HALLOWEEN MOVIE ROUND-UP 2022 Part 2

I know, I know. It’s December. But the number of Halloween horror flicks I discovered this year keeps growing. At this point the only one I have left to watch is Terrifier 2, which I won’t be getting on disc until it releases at the end of the month. Meanwhile, I have a load of Christmas horror flicks I’ll be getting to soon, but for now, I give you another smorgasbord of Halloween horror flicks I didn’t get to on the first post I did in October.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS VAMPIRES (2020)

Halloween is gently integrated into this entertaining film that is best described as Jeepers Creepers with a vampire.

This is how you start a horror movie—a shirtless hunk on the run from a relentless RV.

The hunk crashes into a young woman driving on a dark road on her way to a friend’s house for Halloween.

Soon they’re on the run together, with the RV in hot pursuit.

This is when the main girl ruins the movie by giving the hottie a shirt to wear. Teehee.

But seriously, I would really like to see director Logan Thomas make more horror movies, because he delivers several fantastically suspenseful scenes in this straightforward flick.

The main pair arrives at the friend’s house, and after some Halloween festivities (Halloween decor, pumpkins, discussion of what horror films to watch, a trick or treater) the vampire shows up and they’re on the run again. And it doesn’t get more Jeepers Creepers than arriving at a police precinct, where they continue to be terrorized by the vampire.

The film has the hottie, some humor, some great tension, a cool vampire, awesome 80s style music, and even some cameos, including horror queen Maria Olsen, 80s queen Meg Foster, and the late Judy Tenuta with her accordion.

The eerie scenes deliver right up to the final act, and the only problematic issue the film has is the rather convoluted back story of the vampire and his reason for pursuing the two main characters.

HALLOWEEN JACK (2022)

This indie is what I’d call a mini-slasher. It’s a perfect warm-up for your Halloween horror marathon, and it’s clearly made with love by true admirers of the slasher genre.

I just wish they had thought of a different title considering that a Halloween Jack film and its sequel already exist.

It begins with a counselor telling us a campfire story of what happened at the camp site a decade ago…which offers us a quick, mini slasher within this mini slasher!

A bullied counselor dons a Halloween mask, grabs a pickaxe, and goes to town on the other counselors. Awesome.

Then it’s on to the modern day. What’s refreshing about this slasher is that it focuses on an older cast for a change. Three survivors—two men and a woman—come back to the site to pay their respects and have a reunion. As they prepare for the arrival of more of their friends, they clean up and goof around in a montage set to 80s style synthpop.

There are a few near encounters with Jack in true slasher fashion before getting to the final chases and fights. The movie nails everything—camera angles, atmosphere, suspense, editing.

It all takes place during the day, which makes it even more impressive that the film delivers such a tight slasher feel. If there’s any downside, it’s that the “reveal” at the end is very predictable for any veteran slasher fan.

SHRIEKSHOW (2022)

This anthology may not have the biggest budget or sleekest production, but it’s my kind of indie horror.

The wraparound and festive opening credits deliver plenty of Halloween atmosphere, but two of the three stories are not Halloween themed (bummer), instead falling into the category of backwoods horror.

Then we meet a young woman and her friends, who decide to go to abandoned, haunted fairgrounds for kicks.

After walking through a creepy attraction, they meet a guy who calls himself the ringmaster (he gives off a very Tim Curry vibe) and begins to tell them three tales….

1st story – this seems like a standard low budget crazy hillbillies story, but it has a couple of twists and a devilishly nasty little ending.

2nd story – this one gives us an opening kill scene with two lesbians camping in the woods. These two are awesome because they’re raw, not “lipstick lesbian” male fantasies. These girls whip out their big juicy boobs and even offer up some humor. Then we get a great wink wink cameo from Felissa Rose as her husband sets off on a fishing trip in the woods with some friends…which leads to us finding out what killed the lesbians in the opening scene. This one has a cool, monstrous edge to it.

3rd story – a young man is still traumatized by a childhood birthday party that turned into a massacre. Eek!

Tuesday Knight of Elm Street 4 plays his therapist, and the meds she gives him amplify his fear that the killer clown from that party is still out there. The clown is freaky cool, and there are several visuals that make it clear it’s Halloween time.

The wraparound ends with the main kids being chased by crazy clowns, a heinous pie to the face moment, and a gross intestines out of the mouth scene, reminding us that practical effects still rule.

THE SLEEP: SURVIVAL HORROR PART 1 (2022)

I’ll get the Halloween part out of the way—it’s incidental and not integral to the plot at all. Friends just happen to be partying together in a house on Halloween when they are drawn into a weird drug experiment. It’s pointless to even put this one on the complete holiday horror page.

As for the story, which is written by the director/star, this just so isn’t my thing. The cast has loaded political and social conversation at first, and the overall theme of the movie is about the use of depression drugs as mind control to craft killing machines for military combat.

The friends devour a pizza that is delivered to them for free and then wake up to find themselves trapped in psychotropic hell.

Honestly, it’s hard to be scared when it’s obvious from the start that everything they experience is hallucinatory. At the same time, they are pitted against each other, and there are annoying shots of them having manic episodes of screaming directly at the camera.

The group seems to be trapped in a mental institution with possession, zombies, psycho killers, and…oh yeah…a magic wand. Sigh.

Honestly, this is one of those movies that leaves me wondering how the writer even managed to coherently put everything that happens on screen in a script and thought that any of it made any sense.

THE BARN PART II (2022)

The retro 80s Halloween flick from several years ago gets a sequel, and I think this one may be even more fun than the first one.

Not only are several of the original characters back, along with the creatures from the first movie, but this film changes things up and turns into a zombie Halloween film!

The first move is recapped briefly through a campfire story, and that leads directly into a good old massacre with practical gore effects.

There’s also an adorable bear with a great smile, if only he stuck around longer…

The baddies from the first film are resurrected to get revenge on the survivors of the first movie. One girl is in a sorority and they’re planning a fundraising haunted attraction in a barn. Wahoo!

Ari Lehman returns as the heavy metal show host, and Linnea Quigley returns as the uptight woman who wants to now ban Halloween.

However, both actors get a much juicier role this time, eventually battling zombies themselves. Awesome. And you have to love this scene of Linnea by a lost dog sign, which I imagine might be intentional considering she’s a huge animal rescue proponent in real life.

There are also brief appearances by Doug Bradley, Lloyd Kaufman, and Joe Bob Briggs, and the main cutie is back for more.

Once the attraction opens, the killing starts. It’s a straightforward supernatural slasher until the three main monsters start turning people into zombies!

Throw in some sexy scenes and boobs, along with the faux 80s music and score, and this one is a total Halloween party film, and you don’t even need to see the original to enjoy it.

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DREAMCAST DAYS: revisiting survival horror game Blue Stinger

Rather than just rely on the big name in survival horror back then (Resident Evil), Dreamcast scored a handful of exclusive takes on the genre (none of which turned into cherished franchises ). Blue Stinger has familiar elements of survival horror games, but it feels more like a weak, annoying action game with monsters.

For starters, the look of the game does not lend itself to the feelings stirred by the dark, empty corridors and sinister locations that make survival horror games so eerily immersive. Like most Dreamcast titles, the graphics are vibrant, crisp, colorful, and blocky, bringing to mind an animated cartoon. Not to mention, the game takes place during the day—although you’ll only know that when you’re using outside boardwalks and bridges to get to inside locations that all look the same.

Oddly you land on “Dinosaur Island” (which is more like an ocean facility like in Deep Blue Sea), but there are no dinosaurs. You’re mostly attacked by deformed humanoids with numerous big arms. You’ll also encounter tentacles that whip around from the floor or hang from the ceiling, monster birds, flying monster bugs, land piranha, giant caterpillar things, and annoying as hell drones that shoot at you while you’re running around frantically in open spaces trying to figure out where the hell to go next.

Worst of all, monsters respawn. You can accidentally go back the way you just came after killing a monster—leading to a load screen (remember those days?)—go right back to where you meant to be (waiting for the load screen again), and have to fight the same monster again. Argh! Killing monsters sends coins flying, and you have to run around and collect them all like a Mario brother. Would be nice to just have a damn magnet to draw them to you. Not to mention there were times when the coins would fall in a place on screen that my character couldn’t reach. On the bright side, you need that money to buy supplies at vending machines, but considering you keep encountering the same monsters over and over, you’re basically just making money you need to buy supplies you just depleted while killing the same monster again.

Occasionally you just incidentally stumble upon bosses that come up unexpectedly while you’re in the middle of a mission, and killing them usually scores you some object you need to move forward in the game.

Health and ammo can also be found lying around, but there’s a reason there are vending machines all over the place…you need a lot of health and ammo to battle monsters repetitively. These vending machines also offer better weapons if you have enough money to purchase them.

You can shoot enemies with firearms, which is simple—a single trigger/reload button plus auto aiming gives you somewhat of an advantage. If you’re low on ammo you can also melee fight monsters. Again, it’s just one button to execute a melee attack, but there are a bunch of combo strikes that you really have no control over (literally accomplished by button mashing the melee button repeatedly), and melee fighting leaves you more vulnerable to attack since you’re right on top of the enemy.

Since there are fewer buttons and sticks on the Dreamcast controller, the layout is simplified. Unfortunately, this leaves you with no control over the camera, and it’s absolutely terrible. You often run into new rooms to find your camera is aimed down. You can’t move your view up to see the names of rooms above doors, so when looking for particular locations you have to run back away from the door to get the sign in the view of the camera. It also creates a disadvantage when trying to fight monsters you can’t see onscreen, or when you are required to specifically shoot objects as part of a task, but you can’t get those objects in your sights at all. Worst of all, there are times when you walk into a room and can’t even take one step forward before either regular enemies or a boss start attacking you, leaving you no choice other than to just stand in that doorway shooting and just hoping for the best.

And speaking of doorways, if you accidentally click near a door the game immediately sends you through it even if you didn’t intend to go through it, yet if you leave a room accidentally and want to go right back in, the game totally ignores your clicks on the door when you turn around. You literally have to walk away from the door and approach it again before the clicking will be recognized. WTF?

Blue Stinger doesn’t have tank controls like Resident Evil did back then, but the controls respond too fast to the point that you feel like you can’t contain the character’s crazy running, turning, and reversing. How hard you press on the stick determine how fast or slow he moves, but trying to hold a steady hand for slow movement is tedious, and quite frankly no fun. However, there are times you want to walk slowly…like a segment involving traveling on lots of catwalks. I learned the hard way that this game is not forgiving if you move to close to the edge of a drop-off. Adding to the frustrating movement issues, there are also underwater swimming segments. Swimming is tedious because you run out of air fast and have to just figure out the trick to swimming up for air. Compounding the wonky swimming controller issue and lack of air, there are also giant fish to contend with. Sigh.

The inventory screen is fairly basic and does freeze the game in the background as well as pausing the timer during timed side missions. Within the inventory screen is the map, which is pretty useless, with no names of rooms and just a different color showing the room you’re in—no handy arrow designating your character and which direction he’s facing. Certain rooms have a map download station and save station where you do the good old slot saves whenever you want, plus there are often vending machines in these rooms.

Another interesting aspect of this game is that you actually have a partner with you, but he is only seen on screen during cut scenes, and he doesn’t join in battles! You can, however, switch playable character in the inventory screen if you want to use a different weapon. Each guy has unique weapons, and some weapons are better than others for fighting certain bosses. Also of note, at one point these buddies get naked together for a relaxing bath in the middle of all the chaos they’re dealing with! There’s a very daddy and his boy vibe between them.

And speaking of having someone with you, perhaps the oddest element of this game is that you are constantly followed by a little blue Tinkerbell type fairy. I have no idea what her purpose is (she sucks as a guardian angel), and honestly, she’s basically a fairy flashlight, because her glow lights up darker areas.

Other than fighting the same monsters over and over, the game mostly involves just running around collecting keys for other doors. No puzzles to solve beyond figuring out how to push boxes around to climb on them to reach other areas to find items you’ll never even know are there unless you read a walkthrough. Seriously, a walkthrough is essential to get through this game if you don’t want to waste hours going in circles, because there are really no clues as to what you are supposed to be accomplishing at any given time—just running through endless halls and into rooms clicking on the scenery hoping you’ll accomplish something.

There are also side missions that involve saving characters and doing other tasks, and you get special weapons as rewards, but I didn’t quite know when I was doing a side mission because they’re just integrated into the game. You don’t even have to do them and not doing so doesn’t affect the game at all, but you wouldn’t know that as you play. As far as I can tell, the side missions were all timed segments. I hate timed missions. With these timed segments, you really have no idea what to do or where to go within that time unless you follow a walkthrough. It doesn’t help that everything looks alike and it’s all a big maze with a lot of running back and forth.

So how else can the game make running back and forth with respawning monsters more annoying beyond catwalks of death and killer fish in the water? There’s a section that requires you to run through freezer rooms cloaked in mist. Brrrr. You have to keep an eye on your body temperature and find warm rooms in between trying to accomplish shit in the area—which makes those respawning monsters infuriating. Eventually you find a “heater” which turns off your temperature meter. My advice? Read a walkthrough and go for the heater unit immediately before doing anything else, because good luck finding the warm rooms when you’re on the verge of freezing to death. Unfortunately, there’s a similar challenge with a section filled with poisonous gas…and you don’t find a gas mask to get through it. Sigh.

Later in the game there’s a frustrating area that requires you to repeatedly crawl up pipes and on ceilings to travel through vents. The camera angle is topsy-turvy, the controls seem to go in the reverse of the direction you want to go, and it’s not just a straightforward crawl—you have to click by the vents to move on to the next area.

As you near the end of the game, it’s one tedious task after another. You first have to swim through loads of tunnels filled with killer fish. You then have to climb your way to the top of a tower, with dropout platforms and a few enemies along the way. The game also puts you facing a drop-off every time you climb a ladder, with a super close view of the back of your head, so if you don’t turn around or if you take the slightest step forward you will fall off the tower. Not fun.

Then, right before the final boss, a guarding mission is thrust upon you. You have to keep some invincible enemies away from one character for three minutes. Bye-bye to all that ammo you need for the final boss.

The giant final boss mostly breathes fire at you and will try to step on you, but it doesn’t take many shots to kill him if you have one of the heftier guns.

And finally, there is a twist near the end that explains why it’s called Dinosaur Island, plus there are aspects of the game that make it appear this game somehow takes place at Christmas time, including one of your characters donning a Santa suit (the daddy, of course).

Because it has been so long since I played Blue Stinger (like…20 years. Damn!), I don’t remember thinking back then “I never want to play this game again”. Going forward now that I have replayed it, I will make it a point to remember that I never want to play this game again.

 

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TUBI TERRORS: did these vampire movies suck?

Tubi offered up three vampire films that looked appealing to me, making for the perfect triple feature. Well, not quite. In the end only one satisfied. Let’s take a look.

BITE NIGHT (2022)

This movie had one job to do. A female punk band selects a bunch of fans from the audience and takes them to an isolated house to “party”, which can only spell a night of horror house terror for the fans. You know…Night of the Demons with vampires. So how the hell did it become such a confusing mess of nothingness overpopulated by music montages? I can’t even explain that myself.

For starters, the film begins with not one but two full-length song performances by the band at a club. I was totally digging the new wave sound of the second song, but still—nearly ten minutes of musical performance without any introduction to characters?

That is a huge issue here. The characters are barely developed, from the vampire chicks to the fans. They all arrive at a house drenched in 80s horror color lighting, they go to their rooms to prepare for dinner, they experience some odd things that mean nothing to us and make little sense, and then they finally gather with the band for dinner, where they quickly realize something is very wrong at this house.

The guests get infected with something that causes veiny and black-eyed side effects, and eventually they do battle with the band with some surprise twists and some cheesy, 80s level magic power lightning bolt effects.

There’s also some sort of creature crawling around (the highlight for me).

I honestly understood none of it, but I would have liked a bit of expansion on one male fan’s flirtation with wearing dresses.

CRYPTIC (2014)

I’m kind of here to just warn you about this movie if you’re looking for a comedy (which this is described as), or a vampire movie (which is also implied by the description). It’s really neither. Instead, this feels like a dialogue-heavy play turned into a movie.

A group of mob guys is hired to guard a coffin in a crypt. What unfolds is nonstop talk as we get to know the personality of each character and they question what’s in the coffin. 52 minutes in there’s a hint that it might be a vampire.

After much bickering about just opening the coffin, there’s a shootout with just 15 minutes to go.

With about 5 minutes to go, we learn what’s really in the coffin, and the denouement makes it feel like someone wanted to make a Saw type of movie with a vampire angle.

I’m not sure who this movie is supposed to satisfy. Horror fans waiting for some vampire action will be hugely disappointed. Mob movie fans will be confused by the constant talk of vampires…and the constant talk. Notice how most of the screen grabs I included all look the same? That tells you how much variation you get in this movie….

LET THE WRONG ONE IN (2021)

 

Coming to us from the director of Stitches and Dead Meat, vampire horror comedy Let The Wrong One In was an immediate DVD purchase for me after I finished streaming it.

This British flick is loaded with humor delivered by the minimal cast of characters…including Giles from Buffy! It is a blast watching him play a rather manic, much more adventurous vampire hunter than he did on Buffy.

Another plus is that the lead guy is deliciously full-bodied, especially in the thighs and the booty. Yum.

He’s also adorable.

He is strapped with the problem of helping or staking his vampire brother.

Humor, comedic battles, and loads of spraying blood abound as the pair and Giles deliver a farcical vampire conundrum.

Eventually more vampires complicate matters, even turning into bats (awesome), and the action moves to a dance club for the final act.

This is most definitely a party flick and an instant classic in my book.

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It’s almost like he comes to you in your dreams…

It’s a trio of slashers with killers that aren’t quite all there…until it’s time for the killing to start!  Kinda reminded me of an infamous baddie we all know and love.

BRING ME A DREAM (2020)

I checked this one out mostly because Martin Kove of Karate Kid/Cobra Kai fame appears in it with his hot as hell son, who plays a cop.

A young woman on the run and suspected of murder arrives at a sorority house that seems to be in the middle of nowhere and holds the college crowd hostage. She starts to ramble about the Sandman, and before long all the kids are experiencing nightmarish hallucinations from which they can’t wake up.

The whole movie feels like a psychotropic trip. The kids are mostly experiencing nightmares in which they are bullied by all the other kids based on their insecurities and vulnerabilities—pretty girl, closeted gay guy, Black guy, etc. (and the n word is used a lot in his sequence—like seriously uncomfortably too much).

The Sandman is mostly a shadowy illusion, but he does take a larger role (and does some killing) when there are only about twenty-five minutes remaining.

There’s some gore, but nothing particularly frightening happens, and the plot is rather convoluted. Reminds me of when the Elm Street franchise started going off the rails.

But damn is Martin Kove’s son fine.

THE MANOR (2018)

This time around the one dragging her demons into the real world is a young woman just out of the psychiatric hospital, where she was under the care of Rachel True (one of our favorite witches from The Craft), which we see in occasional flashbacks to her therapy sessions.

Thinking it will be good for her daughter’s mental health, the young woman’s mother decides to bring her to a resort to meet all her distant relatives. This doesn’t stop her from having freakish visions of a demonic man committing grisly murders.

And although the visual elements are horrortastic, the demon remains just visions for a majority of the film. Most of the time, the main girl is dealing with weird relatives, horny hunters, and some sort of spiritual cult and their big burly leader.

The demon, wielding an axe, does his first hack job 45 minutes in this 92-minute movie, but it’s not until an hour in that the kills start coming fast.

Of course the question remains…is this demonic killer real or is the main girl just batshit crazy?

It’s predictable, reminiscent of the later Elm Street films, and a little quirky and odd—but at least the demonic killer is entertaining when he finally shows up, and he does have a hunger for a muscle hunk.

THE BLOODY MAN (2020)

The shaky acting, indie vibe, and practical effects of this film may turn some people off, but it perfectly captures the feel of 80s direct-to-video horror…plus it takes place in the 80s. What hurts it is the unthinkable decision to not edit it down from its 2-hour and 13-minute running time. This so easily could have been remedied in large part if they had simply removed several unnecessary segments that are supposed to be stories the kids in the movie are telling each other. I would love an edit of this film that omits them completely.

When things finally get going, this is the type of movie that would have spooked the hell out of me when I was a young teen in the eighties and would have become an instant cable and video rental classic. It offers an 80s style synth score, plenty of 80s pop culture references, and some faux 80s pop songs, yet smartly refrains from trying too hard to get the eighties fashions exact, which only makes throwback films look like a bunch of people dressed for a bad eighties costume party.

The plot is just quirky enough to capture the weird storytelling of many 80s indie films. A boy bullied at school is struggling with his home life. His mom died (played by Lisa Wilcox of Elm Street 4 in flashbacks), he fights with his older brother and younger sister, and he’s not too happy that he has a new stepmom, played by Tuesday Knight of Elm Street 4. Tuesday even performs several of the faux 80s songs used in the film—and now I totally want a soundtrack CD to be released.

The inclusion of these two actresses makes sense, because after way too much family drama that pads much of the film, it ends up having a very Elm Street vibe—the best one of this trio of films.

The main boy reads a little wish spell on the back of a comic book…which brings to life “The Bloody Man” just in time for the kids to be stuck at home with their stepmom when the dad goes away.

The lights go out, the phone line is dead, and the main kid begins to think stepmom is evil because she suddenly begins to act very different. Tuesday Knight’s performance as the stepmom when she’s normal is rough, but once she gets to acting sinister and mean, she rocks it.

The movie gets intense as the kids run around in the shadows of the house trying to avoid their stepmom at first and then eventually The Bloody Man. The scary scenes with The Bloody Man are so Freddy Krueger, and there’s also plenty of cheesy kid-centric horror camp, including a fight with a dismembered arm and some inspiration to fight back brought to them by He-Man!

Unfortunately, all this good stuff doesn’t kick in until 90 minutes into the film. I sooooo wish this feature film had been trimmed down to its core elements, because I really think it would totally be embraced by fans of true 80s horror if it were a bit more streamlined.

 

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The holidays at the Amityville House?

Not exactly. I check out two short indies that cash-in on both the Amityville name and the holiday horror trend. Between these two and Amityville Cop, which takes place on New Year’s Eve, Amityville titles are popping up all over the complete list on my holiday horror page. When will we be getting an Amityville Halloween flick?

AMITYVILLE THANKSGIVING (2022)

This 72-minute movie is such a disaster…but it has a trashy Long Island charm I can totally connect with and even shows actual footage of the town of Amityville and the infamous house as they are today during the opening credits. Not sure if that’s even legal.

The real bummer for me was that it fails to deliver on the Thanksgiving festivities. Like…just make a movie with a damn scene in which a cooked Turkey comes back to life at the Amityville house dining table and attacks guests. Is that too much to ask?

Or better yet, have the Indian burial ground that is supposedly under the house and influenced Ronald Defeo to shoot his whole family get tasty Thanksgiving revenge for what the white men did to Native Americans back in the day.

Instead, this is a roughly acted film about a sleazy Amityville therapist who sends a straight couple to a cabin to work on their sexual problems. This couple is so New York that I couldn’t help but like them—their hokey acting as they argue with New York accents about their intimacy issues is the perfect comical tone the film needed.

I was just disappointed when they find a turkey costume in the cabin, think it was left there by the therapist for their sexual role-playing, and then refuse to put it on. Come on! We need a turkey costume sex scene in an Amityville Thanksgiving movie!

Meanwhile, a private detective is investigating why couples have gone missing after seeing the therapist. We get to see interview videos with some of the couples, including two gay guys discussing their bear identity and getting flirty with each other, which lands this film on the does the gay guy die? page.

The best part is the goomba man in the main relationship getting possessed after they find a Ouija board, tearing off his shirt, and grunting lustfully as he gives his woman the bang she’s been begging for.

After some demonic and satanic revelations, the movie fills the final 20 minutes with interviews of people speculating on what became of the now missing therapist.

Not exactly the Amityville holiday film we can be thankful for, but I’m so there for the sex plot.

AMITYVILLE CHRISTMAS VACATION (2022)

I had high hopes for director/actor/writer Steve Rudzinski’s output after seeing his film Everyone Must Die, but his low budget films have gotten progressively less appealing to me, and going for the “public domain” Amityville name drags his filmography down to a Mark Polonia level production.

Rudzinski uses this film as a vehicle to make himself the focus so he can give us 47 minutes of his humorous charm, which just isn’t sustainable as a virtual one-man show. For instance, his character, Wally Griswold (if you know, you know) wins a Christmas vacation to Amityville, and he gives us an unfunny, too long montage of him packing his bag with silly items while merry Christmas tunes chime.

He then arrives at the Amityville house, only to reveal that he’s staying at a B&B next door. I give him credit for mocking the fact that he’s just totally cashing in on the Amityville name to capture a built-in audience for a movie that isn’t even about the house.

At the B&B, he keeps encountering a female ghost drenched in horror/Christmas red lights, accompanied by an overplayed orchestral sting every time she appears (which could be a parody of how cheap scares are created in all the tween supernatural flicks these days). Steve isn’t scared because he thinks she’s just another guest, and before long they fall in love, she gets kidnapped, and he has to find her.

A few other characters are written in to make it seem like this film isn’t all about Rudzinski’s shtick, but it is. And his shtick can’t quite carry the whole film…but it’s still more entertaining than any of the material he gives to the other actors in the film.

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STREAM QUEEN: Barbarian, Mummy Dearest, and Unhuman

Halloween is behind us, and it’s back to basic horror while I’m busily finding Christmas horror to cover for 2022 on the side. So let’s get into this trio I checked out on HBO Max and Prime.

BARBARIAN (2022)

Barbarian is as frustrating as it is fun.

It’s a pretty simple plot complicated by time jumps. It starts off with edge-of-your-seat tension. A young woman comes to an Airbnb she rented only to find there’s a guy already staying there (Bill Skarsgard).

The main girl seems very cautious and smart at first…and then proceeds to make every absolutely stupid decision a character possibly can in a horror movie. We’re talking discovering sleazy secret rooms behind hidden passages and then continuing to travel even farther into them rather than get the fuck out of there, which eventually lands her in a hellish underground lair.

Meanwhile, Justin Long also ends up at the Airbnb, and before long he’s in a similar predicament.

The upside of the film is that it is fast-paced, super suspenseful, and uses first person perspective in the dungeon-like basement, which gives the illusion of found footage even though it isn’t.

On the other hand, we are delivered one red herring after another, most of which not only disguise the most simple and obvious of explanations for what is going on in that basement, but which also end up leaving the film with some glaring plot holes.

But you just have to let that go, because the final act is a great, wacky denouement. The horror ends up on the streets of a forgotten town—a moment that felt reminiscent of playing a Silent Hill game.

MUMMY DEAREST (2021)

When I see names like Lou Ferrigno, Michael Pare, and Tara Reid as top billing on a horror movie, I’m so there…and so assuming they’re going to be in the movie for like five minutes.

Mummy Dearest proved me right.

Michael Pare appears briefly as a chiropractor at the beginning. He gives a woman an adjustment and paralyzes her in the process.

The woman goes to live with her daughter and the daughter’s weird, Jesus looking boyfriend, who seems to be on drugs.

But it’s the mother’s medication which causes hallucinations of a mummy woman around the house. This is mostly a movie about the mother rolling her way around in a wheelchair being paranoid.

There are also some weird insights into the boyfriend’s past as the mother, a hands-on healer, does sessions with him. Why can’t she just heal herself while she’s at it?

Actually, her touching therapy brings out all the boyfriend’s dark experiences as a child, which is where Ferrigno and Reid get their cameos—and where the weird story of the mummy that barely appears in the movie comes into play.

To be honest, this isn’t even much of a horror movie.

UNHUMAN (2022)

Brianne Tju (the I Know What You Did Last Summer series, the Light as a Feather series, the Scream TV series, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, The Crooked Man) is becoming quite the scream queen as she headlines yet another horror flick.

A good chunk of Unhuman is a kick ass zombie flick. Brianne and her high school friends (and enemies) are going on a field trip, and we get The Breakfast Club vibes on the bus as clique lines are drawn, the in crowd and out crowd are clearly defined, and the man chaperoning the students brings some humor as an inappropriate ass hole.

Then the bus crashes. A radio report warns of a chemical attack, and a zombie comes knocking on the bus window, kicking off a nonstop chase scene as the kids escape the bus, end up in an abandoned building, and are endlessly pursued by relentless zombies. These fuckers will just bust through walls and shit. Eek!

The movie sucks you in with its heart-pounding pacing, and then…takes a turn that ensures that it isn’t just another zombie flick.

And there lies the problem. The unexpected plot elements are so out there, leave a bunch of plot holes, and desperately try to help the audience make sense of it all with excessive exposition through dialogue that basically explains the whole purpose of the script—including all the social commentary about bullying that is blatantly presented from the start and needs no explanation whatsoever.

It was quite a disappointment to be so enamored with the horror journey this movie was taking me on and then having what could have been a distinctly refreshing take on the zombie genre get crushed by the weight of its effort to be unique. Even so, I would highly recommend checking it out, because when it’s good, it’s really good.

 

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When a Daymare turns into a nightmare

As far as I understand, Daymare 1998 started as a fan remake of Resident Evil 2, but then the Resident Evil 2 remake happened so no one else could steal Capcom’s thunder. Rather than scrap the project, the developers transformed Daymare into a love letter to old skool survival horror games.

By the time I got around to playing it, there had already been a number of updates. I should have done my research before starting the game, because one of the updates lets you choose between classic style or “modern take”. I mistakenly assumed classic style was the way to go. However, it features a game mechanic that is so fucking bad and was never an aspect of any survival horror game I ever played, so I can see why they ended up offering another option. Unfortunately for me, you can’t switch modes in settings once you’ve already started a game, and I was too deep into it to start over by the time I learned that I’d made a really bad choice.

So what is the awful game mechanic? Loading your gun. Remember how in Resident Evil you pick up bullets then load your gun by either hitting a button or doing it in your inventory screen, which pauses the game action? Well in classic style Daymare, your bullets don’t go in your gun. They go in clips, which you then have to load in your gun. That’s right. Two steps to reload. Oh, but there’s more. If you accidentally quick reload your gun with another clip (fast button press) instead of slow reload (hold the button down), you drop the old clip then have to pick it back up otherwise you lose a clip you desperately need to have on hand. You need to constantly make sure you’ve combined the clips in your inventory with bullets during quiet times so they are full, that way you can just swap out clips instead of having to both refill and change them during the thick of a battle. Also, you can’t combine bullets with a clip that is not fully depleted—you have to empty it first.

Do realize that holding onto clips and bullets means taking up more space in your inventory. On top of that, you have to carry clips and bullets for multiple types of guns in your inventory. Also fricking annoying? Although all your inventory slots are on one screen, they are in two separate blocks, and you have to hit a button to jump from one block to the other rather than just scrolling up or down from one to the other. Ridiculous, especially considering the game keeps playing while you are in your inventory. You don’t ever want to have to go into your inventory while fighting monsters.

Many people say the game is too easy in modern take, but all modern take does is load your bullets directly into your gun without clips…just like classic survival horror video games. Not to mention, you eventually get a shotgun, and even in classic mode bullets go directly into the gun. Once I got that baby I barely ever used my other guns. Modern take also does something that would definitely make the game easier; it lets you skip over puzzles. I would never, but I have to say, many of the puzzles in this game are infuriating because there are absolutely no clues as to how to solve them, and you are forced to look them up online. Perfect example—there’s a puzzle on a computer in which you have to answer a series of questions using the Greek alphabet. There is no note or file giving you the conversion chart for the alphabet, so you have no choice but to go online and look it up!

The map is not assigned to a quick key, so you have to enter your inventory then tab over to it, and it’s also not even very useful. There is, however, a quick button to see your health status on screen, because there’s no permanent HUD on screen. There are also D-pad quick keys for guns and health.

You can mix various forms of health in your inventory, and there are other stimulants and mind enhancers that allow you to see through walls temporarily, but chances are you’ll never use them, so it would be nice if more health was scattered around, because it’s hard to come by. There are, however, rooms you can get into that have extra items in them. Doing so requires having hacking cables in your inventory. The unlocking technique is the basic “hit the moving marker at the right time as it passes through a gap in a line” challenge, but there are varying difficulties. If you fail you lose the cable.

You’ll find files that are long and boring to read, and making it worse is that the writing is extremely small and the typeset is awful. There’s a whole screen available to fill with text, yet it’s all squished in the center, and often the white text has a light visual behind it, making it even harder to read. Makes no sense. Even on a 65-inch television I couldn’t read that shit.

Another frustrating game flaw? When you approach an object you can pick up, an arrow symbol points to it. That symbol isn’t a prompt to pick it up. That symbol is a prompt saying “keep poking around right in this exact spot until the X prompt appears so you can then pick up the item”. WTF? Seriously? A 2-step pickup prompt process???

The game offers basic old school movement, with an over-the-shoulder POV and semi-tank controls. You can shoot and move, strafe, run, and quick turn, so it should be quite familiar to survival horror veterans. But the downfall is the combo button run feature on PS4. You hold the L1 button to “jog”, but to run faster, you have to press straight down on the left thumb stick (L3). Unfortunately, it rarely registers, which is a problem during many of the most insane battles. Later in the game it is crucial for a one-hit death chase scene and simply will not come through. If you’re going to get past this particular boss, it will be by pure luck (more on that below).

Also be warned that the auto save feature failed several times, which became obvious when the symbol showed up on screen and didn’t go away after a few seconds as it should. It would just remain a spinning symbol in the corner, and each time it did, when I quit the game and started again all my progress was lost and I was brought back to the previous checkpoint.

The game is split into five chapters in which you play as several different characters, each with a very different feel.

Chapter 1

This takes place in a typical facility with labs. You play as a total douche bag who needs to clear the place out. Even so, the first time I encountered a wounded guy who offered up some information, it was followed by a weapons tutorial I couldn’t exit…because in no way did the game make it clear that part of my tutorial included fricking shooting the guy!

Aside from solving puzzles, you encounter several different types of pretty easy zombies in this chapter. However, at the end of it there’s a timed segment in which you have to stay alive until a door opens. If you are low on supplies at that point as I was, you don’t have to fight the zombies that attack. Simply keep away from them until you can make your escape.

Chapter 2

This chapter is much more nerve-racking and creepy than the first, and you also play as two different characters. First you have an oxygen mask on and must find a way into a building while running through a town full of zombies. You can enter open houses along the way to rejuvenate your mask capacity, but there are some zombies inside. Eek!

The other character you play is on medication that keeps wearing off, causing him to have frightening hallucinations. Oh joy. However, this is when you get the shotgun and don’t have to reload clips.

 

You spend most of the chapter in a creepy hospital, and there’s a new feature added—secret rooms that are noted when your wrist watch beeps by certain walls. You simply have to click until you find the secret door in the wall. Sometimes a secret room has a terminal that lets you exchange items for other items, do an old skool manual save in slots on your hard drive (wahoo!), and store items.

Chapter 3

This is perhaps the longest and also the most boring chapter. In essence it most closely resembles classic survival horror games, but the lack of any variation is what makes it so bland. You do get to explore the city a bit as in Resident Evil 3, but you also spend a lot of time in drab buildings that offer little visual distinctions. As a result, any sense of dread or fear is lost.

The good news is you score a magnum you’ll desperately need for a boss battle that’s only made easier if you realize there are more magnum bullets tucked away in the forest arena in which you fight. You are up against two mutated creatures, and the only way to kill them is to drop them to their knees with heavy firepower and then shoot them repeatedly in specific spots on their backs. They are always in hot pursuit, often split up, and there’s plenty of debris lying around on the ground for you to get stuck on as you run in terror from them.

Chapter 4

You’re back playing the guy suffering from hallucinations as you try to make your way through the city. The hallucinations are infuriating because it appears you’re just wasting bullets if you shoot the apparitions, yet it also seems your health takes a hit if they make contact with you! Double standard much?

The boss is just a single version of the duo from chapter 3, but there are annoying zombies thrown into the mix to get in your way and really trip you up.

Chapter 5

Back to the guy with the boring chapters. At least the first boss is rather entertaining—once you realize that blowing him away isn’t the answer. Instead of using up all your ammo, you actually have to lure him onto a platform in the middle of the room, avoid his swipe at you, which temporarily stuns him, and then press a button on a console nearby to electrocute him. This procedure needs to be done twice.

You’re near the end of the game, and this is when that combo button run feature destroys your whole game. The idea is to run down a corridor, opening doors using a sequence of button pushes as an invincible boss is pursuing you. At first he moves slowly, but once you open the third door, he begins running for you. This is also when zombies start blocking your route. There are only three of them on the way to your destination, but if you don’t shoot them they will grab you and the boss will catch up with you.

Meanwhile, because the run feature keeps failing, he catches up to you anyway and tears you apart. If you can get lucky enough to make it to the end of this corridor, you have to press a button to call the elevator then kill time avoiding the boss until it comes. The only way to do this is to run back the way you came, and there is no way to pass the boss in the hall without getting grabbed. Sooooo…you have to try to blow up one of the explosive tanks along the sides of the corridor just as he is near it. This will stun him, and that is when you can run by him. And guess what! You have to do it again to pass him in the other direction to return to the elevator once it opens. But of course there’s an issue. The hallway is so dark and murky as you wait for him to show up that even with the brightness cranked in settings a) you literally can’t see him until he’s right upon you, and b) you can’t see the damn tanks you need to shoot to stun him. Sigh. I came very close to doing the whole damn thing perfectly once, and just as I was nearing the open elevator, the run button completely failed. I finally got into the elevator, turned to hit the button to close the door, and found myself face to face with the monster…right before he ripped my face off, taking my whole head with it.

Well, fuck you game, because there is a glitch I found online that eventually worked in my favor thanks to my persistence (aka: doing it over and over and over until the glitch worked). Occasionally as the boss pursues you, somewhere way back in the hall he gets stuck on something. You won’t see it happen, but you will bask in the glory as you press the elevator button and then just stand looking down the dark corridor and realize the boss never materializes from around the corner. For good measure I remained absolutely still for fear my movement would unglitch him. After what felt like forever, the door opened, I ran right to it, and I left that horrible section behind me forever.

This brings us right to the final boss. The same boss. Now you have to fight him in a parking lot. He chases you relentlessly, he spits acid at you, zombies come out of nowhere to chase you as well, and…there’s another glitch. A nice pile of debris sits on one side of the lot, and if you circle it while the boss is following you, he will get stuck on it. You just stand on the other side of it and blast away until he’s dead. And if you need bullets, there’s literally a box with an unlimited supply right beside you. Kind of makes up for all the annoying aspects of the game you had to get through to arrive at this moment.

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STREAM QUEEN: jumping services for a triple feature

It was a smorgasbord of streaming services and subgenres with this trio of films I was looking forward to seeing, so let’s get right into them.

GRIMCUTTY (2022)

Throwback time! The retro early 2000s tween horror wave is growing, and Grimcutty goes in hard, with kids being terrorized by a supernatural entity after passing around a meme faster than you can get a friend to watch a video of a girl climbing from a well.

Grimcutty is a damn memorable name for this internet monster, and his look is unforgettable, too…because it’s as funny as it is freaky. His face is great, but his body when he’s running around chasing victims, well…my hubby, who was watching the movie with me, described it best: “He looks like Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Grimcutty has a big freaky head that kind of reminds me of Danny DeVito’s version of The Penguin, but his gawky body when he runs is this stick figure puppet looking thing reminiscent of the body of Jack Skellington. It’s just odd, which in a way works to make it weird and eerie.

The plot is typical of these films. One girl being terrorized by the meme is determined to break the chain, so she runs all over town trying to figure out the source of the horror and how she can stop it. I got a thrill out of the scenes in which he chases her through houses, especially since it’s one of those situations in which she can be at a party full of people who don’t see him, yet he’s still there and coming for her.

It might be just a cheesy, cheap joyride popcorn flick, but Grimcutty does manage to send us a little message about how easily influenced kids are by social media…and how addicted they are to their devices.

V/H/S/99 (2022)

When this retro 90s installment opened with some faux infomercials and an annoying stop motion toy soldier segment as a wraparound, I had a feeling this wasn’t exactly going to live up to previous entries in the series.

With the movie having a total running time nearing 110 minutes long, it’s disappointing to discover that in almost every case the setups take up the bulk of each tale, and all the exciting stuff is rushed in the last few minutes.

Here’s the breakdown of the stories:

1st story – a punk band sneaks into a building where another band was believed to have met a tragic end, and pretty soon that band makes a ghoulish appearance. If nothing else, at least the dead band rocks the rot.

2nd story – this one got under my skin because it involves sorority sisters burying their latest pledge alive in a coffin. Ugh. This shit gives me claustrophobia…especially when spiders, water, and fricking ghouls find their way into the coffin with her.

3rd story – I really hate sadistic game show stories, especially when they’re done in that flashy cartoonish style, and that’s how this one starts. It only gets worse from there when a family that was on the show decides to get revenge on the show’s host by subjecting him to some torture porn. And then it goes totally off the rails and I have no idea what the hell was going on…but it’s definitely monstrous.

4th story – this is the ultimate example of these stories being all build-up with brief payoff. It’s a whole lot of footage of teen boys spying on pretty girls and then a super quick conclusion of a hot girl next store showing up to really make them hard.

5th story – the only story that’s like one big money shot, this final tale also has a humorous edge to it as two guys attending a Y2K coven ritual get sucked into a hellish dimension and encounter numerous demonic creatures. Not much of a story but definitely the horror eye candy segment of the anthology.

Interestingly, as I was watching it I was having Deadstream flashbacks, particularly due to a nagging scream that was running through the action…little did I know until a friend called it to my attention that this was directed by the Deadstream guy and he’s in it. He really needs to start distancing himself from his own scream or he’s going to become a literal one note horror creator and character.

TORN HEARTS (2022)

Torn Hearts is a throwback to held against their will thrillers of the late 80s/early 90s like Dead of Winter, Misery, and Boxing Helena.

Naturally Katey Sagal is the highlight as a reclusive country singer who dropped out of the limelight after the death of her sister/partner.

Another duo of young women is trying to break into the business and one of them is Katey’s biggest fan. So they pay her a visit at her estate to convince her to come out of retirement and do a song with them.

It’s quite clear right away that Katey has issues, but the fangirl doesn’t see it…even as Katey starts pitting the two girls against each other using the tensions and jealousies that exist between them.

What makes this one frustrating is that the fangirl refuses to believe her idol can do any wrong. The legendary bitch is clearly a psycho and the other girl wants to get the fuck out of there, but no matter how extreme shit gets, the fangirl is like, “I wanna stay!” It’s one big commentary on the obsessions young people have with idolizing celebrity and wanting to be famous themselves.

If you’re familiar with these types of thrillers, there’s not much new here, so just watch it for the suspense and Katey’s performance…and an appearance by Josh from The Blair Witch Project if you’ve been missing him in horror.

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QUEER FOR FEAR: the history of mostly coded queer horror

It’s thrilling to have a series focusing on queer horror produced for a major horror streaming service, and I even discovered a few movies and books that I simply had to add to my collection after watching Queer for Fear on Shudder. Yet in an odd way, the 4-episode series feels somewhat hesitant to fully bring horror out of the closet while arguing that horror has always been queer.

Just a very brief background about this project from what little I know. The creative team behind it changed hands after interview videos had already been gathered from dozens of queer horror creators, including myself. All of our footage was scrapped and the documentary went in a different direction. There’s a whole community of queer horror influencers that know each other and have helped bring together a large queer horror fan base through social media and various in-person events, so it’s kind of sad that instead of using interviews with all of these people who are in the trenches every day exploring, discussing, discovering, and creating queer horror, the production team behind this series opted to drag out many of the same old generic queer faces like Lea DeLaria, Bruce Vilanch, and Michael Feinstein (really?), as well as queer “scholars” most people will not recognize but who throw around all the right collegiate vocabulary and just repeat the textbook queer horror theory arguments that have been made a million times before.

Add to that directors with no background in horror (and in some cases, no background in directing at all), and it at times feels that this is more of a pandering project made by Shudder to cash in on a movement that’s actually happening despite no input from the people involved in putting this project together.

Even so, hang in there, because it gets better after the first episode, with more notable horror names chiming in later on, as I’ll outline in my breakdown of what you can expect from each episode.

Episode 1

Episode 1 covers the coding of queerness in classic gay fiction by authors such as Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde, and explores the monster as the symbol for the queer. Naturally it delves into the real or imagined queer identity of these authors in order to fit the narrative of queers being the founders of horrors. Sigh. It’s okay to just be honest and identify that there were actual queer contributors to the horror genre alongside the likes of Poe and Lovecraft just as there are queer contributors to society in general instead of making a claim that queers created horror.

Cassandra Peterson proves to be the most famous horror face in the first episode, and she gets much less screen time than anyone else. There is also a drag queen injected into the mix for some camp value, but because everyone else is so damn sterile and stiff, her shtick feels jarring and out of place.

Episode 2

If episode 1 and episode 2 had been streamlined and edited down into one episode, it would have been a really strong start for the series. Episode 2 is a much better installment, but only covers two directors in an hour’s time. First there’s a look at how director James Whale (The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House) embeds queer camp into his films and how queer viewer’s identify and sympathize with his ostracized monsters.

Then the focus turns to Alfred Hitchcock having worked with lots of queer talent and brazenly yet subtly presented queer characters in his films. He is also considered for portraying queer men as loathing women, which naturally pivots the conversation to his ultimate queer identity issue film—Psycho. Most interesting is Anthony Perkins’ son discussing how that role as Norman Bates affected his father’s career and life, how that extended into his resurgence as Norman Bates in the 80s sequels, and his eventual death of AIDS.

Episode 2 is notable for going a little more high profile horror with some of its speakers, including Don Mancini (creator of Child’s Play) and Heather Matarazzo (Scream 3, Hostel 2).

Episode 3

This episode is one of my faves. It’s all about transformation horror and how being terrified of something inside of us we can’t control, usually sexuality we can’t suppress, simply has to be read as queer horror. Thing is, this could be applied to the sexual awakening in everyone, regardless of gender identity or orientation. When our hormones begin to rage, we change, we transform, we perhaps no longer recognize ourselves, and we are even made by society to feel shame about our desires, no matter where we land on the sexuality scale.

Even so, this episode beautifully explores the parallels between queer identity and monster transformation. There’s a segment on the Cat People franchise being totally lesbian (I couldn’t believe no one made a comment about cats being pussies). The string of “I Was a Teenage…” films is looked at as grooming films in which the older scientists convert kids into monsters. Invasion of the Body Snatchers films are wonderfully dissected as fear of conformity. And this episode notably covers plenty of the great 80s transformation creature features. Awesome.

Episode 4

The final episode focuses on women owning their sexuality becoming the monster simply because femininity as power is frightening to the mainstream.

It begins with a discussion of the real Elizabeth Bathory and movies and novels based on her…and the possibility that she desired women and therefore consumed them. One interviewee even finally uses the cheap cat as pussy joke. Yay!

The episode explores lesbian desires in films like Rebecca and The Haunting, quickly covers all the softcore lesbian vampire flicks of the 1970s that were meant for the male gaze, and then moves into the lesbianism and bisexuality of 80s horror females in films like The Hunger, The Lair of the White Worm, and Vamp.

What’s refreshing here is that there are more interviews with women of color, including Rachel True (The Craft), Rutina Wesley (True Blood), and Tawny Cypress (Yellowjackets).

While I really like the approach to films from the 90s and beyond focusing on queer female characters wanting to take over the bodies and lives of straight characters in this final episode, it does exactly what I feared the series would do…strays from queer fear. In an effort to fit its narrative while relying on well-known film titles, it walks the line by dipping into suspense thrillers and then strays even farther away from the horror genre, making the second half of the final episode come across more as a show about the portrayal of lesbians on film at the turn of the millennium rather than a queer horror documentary.

Fortunately for me, that makes for a perfect segue into my final thoughts. While this was a “history” of queer horror, what the world could use is a “we’re here and we’re queer for fear now” series that celebrates the genuine representation of queers in horror in the past 50 years, both in mainstream and indie horror, and not in coded form. Just browsing the homo horror movies page and does the gay guy die? page on my site, both of which focus solely on films with gay male content, it’s staggering to me how many films with blatant gay content went unmentioned in this series. How about a series focusing on how queer characters are represented in more contemporary horror films, whether as the monsters, the victims, or the heroes? The movies are out there—this series just wasn’t ready to tackle the task of amplifying the prominent queer voices in horror now.

And since all the questions I answered for the original vision for this documentary were left on the cutting room floor, I decided to upload my video responses to YouTube just for fun and so everyone might get a sense of the other direction this documentary could have gone—although there’s also the possibility my answers would have been rejected for clashing with the angle that documentary was going for as well. Heh heh. I would encourage other queer horror contributors who participated in that original plan to do the same. If you do, shoot me a link to your video or channel on YouTube and I’ll share them on my Boys, Bears & Scares social media. Here are my clips, broken into two parts.

 

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HALLOWEEN MOVIE ROUND-UP 2022!

Sure the big deal this year was Hocus Pocus 2, but what other family and family-unfriendly treats did the season have in store? I’m covering everything I’ve seen so far this October, with a few more are yet to be released, so I’ll add them to this list as they hit on the way to Halloween. And don’t forget to check out my complete list of Halloween horror movies on the holiday horror page.

CURSE OF CROM: THE LEGEND OF HALLOWEEN (2022)

If you just want to revel in the holiday spirit while watching a group of kids being terrorized by a demonic creature created with practical effects, this charmer is the movie for you. I really hope it gets a physical disc release so I can add it to my Halloween movie collection.

The opening street shots make it clear that the filmmakers wanted autumnal authenticity and waited until the actual season to film these crucial setup moments.

Our main girl works food delivery and has a very strange old man customer. Little does she know that his “family” issues are going to become her problem.

When a freaky creature begins appearing outside the windows of her and her friends at night (shrouded by plenty of eerie Halloween color lighting and fog machines), they must uncover the truth behind a curse placed on the old man’s family that is now going to terrorize their whole town unless they can put a stop to it.

And it involves doing a ritual on Halloween night to send the demon back to where it came from…

An instant Halloween fave for me. Doesn’t hurt that this cutie looks like a younger version of The Rock.

THEY SEE YOU (2022)

This one comes from the director of the gritty Halloween slasher The Wicked One. I almost did a blind buy of They See You on DVD, but I’m glad I rented it instead, because it’s really not a Halloween winner for me.

It attempts to capture the spirit of 80s horror flicks and Halloween horror flicks, but it’s incredibly dull for a majority of its running time. A major problem is that the main characters are simply not charismatic–they seem like a bunch of uninterested, bored kids living in a small town (which is what they are). As a result, every scene, every word of dialogue, and most interactions and reactions are just flat.

Three brothers are left alone on Halloween, and in a classic 80s moment, hop on their bicycles to the sounds of a synthesized score. They run into their bullies, and then decide to steal a mysterious magic board from a shop owned by two monster hunters. These two monster hunters are the highlight of the film and bring all the personality, but sadly they’re underutilized.

As you’d imagine, the brothers and their friends use the board. This unleashes some ghouls from another dimension…who are just guys in masks. Neon Maniacs this isn’t.

That brings us up to this problematic timeline, with little going on in between:

40 minutes in the ghouls show up at their house

57 minutes in the ghouls remove their masks and aren’t all that ghoulish underneath, so they’re even less frightening once they put the masks back on for the rest of the movie

77 minutes in there’s a gory kill–the first gory kill

With only about twenty minutes left, the only real highlight of this film proves to be a brief but awesome massacre when the ghouls crash a Halloween party. Bummer.

CURSED FRIENDS (2022)

 

If there’s one thing this movie does right, it’s tap into the nostalgia for crass comedies of the early 2000s. References to the era abound, fart and male genitalia jokes offer hit and miss funny moments, and the soundtrack offers up songs like “I Want You Back” by *NSYNC and “I Wanna Be Bad” by Willa Ford.

The film is also ripe with problems. The first is that so much of the humor doesn’t land. There is some funny stuff here, but not enough to keep up the pace and energy. As a result, the cast tries to overcompensate by being even more colorful and charismatic with their performances, which just comes across as loud and obnoxious at times because the material they’re delivering doesn’t back it up.

But the bigger issue is the inability of the film to stick with a plot. Our main girl comes home to try to land a job and reconnect with her friends. In a flashback we see that 20 years ago they scored a weird book that predicts the future from none other than Kathy Griffin as a witchy woman whose doorbell they rang while trick or treating .

In the present day, they find the book and suddenly things start going wrong for each of them. They begin to realize they are cursed and have to figure out a way to break the curse.

Sounds pretty straightforward, but the movie is all over the place. Scenes most often feel like a string of skits rather than a cohesive storyline with a trajectory. The cast moves from one location to another merely to give us nods to a variety of horror subgenres (slasher, possession, cult, etc.) with no real relevance.

It’s quite tedious, and not even the Halloween theme, some campy moments with special guest star Joey Fatone as himself (who reminds us every time he’s in a comedy that he should be cast in more comedies), and a few horror comedy elements can bring it together.

This is a Comedy Central original, and it most definitely feels like a messy TV movie. The diverse cast will most likely annoy the woke-whiners (Black girl, gay guy, etc.), but the fact is this type of casting has been a thing for at least two decades and has only become an issue since conservatives made woke a dirty word. If anything, the woke-whiners should be cheering on the fact that the minorities are presented with the traditional, tired stereotypes conservatives can appreciate.

I just find it tragic that the film sets up this whole scenario where the gay dude ends up in an occult ritual surrounded by naked men–and then seems to demonstrate that the scene was not written by a gay guy, because the raunchy comedy places it could have gone if it had been. However, it still lands this film on the does the gay guy die? page.

SPIRIT HALLOWEEN: THE MOVIE (2022)

Going into Spirit Halloween: The Movie, you need to realize that this isn’t an adult horror movie. This is a Disney/RL Stine style Halloween spook flick with a family friendly vibe, and as such it definitely succeeds. It could easily become an annual viewing selection along with the likes of When Good Ghouls Go Bad, Hocus Pocus, And Ernest Scared Stupid.

And of course, it’s also a treat for Spirit Store fandom. Surprisingly, it’s not much of an advertisement for the store’s products, mostly because the store has become heavily focused on movie licensed products in the past few years (It, Halloween, Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Trick ‘r Treat, etc.). It would be promoting everything but its own brand if it fully stocked the store in the movie with its current inventory.

The premise is basic and perfect for this kind of flick. Christopher Lloyd was a greedy developer who intended to kick a woman off her land, so she worked some magic on him.

The film then does just what these throwbacks to the vibe of 80s kids movies do–shows a trio of boys riding their bicycles through a town drenched in fall foliage. Awesome. The boys are on the verge of relinquishing their grip on childhood, and trick or treating is for kids, so they decide to sneak into a Spirit Halloween store that pops up in a creepy lot and spend the night on October 31st.

The fun begins when they unleash Christopher Lloyd’s spirit and he begins to terrorize them by possessing one store display monster after another.

It’s definitely a blast watching Lloyd voice a bunch of animatronic ghouls, and the kids are all capable of carrying the film. Not to mention, the film delivers just the right amount of Halloween scares and suspense the whole family can appreciate.

Adding to the fun is Marla Gibbs as a creepy grandmother, and Rachel Leigh Cook, who doesn’t look like she’s all that much older than 20 years ago yet is playing the mother of a teenager. Weird.

THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW (2022)

It’s like Netflix heard Spirit Halloween was going to make a movie in which all the figures in their store come to life and decided they would do one better by making a movie in which all the figures on people’s lawns came to life for Halloween.

The Curse of Bridge Hollow is the absolute best Halloween movie of 2022 for me. It does Spirit Halloween one better. It has all the holiday magic Hocus Pocus 2 lacks. It stars Marlon Wayans, who tones down his A Haunted House style of comedy just enough to not steal the show from everyone else, particularly the girl playing his daughter, who totally kicks monster butt.

It has Kelly Rowland as the mom. And it comes from the director of horror flicks like Cry Wolf, Fantasy Island, and Truth or Dare.

Halloween spirit abounds as the family moves into a new house in a small town where everyone loves Halloween. The daughter soon learns of an urban legend that haunts the town…and accidentally unleashes it, which causes the decor on neighbors’ lawns to start coming to life.

Loads of humor, chase scenes, Halloween spirit, and monster battles keep the pace racing as father and daughter try to track down a spell that will put the curse they’ve unleashed to rest.

The variety of ghouls and creeps is fantastic, the soundtrack includes 80s tracks like “Somebody’s Watching Me”, “Freaks Come Out at Night”, and “Highway to Hell”, there are plenty of familiar comedy faces in supporting roles, Kelly Rowland gets a chase scene, there’s an awesome haunted maze chase scene, and there’s a perfect reminder that the zombie cry of “Brains!” never gets old.

I want this movie released on Blu-ray immediately. And I was also reminded that Marlon Wayans has become such a DILF I need to pull out my A Haunted House Blu-rays and watch his sweet ass bang Annabelle again.

TERROR TRAIN (2022)

Any remake these days has a conundrum. If it strays too far from the original plot, fans revolt. If it is a basic scene-for-scene remake, people say, “Why did they even bother?”

Terror Train essentially goes for a rubber stamp remake that just mixes things up a bit during the denouement so fans of the original won’t guess the killer.

The major changes? This is a Halloween party on a train instead of a New Year’s Eve party, landing this film in a different section of my holiday horror page. There are more people of color as compared to the mostly white cast of the original, and there’s a fleeting gay kiss just to piss off the anti-woke crowd…which also earns this film a spot on the does the gay guy die? page.

And instead of a Groucho Marx mask, which would mean nothing to a young modern audience, the killer opts for a menacing clown costume. Eh. They really couldn’t come up with something a bit more original?

Speaking of costumes, most of the standout costumes from the original film are represented in the remake.

Every major memorable scene from the original is recreated. And even the car in which Jamie Lee Curtis battles with the killer at the end of the original is replicated for the remake.

The suspense scenes and kills are pretty good, but if you’ve seen the original film they don’t quite have a major impact because you’ve get that “been there, done that” feeling. It’s the final chase and battle—the only time the film somewhat changes things up—that stood out to me, in large part because the killer gave a campy good psycho performance.

I even discovered a new now wave song for my Future Flashbacks show: “Neon Affair” by Splize.

 

10/31 PART III (2022)

I was a big fan of the first 10/31 anthology, and Part 2 had its moments, but there’s a noticeable downgrading in quality with each new installment. This third entry has little in the way of unique or intriguing tales, there are no quality scares or suspense, and there’s not much in the way of atmosphere or even Halloween fun.

The movie runs 85 minutes long, and the first 8 minutes are comprised of some fun faux horror movie trailers. Then the horror hostess form the previous two films introduces four new tails.

1st story – a guy setting up a Halloween haunted attraction in his house buys a mummy figure from a thrift shop, and it comes to life and goes on a murderous rampage.

2nd story – every time people move into a particular house, they are killed by a figure all in black.

3rd story – adult friends in costume decide to sneak into the home of a mean old man and terrorize him. Instead, they are killed off one by one by someone in a mask.

4th story – this is the only story that doesn’t simply line up a bunch of victims to be killed by a threatening figure. Okay, it does do that, but at least the plot is slightly more interesting than the others. A group of female friends gathers to kill something they’ve captured that we can’t see. It escapes. It’s the shortest tale, but it’s nice and gory.

Overall, the tales feel more cheaply produced than the previous films with little effort made to write anything that would stick with you.

HALLOWEEN ENDS (2022)

I don’t usually cover blockbuster horror flicks and franchise titles, but considering this controversial installment literally made me laugh out loud a few times despite taking itself very seriously, I figured I’d jump into the fray.

For starters, there will most assuredly be true lovers of this bizarre latest final chapter of the never-ending saga, there will be diehard Halloween and Michael Myers fans who will adore anything with those names attached to it, and there will be Jamie Lee Curtis fans who believe she can do no wrong so therefore Halloween Ends will be a perfect film by default. But there are also sure to be a bunch of outspoken, online voices with oh so edgy opinions that will be contrary just for the hell of it or to gain attention and hits on their social media platforms by praising this installment to high heaven, claiming it’s daring and innovative and not just another recycled Michael Myers plot.

It’s not innovative whatsoever. It essentially dumps Jamie Lee Curtis into a Rob Zombie white trash Halloween installment (there are even loads of inbred kids that look like the offspring of Rob and Sheri Moon Zombie running around Haddonfield) then mashes it up with Satan’s Little Helper. Indeed, Michael Myers, indiscriminate killer of anyone who gets in his path, takes pause this time around and decides, “This one who has invaded my lair is different. This one shall be my apprentice!” Meanwhile, when Freddy Krueger made a body/brain agreement with Jesse almost forty years ago, people shit all over it. Really, what hope is left for the world of horror when Michael Myers is like, “I’m getting too old for this shit. You do it”?

Halloween Ends also seems to give a lot of nods to Halloween 4, which has been escalated to the level of masterpiece thanks to this newest trilogy showing us how to really ruin a franchise. The house Laurie now lives in with her granddaughter Allyson is reminiscent of the house from Halloween 4. And considering Michael has been MIA for four years, perhaps the old blind man who snagged him from the river at the beginning of Halloween 5 is the one who tucked him away in a sewer pipe for all that time…yet no one is the wiser to his presence in Haddonfield…except for an old homeless man that reminded me of the old blind man from Halloween 5.

Anyway, Laurie is determined to let go of the past and not feed the evil–she’s so zen, even if everyone in town is like, “Bitch, this is all your fault!” Laurie seems to be really coping with all her Halloween tragedies of the past and not even concerned that Michael is still out there somewhere (neither is anyone else). Laurie is all smiles, totally in the Halloween spirit, has not a single booby trap in her Halloween 4 house, and even welcomes Lindsey Wallace into her home to carve pumpkins like it’s 1978 all over again. Sadly, the script was written before the creators discovered that Kyle Richards rox, so they gave her about five lines total in this whole movie, most of which are delivered while she’s at work in a loud bar.

A majority of the film is about a dude Allyson is dating who has a messed up past just like her (which serves as the opener and one of the only thrilling parts of the whole movie). We kind of get the message the residents of Haddonfield make people into monsters by clinging to anger, grief, and violence and passing it on. The filmmakers seriously decided to jump on the elevated horror bandwagon for the newest final installment of this long-running franchise (I guess being horror trendy has become a trend when you consider H20 followed in the footsteps of Scream back in 98). There’s a load of character study here as we see that no one can keep their shit together in this once quaint, quiet suburban town–the same exact chaos that plagued Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2. And believe me, as much as I thought the Zombie films were crap 15 years ago, I just rewatched them in both theatrical and director’s cuts back-to-back to give them yet another chance (twice the chance, actually), and none of that helped. They’re still mostly a disaster, so I can guarantee I will feel the same about this installment in another 15 years, despite the insistence online that this is going to be worshipped as a cult classic in years to come.

Perhaps Halloween Ends should have been called Haddonfield, not only because the town is once again the star, but also because the film has strayed so far from celebrating the holiday season while delivering its horror experience that it has completely lost its identity. There’s also a clear effort here to fully separate the franchise from Laurie Strode at last in hopes of making the horrors go on without her for years to come. It’s reminiscent of the way they tried to hand the responsibility off to Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4, first making her the final girl then having her re-enact Michael’s childhood clown costume kill so she could be groomed to grow up to be Miss Myers, an idea they scrapped when it was time to write the script for Halloween 5.

But back to this trailer trash in a town tragedy. All the trauma porn eventually leads to a few kills that I rolled my eyes through because Michael had his apprentice trailing behind him. And when Laurie finally confronts Michael, you once again have to marvel at how many fucking stupid mistakes she makes for a final girl who has been planning for this moment for forty years.

Even so, their final battle really does kick ass. However, I lose all respect for Laurie’s sense of judgement when she makes some speech about Michael being just a mortal man, not the boogeyman. Bitch, this dude was left in a burning basement in 2018 and climbed out to slaughter a calendar worth of hunky firemen, got sliced and diced by the whole damn town in the middle of the street later that evening, got back up, killed them all, killed your daughter, and became a sewer rat for four years.

Remember when the creators of this trilogy insisted Myers wasn’t going to be some supernatural powerhouse in their franchise then barely made it through the first half hour of Halloween 2018 before proving that idea was an impossibility?

The finale bringing together the whole town once again (except Lindsey. WTF?) to finish Michael off for good is as logical as it is laughable, but I’m disappointed the creators didn’t just flip us one last bird and have the whole town chanting “Evil dies tonight!” as the screen faded to black for the final frame.

When it comes to horror movies, I inevitably judge them on whether or not I can go back for them again and again like the sweet saltiness of chocolate covered potato chips. Yummy. I’m talking about the kind of movie that sucks me in every time as scene after scene keeps me looking forward to what’s coming up next as the film progresses. Does Halloween Ends do that? Hell no! I waited over a damn hour for even a hint of horror thrills as I was forced to wade through the emotions of a bunch of miserable people who refused to just let it go like Laurie Strode.

You know what moment still sticks with me and packed more of a punch than anything that took place in this latest trilogy? That instant in H2O when Laurie comes face-to-face with Michael for the first time in 20 years with just a thin pane of glass between them. Still gives me chills every time. Not once did a scene in this trilogy grab me like that.

Picture it. Octobers future. I want to get in the holiday mood with a Michael Myers film. One thing I know for sure…it ain’t ever gonna be Halloween Ends.

And now…on to the bonus. A look at the novelization of the movie!

HALLOWEEN ENDS NOVELIZATION

When I was a tween in the early 80s, I adored the novelizations of Halloween and Halloween II because they added more scenes, more characterization, and more background story that you didn’t get from the movies.

The novelizations of Halloween 2018 and Halloween Kills had hints of that, but both felt mostly like simple prose adaptations of the film scripts.

Now we come to Halloween Ends. Even though I wasn’t a fan of this trilogy at all, and especially this final film (to be honest—I’d be fine if they never made another Halloween film again, yet I’ll totally keep watching if they do!), I couldn’t wait to read this novelization. I was really hoping it would fill in so many of the gaps I felt made Halloween Ends an absolute mess. I am thrilled to say it totally delivered. It also offers more focus on Michael and more kills by him than the movie does. Whether you loved the movie or hated it, I’d highly recommend reading this book. However, if you aren’t a reader and just want to know what you’re missing, I’m going to give you a basic breakdown of the additions to the plot. In other words, you need to have seen the movie to read on, because there are assumptions that you’ll understand the references I’m making in terms of how they apply to the film. Not to mention, they’re loaded with spoilers for the movie. So let’s get into it.

-the book begins at the end of Halloween Kills with a little more coverage of how Allyson’s night ended, and includes Michael murdering two sanitation workers the next morning so he can take their garbage truck to escape.

-there’s a bit more of Corey’s backstory to further demonstrate that he has a dysfunctional family and lives on the wrong side of the tracks compared to the couple for which he was babysitting. His mother also has more influence on him throughout the main plot.

-there’s more transitional information as to how Laurie went from mad Michael hunter to totally at peace.

-there are Michael Myers conspiracy theories spread by the DJ who later dies in the movie, and they are a total nod to the story of Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers.

-there’s a flashback to a mental patient that was used by crazy Dr. Sartain from Halloween 2018 to awaken Michael in Smith’s Grove…and how that mental patient escaped when Michael did on the night the bus crashed in 2018. That mental patient then becomes the man who discovers Michael in the sewer and cares for him. When Corey falls off the bridge, this mental patient (who just appears to be a homeless man in the movie) takes him to the sewer to sacrifice to Michael (we’ll get to that later).

-in her writings, Laurie recounts communications with Dr. Loomis, who worked with another young male patient inspired to kill by the film Roadgames (a Jamie Lee Curtis film from the tail end of her early slasher days—wink wink). He ended up in Smith’s Grove and Michael’s evil spread to him.

-in a flashback to the manhunt for Michael in 2018, he escapes to the woods and encounters a little girl being held captive by her abusive father. She is then inspired to kill her father using Michael’s knife. Michael then goes and hides in a meatpacking plant.

-flashback to Halloween 2019. The girl who tried to steal Allyson’s boyfriend on Halloween night 2018 at the party goes to the meatpacking plant with her new boyfriend to park and have sex in his Plymouth Fury. Believers in the conspiracy theory that Halloween Ends is a remake of Christine rejoice. And by the way, those people are so wrong. Halloween Ends is clearly a remake of Grease 2. Think about it. Anyway, the couple discovers a decaying body of one of the sanitation workers then Michael Myers appears and chases them into the meatpacking plant…a chase that ends in his sewer pipe lair. It is there that the escaped mental patient reconnects with him and begins feeding him victims like Seymour satisfying Audrey II’s needs. Obviously this is a remake of Little Shop of Horrors.

-the passing of the evil from Michael to Corey when they meet in the sewer is more descriptive and better defined so the idea that Corey has taken on a new “Shape” is more believable. The idea of “The Shape” and taking on a new “shape” is stressed repeatedly throughout the novel. However, this is the point where the idea that Michael wasn’t supposed to be supernatural in this trilogy’s story arc is proven to be bullshit. If Michael Myers feeds on the energy of his kills to stay alive and can pass his evil on to others…He’s. Fucking. Supernatural.

-Michael thinks of the first night he killed in 1963, and Laurie thinks of Ben Tramer fleetingly. We also learn one of the bully punks is related to Ben Tramer (remember, in this timeline Halloween II never happened, so Ben Tramer didn’t die).

-Lindsey has a few more interactions with both Laurie and Allyson, plus she gets a brief suspense scene, which she totally deserved in the movie after delivering one of the best scenes in Halloween Kills. Most importantly, she’s present for the grinder ending, whereas she was missing from it in the movie.

-flashback to 1982 when Frank, the cop Laurie likes, was in a competition with another cop to win her affections. The other guy took her home, but she only went along with him so she could ask him to kill Michael Myers at Smith’s Grove. He refused.

-there’s an unnecessary brief scene of kids holding a séance to resurrect Michael Myers at the site of his old house, but it does play into the idea that evil is attractive and infectious.

-it’s spelled out that Michael kills Corey in order to take back all the evil he gave him so that he’ll be better equipped to fight Laurie.

-Since it didn’t happen in the movie, I was hoping the book ending would change to have Laurie dive into the grinder. Instead, the book implies at the end that the evil transfers to Laurie and she will be the new Michael. Do they really think Jamie Lee Curtis would come back for another trilogy as the killer? Do we? Should we start a GoFundMe now?

And yet despite all the wonderful embellishments, added plot elements, and inner thoughts of characters that enrich this story, I still couldn’t buy it when that first kill came with Corey and Michael working as a team. Even more amplified in novel format is the fact that after they start killing together they just totally split up and go off and do their own things. It’s rather sad how quickly their relationship gets to the point where they don’t need each other anymore!

 

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