STREAM QUEEN: when modern horror and horror veterans collide

From cameos to starring roles, familiar horror faces made this foursome of films extra alluring for my latest marathon. Let’s see if they were all worth the watch.

JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

The director of Girl On the Third Floor brings together two horror heavyweights to play a married couple in this vampire flick that is a blend of fresh and retro, horror and humor.

Larry Fessenden is a preacher, Barbara Crampton is his subservient wife. Barbara sneaks off to meet up with an old flame, played by 80s pretty boy Robert Rusler, and when she returns from their secret date, she’s…different.

Early “attack” scenes in this small town vampire film felt quite reminiscent of the tone of scenes from the original Tobe Hooper Salem’s Lot miniseries, so I was totally feeling it.

Barbara Crampton’s performance is especially captivating as she begins to transform into a lustful and…hungry vixen.

Highlights include her dancing to a cover of Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” by Tara Busch and having an erotic moment at her window as her new master stands outside in her yard.

 

And the film takes off in a new direction for the second half when Fessenden gets wind of what’s been bugging his wife, at which point we are treated to some good and bloody vampires action.

SPELL (2020)

As I was watching Spell, I tweeted a few things to my friend about the film:

a) Omari Hardwick of the Starz show Power stars in this and he’s delicious.

b) I can’t believe what I’m watching. This movie is literally Misery with Black people and a voodoo angle.

c) That could be my entire blog post about this movie.

And so…I’m going with it. But I’ll add one more thing.

Dreamgirl Loretta Devine (aka: Reese from Urban Legend) is the equivalent of the Kathy Bates character, and the creepy voodoo shit really sets it apart from Misery, so I’d highly suggest checking it out.

MIDNIGHT DEVILS (2019)

This is one of those films that I root for so badly because there is sooooo much potential, but it just doesn’t find its footing or hold together enough to be the kick ass film it should have.

Going for a very 1970s grindhouse vibe, the film also appears to be a love letter to Evil Dead, but that aspect comes way too late in the game, which is the film’s major flaw.

The camerawork, the lighting, the fog machines, the atmosphere, the tone, the grindhouse filter, and the demon all hit the mark.

Unfortunately, the story, some of the performances, the pacing, and the structure of the film leave much to be desired. Horror icon Michael Berryman appears in a brief horror scene at the beginning with a little girl, and then we meet two tough girls that get into a car accident while on the run after stealing money. They plan to hide out in one girl’s abandoned childhood house in the woods (see where this is going?).

Turns out there’s a weird Native American dude in there holding a family captive. Also, the guys from a strip club the girls stole the money from show up and plan to bust in to get what they came for.

Little does everyone know there’s a demonic presence in the woods just waiting to go shaky cam on their asses and they’re all in danger.

If only it were as simple and straightforward as I just made it sound. The film meanders, with plodding, unnecessary scenes and dialogue before eventually getting to the point.

There’s even a sudden scene that’s so out of place in narrative and tone featuring one guy about to torture another guy that I was convinced it was accidentally slipped into the wrong movie (unless that was intentional and part of the whole grindhouse experience).

Having said all that, when the demon finally bursts in, creating some minions along the way, we get a brief and fun Evil Dead feel. Unfortunately, the movie is over just as it finally gets going. Bummer.

TEN MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (2020)

Ten Minutes to Midnight kicked into high gear within minutes and I was psyched, because it’s only about 70 minutes long.

It begins with horror veteran Caroline Williams arriving at work in her small radio station having just been bitten in the neck by something outside in the dark. She also learns from her boss that a young woman will sort of be interning and sitting in on her show that evening.

Caroline is no idiot and sees the writing on the wall for her long career. Considering all her coworkers are stabbing her in the back, her sudden thirst for blood couldn’t have come at a better time.

It would seem this is going to be a vampire outbreak film in a small radio station. But instead it’s an abstract exploration of the state of mind of an older woman as she copes with the fact that she is suddenly falling victim to sexism and ageism after years of dedication. Much of what happens to Caroline Williams is surreal horror—possibly in her mind, possibly nightmares, possibly real. But we never quite know.

It’s hard to follow this film, and while that’s a big downside, that’s really the only downside. The atmosphere is tight, the special effects are way cool, and the vampire effects are plain and simple fun. But it is hard not to wish they were used in a more traditional narrative, which could have been scary, funny, and gory all rolled into one. I found the more artistic approach this film takes a bit of a challenge to stick with. What most kept me watching was Caroline Williams.

Quite honestly, she’s one of those horror veterans who never particularly tickled my horror bone—never disliked her but I was never enthralled by her—however, this is the movie that made me say, “Damn, Caroline finally got her chance to shine.” I think her decades of experience really helped her give one of her best performances ever, and she is reason enough to check this one out.

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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