The titles scream Halloween, but will the movies make you scream on Halloween?

Just under the wire, I scrounged up three more Halloween themed horror movies to get me in the mood this October. Are they worthy of the season? Let’s find out.

DARK OCTOBER (2020)

I could tell from the trailer for Dark October that I was basically walking into a home movie look , so I didn’t even dare subject my hubby to it. Of course I was obligated to watch it so I could add it to the holiday horror page.

Although it’s not found footage, it feels like watching 69 minutes of a group of girls documenting their trip to a concert in Salem on Halloween. They hang out, they plan the trip, one girl shops for books on Salem and steals a book the clerk refuses to sell her, they stop for a reading from a fake medium, they walk, they take selfies, and they go to a diner and make us literally sit through them perusing the menus, making decisions, and giving the waitress their orders.

This could have been an entertaining horror short had it just started when the girls finally explore an old school.

The book comes into play, there’s possession, murder with some satisfying gore, a jump scare, and some pretty effective setup shots.

There’s even an overly long shower scene, but they didn’t hire an actress willing to get nude on camera (kudos to the actress who did take the shower for obviously refusing to bare all).

ON HALLOWEEN (2020)

Right off the bat, things start “on Halloween” with opening footage of trick or treaters and outdoor holiday decor.

When children at a park share urban legends and one devilish little girl is like “I’ve got a real scary story to tell”, I was definitely pulled in.

Kidnappings and a few gory death scenes warm us up as we learn about a supernatural killer clown believed to come back every year to use the blood of victims for an elixir that keeps him alive to kill another Halloween. I must say it’s a pretty good concept for an indie slasher.

The guy playing the clown is absolutely fantastic.

His comments are darkly, smartly snarky as opposed to the cheesy one-liners delivered by most slasher killers, and he’s also incredibly sinister, not to mention a vicious and brutal psycho. Plus, he seems to teleport and multiply at will. Awesome.

Even though he resorts at times to using guns (I hate when killers in slashers use guns), he is super ominous while stalking in the dark shadows and never loses his potency.

Even some of the cast members deliver some good and subtly humorous lines, but despite nonstop clown action, where this film loses some ground is in its narrative approach. There are three different groups delving into the truth behind the killer clown’s story—a bunch of thrill-seeking kids visiting the location where he’s supposed to resurrect each year, a journalist team researching the clown story, and some detectives investigating a series of murders.

The bouncing around messes with the flow of the film, however, the reason it’s crafted this way is revealed at the end. It’s pretty clever, but that obviously doesn’t amend the sluggishness getting there. It’s just a noticeable issue you have to accept as you watch, because On Halloween really is an entertaining slasher overall, from the clown to some gruesome kills, as well as that stark, colorless look that gives it an effectively eerie visual tone and suspenseful atmosphere.

MR. HALLOWEEN (2007)

I have waited years for this film to show up somewhere, anywhere, so I could watch it. Imagine my surprise when it popped up on Amazon Prime at last.

Mr. Halloween is my kind of low budget indie. The attention to detail despite budget limitations makes me disappointed to see that director Andrew Wolf has very little else on his IMDb page, because he clearly paid attention to the horror movies he grew up on. He nails the cheap, gritty feel of early 80s direct-to-video horror films, and I would have loved to see him progress from here. If this had been a horror movie in the video stores and in rotation on cable when I was a kid, today it would probably be one of those films that has a special place on my movie shelves. And it will, because I totally ordered the DVD after watching it.

Are there issues? Sure. Most of the acting is quite amateur, but the one person who really matters is our killer Mr. Halloween, and this dude delivers. He’s perfectly weird, cold, and distant when interacting with people, and his overall presence reminded me very much of Joe Spinell of the original Maniac.

Next there’s the quality of the production. For instance, the initial night scene is flooded with unnaturally bright light due to either lack of lighting experience, lack of the right equipment, or both. However, these limitations work to the film’s benefit in daytime scenes and eerily dim indoor scenes. The locations used are rustic and real, with uncommon Halloween decor that looks like it was genuinely stuck in front yards for the holiday.

Most glaringly, the film needed some editing to improve the pacing. It’s nearly two hours long, and there’s a notable lull in the middle after darkly effective staging scenes. Once the bulk of the plot is established, the film regains its footing for a final act with a perfect throwback feel.

So on to the plot. In a small town, a teen has gone missing and everyone is on edge. The local kids become fixated on tales of a weird man they call Mr. Halloween, who creates a haunted attraction tour through his house each year. Needless to say, these dumb kids go to his house to take the tour. They soon learn the horrors of the house look real because they are.

Mr. Halloween seems to be more than just your everyday killer freak. He does odd things when he’s alone…and I’m not just talking about hacking up bodies to use for his displays, all presented with icky practical effects. The hypnotic retro horror score amplifies the weirdness of it all, as do the dark, shadowy rooms in Mr. Halloween’s house.

There are some unexpected plot twists in the final act, and plenty of effectively executed scares and suspense situations. Most importantly, when the two main kids are plunged into a chase and final battle with Mr. Halloween in claustrophobic quarters, the actors make up for their lack of acting experience by really delivering with their reactions and the physical combat.

 

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Killer hair, a vampire clan, masked psychos, and a miniature Frankenstein

As the horror movie choices continue to dwindle due to COVID, I rounded up this foursome of very different subgenres. Let’s get right into them.

BAD HAIR (2020)

Bad Hair weaves the Asian girl hair horror of the early 2000s into a story of the trials and tribulations of being a Black girl in the new jack swing era of the late 80s. Although it takes a little too long establishing the main girl’s everyday life predicaments before getting to her horror woes, once it does, it’s a fricking blast and definitely one I’ll be adding to my collection if it’s released on disc.

While so many horror indies these days try desperately to capture the look and feel of the early 80s and fail miserably, this movie absolutely nails the transition from the 80s to the 90s. I felt like I was on the set of In Living Color or House Party.

A woman working at a music video station wants so badly to be up in front of the camera as a VJ. When the channel is sold, her new boss, played deliciously by Vanessa Williams, tells her she needs to get her hair done.

She goes for a weave, and none other than a very bewitching Laverne Cox does the job.

Although the first half hour or so of the film is slow, the use of camerawork to convey feelings, actions, and sense of space is fantastic. As Laverne goes to work on her head, you can virtually feel her pain as it is gruesomely threaded in.

And then her troubles begin. It starts with her scalp hurting. Then she has horrific dreams. And then…her hair gets a mind of its own and the killing commences!

Despite being about long black hair going for the jugular, the concept here is quite fresh and perfectly executed with both freaky horror and laugh-out-loud humor.

Vanessa Williams rules, and the cast also includes James Van Der Beek, Blair Underwood still looking gorgeous with silver hair, Usher, and Kelly Rowland as a famous singer.

And I’ll just say that her videos and songs look and sound right out of 1989 and I totally want them on CD.

 

NOCTURNA (2015)

Nocturna feels like a vampire TV show that wouldn’t have made it more than two episodes before being canceled. It’s also a reminder that I have no use for movies about monster clans feuding with each other.

It’s Christmas time, which is irrelevant to anything in this film, so I don’t know why that choice was made. A hot detective team becomes embroiled with a vampire clan that promises to protect them if they help hunt down the enemy vampire clan.

Johnathon Schaech is one of the vampires, and he stands around looking smug like, I’m getting paid for this shit because I’m the most well-known actor in it.

Then the movie drags and drags and drags.

Of course the two hot detectives get sucked deeper into the lives of the vampires before the big final battle, which once again feels like a really cheesy vampire show—most likely on SyFy—that wouldn’t last more than a season.

WICKED ONES (2020)

I’m a big fan of The Wicked One and it’s gritty, low budget, retro vibe, so when I heard the sequel was coming, I had mixed feelings. Yay because the Wicked One is back for more, but uh-oh because sequels to indie movies tend to be a bit less inspired than the original.

I’ll say right up front what disappointed me here. Two kids murder their family after being inspired by the Wicked One serial killer.

They get locked away for ten years, then break out and return to the same town…serving as the Wicked One’s crazy accomplices! Say what? Too many killers sure do spoil the effect of a lone, mysterious, masked killer.

The other disappointment for me is that the film doesn’t take place on Halloween. Copycat killers and the real killer would most likely kill on the anniversary of the original murders, and the first film was a Halloween horror film! This is just some random day.

The surviving couple from the first movie now has a son and daughter. The son is in a band and is playing a gig, so the whole family attends. We’re subjected to way too much raw footage of the band playing while everyone in the audience dances to the beat of entirely different songs. That really drives me nuts in movies.

For a while we get a serviceable slasher—kids at the gig go off to have sex, the killers hack them up with practical gore effects. Yay!

Things shift gears when the main characters are abducted, tied up, and terrorized by the brother and sister killers, the brother played by indie horror king Jason Crowe.

At the same time, the mother sees a ghost that warns her of the killer’s return, so a rescue party is formed to go save the kids. There are also flashbacks to fill in the Wicked One’s backstory. There is too much going on and it loses that special something the first film delivered. And don’t even ask me what’s going on here.

BABY FRANKENSTEIN (2018)

This is virtually a family movie, and it’s quite fun for a simple indie with the most basic plot and a charming cast of characters. And this is a Halloween movie, so it gets a slot on my holiday horror page.

The comparisons to E.T. are warranted. A young man and his mom move into a new house and he finds a little green guy up in the attic.

He and his girlfriend spend the film trying to keep “Baby Frankenstein” hidden from the mother’s jerk boyfriend, who wants to capture him for a handsome reward.

They show Baby Frankenstein the town: taking him bowling, playing ball, shopping with him for a Halloween costume, and of course trick or treating on Halloween night as the mom’s boyfriend and his sidekick give chase.

It’s goofy, it’s funny, it’s cute, and the actors look like they’re having a good time not trying too hard or overacting, which makes them all feel very natural.

Adding to the laid-back vibe is the soundtrack, comprised entirely of songs by awesome new wave band Death Valley Dreams. They will definitely be getting played on my Future Flashbacks show.

 

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, Scared Silly - Horror Comedy, Sound Check - The Songs Stuck in My Head, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cracking open more than one of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood on film

I’m not the ideal person to speak to the quality of Clive Barker adaptations because I’m not a fan of his writing, so I’m just going to look at these two on their merits as movies. I’ll say from the start that I do generally like the concept. But do I prefer it singular or plural? Let’s find out.

BOOK OF BLOOD (2009)

The director of Tales from the Darkside movie and numerous anthology TV shows over the decades gives us a movie that’s weird, gory, sexual…and in the end feels mostly like the myriad of haunted house films that have plagued us since The Conjuring hit pay dirt, with more blood.

Not unlike Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man, the movie Book of Blood is about a man whose body is a canvas of images depicting various stories. However, in this case that shit is carved into the guy’s skin.

After the horrific death of a young woman in her bedroom, two paranormal researchers move in to the house investigate, believing the location to be an intersection where the dead pause to tell their stories.

One investigator becomes enthralled by a young male believed to be psychic and convinces him to come live with them to help out. It not only makes his life miserable, it also causes her to become sexually attracted to him.

Meanwhile, there aren’t any fully fleshed out individual stories, but there are creepy children ghosts, spooky occurrences, more ghosts, an appearance by Doug Bradley of Barker’s Hellraiser fame, and more ghosts. Plus, the eroticism between the student and teacher intensifies. Simultaneously, he begins to experience painful attacks on his body, and the last one is as Barker as it gets. Eek!

Like most of Barker’s work, there are some nightmarish situations, but as always, I wasn’t disturbed or scared because his otherworldly approach is too removed from reality for my tastes.

BOOKS OF BLOOD (2020)

The structure is a bit different in the new adaptation. We learn that two criminals are on the hunt for a special book, but things quickly segue out of this “wraparound” and into the first of two stories.

1st story – a young woman with a condition that causes sounds to be unbearable moves into a boardinghouse…at which point this becomes somewhat reminiscent of People Under the Stairs, with someone or something living behind the walls. I loved the totally unexpected ending of this one.

2nd story – this is a new take on the story from the first movie, again featuring a pretty boy (and his ass).

A woman becomes involved with a young man with psychic powers, hoping he’ll be able to help her better understand the loss of her son. It’s a more succinct narrative with another freaky scene in which the young man becomes covered in the stories, albeit with a slightly different execution. I can’t say I liked one movie’s version of the scene better than the other, because they’re both cool as, well, hell.

The two tales here get tightly woven into the conclusion of the wraparound story. Yet just like the first film, while this one has its moments, for me it was just okay for some visual thrills. And speaking of thrills I sure do love that the Barker movies objectify males instead of females.

Posted in Everyday I Read the Book: Literary Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Frankenstein movies of Hammer and Cushing

My brother was only seven years older than me, yet it was a generation apart in terms of horror sometimes. While I’m thrilled that inheriting his collection vastly expanded my personal collection of movies from a specific time period in horror history, I still don’t see what he loved about this series. Here’s a brief rundown of each of the six films starring Peter Cushing.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

Peter Cushing stars as Doctor Frankenstein, about to be executed, so he tells his story….

This seems to be a Hammer favorite among fans of the production company, but to me it’s as generic as the Frankenstein story gets. I do like that it is self-contained and focuses on very few characters, though.

When Frankenstein inherits his family’s fortune, he hires a man who becomes his assistant in scientific research. They re-animate a dog, then Frankenstein decides to create a man out of body parts.

The assistant is not feeling the idea, and when Frankenstein’s female cousin shows up, the assistant wants to protect her from the horrors of Frankenstein’s plans.

Cushing’s Doctor Frankenstein is quite amoral, doing whatever it takes to get his body parts. There’s no elaborate “it’s alive” moments. Instead, I absolutely love that the monster, played by Christopher Lee, is wrapped in bandages, and unwraps them himself to reveal his gruesome face.

After that initial shock scene, the monster becomes a lot less ominous as he lurks around causing trouble. Cushing tries to battle the monster but it backfires, which is how he ends up in prison.

THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)

This one picks up right where the first leaves off. Somehow, Frankenstein swaps himself out for someone else when it’s time to go to the guillotine and moves on to a new town to practice medicine under an assumed name…Dr. STEIN. Sigh.

Some dude figures out who he is and blackmails him into being a mentor…in resurrecting the dead. As they build a new body, their deformed assistant sees a hot woman and decides he wants to be pretty to hook up with her. Sooooo…he offers them his brain!

Once he’s the new “monster”, which isn’t all that monstrous, he slowly begins to morph into a killer. This is a really bland film and even less satisfying than the first film.

And get this. In the end, Dr. Frankenstein dies, so his partner in crime plants his brain in a lookalike body so Peter Cushing can be in the next movie. And we 80s kids thought JR’s resurrection forcing a whole year of Dallas to be a dream was ridiculous.

THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964)

Frankenstein (or Frank’s brain in a new body, which isn’t mentioned at all) is back to stealing bods and doing experiments, but he’s found out. So he and his assistant return to his estate, despite him dodging execution previously. But just so it all makes sense, he says the people in the town have a short memory.

No, they really don’t.

There’s a flashback to him creating the monster, but it’s all new footage that looks much more in the style of the original Frankenstein movie, as is the monster, not played by Christopher Lee this time. So where has the monster been?

Frozen in a cave.

Frankenstein stumbles upon it and enlists a hypnotist to help him control and stimulate its mind. This is bad. This is soooooo bad. As if the creators knew it was, they actually give Cushing some humorous moments to at least add something vaguely memorable to this borefest.

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)

This soap opera just keeps getting more ridiculous. Okay, apparently Frankenstein didn’t blow up in his home at the end of the last movie but was somehow frozen temporarily. His assistant and some new random doctor working with him now defrost Frankenstein and he’s still alive. This convinces him the soul can be rescued from a body when it dies and transplanted into another body.

The assistant is dating a girl with a deformed face. There’s a murder and some dudes who torment her accuse the assistant. There’s a trial, he’s found guilty, he’s beheaded, his girl throws herself off a bridge, Frankenstein puts his soul in her body, and…

This becomes the most intriguing installment so far because of this unique trans twist that dare not speak its name. The female “monster” (somehow Frankenstein manages to make her beautiful and not a monster like he does men) goes out to get revenge on her accusers. Sadly, most murders are committed off screen. Tween horror of the 1960s?

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969)

At least this one begins with a blood splatter kill on the streets and then a sort of monster attack. But I sure can’t understand how the previous generation of horror fans had the nerve to complain that the slashers we kids watched in the 80s were all the same…because this shit is all the same!

Let the soap opera continue. Frankenstein stays at a boardinghouse and learns that the woman running it is engaged to a man who works at the mental institution where one of Frankenstein’s old doctor friends is a patient. Desperate to know what goes on in the doctor’s head, Frankenstein transplants his brain in another guy’s body with the help of a young druggy doctor he blackmails.

Blah blah blah blah blah, and finally the new monster (a man with a scar around his head) follows his doctor brain’s impulses and goes to the wife of the doctor. She’s like, “You’re not my husband,” and he’s like, “But honey, it’s what’s inside that counts”. I’m paraphrasing. Actually I made it up completely, because it would have been great if the conversation went just like that.

In the end, the monster gets revenge on Frankenstein by carrying him into a burning house.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974)

Don’t expect an explanation as to how the hell Frankenstein escaped the fire. But he’s back in business at a mental institution. A young doctor enamored with his work gets tossed in there too after he is found guilty of stealing and experimenting on bodies. Cushing reveals his latest creation, which looks like a big gorilla/Bigfoot hybrid. What a relief there’s a true creature this time.

Frankenstein gives the big goon some new body parts, and it goes on a murderous rampage through the mental institution.

Turns out Frankenstein has been murdering patients for the body parts, which begs the question for all Frankenstein lore—why kill or snatch multiple bodies for parts when you can just kill or rob one complete body, keep it intact, and try to bring it back to life as is?

And with that thought, I think I’m done with Frankenstein of any sort for good, forever.

Crap. I have Baby Frankenstein up next in my watchlist.

 

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

STREAM QUEEN: four times anthologized!

Plenty of stories means plenty of opportunities for thrills and chills. Did these four anthologies deliver?

VEROTIKA (2019)

Danzig of horror punk band The Misfits directed and wrote this anthology film. There’s probably a very narrow audience that will eat this up (horny, straight, male, horror-loving punks), but for me, the footage would have served better as gory and sexual clips in short music videos instead, because a whole lot of nothing goes on for way too long here…beyond gore and sex.

The wraparound opener is deceptive because it’s super gory and leaves you expecting something quite juicy.

Then we get to the 1st story. A woman with eyes on her nipples is visited by a multi-armed demon that goes around killing women after threatening to perform nasty sexual acts on them. Keeping the eyeball tits as the…um…focus of the tale would have been so much more interesting.

Second we get an excessively long strip club scene set to metal music. In other words…a music video. Then an evil woman goes around peeling off the faces of pretty girls.

The final story is a medieval Bathory blood bath segment. It’s very slow and lingering in its execution…and in general. No real story, just endless scenes of women being sliced open so other women can bathe in their blood.

THE MORTUARY COLLECTION (2020)

Clancy Brown of Pet Sematary 2 fame plays a mortician in the wraparound of this well-polished anthology in which he tells stories to a prospective employee. It’s getting a lot of hype and praise, and I liked it for what it is, but as far as anthologies go, I can’t say I loved it or would add it to my personal collection.

1st – this is a quick warmup about a woman encountering something in a bathroom.

2nd – social commentary abounds in this darkly comic tale focusing on the way men treat women. When a frat boy bangs a girl without protection, it’s safe to say the pregnancy was the last thing he expected. This one definitely delivers some nasty exploitation.

3rd story – this is sort of a comedy of errors. A man that can no longer bear the burden of caring for his sick wife has a momentary lapse of reasoning that makes taking care of her a nightmare.

4th story – the only thing that makes this story of a babysitting job interrupted by an escaped mental patient any different than the usual is the ending, which I personally saw coming from a mile away.

TALES FROM THE HOOD 3 (2020)

I didn’t expect we’d ever get a repeat of the first movie, especially considering it was one of the bright lights in quality horror movies during the generally abysmal first half of the 1990s. So you have to go into these sequels as you would any other anthology—appreciating the tales that deliver some fun and fear. Hell, I didn’t even hate the second one.

Tony Todd stars in the wraparound, bringing a little girl to reunite with her mother as they try to avoid some unseen evil force. Their plight isn’t quite clear, but as they travel, the little girl tells some (oddly adult) horror stories to kill the time…

1st story—selling out his own people, a Black dude working for a wealthy white real estate man makes the mistakes of targeting a Black family that refuses to move from a hot property. An otherwise good and suspenseful supernatural tale, this one makes the most bizarre decision of just throwing in a random scary clown in the middle of the action. It totally takes you out of the story because it is irrelevant to anything that happens before or after. Not to mention, the clown looks like fricking Killjoy.

2nd story—this is more like a Twilight Zone episode and mostly just a cathartic tale for those that are sick of the bigoted, gun crazy, God-loving white supremacists destroying this country. It is wing-nut behavior overkill before finally reaching the satisfying zinger ending.

3rd story—one of the longer stories, this is a tale of a young singer promised a huge career by a man who instead draws her into a plot to steal an old opera singer’s riches. It takes a while to get going, but it ends on a high note when it finally delves into the occult.

4th story—somewhat lighter in tone than the other stories at first, this final tale gets darker as it progresses. A serial mugger finds himself victim of a voodoo curse that makes his life a living nightmare.

This voodoo shit always freaks me out, so this is definitely my favorite tale of the bunch. And while there are loads of hotties in the film, I love that this story stars a funny guy who shows off his fuller physique.

AMERICAN NIGHTMARES: TALES FROM THE CRIB (2018)

Maybe I spoke too soon about Tales from the Hood sequels. This one comes from Rusty Cundieff, director of all three Tales from the Hood movies! I’m not sure why this wasn’t presented as part 3 instead, because although it might not have as polished a look as part 3 (or Spike Lee as executive producer), it is actually much closer to the dark yet campy style of the original film from 1995, with smarter approaches to timely social messages. And obviously it picked up the “Tales from the Crib” subtitle on Prime to coincide with the release of Tales from the Hood 3.

The wraparound features two geeks hacking private citizens video cameras when Danny Trejo and fricking Lieutenant Uhura take over their monitors to show them seven stories…

1st – a woman breaks up with her abusive man and then tries out a dating service that promises the perfect man. Yummy. He looks perfect, but their first date sure isn’t.

2nd – Jay Mohr plays a lawyer who rises to a political position of power after sending an innocent black man to death row (fricking Darnell from My Name is Earl!). Needless to say, there will be revenge. Vivica A. Fox appears as a reporter, but despite all the familiar faces, this is the weakest story from a horror perspective IMO.

3rd – a racist white cop purchases a machine to bring his entire family to a time and place when and where no blacks are allowed. But it’s not exactly what he was expecting…

4th – Chris Kattan is a sickly man with a circus fetish who hires a prostitute. She soon finds out he wants to clown around, but there’s nothing funny about it. Kattan definitely brings some humorous moments to this fun horror tale.

5th story – kudos to Cundieff for taking on conservative attitudes towards trans people. This is a much more satisfying white supremacist story than the one in Tales from the Hood 3.

6th story – Clarence Williams III, the original hood crypt keeper (awesome), stars as a man who makes a bogus healer learn that the power is nothing to make a mockery of.

7th story – this incredibly timely story focuses on a religious cult that abducts a young woman to “save” her unborn baby.

It’s a devilishly good way to end the film.

Posted in Johnny You ARE Queer - Gay Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, Scared Silly - Horror Comedy, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

STREAM QUEEN: a murderer and a monster walk into the woods…

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, but bloodthirsty killers and monsters get in the way, as in two films on my watchlists that made for a good double feature while offering some variety in the cabin in the woods/backwoods horror subgenres.

MURDER IN THE WOODS (2017)

There’s really nothing original about this cabin in the woods slasher and nothing too complicated to get in the way of it being about the slashing.

No red herring throw us off the scent of the totally obvious killer, the killer doesn’t wear a mask, the killer doesn’t feel like much of a psycho once revealed, and there are too many times when the characters find a dead body but quickly dismiss what they saw as the result of being high on pot brownies.

However, the film does have some things going for it.

a it’s a) it’s an all Latinx cast for a change
b) Danny Trejo is the cop, and he’s always cool

c) the kills are pretty good, and the ones that aren’t shown on screen at first are delivered in gory flashbacks at the end
d) the hot guy takes off his shirt

e) there are a couple of good, cheap jump scares
f) there are a few awesome 80s style new wave songs

If you can’t get enough of slashers, you’ll probably watch it and enjoy it for what it is.

THE MILLENNIUM BUG (2011)

When “No CGI Films” comes up as the production company behind a movie as soon as it begins, that’s hopefully a really good sign. In this case, it was a great sign.

The Millennium Bug takes place on New Year’s Eve 1999, making it one for the holiday horror page. A man, his daughter, and his new wife decide to camp in the woods for the night to avoid any possibility of technological breakdowns in civilized society.

Wouldn’t you know they get abducted by a family of deformed hillbilly goons!

This film has a unique tone that feels, looks, and sounds like a light fantasy film, while presenting hillbilly horror with a touch of dark humor, as the threat of a different subgenre completely threatens to invade the insanity at any minute…and eventually does. It becomes a monster movie!

The nonstop horror entertainment initially seems like it’s going to cross some awful hillbilly horror lines thanks to a disgusting birth scene early on that leaves nothing to the imagination. Once the family is kidnapped, there are continuous threats of horrible rape, but the movie never lets it get there.

What a relief, because it would have just ruined the popcorn (and cherry cola) movie fun.

Once the monster eventually stomps onto the screen, it brings with it an epic size and classic special effects…which means a dose of fantastic cheese added to the mix. It really does deliver the charm of an old school monster movie with a contemporary edge. It also had me adding the DVD to my Amazon shopping cart before I’d even finished watching it.

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

STREAM QUEEN: what’s gotten into you?

Exorcising my watchlist demons with this foursome. Was it worth opening myself up to possession? Let’s find out.

GATES OF DARKNESS (2019)

The director of Anaconda 3 and 4 goes in a different direction with a head-spinning take on the possession/exorcism genre. Despite featuring the likes of Adrienne Barbeau and Tobin Bell In fairly substantial roles, Gates of Darkness most definitely has a low budget feel and is a major slow burn until the final few minutes of exorcism action.

Even more than the pacing, the problem I had with this film is the absolutely awful audio mix. The dialogue is often impossible to hear, and because the film depends so much on it to tell a story, it is a major detractor.

The focus is a young, dark, brooding goth kid. His stepdad football coach pushes him to play, despite him hating it and the football team hating him. Tobin Bell is the head priest at his religious school, there’s a pretty boy priest who always gives goth boy eyes, and Adrienne Barbeau is goth boy’s grandmother, who seems to have a deeper knowledge of his troubled mind.

We get plenty of flashbacks of him experiencing something satanic as a child, and it becomes pretty obvious what kind of point this is making about priests and the church, so there really are no surprises.

The exorcism in the final act has some cool satanic and demonic visuals, but don’t expect our goth boy to go totally Linda Blair. It is fun watching Tobin Bell as an exorcist though.

UNHUMAN NATURE (2020)

Even though this is a short, 65-minute film, it feels longer because it is very dialogue driven. It’s also a Wendingo story, but it comes across as more your basic demonic possession in the woods movie.

It’s unnecessarily told through flashbacks when an FBI agent under psychiatric care tells his story of working on a sex trafficking case.

He ends up investigating animal attacks and disappearances in the woods instead. Eventually a hunter who believes in the Wendingo steps in to help him hunt it, but this seems to imply that the creature takes over the bodies of men, so what we get is guys with white demon eyes and bloody mouths running around the woods.

There’s nothing new here, and I don’t feel it’s intense enough to warrant a watch even if you’re into this subgenre.

THE WHISPERING MAN (2019)

This 73-minute movie is just more generic found footage fodder. If you watch a lot of found footage films, you’ve seen this all before.

Here’s the bullet you can dodge by skipping this movie:

**SPOILERS**: A guy inherits a picture of an alien that his grandmother used to call the whispering man. While filming his paranormal show with friends at grandma’s house, he dreams of an old building. He goes to it and is chased by some scary people in COVID masks.

He becomes possessed, then calls his friends over to the house to kill them on camera for his “final” show.

THE CLEANSING HOUR (2019)

Before I even went into this film, the description had me thinking, I’ve seen a movie just like this. When I began watching it I was thinking, this is the same damn movie. Then I remembered the lead possessed girl in the movie I saw was someone I knew and was surprised to see in the role. After sitting for a few minutes, it clicked that it was Heather Morris from Glee. So I looked it up on IMDB. She was in the short film that was adapted into this full-length feature!

The plot is about a young, sexy priest and his buddies who do a totally staged, live reality show performing exorcisms.

We soon question how priestly this dude is, between having sex with a woman and inviting his drag queen friend to play the next possessed victim on the show.

Sadly, things fall through with the drag queen, so a replacement is put in place. The show begins, and before long, it becomes clear that something is very wrong. This bitch really is possessed!

If you’re a big fan of the rash of possession films that flooded the market in the past decade, this is one of the higher quality ones to watch. There’s some clever, understated humor, the effects are excellent, the demon girl rocks, and the hot priest gets naked!

Themes of religion and faith are explored as the demon fucks with the minds of the show’s crew, and there are several twists and turns before the film comes to a very odd conclusion. It’s a fun ride, but it does stretch out a little longer than it needs to, so it lags a bit in the middle. But hey, at least there’s a final boss battle.

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HALLOWEEN HORROR ROUND-UP 2020

It’s a whole new bundle of movies to add to the Halloween section of my complete holiday horror page, but is it a lucky or unlucky 7? Let’s get right into which ones deliver the Halloween thrills we seek.

MASS HYSTERIA (2020)

I’m always up for a Halloween movie that takes place in Salem, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll notice Mass Hysteria really was filmed right on the streets of the town!

It also appears to be written by someone who either lived there or has gone there for Halloween, because it has some very true to life situations. For starters, the locals are horrified when the tourists come rolling in for the holiday.

The main kids that work in the historical witchcraft re-enactments are frustrated that tourists just want to see supernatural stuff. And in the crowds of visitors, there’s an annoying religious nut telling everyone they’re going to hell for celebrating Halloween.

Halloween spirit is high, there are plenty of humorous parts and a likable cast, and the plot is fun. When someone dies watching a re-enactment, everyone becomes convinced the main girl playing the role of an accused witch is an actual witch!

And so the tourists, led by the religious nut, start a modern day witch hunt! It’s a blast for a while, but it begins to become repetitive and lose steam, causing this 65-minute movie to feel much longer.

The biggest issue is that there’s a twist that changes the course of the plot and introduces a different kind of horror, but unfortunately, it comes at the 57- minute mark—way too little time to delve into the new situation.

If it had been presented at around the 40-minute mark, it would have helped the pacing and made this one a little more exciting.

HUBIE HALLOWEEN (2020)

If you’ve been a fan of Adam Sandler’s career for the past 30 years, then this is exactly what you would expect. Think of it like the Madea Boo! movies with Sandler’s brand of comedy instead.

The cast alone is epic, and includes the likes of Ben Stiller, Ray Liotta, Maya Rudolph, Julie Bowen, Kevin James, Steven Buscemi, Colin Quinn, Michael Chiklis, Tim Meadows, Rob Schneider, Shaquille O’Neal, Ben Stiller, and Kenan Thompson.

And of course Adam Sandler does one of his voices…one that’s hard to understand quite often, which is a little frustrating. I’m not sure if he was going for a character with a developmental disability or if it’s just supposed to be his personality, but either way, his character Hubie is relentlessly teased and tormented by kids and adults alike.

But he never seems to realize it or let it bother him, for his focus is on enjoying the spirit of the Halloween season in his town and protecting everyone from harm, especially with news of an escaped mental patient coming to town and the possibility that a werewolf is on the loose.

The comedy is quiet funny, there’s plenty of spooky Halloween atmosphere (although I don’t believe this movie is actually filmed in Salem), and the simple plot is entertaining.

However, if this 103-minute movie would have been trimmed by about 13 minutes, it would have vastly improved the pacing and eliminated some of the excess, repetitive nonsense—like Sandler constantly screaming at bogus jump scares. It’s funny a few times, but by the tenth time we really want to just get on with the story.

There are also some totally unnecessary side characters (like a budding romance between two teens) that just sidetrack the action.

Even so, this is a good one to get you in the Halloween zone, and it’s magnified by the expansive selection of horror and Halloween themed songs used. This movie really needs a soundtrack release.

DO NOT REPLY (2020)

I’ll start off by asking—how do filmmakers watch back the movie they’ve made that is dependent on telling its story through on screen text bubbles and not see that the font color and translucent bubble background colors make it hard for practically blind people to read the texts?

Okay, I’m past it. Now on to the Halloween issue. The description of the movie mentions the holiday, but be warned—this movie is not about Halloween for more than five minutes, and therefore I won’t be adding it to the holiday horror page.

It’s about a young woman who meets a guy online. They agree to meet at a Halloween party, he drugs her, and she awakes chained up in a basement.

Surprisingly, this isn’t torture porn–but her kidnapper definitely seems to be a fan of Argento…

It actually does a good job of juggling a lot of character issues at once, and even though it doesn’t have time enough to really delve into each of them, it gets the point across, it’s suspenseful, and it never slows down.

The dude that abducted her has serious issues with women, has several girls imprisoned in his home, calls them all Sadie, and has them make each other into Stepford Sadies…that all look like the singer Poppy.

He also likes making virtual reality movies with his Sadies…

Some girls are already brainwashed, some can’t cope with the situation, and of course our main girl intends to escape the insanity. All I’m going to say is that during the final battle she does one of the smartest things a final girl has ever done in a horror movie.

HALLOWEEN PARTY (2019)

While so much of this film is derivative and features aspects of numerous movies of the past two decades, there are moments that are quite effective.

And the Halloween spirit is high, although there’s a catch with the “Halloween party” aspect.

Taking advantage of the modern technology horror era in which we’re living, the film revolves around a Halloween themed computer game—you get sent the game, a countdown starts, and you must quickly type in your worst fear. Do it, your safe, mess up, your dead.

A group of college kids quickly learns this is no game!

The main girl and her computer geek friend talk about their love of everything 80s, and they discuss their own fears. Hers is that spiders are going to crawl up her cooch. It’s mentioned so much that we can only anticipate what’s going to become of that fear later on…

The pair quickly suspects that other students are dying due to the game…yet they seem oddly calm about their friends dying for quite a while. It has an effect on any sense of urgency we should feel as the audience, despite some creepy kills along the way. The first kill alone is brilliantly presented with no score at all, a rarely used approach that is always chilling.

There is an invite to a Halloween party, but the kids get distracted so that never happens. Instead they discover that the forces behind the game consider every day a Halloween party. Lame!

The forces are quite freaky, but when they come after the kids the money shots are mostly packed in the last few minutes of the film, which suddenly turns sort of found footage. And the tacked on end scene is a weird shift in tone—fun and funny for sure, but not in keeping with the rest of the film at all.

SPINE CHILLER (2020)

This 73-minute “anthology” film, which takes more of an intertwining stories approach like Trick ‘r Treat, leans heavily on various gimmicks that make it seem like an early 80s VHS movie. At this point, the analog synth scores, color drenched scenes, and grainy, speckled film filter tricks are becoming caricatures.

But hell, they still work like a charm. And this throwback flick definitely has charm.

The real issue is the lack of variety in the “tales”. Almost all of the stories involve someone who is getting ready for the party being surprised by the appearance in their house of someone wearing a mask and wielding a knife. Good news is, every mask is different.

The only thing that keeps this from not simply being a slasher is one story about a guy whose werewolf costume arrives in the mail incomplete…but evolves into something even better than a costume.

There’s plenty of spooky atmosphere, creepy camera angles, Halloween mask eye cutout POV, some gore using practical effects, and perfectly timed musical cues determined to give us some scares, but the truth is, not much here packs a punch. It’s mostly the nostalgic vibe that kept me entertained. And to be honest, when the stories all tie up together at the end, I can’t promise that you’ll be satisfied. But this guy is quite satisfying…

THEY LIVE INSIDE US (2020)

It’s no surprise that this comes from one of the directors of installments of The Witching Season web series, because it delivers plenty of Halloween atmosphere and an 80s vibe.

The classic opening scene features Halloween-esque music as kids on bikes tour a town covered in signs of the holiday, stop at a creepy house, and tell varying stories about why it’s vacant, including murder, witchcraft, and ghosts.

Then we meet our main character, a poor man’s Elijah Wood. He comes to the house for writing inspiration on Halloween, and brings his daughter along.

I kind of feel like anyone watching will know where this movie is going as we get inside the man’s head. In between experiencing strange, supernatural situations in the house (he does a lot of walking around looking nervous), he works on his story.

And that’s where the film has a split personality. He’s basically writing a story about a woman being stalked on Halloween, but he keeps rethinking and rewriting it, making this sort of like an anthology as we see the woman deal with a masked killer, a killer scarecrow, a crazed clown, etc.

Although the film is suspenseful, it doesn’t deliver much on scares, but the story he’s writing is definitely the highlight, offering a great old school slasher look and feel. However, the scenes slowly revealing his story in the house are repetitive and lead to the most obvious conclusion.

WEEDJIES: HALLOWEED NIGHT (2020)

The director of Halloween horror flick Dark Walker nails it all here—the 90s Full Moon Features vibe, the Halloween spirit, and a combination of Ghoulies and Gremlins. I’d swear these little critters are leftover props borrowed from both of those franchises.

It begins on Halloween 1978. Get it? A dude is trying to send the critters back from where they came: a Ouija board!

Jump ahead to modern day, and somehow three girls and a guy have rented out an entire hotel in Vegas to throw a huge Halloween party. Cue decorating montage…and then a dance montage at the party! There’s even a totally 80s heavy metal band.

The big theme of the night is a scavenger hunt. Winner gets a huge bag of weed! As the game gets underway, a mysterious voodoo priestess shows up and convinces the main kids to play with her Ouija board. Out pop the Ghoulie-Gremlins! Time to get campy!

And totally bringing the camp is a fabulous gay couple.

Kudos to Full Moon for delivering the only film that reminds us that when it’s Halloween, there will be gays!

They love, they fight, they scream, they search for weed…and they’re dressed like a hot dog and bun. Which begs the question, who wore it better? Them or me and the hubba hubba?

There are plenty of nods to both Gremlins and Ghoulies, swirls of green magic mist, an awesome Ouija board, a floating Rastafarian demon head, goofy humor and kills, and even a cameo by some of Full Moon’s most famous little buggers.

If you just want a fun party movie on Halloween night and you grew up on horror of the 80s and 90s, all planchettes point to this film.

 

Posted in Johnny You ARE Queer - Gay Thoughts, Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, Scared Silly - Horror Comedy, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It came from 1957 and 1958

It’s a black and white creature feature bonanza with this foursome—two from 1957 and two from 1958, all of which feel much more contemporary in tone than some of the horror-lite made in those days.

BLOOD OF DRACULA (1957)

The title kind of sucks. This is a contemporary teen vampire film that should have been called I Was A Teenage Vampiress. It would have been a favorite of mine if I’d been a teen in the 50s.

Our rebellious main girl is cool, tough, and independent, and doesn’t take any shit from the bitchy girls at her new boarding school. She does befriend her science teacher, who conducts some experiments that turn our main girl into a vampire…that looks oddly like Eddie Munster in drag.

Instead of pillow fights, the girls dance with couch cushions (I guess that was as titillating as it got back then). Boys sneak in to party, and one of the heartthrobs breaks into a song and dance number with the girls. I thought that shit only happened in 1980s movies!

The stalk-and-kill monster POV scenes are more effective than many “scary” scenes from movies of the time, and there’s even a Halloween scavenger hunt in a cemetery. This movie fricking has it all.

HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958)

If you think horror didn’t start poking fun at its relevance as a genre until the 80s and 90s, think again.

How to Make a Monster takes a dig at movie studios for shunning the classic monsters to produce family friendly films. A highly regarded makeup artist is working on a Frankenstein vs. The Wolfman movie when it is announced that it will be his last. The studio has been bought, and horror is out to make room for musicals.

As revenge, the makeup artist puts a drug in his makeup and uses it to hypnotize his two monster actors into killing for real! One of these actors is a mega hunk…you know, before he’s made into a hideous monster.

Just like Blood of Dracula, there are some good killer POV attacks, and there’s another teen heartthrob song and dance number! No wonder these two movies come together on a 2-on-1 DVD.

The film is surprisingly progressive in actually having a black woman as a witness to one of the crimes while walking home from work. Of course they have to work in that she’s a maid.

And finally the film does something quite odd…a sort of Wizard of Oz stunt. For no really explicable reason, the final act of this black and white film suddenly turns to full color. The gimmick is supposed to be that you finally get to see the makeup artist’s creations in full color, but it’s just masks on walls, not the fricking monsters that have been killing people!

THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957)

With great monsters—giant mollusks from the sea that basically look like huge maggots—this is a film that has several awesome creature feature moments but is weighed down by too many military and scientist scenes.

After an earthquake, the creatures are released from the ocean. When a couple out swimming gets dragged underwater, a search party is sent to look for the bodies.

30 minutes in we get our first look at the mollusk in a creepy underwater scene, although when it eats a diver’s head we definitely see the limitations of special effects back then.

It’s not until 65 minutes in that there another mollusk attacks, this time on land with a good jump scare.

And the final scene, in which a mollusk terrorizes a woman and her daughter, probably freaked audiences out back in the day, because it’s a pretty damn suspenseful scene.

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958)

While it feels somewhat derivative of The Thing (from Another World), this killer creature on a spaceship movie is clearly the inspiration for dozens of movies from the 1980s that are usually accused of being Alien rip-offs. In fact, Alien was inspired by this film!

After a mission to Mars goes wrong, a ship is sent to rescue the survivors, but the team finds only one is still alive. They take him aboard their ship and immediately suspect he killed all his fellow astronauts. He claims it was an otherworldly life form that killed them.

He’s right. And that life form is now on their ship! After seeing just hands and shadows for the first half hour, we get a full blown battle with the beast. Awesome.

It’s nonstop battles from then on. Sure there’s a little slowdown as the team makes a plan to stop the hulking creature, but they get right back into the ring for a fight to the death.

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four from Peter Cushing’s horror resume

He was one of the kings of horror through the 1960s and early 1970s, so it’s time to finish up my look at all the Peter Cushing movies passed on to me from my late brother, short of the Frankenstein series, which I’ll be getting to as soon as I can. Until then, it’s on to these four.

THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS (1960)

Not even the uncensored “continental cut” of this film can save it. It’s a bland story of two grave robbers that supply corpses to Cushing, a doctor who experiments on cadavers in hopes of making medical breakthroughs.

Unfortunately, the two grave robbers, one of them none other than Donald Pleasence, realize they can make more money if they just start killing people. It’s a good concept that has been borrowed in movies in recent years, but this film just isn’t very exciting.

There’s moral and religious messaging, with others targeting Cushing for not letting the dead rest in peace, there is a bar of debauchery where prostitutes show their tits (in the continental cut), and there’s even a very Frankenstein-esque town uprising at the end, but the only mildly thrilling moments here come from the grave robbers, who are ghoulishly creepy in the joy they derive from killing people.

NIGHT CREATURES (1962)

It might be a period piece (blah) that takes place in the 1700s, but this film has a great early scene in which a man running through the woods encounters skeletal phantoms on horses and a scarecrow that opens its eyes.

Then it falls apart.

Peter Cushing is the holy man in a little town that has been invaded by sailors on the hunt for smugglers. And so this turns into a boring “mystery” in which it is pretty obvious a Scooby Doo stunt is being pulled as a distraction from a serious crime.

It’s just bad. Really bad.

AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS (1973)

It’s unfortunate that some film production companies insisted on doing period piece horror well into the 1970s, when the genre was becoming vastly contemporary in settings, concepts, and intensity. However, that doesn’t detract from this film, which totally lives up to its title.

A bride is brought to live with her new husband in his family mansion and is almost immediately attacked by a severed hand that leaps out of a portrait on the wall! Eek!

She begins to think she’s going insane as she is terrorized by visions of a man missing a hand and his eyes. But she’s not the only one. Ghostly forces and the severed hand start taking out servants left and right.

The bride’s hysteria gets so bad that a doctor is called in to care for her: Peter Cushing.

He begins to dig deeper into the occult and supernatural past of the family mansion…as well as its history of sexual debauchery. Awesome. This is most definitely the goriest, darkest film in this bunch.

THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974)

Just no. Not this. Not when you come from the same era as The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But at least it’s set in the modern day.

The first mistake The Beast Must Die makes is using a gimmick like something out of 1960s William Castle films. We are informed that one of the characters in the movie is a werewolf, we have to figure out which, and we’ll get thirty seconds near the end to make our guess known before it is revealed.

Next, just because the leading man is Black, some jazzy funk Shaft wannabe music serves as the score. Talk about killing the mood. Anyway, the man, a wealthy hunter, invites a group of people to his mansion, claims one of them is a werewolf, and says he plans to figure out which one and then kill them.

Peter Cushing is the man with experience studying hairy beasts, so he feeds the group information about werewolves, which leads them to do a werewolf test by touching silver. Then they do it again. Then they do it again. One bitch is even like, we did this shit already and it didn’t work.

The hunter goes out into woods to chase the werewolf a few times and it’s tragic. It’s a dog wearing extra layers of fur as it leaps past the hunter a few times. It looks ridiculous.

And finally, the movie tries so hard to make one person seem guilty the whole time that it’s totally clear that person isn’t the werewolf. However, there are numerous twists at the end, but at this point in time, any experienced horror fan will guess them all.

Posted in Movie Times & Television Schedules - Staying Entertained, The Evil of the Thriller - Everything Horror | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment