STREAM QUEEN: will you Await the Dawn in the Funhouse with The Mad Hatter?

After a marathon of 26 Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee films, it was time for me to jump back into the 21st century with some streaming of modern horror flicks. Here’s how things turned out with the first 3 films I watched.

FUNHOUSE (2019)

The director of The Evil In Us makes a statement on the instant fame of reality by applying a Saw style touch.

Another Skarsgard kid is one of the leads as 8 wannabe celebrities are brought together for a Big Brother style reality show streaming live to the internet.

As soon as the first competition hits—human piñata!—the cast realizes this is no ordinary game.

In between violent and gory competition kills and tensions between the cast members, clips are interspersed including viewer reactions, video reviewer reactions, and news reports about the missing celebrities.

The host of the show is a computer generated, talking Panda, and the threatening assistants wear creepy panda masks.

There are boobs, a sex scene, a hottie with a Mohawk taking on a bunch of big beefy guys, and an ending that avoids the most obvious route.

THE MAD HATTER (2021)

The Mad Hatter trailer reminded me of supernatural killer of the early 2000s PG-13 movies, so I thought I’d check it out. The film’s creators had a different plan though.

A college professor who is so clearly weird from the start invites some students to stay in a mansion rumored to be haunted. He also plans to hypnotize them to further enhance their supernatural experiences. This just leads to some of them tapping into deeper distractions trapped inside their minds—most specifically one kid who seems to have guilt over a drowning.

As for the other kids, they experience a variety of different yet predictable supernatural occurrences. And yet each of them basically pretends their encounters didn’t happen and just go on without telling anyone.

For instance, a guy with a sexy body has a sexual encounter with a girl…who briefly turns into a man during foreplay. Hot. However, the guy says nothing when he later encounters the girl.

And when the whole group of kids is playing dress-up with some old clothes they find, a creepy, menacing man suddenly appears and doesn’t move or say anything to them. Soooo…they just leave the room and never speak of it again or wonder where the hell the man came from, who he is, or where he went.

Sort of like Euro horror of the 80s, this film just throws one horror after another at the audience (rarely is that horror actually the Mad Hatter). But unlike 80s Euro horror, which hit us with a series of nonsensical horrors that were also freakish or terrifying enough for us to not care that we couldn’t understand what the hell was going on, The Mad Hatter tries to make all those random horrors somehow have meaning and connection…yet it’s still nonsensical horror. Unfortunately, it also isn’t freakish or terrifying.

But my biggest issue? Every time someone just “disappears”, the increasingly creepy teacher simply says, “oh, they went home” and no one bats an eye!

AWAIT THE DAWN (2020)

A movie with Dee Wallace and her daughter Gabrielle? I was so here for it. I was also pleasantly surprised that this was a lighter, less polished indie with a campy vibe, plenty of practical gore effects, and eventually a “pass on the possession” plot—one my favorite kinds.

The opening scene and music totally gave me that Creepshow comic book movie feel—I’m talking the 1982 movie, not the current series. There’s definitely a campy tone that carries threw the film. However, despite the actors handling their business fine, a nagging melodramatic chord progression serves as the score and plays continuously regardless of the tone of the scene, which waters down any sense of nuance or range of emotion and often makes the performances seem awkward or misguided.

The story focuses on a family in an RV driving their addict daughter to get help. Dee Wallace is the mom, Courtney Gains of Children of the Corn is the daughter’s doctor. When the family is distracted, a (hot) guy sneaks on board and then holds them at gunpoint.

He also tries to warn them to just drive away as fast as they can when they come upon a little girl lying on a desolate road at night.

So they stop…

This girl is an evil little bitch, and the young actress cast in the role is clearly having a ball playing it to the max. As she terrorizes the family, she gets help from those she eventually makes into demonic minions.

I say eventually because unfortunately a good chunk of the film drags before the horror action truly kicks in. Serving as character development, the guy with the gun has conversations with each family member to get to know them better, and when he at last reveals what he’s all about and what he knows about the little girl, it gets a little technical.

Considering this is basically Evil Dead in an RV, we don’t need complicated exposition. Just bring on the demon people, the screaming, and the gore. Thankfully, Await the Dawn does so starting at about the 51-minute mark, at which point it becomes a lot of fun.

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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