Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 1 (Sundown)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Yann Demange

HBO Max is proving to be a darn good service and I’m finding a lot of great series to enjoy, particularly Perry Mason and Harley Quinn, so in the spirit of celebrating the arrival of another good streaming service (and looking for something I can review on a regular schedule), I’ll be watching their latest series which I can only assume is a Once Upon a Time knock off but about scarier monsters, right?  Okay, probably not.  Does this series have what it takes to grip you right away and leave you itching for more episodes, or does the novelty of the show wear off once you get past the title?  Let’s find out!!

The show begins with what I’m sure most of us were expecting when we heard it was called Lovecraft Country; a Syfy channel series with HBO money and gratuitous violence as we see a bizarre WW I trench battle involving flying saucers, alien bikini babes, and Cthulhu themselves being utterly wrecked by Jackie Robinson!  Seems like the kind of show that’s right up my very silly alley, but this is not to be as the show has much more on its mind as it all turns out to be a dream; escaping from a reality that may be more mundane but is certainly one our main character wants to get away from.  Our hero is Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors); a nerdy black kid from Chicago who joined the army, got super buff, and has been moving around the country since the end of his service.  He’s finally returning home because his father, the man he was trying to get away from by joining the service, has gone missing and the last thing he did was send a mysterious note to Atticus requesting his presence in Ardham Massachusetts which doesn’t seem to exist.  Seems like a straightforward enough task, except that this show takes place in the fifties and therefore he can’t just do a Google search and more importantly he has to deal with the terrifying barriers of systemic racism wherever he goes; where even riding a bus is rife with danger and indignities as we learn as soon as he wakes up from his exciting dream. The bus has broken down in the middle of nowhere and the only transportation that’s come to help is a pickup truck sending a very clear message of exactly WHO they’re willing to take.

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Cinema Dispatch: An American Pickle

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An American Pickle and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Brandon Trost

For weeks I’ve been grumbling about the slow drip of releases the last few months, but now I find myself spoiled for choice as I’ve not only got Black is King to still watch on Disney+, I find out there’s a Seth Rogen movie on HBO Max as well!  Even with his performance in Long Shot coming off as obnoxious and juvenile, I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy ever since I saw Knocked Up which is a movie I love and have seen so many times that I’d probably put in my top ten comedies ever made.  He’s never really reached THAT level of brilliance since then (especially working without Judd Apatow), but I’m always interested to see what he does and he’ll surprise you every once in a while something great like The Night Before and Sausage Party.  Does this latest outing from the guy end up being one of his best performances yet, or is there a reason they’re not saving this one until theaters open back up?  Let’s find out!!

Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) is a simple man from the Eastern European village of Schlupsk who moves to America with his loving wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) to start a new life and establish himself and his family as part of the American Dream.  He gets a job bashing rats with a stick at a Pickle Factory which certainly pays more than his ditch-digging job back in Schlupsk, and despite the massive xenophobia against Jewish people in this country, things couldn’t be looking any brighter!  That is until Herschel falls into a pickle vat mere moments before the factory is closed down and his body is left forgotten for a hundred years until some kids stumble into the factory and open the vat; freeing Herschel who was perfectly preserved in the pickle brine and therefore hasn’t aged a day because of SCIENCE!  On the plus side, he now lives in a world with better food, less Polio, and better sticks to bash rats with.  On the other hand, everyone he knows and loves is dead.  Six of one, half a dozen of the other I suppose, but what might just tip the scales into this being a net positive is that he has one living relative that has agreed to take him in; his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum (also Seth Rogen).  With his great-grandson being the last connection he has to the life he had before, will Herschel be able to move forward with his life and find fulfillment in this strange new world?  Can Ben help his great grandfather through this challenging time, and are there perhaps challenges of his own that he will now be forced to confront?  Does this movie get utterly derailed for no good reason after a while!?  You tell me; does a pickle taste good on a hamburger!?

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“I know I should be acclimating myself to the modern world and all the complicated nuances involved, but what about… pickles?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Scoob!

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Scoob! and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Tony Cervone

With releases being what they are and LIFE being what it is, I’ve certainly fallen into a bit of a funk lately which is perhaps the biggest reason I was really looking forward to this movie; something that I can put on my calendar and look forward to instead of just the endless pile of stuff that’s already here but I couldn’t muster up the energy to work on.  Now Warner Bros’ recent output of the Hanna-Barbara licenses has certainly been interesting to see, particularly those comic books they released a few years back, and so bringing Scooby-Doo back to the big screen in the midst of all this… shall we say CREATIVITY, does have a certain amount of appeal.  I don’t know how popular it is right now, but the Scooby franchise has proven to be remarkably resilient and is in constant flux with new and drastically different series coming out every few years, so perhaps with such a rock-solid property to work with, Warner Bros can do something truly unique!  Is this the start of Scooby-Doo’s resurgence to the peak of popular culture, or will the concepts prove to outdated for modern audiences to latch onto outside of Saturday morning cartoon reruns?  Let’s find out!!

Shaggy Rogers (Iain Armitage and Will Forte) is a lonely kid with no friends… for some reason, until he finds a stray dog who can talk but no one seems to have much of a problem with.  He names the dog Scooby (Frank Welker) and eventually meets three other kids named Fred, Daphne, and Velma (Pierce Gagnon and Zac Efron, Mckenna Grace and Amanda Seyfried, and Ariana Greenblatt and Gina Rodriguez) who by happenstance they end up solving a mystery with.  And thus the origin story has been told, in less than ten minutes!  What do they fill the remaining eighty with?  Well it turns out that The Blue Falcon, or at least his son Brian (Mark Wahlberg) is trying to stop the evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) from doing… something, and it somehow involves Scooby (presumably because he’s SUCH a good boy) which means he snatches Shaggy and Scooby away from whatever it was they were doing and are now sidekicks on a superhero adventure!  Blue Falcon is helped by his female pilot Dee Dee (Kiersey Clemons) and his dad’s robot dog Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) who are basically the two keeping this operation afloat while Brian stumbles his way through the adventure, and with the help of Scooby being… so very important I guess, they will race Dick Dastardly across the globe from collecting the Magical MacGuffins that will spell doom for the world!  Meanwhile, Fred, Daphne, and Velma are wondering why they aren’t a part of this movie and so try to “solve the mystery” of where Scooby and Shaggy went, only to wind up in a larger than life adventure far beyond investigating a ghost who’ll end up being a guy in a Halloween mask!  Will our heroes overcome the pure malevolent evil of a man named Dick with a beautiful mustache?  Will Scooby’s new status as BEST DOG EVER make Shaggy into a jealous jerk for half the movie for extremely petty reasons?  If we’re gonna do this cinematic universe stuff with Hanna-Barbera, can we at least put Harvey Birdman into it?  Better yet, Phil Ken Sebben!  At least that would be SOMETHING about this movie worth talking about!

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“He’s my best friend Scooby, and he likes fried Scooby snacks on a stick!”     “HA HA!  Treats on dowels…”     “Was… was that a joke or something?”     “You’ll understand when you’re older, sport.”     “Okay, boomer.”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Into the Light)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Lou Diamond Phillips

We’re back with another episode of everyone’s third (okay fine, fourth) favorite version of this series!  The lack of impact behind some of these episodes has been a major stumbling block as very few of them seem to resonate as well as even the middling episodes of the original series, but I think they might have swung too hard in the other direction with this one in what seems to be a less than ideal way to redress the issue.  Is this a case of a good idea with a few sour notes in it, or are we sailing right past that into the realm of really bad taste?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with a very dingy looking high school classroom (the windows are really tiny, way high up, and I’m pretty sure they have steel bars on them) where a bunch of disinterested looking teenagers are taking a written test on Romeo and Juliet.  One kid named Ben just turns in a blank sheet of paper which is pretty bad considering it’s worth a third of his grade, and when the teacher picks up the test of an unnamed kid, she reads aloud “Romeo and Juliet killed themselves because they were asshats”.  Now if that was the ONLY sentence perhaps I’d be as dejected as the teacher feels, but frankly, I’ve heard worse opening arguments for a critical analysis of a creative work; just look at this site for examples of that!  Anyway, the teacher in question is Rachel Stark (Samantha Mathis who played Princess Daisy in the Super Mario Bros movie) who’s had just about enough of this nonsense and is planning on quitting her job next week but sadly she’s in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE which means those plans are going to get derailed.  This is another example of an episode that LIBERALLY lifts from an episode of the original series, but I’ll give them credit because the premise is much more malleable and can fit into all sorts of interesting contexts.  The episode in question is The Purple Testament where a GI in the Pacific theater started seeing a glow across the faces of men who were going to die soon, and this episode follows the same basic idea; she sees a screaming man on the bus light up like he’s about to tell a ghost story, and then he drops dead of a heart attack then and there.  Aside from the fact that she just saws someone die right in front of her, this revelation has put her on edge a bit as she saw a similar light on the face of one of her students who was riding a skateboard.  Her boyfriend the school gym coach (Reed Diamond) thinks it’s some sort of latent guilt she’s feeling for planning to quit her job and essentially giving up on the kids, but when she learns the next morning that the skateboarder had died… well, it seems like there’s more at stake than an unfulfilled work life.

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“Oh my gosh, what happened!?”     He was trying to grind the rail right next to Dead Man’s Gulch.”     “And?”     “A mugger ran up and stabbed him.”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Rewind)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Kevin Bray

The episode follows Jonah Beach (Eddie Kaye Thomas who played Finch in the American Pie films and the titular Freddy in Freddy Got Fingered); an obsessive gambler who may have a decent amount of skill but squanders it on his single minded pursuit of “beating the house” which in this case means beating this dude named Trevor (Ben Bass) who owns the place.  Jonah’s girlfriend April (Marisa Coughlan who was… also in Freddy Got Fingered oddly enough) works as a waitress at the casino where he spends most of his time and is either overwhelmingly empathetic to his plight or completely in denial of his gambling problem.  They have a nest egg set up for a restaurant in Florida which Jonah wants to raid for one last chance at the card table and thankfully April tells him no which is certainly the RIGHT decision but puts poor Jonah in a funk as he leaves the casino with nothing more than three bucks to his name.  A homeless with a mysterious shopping cart challenges him to a coin toss for the three bucks in his pocket, and after Jonah wins the toss he’s gracious enough to give the man the three bucks anyway.  See?  He’s not such a bad guy even if he WAS in a Tom Green movie!  The homeless man is so moved by Jonah’s generosity that he pulls a tape recorder out from his cart and gives him to him as a gift which Jonah ruefully accepts as the alternative could possibly upset the guy.  He starts fiddling with the thing at the bus stop, and wouldn’t you know it; the darn thing is MAGIC!

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“Oh crap, this thing is covered in LSD isn’t it?”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Another Life)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Risa Bramon Garcia

I’ll admit that when I first saw this episode ALL those years ago, I didn’t get it.  It wasn’t like Tagged (an episode we’ll get to soon enough) which covered similar ground but ACTUALLY HAD a supernatural twist to it; from what I remember it was just a dude having flashbacks which feels a bit low key for a TWILIGHT ZONE episode.  Thinking back on it as I sit here ready to rewatch this story after so long, I may have been too naïve or ignorant to really understand what we was really going on under the hood, so let’s take a look with fresh eyes and see if there’s something to learn from all of this!  Is this a classic episode that just failed to connect with me, or will I learn that I was right to be nonplussed by it all along?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Marvin Gardens (Wood Harris who’s been in a lot of stuff recently including Dredd, Ant-Man, and the show Empire) who is out on his morning jog when police sirens start to blare behind him.  Nervously, he starts to turn around and even begins to put his hands up… but the patrol car just speeds by him.  We find out that Marvin is a successful rapper living out his dreams after escaping a life of poverty.  He’s got a great and supportive wife (Kimberly Elise), a loving son who he’s a great father too, and he’s even working on an album that will make him even richer than he already is now!  Everything is looking great for Marvin… except that he keeps having these hallucinations of a police interrogation where he was beaten mercilessly and told to confess to a crime he didn’t commit and being called Dwayne; a name he doesn’t recognize.  Now already, this has got some great ideas that are being conveyed with nuance even if the performances and the LAVISH RAPPER LIFESTYLE comes off a bit cheesy.  It appears that Marvin has some past trauma with the police that’s left him with some serious scars which are now manifesting as full on delusions despite the fact that he escaped from all that and he has everything he could ever want.  Well maybe another controller for his son’s Nintendo GameCube, but other than that…

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“Hey can I have a turn?”     “No!”     “Well what about two player mode?”     “MOM!  DAD’S BEING MEAN!”     “Hey!  I’m the one who bought this for you!”     “AND HE’S SWEARING!!”     “Fine!  I can take a hint!”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (The Path)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by Jerry Levine

This series claims to have two remakes of classic Twilight Zone episodes which we’ll get to soon enough, but I’m calling bull pucky on that because this episode we’re discussing today is ABSOLUTELY based on one of the classics from that original series.  Now that’s not necessarily a BAD thing as the whole reason this show exists is because of how good the original series was, and using some of those ideas in a modern context can certainly produce some interesting results!  Heck, the Jordan Peele version of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet was a BRILLIANT reworking of the fear and paranoia that was the true essence of that original episode even WITHOUT the creepy (and yet somehow adorable) gremlin dude!  Is this a similarly great remix of a classic episode, or is this a worse cover than Limp Bizkit’s version of Faith?  Let’s find out!!

The episode follows Ali (Linda Cardellini); a writer for a lousy knock off Enquirer rag where she writes stories about dying celebrities or hobbits living in Jersey, and while it’s certainly fun to write about that kind of nonsense it’s not the most noble or fulfilling career you could have as a writer.  While getting her caffeine fix at a local coffee shop, she overhears a man giving a woman advice regarding “her path” and some vague platitudes on how she should follow it.  Her interest piqued, Ali goes over to meet the man named Kanayo (played here by Method Man) and finds out that an opportunity awaits her, but she must seek it out first.  Sounds like your standard Cold Reading nonsense, but she goes back to the office and decides to call about a resume she submitted and as it turns out they were having trouble reaching her!  Her coworker and best friend Seth (Colin Cunningham of Falling Skies fame) thinks it’s all a big coincidence, but Ali is not so sure and she goes back to Kanayo several times hoping to get more advice and perhaps find the clearest way to follower her “path”.  Now if you’re ever seen more than a handful of episodes of the original Twilight Zone, this should all sound very familiar as it’s more or less a remake of the Nick of Time; a story where William Shatner and Patricia Breslin have to contend with a fortune telling napkin holder that seems to accurately predict the future.  Now the thing is, the more I think about this episode the closer I think it gets to working… without ever actually getting there.  It’s SO close and it has a few ideas that work for an update to this story, but where Nick of Time was tight and well thought out, this one fumbles with its weighty topics and never finds the right balance.

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“You’ll be in a few Avengers movies.”     “That’s good!”     “But only playing Hawkeye’s wife.”     “Oh, that’s bad.”     “But you’ll be in A Simple Favor!”     “That’s good!”     “After being in both Daddy’s Home movies and before starring in The Curse of La Llorona.”     “I don’t like this game anymore.”

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Super Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Fair Warning)

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The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling

Episode directed by John Kretchmer

It has certainly been a while, but we are BACK with another episode of everyone’s least favorite Twilight Zone series!  Considering that I’m somehow spending even MORE time cooped up inside, it seemed like the perfect time to stop procrastinating on this series and give you the details you’ve been waiting for on a show that hasn’t been on the air for over fifteen years!  Is this a fantastic episode to return to, or were we all better off leaving this series in the dustbin of history?  Let’s find out!!

Our story begins with Tina Bishop (Taryn Manning who was one of Britney Spears’s best friend in Crossroads a year prior to this and would later go on to portray Tiffany in Orange is the New Black) who’s the owner of a humble little flower shop that she runs with her friend Gwen (Kandyse McClure) and she spends her evenings with her boyfriend Ryan (Preston Cook) who looks like the drummer in a Papa Roach cover band, but seems to be a decent guy otherwise.  Someone who DOESN’T seem to be a decent guy however is her next customer; some dude in a blue shirt with George on his nametag and MURDER in his eyes!  Creepy George then begins to relay a timeless story of love at true sight between a man and a woman at a laundromat where the saintly princess bequeathed a cup of detergent to the lowly white knight, and it was then that George knew that she was THE ONE!  The one he will love, and the one he has to protect… from himself.  He begs Tina to stop him from killing here which I don’t know about you but seems like a particularly BRIGHT red flag, and so Tina runs to the phone to call the cops… but when she looks up, George has disappeared!

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“No, no!  Not me!  I’m just here to do the spooky intro.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

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Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Cathy Yan

I was probably on the kinder end of things than most people when it came to Suicide Squad; the DCCU’s attempt to be fun and wacky that ended up having all the edge of a limited edition holo-foil issue of Spawn from 1994.  In its own tacky cobbled together way it did manage to eek out a bit of charm, but what people mostly remember from the movie was the performances; namely one Harley Quinn played with gusto by the phenomenal Margot Robbie.  Now that we’re more or less in DCCU 2.0, it makes sense for this character to be given another shot away from the baggage of the movie that came before; even from the studio itself as Robbie basically put this thing together with Warner Bros maintaining a mostly hands off approach.  Is this the breakout hit that Warner Bros has been hoping for yet could never make themselves, or is this a desperate Hail Mary that misses by a mile?  Let’s find out!!

Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie) has had a rough go of it lately.  She grew up with scary nuns, she had a string of bad relationships, she did at least get her college degree and became a psychiatrist but even THAT didn’t work out when she met some dude in clown makeup, and on top of that she had to fight a an ancient demon witch person or else have a bomb explode in her neck!  Fortunately she’s out of prison and she even dumped the clown dude so she’s ready to start her life anew!  A new pet, roller derby, and COPIOUS amounts of alcohol to deal with the unresolved feelings that she’s left with now that she’s single and away from the clown that made her life miserable.  BUT ENOUGH ABOUT DAVID AYER (Ba-dum-tiss!), with the Joker in her rearview mirror it has given her a lot more freedom but also the ire of ALL the people they screwed over in the past, and as the one on the short end of this breakup some of them are ready to take their vengeance!  One such vengeance taker is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who’s a mid-range mob boss with a hot temper, enough toxic masculinity to smother ALL the adorable baby ducklings of the world, and an alter ego just one step below Taser Face; BLACK MASK!  Complete with second rate Die Hardman cosplay!  Him and his associate Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) are not only after Harley but ALSO after a diamond that somehow ended up in the hands of a young street hustler named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) and so perhaps there’s a way to kill two birds with one stone there, and on top of ALL that we also have a singer at Victor’s club named Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who’s looking for a way out of the life, a mysterious crossbow killer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who’s hunting down gangsters, Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) who’s stuck trying to untangle all these messy knots.  Will Harley Quinn escape the payback that’s owed to her after working with the Joker for so long?  Why is Roman so intent on getting this diamond, and who else may be gunning for it?  Why DO they end up calling themselves the Birds of Prey anyway?

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“What, you don’t think it sounds cool and intimidating?”     “Hey, as long as you don’t put a bomb in my neck, I’m fine with anything!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Doctor Sleep

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Doctor Sleep and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Now that we’re a good few years into the Stephen King revival that was kicked off by IT (actually Stranger Things if we’re being honest) it was about time we start calling back to OTHER Stephen King adaptations, and not just that brief shot of the original Pennywise in IT or the numerous random callbacks in The Dark Tower.  This is a sequel not only to Stephen King’s original Shining novel, but is the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation, so describing the making of this movie as Quixotic is not that much of a stretch.  Then again, there’s no reason not to swing for the fences if you’ve got the chance, and the director has proven time and time again with films like Gerald’s Game and Ouija: Origin of Evil that he’s capable of making very good horror films, so perhaps the untouchable triumph that was The Shining is not so out of reach after all!  Is this a worthy sequel to the original film and a great movie in its own right?  Let’s find out!!

Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has had a rough time of it since he and his mother managed to escape from the Overlook Hotel where his dad tried to murder the two of them before dying in the snow.  It seems that he took after his father in the second worst way possible as he may not be an axe murderer, but he is an alcoholic who’s using his addiction to avoid dealing with his own problems as well as the powers that seem to have done nothing but cause him trouble as the ghosts from the Overlook Hotel try to haunt him to this day.  He manages to find a bit of stability though in the town of True Knot where he meets a friend named Billy (Cliff Curtis), manages to give up the booze, and even gets a job as an orderly in a hospice care facility where he uses his power to sooth those who are about to die with those gifts that have given him nothing but heartache for the past thirty years.  He also seems to have made a connection with another psychic user as they communicate with each other anonymously, but circumstances are about to change that will force them to finally meet one another.  It turns out that there is a cult of other psychic users who have found out that eating the souls of psychically powerful people will give them everlasting life and so they roam the country looking for people to eat (mostly children as they are the most potent) and are ostensibly led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who’s powers are among the strongest out there.  Our mysterious pen pal to Dan whose a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) catches psychic wind of these monsters as they feast upon a child, and Rose the Hat catches a glimpse of her as well, so now that both parties know of the other’s existence there will surely be some serious X-Men like conflict coming soon and Abra could use all the help she can get to bring these fiends to justice.  Will Dan be willing to help his friend Abra with her little problem of cannibal psychics trying to hunt her down?  Who exactly are these murderous psychics, and why is one of them wearing such a distinctive hat?  Will they find an excuse for going back to the Outlook Hotel so they can sell this movie on Shining nostalgia?  Well of course they will, but will it be a GOOD excuse!?

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“Look, I know it’s haunted as well as the birthplace of most of my trauma, but I’ve got a forty percent discount from Hotels.com and it’s the ONLY place in the area it applies to.”

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