Just like everything else, there’s a shortage of Halloween themed horror movies this year, but I managed to find two more to add to the holiday horror page, and I tossed in a couple of non-holiday themed horror flicks just for fun. Let’s see which ones were worth the watch.
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME (2021)
Justin Price, director of werewolf film Dark Moon Rising, takes on the “criminals commit crime then hide out in house with monsters in it” plot. Having been left completely befuddled by Wrong Place, Wrong Time, I just looked back at my blog about his werewolf film to refresh my memory. It isn’t surprising that one of my sentences in the Dark Moon Rising blog was “Endless disjointed scenes baffle rather than give any sense of what the fuck is going on.”
This film somehow takes the most basic concept and attempts to complicate it, which piles on the plot holes. I watched this with the hubba hubba and then we talked it through trying to make sense of it. We even watched the first fifteen minutes again to see if all the setup scenes (which we at first thought weren’t presented in chronological order) held some answers we’d missed. They did not.
The opener feels like it is in place just to let viewers know there will be action and blood in this film. Then we are introduced to the main characters with a painfully forced method—one character shows the “files” of each character to the guy hiring them as he describes them while we are presented with clips of them in action.
And the mission they’re hired for? We don’t see it executed. Suddenly they are on the run, one of them is wounded, and they decide to bust into some seemingly random house to hide out. There they find some people tied up.
Neither the events that unfold nor characters that are presented seem to fall into place. The good news is that the horror and “monster” moments totally rock and awesome practical effects are on full display instead of CGI. There’s even a great police cam POV scene.
Yet, as if the film doesn’t already have a confusing narrative as it is, the very last line in the movie, which seems to be intended to blow our minds with a new piece of information, instead leaves us wondering why the new detail would even be introduced at all.
REUNION MASSACRE (aka: Invitation to Die) (2014)
Would you believe this is a high school reunion/Halloween horror mashup? And it is all jammed into what feels like a 60-minute fan film made by someone who wanted to do reunion and Halloween horror movies but couldn’t even come up with enough ideas to fill an hour with both themes at their disposal.
Reunion Massacre, which was originally titled Invitation to Die, starts with a horror hostess introducing the movie with its original title, so the voice totally changes due to an overdub of someone else saying Reunion Massacre. This pretty much foreshadows the quality of the rest of the movie.
There’s a girl. She gets an invite to her high school reunion. Her friend convinces her to go…and then they dive into a Halloween decorating montage.
She heads to her reunion, but the address turns out to be a derelict house in the woods. A guy in a clown mask abducts her and ties her up in the house a couple of times. Each time she gets away she just roams around to pad the running time of this 1-hour movie. Two girls are also killed in between, and then the main girl has a final confrontation with the killer.
Three weeks later, she’s carving a pumpkin, and someone keeps ringing the doorbell. Guess who.
I don’t say this often, but I’d suggest avoiding this one at all costs (and my price was free with my Amazon Prime membership).
BAD CANDY (2020)
If Trick ‘r Treat collided with All Hallows’ Eve, you would sort of get Bad Candy. I’ll say immediately that this is a visual Halloween spectacle nearly from start to finish. It gives a gorgeously eerie Halloween vibe and glow, and the creepy ghouls and gore throughout totally deliver on the Halloween fun. Not to mention, a male narrator voice at the beginning is very reminiscent of the Tales From the Darkside intro.
The wraparound focuses on two DJs at a radio show taking requests for scary stories —Corey Taylor of the band Slipknot and Zach Galligan, who brings along some Gremlins references.
Much like Trick ‘r Treat, the stories all sort of take place in the same universe and overlap here and there. And like All Hallows’ Eve, an evil clown makes an appearance in most of the tales.
These are more like creepy vignettes rather than fully developed stories, and some are better than others. Now here’s the curious part. Based on the movie title and the themes of the tales, I’m thinking that these are tales of morality (the temptations of the sinners being the “bad candy”). However, there’s a catch if I’m reading things right. Some of the moral viewpoints are (hopefully) universal. However, others may have a rather right wing propaganda bent. I could be wrong, but I’ll give you some examples as I attempt to breakdown each separate “story”, which I’d consider “situations” rather than stories.
1st – remember the bratty kid who trashed Halloween displays in Trick ‘r Treat? There’s another one here, and the evil clown doesn’t like that. Yay! Bratty Halloween hating kid gets taught a lesson.
2nd – a young girl dressed as a witch has a pretty vile stepfather. She also has the ability to bring supernatural beings into reality by drawing them. Yay! Scummy stepdad gets taught a lesson.
3rd – the evil clown takes center stage when a nasty old man taints Halloween candy. Yay! Nasty old man gets taught a lesson.
4th – hm. A dirt bag is selling drugs at a party. Personally, I don’t think he deserves to be taught a lesson for being a dirt bag or for selling drugs to privileged white kids that demand it, but maybe that’s just me. However, when he goes into a bathroom stall, things get interesting. There’s a glory hole and also “for a good time call Pedro” graffiti punctuated with a pentagram. The drug dealer calls “Pedro”, which immediately left me wondering if it’s being implied that he’s gay, a Satanist, or both, and therefore deserves to be taught a lesson by the devilish killer that shows up.
5th – corpse fucker gets taught a lesson. Yay!
6th – a man beats a woman, and while I’m totally feeling his big gay club kid shorts, yay! Woman beater gets taught a lesson.
7th – this is a story that’s weird, kind of freaky in a good way yet goes on way too long, and could be troubling if not for the fact that it’s just convoluted enough to possibly be masking its true intent. Some guys bring a bunch of bound men in underwear with ball gags in their mouths to a pumpkin patch at night.
Earlier in the movie there’s a conversation between two of the abductors in which one obnoxiously calls the other one gay. This obnoxious guy is Derek Russo, the hunk from the Creepshow Christmas episode. He’s also leading the charge in the field and explains that he didn’t fight in the military man to have all these men bring shame upon the country by doing what they’ve done. Here’s the catch. We don’t know what they’ve done. We don’t know where they came from. We don’t know if they were already in undies and ball gags (maybe at a sex party?), or if their abductors did that to them.
One of the victims is wearing a wig, which seems to imply either drag or a non-male gender identity. Is this an attack on queer men? I’m not sure, but it kind of feels like it. However, if I’m reading the internet right, it’s interesting to note that actor Derek Russo appears to have done porn in the past and even dabbled in some gay erotic material. Not that it would matter or stop him from doing an anti-gay horror tale. Anyway, all the practically naked men are splashed in blood, have jack o’ lanterns placed over their heads, and are then let loose to run from a variety of horrors both human and monster.
8th – this begins as a ghost hunters tale, but it becomes a super confusing attempt to tie everything together, including the wraparound. It’s quite a mess, and personally I felt it kind of ruins the movie and is a huge letdown after all the horror and Halloween goodness that carried most of the film, despite those hints of queer persecution I may just be totally misreading.
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (2021)
The director of The Banana Splits Movie and the writer of Leprechaun Returns, both female, create what is possibly now one of my favorite slasher remakes yet.
They seem totally aware of the original 1982 slasher’s history of being written by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, and how it became one of the major players in critical theory of the misogyny of 80s slashers. They then take that idea and totally flip the script, crafting a meta horror comedy that is so of the moment with how it tackles gender and race issues we are contending with both in society and in horror right now.
After a fantastic opener that takes place in 1993 at a cabin in the woods, with a killer that perfectly replicates the odd presence and physical stance and quirks of the killer from the original Slumber Party Massacre, we jump to present day.
A group of girls heads to a cabin in the woods…and immediately delves into a dance montage! Before long, some boys from across the lake drop by. They’re staying at the cabin in which the murders from 93 took place, and the girls realize they just might have to help save the boys should the killer make a return. Awesome.
And wouldn’t you know we get an all-male pillow fight along with plenty of other satirical reversals of gender issues in slashers, which can better be appreciated in this visual presentation (which happened to be a pain in the ass to create because I had to take pictures of the TV with my phone while the movie was playing to capture these shots).
The kills are fun and gory, there’s plenty of comedy, there’s a nod to the guitar playing killer from Slumber Party Massacre 2, there’s a nod to the infamous phallic poster art, and there’s a Black main girl.
There’s even a shower scene…which also deserves a visual presentation.
DAMN YOU, SYFY! Just have to wait for the blur-free Blu-ray release…
And if you watch closely during a scene in which the lights keep flashing on and off, there appears to be a little more than a bromance going on between two of the guys.