STREAM QUEEN: a foursome of Black horror flicks

There’s more modern Black horror out there than just Get Out, Us, and Candyman if you’re willing to go the indie route, and I dug up four flicks from my watchlists on Prime and Tubi, so let’s get into them.

RHYME SLAYA (2016)

 

This is a total hip hop street slasher that pays plenty of homage to Scream. Despite being a little too long, which causes the pacing to falter a bit, it definitely delivers on the kills.

The one problem I had with the film starts right at the first kill scene. A guy gets a very Ghost Face call asking “Who’s your favorite rapper?”, which would be fine. More than fine, actually.

But wouldn’t you know this shit goes right for the “You sound gay as fuck” line. Ugh. Look, you can argue that this is just the way rap culture is and it’s being real, but the film would have worked without going there for no reason other than to just go there, and it wouldn’t have isolated a bunch of Lil Nas X fans in the process. No one would be finishing up this film grumbling, “This is so unrealistic because none of these rappers used any anti-gay slurs!”. And this is just instance one. By the end of the film, the guys are throwing around the “d” word. Not that “d” word, but a word like that “d” word with a hard “ike”. So actually, it’s the complete opposite of that “d” word.

Anyway, our cast of characters is prepping for a small rap contest. There are plenty of performance montages, and there’s also a scummy gang of white dudes posing a threat to the club where the contest is being held.

In between all the drama (and some sexual comic relief about eating ass during a barbershop scene—don’t forget, kiddies, asses are only disgusting if they’re attached to the same gender), people get killed off by someone in a black ski mask and a hoodie with various sharp weapons. The best kill is by far when the killer “borrows” a machete from a Jason statue and slices open a dude who just came out of the shower.

By the end of the film, the killer is revealed, and the motivation is explained in a nasty little flashback scene. Then the final battle with the killer plays out more like a gang fight…in an alley…with guns.

DEATH RANCH (2020)

Director Charlie Steeds has brought me horror satisfaction with films like Escape from Cannibal Farm, The House of Violent Desire, and Winterskin, so I was looking forward to watching this one.

Taking place in Tennessee in 1971, Death Ranch starts off perfect in my book, with a shirtless hunk waiting for a ride after he escapes prison.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a hottie, but the bald daddy type who picks him up was really doing it for me. Especially when he shakes his booty during a dance montage.

Along with a woman, they go to a ranch where they think they can hide out.

But that night, our main hunk spots the fricking KKK getting ready to torture a woman at a fire. So he saves her and brings a whole lot of trouble his way.

That’s all the story you need. This is strictly a revenge flick, and the revenge is so sweet and over the top in true grindhouse style as our Black heroes fight to the death with these psychotic whites with a hunger for Black flesh.

The gore and violence never let up, so if you’re a splatter fan and want the therapeutic experience of seeing white supremacists getting what they deserve, this is one not to miss.

THE BLACK LIST ANTHOLOGY (2021)

Running just an hour long, this collection of indie shorts is a good blend of straight up horror stories, dark tales, and tales of the unexpected, with only some of them specifically tackling race issues. Stories include:

1st – this tale of a couple that stops by an abandoned building on a deserted highway for a pee break never shows the threat, but whether intended or not, it made me feel that the couple is even more vulnerable because they’re Black. It really felt like they were willingly stepping into a situation a Black couple would be too smart to get into. Had me on the edge of my seat.

2nd – this is a tale of two guys burying a body in a field after an “incident”.

3rd – a guy ponders his first time doing something awful.

4th – a girl working on her computer is having visions of a killer that looks like he should be stalking victims in a cornfield.

5th – a dude gives his girl a pep talk about their differences before taking her to meet his mom, but there are more differences than meet the eye.

6th – a young woman finds a mysterious gift marked “Don’t open till Christmas” by her tree…

7th – a guy gets more than he expected from a stripper.

8th – a woman envisions things going horrifically wrong with every guy she meets.

9th – a guy does an interview about breaking up with his girl over their differences. This feels like an extension of story 5.

10th – this tale echoes elements of stories 4 and 8.

11th – things are not what they seem when a woman gets abducted.

CALL TIME (2021)

Call Time is a slasher with pretty much no slashing. The biggest compliment I can give it is that all the guys are a bunch of cuties.

A small group of aspiring filmmakers comes to a house where a man has brought them to make the best horror movie ever. The house kind of looks like a leftover set piece from 2001 Maniacs, but there are absolutely no themes of crazy hillbillies or white supremacists here.

We spend most of the film feeling like we’re just hanging out with a bunch of people at a film workshop. I don’t understand what they were going for here, but everyone sits around talking about the craft of making movies. And talking. And talking. And talking.

There’s promise of weirdness. The man running the show is enthusiastic about making the film to the point of manic—and maybe crazy. His creepy old mother sits in a chair in a room upstairs. There’s a big butch woman with one zombie eye who tends to creep around the doors of the pretty girls.

The description of this film claims that people begin to go missing. You know when? An hour into this 90-minute movie. You know how many people? ONE. One person goes missing, killed by the most obvious choice for killer. Then everyone panics and runs around for a short time before we get the big confusing reveal of what’s really going on…or…not going on. There was a lot of opportunity here for a simple, fun film with loads of sex and slashing, but we get none of either.

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Witches and supernatural killers

Catching up on the more mainstream selections cable and streaming have to offer lately, I got a double dose of witchery, and two supernatural freaks. Let’s take a look.

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015)

The director of the rather mesmerizing Gretel & Hansel brings us a film that I didn’t find all that mesmerizing.

For me, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is one of those movies that is totally predictable in its effort to be unpredictable so as to blow your mind at the end. Nowadays I just sit with disinterest knowing eventually I’m going to find out nothing is as it seems.

So Sabrina from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and some other girl are left behind when winter break comes because their parents didn’t make it up to school to pick them up.

Meanwhile, Emma Roberts escapes a mental institution and is offered a ride by a man who is on the road with his wife.

Sure, our interest is captured by what exactly this man wants from Emma, what Emma’s story is, and why the man’s wife seems very standoffish.

And we’re also intrigued by Sabrina’s desperation to get in touch with her parents…and why the other girl is giving her the cold shoulder…and who the mysterious, unseen headmaster is that keeps getting mentioned…and why there’s a nun doing some sort of mysterious ritual by the boiler.

The film craaaaawls its way to the finish line, but at least there’s some murder, mayhem, and an exorcism (?) to keep us entertained in the final act. This really just isn’t my type of film, but If you’re looking for horror that challenges your mind rather than your bladder muscles, you should definitely check it out.

MALIGNANT (2021)

It’s the film everyone is talking about and everyone has an opinion about. Here’s mine.

The first hour of Malignant mostly bored me. Violent kill scenes and a creepy specter showed promise, but things became repetitive fast, and this felt like numerous supernatural slashers of the 00s meant to scare tweens (The BoogeymanThe Boogeyman 2The Boogeyman 3…).

A young woman experiences trauma that triggers visions of a freaky killer. Turns out the people she sees being murdered are being massacred in real life. So with the help of her sister, she tries to convince the police that she has some sort of connection to the killer and can assist in solving the case.

All I’ll say is that for me the turning point is the fire escape chase scene between the killer and one of the main detectives. The film kicks into high gear and changes tone, becoming action-packed and crazy fun more than dark and serious. It felt like a mashup of so many different movies, giving me hints of The Dark Half, The Ring, My Soul to Take, and many more.

The killer is fantastically eerie with its disjointed walk, long hair, long leather coat, golden dagger, and gnarly face. And when it gets a chance to bust out and become a savage horror villain that spins, jumps, and slashes its way through hordes of victims, I at last didn’t want the movie to end.

NIGHTBOOKS (2021)

The director of Brightburn and The Hive brings us a fun and scary family movie based on a book. If you’re looking for something that falls between Hocus Pocus and The Witches, look no further.

On Halloween, our main boy leaves his apartment and gets trapped in the apartment of a witch! More specifically, the B—- in apartment 23. Yes, Jessica Jones is the fabulously bitchy witch. And she has a proposition for the boy, who loves to write scary stories; he must read her a scary story every night if he wants to stay alive.

Problem is he kind of has writer’s block. Plus, the witch hates all his stories and is quite the nasty critic.

Meanwhile, the boy has to deal with her bald, tattle-tale cat that goes invisible at will.

But as comfort, he befriends a girl who is also being held captive and is forced to cook for the witch.

Together, the two try to concoct a magical plan to escape the apartment and all the scary situations it has in store for them. Naturally, it all leads to a pretty darn creepy confrontation with the witch in her true gnarly glory, and there are plenty of nods to Hansel & Gretel along the way.

COME PLAY (2020)

Yes, it’s another tween horror about a young child’s “imaginary friend” coming to life to terrorize everyone.

This time, the young child is autistic. He uses his phone and iPad to communicate which leaves him very isolated and bullied in school.

But he has also conjured up an urban legend named Larry…a sort of skeletal Slender Man that just wants a friend.

Sure, you can expect some creepy scenes in infuriatingly dark rooms considering this is about a scared kid, yet he never turns on a fucking light. Not that it would matter, I guess, because Larry likes to break the bulbs when they are turned on.

At times this is like playing the survival horror game Fatal Frame, in which you had to look through a special camera to see ghosts. In this film, the boy can only see Larry by scanning a room with the camera on his device. Makes for plenty of cliché but effective eek! moments ripped right from the computer software used to create effects in a myriad of short films by aspiring filmmakers on YouTube.

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DIRECT TO STREAMING: two more from Bruce Wemple

Director Bruce Wemple thrilled me with a Wendigo flick with a queer slant (The Retreat), and intrigued me with a lesbian thriller with a Bigfoot slant (Monstrous). So of course I was going to check out two more of his films when they showed up on my streaming services.

DAWN OF THE BEAST (2021)

I purchased Dawn of the Beast on DVD before I was even done streaming it because damn, Wemple sure knows how to make zany horror movies that blend subgenres. This fricking flick has Wendigos, Bigfoot, and a crawling demon girl!

The bizarre mashup aside, Wemple is just so good at creating suspenseful, atmospheric scenes and delivers fantastic creatures without the use of CGI.

So in this film, a group of students and their professor go to a cabin in the woods to search for Bigfoot. Sure there’s some minor drama between the characters, but it isn’t long before we are immersed in nonstop monster action.

Between Wendigos outside, Bigfoot stomping around the woods, and a possessed girl crawling around the cabin, it’s total horror chaos and I’m living for it.

The film totally ramps up into new territory in the final act when the final boy strips down to his underwear to deal with everything being thrown at him.

I was getting some serious Evil Dead vibes by the end. This is just pure fun and so my kind of horror flick.

LAKE ARTIFACT (2019)

Several familiar faces from other Wemple films appear in this one, which is a good thing, because these guys and girls sure give good horror.

Lake Artifact differs from all his others in that there isn’t a killer creature in sight. Instead, we get a more complex plot that for me personally didn’t quite iron out its own details enough. For instance, there are “interview” segments about a cult that just distracted me, but the film still delivered a pretty wild ride.

Our friends heading to a cabin in the woods this time around get help from a drifter when their car breaks down. So, they invite him to hang out at their cabin. But, some of them find him a bit shady and suspect…

A few odd occurrences complicate matters, like a photo appearing of all of them that no one took, and some old dude lurking in the bushes outside.

When he doesn’t tell you he’s a virgin.

There really are some interesting aspects here as the group discovers they are stuck in some sort of time loop.

I was particularly intrigued by the drifter being picked up by two guys that seemed kind of gay for him, but just like several crucial plot points presented, it’s whipped up in a sudden whirlwind of events that didn’t feel fully developed and also made the main story arc a bit convoluted. But it is rather delightful when everyone starts turning on…themselves…

 

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So many big teeth…

I went monster hunting, so let’s see what I found.

SWIM (2021)

Director Jared Cohn has a load of horror flicks under his belt, such asLittle Dead Rotting Hood, Hold Your Breath, The Horde, Devil’s Domain, Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill!, and Devil’s Revenge. I liked some of them, so I thought maybe there was hope for this Tubi TV original movie. Most are calling it Crawl with a shark, but that’s not quite the case. Many don’t seem to realize that Crawl was really shark film Bait with alligators. So Swim owes its existence more to another shark film than an alligator film (that owes its existence to the same shark film).

Joey Lawrence is the “star” even though he’s barely in the film. He is heading to meet his family at their beach house, but a storm keeps holding him back. Meanwhile, mom, grandpa, daughter, and son get to the house. The acting is kind of awful, but I also have a feeling the cast may have had to re-record their dialogue at the beginning of the film because it feels really off, like an English dubbed foreign language movie.

The son and his girlfriend go swimming and are targeted by a horrible CGI shark. Immediately I couldn’t get past the fact that despite the film being called Swim, half the time when the characters are supposed to be swimming in deep water, it’s beyond obvious that they are just standing in shallow water until the moment they are supposed to swim.

The action is as typical as these films get. The ocean floods the land, the shark gets into the basement first, the family moves up to the main floor, and eventually the water rises to that level. And in all that time, with the ocean as its fish tank, the shark never leaves the vicinity of the house.

The funniest part is when grandpa tries to fight the shark with his cane after the main floor floods in front of some of the worst green screen ever.

Eventually, Joey shows up as a poor man’s Roy Schneider in Jaws 2. If you simply must see every horrible shark movie there is or just want to close out your summer with a shark film, then check it out for free on Tubi.

THE DEVIL BELOW (2021)

The director of Chernobyl Diaries brings us a movie that is basically a mashup of Chernobyl Diaries and the true life town on which the Silent Hill movie is based.

A group of researchers heads to a deserted town under which coal mines have been burning for years.

There are some signs from strangers that they should stay away from the place, but they find it anyway. There is a lot of talk and little else for a good part of the film until the group gets separated when some of them end up down in a hole.

There are fleeting hints of a monster (mostly during a night vision scene), but it’s not until 67 minutes in that we finally see what is living underground.

These creatures are pretty cool, and for about 15 minutes there’s some monster excitement. You decide if you want to sit through over an hour of forgettable film to get to it.

BEAST WITHIN (2020)

This simple indie horror takes a classic werewolf movie concept and gives it an update—people trapped in a mansion/castle are murdered one by one until they determine that one of them must be a werewolf.

In this situation, it’s a group gathered together for a launch party of a werewolf game app.

Much of the film is soap opera antics as characters clash and bicker over sex, love, money, and success. Meanwhile, someone occasionally makes the mistake of going outside alone and encountering the bloodthirsty werewolf.

Eventually they realize the game is coming to life and distrust mounts. Some believe the killer is a human, others think it’s actually a werewolf.

Thankfully, it’s a werewolf. The creature doesn’t get loads of screen time, but when it does, it’s a good old fashioned costume and not CGI.

And the actor playing the human version of the werewolf is perfect, and the boys are pretty.

NIGHT CLAWS (2012)

This one mixes good old 80s style monster suit horror with a touch of SyFy creature feature camp to deliver a pretty entertaining Bigfoot flick.

Even better, it starts with a couple having sex in a car and then getting torn limb from limb. Yay!

It also has a cast that just warms a GenXer’s horror heart. Reb Brown, who showed his hot ass in Sssssss, is now a daddy and plays the sheriff. His love interest and deputy was in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight and the gay flick Play Dead. The pretty anthropologist that rolls into town in search of Bigfoot was Sharon Stone’s girlfriend in Basic Instinct. Another guy was in Surf Nazis Must Die. And another guy was in Killer Workout and Scarecrows. Even jerk-off Frank Stallone has a role.

The plot is typical. Sheriff wants to solve case, outsider scientist comes in to call the shots, various groups of people get attacked by Bigfoot to keep pace going, eventually a team is sent out to hunt creature.

It’s kind of silly, kind of cheesy, and delivers plenty of bloody body parts and full monster Monty. Sometimes that’s all I really need.

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STREAM QUEEN: it’s scarecrow season!

There is some typical scarecrow slashing to be had in this trio of films I checked out on Prime and Tubi, but each one definitely has its own unique aspects, including a taxidermy cult, Amityville, and a gay spin!

C.O.R.N. (2021)

What a relief to stumble upon something so refreshingly different than all the cookie cutter horror that hits the mainstream these days. C.O.R.N. is the kind of out there stuff that leaves commenters online saying generic shit like “worst movie ever”.

The movie reminds me of the kind of anything goes horror of the late 80s that was too absurd to comprehend if you took the time to actually think about it. Back then we didn’t want to think about it. We just wanted an experience that fucked us up by forcing the main characters into trippy, weird situations from which there seemed to be no escape.

The opening scene has perfect horror atmosphere as some girls have fun in a haunted maze at night…before one is dragged down to a lair to get a little scarecrow treatment.

Next we meet a teen brother and sister traveling with a family friend through a rural area when their car breaks down. The family friend tells them to wait in the car while he walks back to the nearest town for help.

Once alone, the siblings immediately get out and enter a nearby cornfield. The boy makes lots of scarecrow jokes. They encounter and befriend another teen.


It’s not Christmas, but do you see what I see?

They go to a party where the kids seem way too cool to live in the middle of bumfuck. Not trying to be a jerk here, but are there actually trendy kids in bumfuck? Hell, there’s even a Black girl. Are there Black people in bumfuck?

Not for long, because of course the Black girl is the first to get snatched when they all go to the haunted maze together.

The movie wanders into head-scratching territory when the main kids stay overnight, and we can’t help but wonder what happened to their M.I.A. family friend. Next day, they go out to party again and walk right into the thick of the plot—a secret society of “taxidermists”. Yay! And…eek!

It’s almost like backwoods horror with sophisticated folk running the show instead of inbreeds as the kids try to uncrash this horror party.

I kind of adored the film, even if there is a little slowdown in the middle that could have been tightened up to help with temporary pacing issues.

AMITYVILLE SCARECROW (2021)

There are so many scarecrow slashers out there, do these indie filmmakers really think they need to slap the name Amityville on their title to garner an audience?

I totally watched this movie because it had the word Amityville in the title.

Okay, so there’s more to it than that. I love watching bogus “Amityville” movies to see how much of an effort they make to in any way connect the story to the Amityville canon. I also love me some scarecrow slashers.

I can now say the endless efforts to make this simple, fun slasher an Amityville movie is a distraction, especially for someone like me who grew up in the U.S. on Long Island where Amityville is located, yet half the actors in this Amityville film have British accents. Yeah, they weave that into their Amityville backstory, but it was too much of a stretch.

Anyway, the opener sets the scene, with a couple having sex in a conveniently located trailer home in a cornfield at night, only to be mistaken for crows by a creepy scarecrow with a scythe. However, this is like a PG-13 slasher, so there’s nothing in the way of gore. But there is a nice beefy man bod.

Then two estranged sisters arrive with their families. Various conversations give us an Amityville backstory that flirts with aspects of the DeFeo case while changing the name, then breaks off into how the property was sold and is now owned by these two sisters. One wants to sell it because she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the other sister, who wants to bury the hatchet and work together to do something productive with the land.

There’s even some talk around a campfire about the stories of the Amityville evil escaping and how it could jump into objects like toys. It’s always nice to see these Amityville movies relying on the Amityville: The Evil Escapes book from decades ago to justify their movies. Author John G. Jones deserves major royalties.

Anyway, none of it matters. The scarecrow comes to life and starts going after the family. It’s all in the darkness of night, and it’s all about bringing the families back together to fight for their lives. The best part for me is when the scarecrow busts into the trailer home and the sisters start beating it up with pots and pans.

SCARECROW COUNTY (2019)

If you don’t like indie films without high production value or professional actors, you might as well just steer clear of this little scarecrow slasher. However, it gives us something we don’t get every day in scarecrow slashers—a gay scarecrow killer! Yes!

Indeed, Scarecrow County gets an honorary spot on the homo horror movies page.

As rough as it is around the edges, for a simple scarecrow slasher that runs a lean 75 minutes long, the film explores the challenges of small town life for those who are different, and how the privileged “ruling class” stays in power and protects its own. I’m pretty sure if this were a polished project that had a bunch of money thrown at it for production, it would be getting a whole lot of recognition for its social themes.

There are two very edgy sisters, neither conforming to the usual standards of femininity, which is cool. One works at a library, the other is agoraphobic and just stays inside drawing comics of a gothic character that talks to her. She also has a very Lena Dunham vibe going on.

When a woman cleaning out her family home drops off some books to donate, a drunk guy in the library makes reference to her deceased gay brother and she isn’t very happy. Uh-oh.

The library girl then finds the brother’s diary in the box of books and begins reading it.

Meanwhile, the scarecrow starts killing people off left and right. Wahoo! The kills are standard and there’s no gore, but the setup shots, atmosphere and lighting are perfectly 1980s horror in style, especially closer to the end of the film.

The denouement is a funny little surprise, if not a little cheesy in how it’s presented. In fact, it’s quite campy, which is sort of apropos in an indie horror movie about a gay killer scarecrow.

The most confusing part of the film for me is that although no holiday is referenced as far as I can recall and it is about a scarecrow, which immediately puts me in the autumn mindset, near the end of the film the agoraphobic sister opens her door and there are Christmas decorations adorning the front of her house! What the heck? Maybe she was just too afraid to go outside to remove them the previous December?

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Killer Christmas, killer plush toy, hockey zombies, and a mob ghost

It’s a variety of horror comedies in my latest movie marathon, and I actually had fun with three out of four, so let’s find out which ones.

IT CUTS DEEP (2020)

Featuring one of those mostly self-contained scenarios with limited characters, It Cuts Deep is a Christmas horror comedy, so it’s another on for the holiday horror movie page.

The intro scene grabbed my horror attention, with two young teens in a bedroom being interrupted by someone with a machete.

Then we meet a guy taking his girl to his old family home for a quiet Christmas vacation to evaluate their relationship. She wants to get married and have kids, he wants anal sex. And I so did laugh at the adolescent jokes that ensued.

Yes, he’s a goofy dude who hasn’t quite grown up, but he also definitely has experienced something traumatic in his past that’s holding him back.

And then they run into his creepy as hell childhood friend who inserts himself into their private time together. The girlfriend welcomes it, but the main guy clearly doesn’t trust his old friend.

Things begin to escalate as the main guy becomes paranoid about the old friend’s erratic, psychotic behavior, but the girlfriend never witnesses any of it.

There’s plenty of humor mixed with some odd situations that keep you wondering where this is all leading, which, naturally, is a bloody finale.

BENNY LOVES YOU (2019)

Imagine if Elmo ran around gleefully slashing people up with a knife and you have this silly little horror comedy.

The opening scene is deliciously dark, and involves a little girl terrified of her teddy bear, and a mother who just doesn’t have the patience for it.

Then we meet a dude in his thirties who still lives with his parents, plays video games, and is a failure at work.

But that all changes when he wakes up one day to discover that someone has murdered all his teddy bears overnight. Teehee.

It’s Benny, his favorite childhood toy! And Benny doesn’t stop there. Benny murders anyone he feels is stunting the main guy’s growth.

The fun thing about Benny Loves You is that this isn’t your usual killer doll movie. Benny isn’t a mean, scary, or wise-cracking killer doll. He is totally joyful and naive to the evil he’s doing as he bounces around cheerfully hacking up his victims. I guess that’s why it’s so hard for our main guy to put any effort into stopping the insanity…

AHOCKALYPSE (2018)

It’s unfortunate that so many indie horror comedies get lost in the shuffle, because there are plenty of charming and funny little gems out there, and zomcom Ahockalypse is one of them for me.

The opening scene is the perfect warmup. A big daddy bear tough guy working late at the office whips out his hockey stick when his building is infiltrated by zombies.

Next we meet dudes on a hockey team. After a quick game, they celebrate in a hotel. We get some hot man ass, some hot man bod, and then the team learns quickly that there are zombies running amok outside.

It’s hockey hotties and funny guys vs. zombies, landing this one on the sausage fest scares page. One dude in particular is a fantastic comic actor, and it’s hinted at that his character is itching to go gay, but surprisingly, he never comes to terms with it.

But as they battle zombies, the guys do run around in just their undies for a while, and are forced by a guy who owns a strip club to get up and dance for him, and the never admittedly gay guy goes all out.

Sadly, two of the hunkiest and hottest guys, one who is quite funny in a burnout surfer dude kind of way, are killed way too early in the film in my big gay opinion.

There are some funny girls along for the ride, and even a girl-on-girl kiss, and the gang has to battle a variety of zombies in different situations (taking on zombie kids is the best). It all leads to a final battle on the ice rink at the end.

POLTERHEIST (2018)

Polterheist is labeled as a horror comedy, but the moments of good British humor are few and far between. On top of that, it’s just horrendously boring despite a promising premise and likable characters.

Two mobsters are almost killed by another bunch of mobsters their boss stole money from. They cut a deal…find the money and return it by a specific deadline or else.

Problem is they killed their boss!

Sooo…they go to a medium and force her to make contact with their boss so they can ask him where he hid the money.

The boss hops into the medium and goes on an excursion with them to find the money.

Sounds like fun, right? I don’t know what went wrong here, but the film just lacks, like…everything. After some super promising moments early on, it is astonishingly bland. I feel like maybe it would be more appealing to mob movie fans than, well, me.

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When 2020 terror gets timely

Don’t expect to use these horror flicks as an escape from the horrors of reality, because they are all about the shit making the world miserable these days. Let’s get it over with.

UNEARTH (2020)

WARNING: if you hate what you consider “political” or “libtard” messages in your horror movies, then definitely don’t watch this movie about a struggling farming family that gets screwed over in more ways than one after leasing their property to a giant oil company for fracking.

Mostly a drama that turns horror very late in the game, this is a good example of how not to do a slow burn horror movie. For a slow burn to work effectively, it has to create a sense of dread about the horror to come, and this simply doesn’t. At all.

On one farm is cutie Riley from Buffy, his wife, their college age daughter, and their teen mom high school daughter and her baby. On the other farm is Adrienne Barbeau, her son, his wife, and their grown daughter. The two families are intertwined in a variety of ways, including an affair and even lesbian desire.

Characters keep ending up in a cornfield, so there’s some major metaphor going on there. I’m not saying I know what it is, I’m just saying it’s there.

Eventually, members of each family start getting sick in a variety of ways, bringing elements of body horror to the last 30 minutes or so, along with a hint of people going a little bit The Crazies on each other…all due to whatever the fracking has unleashed into the environment.

How I miss the days of 80s environmental message horror, when some sort of chemical was inflicted on nature in the first 5 minutes of a movie to get the point across and then people were mutilated by some sort of mutated monster for the next 85 minutes to get the horror across.

THE HUNT (2020)

I was putting this one off for a while because a) it isn’t really my kind of “horror” film, and b) it’s a political plot. But I finally went for it, and it’s really just a fun, funny, satirical kill or be killed flick that comes to somewhat of a Kill Bill climax.

The movie description alone manages to raise a lot of questions about hardcore beliefs on both sides.

Anyone paying attention knows that liberals lose their shit over the slightest edgy joke these days, virtually making the art of camp extinct. However, when it comes to horror, we libtards live for city kids traveling into the woods only to be hacked, slashed, raped, and eaten by religious extremists and conservative wing nuts that hate us.

Here’s the irony. Those same films often get bashed by conservative horror fans, who gripe that they are always being portrayed as the evil ones. So it’s kind of surprising that there was backlash against The Hunt when it was released because conservatives saw it as an offensive film about liberals hunting down rednecks for the thrill of it. Wait. What?

The liberals are the bad guys! The conservatives are the heroes! Watch the damn movie! It challenges both the libs and the cons. If you’re a liberal who watches this film and roots for the psychotic liberals, then you better rethink your values. The whole point is that no one deserves to be hunted down and killed by someone else for fun. Not to mention, the main girl is so bad ass it’s impossible not to root for her.

Could the conservative hero being a woman be a part of the problem for conservatives? Hmmm…

The film creates a brilliant conundrum for everyone involved. It blatantly mocks plenty of liberal talking points. It demonstrates that not all conservatives are ready to throw down with a gun and kick liberal ass when faced with a civil war. It pokes fun at gender identity and sexual orientation, conspiracy theories, free speech, race, and the military…showing that even conservatives will turn on those who have served their country in an instant.

Yet despite all those “thought-provoking” concepts, this movie is simply a blood-soaked action flick with plenty of humor. I can’t imagine anyone from either side of the aisle not having a blast with it.

The plot is as simple as this. Snooty liberals abduct rednecks, drop them off in the middle of the wilderness, and then start taking them out in gruesome ways. But the rednecks are not all going to be taken out that easily. It’s fun fun fun leading up to Hilary Swank and the main girl going all Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman on each other.

CORONA ZOMBIES (2020)

Made within a matter of weeks after COVID overtook the world in the spring of 2020, this is Full Moon at its absolute worst. I would have been fine with a terrible low budget original zombie film about the virus coming from Full Moon, but that’s not what this is.

This movie, clocking in at just over an hour long, features one character as a wraparound, acting all ditzy about the seriousness of COVID with a friend on the phone when there’s a zombie outbreak. So she turns on the news and…

The film is comprised entirely of clips from the 1980 Euro horror flick Hell of the Living Dead with new COVID gag joke dialogue dubbed over it, combined with clips from the 2012 Full Moon film Zombies vs. Strippers. The COVID humor is as timely and as cliché as it gets, and to make matters worse, they insert actual footage of Dump giving speeches about the disease. Ugh.

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From stardom to SyFy

It’s back to the late 00s for a bunch of direct-to-SyFy flicks starring a variety of familiar faces. Let’s just get this over with.

EYE OF THE BEAST (2007)

This is generally a more polished outing than the usual SyFy creature features…mostly because you barely see the creature, so there’s little chance for it to suffer from bad CGI.

In other words, this shit is boring.

In the first scene, a couple making out in a boat at night is attacked by tentacles. Cool.

Then James Van Der Beek comes to town as a scientist. He hooks up with the pretty sheriff. They clash with the local fishermen. There are racial tensions. A few more people die.

Eventually they go out on a boat to hunt the creature…a big squid. At last we get to see the squid face up close. Looks cool. Reminds of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. They kill it. The end.

VIPERS (2008)

It’s another generic, nature gone mad SyFy original. Original is really the wrong word for these films since there’s nothing original about the cookie cutter plots.

Snakes have been genetically enhanced in a lab by Corbin Bernsen. They escape. They end up in a small town. They kill a variety of people, You know it’s bad when the gore looks cool, but the CGI snakes overlaid on top of it ruins it.

Then a bunch of different locals band together to stop the snakes while running all over town. Tara Reid leads the charge. I was hoping Mercedes McNab, Harmony of Buffy fame, who usually brings a load of fun to any horror movie she’s in, would do the same here.

Instead, she literally comes in for a sex scene and gets killed while the guy is showering after. What a waste of a Buffy alum.

RISE OF THE GARGOYLES (2009)

Hottie Eric Balfour has a rather impressive horror film and television resume, but SyFy original Rise of the Gargoyles is the bottom of the barrel. Not because it’s a SyFy original, but because it is beyond uninspired.

I can’t imagine a script this bland and cliché with the most flat characters being picked up for production, but here it is. Balfour plays a teacher who wrote a failed book about gargoyles. Imagine his luck when he and his girl sneak into a church to explore and accidentally release a gargoyle locked in the basement.

The CGI gargoyle isn’t even that bad, but we just don’t get enough of it, and there are barely any kills.

The plot goes nowhere, and basically comes down to Balfour and his small team of gargoyle hunters, including a priest, needing to send the gargoyle back to where it came from. There’s simply nothing here for me to talk about. Balfour doesn’t even take his shirt off.

HOUSE OF BONES (2010)

House of Bones is cheesy SyFy original silliness and I’m so here for it. Going for the trends of its time, it enlists Charisma Carpenter of Angel and Buffy fame as its star, and it’s about a ghost hunting show that explores an infamous haunted house.

The first scene is the perfect cliché–a kid’s ball goes into the house and he goes in after it. Yay!

Then we meet all our ghost hunters–a bunch of guys and Charisma, the psychic. Hey, I love me some Charisma, and she’s the reason I bought this one, but man is she phoning this one in.

Typical shit happens early on, mostly involving the crew setting up and exploring, as well as bugs appearing in unexpected places that are totally expected to horror veterans.

There are a couple of kills and disappearances that are entertaining enough, but nothing all that spooky happens as a series of sloppy events unfolds just to fill time. However, the premise is fun despite being unoriginal–the house is alive! And that’s because someone buried bodies in the walls for occult reasons in the past. Awesome.

Oozing holes, people getting pulled into and crawling out of them, and other enjoyable horror elements take place in the final act, when the pace at last picks up as the crew goes on a hunt for the blueprints of the house.

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A harvest of fear and a path of evil

I’m always up for a turn-of-the-millennium, post-Scream indie slasher from the early 00s, so when I watched Harvest of Fear thanks to a 2-on-1 Blu-ray I purchased for the other movie, I immediately ordered the sequel The Path of Evil (because why would they ever consider putting a movie and its sequel together on the same Blu-ray instead?).

HARVEST OF FEAR (2004)

Clearly an indie labor of slasher love, this one is a little heavy-handed on the red herring and the silly main character clashes, but it does the most crucial thing right—evenly spaced, well-executed kill scenes.

The premise is also classic slasher simplicity. 20 years ago there were a bunch of murders during Harvest Fest in a small town. Now it seems like the murders are starting up again.

The kills deliver blood, chases, tits, and atmosphere. The killer, wearing a mask and a hoodie, looks strikingly like one of the scary figures I crafted for the front lawn of my property for Halloween years ago that finally bit the dust just last season after weathering the weather for so long.

We even get a main group of friends. They talk about the original murders taking place in the eighties, reference hair bands, and have what appears to be a Halloween costume party even though the holiday is never mentioned.

There’s also soap opera drama between the main girl, the new guy in town, and the douche bag deputy she used to date.

It’s the climax and killer motivation that are a bit messy—sort of like the denouement of a Scream sequel.

THE PATH OF EVIL (2005)

For a sequel to a low budget indie slasher, this is a lofty undertaking, but even though it’s nearly two hours long, it scores some major points from me for delivering fantastic old school kills.

Director Brad Goodman gets much of his cast back to continue the story and actually expands on the back stories of the characters. For that reason, there is a lot of drama in between the great kill scenes, but honestly, I was never bored with it.

The only real problem is that at the end of the first film we find out who the killer is, and that character returns for the sequel, sooooo…despite the killer hiding behind a disguise that is notably going for a Michael Myers vibe instead of a ScareBearDan’s Halloween lawn décor vibe this time around, we know for the entire time who the killer is! No surprises here. Of course, there also aren’t any when the killer is Michael, or Jason, or Freddy, Chucky, or…well, you get the picture.

The love triangle from the first film is still in full effect, and a couple of new characters are introduced, but what shines here are the kill sequences. It’s a shame Brad Goodman never added another horror movie to his filmography, because he does everything right in terms of fear factor.

The death scenes are perfectly paced, suspenseful, scary, atmospheric, gory, violent, and even deliver some T & A, plus there are chase scenes. The film even sets us up for another sequel, but it never happened.

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A found footage triple feature

For someone who isn’t even a huge fan of the subgenre, I somehow ended up watching three found footage films in a row, and each one is a subgenre within the subgenre, including possession horror, a comedy creature feature, and some torture porn.

STAY (2021)

If you need a found footage fix with some of the cliché elements that make the better films of the subgenre fun, this little indie is a good choice.

It goes right for the rip-off from the start with an oscillating camera right out of Paranormal Activity 3. It also has an inspiring model/influencer and her boyfriend moving into a new place, in this case a city apartment building.

There is a creepy mannequin left behind in the living space that delivers plenty of cheap scares over the course of the film. The couple immediately begins to experience plumbing problems. Of course they keep a camera rolling at all times because they are influencers. Not sure why that includes having one focused on their bed at night, but at least it lets us see a scary situation unfold…

The model basically morphs into an Asian horror flick ghost girl, all in white with her long black hair down over her face.

She spends a lot of time passing by the camera in the shadows to freak us out, and eventually we get to the running and screaming climax when the boyfriend brings in some friends to help him cleanse the house. As derivative as it all is, it totally delivers on the cheap thrills.

THE LEGEND OF SIX FINGERS (2013)

This silly little found footage horror comedy doesn’t try too hard to be anything more than a cute and somewhat entertaining film. It has funny moments, but no one went out of their way to write a comedy masterpiece.

In true Blair Witch mode, film students head into the woods to do a documentary. They interview the likes of Debbie Rochon and Lynn Lowry–total horror veteran stunt casting considering the actresses don’t get a chance to shine with what little material they’re given.

In fact, the standouts of the film would be these two funny guys, but sadly they’re just passing by…

The monster first appears 30 minutes in, and the confrontations are all quite casual. There’s really no aggressive horror action here, and the monster clearly doesn’t want to be bothered, and just looks bored by the filmmakers’ taunts.

There’s a tent scene to add to the Blair Witch nods, and things finally get physical, leading to a totally unexpected, out of place, and always welcome gory scene at the end. Yay!

HACKSAW (2020)

 

This hybrid found footage film runs just over an hour, which is fine, because it gets straight to the point. There’s very little plot and it’s not a high end production, but damn! If you’re just looking for some seriously nasty practical gore effects and some gritty, grisly atmosphere, this movie nails it.

I have to warn you, the gore is gory and repulsive. I don’t know what the powers that be are trying to tell me, but after I just watched a film from the 80s featuring a horrifically explicit vaginal impalement with a poker (Patrick Still Lives), the first few minutes of this film subjected me to an unapologetic in your face drilling of a vagina with a power tool.

In order to establish the back story of murders at a derelict hospital, clips of some guy with his own sensationalism show talking about the building and its horrible history are interspersed between the setup of the main couple’s story.

So what’s the couple’s story?

They are on a road trip. They take a detour. The guy is filming their trip and wants to go to check out the old hospital building.

It is when they enter the building that the film is at its roughest as it poorly transitions from found footage to standard third person during a switch from an exterior shoot to an interior shoot. It’s bright daylight outside, but when the perspective cuts to a fixed camera inside showing the guy enter the building, the set is drenched in gloomy horror tinting and there is no daylight pouring in through the door. Then we jump back to the guy’s camera perspective, and he points it down a stairway inside the building and there is bright daylight at the bottom of the steps! WTF? Some bad editing here for sure.

But it’s easy to look past that, because in just a matter of minutes, all hell breaks loose. There is some brutal slicing and dicing, flashbacks to the killer’s raping ways from years before, some sort of masked slave lurking in the darkness, a psycho in a creepy red mask and hoodie, a chase scene, and a battle to the death.

And that’s it. That’s the whole movie. It’s like so many movies we’ve seen compressed into a quickie that simply cuts outs all the excess victims.

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