It’s the three latest new releases I’ve added to my collection—a sequel forty years in the making, a new one from Ti West, and the Foo Fighters horror comedy.
DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW 2 (2022)
The writer of the original made-for-TV hit from October of 1981 has decided to treat us to a sequel over forty years later, which he both writes and directs. So, was it worth the wait…for those of us who’ve been around long enough to wait?
Here’s the bright side. The low-key death scenes have some good atmosphere and feel just as effective as something you would have seen in a 1981 made-for-TV movie, so it definitely captures the spirit of the original in that sense. There was even one jump scare that got me.
Also, it’s a supernatural slasher. Bubba has been resurrected in a scarecrow to kill again—there’s mention of the mysterious deaths years before, someone visits his grave, and a white flower is left behind several times (in the original film, Bubba was in a field picking white flowers with the little girl he was wrongly accused of killing).
While the 1981 film aired right before Halloween, it wasn’t a Halloween film. The sequel skirts the issue, too. No one mentions Halloween, yet one (and only one) character has her house adorned with Halloween decorations and jack-o’-lanterns. Weird.
Other than all that, it’s not a very good movie. The story is what I’d call desperate. A woman and her son move to town just as a farmer is murdered, and his farmhand goes on the run because the police think he did it (a plot that sort of mimics a key element of the original film).
But like I said, he didn’t do it. It’s the supernatural scarecrow. As we work our way through victims to find out who resurrected Bubba and why, there’s a silly side story involving the new woman in town being embroiled in testifying against someone who now wants revenge. Ugh. It makes for a goofy final act in the cornfield that feels like something from a soap opera. It’s most definitely not a worthy follow-up to the classic from 81, and there’s no one to blame but the very man who created the original story to begin with.
The wait is finally over for fans of Ti West and his throwback film-making style. This time he goes for the backwoods slasher subgenre, and while X may not be the best of his films, it most definitely manages to be a love letter to Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre while giving us a notably unique slasher motivation.
From the moment the cast and crew of a porno film gets in a van in 1979 and heads to an isolated farmhouse, to all the camera angles and perspectives of the location, there’s no doubt that TCM is being given a big hug here.
Hell, there are even a few random moments involving a gator that I’m guessing are a nod to Hooper’s follow-up film Eaten Alive, but West manages to make his gator a much more captivating on screen spectacle while somehow keeping it incredibly understated.
The porn makers include the likes of Kid Cudi as the studly star…
…and Jenna Ortega of Scream 5 as the main girl…
Martin Henderson of The Ring still looks good almost two decades later and runs around in tightly whities…
…and Brittany Snow plays the porn queen. “Titanium” may have been her lady jam in Pitch Perfect, but she is introduced with man jam on her back in X…Kid Cudi’s man jam to be exact. And not to forget her singing past, she does an acoustic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” in the film.
And then there’s the plot. As with all West films, this is a slow burn, but once the shit hits the fan late in the film, it comes at you fast and furious. And it is a deliciously icky backwoods concept that also makes a statement about the sex drives and sex lives of aging couples.
See, the filmmakers are renting a guest space on the farm of an elderly couple, and the movie they’re making, which they’re trying to do in secret, doesn’t stay secret for long…and it really gets some rusty geriatric gears going. And we all know when they can’t get laid in slashers, killers gonna kill…
STUDIO 666 (2022)
The Foo Fighters enlisted the director of Hatchet 3 to bring us this demonic hard rock horror comedy that does the basic “rock band dabbles in Satanism” premise right.
Simply enough, the Foo Fighters are sent to an empty mansion to record a new album, but Dave Grohl is having songwriter’s block. That is until he finds signs of occult rituals in the basement, along with a reel-to-reel tape with a partially complete, kick ass rocker on it that he is obsessed with finishing.
Or should I say…possessed with finishing.
The band members manage to quite naturally act better than many “actors” in so many of the indie films made these days, which helps a lot. Adding to that, they get help from Jeff Garlin (recently given the boot from The Goldbergs) as their agent, and Whitney Cummings as the neighbor who is trying to warn them of the dangers of the mansion, along with other familiar faces.
Lionel Richie makes a comedic cameo, John Carpenter makes a brief appearance, and Jenna Ortega, who is building her horror resume mighty fast, gets the honor of appearing in the opening death scene.
And speaking of death scenes, as Dave turns demonic, the kills get increasingly gory, gooey, and satisfying—definitely reminiscent of Hatchet level mutilations, with a chainsaw kill being the highlight in terms of doing something deliciously different visually with a death scene involving a predictable weapon.
The guys are funny, it’s bittersweet seeing the late Taylor Hawkins having fun starring in a horror movie, and there’s even a quick notable comment on the state of rock music in this day and age. If I have any complaint about the movie, it’s merely that at an hour and 45 minutes, it does start to feel a little long before the final act is through, but luckily there’s plenty of horror action packed into that final act.