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Preview: The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense

The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense



One woman's quest to share the beauty and learn valuable lessons in horror films, from the truly terrifying to the totally terrible (and of course, everything in between involving killer dolls)



Updated: 2018-02-22T06:45:25.708-05:00

 



The Girl Who Is a Gift

2018-02-19T06:30:00.205-05:00

Does the world need another zombie movie? Well no, but I'm sure there's some heathen out there who thinks we're fine without another Step Up sequel. My point is simple: entertainment is rarely about need. Nobody thought we needed Toy Story 2 and 3, but isn't the world a better place with them? So hey, you want to give me a zombie movie in 2016? Make it good and I'll take it with joy.Quick Plot: Preteen Melanie is bright and good-natured, a pleasant, creative individual who's first to raise her hand in class. She's the perfect teacher's pet save for one fatal flaw: her taste for human flesh.Melanie, you see, is a second generation "hungry," aka evolved zombie who can function as a normal human being so long as she doesn't smell saliva, blood, or other bodily fluids.In the near-apocalyptic future of The Girl With All the Gifts, the remaining uninfected are putting most of their resources into developing a cure for the virus (in this case, it's fungal-based and can spread through spores). Children like Melanie are treated like lab rats, much to the disapproval of teacher Helen (the always welcome Gemma Arterton) who disgusts her military escorts with her sympathy for the kids. Scientists like Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close! In a zombie movie!) see hungries as a disease to be cured by any means necessary.When Melanie's facility becomes overrun with activated hungries, a ragtag team of survivors bands together to seek shelter. Helen, Dr. Caldwell, the bitter Sargent Parks, soldier Kieran, and Melanie wander a hungry-swarming world together with very different motives.Based on a novel by Mike Carey (who also wrote the screenplay), The Girl With All the Gifts presents an intriguingly thought-out system for a zombie horror setup. The science is explained easily, and some of the more fungus-ish tics lend both believability and uniqueness to the setup.That's all well and good, but a decent pitch for zombie attacks doesn't necessarily a great zombie flick make. Enter Sennia Nanua in her film debut as one of the most lovable characters to ever come out of the very well-trod genre. With her eager-to-please sunniness and wry sense of humor, Melanie is a genuine delight. Your heart immediately goes out to any kid strapped into a wheelchair on a daily basis and treated with such disgust as the soldiers do towards the hungries, but it's Melanie's intelligence and moxie that make her the kind of child you can build a film around.The Girl With All the Gifts is directed by Colm McCarthy and damnit, it is a delight. I laughed. I jumped. And you know what else? I damn well cried. This is a joy.High PointsThere's a lot to admire throughout The Girl With All the Gifts, but its key strength is right there in its title. As Melanie, Nanua is incredibly charming and engaging. I can't remember the last time I rooted so hard for a character in a zombie flick.Low PointsThis is a movie that finds a way to make a cat's death charming. I have none.Lessons LearnedVelcro is equally as impressive to zombie children of the future as it is and has been to a generation of living kids who couldn't tie their shoesDon't play with anybody that looks deadAs Arrested Development should have taught us, always leave a noteRent/Bury/BuyObviously, I adored this movie. It moves well, it has a winking sense of humor around its horror and a true affection for its characters. You can find it streaming on Amazon Prime. And you should. [...]



Tiny Living, Big Killing

2018-02-12T06:30:14.680-05:00

When future generations look back upon this time, I'm sure they'll find a lot of cultural choices to make them scratch their heads. Sure, electing a sociopath buffoon and enjoying entertainment scored with laugh tracks will undoubtedly make the cut, but let's not forget one of the stranger trends of the aughts: tiny houses.Leave it to the Lifetime Network to make the first horror movie out of it.Quick Plot: Samantha is a landscape artist happily married to Kyle, a builder who runs his business with best friend Mark. Their relationship becomes strained by a miscarriage and some fertility issues, leading Kyle to storm out the door and clear his head via the one thing he finds relaxing: coast climbing.In a world where people drool over the cuteness of 300 square feet, coast climbing is apparently a common stress-relieving activity.Kyle disappears, presumably down the coast that he was, you know, climbing. A mournful Samantha retreats to Kyle's last project, a tiny home development isolated deep in the mountains. Before long, Samantha senses sinister forces at play. Poisonous spiders show up in her bedroom, knives fly past her head to the magnetic space-saving pot holder gifted by her supportive sister, and a creepy baby doll shows up with an ominous message. The suspect list mounts in that very paranoid Lifetime way. Could it be the friendly, bearded hipster who lives down the mountain? Mark and/or his wife? Samantha's caring sister? Or, considering Samantha has dramatically thrown her depression medication away, are all of these seemingly hostile acts merely figments of her lonely imagination?Tiny House of Terror is directed by TV veteran Paul Shapiro with all of the Instagram filtered lighting you need to make it feel of its time. Samantha is sympathetic enough for a millennial widow, and the film's mystery is rewardingly solved with a bonkers climax. Hight PointsI won't get into spoiler territory, but the reveal is pretty kooky in that ridiculous way that only Lifetime can deliverLow PointsThe film's treatment of anxiety and depression is, to put it mildly, a pile of crapLessons LearnedSurviving a series of life-threatening acts will do wonders for your fertilityA true sign of the times: never delete texts from your loved one. In an age where voicemail is on its way out, that last emoji-filled message might just be the closest you'll come to hearing your late partner's "voice" againWhen a soul-crushing darkness overcomes you, it's probably not the best idea to toss out your anxiety pills Rent/Bury/BuyTiny House of Terror is probably airing on your local Lifetime or LMN network during the next Trendy Home Killer marathons. It's not particularly worth seeking out, but if it shows up on your TV screen, it's certainly not the worst way to kill 90 minutes of your time. The twist is rewardingly wacky, and some of the random spurts of horror have that just over-the-top enough feel to make this one stick.[...]



Let's Get Ready To Evil

2018-02-05T06:00:27.737-05:00

We couldn't have a Shortening without at least one evil child flick, right?Quick Plot: Fearing the youth of America is falling too far behind their more ambitious peers, a private tech country sets up a learning academy for the most gifted pre-teens in the near future. The school itself is buried deep in the bottom floors of a sprawling facility and run primarily via computerized educational tools, with no need for fallible humans in the teacher roles. Instead, three twentysomethings (eager Jenny, groovy Tiggs, and bad boy/self-proclaimed genius Darby) take on the new role as caretakers, merely supervising the kids to ensure they stay in bed and move from one class to the next.This fancy new school is so elite that its occupants can only see with the help of souped up glasses that connect them to the technological workings of their surroundings. Also on board is ARIAL (it stands for some kind of Siri-esque function), a chipper virtual assistant designed to help the intellectually outmatched aides in their daily activities. You don't have to be as smart as the subjects to guess that locking super genius children in a sealed underground ward just might lead to some murderous chaos. As our three young adults try to evade their violent charges, we the audience watch it all unfold via their enhanced goggle vision.Directed by Martin Owen (with a script by Owen, Jonathan Willis, and Elizabeth Morris, who also plays Jenny), Let's Be Evil follows the welcome format of IFC Midnight produced films with a brief 80ish minute run time. Since this is such a small, focused tale, it makes sense.It also helps because one can only take eyeglass camera vision so long before it becomes a tad annoying.As anyone who's ever stopped by this site knows, I'm an easy mark for a killer kid film. Maybe that's why Let's Be Evil worked for me. The visual style keeps things fresh enough, and the fact that we're literally in the dark on what's going on with the children works well. The leads don't get enough time to be interesting or overly compelling, but in their brief screentime, the story keeps everything engaging enough.High PointsYou have to give credit to a film that tells an age old tale with a new styleLow PointsI like to think I'm smart enough to get most of the plotting in modern horror, but it's been several days of thinking and I still can't figure out the exact significance of the opening and closing frameLessons LearnedPerhaps any school that's willing to hire caretakers with criminal records isn't going to be the safest work environmentStrong sensible people don’t put sugar in their coffeeIn the near future, young men will be fashioning themselves akin to Max's jerky stepbrother in Stranger ThingsRent/Bury/BuyThis is the sort of case where I know I enjoyed a film more than the average viewer. Let's Be Evil has plenty of problems from a production and storytelling point of view, but it comes with a fresh approach and doesn't waste time turning into a hunt. It's not for everyone, but if evil children in a high-tech (but low budget) sounds intriguing, give it a go via Instant Watch.[...]



Welcome to the Shortening!

2018-02-01T06:30:07.931-05:00

It's February! Which is hardly exciting for anyone.Unless you're a dog who really likes brushing his teeth. Or, more likely, you dig short things.That's right: it's the 8th Annual Shortening, a monthly celebration covering films that deal with vertically challenged villains. Kids, dolls, houses (go with it), bugs. You get the drift. Any questions?Yes, all are more than welcome to participate. If you have a blog or podcast and cover anything short-centric this month, simply shoot an email over to deadlydollshouse at gmail.com with your link. Be sure to include a link to this here site and we're partners in crime.See you soon![...]



Best of the Year, Year 9!

2018-01-29T06:30:25.761-05:00

As we wrap up our ninth anniversary here at the Doll’s House, we honor tradition by looking back at the best—well, most enjoyable—films covered over the last 365 official blogging days. While 2017 didn't quite have the bang of some past years, it DID give us murderous gym equipment, zombie theme parks, and of course...11. Cat in the CageYes, Cat In the Cage is easily the worst thing on this list in terms of quality, but it’s also the kind of wacky, joyous, angry, nonsensical batch of weirdness INVOLVING A CAT that makes it a default entry here. The story is both confusing and confused, an unresolved revenge tale with a last act twin brother reveal and unexplained disappearance of its best character (yes, it’s the cat). It is obviously well worth a watch.10. HeidiI’m not here to tell anyone that Heidi, the found footage evil doll film airing in all its under 80 minute glory on Amazon Prime, is a great movie. For the first half hour or so, I wondered whether it was even worth finishing. But you know what? At some point, somehow, Heidi becomes a genuinely creepy little tale, making clever use of its budgetary limitations to suggest true evil without ever having to really show it. It’s an impressive feat that won’t click for everyone, but if you give it a chance, you might find it intriguingly unsettling.9. The RezortIt had to happen sooner or later: my drunken idea of a theme park where people hunt zombies comes true in this light but action-packed version of Jurassic World. The high concept is thankfully matched by decent production values and some of the better looking undead of the last several years. You get rich people hunting zombies then being hunted by zombies. What more do you want?8. Baba YagaI could go into deep detail about how Baba Yaga is a fascinating representation of female power in horror or how it explores a woman finding sexuality outside of the male gaze, or I can just say THIS MOVIE INVOLVES AN S&M CLAD PORCELAIN DOLL THAT TURNS INTO A BADASS HENCHWOMAN and you know, you get why it makes the list.7. ViralAt the risk of sounding like a very old woman, those Catfish boys seem to have a pretty impressive ear to millennial culture. Viral is a sleek, fairly small apocalyptic zombie tale framed so specifically as a tale of two teenaged sisters trying to survive. With a rich script from Barbara Marshall and Christopher Landon, it’s a solid, involving saga that finds a very human way in to a much larger story.6. Dig Two GravesLess a horror film and more an American gothic fairy tale, Hunter Adams’ Dig Two Graves tells the sad, compelling story of a young girl whose mourning for her older brother leads her down a dark path buried deep in her small, haunted hamlet. Ted Levine ’s performance as her kind and morally torn grandfather is a thing of beauty. This is far from the scariest film on this year’s list, but it’s certainly the saddest.5. Late PhasesPerhaps the one horror film on this list that would have been better if it just wasn’t a horror movie, Late Phases follows a grumpy retired veteran (the solid gold that is Nick Damici) as he discovers that his new gated community is the target of a hungry werewolf. The human stuff far outweighs the cheaper monster effects, but that tends to be what you get when you have deep conversations about religion and life with Tom Noonan. This isn’t a great horror movie, but it’s great in terms of how it lets an age class we never see get to deal with the situations typically reserved for bland teenagers.4. Last ShiftA rookie cop starts the overnight shift at a soon-to-be-closed place station only to find herself doing battle with the ghosts of a satanic cult. Director Anthony DiBlasi does a whole lot with his one-night thriller, building tension beautifully and suggesting so much more than what we see in this all-too-short tale. It’s rare that I want a film to be longer, but this was a cas[...]



Lessons Learned 2017!

2018-01-22T06:31:10.142-05:00

As we fast approach the ninth (NINTH!) anniversary of this little corner of the internet known as the Doll's House, allow me to continue with the NINE-year-old tradition of compiling a list of some of my favorite lessons gleaned over the last 365 days. You never know: they just might save your life...particularly if your life includes satanism, promposals, and as always, bear traps.School DaysThe trick to not vomiting when dissecting a frog is to chew gum—Viral The best college professors are the ones who fashion themselves akin to female porn actress starring in teacher-student scenarios— Cult Science As BusinessIn the early '80s, the going rate for transporting flesh-eating bacteria was 50,000 pounds— VirusWonders of the Natural WorldWild mustard has quite a high sulfur content— Terminal IslandThe Body HumanWhen done effectively, fatal stab wounds yield no blood— IntruderChlorine probably prevents herpes— The MutilatorPregnancy makes your skin really dry...like, realllllllllly dry— ShelleyThe Modern ChefTo best keep pepperoni hot, stick it to your butt— CurtainsNice RideSurviving a brutal car accident can change a lot of things about you, including eliminating any trace of your Australian accent— NightmaresThe majority of teen-related car accidents happen because everybody inside the car is screaming and flailing to dangerous levels of chaos at once— Lovers LanePersonal Grooming (with special attention to the eyebrows)Being in a mental asylum should never hold your eyebrow grooming back— The Order Rural-based satanists take excellent care in grooming their eyebrows— Last Shift It's a Family ThingOne of the perks of being VP of a toy company is that you can populate your stepdaughter's room with an arsenal of teddy bears-- Mommy’s Little GirlAlways remember where your uncle's gambling-related bruises are located-- The ChosenVacationing Know-HowLA hotels will charge guests extra to stay in rooms where guests committed suicide— SatanicThe beach is for riff raff. Classy broads stay on the marina— The UninvitedLet Me Dance For YouNothing kills a ballet career like falling off an 18" high stage in slow motion— If There Be ThornsWorking GirlsWhen you sell something, that makes you a professional—The Devil’s DollsFlirting with a good-looking coworker on your first day of work may not seem like the best career advice, but if your office is suddenly subjected to a cruel homicidal experiment, it may just be the thing that saves your life— The Belko ExperimentIf you are female and your morality is put into question, the solution to any accusation is simply, "I'm a businesswoman" — The RezortMarketing Problems of the Near FutureTurning global famine into clickbait is harder than you think— Death Race 2050Relationships NuancesIn world before online dating, one could always count on pet cemeteries as a great way to meet a potential partner— Mirror MirrorThe best way to rebound from being stood up is to give in quickly to the sexy vampire next door— Where Evil LivesAffairs are always improved with warm champagne— Perkins’ 14A proper prom proposal should require at least four weeks of intense dance practice and intermediate choreography— Prom Ride The Name GameJust because you've named your villain Susan doesn't mean supporting characters can't call her Suzanne— Cat In the CageCatholicism 101Priests are second only to rock stars when it comes to leaving a motel room in ruins— Soul EaterBackwash will seriously compromise the efficacy of holy water— ExeterParty Planning TipsWhen organizing a home rave, don't skimp on the bouncer. A quality door man will really take your party to the next level— HeidiBasic SurvivalThe secret to escaping a horny forest beast involves wearing a lot of layers— La BeteNail guns are cost-effective weapons when fighting zombie hordes—Resident Evil: The Last ChapterWant to throw y[...]



March of the Plague Survivors

2018-01-15T06:30:12.522-05:00

Film plots that I will never turn down: save the rec center through dance, prevent/survive nuclear war, and worldwide plagues.1980's Virus has two out of three.Somewhere in my personal heaven, a movie exists wherein breakdancing teenagers struggle to disarm Soviet missiles while coughing through a superflu.If that's not motivation to live morally, what is?Quick Plot: Ah, the Cold War, a time when everyone couldn't help but create messy scenarios that could inevitably go wrong and lead to the end of the world. Or most of it.After an experimental virus is accidentally released, the majority of human beings are wiped out by the new malady known as "The Italian Flu." The only hope for mankind awaits in Antarctica, where the freezing temperatures provide a natural barrier to the germs. With 800 men,  8 women, and a whole lot more (unseen) penguins, the remaining survivors (mostly scientists, thought probably not the penguins; or maybe the penguins, who am I to draw conclusions?) re-order society under the wise guidance of George Kennedy.Things are going peacefully enough until an impending earthquake is detected. Because it's the 1980s, nuclear missiles have been locked and loaded with just about every spot of land in target for one political reason or another. An American survivor realizes that the movement from the earthquakes will trigger some bombs towards the Soviet Union, which the Russian diplomat reveals will in turn blast some weaponry toward suspected U.S. stations in none other than the lonely outposts of the Arctic shores. Thankfully, there's one working submarine still in action, and it's captained by none other than Tourist Trap's Chuck Connors who plays a British naval officer with an accent that makes Kevin Costner's Robin Hood seem authentic. Actually, he doesn't really even TRY an accent. He just reads his script littered with Englishisms ("chaps", "you Yankees," etc.) in the same grizzly Brooklyn/Southern cadence he used as Mr. Slausen. It. Is. Weird.Anyway, American soldier Bo Svenson(!) teams up with scientist Masao Kusakari to deactivate the bombs, now armed with a possible vaccine. Can they save the lingering bits of humanity? SHOULD they? Virus, also known as Day of Resurrection (spoiler alert?), was an incredibly big budgeted international production directed by Kinji Fukasaku, the visionary who would go on to helm Battle Royale and fuel Emily's imagination in every scenario. Based on a novel, its international scope feels epic in intention. Unfortunately, the pared down version streaming on Amazon Prime (with some 45 minutes cut out from the original cut) doesn't quite reach the bigness the material deserves. There's a good 45 minutes or so spent with characters who (SPOILER ALERT) die en masse as the virus spreads throughout the northern hemisphere. While it's exciting to see such an assortment of actors (Henry Silva! Glenn Ford! Robert Vaughn!), the constant shifting of protagonists takes a little too long to stabilize, eventually leading us to figure out by default that our real lead is a mild-mannered but secretly brave Japanese scientist. Perhaps because of the editing, there are also a ton of ideas that don't quite get the attention they deserve in being fleshed out. The gender politics are incredibly complicated, and while there's a small amount of effort made to show how a society of educated individuals would deal with such matters, it ultimately feels fairly shortchanged in the overall final product. Problems (of which there are many; did I mention this is Amazon Prime and therefore, very poorly lit?) aside, I certainly enjoyed Virus because, well, it's a movie about the end of the world involving both nuclear missiles AND a devastating plague. It's brimming with recognizable actors from all over the globe, from Sonny Chiba to Edward James Olmos to, you know, CHUCK CONNORS PLAYING AN ENGLISHMAN.[...]



The Cult of Tweezology

2018-01-08T06:30:34.013-05:00

Remember AIM? For the young ones out there, that's AOL Instant Messenger, an internet chat function akin to today's Snapchat (I assume?) that no longer exists. Side note: my AOL username was MSTyodameister, because I was the coolest person using the Internet that you could possibly knowThe fact that this was by far the most exciting thing to be found in Cult says a little bit about the movie, but more importantly, a whole lot about the very specific days of the early 21st century.Quick Plot: Picture it: the opening still image prologue to 1991's Beauty and the Beast, only instead of being about a spoiled prince and magical rose, it's an ancient Chinese maiden named Kwan Yin whose out-of-wedlock pregnancy leads her father to gouge out her eyeballs and slice open her belly, thus empowering her as some sort of goddess. Cut to a Taoist cult in 1990s era California (more specifically, an abandoned Chinese buffet) where a white lounge-erie-clad beauties sacrifice themselves in the name of the aforementioned Kwan Yin only for one to discover their male leader, Quinlin, is trying to steal all of their power for himself.20 years later, the daughter of the slain cult member has grown up into Mindy (The Butterfly Effect 3's Rachel Miner), a hard-working college student who spends as much time studying ancient Chinese cults as she does shaping her extremely shaped eyebrows.Mindy is currently working on the worst thing ever asked of a college student: the dreaded group project, this one specifically about the temple massacre. Her team includes pal Cassandra (played by the always welcome Taryn Manning), Cassandra's emo boyfriend Bailey, the school mascot/token awful human being Alex, and the MIA Morgan, soon to be found by Mindy to have brutally killed herself in the dorm bathroom in a manner very similar to those ill-fated maidens in the empty Chinese buffet.Apparently, all it takes is for an unmarried pregnant woman to take her own life for Quinlin to reemerge, slaughtering those around Mindy with the help of an occasionally important jade amulet. Mindy's sexy Australian professor tries to help, but stopping Quinlin is no mere academic affair. Let's be very clear about something: like most of late '90s/early 00s horror titles that you have never heard of popping up on Amazon Prime in recent months, Cult is not a good movie. When your primary set is an empty Asian restaurant and the rules of your villain are clearly made up as you go, you do not, you know, have a good movie.But that doesn't stop an idiot like me from enjoying it.Maybe it's the fact that I wrote "EYEBROWS" in my notes twelve times over the course of its 90 minute run, but Cult just seemed to tickle some very sensitive part of my funny bone. The bargain bin CGI does wonders, and random lack of attention to logical detail makes you scratch your head with a smile. Take, for example, the lack of custodian services on campus. I don't care how cheap your film is, it's pretty hard to conceive of a college that doesn't clean a blood-stained dorm bathroom after a student commits suicide inside. I can accept crime tape a few days after the event, but can I REALLY be asked to believe no one FLUSHED THE TOILET THAT WAS FILLED WITH THE DEAD KID'S BLOOD?Such moments are what make an otherwise underwhelming, probably once straight-to-Blockbuster-shelves genre flick somewhat memorable.Make of that what you will.Low PointsThat's right: I'm reversing this! Here's why: Alex, played by Cruel World's Joel Michaely, is easily the most obnoxious and intolerable (and also, apparently, racist and intolerant) character I can remember seeing onscreen in some time. I hated his face, hated his voice, and have never wished a more painful death upon anyone on cameraHigh PointsI mean, I have to give some credit to a film that makes me that excited to see someone die a horrible deathLess[...]



Siri: Kill Me

2018-01-01T06:30:03.426-05:00

Maybe it was the failure of the American remake of Pulse, but it seems surprising that here we are in 2017 with so few smartphone-centered horror movies. It's almost like someone just read my data and heard me...Quick Plot: Nikki is a seemingly healthy high school senior who suddenly drops dead, devastating her best friend Alice, boyfriend Cody, and a few other incredibly attractive pals, all of whom eventually find a new app invitation on her phone.Meet Mr. Bedevil, a sort of dandy version of Siri crossed with Freddy Krueger. While each teenager initially finds the app helpful in a cheat-on-your-homework kind of way, it doesn't take long for them to realize the software's goal is to exploit their deepest fears until they are medically scared to death.Clowns, racists, teddy bears, and old people: the typical phobias of today's millennial. The kids recognize their doom, attempting to uninstall the program to no avail. The police are similarly no help, and oddly enough, none of these seventeen year olds seems to have parents or teachers that think to raise any kind of alarm when they continue to die off. Bedeviled is the kind of low-ish budget horror movie that has charm about equal to the amount of ridiculous logic suspension its audience must take. The young actors aren't all fully comfortable with screen dialogue, but they're enthusiastic enough to garner audience sympathy, especially since each character has enough individuality to make an impression. The fact that they don't seem to be complete idiots is what hurts the film a tad. Haven't they watched enough movies to know that splitting up is easily the worst idea anyone can have when being stalked by a slender man-esque stalker?Look, movie characters aren't always the brightest bulbs onscreen. I get that. But if I was the only one seeing dreamlike images of my deepest fears while my friends went through the same thing, wouldn't I, I don't know, say to my pals, "hey, let's stick together because maybe this slender app-man can't be in two places at once?" I don't know much about this generation's youth, but apparently, they really don't work well together.Details aside, Bedeviled is a fun little watch that plays like a neat little modernization of Nightmare On Elm Street. The main villain and his many incarnations have some visual flair, and the pacing moves well to make its 90 minute runtime feel just right. This isn't a franchise starter or new classic, but it's a perfectly solid for a one-time watch. High PointsWhile it's still a pick 'em off horror movie centered around high schoolers, it's admirable that this is a film that actively casts a diverse assortment of (very attractive) actors and finds ways to touch on their racial/ethnic backgrounds in somewhat thoughtful waysLow PointsI mean, I get that Alice's mother is a single working woman, but considering just how many TEENAGERS ARE BEING KILLED, you'd think ONE adult in their lives might actually acknowledge that something is amissLessons LearnedIn 2017, nobody really cares if four kids from the same school die mysterious deaths within days of each otherDuck faces and assholes are pretty much the same thing, particularly if you're a bitter police officerSeriously, kids, stop recording yourselves having sex, especially when said device includes an app that easily accesses all of your data. Seriously Look! It's-Lead Saxon Sharbino, who I mostly knew from a recent Law & Order: SVU episode but who I apparently originally met via the climax of the criminally underseen, truly horrifying Red White and BlueRent/Bury/Buy I don't know that I'll ever watch Bedeviled again, but I'll certainly welcome more horror from the writing/directing team The Vang Brothers.  You can find it on Netflix.[...]



Happy Holidays!

2017-12-25T07:17:21.692-05:00


Whether yours is filled with chestnuts or latkes or Wookie porn disguised as holograms of Diahann Carroll, I wish you all a wonderful season of warm fuzzy happiness in whatever form you most prefer.

Enjoy!



Many Reasons For the Season

2017-12-18T07:04:28.208-05:00

So I queued up Red Christmas via Netflix because hey! I like a good seasonal horror flick. With Christmas looming, why not devote that Monday to a new yuletide slasher?Then I slogged through the mean-spirited coal that was Red Christmas and thought to myself, you know Emily, this year has been ugly enough without ending it on such a negative, punishing, anti-choice, mixed garbage statement of a movie. Let's find a happier note to play, something seasonal but positive.So here are a few random things to love about horror movies during the holidays. And if nothing here works, just screw it all and queue up The Muppet Family Christmas for the 9,00th time. No judgement here. The Crypt Keeper Singing Holiday JinglesEasily the best item ever to be purchased in the '90s by a teenage Emily at the Spencer's Gifts, this album (originally on cassette tape, natch) includes a dozen holiday tunes with the lyrics rewritten to be more fitting of the singer, John Kassir's pun-wielding, tale-spinning Crypt Keeper. Can't get your Walkman working? Revel in the kindness of strangers with YouTube accounts.The Very Fact That There Exists Not One But Two Killer Snowman MoviesAnd yet, the unrelated but weirdly similar Michael Keaton family film of the same name is somehow far creepierThe Choice to View Christmas Evil As a Magical Tale of a Lonely Santa-Loving Man Ascending to Angel StatusMy (and John Waters) favorite holiday genre film can be viewed as a lot of things: a an early entry into the slasher Santa trend, tragic tale of mental illness taken to extremes, the chance to spot a way-pre-Home Improvement Patricia Richardson in a tiny role. For my money, it's something even more special (that's also all of those things). The key to keeping Christmas Evil on the right side of your heart is to make the conscious decision that SPOILER ALERT! Harry Stadling's van doesn't crash and burn after his killing spree is over, but rather, transcends into the heavens, transforming into a magical sleigh and changing our sad sack factory worker into the real deal Santa. Margot Kidder In Black Christmas, GoddessEasily on the top five list of Film Characters I Want To Lost a Drinking Game To. She. Is. Divine.Vincent Cassel's Insanity In SheitanThe movie itself? Somewhat insufferable. The MAN himself? A god. Or, well, technically agent of the devil. The Most Feel-Good Pop Montage In the Least Feel-Good SlasherI've said it again and I'll say it an estimated 781 more times before I die: Silent Night Deadly Night is memorable for a bevy of reasons, but none more so than the weirdly placed, tonally mismatched "The Warm Side of the Door" sequence, wherein a sweet country tune cheerfully plays as our soon-to-be-mass-murderer learns about friendship, work ethic, and the joy of having alcoholic bosses.Eric Freeman's Case For The Academy Awards Adding a Category for Best Performance By a Pair of EyebrowsI mean...Clint Howard's Phallic Coven MaskEverybody forgets Silent Night Deadly Night Part 4 because it doesn't have The Warm Side of the Door or eyebrows, but you what it does have? Murderous roller blades. Also, this:Ray Wise & Lin Shaye In Dead EndA good but flawed little Christmas Eve ghost story, Dead End deserves to be seen more, mostly because, you know, Ray Wise and Lin Shaye. Disco Cameo GreatnessDon't Open Til Christmas is filled with a lot of wonderful things, among them, a smily plastic mask, Halloween costume holiday parties, charmingly innocent peep show conversations, a sleazy male flutist, and insanely slow motion overwrought flashbacks. But you know what REALLY makes it exciting? That it has Caroline Munro randomly performing a disco number. Because if that's not the real reason for the season, what is?[...]



The Ugly Americans

2017-12-11T06:30:22.707-05:00

As an American who lived abroad for a few years during my twenties, I can safely say that yankee expats can sometimes be the worst. While I like to think I was generally respectful and open to the cultures I was experiencing, I also spent a drunken dinner or two with a variety of fellow non-natives who didn't always charm those around them. Watching 1979's bizarre Bloodbath, I witnessed a nightmare version of those days. Thankfully, Dennis Hopper never taught ESL at any of my schools.Quick Plot: A gaggle of awful Americans party together on a mysterious and beautiful Spanish island. Chicken (Hopper in full loon mode) shoots heroin and makes racist jokes. Treasure Evans (the treasure that is Carroll Baker) is a washed up movie star who kills time with booze and local men while waiting for her agent to call. Finally there's Allen (screenwriter Win Wells), a gay hedonist looking for just the right young fellow to seduce.As our ugly Americans frolic and sin their way across the island, the locals take part in their own mysterious traditions, from child marriage to child sacrifice. A caravan of hippies arrive just as things start getting truly weird, with hallucinations and dead bodies turning up every scenic way you turn.Directed by Silvio Narizzano, Bloodbath (aka The Sky Is Falling, which makes a whole lot more sense in terms of a character being named Chicken) is a surreal, strange little movie that plays with religious iconography and Manson-esque cult violence. The oddest thing about it (of which, seriously, there are many) is that for being such a product of the late '60s/early '70s, it comes with a 1979 date.I don't know how much I can say I enjoyed Bloodbath, but it certainly was an experience not like much else. For Dennis Hopper, however, I'm guessing it was pretty much casual Friday.High PointsIt's always a pleasure to see Carroll Baker, but it's even more of one when she gets such a juicy mess of a person to playLow PointsIt may be more Amazon's fault than the film's, but it's a shame that the visual quality feels so compromisedLessons LearnedNever call a snotty Britishman an expatriate if he's simply living abroadReal pearls are what you would call "proper'There are few things worse than a white expat with easy access to liquorRent/Bury/BuyBloodbath is certainly not for everybody, but if you're looking for something way off the beaten path, it's definitely one to try. You can find a poorly lit grainy version streaming on Amazon Prime if your eyes are up for it.[...]



The Time Traveler's Abs

2017-12-04T06:30:29.182-05:00

Back when I watched The Butterfly Effect 2, I was angry. Here was a case of a potential franchise with a good central premise being applied in the worst possible way on the least possible interesting characters and situation. While it's far from a masterpiece, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (because every franchise eventually needs an entry subtitled "Revelations") makes a batch of good decisions that put its predecessor to shame. Easy tip for new filmmakers: want people to enjoy your movie? Don't center it on a white millennial startup tech salesman.Quick Plot: Sam is a handsome young butterfly effector. Somewhere between presumed four hour ab workouts, he finds the time to assist police on murder cases by butterfly effecting and care for his agoraphobic sister Jenna. Advising him is a friendly weed dealer/former high school teacher named Goldberg who somehow knows a thing or two about butterfly effecting and when not to do it...namely, if it involves saving someone close to you from a violent death.Some years earlier, Sam made that very mistake, going back in time to spare his sister from a house fire only to lose his parents in the tradeoff. Now a somewhat happy and well-adjusted young man, Sam's life is rocked once again when the sister of his brutally murdered high school girlfriend comes to remind him that there's an innocent man on death row.Against all common sense and rules of butterfly effecting, Sam heads back to the scene of the crime. In the process, the murder adds another victim and seems to officially launch the birth of a serial killer who continues to take the lives of other young women. Sam continues to butterfly effect at various points in the past, disrupting his life and status each time.But never his four-hour ab workoutsLike Part 2, The Butterfly Effect 3 (REVELATIONS!) has nothing to do with the rest of the franchise, which is perfectly fine. The other key part to that is how it trusts its audience enough to not dwell on the details of butterfly effecting, assuming (probably rightfully) that they've seen the first film and get the general gist. In a world where every superhero movie has to be an origin story, this is refreshing.At right around 90 minutes long, the story moves quite well, wasting no time on subplots. Directed by Seth Grossman from a script by Holly Brix, it plays like a straight murder mystery with a much more standard horror movie feel than the other installments. It even makes intense use of its Detroit setting, milking the city's reputation for crime and abandonment several years before It Follows and Don't Breathe. When you add that with the ridiculous (in a good way) twist ending, you end up with something far more satisfying than you'd expect...especially if you suffered through the slog that was The Butterfly Effect 2. High PointsI won't reveal it here, but the aforementioned ending is rather glorious, and the subsequent coda has a weirdly black comedic tone that makes the movie feel a little more memorable than your typical third installmentLow PointsAt the risk of spoiling a big reveal, there's a sparseness (which might be a nice way of saying low budgetness) about The Butterfly Effect 3 that keeps the cast of characters so slim that our suspect list can't help but limit the surprise factorLessons LearnedDetroit is such a dangerous place that even a bear trap will get you when you least expect itSeeing your mother bludgeoned to death will not leave you unharmedProper butterfly effecting requires a steady supply of ice cubes and journalsRent/Bury/Buyp.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #222222; -webkit-text-stroke: #222222} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font[...]



Survivor: Edward Furlong Island

2017-11-27T06:30:10.905-05:00

Gather 'round kids, and let me tell you tales of the turn of the early years of this century. The world was a different place, a little colder in some ways and kinder in others. Most notably, reality TV was a new religion that washed over the world like a plague. Competitions sprang up for every possible scenario. Survivor and Big Brother were training wheels for what came after: Boot Camp, Love Boat, Strip Search, and so on. Everyone knew someone who was constantly sending audition tapes to network after network for unnamed shows that teased of minor fame and heavily taxed big winnings. It was the new American dream.2005's Cruel World was clearly made at the height of the trend, something you can guess by the fact that Joe Millionaire is referenced in such a way that it clearly assumes everyone in the audience knew exactly what that one-season Fox show was about. While it's no ahead-of-its-time classic like Series 7: The Contenders, this one has some fun.Quick Plot: Philip (typically greasy Edward Furlong) is still bristling from his embarrassing loss on Lovers Lane (no, not that one), a dating show where he was rejected by the beautiful Catherine (Jaime Pressly), now married to the winning contestant and living in the very mansion where the program was filmed. Bitter and insane, Philip returns to exact his vengeance on the happy couple before setting a much more complex plan into play.With the help of his dim but incredibly strong brother Claude, Philip invites a gaggle of attractive, fame-hungry 20somethings to the mansion under the guise of filming a new Big Brother-esque reality competition. Because it's 2005, none of the "contestants" have any reason to suspect shenanigans. After all, there were some pretty terribly produced reality shows at that time hosted by dudes like this:Naturally, being voted out of the house has bigger consequences than losing out on a cash prize and being confined to a deli interview on Late Night (seriously; in the early days of Survivor, David Letterman was so annoyed with CBS forcing him to interview reality show castoffs that he wouldn’t allow the guests in his actual studio). Each elimination is a murder at the hands of Claude or, as the game gets more intense, fellow contestants. Directed by Kelsey T. Howard with a clear venom towards the reality genre, Cruel World has a tricky time nailing its tone. There’s a nastiness to its opening, savagely disposing of a happy couple before thrusting a batch of somewhat horrid young people at us. As the cast gets thinned out, the contestants become a little more human and sympathetic. That kind of makes it worse.I don’t mean to imply that I hated Cruel World. As someone who watched my share of Temptation Island, it felt like a recent time capsule that found a good look into the reality TV boom. I wish the satire was sharper and characters more tolerable, but on a certain level, this is a film that has aged somewhat well in terms of its social politics. It doesn’t make it any more pleasant to actually watch, but hey…it’s more than I expected from an Edward Furlong movie I’d never heard of streaming on Amazon Prime.High PointsIn a post-Gamergate world, there's something incredibly disturbing and  sadly believable about Cruel World's central villain, a socially awkward but tech-smart young white male so embittered by not his dream girl that he'd go to such violent lengths to right the perceived wrongLow PointsThere's an art to ending your film with a nasty stinger, and then there's "just throw some mean twist at the end without any context so we leave our audience feeling kinda crappy"Lessons LearnedWant to throw your attacker off? Pee on him when he least expects itBefor[...]



We All Have Nightmares of Stage Fright

2017-11-20T06:30:12.640-05:00

There are LOT of films with the title "Nightmares," which makes me want to use 1980s's Nightmares' alternate title, Stage Fright, except I've already reviewed TWO movies with that title and you know what? I'm just confused now.Quick Plot: Young Cathy is supposed to be fast asleep in the back seat of the car en route to visit Grandma, but the little girl wakes up just in time to see her mother making out with a man in the passenger seat who is in no way her father. Her shock causes an accident that throws her mother through the windshield. Confused and well-intentioned Cathy pulls her mother back inside, accidentally slitting her throat with broken glass shards.Some years later, Cathy is a talented but nightmare-plagued actress who goes by the name Helen Selleck. After accepting a key role in an experimental play directed by one of Australia's most prominent theater kings, she hesitantly begins a romantic relationship with Terry, her soap opera bred costar. As the rehearsal process begins, a rash of glass shard-based murders follows. While they seem specifically based on Helen's wrath, all the killings are done in a sort of POV style that never shows us the identity of the murderer(ess). Until, well, SPOILER, I think maybe?...we have it confirmed at the end that yes, yeah obviously, duh, it's Helen.So obviously, Nightmares isn't necessarily the cleanest of low budget Ozsploitation slashers to now air in grainy Amazon Prime glory. The film seems to hold back on Helen's wrath as if it hadn't decided whether the killer's identity should be a mystery or not, only to dump it on us at the end as if we knew all along. It's...strange.As is most of Nightmares really, which is why it's extremely ridiculous fun. Directed with a clear hatred towards highbrow critics by John Lamond, Nightmares is at its best when it's playing with the flamboyant bitchiness of the theater world, from its ascot clad director who insults his cast Shakespearean level language to the bisexual critic who flaunts his influence with relish. The actual horror is muddled in its execution and whatever Hitchcockian points the film wanted to explore with its sex-scared lead gets lost amongst the shards of glass and randomly inserted T&A, but Nightmares remains, if nothing else, an awkwardly entertaining good time.High PointsAs someone who spent a fair amount of time around theater people, I appreciate how Nightmares finds some snarky ways to target some of their more obnoxious habits (cut to Emily's college memory of being publicly shamed for introducing myself at an audition with "I'll be doing a monologue from Macbeth")Low PointsYou know, the fact that the story seems more confused than the lead characterLessons LearnedSurviving a brutal car accident can change a lot of things about you, including eliminating any trace of your Australian accentNever whistle or wear green in a theater in front of obnoxiously superstitious theater peopleThere's no such thing as a one hour callRent/Bury/BuyNightmares is not by any conventional definition a good movie. It's a messy, weirdly shot oddity that nevertheless entertained me for the right and wrong reasons. Dive in when you want some 1980 era Aussie sleaze. [...]



You Can't Have Prom Without the Prom Ride

2017-11-13T06:59:00.226-05:00

I recently listened to an interview with horror producer extraordinaire Jason Blum, he behind what virtually amounts to every studio horror hit of the last ten years (among them the Paranormal Activity franchise, Insidious, The Purge world, and Get Out, to name a few). I bring this up because one of the questions he was asked speaks heartily to today's film: is there still room for found footage in the horror genre?Blum's immediate answer was a hearty no, followed by a little more explanation. In summary, he said (to witch I agree) that the only time to employ the dreaded double F style is if the movie absolutely requires it to the extent that it only makes sense AS a movie if it's done that way. Prom Ride, a very low budget but not terrible little horror film, does not understand this in the least.Quick Plot: In the weeks leading up to prom, a bunch of attractive young people buy their dresses, play fart pranks on each other, and stage elaborately choreographed dance invitations, just as kids today apparently do. When the big night finally comes, Alejandra's parents treat their daughter and her seven pals to a souped up hummer limo. Before you can say Hello Mary Lou, the vehicle gets run off the road as their pleasant chauffeur (thus far the only tolerable character in the film) is murdered just outside the car windows. Cue a LOT of screaming, followed by an almost Jigsaw-esque game of torture with the teens as participants. It is as positively delightful as it sounds.Written and directed by newbie Kazeem Molake, Prom Ride is clearly a beginner's movie. On one hand, it has some ideas and shows potential skill; on the other, it's pretty impossible to fathom how any viewer could possibly enjoy what happens onscreen. Look, I'm the token oddball who was charmed by the VERY elaborate dance number and way the filmmaker decided to superimpose handmade graphics over the screen to simulate video camera footage. I'm the same token oddball who can make a case for the young actors not being terrible, but just being forced to say terrible lines. And hey, the prom dresses were kind of cute.So in summary, if you have a choice of watching Prom Ride or staring at your shoes, I'd say go for the movie. If your choices broaden to include youtube tutorials on how to do prom hair, reconsider.High PointsAs someone terrified of all things high heeled, I can appreciate a good gouging via stilettoLow PointsGuys, it's 2017, and we've now had a full decade of found footage as the de facto style in low budget horror (remember the innocent aughts when it was all Saw ripoffs about imperfect strangers waking up in torture rooms? Sigh). Sometimes, it's a gimmick that makes sense to the action or can be justified for the film's overall tone. In the case of Prom Ride, a film that never claims to be composed of found footage, why, good god WHY, would Molake randomly stage shots as if they were recorded via phone or security camera? It does absolutely nothing for the action but makes it incomprehensibleLessons LearnedDon't be fooled: it is indeed possible to do a sit-up with your eyes closedA proper prom proposal should require at least four weeks of intense dance practice and intermediate choreographyWhen half your teenage friends order virgin cocktails, you shouldn't be surprised when the waiter asks for your ID upon ordering an alcoholic beverageThe (Losing) LineCharacter 1: That would suck balls.Character 2: That's what she said!All Characters: (uproarious laughter)Me: Rent/Bury/BuyI don't think anyone not related to the cast or crew will actually enjoy the experience of watching Prom Ride, but as I so often say in these corn[...]



FALL BREAK!

2017-11-06T06:30:13.776-05:00

There are certain personal beliefs of mine that I feel very confident about. Among them, that Buffy the Vampire Slayer's fifth season is the best but that the third season is my favorite, that Clancy Brown has never and will never give a performance that isn't the best thing in whatever film he's in, and that the best use of a tonally inconsistent song in a horror movie is Silent Night, Deadly Night's feel-good montage set to "The Warm Side of the Door."Then a movie like The Mutilator shambles along with its jaunty "Fall Break" ditty and I question everything I know about life.Quick Plot: Poor Ed Jr. just wanted to clean his papa's gun collection for the old man's birthday, but unfortunately, the gift has some unintended consequences when Ed Jr. accidentally shoots his mother, killing her on the spot. The lessons in this case write themselves.Some years later, Ed Jr. is a college student mulling over the best way to celebrate fall break (FALL BREAK!) with his girlfriend and two other couples. In case you had the slightest doubt, the answer is, without question, to have a montage to the jauntiest original tune you've ever not heard called indeed, "Fall Break" (also apparently the working title for The Mutilator).Because this world is cruel and we apparently can't have an entire 90 minute film set to "Fall Break," Ed Jr. decides instead to take his pals to his father's isolated beach condo for a long weekend. Before you can even attempt to get "Fall Break" out of your head, a mysterious man (or just Ed Sr.) begins brutally murdering the young people in especially grisly ways.Written and directed by Buddy Cooper, The Mutilator is far from the top tier of '80s slashers, but it also gives you nearly everything you want (PLUS "FALL BREAK") from the genre. The acting is rough in an absolutely charming manner, with the young cast clearly trying their best with zero camera experience to help back them up. Every trope you find appears in goofy earnestness, from the doe-eyed brunette constantly defending her virginity to the prankster getting murdered in the middle of a joke. This is a good old fashioned dumb slasher, and I say that with full affection. Aside from "Fall Break" (FALL BREAK!), you won't find anything overly revolutionary, but between pitchforkings, vice killings, and a decapitation AFTER OUR KILLER HAS ALREADY BEEN TORN IN TWO, there's a lot to love here.High PointsIs this really up for debate? Guys, FALL BREAK. If you don't believe me, have a listen and try, JUST TRY I SAY to get this out of your headLow PointsMaybe the fact that it's been two weeks and I still can't get FALL BREAK out of my head?Lessons LearnedChlorine probably prevents herpesWhen sleeping in an unfamiliar room, always stay fully clothed with your jeans belted an your shirt buttoned up. You just never know when you'll be called out of bed to investigate the murder of your friends by your insane fatherIt's very easy to get lost in a larger-than-average swimming poolRent/Bury/BuryThe Mutilator is incredibly satisfying to fans of '80s slashers. No, it's not good by any measure, but it's time stamped in such an adorable and low budget way that it's simply impossible to be too hard on it. You can find it streaming on Amazon Prime in all its grainy glory.[...]



Storytime With Claude Akins

2017-10-30T06:30:06.908-04:00

Like the majority of horror fans, I generally look forward to watching anthology films with very particular expectations. If extremely consistent history has taught me anything, it's that most multi-story horror movies tend to be inconsistent, with some parts hitting and others failing miserably.Then I queue one up and immediately see the Troma logo and edit my expectations to consistently terrible. Quick Plot: A prospective buyer comes to take a look at an LA mansion that just so happens to have a rich haunted history. Caretaker Claude Akins is happy to tell it, leading us all into a trio of tales involving ghosts, vampires, witchcraft, and a whole lot of ADR.Directed by Stephen A. Maier, the first tells the saga of Hubert Whitehead, a hotheaded college student who goes on a murder spree when his fellow classmates don't appreciate his new wheels. Twenty years later, he's released from prison and promptly returns to his killing grounds only to be confronted by the zombified ghosts of his victims. Sadly, it's probably the best story of the bunch. It is not very good.The second tale (by one-time director Kevin G. Nunan) follows a typical family whose life is upended when the eldest teenage son succumbs to a vampire seduction. For whatever reason, the segment is told in narration by the youngest (now grown) daughter and comes off like an earnest teenager's attempt to write a romance novel if said earnest teenager had never read one.Finally, our third and longest (although by this point in Where Evil Lives, time seems to be freezing in an especially cruel way) segment follows the police investigation of a serial rapist/murderer with the help of a sassy, incredibly late '80s-dressed witch. It goes on forever to the point where I started to wonder if I had indeed become a vampire while watching the second story because surely, this part was at least two hundred years long. It's made by Richard L. Fox, a prominent Hollywood second unit director who owes me my soul.Perhaps the one saving grace of Where Evil Lives (aside from Akins, who's pleasant, even if I started to wonder if in his old age, he had just wandered onto the set when a savvy producer somehow managed to convince him that he had actually signed on to do this film) is that it doesn't bear too many of the obnoxious Troma-isms you come to expect with that studio. The quality is terrible, but I guess I was grateful that it wasn't also loaded with the kind of ickiness so fitting of the brand.Small favors indeed. High PointsThis was Claude Akins' last film, and while it's in no way something that should represent his career, it's certainly nice to see him having some goofy fun so close to the end of his lifeLow PointsThe movie. Seriously, this movieLessons LearnedRemember to push "end" when you're finished with your call on a car phoneThe best way to rebound from being stood up is to give in quickly to the sexy vampire next doorWitches of the early '90s were not afraid to play with color in their wardrobeRent/Bury/Buyp.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 10.0px Arial; color: #222222; -webkit-text-stroke: #222222; min-height: 11.0px} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 10.0px Arial; color: #222222; -webkit-text-stroke: #222222} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} I can't think of a single reason why anyone would choose to watch Where Evil Lives. I suppose anthology completists might feel compelled, but for anyone else with a modicum of taste (I don't put myself in that camp, hence the reason why I can actually [...]



It's Not Incub-Me, It's Incub-US

2017-10-23T06:30:17.867-04:00

Amazon Prime continues its war against Netflix's failing genre selection with a dip into the early '80s Canadian demon rapesploitation. Sure, the films continue to look like someone spilled Dr Pepper all over the prints and wiped it down with a dirty rag, but hey...at least we can (mostly) see them!Quick Plot: In the small town of Galen, an attractive teenage couple's lake date becomes a nightmare when an unidentified figure slaughters the male and rapes the female, leaving her just barely alive. New-to-town doctor Sam Cordell (a slumming John Cassavetes) is called in to save the young woman and, more importantly, help his town's head (alcoholic) cop solve the case.Later that evening, a museum employee suffers a similar fate with less luck. When yet another young woman is found raped to death in the restroom of a movie theater, it becomes clear that there's a serial rapist/murderer lurking about, loaded with red semen and somehow mysteriously connected to a young man named Tim, who also happens to be Sam's daughter Jenny's boyfriend. Could hot young reporter Laura Kincaid (Beverly Hills 90210's Kerrie Keane) solve the case while keeping her amazing perm?Directed by Disney dark house John Hough (he of The Watcher In the Woods and Escape From Witch Mountain), Incubus is...weird. Perhaps it's the film's 1982 date that helps that, as this feels like an odd hybrid of a seedy ‘70s horror trickling into something more standard.Take, for instance, Sam’s relationship with his teenage daughter Jenny. The film drops some super creepy hints that there’s some serious incestuous action on at the start, only to slowly back away from it without any real resolution. In a slightly better film, this could have helped feed into the sexual madness of its title beast, a creature obsessed with procreation. In Incubus, it just sort of…goes away.The other main issue with Incubus is that it never seems to find its center. John Cassavetes cashes his paycheck with a scowling performance. His Sam clearly has a history deeper than the film ever delves into (see aforementioned what-the-hell-is-going-on-with-his-daughter subplot) while the town’s history is never fleshed out in a satisfying way. The ending has a neat and nasty twist, but it doesn’t quite justify the fact that this feels like one of the longest 100 minute movies I’ve seen in some time.High PointsLook, call me simple, but I’m bound to give any film a few extra points for opening on a young couple sunbathing with a score so blatantly Jaws-esque that you can practically hear the John Williams’ estate putting the paperwork together for an immediate lawsuitLow PointsIs it just me, or is hearing the term “dry intercourse” on repeat in reference to supernatural rape a little unsettling?Lessons LearnedAging alcoholic cops can handle clairvoyance but draw a line at any form of materializationA great rule of directing: if your film is dragging, always, and I really do mean always, insert a randomly avant guard music video when your audience least expects itIn some small American towns, the head surgeon also serves as the lead investigator in ongoing murder investigationsLook! It's --A poster for Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things randomly sitting around the film's movie theater. Remember a time when a movie like that actually came out IN a movie theater?Rent/Bury/Buyp.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #222222; -webkit-text-stroke: #222222} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #222222; -w[...]



Who's the Winonyaest of Them All?

2017-10-16T06:00:12.318-04:00

Amazon Prime may have been slow to the streaming game, but BOY are they currently doing wonders for horror fans with questionable taste!Quick Plot: Megan is an LA goth kid whose Beetlejuice-Era-Winonya-Ryder-Meets-Madonna-With-Hints-of-Boy-George style isn't exactly embraced in her new suburban high school. Only Nikki, a friendly overachiever with a horny boyfriend and a Tracy Flick-ish ambition to be school president, makes an effort to befriend the city girl. They quickly bond over a shared nemesis-ship with the school's reigning mean girls, although Megan becomes distracted quickly by something far more sinister at home.With daffy widowed mom Karen Black too busy trying to find a husband, Megan bonds with the antique full-length mirror that had been left behind in her new room. The relationship intensifies when the lonely goth girl discovers the mirror can help her wreak vengeance on her enemies in especially creative ways.Directed by Marina Sargenti (who like most female filmmakers, went on to primarily work in television), Mirror Mirror seems to be collecting all of the leftover, soon-to-be-expired goofiness of '80s horror before the world was willing to admit that 1990 was a new decade. As slashers and supernatural scares slowly faded from the big screen before being uprooted by post-Scream slickness, movies with the kind of goofy gore like Mirror Mirror would become an endangered species whose only refuge was Blockbuster shelves.Mirror/Mirror is far from being an original tale. Rainbow Harvest's Megan could not look more like the costume department camped outside of Tim Burton's dumpster in the hopes of finding some scraps of Lydia Deetz that they could spin into their lead's ensemble, and the popular queen bees feel ripped off any high school assembly line. At the same time, this is a movie that includes a scene where ditzy Karen Black tries to charm the pet cemetery dead animal retriever (played by William Sanderson, no less) with a romantic home dinner while fending off an fly infestation caused by an evil mirror. And hey, that's not even the best scene IN this film! Among other moments of joy, we get a jock being eaten by said evil mirror, the film's popular villain being burned in an evil mirror-induced shower, and Ned Ryerson being doodled to near death (see note below; it makes perfect sense, trust me). Mirror Mirror is never scary, but it's fun in a way that somehow manages to balance today's camp with an earnestness of its time.High PointsSomething I appreciated about Mirror/Mirror is how Meghan, despite being our main character, is kind of a jerk. Yes, we feel bad for her and hate the Heathers who immediately mark her as a social target, but while she may be lonely and sympathetic, she has a somewhat complicated mean streak of her own, cruelly ignoring her mother's feelings when her dogs turn up dead and savoring her newfound murderous power without much regret. Nikki is the moral heart of the film (and an incredibly pleasant one at that), but I simply found it interesting to center a fairly formulaic horror film on a more-complicated-than-usual character. Low PointsI suppose I could have taken a clearer commitment to tone, since the film never fully decides whether it's tongue is in its cheek or notLessons LearnedIf your friends are dropping dead around you, be sure to make yourself the best sandwich in the world, just in case it ends up being your last mealPsychiatrists are VERY Beverly HillsPutting your hand down a garbage disposal is a choice you make only if you have no affection [...]



I Hope I Get It

2017-10-09T06:30:01.242-04:00

I don't exactly know why it's taken me so long to get around to 1983's Curtains. While it's never had a hugely positive reputation, it DOES have a doll, mannequins, interpretive dance, Samantha Eggar, and, most importantly, figure skating. If that's not a movie made for Emily Intravia, then frankly, I just don't know who I am anymore.Quick Plot: Director Jonathon Stryker (John Vernon) is attempting to mount production on Audra, a drama about a woman going insane. Film star Samantha Sherwood (the always great Eggar) is set to star and decides to undergo intense research by posing as a madwoman, going undercover and living in a mental asylum to prepare. It's method acting to the extreme, and apparently, a little too much for what Stryker wants from his leading lady.Some time later, Stryker decides to recast his leading lady via a weekend audition session with six young contenders. Included in the group is Brooke, a seasoned pro, Christie, a figure skater(!!!!!), Patti, a comedian, Laurian, a dancer, Tara, a musician, and Amanda, who is stabbed to death before she gets the chance to reveal her trade for the talent show. Thankfully for all, Samantha has managed to escape from the asylum just in time to join the Survivor-meets-A Chorus Line-esque audition weekend. Naturally, the other applicants are slowly picked off, all seemingly by a multitalented masked figure. I didn't know much about the behind-the-scenes (or curtains) happenings involved in Curtains at first, so my initial reaction was that this film was an enjoyable mess. Some sequences are weirdly wonderful--figure skating death because OBVIOUSLY, but also a decent stalking scene and some of the drama surrounding the genuinely good and magnetic Samantha Eggar--but throughout the film, there's a lack of focus that hurts the overall effect. Too many of the young females are shortchanged in their characterization, leading me to miscount who was left and to watch one of the final girls wondering who she actually was. Turns out, of COURSE Curtains was a mess because that's what happens when your director walks off the set, your producer finishes shooting over the course of a few years, various cast and crew members are replaced, and rewrites abound in a way that changes your story and tone. So yes, Curtains is an incredibly flawed and sometimes dull film. Thankfully, it's also weird enough to justify its place on the lower tier of Canadian cult classics. This is a movie that involves death via interpretive dance. If that doesn't excite you, we simply run in different circles.High PointsShe may not have loved the material, but Samantha Eggar gives a genuinely interesting performance that helps to elevate the overall filmLow PointsAside from Lynne Griffin, the rest of the younger female characters simply don't get enough time to stand out as individuals, making it hard to be invested in any of the tension as the numbers go downLessons LearnedAll's fair in love and auditionsTo best keep pepperoni hot, stick it to your buttYou might be an insecure figure skater because you haven't made it to the Olympics, but any gal who can tie her shoelaces while wearing fuzzy gloves should win a gold medal for somethingRent/Bury/BuyCurtains is now streaming on Amazon Prime, and while it's not quite a lost gem of '80s cinema, it is unique enough to warrant a watch if you've never done so. You won't get nearly as much figure skating as you should, but isn't that always the case?[...]



Come Geek With Me

2017-10-04T21:53:32.276-04:00

GUYS! I'm doing a thing. A LIVE thing, For those East Coasters, come to the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY, next Friday (THE THIRTEENTH!) for Kevin Geeks Out, a bimonthly variety show of sorts for the fun-loving nerd in us all. Most specifically, the Stephen King loving nerd that resides in your inner bully, rock 'n roll star, religious zealot, psychic kid, or whatever vessel you hide under your blue overalls. I'll be diving deep into Mick Garris's 1994 television adaptation of The Stand, one of the most gloriously '90s and awkwardly weird pieces of modern history. Put on your best Canadian tuxedo and join the fun!Event details here! You there!M-O-O-N, that spells I hope to see you soon. [...]



Urband Scream What You Did Last Summer Legend

2017-10-02T06:30:15.676-04:00

A teen slasher that includes urban legends AND a cat fake-out? Innovation was a BIG thing in the late ‘90s.Quick Plot: It's a poorly lit night on Lovers (Lovers', right?) Lane when two teenagers' front seat lovemaking is rudely interrupted by an escaped mental patient with a hook hand cutting up the couple in a nearby car. In a shocking twist, the victims aren't horny high schoolers but the wife of the town sheriff (and mother to 4-year-old Mandy) and the husband of the school principal (and dad to Michael). You'd think that this would be scandalous, but somehow this small town seems to bury the crime from everyone but Mandy, who saw the messy cleanup. As far as the rest of the town knows, Michael's dad died of a heart attack and since the hook dude was returned to his asylum (conveniently run by Mandy's creepy-and-not-at-all-suspicious Uncle Jack), nobody ever seemed to realize that a brutal urban legend-worthy double homicide took place so close. Thirteen years later, Mandy is a nerdy high school senior who reads J.D. Salinger while Michael is the BMOC with a blond queen bee of a girlfriend named Chloe (who we at some point find out is Uncle Jack's daughter and therefore Mandy's cousin; there are apparently all of 19 people living in this entire town). With a Valentine's Day kegger scheduled for the evening, new girl in town and on the cheerleader squad Janelle (seconds-before-Scary-Movie Anna Faris) sets her sights on Michael, who has just dumped the bitter Chloe. A few more poorly lit teenagers team up for a night on the titular street  unaware that the hook-handed murderer has escaped and is on the prowl. What follows is a fairly straightforward, SUPER poorly lit slasher that gets some minor redemption with the oh-so-Scream-worthy reveal of its twist.Lovers(‘) Lane is not a good movie. The story has been told a dozen times before, the tension is as tight as a sweater three sizes too large, and the murders are fairly uninspired. That being said, Lovers(‘) Lane is also one of THE most ‘90s movies I’ve seen in some time, and for purely nostalgic, very stupid reasons, that makes it slightly better than it should be. Just take a look:Oversized shirt with a single big vertical stripe, modified mushroom cut, hemp choker, and baggy jeans for the boys. Boyfriend's letterman jacket and baby barrettes for the girls. This is a movie that seems to include a pig sighting purely for the purpose of having its characters reference Babe. Mind you, this in no way improves the quality of Lovers(‘) Lane. It merely makes it weirdly enjoyable for someone who graduated with the class of 2000.High PointsI love a good mean girl, and Sarah Lancaster’s Chloe gets to have some sneering fun with the occasional bitchy insultLow PointsLook, I get that director Jon Ward wasn’t given buckets of money to make this movie, but considering how much he saved on his female characters’ bra budget, would it have killed him to invest a little more in lighting his film so we could, you know, see it?Lessons LearnedThe rules of Lovers(') Lane states that only one partner can ever hear anything suspicious happening outside of the parked carThe majority of teen-related car accidents happen because everybody inside the car is screaming and flailing to dangerous levels of chaos at onceUnless you’re wearing some form of facial armor, do your best to avoid hunting down your fellow classmates during yearbook photo seasonThe Winning Li[...]



Dyin' to the Oldies

2017-09-25T06:30:30.933-04:00

A supernatural slasher is still a slasher, but when you make it in 1989 and set it in the most 1989 gym that has ever 1989'd, you've got something very, very special. Quick Plot: After practicing her dance routine in an empty workout studio, a young woman named Laura is nearly steam roomed to death (or nearly dissolved to death like an alka setlzer, in the words of the very professional LAPD). Odd accidents continue to follow for a full week, ranging from the mild (a hot shower that doesn't relent) to fatal (a muscle man being weight lifted to death by a malfunctioning machine). Something is clearly amiss at Starbody Health Spa, a trendy gym whose main selling point is how it integrates technology into the equipment. Lording over the control room is the creepy David, a tech wiz who just so happens to be twin brother of the late Catherine, wife of Starbody owner Michael.So what became of Catherine, you ask? After pregnancy complications, Catherine lost her baby and became paralyzed from the waist down. With her husband surrounded by a gaggle of young aerobicizers, she went mad, wheeling herself outside and committing suicide via fire. Michael recovered from his loss, moving on to Laura...much to the chagrin of the increasingly hostile David.Now several unexplained deaths into a regular week at Sarbody, is David using his programming skills to destroy Michael's spa? Is it Michael's lawyer and shady co-owner? Friendly manager Ken Foree? Friendly manager Ken Foree's amazing rainbow blazer?More likely, it's the spirit of Catherine possessing David, urging him to slaughter gym members in increasingly creative ways. How creative, you ask? Aside from aforementioned benchpress-to-death and steam-room-to-death, there's the inevitable tanning bad meltdown, mirror explosion, power smoothie blender malfunction, and my personal favorite, food-obsessed-chubby-detective-being-locked-in-walk-in-refrigerator-fooded to death. Death Spa is basically Carrie if Carrie was a gym member and William Katt wore neon. It's everything you ask for from a horror movie made in the late '80s, but somehow with even more hairspray and joy. It is a beautiful thing.High PointsYou'd be hard-pressed to find a better source for fashion tips than EVERYTHING WORN BY EVERYONE IN THIS MOVIELow PointsMy own personal gym phobia is the nightmare of being stuck on a treadmill that won't stop moving, so I was mildly disappointed not to see someone be jogged to deathLessons LearnedNever lift without a spotterHacking means experimenting with computer programsWhen leaving the house to confront your backstabbing partner and lawyer, make a statement by wearing your Macguyver jacket without a shirtRent/Bury/BuyDeath Spa is a terribly wonderful movie. It's more '80s than your acid washed brain can fathom, and more ridiculous than you can dream a little dream. Crack open a can of TAB, line up your cocaine, and queue it up on Amazon Prime for one fun night.[...]



Eat Me

2017-09-18T06:30:08.179-04:00

Font choice is not something one should ever take lightly. Consider the prologue of Souleater, which opens in the past with subtitles overloaded with serif, leading me to try to figure out if "beavy" meant something different in the 13th century. Quick Plot: Welcome to Bixby, home of Tucker's Motel, a diner, and a house in the woods that contains a souleater. Put that on your postcard and mail it.If you're like me, you may very well hear "souleater" and think "sin eater" and be taken back to The Order, a film with better font choices but far less energy than today's feature. If you recall, a "sin eater" is a handsome centuries old cursed Catholic who helps sinners get into heaven via a side door that opens with sin eating. A souleater (one word, apparently) just eats souls.On hand to fight the souleater is weathered priest Father Dolan and his protégé, Spencer. The pair teams up with the local po-lice (including the film's big name grab, Peter Hooten) and Demon and Pike, a pair of grizzled bikers looking for Pike's soul-teasing daughter. There's TRON-esque night vision, mild CGI (that in fairness, makes The Order look even worse), and when in doubt, zombies.Directed, co-produced, co-written, edited, sound edited, and title designed by Michael Lang, Souleater is, without question, an indie horror film. It doesn't look great, it doesn't sound great, and nobody will be having nightmares after it's over. That being said, it's clearly made with heart and enthusiasm by all involved. The actors aren't going to show up on the list of Oscar nominees anytime soon, but nobody is phoning anything in. That's something.I can't say Souleater is a good film by most measures, but in its very specific realm of micro-budgeted horror, I can't say it isn't more watchable than a lot of what's out there in bargain bins. High PointsI wouldn't be surprised if it was simply a case of casting convenience, but it's always refreshing to see a cast primarily made up of actors on the other side of middle ageLow PointsI could quibble with the dialogue and performances all I want, but at the end of the day, what really gave me the most pain with Souleater was its damned font decisionsLessons LearnedPriests are second only to rock stars when it comes to leaving a motel room in ruinsThe key to impressing a small town Florida deputy is to demonstrate a modicum of skill level with chopsticksPeople just won't take you very seriously if your first name is DemonNever hit a lady in front of bikersRent/Bury/BuyIf you enjoy slightly-more-professional-than-homemade horror movies, then Souleater can go on your Amazon Prime watchlist. Personally, I don't have much of a palette for this level of film in my grumpy old age, but I can certainly acknowledge there's still charm in DIY filmmaking for some genre audiences. If that's you, then have fun. [...]