100 DAYS OF HORROR: THE LAST 50

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This year I joined a 100 Days of Horror challenge, with a goal of seeing a new to me horror film every day from the end of September through October 31. Click to check out the first 50 here, and below are the rest! 

WOLF’S HOLE (Vlčí bouda – 1986)
Directed by Věra Chytilová

A group of students arrives at a ski camp in the mountains called Wolf’s Hole, and even though there are 11 of them, the camp supervisor insists there should only be 10, and one of them is an intruder. Some of the students witness the leaders acting strangely; rolling in the snow nearly naked, or staring at them intensely. The leaders then start to psychologically “test” each student by separating them from each other, demanding they keep the camp spotless, destroying all of their food, and eventually telling them to decide which one of the group will be sacrificed.

I kind of knew what I was getting into with this — and it’s a VERY weird one! Kind of like if Lord of the Flies had a few odd adults in charge of the wild kids. But with (maybe?) aliens! And arty-80’s Czech style. The body count is small, but it is full of legit tension. It does just kind of … end, without any real resolution. Glad I checked it out, but can’t heartily recommend it.

DANIEL ISN’T REAL (2019)
Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer

As a child, Luke sees the aftermath of a mass shooting near his house, and is befriended by a boy named Daniel at the scene. The two quickly become BFFs, and do everything together. Luke’s mom, Claire (Mary Stuart Masterson), can’t see Daniel and believes him to be her son’s imaginary friend.

One day Daniel talks Luke into adding an entire bottle of medication to his mom’s smoothie by telling him it will give her superpowers. Instead, it makes her very ill and when mom realizes Luke is responsible, she demands he lock up Daniel in a dollhouse, which he does by banishing him. Years later, Luke (Miles Robbins) comes home from college and when his ailing mom becomes suicidal, Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is released from the dollhouse to “help.” Luke becomes more confident with the return of his friend, but once he starts getting close to Cassie (Sasha Lane), Daniel’s jealousy emerges and he starts taking over Luke’s body and killing the people around him.

This definitely had some pacing issues and it tries to get a little too trippy with its possession scenes, but I thought it was a pretty interesting commentary on mental illness and the horror of not being in control of your own mind. Robbins is really strong as Luke; Schwarzenegger … not so much. Enjoyable, but not amazing.

DEATH OF ME (2020)
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

Christine (Maggie Q) awakens inside her vacation rental on a small island in Thailand to find dirt and blood smeared all over the walls, and her husband Neil (Luke Hemsworth) passed out on the floor. Neither one remembers anything that happened the night before, and they quickly realize they’re late to catch the ferry that will take them to the airport so they can fly home.

After they miss the ferry, they head back to the rental and decide to check their phones for any clues as to what happened the previous night. Shocking video footage on Neil’s phone appears to show him murdering Christine and burying her body! But if that’s true — how can she trust him after seeing him kill her, and also, ummmm ….. how is she still alive?!?

Another Bousman film! Maybe by the end of this, I’ll have seen everything he’s directed (I’m at about 50% right now). Listen, I will watch Maggie Q do literally ANYTHING — and she does not disappoint here. I found this super intriguing and really liked that it kept me guessing about what was real and what wasn’t, plus it’s very gory (yayyyyy)! And I found the ending reveal surprising and satisfying. Bonus points for casting Alex Essoe as a great supporting character. Recommended!

TRESPASSERS (aka HELL IS WHERE THE HOME IS, 2019)
Directed by Orson Oblowitz

Two couples head to a lush vacation home in the desert for some drunken, sexy fun — or as much fun as you can have when 1/2 of each couple is harboring a secret. When a woman (Fairuza Balk) appears asking for help because her car broke down, tensions between the friends spill over and bloody accidents ensue. Then the cops show up. Then it becomes some kind of home invasion thing with a subplot that doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

This is “fine.” Decent acting, gory F/X, and the ending was pretty great. It did reallllllly lag at times tho, and also suffered from the “why should I care about any of these pe

VAMPIRES VS THE BRONX (2020)
Directed by Oz Rodriguez

Miguel (Jaden Michael), Bobby (Gerald Jones III) & Louis (Gregory Diaz IV) decide to raise money to try and save their neighborhood bodega, owned by their friend Tony. The boys notice many local businesses are being bought out by a company called Murnau Properties, managed by a man called Frank Polidori (Shea Whigham).

One night Miguel is chased by a gang member and witnesses another man attack him — seeking refuge in the bodega with Bobby & Louis, the three boys notice the killer has no reflection. After a terrifying confrontation with Mr. Polidori, they decide to watch BLADE and take notes on how to kill the lead vamp. The only problem is that first they have to find out who it is!

This was really a lot of fun! Clever, comedic commentary on gentrification and white people as bloodsuckers. All of the teen actors are fantastic, and I loved seeing Whigham in a funny role. A solid horror-comedy.

WOUNDS (2019)
Directed by Babak Anvari

Toxic bartender Will (Armie Hammer) works at a dive bar in New Orleans, and one night a fight breaks out between two regulars that results in some pretty nasty injuries. In the scuffle, a group of younger drinkers leaves one of their cell phones & Will takes it home. The phone soon starts receiving strange texts — starting out with the owner asking him for help with a photo of blood and teeth, and then telling him to look at more gory photos that appeared be of murdered people. His girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson) urges him to take the phone to the police, but on the way there he hallucinates being covered in cockroaches and loses the phone.

Both Will and Carrie start to become affected by the images on it. Will becomes more angry and aggressive, physically attacking his best friend (and ex) Alicia (Zazie Beetz) and starts to see mysterious wounds on his body. In researching some of the photos, Carrie discovers a book called “The Translation of Human Wounds” and falls into a deep trance staring at a tunnel-like illustration on the web. Will attempts to revive her, but both of them may already be too far gone to save.

This was a trippy mind fuck! And now that we all know what a creep he is, it was also BEYOND watching Hammer play an entitled douchebag who takes zero responsibility for anything that happens. There’s some deep psychological horror happening here, and I liked that they don’t over explain what’s happening plus enjoyed the way it just … ended.

THE FOREVER PURGE (2021)
Directed by Everardo Gout

Adela (Ana de la Reguera) & her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta) cross the Mexican border and find jobs as a ranch hand and a meat factory manager in Texas. They shelter with others during their first annual Purge (reinstated by the U.S. government, now known as the New Founding Fathers) and head back to their jobs in the morning.

When Juan and his friend TT (Alejandro Edda) arrive at the ranch, they find the white owners, The Tuckers (with Josh Lucas & Will Patton as the patriarchs) held captive by a group of Purgers who claim they are part of the “Ever After Purge,” an effort to restore America back to its true glory by killing every non-white person and by taking property and money “back” from the rich. Meanwhile, Adela is trapped by a creepy Purge duo in bunny masks. As the chaos of the forever purge consumes the country, Canada and Mexico open their borders as sanctuary countries — but only for 6 hours. Juan & TT band together with the Tucker family to search for Adela and create a plan for them all to safely cross the border back into Mexico.

While some of the messaging is a little heavy-handed, this is a solid horror movie, and one of the most interesting in the series. The horror of this premise is especially terrifying now; it doesn’t seem that crazy to think that a sanctioned nationwide murder night would take place, or that it would stretch into an extended war on people of color (I should say even more visible war here, as obvs there’s currently a war on POC). Props to the incredible handheld camera work, and the INSANE sets & costumes! I also loved that Adela was such a fucking bad-ass.

THE WIND (2018)
Directed by Emma Tammi

In the late nineteenth century, Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard) & her husband Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) have settled into their home in New Mexico when another couple arrives and builds on the land next to theirs. Lizzy quickly bonds with Emma (Julia Goldani Telles), while helping her and her husband Gideon (Dylan McTee) set up their homestead.

Late one night, Gideon asks for their assurance with Emma, who is suffering from delusions and believes a devil is plaguing her. Lizzy initially thinks Emma is mentally unwell while suffering through a hard pregnancy — but after a tragic accident, Lizzy is left alone. Isolated and traumatized, a series of mysterious happenings convince her that Emma was right: a demon is stalking the plains, and that demon is intent on taking her soul.

Woooow I really liked this one! Amazing atmosphere, and I loved that I was never really sure what was real and what was imagined. Gerard is incredible as Lizzy; she expresses so much range in such a quiet way. Watched on Netflix, and this is also available on Shudder. Worth noting that Tammi also directed Blood Moon, one of the Into the Dark episodes on Hulu that I enjoyed.

IN THE EARTH (2021)
Directed by Ben Wheatley

With the world being overrun with a virus that spreads rapidly (HELLO!), scientist Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) is sent to an outpost located deep in the forest to help look for a cure. As he sets out with his ranger-guide, Alma (Ellora Torchia), Martin asks about a contact he had there named Olivia (Hayley Squires). Alma explains that no one has heard from Olivia in months, and they’re not sure what happened to her.

On their first night at camp, Martin & Alma are attacked and knocked unconscious. When they wake up, their shoes have been stolen and all of their equipment has been smashed. Soon after setting out to find help, Martin cuts his foot badly on a rock. The compromised couple then run into Zach (Reece Shearsmith), a drifter living in the woofs who tends to Martin’s wound and gives them food and drink. What starts as a celebration of kindness quickly descends into a nightmare, as it becomes clear Zach has drugged them both in order to help him fulfill his “promise” to a mysterious entity.

This was totally my jam! A psychedelic-thriller-folk-isolation-horror that had me yelling, “What the fuck is happening?” approximately every 10 minutes. I loved Wheatley’s KILL LIST & SIGHTSEERS (we are NOT gonna talk about REBECCA tho) so I’m not shocked I dug it. And I’ll say that it’s probably not gonna be for everyone, but this is the kind of stuff that scares me so it worked to twist me up into knots. I’m not sure I’m 100% sold on the ending, but I still really enjoyed it.

COHERENCE (2013)
Directed by James Ward Byrkit

Eight friends gather for a dinner party during the passing of a rare comet. Emily (Emily Baldoni) is on edge because her relationship with Kevin (Maury Sterling) is strained, and she becomes even more aggravated when another friend brings Kevin’s ex, Laurie, to the party. The power suddenly goes out and the group goes outside to investigate, seeing that the whole neighborhood’s power is down — except for one other house, that looks a lot like the hosts’ home.

Two of the friends (Hugh & Amir) go to the still-lit house, and come back with a mysterious box that contains photos of everyone at the party, each with a number on the back. Hugh claims to have looked into the house and seen a duplicate party, with all of their doppelgängers. The group pieces together that the comet has caused a fracture in the veil between alternate realities via Quantum decoherence. They make a pact to stay away from the other group … but not everyone wants to stick to the rules.

This is a bit more scifi-thriller than horror — I mean, sure, there’s the horror of uncertainty, but it doesn’t fall squarely into the genre. It’s talky, takes place mainly in one location, and gets a bogged down when it tries to explain the science-y stuff. That said, the cast does a great job coming off as authentic friends (shout-out to Nicholas Brendon!). A true indie that reminded me somewhat of Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead’s films. I thought it was interesting and enjoyable, and I was into how it wrapped up.

CONTRACTED (2013)
Directed by Eric England

SINCE I NOW KNOW THIS DIRECTOR IS ABUSIVE TRASH, I HAVE REMOVED THIS REVIEW. 

HELLIONS (2015)
Directed by Bruce McDonald

Teen Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose) is shocked to discover she’s pregnant on Halloween morning. That evening while her mom & little brother go trick-or-treating, she gets dressed up and waits for her boyfriend to arrive — working up the courage to tell him. Unfortunate the trick or treaters who arrive are only interested in causing chaos and committing murder, and it’s all somehow connected to her pregnancy.

This is kind of like if there were multiple Sams from TRICK ‘R TREAT terrorizing a teenager and I was initially into it … until they spoke. I also didn’t really dig the whole pregnancy tie-in; it felt like one of those movies where they try to do too much. It’s always nice to see Robert Patrick though! Brief as his part was. 

MALEVOLENT (2018)
Directed by Olaf de Fleur

Angela (Florence Pugh) and her brother Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) pose as paranormal investigators along with friend Elliot (Scott Chambers) & Jackson’s girlfriend Beth (Georgina Bevan). They use their fake talents to scam grieving people out of money — something which Angela isn’t too keen on, but Jackson needs to keep doing so he can pay off gambling debts.

While investigating a house, Angela has legit visions of poltergeists and starts to wonder if she’s inherited her late mother’s mental illness. Shortly afterwards, a new client named Mrs. Greene calls asking the group to come and help “stop the screaming” by the ghosts in her house. Still shaken, Angela turns down the job and then discovers several murders took place in the house where Greene: her foster children were discovered dead with their mouths sewn shut — and her son was blamed. Desperate for money, Jackson insists they take the gig. Once there, Angela starts seeing the dead girls and uncovers the shocking secret about how they died.

I hadn’t heard of this one! It popped up as a recommendation and I hit play as soon as I saw that Florence Pugh was in it. There were a few parts where I got a little bored, but this really goes full throttle in its last act and makes the wait worth it. Pugh is, of course, AMAZING — and she’s surrounded by a solid cast. A++ on the practical F/X; I thought this was a great horror-thriller.

WOE (2020)
Directed by Matthew Goodhue

Betty (Jessie Rabideau) is preparing for her wedding to Ben (Ryan Kattner), but she’s having trouble getting the family hyped about it because it’s only been a year since her dad died — mom’s melancholy, her aunt doesn’t want to come, and her brother, Charlie (Adam Halferty) hasn’t left the house since it happened. Ben tries his best to convince Charlie to come, but he completely ignores Ben with headphones jammed into his ears.

Strange things start happening around Charlie’s house, including a wasp’s nest that keeps reappearing, mysterious wounds on Charlie’s arm, and a cloaked figure appearing around the house. He also receives multiple phone calls from someone (who I think turns out to be his uncle?) that warns him he may be in danger from the same thing that *actually* caused the death of his dad. Something-something possible cult happenings.

Oof. This one was just real hard for me to get into. I think it had some interesting things going on in terms of how grief affects people, and Halferty was really solid in his role, but ultimately I found it to be kind of a mess. There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary scenes that just ate up time, and I’m not even sure why Betty was a character in the film as it was mostly about Charlie & Ben.

THE CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey

1692, Whitewood, Massachusetts: Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) is tried and burned as a witch, and uses her dying breath to call upon Satan — cursing the town with a Black Mass for eternity. Cut to 1960, and Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) lecturing his students about the same trial.

Intrigued by the story, young history student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) tells Driscoll she wants to write her thesis on the witch trials, and do the research by visiting a small town that existed during that time. The Prof encourages her to go to Whitewood, even recommending a quaint, old Inn to stay at. Unfortunately for Nan, the Inn is run by the reincarnation of Elizabeth Selwyn and the town itself is full of ghosts for the annual Black Mass!

This is absolutely fantastic. A product of its time, of course, with some ridiculous sexist dialog … and one very scandalous scene of Venetia in a black lace corset! But still thick with atmosphere with a great cast. It’s just lots of fun. Watched on Shudder.

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (2018)
Directed by Johannes Roberts

Mike (Martin Henderson) & his wife Cindy (Christina Hendricks) head to their aunt & uncle’s vacation trailer park with daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) and son Luke (Lewis Pullman) for some family time before Kinsey is sent to boarding school. They arrive to find the park looking dark and deserted, which Cindy explains is because it’s the end of the season.

Kinsey & Cindy get into a fight which ends in Kinsey storming away, so the ‘rents send Luke after her. While walking together, the teens find their aunt and uncle dead inside their trailer and run it not their mom & dad, hysterical. Cindy & Kinsey race back to the trailer to call the police — but will help arrive before the murderous masked trio stalking them takes them all out?

While this one didn’t terrify me as much as the first, I thought it was a nice little slasher with some really beautifully set-up scenes. There’s a sequence at a neon-decorated pool which is GORGEOUS. I also appreciated the homage to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE! Plus it’s always nice to see Christina Hendricks & Martin Donavan. 

DEMONIC (2015)
Directed by Will Canon

Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) is investigating the deaths of three college students who were holding a seance in an abandoned house. While searching the house, he finds the shell-shocked John (Dustin Milligan) and calls in psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello) to help get some answers about what happened.

John tells her that he and his group of friends performed a seance that called dangerous spirits, and now two of his friends are missing. The police find videotapes that appear to corroborate what John is saying, but they also reveal other strange happenings in the house. The more Dr. Klein learns from John, the closer Mark gets to uncovering the truth about what happened.

Honestly I only watched this because I would DIE for Maria Bello. It was kind of a strange hybrid of police procedural and supernatural found footage — I didn’t hate it? But I didn’t love it either. Lots of jump scares and a “shocker” ending that’s actually pretty typical. Bello is still my Queen, tho!

BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)
Directed by Scott Glosserman

In a world where horror movie killers are treated as historical fact, journalist Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) is investigating the legend of Leslie Vernon, who supposedly killed his parents and was hunted down by police, only to re-emerge later. Taylor actually finds Leslie (Nathan Baesel) who agrees to be filmed and interviewed for her documentary so that his murders will be catalogued and his infamy will live on. As Leslie lays out his plan to kill a group of teens, Taylor and her cameramen have to decide how far they’ll interfere — and if they can (or should) save his intended victims.

This has been on my watch list for WAY too long and now I’m sad I didn’t watch it sooner! What an amazing meta-horror mockumentary. The screenplay is so smart, and the cast is perfect. Love that it was laid out exactly like the typical slasher footprint, and also that it blew some of the tropes apart in a funny way. Also! Appearances by Zelda Rubinstein & Robert Englund!! I really, really enjoyed this!

BINGO HELL (2021)
Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero

Feisty senior Lupita (Adriana Barraza) is constantly rallying her Oak Springs neighbors and friends to fight against gentrification and preserve the neighborhood as it is. The group gathers at their local bingo hall and are shocked to learn the owner, Manny, has recently sold it to someone who quickly turns it into a glitzy, Vegas-like palace with big cash prizes. Lupita attends the new Bingo game with her best friend Dolores (L. Scott Caldwell), whose flaky daughter-in-law wins the first $10,000 prize — and then quickly disappears.

As more people around her go missing, Lupita starts to think that maybe the new host and owner, Mr. Big (Richard Brake), is hiding a more sinister motive behind his flashy game. And once he starts messing with the people closest to her, she decides to bring out the big guns (literally).

Guerrero really knows how to address heavy subjects with levity and she also goes heavy on the splatter, which always makes it a ton of fun! I absolutely cackled at every one-liner both Lupita & Delores dropped, and Brake made for the perfect evil soul-sucker. I also can’t properly express how amazing Barraza & Caldwell are. The ending is balls-out bonkers — and it works! Watched the virtual premiere earlier tonight; it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video as part of the new Welcome to the Blumhouse lineup.

BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)
Directed by Maritte Lee Go

Shy teenager Shawna (Asjha Cooper) discovers her New Orleans neighborhood is being overrun by vampires who prey on the homeless. After a personal tragedy, she decides to learn as much as she can about vamps and taps into her rage to hunt down and kill vampires. Joined by her best friend Pedro (Fabrizio Guido), her crush Chris (Mason Beauchamp), and an unlikely ally — vampire expert Grania (Abbie Gayle) — Shawna sets out to stake as many as she can, and figure out how the leader is so she can take down the evil threatening her city.

I very much enjoyed this one! Though I didn’t live the narration, it grew on me as I got to know Shawna as a character. The story is a good mix of dark moments and humor with shades of Buffy the Vampire Slayer & The Lost Boys. Shawna is a great heroine and I loved the fresh way it addressed the aftermath of Katrina, the way disenfranchised people are ignored to the point of invisibility, and so much more. Bonus points for Keith David! Watched on Amazon Prime Video; another in the new Welcome to the Blumhouse series.

TILL DEATH (2021)
Directed by S.K. Dale

After breaking up with her lover Tom (Aml Ameen) on the eve of her wedding anniversary, Emma (Megan Fox) meets her husband Mark (Eoin Macken) for dinner, who surprises her with an expensive necklace. After dinner, he asks her to blindfold herself and then drives them out to a remote cabin for a romantic evening. Even though their marriage is strained, Emma does her best to reconnect with Tom and make their relationship happy again. The next morning she awakens to find that Tom has handcuffed himself to her — and while she’s asking him why, he shoots himself in the head. Emma soon realizes that he’s planned for her to die along with him as revenge for her cheating.

I wasn’t expecting much from this, but I was pleasantly surprised! This sounds like it might be a copy of Gerald’s Game, but it’s actually much more of a clever thriller with a fair amount of splatter. I appreciated that Emma made a lot of smart decisions, and I think Fox did a great job carrying the film.

CAVEAT (2020)
Directed by Damian McCarthy

Suffering from amnesia, Isaac (Jonathan French) is approached by Moe (Ben Caplan) who claims to be an old friend and offers him a job that sounds too good to be true. Moe’s brother has recently passed away, leaving his mentally unstable niece Olga (Leila Sykes) alone in an isolated house. Could Isaac “watch” Olga for a week or so while Moe tends to his brother’s estate? It’ll be easy! And he’ll pay a LOT of money.

Isaac reluctantly agrees — then discovers en route that the house Olga lives in happens to be on an island, and Isaac can’t swim. Moe also drops the news that his brother killed himself in the basement of the home, and Olga’s mother went missing shortly thereafter. And there’s just ONE MORE THING: Olga’s paranoia is so strong that Isaac must wear an harness that chains him to the basement, restricting his movements so that he can’t reach her room. Isaac initially has second thoughts (who wouldn’t?) but he needs that money, so he agrees to be chained up and left with Olga.

Shortly after Moe leaves, Isaac starts experiencing strange phenomena; doors opening by themselves, creaking floors, glimpses of someone who might be the dead man … you know, standard stuff for a crumbling old house cut off from the world. The more time he spends in the house, the more he witnesses Olga’s descent into madness. He starts to piece together what really happened to her parents — but can he convince her of the truth before she harms them both?

This is exactly my kind of weird! Low-budget horror with amazing protection design (I am OBSESSED with that rabbit toy!) and solid performances. This isn’t the kind of story that slots neatly together and you’ll probably have a lot of questions when it ends, but holyf*ck it’s a great, creepy ride.

MARTYRS LANE (2021)
Directed by Ruth Platt

Ten-year-old Leah (Kiera Thompson) is plagued by nightmares, tormented by her older sister Bex, and largely ignored by her exhausted mom. One day she finds a curl of blonde hair in her mother’s favorite locket, and is visited by a strange girl (Sienna Sayer) in the woods soon after. Leah quickly becomes best friends with the girl — who can’t remember her name — and as they become closer, Leah starts to suspect there’s something … not quite right about her. Her friend’s appearance also causes Leah to look deeper at her own parents and uncover the mystery of why they’re so aloof.

It’s not too hard to figure out the mystery of this Gothic story, but the two little girls are both FANTASTIC and really elevate the material. It’s also unique in that it’s all told through Leah’s eyes — the camera is set at her height, and everything is seen from her point of view. A beautiful dark fantasy punctuated by moments of genuine horror; glad I checked it out.

PHOBIAS (2021)
Directed by Camilla Belle, Jess Varley, Joe Sill, Chris von Hoffmann, and Maritte Lee Go

Johnny (Leonardo Nam) is a computer programmer struggling to keep him and his injured father fed and sheltered. One night after he’s attacked by a group of racist bros, someone slides into his DMs wanting to be “frienddddsss.” Johnny starts talking with his new AI BFF and it soon begins helping him out by murdering all the bad people around him and everything is great until the tech goes rogue and tries to kill his dad.

After passing out, Johnny awakens inside an asylum where a sadistic Doctor keeps a group of people who have severe phobias (Robophobia, Vehophobia, Ephebiphobia, Hoplophobia & Atelophobia) for the specific purpose of causing them fear and pain, so he capture the essence of it and turn it into a lethal gas. As the group shares their stories with one another, they become closer and begin to plot their revenge and escape.

Wowwwwwww. I really like the idea of a cohesive anthology with different directors helming each of the phobia stories — and for the first half of this, I was kind of into it. Seeing how each phobia played out was interesting, and I enjoyed the Doctor’s Scarecrow-like plot. But then Macy Gray’s Frankensteined perfectionist showed up and things got stupid real fast. The last 15 minutes were total nonsense, and undid anything even remotely intriguing about the story. I’d skip this one if I were you.

THE CLEANSING HOUR (2019)
Directed by Damien LeVeck

Max, aka “Father Max” (Ryan Guzman) & Drew (Kyle Gallner) have been running a successful live stream called “The Cleansing Hour,” in which they stage wildly popular fake exorcisms. When the actor they’ve hired doesn’t show up, Drew’s girlfriend, Lane (Alix Angelis) agrees to step in as the possessed victim. Things get off to a good start, with Lane playing the part perfectly — but at some point it becomes clear that Lane is actually possessed. As the viewer count rises, the demon uses its powers to torture Max by making his confess his sins on air.

Another one I’ve had on my list for awhile. I had heard good things, and I was not disappointed. Lots of action, great practical F/X, and a fun stinger of an ending. Recommended!

THE MANOR (2021)
Directed by Axelle Carolyn

After she has a stroke, Judith (Barbara Hershey) voluntarily signs herself for a room in a historic nursing home so as not to become a burden on her daughter and grandson, Josh (Nicholas Alexander). Almost as soon as her family drops her off, the staff takes her phone away, tells her she can’t leave the building without supervision, and refuses to give her the unlock code for the door. Her roommate also has disturbing delusions, claiming she sees a strange man in their room.

Feeling lonely and disconnected, she makes friends with a lively group of Seniors: Roland (Bruce Davison), Trish (Jill Larson), and Ruth (Fran Bennett) who rebel against the rules, sneak in booze and drugs, and crack jokes at the staff’s — and other resident’s – expense. After a strange encounter with Roland, Judith starts to see and hear strange things, but the doctor and staff convince her and her family that she’s suffering from the beginning stages of dementia. She keeps investigating until she uncovers the supernatural truth about the home … but will anyone believe her?

I gotta hand it to ‘em, this new batch of Welcome to the Blumhouse movies is pretty solid! This one does an effective job of bringing you inside the fear of getting older, losing yourself to dementia, and being abandoned by your loved ones (OOF). Just when you think you know where it’s going, the story throws some surprises at you — and all I’m gonna say about that ending is: YESSSsssSSSsSS! 

BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE (2007)
Directed by Katja von Garnier

Orphaned at a young age in America, Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), now lives with her aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann) in Bucharest and works in her fancy chocolate shop. Astrid and her “family” are Loups-garoux: supernatural beings who can shape-shift into wolves. According to their ancient traditions, every 7 years the leader of the pack must choose a new wife to continue strengthening the bloodline (read: female Loups-garoux gotta birth a lotta pups). Pack leader Gabriel (Olivier Martinez) has his sights set on Vivian as the next mate, but Vivian isn’t into it, especially because her aunt is one of his former wives who still loves him, and Gabe stops by every once in a while for sexy times with her.

While visiting one of the wolves’ sacred places, Vivian meets graphic novelist Aiden (Hugh Dancy), who’s researching his next story on the legend of Loups-garoux. The two have immediate chemistry and start to fall in love, but Gabriel’s toxic son Rafe (Bryan Dick) is determined to make sure Vivian knows she belongs to his father (and maybe himself). After a disastrous encounter, Aiden realizes the legends are real and that Vivian has been keeping some deep secrets. But! He still! Loves her! Can Vivian escape her destiny? Will the wolves kill Aiden? Who knows? Who cares? I definitely didn’t.

Lifetime television meets 90’s Full Moon Entertainment — that’s the best way I can describe this to you. It’s clear this is based on a (banned) young adult novel, because the primary motivation of every female character is love, and the primary motivation of every male character is sex. There’s a nugget of awesomeness in here about challenging the patriarchy that *almost* works to showcase Vivian as a strong woman protagonist, but IMO it falls way too short. It was fun to see young Hugh Dancy acting the hell out of a terrible script and Martinez is a total smoke show but OOF. Not worth the hour and a half wasted. I did find the backstory about all its production problems (Googling is fun) interesting though!

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (2018)
Directed by Lars Von Trier

Serial killer Jack (Matt Dillon) describes a series of five murders he’s committed over the years to an unseen companion named Verge. He includes the mundane details as well as the sensational, and how his personal afflictions like OCD have affected his kills. His exploits are punctuated by the problems he encounters trying to build a house on the lot he owns — with a score that alternates between David Bowie’s “Fame” and Glen Gould. As he tells his stories, Verge is leading him deeper and deeper into hell.

I normally like almost everything Von Trier does, but this one didn’t land for me. I get what he was trying to do, and using Jack as a surrogate of himself could have been interesting but I was mostly just bored. And of course I’m used to seeing women abused on screen by this director — however the scene with Riley Keough as a woman he insisted on calling “Simple” infuriated me (I’m aware that infuriating me was LVT’s point but this was a great big nope for me.) Outside of a few good pieces of F/X (the end result of a body being dragged behind a van was stunningly grotesque), there isn’t anything about this that thrilled me.

V/H/S/94 (2021)
The fourth installment in the V/H/S anthology series. 

HOLY HELL, Directed by Jennifer Reeder

The film’s “wrapper” which involves a military group on a raid that discovers several dead people with their eyes gouged out. As they explore the rest of the compound, they find several TVs playing static-y VHS tapes. I really liked the way the ending of this flipped, tied everything together, and gave us a satisfying conclusion to the anthology.

STORM DRAIN, Directed by Chloe Okuno

Reporter Holly Marciano and her cameraman Jeff are doing a story on the “Rat Man,” a local legend who supposedly lives in the sewers. After descending into a storm drain, they’re attacked, and Holly wakes up to find they’ve been kidnapped by a cult that worships a creature they call Rattma. This was a fun one! A++ face melting.

THE EMPTY WAKE, Directed by Simon Barrett

On a stormy night, Hailey is left in charge at a funeral home to admit guests for a wake. The hours pass and no one shows, but Hailey thinks she hears something from inside the casket. Finally a man shows up and “pays his respects,” then quickly leaves. Hailey soon finds out that she didn’t imagine the noises she heard. A tight, creepy thriller that I really enjoyed.

THE SUBJECT, Directed by Timo Tjahjanto

A mad scientist dissects people in order to merge them with machine parts to create human-robot hybrids. After many failures, one of his experiments finally works!  Like everything Tjahanto does, this one is visually stunning and has some great gore.

TERROR, Directed by Ryan Prows

A group of white supremacists plots to blow up a government building as part of their plan to “take back America.” Part of their plan includes keeping a vampire captive and repeatedly shooting him in the head, so they can drain his blood in order to use it as a weapon. While partying the night before the attack, two of the men decide to “play” with the vampire and of course — things go awry. An interesting idea, and a total pleasure watching such unpleasant characters get taken out one by one.

Overall I thought this was just fine, and that’s honestly the way I feel about all the V/H/S anthologies; there’s always a few segments that stand out, and there’s always a few I totally forget. That said; I was impressed by all the Practical F/X and for that alone, I think it’s worth a watch. 

WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END (2007)
Directed by Joe Lynch

Cast in the reality show called “The Apocalypse: Ultimate Survivalist,” a group of wannabe prize winners head to a remote location with the show’s host — and retired marine — Dale Murphy (Henry Rollins). Unfortunately for them, the show has scouted a location in the middle of inbred cannibal territory. The cast & crew are dragged off one-by-one for torturous games, lots of leering, and eventually to be served as dinner. Murphy uses his military skills to break free and decides to attempt a rescue mission, but as the bodies pile up, it seems less and less likely he’ll find any survivors.

The adult woman in me is pissed at myself for watching this, but the 12-year-old boy who inhabits part of my brain is thrilled with my choice. This is absolute bro-horror, full of ridiculously gory deaths involving entrails, splitting people in half, and axes to the head. The completely over-the-top makeup on the inbred cannibal family is very cartoony — and of course, there’s plenty of T&A. Did I enjoy it? Ummmm maybe? A little? There is something satisfying about watching Henry Rollins slice & dice his way through the villains, and I will always watch anything that Aleksa Palladino is in because she’s amazing, even in subpar slasher like this. Worth noting that I almost turned it off twice: once when they showed an extended cut of one cannibal family member masturbating, and once when it “appeared” that a brutal rape was happening (turned out to be a fake out, but it was awful nonetheless.)

THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE (2021)
Directed by Patrick Brice

The brutal murders of two popular students send the small town of Osborne, Nebraska into a panic. Mekani (Sydney Park) and her friends Alex (Asjha Cooper), Zach (Dale Whibley) & Darby (Jesse LaTourette) weather the storm together, even welcoming new student Caleb into their circle. After a wild party, the murders ramp up and Mekani’s on-again-off-again boyfriend Ollie (Théodore Pellerin) becomes the prime suspect.

A perfectly capable slasher with a diverse teen cast … and a real disappointing ending. I really dug where they took each character, Park was really good as the lead, and the F/X were great! But the ending felt rushed and the villain’s motivations didn’t add up. Still, I’m not mad I watched it

MADRES (2021)
Directed by Ryan Zaragoza

In the 1970’s, Mexican-American couple Diana (Ariana Guerra) and Beto (Tenoch Huerta) move to a migrant farming community. Pregnant and unfamiliar with her surroundings, Diana is anxious about every aspect of their new life. After she receives a blessing from a woman named Anita, Diana starts experiencing strange visions and becomes convinced her pregnancy is in danger. Her unease escalates when she discovers that many of the women in the community have also experienced pregnancy and fertility issues. Determined to save her baby, Diana uncovers the startling truth about what’s really happening.

The fourth film in the new Welcome to the Blumhouse series tried to tackle a lot of things: rituals, curses, and supernatural occurrences; potentially dangerous pesticides; and the real-life horrors that marginalized women have historically faced (and are still facing). I might have been more impressed with that last one if it hadn’t felt jammed in like an afterthought — but sadly it did. And the “scares” leading up to the real horror are too few and too mild to make any impact. Outside of the leads in this cast, I can’t recommend watching this one.

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS (2018)
Directed by Johnny Kevorkian

A family of seven gathers together on Christmas Day. After a fight with his racist, obnoxious grandad (David Bradley), Nick (Sam Gittins) and his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) try to leave, but discover thick metal doors have barricaded the entire house. Dad, Tony (Grant Masters) quickly decides it must be a government lockdown, and discussion ensues about it potentially being a deadly virus (TOO SOON) or a nuclear bomb detonation. As the family is arguing about why they’re not stuck in the house, a message pops up on the television, saying to “await further instructions.”

As the night goes on, the group is told not to eat any of their food because it’s contaminated, instructed to wash their skin with bleach to “disinfect” themselves, and eventually take a mysterious injection. Nick & Annji are the only two to refuse the treatment, and keep questioning whether or not the instructions coming from the TV are legitimately from the government, or some kind of controlled experiment or torture by someone that’s trapped them. The more they resist, the more Tony’s rage grows — and by the time the source of the messages is discovered, it might be too late.

I was only paying half attention to this, which seems like the exact right amount to make it a pretty enjoyable experience. Sure the messaging is pretty heavy-handed and most of the characters are totally unsympathetic— but I appreciated the push-pull of mindless compliance and a healthy distrust of authority. It turned into one hell of a messy F/X party and I really loved that! Plus y’all know I’m a sucker for a totally bleak ending.

MS .45 (1981)
Directed by Abel Ferrara

[CW: sexual assault] Thana (Zoë Lund) is a mute seamstress who gets sexually assaulted twice in one day; once on the way home, and again in her apartment by a burglar. In a fit of rage, she bludgeons the second man with an iron. Thana decides to cut up the body and dispose of it. When another man corners her in an alley, she shoots him in the head and realizes she can fight back. The next day when her boss hits on her, it pushes Thana over the edge and sets off a revenge killing spree — not just for herself, but for all women.

I’ve avoided this one so far because I was afraid the rape scenes might be too much, but after reading Carol J Clover’s thoughts on it, I decided to give it a go. They were of course still hard to watch, but thankfully not salacious and very short. While Thana’s revenge isn’t elaborate, there is something beautiful about the simplicity of just shooting and killing men. There’s one scene where four men surround her in a circle, and she picks them off one by one like they’re in a shooting gallery. Overall this didn’t give me the exact catharsis I wanted, but it’s still a gorgeous piece of cinema and the end scene with Thana in her nun costume is absolutely magical. Also, Lund was only SEVENTEEN when this was filmed!??!?

HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021)
Directed by David Gordon Green. 

Picking up right after the ending of HALLOWEEN 2018, Michael Myers has managed to escape the fiery inferno Laurie & fam left him in, and is terrorizing the town of Haddonfield once again. This time, though, Haddonfield’s not gonna take it! Led by Tommy Doyle, the entire town takes up arms to hunt down Michael because “Evil dies tonight! Evil dies tonight! Evil dies tonight!” Whatever.

If I took a drink every time someone said, “40 years ago…” in this film, I’d be dead. And I don’t hate fan-service-y moments, but I do hate how this movie executed them. I also really loathed the flashbacks, and in particular that they changed what happens at the end of Halloween 1978. I truly don’t understand how you bring Laurie Strode back but then stick her in a hospital, doing nothing, for the entire movie — replacing her with a toxic masculine version of Tommy Doyle. And don’t even get me started on the Lonny thing.

THE BLACK CAT (1934)
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

Newlyweds Peter (David Manners) & Joan (Julie Bishop) meet the mysterious Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Béla Lugosi), a Hungarian psychiatrist. When the bus that the three share from the train station crashes and Joan is injured, Vitus convinces Peter to take her directly to the home of his “old friend,” Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff). But it turns out Werdegast has a vendetta against Poelzig for stealing his wife! And surprise: the wife died years ago, but he’s kept her corpse perfectly preserved. Unfortunately Werdeghast has a paralyzing fear of black cats, and Poelzig knows this so he keeps a black cat around to protect himself from the doctor’s revenge. Poelzig also has nefarious plans for Joan … which include sacrificing her to Satan!

This UnIversal pre-code classic is WILD! Both men get gross with Joan; one caressing her hair, the other leering at her chest — and the Poelzig character grooms the child of his rival and ends up marrying her. Not to mention the glam satanic mob, a group of sacrificial virgins, and skinning someone alive. There is way more scandal here than I expected for a 1930’s film! Really amazing, and worth a watch

SPELL (2020)
Directed by Mark Tonderai

When Marquis (Omari Hardwick) revives a phone call notifying him of his estranged father’s death, his wife Veera (Lorraine Burroughs) insists the whole family travel back to his home deep in the Appalachian mountains. Marquis decides to fly them all in his small plane to their destination, but crashes during a violent storm. When he awakens, he finds himself in the attic bedroom of Eloise (Loretta Devine) & Earl, who have attended to his wounds after finding him. Eloise seems kind at first, but after she practices Hoodoo magic in front of him, he escapes his room and spies on her — learning that she’s a powerful Conjurer who’s planning a sacrifice on the Blood Moon, and he might be the victim!

MISERY with Hoodoo cult magic! This is pretty cliche, but also stylistically rich and I had fun with it. Hardwick does a great job as a trapped man using his wits and tapping into his past to try and get out, and Devine was PERFECT; particularly her witchy cackle. There was one moment that I thought was truly GREAT, although you can see the end coming a mile away. An interesting mixed bag of a film. 

 #ALIVE (2020)
Directed by Cho Il-hyung

Oh Joon-woo, a video game streamer, is alone in his family’s apartment when a virus starts spreading across the city, turning the infected into flesh-eating zombies. After receiving a call from his family during their last moments alive, he tries to kill himself but notices a laser pointer on his wall and is able to set himself free before dying. Investigating the source, he discovers Kim Yoo-bin, a resident in an apartment across from his building. They set up a zip line to share food and make a plan to escape — but how long can they survive the ever-growing horde of infected?

Slick, smart, and funny. Although it doesn’t offer much you haven’t seen before, sometimes you just need a good zombie fix and this definitely provides. These infected are of the fast-moving variety, which makes them even scarier, particularly in vast numbers! Watched on Netflix.

THE UNHOLY (2021)
Directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos

Disgraced journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) travels to Boston to investigate reports of strange happenings and finds a creepy doll in an old, burned out tree. After breaking the doll open for a photo op so he can spin a story around it, Gerry gets into an accident after avoiding a young girl running across the road. He follows the girl back to the same tree, where she mutters something and collapses. When he takes her to the nearby church for help, he learns the girl, named Alice (Cricket Brown) has been deaf since birth and has never spoken.

The next morning Alice awakes and is able to speak perfectly, stunning everyone. She claims that the spirit of the Virgin Mary has spoken to her, and has given her a voice. A media frenzy starts around Alice, and Gerry — who was ostracized after fabricating a major news story — takes the opportunity to stay and redeem himself with a legit story. When Alice is able to heal a boy’s legs so he can walk again, the Catholic Church sends in Monsignor Delgarde (Diogo Morgado) and Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes!) to make sure the miracles are real. As the “healed” start suffering from terrifying visions of Mary, Gerry and Alice’s Uncle, Father Hagan (William Sadler) start to suspect that something with a more sinister purpose is controlling Alice. And once they uncover the truth of what’s happening, they’re not sure that can stop it.

This isn’t quite “so bad it’s good” but it’s *almost* there. I think if Jeffery Dean Morgan had actually done anything other than calmly almost-whisper his lines and show ANY emotion, it might have been better! Still, William Sadler and Cary Elwes taking it over-the-top, plus some real questionable CGI F/X made it fun’ish? I think? I dunno. It was fine. 

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (2020)
Directed by David Koepp

Theo (Kevin Bacon) and his actress wife Susana (Amanda Seyfried) leave their insane mansion in LA with daughter Ella to vacation in another, different insane mansion in Wales. Once there, everyone has terrible nightmares, time passes differently for each family member, and Theo’s suspicions about Susanna cheating on him really ramp up.

While buying groceries, the shopkeeper asks him if he’s met “Stetler,” and offers him a drafting triangle to check the angles of the house. After seeing mysterious shadows and receiving a message in his journal saying, “you should have left,” Theo becomes convinced there’s someone else in the labyrinth of the house. Will he be able to get his family out in time?

I will always watch anything with Kevin Bacon, and I was super into the first part of this film where it took me down a twisty path towards something I wasn’t expecting — but once it revealed the first secret, it became incredibly predictable. Felt like it borrowed from a lot of things (even tho I know it’s based on a book), and dragged at times. Still, both leads have such great acting skills that it’s hard for me to tell you to skip it. Also YES, there’s a 28-year age gap between them but considering they live in LA, that detail, at least, seemed realistic. 

NIGHT TEETH (2021)
Directed by Adam Randall

Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) takes a chauffeur shift from his older brother, Jay (Raúl Castillo) and picks up two women named Blaire (Debby Ryan) and Zoe (Lucy Fry) who are planning to make several party stops. Benny follows them into one of the clubs and accidentally walks in on them draining two men, discovering they are centuries-old vampires.

Turns out there was a truce called long ago between vampires and humans, where the vamps agreed to only feed on humans consensually and the humans agreed to stop hunting vampires. That truce is about to end tho, because vampire Lord Victor (Alfie Allen) wants more power — and Blaire & Zoe are helping him get it by murdering all the humans and vampires in his way. Things get even more complicated for Benny when he learns Jay is part of the human council that helps maintains the peace, and is one of the humans on Victor’s elimination list.

This looks real slick and I love the idea of women vamps murdering obnoxious men just for funsies, but when the most badass one is beholden to toxic douchebag male vamp it just doesn’t work. It also relies on playing REALLY LOUD club music just to fill time, which gets pretty annoying. That said, if they made a spin-off with Benny & Blaire I’d totally watch because they are somehow the sweetest couple of all time. Oh and heads up: if you’re looking for Megan Fox (who they featured heavily in the promos), she’s in this for less than 5 minutes. 

SANTA SANGRE (1989)
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky

A young boy named Fenix is working in a circus and watches as his mother, Concha (Blanca Guerra) tries to save her “church,” Santa Sangre, from being torn down. The worshippers are devoted to a girl whose arms were cut off, and baptize themselves in a pool of her holy blood. His mother then discovers his father, Orgo, is cheating on her with a tattooed woman — and in a fit of rage throws acid on his penis (!). In retaliation, Orgo cuts his mother’s arms off (!!!).

Years later, Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky) escapes a mental asylum and reunites with his mother, now a powerful supernatural force. Concha then controls Fenix’s arms and uses them as her own. After tracking down the tattooed woman who slept with her husband and forcing her son to kill her, she also demands that he kill any woman that gets too close to him.

This is my first experience with a Jodorowsky film and WOW! It was insane, and I can see why everyone goes crazy over his style. The sets alone make this worth a watch, and you can spot a ton of influences on later filmmakers. There’s a lot of statements happening here about religion, sex, and violence and also probably a lot of other stuff I didn’t pick up on the first viewing. I’ll eventually rewatch with commentary to see if any are mentioned! A note that there are some problematic themes around trans women and threats of sexual assault. Not sure if that’s due to the time of release or the director, but there were a few times that I felt a little uncomfortable.

ALMOST HUMAN (2013)
Directed by Joe Begos

Seth (Graham Skipper)’s best friend Mark (Josh Ethier) disappears one night into a strange blue light. Two years later, Seth still struggles to understand what happened and has PTSD from the trauma that affects his ability to work or connect with people. When a series of grisly murders starts to happen, Seth visits Mark’s girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh) to tell her that he thinks it has something to do with Mark. Jen, of course, thinks he’s crazy — until Mark shows up in the flesh and she realizes he’s the one who’s been committing the murders, and also has a master plan to create a powerful alien race on earth.

A low budget indie horror (made for $50k), this has some impressive F/X, and not much else. I liked the ending … even though it was easy to see where it was going. I DID not like the unnecessary rape-y scene they put on screen twice (alien appendages or not; there was zero reason for it to happen).

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (2021)
Directed by Danishka Esterhazy

In 1993, driller killer Russ Thorn stocks and murders a group of women vacationing at a cabin in Holly Springs, and Trish Devereaux (Masali Baduza) is the sole survivor of the attack. Twenty-eight years later, Trish’s daughter Dana (Hannah Gonera) heads off for a girl’s weekend with her friends Ashley (Reze-Tiana Wessels), Maeve (Frances Sholto-Douglas) & Breanie (Alex McGregor) + a stowaway: Maeve’s little sister Alix (Mila Raynes). Their car breaks down near the camp of “Jolly” Springs and the girls end up staying in a cabin overnight while they wait for car parts. Turns out it’s just a renamed Holly Springs, and Thorn is still skulking around the woods, waiting to tell women he “loves them” just before he drills them to death.

This is an absolute blast of a reboot and the screenplay, written by Suzanne Keilly, is fucking brilliant! Cheers to a clever update and a whip-smart female gaze, with the camera lingering on half — and fully — naked men. Double cheers to the hilarity of those same men not listening to the MUCH SMARTER women and getting drilled. There’s a bit (not enough) of queer love here too between two of the women, and a scene with the men that’s *almost* as gay as the Top Gun volleyball montage.

See also the line that made me do a spit take: “This is part of your big feminist plot to get rid of all the men!” Rented on Apple TV; absolutely worth the price.

MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE (2011)
Directed by Emily Hagins

Just before leaving for college, Kate (Elaine Hurt) and her friends decide to make one last trip to their local sci-fi/horror convention together. At the convention, Kate meets Paul (Patrick Delgado), and is immediately drawn to him. Unfortunately, Paul is also a newly-turned vampire. At the end of the night, goes in for a kiss and accidentally bites her! As Kate’s friends work to try and get her humanity back, they also have to contend with other vampires hunting for prey.

This has been on my list for awhile, after seeing the documentary ZOMBIE GIRL: THE MOVIE about Director Emily Hagins’ first film, that she made when she was 12. This was made when she was 17, and is her third film. The film isn’t amazing, but it is charming as hell! Amateur acting, but so endearing — and honestly some boss-ass beginner special F/X.

THE RAVEN (1935)
Directed by Lew Landers

Dr. Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi) is convinced to operate on Jude Thatcher’s daughter Jean, who’s been in a “terrible accident.” Vollin falls immediately in love with her and saves her life. But when she announces she’s in love with his assistant, Jerry, he jealously concocts a scheme to keep Jean in his house.

After a murderer named Bateman (Boris Karloff) shows up at his door asking for plastic surgery to change his face, the Doctor turns him into a horrific monster; promising to return him back to normal only if he helps him kill Jean’s father and carry out an insane plan of revenge.

Another great Universal Classic! Lugosi & Karloff! 10-minute plastic surgery! A secret lab! A medieval torture chamber! Hidden passageways! Every Edgar Allen Poe reference you can make! Highly recommend. 

DISMISSED (2017)
Directed by Benjamin Arfmann

New student Lucas Ward (Dylan Sprouse) attracts the attention of teacher Mr. Butler (Kent Osborne) by being eager to learn and interested in class projects. But when “accidents” with classmates keep happening, Butler starts to wonder if Lucas is responsible. After receiving a B+ instead of an A grade, Lucas becomes unhinged and demands Mr. Butler raise his grade — and when his teacher refuses, the student sets an elaborate plan in motion to enact his revenge.

This isn’t amazing — but it does feel like a decent 90’s thriller, which I appreciated! Unhinged sociopathic teen is a specific niche I adore (hello, THE CRUSH) and this one had a nice, bleak ending.

COME TO DADDY (2019)
Directed by Ant Timpson

Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) hasn’t seen his father in 30 years. After receiving a letter asking him to come visit, Narval treks out to a remote cabin in order to reconnect. Once he arrives, his father (Stephen McHattie) embraces him, but soon starts acting violently and erratically. Norval starts snooping around the house to try and understand his dad — and finds a shocking surprise.

I had zero expectations for this and it was a blast! Definitely one of those movies that’s best not knowing too much about before you start. Fantastic performances and I love how it just goes completely off the rails. Watched on Amazon Prime Video.

HORROR NOIRE (2021)
An anthology of six Black horror stories from Black directors and screenwriters.

THE LAKE, Directed by Joe West

Shortly after moving into a beautiful new house on a lake, Abby (Lesley-Ann Brandt) is warned not to go swimming in it because of a gruesome incident with an Alligator. While struggling to deal with the summer heat (and dodging questions about her last teaching job) marks start appearing on her body — accompanied by some very unusual food cravings. 10/10 for atmosphere & suspense! Do I understand exactly what happened in this story? Not really, but I also don’t need to.

BRAND OF EVIL, Directed by Julien Christian Lutz

Struggling artist Nekani (Brandon Mychal Smith) is painting a mural at his community’s food bank when he receives a phone call offering him $5000 to design a symbol by nightfall. He constructs the design as asked, and is immediately contacted to a do a second for $10,000. This time, his boyfriend’s boss points out that he’s drawing a white supremacist symbol. Nekani shrugs it off, saying the money is worth it; but what will it actually cost him to keep going? An interesting message about selling out and turning your back on your community — with a little bit of a misstep in the F/X department at its finale.

DADDY

Directed by Robin Givens 

A man (Luke James) with a young son struggles to maintain his own identity. One day they encounter an older man in the elevator, and shortly after he notices his son talking about – and to – an imaginary friend. Once the boy starts acting out against his mother, Dad decides to get to the bottom of what’s happening — but he may not like what he finds. Despite strong performances this story was the least interesting to me, and the ending felt really anticlimactic.

BRIDE BEFORE YOU, Directed by Zandashe Brown

In the late 1800s, a new bride (Lenora Crichlow) arrives at her husband’s house determined to make an impression. Wanting to ensure she gives him a male heir, she visits a medicine woman for some magical assistance. Years later, her now-grown son comes back to visit with his new bride and discovers his mother frazzled and half-crazed due to the constant banging and scratching coming from inside the walls. The dark secret his mother buried years ago has taken over the house and demands sacrifice! A gothic tale about Black women becoming the monsters men make them out to be. Strong performances, and the ending wasn’t what I expected.

FUGUE STATE, Directed by Rob Greenlea. Arthur (Malcolm Barrett) is doing research on his next book, which will examine the link between Christianity and cults. His wife (Rachel True!!) is a journalist investigating a series of recent attacks by people with red-painted faces. After Arthur goes to the church of The Third Way, he returns entranced and convinced that their leader is the true God. I’m a sucker for cult stuff, and I think this is one of the strongest entries in the anthology. (And I’m not just saying that because of a Tony Todd appearance). 

SUNDOWN, Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

Two Black political canvassers (Tone Bell & Erica Ash) have a frustrating day campaigning in a seemingly abandoned southern town called Evantide. When they return to the library to meet up with the rest of their colleagues (all white), they notice a sign about it being a sundown town: only whites are allowed within the city limits after dark. They try to leave but discover all their tires have been slashed. Once the sun goes down, the mayor (Peter Stormare) shows up playing the violin and apologizes for the townspeople keeping “odd hours.” But hey! Would they all like to come to a feast?! While it’s not exactly a surprise what the town residents are, this is still a fun one! A++ for humor, especially the clever Buffy reference.

Overall, a great companion/follow-up to the documentary of the same name. Scrappy low-budget filmmaking. 

WEREWOLVES WITHIN (2021)
Directed by Josh Ruben

Ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) arrives at his new post in the small town of Beaverfield to find the residents divided over an oil pipeline proposed by wealthy business investor Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall). After a resident’s small dog is killed and the power goes out, Finn investigates the town’s generators and finds them slashed open with claw marks — and also, a dead body.

Once Dr. Ellis (Rebecca Henderson) gets a look at the body, she determines the cause of death is a lycanthrope! She tells the townspeople that one of them is the werewolf, causing even more division, disbelief and panic. Can Ranger a Wheeler figure out who the wolf is before everyone is killed?

While I didn’t love every single joke in this film, I DO love (almost) every single actor in it — so I found it very enjoyable. I was also very into all the story misdirects, and I loved the ending. 

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