However you intend to spend it, have a wonderful and safe NYE and I'll see you on the other side of the calendar.
Saturday, December 31, 2022
Friday, December 30, 2022
Well, here we are again at the end of another trash fire year. All things considered, while the world burned, I had a decent year. Fantasia & TIFF are returning to their regular scheduled programming (I managed to duck the Rona outbreaks at both) and actually picked up a new pre-screening position while schmoozing at the former.
I also acquired two new gigs through Rue Morgue. If you read the mag, you may have noticed that list of Morbid Facts & Weird Stats at the hop, which are now - since the summer - being penned by me. Additionally, in the before times, my buddy Tal used to host horror trivia nights at Storm Crow Manor. In the fall there was talk of bringing it back and since he was unavailable, my trivia partner Pat & I - who used to win those events more often than not - took over the hosting duties. We just had our third edition and it's going very well.
Anyway, as Tal used to say, “enough about me, let's talk about me”. I had no shortage of media to enjoy this year. The Boys cemented itself as my favourite TV show, Prey gave the Predator franchise its best entry in thirty years and, God love him, Sam Raimi introduced a little Evil Dead to the MCU.
On the gaming side of things, Stray and The Quarry were tremendous fun, and as soon as I find a partner for The Devil In Me, I'll get on that too.
As for horror, I actually think it was a pretty strong year. Of course, there were some stinkers, but even mainstream fare like Smile and Black Phone seems to be well favoured - though I've seen neither. Here were my highlights;
Ti West returned to form in a big way in 2022, first with X and then Pearl. I loved the sexy, grimy sleaze of the former, and the fairy-tale boisterousness of the latter. The unveiling of Maxxine at Midnight Madness blew the roof of the house, making it my most anticipated of 2023.
Barbarian was a breath of fresh air, a two-part mystery, both as hair-raising as they were entertaining. It was definitely the best communal experience I've had since last year's Spidey. I can't wait to see Zack Cregger's next project.
Expectations exceeded. Once you clock into its tone, this one is a riot. William Brent Bell somehow, SOMEHOW gives us a twist every bit as outrageous as its predecessor. And lovely to see Isabelle Fuhrmann again, she should be in more stuff.
The “sleeper” of this group. I was super impressed by this movie at Fantasia. A great lead, a solid concept and the best use of Covid-19 in a horror picture I've seen so far.
More of a black comedy than a horror I suppose, but I adore this movie. It's one of those scripts I wish I'd written. It's also the only film this year I saw twice in the theatre (2 and a 1/4 if you count when I ducked in to watch the last half-hour while waiting for Avatar to start).
Honourable mentions to Nope, which was truly spectacular in IMAX and The Watcher, a tense thriller starring Maika Monroe (who should also be in more stuff). I also really dug Joe Begos' Christmas Bloody Christmas, a weird hybrid of Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Terminator and, of all things, High Fidelity. Riley Dandy is fire and I can totally see this becoming a holiday watch regular. Lastly, even though it's more of a true crime procedural than a horror picture, Holy Spider is very, very good.
Okay, that's it. This is a recording... May 2023 be better than the last. Take care and stay safe, kiddies.
Monday, December 12, 2022
Gutted to hear of the passing of composer Angelo Badalamenti. He was 85. This man was a creative giant and composed the music for my favourite soundtrack of all time - Fire Walk With Me. Rest in peace.
Thursday, December 8, 2022
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Hey all. I'm just dropping in to make sure you know about a new podcast called the Mayfair Watchers Society.
Premiering last month, MWS is a ficitonal podcast featuring creepy tales based on the work of artist Trevor Henderson. I've known Trevor for over a decade (we're both OG Laser Blasters) and he's good people. I always get a kick out of the fact that the youngins have latched onto some of his creations like Sirenhead and Cartoon Cat. He's also responsible for that Pallatine Massacre banner to the right there - for which I paid him in VHS tapes. No joke.
Anyhoo, check out the podcast, it's some great stuff.
Monday, October 31, 2022
Sunday, October 30, 2022
So here we are at the last letter with a movie I found while researching Carpenter Brut for a listicle in last month's Halloween issue of Rue Morgue.
A plucky detective (Donna Adams) persues a masked maniac who kills S&M hookers.
This is basically everything you would expect from a Z-grade (wink!) SOV slasher with less than stellar acting, story and boom mic control. Only this one, save for one beheading, was relatively bloodless so it didn't even deliver on the gore like equally trashy SOV's like 555 and Night Ripper. Jesus, that's two movies I've watched in the last week that were WORSE than Night Ripper.
|Zipperface and Donna Adams (both would never act again)|
The killer barely does anything but crunch around in his leather suit and get kicked in the crotch. I wonder if Wes Craven was one of the dozen people who saw this movie and thought, that's something Hollywood needs, more bumbling killers! I will give credit where credit is due and say that for a movie that probably cost a dollar-fifty to make, there were a pair of decent stunts in a high fall and a car windshield hit that were both culled, among other things, for Carpenter Brut's video for Leather Teeth.
The rest, well, you've got a detective fraternizing with a creepy photographer suspect, a parade of the reddest of herrings and a killer whose knocking off witnesses because they could recognize him, even though he was wearing a mask the whole time.
Yeah, not the best. I wager director Mansour Pourmand should be thanking Brut for saving his movie from complete obscurity.
Saturday, October 29, 2022
I recently became aware of Andy Mitton's work, first at this year's Fantasia with his new Covid-set chiller The Harbinger and then his previous haunted house tale Witch In The Window so with this penultimate slot available, it made sense to finally explore his debut.
In 1940, the inhabitants of a New England town all walked into the nearby wilderness never to be seen again. Almost seventy years later, an new expedition of researchers sets out to solve the mystery.
I enjoyed the story and lore of YellowBrickRoad. It's kind of a mash-up between The Blair Witch, the real legend of the Dyatlov Pass with a bit of The Shining thrown in for good measure. This movie also reinforced the absolute pervasiveness of The Wizard of Oz - first realized by me upon seeing the mesmerizing doc Lynch/Oz - on filmmaking as a medium.
|Happier times at the trailhead.|
YBR possessed some solid atmosphere, mainly brought on by the remote location and the increasingly eerie carrot-on-a-stick cacophony from beyond. Though the narrative and escalation is fairly standard, the actors were strong enough to keep me engaged. Also, a young Robert “The VVitch” Eggers did the costume design on this. The back story of this movie does sound like his bag for sure and I wager he was taking notes on filming in the boonies.
I did think that the death scenes were a little clumsy - umm I don't think legs just come off like that - and there were some issues with pacing. It's one of those movies were it looks like things are winding down, but in actual fact there's still fourty-five minutes left so the movie ends up taking longer to resolve itself than it should.
This all may just be an unfortunate side effect of watching a filmmaker's catalogue in reverse order. His newest film The Harbinger is a much tighter and assured piece of work. When you compare the execution of the set pieces, it's like night and day.
Regardless, this was a good starting point. Though the end of the YBR was a bit of a letdown (much like Dorothy must have reacted when she first saw behind the curtain) the lore and mood were enough to make it worth watching.
Friday, October 28, 2022
|Barbi Benton as Susan in X-Ray|
Thursday, October 27, 2022
An American woman (Monroe) moves to Romania with her husband where she starts suspecting the man watching her from the building across the street may be a serial killer.
This movie was at first just one of many titles flooding my streaming service inbox, but after some positive feedback from some trusted sources I decided to give it a whirl one evening. I do love me some Maika after all, wish she was in more stuff.
|Maika Monroe as Julia in Watcher|
While it is true that on the surface it looks like an obvious Rear Window clone, it also does have some more going for it. Instead of being confined to her apartment, Monroe's character Julia has a language barrier to deal with that feels far more debilitating and alienating. She's left out of conversations with her husband's co-workers and calling for help as she encounters danger becomes increasingly more difficult.
The backdrop of Bucharest was also a very pleasing one visually. It made the movie feel much more like a giallo to me than anything from Hitchcock. Monroe really gets to perform in this one, harkening back to when I first saw her 2013's It Follows where paranoia and dread rested heavily on her shoulders in every scene. Worth a “watch“.
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
This was just a coverbox from my memory that just happened to be on YouTube.
Four young women on a geology(!) field trip in the desert are stalked by a pair of sadistic bank robbers.
Whoa, this movie was something else. A woman takes an axe to the head in the first minute. Then, almost immediately another completely unrelated naked woman gets murdered in bed. THEN, a dude dressed as an old lady stabs a woman in the back in broad daylight. So trashy was the violence on display, it would have made H.G. Lewis blush.
It was at this point I was wondering if this entire film was just clips of murder scenarios. I mean, Victims! did little to dissuade me, as it took almost twenty minutes to offer up any kind of protagonists, or even actual dialogue. This was the opposite of yesterday's movie; almost no exposition. Scenes just kind of happened and sometimes didn't even finish before cutting to the next “scene”.
I cannot undersell how cheap this movie looked. Disregard that it was shot on 16mm, the threadbare story, awful sound - you can hear a lawnmower in the background during one scene - and again that editing should be enough to unhinge your jaw. I noticed on Imdb that director Jeff Hathcock also did 1986's Night Ripper and that makes so much fucking sense. And that movie is somehow a sizable step up from this.
|Shot from just beyond where the mic can properly pick up dialogue.|
You know, it always boggles my mind how they got actresses for these movies back in the day. Like, I can't imagine these were high paying (if at all) gigs so Hathcock somehow convinced four(!) women to go into the desert for two weeks to recreate a shittier version of I Spit on Your Grave. What a world...
Having said all that, for the next week I will definitely be asking every horror hound I know if they have seen this. Just for the tan lines alone. Now, THOSE were scary.
|Those aren't panties, folks.|
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Thanks to a kind message from Mermaid Heather, I recently discovered that this movie was actually the sixth adaptation of James Herbert's bibliography. Given that his works are so infrequently mined, I felt compelled to watch and as luck would have it I had a free letter.
Alice (Cricket Brown) gains the power to heal and says the Virgin Mary is speaking through her. With the help of tabloid journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), she spreads her word. Or is it?
There was some terrific pedigree here. Herbert's source material (his 1983 book Shrine), produced by Sam Raimi and some top level character actors the likes of Morgan, Bill Sadler and Katie Aselton. However, like I mentioned yesterday, the Hollywood system can't seem break out of its same old tricks. Having just watched Terrified before this, the difference between a filmmaker who knows what he's doing and one who doesn't is made abundantly clear. Evan Spiliotopoulos is definitely a better writer than he is a director.
|Cricket Brown as Alice in The Unholy.|
A scary movie is more than just easy jump scares and CGI apparitions. For instance, the first scene of The Unholy is basically the first scene of Bava's 1960 film Black Sunday except shot in first person. One scene is effective, the other is not. I bet you can guess which one. And don't get me started on its penchant for exposition and over explanation. Restraint could've really helped this movie.
It's a shame because as far as I can remember (it has been a few decades), this was a fairly pure adaptation of Herbert's book. Sure, there was the usual condensing of characters and updating to modern day, but it hit all the beats and the casting was great. I thought the exchanges between Alice and Gerry were sincere, and few things bring me more joy than watching Cary Elwes do an accent (any American Crime fans in the house??). Problem is every time the solid cast built up some momentum - CG FACE FLY AT SCREEN! I wonder if that's actually what it said in the script?
Seeing Herbert onscreen is always a happy day, but I'm thankful the cast was skilled enough to keep it - despite post production's worst efforts - from being a painful disaster. I wonder if the studio system is ever going to break out of these old habits...
Monday, October 24, 2022
Sunday, October 23, 2022
This one was a blind buy at yet another Rue Morgue flea market. I'd never heard of it, but it has Donald Pleasance in it so that was enough for me to shell out five bucks.
Drilling near an archeological dig site in Rome unleashes an ancient demon.
Specters was pretty straightforward stuff, and yet incoherent at the same time. The Italians can usually be counted on to spice up said confusion so you can at least rejoice in the din, but director Marcello Avallone falls short of the mark. This movie had four(!) screenwriters and it shows, as there are more than one subplots that struggle to take center stage. Is this movie about a pissed off demon? Is it about duelling archeologists? Is it about an actress/singer's failing career?
|Trine Michelsen in Specters|
It is amusing to watch Donald Pleasance half-ass his way though the few days (if that) he was on set. To be fair though, even Pleasance at fifty-percent makes a movie one-hundred percent better. Was there ever anyone who could describe evil better than Sir Donald?
Despite its shortcomings, there were some bright spots. The score by Lele Marchitelli & Danilo Rea slaps and regular Argento collaborator Sergio Stivaletti is on hand for the gore effects, even if it is mostly just demon claws coming into frame to rip off people's flesh.
Not much more to say about this one. It's no The Keep that's for sure. Onto the next!
Saturday, October 22, 2022
This was one that's title was infamous and I just happened to have the Midnight Video VHS in my collection. It's been gathering dust since I acquired it many years ago at a Rue Morgue flea market. So now seemed an appropriate time to check it out.
Diana (Jackie Skarvellis) brings her new husband home to her family estate with the intent of putting an end to an ancient curse that has plagued them for generations.
WHAT EVEN IS THIS?! I was immediately confounded by what I was watching. It was kind of like a play because everyone was orating as if they were trying to reach the cheap seats... or more likely the production's one mic. It was like Coronation Street, but with curses and werewolves. Really. Shitty. Werewolves.
I took a gamble on this one and I lost my puffy sleeved shirt. Everything about The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! feels cobbled together. If I had done my research on the director Andy Milligan, I would have known this was his MO. This movie (the original version of it anyway) was shot back-to-back with three of his other pictures and the producer had to step in and add the rats in reshoots to pad out the running time.
|Yep, that about sums it up.|
Yeah those rats Came alright! And then got immediately returned to the store. I'm told that the rat storyline was added to capitalize on the success of Willard. Though I could've guessed that when one of the characters literally named the rats Ben and Willard. Subtle, guys. Regardless, this movie needed more rats and less, well, whatever this was. A family of werewolves named the Moonies? Jesus wept.
This would have been the perfect movie to snooze through, but my brain was fascinated by the proceedings. Every actor was giving it their all, from Hope Stansbury doing her best Spiderbaby impression to Milligan himself doing double duty as a rat merchant and gunsmith. No one eats up the clock quite like he does. This movie was inept, yet somehow methodical.
The Rats are Coming... is unquantifiable trash, and yet still more engaging than Open House.
Friday, October 21, 2022
Q's beyond The Winged Serpent and Quatemass are not abundant so I had to dig deep. Fortunately, due to Shudder's fairly large Euro-horror catalogue, I was able to pull this one out.
After recovering from a injury while racing, Helen (Carroll Baker) accepts an invitation to visit her ex-husband Maurice (Jean Sorel) in Majorca, only to be sucked into a murder plot.
This was my first giallo for Alphabet Slop and I'd almost forgotten how much fun they are. Everything is just amped up. The music is boppier, the locales are prettier, the clothes are flashier, and the women, hoo boy, the women are nuder. Now, I wouldn't call QP2K a horror persay, truth be told it's really only gialli adjacent - it has more in common with Diabolique than it does Deep Red - but with more treacherous seaside driving. Seriously that dash-cam made me very uncomfortable.
|Carroll Baker & Jean Sorel in A Quiet Place To Kill|
Cinephiles often equate director Umberto Lenzi with his cannibal films, but he was a very versatile director. Seven Bloodstained Orchids is an underseen gem and Nightmare City is terrific schlock. I talked about the endless superfluous dialogue scenes that sucked the life out of Open House. Well, QP2K has those same scenes, except Lenzi knows how to make them sing. He'll show some skin, have two men play chess who very clearly have NO IDEA how to play chess, or ahem.. .murder some pigeons. It is Lenzi, after all...
Yes, let's shock zoom over to the ladies. Lenzi mainstay Baker was stunning and rocked a mean leather jacket. Her rivals Anna Proclemer & Marina Coffa were no slouches either. I was surprised to see Coffa had little work after this movie because she had real presence and reminded me of someone I couldn't put my finger on. Margot Kidder? Jen Connolly?
Anyway, this was a good bit of fun from Lenzi's catlalogue and I can see myself checking out the other two films in this apparent trilogy - Paranoia & So Sweet, So Perverse - at some point in the future.