Review : Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiousities / Episodes 1 & 2

Review by R L Merrill

Greetings Horror Addicts! I feel like this spooky season has been packed chock-a-block full of excellent horror offerings. I am nearly done with The Midnight Club, I fiendishly binged The Watcher, and I’m completely enamored of Interview With The Vampire, which I’m on my second viewing at this time. But there was one series I knew I could get my non-horror-tolerating husband to watch, and I’m excited to share my reactions with you. 

Like most fans of Guillermo Del Toro, I was anxious to check out Netflix’s Cabinet of Curiosities. There are eight episodes, which are all introduced by the man himself, and I’ll be posting reviews of them here on the blog. The episodes are directed by folks he handpicked, they seem to all be period pieces spanning the past 150 years, and two are from his original stories. The collection has a Twilight Zone vibe—if directed by Sam Raimi. The actors are folks you’ve seen before, including some beloved actors like F. Murray Abraham, Crispin Glover, and Andrew Lincoln, and the characters are put through the proverbial ringer in each episode. The cinematography and attention to minute details is unbelievably well done. No corners were cut for this limited series. 

Lot 36, starring Tim Blake Nelson, explores the world of storage unit auctions. If you’ve ever seen this phenomenon—bidders are shown the unit briefly, then they are asked to pay, sometimes thousands, for who knows what—you know you’ve always wondered just what hell might be hidden behind old dressers and gaudy lamps. In this episode, you find out just what hell can be lurking in the darkness. This episode also teaches you that karma is real and will keep you locked in with the baddy when you scoff at its power.

I thought Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift, both the story and the film, had made me terrified of rats. Uh uh. Graveyard Rats introduces us to the world of grave robbing, which in this case is done as an inside job by a habitual gambler named Masson. This episode had me simultaneously thinking genius and holy shit, don’t ever bury your loved ones with valuables. Including their gold teeth. Shudder. Masson discovers a horrific world under the cemetery where huge rats are chewing through coffins and dragging the freshly buried bodies deep into the bowels of the earth. Being the desperate man he is, he follows. Definite trigger warning if you have issues with tight spaces. Or rats. Or…well, you get the picture. Also by episode two, you’ll realize that nudity is a part of the series in bizarre and disturbing ways. Just saying.

I’ll be back with the next two episodes, and I’d love to hear from folks who have watched. What did you think? Which stories were your favorites? Stay Tuned For More…

 

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Fifty-Two: Hunting Bigfoot 

Hunting Bigfoot is a documentary-style film released in 2021 about one man’s obsession with verifying the existence of Sasquatch. Written, produced and directed by Taylor Guterson, the movie is uncomfortably voyeuristic at times but always feels authentic in its depiction of a lonely, widowed transient desperately trying to prove Bigfoot is real. 

Hunting Bigfoot is available on Amazon Prime with a runtime of one hour and 26 minutes. Click HERE to visit the film’s official website.

In an impressively realistic performance, John Green plays the tragic lead character alongside a host of residents around the Snoqualmie Valley in northwestern Washington state. The use of local non-actors adds a natural level of genuineness to the project. From John’s painfully estranged relationship with his family to his friendship with gym owner Ben, Hunting Bigfoot unabashedly shares the sadness of John’s journey. 

John believes he witnessed Bigfoot (“I looked in his eyes”), but we never really know. A decade later, John remains consumed by his quest for what he calls “the primate.” One expert calls his obsession “Bigfoot gold fever.” Suffering through his wife’s death and financial ruin, John appears depressed and disconnected from reality at times, but his few friends respect his resolve and enable his behavior. 

John needs a reality check, but he may be past the point of no return for anybody to give him one. Defiant and stubborn, John sleeps in a tent most nights, showers at a friend’s house, performs odd jobs for money, and intensely searches the nearby forest for any sign of Bigfoot. 

We never come close to seeing Bigfoot in the movie, but John finds enough clues to keep hunting. A sample of hair results in disappointment, but a scat sample is promising. At one point, John says he took photographs of Bigfoot, but even the documentary filmmaker is skeptical of his subject’s claim after following him for years. 

Hunting Bigfoot expertly blurs the line between reality and fiction, effectively using interviews with John’s family and friends alongside subject matter experts. The director Guterson delivers an outstanding character study of obsessive hope in the face of despair, portraying a man who thinks he has nothing lose. I felt pity for John, but I also admired the character for his tenacity. 

Hunting Bigfoot is not trying to find the legendary creature. I’m not sure it’s trying to find anything. I think the film is simply the portrait of a broken man and how his search for Sasquatch has become a redemptive quest to prove he’s not crazy to the people around him and, more importantly, to himself.


RELATED LINKS

THE BIGFOOT FILES

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Fifty-One: Boggy Creek: The Series

Boggy Creek: The Series is a campy take on the Bigfoot legend set in a backwater Arkansas town. Released in 2019, Season 1 of Boggy Creek features six 20-minute episodes. The show is available free on ad-supported streaming service Tubi

The overall plot features Bigfoot as “a silent guardian, a watchful protector” of the town’s offbeat residents. Yes, I’m quoting Jim Gordon from The Dark Knight, but Boggy Creek is the polar opposite of the Christopher Nolan film in every conceivable way – budget, tone, you name it. Incidentally, Eric Roberts who played Salvatore Maroni in The Dark Knight is the narrator of Boggy Creek

First and foremost, all you need to know about Boggy Creek when deciding to watch it or not is that Fred Olen Ray created the series. Since 1978, Ray has directed more than 160 low-budget horror, sci-fi, and softcore movies, including Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Bad Girls from Mars, Bikini Drive-In, and more recently Piranha Women. Many of his films are intentionally packed with gratuitous nudity, inane humor, and outrageous plots. 

Add series director Henrique Couto to the mix and you double down on the camp.

While Boggy Creek never takes itself seriously, the show maintains an oddly sincere respect for the local Sasquatch legend, which is loosely based on the Fouke Monster famously depicted in the 1972 film The Legend of Boggy Creek

The idea for the Boggy Creek series is actually a damn good one. Multiple reports of Bigfoot sightings in the region have prompted the American Yeti Project to send a research team to investigate. What follows are two hours of episodes where researchers Sarah and Roger deal with Bigfoot reports. Sarah and Roger are played by the affable Joni Durian and Mike Hilinski.

The first episode, “The Witch of Boggy Creek,” is about a reclusive woman who sets out food for Bigfoot and owns a stash of old gold coins. When a thief tries to steal her gold, Bigfoot comes to the rescue. By the way, the recluse is played by Brinke Stevens. A Fred Olen Ray favorite, Stevens is one of the original camp horror queens and played Linda in the classic 1982 slasher Slumber Party Massacre

In the most Fred Olen Ray-like episode, “Beauty and the Bigfoot,” the Beast of Boggy Creek saves a group of college coeds from a psycho killer. In another episode, Bigfoot rescues Sarah from a pair of armed robbers. The finale finds Bigfoot battling a vengeful supernatural scarecrow. 

How’s the Bigfoot suit? The large-headed version of Sasquatch grew on me after a couple of episodes.

While some of the acting, dialogue. and humor may cause extreme eye-rolling, Boggy Creek is not trying to win an Emmy. But it’s not pure schlock either. It exudes a certain nostalgic charm for me, in the same way, André the Giant playing Bigfoot in The Six Million Dollar Man does. 

Yes, Boggy Creek is a thick slice of Bigfoot cheesiness, but the concept is as solid as chhurpi. Can you imagine a suspenseful series about a research team that investigates the reemergence of the Fouke Monster in the Arkansas swamplands? Maybe with an X-Files vibe? And the perfect title for that show? The Bigfoot Files, of course.

NEXT UP: Chapter Fifty-Two: Hunting Bigfoot. I review the 2021 documentary directed by Taylor Guterson.


THE BIGFOOT FILES

From The Vault: Odds and Dead Ends: Scene Analysis – Michael’s escape in ‘Halloween’ (1978)

Most of us have probably seen 1978’s Halloween a million times. When we think of the film’s beginning, we think either of the opening credits, with the long track into the pumpkin’s eye, or the famous long-take opening scene. However, the murder of Judith Myers is just back-story for the film as a whole. The story really begins with Michael Myers, now twenty-one, escaping from Smith’s Grove Hospital. This is the scene I want to examine, taking it step by step, shot by shot, and looking at how Carpenter constructs this famous, if often overlooked, scene.

First to notice is the weather. This isn’t necessary for the scene from a storytelling standpoint, but it adds to the atmosphere, if in a slightly clichéd fashion. It’s an additional air of menace. It’s not up to King Lear levels of pathetic fallacy, but it’s still there, ever present throughout the scene. It also adds some visual interest, in much the same way that Ridley Scott would do four years later, with the shimmering water on the walls of the Tyrell building in Blade Runner. Of final note for the weather, compare the slashing of the windscreen wipers in the rain as a visual foreshadowing for Michael’s slashing knife, with a similar shot in Psycho of Marion Crane driving through the rain, with her windscreen wipers foreshadowing Norman Bates’ knife slashing through the shower. Remember that Psycho is a movie which obviously had a profound influence on Halloween and the budding slasher subgenre.

In the car, we are introduced to Loomis, Michael’s doctor. Pleasance plays him as a brooding and serious, if superstitious, man, bordering on obsession. Alongside we have Marion, who is not only dismissive of the patients she looks after but woefully underprepared, having done “only minimum security” before. This conversation between them not only brings us up to speed as to Michael’s condition, “he hasn’t spoken a word for fifteen years,” but also sets up a motif that will play throughout the movie. Those that don’t take Loomis and Myers seriously, end up attacked and often dead. Loomis says for Marion to “try to understand what we’re dealing with here. Do not underestimate it.”

The line “Do not underestimate it” is one of the most important lines in the scene, and perhaps the entire film, and the following remarks of “Don’t you think we could refer to ‘it’ as ‘him’?” “If you say so,” is crucial to our understanding of Myers. He is not so much a man as a manifestation of evil inhabiting the body. Before we even see the old Myers, he has been taken to a realm beyond the human, back into the land of something much older and more terrifying. Loomis wants Myers trapped forever, but the law, thinking that he is still ‘him’, wants him moved. In later scenes, Loomis shouts that he warned everyone about Myers but nobody listened. Only Loomis, who truly understands what Myers is, knows to keep him locked up. The dialogue between Loomis and Marion is expertly written to give exposition, build character, and raise tension, all in small, economical snippets, and all at the same time. This exchange should be studied further by any screenwriting student to see just how brilliant it is.

Then the headlights illuminate the patients in the white robes walking around in the rain, an eerie sight in itself. The music kicks in, the famous piano and synth combo, which warns of impending danger. We’ve had the build-up, our fears raised, and now the film begins to play on them. When Loomis gets out of the car to open the main gate, a figure clambers onto the roof. Myers strikes when Loomis is out of the way. This begins the cat-and-mouse that the two will play throughout the film. That the rear lights paint Myers in a blood-red glow as he climbs onto the car is symbolic of his intent. He means murder.

What is interesting about this scene is that we begin to see Myers’ method of killing. He isn’t just a hulking mass, but he is quiet, methodical, and will only use brute force if he needs to. When Marion first rolls the window down to see who is on the roof, he brings his hand down to attack her. Only after she drives the car into the ditch, closes the window, and scurries to the other side, does he take to smashing the window. He is like a cobra, striking when he needs to but holding back otherwise.

When Myers does smash the window, it’s interesting to see how Carpenter constructs the scare. He uses Hitchcock’s theory of suspense (affectionately known as his ‘bomb theory’), in that he alerts us to the looming threat of Myers smashing the window before Marion is alerted to him. His hand appears in shot, giving the audience a moment of ‘he’s behind you!’ before it disappears for a few seconds. The tension is raised as we wonder exactly when the attack will be, and then a second or two later, the payoff. This simple, few-seconds scare, is a full construction, methodically thought out in all its beats, has rises and falls in its narrative, and is light-years apart from the false scares of many horror movies.

In horror movies today, one might expect Michael to kill the nurse before escaping. However, this original Michael doesn’t need to kill Marion, because his goal is the car. He attacked Marion when she was inside the vehicle, but now that she’s fled, he doesn’t need to pursue her. She isn’t a threat. This is something that the new movie, Halloween 2018, also subtly picks up on, in that Myers doesn’t just kill indiscriminately; he specifically targets. Evil has its own agenda, and it is perhaps something which makes Michael scarier. If he was just a killing machine, you could deal with it. But there is thought behind his eyes, calculated thought, and death is just one part of it.

In the final moments of the scene, we have Loomis’ line, “the evil has gone”. Described as ‘evil’ for the first time, we have Loomis’ superstitions on full display, and our understanding of the scene catches up. That was Myers, as we feared, and not just a random patient, and the sinking feeling in our stomachs ramps up as it drops another notch. All the precautions Loomis asked for, all the connotations of a silent, deadly mass of inhumanity, that we were given in the car,  has all come to fruition. So awful is this realisation that Loomis doesn’t stay around for much more than “are you alright?” to Marion, before rushing off. Once he knows she’s not in danger, she is disregarded. The evil must be stopped at all costs.

This is a perfect example of a well-constructed scene, with its personal rises and falls, and specific story construction. Attention is paid in all areas to ensuring that the filmmaking and storytelling come together in a beautiful composition with every subtlety pulling its weight. Carpenter has created a wonderful scene that sets loose upon the film a carnage that will terrify us long after the credits have stopped rolling.

-Article by Kieran Judge -Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Blade Runner. 1982. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: The Ladd Company.

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

Halloween. 2018. [Film] Directed by David Gordon Green. USA: Blumhouse.

Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.

Shakespeare, W., 2000. King Lear. Second ed. UK: Heinemann.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Haunted Trail

 

 

 

Plotline: A group of college friends receive the surprise of their lives when they discover there is an actual killer on the scene of a local haunted trail.

Who would like it: I think everyone! This movie was so super fun. I had a blast watching this and you will too!

High Points: I loved the super diverse cast of characters and that this movie takes place in a haunted venue

Complaints: Absolutely none!

Overall: I LOVED this movie!

Stars: 5

 

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Chilling Chat Special: L. Marie Wood

chillingchat

L. Marie Wood is an award-winning dark fiction author, screenwriter, and poet with novels in the psychological horror, mystery, and dark romance genres. She won the Golden Stake Award for her novel The Promise Keeper. She is a MICO Award nominated screenwriter and has won Best Horror, Best Action, BestL. Marie Wood Afrofuturism/Horror/Sci-Fi, and Best Short Screenplay awards in both national and international film festivals. Wood’s short fiction has been published in groundbreaking works, including the Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology, Sycorax’s Daughters and Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire. Her academic writing has been published by Nightmare Magazine and the cross-curricular text, Conjuring Worlds: An Afrofuturist Textbook. She is the founder of the Speculative Fiction Academy, an English and Creative Writing professor, a horror scholar, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, a full member of the SFWA, and a frequent speaker in the genre convention space. 

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, L. Marie! Thank you for chatting with us today.

LMW: Happy to be here!

NTK: How did you discover the horror genre?

LMW: Interestingly enough, I was 5 years old! I don’t know how I found horror. I think it found me—I think I have always been attracted to the darker side of things, the side that is just a little bit off. And that’s not to say that I’ve always been attracted to blood and guts—that’s actually not what I write or read for the most part. But the tilt on the landscape—the thing that is just a little wrong even though it is surrounded by what is considered “normal”… that kind of thing has always been my cup of tea even at such a young age!

NTK: You’re a big fan of psychological horror. Is that what inspires your writing?

LMW: That’s what I write and always have. Life inspires my writing. I have always seen things at a slant. That’s not to say that I can’t see them the way that most people do, but if I turn my head just a little, the dark side is always right there. It is interesting for me to look at that side, to study how it works, how it hides itself in reality and sometimes stories come from that.

NTK: You also write screenplays. What is the difference between writing a novel or short story and writing a screenplay?

LMW: Night and day! Novels and short stories give you the room to add exposition and descriptive language. Screenplays are visual—if you can’t see what is supposed to happen, neither can anyone else, so all of those moments of contemplation have to be reworked.

NTK: How do you rework those moments?

LMW: Often it requires trimming, but there can be re-wording to make something passive-active. There is a small section where you can direct an actor to do something specific and there is creatively crafting the story to get the actor to express what you are looking for or get the director to shoot a scene a certain way without saying, “Do it this way!” Good writing is needed—just a different kind of good.

NTK:  Recently, you started an online learning platform called Speculative Fiction Academy. What is this?

LMW: Yes!! SFA is my passion! it is an online academy dedicated to teaching people how to hone their craft. I like to call it the MFA program that didn’t exist when I was in school.

NTK: Is it just for writing and screenwriting?

LMW: We have classes that dive into speculative fiction whereas traditional programs focus on literary fiction. We have classes that talk about monsters and faes and the characters that one would encounter when worldbuilding. We talk podcasting, scriptwriting, worldbuilding, business, social media. We cover it all.

NTK:  And who teaches these courses?

LMW: We have classes that talk about how to properly reflect mental health in fiction, and it is taught by a practicing psychiatrist. We have to handle medical problems properly and it is taught by a general practitioner. We have award winners, publishers, academics, authors from multiple genres, filmmakers, podcasters—you name it. Pros teaching what they know to people who want to know.

NTK: Wow! How do Horror Addicts sign up for this?

LMW: Visit Speculative Fiction Academy and choose how you’d like to learn. We have three tiers to choose from. You can choose from individual courses a la carte, monthly memberships, or annual memberships. A la carte courses (which all of them can be) are individually priced. The best value is to get an annual membership and get a month free.

NTK: Of all your work, which is your favorite?

LMW: So, this may sound like a silly answer, but it is true. My favorite work is the one I am working on now—it is always the one I am working on. Because I am so pumped about it. It is exciting to watch the characters come together, to see them grow. I love every minute of writing a novel—even the moments when I don’t know what the heck I am going to do next!

NTK: Do you have a favorite character you’ve written?

LMW: I don’t know that I have a favorite character—just like with the movie question, I really love so many of them.

Angie from The Promise Keeper is so amazing to me—what she endures and how she reacts to what is happening—she floors me.

Patrick from The Realm—I just dig him all the way through the series. He is committed and flawed and so very human—I love it.

James from Crescendo—he’s so tormented and life doesn’t let up for him. I love watching how he reacts to things.

I love each of the mains in The Tryst (Mark, Eric, Nicole). They are so different yet so connected. They are amazing to watch in action and I really enjoy writing them.

Shaun in The Black Hole, Sara Sue in Mars, the Band Man, and Sara Sue…Chris in Telecommuting—I love this dude for his realness.

Honestly, I love them all (Laughs.)

NTK:  L. Marie, what does the future hold for you? What works and activities do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LMW: So much! Accursed, Book 3 of The Realm Trilogy will be coming out in October. My first mystery novel, Mars, the Band Man, and Sara Sue, will be out in November.

I have a really neat traditional (well, for the most part) project coming out with Falstaff in 2023. The first two books will come out in Feb.

Book 2 of the Affinity Series (the first of which is The Tryst that I mentioned a second ago) is coming out in February also—it is called Origins and wowza, I loved writing that one.

I have a few short stories and poems that are coming out in 2023—the ink on some of those contracts is still wet!

and…

My first film will be out soooooonnnn!

NTK: Ooh! What is this film?

LMW: it’s a short film and harkens back to the slasher genre and I am pumped about it. It is called 271 Raeburn Avenue. I loved being on set for this. Oh my gosh, it was an amazing experience. On top of all of271 Raeburn Avenue that, I will be speaking at a few conferences. Candyman and the Whole Damn Swarm and International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.

NTK: What was it like to be on the set and see your creation come about?

LMW: Being on set was so surreal! Fixing lines mid-taping was flipping awesome—that was a dream come true. Overseeing the makeup, and sitting in on production meetings—just so awesome.

I am so amazed at the creativity that everyone brought to the table and that they were saying my lines…lines I wrote!

NTK:  Thank you for joining us today, L. Marie. By the way, congratulations on having your work archived in the University of Pittsburgh Library System.

LMW: Oh, thank you so much! I’m so excited about the archiving! It’s one of those things that you never think will happen for you. I am excited to be included—truly an honor.

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Fifty: The Woodsmen 

The Woodsmen is a Kickstarter-funded Bigfoot short film set in Slender Valley where several people have gone missing in the forest. Released in 2018 by Vantage Point Media House and Five Year Plan, The Woodsmen is better than a lot of the feature-length Bigfoot films that I’ve watched because the actual Sasquatch gets more screen time than other movies with runtimes four to five times longer. 

The Bigfoot suit used in The Woodsmen.

I wish more Bigfoot movies were short films, especially if the budget is not there for top-notch makeup effects. I don’t like watching a 90-minute feature and only seeing Bigfoot for less than a minute. Makers of The Woodsmen invested enough of its budget into creating a decent Bigfoot suit and then delivered an old-school creature feature in 20 minutes. It seems like an effective formula to me. 

Anyway, The Woodsmen begins on day seven of a search for the latest missing hiker. Leading the search are Park Ranger Sherman and Deputy Ranger Lewis. Sherman is an awkward nerd who has the top job because his father is the sheriff. Lewis is his female second-in-command who’s bitter about the nepotism. 

The Woodsmen spends most of the search with a young couple who stumble across the camp of an intense Bigfoot conspiracy hunter. Unfortunately, Bigfoot finds the camp, too, and the last five minutes of the film are packed with Sasquatch aplenty. Once the action starts, it never lets up and ends with a twist and a brief epilogue that signals a potential sequel. 

One of the directors, Victor Cooper, is the man inside the Bigfoot suit. Designed by Yoshi Aoki and created by The Butcher Shop FX Studio, the Bigfoot suit looks like its design is based on a gorilla. The creature is menacing enough thanks to the angry intensity in its eyes, sharp teeth, and sharper claws. 

For a super low-budget independent film, The Woodsmen is a solid collaborative effort from Victor Cooper, Jodi Cooper, and Rob Howsam boosted by the pulsating musical score of Felipe Téllez. The Woodsmen has nearly 500,000 views via Five Year Plan on YouTube, where you can watch it for free.

https://youtu.be/SErmFKFkges

NEXT UP: Chapter 51: Boggy Creek: The Series. I review the 2019 Bigfoot horror series.


RELATED LINKS

THE BIGFOOT FILES

Ep 217 Nightmare Fuel: The Bye Bye Man

nightmarefuel

bye bye manHello Addicts,

In 2017, a movie came out that introduced us to the entity known as the Bye Bye Man. It was an introduction to a boogeyman who hunted you just for thinking his name. Rather than offer a review of the movie, this week’s Nightmare Fuel looks at the legend of the Bye Bye Man.

The Bye Bye Man’s first appearance was in a short story by Robert Damon Schneck titled “The Bridge to Body Island”. The legend begins in an orphanage in the 1920s with a blind albino boy constantly teased by the other children. He attempts to run away several times, only for his plans to fail each time. Eventually, he escapes by stabbing one of his caretakers with a pair of scissors. After that, the young man lives a life on the railroad hopping on trains and killing at each stop. In need of companionship, he creates a dog with pieces of his victims, mostly eyes and tongues, who he names Gloomsinger. When the Bye Bye man feels someone talking or even thinking about him, he uses Gloomsinger to track them down. Once this creepy canine finds its quarry, he lets out a shrill whistle to alert his master, who then kills them.

The Bye Bye Man’s description is of a pale white skinned man with long hair wearing black glasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a pea coat. There is a tattoo on his right wrist and carries a sack around with him. Inside this Sack of Gore are more pieces of his victims, which he uses to replenish a constantly decaying Gloomsinger. His preferred killing locations are along the railways, but he has wandered to people’s homes and used tricks to get them to open the door. This includes voice mimicry of someone you know. Make no mistake, once you open that door, you are his next victim.

Could this just be an elaborate story to scare people? Certainly. Can it be true? Possibly. The only way to know for sure is to think of or talk about the Bye Bye Man and listen for the whistle.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Forty-Nine: Feed the Gods 

Feed the Gods is another low-budget Bigfoot film but one that tweaks the cliché of the standard Sasquatch creature feature by injecting a shot of modern folk horror.

Released in 2014, Feed the Gods is written and directed by Braden Croft and features a strong cast of young Canadian actors and veteran character actors. There’s even an appearance by Garry Chalk as the sheriff. Chalk also played a sheriff in 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason

Feed the Goods is available to watch free on ad-supported streaming services Tubi and YouTube via Bleiberg Entertainment. The movie is not well reviewed with a 3.7 (out of 10) IMDb rating, but it has more than 1.2 million views on YouTube and a lot of fans.

The film starts with a tense if somewhat confusing prologue at the border of a town called Tendale. It shows a mother handing over her two young boys at gunpoint to an old man demanding her “tickets.” There’s a red line marked across the road, and apparently, you can’t step safely beyond the town without a ticket. The mother only has the two tickets for her children, but another woman with her own ticket offers to care for the brothers. Her children gone, the distraught mother walks across the red line and discovers what happens to people without a ticket.

Years later, we’re reintroduced to the brothers as adults in their late twenties who are reunited after their foster mother dies. Among their inheritance are a photograph and video of the brothers’ biological parents. The older brother Will is an aspiring filmmaker and a slacker who wants to drive to Tendale and find their mom and dad. The younger Kris is a high-strung lawyer ready to bury the past but gets coaxed into the road trip by his girlfriend Brit.

Prompted by the video, the three of them journey to Tendale, a dying town with only 60 residents but known for the Sasquatch legend. Unbeknownst to the trio, the suspicious residents there honor a devil’s pact with a creature called the Wild Man.

The long drive to the town establishes the brothers’ rocky relationship and Brit as the peacemaker. When they arrive in Tendale, the three start their search and soon realize the residents aren’t too keen on helping them find their parents. An overnight camping excursion in the woods ends in a tragic accident that ignites the action and suspense of the last half-hour. Disturbing discoveries are made, and details of the pact with the Wild Man are revealed in a frantic climax.

The 84-minute creature feature was shot in 20 days, according to IMDb.com. Like in many low-budget Bigfoot movies, the actual creature is barely glimpsed, but we get a handful of fearsome facial shots in the last five minutes. 

I’d recommend Feed the Gods just for the moment when the spunky Brit uses a Sasquatch skull to save Kris and perfectly delivers the line: “Keep that in mind when you pick out my wedding ring.” I also give the film points for investing in the character development enough for me to care what happens to the brothers and Brit.

I’ll repeat what I wrote in my review of Bigfoot Country. I enjoyed Feed the Gods enough to watch a sequel if one ever gets made. I liked the creepy final moment and the surprising reveal after the cast credits roll. Plus, the acting and direction are definitely a cut above most Bigfoot features I’ve watched.

NEXT UP: Chapter Fifty: The Woodsmen. I review the 2018 short film directed by Victor Cooper and Jodi Cooper.

 


RELATED LINKS

THE BIGFOOT FILES

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Portland Horror Film Fest Day 5 Part 2

 
 
 

 

Live Action Reviews on location! Portland Horror Film Festival 2022. This film festival is a 5-day International Festival of Terror, bringing horror from around the world to creepy Portland, OR, a tree-filled land with a deep and dark history.

This was the evening of day 5…

Sunday, July 3 – Independence Eve of HORROR! 5:30-11 pm at the Hollywood Theatre It’s a Double Double! 2 features and 2 blocks of short films!

5:30 pm – Bonus Shorts

Memento Mori

Mummering Legends (CA)

I Call Upon Thee (AU)

Tistlebu (NO)

6:20 pm – Feature: The Parker Sessions (US) w/director Stephen King Simmons

8:00 pm – Shorts Gone Wild! (shorts 6) w/filmmaker Q&A

Bottom

Hooky

Shiny New World (NL)

Love is a Fire

Guts

Erotic Insect

It Takes a Village

Bug Bites

Meat Friend

Every Time We Meet for Ice Cream Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes

9:25 pm – Feature: It Hatched (Iceland)

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Portland Horror Film Fest Day 5 Part 1

 

Live Action Reviews on location! Portland Horror Film Festival 2022. This film festival is a 5-day International Festival of Terror, bringing horror from around the world to creepy Portland, OR, a tree-filled land with a deep and dark history.

This was the morning of day 5…

12-4 pm at the Clinton Street Theater 12 pm – Short Films 5 w/filmmaker Q&A

Bumper: Return

Ordinary Family (CN)

Posted No Hunting

Plantae

Infested Hearts

You Will See Us

Tapehead

In the Dark (CA)

2 pm – Bonus Shorts

Caregiver

The Sickness of Perfection

Stuck (IT)

Safe and Sound

2:30 pm – Feature: Nati Morti (Italy)

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Forty-Eight: Bigfoot Country

In the movie Bigfoot Country, four hikers get lost in the woods, and a promising adventure turns into a nightmare. Shot on a low budget, the 2017 survival horror film doesn’t stray from the basic formula of most movies in the genre. However, it throws in a wild sequence of events in the last 20 minutes to make it interesting.

Bigfoot Country is available for free on ad-supported streaming services YouTube via Millspictures Studios, Horror Central, and Movie Central as well as Tubi. The film’s audience score on Rotten Tomatoes stands at 33 percent, and the IMDb score is 2.8 out of 10, so it’s not well reviewed.

The good news? It has more than 5.2 million views on the three YouTube channels, and a lot of people enjoyed the movie. But it is low budget.

Since I like the lost-in-the-woods trope and love Sasquatch, I’m watching this 78-minute tale of terror written and directed by Jason Mills.

For me, a Bigfoot movie rides or dies on the realism of the creature. While the Sasquatch in Bigfoot Country is suitably menacing from a distance, we only see it in silhouettes and glimpses of movement. Without a makeup or effects department, the director’s decision not to show the creature full-on is probably the right one. Nothing kills the creature-feature vibe quite like cheesy costumes or second-rate CGI.

Bigfoot Country opens with a grainy 1995 video of three men running from a shadowy beast before fast-forwarding to present day where we meet two young adult couples on a road trip, cruising in a cool Trans Am. On the way, they stop at the Tractorgrease Café and receive the requisite warnings from the locals. 

“People have gone missing out there,” the waitress explains. “If you guys stick to the main trails, you should be fine.” 

If characters in horror films acted on good advice, there’d be no horror, right? One of the hikers named Bryce brought a gun, so the bunch is not totally defenseless. 

After an uneventful first night filled with strange sounds, the group heads deeper into the woods. A couple of the hikers see “something” through the trees, and a half-hour into the movie a Bigfoot print makes its appearance. 

Fear starts creeping into the group, but the foursome is too deep into the woods to return home before dark. There’s a tense tent scene (say that three times fast) where Bryce blindly fires his gun through the canvas, injuring Bigfoot. 

What doesn’t kill Bigfoot, only makes it angrier, and a Sasquatch attacks the tent later that same night, scattering the group into the dark woods. The next morning, one of the guys discovers the old 1995 video camera, and one of the girls returns to the tent and finds Bryce’s gun.

All signs point to a battle royale with Sasquatch, but Bigfoot Country takes a different route, preferring to show how the fear caused by Bigfoot can take its toll on the human psyche. Fifty-five minutes into the film, a shocking moment is followed by a couple of other shocking moments leading to an intriguing final scene that prompts more questions than answers.

As a Sasquatch fanatic, I enjoyed Bigfoot Country enough to watch a sequel if one ever gets made. I liked how the climactic 20 minutes veered into a different direction than I expected.

NEXT UP: Chapter Forty-Nine: Feed the Gods. I review the 2014 film directed by Braden Croft.


RELATED LINKS

THE BIGFOOT FILES

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Portland Horror Film Fest Day 4

 

Live Action Reviews on location! Portland Horror Film Festival 2022.

This film festival is a 5-day International Festival of Terror, bringing horror from around the world to creepy Portland, OR, a tree-filled land with a deep and dark history.

This was day Four …

Saturday, July 2 12-5 pm at the Clinton Street Theater Horror by Women Double Feature & Short films

12 pm – Feature: Stag (US) w/director Alexandra Spieth

1:45 pm – Short Films 4 w/filmmaker Q&A

Bumper: The Body

The Boy Who Woke Up Dead

Spaghetti Face

I’ll Never Be Alive Again

A Conversation with E (CA)

The Cookie Crumbles

The Strong Box

The Last Christmas (CA) 3:10 pm – Feature: Maya (Pakistan) w/director K/XI

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Portland Horror Film Fest Day 3

 

 

Live Action Reviews on location! Portland Horror Film Festival 2022. This film festival is a 5-day International Festival of Terror, bringing horror from around the world to creepy Portland, OR, a tree-filled land with a deep and dark history. This was day three …

Friday, July 1 7-11 pm at the Hollywood Theatre

7 pm – Short Films 3 w/filmmaker Q&A Bumper:

The Beast in the Bedroom

Welcome

Shadow of a Silhouette

I’ll Be Back Tomorrow

7 Minutes In Hell Love You,

Mama (CA) #Nofilter

Hell Hole

In The Shadow of God (CA)

9 pm – Bonus Shorts Smile (CA) Relax with Draco While Mortals Sleep 9:30 pm – Feature: Woodland Grey (Canada)

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Forty-Six: Kiamichi Beast Expedition 2

Bigfoot investigator Master Hughes returns to the Kiamichi Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas to search for the oldest Sasquatch in the region, the Kiamichi beast.

In his 2022 amateur documentary Kiamichi Beast Expedition 2, Hughes makes an interesting discovery as he hikes through rocky terrain and dense fog. Unlike his 2021 expedition, Hughes goes solo this time around.

Master Hughes

Kiamichi Beast Expedition 2 is available free with ads on tubitv.com along with the first one released in 2021, The Kiamichi Beast Expedition. Click HERE to read my review of The Kiamichi Beast Expedition.

Hughes sets the stage for Kiamichi 2 as he talks about the number of people who go missing in the wilderness and how officials said mountain lions did not roam the mountains until proven wrong.

“If a 220-pound mountain lion can’t be found, you’re going to tell me Bigfoot can’t hide up here,” Hughes says.

In the first Kiamichi film, Hughes shares what he claims is the only known recording of the beast’s howl along with other potential evidence like an 18-inch footprint, bones, crystals, and stacked rocks in remote locations.

In Kiamichi 2, Hughes finds a strange print along with bones and stacked rocks, but he also discovers three primitive shelters in the middle of nowhere. Hughes says the remote location and age of the structures suggest potential hominid activity.

In my review of the first Kiamichi film, I compared it to watching two men fish without ever catching a fish. No “fish” are caught in Kiamichi 2, but the primitive structures at least qualify as a trio of interesting nibbles.

Once again, this documentary is more for hardcore Bigfoot or wilderness enthusiasts rather than the casual viewer. The 78-minute video basically follows Hughes hiking through the woods and showing us what he sees.

I think the strength of the Kiamichi films is the authenticity of Hughes himself. His plainspoken narration complements his no-frills videos perfectly. I also think the music by Darren Curtis raises the level of eeriness to the project, lending it an X-Files vibe.

At the end, Hughes admits evidence is difficult to compile and what he’s found so far is “small.”

“But it’s important evidence,” Hughes says. “And when you put it together, it helps you come to a conclusion.”

Hughes promises to walk the mountains again to hopefully one day reach that conclusion as he plans to shoot a third Kiamichi expedition later this year.

NEXT UP: Chapter Forty-Seven: Six Short Bigfoot Campfire Stories. I review the 2011 book by Rusty Wilson.


RELATED LINKS

THE BIGFOOT FILES

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Portland Horror Film Fest Day 2

Live Action Reviews on location! Portland Horror Film Festival 2022. This film festival is a 5-day International Festival of Terror, bringing horror from around the world to creepy Portland, OR, a tree-filled land with a deep and dark history.

This was day two …

Thursday, June 30th

7-11 pm at the Hollywood Theatre Double Feature & Shorts

Portland Horror Bumper Feature: What is Buried Must Remain (Lebanon)

8:45 pm – Short Films 2 w/filmmaker Q&A

Midnight Screams

Doors

Druid’s Hand (CA)

Zombies Like to Watch

9:30 pm – Feature: Revealer (US)

Where I watched it: On Location

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Portland Horror Film Fest Day 1

 

Live Action Reviews on location! Portland Horror Film Festival 2022. This film festival is a 5-day International Festival of Terror, bringing horror from around the world to creepy Portland, OR, a tree-filled land with a deep and dark history.

This was day one …

Wednesday, June 29th 7-11 pm at the Hollywood Theatre

7 pm – Short Films 1 w/Filmmaker Q&A

Old Time Radio

Death in a Box

Baby Fever

The Wereback

Doppelbanger

Visitors (JP)

Button Man (AU)

 

9 pm – Bonus Short Films Bumper:

The Last Pickup

Willow & Lydia Black (FR)

The Trunk (CA)

9:30 pm – Feature: The Creeping (UK)

 

Where I watched it: On Location

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHTENING FLIX VIDEO REVIEW: Horror Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing

 

Hello Contrivance, my old friend!

It’s time to fast forward over the prologues, driving to the horrors, and jump scares to have a fireside chat with Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz as we discuss all the formulaic tropes and problems with paint by numbers horror movies! For more Frightening Flix editorials as well as Kbatz Krafts projects anyone can do, pick up your copy of the Horror Addicts Guide to Life Book 2 workbook anthology available now on Amazon. What Horror cliches are YOU tired of seeing?

 

Horror Addicts Guide to Life Book 1

Horror Addicts Guide to Life Book 2

Our Frightening Flix Video Playlist

Kbatz Horror Addicts Guide to Life Book 2 Press Tour Interview

More Horror Reviews and Viewing Lists at I Think, Therefore I Review and Twitter!

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Ultrasound

Plotline: After his car breaks down, Glen spends one hell of an odd night with a married couple, setting into motion a chain of events that alter their lives plus those of several random strangers.

Genre: Sci-fi, Drama, Mystery & thriller

Release date: (Theaters) March 11, 2022 (USA)

Limited Director: Rob Schroeder

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Forty: David Ford

Man vs. Bigfoot and Something in the Woods are a pair of gritty independent Bigfoot films written by, directed by, and starring the same man: East Texas native David Ford.

What the movies lack in budget, Ford replaces with old-fashioned, heartfelt storytelling that’s missing in most Bigfoot creature features.

Both films feature a Christian man trying to protect his family from Bigfoot. The legendary beasts are portrayed as monsters lurking in the woods with seemingly animalistic urges. However, their motivations are initially misunderstood.

The two films are available to watch free on the ad-supported streaming service Tubi.

Released in 2021, Man vs. Bigfoot is produced by GodZone Ministry, Saving Oscar Productions, and Random Media. It’s about a man named Jack who searches for his brother after he goes missing on a hiking trail. Jack soon finds himself in a game of cat-and-mouse with an angry Bigfoot.

Ford’s first Bigfoot film, Something in the Woods is loosely inspired by events reported about the Cowman of Copalis Beach. The story follows the Hartman family and their encounters with a Bigfoot stalking their farmhouse in the late 1960s. Released in 2015, Something in the Woods is produced by GodZone Ministry and Saving Oscar Productions. Tony Gibson also directed the movie with Ford.

A former teacher who works in advertising, Ford grew up in the small town of Harleton, Texas, and now lives in neighboring Hallsville. His interest in acting and filmmaking started after college.

“I have been messing around with a video camera since I was in the seventh grade, doing skits with my friends,” Ford said in an exclusive interview for THE BIGFOOT FILES. “I didn’t get serious about acting until I graduated college and did some acting on the side while being a teacher. I did one indie film with a local guy and realized that I too could probably make a movie after watching him do it. I learned a lot from my first film and just continued to grow with each film.”

Bigfoot sightings in East Texas stimulated Ford’s interest in the popular cryptid.

“My interest in Bigfoot started just through reading the research and evidence over the past 50 years in reports and stuff,” Ford said. “I wasn’t aware that East Texas was a hot spot for sightings at that time and when I read a report of several sightings in my area, well, I had to dig deeper. The more I dug the more I realized the evidence was very strong. Then, in 2015, while out in the woods one evening just before dark, something pushed over a dead tree in the thicket near me. I couldn’t see it, but it was huffing and puffing and running back and forth. The steps were heavy. That got me on the fence, and a couple years later I caught some audio of what I believe were Bigfoot creatures behind my house at 2 a.m. It took a couple months of setting my audio device out to finally get something that to me was conclusive. It sounded like a caveman getting on to a little juvenile for getting too close to the recorder.”

Ford thinks Bigfoot is a primate.

“I do believe the creature is an ape-like species that has been discovered, just not caught,” he said. “There is a mystery as to why we can’t catch one, but they are extremely fast, mainly active at night, and masters of the woods. Usually, when people see one, it’s very brief and they take off running. You got thousands of reports dating back to the 1800s of this same type of species. What is it? I don’t know, but they do have ape-like behavior in their rock-throwing, how they are built, and shaking trees, building teepee type structures, etc.”

Ford scored the ultimate Bigfoot casting coup when Bob Gimlin agreed to a cameo in Man vs. Bigfoot. Gimlin, of course, is one of the two men responsible for the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, which allegedly shows a female Bigfoot walking along Bluff Creek in Northern California.

“After making my first Bigfoot film, I ran into Bob Gimlin at Ohio Bigfoot Conference, and we became friends,” Ford said. “So, it was important to me to try and get him in a cameo in my next film if it was possible. Bob is a genuine man, and his story has never changed. The stabilized version of his story is proof the creature exists because nobody has been able to replicate that creature with muscles flexing beneath the fur, and stretch fur technology didn’t exist then. There are lots of other points to that video that make the Patterson-Gimlin footage the best evidence we have, and anyone interested can listen to Dr. Jeff Meldrum speak on it.”

While Ford believes Bigfoot exists, he also firmly believes in the existence of God. His two Bigfoot movies feature Christian families in lead roles, but the religious references are subdued and blend nicely into the composition of the characters.

“I try to plant seeds of the Gospel message in a subtle way,” Ford said. “I think it’s important to sow seeds of the truth in a dark world. Science can’t explain our need and want to worship something, and I believe God built us this way, to want to know Him. I also believe that we all will stand before God one day to give an account as the Bible teaches, and I don’t want to be someone who never shared the good news of Jesus. There are like 4,200 religions in the world but only one that rose from the dead, and only one that is based on grace and not works. I have some Christian-centered films lined up for the future, and I plan to make those when the right investors or funding comes along.”

So, does Ford plan to make more Bigfoot movies?

“I would love to make other Bigfoot films and other movies,” he said. “The problem I face is funding. I made other movies for about $15,000. That isn’t enough to pay people. I just did those movies like that to show what I could do. So, I am hoping to find private investors for my future films. The goal for my next project is $200,000. If anyone is interested, they can reach out to me.”

The best way to contact Ford is his email: davidford75@gmail.com.


RELATED LINKS

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Thirty-Nine: Man vs. Bigfoot

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Sixteen: Something in the Woods

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Thirty-Nine: Man vs. Bigfoot

Man vs. Bigfoot is a low-budget creature feature from David D. Ford, who wrote, directed, and acted in the 2021 film. The movie is free to watch HERE on Tubi.

Ford plays a tormented cop named Jack on leave after a traffic stop escalates into a tragic shooting. He deals with the nightmares thanks to a supportive wife and a new therapy group, although he questions whether he can put on the uniform again.

The film kicks into gear when Jack’s brother Aaron heads to the woods for a solo hiking trip. Aaron calls his wife the first night, reporting strange noises in the night. Not surprisingly, Aaron goes missing. A search party finds Aaron’s cellphone, and Jack spots a shadowy figure in the background of one of Aaron’s selfies.

Ruled as a likely bear attack by authorities, Jack continues to search for his brother. During Jack’s first night camping in the forest, he encounters a Native American trapper named Don Bighorse. The trapper tells Jack, “The protector of the woods is angry and out for blood. I think your brother was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The protector, of course, is Bigfoot. The trapper reveals he’s seen Bigfoot twice, including one week ago.

The next day Jack encounters the creature, and the movie becomes a cat-and-mouse game between man and beast for the remaining 45 minutes.

The Bigfoot in the film is realistic enough, and the battle between Jack and the creature is a gritty brawl at times. Both seem reluctant to deal a fatal death blow even when the opportunity is there.

Man vs. Bigfoot overcomes a slow start to finish strong with an emotional climax and one of the sweetest final shots ever in a Bigfoot movie. Ultimately, the film is about two creatures — man and beast — struggling with grief over recent tragedies in their lives.

Man vs. Bigfoot also features a cameo by Bob Gimlin, one of the filmmakers of the famous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin video that allegedly captured a real Bigfoot walking along Bluff Creek in Northern California.

In 2015, David D. Ford directed and acted in another Bigfoot movie titled Something in the Woods. Click HERE to read my review of Something in the Woods, which is also free to watch on Tubi.

NEXT UP: Chapter Forty: David Ford. I interview the actor/writer/director.

Odd and Dead Ends : Up and At ‘Em/ The Skeleton Fight in ‘Jason and the Argonauts’

There are a myriad of skeletal monstrosities in film and TV, from the bodies in the pool in Poltergeist, to the musical mayhem of the Danse Macabre in Disney’s Silly Symphonies, and Doctor Who’s skeleton in a spacesuit from the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead two-parter. Even Scooby-Doo’s laughing alien skeleton is enough to give anyone nightmares. But for me, the best of the best comes from the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, with its legendary skeleton fight sequence.

            Mixing live-action and stop-motion, Jason and his fellow adventurers have almost made off with the mythical Golden Fleece. It’s just a shame that the magician of the land invokes the gods, and with a whizz of magic, scatters some bones which grow into seven deadly skeletons. The Children of the Hydra’s Teeth ascend from the cold ground with swords and shields in hand, ready to do battle. It’s up to our heroes to fight them off and try to escape with their lives, and the fleece, intact.

            All of the creature effects were designed and created by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen was the stop-motion animation genius, responsible for many of the classic monsters of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. After his initial success on Mighty Young Joe, he went on to create creature and monster effects for films such as Clash of the Titans, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and Earth vs The Flying Saucers, as well as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, a film inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story, ‘The Foghorn’, and in turn directly inspired the creation of Godzilla.

            In order to allow the real actors to fight with stop motion puppets only a few inches tall, the actors would carefully choreograph their exact movements with stunt doubles playing the skeletons. These doubles would then be absent when the cameras rolled, and the actors would perform one side of the fight from muscle memory, fighting air, miming the duel. Afterward, this footage would be projected onto a screen in Harryhausen’s workshop, where he would then line up his own camera and the creatures, pose them just right against the background to make it look as if the actors and the creatures were the same height, and snap a photo. After that, onto the next frame.

            The skeleton fight reportedly took up to four months to complete for just a several-minute sequence, all seven skeletons requiring precise actions, moved just the right amount to create as smooth a movement as possible. Because they’re real figures, we get real light on the bones, as opposed to modern CGI attempts, so it all feels tactile and real. The lighting and creature design gives them deep black eyes which the light never hits, and a ridge above the eyes like eyebrows. They end up with a menacing, sneering quality, which when combined with their mouldy bones and slightly open jaws, one gets the distinct sense that they’re enjoying the slaughter and the fighting. They’re not just re-animated corpses; they’ve got brains, sense, purpose, and thought behind them. You forget they’re puppets only a few inches tall, and suddenly it’s the undead fighting our brave heroes in Ancient Greece, outnumbered, three men against three warriors who can’t ever die.

            Their characterisation really sells the illusion. At first, they slowly advance on the heroes as a pack, creeping forward, pushing them back inch by inch. And then a piercing screech and they all lunge forward. Each has their own unique shield design, helping us to identify each one, and they all have their own movements and moments of action. It’s not mindless animation; the whole thing is thought out and prepared. They have their heads knocked off (animated in mid-air using braces and strings), and on occasion they leap into the air across ruins and bodies with bloodied swords, leaving the ground as that extra convincer that they’re not puppets mounted on the floor.

            To finally top it all off, not all of our heroes survive the encounter. There is nothing like a body count to let the audience know that nothing’s off-limits, that danger is here, and that these animated frames of the dead can do damage. It all combines to sell the illusion. Every little thing which can be done has been done, and it all works seamlessly to create arguably the scariest skeletons ever put to screen, and certainly the scariest fighting undead not in a horror movie. Jason and the Argonauts is a classic that’s inspired filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, and Tim Burton, and its danse macabre finale is not one to be missed.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter/Instagram: kjudgemental

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Female Vampires!

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz takes a deep dive into the Underworld series, The Vampire Lovers, action-horror versus slow-burn scares, and more female vampire pictures past and present. That is until the cat interfered and ruined some of the footage! Take a gander at this toothy ladies refresher and browse below for some of the companion articles, reviews, and videos. If you’d like to see more of this kind of compare and contrast analysis video, please feel free to comment and take a bite out of the conversation!

 

Check out More Vampires:

Dark Shadows 1897 Analysis

Jean Rollin Vampires

Byzantium

Kiss of the Damned and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Underworld

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Thirty-Eight: Letters from the Big Man

The 2011 feature Letters from the Big Man is the most bemusing Bigfoot film I have ever watched. At times more meditation than movie, it’s like a love letter featuring an enigmatic Sasquatch and a woman ready to surrender to nature.

Directed by Christopher Munch, Letters from the Big Man feels like a passion project. After viewing it on Amazon Prime Video, I still don’t know what to think of it. But it did make me think. I checked the critically acclaimed film’s rating on the review site Rotten Tomatoes, and the audience score of 52% confirmed my suspicions. It’s not an easy movie to categorize. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote at the time, “‘Letters from the Big Man’ will mystify some, please others with its serenity, and be unlike any Bigfoot movie you have ever imagined.” That sums up the reaction I had.

Darrin Jones, a talented blacksmith in Alabama, recommended the film to me. Darrin and his wife create and sell custom merchandise, including items stamped with the Bigfoot logo. I purchased a Bigfoot keyring and four Bigfoot coasters from them at a gun show last year. Their business is located on Facebook under “Jones Knives and Leatherworks.”

Letters from the Big Man revolves around a Forest Service employee named Sarah Smith played by an excellent Lily Rabe. In the aftermath of a recently ended relationship, Sarah copes by accepting a solo job to study rainwater run-off in a remote forest impacted by fires.

What follows is a slow burn tale as Sarah enjoys the isolation of nature while Bigfoot watches her from a distance. Sarah meets an environmental activist to break up her solitude. There’s a subplot involving a secret government plan to build an intelligence center to study Bigfoot for military reasons. Apparently, the CIA thinks the Big Man employs extrasensory abilities ripe for exploiting.

However, the focus of the film is more on feelings than plot, although it’s difficult to discern what Bigfoot feels. Sadness mixed with hopefulness, maybe? Sarah’s feelings are profoundly affected by her time in nature. She draws artwork of Bigfoot from her dreams, and she desires to live with the creatures in the same way Dian Fossey immersed herself with the gorillas.

Yes, Letters from the Big Man is a strangely serene film, but as a Bigfoot enthusiast, I enjoyed it. The makeup department’s dignified interpretation of Bigfoot and the subtle acting of Isaac C. Singleton Jr. reinforced my ideal version of Sasquatch as a patient and peaceful creature struggling to make sense of humanity’s self-destructive behavior.

At one point, a character says of Bigfoot, “It’s all about the heart with them.” Perhaps that’s the message of the movie. Maybe the filmmaker hopes Bigfoot can say the same about humanity one day.

NEXT UP: Chapter Thirty-Nine: Man vs. Bigfoot. I review the 2021 film directed by David D. Ford.


RELATED LINKS

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Thirty-Four: Exists
THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Twenty-Nine: Primal Rage
THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eighteen: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Sixteen: Something in the Woods
THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground
THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eight: Abominable
THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Seven: Willow Creek
THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Six: Big Legend

FRIGHTENING FLIX : The Innocents (2018)

 

Poor Start hurts the Intriguing The Innocents

by Kristin Battestella

 

The 2018 Netflix international production The Innocents opens the eight-episode science fiction drama with perilous chases, cliff side pleas, and doppelgangers in “The Start of Us.” Interrogations and so-called Sanctum Norway communes for women in need of a special treatment invoke fear. Positive therapies go awry thanks to nightmares, tests, and sedatives. Roadside suspense, scary strangers, injections, and would-be abductions lead to surprises in “Keep Calm, Come to No Harm.” Frantic body swaps and unknown medical conditions are no match for the titular mantras amid school troubles, police inquiries, and escalating experiments. The ladies must remember who they are to come back from each transformation as they wonder why they have pain.  In the first three episodes of The Innocents, the suspicious Norway science takes a backseat to teen lipstick, love letters, and runaway dreams. Voiceovers lay on the lovey-dovey amid intercut scenes jumping from story to story and emotions change without explanation. Adults are treated as foolish while neon lights, body glitter, and backroom whips are downright ridiculous. It’s terribly frustrating to see more intriguing characters held back so the less interesting youths can bungle into the conclusions viewers already know.

Thankfully, the fourth episode “Deborah” finally gets to the sci-fi backstory with patients afraid of touching deemed paranoid schizophrenics. The shape-shifting trauma can be controlled, but morphs into a pregnant nurse are disturbing. The performances and confrontations show what The Innocents can do when focused on the meatiest material, and one might even skip the first three episodes and begin here. Love can keep you calm or memories of losing it can be your trigger in “Passionate Amateur.”  Mixings of memories and mental questions about the shifting make for provocative complications, as “Not the Only Freak in Town” offers abuse and couples divided as three special women wax on who they loved and never told and the men they were supposed to love and didn’t. “Will You Take Me Too?” details the physiological reaction to emotional pressure and evolving shift experiences, but foolish arguments lead to water perils and boat mishaps. How do you save someone from drowning when you can’t touch them? Switches among too many people leave some comatose. Because you can get the answers you want doesn’t mean you should as players say one thing and do another for “Everything. Anything.” This therapy doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, and those who object are unwelcome amid gunshots and excellent intensity as previous commune residents return. The Innocents is superb when it sticks with this not-so-perfect hamlet and its fantastical women. Conflicts between strong women’s bonds and rival leeching men escalate toward excellent confrontations, extreme treatments, sacrifices, and betrayals.

Sorcha Groundsell’s sixteen-year-old June McDaniel takes too long to deduce what’s happening. Selfishness makes her unlikeable; she ignores the commune’s delicate balance and puts her mother at risk. Easily manipulated, bending to her environs without the shifting – going round and round on the sex and drug shifting metaphors with increasingly bad experiences. Percelle Ascott as Harry Polk gives up everything because he’s in love with June, sticking with her even if he objects to her excitement at swapping lives. We’re glad when he tells her to stop being a poser, think for herself, and decide what she wants. Nonetheless, one warning phone call about Sanctum and he’s in pursuit at the expense of himself. Doctor Guy Pearce says he’s with a patient at every step, but Ben Halvorson has a checklist and won’t let anything jeopardize his work. He kicks other men out of Sanctum when not repeatedly selling his motivational , what we do here is good speeches. The Innocents should have delved into his duplicity more. Ingunn Beate Oyen’s  Runa loves Ben and their work and encourages the other women. But her own early dementia and drinking is getting worse. Runa’s proof the re-centering program works, but she’s totally dependent on Ben and the illness puts her shifting at risk. The best scenes in The Innocents are between Pearce and Oyen, and the entire adult ensemble deserved the show’s focus.

Fortunately, great scenery sets The Innocents apart.  Mirrors, double glass overlays, and reverse camera angles while talking to one’s reflection creates visual duplicity while ironic classical music sets off the cruel experimentation. The Innocents starts slow yet busy with uneven storytelling. More interesting adult plots take a backseat to typical teen angst. Thankfully, the second half moves much faster, and the series is best when it drops the dippy teen experience for the suspicious science fiction afoot. The Innocents should have been four episodes or a taut movie. Provocative ideas about women’s roles and identities are trapped in an eye rolling juvenile structure that’s so damn easy to quit on at the forefront.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Us

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) and Winston Duke (Black Panther) star in Jordan Peele’s (Get Out) 2019 doppelganger chiller Us. Warnings of underground unknowns, VHS, retro boob tubes, and ye olde 1986 commercials for Hands Across America set the scene before Santa Cruz carnivals, Thriller t-shirts, dark beaches, thunderstorms, and funhouse horrors. Her parents’ banter was already strained before the trauma, and the now-adult Addy hasn’t told her husband of the experience, either. They return to her family home, but their daughter’s too busy with her phone, the son’s really too old to be playing with toys, and her oblivious to her discomfort husband wants to keep up with the Joneses with a cool boat. The spooky basement, cabinets big enough to hide in, and mirrors with reflections that seem to look back at you lead to the same eerie funhouse, crazy beach folk, repeated twin moments, elevens, jinx, and double jinx. Peering through dark windows and talking with your back to a person layer visuals and dual suggestions while our husband jokes about what was in the hall of mirrors coming to get Addy and their rich white friends remain out of touch snobs more interested in alcohol and plastic surgery. Our Mr. thinks he can handle trespassers with threats and a baseball bat, but power outages and unresponsive lookalikes banging at the door make for a fearful home invasion. This unarmed, mid-century beach house and its many windows aren’t exactly secure, and the entire break-in happens in real-time without frenetic cameras and zorp boom music. Croaking, unaccustomed to speaking accounts tell tales of the tethered and shadowed receiving pain below while we have light and warmth above, and each of the underground confronts their compatriots with disturbing torments, freaky pursuits, and mimicking pantomime. Ironic Beach Boys cues and sardonic smart home devices are no help at all! Addy starts timid, but this threatened mother turns badass, angry, and desperate to save her son as the bizarre deaths and replacement reveal escalate with distorted reversals, fractured experiences, and not quite right through the looking glass. The timely titular we and the American initialization mirror the united privileged for some but underbelly torment for many. We kind of know what’s going in here and the wither to and why fros aren’t as important as the underlying social statements. However, drawn-out, unnecessary moments, and repeated, uneven showdowns make this a little long. Chases, defeats, and hard violence are easy or contrived depending on if the tethered is conveniently primitive and animalistic or agile and adapt as needed. Elaborate underground talk and random fights don’t explain how big this takeover is. Police are called but never arrive, both a horror trope as well as a commentary on the system, but the supposedly self-aware genre send-ups make characters stupid or erroneously humorous. Homages don’t upend but play into the horror cliches as car keys are forgotten, no one worries about food or weapons bigger than a fireplace poker, and they get out of the car in the middle of the woods. And how did they get so many pristine, matching underground supplies? The final act explanations and intercut dance parallels descend into stereotypical horror with quick editing and that obnoxious Zorp boom music, but with so many great things here, there’s no need for generic horror designs. There are flaws, the audience must take a lot of leaps, and final twists should have been told in the big reveal rather than montaged at the end. Our writer/director/producer needed a tighter edit in the last act, but the excellent foreshadowing, dual visuals, and social commentary make for repeat viewings and scary entertainment.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Possessor

Possessor is a Sophisticated Sci-Fi Parable by Kristin Battestella

Writer and director Brandon Cronenberg’s (Antiviral) 2020 British/Canadian co-production Possessor is a stylish science fiction tale combining unethical psychological dilemmas and invasive horror as assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) jacks into unwitting hosts with the help of handler Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to orchestrate elaborate murder/suicides and advance their company’s billion-dollar agenda. Despite difficulties at home, Vos takes on their next big contract – killing data mining mogul John Parse (Sean Bean) and his daughter Ava (Tuppence Middleton) under the guise of Ava’s boyfriend Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott). Unfortunately, glitches and a degrading time window make this takeover complicated – blurring the lines between host and possessor.

Bloody plugs squish into the scalp and Possessor immediately catches the audience with bittersweet tears and gunshots breaking the silent luxury. Medical awakenings lead to vomiting and severed links with the host, but there are no lingering side effects or anomalies – supposedly. Memory debriefings and artifacts from childhood help our assassin adjust before returning to the modest home and family, but the dinner conversation is a lie, detached just like the news reports of the preceding crime. The scientific chats, however, are cold but honest, for one can’t really bring these experiences home. Surveillance begins for the next project alongside practicing mannerisms, abducted subject prep, and scheduling details. Three days and no room for error add ticking clocks and technicalities to the personal amid the fantastic crimes and dual performances. After spending time in our assassin’s point of view, now Possessor has her inside the man who will unwittingly kill his lover for someone else’s corporate gain. Exterior spying and interior simulations layer the invasive intimacy as multiple sensations and minutia overstimulate our host – leading to fractures in the mind and body connections. Friends and lovers blur as hiding in a social situation is easier than facing the coupled dishonesty. The woman in a man’s body reversal acerbates the rough sex and suppressed consciousness as the slow burn suspense and initial hesitations culminate with kills both calculated and messy. Editing matches the close quarters blows while brutal scenes play out – taking their gory time without special effects exaggeration. Glitches make retrievals difficult as the violence and science go wrong and unforeseen problems like willpower blend our personalities together. We are with both characters at the same time, and in the need to survive question who is dominant. Possessor enters a mental surreal as the personas fight each other, one donning the distorted mask of the other as corrupted memories and homicidal guilt bleed together. The killings intrude on the home and family sacred with sad but disturbing predatory revelations, and the psychology, performances, and physicality merge as the cruel turnabouts come full circle.

Vos says she’s fine but we know she’s not, and Andrea Riseborough (The Devil’s Mistress) is pale and sickly, rehearsing being herself and pretending to be glad after a work trip. She wants to take time off and fix her marriage, but Vos is detached even during intimacy and the use of Tas at home but Vos at work shows her conflicted identity. It’s easier to be someone else than herself, but the complications are increasing and Vos chooses more violent weapons like knives and fireplace pokers over easier guns. She lies that there are no disruptions yet spies on her family as her subject, realizing the choice between work and home that’s holding her back. Unwitting host Christopher Abbott (First Man) as boyfriend cum killer Colin Tate is initially a sassy lover, but he makes mistakes, hesitates, and loses control as Vos emerges. Tate is weakening outside but fighting in their mind, forcing conflict as Possessor presents two people playing the same character. We feel for both in this fascinating twofer because they need each other to survive and end their torment but their relationship will never be mutual. Swanky, hobnobbing, corporate big wig Sean Bean (Sharpe), however, and his saucy daughter Tuppence Middleton (Dickensian) fight about her dating a nobody like Tate. Parse has elaborate parties but living it up is not enough and he’s taking his data mining tech to the next level. Both he and the seemingly devoted Ava treat Tate as the latest plaything, but they have no way of knowing Vos’ influence – leading to disturbing payback. Initially, handler Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) seems to care, too, debriefing Vos and reclining beside her during the assassinations with tips and tech support. A former assassin herself, Girder wants Vos to eventually replace her, but she thinks her star performer would be better off if she didn’t have real-world attachments. Girder sends in a fixer to assure this critical contract is fulfilled – doing what she has to do to see the mission accomplished.

Exotic hotels provide a futuristic mood thanks to red lights and a reflective black sheen. Rather than excessive CGI sci-fi world-building or wasting time with future city skylines and rad technology, smart use of color and mod chairs in the otherwise sparse briefing room offer enough cool without contemporary omnipresent technology to eventually date Possessor’s timeless concepts. Calibrations and scientific dossiers let us know the dangerous perimeters while jack-ins, the melting away self, and flashes of the takeover invoke a seventies science fiction arty as one person molds into another. Possessor is shocking but pretty with blurs, distortions, dual echoes, and overlays showing the inside another person’s mind intimate. Practical effects and in-camera action create an audience tangible to the within dilemmas. Classic cars are both a sign of wealth and a visual throwback while vaping instead of smoking also feels niche and elite. Grandiose architecture, fresco ceilings, and marble staircases symbolically ascend while blunt gunfire, squishing stabs, and merging pools of blood pierce the senses. Lighting schemes and mirrors allow us to see multiple characters in one at the same time – an eerie but simple self-awareness amid invasive big brother televisions, cameras, and screens paralleling the who’s watching whom and who is really in control familiarity. Some enjoy the voyeurism, upping the sex and nudity when they know there’s spying while Possessor winks at the cinematic experience itself. Ironically, the censorship between the R and Unrated versions is more about erections than gore, adding intrigue elements regarding women predators versus macho men, ambiguous sexuality, and gender identity. The rental blu-ray also features deleted scenes with extra character details and lengthy behind-the-scenes conversations, but when I went to buy the elusive Possessor Uncut blu-ray, it was an “only one left” click, and my purchase was ultimately canceled. 😦

Possessor may be slow for viewers accustomed to science fiction action and high tech in your face cool a minute. The well-done gore is brutal yet this is not outright horror for those expecting formulaic scares. The chilling what if invasive is disturbing, and old school touches accent Possessor’s bizarre. This looks like one of dad David Cronenberg’s (Rabid) films, and that isn’t a bad thing. Fine performances carry the science fiction pains, and the personal intelligence and sophistication keep audiences thinking about the consequences long after Possessor ends.

Read more Frightening Flix Sci-Fi and Family Horrors:

Alien: Covenant

Technological Terrors

Dead Ringer

Snowy Scares

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Seventh Day

The Seventh Day is an Exercise in What Not to Do.

Young priest Daniel Garcia (Vadhir Derbez) is recruited by the Archbishop (Stephen Lang) to join unconventional Father Peter Costello (Guy Pearce) in exorcising a possessed boy in the 2021 Training Day meets The Exorcist horror tale The Seventh Day. Father Peter has his own rocky past learning the ropes from Father Louis (Keith David), but writer and director Justin P. Lange’s (The Dark) film doesn’t take its own advice – suffering from thin storytelling and not so shocking giveaways.

1995 prayers, recitations, and Pope John Paul II footage open The Seventh Day as the crucifix is ineffective against rattling beds, child possessions, evil temptations, and terrible consequences. Though off to a disturbing start, wise horror viewers know where we’re going from here. Demonic possession reports are on the rise across the country, and while the Vatican is generally against controversial exorcisms, a few dedicated rogue priests have vanquished in private. The Seventh Day does a lot of telling rather than showing – treating this intriguing history as throwaway exposition for our rookie’s one-day exorcism test. Evil is said to be clever, unpredictable, hiding in unexpected places, and ready to multiply, but the begrudging teamwork, contrived field exercises, and devilish ruses lead to ridiculously easy encounters. Characters don’t mention a critical plot element about a boy murdering his family until they drive up to the crime scene, waxing instead on who’s up to the task or cowering like a regular Sunday sermon priest. Our young Father can see flashbacks inside the killer house, but are these taunting visions, a conveniently intuitive recruit, ghosts, or just movie-making magic? Though admittedly freaky, the apparitions noticing the priest watching them cut off their clues, delaying what viewers can already deduce. They need proof of possession in this murder case for an official exorcism blessing, but the Archbishop already said this is unofficial and a little boy pinning down our young priest and talking creepy while our scared recruit shouts for help isn’t that much evidence anyway. We know the movie-making rites of exorcism and this is supposed to be Be Gone Training 101, however, the rules herein aren’t clear – demon names are given freely, supernatural doorways open or close, and a Ouija board comes in handy. Although filming scenes out of order is expected, many sequences play as if they have no idea what was said in the scenes prior thanks to contradicting plot progressions, repeated character flip-flopping, and everything thrown at the screen in world logic be damned. The Seventh Day detours with typical dark haunted house explorations, flashlights, and boo shocks under the bed. Flickering lights, spooky reflections, loud music, and killer montage visuals are for the viewer, not the character’s experience, and weak, fiery flashes poorly frame the child trauma, eerie tapping, and possessed levitation. Priests inexplicably intrude on the police interrogations and psychological evaluations as gun-toting cops are sent to handle the evil – because that’s going to turn out so well! Buzzing alarms, growling effects, zombie police, and strobe corridors problematic for sensitive viewers add to the supernatural extraneous as The Seventh Day finally dons the sacraments only to drop the actual exorcism for whooshing across the floor, jump scares, and bathtub ghosts. Yet more cinematic contrivances in the last twenty minutes hand the characters the hello Agatha the audience has known from the beginning, and there’s no devil lying to divide and conquer reverse twist on the twist or any deeper complex catharsis.

Despite a fast-tracked academy record hailing him as their finest, Vadhir Derbez (How to Be a Latin Lover) as Father Daniel Garcia is admittedly anxious about his new position and immediately admonished by Father Peter. If he can’t handle a day in the field seeking evil, how does Daniel expect to fight demons? Daniel can’t answer why he wants to be an exorcist, yet he contests every exercise rather than being open to any tips and experience possible just because the plot says our priests must be opposites. Wouldn’t you want to be on the same page against evil? Daniel can’t spot the devils in disguise, worries about trespassing at a crime scene, and can’t talk casually to people like even a regular priest should. He continually fails to see the bigger picture but changes his tune as The Seventh Day says, ready to do whatever Peter wants after a few scary words from a possessed child. Maybe viewers are meant to feel the disjointed jumping around as an in over his head whirlwind, but it’s terribly frustrating when we pick up critical things Daniel does not. Rather than any kind of self-awareness, his sullen approach and repeated mistakes become inadvertently humorous. There’s no character growth, realizations, or recognition because Daniel doesn’t suspect anything until the plot says he should. He falls for evil tricks and has the big twist pointed out to him in a montage, reciting helpful platitudes instead of the prayers and exorcism rites he’s supposed to know so well. When faced directly with demons and a house of horrors, the audience finds it tough to believe Daniel can handle any attack, much less knows what to do with evil once it’s released. The Seventh Day’s focus on his rookie point of view is quite simply the wrong one, and the finale setting up some kind of sequel for him as a badass hunter-killer priest out to save the possessed is unfortunately laughable.

Unorthodox Father Peter Costello is dismissive of these wet behind the ears priests and sends Daniel to get him coffee. He sings to the car radio, smokes, curses, and wears a funky patterned jacket rather than a clerical collar. Guy Pearce has a lot of exorcism exposition and Peter’s edgy fast talking accent doesn’t really give us much besides making him more harsh versus Daniel’s timid. However, he’s upfront about his past exorcism failures and grizzled attitude. For Peter, it’s about settling the score not the greater good, and he flings the possessed around – a commanding exorcist getting serious with the rites. Audiences know not to underestimate Guy Pearce’s kick-ass and The Seventh Day lacks whenever he’s off-screen. Unfortunately, Peter’s teaching methods are also total crap. He drives them all around town but sends Daniel in to chat with a demon alone while he reads a comic book in the waiting room. If this is such a serious case with a child at risk, why is Peter letting Daniel willy nilly learn on the fly? Such contrived actions break the viewer immersion, for it’s easy to tune out when we know there is a built-in answer in the script. Peter’s training exercises are easy and random. Audiences wonder why he isn’t just doing the dang exorcism. We have every reason to suspect why while the film ignores the inevitable, yet somehow Pearce almost makes The Seventh Day bemusing. He remains chill in the face of the preposterous, leaving sardonic clues even as Peter’s pushing Daniel so hard one moment only to act concerned for him in the next scene. Although Pearce has had a string of missteps in our rueful 2020s, coughDisturbingThePeacecough, I don’t mind his recent streak of making genre schlock. Guy Pearce has turned in enough excellent performances in quintessential, groundbreaking films, and I’m still going to watch everything he does, obvious cloak and disappointing dagger or not. Fortunately, there’s still a certain deliciousness when as always, Guy Pearce gives us what we want – if all too briefly when The Seventh Day should have been about Peter’s self-reflection and the burdens he carries. I’d eat that shit up if this had been a weekly silver fox, Father Peter, battling demons I can’t lie.

Poor Archbishop Stephen Lang (Avatar) doesn’t even get a name, and although he says the decisions aren’t up to him…he’s the one making the decisions? He also says he has hope in these desperate times but wonders if their new recruits can handle the increasing possessions before chastising Peter and Daniel for putting themselves in danger – when the Archbishop knows of Peter’s risky methods. Such precious few contradictory scenes give no indication on whether he knows what’s really afoot, and Keith David’s (Gamer) Father Louis is also unfortunately brief despite his great delivery and presence. In fact, the Archbishop spends more time telling us what a faithful and courageous man Father Louis was, and if both were going to be so underutilized, they could have been combined into one character. Even after the 1995 opening, The Seventh Day still feels older thanks to boob tube televisions and big old cars. Smog, dirty concrete, retro jailhouses, dark roller rinks, and empty corridors make for a downtrodden, anonymous cityscape, however, once we have a few opening aerial shots, we don’t need padding overhead views for every scene transition. Voiceover wisdoms on the evil preparations acting like this is some kind of demon heist get old fast when we could have seen characters speaking. However it is amusing to hear not so angelic kids with F-bombs and foul mouths to match the distorted smiles, demonic voices, creepy tongues, eating glass, and dislocating jaws. Ominous echoes and rotten fruits accent burning flesh, cemeteries, and haunted houses, but the out-of-place vignettes try to up the scary ante with unnecessary, typical horror shocks. The Seventh Day’s style is very generic with little pizzazz and arms-length shooting more interested in moving on to the next scene – via an overhead shot of driving across a bridge – rather than focusing on the characters at hand. One might think names like Daniel i.e. the lion’s den and Peter like the apostle cum first pope crucified upside down mean something, but The Seventh Day is surprisingly lacking in its ecclesiastics with no Legion Mark Chapter Five reference amid the demon army talk nor even a swine joke.

IMDb says The Seventh Day was written in ten days, and it shows. Rather than focusing on the scars of its elder priests, The Seventh Day deflates itself with a weak rookie element. Viewers are supposed to ignore any unreliable ambiguity until the film tells us we’re supposed to be shocked, but long time horror audiences won’t be surprised. While the premise is intriguing on paper, billing oneself as Training Day meets The Exorcist makes for a thin elevator pitch, and it’s easy to suspect the twist in The Seventh Day when the trailers all but confirm it. Oops.

 

Read more Frightening Flix Religious and Creepy Kid Horrors:

Religious and Folk Horrors

Evil and Creepy Kids

Krampus

Apparitions

Historian of Horror: And Just a Pinch of Cyanide

I don’t think it would be accurate to say that my wife gave up a sparkling career in the theatre to tie herself down to me, but our first date did occur when she invited me to come to the closing performance of the play she was appearing in at the time, Noël Coward’s Hay Fever. She insisted I come along to the cast party afterward, which turned out to be an entire night of revelry in a variety of venues all around Nashville. Three weeks later, after the consumption of far too many Long Island Teas, we became engaged. The wedding was nine months after that, and despite valiant efforts on both of our parts, we are still married forty years later.

Hay Fever was the last stage production she was in, but far from the first. Before we met, she had won some sort of award that used to hang on a wall in our first apartment for playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. I had a vague idea of some of the other plays she’d been in, but the details have faded with the years, as they are oftentimes wont to do with advanced age.

Friday before last as I write this, Landra and I loaded way more than we needed to take with us into my Kia Sorento and motorvated on down to damn near the farthest away part it is possible to reach via a combustion engine driven vehicle of the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida, where we have a timeshare. We hopped the Key West Express for a couple of days in Hemingway Country, and the bulk of six more lolling about on the pristine white sand beach a brisk three-minute walk from our condo on Marco Island. Many adult beverages were consumed during that just-over-a-week, let me tell you, along with much seafood of invariably exceptional quality. Two words: conch fritters. Yum!

At some point, late in the week as I recall, I mentioned that I was going to write my next column for this space on Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 play, Arsenic and Old Lace, and its various adaptations into other mediums. She reminded me that she herself had played one of the aunts in a production several years before we became an item, and opined that if we ever did tread the boards again, I would make an excellent Teddy as her co-star. I agreed as I have been well trained to do. And also because I’ve long thought it might be fun to essay a performance of the harmlessly delusional Brewster brother. I haven’t done any acting on stage since, oh, 1976 – the year, not the musical – so maybe we should pay attention to opportunities to indulge that old impulse to inflict ourselves on the theatre patrons of the 21st Century.

Or maybe not. 

The play opened on Broadway on January 10, 1941, and ran for 1444 performances through 1944. It ran almost as many in the West End in London. Naturally, a film version had to be made. And so it was, as well as broadcasts on radio and, later, television, as late as 1969 in the United States. I am aware of televised broadcasts in Europe in 1971 and 2002, and there are probably more. It is a popular play for amateur revivals anywhere those are apt to occur, and if anyone does deign to produce it in my area, well, maybe Teddy is calling me, after all. 

The story unfolds on Halloween, in Brooklyn. Mortimer Brewster has just married Elaine Harper, daughter of the snooty reverend next door. As they are trying to sneak away to Niagara Falls, Mortimer finds out that his dear, sweet aunts, Abby and Martha, have been engaging in the impromptu euthanasia of lonely old men by the surreptitious administration of arsenic, strychnine, and a pinch of cyanide in their homemade elderberry wine. As their prospective lodgers fall victim to what they’ve been telling their loopy nephew, who believes himself to be Teddy Roosevelt, is yellow fever, he removes the remains to the basement. There he will proceed to dig a new lock in his own personal Panama Canal, in which the newly deceased is interred.

Mortimer discovers the latest victim before Teddy can plant him, and decides that it’s time for all concerned to be ensconced in a chuckles emporium. As he’s trying to arrange this, his long-lost brother, career criminal and psychopathic murderer Jonathan Brewster, comes back to his childhood home, accompanied by the inebriated medico who performs periodic plastic surgeries to hide Jonathan’s identity from the long arm of the law. The most recent operation had been performed after Dr. Einstein had watched a horror film, with rather unfortunate consequences for one gentleman whom Jonathan had killed because, and I quote, “He said I look like Boris Karloff”.

Given that Karloff created the role on Broadway, that line pretty much brought the house down every night.

Eventually, Jonathan is caught, Dr. Einstein slips away unnoticed, Teddy and his aunts receive a group rate admission to the Happydale Sanitarium, and Mortimer and Elaine finally take off for their honeymoon.

When three-time-Oscar winning director Frank Capra adapted Arsenic and Old Lace for the silver screen in late 1941, he retained Jean Adair as Aunt Martha, Josephine Hull as Aunt Abby, and John Alexander as Teddy, borrowing them from Broadway for the eight-week shooting schedule. Alan Joslyn was replaced with Cary Grant as Mortimer, full-time Warner Bros. Studios creepy character actor Peter Lorre became the new Dr. Einstein, and various Hollywood stalwarts took the places of the New York crowd. Alas, Karloff was still playing Jonathan on Broadway and was thus unavailable as he was the show’s main draw, so Capra cast Canadian actor Raymond Massey in his stead. Massey was more than adequate in the role. Because the various contracts specified the film had to wait to be released until the play ended its run, it was not released until 1944. By which time Karloff would have been available to play Jonathan.

Oh, well.

It’s a delightfully warped film, very watchable even after seventy-seven years. It appears regularly on Turner Classic Movies and other old movie channels, is available on DVD, and is currently streaming on Amazon Instant. So, you have no excuse for not seeing it. Get to it. Now!

Or as soon as you finish reading this. I have a couple more things to say about Arsenic and Old Lace.

There were several productions done for the radio during the 1940s and into the 1950s, often with Karloff as Jonathan. Karloff reprised the role for television in 1955, but the broadcast has not survived. The only existing filmed version with Karloff appearing as Jonathan is a 1962 performance done on television’s Hallmark Hall of Fame. Tony Randall co-stars as Mortimer. 

In 1969, shortly after Karloff’s passing, former Herman Munster Fred Gwynne starred as Jonathan in a television movie of the play. A proposed theatrical remake planned for Richard Pryor in the 1970s never happened, so that’s pretty much the end of that. Except for my wife’s performance, which was no doubt one of the best ever. Sorry, dear. THE best.

Apropos of nothing I have said heretofore, I will leave you now with one of my infamous lagnappes, a bit of sonic spookiness that popped up on my playlist this morning. Recorded by Jack and Jim in 1959, here is The Midnight Monsters Hop. Hope it meets the populace’s approval.

And so, until next time, nabobs of necrophilia…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Romantic Monster Movies

Call me a romantic, but maybe Mina Harker should have taken Dracula up on his proposal for eternal life as his bride. I would. Y’all already know I have a soft spot in my heart for monsters, so it should come as no surprise that I like my horror movies with a little dash of romance. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy these five movies that feature Monster Love:

Blood and Chocolate (2007)

Vivian, a young werewolf, meets the human Aiden in Bucharest and falls in love. When Vivian’s pack finds out about their relationship, it sets off a maelstrom that consumes the whole city.

I both love and loathe this movie. Loathe because it fails as an adaptation of one of my favorite books (by Annette Curtis Klause), but love because it’s actually a pretty good werewolf movie on its own.

Warm Bodies (2013)

After a zombie apocalypse leaves humanity devastated, life becomes an endless, lonely drudge for the zombie R. One day, he meets Julie and everything changes. He saves her from his fellow zombies. The more time they spend together, the more human he becomes, giving hope that maybe there’s a cure.

Hear me out: Zombie Romeo and Juliet. It’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. I’m not a big fan of zombie movies, but this one warmed even my cold heart.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Arish, a hardworking Iranian man, meets a young woman while lost on the street one night. The two share a strange comradery and become close. But the woman harbors a dark secret, killing in the night to quench her thirst for blood.

This black and white Persian film was the darling of the 2014 indie film festivals. It manages to portray a stereotypical vampire with surprising nuance and creates a unique love story.

Ghost (1990)

Sam, a banker, is murdered by a mugger and continues to haunt is girlfriend Molly as a ghost. When Sam discovers that his death was really a setup and that Molly is still in danger, he enlists the help of a psychic to save her.

This film is so 90’s it hurts. Patrick Swayze? Demi Moore? Whoopie Goldberg? Amazing. From the explanation of how ghosts move objects to the iconic clay molding scene, there is so much to love in this iconic movie.

The Shape of Water (2017)

Elisa, a mute janitor at a government facility, discovers that the agency she works for is holding a mysterious aquatic creature captive. Brought together by their otherness, they forge a deep bond. Elisa and her friends risk their lives to save him from captivity.

I saved the best for last. The Shape of Water won FOUR Academy Awards in 2017, including Best Picture. Part spy movie, part supernatural love story, the film takes itself seriously, and manages to pull of a seemingly ridiculous concept with style.

Whether it’s werewolves, vampires, or strange fishmen, humans will always find a way to romanticize a monster. What are your favorite monster romances? Let us know in the comments!

Black Horror Movies

This is our list of Af Am, African, and Black movies from around the world either produced, directed, or main character acting by people of African descent. If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments and we’ll add them to our list.

Anaconda

Angelheart

Antebellum

Attack the Block

Bad Hair

Beloved

Blackenstein

Blacula 1

Blacula 2

Blade movies

Bones

Candyman, 1992 (review by Kieran Judge)

Candyman, 2021 (review by Crystal Connor)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (review by Eden Royce)

Dawn of the Dead

Def by Temptation

Dracula 3000

Eve’s Bayou

Fallen

Ganja & Hess (review by Eden Royce)

Get Out (review by Kenzie Kordic)

Gothika

Heks (review by Crystal Connor)

His House (review by Kbatz)

Hood of the Living Dead

House on Haunted Hill

House on Willow Street

I Am Legend

Last Ones Out

Leprechaun 5: In the Hood

Lost Boys: The Thirst

Ma

Missing Angel (Nigerian)

Night of the Living Dead (article on Tony Todd by Sumiko Saulson)

Queen of the Damned

Serpent and the Rainbow

Strange Days

Sugar Hill (review by Valjenne Jeffers)

Surviving Evil

Synchronic

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight

Tales from the Hood

Tales from the Hood 2

The First Purge

The Green Mile

The House Next Door

The Mangler

The People under the Stairs

The Scary Movie franchise

The Soul Collector 8

The Tokoloshe (about Tokoloshe by Kieran Judge)

The Unforgiving

Thriller

Us

Vamp (with Grace Jones)

Vampire in Brooklyn (review by Kbatz)

Vampires in the Bronx (review by Kbatz)

If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments and we’ll add them to our list.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Horror Movies So Bad They’re Good

There are some bad horror movies out there. Like, bad bad. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy them. Whether it’s the acting, special effects, writing, or themes, some movies go hard in the wrong direction. But just because it’s bad doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

Rubber (2010)

A sentient tire (yes, a tire) with telekinetic powers terrorizes a small town with its homicidal intentions. This movie is exactly as absurd as it sounds. The premise is ridiculous enough to warrant watching, but he acting is what really puts it over the top.

Doom (2005)

Loosely based on the video game series, Doom is a sci-fi horror mashup featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. If you like aliens, guns, and questionable moral decisions, you’ll enjoy this. It’s about as well written as any video game movie (so… not well written at all) and correspondingly well acted. There are some jump scares for good measure and plenty of bloody death scenes.

Death Race 2050 (2017)

Based on the original Death Race movie (a Very Serious Action Film), Death Race 2050 takes the concept of a murder spree car race to its logical and absurd conclusion. Filled with ridiculously gory deaths, over the top acting, and social satire, Death Race 2050 is just plain fun.

Rampage (2018)

You know I love monster movies. So, I was bound to enjoy this giant animal extravaganza. This is another video game based movie starring Dwayne Johnson. Rampage has little regard for logic and even less for science, but you get to watch a giant ape, wolf, and alligator duke it out on the Chicago skyline, so who cares?

Splice (2009)

Genetic engineers splice animal and human DNA to create a creature unlike anything the world has ever seen. But feelings get in the way and things take a turn for the horrific. The concept alone is pretty bizarre, but somewhere around the middle of the movie, things turn from weird to downright f*cked up.

What’s your favorite bad horror movie? Do you like the B-list or did a blockbuster fall short? Let us know in the comments!

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Spiral (Not that one)

 

Plotline: A same-sex couple moves to a small town to enjoy a better quality of life and raise their daughter with strong social values. But when neighbors throw a very strange party, nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood.

Who would like it: Fans of cults, secret societies, diversity, nail bitters, and religious horror

High Points: How the director used the current social climate to tell this movie and how he centered the only black character in the movie

Complaints: Absolutely nothing!

Overall: I LOVED this movie

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Spanish Netflix Horrors

Spanish Netflix Horrors!  By Kristin Battestella

At times, it’s tough muddling through the foreign Netflix content and re-branded continental originals padded with run-of-the-mill scares. Fortunately, this trio of short and long form international Netflix productions featuring Basque witch hunts, Mexican demon hunters, and transatlantic wartime mysteries provides plenty of unique thrills.

Coven of Sisters – Burning pyres and whispers of witches communing with Lucifer jump right into the 1609 Basque torment in this award winning 2020 international/Spanish Netflix production. Seventy-seven executions and counting mar the beautiful cliffs, picturesque ships, and moss forests as royal judges seek out maritime towns where women have been left alone and apparently up to no good. Excellent carriages, armor, frocks, and stoneworks provide a period mood as our happy girls weave and dream of far-off places. They are captured and stripped with bags over their heads and fear is evident thanks to questions about summoning Beelzebub. The girls point fingers at each other – wavering from confident of their innocence and nonchalant about the witch accusations to quivering and afraid after beatings and shaved heads. Tension builds in the one-room unknown as suspicions and confessions raise the frazzled interrogations and double talk entrapment. Guards ask if they offer themselves to Lucifer while prodding with needles and searching their bodies for any devil’s mark. Where did the devil stick his tail in them? Did they dance? Dancing spreads fanaticism! There are no fast intercut montages or fake outs toying with the audience, just in scene interplay with eerie screams and uninterrupted singsong. They make up chants and have their jailers procure oddities for this supposed sabbath ritual, but it isn’t a game when those sinister captors devoutly persecuting every blasphemy readily jump to devilish conclusions. Men wonder if they are bewitched by the tempting supple, pressing the weary girls into saying what they want to hear, and these daughters stall to avoid the stake, hoods, torches, and shackles until their sailing fathers return. They hope to escape during the full moon, so one tells a wild tale with preposterous twists in hopes of taking the blame to save the others. Supposedly learned, religious men bemusingly believe every fantastic turn, and after witnessing all our recent stateside strife, it’s not surprising how this kind of pitchfork hysteria and mob idiocy spreads. If they want to see a witch’s sabbath, the girls may as well make fools of them complete with mushrooms, contortions, and flying. This is an excellent presentation on allure, hypocrisy, and consequences in a unique, horrible history setting made easily accessible thanks to several subtitle and language options.

Diablero – This 2018-20 Mexican Netflix series based on the book by the late Francisco Haghenbeck is oddly structured with fourteen episodes ranging between a few forty-minute episodes and mostly shorter half hour entries. Despite steady directors and a regular writer’s room, the pace is uneven, treading tires over demonic puzzle pieces while prologues each episode give the viewer the same information twice. Voices are soft compared to loud violence, and the subtitles don’t exactly match the spoken languages. Silly tentacles, levitations, and in-your-face demon roars are unnecessary, and the hot priest in a towel is weird, too. Fortunately, shadowed stabbings, hooded attackers, and demonic abductions are frightening. Edgy music and Mexico City panache accent the last rites, chaos, and evil spirits trapped in bottles. There’s a lot to establish with ecclesiastics, creepy ephemera, steampunk gadgets, and mystical mixed cultures. However great characterizations anchor the quicksilver weapons and uneasy alliances. Career-oriented cardinals and ineffective police can’t help with these demonic problems, but others struggle to accept why God allows these things to happen, if he ever even existed, or if humanity has been abandoned. Missing bodies, occult symbols, burned flesh, deceptive encounters, eerie eyes, and demonic dissected lab rats deepen the scary while seedy criminal shenanigans provide sassy humor. Despite knife standoffs, morgue switch-a-roos, and intriguing connections between pregnant women, simpletons, abused nuns, and significant birth dates; it takes half the First Season to get anywhere with the secret organizations, intertwined family histories, and spells. Our Priest is correct in saying events happen for nothing and they should investigate properly. Seeing the abducted daughter amid demon chases, false escapes, and no reception close calls don’t let us wonder about her fate. We can read such meanwhile but here the detours detract from what should be a much more focused story. Unnecessary psychic demon vessels with cool headphones, uncomfortable self-harm emo angst, and awkward man of the cloth flirtations waste time by creating more problems – slowing plot progression and stumbling on to one piece of information per episode. Their diablero dad asks why they didn’t come for his help sooner when the answers were right under their noses. Subtle possessions, the Church knowing more than it’s saying, and evil conclaves toying with life and death are much more chilling. Nahuatl invocations, Latin exorcisms, salt circles, and demon summonings add horror while nightmares, violence at the altar, and scary witches with freaky voices provide great revelations. Bewitching teas, earthquakes, four horsemen of the apocalypse parallels, archaeological clues, dark caverns, and evil children finally bring our players together as our reluctant heroes wax on what they’ll do if they survive amid traffic jam humor and #endoftheworld selfies. The intense action, quality demon effects, ulterior motives, and faith are well done as bittersweet reunions and meteorite cover-ups lead into the more colorful Season Two. Despite some resolutions, our crew struggles against demon drugs, slimy goo, and dominatrix diableras. Some want to be normal but demons ruin the dinner date with messages from the other side. Gas oven rituals and hidden nightclub comic relief escalate to Mictlan barges of the dead and in limbo rescues. Monster exorcisms fail against mad science experiments thanks to mystical keys, surprising murders, grave digging, and cranky undead relatives. Chosen children, angel possessions, family flashbacks, and deals with death are repetitive and players from the First Season are dismissed for new characters. The anonymous villain clichés are also unnecessary as are lez be friends baiting and the frigging sex with the priest, but fortunately, the plot is more personal and taut in Year Two thanks to diablera training, reincarnation, and demon mind games. Thunderstorms and haunted house encounters are well done alongside monstrous transformations, bloody smoothies, funerals, and sacrifices. Shootouts and revenge culminating in surprising deaths and a bemusing if left open for more finale. The intriguing story, great world-building, and fine characters meander with one step forward, two steps back frustrations, but the good versus evil adventures come together in the end. Without such unfocused structural flaws, this could have gone on for another two seasons.

High Seas – The twenty-two episode 2019 Spanish murder mystery Alta Mar jumps right into the action with stowaway suspense, albatross omens, and murder aboard a post-war luxury cruise liner en route from Spain to Brazil. High-end period detail including hats, gloves, brooches, satin, stoles, frocks, and cigarettes matches the Art Deco splendor, sumptuous colors, inlaid woodwork, and divine staircases. Impressive ship visuals and Titanic engineering specs provide scale alongside maze-like halls, askew angles, turbulent waves, and thunderstorms. Jazzy ballads and grand ballrooms create mood before intrepid writers, telegrams, cryptic conversations, and suspicious midnight rendezvous raise the disappearances, accusations, and blackmail. In debt Lotharios, lecherous in-laws, and handsome officers clash with underbelly workmen and disgruntled servants, and the episodic chapters allow time for plots high and low. Course changes and defying orders question who’s in charge – the aging captain, wealthy owners, angry shareholders, or the slimy ship detective? Ominous cargo holds, stolen lipstick, lockets, typewriters, and ransacked rooms escalate to man overboard emergencies, fires, and promises to take one’s secrets to the grave. Intertwined crimes are resolved as new twists and turns are well balanced between the dramatic love triangles, faked accidents, and fishy business deals. Microfilm clues and poisoned cocktails reveal previous conspiracies, past motives, and Nazi gold. It’s dangerous to wander the secret passages amid power outages, red lights, and increasingly dark corridors, yet surprising deaths aren’t what they seem thanks to mad doctors and tick-tock countdowns. Blinding blows, chases, castaways, and an SOS start Season Two alongside tarot cards, psychic clues, and seances. Crackling intercoms, bloody bodies on the bed, ghosts, dead women walking on deck, spooky phone calls, and more paranormal are not out of the blue, but rather a natural progression of the escalating circumstances. However, is the vintage Ouija an elaborate ruse or are there really evil spirits starboard? The ship becomes a character of its own with messages on the mirror, old fashioned spy gadgets, lifeboat rigs, and daring escapes. Too many lies, betrayals, and forged letters acerbate wedding shocks, secret pregnancies, and business takeovers. There are some soap opera slaps in the face, too! Shipwreck deceptions and bodies in trunks culminate in one final kicker before Year Three takes a new course from Buenos Aires to Mexico. Our writer published a novel about the cruise experience, but strange suitors at the bookstore and a spooky antique shop lead to British Intelligence and objectives to track down an incoming passenger who’s really a Nazi doctor carrying a deadly virus. It’s fun to see who’s back for better or worse – same crew, servants in new ship staff positions, fresh crisscrossing romances. A second sister ship will travel behind with expensive cargo, but a man is shot on the first night out and bodies end up in the car boot in the hold. Do you up security and alarm the passengers? Those who know about incriminating notes are indisposed via fevers, injections, and Luger murder weapons. Bandaged patients aboard provide intrigue amid suspicious radio transmissions, magic disappearing acts, and dark room suspense. Missing photographs, doppelgangers, and torturous know-how, make for shady alliances, but one can’t worry about scruples after an innocent man is dead. Code decryption, trick lighters, and secret cameras uncover planted evidence, sinister green tubes, and ruinous revenge as gaslighting, threats, and mutiny lead to armed standoffs and shocking gunshots. Concentration camp survivors recall sadistic doctors who enjoyed what they did, but evil lookalikes slip up thanks to disguises and a scrumptious masquerade ball with perfect lighting, glam, and gowns. Life or death maydays raise the outbreak finale, yet it is strange to see vintage masks, quarantines, and plague panic these days.  Rescue warships would rather sink than save, but vaccines come in the nick of time – with a twist or three. The destination pacing and cliffhangers are easy to marathon, but it’s a pity Netflix turned its back on this series. Nothing here is superfluous thanks to Shakespearean asides, whispers in the gallery, and well done mysteries. Obviously, this not being full-on horror may disappoint some, however, the period atmosphere, sweeping melodrama, and gothic twists remind me of Dark Shadows’ earlier years.

Netflix also has a bad habit of not promoting its branded foreign content. It’s apparent their current model is quantity over quality, populating its catalog with as much original and proprietary premieres as possible – presuming you’ll binge one and stay for the next recommend similar click and chill. Remember, it’s in their best interest to keep you streaming. Sometimes that works and you find great shows! However, more often than not it means unique movies get lost in the shuffle, and shows that deserve more time are dropped after a few seasons. This leaves a lot of unfulfilling filler – especially in the horror and genre categories which seem to have the most flotsam and jetsam.

For More International Scares, Visit:

Mexican and Spanish Vampires

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Jean Rollin Saucy

Ciao Horrors

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 PG-13 Horror Movies that still Bring the Scare

I’m not a huge fan of gore. Blood and guts don’t do much for me. I’m looking for more psychological scares: atmosphere, tension, and things that go bump in the night. These horror movies prove that you don’t need that R rating to bring the terror.

The Ring (2002) – A woman discovers a cursed videotape that promises to kill the watcher in 7 days. I was shocked (shocked!) to find out The Ring was PG-13. With some of the best jump scares of the genre, The Ring is not your kids’ horror movie.

Insidious (2010) – After moving into a new home, a family’s son falls into a coma, leaving him vulnerable to malevolent spirits. Insidious leans heavily into the supernatural spookiness, to great success. It’s a nice, atmospheric ghost film.

Lights Out (2016) – Based on a terrifying short film (seriously, I couldn’t sleep when I saw it), this movie follows a woman haunted by a creature that can only come out in the dark. I can barely watch the trailer to this film. It promises to be a scary, but not violent, movie.

Mama (2013) – Two girls go to live with their uncle after being found abandoned in the woods, but they seem to have brought something sinister back with them. If you like creepy feral children and unexplained hauntings, this is the film for you.

The Grudge (2003) – In this American remake of the Japanese film Ju-On, a caretaker is infected with a supernatural curse leftover from the violent deaths of a house’s former residents. It’s filled with early 00’s charm, but is equally terrifying with its tense moments and jump scares.

What are your favorite PG-13 horror movies? What makes a horror movie horror for you? Let us know in the comments!

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Infectious Horror Movies (for if you aren’t sick of pandemics)

Horror is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s an escape into fantasy. For others, a way to explore their own fears. After a year like 2020, you may want to shy away from pandemic-themed movies altogether, or maybe a plague movie is just the thing you crave. Check out my list below for horror movies featuring disease as the main monster.

Quarantine (2008) – An apartment building is put under quarantine after rescuers are attacked by an elderly woman who has succumbed to a mysterious, rabies-like virus. Soon the residents are in a race to escape as they fall victim to the disease and each other.

Contracted (2013) – a woman contracts what she thinks is a sexually transmitted disease, but turns out to be much worse. She begins to question her sanity as her body rots away while she’s still alive. If you’re into body horror, this movie is for you (even the trailer made me queasy!). Content warning – this movie contains sexual assault.

Pontypool (2008) – A crew is trapped inside a radio station as the world around them descends into chaos. Violence is spreading, seemingly through the use of the English language. Certain words become triggers for violence. The crew must warn the world before it spreads, without spreading it themselves.

Cabin Fever (2002) – This list wouldn’t be COMPLETE without Cabin Fever. The 2003 original is considered a classic for bringing disease-horror to a new generation. Cabin Fever follows five college students as they succumb to a flesh-eating virus and crazed locals. (There is also a 2016 remake if you’re into that sort of thing)

Blindness (2008) – A mysterious disease transmits from person to person, causing the victims to go blind. The government puts those afflicted into a derelict asylum, which quickly becomes an abandoned concentration camp. Desperation causes the prisoners to turn against one another.

What are your favorite movies involving infections or disease? Do you prefer zombies? Leave your favorites in the comments!

Also, check out my other movie recommendations for any phobia!

31 Gothic Shows to Creep the Romance Alive

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  1. Crimson Peak, 2015
  2. Dragonwyck, 1946
  3. The Monk, 2011
  4. Byzantium, 2012
  5. Wuthering Heights, 1939
  6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992
  7. Dracula, 1931
  8. Rebecca, 2020
  9. Dark Shadows, 1991
  10. Gaslight, 1944
  11. Sweeny Todd, 2007
  12. The Bride, 1985
  13. Corpse Bride, 2005
  14. The Woman in Black, 2012
  15. Sleepy Hollow, 1999
  16. The Crow, 1994
  17. The Haunting of Bly Manor, 2020
  18. The Heiress, 1949
  19. Phantom of the Opera, 2004
  20. Love Never Dies, 
  21. Edward Scissorhands, 1990
  22. Jane Eyre, 1997
  23. 1408, 2007
  24. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, 2016
  25. My Cousin Rachel, 2017 
  26. Dark City, 1998
  27. The Old Dark House, 1932
  28. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, 1970
  29. Kiss of the Damned, 2012
  30. Lisa and the Devil, 1973
  31. A Cure for Wellness, 2016

Have we forgotten one? Help us grow our list! Comment below.

Historian of Horror : To Creep or Not to Creep, That is the Question…

To Creep or Not to Creep, That Is the Question…

In most cases, someone has to have had a significant or even seminal impact on some aspect of their field of endeavor to have an award named after them. Hugo Gernsback essentially created science-fiction as its own genre, so the main fan-based award for that branch of literature is known as the Hugo. It looks like the rocket ship from the 1950 film, Destination Moon. Edgar Allan Poe invented the detective story, so the commemorative statuette given out for mysteries is the Edgar. It’s a bust of the author. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has had an enormous effect on the popularity of horror, so the trophy for spooky writing is the Bram Stoker Award, which is in the shape of a haunted house. And so on. And so on.

You would think that a significant award for classic horror might be named for a major figure in the history of our genre. H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps. Until 2016, the World Fantasy Award was a bust of him. Boris Karloff might be another likely candidate. Or Bela Lugosi. Maybe Rod Serling. Surely someone of the stature of any of these gentlemen deserves to have a statuette modeled in their likeness to be given out for meritorious achievement.

So, why is the classic horror award not named for one of them? Why name it for a character actor who appeared in a barely noticeable bit part in one of the great horror films of that great horror film year of 1939, and a short series of performances as essentially the same character in a handful of extremely minor horror entries?

Why the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award?

Because Rondo Hatton was ugly, that’s why. Really, truly, a physically deformed human being. The Man Who Didn’t Need Makeup to Play a Monster! Who better to exemplify the monstrous and horrific?

He didn’t start out that way. He was actually voted the most handsome boy of his high school senior class in 1913, but around the end of the First World War, he began to manifest symptoms of acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland that causes accelerated growth in the bones of the head, face, hands and feet, and in some of the internal organs. Including the heart.  Hatton did serve in the United States Army in France, but despite some reports, did not develop the disease as a result of a German mustard gas attack. It was a natural but extremely unpleasant occurrence. 

It did, however, take him to Hollywood. He began picking up bit parts, including as one of the ‘Ugly Man Contest’ participants in the Charles Laughton version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Laughton’s Quasimodo won, of course, and Rondo went on to pile up a modest list of very small and rarely credited parts.

Going to backtrack here, a little bit. By the time you see this, you’ll possibly have been able to listen to Episode #195 of the Horror Addicts podcast for this season. In my little section, I stated that it was my intention to take a look in this space at the horror output beyond the main line of the Universal horrors, both at that studio and the others. Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man get the bulk of the press, so I thought I’d explore some of the lesser and less well-known efforts. Like the Inner Sanctum movies starring Lon Chaney, Jr., or the Captive Wild Woman trilogy.

Or The Creeper.

Which brings us back around to Rondo Hatton.

In the last two years of his brief life, Rondo wound up at Universal, where he played an inarticulate brute known variously as the Hoxton Creeper, Mario the Man Monster, or simply The Creeper. Basically the same character, a hideous murderer who crushes his victims in an iron grasp. Apart from the first one, an entry in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes series, the series was so minor a run it barely registered at the box office. And yet, there’s that pesky award to bestow upon The Creeper a cachet he never enjoyed in his lifetime.

Good for him, I say. Not sure what he would say, though.

His first outing, as the Hoxton Creeper, was in The Pearl of Death, based on the Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”. It was the ninth film of the fourteen in which Rathbone played the great detective, the seventh at Universal. The first two were made by Twentieth-Century Fox, and one of those will be examined when that studio comes under the monstrous microscope in due time.

A pearl of great value has been hidden inside one of six busts of Napoleon sold to six different residents of London. The main villain sends out his henchman, the Hoxton Creeper, to smash each one until he finds the pearl. Of course, the owners of the busts object. Rondo reacts to their remonstrances by crushing their spines. Holmes is called in and figures things out in the requisite sixty-nine minutes allotted to b-movies at the studio in those days.

Evelyn Ankers, the studio’s resident “Queen of the Bs”, co-starred as another of the villain’s accomplices in her second appearance in the Holmes series. She had a long career in Universal horrors, barely escaping dismemberment at the hands of Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man in 1941, strangulation by his Frankenstein Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942, and exsanguination by his Count Alucard in Son of Dracula in 1943. One wonders if Chaney had something against her. 

Spoiler alert – she didn’t always get away from him.

Rondo’s second turn, this time as Mario the Man Monster, came in what is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a sequel to another of the Rathbone Holmes pictures. The deliciously menacing Gale Sondergaard, who deserves a thorough examination in a future entry, played the title character in the 1943 Holmes picture, The Spider Woman. In 1946, she starred in The Spider Woman Strikes Back, which has absolutely no connection to the Holmes movie or her character in that film. Rondo is her lurking henchman as she slowly drains the blood from Brenda Joyce, who survived well enough to continue playing Jane in what was eventually a total of five Tarzan pictures. Mario neglects to crush anyone’s spine this time out, but he adds just a soupçon of that frisson the movie could have really used a lot more of.

Rondo made two more pictures, both as The Creeper, before passing away from a series of acromegaly related heart attacks on February 2, 1946. House of Horrors and The Brute Man were released posthumously, to barely noticeable acclaim. Rondo’s body was flown back east for interment in the American Legion Cemetery in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. He was fifty-one years old.

1945’s House of Horrors starred Martin Kosleck as a sculptor who is The Creeper’s only friend and protector until Rondo turns on him over the affections of the lovely Virginia Grey. Kosleck went on to forge something of a career playing Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He died in obscurity in 1994.

Grey played in a number of prominent mainstream pictures before and after being menaced by The Creeper, including Another Thin Man in 1939, The Big Store with the Marx Brothers in 1941, and in support of star Lana Turner in 1966’s Madame X., Her last horror film role was Black Zoo in 1963, starring future Batman butler Michael Gough as the naughty zookeeper. Grey kept company for some years with King of Hollywood Clark Gable until he got distracted by and married a British noblewoman in 1949. She passed away in 2004.

Speaking of Batman’s butler, Alan Napier from the 1960s television series and 1966 feature film also appeared in House of Horrors. And the hero is played by Robert Lowery, who portrayed none other than Bruce Wayne himself, as well as his cowled alter ego, in the 1949 Columbia serial, Batman and Robin

Everything leads back to the Caped Crusader eventually, it seems. 

Finally, the least of the entries, The Brute Man, removed the last vestiges of the mild sympathy one might have felt for the poor Creeper and turned him into exactly what the title suggested, a brute hunted relentlessly by the police for going around breaking other human beings. Rondo blames hero Tom Neal for his disfigurement, leading to his antisocial behavior. Not much more plot than that, I’m afraid. In 1945, Neal played the lead in the film noir classic, Detour, directed by legendary horror director, Edgar G. Ulmer. He was convicted of manslaughter in the accidental death by gunshot of his wife in 1965. He served six years in prison and died in 1972.

So. There it is. The entire horror career of the man for whom a respected award is named. Of course, his grim visage has been resurrected often in comic books on both sides of the Big Pond, and as one of the villains in the 1991 film, The Rocketeer. And he has been referenced here and there in novels and television shows since the 1970s. And there’s the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award, which is modeled on the bust of The Creeper created by the Martin Kosleck character in House of Horrors

I like to think he’d approve of all this attention. I’d like to, but I have to wonder how he would feel about his unfortunate situation being exploited so. Would he be grateful to be remembered so long after his death, or embarrassed by the context of that remembrance? 

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. 

Until next time, fellow fiends…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

And maybe, a tad compassionate.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: “House” Horrors

“House” Horrors by Kristin Battestella

These contemporary horrors both foreign and domestic tackle suburban scares, refugee horrors, family vengeance, and home haunts.

His House – Horror follows a Sudanese couple relocating to England in this 2020 Netflix release starring Wunmi Mosaku (Loki), Sope Dirisu (Black Mirror), and Matt Smith (Doctor Who). Perilous refugee boats begat detention, weekly asylum stipulations, and finally a newly assigned address – a dirty tenement they are lucky to have all to themselves. Despite having already been through so much, our couple laughs until they cry over their gratitude, hopeful for a new start before eerie echoes and shadows that move by themselves suggest there is more afoot than faulty electricity, peeling wallpaper, and holes in the plaster. Well done lighting schemes and dim sunlight through small windows create a moody palette for the background apparitions, ominous hands, kitchen oddities, and eyes watching from within the walls. Flashes of past troubles, childhood fears of the night witch coming to get them, and new scary experiences build tension. Husband and wife both have encounters they don’t admit, and tearful conversations with dark door frames in the background put the viewer on edge with our characters. We think we see or hear something rather than having everything given away thanks to flashlights, masks, tool mishaps, and disorienting figures in the dark. Cultures clash amid the horrors as our refugees struggle to be part of the community, reluctant to use tableware and getting lost in the maze of lookalike attached houses. Cruel neighborhood kids shout “Go back to Africa” and a kind but clueless doctor doesn’t know how to listen to the pain of tribal wars, butchered families, and doing what you have to do to survive. Our couple insists they are good people but must remain on guard against deep-seeded racism even in such crappy conditions. Lazy office workers complain that their falling apart house is “bigger than mine” so they shouldn’t be dissatisfied and “biting the hand that feeds them” – forcing the fearful to retract any moving request and hide the truth about apeth witches and ghostly torments. Although the Dinka dialogue is unfortunately not always translated, it’s superb that this is told from the appropriate angle. This isn’t a yuppie white couple choosing to ignore the spooky house warnings just to get out of the city and play unreliable scares with the audience. Eerie visuals, surreal waters, fog, and candlelight visions combine the personal horrors, supernatural, and real world frazzled as the demands to repay what they owe escalates from wet footprints and flickering light switches to monsters in the floor. Deceptive happy moments and psychological experiences take us to other places without leaving the congested house – reliving why with upsetting revelations that can only be put right with blood. This is a tender story about living with your demons; an excellent example of why horror from other perspectives need to be told.

The Housemaid – Covered furniture, candlelight, staircases, slamming doors, and screams get right to the gothic afoot in this 2016 Vietnamese tale. The grand French plantation in disrepair is out of place among the beautiful forests – reeking with a deadly history of cruel overseers, abused workers, shallow graves, and angry spirits. Rumors of mad wives, dead babies, decaying corpses, drownings, and bodies never found provide horror as the titular newcomer obediently does the housework during the day before the power goes out at night. It’s forbidden to speak of the dark family history, and mirrors, lanterns, and dramatic beds infuse the creepy with Jane Eyre mood. Arguments over sending for a distant doctor or using Eastern medicine for the wounded man of the house give way to sheer bed curtains, sunlight streaming through the window, and a touch of Rebecca in the steamy fireside romance. Unfortunately, a snotty, two-faced, racist rival addresses the awkwardness of the help pretending to be the lady of the house amid resentful servants, war intrigue, classism, and the vengeful ghostly Mrs. roaming the halls. The cradle draped in black rocks by itself, but it’s only for effect as jump scare whooshes, flying furniture, roar faces in the mirror, dream fake-outs, old photos research, and visions of the past create an uneven contemporary intrusion when the period atmosphere is enough. Roaming in the scary woods just for the sake of bones and panoramic ghouls is unnecessary when we should never leave the congested house. Indeed, the horrors are superior when anyone trying to leave the manor encounters a terrible but deserving end. Questionable retellings, confusing ghostly revenge, disbelieving interrogations, and flashbacks within flashbacks play loose with point of view, but a not so unforeseen twist clarifies the demented duty over love begggeting the horror. Some viewers may be disappointed that the movie trades one kind of horror for another and has too many endings. This has its faults and uses western horror motifs as needed to appear more a mainstream rather than low budget foreign film. The social statement characterizations are much better than formulaic Hollywood scares, and the throwback Hammer feeling, period accents, and gothic mood combine for unique horror and drama.

Skip It

A Haunted House – I’m not a fan of found footage films, so this 2013 horror comedy parody from Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie) mocking the genre seemed like it would be fun. Plain text warnings of recovered recordings, assorted camera angles, and onscreen timestamps open the winks as the new camera and young couple moving in together don’t mix thanks to his dog, her boxes, his arcade games, and her dad’s ashes. Affection, sass, and bemusing stuffed animal foreplay are ruined by hair in curlers, open bathroom doors, and awful farts in the night – making for refreshingly real relationships and humor. No blind spots in the video coverage mean catching the maid up to some saucy, and racist, voyeuristic security camera guys who want your passwords. Fetishizing friends want to swap, the gay psychic wants to know if they’ve had same-sex encounters – all the white people are envious opportunists and that’s nice to see in a genre so often dominated by such caucasity. Sleepwalk dancing and what happens during the night silliness caught on camera escalates with getting high and mocking the usual sheets, smoky imagery, whooshing, and Ouija boards. Our couple jumps to conclusions about the haunting over noises, misplaced keys, doors moving by themselves, and kitchen mishaps, but neither is a catch and a lot of incidents are more about their own faults and problems. They probably shouldn’t be together horror or not, and some of the not addressing their own issues is too on the nose serious or uneven alongside the humor. The misogyny is akin to women often being haunted and not believed in horror, but nothing is scary because the overtly comedic attempts are out of place against the formulaic encounters. There’s an imaginary friend, pervert ghost, demons, a deal with the devil for Louboutins, and the final act is an old hat exorcism meets Poltergeist parody crowded with male ghost rapacious and more unnecessary homophobic jokes. There’s promise in how the camera brings out the voyeur in us all, changing us once we’re in front of it by revealing our true selves or why we’re weary of the lens. A taut eighty minutes with bemusing commentary on the genre’s flaws could have been a watchable, but the dumb and offensive shtick goes on for far too long – becoming the monotonous horror movie it’s trying to send up thanks to a surprising lack of personality.

For More, Visit:

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Family Haunts and Fears

Classic Horror Summer Reading Video

Horror Movie Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing – A Frightening Flix Editorial

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Held

The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: Held

Who would like it: Fans of trapped environments, survival, strong female leads, suspense and thrillers.

High Points: My favorite part of this the reason what was happening was happening and the way the final girl got out of it

Complaints: None!

Overall: Love it

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Screener

 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 6 Novels that Inspired Great Horror Movies

Is the book really better than the movie? With horror, that can be hard to say. The mediums are just so different. A good concept is a good concept, though. Some ideas are worth making twice. Check out the list below for some stories that made the jump from print to screen.

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Before bringing Cenobites to the screen in the film Hellraiser, Clive Barker first wrote about them in this novella. The book delves more deeply into the world of pain and pleasure that the Cenobites inhabit.

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell

This 1938 classic is the inspiration for John Carpenter’s The Thing. Scientists in the Antarctic discover the frozen body of an alien and revive it with horrifying consequences.

“The Forbidden” by Clive Barker

Okay, so technically this is a short story, not a novel, but it did eventually become the movie Candyman. Helen is studying the graffiti in a dilapidated housing project. Her research leads her to chase an urban legend that is more dangerous that she can imagine. “The Forbidden” appears in Books of Blood Volume 5.

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

I was shocked—SHOCKED—to find that the much lampooned 90’s slasher movie was actually based on a 1973 novel by the same name. Even with a twenty-year gap between the book and movie, the themes of coming of age, hiding terrible secrets, and facing gruesome consequences are evergreen.

Psycho by Robert Bloch

The classic movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of the greatest American films of all time. But the movie had a lot to build on, with a great concept about a lonely motel with a dark secret, first created in 1959 in this novel.

Jaws by Peter Benchley

This 1974 novel inspired the blockbuster Spielberg movie that scared millions out of the water. Still as terrifying as ever, try to keep yourself from humming duh-DUH duh-DUH while you’re reading.

What movie adaptations of books are your favorite? Is the book better? Leave a comment!

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Koko-di Koko-da

 

 

Plotline: A case of food poisoning derails a family’s holiday and forever alters the course of their lives. Years later, the couple go camping again, looking for one last chance to go back to the way things used to be. But what once was is lost, and they instead find themselves having to relive the same nightmarish events, as that day and the horrors it brings repeat themselves infinitely. Together, they must overcome their trauma, reconcile with the past and fight for their lives — over and over again.

Who would like it: Fans of camping horror, cosmic horror, WTF, international films, myths and fairytales

High Points: I really love how told in two different media’s

Complaints: None

Overall: I really enjoyed this super creepy little movie!

Stars: 3 1/2

Where I watched it: Sling

 

 

Odds and Dead Ends : Secret Doorways in Takashi Miike’s ‘Audition’

Usually when I write articles analysing films I have a fair idea that what I’m writing about has a chance of being somewhere close to the mark. With this one, I’m putting forth a personal interpretation of something which struck me when I made the sensible (read: stupid, because it disturbed me once more) decision to re-watch Takashi Miike’s infamous 1999 shocker, Audition.

            As always, I will be discussing bits of plot detail. So, you know, SPOILER WARNING.

            For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, or watched it in a while, here’s a brief overview. Aoyama, who works for a film company, finds himself looking for a new companion after his son suggests he re-marries, his wife having passed some time ago. To this end, he and his colleague set up a series of auditions for a film that will never get made, to find Aoyama the perfect girlfriend. He falls quickly for Asami Yamazaki, a quiet yet beautiful young woman, who hides dark secrets behind her naive exterior.

            When I was re-watching it, taking notes sometimes as I do, I found myself struck by the constant use of doorways and doorframes. Often, the action would take place in one room but the camera would be placed in another room entirely, looking in. On occasion, the action, a speaking character, for instance, would move behind the walls so that we can’t see them. This framing occurring throughout the film, and it’s the sort of setup which doesn’t just happen; you have to make the conscious decision that you’re going to block a scene in this way.

            The cynical viewer would suggest that it’s just Miike’s style to have lots of static shots where the action just plays out. This happens in many of his films, and considering his prolific output, one could argue that it means he doesn’t have to set up large bits of equipment for big camera moves and so can just film more. The film was made in three weeks (and apparently this was a week longer than Miike usually made a film in), so it might be a definite factor in the shot choices. He’s used to very little time to get the footage, so he makes sure it’s filmed in a way to require minimal changes between shots, for maximum efficiency in the schedule.

            And yet Miike also has the camera moves down when he needs to (there’s a very specific, disorienting flip in a bed about halfway through the film which demonstrates this), suggesting that everything is thought through. So it doesn’t hold completely that it’s just for efficient shooting schedules. No, there’s definitely a specific, storytelling reason for this consistent framing.

            Considering much of the story is based on the theme of dark secrets, and of things hidden coming to light, I’d like to argue here that the repeated doorway framing suggests something about this theme. By showing the walls of the room the camera is situated in, we are shown a frame within a frame. This could suggest something a larger whole, a secret within an exterior facade. We also must consider the idea of doorways as a portal. The world around us changes when we move from one room to another; we end up in a different place, a different world. It seems consistent with this symbolism that there is therefore a suggestion of two different worlds, that of secrets inside the doorway and an outside appearance, and we are being allowed to look into this other, hidden reality that the characters hide from the apparent truthful world.

            Several examples suggest themselves to support this. At the beginning of the film, Aoyama and his son are eating dinner in a dining room, framed by the doorway, as they discuss that Aoyama should look to re-marry. The secret he keeps of misleading someone to have an excuse to gain their affections begins here with this conversation. In a different, pivotal scene, which hints at Asami’s darkness, she waits with her hair down for the phone to ring. A large, tied up sack suddenly rocks violently behind her. Our understanding of this character, and that she hides darker secrets, is changed completely by this moment, so much so that Miike goes on to break several filmmaking conventions (including the traditional 180-degree rule, which keeps characters in a conversation on the same sides of the frame for ease of understanding) to emphasize this now unstable relationship between the audience and Asami’s outwardly unassuming persona. This pivotal shot is, once again, shot through a doorway. Inside the doorway, secrets are seen.

            There are many more such instances of this doorway framing in the film. Asami is seen standing on a balcony outside at their holiday cabin, dressed all in innocent white, whilst standing through a doorway. From our renewed understanding of her, the purity of her colour combined with the doorway’s suggestion of secrecy and falsity implies that this shining white innocence may not be what it appears. Near the end of the film, Aoyama succumbs to drugged whisky whilst standing on the threshold between two rooms in his house, and the camera is angled in such a way so that his fall happens almost completely within the doorframe.

            And then in the final moments of the film, Asami and Aoyama are both on the floor, wounded and dying, looking at each other through an open doorway. Here the frame connects them because now their secrets have all been spilled, and they watch one another on either side of this world. This is the first time that they see each other’s secrets, exposed and open to each other completely for the first time in the film. There is nowhere to hide anymore, and indeed they have nothing left to hide. Both of them, like the camera, can see into the dark interiors of their lives.

            Until Miike comes out and says that it was indeed intentional to express this theme, we have no way of knowing. But this use of doorways, and our looking through them into a scene beyond, is incredibly common throughout the film and is almost certainly deliberate. It might also be that Miike did this to suggest a distance, a loneliness, in the characters; he often uses long shots in the film to make characters isolated and alone, so to use these doorframes for similar emotional reasons, if not thematic, isn’t too far-fetched. In either case, it’s certainly an additional dynamic which helps raise Audition to something which is far more sophisticated than we might have given it credit for in the past.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Vampire Showdown!

A New York Vampire Showdown! By Kristin Battestella

Big city undead sexy for the adults and hip horror for the whole family face off in this bemusing vampire showdown! Which do you choose?

Vampire in Brooklyn – Lonely vampire Eddie Murphy wants Angela Bassett (Black Panther) as his willing bride in director Wes Craven’s 1995 horror-comedy opening with talk of ancient Nosferatu out of Egypt feasting on those lost in the Bermuda Triangle until vampire hunters bro movie must rely on Murphy’s retreads from Coming to America. Excellent “I would love to have you for dinner” winks, sexy bites, and a simmering score betterught the undead to extinction. Now that’s a backstory I’d like to have seen! Foggy harbors, bloody bodies, and a scary wolf invoke Dracula while black and white televisions, hard language, and R attitudes provide refreshing throwback humor. Leaps in the air, breaking through the windows stunts, an unnecessarily elaborate ship crash set piece, and poor visual effects cement the nineties tone, but the Blacula references, monster transformations, no reflections, and itchy gunshots add tongue in cheek to the vampire fangs, pointy nails, and eerie eyes. That wig, though, wolf! The full moon, day servant ghouls a la Renfield, and a heart ripped out of the chest bring the vampy to the street as horoscope warnings, chases, and gore set off the urban creepy afoot. Viewers expect a camp aside or pithy comeback in every scene, but the witty matches the serious horror thanks to little things like, oh say, an ear found at the crime scene that serves both laughter and atmosphere. Increasing ghoul mishaps, “RIP” license plates on the smooth ride, and “Whatta Man” montages set off the dangerous coffin retrievals, but faith versus snakes and vampire lore in a murder investigation are too unbelievable for our tough cops to consider. Unfortunately, the apparently obligatory Murphy disguises are totally out of place. Awkward preacher fakery ruins the vampire build up before another offensive Italian stunt, and the makeup for both is terrible. The evil is good allure could have been better presented with vampire suave rather than dragging the film down with overlong laugh out loud send ups that make viewers wonder where all this is supposed to be going. Why torment this strong woman via stupid delays when you can just charm her instead? The blood pulsing temptations, supernatural flirtations, nightmare paintings, love triangles, and saucy roommates come to a complete stop as if the accent character dilemmas over eternal life, predatory pursuits, and rough seductions. Horror attacks, candles, and juicy vamp outs lead to serious character decisions and tense one on one revelations before a wild finale with a fitting chuckle. I’d have loved a sequel with ghoul turned cool Julius Jones! This is oddly similar to Craven’s Dracula 2000 in several ways, and there are many flawed elements here – pointless narration, meandering focus between the humor and scares, datedness, and uneven try hard that wants to be both niche for Black audiences yet mainstream hit acceptable. Fortunately, overall the late night fun here is still entertaining; a great re-watch with mature, modern vampire chemistry.

 

Vampires vs. the Bronx – Sirens, flickering neon signs, new construction buyouts by Murnau Properties, and paperwork sealed with fangs and screams open this PG-13 2020 Netflix original. Suave tunes, multiple languages, and cultural blends set off the summer heat, bicycles, and friendly neighborhood bodega, but missing persons fliers, Vlad the Impaler logos, and Polidori references provide ominous. Adult gravitas anchors the youthful ensemble, but the realistic kids aren’t trying hard for the camera. These boys just want to impress the older girls but end up embarrassed by mom wanting to get a babysitter. Narrations and video angles a la Tik Tok balance church bells and scripture quotes, developing the locales and characters well as the youths face local gang pressure to do things they don’t want to do. The new white woman in town insists she isn’t one of those types who will call the cops, and the genre mirror to nature commentary is superb. It’s not the hood the kids fear, but the nasty white folks who’ve come

to suck the life out of town. Vampire vows to wipe them out like vermin are all the more chilling because we recognize the gentrification and racist mentalities. What would the authorities care if vampires are pecking bad guys off the street in the Bronx? A wealthy white man writes a check so no one notices those made to disappear, and such a forgotten, downtrodden place is perfect for vampires who want to stay under cover. Friendships are tested when some want to do good for their community and others are right to be wary. Neighbors disbelieve the hear tell vamps dressed like Hamilton taking out the local thugs while humor alleviates suspenseful close calls – the vampire was just coming in to buy…sanitizer of course. Daytime nest explorations and homages to The Lost Boys accent the self aware genre winks while a bemusing montage establishes the lore herein complete with that cookie they hand out at church that doesn’t taste very good aka the “eucharist” and watching Blade. Single mothers try to keep their kids on the up, but the boys are trespassing for vampire proof and stealing holy water in a Sprite bottle. Skeleton keys, coffins, ringtones rousing the dead – what’s worse then being chased by vampires and caught in the backseat of the cop car? When their mothers come to get them but the vampire didn’t show up on your camera. Fun zooms for youthful actions and watchful eyes match creepy red lights, growls, and hypnotic kills as Haitian history preparations and shootouts don’t stop the undead. The kids take the crucifix off the wall and hope tia doesn’t notice, but the powdered garlic comes in handy and calling the Bronx a shithole is the last straw. Although a little short at under eighty-five minutes with credits, the swift solidarity doesn’t stray from its goal. Rather than underestimate the audience with stereotypical obnoxiousness, this refreshing contemporary take is great for young audiences as well as fans of wise and wise-cracking horror.

 

For More Vampires, Visit:

All Things Dracula Video Review

Summer Vampires

Only Lovers Left Alive

Mexican and Spanish Vampires

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Kindred

 

Plotline: A psychological thriller rippling with suspense, Kindred follows vulnerable mother-to-be Charlotte as she is taken in by her recently deceased boyfriend’s mother and her stepson, who seem increasingly obsessed with her every move Charlotte’s suspicions grow about Margaret and Thomas’ intentions for her unborn child.

Who would like it: People who love demented families, cults, cat and mouse and psychological horror

High Points: I like the way this movie was shot because it highlights the isolation of our heroine

Complaints: There is the suggestion of a cult and lots of symbolism of the occult but the movie doesn’t explain it, it’s just left as unanswered questions

Overall: This was pretty stressful to watching and the ending feels like an uppercut to the jaw.

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: RELIGIOUS AND FOLK HORRORS

Religious and Folk Horrors by Kristin Battestella

Horror comes in many forms thanks to these cults, witches, clergy, pagans, and rituals – and some of these contemporary films and period settings are better than others.

The Heretics – Kidnappings, ritual symbols, altars, torches, and cults lead to freaky masks, chanting, demons, and sacrifices in this 2017 Canadian indie. The nightmares continue five years later despite group therapy, volunteer work, and an overprotective mother who won’t let her daughter walk home alone. Assaulted and abused women are meek and apologetic, comforted by time heals all wounds hopeful, but others don’t want to be touched, refusing to be victims and tired of lies that don’t make it better. Would they go back and change their experience or seek revenge? Our female couple supports each other with realistic conversations and

maturity – not horror’s typical angry lez be friends titillation solely for the viewer gaze. Unfortunately, creepy campers, chains, and a scarred abductor ruin necklaces and birthday plans, leading to skull entrance markers, an isolated cabin, and flashbacks of the original attack with hooded dead, white robes, and flowery dresses marred in blood. Sunrise deadlines, whispers of angels, fitting Gloria names, and religious subtext balance faith, doubts, God, biblical aversions, and horns. What’s a delusion and who’s delusional? Who’s right or wrong about what they believe? The multi-layered us versus them, who’s really involved in what sinister, and what is truth or lies aren’t clear amid threats, stabbings, whips, and history repeating itself. Men versus women innuendo and who needs saving attempts add to the less than forthcoming police, lack of answers, and obsessive searches. Who is trying to protect whom? Violence begets violence thanks to fanatical beliefs in the ritual and long-awaited ceremonies. This demon is deceptive, growing stronger and more tantalizing despite a gross, uncomfortable sex scene. Occasionally the boo monster in your face jumps are forced, but the fine body horror, creaking wings breaking out the back, squishing sounds, and black sinews make up the differences. Fevers, convulsions, hairy clumps, and visions increase along with the realizations of what is happening before candles, pentagrams, burns, and one more final sacrifice. Viewers know where it all has to go, yet this remains entertaining getting there via escalating horror invasive, ritual complications, and one ready and waiting demon.

 

Loon Lake – David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Dark Shadows, people, Dark Shadows) anchor this 2019 Minnesota set indie opening with 1880 screams, witchy curses, multiple chops, and bloody heads. An unnecessary contemporary driving credits montage restarts the farm country rural as a drunken widower renting an empty home takes the cross off the wall. Distorted camera angles set off the horror as well as pictures of the deceased and the sense of numbness amid the pretty fields, pleasant breezes, overgrown cemetery, and eerie trees. Details on accidental deaths attributed to the witch and the bad luck that follows if you cross her grave three times come at the local diner, and Selby is quite distinct as the pesky old neighborhood kook and his conflicted minister ancestor. The bereaved, unfortunately, don’t believe in ghosts or witches despite tales of church fires, saucy spells, and bound rituals. Flashbacks provide last rites, fresh graves, and refused nastiness alongside spirits in the window, thunder, tolling bells, and number three repetitions. Conversations on grief versus faith are nice, if heavy handed, calming moments before figures in the cornrows, apparitions of the dead, phantom noises, and creaking floorboards. The past sequences, however, are out of order. That may be an attempt at leaving the history open to interpretation or making a case for crazy with guilt unreliable, but the audience has seen independent, over the top evidence of the witch, so we know it’s not all in his head. Despite surreal visions, alluring forest encounters, willing temptations, dead birds, power outages, and spooky lights; it’s also difficult to be on our modern man’s side. He keeps saying “Let me explain” after grabbing a woman when waking rather than admitting he had a nightmare about the witch, still wants to talk it out when threatened for attacking her and completely ignores a full gun rack because screaming at an intruder is apparently the better thing to do. Maybe this is about his learning to believe in both good and bad, but it’s tough to feel for a guy claiming he didn’t deserve this when the witch didn’t deserve what happened to her either. Convenient writing seen in a dream provides an end to the curse, but he doesn’t try to make it right, insisting he doesn’t care what went down – which isn’t the best course of action when she’s naked and bathing in blood. Putting on a cross makes for instant faith, but the seemingly sunny ending and false fake outs are obvious. Although this makes the most of zooms, music, and in-scene scares, once again the flaws here arise in too few people wearing too many production hats, and the imbalance shows by time our man pain protagonist is literally swinging at thin air. While entertaining for both the good as well as the bad, this really feels like two stories in one, and the elder period tale is better of the two.

You Make the Call

The Ritual – Robert James-Collier (Downton Abbey) and Rafe Spall (Prometheus) plan an all bros adventure in this 2018 Netflix original. None of that been there, done that will do, and hiking an obscure trail in Sweden becomes the honorary guilt trip after they stumble into a liquor store robbery gone wrong. This cliché start could have been skipped in favor of the brisk mountain trail memorial toasts directly, for we learn all we need to know thanks to out of shape complaints, new $200 hiking boots, sprained knees, and the realization that they didn’t even climb very far and can see their luxury lodge from the pretty peak. Despite questionable maps, a faulty compass, rain, and no reception, they of course take a shady shortcut through the ominous forest, and if we haven’t seen this movie already, we’ve certainly seen others like it. Rather than the injured and another stay while the other two return for help, logical ideas, talk of bears, and abandoned items from previous campers are dismissed by these husbands and fathers who are a little too old to be acting so stupid. The unrealistic actions dampen the animal carcasses, thunder, and eerie trees as mysterious symbols and carvings lead to a convenient spooky cabin where they can stay the night. They break in, trespassing and ignoring runes and effigies they presume are “pagan Nordic shit” on top of strange roars and growling in the forest. Unnatural lights and distorted dream visuals intermix with bedwetting and sleepwalking frights, and in the morning the men follow a path they know is in the wrong direction just because it’s there and nobody is supposed to talk about what’s happening. More creepy cabins, monsters in the woods, screams, and blood begat missing friends and gory tree hangings before arguments, contrived guilt, and false hopes lead to torches, folk music, and chains. In the end, suddenly brave men make big declarations about their wives when earlier they cowered, passed blame, and couldn’t wait to get away from their families. We know horrors are going to happen, but the giving it away title spoils the supposed surprise. The ninety minutes plus feels overlong because it took so long to get to the creepy death warmed over people and actual sacrificial parts, yet the past looking rural and ancient mythology revelations are the story we should have had. Viewers don’t get to completely see what could be an awesome monster, and the unique Norse legends, pagan worship, and immortal bargains that should have been the focal point seem tacked on after we wasted all that time watching dumb dudes literally going around in circles in a tired guilt versus the supernatural metaphor. The familiar, predictable derivatives are shout at the television entertaining, but it’s tough to overcome the feeling that we should have been seeing the eponymous history perspective while these intruders get what they deserve.

I Didn’t Finish It

We Summon the Darkness – It feels like we’ve seen these rad chicks on the highway before complete with music, talk of make up and sex, and it’s 1988 via 2019 thanks to crimped hair, Madonna bangles, recent vehicles, and modern skinny jeans substitutes that look like dress up for the costume party. Gas station stops, old man innuendo, and televangelist fire and brimstone add to the cliché teases while convenient murder reports on the radio detail satanic symbols found at the crime scene. The jerks on the road are likewise weak with terrible mullets and everyone measuring each other’s meddle with their metalhead expertise gets old very fast. The flashing lights and concert bouncing up and down are also brief and lame tropes alongside the good girl peer pressured into everything cool and crazed, annoying exaggerations. Maybe if you look at this as a parody or if it had been a comedy the tone and style would make sense? The highway home to the rich house is instantaneous compared to drawn out start, and the Never Have I Ever chatting around the fire drinking binges goes on and on when it’s obvious the guys want sex and the girls are disinterested. Who’s really after whom and for what purpose turnabouts are interesting, but not unexpected thanks to the ritual foreshadowing and upside down cross jewelry leading to the drugged and bound. A gender reversal on the horror is supposed to stand out, but one girl’s character development is that she has to pee all the time and everyone is stupid, unlikable, knife playing drunks. You see, this isn’t really about the occult aspects, just a congregation trying to instill fear of the devil by committing murders that look like cult killings. Idiotic interrogations that waste time bothering to explain all this make the threats feel hollow, and I’m so, so tired of so-called righteous assholes giving decent people a bad name. We have enough of that at the top these days, so this didn’t need to be set in an eighties Midwest for the religious hypocrisy commentary. In fact, it might have come across as something deeper if the first half wasn’t wasted on faking period window dressing that doesn’t work. Stepmothers, bloody bodies found, police chases, lone officers who don’t call for backup, psycho daddy pastors – the contrivances just go on and on, escalating until I eventually stopped paying attention.

For More Horrors, Visit:

Witches and Demons

Dracula Video Review

Forest Frights

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant is a Confusing Disappointment by Kristin Battestella

Alien: Covenant – the latest film in the Alien franchise and the 2017 sequel to Prometheus – struggles with its franchise identity crisis, leaving the potentially interesting science fiction parables and body horror monsters wanting in the confusion.

When the colonization vessel Covenant is damaged by passing neutrino blasts, the android Walter (Michael Fassbender) must wake terraforming chief Daniels (Katherine Waterson) and the rest of the crew. After receiving a nearby signal from a mysterious, too good to be true planet much closer than their original vetted destination, leader Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to investigate. Unfortunately, inhaled alien toxins on the surface birth beastly parasites, and David (also Fassbender) – the android survivor of the lost research vessel Prometheus – has been living alone on the planet for the past ten years, studying the remaining Engineer evolution techniques and perfecting their monstrous designs with terrifying results…

Whether it’s Prometheus 2 or Alien 5, Alien: Covenant is immediately frustrating. If this is really an Alien movie, then Prometheus never should have held anything back in hopes of a sequel and just told its tale in one movie. However, returning director Ridley Scott and screenplay writer John Logan (Penny Dreadful) play it both ways as Alien: Covenant opens with android quizzes on The Statue of David, Wagner gems, and Valhalla. Such meaning of meaninglessness threads from Prometheus will confuse viewers who didn’t see it, and Alien: Covenant restarts with the titular colony vessel and its android custodian, Mother computer, and crew in stasis almost as if it’s trying to reboot said predecessor. Fortunately, pod fatalities, charred bodies, memento mori, and offline systems build suspense while radio chatter, spacesuits, and rogue transmissions create a science fiction atmosphere. Eerie forest destruction, Pompeii-like remains and crashed ships add mood but drop ships and lost contact are similar to Aliens while inconveniently convenient planetary storms mirror Prometheus. An entire team trots off for an expedition – leaving only one person behind to make lander repairs – before separating further so a careless guy taking a leak can get infected by some spooky alien particles. Educated people ask obvious questions to which they should already know the answers, adding stilted dialogue on top of back and forth scenes deflating the body horror when not acting stupid for the plot to proceed by willfully scratching and sniffing mystery polyps and not reporting when they feel sick. Friends insist on taking the infected back to the ship, but there’s no procedure amid the hectic radio calls and blood splatter. Women are on the mission just to whine – one tries to lock in another when both are equally contaminated and the visual hysterics don’t let the viewer actually see the out of control. Cutting to what’s happening elsewhere is a mistake when it leaves the bloody reveal a blink and you miss it special effect. It’s scarier when people are trapped with a fast growing monster building claustrophobic fear toward fatal ship explosions. However, the paired off crew members react so over emotionally to death yet barely at all to the creature shocks, necropolis infrastructure, and the suspicious survivor found there. Flashbacks and exposition detailing the pathogens, crashes, and destruction post-Prometheus ten years prior is really where Alien: Covenant should have begun, but we’re watching a woman strip down to wash her open wound in what hopefully isn’t contaminated water instead. After objecting to flying the colony ship down to the planet, minutes later the crew changes their minds once the route is more dangerous while fast action scenes, convoluted lingering, and rushed quality scenes contribute to the unevenness, hampering creepy encounters with new aliens, familiar eggs, and delicious face-hugger revelations. From the prologue to the ship and the planet to the necropolis, rival androids, and onboard terrors; Alien: Covenant is an overlong and confusing two hours with cargo bay trucks, out the airlock solutions, and unnecessary sexy showers littering a nonsensical Aliens copycat finale. What should be wonderfully chilling – gagging up mini alien eggs for the incubator to the Ride of the Valkyries – treads tires because between all the Prometheus rewrites, the four credited writers here, and who knows what more behind the scenes meddling, nobody mapped out where this disappointing prequel plot goes.

There was a time when I was excited for whatever film Michael Fassbender did next. Unfortunately, somewhere around Macbeth or Steve Jobs, Fassbender sold out with all these non-starters and uninteresting flops. Despite this superb dual performance as the poetic, T.E. Lawrence obsessed android David and the clueless but loyal and supposedly inferior model Walter, it’s difficult to look back at Hunger and believe this is the same actor who once so bled for his craft. It’s totally obvious what David is going to do, and the entire homoerotic flute fingering sequence is the invisible car of Die Another Day franchise rock bottom. Surely, there was a better way to show Walter as a stunted childlike machine designed as lacking creativity expressly because David was so disturbingly human in his desires. It might even have been more interesting to not reveal Walter as an android until the xenomorph acid destroys his hand when he protects Daniels. Walter naively thinks he can gain the details from David regarding their creator Weyland and how the Prometheus survivor came to be on this planet. However, David waxes on Lord Byron and thinks himself Crusoe, admonishing Walter for serving the unworthy, dying humans. He preys on Walter’s potential, saying it is love, not duty he feels for Daniels, revealing himself as an abuser who already destroyed the life on this planet. David wants to communicate with the neomorphs and earn their respect while he experiments with the hybrids. Walter knows this is wrong, but David is pleased with himself for creating the perfect organism – and he’s very disappointed in Walter for standing in his way. David has at last procreated, and it’s chilling to see his views realized in several wild births, radical experiments, and violent assaults. Sadly, Alien: Covenant’s clunky exposition and trite script ruin the intriguing android developments with ridiculous encounters and not-so-secret switcharoos leaving no resolution for Walter when both characters deserved more. Alien: Covenant may awe over David’s ambition and chew on the possibilities, but there’s so much happening the audience doesn’t have any time to revoltingly enjoy the villainy.

Although Sam’s daughter Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) is supposed to be the lead, Danny doesn’t do a lot beyond wearing her deceased husband’s iron nail around her neck in a messianic loose thread similar to Shaw’s cross in Prometheus. She’s made less pretty than the other women, and when she officially protests stopping at this perfect planet, she’s presented as a moody bitch only sharing her emo grief misgivings because there’s no point in a home now without her man. Naturally, all the men are allowed reckless manpain over their ladies while Danny easily discovers what David has done when the script bothers to have her look. By the final act she conveniently wants a 2,000 strong colony ship to rescue her just because the plot says it’s time to let the xenomorph onboard and make her a kick-ass action hero. Billy Crudup’s (Inventing the Abbotts) reluctantly in charge supposed man of faith Oram only decides on this planet to prove he’s up to snuff and doesn’t realize he messed up until it personally affects him. Tennessee cool pilot Danny McBride (Your Highness) recognizes John Denver music in the alien signal amid all his sexist jokes before risking the entire mission for his woman – whom viewers already know to be dead. Of course, shortly thereafter, he’s laying the groundwork for his next hook-up. A brief prologue appearance from Guy Pearce (Brimstone) returning as Peter Weyland should have come at the end of Alien: Covenant to fully accent David’s twisted achievements, and Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw is unceremoniously written off post-Prometheus with only a few effigies. We’re told she put David back together, he loved her for her kindness, and that’s that. The movie should have started with the Prometheus characters on this unknown planet and then met the colony ship only upon their arrival. Alien: Covenant is from the wrong perspective and overcrowded with far too many unnecessary characters – mostly screwing up husbands or similar looking wives raising the body count. Anonymous people being in relationships may make excuses for their behavior but it isn’t character development and doesn’t give viewers a reason to care. Showing two guys with matching wedding bands as an attempt at gay inclusion is also embarrassingly homophobic when their only scene is one dying after ejaculating a neomorph from his mouth. Sneaky James Franco (Tristan & Isolde) moments are silly as well because… it’s just James Franco in a promotional campaign for Alien: Covenant.

Thankfully, Covenant is a cool looking spaceship with solar sails, blue hues, green lighting, touch screens, and interface graphics along with red alarms, spooky chains, dangerous ladders, and perilous equipment. Unfortunately, fiery damage leads to CGI spacewalks and noticeable animation intruding upon the interstellar fantastic. Crowded submarine style rooms and music motifs from Aliens are also apparent amid waterfalls and mountain vistas borrowed from Prometheus. It’s also flat-out dumb to waste time on a cool drop ship water landing when there is terra firma everywhere, and what’s with all the dang hoodies? Blood, gore, and creative reverse alien births are appropriately disturbing, however, the surrounding CGI is again weak. Dark scenes and hectic firefights also make it difficult to see all those potentially intriguing hybrid creatures, twisted deliveries, and scary designs. The contrasting advanced ship technology and stranded apothecary research are likewise nice touches that deserved more time – embryos and stasis versus dissections and bestiary drawings. Facehugger scares, acid effects and freaky attacks are always fun to see, yet more than anything, these Alien homages cum knockoffs make one miss the originality and practical design advancements from Aliens. The spaceship action is very messy in Alien: Covenant with pointless, drawn-out action sequences littering the narrative, and it’s not surprising to read interviews with the film’s editor recounting the post-production struggle to balance these multiple storylines each playing at their own pace. Alien: Covenant needs to be re-watched for all its Alien movies pieces trying to bring together the creation theories from Prometheus via confusing Engineer goo, deacons, or xenomorphs yet this entire piece is also in dire need of a re-cut.

Instead of running with what was good from Prometheus, Alien: Covenant plays with its Prometheus connection the way Prometheus played with its Alien connection. Unfortunately, such inconsistent and contradictory carrots string along loyal franchise fans and won’t gain viewers who haven’t seen Alien. As with Prometheus and Alien 3 before, Alien: Covenant can’t serve both its masters and ultimately provides little repeat value, which ironically can be said for Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. Once again, we have no connection to LV-426 when all people ever wanted to know was how the Space Jockey got there in the first place. Frustration on such could haves or should haves being saved for yet more sequels compromises Alien: Covenant’s potentially entertaining science fiction, religious warnings, and monstrous possibilities with ennui.

For More, Visit:

Prometheus

Eden Lake

Brimstone

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Campy Monsters!

 

Campy Monster Fun

by Kristin Battestella

 

Nestle in with this bemusing array of mid-century monsters and cheesy frights!

The Beast of Yucca Flats– The notorious 1961 SF horror here starts off fun and scary with a toweled pretty, strangulations, space race secrets, communism fears, and nuclear fallout. Unfortunately, this hour is held together by a very dodgy narration which unnecessarily replaces what should be dialogue. It’s mistake numero uno– hardly anyone talks and this makes for the least amount of character development possible. No performance happens; it’s a story being told. While that’s fine in cartoons perhaps, aren’t you making a film because of the show don’t tell possibilities? It’s unrealistic to expect a serious science fiction or spooky adult audience to sit through something like this-which is as is really nothing more than a naughty children’s short. That’s Rule 2: don’t underestimate your audience. Did I mention the music is also much too much? Yes, this ‘film’ is seriously flawed, and to some, that is its very appeal. Fans who enjoy the hokey of the day will love the cars, pace, and weak fifties filmmaking style, and drinking game fans can have a wonderful time with the utterly fake shoot-out and car chase. It’s like they’re kids with pop guns spinning the wheels of parked cars! This one must be seen to be believed, indeed.

The Giant Gila Monster – It had been ages since I’ve seen this 1959 hokey! Though everyone has probably scene clips from the fiery finale, I’d forgotten how much fun this mix of sock hop, classic tunes, cool cars, fifties nostalgia, and creature feature effects really is. The bemusing doom and gloom introduction and opening deaths are accented with some over the top scary music to match the silly premise, and the real lizard footage is downright charming! Sure, nothing is frightening because of the ridiculous production values, but the simple A to B to C execution proceeds at an entertaining little pace. And man, Don Sullivan (Teenage Zombies) and his tow truck are always handy! This teen not only looks 35, but he helps strangers, loans books to the sheriff, and sings to crippled little girls. Of course, the Mexican portrayals are a bit offensive if brief, and though the supporting greasers are totally limp acting-wise, drunken DJ Ken Knox is on form corny at his protest over $2 for a tow. The fifties redneck colloquialisms might be tough for some young viewers to understand today. However, this is all just great for audiences looking for such dated vehicular vernacular- a mid-century Texas time capsule captured before the turbulent sixties began. Yes, it’s completely hokey, but it works, and works damn amusingly!

The Monster Maker – Lovely piano concertos set up the gothic mood, eponymous twisted science, and good old-fashioned lovelorn obsession in this hour-long 1944 science fiction horror tale starring a juicy J. Carrol Naish (Beau Geste) and Ralph Morgan (Magnificent Obsession) as his forcibly misshapen and sympathetic victim. The then-contemporary designs and cool science lab are also a treat- except for the ape, of course. Why must there always be a man in a monkey suit in these old capers? A few scenes do drag or feel slow and long despite the short length, and the formula plays a little obvious at times. However, the fun, over the top style works. Women scream, get manhandled, and blackmail. It’s of its time, but entertaining nonetheless.

The Wasp Woman – It seems Roger Corman really likes his women, and this 1959 creepy is The Fly for chicks. Though not saucy or purely for ogle value- which is both good and bad depending on your point of view- the outdoor values, regular Fred Katz music, and scary buzzing sounds set off the more mature science fiction thoughts and laboratory desperation. One chick does get to slap another hysterical chick, yes, but the concepts here are just as fun. How far will we go for beauty? What cost is too high? The suggestion of bees and wasps is also chilling for those who dislike insects and simply terrifying to anyone allergic to bee stings. The sound is tough to hear in some spots, and the added prologue is slow in establishing the freaky premise of using wasp extracts as the fountain of youth. Some animal testing scenes are iffy, too. Thankfully, the fun labs and haywire science keep this one interesting.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Night Watch (1973)

Elizabeth Taylor does Horror in Night Watch

by Kristin Battestella

Upscale housewife with history Elizabeth Taylor thinks she witnesses a murder in the creepy abandoned house next door in the 1973 British thriller Night Watch. Unfortunately, her broker husband John Wheeler (Laurence Harvey) nor her carefree best friend Sarah (Billie Whitelaw) believe her. The police are tired of the increasing phone calls and neighborhood hysteria, but the terror escalates thanks to stormy nights, pills, alcohol, and slit throats.

Director Brian G. Hutton (Where Eagles Dare) and writers Evan Jones (The Damned) and Tony Williamson (The Avengers) adapt the Lucille Fletcher (Sorry, Wrong Number) play with flowers, quaint English gardens, and smiling rapport. The swanky drinks before dinner and lingering sixties style, however, contrast the looming gothic manor next door. The grounds are said to be poison where nothing will grow, but someone is digging in the backyard on stormy nights, and vivid dreams of speeding cars, accidents, and morgue terror distract from the snobbish talk of avoiding lesser neighbors. Late night waxing on the fatal past invokes a wee small hours limbo – traumatic memories and two characters who’ve lost touch make for fine drama before raging storms and screams reveal something horrible across the way. Dead men and cutthroats disturb the classical music, but inspectors find nothing in the congested, maze-like condemned as Night Watch relies on performances and mood rather than sensationalism for its taut, through the shutters peering. Pills or brandy are suggested to keep calm, but flashlights, clutter, and foreground objects layer the visual frame. Viewers are looking for something – questioning what we see or didn’t see. Could it all be an honest mistake? The police think it’s nothing but “money and menopause” on top of brief nudity, shower saucy, and hotel room trysts. Newly planted trees aren’t enough evidence, but nuggets of information trickle out from the ensemble. Suspicious neighbors find it exciting that there’s hear tell of a dead body nearby yet refuse to have their bushes dug up as part of the official search. Red herrings add to the creepy commentary about disliking neighbors who were there before you just as much as the friends you choose living even closer. Who’s watching whom and from which house questions layer the voyeurism alongside debates on hallucinations, eidetic images, and convincing oneself that what you see is real. Old mementos thought lost suddenly reappear, leading to arguments about gaslighting and being deliberately terrorized as more police calls, chases, and curiosity create a ‘burbs mind your own business across the hedge. Despite lights next door, the case is closed – inspectors and doctors both strongly suggest everything go back to normal amid awkward dinners, screams, and more off-screen witnessing. Revelations about what had really happened in previous accidents and shock over-identifying bodies found in flagrante delicto provoke more tension in the increasingly crowded quarter. Eventually, the police laugh and roll their eyes, proposing our housewife contact the building owners herself or hire a private detective. All the paperwork is ready for a trip to “rest” in Switzerland, too – accounts, legalese, and power of attorney but that’s all just routine. Confrontations, secrets, and lies will out thanks to hide and seek twists inside the derelict. Night Watch gets its horror on in a spooky multi-layered finale of blood, violence, crazed attacks, and frenetic turnabouts. Who exactly was really planning what and when? Seemingly early and obvious giveaways make room for more surprises, and Night Watch ensures the shocking schemes are ultimately completed with skill and gravitas.

Flowing gowns, glam necklaces, rock rings, and coiffed hair assure Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) looks classy as well to do housewife Ellen Wheeler. She dresses for dinner, drinks, and does jigsaw puzzles, for she needs patience to give her something to do when she’s so often alone. Her ritzy life should be nothing but grand, however, the insomniac Mrs. is up all night fascinated by storms and thinking about her father’s bad poetry. She’s been spoiled yet feels restrained and bored. The watch during the night is for all the things you can’t make sense of during the day, says Ellen, and she’s increasingly returning to memories of her late first husband Carl. Dreaming of his accident keeps her awake – she vividly recalls the fatal scenes and blood the viewer never sees but doesn’t remember previously dealing with the police and feels nervous about talking to them. However, Ellen also doesn’t want to be coddled or hear this witness is all in her mind, and she’s angry when no one believes her, even more hysterical over the disbelief than upset by the crime she apparently saw. Without support, Ellen is increasingly frazzled, pathetic, and paranoid. Will she voluntarily go to the doctor so he can tell her the dead body is all in her mind? What happens when she thinks she sees another one? Mrs. Wheeler’s wheels turn as she suspects her pills, beverages, and if someone is deliberately making her recall Carl’s demise. Despite her full house with husband, friend, and maid, Ellen fears someone else is watching her. She repeatedly calls the police and eventually agrees to see the psychiatrist, and though desperate, she is not stupid. Ellen is quite intelligent and recognizes when she’s being lied to or signing the wrong papers. She’s damn shrewd in seeing what’s what, and Night Watch’s madness begins to make sense as only Dame Elizabeth could make the clicking of the retractable pen so sassy and defiant before refusing to take the last tranquilizer in the bottle. Long drags on the cigarettes and strategic pauses emphasis the deliciously dark camp, and I’m surprised Night Watch feels so obscure when Taylor’s performance is so chill.

Laurence Harvey’s (The Manchurian Candidate) stocks and bonds big wig John Wheeler wants to know why his wife can’t sleep. He works long hours, but wonders what he’s done to upset her even if she says it’s not him. John takes care of Ellen, babying her with warm milk the way a daughter goes from father to husband to protect her. However, John does not believe she’s seen anything. He won’t call the police over a false alarm and insists the inspector not upset his already not well wife. John won’t stick up for her claims, yet he warns the police to not dismiss Ellen. Although he’s worried over the dangerous mix of alcohol and sleeping pills, John’s more concerned about possibly being sued by an angry neighbor. He dislikes when the police want him to control his wife and encourages her to see their doctor friend once he’s tired of her bringing up her late husband. John agrees she is right when Ellen suggests they take a holiday – but she says we and he only wants her to take a vacation. He has all that “spa” paperwork ready! Swanky best friend Billie Whitelaw (The Omen) on the other hand, is the houseguest who won’t leave. She keeps saying she’s moving on to Scotland and debates running away with her latest on and off conquest Barry but may have other tête-à-têtes, too. Sarah stays to look after Ellen, providing tranquilizers and hot chocolate while waxing on all the adventures she could be having and the excuses she can make up to get away with them. Although she tries to avoid topics that will upset Ellen – like Carl – they always creep back into the conversation. Sarah insists Ellen can’t go on like this, but as the third wheel in the marital house, her companionship is automatically suspect. She lies to spare Ellen but also apologizes for her tall tales. Doctor Tony Britton (The People That Time Forgot) must also tread lightly with Mrs. Wheeler. He doesn’t want her to be committed but needs her to voluntarily trust his help. Above all, he insists that she must get out of this house before it’s too late.

Spooky black branches, dark blue skies, boarded windows, banging shutters, and overgrown vines contrast the mirrors, red leather couch, white staircase, and swanky record players next door in Night Watch. Creepy statues and artwork, blue lighting, ticking clocks, and swirling cigarette smoke add ominous to the hip turtlenecks, lux lamps, decanters, and manicured gardens. Knives in the kitchen, rain splatter on the windows, and vintage blue sirens create pulsing tension while gates, flashlights, and condemned interiors set off the congested mood. Horseshoe phones, switchboard operators, and retro trench coats should be cozy nostalgia, but the colorful outdoors disappear as the peering through the blinds and drawn shades invoke agoraphobia. Distorted dreams and intense flashes of past car accidents lead to dead bodies and hospital Disturbia thanks to low camera angles and spotlights. Night Watch has subtle, choice visuals with reflections of the scary house on the fine townhouse window overlaying all action inside and out. Well done cinematography provides dark scares as well as focuses on Taylor’s face as zooms hone in on critical images and objects. Thunder punctuates arguments as the rhythms escalate, and through the gate, chases move the action to our spooky neighbors amid barren beams, peeling plaster, creaking stairs, and exposed woodwork. Violent struggles in the dark and shocking silhouettes allow for what we don’t see suspicion and final revelations. Wise viewers may pick up on the mystery here for there are too many similar stories to Night Watch before and since. Audiences looking for full-on horror a la Hammer of the day will be disappointed, too. Fortunately, the psychological chills, spooky twists, and superbly unraveled cast do get their scary on in an entertaining end. Night Watch is a fun late night tease worth seeing more than once to catch all the whodunit winks.

For More Retro Women in Horror Visit:

Death Becomes Her

Dial M for Murder

Dead Ringer

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Period Piece / Horror Ladies

Period Piece Horror Ladies by Kristin Battestella

What’s more wonderful than a gothic woman in fancy clothes and delicious settings experiencing crimes and ghosts with a dash of scandal, saucy, and the supernatural?

Angelica – A Victorian couple spirals into paranormal horrors thanks to puritanical repression in this brooding 2017 tale starring Jena Malone (The Neon Demon), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), and Ed Stoppard (The Frankenstein Chronicles). Ghostly photography, flashbulbs, and empty chairs contrast the bustles, parasols, and formalities before lanterns, carriages, fine townhouses, and storms. Bedridden confessions lead to earlier courtings with circus sideshows and talk of Darwinism versus the stiff upper lip British tapering their animal appetites. The microscope revealing disease causing organisms is almost as fantastic as the camera capturing spirits, and while it’s okay for a young lady to work in a stationery store selling nibs and ink, she can’t see her future husband’s laboratory. Our humble orphan now in elaborate red dresses is called a counter jumper by the aristocratic ladies, and she’s fearful of the bridal bed before enjoying it in a scandalously active montage. Bells toll amid talk of losing a mother nor wanting to be one, and this birth is graphic, not maternal bliss thanks to scalpels, screams, and both lives at stake. Unfortunately, the doctor says another pregnancy is not worth the risk, and the couple should “desist entirely” and close her garden. Our husband doesn’t want to seek pleasure elsewhere, but she can’t get into other..options…and favors their toddler over him. Soon, she’s completely revolted by her husband and obsessively attached to the child, and the wife is made to feel guilty about her health and desires by everyone in tense Victorian melodrama. Men in suits have no trouble warping her mind, but they are shocked to see a woman enter the medical theater amid animals in cages, exposed brains, and disturbing experiments that put the creepy back into the complex characterizations. Strange noises, visions of germs in the air, bugs in the woodwork, and wardrobes that open by themselves lead to more anger as the husband dislikes the chaos his overprotective wife is causing in their home. She won’t let these apparitions prey on her daughter – who also sees this floating ectoplasm man in her room. Is she putting more notions in the imaginative child’s head? Is this mental illness or is the repressed sexual energy seeping into the house itself? The maid calls in a scam artist spiritualist to ring bells, burn sage, and banish the banshees. Rather than a charlatan taking advantage, however, there’s a woman to woman understanding and courage – a protection spell is more like peace of mind somewhere between being a modest mother and the shame of enjoying sex. There are also unspoken lesbian veils, entertaining women while your husband’s away, putting their feet on the table, showing their legs, and drinking his best port. Drunken undressings provide laughter instead of rattling doors, swarming entities, prayers, and fires against evil. If he is not at home, who is festering this supernatural activity? The drama before the horrors may be slow to viewers expecting in your face scares a minute, but the intriguing characters are intertwined with the fear. Our mother needs to destroy the snake manifestations and demon man coming for her daughter before her husband sends her to Bedlam, and the once beautiful interiors become stifling as ghostly sexual encounters escalate to mind and bodies becoming one with blood and penetrations of a different kind. Although the bookends are unnecessary and this seems caught between two audiences – too much drama for horror fans and intrusive paranormal activity for period piece viewers – such Victorian horror drama with a touch of LGBT is perfect for fans of gothic mood and psycho-sexual dreadfuls.


Lizzie – Maid Kristen Stewart (Twilight) gets steamy with the titular turn of the century murderess Chloe Sevingy (American Horror Story) in this 2018 biopic accented with fine costumes, rustic lighting, and vintage Victorian interiors. Six months before the screams and blood, the buttoned-up, repressed daughter is already defiant against the patriarchal oppression by going to theatre parties unaccompanied where low cut, colorful frocks contrast the tight collars and immediate sexual tension at home. The Bordens can’t have anything too extravagant despite being able to afford it, and Lizzie prefers the barn and animals to people, reading aloud in an innocent but antisocial loneliness. While some dialogue is a little too modern, our eponymous lady has a progressive, forceful, even masculine energy that can’t be contained with fainting spells. Our old maid is called a lesbian abomination but in turn rightfully calls her perverse, abusive father a lying coward before creaking floorboards, broken mirrors slid under the door, revenge injuries, and burned documents reveal the truth. The up-close camera often peers through the window, catching the glances as each lady looks at each other – the audience is in on the intimate possibilities but when your employer suggests his servant leave the door to her hot attic room open, she can’t exactly say no. The strict orders and behind closed doors implications are uncomfortable enough without the often seen exploitative, degrading visuals, and the women bond during intimate undressings and corset tightenings. Theft and rebellious acts increase amid suspicious business deals, threatening letters, and whispering relatives. The women have to eavesdrop to learn what the men are planning for them before violent punishments and one and all sitting at the dinner table like nothing has happened. Is murder the only way out of the hypocrisy? Were the violent tendencies always there or could you be crazy in love enough to kill? The ax is shown throughout the potboiler, and although the stifling camerawork may be disorienting to some viewers, it mirrors the closeness when it is both welcomed by the women or invaded by nasty men. Regardless of height, the unprotected ladies must look up to the creepy uncles, diminished and fearful of physical violence. Retro photo pops accent the bludgeoning editing before jail and witnesses on the stand provide the fallout from this infamous hatcheting. Premeditated accomplices, church bells, deliberate nudity, and out of control horror are worth the wait once the finale reveals the symbolically sexual posturing, vomit, and splatter. Some people just don’t have the stomach for this sort of thing while others so smooth have thought of everything. There is some unevenness with the characters – probably from when the project was envisioned as a television piece with bigger roles – and the killer romance meets Victorian women’s lib messages are mixed. However despite liberties suggesting what went on in this congested house and a decidedly quiet, not mainstream style that won’t be for everyone, this interesting perspective will have viewers studying this disturbing murder case with a sympathetic, personal anew.

 

Rebecca – Artistic ingenue Emilia Fox (Merlin) – companion to wealthy gossip Faye Dunaway (Don Juan DeMarco) – is smitten by the suave yet mysterious Charles Dance (Bleak House) in this 1997 three hour Masterpiece adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel. Sublime style, flapper headbands, candlelight, and long stem cigarettes add to the whirlwind 1927 Riviera’s scenic drives, classic convertibles, and charming hats. Unlike the immediately gothic grayscale of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 version, vivid color and visual depth layer this initially idyllic romance. Our unusual couple have each been shy, lonely, and sad, but Maxim de Winter admires this young lady’s innocence and honesty compared to the gilded aristocracy. Picnics, boat rides, a silly girl, a foolish old man – can they make a go of their differences? The dangerous curves and perilous drives suggest something slightly sinister brewing amid glimpses of the unforgettable and beloved by all Rebecca. It’s been a year since her death, yet everyone must remind Maxim of his late wife upon this surprising second marriage. The newlyweds return to the lovely English gardens and proper decorum at Manderley, the estate where the Emmy winning Diana Rigg’s (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) icy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers won’t let go of the first Mrs. DeWinter’s memory. The household reception is awkward and chilly – the coastal brightness turns darker thanks to shadow schemes, lighting changes, and the looming silhouettes of both Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca. Despite being a large estate with a west wing facing the sea, the hefty staircases, huge windows, and great fireplace feel congested, closing in on the new, nervous Mrs. as she gets lost wandering the shuttered parts of the house, breaks priceless statues, and hangs her head like an admonished little girl. She doesn’t fit into the upper-class routine, but the brooding, often misunderstood Maxim doesn’t want her to become like those other cruel, aristocratic dames. Everyone is so heavy handed, formal, and not just unhelpful but resentful of how unlike Rebecca she is, and the couple regrets returning home to the rocky cliffs, beachside cottages, and distrustful staff. Crazy hermits, past gossip, vogue cousins too close for comfort, recreating previous fancy dress balls, and one big costuming faux pas strain the relationship further, but she can’t exactly ask her new husband about why the pieces on how Rebecca drowned aren’t coming together. Her room is still kept as is, almost in worship where our devoted housekeeper can express her creepy vicarious and pathetic intimacy, re-enacting brushing her madam’s hair and laying out her perfumed nightgown. Was Rebecca really so perfect? If she wasn’t would anybody actually say so? Her presence is overwhelming – not because of any actually supernatural mood or ghost, but because the obsessed Mrs. Danvers won’t let anyone forget, placing the fanatical pressures of her devotion on the second Mrs. de Winter. Foreboding strings add more ominous, however, the suspense is certainly helped by Maxim’s not coming clean on his life with Rebecca at the start. While some scenes are very similar to Hitchcock’s vision, this is also closer to the novel, and even if you’ve seen other adaptations, viewers are swept up in wondering how the secrets will play out in the finale. Fog, vintage boats, watery evidence, mistaken identities, inquests – the circumstances surrounding Rebecca’s life and death come to light, but our servant oversteps her bounds with cruelty, jealousy, and bullying suicidal whispers just to assure Rebecca everyone thought they knew and loved won’t die. Though more romantic than true crime, the fresh love, and warped liaisons are told swift and honestly as the scandalous true colors are revealed with fainting spells, medical discoveries, fiery rescues, and kisses in the rain. Indeed all the gothic staples are here with period mood and performances to match.

The Turn of the Screw – Downton Abbey alum Michelle Dockery joins Dan Stevens (again) and Nicola Walker (MI-5) in this ninety-minute 2009 BBC adaptation of the Henry James askew moving the repressed ambiguity to 1921 institutions with post-war doctors analyzing our governess’ infatuation with her employer, the topsy turvy male shortage, and of kilter Bly Manor. Fashions, hats, sweet automobiles, fine woodwork, and hefty antiques sell the refreshing setting, however, the nonsensical strobe flashes look amateur on top of the time-wasting, disjointed doctoring add-ons, and unnecessary narration. Visions of dalliances that initially upgrade the Victorian scandalous soon hit the viewer over the head one too many times as the governess imagines her master and his saucy approval. She insists she’s not the nervous type, but the dark interiors, maze-like staircases, and distorted camera angles add to the strange noises and creepy country manor unease. She’s in charge, above housekeepers and maids, but there are too many flighty women doing all the work in this house. Parasols and summer white contrast eerie fog and trains as her boy charge is expelled from school without explanation. The cheeky children whisper about their previous, pretty governess – unbothered by screams, accidents, or dying maids. Melancholy piano music, graveyard echoes, dark figures amid the trees, and faces in the window build on the female isolation, yet all insist there are no ghosts – surely she’s just hysterical, overwrought, and obsessed with men. Rumors of suicide and a woman ruined by her lover seem proved by hidden pictures of the master’s up to no good valet, and tales of his violence among the unprotected women are better than seeing suspect flashbacks. The prim style degrades to loose hair and nightgowns as our governess jumps to dire conclusions and possessive delirium, but the shouting about it afterward with her doctor interruptions break the tainted picnics and frantic tension. We don’t need his sounding board to deduce her fears, just let us see the abusive violence and water perils. Crazy laughter and disembodied voices escalate as the phantoms, repression, and projection possibilities culminate in a one on one battle for the truth. The deviations here are flawed, and while the horror lite is fine for gothic period piece fans, some viewers will expect more than to have it both ways attempt at the ghosts and crazy ambiguity. This isn’t the best version but thanks to the cast and unique setting, it can be a good introduction for audiences who haven’t seen The Innocents.

 

For More Gothic Horrors visit:

Crimson Peak

Penny Dreadful 1 2 3

The Frankenstein Chronicles 1 2