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    Researchers have been finding quite a few disturbing examples of Nature's mad scientists lately – from a wasp that performs brain surgery on live cockroaches, to the fungus that turns living ants into undead slaves. But today's bizarre example comes from the plant kingdom, in the form of a parasitic bacterium that can turn a flowering plant into a kind of zombie to do its bidding. 
    That's right, you'll never play a game of Plants vs. Zombies quite the same way again... seriously, who exactly are the bad guys now?
    Photo: JIC Photography
    This creepy phenomenon is being studied by Saskia Hogenhout of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, U.K., who found that parasitic bacteria called phytoplasma can turn a host plant sterile. This causes it to lose its flowers and replace them with leaves (a condition called “witch's broom”), which in turn makes it more attractive to insects called leafhoppers, which are also “programmed” by the parasite to eat the leaves, thus spreading the bacteria from plant to plant. That's some pretty advanced mad science for such a tiny organism.
    Photo: JIC Photography
    “The plant appears alive, but it’s only there for the good of the pathogen,” Hogenhout explains in the journal Nature. “In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.”
    Hogenhout's team has yet to determine exactly how the phytoplasma “reprograms” its hosts. “It would be so cool to find out,” she says.

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    It was 65.5 million years ago that the dinosaurs were eradicated from our planet, and it's believed that a 6 mile wide asteroid was largely responsible for the extinction of their kind, the impact of which resulted in a crater that spanned a whopping 93 miles. That's a pretty damn big asteroid, right? It sure is. But it's absolutely dwarfed by one that hit many years prior.

    As reported by I F'ing Love Science, Stanford University teachers Norman Sleep and Donald Lowe recently used modern day technology to reconstruct the impact of an asteroid that hit South Africa over 3 billion years ago, determining that the formation was an incredible 23 miles wide - nearly four times larger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. The crater left behind measured an astounding 297 miles in diameter, which is larger than a handful of entire countries.

    They've determined that the gargantuan asteroid traveled at a rate of 12 miles per second, and that the impact resulted in massive tsunamis more devastating than any in recent history. And get this. The collision was so mind-blowingly epic that it actually broke the Earth, forever fracturing our plate tectonic system!

    Pick your jaw up off the floor and take a virtual trip over to Turkmenistan's 'Door to Hell,' which is perhaps the most horrifying crater in the world!

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    panda hotel

    Native to south central China, the panda bear has become somewhat of a mascot for the country, as synonymous with Chinese culture as dragons and fried rice. Pandas are adorable, there's no denying that, but this latest capitalization on that fact is a whole lot more creepy than it is cute...

    The Panda Inn

    As we spotted over on Thrillist, a panda-themed hotel called The Panda Inn opens up next month in China, catering directly to those who are a little bit too obsessed with the country's most iconic furry friend. Each of the 32 rooms is fully decked out with panda imagery, from the art on the walls to the prints on the towels, pillows, slippers and furniture. Even the telephones in each room are panda-shaped, though I suppose you already gathered that by now.

    The Panda Inn

    The creepiest aspect of this incredibly strange hotel, however, is the fact that the staff members are all dressed up in panda costumes, greeting you in your room and available to keep you company, as you enjoy your panda-inspired meals. It seems costumed staff members can even be rented for cuddling purposes, and we can only hope that the line is drawn there.

    the Panda Inn

    Located at the base of China's Emei Mountain, not far from the place where the majority of the world's pandas live, the hotel is now accepting reservations, with rooms starting at $110 per night. Learn more, and book your stay, over on the Panda Inn website!

    I think I'll spend the night in the H.R. Giger-inspired sci-fi hotel, myself. But thanks, pandas. I appreciate the hospitality.

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    Most of my Unseen entries are about films from decades past, but this one is recent... just a few years ago. So I won’t exactly call this one “unseen” yet... just “overlooked.”
    Back in 2007, I was working as a researcher for Fangoria Entertainment. This meant that I spent copious amounts of time screening relatively unknown horror films for coverage. On a particular day in June, the temperature was in the upper 90s in New York City. Coincidentally, it was on this day that the air conditioning at the office died a very smoky death. 
    It was hot. Damned hot. And while many employees decided to work from home that day, I had several friends from out of town staying at my tiny apartment. I knew that if I journeyed home, I would end up getting very little work done in lieu of playing tour guide. So I sat in the office watching indie horror flicks and sweating buckets while half asleep from the heat. I finally made it to the last film of the day: Perfect Creature. The cover looked like just another run-of-the-mill vampire flick. Sigh. I popped in the DVD and soon realized this was not the typical vampire story. I forgot the heat, I forgot my sweating, and forgot my out-of-town visitors. I became captured in this creative tale that presents a completely new twist on vampire lore involving genetics and religion, all wrapped in an innovative steampunk presentation.
    Perfect Creature is a product of the New Zealand film industry. Shot for $11 million dollars and using the high-caliber effect styling of WETA Workshop (best known for providing the FX on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Perfect Creature glistens on screen. It is a very “over-produced” film, and the high budget is demonstrated specifically in the setting and textures. 
    Set in an alternate universe where vampires are worshiped as religious icons and influenza has become a decimating plague, a single renegade vampire goes insane and begins attacking the humans that vampires have sworn to protect. I’m inclined to call Perfect Creature a steampunk story. For those who don’t frequent fan conventions or comic book shops, steampunk defines a genre of media that is set in an alternate universe. This universe is like ours, but during Victorian Times society pursued steam as an active source of energy over fossil fuels. In the steampunk environment, many styles and elements from the Victorian world are still preserved. Yet technology has advanced to the same point as today, just taking a different steam-based path. This is the world in which Perfect Creature is situated. Victorian-looking cars, air ships, televisions, and toys surround the space. The characters still have advanced science, genetics, disease control, and weaponry. I know this may seem a bit difficult to grasp, but just trust me that it is rather beautiful and captivating to watch on-screen.
    I have heard many film critics speculate on why Perfect Creature was such an ignored and quickly forgotten film. Some feel that being New Zealand’s 6th most expensive film in their history, audiences were expecting something epic (like Lord of the Rings), but instead got a quirky little vampire story that isn’t even about vampires as we historically know them. Others feel the slow burn and intentionally lethargic pacing drew people out of the thriller-style story and just bored them. I’m inclined to agree with both of these theories, but I’m also going to point a bony vampiric finger at the box art below:
    Featuring just a single vampire mouth, the art tells very little about the movie aside from the fact that it has vampires in it. Perfect Creature is so visually driven, it's almost insulting that the image chosen to represent it is so boring and trite. I’m going to strike this film’s forgotten nature up to a number of items, but at the top of my list are some very poor marketing and graphic design choices. 
    Perfect Creature is neither expensive nor hard to find. Actually, when Blockbuster went out of business recently, I saw stacks of copies sitting untouched on the barren store shelves for just a few dollars. This is a great example of a film that was everywhere, and just remained relatively unseen. 

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    This story is about dysentery, which in case you hadn't heard is a very, very nasty disease. But since we're pals, I'll spare you a graphic description of the symptoms (just Google “dysentery” if you're that curious, but remember, I warned you), and focus instead on the nasty little microorganism that causes it.
    Image: Katherine Ralston
    Dysentery is mainly spread by a one-celled organism called Entamoeba histolytica, and reportedly kills over 100,000 people each year. One of the reasons it's been so hard for experts to trace the infection is the mysterious way the amoeba consumes the host body; in most cases, people with the illness show no outward symptoms. But that may have changed, thanks to a story in New Scientist: researchers have discovered that the amoebas have a particularly horrific way of attacking their host – they chew right into the walls of the intestine, ripping away living tissue and eating it while it's still alive. Until now, experts thought the amoebas killed the cells before consuming them.
    Katherine Ralston and William Petri of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville made this gruesome discovery after using fluorescent dyes to track the progress of the parasites in the intestines of rats. "We saw that the amoeba ingested bites of the fluorescent membranes of the intestinal cells," Ralston reported in the journal Nature. "They are impressively ravenous."
    Image: Katherine Ralston
    According to microbiologist Kris Chadee from University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, further research into this behavior may lead to new developments in medicine. “The parasite needs to attach to the cell to rip off little pieces,” Chadee says, “so if you could get blocking antibodies in the place where it attaches, that would be a potential target for drug development." I guess we should be optimistic, but it's still one hell of a creepy concept if you ask me.
    Between this thing, the brain-eaters in our drinking water and the recent reanimation of a 30,000-year-old virus, I'm starting to suspect that the greatest threat to humanity is already inside us...

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    Prison tattoos are notorious for being crude, simple drawings, done with items you generally don't want in your skin. Paper clips, razor blades, shards of glass, and wires are used with charcoal, burned rubber, pen ink, and pencil lead - basically whatever a prisoner can get his hands on behind bars. But what makes these tattoos unique is that they have been cut off the bodies of dead inmates.

    These tattoos belonged to Polish prisoners. After they died, the skin containing the art would be cut away and sealed in jars of formaldehyde. Artist Katarzyna Mirczak found these stacks of samples at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and began photographing them. The tattoos were collected to study social cues and "alternative culture," but frankly, I can't get past the fact that these are cut up chunks of human flesh. You can see hair sprouting out of some of the chunks; other skin slices still have nipples attached.

    For the record, you can buy a man's tattooed skin right off his back or wear a man's skin as jewelry

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    For this installment of gift guide, we are zeroing in on a handcrafted bookmark in the likeness of severed arms. This item is both practical and fun: it will hold your place in whatever you’re reading and it’s sure to repulse anyone that happens upon it unexpectedly and it makes for a great conversation piece.

    $12.00 at Etsy

    Severed arms not your thing? Check out these zombie arm bookmarks.

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    I'm here in Boston for the video and board game convention PAX East, and we just got a preview of a brand new horror board game hitting shelves soon. Entitled 'Student Bodies' this zombie board game places you in the roll of a high school student recently infected with the dreaded virus. For 2-5 players, this light tactical game challenges you to race across the hex-mapped school to the lab in search of an antidote. Zombies, strange items, and your fellow students will all try to stop your progress. As an added twist, if your character dies before you get the antidote you flip your character board over and play as a "smart zombie" complete with a special set of skills. Expect this board/card game to release in August, and feast your eyes on this artwork in the meantime. 

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    New comic book Wednesday has come and gone. The dust at your local comic shop has settled. An eerie silence descends as you finish reading your last superhero book of the week. Now it's time for something a little more sinister. Welcome to Bagged and Boarded: comic reviews of the sick, spooky, twisted and terrifying! 
    Creepy_16Creepy Comics No. 16
    Dark Horse continues the tradition! Every month a new issue of Creepy Comics crawls from its crypt, breathes in the dusty air, and attempts to scare the pants off you! This issue we see a few great mini-comics about an evil website link, a clockmaker's obsession, nefarious cats, and a paradox of murder. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
    Bag it or board it up? I am a real sucker for these anthology revivals. It's crazy to think that in their heyday comics like this were read by just about everyone who read comics. Now it's up to us, the dedicated horror fans, to continue reading. I was surprised by how modern these comics are, even though they look like their from half a century ago, the language, subject matter, and vulgarity are shocking. Want a good read this weekend? Pick up this comic.
    Deadworld_5Deadworld: Restoration No. 5
    I'd love to tell you that this is just a simple story about zombies taking over the earth. But that story's been told in Deadworld comics many years ago. Now the plot goes something like this: A zombie woman was inhabiting the body of a lady named Donna. Now she has a new body. The Zombie King makes a shady deal with one of our "heroes." The U.S. Army is piecing itself back together and blowing people up. The Zombie King has a new pet monster. The lepers are trying to sneak among the zombies. And, uh, many people die.
    Bag it or board it up? I don't know about this one. I've been trying to look at the positives of this series for a while. But this issue was just too hard to follow. The characters are drawn so stylistically, with such an emphasis on this comic looking "different" and "grisly," that it's hard to tell who's who. Seriously, who is who in this comic? Unless you're deeply engrossed in this storyline, this comic will probably be too hard to follow.
    Judge_Dredd_p2Judge Dredd: The American Way of Death pt. 2
    The Judge is in way over his head. Banished to the prison moon of Titan, Judge Dredd starts this issue very close to death. Believe it or not, by the end he's bootin' and shootin' with the best of them! This is one mean dude, and when he gets back to his home city he finds it in ruins, with terrible "Dark Judges" patrolling the streets in their twisted bodies. 
    Bag it or board it up? Gross, awesome, and full of good fighting; this is what a Judge Dredd comic is all about. I'd recommend only reading this comic if you've read the first part of this mini-series. But I also recommend you read that first part. Go on, just read more Judge Dredd, you'll be happier for it. And when the final monster shows itself in this issue, you'll be glad you invested the time and energy into this comic. Judge Dredd always pays off.
    TWD_125The Walking Dead No. 125
    This is it! The Penultimate chapter in this 'All Out War' storyline. Penultimate means the next issue is the Ultimate. The final chapter. Shoot, we've come a long way since that heart wrenching issue 100. Negan thinks Rick is dying. Rick doesn't seem to think he is. They have a heart to heart, and then oh damn! Something huge happens here.
    Bag it or board it up? For all we moan and complain about the "slow issues" of The Walking Dead there are way more times we're blown away. This issue, for example, offers so much to the reader. It acknowledges the fact that these people are all acting crazy. There's a palpable sense of dread and fear in this issue. There's a shocking twist. It's got everything you could possibly want in a Walking Dead comic. Check it out!

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    Don't be misled by the sweet, innocent-sounding name “Indigo Rose”... this new hybrid tomato strain is totally metal.
    Oddity Central recently showcased the new variety, which is described as “jet black on the outside and juicy purple-red on the inside.” They also point out that the ultra-dark color scheme not only looks cool, but also indicates a fruit which is rich in powerful antioxidants – particularly anthocyanin, shown to be beneficial in the prevention of ailments like diabetes. Anthocyanin results in a purple pigment (it also gives blueberries their deep purple color), which when mixed with the usual red results in a solid black exterior.
    Photo: St Catherine’s Standard
    The first black tomatoes were reportedly grown by Professor Jim Myers at the University of Oregon. “It is the first improved tomato variety in the world that has anthocyanins in its fruit,” Myers explains. “It will lead to a better understanding on how the antioxidants express in tomatoes and may contribute to human health.” He also adds that the Indigo Rose is very tasty, with a less sweet flavor that makes it ideal for salads.
    That's all good news, of course, but now I want to see Myers and his colleagues breed lots more jet-black vegetables, so I can whip up the most awesome party tray in the history of everything. And for dessert... I call a road trip to Dawn of the Donut!

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    The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?

    'Mord Im Arosa' - Zoch Verlag (2010)


    The police tape completely surrounds the glorious Arosa hotel. From your hotel room looking down onto the rain-slick streets you see nothing but flashing cop lights. The reds and blues dancing against the black night sky and the walls of the grand seven floor hotel. Moments ago you heard a scream, you heard the slump of a body, and you heard the footsteps of the guilty rush away into the depths of the hotel. Did you kill tonight? Even if you didn't, could the murder end up pinned on you anyway?


    In the family game 'Mord Im Arosa,' two to six players listen closely for clues to the culprits of this heinous act. This is a cube-dropping deduction game, and you'll use your little wooden cubes to clink, clank, and clomp your way through the towering hotel. Listen closely as the cubes fall down the floors of the hotel, and make your best guess as to who's the killer!

    Gameplay Mechanics


    'Mord Im Arosa' begins with players dropping in two blood-red cubes into the cardboard tower. Each level of the tower can be lifting to reveal a small landing which will fill with cubes as they get dropped in. After dropping the two blood-red cubes, which represent the murder victims, you and your opponents will then each drop two of your own colored cubes into the tower.


    As you drop cubes, you'll hear them fall down through the various floors of the hotel. Listen closely and on your turn make a guess as to where the cubes have landed. After determining the floors where the murder took place (on a nice board set to the side), you'll begin guessing which cubes are on which floor. If you guess correctly, those players' colored cubes are put onto the side board and more are added to the tower. In the end, the players with the least incriminating evidence against them win. And one player will be dubbed the murderer!


    Replay Value


    This is a great party game. Good for families (who don't mind delving into the murder mystery aspects of the game), this game is also a blast to play with an all-adult table. This is a fast, half-hour game, and I've found myself and my gaming group coming back to it time and again. Set-up takes about sixty seconds and you'll be able to teach this game to your friends in under five minutes. It's not the deepest game, but if you've got a sharp ear and you like mystery games you'll return to this one often.


    Overall Impressions


    This is a game all about listening closely. You won't want to play this game in a loud place such as a cafe or bookstore. This is a game for your home, with nothing but the hiss and sizzle of candlelight in the background. I love the main mechanic behind this game, that of dropping cubes into a tower and listening as they fall through the narrow holes in the center until they come to a stop. This is an amazing game of simple, elegant design. The box art is wonderfully noir, the floors of the tower are richly illustrated, and it's all around a smash hit. Check this out, it's a wonderful game. You'll be shushing your friends and pinning murders on people in no time!

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    Elliot is playing a deadly game in 13 Sins.


    Based on the Thai thriller 13: Game of Death, the Daniel Stamm-directed remake finds upstanding salesman Elliot <Mark Webber> deeply in debt, planning a wedding and his fiancé Shelby <Rutina Wesley> expecting a baby. When he gets fired from his job, a cryptic phone call gives a desperate Elliot new hope: Simply perform 13 tasks for increasing amounts of cash. However, what starts off with killing a fly quickly escalates as each sinister challenge tests Elliot's morality and he discovers he can't finish the game until it's finished with him.


    Webber recently spoke to FEARnet about Elliot's dark journey in 13 Sins, staying away from the source material, what made him queasy and his next horror project, Jessabelle


    How did you become attached to 13 Sins?


    The standard run-of-the-mill way. My agent was like, "Hey, read this script." I read it and was like, "Wow, this would be a hell of a part to play." Then I had to go fight for it. I had to go audition and fight for it to happen. It was an intense process, but Daniel was great at creating a really awesome audition environment. I'm glad I got the role.


    What spoke to you about the script and your character, Elliot?


    It was just such an amazing arc to start off as this pathetic, push-over guy and then see him get a certain level of dignity through this really contorted way. It was interesting to play this fine line of, "God, this guy is doing some not so great stuff. How do we have the audience not hate me?"


    Did you check out the original movie and did that help you inform your performance?


    I didn't, and here's the reason why. No disrespect to that film, which I know so many people kind of love. For me, I wouldn't have been a part of a movie that I thought was a true remake, where we're trying to recreate something that had already been done. As an actor, I don't want to go and mimic some other person's performance. Daniel was really clear that the inspiration was drawn from this other film, but we were trying to make a different movie. For me, it was important to stay away from the original and not be exposed to what that other film did and what that other actor did, so I could have the freedom to do my own thing. Now that it's all said and done, I'm curious to watch the other movie to see the similarities and differences.


    You've played many loveable guys in your career. Was it challenging exploring Elliot's dark side and keeping up that intensity throughout the movie?


    It was cool because from the onset, Daniel was like, "You're really good at presenting this nice, accessible quality and vulnerability and likeability." There's a certain softness that can permeate my work when I really want it to. This guy clearly gets to a certain level that was really far away from that. I got to play two opposite ends of the spectrum. Early on, I'm like, "Remember, I'm weak. I'm really weak here." Then I'm like, "Okay, I'm getting a little bit stronger. I'm going to play with my voice here." And having a director who is really on top of tracking that emotional arc and making sure I was plugging in, and dropping in the right tone, was awesome. He made it really fun to do.


    Which of the 13 sins disturbed you the most?


    The toughest one is a toss-up between the corpse and a scene that was cut out of the film. I had to convince someone to give me a blow job and it ends up being this crazy drifter guy. That was one of the first scenes that we shot. It was an odd one. Apparently, that scene is ending up on the DVD.


    What does a movie like 13 Sins say about human nature?


    We live in a world today where the majority of people are living paycheck to paycheck and are struggling to support their families. When times get tough, it's easy for people to start to let their mind wander to, "How am I going to do this? How am I going to get by?" It's tough out there in this day and age to get by. The cool thing about this movie is you get to watch it and be like, "Would I do that? How far would I go if somebody's going to put a million dollars in my bank account? What would I be willing to do?" It's an interesting tale of morality and greed and survival folded into this big genre film.


    So how far down the 13 sins list would you have gotten?


    I would probably have shot my brother <laughter>. How far would I have gone? The sick thing about the game is you have to finish. You can't walk away and keep what you've earned. I probably wouldn't play. Maybe if I knew I could just eat the fly and walk away with $1500, I'd do that. I'd eat a fly.


    This year's Cheap Thrills also featured down-on-their-luck characters performing unsettling tasks for money. Do you feel this is a new genre emerging?


    I don't think so. It's just kind of coincidental. A lot of movies have explored these themes before. I really like Pat <Healy> a lot. He's a tremendous actor and all of a sudden it came on my radar. "Oh, Cheap Thrills." It's funny because it premiered at South by Southwest the previous year. Pat didn't know about our movie and I didn't know about their movie until everything was all said and done. It's a little bit of a stretch to say that maybe there's an emerging new genre. If it is, cool. 13 Sins and Cheap Thrills can be some pioneers of it, but there have been similar things before. It's just pretty coincidental that Cheap Thrills and 13 Sins are out around the same time.


    Jessabelle is another horror movie you have in the pipeline. Can you introduce us to your character Preston and how he fits into the story?


    That was my first big genre movie. I'm grateful to Jason Blum, Mr. Blum. That guy is a powerhouse at putting these films together. I've known Jason through Ethan Hawke since I was younger and doing other films in New York. I've always had an admiration for what he was capable of. It was cool to end up in really good hands. It's like, "I'm making my first genre/horror movie and I'm in a good group here."


    Sarah Snook, who plays the main character Jessie in the film, I was her old high school sweetheart. She comes back to our town from some messed up circumstances and ends up reconnecting with me. We go on this crazy journey of torment as she is being attacked, or haunted, by this presence. I'm like her sidekick that helps navigate through that. Inevitably, a little bit of the old romance starts to spark up. I'm really looking forward to the release of that. It was awesome working with Kevin Greutert, who is an editor turned director. He definitely knew how to put this thing together.


    How was it filming the supernatural horror Jessabelle, compared to something more psychological and rooted in reality such as 13 Sins?


    In Jessabelle, there was a lot more pretending of an unseen force. Whereas, in 13 Sins, it's in my face. There's an arm, a saw and blood spurting on my face. I'm screaming. There are beheaded people lying in the street. Jessabelle was creating that terror through our portrayals as actors. 

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    Ever since it's release via IFC Midnight on March 18, 2014, filmmaker Eric England's indie 'body horror' flick Contracted has been burning up DVD and VOD, and we've got first word on the successful feature's inevitable sequel.

    Starring Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Alice Macdonald, Katie Stegeman, Matt Mercer, Charley Koontz, Simon Barrett, Ruben Pla, Dave Holmes and Celia Finkelstein, Contracted revolves around a 20's something Los Angeleno (Townsend), who finds herself infected with a rather potent sexual disease after being date-raped at a party.

    "IFC has asked us for a sequel," filmmaker England, whose previously wrote and directed the genre feature Madison County, told us this morning of a potential follow-up to Contracted.

    "I told the producers I wasn't interested, because I never envisioned a sequel in the first place, but if I came up with an idea that I felt lived up to or surpassed the first film and (that I) was passionate about, I would. It took about a month or so of convincing, but I finally turned in a pitch after an idea came to me. Now, it's just up to the business side of things; if it makes sense for them and for us."

    England's mum on plot points, but did say that the sequel, "Will pick up where the first one left off."

    As for the title? It's Contracted: Phase II. 

    For more on Contracted, 'Like' them on Facebook - and follow them on Twitter @ContractedMovie
    If you like body horror films, check out our best of list.

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    With it's release right around the corner on April 25th, LIonsgate drops a thrid and final trailer for their paranormal thriller The Quiet Ones.  The video and synopsis are below.

    The Quiet Ones (inspired by true events) tells the story of an unorthodox professor who uses controversial methods and leads his best students off the grid to take part in a dangerous experiment: to create a poltergeist. Based on the theory that paranormal activity is caused by human negative energy, the rogue scientists perform a series of tests on a young patient, pushing her to the edge of sanity. As frightening occurrences begin to take place with shocking and gruesome consequences, the group quickly realizes they have triggered a force more terrifying than they ever could have imagined.

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    Money certainly is the root of all evil in 13 Sins.


    Based on the Thai psychological thriller 13: Game of Death, the film follows Elliot <Mark Webber>, an insurance salesman who just lost his job. And the timing couldn't be any worse , given that his fiancé Shelby is pregnant and they are planning a wedding. To alleviate the financial stress, Elliott agrees to participate in a game in which he must perform tasks for sums of cash. However, as the rewards increase, Elliot's morality is put to the test as each assignment becomes more twisted, disturbing and deadly.


    Director Daniel Stamm <The Last Exorcism> spoke to FEARnet about putting his own stamp on 13: Game of Death, Elliot's descent into darkness and human nature. 


    How did you become attached to 13 Sins?


    At the time, I was in Philadelphia with M. Night Shyamalan. We were writing a script together for three months. I was out in his guest house with David Birke, who had written The Last Exorcism. We were in this limbo and my agent went crazy and was like, "Dude, you need a new project. You need to sign on to something. There's this whole politics thing. People are forgetting your name. You can't just disappear for a couple of years." He set up all these meetings in L.A. and I was going to them. One of them was with Jason Blum, who pitched me all these projects and none of them were really for me.


    He turned to someone in the room who I thought was an assistant. He said, "Do you want to pitch 13?" It turned out to be Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who produced Insidious and Sinister. He talked to me about 13. He gave me the original movie and not only did I love the movie, but they said, "Do with it whatever you want. We're not attached to anything. You can completely rewrite it. Bring on your own writer," which I did. I brought on David Birke. It not only got my agent off my back, but it allowed us the luxury of making a remake with a first draft done by someone else, where you can objectively see what works for you and what doesn't.


    I never understood remakes. For example, Vanilla Sky. I love Vanilla Sky. I think it has a great first act, an incredible second act and a real shitty third act. Then I watched the Spanish original and it's the same way. I don't understand if you do a remake, change the shitty third act. It's the luxury you have. That was the case here.


    The original movie had a beheading scene. How did you decide what to keep and what to replace?


    There were certain moments that didn't work as well for me as others. There were certain missions that I was more excited about that we kept, like the beheading stuff and making a child cry. Then there was other stuff that was very specific to Thailand. In the original, there's a mission where someone is in a well and it's all about disrespecting your elders, which strikes more of a nerve in Thailand than it would here, so we replaced that. My philosophy was I was not excited about making a remake because the original act of creation isn't there and that's kind of the most exciting thing in storytelling, that crafting something out of nothing. But I'd rather do that with good material than do something original with bad material.


    At the core of this thriller is this down-and-out guy, Elliot. Are viewers supposed to sympathize with him as he commits these awful sins or be repulsed by the rabbit hole he's fallen down?


    Both. We structured this character after a drug addict. We met with a drug addiction specialist and she talked us through the different stages of addiction. The drug first empowers you and makes you discover sides of yourself that you didn't know about. It makes you stronger, makes you more aware and more interesting. Then, at some point, the drug takes you over and it's the tipping point. My philosophy was always if Elliot could call it quits after challenge seven, he would come out of the game stronger, more assertive and the man that he needs to be. But because at that point he's addicted, the drug pulls him down into the rabbit hole and into the darkness. Our aim was to create this ride for the audience that they will enjoy. That's why there is humor in the first half of the movie. We really need to like Elliot and we need to understand why he's doing what he's doing.


    I love when there is a dark wish fulfilment, where Elliot is not only able to stand up for himself, but then he cuts off the guy's arm. He is only capable of that because the guy himself is asking him to. When Elliot then attacks his brother, there is real violence and Elliot is enjoying it. I was like, "If we can get the audience to be on board for that moment, to cheer when he smashes the chair into the guy's face, then we've got them."


    Does this movie have something to say about human nature?


    I don't know. That stuff is always dangerous because it's universal human truths, which means none of its nature is super-original. There isn't something in 13 Sins that suddenly makes you go, "Oh my God. There's this whole new side to human nature that I now understand." It's all basically in the seven deadly sins. It's greed and all that stuff. It's about how you illustrate that. 13 Sins is all about someone who actually has everything. That's why it was important there was real love between Elliot and his fiancé. And he is none the richer in the end. It's not like he's sitting there and suddenly won the money. He has the same things as he had before. Now, he just appreciates them.


    Which sin was the point of no return for Elliot and which one made you the most uneasy?


    For some reason, I think making a child cry <was the point of no return>. In its nature, it's brilliant because it has this violence to it. Not in the execution, but when I watched the original and mission three was "make a child cry," that was the first time where I was like, "Oh, this is going to get so dark." It was a really interesting discussion on set because everyone had a different mission where they would have pulled out. I'm a vegetarian. I can't kill an animal. I'm selling my soul if I'm killing a fly.


    It was really difficult for this movie because I knew I couldn't kill a fly for the movie. I didn’t want a life taken, so I had to find a dead fly. I should have prepared for that probably, but I didn't. On set, I suddenly had to run off and find a dead fly, which took an hour and a half. That's a long time on a shooting day, where everyone is sitting around while the director is looking for a dead fly. You very quickly get the reputation of being insane or something. So, I couldn't have gotten past eating the fly.


    Why was it so important to make Elliot's father such a vile and despicable figure?


    Our whole beginning was reshot. Everything before we meet the father wasn't originally there. In the original script, the only incentive for Elliot to play the game was he was poor, his child was going to be born, his fiancé is African-American and his father is a racist and is about to move in. And he can't do that to his poor fiancé, to make her live with his racist father and that's why he's playing the game.


    Then we cut it together and I think it was Bob Weinstein who said, "This isn't strong enough. We have to push that guy so far that everyone is on board with his journey." He felt there must be other ways out if it's just about your racist father moving in. We piled all this other stuff in there with him getting fired from his job, with his brother Michael getting institutionalized if he can't pay for him and he has $90, 000 in student loans. It just got escalated.


    It was a big discussion because I didn't want to white wash the character so much that anyone would have done this. There was a discussion at some point where someone said, "Well, can't we have the game abduct Shelby and put a gun to her head and say, 'If you don't do these missions, then we'll shoot her.'" I said, "Well, that's not interesting at all because anyone would do it. There's no moral dilemma if you put a gun to the fiance's head. It has to be about seduction. It can't be about forcing him into doing things."



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    Easter eggs. You color them. You decorate them. You display them, and you eventually eat them. And wouldn't ya know it; they're also hidden in some of our favorite horror films!

    In the world of entertainment, 'Easter egg' is a term given to any hidden message or piece of imagery thrown into a movie, which is usually seen in the background of a frame for a split second. If you blink, you miss it. But if you've got a keen eye, and you're paying close attention, you're rewarded with a fun little treat that's sure to make you smile.

    This Sunday being Easter and all, it seems only right that we take a look back on some fun Easter eggs that we've found in horror movies over the years. So let's do a little hunting, shall we?!


    One of the more well-known horror movie Easter eggs can be found in Predator 2, which teased a battle that wouldn't be brought to the big screen until 14 years later. Though Aliens and Predators duked it out in the world of comics back in the 90s, it wasn't until 2004 that the bridge was gapped between the two movie franchises, and 1990's Predator sequel featured the first little taste of that action. When Danny Glover's character boards the Predator ship in the film, he pauses to look over a trophy collection mounted on a wall, which includes the skull of a Xenomorph. I guess the two monsters were doing battle long before we ever got to actually see them go toe-to-toe!

    Night of the Creeps

    It was in 1986 that Fred Dekker made his feature debut with the cult classic Night of the Creeps, which he followed up the next year with The Monster Squad. In the scene in Creeps where J.C. is dodging slugs in a public restroom, graffiti briefly seen on one of the walls reads 'Go Monster Squad!' - a foreshadowing of things to come!

    Evil Dead 2

    It's pretty much common knowledge that Wes Craven and Sam Raimi have homaged each other's work several times over the years, which began when Raimi placed a ripped up Hills Have Eyes poster in Evil Dead's fruit cellar. In Evil Dead 2, Raimi continued the fun by hiding Freddy Krueger's iconic glove in the film, which can be seen on a wall in the work shed. How awesome would it have been to see Ash try it on, and use it to kick some undead ass?!

    Jason Goes to Hell

    Freddy's glove also makes a quick appearance in Jason Goes to Hell, along with a handful of other familiar looking horror movie props. Seen in the Voorhees house towards the end of the film are the Kandarian dagger and Book of the Dead from the Evil Dead films, as is a crate that reads 'Arctic Expedition - Julia Carpenter - Horlicks University,' which is the very same crate that housed Fluffy in Creepshow!

    Death Proof

    Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse segment, Death Proof, features a cleverly inserted homage to another beloved Kurt Russell movie, which can be seen up on the wall at the bar the first group of characters are hanging out in. Do ya see it? Yup, that's Jack Burton's tanktop from Big Trouble in Little China, which hangs directly behind the spot where Stuntman Mike is seated. From what I've heard, it's one of the actual shirts Russell wore in the film!

    Psycho 2

    Alfred Hitchcock was known for his many cameos in his own films, and he popped up for brief appearances in movies like Psycho, The Birds and Vertigo. Though he passed away a few years before it was made, Hitchcock even managed to make a quick cameo in the decades-later sequel Psycho 2, which was directed by his longtime friend Richard Franklin. At one point in the film Mary Samuels and Norman Bates enter Mother's room at night, and a shadow in the shape of Hitch's iconic silhouette is seen on the wall!

    While it's likely that you noticed the chalkboard drawing of the Billy puppet from Saw in James Wan's Insidious, you might have missed another Easter egg in the film, which is the most downright chilling and nightmare-inducing Easter egg of all time. Remember the super creepy scene where a young ghost boy dances to the tune of Tiny Tim's 'Tiptoe Through the Tulips'? Well, the dancing boy is actually glimpsed shortly before the scene, in a brief moment that's hard to unsee, once you've seen it. Check out the video above and don't blame me if you can't sleep tonight!


    And finally, we wrap up the Easter fun with one of my favorite eggs, which is so hard to spot that's it's almost subliminal. After the monster attacks the helicopter towards the end of Cloverfield, the camera cuts out and the footage distorts. When watched frame-by-frame, you'll notice that a single frame from the original King Kong is spliced in at this moment, showing Kong swatting a plane from the sky. Images from Them! and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms are also spliced in, earlier on in the film.

    Have you spotted any other fun horror movie Easter eggs? Comment below and let us know!

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    For many horror fans with kids, deciding which scary films are appropriate for children can be a challenge. It’s natural to want to pass on a love of the macabre to our offspring and bond over a shared interest in horror, but we also want to protect our children from nightmares or from being scarred by exposure to gratuitous onscreen violence. There are some more obvious kid-friendly choices like The Watcher in the Woods or Something Wicked this way Comes but it can be tricky to determine what is and isn't age-appropriate when it comes to films that were not necessarily made with children in mind. To remedy this, we've begun a recurring segment that spotlights classic titles we deem suitable for most young viewers... at least those old enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Do keep in mind that these are our opinions, and only you know best what your little monsters are ready to see.  See part one of this feature here.

    Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

    This 1973 horror classic is easily one of the best made-for-television horror films ever made. It deftly blends suspense and horror with a premise that builds up to an unexpected and unsettling conclusion. Since Don’t be Afraid of the Dark was made for television, it is mostly free of any excessive violence or language that might be deemed inappropriate for younger viewers. This classic flick is likely a safe for pre teens and up and a great option to ease your youngsters in to the world of genre film.

    Psycho (1960)

    Though it carries an R-rating, Psycho isn’t nearly as violent or risqué as films that are granted an R-rating today. Also, since the film is presented in black and white, it minimizes the impact of the one scene that may be a bit harrowing for viewers not accustomed to genre film. Also, Norman Bates is so disarming that he is less prone to cause nightmares than the likes of more menacing horror film killers than Frederick Krueger or Michael Myers.

    The Gate

    Tibor Takacs struck gold with this 1987 horror feature. While it may be too intense for very young viewers, it’s definitely safe for children that are old enough to discern the difference between fantasy and reality. The subject matter gets a little dicey in a few scenes but there isn’t an excessive amount of bloodshed, the language is also mostly kept in check, and it has a happy ending.


    This horror/comedy hybrid is lighthearted enough to keep most younger viewers from getting too frightened by the more jarring scenes. The comedic chemistry between the film’s leads (including the late great Harold Ramis) serves to balance out the scenes that might be startling to impressionable viewers. All in all, Ghostbusters is a safe bet for family movie night if your little monsters are able to discern between real and make believe.


    Like many of Joe Dante’s films, Gremlins was intended to be family friendly. That isn’t to say that the film isn’t without some legitimate scares but it steers clear of anything too gratuitous or shocking for mature children to handle. Dante is also responsible for several other family-friendly genre pictures like Innerspace, Explorers, and many more.

    Trilogy of Terror

    Trilogy of Terror, like Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, is a made-for-television film that relies more heavily on atmosphere than it does ultra violence or other tactics that may be inappropriate for highly impressionable viewers. The late Karen Black was great as she took on four different roles in this film that debuted as an ABC Movie of the Week. 

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    We broke the news on the first sequel to the remake, and now have received exclusive word out of Cannes that I Spit On Your Grave 3 is being pre-sold at the market. At the time of this writing, CineTel Films has yet to hire a writer or director, but have committed to a third round of rape-revenge...

    Head over to Bloody Disgusting for more details

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    New comic book Wednesday has come and gone. The dust at your local comic shop has settled. An eerie silence descends as you finish reading your last superhero book of the week. Now it's time for something a little more sinister. Welcome to Bagged and Boarded: comic reviews of the sick, spooky, twisted and terrifying!


    B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth No. 118


    Hellboy's old pals in the B.P.R.D. are in a heap of trouble (and he's no help). The world has, effectively, ended. Giant monsters pour from the center of the world. The Black Flame is a near-deific powerhouse of fire and muscle watching over ruined Manhattan. The key members of the group are scattered across the nation. And everyone's about to be eaten by some sort of monster. A blow-for-blow battle between Liz Sherman and the Flame ensues, and chaos is the law.


    Bag it or board it up? This week's issue is another example of how the best genre authors  make huge scenes work. Even though the action, the real action, is tied to the Black Flame and Liz Sherman beating the piss out of each other, we're still drawn to other characters. The freedom fighters scurrying around with Johann Krauss keep the action feeling mortal and dangerous. Even as the head of the Russian Bureau holds his guts in, he's still more relatable than most comic characters. This is pinnacle work, people. Check it out.


    The Auteur No. 2


    Hollywood producer Nathan T. Rex is a monster of a man. A real nasty guy, he wants to add realism to his new slasher film. To do that, he has to spring a mass murderer from jail, prove him "innocent," and get him back to the set to play the killer. Courtroom drama has never been so offense, blithe, or wanting of moral structure. But hey, that's why we read comics about murderers and psychopaths, right? Right?


    Bag it or board it up? This is a splatter-fest. What they pass off as "chaotic" I call messy. Some readers will love this comic, will find it subversive and defend it's crude-ness. And hey, right on! I'm no prude (I'm a die-hard Troma fan). But whenever I see an illustrated female breast in a comic - just for the sake of having the character nude - I have to wonder "how has this enhanced the plot?" Are we just selling schlock and boobs in the horror tradition? Do we need to? Can we do better? This is a complicated comic, for sure. It questions your sense of good or bad taste. And not all questions are easily answered. I guess I'm still struggling with this one.


    Ghost No. 3


    Our friend Ghost is out to get the main villain of this series, Doctor October. She's got help from a semi-reformed demon and a bunch of investigators. The story starts out with one of the most exciting Ghost vs. Demon battles I've ever seen (and trust me, in this business, you see a lot of Ghost vs. Demon battles). Ghost still has no idea who she is, but she sure as hell knows how to kick some demonic butt. This is a heavy-action issue, and will please the adventure fans out there.


    Bag it or board it up? Dark Horse has taken an iconic character, Ghost, and given her edge, motivation, cool powers, and a new outlook. Sure, she's always been tough-as-nails, but this go-around you get the feeling she's much grittier. The question of "who is Ghost" gets asked so much you wonder if it will ever be answered (I'm having Lost flashbacks), but if you like horror with a superhero flavor you should definitely check this issue out.


    Frankenstein Alive, Alive No. 3


    Steve Niles is on a real Frankenstein's Monster kick right now. This series is about the further adventures of the Monster, and it's lushly illustrated by the ever-impressive Bernie Wrightson. This issue finds the Monster cooped up in Dr. Ingles house of curiosities and medical wonders. The Monster's been looking for the woman he made faint, and when he finds her the depth of the depravities of science unfold before him. Will he strike down his friend, what right does the Monster have to condemn anyone?


    Bag it or board it up? This issue is, as you may have guessed, all about Bernie Wrightson's artwork. Holy hell, the man can illustrate. Even mundane scenes, like the Monster climbing a book case, could be enlarged, framed, and considered masterpieces. The tension in the body of each character says everything you need to know about their composition (moral and corporeal). The grotesqueries of the flesh are not lost on Niles and Wrightson, and they're exploring this handily with 'Alive, Alive'. Find issues one and two, then snatch this up right away.

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    This upcoming summer and fall is huge for Scream Factory, so I sat down with Cliff MacMillan and Jeff Nelson to preview what's to come and to give you a better insight as to how the company works. Hopefully, I get some answers that you, the fans, have been asking.


    Head to Shock Till You Drop for the video intereview.

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