Monday, September 27, 2021

That's Not Captain America's Shield!


Extreme, loving, close attention was paid to the legendary shield of Captain America in the Disney series The Falcon and Winter Soldier. It was such a big deal. Who would inherit the legacy? Who would take up the mantle? It seems so emotional, so meaningful, except's not Captain America's real shield.


If you haven't seen The Falcon and Winter Soldier or Loki, please do, they are very worth watching. Having grown up reading Marvel comics, I appreciate every detail the writers put in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. It's like watching sequels to Iron Man, The Avengers and Captain America. I am about to give away many secrets and plotlines, so don't read any more of this if you aren't caught up and don't want to know.


In the original Captain America his shield is given to him by Tony Stark's father. It's a silver disc made of concentric circles. There is a star in the middle.There are no gaps or black symbols. The star in the middle is basic. It's made entirely of vibranium.There are no lines bisecting the circles. No strange, black, trapezoids along the lines. Within the stars there are no coffin-shaped designs. Just a star, a circle, and radiating, circular lines. It was destroyed by Thanos in Avengers Endgame.

Look closely.


In the Marvel comic books (Earth-616) Captain America's shield is an admixture of vibranium and admantium. Vibranium absorbs impacts and is invulnerable because the force is redirected by the metal. Admantium is just damn hard, but like any tough metal if you hit it rough enough, it cracks.

In the movies the real reason Captain America's shield is destroyed by Thanos is because The Mad Titan's impacts were so devastating Captain America's pure vibranium shield couldn't redirect the force, so it shattered from the vibrations. That's why Black Panther is so badass. His vibranium outfit absorbs hits until he redirects the force into a blast. In the comics Captain America's vibranium/admantium shield is destroyed because of The Infinity Gauntlet, not a sword made of uru.

Ah, the good old days...


Throughout the Iron Man films there is a variant of the shield that shows up on occasion. You keep seeing it throughout the films. Something important to remember is that after Captain America ended up frozen in Antarctica, research continued. Stark's father certainly kept going with is ideas, and given the amazing abilities of Iron Man's armor thanks to nanotech, there are so many possibilities. They keep showing us this other shield for a reason.

Probably not a coincidence.

If Captain America had ditched the vibranium shield and asked Tony Stark to design a new shield, built to withstand Thanos and utilize all the technology and innovation Iron Man made use of, what would that shield be like? In both Avengers Infinity War and Endgame, Iron Man uses a shield. The first is nanotech. The second is some sort of energy field. This is an important detail. After Captain America debriefs Stark, the inventor could give him a shield that is prepared to take on Thanos and more.


At the end of Avengers Infinity War, an old Captain America shows up after a younger one takes off to the past to return the Infinity Stones. We are not shown this adventure. It is presumed that the stones were returned. So we have no idea what really happened after young Captain America took off and came back.

Notice the gaps in the groove.

Assuming he isn't a Skrull or variant, this Captain America gives Falcon a shield. Everyone is cool with this. It's unusual, when you think about it. The real shield was just destroyed by Thanos. Where did this one come from? Since we just watched Thor steal a Mjionor hammer from the past, this new shield was assumed to come from the "normal" past. It didn't.  

There's another problem. Captain America was returning Thor's hammer. So, isn't taking a shield from the past bad if we have to return important, iconic, unique artifacts like Captain America's shield and Thor's hammer? So this older version of the hero is a variant from an alternate reality, right? And Loki taught us variants aren't always good things. As soon as that new shield was handed over to Falcon, Hulk should have intervened, considering the advice he just gave.

Something to remember is that this older version isn't dead. He's out there, somewhere. Is he in the same dimension as Falcon and Winter Soldier? Did he return to an alternate reality? Is he still talking to Hulk, or any of the characters? We don't know. Watching a meeting between old Captain America and his younger self would have been incredible, and the conversation would have had profound effects on the MCU.

Obvious differences.


Having personally done film before, I can assure you a lot of attention is paid to making sure everything in the last shot matched the next one. If my character hands you a Rossi .357 magnum revolver, and in the next scene you are holding a .45 Springfield semiautomatic pistil, that's a problem. Observing viewers will notice the difference.

Hulk warns Captain America about traveling back in time and creating new realities. He describes them as, "nasty." A warning is given about returning the stones to the exact places they were left. However, Loki informs us that when an Infinity Stone is displaced, a new reality results. When Captain America chose to stay behind all new possibilities, as well as problems, surfaced. He didn't even return the way he was expected to.

Now, really think about what just happened. Captain America's return is practically a punch line. "Don't screw up," Hulk warns him, and The First Avenger returns, very old. Looks like somebody screwed up, bad. Remember, when The Ancient One showed Hulk the problems of an alternate timeline, it is presented as an ominous, dark cut branching out from the original. Obviously, this is intended to show us how terrible these places are.

Instead of showing up in the time machine, he is just there, sitting on a bench by a lake. Captain America gives a shield to Falcon. After watching Loki it's important that this person giving his symbol away could be just a variant of Captain America. He didn't return via the machine. He just appeared. Out of the hundreds of others that exist in the multiverse, hopefully this character didn't return with a different agenda and a new piece of equipment.

This shield is vastly different than the one Captain America just lost to Thanos. The new one has a black line bisecting the inside white/silver circle of the shield. Black symbols the shape of trapezoids break up the line. The star symbol inside the blue of the shield has coffin shaped designs inside the arms of the star. There is another symbol inside the center of the star. This new shield seems designed to open up, somehow. The trapezoid symbols could be part of a hatch.

Not the old one at all.

Since we saw Agent Carter getting arrested in the background of Loki, something is probably going on behind the scenes. The audience is told that The Avengers were supposed to do what they used time travel to do. When young Captain America is replaced by an older one with a different shield, nobody notices because of the sweet, sad music and feelings, despite the fact that Hulk's advice was obviously just ignored.


At the end of Loki it is revealed that Kang did, and always has, won. The Time Variance Authority could have existed the entire time The Avengers films were happening, and we wouldn't have noticed since the audience has been told Kang allows the time travel heist to happen. Why wouldn't he? It's how the Conqueror probably conquered.

Since the effects of Kang's supremacy are immediately felt throughout time (at the end of Loki the statues within the TVA change, reflecting Kang's eternal supremacy) it's easy to see why a Captain America leaving, and then a different, older one with a strange shield showing up is a bad sign.

Look at this all from Kang's perspective. Thanos is a rival. The Avengers are your enemies. How is the playing field looking like by the end of the films?

If you are going to conquer a realm, the best bet is to get that realm to fight itself, slaughter the survivors and sweep once the civil war is over. Thanos is gone from one timeline and dead two times. His army is obliterated. Asgard is destroyed, Loki is dead, Thor has left Earth and been replaced by a person who deserted their post once and even betrayed Thor for money. The populace of Asgard is also decimated. No Odin either, so his advice won't help.

The bad new shield?

Tony Stark, the only technical genius that might understand how to defeat Kang, is dead. Hulk's arm is shriveled. Black Widow is dead. Captain America is a geriatric octogenarian. The Vision, an immortal machine man privy to the greatest secrets of two of the most intelligent minds Earth had to offer, is also dead. From Kang's perspective, killing The Vision would be very important. There is no team of mighty superheroes to stop him. If the circle and the trapezoid represent his supremacy, the five coffin shapes within the shield may as well be for his potential adversaries. No wonder he won.

Another fact is that in the comics, Kang just can't fight Thanos. The latter is too powerful for the former to combat directly, and Thanos is smart enough to figure out just about every plan or technology Kang could use. The one weapon the Conqueror had (aside from surprise) was time, and he used it on Thanos to win.


When Captain America went back to the past and stayed there, he didn't just sit around and keep his mouth shut. He didn't just have to stones, he had Thor's hammer. The events surrounding his adventure to return all that could easily be the plot for an entire series. Since he planned on staying in the past, his plan probably included preparing it for the future. This meant telling his story.

Think of all the things he knew, from how his vibranium shield would be destroyed by Thanos, to The Snap that killed half of all life in the universe, to Loki's invasion of New York City, Bucky's fate, how to stop Hitler, the destruction of Asgard...everything. Since time was on his side (where he went, Tony Stark had not even been born yet) he and the people Captain America warned had plenty of time to prepare. It's annoying that we don't know if he came from the past, or another timeline.

If he stayed in the same past as Falcon, doesn't that mean there were two Captain America's? Where was this other one hiding out? Was one frozen solid while the Captain America from the future was talking? Did they just keep frozen Captain America on ice, and he's in Antarctica while future Captain America is handing his shield to Falcon? What a headache. It gets worse when you consider that old Captain America could actually be one from a different reality. With all that in mind...what's in that other shield he brought back from the past?

Still alive? An old advisor, or frozen hero?

Remember, this man is an epic superhero. If he could go back in time and bend/break the rules to warn everyone and save the lives of billions, including his personal friends like Tony Stark and Black Widow, he would. The older Cap could have come from a happy, benevolent utopia where everything worked out for the best. From his perspective, the timeline he came back to could have been a wrong one.


By the way, it's worth noting that right now, in the MCU...a young Captain America is frozen in Antarctica. What? If he went back in the past to be with his girl, the other one is probably not around. Why would his girlfriend want to be with two men? Leaving the other one on ice until they thaw him out later would make sense. He even has a vibranium shield, which is why future Captain America didn't come back with that. He returned with something better.


To understand the future let's look at the past. Black Panther's vibranium armor stores up kinetic energy and then releases it. We have yet to see the new shield take a really hard hit. Since Thanos hit the other one so hard to shatter it, channeling that energy into a blast to whup the ass Thanos sits on makes sense. Iron Man also creates an energy shield at one point. Maybe the other Captain America shield does that now.

Another is that Tony Stark left a hologram that talks to everyone after he's dead in Avengers Endgame. Putting a hologram like that in the shield to warn everyone about Kang would be a great idea. At the right time, with the right trigger, he could pop out and tell the future about what the past figured out.

The good old shield. 

That shield has a lot of room, and Tony Stark eventually used nanotech. For all we know there are tiny cameras and microphones inside the new shield, transmitting information to another timeline or somewhere else. Once Kang starts to be a problem, glowing people could appear and offer solutions.

The shield could even be a time travel device. Sure, Captain America could have just been hanging out for many, many decades until he made his stealth roll to sit on a park bench. Or he could have used the shield to send him there from another timeline. TVA technology can create doorways to travel through time. They could also have sent him over using some technology until they beamed him back after he dropped the shield off. At the right moment, that shield could go off, making everyone teleport to the same timeline.


The symbolism of the five coffins is easily understood. Thanos, Iron Man, Loki, Black Widow and The Vision. The coffins also represent the fact the Avengers team is effectively dead. The circle within the white circle on the inside of the shield was a warning. Since Captain America is basically super old now, the fifth coffin could represent him.

Old shield with no line, gaps, or coffins.

Again, pay careful attention to what The Hulk says to Captain America. He says to watch out for bad potential timelines. Almost as if it was the punch line to a joke, when Captain American vanishes he is immediately replaced by an older version sitting at a bench. We saw a similar logic in place when Ant-Man kept coming back messed up, so this was foreshadowing. 

The black line and trapezoids on the shield is foreshadowing. In Loki, Kang's supremacy is symbolized by a circle representing The Sacred Timeline and a strange shape, similar to a trapezoid, that is Kang's castle. Since Kang won (he tells us so in Loki) Captain America basically left and came back with a shield showing Kang's victory. If he had come back with a shield that had a hammer and sickle on it we would have noticed something was wrong.

Kang's castle looks like a trapezoid. Each one on the shield could also represent the flawed, murderous rule Kang's supremacy lead to, since each one symbolizing a timeline created by Captain America going back in time with the Infinity Stones with the circle symbolizing Kang's own timeline. Since The Time Variance Authority are all mind controlled slaves with their memories wiped clean who kill whole timelines to preserve Kang's rule, a trapezoid is a proper symbol.

Look familiar?


There's also something else to consider. We are given no real evidence that the old Captain America that shows up is the same one that vanished. He doesn't have the same shield. He's older. Could he be a robot? Kang mind controls people by wiping their memories clean. He could probably plant new ones. Maybe this older Captain America is evil, and the real one is somewhere out there, lost in time.

This older, variant Captain America might also be from a timeline where he is evil and America is a fascist dictatorship. The strange shield he brought back could be a danger to the past, which is Kang's present and our future. The new Captain America shield could be a time bomb! Like we learned in Loki, not all variants of a hero, or villain, are the same. Older Cap could also be Older Evil Cap, working for Kang. Either way, good or bad, he helped The Conqueror.

From the original film. So, how many actually exist?


The next movies coming out set the stage nicely for the new Captain America, featuring Falcon. I'm glad he got a shield. Flying around without a helmet in a jetpack while other heroes like Iron Man and War Machine get indestructible armor is insulting. That new shield is going to be a factor in the film, and by then we are going to know more about Kang the Conqueror because there's going to be another Spider-Man film, another Doctor Strange film, and another Ant-Man and Wasp.

Most of these movies include the other characters. If that shield has any special properties, we are going to learn about them. There's also another Avengers film coming out, and it would be a fun surprise if a shield that has been in the audience's face for so long is revealed to be completely different and essential to the story line involving Kang.

There's also something else I've noticed.

At the end of Loki the camera backs out of a black hole. We see a spacecraft flying towards us for an instant, as if trying to leave. Is that The Avengers? The X-Men? The Fantastic Four? All of them have access to spacecraft. Why are they leaving? Where are they going? We then see another black hole. Why two? Why not five or six? Is Kang lying? Did he just photocopy the universe and conquer that? When Thanos used the Infinity Stones to destroy them, since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, a new universe was probably created (we were told they were created during The Big Bang) when they were.

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so the 'Stones became another universe.

We leave the black hole and escape the singularity (how did we do that?) and end up in another black hole. Further and further the POV travels until we are at Kang's castle. So Loki is inside a black hole with a copy of another universe in a black hole inside of it. That clears things up nicely. Not.

Now that I've really thought about it, the ship you saw leaving the singularity from the last episode of Loki, season 1, was probably owned by The Collector. What was he collecting? Or who?

The Collector's ship.

When Star Lord is first introduced, he is dancing along to "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone. In Avengers Infinity War, he is doing the exact same thing on the exact same planet in the exact same position listening to the exact same song. It's practically synchronized. Sure, it could be that Star Lord does that alot. Or it could be that the events of Avengers Infinity War and Avengers Endgame take place in a completely different universe.

When Doctor Strange first sees the multiverse, it's not parallel universes. The imagery is psychedelic. When The Hulk talks to The Ancient One, she says infinity stones create universes. In Avengers Infinity War, Doctor Strange saw many, many universes where Thanos was not defeated. Only one timeline allowed The Avengers to where anyone who is a threat to Kang is destroyed. How convenient.

Where did he go? What did he get? Where is he going? Why?

When we catch up with Star Lord it could be that it's a clue the audience is watching a parallel universe, where Star Lord already met his friends before ending up where he was, again, only for him it's the first time. I honestly don't know. Maybe that other universe we saw in Loki is a photocopy created from the destruction of the first set of Infinity Stones, and all of the characters that died in the first universe are in that one.

That's enough mystery for today. Sorry I cannot answer any of these questions that have just been created. We'll have to be patient. What does this new Captain America shield truly represent, for the future of the MCU? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


"UNGAZILIBALI (Don't Forget Yourself)" is a beautiful, poetic paean about hope, healing and unity at a time when such a message is needed most. In response to women throughout the country suffering from abuse, this single is a majestic, soulful song that has brought together five very talented artists, like fingers, to make a fist for the women facing oppression and violence in South Africa and anywhere else where positive spirituality is needed against political oppression. While traditional records labels can choke out some promising musical genius, digital distributors like Platoon are helping to get female creators the attention they've earned and help worthy causes while doing so.

In honor of Women's Month in South Africa the five most popular musicians in the country combined their energies and unique talents to bring up the hopes of women with an appropriate anthem. Ami Faku, Bonga Kwana, Msaki, Zolani Mahola and Eryn Allen Kane are all elements in a synthesis from across the planet that certainly captivates. "The magic happens when there is no agenda and you're not trying to force're just trying to make magic...and I think that is happening. The world should hear it," says Platoon's Co-Founder and CEO, Denzyl Feigelson, about the collaborative effort.

Platoon, a music company straight out of London, UK (as well as Cape Town, South Africa), has provided independent, unsigned, alternative artists like the ladies responsible for "UNGAZILIBALI" with a chance to reach out to listeners without going through a stifling official corporate record monolith. They not only have mighty musical mavens like Mr. Eazi, Maleek Berry, and Raleigh Ritchie, Platoon is also sponsoring artists that have gone onto major labels like Billie Eilish and Stefflon Don. "All these amazing artists who make records that aren't of interest to labels would be able to find an audience directly," says Feigelson. "We believe that artists do their best work when they have creative and economic freedom."

For the women who created the single, the project wasn't just business, it was personal."It's really special because this is something you can only accomplish when there are five women in the room. It's a very unique way to write," said Msaki, who is also a composer and producer. Singer Ami Faku added, "This is for my future daughter to tell her that I believe in her and trust her, and that she shouldn't be putting my fears or experiences upon her own life." Zolani Mahola, a singer that brings her own unique empathy as well as energy to the work, adds "This world is deeply in need of our particular energy and our particular voice."

Bonga Kwana (aka Nokubonga Kwana), a self-taught poet, singer and songwriter, reminds listeners of the song's motivational message: "People should take care of themselves." Eryn Allen Kane, a musician from Detroit, Michigan who has collaborated with Prince, definitely knows how to work with the best and heal hearts at the same time. "We're all bound by certain things, but music was the thing that completely freed me," she says. "We have a special mission here on earth as any creative, especially as a female...and there are waves that we are tapped into that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of...this world is very deeply in need of our particular energy and particular voice," says Zolani Mahola.

The single is a combination of English and Xhosa, a language native to South Africa. If you had a bad day and got mood poisoning, this is just what the ugqirha ordered. As deep and powerful as the sea, the song propels you like a whispering tide to a paradise with words. The five sing together, voices flying away, drifting back, spellbinding you with traditional rhythms and old, old, old skool beats. Each artist has a place in this single where they shine out, and when their voices soar together in unison, you can only feel good again.

What's next for these fine female musicians? Although each artist is occupied with their own successful careers, any successful collaboration like the single "UNGAZILIBALI" could potentially create an opportunity for more magic. Platoon has the platform for it, and Denzyl Feigelson knows how to deliver a hit that raises awareness at a time when women like Ami Faku, Bonga Kwana, Msaki, Zolani Mahola and Eryn Allen Kane around world need sincere support the most.

You can check out the single for yourself right here: Find out more about Platoon here: Learn more about Msaki over here: More Ami Faku can be found here: Zolani is over here: Bonga Kwana is here: And Eryn Allen Kane is here:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Horror Films of the Inland Empire - Cinema

Home sweet, uh, I mean, sweet and sour, home.

Although I was born on a nuclear Air Force base in Michigan, most of my life has been spent in the Inland Empire. Between growing up punk there to eventually working as a law clerk and then finally as a process server for the San Bernardino County legal court system, as a veteran of the landscape my opinion is that the I.E. is best described as a massive, dusty yin-yang. 

The yang being the wealthy parts of the place that make money juxtaposed by the rather horrific, yin regions that end up making criminal statistics swell. It's the 14th most dangerous city in America, and dozens of people die there every year. I tell my friends the worst parts of the I.E. are basically Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome...but there ain't no Thunderdome. 

I still miss you, Spanky's!

Inland Empire Weekly called me one merry October and requested that I write a whole lot of words about horror films made in the I.E. "Sure." I said. "But it's going to cost you so much money you won't even be able to keep your website going by 2019." They laughed at my weird prediction and basically left me to my own devices until I hit the deadline weeks later. Vita brevi, ars longa!

While Halloween occurs only once a year, horror films are something we can celebrate every season…as long as we don’t die before the arrival of that next blockbuster. An oozing chunk of the gruesome delight in watching all of that screaming on celluloid is the thrill of witnessing your own town host all of that terror…if you dwell within a place Hollywood finds fearsome.

The scary news is, when it comes to terror Los Angeles gets more film than the thriving metropolis known from here to hell as the Inland Empire. Maybe it’s because of the cancerous smog, the deadly traffic, or just the constant, eerie Kafkaesque dread of being face-to-visage with LAPD. 

Occasionally though, all of the omens line up and some lost, mad soul does decide to shoot something sinister amidst the haunted hills and dusty domiciles of the Inland Empire, where even the blandly bright suburbs have gutters that can stream scarlet, thanks to monsters, malefactors, or everyday murder.

Invaders from Mars, Palomar Observatory, San Diego County

Invaders from Mars, made in 1953 and directed by William Cameron Menzies, is a cosmic sci-fi thriller that is radioactive with paranoia since it was made at the height of the Cold War. Decades ago every adult knew that if WWIII happened it would be nothing but nukes from Rhode Island to Russia, and until then every American citizen was a secret communist spy, sent from the USSR to infiltrate and destroy.

In this silver screen screamer, evil Martians invade a small town and start to mind control the populace, brainwashing their leaders into cold, sadistic drones trying to enslave humanity for their monstrous green masters. Before they succeed the good guys find out, the bad guys get taken out, but the space age menace remained, spawning numerous 50’s flicks that promised moviegoers everything in the universe couldn’t wait to journey across the cosmos to slay us all.

Palomar Observatory is a part of San Diego worth stitching on to any piece of cinematic excellence. Before the place was hit by Invaders from Mars film noir got there first in the form of 1947’s Nightmare Alley, a brutal story about one man’s sadistic greed and the mayhem he leaves in his wake. Not exactly a cauldron of gore, through.

In 1977 this beautiful section of San Diego County ended up on the big screen again, thanks to 1977’s Crater Lake Monster, a tale about a dinosaur that wakes up from suspended animation and tries to destroy and devour a city. The legendary David Allen supplied the claymation magic that made the monster, but after watching space marines fight acid-spraying xenomorphs in Aliens or seeing Godzilla stomp Tokyo concave, the fear you’d normally feel is far, far away.

Slaughterhouse, Lakeside, San Diego County

This cool little chopper hits the road red for fans that that demand large men with cutlery turning small ones into hamburger. Slaughterhouse, filmed in 1987 within Lakeside (also in the county of San Diego) is about a small business owner who goes insane when evil bankers threaten to take his property. Instead of filing a civil lawsuit he tells his muscle-bound, 300+ lb. mentally challenged son to turn the opposition into crimson coleslaw with anything heavy and choppy that will do the job.

While this movie is dreadfully acted, a little bit awful and rather low budget, the fact that Lakeside ended up in this bucket of gore is not surprising. A cyclopean, rural domain containing several bodies of water (including Lindo Lake and Lake Jennings), and vast stretches of brooding forests sliced into sections by running rivers, those deep, dark environs are also stalked by woodsmen who like it wild, scary and far from safety.

Rick Roessler, who also wrote Slaughterhouse, made a monster that transplanted the Inland Empire into the blood-streaked mausoleum of cinematic history while at the same time introducing a villain with a motivation more intricate and fathomable than, “I’m a killing machine.” If evil bankers were attacking and your kid was roughly the size, shape and mental intent of Jason Voorhees, wouldn’t it be fun seeing them end up like meat on a hook, instead of watching our politicians keep them off of it?

Hell Night, Redlands, San Bernardino County

Films about teenagers and co-eds going someplace awful to get brutally slaughtered one-by-one are a proud tradition in American horror. Whether it is camping near Silverlake or ending up in the wrong house in Texas where chainsaws are standard-issue, wacky kids are always going to somehow end up on a chopping block somewhere when it comes to entertaining the masses. Everyone appreciates it when someone improperly adventurous dies.

A group of teenagers are challenged to spend the night in a gigantic mansion, only to be murdered by the survivor of a massacre that happened there decades before. Filmed all over Southern California for a horror-hungry public who weren’t content just seeing Linda Blair possessed by the devil, Hell Night was made not only in Los Angeles and South Pasadena but also throughout the County of Redlands within the Inland Empire.

It’s unusual how the Inland Empire hosts so many movies about homicidal maniacs. When crazy meets cutlery, the blood usually flows if there are unaware victims nearby, and the screams sound better against the quiet, rough hills and suburban sprawl Redlands is heir too. Even the name of the place sounds lethal, as if the ground itself was carmine from slaughter. Someone needs to write a script for a slasher flick called Redlands.

"REDLANDS." Sounds like a title to me.

Hell Night is replete with affordable fears and fun kills, but watching one psycho just whack a bunch of young, dumb trespassers gets kind of lame, quick. I’m sure every foreboding, dilapidated mansion deserves a mass murder, but in an age of pepper spray, smartphones, MMA training, a proliferation of firearms and a militarized police force armed with APC’s, it is hard to imagine a lone suburban maniac successfully stabbing so many ignorant kids to death uncontested without anyone calling 911.

The Hills Have Eyes, Victorville, San Bernardino County

In 1977 a fun-loving family went camping in the desert, only to encounter a fiendish pack of violent, radioactive cannibals. Wackiness ensued. Wes Craven, the writer and director of this gritty, bloody beast, made cinematic history with an almost plausible story about a road trip gone so horribly wrong well before he created A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Shot in the brutal, rocky landscape anyone in Victorville can find if they wander into the wilderness miles from their backyard, it doesn’t take long for the film to fill you with fear as our hapless, lower middle-class family realizes they aren’t alone in the lonely, dusty hills they camped out in. By the violent end they are fighting for their lives against gruesome thugs that look like they wandered in from The Road Warrior.

Apart from the wonderful casting choice of using the big, bald, terrifying Michael Berryman as Pluto, the meanest-looking mutant in the movie (Berryman’s career is the envy of any professional…he’s also in The Devil’s Rejects, directed by the immortal Rob Zombie), some of the sorcery of this film is its realism. Anyone who has camped out in the boonies knows that there just has to be evil people out there, licking their chops, and they’d be your bogeyman, if unleashed.

The real horror, however, is observing the family debase themselves in an orgy of violence to beat their aggressors. As mom, dad and the kids start to get their murder on, too, there’s a feeling by the end of the creation that although the monsters have been fought and brutally beaten down, new ones have replaced them.

Inland Empire, Los Angeles County (?)

While David Lynch (the director of masterpieces such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Lost Highway) is always lurking on the bleeding edge of modern cinema, Inland Empire, created in 2006, has one very serious hang up: the film wasn’t made in the Inland Empire at all, despite its name.

While it is a psychological horror film (which means its more like Angel Heart or Psycho instead of Scream or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) about a young woman relentlessly pursued by an evil, murdering ghost haunting a cursed screenplay, Inland Empire should be called something else because it was made in Los Angeles, Hollywood and Poland. Imagine if Chinatown took place in Sacramento. It may as well be called Southern California, sans San Bernardino. Thanks a lot, Lynch.

Paranormal Activity, San Diego County

Unliving proof that low budget can still equal big box office bucks, 2007’s Paranormal Activity is a work replete with dread because of the fact the horror happens in a suburban home, not in a graveyard, mansion or mausoleum. Directed by Oren Peli and shot in the thriving metropolis of San Diego, the film contains scares anyone living in the modern era can relate to because the demonic nightmare happens in a seemingly normal house. When the familiar becomes frightening, nowhere feels safe.

A young couple is haunted by an evil spirit, eventually leading to insanity and murder. The documentary nature of it merges with the sensation that what you are seeing really happened, as supernatural occurrences surmount, dark shadows move in the corners, and something wicked comes their way until fear and madness gives way to gore. Pass the popcorn, please.

Let's just say after Poltergeist III the girl who played little Carol Anne was done with horror flicks.

Not that it’s the first time suburbia got it’s slay on in the cinema, but when Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg teamed up for Poltergeist (if a cute little blonde girl tells you, “They’re here,” leave), the fear came from having an electrically-charged sledgehammer of big-budget special effects pound your psyche into oblivion. By contrast, the more sedate Paranormal Activity has still waters that run deep, lulling you down into the calm before a corpse reaches up from the murk to drown you.

The young couple in the story doesn’t always see the unnatural darkness lurking dangerously behind them, but the audience does. As their doubt dies when they realize the terror is real, a small part of your mind wonders if this is film footage left over from a real demonic attack. The fact it takes place in a house like yours, instead of the skull-like domicile in The Amityville Horror, makes it uncertain if going home is safe at all.

Why aren’t there more horror films made in the Inland Empire? It has to be way cheaper than it is in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Wouldn’t you like to see a werewolf roaming the marble halls of the San Bernardino courthouse, or witness vampires feasting under a freeway overpass in Fontana? 

Here’s to hoping the Inland Empire has a cinematic future far ghastlier than before.