Tag Archives: Shudder

Haunt (2019)

Sometimes horror movies are thoughtful and disturbing explorations of the darkness our collective psyche can contain; other times they’re gory morality tales about the dangers of behaving like a teenager. But also sometimes, they’re nothing more than a skeleton-thin premise around which to hang 90 minutes of growing discomfort and torture for no reason whatsoever.

Haunt is Hostel, except if the people who like to torture and eventually murder continent- and bar-hopping college student types decided that kidnapping them first was too much trouble, so they set up a haunted house experience instead. Sure, the upfront work is maybe a lot, but at least the victims walk in the front door and pay you for the privilege.

Pros: slow burn on the tension meter, with things not really going pear-shaped until the last third of the movie. Very creepy masks. Zero indication of why the bad guys are doing what they’re doing. (You can say that doesn’t go in the pro column, but I like the elemental force of nature killers that just happen to other people more, on average, than I like the ones with a real backstory.)

Cons: Torture porn is torture porn, dress it up how you will. Also, they spent a little too much effort on the mysterious past of the Final Girl, with no particular payoff to show for it. That would shave an extra ten minutes off the flick right there. Oh, and too many spiders.

Deep Murder

Deep Murder is a porn parody, but not the way you’re thinking. See, I thought it was a by-the-numbers slasher in which people on the set of a softcore movie are getting gradually murdered, and yes, I will absolutely watch that movie. But this is so much better than what I thought it was.

It is instead a decidedly not by any numbers I’ve ever seen[1] softcore porn in which the characters are getting gradually murdered. And the only way to survive is to overcome all of their in character instincts and start treating what they’re living as a murder mystery cum horror movie[2] instead of the porno that is all they’ve ever known.

I approximately never stopped laughing. As far as I can tell, this was the best comedy of 2019, and I recommend it to basically anyone, although if you ever watched something in the wee hours of the night on Cinemax, you might have a leg up. For the record, there is [approximately] no nudity. It’s not that kind of movie in any way other than that it specifically is that kind of movie or it wouldn’t work, if you take my meaning.

[1] The closest thing I can think of is Zombie Strippers, and there are only a couple of tangential similarities.
[2] *smirk emoji*

Victor Crowley

Breaking my rules today. I will review a movie I watched with Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary segments and, in this case, most of the cast and crew in attendance as well. It seems only fair after having done the first three in a row, though.

Victor Crowley is, for some reason, not named Hatchet IV. You would think, with the writer-director in attendance, I would have found out why not. But: nope! I can speculate, though. See, this movie does not pick up immediately after the last one ended, for a fourth night in a row of brutal mayhem. It seems that they actually [spoilers for previous movies in the Hatchet series, avoid if you prefer, last chance, here they are!] succeeded in lifting his curse, and he’s been truly dead for the past ten years. Who would have thought. (Also, this movie was made ten years after the original, so, nice.) These reasons seem valid for switching up the title scheme, right? Sort of? Maybe?

Anyway, there’s a survivor who people hate for making money off all those deaths and also maybe they think he did the murders, since who’s going to believe a ghost story with no ghost left? (I found the first part of that really annoying, since he’s not just profiting off death and misery, it really was his story to tell. But whatever.) And there are people hoping to make a movie about the legend, and there’s a crappy talk show subplot, but eventually the two things you really care about do happen:

  1. Everyone winds up in that cursed swamp again.
  2. Somebody makes a rookie horror movie mistake about saying curses out loud.

And then we’re once more off to the races. I have been all but promised a Hatchet V, and you just know it’s going to pick up immediately where this one left off, and I am there for it. I mean, if you can go to movie theaters without dying by then.

Bride of Re-Animator

Sad thing number one: I do not have a review of Re-Animator, since I first watched it in its entirety on Joe Bob’s show, and it seems wrong to write reviews for movies I watched with a commentary track (essentially) by a different reviewer. But suffice it to say it was pretty great.

Bride of Re-Animator is… well, it’s not the world’s greatest sequel. I had a whole rant prepared here about how people keep calling these comedies. And I mean. Jeffrey Combs’ turn as Herbert West, the research doctor who keeps trying to perfect his re-animation formula to defeat death, is reliably hilarious. But a funny character does not a comedy make, when the rest of the movie is so dark and serious and tragic, I would have said.

But then I started thinking about things like how annoyingly extraneous I found the cop who was still trying to solve the mystery of the massacre at Miskatonic University last year, only he gets too close to the truth and ends up dead then not-as-dead, and now he’s just an annoyingly non-funny slapstick obstacle for our heroes(?) to overcome, and… oh, that’s what they mean. It’s comedic, it’s just not funny and fails to match the tone of the rest of the film. And the first movie was like that too!, except the funny things were in better balance and were actually a little funny, whereas this is all, cool plot, but you forgot to make the funny parts, so I’m just going to shoehorn those in now, okay?

All that to say, sad thing number two: If they had let West be funny and left the rest of the movie as the slow devolution into tragedy of the other main character, who had survived his tragedy of the first film mostly intact, this might have been a great sequel. It is perhaps obviously also a re-telling of Bride of Frankenstein, and those parts work until the end, which fell a little flat. But I think I have to blame that on the shoehorned comedy disrupting the tragedy too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it. Almost entirely on the strength of Combs’ West, sure, but that was also true of the much better first movie. Because he’s just such a great character! …but probably don’t be dead or have a potential to be dead anywhere near him. He’s, uh, definitely more into science than morals.

Gwen

So there’s this movie called Gwen, in which Gwen and her sister and her mother, and also her father (in flashbacks mostly), wander around the hills of 1850s Wales, either being happy when they’re all together or moody and atmospheric and brooding when they aren’t. Also, some other things happened?

The sad part is, I’m not even joking. I watched this movie a day or two ago[1] and kept trying to pay attention to it, but realized at the end that I legitimately had no idea what had happened, outside of my description above and one or two specific events untethered from any ongoing narrative, like, oh, those neighbors died of cholera, or, huh, all the sheep are dead.

So instead of writing a probably unfairly empty review saying that, I watched it again this afternoon. This time, I felt like I really had watched the whole thing, and I for sure picked up a lot more. Is it all a land grab? Is the mother crazy? Or possessed? Is there a mysterious third party causing all these problems? Like, there was nearly enough plot there to mix in with the moody atmosphere[2], but then I watched the climax of the movie, and, uh… what?

So I went and found the Wikipedia summary of the movie, and sure enough, I missed nothing at all. The stuff that happened is just the stuff that happened. Which is to say there’s a subplot I did not mention above because it did not seem to be the main driving force of the film, but then haha surprise I guess it was.

I think I’m trying to talk myself into having hated the movie, which I did not do. I’m not even unhappy I watched it twice. But it is for certain not the movie that I wish it had been. Because what I understand this to be is a tripod of beautiful and unsettling and prosaic.

[1] I don’t even know which. Time, man.
[2] Folk horror, they’re calling it. The Witch is another such example, and at least there I understand why that appellation applies? This was also a limited cast, moody photography, and minimal dialogue, but I’m not sure that makes it “folk”, in the sense of folk tales I had previously assumed.

Boar

Australia: home of drop bears, kangaroos that, if they get tired of beating you in boxing, can just eviscerate you, snakes that you die after a handful of steps trying to walk away from, rabbits the size of volkswagens, spiders that I can’t even, and now a boar the size of a Sherman tank. Plan a visit, we have lovely brochures and you will only spend a third of your vacation time in transit!

The only real problem with Boar is that (and here I am speculating as to the cause) the director’s family was too dang large. Because there are like four to six groups of characters running around doing things while this boar stalks them, and any time you start to feel connection to the characters, the scene changes away from them for twenty minutes, and then once they finally come back to start getting killed off, you’ve forgotten why you care.

I think the boar may have been the hero of this movie, and I just missed it until now?

But seriously, a slightly leaner movie with half the size of the cast and the remaining characters spending more time getting developed and/or running away would have been perhaps brilliant. Plus, they had the guy from Wolf Creek who I now assume is just cast in all Australian horror by default, because why wouldn’t he be, and an enormous giant of a man whose last name is probably Ayers, since I would describe him as the Australian Rock. (I briefly thought he might be the hero of the film, but then he betrayed me by playing and singing along to “Ice Ice Baby”.)

Bloody Birthday

Bloody Birthday is one of the best standalone ’80s horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. See, there are these three kids who were all born on the same day, during an eclipse. And now it’s ten years later, and those three kids are stone cold killers. Do you really need anything else?

The answer is mostly yes, if what you need is a series of pretty good kills, gratuitous teen sex, gratuitous peephole of Julie Brown’s[1] bedroom, an extended game of cat and mouse between three 10 year olds and their babysitter but in the opposite direction of usual, and the nerdy sidekick from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, a show which let’s be honest nobody remembers ever existed, in the darkest, most hardcore role of his career.

Or, if you need an astrological reason for the soullessness of the murder trio, man, the answer was no, you did not need that, and especially I did not need that. That is five minutes of dialogue and footage I will never get back, during which the murder kids could have found another teen sex to coitus interrupt with another creative weapon. Alas.

[1] Earth Girls are Easy and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun”, not the VJ.

The Ranger (2018)

Sometimes, a movie is exactly what you expect it to be from the poster. Which is nice in terms of proper expectation setting, but is pretty damn tricky in finding something meaningful to say outside of the picture already being worth a thousand words, or in this case 77 minutes of celluloid[1].

The Ranger, then, is the story of a bunch of asshole kids hiding out in a national park after they did some crime, and also the pink-haired final girl has history with the park ranger.

The best thing was all the park regulations as murder one-liners. The worst thing was the dark history, because it was ultimately meaningless. Like, I’m sure the writer had some idea of what was supposed to be there, but it dd not translate at all. Result: schlocky slasher fun that should have aimed for fewer pretensions, alas.

[1] haha jk I’m sure this was digital. Come on: 2018.

Monster Party

Monster Party is a pretty weird movie. Like, it starts off as a crime drama that suddenly takes a left turn into horror at about the halfway point. (And even knowing that it would, the turn is shocking in its suddenness.) But all of that would be fine and I could just call it riffing on the same themes as Ready or Not[1], just with a different set up.

Except that every aspect of the movie is just deeply nihilistic and dark. Going into why would be way more spoiler-laden than the already inevitable spoilers I have provided, but in retrospect, geeze. Recommended for people who like their movies like they like their coffee: blacker than the blackest depths of their empty souls.

[1] Which I briefly mistook for Hide and Seek, a movie about which I had completely forgotten and even now remember almost nothing, but which via downstream links on my review have lead me down a rabbit hole of old creepy internet stories for the past half hour, and selected my next movie for me.

Blue My Mind

Another week or so, another movie or so.

This time, a not-particularly-horror movie that combines teen angst bullshit[1] with a modicum of weird body horror, which for the most part seemed out of place, to be honest? 15 year old Mia is going through puberty, which means she doesn’t like her parents, does like the mean girl clique at school, and wants to have all the sex and drugs and cigarettes it is possible for a nearly-legal German teen to have.

But also, strange things are afoot with, uh, her feet. And the family goldfish. What can it all mean? Was she adopted like she thinks, or did she just fall in with the wrong crowd, like her parents think? Does the body horror have any place in this movie? I can answer that one: no, but it did give them a way to wrap things up, instead of just trailing off into disaffected adulthood like most people making “bad” choices end up in fiction. So… yay?

I’m carefully avoiding the spoiler at the center of Blue My Mind, mostly because it was impossible to not know it from the presentation on my streaming service of choice, and the expectation that it would turn out to matter is mostly what ruined the movie for me. Counterpoint: I probably wouldn’t have watched it without that expectation. Counter counterpoint: would that have been so bad?

[1] but no body count