A creature feature, a supernatural urban legend, and an anthology

A little bit of everything in this trio of recent films I streamed and watched on cable. Are any of them worth a watch? Let’s find out.

STRANGE NATURE (2018)

Great title for this movie, which is strange in a good way. Reminiscent of eco horror/nature strikes back horror of the 1970s, it has an odd, underlying sense of humor even though it’s a serious film.

And even though it’s a slow burner and not significantly in-your-face horror until the last 15 minutes or so, the likable characters and slow unfolding of bizarre events sucks you in.

A woman comes back to her small hometown with her son to be there for her father. The place is loaded with rednecks, including hottie John Hennigan with a mullet sent from heaven. This dude is apparently a former Survivor contestant and wrestler.

Main actress Lisa Sheridan (of the short lived series Invasion) has a great dry delivery, and reminds me strongly of Mary Steenburgen, and her quirky father rox…probably because he’s the funny dude who was trapped in the building across the way in the Dawn of the Dead remake. Dad ends up helping daughter when she becomes determined to find out why deformed frogs are growing in number in the area.

Here immediate obsession as soon as she arrives, along with her back story—which is so far from scientific it makes her obsession even more bizarre, are exactly what make the movie so weird and keeps you watching. That and a couple of “attack” scenes that suggest something is out in the wilderness and preying on people like Tiffany Shepis in a cameo…

The leading lady goes through all the usual research and investigation to figure out what is causing the deformities. Meanwhile, mutilated animals are being found, people are disappearing, and eventually the townsfolk start getting affected by the situation.

It all leads up to a thrilling but way too short creature feature segment at the very end. And even though it’s short, it’s worth the wait for all the retro horror fun, gore, and practical monster effects.

SLENDER MAN (2018)

You have to know what you’re in for when you watch a Hollywood tween horror flick based on an urban legend soon after a shocking case revolving around the legend hit the news. If you don’t know, then you really shouldn’t bother criticizing the film, because it does exactly what it’s supposed to do to spook its target audience.

Really, Slender Man is just another take on the popular plot of teens being stalked by a boogeyman that haunts their dreams and then their reality. It’s impossible to ignore the similarities to the Freddy Krueger legend, with a good dose of The Ring thrown in.

Teen girls hear about Slender Man, they watch a creepy online video to summon him, they start disappearing one by one, the survivors scramble to figure out how to stop him. Tale as old as horror.

Most of the film is fun and eerie, with some great suspense scenes, including a library attack and a girl receiving a video call that shows the perspective of Slender Man as he enters her house and heads for her room. EEK!

It’s when the remaining girls are onto him in the final act that things just get too sloppy and chaotic, which is usually the case with this type of film. It ruins the movie. Slender Man even turns into, well, Spider Slender Man…

Not to mention it leaves a major plot hole concerning one girl who never died but just disappears from the script completely while in less than normal shape.

WELCOME TO HELL (2018)

The wraparound of this anthology looks as low budget as it gets, with a couple sitting in what appears to be an actual home, trying to figure out what to watch on TV when a video tape suddenly drops through their mailbox. Hmm…where have I seen this wraparound before?

As for the stories, they also all feel low budget, and some of them seem like incomplete concepts.

1st story – This is nothing more than something you’d find on YouTube—a thrown together plot leading to a nonsensical final scare. Horror king Bill Oberst Jr. plays a detective, but the role could have been given to anyone, because he spends most of his time sitting at a desk for way too long doing nothing but silently pondering his case.

2nd – This is basically an homage to Argento and an excuse to place two lesbians in a Suspiria setting.

3rd – Wow. This one impressed me simply because it dares to go for the totally subversive. It’s an entirely controversial plot about parent/child incest and murder.

4th – A dialogue heavy short about a support group for people affected by a zombie outbreak. There’s also a zombie baby that looks like the kind you buy at the Halloween store in October, perhaps just covered in a sticky gel.

5th – about a guy with a gun in the woods.

6th – Notable for starring a handful of b-horror faves, including Marv Blauvelt and Felissa Rose, this is truly the most horror classic of the bunch, as a group of hunky guys try to cover up the murder of a woman and get monstrous payback.

As for the conclusion of the wraparound, no one even bothered to put any thought into it. I was kind of dumbfounded.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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