July 13, this past Saturday was The Ghost Inside’s first show in four years since their bus accident. To celebrate one of my favorite bands having a comeback concert, I thought it would be perfect to reflect on all of their material. TGI is one of the few bands to have nothing but hits, so this will be more like a ranking from good to excellence.
#4: Fury and the Fallen Ones (2008)
The LA-based group released a strong debut record. Out of the four albums, this is by far the heaviest. Shiner and Faith or Forgiveness are memorable tracks that shine just as bright 11 years later.
The main issue that puts the first album on the bottom is Smoke and Signal Fires which comes off as a filler instrumental track that offers no substance. Outside of this, the 11 other tracks are standout hits.
The sophomore album from The Ghost Inside steps up their game. An evolution occurs that keeps the old sound while feeling like they have matured as musicians. Tracks like Chrono, Between the Lines, and Greater Distance stand out as some of the most powerful creations from the five-piece California natives.
Coming off of Fury and the Fallen Ones, Returners has a similar issue with the outro of the closing track, Truth and Temper. It has an overly long instrumental outro that feels unnecessary without any interesting riffs or breakdowns to keep it alive.
The last album before the accident struck the perfect balance of experimenting with new sounds and keeping the same ingredients in the recipe. Avalanche holds together as the best introductory track to any of their releases by slowly building up into an energetic monster. From there it becomes difficult to choose some of the highlights with Out of Control, Mercy, and Move Me standing tall and mighty.
An album that introduces you into one of your favorite bands often takes the cake as the best. This is the case for Get What You Give. Engine 45 inspired a tattoo on my body that I will carry forever as a straight edge metalhead. White Light is the groups most emotional track as vocalist Jonathan Vigil discusses his brother’s death. Face Value and Deceiver balance out the melodic songs with their relentless heaviness.
The third season of Netflix’s sci-fi horror love letter Stranger Things unleashed over a week ago and yet again it is filled with 80s Easter eggs. I went through each season to dish out my favorite references and hidden gems found in the show. No worries, no spoilers here, only fun details found in this nostalgic world.
#10: Alien References
Many movie franchises get a nod across all three seasons, and in the first year the show came out, a great shot gives some love to the 1979 classic, Alien. The lighting and camera work makes this egg come close to the eggs found in the iconic sci-fi horror flick.
This is not the only reference to the franchise. Plenty of shots are heavily inspired the Alien movies.
#9: Dungeons and Dragons
The ultimate tabletop game to play in a basement back in the 80s, Dungeons and Dragons. The crew of friends spent much of their time playing when they were not avoiding death or the drama of school.
#8: ET is Everywhere
The first season heavily dives into references to ET. The way Mike (Finn Wolfhard) hides Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) to giving her an extra girly disguise are just a few of the many times the Spielberg classic gets some love.
#7: Evil Dead Poster
Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) has an awesome poster in his room which can be seen here and there. The poster in question is the original Evil Dead. When promoting season 2 with many twists on classic movie posters, Joyce (Winona Ryder) made an appearance as a demon controlled by the Necronomicon grabbed her.
When Eleven digs through the basement which reveals new information about Hopper (David Harbour), the whole scene’s atmosphere and cinematography recreate the iconic moment when the protagonists find the Book of the Dead in the Sam Raimi film.
Images via Netflix
Images via Netflix
#6: Video Games
The arcade in the first episode of season two has a plethora of old school games. Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig Dug are only a few of the many that can be spotted.
#5: Mad Max
The name of the first episode from the second season titled after the Mel Gibson post-apocalyptic action flick. The real reason is to introduce a new character, Max (Sadie Sink), but it is an easy and perfect way to wink to the audience.
#4: The Goonies
Sean Astin’s beloved Bob has a similar arc to another movie he featured in, The Goonies. From translating the map, referencing pirate treasure, and the way he saves people’s lives from the monstrous creatures all take right from his role as Mikey.
#3: Temple of Doom
Towards the middle of the second season, Hopper’s hat falls off of his head when in the upside-down. Pulling a Harrison Ford, he goes back for it. This might seem small, but The Duffer Brothers, the minds who created this universe, confirmed that it is indeed a reference to Indiana Jones.
#2: The Terminator
The timeline gets more defined by releases of brand new movies, like James Cameron’s Terminator enhances the immersion of season two’s Oct. theme. If only a scene of the film or cameo from Schwarzenegger could have happened to complete this reference.
#1: The Thing
The best pop culture tip of the hat goes to the poster found in Mike’s basement, The Thing. My favorite horror movie getting its time to shine in the background made this series complete for me back when I started watching the first season.
A clip gets shown when Scott Clarke and his significant other Jen are watching the film on VHS.
The Netflix hit relishes its time period with subtle and blunt ways to give some love to the significant influences that helped shape the series. I know I missed out on plenty in this list, so was not mentioned that caught your attention?
Competition is rough in the music industry, what is your band doing to grow and continue to reach for success?
I think that we are lucky in that what we are doing feels different from anything I have ever heard/seen. So I think we stand out in that way, however, we are constantly writing and creating and putting out new stuff.
If someone goes to one of your concerts, what do you think they should know going in?
We can’t give away all of our little secrets. I guess you’ll have to just come and see for yourself.
What is your dream tour or festival?
I would love to see the world. Europe would be sick.
If you could collaborate with any musician, who would you choose?
I don’t think I could choose.
Out of every concert you have been to, who are the best live bands?
Shadow Monster, Cindy Cane, Darkwing
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Whitney Houston & The Dead Weather.
When did you first start playing music and how did that come together to lead you to where you are today?
I realized that music was going to be my whole life when I was around 14 years old. I had just gotten off of a stage where I was asked to sing a cover song with a live band. Afterwards, I broke down crying. My father asked me what was wrong. I said, “This is what I want to do with my life.” I remember that feeling so vividly. It was the most powerful feeling in the world.
What are your plans for the rest of the year for the band?
The latest adventure with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his friends was a fun ride that seemingly ended on a positive Hollywood conclusion until you sit long enough to the first after-credits scene. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) frames Spidey for his murder, the killing citizens in London, and reveals his identity. Now my brain is going all over the place about what could possibly happen in the future when Marvel takes us into the next phase.
#4: Sinister Six
No, I will never stop talking about a Sinister Six story in the MCU, especially since Sony still plans to do one in its disaster of a universe that does not have an established Spider-Man. My previous theory has changed due to this twist that will change the entire future of Holland’s run as the neighborhood friendly superhero.
Some characters are already established to set this ultimate fight for Spider-Man in a future movie. Mac Gargan/Scorpion (Michael Mando) was shown in the after-credit scene for Homecoming, which establishes an additional character who often takes part in the sextet of villains. While Vulture (Michael Keaton) seems to take a step back away from the criminal life by not giving away Peter’s identity, he can come back in some capacity. He would have the opportunity to introduce future Scorpion to Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine).
Someone who is not an established supervillain with a brief appearance was Aaron Davis/Prowler (Donald Glover). Aaron was just a smalltime criminal but could be introduced as one of Scorpion’s outside men that he mentions to Vulture. While Prowler is not usually thought of as a member of this group of sinister minds, he has had a history, which should not stop Marvel from being creative by adding never before seen members to the crew.
Mysterio might be dead, but the master of deception could find a way to pop back up. Even if he died, I am sure some technology could bring him back, mostly because Gyllenhaal’s performance is too good to pass up on future opportunities.
Counting on the ex-Stark employee is actually dead, some spots need to be filled to complete the Sinister Six. Scorpion knows people on the outside which could introduce plenty of new faces into the MCU like Rhino, Doc Ock, or one of the Osbornes for a new take on the Green Goblin.
#3: Fugitive Spider-Man
Marvel is taking some twists on familiar territory with one of their most iconic characters. Peter is set as the new Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) without being the new Iron Man at the same time in Far From Home. Him getting framed for murder seems reminiscent to Captain America (Chris Evans) turning from a hero into criminal in the eyes of the government. The next adventure with the stickiest crimefighter could be similar to TheWinter Soldier or Civil War as he deals with politics and runs away from the law.
#2: Leading a Team of Avengers
I am not looking towards the whole team, but I do see Spider-Man needing help with this new obstacle. Leaning on some of his superpowered friends could come in handy, especially if any other unwanted threats come sniffing around.
#1: Never Clearing His Name
Like how Captain America never got to bury the hatchet with the government, the web-slinger may never recover from Mysterio’s fail-safe. When a world-ending threat comes to Earth, or some neighborhood-level criminals come knocking, he will crawl out of his hiding hole to defend New York or the planet. Since his comic narrative arcs consist of some of the bleakest stories in Marvel’s catalog, this could be a way to lean into his darker side.
Who knows if any of these will be right, but Marvel has a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, which might give fans an idea for the future of the MCU. What are your theories on Spider-Man’s future? Be sure to discuss it all in the comments.
Horror is one of the hardest genres to execute appropriately. While the profits look nice, the quality tends to fail. Last year and this year both have had two special films pop up from a new face in Hollywood. Ari Aster debuted a masterpiece that twists the oversaturated supernatural subgenre with Hereditary and as of a week ago has unleashed Midsommar, a dark twist on Sweden’s otherwise beautiful summer solstice festivals. Only two movies under his belt and I can safely say he is the current king of all things spooky in today’s climate of money-hungry ghosts and killers.
The magic of cinema is that it can evoke emotion from an audience by going beyond a piece of entertainment. Aster’s two releases have done this beautifully. Both movies share plenty of familiar, poignant themes like dysfunctional relationships and mental illness.
Mental health often gets portrayed in a cartoonish way that can heighten the stigmas rather than diminish them. The two films capture the complexity of depression and other illnesses.
Dani (Florence Pugh) in Midsommar loses her parents and sister who had been suffering from bipolar disorder. Her grieving and struggles remain throughout the entirety of the movie while playing into her character’s choices. It is why she becomes so vulnerable to the cult’s wishes of her joining them, which is even foreshadowed by Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) story about the death of his parents.
The protagonist of Hereditary, Annie (Toni Collette) goes through something similar as she loses both her mother and daughter in a short span of time. Annie’s pain, resentment, sorrow, regret, and the many other emotions that Collette display showcases how complicated feelings can become in troubling times. Annie’s vulnerability lets her ignore any signs of unusual events, which becomes her whole family’s downfall by the grandmother’s Pagan cult.
Plenty of horror influences get injected into Aster’s creations, but the main inspiration comes from real-world drama. Having problematic relationships or dealing with loss occurs in other movies; however, Aster takes it to a new level by the characters being more important than the threat. Usually, the psychotic killer is given more development than his potential victims. The focus on the personal lives of the protagonists in Hereditary and Midsommar make them a lot more believable, empathetic, and relatable.
Putting the spooky elements in the background or pushing it into the latter half of the movie sets up a slow burn that fleshes out characters. While it may be divisive since many who go into a theater for this genre want to get scared, but the audience Aster targets needs the patience to get to the turning point of the narrative.
His supernatural debut is an hour of an almost pure family drama, with ghosts and cult activity sprinkled throughout. The halfway mark slightly diverges for a more traditional spiritual horror story, while still maintaining what is happening between each family member. The drama beat me down with its depressing tone, then once things got dark, I felt defenseless by the grueling experience that leads up to the final act.
The latest project is almost entirely a drama between a couple and a group of friends. The cult activities are upfront, but nothing terrifying ever happens. The final moments are more forward about the sacrificial ritual being performed while keeping with the same tone and pacing like the rest of the film. Hereditary had a distinct shift, while this latest folk horror stayed on the road it had set in the beginning.
Blending imagination and reality makes for the most horrific experience. The director/writer does plenty of research to make sure both of these Pagan inspired narratives. Paimon, the demon that the cult worships in Hereditary, is not something made-up for the film. His origins predate Christianity and have popped up in a variety of religious texts. Meanwhile, Midsommar takes an array of influences from European summer solstice festivals and Pagan rituals, while taking some liberties to make the Hårga cult feel like a real group of people in Sweden.
Taking historical folklore takes research, which Aster does an excessive amount. The symbols, traditions, and runes found in his breakup horror flick come from Swedish history and mythology. Hårga is a location in Northern Sweden with a dark tale that goes behind it involving the devil, impersonating a fiddler, making people dance until they die. That is quite reminiscent of Dani and other women in the dance competition to become May Queen.
Traditions stay true, except for murder, like the use of flowers. The flower crowns seen are a highly regarded accessory along with the use of decoration.
Aster has an eye for art by the way his films are shot. They hold a variety of different shots to keep everything fresh. Midsommar has some wild shots from upside-down perspectives and wide shots to take in everything happening in an important scene. Both of his films utilize the camera to give meaning to what is happening between characters. In a scene during Hereditary between Annie and Peter (Alex Wolf) having an argument in the middle of the night, the viewpoint given shows the distance of the mother and son, not literally, but the separation of their relationship.
No room for filler because every choice from writing, shooting, and set design is done with a purpose. Little symbols that need a second or third viewing tell a part of the story in each nightmarish creation. Aster seems to enjoy throwing hidden gems to hint at an element of the narrative that only a small portion of an audience will identify.
Too many filmmakers churn out movie after movie that is another generic cash grab with no personality. Aster puts a style with his projects that distinguish them from any other release. His methodical pacing, distinct tone, and twists on real mythology make for traumatizing films to watch and make. Alex Wolf, who played the son in Hereditary and Jack Reynor’s role in Midsommar negatively effected them from Reynor’s discomfort during filming and Wolf’s mental and physical health diminished.
Two films are not enough to be a king of a genre, but two brilliantly crafted projects certainly give Aster the upper hand. If this continues, then I do see him being a master at cult classics. His vision causes diversity amongst viewers, but what he makes does not get forgotten. The name he is making for himself will make for a loyal fanbase looking forward to the next expertly designed experience that will emotionally scar anyone walking into the theater.
#1: Competition is rough in the music industry, what is your band doing to grow and continue to reach for success?
We are constantly touring and promoting our music as well as just the band as a whole. That’s what we do for a living now, so we’ve got plenty of opportunities to promote our music to many different groups of people.
#2: If someone goes to one of your concerts, what do you think they should know going in?
We’re very passionate about the messages we are spreading through our music, so to us, lyrics are extremely important, so if people pay attention to the lyrics of our songs, they will get much more out of the experience.
#3: What is your dream tour or festival?
Probably just one of those huge alternative music festivals because then we’d get to perform alongside super different bands, providing lots of variety.
#4: If you could collaborate with any musician, who would you choose?
Twenty One Pilots would probably be quite an interesting collaboration because our music is lyrically similar without even meaning to be, but musically different, so it’d make for an interesting studio session.
#5: Out of every concert you have been to, who are the best live bands?
U2 is great, so are the Foo Fighters, Coldplay, big bands like that have great shows.
#6: Who are some of your biggest influences?
The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, U2, The Police, Coldplay, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Panic! at the Disco, Twenty One Pilots, Michael Jackson, Mumford and Sons, etc.
#7: When did you first start playing music and how did that come together to lead you to where you are today?
We started playing music in 2008, but formed as Good Friday in 2015 and have gradually gotten to the point where we now do music full time!
#8: What are your plans for the rest of the year for the band?
To continue touring and promoting our most recent, self-titled album Good Friday!
Check out Good Friday. Special thanks to Dawson’s time and Rogue PR for setting up the interview.
Director Ari Aster certainly has a style he is going for based on his masterpiece debut last year with Hereditary and his latest project, Midsommar. I had high expectations due to his first film, becoming one of my favorite horror movies of all time. While the two films share a lot in common in themes and tone, this is a unique, artsy drama-thriller that misses a few beats, but nails its premise.
Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian’s (Jack Reynor) relationship is in turmoil, mostly because of her family drama putting too much stress on Christian. As a getaway, he decides to invite her on a trip to Sweden with his friends Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) who is the one to initiate the idea by wanting his friends to see a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a mid-summer festival that his family celebrates. The festivities turn out to be an ancient ritual that turns this vacation into a nightmare. A slow burn that never picks up the pace when things go dark while still keeping much of the impact with the grim twist of Sweden’s real mid-summer festivals.
The characters all satisfy their roles in the narrative, even all of the members of the Hårga cult feel fleshed out. Mark is certainly a highlight with his comedic relief, whether it is playing off of an ignorant American tourist or having genuine jokes. The real centerpiece of everything outside of the horrifying Pagan rituals comes from the rocky relationship between Christian and Dani. I felt the tension between the two during cold silences along with their happier moments that filled the air with their love for one another.
The acting, for the most part, is quite stellar. Pugh steals the show with her impressive display of raw emotions. The supporting friends are not given too much, but manage to do well in their scenes. The weakest link comes from Reynor, who feels flat in some of his line delivery. He saves much of his problematic performance by leaning on his costars to pick up after his mistakes.
Aster took inspirations across Europe to create this cult. The influences from Sweden are more peaceful with flower pickings and paintings, while the horror aspects come from a mix of other European Pagan history and the director/writer’s own twisted mind. With all of that research, the Hårga clan get the time and care to become believable.
The film holds plenty of similarities as Hereditary like pacing, tone, and its focus on relationships. It is poignant about trauma, mental health, and the connections we hold with our friends, family, and significant other. However, the pacing here feels too slow compared to his previous endeavor. The other elements remain just as strong and in some cases, even more impactful.
A lot of stylistic choices are made in this artistic film. Whether that is cinematography, editing, or even world building, I don’t fully understand every decision, and that is okay, nobody is supposed to get everything in this horror flick. Everything feels like a purpose with its creative ideas and the bread crumbs about the twists to come along with developing its characters and lore.
The significant difference that separates Midsommar and its rivals in the genre comes from the daylight. Almost the entire film takes place in a beautiful village that houses Pelle’s family. Color pops from the bright sun and gives me a false sense of safety, it is a brilliant choice that feels refreshing for horror as it usually lacks any eye candy.
Enhancing the drama, suspense, and beauty is the music. From a grand orchestral score to the many folk songs played throughout, a lot of the emotions I felt through my viewing was elevated by the incredible tunes that highlight every moment.
Midsommar falls slightly short from my expectations due to Aster’s 2018 supernatural horror movie, but it rises above most releases this year. It is brilliant with fully realized ideas while delivering the best music and visual effects of the year so far. It lacks the right pacing, along with some unimpactful moments that should have been executed better. What falls short gets picked back up by the higher quality elements in this untraditional, psychedelic folk horror journey that left me uncomfortable for two and a half hours.