Cinematic Nightmare Candy: Benny Loves You, New Year, New You, & Barbarians

Welcome to Cinematic Nightmare Candy. Providing your horror sweet tooth its (hopefully) terrifying fix.

I watch a lot of horrors. What’s new this past week for me? Stick with me and we’ll see what awaits.

This time I was welcomed to some bizarre offbeat horrors that meandered more comedic, but at least two kept a steady hand at being exactly what they intended. A breath of fresh (or is it disturbing?) air. *wink* Overall, not the most effective in everything, yet still this version of the column finds the highlights even when they are streaming, bloody, red.

source: Dread

Benny Loves You (Karl Holt)

This British comedy-horror is exactly what you’d expect from a film with a premise about a doll that comes to life with murderous results. This concept is not quite Chucky but not entirely without its inspiration. Instead, Benny looks to protect his beloved bestie, whether from friend or foe, often confusing those with good intentions and mirroring jealousy and obsession with love. It’s a strange comedy horror, that manages to hit all of the right notes.

Written, directed, and starring Karl Holt, Benny Loves You is one of those rare achievements where ridiculousness isn’t synonymous with “bad.” Instead, it is just plain fun. Holt also manages to make our lead character incredibly sympathetic. And, I’ll be honest, even the doll, as psychotic as it was, imbued some sympathy too.

Jack (Karl Holt) is a production designer at a toy company. He lives with his parents until his unfortunate 35th birthday when they unexpectedly perish under strange circumstances. Magically, his childhood toy, Benny, gets empowered with vicious and supernatural abilities, all aimed at protecting his best friend, at any costs. Even, if it means murder.

This is a self-aware comedy that makes the most of its limited budget and hilarious output. There were so many times I laughed at Benny’s positions and decisions as maniacal as they were because the actions and visuals warranted it so. Sometimes, even something as simple as Benny on top of a car, wielding a knife, as the unsuspected victim cranks rock music, is quite memorable. Or, when he slices up an unexpected office break room. It’s all on par with a jolt of comedic timing and the perpetual massacre to come.

It’s partly a love for the past, the power where our childhood lingers on, and where our adulthood wonders when we have to let go. But when it is safe to do that? This is especially pertinent when our childhood buddy is a psychotic murderer. Luckily, most don’t have to consider such an idea.

Yet. *Smirk*.

There are a lot of scenes in Benny Loves You that feel borderline cheesy, but often, they settle in the terrain of lovingly horrific. It’s that strange place between what we want, what we need, and what we are terrified of having. We all want success, but at what cost? How much can we let go of our childish inclinations?

Benny Loves You is a blast; it’s funny and it’s disgustingly gory. A horror-comedy treasure with just enough heart, that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

source: Hulu

New Year, New You (Sophia Takal)

This venture in Into the Dark was quite different than the first, and a much more entertaining bit. Who doesn’t like a group of young women ruminating on past teenagers’ pain with “friends” who they haven’t connected with in a while? Sounds like a mouthful, but it’s a very straightforward conceit.

I’m sure many of us have had bad exchanges or confrontations because of things that happened in our past, but New Year, New You takes this to a treacherous degree.

Let’s set the stage.

The players: it is New Year’s Eve, and what better way to celebrate when your family home is being sold than to invite your high school besties over? For some, it has been a while, especially one in particular, who has grown to massive social media success. Alexis (Suki Waterhouse) invites friends Kaela (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) Chloe (Melissa Bergland) and long distanced friend, Danielle (Carly Chaikin) whose clear stardom has made her detached from the onset.

Unbeknownst to Danielle, there’s a setup involved. Something less celebratory is afoot, and these girls have an idea of how to ring in the new year: by acknowledging a past sin. Vengeance for her behavior and stored resentment are bubbling over the glasses of champagne but, who will ring honest and victorious?

While this is a step-up from a previous Into the Dark, there are still moments that don’t feel as potent as others. Still, New Year, New You, emphasizes its lean runtime with adequate tension, and plenty of build-ups that makes viewers wonder, are they are being fooled. Who is the bully, and who is the victim? Ironically, this was also a theme in the previous column.

New Year, New You takes a crumb and turns it into a nasty, suspenseful holiday cake. One which they will all undoubtedly choke on. All these girls are on edge, many with their own regrets and insecurities, making for a perceptible suspense amid the festivities. In the end, we see the “truth” and it is ugly. But, it’s also relative to our current obsession with social media, online personalities, and perceptions (and misconceptions). It starts and ends with a similar shot, but with very different, satirical, and interesting, meanings. We all want to be heard, yeah? But what is truth?

By no means does this film breakthrough where its predecessors were at a standstill, but it does provide an engaging enough premise to satisfy most who are looking for this sort of revenge-fueled-small set narrative.

Despite its downfalls, Sophia Takal brings us New Year, New You, which is simultaneously emotionally erratic and smartly snide with its perception of relationships, vengeance, and the horror of piecing truths together.

New Year, New You is currently available on Hulu

Barbarians (Charles Dorfman)

I can’t deny that when you see a character portrayed as effectively as someone like Ramsey Snow/Bolton in an epic like Game of Thrones, it can be hard to see them differently. And honestly, it’s a compliment, because it means they nailed it; they have convinced you. I have seen many of the show’s cast members in other roles, but this is the first for me with Iwan Rheon and he (and the rest of the cast) does this film justice. Where is it lacking? Patience and practice. And believe me, you’ll need an appreciation of both to get through the experience of Barbarians.

There is a lot under the surface in this film that isn’t fully explored, it’s like we get the lean cut instead of the meaty one, one which would have fulfilled much more had it been served. I’d also say there’s a lot of misdirection as much as there are obvious nods to what will come. It becomes a bit confusing, but early on there is an indication of areas that don’t ever fully get explored.

But let’s back up.

It’s a new home; a dinner party and friends unite for a meal and a (purposed) good catch-up sesh. The table is set: Adam (Rheon) and Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno) are the first tenants in a new development. They decide to have over Lucas (Tom Cullen) who is the proprietor of the property, and his girlfriend Chloe (Inès Spiridonov) on Adam’s birthday, but also to celebrate their new digs.

From the onset of Barbarians, there’s a sense of dread, an inescapable lingering sign of what will undoubtedly be an awkward and unfulfilling meal. There are secrets and uncertainties lingering under the surface, some brimming from how Lucas acquired this land, and others related to what he intends to do with it.

Purposefully frustrating, the characters are a bit sniveling, lost in their own greed or self-service to really ever give us a basis to connect to. The satire ends up being tiresome, and the positives (the original setup, the central locale, and the cast) become lost in what equals to a mismatched narrative.

It doesn’t elevate to its full potential by the time it reaches its home invasion phase, which makes the trite bickering seem rather futile, and makes what could have been some of the more intriguing aspects of the film come too late (or too early?) I’m not really sure.

Barbarians constructs a level of keen curiosity but eventually fades into the familiar. And, unfortunately, an unimpressive final showdown. I wanted to like this much more than I did, and I believe the bones for success were there, if not for a miscalibration of (skeletal) pieces. I was still hungry for more.

Barbarians is currently available to rent.

Until next time beasties!

Cinematic Nightmare Candy: Coming Home in the Dark, They Come Knocking, All My Friends Hate Me & Sweetheart

Welcome to Cinematic Nightmare Candy. Providing your horror sweet tooth its (hopefully) terrifying fix.

I watch an ample amount of horror, sometimes more often than others, so why not recollect my recent foray into the genre? In the last week or so, I’ve seen 4 different kinds of the genre, and some were unexpectedly great, and others disappointedly so. Some were very different than what I expected, and while sometimes the surprise is wonderful, sometimes…not. Let’s recount, shall we?

Coming Home in the Dark (James Ashcroft)

source: Dark Sky Films

This was a film I had looked forward to since missing it at Sundance last year. With some recent horror bangers at recent film festivals, I was excited to see this available on streaming (Netflix) and finally able to dive into this blindspot.

What came of my movie-going experience was mixed, to say the least. What starts off as a lovely picnic among family Hank, AKA Hoaggie (Erik Thomson), Jill (Miriama McDowell), and their two sons rapidly turns into a tale of some of the family being captive, and then… a turn into vengeance. While it begins in the countryside, a lot takes place within a vehicle, mulling through overextended conversation. These are bad guys that are in no hurry to dismiss any little detail, and then it becomes wider in scope, more advanced, reaching back to a place of childhood agony, that then spawns the rest of the film.

What is their motive?

I will say that Coming Home in the Dark doesn’t pull its punches early, with an opening act that feels genuinely terrifying. I had an “oh shit!” moment of surprise that made me instantly curious about where this was going. It was quite the bold position to levy so early on, but I admired the choice because it had me visibly shocked for a while after.

As the plot continued, it wavered between intrigue and tedium. There was a sense of continual tension that had this peculiar story ensuring I was wondering what would happen next. However, I was also wondering if I’d be fulfilled by its final stance. It’s a dichotomy that I wasn’t quite hoping for because it made the overall experience latent with ups and downs.

I will say that I respect the direction that our creators went in, and the cast was all for it, making this uncomfortable, drawn our affair, always uneasy. By its end, I still had questions, and I had my own contemplations of victim versus captor. It reflects on morality, coming head-to-head with your mistakes, and overcoming past trauma. In that way, Coming Home in the Dark hits its mark. The execution has some flaws, but overall nothing that will be too much for many viewers to overcome. In a way, it’s like the film lights a match, but holds it too long until it burns your fingers. Yeah, it was fire, but it also burnt out.

James Ashcroft‘s film has some interesting “bad guys” in the especially menacing Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and more stoic Tubs (Matthias Luafutu). Gillies does a terrific job of keeping the narrative stretched out, and taut, conveying the feeling that at any moment, things are going to snap.

In the end, Coming Home in the Dark provides enough intellectual stimuli with adequate gritty, tension to chew on, even if it isn’t entirely persuasive in its intent.

Currently streaming on Netflix

They Come Knocking (Adam Mason)

source: Hulu

They Come Knocking is part of the “In the Dark” anthology series on Hulu, something I can assure you, I will be exploring more. As my first, it didn’t necessarily strike the loudest chord, but it had its moments.

This movie plays with limited surroundings (reminding me of the Hill Has Eyes at times) with a family in an RV in the middle of nowhere. However, this film dives deep into grief, having our father and daughters reaching this point of a meaningful location, to discard of the matriarch Jill’s ashes. This, unfortunately, played out a bit like a TV movie, in a way that the acting waned sentimentally, with the scares secondary. Grief has long been known to take a lot of forms within this genre, often being a catalyst for our character’s eventual nightmare.

Haven’t they suffered enough?

The two sisters argue frequently and don’t make it easy on their father who is just trying to keep things together. Before they are able to lay their loved one’s ashes to rest, what seems to be young children appear outside, knocking and pleading for them to come out. When it doesn’t work they mess up their vehicle, making the family unable to leave, and also (dumb, dumb, dumb) split up.

Adam Mason‘s film doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It sometimes engages us with a setup for what could be a well-executed thriller, but it also hands out doses of supernatural and psychological elements, making it a mixed bag of intentions.

There are some creepy-looking “kids” outside, with valid intrigue at large, making this family’s conundrum feel genuinely eerie. However, the stakes, aren’t as high. Also, there are a lot of those moments where you wonder…”why?” The whole idea of yelling at the TV screen while watching horror isn’t new; it’s basically embedded in its history, as poor decisions and a lack of awareness often spell death. They Come Knocking tests this tradition out.

The familial elements hit an emotional point, but also lean into melodramatic at times, which can cause a hiccup in connection. I had empathy for these characters, but I also wondered what was the inevitable outcome. Was this horror going to conclude in a way that made these details worth it?

Well, the ending was both somehow, unsuccessful and successful that couldn’t really please all of the varied horror audiences. Now, of course, no movie is probably aiming to do all of that, but as someone who is a fan of all the subgenres, I couldn’t find myself really feeling satiated in any department.

I liked the message, but the not the telling. With some creepy moments and some reasonably apt images of horror, They Come Knocking just struck short of being entirely compelling.

I assure you, I was as disappointed as the rest.

Currently streaming on Hulu

All My Friends Hate Me (Andrew Gaynord)

source: Super LTD

All My Friends Hate Me plays pretty fast and loose with its portrayal of what we generally refer to horror as, making the discomfort evident, even if it’s not quite what you think going in.

It’s Pete’s (Tom Stourton) birthday, and to celebrate, he’s meeting up with a group of college friends that he hasn’t seen in a while. Right from his initial drive in to the countryside, things don’t go as planned. He has to get directions, arrives alone to an empty house, and when everyone finally comes back, there’s the first inkling of this film’s thorny presence. Pete is proud of where he is in life, and often feels as if he’s trying to share that with his posh group of friends, but is being overshadowed in some capacity.

Archie (Graham Dickson), George (Joshua McGuire) Fig (Georgina Campbell), and Claire (Antonia Clarke) come back from the pub with a new addition, Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns) whose demeanor and intentions are so aloof, while his personality is so brash, that it is hard to get a read on what he’s doing. This spikes paranoia in Pete as well, making this a complicated cocktail of agonizing mixers.

It isn’t a normal horror by any means, but who wants to be in this kind of situation? Social anxiety becomes the monster here, creeping slowly into each exchange and permeating every scene until its firecracker end. The film purposely unnerves and doesn’t make any of the characters, including our protagonist, particularly likeable.

The overall snicker in All My Friends Hate Me is maintained, wedging the audience somewhere in between hilarity and stress. You know that sensation when you’re watching a character and somehow you feel embarrassment for them, as if you’re transported into that very situation yourself? This is a movie that does it masterfully through its direction and the entirely-up-for-anything cast. As a film that’s reliant on the dialogue snapping, and the camera on its stars with each reaction to a shift in energy, it achieves its satiric ability at full force. As the story unfolds, you start to really believe that everyone is out to get Pete, and Tom Stourton (who co-wrote with Tom Palmer) sells Pete’s behavior and perceptible unease aptly.

While this isn’t your average horror, it transcends that title by feeding into the potential fear and worst-case social situations that can arise daily. It gives us that discomforting moment of realization that maybe you aren’t who you thought you were, or maybe, your friends aren’t. But who has truly changed? This story dissects so many of the general awkward moments, making each scream to a degree that can challenge the viewer. In this way, All My Friends Hate Me is quite fluid and successful, giving a new (and yet familiar) perspective on what it means to be situationally horrified.

Currently available on VOD

Sweetheart (J.D. Dillard)

source: Netflix

This sci-fi horror was one of the most positive surprises as of late. Sometimes, less is more. This is one of those cases. It’s a limited setting, with a lead that’s courageous and sympathetic, even if you don’t know the backstory. She’s alone, and she’s trying. That’s all that matters.

Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) washes up on an isolated island. She’s one of the survivors of a shipwreck (a story not shown or talked about) with a fellow friend/crewmember fatally injured on the shore. Clemons is magnetic, portraying a strong female character that jumps into action as soon as she acknowledges what exactly has happened. We see her explore the island for other survivors and any supplies (some leftover from a previous inhabitant) and food, as well as build a fire. It’s terrifying enough being isolated, the loneliness and pressure of survival building, but she’s not alone. At night, there’s a creature that comes ashore, and after it digs up her friend’s perished corpse, she knows she’s in serious danger.

Clemons holds the film into a place of reality even when the science-fiction element of the story soars. Her fight and her fear are in equal parts present, making her performance and this limited locale all that was really needed for such a lean film. The creature design is terrific, especially its slow reveal, in carefully curated doses. There are often just glimpses or disturbing sounds, expertly giving us just enough, as we’re hiding in a log with Jenn, closing our eyes tightly in fear as we hear it approach, not sure what’s going to happen, or what is truly lurking in the night.

A couple of others eventually come on a lifeboat, but at this point they’re starving, exhausted, and Jenn’s account of the events seems more like the rant of someone who was pushed too far in a horrifying situation. If most people spoke of a monster from the sea, and a black hole residing in the ocean, what would be your response?

While some eventual aspects may be predictable, it finds new ways to craft an inventive spin on the mixed genres, and with an excellent central performance, it is easy to be caught up in its mystery. And, bonus, it’s also hella fun! JD Dillard takes his mostly solo star and finds ways to make this lost island seem large and inescapable, and yet somehow also growing smaller by the minute. Limited on dialogue, but heavy on suspense and expanse: does it flaunt stylistically? No. Does it need to? Absolutely not. Sometimes the adventure and terror are perceived most vividly by what the audience isn’t shown. Sweetheart also shows that even the most beautiful of locales can have an underlying terror.

In many ways, Sweetheart is a very simple but effective story; a gorgeously shot creature-feature-survival-horror that does a lot with a little, elevates the genre, while also building sustainable tension. The little thriller that could.

And man, was I rooting for Jenn to kick this sea-monster’s ass.

Currently streaming on Netflix

Until next time my lovelies…

SXSW Film Festival 2022: Jethica

When originality seems so rare these days, it’s refreshing to feel inspired after seeing a film, especially when it’s a strange, surprisingly standout ghost story.

Elena (Callie Hernandez) runs into a friend she hasn’t seen for some time, Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson), while looking after her grandmother’s home. The two head back to catch up, and she finds out that Jessica is trying to get away from her very insistent, relentless stalker Kevin (Will Madden). Elena, sharing some details with a person we only hear, after an intimate encounter, tells the story. A lot of what really happens is shrouded in mystery for a while, but it is clear both of these women are running from their own sort of demons.

There is an abundance of black humor worked within that makes this 70 minutes soar by. There are times when I was laughing out loud, and by its end, I was audibly saying, “aww.” I don’t want to give away too much, but within this property, there’s an underlying (and not fully explained) magical presence that traps ghosts in its midst. So, basically, if your body is brought to the property, you’ll be stuck there (though there are three ways to get rid of ghosts, as we soon learn).

Pete Ohs directs and also co-writes with Andy Faulkner, Callie Hernandez, Will Madden and Ashley Denise Robinson (talk about a collaboration). It’s a character-driven take on ghost stories, giving us a personal and yet entertaining foray. At times chilling, at times ethereal, Jethica hits some key, ghoulish notes.

source: SXSW Film Festival

The environment of New Mexico is not only utilized but also used to enhance the sensation of these characters’ isolation. It’s beautifully filmed, with some terrific long shots.

There’s a lot to unpack with Jethica, more than you may even realize until the credits roll. It wields its humor with a sharpness that never feels forced but still manages to make you feel.

It simultaneously seems ominous and yet hopeful. It mixes genres, and with strong lead performances, the film keeps us wondering what exactly will happen. Even as the movie came towards its close I wasn’t sure, and I was worried it would be anti-climatic. But, by its finish, I was happy with its decisions and it felt warranted. I can imagine others handling this differently, but its sensitive end felt more in tandem with the story being told.

This shows how a low-budget, minimalist approach can be effective, especially when the characters and themes loom so large. The supernatural, the dangers of stalkers, and the sense of connection and contentment all play a role in this intriguing mix. There’s clearly love put into this picture. It portrays stalking in a real way, while also expressing vast amounts of humanity and charm.

Quirky, hilarious, and somehow cathartic, this movie perfects just the right amount of earnest charm. It maximizes on its dry humor while honing it’s bittersweet mentality and terrific performances, all residing within an unique ghost story. Ultimately compelling and wholly original, I loved Jethica. So far, this festival’s standout!

Spooktober Day 28: Young Frankenstein

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Disclaimer: These are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

Young Frankenstein by no means is an absolute favorite, nor is it even on the upper tier of horrors or comedies, but, is it influential? Is it part of little Kristy’s history, therefore it’s important to include in this personal tie-in to my spooktober? Hell yes.

Mel Brooks can be hit or miss, like so many directors, but with Young Frankenstein I could really feel his adoration for the genre, and for the films of the past, the Hollywood monsters that molded this into what it is today. This may very well be his best, and while I have an appreciation (or at least a nostalgia) for many of his, Young Frankenstein, to this day, still feels witty and well-intentioned, and that, matters.

source: 20th Century Fox

In a lot of ways, as silly as the conceit may initially seem, Young Frankenstein, isn’t inherently over the top. Not in the way that many of his others are. The film works, even when it maybe shouldn’t, often exceling at times in a natural fashion despite its unnatural premise. I mean, it’s still a spoof- after all.

Speaking of its premise:

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is very uncomfortable with the history of his name, trying hard to make his own from his grandfather’s infamous experiments. When he ventures to his family castle, he recreates some of his work with the help of Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr). What comes of it, is…well, Young Frankenstein.

When you’re trying to be a parody of something beloved, it isn’t always easy to accomplish in a way that can be experienced without the potential, occasional cringe, but this is one of the more successful of takes. With an abundance of slapstick, never limiting on the absurd, there’s plenty of comedy to appreciate.

Gene Wilder can be such a gem, let’s be honest here- the film wouldn’t be what it is without him. He’s enigmatic, known for being a screen presence for a reason, and regardless of how much the entire cast sells it, he’s the glue. Even just his speech patterns, facial expressions, make Young Frankenstein. The excellence of casting doesn’t just end with him though, everyone, is spot on.

source: 20th Century Fox

I’ve often thought the film could benefit from being trimmed, and some aspects just don’t work, but for the most part, there’s a reason this movie can still be enjoyed. Call it nostalgia, call it a connection to a simpler time (wait, aren’t those basically the same?) either way, its got wit, its got silliness, and it’s chock full of one-liners, all made with love from Brooks.

Young Frankenstein feels like a worthy homage, and I think, in many ways, this is why the film remains full of life, so many years after its release.

Spooktober Day 16: The Evil Dead (& Evil Dead 2)

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

It’s a Sam Raimi– a-thon (kinda). At least the first two Evil Dead’s, because, well, I feel like they fit immaculately. The second is really a remake of the first with a higher budget, and a bigger dose of wacky. Ot just seems sensible to celebrate both. I won’t dive in, but the remake of The Evil Dead was actually one of the better classic reimaginings that I have seen (another to be mentioned later this month).

I’m not really sure why, perhaps just a matter of circumstance, but I actually saw The Evil Dead 2 before I saw the original, as a pre-teen. I saw them nearly back to back, and of course, as anyone who has seen these, there’s plenty of correlations that make the second more of an improvement rather than a real connective- sequel. It didn’t really change how I felt about either, all I knew was this: Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were amazing, and I desperately wanted to make movies.

It’s low-budget filmmaking at its best because it utilizes the limited locale, the embracing of camp (is there a film that does this more??) and the fearlessness that goes into giving in to every, gory, strange, impulse.

source: New Line Cinema

When you watch either of these films you can feel Raimi’s love for the genre, from the debut on, there is a passion that is present in nearly every decision, every gloriously unique, rough around the edges, oddity. It’s proof that you can make a film on a low-budget, indie, DIY, and it’s inspirational in that way. As Raimi continues to make movies in the industry, it gives hope to the masses who want to follow in his footsteps. Even if… not exactly these peculiar ones.

Kind of like the Cabin in the Woods setup pokes fun of, five college students vacation in a remote cabin in the woods. Creepy, dark, obviously not the best place for some R&R and yet, they do it anyway. In a way, aren’t they asking for it?

When they find a mysterious book of the dead, they awaken something truly evil, demons that have been resting until the group summons them.

Somehow, despite some of the areas in the film that are too much or don’t quite work, the ones that do make up for it. The fact that this film still lives on in classic horror fandom is pretty amazing. There’s a lot of closeups and zooms, stop motion animation, frequent jump scares and some over-acting, even by our main lead Ash (Bruce Campbell) who continued in the sequels and the eventual show spin-off, but all of that builds to Evil Dead’s benefit. The cinematography by Tim Philo, including some intriguing long takes, really melds the the elements together, fashioning a unique viewing experience.

The ingenuity comes through even in the truly weirdest of times. The makeup work is really quite amazing for the time, and is a big proponent for the more effective chilling moments. For the most part though, the experience with The Evil Dead is one of wide-eyed curiosity to what will come next, and gut-busting comical moments. It’s also alarming, don’t get me wrong, there’s some parts to this film that are not easily swallowed.

source: Rosebud Releasing Corporation

In Evil Dead 2, it’s basically the same setup, the same lead, but with a bigger budget, and somehow? An even weirder trip. A do-over with even more freakiness. I think it kicks the humor into second gear, while also ensuring surprises are doused on the audience, on the regular. One of the reasons I almost prefer the second is because of how wildly out there it goes. And, that’s saying something considering some of what happens in the first. It’s a legacy of cinema for a reason. This movie goes so manic, so kinetic, it questions you to wonder about your own state of mind.

No one wants to be stuck in a haunted cabin, alone, but Campbell manages to entertain us as he loses his connections to reality, and somehow, we are fine joining him on this funny, strange, journey. It’s straight up gonzo, and it’s a whole lot of fun. It is also bloody mayhem. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you are just unsure of what exactly is happening, which eventually leads to more laughter- mixed with some disturbing content. Nothing you wouldn’t expect, truly, from this reimagining, but it’s a bit of a rollercoaster that one just can’t describe.

For both of these films, at the end of the day, it’s the direction by Raimi that makes these cult classics what they are. While I recognize, even now, that these aren’t for everyone, I feel like most can appreciate their intent, even if the execution makes their stomach woozy or their senses over-fried. It’s honestly a challenge to fully describe these films in a coherent way. To do so would be a misguided and almost- an insult- to the films themselves. You’ve got to experience them.

Either way, an impression is made.

That’s Groovy baby.

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)

There is so much content out there! Any ideas?

Well, naturally we all have different tastes, but I figure I’ll throw out a few suggestions each week, just in case one strikes your fancy. 🙂

This week consisted of some 2020 catch ups, and some Apple TV+ ones, all, very worthy. This time…two shows and a movie.

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)
source: AppleTV+

Servant

This a series that should have any horror fan basically begging for it (yes, that was me.) I was glad, in this instance, that I waited, because it allotted me the opportunity to just consume nearly two seasons of content. And, I can’t tell you enough, that this is definitely a wonderfully weird, creepy, spectacularly performed and conceived series. Keep an eye on this one, 👀.  Streaming on Apple TV+.

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)
source: AppleTV+

Ted Lasso 

Anyone who knows me, knows I love good, silly, humor. I also tend to love some good heart-warming entertainment. Ted Lasso is like the Friday Night Lights of now, and it’s delightful. With a spectacularly funny and quirky performance from Jason Sudeikis and cast, it’s a show that unexpectedly wraps you up in a big hug. The first season is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)
source: Paramount Pictures

Love and Monsters

It has been a process, but I’m finally catching up to some of the 2020 film content. Part of it was a resistance to paying a ridiculous price to watch at home, and another was time. Well, this is rentable, and YOU SHOULD.

This a fun, hilarious, and yet endearing fantasy of a film. Dylan O’Brien leads as the narrator and protagonist of this story, taking us 7 years into a future where the world is run by various kinds of monsters. He’s looking to reconnect with the woman he loves and brave the dangerous lands to do so.

This was an unexpected treat, and I’d say go for it. Plus, bonus points for having a canine companion. That’s so rare, and I love it. This film is available to rent VOD.

Happy Watching! If you do, tell me your thoughts!

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror (2007)

An appreciation review is for a film that I love that I feel hasn’t received its due! All in the spirit of giving films the spotlight they deserve! (According to me). Because film is subjective of course, but I hope to change your minds.

Disclaimer: Ironically, this also ties into Wonderfully Weird, because, let’s be honest, this isn’t a universally “got” film.

There are so many quotes from this film that I spew on a daily basis, so apologies (sorry- not sorry) if that happens often during this review. It’s just the ideal amalgamation of horror, comedy, and outright randomness that makes Planet Terror iconic.

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror
source: Dimension Films

A zombie (not really zombie, but zombie) government invented disease ravages local residents. Have we seen this before? Perhaps. In this delectably bizarre/hilarious way?

Helllll no.

“That Boy’s Got the Devil in Him”

Thank you Robert Rodriguez for this, and for a few others I might throw into the mix, to be continued) even if there’s plenty of his that I’m not as sold on. This first shot in the grindhouse combo unleashed a mess of guts, a random testicle storing/obsession (by the wonderful Naveen Andrews) of his victims, to Freddy Rodriguez’s honed “notorious” ability to kick ass as “El Wray” it is a ride. Not to mention an assortment of other acting gems like Michael Beihn (his on-going rivalry with brother Jeff Fahey’s for the ultimate BBQ recipe) and Rose McGowan with a machine gun/rocket launcher leg. To name a few. All of this may seem chaotic, and potentially not real, but it all really happens. It fits like a perfectly attached wooden appendage during an apocalyptic event when you need a leg.

Yeah, that’s Planet Terror.

This movie transcended a lot of previously used (sometimes abused) themes and made it original. At a time when one might wonder: how is this possible? Well, through a sense of obscurity, originality, and also, a healthy dose of throwback. The grindhouse appeal is a selling point, but the movie excels beyond the aesthetic, nostalgic touch. In simplest terms, it’s campy horror fun, with an assortment forced to come together (some overcoming their sordid pasts) to prevail over the evil looming here. 

“I’m Going to Eat Your Brains, and Gain Your Knowledge.”

One of my favorite aspects of Planet Terror, other than the humor that sneaks into every scene, some hilarious one-liners, is the style. If you’ve seen a lot of Rodriguez’s filmography, you know he’s got this in spades, but Planet Terror brings it to another level. It’s soaked in its grindhouse vibe, much like the other within the film duo, Death Proof. Another being The Machete movies, which came out of the wonderfully ridiculous trailers between the two films. Whether it be the gore or the sparks of the explosions, the effects and visuals pop. Also, props to the badass choreographed scene of Freddy Rodriguez‘s character fighting his way through a hospital ward and Josh Brolin’s creepy doctor. It’s exploitation, it’s throw-back horror, it is embracing the campiness with a wide-toothed, bloody grin. 

What do you think? Let me know!

Wonderfully Weird: Freaked (1993)

Wonderfully Weird: Freaked (1993)

Wonderfully Weird is a column that asks, how weird is it? Does it pay off? And sometimes- what the hell just happened? The wonder of film revolves around its ability to vary in perspective from one person to the next. This column is all about the asking- and by extension me, answering with my take. What’s yours?

Occasionally, I have random memories of a film I saw when I was younger. It was odd, obnoxious, had Bobcat Goldthwait as a sock puppet. (If you haven’t seen it, this is real.)

Of course, I’m talking about the 1993 bonkers, Freaked, directed by Alex Winter and Tom Stern, and written by Tim Burns, Tom Stern, Alex Winter.

The Premise?

Celebrity Ricky Coogin (Alex Winter) is hired as a spokesperson for an obviously seedy company. When he’s traveling to South America for said organization, his friend Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) and newly met Julie (Megan Ward) stumble upon what, some might say, is the worst kind of “Freakshow” roadside attraction you can imagine.

Wonderfully Weird: Freaked (1993)
Freaked (1993)- source: 20th Century Fox

Headed by Randy Quaid, what they fall prey to is a place that tests this chemical on people, creating them into an assortment of body horror mixed with some interesting practical effects, which has an array of stars as different attractions. They are all prisoners in this fever dream of a film. There are a lot of cameos, including Keanu Reeves and Mr. T, all in their various characters.

There’s no easy way to describe Freaked. Part dark-comedy, part low-budget horror, part… *brain is having trouble with a word that can describe*- at times the film borders on so outrageous that it makes you wonder if it should have ever been made. Then, there are situations where the feature ventures on a level of incohesive-ness that’s actually fun, and you find yourself laughing out loud. Some of the makeup and practical effects are pretty impressive, and some of the humor (when it isn’t only odd for the sake of being so) is quite clever. 

Is it amazing? No. Is it weird? Ah… hell yeah. Alex Winter as the arrogant actor who ends up quite actually getting a taste of his own medicine is just the jumping-off point for the narrative that unfolds. There’s a lot within the story that is nonsense, but it is entertaining and zany for a reason. If you can get past the intense tonal injection, and just let it roll over you- you might just have a good time. 

Regardless of your final take, Freaked, (and this could be because of some nostalgia-glasses my child self is still wearing) is a movie that is most definitely hard to forget.