Spectrum TV Stream Review

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Spectrum Enters The Streaming Arena.

There’s a good chance you didn’t know this, but Spectrum (aka Charter Communications) launched their tv streaming service called Spectrum TV Stream and Spectrum TV Choice for internet only and customer who have an internet and home phone bundle.

The service was in market testing to certain customers in certain areas of the United States earlier in 2018. Now, the new streaming service is available for customers who have an existing internet connection with Spectrum. So, the service isn’t open for everyone, unfortunately.

We’ve already covered Spectrum’s internet plans in a previous post, but if you’re not familiar with them, Spectrum (previously Time Warner Cable) offers internet only plans with download speeds of up to 100 Mbps, as well as double play and triple play (internet, tv, and phone) plans.

For fans of streaming media services like Hulu Plus, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Now, Spectrum’s service will seem familiar, but there are quite a few differences.

What Makes Spectrum TV Stream Different

The first thing you’ll notice if you try to do your own research is that information is very hard to come by. That’s because this is essentially a closed service that is only open to existing Spectrum customers. Think of this as Spectrum’s ‘a la carte’ plan rather than a standalone streaming service.

As for channel lineups, Spectrum has a wide array of broadcast networks for you to choose from. Popular networks like Freeform, A&E, FX, and other networks are available in their official channel lineup according to their support article over Spectrum Stream.

Popular sports and news channels like ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and NBC Sports Network are also included in their streaming package.

For diehard sports fans, you’re going to be disappointed as regional sports channels like regional Fox Sports networks, the Big Ten Network, and league-specific channels like NBA TV and the MLB Network are missing from the standard lineup. If you’re looking to have these channels, you might be better off sticking with Spectrum’s TV service.

Spectrum Stream’s Pricing & Setup

According to the LA Times, Spectrum TV Stream starts at $25 a month (there was no official price on Spectrum’s site, you’ll have to contact them to get an official quote).

The good thing that most cord cutters will love is that there is no need for a cable box unless you want DVR functionality. In that case, you’ll have to add one for an extra $20 a month. The $25 price tag doesn’t seem so cheap if you add on premium channels and a cable box to your plan. Keep in mind, all these charges are added on to your existing Spectrum Internet plan.

The $25 price tag is also for an intro period of the first two years of service. Once the promo period is up, the price jumps up to $30 a month. The price of Spectrum’s streaming service and internet plan can quickly surpass $100 a month, especially if you value the ability to record live TV and if you love premium channels like HBO and Showtime.

When compared to other streaming services like DirecTV Now, Hulu Plus, and YouTube TV, Spectrum’s TV Stream isn’t very ideal, especially since there’s no “official” streaming package that they’re advertising.

Another big drawback of Spectrum’s streaming service is that you can only watch the streaming service from your Spectrum home wifi or internet connection. Meaning, you can’t (or couldn’t) watch this on the go or at a Starbucks. At that point, what’s the purpose in having a streaming service if you can’t take it with you?

The Verdict

If you’re looking for a cheap way to add on TV service and you’re okay with the limited use of it, then Spectrum’s TV Stream might be the right choice for you, especially if you get all your entertainment from Netflix or Youtube Premium. That’s essentially who Spectrum was targeting when this service was launched.

Like their internet plans, there’s no early termination fees or long-term contracts, so you can sign up and pay as you go.

If you’re looking for something that is going to replace your cable package, then this isn’t the product for you (at least not now). The channel lineup isn’t something to go crazy over and it’s limited access to sports and news channels, as well as other popular networks, make this streaming service less than ideal. Plus, you still have to get internet service from Spectrum to even qualify for the streaming service.

If you’re looking to switch to Spectrum internet to take advantage of their TV Stream deal, contact us today or search your zip code and see if spectrum offers are in your area!


4 Things to Know about Wi-Fi Routers

They're small, they're compact, and they affect the entire outcome of a war. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about hobbits. It’s your Wi-Fi router.

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They're small, they're compact, and they affect the entire outcome of a war.

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about hobbits.

It’s your Wi-Fi router.

Wi-Fi, the wireless internet connection used in almost all homes and businesses, is made available through a Wi-Fi router. Most Wi-Fi customers get their Wi-Fi through the router provided by their ISP (internet service provider) or cable company. These do a good job of handling the basics of wireless uploading and downloading.

They’re not the worst routers out there. At the same time, they aren’t the best. They do an average job.

But there are brands out there producing above-average routers. You’ve probably already heard of their names; Asus, Netgear, D-Link, and Linksys.

There are more, and a quick search of PC Mag, CNet, and Tom’s Guide can give you a more thorough overview of the various and sundry brands out there.

The inevitable next question you’re thinking is “Which one’s the best?”

A Wi-Fi is essential these days for internet connectivity. This makes Wi-Fi routers essential, even if every home doesn't have one. ISPs and cable companies provide these as part of their basic package. There are some consumers out there who want something better though.

Should you decide to buy your own, you’ll have to make the decision based on a few factors. Near the top of the list would be cost and customer reviews. While there are some that cost more than others, it doesn’t mean it’s the best.

Your home, like you, is unique.

Don’t just go with the router that is labelled “the best” by a source that doesn’t know you.

That's like saying Frodo was the best hobbit.

You know, hobbits, from The Lord of the Rings.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world, there were wizards, humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and dragons. The smallest of these creatures were the hobbits. These were the guys who were half the height of dwarves. Being that dwarves were half the height of humans, this made hobbits very, very short.

As a result, hobbits were seen as unimportant. Irrelevant even.

And the hobbits, as Tolkien explained, were happy with this. They were fine to stay in their part of the world and not bother with international politics. If the outside world didn't interfere with them, they would leave the outside world alone.

One such hobbit, Frodo Baggins, came into possession of the One Ring- the one thing that could decide whether good or evil prevailed.

And so Frodo, small and unimpressive, set out with his friends to take care of the ring. Journeying with him was Samwise Gamgee otherwise known as Sam, Peregrin Took aka Perry, and Meriadoc Brandybuck aka Merry. Each was unique with their own quirks and personality.

These four hobbits, though small and “irrelevant” ended up becoming the deciding factor in entire battle for the soul of the world; Merry would go on to help slay the Witch-King, Perry would play a vital role in distracting the leader of the evil forces, and Sam would help Fordo get all the way to Mt. Doom, where Frodo tossed the One Ring into open lava.

Peace was restored.

Not bad for four hobbits.

While it would be easy to say that Frodo was the best hobbit of all because he destroyed the One Ring, that’d be a little presumptuous. He did have the hardest job, but without help from the other three, Frodo would have never gotten close to Mt. Doom.

It's okay then to prefer Sam, Merry, or Perry to Frodo. People have their reasons for liking one over the other. Just like they have their reasons for not choosing "the best" product out there.

Like when it comes to picking a Wi-Fi router.

Bands and Numbers

Before picking a router, take stock of your Wi-Fi needs at home.

For those using one device on a consistent basis, 5 Mbps is the download speed that works best for you. With that in mind, you can save some money by avoiding the higher end routers.

If you’re downloading content on multiple devices--like Netflix through your Apple TV and streaming a game on your PlayStation 4--getting a download speed of 45 Mbps is best to handle the larger amount of data going back and forth.

Knowing this will help you decide which router is best for your home.

For homes with light internet usage, a single-band router is best. For homes with heavy internet usage, a dual-band router would be best.

Single-band

Single-band routers use just one frequency.

This is great if you’re using a few devices throughout your home. They can handle the usual amount of data going back and forth.

The downside is the frequency they use, 2.4 GHz. This frequency is usually used by Bluetooth devices, microwaves, and wireless phones. Those devices can inadvertently disrupt your Wi-Fi signal.

The dual-band routers use the 2.4 GHz frequency and a second frequency of 5 GHz. That 5 GHz frequency is less common. This second frequency is better used for third-party devices, giving you a less-impeded channel to work with.

Dual-band routers are great for homes where multiple devices are downloading at once. You can even assign a channel to a specific device. And with more than one frequency in use, downloads can be performed simultaneously instead of one at a time.

As you would expect, dual-band routers are more expensive, so take that into account when you decide to purchase.

No matter the router you decide to buy, you’ll notice that all will come with a number and the letters “AC.”

AC refers to Wi-Fi protocol number, 802.11ac. AC is the version of the protocol in use. There’s 802.11b, 802.11m, and others. The letters denote the gradual improvements and modifications over previous versions.

When it comes to designing routers, the engineers involved decided to use this "AC" for labeling purposes. The AC is for the protocol number. 802.11ac indicates the level of the Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO) the router is capable of. For example; Of all the data streaming through the router at one time, the projected maximum speed the router can handle is something like 1300 Mbps. You won’t get that speed exactly, but the router can hypothetically handle the volume of 1300 Mbps. Therefore, if you’re downloading 50 Mbps in one room and 30 Mbps in another, an AC1300 router will handle that just fine.

Of all the numbers on your router, look for the one that starts with “AC.” This is the best indicator of whether your router can handle the amount of data you plan to be downloading and uploading at one time.

The Brands

Now that we’ve gotten the numbers and bands bit out of the way, let’s talk about the brand themselves. All brands listed below come highly rated. This doesn’t mean they’re the top brands, but professional reviewers have marked them highly and on a consistent basis.

You can also check out the best brands after you’ve found the best internet providers in your zip code.

If you’re looking into a brand not listed, drop us a comment to let us know what you think, why you like/don’t like it, and whether you’d recommend it over the ones listed below.

You may have recognized the name from the laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other electronics. They’re the fifth largest PC vendor in the world. This means their products are a good alternative to Apple and Microsoft.

Their Wi-Fi routers are consistently ranking highly among review sites like PC Mag, CNet, and Tom’s Guide. While this may mean they’re a little bit more expensive than other brands, they’re worth the price tag to ensure your stream devices run smoothly.

Unlike Asus, Netgear focuses on networking hardware almost exclusively. This gives them an edge over their competition here. It does limit them a little bit when it comes to other products.

Taking the “D” from its founding company, Datex Systems, D-Link is also based out of Taipei along with Asus. Like Netgear, they focus solely on networking equipment.

Owned by Belkin, Linksys is a networking equipment company that creates networking equipment for consumers and small businesses. Unlike Asus, Netgear, and D-Link that provide business and enterprise networking solutions, Linksys prefers to keep it small.

One Brand to Rule Them All?

When it comes to reliability, Asus and Netgear rank the highest among their competitors. Brands like Linksys are generally cheaper and easier to use. And the rest will fall somewhere between the two.

This doesn’t mean one brand is the best out of every single one of them. That’s a choice that will b depend on your needs and well as what your home can accommodate.

So which brand do you prefer? Is there a brand that’s not listed here you think should be included?

Leave a comment and let us know.

In the meantime, stay up-to-date with On The Download.


Should Netflix Have Content Quotas?

Netflix provides a lot of content. But should a percentage of that content come from a specific geographic region?

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Roughly 90% of what I watch, I stream through Netflix. If I’m not streaming through my TV, then I’m streaming it through the Netflix app.

I consume my content this way because of convenience. It's easy, it's right there, and there are no commercials! Yes, I'm admitting I’m lazy. It’s something that I’m working on. Netflix is also enabling me.

Despite Netflix enabling of my apathy, I enjoy the content offered. It also helps that I checked out the best internet deals and packages.

Not everything I find there is something I want to watch though.

I would prefer, every now and then, to partake in content that’s centered around my hometown of San Antonio, TX. Not southern California dolled up to look like San Antonio. Instead, I'd prefer a more realistic facsimile.

Not only that, the program should present the city of San Antonio as it truly is. The representation should be based on current trends and not what people in Hollywood assume it is- some uber-conservative town steeped in old thinking (San Antonio is quite progressive, and I should know, I live here).

Can I find this on Netflix?

No, not at all.

Should it be a near-accurate representation of San Antonio in both image and sociological makeup?

I would say, “Yes.”

And can I require Netflix to create that show just for me?

Given my laziness—yes, absolutely I should!

Is it the right way to create content?

…hmmm.

Content Quotas

Although I might have some influence—something like 0.000000000000000001% influence—I highly doubt Netflix will scramble to make my dream become a reality.

Why?

Because they’re not even doing that for the European Union.

Recently, the EU took to changing up the rules they impose on outside entertainment services. Part of that rewrite includes demanding that Netflix allot 30% of their catalog to content centered on European works.

Netflix, understandably, balked at the maneuver.

I can see where the EU is coming from though.

They want to see more and more content that reflects the socioeconomic, ethnic, and regional background of their viewers. This will lead to less alienation, and hopefully, more confidence in oneself. Or maybe they’re just looking to provide opportunities to the content creators themselves? I’m inferring those last two points.

Anyway, this move could backfire.

You’ve heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”?

The road to hell can start with these good intentions.

By holding Netflix responsible for creating content specifically geared towards a subset of their audience, Netflix gets hamstrung. They need to figure out what types of programs those viewers like to watch, bring in producers for it, and create the appropriate content. This ties up money and creative powers.

Sure, it helps those specific content creators.

But are they going to create something worth watching for the wider audience? It's possible.

Ethics aside, forcing the many to watch something that appeals to the few will end up alienating the larger group in the end.

And if there’s a quota to meet, then quality will get sacrificed so that Netflix can say, “Hey, we met the quota, so what are you complaining about?”

A Different Tact

Is it more advantageous to create content aimed at specific sub-groups?

Sure. Why not?

As I mentioned earlier, I demand a program centered on San Antonio that doesn’t involve someone butchering a Texas accent, or making all Texans look ignorant.

But forcing Netflix to create that just for me will end up alienating viewers from Dallas, Houston, and the hipsters up the road in Austin. Soon they’ll get their own shows too. When that happens, I’ll refuse to watch them based on principle. This will drive overall viewership down and put Netflix in a bind. They could end up losing money on this content.

This solution is bad.

To solve this problem I’m required to (sigh) get up and do something about it.

If I desire to watch content about San Antonio that represents it honestly, then I need to go out there and make it myself. And if it’s no good, then Netflix can pass on the project. This will, in turn, force me to work harder to create content that’s of quality and will appeal to the mass audience.

And it will involve…sigh…work.

For those who want to have content that better reflects who they are, they’ll have to go out and create it themselves. Or get on board with a project.

Others Can Help

Given how much Netflix is pouring into their content creation, they probably can accommodate new content from creators from specific areas. If the content is approved, Netflix can add it into their catalog and appeal to that specific sub-category whilst still putting out content for the larger audiences. Netflix will handle the distribution while the creators handle the production end.

Another option would be for local and regional governments to offer incentives to content creators. For example; the San Antonio Film Commission offers a 7.5% incentive on film and television project with at least $100,000 of approved San Antonio spending (check the details at filmsanantonio.com). This is to help content creators secure locations and equipment in San Antonio for their projects.

With this kind of assistance, burgeoning projects can find a place to shoot their film in and around San Antonio. They can avoid straining their budget and keep an authentic look. Once filming is wrapped, they can move forward with presenting it to distribution outlets, like Netflix.

It serves as a better motivation for content creators, as opposed to making Netflix go and find content creators. While it sounds a little elitist, this keeps sub-par content from getting distribution.

In the end, it will work out better for Netflix, the greater viewing audience, and even me!


6 Reasons to Laugh this Halloween

There are scary movies and then there are movies that spoof scary movies. This Halloween, let's laugh more than we scream.

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This Halloween I’d much rather be laughing than screaming when I watch a movie. Instead of having to decide between a comedy or a horror film, why not enjoy both? Watch a horror-comedy! Now don’t worry, there are plenty of movies out there to scare you. You’ve got your Chucky films, gore-fest stuff, the found footage flicks and your straight up freaky killer films. Just get onto your streaming service and I’m sure they’re not far off. Before you do, just make sure you check out the best internet deals and packages in your area. Because nothing is scarier than paying more for your internet than you absolutely need to. Right? For those out there who don’t enjoy the jump scares, blood spraying profusely from an artery, or that creepy guy who just likes killing people- you’re in luck. There are plenty of horror spoof movies out there. Like the Wayan Brothers’ with their Scary Movie series and A Haunted House films. Then there are the movies with horror creatures in them that are put into odd situations, like Warm Bodies. These are humorous twists on standard comedy setups. What I’m talking about are the movies that mock the clichés of the classic horror films. There are spoofs, which are over-the-top in their humor. And then there are these types of films which aim to tell an actual story with a humorous take on the “scary movie format.” Trust me, they are well worth your time.

Zombieland


Who doesn’t like Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin? This move teamed up with all four actors in a comedic look at the zombie genre. Instead of putting people into the usual “zombie outbreak set in X location,” it was a story about people. Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Columbus, is quite lonely. Although he’s survived the zombie apocalypse and is continuing to survive, it’s not the way to live. This is more of a metaphor for modern life, but we can save that analysis for the critics. The point is, Columbus must overcome his own “rules for survival” to make a human connection. And in doing so he’ll not only survive, but he’ll also find happiness. It’s also chockful of great one-liners from Harrelson; “You got taken hostage by a twelve-year-old?” “You ever seen a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?” “My mama always told me someday I’d be good at something. Who’s a guessed that something’d be zombie-killing?” And his catchphrase… which shall be saved for later.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It and Young Frankenstein

Thanks to a lot of Dracula movies being made, Mel Brooks decided it was time to spoof them all. Hence, Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Instead of finding an actor who would just parody Christopher Lee, Brooks went and signed on one of the best comedic actors ever- Leslie Nielsen. Best known for his role as Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun series, Neilsen was perfect for this role. He did the whole Transylvania accent and creepy act so well. We also can’t forget Stephen Weber, Amy Yasbeck, Lysette Anthony, and Peter MacNicol. And we can’t forget Young Frankenstein either. This was Brooks’ first spoof of a classic Hollywood monster, and the movie is full of references to other Frankenstein films. Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle comprise a stellar cast that put the horror classic in its place. And instead of doing it in color, Brooks went with the black-and-white to give that antique feel. It still has that old classic horror film feel but filled with antics that will have you crying from laughter. These two spoofs were done just right. Not too much over-the-top antics, but the just the right amount of absurdity to really bring home the laughs. “Oh, I was having a day-mare.”

Evil Dead 2


In 1981, Sam Raimi created an independent horror flick called Evil Dead. It was scary enough, with some inventive camera techniques and gore. But the film tried too hard to be scary and came off as funny instead. Riding that success, Raimi did a sequel/reboot of the first film with Evil Dead 2. It was the same basic story but turned into a comedy-horror film. So now it could be over the top and everyone was okay with that. And this is where Bruce Campbell got his start, as Ash Williams. When Evil Dead 2 took off, Raimi made a third movie to create a trilogy- Army of Darkness. And now Ash is known as a cult hero on par with John McClane and Indiana Jones. In 2013 Raimi remade Evil Dead as a true horror film. And now it looks like that’ll be getting a sequel too. Enough about that, what’s important to know is that Evil Dead 2 is meant to be a cheap-looking horror film. Thanks to Campbell, it more than delivers on laughs.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

With all these horror movies about “evil,” has anyone stopped to look at it from “their” perspective? This is how we get Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, playing the titular Tucker and Dale respectively, are perfect for these roles. They’re just two hapless country boys who are trying to fix up their summer cabin, which also looks surprisingly like the cabin from Evil Dead. Anyway, a bunch of college students show up and start killing themselves. Or do they? As the two witless friends try to figure out what’s going on, hilarity ensues with several bodies involved. Be sure to look for how the normal horror movie tropes are NOT followed.

A Cabin in the Woods


While the previous five were out and out comedies, A Cabin in the Woods is something different. It satirizes the horror classics by making a dark comedy of what’s going on at this creepy-looking cabin. And yes, this cabin is similar to the one from Evil Dead as well. Apparently, there’s a certain type of cabin that’s scarier than others. I won’t ruin the end, but you’ll understand once you see it. Anyway, this film was made pre-Thor. Don’t be surprised when you see a thinner, more lean Chris Hemsworth. Along with Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams, these are the five college teens who go to “a cousin’s” cabin in some non-descript woods. Little do they know that they’re being watched by a shadowy no-name organization. The guys running this little operation are played by Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, and Brian White. To explain this organization would give away the entire plot of the movie. But know that Joss Whedon wrote the script with Drew Goddard, so it’s worth the time to watch it.

Laughter is Always Better

While a thriller is good for entertainment occasionally, laughter is by far a better choice. And with Halloween so close, there are plenty of chances to get scared, if you’re into that sort of thing. As for the rest who’d rather not create undue stress on their hearts, there are these comedy horror films. They’ll make you laugh and it’s been proven that laughter has more health benefits than screaming does. Underneath it all, you’re really doing something healthy for yourself when you watch a comedy. And not just any comedy, but a good comedy film.


Chucky is Preferable to these Films

There are scary films and then there are the truly terrifying films out there. Forget gore and jump-scares, there are truly terrifying stories out there.

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There are scary films and then there are the truly terrifying films out there. Of course, there are things that are scary; that creepy person who follows you a little too closely, someone walking up behind you and you not hearing them, and the odd bird or two that flies too close to you or your car while driving. These are scary, sure. They’re scary in the sense that they make you jump, or they play on the fear that someone or something is not quite right. In the latter situation, you worry that maybe you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Or are you? There are films that play on those fears. The fears that start out as blatantly irrational only to become eerily real. You know, films like Chucky. Of course, there’s no way a doll could be possessed. And you keep telling yourself that. Then there’s that one night you’re working late in a retail store and you pass by the toy section. At the end of the aisle is a display of little baby dolls. And just as you walk by this little display the lights go out. You hear the canned recording of children’s laughter. Then a footstep…

Cheap Horrors

That was a true story, by the way. I was working in a retail store right out of college and it was getting close to a holiday. As a result, I had a lot of clean up to do that night. The lights for the store were on a timer set to turn off at midnight. That little display I mentioned? It was hooked up to a motion sensor so that when people walked by, the little doll would wiggle and laugh to catch their attention. Well, when you walk by at 11:59:59 pm, the lights turn off as you trip the motion sensor. The store goes dark and little doll giggles and laughs. I have to remind myself of this every time I tell the story because it was just too much of a coincidence. Right? That’s cheap horror. The jump scares and the absurd amounts of blood that come gushing out of a wound. It’s a basic approach to scaring people. And it’s used a lot in horror movies. Rest assured, little baby dolls with canned laughed and giggles don’t terrify me. It was the situation that did.

Real Fear

Most of these cheap horrors are entertaining to watch. Mainly because the “fear” they present is due to an over-contrived situation. I don’t watch a lot of horror movies because I find the writing to be pretty basic. And if you’ve watched enough of them, you can easily pick who’s going to die, and in what order, within the first ten minutes of the film. But every now and then I end up watching a film or reading a book, that does send shivers down my spine. These films and books don’t deal with the paranormal or some cooked up and extreme situation. These are plausible. Not just possible, but plausible in that someone could pull these things off. And is most likely alive and well at this moment. After reading the book or watching the movie, I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. I may not sleep well that night either. Eventually, I do get over the fear and figure out how to live a productive life. But if you’re looking for some genuine thrills for Halloween, check out these films, and at least one book. You can download them through your favorite streaming service, so long as you have the best internet deals available.

Contagion

 

I grew up on the northern coast of California. When I was about ten, I think, a small city nearby was used as the main filming location for a thriller called Outbreak. I didn’t watch the film until I was well into my twenties because the thought of a real outbreak scared me. Luckily this film just focused on one town becoming infected and was more action-oriented. Thus, I felt prepared to watch another Outbreak-like film. Then I watched Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh. I was wrong. Contagion was not just one city but the entire world. The virus that causes all the death begins presenting with normal cold symptoms. And then people begin to drop rather rapidly. It didn’t help that Matt Damon plays the dad of a child who gets infected. He survives and has to protect his one other child as the rest of the world falls apart. Then there were the scenes of empty streets and mass gravesites. That just made it worse. Thanks a lot, Soderbergh. There were other storylines but identified with Damon’s role because I am a dad. And the fact that a virus could move that fast was also freaky. Really makes you think twice about washing your hands.

Seven


Directed by David Fincher, Seven walks the fine line between thriller and horror. The film does a good job of focusing on the suspense parts instead of the gore and horror. But that stuff’s in there too, so there’s no avoiding it. The dark cinematography, the grainy scenes, and the bad weather in LA contributed to the bleak mood of the entire film. I’m not one for gross-out types of horror. My brother talked me into watching it. And knowing my brother’s choice in films, I should have ignored him. But here we are. Anyway, the gross-out stuff was easy enough to forget. It was the serial murderer that made it worse. The fact that there was someone out there deranged enough to go those lengths just made me shiver. After all, Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were based on Ed Gein, a real person who really did gross-out, disgusting stuff to a corpse.

Arlington Road


What makes Arlington Road so terrifying is that I watched it as a teenager, well before the 9/11 attacks happened. At first, I was just creeped out that my neighbor might be a homegrown terrorist. And then after the attacks, I was even more freaked out because it seemed even more likely that I lived next to someone who could do horrible things like that. You see, Arlington Road was about a professor, played by Jeff Bridges, who suspects his next-door neighbor, Tim Robbins, is a homegrown terrorist. As the story progresses we get a distinct feeling that Bridges is right, and Robbins really is planning an attack on a government building. A minor detail here is that they live in the DC area, and Bridges teaches at an area university. Of course, Bridges girlfriend doesn’t believe him. Then she disappears. It gets scarier from there, but you get the point.

Apt Pupil


I haven’t seen this film yet, but I did read the short story it was based on. And it was written by Stephen King. I also listened to the audiobook, narrated with the haunting voice of Frank Mueller. Unlike most of King’s other works, this one doesn’t deal in paranormal anything. Set in the early 1970s, a teenager, Todd, discovers a Nazi war criminal is living in his small town. Although he has convincing forgeries that give him the alias of Denker, he’s really Dussander, the former commandant of the fictional Patin Concentration Camp. Instead of turning him in, Todd wants to hear the “gooshy” details of what it was really like during the war. Todd thinks the textbooks have watered down everything. It’s not exciting to read about it. He wants to hear it from someone who was there, in person. In exchange for his silence, Dussander, AKA Denker, agrees and begins to tell Todd what he wants to hear. And then they both start getting nightmares. The nightmares turn into daytime “activities.” Soon both are spiraling out of control. Not only is the short story scary, but the audiobook is even more so. Frank Mueller, the narrator, reads it in a solemn, reserved tone. He also does a superb job of imitating a German accent. As Dussander begins to lose his mind, Mueller’s narration gets creepier and creepier. This is apparent in reading Dussander’s lines of dialogue. To top it all off, King has a character give a sort of “final summation.” You see, Dussander is on various watch lists, both in the United States and abroad. A Nazi hunter from Israel gets involved in the story. I won’t spoil the details, but this guy, named Weiskopf, has a chance to sit down with a detective and explain the cold reasons behind what made Dussander so efficient at his job. Dussander wasn’t sadistic to start with. He was bad, no doubt, but he wanted to rise in the ranks because he believed in Hitler. To please Der Fuhrer, he worked harder to make sure all orders were carried out “swiftly and efficiently.” Thanks to Dussander’s attention to detail, he figured out more efficient ways of carrying out Hitler’s “Final Solution.” This is why he earned the nickname “The Blood Fiend of Patin.” He found ways, through accounting, to make sure he met or exceeded his quotas. This is why, as Weiskopf explains, that if a government ever tries something close to what Hitler did, it’s not the psychos or the sadists we should worry about. It’s the accountants. Because they’ll find ways to calmly, coldly—efficiently—wipe out large portions of a population.