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Discover Argentine Horror: 10 Movies you can't miss

02:20 UTC


That’s Democracy (2012) [Anthology, School Shooting]

This is a review of an episode from the audio drama anthology podcast The Truth.

Jeffery Mohr is a high school social studies teacher. He’s going through a rough patch in his life. Still. he’s determined to give his students an excellent lesson on Direct Democracy vs Representative Democracy. He has brought a gun with him to class. He challenges the students to elect a representative. This representative will select one person in the class to kill. The students will have the opportunity to debate and persuade the representative about who to pick. They must choose wisely. For if the students fail to pick someone, Mr. Mohr will kill them all, and then kill himself.

A lot of people say “That’s Democracy” is the best episode of The Truth. I’m not sure if that is the case. There’s simply too many great episodes to choose from. However, it is certainly one of the most memorable episodes. The episode started off as a part of a Halloween episode that The Truth made for PRX. However, due to the rise in high profile school shootings, PRX got cold feet about the plot. However, the team behind The Truth didn’t want their hard work to go to waste. And it was thanks to that hard work that we got an excellent episode.

In a way, this episode is about the classic thought experiment of The Trolly Problem. Of course, it is easy to act moral when everything is hypothetical. It is quite another story when the knife’s literally at your throat. Or the gun at your head, in this case. I’m a bit reminded of the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter.” It isn’t as well known as other classics, such as “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”, but it is very much worth looking into. It hits on many of the same themes as “That’s Democracy.”

“That’s Democracy” is also notable for having been adapted into a short film. It is the only episode of The Truth to hold this distinction. The short film follows the plot of the episode almost exactly, baring a couple minor differences. It is an excellent short film. It was certainly interesting to see an audio drama be adapted into a different medium.

No matter the medium, “That’s Democracy” is very much worth experiencing. If you haven’t done so already, of course.

Link to the original review: https://drakoniandgriffalco.blogspot.com/2024/05/the-audio-file-truth-part-1.html?m=1

01:37 UTC



What horror movie you hate, but everyone else seems to love? Mine was Skinamarink. I despised this movie..lol

21:54 UTC


The Watchers (2024) [Mystery/Supernatural]

"Try not to die." -Mina

While traveling through a forest in Ireland, Mina's (Dakota Fanning) car breaks down. She quickly gets lost in the woods before being finding shelter in a strange room with one large, mirrored window. The three residents explain that they can't leave the shelter at night because there are creatures outside that want to watch them, and if they try to leave, they'll be killed.

Some spoilers below. This movie isn't very good.

What Works:

I love the idea of this movie. I saw the trailer and got really excited. This is a great premise and a really creepy idea. Some of the scenes early on that were shown to us in the trailer capture this premise well and deliver what it promises. It's too bad it doesn't last.

The film is very well shot. There are some beautiful shots of the Irish landscape and the woods themselves are very creepy. The atmosphere is nice and creepy thanks to the cinematography and the lighting.

The movie definitely loses steam as it goes on, but sometimes it has an interesting idea or scene and pulls us back in. There is one cool moment in particular that isn't in the trailer and I wasn't expecting it when the survivors discover something about their shelter.

What Sucks:

The big problem with the movie is the pacing. The 1st act is solid, but the 2nd act, once we get into the shelter out in the forest, things feel off. It takes a while before the characters sit down and explain what's going on to Mina. If I were Mina, the first thing I would do is demand an explanation. We needed that exposition scene much earlier so the stakes can be properly set. The characters are too vague for too long.

The 2nd act ends with our survivors making their great escape. I was actually shocked this wasn't the finale of the movie. This is the main point of the story; escaping this mysterious forest. There's still a good 20 minutes left after this. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem if the 3rd act were interesting at all. The climax has an obvious and dull twist that might have worked if they were still out in the woods when it happened, but that isn't the case. The 3rd act just ends up being a boring slog and the worst part of the movie. It should have been either cut completely or trimmed down to a quick cliffhanger scene. The escape from the forest should have been the climax of the film and it would have been nice to have something more clever than what we ended up with.

The characters also make some very questionable and stupid decisions. That's something that always frustrates me in this kind of movie. I like my characters to be competent and if they do end up doing something stupid, it needs to be well-written at the very least. That wasn't the case here.

Finally, as I said above, I love the premise of this movie, but they don't do enough with it. There was a lot more juice to squeeze out of this tale. I wish the movie had focused more on the mystery and explanation on what is going on here. It focused on the wrong things and executed on them poorly.


The Watchers was a movie I was very excited for, but I was left disappointed. The premise is great and there are some interesting ideas, plus it's well shot and has nice atmosphere, but it doesn't explore the world of this movie enough. The characters are stupid and the pacing is a mess with a genuinely terrible 3rd act. It's a damn shame. This will go down as one of the biggest disappointments of 2024.

4/10: Bad

1 Comment
17:34 UTC


Fire In The Sky (1993)

I've been a bit of a UFO kick ever since I started watching The X-Files last year. I stumbled across this movie when I was watching a movie reaction on YouTube about The Fourth Kind. People were comparing the two since Fire In The Sky is also supposedly based on a true story. >!Although most people know The Fourth Kind is not!<

What's scary about this film, really, is just....The idea of mass hysteria and how quickly your life can be ruined by a rumor. There is definitely some horrifying imagery and scenes, but it's kinda underwhelming because those scenes don't last long. The majority of the film focuses on smalltown drama.

Because of that I feel like it's almost like a Hallmark channel horror movie. The majority of the budget was clearly spent on bringing the extraterrestrials to life, and I feel like they kinda just phoned in the rest of it. And the MCs -- mainly Mike Rogers and Alan Dallis -- were so overthetop macho it was almost laughable.

!Especially considering that the whole scenario might have been avoided if they hadn't driven off, screaming like little girls and completely abandoned their friend!<

I will probably feel bad about saying that later, but right now I'm just bitter that this movie absolutely did not live up to the hype.

02:34 UTC


THE WEREWOLF OF WOODSTOCK (1975) [Monster, MFTV movie]


Local hippie-hating hardhat Burt gets all worked up over a news report following the famous concert and goes out in a thunderstorm to find some freaks to harass. But a lightning strike electrocutes him, eventually causing him to periodically transform into a werewolf-like creature. Can two special youth officers (visiting from LA to talk with the Woodstock sheriff about tactics they may need when such enormous concerts come there) figure out what's going on and put in place a plan to stop it?

Another day, another WIDE WORLD MYSTERY episode (a mid 70s MFTV movie umbrella series, shot on videotape and now mostly lost to the ages). That this scenario is laughable is obvious, and the shot-on-video/stage set production values don't help matters any (as much as I've found myself being able to look past them in an effort to see a lot more stuff). It's goofy garbage, honestly, enjoyable in the right mood. You've got an acid rock band, the two visiting police experts, assumptions that the briefly glimpsed "hairy" killer is obviously a drugged out hippie, and lots of electric guitar fuzz solos and wah-wah pedals to underscore the werewolf action. It's almost like if Sid & Marty Kroft directed a live action version of THE GROOVIE GHOULIES.

The fact that this "werewolf" is a weird-science creation and not supernatural is kinda fun (the police debate whether they need silver bullets) and allows for some variations to the usual (this werewolf has the wherewithal to kidnap girl and tie her up!). Trying to attract (and stun) him with rock music seems a bit much. Silly fun - a movie that finally answers the question: Can a Werewolf drive a dune buggy? (yes, he can!)


1 Comment
22:34 UTC


IN A VIOLENT NATURE (2024) [Slasher]


Partying teens steal a trinket from a forest grave site, triggering a hulking, mute killer - Johnny - to rise from the dead and inexorably wreak his revenge in search of his possession.

Sound familiar-ish? It should, as that's the point of IN A VIOLENT NATURE - to tell an (overly) familiar tale in a somewhat new way. To call it a "reinvention" (or moreso, a "deconstruction") of slasher films, though, would be incorrect - as slasher films with hulking, mute killers are just cinematic fast food, story wise, and tend not to be complex enough to allow for "deconstruction". Call the film, instead, an "exercise" - in that it eschews the typical, labored "character building" (of people you know are doomed anyway - here the usual assortment of crude morons, with "hey, wanna see a cool spider" the height of their discourse) and replaces it with a locked-in focus on the methodical, unstoppable killer as he plods ever onward to his bloody goal. So, weirdly, kind of like an inverted IT FOLLOWS in a way,

That Johnny, our main focus, has no character is of no importance as well; in fact, it's kinda the point. The movie is savvy enough to use the shift in focus to change some other expectations as well - there's no soundtrack (just the endless wallpaper of natural sounds), and the film, when not fulfilling its expected slasher quota of gruesome kills, presents most of the other screen action (gun-play, axe throwing) in a non-flashy, anti-thriller way - whether this is deliberate, or through a lack of budget, or both, can't be said. Also, given the focus, we are not really privy to the supernatural mechanics/rules that govern Johnny's resurrection - it just happens, and the solution is as simple as old folkloric logic (that Johnny does not seem to possess some kind of undead radar that guides him to the trinket - he not so much "stalks" as "bides his time" - is both refreshing and stretches coincidence to its breaking point - but, again, details were never the point of these kinds of films).

The film, to its credit, is not just an excuse for nostalgia fan service (Although Johnny's firefighter mask is a great image, and Aaron's death looks *very* 80s slasher film) - something that has become overly tiring recently - and has all kinds of interesting textures. The film is incessant but methodical, and exposition (given the presentation) is unavoidable but nicely handled. Most interestingly, the film seems to call out its own reason for existence - the climactic kill scene is both brutal, gruesome, mechanical, and kind of boring (or at least a fait accompli) - seemingly both inevitable and "besides the point" (but then, that's violence for you). The ending (which seemed to rub many less ambitious film fans the wrong way) is a smart capper on the proceedings, pointing out the unending trauma to survivors and the anticlimactic but likely finish to such a scenario, while likening the killer to a force of nature - uncaring and inexorable. As a film, I liked it - I may not need to see it again but it's an interesting exercise.

22:05 UTC


I Saw the TV Glow (2024) [Supernatural, Teen, Queer Horror]

I Saw the TV Glow (2024)

Rated PG-13 for violent content, some sexual material, thematic elements and teen smoking

Score: 4 out of 5

I Saw the TV Glow is a movie that's probably gonna stick with me for a while. Even as somebody who didn't necessarily have the queer lens that writer/director Jane Schoenbrun brought to the film, it still hit me like a sack of bricks, a fusion of nostalgia for the kids' and teen horror shows of the '90s, a deconstruction of that nostalgia and of our relationship with the media we love, a coming-of-age tale about not fitting in and living in a miserable world, and modern creepypasta and analog horror influences, all building to an ending where the anticlimactic note it wrapped up on wound up serving as a very grim and appropriate coda suggesting that nothing good will happen after. It's a film where I was able to put together the pieces of the story and figure out where it was headed after a certain point, but the journey was a lot more important than the destination here, serving up a moody, weird tale that felt like something pulled out of both my childhood and my adulthood in equal measure. If you're expecting a simple horror tale with big frights and easy answers, this will probably leave you scratching your head at the end, but if you want a movie with a smart and wrenching plot, compelling characters, and a hell of a sense of style that's quietly chilling without really being in-your-face scary, this is one you probably won't soon forget.

The film starts out in the late '90s in an anonymous middle-class suburb that, while it was never explicitly stated where it's supposed to be, I figured out was New Jersey right away even before the credits rolled and I saw that, sure enough, this was filmed in Verona and Cedar Grove, such was the familiarity of the scenery from my own childhood. Our protagonists Owen and Maddy are a pair of awkward teenagers who slowly bond over their shared fandom of The Pink Opaque, a kids' horror series that airs on the Young Adult Network (a fairly obvious pastiche of Nickelodeon) and is inspired by shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The protagonists of The Pink Opaque, Isabel and Tara, are a pair of teenage girls who developed a psychic connection at summer camp that they use to fight various monsters, as well as an overarching villain named Mr. Melancholy. For Maddy, the show is an escape from her abusive home life, while for Owen, it's a guilty pleasure that he has to watch by way of Maddy taping it every Saturday night at 10:30 and giving him the tape the following week, as not only does it air past his bedtime but his father looks askance at it for being a "girly" show. Things start to get weird once the show is canceled on a cliffhanger at the end of its fifth season -- and shortly after, Maddy mysteriously disappears, leaving only a burning TV set in her backyard.

I can't say anything more about the plot without spoilers other than the broadest strokes. On the surface, a lot of the story that transpires here, that of a creepy kids' show that may be more than it seems, is reminiscent of Candle Cove, only drawing less of its inspiration from '70s local television than from '90s Nickelodeon, Fox Kids, and The WB. But while Candle Cove was a brisk, one-off campfire tale that you can probably read in five to ten minutes (which you should, by the way), this is something with a lot more on its mind. It's a film about a life wasted, one where the real horror is psychological and emotional as Owen realizes that he's trapped in a life he shouldn't be trapped in, and it would not have worked without Justice Smith's performance as the film's central dramatic anchor. From everything I've seen him in, Smith is a guy who specializes in playing awkward nerds like Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Cera, and here, he takes that in a distinctly Lynchian direction as somebody who can't shake the feeling that he's living a lie but is either unable or unwilling to say precisely what it is. After the first act, this becomes a film about a man who's spinning his wheels in life, and not even checking off the boxes expected of a man like him to be considered "successful" seems to solve it. He narrates the film at various points, and as it goes on, it becomes hard not to wonder if even he believes what he's saying. Watching him, I saw traces of myself living in Florida until last year, spinning my own wheels in either school, menial jobs, or just sitting at home doing nothing. He's somebody whose arc struck close to home, and I imagine that, even if one discounts the fairly overt "closeted trans person" metaphors his character is wrapped in, a lot of viewers will probably get bigger chills seeing themselves in him than they will from the sight of Mr. Melancholy. Brigette Lundy-Paine, meanwhile, plays Maddie as either the one person who understands what's going on or somebody who's let her devotion to an old TV show completely consume her and drive her to madness, and while I won't say what direction the film leans in, I will say that it was still a highly compelling performance that forced me to question everything I witnessed on screen.

And beyond just the events of the story, the biggest thing the film had me questioning was nostalgia. In many ways, this is a movie about our relationship with the past, especially the things we loved as children. In many ways, it can be ridiculous the attachment we have to childhood ephemera, holding up old shows, books, movies, and games as masterpieces of storytelling only to go back to them years later and realize that they do not hold up outside of our memories of better times. It fully gets the appeal of wanting to pretend otherwise, but it is also honest about the fact that a lot of stuff we adored as kids was pretty bad. There are several scenes in this movie that show us scenes from The Pink Opaque, and Schoenbrun faithfully recreated the low-budget, 4:3 standard-definition TV look of many of those shows -- warts and all, as Owen realizes later in the film when we see one of the cheesiest things I've ever seen passed off as children's entertainment. There are many ways to read the story here and how it plays out, but one thing at its core that is unmistakable is that nostalgia is a liar.

It doesn't hurt, either, that this is a beautiful film to watch. It may be about how the main reason we're nostalgic for the past is because they were simpler times when we had lower standards, but Schoenbrun still makes the late '90s and '00s look magical, even if it comes paired with a sort of bleakness in the atmosphere that never lets up. The constant feeling of overcast moodiness is not only visually gripping, it serves the film's themes remarkably well, creating the feeling that, even during the protagonists' wondrous childhoods, there's something lurking just out of frame that isn't right and is going to make their lives miserable. The monster design, much of it first seen on The Pink Opaque, was an odd mix of cheesy and genuinely creepy that not only served as a loving homage to the '90s kids'/teen horror shows that this movie was referencing, but still managed to work in the story, especially once shit gets real and those dumb-looking monsters suddenly become the scariest damn things your 12-year-old self ever watched. There aren't a lot of big jump scares here; rather, this is a movie powered by themes and performances, with Maddy's third-act speech in particular suddenly having me take another look at shows like Buffy and Angel that I grew up with in a completely different light. (Damn it, why did Lost have to be so mind-screwy and reality-fiddling that I could suddenly draw all manner of disquieting conclusions about it?)

The Bottom Line

I Saw the TV Glow isn't for everyone, but it's still a highly potent tale of nostalgia and growing up that wears its affection for its inspirations on its sleeve and has a very solid, engaging, and chilling core to it. Whether you're a child of the '90s and '00s, non-heteronormative, or simply in the mood for an offbeat teen horror movie, this is one to check out, and one I'll probably be thinking about for a long time.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/06/review-i-saw-tv-glow-2024.html>

03:25 UTC


Strangers Chapter 1 (Contains Spoilers)

Strangers Chapter 1 (2024) (Psychological Horror) is getting hated on way too much

I will start off by saying this is not my favorite Strangers installment, but Strangers IS my favorite horror property and I have got to defend the good in this sea of bandwagon hate its getting. Strangers Chapter 1 is receiving overwhelmingly negative reviews for some pretty minor horror movie offenses, and as a long time fan of The Strangers here are my more grounded and in depth takes on the good and the bad of the first installment of the upcoming trilogy.

-Costume designs: More or less are pretty stripped down. Some improvements, some downsides. I think taking Man in the masks suit away for an outdoors jacket matches the environment, but hurts the imposing nature he has a bit. Same for Pin Up Girl, as the dress under the jacket was very fitting for her usual design and the jacket just covers that up so much. Dollface is really the only one that the jacket doesn't hinder design wise, cause her costume has always been more casual street attire. The beanies for Pin Up and Doll face were also pretty out of place, as it makes them less distinguishable from one another, in a low light or far away shot it's less immediately recognizable when you can't see long blonde or short black hair. And as it's always a point of discussion, Man in the masks' mask design is a lot less menacing than usual. The material looks a bit too smooth for my liking, almost like a thin leather as opposed to the almost pillowcasey design of the original, or the rough burlap of Prey at Night. The eye shape just doesn't match the mouth shape. Love the smirk shape for the mouth but the eyes are a little too cartoony. The Pin Up mask however looks the best it ever has. The proportions and coloring look fantastic. Doll face looks more or less consistent with the other movies.

-Setting: I think the AirBNB itself looks great, it feels very lived in and enclosed. Defnetley not somewhere you would wanna be hunted in. But I feel like it does suffer from being just kind of in the woods, as the house from the original and the trailer park from Prey at Night both have the benefit of being surrounded by open space, so there's nowhere to really run to, especially when they have their truck to pursue you in. In the area of the AirBNB it's surrounded by dense trees and rough terrain. Lots of hiding spots and no mobility for the truck past the main road and driveway. So once the victims are in the woods, it's just a foot chase which feels incredibly uncharacteristic of the Strangers to choose this as a setting. I wish more of the movie would have been set inside the AirBNB.

-Pacing/Psychological horror: I think this for me is one of the harder parts to judge as this is the first of 3 chapters in a trilogy. But if I'm treating this as a solo installment, which I'm not planning to for any other part of this, I will say there was a little too much focus on the setup of the "Spooky hick town" that it took away from the isolation feeling of the AirBNB. I would have been fine with Diner, Car breaks, Go to cabin, and just tell me the boyfriend leaves to get food/inhaler from car. Showing a whole two scenes of stopping by the car repair shop and burger joint and talking to locals and spooky mechanic and even the burger shop workers kind of kills the build up of being put in the AirBNB in the first place. A key fun aspect of Strangers is that you are alone and isolated when they decide to attack. Every aspect is planned. Had he taken the diner workers up on the offer to stay and hang out, or even more so, had the girlfriend come with him to get food, and they stayed and chatted shit with the workers where would that leave the strangers? Waiting patiently on their return? The Strangers are normally smart, methodical, toying, and control every aspect of the victims environment. They wouldn't have left a fully functional motorcycle to be taken for a stroll into town. And they wouldn't have left a shotgun hanging out in a shed to be found. (Key example being in Prey at Night, going through and removing all the knives and potential weapons from the trailer drawers). All that negative out if the way, I will say the actual pacing of the psychological scares are great. From covering the peephole very calmly rather than the usual eye shot, or stab to the face, to repeating the piano riff to show you've been being watched for much longer than you think, to the classic "Hello"s placed on the inside of the door to a room you know they'll hide in, to Man in the mask axing open said door, peering in, and then calmly walking away is actually chilling.

-The Strangers: Each Strangers movie typically has a large unwritten focus on the role each killer plays, if you watch the original or Prey at Night, you'll notice that there are 3 roles they normally stick to, Man in the Mask is the muscle, the large imposing force keeping you feeling trapped and overpowered. Dollface is the one playing games, toying with you. She's typically the one writing the "Hello"s, smashing phones, securing potential weapons, wondering where in the world Tamara has gone off to. And Pin Up is almost always the eyes and ears. She's the one keeping track of the victims, finding all the hiding spots, often seen guaring the perimeter, if youre in a building, she's outside pacing making sure you don't escape. Of course, this isn't a hard set rule or anything just a general theme that characterizes the killers thorough control over their attacks, they all play one of the other roles from time to time and kind of "take turns" depending on the situation. This movie for lack of optimism, just does not stick to that. The man in the mask stays a pretty solid brawn, but also stalks them more than either of the other killers? That's fine, I get that. But now Pin up is popping up at the victims left and right, and Dollface past the initial Tamara lines, is basically nowhere to be found. So I was like "oh okay, so dollface is surveillance this time" but she is basically nowhere to be found the rest of the movie? I was genuinely waiting for a Prey at Night style pop up the entire time the couple was under the floorboards trying to escape the house. They feel so incredibly disorganized in this one at certain points. It could be argued that they're early in their careers since it's supposed to be a retelling/prequel trilogy but then why would the show the skeleton in the woods if this is supposedly early into their killings? It just struck me as odd that they dont play more into the scare of the normal "There are 3 of them, but you really can only pay attention to 1 or 2 of them at a time, leaving the third to pop up when you least expect them." Aspect of the franchise.

-The Victims: There's not too much to say about the victims in this installment, but that's a very common theme in horror in general. The boyfriend is average, meant to be a slightly unlikable voice of reason against the backdrop of the tragically optimistic girlfriend, mostly for the purpose of the "You were right" esq dialogue when they're captured. The girlfriend is also pretty average aswell, they have a believable on screen compatibility as a couple. The setup is standard, not nearly as bad as people are making it sound though? Compared to the other 2 movies so far, it's on par. It's not really an important focus in a psychological horror like Strangers. It's a means to get them in the area they'll be trapped in. They are considerably lower on the survival instinct front. Very loud at times when it's just not at all appropriate. But also, the people being like "They're so dumb!" Aren't accounting for the fact that like...yeah. some people in real life are dumb as shit. Every single horror movie protagonist isn't going to be an expert survivalist. As is the case in real life.

-Sequel Setup: I'm optimistic as to where this will go moving forward, especially considering it sounds like it's meant to be digested as one continuous piece of media just divided up into 3 installments. Before the release I saw an article mentioning that one focus will be psychological response to/more long term effects of trauma, if executed well i think it'll be a really good thing to show. Kind of how they teased at the end of Prey at Night in the hospital. Being terrified of people simply knocking on a door or making sure you always map an escape from an environment, never truly finding comfort in silence, and never trusting interactions with anyone you haven't known for years.

Lastly, Things I do and don't want to happen moving forward: I don't need to know what they look like under their masks, I don't need to know why they're doing what they're doing, I don't need a super in depth back story of who Tamara is or if she even is a real person, and i don't need it to be a whole big cnspiracy with the silly little spooky town Chapter 1 is set in. It will only hurt the horror of the franchise as a whole. I would like to know, if anything what the little mormon kids have to do with the moral implications of the story as a whole. I would like to see more organization among the killers over the future installments, a "learn from our mistakes" type of thing. I would love to see the burden of the killers initial attack start weighing more mentally on the girlfriend over the course of the next 2 installments. And I would love to see people reviewing this movie as "1/5 worst horror movie I've ever seen!" Learn to shut the fuck up and take a movie for what it is, and have some realistic perspective on the difference between a fun, campy, silly little horror franchise and the elevated, 2+ hour arthouse style, Ari Aster shaped dick in your mouth that every new horror fan seems to have nowadays, because that's not all that horror is. Horror is a lot of things, and as a horror fan myself we need to learn to chill the fuck out. They're silly little corn syrup videos we watch to have fun. There's room for all types of horror in the world.

Rating: 6.8/10

Looking forward to the next 2 installments, and hopefully it opens up more room for Strangers as a household name in horror.

17:37 UTC


The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024) [Suspense]


Longtime couple Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez), driving cross-country from NYC to Seattle, have car trouble in rural Venus, Oregon and unexpectedly have to take refuge at an air bnb overnight, where they are stalked by mysterious strangers who want them dead...

This film answers the burning question: what if they took a modest indie suspense-horror film (THE STRANGERS, 2008, natch) and remade it with more money, more gloss, and as the intended first part of a trilogy? And most of you might be thinking: what was the question again? Because THE STRANGERS (2008) is a perfectly serviceable little film, not particularly deep or ambitious (and the sequel THE STRANGER: PREY AT NIGHT - letterboxd.com/futuristmoon/film/the-strangers-prey-at-night/reviews/ - is a perfectly serviceable/forgettable little slasher sequel from 2018) and it seems like a strange film not just to remake but to remake so "ambitiously."

But, here it is anyway. And let no one tell you different, this is a remake: almost everything that happens in the original happens here (to less effect) with the variations only being in set-up, specific lines, and more of a budget meaning a few more settings. Not that, given the paucity of invention in a "home invasion" scenario, there can be all that much difference (minor point: technically not a "home invasion" because this isn't the character's "home", but who has time to dicker over these things except definitional "found footage" purists?) - it's the Manson Family "Creepy Crawlies" playbook, basically. Is it worth seeing? If you've seen the original, not really: everything here is overdone, with the usual "warning" musical cues, the usual jump scares, the usual "menacing local yokels who don't like you city-folk comin' 'round dese parts (serious, WAY overdone), and the usual "characters acting like people in a movie instead of people in a real life scenario" (yes, let's agonize over an accident for precious seconds while we know three killers are around). The killers don't seem to have to worry about acting logically (I think kids these days call this "plot armor") or evasively, despite being the antagonists (and usually that doesn't bug me in a suspense film - "willing suspension of disbelief" and all that - but given the supposed "real world" parameters of the threat, it kept reoccurring to me). The film opens with text that informs us how many violent crimes happen per year, and then tells us "7 have happened by the end of this film" - it's a cute idea as an opener but, in retrospect, serves to somewhat take you out of and disassociate you from the experience before it's even started. At least they used the word "film" and not "movie".

02:03 UTC


The strangers 1&2 [2008-2018, psychological/slasher]

So my husband remembered these movies existed since the new one came out today. So we watched the first and second one today. The first one had great ambiance,paced well, admittedly a few ditzy horror moments but overall actually gave me a little scare bc of the realism. The 2nd one was a bit laughable since for some reason they switched from a psychological horror/thriller to a slasher movie. The ending is upsetting too, because, unless she's having ptsd which very easily could be, they're setting up for them to be supernatural. Kind of a cop out because what makes these movies scary is the fact that they're real people and these are things that can happen.

12:33 UTC


What's everyone's 9-10 out of 10 horror flicks?

Hope this is okay to ask here. Having a horror Renaissance and looking for the best. Been running through a ton of films lately and I find a good one every once in a while but watching a ton of bad inbetween

07:31 UTC


The Sluts (2004)[Transgressive, Extreme, Literary]

Published, and set, in 2004, The Sluts came out right before the social media boom. It’s an epistolary novel told through the tools of the old Internet: dedicated websites, bulletin boards, even faxes. I won’t pretend that I didn’t enjoy the nostalgia of it.

But though it is twenty years old, The Sluts is a novel for our current time. It is a metafiction filled with unreliable narrators and all the hallmarks of the post-truth world. It occurs in an insular and mistrusting web community and incorporates a healthy dose of fan fiction.

The star of the show is Brad, a sex worker of exceptional beauty and questionable age and mental health. He is the soiled dove who captures the imagination of dozens of connoisseurs on an escort review website. Some want to save him. Some want to abuse him. Everybody wants to hire him.

At a certain point, it becomes clear that whatever you want Brad to be, he is, so while Brad is the central character of the novel, in the end we know nothing about him. The only information we have about him is discussion board gossip posted pseudonymously.

Ultimately, this turns the focus of The Sluts back on the reader. What do we know of any character in any book other than what a faceless author has provided on the page? How do we distinguish between true fictions (primary storylines) and artful lies (metafictions), and why do we distinguish between them in a book that we already know isn’t real?

It’s fitting that Cooper essentially places the reader in front of the computer in this story. Every day, we’re fed information from a screen. It’s up to us to discern truth and fallacy. We interact with strangers, read their reviews of movies, appliances, restaurants… even (gasp) books.

In the end, though, it comes down to the user, alone behind their keyboard. We find whatever we seek online. It’s a digital Plato’s cave where not only are we seduced by a false reality, but we are tricked into believing that we have agency over that reality.

The reader chooses which Brad reviews to believe and which to discard, thereby projecting our own fantasies and anxieties onto this ethereal sex worker who is pure dream or pure nightmare.

Trust me, this is a deeply engaging novel that will shake you to your philosophical core.

06:11 UTC


Freddy vs Jason (2003) [Slasher]

I am taking on the letterbox challenge of watching one movie for a year. The movie I chose was Freddy vs Jason. Outside of reviewing just the movie daily, I've taken on reviewing most aspects of the film. Aspects include the soundtrack, score, novelization, graphic novel sequels, and the final draft screenplay. I also give my input on things I like and dislike. It is a daunting task. But it allows me to give a fair and final review of the film come November 1st or 2nd of this year. https://365daysofquistvsfreddyvsjason.blogspot.com/?m=1

1 Comment
23:29 UTC


Cat People (1942) [Monster]

Cat People (1942)

Approved by the Production Code Administration of the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America

Score: 4 out of 5

Cat People is one of the most famous horror movies of the Golden Age of Hollywood to not have come from Universal Pictures, instead being produced by Val Lewton at RKO Radio Pictures. RKO's horror unit, which Lewton spearheaded, was an extremely low-budget affair, and that unfortunately shows through when it comes time to actually show the monster in this movie, in scenes that often sucked all the tension out of the room thanks to the dodgy, primitive special effects on display. It speaks to everything else about it that this movie manages to overcome its extremely low-budget effects work and emerge as a near-masterpiece of classic horror, one that feels like a prototype for a lot of more modern "tortured vampire" stories (only with a woman who transforms into a killer cat) that was notably made back when Universal's Dracula was still a "modern" horror movie. Director Jacques Tourneur was a master at building tension out of very little, and the subtext in the story, ranging from immigrant experiences to lesbianism to proto-feminism, feels like it's pushing against the boundaries of the Hays Code in every way it can. There's a good reason this movie still gets talked about more than eighty years later as one of the unsung classics of its era, and it's still worth a watch today.

Irena Dubrovna is a Serbian immigrant and fashion illustrator who meets a handsome man named Oliver Reed at the zoo while she's sketching some of the big cats they have there. They hit it off and eventually marry... but Irena is afraid that, if they consummate their marriage, her dark secret will come out. You see, back in Serbia, legend tells of people in her former village who, in response to their oppression by the Mameluks, turned to witchcraft and gained the ability to transform into cats, one that has been passed down to her. Oliver dismisses this as superstitious nonsense and sends her to a psychiatrist, Dr. Louis Judd, who tries to convince her as much, but before long, Oliver and his assistant (and potential romantic foil) Alice Moore start to notice strange things happening around them that line up with what Irena told him.

Tourneur knew he didn't have the budget to actually shoot a monster for very long, so for much of this film's runtime, he keeps the cat person in the shadows and lets those shadows do the talking. A lot is mined out of those shadows, too, perhaps best illustrated in a scene where Alice is being stalked by Irena in which we never actually see a monster, but we know full well that there's something lurking in the darkness just outside the reach of the streetlamps, Irena's transformation into a cat depicted by simply having the sound of her footsteps go dead silent -- and ending on what's still one of the all-time great jump scares. Irena herself makes for a great anti-villain, one who's clearly troubled over what she is and fears that she might get the man she loves killed because of it, but still ultimately gives in to what is in her nature. At a time when the original Universal monster movies were still being made, Irena's portrayal feels downright subversive, predicting all the more anti-heroic and morally cloudy takes on vampires and other monsters that have become the standard for urban fantasy stories in modern times, especially with this film's rejection of the period settings characteristic of Universal horror in favor of a contemporary time and themes.

This film has its problems, to be sure. Some of the dialogue is stilted, with a scene of Oliver telling Irena that she's safe now in America getting some outright laughs out of the audience I was with, even if it did do the job of highlighting how clueless Oliver actually was. French actress Simone Simon makes for a very compelling presence, but at the same time, it's clear that English is not her first language, which does lend to the feeling of Irena as an outsider but also means that, when she's speaking, her English-language performance is pretty flat. Most importantly, when the film does have to finally show the monster at the end, it's clear that they just filmed a black housecat and hid it in enough shadows and perspective shots to try to make it look like a big, scary panther, and didn't quite pull it off. Team America: World Police spoiled me years ago on that by doing something very similar as part of a gag, and it took me right out of it towards the end. The film ended on a high note, but there are still a lot of rough spots here.

The Bottom Line

All that said, Cat People remains a very interesting movie, one where even some of its flaws (barring its bad special effects) lend to its appeal. If you're a fan of classic horror from the Universal days and wanna see something from outside the Universal wheelhouse, I'd say give it a go.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/04/salem-horror-fest-2024-week-1-day-3-cat.html>

01:54 UTC


Would anyone like to take this subreddit over?

It's been 7+ years and we are over 20,000k subs now. I barely come here anymore, and I don't think any of the other mods stop by much either. It's probably time for someone else to step in and try and bring some new life to the sub.

So, if you hang around here and want to take a crack at resurrecting what I think is a pretty neat subreddit, just reply. Depending on how many are interested, we'll see what happens.

Also, the automod that handled enforcing the title rules seems to be broken. Have fun with that :)

03:43 UTC


Livescreamers (2023) [Found Footage, Supernatural, Video Game]

Livescreamers (2023)

Not rated

Score: 4 out of 5

At once a love letter to horror gaming and a vicious takedown of everything toxic about the increasingly commercial world of video game streaming, Livescreamers is a film that combines the "set on a computer screen" conceit of Unfriended with a modernized version of the basic premise of the crappy 2000s horror flick Stay Alive: a group of livestreamers employed by a Rooster Teeth-like company called Janus Gaming decide to play a new multiplayer horror game called House of Souls together for a livestream, only for it to turn out that the game is haunted, knows a lot of their personal secrets, and makes it clear that if they die in the game, they die for real, leading them to start tearing each other apart as all their behind-the-scenes drama starts spilling out into the open. It's undoubtedly a better film than Stay Alive, too, buoyed by creative writing, some good scares, an authentic understanding of gamer/livestreamer culture, and not least of all the actual game itself, which were enough to make up for some hokey acting throughout. This was a very fun ride that I would highly recommend.

I didn't bring up Rooster Teeth back there for no reason, either. Anybody who has one foot in geek culture knows about the behind-the-scenes chaos that destroyed that company, once a pioneer of online media made for and by nerds, in the last few years, from casual bigotry to pedophilia to overwork of its employees, and while writer/director Michelle Iannantuono was in large part drawing from her own experiences in media when writing these characters, the interview she gave after the screening I attended indicated that elements of Rooster Teeth's downfall also informed her writing, complete with some of the dialogue being direct quotes from leaked chat logs. Janus Gaming, like Rooster Teeth, is a company that loves to put forward an image of positivity and inclusion for its fans, but behind the scenes, it's an absolute shitshow where everybody has beef with one another and the leadership is as two-faced as the company's namesake. Taylor is grooming his underage female fans behind his wife Gwen's back, and their boss Mitch knew about it but covered it up to save face. Nemo had a frightening encounter with a mentally unhinged fan that caused him to close his DMs and stop interacting with the fans. Jon and Davey, a pair of very attractive young men, blatantly queerbait female viewers for ratings in ways that Dice, who is actually queer, finds distasteful. Dice finds themself overworked, tokenized, and underappreciated by everyone at Janus, especially with their health problems and Mitch's refusal to cover his employees' health insurance. The game knows all this and ruthlessly exploits it, throwing the characters into situations where they have incentive to leave one another to die if they want to progress, and when that happens, the knives come out. While I wasn't fully sold on the cast's performances, which often veered between overly histrionic and stilted once they left their clean-cut streamer personas, I did buy their characters as the kind of personalities you often encounter in the world of online fame, both the kinds who exploit their power over others and the normal people who find themselves slowly ground down by the industry.

And it was all helped by House of Souls, the elaborate tech demo that Iannantuono made for the film, evocative of all manner of horror games both classic and modern ranging from Resident Evil to Outlast to Until Dawn. Even beyond the more personal touches that the game serves up for the protagonists indicating that there's something else going on with it, this is a game I could see people not only actually playing, but eagerly watching others play, filled with creative environments, set pieces, lots of Easter eggs and deep-cut references that don't feel forced, and a very cool-looking "boss" monster who regularly accosts the protagonists throughout their playthrough. Movies about video games often have a habit of not understanding what games are actually like, or at least having a very old-fashioned understanding of such from back when the middle-aged screenwriters were kids with Super Nintendos, often throwing in the most surface-level references to more modern games to show that they're Still With It. With this, it's clear that Iannantuono is somebody who is fully immersed in modern games and gaming culture, and replicated on screen the kind of game you could imagine coming out on Steam today, or at least at the height of the 2010s boom in indie horror gaming.

The Bottom Line

Livescreamers is already one of the highlights of the Salem Horror Fest for me. Its video game references and satire of gamer culture mean that geeks in particular will get a lot out of it, but even if the only time you've ever picked up a controller is because you were buying one for your kids, this is still a very good horror flick that I highly recommend when it hits home video and streaming.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/04/salem-horror-fest-2024-week-1-day-2-it.html>

03:12 UTC


It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This (2023) [Found Footage, Supernatural]

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This (2023)

Not rated

Score: 3 out of 5

Rachel Kempf and Nick Toti, the writers, directors, and stars of It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This, are among the rare found footage filmmakers who understand the things that only this style of filmmaking can do, and exploit this to the fullest. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it means that this film can often be fairly slow and plodding, the camera capturing as many mundane moments as it does big scares and the flow of the film not readily conforming to a traditional structure. On the other, this means that it also had a very particular organic energy to it reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, another film that understood this, lending credibility to the basic premise that this is supposed to actually be footage recovered by a young couple who were hunting for ghosts in their house. It's a meandering film that takes its sweet time getting to where it wants to go, but one where I appreciated the ultimate destination, and over the course of its run, the found footage/mockumentary style got me into the headspace of its protagonists and helped me grow more attached to them as characters. It's a tiny little film with a lot of heart, and while Kempf and Toti's insistence on only showing it at live screenings for the time being (you can schedule one on their website) will undoubtedly ensure that it doesn't become more than a cult classic, I did not regret watching it.

The basic premise is found footage boilerplate: Rachel and Nick are a married couple who, the both of them being horror/paranormal enthusiasts and (alongside Rachel's friend Christian in the city) amateur filmmakers, decide to buy a dirt-cheap, run-down house in their small town in order to shoot a horror movie -- and maybe spot some real ghosts. The place they bought was reputed to be haunted, and sure enough, at night they spot random people standing outside staring unflinchingly at the house, the beginning of a series of paranormal events that come paired with indications that their little film set may be having some kind of psychic effect on them.

The first half of the film or so is devoted to Rachel, Nick, and Christian's relationship and the mundane, day-to-day activities of their lives and the film project they're working on, and these scenes proved critical. I got a sense that these were real people whose lives were caught on camera as opposed to characters in a movie, giving the film a real, lived-in texture that lent authenticity to everything that happened next. The small-town Missouri setting where this was filmed also did wonders in this department, the protagonists explicitly pointing out that the reason they were able to get the house for so cheap was because their hometown was an out-of-the-way dump, a feeling that definitely came through. The film's attempts to be scary, on the other hand, were often its weakest parts, perhaps most visible in one of its first big horror set pieces, which consists of Rachel and Christian silently sitting together in front of a flickering candle for several uninterrupted minutes until we get a huge jump scare. I get what this scene was trying to go for, but after about a minute or so, it crossed the line and just had me saying "enough is enough, get to the point." It was when the scares tied into the character work that they worked best, especially with the growing hints in the back half of the film that Rachel in particular is slowly losing her mind in her obsession with the house. I would've liked to see more of a focus on this side of the story, a more psychological horror film about Rachel's spiral into madness indicating that she may not be as immune to the house's malignant psychic influence as she thinks she is, and that it's just manifesting differently for her compared to the various people who gather outside to stare at it, especially considering the film's ending, which wrapped it up on a suitably creepy note that managed to pull off a lot considering the low budget.

The Bottom Line

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This was a rough and imperfect film, but one whose low-budget qualities ultimately won me over and played a major role in what I liked most about it. If this ever comes to your area, give it a look.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/04/salem-horror-fest-2024-week-1-day-2-it.html>

1 Comment
14:31 UTC


Cows (1998) [Transgressive, Extreme, Body Horror]

Cows is the rare book that can be filed under both extreme horror and literary fiction. It earns its notoriety for its unflinching descriptions of despair, abuse, bestiality and coprophagia, but what elevates it above the edgelording of most extreme horror is Matthew Stokoe’s beautiful, evocative and squirm-inducing prose.

"Riding the backs of his corpuscles, leaping onto them from his stomach wall and through the thick gray coils of his intestines, not giving a shit what his heart wanted, the hard black grit of Mama's catabolized meals jammed itself into his flesh and fat and gristle."

Friends, that's page one.

Cows follows Steven, a young man whose life is like something out of a Quay Brothers film. There's no origin story. He just exists in a dreary and oppressive Skinner box with his abusive, corpulent mother on the outskirts of an unnamed city.

When we meet Steven, he is starting a new job at the meat processing plant. He spends his day shoving chunks of butchered bovids into a grinder. At home, his mother feeds him rancid food to keep him weak and belittled.

Thanks to television, however, he strives to one day be normal and happy — just like a perfect sitcom family. He wants to share that life with Lucy, his upstairs neighbor.

When his foreman, Cripps, promises to turn Steven into an alpha male, he follows his lead, believing it will win him the happiness he seeks. So, along with a freakshow of co-workers, he commits rites of passage that will send even the strongest gag reflex into hyperdrive.

At first, it appears to work. Steven begins a paraphilic relationship with Lucy and stands up to his mother. He even assumes the duties of preparing his mother's meals (read the book to get the irony of that last statement).

But that changes after Steven has a dialogue with one of the cows.

Record scratch

No, I didn't say monologue (or even moo-ologue). He has a conversation with a cow that has escaped the slaughterhouse and tells Steven that he's headed down a bad path. The cow also asks for his help in getting revenge on Cripps.

OK, that's a lot, and I've barely scratched the surface. Cows is not an easy book to discuss because, well, it's strange and it inspires strong and varied feelings. It amuses as much as it disturbs and is at times deeply existential (wonderfully so) and at others surreal (mixed bag).

It felt a lot like reading The 120 Days of Sodom. At first it's horrifying and difficult to read. Then it becomes comical and over-the-top. By the end, you're reckoning with the novel's philosophical intentions — not in spite of, but because of that journey.

Without a doubt, the most compelling relationship in the book is between the complementary spirits of Steven and Lucy. Steven attributes his unhappiness to what he lacks. He believes it exists out there, same as it's portrayed on TV. If he could just get past the obstacles in his way he could be happy.

Lucy, on the other hand, chalks up her unhappiness to something sick within her. She is on an endless quest to find and destroy the poison she believes lives inside her body. She dissects animals, looking for this diseased part of the anatomy. She urges Steven to examine the cow innards on her behalf. She has an endoscopy hose that she uses to map her discontent.

The result is an endless cycle of drudgery, abuse and disappointment. The only moments of joy Steven experiences is when he’s having sex with Lucy, having sex with his side piece (ahem… a cow) or torturing and killing his various enemies. Those are the moments when he feels vital, alive, powerful.

But it turns out the talking cows were right. The path he's on will not lead him to happiness. Ironically, Cripps is also right, when he tells Steven, "Don't be frightened by the sickness. It lessens each time until it ceases to be felt."

It reminded me (too much) of when I worked in an animal shelter years ago. For the mental health of the staff, we were only required to perform euthanasias one day a month — and those were some of the worst days of my life.

After the first time, I spent twenty minutes dry-heaving in a bathroom stall and sobbing like a child. The next time, I didn’t feel as sick, and I felt less so with each procedure until the sickness was gone.

In Cows, that's a feature, not a bug. If you eat enough shit, you get used to the taste (literally, in the case of this book). Likewise, if exposed to enough killing, abuse and exploitation, you become desensitized to that as well.

But as Steven learns, that is a very different feeling than happiness.

04:33 UTC


Abigail (2024) [Horror/Comedy, Vampire]

Abigail (2024)

Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore throughout, pervasive language and brief drug use

Score: 4 out of 5

The trailers for Abigail, the latest from the Radio Silence team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, promised a simple, straightforward horror/comedy that inverted the premise of their prior film Ready or Not (a lone female character faces off against a group of people inside a mansion, but this time, she's the villain), and that's exactly what the film delivered. Probably the biggest problem I had with this movie is that the trailers spoiled way too many of its wild plot turns, not least of all the central hook that the little girl at the center of the film is actually a vampire, which the film itself doesn't reveal until nearly halfway in -- but then again, I was having way too good a time with this movie to really care all that much. I came for blood and some grim laughs, and I got them, courtesy of some standout performances and filmmakers who know exactly how to take really gory violence and make it more fun than gross. If you like your horror movies bloody, this is certainly one to check out.

Our protagonists are a group of criminals who have been recruited by a man named Lambert to kidnap Abigail, the 12-year-old daughter of a very wealthy man, after she gets home from ballet practice and hold her ransom for $50 million. However, once they've taken her to their safehouse, a rustic mansion deep in the woods, strange occurrences start happening around them, and one by one, they start turning up brutally murdered. Before long, they learn two things. First, Abigail's rich father is actually Kristof Lazar, a notorious crime boss who has a brutal and fearsome assassin named Valdez on his payroll who may well have been sent to take out these hoodlums. Second, and more importantly, Abigail is herself Valdez -- and a vampire. A very pissed-off vampire who quickly gets loose and goes to war against her captors, using all her vampiric powers against them.

In a manner not unlike From Dusk Till Dawn, the film starts as a slow-burn crime thriller with few hints as to what Abigail truly is, instead focusing on fleshing out our main characters, a motley crew of entertaining crooks who have no idea what they're getting into. Our protagonists may not be a particularly sympathetic bunch (being kidnappers and all), but all of them are great characters who are very fun to watch, reacting as many of us would to seeing what happens in the latter half of the film and anchoring the mayhem in something human. Melissa Barrera makes for a likable and compelling lead as the token good one/telegraphed final girl Joey (not her real name; they all use codenames taken from members of the Rat Pack), Kathryn Newton was hilarious and got some of the biggest moments in the film as the rich kid hacker Sammy, and Giancarlo Esposito made the most of his limited screen time as their mysterious leader Lambert, but the real standout among the protagonists was Dan Stevens as Frank, a corrupt ex-cop who becomes the de facto leader of the group and takes charge once the carnage begins only to turn out to have some skeletons in his closet. This was a group of people who all felt like fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters who I wanted to see either succeed or, in some cases, get what they had coming to them, even if the words "let's split up" were used a bit too often during the third act.

The true MVP among the cast, though, was Alisha Weir as Abigail. In the first act, she's excellent at playing an innocent-seeming little girl -- with emphasis on "playing", as every so often she lets her precocious mask slip just enough to let both her caretaker Joey and the audience know that she knows a lot more than she's letting on. After the reveal, she turns into a hell of a villain, a potty-mouthed psycho who's absolutely relishing getting to murder her captors, operating with glee as she fights them and continuing to them even when they think they have the upper hand. The film makes great use of the fact that Abigail is also a ballerina, not just in her outfit but also in how the action and chase sequences give Weir (who has a background in musical theater) ample opportunity to show off her dance skills, which has the effect of framing Abigail as the antithesis of her captors: violent as hell, but also elegant and graceful in a way that lets you know that she's probably been doing this for a very long time. I can see Weir going places in the future, if her performance here is any indication.

When it comes to scares, this film is a mess of gore, inflicted on both Abigail and her captors. The first act keeps us in the dark as to what's really going on, and did a good job building tension as Abigail lurks in the shadows and the characters find the dead and mutilated bodies of her victims, not knowing what's really happening. There are decapitations, a man having half his face torn off, lots of bites, and more than one instance of somebody exploding into a mess of gore (a gag that, going by how they used it in Ready or Not, Radio Silence seem to be pretty big fans of). There's a creepy sequence of somebody getting psychically possessed by Abigail that spices up the proceedings with a different kind of horror, especially as the performance of the actor playing the victim shifts. The climax was action-packed and filled with vampire mayhem, and while I thought the story was kinda spinning its wheels at this point, the film was still too much fun for me to really fault it too much. At this point, Radio Silence has become a brand I trust when it comes to delivering popcorn horror experiences that aren't that deep, but are still very fun, enjoyable times at either the multiplex or in front of your TV.

The Bottom Line

I came to see a ballerina vampire kick people's asses for nearly two hours, and that's exactly what I got. Abigail is a rock-solid, rock-em-sock-em good time of a horror/comedy buoyed by a great cast and directors who know how to entertain. If you don't mind lots of blood, check it out.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/04/review-abigail-2024.html>

17:53 UTC


Hecatomb of the Vampire by G.N. Jones (2023)

It’s pretty incredible for a debut novel. I found out about this book on Instagram and it’s completely indie but the quality would make you think otherwise.

It’s a five part book that tricks you into thinking it’s an anthology until you see how all the little threads become a compelling web. Vampires are featured but not the focus. The book actually has a lot of different creatures from folklore and Eastern esoteric principles as well just stuff he made up. All this frames some really lovable and solid characters, GREAT scares, some sequences that made me squeamish, funny banter and really smart storytelling.

If you like horror you HAVE to give this book a try.

1 Comment
14:58 UTC


Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024) [Monster]

"Is that a mini-Kong?" -Bernie Hayes

As Kong explores the Hollow Earth searching for his family, he uncovers an ancient foe of Godzilla that threatens to plunge the world into a new ice age. A group of humans do their best to help Kong and Godzilla set aside their differences to come together and defeat the Skar King.

What Works:

The most important part of these movies has always been the bouts between the gigantic monsters and that is exactly where this movie shines. The showdowns are a ton of fun with some bonkers and over-the-top action. It's exactly what you want to see in a movie with both King Kong and Godzilla. It's epic, badass, and occasionally hilarious. In one scene, Kong uses a smaller ape as a weapon and it's the most I've laughed at a movie all year.

Tom Holkenborg returns from Godzilla vs. Kong to do the music, and it's a high point of the movie. He uses a lot of synth, which really works for the film. This is a case where I think the score is better than the actual movie.

Finally, this movie has the best villain of the series so far in Skar King. The previous villain monsters haven't been given much in the way of personality, but Skar King is an evil dictator and really just a dick. He tortures a Titan he has in captivity and the way he laughs is genuinely unnerving and creepy. He's a character that is really easy to root against and once you meet him, all you can hope for is that he gets a gnarly and well-deserved death.

What Sucks:

Once again, the human characters are the worst part of these movies. There aren't as many of them as usual, but none of them are interesting in the slightest. There just isn't anything for the audience to get attached to. The scenes with the humans made me want to fast-forward the movie.

The worst of the bunch is Bernie (Bryan Tyree Henry), who returns from the previous film. I didn't like that a conspiracy theorist character was so integral to the plot last time and that he turned out to be right. In today's world, I don't think that's a good message to be sending, so the fact that Bernie comes back in this movie is a problem. Sure, he's the comic relief, but it isn't because of the conspiracy theory stuff. It's a character we just don't need in any capacity.

Finally, there were times where the CGI didn't look the best. Most of the time it looks great, but for a spectacle like this, it needs to be firing on all cylinders at all times. That isn't the case.


Of the MonsterVerse movies, this is my least favorite apart from Godzilla. I think the rest of the sequels got the balance of monster action and the human element better. The monster action is still great here, the villain is solid, and I love the music, but the humans are just so dull. The 3rd act makes this movie worth watching, but just barely.

6/10: Okay

17:28 UTC


Ghostbuster: Frozen Empire (2024) [Supernatural/Comedy]

"Bustin' makes me feel good." -Gary Grooberson

Several years after the events of Afterlife, the Spengler family and Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) have moved to New York City and reopened the Ghostbusters. The new and old Ghostbusters have to work together when a demonic god arrives to put the Big Apple into a deep freeze.

What Works:

This movie has some problems, but one thing that absolutely isn't a problem is the cast. While I think the cast is too big, everyone is at least very likable. I didn't find any of them to be annoying, which is always my worry in a movie like this. Everyone is trying their best even if they don't have a ton of material to work with. It's a charismatic bunch which helps get the movie over some bumpier areas.

Paul Rudd is one of the highlights of the film, as he usually is. His character is just so darn likable. His role in the movie is about trying to find his place as a step-dad figure to Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), which is one of the stronger storylines of the film.

The other interesting storyline is Phoebe's. She ends up befriending a ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind). This is something the movies haven't really done before and it's actually a really interesting storyline. It isn't as fleshed out as it could have been and really should have been the focal point of the movie, but the characters have good chemistry and I was very invested in watching this play out.

Finally, the tone of the movie really worked for me. I know not everyone has been a fan of it, but I liked it. It's definitely the darkest Ghostbusters movie and the movie actually has a body count, but I also found the movie pretty fun and I thought it got the balance between the darkness and the comedy right. Your millage may vary with that. I know that I frequently enjoy movies with tonal whiplash a lot more than most people, but this is a more mild example.

What Sucks:

The big problem with this movie is that it's bloated. It has a huge cast and a lot of them don't have much to do. You probably could have cut two-thirds of the cast or at least combined some of the characters. There isn't any reason for Lucky (Celeste O'Connor) or Podcast (Logan Kim) to be here. Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) has absolutely nothing to do. Just send his character off to college. The new characters, played by Kumail Nanjiani, James Acaster, and Patton Oswalt, all could have easily been cut. Even Bill Murray and Annie Potts don't add anything to the story. Cut most of the characters and give the ones you don't cut something to contribute.

Ultimately, this is a movie that needed to be more focused. I think the best move would have been to make this more of a family drama. Phoebe feels alienated from her family as they try and figure out the new dynamic and forms a connection with a ghost. That's an interesting plot for a Ghostbusters movie. How do you bust a ghost that you like? What are the moral implications of busting ghosts? Is there a better way to do the job? Could they help ghosts move on to the afterlife instead of just putting them in a containment unit? All of that is interesting. This movie touches on that stuff, but needed to focus more on that. You could even keep Wolfhard's character in the movie this way. Maybe he tries to use his status as a Ghostbuster to impress girls. That's something Venkman would have done. That way you can keep some of the humor of the original movie while still doing something new.


While I enjoyed what we got from Frozen Empire, the movie could have been much better. It has some interesting storylines and likable characters, as well as a enjoyable tone, but the movie is bloated with too many character with not enough to do. It's much better than the 2nd movie and the remake, but not as good as Afterlife or the original, but it's a decent enough cinematic experience.

7/10: Good

1 Comment
17:26 UTC


Imaginary (2024) [Supernatural]

"He's not imaginary. And he's not your friend." -Alice

Jessica (DeWanda Wise) moves back into her childhood home along with her husband and two stepdaughters. The younger stepdaughter, Alice (Pyper Braun), soon makes an imaginary friend, Chauncey. However, Chauncey has a dark connection to Jessica's childhood.

Spoilers Below. I can't talk about this movie without getting into the 3rd act, so spoilers below. This movie is mostly bad and boring, so I would not recommend watching Imaginary.

What Works:

The three main leads of this movie are Jessica and her two stepdaughters. I think all three actresses; DeWanda Wise, Pyper Braun, and Taegen Burns, do a good job with the material they are given to work with. They're trying their best and mostly succeed.

The 3rd act of the movie takes place in the imaginary world and I like the production design of the scenes that take place here. They could have gone further, but the look of the sequences here is cool and they were able to get fairly creative with it considering the budget of the movie.

Finally, there is a nice twist near the end of the movie. We get through what feels like the climax of the film and our heroes seem to escape. We get a nice happy ending and everything is resolved, but then the twist hits. Jessica is still trapped in the imaginary world and none of the ending was real. This allows the real climax of the movie to begin. I was genuinely caught off guard by the twist and I think it worked well.

What Sucks:

My main problem with this movie is that it doesn't go far enough with anything interesting. Like I mentioned above, the production design of the imaginary world was good, but they don't do enough with the premise. One of the characters says that anything they can imagine can exist in this world, but they don't explore that much. The filmmakers could have gotten really fun and creative with this, but the end result is lackluster and not overly interesting.

We also don't fully explore everything that happened to Jessica when she was a kid. Her parents were profoundly affected by what happened and it's mostly glazed over. More could have been done there.

A large chunk of the movie is mostly uninteresting. Chauncey doesn't terrorize too many people until the end of the movie and it feels like the movie missed out on some fun opportunities.

Finally, Betty Buckley plays the eccentric, old lady who lives down the street and knows about Jessica's backstory with Chauncey. I'm not sure what was going on with her performance. It was all over the place and sometimes it felt like the editor used outtakes. Her performance just doesn't work.


Imaginary has some nice production design, decent acting by the leads, and a well-executed twist, but the movie feels like a missed opportunity and suffers from a lack of imagination. There are interesting elements that aren't fully explored, it takes way too long for the movie to get interesting, and Betty Buckley's performance is bizarre and doesn't work. Don't waste your time or money with this one.

3/10: Really Bad

17:29 UTC


Eight Legged Freaks (2002) [Horror/Comedy, Monster, Killer Animal, Science Fiction]

Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, brief sexuality and language

Score: 3 out of 5

Eight Legged Freaks is a self-conscious throwback to '50s monster movies that does the job it sets out to do perhaps a little too well. It's the kind of movie you'd imagine American International Pictures themselves (the Blumhouse of the '50s and '60s) would've made back then if they had a big budget and modern CGI technology to spare, a film that gets right up in your face with all manner of icky arachnid goodness that it takes every opportunity it can to throw at the screen, and even though the effects may be dated now, it still works in the context of the lighthearted B-movie that this movie is trying to be. It's a movie where, as gross as it often is, going for an R rating probably would've hurt the campy tone it was going for. Its throwback to old monster movie tropes is a warts-and-all one, admittedly, especially where its paper-thin characters are concerned, such that it starts to wear out its welcome by the end and could've stood to be a bit shorter. That said, it's never not a fun movie, especially if you're not normally into horror, and it's the kind of film that I can easily throw on in the background to improve my mood.

Set in the struggling mining town of Perfection, Arizona, the film opens with an accident involving a truck carrying toxic waste accidentally dumping a barrel of the stuff into a pond that happens to be located right next to the home of a man named Joshua who runs an exotic spider farm. He starts feeding his spiders insects that he sourced from the pond, and before long the spiders start growing to enormous size, eating Joshua and eventually threatening the town, forcing its residents to start banding together for survival. I could go into more detail on the characters, but most of them fall into stock, one-note archetypes and exist mainly to supply the jokes and the yucks, elevated chiefly by the film's surprisingly solid cast. David Arquette's oddly disaffected performance as Chris, the drifter whose father owned the now-shuttered mines and returns to town in order to reopen them, manages to work with the tone the movie is going for, feeling like he doesn't wanna be in this town to begin with and wondering what the hell he got himself into by returning to the dump he grew up in. Kari Wuhrer makes for a compelling action hero as Sam, the hot sheriff who instructs her teenage daughter Ashley (played by a young Scarlett Johansson) how to deal with pervy boys and looks like a badass slaughtering giant spiders throughout the film. Doug E. Doug got some of the funniest moments in the movie as Harlan, a conspiracy radio host who believes that aliens are invading the town. Every one of the actors here knew that they were in a comedy first and a horror movie second, and so they played it broad and had fun with the roles. There are various subplots concerning things like the town's corrupt mayor and his financial schemes, the mayor's douchebag son Bret, and Sam's nerdy son Mike whose interest in spiders winds up saving the day, and they all go in exactly the directions you think, none of them really having much impact on the story but all of them doing their part to make me laugh.

The movie was perhaps a bit too long for its own good, especially in the third act. Normally, this is the part where a movie like this is supposed to "get good" as we have giant monsters running around terrorizing the town, and to the film's credit, the effects still hold up in their own weird way. You can easily tell what's CGI at a glance, but in a movie where the spiders are played as much for a laugh as anything else, especially with the chattering sound they constantly make that makes it sound like they're constantly giggling, it only added to the "live-action cartoon" feel of the movie. The problem is, there are only so many ways you can show people getting merked by giant spiders before they all start to blend together, and the third act is thoroughly devoted to throwing non-stop monster mayhem at the screen even after it started to run out of ideas on that front. There are admittedly a lot of cool spider scenes in this movie, from giant leaping spiders snatching young punks off of dirt bikes to people getting spun up in webs to a tarantula the size of a truck flipping a trailer to a hilarious, Looney Tunes-style fight between a spider and a cat, and the humans themselves also get some good licks in, but towards the end, the film seemed to settle into a routine of just spiders jumping onto people. It was here where the threadbare characters really started to hurt the film. If I had more investment in the people getting killed and fighting to survive, I might have cared more, but eventually, I was just watching a special effects showcase. The poster prominently advertises that this movie is from Dean Devlin, one of the producers and writers of Independence Day and the 1998 American Godzilla adaptation, and while he otherwise had no creative involvement, I did feel that influence in a way that the marketing team probably didn't intend.

The Bottom Line

Eight Legged Freaks is a great movie with which to introduce somebody young or squeamish to horror, especially monster movies. It's shallow and doesn't have much to offer beyond a good cast, a great sense of humor, and a whole lot of CGI spider mayhem without a lot of graphic violence. Overall, it's a fun throwback to old-school monster movies.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/03/review-eight-legged-freaks-2002.html>

1 Comment
18:37 UTC


Christmas Bloody Christmas (horror , comedy(?), Christmas, holiday, slasher)

This is my first review and constructive feedback is welcome.

"Christmas Bloody Christmas" is directed by Joe Begos.

The movie features Riley Dandy as Tori, Sam Delich as Robbie, and Abraham Benrubi as Santa.

"It's Christmas Eve, and Tori just wants to get drunk and party, but when a robotic Santa Claus at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, she's forced into a battle for survival."

Have you ever seen the movie Small Soldiers? You know—the one where this completely idiotic toy manufacturer decides to put military munition chips into children's toys and carnage ensues?

This movie takes that premise a step further.

What happens when we put munition chips inside robotic mall Santas?

Well, first of all, two loathsome, insipid morons swear at each other incessantly for 45 minutes while also making fun of other (better) movies until someone reminds the film's director that he's supposed to be making a horror movie.

Our morons are Tori and Robbie, two record shop employees who have all of the charm and likeability of a pair of dead hippopotami who like shouting the word cunt for literally no reason.

These two are on a heroic quest to... try and get drunk and bully each other into having sex.

We spend a lot of time with these "delightful" individuals as they wander from location to location, slagging off other movies, music, and casual acquaintances while also swearing like the only vocabulary they have comes from a "word of the day" calendar written by Rob Zombie.

Occasionally, the movie will cut away from these two characters to show us ten to fifteen seconds of an evil robot Santa moving around town before we cut back to Pinky and Perky yelling at each other.

We get about fifteen seconds of Santa for every 8–10 minutes of Tori and Robbie.

There is no tension or scares in our scenes with the evil Santa because they are too short and choppily put together. Sadly, with Santa's scenes being so short, most of his victims have little to no characterization beyond the insults our heroes sling at them, so I found it really hard to care about any of them.

Whenever a kill happens, it's competently filmed but marred by the use of prosthetic effects that are just slightly lacking.

So we spend almost an hour of this movie with Tori and Robbie as we slowly develop a migraine and dream of a decent killer Santa movie, and then


suddenly Robbie gets his melon split and the movie becomes actually bearable.

Tori is alone with this unstoppable yule tide nutter and finds herself involved in a desperate struggle (with mercifully less dialogue) for her life.

She's still insufferable, but she has fewer characters to be insufferable with, and her desperation almost endears her to us.


The Santa bot gets to shine at this point as well.

He has a lot more screentime and gets to really occupy his time as a red-clad Terminator/Michael Myers tribute act.

Props to the actor playing Santa for taking a character that could easily have been quite goofy and instead lending him a real sense of power and threat.

The movie has an 80s slasher vibe to it, both musically and visually, which isn't surprising when you consider that it started life as an idea for a "Silent Night, Deadly Night" remake.

This film definitely improves with its third act.

We are given more action, more ambitious fight scenes, and much better makeup for Santa.

Unfortunately, all of these improvements come much too late to make up for us having to deal with the first two acts and our main characters.

My (Christmas) wishlist for this movie:

I wish Santa had had more of a presence in the film's first half.

I wish that the film had had some more story included in it to explain why Santa was after Tori because his pursuit of her made little to no sense.

I mean, if I'd been in Santa's boots and had to put up with her and Robbie, I would have ran so far away in the opposite direction that I doubt I'd be home in time for next Christmas.

Christmas Bloody Christmas has been judged.

It just wasn't a very fun Christmas present, and left me dissapointed, it can have 3 stars out of 10

22:31 UTC


Lisa Frankenstein (2024) [Horror/Comedy, Monster, Teen]

Lisa Frankenstein (2024)

Rated PG-13 for violent content, bloody images, sexual material, language, sexual assault, teen drinking and drug content

Score: 3 out of 5

Lisa Frankenstein is a vibes movie. Despite having been heavily marketed on the fact that it was written by Diablo Cody, the writer of Jennifer's Body (who has said that the two films take place in the same universe), her screenplay is actually one of the film's weak links, falling apart in the third act as the plot starts to get weird and disjointed in a way that left me wondering just how many scenes got rewritten or left on the cutting room floor. No, it's the cast and director Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin) who put this movie over the top, crafting a film that feels like if a young Tim Burton directed Weird Science in the best possible way. (In the interview with Cody that the Alamo Drafthouse showed before the film, she cited both Weird Science and Edward Scissorhands as inspirations, alongside Bride of Frankenstein and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and I'm not surprised.) It's at its best as a pure comedy, one that sends up its nostalgic '80s setting to the point of farce and pushes the PG-13 rating as far as it can go. I'm not surprised that, much like Jennifer's Body did in its initial run, this movie failed to find its audience in theaters (though releasing it on Super Bowl weekend probably didn't help), but while I don't think it'll be treated as an outright classic in ten years' time, I do believe it'll follow a very similar trajectory of being rediscovered on home video and streaming.

Set in suburban Illinois in 1989, our protagonist is Lisa Swallows, a teenage girl who's been moody and morose ever since her mom was killed by an axe murderer two years ago, followed by her father Dale remarrying the obnoxious jackass Janet and thus gaining a stepsister in the cheerleader Taffy. She likes to hang out at the old cemetery, where, one night after going to a party where she accidentally takes hallucinogens and subsequently gets sexually harassed, she runs off and tells one of the men buried there that she wishes she was "with him" (i.e. dead). Something must've been miscommunicated, because that night, that grave is struck by lightning and its occupant rises from the dead, trying to find Lisa and be with her. Lisa is initially horrified, but soon realizes that, beneath this creature's rotten exterior, there's actually a romantic soul who longs to be human again. And after tragedy strikes, Lisa decides to find a way to make her new boyfriend's dream a reality... no matter who gets in her way.

The first two acts of this film felt like they were building to something very interesting. The thing about the best takes on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, not least of all the 1931 Universal classic, is that they recognize that the real "monster" is in fact Dr. Frankenstein himself, the creature's creator, and this film leans heavily in that direction with its depiction of Lisa. She eagerly starts killing people in order to build the perfect boyfriend, getting sucked into darkness as she's blinded by love, and Kathryn Newton completely steals the show playing her, starting the film as a dowdy, depressed dweeb but eventually developing a gothic fashion sense and, with it, a catty diva-like attitude while channeling a young Winona Ryder in both Beetlejuice and Heathers. There were many places that this film could've gone, most of them involving Lisa becoming a full-bore villain while Taffy suddenly finds herself in her stepsister's path, with the creature either serving as Lisa's partner in crime from start to finish or perhaps slowly gaining a sense of morality as he becomes more "human" and realizing that Lisa is evil. All the while, the Frankenstein metaphor becomes one about somebody who'd do anything for love, including that, and loses herself in the process. And at times, it seemed to be going in that direction, especially as Taffy grows increasingly traumatized over the course of the film.

Unfortunately, whether it was the PG-13 rating or a desire to make Lisa more sympathetic (and Taffy less so), the film won't commit to the bit. Lisa's characterization does a near-total 180 in the third act as the film asks us to side with her as, at the very least, a sympathetic anti-villain with good intentions. Lisa should've been the bad guy that the film was building her up as, no ifs, ands, or buts -- a sympathetic and compelling one like Jennifer Check, but still somebody who crossed the line miles ago and never looked back. It would've given Liza Soberano, who plays Taffy and will probably be the breakout star of this film, more to do instead of making her a supporting player in Lisa's story who plays only a minor role in the third act. Instead, it felt like I was watching a whole new character entirely that just so happened to share Lisa's name and face. I highly suspect that there's a lot of alternate material here, either in earlier drafts of the screenplay or deleted scenes, because the sudden tonal shift in the third act feels like a product of a completely different movie.

What saved this film in the end were the style and the humor. Much like Karyn Kusama on Jennifer's Body, Zelda Williams imbues this film with a ton of gothic flair, Lisa's outfits being just the start of it, inspired by Tim Burton and, by extension, the German expressionism that he in turn drew from. The bright pink suburban house that Lisa and her family live in is almost cartoonish, and draws a sharp contrast to the world around it. The moment we're introduced to Carla Gugino as Lisa's stepmother, a hilariously over-the-top parody of an '80s suburban mom who needlessly antagonizes Lisa every chance she gets, and Joe Chrest as her spectacularly inattentive father who looks the part of a wholesome suburban dad but otherwise can't be bothered to look up from his newspaper, we see exactly the kind of people who'd happily live in a house like that. There are multiple animated sequences that liven up the film throughout, most notably the prologue/opening credits showing us the creature's backstory in life. The soundtrack is filled with great retro '80s needle drops, especially once the creature regains the use of his hands and can play the piano again. Cole Sprouse as the creature had no dialogue barring grunts, moans, and screams, but he still made for a compelling presence on screen as the other half of the film's central romance, proving that seven years on Riverdale was a waste of a lot of young actors' talents. This was Williams' first feature film, and if this is indicative of her skill behind the camera, I can see her going far. And most importantly, this movie is hysterical. The entire theater was laughing throughout, and I was right there with them. There are jokes about everything from "back massagers" to the creature's physical decay, and more broadly, its campy gothic tone is played far more for laughs than frights, most notably in one death scene that would be the most brutal in the film on the face of it but is instead one of the most hilarious scenes in it as the film shows us just enough to let us know exactly what happened and wince while still remaining PG-13. Cody's grasp of storytelling may have been shaky here, but her knack for getting me to laugh my ass off remains fully intact.

The Bottom Line

Lisa Frankenstein should've had more care put into its screenplay, especially once act three comes around, but it's still a very funny and watchable movie that, much like Jennifer's Body, I can see enduring as a cult classic. If you're not into the Big Game, check it out.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/02/review-lisa-frankenstein-2024.html>

20:38 UTC


Campfire Radio Theater (2011-2024) [Anthology]

Hmm, how do I begin this one? This has been a long time coming. I definitely should have gotten to this one a lot sooner than I did. That’s certainly a recurring theme on this blog. This one was a major part of my journey into the world of audio drama. So, without further ado, here it is at long last. We’re taking a look at Campfire Radio Theatre.

Welcome, friend. Have a seat by the fire. Make yourself comfortable. Campfire Radio Theatre is a horror anthology audio drama created by John Ballentine. I first became aware of it when Jordan Harbour mentioned Campfire Radio Theatre on an episode of his podcast Twilight Histories. I figured that Campfire Radio Theatre must be good if Jordan was recommending it. Sure enough, I discovered a wonderful horror anthology. Campfire Radio Theatre is proof that good things come to those who wait. What it lacks in frequency of uploads it more than make up for in quality. John Ballentine has assembled a very talented team of voice actors. Keven Hartnell, the series composer, always produces some excellent spooky music. And, of course, the writing is almost always fantastic.

So, a bit about how I’m going to approach this review. I’m not actually going to review all of the episodes in one go. I’m going to treat this as though I were reviewing an audio drama such as The Program Audio Series or The TEMP. I will give it a good start, and then periodically update it with more reviews. Anthologies always take more out of me than serialized shows do. I have to analyze and weigh the merits of each individual episode. This can take a fair bit of time, and you might imagine. I will also not be reviewing the episodes in chronological order. One of the beauties of anthologies is that you can listen to the episodes in any order that you please. As such, I apply the same principle to this review.

Now that we've got all of the housekeeping out of the way, let’s start the review in earnest.

The first episode that we’ll be looking at is “Death and Alchemy.” This episode takes place in London during the Victorian Era. We follow a scientist who has developed a serum that he claims can restore the dead to life. He wishes to test the serum on the corpse of a recently deceased girl. He is sure that this experiment will put him in the history books. Little does he know how terribly correct he is, but not for the reasons he thinks.

This was the very first episode of Campfire Radio Theatre I ever listened to. Jordan Harbour recommended this episode in particular. John Ballentine returned the favor and ran a promo for Twilight Histories at the end of the episode. “Death and Alchemy” is based on the short story “The Doctor in the Dungeon” by Patrick Moody. I quite enjoyed this episode, so I’ll have to track down the original short story. “Death and Alchemy” really captures that feeling of a gothic horror story from the Victorian Era. The horror coming from a scientist probing into things man was not meant to know.

Getting to see a zombie apocalypse unleashed upon Victorian Britain was certainly fun. I’m an alternate history enthusiast, and this episode certainly appealed to that side of me. I also liked how it drew a bit upon real history as well. Real medical schools in the Victorian Era often acquired corpses, via illicit means, for their dissection classes. There was quite a lucrative trade in grave robbing.

All in all, and excellent introduction to Campfire Radio Theatre.

Next up, we’re taking a look at “The Dentist.” This episode follows a woman named Sandra who has become a dental assistant for a dentist named Dr. Stewart. He offers his services at a very reasonable rate. In fact, he’s still the most popular dentist in town. But there’s something a bit odd about him. Dr. Stewart always insists on using gas to relax his patients for their procedures. All of his patients seem a bit off after they’ve received their procedures. The secretary is also very secretive about patient files. Dr. Stewart is hiding something, but what could it be?

This episode is another adaptation. Specifically, it was adapted from the episode of the same name from the Canadian radio series Nightfall. It was a horror anthology from the CBC that ran during the 1980s. You can find all the episodes on YouTube, and I certainly recommend that you do. Nightfall is an excellent series, and I’m glad that Campfire Radio Theatre introduced it to me. This episode was an extremely faithful adaption. I listened to the Nightfall version, but I think I prefer the Campfire Radio Theatre version. Not that the Nightfall version was bad, but I found myself comparing the performances to the Campfire Radio Theatre version.

Again, they weren’t bad, I was just used to the Campfire Radio Theatre version. John Ballentine actually got permission from Bill Gray, the writer of the Nightfall episode, to adapt “The Dentist.” I personally don’t consider dentists to be scary, but I know that many people do. Still, the big revelation of the episode certainly managed to send a chill down my spine. It was also lovely to hear Julie Hoverson from 19 Nocturne Boulevard as Eveline the receptionist.

Another excellent adaptation, and another excellent episode.

For our third offering we’re examining “Demon Eyes.” We follow an FBI special agent named Sara Gowan. She must locate the victims of a serial killer named Wesley Morrow. Morrow is slated to be executed soon, and Sara is racing against the clock. However, Morrow has given Sara a pair of glasses, but not just any glasses. These glasses allow those who wear them to see the demons that walk among us disguised as humans.

This was the first episode of Campfire Radio Theatre ever produced. It was certainly a strong start to the audio drama. John Ballentine has admitted to being a big fan of John Carpenter. I bring this up because I can definitely see some influences from the movie They Live in this episode. Still, John Ballentine manages to put his own spin on things. For example, there isn’t really any commentary on social issues like consumerism. And the antagonists are demons, not aliens. Then there was the big reveal at the end of the episode…which would be major spoilers if I were to talk about that. I will say that I did not see it coming, but I absolutely loved it.

We have bowled a turkey as far as great episodes of Campfire Radio Theatre.

Our fourth fearsome offering is “The Rites of Autumn.” We follow a grandfather teaching his grandson all about various Halloween festivities and traditions. It starts off innocently enough, but there’s clearly something sinister lurking just beneath the surface.

This one is kind of hard to talk about without spoiling the ending. True to the title, this one does have a very autumnal feel to it. Makes for good listening during the Halloween season. Then again, so does the rest of Campfire Radio Theatre. The actor who played the grandpa did a fantastic job. You could tell there was something sinister about him, but he never tips his hand until the big reveal. Although, during the pumpkin carving scene, I certainly had a feeling that knife was going to be carving more than just pumpkins. Oh, and be sure to stick around after the credits. There’s a fun little gag segment at the very end, along with a very catchy song. Not much more spoiler-free stuff to add here. Well, beyond to say give this one a listen.

Our fifth freighting episode is “The War of the Worlds.” This one adapts H.G. Wells’ classic novel, but with Campfire Radio Theatre’s own unique twist. It takes the form of a series of cellphone recordings. We follow a young lady as she tries to survive the Martian invasion of Earth, and avoid their dreadful war machines. She thinks that she has found temporary refuge from the invaders. Little does she know that aliens aren’t the terrors she should be looking out for.

This episode really surprised me. I was not sure how John Ballentine was going to pull-off “The War of the Worlds” in only thirty-seven minutes. John took the right approach here. This isn’t a straight adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Rather, it is a story that happens to be set in that particular world, for lack of a better way of putting it. I also really loved the angle this episode went with. Sure, the Martians are a threat, but it is your fellow humans that you really have to watch out for. The War of the Worlds has been a big part of the audio drama world ever since Orson Wells’ famous broadcast back in 1938. That is why October 30th is World Audio Drama Day. I’m glad to see Campfire Radio Theatre paying its own homage to that famous broadcast.

This episode was certainly a pleasant surprise. It is also certainly one you should listen to.

The sixth episode that we’ll be examining is “Monster’s Game.” It follows a young man named Rob who has been struggling with schizophrenia. He has been listening to true crime podcasts, with Monster’s Game being his favorite. However, he’s been hearing something strange lately. There’s a voice in his headphones calling itself Mathias, and it claims it can save Rob’s sanity. There’s just one small catch: Rob has to commit murders, particularly strangulations, under the guidance of Mathias. Is Rob just hallucinating, or might Mathias be more than just a voice in Rob’s head?

Ah, so we’re getting metafictional with this one. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that the voices in my head from podcasts have faces that go with them. In a way, this episode almost seemed to be about what happens when those parasocial relationships go a bit too far. Well, there is also the wrinkle of the main character’s mental illness. It was kind of funny, I kept thinking about how everything reminded me of Son of Sam. Then, the characters all started talking about Son of Sam. I also sense themes about true crime podcasts. Specifically, the ethics of them, and the questions how far some podcasters are willing to go for a good story.

Of course, I’m hardly a true crime aficionado. So, I can’t comment on this particular aspect too much. Also, this episode was kind of retroactively amusing. Rob is voiced by Bobby Gaglini, who is now far more famous as Will and Otto from Spaceships. Don’t worry, this does not undercut his performance in the slightest. “Monster’s Game” is another winner.

Our seventh dervish delight is “Desecrate.” It follows Jen, Brent, and Holly. Jen and Holly have been best friends since childhood, and Brent is Holly’s boyfriend. Holly is into all things occult, and wants to contact the spirit of Philomena Tillman; a woman accused of witchcraft. Holly plans on doing this using an ouija board in the graveyard Philomena is buried in. She hopes to uncover the truth behind Philomena’s story. However, Jen and Brent have a few secrets of their own. They’ve been having an affair, and they fear that Holly will find out. Specifically, how she will react.

This one is a little hard to review. Oh, it is an excellent episode, make no mistake of that. However, this is really one of those episodes it is best to go into knowing as little as possible. There are a lot of twists, turns, and revelations in this one. I will say that all of the actors did a fantastic job. The actress who played Holly did a particularly good job. Holly is described as being Goth Barbie, and certainly sounds the part. There’s some other bits of acting I could mention, but that’s getting into spoilers. The point is, “Desecrate” is another excellent episode. You should listen to it as soon as possible.

Our eighth aural offering is “The Master’s Hungry Children.” This one is set in Romania during World War II. We follow a group of Nazi soldiers who have arrived in a rural Romanian village. The villagers are wary, but not because of the Nazis. They speak of movement in the shadows, and creatures that stalk in the night. In particular, the villagers warn of one known as The Master, and his vicious children. The Nazis scoff it of as merely the ramblings of ignorant peasants. However, it soon becomes clear that these are no mere superstitions. The Nazis will soon come face to face with vampires.

I get the feeling that some people might not like this episode. It does have a certain campy quality to it. The set-up of Vampires vs. Nazis sounds like something out of a B-Movie. But you know what? I like B-Movies, I like vampires, and I enjoy camp. It was fun to have an episode set during World War II. Also, the actors make the smart choice to play the premise completely straight. This episode, despite its B-Movie feel, certainly had way better writing than a typical B-Movie. “The Master’s Hungry Children” won’t be to every listener’s liking. However, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I encourage you to give it a try as well.

And so that is every episode of Campfire Radio Theatre that I have reviewed thus far. Like I said, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list. I wanted to start us off with a good foundation, and I will periodically review more episodes as the mood strikes me. I hope that it is clear by now that Campfire Radio Theatre is a frighteningly fantastic horror anthology audio drama. John Ballentine and his team have created something special. Proof that good things truly do come to those who wait. I certainly hope that you will give Campfire Radio Theatre a listen as soon as possible.

Link to the original review on my blog: https://drakoniandgriffalco.blogspot.com/2024/01/the-audio-file-campfire-radio-theatre.html?m=0

20:10 UTC


Piranha 3D (2010) [Killer Animal, Survival, Horror/Comedy]

Piranha 3D (2010)

Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use

Score: 4 out of 5

There's really no way to describe Piranha 3D as anything other than a guilty pleasure. A loose remake of the shameless 1978 Jaws ripoff Piranha, it is an 88-minute parade of sleaze and excess that not only got the Eli Roth stamp of approval (he has a cameo as the host of a wet T-shirt contest) but was directed by one of his "Splat Pack" contemporaries, Alexandre Aja, and is filled with so much gore and nudity that merely having the Blu-ray in the same room as a child is enough to get you put on some kind of registry. In case you couldn't tell by the title, it was a 3D movie originally, and it throws that in your face constantly with all manner of objects jumping out at the screen. It's a movie where a man gets his dick bitten off, two piranha fight over it, and then the winner of that fight coughs up the tattered pieces of that dick right into your face. It knows exactly what it is, and like the spring breakers getting devoured on screen, it says "fuck it, YOLO" and delivers the most ridiculous, over-the-top version of itself it can possibly think of, this time without the constraints of budget or good taste that held back its '70s predecessor. It's a frankly superior film to the original, and the kind of splatterfest that never once takes itself seriously, and likely would never have worked if it even tried to. But work it does, and while its faults are plainly visible, the vibes here are just right for it to overcome them.

Moving the setting to the resort town of Lake Victoria, Arizona (a fictionalized version of Lake Havasu City where this was filmed), the film starts with an earthquake opening a fissure at the bottom of the town's namesake lake, where a horde of prehistoric piranha from a species thought extinct turn out to have survived, millennia of cannibalism and natural selection having turned them into the ultimate aquatic predators. Those piranha escape and become a threat to every living thing in the lake -- and unfortunately, it just so happens that Lake Victoria is a massive spring break destination whose beaches are currently awash in thousands upon thousands of debauched, drunken college kids and the gross, lecherous sleazeballs there to exploit that sea of fine, moist pussy.

And this movie's already turned me into one of them with the way I'm now talking. There's no (pardon the pun) beating around the bush here. The sex and nudity in this movie are copious and gratuitous, whether we're on the beach surrounded by women in various states of undress or on the boat of the softcore porn producer Derrick Jones. One of the highlights of the film is a lengthy, nude, underwater erotic dance between Kelly Brook and porn star Riley Steele that leaves nothing to the imagination and has no illusions about being anything other than the gleefully shameless exploitation it is. It's 2000s Ed Hardy/Von Dutch bro culture at its most lurid and trashy, and while the film is undoubtedly a parody of that culture where a lot of the entertainment comes from watching these idiots get slaughtered, it's the kind of parody that's chiefly interested in broad farce rather than deeper satire, jacking up the most extreme elements of it to their logical conclusion and letting them run wild from there.

And you know what? I loved it. It was a version of that culture that had just enough self-awareness to feel like it was in on its own joke instead of serving it all up completely straight. The protagonists, tellingly, aren't douchebro jackasses and their airheaded eye candy girlfriends cut from that cloth, but people who have to put up with all that nonsense in their backyards because it makes them money, and are the only ones afforded much dignity once the piranha reach the beach. The sheriff Julie and her deputy Fallon, Julie's teenage son Jake and her little kids Zane and Laura, Jake's girlfriend Kelly, the scientists Novak, Paula, and Sam studying the earthquake, these characters are all treated mostly seriously even if they're all pretty two-dimensional. The main representative of the spring breakers, Derrick, is the most antagonistic human character in the film, somebody with no redeeming qualities who melts down and turns into a petty tyrant aboard his boat as everything starts to go wrong for him and his production. Others among that crowd wind up getting themselves and others killed with their own dumb decisions, whether it's refusing to listen to the warnings of impending doom, climbing over each other to get out of the water, flipping over a massive floating stage that wasn't designed to hold so many people, or stealing a boat and running over numerous people in an attempt to escape. The deleted scenes and unused storyboards get even more vicious. This feels like a movie that hates spring break culture and everything it represents, one that I can easily picture proving quite popular among locals in places that get lots of rowdy tourists, a graphic depiction of what they'd love to see happen one day.

"Graphic" is the operative word here, too. If the first half of this film is a parade of T&A, then the second half is devoted to watching all those choice cuts of meat get served up and torn to shreds. This is an absolute gorefest, and Alexandre Aja is a master of the craft. Everything you can picture piranha doing to somebody gets done, and probably some other stuff you never dreamed of. The big, brutal attack on the beach is one that this movie builds to for half its runtime, and when it arrives, it is one for the ages, a carnival of carnage that lasts for several minutes and keeps coming up with creative new ways to kill people. Boobs and blood are combined with reckless abandon, such as in the paragliding scene, a gag involving breast implants, and one highlight moment involving a high-tension wire. While the piranha themselves were created with CGI, the actual gore was almost entirely done practically by the KNB EFX Group, and it is the kind of gross shit that they've made their name with, a vividly detailed anatomy lesson as you get to see all the ways a human body can come apart. At times, it felt like the only thing keeping the film from an instant NC-17 rating was that the water was too clouded by blood (roughly 80,000 gallons of fake blood were used on set) to see the worst of it. Even though this movie isn't particularly scary and never really tries to be, the sheer scale of the bloodbath is harrowing in its own way, like watching a terrorist attack, accident, or other mass-casualty event and its aftermath. The film's darkly comedic tone was the only thing keeping it from turning outright grim, and it was not through lack of effort from Aja or the effects team.

The humans aren't the only ones who get torn up, either, as the protagonists give as good as they get. Ving Rhames as Fallon has a great scene where he goes to town on a swarm of piranha with a boat propeller, and Elisabeth Shue makes for a likable action heroine as Julie, one who manages to say a lot with just the look on her face and the tone of her voice, especially when she realizes how badly her son Jake fucked up in more ways than one. When they reunite, there's a sense that she's gonna fuckin' kill him for what he did long before she outright says it. Christopher Lloyd steals the show as the marine biologist on land, one whose only role is to deliver an infodump on the piranha but does it so well that he felt like he had a much larger role than he did. The actors playing the kids and the teenagers were mostly alright, but their section of the film is seriously livened up by the presence of Jerry O'Connell as Derrick, a parody of the infamous Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis. O'Connell plays him as a guy approaching middle age who peaked in high school and college and has spent the rest of his life reliving and trying to recapture his youth, an absolute scumbag who doesn't seem to know or care about the definitions of words like "consent" or "age of consent". He was like a more comedic version of Wayne in X, a pervert who represents everything wrong with "adult entertainment", but whereas that film was a gritty and grounded one about how mainstream beauty standards and the porn industry fetishize youth and objectify people, this is a Grand Guignol orgy of mayhem where depicting him as a bastard who constantly causes problems throughout the film chiefly means setting him up to die painfully in a way designed to make the crowd roar.

It was that tone that really carried this movie through rough spots that would've sank other, more serious films. There's a minor character, Derrick's cameraman/boat pilot Andrew, who disappears without explanation, implied to have been killed but his death scene cut from the film (it appears in the deleted scenes). The actors are good, but barring Derrick, their characters are all pretty shallow archetypes. Some of the CGI, especially during Richard Dreyfuss' cameo/death in the opening scene, could be pretty dire. I'm not surprised to learn that work on the CGI for this was, by all accounts, an absolute shitshow to the point that Aja threatened to have his name taken off the credits unless Dimension Films ponied up some more money to finish the effects work. It may be parodying the Four Loko spring break culture of the time, but it also feels like it wants to have its cake and eat it too with how much the first half lingers on nudity. Christopher Lloyd really should've been in it more. But I was able to put all of that aside for one simple reason: I was just having too much goddamn fucking fun watching this.

The Bottom Line

This is a "hell yeah!" movie, one you throw on when your friends are over, there are no kids around, and you just wanna spend an hour and a half goofing off and having a blast with a sick, mean-spirited, yet incredibly fun horror/comedy.

<Originally posted at https://kevinsreviewcatalogue.blogspot.com/2024/01/review-piranha-3d-2010.html>

18:04 UTC


American Horror Stories season 3 review part 2 (2023) [Anthology]

Episode 3 Tapeworm

Tapeworm is a cautionary tale on the consequences of fatphobia. The episode stars Laura Kariuki as an upbeat and chipper young woman named Vivian, who is auditioning for Vogue. The actress is beautiful and I love that we see a dark-skinned black woman in this leading role of a young woman looking to be a supermodel. Miss Kariuki gives a ton of charisma to the role and makes Vivian genuinely positive, likable, and easy to root for.

Vivian gives a sublime performance to an agent of Vogue for a modeling gig but is told that she has immense talent but is too fat, despite being a size 4. This leads to her taking a drug that makes her rapidly lose weight but that has dangerous side-effects. Soon after, Vivian’s back-alley doctor prescribes her a tapeworm as an alternative which makes things even worse. My biggest takeaway from the episode is how janky of a doctor this man is and how he shouldn’t have a job even on the black market.

Vivian not only physically changes as she loses weight, but her personality is altered as well. This episode is reminiscent of the Natalie Portman-led Black Swan as we watch Vivian deteriorate from a radiant woman into a grotesque dark incarnation of her former self. Objectively speaking, Vivian looks remarkably better than she did after her crash diet. This entire episode uses her deterioration as a metaphor for how unrealistic beauty standards ruin women both physically and psychologically; transforming them into women they were never meant to be.

Vivian gives a monologue early in the episode on how she wants to be an example of empowerment and self-love which she of course contradicts herself on. I don’t think that this is meant to portray her as a hypocrite but rather to examine how the American beauty standards coerce women into

decisions that they don’t truly want to make and force them into roles that they don’t want to play. Whether this is anorexia, bulimia or even being a mean girl – this episode is a metaphor on how society’s pressures can rob women of their intrinsic light and replace it with something much darker. I enjoy the vehicles that the episode uses to deliver these messages. It never feels hammy, but rather poignant and unfortunately, still necessary for women and young girls.

The episode leans more into the grotesque instead of traditional frights to provide horror, as we watch in disgust as Vivian gorges herself to satiate the tapeworm inside of her. This is both physically gross but also saddening as we know that Vivian is quite literally feeding her demise. The showdown is somewhat traumatic to watch as it feels as if Vivian is being deeply violated by the tapeworm as it is expelled out of her. Kariuki does a stellar job of depicting this event as an episode that her future self would need therapy from. I felt deeply uncomfortable and in pain with her throughout. This is strong acting and I hope that I can see more work from this actress.

This is a very strong episode and bounces back from a dip in the previous. There are lessons to be gleaned from it but even on a more elementary level, it’s simply entertaining to watch. Leaving us with a message just further adds to a very solid episode.


Episode 4 Organ

Organ is trying to say and do a lot all at once, but it falls flat. This is an example of an episode of a horror anthology being too ambitious. Organ bites off way more than it can chew and ends up making a mess on the floor. This episode could have been stellar had it devoted its energy to going in one direction instead of trying to touch every base all at once.

Organ follows Toby, a sexist man who dehumanizes women. He is heavily incel-coded and regurgitates manosphere talking points. Toby is an amalgamation of every modern sexist trope. The episode gives the impression that it will be some sort of parable on the pitfalls of misogyny, but it fails to do so. Natessa almost gets us there when she says that “guys like him are the easiest”, however, this is later negated when it’s confirmed that it could have been anyone. Toby being boorish to women wasn’t his demise, but it was rather bad luck that did him in. This is a letdown because a salient point could have been made had the writers not cut their legs out from under themselves.

Organ doesn’t take itself too seriously, living somewhere in between camp and satire. A satirical critique of incel/manosphere/red-pill men, etc., could have been powerful, yet it decided not to fully lean into it despite hinting that it would. This is a disappointment. The episode is still fun, although it fails to reach its potential.

Raul Castillo nails the awkwardness of incels, but I don’t buy at all that his character would be some sort of player. I’m unsure if it was the direction or the acting, but Castillo comes off stiff. This works when he’s awkward and unsettling but not as a guy who is a womanizer. Toby sleeps around but he acts like a guy that doesn’t get play. The character would have worked better if the writers decided what exactly they are trying to say with Toby because his incel persona doesn’t match his womanizing. I understand that womanizers can ironically still hold incel-coded views, yet Toby’s characterization comes off as more paradoxical than complex.

This is an example of how Organ is overextending itself and is unsure of what it wants to be. The episode criticizes men who use women as objects to masturbate, but the character has the attitude of a man who is angry at women for his lack of sexual success. The writers may be highlighting the cognitive dissonance of these men, but this point comes off as more contradictory than anything else. Toby’s characterization is confusing, and it may have been more worthwhile to use two characters; one for each point that they are trying to make. The first, one that dehumanizes women and sees them as nothing above conquests, and the second, as an angry man who blames women for his shortcomings. Organ merges these points, and although there are men who simultaneously hold these views, this character needed more fleshing out to fully explore this dualistic mindset.

The ending leaves a lot to be desired. There are hints throughout that the episode will leave you with some sort of parable about the perils of mistreating women, but it ends with the women of the episode running an organ-stealing operation simply for profit and not to teach a lesson. This entire episode seems for naught. Toby didn’t get his comeuppance for his misogyny but rather for matching with the wrong woman, making the first act and his entire characterization irrelevant.

Organ is indicative of its mother franchise as it reeled us in with an intriguing premise that had a wonky ending that didn’t deliver what it pitched us on. A ton of runners were left on base with Organ, but it is still a decent watch, nonetheless. I’m critical of Organ because there were potentially profound points that could have been made that AHS has never touched on, yet they ultimately went another direction. Young men and boys becoming indoctrinated into this Red Pill rhetoric is currently a highly relevant topic that Stories could have been at the forefront of critiquing , yet they wasted this prime opportunity.


22:26 UTC

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