Ominous is a word I actually use very frequently When describing horror movies, so I’m gonna be very disappointed if this one, using the word for its title, actually ends up sucking. We have a smartly dressed and then walking up to an abandoned house. The door opens by itself as if to admit him… At which point he should be running screaming in the other direction. Instead, he enters the dilapidated building and begins to look around. Strange noises coming from the emptiness, and as he lights a cigarette he gets too spooked, turns on his heel and flees.
We cut to a Mom in the middle of domestic chaos when her husband calls tell her he wants to take them out of town to a vacation house in the mountains. The place is definitely in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dense forest and accessible only by a dirt road.It’s a nice log cabin lake house, even if there are ghostly children crying in the woods surrounding it…
But the shot on video crispiness is not this movie’s friend. This whole thing looks like it was shot on consumer grade equipment, and any possible atmosphere is really undercut, despite clever lighting and some surprisingly competent translucent effects. We do get our first jump scares before were even 20 minutes in, and the filmmakers seem determined to use both the location and it’s isolation to its fullest extent.
These guys are masters of strategically placing ghosts in places where they’ll be frighteningly revealed, or framing them and windows where you’ll just see enough of them to freak you out, and the makeup is extremely good. Someone knows what they’re doing as far as blending and contouring, but they need more shadows, and more grain over them. It’s a problem that’s far more prevalent at the beginning of the film, almost as if it took them some time to really dial in the right shading for these shots. Although it never completely goes away, it gets much better by the time we hit the second act. Still, It’s another one of these instances where the video cinematography and crisper resolution holds the film back.
As the kids play in the woods little girl finds a dirty old doll, exactly the sort of thing I’d expect to find in a haunted woods. The skies turn gray, and the weather conspires to keep the family hidden in the house. It’s a perfect time for the kids to play hide and seek, and the daughter decides to hide in the closet, clutching her new doll. As her brother searches for her, the daughter is oblivious to the fact that she’s not alone in the closet, and sprints out as he whips open the door. They both ran out of the room giggling, as a hand emerges from the closet and drags the doll back in. When night falls, the hauntings ramp up, with dead children inhabiting the house, invading the space of living.
It’s such a competently made film that I can’t fault it. I do really enjoy it for what it is, but there’s such a talent on display here with director Justin Berginzoni and his crew , that I long to see these people giving a bigger budget and hope that this is a good calling card for them. The fact that they manage a dolly zoom with this equipment alone is enough to prove these guys know what they’re doing. There are plenty of scares and misdirects and you can tell that they are lifting gags and flare from other influences like the conjuring and House on Haunted Hill and the ring, even elements of the Amityville Horror. It’s the ideal candidate for a set like this, and the best sort of film I would expect to see at a horror convention or film festival. I’d have a hard time paying more than a few dollars for it, but yes I like this, it’s exactly the sort of gem that I delight in.
Moving to a new house
Ghost Children (Bonus for white dress)
Kid(s) see ghosts no one else does
Ghost watching from a window
something walks by in the background
Sleepaway Camp 3 : Teenage Wasteland
Sleepaway Camp franchise
While director Michael Simpson was still in the middle of working on Sleepaway Camp 2, the New York company producing the movie, Double Helix Films, was so excited by the footage in the dailies that they were seeing that they decided to proceed with a part three immediately, while Simpson’s crew was still in place. They extended the shooting schedule and signed the contracts, and by the time production wrapped on Unhappy Campers, writer Fritz Gordon had a full 82 page script completed and ready to be shot by Simpson.
Sleepaway Camp part three opens up in an inner-city, with a truck running down a punk who’s on her way to camp. Well, not anymore… She gets run down by a dump truck driven by our hero Angela, complete with a new haircut and new outfit. It’s time for her to take that punk’s place on the way to a camp-out for underprivileged kids.
Unlike our previous films, this is more of a traditional camping trip. We’re looking at tents and fishing, not cabins and activities. The whole idea is some upper crust liberal types are trying to give back to society, though they’re more interested in the publicity and skimming off the top than in actually helping people.
They’re also mixing in some preppy types, to try and foster a greater understanding between the two classes. It’s a small group of kids this time around, which pretty lets much let you know that everyone here is going to die. Other than returning Pamela Springsteen, there’s no real notable actors of not here, although I do recognize one of the bad kids as Jill Terashita, fresh off of her role in Night of the Demons a year prior. She’d only do one more film, and ended up doing a spread and playboy after her acting career dissolved. We also have Tracy Griffith in the cast as our final girl. The most interesting things about her though are the no-nudity clause in her contract (In this movie? Ha!) and the fact that she’s the sister of Melanie Griffith. When you can’t get the big star, go for the sibling.
All the kids are interviewed, which doesn’t sit well with Angela, trying to hide behind her sunglasses. She’s afraid that the reporter might have recognized her and slips her a little package of white powder. The reporter doesn’t realize that her drugs have been poisoned and she ends up as Angela‘s second victim… helping to ensure her anonymity.
We get some getting to know you stuff where the counselors announce they’ll be dividing the lot of them into three separate groups, each heading in a different direction to camp out for the next three days. It just so happens that the third counselor is a cop, worse yet, he’s a cop whose son was killed by Angela in the previous film. He arrives just in time for a couple of the kids to get into a fight,complete with a switchblade. The cop restores law and order pretty quickly, despite the hard feelings.
The girls go into the back to change into their camp shirts, where they discover graffiti with Angela’s name on it. That’s right, they’re back at the camp Rolling Hills campgrounds! We’re not gonna see much of the camp building though, Because even though we were filming on the same site, an old YMCA Campground, most of the buildings had been torn down in between the films to make way for condo development, as well as this film being written so that most of the time takes place in the forest. There’s a slightly warmer look to this movie than the previous one, being shot in Atlanta during the fall… much later in the season than when they begin Sleepaway Camp 2, just three or four weeks prior. In just that short time, the leaves have changed from green to orange giving the film an entirely different look.
Over with the cops group, he’s trying to ease the kids into camp life… They’ll catch fish tomorrow but for tonight, the roast hotdogs while he tells them the backstory about his dead son. Over in the husbands group, Angela is chopping wood.
“I’ve never chopped wood before, but I’ve chopped other things!”
He sends most of the kids down fishing, that way he can get pervy with one of the female campers. Over at the pier, they’ve managed to catch one fish, shot off some firecrackers and reel in an old hockey mask… one that looks suspiciously like the Bloody Murder mask we saw in Sleepaway Camp part 2. Angela makes it back to the camp ground early, and discovers a husband and his paramour… and she goes off, being the husband to death with a large stick, before turning her weapon on our trampy camper. It’s quick and low fi, but at this point they were running out of money and time and couldn’t afford the script’s suggested kill of a flaming stick to the crotch.
The remaining two campers in this group don’t notice that the leader is gone, which is just as well because Angela’s about to dispatch the Pyro with a firecracker to the face and go back to the old trusty stick trick with the other one (according to the director, he was supposed to get covered in spray paint and then lit on fire, but at that point they ran out of spray paint so when in doubt, go back to the stick). She drags them all into a tent which she sets on fire and makes her way out to the wife’s group.
Of course for her to join the group, theoretically, somebody has to go back and join the pervy husband’s group. Angela chooses poor Jill (she always gets it early!) and leads her out into the woods before going at it with an ax. Sadly, the shot was supposed to be far more graphic, but the ratings board threatened and X rating unless they trimmed it (you’re going to hear that story a lot with this film…).
Over at the cop’s group we get a little bit more of exposition dump. There’s no pictures of Angela Baker except from seven years ago and she still look like Felissa Rose. And when asked what he would do if he ever met her, he grimly declares he would kill her.
Over at the wife’s group, when she isn’t lounging in a lawn chair, browsing a magazine and dreaming of her upcoming European vacation, she’s doing trust games. The next game involves each person taking turns leading a the other one through the woods, blindfolded with their hands tied behind their back. Angela takes full of advantage of this, leading her victim back to the campground buildings where she strings the mean girl up on the flagpole, and then drops her so that she cracks her skull on the pavement.
Once Angela gets back, the wife sends her off to throw out the trash behind the old dining hall. They’re using the interior from one of the few remaining buildings still standing from the last film and it gives us the opportunity for Angela to have some flashbacks from Sleepaway Camp 2, giving us just a slimmest threat of continuity. Interestingly enough, it’s not real footage from the second film… They’ve re-created some of it using different kids as campers, and giving it a fuzzy looking sheen, suggesting that Angela is remembering things wrong, through rose colored glasses.
She returns to her campsite, the wife sends her and one of the boys, the jock, after fish. He’s hoping to get some, because after all, those inner-city girls tend to have a reputation. When he goes in to cop a quick feel, you can see in Angela’s eyes that he’s sealed his fate.
They bring fish back to the campsite and the wannabe gangsta is asked to clean them, his response involves pulling a pistol, and Angela’s about done. They’re going to get theirs, but first she has to take care of the lazy wife. She leads her through the woods blindfolded, much like her last victim, but her this time, she’s going to be a little bit more creative. The wife gets thrown into the trash pit.
“By the way, your husband fools around!”
Angela buries her up to her neck, then runs over her with a lawnmower. It’s another one of those shots it had to be truncated for the R rating, and I’ve got to admit I kind of miss seeing blood spray from underneath the lawnmower, but the filmmakers make it up for me because Angela’s immediately onto the next kill, tying up the jock before attaching the ropes to a jeep and flooring the gas. We’re up for the most cringe raps song ever next, as Angela records her own rhyme, and tosses it into the wannabe gangstas tent before bashing him alternately with a sledgehammer and a large stick.
There’s only one group left to go to, and that’s the cops group, which means it’s time for the climax. Angela quickly dispatches the cop with a gun and chases down our final girl with a jeep. She pops back to the campground, retrieving the three remaining campers and tying them up (Lesson one for Sleepaway Camp. NEVER let someone tie you up. It will not end well for you), forcing them to search through the cabins to find the missing final girl. It’s a great way of showcasing the previous victims and triggering a nice little trap for a couple of them. Now it’s time for the final girl and Angela to fight for their lives!
The survivors are whisked away in a cop car and Angela rolls out into the night in the back of an ambulance. It’s slightly ambiguous whether not she survived, but according to the director, she absolutely did live, because his intention was to continue the sequels. Sadly, his ideas never went anywhere, because Robert Hiltzik would come back into the picture to pitch his own follow up, a direct sequel to the original called Return to Sleepaway Camp.
Invasion of the Pod People
I’m not sure how I’m supposed to take Invasion of the Pod People seriously when it stars someone named Jessica Bork. That’s the sound the Swedish chef makes!
We start pretty by the numbers… A set of asteroids heading towards earth, and abandoned streets. We even get a news report about an asteroid hitting Monterey California. Wait a minute, isn’t that what happened in the Apocalypse movie we just watched?
It’s more than a coincidence probably, because pod people would be that directors next film. In fact, a great deal of this cast was also featured in Apocalypse… Not to mention an earlier film for the asylum called Transmorphers, which the director, Justin Jones, was an associate director on. That is to say, this cast is all very familiar with each other.
After some bizarre and gratuitous schtupping, we get a talent agent driving through California time eating with her boss. He’s demanding the pain new clients. She’s working at her desk, her boss brings in a strange plant to be passed along. It looks a bit like raw ginger or something (a quick check in the trivia section of IMDB reveals it’s EXACTLY that!). Of course, it’s an evil plant, and it walks away to go hatch a duplicate of the person that’s given to… then has to murder you.
Moran gratuitous boinking and a big argument between the girl and her boyfriend, because he travels for work. The thing is, she barely sees him when he’s not working either… she quickly gets her mind off of it though, when somebody breaks into her apartment and warns her if she’s not careful, they’ll be nobody like her left. Then he shoots himself.
Of course the strange thing is, she see someone who looks just like him standing on the street corner in the next day as she cruises through Hollywood. Probably best if she goes and buys a gun for protection.
Time to pass the plant on, while she steals some of the girls silverware to pass on to a cop. It’s supposed to come off as paranoid when she starts to describe them. Sexually aggressive, and vacant. She explains all this to the cop but he’s not entirely taking her seriously.
We’ve got a very amateur sounding cast here. The delivery is stunted and fake. Most of these performances are just terrible, and made worse by the fact that we’re working with such low grade equipment. Tons of background distortion and it sure sound like he’s using the built in camera microphone rather than a boom mic. This really comes across in outdoors shots.
Curse of the Scarecrow
Curse of the scarecrow starts with a recap of the legend, just white text on a black screen much like in the previous film. Then we get some news, people murdered by the scarecrow, grass and a forlorn fellow in a very welsh sweater. More rustic farm than usual, and sweater boy with a gun slung over his arm and crows flocking in the background.
We also have a 20 year old woman talking with her psychiatrist… Trying to work through trauma see her family killed when she was six. It’s suggested that this may be one of the people from the first film’s prologue and the shrink suggests she go back home to try and work out her fears. Her brother thinks this is a terrible idea, particularly since he still trying to hunt that scarecrow. Doesn’t matter though she’s coming anyhow, and he’s about to lose his last fight with the scarecrow.
With her brother dead, it’s time to make the pilgrimage home. The Scarecrow is waiting, killing time by murdering people who wander into the land, or try and make a nookie in the barn. You know, the usual stuff. She’s brought some friends with her as well that way we can have a higher body count. It’s always fun to see the Director, Louisa Warren taking a role in one her films. And I’m amused watching her run around the house at night in dalmatian pajamas.
In the morning, the therapist decides it would be a good idea to try hypnotism to try and get out the truth of what happened. She regresses her to the day that her parents died and she describes seeing a scarecrow murdering them as she and her brother hide in the barn.
In the meantime, best friend finds scarecrow in the barn, along with news clippings, every 20 years. She brings June down to look at the scarecrow kind of to try and Face her fears and it’s frustrating her therapist. Therapist finally decide to come up here, and drag her out, also to try and make her face her fears… grabbing a scarecrow and ripping the mask off of it. Except there’s the missing girl that the scarecrow killed the night before. All the sudden they realize it’s all real all of it. And now it’s a fight to survive the night.
Actually is improvement over Bride of the Scarecrow. They’ve managed to go a great deal more creepy and really lean into the gloom and strangeness of the whole affair. It still makes the best use possible of returning monster and the franchise feel. It’s genuinely good stuff, and it’s got me excited for the final installment.
Ant Man and the Wasp Quantumania
Ant Man and the Wasp Quantumania is really interesting in that they’ve taken a fundamentally ensemble approach to a cosmic story. It’s important to get this out of the way from the beginning, because Quantumania is as far removed from the first Ant Man film as Star Wars is from American Graffiti. One of the things that really disappointed me about Ant Man and the Wasp , the second film of the series, was that it was such a departure from the first Ant Man. indeed, it really should have entitled the Wasp and Ant Man as Ant Man is basically a guest star in his own movie. If you want to make a movie about the Wasp, Go ahead and do that, but let me know when the title, instead of pulling a sort of bait and switch. And it’s not that the Wasp and Ant Man was a bad movie, it just wasn’t a good one. It’s not particularly memorable. It’s completely wastes the resources it has in Lawrence Fishbourne, and was really at the forefront of the MCU It fell right into the tropes of shifting focus to female characters, along with pulling gender swaps and diminishing legacy characters in order to try and make the women look better by comparison. (Which I always thought was a weird approach. You don’t build someone up by tearing somebody else down). With the exception of a few fun bits with Scott and Cassie at the very beginning, there’s just not a lot to talk about with the Wasp and Ant Man. I’ve watched that movie twice. Once in a theater, and once at home with my daughter. The first Ant Man on the other hand, I’ve watched more times than I can count. That’s the movie Quantumania really has to compare to.
So, does it?
Much to my surprise, it does. It really does. It also has the unenviable task of kicking off phase 5, while at the same time trying to reignite an interest in the MCU that’s very much run out of steam. Sure, you can claim conspiracy theory when people talk about theaters screening Captain Marvel consistently empty despite supposedly high ticket sales. However, the advanced screening that I went to for Quantumania? It was a ghost town. We actually arrived late, and still had our pick of just about any seats we wanted. By the time the film started to roll, My daughter and I still had empty spots on either side of us. That’s unthinkable for a free screening of a Marvel movie. At least, it would be unthinkable before Infinity War. Or more of a, before captain Marvel. There is definite superhero fatigue, and the MCU has done a lot to drive its brand into the ground. What you can see though in Quantumania, is a real attempt to change that and win viewers back.
The ensemble approach works really well here. We have a cohesive team working together, much the way we’ve gotten used to seeing on the various CW shows like the Flash. Everybody gets a time to shine, everybody gets a character arc, everybody gets to grow. Everybody gets a chance to be heroic. I was particularly impressed by Cassie, Scott’s daughter, now grown up. She’s now trying to do some super heroine stuff in her own right. The film could have very easily been about her. In years past, it would have been, giving us a perfect hero, who’s instantly good at everything. Not so here. Cassie has flaws. Indeed, a lot of what’s going on in this movie may well be her fault. She doesn’t know everything, although she thinks she does. But as the film progresses, she discovers that she might just have a thing or two to learn about being a superhero from her dad. This is great characterization. There’s complexity and depth, It’s truly a breath of fresh air.
Gone also, is much of the identity politics and social messaging. Oh there’s still a bit here and there. A reference to “peaceful protesting” (but fiery?) And a quick gag about socialism. But this is the sort of stuff that we would have all pretty much just ignored and moved along with six years ago, before Hollywood sort of lost their mind and started prioritizing the message over storytelling. Indeed, the film is actually a bit self aware. It understands that you’re coming in with some skeptical predispositions. I recall seeing Modock come on screen, and thinking “oh, they’re just making him into a joke I see. Not sure I like that.” But before a 1/2 hour has passed, they’ve shifted, and he’s no longer a joke. He’s a serious threat. By the end of the film he’ll break your heart. This is a far cry from the way shows like She Hulk handled their criticism. Instead of attacking their fans and their critics the way She Hulk did, Quantumania takes you on a ride, seizeing your criticisms, and then addresses of them by twisting and morphing, turning into exactly what actually wanted it to be in the first place. Early on I found myself rolling my eyes wondering “who do they think they are? The next Guardians of the Galaxy?” but by the time we hit the 3rd act I was nodding my head.They had actually done it. This really is the next Guardians of the Galaxy.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy, this is one of those movies that you are really going to want to see in the theater. I don’t care how good your home theater set up is, to really appreciate the sprawling cityscapes and amazing environments of this lost universe, you have to see it on a big screen. And that’s what I’m hoping you’re going to do. Go see this in the theater. This is a genuinely good movie, And for the first time in quite a while, I have hope for the MCU. I’ll be heading back with my friends to see it again next week. I hope I’ll see you there too.
Ant Man and the Wasp Quantumania opens Friday February 17th.
The Haunting of Fox Hollow Farm
The Haunting of Fox Hollow Farm starts off with a disclaimer that they have relied on the truth of their participants, in other words… If it ain’t true it ain’t our fault. In the early 1990s. the property was bought by local business owner who is a prime suspect in the disappearance of a number of individuals in the Midwest. Authorities recovered more than 5000 human bone fragments on the property from as many as 17 victims. Only five were positively identified. (this backstory could be Rob Zombie‘s house for thousand corpses honestly!)
We open up with a car driving in and archived footage from the news.
The fact that this is a documentary may actually account for the 64 minute running time. We spend a good five minutes acquainting us with the background story through a variety of talking heads and news clips… They like to distort the noise and voices in the news clips to give this a creepier feel, and then we get into the paranormal investigation itself with psychics and demonologists and people to document the entire thing.
The entire film plays out as any good ghost detective show does, with them juxtaposing incidents over the investigators findings and theories, giving a disturbing narrative of Herbert Baumeister, The man Who was the prime suspect of being the alleged I70 serial killer.
It’s all pretty much exactly the sort of thing you expect to find a discovery channel any given week night. Around the halfway point they dispense with any narrative and it just becomes a pure ghost hunting show. As it stands alone, its an interesting bit of student filmmaking, but nothing more involved in that. Don’t let that deter you by the way, I much enjoy those type of shows like Ghost Hunters or the Dead Files. It still makes some interesting viewing, and a great short diversion.
If you looked at John Cusack‘s face on the cover of the DVD for singularity, and thought “I bet they brought him in for one or two days of filming just so they could put him on the cover” you’d be absolutely right. Despite being top billed, Cusack is really a little more than a hidden supporting character, But we’ll get to that later
Singularity could actually fit very nicely as a prequel to The Matrix. We’ve got a very similar set up where the machines decided to take over the earth glory. Our story focuses on young man, on the run, searching for the last tribe of humans living free in a hidden city. Along the way he finds himself accompanied by a young woman and together they face the perils of this new world.
The cover is it an entire lie, we do occasionally get giant mecha in ruined cities, all of the usually in full light since it’s easier to photograph. Cusack himself is a Bill Gates type of figure who leads the AI and the machines, after having digitized himself and uploaded his mind into the computer majors. All of his scenes take place in a couple of rooms in his office building… Or rather a holographic representation of his office building since the actual one would’ve been destroyed with the rest of the world. Most of his seems to take place within the mind of the computer. It’s actually a brilliant way to spread out those couple days of shooting so they have footage of him all throughout the movie. However what you end up with is a lot of shots of him staring at a screen or reacting to something that happened, and occasionally speaking with his brother who is the one who will actually leave the computer matrix and do some of the dirty work in the real world. These quick drop ins actually get annoying after a while, but all said, he does a fairly good job as an emotionless villain in this movie, and you can’t argue with the maximizing his appearance here. The ending is a bit of a twist, and well satisfying, actually setting us up for a sequel that would never happen.
Still, as far as dollar store fare goes, this is actually not bad at all. If you’re a fan of The Matrix movies and have a kind of jones for more of that sort of world, this might be worth your for time. For my art, I’m actually glad to have it in my collection.
Underground Entertainment : The Movie
I never actually got to see Underground Entertainment when it was still in his incarnation as a television show, which makes me incredibly glad that Underground Entertainment : the movie exists.
This documentary chronicles the exploits of a couple of lunatic actor and filmmakers as they make a crazy B-movie based cable show, complete with clips and cameos. It shows how they managed to get exposure in the convention scene but most of all it’s just a marvelous slice of life. It captures that era of the 90s in genre and reminds me a lot of what it was like to live in that period.
Early days for Jim O’Rear, but you can tell this is someone who loves the genre and loves being a part of it and much of this show was his love letter to all things B-movie and psychotronic.
If you’re a fan of documentaries or of the underground horror scene in the 90s, this is one of those movies that you’re going to just sink right into and feel right at home. I know I did, that’s why It’s a high recommend.
Bride of the Scarecrow
Legends say victims have been taken when they walk his lands. Those that are lucky to escape will be haunted for the rest of your life.
Some aren’t so lucky.
A scarecrow walks the field searching for his bride, who died at the same time he did, in the wilds of the welsh farms.
A group of women, alone at the farm, are just waiting for what’s happening… the time the scarecrow will rise. When he does, he’ll have 48 hours to kill anyone who runs his land., And it’s time for the youngest daughter to learn to be a protector as well.
Nevertheless, that night, they all disappear… And the property moves into the possession of the next of kin. A woman who is disillusioned with her job in life, but didn’t even know she’s a part of this family. She her friends go up to sign the papers and visit the property. In the distance, the scarecrow watches.
There’s blood in the stalls, and a creepy YouTuber up on the computer describing the legend of the scarecrow. In the barn, black crows caw ominously, and the owner gets her first glimpse of the scarecrow stored in that building. It’s playing possum for now, but slowly springs to life to watch her leave, and dispatch the local drifter who is acting as doomsayer for the film.
That evening, we hear a little bit more about the family curse, and one of the friends wants to do a séance to try and some of the scarecrow. This seems like a remarkably bad idea to me, but that’s kind of how these movies go. Outside, scarecrow is ready for action. Inside, he’s already set the scene yes he’s searching for his bride…
Rose petals on the bed boyfriend. Scarecrow is none too pleased to see the boyfriend kissing up on his woman, and goes to stalk some other areas of the house. Dissonant organ music plays in the back ground, and all the friends decide to go out and search for a missing person.
There’s a trail of flower petals in the stable in the area lights emanating. A note that the friends are invited to a wedding peers, and in a stall, they find girlfriend dressed as a bride and Shackled.
It’s time for the killing to start.
The scarecrow is ever present, everywhere and unbound and unstoppable and the killing spree goes actually surprisingly quickly.
Finally, the girl comes searching for her friend. She looks enough like her ancestor that he’s mistaking her for incarnation. And they walk down the aisle, the hallway at the stables, lined with candles and the dead bodies of her friends. It’s beautifully framed and a great slasher look. Even the horse that they couldn’t hide in the background stall seems to be quite impressed. He keeps nodding his head all through the wedding ceremony.
She manages to break free and escape, but will it be enough, and can she stop the curse in time?
I actually came into this in the wrong order.I watched the Tooth Fairy films first, even though those don’t start until after the first two Scarecrow movies. That’s interesting, because we have this entire cast returning for the first installment of the tooth fairy series. Several of the film beats replicated, including the climax. Also, get used to this Farm and stables. You’re going to be seeing a lot of it in the next few films.
It’s not a perfect film. It’s clumsy in some ways, but you can see some real skill in lighting and cinematography here. It’s a simple story… Much simpler than some of the Warren’s world building that she’d dabble in later, but ultimately the film is satisfactory as a one-off.
Of course, it wasn’t a one-off… And I’m genuinely curious to see where we go now in the sequels.
Sleepaway Camp 2 : Unhappy Campers
Sleepaway Camp franchise
I’ve long heard Hellraiser fans lament the fact that in Hellraiser 3, the character of Pinhead kind of got changed from a surreal judge and turned into a flat-out slasher. Moreover, they always talk about how Freddy gets more jokey in the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, and how the whole series starts to get watered down.
I shake my head and tell them “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Sleepaway Camp 2 has very little to do thematically or aesthetically with the original. There’s no mystery or intrigue going on here, this is a straight up slasher film designed to maximize boobs and blood. It’s a perfectly predictable formula and barely feels like it’s got any connection to the previous film at all. Even Felssa Rose is absent from the title role. It was such a different reading of the character, that when she auditioned it didn’t quite work for producers. Just as well, as shed been planning to attend college around that time anyhow.
Counselors from camp Rolling Hills telling scary stories around the fireplace, but one of them comes up says you know I know the story about this one girl from the camp about 60 miles from here… And begins to tell the story of Angela Baker. Good recap in 30 seconds of that film, which sets us up nicely in the mythology and continuity. The story ends with Angela being released, advance of this film.
Of course it’s easy to tell where she’s going to come in, she’s already in sconce at camp Rolling Hills as a counselor, with a habit of “sending bad campers home.” Like any good slasher, we get our first kill within the first five minutes.
Angela’s portrayed as a stuffy, prissy counselor, the sort of one who is obsessed with rules and wants nothing more than to just exist here in the camp. She explaines away her first victem’s disappearance as happy to send her home because she was behaving inappropriate, trying to seduce every boy in the camp!
It’s mostly older campers that we’re seeing here, 18-year-olds who are old enough to provide the requisite nudity and keep the censors from getting too uptight about having too many dead children in the film.
She attracts the attention of one of the other counselors, a bigger guy with a glorious golden mullet who is trying to get to know her, but she’s mysteriously distant! Over at the pool, teenagers are on the make, while in the woods, Angela secretly stalks looking for evil doers. She finds a couple of girls getting drunk and stoned, and we definitely know who’s going to get “sent home” next. Pam Springsteen is definitely trying something here, delivering straight faced and campy lines as she torches the bad girl alive. It’s definitely her and take on the character in an attempt to emulate the one-liners you see from other cinematic killers of the era such as Freddy Kruger, but it does come up a little goofy.
That night, Angela is off to a camp counseler meeting, we have to get some camp shenanigans in with a panty raid and the boys generally terrorizing the girls in a fun and flirty way. Angela comes back and is furious, putting on the wicked witch of the west attitude. She insists, she’s just trying to keep everyone safe, because she knows what happens at Camp when things get… out of hand. The girls of course decide to take revenge and raid the boys cabin. It’s actually a fun case of turnabout, but only angers Angela further. Time to send another camper home! This is why you should never flash the boys at summer camp.
The next morning at breakfast, Golden Mullet mentions that there’s some things that have gone missing. Things like 50 feet of rope, an electric drill, and the battery to his car. It’s a great bit of atmosphere, played for laughs but setting up where Angela’s getting the materials for her murders. Outside, one of the other counselors seeks out Angela for advice, because she’s shy and Angela used to be shy… but now you can’t get her to shut up. It’s clunky but a nice backhanded connection to the original film.
Soon enough though, we’re back to camp shenanigans to pad out the time between murders, this time arts and crafts. Of course the boys are painting a hockey mask… Although to be fair it’s more like the mask from Bloody Murder than it is Friday the 13th. It comes into play later on that evening, as the boys use that and an homemade Freddy glove to prank the girls at a campfire, but guess who gets a hold of that Freddy glove? Once Angela dispatches the first boy with his own glove, she turns her attentions to our faux Jason. This time she shows up wearing the other boys face as a mask and wielding a chainsaw! It may be the high point of the film, a great homage to the other horror classics of the time and clocking in right about halfway through. It also justifies the image they use for the movie poster… though curiously enough, that’s not actually ammo Springsteen she was unavailable that day so they used an entirely different model named Connie Craig.
Elsewhere, a couple of campers are getting it on, so it’s time for Angela to go back to work! Sadly, the chainsaw is out of gas and Angela looks so annoyed as her prey gets away.
As we roll into the third act, Golden Mullet starts noticing too many people missing, and for her part, Angela is beginning to spiral out of control, killing one girl just because she talks too much, and another to protect her cover. The dormitory is almost empty, just Angela and one other girl now, our final girl who figures out Angela’s secret as she remembers the folk tales from the opening of the film.
Angela gets fired because she is “sending too many people home”. Meanwhile, final girl and her boyfriend discover Angela’s secret cache… ashed she’s been storing her victims in… remember this is a slasher, and we’ve got to hit the tropes! Soon enough, our final girl will then get captured, escape, find a knife and fight for her life! But first, here comes Golden Mullet to the rescue, just in time! Just in time for a face full of battery acid that is…
When our final girl falls down a cliff, Angela just assumes she’s dead and it’s back to the camp to kill everybody else. But as night falls, the final girl wakes up in time to make it to the road and try and hitch a ride away from this nightmare. Just her luck, the first car to come along is Angela, making her escape from the cam! Cut to black and an appropriate 1988 rock song.
This is as fun as any 80’s slasher. It’s creative kills with buckets of blood and a general sense of fun to it. Even though it never quite feels like it’s part of the Sleepaway Camp story, they still try their best to connect back to it and remind us that Angela is the same person as that little girl from 1980. Pamela Springsteen does her best to make the rle her own, a wise move knowing that as soon as Sleepaway Camp two wrapped, she be headed right over to Sleepaway Camp three, shot back to back.
Apocalypse starts off with campers watching a shooting star. Well, it’s not just a shooting star, it’s not just a little meteor, it’s the end of the world! Teeny fiery meteors falling from the sky, killing people individually with the smaller ones, and smashing houses with the bigger ones, until finally one large enough to destroy a city vaporizers Monterey.
We are introduced to A park ranger and his estranged wife, who’re trying to get to their daughter and her college friends down in LA. But right now they have got bigger worry… Toxic ash and a landslide near their home, And a tornado near their daughters. Even stranger, people are vanishing.
Former Wonder Years star (and current Hallmark/Lifetime movie darling) Danica McKellar stars in Hack as a bookworm who just kind of fades in to the background of her local college. It makes her perfect as an envoy for a pair of psychopathic fans who use her to lure a class of film students out of their private island under the guise of an extra credit project. Once there, the film students, who are all pretty much horror stereotypes are slaughtered one by one until we come up to an ending that will leave you shaking your head.
In a lot of ways, hack is a very meta film. However it doesn’t wear it’s heart on its sleeve, and it still manages to take it self seriously enough that you never feel like it’s about to develop into parody… though it skirts the edge and comes danger close a few times.
In the end, Hack is a great celebration of horror tropes and more than a little bit of bloody fun.
Assistant (Dirty Work)
Assistant is a strange film, unlike anything Louisa Warren has done. What makes it stranger is that it’s her first directorial attempt, and while I can see some of her DNA in it, it’s not the sort of horror or fantastic storytelling I usually associate with her.
It’s a story of a young woman who is trying to break into the fashion industry, and lands a job as a personal shopper for a new author. She quickly finds herself sinking into an S&M world of degradation and depravity. The film Effortlessly glides from the Devil wears Prada into Fifty Shades of Grey, into full on Eyes Wide Shut territory.
This is where things are a little unusual. Warren’s films never seem to have any nudity. There’s been sex in a lot of them, but it’s not generally designed me really titillating. Rather, it’s perfunctory and design to underscore a plot point. This film however, is definitely designed to be a erotic, particularly from a woman’s point of view. We have slow long shots over chiseled abs and statuesque features, with just a hint of 5 o’clock shadow. The truth is, it is central to this plot, even as the domination and sexuality goes more extreme.
Nevertheless, there’s also a feeling like the actual act isn’t dwelt upon. The imagery is, but It’s more about pretty pictures than the actual schtupping. It’s uncomfortable.
The film lacks the budget of a film like Sliver, to make it classy and respectful. Nevertheless, it never quite sinks to the level of porn. But the cheap lingerie and flat lighting does make it feel trashy. On the other hand, that may well be the intent. We spent a lot of time focusing on the eroticism. The film is built around that, but nevertheless, the third act still goes a little crazy. Pushing a crime of passion, and culminating in a climax that was predictable, is more than proficiently pulled off. There’s some intriguing machinations that play out, elevating this to more than just late night Cinemax fare.
I’m glad that I found this last. It goes by the name Dirty Work as well as Assistant, and I had a hard time locating it until it finally popped up on Tubi. The fact that there is a more recent film also called Assistant, didn’t help any. It’s a sort of movie I probably would’ve turned off very early on and never sought out this director again, but finding it at the end of my film reviews, it becomes an interesting juxtaposition of what Warren would do as she progressed as a filmmaker in her career. I can’t say its a recommend, unless you’re genuinely interested in where Louisa Warren came from as a director.
The House That Would Not Die
I had my suspicions about The House That Would Not Die from the word go considering it’s a Aaron Spelling production, and I feel a twinge of apprehension as I realize this is a television movie. Still Barbara Stanwyck is a good sign, and she’s playing opposite Kitty Winn as her niece Sarah . This young actress would go on to have parts in not only The Exorcist, but The Omen and The Exorcist 2 as well! It’s enough of a pedegree for me, so I hunker down and prepare to soldier through.
The film opens with us flying us through an old house with all the furniture covered while eerie music plays in the background. Through the window we can see the new owners pull up in a car, but it feels like you’re being watched.
The next door neighbor shows up and everybody seems astonished when they meet him. He seems friendly enough, and yet his obsession with the house is a little strange… Not to mention insisting they join him for dinner next-door that night.
All the neighborhood shows up and insists that they should have a seance in the new house. This, amid strange dreams and the purchase of a weird old painting from the junk shop that jumped off the wall and into the fire, start to ease us away from the whle soap opera feel the film and into some slightly more suspenseful elements. It’s still has all of the burnt soft camera lenses that we’re so used to from CBS TV movies in the 70s, as well as the powder blue tones of Paul Lynds television home.
Barbara Stanwyck‘s in for a good bit of abuse in this movie, getting attacked not only by the next-door neighbor, but also her niece as the spirits of the house possess both of them. As the film progresses, Sarah slips deeper and deeper into her possession, speaking in a different voice and acting strangely. The possessions gone far enough that even once they clean the house, Sarah still carries spirits with her, and the family must resort to an exorcism if they are ever to live in peace again. What happens though, if the exorcism fails? Ghosts in the house forever battle against each other through their human agents?
Like most television movies, it’s competent but not scary. It’s very much a product of its time, and have some interesting ideas, but ultimately fails to satisfy me. It seems like a very strange inclusion with the set, totally very different, while thematically some more. If you’re a fan of TV movies, you may enjoy this, otherwise I’d say skip this one.
This year we’re focusing on Louisa Warren, a european indie filmmaker who have been especially prolific over the past few years. She burst on the scene in 2018 with three films, and then released a staggering six movies in 2019. Since then, she’s consistently released a couple of films every year, at a pace that’s shockingly impressive for an indy studio.
What I’m really enjoying is the shared universe she is trying to create as she transforms traditional fairy tale creatures into monster franchises, such as her Scarecrow, Tooth Fairy and Leprechaun series. Working with the same sets and a repeating troupe of actors, Warrens films quickly become familiar and comfort food. She’s not shy about gore, but goes hard on lore and really plays to her strengths.
It’s going to be a fun year as we explore her significant filmography.
Haunting of Winchester House
If 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 inhabitants, 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.
Together, 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.
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.
Moving to a new house
Ghost Children (Bonus for white dress)
Ghost watching from a window
something walks by in the background
Copyright free name that sounds like another franchise (Amityville, Ouija, ect)
Cover misrepresents the movie
Stock DVD cover (Distributor’s similar House style)
Beneath was a dollar store purchase, lost in a stack of other dollar store purchases. With a stack of much more interesting looking and recognizable films. I had sort of dismissed it as just another film with a cool logo in the stack, but probably nothing special considering the MTV branding on the cover. It’s always nice however, to be pleasantly proven wrong.
Beneath manages to mix ghost story and thriller together brilliantly. I spent most of this film about a young woman looking for her sister, killed in a car crash, wondering if I was watching a ghost story or a stalker story. As she explores an old mansion and digs into the mystery of the young woman’s death and burial, I never quite thought that she was going crazy, but was never entirely certain where the story was going.
Beneath this beautifully filmed and gorgeous in its atmosphere. It manages to give you that sort of creepy atmosphere you’d expect from a Gothic ghost story or an Agatha Christie murder mystery. The plot as well thought out and well acted, and much to my surprise I’ve got nothing but praise for this film. This one’s definitely a movie you want to grab if you still see it littering the shelves of your local Walmart or dollar tree.
I can’t even tell you how excited I was to find Piranha at the dollar tree. I mean, I’d scored Piranha 2 DD at one earlier as well and figured I’d be heading home to do a nice Roger Corman marathon right?
That’s odd, I didn’t know that William Smith was in this… But the dates right isn’t it? And there’s a Piranha right there on the cover!
Turns out, this is not the 1978 Roger Corman schlock monster fest that I was expecting, but rather a Grindhouse B feature from a few years prior, and released in 1972. Another audience might have been disappointed, fits right into my wheelhouse, and I was ready to sit down and dig in.
The film opens with credits over a twitching piranha that somebody pulled out of the water. This is about all you’re going to see of the killer fish. Because the films title doesn’t an actually refer to the animals, but rather an evil rogue hunter in the jungles of Venezuela; William Smith’s character.
We have wildlife photographer Terry and her brother Art braving the jungle for a photo shoot, complete with guide Jim Pendrake. They get friendly with local hunter Caribe, Who joins the crew, causing this quiet and his rest with his recklessness. Ultimately, he takes a shine to Terry and eventually the film transitions into a bit of a siege as Caribe begins to hunt and kill them out there in the wild.
It’s not a bad feeling, it’s exactly the sort of thing that I expect to see at a disreputable driving as a late night feature, entertaining particularly because of a young William Smith but not necessarily notable for much else.
Sleepaway Camp franchise
Ages ago, back in the early days of this blog, I did a quick pass at the Sleepaway Camp films. It was a brief seven hundred word overview of four movies in one post which really doesn’t do this series justice. I think it’s long past time for a genuine franchis focus on Sleepaway Camp.
Sleepaway camp used to be one of those films, where even in the horror community only people who were really in the know understood what you were talking about. 25 years later, it started to slowly rise in visibility, notably with the release of the DVD box set. It’s notoriety… or should I say infamy, was only increased by the fact that the box that had to be recalled when the Red Cross objected to the cover art featuring its logo. It really started to gain respect as a beloved horror classic though, once the cast, most notably Felissa Rose (and to a lesser extent Jonathan Tiersten) started to hit the convention circuit hard. Felissa is a regular now, and I can count on running into her once or twice every year. Tiersten was slower to embrace con culture, but these days, even he has started doing more and more shows.
The film opens on an idyllic summer day as a couple of kids squabble on a boat with their father. Little do they know the tragedy is about to strike when a couple of teenagers doing some motor boating and waterskiing get too close and clobber the dad one of the tykes. We fast forward eight years later when Angela, the survivor has been sent off to live with her curious Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky. There’s definitely something off about Aunt Martha, but you could easily just write it off as the actress chewing the scenery in a grindhouse movie. It doesn’t matter though because the kids are on their way away from home and off to camp Arawak, home of possibly the most pervy cook ever and a hunky counselor who not only wears the shortest shorts possible and has a penchant for half belly shirts. Stuff like this just screams the 80s.
Ricky greets old friends, and introduce them to Angela, who doesn’t really talk and is painfully shy. Ricky’s girlfriend from last year, Judy has gotten a little top-heavy since the previous summer and in addition to growing a bust, she also seems to have grown some significant attitude. The cabin counselor Meg (that’s M-E-G!) isn’t much better. She and the other girls resent any compassion showed upon the introverted Angela.
I’m a short 16 minutes into the movie, Ricky have to rush in and save Angela from the tender attentions of the pervert cook. And yet, mere minutes later, the cook ends up scaleded – somehow just having accidentally toppled a large pot of boiling water all over himself. If you’re here for the gore, this is as good as it gets. There’s a few other latex effects, but this one is by far the best.
We’re not sure exactly who it is that murdered the cook though, all you see are a pair of diminutive hands and the killer is left a mystery. It’s here where I really I feel like this film defines itself more as a giallo than a slasher. Things have gotten going, and we’re going to spend the next hour trying to figure out who the killer is, that is if we can draw our eyes away from the hunky counselors pecs, bulging from a shirt two sizes too small for him. The camp owner on the other hand, chomps on his cigar and asks the head chef to try and hush it up. He knew what the cook was, and this is probably all for the best.
We cut over to some juvenile camp shenanigans, to try and keep the atmosphere up. It’s dumb, but gets you right into the spirit of things before we head out to the softball game and then over to the Canteen to hang out.
The more we see of Ricky, the more the kid seems to be on a short fuse, and gets awfully mad when someone picks on Angela. Mad, even violent. Meanwhile, Ricky’s buddy Paul is getting friendly with Angela. Not necessarily trying to make time yet, just trying to help out a buddy sister. On the other side of the building, Judy enjoys the attention of the boys, but something about Angela just irritates her and she resolves to take it out on her later.
Out in the dark, the counselors are up to their own shenanigans, the stoners getting baked under the pier, the boys trying to entice the girls in the skinny-dipping in the lake, and a couple rowing out into the middle of nowhere, for the boy to prank his date.
Out of nowhere, a dark head pops up from the water, seizing his scalp and pushing it under. When daylight breaks, they’ll discover another dead body. The camp owner chews his early morning cigar, in denial and terrified of bad publicity. The hunky counselor is not quite so sure though, he remembers the boy being a good swimmer.
Elsewhere, Angela and Paul watch the other girls play volleyball, and Judy makes sure to get her in trouble. Meanwhile, Paul’s trying to steal a kiss.
We get into more campground shenanigans, with Judy playing up the mean girl bit to a hilt. Gossiping and teasing and even flirting with Angela’s new boyfriend Paul. Ricky goes off on a few more tantrums as well… It’s amazing amount of energy and profanity coming from such a small package! (Tiersten recalls part of his audition was to cuss out the producers, and he’s fairly certain that’s what got him the role)
Meanwhile, the bodies keep piling up, as one camper suffers death from bees! Dumping an active beehive into a bathroom stall is actually clever and innovative, but it’s threatening to shut down the camp. Word is getting out among the campers that there’s a killer on the loose, and The counselors decide to combine the remaining campers and work on the buddy system.
That doesn’t stop Angela and Paul from sneaking out, Paul’s on the make now and trying to reach second base… But Angela suddenly has a strange flashback of her dad in bed with another dude, and jumps up to run away. She kind of blows it off just explaining that she wasn’t ready. Judy on the other hand sees this as her opportunity to try and cut in between them. She continues to flirt with Paul, and After one more counselor is dispatched, it’s time for Judy to get hers… assaulted mystery killer in the most heinous use of a hair curling iron ever seen in cinematic history. Seriously, it’s the least gory and bloody kill of the entire film and yet absolutely the most memorable.
We’re about to hit the ending here. It’s the absolute most shocking ending of any Grindhouse horror movie that I can imagine. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you need to stop right now and watch the movie, because that’s the thing. People don’t really talk about Sleepaway Camp. They talk about the ending. It’s that reveal at the end that sets this film apart from every other campground slasher out there, and makes it a unique film. It’s a sort of movie that stands alone with no real way to follow it up or create a sequel.
Of course, they did anyhow.
The Man Cave Collection!
You know, I got so obsessed with all the marvelous schlock I was getting at the Dollar Store that I kinda dropped off the box set bandwagon. I mean we did the K-horror one last year, but I really haven’t been indulging as much as I used to.
This one caught my eye. Seriously? “Man Cave Pack”? What does that even MEAN??? (Besides fire sale Dimension sequel titles and a bunch of Asylum originals….) And these things are all over the place, from Hellraiser to War of the Worlds….PART 2!
I see a bunch of repeats and revisits here, but there also enough new stuff to get me stoked for this set – and it’s worth it for that WotW2 cover illustration alone!
After a disastrously disappointing Christmas where are the family constantly argues and bickers, young boy decides he’s done with Christmas. Ripping up his letter to Santa, he turns his back on the holiday and in doing so summons the demon Krampus. At this point I was rubbing my hands together, onboard and eager to see him, but that doesn’t quite happen. In this movie Krampus has more similarities Santa in that Santa come to your house while you’re sleeping, and drops off gifts. Well, Krampus also come to your house while you’re sleeping, and brings things, but in his case they’re small monsters, designed to punish the wicked.
The movie is very much a siege film, with the family trying to survive the night, fighting against all of the Krampus’s minions. They’ve designed these to look and feel much like traditional Christmas toys, giving us an interesting, if grim sort of variety to the carnage.
Ultimately I found myself a little bit disappointed perhaps more because this wasn’t what I expected. I was hoping fr a huge Pumpkinhead monster or big bad like what we got in Saint or many of the other low budget movies that flood the market during the holiday season. Nevertheless, considering it’s a Blu-ray pick from the dollar store, it’s a nice addition to my collection and I’ll definitely be giving this another chance once December rolls around.
Alterscape is a sci-fi thriller about an Iraq war that with PSTD who seeks out an alternative therapy from scientists in the basement of a building with a computer that can alter your emotions. The experiment has side effects, darkening his personality and granting him weirdly undefined psychic abilities, sometimes telekinesis, and occasionally grievous bodily harm. It’s all a front to make him into a sort of super soldier weapon… I think. It’s quite muddy but that seems to be the gist of it.
Alterscape is one of those esoteric sci-fi forays, or at least it wants to be. It goes for the whole sort of head trip thing that we would get from films like The 13th Floor or the Twilight Zones “we can remember it for you wholesale”. The whole messing with the human experience harkens back to that. The problem is it fails to define a lot of its canon, so we’re never entirely sure it’s actually going on or why. It doesn’t help that they’ve bought the same cheap package of special effects vortices that I just watched in the Dean Koontz movie Hideaway. The basement office of the scientists feels cheap, with an old CRT computer screen and EL wire thrown about in the cramped space to give it a slightly high-tech feel.
I grabbed it off the shelf At dollar tree largely because it featured Michael Ironside, and this underrated actor can generally under elevate anything he’s in. However you can tell he was probably only on set for a day or two and even he can’t save the stinker. There’s a good idea in here somewhere, but I feel like they bit off more than they could chew, and had an interesting idea that really couldn’t sustain a full feature. This might’ve been better off as a short, but even then it’s a concept that needed to be more fully fleshed out before they put it on the screen. Without a better execution the film ultimately Falls flat.
Hell on a Shelf
I don’t think there’s that many found footage Christmas movies. Hell on a Shelf is a sort of ghost hunters spoof, with the team investigating a house called “the Wingate house“ and if the cover is to be believed, it’s haunted by a killer elf on the shelf (It’s not. But it is a elfish doll. Close enough).
It starts off with some Talking Heads setting up the story, then shift to security camera footage of some burglars breaking in. Leaves, take note. Don’t burgle a haunted house. And if you must, especially don’t go into the basement.
Titters of laughter load in from off screen, and the burglars are our first two victims. And that’s before the credits even roll!
I’ve actually heard good things about the Polina brothers from my buddy Doug, so I was eager to sit down and watch this one. The doll on the title cards however, looks very different from a traditional elf on the shelf. So I’m still not entirely certain what we have in store for us.
We get some more Talking Heads stuff though, getting to know you schtick. We get the backstory about how do boys are playing in the house and, one of them fell down and broke his neck on the basement stairs. It was Wall-E were fighting over a toy elf Christmas ornament. It’s not his spirit is the one that haunts the house.
They waste no time in their investigation cranking out the recorder and making contact with something that seems to be talking back to them. And of course, that night, shenanigans begin to happen. Blankets being pulled off of people, more tittering laughterq. I’m a doll, the dog keeps moving. It keeps going from the shelf onto a specific chair that was on fire the dead boy. In the basement, something throws things at them, and the disembodied voice on the recorders tells them it wants to hurt them, it just wants them to die. But how will it make good on that threat?
I’ll be honest, I got a lot more out of this than I expected to. It’s short, but well paced. There’s not a wasted moment of footage. The story is straightforward, and hangs together efficiently. We even get a little bit of a monologue towards the end where you get an interesting perspective on ghost hunter shows.
I come concludes with a interesting reveal, liking a solid film. This one’s a firm recommend!
This graffiti is scrolled on the bare wall near door 147, and sits there, stark at we begin our film
Someone’s taking a beating out there from Carlos, a Sort of Indian gangster type who heads into the bar. There’s a couple people there. All ordinary architects. Selfie girl, a dopey blonde with her token gay friend, bartender, and preppies after a business deal. There’s a stage for band’s, but nobody’s playing tonight, just the jukebox it sounds like
Carlos gets a little obnoxious with the girls, Although I gotta say, the verbal Pacing is a bit off, And that’s something that crumb should be able to catch by now in the edit.
The business deal isn’t going to well either. The 2 guys were trying to sell porn to a distributor… except the guy is just a drunken mess, and the dialog just gets increasingly bizarre.
Thanks to the little stranger from there, and we learn a valuable lesson – never arm wrestle with somebody who’s getting belligerent with you. Things get a little stabby, and a fight breaks out. But that’s just normal bar side shenanigans. What isn’t, is the guy at the end of the bar Suddenly coughing blood and dropping dead.
And there’s the set up. 6 strangers in a bar with a dead body. And things are gonna get a lot uglier before they get any better, as all the secrets come out.
The shotgun blast to the leg, and the stabbed arm are good, bloody effects. Exactly what I expect from Crum, but the photography is off. The whole thing is run off of a very shaky stedi cam, And the framing is wild. People’s heads are constantly getting cut off, the camera isn’t panning and following enough, I understand this you’re supposed to come off as stylized, but to do stylized, you have to do It with style. This comes off as sloppy.
It’s an interesting subject with slightly more elevated material, and Crumb is swinging for the fences here, trying to make a tense thriller. It’s all about these people trapped together, who’s gonna take the blame, who was the murderer and who is innocent. It’s a locked room mystery. That’s smart too, Crums using his resources efficiently with a small cast and a single setting, but I’m not certain that hes quite talented enough to pull it off. There’s still a lot of his grindhouse horror style pervading it. Basically hes sticking with what he knows. In a lot of ways, it feels very similar to VFW, but with smaller stakes and a more closed space. It’s one of those movies where I’m glad I saw it, but I can’t imagine seeking it out if I weren’t specifically watching this director’s catalog. Still, it’s the sort of thing where I still want to watch Crum grow, and see where he goes from here.