DavidOyelowo(Selma) harkens back to the youthful adventure movies of the '80s and '90s (think The Goonies or The Amazing Panda Adventure)inthe official trailer for his directorial debut: The Water Man.
It follows a brave young boy named Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis), who sets out to find the Water Man a mythical figure who might be able to cure his cancer-stricken mother, Mary (Rosario Dawson). Gunner enlists the help of amysterious local girl, Jo (Amiah Miller), for his selfless quest into the Wild Horse forest. The deeper they venture, however, the stranger things become, until their only hope of rescue lies with Gunner's father, Amos (Oyelowo). Alfred Molina (Spider-Man) co-stars asJim Bussey, a man with intimate knowledge of the Water Man legend; andMaria Bello (NCIS) rounds out the cast as Sheriff Goodwin.
Check out the trailer below:
The film, which held its world premiere at the virtual Toronto International Film Festival last fall, currently holds an incredibly fresh 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Oyelowo is sure-footed in his feature directing debut, delivering a smart and wholesome picture with about as little sentimentality as such a tale can have, wrote John DeFore in their TIFF review for The Hollywood Reporter.
Varietys Peter Debruge praised the directors knack for misdirection and the spine-tingling design for the titular Water Man:"[Oyelowo] does a fairly effective job of misleading them, using viewers active engagement to build the Water Man into something larger in their imagination than he plans to deliver. That doesnt mean we never meet the title figure. When he does appear, the Water Mans as intimidating as the skeletal scalawags in the Pirates of the Caribbean pictures.
Written byEmma Needell,The Water Man arrives in theaters Friday, May 7. Dive into a deep pool of production stills in the gallery below...
In her 20-year career, actress Tricia Helfer has become somewhat of a connoisseur of great finales. She's been lucky to see a healthy number of her characters to the very end of their narratives in lauded series from the SYFY reboot of Battlestar Galactica to Burn Notice and even the upcoming fifth and final season of SYFY's Van Helsing.
As her incredibly dense resume reflects, the storytelling gods have been mostly kind to Helfer's characters and the casting gods have certainly been exceptionally generous. Helfer's been working near-constantly in genre and non-genre TV and film, playing a wide array of roles that have allowed her to assuredly avoid being typecast as "that gorgeous Cylon." With Van Helsing, she's even navigating uncharted waters as Bram Stoker's horror icon, Dracula. Not a bad way to make your acting mark, or help close out the epic narrative of Vanessa Van Helsing's destiny on the five-season show.
Following a very weird year for everyone, Helfer recently got on the line with SYFY WIRE to talk about how she's had the opportunity to reflect on her career filled with unexpected roles that have made her a beloved genre character actor. From Battlestar Galactica to Lucifer, she takes us down memory lane and into the future...
Theres the perception by observers of your career that you are constantly busy working on a variety of projects. But 2020 forced many creatives to have to stop or slow down for a while. Was that the case for you?
It was a little bit of both. I look back at pictures of the beginning of lockdown. I had come off of being away for a month in Slovakia shooting the first three episodes of Van Helsing... which were so creatively different.
But, I actually stayed really busy in the beginning of it because I was doing my podcast for Battlestar Galactica called Battlestar Galacticast. My co-host, Marc [Bernardin] and I discussed at the time... would we still physically get together? He would come over to my house and the sound guy would come over if we were having a guest, so we talked about should we put it on hold? And he's like, "No, let's continue." So we did it over Zoom. We continued to have great guests. We just plowed through those because there was no other schedule to get in the way. We were really busy taping one or two a week. Then SYFY decided to do an [episode] marathon of Battlestar Galactica and they wanted me to host, doing a bunch of interviews for the marathon. So I was also doing that for a week or two of straight interviews with my castmates.
And then in the summer, Van Helsing picked back up again and they consolidated my work so I didn't have to go up there for too long.
Did the process of doing that deep dive on Battlestar Galactica feel like your first real assessment of the show with some distance from it?
Well, so many of the people that we had on as guests are in my life constantly. The Battlestar Galactica group, they are my family here in L.A. Katie Sackoff and James Callis and Jamie Bamber, although he's not in L.A. anymore. He moved back to Europe. Edward James Olmos and Mary [McDonnell], they're there. They are my family here, so I see them all the time.
But it was really interesting to see some people and talk to some people that I hadn't for a while, like the writers that had all moved on to other projects and things. Producers like Ron Moore were so gracious with his time and was on four times with us.
Did it make you appreciate the series more in any way?
I wouldn't say appreciate the show more because I did appreciate it then. But that was also my first series, so looking back at it having more years of experience, I could just go, "Wow, it really was a good show."
I went into it kind of expecting it to feel dated, and it didn't at all. Not only the special effects still held up completely great because the late [VFX supervisor] Gary Hutzel was amazing. It was odd actually to watch almost how more relevant it seems to our time period right now than when it was in 2003 to 2009. It seemed like we were almost writing it for today's time.
What are your thoughts on the continuation that is being developed by Sam Esmail right now?
Sam is a brilliant showrunner and filmmaker. I know he talked with Ron and got his blessing. I wasn't privy to their discussions, obviously.
But I do remember asking Ron on the podcast and this is before I had heard about the new reimagining of it Marc asked him would he ever consider going back. And Ron said no. He said that he told the story that he wanted to tell and, and he's happy with that. And he doesn't want to go back and revisit it, even though he loved the experience.
Another series youve become synonymous with is Lucifer, which will air the latter half of Season 5 in May. "It Never Ends Well for the Chicken" in Season 5 felt like your swan song from the show.
At that point, they certainly didn't know [the show was renewed]. They were wrapping the writers' room. I think they were on the last day of the writers' room of Season 5 when they got the call that there was gonna be a Season 6. They were like, "Wait, but we introduced God!" Who introduces God unless you know it's your last season?
But that one I think was actually Chris Rafferty's idea, one of the writer/producers on the show. I was super happy to come back and play. And I hear they're having a musical [episode] so I'm very happy I was not part of that one because I cannot sing or dance to save my life! [Laughs.]
SYFY's Van Helsing is another series wrapping up its run this year. You get to help close it by playing the first female embodiment of Dracula. Any qualms about diving into that challenge?
What I liked was that the show had its own version of it. It was already a very female-centric show, so I didn't have to worry, "Am I gonna get all this backlash about Dracula being a woman and whatever?" It's Vanessa Van Helsing. [Laughs.] Gender is not really an issue in the show, which I liked. And so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I purposefully didn't go watch a bunch of Dracula shows.
In between Seasons 4 and 5, I did read a book on Draculas throughout cinematic history. But I didn't watch because it is such an iconic character. I didn't want to fall into a trap of inadvertently copying.
Did they lay out the character arc for you when you signed on to appear in Season 4?
I didn't know where they were going in Season 5. When I first signed on, I just knew Episode 7, that one scene I have where I first come out, and then Vanessa launched me back in the realm. But they knew and I knew that Season 5 was going to be their series finale. They were introducing, obviously, Dracula, to be in the fifth and final season. I knew that, and I trusted that there was going to be stuff there to play with and to delve into.
It feels like the season will be building toward the ultimate boss battle between you and Vanessa?
There has been a shift and there's been an alteration of Dracula compared to the finale of the fourth season... It does come obviously down to an ultimate [confrontation] I don't think that's a surprise for anyone. But there's a shift and I can't really explain more without giving too much away. But there is a shift and that's because of what happens in the first three episodes.
Last but not least, animal rights are a big issue for you. Recently you helped voice a new short film, Save Ralph, with Taika Waititi for the Humane Society that dropped on April 6. How did that come about?
The Humane Society International in Canada reached out to me and gave me the premise of it. Obviously to be involved with the names that are involved, like Ricky Gervais, who I think is brilliant, I just said yes, immediately and I was given the script and I started crying.
Season 5 of Van Helsing premieres on Friday, April 16 at 10 p.m. ET on SYFY.
The Walking Deadmain series may be coming to an end with its upcoming 11th season, butThe Walking Deadfranchise is poised to live on for years to come with new spinoffs and follow-up projects in the works. We already know about several major projects involving some of the series' most beloved characters, but could more be on the way, and could one of them involve everyone's favorite baseball bat-wielding madman, Negan?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who's been playing the legendary villain-turned-antihero for the last five years, stopped byConanthis week to chat about the series and promote his new horror filmThe Unholy. While on the topic ofThe Walking Dead-- which recently aired a Negan prequel episode starring Morgan's real-life wife Hilarie Burton-Morgan as Negan's wife Lucille -- Morgan and host Conan O'Brien discussed the lengthy 14-month shooting process to get the show back on schedule after COVID-driven shutdowns and the addition of Season 10 bonus episode, and of course the topic of rumored spinoffs came up.
While Morgan couldn't confirm that he'll stick around the franchise after Season 11, he did at least confirm that the idea has come up.
"We'll see. It's definitely being talked about," Morgan said. "I think they're thinking of a couple different ideas, but I've definitely had conversations about possibly continuing the story of Negan."
The Walking Deadhas been a multi-series franchise for nearly six years now thanks to the arrival ofFear the Walking Dead, and last year AMC added a second spinoff series titledThe Walking Dead: World Beyondto its already walker-heavy lineup, but even that's not the end for this media powerhouse. The planned spinoff feature film starring Andrew Lincoln as former series lead Rick Grimes is set to shoot this year, and a spinoff starring fan favorites Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is already in the works as a follow-up to the main series. Throw in an anthology series titledTales of the Walking Deadand you've got at least several more years of live-action stories evenwithouta Negan show.
Whether Morgan sticks around to keep playing the character or not remains to be seen. For now, he's intent on making his final months the series as much of a family affair as possible. Hot on the heels of his wife making an appearance in the series, Morgan also revealed that his son Gus is set to pop up in an upcoming episode as a child walker, which should make for some especially creepy Morgan family photos on set.
A Vegas casino heist in the middleof a zombie horde is just the tip of the flesh-munchingiceberg for Netflix's blossomingArmy of the Deadfranchise, which could soon feature aliens as well as zombies.The genre-melding film from writer-directorZack Snyder film won't be a one-off it'll be followed by at least two prequel-basedprojects. The first is a movie entitled Army of Thieves, which explores thebackstory ofGerman safe expert, Dieter (played byMatthias Schweighfer, who also directed the picture).
"We just wrapped on Army of Thieves," Snyder said during a special Q&Aearlier in the week. "We see [Dieter's]backstory and how he fell in love with and got obsessedwith cracking safes. And why the safe in the movie is significant to him,which it is."The second prequel venture is a currently untitledanime-inspired series, "which tells the story of where the zombies came from and what their deal is," Snyder continued. "It goes to Area 51 and does a whole a bunch of psychedelic craziness, which is cool. Let's just say it scales in a way that's unexpected as far where the zombies come from."
Is the zombie virus alien in origin? Did the pathogen escape from a bio-weapons researchlab at the famous Air Force base in the Nevada desert? Are the zombies membersof an alien race that feeds on human brains? Snyder always likes to go for the grand effect, so we wouldn't be surprised if all of those guessesturn out to be correct.As for what the future holds, there's nothing confirmed at the moment, but director isn't opposed to the concept of more follow-ups. "If it were possible or if anyone was interested in it, to continue the adventures of this world, it'd be fun. Who knows?" he added."The world's your zombie oyster."
Written by Snyder, Joby Harold, and Shay Hatten,Army of the Dead shambles into select theaters Friday, March 14 before hitting Netflix the following week onMay 21. Just don't expect a four-hour director's cut down the road, la Justice League. According to the filmmaker himself, the film that rises from the grave next month is purelyhis vision, through and through.
"This was probably the most gratifying experience I've had making a movie," he said. "Everything about it was fun ... Everyone's been incredibly supportive and just a joy to work with. This is the movie, there's no other cuts of the movie. I didn't have to fight them it was the opposite. This is the director's cut. You don't have to see a bastardized version, you just get to see the awesome version first."
Netflix has yet to announce premiere dates for Army of Thieves or the anime project. Army of the Dead hits streaming on May 14.
Step into the Grishaverse a little bit early thanks to Netflix'snewShadow and Bonefeaturette.Not only does the videooffer eager fans a chance to get a glimpse into the world that is being spun out from author Leigh Bardugo's books otherwise known as theShadow and Bonetrilogy and theSix of Crowsduology but it also gives curious new viewers a taste of what's to come, when the series adaptation is released onto the global streamer on April 23.
And in the spirit of most fantasy series, the featurette (below) also contains a handy-dandy map of all the warring kingdomsthat are referenced in Bardugo's books, as well as the great "Shadow Fold" that separates them. It also provides a clear and concise outline of the kinds of "Grisha," AKA people with the ability to manipulate the world around them,that exist within the series and the differences between their powers.(It's clear, as longtime fans of the characters can see right away, that no expense was spared in terms of this adaptation, giving it the Game of Throneslevel of treatment in terms of scope and special effects.)
Shadow and Bonetells the story of Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a young girl who's newly discovered to be the long-awaited "Sun Summoner," a Grisha who's able to conjure up light as bright as the sun itself something no other Grisha can do. Armed with this new power, she takes it upon herself to try and vanquish the "Shadow Fold" that cleaves the Kingdom of Ravka in two, with the army and the King trying to think of ways to travel through it.
But that's not the only storyline that will unfold when the series premieres, as executive producer and showrunner Eric Heisserer (Arrival) has also decided to include the six characters that make up the heist-committing crew from the best-sellingSix of Crowsbooks, though not much is known about how these characters will fit into the series.
Archie Renaux ("Malyen Oretsev"), Freddy Carter ("Kaz Brekker"), Amita Suman ("Inej"), Kit Young ("Jesper Fahey"), and Ben Barnes ("General Kirigan"),Sujaya Dasgupta ("Zoya Nazyalensky"), Danielle Galligan ("Nina Zenik"), Daisy Head ("Genya Safin"), Simon Sears ("Ivan"), Calahan Skogman ("Matthias Helvar"), Zo Wanamaker ("Baghra"), Kevin Eldon ("The Apparat"), Julian Kostov ("Fedyor"), Luke Pasqualino ("David"), Jasmine Blackborow ("Marie"), and Gabrielle Brooks ("Nadia") co-star.
Bardugo executive produces the show alongsideHeisserer, Shawn Levy (Stranger Things), Dan Cohen, Josh Barry,Pouya Shahbazian, andLee Toland Krieger.
Shadow and Bonesweeps onto Netflix on April 23 worldwide.
If we want to trace our most ancient ancestors, we (and all other life on Earth) could rewind all the way to primordial microbes, but the oldest hominid to act human still goes way back.
Homo erectus is the oldest ancestor we have with more human than apelike characteristics. It was not the first hominidto stand up, but it started showing significant brain growth and evidence of tool use that set it apart from Australopithecus and earlier Homo species. But just how old is H. erectus? The answer could be around 2 million. At least that was what paleoanthropologist Ashley Hammond, who recently published a study in NatureCommunications, and her team found when they reexamined a prehistoric bone fragment.
We were unsure exactly where the fossil came from, Hammond tells SYFY WIRE. We were quite surprised by where a previous study showed its location because it was not where we were expecting it to be.
The KM-ER 2598 skull bone was first unearthed near Lake Turkana in East Turkana, Kenya, in 1974, when there was no such thing as GPS. Scientists found a way around that by marking up up aerial photos of archeological sites. East Turkana is approximately the size of New Jersey, so finding where the bone fragment was originally discovered wouldnt have been possible without a map that showed where fossils had surfaced. Locations where fossils had been found were identified with pinpricks and handwritten fossil numbers. This map showed the way to KM-ER 2598, but not without controversy.
KM-ER 2598 was thought by some to be a much younger specimen when it was first discovered. When fossils show up on the surface, there is always a chance they may have been brought there by wind or water or something else. When a fossil is surrounded by rocks that have been dated to a certain age, it is often assumed that the piece of bone is around the same age. With KM-ER 2598, it didnt help that most known H. erectus fossils were from several hundred thousand years later. The rock formation where this fragment was first picked up also predated any species of Homo.
Inconsistencies between the fossil and where it was supposedly from led Hammond and her team to find a more likely location that was still relatively close. There was still a problem. Rock deposits in the new location were radiometrically dated to about 1.88-1.9 million years old. After extensive testing to make sure that there was no evidence of younger rocks on KM-ER 2598, Hammond concluded that it must have come from these older deposits, meaning it really is 2 million years old. That wasnt the only thing that surprised them. Foot and pelvis fossils that might have been from the same H. erectus individual also appeared.
It is likely that they are the same individual since they were found so close together, but we cannot prove this, Hammond says. If researchers are able to find additional footbones or pelvic material from early Homo erectus, this would allow critical comparisons of the anatomy that might strengthen our claim.
If these bones really are from the same individual or even another individual of the same species that is as old as the rocks surrounding KM-ER 2598, it could mean that the oldest postcranial (anything below the head) fossils from H. erectus have been found. These fossils are even older than the 1.7-million-year-old H. erectus bones found in Dmanisi, Georgia. However, it is unlikely that this can be proven anytime soon. DNA degrades fast, and any genetic material that might have been in the fossils has long since disintegrated.
Even if they were not from Homo erectus, what could be inferred from the fossils was that they had a more human than apelike morphology, and were almost definitely from some Homo species. Postcranial bones from other hominid species in East Turkana might eventually give away what belonged to whom. These fossils are of comparable age and could have belonged to Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, or Paranthropus boisei. Whether these species crossed paths with each other and with H. erectus is still unknown, but Hammond wants to find out.
Homo erectuswas around for almost 2 million years and lived alongside several other hominid species at different periods of time, she says. East Turkana is one place where we find multiple hominidspecies overlapping, so this field location has the potential to provide more information about how these species coexisted sympatrically. Id love to know more about how Homo erectus interacted with other hominids.
Perhaps I'll change my mind someday, when all of this feels far in the rearview, but apart from a few outliers like the terrifying and brilliant Host and David Tennant and Michael Sheen's delightful buddy comedy Staged, I'm really not that interested in entertainment about the pandemic at the moment. I understand the impulse, of course, because we're primed as humans to glean meaning from the current moment, whether through fictional metaphor or more direct narrative confrontation. It's just not for me right now, and with that feeling comes an inherent skepticism of any piece of entertainment that professes to be inspired by or driven by the madness of the past year in any way.
Which brings me to In the Earth, the new horror film from writer/director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England) that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival back in January and hits theaters this week. Wheatley wrote the script in the early weeks of lockdown as he, like everyone else, was climbing the walls at home and looking for something to occupy his mind. He shot the film just a short while later, over a period of a couple of weeks in the summer of 2020, using the isolation of the pandemic and even a few public health announcement signs in the U.K. as a backdrop for his narrative. In less than a year, the film was complete, and it will be released at a time when many of us are just beginning to contemplate returning to actual movie theaters again amid a hopeful vaccine rollout.
All of that, and the subject matter of the film itself, ties In the Earth to the pandemic in ways that I was frankly uncomfortable with when I sat down for my virtual Sundance screening earlier this year. I wasn't ready to enjoy something that was so willing to use this period of our lives as a backdrop, even if it was something coming from one of our most inventive genre filmmakers. I was sure this film's wielding of the times we live in would leave me feeling cynical and hollow.
Instead, what I found was a dazzling, ambitious, and ultimately terrifying horror film that managed to be about the world of the pandemic without actually being about the pandemic itself, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.
In the Earth follows four souls in a forest landscape, each of them contending with the elements around them in different ways. It begins as a researcher and a forest ranger (Joel Fry and Ellora Torchia, respectively) venture out into the woods to do some fieldwork and, perhaps, to locate another scientist (Hayley Squires) who went out into the trees sometime earlier. Along the way, they encounter a strange survivalist (Reece Shearsmith in top form) who begins to shift their perception of the forest and what it holds.
The less said about what's actually going on in those trees before you see the film, the better, but fans of Wheatley films such as A Field in England will be pleased to know that he's up to some of his old hallucinogenic, mind-melting tricks yet again. In some ways, I'd argue this film represents a culmination of sorts for Wheatley, compiling everything he was interested in exploring with Kill List and A Field in England into something grander, more ambitious, and packed with every filmmaking trick he's picked up along the way. In the Earth is a powerful exercise in low-budget horror craft, whether we're talking about the scenic forest itself or the way in which Wheatley turns the woods into a labyrinthine nest of secrets that keeps revealing new things to its characters and its viewers with each passing minute.
It's in that element the sense of constant searching and discovery the film creates through nerve-shredding pacing, unexpected humor, and precise, vulnerable performances that In the Earth truly finds its footing as a great piece of pandemic-era art. Outside of its thematic pressure points, the film works extremely well as a merging of eco-horror and folk horror, and it's no surprise that Wheatley's experience in the genre is still paying off in new ways. However, by setting his film in a vast and ancient forest and framing each of his characters as searchers of one kind or another, Wheatley has built an isolated stage on which his major players can explore the true unspeakable horror of living in this time: The constant and often desperate reach for meaning, even when it appears the world has none left to offer.
It all needs to mean something, because if it doesn't, then what are we all doing here, shut up in our homes for months on end, waiting for the wider world to be at our feet again?
The characters of In the Earth are also probing that vast cosmic tapestry. Some search through science, others through ancient magic, others through a strange merging of the two, and they all do it because, as one character says, humans have a need to "make stories out of everything." They do it in a hostile landscape that at various points seems to be either an ally and a monstrous enemy. They do it amid millennia-old forest folklore and modern technology, makeshift camps and state-of-the-art research sites, quarantine conditions, and wilderness isolation. They search because there has to be something left to find even as the world seems to be coming apart at the seams.
It's that search and the constant sense that, no matter how deep they dig, they might find nothing that makes In the Earth one of the best films of 2021 so far, and a truly brilliant encapsulation of the horrors and hopes of the present moment.
In what might represent Europe'soldest known instance of ancient cartography, a team of researchers working fromtheFrench National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research, Bournemouth University, the CNRS, and the University of Western Brittanyhasdelivered a new study on a 4,000-year-old stone map from the Bronze Age (2150-1600 BCE).
Publishedin the online journal, Bulletin de la Socit prhistorique franaise, a new analysis of the 5x6 foot relic first excavated back in 1900 by Paul du Chatellier recounts how this remarkablecarved slab from Saint-Blecwas recently rediscovered in the cellar of a French castle in Brittany in 2014after being lost for decades.
Before that, the rare antiquity was apparently laying in a castle moat at Mr. du Chatellier'sfamily estate at the Chateau de Kernuz just 25 miles from where the slab was found.
What's known as the theSaint-Blecslabwas originally unearthed from a Bronze Agegrave mound in Finistre, Brittany. It comprisedone of the walls of a cist, a type of stone box that housed the bodies of the deceased. The tabletwas most likely carvedbefore it was reused in the burrowtowardthe end of the early Bronze Age, and has now been reexamined and classified as theoldest cartographical representation of a known territory in Europe.
According to the official press release furnished to SYFY WIRE, "The presence of repeated motifs joined by lines gives this composition the appearance of a cartographic layout. The Saint-Blec Slab does indeed bear the three elements that are most probative of prehistoric cartographic representation: homogenous composition with engravings that are identical in technique and style, repetition of motifs, and a spatial relationship between the motifs (network of lines). To confirm their hypothesis, the researchers compared it with other, similar representations drawn from European prehistory and from ethnography (Tuareg, Papuans, Australian Aborigines, etc.)"
In 2017, a crew of European researchers begananalyzing engravings on the famous slab by employinghigh-resolution 3D surveys and photogrammetry, which is a process of analyzing an object via a series of highly-detailed photographs.
Through this process the teamdiscovered that the giant stone markercontained all the hallmarksof a detailed regional map, specifically representingan 18-mile stretch ofterritory and valley around the River Odetin Western France.
There are several such maps carved in stone all over the world," Bournemouth University post-doctoral researcher Dr. Clement Nicolas told the BBC. "Generally, they are just interpretations. But this is the first time a map has depicted an area on a specific scale probably a way to affirm the ownership of the territory by a small prince or king at the time.We tend to underestimate the geographical knowledge of past societies. This slab is important as it highlights this cartographical knowledge."
Its a good thing these guys are relatively harmless, because in a few weeks, the eastern part of the U.S. will be absolutely mobbed by them and theyre enormous. If youve never seen a cicada (and no, not that kind), next month wont just be a prime cicada-viewing opportunity: itll be the start of more than a month of total theyre everywhere! saturation of the giant insects for people who live in eastern and southern U.S. states.
Unlike locusts (with which theyre sometimes confused), periodic cicadas arent the insects responsible for plagues and property-chewing infestations. But their eldritch gestational cycle is the stuff of sci-fi nightmares.
Periodic cicadas (distinct from annual cicadas thanks to their lengthy spawning patterns) have such long gestational spans that their years-in-the-making hatching events get human-sounding generational names. And the name for this years batch is especially freighted with scary sci-fi infestation implications, even if the super-sized insects themselves are all bark and no bite. No, that wont be a freight train outside your window next month: its just Brood X, the uniformly agreed-upon name that scientists are calling this years cicada wave.
The size of small hummingbirds, these cicadas have a physical presence thats the envy of any insect bent on striking fear into the hearts of people. Their eyes are red, their wings are nearly transparent, and their bodies are about the size and shape of a human thumb and they leave a creepy, Alien-looking exoskeleton; one only slightly smaller than their final adult form, behind when they molt. But Brood Xs fear factor pretty much begins and ends in the imagination, because it poses nary a threat to humansother than the one that stirs your instinct to get far, far away from something so freaky.
They dont really have any defenses. Their only defense is their numbers, Matt Kasson, a cicada scientist at West Virginia University, recently explained to The Washington Post. They basically fill up every predator on the planet when they emerge, so every bird, snake and fish within range will just basically gorge themselves on cicadas, and yet there will still be plenty left to persist.
Hes not kidding: Brood X could end up spawning cicadas in the hundreds of billions, maybe even pushing into trillions, Kasson later addedand somehow, were supposed to believe the chorus of scientists whore trying to assure us thats totally okay.
Living up the periodic part of their description, periodic cicadas like those of Brood X spend nearly their entire 17-year lifespans underground, subsisting on the root tissue of trees. Then in year 17 (some species only make it to year 13 before starting this process), some alchemical secret of biology compels them to emerge from the ground all at once, putting on a spectacle of sight (and sound) thats nearly impossible for humans to avoid.
In early May and continuing through June, mature cicada nymphs some of which can approach 3 inches in length are triggered by warming soil temperatures to burrow out of their underground abodes in unison, ascending trees to molt their juvenile exoskeletons and grow new adult ones. Their new hard shells will serve them only for the short 4-6 week remainder of their above-ground lives, but at least they go out in style: all of their adult lives, once theyve emerged from the dirty depths, is devoting to mating.
Finding a procreative partner is where the cicadas get to show off the other freaky trait theyre famous for: their singing. The sound of millions upon millions of male cicadas calling out in unison on a warm spring night is a signature seasonal event for residents in the southern and eastern U.S., as are the light-brown, desiccated husks of their molted exoskeletons, which litter the earth in regions both urban and rural like the hollowed-out remnants of a failed insect invasion.
There are, of course, annual cicadas that do these same types of things every spring. But in years like this one, when an entire 17-year gestational cycle is coming to fruition all at once, the period between early May and late June has all the visual and audible hallmarks of one giant insect storm. We guess its a reason to celebrate, if you happen to be an entomologist. But the cicadas of Brood X will probably never really grasp the next-level creep factor that theyre bringing to the spring of 2021 for everybody else.
Sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot, is one of the better-known cryptids out there. The hairy humanoid monster has stoked fear in the hearts of many who believe they've seen him deep in the woods, particularly in the dark forests of Northern California.
The new Hulu documentary Sasquatch focuses on a particularly harrowing story of how Bigfoot allegedly murdered three men on a Northern California marijuana farm in 1993. The three-part docuseries, directed by Joshua Rof and produced by the Duplass Brothers, follows investigative journalist David Holthouse as he tries to get to the bottom of this Sasquatch murder myth he heard over 20 years ago.
SYFY WIRE has an exclusive clip from the doc as well as an interview with director Joshua Rof about his investigation of a cryptid murder mystery. Check out the clip below and read on to hear about Rof's experience shooting Sasquatch.
How did this particular Sasquatch story come to your attention, and why did you decide to make a documentary on it?
In February of 2018, a friend of mine suggested that I listen to a podcast called Sasquatch Chronicles, where people call in with their encounter stories. I wasn't really interested but he urged me to listen to an episode and I did.
Four days later, I had listened to 11 episodes. What I was struck by was the visceral fear I sensed as a narrative throughline amongst all these people's stories. I was less concerned with, "Do I believe in Bigfoot? Do I believe the details of their stories?" I believe that the fear I was sensing was authentic.
And then I thought, if I was able to find a murder mystery somehow wrapped up in a Sasquatch story, that could be really special. David Holthouse is a friend and colleague of mine he has been an investigative journalist for 25 years, and he's the person I know that you'd reach out to if you wanted to find a completely insane outlandish thing that probably doesn't exist.
My exact text to David in February 2018 was, "Hey this is the craziest text I'm going to send you for the next five years. I would like to find a murder mystery that's somehow wrapped up in a Sasquatch story, and if it exists pursue that as the next project."
He wrote me right back. He said, "I love it. I got one. I'll call you in five." And then he proceeds to tell me his own story from the fall of 1993, where he heard, while he was visiting a cannabis farm in Northern California, that these three people had been murdered by a Sasquatch. It was that story he tucked away and I think was probably embarrassed to share with other people because it just doesn't sound believable.
The documentary blends tales about Sasquatch with the also very frightening stories around the illegal dope business. How did you approach conveying those two different narratives within the documentary?
It's so easy for those things not to work under the same umbrella. But I think the key is, if you treat that thing that seems super outlandish and implausible like it's as real as somebody testifying in court, then things that might have seemed silly and hard to believe start to veer into compelling territory. The people who have these stories you sit with them and talk to them, and you know that they believe it. If you treat them with respect, it turns these things that could otherwise be a punchline into something that has gravitas in the moment.
The other thing that jumps out from the documentary is how the forest of the Emerald Triangle is a character in itself. How did the remoteness of that land impact the making of the doc?
Normally whenever I've made a documentary, I go to one town and most everybody lives within 30 minutes of each other that you're going to interview. When you have to do that for an extended period of time, you never feel fully grounded, and that can really allow your anxiety to creep in. There's something about being separate from everyone and everything you just never feel safe, and you always feel like we better not stay here for too long. And the woods out there, I mean, the forest is so thick. It's just prehistoric.
One thing I found especially interesting is how you used comic book-like vignettes to portray past events. How did you come up with the idea to convey certain elements of the story that way?
I'm glad you say comic book because I always thought of the story as a 70s paranoid thriller-meets-graphic novel. We were discussing early on that there's a whole bunch of stuff in this story where there are no visual archives. How were we going to express this? Mark Duplass said, "Well, what about animation?" And my gut reaction was that I wasn't actually very excited about that, because animation and docs for whatever reason had personally never spoken to me.
But then Duplass put us in touch with an animator. His name is Drew Christie, and he had worked on other Duplass Brothers projects. I talked to Drew, and the only thing I told him aside from what the story was about, is that this is like a graphic novel come to life.
A week or two later, Drew sends back about 90 seconds of animation, and I don't think a frame changed in the finished series. He created a world that felt so spot on Drew gets so much credit for how cinematic certain pockets of the doc got to be.
You also interviewed the people involved with the most famous Bigfoot footage out there, where a Sasquatch is walking through the woods. How did you go about talking with both sides of the people involved in that footage, and then how did you decide to incorporate it into the overall documentary?
We knew for sure that we wanted to talk to Bob Gimlin of the famous Patterson/Gimlin film. When you read anything about the Patterson/Gimlin film, what pops up is another name: Bob Heironimus. He's a guy who claims he was the person wearing the Bigfoot suit in the Patterson/Gimlin film.
I think the best you can hope for when you're making a doc is, if there is a particular story with people who were on opposite ends of it, you really want to talk to both of them. And so that's what we did we spoke to both these guys who each had very different versions of what that film is. And ironically enough, they happen to live down the street from each other. They both got to say their piece and I found them both to be really compelling. Both great guys too.
How did you approach investigating the illegal dope farming side? It's obviously a bit different and probably a bit scarier, I'm guessing, for you personally, given the people involved.
That's all David Holthouse. My job was to follow him on his investigation at certain points but he's the investigator he's the one developing these sources. David's skillset as an investigative journalist is really what brought all those things to fruition. He has a really unique set of skills he's like Gene Hackman out there in the woods, trying to find out what happened.
What do you hope viewers walk away thinking about, once they see the doc?
I hope that they never look at the woods in the same way again. It's not just about Bigfoot the show isn't about searching for Bigfoot or trying to prove its existence, one way or another. The show is really about the hunt for the origin of this crazy story about Bigfoot murdering three guys on a weed farm.
Hunting for that story was darker and more dangerous than any of us could have imagined in ways that were all completely unexpected. When you start to really dig into folklore or ghost stories, if you really decide you're going to pursue it with a certain amount of vigor and tenacity, I guarantee you will end up in a dark place. It's a scary dangerous world that you can end up in when you start to poke at folklore in a deep enough way.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. All three episodes of Sasquatch premiere on Hulu on April 20.