Coming to us from the director of the gay supernatural film Jamie Marks is Dead and a horror movie I love to hate (The Ruins), and written by the director of the gay thriller Rift and a horror movie I love to love (Child Eater), slasher Midnight Kiss focuses on gay friends hanging in a house together for New Year’s Eve and being picked off by a killer in a leather pig mask.
While the film will probably enthrall gay fans clamoring for more gay horror films, for me personally the first kill is indicative of one of my main disappointments here; kills are scarce, and most of them are uninspired and flat. At this point in time, applying a checklist of slasher clichés to a bunch of gay guys and throwing in some nice asses along the way isn’t enough (but I’m going to do that right now).
The presentation needs to impress as well: visuals, style, intensity, music score, characterization, tone, atmosphere, etc. Unfortunately, much of this film feels like just another generic slasher that misses some golden opportunities. For instance, the killer glitter bombs the opening kill victim while either filming or photographing the act—which could have been a calling card that carried through all the kills.
Instead there’s a literal calling card that seems to show up just to let us know we’re in a horror movie—a sort of “I Know What You Did Last New Year’s Eve” foreshadowing.
With plenty of gay horror movies out there at this point, we don’t need to start at square one with the most basic elements, yet Midnight Kiss is loaded with mainstream gay clichés. They may seem novel to (and expected by) a straight audience drawn to this movie because it’s the latest installment of the mainstream Into the Dark series, but for gay viewers, it’s a bit redundant. The cast of characters is white, young, pretty, and bitchy, and the seemingly necessary evil of the token female friend tagging along gives us a splash of David DeCoteau to ensure the straight audience feels the pull of heteronormative structure. Screw that. In protest, I shall post a still of the film’s brief gay sex scene.
Also, the group’s conversations are as Gay 101 as it gets. The guys are shallow, they’ve screwed around with each other enough to cause tension and drama, they talk about all their hookups on Grindr, and they break in the new guy in their group by playing their annual “midnight kiss” game when they go to a club to ring in the New Year.
The club segment feels like something out of Queer as Folk from 20 years ago, which makes me wonder—are there still gay dance clubs with sex rooms? They all closed down in New York City about 15 years ago. Anyway, this big New Year’s Eve moment is fleeting, so this isn’t as much of a holiday horror flick as you may hope for—which is in keeping with the common letdown of most Into the Dark installments. Also, there’s no kill in the club! Yet…the killer makes an appearance on the dance floor for no discernible reason, and not one pretty boy in the bunch bats an eye. If someone in a leather pig mask walked through the crowd of shirtless gym bunnies at the Roxy back in the 1990s…eh, they wouldn’t even get that far because they would be turned away at the door.
While there are a few sightings of the killer and a few murders early on, things don’t kick into high gear until about 50 minutes in after the group returns to the house. The fun begins with the most provocative and sexy death scene in the entire film. Shot with a crotch writhing in the forefront, it’s the kind of unique presentation that makes my horror senses tingle, but no other scene quite lives up to it.
Overall, it’s a mixed sack…I mean, bag. There are some good chase scenes and cat and mouse action, but there are also limited body reveals (due to the limited kills), and a lone jump scare that’s too perfectly timed to actually scare veteran horror fans. Red herring practically squirt in our eyes throughout the film, but there are some nice twists…yet they tend to be easy to guess before they’re revealed. The cast of characters is limited in variation, and most of them not likeable enough (my faves being the main guy and the girl, who gave me major Jessica Jones vibes). The killer motivation definitely speaks to a fairly universal issue that many gay men experience, but if that were reason enough to make someone a killer, most of us would be running around hacking up pretty boys.
Overall, Midnight Kiss is missing that special something that makes me watch certain slashers over and over again. It’s not even quite compelling or entertaining enough for me to get the urge to see it a second time.
Even so, there are a couple of bonuses for me. First, one couple decides they’re a perfect fit because their zodiac signs are totally compatible…and they happen to be the same signs as my hubby’s and mine! Second, other films should take note of how easy this film makes it to read on screen texts characters are sending and receiving, a major plus for blind bitches like me.
I can always count on Prime to for indie flix I’ve heard nothing about, and this time a total of five movies offered me a whole load of subgenres. So here goes.
BLACK HOLLER (2017)
This supernatural slasher comedy is about a black woman who enrolls in a class with a bunch of white trash in 1989 just in time to go on a field trip into the woods. The use of rock music right from the opening credits makes it clear this isn’t exactly an urban horror film…and it really is overwhelmingly monopolized by white trash and bad humor. I mean, as soon as shitting and farting sounds are introduced, you know you’re dealing with the most primitive, overused adolescent gags there are to try to get a laugh.
Once the students set up camp, one girl goes to a cemetery in hopes of resurrecting her dead cat.
There are some nods to the killer tree branches from Evil Dead (awesome), but the part that really rules could easily have been in a better, serious horror movie. An underwater scene in the lake is so eerily executed it’s astonishing it’s part of the same film that felt the need for fart humor.
Unfortunately, nothing seems to tie together here, so eventually the campers are being chased and slain by a psycho killer.
It is up to the main girl to battle the killer and get all the white trash out of the woods safely…with the help of her fabulous gay best friend and his partner.
It’s trashy for sure, but aside from the unnecessary fart humor, it’s still more watchable and enjoyable than a Troma film and delivers some satisfying backwoods horror elements.
I was really feeling the Race With The Devil vibe of this film at first, combined with a little social message about the vulnerability of the homeless.
In the Everglades, a pretty bartender lures a cute patron to a sort of voodoo rave, where she drugs him up to release his inhibitions. But his senses return when he witnesses a sacrifice and runs for the hills…or the swamps in this case. However, the low budget doesn’t lend itself to this being an actual freaky voodoo cult in the swamps movie.
Instead, it turns into a low budget cat and mouse between the cult, the main guy, and the reporter he asks to help him prove the cult exists. For instance, there’s a boat chase scene that feels more like Hawaii Five-0 than a horror film.
Meanwhile, a young woman infiltrates the cult to expose it, which could have really amped up the horror and suspense had it been the focus, but instead the film is heavy on investigation and talk.
Eventually the guys enlists the help of homeless vets, which leads to a cheesy battle that reminds us this is definitely a low budget indie. The film even closes with a Real Housewives update of what’s become of each character since the show ended…
The rave scene is my favorite part, simply because it’s such a frightening reminder of how easily people can be lured into horrific situations by seemingly normal people who are actually crazy cult members.
Fang is the kind of silly fun horror I need in this age of horror fans tearing each other apart over arguments about whether or not horror is always political or always should be. YAWN.
Two desperate couples make some bad decisions…including visiting a long lost aunt’s house in the middle of nowhere. Things are as classic weird as ever at auntie’s house.
She’s a campy, witchy freak, her butler guy seems to be sending the group warnings, and no one is allowed to leave the house at night.
Good old-fashioned makeup and blood fill the screen once the group makes a shocking discovery in the basement and a werewolf comes out to play. And of course other characters are brought in to stop the madness…or become victims of it.
Sure it’s low budget, but it’s simple old skool fun without any political messages. Or could smart people deconstruct it as perhaps a commentary on the politics of family?
KILLER KATE! (2018)
Killer Kate! is a mash-up of subgenres that has some entertaining segments but ultimately suffers from uneven tone and some pacing issues.
The film takes place on Halloween but has absolutely no reason to and in no way celebrates the season. The main girl mentions hating Halloween right before agreeing to spend the holiday weekend at a house in the woods for her estranged sister’s bachelorette party.
First there’s the boring segment getting to know the stereotypes of each girl as they chat and bitch. I could have been slightly more interested if at least one of them had brought a pumpkin to carve.
Then suddenly the film becomes a fast-paced home invasion comedy as Tiffany Shepis and family come to bash in some heads with Negan’s bat, which they call Kate. So disappointing how brief this awesome section is.
Following that we go into the sisters’ heart-to-heart we dreaded but knew was coming.
And finally, the girls take on the killers. At least the tone of the horror comedy segment returns for the finale. I just think the film could have prolonged the home invasion section to exploit its strength.
This little indie film takes the tropes of modern ghost and paranormal investigation movies and wraps them around a rather tragic story about the relationship between a man and his son due to the fact that the mother died in childbirth.
The film first focuses on when the boy is young and his father discovers he can see dead people. Yes, it feels very much like The Sixth Sense, with scary dead people jumping out at the boy, but it’s relentless. Perhaps the filmmaker didn’t want the drama to outweigh the horror so as not to disappoint viewers, but as effective as the jump scares are, it does become overkill.
We then shift to the son’s adult life. The relationship has worsened, with the father being quite awful to him while using his power to see dead people for personal gain.
The man playing the father is quite good and the film becomes about him facing his faults and the pain he has put his family through in an effort to cope with his own grief. It’s quite sad actually, and even better, it plays out during a barrage of ghost sightings.
Again, the jump scares are presented quite nicely, but also excessively. Even so, if you enjoy a deeper plot with your jump scares and appreciate dedication and commitment in an indie film, you might want to check this one out.
While Hanukkah isn’t reaching my mailbox until February and Black Christmas remake number 2 is the mainstream movie that everyone is beating to death, I take a look at a whole load of December horror choices to add to the complete holiday horror page. So let’s see which ones deliver the fear and festivities we all asked for this season, beginning with a few short films to warm you up for your holiday horrorthon.
SCARY LITTLE FUCKERS (2015)
This 23-minute film is a spoof of the “is it or isn’t it Christmas horror film” classic Gremlins, with 80s style horror music and lighting, plus references to films such as E.T. and A Christmas Story.
An alcoholic dad buys a couple of creepy critters from a curio shop for his son for Christmas. One rule: never put them in the same cage together.
What does the son’s female friend convince him to do in between her flirtations with his dad? Put them in a cage together to screw, of course. Fricking’ Eve complex.
Silly comedy and kills ensue as the small cast carries the humor while fighting off little goofy creature puppets that are more reminiscent of Critters than Gremlins.
Sugarplum runs about 45 minutes long, is broken into “chapters”, and uses an odd narrative structure to tell a horror tale of the Sugarplum fairy and her connection to both Santa and Krampus.
A rock version of Christmas music, a quote from Christmas Vacation, and a storybook rhyme introduction set the tone before two buddies purchase a creepy figurine at a store then accidentally release a sugarplum demon!
It sounds like a setup for a Christmas slasher, however, Sugarplum is not after blood and guts. She wants soul food! But just be warned—we don’t get to see the creepy cool bitch until the end of the film. She’s just POV until then.
In between Sugarplum’s soul searching, there are disjointed chapters—one has a guy narrating the backstory of Krampus, Santa, and Sugarplum as pencil drawings appear on screen, and another super brief, pointless chapter has guys hunting Sugarplum in the woods.
Even though Sugarplum doesn’t mutilate teens, the film has a certain holiday horror charm, from the eerie colors of the Christmas lights that are like something right out of a 1980s horror flick to the final chapter when Sugarplum is revealed…along with another Christmas icon.
I’M DREAMING OF A WHITE DOOMSDAY (2017)
Horror cutie Damian Maffei (Christmas With The Dead) has a small role in this post-apocalyptic Christmas horror film, which focuses on what becomes of his wife and son in a bomb shelter after he goes out for supplies and doesn’t return.
The film runs only 70 minutes long, but it really could have been condensed into a 30-minute short in an anthology. It deals only with the mother trying to cope with being alone with her son, eventually using the celebration of Christmas as therapy for both of them.
We don’t know what exactly led to the apocalypse. We don’t see any infected/zombies during the course of the film.
The only real horror and hints of what happened come when the mom goes out alone looking for supplies, plus the final few minutes, which would be much more of a Christmas horror zinger if the film had been shorter and actually building to this conclusion. The final frame reminds me of the exclamation point on a famous Christmas horror short from a classic anthology that I can’t mention without giving away the ending of this film.
DARKEST NIGHT (2012)
Before I even talk about the horror of this one, let me get out of the way that although it’s about a family gathering for Christmas at a house in the mountains, there are absolutely no Christmas decorations and the holiday is only mentioned perhaps twice. What I at first thought was at least some garland I later concluded was probably just generic decor…
As for the horror, this is one of the most disjointed, badly lit and shot found footage films I’ve ever seen. Imagine watching a VHS bootleg of a grainy, low budget 1970s film that used only candles as a light source, so mostly everything on screen is lost in darkness while what little can be seen is saturated in one tint, and you’ll get the picture (that you can’t see).
As far as I can tell, a family is plunged into some sort of demonic plane of existence after they find signs of occult rituals in the woods.
Although some of the creepiest visuals come and go and are never revisited, I probably would have actually enjoyed the mishmosh of horrors being thrown at us if I could have seen any of it. Here’s an example of two freaky scenes.
This one has a woman giving birth to some sort of creature baby. Can you see it?
And this is a guy they find stuffed in a box with his arms and legs missing.
The clearest horror footage shows up on their television (not that I understand why).
It all comes down to issues about family and marriage, but it’s too chaotic to make much sense of. There are some truly haunting moments here that remind me of the weirdness of Euro horror. That makes me wish this had been made as a standard third person POV film rather than structured using the pretty nonsensical circumstances under which it is presented as found footage here.
INTO THE DARK: A NASTY PIECE OF WORK (2019)
Considering this film takes place in the mansion of a rich businessman during a holiday party, the Christmas decor is wonderful. However, this isn’t so much horror as it is a mean-spirited, dark dramedy in which the rich businessman pits competing employees against each other in a battle to the death.
Julian Sands is the boss.
The female side of Herman’s Head is his wife.
The two men competing for the job bring their ladies with them, and virtually everyone is a bad caricature.
Shit starts getting real when the couple hosting meets with the guests alone and jealousy mounts. Dirty secrets are revealed, nothing is as it seems, and chaotic violence erupts.
The brutality is served with a side of quirky, sarcastic humor, and there’s some good gore, but there’s also a lot of talking between the action. I’d say it’s fairly entertaining if you’re in the mood, just don’t go into it looking for a Christmas horror movie.
I TRAPPED THE DEVIL (2019)
Horror king AJ Bowen stars in this psychological horror film that takes place in a house all decorated for Christmas, although the film isn’t specifically about the holiday.
What would you do if you popped in to visit someone you love and they told you they had the devil locked in their basement?
AJ and wife drop in and surprise his brother for the holidays. But something is up. The television is on and acting all The Ring, and the brother has someone locked in a room in the basement that he claims is the devil.
It’s such a great premise and establishes an ominous tone, which is helped by the fact that the locked basement door is drenched in red light.
But as the couple fails to act in any way you think they would upon coming into this situation (like calling the police), you begin to wonder if the brother is actually mentally ill and they know it.
The minimal hints offered as to what is going on aren’t enough to clarify anything, and the creepy moments put us into single-minded focus…we want to know what’s behind the door. Don’t expect it to make sense when we finally do at the last second. However, the reveal and clues that never pan out did leave me with the chance to imagine plenty of solid plots that could have been in what instead is a head-scratcher.
AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS (2018)
This is a festive tale of a very dysfunctional family that becomes trapped at home for the holidays when a weird black substance completely covers the house.
Quite intriguing and creepy, the film sees the family receiving messages on their television screen with instructions on how to survive their quarantine. But would you immediately trust the orders if you were supposed to do things like inject yourself with a hypodermic that came down the chimney and landed in the fireplace?
That question becomes the conflict between the family members, however, their hateful relationships before they even start brutally turning on each other make this one hard to get through. They are all miserable fucking people who are just awful to each other. I think it would have delivered more of a punch if they were enjoying a splendid Christmas together before the horrific circumstances turned them against each other.
But I can forgive because the guys are cute, and the final act delivers some kick ass horror as we get to finally see what is playing them like puppets, even if its origin is not quite explained.
UGLY SWEATER PARTY (2018)
While the title doesn’t want to commit to it, this is an ugly CHRISTMAS sweater movie. There’s some truth to the title’s omission, because virtually the entire film takes place at a “Jesus camp”, with everyone running around in shorts in sunny woods. Part of me is okay with that aspect…
Ugly Sweater Party is a campy, wacky film with a bevy of indie horror names. It might not be for everyone, but it’s a bit of a messy good time with some funny adolescent humor and plenty of blood. I’m just disappointed in the lack of Christmas spirit.
After a gory, yet comic opener featuring indie horror daddy Brad Potts and Roach from The People Under the Stairs, we get right into the trashy tone, with the director and star of 2 Jennifer shaving his pubes while his buddy is doing a Christmas strip tease.
Then they head to an ugly sweater party. Turns out one of the sweaters they score is possessed, and pretty soon the person wearing it starts killing off all the God lovers at a Jesus camp. Sounds like my kind of Christmas. Among the Jesus crazies is Felissa Rose, who gets a good reminder of the body part that made her famous and scarred many Gen Xers for life.
Horror hunk Marv Blauvelt has a gay shower fantasy in which he flashes an adorable smile you would swear is inspired by Ralphie from A Christmas Story.
There are heavy metal performances, Satanism, a demon, laser guns, and a disgusting (in a fun way) scene involving a guy’s genitals.
One of the highlights for me (aside from the hot guys and gay stuff) is the awesome new wave novelty theme song that I would totally play on my Future Flashbacks show if I could score a copy. And of course, this funky film scores a place on my die, gay guy, die! page and my stud stalking page.
KILLER CHRISTMAS (2017)
It’s a little bit of a red flag when the description for a movie starts with “A slow-burn Christmas horror…”. Slow-burners are usually unapologetic, but this feels like it’s warning you that nothing much happens for the first 45 minutes but to give it a chance anyway.
I’m not disappointed that I gave it a chance. It’s a well-made film in the style of classic slashers. A group of friends goes to cut down a tree in the mountains.
The creepy guy that works there warns them to stay away from the abandoned hotel nearby.
So naturally they go to explore the abandoned hotel, where they are hunted down and killed by someone in a Santa mask.
The odd thing about Killer Christmas is that the acting improves when the horror kicks in halfway through and it’s time to act scared. The cast seems to flounder with the unnecessary dialogue while they are exploring the abandoned building before the good stuff.
The atmosphere, the dark lighting, and the dreary set are perfect for a horror movie, as are the camera angles and the score, which features children singing a Christmas carol and horror movie music played simultaneously. But there could have been some terror teases to keep us on edge during the exploration, which in itself isn’t enough to build the tension.
However, once the person in the killer stars attacking, we get a good old-fashioned slasher. Sure, it’s as typical as they come and there isn’t much in the way of blood, but it’s a new one for the holidays and does what it intends to do quite well, with chase scenes, some tragic decisions by characters, and a few surprises before all is said and done. You also might be left with a few questions, but just let it go and enjoy the seasonal slashing.
Forget all the characters you knew, forget Umbrella, forget zombies, and forget the cool horror movie camera angles, because Capcom has. Resident Evil has not only gone FPS, but it’s pretty much a first person Silent Hill now. You’re a man looking for your wife while trapped in a hellish situation in creepy locations.
As you attempt to find all the right items to unlock doors to move on to new areas, you’re chased by scary monsters and scary people. You’re forced into stealth situations as you run in circles around a house trying to gather up items, which does at times feel a little like being chased by Nemesis in Resident Evil 3. The first part of the game is frightening and loaded with jump scares, but it turns more into action horror as it progresses.
Also similar to the original RE games is the save rooms. Yes! There’s even one in a trailer home, which brought out the white trash roots in me because I never wanted to leave once I was inside its safe walls.
Within the save rooms are good old item boxes, and now there are even birdcages that hold special items you can purchase if you find enough coins during the game. Sadly, the classic, comforting save room music of days gone by is missing, and the series has moved from old school typewriters to 1980s tape recorders.
Speaking of the 80s, there are even videotapes you can find then watch on VCRs in the save rooms. Doing so gets you pulled into flashbacks that are long missions in themselves—you actually PLAY what’s on the videotape. There’s even an escape room segment on video. In essence, finding and playing these tapes makes this a longer game.
Like most Resident Evil games, RE7 is designed so that you spend large chunks of time in one location before moving on to a new one. The game is linear, so the downside is the possibility of missing out on beneficial items and then not being able to go back to old areas for them later. For instance, there are a couple of repair kits that let you make better guns, but basically you’ll never find them without a walkthrough, which I only discovered after missing out on a few of them. Sigh.
Aside from finding items just lying around, there are crates you can bust open with your knife. Unfortunately, some of them are exploding crates! It’s so infuriating when all you want is a health, and you blow yourself up instead…which causes you to need a health. You can also find lockpicks to open boxes containing items, but if you don’t find the lockpicks in a section of the game before moving on to the next section, you never find out what items you missed in unopened boxes.
Item slots are limited, and because there are mixing options for making ammunition and health, you run out even faster if you can’t combine anything you have on hand and are nowhere near a save room. There is the option of dropping items, but it’s hard to relinquish your hold on anything when you know supplies are limited. Also, some of the better weapons, as in most RE games, take up two slots.
For convenience, there are quick weapon slots on the D-pad, but they mess you up when they get rearranged on their own and you’re used to hitting specific buttons for certain weapons. Also, it’s not easy to get to the section in the inventory that allows you to change what’s in your quick slots…especially since bringing up your inventory doesn’t stop the game. What makes this worse is that the only weapons you can actually select to use while playing are the ones in your quick slots! In other words, if all four quick slot weapons are out of ammo, you have to make sure you’re safe from monsters then go into your inventory to change the quick slot choices to another weapon in your inventory before you can use it.
The end of each section delivers a boss fight, but none of them are unreasonable or all that difficult. Hell, once you figure out what the frick you’re supposed to do, even the final boss is wickedly easy.
The only real stumbling block? The damn controls. They can be frustrating for a fairly universal reason across games…the press IN feature on the sticks (aka: L3/R3), which you do accidentally in the heat of a chaotic battle, drops you into crouch mode! Argh!
The plot is so Resident Evil cliché at this point; as you read through the files you find along the way you realize it’s the same story every time! Some mad scientist experimented on a little girl and unleashed a monster strain along with some serious family drama. There is a point in the game where you have to make a choice on how to proceed, and that apparently changes the ending, but that doesn’t change the redundant plot.
One final thing to note…there are many times throughout the game that you would have no idea what to do without reading a walkthrough. I guess that’s the ultimate nod to old school Resident Evil games.
There are quite a few DLC side games available for Resident Evil 7, but upon reading up on each, I opted to only play two. The other games either had time limits, escape room situations, or were merely replays of segments of the main game with items moved around to different locations. YAWN. “Not a Hero” and “End of Zoe” are unique and feel like extensions of the main game.
Not a Hero – While you play as Chris Redfield in this short side story, this is first person, so you can’t see yourself. Your goal is to chase down a member of the family from the original game. You work your way through a maze of dark and hazy underground tunnels fighting off numerous monsters until you finally take on a final boss.
You only have a handgun and a shotgun, but they’re enough when you tack on grenades you find along the way (at least when you play on easy). The game has plenty of frustrating moments, because you get blindsided by things you couldn’t have anticipated—a room suddenly begins sucking away your oxygen and you have to get out fast when you can barely see anything, you turn a corner and are suddenly blasted away by auto turrets you didn’t know where there, a monster you’re trying to blow away turns out to be invincible—so you will have to redo some parts. The good news is while there are official tape recorder save points, when you die, most of the time you can choose “retry” to pick up not very far from where you died.
The annoying aspects improve deeper into the game. A special gas mask you find prevents those oxygen losing moments, night vision goggles make it easier to see in dark areas, and special bullets finally allow you to kill those damn invincible monsters.
In classic Resident Evil style, most of the game involves exploring and backtracking to find items that help you advance, but since the game is so short, there’s not even much of that to do. So overall, this action-packed side story gives you something new to do if you are sad that you’ve already finished the main game.
End of Zoe – In this game you play a guy in the swamps trying to find the antidote to save your infected niece.
Here’s the catch. NO WEAPONS! It’s all fist fighting against the same giant monsters from the original game. But if I can do it, so can you. I actually ignored the suggestions about targeting baddies in the head and simply crouched, went right up to them, and pummeled away at their knees until they went down. Seriously, they were never able to get a hit on me when I was down there. The only catch is that sometimes you come up against more than one monster. There are also low crawling spider-like monsters that stoop to your level when you’re crouching.
The game teaches you to do some combo attacks, and they’re not that hard to remember, but it’s mostly just button mashing to throw left and right hooks. There’s a block move I never used, and a stealth crouch move that lets you sneak up on monsters for a one-hit kill.
You eat bugs as health (gross), and they can be mixed with chem fluid you find to make med kits. There are also spears you can pick up and throw, but the aiming is a little off—I had to aim a little high to hit my targets. Also, there are little voodoo doll “effigies.” Pick up the regular ones and keep them in your inventory to add 1% power to your fighting abilities. Find the rare super effigies and it’s 5%.
Just like the regular game, there are tape recorders for saving and an item box you really don’t need because there are plenty of slots for the minimal number of items you’ll pick up.
For me the alligators were the most nightmarish part of the game. Yes, you have to wade hip deep through swamp water. You need to kill the gators with spears to get by, and most of the time the spears are nearby or can be constructed of scrap metal and tree branches you find along the way. There was just one hellish section of raised platforms and huts over water infested with alligators. Many of the platform boards are broken, forcing you to do a balancing act to proceed. Yes, I did fall in the water a few times. Yes, I did get bitten several times while trying to get back up ladders. And no, there are absolutely not enough spears to kill all the alligators down below.
And of course there is a boss, but he wasn’t that hard to beat. At least, not on easy. In fact, I didn’t die once in this entire game.
Clowns are one of the latest overkill killers of the horror genre. At one point I made a huge blog about clown movies, so why not take on yet another two?
Clown starts off in 1994 with some sort of mass clown slaughter at a desert carnival. I was all excited about a retro 90s movie rather than an 80s throwback for a change, but alas, this one jumps right to the modern day after the opener.
We meet a group of friends checking out the now abandoned carnival. The fun house is still fully functioning, so they enter it. It’s really just a roughly made maze constructed of slat boards, but it is drenched in red and blue horror light, so the atmosphere is pretty dang good for an indie.
There are some minor teases of the killer clown, and cheap jump scares before he finally starts terrorizing the group, so it definitely gets you in the mood. The guy playing the clown is great, and the film is fast-paced, but it becomes extremely repetitive.
There’s a long sequence of the gang being taunted and chased by the clown before the action at last breaks off into something different, including a scary doll room and a few other fun kill concepts as the group is divided and conquered.
However, the film falls back into the taunt and chase cycle as it comes to a close!
Some other details detract from the film as well. First, one of the guys is really annoying and whiny. Then again, one of the guys gives us some beefcake.
Sound effects from the Atari 2600 Pac Man are used as background noise, and anyone who grew up in the 80s knows how damn annoying those sounds are. And finally, while the kids are running through the maze in terror trying to figure a way out, it’s impossible to suspend disbelief when it’s so obvious they could easily just smash through the cheap wood slat walls from which daylight and freedom are pouring through at all times.
BIG TOP EVIL (2019)
Argh. While cannibal clowns flick Big Top Evil does a much better job of mimicking grindhouse horror of the 1970s than most indies that try these days, it can’t keep the narrative arc together at all and is a jumbled mess right up until the end.
If some of the POV in the retelling by the main character in High Tension bothered you, Big Top Evil will drive you nuts. The movie is framed by one of the guys from our main group of friends recounting what happened when they went on a road trip. Problem is, much of what happens has nothing to do with him or his friends, and they wouldn’t have been present for much of what we’re seeing. Not to mention, it feels like every time things are just getting good, the film cuts back to him telling the story.
The friends are heading to a location infamous for its slasher past, but make various stops along the way. Most of the guys are quite cute, and they just might know it…
Yet once again we have one guy who is fucking annoying. What are the chances that would happen in a back-to-back clown horrorthon?
A girl obviously modeled after Sheri Moon’s Baby from the Rob Zombie films invites the friends to a gypsy circus, where Bill Moseley is the ringmaster. So basically the film isn’t actually mimicking 1970s grindhouse horror…it’s mimicking 2000s grindhouse horror that mimicked 1970s grindhouse horror. That’s how damn old I am.
To keep us occupied until the plot focuses on the group of friends encountering the clowns in the last 25 minutes, there’s a subplot about a gang of thieves terrorizing various shops, as well as another about the bad behavior of the crazy gypsy circus people.
Ooh. How much for the pit licking booth?
Clips of the cannibal clowns feedings are also randomly interspersed to make things even more convoluted and out of context with the plot trajectory.
The group of friends finally being terrorized by the clowns is such a good final act it’s a shame the filmmakers couldn’t figure out a way to fill the first hour with the best they had to offer. The clowns are freaky with some great makeup, and the traps the main characters fall into and the kills are a treat, but most of the gore comes in the form of cutaway kills. With practical gore effects and gross cannibal clown feasting, it’s a bummer that we don’t see enough kills depicted on screen.
My latest selections come from Hulu, Netflix, and Prime respectively, definitely making for a better triple feature than my last one. And there’s even a gay couple as a major focus in one of the films.
Tightly made Trespassers is never predictable merely because it’s constantly bouncing between subgenres before finally ending as a home invasion film.
However, what is cliché is the variety of relationship issues the two main couples have, along with the secrets they harbor. Damn. Heterosexuals problems sure are predictable.
The couples are staying at a house in the desert, and after their soap opera is presented, The Craft queen Fairuza Balk rings the doorbell. She’s as weird as always, but things don’t totally go as we might expect, and pretty soon the two couples are clashing.
When the home invaders at last strike they bring on the suspense, gore, and chase scenes, with techno music and Argento lighting really kicking the suspense up a notch.
The home invaders also subject the main characters to some torture porn.
Unfortunately, this entire final sequence is disappointingly rushed, causing the climax to feel anti-climactic.
The director of Sinister 2 brings us what mostly seems like just another Hollywood ghost girl movie, but with a unique premise.
A young boy with a disease that makes him “allergic” to air is brought by his parents to an isolated house where Lili Taylor, who plays a scientist, will subject him to an experimental treatment to cure him.
Her facility is specially equipped to allow him to walk around freely without his hazmat suit. But there’s one door that is off limits to him…
Would you believe he begins being terrorized by ghostly apparitions?
It’s essentially The Boy in The Plastic Bubble with ghosts—and without John Travolta. The scares and atmosphere are effective if you haven’t seen every Hollywood ghost film made in the past decade. What really blew my mind was that this well-polished film dared to steal a classic element from the low budget 80s slashers Splatter University.
However, Eli goes to a place that totally redeems it. The final act is absolutely delicious, for as predictable as I thought it was all going to continue to be right up until the end, there’s a rockin’ surprise in store.
Warnings is a less than average slasher that barely manages to present the point of its plot and has very few victims. However, where it stands out is in its cast. Of the five main characters that head to a house in the woods—three guys, two girls—a majority of them are black or Latino, and the whitest dude in the bunch is gay. And one of the other guys is his boyfriend. And their relationship gets the most focus, landing this one on my die, gay guy die! page.
The beauty of this diverse group is that it triggered some asshole to attack the film for these very reasons on Amazon.
Now, how about the horror? Much of the film is conversation between the characters, with one girl suffering from dreams about ghosts.
Eventually there’s a kill, then the focus becomes on the group looking for the missing friend. This is where the film works in terms of standard slasher expectations yet fails terribly in that the whole plot seems to be crammed into the last half hour and rushed.
Someone enters the picture to suddenly lay a backstory on the group that is supposed to explain to the audience who the killer is. The killer is revealed once the killing starts, but his weird “red neck wearing face clay” look is never explained, and we are left to surmise that the girl’s dream ghosts were trying to warn her of the threat, hence the title of the film. I just find it bewildering that the screenplay didn’t bother to create a steady buildup to both the killer and the ghosts throughout the course of the film.
As I wait for Amazon Prime to add a bunch of new crap horror movies for me to watch and love, I was forced to look elsewhere for horror entertainment. I’ll make my thoughts on this trio of films short to save you the time I sacrificed watching and writing about them.
HEAD COUNT (2018)
This is why we need to stop buying into those social media headlines that read, “People are saying this movie on Netflix is the scariest film they’ve ever seen.” It has never been true for any of the films I’ve watched that are place in forced viral mode, and in the case of Head Count, it was an agonizing time-waster.
A group of friends hangs out in the desert for the weekend, one guy finds a satanic ritual symbol on a wall, and for a majority of the film, we are assaulted by tension-building music cues that lead to…nothing but a cut to a completely unrelated scene.
This is mostly a film about the friends disagreeing on who is and isn’t actually present at any given time. I guess they’re being possessed or something? You mostly wouldn’t know by looking at any of them.
Personally, I don’t think it’s worth sitting through Head Count to see a glimpse of a skeletal alien looking thing that just stands there near the end of the film.
1ST SUMMONING (2018)
Having grown up on every cliché slasher there was in the 80s, I get that people will devour anything in their favorite subgenres and enjoy it. So I suggest 1st Summoning, which I caught on Netflix, to those who love found footage films, because this is a rubber stamp experience for the rest of us.
Student filmmakers interview locals in a town with an abandoned warehouse believed to have been the site of occult activity.
They explore a cemetery. They try to do a ritual that is supposed to grant wishes. One of them begins to act weird. They head on into the warehouse with flashlights.
The screen goes haywire whenever they are experiencing something scary…which means we’re not experiencing anything scary. They are chased by masked cult members.
They run. They scream. They hide in the dark. They see flashes of cult members in the camera lens and change course. They trip with the camera. They are dragged out of frame.
PLAY OR DIE (2019)
This film, which I watched on Showtime On Demand, could have been a direct-to-video sequel to Escape Room (you know they’re coming).
A couple going through a rocky time decides being trapped in a room together will be good for their relationship. Actually, they go to an escape room game in an old hospital.
For a while they do various tasks to avoid death traps while drenched in Argento reds and blues.
37 minutes in they enter an autopsy room and finally realize it’s not a game. It’s also not really the escape room that is responsible for people dying. The various contestants the couple met when they first arrived are being tortured and killed off by someone. There’s everything from gruesome tooth torture to sadistic electrocutions. It’s a torture porn slasher.
The film gets better as it progresses. The kills, the choices the couple is forced to make, and the unexpected ending redeem the bland first half of the movie. So I can say Play or Die is probably the one I liked most of these three.
I guess I should be upfront and admit that I added most of these films to my watchlist not just because there was blood in the trailers…but there were also shirtless men in them. However, I was happy to find that each film delivers something more than just men.
A bunch of sorority and fraternity pledges is dumped in the woods for some hazing. But the group is not alone and begins getting picked off one by one…eventually.
Offering an eighties vibe (including short shorts), Pledges is not exactly as straightforward and fast-paced as it should be for a movie about sexy people being killed in the woods. For starters, they spend much too much time on their hazing challenges before anything really thrilling happens. Well not totally true. The guys in their undies are pretty thrilling.
While there is some “killer POV”, it’s never quite clear what is actually doing the killing. When horror things finally begin happening (much too late for a 75-minute movie), some people get sucked into a swirl of black smoke, there’s a random blue ghost face girl encounter, someone seems possessed, and best of all, there’s a big black, slimy monster.
None of it really makes sense, and most of it isn’t necessary. All we needed was pretty people having sex and getting killed off by the slime monster. Still, it’s short, has some sex and gore (much of which is bad CGI), and the cute shirtless guys and the underutilized monster kept me entertained.
MASKED MUTILATOR (2019)
I don’t know enough about wrestling to know if they were ever famous, but the director/star of this film and his costars were all wrestlers in the 90s when this film was made.
Until I read the movie’s trivia section on IMDb, I also didn’t know most of it was filmed in 1994, which is when it takes place. My snobby east coast mentality just assumed those involved were all friends from some small Midwestern town where everyone still wears 1990s fashions. And that opinion hasn’t even changed.
The new footage that creates a launching point for the plot has a radio host interviewing survivors of a massacre at a home for wayward kids. The place is run by an ex-wrestler whose career ended when he accidentally killed a guy in the ring.
It might be low budget, but because Masked Mutilator is a genuine 1994 indie, it gave me the nostalgic feels, plus it’s as simple as slashers get—kids have sex, kids get killed. And you won’t hear me criticizing camerawork that captures moments like this…
It takes a while, but once the murders start, a big guy in a wrestler’s mask brutally kills victims using practical fake blood. There are also boobs and wrestler beefcake. Best of all, these guys are serious wrestlers, and show off their skills in an epic wrestling battle at the end. And it all happens in only 75 minutes!
Masked Mutilator is old school horror cheese straight out of the 90s, so expect some disparaging gay and lesbian terms. And keep an eye out for a young James DeBello from Cabin Fever in a flashback scene.
JJ Abrams produces this one, so it’s quite epic…yet it still makes the mistake of running too long at 110 minutes. It starts to drag on its way to the good stuff, especially since it combines two things I really have limited patience for in horror: it’s a period piece that focuses on the military.
Even so, Overlord turns into a gory good infected creature feature film.
A team of U.S. military men bails from a plane during a battle over enemy territory, making for one wild parachuting scene.
The guys hide from the Nazis is a French woman’s house. That doesn’t stop them from ending up in a laboratory where heinous experiments are being performed on people.
The plot is nothing new, but the infected people, the gore, and the action kick ass. If you’re a fan of survival horror video games, you are guaranteed to feel like you’re in the middle of one right down to the mutating final boss.
THE RAKE (2018)
This indie feature is a tight and sleek creature feature that starts off strong, with a nasty little murder/suicide scene during a very festive Christmas celebration.
Years later, a couple is having a gathering on a happy occasion, and the brother and sister whose parents were murdered years before are in attendance. The sister is a total mess suffering from freaky visions. She believes there was a creature in the house the night their parents died, and that it is coming for them.
It does. But first there’s a whole lot of talk and arguing among the guests. None of it was of much interest to me, but this film redeems itself in the final act when the friends start getting impaled on the huge claw hand of a creepy creature.
There’s a basement drenched in red light, the kills are gory good, and the monster money shot at the end is awesome.
CELL COUNT (2012)
This is rare for an indie film; Cell Count takes itself seriously and really focuses on characters and relationships before getting to the good stuff.
This is an emotional depiction of a couple that decides to become part of an experimental treatment that can save the dying wife. They are contained in a medical facility with several other sick patients, where things are very Big Brother.
A great deal of time is spent getting to know the characters, with only a few hints that something very wrong might be going on. But it’s clear it’s very, very wrong.
When we finally learn exactly how the people are being treated (think parasite), the action and horror build as the patients try to cope with the awful truth of what’s happening to them. This gruesome segment is the best part of the movie.
Unfortunately, it all falls apart at the last moment when Daniel Baldwin comes to rescue the patients…and the film ends as if it’s going to need a sequel that picks up right where it leaves off.
It’s seven years later, and the sequel is listed as “in development” on IMDb.
THE MERMAID: LAKE OF THE DEAD (2019)
Not your typical killer mermaid movie (not that there are many of them), this film’s mermaid is definitely an obsessed, vindictive lady of the lake who lures a man to be her lover…but she doesn’t have fins. As a result, this visually arresting, polished film will probably be more impressive to horror fans that haven’t seen every ghost girl movie released in the past two decades since The Ringmade them trendy.
The film focuses on a couple about to get married. He goes to a bachelor party at his family’s summer home and decides to take a swim in the lake at night. Considering I wouldn’t even take a swim in a natural body of water in daylight, I’ll never understand how people in these movies do it at night.
Anyway, the mermaid seduces him, and then he and his fiancée spend the rest of the movie being terrorized by visions of her face and hands popping out from every side of the screen. You know the kind of cheap scares I’m talking about—the ones used in every ghost girl movie trailer…which turn out to be the scariest scenes in the entire film.
The film is drenched in the same eerie, dreary green tint as The Ring, and the mermaid’s hair ends up playing a major role in the story. And quite reminiscent of the various encounters with Samara in the water down in the well, the basement of the summer home is flooded, and something lurks just under the surface of the water.
While it’s all very predictable, when the mermaid finally shows her true form, she’s pretty dang freaky, and that was enough to satisfy me.
Here’s a foursome of horror flicks I watched on Amazon Prime that seriously tested my ADHD, because the final acts were the best part. Here’s what you can expect before and when you get to the good parts!
CROWBAR: THE KILLINGS OF WENDELL GRAVES (2010)
Scott Phillips, the director of Gimme Skelter and The Stink of Flesh gives us a highly stylized horror film that is a unique combination of haunted house movie and slasher. I personally found it quite engrossing and enjoyable to watch.
An interracial couple moves into a new home, meets some very odd neighbors, and in a totally unexpected quick turn of events, is plunged into a nightmare involving murders in their basement.
The murders are handled quite oddly by locals and law enforcement, and the couple is unable to leave town. So they board up the basement door and set off on an investigation to uncover the history of their house.
The film is quite atmospheric with lingering camerawork reminiscent of 80s Euro horror. Hell, I think there was even a moment with the main girl and the killer that was an homage to a scene from Cujo!
Crowbar is perhaps a bit too long at 105 minutes (that lingering camerawork will do that to a movie), but you do get drawn in by the rather bizarre people and unfolding of events. And when you suddenly feel like you’ve been dragged into a slasher with a crowbar killer chasing one lone couple, you simply have to keep watching.
For me, the only major cliché here is the “zinger” ending that has a new couple coming to live in the house. This passing of the torch foreshadowing is so overused that it just falls flat every time.
AXECALIBUR (aka: The Legend of the Mad Axeman) (2017)
Axecalibur is a movie that doesn’t seem to known what to do for the first hour before becoming a cheesy, campy slasher in the final ten minutes.
It shows a whole lot of 80s throwback promise, with a man telling kids an urban legend about an axe killer around a campfire. The John Carpenter style synth music is perfect…until it keeps playing virtually non-stop throughout the movie, even when nothing scary is happening. I would think Filmmaking 101 would cover how music is used to help tell your story, not tell a story that is not actually happening.
For an hour, an author convinced the legendary axe murderer is real investigates, eventually teaming up with a young woman who needs his help to stop all her friends from getting slaughtered in the woods.
Too late. For about eight minutes, the axeman takes them out in a hurry, delivering one-liners as heads fly. A gory good time with practical effects, this sequence is so much fun it’s a shame everything leading up to it wasn’t.
Having never seen the original 100-minute cut of Homecoming, I watched the 124-minute “special edition” Amazon offers on Prime. I don’t know where the added 24 minutes land in the film, but if they were all in the first 90 minutes, they shouldn’t have been added.
Over two hours is simply too long for a movie that ends up essentially being a slasher—and a nicely polished one at that. The plot could have been streamlined as well; there’s a lot going on and it’s rather convoluted after a while, especially if you’re like me and wading through 90 minutes to get to the good stuff is taxing on your very soul! I’m glad I stuck around though, because although I couldn’t totally follow what was going on, visually it was an arresting horror experience.
The opener is tight—kids play hide and seek, one kid meets a brutal fate in a basement. Then we meet our main girl, who returns to her home years later and must confront that dark experience from her past.
The padding at the beginning has typical “homecoming” horror clichés. She has a history with a guy who is now in local law enforcement. There’s a creepy handyman, played by the hunk who also played a handyman in the final season of Kate & Allie. And damn, he looks just as hunky thirty years later in basically the same uniform.
But honestly, he and some other random characters are introduced just to be red herring that don’t last very long since they’re doubling as disposable victims to keep our horror interest between all the talking—and the first kill still doesn’t even come until 50 minutes in!
The main girl has a party at the house with all her friends. They eventually get as bored as we are and delve into hypnotism. They each are drawn into black and white remembrances of their childhood traumas.
Like I said, there’s a lot going on here, and not all of it is necessary considering it’s simply leading us up to the satisfying slasher segment in the final chapter. I would like to see the original cut of the film now to know whether it is a tighter film that gets to the point faster.
THE NIGHTMARE GALLERY (2019)
Willow’s girlfriend Tara from Buffy plays a teacher obsessed with finding a student that went missing while in possession of some ancient texts. Tara is also a lesbian with a wife in this film (the second in this bunch featuring an interracial couple), and even runs into some very vampire/demon creatures that look like they just strolled right off the set of Buffy.
However, she first spends a lot of time investigating, teaming up with another student while shutting out her wife and having “episodes” or nightmares that have some effective atmosphere but aren’t out to scare us as much as they seem to be scaring her.
An hour into the film she has the pseudo Buffy monsters reunion as she finally enters a “museum” in an alternate reality and continues her hunt for her missing student.
It’s definitely the best part of the film, but this is a dialogue heavy movie more than a horror thrill ride, so make sure you’re in the right mood before you watch.
It’s not often that five films in a row keep me fairly entertained, but this batch mostly worked for me—especially an all-in-one good Thanksgiving flick and memorable Into the Dark installment.
The director of The Collector films delivers the second annual Thanksgiving installment of Hulu’s Into the Dark. Not only is it one of the best of the series so far, it’s one of the best of the limited number of Thanksgiving horror films to choose from (my full list on the holiday horror page).
The movie definitely has a weird premise—Kerr Smith (Final Destination, The Forsaken, My Bloody Valentine remake) and his family have pilgrim re-enacters come for Thanksgiving…to stay at the house! WTF?
Just overlook that bizarre premise, because it triggers the whole plot. The pilgrims are weird. They never break character. The film builds a slow sense of dread…but then comes what I’d say is its one weak spot. It suddenly feels like a whole chunk of the slow burn was just cut out and we are thrown into not only the midst of all hell breaking loose, but somewhat of a totally different movie with a different tone.
Pilgrim becomes a darkly comic, whacky gorefest, and I’m not complaining. The pilgrims don’t stick to history…meaning they don’t slaughter Native Americans. They go for Kerr and his interracial family, and it is a Thanksgiving dinner to remember, with torture, gruesome gross stuff, and even puking. Pass the gravy!
THE EVIL GENE (2015)
The Evil Gene isn’t groundbreaking, and unfortunately it isn’t even fully satisfying in the familiar horror it delivers. The atmosphere at a prison is pretty darn good, and there’s plenty of potential, but I personally think it just needed more scares and more guys with demon eyes.
An FBI agent goes to a prison to investigate after a doctor dies and begins having encounters with a dude with demon eyes and a bloody hole in the back of his head.
The FBI agent also hooks up with a pretty prison doctor, consults with a prison priest about demons, and pops pills, because apparently he has issues…
You really can see where this one is heading even if there are some twists. If only there were more demons and they were more terrifying I would be okay with that.
Outcast is listed as horror, but when I began watching, it was immediately clear there was some sort of horror fantasy angle, so I turned it off and decided to make it one to watch with my hubba hubba.
Serious fantasy horror is not usually my type of film—there’s a family, the mother is a witch, and there’s a man (who gets hardcore tattoos nailed into his skin) hunting down a young man.
But damn, the side story about a monster stalking and killing women in the city is
The monster is freaky good, and there’s some gore, making this just as horrific as it is fantastic.
And of course the two stories collide. Definitely didn’t regret watching this one.
RED SUMMER (2017)
Red Summer is as derivative as it get, but considering there are very few missteps in its predictability, it fills the void if you’ve been itching for a backwoods family comfort flick.
A group of friends is on a road trip in a foreign country. They make a pit stop and the store
attendant is creepy. They almost hit someone lying hurt in the road. They end up in cages and are tortured and killed by the family: sleazy dad, grandpa in a wheelchair, a quiet son who seems to feel bad about what his relatives do, and a big guy in a pig mask who takes everyone to his lair for the slaughter.
You’ve seen it all before. The group of friends is small, so almost half of the film turns
into the final girl being chased. After dinner, of course, where the freaks at least serve fruit with her friends…
My only real gripes about the film: you could easily kick out cages made of chain link and chicken wire fence nailed into a wood frame; you can’t stick a cleaver directly into someone like it’s a knife; if one of your family characters is wearing a mask, it would be nice to know why or know what’s under the mask; if you are trying to escape a house of crazy people and keep coming upon each person sleeping, kill each of them in their sleep!
BLOODY MONSTER (2013)
This is the kind of low budget horror mess I can get into simply because it appeals to the most basic aspects of the genre—sex and blood. Adding to the cheap charm—it’s dubbed.
Bloody Monster combines a mad scientist plot with a simple backwoods slasher.
As if the first introduction of the killer chainsawing the fuck out of a dude wasn’t enough, cutting to our main man pumping iron shirtless with his pierced nipple quite prominent right after kept me watching.
Plot was mostly irrelevant to me. The lead hunk and his small crew heads into the woods hunting for the scientist, who is creating a mutant species.
While they’re busy doing that, groups of people are in the woods partying, having sex, and getting slaughtered, including rockers, lesbians, and more.
The difference in tone between the killer/slashers segment and all the bad low budget nonsense going on around it can be a bit distracting, and personally, I could have done
without the mad scientist plot, which is the cheapest feeling aspect of all. But I can’t deny I was entertained by this silly film.