I desperately needed a good horror fix, and the third time was a charm

With my latest self-isolation triple feature I was going for darker and scarier rather than predictable fun, but only one of these three satisfied. Was it Bloodline, Door in the Woods, or Shiver? Let’s find out.

BLOODLINE (2018)

Bloodline is really not my thing, despite starring Seann William Scott as a guidance counselor who murders anyone who hurts the troubled teens he works with. Maybe if he did all the killing shirtless I would have had something to cling to, but I’ve just never been a fan of the Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer type of movie. It’s hard to be scared when you’re basically in the mind of the killer and the victims are completely disposable.

There’s nothing new here, and the kills are bloody but all exactly the same—stab the belly then slice the throat.

I guess you could say there’s a twist or two, but I found any surprises no surprise at all. There wasn’t even anything to impress about Scott’s performance.

The most horrific part to me was an extremely graphic close-up of his wife popping a baby out of her vagina. I’m warning you, when I say graphic, I mean graphic.

DOOR IN THE WOODS (2019)

I was all about this Poltergeist style film at first, and wondered why it got so few stars on Prime.

A couple moves into a house with their son, they take a hike in the woods, and in the middle of a clearing they find a door just standing perfectly up straight with a lock on it and a key nearby.

What do these idiots do? Take it home, unlock it, refinish it, and use it as their hall closet door.

The door opens on its own. A little ghost girl roams around the house. The little boy dreams of scary monsters coming after him. Inevitably he disappears.

Luckily the wife sees a Tarot reader who sensed something was wrong, so he steps in to help them rescue their son from behind the door…back in the woods.

Right here is where the movie turns inexplicably laughable.

The Tarot reader, looking like he stole Madonna’s wardrobe from the “Music” video, sets up an altar in the woods, and with the help of the parents tries various rituals and psychic tools to communicate with the forces behind the door.

It is a goofy, slow-moving mess, and I don’t even know how the three actors made it through the scenes without either laughing or telling the director the script had simply fallen apart.

SHIVER (2008)

This Spanish film is the total winner for me. A classic tale of one kid knowing there’s a monster and no one believing him, it teleports us back to younger days when we were afraid of what lurks in the shadows.

A mother is convinced by her teenage boy, bullied because he is sensitive to sunlight, to move to a new town to start over.

The boy meets some new kids and they go on a hunt for a vicious animal one kid believes he saw in the woods.

People begin getting gruesomely murdered, so who better to suspect than the new boy with a vampiric condition? Awesome.

It’s up to the boy, his best buddy, and the one girl in town who likes him despite everyone else ostracizing him to prove there really is something in the woods, especially since it seems to be stalking him specifically.

This little gem filled with nail-biting scenes that had me on the edge of my seat really reminded me of teen-centric horror flicks of the 80s.

 

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NETFLIX AND CHILLS: 3 tales of the supernatural

How about a little ghostly triple feature? I look very briefly at three I watched on Netflix: DeadCon, Polaroid, and The Car: Road to Revenge—and yes, it’s a sequel.

DEADCON (2019)

The title of this one had me excited for a horror con horror movie. Instead it’s about a social media influencer con. Ugh. It’s as boring as it sounds. I cannot fathom how a movie this bland gets made.

What did I like about it? A backstory dating back to 1984, an 80s style score, and 80s throwback songs like this one from Psychic Twin:

 

Sadly the story is so convoluted the hubba hubba and I weren’t even clear on the point of this ghost tale by the end.

You’ll be shocked to learn that the characterization of the main social media influencers is totally shallow. They spend most of the film in rooms and hallways at a hotel. A very dark hotel. This is one of those movies that tries to create atmosphere by making sure no location has adequate lighting.

There’s a bunny head balloon. Occasionally there are hints of child ghosts. There are flashbacks to a guy basically using a Commodore 64. Oh how I wanted to like this.

Unfortunately, we continuously get setups for scares with no payoff. No one is killed until 55 minutes into this 77-minute movie.

Near the end, the movie suddenly becomes a found footage flick for 5 minutes and crams in every single cliché of the final moments of the subgenre. Sadly, the hubby and I both laughed at the same part.

POLAROID (2019)

The director of the new, highly entertaining Child’s Play gives us a tween slumber party movie that is a throwback to 00s horror: Shutter, The Ring, The Boogeyman, Pulse, etc.

A girl acquires an old Polaroid camera and eventually realizes that everyone she takes a picture of dies.

She and her friends spend the second half of the film hunting down the camera’s origins in order to save themselves from becoming a shadowy spectre’s next victims.

Just like DeadCon, every location is absurdly short on light, and this film is as derivative as it gets if you’ve seen all the movies I mentioned above.

However, the final chase and fight segment with the camera creepozoid is loads of fun with supernatural special effects that are definite horror eye candy, especially if you just sit back and enjoy it with popcorn and a cherry cola.

THE CAR: ROAD TO REVENGE (2019)

Would you believe there’s a sequel to the 1977 James Brolin classic killer car movie that pre-dates Stephen King’s Christine by 6 years?

It is very weird to see a movie set in a futuristic punk city like something out of 80s movies, but that’s also one of the upsides.

A powerful district attorney is targeted by an absurdly cartoonish punk gang that brutally tortures and kills him.

He then comes back for revenge…as an invisible spirit in his sexy car!

The first half of the film is as basic as it gets, with the car making roadkill out of its enemies. The kills are splatastic.

Meanwhile, horror hunk Grant Bowler (Steve Niles’ Remains, Painkillers) is detective on the case. He teams up with the D.A.’s girl to uncover the truth behind the rash of killings.

Unfortunately, The Car horror of the film and the dark streets of the punk city are lost once this turns into a nonstop car chase action movie. Blah.

 

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A look back at the Evil Dead trilogy—of video games!

I dug out the old Dreamcast and Playstation 2 game systems, hooked them up to my big ass widescreen HD TV, and delved into three games based on the Evil Dead movies, all featuring Ash voiced by Bruce Campbell: Evil Dead: Hail to the King, Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, and Evil Dead: Regeneration. Were they all as frustrating as I remembered? Let’s find out.

EVIL DEAD: HAIL TO THE KING

The first game, which came out for PC, PS1, and Dreamcast, is very short—if you can finish it. I’ve always done so by using a Gameshark, because it is absurdly combat-heavy for a game modeled after the original survival horror genre.

I played it on the Dreamcast, which has a crappy controller as it is. On top of that, the controls in this game are quite limited, perfectly demonstrating why Resident Evil wasn’t an action series back in the 90s. Tank controls are infuriating when there are loads of enemies coming at you all the time. There’s no quick turn, but you can sort of jump backwards if you hit the stick right. Little good that does, because deadites and other enemies respawn incessantly. And forget stopping to catch your breath, because standing still just makes the baddies pop out again. And running through areas over and over again only to be chased by baddies you already killed half a dozen times is infuriating, especially since half the time you can’t even run around them; they block the path, leaving you no choice but to fight them every time.

Your main weapons are your chainsaw and an axe, which you can use simultaneously, one in each hand and each assigned to a different button. You also have some guns, but they aren’t very accurate in aiming, and eventually you find your boomstick. Unfortunately, the chainsaw, the best weapon by far, needs to be refilled constantly, so you desperately need to keep finding fuel that you must carry it with you at all times in order to fuel up when you’re low. You have to turn on the chainsaw then hit another button to use it, and if you hold the button down there’s a finishing move you can do to grind up enemies. If you axe them while doing that, Ash drops a one-liner, but they are very repetitive, as are the constant “I’ll swallow your soul” threats from deadites. You also have a one-liner button you can use at any time if you get off on the sound of Ash’s voice, but doing so often attracts more deadites, and the number of one-liners is limited.

You need health constantly because you will die constantly. And when you’re not fighting regular enemies, you’re thrust into too many boss battles to count for a game so short. Every damn bad thing about this game is constant!

Enemies include floating ghostly deadites that rise from the ground and spit at you, zombie deadites, skeletons, hillbillies, dwarf-like annoying guys with crossbows, bigger burly deadites with melee weapons, and flying deadites that look like skulls with wings. Occasionally when you kill a deadite it will leave something useful behind. If you pass by without picking the item up, it won’t be there when you return, but the deadite will.

Meanwhile, with all this fighting going on, you’re supposed to be finding the pages of the Necromonicon. Yes indeed, this is a direct sequel to all three movies. Your girlfriend has brought you back to the cabin to face your past, the bitch gets abducted, and you’re left in the same hell you still haven’t gotten over.

Much of Hail to the King is spent running back and forth through a maze of forest trying to collect items in order to progress.

The map is basically a useless pencil drawing, plus to get to it you have to go into the inventory screen to select map.

There’s an all-in-one save/storage trunk system like Resident Evil, but you still need a tape reel to save, and they are few and far between.

Items you can pick up shine clearly enough to spot them. You can combine items, mostly to make more fuel for your chainsaw, but near the end of the game it becomes more common to combine items to craft things you need to progress. There are other items you must interact with that blend into the background, so you feel the need to click on everything. Making matters worse, you can only interact if you stand completely still while pressing the button. If you click while walking you won’t trigger the prompt. And since the game suffers from collision issues, you often find yourself getting stuck on scenery. Grr…argh.

The game begins in the cabin, but there’s not much to explore there, and even after I found a crowbar thinking it would get me into the trap door…nothing. The first save trunk isn’t even in the cabin by the damn reel-to-reel tape player, it’s around the corner in the shed, and every time you go there, the same deadites have to be killed to get them out of the narrow path you’re traveling.

There’s a maze section in the woods that is infuriating and impossible to memorize, so you keep running in circles and keep fighting the same baddies. Spawn spots are always the same, so you hope you can sort of circle around them to prevent triggering the baddies. There’s also a pig slaughterhouse in the woods, and it is a cool, gross, bloody setting, but the evil pigs are a pain in the ass. And of course there’s a fruit cellar segment.

Finally, you get teleported to a medieval style area of the game, ruining the horror tone just like Army of Darkness did. Blech. While there are some cool pre-rendered backgrounds of castles and such, this segment has ridiculous fighting skeletons and obnoxious little chicken monsters, and there are lots of boss battles. In this final section of the game my infinite chainsaw fuel Gameshark cheat stopped working for no clear reason, forcing me to go on fuel hunts, but I still made it through somehow.

As for bosses, the first boss is a big spider that shoots stuff at you. The second boss must be defeated by hitting support posts to drop rocks on him. Problem is you drop the rocks on yourself half the time. Not to mention that without a quick turn button, getting between him and the post is infuriating. You also get an Evil Ash boss. The final boss, centered between four post corners, is annoying. You have to hit all four to make him temporarily vulnerable, but there’s no way NOT to get shot by his fire while running from one post to the other. Behind each post are mushrooms for health, which is detrimental to you making it past this final fight. If it weren’t for the Evil Dead name, I would get rid of this game and never mourn the loss.

EVIL DEAD: A FISTFUL OF BOOMSTICK

A Fistful of Boomstick is such a relief after the horror that was Hail to the King. While it does require plenty of hunting for objects and back and forth tasks, it trades a survival horror feel for hack ‘n’ slash action, which means no tank controls and plenty of health and ammo to be had, as well as loads of new weapons to find.

My only real problem with the controls, aside from some oddly placed button mapping, is the camera control with the right stick. There’s no option to invert the X or Y axis, and the preset is the total opposite of what I’m used to. What makes that even worse is that once again there’s no quick turn button, so very often you find yourself running in circles around an item you are trying to approach directly.

In retrospect, now that we’ve lived through games like Dead Rising that offer loads of flexible movement to avoid hordes of the undead, it’s weird to not be able to do something as simple as jump, because Boomstick has swarms of baddies coming at you at all times, and it’s very easy to have a whole crowd swallow your soul!

Ash once again carries a gun in one hand and chainsaw in the other. You do need to pick up ammo, but thankfully there’s no longer a need to find fuel for the chainsaw—it runs infinitely. The chainsaw is better for hacking through crowds, while the guns are good for targeting and blasting away approaching enemies. What’s also cool is that you can run and shoot behind you because Ash does an awesome over the shoulder maneuver with his weapon.

There is a block button, but you’re likely to forget to use it in the heat of battle…or to have the time to coordinate the move. There are also magic spells that you find along the way, some of which are necessary to move ahead, others that can be used to kill baddies. You need to gather green orbs that come from enemies you kill in order to have enough power for magic, so you’re better off saving it all for crucial tasks. Besides, doing a spell means going into your inventory, looking through the spellbook to find the button combo for that spell, then executing the sequence just right while holding the R1 trigger. If you screw up Ash gets zapped and has to do it all over again. And unless you find complete clearance away from enemies, they will strike you and break you out of the spell before you can finish. So annoying.

Killing the variety of deadites is fairly easy, but they become tougher later in the game. They often drop health, bullets, etc., and you can find more supplies throughout levels. You can also find save tokens, and the great news is you can use them anytime, anywhere. There are also plenty of them to find and the game automatically lets you save before boss battles and after you finish a level.

The no nonsense inventory screen is very easy to use, and features a To Do list of things you must accomplish to complete each level. Yes, levels. There are six levels, each with its own unique aspects.

1st LEVEL

You start in a modern city. The streets all look alike and there’s no map system, so you’ll be running back and forth a lot trying to find places you’ve already been. There are characters to help steer you in the right direction, and when not talking to them you can press the talk button to drop one-liners. Overall Ash’s dialogue is much funnier in this game.

Throughout the game you sometimes have to save characters to get items from them, but you can also hit them accidentally during battles with enemies. It doesn’t seem to hurt or kill them.

2nd LEVEL

The main goal here is to find pieces of silver that let you close numerous vortexes around town that are allowing deadites to infiltrate. In other words, deadites just keep coming while you’re trying to put a stop to their entrances. During this level I accidentally shot a car on the street! It burst into flames, but sadly that didn’t seem to have any effect on the deadites.

3rd LEVEL

One of my favorite levels, this takes place in a museum. You have a radar system that leads you to walls you need to blow up to find various items.

4th LEVEL

This is a tricky one you’ll probably need a walkthrough to complete. There are loads of deadites, lots of backtracking, and you won’t really know where to go to collect the things you need. The setting is a very maze-like, colonial village at night, so it’s hard to even remember how to get back to buildings you need to revisit.

5th LEVEL

Still in the same village, you need to get two different forts to agree to work together by bringing them various items. You also have to close more vortexes, and now there are big baddies stomping around as well as deadites with scissor hands.

6th LEVEL

This otherwise short final level is infuriating. It is a horrible labyrinth of underground caves and tunnels that all look alike. But here is the worst part. You need to use magic to possess a certain beast that unlocks doors to move on, but I accidentally blew up the lone beast near one door while hastily casting the spell (yes, that happens), and I was absolutely stuck. He would not regenerate for me to use him again and there were no others like him anywhere near. I had to start the level over. Argh!

There are loads of enemies, making this magic-heavy level extra challenging. Also, you have no way of knowing, but you pick up more spells that require you to use a different baddie to open up doors that are hardly noticeable. You will not finish this confusing underground maze level without a walkthrough, and even then it’s confusing.

The good news is the final boss is a snap. The boss from the previous level was much harder.

Once the game is through there really is no replay value, and you don’t unlock anything or carry weapons over to a replay.

EVIL DEAD: REGENERATION

The final game in this trilogy is total hack ‘n’ slash fun as Ash takes on his next epic journey through a mental institution, cemetery, mines, catacombs, a town…even the good old cabin in the woods!

Actually, the game just begins in the cabin with a tutorial teaching you how to fight, and it’s true to the movies, with everything in the place coming alive. Yes, even the deer head.

Then your journey begins—with you locked away in a looney bin. The game is mostly linear—as long as you do all the necessary backtracking chores to move on—but there are some secret areas where you can find pages that unlock bonus material not essential to the game. Even so, I was kind of pissed that I missed a few along the way.

This is the most gamish game of all three. You have true fighting flexibility. There are single trigger button presses to switch melee and firing weapons. You don’t need to collect ammo or gas for the chainsaw. You can jump and roll and do a bunch of fight combos, most of which you’ll probably never remember but just accidentally do while button mashing. And you have full camera rotation ability, plus this time you can change the axis in settings. Unfortunately, because you can jump, there are also platforming segments. Ugh.

To gather health you have to shoot health boxes and crates, and you also get health when you kill enemies, so that’s quite an advantage. But enemies aren’t the only health risk. Doors will slam in your face. Radiators explode as you go by them. And you have to weave your way over and through electrified areas.

You can also collect energy from the same containers you find health in, and filling your energy meter allows you to turn into Evil Ash temporarily. He’s definitely a bonus when you get overwhelmed by baddies, and you will. This game totally swarms you with baddies all the time. And you get locked into fight arenas—you step into a new area, barriers come across all the doors, and you must kill all enemies to reopen them.

Brace yourself. You also have a buddy with you this time—Sam the little wiseass deadite. It’s on the level of the stupidity of Army of Darkness, so at first I was annoyed by this cheesy addition, but Sam does come in quite handy even in non-essential moments; he actually helps you kick monster ass! He also gives Ash ample opportunity to vamp and make bad puns.

The downside is there are essential Sam needs, from kicking him onto and into things to open new areas to having him help fight bosses. Sam is mostly invulnerable in that he respawns every time shortly after he dies, but he’s also a pain in the ass when you need him to absolutely stay alive to get through an area—you have to defend him and keep him from dying at those times, and he has a habit of running ahead and directly into trouble before you can catch up with him. So damn frustrating.

The beacon of hope for me in this game was the save beacons. You find them periodically as you travel on, and they can be used repeatedly provided you can get back to them before moving on to a new section. Plus, the game asks to save before boss battles and at the beginning of new levels.

Enemies are numerous and change throughout the game, and you find better weapons along the way to better deal with more difficult baddies, including a hook gun that catches enemies and brings them right to you so you can blow their heads off. There are deadites, rats, skeletons, flying monsters, deadites that can block your hits, bigger deadites that spit acid, monster dog creatures, hags, witches, and these damn bloated deadites that explode on contact if you don’t shoot them fast enough. Guess who usually runs into them before you can shoot them when you desperately need him to stay alive? Sam. That means numerous replays of certain challenges to get him past those fat bastards.

As the game progresses it does become annoyingly repetitive with a few basic chores you have to do over and over. First—fight hordes of enemies while trying to kick Sam on top of a giant deadite monster, which gives you the opportunity to shoot its vulnerable spot temporarily. When he eventually dies, you can go through to a new area. There are also times when Ash can possess Sam and you control Sam so that you can maneuver through tight areas and past enemies to hit switches or do other tasks that open up the next area for Ash. Often this requires Sam riding and controlling the deadite monster, which allows you to bash through barriers to get them out of Ash’s way.

Most annoying is the giant head monster that blocks areas and needs you to feed him souls. This requires doing all kinds of tasks to find eggs in various areas of a level. You chainsaw the egg, a spirit is released, it possesses Sam, and then you have to accompany him safely back to the giant head as Ash and kick him into its mouth after all enemies are dead. You usually have to do this with three spirits before you can get through. If Sam dies during any of these backtracking situations you have to go collect the spirit again and start the trek all over again. Ugh.

When you finally reach the temple, the final section, it’s an exercise in fighting off waves of enemies as you travel through the corridors and rooms. You occasionally have to light birdbath torches on fire to open more doors, and in a couple of instances the doors they open or stairs that rise from the floor are on a timer. Get to them fast or they seal back up and you have to go light the torch all over again.

The good news is the final boss isn’t so bad except for the fact that you have to kick Sam onto his magic book whenever he goes back to regenerate, otherwise his health fully restores. Annoying, but not impossible. And hey, the game is called REGENERATION, so I guess we should have seen that one coming.

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PRIME TIME: 4 films that starts with “The…”

Corona is causing my watchlists to shrink drastically, so for this blog I took on a foursome of films simply because they all begin with the word “the”: The Tombs, The Terrible Two, The Recall, and The Russian Bride. So which ones were worth the watch? Let’s get into it.

THE TOMBS (2019)

The title of this one is definitely deceiving. There are no cemeteries or catacombs in sight. It’s the usual slasher in a haunted attraction formula, with a slight change—this time a bunch of celebrities is doing a reality show/movie promotion tie-in.

It’s hard to believe that this basic premise could be rather bland, but The Tombs simply doesn’t deliver much on chills, thrills, or good kills. And the killer? The typical potato sack mask and an axe.

I think the problem might be that the “celebrities” aren’t clearly defined beyond the bitchy diva. These are all forgettable, interchangeable characters despite the introductions of them and the setup being dragged out.

As is the case with most of these haunted attraction slashers, everyone spends a lot of time walking around, giving us a tour of the haunted attraction in the process.

However, that doesn’t even offer much in the way of cheap, faux scares here.

When the killing does start, initially it’s all implied. There are several chase scenes and the kills get a little better, but I’m sure I will remember nothing about this movie in a few months.

THE TERRIBLE TWO (2018)

If you’re going to make a terrible movie, you should avoid putting the word terrible in the title. Those who are less sophisticated and cultured than someone of my breeding might use it against you.

What a mess this terrible movie is. Husband and wife move into a new house thanks to hubby’s sexy real estate friend. Hubby also keeps us watching a little longer by walking around shirtless.

Wifey is obsessed with religion and also convinced their two dead daughters are still in the house. And there are creepy dolls.

Wifey also finds a manuscript in the house from the previous owner, who said he was battling demons.

A therapist comes and goes. A medium pops up briefly. The wife might be sort of possessed. Or there might be ghosts. None of it makes any sense. In the last fifteen minutes two little girls in masks with knives chase the couple around the house.

All I’m going to say is that there are other movies with couples being chased around by children in masks with knives.

THE RECALL (2017)

If SyFy hadn’t become the 24/7 Harry Potter channel, it might actually show movies like this as it used to. The Recall is mostly a good old cabin in the woods film, with the kids in this case being terrorized by aliens.

It might sound like a plot you’ve heard before, but The Recall delivers some surprises and doesn’t skimp on budget.

The kids are pretty (see above), and Wesley Snipes is humorous as a crazy survivalist the encounter. This bunch of white kids even call him a hillbilly. Now that’s progress.

While the focuses is the kids at the isolated cabin, the plot makes the unusual move of also revealing what’s happening in the rest of the world; the storm of the century has brought with it a whole lot of spaceships.

It’s the sheer oddness of the unfolding events that keeps things moving. There are a variety of “aliens”, and the kids all have issues that make them react in different ways and cause infighting. Meanwhile, Wesley Snipes is lurking around the woods dealing with issues of his own.

While we do see a sort of glowing red jellyfish alien, there’s also a major monster alien that we don’t get a really good glimpse of until much later in the film—a very old school creature feature move. The pace is fast until Wesley Snipes really gets involved, at which point there’s a bit of dialogue-heavy slowdown for a while.

But it is worth sitting through, and not just to get to some boy crack. The final act is pretty damn wild, and for me it’s the stuff of alien horror nightmares.

Even the conclusion is bizarre and unexpected, leaving us with an ominous possibility of how an alien takeover might unfold.

THE RUSSIAN BRIDE (2019)

I did not expect this film, which at first seemed like old school thrillers such as the Mary Steenburgen classic Dead of Winter, to punch me in the gut with a totally unexpected change in tone more than halfway through.

A desperate Russian woman trying to escape her abusive husband sells herself as a bride with daughter to rich doctor Corbin Bernsen in the U.S.

That alone is a chilling concept, and it’s very easy to empathize with the wife and daughter. Although you’d think since they’re Russian they would have reached out to Trump for a place to live.

Anyway, it’s everything you’d expect at first. Things start off awkward when mother and daughter arrive at the mansion. For starters, the help seems sinister.

Corbin shows signs of being somewhat off, and his previous marriage is shrouded in mystery. Corbin gives his usual outstanding performance as a total psycho.

And then accidents start happening. The daughter claims to see ghosts. The mother begins to fear she’s made a horrible mistake. There were so many ways things could have gone and things Corbin could have done to them. Most likely you’ll never imagine what actually does happen.

The slow burn suddenly bursts into flames! All I’m going to say is this starts to feel less like a thriller and more like a wacky, gory Tarantino movie. I don’t know what the hell I just watched, but I’d highly suggest you watch it too if you want a violent thrill ride.

The film also does a great job of incorporating viewings of both Frankenstein and House in Haunted Hill so that they align with the plot. Hey, any horror movie that doesn’t show Night of the Living Dead on a TV gets bonus points in my book.

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Things are getting sadistic and gay in The House of Violent Desire

It’s almost unheard of for me to a) love a period piece, and b) love a movie that runs 2 hours long. But I was only 30 minutes into The House of Violent Desire on Prime when I clicked the DVD on over to my shopping cart.

I watched this film specifically because I’ve already covered and am a fan of other films by Charlie Steeds (Cannibal Farm, Winterskin), but so far I think this is his masterpiece. It is a gorgeously crafted film that combines the majestic sophistication of classic gothic horror with the insanity of 80s Euro horror, then injects a good amount of Marquis de Sade.

The result is a film that’s eerie, frightening, and obscenely erotic with scenes of BDSM, almost all of them homosexual in nature, both male-on-male and female-on-female.

In the tradition of classics like Rebecca and Turn of the Screw, this sick story has servants at a mansion in the 1940s being drawn into the sinister secrets of the wealthy family for which they work.

An African-American woman comes on as the maid and immediately faces racism at the hands of the domineering mother and her snobby, adult children (2 daughters, one son). She also hears stories of murder and mayhem from the kids and the creepy old caretaker, who looks like a worn out version of horror director Mick Garris.

Oh…she’s also told to never go in the attic.

It all sounds quite cliché and obvious, but The House of Violent Desire is whacked!

As a rainstorm rages outside, the Rip Van Winkle looking father goes missing, a mysterious pretty boy who looks like a post-pubescent Anthony Michael Hall shows up in the middle of the night looking for a place to stay, and the Tom Cruise clone fiancé of one of the daughters is staying in the home as well.

Naturally, everyone goes poking around in places they shouldn’t. The thing hidden in the attic comes out to play, the daughters dig into the family’s past, and the son starts to have a big gay sexual awakening with any man he can get his hands on.

And when he commits to something, there’s no holding him back…

The sadistic mother, played brilliantly by actress Rowena Bentley, who stars in all Steeds’ films, seems to add fuel to the fire of every sexually perverse desire taking place in her mansion—homosexuality, lesbianism, BDSM, rape—while acting like she’s the Virgin Mary.

Oh yes, there are hints of religious imagery, such as snakes and apples, but they join in on the perversion instead of fighting against it.

The setting is gothic perfection, with halls and rooms drenched in Argento blues and reds and filled with tension, the horrific thing in the attic is shown just enough to send your imagination reeling, and the sex and violence are both vulgar and explicit while never actually showing anything extreme. Yet, you totally feel it. Ouch.

Despite the 117-minute length, The House of Violent Desire kept me riveted with nonstop surprises as the plot of this totally twisted, dysfunctional family unfolds.

I absolutely love that Steeds set the film in the 1940s so that the “perversions” of the time are normal and loving compared to the fucked up behaviors of the white heterosexuals in this house of debauchery.

Considering how gay this film is, I imagine the artwork showing a woman in bondage is really going to disappoint a whole lot of straight guys. In fact, not only is this film landing on my stud stalking page thanks to the man flesh, it also earns an honorary spot on my homo horror movies page.

 

 

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A gay supernatural horror fiction double feature

If you needed a good gay horror read (and you’re all caught up with my gay horror series. Heh heh), here’s a brief synopsis of two to check out that I’ve just finished reading: Scry for Help by Aaron Eischeid and The Unfinished by Jay B. Laws.

AARON EISCHEID – Scry for Help

I’ve previously posted an interview with author Aaron Eischeid here if you want to take a read.

His novella Scry for Help is a short gay horror story that is the perfect warmup to the longer work The Unfinished, because both books focus on gay men, death, grief, and the supernatural.

Nate, the protagonist here, is a man suffering from the loss of his partner Jamie. When Nate begins experiencing signs of Jamie’s presence, he delves into the world of the paranormal and learns how to contact the dead using a mirror. And we all know what happens when vulnerable people tap into the afterlife….

Check out the trailer for the novella:

 

JAY B. LAWS – The Unfinished

A while back I covered the Jay B. Laws novel Steam. As far as I know, this is his only other full-length novel before his untimely death, and just as with the first novel, this one fuses the horror genre with the devastation of AIDS in the late 80s/early 90s to bring us a supernatural story that I believe is the better of the two. It’s also sort of a “horror anthology” complete with a wraparound. Not realizing that was going to be the structure of this book, I found that aspect a bit convoluted.

It begins with a gay couple renting a haunted house from two lesbians. Sounds like a good story in itself, but just when you’re settling in for this plot the book changes course to give us even meatier stories, brought to us by the ghosts!

The first and shorter one about a mechanic and limo driver that have an affair builds tension quite quickly before turning into a grisly tale of violence reminiscent of some of Stephen King’s greatest tales. I actually wish this one had been longer—perhaps a separate novella.

The next story is the bulk of the book, and deservedly so. Brent, a man devastated by the toll AIDS is taking on his life and looks is offered a miracle cocktail by a man who was once as sick as him. The cocktail works wonders, but it has nasty side effects…and a horrific ingredient. Just as Brent’s life seems to be turning around, he is drawn into the web of horror that is bringing him new life.

It’s an absolute page turner that could have stood on its own, so I found the tying in of the other stories a bit distracting.

 

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When women band together to protect a mermaid

Expecting a couple of creature features about killer mermaids, I instead experienced two emotionally distressing movies about the mythical creatures being abused by man…and saved by women.

MERMAID’S SONG (2015)

Despite hating period pieces, I gave this a shot because the plot was intriguing. After the death of his wife in the 1930s, a man allows a sleazoid to take control of the family business–a song and dance show put on by his daughters, one of which happens to be part of a mermaid bloodline.

We see a lot of the song and dance. A LOT. A lot more than we do of a mermaid.

There are exactly two instances in which the girl’s mermaid side reveals itself…one only a semi-reveal.

This is really a tragic tale about a desperate father who essentially pimps out his daughters, particularly the young mermaid girl. A hot daddy type baddie (aren’t they always?) disgustingly sets his sights on the girl.

Her sisters attempt to protect from the awful things coming her way…but it turns out she can protect herself.

There’s also an old, witchy lady who seems to be the mermaid’s guardian and tries to prepare her to accept the truth of what she is.

This is more a dark fantasy—think The Shape of Water—with a couple of quite satisfying, gory horror moments.

MERMAID DOWN (2019)

I love that this movie kicks right into high gear. After two fishermen talk about capturing a mermaid and cutting off her tail for money, they practice what they preach.

Not surprisingly, this is another film that simultaneously sends a message as to how repugnant and vile men are towards both the animal kingdom and women. This man’s face pretty sums up the despicable hatred many people envision when they think of the old white men running this country and its people into the ground for their own selfish purposes.

The mermaid’s tail is hacked off, she grows legs, and she’s then thrown in a mental institution because she believes she’s a mermaid. It is quite a confusing transition, so it takes a while to adjust to jarring shift in plot.

Although she doesn’t speak, the mermaid is taken under the protective wing of the other women in the institution. The nasty bad main man becomes even more sadistic than we first thought, and the mermaid befriends…a female ghost! WTF?

I think the ghost thing is a bit excessive and totally unnecessary, but you can mostly look past it (right through it actually) as the women band together to break the mermaid free.

This one is like The Shape of Water meets Sucker Punch, and although there’s more mermaid than in Mermaid’s Song, I think Mermaid Down is even less of a horror movie than that—although it is definitely mermaid torture porn.

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PRIME TIME: flashbacks to the VHS days with anthologies and a thriller

So much self-isolation, so many movies to stream, so I thought I’d try out a trio of old school style horror on Prime: Grim Woods, Late Night Double Feature, and 4Closed. Here’s what you can expect from each.

GRIM WOODS (2019)

Grim Woods is reminiscent of straight-to-video anthologies from the 80s and 90s, so it definitely satisfies if you grew up on simple, scary stories. The wraparound is about a group of kids that sits around a campfire at a summer camp reading three stories from a book:

1st tale – this is a babysitter tale that kicks off with a Rick Astley rip-off song that caught my attention immediately, as did the freaky looking clown that comes knocking to stalk and kill. 

2nd tale – this is a quick take on body horror with a girl getting some bad news from a gypsy, after which she begins to suffer a “breakout”.

3rd tale – and finally, it’s the sexy scary story as kids head into the woods in search of a mythological female figure…and find her. Bring on the seduction and some man flesh.

And lastly, the wraparound kids experience a little horror of their own.

LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE (2016)

I really like the concept of this semi-anthology film—an evil doctor horror host and his nurse present two films. There’s a fun animated intro, trailers in between films, and even some hateful drama between the two horror hosts, which essentially becomes a third short film at the end.

The other two stories are quite different in tone but are both competently crafted and feel like episodes of classic anthology TV shows.

1st story – I prefer the dark horror comedy tone of this one and found it reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt episodes.

A struggling chef hired by a rich couple to cook a dinner for their friends in their mansion soon discovers what exactly it is he needs to prepare.

The guy playing the chef steals the show by the end of the story.

2nd story – dark and depressing, this is a tale of a man who hurts masochists for a living.

He learns the painful way what goes on in a client’s head to make her that hungry for hurt. There’s definitely a hint of feminist angst in this one.

While the wraparound conclusion runs nearly 30 minutes long and starts out with promise, I found it to be anti-climactic compared to the stories that came before it.

4CLOSED (2013)

The director of Rise of the Zombies, They Found Hell, Isle of the Dead, and Species: The Awakening brings us a 90s style, cookie cutter thriller. Even though it has a good cast, it feels like a made-for-Lifetime Channel suspense film.

Handyman hunk James Denton of Desperate Housewives and Marlee Matlin move into a foreclosed home with their teen daughter, and are immediately visited by their nosy Desperate Housewives type neighbor, who gives them the dirt on the previous owner.

The previous owner was Jamie Kennedy. And he wants his house back.

If you’ve seen Pacific Heights, Disturbia, The Intruder, etc., You can predict this movie as it goes.

It’s every cliché in the crazy family stalker movie book without any effective suspense or gore.

Instead, Jamie tasers victims…and most just disappear.

We never see them again or see what happened to them, although we do learn what happened to What’s Happening‘s Rog, who plays Jamie’s lawyer in the movie; tasered. Not that I’m implying that makes this snoozer worth a watch.

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Back in Black Christmas

I had a sneaking suspicion that as soon as the latest iteration of Black Christmas hit theaters and got completely trashed by virtually everyone, I would probably love it. And so I can now say that I don’t even slightly regret blind buying it on Blu-ray to add to my complete Black Christmas collection (my blog about the previous films here).

It’s astounding that at just about the same time Joe Bob Briggs was being destroyed on social media for making a comment most felt was offensively false—that horror was fun in the old days because it wasn’t political—people reamed this film for being in-your-face political instead of just a remake of the original, non-political movie!

You know who I think was probably most repulsed by this movie and its blatant message? White, straight, male horror fans. Which just demonstrates the film’s entire uncomfortable point; toxic white male privilege and power can’t handle being negatively stereotyped and feeling marginalized by all the groups that have actually been its victims since the beginning of time. The mere fact that anything involving the equality and worth of anyone who isn’t a white straight man is attacked as being “political” makes it quite clear that treating others as equals is seen as giving them power—political power. In other words, white straight men assume treating others equally will give them the power to control how white straight men should live their lives. And the fact that I usually loathe “politics” in my horror and I thought the plot points here were awesome makes it clear to me that people wanting to be shown respect by the oppressive party in power is absolutely not a political issue but an issue of humanity. Hey, maybe the film would have been better received if it had been called WHITE Christmas…

The director of New Year, New You, the January 2018 installment of Hulu’s Into the Dark and one of the better films in the series IMO, brings us a totally different Black Christmas experience while making sure to give us nods to the original film’s iconic moments. Interior shots of the empty sorority house at Christmastime alone capture the atmosphere of the original, but the plot is refreshingly, entirely different.

Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Fright Night remake, Green Room) is great as a girl suffering from PTSD after having been sexually assaulted on campus and not believed. The movie does an incredibly timely, unsettling job of portraying just what women still go through to this day in a society fully controlled by white men. And while some may consider the whole thing preachy, I personally thought it was interwoven naturally into the fabric of the plot and what the characters are currently going through in their lives—what, in essence, women go through every single day of their lives to some degree.

On top of that, the film at first delivers what I found to be an excellent, taut, sleek thrill ride reminiscent of late-90s/early 2000s slashers. Yet it’s when the film veers off to become much more about the hierarchy of college campus constructs that it takes on a new life and becomes pretty damn insane for a totally fun and wacky final act.

There’s an appearance by Cary Elwes, a scene that so wants to be an homage to the one good scene from ridiculously overrated Exorcist III but simply rushes the pacing too much to be even vaguely as effective, and a scene with the girls doing a Christmas song performance that may be a nod to Mean Girls.

I personally love that this was in no way a rehash of the previous films, although I can’t deny it felt weird not having Andrea Martin pop up for even a minuscule cameo. I’m also shocked that an ideal opportunity to cast a female turncoat as a blue-eyed blonde who looks like she’d vote for Trump was completely missed.

My only huge disappointment is that there was an R rated cut running 20 minutes longer that was edited down to make the film PG-13, but they didn’t include it on the Blu-ray! WTF? Why wouldn’t they try to breathe extra life into such a maligned film by giving us more of the gore? Some of that gore can be seen in the deleted and extended bonus features, but they make up not even five more minutes of footage, so there’s a whole lot still lost on the cutting room floor. Bummer.

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PRIME TIME: hitting the road for some camping and killing

This foursome of road trip/backwoods flix is a mixed bag. Let’s take brief looks at The Cool Kids, Restricted Area, Animal Among Us, and Darkslide.

THE COOL KIDS (2016)

The title of this 62-minute movie speaks volumes, because the first fifteen are filled with nothing but a group of pretty, bitchy white snobs goofing off while waiting to go on a road trip.

But once the partying montage kicks in at a house in the woods, this becomes a rather unique little slasher.

There’s plenty of sex and hot bods, and in an odd turn of events, after the killer “accidentally” murders someone (we know from the start who the killer is so I can’t show any juicy pix without giving it all away), the others are momentarily horrified when they find the body…and then just go on with their weekend.

That includes the killer, who virtually takes out victims while everyone else is a room away. It’s all quite intriguing and oddly comical! I can’t see why anyone with an hour to kill and a love of slashers wouldn’t check this one out.

RESTRICTED AREA (2019)

I knew I was most likely burdening myself with a tedious time starting a 112-minute film about a bunch of steel workers that goes camping in the woods and gets terrorized by a masked cult. But, you know, it’s about a bunch of sweaty steal workers, so there was payoff there, because the guys are cute and there’s a nice variety of types both thick and thin. Which means this is one for my sausage fest scares page.

The bad news is that as is often the case, this is a film in which an indie director thinks making a backwoods horror flick is as simple as sending a group of people out to the woods with a barely discernible script to be chased by people in masks with machetes. Sigh.

Virtually an hour is filled with the guys simply walking around constantly getting separated and looking for each other while a relentless, ominous chord plays to fully numb our senses to any promise of something scary.

That continues for the second hour, only now they’re being chased by the masked cult members. The entire film takes place in washed out daylight, and kill scenes are cut away then cut back to reveal the bloody damage (practical blood effects, thankfully).

General editing goes something like this: cut to snake on rock, cut to girl looking spooked by it, cut back to snake, cut back to girl, cut to snake, cut to girl suddenly walking in the middle of three guys with no more reference to the snake.

The group eventually has to battle the cult. There’s definitely an attempt here to make a deeper plot come forward as the truth of the cult unfolds, but for me personally, all I was about was a scene in which the cult leader strips off a hot guy’s shirt for a fight. And the biggest head-scratcher for me is how once up and coming horror hottie Randy Wayne ended up in this…for  a fleeting moment. You really can’t go from up and coming to star cameo recognition without ever actually coming up all the way—although it did make my my homo horror whore senses tingle.

ANIMAL AMONG US (2019)

This is one hell of a confusing backwoods movie, so you better pay close attention if you want to make sense of it before the big denouement.

I can’t even say I loved it because it was too exhausting for me to remain focused. I’m exhausted just at the thought of writing about it, so I’ll make this short.

Two people were killed at a campground, and it was believed to be the work of an animal.

Now a bunch of people converge on the location, including a Bigfoot hunter, park ranger, a teacher that specializes in courses about masks (duhn duhn duhn!), and a daddy bear with a sizzling sexy mustache.

There’s even some found footage of a run-in with the “animal”—and you have to love when the person viewing it says “enough with the shaky camera”.

There are several effective jump scares along the way as all these scattered plots converge, and there is a point to the title, which is probably why the film feels less focused on the horror than on the characters. Be prepared; the big series of twists in the end are…I’ll say it again…exhausting.

DARKSLIDE (2020)

Argh! This is so frustrating. Darkslide is a beautifully shot film that wants so badly to capture the mood and plight of its protagonist, but it takes 2 hours and 2 minutes to do so, and I kid you not…the true horror elements only transpire in the final 22 minutes.

For over an hour we get visually stunning footage of a group of friends skateboarding and surfing.

In between there are short segments of the group sitting around listening to the main guy discussing his ruined sporting career and the loss of his brother.

Eventually the group falls into a big crevasse in the ground while doing their sporty lifestyle thing. It becomes sort of like The Descent…with rats? I seriously thought this was going to be a killer rat movie for a while.

After the group walks around in circles for forty minutes, the true horror is revealed. The final segment is good…it’s really good.

And it even has some religious imagery buried underground, to the point that I was feeling this film really could have fucked all our belief systems up with a Jesus meets evolution theme.

If it had explored that concept (or maybe it was?), had been shorter, and had more evenly paced the horror throughout, it could have been one hell of a movie. But instead the creators intent here was to make a movie about one man’s journey through grief and guilt.

 

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