Posts Tagged ‘Movie Review’

Blood Dolls (1999) A Spoiler-Filled Rundown

February 6, 2023

Written, Directed, and Produced by Charles Band under his Full Moon Features banner, this movie is a great example of the weirdness Band has always churned out. His movies do not worry about making sense and are instead full of wacky hijinks mixed with gruesome imagery. The movie went straight to video which was not abnormal for Full Moon Features which had been at the forefront of the VHS market before many companies had really figured it out. Of course, this was released on DVD. 

We start the movie in the twisted mansion of Virgil Travis. As the opening credits roll, we see a bit of Travis’ office as he prepares for a meeting. We see him pick up his mask and we also see the front page article from the Wall Street Tribune that details Travis Software’s loss in an Anti-Trust case. The paper estimates that Travis Software lost a billion dollars because of the court ruling. Two attorneys who worked on this case arrive outside of the mansion. The guy, Howard Loftus, is understandably nervous about seeing their client but the woman, Cindy Agami, tells him that she can handle Mr. Travis. However, she does have to spout some exposition at him as they enter. Cindy tells him that Mr. Travis is eccentric and to not be alarmed if there is a dwarf and/or clown inside. Also, don’t be alarmed if there is an all-female rock band in a cage. These are Mr. Travis’ personal rock band. Also, don’t be alarmed that Mr. Travis always wears a mask. 

As they reach the door, Mr. Travis speaks over an intercom (did he hear them talking?) and asks if it is Cindy. When she confirms her identity, the door is opened by Mr. Mascaro. Mr. Mascaro is dressed like a butler in a suit but also has full-face clown makeup. He acts sternly and not clownlike at all. He invites the attorneys in and leads them down to Mr. Travis’ office. Howard bumps into a dwarf named Hylias who is surly. Inside a cage, four young women are fighting amongst themselves. Cindy greets them as Cotton Baby, Razor Baby, Black Baby, and Shirley. They are a band called Caged Babies. Shirley tells Cindy that Mr. Travis has a surprise planned for the attorneys. Cindy doubts that Mr. Travis could surprise her anymore.

The two attorneys are summoned into Mr. Travis’ office. Mr. Travis invites them to sit down and has Hylias shock the Caged Babies to get them to play Song #3. Mr. Travis shows off his new acquisition, two dolls. He holds up Pimp and Cindy remarks how racist it looks (and it does look like a very racist depiction of a black pimp stereotype). Mr. Travis brushes off the comment and admits that he is indeed racist. After Mr. Travis shows off the second doll, Howard comments that they look strangely familiar. Mr. Travis mentions his displeasure at them losing the case. Cindy says to blame the judge and the federal prosecutor instead. Travis activates a switch that restrains the attorneys in their chairs. Mr. Travis reveals that three competitors are behind Travis’ ruination. He will get his revenge.

Travis kills Howard horribly in his chair as Cindy, Mr. Travis, and Mr. Travis’ henchmen watch. Mr. Travis takes off his mask and reveals that his head is much smaller than his body. He was genetically engineered by his mother Eugenia. Travis orders Mascaro to put Cindy in a machine. The machine compresses a human body into a doll form. He reveals that the two dolls that they saw before, Pimp and Sideshow, are the judge and the federal prosecutor. Cindy is compressed into the racist doll Ms. Fortune as the Caged Babies play Song #7. 

We cut to a meeting of the three competitors of which Mr. Travis spoke. Mercy Shaw, George Warbeck, and Harrison Yulin (accompanied by his wife Moira) are toasting their success. Virgil Travis and Mr. Mascaro are spying on the meeting through a camera drone. Mr. Mascaro comments that Harrison seems like an idiot but Travis claims that it is a disguise as Harrison was the mastermind. The meeting breaks up and Mr. Travis complains that some countermeasures keep him from spying on the upstairs. No matter. Mr. Mascaro and the dolls will kill Harrison Yulin and his compatriots.

We cut to the Yulin bedroom where it is revealed that Moira is actually the mastermind behind everything. She has Harrison in a highly unbalanced BDSM relationship where she manipulates him into doing whatever she wants, usually through pain and humiliation. She reveals that the Yulins bribed the federal prosecutor and judge who have now been murdered (actually turned into dolls). Moira reveals that she expects Mr. Travis to attempt to murder them next and also reveals that she has secretly had several people murdered to further their own goals. Harrison was oblivious to all of this. If Travis kills Warbeck and Shaw, that will actually be beneficial for the Yulins as it will allow them to acquire their shares. 

Travis sics Mascaro and the dolls on Warbeck. Mascaro shows up at the Warbeck estate without his makeup on and poses as a repairman. Mascaro remotely shuts the power off in the estate which eliminates the security grid. Mascaro intercepts their call for repair and shows up. He unleashes the dolls inside the mansion. The dolls work together to murder Warbeck as Mascaro murders a security guard to prevent him from saving Warbeck. The dolls then murder another security guard.

Mr. Travis once again spies on the Yulin residence. Harrison Yulin and Mercy Shaw are meeting. Moira is guiding Harrison through an earpiece.  Mercy is planning on leaving town to flee from Travis’ wrath. Harrison offers to buy out her shares. Mr. Travis still wants to kill Mercy Shaw even though she is out of the game. Travis also hears Harrison say the words “coming up” and ponders over it.

Upstairs, Moira berates Harrison once again. She reveals that she planted cameras in Warbeck’s mansion. The recordings reveal the existence of the dolls through still images. 

Mr. Travis continues to ponder the meaning of “coming up” and sends Mascaro and the dolls to kill Mercy Shaw. Hylias has the band play Song #4. At Mercy Shaw’s mansion, she loads into a freight elevator. Her security has arranged several identical vehicles to leave alongside her to confuse attackers. The power cuts out and Mercy and her guards are killed in the elevator between floors. 

We cut back to the Yulin residence where Moira is whipping Harrison as she talks with him. She is already in the process of acquiring the shares of their former partners, Warbeck and Shaw. Harrison worries that they are the next targets but Moira reminds him that she looks like a civilian in this war and Harrison would be Travis’ target. Both the Yulins’ and Travis’ security are so high that neither could hope to successfully attack. A stalemate. Moira refuses to give up.  The dolls attempt to attack the Yulin mansion but Pimp gets burned by a fire trap. 

Back at the Travis mansion, Pimp receives healing. Mascaro reveals that the Yulin defenses are impregnable and the design of the defenses reveals that the Yulins know about the dolls. Meanwhile, Moira has shown up at the Travis mansion. Travis is thrown off by her arrival and her desire to meet with him. He asks Mascaro to locate her vehicle. Travis goes to meet Moira with his mask on. Travis suspects that Moira’s presence is part of a plot by Harrison and tells Moira as much. Travis then guesses correctly that Moira actually came on her own. Moira asks for an armistice. She flatters Travis who is taken by her beauty and her wit as they recite poetry and philosophy at each other. Travis declares that Moira will not be harmed when Travis attacks.

The dolls have been loaded into Moira’s limousine and return with her to the Yulin mansion. Travis sends Mr. Mascaro to pick the dolls up and make sure the job is done as the Caged Babies play Song #10. 

Moira was impressed by Virgil Travis but she also claims that Travis was smitten with her. Moira says goodbye to Harrison, saying that his usefulness has come to an end. She already has the necessary signed documents to own everything Harrison owns. Moira leaves as the dolls enter and murder Harrison in a BDSM rack contraption. Moira watches the dolls start to leave (proving that Travis was sparing her) and she captures them in a cage. 

She calls Travis and acts scared and accuses him of lying about sparing her as she acts like the dolls are attacking her. Travis confesses to killing her husband and calls off the dolls over the phone which Moira records. Travis realizes that Moira was the mastermind all along. Travis is heartbroken by Moira’s betrayal and hangs up the phone. He admits to himself that he had fallen for Moira and is angry that she used him. He vows revenge. He has the band play Song #1.

Moira talks to the dolls in her office and muses over her victory. She also plans to surprise Mr. Travis saying “surrender is victory”. Mr. Travis calls and requests a meeting in a public place. Moira turns that down and agrees to come to the Travis mansion. This is convenient for their plan to ambush Moira. This change perplexes Travis.

Moira arrives at the Travis mansion once again and is led to speak with Mr. Travis. Moira explains that she put herself in Mr. Travis’ power to make a deal. She presents Travis with all of the evidence that Travis was involved in the murders. She also signs over her company and signs a confession of the murder of Harrison. She offers up her life to Virgil Travis. She offers marriage to Travis. She also offers to mother his children, creating a dynasty together. The two of them together could do so much better. Her death would return him to the status quo but their union could make them lords of the Earth. Virgil agrees to the marriage. Mr. Mascaro is ordained to perform the ceremony. 

We cut to the wedding in Virgil Travis’ office. Mr. Mascaro performs the brief ceremony and they are married. Travis removes his mask and reveals his tiny head. The sight shocks Moira and revulsion spreads across her face. The dolls maim her legs and Hylias ties her up. Travis declares that he did not like what was under Moira’s metaphorical mask either. His life is no longer pleasant. He resolves to kill himself and his entire staff with toxic death. Mr. Mascaro and Hylias declare their loyalty and agree to go down with their boss. The dolls free the Caged Babies who get their revenge on Hylias. The band carries the dolls out of the mansion and they escape in Mr. Mascaro’s truck.

The movie stops cold and Mr. Mascaro tells us that this is only one of two endings to the movie. They will now show the second ending.

In this ending, the Caged Babies are released to attend the wedding. They still assault Hylias but are threatened to behave by Mr. Mascaro and a machine gun. They play the processional. Mr. Mascaro marries Moira and Virgil in another brief ceremony. Once again, Virgil removes his mask to kiss the bride. Moira is surprised by Virgil’s small head but this time she speaks eloquently about falling in love with Travis. She is surprised by how much she cares for him. They are both marvels and monsters and are meant for one another. Now the world has something to really worry about. The band plays a final song over the credits.

This movie is absolutely insane and that is why I love it. It was anything but formulaic and a lot of the acting is way better than you would expect from a B-Movie. In particular, Kristopher Logan (Virgil Travis) and Debra Mayer (Moira Yulin) have amazing performances. This is also surprising because it was Mayer’s first film. I could listen to the two of them talk to each other for hours. There are also no good guys in this movie. The Caged Babies are prisoners but also revel in Cindy Agami’s “death”. There is nothing to cheer on except the movie itself and what depths it will descend into. It is an atypical horror movie. The deaths mostly include filthy rich people who maintain their wealth through unscrupulous means. That makes it almost a perfect movie for me.


X (2022)

October 31, 2022

There seems to be a long history of sexual repression in horror. I think that comes from people (and not just religious people) who equated sex with immorality. If the aim was not a baby, the sex was sinful. Even masturbation is seen by some as unhealthy and unbecoming of a person’s mental and spiritual health. However, a lot of human bodies are wired to desire sexual satisfaction and that is just how a lot of us are put together. Limiting sexual congress to just reproduction would eliminate a lot of what sex is. Taking all of that way would suck the joy out of life. Sure, society can let itself get out of hand when it comes to sex but getting rid of it will never be the correct or healthy solution. People need to have fun because enjoying life is kind of the point. You do not have fun to make work feel better, you work to make fun possible. There is nothing immoral about enjoying yourself if nobody is getting hurt.

We do see it a lot in horror, though. Scream was kind of the first mainstream movie that put it out there in words but characters in horror are punished for having sex. That is one of the “rules” put forward in that franchise because it existed long before the nineties. Famously, Pamela and Jason Voorhees tended to punish people for having sex because that distraction led to Jason’s drowning. Norma Bates taught her son Norman that sex was sinful and that all women were whores and therefore distractions from a righteous past. The point of this seems to be so that the audience can see a sex scene but also see these characters get punished. The audience feels better about it because nobody got away with it. It is a transactional kind of morality where people can enjoy things that are “bad” if the ledger is then balanced. 

The first thing I noticed was the setting, I have been to these wide-open rural settings before and they are peaceful but also unsettling. This means that I also noticed the always-excellent A24 cinematography. This is a film company that makes every frame a painting but Ti West, Eliot Rockett, and their team did an exceptionally good job. A lot of period imagery from the dying gasps of the 1970s which always feels dirty to me. Must be the film grain. The gore is so good with plenty of juicy red blood and the prosthetics they use really look great. When you are making a grounded horror film, the violence has to be grounded too. This limits the cartoonishness of it but also allows for more brutality in a way. The kills are mean in the best ways. I really loved the slow slip of tone from warm and fun to cold and scary.

I am far from the first person to say it but Mia Goth is an amazing actress and plays two different roles in this movie. She is likable as the audience’s point of view character and scary as the hardened farm woman. Brittany Snow is fun as the sexy blonde bombshell who is smarter than she seems. Martin Henderson is great as the fast-talking leader of the outfit who seems to get by on his sheer force of will. Jenna Ortega is cute as the young girl way out of her depth. Scott Mescudi’s sarcastic humor and lightness help keep things moving along. Owen Campbell is good as the nerdy film buff who is excited to finally be making something big. I like the chemistry among the cast, they really feel like people I would love to hang out with. 

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was a really interesting story and had some amazing visuals. The blood was a lot of fun and the scares were definitely earned. I loved the duality of the villain and the heroine of the movie being played by the same actress. I also liked that the message of the movie was way more sex-positive and honest than horror usually is. I definitely recommend this movie and I look forward to the prequel and sequel.

The Blob (1988)

October 28, 2022

Most accounts of alleged visits from space aliens seem to imply the intelligence of the creatures from beyond the Earth. If true, alien abductions and the existence of advanced spacecraft capable of feats far beyond Earthbound planes or shuttles would definitely indicate an advanced intelligence equal to or beyond our own. Most science fiction stories follow this thinking. Aliens have either malicious or benevolent designs on the citizens or creatures of Earth. Humanity’s response to those incursions drives those stories. However, the assumption that all alien life that may reach our planet is intelligent is kind of silly in retrospect. Even the assumption that aliens are remotely humanoid seems to be a reach. What if the aliens are thoughtless and formless and driven only to consume? We got some of that in The Stuff but these types of movies still seem to be in the minority.

There are plenty of things born on Earth that would qualify as something alien to us although we hardly notice them. For example, there are 900 species of slime mold in the world. Slime molds are a collection of amoeba-like creatures bound together in a sheath of protoplasm. This seemingly simple configuration has actually exhibited surprising behavior. One study in 1989 indicates that slime mold communicates information similarly to neurons in animals. This seems to indicate that slime molds react and explore their environment in a manner similar to us human beings. Another study indicates that slime molds naturally form themselves into information pathways resembling a traffic pattern. This again indicates that slime molds exhibit behavior that helps them be more efficient. Of course, while slime mold can move around, they do not eat animals let alone humans.

The first thing I noticed was the name of Tony Gardner in the credits. I had no prior knowledge that he was a part of this. Tony Gardner is a legendary designer and has been part of the Chucky franchise for decades (among other things, of course). The small town setting is absolutely great and reminds me of a lot of towns that I have driven through (and one that I lived in). Gardner’s effects are absolutely terrifying. There is a reason why this movie is often listed on lists for the worst body horror scenes. There are so many good scenes of absolutely heinous and brutal damage to human bodies. Seriously, I am impressed at how many ways they figured out to have people die. The creature looks really good and I really like its movement. It makes me want to research how they did it all. 

The acting is very charming and reminds me of the wholesomeness of small-town living. Everybody does not love each other but they know each other. Kevin Dillon plays the tough biker delinquent and reluctant hero with a heart of gold. He is instantly likable in that Marty McFly kind of way. Shawnee Smith plays the sweet and innocent small-town girl who has had enough. Their chemistry together is really good and helps carry the non-Blob parts of the movie.  Jeffrey DeMunn plays the small-town sheriff who is suspicious of everybody. Del Close plays the town pastor and is almost comic relief. Joe Seneca plays the almost comically kind government scientist. The rest of the cast is just really good at being good character actors who fill out the world of the town. 

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was a really simple story but the special effects and the tension were both fantastic. I do not watch a ton of science fiction horror but this proved that maybe I should change that. This was a rollercoaster of a movie with plenty of surprises but also charming. I recommend this movie.

The Dark Half (1993)

October 26, 2022

A lot of people have a darker side to them. I certainly do. However, writers often have an interesting relationship with their particular brand of darkness. One thing that a lot of writers will be familiar with is being guarded about one’s tabs in Internet browsers. We tend to research a lot of weird things while we are in the midst of writing. I would think that horror and mystery writers would probably be the most extreme. There might be tabs open that detail how to commit murders, how to mix poisons, and all sorts of details that would normally be swimming around in the head of a serial killer. We have to research these things to maintain the integrity of the writing. If we get the details wrong, it could take somebody out of their immersion in the story and ruin the narrative. Of course, a lot of this research does not make it onto the actual page. It is a tightrope to make sure you get it right but also do not provide detailed instructions on how to murder somebody.

Related to those decisions is how dark we let our characters get. Villains have been part of the story narrative since the very beginning. However, if you let the villain go too dark, you could turn off a large part of your audience. There are movies that I have reviewed for this blog that I would not show a large portion of the people I know in person (looking at you Terrifier). People have different sensibilities and connect differently to darkness, violence, and other negative energies. Some writers will get upset when you critique them for going too far. “Well, that’s what the character wanted to do,” They’ll say. “It’s not me doing it.” I understand that characters can be voices inside your head and want to speak up for themselves and guide their story. However, the writer is and must be ultimately in control of the story. They need to rein in the villain if they get out of control. For example, Michael Myers does not kill children but the characters in Beware, Children at Play do. This is something the writer has to get a handle on if they want to please their audience.

The first thing I noticed is how psychological and creepy this movie was going to be. The strange build and ominous tone are set up right away. The practical effects are creepy and I am not sure how some of them were accomplished. The wildlife effect in particular had me really creeped out early on. The practical effects for gore, later on, are really well done and are on par with a good crime show, I would say. This movie does a lot with tone, build, and a little bit of music making for a more traditional psychological horror movie. There are plenty of jump scares but they feel earned instead of cheap. A lot is done with the correct framing and timing of things. 

The acting is great in that dreamy Stephen King kind of way. Timothy Hutton plays the lead, a writer-turned-teacher and he is as magnetic and charming as he always is. Amy Madigan plays his wife and she is so clever and fun. Robert Joy steals scenes with his manic performance. Kent Broadhurst and Rutanya Alda play a comedy team in the bodies of literary agents. Glenn Colerider plays a goofy photographer, backwoodsy and full of humor. The way the villain is done is just so perfect and menacing. I do not want to give it away but they did such a great job. Michael Rooker plays the now legendary Sheriff Pangborn who delivers the part with a gruff yet sarcastic sensibility. Royal Dano (in his last role) is so perfect as the stereotypical confused and dusty gravedigger. 

Overall, I really liked this movie. It is very dramatic and spooky in a cerebral kind of way instead of a visceral way. It helps that the movie was directed by the legendary George Romero who has a real eye for creepiness and tension. It is important to remember that Romero could do more than just zombie movies and this movie is definitely proof. King and Romero have worked together before and their sensibilities seem to match up even though Romero leans quite a bit more left. I recommend this movie as it went places that I did not expect and was fairly spooky.

(A note: I was unaware that Timothy Hutton was accused of sexual assault two years ago before I chose and watched this movie. He was cleared of all charges by Canadian police but, if the claim was indeed true, his behavior is and was unacceptable.)

Here Comes Hell (2019)

October 24, 2022

I absolutely hate parties as they give me anxiety. I have a lot of bad memories of being at a party and just trying to make it through. If I know people there, I have the bad habit of hanging near the only people I know. I just get anxious around groups of people in a less-than-casual setting. I much prefer a barbecue or a hangout session where there is no pressure and nobody feels they have to put on a show for everybody else. My friend group’s hangouts are low-key and tame and that is the way that I like it. I can sit and chat about geeky stuff with people I know and trust. I remember being forced to attend dinner parties growing up. It was usually with my parents’ friends whose kids I really did not enjoy hanging out with. It was fancy and I’m not really into fancy. The worst was college parties where I was the only sober one. A friend told me that the best medication for my anxiety is to drown it in alcohol and I am so glad I never went down that road. I could have easily become addicted and I would be in a poor state now if I was still alive.

It is even worse when you add in the wealthy. I have been to parties thrown by rich people and they are almost never much fun unless you can find somebody who is not uptight (and good luck with that). I grew up middle class and I am privileged to have had the life that I have. I feel extra privileged to have grown up that way as I feel like I am more easily satisfied. Rich people pay so much money to get things “just so”. I much prefer a good potluck with stuff that humans actually eat. I also do not really connect with the world of the rich. We have very different political views, cultural touchstones, and focuses in life. I can fake it for a while but I want to be relaxed and comfortable, not uptight and worried about what other people are thinking about me.

The first thing I noticed was that the movie is a tribute to old-school horror and 1930s movies in general. Small spoiler, the movie begins with a warning announcement for people of weaker dispositions to turn back. The movie is in black and white which is a novelty for a movie made in 2019. They even got the rear-projected driving scenes in there. The movie is a slow burn spending plenty of time on a comedy of manners and the relationships between the main characters. The movie’s sound design is especially good with loud sound effects and a very noticeable string instrument score that highlights the tense parts. The set design is very interesting as well as we are in an old broken-down mansion. The gore is very good in a very cartoony way that still manages to be scary. 

I loved the intentionally hammy acting which again mimics the older days of horror and thrillers. It is definitely acting of a time when people were shifting over from the world of vaudeville and theater. A lot of the actors speak with an exaggerated and accentuated high-class British accent which really feels like Universal Pictures. Jessica Webber is our point of view character, the one working class person and she is soft and likable. By contrast, Margaret Clunie is brash and clashes with everybody. Timothy Renouf plays a too-cool-for-school tennis player who is all too interested in having fun and keeping up appearances. Charlie Robb plays the goofball life of the party who is constantly stirring the pot. Tom Bailey plays the gruff American, a tough guy with a soft spot. When things go down, the acting gets even hammier and I loved it. It reminded me of Evil Dead 2 or Return of the Living Dead.

Overall, I loved this movie. It could have succumbed to being just the black-and-white/retro gimmick but it managed to be more than that. There were some really spooky moments that definitely gave me pause. The exaggerated nature of the acting made people unpredictable in a crisis. There were also a lot of little surprises that were eye-opening. I recommend this movie.

Feast (2005)

October 21, 2022

I do not have a ton of bar experience. I am not a big drinker nor a lover of being in a public space. Of course, despite these two things, I have spent quite a bit of time in bars. In my late teenage years, I hung around with an older community theater crowd called the Mobtown Players. They were in their thirties and I was in my teens. I hung out in bars with them even though I was not allowed to drink. My mother trusted them and me and they assured her that they would never let me drink underage. Later, I spent time in one particular bar in college both before and after I was old enough to drink. It was a dive bar named Dolls that unfortunately was not full of dolls of any kind. I usually retreated to a less populated corner and clung to what friends I could find. I nursed one beer to look like I belonged. Even later, I hung out in another dive bar for pub trivia. Again, I did not really drink but having an activity made bar visits more tolerable.

How much do you think that you can rely on strangers in public when bad things happen? I would like to think that I could rely on people that I have never met. Unfortunately, the statistics are against me on that. First, we have the bystander effect which says that bystanders will generally just watch something bad happen and none of them will act because they assume somebody else already did or is about to. Am I any different? No. I have never stopped on the side of the road to ask a stranded motorist if they need help. I generally freeze when a crissis hits. However, I like to think that if things truly became life or death, I would leap into action and everybody would join me. Obviously, I hope I never find out.

The first thing I noticed was the comedy of the movie with a lot of meta humor and goofy 2000s flavor. This is an ensemble piece with almost everybody getting a nickname instead of their actual name. The dialogue is comically cliched but in the best ways. Navi Rawat plays the lead, a stereotypical final girl with sass and grit. Jason Mewes plays himself and is just as goofy as usual. Judah Friedlander is full of comic relief slapstick and is just as sarcastic as he usually is. Henry Rollins plays a douchebag tough guy. Clu Galager plays the tough-as-nails old bartender. Eric Dane is the tough hero-type guy. Jenny Wade plays the dumb blonde waitress. Balthazar Getty plays an asshole bar fly while Josh Zuckerman plays his nice brother. 

This is a pretty gory movie in both senses of the word. There is a lot of over-the-top gore and all of it is really fun to watch. Think of movies like Evil Dead 2 or Dead Alive. The practical effects are great and they are obviously doing a lot with animatronics and prosthetics. There are also plenty of other fluids flying around. The cast gets pretty gross pretty quickly. The monsters look really great with some varying designs and all of them are something you absolutely do not want to see in a dark alley. I also really like what we get to see of the monster lore because they are absolutely wild. There is some real nastiness and this movie is pretty cruel to its cast of characters.

Overall, I liked this weird movie. It takes a lot of elements and tropes of the under-siege horror movie and turns them on their ear while also playing some of them deadly straight. The result is a movie that does not take itself too seriously but also ends up being fairly bleak while also being funny. It is an innovative script with a lot of actors who are willing to play it to the hilt. I recommend this but not for the squeamish.

The Fog (1980)

October 19, 2022

You would think with me growing up and only living on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States of America, I would have more experience with fog. I definitely saw my share of it. We would get morning fog sometimes but I do not remember it happening too often. The visibility was usually not so bad and it was more of a novelty than anything that really hindered us. I saw more fog when I went to summer camp up in the Poconos Mountains. The first time that I was in fog that really scared me was driving home from West Virginia during a particularly warm Christmas season. The visibility was so low that we could not see much beyond a few feet. It was daunting. At any moment, something could appear in front of us and cause us to crash. Yet, we could not stop because we feared getting hit from behind. I have experienced this a few more times and it is truly a white-knuckle situation.

Being a well-educated and well-read white person of European descent, I am very familiar with having to bury your shameful past. Europeans and Americans in particular have done a lot of nasty things that the people of today are not proud of. Europe and America started the slave trade of African people which led to literally unknowable amounts of bloodshed and death. Europeans and then Americans engaged in a centuries-long campaign to destroy the natives of the American continents. Europeans divided up the African continent and destroyed much of their culture and political autonomy. Human beings with power have had a long history of paying for their good fortune with the blood of people with less leverage. They are true historical horrors that keep getting repeated.

The first thing I noticed was how atmospheric the movie is with its lighting, shadows, and sound. This is not something about a movie made by John Carpenter. The creepiness of technology going haywire will always get me. There is a long history of ghosts apparently being able to manipulate or interact with manmade technology. They did a great job with the titular fog, making it move like a living thing. There is not much gore but the kills are still frightening especially with the absolutely brutal sounds that accompany them. I definitely imagine something absolutely horrible, probably more than prosthetics could do. Besides, this is a ghost story, not a gore story. There is a lot of great build to the movie. While I love horror movies that are nonstop chaos, ones that are slow-motion oncoming car wrecks are just as enjoyable.

Jamie Lee Curtis is so much fun and you can see the humor and brassy demeanor that has served her well in her career. She is so far removed already from her roles in Halloween, Prom Night, and Terror Train. Adrienne Barbeau is absolutely great, funny but she also has that raspy, sexy radio voice. This is her first film role and she killed it. Charles Cyphers has a warm and fun voice and is great to listen to as a meteorologist. Tom Atkins is the male lead, a somewhat goofy guy who is serious when the chips are down. Janet Leigh plays the uptight town leader for whom everything must be perfect. Hal Holbrook is great as the down-to-earth town priest with a conscience. Nancy Kyes (then Nancy Loomis) is great as the sassy personal assistant who takes no shit. 

Overall, I loved this movie. You have three legendary scream queens in one movie and all of them get time to shine. The story is spooky and also is a morality tale, one that we can all learn from. The blood that we built our society on has a cost even if it is not our lives. I recommend this movie.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2022)

October 17, 2022

Viral challenges and horror became entwined a long time ago. Most of these challenges are intended for children and have instructions full of arcane steps that have to be taken in order to touch the world of the supernatural. Pretty much all of them sound like bad ideas. For example, the Elevator Game aka The Elevator to Another World became a bit of a thing on the Internet. Operating an elevator up and down in a certain sequence is said to unmoor the passenger from reality. It brings players into possible contact with extradimensional beings in an alternate dimension. There are plenty of hoaxes/fun games like this floating all over the online experience. More recently were things like the so-called Momo Challenge (a hoax) and the Charlie Charlie game (a divination method). All of this existed before the Internet. Just look at Light as a Feather, the Ouija Board, and so on. People are good at scaring themselves.

Isolation can be really tough. Personally, I spent a lot of time after I graduated from college alone when I moved to rural New Jersey. That was actually close to the time when I started this blog partially as a way to reach out to the world. I worked in a small town and, outside of work, I had exactly one friend who I hung out with who was also a loner. I spent a lot of time connected to the Internet and I made friends there, few of which I ever met in person. In fact, a lot of them were people I talked to only via text. When I did some online gaming, I did end up getting on voice chat but it was IRC for a long time. That connection helps but it relies on other people taking time out of their busy lives to talk to you. In-person meet-ups are a little anxiety-inducing but are healthy and make me feel less lonely. A person in that isolated state can definitely start to lose it.

The first thing I noticed was how natural things seemed with the movie unconcerned with opening like a normal movie. The acting is immediately striking. The cast is super tiny which blew my mind since I did not know that going in. Anna Cobb plays the lead and she is instantly mesmerizing and almost tragic. This is Anna Cobb’s first feature-length film (she is 19 years old but feels a lot younger) and she really knocked it out of the park. There are several real and fake YouTube videos throughout the movie which do a great job of illustrating what being online a lot is like. It also made me see that ASMR videos can be really creepy in the wrong context.  There are also a few voices from off-camera like the girl’s emotionally distant father. The only other real character is another streamer played by Michael J. Rogers whose dialogue is clumsy and awkward. The two have a sort of charming anti-chemistry together. 

I guess you would qualify parts of this movie as found footage as we see through the webcam at a streamer both as they are online and in the moments before and after. Like Host, this shot is absolutely claustrophobic and I was fully confronted by the actress in my face. The camera intentionally frames the screens that the main character watches as far away, really accentuating that feeling of isolation. When we are brought outside of her room she is still alone. Sometimes the spaces are bright but a lot of them are dark and cave-like. There are very few special effects in this movie. There are a lot of crazy practical effects and a lot just done with acting. It is rare to see a horror movie go all in on such a bleak psychological horror concept. It makes it hard to look away.

Overall, I  really liked this movie. It does a lot with isolation and anticipation. You are never really given an explanation of what is and is not happening. There are so many scenes where you are waiting for something to happen. That anticipation is more where the fear is than anything that happens but do not get me wrong there are plenty of creepy happenings in this movie. This is also Director Jane Schoenbrun’s first feature-length movie and I would love to see more from them. I recommend this movie.

Saloum (2021)

October 14, 2022

A crisis is almost always scary. When I have a sudden departure from routine, it causes me great anxiety. This is the J for “Judging” in my personality type of INTJ (The Architect ooh la la). It causes me to be upset with changes in plans which is something I have had to work on in my life. Beyond that, when really bad things happen, it is hard to recover and go with the flow. When a real crisis hits, our fight or flight response kicks in. I am definitely a flight kind of guy myself when I’m not freezing up. I am sometimes envious of the rare people who can immediately jump into action, channeling that fight or flight into constructive activities. These are the people who become first responders. Everybody is scared in a crisis, some are just better at hiding it.

The desert is something that is somewhat foreign to me and therefore scary. I live on the east coast of the United States of America so deserts are just not something I see often. I do remember visiting deserts when my folks took us on trips to Arizona. We went a few times and it was wild to see. It was the kind of environment where it was drilled into me that I was to keep water on me and stay with the group or else. It can be a hard thing to fathom. I compare it to the first time I saw the ocean, something that is old hat to me now. It just keeps going. The idea of being out there, just like in the ocean, and having nothing terrifies me. It reminds me of that story I heard of people’s GPS devices leading them out into the desert so far that they ran out of gas.

The first thing I noticed was the excellent score that utilizes both traditional instruments and modern stylings as well. The music lent a sense of urgency to situations that already have urgency in war-torn Guinea-Bissau and the vast emptiness of Senegal. Scene transitions are announced by the gunshot sound, keeping me on my toes.  The cinematography is so beautiful, helped by wonderful landscapes and intimate locales. There are some very artistic shots in this movie that quite honestly took my breath away. There is a really excellent slow burn to this movie which I really enjoyed because it never dragged. Every moment left me wanting the next moment to come to solve the mystery. That mystery went to places that I was not prepared for and did not expect. The special effects are also really well done.

The movie is partly in French and partly in the tribal language of the Wolof. The three main actors have great chemistry together and I really liked their interactions. I also really loved the look of them, their interesting style as mercenaries who can dress as they wish. It is nice to have a charming cast to lean on in the non-scary parts so you care about them in the scary parts. There are also some really calm yet poetic scenes that are very intriguing. The rest of the cast is some sort of cooperative for artists and they are sassy and fun. The whole cast is made up of people I would want to have dinner and drinks with. The main character, played by Yann Gael, is especially good. He speaks volumes sometimes without saying a single word. 

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was surprising in a lot of ways. Although it had a lot of horrific moments and definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, it also felt very deep. It has a lot to say about African culture, specifically in the Senegalese region. The mythology was new to me but felt so solid. I was left saying “damn!” at the end of the movie. I recommend this movie.

Vampires vs. The Bronx (2020)

October 12, 2022

Gentrification is a tricky issue. Gentrification is caused by wealthy people moving into a neighborhood and improving it by attracting new businesses and buildings. There are both pros and cons to gentrification depending on where one sits in the community. Unsurprisingly, most of the benefits come to people who are already rich. Property owners are the main beneficiaries. Gentrification improves property values. This makes the property they own even more valuable should they ever want to sell. This in turn attracts new businesses to cater to the richer clientele which makes the neighborhood even nicer. The increased property values leads to increased property taxes which benefits area civic services. However, people of lower incomes can’t afford the increased property values and property taxes. They also can’t afford the services offered by stores designed for rich people. The rich get richer, the poor find a new place to live.

The danger of vampires has always been that they can exist in plain sight. Most vampires in modern tales look very human. Maybe they are a bit pale and their teeth are a bit odd but people always dismiss these things as superficial. For example, in the classic tale of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jonathan Harker arrives and meets with the famous count. He does not immediately think of him as a monster on sight. Harker thinks the count is eccentric but Dracula is also rich so it is easy to brush aside such behavior since Harker is getting paid. In subsequent tellings, Dracula is much more immaculate about his appearance and comes off as a well-coifed gentleman. A predator such as a vampire gains nothing from being obvious about their nature.

The first thin I noticed was great cinematography as we pay loving homage to the cultural beauty and heritage of old-school New York City. The dark shadows of the night are so beautiful as electric lights try to compete with old architecture. The movie has a great eighties horror feel to it while still being set in the modern day. Real cities are dark when the sun goes down and this movie shows that without losing visibility. The settings are really gorgeous and display the love and affection for the rundown but not out neighborhoods of the Bronx. The mix of Black and Latinx communities is really showing in a lot of media lately and I am loving it. I really like how the vampire powers are depicted. Not too much but definitely scary as hell. The movie is largely bloodless 

The acting is so good. Jaden Michael plays the young boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and so smart. Gerald Jones III plays his comic relief best friend always up to some scheme. Gregory Diaz IV plays the anxious and excitable friend who is just trying to be a good boy. Imani Lewis is the playful social media star girl of the neighborhood. Coco Jones is the older girl with a lot of attitude. The Kid Mero also provides comic relief as the trio’s older friend who owns the neighborhood bodega.  The vampires are great, depicted either as hipsters or gold-playing white businessmen. Shea Whigham plays the lead vampire and a real schmuck. There are some great bit parts from Method Man, Chris Redd, Jeremie Harris, and Sarah Gadon.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It felt like a cool mix of In the Heights, Attack the Block, Fright Night, and the Lost Boys. There were more laughs than frights but it definitely had a spooky atmosphere throughout. There was a lot of heart in this movie and the characters were people I wanted to spend time with. The story has a lot of fun twists and turns mixed with some heartwarming and heartwrenching moments. I recommend this movie.

Scary Studies

Horror is fascinating.

The Hidden Message

klaatu barada nikto

Panorama of the Mountains

Liam Sullivan's Ideas and Reflections

Boccob's Blessed Blog

A gaming blog with an emphasis on D&D 5e

No Hate Only Snootboops

As Told By Carly

The Ramblings of a Geek Girl

Beyond the Flow

A Survivor's Philosophy of Life

Silvia Writes

Life is a story. Might as well write it.

The Bloggess

Like Mother Teresa, only better.

Damyanti Biswas

For lovers of reading, crime writing, crime fiction

%d bloggers like this: