Tag Archives: Shudder

Children of the Corn (1984)

I’m not actually convinced I’ve never seen Children of the Corn before. But if I have, it made little enough impression on me that today’s viewing may as well have been the first. The funny thing is, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it at all, but its sequel[1] wasn’t available on any streaming services, and the first one was, so, there you go.

What I think would have made this a much better movie is if there had been no prologue. Like, keep all the same footage and use it later in flashback. But if you start off with Linda Hamilton and some guy named Burt[3] driving down a country road in Nebraska, and they hit a kid who it turns out had his throat slit before they ever hit him, and there are menacing “watcher” camera angles, and the audience has to figure out what’s going on along with them? That’s a pressure cooker!

That small but major correction is almost everything the movie really needs. Okay, some of the final act special effects are terrible, but it’s basically 40 years old, so, forgiven. Creepy kids menacing you with farm implements in the middle of nowhere, that covers basically everything my suburban adulthood needs to be scared.

Well, one additional correction, maybe less small, is that outside of the flashback sequence, almost nobody dies, and I feel like this should have been a bloodbath. Probably if they had gone the “what is even happening?” pressure cooker route, this would bother me less. But, they didn’t, and it turns out this is just not a very good movie when over half of it is teenagers chasing Burt and/or Linda Hamilton around an empty small town downtown district, while the pacing of the plot makes it impossible to believe either of them is in any real danger, most of the time.

Still, though, it does make me wonder if it was possible, as late as the early ’80s, for a town to just disappear and nobody noticed. Now: zero percent chance. But then… like, I mostly still don’t buy it, especially when they threw in the shot of the 900-something population sign. But if it was less than 200, and basically everyone who cared about anyone who lived in the town currently lived in the town with them, I guess it’s a possibility?

In conclusion, small towns from my childhood are weird.

[1] which I plan to watch because a podcast I want to listen to will treat me as though I don’t care about spoilers[2]
[2] There’s a certain inherent irony to this explanation, I know.
[3] Now there’s a name that’s fallen out of favor.

Busanhaeng 2: Bando

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is the second entry in the TtBCU[1], and even though it wasn’t on the list of Korean horror films for last(?)[2] week, I did the research and confirmed for myself that it counted (same director and writer as Train to Busan, and made by South Korean companies). So, that’s what we watched!

As discussed in the tagline, the movie is set four years after the events on the train, and in that time… well, the short version is North Korea was finally useful for something besides human misery. Since South Korea is on an isolated peninsula[3], they were able to use their otherwise pointless and/or actively evil military to contain the zombies, and then everyone else just stopped letting escaping boats in without incredibly onerous health checks of the kind that I think we’ve proven would not actually occur in the real world, but. And so, South Korea is a zombie-infested wasteland, and the rest of the world is all, “Huh. I guess that happened.” And the few people who did get out are mostly disliked refugees, so at least they got that part of how we’d behave correct.

Anyway, that’s all setting for a heist-and-redemption story precipitated by an army guy and his embittered brother-in-law being roped into a shot at 50% of the take on a truck full of money just sitting there, waiting to be taken by whoever can survive. It has every trope you’d expect and then some, but you know what? I liked it. (Arguably, that’s why I liked it?)

Thanks, Korean horror community!

[1] There is no TtBCU
[2] When I started this, we were potentially only a week behind. A lot of water has passed under the bridge between then and when I finished it.
[3] Hey, I see what they did there!

La llorona (2019)

Earlier this week, I learned that letterboxd dot com[1] has a multi-year project where each week there’s a theme, and you watch a movie which a) fits the theme (okay, obviously) and b) that you’ve never seen before. Also earlier this week: the 8th year (season?) of this project of theirs started. After a brief discussion with Mary, we decided to go for it, and thusly, here we are.

Week one, Central American Independence Week, is to watch a previously unseen film from one of the following countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala. La Llorona, then, is at first glance a slow moving court procedural in which an aging, arguably dying, Guatemalan general is on trial for genocide of the Mayan peoples in the early 1980s. That is, there is some time spent in court, but the majority of the first third of the film is the various members of his dead-eyed family wandering around their villa, berating the staff[2], resenting the protesters encamped outside their front door, and debating quietly among themselves whether the charges are true.

And that’s pretty much an entire movie in itself, of a certain character study ilk. Will the general’s wife learn about herself her complicity (or, if she already knows deep down, will she decide that it matters)? Will the general’s daughter make a choice to explicitly reject her parents for their unforgivable crimes (perhaps the least of which is, possibly, egregious interference in her personal life)? Will the general’s granddaughter become, by association, as dead-eyed as everyone else in the family or will she maintain her innocence? This could easily be the direction of the small slice of life that has been presented, unless, of course, you know what the llorona is.

Ultimately, the arrival of a single replacement maid to pick up the slack left to the housekeeper after the rest of the staff quit back in act one does not actually result in a different movie than the hypothetical one I described above. She just pushes the outcomes into a different groove than they otherwise would have proceeded along.

Recommended for fans of character-driven dramas that need to dip their toes into the horror genre, or for fans of horror who need to dip their toes into the character study genre.

For the curious: I chose the French poster of this movie because the version I watched was distributed by a French, um, distributor.

[1] A movie-based social media network, apparently? Like here, if people actually showed up, and also had their own review sites.
[2] Who for some reason want to quit now that their boss is on trial for the genocide of, to a first approximation, their people.

Mohawk (2017)

I saw Mohawk close on a week ago, but what with the falling trees, collapsing fences, narrowly averted gas explosions, recurrent gut infections, work overflows, and hospital visits, I just haven’t really made the appropriate time to think about it yet, much less talk about it. Today, though, today just may be that day!

This movie feels like someone’s passion project, someone who is a lot more steeped in Mohawk[1] and to a lesser extent early American history than I am. This is perhaps what I get for never having finished Assassin’s Creed 3. So, while the movie was interested in a snapshot of the Mohawk nation in decline, and perhaps in their myths and magicks of that period, what I found most compelling was watching a wartime movie in which the Americans are the bad guys, even though, perversely, they are not the aggressors.[2]

Recommended for fans of I Spit on Your Grave if only it wasn’t about that, people who think maybe a balanced view of history should have Americans as bad guys a little more often, and people who are into nihilistic futility.

[1] I suppose this is where I should have already introduced the movie by plot. Some members of a Mohawk settlement and a British agitator, during the War of 1812, face off against revenge-bent Americans after an offscreen raid and burning of an American fort, somewhere near Mohawk territory, which, to be honest, I don’t know where that is/was, exactly. Probably upstate New York?, after some unrelated research.
[2] Blah blah blah, but what I mean is, they are not the aggressors as shown in this snapshot 24 or so hour period.

The Deeper You Dig

A few weeks ago on Joe Bob’s Last Drive-In Show, there was a movie about witches in Canada (probably?) that was mostly a small ensemble cast that is also a real life family: daughter, mother, father, who make movies under the label “An Adams Family Film”, which, fair enough, it’s an attention grabber plus also that is in fact his last name.

It turns out I already had one of their movies in my queue, and The Deeper You Dig had an even more intimate cast, which is to say yes the same people, but fewer intrusions by other people. The mom and teen daughter are a family, mom tarot reads to the gullible while daughter Echo[1] has a disaffected goth vibe towards her life around other people while clearly being fun-loving with a tight bond to her mother when not around other people. Which is all fine until, while sledding at night (in Canada again?), Echo is hit and killed by the guy down the road restoring a house to flip (oh, so probably not Canada I guess), who was maybe drunk but who almost certainly would have hit her anyway, if I read the scene right.

Everything past that is a pressure-cooker drama by way of The Tell-Tale Heart in which the guy is haunted by his actions, and the mom is growing ever more suspicious about who is to blame. Both this and the Joe Bob witches movie are charmingly amateurish, but despite the lower than I’m accustomed to quality of the film and the effects, there’s real talent driving the waltz of death between these three characters as they edge ever closer to a possibly brutal and definitely chilling confrontation.

This is what modern indie horror looks like, and it makes me believe that anyone with the ambition to take a chance could still make it happen for themselves.

[1] Her name is, shall we say, on the nose

The Cleansing Hour

You know how found footage is a movie (mostly horror, but perhaps not entirely) subgenre? And you know how over the past two to three years, what with Covid, lots of movies are now filmed partially or entirely via Zoom calls or other internet streaming video connections? The Cleansing Hour isn’t exactly that kind of movie, but others I’ve watched over the past, well, two to three years have been, and this one got me wondering about what the new subgenre is called, if anything.

In addition to being the title of the movie, you see, The Cleansing Hour is also the name of a weekly exorcism livestream in which Father Max faces off against a new demon possessing a new person[1] every week. I guess they must bring each victim to the studio? I’m not sure that makes sense, but then again, it doesn’t have to, because it’s a staged show, with no real demons or for that matter priests involved.

I bet you see where this is going, but you know what? I say this is an excellent, juicy premise for a movie. What happens when a demon actually shows up, and now they all have to figure out what to do about it? And oh by the way, the livestream is already up and running, so no calling in the actual professionals when everyone can see you already. Good luck!

And then, this is the best part: the movie entirely delivers on the promise of that premise, up, down, and sideways. I have no complaints, and would unreservedly recommend this to anyone who likes exorcism flicks or has a grudge against things that are phony.

….although that last bit raises a question that went through my mind as I was watching. How weird must it be to make a definitionally fake exorcism movie about a demon who is pissed off about all the fake exorcism movies you’re making? I bet the pranks on that set were legendary.

[1] Hundreds of possessions cured! Thousands of demons defeated!, say the opening credits. I cannot make that math work, though. Like… how?


I’ll get the easy part out of the way. The Wailing is a supernatural mystery in which a lot of people in a small town are killing each other in zombiepocalypse-adjacent ways, but with no transmission of disease. Is the problem drugs? Mushrooms? Demons? Ghosts? Evil spirits? (Do Koreans distinguish between the latter three possibilities?) But then it turns personal when a local cop’s daughter is possessed by the same force. On the one hand, we never see the incubation period of the drugs-or-mushrooms-or-demons in any of the other murderous victims, so her slow deterioration might still be perfectly reasonable under any of those explanations, but on the other hand, she’s a little too young to have gotten mixed up in drugs or random forest mushrooms, probably.

The meat of the movie, though, is what I want to talk about, except it’s entirely spoilers, more than the arguably too many I’ve already provided, so I’ll go to a cut.

Continue reading

Scare Me (2020)

Apparently, both films named Scare Me released in 2020, which makes it a lot harder to distinguish which one I’m talking about here than I’m used to. Even worse (although I suppose the title lends itself to this outcome), they’re both about the same thing, which is people telling each other scary stories. Worst of all, I have no idea whether I can distinguish this one from the other one by saying it’s the one that’s sort of funny in addition to being scary. …since I didn’t see the other one, you understand.

IMDb says this is horror and comedy, but I disagree. Even though the stories are mostly not scary, it’s also mostly not played for laughs. There’s a ton of snark, and it is well-mixed with a lot of genre self-awareness, but it’s not a comedy. The characters, as they tell their stories to and with each other, cause the lines between imagination and reality to grow ever more blurry, and this is the source of most of the horror and most of the humor… but not, you know, at the same time.

Irony meter: while this is not the first movie I’ve heard mention the Bechdel test, I’m pretty sure it’s the first one which, having mentioned it, proceeds not to pass it.


Spiral (2019)

Did you ever wonder how it would look if someone took a run at Get Out, but for gay people instead of black people? If you have… Spiral doesn’t quite get there, but that’s not to say there isn’t a movie worth watching here so much as that it’s a really high target.

Two men and their 16 year old daughter move to either a picturesque bedroom community or else maybe just the suburbs? It kind of varies. Also, it’s 1995. Once there, they are exposed to glarey-eyed old men, homophobia, nosy neighbors, and for the younger and more flamboyant half of the couple, a creeping dread and flashbacks to a gay-bashing experience that his high school boyfriend took the brunt of half a lifetime earlier.

So why doesn’t it quite reach the comparison it was (apparently) striving for? For one thing, Spiral does not have the targeted feel that it should, on a moment by moment basis. I could change very little of the movie and it would fit a heterosexual couple just as easily. For another, the entire premise is cast into doubt by an unreliable main character who may simply be off his meds. And on the one hand, when done effectively (and this was), the game where they keep you guessing if this is an internal or external horror movie is something I’m quite fond of, even if the writers choose “internal” all too seldomly[1]. But on the other, when your base premise is this good, you commit to it instead of waffling between it and a diferent good premise, because half your audience won’t be satisfied regardless of what you pick.

Still and all, pretty good movie.

[1] Man I want to name drop an excellent example of when they did, but it kind of ruins the entire movie if you know in advance.

Rabbit (2017)

The thing about Rabbit is, I feel like I have seen this exact movie before when they called it The Wicker Man or Midsommar[1], but this one has twins!, is the distinguishing feature. See, there’s this twin sister who is having visions of the other sister, with whom she has a complicated relationship but also the sister went missing a while ago, long enough that the rest of the family has held a funeral, which she did not attend due to not believing she’s dead but the family thinks due to the complicated relationship. But now the visions have come to a head, so she’s returned to Australia[2] to find the missing twin once and for all.

Which, to bring it back around, mostly involves wandering around a campgrounds area except people seem to live there instead of be camping, and also everyone keeps looking at her and/or each other meaningfully, which is my point about the comparison to the other movies.

Later, there’s a secret ending, which I will not spoil.

[1] The latter of which I have not technically seen at all, but it just feels like it’s the same thing, you know?
[2] I don’t know anything about Australian law, but I should mention that the sister has only been missing for like a year or something? It seems too soon to me for her to be declared dead, but what do I know?