Category Archives: Tuesday Terror

Horror Potluck #1

boar2BOAR (2017)
A giant boar is galavanting all over the Australian countryside eating and killing people.
This has everything you want from a creature feature: great setting, characters you can cheer for, no one is safe, no one is completely helpless.
It’s not afraid of you, your weapons or your car. This pig wants to destroy you. It’s a fun time in time.

pydh2PARTY HARD, DIE YOUNG (2018)
High school seniors travel to a party island to have one last hoorah before splitting up for college. Amidst the drinking, dancing and drug-taking, people begin to disappear. As suspicion spreads through the group, the bonds of friendship unravel. Who is the stalker/killer with a grudge? Someone knows what they did last summer* – even if they pretend it didn’t happen…
*last summer, last semester, last week – whatever – these kids aren’t innocent.

pravager2PHANTASM: RAVAGER (2016)
It’s not clear what’s happening in this movie. Is this scene real or is Reggie hallucinating. Which world is the real world? It doesn’t matter. There’s lots of action and Rocky is back.

 

theboy-2THE BOY (2016)
A woman is hired to take care of a boy . . . who is little more than a doll. There are strict rules she must follow; the doll reacts when she doesn’t stick to the proper protocols. Could the doll be possessed or is something more sinister afoot?
Fun popcorn movie that will keep you guessing. Don’t think about it too hard afterwards.

Tuesday Terror: US (2019)

us-two

You’ve seen US, right? You can look at it on a micro level: a family’s present peril is predicated on an event from the wife/mother’s past. Alternatively, on a macro level: a community is unprepared for an upheaval in the social order.

So, for this post I’ll be talking about the two groups in the movie: the Reds and the Whites.

us-red

What do the Reds know? They live underground and they each have a link to a doppelganger who live above, a White.

What do the Reds believe? This link means that their lives must mirror the Whites. They have no choice.

Where others see a plot hole, I see evidence that what the Reds have been taught isn’t true. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have the jumpsuits, the scissors, etc. This belief, instilled in them by their creators/captors is a lie used to keep the Reds “in their place”. It’s logical that a Red would think individual freedom is tied to the specific White they are linked to.

us-white

It’s understandable that a Red child would assume that she has to switch places with her White doppelganger to escape. Growing up above ground, she realizes that becoming a White only grants a limited amount of freedom. As an adult she has a good family and good life, but it can be easily taken away. After all, she snatched this life from someone – it could happen to her.

The person taken underground, the White child that becomes a Red adult, also knows that simply being White doesn’t guarantee freedom. She believes that, to get free, a Red must sever the link with their sun dwelling, White doppelganger. The best way to cut the link is with a sharp object.

Close to the end, it is briefly mentioned that freedom for both women didn’t have to be an either/or situation. All of those years ago, they could have walked out of the fun house together but it wasn’t thought of as a possible solution then.  After all the harm inflicted on each other, it’s definitely not possible now.

The Creators/Captives of The Reds have disappeared but their influence is felt. What’s important to know is that the current situation is a man-made problem rooted in a desire to control the population.

The horror of US hits on classic fear of losing your position and your possessions. The people who a system crushes for whatever reason (race/gender/class/immigration status) are going to treat us the way we treat them. Worse – they want to kill us!

The 2nd point of fear is the reality that being ignorant of the system won’t save you. The movie starts out as a one on one, family against family type of narrative. It’s soon revealed that everyone in the area is facing the same problem.

Also, there’s discomfort in not really knowing who to cheer for. Either woman can be the hero of their own narrative. What has to be done – whether it’s kidnapping or killing – is driven by a desire for a better life . . .and perhaps a tinge of jealousy.

Tips:
-Watch yourself.
-In a moment of crisis, Alexa won’t help you.

Tuesday Terror: Ghosts On The Loose (1943)

ghostontheloose

The East Side Kids, like Our Gang or The Bowery Boys, is a film series featuring a group of (mostly) working class  boys who have various comedic adventures.

What hi-jinx do they get up to in Ghost On The Loose?
Protecting a Nazi propagandist.
Yes, in 1943. During World War 2.

Let me explain.

The sister of one of the boys just got married. The boys decide to clean up the newlyweds’ new house while they are on their honeymoon.

As the boys set to work, they make a startling discovery: brother-in-law is a Nazi propagandist. How do they know? There is a printing press in the basement that cranks out pro-Nazi pamphlets.

To paraphrase the leader’s reaction and next steps:
“Oh no, he’s a Nazi sympathizer! I’m so disappointed in him. He’ll get in trouble if anyone else finds out. We have to save him – let’s hide the press and the pamphlets next door.”

There’s no “Call the police!” and no concern that sis has married a trash individual.

Now here’s were the comedy comes in. Turns out the boys are cleaning up the wrong house! The newlyweds bought the house next door. When they move the printing press next door, they are actually putting it in the newlyweds’ house!

Bela Lagosi and his crew are the real Nazi propagandist. They are trying to scare the boys out of their hideout and steal the printing press back.

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Of course, it all works out in the end and the correct people are carted away by the authorities. There’s a sight gag about measles or chicken pox thrown in – they show up as swastikas.

Eh.

I’m sure this was a real knee slapped in the 1940s but, in an age where “if you see something, say something” is plastered all over NYC subway cars, it falls flat.

Tuesday Terror: Midsommar (2019)

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Midsommar

Midsommar (aka How To Lose A Guy ‪In 9 Days) is about recognizing and letting go of bad relationships . . . while observing rituals in an isolated Swedish village. The relationships are truly awful and the villagers are sadistic murders (who wear the most angelic white).

Christian and Dani should have broken up a year ago. Honestly, they probably should have never gotten together. She is an emotional drain on him and he can’t even come close to giving her the support that she needs. He is with her out of guilt and she clings to him because he’s all she has left.

Or, at least that what is given to us as Christian’s motivation but I don’t believe that. He strikes me as the kind of person who will never break up with someone because he doesn’t want to be seen as the “bad guy”. He’d rather treat someone bad enough (inattentive, boring as hell, perhaps emotionally abusive) so that they will break up with him; nothing will be his fault. In any case, the relationship is a triple slow motion train wreck.

While the emphasis is on the couple, all of Christian’s relationships are terrible. That group of guys he hangs out with – I believe they all go to the same college – are no more than familiar acquaintances. They are supposed to be close: he complains about Dani to them, this trip to Swedish countryside was originally a “boys only” trip, etc. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find more jealousy than friendship. This is how the villagers are able to dispatch them one by one without any of the others becoming too concerned about the disappearances.

Outsiders allowed to observe an isolated tribe or village (usually folks of color) is an old school Hollywood plot. The explorers typically think of themselves as superior to those they are studying; there is usually more than a hint of danger and savagery.

Our happy, drug-sharing Swedish villagers don’t inspire terror at all. At least, not at first. They wear white, dance and have many feasts. The young people leave the village and even go to college. When the curtain is drawn back revealing the first bits of brutality, Christian and company can’t imagine that they themselves could be in trouble. Arrogance keeps them from recognizing that death creeps around every corner of the barn and hides under welcoming smiles.

josh

This is personified in Josh, the scholar without any sense of self preservation. As someone who has been studying European Midsommar rituals, why didn’t he get any inkling that something was up? Like the scientist in a sci-fi movie, he has no qualms watching others die in his pursuit of additional knowledge. If you want to do a deeper dive into the Josh character, Mary Kay McBrayer has an essay on Graveyard Shift Sisters that explores Midsommar and stereotypes.

In the end, Christian and Dani have to come to terms with their relationship. When she realizes her situation with Christian is unbearable, she does the reasonable thing and frees them both.

Now, when I’m out in about, my eye can’t help but notice couples that have that “Midsommar” look – one of them looks anxious, the other resentful. I want to pass them a note: “Break up before it’s too late!” They are one festival away from disaster.

Tips:
-Don’t ignore horrifying screams – even if you aren’t sure where they are coming from.
-End bad relationships before they end you.

Tuesday Terror: Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

annabellcomeshome

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.

elkabong

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)

scarymovies

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

4skulls2

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.

howling5-2

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)

thechurch

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.

darkwaters

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: The Nun (2018)

thenun

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!

thenun2

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)

killerdonuts

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.

killerdonuts1

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.

killerdonuts2

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?

killerdonuts3

Tip: Have a pot of coffee on hand.

 

Tuesday Terror: Theater Of Blood (1973)

theatreofblood

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?

theatreofblood4

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.

theatreofblood5

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

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