The horrors of Showtime February 2020

Showtime is the premium channel with the most On Demand horror titles, so I check it every month or so to see what’s new. Here’s a look at five selections from my latest Showtime horror marathon.

SELFIE FROM HELL (2018)

If you want to scare the new generation, it never hurts to go the social media/electronic devices route, which is exactly what this mostly boring film does when it finally ramps up enough to scare tween girls at slumber parties by the end.

A vlogger afraid of taking selfies comes to visit her cousin…and immediately takes a selfie. She falls into a coma in a bed in the cousin’s house and gets exactly one doctor visit. WTF?

The cousin decides something supernatural is going on and digs deep into the web to see what is messing with coma cousin—sort of a dark web situation, only this is called the black room. Scary.

A perv starts calling and harassing her. A Skype buddy helps her investigate. Eventually they encounter the evil electronic entity that is set free by visiting the black room, which is the creepiest part of the film.

Selfie from Hell only runs 75 minutes long, so it’s not the worst thing to watch if you have nothing better to do.

HARPOON (2019)

This movie tries so hard to be a quirky, off-beat dark humor thriller but it failed miserably on all counts for me. The narrator and chapter title cards are not funny enough to elevate the underwhelming plot and characters.

Three entitled assholes—a straight couple and another guy friend—go boating. They are at each other’s throats from the start, and pretty soon tensions mount as secrets, cheating, and backstabbing are revealed. The running “joke” is that the weapon on board is a spear gun, not a harpoon. Gotta love the forced irony of the title.

When they’re not trying to kill each other, the three attempt to survive together since they’re stranded in the middle of the ocean, and we just sit and watch one predictable scene after another.

If you’ve never seen it, save yourself some time and just watch Dead Calm instead.

THE YOUNG CANNIBALS (2019)

Major points for starting a movie called The Young Cannibals with an all-out feasting fest: three guys in the woods, one refuses to eat humans, it doesn’t go good for the other two guys.

Then we meet a group of friends…you guessed it…heading into the woods. Along with a synth soundtrack throwback to 80s horror, the cute guy dancing and singing to the song “Violet” by H Bird while he’s driving is everything, and the song is so going to be on the next episode of my future flashbacks show.

 

The action kicks in quickly—the group is tricked into cannibalism during a barbecue and soon finds out why; there’s a monster in the woods that only hunts and kills cannibals.

This is a good old creature feature with a kick ass creature. There is just one problem…it should not run 100 minutes long. Once you set kids free in the woods with a monster, a slow burn is a bad idea. 10 – 15 minutes snipped from the center could have made this a much faster paced film. It takes way too long for the thrills and attacks to start, but once they do, this well-made film is back in business right to the end.

TONE DEAF (2019)

The director of Excision and Suburban Gothic goes political in a very timely fashion…which feels a bit forced to me considering we get literal “fucking millennials” and “fucking boomers” mic drops before all is said and done.

Tone Deaf just isn’t as quirky as his previous films, although it tries. The basic plot has a young woman getting away for a while after a breakup and being fired from her job all at once. One of her neighbors is Robert Patrick, who is simply crazy and thinks the world is going to shit because of young liberals.

So…he goes around beating people to death with a hammer. There are also dream and drug sequences. That’s about it. There’s not much of anything good beyond brutal kills going on here. Eventually he battles it out with the main girl.

Not even appearances by the likes of Ray Wise, Ray Santiago, and AnnaLynne McCord make this one particularly memorable.

I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD (2018)

The director of Bite and The Drownsman gives us a horror drama…that actually kept me riveted. It’s amazing to see an engrossing, character-driven, fast-paced story told in 90 minutes, especially considering I watched this right after the 250 torturous minutes of much lauded Midsommar—and that’s all I’ll ever say about that film beyond adding it to the stud stalking page since we see penis and man ass in it.

In I’ll Take Your Dead, a single father is raising his teen daughter on his farm and doing what must be done to keep a roof over her head…by disposing of dead bodies for people.

A bunch of thugs drops off several bodies, but when the farmer goes to prepare them for disposal, one victim is still alive. The farmer keeps her tied up while he tries to figure out what to do, and she attempts to strike up a relationship with his motherless daughter.

In what is an odd mix of Misery and Ghost, the film becomes a tale of loss, grief, morality, and even race and class as the lives of the three characters intertwine. At the same time, the family business seems to be haunting the young teen, who sees ghosts of the deceased, as well as a freaky demon being. The horror isn’t the driving force here, but it sure is creepy and effective.

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Halloween horrors and a Valentine song stealer

Although it’s February, I discovered a couple of Halloween selections on Prime that I had not seen. Meanwhile, Hulu offers a new “Valentine” installment of Into the Dark for February, and it’s the only one here that won’t be landing on my full list of holiday horror films. Here’s why.

SHARP CANDY (2019)

I’m always up for a low budget streaming service Halloween anthology series, especially since The Witching Season was a goodie.

Prime series Sharp Candy starts strong, with a total 80s vibe and synth score, and plenty of Halloween spirit. There is an effort to make all the stories come together, but the episodes become less impressive as they progress.

Episode 1 – a young woman refuses candy to a masked trick or treater she thinks is too old…and is then terrorized by a clown instead. That tablecloth is virtually the same one I have on my dining room table in October.

Episode 2 – it begins in a cornfield then jumps to a pawnshop, where a cute guy is advertising his Halloween inventory.

Sure it’s nice to see him tied up while wearing a tight T-shirt, but this one feels a little cheap, silly, and disjointed.

Episode 3 – on the way to a Halloween party, a young deaf woman is abducted by the not-so-scary clown from the first story, who talks way too much about his philosophy on killers and horror, especially considering his victim is deaf.

And don’t ask me why he has a jump rope made of penises—even if it is my favorite part (of the show).

Episode 4 – a tale of a student trying to get revenge on his high school principal on Halloween night, this one runs the longest at 28 minutes.

I think the production ran out of money, because the character spends way too much time at the end of the episode basically explaining to another character how the four tales connect.

MY VALENTINE (2020)

For its second February horror movie, Hulu’s Into The Dark series gives us a “what could have been” take on a bizarre and scandalous real-life Internet sensation (or two) in the music industry. If you don’t know the story of how producer Titanic Sinclair transferred the quirky video persona of his singer girlfriend Mars Argo to his new girlfriend Poppy, who grew even more popular with her weird, robotic video personality, then catch up by watching this intriguing recap video on YouTube.

 

Basically lawsuits, accusations of abuse, and restraining orders followed. That is where this fictional account picks up. This dark thriller filled with awesome pop songs and music videos may appeal most to those who are familiar with the true “bizarre love triangle”. The songs for the movie are performed by an artist named Dresage. Oddly enough, her usual music is more Mars Argo, while the stuff she did for the movie is more Poppy. Here’s Dresage as Dresage:

 

And here’s one of her “Trezzure/Valentine” tracks as lip-synced in the movie:

 

As for the plot, Valentine has had her identity stolen by her ex-boyfriend/producer Royal and his new girl Trezzure, so she’s attempting to rebuild her career, starting in a small venue, where she must face both her true fans and those who think she is the phony.

But then Royal shows up, despite the restraining order, with Trezzure in tow.

As the night unfolds, real motivations are revealed, the pop hits keep spinning, and things turn violent and deadly in a splash of campy flickering footage, neon colors, split screen, and booming bass beats.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the “sides” taken in this film fan the flames of the online Mars/Titanic/Poppy wars, which still haven’t wound down. If only this fiction were fact, the ongoing drama would finally be beaten to death for good.

Meanwhile, although one of the characters is named Valentine and there are a lot of hearts in the music videos, I believe this film isn’t even set on Valentine’s Day.

DOLL FACTORY (2014)

I’ll say right up front that I ordered the DVD of this one before it was even over. I was expecting a low budget killer doll movie, not the funny little Halloween killer doll horror comedy that unfolded.

It opens on Halloween 1976, with a sheriff, his deputy, and a black dude right out of a 1970s blaxploitation film fighting killer dolls behind the specks and tears of a grindhouse movie filter. The sheriff is really cute.

Well, at first…

In the present day, kids at a Halloween party decide to visit an abandoned doll factory with a spell book to see if they can conjure up some ghosts.

It all seems pretty typical and cheesy at first, but since I didn’t realize this was a horror comedy, once the dolls show up and the kids begin dropping funny one-liners in reaction to being hacked to pieces, I was wickedly surprised.

Not to be overshadowed, the killer dolls are just as quirky and silly.

They all look alike, talk with high-pitched voices, and have loads of fun collecting souls for their “master” while smoking pot, being sexual perverts, and delivering super gory kills that don’t rely on CGI.

I can even overlook some minor shit humor because everything else is so up my Halloween horror comedy alley.

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Gay horror, thriller, and comedy overload

Just when I finally decided to break down and watch some titles I’d not yet seen that are on my complete homo horror movies list, a few new and unexpected ones came my way, so here’s a smorgasbord of 6 films focusing on gay guys—starting with the silly and moving to the (hopefully) scary.

YETI: A LOVE STORY (2006)


It’s no surprise the Troma intro kicks off this film. What’s more surprising is that it’s probably worse than most Troma films, mostly because despite having some raunchy humor and running only about 70 minutes long, it’s boring on top of being dumb.

A cult sacrifices young men to the Yeti in the woods…for anal rape. A group of campers begins getting killed off, but then one of the guys falls in love with Yeti and gives up his ass willingly. In the meantime, his friends hatch a plan to stop the cult.

The bright side is there’s no fart humor. But man is this movie slow. Dialogue is not funny, there’s an “old man” character that is just a person in an old man mask, the Bigfoot mask is a bad ape mask, and about all that I enjoyed was the adolescent sex stuff—especially Yeti getting a hand job.

Definitely reminded me of the trashy sex in my Comfort Cove gay horror novel series…there just wasn’t enough of it.

ANOTHER YETI A LOVE STORY: LIFE ON THE STREETS (2017)

It took over ten years, but a sequel finally arrived. While I prefer the first film’s plot from a “horror” perspective, in terms of a trashy exploitation flick about a dude and a gay Yeti getting it on, the sequel does way better.

I appreciate it for the excessive pervy sex scenes that were lacking in the original film, but the story, while ripe for sexploitation, is beyond absurd.

The guy from the first film is now in a relationship with a guy in a wheelchair, and together they are raising the Yeti baby he had with the Yeti.

The Yeti is now a junky on the streets.

There’s a skanky strip club and a pimp dude who will do anything to keep his stripper whores enslaved.

The Yeti and his former human lover must reunite to save their family.

The film is much more gay-friendly than the first film, but there is a pretty darn tacky, flippant attitude towards HIV. Like I said, I’m so glad this one had pervy sex scenes.

POLTERGAY (2006)

It took me so long to commit to watching this French gay ghost movie because I expected it to be along the lines of the Yeti movies. If it were an American film, it probably would have been. Instead, it’s a campy, cute, sexy comedy without any gross-out humor. I adored it and ordered the DVD for my personal collection of gay horror films.

A straight couple moves into a wonderfully creepy old house, and the husband, who is sizzling hot, begins to hear disco music at night and noticing other odd signs of them not being alone—like penis graffiti.

The mischief continues, and it’s pretty clear why he’s got these ghosts…

Soon he encounters a gaggle of gay ghosts from the 1970s that his wife can’t see, so she thinks he’s crazy.

He befriends the disco queens that party nightly in his basement, calls in an expert to help them cross over, argues with them about reversed intolerance, and gets their help in recapturing the magic with his wife.

What astounds me is that there are reviews on Prime trashing this film for being dated, playing into gay stereotypes, and being homophobic. I can’t believe how far the gay community has fallen since the 90s—the last decade when we had a sense of humor and were able to laugh out ourselves, poke fun at our stereotypes, and just enjoy a campy, funny, sexy movie that actually shows a straight man and his gay ghost buddies finding common ground and working together to make their existences better, right down to the upbeat, feel good ending.

STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013)

This is another French film it took me years to watch…because I was pretty confident it was barely going to pass as a thriller, let alone horror.

It passes mostly as a softcore porn, and a boring one at that. Supposedly the film was originally like 140 minutes long before the director pared it down to 100 minutes. He should have just kept trimming.

In short, a young man goes to a cruising beach, befriends an old “straight” dude, watches and has lots of explicit sex (including an actual hand job with cum shot), and romantically pursues a guy even after seeing him drown another guy. Hey, If I saw a guy this pretty smiling with his face buried in another guy’s ass, I’d probably want to marry him, too.

Anyway, the movie continues to creep along, an old dude detective keeps popping out of the bushes to ask questions, and we just wait and wait and wait for all hell to break loose.

Right at the end there’s a brief and way too dark chase scene, plus a few more bodies, but it’s not satisfying enough for this horror fan.

The film is more notable for exploring issues concerning gay men searching for casual, anonymous sex, from the threat of diseases to the risks taken when desperate due to being closeted or lonely.

The most compelling thing to me about the film is how it manages to present characters with distinctly different motivations and depth beyond being horny.

THE SIREN (2019)

This is a haunting film that manages to create unnerving suspense without exploiting visual horror elements.

A beautiful mute man comes to stay at a house by the lake, and we immediately begin to dread the water…and the sense that some sort of creature lurks in its depths and comes out at night.

The mute man meets a gay man who is convinced a monster in the lake took his missing husband. He also meets a pretty woman who swims around the water outside the house. As they fall in love and start a relationship, she struggles to fight the urge to do to him what she does to other men she seduces…

The gay guy narrates, but the film is focused more on the straight relationship. However, it is chilling when the gay guy realizes what the woman is; her warmth comes and goes in an instant, and we can feel that she’s a monster.

Just the fact that neither man questions where she comes from and why she just hangs out in the water all the time adds a subtle authenticity to the idea that she’s a siren they can’t resist.

The film is tragic, dark, and frightening and doesn’t wear out its welcome as it runs only 80 minute long.

BOOGEYMAN COMETH (2013)


I found Boogeyman Cometh to be an oddly charming, wickedly engrossing little indie slasher with a freaky as hell killer, numerous suspenseful chase scenes, brutal kills, a quirky tone and sense of humor, and a curiously gay subplot. The only downsides—it is so obvious from the start who the killer is, and absolutely none of the plot points presented ever come together to complete a thought.

An effeminate older black man is the boss of a young white guy who likes to blow shit up, but it’s never clear what their job is.

The older man also rents a house to the younger guy and his family. The pair is oddly close, and you would swear the older guy has the hots for the younger guy.

Meanwhile, the freaky killer, in a hazmat mask that registers the current number of kills inside the visor but doesn’t hide a head of Jheri curls, is stalking and slicing up women in the streets with a razor glove that would make even Super Freddy envious. Also, the young guy’s wife and son keep seeing the killer at their window.

Along with funky camerawork, there’s loads of focus on bugs on screen, constant references to the black guy’s sexuality, fog machines, and growls coming from the killer, which eventually does speak in a demonic voice.

Right up to the crazy babysitter scene in the final act, Boogeyman Cometh is such a fun, sleazy slasher with huge potential for a blatantly gay storyline, but dammit, not a single thing makes any sense at the end, and so this one lands a spot on the does the gay guy die? list with The Siren instead of the homo horror movies page.

Nothing is explained, the gay subplot fails to live up to its promise, and I don’t even think a sequel could fix that. Despite all that, I would love to add Boogeyman Cometh to my DVD collection, but it seems it never made it to physical media.

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PRIME TIME: three kinds of monster hunters

Zombie-killing stoners, vampire slayers, and a ghost terrorizing a masked psycho. Three very different films…so which was my fave?

BONG OF THE LIVING DEAD (2017)

I’ve never been stoned, but if this stoner zomcom is any indication of how mellow and boring it makes you, I’m glad.

I can never understand how movies that seem to have all the potential in the world get made and no one along the way admits that it just isn’t working.

The plot is simple. A group of stoners, friends since childhood, hangs out in a house and occasionally fights zombies.

There’s promise at first. We meet them, they work at a video store, there’s some sex. Then they start with the excessive meta talk about zombies and it begins falling apart.

You would think an hour of mostly talk would help build their characters, but not even interspersed clips of them playing together as children creates the nostalgia this seems to be going for. Everything that could have played a part in the fun of the movie feels underplayed and irrelevant, from the video store to the pot. Although, I’m all about irrelevant man ass, which I freeze-framed for me…uh…you.

With only twenty minutes left, there’s finally zombie action. It actually feels jarring because I simply wasn’t prepared for a sudden burst of energy complete with raucous metal music and a weapon preparation montage.

On the bright side, we get to stare at cutie Dan Nye of The Legend of Wasco and Harvest Lake for most of the movie.

RED SPRING (2017)

The Director of Red Spring also stars in it, and I’ll give him props for a valiant effort. The film is competently made with plenty of character development, varying locations, and car chase scenes.

The real issue here is that there simply isn’t anything new. Whether the plague is vampires or zombies, these films about a group of survivors existing in the aftermath are all exactly the same. For instance, this one is like The Walking Dead meets I Am Legend.

The survivors have a camp. There are certain times when they can go scavenge for supplies. They welcome a new survivor into the fold. One of the characters is injured and becomes incapacitated for the remainder of the film. The camp is infiltrated. They must battle the baddies and find an escape route. They inevitably hope to get to a boat. The group is slowly whittled down to just a few main characters.

The only thing that can make these films stand out is the monster design…and unfortunately they are not the critters shown in the artwork. The vamps are simply people in white foundation with black raccoon circles around the eyes.

COLD MOON (2016)

I became a fan of Griff Furst from the moment I saw him as the lead in Dead Men Walking, one of my favorite zombie prison films. He has clearly been paying attention while working in the industry over the years, because Cold Moon is such a tightly crafted, mixed subgenre film. Furst also wrote the film, which is based on a novel by the writer of Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The small town tone, the characters, the masked killer aspects, and the otherworldly creeps that terrorize one of the characters all bring to mind the video game Deadly Premonition.

Cold Moon takes place in 1989, but in this small town, it feels like the 1950s. A killer in a black mask is on the loose, and when bodies start turning up , leading the sheriff into an investigation. But be warned…the killer is mostly no secret to the audience.

This is a film about a ghost girl and other supernatural creeps terrorizing the killer, including one that I swear is a nod to Beetlejuice.

Movies with the bad guy being tormented are usually a turnoff for me, but the bike-less, cycling ghost girl that floats around town is all this movie needed, because it’s freaky as hell.

As a bonus, the cast is great, including plenty of horror alum, like Christopher Lloyd, Josh Stewart (The Collector movies), Candy Clark – a horror queen since the 80s, and Robbie Kay of Blood Fest.

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PRIME TIME: a quick foursome in a variety of subgenres

Since there’s no lost gem to celebrate here, I’ll make this quick as I look at four films I’ve watched recently: a dark comedy, a vampire film, a slashers, and a found footage backwoods horror.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES (2019)

Watching the trailer for this one I was excited at what I thought might be the first juicy dark comedy teen flick I’ve seen in a while in the tradition of Jawbreaker and Heathers.

Sadly, everything in the ridiculously long trailer is about as edgy as it gets. It’s not that the plot is lacking or the cast is weak, it’s just that the film has no energy, and the vibe it’s going for seems to miss the beat. Everything just falls flat.

The film is about a high school teen who kills his classmates’ pain in the ass, embarrassing, affluent parents for money.

A detective investigating the “accidents” is on to the teen very quickly, but no one believes him. So it becomes a battle of wits between the two.

If only it were as enthralling and quirky as it sounds. Even the kills just happen with no build-up or suspense. They just happen, like split-second, unexpected accidents. Bummer.

BLOOD TYPE (2019)

This film only runs 58 minutes long and is listed as “in production” on IMDb, so I’m guessing the makers ran out of funds and salvaged what they completed just so they could release it. The sudden ending that ties up nothing suggests the same thing.

The story is about a burly man who wakes in a cave only to discover there has been an outbreak of some sort of vampire infection…and he might be the answer to questions being asked by a scientist in a survivor community he joins.

It’s melodramatic with lots of talking, but we do get a handful of vamps, and they’re pretty cool looking. And I’m all about the high burly body count—from men to monsters, including vampire nipple action.

There was some good potential here. However, considering you’ve seen vamps like these in more complete films, you’re better off watching Stake Land instead.

FINAL CUT (2019)


Final Cut is well made—the film quality doesn’t scream low budget indie—but it does come across as a movie created by someone who grew up on meta slashers of the late 90s.

After a screenwriting student’s script is stolen, he and his friends hurriedly come up with a horror movie idea and begin shooting. But then a real killer shows up in their killer’s welding mask costume and begins hunting them down.

There is a lot of talk for the first thirty minutes, with loads of horror movie name-dropping.

Dude! Make good choices! He’s so not dead…

Once the killing kicks in it is a serviceable slasher, but despite only running 70 minutes long, it feels like it just keeps going and going. And the denouement is really derivative of Scream-era slashers.

BLOOD MOON RIVER (2017)


This short, 61-minute found footage movie begins with two lesbians having sex in the woods. It’s my favorite scene, delivering the best horror moments, and I’m not talking about the carpet-munching. Wait…if most women shave bald down there these days, does that make it floor-licking?

A group of friends rolls in to film a video debunking the legend of Blood Moon River, where people have been disappearing for years.

There’s a dip in a pond, an encounter with crazy rednecks, and lots of running and screaming with shaky cam. Conveniently there’s a camera focused on everyone as they die, but I’m not complaining, because bloody victims are the highlight here, and it is nice to seem some gratuitous tit action even though I’m not into tits, because I miss the days when every horror movie had to have nudity.

The film temporarily ramps up to low budget Texas Chainsaw territory with an odd twist that is barely explained because the movie comes to an abrupt end right after it feels like it’s about to promise something really bad.

 

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The Triple Clown

If there’s a clown movie on a streaming service, chances are I’m going to drop it in my watchlist. So happens I dropped three in my Prime watchlist recently. Here’s how that turned out when I did a clown triple feature…

CLOWN OF THE DEAD (2015)

Clown of the Dead is an Indonesian film, and it’s dubbed on Amazon Prime, so when I first heard the bad dubbing, I was thinking it was going to be a bad movie.

It wasn’t bad! The biggest problem really was the dubbing, because a lot of this film is talk. I think the intention is to build an ominous tone, and at moments I felt like it did, but considering we don’t actually see a clown until halfway through the movie, the bad dubbing that carries much of the story become monotonous.

The film also seems like a simple attempt to mimic many of the clown movies that have hit the market in recent years, right down to a moment when one single red balloon floats by. Sigh. Even so, the familiar territory is comfortable territory.

A young boy sneaks into a carnival opening next to his tenement apartment building and steals a music box.

When he opens it, he unleashes the spirit of the clown version of Freddy Krueger…that we don’t see until the 47-minute mark when he pops up in a Lights Out rip-off scene.

Once the devilish looking clown finally starts materializing and terrorizing the tenants, there are plenty of good, cheap jump scares to make up for it being so derivative.

CLOWN MOTEL (2019)

The intro scene of Clown Motel felt a little silly—a group of thieves burns down a literal clown motel in the desert—so it left me with low expectations.

However, it quickly became more my speed. A trio of ghost hunter guys in an RV crosses paths with a group of girls on a pre-wedding road trip, and they all crash together at an abandoned clown motel in the desert.

So I guess these are clown ghosts. They sabotage the vehicles then terrorize the group and keep them trapped in their room. I’d be okay with that considering there’s a cutie in a towel…

But it wouldn’t be any horror fun if members of the group didn’t begin going out one by one in an attempt to escape. There’s some satisfying low budget gore, and the cast is quite likable.

I was most entertained by one of the guys that comes off as a sort of ambiguously queer pothead. He’s very comfortable being chummy with one of his buddies, although his sexuality and the depth of their friendship are never clarified. However, when he walks in on a clown jerking off and films it, we soon discover we might be dealing with a gay clown ghost rapist.

Another highlight is Ari Lehman, the original drowning Jason Voorhees, who steals the show as a clown in a brief attack scene that is both funny and brutal.

The clown plot is a bit messy, which I had no problem overlooking since the movie is entertaining overall, but it feels like it goes on too long, with a desert chase eventually becoming a cave chase, both of which hinder the momentum.

GAGS THE CLOWN (2018)

It’s no small feat to make the oversaturated subgenres of clown and found footage horror good on their own. Yet, first time director Adam Krause makes a found footage clown horror all in one, and it held my attention from start to finish, which means I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

Krause takes the real-life trending stories from a few years ago of a mysterious clown spooking locals in small towns…and makes him a psycho killer. Admit it—that’s everything you were hoping the real story would turn out to be. Come on, just admit it. Am I alone here?

Anyway, the plot follows various groups as they are all affected by the newsworthy story of the creepy clown: kids at a party, two cops on patrol, a right wing radio personality, and a reporter and her sidekick.

The random clown attack scenes are perfectly creepy, but this is also quite humorous in tone, and the characters are mostly quite likable.

Naturally the conservative douche is ridiculously stereotypical, hating the gays and abortion and wanting to take back the country by killing anything that doesn’t look or think exactly like him. In other words, he’s incredibly realistic.

Lauren Ashley Carter (Jug Face, Darlin’, The Woman) is the main reporter, there are plenty of cute guys, there’s a Killer Klowns from Outer Space reference, and the film even manages to do something memorable with its final act and final scene. Gags is definitely the one film in this trio that need to be in my personal collection.

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PRIME TIME: trapped inside four times

I’m so far behind on all my streaming watchlists because my pups Romy and Michele are too much fun to ignore, so I’m just going through the movies in the order I added them into my lists. Here are the next four from Prime—a killer chasing girls in a house, a scare prank show gone wrong, a sequel to Offspring and The Woman, and an indie flick about a demonic afterparty—and there was some satisfying stuff going on in each film.

ALL I NEED (2016)


All I Need is a rather repetitive film about girls bound and gagged in a bedroom by a masked killer, but it has a few suspense scenes that I feel make it worth the watch.

The opening close-up of an unconscious girl drags on so long I thought my streaming service had frozen. But when she does finally move, she discovers where she’s ended up—although we don’t know how or why.

We do, however, soon find out what is to become of the girls. The main girl begins working with one fellow captive after another in an attempt to escape. Unfortunately, the killer keeps coming back in to mess up their plans.

Meanwhile, there is a side plot about a man so desperate for money he begins taking odd jobs. The segments focusing on him are quite bland, you figure out quickly where this is going to lead, and in the end it just feels unnecessary and irrelevant to our main girl’s real concerns.

Even so, this is a tightly crafted indie, and a long, unnerving vent scene alone is worth scooting to the edge of your seat for. The final girl’s last confrontation with the killer is also a goodie.

SCARE CAMPAIGN (2016)

From the directors of 100 Bloody Acres, Scare Campaign is an entertaining prank-show-gone-horribly-wrong flick with high production value, plenty of twists, great gore effects, brutal kills, and satisfying scares.

I’m convinced the opening scene was inspired by the eerie springboard moment in the Asian horror film Infection. In other words—it’s an effective way to start a film.

The main plot concerns an Internet scare prank show production team with some competition. A new show featuring a masked gang committing gruesome murders is getting all the hits. So the prank show crew is told by their boss to push the envelope by coming up with more extreme scares.

For the first show, they decide to fuck with a guy who works at an old mental hospital. A guy who’s a little off. Actually, more than a little off, which they discover when they begin to send their actors out into the creepy old place to scare him.

The bloody fun comes with plenty of chase scenes, suspense, and hardcore kills. Plus, the plot keeps changing course, so this is more than just a typical, straightforward slasher.

DARLIN’ (2019)

Pollyanna McIntosh, who starred as “the woman” in both Offspring and The Woman, not only reprises her role for this sequel, but also directs. Kudos to her for crafting a well-produced film that takes on biggies like religion and #metoo.

A feral teen shows up at a hospital where Jerry of The Walking Dead works. A bishop comes to take her away for rehabilitation…because he wants her to be the miracle that saves his church from going under.

Much of the movie focuses on the girl’s impossibly quick conversion into a domesticated, well-spoken teen devoted to God (there is even an oddly out of place montage with an upbeat pop song). And it’s obvious where things are heading between the girl and the sleazy bishop trying to help her find God….

Meanwhile, “the woman” is back, and she’s on the prowl, trying to reunite with the girl. She supplies us with all the bloody killing of random people, and eventually gets welcomed into an activist women’s group.

The plot definitely makes a bit of a bizarre continuation of this franchise, but it brings the storyline of the trilogy full circle as the exploited, feral women finally invade civilization and get the ultimate revenge. While Darlin’ is a little slow in the middle, a big, angry feminist party gifts us with a delicious, chaotic church service scene.

SACRIFICIAL FRESHMEN  (2011)


The title alone was enough for me to check out Sacrifical Freshmen. When it begins with a dude waking up naked in a creepy building not remembering what happened at a party the night before, I was ready to have a party of my own.

He soon meets up with a goth girl, a man with a bat searching for his daughter, a crazy homeless priest who insists the devil is inside the building, and a biology teacher looking for a logical explanation as to why they are all trapped there. So begins the battle between religion and science as they try to figure out how to escape their situation.

The initial midnight movie feel had me psyched for a silly scary time.

The naked geeky kid and goth girl are a great horror duo, and the immediate appearance of cheesy demon faces and demon babies were a blast.

Sacrificial Freshman just seems to put a little too much effort into creating a complex tale behind the party and everyone in it. All the flashback exposition takes away from the initial campy horror vibe and becomes plodding and melodramatic. It also features a cameo by Lloyd Kaufman, but thankfully it’s brief and bearable.

By the time the focus returns to the naked kid and goth girl fighting the evil at the end, the film had mostly lost me.

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An unapologetic perspective on the horrors of Jeffrey Dahmer

Previously, prolific horror exploitation director Pete Jacelone (I cover much of his output here) has indulged in making explicitly repulsive, fictional homo-horrotic takes on real life serial killer John Wayne Gacy (my blog here).

The Cannibal Killer: The Real Story of Jeffrey Dahmer is prefaced with a message letting us know a) this is a fictionalized account, b) the intention is not to disrespect the families of the victims, and c) the stance in making this fictionalized account is nonetheless an effort to present the facts of Dahmer’s story.

Don’t get me wrong. The Cannibal Killer is still sure to offend plenty of viewers, but it is more of a low budget docuhorror than his previous efforts, which seemed to have one goal—to make us squirm with shock and disgust.

Being quite familiar with the stories of the serial killers Pete tackles, I noticed immediately that as fucked up as his other films are, the Dahmer story is much more disturbing because it’s presented as an intimate journey with the killer through his crimes—told to us by Dahmer as he looks right at the camera like a cast member on a reality show in confessional clips.

Starting with Dahmer’s attraction to dead animals as a child, the film briefly touches upon incidents leading to “the making of a serial killer”.

There is definitely revisionist fiction here, but it is still a disturbing reminder of how an actual person could morph into a monster, and how a man’s loathing of his own sexual orientation can serve as a catalyst for unthinkable horrors.

Watching the sexualizing of Dahmer’s encounters with each victim is extremely uncomfortable to say the least—as it should be, because just as with the Gacy case, it’s hard to imagine how Dahmer was able to “seduce” his victims before flipping a switch that turned on his ability to do heinous things to them.

The movie doesn’t hold back, showing Dahmer gleefully killing, cooking, and eating victims.

Dahmer also delves into his technique of making men into “zombies” by drilling into their heads then pouring acid into their brains.

The scenes are crafted to be a brutal depiction of what may have transpired once Dahmer’s victims were in his apartment, yet I still didn’t feel they simply resorted to gore so disgusting you want to puke. Maybe because I’ve kind of scene it all in horror before at this point. Not sure. Depending on how you look at it, the scenes may seem to be glorifying the murders because they are so shamelessly graphic compared to the way they’re handled in other Dahmer movies. For me they’re so sleazy and sick that they also have a major impact when you stop to think it’s close to what victims of Dahmer and many other serial killers go through in the last moments of their lives.

Outside of Dahmer and his victims, there are a few scenes featuring other characters, but they feel a little off in tone. There’s an oddly, darkly humorous instance when Dahmer’s grandmother makes a surprise discovery.

And a scene based on a factual aspect of the Dahmer story has one of his zombified boys escaping and begging two women on the street for help. Compared to the raw quality of the kill scenes, the low budget indie quality here makes the situation come across more like a goofy game of charades. Not to mention the fact-based encounter is rather whitewashed; everyone involved is Caucasian, which wasn’t the case in reality.

The final act of The Cannibal Killer plays out as a series of his pickups turned murder, so it does begin to get a bit repetitive and feel exploitative, but an unexpected occurrence throws Dahmer off his game at the end. The final scene makes for a rather disheartening comment on how Dahmer’s inability to tame the monster inside and just enjoy a well-adjusted life led to the tragic deaths of so many innocent young men.

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PRIME TIME: taking a break from the fun for a serious triple feature

I’ve suddenly noticed my Prime watchlist is filling up with darker selections, so I took a break from the good time horror for a change to go a little deeper—as much as I could take without letting it get me down in the dead of winter, although I have to wonder if SAD is currently dictating what I do put in my watchlist to begin with. Either way, let’s get into these three!

THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)

The Hole in the Ground has a great atmospheric look and feel, and the initial ominous tone is promising, but very few moments pay off, which is extremely frustrating.

A mother and her young son live in a house in the country. Right from the start she begins looking at everything around her as mysterious, as if something is not quite right, but she can’t put her finger on it. This happens over and over: mom looks afraid, tension builds, nothing happens, cut to new scene. Argh!

While out in the woods with her son, mom finds this huge hole in the ground.

Then the son begins acting creepy and weird. The mom becomes convinced he’s no longer her son. There are definitely a few incredibly effective and frightening scenes with the boy, but the film eventually has to resort to dream sequence scares to keep us invested.


For the disjointed final act, scene cuts are used to basically teleport the story around, somehow landing us down in underground caves. It feels like we’ve suddenly been plunged into The Descent, however this is the movie’s big zinger moment, which is much more inspired by a body-napping classic that has been remade, reimagined, and rebooted numerous times.

The Hole in the Ground easily could have been branded under that franchise even though the parallels are thrust upon us like the surprise twist at the end of a Twilight Zone episode rather than unfolding throughout the course of the film.

THE TREK (2008)

I’m surprised this movie has been so overlooked for more than a decade, but I can imagine it missed its opportunity for infamy due to the first 35 grueling minutes of its short 75-minute run time. I kind of understood the purpose of that first act, but it is asking a lot of a horror audience to stick with it to get to the heinous backwoods horror film crammed into the second half.

The film has a gritty 1970s horror movie feel (The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), beginning with introductory text and voiceover about a young couple that has gone missing mysteriously while on a hike in the woods.

There are various interview clips with family and friends interspersed with scenes of the couple just walking through the woods—while unbearable folk music plays—talking about life, love, and their future together. These first 35 minutes establishing the two characters also paint a portrait of humanity and the simple things that matter in civilized society.

And then the horror hits—hard. It knocks the Wrong Turn concept on its ass in a very short and relentless amount of time.

I can’t say much of anything without spoiling everything, and even though it’s a message we’ve seen before in horror, it’s brutally sadistic and nasty here, so the horror delivers the goods to gore hounds just as much as it does to those who insist that every horror movie has to communicate a political agenda.

Be prepared for a pretty extreme moment in the final few minutes of the film. And by that I mean that it comes after the moment that you’ll think I’m talking about. There’s also a tag scene halfway through the closing credits, which I personally felt wasn’t necessary.

THE WARP (2013)

Running only 70 minutes long, The Warp is a trippy film with some layered themes if you take the time to think about it. While it has a low budget look and feel, the tone really reminded me of the acclaimed horror fave Session 9, only with more blood and gore. No, I’m not saying it’s as good as Session 9, I’m just saying it gave me that vibe, so if that’s your type of movie, you might want to check this one out.

A young woman assembles a team to do a ghost-hunting job at a factory. The location is quite creepy and the camera work builds a sense of dread as the team sets up shop, all of them exploring the desolate rooms and halls on their own. However…there are some areas of the building that are restricted.

But when has a little yellow tape stopped anyone from doing something stupid in a horror movie?

One guy on the team seems off right from the start, so the factory begins affecting him the most. He has episodes in which he’s being told by a group of mysterious men to do awful things. But are they real, is he suffering delusions, are there really ghosts, or is it a bit of all three?

You’ll just have to watch and decide for yourself, although I do think there’s some specific exposition at the beginning of the film that spells things out too much instead of allowing our minds to mess with us.

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Turn your head and cough – the Demon Doctor is in

A demonologist, a detective, bears, a psychic medium, demons, witches, horny devils…

This campy gay web series is a little bit Angel, a little bit Charmed, and a little bit Where The Bears Are.

It’s sexy but not too sexy, so don’t expect more than bellies and bear boobs.

And perhaps some demon throating…

Watch the series on YouTube.

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