PRIME TIME: killers, cannibals, zombies, and satan worshippers

Another foursome I found on Prime, and it’s a mix of serious horror and horror comedies. Let’s get right into them.

CANNIBALS AND CARPET FITTERS (2017)

I’ve been waiting for this one to hit streaming for a while because it stars some full-figured boys. Wahoo! If you’re a fan of British horror comedies that are as gory as they are funny, Cannibals and Carpet Fitters is a good one to check out.

It’s especially notable because things don’t always turn out as predictably as you might expect for the characters.

Although part of the opening sequence is presented in found footage format, the film doesn’t stay that way. Either way, it proves to be one kick ass kill scene that lets you know exactly the kind of horror party you’re in for.

Next we meet the workers at a carpet installation company. A muscle boy and girl head to an isolated house to do a job, and another trio of guys is on the way to join them.

Wouldn’t you know the house is filled with a family of cannibal goons? Let the cat and mouse games and the slicing and dicing begin!

The first pair plays it straight, and the female totally rox. It’s the next trio of guys that brings on the Three Stooges fun upon arriving.

It’s funny, it’s a thrill ride, and the blood and guts totally rule if you like a good splatterfest.

SADISTIC INTENTIONS (2018)

It’s rare that I don’t get a single moment of satisfaction out of a movie, but Sadistic Intentions is one of those cases. Not even so much as a hot shirtless guy. For me personally, it was 82 minutes that could have been spent on something more my speed.

It doesn’t help that the description for this film makes it sound like it’s going to be a night of “metal mayhem”. For starters, following an intriguing opening, it’s 46 minutes of talk after a metal head dude and a girl show up at a mansion where a mutual friend told them he’d meet them. While they wait for him to arrive, they talk and talk and talk.

Finally he shows, we learn he has some sort of occult sacrificial plans for the girl, and the two guys spend the remainder of the film fighting about it because the guy who got to know her really likes her.

There’s no suspense, the characters aren’t charismatic or likable, it’s no fun watching them hang out and drink beer for 46 minutes, and the occult aspects barely qualify as horror.

The general concept reminded me of We Summon the Darkness, and I barely made it through that one, which now seems like fun compared to this.

ENTERFEAR (2020)

Enterfear seems like one of those films shot in the hometown of the filmmakers with many of the locals in main roles and as extras. While these types of films can suffer from uncountable problems and come across as home video messes, this little indie does a whole lot right and demonstrates the potential of the creators if they had a budget.

The premise is fun—a meteorite lands near a broadcast tower, causing a television station’s programming to cross over into reality.

This being an indie, the most they could do was dip into some public domain titles, so we get some Plan 9 from Outer Space, an episode of The Twilight Zone, and of course, The Night of the Living Dead.

Smartly, the film is only an hour long so as not to wear out the limited material, but it does present a couple of fake movies near the end to add some variety.

Our hero is a cute young hick who must head to the tower to figure out what’s wrong when the TV station broadcast begins to glitch. Before long, he’s being chased by zombies flickering with TV waves and has to team up with a coworker to figure out how to stop them and save the town.

Much of the basic humor lands perfectly due to good comic timing, and the guys have fun with the concept, which moves into Stay Tuned territory.

The zombies are a combination of basic face makeup and some simple CGI for the TV effects, but it works with the low budget vibe. While part of me wonders what they could have done with better financing, I also imagine the tone of the film simply works better with a more homebrewed feel.

BACKWOODS (2020)

This short, seventy-minute movie goes a really roundabout way to deliver a basic but satisfying slasher segment near the end. If only the fun of that short, gory segment had actually been sprinkled throughout, it could have been a really good time.

Instead, rather than tell a linear story, it unnecessarily complicates things by jumping around, leaving us completely confused as to what the hell is going on for a majority of the running time. There are some good attempts to bring something different to the slasher plot, but it’s almost like it’s trying too hard. We are bombarded by a series of situations that don’t quite allow us to latch on to a particular plot line, distinct characters, or final girl.

There’s a high school party where kids talk, puke, fight, and tell tales of an urban legend of The Hangman, who kills boys and abducts girls to be his brides…which means there are rhetorical flashbacks of that killer. There’s a girl escaping a car trunk and then running away from a guy in a mask. And there’s a deformed backwoods creep in a shed.

When the timelines fuse there’s a twist that’s a little silly but at least establishes that the deformed creep isn’t the only threat, and even though the super brief slasher segment is super fun, the deformed killer ends up relying on a gun little too much. Even so, it’s a well-produced teen slasher, so if you need a fix, I’d say give it a go.

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Ghost goes gay

Digging through Prime for new, fun horror to watch with the hubba hubba, I stumbled upon the supernatural buddy comedy Dead from New Zealand, so I checked out the trailer. It looked fairly generic and vaguely humorous, but I figured, you never know (as I do with most movies), so I tossed it into my watchlist. Then comes a rainy Sunday afternoon with nothing to watch, so we give it a chance.

Dead proved to be a totally charming ghost comedy that is going directly on to the homo horror movie page despite there being no mention of a gay plot line in the film’s description or the trailer.

Turns out the gay plot is the glue that holds the film together, so much so that it might be a little too much for a mainstream horror audience (which would explain it being buried for the promotion).

A pot-smoking loser still living with his mom can see and speak to ghosts with the help of a special drug he concocts. He is visited by an adorable dead cop in his underwear who lost his pants while pursuing a masked serial killer.

The cop can’t remember much else and has no idea how he died. But he’s still determined to catch the killer and asks the stoner to contact his sister. She was helping him on the case, so he wants the stoner to team up with her and find the killer.

It seems all the victims were attractive gay men, which opens the ghost/guy duo up for plenty of homoerotic humor as they work together to hunt down the killer, visiting gay bars and dabbling in male prostitution.

Meanwhile, the pair is being haunted by other dead ghouls in various states of decomposition.

The actors are charismatic, the characters are lovable, the sister could be Tiffany Shepis’s real life sister, the humor is playful with just enough camp to satisfy the gay crowd, there are plenty of ghost corpses creeping around, and the mystery twists keep the film moving at a fast pace. And most importantly, there’s some man booty and a sexy gay kiss—just make sure to stick around for the end credits. Now if only this one would be released on DVD or Blu so I can add it to my gay horror collection. If you watch it on Prime and you enjoy it, give gay horror some love and leave a positive review.

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PRIME TIME: anthology horror, a goblin, possession, and a creature

As COVID continues to take its toll on streaming options, I’m feeling less and less inspired to even watch the titles I’m settling on putting in my watchlists. So were there any pleasant surprises in this batch?

DARK TALES (2017)

Dark Tales is another anthology of short films that feel like they were culled from YouTube. There’s very little here that is even vaguely effective as a terror tale, but I guess the “dark” part does fit.

It opens with some title cards about a found footage situation, but if the text (some of which changes too fast to completely read) is meant to serve as a wraparound, it’s pointless.

Meanwhile, most of these stories are more like inconclusive clips rather than cohesive stories. Here’s the breakdown:

1st – a girl comes to her friend covered in blood. This goes nowhere.

2nd – this is as simple as it gets. A guy gives a transfusion for a woman’s bathory tub.

3rd – it’s yet another take on the clown doll come to life while a girl is babysitting tale, which originated and was still done best in the movie Amusement.

4th – a guy tied up in a wheelchair in a murder lair tries to escape.

5th – two guys try to make a snuff film but things don’t go as planned.

6th – although it isn’t much of a horror story in the end, this is my favorite simply because of the twist. A woman is tied up by a redneck, and he makes her recount how she lost her virginity. He’s cute, too.

7th – a holy roller trying to deliver his victim to his savior gets a saving of his own.

8th – a woman gets a call from a perv who tells her to never ask what he looks like. Of course, she does. This was an okay story as well.

GOBLIN (2020)

Goblin is a funny little indie that kind of feels like one of those pseudo horror flix from the 80s where the spooky green creature is drawn to the main child. In fact, the main child in this film is creepier than the goblin….

A woman, her young son, her new husband, and his teen son move into a new house, and right away, the quirky tone of the film is established. It’s never clear if the couple had a good relationship, but the husband immediately begins to act kind of douchey. Played by actor Joe Cummings, he’s also sizzling hot, spends much of his time shirtless, and steals the show because he’s fricking funny.

The wife sees a goblin outside the window, the son draws the goblin in school, the neighbor warns them the goblin is real and to get out before it eats them, and the husband and his dick teenage son (also funny) don’t believe it’s a monster but plan to capture whatever it is.

The CGI goblin is kind of cute in a Shrek sort of way, the film runs a tight 71 minutes long, and did I mention Joe Cummings is hot, shirtless a lot, super funny, and steals the show?

HEX (2018)

Hex seems to get a lot of hate online, but for someone who is easily bored, I didn’t actually find it all that bad.

It’s definitely a bit basic and familiar. A young guy on vacation in an exotic land meets a pretty young woman and becomes enthralled with her. As their romance takes off, some odd occurrences make him question her sincerity. She’s a little…off.

Maybe that’s because she might be a little…possessed.

Therein lies the problem. Nothing all that compelling or frightening happens along the way to elevate the fear level, so by the time the pair decides to consult a witch doctor for the final act, not even the big climax has the flexibility to go all that big.

It’s more enthralling than everything that comes before it, but it’s still somewhat of a disappointment. I think this film would have worked better as a shorter, more straight to the point story in an anthology.

CREATURE FROM CANNIBAL CREEK (2019)

Yes, the poster art is false advertising. This is a goofy low budget backwoods horror flick in which the monster looks like a guy wearing a green trash bag filled with autumn leaves.

A backwoods family captures random people that wander into the woods and tosses them in cages to eat later. There’s a matriarch, a dude dressed like a Hills Have Eyes cannibal, and a grunting dude wearing a mask.

One of the victims tries to escape, gets stabbed, crawls into the woods, and is turned into the trash bag monster by a bunch of branches that come to life. Whatever.

More random characters wander into the woods, and the monster starts killing them instead of getting revenge on the cannibal family. WTF? Meanwhile, the cannibal family goes on, poking, prodding, and dicing up victims while whimsical banjo music plays. Ugh.

The most memorable moment of the entire film is a dude getting brutally screwed up the ass with a tree branch.

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Stephen King in the 90s—movies and miniseries part 2

One more time into the world of Stephen King at the end of the 20th century with two more movies and two more miniseries.

THE LAWNMOWER MAN (1992)

The original King short story was just plain weird—all I remember is a naked man running around the lawn eating grass. The movie is weird in a totally different way because it’s nothing like the source material. So much so that King took legal action to have his name removed from it.

The Lawnmower Man deserves credit for being an early sci-fi film that tackled inevitability of virtual reality and cyber control. Of course it also has really cool effects…for 1992. I’m talking futuristic cool computer stuff in a Super Nintendo vs. Sega Genesis way…

There are two cuts of the film with a few variations in details, both offered on the Blu-ray releae, but the director’s cut piles another 40 minutes onto the plot. That’s the version I tortured myself with, all the while thinking “this movie would be so much better if it was about forty minutes shorter.”

Pierce Brosnan is a scientist using drugs and virtual reality on chimps. When that goes horribly wrong, he tries the same shit on a mentally challenged gardener named Jobe, played by Jeff Fahey.

At first Jobe gets smarter, gains psychic powers, and turns into a bit of a sex kitten.

Then eventually (95 minutes into the director’s cut), he starts to lose control (or take control, depending on how you look at it) and uses his powers to take down the people that have wronged him.

It’s totally trippy, as if the cyber world is colliding with reality. Finally there’s a lawnmower man in video game format, and also a killer lawnmower for one death in reality format. Even if there had been more killer lawnmower deaths, it still would have been a fucking mess. But at least, you know, there would have been more killer lawnmower deaths.

However, what’s most important is that the plot presents the concept of computer technology becoming our new “god” as we worship its power more and more. Personally, I’d rather worship a killer lawnmower.

THE LAWNMOWER MAN 2: JOBE’S WAR (1996)

This disaster has absolutely nothing to do with Stephen King and can barely manage to keep itself contained within the universe of the original movie.

An evil businessman uses Jobe to program a chip to control all computers in hopes of world domination.

Jobe is missing some crucial information, so he asks for help from an old buddy—a kid from the first movie, who is now a teenager played by the same actor. Here’s the thing. In the first movie it was “current day”. This sequel takes place in “the future”. The kid isn’t even ten years older, yet the world suddenly looks like it’s the 30th century. WTF?

The kid and his teen friends of the future (who oddly enough all have the fashion sense of an extra on a 1990s episodes of Saved by the Bell), are a bunch of computer geeks. They find the original developer of the chip, who knows the damage that can be done if the chip falls into the wrong hands, so he refuses to help Jobe.

Soooo…Jobe goes on a rampage again, only this time it’s on a grand, futuristic, action-packed, tween scale, with the teens having to take on Jobe and an evil corporation while laser fire and explosion effects swirl all around them and their cool motorcycles.

Seriously, this is basically a kids’ movie action adventure sci-fi film. And for a movie that takes place in the future, it sure feels like the 80s and 90s, with a faithful dog that knows how to operate a computer, Jobe acting very Max Headroom because it is Max Headroom, Jobe tapping into some Pinhead vibes with his costume and his own special toy box, a swashbuckling battle on a catwalk with electrified swords that make it feel like the force has awakened, and Jobe making a roach motel quip 8 years after Freddy Krueger did it much better.

THE SHINING (1997)

It’s no secret that Stephen King hates Kubrick’s much adored adaptation of his novel, so seventeen years later he decided to make a “better” version as a miniseries with horror director Mick Garris. Sometimes dead is better…

Forget the tricycle, the twins, the bloody elevator, the maze, the axe, and the redrum finger. None of that is included here, which is a smart decision, because you just can’t replicate it.

There are plenty of sequences lifted right out of the novel, which should make fans of King’s book appreciate aspects of this adaptation, but also means there are duplicate parts since the original movie sometimes borrowed from the source material as well. But the problem with this version is that it just drags on and on as it makes sure to stick to the book’s details yet fails to deliver a sense of dread.

This TV miniseries basically can’t rise above its cheap, made for TV movie vibe. The first 90-minute installment of the 3-part miniseries is almost entirely exposition about Jack’s drinking problem, Danny’s powers, and the layout of the hotel. Yawn. And by the way, everything about the interior of the hotel feels small and intimate in this version, which sucks half the atmosphere out of the movie, literally.

In the second part, things really pick up and even reach a bit of a fevered pitch as Jack begins to snap. But then all of a sudden he turns back into a comforting husband for Wendy, because of course we still have another 90 minutes to fill…

By part 3, stars Steven Weber and Rebecca de Mornay rise above the Lifetime network feel of the film during an intense confrontation. While Nicholson just threatened to bash Duvall’s brains in with a bat, Weber does a number on de Mornay with a croquet mallet. Ouch.

So what’s different throughout the full 4 hours and 30 minutes? We actually see Danny’s imaginary friend Tony, and he fricking floats around and talks to Danny. It’s so weak. As in the original novel, there are topiary hedge animals on the property that come to life. It never worked for me in the novel, and it’s even more ridiculous in the movie.

There’s a nest full of dead wasps that come back to life. We see Danny encounter the lady in the tub instead of Jack. Danny has visions of Jack looking like something right out of Evil Dead. Danny is terrorized by a guy in a wolf mask. Stephen King makes a cameo during the ballroom scene. Jack says “Boo!” and “Here comes papa bear!” Instead of “Wendy, I’m home!” and “Here’s Johnny!” When Jack pursues Danny (mostly in a tiny room), he fights the urge to kill him and warns Danny to run away.

And the climax? It’s as TV movie of the week as it gets.

STORM OF THE CENTURY (1999)

Storm of the Century has the distinction of being an original Stephen King screenplay (which was then published in print form). I was a fan when it was originally released because it felt like classic King at a time when he’d more than lost me with his newer novels. Essentially it feels like a blend of The Mist and Needful Things with a character much like The Man in Black from The Stand as the antagonist.

The residents of an isolated island village are thrown into chaos when a mysterious stranger shows up and commits a vicious murder. The town is so isolated that the constable, played by Tim Daly (he is so fricking cute), doesn’t even know what to do with a criminal, especially considering the storm of the century is hitting and they can’t get off the island.

They lock the stranger up, but this mysterious figure knows things about each character. Dark secrets they’ve kept, awful things they’ve done…including one character’s involvement in a disturbing gay situation, landing this one on the does the gay guy die? page. The stranger also has the power to control them with his mind and starts making them do bad things—to themselves and to each other.

Actor Colm Feore is fantastically chilling as the cold and calculated stranger. We don’t know exactly what he is, but there are hints of a monstrous side. Freaky glimpses of him indeed, so it’s a bit of a bummer that there are some cheesy visual effects of children flying in the air later in the film.

We really get to know each and every character, but like most miniseries, this 3-parter does become a bit drawn out before the final part, which is when all the good stuff happens. This is when we find out why the stranger is there and what he means when he repeatedly tells the townsfolk “Give me what I want and I’ll go away.”

A classic, tragic conflict between the characters leads to an unthinkable choice they must all make. It’s a haunting scenario, and I even feel one scene may have inspired one of the most memorable moments in the original Jeepers Creepers.

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The horrors of Showtime March 2021

Occasionally I have to remind myself to do a sweep of the large selection of horror films Showtime On Demand has to offer. It was that time again, and I found four flicks to check out, so let’s get into them.

ALIVE (2018)

Alive comes from the director of Harpoon, so I can at least say this one was better than that film.

What else can I say? I guess I can say the ending was a cool change of pace, I just can’t say that it was worth sitting through what I found to be a scareless, derivative film with elements of torture porn to get to the big surprise.

Basically it’s Misery in a derelict hospital. A man and woman wake up with no memory of who they are, how they got there, or why they are badly injured. They’re being tended to by a weird, lone doctor who won’t give them any explanations.

So they spend the film trying to figure out what’s going on and how they’re going to escape. The setting is good, atmospheric, and familiar to veteran horror fans, and the performances are tight, but I simply didn’t find any of it suspenseful or frightening.

Even so, considering the ending is way cool, this might be one of those films you can better appreciate with a second viewing once you know what’s coming.

AQUASLASH (2019)

Reminiscent of the tight slasher film The Pool, Aquaslash is only 72 minutes long…and yet, considering how it all plays out, it should have been maybe forty minutes long at most.

Things start amazing with a sex and death scene. I was sure I was in for an 80s-style throwback slasher.

Then a bunch of kids comes to party at a water slide park. They party, they fight, they have sex…for fifty minutes. That’s it for fifty minutes. No slashing at all. A cover band doing Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” at least brings a little of the throwback vibe I was hoping for.

Aquaslash is a movie that relies on wowing viewers with its final scene. Hopefully viewers get there. The promise of what is to come is implanted halfway through the film when we see blades being inserted into one of the slide tubes. Once the slide competition begins with only twenty minutes left in the film, it’s payoff time.

It becomes one big traffic jam of slicing and dicing as people voluntarily and involuntarily end up going down that tube. Some of the reactions to what is taking place are funny, other reactions are utterly ridiculous, and the gore is like Final Destination franchise great.

EXTRA ORDINARY (2019)

I’m always up for a good supernatural comedy, and this little Irish indie so wants to be just that. For me, it was just too quaint and too self-aware in its attempt to be meta for a majority of its runtime. Even so, I stuck with it and found myself highly entertained and laughing out loud in the final act. If only the entire film had that energy.

The story focuses on a driving teacher who also happens to be a psychic. But she’s not in the psychic business, so when a man comes to her because he’s being haunted by his deceased wife, she refuses to help him.

But the same man’s daughter is targeted by a one-hit wonder pop star who tries to resurrect his career by making a deal with the devil that requires a virgin sacrifice.

Once the driving teacher does agree to help the man with his new problem, the pop star plots to stop them.

The film is slow, the references to other horror films are so cliché they didn’t quite tickle my funny bone, and the relationship between the two main characters is a little too cutesy for my tastes. So it comes as quite a surprise when the final act delivers a totally fun occult ritual that steps into Ghostbusters territory visually and in terms of humor. And yes, Ghostbusters is referenced earlier in the film.

THE LAST LAUGH (2020)

If you just need a good fix of a masked killer with a long knife and some violent, bloody kills, The Last Laugh has what you need.

A standup comedian is about to have a big opening night at a theater, and while everyone involved in putting the show together is busy behind the scenes, someone in a mask starts taking them out one by one.

There’s plenty of behind the scenes drama—none of it relevant or all that interesting—and the comedian thinks he’s starting to lose his mind as bodies and blood appear and disappear.

The film is generally serious (odd, considering the title and storyline), but there’s an out of place humorous sequence in which the comedian speaks with two others about the tragic history of the theater. Aside from the kills, it’s the most entertaining part of the film and it’s the kind of tone I wish had been consistently used throughout.

Essentially what I’m saying is just watch this one for the kills because the plot isn’t all that satisfying…and there’s no explanation as to the killer’s identity or motivation in the end.

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I’m taking a Wrong Turn to Peninsula

We groan and gripe about sequels, reboots, and remakes, but that doesn’t stop us from consuming every last film that is anyway linked to some of our faves. And so I take on the sequel to Train to Busan and the reboot of Wrong Turn. Okay…I also added them immediately to my personal movie collection before even seeing them.

TRAIN TO BUSAN presents: PENINSULA (2020)

I try to avoid learning anything about a movie before watching and judging it for myself, but I’m so glad I saw plenty of hate for this sequel on social media. I knew what I was in for and simply took it for what it is rather than a “sequel” to the amazing film Train to Busan.

This is simply a zombie action film with loads of CGI that lends itself to thrilling, video game style car chase scenes. And in some cases, car stopping scenes…

The only problem I had with Peninsula is that it could have been trimmed down by 30 minutes to spare us all the “story” and keep up the pace. If you’re going to make an action zombie film, chill on the character development and drama. Seriously.

After the zombie outbreak, Korea has been quarantined. Some idiots accept a job from mobsters to go find a truck filled with money in the quarantine zone.

They get split up when zombies attack. A rogue group that was supposed to be a rescue team has created a sadistic compound. There’s also a surviving family still trapped in quarantine that desperately wants to get out.

It’s just a matter of (too much) time before their worlds collide and a battle to the death is launched. The final half hour of this film totally rocks, with a kick ass car chase scene through a city overrun with zombies.

WRONG TURN (2021)

Normally I would tack a new installment of a long-running series onto my complete blog about the franchise and say just a few brief things about it, but since it isn’t news that the new Wrong Turn is only Wrong Turn in name, I decided to treat it as its own entity, which is exactly how I watched it. That didn’t help any, which is why I really need to talk about it.

What I like about this reboot is that it’s super timely in tackling what’s wrong and quite scary in the U.S. these days. What I don’t like about it is that it’s just a mess.

The basic premise is about a group of extremist crazies that created their own society deep in the woods, waiting for the day that uncivilized society will eat itself alive and they will return as the new foundation of America after the country’s collapse.

A totally woke group of kids comes to bumfuck in search of our history—namely, an old Civil War fort in the woods. If these kids—mostly kids of color, two of them a gay couple, one an interracial straight couple—are so smart, they wouldn’t step foot in Redneckville, U.S., yet here they are. Naturally, this turns into a classic kids vs. backwoods crazies film, and the overall plot of the movie is that the white privileged straight male asshole leads to the downfall of all the minorities. That’s the good part. If only the way it all unfolds wasn’t so damn ridiculous.


Resting white privilege straight man face.

And here is where there are SPOILERS GALORE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First annoyance is that as soon as they enter a total redneck bar, it’s the straight male asshole who immediately calls out how his group of colorful friends has definitely come to the wrong place and is just asking for trouble. Seems like the smart one, right? Nope. Approximately one minute later he gets snarky about all the rednecks they’re dealing with. WTF? Character consistency anyone?

And yes, it is he who makes all the major mistakes that land all his friends either into a forest riddled with booby traps or the hands of the crazy community. But about those booby traps. The first one is a tree trunk that comes rolling down the hill at them. These clever kids run directly forward away from it instead of, you know, running off to the side and out of its path.

Can you guess who dies first? One of the gay guys, landing this one on the does the gay guy die? page. It’s a nice, gnarly (totally fucking gnarly) death for sure. But what happens next is dumbfounding.

A couple of the backwoods crazies appear wearing pelts and animal skull masks, the straight white male does something really insane to them, and then he announces to his friends that they are leaving and pretending they were never there. Um, dude, there’s squished gay friend all over a tree. Like, seriously, nobody, not even the gay guy’s living boyfriend, mentions his existence at all or how they’re going to explain his disappearance when they get home.

Of course they never do get home. And here comes the next eye-rolling problem. They’re taken to the leader of the crazy community, who makes this big speech about how they’re a peaceful community and the real barbarians are the people in the real world. Seconds later, he tortures and kills most of the kids. Those few still alive must vow loyalty to the community.

Then we’re hit with a jarring shift in the final act. Matthew Modine is the father of one of the girls, and he comes looking for her because the group of friends has been gone for six weeks. Next absurd plot point—when he talks to people in town, they all know about and warn him about the people in the woods. Sooooo…the entire town knows they’re up there and kill anyone who goes missing in the woods, yet they’ve never done anything about it or called a higher authority to do so? Ugh, this movie.

So what do the locals do next? A few of them join Modine, heading into the woods to take on the community and find his daughter! Why didn’t they do this years ago???

And worst of all, when Modine finally gets to the community, somehow, in a matter of less than two months, the surviving kids have become totally brainwashed and dedicated only to serving the community…and they’re also masterful killers. Like, how many city folk wandered into the woods in Redneckville over the course of two months, giving these kids the opportunity to practice their killing skills?

And finally…the conclusion of the film moves to suburbia for the final battle. I can’t with this film. I just can’t.

The most staggering tidbit about this reboot? It was written by the writer of the original amazing Wrong Turn movie from 2003.

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Stephen King in the 90s—movies and miniseries part 1

I rarely cover movies by Stephen King because they’re predominantly mainstream horror hits, but considering most of his good adaptations hit in the 1980s, I figured I’d take on a bunch of stuff from the 90s in a 2-part blog, both consisting of 2 movies and 2 miniseries. The titles in this first blog are mostly a hit for me, with only one major miss.

THE DARK HALF (1993)

George Romero directs a faithful adaptation of one of my favorite King books, yet watching it again decades later, I realize it’s essentially just a smartly plotted slasher. I’m not saying that is a bad thing.

I just love the freakiness of this story. As a child, Thad experienced head issues, so doctors operated on him and discovered—EEK!—remnants of his unborn twin impacted in his brain.

Years later, Thad, played by Timothy Hutton, is married with kids. Having written nasty pulp novels under a pseudonym, he decides to have a literal burial for the fake author.

Turns out someone digs out of the grave and starts killing off all the important people in Thad’s life with a razor blade. And all clues point to Thad as the killer.

Several horror veterans deliver great performances (Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris, Rutanya Alda), the killer is dark and creepy, and the death scenes are violent and bloody. But just as in the novel, I’ll never truly understand the point of the sparrows that play a major role in the story.

THINNER (1996)

Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Fright Night) tackles another of my favorite King written under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, and it’s a good adaptation in terms of plot.

Holland infuses it with his slightly campy style, aided by the performance by Robert John Burke, who is in a goofy looking fat suit at the start of the film and speaks sort of like Max Headroom. It’s a bit unexpected based on the plot, but if you can get into its groove and go with it, it’s kind of fun.

It’s also an always timely plot about race and class. Burke is a lawyer with connections, so when he accidentally kills a gypsy in the road while driving…um…distracted, he’s cleared of any charges.

But the gypsies seek their own revenge, which causes the leading man to start losing weight rapidly. So he doesn’t have much time to make things better for himself. What’s so great about King’s writing here is that part of you is glad the Gypsies are making the white man suffer, but then the other part of you sides with the protagonist and you’re overjoyed when he uses the “white man curse” (isn’t that just the mere existence of the white man?) to get his own revenge.

Sadly overlooked horror queen Kari Wuhrer is great as one of the gypsy women, Stephen King of course makes a cameo, and the final zinger ending is delicious…but definitely makes the whole movie feel like an extended version of what could have been a shorter slice of cinema in perhaps a horror anthology or an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

THE TOMMYKNOCKERS (1993)

This is definitely one of the better King miniseries that also does a good job of adapting its source material. To me it captures the small town vibe of the Salem’s Lot miniseries from 1979 and the It miniseries from 1990, as well as including some kid character perspective, a staple of King stories.

There are plenty of familiar faces, including Robert Carradine, Joanna Cassidy, Traci Lords, and Jimmy Smits as our leading man. He’s an alcoholic, and also the one who starts to realize something is amiss in town when the locals start acting weird.

They’ve discovered a buried, green glowing spaceship in the woods, and they become obsessed with digging it up. As they do, it starts to affect them all, giving them special powers and creative capabilities.

The pacing is perfect considering the movie runs 3 hours long without commercials, and the atmosphere captures the perfect horror spirit of King’s fiction. While some miniseries can drag for the first night (see below), The Tommyknockers gets the curiosity going right from the start and actually delivers big time on the special monster effects in the second part, unlike some pretty bad effects in other King adaptations (again, see below).

THE LANGOLIERS (1995)

This miniseries is based on a novella from Four Past Midnight, a title released when I feel King was past his prime. It’s hard to believe horror icon Tom Holland directs this awful film a year before tackling Thinner, or that he and King co-wrote the script.

Several people fall asleep while on a flight, and when they wake up everyone else is gone. They spend a majority of the rest of the movie trying to figure out what the hell is going on as they land the plane in an empty airport.

Typical King caricatures abound: mild-mannered pilot, trendy young woman, geek, blind girl with some sort of psychic powers, gluttonous older dude, motherly woman, level-headed soldier, no-nonsense Black guy, and an arrogant, self-centered businessman.

Despite some very familiar faces in the cast, the acting is fucking atrocious…except one person, whose over-the-top performance saves the film, especially in part 2. That person would be fricking Balki from sitcom Perfect Strangers. He goes kind of psychotic due to their inexplicable circumstances, and he rules.

Other than him, the old school full frame tube TV aspect ratio is agonizingly claustrophobic and the film looks cheap—I swear it even switches sometimes into videotape footage of things like airplane gears in motion. That’s not the worst part. Not remembering the novella at all (an issue that plagues me with most of King’s work after the 80s), I don’t recall how much of a part the “Langoliers” actually play in the original story, but they appear for less than five minutes here, and they look like some evil animated versions of Pac Man with giant teeth. I’ve seen better cartoon critters in commercials for scrubbing bubbles and roach motels. The story is unnerving enough on its own without the unnecessary and irrelevant presentation of these things.

Perhaps the most entertaining part of the film for me was when my hubby asked of the handful of passengers stuck on the plane, “Why don’t they all go sit in first class?”

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They came three months after Christmas

Spring might be just around the corner, but it’s never too late for a trio of Christmas horror flicks to add to the complete holiday horror page. Let’s see if these three are worth watching next December.

A QUARANTINED CHRISTMAS (2020)

An odd mix of infected film and whodunit (also whydunit), this little Christmas film has elements of horror, but it’s mostly about dysfunctional friends trapped in a house together on Christmas and obsessing over a video someone may or may not be in possession of.

Moody and haunting renditions of Christmas songs, plus claustrophobic, zoomed shots and awkward interactions between the characters establish a tense and almost trippy predicament with little in the way of clarity as the film progresses with odd twists that keep us questioning what is actually going on.

The friends fight over the video with seemingly incriminating footage on it, a CDC doctor comes to the door to tell them they can’t leave the house, a few people pass out, a few start to puke blood and appear quite infected, some people die or are murdered, and yet what matters the most to everyone continues to be that damn tape.

It’s intriguing and has plenty of holiday spirit, but it may leave you mostly confused as it concludes.

SLAYED (2020)

Eh. This 75-minute long killer Santa film is written and directed by the two stars.

After an opener of a Santa getting ready to slice up two bound babes in bikinis with a chainsaw, we move ahead five years. The film takes place in a water treatment plant. There are approximately five characters. Santa shows up with an axe.

The rest of the film has the two female characters being repeatedly abducted and tied up by Santa and the two male characters repeatedly freeing them and hunting Santa down.

There are a couple of long-winded monologues by Santa as well. There are also so many killer Santa movies to choose from it doesn’t seem all that necessary to choose this one.

13 SLAYS TILL X-MAS (2021)

Scream Team Releasing is usually quite dependable with well-made 80s throwback horror that is often of the holiday horror variety, so I blind pre-ordered this one on Blu months ago. Having received and watched it, I can now say that if I had seen it first I wouldn’t have added it to my collection.

This is a Christmas anthology that feels mostly like a collection of short films you could find on YouTube. It runs 105 minutes long and has loads of stories (13 in total, hence the title), but it feels like the writers and directors of each were forced to keep their tales less than five minutes long. There is nothing quite effective enough here to be memorable, and not even a handful of familiar indie horror faces add anything special to the mix.

The wraparound features a group of men at a bar telling scary Christmas stories. Well, they’re supposed to be scary, but that doesn’t often work out as planned. While there are a few fun ones, most of them are cliché. A good number of them feel like incomplete tales, and half the time I couldn’t tell when one story ended and another began because there isn’t always a return to the wraparound between tales.

Some of the plots include:

-a corpse returns to celebrate the holidays

-a dad makes a deal with a Christmas devil

-a man is visited by a dark Christmas angel

-a killer clown comes for Christmas

-a killer doll terrorizes a lesbian couple on Thanksgiving

-a masked killer targets sinners at a holiday gathering

-a killer reindeer enjoys a big Christmas dinner

There’s definitely plenty of holiday spirit and loads of scenes drenched in red light, yet for me, the violent and bloody conclusion of the wraparound is the best part of the film. Oh, that and the best Christmas present of all: Santa and a bear…

 

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Sex and silliness with aliens

Time for some crazy creature features as I take a look at the Decoys movies and Useless Humans.

DECOYS (2004)

It’s a Christmas teen alien horror romp. Yay! Another one for the holiday horror page.

It feels so good to travel back to the early 00s, which in retrospect is a time that now feels as innocent and comforting to me as the 80s.

Our cute leading man is a college boy who quickly notices there are a group of blonde girls that have a condition…big alien tentacles burst from their bellies when they have sex!

But not even his best buddy believes him, mostly because the dude is a virgin and girls with tentacles would really put him at even more of a disadvantage of getting laid.

After a big party, young college guys begin turning up dead. Actually they turn up frozen and looking all Ringed out like they got it on with Samara.

It’s up to our main cutie to outsmart all the blonde alien babes and figure out a way to kill them.

The tentacles men are forced to deep throat during sex are cool, the eventual reveal of the aliens is even cooler, and there’s plenty of humor here in this fun, comic take on Species. My only complaint is that considering it’s about alien babes taking over college boys’ bodies during sex, it should have been sexier with some nudity! And by that I mean male nudity, of course.

DECOYS 2 (2007)

Decoys 2 is one of those rare sequels that rehashes the simple plot of the original yet is a better movie. Amazingly, it was made three years later by a different director and still manages to bring back two of the leads from the first film.

The main guy is now a graduate student at the college, and assistant to his professor, played by Tobin Bell. And there’s a mini Saw reunion, with Dina Meyer as the main guy’s therapist.

He’s messed up because he’s suffering PTSD from the invasion…and he keeps seeing one of the original blonde alien girls around.

He knows his work is not done, but no one believes him.

This time the girls are targeting geeky horny dudes. There’s more sex and more boobs, yet still no male nudity).

There are also more girls in alien form, there’s a better college party feel with twangy sci-fi guitar rock, the action and pace are quicker, and the fact that a pack of geeks and babes forms to take on the alien babes is more fun.

USELESS HUMANS (2020)

There’s so much potential for this to be an infectious cabin in the woods alien comedy, but the humor somehow manages to be so on beat that it rarely works effectively.

The main dude gathers with his longtime friends at a cabin in the woods for his birthday. After we get to know them a bit, they encounter an alien and then spend the rest of the movie trying to avoid and/or defeat it.

I think kids might find this movie funny because they haven’t yet experienced this style of humor done better. It just feels very affected, almost as if it’s way too thought out and perfectly timed in its attempt to imitate other successful, quick-witted comedies (there’s even a That 70s Show pot circle scene). The comic rhythm ends up feeling oddly stiff and predictable, without any surprises to tickle your funny bone.

It’s almost like everyone tries too hard to hit the mark rather than just allow the shtick to come naturally. Comic pauses are exact. Music cues come in right on cue. And many jokes are instant overkill—for instance, a comic reaction that should be just one quick word or utterance is instead two, which immediately negates the “quick” in quick wit, causing the punch line to die a quick death.

It’s unfortunate, because Useless Human is well made and the silly alien action and playful alien costumes are fun. The dedicated cast is likable if not a bit too self-aware of being charismatic for the camera. I also felt the characters weren’t unique enough for any of them to stand out or add complementary contrast. In fact, the only character that could have done that is the first to die. Bummer.

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PRIME TIME: witches and demons and the occult, oh my

Nothing ever seems to go right when evil is channeled from another place and time, as in these four flicks. Let’s take a look at this lineup of indie films.

BODY KEEPERS (2018)

Body Keepers is clearly an indie from the start, with obvious budget limitations, so don’t expect any visually spectacular horror elements.

The reason this one deserves some recognition is because a gay guy proves to play a vital role in the events that unfold. He also lands this one on the does the gay guy die? page.

The plot is just weird. The group has to work as a team on a school project. They need a wheelbarrow, so they break into a creepy shed where one of the kids tells a story of a dead body being kept on ice in there, along with a legend of a serial killer that harvested children’s souls.

They end up unleashing some sort of evil, there are ghost kiddies, they go to a psychic, they play strip Jenga…yes, it’s all kind of a mess.

The creepiest scene is some footage a detective shows the survivors at the end.

IT’S JUST A GAME (2018)

This one comes from the director of Camp Massacre, and for an indie, it almost hits the mark. However, it strays from its basic, satisfying premise, causing it to lose its potency and change tones, which really cheapens the second half.

A group of mean girls plays a series of pranks on their “friends” involving urban legends in the vein of Bloody Mary.

One of the victims is so affected by the prank that she conjures a witch and a cult of crazies that begin to pick off the girls one by one.

The film at first feels like a nice sleazy, low budget home invasion flick, with a psycho sex couple, a killer in a skull mask, and some lowbrow lesbianism, and I was feeling it (especially the freaky sex guy).

Unfortunately, it totally lost me when it brought in a bunch of downright silly cult characters (including the director) that felt like they were from a totally different movie. As a result, the film just fizzled out for me.

OUIJA CRAFT (2020)

When I saw this one was from Aaron Mirtes, director of Clowntergeist and Curse of the Nun, I had to check it out. I’m a fan of his simple, straightforward horror movies tinted with a touch of 80s cheese.

A trio of girls and a guy are pretty darn talented witches, but before they can take their power to the next level, a spell goes horribly wrong and one of them dies.

Then they hatch a plan to bring their dead friend back. Taking a page right out of the AHS: Coven playbook.

A Ouija board, a graveyard, and a magic potion seem to do the trick, but there’s a catch…the dead girl is now a crazy killer witch! It’s up to her three friends to figure out a magical way too finish her off.

There’s plenty of running through the woods as they play cat and mouse with the witch while wielding their Ouija board, the cast is fun (the girls rock), there are some funny moments (again, the girls rock), and the finger lightning bolt magic action is like something right out of the eighties.

Personally, I could have done without the backstory from colonial days, which involves period piece costumes and even a silly ghost appearance.

HERE COMES HELL (2019)

I’m always up for a horror comedy that goes the Evil Dead route. Here Comes Evil takes a different approach, though, crafting an “old school” full screen black and white film.

It initially feels quite authentic, including costumes, a gothic mansion set, melodramatic music, and the dialogue between characters gathered for a dinner party.

One fresh face in the crowd of friends is quickly singled out, and she admits to being a writer, which launches the group into telling scary stories. Next, they call in a medium to do a séance—who looks right out of Drag Me To Hell.

The film totally delivers on people going all Deadite. It’s what I live for. However, I will say that so many good gore effects and makeup effects go to waste on account of the black and white film.

Considering even the tone changes from classic to quite contemporary once the evil enters the picture, I think it would have been wicked cool if they pulled a Wizard of Oz stunt and switched the film to full color once the evil permeated the house.

Also a little annoying to me is that the film moves from Evil Dead territory into the Army of Darkness zone. Blech. Slapstick silliness ensues at points (like one character shrinking in size), and it even goes for that portal to another dimension feel. Ugh. I hate to even be reminded of how Army of Darkness ruined a franchise for decades before Ash vs. Evil Dead saved it.

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