Fresh Meat at the Carnival of Fear in Jurassic City

These three may not have anything in common, but I watched them one after the other on Prime, so I’m cramming them into one blog!

CARNIVAL OF FEAR (2010)

As soon as I began twitching while watching this one, I checked the run time. Nearly two fricking hours! Why? Just…why??? How do filmmakers not watch their films back before release and realize, holy fuck this shit is going nowhere slow!!!

What kept me watching is the fact that I’m a fan of both leads. I adored Aimee Brooks in Monster Man, one of my faves, and the same goes for cutie Damian Maffei with the luscious lips from Christmas with the Dead.

The pair gets trapped in a creepy, closed amusement park at night and begins experiencing terrifying situations…that are never actually happening. And that’s where things get repetitive and unscary. You know they’re never really in trouble despite taking on an alligator, a swamp creature, clowns, rapists…it’s like passing through what is inevitably a controlled carnival fun house environment.

The disjointed plot heads in the most obvious direction. Both characters have a past connection to the park, and unless you’re new to the genre, you’re sure to know what’s happening before it’s spelled out.

The most obvious problem here is an unbearably long segment in the middle of the film in which the pair plays carnival games with a booth vendor. I can’t fathom who thought this never-ending sequence was a good idea. Without it, the film could have been 90 minutes long and delivered a much better paced, cheesy horror experience. Sure, there’s some bad CGI (especially a roller coaster scene), but it’s mostly a fun midnight movie vibe that would have worked better if it were faster.

FRESH MEAT (2012)

Playing off a Tarantino/Guy Ritchie vibe, Fresh Meat is a dark comedy about a home invasion gone wrong when the criminals discover the hard way that the family is a bunch of cannibals.

Yes, once again it’s that twist on the home invasion plot, but making it fresh is that the daughter has just arrived home to discover her family has gone cannibal right before the baddies break in.

It’s her split moral dilemma that makes this one unique…along with the added burden of a budding romance.

There’s plenty of action as well as campy gore to entertain, and you’ll get some laughs out of it even if it isn’t as funny as it could be. The big guy in bra and panties steals the show for a while, but once the tide turns on the plot, Jango Fett, who’s still as sexy as he was 20 years ago, gets the spotlight, ending this one on a high note.

JURASSIC CITY (2015)

The director of Silent Night Zombie Night brings us SyFy quality CGI raptors and head biting…in a prison…with a bunch of sorority bimbos as the survivors trying to escape.

That sentence tells you everything you need to know about Jurassic City, so either take it for the craptastic entertainment it is or avoid it.

The prison has an aggressive lesbian inmate, a tough daddy inmate the girls have to team up with to survive, Ray Wise earning a paycheck to put food on the table by playing the warden, and one jump scare that actually got me.

And just when you think the only CGI dinosaurs you’re going to get are raptors, a big T-Rex and Pterodactyl are randomly thrown in at the end.

Not going to lie. The hubba hubba and I got a few good laughs watching this one.

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Going back to before trolls discovered the Internet

When 1986 film Troll hit cable, I wasn’t a huge fan because it was essentially horror-lite, bordering on fantasy. 4 years later when Troll 2 hit video, I was breaking into my 20s and working at the video store, which is probably where I vaguely watched it on the TV in the background as I helped customers. Because honestly, despite it somehow garnering a huge cult following and its own documentary over the years for being the best worst movie ever made, I couldn’t remember a thing about it. Now, 30 years later, I re-visit both of them.

TROLL (1986)

It’s not shocking that Charles Band was behind the scenes executive producing this film; it very much foreshadows the template he would use on his Full Moon films throughout the 1990s. At the same time, it has that PG-13 kiddie movie feel, right down to the Spielberg-esque storybook opening. Even director John Carl Buechner (Friday the 13th VII, Ghoulies Go To College, Cellar Dweller, Watchers 4, Miner’s Massacre) is notably restrained with the horror moments here.

For me, this should be as much the cult classic the sequel has become. In fact, I’d say this is more a candidate for best worst movie ever made than the sequel.

For starters, there’s the cast: Charlies’ Angel Shelley Hack and 80s horror king Michael Moriarity are the parents. The boy from The Never Ending Story is the son. The little girl who played rapidly growing alien-human hybrid Elizabeth on V is the daughter. The neighbors include Sonny Bono, Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati (I was so hot for his tight jeans as a kid), Julia Louise-Dreyfus, and Lassie’s mom June Lockhart. Plus, Charles Band’s Full Moon staple Phil Fondacaro plays a neighbor and the Troll.

The plot is ridiculously 80s awesome at first.

The daughter runs into the troll in the basement of their apartment building, and he drags her to another dimension while he takes her form and starts acting like a brat…and using his magic ring to turn victims into little mythological critters that hang out in an apartment he transforms into a fuzzy green garden.

The adults are secondary characters, as it is the boy who knows his sister is no longer herself and turns to the only person who will believe him—Lassie’s mom, who is a witch.

It’s up to her to use her magic staff to help him defeat the troll and get his sister back…in the other dimension…where there’s a big monster.

Despite becoming more fantasy than horror, which usually isn’t my thing, Troll is a perfect slice of eighties crap, so I can’t help but love it.

But the most notable movie magic factor of this film? Both father and son are named…Harry Potter. Mind blown.

TROLL 2 (1990)

Now that I’ve sat down and actually paid attention to Troll 2, it astounds me that it has been postured as a so-bad-it’s-good movie. In my opinion, aside from a few cheesy details I’ll get into, this is a better movie than the original and as darkly weird and fucked up as most 80s Euro horror of the era. It’s the horror movie the first Troll isn’t.

That’s because Italian director Claudio Fragasso is no stranger to the subgenre. His films include Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror, Monster Dog, Scalps, Zombie 3, Zombie 4, Beyond Darkness, and Night Killer. And this is the moment when I should have had a V8, because I just realized that I am a huge fan of his films and have every single one of them in my collection. Therefore, it’s no surprise I adore Troll 2 and in no way think it deserves a negative-positive cult following.

The truth is, Troll 2 was not meant to be a sequel to the original, despite there being so many parallels between the two films. The creatures this time are “goblins”, but the monster designs are so similar to the creatures in the original that you would swear it’s intentional. Personally, I’m shocked that once the studio decided to push this as a Troll sequel, they didn’t just have the actors come and dub in the word “troll” each of the few times they say “goblin” in the film. Hell, a few bad dubs would have made this feel even more like the Euro horror it is.

As for the plot, it’s essentially The Howling or Salem’s Lot with goblins. A family comes to a vacation home in a small town, and the son begins to realize that all the locals are actually a secret community of goblins in disguise, and their goal is to turn any humans into plants that they can then eat (what’s wrong with all the great plants we already have on the planet?).

Now, while in the first film the troll—who also disguised himself as human—didn’t eat people, he did in fact turn one victim into an entire garden that all the other mythological creatures inhabited.

This film also begins with a storybook opening. They boy’s grandfather reads him a tale of the goblins. However, grandpa isn’t actually there. He died a few months before, and his ghost comes to visit the boy regularly.

Honestly, if I were 12 and not 21 when I saw this film, I would have been scared witless. The little boy has horrific dreams and visions of turning into an oozing plant.

The locals have a mark on their skin and are eerily Let’s Scare Jessica to Death in their cold, emotionless staring. The goblins relentlessly terrorize the boy. And they really do transform humans into ooey-gooey greenery to devour. Plus, the ending is surprisingly dark for a movie focusing on a little terrified boy.

Even so, there are plenty of campy oddball comic moments between all the sinister stuff. I couldn’t get enough of the 80s montage of the sister’s bedroom—a Smurf on a shelf, posters of Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise, the sister dressed in her best Jane Fonda workout outfit…

There’s the moment when grandpa suggests the boy pee on food the goblins offered to the family…

And just as in the first film, there’s a witch. Her performance is horribly cartoonish and over the top for a majority of the film, and she plays right to the camera at times, totally breaking the fourth wall.

But when she gets to transform into a darker version of herself at the end, she’s deliciously creepy. Yet that’s when we get another bizarre Euro horror scene. She seduces a young man with corn on the cob…which begins to turn into popcorn once they start getting it on. Where’s the melted butter when you need it?

The popping corn is definitely a jarring slice of absurdity just when the film reaches its climax, which has the family doing a séance to summon grandpa for more help as the goblins fricking infiltrate the house to get them! Yeah, this one definitely would have freaked 12-year old me out, while the first film might as well have been another Never Ending Story sequel.

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STREAM QUEEN: I’m getting afterimages of blood clots

When I see a theme for a blog forming in my streaming watchlist, I never anticipate being satisfied by all the selections, so I’m happy to say that horror anthologies Afterimages and Blood Clots were quite fun. Here’s a tastes of the tales you’ll get.

AFTERIMAGES (2014)

This is essentially an English language Asian horror anthology, with every story centered around the now classic Asian ghost girl theme. As a sucker for Ringu/Grudge era horror, I was totally satisfied with this one, because the stories are effective and creepy, and each one has a unique setting and plot. I even liked the look and feel of the visual presentation of the tales.

The wraparound alone is engrossing, as a group of college friends does an Asian occult ritual that involves burning cameras. But doing so results in films being left behind—films they load onto a projector and start watching…

1st story – This is my favorite of the bunch. A dude spying on a pretty girl with his telescope in an apartment complex goes down to the pool when he sees her taking a night swim by herself. Eek! This one is a goody.

2nd story – A young woman becomes obsessed with the spot on the ground where a suicide victim landed when jumping out of her apartment building.

3rd story – This is the most cliché of the stories, I’d say. Reminiscent of Devil, it sees a group of people stuck on an elevator with a girl who is behaving very oddly…

4th story – Combine Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” with the Leslie Nielsen story from Creepshow and blend it with an Asian ghost girl tale, and you have this creepy good story.

5 – The final tale concludes the wraparound, with a fun and cheesy teen horror vibe.

BLOOD CLOTS (2018)

Unlike traditional horror anthologies, Blood Clots doesn’t have a wraparound. It’s simply a series of short films gathered together to create a full-length feature. Actually, the film is only about 70 minutes long, which is okay in my book! As a result, most of these tales get right to the point, with a setup and a zinger twist conclusion. They’re also well-produced, so it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a bunch of indie shorts shot on a camcorder.

1st story – During a zombie outbreak, a woman hides out in the basement of a diner. It has a classic zombie vibe and great atmosphere, and the ending is delicious.

2nd story – This is a brief backwoods cannibal family short that’s fun…but I already saw it on the anthology Minutes Past Midnight!

3rd story – No complaints here. This one has nudity and perversion in the woods…and then a hellish monster attacking.

4th story – This is a fiendish little twist on the classic concept of a boy being afraid of the monster under the stairs in the basement.

5th story – Now this is clever. A guy working as one of those human statues at a carnival has to put his talent of being an inanimate object to the test when there’s a zombie outbreak.

6th story – This is a fun giant jellyfish creature feature on the beach…but it’s another one I’ve seen before, because it was included in the anthology Monsterland.

7th story – This is an odd dark humor story I guess, about a dinner party that includes a family’s squid-headed relative. I kind of wish it hadn’t been the final story, because it doesn’t deliver as much of a punch as some of the others.

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I had a case of the 28 day infection again

Before I reflect on revisiting the “28” saga, here’s my original take from years ago. I went to the theater to see 28 Days Later and hated it. In fact, just as with The Blair Witch Project, despite the massive hype the film was getting, when the end credits began to role in the theater, the groans and looks of disappointment from the audience spoke volumes—people were flabbergasted that the movie could have gotten so many rave reviews.

Therefore, I was glad to wait until 28 Weeks Later made its way to cable, and when it finally did, I unexpectedly loved it. So has my views on either film changed?

28 DAYS LATER (2002)

Interestingly, I had no recollection of the opening scene, in which infected monkeys in a lab go ape shit crazy. I only remember the intro of the main dude waking up in a hospital in a deserted city. I guess it deserves credit for being the template for the first episode of The Walking Dead, when Rick wakes up in a hospital. However, here we get to see the main guy’s wiener.

For the most part, the opening is my favorite scene, then it’s all downhill from there, just as I remembered. The first half of this way too long 2-hour movie focuses on the main guy joining a small group of survivors in trying to stay alive. It’s just a series of scenes of them stopping at one place after the other, and very few of the scenes are actually frightening or suspenseful.

But the bigger problem for me is that the characters are simply not very likable. The main guy is particularly weird and creepy, like some sort of mentally ill dude who escaped a loony bin. I just could not connect with him at all and did not trust him. The main woman is okay and a strong survivor, which once again foreshadows The Walking Dead—she gives off a major Michonne vibe. Meanwhile, the one character I liked most is the one character that doesn’t make it.

Sure, this movie introduced fast running infected, which is frightening, but here it’s usually lost in a blur of choppy editing and dark lighting. And what could have been one of the best scenes—a trip through a dark tunnel—concludes in a moment that made me laugh when I saw it in the theater. As the infected run after our protagonists’ car, despite being completely primal, they all just suddenly decide it’s pointless to chase a car and stop running!

When we move into the second half of the film, it falls apart for me. The survivors are rescued by a bunch of armed military men. Ugh. And we get another hint of The Walking Dead—encounters with dangerous communities. Yep, the concept of a psycho community is introduced, and the infected are pushed aside so chauvinistic men with guns become the antagonists for the remainder of the film. Yawn. And the sudden upbeat ending feels kind of absurd after how dark and dreary the film is.

I do like that people can become infected simply by getting infected blood in their mouth or eye. That’s always been my pet peeve about zombie movies. People will get zombie guts all over them and never fear that it might cause them to become infected. I wouldn’t even want to get in a few feet of one of those things.

28 WEEKS LATER (2007)

It’s hard to believe these two films are even linked, because the sequel blows the first one away. Rather than a series of vignettes of characters just traveling from one place to another, the sequel has a specific story arc focusing on one family, which I found totally engrossing.

The opening is absolutely unforgettable. A family trying to exist during the outbreak is holed up in a house. When the infected unexpectedly infiltrate, the man of the house becomes a total dick and pulls an “every man for himself” move.

This scene is also burned in my mind because it takes a piece of score from the first film that is just subtly playing in the background during the final scene and transforms it into an upfront guitar anthem that carries throughout the sequel.

The film follows the family to a safe district where the children are reunited with their dad. Things become dark and ugly when the husband is reunited with the wife, turning this into an infected revenge flick that puts that absurd Day of the Dead remake with Johnathon Schaech as a stalking zombie to shame. The son and daughter are relentlessly pursued by the dad, and even a military escort—Jeremy Renner—can’t seem to keep him away.

Along the way there are some phenomenal infected attacks, including a helicopter massacre and a claustrophobic scene of everyone in a safe house creating a stampede while trying to escape as the infection spreads within minutes.

There’s also a night vision scene in underground tunnels that may as well have been a vent scene (there’s one of those, too. Fuckers).

Unlike the first film, this sequel made me yearn for a sequel that’s promised but never materialized. Yep, first impressions are everything, and my impression of the 28 films hasn’t changed a bit.

 

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Beware the killers within the devil’s mile

Eureka! A double dose of streaming selections that revolve around kidnappings and deliver plenty of popcorn horror along the way.

KILLERS WITHIN (2018)

Unless you haven’t been paying attention to modern horror releases—or not reading my blogs about current movies—you’ll know that a common twist in home invasion films these days is that the real danger is what’s already inside, and the baddies doing the invading are the ones in trouble.

That’s the case with Killers Within (hell, the title says it all). A woman and her ex-husband plot a home invasion after their son is kidnapped.

It takes a while to get past the usual home invasion stuff—and it’s hard to pick a side since the invaders are the protagonists, but the monster movie fun finally begins about halfway in, and it’s total sci-fi creature feature fun, complete with rubber costumes.

The gore is standard and therefore mildly satisfying, and the mythology behind the creatures is cool, for it delves into evolution and science—something we really need in these days of religious lunacy overthrowing our government.

If you grew up in the 80s and lived through the V The Mini Series phenomenon, you’ll really appreciate this one.

DEVIL’S MILE (2014)

What a relief to watch two movies with the same general theme (kidnapping) and find them both satisfying horror experiences, well-crafted, and completely different horror subgenres.

In Devil’s Mile, one male and two female kidnappers abduct two girls, but as they transport them to their boss, they take a detour on a deserted road and shit gets bad really fast.

This is how you start a film right, as a series of fast, unexpected situations occur before we even get to the horror part.

The kidnappers get sucked into a vicious cycle of trying to leave the scene of a car accident while being repeatedly attacked by an Asian ghost girl.

And the only way to temporarily vanquish her is with light.

Essentially, this is Dead End meets The Grudge meets Darkness Falls, making it an awesome combination in my book. The ghost girl is ghoul cool (if not a bit overly CGI), and there’s plenty of suspense and jump scares, making this a perfect flick when you just need a fix of cheap thrills.

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30 years of Stepford wives, children, and husbands

I’m a big fan of Ira Levin’s novels, and most have been adapted into films, including Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil, Sliver, A Kiss Before Dying, and of course, The Stepford Wives.

I was young when the 1975 film came out, but I imagine it was on television within a few years after, because I also remember seeing it for the first time at a young age. While I always assumed it was quite famous, even spawning a bunch of sequels, upon watching the interviews on the DVD, I was shocked to learn several things I never would have guessed about it—starting with it being a huge commercial failure!

Secondly, the performance of Nanette Newman, who plays the first Stepford wife we meet, was generally panned by those involved in making the movie. Her robotic performance as the perfect prim and proper wife is actually brilliantly chilling if you ask me.

And finally, the feminist movement absolutely revolted against this film when it was released. It goes to show you that the “PC”/“snowflake”/“hyper-sensitive” culture isn’t a new plague in society. Just as Cruising was hated by the gay boys, Basic instinct was hated by lesbians, and blaxploitation flicks experienced backlash, the wives highly offended those who felt women were being portrayed awfully. And just like all those other films, the easily offended totally missed the point, not only of the movie but of horror in general.

Horror is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. Horror is supposed to present horrific possibilities. And the possibility here is. I coincidentally watched these films just as numerous states were banning abortion and controlling women’s bodies, so the sheer terror of what affluent white men are capable of doing to women—even their own beloved wives—was magnified as I revisited this film from nearly 40 years ago. In other words—men are fucking awful. The problem here is not the women—they are the ones the audience identifies with and fears for.

Essentially, The Stepford Wives, in case you didn’t know, is an Invasion of the Body Snatchers concept, with the women’s husbands joining a special club in which they secretly replace their wives with perfect Betty Crocker versions of themselves. The women are there to please their men in every way possible, right down to the men being able to augment the new versions of their wives. Sick…and so believable, sadly.

Hell, feminists would have had their tubes tied if the film had gone as planned. Rather than the goodie-goodie image the women present when converted in the film, they were originally supposed to essentially be Playboy Bunnies walking around in slutty outfits. I’m glad they weren’t, because that would have branched away from the reality of married men fucking whores on the side and then forcing them to get abortions while passing anti-abortion laws to hurt the marginalized…

Ironically, although it’s not touched upon enough, there is a white privilege moment in the film when several of the women try to act all cool and liberal while gossiping about a black family that has moved into town. We never see the black husband inducted into the men’s club, which begs the question—would he be welcome? Is it gender before race in Stepford? Would have been great if that had been explored even a little. And speaking of mixed race issues, the white dude from The Jeffersons appears in the film, as does Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.

The concept of The Stepford Wives is what makes it so eerie. This isn’t a “scary” movie in the traditional sense. No jump scares or anything like that. Katharine Ross is perfect as the strong, independent woman who moves to Stepford with her husband and children (one of them being a young Mary Stuart Masterson).

As Ross begins to notice the women in the town are weird, she befriends another new resident, played by Paula Prentiss, who is also equally perfect in her role as a free-spirited, confident woman.

The pair begins to investigate and determines something is very wrong. It’s even brilliant that they get it totally wrong for a while, becoming convinced another horror trope is at play…

There are essentially two scenes that drive the point home and bring on the spine tingles. First is when Ross confronts one of the wives and things escalate surprisingly quick…with Ross taking a huge gamble in initiating it. The other is when she sneaks into the creepy men’s club mansion on a rainy night and comes face-to-face with her own face. EEK!

REVENGE OF THE STEPFORD WIVES (1980)

The director of the Dr. Phibes films goes the made-for-TV route for this sequel that takes place ten years later (even though it was made five years later).

Sharon Gless plays a TV network reporter who comes to Stepford to write a story on why no one ever leaves the town once they move there. You have to wonder why the town has a hotel welcoming guests when it has such a nasty little secret to keep.

The men’s club leader isn’t thrilled with her poking around. While Sharon befriends new couple Julie “Marge Simpson” Kavner and her cop husband Don Johnson, Stepford wives are used as weapons to try to kill her. Most notably…Mrs. Roper! Awesome.

Forget everything you learned in the original. These are not robot replacements of the wives. The wives simply take pills four times a day when a siren blows throughout the town. These pills are what keep them controlled…and sometimes cause them to malfunction like robots?

Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s 1980 made-for-TV perfection in all its silliness. The worst part for me is when Gless gets the same creepy moment Katharine Ross did in the original, confronting a malfunctioning wife, but any eerie atmosphere is ruined because there’s sappy 1950s sitcom music playing! I get that they were going for a whole June Cleaver wink, but it ruins the scene. The least they could have done was have that wife go after her with a cleaver instead of a wife in a different scene…

The climax is quite funny, with the Stepford wives coming down from their drug addiction and revolting against the monster known as man.

THE STEPFORD CHILDREN (1987)

This time around the wives are still robots, so there’s no telling how everything went back to the way it was after Revenge. There is a vague reference in the men’s club to things going wrong once before, if that helps you imagine continuity.

Barbara Eden moves to Stepford with her kids and her husband, played by Karen’s original husband Sid on Knots Landing, which he left like 5 years before so he could make mostly TV movies, including this one.

What are you and your friends doing to me, daddy???

Why is The Stepford Children one of my faves in the series? Because it’s essentially an 80s teen flick with some horror thrown in at the end. Eden’s son and daughter are the new kids in town, and they’re totally 80s cool, high hair and all…but the other kids in school aren’t.

Basically it’s Footloose, right down to a high school dance scene in which the kids politely dance to ballroom big band music. The new kids put on some totally 80s rock wave, the moshing starts, and they get arrested!

Meanwhile, Eden tries to start a PTA…I guess because she was so successful in Harper Valley. The school administration is nasty with her. Her husband starts to humiliate her in public. He’s ashamed of the way his kids look and wants them to be more prim and proper…never seeming to notice that Barbara is a MILF who should be dancing on the hood of a car in a Whitesnake video.

Just think. If I were a father and wanted to make kids act like they did back in my day, you young brats would get to live like it was the 1980s. Who’s the world’s best daddy?

Fricking Oscar Goldman, having experience with fembots, is the leader of the men’s club this time, so he knows what he’s doing when it comes to making humans into robots, and he doesn’t have to worry about the Bionic Woman putting a stop to his evil plot.

It takes quit some time, but eventually the kids realize things are not right, and then Barbara does as well when her son’s new girlfriend suddenly starts acting very different, thanks to being sold down the river by her dad, played by Principal Morloch from Fame.

Eden doesn’t really step into the final lady role until the last half hour. In her search for the truth, she even goes as far as digging up a Stepford grave, delivering one of the best horror moments of the series.

During the final confrontation, there’s a freaky encounter with incomplete robots, and there’s also a bizarre monologue in which Oscar Goldman says they’re doing it to save the future generations. Um…how can there be a future if the kids are all robots that can’t procreate?

THE STEPFORD HUSBANDS (1996)

The director of April Fool’s Day, When a Stranger Calls, and When a Stranger Calls Back goes for Lifetime level sci-fi horror with this final sequel before the remake.

Donna Mills acts like she’s still Abby Ewing as she gets bitchy regularly with her husband, who is devastated because he just released a book that was a huge flop. They may as well have had Ted Shackelford play the husband.

It’s a shock that this evil vixen becomes the good guy for a change, but in terms of Stepford mythos, it’s not a surprise. Making a strong statement about women being better than men, this time when the husband starts turning weird and the wife realizes something is not kosher in Stepford, instead of joining the madness, she takes on the community to stop them from converting her husband into the perfect man. I guess she preferred him in his miserable state so she could continue kicking him while he was down.

Cindy Williams is her friend who backstabs her to get her husband sent to the “clinic”, and not surprisingly, Louise Fletcher plays the evil mastermind.

And while there is a conversion process, this movie harkens back to Revenge, requiring the men to take pills. But I do want to know exactly what the purpose is of the coiled hose attached to the men’s crotches during conversion…

THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004)

Coming nearly 30 years later, this movie is as white as the original, but at least there’s a gay couple, and Bette Midler as the free-spirited friend does balk about the lack of color in town, reminding us that this has always been a story about the perfect little segregated town in America.

The remake isn’t going for chilling or eerie. It’s more of a satirical reimagining, with legendary Frank Oz directing. To me the tone is like Stepford injected with a campy dose of Witches of Eastwick.

Aside from a vastly rewritten ending, the plot is virtually identical following a very weird reality TV show opening (relating to main character Nicole Kidman being a TV executive).

After Kidman has a breakdown, her husband Matthew Broderick moves the family to Stepford, where they meet their real estate agent Glenn Close, who is married to Christoper Walken, leader of the men’s club.

The new house is automated (so why the need for controlled housewives?) and comes with a robot dog…which seems to foreshadow the women being replaced by robots.

And that is where the biggest plot hole comes in. The robot replacement seems the way things are, complete with remote controls for wives, as well as Nicole eventually coming face to face with her robot self. However, the new ending, which has Nicole figuring out how to save the wives, implies that they are not robots at all, but merely have had computer chips implanted that control them!

Despite the terrible screwup in the writing, the different ending is what saves the film for me because it’s a delicious twist and also very campy. Bette Midler also has a great scene in which she malfunctions…if you watch the deleted scenes. Her big shining moment is heavily cut, probably because it is absolutely cartoonish and absurd, but it’s so Bette at her funniest that I wish it had been left in.

The cast also includes Jon Lovitz, singer Faith Hill at the height of her crossover success in a gimmicky role as one of the wives, and go-to actor Roger Bart, who always steps in when a stereotypical gay guy is needed.

His character is the most specific update of the story’s premise. How does the men’s club handle a couple comprised of two men? It complicates matters since the men, to prove they’re open-minded, invite both male spouses to join. And bringing a new social and political statement into the mix, the gay guy who has female friends and despises Republicans is the one who doesn’t exactly meet the men’s club criteria for being a Stepford husband. Imagine that….

Sticking to that theme, the film gives us way too much blatant exposition about the conversion process and the thinking behind it, including spelling out that the threat men are feeling is the independence of successful women.

Even so, there’s more to it than that, and the twist in this remake should have gotten feminists’ tubes in a knot more than the original. At the same time, it’s creepy to realize this remake from 15 years ago reflects the reality of how white women overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump…

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Do you dare set foot on Hallowed Ground?

The trailer for Hallowed Ground caught my attention because a) it features a lesbian couple as the main focus, and b) it shows a bound shirtless dude being taunted by other men. I’m that easy.

When it was time to view the film, I didn’t even have to watch a minute of it to know that my immediate cringe of disappointment upon seeing the 117-minute runtime was warranted. That’s not to say there wasn’t something to enjoy here, but dammit DO NOT MAKE YOUR INDIE HORROR FLICK 2 HOURS LONG. It’s agonizingly self-indulgent because the end result never delivers 2 crucial hours of storytelling that viewers can’t look away from.

Not surprisingly, since the story focuses on a married lesbian couple staying at a cabin in the woods, the plot involves their orientation being reason enough for backwoods religious crazies to want to destroy them.

I’m thrilled that gay characters are becoming the main focus of horror storylines. Really, I am. But this plot—the go-to reason for gays to be subjected to horror—is exactly why I write gay horror novels that take place in a city void of any straight people. Gay horror needs to move beyond the idea that the only monsters gays must face are straight people.

But it is what it is, so expect a lot of dialogue about the hardships of being gay in a straight world and, on the flip side, just how vile and perverse straight people think gays are. That aside, the film injects some originality by making the conflict between the wives stem from the fact that one of them is bisexual. Also, the old geezer caretaker right out of Deliverance is refreshingly okay with them being gay and is the most likable character in the entire film.

The initial premise is a goody. The Native American woman who owns the cabin warns the girls to never cross the barbed wire border of the property, for the neighbors are dangerously territorial. Wouldn’t you know the dumb bitches take a hike, make out right next to the fence, and fall over it accidentally in the process.

This forbidden move sparks…a Hatfields and McCoys plot with a religious cult twist! Director Miles Doleac (Demons) plays the leader of the religious clan perfectly. He’s so good in fact that he makes sure there is loads and loads and loads of dialogue for him to deliver. His robed henchmen do nothing but stand around letting him hog the spotlight. There’s nothing ominous about them. Hell, they don’t even move or react when their leader is under attack!

Going into this one, just know that there are hints at a supernatural horror element stemming from the Native American side of things, but it never comes to fruition.

Hallowed Ground simply presents us with endless exposition through dialogue, failing to deliver any major tension or suspense. Even the few scenes of torture and sacrifice are too flat to satisfy any hardcore horror fans. And despite a lot of talk about a dragon lord that the cult worships, there is no hellish monster payoff—this is simply a bunch of religious kooks worshipping an imaginary god. After watching Demons and then this, I definitely see that this is the form of storytelling we can expect from Doleac’s work–flirtations with horror themes, but inevitably, it’s more about the characters than the creep factor.

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STREAM QUEEN: I’m obsessed with the possessed and down with the demons

It’s a foursome of films about groups of people trapped in various buildings ripe with possession, demons, and the supernatural. So which of these four did I like the most?

5IVE MUST DIE (2017)

In the tradition of a whole bunch of other movies, 5ive Must Die has a cool title but gives us 57 minutes of archaeology students walking around an abandoned asylum exploring with flashlights, getting minor hints about what went on there, and arguing with their suspicious professor.

There’s very little in the way of odd or creepy occurrences beyond them all being tied up without remembering how.

The final act throws in some creepy settings, dark and macabre visuals, and brutality at the hands of a killer that seems to have a cameo instead of major significance.

It’s not easy to follow what’s actually happening, and there just wasn’t enough here to thrill me or keep me riveted.

DEMONICA (2014)

You have to be a very special person to appreciate this low budget Night of the Demons rip-off…that takes place in the 80s…in a roller rink…with a roller derby battle to the death between mortals and demons…and an appearance by Linnea Quigley as an occult shop owner. In other words, you have to be someone like me.

The horrible intro takes place “many years ago” and looks like a bad local theatre production.

Cut to 1986, and there’s a lot of uninteresting talk between kids getting prepared for a roller rink party.

A goth girl gets hold of an ancient necklace, she turns demon, kids start to have sex, and that’s when things get cheesy fun.

For me, a lesbian subplot steals the show and delivers the funniest moments.

The first guy who encounters the demon does so in a bathroom in what is clearly a nod to Linnea’s scene in Night of the Demons, but instead of lipstick through the tit, we get a dick bite scene, the goriest exploitation moment in the film.

The demons simply have gray face paint and contacts, along with a demon voice filter, so you can’t expect anything intensely scary here. Not that I need to say that since it should have been clear when I mentioned the roller derby battle…

This film so should have been called Night of the Demon Derby.

P.O.V (2014)

It’s Night of the Demons done found found footage style. The mere fact that the demons are creepy enough to satisfy me since this is one of my favorite horror subgenres makes it more enjoyable than a majority of the found footage crap I watch.

Guys take their buddy on a surprise road trip, during which they have a conversation about whether or not sleeping with a woman who used to be a man means you’re gay. Making clear this isn’t an offensive discussion, one of the guys says, “Nothing against gays, but….”. He left out the “nothing against trans people” part.

They arrive at a house to party with a bunch of girls, they hang out and argue, there’s a story about the history of the house, yada-yada-yada…

Then the guy behind the camera begins seeing everyone as demons during a dancing montage scene. Awesome.

This straightforward demon flick goes the FPS video game route, with tight, claustrophobic shots through narrow halls as he continuously runs into demons and takes them down with a variety of weapons, including a sledgehammer, wrench, gun…

The plot is thin, and the twist at the end is predictable, so it’s all about the demon thrills. Just how I like my horror these days.

HAUNTING ON FRATERNITY ROW (2018)

When a movie begins with loads of cute, shirtless college boys (including Puck’s adorable younger brother from Glee) pranking each other with bunny costumes and dildos, I know I’m in for a good time, even if the movie sux.

Luckily, Haunting on Fraternity Row doesn’t suck if you stick with it.

Boys throwing a kickass party in their frat house accidentally unleash a smoky cloud demon by knocking a hole in a basement wall when they drop a keg down the stairs.


No, it’s not an image from my last colonoscopy.

Pacing is the main issue here. A good chunk of the movie feels like watching Jersey Shore with an occasional demon ghost sighting thrown in.

It really takes forever for the good stuff to hit, and the banter between frat boys and babes isn’t compelling or relevant to the plot, and there are way too many prank scare moments.

However, bonus points for plenty of sexy moments. Plus, the shadowy demon appearances are awesome, with some tight special effects.

The movie fluidly moves between standard 3rd person POV and found footage style presentation, which is used to great effect here.

I also couldn’t help notice that it’s usually bad news for anyone who enters a bathroom in the house. I don’t think it was intentional on the filmmaker’s part…it just becomes a pattern I couldn’t help notice! Coincidentally, a gouged out eyes theme used in P.O.V is also used in this movie. It looks like the same exact special effects team did the work.

When all hell breaks loose (finally), the film delivers all the body count horror you’ve been waiting for, and it’s loads of fun. Camera angles create suspenseful shots as kids are tossed all around and slaughtered by the demon. There are even some twists you won’t see coming.

The only thing that I found very unbelievable is that the black dude in the bunch sees the horrifying demon early on and doesn’t leave the house immediately. Plus, instead of running out the door when the massacre begins, he runs upstairs to warn his friends. I’m sorry, but black dudes are smarter than that…which tells me I was probably a black dude in a previous life.

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Do you dare answer the crisis hotline?

The poster art for the gay film Crisis Hotline is a bit deceiving. Don’t expect to see any blood. Although I’m adding it to the homo horror movies page, this is more psychological thriller than horror movie, and any “bad stuff” that happens is implied. And as with many low budget gay thrillers, there’s barely anything besides talk and some erotic moments. Not even sex or nudity get much screen time, which some might find a refreshing change of pace for a gay film…except for the fact that the whole premise is built specifically around sexual situations in this case.

This type of film structure is just not really my thing, and it’s a frustrating issue that plagues so many gay thrillers. The stories might be better presented as novels, because they’d work more effectively that way (hell, the boys and bears in my gay horror novels never shut up). Dialogue alone–especially delivered over a phone–isn’t enough to create suspense on celluloid (case in point…the agonizing Pontypool), instead doing the opposite…weighing things down when thrillers need to be fast-paced to truly keep you on the edge of your seat.

Granted, I did want to know where things were heading, because as Crisis Hotline unfolds, it kind of takes the form of a rape/revenge flick…with both being suggested rather than seen. There’s nothing exploitative to be found here, and as a result, the film has a disappointingly anticlimactic denouement.

The plot concerns workers at an LGBTQ hotline getting a call from a young, suicidal man. He sounds creepy enough when things start, but that wears off quickly.

The film is told mostly as a flashback as he relates what led to him making the call…he moves into the city, gets a job and apartment, and through his new boyfriend, becomes immersed in a gay, white, upper class circle with an ominous edge.

The film definitely hits all the hot buttons of gay life: monogamy, ageism, predatory paranoia, eroticism, pornography, safe sex practices, drugs, and the dangers of metropolitan life. That’s kind of the problem—cliché and stereotypical plot points that have been covered ad nauseam in gay narratives (I was reminded of the film Seeing Heaven). It is perhaps intriguing to newly out viewers, but seasoned gay horror and thriller fans really need stories that aren’t obsessed with tired gay issues.

For instance, Crisis Hotline flirts with the dark web at the last minute when, quite frankly, what would have been more original is to have an entire gay thriller focused on the gay horrors that might be found on the dark web, which naturally would have required a bigger budget. I guess that will just have to be someone else’s movie.

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3 anthologies with terror in the title…

But is there TERROR in the tales? I take a look at Terror 5, Terror Tales, and Terror Telly.

TERROR 5 (2016)

Running only 76 minutes long, Terror 5 is sort of an anthology tied to an overarching story of politicians on trial, accused of being responsible for the collapse of a building in a city.

None of it made much sense to me, and the tales weren’t exactly cohesive stories…just “situations”. After a while I couldn’t tell when one tale ended and another began.

In one story, a young couple goes on a date at their school at night, where students are enacting revenge on their teachers.

Next, a guy dressed as Gene Simmons plays mind games with some young people about snuff films being real. Meanwhile, a couple at a hotel is actually being filmed having sex. It’s sort of like two situations that eventually come together.

Just when you think thing can’t get any weirder, zombies with glowing eyes show up and begin terrorizing the city during a vigil for those who died in the building collapse.

The film is well produced, but I just couldn’t find enough to enjoy about it.

TERROR TALES (2016)

This is a pretty lofty undertaking that is, however, clearly made on an indie budget. For that reason alone, some of the budget could have been reallocated for quality over quantity; the film runs two unnecessary hours long! Horror movies in general should not be two hours long, even more so if it’s an anthology that only has three stories.

The wraparound is about a nut who car jacks a guy then tells him horror stories…

1st story – Lynn Lowry stars in a tale that’s sort of like A Christmas Carol if Ebenezer were a woman who lost her son and the three ghosts were a single demon that came to fuck with her head. I didn’t totally understand the story, but the demon was cool and would have been even freakier if it were in dark lighting rather than bright light.

2nd story – this one looks like it was shot on video in an actual holdover video store still in business since the 80s. That’s part of its charm. It takes place in the 80s, and I think the extras were probably also holdovers from the 80s who never grew out of their high school existence, because they look genuinely 80s.

Anyway, it’s a tale about a sledgehammer killer pounding the fuck out of the heads of video store customers. The practical gore kicks ass, and Jonathan Tiersten of Sleepaway Camp makes an appearance.

3rd story – the last tale is all over the place, but there’s so much horror packed into it I don’t even care. We get a possessed girl, an exorcism, a possessed woman chained up in a basement, Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp as an awesome witch, and a giant demon. Fun fun fun.

The conclusion of the wraparound is also loaded with midnight movie horror insanity. The guy who plays the nut in the wraparound gives one of the strongest performances in the entire movie. Plus I want to like his pecs for a few hours.

TERROR TELLY (2012)

This is merely a bonus anthology in this blog because I almost turned it off. However, because it only runs 59 minutes, I sat through it.

A Bon Jovi goes goth dude hosts in black and white, and there are also some really bad mock commercial interruptions.

1st story – Also black and white, this is a campy story about a mad scientist who creates  a Frankenstein monster that becomes possessed and needs an exorcism. It’s silly dumb with some shit humor, but the possessed monster did make me laugh.

2nd story – I think this is supposed to be an outer space story, but it’s really just three people standing around talking with no plot.

3rd story – WTF? This one begins with a dude metal detecting on a beach and then the host cuts in and says it is too scary a story to finish. Not funny or cute and just an absurd way to fill an already short run time.

4th story – WTF? A dude takes a drink and gets sick in the bathroom sink. That’s it.

5th story – It’s supposed to be Halloween. A cute dude is home alone and enters a creepy, small closet door, where he finds some scary tools. From there we get a series of macabre images flashing on screen and I didn’t understand any of it.

Honestly, the most entertaining scene to me is a final clip of a dude using the hand of a severed arm to jerk himself off while chewing on the shoulder end. it’s disgusting for sure, but it gets points simply for being fucked up clever.

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