Category Archives: Lessons From Horror Movies

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: 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.

Tuesday Terror: Demon Wind (1990)

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Cory is on a quest to reclaim his family’s land and discover the truth about their tragic past. The evil that plagued his ancestors has been waiting for him. Will Cory and his friends be able to survive the Demon Wind? ‬

This is the kind of movie where a main character gets every sign NOT to go to a place. His dreams warn against it, the locals warn against it, etc. The main character acknowledges that it could be dangerous but he just has to know the truth. Also, he never passes on the warnings to his friends so they can make an informed choice about following him into foolishness. Once they arrive at the forbidden place, the group spends the rest of the movie desperately trying to leave.

That’s the overall structure but the devil (ha!) is in the details. It’s as if the writer saw a bunch of horror movies and tried to stuff elements of all of them into this one. That Demon Wind is actually an evil fog. There’s a satanic cult and zombie demons. Two out of seven holy daggers show up. Evil children. A talking doll. A spell book. An explosive snow globe. A magician/karate master with fancy footwork. The kitchen sink.

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Okay – everything but the kitchen sink. Some of these bits happen in interesting ways. Others are just confusing. The group of friends is just demon fodder. After the first two are killed, two more show up the next day to replace them and edge up the body count.

Eventually, the big baddie reveals himself but it still takes Cory a moment to put up a decent fight. There’s a physical change that happens to Cory when he’s in battle mode that makes absolutely no sense. My best guess is that the design of the transformation was inspired by Alien Nation, a movie/tv show that came out around this time.

But is it entertaining? Yep.

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Tips:
*If you show up to a place and the first thing you see is a skeleton nailed to a cross, t’is a sign you should go home.
*Snow globes are dangerous – break only as a last resort.

Tuesday Terror: Tourist Trap (1979)

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I am out and about sightseeing which brings to mind a movie that scared the heck out of me when I first saw it- Tourist Trap.

I haven’t seen this film in a while but certain scenes are just seared into my teenage brain. Especially the ending.

If you know the basics ingredients of the plot, a familiar story starts to form in the mind of a horror fan. A wax museum / old mansion, a group of friends, car trouble… Still, there’s something unsettling about this movie.

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Anywho, while I’m avoiding rundown roadside attractions like Slausen’s Lost Oasis, check out the trailer for Tourist Trap:

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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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.”

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