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.
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.
I’m working off my watchlists with no rhyme or reason at the moment as I desperately squeeze in anything I can to watch in between my new pups Romy and Michele pouncing on my head. So “Prime horrors” is the only theme I’ve got with these three very different films—a gory SyFy style creature feature, a horny teens horror, and a psycho stalker flick.
DIRE WOLF (2009)
Fred Olen Ray gives us your standard 2000s SyFy monster movie vibe with one exception—this shit rox the practical gore effects! That makes me wonder why he felt the need to use CGI blood splashes when there was already loads of fake blood flowing.
The cheesy setup is classic SyFy. A small town local sheriff played by a familiar face to those who were around like 4 decades ago (Maxwell Caulfield of Grease 2 this time) is on the case when a monster escapes a lab and terrorizes rednecks in the woods, forcing the sheriff to team up with special government agents to hunt it down.
The story doesn’t really even matter. Right from the start we see the werewolf-esque beast (costume, not CGI), which attacks relentlessly and makes people into shredded pork sandwiches. It’s all about the repetitive, super gory kills.
On hand is horror veteran Ian Patrick Williams and Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers fame (again, for those who were around like 4 decades ago). Not to mention, a character actually says “cotton pickin’ minute”.
7 DEADLY SINS (2019)
This silly little film feels like direct-to-DVD horror circa 2003. It’s a disjointed mess that pads the runtime with too many party montages before getting to the “let’s plays a spirit communication game” moment that triggers the horror.
No idea how the opening scene relates to the rest of the movie, but it is soon followed by a flashback featuring Tom Sizemore in a loony bin…another scene with little relevance to the rest of the movie.
We then meet a bunch of teens of mixed race, and despite the movie being directed by a black guy, wouldn’t you know it’s the black guy that gets arrested for drug possession. It only makes sense, therefore, that Eric Roberts shows up as the judge who sentences him.
Naturally the kids have to party and have sex once more before their buddy gets sent away for five years. It’s fun to watch how committed the young cast is to acting goofy and funny (to the point of annoying) through the various party scenes, but the fun wears off, because with so many skanks in thongs around the pool, it starts to feel like a crunk video…circa 2003.
Eventually a Mexican girl convinces the kids to play a spirit summoning game called Charlie, Charlie.
They break the rules. Everyone begins acting weird, seeing weird things, and doing weird things. It’s kind of like Night of the Demons without demons. Charlie Charlie does show up, but way too late in the game, and he looks like a kid who has been working in the coal mine.
And then…the blonde bimbo final girl suddenly gets all religious, praying to Jesus and shit. WTF?
And to make things even more confusing, a twist that makes no sense comes in at the end and brings with it about ten seconds of gore (finally) in flashback kills.
THE FANATIC (2019)
This movie is bashed on the Internet, but I found it ridiculously entertaining. When I see comments on the web like “watch The Fan with Wesley Snipes instead”, or “watch Misery instead”, that tells me the negative social media trolls (basically everyone at this point) just wanted a suspense thriller exactly like all the rest.
The whole point of The Fanatic, and what makes it better as it progresses, is that it’s not a predictable film. John Travolta goes for the Gilbert Grape vibe as a slightly off man obsessed with a movie star played by Devon Sawa of Final Destination, who has grown into quite a piece of beefcake in the past two decades.
As Sawa rejects Travolta’s “advances” (homoerotic undertones are undeniable), John becomes more and more agitated and violent, making us think we know exactly where this is going. It sort of does, but not quite. And as unpredictable as I just said the film is, maybe it is predictable after all, because at one point I turned to my hubba hubba and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the usual, the film went (spoiler omitted) way instead?”
My only issue with The Fanatic is that the build-up to the final confrontation is longer than the actual denouement, which is so deliciously brutal and loaded with surprises and horror references that it really should have been a much more substantial segment.
Fred Durst directed the film, which was inspired by an actual case of someone stalking him, and I personally think it so delightfully egotistical that he has Devon Sawa blast a Limp Bizkit song and rave about how cool it was listening to the band when he was younger. The only thing that could have made this scene any 90s meta better was if “Stan” by Eminem came on right after and Sawa totally dissed it.
Although he’s not as cute as my vindictive gay Cupid, this creature is definitely my kind of love demon, and he does what we need him to do in this holiday horror flick; he tears into students on Valentine’s Day with not only his bow and arrow, but other iconic symbols of the holiday, like roses and love letters. The use of holiday cookie cutters is cool as well, but I’ve suddenly seen the same idea in at least two other movies I’ve blogged about in the last few years.
As a prelude to the good stuff, a generally unnecessary voiceover narrative gives us Cupid’s backstory as drawings appear on the pages of an old book. This goes on for about five minutes before we get to the first gruesome kill and a full Monty appearance of our winged killer.
Next we meet an Abigail Breslin clone who casts a spell to capture the heart of her hot teacher.
She’s hot for teacher, I’m hot for principal.
When the best bitch I’ve seen in a horror movie in years bullies the main girl right before the Valentine’s Day dance, the main girl does a revenge spell that goes horribly wrong.
Theoretically Cupid is everything you might want in a Valentine’s Day horror film.
But alas, the gory kills and gruesome looking creature can’t mask the fact that something is just off. The overall tone is flat, with every aspect of the movie falling short of the necessary energy to keep the pace and deliver the kind of horror excitement I crave.
The score is a lilting melody that lacks the urgency to build suspense. Sound effects don’t pack a wallop. The lighting, while dipping into the perfect horror hues, is visually stagnant, so it doesn’t provide the atmospheric shadows or contrasts between dark and light to help set the mood.
Aside from one guy giving me a giggle with his girlish screams, the actors’ reactions to the horrific situations aren’t amplified enough and the dialogue is downright weird at times. For instance, someone seriously says, “Who goes there?” I actually think this and a few other lines might be wink wink moments, because the students are studying Shakespeare in class. Even if that is the case, the possible in-jokes as well as occasional humorous lines just feel out of place, because this is not a horror comedy.
I’d say definitely check this one out for the holiday spirit and the bloody bits, but don’t expect Cupid to get your heart racing. It hits DVD and digital on February 11th from Uncork’d Entertainment, just in time for the holiday.
It’s so unfortunate that the zombie genre has been absolutely decimated by overkill. I miss the days (aka: the 1970s and 1980s) when living dead films were so rare that when a new one finally rolled around it was totally satisfying. Now we are bombarded by rehashes, remakes, reboots, rip-offs, desperate attempts at unique approaches, and trashy comedy spoofs. Sooooo…let’s get into the four I fought to get through this time.
Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL (2007)
Add this one to the list of zombie musicals that just don’t work for me. Within minutes I knew it was too much of a trashy, Troma-esque mess for my tastes…so I kept watching. What can I say? The theme was offensive enough for me to kind of appreciate the campy, raunchy silliness for a while.
After being bitten by a zombie dog, three naked, singing nuns are welcomed into Zomburbia, where there’s singing, dancing, sex, men in drag, lesbianism—the debauchery is delightful, and I appreciate that people are still willing to put their hearts into creating these types of low budget comedies.
However, these are also the types of films that I feel lose their edge quickly. They go on too long and go nowhere in the process. It’s just endless absurdity, forgettable spoof songs, and bad dance numbers. And in this case, a ridiculous take on the zombie genre.
While I can give the film credit for trying to capture the feel of trashy John Waters era films, just as I was thinking “at least they’re not resorting to fart humor”, the farts began to fly. If fart humor tickles your sphincter, then perhaps this is the level of film that’s right up your alley. For me, even a visit to a church with an S&M club in the basement and plenty of man wiener couldn’t fix the fact that this one grows stale before the halfway mark.
MY UNCLE JOHN IS A ZOMBIE (2016)
John Russo, writer of the original Night of the Living Dead, writes and co-directs this farce about Uncle John, a zombie that has regained his human faculties and is both a hero to the liberal left and a horror to the conservative right. It’s one of many reminders that Russo should have just spent the past fifty years riding the wave of his original masterpiece instead of trying to create anything new.
Very little of the comedy is funny in this thinly connected montage of scenes telling the story, from TV interviews to sponsorship ads Uncle John scores as he becomes the poster child for zombie rights. He is also targeted by red neck hunters, a woman who believes zombies are fakes, and an extremist reverend that thinks zombies are worse than gay people.
Even with all the unveiled attempts at social and political commentary, the takeaway for me was that Uncle John still has his sex drive—a joke the film keeps falling back on.
Tiffany Shepis cashes a paycheck as a news reporter, Lloyd Kaufman gets his stink on the film in a brief appearance with Toxie, and not surprisingly, there’s fart humor right after his appearance.
Why do terrible films like this keep getting made? I’ll just never understand it. And I’ll never understand why I actually have movies of this variety in my horror collection. I seriously think it’s time to clean horror house and get rid of all of them.
ZOMBIE WITH A SHOTGUN (2019)
The making of this film has been hyped on social media for so long I was looking forward to seeing the finished product. I even made it the film of choice for a movie night with the hubba hubba. I’m surprised he didn’t bail on me as he usually does when a film just doesn’t click, because this one wasn’t grabbing us.
Turns out this was originally a web series years ago before being turned into a full-length feature. I’m not sure if it was completely reshot or if perhaps the web series footage was just expanded upon, but the finished product feels like a pasted together web series both in quality and the disjointed jumps from scene to scene.
The first thing we see is the zombie with the shotgun, and it tells us a lot about what we’re getting. Instead of makeup effects, his face is clearly a prosthetic piece that looks more like a mask. Surprisingly, there’s one zombie later on that looks way freakier than him. EEK!
The movie jumps all over the place, going from present time with an infected guy and his girlfriend on the run from bounty hunters to confusing flashbacks focusing on their experiences with irrelevant characters. There’s even a random animated sequence near the end for no clear reason—it makes me think the funds ran out before all the live action scenes could be complete.
Despite the title immediately bringing to mind Hobo With A Shotgun, there’s nothing over-the-top or grindhouse here, nothing to make the characters relatable, and quite honestly, the title of the film is mostly just a title, because this simply is not a movie about a zombie running amok with a gun. The plot takes itself very seriously so there aren’t even any light moments to help us connect with the leads. There are some sequences with lone zombies, but they aren’t very compelling, the cause of the infection is unclear (it seems to be both a corporate conspiracy and witchcraft?), and when the film ended with no clarity and loads of loose ends, the “to be continued” message was the last thing I wanted to see.
I will give the film this. The main guy is cute, looks great in a tank top, and shows off his bare ass.
PLAN Z (2016)
The same man directs, writes, and stars in this film. While it is a competently made, bleak film about a man with a plan to survive the zombie apocalypse, for me personally it is simply a case of total zomburnout, especially when it comes to character study zombie films.
With The Walking Dead having deconstructed the concept to death, it seems pointless to try to find a new angle, but I’d say Plan Z goes for themes of a) good guys questioning the worth of being humanity’s heroes, and b) the devastating effects a zombie apocalypse has on relationships and families.
The main guy initially narrates as he outlines his plan to survive (sort of a serious Zombieland), then it’s flashback city again as more and more characters are introduced. After various trials and tribulations of fighting and escaping zombies (you’ve seen it all before), the film virtually shifts focus to other characters. By the end it seems the film is leaving us with a setup for a sequel…about a different protagonist!
While the acting is good, just note that the film uses every trick in the low budget zombie movie book to mask the fact that no money was spent in crafting any sort of living dead makeup effects. Which explains shots like this…
This is not exactly a top shelf selection of anthologies—but that’s okay, because I grew up in the 80s, when we horror whores would dig deep down in the bowels of the video store aisles for horror we hadn’t seen yet. Although I must confess that lately I have actually turned a few Prime selections off within minutes because I feel life is getting too short to waste blogging about films I can tell I won’t be able to bare (plus I have two new pups running me ragged). So for starters I can say that none of these films met that fate. But does that mean they were worth a watch? Let’s take a brief look at each.
URBAN FEARS (2019)
Not surprisingly, this low budget horror anthology seems inspired by 1980s horror, particularly the synth score.
The intro is sort of a wraparound, with a girl recording a live video on the Internet when she hears a noise and goes to investigate…
1st story: not the best way to keep your audience enthralled. There’s a staggering amount of time focused on a guy raiding and ransacking a house before he is finally chased by a guy in a mask with a knife.
2nd story: a young woman is terrorized by a creepy doll in total Trilogy of Terror style. However, this doll makes humorous comments.
3rd story: More like a wraparound conclusion than a totally new story, this is a chain reaction of appearances of baddies from the other stories.
It’s not the highest quality anthology and not particularly entertaining, but I appreciate its attention to cohesion.
It runs two hours long with twelve stories, so obviously the first thing I’ll say about this female themed anthology is that it’s too long—especially considering a few of the “stories” are more like art house clips that don’t do the flow of the film any favors and could have been cut entirely.
As for theme, I say cool…while many of the customer reviews on Amazon call it a film solely for man haters because it paints all men as rapists and cheaters. You have to wonder if horror fans that offended have been paying attention to the history of horror movies. First of all, the horror genre is infamous for being misogynistic, with women presented as sluts or cock teases that deserve to be raped, tortured, and mutilated after we first get to see them run around naked. And how bad can it be when the roles are reversed here considering there’s absolutely no exploitation of the nude male body? Wait. Maybe that means this really is a literal man-hating film…
Secondly, the film’s title is Shevenge, so obviously the females are going to need reasons to get revenge. Even so, I could see the repeated plot of men are shit and women must get revenge as a great opportunity for some diverse approaches that we don’t get. There could have been a lesbian getting revenge on her shitty girlfriend or her abusive father, or a story with a girl’s gay BFF helping her put the straight guy in her place (the possibilities are endless), or a trans female revenge tale. But you know that would make the same people complaining about the man-hating angle furious over having diversity forced down their throats.
But it is what it is, and here’s what it is. Ironically, the horror hostess is a woman in a kitchen. WTF? Is this supposed to be irony? As for the tales, here’s the breakdown:
1st story – a jilted woman’s anger builds as she talks to her male therapist.
2nd story – this tale of a woman who wishes the worst on a guy who posted their sex video online has a satisfying horror moment near the end.
3rd story – this is as basic and bland as a revenge tale of two girls meeting a jerk at a bar gets. To make it more interesting, there’s some animation thrown in.
4th story – a nonsensical black and white clip with flickering footage and voiceovers.
5th story – Some girls seek out a guy who got away with child rape, and what they decide to do to hide their own guilt after could have been expanded upon, because it’s an interesting concept that feels rushed.
6th story – another bland, straightforward tale of a woman getting revenge on a crazy dude.
7th story – a mother/daughter bonding tale.
8th story – an action story in which female assassins go after male assassins.
9th story – Things get monstrous when a dude dabbles in necro rape. This is like an old skool video nasty.
10th story – a very long phone convo between two women…and eventually, a witch.
11th story – a quickie with a twist about a woman telling her friend she was date raped. I feel this one had a good ending but then took things one step farther for no clear reason.
12th story – An unexpected Asian horror short. When a girl kills her abusive father her mother helps cover it up.
SPUNK’S NOT DEAD (2018)
Not sure what kept them from simply calling this one Spunk, but that would have been my choice for the title. Spunk is not what you think it is, although the film makes sure to create a parallel from start to finish.
Spunk is a drug…that’s white and gooey…that you take orally…by drinking it from a condom. The conservative personality spouting conspiracy theories about the drug in the wraparound just cements the idea that it’s all about a sexual fluid, considering conservative extremists are so sexaphobic (when they’re not sex trafficking, raping women and children, and having secret sexual relations with members of the same sex on the side…or while they’re busy promoting people who do all of the above for political positions).
Anyway, this drug is the common thread in all the stories as it makes those who take it a bit crazy. Here’s the breakdown:
1st tale – starting off unique with a laugh track (!?!?), this is about a babysitter who takes some spunk, dances to an 80s style song, and faces a horror in the baby’s crib.
2nd tale – a short, throwaway tale about a guy who buys some spunk while playing basketball in the park. The best part of this tale is the focus on him pouring it into his mouth from the condom and then savoring the stuff on his tongue.
3rd story – this is a nasty, gory one about a guy who does spunk with a prostitute. It feels like it would have been a perfect fit for Shevenge.
5th story – group of friends does a new strain of spunk that turns them into zombies. It’s a fun one.
6th story – the longest and most involved, this is the anchor of the whole anthology. A guy hooked on spunk is ambushed with an intervention. As he tries to sober up, he plays video games and is soon living in a horror video game. This isn’t your nephew’s Pixels!
You gotta love a trashy little anthology like this where you can tell the creators really put their heart into what they were making. Although the film is an anthology about…um…spunk, I feel like it may have been inspired by the 80s classic The Stuff.
MONSTER X (2017)
This 70-minute horror anthology is total popcorn film fun, with a wraparound that totally gets you in the mood. A guy and girl go to a movie theater for a horror film festival, and as they watch each feature the girl starts to see actual monsters in the theater.
The film includes four tales, with werewolves, vampires, a killer with an axe, zombies, and more.
1st tale – a woman is terrorized by a banshee in her house. This is a standard freaky supernatural female tale, and you can pretty much predict the timing of the scares, but it’s got a nice dark tone.
2nd tale – this one about a little girl who sneaks into an exclusive horror film festival was actually in another anthology I watched and blogged about (can’t remember which one), but here the wraparound ties into it perfectly.
3rd story – this cheating lover/revenge plot is short and gets right to the point…and it is like a classic Tales from the Crypt episode with some delicious twists.
4th story – the final story about a babysitter is a clever little twist on the “there are monsters in my room” plot.
I’d say this was my favorite of the bunch. Actually, I’d say the order in which I wrote about these films goes from my least favorite to the one I like the most.
Hunky horror director Matt Farnsworth’s 2011 film The Orphan Killer (my blog post here) is a vicious grindhouse slasher about a psychotic killer in a mask hunting down his sister, slaughtering people of faith along the way due to his horrible experience in a Catholic orphanage as a child.
While it took a while for the sequel to arrive, it shows, because clearly Farnsworth doesn’t rush out cheaply produced films. Part 2 is just as gruesome with great practical gore effects, but Farnsworth makes a brilliant move here; he doesn’t give us more of the same.
Picking things up a few years after the original, the sister thinks her brother is dead, but she’s wrong! The film wastes no time in being sleazy and gory as the brother makes his return, killing anyone who gets in his way.
This time Farnsworth shows a quirky, darkly comic side. The masked brother talks and delivers plenty of humorous lines. He also does the oddest ritual to turn his sister into an almost demonic killing machine to join forces with him.
Together they kidnap men for her to practice on. There are hot guys, some shirtless, and the pair giddily tortures, mutilates, and kills them, playfully calling each other baby brother and baby sister.
That is basically the whole plot, so it doesn’t need to run nearly two hours long. Even so, it definitely doesn’t get boring, and there are some unexpected surprises along the way, including what feels like a minor shift in horror subgenres for a moment. The siblings even end up at the site of the drag race in Grease (for you young gays, a drag race used to be when two guys raced cars on the street), but alas, the sister doesn’t get the urge to belt out “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise)”.
There’s a moment that feels like a natural end to the film, but then it kind of jumps the shark…and lands on a boat! Very odd, and without this veering off, the running time would have been better. However, here’s where I could see Farnsworth having a dilemma. There are also twenty minutes of deleted scenes, and personally there are scene in the final cut I would have left out in exchange for some of the deleted scenes that actually give us a bit more story development. But with 140 minutes of footage, I can see why Farnsworth opted to focus on the insanity from start to finish, sticking with the tone he was going for instead of delving into pesky plot points.
And finally, I just have to make note of something that happens in the film, and I’m not sure if it’s a conscious decision on Farnsworth’s part, but it goes to show how easy it is to avoid having an anti-gay moment in your film. At one point, the orphan killer is sneaking up on a guy jerking off at work, and when the jerk-off hears him he thinks it’s one of his male coworkers. I was all braced for the jerk-off to make some sort of derogatory gay comment towards who he thinks is his friend, because that is what most filmmakers have characters default to in circumstances like this, but it doesn’t happen here, serving as a perfect example of how easy it is to not be a homophobic prick when you make a movie.
What better way to kill time during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve than to indulge in loads of horror? Hopping from Netflix to Prime to cable, I dug up fear and fun with some of the selections in this round of five flicks from 2019.
Dropa is the story of a future U.S. that has been taken over by Russians. Oh, wait. That’s present day U.S.
Anyway, the planet was also invaded by aliens that have been mostly eradicated. But now one is on the loose in human form, with tentacles that come out only when it needs to kill, and an former government assassin is on the case.
There are a few instances when we get to see the tentacles during the limited attacks, but Dropa is mostly a character study of both the assassin and the man/alien he’s following, complete with flashbacks of their pasts.
There’s also a lot of talk as the assassin investigates, to the point that I was just confused by all the exposition and couldn’t stay focused on the film.
THEY’RE INSIDE (2019)
I have to say, the opening scene of this found footage home invasion film is my favorite part. A guy is making a video when the masked intruders appear behind him. This quick and brutal scene is so effective because it doesn’t use any music cues to tell us how to feel about what is happening.
Then we meet a group of friends going to a cabin in the woods so two sisters can make a documentary film about their fucked up childhood. This is a heavy-handed plot and it’s quite clear things are not right between several of the characters, so I can’t say the twist is all that surprising.
Things don’t get good until one guy goes to confront whomever it is they can hear chopping wood at night. There are some brutal kills, but this is not a particularly suspenseful film. The best part of the exposition-heavy denouement for me was the full frontal male nudity.
With no explanation why, some people wash up on a deserted island, but only one girl survives. Although some ominous hints that she’s not alone keep us watching, if only she had a basketball, this would be as boring as a Tom Hanks movie…until she finally gets attacked by the creature she hears coming out of the water at night.
It’s an enjoyable creature feature from then on, with a combo of CGI creature and actual practical rubber monster freakiness. And of course it wouldn’t be any fun unless a couple more people washed up on to shore to give us a body count. Definitely a film that gets better as it progresses.
DOOM: ANNIHILATION (2019)
It’s amazing how movie studios will cling to a brand so much longer than fans—although I’m a huge hypocrite saying that considering how excited I was when this sequel to a movie from 14 years ago based on a video game that’s been around for about 25 years hit Netflix.
The plot is so generic it’s virtually a remake of the original movie. A military team explores a base that seems void of people—until zombie-like crazies start showing up in droves. And of course there’s a mad scientist with sinister motives to complicate matters…and bring more monsters.
I’m so there for this generic action crap.
While the movie takes way too long to get exciting, once it does it’s good old zombie and monster madness. The creatures are cool, the hero is a kick ass female this time, and the action is fast and furious. The goofy SyFy style of this one made it perfect for me and my hubby to watch together. Our only disappointment was that there was no cheesy first person video game segment as in the original movie.
YIKES! I was expecting a science fiction film my hubby would like more than I would when this one from the director of The Hive showed up on cable. Neither of us could have anticipated how scary, suspenseful, and viciously gory Brightburn would be.
Rather than the usual demon child most couples discover they’ve given birth to in horror movies, Elizabeth Banks and Jim’s bearish nemesis from The Office have a young teen son…that they found in a little pod in the woods when he was just a baby. Now, their beloved child is becoming a little terror.
In fact, the young boy discovers he has super powers, dons a mask, and then terrorizes and tears apart all the special people in his life in the small town in which he grew up. It’s chilling, perfectly acted, dark, horrific, and kept us riveted for 90 minutes.
Coming to us from the director of the gay supernatural film Jamie Marks is Dead and a horror movie I love to hate (The Ruins), and written by the director of the gay thriller Rift and a horror movie I love to love (Child Eater), slasher Midnight Kiss focuses on gay friends hanging in a house together for New Year’s Eve and being picked off by a killer in a leather pig mask.
While the film will probably enthrall gay fans clamoring for more gay horror films, for me personally the first kill is indicative of one of my main disappointments here; kills are scarce, and most of them are uninspired and flat. At this point in time, applying a checklist of slasher clichés to a bunch of gay guys and throwing in some nice asses along the way isn’t enough (but I’m going to do that right now).
The presentation needs to impress as well: visuals, style, intensity, music score, characterization, tone, atmosphere, etc. Unfortunately, much of this film feels like just another generic slasher that misses some golden opportunities. For instance, the killer glitter bombs the opening kill victim while either filming or photographing the act—which could have been a calling card that carried through all the kills.
Instead there’s a literal calling card that seems to show up just to let us know we’re in a horror movie—a sort of “I Know What You Did Last New Year’s Eve” foreshadowing.
With plenty of gay horror movies out there at this point, we don’t need to start at square one with the most basic elements, yet Midnight Kiss is loaded with mainstream gay clichés. They may seem novel to (and expected by) a straight audience drawn to this movie because it’s the latest installment of the mainstream Into the Dark series, but for gay viewers, it’s a bit redundant. The cast of characters is white, young, pretty, and bitchy, and the seemingly necessary evil of the token female friend tagging along gives us a splash of David DeCoteau to ensure the straight audience feels the pull of heteronormative structure. Screw that. In protest, I shall post a still of the film’s brief gay sex scene.
Also, the group’s conversations are as Gay 101 as it gets. The guys are shallow, they’ve screwed around with each other enough to cause tension and drama, they talk about all their hookups on Grindr, and they break in the new guy in their group by playing their annual “midnight kiss” game when they go to a club to ring in the New Year.
The club segment feels like something out of Queer as Folk from 20 years ago, which makes me wonder—are there still gay dance clubs with sex rooms? They all closed down in New York City about 15 years ago. Anyway, this big New Year’s Eve moment is fleeting, so this isn’t as much of a holiday horror flick as you may hope for—which is in keeping with the common letdown of most Into the Dark installments. Also, there’s no kill in the club! Yet…the killer makes an appearance on the dance floor for no discernible reason, and not one pretty boy in the bunch bats an eye. If someone in a leather pig mask walked through the crowd of shirtless gym bunnies at the Roxy back in the 1990s…eh, they wouldn’t even get that far because they would be turned away at the door.
While there are a few sightings of the killer and a few murders early on, things don’t kick into high gear until about 50 minutes in after the group returns to the house. The fun begins with the most provocative and sexy death scene in the entire film. Shot with a crotch writhing in the forefront, it’s the kind of unique presentation that makes my horror senses tingle, but no other scene quite lives up to it.
Overall, it’s a mixed sack…I mean, bag. There are some good chase scenes and cat and mouse action, but there are also limited body reveals (due to the limited kills), and a lone jump scare that’s too perfectly timed to actually scare veteran horror fans. Red herring practically squirt in our eyes throughout the film, but there are some nice twists…yet they tend to be easy to guess before they’re revealed. The cast of characters is limited in variation, and most of them not likeable enough (my faves being the main guy and the girl, who gave me major Jessica Jones vibes). The killer motivation definitely speaks to a fairly universal issue that many gay men experience, but if that were reason enough to make someone a killer, most of us would be running around hacking up pretty boys.
Overall, Midnight Kiss is missing that special something that makes me watch certain slashers over and over again. It’s not even quite compelling or entertaining enough for me to get the urge to see it a second time.
Even so, there are a couple of bonuses for me. First, one couple decides they’re a perfect fit because their zodiac signs are totally compatible…and they happen to be the same signs as my hubby’s and mine! Second, other films should take note of how easy this film makes it to read on screen texts characters are sending and receiving, a major plus for blind bitches like me.