SHUDDER AND SHRIEK: witches, ghosts, a serial killer, and a home invader

It’s another movie marathon of horror flicks on Shudder, and for me, they’re all a matter of been there done that. But keep in mind that I’ve been watching horror flicks for five decades, so everything old is new again…except me.

THE PALE DOOR (2020)

Why even bother trying to make a movie about a bunch of robbers that become entangled with a coven of witches when the movie Witching & Bitching already exists? Especially if you’re going to make it so damn boring.

Even worse, it’s a period piece with cowboys. Ugh.

The concept of criminals on the run stumbling upon a house full of some sort of horrific threat isn’t a new one, and I actually really liked the general concept here—gang of robbers ends up at a whorehouse after a robbery attempt goes wrong, and soon finds out the whores are actually burned witches in disguise. Awesome.

Problem is there isn’t enough of the barbecued witch action, which doesn’t even begin until 50 minutes into the movie. And even while these Wild West witches are cool, the film lacks any suspense or scares.

The focus is on the relationship between the two brothers that run the gang. Ugh. Period piece character study.

THE DARK AND THE WICKED (2020)

The director of The Strangers, Mockingbird, and The Monster makes a movie that proves he can set up some really creepy scenes…and then insult our horror senses over and over for 90 minutes with one bogus scare after another.

Seriously, what the fuck with this movie? This is the kind of shit meant to get little tween girls at slumber parties squealing and giggling all night.

A family is gathered at an old farmhouse as the elder patriarch lies in bed dying. There are lots of atmospheric shots of farm animals, dark and moody setup shots of people being pensive, and a slow burn of a couple unraveling hints of religious paranoia by the matriarch of the family.

And then, there are the nonstop, sudden appearances of supernatural entities to give us a jump scare, only to be gone in the blink of an eye because they’re not really there. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. I could keep going, or you could just watch the movie for the same annoying as fuck effect.

OPEN 24 HOURS (2018)

The director of Rites of Spring and The Devil’s Dolls always manages to entertain and deliver on the horror, while bringing longtime fans of the genre back to familiar territory. For instance, Open 24 Hours reminds me of a cross between the first story in the anthology film Body Bags and the film Rest Stop.

Following time in prison for torching her serial killer boyfriend, a young woman takes a job covering the night shift at an isolated gas station convenience store. Suffering PTSD, she has paranoid delusions of being visited by him and his dead victims. Which begs the question—are the horrors she begins experiencing while working all alone real or imagined?

As various visitors to the store meet violent fates, the truth of what transpired between her and her boyfriend is revealed, and some twists and turns add some surprises to the plot.

The kills are juicy gory and the suspense is good, plus there’s a nice long cat and mouse chase in the final act, but the pacing does feel a little off for some inexplicable reason, and by the time things really pick up, it seems like it’s starting to drag on a little too long. However, overall it’s a satisfying watch.

LUCKY (2020)

Slightly similar to Happy Death Day in that a young woman has to keep facing off against the same masked killer, Lucky has a bit of a quirky tone, but isn’t as much of a comedy. It also reminds me of the indie film Salvage, which I find far superior.

This is essentially a movie about a young woman dealing with all life’s misogyny—from both men and women—in between being visited every night by a psycho in a mask.

Each time he invades her house, she’s better prepared for him and fights back even stronger, and their battles become more and more violent.

There’s really not much else to it beyond that. The pacing is good enough, the main girl is likable, there are some funny moments, and things change enough each time to keep you interested, but the premise began to grow stale for me personally as the movie progressed.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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