HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” Retrospective: “Demon Knight”

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The glorious 90s HBO horror anthology series, Tales from the Crypt, is a show I hold dear to my heart, so much so that I previously wrote eight extensive pieces about it in the summer of 2015 chronicling each of its seven seasons. And yet, I’ll be the first to admit that Tales from the Crypt is a flawed bit of nostalgia, with nearly as many poor episodes as there were great ones, and plenty of middling entries filling out the 93-episode order. At its highest points, however, the Crypt Keeper’s tales of the macabre remain as spectacular as ever, with some remarkable filmmakers teaming with excellent ensembles and delivering a decent number of short and sweet genre masterpieces. Only one installment — the Robert Zemeckis-helmed “Yellow” — reached above a 30-minute runtime, but was still less than half of the length of a standard feature film. In 1995, though, near the end of the series’ initial run, Tales from the Crypt would finally traverse out of the world of premium television and onto the silver screen with the criminally underappreciated horror-comedy cult classic, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight.

Originally surfacing in 1987 (two years before the debut of the HBO series), the screenplay for Demon Knight would face multiple failed attempts at adaptation into a full production — that is, until Tales from the Crypt producer Joel Silver got a hold of it. While nearly all of Tales from the Crypt’s episodes were based on the EC Comics stories of the 1950s, Demon Knight was a wholly original script, allowing the film to be its own being while still retaining all of the fan-favorite staples that had become expected from something bearing the Tales from the Crypt moniker. A relatively unknown yet nevertheless notable director, Ernest Dickerson, commands an unlikely pairing of 90s stars and instantly recognizable character actors, including William Sadler, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Dick Miller. The true star of the film, however, is actually its antagonist. The “Collector,” played by a truly awe-inspiring Billy Zane, is a demonic being sent by the Devil in order to collect an ancient artifact that can be utilized in order to unleash Hell on Earth.

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Marvel’s Greatest Hits: A Review of “Avengers: Infinity War”

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For 10 years now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been a web of interlinked films full of connections, crossovers and cameos, becoming a remarkable and bold film franchise unlike any other before it. With the latest blockbuster entry, Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios has promised a sort of culmination of the past 18 movies-worth of stories and characters. While it isn’t without its faults, Infinity War makes good on its promise and remains a solid entry in the oversaturated series due to its high-stakes story, captivating characters and luscious visual effects.

Coming off of great successes with 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier and its 2016 follow-up, Civil War, Joe and Anthony Russo graciously return to direct the 19th entry in the long-running series (with a direct follow-up slated for next May). It’s almost disingenuous to merely label Infinity War as an “Avengers” film, however. Whether they’re an Avenger or not, nearly every major character in the MCU as well as their sidekick is featured here — including Black Panther, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy roster — and it’s honestly awesome to see so many of these characters sharing the screen together in a single film.

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: Artistic Perception – An Analysis of “Blow-Up”

“I wish I had tons of money…Then I’d be free.”

…An interesting thought; sadly, I disagree.

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Blow-up, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Palme d’Or recipient, subverts one’s desires and expectations while undermining typical narrative conventions. In Blow-up, Antonioni presents a murder that is “caught” by the protagonist’s camera, one which never actually receives its expected resolution. This subversion is well-executed as the audience sees their anticipation wither and torment them as a group of mimes engage in imaginary tennis.

Similarly, in Antonioni’s 1960 film, L’Avventura, it begins with a person’s disappearance — one whose subsequent search is void of resolution. Instead, Antonioni chooses to focus on a character who is weak and trying to cope in extravagant society. Antonioni subverts expectation and tests the audience’s patience, as well as narrative standards, in both films. 

But is this subversion just Antonioni teasing his audience, or does it carry a deeper and more complex significance? In fact, yes, it very much does. Antonioni describes his intention of narration in L’Avventura as him wanting to “achieve the suppression of outward physical action” in the interest of a “greater interior realism.” Meaning, he wants to show the world in a manner that is true to life and realism.

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Fear Needs No Translation: Dog Eat Dog – An Analysis of “White God”

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Dogs have sat alongside humankind for generations, acting both as guardians and best friends. It isn’t uncommon today to walk into a household and be greeted by a furry, four-legged creature. Dogs can be the center of attention at any house party, and you even see people walking down the street lose their minds upon a dog sighting. The idea that dogs are one of the most trustworthy creatures on Earth has been instilled into the minds of millions of people around the world. But what happens if this trust is broken? Imagine a world where dogs are alienated and have become public enemy number one. In this edition of “Fear Needs No Translation,” we dive into the dark fantasy of Hungarian director, Kornél Mundruczó, where he makes this nightmare a reality in his 2014 film, White God.

Kornél Mundruczó isn’t a stranger to the film industry, having a variety of acting and directing jobs, including films such as Delta (2008) and Johanna (2005). Mundruczó surpasses the artistry that is film; his craft has become an outlet for voicing his opinion on many social and political matters. With the help of acting rookie, Zsófia Psotta, White God has been recognized for its technical cinematography, artistic aesthetic, and issue-driven allegory.

In a not-so-distant future, the Hungarian government has created a tax on mongrel dogs that would nearly bankrupt any mutt owner. As a result, dog populations have skyrocketed in shelters, as well as strays in the street. Mundruczó’s White God follows the story of Lili and her dog, Hagen, as the two face the struggles of separation, abuse, and finding acceptance in the world. Having been forced to living on the streets by Dániel, Lili’s father, Hagen quickly learns his place in society. Gaining an obsession of saving her best friend, Lili soon realizes that the innocence of her world is a façade. Literally being thrown to the curb, Hagen and the other dogs of this ingenious film rise up as the newest form of terrorists. With all hope seemingly fading away, Lili must take a stand against the beast she once considered her friend to find the light in his soul. White God is a beautifully crafted movie, comprised of the spectacle of a melodrama, while incorporating elements of contemporary horror. A true spectacle, Mundruczó and his cast spin together a tale that will have your emotions toyed with from start to finish.

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Jet Fuel Jukebox: “Queen Monáe” Edition

Well, Kanye West has returned from his long slumber and been making headlines recently. Some of the reasons are cool, but a larger number of those are not so cool. Starting with the good stuff, he’s got a solo album coming in June alongside a separate side project with Kid Cudi, as well as some production credits that include a new Nas record.

However, in the past week, Ye’s also released two incredibly underwhelming “singles,” and been saying some intolerable stuff on Twitter. Most recently, he appeared in an interview with TMZ, and it’s quite an…interesting watch, to say the least. Suffice to say, it will be fascinating to see what comes of all this Kanye news in the coming months.

Moving on from Kanye, I want to give a shoutout to Janelle Monáe’s new album, Dirty Computer, which I’ve listened to non-stop since its release on Friday. I’ve included one of my favorite tracks from the album, “Screwed,” as the opening song on this week’s playlist, so you too can enjoy this masterpiece. Elsewhere, we have included tracks from Hall and Oates, The Internet, and Katy Perry.

— Michael Lane, Blog Editor

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A Community Collaboration: Centos

Jet Fuel Review Issue #15 Cover

Inside our new Spring 2018 issue of Jet Fuel Review (with cover art by Australian artist Jim Tsinganos), you will find a special section that specifically highlights a particular style of poem known as the cento, which is a unique form in which an author creates a piece by stitching together lines borrowed only from the works of others. To help kick-off the launch celebration of our 15th issue, we’ve asked some of our own to join in on the fun and construct a piece or two themselves.

Presented below is a portion of the Special Section’s introduction as written by JFR Assistant Managing Editor, Zakiya Cowan, followed by a collection of wonderful centos written by not only the editors of Jet Fuel Review but also some members of the Lewis University community at large. A few of the writers included here are experienced veterans of the genre, others are amateurs, and some have never written a poem in their adult life. However, each piece remains a showcase of talent and form that we are incredibly excited to share with you.

Read on,

— Michael Lane, Blog Editor

The Jet Fuel Review editors are excited to share with you the noteworthy gem of Issue 15, our cento collection. “Cento” is Latin for “patchwork,” and in terms of poetic form, a cento is a “patchwork” of lines taken from various works. According to the introduction of Hosidius Geta’s Medea:” A Virgilian Cento, by Joseph J. Mooney, Geta’s “Medea” is the first recorded cento, dating back between 200 C.E. and 300 A.D. Classified as a Virgilian cento, “Medea” is composed of lines from works by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil. A Frankenstein-like composition, each line is carefully sutured to the next in order to create thought-provoking images and metaphors that seamlessly weld with one another, and ultimately crafts a piece that pays homage to other’s work while creating a new text.

We hope you both enjoy and appreciate the thoughtful artistry that is involved when constructing the cento, and hopefully discover a newfound love for this longstanding, intricate form.

Read on,

— Zakiya Cowan, Assistant Managing Editor

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Living in the Sunken Place: An Analysis of “Get Out”

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If you look back on the history of horror cinema, you’ll find that many films make use of timely social issues in order to convey powerful commentary on their respective subjects. The late, great visionary horror director George Romero continually did it in his legendary Dead series, with Night of the Living Dead tackling race relations during the height of the Civil Rights movement, while Dawn of the Dead took shots at consumerism and its power to literally turn society into zombies. Recently, The Purge series of films delves into classism, the classic Rosemary’s Baby is related to feminist ideas, and the cult-favorite They Live looked at the power of the media.

Last year’s “it” movie, Get Out, which comes courtesy of comedian-turned-horror director Jordan Peele, is the latest and greatest example. It’s never apparent as you watch it, but Get Out is Peele’s first time being in the director’s chair of a film, as well as his first foray into the horror genre. Get Out is so successful in so many aspects that it ends up not only being one of the most impressive debuts of the last decade (having even won Peele an Academy Award for best original screenplay), but also perhaps the most socially charged mainstream horror film in that timespan as well.

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