Archive for the ‘Concert/Film/TV Reviews’ Category

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Day three of the Atlanta Horror Festival provided the deepest block of short films with four separate categories (“Last Woman Standing,” “Die Laughing,” “Go To Hell” and Biohazard”). As a result, there was lots of fun gore to unpack over the 7 plus hours of mayhem.

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LAST WOMAN STANDING

To date, the ratio hasn’t been good regarding survivors in these short films. That didn’t exactly change in this category, but we did get an abundance of badass women who wouldn’t go down easily.

“Cabin 11” (Brad Rego) featured a woman determined to break an ancient curse. When she gets trapped in a cabin surrounded by eye-glowing monsters, she relies only on her wits and an ax to get out alive. The director was in attendance and disclosed an even cooler concept had his budget been bigger — the main character would have been fighting with one arm.

Women have unique challenges in this patriarchal world, so it’s only right there were films to smartly built on this reality. “Life Saver” (Pierre Amstutz Roch) played with the idea of two women’s disgust at a man’s unwanted sexual advances, but failing to see his warnings about a much more dangerous threat — interloper in the back of their truck.

“Others Like Me,” from Italy’s Eugenio Villani, tackles the mental anguish of not being able to have children. We discover the main character can conceive, but it’s her vengeful, barren doctor who seeks to sterlize her.

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Red-Handed” (Tony Tilse) deals with the all-too familiar and frustrating reality of stalking. Women are repeatedly told there’s little the police can do until the perpetrator actually harms them. Our protagonist therefore makes the horrific decision to slit her own throat to ensare her attacker “red-handed.”

The comedy was provided by “Blood Sisters” (Caitlin Koller & Lachlan Smith), which focuses how a girls night can go awry…when you mix in amateur witchcraft. Now trapped by a spell that keeps the house locked and their seance knife wounds continously bleeding, the girls must work together to reverse the spell and escape. The two actresses had great chemistry in creating the bickering and banter unique to life-long friends.

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The most disturbing from psychological standpoint was Chris Anthony Hamilton’s “Something Bigger.” The setting is simple enough: two women talking at home in the middle of the day. But there is an unspeakable terror and dread building between them. One speaks vaguely about the hopelessness of her life and how she feels the worst is yet to come, while the other woman looks on in abject fear. What is coming is never fully explained, but the figure shrouded in black that enters the room let’s us know  it’s nothing good.

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DIE LAUGHING

Even if you’re not big on horror comedy, you couldn’t help but laugh at some of these films. My favorite from this block was “Lunch Ladies” (J.M. Logan), which tells the tale of two Johnny Deep-obsessed cafeteria ladies trying to keep their jobs and save up enough money to meet their beloved idol. Turns out, the secret recipe the ladies needed was human flesh (provided by the school’s stuck-up cheerleader). The ladies (Donna Pieroni, Mary Manofsky) were hilarious and played off each other perfectly.

https://www.lunchladiesmovie.com/

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“Pizza Face” provides some social commentary on our vanity obsession via apps like Instagram and Snapchat. It wasn’t lost on me that the terror began once our stuck up protagonist “synced” the app with all her devices. She was turned into a pizza, forced to live in seculsion, and eventually devoured herself. #DontSyncToYourProfile

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Matt Barrett’s “Croak” follows a frog-torturing slacker who gets his comeuppance when the animals mutate to human-size beasts. The frog costumes were very impressive considering they were made from mattress foam. The way it moved and attacked reminded me somewhat of Rae Dawn Chong’s gargoyle from Tales From the Darkside. Loved the 80s-style soundtrack, too.

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What happens when you mix Metaloaclypse and Phantasm? You get Chris McInroy’s “Death Metal.” The story revolves around a supbar musician who receives a guitar infused with the power of Satan.  What ensues is a killer (and hilarious) guitar solo.

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GO TO HELL

This block was from top to bottom the strongest collection. “Secretions” (Goran Spoljaric) put a twist on human trafficking by having the captor be a mutant sprays deadly toxins from her body. This would be the main tool for her escape. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t possess a mutant healing factor and had to make her getaway sans a foot.

“Studded Nightmare” (Jean-Claude Leblanc) was another standout that featured the story of a possessed chair (a man committed suicide in it). Anyone who sits there is suddenly overcome with the urge to kill themselves. The death images were striking and build to a finale which sees one of the main characters suspended mid-air while slicing her flesh with scissors.

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For the most part, the motivation of movie monsters is to kill and devour victims. What happens when the monster simply wants breast milk? Yes, you heard right. In “Latched” (Justin Harding, Rob Brunner), a dead monster is mistakenly revived by a woman’s breast milk. Now the mother must save her young son from a monster that wants to replace him. There’s some genuinely creepy moments due to the monster’s appearance, but the absurdity of a creature feining for breast milk makes it an overall fun theme.

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“The Last of Her” will be the one that stays with you for some time. Inspired by experiences with his own grandmother, creator Brian Golding’s story is about a woman who suddenly loses track of her child. From there, we’re taken on a journey that speaks to the tragedy of mental illness as seen from the victim’s lenses. Well-made with a harrowing ending scene.

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BIOHAZARD

Consider this block the ones for films that are ready to be adapted for the big screen. The 33-minute “Bloodyback” (Lars Damoiseaux) tells the story of an English and French soldier who must put aside their differences on the battlefield once a zombie plague breaks out. The makeup was great and the danger heightend since these are the “running” undead. With big studio backing this good be a real gem.

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Ever wonder if a mime can outwit flesh-eating zombies? That’s the premise of “Still” (Carl Timms), where a gold-painted mime is trying to “wait out” a zombie hord while fighting off nature calling and cramping.

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My final two picks are “Tethered” (Daniel Robinette) and “Eat Your Heart Out” (Adam Gambrel). “Tethered” follows a blind boy abandoned in the woods except for a final recording from his mother. It instructs him on how to survive and emphasizes to not venture beyond the length of rope he has tied around his waist. Of course, strange sounds gets the best of his curiosity and he goes beyond the rope to disasterous results.

“Eat Your Heart Out” initially comes off as an comedy, but you begin to feel a deeper meaning as the caretaker (Kayla Gibson) talks more about her guilt over letting her lover turn. You start to realize this preverted “normalcy” she’s set up is nothing more than a smoke screen to prevent letting the past go. And in the end, it proves to be her undoing.

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FILMS

Ruin Me: Alexandra and her boyfriend have signed up for Slasher Sleepout, an event that specializes in mixing the scares of a camping trip, escape room and haunted house. But what happens when the scares become real and people start dying? And Alexandra is facing her own internal demons from drug abuse.

Unwittingly, I was sitting behind the lead actress Marcienne Dwyer, who later explained how she relished playing such a layered and complicated character. The depth comes from her trying to figure out what’s real, who to trust and how to make it out alive. If enjoyed movies like The Game and April Fool’s Day, this one is right up your alley with a twist (but believable) ending. The film releases on October 26.

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Day two of the Atlanta Horror Film Festival switched gears with an eclectic mix of psychological terror, repressed memories, and guilt. Without further adieu, let’s get to the films.

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CRAZY ON YOU

This block of shorts showcased protagonists who were battling internal demons (real or imagined). Usually, you’d be a terrible person to laugh at someone else’s mental issues, but here it’s encouraged. “Earworm,” by Tara Price and starring Ernest Lee Thomas (Rog from What’s Happening fame) has our main character being terrorized by an annoying pop song that constantly blares in his skull throughout the night. After some brutal self-surgery via a pair of tweezers, we discover it was a literal music worm/caterpillar in his head. Nonetheless, Thomas’ character now has an affinity for the song and is seen humming it by the end of the film.

Emily Dell’s “Helen” puts a unique spin on a fear most of us have — speaking in public or giving a high-level work presentation. But for Helen it’s much deeper as she is haunted by a dark side version of herself. However, instead of fighting her evil side, Helen ends up subduing the monster and making a “truce.” Hey, you need a bit of “evil within” if you really want to succeed in corporate America.

The most visually stunning offering in this block was Farnoosh Abedi’s “The Servant.” The animated black and white feature follows a depressed writer who befriends an oversized cockroach in his apartment building. At first, the cockroach takes on the role of an attentive butler. Then the writer begins to abuse the creature. Soon, the cockroach begins to learn human ways and turns the tables. Or does he? There are moments where you begin questioning whether this is all a figment of the writer’s mind. Considering the first scene is him contemplating suicide, he’s not exactly a reliable main character from a mental standpoint. Doesn’t get more creative than having a viewer empathize and start rooting for a roach.

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My other favorites were “The Frozen Eye” (Belguim’s Karim Ouelhaj) and “The Taste” (Adrian Selkowitz). The horror elements in both took a backseat to this underlining theme — heed the danger of seeking the validation of people who don’t give a damn about you. In “Frozen Eye,” a man moves into a new apartment only to find there is a hole that allows him a voyeuristic view of the young woman downstairs. He grows to dispise her and is driven into insanity, self-multilation and eventually death, all the while she’s not even aware of his existence (even down to him falling out of the window to his death). With The Taste, we find a former witch trying to fit into high society by impressing her studio exec neighbors with a fancy dinner. The coversation is as shallow as the people, but the former Wiccan is determined to leave her past behind, even when a former coven sister shows up.

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FATAL ATTRACTION

This block of shorts could have easily been called “Dark Humor.” From amputee obsession to zombie apocalypse, the gallows humor highlighted the absurdity of these scenarios while keeping you engaged.

My absolute favorite was Jaanelle Yee’s “Sell Your Body.” It follows a struggling med student who sold her kidney for money, and now has to resort to setting up unsuspecting swinger couples for more cash. The social commentary about student debt and the hazards of online dating go down easily due to the hilarity of our protagonist (played by Nadira Foster Williams). Her facial expressions and glib humor make you forget we’re following a psychopath that’s butchering people for extra cash.

The film is serving as Yee’s film school thesis. If her department chair is reading this, she’d better get A+.

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How far will you go to get laid? “Buzzcut” (Jonathon Rhoads and Mike Marrero) follows a woman who gets her morning sex session stopped because her partner can’t stand her bad haircut. What would normally be a simple fix via the barbershop turns into life and death as a zombie apocalypse breaks out. Well, it isn’t exactly a straight zombie outbreak because the Rapture is also going on! Our badass, anti-hero protagonist is determined to get some ass but as you can expect with horror, her payoff for slaying demons and zombies isn’t exactly what she’d hope for. This would not only have been a cool full-length grindhouse film, but also a hilarious video game in the right hands.

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It wasn’t all fun and games. “Hide/Seek” (Matt Newton) asks the question of what happens when your loved ones refuse to forgive you for a fatal mistake, and “The Sick” (Wesley Caldwell) follows two lovers battling a lethal illness. With the former, we see how tragedy can strip the humanity from an entire family. In the latter, we witness how the innate human desire for companionship and love can be twisted by dire circumstances. Both of these were a real gut-punch where we have no characters with clean hands.

Other standouts include “Couples Night” (Russell and Robert Summers), which asks the question of what happens when Satanists and serial killers hang out after work, the hilarious “Justin Has a Date” (Justin Ray), where your best friend brings home a witch whose speech sounds like 80s rock power ballads, and “Three Legged Dog” (Bonnie Kathleen Ryan), which covers a woman suffering from Body Identity Integrity Disorder that wants to cut off her left arm to emulate her surfing idol.

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THE DEVIL INSIDE

The final block of Friday short films dealt with internal evil. Some of the production value on these films was off the charts. Take “Daemon Runner” from Australia’s Tristan Roache-Turner, which was a combination of Blade Runner, Ghostbusters and The Matrix. The fighting was intense and the special effects with the weaponry made it feel like the extended trailer of a bigger project. Don’t be surprised to see this become a full-length feature.

“I Am Not the Devil” (Samuel Smith) is in this vein as well. We find a thief attempting an armed robbery and coming face to face with Satan himself. This one has some cool hand to hand combat in the style of The Raid film series.

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Who says an exorcism can’t be pleasurable for both parties? “Holy F__k” (Christian Chalken) might just have the most unique approach to the exorcism genre by having the demon and priest work out some “exorcism dyfunction” together. “Here + After” (Jake Akuna) tackles what capitalism would do if we discovered an afterlife truly existed (complete with insurance claims and legal disputes), and “Meow” (Chris Jopp) has an ummistakable 80s flair (courtesy of Fangg’s soundtrack) that accompanies the story of a seemingly bloodthirsty cat and the woman that tries to protect it from an animal-averse landlord.

 

THE FILMS

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Happy Hunting: Passing through or staying? You’ll wish you decided to do the former in this story of a town that has an annual hunting festival that goes after the “lesser” people in society (addicts, alcoholics). That puts Warren, an alcoholic drifter on the run for a drug deal gone bad, straight in their crosshairs. Complicating matters is Warren’s desire to survive long enough to cross the border to finally meet his estranged daughter.

If you’ve ever seen Surviving the Game, the movie is in that vein except the hunters are “regular” townfolks who treat it like a sporting event. Warren has to slowly overcome his illness to keep a clear head and remain one step ahead of his enemies. As his injuries mount, it starts to feel less like a survival movie and more about making peace with fate. His antagonist is his mirror opposite in Steve, a survior of a previous hunt that succumbed to evil by eventually joining the town hunters.

A good film to watch if you have no issues with dark, existentialism endings.

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Devil’s Whisper: Alejandro Duran is a 15-year old teen who’s studying to become a priest. After going through his grandmother’s belongings and finding a cross, he’s suddenly haunted by a relentless demon that mocks his faith and brings back to the surface trauma from Alejandro’s childhood.

The themes of generational trauma and repressed memories play heavily here as Alejandro has to slowly peel back layers of his past that even his parents hid from him. As he does that, the body count around him rises and his behavior becomes more callous and distant.

Because of the necessary setup and ghost scares, the film unfortunately doesn’t get enough time to flesh out Alejandro’s molestation at the hands of his grandfather. Was the grandfather jailed? Did the rest of the family leave him? Did the demon cause the grandfather to commit this evil or was it already in him? Several flashbacks might have helped in this area.

Overally, Devil’s Whisper is worth a watch and discussion afterward about whether one can every truly move on from pyschological trauma.

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We still have two days left of the Atlanta Horror Film Festival. Saturday’s events run from 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday’s finale is 5:15 p.m. through 9 p.m. Get your tickets and more info at http://www.atlantahorrorfilmfest.com/home-1.html.

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This weekend is all about horror as BeatsBoxingMayhem is covering the annual Atlanta Horror Film Festival. The event prides itself on showcasing the best in independent horror from around the country. Day one featured three blocks of 10-shorts under different themes (“Never Sleep Again,” “Kid Fears,” and “Hazardous Duties”) and two full-length features (The Glass Coffin, Replace).

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NEVER SLEEP AGAIN

Running a little over an hour, the shorts in this block ranged from two minutes to 25. Some directors tackled the sleep motif from a humorous angle (Kyle Dlay and Taylor Martin’s “Nightlight” had a young child befriending his under the bed monster with comic books) to unsettling demonic disturbances (Evan Cooper’s “The Armoire” had a creeping demon that resembled the first alien glimpse we see in Signs).

The biggest standouts were the longer features, which allowed for some character development and building dread: Ross Morin’s “A Peculiar Thud” and Andrea Niada’s “Home Education.” Morin’s piece told the story of a man awakened in the night by a thud downstairs. He finds an intruder at his door asking to innocently to come in. What would be creepy in the daytime is downright terrifying at 3am. Add to the fact that the protagonist’s safeguards (alarm system, locked doors, calling 911) failed to discourage the intruder (later a knife-wielding attacker), and the viewer is faced with a realistic nightmare.

“Home Education” is a UK feature that asks the question of what happens with the terror comes from your own family? A young girl is being home-schooled by her controlling and detached from reality mother. The father has died recently and is slowly rotting upstairs. The mother refuses to believe her husband is dead, framing it as a “test” they need to pass for him to “come back.” This toxic philosophy twists the girl in unimaginable ways.

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KID FEARS

There used to be a time in horror when kids were relatively safe from death. Sure, they might be terrorized, but rarely are they butchered. Not the case here. The monsters get their pound of flesh and then some. In “Father,” (Chris Keller) a promiscuous and neglectful mother has a one-night stand while a demon attacks her son. In “Goodnight Gracie” (Stellan Kendrick), a young girl who hopes her Bible and faith in Jesus will save her is rewarded with death from an ax-murderer.

An underlining theme is most of these shorts is the adults failing to protect the children. A more unsettling take in a few is the adults deliberately putting them in danger. Take “Agatha,” (Timothy Vandenberg) where a matriarch recruits orphans to feed her demonic daughter.  You find out how horrific the practice is when you see a pile of shoes from the previous orphan victims.

The standout in this block for me was “When Demons Die” (Daniel Ruebesam), which tells the story of a child confined to his home due to the father being fearful of “fog demons.” We get a reminder of how much a child’s worldview is shaped by adults and the terror that can come from it.

 

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HAZARDOUS DUTIES

This block had by far the most humorous films of the night. From Men in Black style exterminators (Aaron Grimes’ “Agent of the Month”) to a redneck who falls in love with a “hot zombie” (Drew Giles'”Redneck Zombie”), there was constant laughter from the audience.

The most experimental was “Myopia,” where creators Roger Okamoto and Alex Zhuravel tell the story of a guilt-ridden cop who returns to the crime scene where he was forced to take a life. The ghost aspect centers the horror theme, put the story was more a reflection on making peace with your past.

The two standouts here were “The Night Delivery” (Scott O’Hara) and “Avulsion” (Steven Boyle). “Night Delivery” finds three grocery store workers turned thieves who are stalked by a demonic creature on their last heist. Simply known as Akoman, the demon goes after those who sin. Faced with priceless diamonds in their midst, all three have to decide quickly if their lives are worth more than what they came for. This is one of the few films presented that had a built-in lore that could translate well over a full-length feature.

“Avulsion” showcases another demon, but one intent on providing a blue-collar service. How, you ask? She lets serial killers murder and dismember her corpse. Think of it as “death prostitution.” As she reattaches her limbs, she reminds us that this service satisfies those we would least expect (priests, coworkers, politicians etc.). A creative take that gives indirect commentary to the debate of legalizing societal “ills” like prostitution and narcotics.

FILMS

Full reviews will be posted in a few days.

The Glass Coffin: The premise of this Spanish horror/thriller is a film star named Amanda becomes trapped in a luxury limousine by a maniac. We soon find out that said maniac is someone from her past bent on revenge. As the antagonist humiliates Amanda psychologically and physically, we start to wonder who exactly is the true villain. All this leads to a face to face showdown where only one can survive.

Although the dialogue gets a bit ponderous midway, I was fully invested in the final confrontation. Considering the film is essentially just two people, it’s an impressive feat. Track this one down if you can.

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Replace: This was the last film of the night and I’m glad I stuck around for it. There is A LOT to unpack with this story. The power of memory, fear of aging, loving a destructive person and dealing with a debilitating illness are all concepts you can write a full review on with this film. We met the young and beautiful Kira who is afflicted with a disease that causes her skin to age rapidly. However, she finds out one way to stop this — stripping the flesh from live victims and adding it to her own.

As her horrifying deeds mount, you find yourself still sympathetic with Kira. Who hasn’t looked in the mirror before dismayed by the effects of aging, let alone someone in the prime of their life being robbed of it? Add on her next-door neighbor lover who has her own internal struggles and a shady medical facility, and you have a well-made, layered film with a gut-wrenching finale.

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That’s it for day one. Check back daily for recaps on all four days. If you’re in town and want to attend, get all the details at http://www.atlantahorrorfilmfest.com/home-1.html.

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There’s a lot to unpack from the just-released official trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

We start with Luke Skywalker beginning his training of Rey and being horrified of the natural ability she possesses. Why? Because it reminds him of the power that was unleashed during the destruction of the last Jedi Academy (committed by Kylo Ren and the First Order). We see images of the temple burning and will likely get flashbacks of the whole incident.

We also see Rey seeming to confront the mysterious General Snoke, and getting the worst of it. Snoke’s voiceover has him marveling over someone’s power, but is it Rey or Kylo’s?

Speaking of Kylo, he has a lot of making up to do after getting bested last movie by a light saber rookie. He looks to be doing that in spades with a space battle sequence that mirrors Luke’s destruction of the first Death Star. However, this time the target appears to be Princess Leia. Will Kylo’s promise to “bury the past” mean killing both his parents?

Finn is well-recovered from his injuries and locked in a duel with General Phasma. This is an intriguing battle for several reasons. One, Finn appears to have progressed from comedic and skittish sidekick to a capable fighter and leader. Second, we get to see how deadly Phasma is in hand to hand combat, which she has to be considering her place in Snoke’s army.

Finally, we have what I believe is misdirection in Kylo appearing to offer his hand to Rey for an alliance. I can’t see them giving that away in a trailer, meaning this is possibly two separate scenes (Kylo in the burning temple and Rey training with Luke or facing Snoke).

All questions get answered on December 15.

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The world can’t be saved alone. That theme forms the basis of the latest trailer for Justice League, aptly titled “Heroes.”

Like most ensemble films, we get glimpses of the heroes struggling to succeed on their own, driving home the importance of joining forces to take out the cosmic threat of Steppenwolf. Also, the fallout of Superman’s death in Batman vs. Superman looks to play heavily into the cinematic universe.

Justice League hits theaters on November 17.

 

ThePunisher

Let the brutality begin. After arguably stealing the show in Daredevil season 2, Frank Castle returns to NYC looking for revenge on those responsible for the murder of his wife and children. That hunt leads to a grand conspiracy which Castle must take apart while staying one step ahead of the police.

As evident from this clip, we can expect this to be the most violent series Marvel has ever produced.

The release date is still confidential, but we can confirm the series will be out before the end of 2017.

 

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As much as we’re ready to tackle a forthcoming infinite war next year, we all have more urgent business coming this November. Warner Bros. utilized this weekend’s Comic Con event to drop the official trailer for the much anticipated Justice League movie.

Living in a world without Superman, the remaining meta humans are tasked with taking down the godlike Steppenwolf. For those unaware, Steppenwolf is a general from a hell-like world known as Apokolis. His leader, Darkseid, has yet to be seen in the films, but we glimpsed the dystopian future he created during the flashback sequences in Batman v Superman. Steppenwolf has killed several League members before in the comics, so he presents a deadly challenge to a group that doesn’t have Superman to rely on.

Or so we think. The ending of this trailer gives a not so subtle hint that the Man of Steel may return to save the day.

Justice League hits theaters on November 17.