unsolved murders in a span of over 20 (cut off)

That's a pretty heroic run-on sentence, huh? Notice the other error, beyond general lack of attention to how a newspaper should read? That's right - the previous movie was set during a 'Harvest Festival', while all the leaves were turning. So all that chasing Newton was doing probably wasn't happening during the spring...

Okay, so now onto the-

(right column)
Devil's Lake Medical Examiner James Peter Carpenter was shot by Newton in the chest and miraculously survived and is now in critical but stable condition at (illegible) County Medical Center in (illegible)

“Bring in the next 100 people shot in the chest with that size slug tearing through them and they'd all be dead,”. Said E.R. attending Dr. Michael D. Jones. “It's amazing. I guess the man up stairs had a (illegible)”.

I find this article more fascinating than most, largely because it demonstrates something key about the development of the film. Even though large departures were made from the plot of the previous movie, the filmmakers went out of their way to ensure that the events of this film jibed with the ending of Harvest of Fear.

So if, in their minds, it had to be made absolutely clear that this film was a follow-up to HoF, then aren't I forced to once again ask what happened to the bloody knife and the missing siblings?

Damn you, Path of Evil, pulling me right back in again!


TheAvod Gets Real, Man.

Okay, that's not entirely accurate. In point of fact, this episode of TheAvod is largely about especially artificial projects, whether they be the fake snow of Storm of the Century, the fake western town of Westworld, or the fake Wolfman of The Wolfman.

The discussion is actually shockingly positive, which leaves just one question - which of these three movies (okay, two movies and a miniseries, if I'm being brutally honest) did I like best? You'll have to right click here and download the episode if you want to find out!


The Fifty-First-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

Also, fortunately, images are not capable of screaming.

Sadly, this is a trait I do not share with images.



Tales From the Darkside 206: The Satanic Piano

It's a star-studded episode of Tales From the Darkside this week, by which I mean it has at least one person I'm familiar with from my childhood spent watching sitcoms! In this case, Lisa Bonet, who plays the daughter of a formerly successful musician who, when the episode opens, is struggling with whatever the musician's equivalent of Writer's Block is. Lisa is working on music of her own, but Bancroft (that's the musician's name, BTW), is too busy getting bad news about his new contract to help her with it. It seems the record company doesn't like his new material, and he's increasingly worried that he's becoming irrelevant, which naturally causes friction with his daughter, who represents the younger generation whose musical tastes are out of step with his own abilities!

Yup, things are looking pretty bad for Bancroft when he gets a phone call from one 'Wilson Farber', who offers him an instrument that can turn his entire life around! If that weren't sinister enough, the show cuts to Wilson's lab, which is decorated with black candles. Oh, and the dead body-

-of the last musician who tried to play this groundbreaking instrument. So while the premises of the two plots are extremely similar, it's doubtful that this 'Satanic Piano' is going to actually allow Bancroft to craft anything as jaunty or successful as “Ass in Your Pants”. I guess we'll see soon enough!

Reporting for duty at the creepy lab, Bancroft discovers walls covered in fetishes and spells, as well as a computerized keyboard. According to Wilson, it can offer everything a modern digital processor can, with an additional feature that nothing else can boast - but before I get to that, let's just take a look at Wilson, the mad scientist character:

Lab coat over a 'Rock This Town' t-shirt. How can you not trust this guy?

So, what's so special about the magical synthesizer? You don't even have to play the music! All you have to do is think about the song you want to write, and the machine creates it for you! Oh, okay, so this is less Ray Smuckles, and more Jack Morgan.

Excited to have the burden of actually doing work taken from him, Bancroft demands to know how much the machine costs. Wilson offers it free of charge - for now - and at some indeterminate point in the future, they'll come to an arrangement that will ensure that he gets to keep it... forever!

So will he have to sacrifice his soul, or his daughter? I'm guessing daughter, since the next scene shows her looking on, disappointed, while he works late into the night on his magic synthesizer.

He ever gets jealously protective when he discovers her using it the next morning - she's naturally suspicious about the fact that it's capable of playing her own song straight from her head. If anything, I feel like she should be more alarmed and frightened by the thing. She's an artist too, however, and senses the creative freedom the machine offers. The machine, for its part, waits until everyone has left the room before eerily turning on and revealing that its electronic display is actually a swirling vortex, presumably with some manner of hell at its center.

What has the machine discovered that's got it so excited? The daughter's song, of course - which causes Wilson, who's psychically linked to the machine somehow, to explain that it's her that the machine wants, not Bancroft! Not exactly where I thought the episode was going, but close enough, right?

Bancroft brings his agent home that night to show off the device, and the agent offers a little background on Wilson - it seems that he used to manage a heavy metal group, and led them from merely name-checking Satan into actual devil worship, a seemingly great idea that unexpectedly turned tragic when the lead sing died onstage. Bancroft isn't given pause by the story of his business associate's murderous history, but he is shocked to discover that the synthesizer (since this is a new instrument and all, I really feel like it should have a name...) is gone. He rushes off in search of it, leaving his agent as the only one to notice that Lisa is also missing.

Bancroft finds his daughter and the device at Wilson's lab, and is finally presented with the terms of his arrangement. The machine will only be complete if it's able to drain a pure soul from a talented musician! Then it will be able to play music on its own... forever! Since this development will come at the cost of Lisa's life, Bancroft is having none of it!

Wilson tries to stop him, but Bancroft's love for his daughter enables him to concentrate hard enough on his own song that it confuses the machine. Overloaded by the competing geniuses in the room, the device short-circuits, giving Bancroft the opportunity he needs to spirit his daughter away before it explodes!

His hand was ruined in the process, but both father and daughter are able to make it out of the lab alive, with him finally realizing that his time has passed, and that he should start helping his daughter with her own musical career!

A heartwarming end to the episode - and just think, only a single mad scientist had to die for him to stop being so selfish!