The Old Man and the Monster: New Swedish Horror

Nordic Noir (as crime fiction from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden is being tagged) already has a strong presence on the Backbrain’s TV must-watch list (not to mention reading list). But there’s also been a decent smattering of Nordic Horror over the past five or six years. Several films spring immediately to mind: vampire drama Let the Right One in [aka Låt den rätte komma in] (Sweden, 2008), zombie Nazi horror Dead Snow [aka Død snø] (Norway, 2009) and its sequel Dead Snow: Red vs Dead [aka Død Snø 2] (Norway/Iceland), hospital horror Dark Floors (Finland/Iceland, 2008), eco monster epic The Last Winter (US/Iceland, 2006), slasher horror Cold Prey [aka Fritt vilt] (Norway, 2006) and its sequels, glacial monster flick Frost (Iceland, 2012), evil Santa horror-comedy Rare Exports (Finland/Norway/France/Sweden, 2010) and, of course, the infamous Troll Hunter [aka Trolljegeren] (Norway, 2010).

Now a new one is set to be unleashed:

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Hermit: Monster Killer (Sweden-2014; dir. Ola Paulakoski) is touted by its makers to be a horror comedy, “a mixture of Jaws and Åsa-Nisse (an eccentric elderly character created by Swedish writer Stig Cederholm – Åsa-Nisse has featured in humorous stories, over 20 films and a comic series), Tremors and a Värmländsk local revue, with elements of Moby Dick and Predator”. HMK-02-Borje Lundberg

Directed by Ola Paulakoski and produced by Gustaf Karlsson from a script by Fred Anderson, Hermit: Monster Killer tells the story of an aged and rather cranky recluse (played by Börje Lundberg, pictured above) who decides to take matters into his own hands when a mysterious monster turns up and has the tasteless audacity to kill his dog! HMK-06-Ola Paulakoski

<p>”>The titular character, an ageing eccentric, seems to represent a popular stereotype in Nordic popular culture. Here he is in some concept art, with a hint as to the shape of the beast as well.

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Synopsis:

Värmland, Sweden — where people are happy. Clean air, crystal clear waters, green forests. Way out there in the wilderness lives a grumpy old hermit and his faithful dog. The only thing they need to worry about are the brats who pinch his apples and the occasional lost tourist. It’s a good life, maybe a little lonely, but far from the worst you can have.

The nearest town is a small place with a grimy pizza joint and a single cop who has hold of the law. It is also home to Palle, a lucky loser who thrives quite well as the local rugby team’s mascot and is deeply in love with his beautiful girlfriend, Ulla. Sure, life is perfect right? Or it was until the day the bad thing happens. Yes, THAT! The day the MONSTER came!

Now it’s up to the hermit Palle and his rugby friends to hunt down and exterminate the mysterious beast that threatens to tear apart the town and eat up every last man, woman and pet it comes across! Soon the once-beautiful scenery is filled to the brim with horror beyond our heroes’ wildest fantasies!

Only one man can stop the monster’s rampage: the old hermit — and his hunting rifle. But is he past his used-by date?

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More trailers/teasers can be viewed on the film’s website.

Gallery:

More images, both behind the scenes and unprocessed screenshots, are available on the Facebook page.

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I’m very keen to see this one. It looks like a lot of gruesome fun.

Sources: Official Publicist Avery Guerra; Facebook page; Hermit: Monster Hunter Website

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Outing the Lake Champlain Monster

It seems every decent-sized lake with dark, murky waters is home to a monster — or at least to a legend of one. Most of them are, like the infamous Nessie in Scotland’s Loch Ness, rather plesiosaurian or at least serpentile in nature and persistently camera-shy.

Lake Champlain, which lies across the Canada-United States border between New York/Vermont in the US and Quebec in Canada, is no exception. Its amphibious, serpent-like beastie is named Champ. Though legends of Champ’s existence have the support of local Native American tribes, the Iroquois and the Abenaki, and there have been over 300 reported sightings since French explorer Samuel de Champlain (founder of Québec) came to the area in 1609, concrete evidence of Champ’s existence remains elusive. The serpentile lake monster was apparently quite famous in the 19th Century. Showman and entrepreneurial cryptozoologist P.T. Barnum even offered a reward of $50,000 to anyone who could produce a carcass of Champ (source). Naturally Barnum would have used the carcass as one of his freakshow exhibits. I guess no one took up the offer.

Now producer/director Lori Kelly-Bailey of Oneonta is making a film about the legendary beast, shot in the area and using local actors and crew. Titled Champ-o-Sauras, the low-budget independent film, touted as a horror spoof and a mockumentary, tells of a doco filmmaker who turns up with the intent of debunking the legend of the Lake Champlain monster. Competition over a reward for anyone who can produce evidence of Champ’s existence results in savage competition and pranks that turn deadly.

Of the film’s plot Kelly-Bailey said that there are two central questions: “Is there proof that Champ exists? And will anyone make it out of the lake alive?”

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The regional cast includes Dyani Mae Bryant, Mackenzie Peters, Giovanna Contini-Marrow, Brenda Baker, Rex Baker, Thomas Scozzafava, William Farrar, Cody Lang, Andy Miritello, Randy Miritello, Marie Ann Logue and Peggy Benjamin. Still be cast are roles for two children to play a 1920s paperboy between the ages of 6 and 8, with an English-Irish accent, and a 1920s shoeshine boy. Casting will be held in Essex County, with tryout times and location to be announced.

Anyone interested should send a current photo along with basic information, including child’s height and weight, any special skills or previous acting experience to: Tandem Cage Productions, P.O. Box 707, Oneonta, NY 13820, and include contact information.

Shooting for the film has begun and will continue through May and June. It will be released on DVD and various streaming services once completed.

Sources: via Avery Guerra. Press Republican; Cardinal Points Online.

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It Came From … A Big Blue Hole in the Sea: Poseidon Rex

Poseidon Rex (US-2013; dir. Mark L. Lester) is, without a doubt, a B-monster pic, SyFy-style. That’s not necessarily bad. “B-movie” is not synonymous with “bad movie”. “Low budget movie”, yes. Generally formulaic? Sure. But they can be fun if you are able to adjust your expectations according the dollars available.

poseidon-rex-posterSynopsis:

A small, secluded island off the coast of Belize suddenly finds itself terrorized by a deadly predator from the planet’s distant past, when deep-sea divers accidentally awaken an ancient evil. Jackson Slate and his team of underwater cave explorers unearth much more than long-lost Mayan treasure while plumbing the depths of a world famous blue hole. They disturb a creature that’s been hibernating for over 60,000 years—a rampaging behemoth of death and destruction not only at sea but also on land.

Unlikely. Dodgy FX. Stereotypical characters. But I’ll give it a go. I like the look of the trailer. I can lower my expectations enough — and who knows? It might surprise me. After all, its director, Mark L. Lester, has made some half-decent exploitation flicks in the past — Firestarter (1984), Commando (1985), the robotic teacher movie Class of 1999 (1990), Misbegotten (1998). Apparently Poseidon Rex is even getting a US theatrical release on 18 April.

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Update: Meateaters Is Ready To Chew the Scenery

Meateaters is the latest B-monster flick from the Polonia Bros. Entertainment. It was highlighted during January by Undead Backbrain in an article that explored the world of Monsters vs The Mafia on film.

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Synopsis:

An excavation blast unleashes prehistoric terror on a small community in this pulse pounding Sci-Fi action film! A group of small time bank robbers and a thieving gun-moll end up unlikely partners during a botched heist.  They’re after the money, the mob is after them, and the hungry dinosaur has everyone on its menu!

Vegetarians beware and prepare to become extinct!  There’s a new criminal in town and it’s hungry for flesh and blood!

The good news is this low-budget/high-enthusiasm thriller that pits Monster against Mob is now playing as a streaming exclusive on www.fullmoonstreaming.com. By voting to support the cult filmmakers that created it you get to see this brand new feature exclusively on the site. Of course, you have to subscribe to a 3-month membership (only $18.00) — but for this pittance, you get to see Meateaters and an incredible wealth of other maverick indie movies, plus the entire Full Moon library — which includes classics such as The Puppet Master flicks, Evil Bong, Robot Wars, Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust, Trancers, Killjoy, Dollman vs Demonic Toys…. and more — in fact a vast library of weirdness such as you won’t believe!

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So give Meateaters and director Mark Polonia a hand! After 50 votes the movie gets a nationwide DVD release, and every subscriber gets a free DVD of the movie, so vote now and enjoy hours of sci-fi, horror and fantasy entertainment from industry giant, Charles Band, and a plethora of independent film-makers.

According to publicity, this film is an homage to films like The Beast of Hollow Mountain and Beast of Haunted Cave. It features traditional effects such as stop-motion animation,  puppetry, forced perspective, and all that retro goodness we love!

Time is running out! Go and vote now! Here is the direct link.

Source: via publicist Avery Guerra

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Update: Bermuda Tentacles

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The above image is the first view of the monster (or one of the monsters) that inhabits the film Bermuda Tentacles (dir. Nick Lyon). Looks like a tentacle made out of water, with something no doubt very nasty as its “head”. Nice play on our expectations of a Kraken-like creature!

Air Force One goes down, shaking up the Eastern Seaboard with an angry monster in tow. (Syfy)

Check out the Undead Backbrain article “There’s More Than Three Sides To This Triangle” in you want to know more.

Source: Syfy Channel via Avery Guerra.

Addendum: Another pic, this one with Linda Hamilton on deck

Bermuda Tentacles - 2014

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First Hints As To What The Expedition Found

The makers of the “Lost World” film The Expedition (UK-2014; dir. Adam Spinks) [see Undead Backbrain article "What Happened to the Expedition?"] have provided a few visual hints as to what The Expedition‘s hapless team members stumbled upon in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. I suspect this might be the tip of the paleontological iceberg.

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Source: Ben Loyd-Holmes via Avery Guerra.

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Bermuda Tentacles: There’s More Than Three Sides to this Triangle

It’s called Bermuda Tentacles, it’s directed by Nick Lyon (Grendel, Species: The Awakening, Rise of the Zombies), and it’s the Next Big Thing from mockbuster studio, The Asylum, in collaboration with the SyFy Channel. It stars singer/popstar/actress Mya Harrison, Trevor Donovan, Luke White, Jamie Kennedy, John Savage (Carnivàle), Darren Anthony Thomas (1313: Giant Killer Bees!), and the original Sarah Connor, Linda Hamilton, who has set aside hunting killer robots to take on a Monster From The Deep. Hamilton plays “…an admiral of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier dispatched to the Bermuda Triangle to rescue the President after Air Force One crashes, when her team accidentally awakens a monster …”

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Note: the above picture is NOT from the movie.

Military-type activity awakening big monster that goes on a rampage. It’s a familiar trope, especially in the light of a certain upcoming giant monster pic — one with a higher profile than Bermuda Triangle could ever hope to muster. So the real question is: is this film the Asylum’s “mockbuster” for 2014 — their attempt to cash in on the imminent release of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla revamp?

Undead Backbrain’s kaiju ninja Avery Guerra put this (and some other questions) to cinematographer Alexander Yellan.

Yellan: Although I can’t speak for the marketing gurus at the Asylum, I don’t believe this film is associated with the release of the Warner Bros. Godzilla. As far as I know this is an original concept developed in coordination with SyFy.

AG: What can you tell us about the monster or monsters then, apart from the obvious (as suggested by the title)?

Yellan: I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about the creatures in the film as frankly it would spoil the fun. But I will say that the Asylum and Syfy both like titles that are direct and to the point.

AG: Who are the stars? In what locations does it take place?

Yellan: The film stars Linda Hamilton as a US Navy Admiral, Trevor Donovan as a Special Forces team leader, Mya Harrison as a team specialist, Jamie Kennedy as a military scientist, and John Savage as the President. The film is set primarily in the Bermuda Triangle but also along other parts of the Eastern seaboard of the US.

AG: If not Godzilla, what are the inspirations that lie behind Bermuda Tentacles?

Yellan: I couldn’t tell you every film that was drawn upon for ideas, but the director’s style guide referenced Peter Berg’s Battleship quite a bit. I’d say Michael Bay’s style came up in conversation frequently as well.

AG: Does the film have an air date? Has it wrapped production?

Yellan: We have certainly finished production. I believe the film is slated to air on the Syfy Channel on Saturday, April 12 at 9 p.m. EST.

So there you have it. The actual monster design is up-in-the-air, though the tentacles definitely suggest images of the Kraken — that mythological seabeast that was said to terrorise ships in the early days (as depicted on this ad for Kraken Rum, a substance that no doubt contributed to many sightings):

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The Kraken has subsequently re-entered the public consciousness thanks to both Ray Harryhausen’s mythological Clash of the Titans (US-1981; dir. Desmond Davis) and the more recent remake, Clash of the Titans (US-2010; dir. Louis Leterrier) — as they say,  “Release the Kraken!”

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Above picture is of Harryhausen’s stopmotion Kraken (from the 1981 film) and below is a painting by GENZOMAN, drawn as a splash page for a comic prequel to the modern Clash of the Titans remake.

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Giant tentacled sea-monsters have been plentiful in fiction and on films. Putting aside the king of tentacled horrors, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and the films he has inspired, I will mention four (so I can add pictures). Firstly, there’s Tentacles [aka Tentacoli] (Italy/US-1977; dir. Ovidio G. Assonitis (as Oliver Hellman)), which involves people disappearing at sea, a huge mutated octopus, and a bunch of well-known US actors slumming it in a 1970s Italian exploitation pic.

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Don’t you just love Japanese posters?

Next is a favourite of mine, made by a director who went on to have several effective big-budget box-office successes only to completely lose control when given even more truck-loads of money to work with — Deep Rising (US-1998; dir. Stephen Sommers). This one involves a huge luxury liner, a bunch of modern mercenary pirates, and the most multi-tentacled horror to ever hit the screen:

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Thirdly, a little-known gem from Ireland — Grabbers (Ireland-2012; dir. Jon Wright). This one involves a bunch of Irish patrons in a pub by the seaside — and a huge tentacled monster. Very funny. I highly recommend it.

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Finally, we have a 1950s scifi classic, It Came From Beneath the Sea (US-1955; dir. Robert Gordon), featuring the stop-motion work of the great Ray Harryhausen (again). H-bomb tests give rise to a mutated, mega-gigantic five-tentacled octopus (there were budgetary restrictions), which comes to the California coast to party. One of the greats!

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Sources: Alexander Yellan via Avery Guerra. The Wrap online. Genzoman. Various other internet sources where no credit was given.

 

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Enormous News

The year 2014 is shaping up to be a big one for fans of giant monsters. This is not surprising, of course, as the much-anticipated, big-budget kaiju extravaganza Godzilla (US-2014; dir. Gareth Edwards) is due to hit screens in May. The fact that so far Hollywood’s return to the iconic Japanese franchise is looking good and commentators across the board are sounding hopeful is no doubt a source of inspiration. Huge box-office success or not,  the King of Monsters is bringing with him to the party a number of other giant monster/kaiju projects. One of them at least, the web series Enormous, has all the potential to be a worthy addition to the genre.

Enormous_cover-issue3comics_enormous4Click on the above to enlarge

Enormous is based on a comic series created by Tim Daniel (writer) and Mehdi Cheggour (artist) and published as a 64-page, Treasury-sized One Shot graphic novella in July 2012 through Image Comics. Ahead of the comic series’ return in June 2014, a live-action adaptation will hit the internet in the form of a full debut episode available March 20 on the Machinima Prime Channel.

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André Øvredal, director of the Norwegian giant beastie flick Trollhunter (2010), co-wrote the pilot episode with director BenDavid Grabinski. It stars Steve Brand, Ceren Lee, Erica Gimpel, Garret Coffey, Billy Miller and Charles Melton.

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Synopsis:

The world as we know it has ended. A group of survivors on a mission now find themselves face-to-face with unspeakable dangers, some human and some … much bigger.

Don’t forget: March 20, 2014!

Gallery:

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Sources: Thanks to Avery Guerra. Official website; Shock ‘Til You Drop; Arrow in the Head.

Addendum: 20 March 2014

The first episode is now available for viewing in the Cinema of the Backbrain and on YouTube.

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Godzilla Rises: Official Main Trailer

And here we have it: the latest official trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, due out in May. Check out the awesome “rising island” moment!

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This comes hot on the heels of the stunning perspective on Godzilla given by Empire magazine’s April special subscriber cover:

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Godzilla opens 16 May 2014 and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston. The screenplay is by Max Borenstein, Frank Darabont, and Dave Callaham.

Addendum:

This is from the “rising island” scene: Awesome! You can even see the hydrogen bomb that’s about to be exploded!

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Addendum 2:

For the record, here’s the regular cover for the upcoming issue of Empire that features Godzilla 2014:

reg-empire-cover

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What Happened to the Expedition?

The Lost World concept has a long and successful history in fiction and on film. From Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World) through to Merian Cooper’s 1933 King Kong (and later remakes) to Spielberg’s Jurassic Park series, writers and filmmakers have explored the idea of an isolated part of the planet where the remnants of prehistoric life linger on (or have been reborn), infiltrated now by an expeditionary team of some kind. Scientists, adventurers and entrepreneurs must face the lost world’s monstrous inhabitants and survive — though survival is by no means guaranteed. It is a popular trope that never seems to lose its appeal, as unexplored places in the real world become more and more scarce.

Even in 2014, parts of the Amazon remain a mystery. A new, much anticipated monster film, The Expedition (UK; dir. Adam Spinks), follows the journey of a scientific expedition trekking deep into the Amazon jungle seeking rare species.

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Synopsis:

Deep in the Amazon jungle a research team lead by a respected Professor strive to protect vulnerable and endangered species. However, after a series of strange events, the superstitious guides abandon the team, who, faced with a tough decision, decide to remain deep in the jungle in an attempt to complete their study… But as night falls they begin to realize that all is not as it seems and that they are in the hunting ground of an apex predator…. Something they never could have imagined.

Though hints of what they find have been given (the film is described as “a monster movie”, whatever it is “has evolved” and images of dinosaurs appear in the film’s Facebook page), the exact nature of “the monster” remains a secret. Will the team members survive the experience? What is the thing they discover? Well, apparently we are about to find out. The website is on a countdown to “the big reveal”. As I type this, the revelation is 13 hours, 57 minutes away.

Here’s more proof:

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And there’s a monster in this teaser, too, but not much of one.

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“It’s an incredible story we’re telling here,” says Sarah MacDonnell, who plays one of the expedition members, “I’ve never seen anything of this size and scale done in this way before. We’re doing some really exciting stuff with the characters.”

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Director Spinks is extremely positive about the prospects. “I’m excited to be bringing such a remarkable project as The Expedition to the big screen,” he said. “When Ben [Loyd-Holmes] first approached me about the film I was gripped by the concept. This is a real thrill ride of a movie that will have audiences on the edge of their seats.”

Despite the ancestry of the basic concept, Spinks is adamant that The Expedition came together in a way that is fresh and exciting.

“That’s the challenge now in filmmaking that we all face — coming up with new and
exciting ideas for the audience. That became our mantra in making the movie… what has NOT been done before in the genre… And we made it our mission to do as much of it as possible.”

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Keen to ensure the “reality” of the film, both in terms of character development and the monsters themselves, Loyd-Holmes (pictured above as Professor Howson) was convinced that, in terms of the VFX, physicality remained a key issue. “I was determined to have a physical creature,” he commented. “And it was in the research phase that we found the mechanisms and technology that could be combined to create the creatures. With that the project accelerated. Once I was sure the practical elements of the film could be done, I set about refining the idea, as well as putting together the team and this has gone from being an ambitious idea to becoming a project I’m incredibly proud of.”

The cast of The Expedition includes Best Actor Nominee (Film Guild BIHF), Ben Loyd-Holmes (Skyfall, Da Vinci’s Demons, Torchwood), Neil Newbon (Holby City, Hollyoaks), Sarah MacDonnell (Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, Montana), Ernesto Cantu (World War Z), Daniel Caren (The Girl Is Mime, The Hike, The Bill) as well as Simon Burbage (Pulp: The Movie), Dolores Reynals (There Be Dragons), Ross O’Hennessy (Da Vinci’s Demons) and Emma Lillie-Lees.

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So far the response has been strong. The Expedition was very well-received at MCM Expo London Comic Con and Undead Backbrain’s news-creature Avery Guerra reports that at one point the film surpassed Godzilla on IMDb’s list of the most anticipated monster movies of 2014. “That’s a pretty amazing feat for an indie,” Avery commented.

Producer Loyd-Holmes agrees. “The response from people out there to what we’re doing has been amazing. This kind of movie is normally left to big studios, but we’ve approached it in a new and exciting way… We’ve been inventive, tried to do something special… I’m really pleased to have made this movie and I cannot wait to bring the audience something that feels so real, yet is just so magical.”

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From the stills we’ve obtained, the shoot location is both authentic and spectacular and the cast clearly made some interesting friends.

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So, the question remains: what lurks outside the tent and what will we see 14 hours from now when the “big reveal” takes place?

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Be there!

Keep up with the revelations at The Expedition‘s website and on its Facebook page.

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Source: Ben Loyd-Holmes via Avery Guerra; Press Pack.

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