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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Soulmate (2013): Suicide-Crossed Lovers

Soulmate DVD Art

After losing her husband and surviving a brutal suicide attempt, Audrey (Anna Walton) relocates to a remote cabin to take some time to heal from both her physical and mental wounds. While there, however, she discovers that her new abode is filled with a horrific past of its own when she begins to hear strange sounds. 

Writer director Axelle Carolyn’s Soulmate (2013) opens with the graphic image of Audrey attempting to take her own life. It’s a visual that leaves quite a visceral impact as well as nicely sets up the unstable mindset of Audrey, who is clearly not dealing with the death of her husband all too well. Surviving by the skin of her teeth, she’s a shattered woman who could fall back into a suicidal mindset at any second. Whether it be her current state of vulnerability, the dark nature of her recent past or a mixture of the two, Audrey is left wide open to the spirit that comes to haunt her. And it is this element of the film where its biggest strength lies. On the other hand, however, there is an inconsistent tone that hinders the film, and while there are certainly moments of horror, Soulmate is far from what one would consider a proper horror film.

Soulmate 2013 Anna Walton

Soulmate takes a classic approach to creating atmosphere, and the entirety of the film’s first act is effectively creepy as a result. With a dreary English countryside filled with howling winds painting the backdrop, Soulmate is simply saturated with dread. The slow and steady camerawork paired with endless silence and impressive sound design allows the viewer to be swept up into the mystery set up early in the film. Unfortunately, however, at the point when the ghostly apparition is revealed, things take an odd turn into near romantic drama territory, something that results in the film losing any sense of fear that was previously built.

The depiction of the ghostly apparition is specifically startling in how underwhelming it is, in that it’s simply a slightly translucent guy wearing some old fashioned clothing. The interactions between the apparition and Audrey are also a little silly, but that is nearly unavoidable when talking about a ghost and human having in-depth conversations about life, love and the failed pursuit of happiness that has led them both to the point in which their lives are now. Now, as a relationship-driven, character-based ghost film, these interactions work for what they are, but the fact that the film postures as a horror piece for the first act, they are tonally problematic.

Soulmate 2013 Anna Walton 1

While Soulmate is ultimately a bit of a failure, there is still much to glean from the final product in terms of filmmaking, atmosphere and a solid performance from Anna Walton. In the end, Soulmate feels very much like a very well-made lifetime movie. And that's not necessarily a dismissive statement as much as its simply the perfect way to describe the tone of the film. It should also be a good indicator as to whether or not the film is the right choice for you or not.

You can find Soulmate on Amazon and iTunes

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Paranormal Entity (2009) En-titties Abound

paranormal entity 2009

*Disclaimer!* I wrote a handful of articles for a now defunct e-zine called BthroughZ a number of years back, and when that site went belly up, so did the reviews I wrote for it. I didn’t want to lose the articles I worked so hard to write, so here I am, reposting them here, in all their imperfection, for your mild enjoyment.

With what The Asylum is known for as a film studio - which is to take something that is successful and make a cheap carbon copy of it - Paranormal Activity must have been like finding the Lost Ark for the infamous movie company. Here is a film that only cost around 15k to make, far less than many of the films that The Asylum have taken from previously, which are generally summer blockbusters with budgets higher than a pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.

Paranormal Entity is The Asylum's answer to Paranormal Activity, but from what I gather the budget was quite a bit higher than the 2009 sleeper hit, though, still much lower than the usual Asylum fare. More money doesn't necessarily mean better quality, but it does result in enough cash to get the hot chick in the film to show her breasts more than a handful of times. Still, while being far from perfect, Paranormal Entity is a surprisingly passable and sometimes even effective entry into the Cinéma vérité horror genre.

paranormal entity samantha 2009

Paranormal Entity's focus is placed on the Finley’s, a family that is dealing with the recent lose of their father, something that has resulted in the widowed Ellen (Fia Perera) trying to communicate with her recently deceased husband. Surprisingly, Ellen gets a response, but it quickly becomes apparent that the spirit she is in contact with is not that of her late husband. What starts as a small haunting quickly becomes increasingly dangerous as each day passes, with much of the spirit's attention being placed  on Ellen's daughter, Samantha (Erin Marie Hogan).

As is the case with many films of this genre, a character feels the need to try to capture all of these unnatural occurrences on tape, and that someone would be the son of the family, Thomas. Thomas sets up cameras in all three of the bedrooms as well as one in the living room in the hopes of capturing some “paranormal activity.” From that point forward, Paranormal Entity delivers everything one would expect from a low level P.A. cash-in: crosses fall off walls, sheets are pulled off of a conveniently half naked Samantha, doors slam shut, lights flicker, and the Finley family becomes increasingly frightened for their physical safety as things escalate.

paranormal entity ending 2009

While there was more money invested into Paranormal Entity, the decision to keep things minimal was the right way to go as far as recreating a film similar to the one that came to influence it. There are only three thinly-written characters (with a fourth introduced in the final act), with one of them being played by the writer, producer and director of Paranormal Entity, Shane van Dyke. This is a movie that is made in the same 'spirit' (see what I did just there?) as Paranormal Activity, but the results are mixed, showing that what Peli did was one part achievable by anyone with a camera and a buck, while another part proves that those results aren't so easily attainable by just any average Joe filmmaker.

While Paranormal Entity cannot fully deliver what its more respected brethren have, there are a few moments worthy of a solid little jolt. There’s a fair amount of static camerawork on display, which forces an automatic sense of fear and curiosity as it’s hard not to watch every little detail of each room, just waiting for something spooky to happen. The haunting moments themselves are far from stellar and can easily be done by any old schmuck with a camera and a dream. Lights flickering and TVs turning on aren't difficult things to achieve, and neither is the before mentioned covers being pulled off of Samantha, which was hysterically achieved by a very obvious fishing line.

paranormal entity ending samantha 2009

One of the big issues with Paranormal Entity, and with many films of the genre, is it has some serious downtime when there aren't any 'happenings' happening. The characters aren't all too interesting, or even likable for that matter, and there are long moments where things go down the lonely path of boring. There is a portion of Paranormal Entity where Ellen and Samantha leave their home to stay at a hotel, far from the threat of the evil presence that is plaguing them. When they leave, Thomas proceeds to spend a good (well, not literally good) fifteen minutes setting up their house with camera equipment to see if the entity will make an appearance in the absence of his mother and sister. To say this scene is boring and overly drawn out would be like claiming genital warts are not a good look.

Paranormal Entity is pretty straightforward for much of the first half. However, as the runtime ran down, exploitational elements are slowly introduced. This aspect of the film mostly involves the Samantha character, who is clearly threatened in a sexual manner by this unseen menace. As those elements become more prevalent, it also became obvious that this is an Asylum movie. Which is fine, everything needs its place, and I don't mind that place being on my TV from time to time. Nevertheless, Paranormal Entity did, at times, have a good chance at being a contender. In the end, however, the true colors shined through and kept it from fully leaving the playground in which the rest of The Asylum movies normally play.

 

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Little Pumpkin of Our Own

First of all, I want to wish you all a happy Halloween! I hope that you are able to enjoy the day of darkness to its fullest, and I also hope that you have enjoyed all the Chucktober festivities that I have provided for you throughout the month. I know it’s been a blast for me, and I am quite sad to see it all come to an end.

In any event, while wishing you a happy Halloween is a high priority, there are more important matters to deal with, specifically the birth of HALLOWBABY!!

Halloween 2014

Clara Emily House (aka my daughter) was brought into the world by my incredible (and tough as nails) mail order bride on Saturday, October 25 at 5:16 AM. Naturally, the birth of my first child is overwhelmingly amazing, and it doesn’t hurt things that she came during my favorite time of the year. It only makes the Halloween season even more special to me, and I look forward to years of Halloween themed birthday parties.

Alright, I am completely exhausted, so I don’t have the energy to keep on babbling. Once again, I hope you all have a fantastic Halloween, and please feel free to send my daughter gifts. She loves Amazon gift cards.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rocktober Blood (1984): Death By Falsetto

Rocktober Blood

After going on a killing spree that resulted in the death of “25 rock and rollers,” musician Billy “Eye” Harper (Tray Loren) is sentenced to death. Two years later, Billy is back to take revenge on the sole survivor of his murder spree and key witness in his sentencing, Lynn (Donna Scoggins), just as she is about to go on tour with the remaining members of Billy’s old band. 

Directed by Beverly Sebastian (who also co-wrote with husband Ferd Sebastian), Rocktober Blood is completely driven by its time period. Wood paneling, random acts of aerobics, Jacuzzis, and hanging plants abound, Rocktober Blood is about as ‘80s as one film can possibly get, especially when you mix in a heavy dose of blissful falsetto. And it is this falsetto that really kicks the film off on the right foot, as right off the bat we are subjected to a recording studio performance by Billy, wherein he knocks out a batch of falsetto so intense, I needed a towel dry afterwards.  

Rocktober Blood (1984) movie review

The majority of Rocktober Blood focuses on Lynn as she prepares to kick off her band’s big Rocktober Blood tour, which consists of her taking baths, “taking Jacuzzis” and being stalked by Billy, who is seemingly back from the dead. These sporadic run-ins with Billy are a great concern for Lynn, but seeing as Billy was executed years earlier, everyone just assumes that she is simply cracking under pressure. Regardless of Lynn’s sanity, or lack thereof, someone is indeed messing with her, and whether or not it’s actually Billy or someone posing as Billy, people are getting killed along the way.

As a slasher film, Rocktober Blood hits a number of stereotypical slasher notes, albeit in an enjoyably silly fashion. There’s plenty of nudity, most of which is relegated to Scoggins, who is quite attractive despite her shockingly white ass. She certainly brings her tan line A-game. There’s some stalking, some obscene phone calls and a handful of decent kills, one of my personal favorites being a hot iron-to-the-throat, which apparently results in immediate death. Of course, what B-grade ‘80s heavy metal slasher flick would be complete without some insanely bad/amazing dialogue?! As shown in the following examples, Rocktober Blood most certainly delivers in this department:

Rocktober Blood (1984) movie review 1

Lynn: "We're are you going?”

Billy: “I got a hot date tonight.”

Lynn: “At 4:30 in the morning?”

Billy: “What can I say, she wants my bod.”

The Killer: "I want your hot, steamy pussy blood all over my face."

Lynn: “I think I am going to go take a Jacuzzi.”

Like, seriously, who takes a Jacuzzi? I take an aspirin. I take a shit, but I don’t “take” a Jacuzzi.

In any event, where Rocktober Blood flows strongest is in the musical performances that bookend the film. Unfortunately, however, outside of the incredible Billy “Eye” falsetto opening and the film’s finale, there aren’t many, if any, musical performances, which is a little unfortunate.Thankfully, the finale makes up for this by being the clear highlight of the film, in that it features a Grand Guignolesque stage performance where the killer – hidden beneath a mask – sings his heart out as he slays scantily-clad female stage performers. Naturally, considering the overall horror theme of the stage show, the audience and even the band members believe this to all be a part of the show, when in all reality people are actually being murdered on stage.

Rocktober Blood (1984) movie review 3

While lacking the qualities necessary in making what one would consider a good movie, Rocktober Blood is a thoroughly enjoyable entry into the heavy metal horror sub-genre and certainly a must see for anyone who enjoys a little ‘80s cheese. At the very least, the awesome Sorcery soundtrack should give you something to chew on for a few days, as that’s about how long the song “Rainbow Eyes” will be bouncing around in your head.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bad Trick or Treat Ideas: Candy Corn

bad trick or treat candy ideas

Candy Corn: that white, orange and yellow “treat” that makes an appearance every Halloween season has become the bane of numerous people across this great country. Year after year, Candy Corn shows up in countless homes, only to be discarded after sitting in a dusty glass dish three months after Halloween has passed.

Made up entirely of corn syrup and sugar, no other candy is associated with Halloween more than Candy Corn.

Wait a second... let’s break that fact down a bit:

  • “Made up entirely of corn syrup and sugar” - Corn syrup and sugar happen to be two ingredients that I love.

  • “No other candy is associated with Halloween more than Candy Corn.” - Hey, I love Halloween and everything about it!

Actually, you know what? I like candy corn. From it’s eye-appealing Fall colors to its sugary ingredients, Candy Corn is the candy manifestation of Halloween. Show some respect, ya filthy animal!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Ultimate Halloween Party Music MEGA-MIX!

Halloween is right around the corner, or should I say coroner, so I think it’s about time to get this party not only started right, but quickly as well! And what better way to kick off a party of the Halloween variety is by warming up your sexy parts and digging into this Ultimate Halloween Party Music MEGA-MIX that I put together last Halloween?! The answer is there is no other way. Well, unless you take ecstasy and dance through a field of bedazzled pumpkins to the sounds of Enya. That might be a tad better.

In any, I added some new videos as well as removed a few to make this playlist an even more enjoyable MEGA-MIX, so if you and your friends (or cats) are planning a super pajama jammy jam, then I implore you to get ready to rock the night away as the days count down to Halloween!   

Friday, October 24, 2014

Goosebumps At 33: The Return of the Mummy

Goosebumps TV shows

Return of the Mummy!

Goosebumps Return of the mummy

While visiting his cousin Sari (Annick Obonsawin) and uncle Ben (Elias Zarou) in Egypt, young Gabe (Daniel DeSanto) finds himself in for the ultimate adventure, filled with thrills, chills, spills, and endless refills! Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I had some serious momentum going on and simply couldn’t hit the brakes. Anyway, Gabe’s uncle Ben just so happens to be an archeologist, so during his Summer break, Gabe is joining both his uncle Ben and cousin Sari on an important archeological dig with the intent of unearthing the tomb of Prince Khor-Ru. 

Goosebumps return of the mummy 1

Being a complete doofus, Gabe somehow becomes separated from Ben and Sari while inside the tomb. This causes Gabe to take a complete bitch turn, as he proceeds to scream and cry like a child. It’s pretty annoying, especially considering that Gabe is definitely going through puberty. At least that’s what his screeching bitch voice indicates. In any event, during his crying bout, Gabe accidentally stumbles upon the tomb of Prince Khor-Ru, which causes him to cry some more.

Soon enough, Gabe is reunited with Ben and Sari, which gives Sari – who has the face of an 80-year-old woman, but is actually about nine – ample opportunity to make fun of Gabe for being such a crying crybaby who cries all the time. Now, it’s typical in the Goosebumps mythos for a younger kid to make fun of an older kid. And more often than not, it’s a young girl making fun of an older boy, which is emasculating on so many levels. However, when you’re a corny-ass, crybaby like Gabe, you totes deserve it.

Goosebumps return of the mummy 3

In any event, Gabe and Sari eventually find themselves separated from uncle Ben and some random reporter lady who serves a purpose of some sort. This leads to Gabe and Sari coming face-to-face with the titular creature, and from there things get wet and wild, as the mummy begins to unwrap himself and pour baby oil all over his well-preserved bod. It’s totally erotic. Anyway, at some point there’s a reveal involving the Prince Kohr-Ru’s sister who is trying to resurrect him for some reason that I didn't quite understand. After the whole baby oil thing, I was simply too distracted to maintain any sense of comprehension.

Overall a solidly enjoyable episode, the clear standout in The Return of the Mummy is its Egyptian setting. Per my experience, the world of Goosebumps is relegated to suburban neighborhoods, high schools, crack houses. or wherever you might find your average preteen, so it’s refreshing to see such a vastly different setting. It’s also nice seeing another classic movie monster make an appearance on the show. And outside of the weird tan lines beneath his tattered wraps, the mummy looks fantastic.

Goosebumps return of the mummy 4

That about does it for the fifth season of Goosebumps at 33. Hopefully all you fine ladies and gents enjoyed this year’s batch of reviews as much as I did, and I really look forward to Goosebumpin’ n’ grindin’ with you again next year!

Until next time, kiddies, keep your night light on and your head under the covers...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: Boo (2010)

Halloween Short film Boo

“Ghosts can do a lot of cool stuff!”

It's Halloween night, and a babysitter (Eliza Skinner) is spending her evening passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Unfortunately, however, the candy she is stuck passing out are raisins, which doesn't go over very well with the trick-or-treaters (let alone me). In an attempt to no longer be the jerk passing out raisins to kids on Halloween, the babysitter calls the homeowner to see if she has anything else to pass out, but is soon disconnected.

Soon after, a trick-or-treater dressed up as a ghost (Andrew Katz) shows up at her door. But this isn’t your normal trick-or-treater, however, as this ghost is actually floating. Furthermore, the ghost has the ability to disappear and reappear at will, which the babysitter concludes is nothing more than a cool trick. While the babysitter is mildly entertained by this strange trick-or-treater at first, concern quickly creeps in as the ghost begins playing multiple pranks on her, mostly being relegated to flaming bags of poop.  

Written and directed by Michael J. Goldberg, Boo is a genuinely funny short horror comedy that nicely mixes toilet humor and cuteness. Coming in at a hair under 12 minutes, Boo is a nicely put together short and features some great special effects. The biggest standout, however, comes in the form of a good comedic performance by both the short’s leads, Eliza Skinner and Andrew Katz. Despite being a human and ghost interaction, the two actors are somehow able to convey some good chemistry, which makes their on-screen back-and-forth quite entertaining.  

Give her a watch below, and remember, raisins suck.

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fun Size (2012): Half-Wrapped

Fun Size 2012

It’s Halloween day, and Wren (Victoria Justice) has been invited to a party by the hottest guy in school. Unfortunately, Wren is stuck having to babysit her little brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), putting the kibosh on any party plans she may have. That’s only the beginning of Wren’s problems, however, as later on in the evening, Albert goes missing while they are out trick-or-treating. Joined by her best friend April (Jane Levy), Wren recruits two school nerds, Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau), to help her find Albert before her mother discovers that he’s missing. What ensues is a wild night filled with excitement, danger and even a little romance, resulting in an evening where fun has no size. I don’t know what that last part means.  

Written by Max Werner and directed by Josh Schwartz, Fun Size is clearly an attempt to recreate the teen adventure comedies of the 1980s, and while the film has its heart in the right place, the results are ultimately mixed. The film mainly focuses on Wren, a hip hop loving bookworm who’s going through some growing pains after her father passed away a year earlier, something of which has also left a negative effect on her entire family. Wren’s mother (Chelsea Handler) is dealing with the grieving process by dating a 25-year-old guy, whereas her younger brother, Albert, hasn't spoken a single word in over a year.

Fun Size 2012 movie review

These character archetypes are far from original, especially within the dynamic of the film as a whole. Each character’s arch basically serves as an intertwining subplot of the film, with time dedicated to Wren trying to find Albert, while Albert is out having what is basically the adventure of a lifetime, something of which leads to the best moments of the film. All the while, Wren and Albert’s mother is off at a party with her 25-year-old boyfriend, which leads to some moderately uninteresting moments of clarity for her character.

The adventure elements aren't as adventurous as one would like. The film’s also quite simple-minded and far from challenging to the viewer, and kids film or not, that's not an acceptable attribute. With that being said, however, Fun Size is still a fairly enjoyable watch, despite its many prominent issues. While things are lacking in the adventure department, the moments with Albert – who spends much of his evening playing pranks with his new buddy, a lonely convenience store employee named Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) – are fairly enjoyable to watch. I think what works about these moments is the slightly charming and often humorous relationship between Albert and Fuzzy.

Fun Size 2012 movie review 1

Where Fun Size is most successful is the way in which it delivers on the Halloween goods, and let’s face it, that’s why we’re all here. Well, at least me. In any event, Fun Size goes all out with the Halloween decorations, as each and every home is awesomely (and unrealistically) decorated to the hilt, and the streets are filled with hundreds of children out enjoying an evening of trick or treat. It’s over-the-top and unrealistic in every sense, but I simply adore it and truly wish this was how Halloween was in every single neighborhood across the country.

Aside from being pandering and formulaic, the Halloween infused charm and occasional wit of Fun Size is enough to make it an enjoyable enough watch. It’s no secret that I'm a complete sucker for any movie or television show with scenes featuring a number of children out trick-or-treating on a well decorated street. I also understand that this component does more for me than maybe it should. The Halloween aesthetic certainly softens me up, leaving me quite vulnerable to enjoying movies more than I normally would, something of which I am not at all ashamed of.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"People Are Talking" Halloween TV Special featuring Steve Vertlieb

People Are Talking Halloween special Steve Vertlieb.png 1

While wandering the crowded halls of YouTube recently, I came across this enjoyable Halloween special that aired sometime in the early 1980s (maybe ‘81 or ‘82). The show in question, People Are Talking, was hosted by Richard Bey, and this particular episode features a genuinely interesting interview with film journalist and historian Steve Vertlieb.

One thing that I enjoy about this special, specifically the interview with Vertlieb, is the fact that horror films aren’t being chastised, something of which was very common for this type of show during the time period. Instead, this interview and the special as a whole is more of a celebration of what makes horror enjoyable for people of all ages. There is some discussion about how horror evolves to reflect modern society as well as how horror films can be a positive escape for some people.

People Are Talking Halloween special Steve Vertlieb

Now, that’s not to say there isn’t an obvious undercurrent of fear and trepidation about the genre in question, which is most obvious when the conversation turns to snuff films, a topic that is delved into when a caller asks if Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse was indeed one of these snuff films. The thought that this caller actually believed that people were being murdered in The Funhouse because the deaths looked so real is absolutely bananas, though it is also very reflective of the times. On a side note, the look on Richard Bey’s face as Vertlieb talks about snuff films is priceless.

The special also features some great moments in which audience members share what scenes from horror films have frightened them the most. It’s hard not to smile as middle-age moms talk about House of Wax and Creepshow. Also strewn throughout the special are clips from films such as Tales of Terror and Carpenter’s Halloween as well as random check-ins on an audience member having some “horror makeup” applied to her face.  

While the video runs over 12 min long, unfortunately it is not complete, as the special is cut off at the first commercial break. Regardless, there’s more than enough here to enjoy for horror fans and those of us who love Halloween, so I highly encourage you to give it a watch. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Goosebumps At 33: My Hairiest Adventure

Goosebumps TV shows

My Hairiest Adventure!

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure

When first introduced to Larry (Andrew Bartkiw), he is being chased down by a pack of wild dogs. As this is happening, Larry – as heard through a voiceover – complains about how asinine it is that dogs are considered man's best friend. He then goes on to complain that he has allergies, which only leads me to one conclusion: Larry is a real asshole.

After being chased around by the vicious creatures for a bit, Larry decides to climb a tree to get away from the dogs. Larry’s moment of relief is short-lived, however, as the tree branch he’s sitting on breaks, even though it’s like 13” around. Oddly, though, when Larry lands on the ground, the dogs don’t attack him. In fact, they simply sit there staring at him like he's an asshole. Because he is an asshole, and dogs can sense that kind of shit.

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure 1

At some point, Larry’s friend Lily (Courtney Greig) rescues Larry from the dogs that aren't attacking him. And thankfully so, as without Larry, I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to witness the greatest garage band practice scene of all time. We’re talking a keyboard solo performed with a gusto not seen since Elissa in the masterful thriller #HATES

After the band finishes rocking the afternoon away, one of Larry’s band mates finds an old bottle of tanning lotion. Immediately the band has a serious discussion about how getting nice and tan would really help them make a great impression for an upcoming audition, so they proceed to rub the tanning lotion all over their skin. Because that’s what you do when you find a random bottle of old tanning lotion in a garage.  

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure 3

Soon afterward, Larry notices an inordinate amount of hair growing from the top of his hands. His immediate response is to shave it off; however, the hair almost immediately grows back and eventually spreads up his arms and all over his body. Not that we see his body. I mean, this is a kids show, ya know. Anyway, this newfound hair growth is certainly a concern for Larry, but things get even stranger when his friends begin to go missing. Worse yet, their parents suddenly have absolutely no knowledge of their now missing child’s existence.

Taken from the 26th book in the series, My Hairiest Adventure is a clear nod to the werewolf genre, and like some werewolf tales, there is a clear tie to puberty. Which, in all honesty, seems a little out of place in an episode of Goosebumps. I mean, there’s actually a scene where Larry asks Lily if she’s started to notice any hair growing in strange places after using the tanning oil. If that’s not an inappropriate thing to ask, I don’t know what is. Actually, I do, but I’ll keep that to myself.

Goosebumps my hairiest adventure

Overall, My Hairiest Adventure is a very light episode, in that it’s not all too creepy. Well, minus the whole puberty thing, but that’s a different kind of creepy. If there is one major standout in the episode, however, it’s that Larry is a whiny, angsty, lowlife crybaby. In other words, an asshole. Outside of Larry the asshole and hair in strange places, My Hairiest Adventure is far from a memorable episode of Goosebumps, though it does have one great little payoff that ties in with the shows famous opening. It’s not much of a saving grace, but worthy of note. 

Until next time, kiddies, keep your night light on and your head under the covers...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: The Backwater Gospel (2011)

The Backwater Gospel Halloween Short film

Set in the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, a small, isolated community is plagued by the lingering threat of a mysterious undertaker, who always seems to show up just before someone is about to die. The townsfolk are absolutely frightened, which is only heightened by a guitar-strumming tramp (Zebulon Whatley) who sings a song warning the townsfolk that the undertaker is on his way. Led by a propaganda-spewing preacher (Lucien Dodge), the townsfolk, who have the intelligence of an ingrown toenail, come to believe that the tramp is to blame for their impending doom.

Directed by Bo Mathorne, The Backwater Gospel is a Danish animated short with a simplistic but relevant message. The entire basis for the short is how easy it is to sway the masses, especially when they are afraid for their lives. The fear of death causes the townsfolk to act completely irrational, which leads them to take some very unchristian-like actions. And all along the way, the preacher does nothing but feed into the fears of the townsfolk, because in the end it is he who is the most afraid.  

While the narrative of the short is fairly basic, the strength of The Backwater Gospels is the way in which it’s presented to the viewer. With a style that is best described as gritty, the film is gorgeously animated and exudes a legitimate sense of dread and despair, something of which greatly heightens the dark subject matter. The animation stands out most during the short’s final moments, in which the proverbial shit hits the fan. This is where The Backwater Gospel becomes quite violent, but the way the violence is visually portrayed is through black silhouettes, something of which adds a fantastic level of style to the piece.  

Take a moment to check out The Backwater Gospel for yourself, and afterwards, please feel free to let me know what you think!

Salute Your Shorts 4

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bad Trick or Treat Ideas: Bag of Popcorn

bad trick or treat candy ideas

Hey, I like popcorn as much as the next person, but trying to pass off 3¢ worth of stale air as a Halloween “treat” is simply unacceptable. I take no issue with spending an evening rotting my teeth out whilst chowing down on the copious candy goodies there are to be had, but I have absolutely no desire to spend said evening picking kernels out of them. Plus, I’d much rather not eat a snack that you dished out with you bare, filth-covered hand.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ghoul School (1990): Too Ghoul for School

ghoul school 1990

When a group of dim-witted criminals attempt to steal a fortune in cash from a high school basement, they accidentally unleash a poison into the school’s water supply, resulting in the swim team and a handful of other students becoming flesh-eating ghouls. The only people who can stop this outbreak from breaking out are a couple of horror geeks, Jeff and Steve (Scott Gordon and William Friedman), a five-man basketball team and the baddest rock band of all time, the Bloodsucking Ghouls. Will they be able to expel this ghoulish nightmare, or find themselves stuck in permanent detention?

Written and directed by Timothy O’Rawe, Ghoul School is an immensely low-budget horror comedy that somehow, someway delivers the goods despite being riddled with issues. Comically bad acting is sporadically laced throughout the film, which is often enhanced by post-production dialogue so ridiculous that it would almost seem like they were doing it on purpose to get a laugh. Furthermore, the editing is amateurish at best, featuring an abundance of awkwardly edited and staged moments of dialogue where characters seem as if they are in two completely different planes of existence.

ghoul school 1990 1

Despite a runtime of 70 minutes, Ghoul School has a whole lot going on. There are a number of parallel storylines that, regardless of coming together in the film’s finale, seem to be nothing more than nonsensical filler. With horror junkies Jeff and Steve being the obvious leads, the film mainly focuses on them as they sneak into the AV room to watch a bootleg of the latest zombie gore film before the ghoul outbreak occurs. During this time, there are sections of the film dedicated to the Bloodsucking Ghouls, who come equipped with mullets, massive amounts of fringe, cheetah print, and weight-lifting gloves, all things you want and need in a hair-metal band. What the viewer does not get, however, is a taste of "the best goddamn rock 'n roll singer in New York," because their performance suspiciously lacks vocals.

ghoul school 1990 3

Keeping the film’s momentum at a crawl is the worst basketball practice ever hosted by the worst coach ever who is forcing the varsity basketball team to practice an extra hour because they suck. What follows are an abundance of sporadic scenes where the viewer is privy to the basketball team lazily taking practice shots and arguing with one another about who’s the gayest. All of these characters eventually come to play a part in the film as a whole, but in all reality this poorly executed build up adds nothing of real value to the film in the scenes leading up to that point. Well, outside of laughable entertainment value, that is.

As out of place as the basketball practice may seem, it holds not a candle to the random scenes featuring Joe Franklin and Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, both of whom make an appearance as themselves. Serving absolutely no purpose to the film whatsoever, these are clearly nothing more than cameos that came in exchange for favors, or in the case of Martling, self promotion. There are a handful of characters wearing a T-shirt that says “I stumped Jackie the Joke Man!!” as well as a moment where one of Martling’s videos is playing in the background. The most egregious and absurd moment comes from a scene where Martling literally spends 5 minutes telling jokes to Franklin in an office. It’s absolute madness.

ghoul school 1990 4

While issues are aplenty, Ghoul School is thoroughly enjoyable in a way where its many problems actually add to the film in a positive way. The film somehow retains a level of horror-loving earnestness, which I think can be attributed to it being made by people who genuinely love the genre. Of course, the time period in which the film was made adds to the amusement, especially because it comes at a time when we weren’t all so self-aware. Those who nostalgically cherish the 1980s through modern-day retro-entertainment should enjoy watching a movie such as Ghoul School, as it genuinely delivers much of the same absurd amusement during an era that so many try to capture.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Goosebumps at 33: Piano Lessons Can Be Murder

Goosebumps TV shows

Previously on Goosebumps At 33…

Goosebumps The Girl Who Cried Monster TV Show Episode 3

Goosebumps It Came from Beneath the Sink TV Show 2

goosebumps Phantom of the auditorium 3

Well hello boils and ghouls! I am extremely excited to welcome you to a brand spanking new season of Goosebumps At 33! This is the 5th season of Goosebumps At 33, and oh boy are you in for a treat, as this season is set to deliver all sorts of thrills, chills and dolla dolla bills, ya’ll!

For those of you who aren’t hip to all this Goosebumps jazz, I encourage you to jump in my time machine and take a look back at this introductory post. For the rest of you dear brave souls, why don’t you have a seat, take a deep breath, and listen closely as I tell you the horrid tale of…

PAINO LESSONS CAN BE MURDER!!!

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder 4

Jerry (Ben Cook) is a young boy with a wild imagination filled with aspects of horror, science-fiction and adventure. While moving into a new home, Jerry’s imagination crosses over into reality when he hears a piano playing Ludwig Van Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata… all by itself! This obviously startles Jerry, but when he tells his parents about what he just witnessed, they chalk it up to his imagination and suggest that he gets a hobby to keep his wandering mind occupied. Oddly, they don’t seem to worry about Jerry wearing a spaghetti strainer on his head. Like, not only is it a strange thing to do, it’s highly unsanitary.

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder

Soon after the piano incident, Jerry meets a neighborhood girl named Kim (Erica Luttrell), who gleefully informs Jerry that his new home was previously owned by a piano teacher, something that intrigues Jerry. Later on that night, Jerry once again hears the same song as before, which leads to him heading down to the basement to investigate. When Jerry sees that the pianist is a ghost, he freaks out and runs away, but not before waking his parents by knocking over a bunch of boxes.

Jerry is as frightened as he is fascinated by what is happening in his new home, so he decides that the best way to figure out why there’s a ghost playing the piano in his basement is to take piano lessons. This goes over well with Jerry’s parents, as they believe this will keep him occupied and prevent so many strange outbursts.

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder 2

While taking piano lessons seems like a pretty innocuous undertaking, the piano school is located in an abandoned factory with some seriously high-end security. Nothing to be ‘alarmed’ about, right? Well, if an abandoned factory and security system isn’t sketch’ enough for you, the fact that Jerry’s piano teacher (Aron Tager) is a flamboyant Santa Claus looking old man obsessed with little boy’s hands might be of concern. That, or the fact that there is a creepy maintenance man (Geza Kovacs) who’s in charge of various red-eyed robots that roam the halls of the factory. Like really, what could go wrong?! 

Taken from the 13th book in the series, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder was the 8th episode in the 1st season of the Goosebumps television series. Overall a solid episode, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder has a bit of a strange but visually interesting finale, filled with twists and turns and turns and twists. Interestingly enough, however, this is one of those rare occurrences where there is no twist at the very end of the episode. The performances are fairly entertaining, and Terry isn’t too obnoxious as the protagonist, though at one point he claims that he can play Stairway to Heaven On the Kazoo. Jerry is obviously a crack head.

Goosebumps Piano Lessons Can Be Murder 3

Anyway, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder is a nice way to get this year’s Goosebumps at 33 started, and I only hope that the rest of this season brings about a bevy of equally enjoyable Goosebumps goodies! 

Until next time, kiddies, keep your night light on and your head under the covers...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: Tricker's Treat (2013)

Halloween short film Tricker's Treat

It's Halloween night, and a man credited as The Fatman (Paul Hernandez) wants absolutely nothing to do with any sort of trick-or-treating. In fact, he even goes as far as putting up a sign in his front yard saying “NO TRICK ‘R TREATERS.” Instead of being bothered by greedy little children, The Fatman would much rather spend his Halloween watching horror movies and eating a massive bowl of buffalo wings covered in blue cheese. And honestly, I don't blame him, because buffalo wings are wicked good. Like, they’re one of my favorite foods good.

In any event, a handful of trick-or-treaters come knocking and interrupt The Fatman’s evening of horror movies and eating buffalo wings. As expected, he doesn't take it too well and responds accordingly by telling the children to kick rocks. This isn’t the last time The Fatman will have to deal with visitors, however, as soon his evening of horror films and delicious buffalo wings becomes a night of regret for having shunned so many young trick-or-treaters.

Written and directed by Don Greene, Tricker’s Treat is a 5 minute short that clearly cost very little to make. That’s not to say the short suffers as a result. In fact, it’s just the opposite, as Tricker’s Treat is a solidly made little slice of Halloween horror that features impressive lighting and editing as well as a humorous performance by Paul Hernandez.  

Give it a watch for yourself below, and please feel free to invite me over next time you order wings.

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Worst Witch (1986): Prewitched

The Worst Witch 1986

While attending a prestigious school for witches, a young girl named Mildred Hubble (Fairuza Balk) simply cannot do anything right. Mildred is quite clumsy and constantly making mistakes, which puts her in the crosshairs of a group of bullies led by a girl named Ethel Hallow (Anna Kipling), who would be best described as your typical perfect student who also happens to come from a very respectable family of witches. Mildred has also found herself on the bad side of Miss Constance Hardbroom (Diana Rigg), a potions teacher who has a low tolerance for screw ups and has absolutely no problem with calling Mildred out for every little mistake she makes. The only people who seem to have Mildred’s back are her best friend, Maud (Danielle Batchelor), and the school’s headmistress, Miss Cackle (Charlotte Rae).

While Mildred is busy struggling with everything from flying on her broom to properly executing magic spells, the school is preparing for a special visit from The Grand Wizard (Tim Curry), which is a VERY big deal for everyone involved. This becomes most obvious during a scene where all the girls are passing around a black and white photo of him during class, with each girl oohing and awing and kissing the photo as if The Grand Wizard were a member of One Direction. All the while, Miss Cackle’s evil twin sister, Agatha Cackle (also played by Charlotte Rae), and a group of devious witches are planning to take over the witch academy and turn all the young, budding witches into young, budding evil witches. What role will Mildred play in all of this? Probably a large one, you know, considering the film is about her and all.

The Worst Witch 1986 Movie

Directed by Robert Young, The Worst Witch is a UK made-for-television film that aired every October on HBO and Disney all the way up until the late ‘90s. Based on a series of books written by English writer Jill Murphy, what might be most obvious to anyone who encounters The Worst Witch are the many similarities it shares with Harry Potter. In fact, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has, on numerous occasions, been accused of ripping off The Worst Witch series. While the similarities are a plenty as well as being completely undeniable, the world of Harry Potter and Mildred are indeed very different, at least based on my experience.

“Things never go right for Mildred Hubble…” proclaims the film’s tagline, which is made obvious during an opening credit sequence that does a nice job of quickly portraying Mildred in all of her clumsiness as well as setting up her rivalry with miss perfect herself, Ethel Hallow. The Worst Witch is mostly focused on Mildred trying to find herself whilst dealing with a series of self-imposed unfortunate events and the ramifications she faces as a result. The film is essentially a classic underdog tale, where one character will go against all odds to prove themselves worthy of respect.

The Worst Witch 1986 Movie 1

While enjoyable as a children’s made-for-TV film, The Worst Witch is quite hokey at times, though this element adds a certain level of enjoyment to the viewing experience. The rear projection flying effects are charmingly awful, especially in how each actor actually sells the act of flying on a broom. Most of the performances are solid, but a major standout, for better or for worse, comes from Charlotte Rae, specifically in her role as the evil twin sister Agatha Cackle. As opposed to headmaster Cackle, who is a fairly sweet, laid-back character, Agatha gives Rae the opportunity to ham it up, and she does so with ridiculous glee.

The Worst Witch also features a handful of musical numbers. While musicals aren't necessarily my favorite thing in the world (outside of a few exceptions), the musical moments in The Worst Witch are kept to a minimum. More importantly, however, it is indeed a musical number that stands out as the single best moment in the film. In fact, it may be the single greatest moment in any film. Ever.

The Worst Witch 1986 Movie 2

Throughout the entirety of The Worst Witch, everyone is extremely excited about the special visit from The Grand Wizard, and knowing The Grand Wizard is played by Tim Curry, it’s nearly impossible to not be equally excited as a viewer. With the benefit of hindsight, the prospect of Tim Curry showing up as a “Grand Wizard” in a kitschy kids film with musical elements is quite promising. And let me tell you, people, when The Grand Wizard shows up and lets loose one of the greatest performances to ever hit celluloid, forever will your mind, body and soul be changed. The Grand Wizard’s performance is the equivalent of a cape-wearing unicorn starring in one of those lip-sync music videos that you could make at the mall back in the 80s and early 90s. Please, feel free to indulge for yourself below:

 

If that doesn't sell you on the film, then nothing will.

If you feel a hankering for watching a kids’ film about girl witches, you can watch The Worst Witch, in its entirety, on YouTube. Which is exactly why YouTube is so awesome.

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