Indulging in four contemporary horror flicks

An Amityville remake, a new film from a director who always keeps me coming back for more, a sequel to a popular streaming horror comedy, and Danielle Harris at a killer camp. Let’s get into my thoughts on these four.

THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS (2018)

The director of The Haunting of Sharon Tate and The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson is making a career out of transforming true crime stories into horror movies, so it must have been a no-brainer to a) take on the infamous DeFeo family murders that triggered the Amityville craze, and b) in the process, essentially remake the original Amityville II movie, even going as far as to cast two of the same actors. Awesome.

The eldest sister in Amityville II, 80s sweetheart Diane Franklin is now the mother, while Burt Young, who played the father, now has a brief role as the grandfather, along with icon Lanie Kazan as the grandmother.

Completely immersed in the pop culture references of the 1970s, this version focuses on Ronald Jr., his sister, and their friends having a sort of séance in the red room down in the basement, which triggers the release of dark shadowy entities that begin tormenting Ronald.

The film also focuses heavily on what an abusive shit the father was, mostly to Ronald. He’s so hateful you can’t wait for Ronald to get the shotgun and blow his brains out.

This version skips the incest angle with the brother and sister, but there really are numerous scenes lifted right from Amityville II. The supernatural scenes are updated to be more in keeping with the shadowy flashes of specters in modern ghost films like The Conjuring (aka: it’s not nearly as effective as the 1982 film). The best sequence is the build-up to Ronald murdering everyone at the end. There’s even a nod to a Poltergeist just for fun.

As thunder crashes and lighting strobes in the dark house while Ronald goes from room to room, there’s only one CGI flash over his face implying he’s possessed as he chases his sister down.

Considering the film stuck with the supernatural angle rather than just serve as a docudrama, it definitely could have used more traditional haunting moments, like a fantastic opening scene that was cut and appears as a deleted scene in the extras on the Blu-ray. It’s a great introduction to the kids of the family and also a reminder of just how creepy the View Master 3D slideshow system for kids was back then.

THE DEAD ONES (2020)

As a huge fan of director Jeremy Kasten’s horror films (The Attic Expeditions, The Thirst, All Souls Day, The Wizard of Gore remake), I was thrilled when The Dead Ones landed in my mailbox.

As usual, Kasten doesn’t disappoint, delivering both traditional scares and a surreal and thought-provoking concept.

Things start off feeling like See No Evil mixed with a dash of The Strangers. Clare Kramer of Buffy fame is a teacher who drops delinquent students off at an old building to do the cleaning after the janitor is murdered.

Meanwhile, figures in black don creepy masks and begin infiltrating the building.

And that’s when the film deviates from the expected. This isn’t a simple building invasion slasher. These kids are forced to face their own demons—the very behaviors and troubled pasts that brought on their punishments to begin with.

There are creepy, supernatural style figures to contend with, but the film also delivers a disturbing look at the kind of school violence that has made headlines in the last few decades with chilling detail.

THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN (2020)

I’d suggest fans of the first film watch this one just to get it out of their system and then go watch the first one again to wash off the stink of this mess.

Bringing back the whole cast isn’t enough to elevate this sequel, which is so self-aware of its effort to be edgy, quirky, and meta that it eats itself alive.

The main kid is now a teen, it’s two years later, and he still has nightmares about the incident with the babysitter and friends.

So he gets together with his friends and…they get drawn into another occult ritual, which brings back all the kids from the first movie, most importantly the perpetually shirtless hunk.

In an effort to not just be a rehash, the sequel has the kids running all over the woods at night instead of around a house as they try to avoid being the new blood sacrifices.

Frenetic, shrill, and slapstick to the point of annoying, this one can’t even be saved by the buckets of blood and over the top kills.

CAMP COLD BROOK (2018)

The director of The Funhouse Massacre, Alien Strain, and Find Me brings us a movie that should be free on Prime, but like an idiot I paid to rent it because Danielle Harris is in it.

It’s a trip to cliché land as Chad Michael Murray, Danielle, and two other ghost hunters go to a summer camp where tragedy occurred, hoping to save their reality show, which is about to be cancelled by their boss—Courtney Gains of Children of the Corn fame.

As they arrive at the camp a girl runs across the road and disappears, and then…a whole lot of nothing happens for most of the movie. I don’t even understand how it got green lit. It doesn’t commit to being found footage because the group rarely has a camera rolling. Do they want to make a show to save or not?

It’s cool to see Danielle Harris as the scared girl for a change. There’s a story of a girl at the camp who used witchcraft to get all the other kids at camp to attack each other in a bloody massacre. That flashback is as exciting as this gets.

Each character walks around experiencing weak faux scares. With 15 minutes left, they finally encounter a few ghosts and we learn exactly what the ghosts want, and it’s as derivative as everything else in this borefest. At least I can say I once again have seen every single Danielle Harris horror movie ever. Yay me.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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