Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

Media Update 11/1/18

November 1, 2018


The Babysitter (2018)

I have had this one on my list for over a year and part of the reason I relaxed the theme this week is to make sure I had a place for it. I especially was interested after seeing that the script previously made the 2014 Blacklist and the 2015 Bloodlist. Both are yearly lists of well-reviewed but unproduced scripts. The movie is about a young boy who is curious about what his babysitter does after he goes to sleep. He witnesses her holding a meeting for a satanic cult. That is not even a spoiler, that is the plot blurb on IMDB. What happens next is wild and a lot of fun. This is a horror/comedy movie that leans more into dark comedy. Samara Weaving is in the title role and she is so much fun that it is hard not to like her. Judah Lewis plays the boy who is a little too old for a babysitter but incredibly smart. Bella Thorne has a more minor role as one of the cult members and she is hilarious. Robbie Amell is a legend in this movie and just comes off as hilarious. Andrew Bachelor and Hana Mae Lee round out the cast with minor but memorable roles as more cult members. This movie definitely felt innovative while also clearly being an homage to the horror genre in general. It also felt like it paid tribute to various coming of age movies as well. I definitely recommend it as I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was.


The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

So, I was a huge fan of Melissa Joan Hart back in the day and, because of that, I watched most of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I also saw the character in Archie Digest. When I found out they were making another series based on the character, I was interested. I knew that there had been a more serious take on the franchise in comic book form and I had a feeling it was going to be like that. Also, at the last moment before it was released, the original cast of Sabrina the Teenage Witch endorsed it. Also also, it is created by the same people who created the Riverdale show. Anyway, the show is great. A lot of the core concepts are kept intact with the show set in Riverdale’s neighboring town Greendale. Kiernan Shipka is really likable and easy to empathize with as Sabrina Spellman, a half-witch reaching her 16th birthday. Michelle Gomez plays a teacher with a hidden agenda concerning Sabrina and she is wonderfully sinister. Chance Perdomo is funny and sarcastic as Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose. Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto play her aunts who add a lot of the comic relief. The show has a more apparent “Smash the Patriarchy” feel to it which I can definitely get behind. The show has a few scary and/or gross scenes but it is mild compared to other stuff I have watched in the past. Mostly, I find the world they are creating interesting and I am soaking up the lore. I definitely recommend it.

 


Critters (1986)

This is part of the movies that are classified as Gremlins ripoffs even though the script was written long before Gremlins was released. It is written by Domonic Muir who later wrote Evil Bong and Gingerdead Man (understandably under a pseudonym) so we know he can mix horror and comedy. It is directed by Stephen Herek who later directed Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. Scott Grimes plays the young boy hero and he did a great job for his young age. His mother was played excellently by horror veteran Dee Wallace who I mentioned earlier this month in The Hills Have Eyes. The movie is about creatures that escape an alien prison and come to a rural part of the USA and terrorize a family. It is funny because I saw parallels between this movie and movies like Gremlins, TerrorVision, and the remake of Invaders from Mars. The movie has some comedy but I found it more tense than funny. Part of that is colored by the air of urgency through the whole film. The titular Critters are relentless and nigh unstoppable and things look pretty grim through the whole movie. Also, there was way more blood than I would have expected from a movie classed with Gremlins. Still, the movie ends up being pretty light and fun as we watch a hapless family struggle to survive. It definitely fits in with a lot of the comedic horror films of the time and I think it holds it own in that category. I definitely recommend this one and I wish I had seen it a lot earlier.

 

Music of the Week:
Paramore – Misery Business

Peggy Suave – Posin’

The Gore Gore Girls – Hard Enough

The Weeknd – In The Night

Arcade Fire – Everything Now

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Halloween Hangover” as a recovery from October
– This is also this blog’s 800th post. Wow!
– I finished watching Gotham Season 4
– I watched more of The Haunting of Hill House
– I watched more Daredevil Season 3
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 7
– I watched more Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

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Under the Shadow (2016)

October 31, 2018

I had two best friends throughout my tenure at Friends School of Baltimore (12 whole years). One was a goofy yet deep artist who taught me about comic books and the other one was a more serious guy who was the first to teach me about cars and pro-wrestling. That second one was also a child of divorce who had been raised Muslim and Christian. When I was in elementary school (my school called it ‘Lower School’), we would spend lunch and recess running around a vast playground. I distinctly remember that one day, my friend began to tell me about the djinn. He told me that they were not anything like genies, granting wishes, they were evil spirits created by Satan and not to be trusted. He seemed absolutely certain that these spirits were real and that we could see one in America. Later, we were reading comic books in his room during a sleepover and his mother called up to look out the window at the Police helicopter flying by. I moved to comply and he blocked my path. He told me that it could be a trick and that Satan could be mimicking his mother’s voice in order to trick us into looking. It frightened me deeply.

I live in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States of America. Things might feel bad right now (as of 2018) but they are nowhere near the experience of areas in the Middle East. For most of my life, I have lived in a big city with a notoriously high crime rate. Almost every day I see reports of people getting shot or shot at in the Baltimore area. People jokingly call the place I live ‘Bodymore, Murderland” which is probably one of the greatest examples of dark humor I know of. However, only once in recent US history have we actually been attacked by a foreign power. In countries like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and others, things are very different. We do not get bombs dropped on us in this country. The idea of sitting in my apartment in Baltimore on the east coast of the USA and worrying about a military accidentally dropping a bomb on me is unthinkable. Yet, that is a valid fear in other countries. The idea that you could be obliterated because of political differences between your nation and another is something politicians use as a political tool in the US but has not really been a strong possibility for decades. The concept itself is scary.

Once again, we have a horror movie with fabulous acting. It is a pattern that horror movies with a more psychological bent have good acting while gorefests usually have bad acting. Of course, there are exceptions but that is the general rule that I have observed. Narges Rashidi plays the lead character, a mother tired of being oppressed by the Iranian government especially considering she was attending medical school before the war. She is joined by her daughter played by Avin Manshadi who is a good little girl in the middle of a war. Most of the movie deals with the interactions between the mother, her daughter, and the supernatural. This is why this movie is often called ‘The Persian Babadook’. Like in that movie, the interactions between mother accentuate the experiences with the supernatural, making things tenser. The movie also does show a lot of slice of life scenarios in a war-torn Iran which is something we do not often see here in the US.

The camera work is great in this movie. There is a lot of it that reminds me of Veronica, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Shining. Great shots help make a great movie and this movie definitely captures that ‘every frame is a painting’ quality. Every shot really means something in this movie which feels rare these days. The movie does a lot with camera tricks, editing, and practical effects to make things scary. I have to admire a movie that does not have to rely on elaborate CGI, monster makeup, or puppets to make things scary. Like comedy, horror is all in the timing and a big part of that is editing which is on point in this movie. The movie draws on maternal fears for a child’s safety and self-doubt to create a horror story almost entirely in the mind. The pacing is great, starting slow but speeding up almost exponentially as the movie goes on.

Overall, I loved the movie. When it started, it was set on English which sounded really weird because the voice over sounded a bit dispassionate. I quickly switched it over to the original Persian so I could get the full breadth of emotions. Your mileage may vary, of course. The movie is very gripping and really made me feel for both the mother and daughter. The emotional tension got me good and keyed up for the supernatural bits. I love this direction in horror just as much as the cheesy Freddy stuff I crow about in this blog. However, I feel movies like this will have a more lasting emotional impact.

The Outing (aka The Lamp) (1987)

October 31, 2018

My first impulse is to think of museums as great, comforting places. I prize knowledge so much that I find it hard to separate that love from the actual locations where it is stored. I spent a lot of time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan when I lived in New York City. I loved seeing the artwork up close. When I went to England and France with my mother in my teens, we went to the Louvre, the Tate, and the Musee d’Orsay and I loved seeing the artwork so close. However, I also think of being in those museums and them triggering my social anxiety. Anytime I was looking at an exhibit and people would walk up, my inner anxiety would speak up. “Am I in their way? Do they want to be alone? Do I look like a weirdo?” I also remember going to a dinosaur museum down in South Carolina as a kid. I remember being terrified because they had the dinosaurs moving and making sounds. I have a vivid imagination and as a kid that made certain places scary or intimidating. A T. Rex skeleton became daunting, a stuffed rattlesnake worried me, and wax figures were especially terrifying. When you are younger, the line between fact and fiction are emotionally blurry even if it is intellectually solid. Even when you are an adult, that line can unexpectedly blur at the most inopportune moments.

I have been in locations after they have closed. It is pretty creepy. I used to work in a regional theater in New Jersey, doing lights, sound, and props. It was a small staff so I often was left to my own devices to work alone in the building. This building was an ancient theater that had been converted to a senior center and then back into a theater. Being alone in the dark in one of those places is very different from being alone in the dark at home. At home, there are windows so you are never truly in the dark. In that old theater, when the lights are out, it was completely and utterly dark to the point where I could not see my hand in front of my face. A lot of commercial spaces have very little natural light and are isolated from the noise and atmosphere of the outside world. I can imagine a museum being totally creepy in the dark after closing. Unlike a theater, there are humanoid figures waiting in that darkness to spook you. I remember the theater had an old cardboard cutout of James Dean which would scare the hell out of me in the low light. I always thought it was somebody waiting for me in the darkness. Like I said above, that line between reality and fiction can unexpectedly blur at the worst times.

The first thing I noticed is the excellent lighting in the movie. Maybe it comes from being a low budget eighties horror movie but there are a ton of shadows everywhere like a haunted house. It makes for a good atmosphere right from the start. The gore effects are pretty good. They use that good old-fashioned Karo syrup blood that looks gunky and goopy and creepy. The digital effects are almost laughable but sometimes I like a good horror movie with cheesy effects. The practical effects are way better and pretty exciting. There are plenty of explosions, smoke, and fire to make things exciting when they need to be exciting. This really is not a creature feature so we get to see a lot of props moving on their own and they did a great job with that. They also have a lot of creepy things to work within a museum that are all really fun.

The acting is not the best but I did not put on this movie expecting much. The main character is played by Andra St. Ivanyi in her only film role. Nothing is subtle about her character and she is over the top long before anything supernatural happens. Her father, a curator, is played by James Huston and is a somewhat bumbling but solid single father. She has a lot of instantly annoying friends who are just the types that cheap horror movies are filled with so you do not feel as bad when the deaths start. Also, they went hard on one of the villains to make him unlikable (including freely using the N-word while white). Deborah Winters plays one of the few likable members of the cast, a teacher who cares dearly for her students. She is also probably the best actor in the movie. Giving her a run for her money is the museum archaeologist played by Danny Daniels with a lot of gravity but also a lot of jovial charm.

Overall, I liked this movie well enough. My only problem with it is that the build is so long that the actual horror movie part feels a bit rushed nearer the end. Of course, it really is a heck of a set up so it is hard to complain too much. This movie is not very psychological like the other selections this year but it has a classic horror movie formula of setting up a bunch of victims and then knocking them down. Kicking back with a classically bad horror movie can be just as good as enjoying a finely crafted one so I do not regret this at all, especially since I have had a copy of it for over a year.  Also, I have no idea why this is called “The Outing”.

Veronica (2018)

October 29, 2018

I have never used a Ouija board or attended a seance mostly because I do not believe that one can talk to the dead. One of my guideposts earlier in my life was Houdini or perhaps it was just his legend that inspired me. When he first started out as a magician, his mentor was a man named Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin but when he found out the man was a fraud, he was disillusioned. Perhaps this experience caused him to rail against those who exploited people using belief in the supernatural. When he was dying (on October 31) he made a deal with his wife. He would once and for all disprove all of the mediums in the world, past, present, and future. Every year on the anniversary of his death she would hold a seance and he would try like heck to talk to her from the other side. If she never heard from him, she would know it was not possible. It was because of this and other subsequent studies and writings that I came to accept that seances (and therefore Ouija boards) will never work.

However, this is Halloween and we do not deal in reality during this holiday. Halloween has never been about exploring what is real, it is about exploring things from beyond life, death, and our universe. Though it may just be speculation, letting go and playing pretend can be fun and can help us examine the human condition. When we all put on costumes, hand out candy, watch movies, and other forms of celebration, we enter the realm of the fictional. Twice now I have talked about that barrier between life and death. That barrier is absolute even in fiction. On one side you are alive, on the other side, you are dead. However, what else could be trapped beyond this barrier? In supernatural settings that list is long. That thought is explored in The Void. Demons, Great Old Ones, Ghosts, the Undead, and all sorts of more obscure things. In movie after movie characters are warned to stay away from that barrier but nobody seems to listen. In movies like The Void, Re-Animator, and Beyond the Gates the protagonists or antagonists seek to reach beyond and everybody suffers.

The first thing I noticed was the good acting in this one. In movies about subtle things such as ghosts or possession, the acting has to be on point. The acting from the title character (played by Sandra Escacena). She is a normal teenage girl except that she has to act like a mother to her three younger siblings. Her physical acting is so good when she is being affected by the supernatural, sort of like the acting in the Exorcist. I really cannot say enough good things about her and this was her very first movie. If this movie is any indication, she will continue to do great things. I really liked Consuelo Trujillo who plays a nun at Veronica’s school. She is so interesting and strangely charming. Of course, an important ingredient for a lot of horror movies is creepy kids and kids hardly need any help to be creepy. The three little ones in this movie are top shelf creepy, including the bonus of two of them being twins. The little boy is especially interesting to watch because, despite his goofy grin, he comes off as vaguely creepy for most of the movie.

I love how subtle the effects are in this movie. Some of the best horror movies make you question whether the main character is imagining everything or not. At least, it is great in the early parts, eventually, something has to actually happen. This movie does well in walking that line of subtlety, making sure not to do too much too early. Later, the gore effects are just enough to be creepy without being too much. The movie does a lot of creepy stuff with simple shadows which I really enjoyed. Shadows and silhouettes are great tools for horror and I have rarely seen them used so well. The movie leaves a lot to the imagination which I appreciate because that makes things way scarier. The camera effects also really caught my eye in places, making things creepier. The camera moves in unnatural directions sometimes or moves with the characters in ways that are not the same as conventional filmmaking. You are usually not supposed to notice the camera but the director made sure to bring attention to it but sometimes doing so can be used to unnerve the viewer.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It was not my favorite horror movie but it was definitely a really strong movie to watch near the end. I had been saving it because it had been hyped up earlier this year as being super scary. I feel like it did not live up to the hype but that is alright. It was definitely a good movie and it was strong enough to pass the language barrier. (The movie is in Spanish and is set in Spain). I am always a bit wary about these “based on a true story” horror movies because that is so much BS but this one told a story in such a way that elements of it could be true.

Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 4

October 27, 2018

Aftershocks Playthings

It took a while to find out where the kids were. This time, Lydia had no reservations about Rob doing some hacking. Already having access to a server was not the same as actively hacking into a government computer. Lydia spent her time trying to keep Nancy calm as Rob worked, knowing how much she cared for those children. Also, she knew the way her dad had preyed on children weighed on her and had her wanting to balance out his actions. It was a hard weight for sunny Nancy to carry and Lydia could see that. Also, she knew that Nancy’s freak out had started to wear on Rob’s nerves. How she became team mom, Lydia had no idea.

They arrived at the safehouse not quite as put together as they had been at the toy store. Lydia’s nerves were still jangled from combat, she was getting more battle-hardened but she still had a ways to go. Rob put on a brave face but Lydia was sure she could tell that he was nervous. Still, he was obviously the most composed. In the backseat, Nancy was like a dog begging to be let off of its chain. There was a wildness in her eyes that Lydia could understand but knew that they could not afford to indulge. She took Nancy’s hand in hers and spoke softly.

“Nancy,” she said. “These kids need us but they need us to be strong for them.”

“I’ll be strong for them,” Nancy said. “I’ll tear Charles apart like Ley and Jack.”

Lydia squeezed Nancy’s hand. “Nance, you are scaring me. We got lucky the last two times but this time they have hostages. We have to play it smart.”

Nancy looked helpless.

“You need to keep the monster at bay,” Lydia said. “Unless we absolutely need her. You are not a monster. You’re my happy friend. So let’s go save the day and make those kids happy again.”

Nancy took a deep breath. “Alright,” she said. “I’m with you.” Her voice was shaky but she looked sufficiently calmer.

Rob stepped out of the car and the girls piled out after him as quietly as they could. None of them were exactly stealth experts. At that moment, it really hit Lydia how young they were and how normal fighting demons had become. It was inspiring, frightening, and sad all at the same time. She wished she was reading paperbacks back in her room. She wished Nancy was leading sing-alongs back at camp.

Unfortunately, it was gunfire that snapped Lydia from her revelry and the three of them scrambled to duck back around the car. Rob cursed loudly as the bullets impacted the car but it was lost in the noise. Lydia reached into her bag and grabbed a mirror and held it up to try to see who or what was shooting at them. A bullet grazed the car near her arm and Lydia lowered the mirror. She whispered a few words and waved her hand over the mirror and she remotely viewed their surroundings. There were two cops with rifles aimed at their car.

“We’re not the bad guys!” Lydia yelled out. “We want to protect the kids.”

There was nothing but silence from the cops but they had stopped shooting.

“There is a maniac named Charles who is after the kids,” Lydia said into the night.

Both cops simultaneously tilted their heads back and let out insane cackling laughter. Then they spoke in unison. “The kiddies will be mine just like these two dopes. Either come and submit to me or I’ll pull out your eyes.” They both cackled again in perfect unison.

“Shit,” Rob said. “They’re possessed!”

“What do we do?” Nancy asked, eyes wide.

“We improvise and move forward,” Lydia said. “Sorry, Rob.”

Before Rob could ask what for, Lydia waved her hand and the hood of the car pried itself up and floated in the air. Lydia walked toward the house as the cops shot up the hood. The other two hurried to follow behind Lydia. At the last moment, she waved her hand again and the piece of metal flew into one of the cops. Rob pulled a revolver and shot the other cop in the shoulder. He pulled out a vial and sprinkled liquid onto the cop that Lydia had hit with the metal. There was no reaction.

“They’re gone,” Rob said. “It’s not normal demonic possession.”

Nancy actually growled and her hands sprouted sharp claws. Lydia actually mom armed her, raised her hand and snapped and both cops caught on fire. What had formerly been the cops flailed around but succumbed to the flames. Rob moved to pick the lock on the front door but Nancy lunged forward and dragged those claws down the door, cutting it to pieces. The three of them slipped into the house.

In the living room, the kids were unconscious and tied to the furniture. A little red-headed toy man stood in the middle of it all with a twisted grin on his face. He did not look afraid of the three newcomers. Lydia knew at once what this little man was planning and hoped that he had not succeeded.

“You can’t stop me,” Charles said. It was the same voice that came from the cops. “Their bodies are mine. They will be the start of the Army of Me.”

“No way!” Nancy yelled.

“Yes way!” Charles yelled out. “Do you think I subdued all these kiddos myself?”

As if on cue, toys came out of hiding and attacked. Nancy lunged at Charles, claws out and began to wrestle him. It would have looked comical in any other situation. The other two combatted the rest of the toys, slowly hacking and smashing their way through them. The living room was chaotic with battle and thankfully the kids really were out of it. At one point, Nancy and Charles crashed through a window and outside which was impressive since there were bars on the windows. Rob and Lydia did their best on their own, slowly destroying each toy and it seemed to take forever. Finally, they made sure the kids were safe and headed outside.

They arrived just as Charles got the upper hand, landing on top of a prone Nancy and pulling out a large wicked knife.

“I’ll rip your guts out, kid!” He yelled.

A shot rang out and then two more and Charles went flying from shots from Rob’s revolver. He and Lydia charged forward, covering for Nancy as she tried to recover.

“You little shits!” Charles yelled out. “You’ll never win. Me and the big guy are friends to the end.”

“This is the end,” Lydia said. She snapped her fingers and Charles burst into flames.

His screams were horrible but oddly satisfying. The three of them stood and watched the doll burn. When the screaming stopped, Rob made an anonymous call to the police to come to clear things up. Nancy continued to watch the remains of Charles burn as Lydia and Rob collected the car’s hood and untied the kids. They came and grabbed Nancy and Lydia was satisfied that Charles would continue to burn down to cinders before the police arrived. The three of them left. None of them really wanted to talk about things yet.

Prom Night (1980)

October 26, 2018

My prom was rather uneventful. I skipped my Junior Prom, completely uninterested in the event and my friends did not seem too gung-ho about it either. While the richer kids were looking at the options for limos, dresses, and tuxes, I was excited to do just about anything else. I honestly do not remember what I did instead of going to Junior Prom and I know for a fact that nobody asked where I was the following Monday. I was already the weird theater kid who would have probably gone full goth if he did not have social anxiety. The following year, the Senior version of Prom approached and I was similarly nonplussed. Some of my friends were bringing dates but I had nobody and I had zero desire to ask anybody. I also had zero interest in going without a date. I just did not understand the appeal. I was working backstage at a show downtown at the time anyway so I had an excuse to get out of it. However, my mother pushed me to go anyway and so I went to the venue about thirty minutes before the scheduled end time. I really only agreed to attend because there was a tour of the cemetery where Poe was buried but when I arrived, the tours had been canceled. So I left.

Obviously, from what is written above, one could infer that I was alienated from my fellow students in high school. That is really how I felt. I felt that people I went to school with could care less if I lived or died and forgot me as soon as I was no longer in their field of vision. Looking back, I know that I decided this because it was a defense mechanism because of my social anxiety. If I wrote people off so I did not have to risk myself or put myself out there while I was in an extremely vulnerable time in my life. I had really good friends, two best friends at that time actually, but I was not as plugged into the social scene. I spent a lot of time with headphones on, scribbling in composition notebooks with bad poetry, story ideas, video game plots, short plays, short stories, and even song lyrics. It was during this period that I really embraced writing, something I still really love. In my memory, I shut myself off and just tried to survive. However, I went to reunions later and realized that people did remember me and remembered me fondly. They cared about what I was doing and who I am now. So, a lot of it was in my head and I have found that is a common experience in high school.

The first thing I noticed (as a former sound designer and technician), is the excellent sound in the movie. Older movies had fewer options when it came to special effects but they definitely could apply cool effects to audio. Over and over it is a part of older horror movies I have reviewed here like The Innocents, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and The Hills Have Eyes. This movie is no different. The simple string music and the deep, rich sounds, and the proper use of echo sounds are so important to making this movie scary. Of course, this is also a disco movie but that is to be expected for a school dance movie in the early eighties. The pacing of this movie is also really good. There is a slow build to the movie that is instrumental to the tension of the movie. The movie has a slow burn that does well with ratcheting up the tension so that the viewer is good and ready for the chaos to begin. It also lets us get to know all of the players really well so that we will empathize with them as much as possible.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the cast in this one, especially considering a new release in theaters right now (Oct. 2018). The movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis, two years after Halloween so she is a little more mature and she has a few more movies under her belt. This was during the time she was gaining her title of Scream Queen (three horror movies in 1980 alone!). There is a reason that she is so celebrated. She is a great actress and she was really proving herself in this movie. Her father (and the principal) is played by Leslie Nielsen, who people forget can play a good straight man in non-comedic movies. George Touliatos plays the police lieutenant who is trying to track the killer, a very serious and haunted man. His scenes are very psychological as he is consumed by the responsibility of keeping the community safe. There are plenty of other teenage victims, the point of most slasher movies and it is interesting to see them interact in high school before the big dance. It creates a lot of intrigue, laying plenty of red herrings so it is harder to figure out who the killer is.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It came out the same year as Friday the 13th and is similar but I feel like it is way more artistic and fleshed out. Despite having Jamie Lee Curtis in it, it failed to be as big a hit even though I feel like it is the better of the two. Coming from me, that is high praise. The movie is more complex than many horror movies of its day (and later) in that it explores the victims and the killer and the situation in depth before really plunging into the real horror. I went in expecting this to be goofy but it had way more thought and heart than I thought it would.

The Witch (2015)

October 24, 2018

I have always been intrigued by witchcraft. Producing magic through practice and ritual is such a near world-building element. In the real world, witches are generally harmless people who follow a pagan alternative to mainstream religions. Of course, the idea of witches has long been something vilified by mainstream culture. Wicca (the religion most witches claim) was introduced in 1954 but people have been hunting witches long before then. Famously, ‘witches’ were used as a handy term used for class warfare in the Salem Witch Trials all the way back in the 1690s. So in the seventeenth century, the term ‘witchcraft’ was known and already given evil or ‘non-Christian’ connotations. According to some, witches were satanic cultists because anything that was not Christianity was the opposite of Christianity and therefore evil. The mere label of ‘witch’ was enough to allow the torture and execution of people regardless of guilt or innocence. Nowadays, real-life witches are treated alright and are mostly dismissed by the public at large and embraced by parts of the Internet.

In fiction, we very quickly picked up on the trope of vilifying witches and I am sure that there are essays and papers written on how that comes from a sexist place. Certainly, I have seen a more modern popularity of witches tied to the modern intersectional feminist movement. However, before all of that, witches were always the bad people. Even prior to Salem, we had the witch in the gingerbread house who terrorized Hansel and Gretel. Then I experienced Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz, a character who later received several PR makeovers. I also remember The Craft which had a very dark view of witches. Witches are often depicted as selfish pariahs who reject society. While some of that can be bent to a positive (see Charmed and Sabrina) it is more often made into a negative. Of course, like I said, that is changing but I think it will always be a point of reference. Until people stop writing things, writers will either follow the old trope or rebel against it. I am definitely interested in seeing where that goes and it is definitely something I am currently approaching in some of my stories.

The first thing I noticed in this movie was an awesome atmosphere. The whole movie feels dark, even when it is daytime. There is a dark shadowy feel to everything and it is both literal and figurative. The music really helps with this starting early on. The music is discordant and barely even music at all and it is just disquieting. On top of that, this is a period piece so life is horrible anyway. Colonial life was dark and deadly, oblivion waiting in the shadows and every crisis was capable of wiping everybody out. The movie follows a family who chooses to leave a plantation and live alone out near the woods. There is a lot of dread in the movie, a paranoia that grips it. The cinematography is so beautiful (and yet ugly) as each shot is done with such care.

The acting is fantastic. Ralph Ineson plays the father who is constantly spouting religious sayings, making everything creepier. Harvey Scrimshaw plays the eldest son, a young boy who just wants to do what is right and make his father proud and his mother happy. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the eldest daughter Thomasin, a girl who wishes the family was back in civilization. She was my favorite and often the focus of the movie. There is also the mother, played by Kate Dickie, who has a very forceful, willful personality that is impossible to ignore. There are also two small children who are creepy without doing anything ostensibly creepy. The acting is really what makes a lot of this really scary. If the family was not constantly spouting creepy Christian prayers, this would have not been nearly as creepy. However, it is not just the prayers, the acting is just spectacular.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful horror movie. Early on, I was left wondering how much of it was supernatural and how much of it was just religious mania mixed with the horrors of colonial life. The atmosphere made me tense so that when things really got going, I was totally blown away. The movie kind of descends into madness and I loved every minute of it. I really cannot recommend this enough. This movie really left me with a lot to think about.

Media Update 10/18/18

October 18, 2018


Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)
(I previously reviewed Candyman)

Last year, I reviewed Candyman, a horror movie about urban legends set in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green public housing project. It was filmed on location and it explored the racial divide, class systems, and the truth behind urban legends. This movie attempted to introduce a more cohesive and personal plot into the franchise. The movie stars Kelly Rowan, a teacher of disadvantaged kids in New Orleans with a family with a dark and troubled past. She runs afoul of Candyman, again played by Tony Todd. Todd is so good in the role, with his dark and smooth voice being creepy and commanding physical presence. They bring back the awesome graffiti and production design from the original movie. I guess the only complaint I have is that they retconned the character of Candyman in this movie. However, it is a weak complaint as it creates a stronger story based on race and also makes him a more complex character instead of just a boogeyman. With the retcon, it felt like they expanded the lore of Candyman and made him more of a threat. Also, throughout the movie, we hear exposition and ominous dialogue from a local radio DJ narrating the days leading up to Mardi Gras. He is played by Russell Buchanan and they did a great job of making him into an actual character rather than just a plot device. I definitely recommend this one in addition to the first Candyman. (Oh! And trigger warning, there are a million bees in this movie.)


Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (2003)
(I previously reviewed Leprechaun 3)

I have had this one in my back pocket for a while now and I honestly needed a bit of a break halfway through the month. I love the Leprechaun franchise and I am a big fan of Warwick Davis in general. In the first four Leprechaun movies, he terrorizes white people so they decided to make two movies where he visits ‘the hood’. This movie is his second visit and it is just good stupid fun. The victims are all pretty unlikable and the Leprechaun almost comes off as a hero in this one. Sadly, there are no stars in this one other than Warwick Davis (the last one had Ice-T and Coolio). Compared to movies like Candyman, it is a bit insulting to the black experience which is unfortunate. (Note: I am a white male so it might be extremely insulting or not insulting at all. I just saw it as a bit problematic). Still, there is some gory fun and some slapstick humor from Davis that felt true to the original. It is also really hard to dislike Warwick Davis as he is charming in every single role he has ever done. Also also, it has a really cool animated intro that should get more love. I recommend it for a good background or a stupid horror movie binge.


Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)
(I previously reviewed Phantasm V: Ravager)

Last year I became obsessed with catching the last entry in the series (since it was in some theaters) and it was appropriately trippy. I am a fan of the franchise but, like many long-running horror franchises, I just have not caught all of the entries. This movie is just as strange yet interesting as the rest of the franchise. The movies are very much written with the same feeling. They are part Evil Dead and part David Lynch which is a pretty unique combination. The characters deliver one-liners and combat supernatural creatures while trying to maintain their sanity. There is also a touch of comedy. The rest of the movie is strange and floaty and that is usually where they explore the lore through a lot of body horror and unsettling imagery. The body horror was the creepiest part of the movie to me (as long-time readers would guess). From the first time I was introduced to this franchise, I was grossed out by it but not in a way that turned me off. My favorite part of the movie is hands down Angus Scrimm, who plays the villain The Tall Man. He has such a sinister air and such a nice deep, rich voice. After that, I really love Reggie who is played by Reggie Bannister who is the action hero of the movie more or less. This movie also explores a bit more of the lore of the franchise while keeping things a little bit vague moving forward. I definitely recommend the franchise but do not start with this one.

Next Week’s Spooky Schedule:

October 22 – Hell Fest (2018)

October 24 – The Witch (2015)

October 25 – Media Update – Halloween Television

October 26 – Prom Night (1980)

October 27 – Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 4

 

Halloween Music of the Week:
Mushroomhead – Out of My Mind

Bianca – Kate Nyx – Sage & Silver Bullets

Witchtrap – Nightmares Of The Dead

Ghost – From The Pinnacle To The Pit

Benedictum-Beast In the Field

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Halloween Sequels 3”
– Fun fact: All of this edition’s movies earned a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes.
– I watched more Gotham Season 4
– I watched more The Good Place Season 2
– I finished watching Iron Fist Season 2
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube
– As always, I watched more Critical Role

Train to Busan (2016)

October 17, 2018

When I was in college, I had to take a train to and from college because that was the most convenient way to visit my family on breaks. I would often take a similar route after college when I lived in Northern Jersey. I had very little experience with public transportation growing up because I lived so close to school growing up. So when I boarded those trains to journey through several states, It felt weird. The experiences always set off my social anxiety as there were so many people around. Because it was cheaper, I often bought tickets for unreserved trains which meant that the trains were often oversold and there were not enough seats for me to get one. I would walk through cars full of people who looked at me and I felt very self-conscious. In reality, they were probably just glancing at me because who am I? I eventually decided that I would rather sit between cars than on the floors of occupied cars. I would get hassled and it was super loud in there but at least I was alone.

Infection is something that I have always been wary of but, over time, it became more of a legitimate fear. Of course, the flu helped teach me about infection as a kid and chicken pox furthered that knowledge. However, the first time the fear of infection was introduced was our education on HIV and AIDs as children. Our school was at the forefront of educating us about it honestly and truthfully. This countered the fear with plans and precautions and science. This prepared me to not buy into the fear of later outbreaks of SARs, bird flu, West Nile virus, the return of Ebola, and others. Medical science has improved since the days of the Black Plague and other deadly diseases that wiped out so many people. Still, it feels like we ware living on the edge of a knife when it comes to vaccinations. Many have bought into misinformation and their own ignorance and have refused to vaccinate their children. This inevitably leads to the return of diseases we had made harmless through science. So yes, infection is a justified fear when it comes to ignorance.

Since claiming that I did not really like zombie movies, I have actually been on a quest to find one that I really like (besides Shaun of the Dead). I immediately really liked this movie and I will tell you why. The acting and character work are really good. We are introduced to central characters immediately who I could identify with. Su-an Kim plays a little girl who feels emotionally distant from her father who she lives with. She wants to visit her mother who left her father but did not get custody. Her workaholic father tries to connect with her but agrees to take her on the train to visit her mother to make her happy. As a child of divorce, this really struck a chord with me. Also, I felt like they depicted a zombie outbreak as realistically as possible. If I saw a zombie, I would think it was somebody on drugs or having a weird seizure at first. The descent into madness is slow with people reacting first with bewildered annoyance and that slowly morphs into shrieking terror and then acceptance. People are too calm in other zombie movies far too quickly. In addition, the actors all have a lot of charisma and likable potential victims always make a movie scarier.

I also really liked the effects in this one. The gore is not over the top and a lot more is done with each zombie actor’s physicality than any makeup or appliances. They are ordinary people gone rabid. The choreography of the zombies really did more than any putrefied makeup job could ever do. Also, they made a big point of showing people alive and later showing them as zombies to really drive home the tragedy of people turning into mindless rage puppets. The setting of a train also makes the movie uniquely claustrophobic. Trains are very unique as they feel like a small traveling town where you can walk up and down the cars and actually walk a long distance. Also, every car looks the same which makes it hard to tell where you are. Having what amounts to wild animals in a tight space is a really startling and creepy sight.

Overall, I loved this movie. The characters were all really interesting and so was the setting. They really used the setting of a train much like Snowpiercer did. I really worried about these people and their journey to try and escape a zombie outbreak. They really captured how people would react in that situation. Some become heroes, some become selfish. The movie also examines a mob mentality (aside from the zombies). Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that this movie is in Korean but the acting is so good that it transcends language.

Antibirth (2016)

October 15, 2018

A lot of people are afraid of drugs. This is not an unfounded fear, at least in my opinion. I have researched a lot about opiate addiction and what I have read has frightened me. Without getting too personal, I know that drugs can take a hold on people and never let go. They can break your brain over time and cause erratic behavior. The Just Say No campaign and various 90s campaigns did a number on me. They convinced me that drugs could poison me and I could easily die from taking a single puff. The very nature of the black market nature of narcotics convinced me that they were right. The idea that any drugs could be cut with something poisonous and deadly kept me from taking any drugs when some of my friends were definitely smoking pot. Of course, my fears proved not to be totally ridiculous as reports of heroin cut with fentanyl killing people (as fentanyl is super deadly) have become widespread. As marijuana has become more accepted and legal, it has become safer to smoke and safer to get a hold of.

I think that some people do not like to admit it but pregnancy is a scary concept. Many hype it as a ‘beautiful event’ but I have seen it several times now and I have a different perspective. Of course, this perspective is as a male so take all of this with a grain of salt. When I left for college, my father told me that having sex with a woman was ‘an emotional, physical, and legal commitment’. There are many people who are scared of getting pregnant or getting somebody pregnant. Part of that is the financial commitment that follows but it is also the mental, physical, and emotional effects of raising a child. Before all of that, actually being pregnant involves so many medical issues. From my observations, people who are pregnant worry about each little thing that happens and how it might affect the baby. This is especially true of people who have planned to have children but have a history of miscarriages. Then there are the more existential fears of what will the child be when it comes out and what will they become? It is part of that general fear of the future.

The first thing I noticed was how good the acting was in this. The movie stars Natasha Lyonne as a druggie slacker who gets into trouble. She really drops into her character and she was likable from the first second. I have known a few of these stoners and most of them are good people even though they lack ambition. She is friends with Chloe Sevigny who is fun in a sarcastic kind of way with a hard edge. Mark Webber exudes a paranoid air of menace as a drug dealer and pimp. Meg Tilly plays a kindly stranger who is a mystery from her first appearance. She has a quiet, subtle performance which is a great contrast to the rest of the cast. Maxwell McCabe-Lokos plays a really skeevy guy who is friends with Webber’s character. Neville Edwards plays an absolutely creepy character sort of in the grand tradition of Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. In addition, there are a lot of sufficiently creepy extras who add to the general sense of unease.

This one has a lot of practical effects, a lot of which are subtle at first. When things really get rocking, it was hard to maintain my cool with how crazy it gets. Still, they were some great effects. There are also a lot of really interesting flashbacks in the movie. The movie kind of flashes these images at the viewer (and the main character) and it is a really neat way to depict it. In most movies, the character would slowly remember whole scenes but that is not usually how we remember things after trauma. Of course, I should mention that this is definitely a body horror movie. A lot of stuff happens that evokes that nauseating horror of somebody’s body changing against their will. If that kind of thing bothers you, do not watch this movie. Another great element of the movie is the sound design. They picked some really great ambient music that makes even the most innocuous thing feel creepy and strange. A lot of stuff shown on television in the background is really trippy.

Overall, I really liked this movie even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable. Trippy and unsettling are definitely the two biggest keywords that I would use to describe the movie. Lyonne’s physical acting is among the best I have seen in a horror movie (or most movies in general). The effects used for the body horror are amazing and disgusting. The movie definitely went a lot of places that I was not expecting. One of the great things about doing these reviews is getting to see stuff that I could not have imagined and this movie had it in spades. I would recommend it but it is not for the squeamish.


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