Back in 1986 Critters was released on the general public and most people assumed they were a cash in from the success of Gremlins a couple of years earlier. I too assumed this was the case but director Stephen Herek refuted this connection. Unlike those little green men, Critters has ventured further and developed four sequels, so for good or ill we’ve witnessed the Krites rampaging and chomping their way across the globe.
This time around, there’s no crackpot Charlie McFadden hurling molotov cocktails in order to save the human race, so instead the Warner Bros team enticed scream horror icon Dee Wallace back to resurrect her bounty hunter character under a different alias, Aunty Dee to keep the franchise “in canon”.
The movie projects our heroine, Drea (Tashia Washington) who offers to take up babysitting duties in order to win brownie points and win her way into the University of her choice, only to be subjected to the balls of ferocious furry carnivores intent on devouring humans and reproduction.
In what is presented as some kind of crazed traditional Hallmark movie infused with horror elements, it ordinarily could be dismissed based on the acting talents on show (Wallace excepted) and the fairly sublime narrative. Thankfully the film’s namesake creatures are appetite enough to subject the average horror fan to some much-needed kills and is injected with some decent humour along the way. This emphasises just how tongue-in-cheek the creators are willing to take the franchise and quite frankly, the audience really shouldn’t take it too seriously at all.
This maybe their fifth outing, but the Critters prove to be just as insatiable for human consumption and terrorizing their victims with deliciously fun low-budget humour.
The Krites more than make up for their made for tv format as long as you don’t expect anything too demanding or high-brow.
Straight from the grill, Bliss is a film that is served under-cooked, raw and in desperate need of some substance, rather than the vacuous material that director Joe Begos tries to experiment with.
Unfortunately, part of his downfall is presenting a narrative with some really unlikeable characters including the lead protagonist Dezzy (Dora Madison), a struggling artist who strives through a creative block, fuelled with any hallucinogenic substances that she can consume. Dezzy is such a difficult character to connect with as she is so self-consumed and saps the energy of those around her. As a viewer this only alienates us and there is no reprieve or any offer of redemption. Instead she just aimlessly drives around in her own (or our) confusion in search of another hit to drive her out of her boredom (and ours again) to fill her life.
One night, amongst the haze and frantic lights within a club, Dezzy teams up with Courtney and her bloke, when the night takes a dark and twisted turn that leaves Dezzy questioning her visions and battling with the memories from the night to decipher illusions from reality.
Slowly, and we mean really slowly, Dezzy comes to realise that the pains and blood thirst have a stronger meaning than a crappy come down and needs to satiate her need. As the movie descends into hell, things start to get really interesting and the more crazed and frenetic Dezzy becomes. It’s just a shame that it’s left until the final act for there to be enough fire under the belly of the beast to drive plot to its inevitable conclusion.
A worthy mention should go out to Jeremy Gardner (Fingers) who continues to impress despite being handed little screen time, and manages to carve out an engrossing character in jilted boyfriend Clive, marking another worthy screen entry and a name that people should keep an eye on.
A modern vampire tale that falls short of any worthiness and drifts along aimlessly without any real bite for its audience to sink into. Despite this, there are some cool moments from Director Joe Begos, that may just tip him onto the Surgeons radar, and provide enough for some viewers to appreciate his talent.
We’ve all heard of the boogeyman or the urban legend behind Bloody Mary, and since the introduction of the internet, mythical figures such as the Slender Man has spread across social platforms like wildfire. With the ever-changing beast that online mediums can deliver, it seemed inevitable that one such phantom or creature would kick up a hornet’s nest causing a controversial scene that would set tongues wagging and activate a series of debates about the rights and wrongs of social interaction and mischief.
Enter Wrinkles the Clown when a video was uploaded on YouTube back in 2015 that depicted a clown hidden beneath the bed of a young girl, and emerges to turn off the camera.
The video soon went viral and a further succession of videos that showed Wrinkles scaring more kids, by entering their homes which in turn spurred a series of Wrinkles sightings across America. The man beneath the clown mask would pursue his project further by himself as a scary clown for hire, sparking an interest from parents willing to subject their own children to the threat of Wrinkles visiting them should they misbehave. Such a controversial action at its heart and by promoting negative reinforcement in parenting styles, the subject would warrant further scrutiny from the public and dividing many.
Whether you believe in his methods or not, the man behind the mask, projected as a 65 year old retired man has seen his business propel beyond his expectations, and receives numerous phone calls on a daily basis, either from the afore-mentioned parents, or from bewildered or adventurous young kids pushing their own boundaries to seek out Wrinkles and find out if he truly exists.
One thing is certain that part of the hyperbole is fueled by the known condition of coulrophobia, otherwise known as a fear of clowns, and one that I can identify with thanks partly to Tin Curry’s adaptation of Pennywise the clown from Stephen King’s It and a certain visit to Circus World in Florida when I was seven years old, but that’s another story. The point is that, this fear is more than apparent for some and is the stuff of nightmares. It can take one small thing to ignite this fear and before you know it, there’s a pandemic on our hands. Although, we’re not that extreme with this case, the man behind the clown mask is no fool and is able to tap into this agitation and subject these horrors for the sake of art. Without giving the game away, there is a further reveal towards the movies final act that subjects the audience to further marvel and questioning how deep the mythology behind Wrinkles the Clown will go.
Wrinkles the Clown offers up a brilliant insight into art and society and subjects one of our fears, questioning whether parents should project those trepidations on their children in order for them to conform. Director Michael Beach Nichols handles the subject matter on a tightrope of interest and horror, where the viewer is both observer and participant, making this a must watch documentary.
“Tis the season to get rebooted, fa la-la la la la la la, No!”
This year, in our stocking, we got a modern day retelling of the 1974 horror/thriller Black Christmas, a classic of horror suspense about a hostile murderer hiding somewhere within the dorm of a university terrorising the group of young women living there.
Where as the 1974 original had an eerie feel with its point of view shots from the killers perspective, creepy phone calls from inside the house and a genuine sense of fear, this years remake/reboot/whatever plays out more like a student film with a bigger budget. Everything that made the original appealing and unique is stripped away and replaced with obvious setups (from the opening shots) and even more blatant star characters who you just know will be the antagonist. It’s set up to be a story about toxic masculinity and institutional indoctrination of their traditions, something succinctly put by Rick and Morty “Scientifically; traditions are a stupid thing.”
The film sets up a hidden society of male elitist pricks who are using black eye gunk magic to possess new recruits to their cult, of elitist pricks, most of these men being athletically inclined and spout the word “bitch” comically often. My main gripe, among so many others, was the final confrontation; The protagonist is about to die at the hands of said pricks when suddenly a group of her female friends burst through the door armed with bow and arrow and other useless shit and commence a big ol arse whoopin… I remind you that said pricks are jocks and possessed by black eye gunk magic. Putting the main characters in such an implausible position infuriated me as you only insult the position you are trying to emulate if there is no justification for their capability. In the original we didn’t know who the murder was, in this version we see Cary Elwes and know he’s gonna be the bad guy.
The modern telling of Black Christmas focuses on ‘toxic masculinity’ within colleges and educational institutions but also with black magic. The story of a female student who had been sexually assaulted by a male student and not taken seriously is told sympathetically and drives the story quite well. Finding her confidence to continue living her life among the constant slander from other students was the route that worked in this film. There was no need to include black eye gunk magic and a brawl of men vs women in the climax of the film.
If I had a choice twixt the two I would be watching the original over the new version which could have a better if you cut out the last 20 minutes.
A shame too as it had some really good messages that could have been more profound without the supernatural elements or the obvious disdain for men.
My journey into this movie was an interesting one. Based on the children’s late 60s to early 80s TV series that projected the quirky characters Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky into kids homes every week. The timeframe that Hanna Barbera’s part live-action, part animation show was in its prime was just ahead of my time, being extremely young when it drew to a close, but it was present enough in my consciousness for me to have a vague connection thanks partly to an older brother and cousins.
This time around, the film would cast these fun-loving, larger than life personalities with a horror bent, and much like the remake of Child’s Play earlier in the year, which used artificial intelligence gone wrong as its main catalyst, but one could argue that it’s done with a much more efficient way.
The premise is admittedly a simple one, with the show still running in one of the backlots of the film studios and we meet our central characters Harley Williams, a kid who struggles to fit in with his peers, and is taking to the filming of the series by his mother, Beth, his massively unlikeable step father Mitch (guess who’s going to meet their comeuppance?), his older brother Austin, and classmate Zoe. For Harley, it’s a dream come true with the potential to meet his favourite character Snooky (the one that looks like an elephant and coincidentally the one that seems to not be as messed up as the other Banana Splits members).
Inevitably though things go wrong when the Banana Splits – all computer programmed robots – malfunction and begin to hunt and kill the adults in the film so that the kids can have a very bloody, and fucked up version of their show presented to them.
The film is incredibly formulaic, and it’s pretty obvious which characters are marked for a brutal death, but surprisingly there are some decent and gnarly kills that will satisfy the average horror fan. Plus the comedy beats are fun, making this an enjoyable watch all round. Great entertainment for a night in with some pizza and good company.
Some stories have characters or a universe that needs explaining, I always felt that this is not one of those properties. With its origins dating back to its cartoon inception by Charles “Chas” Addams in the 1940’s and faithful live action adaptations starring Raul Julia and Angelica Houston followed by its lesser sequels with Tim Curry’s back flipping interpretation of Gomez Addams, comes the new 3D CGI-animated children’s supernatural fiction fantasy black comedy horror film directed by Conrad Vernon and starring Charlize Theron Moretz and Oscar Isaac as Gomez. One of the things this feature achieves is the creepiest Gomez design which comes off creepier than any other.
The casting choices of Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday and Finn Wolfhard as Pugsly are odd choices for their voices. The monotone delivery of Wednesday made her scenes so forgettable that I could feel the data being deleted as it was being written. The inherent excitement that comes with Finn Wolfhard’s vocal talent does not fit with Puglsy’s character.
Some laughs from Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester and Bette Midler as Grandma but what must be a stretch to call a cameo by Snoop Dogg as Cousin It, and listed merely as It for marketing purposes. Outside the family Addams exists the local town with Allison Janney as our realtor antagonist which makes all her scenes remind me of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.
The film starts with the wedding ceremony of Gomez and Morticia Addams, schmetting the audience in the face with a cheap lime in the coconut reference (this film has too many outdated musical references), which is interrupted by angry townsfolk welding torches and pitchforks, driving the entire Addams and their relatives out of town. Gomez and Morticia flee and run into Lurch, literally, with their car, who is found wrapped up in straight jacket and instantly thrown into slavery as they claim an abandoned mental asylum we assume Lurch came from as their new home, completely disregarding property deeds and possible asbestos poisoning not to mention avoiding property taxes. Thing and Lurch play the famous tune from the TV series on the piano organ that exist in every asylum and with a groan we start a film that feels like its 15 years old. Hammering home that conformity bad and beeee yourself (even if that means you enjoy actively engaging in homicide).
On deeper research, this film starting its production in 2013 after the production of Tim Burton’s Addams Family television series unfortunately ceased. Without doubt his stylistic interpretations could have possibly made for a worthwhile adaptation. Though the film has received mixed reviews from critics it has still grossed $176 million globally on a $40 million budget, so there is obviously a sequel already in production set to be released in 2021.
A family friendly supernatural black comedy that lands a few laughs but if you are going into this movie expecting any kind of horror you may find that the scariest thing about the new Addams Family movie is the run time.
As we fast approach the last month of 2019, I realise that there’s a fair few movies that I need to watch in order to satiate my thirst for horror. Among these was the Netflix feature Eli, starring Kelly Reilly, Lili Taylor, and Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink.
Directed by Ciaran Foy (Citadel, Sinister 2) struggles to make a deep impact despite the strong performances from the cast, and I can’t help but feel that this is a combination of Foy’s inability to shift away out of the generic, failing to provide something memorable, and a predictable storyline that is almost too afraid to deliver anything new to the audience, more than comfortable to sit in the middle of the road.
The premise begins with the titular character played by Charlie Shotwell, as a bubble boy, cocooned from the world due to a rare disease that causes a severe reaction if he is exposed to the outside world. When provided with the opportunity to cure him of his affliction, Eli’s parents (Reilly and Max Martini) head to a specialised clinic run by Dr Isabella Horn (Taylor). When things appear to be too good to be true, it’s often the case, and there’s something dark and sinister behind the great doctor and her practice.
As Eli starts to uncover the mystery, he unearths a secret that once exposed will change everything forever. Dare he open Pandora’s Box and who exactly is the mysterious Hayley from next door?
Medical facilities, skin diseases and dark secrets that fuel this horror feature, should be the stuff of every genre fans dreams, but instead of offering up scares Eli remains trapped in formulaic territory and seems comfortable to sit in safe territory.
As such, it’s a mediocre affair – watchable but never truly wets the appetite of any hardened horror enthusiast.
This week’s feature highlight for Trash Night Tuesday on Tubi came as a pleasant surprise to me as not only did it serve as a b-grade sci-fi movie from the 70s but beneath the blatant sexual glorification of women could easily serve today as a mantle for the heavy skewed male gaze at its forefront. With a bit of tweaking, I could see this in a modern setting shining light on the dominant man’s self-righteous and self-interested approach to sex, and their entitlement to women. This would all come crashing down helmed by a female scientist who discovers a way to cross human DNA with bee DNA where the feminine species kills their male counterpart after reaching sexual gratification. This is exactly how I viewed it and as such found myself championing the female cause and Dr Harris (Anitra Ford).
In truth, it heralds itself as a pure titillation flick that subjects women and their form for the satisfaction of the male viewers that it hoped would swarm to the movies to watch the film, and with its cast, including the lead heroine lead librarian, Julie (playmate Victoria Vetri – Rosemary’s Baby).
The premise of the story is a simple one and would serve as a great companion piece to George A Romero’s The Crazies. Set in small town America, the population finds itself in an epidemic when men appear to be dropping dead in the act of love-making. Yes, you heard me right. So the government send in Special Agent Neil Agar (William Smith – Conan The Barbarian) to investigate and kick ass while he’s there.
Agar teams up with Julie to uncover the source of these killings where they undercover Dr.Harris’ laboratory and try to save the local human population.
This is the stuff that only the 70s could dream up. If you’re a fan of b-grade science fiction that is actually a little better than you would expect, then Invasion of the Bee Girls could be just your thing. Plus it boasts screenwriter Nicholas Meyer in his first feature film credit. He would go on to change the face of Star Trek with rewriting and directing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and continue to be an active part in the universe with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and an episode from tv series, Star Trek: Discovery.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since Doctor Sleep hit cinemas and as the steam dissipates I’m left in a bit of a quandary. There seems to be some mixed reviews out there and some pushing into the negative which quite frankly stumped me as I thought it was a well composed and structured movie with plenty of heart and some strong characters for the audience to engage with. So why the backlash?
The answer to this is simple and it’s to do with that giant sized elephant in the room, which is called Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Without doubt this film was a masterpiece and helmed by one of the greatest directors ever. His vision was unique and his interpretation of Stephen King’s novel while not appreciated by the originator has been widely received by the horror community. Those who have read King’s novel though will know that it is vastly different from what was initially conceived and plays more like a man with a severe case of cabin fever and the supernatural elements are considerably downplayed. From my perspective I always loved both versions and viewed them as part of a parallel universe, where Kubrick splintered away from the source material and created a movie that looked at the kernel horror that humanity can display.
So when it was announced that Mike Flanagan was to direct a sequel to The Shining, he faced a conundrum. How would he place the film considering that there are two versions to draw inspiration from. It was a tough task, but he decided to amalgamate the two infused with a vision of his own. This was both masterful and his undoing for it would inevitably divide his audience from those devoted to Kubrick’s world and those eager to see new life in the much older Danny Torrance.
It feels to me that audiences have been clouded (by no fault of their own) by Kubrick’s vision and have neglected the source material in King’s novel, Doctor Sleep; a story that embodies the supernatural and belongs more in the sci-fi fantasy world than that of horror. As such, hardcore horror fans will be left wanting, but I believe Flanagan has been incredibly faithful to King’s tale and added a little Kubrick kink to harness these two worlds and the end result is highly engaging and captivating, proving that he is possibly the best craftsmen working in the industry today. Much like King, Flanagan knows how to spin a tale and in doing, allows the characters to really shine in the movie.
If there was one part that jarred with me, it was in the opening few scenes that painted a younger Danny with his mother (Not Shelley Duvall) in order to lay the foundations of how he suppressed his shining and keeps the ‘entities’ of the Overlook Hotel from feeding from his energy by containing them in boxes within his mind. The minor quibble is in that it is clearly different from the actors we connected with the story from Kubrick’s The Shining, but there is no real way around this without CGI technology to capture the original actors in the younger form. As I stated it’s a minor criticism, and its also necessary to set the scene. Once we move away from this we’re introduced to the characters proper – the older, washed out Danny (Ewan McGregor) who try as he might is destined to walk in his fathers’ footsteps and has succumbed to alcoholism. He eventually arrives at a small town in New Hampshire and settles down thanks to a new friend, Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) who also becomes his AA sponsor and helps him on his new path of sobriety, but in doing so, his shining becomes stronger.
We’re also introduced to some amazing characters in the True Knot (who deserve a spin off series in their own right) a collection of people who feed off the steam (energy) of those who shine. Possibly the most harrowing component from a viewers perspective is that they tend to hone in on children as their shine is stronger. The scene where they lure Bradley, (a kid who is travelling home from his baseball game) to his demise is particularly striking. Led by Rose The Hat (Rebbeca Ferguson), who is the strongest of the group and the lead antagonist in Danny’s epic and climactic confrontation. Other standouts from the group are Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), who serves as the lead predator and a wise figure in the group, the elder Grandpa Flick (Carel Struycken), and their newest addition Snakebite Annie (Emily Alyn Lind) who has the ability to use hypnosis to lure her victims and deserved much longer screen time.
And finally there’s Abra (Kyleigh Curren), a girl with an incredibly strong shining and when her presence becomes known to the True Knot, she must seek help from Danny, whilst channeling her own powers.
The fact that both King and in return Flanagan pay so much time and dedication in building the background to these characters serves as Doctor Sleep’s masterstroke. We’re allowed to care for all of the characters and in doing so, fall deeper into the narrative and are driven to follow them on their journey to their conclusion.
Flanagan is faced with a difficult task in infusing both King and Kubrick’s Shining worlds to create a highly-entertaining sequel. It is filled with the supernatural and characters that shine beyond the screen, whilst providing an engaging narrative with a more than satisfying conclusion.
There will be the doubters, but for this reviewer, Flanagan has created another little gem that proves that he is a masterful storyteller and possibly the best of our generation. I can’t wait to see which story he generates next as I will definitely be at the front of the queue.
Check out our podcast and further thoughts on Doctor Sleephere:
Ten years ago Blumhouse Productions took centre stage on the horror scene when they released what would become a cult classic, Paranormal Activity. Since then, they have become masters of their craft, tapping into the teenage pulses with the Insidious franchise, Sinister, the Purgefranchise, Happy Death Day, Upgrade, and the latest Halloween movie to name just a few of their hits.
With every win though, there have also been some failures. Personally, Unfriended, The Gallows, and The Darkness are all questionable, but some could argue that in order to stay relevant then Blumhouse can’t always have a 100% success rate. There have to be a few trips along the way as they continue to learn and create new ways to fright and delight.
So where does that leave MA? Released in the States back in May, and with a fairly average Box Office return, the rest of the world would have to wait for the On Demand release which wouldn’t come about until September this year. All this doesn’t bode well and deserves closer scrutiny as to why MA failed to resonate with its audience.
Firstly, let’s look at its strengths, or in this case its one redeeming feature: Octavia Spencer. There’s good reason that she has had three Academy Award nominations and one win to her name and thanks to her talents, the audience is able to stick with this film longer than its weak plot line deserves.
Octavia plays Sue Ann, a local vet who is extends a hand to a group of teenagers looking to buy some booze. “When Sue Ann obliges, the group are beside themselves by there’s more to the pleasant exterior, and Sue Ann slowly reveals her true methods in quite possibly the longest revenge act in history. Hell she waited a whole generation. It’s a shame as with a bit more effort and attention to detail with some depth of character, we may have ended up with a fairly decent thriller. It doesn’t matter how deep Octavia channels her inner psycho, there’s only so much acting chops to dish out before the audience realises that she’s hauling around a cadaver of a script.
The teenagers themselves are incredibly week and two dimensional, with Maggie – new girl to the neighbourhood and our lead protagonist seemingly the only one to see through Sue Ann’s facade. By which time, we couldn’t really care less and when the film tries to let everything off at the hinges, most audience members would have already bolted out of the door or stopped streaming by this point. The actions are tiresome and in some places laughable that we really don’t give a damn what happens anymore.
It does boast a couple of decent supporting roles in brooding Luke Ford as one of the kids fathers, Alison Janney as a grumpy boss, and Juliette Lewis as Maggie’s mother and potentially the second decent thing about this movie. You feel for her plight as a single mother trying to make ends meet and resorting to coming back to her home town despite trying to break free from her old shackles. And hey, it’s Juliette Lewis God Damn It! This lady is always a pleasure to watch.
Octavia Spencer steals the show as the unhinged Ma, but all that’s left behind is dead weight and a poor plot line. This has to go down as a misfire from the Blumhouse canon of work.