Category Archives: Movies & TV

Tuesday Terror: Dead Body (2017)

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A group of recent high school kids, who all look suspiciously like college sophomores, gather at a cabin in the woods for a party. The night starts with drugs, weird dancing, arguments and a little fake girl-on-girl action. Then, someone suggest they play Dead Body. It’s not long before fake deaths become ahhhh real murders!

Can members of the rapidly dwindling group figure out who the killer is or will everyone lose?

Dead Body was a fun movie. Even though there are some bloody deaths on screen, this felt more like a mystery movie than a horror movie. The writer put some thought into the plot in that there are plenty of red herrings to divert attention from the truth. At certain points, it veered away from the expected to keep me interested.

Just a little quibbles. Because the majority of the characters know each other, there’s no scene that “introduces” the viewer to them. They are just types (as shown in the poster). There is an outsider – the bully aka a boyfriend from a working class background. No one bothers to give him the stories of these new people he’ll be trying to survive the night with. Little bits of info do come out when they are accusing each other. It’s hard to digest who did what when people are yelling at each other.

I wish they had a little more money to afford a bigger cabin. The film feels a little claustrophobic until the action spills to the wilderness outside.

When the killer finally reveals their true self and gave the “why I’m doing this/this is all your fault” monologue, it totally made sense. I mean, it’s not a good reason to kill but I understand.

If you are looking for true slasher horror, this might not fit the bill. If you are open to a bloody who-done-it with a few unexpected twist, don’t pass over Dead Body.

 

 

Tuesday Terror: Queen Of Spades, The Dark Rite

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Russian teens gather in front of a broken mirror to evoke the spirit of the Queen of Spades. The kids soon discover that the Queen is no urban legend and she is now attached to them. Haunted and hunted by a vengeful spirit, can they find a way to escape from her clutches?

The Queen of Spades is the Russian equivalent of Bloody Mary. Grab a candle, get in front of a mirror, use lipstick to draw a door and steps, close your eyes and call her forth. If you are successful and she appears – congratulations! Now that you have summoned her, she can appear at will in other reflective surfaces. Eventually, she will cut your hair. Then, she will kill you.

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Why call her up in the first place? Teens will be teens.

Actually, what starts out as a teen horror flick transforms into a “father will do anything to save his daughter from the demon” flick. The Dad of the youngest girl is summoned to his (ex?) wife’s apartment because the kid is acting strange. He doesn’t believe his daughter at first. He thinks her friends put the idea in her head and her imagination is working overtime. He only recognizes the danger she is in when the Queen of Spades begins following him around, too.

(The girl’s mother disappears for a nice chunk of the movie. I assume she and the other missing guardians are working…)

The movie does do some interesting things. When it’s time to contact the spirit a second time, the kids gather around a walkie-talkie instead of a Ouija board. Rather than an internet search montage to find background info about the Queen or the ritual, this film does something a little old fashioned – a figure cloaked in shadow who gives them advice. Our shadow man has tangled with her in the past but didn’t score a clean victory.

Queen Of Spades has a problem with keeping the tension high. Here’s an example not related to the haunting. Dad is a mechanic who is using a client’s car to drive around. Early on in the film the client threatens to call the police and report the car stolen. It’s to show that the father is jeopardizing his business and freedom for the sake of his child. The car never gets returned but the threat just vanishes.

While not exactly by the numbers, this film was obviously influenced by a lot of other horror movies. The creature looks like an older version of Mama. The father goes on a “Ring” type of quest. How does he get cursed? By watching a video of the ritual. The writers also stirred in a little Exorcist for good measure.

Do you want to summon the Queen of Spades – the movie is missing part of the ritual but all the details are here. A word of advice, make sure you understand how to get rid of her before you call her.

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Terrific Tuesday: The Gospel According To Andre

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Documentaries about celebrities strive to pull back the layers and reveal something new about a familiar personality. Either there’s a new story – hopefully heartbreaking – that makes everyone in earshot tear up or a devastating character flaw. The idea is that you can’t really know a person until you can “see” their pain.

The Gospel According to Andre is a documentary about the life of Andre Leon Talley – former fashion editor of Vogue, friend and confident of several fashion icons and a style legend. ALT has a big, charming personality. He knows how to take charge of a room and hold court with various stories of his adventures in the industry: how he became a helper to Diana Vreeland, his stint working for Andy Warhol, how he impressed Karl Lagerfeld who gifted him with hand me downs, etc.

ALT has a more personal story about his grandmother who raised him. He talks about how he learned from her that anyone can have luxury and style. Same with church – seeing people who went to Sunday service in their best (no matter what their lives were like Monday through Friday.) Almost all of his stories tie back into his love of fashion.

Briefly, ALT talks about racism in the industry. That’s not really true. He talks about two incidents in the distant past where something racist was directly said to or about him. The director tries to make the most of this – dwelling on the pain of the memory before moving on.

In appearances that he’s done to promote the film, ALT recounts these stories but they don’t end in him near tears. He tells extended versions where he makes fun of one perpetrator (where is she now? ha!) and explains how he protected his career/reputation in the other situation. I can’t imagine that the director doesn’t have these versions on film somewhere. Why aren’t these in the doc? Why leave us with the image of a man near tears over decades old insults?

There are several interviews with friends. The ones that are most revealing are not from the icons in the industry. You get a since that ALT has been threw a lot – they want you to know that fabulous life has not been easy for him. At the same time, they aren’t trying to tell his personal business.

The director tries to ramp up the tension and drama by weaving the presidential election throughout the film. There are several scenes of Andre and his friends discussing their support for Clinton. Eventually, the scene when the results come in. If you are expecting ALT to rip one of his beautiful caftans and scream/cry in front of the cameras you will be disappointed.

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Essentially, ALT’s private life is going to remain his private life – no matter how many cameras follow him around.

Now, if you really want to have fun, after the Gospel According To Andre watch Paris Is Burning. What do they have in common? Poor black people who turn to fashion and luxury, the desire to be elevated (or escape) into the world of haute couture – this is a master thesis waiting to happen.

Or for a slightly different approach, pair Gospel According to Andre with Portrait of Jason. If a young Andre entered the world of Diana Vreeland as an eager student, Jason entered the homes of many wealthy white women as an entertainer/court jester.

Heck, watch all three documentaries and let them turn over in your mind for a bit.

Meanwhile, enjoy this song about the man of the hour:

Tuesday Terror: The Monster Project (2017)

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A duo who creates fake ghost/monster hunting videos for Youtube comes up with a great idea: film a documentary about real people who believe they are monsters. They rope in two more folks (a fellow fighting drug addiction and an ex-girlfriend) and set out to interview a supposed tattooed vampire, a body-camera wearing skinwalker and girl possessed by a demon.

Did I mention this documentary was being filmed in a boarded up house that has been the location of satanic rituals?

The Monster Project spends a healthy time trying to establish characters and relationships to foreshadow upcoming conflicts, etc. The filmmakers weren’t that exciting – just love triangles and typical drama. I wish the film had spent more time getting to know the monsters outside of the house. It could have been a day-in-the life of these normal people who believe they harbor dangerous, terrifying secrets.

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Things don’t really get going until they get to the house where – aaahhh real monsters! Do you know the chase scenes from Scooby-Doo where they run from room to room? That’s what happens here with shrieks, gurgles, growls and bloodshed.

As a found footage film, there is an explanation – sort of – for the multiple points of view. The filmmakers have cameras, the house has cameras everywhere, etc. However, there is a scene that we get were a camera recording it is completely illogical. That was a distraction for me.

 

 

The ending is one that you may not see coming but the film does throw out a few clunky clues early on.

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Tip: Don’t work with your ex.

Note: There a completely unrelated organization called The Monster Project that encourages kids to “pursue their creative potential.”

Terror Tuesday: House (1985)

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Horror writer Roger (William Kat) inherits his aunt’s house after she passes away. His first thought is to sell the place; it contains painful memories of his son’s abduction. Feeling that his son is still alive and needing a new space to write, he changes his mind. The house has his son and it wants him, too…

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This is a horror comedy that has a good balance of both. As a haunted house movie, it has things that go bump in the night, weirdness that shows up during the day and a surprise lurking in every closet. The film deals with sadness, grief and regret – but it’s not malicious.

Besides the inhabitants of the house, Roger’s world includes a nosy next door neighbor, an ex-wife who is concerned about his well being, a sexy model-type neighbor who wants knows when a man is “ready to play” and a dead aunt who stops by with advice.

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The stars of the film and most of the cameos are folks from 80s tv. For example, William Kat was The Greatest American Hero. George Wendt was a regular on Cheers. (Norm!)

Typically, horror movies gives you a human character who is evil (the true villain) or annoying to the point you root for the creature/killer to get them. That character doesn’t exist in House. There are conflicts that arrive from misunderstandings but the house is the only villain. Even today – a thousand years after I first saw the movie – that feels refreshing.

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Tip: Beware garden tools.

 

Tuesday Terror: The Comeback (1978)

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Nick Cooper, a singer who hasn’t cut (ha!) an album in six years, is ready to get in the recording booth again. Not everyone is set to welcome him back. In fact, someone wants to silence him . . . foreva!

Take a slasher movie and add a dollop of Scooby-Doo sensibility and you get The Comeback. The killer even looks like a Scooby-Doo villain. Nick looks a little like Freddie and his lust interest does give off Daphne vibes (right down to being danger-prone). As a slasher flick, it’s a bit gory in spots.

 

Nick and the other characters are in a horror/mystery but don’t know it. He is at a castle where weird sounds and visions have him doubting his sanity. The murders are happening in a different location – Nick’s old penthouse. While waiting for the characters to catch on to what’s really going on, the viewer gets introduced to a wide range of possible suspects.

It may be obvious who the killer is but the movie does its best to throw suspicion on everyone who crosses Nick’s path. When you least expect it, one of the characters is revealed to be a crossdresser. In the 70s/80s – hell maybe up through last week, this would have been a Big! Shocking! Clue! It was worth an eye roll.

The reason for all of the deaths? I won’t reveal the details but let’s say you never know how your actions impact other people.

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Tip: If you wake up in the middle of the night and see a corpse, perhaps check into a hotel.

Tuesday Terror: The Bay (2012)

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On July 4th 2009, disaster struck a small Maryland town. Several government agencies were involved in a cover up. They locked away evidence, cleaned up the bodies and buried the truth.

However, there are still witnesses.Thanks to a government leak, a journalism student who was present at the July 4th fiasco gets access to the various material authorities had confiscated. She’s combined her footage with surveillance cameras, video calls, etc to create a documentary that reveals what really happened that day…on The Bay.

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This is a pretty good found footage story. It isn’t linear and unfolds in a way that will keep you guessing as to exactly what is going on. The townspeople, who have no idea what’s happening to them, flail around for answers. Many of the theories presented don’t seem incredibly far fetched.

There are shades of Jaws – the vacuum cleaner salesman turned mayor sucks – and other horror films but it doesn’t feel redundant. The story telling works to draw you in.

This is the kind of movie that will send you to Google afterward.

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Tips: Don’t drink the water. Don’t swim in the water. Don’t run through a water sprinkler.

Tuesday Terror: Friend Request (2016)

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You think you can ghost Marina? Unfriend her on social media, ignore her messages and FaceChats? You are an amateur; Marina takes ghosting to a whole new level. You’re not ready.

Let’s start from the beginning. Laura is a beautiful, popular girl with over 800 friends on a Facebook lookalike site. She’s also a good, kindhearted girl who magnanimously accepts a friend request from a Marina, a girl who (OMG! Can you believe it) has 0 social media friends.

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Unfortunately, Marina is tremendously clingy. She believes that this virtual like translates into real life best friends.

Laura is too nice to tell Marina to back off. She pretends that she’s too sick to have a birthday get together rather than telling Marina the truth. Of course, Laura’s real life friends document the festivities on social media. Then, all hell breaks loose.

A big stumbling block for this movie is the Facebook lookalike site everyone uses. At one point, Laura and friends desperately want to delete profiles or remove disturbing material from them but can’t. It’s incredibly easy to be suspended from Facebook. That these college aged people being helpless doesn’t ring true. IRL, those types of offensive post would have been taken down because of complaints.

So, Laura and the gang not being in control of their social media looks more incompetent than scary. To be fair, they do try to explain it but…eh.

It’s a bit of The Ring, with just a hint of Stay Alive. It’s has a nice surprise or two but don’t think about the plot after the credits.

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Tips:
*Why lie if your social medial timeline will give you away?
*Careful who you befriend on social media.
*Do you see ovaries in the 2nd poster…or is it just me?

Tuesday Terror: Burnt Offerings (1976)

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What would you sacrifice to have the home of your dreams? That’s the question the Rolf family faces in Burnt Offerings, starring Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Betty Davis and Burgess Meredith.

A family of moderate means rents a huge, Victorian mansion for the summer. Why is the mansion so cheap? Well, the owners explain that their mother lives on the top floor and tenants are required to provide the elderly lady with meals–though they will never see her. That’s a very strange proposition and it raises red flags for the husband (Reed). The wife (Black) is so in love with the mansion, she promises to handle the care and feeding of the mother.

It’s a fantastic property, but things don’t feel quite right. Was that a trick of the light? Could the corridors be haunted? The history of the place is vast – who wouldn’t expect a ghost or two. Yet, as darkness descends on the family, one has to wonder if the house itself is a living, breathing entity.

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Tip:
An old lady in the attic who never leaves the room? Come on people – be smarter than this.

Tuesday Terror: The Visitor (1979)

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It’s obvious what this movie is about from the poster, right? Let me help…

A woman is an unwitting pawn in a struggle to keep an ancient evil, Sateen, at bay. She already has one child – a daughter – tainted by unholy influence; a second chid would burst the gates of hell wide open. Will the corporate cult who is ready for the ultimate hostile takeover get it’s way or will an unusual visitor (John Huston) thwart their plans?

thevisitor2Let’s Get Barbara Pregnant – that should be the name of this movie. Barbara is out here trying to live her best life. A divorced mother of one, she wants neither another husband nor another kid. Her boyfriend (Lance Henriksen) is ready to take their relationship to the next level and her kid is pestering her for a little brother.

Barbara is a carrier/host of an ancient evil that periodically is reincarnated on Earth. She’s not possessed herself – but any children that she has will be full of wickedness. Unfortunately, she has no clue why her life has suddenly come a series of harrowing events.

The title character is an otherworldly fellow who has tangled with Sateen in the past. He wants to protect both mother and daughter but the little girl isn’t really interested in being saved.

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The Visitor has a lot of influences: The Omen, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Birds and probably more. Despite this, it’s a bit of fun with lots of unexpected twists. In fact, there’s so much happening visually, it is easy to lose track of the plot. Recommended but don’t ask any questions; just let it wash over you.

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Tip: Beware little girls with pet birds.

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