Underworld: Blood Wars


Never tell Selene that her catsuit makes her look fat.

Never tell Selene that her catsuit makes her look fat.

(2016) Action Horror (Screen Gems) Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head, Oliver Stark, Zuzana Stivinova, Brian Caspe, Jan Nemejovsky, Sveta Driga, Dan Bradford, David Bowles, Rostislav Novak, Tomas Fisher, Eva Lavoire. Directed by Anna Foerster

 

Sometimes audiences don’t need a whole lot to be happy. They don’t need a coherent plot or character development. They just want to sit back, relax and shut their brains off for a couple of hours. It’s not much to ask. In other words, sometimes a concept is enough to satisfy an audience. This explains why the Underworld franchise has confounded critics by surviving 13 years and five movies without any letup in popularity.

A lot of the reason behind that is Kate Beckinsale. She plays Selene, a former member of the Death Dealers, an elite squad of vampires who exterminate their mortal enemies the Lycans (a.k.a. werewolves). These days, Selene is a renegade, on the run from both Lycans and vampires alike. She is aided only by David (T. James), son of Thomas (Dance) who at one time was Selene’s enemy but is now her only ally on the Eastern coven council.

The war isn’t going well for the vampires and in their dogged pursuit of Selene has led them to fighting a war on two fronts. Their Death Dealers have been depleted and while they are training new ones, the coven is vulnerable. Council member Semira (Pulver) realizes this and entreats Thomas to convince council leader Cassius (Faulkner) to revoke the exile of Selene and bring her back to train the Death Dealers.

Meanwhile, the Lycans have grown more powerful led by Marius (Menzies), their leader who has united the Lycan clans like nobody else ever has. They want Selene’s daughter Eve whose blood contains both Lycan and vampire elements along with human – she is the key to victory for both sides. Selene however doesn’t know where Eve is which is the way she wants it to protect her daughter. That doesn’t stop the machinations of various parties within both the Lycan and vampire communities who will betray anyone and stop and nothing to find Eve – and to do so they all believe they must control Selene. But can Selene be controlled?

As I said earlier, the plot is convoluted and often senseless but that’s unimportant; what matters is vampires vs. werewolves and there is plenty of that, plenty of carnage (including spines being ripped out and bodies being cleaved in half) and of course plenty of Beckinsale in skintight leather. Say what you want to about the franchise but there is no doubt that Beckinsale has made Selene one of the more formidable female action heroes of the 21st century. Critics however lament that the extremely talented actress who showed her abilities in Love and Friendship last year has been slumming by appearing in these films. Paychecks like the ones she gets from the Underworld series are what allow her to appear in less lucrative but more substantial roles like the one mentioned.

Beckinsale is as always the best reason to see these movies and while she seems a little more restrained here than in previous incarnations of the franchise, she has a presence nonetheless that keeps the focus on her every time she’s on the screen. There are those who grouse that the catsuit she wears is demeaning to women but I hear nobody complain that the ripped shirts (and occasionally shirtless look) that male action stars often wear are demeaning to them. Sex appeal remains a big selling point for action movies.

Like most of the Underworld films the lighting is dim which looks cool enough but makes some of the action sequences hard to follow which becomes a particular problem given the accelerated reflexes of the two warring factions. Again, the vampires are portrayed as indolent Eurotrash while the Lycans come off as kind of grunge chic. Also as usual, other than Selene and maybe David there is little in the way of character development, leading to all the various supporting roles to kind of blend together.

Then again, that scarcely matters. What the audience for these films are looking for are right here in great quantities. First-time feature film director Foerster (who cut her teeth on the Starz Outlander series) clearly demonstrates an understanding of the wants and needs of the audience and if she doesn’t apply much of a stamp of her own to the franchise is more likely due to the producers wanting to keep thematic and tonal continuity between the various films more than anything. I’m actually interested in seeing how Foerster does with other action, adventure and genre films in the future; I suspect she would supply a much-needed female voice to what is largely a male-dominated profession. After all, women like a good brainless action and/or genre film just as much as the next guy.

REASONS TO GO: It’s really more of the same, so if you like the same…
REASONS TO STAY: …and if you don’t…
FAMILY VALUES: There’s a ton of violence, quite a bit of blood and some sexuality.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although this was initially believed to be the final film in the series, producer Len Wiseman has confirmed that a sequel is in the planning stages with Beckinsale returning as Selene.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/2/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 17% positive reviews. Metacritic: 22/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Lost Boys
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT: Elle

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


 

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Nicolas Cage may be laughing now but he won't be when he shows up on another Conan O'Brien Homeland Security Threat Alert sketch.

(2012) Superhero (Columbia) Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Fergus Riordan, Anthony Head, Christopher Lambert, Spencer Wilding, Sorin Tofan, Jacek Koman, Cristian Iacob, Jai Stefan. Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

 

This is a movie that is just going to make you stammer. On Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor: “Didn’t they direct Crank? That-that-that was so good!” On Nicolas Cage: “But-but-but-but…didn’t he win an Oscar? Didn’t he make Raising Arizona? Peggy Sue Got Married? Adaptation? Valley Girl?” All true. Throw those expectations out the window.

Johnny Blaze (Cage), the Ghost Rider has fled the United States and his curse of turning into a flaming headed demon who extracts vengeance (and the souls) of those who deserve it which is pretty much everybody. He is living in the Balkans now, skulking in the darkness. He is approached by a drunken French priest named Moreau (Elba) who tells him that he is needed to help protect a young boy that the Devil is after; should he fulfill his end of the bargain, his order will help him get rid of the curse. Having nothing better to do and 90 minutes of screen time to fill, he agrees.

Said boy is named Danny (Riordan) and he is the son of the comely gypsy Nadya (Placido) who wants him back. Denis Leary-esque thug Ray Carrigan (Whitworth) – who has a history with Nadya – has managed to steal the boy after blowing up the Ghost Rider with a grenade (they just don’t make demons like they used to). Still, you can’t keep a good Rider down and Blaze steals the boy back which hacks the devil off .

Satan, going by the name Roarke (Hinds) – and he’s about as far from “Fantasy Island” as you’re going to get – is pretty cheesed off so he turns the dead Carrigan into Decay, a demon that rots everything he touches – everything except Twinkies which are immune. Take that, snack food naysayers – who knew an armor made of sponge cake and filling would grant the wearer immunity from demonic powers?

Anyway it’s all leading to a ritual that must be performed on the solstice blah blah blah blah blah…you know the drill. The odds are against them but you know ol’ Flamehead will save the day. This is, after all, a Marvel Comic book adaptation.

And folks, I’m here to tell you it is the worst Marvel movie since the largely unseen 1994 Fantastic Four film that was made to retain the rights to the comic for Constantin Films (who would finally make a big budget version in 2005), and that’s saying something. This is Steel bad. This is Catwoman bad.

Neveldine and Taylor have made some nifty action films but you get the sense they were hamstrung by the PG-13 rating imposed on them by the studio. While there is some of the out-of-control seat-of-the-pants filmmaking that characterized their first movies, mostly they resort to clever camera angles and loud pulsating hard rock to turn the movie into an hour and a half long Megadeth video. This isn’t nearly as much fun or free-spirited as their earlier works; not only is it not anything goes, it feels more like nothing does.

Cage has gotten his fair share of flack for his overacting, but he sets a new bar here. Remember those Conan O’Brien bits about Nicolas Cage performances being the new means of setting Homeland Security threat levels? Cage has produced a whole new threat level. There’s a scene where he interrogates an Eastern European Eurotrash club owner about the whereabouts of Carrigan that has simply got to be seen to be believed. I honestly believed his head was going to explode (and it pretty much does in CGI when he transforms into the Rider). And while we’re on the subject of acting, can we not find a juvenile actor who could act? Riordan delivers a performance that compares unfavorably with Jake Lloyd’s wooden extravaganza as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And no, that’s not something you want said about your acting.

In fact, much of the CGI owes as much to Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes as it does to Marvel Comics. Cage’s eyes bug out like a wolf checking out a female – I half-expected a wolf whistle and an “Ah-OOOOOOO-Gah!!!” to accompany the transformation. He also spits out bullets machine gun-style at one of Carrigan’s thugs. When you can’t do a comedic scene as well as a 70-year-old cartoon, even with all the modern technology at your disposal, you’re doing something terribly wrong.

This is simply an embarrassment. I didn’t think the first Ghost Rider was as bad as it was made out to be but this one is far worse than you can imagine. Other than Placido who is sweet to look at, and Hinds who is at least having fun chewing the scenery as a Wall Street Beelzebub, and Lambert as a tattooed monk, there really isn’t a lot to recommend this movie, other than to serve as a warning that not all Marvel movies are necessarily good.

REASONS TO GO: Film is a bit better-looking than the first Ghost Rider.

REASONS TO STAY: Cage just…oh my God. Overacting doesn’t even cover it. Story is predictable and dull. Too much “look ma I’m directing” in the action sequences.

FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence, some darkly disturbing images, and plenty of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Eva Mendes was approached to reprise her role from the first movie but perhaps wisely she declined.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/24/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 15% positive reviews. Metacritic: 32/100. The reviews are a train wreck.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Wicker Man (2006)

TATTOO LOVERS: Lambert sports a face full as do several of the other monks. Cage as Johnny Blaze doesn’t have any per se but his flaming skull would make a wicked awesome tat.

FINAL RATING: 3/10

TOMORROW: Shame

Transporter 3


Transporter 3

Jason Statham thought he was doing High School Musical 3.

(Lionsgate) Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Francois Berleand, Natalya Rudakova, Jeroen Krabbe, Alex Kobold, David Atrakchi. Directed by Oliver Megaton

Transporters may come and transporters may go. The nature of the job is that the turnover is plenty high. One thing’s for certain – you can’t keep a good action hero down.

Frank Martin (Statham) has retired to his beloved French Riviera where he spends most of his time fishing with his friend Inspector Tarconi (Berleand). It’s a good life and Frank doesn’t miss the car chases, the fights with half a dozen thugs or getting shot at from a helicopter. Who wouldn’t?

But his reputation remains and when a colleague botches a job, Frank is forced back into the life by Johnson (Knepper), a mysterious and shady sort who has attached an explosive device to his wrist. Should Frank venture more than 75 feet away from his car, the device will detonate and Frank will be everywhere.

His job is to transport the spoiled young Valentina (Rudakova) from Marseilles to Odessa. As it turns out, she is the kidnapped daughter of the Ukrainian Environmental Minister (Krabbe) who is being pressured by Johnson’s employers to allow toxic waste to be dumped in the Ukraine. Hey, what’s a little more toxic waste to a country which already has Chernobyl?

Frank must use all his skills and break all of his own rules to survive the double dealing, backstabbing Johnson, and it doesn’t hurt that he begins to fall for the lovely Valentina despite her annoying quirks, or perhaps because of them.

This is, strange as it may seem, the highest grossing film of the series which is mystifying to me because it’s such an obvious retread of the first from a plot perspective. The only real twist is the exploding wristband thing, and that’s been done before, only as a necklace in The Running Man and it was far cooler to see someone’s head getting blown off of his neck in my humble opinion.

That said, this is still a Jason Statham movie and Statham is my favorite action star at the moment. When he gets the right material (as he does in The Bank Job and The Italian Job) he has a surprising range. When he doesn’t, he’s still interesting and enigmatic enough to be watchable. Perhaps all of the scripts he should accept from now on should have the word “job” in the title.

A movie like this one lives or dies on its action sequences, and for the most part it delivers. My issue with them is that some of the fight choreography is choppy and doesn’t flow really well like a good fight sequence should. There should be an organic feel to it; Asian stunt coordinators understand this better than anyone, and they could have used one here. I get the distinct impression that the botching of these sequences came in the editing process; a little too much artistic license.

However, the concepts are solid and the driving stunts are particularly thrilling, which is what you want when your lead character is supposed to be one of the best in the business in that regard. I liked the first movie in the franchise, was indifferent towards the second and am the same about this one. It’s disposable entertainment that will be forgotten five minutes after you turn off the TV, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

WHY RENT THIS: Jason Statham.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the fight sequences were a little choppy and the choreography didn’t flow as it should have.

FAMILY VALUES: As you might expect, there is a plethora of violence, but there is also some sexuality and a bit of drug and alcohol use. Definitely for mature audiences only.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rudakova was a hairdresser with no previous acting experience before producer Luc Besson encountered her on a New York street and urged her to get acting lessons before coming in for an audition, which she did.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s an interesting feature on the real life transportation of people and information by people like Frank Martin, only not as cool or violent.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Quantum of Solace

Hostel: Part II


Richard Burgi tries to prove that getting a tattoo is better than getting a massage.

Richard Burgi tries to prove that getting a tattoo is better than getting a massage.

(Lionsgate) Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, Roger Bart, Richard Burgi, Heather Mattarazzo, Jay Hernandez, Vera Jordanova, Jordan Ladd, Milan Knazko, Stanislav Ianevski, Monika Malacova, Patrik Zigo. Directed by Eli Roth.

There are places on this Earth that are a bit off the beaten path. No guidebook will tell you about them, no tour bus will ever stop there. However, if you should stumble on to these places, you are richly rewarded with a travel experience that all world travelers dream of; a place all their own. Of course, there are other places on this Earth that are best left unexplored.

Picking off where Hostel left off, Paxton (Hernandez) returns home to his girlfriend (Ladd) beset by nightmares and feeling that the unseen proprietors of the human abattoir that he escaped from are closing in on him. She’s less than sympathetic, tired of being awakened by his screams at 3am every morning. Of course, is it paranoia you’re feeling when someone really is out to get you?

Over in Rome, a trio of art students are trying to get away to explore Eastern Europe. Of course, when you’re a trio of attractive female art students, that brings problems in and of itself, like drunken Eurotrash not willing to take no for an answer. Whitney (Phillips) is the sexy one, Lorna (Mattarazzo) is the uptight nerdy one and Beth (German) is the sweet responsible one, for those keeping score. They run into one of their models, Axelle (Jordanova) from class and she promises to take them to a place that will give them an adventure they’d not soon forget.

They arrive at a charming Slovakian village in the midst of a harvest festival. However, there is something insidious and sinister happening just below the surface. The girls have been targeted by an organization that caters to super-wealthy businessmen from around the globe whose tastes run to the sick and grisly, who are willing to torture and murder young people for a very lucrative fee. Stuart (Bart) and Todd (Burgi) are a couple of American businessmen who have come to change their lives forever, to become men who are legitimately feared.

That’s pretty much it for the plot. Essentially, this is all an excuse to get to the grisly, cruel displays of torture that have been labeled “torture porn” by critics. And, quite frankly, those who are turned off by such things shouldn’t rent this, and probably weren’t going to anyway.

While this was critically disemboweled during its initial 2007 release, I actually found it to be a taut and suspenseful horror film. Yes, the acting is a step above a student film, the plot is riddled with clichés, and character development is non-existent or stereotypical at best. However, I found myself engrossed (no pun intended) by the movie. While it certainly wasn’t a movie that lacked for publicity, I do think that it qualifies as a hidden gem simply because it got such an unfair shake by critics that some folks might have avoided it after it was released.

Director Roth is an exciting up-and-coming director, one who has captured the eye of Quentin Tarantino, who was impressed enough to co-produce this. Yes, the gore can be hard to stomach at times; this certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, it delivers the kind of visceral thrills that make horror movies so cathartic, and makes for a whole new subset of villains to hate; Eurotrash. C’mon, admit it; since we can’t hate the Commies anymore, there’s gotta be somebody to rise up and take their place in our pantheon of evil.

I found this to be a very competently-made horror movie with genuine shocks. Yeah, this isn’t the best-written movie you’ll see ever, but it’s good at what it is supposed to be good at, and you may come away pleasantly surprised.

WHY RENT THIS: Some excellent shocks and a crew of genuinely reprehensible baddies. Lots of visceral, cathartic thrills.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The torture scenes are extremely graphic and will turn your stomach if you are sensitive about such things. Plot and characterization are somewhat clichéd.

FAMILY MATTERS: Are you kidding? Only if you’re the Manson family.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: During a scene in which a number of severed heads are displayed, one of the heads belongs to director Eli Roth.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: An unrated director’s version features a commentary track with producer Quentin Tarrantino, and a Factory Torture Cam feature.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Day Four of Six Days of Darkness

The Factory


Adrian sat naked in the chair, shivering. He was tied down with razor wire and blood seeped from the wounds where the wire had torn his skin. He had long since given up struggling since every movement caused fresh pain from the razor wire. Not for the first time, he shrieked into the darkness “Why are you doing this? I’m just a programmer.”

He couldn’t understand why he was here. He was a nobody, a nothing. He worked the software division of a large multinational firm that had fingers in dozens of industries. He was a code writer, one of dozens working on The Project. He didn’t even know the name of the damn thing or what the purpose of it was. He just crunched code in his cubicle, day after mind-numbing day.

One night after work he unlocked the door to his apartment and stepped into the darkness. He remembered being grabbed from behind, then blacking out. He had awakened here, stripped naked and tied to this chair.

The space was dark but Adrian got an impression of size, like a factory or industrial space. When he yelled there was a definite echo. There was never a reply though. He had been awake for hours but had no idea whether it was night or day. He could see no windows but that didn’t mean there weren’t any. It could be the middle of the night – or bright morning, kept out by blacked-out windows or no windows at all. The only sound he heard was an occasional chittering, scrabbling sound. Rats, he thought to himself.

At length he heard a door open and footsteps, multiple sets of them. An overhead light snapped on and Adrian shut his eyes, temporarily blinded by the light. After a few moments his eyes adjusted and the footsteps became shapes in the darkness that then stepped into the light.

There were three of them, two men and a woman. All three were dressed in black, but very well – the men in suits, the woman in a business suit. They all wore dark sunglasses and were pale. One of the men carried a satchel, like a medical bag. He placed it on a small table to the right of Adrian. There was one other metal folding chair, but that was all Adrian could see. He peered into the darkness but could make out no detail. It looked like an abandoned factory as he had surmised.

The man carrying the satchel was large, with short-cropped dark hair cut in a military style. In fact, Adrian thought he might be military or ex-military, the way he held his body. The other man was middle-aged, maybe a bit older. His hair was mostly grey, stylishly cut. His features were aquiline, patrician. This was a man used to wealth, Adrian guessed, and used to being obeyed. He pursed his thin lips as if he had just sucked on a lemon.

The woman was in her 30s, platinum blonde her hair done up in a stiff bun. She was attractive but there was an icy air about her, one of emotional detatchment. Her designer suit was more functional than attractive; there was nothing soft or feminine about her. She might as well have een carved from alabaster, or porcelain.

The older man spoke in a voice that was gravelly with a vague accent Adrian couldn’t place. “Young man, you’re probably wondering why you are here. That will all become clear in a few moments.” Adrian found himself babbling “Please sir, there’s been a mistake, I…”

The older man held a finger to Adrian’s lips. “Please, don’t speak right now. You will have your opportunity to say everything you want to. In fact, I encourage you to….spill your guts?” Adrian thought he saw the ghost of a smile crease the lips of the bigger man but it was gone before he could be sure. The older man continued “But for the moment, I require you merely to listen. There has been no mistake. You have been brought here for a reason. We require information from you. I will ask you some questions. My associate here,” he indicated the woman, “will record the answers. Answer truthfully and completely and this business can be concluded with a minimum of discomfort. You will be returned to your life. Answer untruthfully or incompletely and my other associate and I will be reluctantly forced to make this unpleasant…for all of us, but most assuredly for you. Do you understand my meaning?”

Adrian was quaking in fear. He nodded as best he could. The man smiled. “You will address me as the Interrogator. She is the Recorder. He,” he said with a nod towards the larger man, “is the Persuader. You need not address either one of them for they have been instructed not to speak to you.” He turned to the Recorder. “My dear, the portfolio please.”

She walked over to the table and opened the satchel, pulling out a small notebook and handed it to the Interrogator. He smiled and nodded to her and she walked back into the darkness, returning with another folding chair after a moment. She place it to the right of the other folding chair, then walked back to the satchel and brought out a small digital recording device. She set it down on the table and connected a small microphone to it. She switched it on, then said “Testing, testing” in a strongly accented voice that Adrian guessed was Eastern European. She hit the stop, then the replay button and “Testing, testing” was repeated. She nodded at the Interrogator, then hit the record button. She pulled a steno pad and pen, then sat down in the folding chair furthest from Adrian. The Interrogator sat down in the nearest one.

“Let’s begin then with verifying a few facts. Your name is Adrian. You are a software engineer for Goliath Industries. You reside in the Parkside apartments in number 801. Is this all correct?” Adrian nodded, frantically. The Interrogator smiled. “I must ask you to speak as the recorder doesn’t pick up gestures well. We had intended to record this interrogation on video but our camera is alas…on the fritz?” He raised an eyebrow quizzically. Adrian responded “Yes, that is correct.” The Interrogator sat back in the chair and smiled. “Excellent!”

He opened the notebook and Adrian thought he saw several typewritten sheets of paper. The Interrogator studied these for several minutes, turning the pages. Adrian was sweating even though he was naked and it was cold. The bad feeling in the pit of his stomach was worsening.

At last the man pursed his lips again and looked up at Adrian. He leaned forward, adjusting his suit jacket and said “Very well, let us begin. What is Osiris?” Adrian stared back at him, puzzled. “Wha…what?” he asked, not sure he had heard correctly. The man smiled pleasantly. “What…is…Osiris?” he said, his smile a bit fixed. Adrian’s mouth opened and shut. “You mean…the Egyptian god?” he asked. The Interrogator glanced at the Persuader and smiled broadly, revealing gleaming, polished teeth. “Yes, that is true, Osiris is the name of an Egyptian deity, but that is not the answer I’m looking for. Once again, what is Osiris?” Adrian shook his head. “I don’t know” he answered truthfully.

The Interrogator frowned. “I see. Let us move on to another question. Who are the Observers?” Again, Adrian was baffled. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” The Interrogator’s smile was gone, replaced by a more menacing expression. “I’m truly sorry to hear you say that Adrian. One more question. Where is the code key hidden?” Again, Adrian didn’t understand what he was talking about and said so.

The Interrogator stood up and sighed. “It’s truly a shame you have chosen to take this path, Adrian. I had hoped you would simply answer the questions and we could all put this unpleasantness behind us, but you have chosen a different route. I hope it is worth it.” He nodded at the Persuader who stepped forward and with a startling suddenness slammed his fist into Adrian’s jaw. Adrian felt an explosion of pain, but it didn’t end there. The Persuader administered a beating that went on despite Adrian’s screams until Adrian began spitting teeth out. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and nose, which he thought might also be broken. Throughout the Interrogator and Recorder watched impassively, expressions unchanging. At length, the Interrogator spoke.

“That will be quite enough for now.” The Persuader immediately stopped and stepped back to his previous position. Other than the blood on his knuckles, you never would have known he had moved or done anything. He was as still as a statue. Adrian was whimpering, the pain of his beating echoing in his skull that pounded with a splitting headache that was dwarfed by the pain of his shattered jaw and nose.

The Interrogator leaned forward and said “I do hope you will be more co-operative this time. My associate the Persuader has a great deal of talent for causing pain, and we have provided him with the tools to inflict a great deal of it on you. I should hate for him to have to use them.” He smiled. “Now, shall we begin?”

He asked the same questions, one by one and once again Adrian babbled that he didn’t know the answers. This time he was crying and pleading, telling them that they must have the wrong man, that he was just a low-level code writer on an industrial project that he didn’t know anything about. The Interrogator seemed genuinely sorrowful. “I assure you, you are exactly the man we want. Now, once again, what is Osiris?”

Adrian’s mind whirled, panicked. In desparation, he lied “That is the code name for the project I’m working on for Goliath.” The Recorder lookedd up for the first time and gave the Interrogator a meaningful glance. For his part, he sat back in the chair, clicking his tongue. “Adrian, I’m disappointed in you. Do you truly believe we are fools? You are working on a graphics program that allows the highest resolution to date for high end monitors. While I’m sure Goliath believes this to be an important and profitable program, we are not interested in it. I suggest you stop wasting all our time and tell me what Osiris is.”

Adrian’s mouth moved but no words came out. The Interrogator sighed and gestured to the Persuader. “No wait, ” Adrian screamed, “Give me a chance to think goddamn it!” The Persuader was upon him before he could finish the sentence and this time he had a hammer which he had taken from the satchel. Again and again he brought the hammer down on his right leg, and Adrian knew there were multiple fractures. He screamed and screamed in a high pitch that would have shamed him ordinarily but the pain was more than he could have thought he possibly could bear and after a few moments, lost consciousness.

That blessing was denied him for long. The Recorder revived him with smelling salts. “Dear, dear, you must be in terrible agony,” cooed the Interrogator. “This can all stop you know. We’ll even make sure you get to the hospital so you can get treated for your wounds. You don’t have to endure a single moment more of this pain if you just answer the questions. What is Osiris? Who are the Observers? Where is the code key hidden?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know! Can’t you get it through your thick skulls I don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about? Is this just some kind of game to you?” The Interrogator stood up, clearly angered. “This is no game to us, I assure you. I would ask you the same question! Do you think we are fooling around here? Have you not gotten the message that we are serious and we will do whatever is necessary to learn what we need to know? Apparently you require further persuading.” He turned to the Persuader. “Emasculate him” he said in a terse whisper.

Adrian began screaming once again. The Persuader pulled out a pair of pliers and advanced towards him. Both the Interrogator and the Recorder moved a distance away. Adrian tried to shut his legs together but the pain from the broken one prevented it. In moments the Persuader used the pliers to rip Adrian’s testicles completely off his body. The Recorder immediately moved in and treated the wounds. Adrians screams diminished to a whimper.

Once the ministrations of the Recorder were completed, the Interrogator resumed his seat – after wiping Adrian’s blood off of it. “We can’t have you bleeding to death before we have completed our business, now can we?” He leaned forward so that his face filled Adrian’s vision. “We have the capability to do far worse to you than has been done so far, things that can’t be fixed. I beg you to reconsider your obstinacy and just tell us what we want to know.”

Adrian was crying now, sobbing like a little girl. “I want to, but I don’t know what you want me to say. Please tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say it, I promise.” The Interrogator shook his head. “Why, we only want you to tell us the truth Adrian. That’s all we’ve ever wanted.” Adrian began crying harder. “I have been! Why won’t you believe me? I swear to Christ I don’t know anything, I would tell you if I did. Do you think I’d put myself through this?” He was weeping uncontrollably now.

The Interrogator turned to the Recorder and raised a critical eyebrow. She smiled for the first time and nodded. The Interrogator nodded to the Persuader who went to the satchel and began rumaging through it. The Interrogator turned back to Adrian and said “I do believe you’re telling the truth.”

He motioned to the Recorder who went to the digital recording device and shut it off, then handed it to the Persuader. He set it back in the satchel, along with her steno pad and pen. The Interrogator turned back to Adrian. “Osiris is a…well, I’m not sure what to call it exactly. It’s a business, but it’s also recreation. Only the wealthiest men in the world can afford to join it. The members of Osiris are called the Observers. That is because they observe, first hand, the torture and murder of young men and women for a fee, a rather healthy one. In order to bid on subjects, the Observers use a code key to access the website where bids are made. One of the code keys was stolen from us and sent in an e-mail to you along with a detailed description of Osiris and a list of its members.”

Adrian shook his head. “I never got an e-mail like that. And who would send it to me?” The Interrogator smiled. “That’s the irony of it. The man who sent it to you sent it to the wrong address. Fortunately, we intercepted it and deleted it from your account but we needed to make sure that you hadn’t seen any of the contents of the e-mail. I’m quite satisfied now that you haven’t.”

He stood up. “I’m afraid I did fib ever so slightly on a couple of points. The first is that our video equipment is on the fritz. It is not, as a matter of fact. As you might guess, we have access to some of the highest-end equipment in the world. We just felt it better that this not be preserved for posterity. We wouldn’t want to make our Observers nervous; they might withdraw and take their billions with them.” He straightened his tie and handed the notebook to the Persuader who put it back into the satchel. The Recorder and the Persuader walked away into the darkness, leaving the Interrogator who stood on the edge of the light. “What was the other thing you fibbed about?” asked Adrian, dreading the answer.

The Interrogator laughed, a chilling sound. “I lied about you being returned to your old life of course. We couldn’t let you free with the knowledge of our society. Osiris thrives on operating in secrecy. No, I’m sorry to have to tell you this but your services are no longer required. Have a nice day.” He turned and walked away and the light went out.

Adrian called out “Please! I won’t tell anybody anything! I can keep a secret! Please don’t leave me here!!!!” The Interrogator’s laughter echoed derisively in the cavernous empty factory until Adrian heard the door open and shut one last time.

He screamed for a few minutes but didn’t have the strength to carry it on very long. The factory grew silent but not completely. Adrian could hear chittering noises. Rats, he thought to himself. The sound grew louder and Adrian realized that there were far more of them than he had first thought. Hungry too, I’ll bet he thought. He began laughing and didn’t stop until they had torn his throat out.