I want to preface this week’s “chat” with a disclaimer: I did not watch this entire movie. There has only been one other time where I couldn’t finish watching something for this blog.
Now. I went into Twisted Nightmare with the best of intentions. For one, can you believe that it’s nearly already August? I’ve lasted nearly all summer without watching a single summer camp slasher! It’s a damn travesty.
So armed with the goal to watch a new-to-me slasher, I began perusing people’s lists of “Best Summer Camp Slashers”. Most of the lists were very standard unless you’ve been living under a very large rock or are very new to the genre.
But Twisted Nightmare stood out to me. Supposedly derivative of the iconic Friday the 13th, I was still willing to give the movie a try.
Turns out, what I got instead of a fun summer slasher was an incredibly dull and racist pile of sludge.
A group of friends all gather together at a campground after being invited for a free stay. There are a lot of people who join so it’s pretty difficult to keep everyone straight. All the white people look like carbon copies of each other. Oh, other than that dude with the serious moustache.
Anyway, there’s a barn. People keep going into the barn and getting killed. It has something to do with someone’s brother dying mysteriously by spontaneously combusting.
Because there are SO many people in this movie, it’s essentially a bunch of scenes of people getting killed off. That’s fine, but it’s usually nice to have a bit of story in between. Also, the death scenes are particularly fun. So if you like watching slashers for their inventive kills, you won’t find that here.
Then we get into the Indigenous burial grounds and “medicine man” nonsense. This is our explanation as to why weird shit is happening. Is the stereotype of its time? Sure. But no matter what the era, it’s pretty lazy writing. With that ‘explanation’ I promptly turned off my TV and am refusing to watch the rest.
Is it fair to review a movie when you haven’t watched the entire thing? No. Probably not. But I also don’t think it’s fair to waste my precious brain cells and time on this silliness.
Don’t get me wrong, I love 80s slashers. Many of them are problematic in various ways. It’s okay to enjoy something as long as you can see and acknowledge its flaws. But if you’re going to be racist and boring and lazy, well, that’s three strikes against you.
To end things on a high note, I rewatched Dario Argento’s Opera this past weekend. That’s a fabulous film. It was also released in 1987, but it’s worlds away from Twisted Nightmare. There’s so much drama and tension in Opera. Watch Opera!
It’s pretty obvious that I love made-for-TV movies. I dedicate every March to talking about one every week. So when I read about Mr Boogedy on a list of strangest movies on Disney+*, I knew I had to watch it.
Disney’s TV movies are pretty iconic. In my household, we always looked forward to the newest one every month. They’re all pretty cheesy and family-friendly, and there are hundreds of them! But some are even as well-loved as their regular releases, Hocus Pocus possibly being the best example.
While I’ve seen a lot of Disney TV movies, I’ve never seen one quite like Mr Boogedy. It’s zany, to be sure – filled with characters you’d never meet in real life.
In the late 80s, it began to be “a thing” to use joke shops and the like as settings. Here we don’t get a shop as a backdrop, but a gag shop owner as our dad. The Davis family love to prank each other.
The odd one out is teenager Jennifer (played by Kristy Swanson). When the family arrive at their new house, she’s immediately wary of it. It’s old and run-down and quite clearly the type of place to be haunted.
When the family enter the home, they find Neil Witherspoon (John Astin) inside waiting for them. He tries to warn them away with stories of Mr Boogedy, but they brush off his warning.
That night, Jennifer hears sneezing coming from a room at the end of the hall. She tries to investigate but faints. When she awakes, she claims that she saw Mr Boogedy. Of course, the family think she’s bonkers, despite the fact that she’s the most level-headed out of all of them. But it’s not too long until the entire family begins to have supernatural experiences.
The Davis children soon realise they need to do something. They go to the local historical society and bump into the eccentric Mr Mitherspoon again. He tells them the story of Mr Boogedy, who once was a pilgrim by the name of William Hanover.
Hanover had apparently fallen in love with a widow. Thing is, though, this old bat hated children, and the window happened to have one. Soon Hanover goes to silly lengths to make the widow his. This does include asking the Devil for a favour to get a magic cloak.
And if that sounds strange, don’t worry. It only gets more bizarre from there.
Mr Boogedy is the type of film that could only exist in the late 80s or early 90s. The family is so whacky and unbelievable. The villain is borderline comical. But…something here just works. It’s the type of light horror that reminds me of the sillier episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Honestly, this movie is a bit dated. But I think it still has thrills that young viewers would find entertaining. It could perhaps be a great option for Halloween when everyone is cooped up and not trick-or-treating.
*If you’re curious, I don’t think Disney+ is worth it. I don’t like Disney movies, Star Wars OR Marvel. So why do I have an annual subscription? Only the Lockdown Gods know. Though because of this error in judgment, expect more write-ups on stuff like Mr Boogedy!
True crime fascinates people. We love it. It’s the reason why we’ve been obsessed with the likes of Ann Rule, Unsolved Mysteries and The Staircase for decades.
My recent not-so-lockdown lockdown obsession has been the My Favorite Murder podcast by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. The only way you haven’t heard about this podcast is if you’ve been living under a rock. For me, I’m so late to the game because I never really got into podcasts in general. Now I’ve got years of content to catch up on.
One of my favourite aspects of the show is the hometown murders where viewers send in their local stories. A story that caught my attention was a series of murders called the Moonlight Murders that took place in Texarkana in the 1940s.
And low-and-behold, I was absolutely chuffed to learn that the pseudo-documentary The Town That Dreaded Sundown was based on these murders. It was a movie I’d been putting off watching for ages, and it finally felt like the right time to watch.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is done in the same style as director Charles B Pierce’s The Legend of Boggy Creek. There’s narration throughout the story that leads views throughout the scenes of destruction.
In the year 1946, the sleepy town of Texarkana is hit by a series of brutal murders. The murderer is a man donning a pillowcase on his head (think Jason’s mask in Part II) who likes to target young couples at lovers’ lane.
The case quickly becomes too big for the small town’s police force and a Texas ranger is brought in to help solve the murder.
The murders are all pretty monotonous until we get to a wonderfully bizarre and out-of-place scene where the killer wields a trombone/knife device! It’s completely out of left-field. But I suppose, if you’re going to be historically inaccurate your motto really ought to be, “Go big or go home!”
The real murders were never solved, and there isn’t much resolution here either. It’s certainly an interesting adaption of a true-crime story. Like The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown tries to strike a balance between horror and slapstick comedy.
In my opinion, it doesn’t work very well here. Thankfully Vern Stierman’s narration helps pull the story back into its drama. I think The Legend of Boggy Creek worked better simply because I find mythical animals sillier than real serial killers. Also, there’s no banging tune in this one! That being said, I really do love the faux-documentary style that Pierce used.
Apparently, the film was remade in 2014 with loads of my favourite names attached: Jason Blum,
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Ryan Murphy. The trombone is reported to have made an appearance. I’d certainly be willing to give it a try because, at this point, the true story of the Moonlight Murders seemed to have surpassed facts and into the realm of fantasy.
Well, guess who had Wednesday spring up on them again. Me. This girl. For about two months running now.
Though it’s always a good reason to squeeze in the viewing of a short film. I’ve watched so many at this point, I feel like I could be a sommelier of short films.
And The Quiet Room is certainly worth a recommendation, particularly if you love your reds with plenty of psychological messages to unpack. (Can you tell I don’t drink wine?)
Michael is a young writer on the edge. After a failed suicide attempt, he wakes up in a hospital. He’s put under evaluation and kept in the psych ward.
He soon makes friends with a group of young people in the hospital. They tell him about the legend of the demon who lives at the hospital. The demon supposedly holds suicidal men in the “quiet room” where their screams can be heard.
As Michael’s stay continues, he begins seeing visions of his dead boyfriend. And it certainly seems like something is out to get him.
The Quiet Room doesn’t really offer up a lot of scares (though it’s very gross and bloody). But it is much more about a man, plagued by guilt, as he descends into madness.
I love films that blur the lines of reality. And The Quiet Room does a successful job of entering you into a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Man, what a slump these past few weeks have been. My desire to watch films has basically dwindled away to nothing. I can stomach one episode of Unsolved Mysteries a night or a weird documentary (looking at you, Tickled), and that’s about it.
This week I really wanted to put in the effort. But it had to be something exciting and fun.
And honestly, what movie has a more intriguing title than Murder by Phone? Sure, killer object slashers can be rather hit-or-miss, but a killer phone! Surely that has to be fun?
Only it really wasn’t. Weirdly, though, it has the pedigree to be something interesting. It was directed by Michael Anderson (Logan’s Run) and stars icons like Richard Chamberlain and Sara Botsford.
But Murder By Phone doesn’t really live up to it’s name. Mostly because I think it takes itself too seriously.
For one, the movie follows Nat Bridger (Chamberlain), an ecologist who is attending an ecology conference. If that doesn’t sound like a hoot…
When one of Bridger’s students mysteriously dies, he begins to look into her death. The police aren’t convinced that it’s any more than a heart attack. Strange for a young girl, but they’re not interested in digging up more.
Soon more victims pile up. Each is killed when they answer a phone call. See, now if it was the phone doing the killing, we might have something here. But instead the plot turns into a convoluted story about the control of phone companies…?
Honestly, the phone lingo had me so bored I zoned out too much. Perhaps the real plot is buried somewhere and I missed it?
Anyway. Bridger is the typical hero trying to take down The Man. We see him doing silly things like stealing his girlfriend’s ID to sneak into the phone company and beating up photographers for following him.
Movies like Murder By Phone are much more fun when they don’t take themselves too seriously. This movie could have been a slasher full of silly deaths and hide-behind-your-hands moments. But instead we’re given something more of a science fiction thriller with a few fun, but samey death scenes.
Perhaps this film would be more watchable given a good clean up in both the audio and visuals. It’s pretty unwatchable otherwise.
So the search for the perfect, fun movie continues. At this rate, I might lose the will to ever watch a movie ever again.
I have been looking forward to my birthday falling on a Wednesday for a few years now. I was really planning on doing/watching something great.
But I haven’t.
In fact, I’m a bit over writing and watching movies in general. Though the voice inside my brain says to keep writing. Even if I am a bit shit and always uninspired.
Anyway. It’s my birthday and I really ought to do something. But watching/paying attention to movies while you have constant headaches is a no-go. So here’s a list of my favourite movies in absolutely no order whatsoever for no reason in particular. Watch one if you feel like worshiping me today.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) dir. by Fran Rubel Kuzui
2. Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) dir. by Deborah Brock
3. Cosa avete fatto a Solange? (What Have You Done to Solange?) (1972) dir. by Massimo Dallamano
4. Profondo rosso (Deep Red) (1975) dir. by Dario Argento
5. Jackie Brown (1997) dir. by Quentin Tarantino
6. Phantom of the Paradise (1974) dir. by Brian De Palma
7. Black Christmas (1974) dir. by Bob Clark
8. Night of the Comet (1984) dir. by Thom Eberhardt
I have always loved thrillers, mystery and horror books. But lately, it seems that I can’t devour the stories fast enough. My Audible library is teeming audiobooks from Valancourt Books and my pre-order list for this summer’s releases is maaaybe just a little too long.
But what else do I have to do with my time but consume stories? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
And there’s certainly been a lot of crud that I’ve read. That’s for sure. But instead of talking about everything I’ve recently read, here are the shining lights from the last six months.
Top 5 Horror/Thrillers from the first six months of 2020 in no particular order because I hate ranking things:
1. I’ve gone on about this book already, so I’ll keep it short. But When Darkness Loves Us by Elizabeth Engstrom is a dark and twisted pair of novellas from Valancourt Books’ Paperbacks From Hell series.
It’s been said in many reviews, but it’s a sin that Engstrom’s name is not mentioned more in the list of great horror writers. “When Darkness Loves Us” is a visceral and stomach-churning tale of revenge. And “Beauty Is” is the magical realism horror that tackles misogyny that we all need.
2. So I wrote an entire short story about my love for Christopher Pike’s The Midnight Club. Magically it was deleted, and I will hate WordPress forever for it. But this is another one I’ll keep to the point.
This was my first foray into Pike’s work. I love me some early teen horror. So I really was expecting a ghoulish tale of ghosts and children up to no good (probably me just associating the title with the Midnight Society).
Instead I was slapped in the face with a poignant story about reincarnation and accepting death. This probably shouldn’t be classified as a horror novel. There are no ghosts. There are no mysterious figures arriving to deliver punishment. Just a group of four young adults in a hospice coming to terms about the end of their lives.
I felt out ugly sobbed at the end of this book. It really just hit me in all the right places. It’s been announced that Mike Flannagan is going to be directing an adaption for Netflix. Given how he handled the themes of death in The Haunting of Hill House, I couldn’t pick a better man for the job.
3. I struggle with anthology novels. The stories are often forgettable, surrounded by one of two memorable pieces. I’ve read a small handful this year so far, and not many of them were impressive. The one that stood head-and-shoulders above the rest was Stephen Graham Jones’ After the People Lights Have Gone Off.
First of all: THAT TITLE!
But more importantly, Jones has a wonderful style that’s vividly descriptive. I read it via audiobook, but I bet reading it physically is something entirely more visceral (remind me to buy my physical copy). Because I don’t have the book and I read the physical book a month ago. I can’t name my favourite stories. And that, kids, is quality content!
4. There’s something slightly shameful about admitting how much I loved revisiting Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. It’s been very difficult getting to the reason why.
Is it because it’s salacious? Are stories by women more inherently less worth-while if they tackle themes of sex, guilt and desire? God knows. But if loving Flowers in the Attic is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, Flowers in the Attic follows the tragic story of the four Dollanganger siblings. Following the death of their father, their mother moves them into her parents home. Only the children are soon locked up in a room to be kept as a secret. They’re promised their release will be in a matter of days. But the nightmare emerges when the children’s stay turns from days into months and into years.
It’s wild in the best sense of the word. But it’s more than just a story about incest. It’s about Cathy and the horrible women in her life. Gillian Flynn’s piece on the book sums it up better than I ever could. If you like her stories, you’ll certainly love the Dollangangers and their secrets.
5. And finally. The pièce de résistance. The book I haven’t shut up about in months: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying.
It’s always intimidating starting a book you’ve been looking forward to for so long. Even if the author has impressed you time and time again, there’s always a chance that the next book will be the disappointment.
So when my copy of Grady Hendrix’s latest novel arrived (over a month late, mind), I almost didn’t want to pick it up. But holy shit am I glad I did. Hendrix has a way of taking the most camp-sounding plots and turning them into something so worthwhile and meaningful.
Patricia is a good housewife in her town in South Carolina. She tries her best to be the good wife and mother to her family. But she’s also a member of a true-crime-loving book club. When a new neighbour moves in, Patricia is suspicious of the man. And while she’s adamant that something more is going on, the rest of her town, including her book club, turn on her.
Sure. This is a book about a vampire and the group of housewives wanting to take him down. But it’s also about the silencing of women (particularly black women) within a community, class and the complexities of motherhood.
Though don’t worry. There’s still plenty of gore and horrible scenes of disgusting rats!
I haven’t reread a book in years. But I think Hendrix’s last three novels have “reread” written all over them.
I have tried writing my down thoughts so many times now. Nothing I say is quite right. Everything feels wrong because it keeps missing the mark. But there comes a time where you have to let it go and just write.
It has been over a week since George Floyd was murdered. Why has there only been one arrest? Where is the justice? How many people need to take to the streets until the people WE put in power have a conversation with us?
I’m so tired.
But if I’m tired as a privileged white woman, I couldn’t possibly ever imagine how tired Black Americans must feel right now.
I’ve been too quite this last week. Sure, I signed the petitions and donated money. There were even a few retweets, but enough. I might be 4,000 miles away from home, but I will campaign, protest and FIGHT for Black Americans. Let them hide in their bunkers; they never cared about any of us to begin with.
The blog will be back to normal next week, but the world won’t. Please don’t ever let the world ever go back to that “normal” again. Please help the fight.
It will be all to easy for white people to get bored and move on. But for Black people and other people of colour, they can’t just “move on” from the systemic, institutionalised racism in their every day lives. We must actively make changes in our country, not only when a video makes the news.
So while I don’t have any answers, I do know that you can make changes politically using money and your power to vote.
I also encourage non-POC to diversify what they read and watch. Not just today. Not just while people are looking but always. Don’t do it just for the image, but because you actively enjoy what POC are creating. The more you search, the more you’ll discover.
My lists are just the tip of the iceberg. Please seek out information by better-informed voices. I just wanted to offer up my support where I can.
And to the people of colour on both sides of the Atlantic: I stand with you. Black Lives Matter.
I love gialli. Stylistically, these Italian classics are everything I love; they’re moody yet vibrant, atmospheric and always glamorous. Do the mysteries always have a good pay off? No. But they sure as hell will always give you something beautiful to look at.
Abrakadabra is the latest giallo from the Argentinian Onetti brothers. Like other homage-style films like House of the Devil and The Love Witch, this movie perfectly emulates a time in cinema history. In barely over an hour’s running time, we’re given a glimpse back into the beautiful and brutal world of giallo. But this time there’s magic!
Lorenzo Mancini is a magician. He’s also the son of a murdered magician. Bad luck seems to follow him everywhere. Most clearly exemplified when a woman is found murdered on stage just before his debut.
Mancini is insistent that he doesn’t know the deceased. Though her unusual abracadabra amulet catches his eye.
That night, Mancini performs for his audience. Despite a strong start, things begin to go awry when he brings his assistant on stage. The crowd quickly become disinterested when he pulls off a trick.
The following morning, Mancini realises his assistant Antonella is missing. He sets off to find her. But along the way, he quickly realises something is not right.
When more women are murdered, more fingers are pointed at Mancini as the culprit. But what’s really going on? Who, exactly, is trying to frame him?
The story begins to weave it’s convoluted web of fact and fiction, dreams and reality.
The film’s ending can give you whiplash if you don’t keep up. The twists come in thick and the imagery is quick. But the pay off is truly in the giallo style.
I had a blast watching this movie just for the images alone. There’s some really strong moments of cinematography. It makes each death worth remembering just for the sheer art on screen.
The style reminded me of early gialli like Sei donne per l’assassino (from which it heavily borrows its lighting’s colour pallet) and Argento’s Tenebrae. I don’t make these comparisons lightly, Abrakadabra clearly wants us to be looking for these homages.
While I really enjoyed the film. There’s one thing that really lets it down: the English dub. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wacky dub (I’m looking at you, 30-year-old man who gave Giovanni Frezza a voice). Most gialli have a mixture of actors delivering lines in various languages, so they’re all inevitably dubbed at some point.
But I found the dub here to be very distracting. Lead actor Germán Baudino’s real voice is smooth and wonderful to listen to. I feel robbed from not being able to hear his delivery. I’d certainly seek out the blu-ray once it’s released in June just to hear it in it’s original language.
So I say for anyone outside of the US (where it’s currently streaming on Amazon), hold out until you can watch it without the dub. Abrakadabra deserves to be watched in its full, glamorous glory.
I’m a bit obsessed at the moment with finding the perfect ‘old’ horror, sci fi or true crime show. It started with Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files and has moved on to hunting down the likes of Night Gallery and Beyond Belief. It’s amazing how much there is to discover once you open that can of worms.
My latest “discovery” is the 1980s anthology series The Hitchhiker, which first aired on HBO in 1983. Like most anthology series, there’s a mythical, seemingly omnipresent host – the Hitchhiker. He introduces us to each episode as he wanders the dark corners of the world.
Jane Renyolds is a crooked nurse who governs her care home with an iron fist. One night her boyfriend, Johnny, stops by to assess the jewellery she’s stolen from her patients. Though she’s disappointed when nothing seems to be of value.
During Johnny’s visit, a new patient is brought in who had been discovered in a burned-out building. Jane immediately spots the man’s massive ring. She attempts to slip it off his finger but cannot.
Johnny later returns, and the couple start to get frisky. It’s then that they’re interrupted by crashing sounds. Afterwards, Jane hears the angry shouts of her patients. She discovers that a cat has been murdered in the halls. They immediately blame their horrible nurse.
Suspicious of the new arrival, Jane straps him down to his hospital bed and finally gets his ring. Showing incredible strength, the man breaks free from his bindings and chases after the nurse. Unsurprisingly, the receives no help from anyone else in the building.
I always think short stories of horrible people getting their comeuppance are the most fun. “Nightshift” is no exception.
The cast in this is very good: Margot Kidder in the lead with Stephen McHattie and Darren McGavin in supporting roles. The quality is fantastic in it, I’m fairly surprised I’ve never heard of this show before. Being on HBO and not network television, we get a story with much edgier imagery. The gore alone certainly sets it apart from earlier counterparts.
Finding episodes of The Hitchhiker isn’t very easy beyond crap quality uploads on YouTube. I imagine things are probably easier in the US. If a streaming service in the UK could step-up and carry older television shows, that would be fantastic. If I can find more episodes to watch, I certainly will. I love the gleeful darkness.