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Haunting of Winchester house

midnighthorror41maVWogqWL._SY445_.jpgIf the asylum logo showing up wasn’t bad enough, the film is made by Mark Atkins which feels a little bit too close to Peter Atkins – as if the author himself is perpetuating the Mockbuster feel. In this frame of mind then, it’s no wonder that I find the opening scene of the UPS driver delivering a parcel to feel very much homage to Spider Baby.

The house itself is achieved in an interesting manner, it’s obviously a matte or possibly a CG model. But more often than not however it’s quite convincing. Still, the thought of family (even if they are just care takers or something) is just casually moving in and out of the Winchester mansion seems a little ridiculous.

They arrived to find the house unlocked and surprisingly furnished, not to mention painted bright colors. They were originally meant to be lodging in the caretaker wing But a note left on the kitchen table states that it’s uninhabitable so they get to live in the main house.

We get foreshadowing almost immediately. A photograph from the 19th century of old images1.jpginhabitants, a mysterious little girl stalking the family’s daughter and a doomsayer who shows up at the house asking what the family is doing there. They let him know they’re just passing through, staying for a couple of months while elsewhere, the daughter follows a creepy ghost  girl into the cellar. The doors slam behind them giving her a good shock, though no harm done. From the cellar she brings up a chalkboard that was obviously once used by one of the people in the old photograph – a deaf man. It’s enough to spark the further curiosity and the dad decides to go for a walk and explore the mansion further.

Back in the house, the little ghost girl creeps on the daughter while the other ghosts draw closer and closer to the father. The daughters intentions are a natural, almost as if she is asked – before the ghosts take her away altogether, vanishing into the house.

images.jpgTogether, the mother and father find hundreds of newspaper clippings in briefly give us the story of the window Winchester. It’s brief though because we have to move along to the next nightmare. Mother dreams of dead, malformed babies while ghosts haunt the daughter. I’ve got to admit, the fact that they’re going so heavy on the spooky visitations and character affects this early on in the movie is impressive. By the time we’re 20 minutes in we’ve already seen some ghosts and things ramp up to some pretty scary levels before you even hit the 40 minute mark!

We get a non-stop hunting and even a certain degree of hopelessness when the police arrive around half way point. Not only are they unable to hear the family within the house, but they find themselves attacked outside the house and unable to render any aid whatsoever.

There are plenty of greasepaint ghosts here but there’s also a fair amount of grotesque latex cases as well – way more than I would’ve expected from a low-budget asylum flick. The ghosts are everywhere, they provide the house and the filmmaker understands lighting – he knows enough to keep these make-up jobs in the gloom and in the shadows. He understands blocking and finds the most effective angles to have to shoot these ghosts from, arranged to create the maximum tension.

I always say that I try to make it to the third act of a horror movie because that’s when the action really gets moving, but this film is all third act action with a brilliant variety of beans and a constant dire threat to our main characters. Just when you think you’re about to get a lull in the action, they throw a creepy ghost in a rocking chair at you or a shape in the shadows emerging.

They managed to get a phone call out to the neighbor – he is a paranormal investigator and he shows up at the house to explain the rules and help get them through the night and solve the mystery of the house. It’s a weird place for this exposition, we usually get this kind of thing closer to the beginning, not in the last 30 minutes. He explains there is poltergeist activity going on here, probably stemming from a hidden object. There are various ghosts in various stages of death, and those different ghosts are dangerous in different ways.

81JvVEaNr2L._SL1500_Now with some direction, the activity begins again, and they begin to search for their lost daughter (actually I didn’t entirely notice that the house had abducted her) and a way to expel the spirits. There’s multiple twists along the way and an ending that I probably should’ve seen coming, but really didn’t.

While the questing aspect at the end isn’t as intense and some of the ending is over the top, the siege section in the second act of this film makes it a genuinely good horror film and one of the best asylum productions I have ever seen. It’s amazing what a skilled filmmaker can do with such a production. I don’t even care that it’s one of their mockbusters (released at a time to capitalize on the release of the film Winchester) this one is a definite high recommend.

CW Film appreciation society July 2021

Wait, what do you mean that last week was the season finale of The Flash?? Also, Cisco, how can we miss you if you won’t leave? I swear, this dude has been talking about quitting for years, actually left the show three times, and keeps coming back. Still, a satisfying conclusion to the Godspeed war… And actually, it feels a little bit like the comics again. That moment where Jay and Barry and Bart all line up with Iris and XS as a speedster ensemble… This is a trend we started seeing in the comics midway through Wally’s run, and it’s always a fun feeling to get.

I could do another paragraph gushing about Superman and Lois, but I’ve already done enough of that. And really, TV wasn’t the big event this weekend, it was the One day show that Cinema Wasteland was putting on. It’s an event that grew out of those film appreciation society screenings Ken was putting on at the local Eagles Hall, he’s expanded it moved it to the hotel that usually posts wasteland. For some reason I missed the last one before the plague, so this was my first time hitting one of these events.

The vendors room is small, smaller than some of those Harper shows I’ve been going to, using approximately a third of the space Wasteland takes up… With only 30 vendors instead of 100. There’s an hour and a half between the time the vendor room closes and they transform it into a screening room, so I decided to swing by around lunchtime, while I was doing other errands, with the plans on heading back that night for the films (My real interest). The shopping was lightly attended, and you could do that dealers room in 20 minutes, 30 if you really dug in. With hours going from 10 to 5, the room would never fill up too much. Thankfully they were a great deal more people showing up for the movie later that night. It was a double feature of the Human Duplicators and Mutiny in Space, both on 16mm film. The human duplicators was particularly fun, as you can see Richard Kiel and Hugh Beaumont in the same film. That’s like the greatest Jeopardy question ever.

Wastelanders were happy to be out of the house and back talking with like-minded folks. Guys were even chatting me up in the bathroom about the movie we just seen, how the one actress could’ve been a Bond girl and what do you think their reaction was one they needed life cast of everybody even though they weren’t doing make up? It’s different in a women’s restroom, and a guys bathroom it’s generally considered gauche and uncomfortable to talk between The stalls, but Wastelanders family. Even family that you don’t know.

Most of the out of towners skipped this event, understandably. There are a few among the vendors, like Dirk Manning or happy club picture is and it was nice to catch up with Mike and Amy and Dirk. I ran into my buddy Jim and his new wife Amy, and they introduced me to their friends, and with patches of people just standing around and hanging out in black T-shirts, talking about monsters and tattoos and hobbies, it felt like Wasteland again. Like were easing back into the scene, and I for one cannot wait for October.

 

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Allen Bellman

AutographsHe was there when Marvel was still Timely

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Superman and Lois Return, Loki concludes!

First and foremost, I’d like to thank The Flash for not making me wait two weeks to resolve a cliffhanger the way that Superman and Lois has. The Godspeed war has been consistent, fun, intense, and genuinely good stuff. I still wish they’d stop race swapping characters, but at least Impulse was fairly well done.

Over on Superman and Lois, my biggest observation is that Elizabeth Tulloch just keeps getting better. I look at her, and I just see Lois Lane. She may be the best Lois I’ve ever seen… and that’s saying something. It’s a hard role. You have to balance softness and femininity and the occasional damsel in distress role with being hard-nosed, persistent, brilliant, and brave enough to give off a vibe of this isn’t the first time I’ve had a gun in my face. Some Loises veer too soft, like Amy Adams, Noelle Neil, and even sometimes Teri Hatcher. Others just get way too hard, like Margot Kidder, or Kate Bosworth. Phyllis Coates may have been the only one I ever saw balance it perfectly for her era, but Elizabeth Tulloch’s version is unprecedented in how well-rounded it is.

It may help that she’s at a different time of life. She’s emotionally grounded with her two sons, and we don’t have the on-again off-again, will they won’t they, Superman or Clark debate. She’s chosen Clark, and in fact, was never so shallow as to be infatuated with Superman. I like that. And either way, knowing that they end up together and have established this long lasting relationship, it adds character and depth and just makes her more likable. But she’s still tenacious, she’s still a reporter, and a force to be reckoned with.

I put all this out there, because this week is really her episode. We do get some stellar stuff with John Henry Irons as Steel, but with Superman being mind controlled on the other side of the planet, this episode is really all about Lois taking charge, convincing them not to kill Superman, and trying to support Lana’s family as they suffer the backlash from the community that got possessed by alien beings. The series is just so good, and Steel looks great (although he needs a better helmet). But I got plenty of resolution, in fact, once again I almost feel like it’s the end of the season… Even though I know it’s not. Edge is imprisoned and still planning something nefarious.

As good as the Flash and Superman were, we then have… Loki. Seriously, what happened to Loki?

After such a great episode last week, we come back for the series finale, and… nothing happens. This episode is literally just people talking at each other. Mostly people talking at each other from one side of the desk to the other. It’s an oral history of the marvel multi-verse. That’s all. Nothing happened. Even during a brief sword fight, it really is only there to mask the fact that they’re still just talking back-and-forth. I am utterly disappointed, and genuinely bored. And I’m getting an enormous amount of heat from Loki STANS online, not just because I think it was a wasted opportunity, but because I didn’t think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Literally. I tried to find nice things to say about it, amazing music, beautiful imagery, and I mean that. It IS a gorgeous show, with some of the best music I’ve ever heard in television. There was also one cute bit that made Miss Minuets, the animated clock girl look very sinister – but after that intro, nothing happens! Not a single thing happens in this episode! It’s all just exposition… and me saying that seems to offend some people. The common response is “it’s setting up phase 4!“ I’ve heard that 1000 times. I understand. I agree actually, Kang is the big bad and it’s setting up the multi-verse. But there still was no story to this series! Iron Man set up the MCU. So did Thor, so did Captain America. And all of them manage to tell individual adventures while setting up the universe. They didn’t just info dump us and walk away. I literally had somebody tell me “I’m tired of adventures, I just want to see the set up for the new movies and the character development!“ Well that’s not really what the MCU is it? It’s comic book adventures. You want a balance between worldbuilding and story (interestingly, episode five hit that balance perfectly). Say 80% story and 20% world building. Loki has that ratio flipped on it’s head, completely backwards. Of all the MCU TV shows, this one has had the absolute LEAST story.

Moreover, there’s no character development here. Loki is the same person at the end of the series that he was in the beginning. He’s not even a character, he’s a sounding board for exposition who occasionally provides positive affirmation for Girl Loki. And Sylvie? She’s also the same character from the beginning to the end. She is the best Loki ever, and that’s all. There’s no heroes journey, there’s no great awakening, the series just… Is. Someone tried to tell me this is a masterclass in storytelling. (You’d have to tell a story for that to be true). Someone actually told me I need to read Shakespeare and I’ll appreciate it more (Shows how little they know about me. Also, try Wagner instead. Loki is far more rooted in the epic northern tales than in Elizabethan England).

I don’t hate Loki (although the MCU stans are really making me dislike it more every day) but I am disappointed. This could’ve been so much more. This could’ve been Doctor Who and Rick and Morty on crack. And it should’ve been. Instead, all we got was a history textbook. A D&D source book. Tom Hiddleston (Who is still brilliant in the role – pity he isn’t given anything to do) staring charmingly at the camera, but no storytelling, character development or adventure of any sort. I could cut this thing down into a 100 minuet film and still get all the necessary world building and character introductions in with better pacing and less filler. (About 80% of episode one, the Sylvie stuff from two, all of episode five and about ten minuets of three, four and six).

All I can say, is I hope What If and Hawkeye are better. 

 

 

Gingerdead Man 3 : Saturday Night Cleaver

franchisebannerindex.jpgWe begin the movie at the scientific Institute for research on homicidal baked goods. So right off the bat, you know exactly what kind of film we’re going into. It’s a parody of Silence of the Lambs, with a sort of Clarice Starling character getting ready to go see the Gingerdead Man

Down in the basement we see a evil baguette, a small cherry pie, a brownie and a cream puff that spits Cream Cheese at her. The puppets are beyond over-the-top. Finally she arrives at the Gingerdead Man cell in the interview begins. They’re doing it almost word-for-word from Silence of the Lambs, and the Gingerdead Man even has a Hannibal Lecter mask on. It’s shocking in its audacity, and ridiculous beyond parody. We are in full cartoon mode now and it’s glorious. This sequence has to be seen to be believed.

3.jpgThe interview is interrupted by a invasion of pastry activists who free all of the evil baked goods. Gingerdead Man Isn’t impressed and bites the nose off of one of the activists (homage to the story of Lecter swallowing the nurses tongue?) before running away. Still, he can’t figure out where to go and is still trapped in the Institute… That is until he finds the time-travel study room and jumps into a machine that transports him into 1976, in the middle of a Roller Boogie session.

It’s the most stereotypical portrayal of the seventies imaginable, and the Gingerdead Man is rightly appalled. The look is of though -Too many of the guys are still sporting close-cropped do’s and while thier sideburns might be long, they are also groomed and trimmed and distinctly not 1970s (ah, low budgets….)!

The problem is, this roller rink is about to be foreclosed on by the IRS. Also the DJ is completely coked up and the owner’s daughter Cherry (“And I’d like her to stay that images5way!”) has a sort of Carrie vibe going on.

The first to go are a group of empty-headed bimbos who staged a bikini car wash in an attempt to save the roller rink. Gingerdead Man ogles them until he remembers what he is here to do and discover is a vat of hydrochloric acid to do it with. The results are predictable, and largely CG. In fact I’m noticing a significant CGI component in this film all around. Somebody is really good at After Effects. The Gingerdead Man is frequently rendered as an animation rather than composited or puppeted as a real element, particularly when he’s walking or running. At least the corpses are practical.
images2.jpgBack at the Roller Rink, Cherry, the daughter is learning to skate, falling in love with the skate rental guy, and getting a makeover to try and become the new roller queen. Also, among the skaters and Junkies, keep an eye out for a large lady in a white shirt with a red sweater. That’s Muffy Bolding, co-writer of both this film and Gingerdead Man 2!

Back upstairs, the owner of the rink, and Cherries mother Trixie, (a drag queen played by Kent Fuher – director William Butler has a long Association with RuPaul’s Drag Race and the drag community) is not pleased. She had tried all her life to keep Cherry from the images.jpgroller skating scene. She tells the tale of a tragic roller skating incident the day that she performed for FDR and distracted everybody from Pearl Harbor. The entire incident is told in stock footage flashbacks stop this is why she never wanted Cherry to skate, But Cherry wants to live her own life and when the roller Boogie Queen contest! Lights explode as she gets angry.

Cherry is indeed nominated as one of the finalists for roller Boogie Queen, but that’s the least of her worries. She finds gingerbread man-shaped footprints and follows them to some bloody boxes in the kitchen. She expresses her concerns to her crush who kind of dismisses it even as the Gingerdead Man sneaks past behind him with a cleaver. In the meantime, the girl who’s won the Roller Boogie Queen the last four years, schemes to win the title this one last time. Her plan involves pig blood – so we can pretty much tell exactly where this is going.

Before she goes completely Carrie on them we get a break from all this silliness when the Gingerdead Man sneaks up behind a guy in the bathroom and slashes his Achilles tendon again, and again, and again. It’s the fresh infusion of blood that this film really needed, it’s been a little lighter on gore this time around. Unfortunately, the Gingerdead Man then finds the DJ stash of coke and replaces it with Drano. It’s okay, the Gingerdead Man is still there to spin records in her absence.

Cherry is, of course, crowned the roller Boogie Queen, and as soon as she takes her crown , down comes the pig’s blood. Only it hits the wrong girl, and the Gingerdead Man is quick to follow, killing everyone in sight. Now it’s Cherry’s telekinetic gifts versus the homicidal Gingerdead Man in a hail of computer-generated blood.

I can’t help but notice how much lower the production values have gotten on this entry. There’s an overuse of CG, with as many After Effects generated as possible. We get very few shots of the Gingerdead Man in context. Only a handful of long shots, with most of his coverage being done as extreme close-ups of his face talking. It’s not just once, it’s constant. While the film is still quite self aware, the parody and satire aspects have kind of been toned down and the entire thing feels just a little bit less satisfying than before. This franchise may actually have peaked at part two, but there’s still one more to go.

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Gingerdead Man 2

franchisebannerinde4xGingerdead Man 2 begins with a fairytale style recap of the previous film. We get the best moments and an adequate explanation for the sort of insanity that were about to witness.

By the way, I don’t put this out there all the time, but I’m a born-again, conservative, evangelical Christian, so if this title was meant to offend someone it’s me. I find it hilarious – and yes, this scene does appear in the film (at the very end).

The run run run theme song is amazing – it’s like somebody mashed together “run as fast as you can I’m the gingerbread man” with “cherry bomb” and it’s the perfect theme as we movie into a movie studio set where they’re making a horror film. This is Full Moon image8sPictures kind of making fun of itself – this horror movie appears to be a mixture of Ghoulies and Puppet Master. I’m amused that I have the dagger the dark wizard uses.

Wonder what is better accidentally hits the wizard, he screams cat – and we get a glimpse of John Carl Bulchler who is the director of this unfortunate picture.

Craft service arrives with a box of goodies – cookies, doughnuts, and the Gingerdead Man!

images9.jpgA Make-A-Wish kid arrives at Cheatum studios because his last wish was to see the horror movie studio empire. Things aren’t going well – the studio has too many things in production, they’re running out of money, and horror blogs are constantly trashing them. On the set, people are quitting, fighting and there’s just general chaos.

Meanwhile, the ginger dead man is getting edgy – he’s got to kill somebody before he gets too stale! Normally I’d complain about the fact that the first kill happens off screen, but it’s such a hilarious spectacle – we cut back to the Gingerbread Man standing over at the decapitated corpse with several knives sticking it in another one in his hand that it just works so well.

“1 down, 4 to go!”

In the meantime we get back inside the studio where David DeCatoeu is directing a sci-fi picture on another set, while a porn crew is filming a gonzo movie in the directors office, and the Gingerdead Man is off to find his next victim! This ends up being an extremely offensive kill involving an electrified curling iron. The outrageous and offensive really become the pattern – even when it’s a traditional kill like a stabbing it’s punctuated by the Gingerdead Man delivering the most offensive and ridiculous dialogue the filmmakers can think of. This is how we get scenes like the Gingerdead Man hitting on one of the the puppets from the film, before humpin81JvVEaNr2L._SL1500_g it and then destroying it with a chainsaw (which is bad news for the puppeteer, whose hand is still in there).

They begin to realize something is wrong when the Make-A-Wish boy is abducted by the chainsaw wielding cookie man. They discover the Gingerdead Man has rewired the robot on the sci-fi set and comes after them using it as a Mecha. And that’s about the time when we hit the third act twist.

The brilliance of Gingerdead Man Two isn’t just the fact that you can get away with the cookie saying whatever he wants, no matter how outrageous or offensive, but it’s the self depreciating satire that this film is. It’s a satire that completely deconstructs the Full Moon legacy – much the way Terror Firmer did with Troma. Gingerdead Man is just good, lunatic fun – filled with Easter eggs and inside jokes for horror fans.midnighthorror

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