Prevenge (2016)

October 18, 2017

88 minutes – Unrated but I would rate it R for some gore, grownup concepts, darkness and a deep sense of forboding.

Babies can be scary but usually in an entirely different kind of scary from what you might experience on Halloween. We fear our lives changing outside of our control. We fear failing to provide for a tiny, dependent human being and that it may come to harm through our action or inaction. The other day I held a month old baby boy and it was nerve-racking. He slept the whole time, secure that I was doing the best I could. I was pins and needles for the first moments because I was afraid of hurting this new little friend. There is no real need to worry so much but it helps us heighten our care with someone far more fragile than we are. Society is also wary to hurt or inconvenience a pregnant woman. The reverence we give for somebody literally and physically carrying a life into the world is justified. It also apparently can be a weak point because anytime we give somebody an inch, they could take a mile. Do not underestimate anybody for too long. We are all capable of anything.

Revenge is a fairly common horror movie trope. A lot of killers kill for the Hell of it like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sometimes, it is just what they were created to do like Krampus or Hellraiser. Freddy Krueger kills to take revenge on the parents who murdered him by taking their kids away from them. Jason Voorhees’ mother and Jason himself kill to avenge his death caused by the inattentive child care that indirectly caused Jason’s drowning death and conversion into an undead monster. Chucky is huge on revenge. In the first movie, he wastes a lot of time killing people who have crossed him rather than get about his supernatural business. In subsequent movies, he kills anyone who even slightly irks him. I Spit On Your Grave and Last House On The Left are classic examples of brutal revenge from a serious wrong. They are often grouped in the horror genre because it is scary how quickly the person taking vengeance can become scarier than the original transgressor. Wrong or right, revenge can make for a very compelling story.

I was expecting this movie, a movie about a pregnant woman on a killing spree, to be more of a comedy somehow. It is such a weird concept that I thought it might be played for laughs. I was wrong. This is a slow burn of a horror movie. The concept is simple but the execution is anything but simple. For example, the movie plays around a lot with the concept of human sadness. Not just the sadness when something bad happens but the soul-sucking depression that we can fall into. It is a feeling I am all too familiar with. As the title suggests, it deals heavily with the concept of revenge. However, we do not immediately know what wrong has been done that cries for vengeance. Instead, the movie unravels that story slowly. It unveils elements of the story slowly so that I was left wondering what exactly was going on. Not that I was confused, but in the way that when you follow an unreliable source, you are not sure which parts to believe and which parts to discard. Maybe, in the end, it does not matter but it definitely matters during the journey because why you are doing something is sometimes more important than what you are doing.

The acting is really, really good. I had not realized when I selected this film that it was made in England but that just adds to the international flavor of this year’s selections. So, we get a lot of different British accents because we meet the lower class, the upper class and people obviously from various parts of the country. I find the accent (and others from that region) very pleasing. It is strange to watch a horror movie while such pleasing sounds are constantly going on. In the spotlight of this movie is Alice Lowe who plays the pregnant star of the film. She also wrote and directed the movie and it shows that this was a labor of love. There are so many interesting emotions in her performance. From bitterness to depression, to pity, to joy and even that emotionless stillness a person gets before a murder. She was fascinating to watch because she is on a journey and while her trajectory is tragic, I had no idea where it might lead. It helps that Ms. Lowe was actually pregnant and wrote and acted from an experience she was currently having at the time. Her performance really leaves some doubt as to whether or not the baby is actually guiding her actions.

Overall, I thought this was a great movie. Obviously, the actual professional critics agree as the movie has a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie gave me a knot in my stomach as I watched it and it was not just because of the horror elements. The overall dark despair of the film often ran a chill down my spine. I was unprepared for this movie to deal so heavily with life itself while watching a woman deal with death while killing people.  Still, it was an interesting and fun ride.

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Dolls (1987)

October 16, 2017

78 minutes – Rated R for horrible people, child neglect, gore and nightmares.

The uncanny valley is such a powerful tool in visual horror. The concept of the uncanny valley says that we will be creeped out by things more as they look more and more human. When something becomes completely human-looking, our unease is allayed. Seeing things trying to be human but not achieving it makes them look alien and frightening. We know what humans can do but near-humans look erratic and unpredictable. If they are inanimate, we have nightmares that they will begin to move around as humans do. This is largely where the fear of dolls comes from. People have long thought dolls are creepy. When I was in theater, we did a show where the set was adorned with Putti which were created by stapling wings to baby dolls and then spray painting them. People swore that the eyes followed them as they walked the stage. The dolls also periodically fell from great heights with no warning during rehearsal as if they were trying to attack. It was unnerving and there is power in that.

Small things are also terrifying. If you do not believe me, think about the story I heard as a kid about living in the desert and waking up in the morning and slipping your shoes on only for there to be a stinging scorpion hiding in there. There are many real tiny terrors in the world which includes spiders, scorpions, diseased mosquitos, ticks, and especially bees and wasps. I never worried about my dolls (ahem action figures) coming to life when I was little. Even when I was thirteen and watched Toy Story, I never really worried about it. However, I know plenty of people do fear that as kids. That is why there are so many horror stories about killer dolls. Childs Play, Demonic Toys, Puppetmaster, and Poltergeist all come to mind but there are dozens. I will probably see them all eventually. Little things are hard to keep track of if they do not want you to find them and they can turn up in the most surprising places. It’s a scary thought that they might be anywhere around.

I love a good horror movie with truly detestable people in it. It makes me feel less guilty to watch them get killed in inventive ways. I have quickly determined that if I have empathy for a character, it makes horror movies scarier because I dread anything happening to that character. This movie does not have that problem as most of the people, except for the little kid, are absolutely horrible. There is a strange combination of mean and moronic that personified a lot of horror movie victims in the eighties and nineties. Also, bonus points for having American tourists in England being completely awful and pushy. More bonus points for lower class British people being loud and rude. The movie not so subtly drops in one of the biggest concepts of fairy tales: be nice or suffer the consequences. The acting is very melodramatic but this is yet another Charles Band movie. The lower class punks are modeled after Madonna and the upper-class Americans are modeled after just about every rich person in the USA.
The saving grace for the adults is Stephen Miller who is kind of funny to watch and definitely a good guy.

They obviously spent a lot of time on post-production on this one. There are so much great puppets and practical effects. Someone obviously had a lot of fun making killer toys on a workbench somewhere in Italy (where this was filmed on a soundstage). I really would love to see a behind the scenes documentary or some blueprints on how they animated some of the dolls in this movie. By the way, based on the title, it should not be a spoiler that there are killer dolls in this movie. I suppose they used a lot of the same types of effects that were used in the early Child’s Play movies. It is difficult to imbue life on an inanimate object even with the aid of CGI and it takes a real puppetry master to make them actually scary. To me, these were way creepier than films like Puppetmaster or Demonic Toys and that has a lot to do with attention to detail and good production values. Of course, that is praise for this movie and I would never denigrate a movie I love like the Puppetmaster franchise. It may not be amazing by today’s standards (just wait for my Cult of Chucky comments on Thursday) but this type of thing fascinates me.

Overall, I thought this was a really twisted yet fun horror movie. I thought it would be a normal run-of-the-mill horror romp and in a lot of ways, I was right. However, the movie takes a lot of random left turns that surprised me or really weirded me out but they never felt forced. They left me dreading what was going to happen next but also looking forward to where the story might go next. This story definitely goes to some seriously forked up places, too. Charles Band rules my dreams and nightmares yet again.

Aftershocks: Demon Days Pt. 2

October 14, 2017

Aftershocks 2

The hotel was in a run-down part of town, probably perfect for hiding the murders of people less likely to be missed by a loved one. It looked like it was frequented by tourists looking for a bargain, maybe even people flying in to deal business in the old financial district fifteen blocks away. Whatever the case was, it looked like any other non-chain hotel that Lydia and Nancy had ever seen. It looked like it was an alright place to crash after a night on the town or a day in the boardroom. There was even a sign on the door advertising free wifi which looked like it was a new addition.

They took Rob’s car but only because of the trunk full of weapons, otherwise Lydia wanted to take a cab or rideshare or something. When you have dealt with demons and demon ghosts, dealing with an Uber driver suddenly felt easier. Lydia insisted on driving because she actually had a legitimate driver’s license and the thought of riding in the car while Rob drove made her nervous. It was a strange place to be in when she was more worried about a car accident than facing down a deadly demon.

“Will you teach me to drive?” Nancy asked. It shook Lydia from her thoughts.

“What?” Lydia asked.

“I don’t have my license yet and I want to learn how to drive,” Nancy said. She was curled up into a ball on the passenger seat, hugging her knees. She was staring straight ahead.

“I can teach you,” Rob offered from the back seat. He had grumbled at having to sit in the back seat of his own car but had finally relented when Lydia pressed the issue.

“No,” Lydia said. “Not you. You keep forgetting that you are younger than us. You should not be driving this thing. If we’re going to be partners, I’ll do the driving unless it’s an emergency. We can’t risk getting the car pulled over by a cop. They might search it.”

“Besides, we wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, Rob,” Nancy said.

“Fine,” Rob said and went back to putting guns from the trunk hatch into his duffel bag.

They pulled into the parking lot and walked toward the hotel. Lydia was a little bit surprised that the sliding door just opened so readily for them. When it did, they were hit with the air-conditioning and also the specific chemical smell of bleach. All three of them looked at each other and they stepped into the lobby. It was absolutely empty. When they were not looking, somebody must have come to the front desk from the office. Lydia saw that he had a neutral face which suddenly turned into a practiced smiled, a move known to all in the retail or service industry. He was obviously taking in the well-armed teenagers and preteen.

“Can I help you?” The man asked. His nametag said Grady but Lydia was not sure if that was a first or a last name.

“We would like to speak to the manager,” Lydia said calmly.

“I am sure I can help you and we do not need the manager,” Grady said. “Shouldn’t you be off at some school function?”

Lydia drew her sword from is scabbard. “We know about Jack, Grady. We’re here to stop him.”

“Don’t pull any tricks,” Nancy said and put on her best tough face.

“I don’t know what tricks I could possibly pull and I don’t know who this Jack is,” Grady said. “You would do well to turn around and go home before I call security to correct this situation.”

Rob pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and fired it directly at Grady. Lydia and Nancy screamed but noticed that Grady was not injured, he just dissipated in the pray from the shotgun. “Salt rounds,” Rob said. “It looks like we have some angry ghosts to deal with.”

“Great,” Lydia said. She ran behind the front desk and found some keys and tossed them to Nancy. “Nance, see if these will lock the front door. We don’t want to be interrupted.”

Nancy went to the front door and the key worked and she locked the sliding doors into place. She pocketed the keys and walked back over to regroup with the others. They checked the office and it was empty. They started down the nearest hallway, Lydia with her sword, Rob with his shotgun and Nancy with a poker that she had pulled from the lobby fireplace.

“Stay close, there’s bound to be more of those ghosts,” Rob said.

“Do I look like I’m afraid of ghosts?” Lydia asked. “Some of my best friends are ghosts.”

“You’re just afraid of one ghost,” Nancy said softly. Lydia shot her a look and Nancy shrugged.

“Not anymore,” Lydia said. “If I see him again, I’ll be ready.”

Nancy yelped as Rob’s shotgun went off again, dissipating another ghost. “I have a feeling that if we get rid of Jack, the ghost stuff might clear up?”

“I hope so,” Rob said. “Otherwise there are ways to get rid of ghosts for good too.”

“Wait, are there guests here?” Nancy asked.

“Not that I saw on my stakeout,” Rob said. “At least not living ones.”

“Then who are they?” Nancy asked as she pointed. She was pointing at a pair of children standing in the middle of the hallway ahead. The two young girls were identical with sunken eyes and plain dresses and looked absolutely out of place. As they were noticed by the heroic trio, their dead eyes seemed to come to life a little bit.

“Come play with us,” the girls said in unison.

“That’s super creepy,” Nancy said. “What do we do?”

Rob pointed his shotgun and fired and the little girls screamed as their bodies dissipated just like the other ghosts.

“Were you a hundred percent sure that they were ghosts?” Lydia asked.

“Ninety-seven percent. Maybe Ninety-six,” Rob said and shrugged.

“OK,” Nancy said. “That’s slightly less homicidal then, kiddo.”

“But only slightly,” Lydia said.

At the end of the hallway, there was suddenly a rumbling noise that started to get louder and louder. Rob aimed his shotgun until it was clear that whatever it was would not be bothered by salt fired from a shotgun.

“I think you pissed it off,” Lydia said.

The elevator doors slid open and thousands of gallons poured out of the elevator. After that first wave, what looked like millions of gallons started to pour, rushing down the hallway towards them. For a moment, all three of them stood there with their eyes wide. Nancy started to run in the opposite direction down the hallway. Lydia punched Rob in the shoulder.

“Run!” She yelled.

Friday the 13th Part VII (1988)

October 13, 2017

88 minutes – Rated R for gory deaths, violence, brief nudity, and undead revenants

Friday the 13th has a rich tradition of fear. The first glimmer of this tradition is noting that the Last Supper was on a Friday and there were 13 people present. The actual origin of the superstition seems to be shrouded in mystery since it was far before the age of the Internet. I consider myself a man of science and not a man of faith so I do not believe in luck. I recognize that chance has something to do about it but only natural forces can affect chance. However, when I was a little kid, I believed in all sorts of things. My hands had to be above the covers and the pillow while I slept lest demons see this as some subconscious sign. I would absolutely not walk under ladders which is actually more of a good safety tip than a ward against evil. I would not pick up a penny that was tails up and stepping on cracks was off limits. I was nervous during Friday the 13th but it never amounted to anything. Still, that nervousness lasted into elementary school.

So, today is Friday the 13th which means that there was really only one series of movies that I was going to deal with today. Mommy’s favorite revenant has been a favorite of mine for a long time. The first movie centered on Mrs. Voorhees (37-year-old spoiler, sorry!), a mother still grieving for her dead son and dead set on getting blood in return for his death. Her death seemed to summon her son Jason back from the land of the dead. The early movies are good but I actually enjoy the later movies more because they get more outlandish and self-aware as they go. Also, Jason seems to grow and gain more magical powers each movie. My favorite is still Jason Takes Manhattan because it is the first quasi-confirmation of Jason’s teleporting powers as far as I know. Also, it is filled to the gills with plot holes. Ignoring or utilizing plot holes is also one of Jason’s powers (and also a weakness in Freddy vs. Jason). I once watched a string of these movies with my brother back when Blockbuster was still a thing so I thought I had seen all of them. I was wrong. After I saw gameplay footage of the new Friday the 13th game, I realized I was missing one movie right in the middle of the franchise. This cannot stand.

The acting was actually pretty good as Friday the 13th movies go. The teenagers act like typical teenagers and the adults are generally confused. The main actress was played by Lar Park-Lincoln and while she was 26 at the time instead of eighteen, she does a really good job of playing an emotional teenager. The other teens are appropriately catty and/or clueless. This is the first movie where Jason is played by the now legendary Kane Hodder. He is the man who played Jason for a record four movies including the movie where Jason goes into outer space. Unfortunately, he was tagged out when it came time to fight Freddy Krueger. Hodder has really imposing body language which is important for a character who is one hundred percent silent. He moves and kills with purpose but also the complete apathy of an act of nature. There is a reason they asked him to stick around so long and this is his first time out and it is really good.

This movie tackles more of the lore of Jason. Originally, this movie was supposed to be the original slot for the showdown between Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Unfortunately, New Line Cinema and Paramount Studios could not come to a deal and they had to scramble to do something else with Jason. Their options were open but they were really enamored with the thought of Jason facing off against somebody. Freddy had just faced off against the Dream Warriors and the movie version of Firestarter was only four years prior. Having Jason face off against somebody with psychic powers was kind of a no-brainer. Psychic powers have kind of been a timeless feature in genre films since they first emerged. For example, this movie was released twelve years after Carrie and the same year that Akira came out. The psychic abilities also allow the viewer to see some of the kills twice for added impact. It also puts to the test the idea of Jason as an unstoppable killing machine.

Overall, I really liked this movie. Sure, it feels like when they wrote the teenage characters that they had a checklist of cliques that they were trying to check off. Yes, the movie felt heavily edited (and I checked, it really is) and it feels a little less gory than previous and later installments. However, a good Jason film goes beyond all of that. It is supposed to be kind of silly. It is supposed to be suspenseful until an undead embodiment of death attacks out of nowhere. In that respect, it succeeds.

Media Update 10/12/17

October 12, 2017


What We Do In the Shadows

I had heard over and over how this was a movie worth seeing. Mockumentaries have a rich and varied history in the world of comedy but I had never seen one mixed with the horror/Halloween genre. This is a mockumentary about a group of vampires who share an apartment in New Zealand. In most supernatural stories, the main characters are the only ones in the world dealing with vampires or werewolves or whatever. In more modern tellings, like urban fantasy or young adult literature, there are supernatural creatures everywhere. This is the reality that I like to visit because you get to explore all sorts of personality types reacting to the supernatural. In this, you get vampires based on Interview with a Vampire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (both Oldman and Lugosi), Nosferatu and The Lost Boys. They are part of a larger community of vampires, witches, zombies, and werewolves. There is a lot of really fun comedy based on the movies and books that I have seen. The script was written by Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi but that script was never seen by the rest of the cast. Instead, they were given loose directions and they improved the heck out of pretty much every scene. Much of the comedy comes from the fact that the vampires are pretty lame and also they have not adjusted well to the modern world. What I did not expect was that the special effects would be so good. My mind was actually blown by some of the neat camera tricks they were able to pull. I definitely recommend it.

 


Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

A classic horror movie set up is that a bunch of dumb college kids travel out into the wilderness. Along the way, they piss off some psycho hillbillies and those hillbillies pick off the kids one by one. That seems a little one-sided against the hillbillies. What is their story? That is the question posed in this very meta horror/comedy movie. In this, two innocent hillbilly guys get mistaken for psycho killers in a real comedy of errors with each mishap leading to a worse situation. Obviously, the makers of this film have seen a lot of horror movies and they knew just how to pick them apart in a loving way. Movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn, Mother’s Day and others are all parodied or paid homage to. The movie kind of made me think of Cabin in the Woods with its loving parody of a horror subgenre while still being creepy and suspenseful. There are so many well-done beats taken from good and bad horror movies that made the movie really fun to watch even if it was not actually very scary. A really bright spot for me was that one of the stars of the movie is the legendary Alan Tudyk who plays an excellent intelligent hillbilly opposite a big dumb hillbilly played by Tyler Labine. The two play like Abbott and Costello and really help make the movie. However, the college kids are also spot on what they needed to be and the writing is very clever. I definitely recommend it.

 


Grabbers

On my journey through the world of Horror, I keep trying to visit other countries to see what they have to offer. Earlier this week, I visited France. I have also visited Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Japan, China, and many others. However, I have yet to watch an Irish horror film and I found a recent one. This one is a science-fiction horror movie which is hit and miss for me. This movie involves a shapeless horror falling to Earth near an island just off the coast of Ireland. The tiny community must deal with these creatures who only want to consume and humans are definitely on the memo. It is up to two Garda officers to solve the case and protect the community before the creatures can spread to the rest of the planet. Along the way, the movie confronts and plays with a lot of Irish stereotypes and employs a lot of great Irish humor. It utilizes the wet weather seen a lot in that part of the world but also shows some of the beauty of the Emerald Isle. Some of the movie plays like something out of HP Lovecraft or other stories about a horror coming to a quiet, simple village. However, it is a modern story but some out-of-the-way places are less modern than others. The movie ends up being a lot of fun even if it is a pretty simple and straightforward movie. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
The Cult – Lil’ Devil

Sir Sly – You Haunt Me

Sunmi – Full Moon

The Pretty Things – Welcome To The Monster Club

Queens of the Stone Age – The Evil Has Landed

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Horror Comedies”
– I finished Gotham Season 3
– I finished The Good Place Season 1
– I finished House of Cards Season 2
– I watched more Glitter Force Season 2
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 1
– I watched more Little Witch Academia Season 1
– I finished Rick and Morty Season 3
– I did not get any Mulan sauce. They ran out.

Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage) (1960)

October 11, 2017

90 minutes – French (Subtitled in English) – Unrated but I would give it an PG-13 for dread, some very bloody scenes, and creepy atmosphere.

Guilt is a terrible thing. I cannot imagine a single person reading this who has not felt guilty for something in their life. Guilt has an extreme power over normal human beings. Guilt can slowly unhinge us, causing a very negative change and maybe even becoming the monster we think we are. Guilt can also push us into the light, forcing us to atone for our guilt by doing good deeds. The thought of people discovering our secret guilt is scary. That sort of thing is a weak point, a big glaring example of why we feel we may not be worthy of kindness or happiness. If people found out, they would do something to condemn us, giving us the punishment we always imagine. However, people are human and atonement, acceptance, and change are very real concepts. We do not need to hide in the shadows, at least not from ourselves. The future is not yet written and you can be a better person and outweigh the sins of the past.

There is a tradition of masks in horror movies which is how I found out about this movie in the first place. Most of us clearly remember the iconic masks of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees but there are so many more. Ghostface from Scream, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the deadly masks from Halloween 3 and another deadly mask in The Abominable Dr. Phibes also come to mind. There is even a prominent mask in one of the movies that I will be reviewing for the 31st this year. Masks weird us out because not seeing somebody’s face makes us uncomfortable. I talked earlier this month about the same effect that a clown’s face paint has. We cannot judge the true expressions of the person and therefore it is harder to judge their intentions. Also, it makes them look less human and anything less than human is something to be wary of. Finally, we cannot see what is under the mask and so we are left to imagine what must be under there. In that uncertainty, there could be anything beneath the mask especially the mask of somebody or something you know is a killer. I will be exploring this idea again next week.

The first thing I noticed about this movie was the great sound design in it. A good sound design can definitely enhance a good horror movie and make a great horror movie. This is especially true of older horror films where they had a low budget and could not rely on jump scares or expensive visual effects. This film does a great job using silence, something that newer horror projects do not use as much. There are long stretches of silence or periods where we just hear sound effects and no dialogue or music. The music, when it comes, is truly maddening as most of it makes use of the same musical motif which sounds chaotic and ratchets up the tension. It makes moments of true horror all the more shocking as they made me jump. The film is in black and white which is a sign of the times but it helps with the mood of the film, all light and shadows. The sets are simple but well-dressed like a Hitchcock film.

Tension is the main game here as this is a slow burn horror film. We find out what is going on early on in the film but the driving action waits until we are prepared for it. The tension must be high so that the existential horror really hits us. Edith Scob plays the titular woman who has had an accident which has removed her face, leaving only her eyes. She is absolutely spellbinding. The mask they constructed for her is so good and so creepy and she is a brilliant actress. She does so much with those eyes that I often forget that she is wearing an expressionless mask. I felt tense in every scene she was in as she was an unknown quantity, a desperate woman yearning to return to humanity and the true driving force of the movie. Her father is played by Pierre Brasseur and his gruff, detached manner is horrible to watch as he thinks about and does horrible things. Since the movie is actually mostly dialogless, many of the actors do so much with the movements of their bodies and sometimes just the way they breathe. I really loved that.

Overall, I really loved this movie and it is definitely the best movie I have reviewed so far this month. The movie starts with deep existential horror as it tackles things like lost, ennui and isolation. Then it moves on to actual, tangible horror including blood and violence but also guilt and insanity as well. I was really left shaken by this one as the director really nailed his goal of “anguish” very well.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

October 9, 2017

90 minutes – Rated R for gruesome deaths, language, and brutal violence

I remember when I first went to a summer camp that required that I sleep over. It was Camp Glencoe but we slept in dorms and we spent most of the days reading and writing so it was not much of a camp experience. The second camp I went to was Camp Shohola which was very much your standard sleepaway camp. There was definitely room for fear at summer camp. I especially dreaded doing the deep water swim test every year. We had to do so many laps without touching the sides of the dock and it made me so tired. I thought I would end up like one of the unfortunate watersports campers from Wet Hot American Summer. It was also so dark each night. Sure I had plenty of people around me but as a city boy, the sounds of just nature were unnerving. It was not just the sounds of nature either. Out beyond the concrete, there were far more wild animals and insects. Bears were sighted near the dining hall dumpsters and bees and spiders were sighted daily. I even saw a poor little mouse that had been overtaken by a swarm of bees once. That particular image has stuck with me.

There were bullies there too, the kind of person that makes a short kid dread certain parts of life. I was lucky enough to not have to deal with bullies too much but they were always there, the sharks out in the deep water. I remember the older kids at camp playing pranks from harmless to troubling. One summer, they snuck into people’s cabins while they slept and took their trunks and stacked them around the flagpole. My trunk’s lid was a little warped and was not closed so I was skipped and there was suspicion of collusion which was ridiculous. I was never that popular. Back in high school, I was guided to be an early adopter of the personal computer because as a freshman, there were seniors who came down to our hall and pushed people up against the lockers. My friends and I opted to have fun tinkering in the computer lab rather than loitering in Freshman Hallway. I think that ended well since I have an intuitive sense of how to work computer programs and very high typing speed. I did not like getting pushed around but we all survived and I harbor no ill will. After all, they did not try to kill me.

This is a horror story with a mystery to it. Up until the end, you are not sure who exactly is doing the killings. It felt kind of like the first Friday the 13th film in that respect. Of course, there are way more suspects than in that film. This movie is set in a rundown summer camp full of rough customers. The counselors and staff are either power hungry monsters or simply stand aside and let those jerks push people around. The campers also have the worst kind of teenage impulses. They are constantly playing mean-spirited pranks on one another and pushing each other around like prison inmates. This also leads to there being a lot of potential victim as horror films of any decade seem to like setting up victims that you want to see get punished. Is each death vengeance for something horrible happening or is it somebody who can no longer stand by and let the jerks rule? As people die, they recognize the killer but we never see them until the end.

The acting is very interesting, at least it is to me. A lot of the time the acting is pretty standard for an eighties horror film. By this, I mean that people act like normal people but maybe a little bit exaggerated because it is a movie. Guys razz other guys, girls pick on other girls, there is flirting and bullying and all sorts of normal behavior. Then every so often, there are performances that are either purposely or unintentionally hyper-exaggerated. Those performances are unnerving because I sat there trying to read into them and the cadence was all wrong like something written by David Lynch. This is especially true of Angela, the girl with a tragic past that the film is centered on. Mostly mute, she spends her days getting bullied by the girls in her bunk and teased by the guys in camp. The pacing is really good as we see the frustrating experiences that Angela endures as the weird girl and that is punctuated by creepy horror and gruesome deaths. We also get to see some really creepy flashbacks through Angela’s eyes.

Overall, it was definitely a good eighties horror movie. The movie is creepy throughout both the actual killings and the cruelty kids can exhibit toward each other. The tension builds steadily through the movie and there are plenty of red herrings if you do not know the actual ending. Do yourself a favor and stay away from spoilers on this movie because the ending is well worth the mystery. The movie also gets bonus points for looking somewhat similar to summer camps I went to.

Aftershocks: Demon Days Pt. 1

October 7, 2017

Aftershocks 2

Lydia and Nancy decided to skip the Principal’s office since he had phrased it as optional. In fact, as weeks went by, they continued to give the principal’s office a wide berth. It was all too complicated at the moment and they still did not know who to trust. After they had defeated the demon Ley, the two girls hoped that things would calm down and stay calm. So far, they were half right but neither of them believed that it would stay that way for long. Ley had talked about the King of Demons being interested in them and Nancy’s heritage probably made her specifically the target. The two of them tried to do as much normal teenage stuff as they could but it never quite washed away the memories of what had happened in the gym weeks ago.

The normal stuff went out the window when they left their last class of the day and found Rob sitting on the curb, eating a piece of key lime pie. He was wearing the same over-sized trenchcoat but was not openly carrying any weapons this time. In the light of day, the pint-sized monster hunter looked a little funny. However, both of the girls recalled that the boy had powers possibly on par with Nancy’s undefined abilities. He was potentially dangerous but he seemed to be on the side of the angels for now.

“Hey kiddo,” Nancy said. “No car today?”

“I have it stashed away,” Rob said without looking up from the pie. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his coat. “I don’t drive it all the time.”

“Smart,” Lydia said with a tiny smirk. “It’s still years before anyone will issue you a license, kid.”

“My name is Rob,” He said. There was no frustration or anger in the words, just a simple reminder of the facts at hand.

“Alright,” Nancy said. She was back to being her usual sunny self but that facade was wearing at the edges in the face of a reminder of a very bad night. “What can we do for you, Rob?”

“Yeah, we actually have homework to do,” Lydia said.

“I wanted to talk to you both after the heat died down,” He said.

“Well, it feels like it’s dead as a doornail now,” Lydia said. “Did you want your sword back?”

“No, that’s alright,” He said. “I just wanted to talk.”

“I’m not sure I’m interested, Rob,” Nancy said. She was hugging herself so hard that Lydia feared her arms might start wrapping around her a few too many times.

“Let’s hear him out, Nance,” Lydia said. “He helped us out. It’s not like we owe him but so far he’s been alright to us.”

“Fine,” Nancy said. “Lead the way.”

Rob stood and tossed an empty pie tin into the garbage and wiped his mouth with his coat again. He led them down the street and into the public park. He led them into the woods where they stood in front of a metal door hidden under a rocky outcropping.

“Nice secret murder dungeon you have here,” Lydia said.

Rob gave her a look. “It’s just one of my mom and dad’s old bunkers. My family likes bunkers.” He shrugged and pulled out a key and unlocked the door. He walked inside, leaving the door open. Nancy and Lydia looked at each other for a moment before going in. How bad could it be? They stepped inside.

The interior of the bunker was actually pretty nice. There were couches and tables and chairs and rugs. When Rob reached over to the light switch, the lights actually came on so he had somehow gotten working electricity in the woods of a public park. Lydia was impressed, Nancy was absolutely confused. Rob kept walking, moving past what looked like a makeshift kitchen with a fridge. He sat down at a table which already had two chairs set up on the opposite side. It was weird to see somebody younger look so professional.

Nancy and Lydia carefully sat down in the chairs opposite Rob. “So tell me what your deal is?” He asked.

“We’re high schoolers,” Lydia said. “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

“I’m a dream demon’s daughter and she almost married a ghost!” Nancy blurted out.

“Nancy!” Lydia yelped in surprise. “Why did you just tell a stranger that!”

“Almost married a ghost?” Rob asked.

“He was trying to escape the afterlife. It was gross. I’d rather not say his name. Why did I just say that?” Lydia asked.

Rob simply smiled and turned toward Nancy. “A dream demon?”

“He’s really nasty and now I’m afraid I might be a demon too,” Nancy said.

“You’re not. Otherwise, you would be affected by the circle you’re sitting in and not just the truth glyphs that my uncle carved into those chairs. That’s why you spilled the beans,” he said.

“That’s a dirty trick,” Lydia said. Her eyes narrowed.

“My family has a long history of getting crossed by demons and other supernatural surprises,” He said. “If we’re going to work together then I have to know what’s up.”

“Alright,” Lydia said. “I can respect that. So what’s your deal?”

“Yeah!” Nancy said. “We spilled the beans. Your turn.”

“I hunt things that hunt humans just like my family before me,” Rob said. “I’m alone but all the stories I’ve been told say things just work out better together.”

“Together?” Nancy asked. “What do you have in mind?”

“Yeah,” Lydia said. “We’re not agreeing to just anything.”

“After we got rid of Ley together, other problems have started to pop up. There are signs of other demons. The three of us are the ones to shut them down. We have the experience and the power,” he said.

“How do you know so much about demons?” Nancy asked.

“My family studied them. Also, they fought them directly,” He said. “A lot of the ancient demons are dead thanks to my family or people like them. But demons get created every day and some of the new ones have become just as powerful as the old ones. Ley was barely anything compared to these assholes.”

“So who are we going after then?” Lydia asked. “Which nasty thing?”

“They call him Jack,” Rob said. “He’s a demon of madness which makes him a loose cannon. He’s killed a dozen before I noticed but he’ll only get worse.”

“We have to help, Lyds,” Nancy said. She turned to give Lydia her best puppy eyes.

Lydia looked back at her best friend and fellow outcast. With her oversized sweater and her innocent smile, Lydia was weak to all of that. “Fine. We should use our experiences to do good in the world. Where do we find this Jack?”

“I’ve tracked him down to a hotel,” Rob said.

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

October 6, 2017


1 hour 53 minutes – Rated PG-13 for gore, violence, and some insinuated sexual situations

Tomorrow is a day that will live in infamy. On October 7th, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances. He was found in a terrible state and managed to utter “Lord help my poor soul” before he died although it is hard to substantiate that claim. He also reportedly called out the name “Reynolds” the night before his death but nobody knows who that is. His death certificate and medical records disappeared and so nobody could confirm what he actually died of. It is widely accepted that he was an alcoholic and that is often chosen as the direct or indirect cause of death. We do know that the death of his wife hurt him deeply and definitely unbalanced his life combined with his career in writing for journals causing him to have to move around a lot. Regardless, 168 years ago tomorrow he died and was buried in my hometown of Baltimore. The so-called Father of the Mystery Story had left behind two mysteries. One, the exact cause of his death and the other was a Baltimore urban legend. The Poe Toaster is an unidentified man who deposited a bottle of cognac, roses, and sometimes a note on Poe’s grave on Poe’s birthday. To this day, his identity remains a secret but it is theorized that since the tradition continued at least 60 years that it may have been a family tradition. It was a fitting triubte to a man who poured so much horror and mystery onto the page.

If doctors and normal hospitals are scary, then an asylum for the insane or mentally unbalanced is even scarier to me. When I was growing up, we were jokingly told to be good or we would end up in Shepard Pratt. Sheppard Pratt is a mental facility situated in Baltimore County and it has been there throughout my life. It is a modern center of mental health and nowhere near the frightening place that I imagined when I was a kid. Still, it is a facility full of people who are mentally unhealthy enough that they must be kept in a facility to cater to their needs. There should be no stigma for these people but the reality is that these people can be unpredictable. Walking amongst those patients, I would know that they are at least a little more volatile than I am. Dealing with that is scary to me. Beyond feeling less than safe, I would feel alone as I would not know whose mind I could trust beyond the staff. That is a modern facility, the asylums of Poe’s day were far less regulated and were unenlightened on how to treat these people. It was probably far more dangerous to work there.

Right away I really liked the acting. Every line is instilled with a little bit of tension so that even seemingly innocuous things seem scarier. This actually put me off my guard because I had no idea when the actual scares would be coming. This is much more effective than hitting the viewer with random jump scares and musical stings to cause unease. Actual tension is kind of a lot art these days and it was refreshing to get something with traditional horror rather than repeated frightenings. Most of the actors are people I am unfamiliar with but they all have such pleasant accents for an American-made horror film. The core of the movie is held by the legendary Ben Kingsley, legendary English actor and a very charismatic personality. Our protagonist is played by Jim Sturgess and he is likable and a great proxy for the audience. Finally, we have Michael Caine, David Thewlis, and Kate Beckinsale playing major roles.

The movie is an unreliable narrative in the style of similar books and films like Quills and Shutter Island. This is par for the course when you are dealing with insane asylums in fiction. As the movie says, you must not believe anything you hear and only about half of what you see. I will not spoil the secret of the movie but, as with a lot of great horror movies, there is a secret to the movie. It is a middle of the road mystery with some clever surprises. The lighting and the sets are great for a period piee set in one of the worst periods for medicine, a time when we knew just enough to be dangerous. The costumes seem to be impeccably researched as I did not see anything anachronistic.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good creepy, period drama. While it is no great horror movie, it definitely helps to set the mood as we get deeper into Halloween. It is also a nice break from the two previous supernatural tales to see instead a tale of man’s inhumanity toward man. There are a lot of gray areas in this movie and that makes it all the creepier. I was looking for someting to honor Baltimore’s Edgar Allen Poe and this was the best adaptation I have seen so far. It adapted the The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether short story which is more dark comedy than this was. This had a few comedy moments but it was mostly drama and horror. I recommend it.

Media Update 10/5/17

October 5, 2017


Ghoulies II

I just had to give the sequel a shot after I kind of liked the original film. Ghoulies had the bad luck of coming out around the same time as Gremlins which ended up overshadowing it (and other similar films). It and this sequel were also attacked during the satanic panic of the 1980s. Critics thought that both films glorified summoning demons. Once again, these religious nuts did not watch the movies they were trying to attack. There is definitely demons that get summoned in both films, they got that part right. However, in neither film does anybody have a good time or benefit for long by summoning demons.

Anyway, I thought that this sequel was much better than the original. This movie actually benefited from Gremlins because it injected more of the fun I like into the proceedings. The original was kind of somber and creepy. This one was way more fun but also still creepy. There is no way you have such good puppets as the Ghoulies and they do not end up being creepy. The puppets are slimy and their movements are so realistic and the subtle voice acting really sells it. The original was set in a drafty old manor. The sequel is set in a traveling carnival so there is a lot more eye candy and more interesting characters to grab onto. The sequel also has actual protagonists instead of focusing on the villain of the movie so there is an actual conflict between good and evil. The kills were also way more inventive but just as creepy and unsettling as the first film. I felt my skin crawling a lot when the ghoulies were on screen and especially when they were on the attack. I definitely recommend this to fans of old-school campy horror films.


Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence

This has been an interesting series and I am kind of sad to reach the end of it. The series started with Bruce Campbell and that was what drew me to it in the first place. For a B horror movie series, the movies are surprisingly socially conscious. A framed cop is arrested and sent to prison where he is killed by the criminals he helped catch. He comes back as a revenant, pulling himself back to life to avenge the injustice against him. Since that story was resolved in the second movie, the third movie has him returning to face public injustice towards a police officer instead. It is up to Robert Davi to solve the real crime to try and stop the Maniac Cop from killing more people. The chinful Robert Z’Dar once again plays Officer Cordell who is the titular Maniac Cop.

Once again it is directed by William Lustig who seems to be a good friend of Sam Raimi. Their styles are definitely similar as the dialogue and the action hit a similar groove to the Evil Dead series. There is not as much comedy but there are plenty of interesting special effects. Z’Dar’s Maniac Cop is just so fun to watch and his unstoppable nature seems even stronger than Jason or Michael. It is a shame that Lustig has disavowed this film and did not want to continue the series. They had to bring in another director to finish it and edit in a lot of outtakes from the previous film. I still recommend the movie as Z’Dar and Davi and the rest of the cast (including Jackie Earle Haley!) really save the movie.


Bride of Re-Animator

After watching Re-Animator for the first time last year, I was absolutely disgusted but excited to watch the sequel. Based on an HP Lovecraft series, the Re-Animator movies are pretty crazy. I have not seen a lot of movies quite like it. Herbert West is one of the most interesting characters I have seen in a horror film. His deadpan delivery is at times frightening and other times it is funny instead. He is also so morally ambiguous. Like Victor Frankenstein, he pursues forbidden knowledge through distilling magical science goo that brings the dead back to life (hence the title). Everything is his fault but he never intends any harm which leaves him in a frustrating gray area. In this sequel, Herbert and his buddy Jake return from serving in the Peruvian civil war. They resume West’s experiments with the undead but they have a lot of unresolved issues from the first movie. This was released in 1990 but it definitely feels like an eighties horror film. Once again, the body horror is off the charts and makes my skin crawl. I feel like this movie definitely inspired the writers and effects team for Ash vs. The Evil Dead. I definitely recommend it but watch the original first for the full effect.

Music of the Week:
W.A.S.P. – Scream Until You Like It

Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman

The Nearly Deads – My Evil Ways

The Steeldrivers – “Ghosts Of Mississippi”

Ghost – Cirice

Weekly Update:
– This Week’s theme is “Sequels of Halloween Stuff I Reviewed Previously II”
– I watched more The Good Place Season 1
– I watched more Gotham Season 3
– I watched more House of Cards Season 2
– I finished Bojack Horseman Season 4
– I watched more Glitter Force Season 2
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 1
– I watched more Little Witch Academia Season 1


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