Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Shrunken Heads (1994) A Spoiler-Filled Rundown

February 20, 2023

In the early 1990s, producer Charles Band was friends with Richard and his brother Danny Elfman. Yes, that Danny Elfman. Richard kept bugging Band to let him direct a movie for Full Moon Pictures. He came up with the concept for Shrunken Heads as superhero-loving teens who die and become the heroes that they idolized. On paper, it looked morbid but doable and definitely in line with Full Moon’s usual fare. Richard swore that he would get Danny to score the movie. At the time, Full Moon had made a distribution deal with Paramount which generally meant straight-to-video. However, Paramount came to Band and offered to make Shrunken Heads the first Full Moon theatrical release due to Danny Elfman’s name being attached. 

Predictably, Danny Elfman was busy with more important and more lucrative projects (probably Nightmare Before Christmas and Demon Knight) and so he only composed the main title theme. Charles Band’s brother/in-house composer Richard Band scored the rest of the movie. Paramount was still on board. Then came the screening for Paramount executives. It was only then that Band realized that the teenagers were cherubic 13-year-olds and having them slaughtered in the first third of the movie totally kills any universal appeal for the movie. Band likens it to murdering the main cast of Stranger Things after the first episode and then reanimating them. Traumatizing. In the end, Paramount passed on releasing the movie in theaters and Richard Elfman funded the LA theatrical release with his own money.

We begin the movie with vague chanting, a lot of smoke, and a vintage Danny Elfman track as the credits play. The picture coalesces eventually into a bubbling cauldron before we fade to a quiet street. We see Tommy Larson sweeping the floor of his family’s old-timey general store as his father tends to a customer. Tommy’s friend Bill Turner bursts through the door of the shop and tells him that Mr. Sumatra has the newest DC comics. On the way, they see a young kid riding his bike. This kid is accosted by some local greaser-style bullies called the Vipers led by Vinny. Tommy and Bill jump in to help the kid but the fight is actually broken up by a mechanic (?) who threatens the bullies with a wrench. Vinny’s girlfriend Sally has more sense and manages to convince Vinny to take his boys elsewhere. 

The three boys (from left): Bill, Freddie, and Tommy.

Tommy and Bill help the poor asthmatic kid off the ground and he introduces himself as Freddie Thompson, a new arrival to the neighborhood. The three, bonded by having experienced the same bully, continue together to Mr. Sumatra’s newsstand. The boys introduce Freddie to Mr. Sumatra. They buy comics and jellybeans and the boys tell Freddie that Mr. Sumatra was a policeman in Haiti and that’s why he’s so intense/weird. Freddie is introduced to comic books but the trio are interrupted by more bullying by Vinny and his gang. Tommy stands up for his friends but Mr. Sumatra intimidates the gang into walking away. The boys talk to Mr. Sumatra and ask for advice on how to deal with the gangs since he was a cop. He says that he would have run surveillance on the gang to inform on them.


The next day, Sally visits the Larson’s shop to apologize to Tommy but she also defends his behavior as the product of a bad home. However, Tommy says that’s no excuse and expresses incredulity that Vinny is her boyfriend. He is an asshole. Sally storms off and as she walks down the street, Vinny pulls up his car to give her a ride. She refuses to get in the car or talk to him except to chide him for his behavior toward the boys. As she passes Mr. Sumatra, he asks her if the gang is bothering her and she says to leave it alone. Instead, Mr. Sumatra casts a spell on Vinny’s car which causes it to crash with no injuries.

At night, the three boys finish up a strategy session where they worry about reprisal from Vinny’s gang. When Bill and Freddie leave, Sally calls on Tommy. She climbs the fire escape to talk to him. Sally tells Tommy that she is done with Vinny and that she likes somebody else now. It’s Tommy. As Tommy kisses Sally, Bill and Freddie contact him over a walkie-talkie. They have spotted the Vipers pulling apart a car on the street. Tommy jumps into action to film the crime in action. Sally warns him against going against the gang but he goes and gets Vinny and the gang on videotape. After the theft of car parts, the cops roll up on the Vipers as they walk away from the crime scene. Tommy swoops in to snitch to the cops and the Vipers are arrested on the spot.

Big Moe

We cut to a warehouse presumably full of stolen goods run by Big Moe, the androgynous leader of crime in the area. Big Moe is approached by Vinny who laments that his boys were all arrested. Vinny relates what Tommy did but Big Moe berates Vinny for turning soft. She tells Vinny to bring the three boys to the warehouse the following night and gives Vinny three grand for bail money. The next morning, Vinny bails out his boys and they go and snatch the three boys off of the street. They are taken to see Big Moe who warns them to keep their mouths shut. Tommy says that Vinny and his gang deserve to be in a cell. Big Moe offers the boys a job but Tommy turns it down. The boys are tied up in a storeroom where they break free from being tied up. They witness Big Moe bribing the local cops. They find stubs for a numbers racket in the storeroom. They steal the stubs and escape through the air vents. This, of course, loses Big Moe a lot of money.

The Boys brought before Big Moe

Big Moe goes to visit Vinny and tells him that the boys are Vinny’s problem. They direct Vinny to take the Vipers and gun down the three boys. In short order, Vinny and his boys catch the boys walking down the street with the stubs. They kill all three in cold blood, leaving them dead on the street. They retrieve the stubs and drive off. The whole neighborhood sees the aftermath of what went down. Vinny returns to Big Moe who congratulates him for doing so great. Vinny regrets having killed children which frightens Big Moe’s girl, Mitzi. Big Moe makes Vinny his right-hand man and in charge of collecting protection money.

Watching the bloody aftermath

Sally and Mr. Sumatra watch as the boys’ bodies are carried away. Sally tells Mr. Sumatra what happened and he comforts her as his gaze goes steely. We see the funeral where Mr. Sumatra pays his respects and offers condolences to Mr. Larson and Sally. In the night, Mr. Sumatra sneaks into the mortuary and steals the heads of the boys before they can be buried. In his cauldron, Sumatra performs vodoun magic.

Vinny confronts Sally on the street and offers condolences for Tommy. He acts like he had nothing to do with what happened to Tommy. Since nobody saw anything, nobody can prove anything. Vinny claims that he is going straight and going to night school. Mr. Sumatra passes them on the street and Vinny calls him a freak under his breath. Sally makes him apologize and he does. Sally is hurting but leaves the door open for a future with Vinny. 

Mr. Sumatra returns to his apartment where he is boiling the heads of the boys. He puts a dead cat in the pot with them. He works into the night on the rituals and when he is done, the now-shrunken heads come to life. The boys are disoriented and frightened. It is very gross and the boys express that they would rather be dead. Mr. Sumatra tells them that they have magical powers now. All of them can fly, Tommy can emit bolts of electricity, Bill can drink blood, and Freddie has a retractable blade from his mouth.

The three shrunken heads

One year later, we see that Vipers have full control of the neighborhood. The only one not paying protection money is Mr. Sumatra. Sumatra finally unleashes the shrunken heads on the neighborhood to fight crime. (Note: The movie is half over at this point)  The boys kill two muggers ruthlessly. On the way back, Tommyhead decides to visit Sally and he floats through her open window. He sees that she has not gotten over him and he leaves troubled before she wakes up. The three heads are summoned back to Mr. Sumatra who congratulates them on their crime fighting. Back in the alley, the muggers they killed rise as zombies. We see them start to pick up trash in the alley as they fart.

Vinny’s thugs shaking down Mr. Sumatra

We briefly see Sally watching the morning news where we find out that there is a sudden “illness” afflicting local criminals that includes a shuffling gate, a drop in blood pressure, and loss of bowel control. Vinny calls Sally to ask her on a date and she agrees. He has evidently convinced her of his sincerity to go straight. The problem is that he is calling her from Big Moe’s hideout. He is still lying to her. Vinny tells his boys to take care of Sumatra and get him in line. Vinny’s boys go to intimidate Mr. Sumatra into paying protection money. He intimidates them with magic and sends them running. He then sics the heads on them. The two gang members are murdered quickly and efficiently. They rise as zombies.

Mr. Sumatra

We briefly see Sally being pressured for sex by Vinny and when she delivers an ultimatum, he kicks her out of the car and she breaks up with him. Pissed off, Vinny goes to confront Sumatra. Sumatra calls Vinny “doomed one” and tells him that his friends are suffering in Hell. He points Vinny to the alleyway where his zombie friends are weeding the community garden in the middle of the night. They tell him that Mr. Sumatra wants to see him and he runs off scared.

Sally visits Tommy’s grave and apologizes for not telling him how she felt about him. She tells Tommy that she always loved him. Tommyhead swoops in and declares that he loves her too. When Sally rightfully freaks out, Tommy casts a spell that implants his own memories of the events after his death into her skull. She sees Vinny kill Tommy, the vodoun rituals, and the killings of the gang members. Tommy wants a last embrace so he slides up Sally’s shirt and bra and between her breasts before flying off. 

Sally goes to Mr. Sumatra and reveals that she knows everything. Sumatra confirms everything and Sally lectures him for letting her date Vinny for a year without telling her that Vinny is a killer. She objects to the treatment of the three boys but Sumatra says that the boys are no longer human and are fueled by vengeance. Sally defies this and says that Tommy is still a good person. Tommy apologizes for disgusting her. She opens her shirt and lets him nuzzle her breasts. Mr. Sumatra leaves them to have their privacy. We thankfully do not see any more of that.

One of the fart zombies

Vinny cowers in his apartment but the zombies come for him to take him to Sumatra. He fights them off and runs away. It is then that Vinny is finally confronted by the three heads who laugh at him as they repeat Mr. Sumatra’s invitation. 

Sally in her ceremonial vodoun gown

Mr. Sumatra and Sally are back at Sumatra’s apartment where she offers to help with the mission. He needs Sally’s help in a final spell. She agrees even though it means taking part in “capital punishment”.

Vinny reaches Big Moe and rants and raves about the shrunken heads and the zombies. Big Moe thinks Vinny is cracking up but Mr. Sumatra chooses that moment to enter, shooting a gang member point-blank in the head. He laughs as he unleashes the zombies and watches them beat the tar out of the criminals. Vinny begs Sally to call the undead off. When the heads go to attack Vinny, Mr. Sumatra reminds them that vengeance must occur at Sumatra’s apartment. That hesitation allows Big Moe to kidnap Sally and shoot Mr. Sumatra in the gut. 

Big Moe taking Sally hostage (with Vinny and Mitzi)

The zombies help Sumatra back into his car and they give chase. The heads assault Big Moe’s car with Vinny, Sally, and Mitzi inside. Big Moe is able to fight off two of the heads, shooting them, but Tommyhead crashes through the windshield and uses his lightning powers to incapacitate Vinny who was driving. The car crashes. In a standoff with Mr. Sumatra, Mitzi saves Sally from Big Moe. Mitzi is allowed to go free. Sally and Sumatra retrieve Billhead and Freddiehead. They will be revived. 

Big Moe and Vinny performing their priestess-ordered community service

In Mr. Sumatra’s condominium, Sumatra passes leadership of the heads to Sally who casts the revenge spell on Vinny and Big Moe as we cut away. We cut to Sally and Tommyhead looking lovingly at each other on the balcony before all three heads fly off into the city presumably to fight crime. In a post-credits scene, we see Mitzi out on a date where she happens upon a fully zombified Vinny and Big Moe cleaning up graffiti. 

Random things I noticed after two viewings:

  • There is a shower scene but it is a male that gets killed while naked
  • Everybody is underage and doing a lot of problematic things.
  • Mr. Sumatra asks 16-year-old Sally if her “maidenhead is still intact” then invites her into his bedroom to change clothes. Nobody thought this was wrong.
  • Meg Foster plays Big Moe and is definitely revealed to be AFAB but seems to present as butch. She has a girlfriend and also flirts a bit with Vinny. Lowkey bisexual representation in 1994.
  • It is not explained fully in the movie but Mr. Sumatra was part of the Tonton Macoute which is a paramilitary law enforcement agency answering directly to the president of Haiti. I won’t go into detail here but these were not good guys at all. They were scary as hell.
  • I didn’t catch the post-credits scene at the first viewing. If you miss it, you never see what happens to Vinny and Big Moe after a lot of foreshadowing from Mr. Sumatra.
  • There are a lot of what appears to be real tears from the youngest members of the cast which definitely feels like it goes against the light tone they were going for. 

Halloween: Infection

February 13, 2023

A lot of people were down on the film Halloween Ends at the end of the year 2022. The movie ended a four-year period in the Halloween franchise and the closure of a particular storyline in the franchise. In my experience, the last movie brought a lot of the previous movies into focus for me and really elevated the latest trilogy in my mind. I have to preface this with the fact that I have not really been a fan of the Halloween franchise. I remember seeing the first one as a kid and I loved Halloween 3 a lot. I have more recently started to consume the rest of the franchise and I now only have H20 and Resurrection to watch. 

There are spoilers after this point.

I feel like the central theme of the movie was the infection that true evil brings to people. Michael Myers is that true evil. One day he snapped and murdered his sister. Later, he murdered several more people and attempted to kill Laurie Strode. The killing spree and Laurie’s survival were the talk of the town and continued to be well-known even two generations later. Michael’s actions and the fear he inspired acted like an infection in the town of Haddonfield. Dr. Samuel Loomis tried to stem the flow of that infection by killing Michael but was prevented from doing so. Michael’s capture makes the infection recede but its effects remain in some form.

Laurie Strode

During the infamous rampage during Michael’s first breakout in 1978, Laurie was traumatized as she was stalked by Michael. She watched many of her friends get slaughtered. She feared for her life. Her exposure to the infection made her harder. She grew paranoid and prepared for the worst in life. The only way she could live and start her own family was to arm herself to the teeth and become a survivalist. She holds in that pattern for forty years even though Michael is well and truly locked up. In fact, she knows that Michael is inert but she cannot relax. She spreads that infection to her daughter and granddaughter by being overprotective which pushes them away. Still, she cannot help herself. Her reaction to Michael causes the main type of infection which is to become defensive and vindictive toward Michael, often to a fault.

Dr. Ranbir Sartain

Dr. Sartain was mentored by Dr. Loomis and therefore he heard a lot about Michael Myers as he became a respected doctor in the mental health field. However, long-term exposure to Michael  caused a second kind of reaction to Michael’s infection. He began to sympathize with The Shape and venerated him to a degree. He wanted to be what Michael was. Michael is powerful, deadly, and people are forced to fear and respect him. Sartain grew covetous of The Shape’s ability to spread fear. He was also obsessed with Michael’s interactions with his victims, specifically with the duality of Michael and Laurie. This obsession leads him to eventually snap and attack Deputy Hawkins to protect The Shape. However, he also briefly takes Michael’s mask wanting to be The Shape as well.

The Survivors (Halloween Kills)

In Halloween Kills, we meet up again with Tommy Doyle, Marion Chambers, Lindsey Wallace, and  Lonnie Elam. All of them are survivors of encounters with Michael similar to Laurie Strode. As such, they all have similar reactions to Michael’s infection to what Laurie experienced. Their encounters with Michael left them somewhat broken and their lives have obviously been difficult. Still, they are more functional in Haddonfield society than Laurie seems to be. During Michael’s second breakout, their reaction kicks into overdrive and they choose to be proactive and hunt Michael instead of act defensively as Laurie does. This reaction becomes more and more fanatical and eventually spreads to much of Haddonfield, creating a raving and violent mob out for Michael’s blood. The crowd turns violent, reckless, and passionate which only exacerbates the problem. This leads to many of their deaths. The survivors who remain are physically and mentally broken and live in fear, knowing Michael could return at any time.

Corey Cunningham

At the beginning of Halloween Ends, we are introduced to Corey through a flashback. Corey was the unfortunate victim of his own mistake combined with dumb luck. He accidentally kills a little boy that he is babysitting when he suffers a fear response. Part of that fear response is the little boy invoking the name of Michael Myers who had just attacked Haddonfield the year prior. When he is confronted with just the mere mention of Michael’s name, he is exposed to the infection on a lower level than others who directly interacted with Michael. However, he is treated similarly to Michael. His kill was accidental but he is ostracized and treated as evil. When he directly meets Michael and is spared at first, he has a similar reaction to Sartain. He seeks to use The Shape and then take The Shape’s power as his own. His madness grows and grows more and more unstable which is not like the dispassionate Michael.

As the franchise ends, Laurie Strode finally succeeds in killing Michael Myers. However, the Shape still remains and the town decides to finally remove the infection in Haddonfield. Michael’s body is obliterated, making it certain that he will never come back. Like in actual medical science, removing the infection clears the way for healing. Presumably, Laurie Strode and Haddonfield are finally able to start that process leading to what seems to be the franchise’s only happy ending.

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.

DC Comics Television and Film Wishlist

November 14, 2022

Since the announcement that James Gunn and Peter Safran were taking over as heads of DC Comics Film and Television, I have been more optimistic about what might be coming down the line. I decided to put together a little wishlist in no particular order of projects they could work on. The last time I did this, I apparently wished She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and Hawkeye into existence so my fingers are crossed. Some of these are repeats but with a different twist.

1. Birds of Prey 2 and/or Harley Quinn 2

I loved the Birds of Prey movie produced by Margot Robbie and directed by Cathy Yan. The movie was a roller coaster from start to finish. While Warner Brothers’ marketing would feel the need to change the name to Harley Quin: Birds of Prey, the movie introduced a lot of cool versions of classic characters. It is an absolute crime that this is not already a franchise. I would love to continue the madcap adventures of Harley. I like the idea of her flitting in and out of other people’s stories and there are a ton of heroes and villains she can mess with. I also want to see the continuing adventures of Black Canary, Renee Montoya, and Huntress. They could go on a lot of adventures together and there is a wealth of Birds of Prey comics to draw on. These actresses deserve better than being pushed aside for the Snyderverse.

2. Sandman Mystery Theater (TV Show)

Now that we have seen the success of the Netflix version of Sandman, it would be cool to see some of the possible offshoots and spinoffs connected to that world. One character that I have loved since I first read the above-titled comic is Wesley Dodds who was also known as the Sandman. Dodds was a wealthy eccentric who is haunted by strangely prophetic nightmares about the crime happening in his city. He would don a World War 1 style gas mask, three-piece suit, and trenchcoat. He uses some gadgets and traditional detective work to determine the truth of the crime. He carries a gas gun that ejects a sleeping gas or a gas that causes delirium and uninhibited truth from the subject. He fought the symptoms of societal problems like racism, nazism, classism, and mental illness. He did not kill. He was aided by Dian Belmont, the socialite daughter of the District of Attorney who used her connections and the fact that she was a woman to hear things to help Sandman save the day.

3. Batwoman (Season 4)

I have been thinking about this show lately since I watched the last episode produced. The show was canceled along with all of the other Arrowverse shows which are in the process of wrapping up. This show got a lot of initial buzz when Ruby Rose was cast as Batwoman, Kate Kane. The show had a compelling story and created a really neat world with excellent characters. When Ruby Rose quit the show, the showrunners decided to replace her instead of just trashing the whole thing. This ended up being the best thing to happen to the show. They introduced the new character of Ryan Wilder. They were able to keep a lot of what made the first season work including the return of the villainous Alice (Kate’s sister) who stole every scene she was in. I feel like the change also shook up the cast a bit and allowed characters Luke Fox and Mary Hamilton to step into the foreground. The third season saw Batwoman face down her own demons along with the legacy of Batman, finally realizing who and what she is. The show ends on a cliffhanger and there was so much more to explore.

4. Green Arrow: Supermax

This is an idea that has been kicking around since the mid-nineties on various film rumor sites and apparently, at least one script was written. The idea is that Green Arrow is framed for a crime he did not commit and is sent to a prison designed to hold supervillains. If he is to survive, he will have to fight through some of DC Comics’ criminals and law enforcement. I think the idea was that he would also team up with some anti-heroes. There are so many possibilities of who Green Arrow would fight or team up with inside the prison. The setting would allow the blending of a lot of franchises within DC Comics. I feel like one of the reasons that the movie was never made was that mainstream folks did not know who Green Arrow is. With the success of the Arrowverse, that has changed. It is time to pull out an old idea and dust it off.

5. The Outsiders (TV Show)

This is a variation of an idea that I have had for some time now. The Outsiders is a DC Comics team that has had several different lineups. The team is most linked with Batman who started the team as a more covert alternative to the Justice League. There have been versions without Batman at all. My favorite was actually co-led by Nightwing and Arsenal. This would be a different idea. This would be Batman forming a team of young heroes who all have the burden of having at least one villainous parent. The idea would be that all of them somewhat share an understanding and similar motivations for heroics. The core team would be Spoiler (Stephanie Brown), Robin (Damian Wayne), Enigma (Evelyn Nashton), Orphan (Cassandra Cain), and Ravager (Rose Walker). There are plenty of other characters who could slide in and out of the show. I would think it would be best for this to be animated.

6. The Question (TV Show)

I always loved the character of the Question as soon as I was introduced to him. He is a throwback sort of hero similar to “mystery men” like Sandman (see above), Crimson Avenger, and Vigillante. The character is a detective who wears a blank face mask and a color-changing suit. The character of Rorschach in Watchmen was based on him. However, unlike Rorschach, he is a character who is more likable and his politics are much easier to stomach. He is also a hero, operating in the shadows. A detective show is always a win for me, especially if the detective is not a cop. Also, he eventually recruited cop Renee Montoya to be his successor. The idea of a show where a cop is slowly shown the right way sounds great to me. While we are rebooting it, we could also remove more of Steve Ditko’s objectivist leanings.

7. Suicide Squad (TV Show)

I feel like this idea is a no-brainer especially since one of the new heads of DC Film and Television revived the franchise on the big screen. I feel like there are several more Suicide Squad movies that can happen but there are also smaller stories that can be told as well. The Suicide Squad is a great repository of B and C list villains where we get to explore who and what they are. It is also a great way to refurbish and fluff up villains before they are in a movie or continue their story after they have been in a movie. The Peacemaker show was successful. I feel like there is more meat on that bone.

8. Catwoman: The Heist (TV Show or Movie Series)

I watched the movie Catwoman: Hunted earlier this year and I loved it. It felt like somebody put Lupin III and DC Comics into a blender and hit frappe. I would love to see more of this charming world. The series would pick up where the original movie left off with Selina Kyle aka Catwoman having her own agenda as a world-renowned thief and less renowned fighter for the rights of the weak. She would work with and/or manipulate her relationship with Batwoman, Julia Pennyworth, and King Faraday to steal valuables, fight injustice, or both at the same time. The series would continue the International feel of the original with the team showing up anywhere on the globe to fight familiar faces and more obscure foes.

9. The Shadowpact

This is a little bit of a deep cut but I really liked this team when they briefly got the spotlight in DC’s Day of Vengeance storyline. They are all supernatural heroes who banded together by chance but stuck together because they felt like family. The lineup originally consisted of Detective Chimp, Blue Devil, Nightmaster, Enchantress, Nightshade, and Ragman. The group is full of has-beens and never-weres. Still, they are all experts in their own areas. For example, Detective Chimp is possibly the world’s second greatest detective (after Batman). The team operates out of the Oblivion Bar, a bar that exists outside of our known dimension. The bar is frequented by every supernatural creature you can think of. I feel like they could provide an interesting story that has not been told yet.

10. Justice League International

Or whatever you want to call it. The point is, I would love them to capture some of the fun from the Justice League International days that was specifically carried over into Formerly Known as the Justice League. That title was full of superheroics but its real strength was its goofy humor and witty banter. The series saw the reformed Maxwell Lord build a new team called the Super Buddies made up of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, Mary Marvel, Captain Atom, Fire, and Power Girl. It feels like Always Sunny in Philadelphia and DC comics had a baby. In the end, they are heroes but they are going to be very snarky about it. This would be a great antidote to the grimdark reputation that Snyder left behind.

The References of The Final Girls (2017) Pt. 1

October 22, 2022

I previously reviewed The Final Girls (2017) and I have since watched it with friends. The movie has so many references that we could not help but shout some of them out during the movie. I thought it would be fun to catalog some of them since most trivia sites only scratch the surface or say that there are a lot of references. I suggest that you watch the movie since it is available on a lot of streaming platforms.

Sucked into a Movie:

The Final Girls (2015): 

During a theater fire, Max and her friends choose to cut through the movie screen to escape toward the back exit when the regular exits get blocked. Somehow, cutting through the screen breaches the fictional world of Camp Bloodbath and puts real-world people in the narrative of the movie. The actual mechanism is never really explained.

Other Movies:

Last Action Hero (1995): 

Young movie enthusiast Danny Madigan is given a magical ticket once owned by Houdini by projectionist Nick. As he watches his hero Jack Slater on film, the movie starts to come to life. An errant bundle of lit dynamite comes out of the movie and as Danny tries to run away, the explosion launches him through the screen and into the world of the Jack Slater movies. While in the movie world, Danny is subject to the narrative rules of action movies.

Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988): 

Dream Warrior Alice Johnson is drawn to a movie theater within her dream where she is sucked through the screen into a post-apocalyptic version of Springwood, Ohio and a blown-out Crave Inn diner. There, she is taunted by Freddy who can reach her friends through her. Freddy sends her back into the real world partly to play with his food and also to have her infect more victims.

Vans and Hitchhikers:

The Final Girls (2015):

When stranded on the side of the road after being transported into the movie, <> and her friends are forced to hitch a ride with the movie characters in their Volkswagen van in order to continue the narrative in hopes of escaping the film. The movie characters are happy to pick them up and are travelling together to the camp.

Other Movies:

Friday the 13th Part III (1982):

Chris Higgins and her friends drive to her family’s home in Higgins Haven which is on Crystal Lake for a fun summer retreat. The vehicle is full of pot smoke from a pair of stoner friends. (A Dodge van by the way)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): 

Sally Hardesty, her brother, and friends travel in a van to visit the Hardesty Estate in Texas when they helpfully pick up a hitchhiker named Nubbins Sawyer who is also looking for victims for Leatherface and the rest of the Sawyer family. He creeps them out and they push him out of the van once he attacks one of them with a straight razor. (A Ford)

Scooby Doo Where Are You (1969): 

Yes, this is a television show but happy-go-lucky kids in a van in a horror movie was a staple of the show and franchise. Mystery Inc. drives everywhere in their van The Mystery Machine. Anywhere they stop is bound to be haunted. (Either Dodge or Chevrolet)

Getting Ready for Camp

The Final Girls (2015): 

The cast of counselors at Camp Bloodbath arrived before the campers to prepare the camp. Of course, with Max and her friends arriving there are way too many counselors. The camp is not that big.

Other Movies:

Friday the 13th (1980):

The counselors arrive before the campers to refurbish the cabins. The town shuns the counselors or the very idea that Camp Crystal Lake could come back. The isolated location makes the counselors easy pickings.

Friday the 13th Part II (1981): 

In this one, Paul Holt sets up a school for camp counselors on the shore of Crystal Lake. This once again allows for a plot where there are camp counselors without campers.

Flashback: A prank gone wrong

The Final Girls (2017): 

Whenever anybody tells the story about Billy, Max and her friends are transported into a flashback of a normal day at Camp Bloodbath that shows how Billy was bullied by the other campers without mercy. In a clear example of when jokes go too far, he is locked in an outhouse while fireworks are lit and tossed in. The maimed Billy dons a mask and eventually starts killing those at the camp.

Other Movies:

The Burning (1981): Cropsy was the alcoholic caretaker at Camp Blackfoot. A couple of campers prank him by putting a wormy skull prop with candles in its eye sockets next to his bed in the night. He freaks out and knocks the lit prop onto his bed and then he knocks over a gas can onto the fire with his thrashing. Later, the severely burned man stalks the counselors who were the campers that pranked him.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003): Freddy Krueger brings Lori Campbell into Jason Voorhees’ nightmare about his death. Lori is actually standing in Camp Crystal Lake and is able to watch as Jason is bullied into the water and drowns.

Hatchet (2006): Victor Crowley is a young deformed man who is mercilessly teased by locals. One night, a few of those kids throw fireworks into Victor’s house. In the ensuing chaos of the fire, Victor and his father are killed. Victor later comes back to stalk people in the woods.

My Favorite Horror Villain

October 15, 2022

Candyman (Candyman 1 through 3, Candyman 2021)  – The spirit of a wronged man who will take vengeance on society.

The Fisherman (I Know What You Did Last Summer franchise) – A man who is nearly killed by a group of teens tries to stalk and kill all of them.

Lord Summerisle (The Wicker Man) – The leader and manipulator of an isolated pagan community on an island off of the United Kingdom.

Leland Gaunt (Needful Things) – A demon who manipulates people by giving them their heart’s desire but taking their souls.

Damien (The Omen franchise) – The son of Satan and the antichrist, born to take over the Earth.

The Blair Witch (The Blair Witch Project) – The ghost of a witch out in Western Maryland who possesses those who seek her out.

Angela Baker (Sleepaway Camp 1 through 3) – A summer camper driven crazy by body dysphoria and trauma to become a serial killer.

Tiffany Valentine (Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky)  – The serial killer girlfriend of serial killer Charles Lee Ray. She and Chucky were turned into killer dolls.

Count Orlok (Nosferatu) – One of the original horror villains. A reclusive vampire count with a thirst for blood.

Jerry Dandridge (Fright Night) – A dapper vampire with a habit of playing with his food.

Ghostface (The Scream franchise) – One of many killers who taunts their victims and kills based on the “rules” of horror.

Gabriel May (Malignant)  – The psychic twin of the hapless Emily who is upset at what the doctors did to him.

Mary Lou Mahoney (Prom Night 2 and 3) – The vengeful ghost of a prom queen turned into a powerful succubus.

Stitches the Clown (Stitches) – An undead clown out for revenge against the little shits who accidentally killed him.

Seth Brundle (The Fly) – A scientist who accidentally merged his cells with that of a housefly, triggering a terrifying transformation.

Dr. Edward Pretorius (From Beyond) – A sadistic mad scientist who has been merged with an otherworldly creature to become as monstrous outside as he was inside.

The Hitcher (The Hitcher) – A sociopathic hitchhiker who terrorizes those who pick him up by torturing and killing.

The Collector (The Collector, The Collection) – An expert kidnapper and creator of intricate traps that kill all who might escape or interfere with his collection

Art the Clown (All Hallow’s Eve, Terrifier 1 and 2) – An absolutely silent clown who murders people indiscriminately.

Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) – A sociopathic daytrader whose desire for status and excess lead him to bloody ends.

Killjoy the Clown (Killjoy, Killjoy 2, Killjoy 3, Killjoy in Hell, Killjoy Psycho Circus) – A demonic clown often summoned in vengeance rituals.

Evil Ash (Army of Darkness)  – The undead mystical clone of the prophecizsed hero Ashley Williams.

Billy Murphy (The Final Girls) – A young man who was the victim of a cruel prank gone too far who is disfigured and now kills anybody who has sex.

Jennifer Check (Jennifer’s Body) – A demon in the body of a hot high school girl who is out to take revenge on all of the men in her life.

Pennywise/ IT (IT Chapters 1 and 2) – An eldritch entity that feeds on the fears of the lost and tortured and especially children.

Krampus (Krampus) – The anti-Santa Claus, a demon who punishes the naughty at Christmas.

Paimon (Hereditary) – One of the nine kings of Hell who seeks dominion on Earth in a human body.

Annabelle (The Conjuring and Annabelle franchises) – A doll inhabited by a very nasty demon.

Pamela Voorhees (Friday the 13th) – A grieving mother out for revenge against all teenage camp counselors like the ones who failed to save her son who drowned.

Jack Torrance (The Shining) – An alcoholic writer driven over the edge by the past and the ghosts around him.

The Thing (The Thing) – A creature from beyond Earth that assimilates whatever it touches.

Belial Bradley (Basket Case 1 through 3)  – A deformed creature who cooperates with his twin Duane, the formerly conjoined brothers exacting revenge on the doctors who separated them.

David Powers (The Lost Boys) – The main runner in a vampiric gang that hunts in a small tourist town.

Officer Matt Cordell (Maniac Cop 1 through 3) – The undead police officer brought back to wreak havoc across New York City.

The Beast (Poltergeist)- A powerful spirit that draws upon the energy of lost spirits to terrorize and torment the living.

Mary Shaw (Dead Silence) – An undead witch obsessed with ventriliquist puppets and getting revenge on the bloodline of a heckler.

Michael Myers/ The Shape (Halloween. All of them except for 3) – Evil in the shape of a man who stalks Haddonfield.

Pumpkinhead (Pumpkinhead 1 through 4) – A creature created for vengeance by a backwoods satanic witch.

Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise) –  A murderer and child molester who became a dream demon in death.

Horace Pinker (Shocker) – A serial killer who merges with electricity itself through the electric chair used in his execution. 

The Djinn (Wishmaster 1 through 4) – A demon who grants wishes with deadly twists and wishes to unleash Hell on Earth.

Pinhead (Every Hellraiser movie) – A demon of pain and torture who seeks to capture humans to convert them to Hell’s cause.

Richard Chapman  (Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and 3) – The psychotic younger brother of the original killer Santa Claus who took up his brother’s mantle.

Norman Bates (The Psycho franchise) – A lonely motel proprietor who has been driven crazy by his mother.

Charles Lee Ray aka Chucky (The Child’s Play franchise) – The serial killer whose soul now inhabits a child’s doll.

Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise) – An inbred cannibalistic hillbilly with a penchant for using a chainsaw)

Sadako Yamamura (The Ringu franchise) – The ghost of a young girl who wants the world to suffer as she did.

The Babadook (The Babadook) – A spirit that preys on children and feeds off of the negative emotions of parents.

Betelgeuse (Beetlejuice) – A ghost who is a self-described “bio-exorcist” with a desire to torment the living and gain power over the living world.

Jack Frost (Jack Frost 1 and 2)  – A serial killer in the body of a snowman.

Dr. Anton Phibes (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again)  – A disfigured doctor of music and theology who murders based on the 10 Deadly Plagues.

Jigsaw (The Saw franchise) – A man who makes deadly traps designed to teach people lessons, primarily how to be thankful for their life.

Dracula (So many Draculas) – The charming and dangerous vampire of all vampires.

Red (Us) – A subterranean dwelling doppelganger who leads a rebellion to kill people on the surface.

Sam (Trick R. Treat) – The childlike spirit of Halloween who will take vengeance on those who do not honor the holiday correctly.

Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal) – A charming psychologist turned cannibalistic serial killer who hates rude people.

The Tall Man (Phantasm 1 through 5) – A physically imposing extradimensional invader who uses dead bodies and robots to attack Earth.

Pazuzu (The Exorcist) – A grand demon who possesses an unfortunate young girl in order to walk the Earth and shatter the faith of mortals.

The Leprechaun (The Leprechaun franchise) – A magical imp with a deadly sense of humor and a wicked temper when somebody steals his gold.

Imhotep (The Mummy franchise) – An undead sorcerer cursed to walk the Earth unless he can regain his humanity.

Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th franchise) – The undead form of a neglected summer camper who now kills anybody in his territory near Crystal Lake.

Blade (The Puppet Master franchise) – A bladed puppet given life by a secret formula.

Guan Di (My Name is Bruce) – A Chinese deity out to kill the white inhabitants of a town in revenge for the deaths of Chinese railroad workers. 

Jumbo Klown (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) – One of many alien klowns who come to Earth to feed on the populace.

Top 5 Christmas Movies

December 21, 2020

I tuned in last week to watch the above video from one of my favorite YouTube channels to hear the thoughts of two of my favorite perfomers (Shane Madej and Ryan Bergara) and their guest. As with most lists of this kind, I disagreed with some of their choices. Instead of tearing their lists down, I decided to make my own. I decided to exclude a lot of what I consider joke answers to this question such as Die Hard, Batman Begins, and Gremlins. I also put Christmas Horror in a completely different boat. Also, even though I love the movie dearly, I do not think of A Nightmare Before Christmas as a Christmas movie even though it uses a lot of the assets.

  1. White Christmas

To be fair, this is the Bing Crosby Christmas movie without the blackface. I watched this with my mother a couple of years ago and we both really enjoyed it. Bing and Danny Kaye are army men who finish their tour of duty and head back to the States. They become successful performers as a singing and dancing duo. They meet up with two performing sisters played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The four end up heading to the middle of nowhere Vermont to spend the holidays at an inn where the girls are booked to perform. However, the inn and the town are in trouble without any snow so the four of them decide to put on a show to save the day. It is an endearing story of four witty and artistic people who have such great chemistry with each other. The movie is full of great songs like “Sisters”, “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”, and starts and ends with “White Christmas”. Bing Crosby became synonymous with Christmas and that is probably a big reason why this movie made this list.

  1. A Christmas Prince

This was the second movie that helped launch my getting back into watching Christmas movies. I chose this movie originally because it stars Rose McIver, an actress I loved so much in iZombie. In this, she stars as a reporter tasked with getting the scoop on a prince’s coronation in a foreign country obsessed with Christmas. She stumbles into a lie which gets her close to her subject but when feelings develop, she starts regretting everything. McIver really makes the movie as she is at times sarcastic, wide-eyed, clever, and just plain funny. She is paired with Ben Lamb who plays the titular role with such playful wholesomeness. His sister really steals a lot of scenes (played by Honor Kneafsey) walks the edge of what could have been an annoying character and makes it into a very smart and funny one instead. Theo Devaney is so great as the smarmy “villain”. However, the movie very well could have failed if they had not been given a really great supporting cast. The two sequels are even better though this is the one I kept coming back to.

  1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol means a lot to me. When I worked professionally in live theater, we did the same production five years in a row and the story never got old. This is a story that I have experienced starting at a very young age and this version may have been the very first. It came out when I was nine years old at a time when I had already experienced The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. Seeing these familiar characters acting out this story was truly magical. Michael Caine as Scrooge is almost the only human character and that made it feel like an extended episode of The Muppet Show. Caine acts so earnestly in the movie and always reacts to the Muppets as if they were fellow performers which, in a sense, they were. The movie adheres to the original story very well but also adds in much needed laughs along with what is essentially a Christmas ghost story. The movie is also a musical which helps to keep the story bouncing along in what can be a very long-winded story. This was absolutely a marriage of three things I have loved since I was a kid: The Muppets, Horror, and Christmas.

  1. Klaus

I am a sucker for Santa Claus lore because I have been fascinated with (ahem) research about the man, the myth, the legend. This movie is a throwback to the more traditional two-dimensional animation comparable to the Disney Rennaisance period. It utilizes 2D drawings with a new 3D lighting software design which really produces a breathtakingly beautiful movie. The story follows a young mailman-in-training who is sent to an island town to reopen their post office. In order to do that, he befriends a hermit in the woods and basically invents the man we know and love. The movie is such a touching portrayal of a world similar to ours but with some invented politics and geography. It is also wildly funny at the same time. Jason Scwartzman plays the excitable Jesper, a young screw up who now has to make good. JK Simmons plays the titular character, an emotionally wounded man who just wants to make good. Rashida Jones plays the clever school teacher who gets sucked up into the madness. Joan Cusack and Will Sasso play the heads of two feuding families that has absolutely destroyed the town. Norm Macdonald basically plays his usual sarcastic self. The production also involved actual Sámi people with authentic Sámi language in a very touching manner.

  1. The Christmas Chronicles

This movie absolutely caught me off guard. It felt like an entirely different kind of Santa Claus tale which managed to shine a spotlight on Santa while making him a supporting character in his own movie. The movie follows two kids played by Darby Camp and Judah Lewis. They are a brother and sister who have grown apart due to the death of their father. Lewis plays a teenager who has grown cynical too early and is annoyed by Camp’s optimistic and sunny character. A chance run-in with Santa Claus sets the two on a whirlwind adventure that will teach them about themselves and realign both of them on the right path in life. Santa is played by Kurt Russell and it is the coolest portrayal that has ever appeared in a movie previously. This is a Rock and Roll Santa who absolutely loves his job. The lore building that they created in this was absolutely a draw for me. They explained a lot of the Santa stories without explaining too much or getting too detailed. The spotlight remains on the two kids as they learn together and separately the true meaning of Christmas. The movie is an exciting rollercoaster from start to finish while still allowing for a lot of heartwarming moments that directly confront the dysfunctionality and bonds of family.

Honorable Mentions:
The Year Without a Santa Claus
The Knight Before Christmas
Shop Around the Corner
Let It Snow

Movies I Enjoyed in 2019

January 6, 2020

I know that we are nearly a week into 2020 but I felt like doing a wrap up of the year in movies in 2019 since we are headed into awards season. These are only the movies that I saw that I really liked. I did not feel the need to make a top 11 list because, honestly, I would be compelled to write a lot for each entry and I have already written about pretty much everything I have seen in 2019 (and will continue to write about what I see in 2020). As such, these are in no particular order. I also highly recommend each and every one of these movies.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I had a lot of fun watching this with friends. (more on Thursday) It wasn’t perfect but it was definitely enjoyable.

Child’s Play (2019)
A truly innovative remake done in an entirely different subgenre of horror. An added bonus was seeing Aubrey Plaza.

Jordan Peele proved once again that he is truly a new master of horror. This movie was more of an adventure horror piece but it managed to sneak in a class warfare message.

Avengers Endgame
The perfect ending for the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It pushed things into a new direction that I am intrigued to keep following.,

John Wick 3
The John Wick franchise tends to pump out perfect action movies with interesting stories that don’t get in the way of the cool moments.

Spiderman Far From Home
The first step in a new decade for the MCU. The new Spiderman is so pure and I feel like it is still just getting started.

Captain Marvel
Finally, a female-led MCU movie! Brie Larson was perfect for the role and I can’t wait to see where she goes next in defiance of all the MRAs out there.

Elton John has led one hell of a life. This musical biopic had a lot of moments of unreality that really made me feel what was happening rather than just seeing it.

Detective Pikachu
A movie that could easily have been bad was a lot of fun with a lot of heart. It was also visually pleasing.

Aladdin (2019)
Forget the haters, this movie was a lot of fun for me. It put a new spin on a familiar favorite (my second favorite Disney movie of all time).

IT Chapter 2
I got to see this one in theaters and it was definitely worth it. Bill Hader alone made this movie so good but I liked the new take on a classic book.

Alita Battle Angel
A unique blend of CGI and live-action, this was actually one of the best anime film adaptations that I have ever seen. I want to see a sequel.

Hobbs and Shaw
A refreshing spinoff of the Fast and Furious franchise which managed to be its own thing. I love The Rock.

The Lego Movie 2
I did not think they could keep pace with the original but this franchise has defied my expectations from the start so I am a fool.

Proof that DC movies can be good again. The movie had a lot of the goofy, fun energy that the original comics had with a modern sheen.

Fighting With My Family
As a pro-wrestling fan, I loved this walk through the fabulous Paige’s career (so far).

Velvet Buzzsaw
A criminally underrated horror movie that should be seen for its psychedelic visuals alone.

Happy Death Day 2U
I did not think the first movie could be topped but this franchise hit a new gear and somehow got weirder.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Unfairly shot down because it made a serial killer “hot” this was actually an interesting personal take on a familiar news story.

Dark Phoenix
I enjoyed this movie for what it was, a close to the Fox X-Men Franchise (more on Thursday)

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
It was a meandering mess but I definitely enjoyed it for what it was.

I was able to watch only 5 out of 10 of the top 10 box office movies of 2019. Of the remaining movies that I really want to see are Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, and Jumanji 3. I have made my thoughts on Joker known. Lion King does not really interest me either.

Additionally, there are so many movies that I missed that I still want to see from 2019. Looking at the list really drove home what I did not get to see but reminds me that there is only so much time in each year. I have so much that I want to watch in this new year and it gives me joy that I will never catch up. I will never run out of good movies to see because there is still so much backlog and new movies come out every year.

Top 11 Favorite Horror Movies

November 2, 2019

I have done one of these Top 11 lists before but I have watched more movies since and I kind of did not take the last time seriously. I have talked about all of these movies previously so I will be brief. This time, to help me feel this list out, I used three categories to judge each movie. The first is “Enjoyment during the first watch”, the second is “Rewatchability”, and the last is the “Spookiness level”. All three are my personal feelings and are rated on a 1 – 5 scale.

11. Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
E: 4 – R: 5 – S: 1

This movie is not really scary at all to me because it is so silly, as the franchise got crazier as it went on. Still, I love sitting back and watching this one. It is my go-to Jason movie. A lot of Jason’s unspoken magical powers really awaken in this movie. His movie editing-based powers. This movie is basically Jason attacking a whole bunch of high school kids on a boat cruise that somehow goes from Crystal Lake to Manhattan? Sort of? Just don’t think about it.

10. Train to Busan
E: 4 – R: 3 – S: 3

Watching this movie energized me as it is an interesting take on zombie movies with plenty of dark comedy, scares, and heart-breaking drama. It is definitely full of dread and I enjoyed it heartily but I hesitate to rewatch it because it has a lot of pathos. This movie is about people on a passenger train in Korea when they start to notice an infection spreading. If that is not scary enough, the main character is an elementary school-aged girl.

9. Terrifier
E: 4 – R: 2 – S: 5

This was another movie that surprised me as it was immediately unnerving and never let up. I do not want to give anything special away from this one. However, the plot is a couple of young ladies who are stalked by a demented clown named Art. It is not one I want to rewatch as I feel like I took it all in on the first pass.

8. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
E: 4 – R: 3 – S: 3

This movie is an anomaly which is why it probably caught me off guard. This was the first and only Halloween franchise movie without Micahel Myers. It is really spooky, full of plenty of gross-out moments and also horrible terror and dread. The story here is that an evil businessman is going to use the holiday of Halloween itself to exact his revenge on the world and bring about a brand new age.

7. Us
E: 5 – R: 4 – S: 3

This one is still fresh in my mind and I absolutely adore it for its character design and the ideas behind it. You have probably seen the trailers, it is about a family that meets their doppelgangers and all hell breaks loose. I enjoyed it from bell to bell and I really do want to watch it again to see if I can catch more details. It radiates with dread.

6. The Thing (1982)
E: 4 – R: 3 – S: 5

This movie is infinitely rewatchable because of the interesting characters and the tense interactions between them. It was an interesting idea when the first movie in 1951 first explored it but John Carpenter took it to the next level. Kurt Russel and Keith David are really great but the stars of the show are the awesome special effects and the unique setting.

5. Get Out
E: 4 – R: 4 – S: 4

The movie that took the world by storm, there was no doubt that this movie would be somewhere on this list. The smart writing, interesting characters, and terrifying concept make this one that I could watch over and over. Still, I am breathing hard by the end of it. Jordan Peele is doing awesome.

4. Cabin in the Woods
E: 5 – R: 5 – S: 3

This one is a movie that I also really do not want to spoil a bit. Basically, it is a take on the usual tropes of horror movies while still churning out a scary movie. The movie is full of scares but it is the sharp comedy mixed in that makes me want to rewatch it.

3. The Shining
E: 4 – R: 5 – S: 4

A true American classic, the Shining is the pinacle of Stephen King movies. This movie is full of Stanley Kubrick’s ridiculous amounts of detail to the point that he almost made a whole new story. His dream-like imagery is something to behold. It is a terrifying story that feels like it could really happen. A writer brings his family along with him as he operates as the caretaker of a hotel during its offseason.

2. Evil Dead 2
E: 5 – R: 5 – S: 3

Speaking of comedy mixed with horror, Sam Raimi was somehow inspired by Three Stooges shorts to mix that with a classic-style horror movie. The movie’s gruesome effects and pulse-pounding visuals really kept my blood up. However, it is the endlessly charismatic Bruce Campbell who makes me keep coming back to the franchise.

1 . A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors
E: 5 – R: 5 – S: 4

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Freddy Krueger movies as the dream imagery really lends itself to absolutely terrifying moments. There are times that one of them will randomly flash into my mind’s eye and a chill will travel down my spine. I love Freddy so much. Teens inside of a mental hospital have to deal with the legendary dream demon.

Dead Silence (2007)

October 30, 2019

I have a thing about puppets, toys, and dolls in horror. I am quickly drawn to anything with tiny animated children’s toys. I think that part of it is the juxtaposition between horror and innocence. The idea of being attacked by something people grew up being attached to is absolutely fascinating to me. Childhood is scary enough without being attacked by the toy around you. At least, it was for me. While I had a relatively good childhood, my imagination was almost always in overdrive. I dreamed up all sorts of demons and monsters in the shadows. I was not traumatized by it but I realize how many people could have been tortured by their own minds. Most of my imagination’s assault was during my dreams and not in my waking hours. It is easy to imagine sinister versions of everyday playthings. Hollywood and independents have been doing it long enough. My favorites are often connected to Charles Band such as Puppet Master, Dolls, Demonic Toys, and plenty more. Of course, it is also easy to realize how these little monsters can be so effective. Nobody could imagine that an innocent toy could harm somebody intentionally. They are literally designed to do the opposite, sentience or no.

I have watched a lot of puppet and toy horror movies, many of which I have reviewed here. They include (but are not limited to) Dolls, Demonic Toys, Goosebumps, Cult of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, and Child’s Play (2019). I will continue to review these kinds of movies, especially if they are notable cult movies and I have not seen them yet (this movie checks off both of those boxes). One culprit that I have not really explored (beyond Goosebumps and some Twilight Zone episodes) is the ventriloquist dummy. Which is weird because I have recently become infatuated with the visual look of ventriloquists. I am hesitant to reveal what that entails because I have dreamed up some horrors as part of one of my fantasy worlds. While I am no artist, I have definitely mocked up some pictures of humans with ventriloquist jaws. This is the creepiest part of the ventriloquist to me. The second place goes to their flat eyes. It goes hand in hand with my body horror fear that I have made manifest.

The first thing I noticed was an attention to detail in some great production design. The dolls in the movie are all exceptionally crafted and, while they are creepy, look like something somebody might own (unlike dolls like Annabelle). I also really like the concept of the supernatural threat which I was not exactly expecting and I will not spoil here. It is a really cool twist on the haunted doll trope and definitely fits so well here. The effects are delightfully gory and fairly horrific as one might expect from the mind of James Wan. However, unlike Saw, the movie felt more imaginative and less cruel even though it was still relentlessly cruel. On another note considering the production, this is when I found out that David Cronenberg has a sister named Denise who works as a costume designer. She definitely has some amazing contributions as well.

The acting is pretty good for a horror movie. The movie stars Ryan Kwanten as the likable everyman who is trying to solve the mystery of a personal tragedy. Donnie Wahlberg is the police detective investigating that same tragedy. He is the usual gruff, unlikeable character he always plays who somehow worms his way into your heart. Joan Heney plays a particular creepy mentally ill woman who acts as the movie’s harbinger. Amber Valletta plays the new stepmother of Kwanten’s character, adding to the whirlwind of mystery.  Bob Gunton plays the patriarch of Kwanten’s family, a kindly yet stern father figure. Michael Fairman plays the local undertaker and the source of much of the lore. Judith Roberts is a particularly nasty and delightful supernatural villain.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It had an innovative take on an old premise and went all-in on its theme and premise. The villain was really fun and made a lasting impression on me. The acting was pretty good and the story beats were worth waiting for.

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