The Outwaters (2023) Written & Directed by Robbie Banfitch
Every few years, I am told in the film press that a new found footage movie will revitalize the genre and that this one is “actually good.” I take them at their word, watch the film, and end up underwhelmed every damn time. I loved the idea of The Blair Witch Project more than the final product, and every similar movie that has followed since has had the same problems. I watched Paranormal Activity, The Curse of Deborah Logan, The Last Exorcism, the Blair Witch reboot by Adam Wingard, and many more. In January 2023, I began seeing the buzz around The Outwaters, with reviews telling me this was a good found footage horror movie that would change people’s opinions. I kept an open mind. I watched it. And damn, if it didn’t repeat so many of the same mistakes all these other movies have.
The Department of Truth: The Complete Conspiracy Book 1 (2023) Reprints The Department of Truth #1-17 Written by James Tynion IV Art by Martin Simmonds, Elsa Charretier, Tyler Boss, and John J. Pearson
Truth is difficult to come by these days, especially in the United States. I speak from experience. I was homeschooled throughout my childhood, the eldest of four children who were also entirely homeschooled. My parents’ basis for this decision was fueled by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s; I was born in 1981. They were Born Again Christians coming out of the Jesus Freak era of the 1970s, where the Christian Right fully secured its power base, preying on young people disillusioned by the previous decade of collapse. Growing up, our house had the expected paraphernalia of such beliefs. There were, of course, narrow-minded curricula from the usual suspects: Bob Jones University Press and Abeka. It was common during the afternoon to hear the hate-filled spewing of Rush Limbaugh coming from a radio in the kitchen. He was often joined by prestigious reactionaries and fascists like G. Gordon Liddy.
Aquaman: Andromeda (2023) Reprints Aquaman: Andromeda #1-3 Written by Ram V Art by Christian Ward
DC Comics’s Black Label imprint has produced some of the best work from the company in recent years, and that trend continues with this three-part mini-series, Aquaman: Andromeda. I won’t say this is my favorite Black Label book so far, that belongs to Catwoman: Lonely City, but it is a fantastic science fiction/horror story. My one wrinkle is that it didn’t feel like this was an Aquaman story but rather a story in which Aquaman appears. Instead, this is a clear homage to the work of writers like Michael Crichton, particularly his novel Sphere, but also elements of cosmic horror straight out of H.P. Lovecraft and the psychic manifestations of Solaris. The writing is handled by the insanely prolific Ram V, and the art is handled expertly by Christian Ward.
Would we ever be told that the United States is in a civil war, or would the government & media simply keep acting like everything was okay? My survey of things back home leads me to believe the current civil war has been raging for years. However, it would never be fought on battlefields like the war in the 1860s. Instead, it is a war akin to the ramp-up of the Troubles in Ireland or the Years of Lead in Italy. When it all explodes, it will be messy and fractious; violence is and will continue to be intra-state, urban vs. suburban vs. rural. Canadian-Egyptian journalist Omar El-Akkad has penned his first novel about a second American war using metafiction, where articles & documents from this parallel reality are used between chapters following a critical figure in the collapse.
Infinity Pool (2023) Written & Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Is a fine a proper punishment for people with near-endless disposable cash? There are growing arguments against the death penalty, which are good, but there’s not enough conversation about the fundamental nature of carceral punishment. The presence of a fine allows the wealthy to act above the law, as these fines are often not substantial enough to harm their finances. On the other hand, a working-class or poor person can be left on the verge of destitution if a heavy fine is levied against them. Should there be a more intense punishment system for the wealthy than for the working class & poor? I am not opposed to that idea. Brandon Cronenberg has been thinking about this and his new film Infinity Pool. If it does this well… that’s a different thing altogether.
Love can be painful in a myriad of ways, whether you’re on a weekend date with a serial killer or feeling yourself growing closer to the spouse of the person your own spouse is having an affair. Damn, it’s complicated.
The Wretched (Chris Bissette) Writing, Design, & Layout – Chris Bissette Design Consultant – Matt Sanders Wretched Logo – Liz Gist
Most solo tabletop RPGs are centered around journaling which has been a sticky point for me in the first two reviews. I don’t really journal, my posts here on PopCult Reviews are about as regular as I sit down and write about my thoughts. But I understood that for these games to have their full impact, I needed to be able to document the experience in some way. The solution I thought about goes back to being a kid (again). I filled up reams of spiral-bound notebooks starting at seven and going into college. I eventually trashed these notebooks during a move around 13 years ago (yes, a lot was lost, but I have moved a lot and just was exhausted from lugging so many things around). Within were lots of things: sketches & ideas for video games, I went through a period of drawing comic book covers after discovering books about the Silver Age, and I loved creating a tv show and writing episode descriptions. I was a weird kid; many might argue I am a weird adult. So, I thought that for the games where it worked, I’d like to frame each journal entry as an episode in a tv program. That just happened to work perfectly with The Wretched.