The quality of these three Halloween horror flicks I’m adding to the complete holiday horror page vary greatly. Each one has a slasher element to it, but for different reasons, none of them fully commit to the subgenre. Let’s find out why.
HARVEST OF THE DEAD: HALLOWEEN NIGHT (2020)
Crazy that this is a sequel to a film from five years ago, especially considering Harvest of the Dead was an unexpected combination of horror anthology turned slasher.
Running only 72 minutes long (yay!), the sequel takes place literally the next day, on Halloween, when friends of the girls who went camping in the first movie are having a Halloween party.
Before that we see how it ends for the final girl from the first movie. Her parents are out in the woods looking for her, and a couple of detectives get in on the case, and spend a little too much time with exposition.
The film gives us a backstory for the killer from the first movie as well, and eventually the killer the masked baddie shows up at the party to wreak havoc.
The kills are bloody and use practical effects, plus there’s sex and nudity, including some fuzzy man booty. Now that’s how real slashers are made.
And just like the first movie, the sequel throws caution to the wind and crosses subgenres. As the masked killer is doing his thing, fricking zombies show up!
Any complaints I have about the first film or this one are kind of pointless, because I’ve got to give credit to a franchise that never sticks with one subgenre in each installment.
ALL HALLOWS’ EVE HORROR (2017)
72 minutes is more than long enough for this home video style film from the director of Easter Holocaust. As bad as this is—and it’s bad—there were a few moments that made me chuckle. Not that I’m recommending the film. So how bad is it?
Here’s a perfect example (see pic above). A guy in a hockey mask is attacking a woman in the first scene. There are cartoonish hitting sounds, and a cat even strolls by in the background at the bottom right at one point. Plus, we get the absolute worst CGI blood ever.
Next, friends gather for a Halloween party in what was the house of “Nancy Myers”, the woman attacked by the killer in the beginning. They literally show a shot of the actual Amityville house as the exterior of the house.
From there it’s just chaos for most of the movie. One girl starts babbling about supernatural stuff, then we are gifted with a short story with a guy in an alien mask, which makes the whole scene look like a sixth grade school play.
Next we get a short sequence concerning a detective that was on the hunt for the killer and became haunted by demonic entities.
Two characters suddenly watch a zombie movie starring and directed by the filmmaker. I really think he’s trying to be tongue-in-cheek about how bad his movies are.
Finally, a masked killer shows up. There’s one fantastically melodramatic stab kill scene that made me laugh, and then suddenly the movie starts taking itself really seriously as a slasher, complete with a final girl sequence.
This one gets the trophy for most Halloween spirit in this batch. It takes place in a house all decorated for the holiday, with four girls in costume awkwardly reuniting for some seasonal fun.
The tension between them becomes a little repetitive with too many uncomfortable pauses that hurt the pacing for the first few minutes of the film. We get it. Pussies are catty.
They decide to play a Japanese Q&A game that reveals some of their deepest feelings, after which they drink some sort of special tea that gives them each their own delusion.
That’s where this movie shines. Essentially it becomes a slasher anthology of sorts, with each girl having a delusion of being terrorized by a different freaky killer.
There’s some good gore, a nice twist at the end, and even mention of Hocus Pocus. Yippee!
It’s trippy revisiting games from the early days of the survival horror era, but despite being a PS1 game, the original Silent Hill from 1999 still holds up for me in terms of horror gaming experience. I expected it to look terrible on my 60-inch HD television (I wouldn’t dare try it on my 65-inch 4k television), but using a PS2 to hdmi converter, I was shocked to discover it looks pretty damn good, even with the original full-frame presentation stretched to a 16×9 aspect ratio. Having said that, with rumor spreading the Silent Hill 2 is getting a remake, I can’t fathom why they wouldn’t first remake the first one since it’s on the oldest generation from the 3D era of video games.
If you don’t know by now, the basic premise is that a man named Harry delves into the abandoned town of Silent Hill in search of his little daughter after she runs off. He soon discovers the town is shrouded in mystery, fog, and grotesque creatures. To be honest, they aren’t as frightening as they were at the turn of the millennium when you compare the pixelated graphics to modern day horror games. Now they look kind of cute, but their bite is still brutal.
One thing I can really appreciate upon a replay is that it’s a reminder of what a strong adaptation the original movie was—cutting through all the narrative noise of this game and its multiple endings while creating a more concise plot that borrows crucial elements of the first and second games in the franchise. I love that movie.
The opening sequence immediately reminds you that Silent Hill took the fixed camera angles of Resident Evil one step further to create a claustrophobic, dizzying, disorienting visual experience.
Pretty soon you score a gun, radio, and flashlight. The radio gives off static to warn you when monsters are near. The flashlight can only be turned on in “dark Silent Hill”. Even though regular Silent Hill can seem quite dark at times, you’ll know when you’re really in the dark version, because you can’t see three feet in front of you, and everything turns decrepit, dirty, rusty, and bloody. Eek!
The creators of Silent Hill fine-tuned the tank controls a bit compared to Resident Evil. With the touch of a shoulder button, you can refocus the camera angle to over your shoulder to see what’s in front of you. The thumbstick can also be used to push in the direction you want to go at times, and you can dodge left or right as well as jump backwards, a move I never seemed to be able to master unless I was in the middle of a frantic boss fight and the last thing I wanted to do was jump backwards.
The inventory system is smooth, simple, and unlimited. Yay! No trying to juggle items in a box or trying to determine what you should and shouldn’t keep on hand. However, by the end of the game, Harry was probably carrying about a thousand pounds of stuff on him. And finally, the save stations are notebooks you can find on desks throughout the town.
This is a vast game with numerous buildings to go into and items hidden in nooks and crannies on the densely fogged streets. Even though you usually find a map of each area, I’d highly advise use of a walkthrough, because backtracking is bad enough in a Resident Evil mansion, but expand that to a whole town of buildings, streets, and alleys filled with respawning monsters and your nightmare quadruples. You’ll sometimes come across dead ends that just drop off into oblivion, but don’t worry, you can’t fall off them.
As if the streets aren’t annoying enough to navigate, the game sometimes fucks with you. For instance, you kill two zombie dogs by a doghouse. You check the doghouse and see nothing. You try to get in the door to the house right next to it but it’s locked. Farther down the road you find a note that says there’s something in the doghouse. You go back and there’s a key in the doghouse that unlocks the door of the house. Argh!
Did I mention using a walkthrough? The walkthrough will also ensure you gather all the ammo and health you can. You’re going to need them. That is unless you’ve already completed the game. The second time through, you have access to some cool weapons (which you won’t know about without a walkthrough), including a laser zapper with unlimited power that can be used on most enemies.
Enemies are first encountered on the streets, and include a pterodactyl type of bird, zombie dogs, and gorilla-like man monsters that pounce on you and seem to want to hump you to death. These are the least horrifying of all the enemies you’ll encounter.
You’ll also interact occasionally with normal humans, including a cop, a nurse, a crazy old lady, and a dude in a suit.
There are essentially a handful of very specific locations you spend most of your time exploring. The first building you become immersed in is the school, and immediately the game messes with you, because north on your map is suddenly to the right, not the top. Ugh. Not to mention there is only one save room in the whole building. Here you’ll meet the terrifying little children monsters with knives. Eek! They ambush you in groups, and cling to your legs while crying. As you try to shoot one, another comes at you, so you need to create distance, because they are vicious with their knives. There are also little chirping ghost children, but they are not all that harmful, and I kind of felt bad killing…ghosts? You’ll encounter your first puzzle in the school, and again, it’s annoying game design. You find three books with messages to solve the puzzle, but you don’t take the books with you! You have to write down the information for later use. Or, if you’re smart, you just read the info off the walkthrough. Eventually you are transported to the dark version of the school, where you’ll encounter giant cockroaches, and…the first boss.
WTF? The first damn boss is a one hit kill situation! You have to shoot him repeatedly until he opens his mouth, then shoot him in his mouth as much as possible before he closes it, but he gobbles you down before you can even move away. And there’s not enough room to get around his fricking mouth! And watch out for that thing in the center of this circular arena that you can constantly get stuck on if you’re not careful.
Next you meet an old lady in a church and she tells you to go to the hospital. I hate her. The hospital is the stuff of nightmares. You meet the nurses, who are all hunched over and wielding knives. The use of sound, music, camera angles, missing flooring, and darkness will ruin your life. The nurses also pop up in cramped rooms and are very aggressive. Meanwhile, jealous because the nurses are giving you all the tender love and care, out come doctor demons, which are faster, regenerate more, and tend to be right on top of you when you go through doors.
After the hospital, the streets get a bad case of dark Silent Hill, with super dark streets, no clear landmarks, grates on the ground, and enemies that are now more plentiful and relentlessly chase you.
You quickly stop into a mall…for a boss battle! WTF? I just wanted to grab some CDs from the music store! After all, this game came out right before Napster ruined the physical media industry forever.
Boss 2 is a giant, burrowing larva that spits acid at you. It always seems to come out of the ground right where you are standing and deals a lot of damage. Expect tons of running around while trying to get shots at him.
Boss 3 is just a few minutes later. You’re forced to go all the way back to the hospital, and you fight the larva in moth form, same acid spitting deal.
And then…WTF? There’s no save after the boss before you’re introduced to a new enemy…in the sewers! The sewers contain more giant bugs, including ones that drop from the ceiling, as well as these little Weeble Wobble bear things. The good news is that you aren’t wading through sewer water as in Resident Evil. When you’re finally out of that maze, you must endure a maze of docks by the water to get to a lighthouse. In a show of mercy, after that brief stop the game automatically transports you to where you need to be next.
Unfortunately, you end up going through sewers again to end up at an amusement park with no map…and just to fight a boss.
This fight takes place on a carousel. You meet an awesome boss, someone you thought was a friend but now isn’t looking so friendly. She shoots at you, which is a bitch, but after she drops the gun, if you used a walkthrough and you picked up the “unknown liquid” along the way, you’ll know to just use it on the boss instead of continuing to fight her, which also gives you a better ending. Have I sold you on a walkthrough yet?
The final segment of the game involves a lot of running around, collecting things, and solving puzzles. The problem is there’s no map, and there are lots of corridors and doors, including doors that transport you from one floor to another. But you would never know that unless you…say it with me…use a walkthrough.
You get one of two different final bosses, depending on actions you took earlier in the game, but both bosses are fought basically the same. Sad thing is you are shooting blindly because the boss flies and is not visible on screen once the cut scene introducing it ends! It’s up somewhere off screen, and your camera repositioning trick has no affect here. WTF? All you see is its lighting strikes coming down from above, and if you get hit by them you have to heal within seconds or you’ll die.
And speaking of endings, there is one more ending you can get when you play through a second time…with a walkthrough. You’ll find a special object on your journey that you can use in very specific places in the game. Each time you do, you get a cut scene of a UFO. If you hit all the areas, you suddenly get a UFO ending in which you’re abducted. However, this ends the game instantly when there’s a whole lot more game to play. Good news is there is a save right before the final spot where you use the item. Simply save first, get the UFO ending, and reload your save to continue the game.
A psychic phone worker gets a call from a creep and immediately starts having visions of him as he commits his crimes.
This psycho brutally stabs people and then scalps them while they’re still alive (although I don’t know how they can be).
With the help of her homebound father and her boss, played by Bai Ling of Dumplings (who even references dumplings in this movie), the psychic digs deeper into her visions to track down the killer, because the police aren’t buying her psychic powers.
The pacing, the editing, the lighting, the brutal kills, and the bizarre situations are a treat for lovers of classic giallos of the 70s and 80s, and the psycho killer with gender identity issues brought on by a fucked up parent is always a welcome throwback as well.
TELL ME A CREEPY STORY (2023)
This horror anthology is a simple collection of short films with no wraparound, but I did really like 3 out of the 4 stories. Here’s the breakdown:
1st story – a mother’s burden in life is raising a baby boy whose appetite grows more and more ravenous as he gets older. Gluttonous and gross visuals ensue, leading up to a good conclusion that is, however, most likely predictable for horror veterans.
2nd story – this is my favorite of the bunch. After the accidental death of his wife in a horrific way, a man panics and decides to bury her in his yard. Spooky atmosphere and horror deliver as her body parts become embedded in the vegetables he’s growing. Eek!
3rd story – an eerie home invasion flick with some layers, this one has a girl home alone at night calling a plumbing service and soon finding herself being terrorized by more than one man.
4th story – a couple living a rustic life is visited by a religious missionary, and that’s never a good thing in horror. This is more story than scary.
EVIL TAKES ROOT (2020)
Evil literally takes root in this heavy-handed, often convoluted film that blends folklore, witchcraft, possession, and religion to tell a tale about…a wood demon with glowing eyes!
As a father and daughter are dealing with the bizarre death of their matriarch, her ex-boyfriend, a paranormal investigator, comes to town, having received a message from her before her death. She had good taste in men, because both the husband and the ex are hot.
They’re even hotter when they do this together…
Anyway, the daughter has visions and dreams of the demon (too many, leading to excessive delusion and nightmare sequences), the investigator is harassed by numerous big butch men who think he should mind his own business, and on the sidelines, several religious leaders are obsessed with sin.
Like I said, there’s a bit too much going on. But the visual scenes of robed witches with black dogs in the woods definitely create a spooky tone, and even though much of the wood demon scenes rely on CGI, it’s still a compelling specter that delivers cheap scares.
And just when you think there isn’t enough already going on, the film ends with an exorcism! It’s all entertaining, but it is like there are at least three different stories being told at once that all could have had their own movies.
It’s three low budget franchises—2 that are all short films, and a third that includes 2 full-length features. Did any satisfy my Halloween slasher itch, and do they score positions on the complete holiday horror page?
DOLL KILLER (2013)
Running just over an hour long, this low budget indie takes place on Halloween 1987 and offers some faux 80s music and 80s references.
There are also plenty of references to Halloween, as well as some pumpkins, and a montage of a trip to a haunted attraction.
But in general, this film is a chaotic mess. It’s really hard to discern what the plot is. There’s a doll, there’s a killer in a mask who leaves a doll as a calling card, sometimes it seems like the doll is the killer, and there’s a satanic ritual that apparently sparks the whole killing spree.
I had no idea what any of it meant.
DOLL KILLER 2 (2021)
Nearly a decade later, the sequel comes around. This one runs only 54 minutes long, and it totally pulls a Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. The first half hour is made up predominantly of scenes from the first installment. After that the final girl is back, and the killer is back to get her 15 years later.
This is not another Halloween story. Instead, the main girl gets asked out on a date to a Fourth of July celebration at an amusement park, complete with a fireworks montage (meaning this still earns a spot on the complete holiday horror movies page).
Not much happens after that. They come home from the date and the killer shows up to take care of both of them. Still no explanation as to what this story is all about. So why not make a third installment?
DOLL KILLER 3 (2023)
Running 44 minutes long and once again loaded with scenes from the previous installment, this second sequel takes place on the same night as part 2. They should have just been edited together as one sequel without all the flashbacks.
For part 3 the killer simply moves on to a nearby house to terrorize a slumber party of all girls and one gay guy.
Considering this is supposed to be the same night as part 2, it should be the Fourth of July, yet the group at the slumber party is partying inside watching Night of the Living Dead.
Anyway, the story still doesn’t make sense. The doll is back, there are a few murders, and there’s no clear cut conclusion to the story. I fear we may be in for a part four.
PROJECT HEAT: HALLOWEEN (2021)
In this 36-minute movie, a group of friends goes on a trip to a house in the woods.
Eventually a killer in a black hoodie and mask goes around brutally killing only the women at the house—the men are nowhere to be found until the final battle.
Problem with this movie is the title. Halloween is not mentioned for a majority of the movie, and there’s a Christmas tree in the house.
Yet right at the end, one of the characters mentions his Halloween costume. What a mess and what a scam of a title.
PROJECT HEAT: HALLOWEEN 2 (2022)
The sequel runs 51 minutes long. The whole gang is back for another trip, but before they leave, one of the guys goes to a psychic because he’s having nightmares about a masked man killing all his friends (hint hint).
The psychic gives him a box and tells him to never open it or it will surely mean death.
Someone opens the box.
30 minutes in the kills begin again, and it’s just a rinse and repeat of the first film…with no mention whatsoever of it being Halloween. For what it’s worth, there is a card in the box that references it being October. Even so, the Project Heat films are not going on the holiday horror page.
THE THIRD SATURDAY IN OCTOBER (2022)
You might worry that this isn’t a Halloween themed horror film since the third Saturday in October is usually more than a week before Halloween. And in this movie, it’s the day of a football showdown that is highlighted at the beginning then all but forgotten by the time the movie totally starts delivering on autumn atmosphere and Halloween decor!
I actually love that the film doesn’t harp on Halloween, just flirts with it. Even the credits and title cards give nods to the Halloween movies.
As far as low budget throwback slashers go, this one does a great job of bringing the Halloween era vibe.
It’s the story of a serial killer being executed in the electric chair. However, once his body is taken to the cemetery, for inexplicable reasons it comes back from the dead! The sequence is filled with classic fog and blue lighting.
The killer now has a deformed face, so he doesn’t wear a mask. It is good to see a Black guy getting to be the killer. That doesn’t happen too often.
If there is one downside, it’s that the first hour should have been cut by perhaps 15 minutes to help the pacing. There is a lot of filler as we are introduced to various characters, including a man and woman who are on the trail of the unstoppable killer, as well as a group of friends that is ripe for the body count. There’s even a silver daddy walking around in his undies.
There are shades of kills in that first hour, but the party really starts when the friends start their football watching party.
This final segment of the film is a blast, with gory kills, suspense, body reveals, and a final girl. And I have to give credit to a Halloween movie that manages to pay homage to Black Christmas!
Luckily, the killer pulls a Michael Myers, which ensures a sequel! Or…a fifth sequel?
THE THIRD SATURDAY IN OCTOBER PART V (2022)
The intro to the sequel weaves a legend about the first movie being a cash-in of Halloween in 1980, and claims there were four sequels throughout the decade, and now you’re getting to see the fifth film in the series.
There’s a quick montage of “scenes” from the other movies, with new footage from films that were never actually made. Awesome.
While keeping the same retro tone as the first film, this sequel also subtly serves as a satire on numerous sequels in franchises in the 80s:
–the plot is basically recycled; a group of friends gets together to watch the annual football game on the third Saturday in October.
–numerous characters are introduced only to be killed off with little to no character development, which means way more death scenes and a body count.
–the killer kills indiscriminately; there’s no real motive this time.
–the deaths deliver more blood and violence, and torture is thrown into the mix.
–as the film progresses, it leans more towards horror comedy.
It’s also definitely a tighter paced film, there’s still autumn atmosphere and Halloween decor, and what would an 80s sequel be without a child being one of the “final girls”?
Two things that I didn’t love about the film. First, the comedy aspect revolves around one guy who is tied up and tortured in the bedroom as the others watch the game in the living room. Therefore, every time someone comes in looking for him, they are killed. Seriously, the killer doesn’t go stalking victims—they come to him.
But the reactions of the tied up guy definitely deliver on the horror comedy element. And second, while I cheered the first film for having a Black killer, in the sequel he wears a mask (very Friday the 13th Part 3) and never takes it off or has it knocked off by a victim!
These days I’m really struggling to find any horror worth watching on any streaming service that isn’t Tubi, and this trio I watched on Prime is a perfect example of why I should just stick to Tubi.
THE RETURN (2020)
This is simply a lower budget take on the many ghostly female specter movies out there, so if you can’t get enough of them, you should definitely check this one out. For me it had its moments at first, but then we are continuously bombarded by bogus jumps and dream scares that numbed me to any fear.
A young man returns with friends to his home after the mysterious death of his father.
What ensues is the usual attempt to unravel what happened and how it relates to his childhood.
All the while he is haunted by a CGI phantom of black smoke with glowing eyes.
By the final act, the main guy is hunting the ghost with a special ray gun, and there’s a sort of alternate dimension element, and I just couldn’t take it serious anymore.
This is a different kind of killer mermaid movie that is focused more on folklore and the occult than on a deadly fish woman.
A group of girls goes to stay at a cabin in the woods, and one of them convinces the others to perform a ritual that is supposed to summon the mermaid Erzulie, mother of the waters.
Much to their surprise, it actually works. We don’t see the mermaid with a fin very much, because half the time she seems to have been blessed with legs like the Little Mermaid, plus the girls keep her hidden away until they can figure out what to do with her.
In the meantime, a bunch of redneck dudes catch wind of the mermaid and decide they can make a lot of money off her. Toxic men will never learn…
I wish the film wasn’t so dark with choppy editing, because the final act delivers some excitement, but you can’t see much of anything, so I was left unsatisfied.
LAND SHARK (2017)
Yay! I stumbled upon another goofy shark movie that could have been a fave on SyFy. This is an Asian film that has been dubbed. I don’t know if the original tone was meant to be funny or serious, but much of the dubbing definitely feels like it is intentionally done for comedic effect.
Numerous aspects of this movie are going to make you think it ripped off The Meg, but it actually came out a year before. However it does feel like a rip-off of Deep Blue Sea at times since one shark infiltrates a flooded underground facility for a good chunk of the running time.
The opener is a scene from much later in the movie—you won’t realize it until that moment hits, so it’s a very confusing intro.
Naturally scientists have been doing experiments that created the land shark. Once it busts into the underground facility, we get that whole Deep Blue Sea clone situation. However, once the survivors make it onto land, the hilarity ensues as this shark starts skidding through grass and swimming through dirt in a relentless hunt for humans.
It’s all shark action and typical character stereotypes. My fave is the hunky daddy leader of the military team that shows up.
When we hit the 50-minute mark, this magically transforms into a land Megalodon movie with some nods to Godzilla, and the silly fun shark action continues super-sized.
And finally, the explanation as to why the shark became a land shark is as cheesy good
Somehow I found four movies on Tubi that revolve around Black people going to a Halloween party, so I simply had to do a marathon and follow it up with a post. A majority of these are strictly comedies, not horror films, so let’s see if there were laughs or scare to be found.
This 40-minute slasher takes place specifically in Jacksonville, Florida. I don’t see why there was even a need to flash that on the screen, but there you have it.
A group of friends gathers for Halloween, and for the first 20 minutes they just sit and talk (the script writer didn’t seem to have the motivation to write interesting dialogue or develop characters). A variety of people come to the door–an over age trick or treater, a pizza delivery person, a redneck neighbor. I guess they’re supposed to be red herring…
Once the killing starts in the final 20 minutes, the filmmakers show a knack for creating classic slasher vibes, including the music, the lighting, the editing, the masked killer, jump scares, and the brutally violent stabbings.
The funniest part of all this is that they’ve clearly used a Darth Vader breathing sample as that of the killer.
The downside of all this? We never learn who the killer is.
POOR HERMAN (2022)
In this 64-minute flick, four female friends of mixed races are walking to a Halloween party while arguing about oversensitivity, whiteness vs. blackness, and pop culture. For no apparent reason they sneak into a random house to use the bathroom.
Unfortunately, a big guy with a burned face and wearing overalls starts chasing them down to kill them. He’s kind of sexy.
Blue lighting sets the horror mood, but the girls bring a comedic edge to the action.
Meanwhile, there are also flashback scenes interspersed that show us how and why the killer became who he is, and it’s a pretty classic slasher trope.
The kills are just okay, but the music score and the ominous presence of the killer definitely give it that horror tone we would hope for. And the final few minutes are quite satisfying.
HALLOWEEN KICKBACK (2021)
This is a straight up Halloween comedy written by, directed by, and starring Nelson J. Davis.
He and his two friends are all college grads down on their luck and living mostly at home. They’re also all very cute.
Anyway, when one of them is asked to house sit, they see an opportunity to make money by throwing a Halloween party and charging at the door.
What unfolds is a comedy reminiscent of the days of movies like House Party and Barbershop. Thing is, there isn’t much in the way of plot. It’s more like little vignettes of minor situations and conversations happening at the house party with nothing to push a story forward.
Some of the humor is funny, and the actors handle the comedy with ease, but there just isn’t enough of it (or enough plot) to support even the short, 70-minute run time. Also, while there are continuous flashing lights in haunting colors, there are no Halloween decorations around the house and very little effort put into the costumes guests are wearing. The most Halloween spirit comes from a nosy neighbor’s house, where a horror movie marathon is playing on the television.
And speaking of guests, it seems like they didn’t have money for even extras, so aside from the main cast, we only ever see numerous clips of the same people dancing–but only from their bellies to their knees! There’s also one girl in a G-sting twerking with her ass in the camera every time there’s a shot of the people dancing.
Speaking of asses, we do get to see one of the cuties naked from the back when he has to change his clothes after getting puked on.
This is a perfect example of unseasoned writing. There’s the start of a funny thread in the movie with this guy getting puked on and having to change more than once. But…it’s only twice. This could have been a running joke that eventually had a punch line–like maybe his friends thinking he was scoring left and right because he was always running around naked or something–but the script just felt too underdeveloped to see the opportunities that were waiting to be expanded upon.
The highlight for me is that for once a filmmaker figured out how to make text messages easy to read for aging eyes like mine. Instead of those damn little bubbles popping up in one corner of the screen, the texts are ghosted over the shots of the people texting. Brilliant.
THE MICROCHIP THAT RUINED HALLOWEEN (2023)
If you’re going to call your movie The Microchip That Ruined Halloween, you need to actually deliver on the quirkiness of the title. This movie feels like a weak attempt by a college theater group to make a comedy…with a mostly Black cast…that struggles to land any jokes, fails to deliver any semblance of Black comic sensibilities, doesn’t ruin Halloween, and makes Halloween night a virtual afterthought.
There’s a plan to implant a microchip in a prison inmate to rehab him instantly so he can be released into society. Just getting to the point when the chip is implanted drags on for over half an hour.
Meanwhile, at a university the faculty is planning for a Halloween party and staging a performance of Macbeth. The criminal with the chip is brought in as a student to play Macbeth.
With all this going on, somehow nothing goes on. This movie just limps along. How do you write a movie about a criminal forced into a social setting at Halloween time and not indulge in the concept?
With 20 minutes left, the Halloween party starts.
With 15 minutes left, the criminal jailbreaks the chip and busts into the party with an axe…then immediately passes out. When he wakes up, the chip has done its job and he’s all better.
It’s a look at three of the latest movies I’ve added to my collection, including 2 Blu-rays and a 4k UHD.
BABY BLOOD (1990)
If you’re looking for a bloody, sleazy good time, this French evil baby flick puts all other evil baby flicks that came before it to shame. The plot point that triggers the action also reminded me of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, which came a few years later.
An African jaguar is sent to a circus, where we meet the abusive owner and his woman, who performs in the show.
Before long, the jaguar explodes! We don’t see it happen, but we see the aftermath in a cage. For unexplained reasons other than the notion that deadly viruses, diseases, and parasites always come from other countries, a black snake thing slithers away and finds its way into the female performer while she’s sleeping.
She discovers she’s pregnant, she flees her abusive man, and soon the baby that’s inside her talks to her and demands that she kill people then drink their blood to feed it.
There’s not much more to it than that. She hides out in the urban jungle, she uses her sex appeal to lure men, and then she kills them and sucks a different fluid from them than the one they were hoping for.
There are some great gory scenes, including a wild dream scene of her giving birth, but the killing does become somewhat repetitive.
The most interesting encounter she has with a man involves him giddily talking about gay and transsexual stuff.
Things pick back up at the end when we’re treated to a journey through her body, and then she finally gives birth to the baby, which looks normal at first, but reveals its real monstrous look when its mother is once again at the mercy of toxic masculinity.
LORDS OF THE DEEP (1989)
Of course Roger Corman got in on the underwater creature craze from the end of the 80s with his special brand of b-movie production. Lords of the Deep is a fairly cookie cutter take on the subgenre, with the bonus of having Priscilla Barnes as the leading lady.
Timely (at the time), this is a story of an underwater facility trying to figure out a way for life to go on following the destruction of the ozone layer.
A research sub goes off the grid, so a rescue sub is sent out to find it. The sub is found empty, but creatures attack and the life form ends up infiltrating the facility.
Thing is that the life form looks like a cute stingray with cartoon eyes. Even so, it escapes its tank where the crew is keeping it captive, and the hunt to find it is on.
Meanwhile, Priscilla seems to have a telepathic connection with the creature.
Bradford Dillman, who plays the leader of the crew, doesn’t want the scientists exposing themselves to the creature and therefore works against them.
The proceeding are entertaining enough and definitely provide that nostalgic feel for those missing this time period, but there’s nothing much in the way of monstrous or horrific here—we definitely needed more underwater alien action.
It is fun to note that there’s one scene in which Priscilla Barnes is kissing a guy she’s involved with and two other guys call the public display of affection disgusting while walking by arm in arm. Gay humor or gay characters? You decide.
THE PSYCHIC (1977)
Considering it begins with close-ups of a woman’s face scrapping against a mountainside as she jumps off a cliff, you wouldn’t expect The Psychic to be a tame Lucio Fulci film, but it is after that satisfying scene. The new 4k release doesn’t do the opening gore any favors…the classic hokey Euro style effects are fully exposed in ultra HD glory.
This being a 1977 film, we are then hit by a cheesy 70s ballad during the opening credits.
Sort of a parapsychology giallo, this is the story of a woman who has premonitions, played by Jennifer O’Neill.
She comes to live with her husband in his new home and is bombarded by visions that lead her to tear down a wall with a pickaxe to discover a skeleton behind it.
Jennifer is soon convinced it was murder and spends the rest of the movie investigating, having more visions, and seeing those visions slowly become reality.
It gets a bit repetitive (a side effect of having visions of things before they happen…), but there’s a good chase scene near the end and a nod to a famous Edgar Allan Poe story.
This foursome of flicks covers both Christmas and Halloween, and each earns a spot on the holiday horror page. Let’s take a look at what you can expect.
ALTER Collection: Holiday Horror (2021)
This is simply a 52-minute collection of five tales that take place during the Christmas season. My absolute favorite is the first episode.
A couple is preparing for the holidays when an old friends drops by and leaves them a package that proves to have something freaky inside. Eek!
A sadistic satire in which the government puts homeless people to work by morphing them into Santa Claus just for the holidays then setting them out onto the street again.
A husband presents Christmas Eve as a perfect night for his family when actually it’s going to end in tragedy. This one has a clever plot.
When a woman and a man go home for some sex following a blind date, it turns into a Merry Axe-mas when it turns out it’s a house of horrors. This is a goodie with a fun twist.
This odd short is like the final scene of a killer Santa slasher, when the survivors have to make sure the killer is really dead. I think it’s supposed to be making a statement on why a female has to be the final survivor.
TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE (2022)
The wraparound steals the show in this anthology and is the only part that takes place on Halloween. Three kids trick or treat at the house of an alleged witch, and she invites them in for some scary stories…
1st story – at a garage sale, a woman tells girls about a “petrified man” that worked for the circus. A tame zinger ending doesn’t save this bland tale.
2nd story – a filmmaker comes for a job at a cemetery. If I’m understanding this right, it seems some footage he edits is a portal to death and brings forth a grim reaper.
3rd story – a couple steals a crystal ball from a male fortune teller who seems to then haunt their house. This one is creepy, but it has a kind of confusing twist and way too many loud orchestral stabs to force jump scares.
4th story – a guy who killed his wife and kids now says he hears God and was being tested, which he learns isn’t quite accurate after giving a big sermon. This “story” just goes nowhere.
5th story – a woman hooks up with an artist, but she has ulterior motives. This one has a fiendish, Tales from the Crypt feel to it.
6th story – a holiday crossover? This Halloween wraparound anthology ends with a Christmas horror story about Krampus fighting an elf. Sadly, it’s just an array of still shots set to an audio track. Bummer.
The wraparound is the highlight because the witch totally rox.
VAMPUS HORROR TALES (2020)
This black and white Spanish film only flirts with Halloween during the wraparound, which happens to be the most entertaining part.
A cemetery caretaker/gravedigger is up to all kinds of macabre tricks on Halloween night.
Sadly we don’t just to get to watch him and his ghoulish existence.
Instead he tells four stories…
a bride becomes trapped with the best man right before her wedding…and he’ll do anything to make sure she ends up with him till death do them part. This one is just endless dialogue with very little payoff.
a lesbian couple goes on a date to a carnival, and there’s a killer in the tunnel of terror. I’m making it sound better than it is.
a man brings a blind woman to a cabin in the woods claiming they are going to be with other friends. But pretty soon she suspects he’s taking advantage of her blindness to deceive her. Not much suspense here, but the concept is okay.
a man’s wife becomes a vampire during a pandemic and he has to keep her locked away. Like all the stories in this anthology, it’s a generally interesting and moody tale that simply lacks any horror oomph.
TALES FROM ALL HALLOWS EVE (2007)
This feels like a very home-brewed indie, and once again, only the wraparound takes place on Halloween. And for the most part, the stories aren’t horror stories, just dark tales.
Friends gather to tell stories at a Halloween party in what looks like the living room of someone who worked on the movie.
1st story – this is seriously a tale about an ammosexual being hunted by a sniper in the woods. The best part is the twist ending.
2nd story – a girl seeks revenge when she discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her. Again, not much horror, but an old school anthology tale twist.
3rd story – while it’s the only genuine horror story and focuses on vampires, it’s not a very compelling tale.
The wraparound tries to give us another shocker twist. I wasn’t shocked.
When I recently revisited my DVDs of the sister series Fear Itself, which also featured episodes by veteran horror directors, I really didn’t remember any of the stories, but going through my Masters of Horror discs was a different story. These came back to me as if I’d just seen them yesterday. So let’s get into all the episodes from both seasons.
Episode 1 – Incident On And Off A Mountain Road
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars – Angus Scrimm
While on a dark road alone at night, a woman crashes and sees a monstrous man dragging a body into the woods. He then abducts her, and she must use survival skills taught to her by her husband to escape. The monster man and his lair are just awesome in this episode.
Episode 2 – Dreams in the Witch-House
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars – Ezra Godden (from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon)
A grad student rents an apartment to work on his thesis and is then terrorized by a witch. This is pure witchy nightmare goodness.
Episode 3 – Dance of the Dead
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars – Robert Englund
This is a story of a dystopian, future society in which a teen girl gets involved with the wrong crowd. When she sneaks into a club where the host brings the dead back to life to dance, she makes a heinous discovery. Englund and his zombie dancers are definitely the highlight of this episode, as is the dark commentary on humanity.
A detective saves a horribly disfigured woman from being murdered and brings her home to care for her. Soon he is being seduced by her…and then begins to realize that despite seeming like a wounded, lost soul, she’s a vicious flesh eater. This episode is a total mind fuck, and two of the most sexual and gruesome moments were cut from the episode. You can see them in the bonus documentary on the DVD. And be warned–there’s a grisly scene involving a cat, and another with a young girl. Argento doesn’t give a fuck.
Episode 5 – Chocolate
Director: Mick Garris
Stars – Henry Thomas
A man who works for a flavor creating company tries a chocolate that opens a communication channel between him and a woman. He can see what she’s seeing and soon finds himself in an Eyes of Laura Mars situation. This leads to murder…as well as some gender-bending queer aspects!
Episode 6 – Homecoming
Director: Joe Dante
Stars – Thea Gill (of Queer as Folk)
This is an over-the-top political satire from the Bush Jr. years, when many were enraged that he sent so many young Americans to die in a war of his making. When a member of the Republican Party wishes for a dead soldier to come back from the dead, it creates a domino effect that leads to a whole bunch of zombies that want to cast their vote in the next election. It’s eerily prophetic in how it deals with the right wing stealing elections.
Episode 7 – Deer Woman
Director: John Landis
Stars – Brian Benben
A detective investigates when men are being killed on the side of the road while sexually aroused, even though the deaths look like animal attacks. In familiar Landis style, there’s a comedic tone to the story as the detective plays out various scenarios in his mind of how the men are being killed. Also, the plot details are steeped in Native American folklore.
Episode 8 – Cigarette Burns
Director: John Carpenter
Stars – Norman Reedus, Udo Kier
A movie theater owner facing hard times accepts a job finding a lost horror film believed to be cursed. During its only viewing before being destroyed, it turned viewers into crazed killers. Horror highlights of this episode include one of the stars of the film chained up and looking freaky, and a shirtless hunk in leather hacking off a woman’s head with a machete.
Episode 9 – The Fair Haired Child
Director: William Malone
Stars – Lori Petty
A young woman is abducted by a couple and locked in a basement with a young mute man. As she tries to find a way to escape, the mute man reveals to her why she’s not the first person they abducted and won’t be the last.
A lesbian etymologist is way too cozy with her insects and can’t get close to any women as a result. When she acquires a mysterious bug from Brazil, it really creeps its way into a blossoming relationship with a new girl. This is as ooey-gooey gross as a bug story gets, and Bettis, who also starred in Lucky McKee’s May, plays her usual horror weirdo role. We get a giant bug transformation at the end, and that’s just awesome.
Episode 11 – Pick Me Up
Director: Larry Cohen
Stars – Fairuza Balk, Michael Moriarty
When a bus breaks down on a deserted road, the passengers soon discover there are two different psycho killers on the loose. This is a fresh take on the old country road trip horror subgenre, and it’s worth it for the zany final act.
Episode 12 – Haeckel’s Tale
Director: John McNaughton
This tale tells of a godless medical student in the 1800s who wants to resurrect the dead. There’s a scene of a man bringing a dog back to life only to kill it immediately because it returned Pet Sematary style. As much as I’m not a fan of period pieces, the final act is deliciously macabre and sexual.
If M. Butterfly were torture porn, this would be it. An American who left the prostitute he loved in Japan years before comes back looking for her and learns of her horrific treatment once he was gone. The torture is heinous, and there are also disturbing birthing, abortion, and fetal scenes, plus extreme violence towards women.
Episode 1 – The Damned Thing
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars – Sean Patrick Flanery, Ted Raimi, Brendan Fletcher
A small town sheriff believes an evil force that compelled his father to kill his mother in 1981 is trying to destroy his town. A fairly cliche tale, it does add a big creature element to a basic The Crazies concept. I also noticed several similarities to Hooper’s work on Poltergeist.
Episode 2 – Family
Director: John Landis
Stars – George Wendt
A middle-aged dude on a suburban street is actually killing people and using their bodies to create his own family. When a young straight couple moves in across the street, he decides he must add the woman to his growing family.
Episode 3 – The V Word
Director: Ernest R. Dickerson
Stars – Michael Ironside
Two friends playing the Doom video game decide to sneak into a funeral home for some scary fun. They’re horrified when they find…dead bodies. Then they encounter a vampire. And the only other thing I’ll say about this one is…how can you go wrong with Michael Ironside as a vampire terrorizing two teenagers?
Episode 4 – Sounds Like
Director: Brad Anderson
A phone service worker is grieving the death of his son and has a wife with a long term illness. He also has an exaggerate sense of hearing and can’t shut it off. As a result, sound starts driving him mad. This episode is dullsville.
Episode 5 – Pro-Life
Director: John Carpenter
Stars – Emmanuelle Vaugier, Ron Perlman
Carpenter dares to go for the abortion issue. What’s masterful about it is that the side you think this episode takes on the subject will most likely be determined by the side you take on the subject. A young woman is brought to a clinic and wants her baby removed. Her religious nut father and his goons come to get her out. There’s plenty of gore, a creature crawling out of the pregnant girl, and even a kick ass, satanic demon breaking up through the floor.
Meat Loaf plays a sleazy dude who runs a fur making sweatshop and obsessively harasses a stripper to have sex with him. When he gets his hands on some mesmerizing raccoons caught on a witchy old lady’s land, he thinks making them into a fur coat will score him the stripper. But these are no ordinary raccoons. This is one bloody episode, and features animal abuse and mutilation.
Episode 7 – The Screwfly Solution
Director: Joe Dante
Stars – Jason Priestley, Elliott Gould
This is a very major commentary on environment, religion, toxic masculinity, and the treatment of females in society. An experimental solution to a fly problem using cropdusting to interrupt the male procreation ability causes an outbreak of men violently brutalizing and killing women. This one goes off the rails at the end.
Episode 8 – Valerie On The Stairs
Director: Mick Garris
Stars – Christopher Lloyd, Tony Todd
An aspiring horror author takes a room in a boardinghouse. He’s haunted by a female ghost who asks him for help because a male entity is terrorizing her. Tony Todd is the highlight as the beastly male, and the story involves the idea of creativity manifesting into reality.
Episode 9 – Right to Die
Director: Rob Schmidt
Stars – Corbin Bernsen, Robin Sydney
A husband and wife have a car accident and she is set on fire. She ends up in a coma, and he is forced to decide whether or not to keep her on life support. In the meantime, she begins haunting him…as a very crispy ghost.
Episode 10 – We All Scream for Ice Cream
Director: Tom Holland
Stars – Lee Tergesen
As children, a group of friends played a prank on the ice cream man, which ended in tragedy. Now the ice cream man is back for vengeance. This one has a great 1980s Stephen King meets Steven Spielberg vibe to it.
Episode 11 – The Black Cat
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars – Jeffrey Combs
Edgar Allan Poe is an alcoholic with writer’s block, and his wife’s cat hates him. When she becomes very ill, it’s a battle between him and the cat. This has disturbing animal abuse in it, so despite loving Gordon, Combs, and Poe, I found this episode hard to watch.
Episode 12 – The Washingtonians
Director: Peter Medak
Stars: Johnathon Schaech
A man, his wife, and their daughter come to the home of his deceased grandmother. He finds a note behind a painting of George Washington that claims the president was a cannibal. It turns out there’s a society that protects the President’s secret. While there’s some nice gore, this is a pretty hokey episode.
This episode is notable for having a full-length feature version included on the DVD, running 87 minutes long compared to the aired 57-minute episode.
A man is still haunted by the drowning death of his brother when he was a child. Literally haunted. By the ghost of his brother. This proves to be problematic when he goes on a client’s boat for business purposes. It’s reminiscent of The Ring movies and The Grudge movies…and happens to be from the director of Ringu 0. Is there killer hair? You bet there is. On the high seas no less, making this like some nightmarish Jaws/Sadako mashup.
It’s a trio of flicks with killers on the loose. Wahoo! Let’s get right into them.
HAUNTED TRAIL (2021)
A Black Halloween haunted attraction movie directed by Robin Givens? I was so in.
As our group of friends prepares to head to a haunted trail in the woods, they reference having Halloween spirit, but there’s no effort to bring that spirit to the locations where they’re getting ready. All the fun atmosphere is saved for when they reach their destination.
As haunted attraction movies go, this one delivers on the vibe, with lots of footage of the action, plenty of red light and fog machines, and fleeting glimpses of the masked killer in the background.
What is notable is the unique camera work and editing, which is at times effective and at other times chaotic and raucous.
Either way, it does add interest to otherwise routine proceedings.
The hardest part to buy as the friends are killed off one by one and then try to race through the attraction to get out alive is that they keep encountering the haunters that work there, yet they run around and past them screaming instead of just stopping and telling them there is a real killer on the loose. Of course chances are no one would believe them…
There are some clever and effective suspense scenes, plus a “The Haunted Trail” theme song during the closing credits, but I did find the denouement to be somewhat of a letdown. But really…who cares? There’s a masked killer and deaths. What more could you ask for?
THE LATENT IMAGE (2022)
This gay thriller from the director of Sleepaway Slasher began as a short, 20-minute film, which is included on the DVD as an extra. Since I felt a little bewildered by all the content added to draw the story out for another 70 minutes, I also watched the short, which is a more streamlined experience.
Generally, I really liked the plot. It’s a familiar tale of a writer holing up at a cabin in the woods alone to focus on his writing and then finding his own imagination coming to life when a man shows up claiming his car broke down.
I guess you would call this an erotic psychological thriller, because it definitely attempts to play with your mind. However, it does so by bombarding us with dream sequences, manifestations of the author’s story as he’s writing, and his own fantasies about what might transpire between him and the stranger.
There are some excellent sexual encounters and suspense scenes, but as we try to make sense of it all, again and again we are presented with the fact that most of the situations aren’t really unfolding.
So does the stranger mean danger or is he just a guy in a pinch who is interested in helping the author act out his ideas for his new novel?
The tension is both sensual and unnerving as they become physically more aggressive with each other while playing out scenarios for the book, and the final act definitely ramps up the suspense, but until the bitter end, you’re never really sure if any of it is actually happening or all in the writer’s mind.
MASK OF THE DEVIL (2022)
I’m always up for a horror movie that takes place on the set of a porno.
But first, white men do some stupid shit in the 1800s and go against the warnings of a tribe doing a ritual with a mask. Pretty soon, someone possessed by the mask is hacking white guys up left and right. That’s how you start a horror movie.
In modern times, a naive young girl who needs a job so she can move out of her parents’ house takes a job as a “fluffer” on a film set.
She quickly discovers what kind of film it is as the dildos fly. Sexual humor ensues, some of it chuckle-worthy. But also, much of it just doesn’t hit the mark enough to keep the momentum of the horror comedy aspect.
The film begins to drag until about 45 minutes in when people on the set begin coming in contact with one particular prop…a mask. Uh-oh.
Once someone slips the mask on and becomes possessed the tone totally changes, and this turns into a fast-paced, old school suspenseful slasher with plenty of kills (much of the gore is CGI). It’s definitely worth sticking with this one to get to the final act for some slasher thrills.