Zombies that go for the brain…and heart

It’s been a while since I sunk my teeth into a really juicy zombie film with the hubby, so it was time to feast on these two features. Turns out both Redcon-1 and Blood Quantum deliver munching, meaning, a message, emotion, and men that are non- white as heroes. Let’s take a look.

REDCON-1 (2018)

Running a whopping two hours long, Redcon-1 goes from an action-packed military mission movie that plays out like a video game to a character-driven social commentary that is eerily timely, reflecting much of what is going on in this country right now.

The plot is familiar—military team is sent into a quarantined zone to rescue a scientist believed to be able to cure the virus.

As the team kicks zombie ass to a rockin’ soundtrack, there’s plenty of blood, cognitive zombies, and man bods on display. Quite a hunky cast.

The battles are fantastically choreographed and visually thrilling, but it does all become a bit repetitive, so of course I’ll say that the film could have been shortened. However, just when things begin to lose steam…

The focus shifts to the black leader of the team and the little white girl he forms a bond with and swears to protect until the bitter end, all while contending with turncoats on his own team and rogue gangs fighting over the territory they’ve claimed.

The finale echoes the current state of affairs in the U.S.—there’s infection everywhere, but the real threat to society is the white man in power. And that’s when the revolt begins.

BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)

 

Blood Quantum is another socially conscious film that has a lot going on—maybe too much.

We meet major players on an Indian reservation, including a sheriff and his sons, who begin to discover something is very wrong.

Members of the community are starting to get attacked and bitten by people that have turned into zombies!

It’s a tight little zombie outbreak film, with crazed zombies, loads of great gore, suspense, and scares. And then…

We jump ahead 6 months. Now the zinger plot point comes forth. The outbreak has spread, and for unknown reasons the Native Americans on the reserve are immune to it.

They make their land a fortress to keep threats out (including the white man), and they have to decide whether or not they should risk allowing those seeking refuge to come in.

It’s a refreshing, thought-provoking plot, but it’s barely established when they leave their community to scavenge for supplies, making a long stretch of this film feel like many of the other zombie films out there.

However, there are plenty of other aspects to the film, for it juggles exploration of family issues, moral dilemmas, some oddly Tarantino-esque flashbacks, and even animated moments.

The pacing was a little slow to me, and I felt the goal of addressing serious subjects concerning Native American life got lost in the zombie shuffle for a while before the ending brought back the humanity at the heart of the story.

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STREAM QUEEN: there are boys and bears, but are these horror comedies funny?

They all have some man meat and at least a couple of laughs, but three of these horror comedies dragged on with plodding dialogue, while the fourth one was nonstop action and humor. Let’s take a look.

CORPSE (2019)

Based on clips on the internet, I thought this black and white, 70-minute movie might be a campy queer film about a gathering of gays that gets drunk and wakes up to find a dead body on the floor.

Now that would have been a movie. Unfortunately, these guys gather after one of them breaks up with his girlfriend. Ugh! They’re straight. If they hadn’t referenced girls I would not really have known.

Sooooo…this is not a horror comedy. These guys sit around and talk about relationships for about half the film, then wake up, find a dead body on the floor…and talk about that for the second half of the film.

The guys are cute and some of their reactions are funny at times, but mostly nothing happens and there’s not enough humor. And while the music is reminiscent of sixties horror movie scores, It always seems to be poorly implemented both in timing and intensity.

SUBFERATU (2020)

If you’re going to make a horror comedy that is virtually all dialogue (which you shouldn’t), it has to be funny dialogue. Sitting through one lackluster script was bad enough, but Subferatu was like watching Corpse all over again.

A group of boaters not unlike the cast of Gilligan’s Island ends up on a Nazi ship from the past when their boat sinks, and eventually discovers there’s a vampire on board. Again—sounds like a plot ripe for comedy.

Instead, the two captains have a verbal standoff…and then everyone talks and talks and talks.

One guy discovers the vampire on the ship and is apparently bitten, because in between all the talking he pops up as a vamp for a split second (53 minutes into the movie) but is immediately taken down by the crew.

There’s another scene that’s visually thrilling of a guy being approached by the vampire, and eventually everyone stops talking long enough to splash holy water on a vampire.

That’s it. That’s all the vampire action you get in this one. The cast does what it can with the material to make us laugh, but the material doesn’t support them back.

PSYCHO-THERAPY (2020)

Only the final 20 minutes save this 70-minute movie from being another all talk, no action or laughs horror comedy.

I can’t imagine why the last twenty minutes wasn’t used as the plot for the entire movie. Hey, I get character development, but for 50 minutes we listen to a variety of patients speaking with their therapist: a wife beater, a throuple, a guy afraid of a clown, a lesbian and her sexually confused girlfriend, etc.

Finally, the therapist takes the patients on a group therapy retreat. Within minutes all hell breaks loose. Yay! And this crazy bitch totally steals the show.

She reminds me of funny actress Edie McClurg, who was in Elvira: Mistress of the Dark and played Nurse DeFarge on an episode of The Golden Girls.

There’s an absolute bloodbath as the patients start hacking each other to pieces. I really can’t imagine how the writer overlooked the potential of weaving their mental backstories into the group therapy sessions at the retreat house—which would have created interpersonal tensions to serve as a catalyst to a full-length slasher.

There are also some beefy boys, and yes, the clown does show up, but his minuscule appearance doesn’t support his use on the poster art.

GIRLS WITH BALLS (2018)

I’ve saved the best for last. If you’re looking for a bloody good backwoods time with plenty of humor, Girls With Balls is a the perfect choice, and it’s available on Netflix both in French and very well dubbed in English.

This campy girl power film isn’t, however, much of a “horror” film. A female volleyball team and its beary coach stop at a lodge for the night and immediately have a bad encounter with the skeevy dude running it.

They leave and park in their RV for the night, but when they wake up, the lodge dude and his group of masked rednecks is waiting to chase them down through the woods…using guns.

Yes, a majority of the gore revolves around people getting body parts shot off. The very funny interactions of the girls and the macabre humor rock, however, the girls do eventually have to resort to melee weapons to do damage.

The film is fast-paced, there’s a “Greek chorus” cowboy dude singing ditties about the action taking place, a hilarious scene in which “YMCA” ignites gay passion (landing this one on my does the gay guy die? page), and a slapstick dog vs. man fight that shouldn’t even bother the most sensitive dog lovers because it’s so goofy and over the top.

The film doesn’t even try to explain the motivations of the baddies, although they do appear to be some sort of religious cult, but it doesn’t even matter, because it’s more about the girls as they step up their game to kick ass…with the help of their beary coach, who totally rox.

To put these four films into perspective, this film is actually the longest of the bunch, yet it felt like it flew by.

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A foursome of Asian horror flicks

There’s a variety of monster insanity to be found in this quadruple feature of Asian horror films. So let’s get a little glimpse at what you can expect if you dare to check them out.

MONSTRUM (2018)

Monstrum was getting some hype on social, and I’m always looking for a good monster movie my horror-lite  hubba hubba can appreciate as well, so I gave this one a try.

He liked it better than I did.

Mostly because I didn’t like it.

It takes 35 minutes of talk for a group to organize a hunt for a giant monster that is supposedly infecting people in the kingdom. Even some slapstick comedy couldn’t keep me engaged.

The monster finally attacks 49 minutes in, and I’ve seen better cutscenes in a video game.

It’s just sad that this form of special effects is the norm these days and people think it’s cool. The monster looks absurd, tossed bodies look like cartoons, and as always, the programmers can’t manage to keep the size of the creature consistent. I guess on the bright side it looks cool when it’s not moving.

The battle with the beast at the end is definitely action-packed and entertaining. It would have to be since that’s really all this movie with a thin plot and basic characters is going for.

MON MON MON MONSTERS (2017)

Either this film is terribly mismarketed or I totally misread the marketing. I got the impression it was going to be one of those fun and campy Asian teen horror flicks.

Instead, it’s quite reminiscent of the repulsive concept of the film Deadgirl. After we’re introduced to a pair of cannibalistic humanoid underground girls (CHUGs?) we meet our main boy, who is terribly bullied by his shitty classmates while his teacher stands by and does nothing about it…until she forces him to spend time alone with them to learn how to get along.

After terrorizing the elderly, they see one of the girl humanoids get hit by a car, so they abduct her and then continuously torture her.

Sure the movie might be trying to show us that humans are the real monsters, but there is no redeeming value to any character here. It’s no fun when your moral compass is forced to choose between man-eating monsters and sadistic adolescents.

It’s unfortunate, because the CHUGs are terrifying. Yet…I sided with them in the end. It was just so satisfying when the free one comes to save the captured one and slaughters a school bus full of kids while she’s at it.

INHUMAN KISS (2019)

Asian horror film Inhuman Kiss will remind those who lived through the 1980s immediately of Mystics in Bali, because both films are about floating female heads.

However, most of the good head here is packed into the final act. This film runs a whopping 121 minutes (way too) long. Much of the movie is spent building a sort of love triangle along with the mythology of the Krasue, as these female heads are called.

A young woman who experienced something terrifying as a child is now working as a medic in a small town. She has a boyfriend and a close male friend who pines for her. Personally, I’d go for the pine scent…

Meanwhile, there is rumor of a Krasue running loose in the town and eating cattle. Hunters come to the town and offer to help hunt her down.

Because of what the main girl experienced as a child, she and her two male friends become drawn into the terror that is gripping the town, and both boys are determined to do anything they can to keep her safe. It really is a love story at…um…heart.

We see very little of the Krasue for most of the film, but the mythology gets even more complex at the end with insane mythological male monsters suddenly appear on the scene. They’re sort of flying demon creatures and they’re awesome, delivering some wild monster wars in the sky.

But be warned. This is a heartbreaking love story in the end, giving it more depth than your usual horror flick.

O.O MHz (2020)

Blend teen horror with Asian hair horror like The Ring and possession films like The Exorcist, and you have this time waster. To me it also brought to mind the Fatal Frame survival horror video games.

There’s absolutely nothing new here, but if you’re itching for some Asian horror and can’t get enough of ghost and/or possession films, you’ll probably enjoy it.

A ghost hunting group of kids called 0.0 MHz goes to an abandoned village where a girl was killed in a house…and then an exorcist was killed in the house.

Their plan is to do an experiment involving the interaction between dreams and ghosts, so they perform a ritual with dolls to channel the ghost. What they get is a ghost girl that drags them underground with her CGI hair. The hair effects are really cheesy.

The one refreshing twist is that when it’s time for an exorcism, which includes levitation, puking, and head spins (the usual), not only is one of the girls possessed, but so is the exorcist! Nice.

There are also some bad CGI ghouls, like a weird demon bird and a witchy floating face, but this film is mostly just a retread of classic Asian horror from two decades ago.

 

 

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SHUDDER & SHRIEK: four sleek and stylized slashers

From throwbacks to thought-provoking, this Shudder selection hit my watchlist just when I was really in need of a good slasher fix. So which ones did the trick?

PARTY HARD, DIE YOUNG (2020)

This German language film is available in an English dubbed version on Shudder if you don’t feel like reading.

The director of Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies brings us a slasher with a post-Scream era feel that’s loaded with horror lighting, pretty people, some man butt, and dance music (including a cover of the Gigi D’Agostino classic “I’ll Fly With You”). It’s also so derivative that even one of the kids references their dilemma as an I Know What You Did Last Summer situation.

A group of friends is away at a party island when a masked killer begins picking them off one by one. As the friends wonder where their missing friends are, the main girl keeps getting texted pics of the missing friends with an X through their faces.

There are a couple of suspenseful scenes and some brutal gore, but there aren’t actually many kills before the killer faces off against all the survivors, so this really doesn’t satisfy much as a slasher.

It’s not even much of a whodunit, even though it tries to throw numerous red herring into the mix. Plus, there are way too many details glossed over that demand way too much suspension of disbelief.

There is some gay stuff. Early on it’s derogatory “fag” slinging, but right before the end there’s a pointless coming out that isn’t even used as a plot device during the film, not even to shine suspicion on the character. Leave it up to the gay to make the slasher all about him at the last second. It does land this one on my does the gay guy die? page.

***WARNING SPOILERS*** There is also a non-explicit, double anal rape with a bottle.

RUIN ME (2017)

Ruin Me had me right up until the end. A couple joins a “slasher sleepout weekend” in the woods. A small group of people is dumped in the middle of nowhere after signing a waiver and then gets to experience living (or dying) in a backwoods slasher. The final guy or girl takes all.

The group includes a big geek, a goth couple, and a bearded cute guy. Of course everyone has issues, including the main girl, but they mostly work cooperatively at first. There are some tits, furry man chest, and some cheap masked killer scares. My kind of movie.

But then the main girl starts to believe they’re really being chased and killed off. Of course no one believes her…until it’s too late. Shit gets crazy for a while with some good slashing action, and even goes into Saw style, self-serving decision dilemmas.

I can’t say which movie, but as the film nears the end it did what I feared it was going to do—it uses the twist from an absolute classic 1980s slasher. And because any slasher fan will see it coming from a mile away, it tries to undo the twist, but that effort falls totally flat, making for a bland denouement. Even so, the fun part was super fun while it lasted, which was almost until the end…

THE FURIES (2019)

This movie is an example of why I usually like my slashers to be mindless, simplistic fun. They can be clever and have some twists (for instance here, where each girl is being chased by a different killer), but when they try too hard to be totally unique or more complex than the usual, I just get a headache.

The good—a bunch of girls is dumped in the woods to be chased by a load of freaky-assed killers, and the practical gore effects are bloody awesome. The entire movie dares to take place in full daylight with that washed out look where only very few colors—like blood red—stand out in contrast to the bright whites and dark blacks.

Also, the girls don’t fuck around as they go from working with each other to turning on each other—whatever it takes to kill their killers.

The plot is the nightmare. I don’t want to give too much away, but what is so annoying to me is how ridiculously capable the main girl is of figuring out exactly what is going on and how to take down the powers that put her and the other innocent women in this position to begin with. Hell, she figures it out better than I did, because I was left with plenty of questions when it was all over.

LAKE BODOM (2016)

Inspired by actual killings of teens in a tent in 1960, this one initially sounds like it’s going for a basic Friday the 13th plot. But there’s no masked killer, and it quickly becomes more complicated when it focuses on only 2 guys and 2 girls camping at the scene of the crime, with the boys determined to recreate how the original murders could have happened.

As we get the sense someone is watching them in the woods, we learn the main girl went through something traumatic, so she seriously has trust issues. She begins to think all three of her friends are up to no good.

And then the killing begins. With so few characters it’s hard to imagine how the movie is going to fill the time. So naturally, it has to go off the rails! Just when you think shit is going in a High Tension direction, it takes another completely exhausting turn. There are definitely a lot of detours in order for this film to avoid being a straightforward slasher…which it would be without all the turns since it circles right back to where it was originally heading! Does that make any sense?

While there’s excessive exposition, there’s not much in the way of gore, and not much in the way of scares or suspense, yet Lake Bodom is still atmospheric and entertaining. Not entertaining enough that I’d ever feel the need to watch it again, though.

Yes, I know. I have mixed emotions about this one.

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Aliens, demons, clowns, and killers

This foursome of films has a little bit of everything, from 80s throwback vibes to sequels. So let’s get into my impressions of Rim of the World, Prey, Hell House LLC 3, and Cry Havoc.

RIM OF THE WORLD (2019)

The director of The Babysitter nails the 1980s Steven Spielberg vibe of kids vs. aliens with this gem.

A young boy is dropped off at summer camp, meets the funny and raunchy counselors, including a mullet muscle head who makes his tits bounce, and then has a run-in with a quiet Asian girl, a pretty white boy, and a funny black kid in the woods.

And that is when all he’ll breaks loose. There are explosions, an air battle, and the kids end up with the key to saving the planet. They set out on a journey to bring it to a scientist as they are relentlessly chased by a couple of cool alien creatures.

It’s thrilling, suspenseful, funny, has cool effects, and all the kids are excellent. The soundtrack includes Devo, Ginuwine, and Nelly, and the sweeping score is right out of 80s Spielberg. There are even what appear to be homages to Jurassic Park, The Breakfast Club, and other faves of the 80s and 90s.

And while the film has an E.T. style family feel and an uplifting ending, there’s plenty of dirty humor to satisfy dirty adults.

PREY (2019)

The director of P2, Maniac remake, and Amityville: The Awakening brings us what feels somewhat like a white male version of that Netflix movie Sweetheart about a black female trapped on an island with a killer creature.

After his father is murdered, the jerk friend from the gay film Love, Simon is sent on a therapeutic retreat. He’s dumped off on an uninhabited island by himself to reflect. WTF?

Problems start right away…for viewers. He has nightmares about the masked guys who killed his dad, which should be impossible since he wasn’t there when his dad was murdered and wouldn’t know it was masked guys. Argh.

There’s an early accident involving him being cut by a mask underwater that seems like it will play a major part in the plot, but it’s never referenced again.

Instead, nothing happens for a majority of the film beyond him exploring the island and meeting a girl who is also trapped on the island.

67 minutes in we finally see what is pursuing him. The story of its origin is unique, and the battle in the final act at last delivers some fun, but this is mostly a disappointing film. Although, the final jump scare is cheesy good.

HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE (2019)

Bummer. In trying to sum up the story of this found footage franchise, this installment becomes a convoluted mess dealing with religion and the afterlife, while padding even promising scary scenes with flashes of similar moments in the previous films.

This time a rich guy buys the hotel before it can be demolished and wants to do a production of Faust in it.

As the group rehearses and sets up for the October 1st opening, a ghost hunting show team is also on hand. There’s also a gay crew member, the most significant inclusion of a gay character in the series yet, so this one lands on my does the gay guy die? page.

The clown is back for old times’ sake in one creepy scene. Other than that, the cast is terrorized by ghosts of people from the previous films.

Even the ending is just a rehash of the panicked emergency evacuation from the first film. There are very few moments that cause the kind of fear and anxiety the first two films do.

CRY HAVOC (2020)

Cry Havoc is the fourth movie in the Playing with Dolls series, which was later renamed as Metalface. I am a big fan of the series, which was loaded with jump scares and extreme practical gore effects.

This installment is very different. Usually, Richard Tyson lures celebrity wannabes to a house on his isolated complex under the guise of appearing on a reality show. They are really there to be hunted down by a Jason type killer.

Each film has an abrupt, inconclusive ending, yet the next sequel never picks up where the last one left off. The same goes here, so I imagine this isn’t the final film in the franchise.

This installment tries to finally explain some stuff. A reporter comes to interview Tyson because he is one of the FBI’s most wanted. Their conversation is loaded with flashbacks to previous kills in the series, which is more horror than you actually get from this entry, although there are a few jaw-dropping kills…

This film focuses on Charles Bronson lookalike JD Angstadt as the hero, which makes this feel more like…well, a Charles Bronson movie. There’s a lot of shootouts in the woods between Angstadt and the guards on the complex. There are also a lot of females tied up to trees with their tits exposed, but it just doesn’t deliver much of a plot.

While the series is hard to get in physical format (only the first is available on disc in the U.S.), I would buy this one if they were all released just to complete the collection, but I do hope there’s another film to redeem the series.

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Holiday horror buffet

Mother’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Eve. Most of them land on my holiday horror movies page, but do any of these four films do the holiday horror genre justice? Let’s take a look.

DELIVERED (2020)

Like man installments of Hulu’s Into The Dark horror movie series, Delivered isn’t specifically about a holiday. It’s simply the May 2020 “Mother’s Day” installment because it’s about a pregnant woman. Sigh.

Instead of Delivered it should have been called Derivative. If you’ve never seen a thriller about a woman trying to steal another woman’s baby or a film about a lunatic holding someone captive, you might be enthralled by this one. It’s Misery meets The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.

The only element of interest is that a black pregnant woman is abducted by a white woman and kept on a chain, which indirectly touches upon race issues.

As if the film realizes how uninspired it is and how badly it lacks suspense, it is riddled with “scary” dream sequences. Yawn. There’s even newspaper clippings to explain everything. Double yawn.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a hobbling scene.

EXTRACURRICULAR (2019)

Somehow this dark thriller manages to be utterly boring for almost an hour before delivering a devious, violent final act.

The opener with a cabin in the woods and masked figures sets a suspenseful tone…and then we meet the teenagers responsible for the murder and watch them spend almost an hour just plotting their next kill.

Luke Goss plays the sheriff on the case, and while he looks great in uniform, his investigation slows the film down even more. I mean, we know who the killers are, so he’s not discovering anything of interest to us!

Even the kids announcing they will do the next kill on Halloween night is not used to the film’s advantage.

Other than them picking out masks to wear and a barely noticeable pumpkin on a shelf at one point, there is no Halloween atmosphere whatsoever.

Movies like this always bug me because it’s impossible to be scared for characters we only get to know as victims as they’re terrorized by people we’ve gotten to know as the totally unlikable protagonists.

However, once The Strangers style home invasion begins, things quickly spiral out of control, making the final act an unexpected thrill ride. If only the first hour of the film had been even half as compelling.

DEADLY GAMES (1989)

This French Christmas film from the end of the 80s is the gift that keeps giving. It’s like Spielberg fused Silver Spoons and Home Alone into a Christmas horror movie.

As an “Eye of the Tiger” rip-off plays, we meet a little survivalist/computer whiz kid who lives in a winter wonderland of a mansion, dresses like Rambo, and creates booby traps to catch his dog for fun.

His mother is a hugely successful retail business woman. She leaves him alone with his feeble grandfather during the Christmas rush at the mall. But when she fires a man dressed as a mall Santa, he seeks revenge…by going to her mansion to terrorize her kid.

Amazing set pieces and visual style make this an oddly magical horror thriller.

But despite the focus being on a kid, the film is notably vicious…beginning with a horrible scene when the home invading Santa meets the dog.

This full-length home invasion/cat and mouse chase flick is filled with suspense and Christmas spirit. It’s also amazing how the kid’s usage of his computer and message boards was so cutting edge at the time, making that aspect of the film virtually contemporary if you overlook the 1980s style computer screen.

As an added bonus, this classic features a battle prep montage set to a fricking Bonnie Tyler Christmas song.

 

THE NIGHT OF THE VIRGIN (2016)

It takes a long time for this Spanish New Year’s Eve dark horror gross out comedy to get going. Losing at least 15 of its 100-minute length could have fixed the pacing problem. That said, the unfolding events are wonderfully unique and challenge everything we’ve learned about gender roles in horror films.

A geeky dude at a New Year’s Eve party (where there’s some awesome new wave playing, btw) is determined to lose his virginity. So when he meets an older woman, he goes home with her.

Remember that episode of Friends when Ross was dating that girl with a filthy apartment? This is ten times worse, beginning immediately with the cockroaches. I can’t imagine any guy would be horny enough to overlook cockroaches…or the bathroom that looks like something out of Saw.

A long stretch of the film establishes that she’s weird and into feminist mythology, and that he is a desperate virgin who will put up with some crazy and disgusting shit to get laid.

When a guy comes knocking at the apartment door, the trouble really starts for our poor, awkward geek. I was reminded of the French film Inside…if it were a skanky, sleazy exploitation horror comedy told from the perspective of a guy.

There’s some nasty shit going on here as everything spins out of control, and as if the visual ick isn’t enough, the squishy sound effects amplify the yuck.

I was really entertained by the final act, from the gay guys fucking a floor above (who call the main guy a faggot–and also land this one on my does the gay guy die? page) to a sequence that will make every guy’s dick go into hiding. And make sure to look for the tag scene halfway through the end credits.

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Black magic, the occult, and pentagrams

If you’re in the mood for some dark, demonic horror and spell casting scares, you might find what you’re looking for in a couple of films in this foursome: Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made, Pentagram, Black Magic, and Red Handed. Here’s what you can expect from each of them.

ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE (2019)

This one creates its own legend of infamy in the first few minutes, which plays out as a mockumentary delving into the mythology of the film Antrum—it was a film made in the 1970s, but was pulled from theaters because anyone who viewed it met a horrible fate.

At last it has been unearthed, and we are warned ahead of time that those releasing it refuse to take any responsibility for anything that happens to us after we view it.

Built in novelty paranoia aside, I found the film to be quite creepy and disturbingly relatable.

It’s about a boy whose dog is put to sleep, leading to him having nightmares about a horned beast.

He’s convinced his dog’s soul has gone to hell, so his older sister treks into the woods with him to do a ritual that involves digging a hole to release the dog’s soul.

While the film is a slow burn, the atmosphere is quite unnerving, with the pair experiencing frightening occurrences in the woods—like demons stalking them.

It really captures that occult eeriness of 1970s horror, feeling almost like a drug trip at times, and psyching us out with grainy footage of a devil just staring at the camera and pentagrams flashing on the screen periodically.

Most importantly, the little boy is very reminiscent of the unforgettable bowl cut boy from Euro horror flicks of the 80s like The House by the Cemetery and Manhattan Baby.

PENTAGRAM (2019)

Thieves hide out in a house where they become trapped in a pentagram. If they step out of the circle, an overlaid clip of a burning demon comes to slice them open with a scythe. This same scenario plays out twice in the movie and that’s the only horror we get.

Other than that, the four thieves spend their time using belts and clothes to fetch essential items outside the circle.

Remember when the Brady Bunch got stuck in an old prison cell and had to fish for the key on a peg across the room? Yeah, it’s that.

Shirtless guy aside, I would just advise skipping this one. It’s quite boring and rather annoying because every time someone is booted from the pentagram, they just wait for the demon to come get them. I simply don’t understand why they don’t just jump back into the damn pentagram.

BLACK MAGIC (2018)

If you like Asian horror like The Ring and contemporary haunting films like The Conjuring, this witchcraft movie is a tight blend of both.

A man takes his family to see his sick and delusional mother.

After some effective supernatural incidents with grandma terrifying the kids, she ends up in the hospital, and the wife begins having spells in which she sees or is attacked by a witchy ghost woman.

Soon the daughters are also experiencing the horror, and the family members begin turning on each other as the witchy ghost woman amps up her reign of terror.

It was all a little too basic tween horror for me, but it does have some great atmosphere and “scary” stuff to make those who are more jumpy…well…jump.

RED HANDED (2019)

Michael Biehn and Michael Madsen may get top billing, but this movie is about three hot brothers who come to a small town after their father’s death. The gym bunny brother even shows off his T&A within the first few minutes.

Hey, I could watch these hunky men for 90 minutes straight without a problem, but damn is this movie boring. Like….Midsommar boring.

There’s lots of talking and introductions to odd locals, including redneck dudes and women who like to wear flowing white dresses. We just wait and wait for something to happen. Finally, the young son of one of the brothers is kidnapped and the hunt is on at about 55 minutes into the film.

Naturally the hunt leads to a sacrificial occult ritual. I found nothing exciting or scary about this indie take on the Midsommar/Wicker Man concept.

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When nuns attack

I figured it was time to just go for it and check out a handful of the killer nun movies that have hit the market in the wake of Hollywood horror The Nun—which, not surprisingly, was a fricking mess. So are these indie alternatives any better?

A NUN’S CURSE (2020)

This is one of the latest killer nun offerings, but I’m covering it first because it’s sort of a warm-up to the other two films.

Two sisters, a geek, and a jerk (scream king Damian Maffei) are heading to a summer home. On the way they stop at a derelict prison where legend has it a nun killed a bunch of inmates before disappearing.

The setting is quite creepy, but with only four characters, they spend a good chunk of this short 73-minute movie just wandering around the prison discussing the legend and providing faux jump scares.

Some flashbacks to the nun doing the deed using communion wafers and wine make it clear why film treatments are usually used to distinguish past from present, while also creating ominous atmosphere. The flashbacks here are filter-free, blurring the lines because they feel just as current as the rest of the film. Felissa Rose plays the nun, and for me personally, her big horror queen presence somewhat softens the sinister mystique of the nun.

When we at last get to the slashing, the murders happen 1, 2, 3. Literally! Three characters are disposed of in about a two minute period (with practical effects. Yay!). There’s not even some poor sucker—a cop, security guard, thrill-seeking kids, horny couple, etc.—sneaking into the prison. Just a little of that in the first fifty minutes could have offered some organic scares and a body count.

However, we do get a good crotch shot.

Within the remaining 20 minutes the nun fun begins. The nun has possessed face and pops from around corners and out of shadows to offer genuine midnight movie scares as she terrorizes the final girl.

Although there’s a plot arc that develops around the main girl, I feel the slasher elements could have been beefed up earlier on.

CURSE OF THE NUN (2019)

I’m always thrilled when I begin an indie film and discover it is by the director of another movie I’ve already seen and liked. In this case it’s Aaron Mirtes, director of Clowntergeist.

Curse of the Nun does just what a nun horror flick needs to do. It’s non-stop action and thrills from start to finish.

A young woman moving out of a rental house begins to experience supernatural occurrences. The refreshing change here is that crazy shit happens in the house she’s leaving, not the one she’s moving into. Awesome!

Within a short time she’s being chased by a zombie-esque nun. She can’t escape the house, and the nun pursues her relentlessly for the entire film. It’s really like one full-length chase scene.

The two leads have great chemistry and deliver some humor as well. And the nun is nice and ghoulish and even fricking levitates. Eek!

Seasoned horror fans will definitely note a hint of The Sentinel in the film. Contemporary horror fans will notice a little Ouija board trick borrowed from the Ouija movies. I personally had a blast with this film and can’t wait to see what the director has in store for us next.

THE BAD NUN (2018)

The Bad Nun is like When A Stranger Calls Back meets The Strangers meets an all-time classic I can’t mention without giving away the movie. But the truth is, any horror fan who has seen it all should be able to predict every single thing that happens in this movie right from the start.

However, if you’re going to copy all the classics, copying them as perfectly as The Bad Nun does is the way to go. And if you’re a younger generation of horror fan, a lot of this will seem new to you.

Despite being a know-it-all, I was on the edge of my damn seat throughout this entire film. Plus, like any good horror movie, this one gives you numerous reasons to become furious with the main girl for making every dumb mistake in the book.

This is slow burn perfection. A young woman rents a room in a nice man’s house. Then he asks her to watch out for his sick child, closed away in a bedroom, while he goes out.

Once she’s alone, a nun comes knocking on the door, making up numerous excuses as to why she wants to come in. And she keeps coming back. I thought this perspective was going to be the death of me.

Every setup shot, every camera angle, and every bad decision by the main girl keep the tension sustained right up to the lengthy cat and mouse chase at the end. This was my kind of horror comfort food (especially when devoured with a side of popcorn and a cherry cola).

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PRIME TIME: 4 wacky witch movies

I feel like I may have inadvertently been pulled into a coven after watching these four unusual witch films loaded with flashing subliminal occult imagery. I preferred two of them, but they all had something interesting going on, including some serious gay stuff in one of them!

CHERRY TREE (2019)

This simple film doesn’t dawdle. It’s witchy goodness from start to finish, and probably the most satisfying witch movie I’ve seen since Witching & Bitching.

A young woman being raised by her dying father agrees to let her witch soccer coach perform a ritual on him to stop his death.

The actress playing the teacher is deliciously wicked, and the rituals to bring back the dead are nasty—spill blood into a bowl of cherries, then these great big nasty centipedes burrow into the body to work magic that saves the dying soul.

There is definitely a lot of cherry and centipede action, but the horror amplifies into hellish insanity eventually when the main girl discovers exactly what it is her coach and the coven really want from her.

The final act is a blast.

Plus, totally inconsistent with the tone of the rest of the film, the final frame is fantastically cheesy midnight movie nonsense that leaves me hoping for an equally cheesy sequel. As a bonus, the final scene takes place on Halloween! And no, that’s not Amber Benson of Buffy fame in the image below.

WITCH HUNTERS (2016)

Despite this indie being low budget with poor acting, I was hoping something interesting would come of it…if only it had ironed out the details of the plot. Of a plot. Any plot. It’s quite the mess.

What held so much promise for me was that it seemed like it was going to focus solely on the conflict between a gay priest and a gay sheriff in a small town.

The priest has come to terms with his sexuality while losing his faith, but the sheriff is a vile self-hater. He has sex with men and the kills them on a regular basis.

It’s such a compelling premise that gets lost in a whole lot of other stuff. Still, I’m going to file this one away on the homo horror page considering both leads are gay and it is a key plot point.

The witch hunter that comes to town looks like a combo between a cowboy and a biker, is a caricature, and has his goth sister along for the ride.

They’re hunting witches, they find some, there’s lots of sex with the witches, who are out to get revenge on Christians…damn, this all sounds so much like I should love it.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t seem to ever tie anything together in any logical way, or bring anything to a satisfying conclusion.

666: SALEM CALLING (2008)

This film originally incorporated Poe’s “The Raven” into its title, and from the very start you’ll know why—lines from the poem are repeated incessantly in voice-overs throughout the movie.

This could have been a pretty basic witch/slasher movie. Although it takes place a week before Halloween, the holiday plays no part in the story. Instead it’s about a group of ghost hunter friends celebrating a birthday by going into the woods to research the disappearance of a horror writer and his family a few years before for their website.

A campfire story soon reveals that the land was once the location of witch burning.

Oh if only the story had stuck with that basic premise. It begins with a séance and some 1970s style horror music and trippy horror visuals—mood setting indie goodness that I welcome. The group hangs out in the dark, and one girl starts to act all witchy. It feels like it really has a direct trajectory…

And then we are bombarded by flashbacks of a separate story that takes place in the early 1900s.

This interference makes everything a confusing mess, with only a glimmer of gory slashing fun suddenly near the end of the film. Not that it clarifies anything. Bummer.

MARK OF THE WITCH (2014)

A bit artsy with signs of budget restraints (CGI blood and fire), Mark of the Witch takes a little while to get to its point, but there’s plenty of mysterious and even over-the-top witch action once it gets there. The only thing missing was some broom flying.

At a young woman’s eighteenth birthday party, her creepy aunt does the unthinkable. Immediately after, the young woman begins having nightmarish, satanic dreams and visions. She’s also stalked by a freaky witch woman.

The young woman’s life begins to unravel and she soon finds out why—there is an evil version of her out and about and wreaking havoc. Amazingly, the main girl’s performance vastly improves when she becomes an evil bitch from hell.

The battle between good and evil is almost campy, and it is definitely my favorite part of the film.

All the witchy woman in the cast totally deliver with their devilish performances.

Not to mention, one of the characters in the movie plays the Atari 2600 classic Breakout…plus we get a brief glimpse of his butt.

 

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Satanic Panic vs. Satanic Panic!

A decade before Satanic Panic hit Shudder, there was a very different movie with the same name, so I figured it was time to take on both of them.

SATANIC PANIC (2009)

It’s low budget and a messy mishmosh of subgenres, yet there are various aspects of the first Satanic Panic that kept me watching.

Naturally, the fact that it begins by focusing on the Satanism panic of the 1980s sparked my interest. Shot documentary style, it features clips of a camouflaged victim who lost her child to Satanists, and a flamboyant Satanist who rejects all the accusations aimed at Satanists.

Then there are some low budget murder scenes as robed cult members abduct random people.

One poor dude even falls victim to some non-graphic sodomy, forced to smoke the pipe from the wrong end.

Finally we meet a main group of friends heading into the woods, and there is some seriously boring filler—including the music.

55 minutes in it kicks into gear as a low budget indie, with lesbians, brutal impalement and stabbings, some fun Satanism scenes, a chase scene with body reveals, and a devilish, slight shift in subgenre again near the end. Really, this would be a better paced film if they had just taken out the middle section!

SATANIC PANIC (2019)

Why is it that all the horror comedies I watch lately are so inconsistent? This Shudder hit starts off quite good. Even my hubby was laughing along at the great jokes and comical performances.

A young pizza delivery girl meets some eccentric customers with an array of odd requests. When one dude stiffs her on a tip, she enters his house and walks right into a satanic cult looking for a virgin. Lucky her.

Rebecca Romijn is the head cultist and she’s a hoot in the film. her hubby Jerry O’Connell plays her husband in the movie. AJ Bowen shows up later in the film for a brief cameo. And the nurse roommate from Happy Death Day gets to shine in this film as another kidnap victim of the cult.

The first establishing act is quite funny with some over the top gore. Things begin to fall apart in the middle of the film—my hubby tuned out and began playing his Soduko games on his iPad.

Things slow way down to the point that none of the characters do anything of any significance. Even the addition of a few evil creature attacks doesn’t help to get the blood flowing again.

The final act ramps up to a big satanic ritual climax, the most entertaining part of it being the orgy. I’m all about the orgy.

Beyond that, I really had no idea what the plot was trying to accomplish, and the cast didn’t seem to either.

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