Category Archives: Movies & TV

Tuesday Terror: Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

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Annabelle Comes Home is like a haunted house at the carnival. There’s a lot of jump scares, creepy noises and frightened folks (kids in this case) scrambling and screaming from monster to monster. The Spookhouse gets the blood pumping but you’re at a carnaval; the knife slicing through the air gets close but doesn’t even graze the skin.

The story is thus: The Warrens bring Annabelle to their home and add her to the cursed objects collections in the basement. The demon attached to her is such a chaotic force that they must put it inside of a glass case.

In other words, sticking Annabelle in a room with these objects is like putting a lit candle in a room full of gunpowder and dynamite. What could go wrong?

After establishing that Annabelle is a bad, bad girl, the Warrens call over a babysitter and disappear from the movie. The babysitter has a friend who has just lost her father. She wants to go to the cursed room to find a way to connect with him. That is a mistake. Before you know it, all the spooks are on the loose – led by Annabelle.

Do you remember the tv show Friday The 13th: The Series (Hey Gen Xers!!)? It was about people working to track down and take back haunted antiques. Actually, the intro explains everything. There is an episode where people are attacked by the cursed objects they have taken out of circulation.

Annabelle Comes Home reminded me of that. Many of the demonic objects that have been resting idly in the background get a few minutes to shine. It’s a set up for future Conjuring movies to explore their origins. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Warren daughter gets another movie or two: I Was A Pre-Teenage Exorcist.

My favorite bit is when potential boyfriend – of course, a boy shows up – is menaced by a werewolf of sorts. When it appears that all is lost, he digs down deep and summons the courage of El Kabong.

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After a while, it’s clear that there’s no real danger here. The resolution is actually sweet. It didn’t bother me, but someone looking for more horror, gore or tension will be disappointed.

Tips:
-Doors are locked for a reason.
-Demonic objects aren’t a good way to contact the dead.
-Learn the ways of El Kabong!

Tuesday Terror: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)

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Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark is based on a book series of the same name. The books are three anthologies of spooky, chilling stories that are not related to each other. The film version is not your standard horror movie anthology; it takes a handful of stories and weaves them together as part of a larger, overarching tale.

Does it work? Mostly – you’ll maximize your enjoyment if you remember that this is a movie for kids.

It’s Halloween 1968 and a bunch of kids break into an old haunted house because what else is there to do? One of them takes a book of handwritten stories that has a few blank pages in the back. Strange things happen when they get back home. Suddenly, ink appears on those empty sheets and there are new stories-each one featuring a kid who was in the house. Even worse, these freshly written horror tales are coming true…

How is the book writing itself!
What happened in that house!
Can you escape your story?

The story that a kid gets is based on something they’ve experience or their personality. A bully full of hate gets surprised when an unlikely victim fights back. Someone who expresses a hatred of spiders has an up close and personal experience. A kid who is always warns others about unhealthy food gets in trouble when he doesn’t watch what he eats. Etc

I believe the children are all made up. So there was no reason to make one of them, Ramon, a draft dodger. It feels like it’s a weird justification for the racism he experiences. The sheriff just knew he was a criminal of some sort… Ultimately, his choices boil down to escape this monster or Vietnam.

Though not quite as gory or scary as some of the stories in the print edition – have you read Harold?! – the kids are in real danger. Some pay the ultimate price for their misdeeds.

As far as the end and sequels are concerned, the movie does set up for sequels but it doesn’t quite feel right. I’m worried that the writers have boxed themselves in. I hope they get the chance to prove me wrong.

Tips:
1) Don’t steal other people’s books! In fact, don’t break into abandoned houses.
2) If your knucklehead date shows up with two of his friends to go out with you, don’t go!

Tuesday Terror Round UP

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The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)– a family is cursed by a Amazonian tribe. Men in the family are stalked, murdered and literally lose their heads. Their heads are shrunken and the skull returned to taunt surviving family members. Throughout the movie I had a lot of questions. For example, if the family was cursed years ago – how did these two live so long? The story did a good job explaining this and other headscratchers.

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Howling V: The Rebirth (1989) – If you are invited to another country to celebrate the reopening of a castle that was the scene of a mass murder, don’t go. This is my third favorite Howling movie. This is classic set up: a group of people who come from all walks of life are trapped in a remote place with no access to help. One of them, a werewolf, hunts down the others. It’s part horror movie, part who done it. I recommend watching it twice – the 2nd to to pay attention to the clues. (My fave Howlings in order: 2, 1 & 5)

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The Church (1989) – Templar Knights destroy a village full of people who worship the wrong god. They erect a cathedral on top of it. There’s a special cross in the basement to seal the evil in. Fast forward to 1989. The church is being restored. A layperson discovers the seal and decides not to tell anyone. Opening it by himself, he thinks he’s about to discover Templar treasure. He finds a whole mess of demons instead. The church goes on lockdown and a host of demons set about possessing and killing folks. Fun times.

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Dark Waters (1994) – Imagine being stuck in a convent on an island with weird nuns trying to kill you. That’s what happens to our protagonist here. All of the red flags say “don’t go” but she’s determined to discover the truth about her past.

Tuesday Terror: Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

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On the last day of a family trip to Disneyland, a man gets a call; he’s been fired on his day off. Rather than tell his wife or deal with this reality, he’s determined to be as normal as possible. Kids in tow, he heads out to the attractions as if nothing has happened…

Escape From Tomorrow was filmed on location at Disneyland without permission. You have actors blending in with the general crowds. Every once in a while the background looks flat; I imagine those scenes were done in front of a green screen. It’s an interesting stunt. On one hand, wow they made a secret movie under Mickey’s nose. On the other hand, the actors can’t behave too erratically in public and the story/horror elements suffer.

A lot of weird stuff happens in this film. Unfortunately, after every incident the dad just goes on as if nothing strange has happened. If you are on a happy-happy joy-joy type ride and all of the puppet and animatronics suddenly scowl at you with their best demonic faces, you might scream, run or mention it to someone. The actor can’t really do much here except look extremely uncomfortable, like he might pass out.

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On to the story… Dad has lot his job. His relationship with his wife is strained. What does he want to do on his last day at Disney? Follow a couple of French girls around the park like a boy with a crush. The teens – and they look young – notice this middle aged dude with a kid following them around and giggle a lot.

No matter what happens to Dad, he shakes it off and goes back out in search of the French girls. Even when a woman hypnotizes him and he wakes up in her hotel room, tied to the bed and being ridden by her, he can hardly wait to find/follow his crush again.

There’s another story/plot concerning whether or not Dad is a subject in a bizarre experiment but it looses steam.

The ending is not really one that you’ll see coming. It doesn’t quite come out of blue, but the film does have to remind you that it gave you a clue earlier.

Tip: If you are really interested in a more macabre history of Disney, keep an eye out for Murder Can Be Fun #13: Death at Disneyland or Murder Can Be Fun #20: Waiting In Line To Die. (#20 is a reprint and updated edition of #13. Both of these zines may be out of print, but you never know what you’ll come across at a used bookstore, etc)

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Tuesday Terror: The Nun (2018)

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A priest, a not-quite nun and a Frenchman walk into a bar – um – a convent to investigate the suicide of a nun. What waits for them beyond the fog is an evil that wants a way out.

The Nun has a great, old school atmosphere and the soundtrack is good. The story that we get doesn’t quite fit this set up. Jumpscares galore but you don’t learn too much about our demon in residence. Why would someone summon this thing in the first place? What were the perks supposed to be?

Now, let’s talk about our heroes. The priest feels guilty, so the demon gets to torment him with that. The not-quite a nun has visions she doesn’t understand that reference the Virgin Mary. The Frenchman is worldly; he uses a shotgun, not the Bible.

In essence, the priest is the Scarecrow (he’s doesn’t think things through), our not-quite nun is Dorothy (she finds her purpose), the Frenchman is the Tin Man (his heart is in the right place) and The Nun is the Wicked Witch of the West. The Cowardly Lion? That’s the audience – BOO!

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Because The Nun appeared in The Conjuring 2, you walk into this film knowing that this trio is not going to destroy the demon. Desite the jumpscares, the suspense is tamped down some. Also, the way they “defeat” the evil…Jada Pinkett did it better.

However, The Nun is full of great tips:
-if your horse refuses to get near a building rumored to be haunted/cursed, go home.
-if you are invited to spend the night at the cursed place, decline – go back to the village while you still have a ride.
-if you survive a hellish night, run to the village as soon as daylight hits.

It’s an okay movie that shows how The Nun is linked to the Conjuring Universe. On the other hand, let’s hope that The Nun gets a sequel (that’s really a story-strong prequel).

Tuesday Terror: Attack Of The Killer Donuts (2016)

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Dubious donut employee Johnny inadvertently infects the day’s delicacies with a chemical created by his mad scientist uncle which animates the sweat treats and transforms them into killers.

The Good: The actual killer donuts are cute and fun. They have teeth. They can be deadly on their own or attack victims in swarm. Their greatest strengths are size and, of course, taking unsuspecting eaters by surprise. If you manage to eat one, he’ll get you too – and turn all of your insides to goo.

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The Bad: Everything else. Attack of The Killer Donuts, a horror comedy that feels old. The freshness date on this type of comedy expired at least a decade ago. Our hero Johnny is  an unmotivated slacker who lives with his mom, has a “girlfriend” that’s uses him as an ATM, and can’t see that girl he works with is the one who is “right” for him. The money that he gives to his girlfriend is whatever he can beg from his mother. Did I mention that he doesn’t do any chores? I think the writers were going for lovable goof but ended up with clueless blandman.

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As a character, the “do nothing / be nothing” guy – without an ounce of charm – is passable as friend of the main character but it makes for a dull lead. For example, the girlfriend is blatantly using Johnny. When she stops by to pick up money, her real boyfriend is with her. Later on, when our “hero” catches the couple in the act of making out, he still doesn’t understand what’s happening. She has to spell it out for him. It’s supposed to be funny; it’s tedious.

Unfortunately, when your hero is flat, the other characters – even the campy ones – can’t save him.  Won’t someone rescue these homicidal treats and put them in a movie worthy of their sweet, glazed anger?

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Tip: Have a pot of coffee on hand.

 

Tuesday Terror: Theater Of Blood (1973)

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Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) is an actor who has found his niche: the plays of William Shakespeare. While he thrills audiences, he gets no respect from cruel theater critics. Driven to despair, he jumps to his death in front of them. Before long, the critics begin dying off in scenarios inspired by Shakespearian plays. Alas, who will be left to write condescending theater reviews?

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On the surface, it appears that the critics have a point. They question Lionheart’s greatness. Surely, a really talented actor would want to grow and stretch himself. By limiting himself to Shakespeare, Lionheart plays it safe.

However, to trick the critics into falling into his trap, the actor plays a wide variety of characters. Most of the critics get to witness him branching out into new roles…right before they die.

There’s not much mystery here, but Theater of Blood is a fun movie. It’s essentially a showcase for Price. He’s enjoying himself and it shows. Also, if you’re a fan of British cinema, the cast is full of familiar faces.

Is it horror? More of a comedy with some horrifying/scary elements. Shakespeare didn’t have a lot of people peacefully passing in their sleep…

On top of everything else, the film has a campy queerness that I enjoy.

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TIP: Be careful, darlings. A sharp critique can cut both ways.

Tuesday Terror: The Meg (2018)

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Funded by a super rich dude, scientist discover that the ocean floor -at least in some parts – is a false bottom. Think of it as a frozen pond with another layer of deep, dark ocean under it. What they don’t realize is that in this unexplored region is an ancient predator: the megalodon. When the beast escapes into “our” layer, the group races to stop it before it devours everything in its path.

The Meg was pretty good. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it doesn’t go the silly, parody route. I didn’t realize that it was an American-Chinese production, so I was surprised that Li Bingbing was the female lead. She and Jason Statham took turns saving each other. Though it was established early on that her character had a crush on him, it didn’t get much further than that.

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Rainn Wilson plays the rich dude – he’s suitably annoying and underhanded but not really a villain. Ruby Rose gives me a “tomb raider” vibe – even though her character doesn’t do much in the way of adventure here. I’m not sure if it’s the hair, the tattoos or both. She may have urgently punched some computer keys, but she didn’t get to do much during the action scenes.

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Most of the other human characters are mostly a wash. For the first few minutes, they are engineers, scientist, researchers, etc – everyone has a few lines to establish their involvement with the project. Once the shark is loose, they become little more than potential fish food. This isn’t a complaint – it’s just the nature of creature features. The beast needs to eat.

The Meg is definitely more adventure-thriller than horror but it’s a fun time.

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TIP: Leave deep sea creatures alone – they are minding their own business!

Tuesday Terror: Demonoid (1980)

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After a couple unwittingly releases an evil force, the wife searches for her now-possessed husband. Her efforts to thwart the demon’s plans don’t go unnoticed and soon she becomes a target. Can the wife find a way to send the entity back into the fiery depths of hell or will she get caught in the grip of evil?

In a lot of ways, Demonoid sounds like a typical horror movie. The trouble begins because a white couple doesn’t head the warnings of Mexican mine workers. The locals are just superstitious, you see. As owners of the mine, the couple decides to go deep inside in an attempt to shame the workers for their fear.

What happens when they stumble across several mumified corpses and an altar? They take one of the objects – a box – from the underground temple back home. After a few drinks, the husband decides to open the box; it appears to be full of sand. Little does he know that tampering wih the box has sealed his fate.

The unusual, fun part of this flick? These folks are being plagued and possessed by a demonic left hand. Imagine Thing from the Addams Family out of its box and roaming the streets for a host. Once this evil left hand is interlocked with the fingers of a human’s left hand – the party begins!

Some embrace the evil and give themselves over to it. Others fight against it. How do you get rid of an evil hand? You chop it off. Once you no longer have a left hand, the demon must be on its way. How do you defeat it? That’s quite a different matter.

One warning, the film begins with a bunch of people in pointy, hooded robes running through the mine. A woman’s clothes are ripped (her breast pop out), chained to the wall, yada yada. It very briefly resembles a horror-bdsm themed movie and feels out of place. It’s as if a producer realized they didn’ have any tits in the film and they needed to add an extra scene.

Full of dramatic chases and hand chopping, Demonoid makes absolutely no sense. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to – this is the 80s. 🙂

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Tip: Stop taking “random” objects from temples/burial grounds etc – especially if you don’t understand their significance.

Tuesday Terror: Dude Bro Party Massacre 3 (2015)

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Dude Bro Party Massacre 3 (there is no 1 or 2) is a parody of 80s slasher movies. A young man joins a frat to discover who killed his twin brother. The boys have a history of deadly pranks; could one of them have finally gone too far? Whoever the killer is, they aren’t finished. As dude bros begin disappearing and dying, just about everyone they come in contact with is a suspect.

Take a dash of Animal House (1978), cartoonish antics and a heavy sprinkling of blood/slasher and you get Dude Bro Massacre 3. Bleh.

An 80s movie with corny bits is nostalgic. A 2015 movie pretending to be an 80s movie is annoying. In movies where a group is stalked one by one, the group needs to have some character variation. One “dude bro” is fine. A whole frat house full of them is tedious. A real 80s movie would not commit this sin.

So, despite the buckets of blood, there’s no sense of satisfaction when one of these dudes dies. Oh, there’s a bunch of “bi” jokes and gay innuendo. It’s tired.

The kills are ridiculous, the reveal/explanation is preposterous and the final battle is uninspired – which is fine for an 80s horror movie. The problem? This movie just isn’t fun.

Tip: Avoid films with “Dude Bro” in the title.

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