The invasion of the British kiddie character slashers

UK indie horror releases are the place to turn for slashers these days, so it’s time to take on three more of them, with the killers based on familiar kids’ entertainment characters—and some queer content.

FREDDY’S FRIDAYS (2023)

What better way to cash in on the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie than by calling your movie Freddy’s Fridays? However, this film has more in common with movies like The Banana Splits and Willy’s Wonderland in that there’s actually blood and gore and the children’s characters are vicious killers. A few of them also happen to be recycled from the movie The Curse of Humpty Dumpty.

In fact, the kills are all this 79-minute movie has going for it. It’s generally quite boring in between the violent slashing.

The plot involves a detective on a case of missing women. It turns out those women are being hired by a sleazy dude for sex. Instead, he makes them read from a book that summons the creepy characters, who then kill the women.

The detective’s story is melodramatic and dull, so you end up watching just to wait for the next death scene. My personal favorite was when a muscle stud gets a knife in the head.

The final act gives us more of a backstory as to how and why the killers are being summoned, and there’s a fun battle between detective and killers, but other than that there are no scares, suspense, or chase scenes.

RAG DOLL (2023)

As always with these British productions, a couple of the same actresses from Freddy’s Fridays appear in this killer doll movie—playing a lesbian couple! One is the mother of a young girl who is not doing well with the fact that her mom left her dad for a woman. The lesbians are friends with a gay male couple, and there’s a notable exploration of the mother coming to terms with her sexuality by talking it through with one of the gay guys. Considering this is a predominantly queer cast, Rag Doll gets an honorary spot on the homo horror movies page.

So mom, her lesbian lover, and her resentful daughter move into a new house. They find a life-size rag doll, and mom gives it to the daughter. Pretty soon the doll turns against all the queer people in her life. Seriously, this damn homophobic rag doll kills mostly gay people!

While there are some eerie setup shots and the doll is creepy at times, when she comes to life she mostly looks like a model wearing a Raggedy Ann costume for a costume display at Party City.

Also, rather distracting is the fact that the girl playing the daughter doesn’t appear to have any interest in acting. Her expression never changes, and neither does the one-note tone of her voice. It’s quite bizarre and almost scarier than everything else in the movie. Except maybe this…

The film won’t terrify you, but at only 75 minutes long and loaded with queer characters, I’d say it’s worth a watch.

PUNCH (2023)

This odd British film goes for a simple slasher story based on someone dressed as a classic child’s puppet show character. That is until it suddenly goes for a sort of folk horror twist at the end…in a movie that takes place in a city. Even so, the surprise killer reveal and motivation are a highlight here.

As a slasher, it’s rather bland. A girl has an argument with her mother then goes out to party with a friend. They run into a creepy hobo who warns them about “Punch”, the hobo is the first (off-screen) kill, and then things drag for a while as the girls do a lot of talking.

Lindsay Clonehan, as I call a British scream queen who looks and sounds just like Lohan, has a brief role and the best kill of the movie when she’s forced to deep throat Punch’s bat.

Most of the other kills are tame and bland, but there is a fantastic, brutal massacre at the party.

However, Punch reveals himself to be a total homophobe when he kills two guys hooking up, landing this one on the does the gay guy die? page.

Punch also talks and tries to deliver one-liners, which are pretty weak. Not to mention, when he speaks it sounds like one of those voice boxes on a toy, and there’s nothing menacing about it all. Plus, there is not much in the way of scares or suspense, but the main girl does get a substantial chase scenes in the final act.

Posted in Johnny You ARE Queer - Gay Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

TUBI TERRORS: back to the 80s and 90s

I dug up four I’d never seen before from the end of the 20th century, but as much as I love the nostalgia and pride myself on owning pretty much every horror flick that came out in those two decades on disc, I don’t see any reason to add any of these to my collection. Let’s find out why.

CATACLYSM (1980)

I’ve finally stumbled upon the full-length cut of one of the movies that was eventually edited down for the horror anthology film Night Train to Terror. Odd thing is that although I’ve seen that movie numerous times and own it on disc, I barely recognized anything that happens in this feature beyond the freaky looking dude playing the devil. He’s great.

I can imagine the short version made even less sense than the long version sure. I think the general idea is that the Devil, who was previously inhabiting the body of a Nazi during WWII, is back to terrorize a small group of people, including a doctor who has visions of him, her atheist author husband (played by Bull of Night Court), a detective trying to solve a murder case (played by Cameron Mitchell), and a ridiculously stereotypical old Jewish man who is trying to convince the detective that he recognizes the Devil character as a Nazi he encountered firsthand in the 40s.

It all sounds really cool, but this movie looks and sounds like it was made for no budget in 1973 despite being timestamped 1980. The good news about that is that there are a handful of freaky, 1970s acid trip horror sequences focusing on hell and the Devil, and they’re the only moments that stand out in this mess. Not only do they stand out, but they are worthy of a better movie with a stronger script.

THE DEMONS OF LUDLOW (1983)

I was excited to see this one for the first time because it came from the director of the 80s slasher Blood Harvest. However, it is so different and so cheesy. I probably would have been a fan if I’d seen it as a teen, and visually it gives me all the 80s feels, but it’s just so goofy (and yet I’ll probably add this crap to my collection in an instant if it ever hits Blu-ray).

We meet the people in a town right out of 2000 Maniacs. The locals are celebrating the 200th birthday of the founding of the town, which is gifted an old piano, and a reporter and photographer are present to cover the festivities.

There’s a sleazy reverend, his young hot piece of ass, a creepy mayor, an awkward young woman who talks to her dolls, and her mother—the local piano player who unleashes a bunch of colonial age ghosts by playing the piano at the event.

This is sort of like a supernatural slasher, with people getting attacked and killed by a combination of ghosts, a shotgun (do ghosts have guns?), a disembodied hand glowing low budget 80s effects neon green, and levitating objects, including a fireplace poker that misses its mark when swinging for the kill, which made me laugh. In fact, several of the horror scenes made me laugh.

It all culminates in the piano taking its turn trying to kill the reverend, and the colonial ghosts also coming after him for revenge. Basically, it’s The Fog if The Fog was a killer piano…

GHOSTWATCH (1992)

If what they say is true, I guess you had to be there when this mockumentary first aired in Britain on Halloween night and had viewers thinking it was real…and terrifying.

Presented as live television, this movie focuses on a family living in a haunted house, and jumps between a reporter at the house for a sensationalistic experience, another reporter talking to people on the street, and guests being interviewed on the TV show back at the studio.

While there are moments that could easily have inspired Paranormal Activity movies, this film is generally super boring. If I had been watching this on television when it aired, I would have changed the channel after about fifteen minutes. The most interesting thing to me was that the mother of the house kept referencing a glory hole…which apparently means something different in England.

67 minutes in to this 91-minute movie, one of two young girls living in the house gets a rash and it seems like an attempt to flirt with an exorcism theme. Then one daughter goes missing with only fifteen minutes left, and the family, reporter, and cameraman run around the house looking for her, even delving into the…um…glory hole. This movie couldn’t even make a glory hole exciting.

The final moments are such a letdown. Most intriguing to me was a brief conversation with a viewer that calls in and tells a story of a guy who was possessed by a woman and began dressing in female clothing. Now that would have been a movie.

STORMSWEPT (1995)

This could have been a fun erotic horror film…if only it had delivered some actual horror.

It’s a classic setup. A film director, crew, and actresses go to stay in an old plantation mansion to make a movie. Everyone is pretty, making the sex scenes extra delicious, and it’s a rainy, stormy night, creating the perfect atmosphere for a haunted mansion movie.

Little do they know—and we never find out why—but there’s a sadistic dude and his woman living in the basement. Their occasional appearances fail to give any explanation for their presence.

Anyway, all the pretty people spend a majority of the film (which is way too long for what little it has to offer) sitting around talking about their sexual fantasies. They are always together, so there are no chances for anyone to go off and have any scary supernatural experiences. WTF? There are, however, lots of writhing women feeling themselves up, and there’s one sex scene with a guy who has a fantastic butt.


I’ve never been more jealous of an actress’s index finger than this

It seems that the ghost of a sexually charged slave owner is making everyone horny. That’s it. That’s the story, and it’s barely clarified. Do we ever see the ghost? Nope. Is there any explanation for why everyone, including the men, isn’t jumping the bones of the guy with the fantastic butt? Nope.

Eventually the guy in the basement comes into play for a hot minute, abducting some of the girls and chaining them up, but if ever a final scene felt like an afterthought, this is it.

Posted in Living in the 80s - forever, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TUBI TERRORS: slasher time!

It’s a trio of slashers with juicy kill scenes. But is that enough?

HOUSE OF DOLLS (2023)

This slasher has Dee Wallace, a killer in a spiked pink ski mask, vicious slashing, and a great opening scene.

Unfortunately, we have to contend with the rest of the movie in between.

Three estranged sisters reunite to collect an inheritance, get stuck inside a distinctly designed house with some other people, and eventually start getting killed off one by one.

In the meantime, numerous random people are brutally killed in locations other than the house. I can honestly say I am not sure what the connective thread was in all these murders, but when the kills are this satisfying I don’t really care.

However, as a result, I wasn’t engaged in the movie at all when someone wasn’t being slaughtered. The final girl gets a chase scene, but the final battle kind of made me laugh, and I imagine that’s not what they were going for.

HORNY TEENAGERS MUST DIE! (2024)

With a title like this, plenty of raunchy sex and nudity, brutal and bloody kills, and the killer even using dildos and vibrators as weapons, it’s astounding that we end up with a slow, bland movie.

The opening sex and kill scene is just nasty in concept, and includes gore and some boy booty. Awesome.

There’s also a freaky little figure in the shadows that never appears again. Bummer.  Missed opportunity. The whole movie should have been based on this eerie presence.

Next we meet a group of pretty unlikable friends heading to a cabin in the woods. We get the usual infights, teen drama, and sex, including a couple into pegging.

Brace yourself. The first kill isn’t until 38 minutes in. The violent kills pile up as the film progresses, but there is no effort here to deliver scares, suspense, or chase scenes, and the killer is never seen, so there’s no masked killer. 

In the end, the killer motivation speech, which attempts to present something new to the slasher genre, is an eye-roller, especially since the glass ceiling has been shattered on this twist again and again for decades.

MASSACRE ACADEMY (2021)

For me, this is by far the winner of my latest marathon of indie slashers. Oddly, it feels like it’s supposed to be a sequel. The plot revolves around the final girl from a killer clown massacre two years ago. Believed to be dead, the clown is suddenly back for more!

Another odd thing about the film is that despite it taking place in 1987 and there being loads of references to 80s music and movies, the majority of the kids look more like they came out of an early 2000s slasher rather than kids living in the 80s. That makes it weird that there’s one bimbo who is as 80s as it gets, with neon spandex, teased hair, heavy eye shadow, and a cassette tape earring!

Her presence is kind of jarring because it sticks out like a sore thumb. And actually, the 80s aspect doesn’t matter much aside from serving as an excuse for there to be no cell phones.

People start getting gruesomely killed, leading surprisingly early to a total massacre at a college pledge party. It’s super bloody, campy, and funny, with 80s-style horror lighting and practical effects. I was afraid the movie was blowing its load too early and wouldn’t be able to sustain that level of fun for the rest of its run time.

There’s a shift after that, and it becomes all about the main girl and a detective trying to stop the killer. Although the setting tends to meander instead of staying focused on one location, there’s never a dull moment, with tight editing and camerawork. This is a crucial element that many indie directors fail to understand or deliver—they don’t “choreograph” their scenes to add excitement to the footage they film, instead just stringing together the scenes they captured on camera into a lifeless movie experience. Storyboarding is your friend.

Other highlights include a budding lesbian relationship with some kick-ass lesbians, suspense, excellent slasher atmosphere and a dark tone balanced by some clever and witty lines, and an action-packed final battle with the killer.

Posted in Living in the 80s - forever, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on TUBI TERRORS: slasher time!

For the love of Jonathan Bennett

Gay cutie Jonathan Bennett starred as the love interest in Mean Girls, but we most recently saw him in gay horror flick Fire Island, so I figured it was time to dig into some other horror movies he’s done. In each case he’s playing it straight, however there is a very raunchy, gay edge to one of them.

THE SECRET VILLAGE (2013)

You would think a film about two strangers visiting a town with a history of witch trials and residents suffering from fungus poisoning would bring us an eerie story, but this film tries way too hard to create suspenseful atmosphere without offering any actual suspense.

Jonathan Bennett plays a writer looking for inspiration for a story, and his female roommate is a reporter doing a story on the town’s dark side, which no locals want to talk about.

As Bennett lies low and the main girl goes around town trying to dig up information, there are guys in cult robes spying on her, as well as dudes with syringes sneaking around injecting people. It’s all set to ominous music that is a wee bit too hyperbolic to make this feel like scary shit is going to happen, considering it never does.

Other bizarre elements include an androgynous anime looking figure in the woods, as well as a Black guy who wants to clear his slave ancestors of accusations of witchcraft.

None of the details ever come together or ramp up to something thrilling, and it becomes clear why if you make it to the end. There is a twist worthy of a Twilight Zone episode, which would explain why this movie should have been a 30-minute short and not an unsustainable 90-minute movie.

THE DAWN (2019)

Bennett only appears in the first 15 minutes or so of this “possession” movie, and very briefly in a scene at the end. He plays a father suffering from PTSD after World War I. One evening he goes around the house and murders most of his family…by beating them to death. I was totally getting a Ronald DeFeo Amityville murders vibe…with fists instead of a gun, which is important to note for later.

Thing is, this is supposed to be a horror movie, so it would have been more effective if the murders had been visually violent and not just bland shots of Bennett raising his arm repeatedly to beat his off-screen victims. Personally, I would have appreciated him going Lizzy Borden on them and hacking them up with an axe. This movie needed horror visuals really bad.

So just one of his daughters escapes unscathed and is sent to live in a nunnery…with right wing nut Stacey Dash. Ugh. Her small role as a nun makes sense—and is a good reminder of why her career died after Clueless.

The main girl has nightmarish dreams that amount to lame made-for-TV level “horror” as she struggles to find faith to become a nun. She’s afraid that she’s going to become like her father. It is soooooo boring.

Eventually she ends up strapped to a bed possessed with no demon makeup. Yawn. The real shocker is that this dull film suddenly indulges our horror desires by having her rip off a priest’s jaw! Problem is I was too distracted being stunned by the fact that something horrific actually happened to appreciate what I was witnessing.

The movie ends with a bizarre hint of a sequel that seems to be a cash-in on The Conjuring franchise. The main priest is heading to Long Island on a train and looks at a picture of a house in a book…The Amityville House. WTF?

Is this suggesting that Bennett’s demons are going to end up in Ronald DeFeo and push him to slaughter his whole family? And if that is what is being implied, how does this priest from the 1920s know about something that is going to happen in 1974?

SORRY I KILLED YOU (2020)

This is a horror comedy that is essentially a spoof of the cabin in the woods slasher genre…because the killer, enthusiastic about becoming the next infamous serial killer, keeps getting upstaged by his would be victims.

A group of employees comes to a cabin in the woods for a retreat. Bennett is most definitely the lead here, and he arrives first with a friend and a dildo. Although his character isn’t supposed to be gay, he gets a thrill out of making everyone think his friend is gay. He kicks off the shenanigans by convincing his friend to suck his dildo like it’s his dick when the others walk in. It’s kind of a shame neither of these characters actually turns out to be gay, because their homoerotic chemistry together is delicious.

The whole group of employees is kind of horny and sinful, so there’s plenty of fun, raunchy humor here. There’s also plenty of tension and backstabbing, which eventually leads to violence and even murder!

And that is the problem for our killer. He wants to do all the slashing, but a series of unfortunate incidents and accidents sees the employees killing each other off instead (think Tucker & Dale vs. Evil).

The movie is a lot of fun, and there are plenty of kills and a final battle with the actual killer, but the film does run a little long and starts to drag in the middle.

There’s also a whole nasty segment about a guy having a cell phone sewn into his scrotum that is a little too over the top to even be funny. Personally, I could have overlooked that part if there had been a twist in which Bennett and his friend really were gay for each other.

Posted in Johnny You ARE Queer - Gay Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, Scared Silly - Horror Comedy, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on For the love of Jonathan Bennett

Fatal Frame III: the 3 is for playing as 3 different characters

As I continue revisiting the ghosts of the Playstation 2, I delve into one of my favorite survival horror franchises. Indicative of the time at which they were released in the early 2000s, the Fatal Frame games make you feel like you’re in an Asian ghost movie—the scariest ghost movies there are in my opinion.

Much like Silent Hill: The Room, Fatal Frame III gives you breaks from the horror mansion madness by bringing you back to your apartment to do some research periodically—developing photos you take, listening to audio tapes you find, reading journals on the occult in your roommate’s bedroom, and speaking with your assistant. Funny thing is, despite this being a safe place, the game manages to make even your own home feel creepy.

It isn’t well lit, different sections of the house are cut off from others by doors, you have a cat you can barely see because it lurks in shadowy corners (I could barely see it even with the brightness on my TV turned all the way up), and as the game progresses, non-violent ghosts start appearing in nooks and crannies. EEK! The good news is you can try to snap photos of them to gain points to upgrade your camera and make it more powerful against ghosts.

If you haven’t played the series and are unaware, your spiritual camera is your only weapon. You “kill” ghosts by photographing them until they cry out in agony and shrink into nothingness. You collect film, which is your ammo, and you have to conserve it as much as you can and not waste it, because it’s limited—like, every time you miss hitting the ghost, you want to cry because you just wasted film. The only bright side is that each time you return to your own home and then go back to the scary mansion, any items you picked up (health, film) respawn in the same exact spots, so you always want to grab them. You simply must.

Upgrading the camera with more power and lenses with special abilities helps you fight harder ghosts (you get points for both taking pictures of non-violent ghosts and for defeating vicious ghosts), and your upgraded camera carries into a new game so you can continue powering it up to the max (yay!). However, there’s a catch. You play mostly as the main character, but several times you play as two other characters, and each character has their own camera with its own upgrade tree. So you have to build up every camera separately, but you don’t play the other two side characters enough to really upgrade their cameras all the much. Sigh.

Not gonna lie. Fatal Frame games are challenging. It’s very possible to end up locked in a room you can’t leave with an attacking ghost you must defeat to get out, only to discover you are too low on film to defeat it. So be prepared to be more than just frustrated. And as I always say with these older survival horror games, a walkthrough is crucial, otherwise you could end up running in circles trying to figure out what to do next—or be totally blindsided by the ghost girl in a crawlspace. Oh yeah There’s a fucking crawlspace ghost battle.

And after a while, lingering for too long spawns more ghosts to battle. You really can’t stand still in this game, because you don’t have enough supplies to fight endless ghosts. I’ll also say that if you get really stuck, Codebreaker is your friend for unlimited health and ammo. Unfortunately, there’s a glitch when you use it with this particular game. If you are playing a chapter in which you need to collect items to unlock a crucial door to another area, using the Codebreaker causes those items to disappear from your inventory as soon as you pick them up. Learned that the hard way.

So, let’s get into the game. For the prologue you begin with just a regular camera in a black and white scenario. Since you can try to photograph fleeting ghosts to gain points, you wouldn’t know without a walkthrough that you can’t fight the first vicious ghost that attacks you—you simply have to run upstairs to get away from him.

The first chapter is in full color (dreary color), and within a few minutes you find the spirit camera next to your first save lantern. Save lanterns offer unlimited saves and are marked clearly on the map, but if you are near a save lamp during a battle, it goes dark and you can’t save until the ghost is defeated.

As you gain points from taking pics of surprise ghost appearances and from fighting ghosts you can begin upgrading the camera and swapping out lenses, but honestly, these level-up designs that give you choices have always been confusing to me. Personally, I attached the lens that seemed most practical and never changed it. I spent all my points on upgrading the basic powers the first time I played through, and worked my way up from there on later plays. You’d think after at least three plays of this game over the decades from the same save my camera would have been maxed out by now, but it wasn’t and the game was still hard.

Enemies vary in difficulty, and some require stronger film, which you should save for bigger battles, because you don’t find much of it at all. This is where you have to think. For simple photos of non-violent ghosts you want to use the weakest film, and for battles you want to go into your inventory menu and switch to stronger film…and then remember to switch back to weak film after the battle so as not to waste the good stuff.

You also get into battles with multiple ghosts at once, which is always fun (not). It’s chilling having these spirits float around you and even right through you, or worse—grab you and throttle you. Fatal Frame makes possibly the best use of the vibration function of any game. It’s like a racing heartbeat during ghosts battles and used as a jump scare tactic at other times.

General game play exploration has you in third person view. Unlike Resident Evil, the controls are not tank style, so you can turn quickly, and there is a convenient run button. However, using the camera switches you into first person camera mode. You move incredibly slow while in camera mode, and it’s smart to get out of camera mode when you don’t see the ghost you’re fighting in your lens, otherwise they will most likely sneak up and attack you, and shaking them off isn’t easy. So there’s a lot of frantic jumping back and forth between third and first person modes while trying to stay alive during these battles.

In between trying to escape ghosts unscathed, you have to start collecting items and solving puzzles to open doors to progress through the game. You also photograph certain spots that glow blue to break spells that block doors you need to get through.

Just when you get into a groove playing as the main character, a return to your home ends with you going back to the scary mansion as a different character. The main character’s assistant is the main girl from the first Fatal Frame game (awesome), but for someone who went through this before, she sure is weak. You discover the mansion is the same house as in the original game, and her first chapter starts off in the very familiar entrance. You even enter that damn rope hall where she jumps every time she runs into a hanging rope. The worst part of this chapter is that despite her having a really weak camera, the first fight is super hard. WTF?

Next you play as a guy, and even though you have a camera, you can’t fight ghosts! You have to “hide” from them like some Clock Tower 3 bullshit, and the hiding spots don’t always work, which means you have to run off course to hide and then find your way back to where you left off in your exploration. You eventually get the camera obscura and can fight some of the ghosts, but there is one invincible ghost you must run away from…which you’ll only know if you take a hit first and then waste all your film trying to fight her. Or, you know, you can do the smart thing and follow a walkthrough. The guy character also has a special, sexist duty—he can push aside larger objects that block doors that the girls were unable to enter.

The game gets progressively harder, and you’ll be aching for more health and film as repetition sets in—run back and forth collecting key items to open new doors while more and more ghost encounters trip you up. And unless you follow a walkthrough, you won’t know when you encounter the first enemy that is invincible…instead you’ll be running in terror, wasting precious film and health as he kicks your ass. And when you do get to fight him at the end of the chapter, he’s hard as fuck. Basically the only time you can get him in your sights is when he swoops down right before he hits you repeatedly. Good luck trying to snap and run before that happens, while actually succeeding in hitting him.

There’s a horrible new addition to gameplay in this third installment. Late in the game when you’re playing the guy character whose camera is less powered up than the main character’s camera, you’re thrown a new challenge. You are informed through a file you pick up that if you don’t regularly pick up “purifying lights” (candles that burn out over time), the display will be monochromatic (it looks like a blurry black and white film negative) until you find another one. First off, the purifying lights aren’t obviously placed like other items you can pick up. You have to really search everything carefully (aka: use a walkthrough that tells you exactly where they are). Secondly, everything is harder to see when you’re stuck in monochromatic mode. And third, there are more ghosts and they’re much harder if you stay in monochromatic mode. Argh! Also during this night you’ll really have no idea where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do without a walkthrough. Not to mention, if you’re playing the game through a second time from the original save, there’s a branching pathway to get a different ending. And if you roam around with no aim, those tough ghosts are more likely to appear, and you’re wasting time while your purifying candle is burning down.

As you near the end of the game, without a walkthrough you wouldn’t know there’s a moment where you finish a battle and are positioned right in front of a door with a message that seems to direct you to go through that door…yet you actually have an option to follow a ghost that disappeared through a door on the other side of the room for a different outcome presented in cutscenes. You also would never know that when you’re collecting stakes from a doll room and you suddenly get locked in one but nothing happens, you need to go into camera view to trigger a ghost fight so you can defeat it to unlock the door.

The last night can be tedious. The goal is to gather five mirror pieces to put together to open a door to the final boss. However, this part gets into Clock Tower 3 territory again, for you are constantly pursued by an invincible ghost you simply have to run away from. The only time she goes away is when you enter one of the rooms where the mirror pieces are. Another challenge is that those damn purity candles are scarce. Honestly, I just played a majority of the final night in the monochromatic mode. As you work your way through the house this last time, it’s important to gather all the health and film you can, because you’re going to need it. This is one of those games that throws enemies at you on your way to the final boss. Argh!

Something crucial that you need to know which is mentioned early on in the walkthrough is insistence that there is a “stone mirror” in a particular location that you should absolutely not pick up, and I found out why at the end of the game. It is a one-time use auto-healer you’ll need for the last boss…actually you could really use like ten of them. After fighting your way through various ghosts, you meet the final boss. It’s a big arena, but she is not easy to target, so you’re constantly going to need to be on the run. But wait! There’s more! Quite frequently the screen will go monochromatic, at which point you start running in slow motion! The goal is to just dodge and run away from the boss as she pursues you (also in slow motion). If she grabs you it’s game over…except for the first time, when that one stone mirror saves you. After that, you have to make sure she doesn’t touch you every time you’re in black and white mode. It’s disorienting when the screen switches back to full color, but you need to stay on your toes and kill this bitch as fast as possible to avoid having too many monochromatic sessions. Fortunately, there’s one final save right before you cross a bridge to get to her, with no enemies along the way, so it won’t be that bad if you have to try over and over…although, it would’ve been nicer if the last save was after you crossed the damn bridge.

Posted in The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Comments Off on Fatal Frame III: the 3 is for playing as 3 different characters

The game that took years off my life

As a zombie game lover, I have to say Dying Light was such a blast to play through…until it wasn’t. What a devastating experience this proved to be. It’s such a vast game, and I chipped away at it from February 2020 through April 2024, only to discover that I couldn’t finish it. So what went wrong? Let’s find out.

Having hacked my way through first-person zombie games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island in a relatively short amount of time, I wasn’t expecting this to be such a huge undertaking. However, as far as zombie games go, this one is more immersive than either of those games. You play through two huge cities overrun by zombies…and then even get a chance to tackle the rural countryside with DLC called The Following.

Dying Light is so much more than a run, shoot, and slash game. There are endless missions and side quests to tackle as you run through and fend off hordes of zombies on the streets while an awesome horror score plays periodically to set the tone and gorgeous landscapes and architectural structures serve as eye candy. You have to collect supplies that are hidden all over the place to craft new items, including melee weapons, health, throwing weapons, and more. Your weapons eventually break and can either be repaired (if you have the right parts on hand) or dismantled to use the parts to craft other supplies.

You gain points to level up by doing numerous tasks, including finishing missions, saving survivors, coming across “random encounters”, completing optional challenges, and more. But beware. While you basically have infinite lives, every time you die you lose a chunk of your precious XP. The XP upgrade system is divided into four categories, each with trees you have to unlock as you gain more experience. These trees include a mix of “passive” powers (nice power-ups that work automatically) and “active” powers that require remembering some sort of button combo to pull off. You may memorize two or three crucial active powers, but you’ll most likely not use a majority of them…although you will sometimes accidentally trigger one while button mashing in a panic, and always at the worst time.

Scavenging consists of digging into garbage, cabinets, dumpsters, boxes, and trunks inside, outside, and on top of buildings in this very open world environment. Some chests can only be opened with lock picks (which can be found or crafted), and the jimmying technique is a bit tedious and ranges in difficulty level, sometimes causing your lock to break and forcing you to use another one (or more) to continue picking. Also, when you’re in the lock pick screen, the game does not freeze, so you are susceptible to enemy attacks. EEK! During all your scavenging you will also acquire blueprints, which are needed in order to build new items. The blueprint menu is a bit complicated, but there are no work benches to go to or anything like that—you make items on the fly in your inventory. I mostly found myself crafting throwable weapons and health the most, only occasionally crafting new weapons when a more powerful blueprint presented itself or the few weapons I could carry were all broken. The good news is, when you go into the menu to do anything, the game pauses, so you can’t be hurt.

There are so many aspects to the controls, so you will want to focus on the most crucial ones over those excessive extras you can build up in your upgrade menu. There are quick keys on the d-pad for your flashlight, throwable items (you can place 4 in there at a time and swap them out in the main inventory menu), melee weapons (again only 4 slots at a time), and health. The biggest issue with this is when you eventually get the grappling hook, which allows you to shoot your way across rooftops without having to take to the streets where the zombies keep getting harder and faster. Problem is the grappling hook is linked to the same d-pad key as the throwable items. I can’t count the number of times I was trying to grapple my way back up to safety only to realize I’d forgotten to switch back to the hook after throwing an item, causing me to toss and waste another precious throwable item. Not to mention, many of those throwable items are explosives, and when you throw explosives it attracts more zombies, including these crazed fast zombies that can scale buildings to come get you when you’re up above. And what’s ridiculous is that if you’re standing on a rooftop and toss a grenade down below to kill enemies, somehow these damn crazed zombies come directly for you, even though the explosion happened like ten stories below where you threw it from. WTF kind of zombie sonar psychic power is that?

Your movement is purely parkour. You get a training session early on to teach you the basics of running, jumping, and scaling buildings. At first it feels daunting, and timing really matters when you leap across chasms between buildings, but eventually it becomes like second nature and it’s fantastic. That is until you start being forced to climb massive towers, and never in a straight line. As someone who hates heights, these segments nearly destroyed me, forcing me to do things like hang out over thin air and try to angle my character in the right direction to leap to a fucking 2×4 jutting out over nothingness. Ugh.

There are numerous safe houses sprinkled throughout each city, and they’re clearly marked on the map, but most of the time you actually have to go to the location and fight zombies and a major enemy to clear the space before it can become a safe house. These major enemies include huge monsters with giant hammers and even bigger monsters that pick up giant slabs of concrete and toss them at you. Really challenging at first, they become easier to defeat as the game progresses and you build up your stats and weapons. The safe houses are usually very comforting, populated by other survivors who will ask you to do side missions, offer to sell you supplies, buy supplies you don’t need, and give you points in exchange for major supplies you collect that are dropped off by passing planes every once in a while. However, these drop-offs, noted on the map, are only temporary, and you usually have to battle armed dudes who are not your friends to get to them. In the safe houses you can also put supplies you can’t carry anymore in your supply bag (which works like a Resident Evil item box, so it’s accessible at every safe house), and you can go to sleep to instantly jump from night to day or vice versa.

You want to spend most of this game doing missions in daylight, and get your ass to a safe house fast once you see the light dying (get it?), because at night enemies are more aggressive and there are these damn vicious night hunter monsters that will ruin your life, killing you almost immediately if they get you. Unfortunately, this cruel game does force you to do a few nighttime missions, and they’re terrifying…and one of them involves collecting a damn night hunter flesh sample. Sigh.

Even though you can die an infinite number of times, you really don’t want to, because you need those precious points to build up your character. You also have a stamina bar, so you can’t just run and jump like crazy. When you get exhausted you slow down and need to back off until you catch your breath.

The map looks daunting, but you can set waypoints for missions, and things are usually never as far away as they seem. At other times, they are really fucking far away! But you can break up the journey to your new destination by doing side missions that are on the way or checking out random encounters, which are challenging but offer some payoff when completed successfully. Be warned that there are also underwater missions in which you have to come up for air in between diving for items or to new destinations. The good news is that there aren’t any underwater monsters. And speaking of water, there are also plenty of sewer segments. Ugh.

You begin the game in a city called The Slums, which is pretty manageable. When you eventually move over to the upper class city Old Town, shit hits the fan. I thought I was going to have to quit, because the enemies get much harder immediately and the crazy zombies much more relentless. This is where you also acquire the grappling hook, and it becomes your best friend. It is best to do most of your traveling in Old Town on the rooftops, where zombie encounters are rare (plus you can kick those fuckers off the roof). The only challenge is that the grappling hook needs a moment to recuperate between uses. Argh.

Here is a special note for those who may have begun this game on their PS4 and want to switch over to finishing it on the PS5. There’s a glitch on the PS5 when you try to do side missions that include battling armed men who work for the main human enemy Rais. These side missions, which are all stealth and sniping based, lead to a lot of on screen action, and as you work your way through blowing away baddies, the game glitches and boots you out. Each time you choose continue, it starts you at the beginning of the mission, and you can try to work your way through the battle again, but you’ll get the same result every time. I was near completing the game when I switched over to PS5, so I just skipped those few side missions, especially since they’re always marked hard and I play these damn games to fight zombies, not ammosexuals.

Just as the game and its side quests start to feel very repetitive, the final segment of the game offers less side quests and makes the main story missions much harder. Zombies are more prevalent, more aggressive, and take more hits to kill. Your destinations are also much farther apart on the map, leading to loads of very long backtracking.

There’s also a lot of underwater swimming in the final few missions, and it’s very easy to get turned around and lost, with air supply very limited if you don’t find your way back up. One of the major underwater journeys gets you into a museum Rais has taken control of, and you have to battle an onslaught of his men and then an onslaught of enemies. Once you’ve made your way through the museum successfully, pay very close attention when prompted to retrieve your bag—it’s very easy to think you have gotten it, but in reality you didn’t pick it up. Check your inventory to make sure it’s there before exiting. I didn’t, and when I stepped back onto the streets, I had no weapons, no health, no grappling gun…and you can’t turn around and go back into the museum! What a shitty thing to do. You have to run as fast as you can back to a safe house, where you’ll find all your items in a storage bag. Don’t get hit by any enemies while journeying to the safe house or you can die with no health.

For a game that is mostly manageable, it really takes a toll with all new challenges near the end. There’s an irritating platforming segment when you are experiencing hallucinations. There’s also an infuriating enemy addition—a screaming child zombie. Whenever you come across him in a room, his shrill scream depletes your health fast, makes you unable to perform tasks or fight him because you’re covering your ears, and worst of all, it summons tons of zombies you have to fight while trying to shoot the baby from a safe distance in order to shut it up.

There’s one last segment that takes place at night, and the clock doesn’t continue to move ahead, so you can’t even wait somewhere safe until daylight to do the mission. You have to hit up several small areas filled with zombies and some of the biggest, baddest enemies to search for a particular item to advance in the game. It’s set up so the item you’re hunting down is at the last section you reach. Bastards.

And now comes the devastating moment I realized I couldn’t finish this game. I always carried loads of health with me, so when I reached a door warning that I was heading to Rais’s tower for the final fight and couldn’t turn back, I was feeling quite confident. Note that in this day and age of single slot autosave, where you don’t get to choose save slots so you won’t overwrite a previous one, this feature destroyed my life. When I walked through that last door, I found myself in a yard confronted by loads of running zombies and every big enemy the game had been throwing at me all along. Assuming I had to fight the fuckers and clear the area, I kept getting my ass kicked and using up my health supply. Idiot that I am, I didn’t get the message when Rais kept taunting me over a loudspeaker, mocking my bravery and telling me to, “Run! Run!”

I was supposed to run.

By the time I realized it I was out of health and caught in a mad dash obstacle course with enemies everywhere. I just kept dying over and over again. I had no option to load an earlier save. I had to give up on the game I’d been playing for four years.

There’s one sort of bright side that was a bit of consolation. I watched the rest of the game on YouTube. The obstacle course was only the beginning. I still would have had to climb and jump up walls and girders way up high and fight my way through multiple levels of enemies before even reaching Rais at the top of the tower…all with no health supply. And once I reached Rais I would have been hit with an all new game mechanic not previously used in the game—a fucking  quick time event. WTF? I have no regrets about not finishing this game.

However, I decided to jump into The Following DLC, where I thought I’d just be picking off zombies in cornfields in between spying on hillbilly pig fuckers.

Nope. Even on the easiest mode, this extra game was hard as hell. You come into it with all your stats and items from the main game, even if you didn’t finish it. But you know what that means? I entered the game with no health. And there are very few places to scavenge in the country. Somehow, despite this being a rural area, there are zombies everywhere. And, you get to drive around in a buggy that you constantly have to collect parts and fuel for to maintain it…while avoiding all the zombies. The buggy is crucial for completing missions, so juggling its health and my lack of health was impossible. I quit that bitch.

Unfortunately, I purchased Dying Light 2 based on the assumption I’d eventually finish the first one. So you can expect a post in five years or so in which I describe at exactly what point in Dying Light 2 I quit.

Posted in The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror, What I'm Doing With My Joystick | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on The game that took years off my life

Big hairy werewolf movies

My latest triple feature included three werewolf flicks, and I had a favorite of the bunch, so let’s get right into them.

HUNTER’S MOON (2020)

This home invasion/werewolf hybrid flick has several familiar faces, so I was expecting something a bit better and a little less predictable.

A family, including Tina from Elm Street, Jay Mohr, and their three daughters, moves to a house in the country. The girls immediately meet some rednecks at a convenience store, and talk turns to a serial killer that lived in the house the family is moving into.

Oddly, the mom and dad immediately leave the girls alone to go on vacation. One of the girls invites the red necks to stop by to party…but the rednecks have something else in mind. Adding more to the mix, Thomas Jane eventually shows up as the local sheriff. If you’re hoping Jane gets a David Naughton caliber hairy butt werewolf transformation scene like I was, forget it. Never happens.

Everyone in this flick acts weird. No one seems phased by the disturbing events that unfold, secrets abound, and loyalties appear to constantly shift. So it’s sort of like a mystery in which we the viewers have to figure out who the werewolf is.

 There’s some tension as we wait to see what ‘s going to happen (most horror veterans will figure it out early on), and the misty atmosphere outside adds some creepiness, but unfortunately, the werewolf only makes one brief appearance with just 15 minutes left. It’s a cool werewolf, but sadly it’s not the focus of the film.

BYTE (2024)

I never miss an indie horror flick from director Eddie Lengyel, and this time around he takes on werewolves. Plus, the horror begins on Halloween night. I wish it would have stuck to Halloween night, because Halloween werewolf movies need to be a thing.

The opening werewolf attack scene is a hoot, with a good view of the werewolf and some funny shots of bloody rubber body parts bouncing into focus from off screen as the werewolf attacks.

On Halloween night, a group of kids goes to a cemetery to do a ritual they find on an app that is supposed to turn you into a werewolf.

Pretty soon, people begin dying from vicious werewolf attacks. The general plot is that the kids realize the app ritual really worked and one of their friends is a werewolf. So they have to find out more about the app in hopes of curing the friend of the werewolf curse.

The pacing is slow at times and the movie definitely has that low budget indie feel, but the attack scenes are quite satisfying, and the person in the werewolf costume absolutely steals the show. It is so clear they are having a blast in the role, and it’s always a treat to see a monster costume instead of a CGI monster.

SHAKY SHIVERS (2022)

While it takes a little while to get going, this werewolf comedy finds its groove and is very charming, especially thanks to the comedic performances of the main characters.

It takes place in 1993. Two girls work at an ice cream shop. A creepy woman comes in and appears to curse one of the girls. Believing she is going to become a werewolf, the girl asks her friend to take her into the woods and shoot her if she turns into a werewolf.

It becomes a comedy of errors as the two girls use various incantations in hopes of making things right. The best part is that this funny flick doesn’t stick to the werewolf theme. The girls end up dealing with a zombie (which looks more horrific in a comedy than most look in serious zombie flicks), a witch, a cult, Bigfoot…

However, despite the horror detours, there’s even a werewolf transformation that is also pretty damn cool for a light horror comedy. This is definitely the winner of these three for me

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, Scared Silly - Horror Comedy, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Big hairy werewolf movies

Three from 1977 that get filed under C

Looking for some retro action, I dug up several flicks from the 1970s to watch. Coincidentally, they all come from 1977 with titles that get alphabetized under the letter C.

CATHY’S CURSE (1977)

If The Bad Seed met Audrey Rose and was made into a terrible 1970s possessed little girl movie…actually, it was. Cathy’s Curse is that very disaster.

The opening scene is camptastic. A dad comes home to find his daughter alone. She says the mom took off with her brother. Dad calls mom a bitch and they drive off then get killed in a car accident because the daughter grabs the wheel to save a bunny in the road. Camp.tas.tic.

Decades later the son returns to the family home with his depressed wife and his daughter Cathy, who, as in most of these scary little girl movies, is already creepy. Where do they get these young actresses?

Cathy finds a doll and sees a portrait of her father’s sister (that sometimes gets glowing green eyes), which triggers her to become a bad seed. Conveniently, one of the neighbors is a medium, which also helps ignite the paranormal events.

Basically Cathy is possessed by her doll. She clings to it each time she magically terrorizes people. She tosses an old woman out a window. She immobilizes an old drunk dude and infests him with snakes, spiders, and rats. She causes blood to run from her mother’s tub and covers her mom’s back in leeches. The raucous score is the only thing that adds any weight to the horror.

For the big finale Cathy chases her mother rather violently, which leads them to the portrait for the lackluster conclusion. This really feels like a made-for-TV movie.

THE CHILD (1977)

It’s another scary girl movie, but this one has a nice twist. It also has that classic warped 70s horror vibe that makes you feel like you’re tripping, with a melodramatic horror score, whirling camera angles, and distorted zooms. If I have to watch a horror movie from the 1970s that isn’t a classic, this is the kind I prefer to get sucked into.

The gothic opening in a cemetery involving a kitten, a tombstone, and a monstrous hand feels very old school, like a Hammer Films flick of that era, but we’re quickly, brought into a more contemporary situation.

A young woman comes to a house to be the nanny to a girl who looks way too old to need a nanny. The girl is weird, but so is everyone in the home.

The first juicy horror is delivered when monster POV terrorizes the old lady neighbor, who ends up getting a gory facelift…

Meanwhile, the nanny begins noticing the girl’s odd behavior, including her slipping out of the house at night to visit the cemetery.

Things get eerie on Halloween. There’s apparently a party outside, but all we get to see is the girl in a witch costume and a jack-o’-lantern she leaves behind, which haunts the nanny a bit.

It’s a slow burn, but finally people start getting killed off in the last half hour. With 20 minutes remaining we finally learn who the girl has been visiting in the cemetery!

It’s a very unique direction to take and leads to a very cool, Night of the Living Dead kind of final act. You’ll either appreciate the mixed genre approach or be disappointed that the plot didn’t choose one direction and stick with it.

THE CHOSEN (1977)

I might have appreciated this one more if I’d seen it back in the day since “child of Satan” films were all the rage back then. This modern society meets ancient evil flick dragged for me.

Kirk Douglas plays an industrialist planning to build a nuclear power plant in the Middle East against the wishes of those who live there.

He soon makes some shocking discoveries. First, his adult son is the spawn of Satan. Second, the structure he is building bears a striking resemblance to a mythical beast predicted in the Bible. Ugh. Religious horror. Wouldn’t you know the son needs the dad’s power plant to facilitate bringing on the apocalypse.

A few people in positions of power fall victim to tragedy (there’s a cool death by helicopter propeller moment), and Douglas suffers from symbolic dreams, but this is generally a boring melodrama. However, a scene near the end in a padded cell is psychotic and saves this one from being forgettable.

Posted in The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Three from 1977 that get filed under C

The ghosts of 2023

It’s a trio of flicks from 2023 that feature protagonists dealing with varying levels of paranormal activity, but there was only one winner here for me.

BAGHEAD (2023)

It is so satisfying to be getting some fresh approaches to horror in the sea of generic flicks coming out these days. Baghead is sort of like a different take on the Talk To Me concept, where talking to the dead becomes a deadly addiction.

A young woman inherits a pub…that looks like a fricking castle to me. Didn’t quite get that part.

However, this flick doesn’t waste any time in getting to the good stuff. It turns out her now deceased father was keeping a “woman” called Baghead locked away in the basement. This ghoul has the ability to let you speak to a dead person of your choice, but there are conditions.

You can’t speak to the dead person for more than two minutes. Baghead comes out of a hole in the wall when you call on her, and you are never to follow her back into the hole (my gay ass is safe because I’d never follow any woman into any hole). You need to take off her bag to speak to the dead person, and then you need to cover her head back up to cut off communication. And finally, you are to never let her leave the basement, so you must strap her to a chair to keep her from getting away.

It’s actually a cruel story, the idea being that you literally have this woman imprisoned in a dungeon and use her for your own selfish needs. Of course that’s why it’s so delicious when she starts creeping into your mind, leading you down a slippery slope where she becomes stronger and you become…doomed!

The film manages to stay focused thanks to a minimal number of characters. There’s the main girl, her friend, and some dude who is willing to pay money to get a little alone time with Baghead. Eventually, the film does start to become a bit repetitive, and the pacing falters as the trio gets ensnared in Baghead’s web, but there are really some great twists in the plot right through to the end. The only part that was a bit hokey for me was the presentation of a ghost that gives a ridiculous monologue to one of the characters as a device to provide exposition on Baghead’s origins to the audience.

DEAR DAVID (2023)

It’s irrelevant to me, but this movie is apparently based on some actual social media story. What drew me in was that it is an evil ghost kid movie where the main protagonist is a gay guy, which lands this one on the homo horror movies page.

We go all the way back to 1996 to start the story with a boy being bullied online. Damn. 1996 is like ancient history when it comes to being online. Seriously, barely anyone had a home computer at that time, let alone the internet at their fingertips on a phone.

In the present day we meet Adam, who works for Buzzfeed, which is run by Justin Long. Adam’s articles aren’t doing so well, but his luck changes—for better and for worse—when he begins having sleep paralysis, during which a little ghost boy appears on a rocking chair in the corner of his bedroom. Those encounters become his new online serialized story.

Things start off strong, with a classic ghostly death scene when two boys are bullying someone else online. The concept of the little boy from the beginning getting revenge on modern day cyber bullies is awesome, and Adam ends up being targeted because he chooses to feed the trolls with nasty vitriol rather than ignoring them.

Terrorized by the ghost kid, Adam starts investigating what led to the kid turning into a vindictive ghost that connects with victims through social media threads. It’s all very The Ring without the videotape. There’s also a catch presented at the beginning that doesn’t get much needed exploitation—you’re supposed to only be able to ask “Dear David” two questions or else. Even David’s backstory is pretty cool and very dark. The problem is the film focuses solely on Adam, so we’re just constantly bombarded by nightmare-like sequences that have no payoff beyond Adam waking up sweating. Sure they’re creepy clips, but you never feel a sense of dread while watching them because you know Adam is going to survive to carry us to the conclusion of this tale.

There are no other victims here after the first bully dies, making that death scene seem out of place. Adam has friends and a boyfriend, and it would have been nice if they also got drawn into the horror (and them dying would have been even better). It also would have been great if there had been a clearer parallel between Adam being gay and the boy being bullied. It’s hinted at—I think—but never fully realized, making Adam’s sexuality virtually irrelevant. Instead it feels like the whole point of the movie is for Adam to recognize that he doesn’t open up to those closest to him. At the same time, the movie is also making a statement about our fixation on social media, how anonymous likes and followers are more important than having actual people in our lives, and how it has overtaken our ability to interact in the real world.

THE HANGED GIRL (2023)

This one was a huge disappointment for me as a horror hound. Things start off promising, with nuns hanging a girl as a witch in the 1800s.

In the present day, a white man and his Muslim fiancé are going on vacation with his friends and his sister to a beautiful guesthouse in the country.

I should have known this one was going to skimp on the horror when an elaborate run-in with a cult in red robes and masks proves to be a nothing burger. Ugh.

And we just get more helpings of nothing burgers after that. The Muslim fiancé keeps having visions and dreams of ghostly apparitions. However, that’s the least of her problems. She begins getting treated like shit by everyone else because she’s Muslim. The bullying becomes the central theme of most of the movie.

And you can forget about a hanged ghost girl being the real threat. This is one of those movies that pulls the rug out from under your feet before all is said and done. Even the mid-end credits scene is a letdown.

Posted in Johnny You ARE Queer - Gay Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on The ghosts of 2023

Murder time at a cabin, on a movie set, and at a haunted attraction

I’m always up for body count flicks, but does this trio of films deliver? Let’s find out.

DEATH CAMP (2022)

This movie probably should have just been shelved if all the roadblocks it came up against during filming as mentioned on IMDb are true: shooting was hampered by the COVID pandemic, the director almost killed most of the cast and there was legal action taken, in an effort to release the unfinished film they just scraped together whatever footage they had and edited it into some semblance of a movie. I definitely believe that last part. There is a generally simple, supernatural slasher plot, but that eventually gets lost in the shuffle as random elements are forced into the mix to pad the running time.

Horror king Bill Oberst Jr. plays an ex-military man who snapped, holed himself up in a cabin, and thrived on conspiracy theories, like believing children were being led from innocence into evil. He killed a load of kids twenty years ago at his cabin, kept one girl captive, and then shot himself when the cops came for him.

In the present day, a group of teens comes to the cabin for one last high school bash. In other words, this isn’t a death camp so much as it is a death cabin. I did really like the early 2000s teen slasher vibe the movie gives off, but it most definitely falls apart fast. The main girl fancies herself a witch, so she gets everyone to do a séance in the basement, where they also find a body part, troublesome letters, and a fricking VHS tape with video of the murders. Apparently the cops from 20 years ago really sucked at gathering evidence.

It seems the kids unleash Oberst’s evil spirit, and in between supernatural kills we get some backstory via interspersed scenes of him interacting with the girl he was holding captive 20 years before. In other words, Oberst isn’t in the film all that much.

Kills include impalement on a tree branch, death by vines, a swarming insect attack that leads to an asthma attack, and a girl being levitated then dropped. It’s all fine enough for a supernatural slasher, but then a bunch of random plot points are tossed in that completely confuse matters, like some sleazy redneck dude with a knife forcing one girl to show him her tits…after which she roundhouse kicks him then finds a can of beer on the ground, shrugs, and opens it and drinks it. It suddenly felt like I was watching a totally different movie. Not to mention…the ending is abrupt and kind of explains a final act instead of actually giving us one.

All I can say is that the filmmakers should have called it a loss instead of trying to piece together the disjointed end result to market to an audience. I do wonder how the actual finished product would have turned out, because there was promise here.

EVERYBODY DIES BY THE END (2022)

This is a mockumentary style flick about a film crew documenting the making of a promised “masterpiece” by a famed horror director. Bill Oberst Jr. appears in this one as well, but he gets only one scene in the beginning as an interviewer questioning the director.

The interview doesn’t go well, so the director decides to hire the documentary crew to create hype. The director is played by Vinny Curran, who should have a bigger indie horror career because he’s both a good actor and nice to look at.

He kind of has to carry the movie, because it’s not much of a horror film—it’s really a mockumentary in which the cast and crew get interviewed and the documentary team films the director’s antics as he makes his movie. It’s made pretty clear from the start that the director is a nut, so you kind of know where this is all going (the title says it all).

The director goes to some unconventional lengths to get the performances he wants out of the actors, and eventually some of them start to revolt, which is when the killing starts. But this isn’t a slasher. It’s more like the director is making a snuff film, for the actors die while filming so that the director can get the most realistic footage. This all happens in the final act, with no suspense, scares, or gore.

Even a prop mask is introduced early on, so you would think it would play an integral part in the murder proceedings. But alas, it’s just not what this film was going for. So you have to decide whether you want to watch a fairly predictable plot with the horror theme being merely a backdrop for the events that unfold.

TEDDY TOLD ME TO (2023)

What a relief! A Halloween haunted attraction movie that just goes for that good old midnight movie feel with loads of practical gore, tits, and more!

Two friends decide to resurrect a haunted attraction that has been closed since the 90s. Halloween is never specifically mentioned, but there are fall leaves, mention of being in business until November, and jack-o’-lanterns galore at the attraction, so this one earns a spot on the complete holiday horror page.

The two main characters buy the place from a realtor, played by Lisa Wilcox of Elm Street 4 and 5. The caretaker is CJ Graham, who played Jason in Friday the 13th 6. He’s one hot daddy.

There’s a montage of the leads holding auditions, including one guy who does his best Tarman impression. There’s also a haunted attraction set up montage to a cover of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” with rewritten lyrics about haunting. Awesome.

The attraction’s newly hired crew comes together to sit around a fire, which is when we get the story of murders that occurred years before, when a crazy dude in a bear mask slaughtered a bunch of people. Shown as flashbacks, it features Felissa Rose as the killer’s mom, Trent Haaga, who played Killjoy after he went white, as the dad, and delivers grindhouse fun and gore.

Once the attraction doors open, we get a haunt montage and then the killing begins.

My only complaint is that it’s always choppy edits, flashing lights, and shaky cam, but it’s definitely a splatterfest, and the body count is stacked! There’s even a chainsaw fight, and one character was as excited about it as I was. This one is the winner for me in this trio of films.

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Murder time at a cabin, on a movie set, and at a haunted attraction