Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant – IMDB

 

alien Covenant

 

As a fan of this beloved series, I read articles, watched interviews, and looked out for the anticipated teaser trailer released last Christmas. My hopes couldn’t have been higher. A return to the dark and dangerous universe of Alien. Prometheus opened a whole new world for us to explore and upon initial viewing I loved it, then hated it, then as time passed it grew on me and I have accepted it for being a stand alone film and an unique entry in to the franchise. With that being said, there was a lot to be expected from Ridley Scott taking yet another lead in the xenomorph franchise. And then finally, FINALLY. A full red band trailer was released. I watched. As the trailer for Alien: Covenant burst from its organic egg shell, revealing it’s gooey innards. I couldn’t help but be exposed to the spoilers on screen as one colonist after another were dying showcasing their deaths to entice and scare viewers demanding it’s attention. AND THEN, my questioning began, “Is this really going to be good, it looks like Alien? Should I lower my bar of expectations? Is this the sequel we deserve?”

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I see nothing but death.

I believe Ridley Scott listened to those shouting and screaming Alien fans and their hatred for Prometheus without consideration of those who spoke softly for their love of a film that took a risk in a new direction. Scott himself wanted to create something new that centered around creation and a story that provoked the thought of origins for life. And not just any life, but birth of the hissing xenomorph. I understood Prometheus was set in the same universe but placed far before the original. And it was this movie that many were apparently down right upset about. Movies age like wine, many show their true colors and morph into something flavorful later on down the road. The tick with this film is Scott took a chunk of Alien and a spice of Prometheus. When instead it should have been vice versa. It felt like he wanted to please the audience and new comers with an over cooked monster and playing it safe. When, in fact, I would have chosen the risky route. Continue Prometheus mission.

This is the biggest fault of the film. Alien: Covenant wanted to spring into an Alien movie so badly it left many ingredients that made it’s predecessor stand alone. There’s reviews that could go on about what Prometheus did wrong and what not. Yea, yea, we know. A great sequel would add to the first’s mystery, answer questions and then some. Frankly, the sequel does not. You want to know if Shaw gets any of her questions answered? Who cares. Want to know any more about the Engineers? Nah, irrelevant, they’re just a plot device. Alien: Covenant moves forward in a storm abandoning almost everything behind. Leaving a mess of a film.

There are good points in the movie and I will say it definitely is not a waste of time. By far my favorite is watching the androids, Walter and David, both played by the magnificent Michael Fassbender, interact with one another. Their conversations and differences make some compelling dialogue. They are by far the best part of the film. David is becoming more of a solid character in the franchise as Ripley. It’s exciting to think about. **Spoiler** Seeing as David’s relationship with Weyland is submissive in the the shadow of his creator, David holds the ability to create, and to create he does. The perfect being. And this is justified (if not hard to swallow) in the beginning  when Weyland talks to David on his initial creation. This bit I loved. Discussion of art, creation, and Gods. It is what is expected of a Prometheus sequel.

Androids were not the only ones who were good, those looking for a more serious role for Danny Mcbride actually has a good standing here. It was a pleasure to see him on screen and provide a drop of comical relief and play a driven husband to the end. A part I was looking forward to. And Katherine Waterston who played the down beat Daniels. She did good but nothing to stand out or even complain. She is in grief of losing her husband so her character hardly has an uplifting moment. With that to say the movie as a whole is quite atmospheric and despairing.

In relation to the other characters I really wish they were more fleshed out. Especially Oram and Karine. This couple could of had some deep conversations. Oram (Billy Crudup) could have used a lot more text and background on why and how he is religious. I think personally he is the most interesting character besides David. With Shaw out of the picture, Oram could have real conversations with David. If not him, Daniels or Tennessee about the future humankind’s path is set on or the Engineers’ purpose. Potential once again lost. Oram is just another guy with faith providing no meaning or value to his own asset to the story of origins. Like the trailer,  Alien: Covenant provided  meaningless scares and predictable deaths. There’s no exaggeration. The deaths are predictable, good acting, but predictable, signing on a new cast dying for a paycheck.

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Some effects I enjoyed but couldn’t help but feel it was a slight downgrade from Prometheus. Times I felt practical effects could have been used but weren’t. i.e. animatronics. The aliens themselves are creepy. Mainly the new one, the neomorph. The original isn’t welcomed like an old friend coming home. Not that it should as it’s history in terrorizing the screen for the past 30 years. We all know what you’re capable of alien, step aside. The neomorph is here and shows it’s origins but where is it on the scale of the Engineers’ existence? Where does it stand? We still know little about the goo from the previous movie. Why couldn’t we just get proper sequel instead of an Alien prequel? You are draining this series dry, Ridley Scott.

The music itself is terrific. With moments calling back to Alien and Prometheus scores gives a hybrid vibe of the universe that’s currently existing and was happy to hear. The additional music was also good, emanating a dark ominous howl. Creating a subtle hint of intense terror that’s not exploding in your face.

It’s interesting to see where the franchise is going.  Not to be sexist but I was hoping not another heroine in this picture. But it’s not all we got. And I hope she isn’t the only one. We’ve had a Ripley. Please, present something new. And try not to kill everyone in the opening credits, so learn from the mistakes. If by chance Scott listens and isn’t a crazed old man looking for a come back and says “F***  it this is how the story is gonna be” we can fix this average film into what the franchise needs: back to answering and asking questions Prometheus introduced. We’ve had our Alien films, bring us something else. Tease us with Alien, give us Engineers and a space to explore with new findings. Our minds are bigger than this. What is life without expanding our boundaries? It’ll be hard to trek back around this film and find our footing once again. Maybe in time this will grow but who knows. We still have stupid characters and a lazy, messy plot that wants to entertain with the occasional questionable dialogue.

I saw a lot of promise when Michael Green was attached (creator/writer of Penny Dreadful, writer of Gladiator). We’ll see where this takes us. Scott proclaims at this moment that the series is pinned for an additional three movies that lead up to the original Alien. Anything could happen. Am I worried? At this point, yea, I am. A Prometheus like sequel will be welcomed. Scott needs to figure out his vision for the future of the franchise. Do I still look forward to the next entry? Hell yea, I do. However, we need innovative ideas. It’s time for the reigns to be passed on Ridley Scott. If you need attention, get a dog.

In the end, I liked the movie. Since Aliens no Alien movie has been perfect. Close calls but no perfect specimen. If Scott plans to release these next few additions then he needs to find that vision and stick to it. Pleasing the audience with a cooked monster will do nothing. Possibly the goriest entry along with Alien Resurrection, we need more than shock and fright. Story much? Missing the chemistry David and Shaw had we can only look forward now after a grim experimentation. One can hope for the director’s cut. As I and fans alike look for the missing parts not already integrated into a film we anticipated for.

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The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982) – IMDb

The thing

Briefly I would like to explain my absence and apologize for it. For the past three months I have been in Basic Military Training for the Air Force (hua!) and have been missing my currently small but meaningful followers. To pay tribute to my return I have decided to review an all time favorite of mine: John Carpenter’s The Thing. Recently, I purchased this movie for my third time off of Amazon. A long awaited Mondo’s Steelbook Collector’s edition that I have fallen in love with. With a haunting bleak cover of snow and blackness, and a ghostly mutated figure screeching upwards on the left side of the case – the words THE THING etched across it’s chest. And subtle, hidden words lie beneath this beautiful box: Man is the warmest place to hide. I gladly unwrap the movie and recall my favorite moments, and times I introduced this bad boy to fresh eyes. Much like when I told my friend he HAD to watch this movie upon it’s arrival a week after basic, hence, he does not like horror. And I told him if there were ever a horror to watch before you die it must be The Thing  (and given, a few others). He was quite hesitant until this day, today, I had the pleasure of finally showing him after weeks of anticipation. He’s a hard nut to crack, my friend, but has said it contained a good, enjoyable plot and good characters. Seeing 25 years is around the corner of it’s release, that it has stood the test of time and is a worthy addition for your shelf. However, he said, it seemed drawn out and some of the characters were not well developed. Is he right? Meh, to my degree of thinking HE IS WRONG. But I will explain later, ladies and gentlemen.

If you are reading and have witnessed this bloody awesome movie then I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. If not, then you’re on the wrong ship. Those of you who still need to pop that cherry, I suggest, as a movie lover, watch it. Experience it. Take in the cold and bleak wasteland that is of Antarctica. Where everywhere you go is isolation. Where you thought the below 40 degree weather was the worst of your fears. Until you find out there’s a 100,000 year old UFO beneath the ice. A neighboring outpost is left burned and destroyed, inhabiting nothing but ice and dead bodies. What do you do? The radios are down. You have acquired a stray dog who appears to be normal. Then things happen. Abnormal things. Things you can’t explain. One thing leads to another thing. The characters begin to question each other. Without noticing, you start questioning them. Soon enough you question yourself, Are You Crazy? The thing creeps up on you, slithering it’s way to your brain, becoming absorbed, clouding your judgement. You start building a shanty spaceship out of scraps thinking escape is the answer, I’m telling you that’s not it. You’re infected. Take your last shot of J&B Scotch and burn yourself.

The thing about The Thing is that you begin asking questions from the start. Who are the Norwegians and what are they saying? What is the dog doing? Then more questions begin to form. I think what makes a good movie, specifically this one, is to keep the audience engaged. Have a setting that they become familiar with so they  have the feeling of isolation. Introduce characters we can relate to who can also represent the daily human being. Keep them diversified. Make their personalities stand out and make it seem they have been working with each other for months to the point they appear close. Now throw them in a situation that they need to survive within a stationary location. Where they are faced with unknown, terrifying threat and need to survive with little resources. Where their wits are their best weapon by a foe who takes over it’s host. But they become challenged, divided – their trust tested. This alone, is my favorite part of the movie. The psychological fear can be witnessed on each characters faces. Like the scene when the blood is tested to see who is really who. This scene is what sold director John Carpenter to be a part of it. It was really well done. I feel for the guy because his movies are great but at the time, if any of you know, critics and audience alike did not swarm to his movies let alone Halloween. This made most of his movies a box office flop, only to be picked up by fans in the later years. Carpenter was hit hard by the critics as well. Saying “He’s better suited to direct traffic accidents, train wrecks and public floggings.” Ouch. If it’s any compensation, Mr. Carpenter, we love your movies now. the growing popularity even grew another limb in 2011 entitled by the same name The Thing. Which was a prequel and was to say the least OK. It tried to explain some questions from the first but left out the amazing special effects from the original (1982, not 1951).

I’d like to go out on a separate limb here and comment on the simple but haunting score. Done by Ennio Morricone, using a deep three note bass cord. I thought what was more impressive is that it sounded like John Carpenter did it himself since he has scored for many of his own movies. It fit perfectly, giving Antarctica that lonely, ominous feeling.

Let’s not forget the hard working special makeup effects creator Rob Bottin, who worked himself to exhaustion. Stan Winston (Aliens special effects) stepped in to lend a hand for the dog kennel scene. What’s cool about the effects is it’s actually made and not computer generated like modern movies (i.e. The Thing (2011)). This is where most of the terror, I believe, s produced. The imagery is grotesque. Like pulling guts out from two deformed bodies entangled together creating this twisted freak of a monstrosity. Or when a body’s chest opens up and clamps down on the victim’s arms and tears. And the head dislocates itself from it’s body and forms into it’s own nightmarish creation. You truly believe every part of this thing wants to survive.

Now, to comment on something my friend said earlier. The Thing can feel slow but something is happening and it adds to the storyline if not the characters. It’s a quiet progression, like the cold environment it is set in. The slowness, like other films I have reviewed and said, draws you in and makes the shock value increase. And these moments here are bloody, holding nothing back. As for the characters, you get to know how each individual reacts under pressure and in the face of peril. You see who stands out as the leader, the follower, the strong and the weak. I found myself questioning who to trust and having to change my belief, as did my friend.

The Thing and Alien are among my most beloved films in cinema. They both follow similar criteria; isolation and a small crew against an impossible foe. The Thing is even watched annually June 21 in Antarctica by researchers and the like. Its becoming a forgotten film by the younger generation but I will spread it like an infection. Without it we wouldn’t have the many imitators it has today. It even spawned a chilling videogame in 2002 that elaborated on the ending with a rescue team arriving to the outpost to search for survivors. I played it many years ago and due to it being difficult and being frightened I never finished it. If there were ever going to another installment, I feel this would do justice. (Even though I think sequels/prequels have potential to lessen the value of it’s predecessor.) Since the ending leaves you in the cold to ponder did something survive? It’s the ending that completes this masterpiece. Whether or not a direct sequel will be touched upon only time will tell. Would it be worth the admission?

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The Raid 2 (2014) – IMDb

via The Raid 2 (2014) – IMDb.

Like the rest of the audience who has seen The Raid: Redemption, I was excited to see the sequel The Raid 2: Berandal. When I first found out it was showing at a local theater in my territory for a limited time with few showings to offer, I just had to get a ticket. I walked in the dark, empty theater which the movie has just begun and grabbed my seat, looking at the screen the whole way. Once I sat, a voice to my left says: “out of the whole theater you had to sit next to me?” I didn’t even notice someone was there, the man moves and I say “my bad”. I just wanted to see this film with the best seat. This epic, bloody and complex film Gareth Evans, writer and director, originally conceived before The Raid 1.

The first movie is much simpler than the second. It was straight forward with amazing fights and stunts. The sequel takes off just moments after, already introducing a major villain. We’re then brought to the attention our hero from the previous movie, Rama, that he’s being sent in to the underground world by a secret organization who seeks out corrupt cops. He is to help a dangerous gang member, Uco, who is in jail and earn his trust so he is accepted into their clan on the outside. Once he earns their respect and trust he is to cut the head off the snake so the gang wars will come to an end. But it becomes more than what Rama was expecting, he is caught into a web of distrust, betrayal, and an all out war. The beginning of The Raid 2 is a bit confusing at first, you’re introduced to a number of characters and backgrounds. It’s a little hard to keep up because of the pace it is presented but eventually you move on after the first half hour with a deadly brutal fight scene in the muddy courtyard inside the jail.

The movie doesn’t kid around when it comes to violence, neither is it shy. It is raw and can rival the darkest of horror. It’s an all in your face, no holds bared, adrenaline pumped two and half hour movie. I felt bruised and exhausted after the first movie which was an hour shorter; this one has more to offer as to do with the storyline, which is somewhat reminiscent of The Godfather series. The Raid 2 is relentless in depicting violence but the choreograph is superb. Most notably is the kitchen scene which is Gareth’s favorite, and mine, too. You can feel the momentum and impact in all the fight sequences, they have a way of feeling dynamic. No fight scene is used just to have a fight, everything has lead up to that point where there is reason to fight and makes it feel that more impactful. Much like Gareth’s directing which is also dynamic, it flows with the story and movement of the characters like a punch to the face or grinding a head to the wall. I do have one suggestion, or minor complaint, with all the brutality in the air I was looking for a different fight scene to change pace. There is a scene which leads outside from a club to the snowy streets. The tempo is slowed for a little and our character is faced with another villain, The Assassin. The snow is falling, you still have the dark atmosphere, but the brutality persists. I was hoping for this scene to have a beautifully crafted fight in the snow, without an overdose of blood shed and a ballet like fight. It may sound corny but wish Gareth switched the fighting style. A death like that should be beautiful not torn away meaninglessly. Although, the car chase sequence is awesome and increases the heart rate and is well shot.

Other than the Assassin, two icons have emerged here as if ripped from a comic book. You have a deaf mute, Hammer Girl, who wields two hammers and delivers heavy damage. And her brother Baseball Bat Man who carries a bat and his trusty baseball. The two together are the most interesting characters here who could have their own movie covering their background. Which Gareth Evans did discuss during the awkward Q&A in the special features. Either way, their child-like manners don’t get in the way of them hammering down or hitting their victim from afar with a baseball.

There is a lot that happens in The Raid 2 , although a little confusing first time round, it has a good storyline with unforgetful fight sequences. It’s either just as good as it’s predecessor or better, up to you, but I think it’s just as good. Gareth Evans has filmed a very dynamic and visually artistic action-gangster-epic. He has kept most of his crew from his past couple projects; you will notice stuntmen and characters reprised, and some even from his segment in V/H/S 2 (which was quite shocking and down right creepy). I like it when sequels are different from the first and can still entertain, keeping things fresh. I look forward to the next installment, hoping it will bring a little more to the table. The first two had a dash of subtle dark humor, but very little, perhaps the next Raid will provide more and add some emotional depth. What do you think?

Identity (2003) – IMDb

via Identity (2003) – IMDb.

It was around my 4th-5th grade year when Identity came out. Once it was released on home video my dad rented it and one night I really wanted to watch it. This was during the time when I was exploring all sorts of movies, expanding my knowledge on such great films. After watching Ghost Ship (not so great) and found it a little scary I thought I could watch anything. So late one night my father placed the movie in and before pressing play he says: “If you have any questions, save it for after the movie”. Unfortunately he fell asleep and I was left mesmerized, scared, and contemplating the whole story with questions raining in my head. I went to school the next day and heard a friend say she watched it the night before as well, I sprang into action and proclaimed “wasn’t it awesome?! What did you think?” She didn’t understand it and so she didn’t like it which baffled me. Never have I seen a movie or experienced one like this at that time in my life; this movie marked my love for psychological movies.

The story starts with one small act of an event that causes a chain reaction for several strangers to confront each other in a small, deserted motel in the middle of a storm out in the middle of nowhere. But the weird starts happening, people start dying, one by one. Tension rises with clues and twists that makes everyone a suspect making your head tumble like in the drier just to figure it out. Identity even points the finger for you, playing with your head. You will keep guessing until the very end and questioning what really is going on. Is it supernatural? A dream? Or just some trick? Some will probably figure it out beforehand but it’s fun ride none the less, since something is always going on.

John Cusack did an okay job as the limo driver, it isn’t his best work by far. Although, I’d enjoy to see him in a horror flick; he has a dark, curious presence that fits. Ray Liotta did a fine job as the cop, as well as John Hawkes as the manger of the motel from *southern accent* Mulberry.Gary Busey was convincing as the con-man and Amanda Peet’s acting felt a little forced but was good. The motel itself, though, is a dark, suspicious place. A place that you would dream about and wouldn’t want to get lost in, in it’s cold and wet, creepy atmosphere. The motel is shot beautifully by James Mangold who was enthusiastic about this moody, mystery project.

Identity is a great psychological thriller with elements of horror. It’s fun the second time round watching it, but after that the experience wears down, unless you watch it with someone with fresh eyes just to see how they take it in.

Animal (2014) – IMDb

via Animal (2014) – IMDb.

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On the surface, Animal looks like your usual low-budget, monster B-movie. Underneath is pretty much the same. Not entirely bad, I might add, it stands out of the crowd just a tad. The movie features great creature effects that show off early on, if only it was matched by some good dialogue (if not campy). With a couple good kills and a simple as you can get storyline, Animal is sure to entertain some audience.

Animal follows the likes of Dog Soldiers and Predator. Although, the storyline is much simpler: teens go out in the woods for fun, they get lost and find a creature that has a taste for human flesh. They proceed to run away from this thing and manage to find shelter in a cabin where they meet another band of survivors. One of them has their noggin wound up a little too tight and makes decisions that will frustrate you and talking to the screen, ‘are you stupid?’ Because he makes choices like sacrificing people and making a run for it, we’re supposed to understand his blind decision making and insanity since his girl was killed off in the opening scene. But au contrar, I could care less. Kill the bastard. But what’s a horror movie without someone doing something stupid? I, for one, did not care for pretty much any of the characters. I pin that cause on the writing; it’s just so careless and lazy, it made the characters appear uneducated.

Many parts of the movie are predictable but for the sake of the other parts that are unexpected I won’t spoil anything for you. The surprise moments happen early on which makes the rest of the movie feel more vulnerable. Every boarded up window, closed door or ruffling bush leaves you an impression something is gonna happen but you don’t know when! Even some deaths can catch you off guard but somehow the shock value wears thin especially towards the end when things speed up. Vulnerability is still lingering in the atmosphere but the characters just get picked off in more careless acts of violence. Which the gore is reminiscent of Feast, similarly the animal compared to it’s ferocity. The animal itself is creepy at first, but shows it’s beastly-self far too often and the scare dies down. We become familiar with it’s movements all too soon. Good thing the special effects are good. If there is one thing Animal did right was showing the creature in prosthetics. I don’t remember seeing any or little creature related CGI. That’s one thing to make your monster more believable and devilishly cheesy. Creature features and other usual B-movie fodder use a lot of CGI, but what if they used prosthetics instead? I’m a believer that CGI doesn’t last as long as special make-up effects tend to do.

I looked at Animal hoping it wouldn’t become another failure like Creature with Sid Haig, fortunately Animal steps above it. The acting is so-so, given the script the actors had to work with. And I take back some of what I said, I thought Carl and Mandy were cool and didn’t want to see them go, one gets mauled (not a complete spoil) off screen. Subsequently, Animal is a small surprise that borrows ideas from other films, which is cool, I don’t mind that, I just wish the writing could have had more work done; it would have helped the execution. That alone I think is what will keep Animal from gaining a cult following. Unless they follow up a storyline that answers questions like: why is that cabin there? why are the creatures familiar with it? and where did they come from? But I’m expecting another military bio-project gone bad.

I recommend horror fans alike to give this a look, and any other audience members looking for an escape to the woods.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – IMDb

via Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – IMDb.

 

It has been a week since I last saw Cannibal Holocaust. Needless to say the horrific images are still buried in my brain. 35 years after it’s initial release, this ‘video nasty’ still shocks viewers and I don’t believe that will end any time soon. Few movies have left me sitting long after the credits. Few movies have left the movie swirling in my head still as I think to myself: Wow, what did I just watch? or Gee, this movie was deeply disturbing, or better, That was a profound experience. Movies like The Living and The Dead, Irreversible, and The Hunt have all left me with this. Cannibal Holocaust will leave you feeling depressed and filthy. Like a tribesman just gutted you and packed you full of mud as you are helplessly tied, then he laughs as you watch him eat the organs he tenderly took away from you.

The reviews and trailers can not prepare you for this. Much like the film crew the movie is based around. The story is centered on a young documentary crew going to the Amazon to film a native cannibal tribe. This cannibal tribe, however, is in unmarked territory. But wait! They brought a guide, so of course they will be safe… They go missing. Another small team is assembled to go search for them. This is mainly how the movie begins. You meet this crew who are on the rescue mission, then meet the tribe and find the film entangled with human bones. After they retrieve the film, they proceed to watch in horror what really happened to the documentarians. The whole structure of Cannibal Holocaust is great. It’s probably my favorite part of the movie, just watching the events unfold and learn the natives’ costumes. Once you reach the ‘film’ it’s shot like a found footage movie. Way before Blair Witch Project there was this, and must say it was handled expertly. But this is much more than a horror movie, more than an exploration in a jungle. It’s a film that explores human beings in a primitive state posed to being civilized. But who is civilized?

Weren’t we once savages? Director Ruggero Deodato makes us ponder many different subjects coursing through the film’s veins. One major controversial question is ‘did the live animals need to be slaughtered on film?’ Maybe it would have garnered more of an audience if not so. The native cannibal tribe did not accept our modern currency so instead Deodato offered them animals. These animals are killed on screen. Most notably the turtle scene, which holds up to its own grotesque rep. Turtles are one of my favorite animals and it was sad to see it butchered on screen. This is probably the worst part about the movie, which keeps you from cheering at the end when the film crew get what they deserved. Yes, the crew deserved their life-sentenced-punishment. It’s not just found in the conclusion while watching the found footage cam; where you see these young people mistreat the natives and disturb the peace. It is shown and understood when you see the rescuers being accepted as visitors; only because they expressed a much more human side and respect, like being bare naked and wearing no fear. In a way, the two storylines are parallel. If you are brave enough, and are not squirmish and can take the pain the movie does so well of inducing, you will see what I mean.

I do think the landscape could have been utilized better. Like I wanted to see more of what the land was like there, above, below, in the trees. But the movie did a good job of making you feel like dirt.  In short, Cannibal Holocaust is a masterpiece. Not just as a horror but a social commentary drama. A much disturbingly, aching, nasty, raw masterpiece, standing on its own pillars. A few things I have learned, in our civilization we are focused on violence, very similar to how this movie is portrayed. Another thing I learned from this movie is that knowledge is pain. When the Professor (part of the rescue team) shows the editors back in the states the film clips that were uncovered, the editors wanted to see more and more of what happened. They wanted to distribute the footage for money, caring little for the lives that were lost. When they came to the end, the editors insisted on watching the rest and sell it to the world to eat up. So, the Professor put it on… Afterwards the editors looked at each other and walked away with out a word. One of them calls up the studio and tells them to get rid of everything. We are left with one final question: Who are the real cannibals?