Wicked Wednesday: Are You Afraid of the Dark? S3E6 “The Tale of the Bookish Baby-Sitter”

Are You Afraid of the Dark is like balm for the soul. It’s always pure pleasure, even if it isn’t one of the more iconic episodes.

I sat infront of the TV this week and let episode after episode play. Season 3 really has some classics. But “The Tale of the Bookish Baby-Sitter” was one I had never seen before.

This episode features one of Betty Ann’s stories. As always, it’s full of fantasy and healthy doses of the supernatural. Her story this week is a story about stories.

Ricky is a 12-year-old pain-in-the-ass. He’s a brat that’s addicted to the television. When his mom prepares to go out one night, she tells him that he’s going to have a baby-sitter. He argues that he’s too told for one (I agree), but nevertheless, his baby sitter Belinda arrives.

Belinda comes off as a ~free spirit~, mystifying Ricky’s mother when she answers the door. Belinda is a new age sort of girl who wears a cloak unironically and forces children to read books. But as she’s highly recommended, Ricky’s mom leaves with a shrug.

It isn’t long before Ricky and Belinda clash. After she turns off the TV, she tells him he can do whatever he wants…so long as he reads 5 minutes of her book. Aloud.

But even five minutes is too long for Ricky. He immediately puts down the book, only to open it again and start reading another one. After that, he tosses the book aside to play video games in his room.

While minding his own business, Ricky is attacked by a knight in armour. Then a ghost. He soon finds ‘Belinda’ who encourages him to burn pages of the book. He does so eagerly, only to discover that ‘Belinda’ is really a witch, and the real Belinda is trying to save him.

The two kids manage to get away to the kitchen. There Belinda explains to him what’s going on. Ase he never finished any of his stories, they’ve all become mixed together. Burning the pages didn’t exactly help either. So to end the nightmare, he must finish the stories with his own imagination.

But a kid like Ricky has no imagination. Or so he thinks. He makes weak attempts at story telling while he and the baby-sitter are chased around the house. Eventually, Belinda hands him a red book. When he opens it, he finds himself in a dungeon…inside the story.

It’s up to Ricky to find it within himself to make up a story and save himself.

There are some Midnight Society tales that are more whimiscal than scary. This almost sounds like a story I’d want to be in. Maybe not being attacked by knights with axes, but I think I could have a fun time getting sucked into books. I actually enjoyed Betty Ann’s cute little joke with her book prop at the end. Imagine having the actual patience to make a prop just to mess with someone for two seconds?

Anyway. As always, I still think this show mostly holds up. Episodes like this might not be scary by today’s standards, but they still manage to capture the imagination. And perhaps it’s even a good cautionary tale for the recluctant reader in your life…

Wicked Wednesday: Black Sabbath (I tre volti della paura) (1963)

I…am a doofus. Though, I have never proclaimed to be anything but. For many (too many) years, I thought Black Sunday and Black Sabbath were the same movie. Could I tell that they had different titles? Probably. Did that matter in my brain? Absolutely not.

So for years, I had convinced myself that I had already seen Black Sabbath because of how many times I had seen Black Sunday. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realised the error I had made.

…at least they’re both directed by Mario Bava?

Anyway. In many respects, this was a happy mistake. Because this week, I got to watch the masterpiece that is Black Sabbath for the very first time ever.

Black Sabbath is a anthology film, very reminiscent of Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror that was released a year prior in 1963. But Bava’s film has both better pace, acting and style.

The three sections in this anthology are introduced by genre legened Boris Karloff. He weaves us in and out of worlds with vampires, ghosts and devious humans.

In tale one, “The Drop of Water”, nurse Helen is called to prepare the body of a medium. There she is warned not to touch anything belonging to the descased, as it may be cursed. Ignoring the warnings, Helen takes the sapphire ring she spots on the corpse’s finger. But when she gets home, Helen soon finds that she should never cross a woman who can make a good curse.

The medium’s corpse is absolutely inconic. She is terrifying to behold. And it’s easy to believe that Helen is being drawn into madness. This segment alone should be all it takes to deem the movie as excellent.

The second tale, “The Telephone”, is truly nightmare-inducing. One of my greatest fear is leering men (see my favourite horror film ever, Black Christmas). When Rosy gets a call from a strange man, she becomes unnerved. Especially since the man appears to be able to see her every move.

Rosy calls a friend for help. The friend, Mary, arrives soon after to assist her friend. Rosy reveals that the calls are coming from Frank, a man who was sent to prison on Rosy’s testimony. Mary does her best to ease her friend’s tension, but can they stand a chance against the supernatural?

This story was the most greatly changed from the Italian release (more on that later). So it’s difficult to be overly enthusastic. Much of this segment doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We don’t know why Frank was sent away or why Rosy would be the cause of that. That being said, it is still enjoyable all the same.

The final segment sees Boris Karloff in an acting role. “The Wurdurlak” follows a family in the Russian countryside. Their father (Karloff) is off in the countryside slaying vampires. Before he departs, he tells them that there is one rule to follow: they must not let him in if he arrives after midnight of the third day.

When young Vladimir finds a beheaded body, he takes the knife from the corpse’s chest. When he stumbles upon a cottage, the family there recognise the knife as their father’s. Vladimir is invited to stay with them for the night as they nervously await their father’s return.

“The Wurdurlak” is a great lesson in: always listen to your dad always. Also – behead verything with a weird hole in its neck. This is the longest segment of the movie, and it feels like it too. The pacing is off and we never really get to attach ourselves to any of the characters too much beyond Karloff’s Gorca. That being said, it’s still a wonder to behold.

I love Bava’s earlier gialli. La ragazza che sapeva troppo and 6 donne per l’assassino are two of my favourites; they’re classics of the genre. While the former is in black and white, it’s clear that stylisticly, much of what is explored in Black Sabbath is used in Blood and Black Lace to great effect.

This has to be one of the most gorgeous movies I have ever seen. The three segments are all set in different times, helping to differenciate them. Easily the most lucious story visually is “The Drop of Water”, which is well worth returning to again and again. It’s a treat for the eyes, and there’s a wickedly good story there.

After I finished watching the movie, I realised I had seen the American released (the English dub should have been my first clue, but see first paragraph to remind you that I am not smart). This movie is one of the many examples where the American production company greatly interfered with the work to make it “appeal to American audiences”. Much was cut out, a new soundtrack made and processing the colours differently. Incidentally, the company, American International Pictures, was behind Corman’s Poe Cycle, so it’s clear to see why they feel so similar in many ways.

I’ve put Bava’s Italian release onto my to-watch list. The things I thought strage (the clear skips in violence, the plot holes, and almost garish soundtrack) are apparently not present in the Italian version. Now, just to hunt down the release…somewhere…at a reasonable price.

In general, I want to make this statement: for the love of all that is unholy – streaming services, please include all versions of a film to make them everything accessable to all. Keep dubbed versions. Give us the original languages. We just want it all.

Please and thank you.

Wicked Wednesday: The Demon Murder Case (1983)

Talk about going out with a fart. After a month of (relatively) fun TV movies, we reach the finish line at a crawl with The Demon Murder Case.

On the surface. This movie has all the right ingredients: true crime, supposed demon possessions, and Kevin Bacon. But what’s delivered in a confused and poorly-paced film that I wish I would have napped through.

Slight based on a true story, the movie opens with a young man, Kenny (Bacon), in a courtroom. What has he done? Well, whatever it is the Devil made him do it.

We then jump back to the time before Kenny’s crime. Young Brian is a nice kid, but has become possessed by a demon. His family try to help him by asking btoh the curch and a couple of demonologists (a fictionalised version of the Warrens) to intervene.

Though neither helps. Brian stays possessed. His family become increasingly frustrated, especially Kenny, who can’t seem to hold his temper. Kenny threatens the demon possessing Brian, ignoring the fact that the experts’ explicitly said not to do so.

Kenny is then possessed by the demon himself. While possessed, he becomes jealous of his girlfriend’s new boss – a man who needs help…grooming his dogs? During a party, the boss becomes drunk and harrassess Kenny’s girlfriend. Then “the demon” takes control and stabs the drunk man.

The police later arrest Kenny. The last act of the movie is Kenny’s trial. Honestly, it’s very boring.

The biggest issue I had with this movie was the pacing. For the first half of the film, we’re watching an Exorcist rip-off. Brian’s demon speaks through him using a gravely voice. He injures himself. He said TV-appropriately unappropriate things to his family.

We’re 30 minutes in when Brian’s exorcism begins. The build up is pretty quick. Then we have to forget about Brian (who, by the way, we have no idea if he’s still possessed) and begin focusing on this Kenny character. Kenny, bless Kevin Bacon, is an incredibly boring and unlikable character. The fact that he’s just suddenly possessed is weird.

The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (the real murderer) is the subject of the third Conjuring film, which is (hopefully) being released this summer. It will be interesting to see how the story is tackled. Hopefully there is more focus. The issue with the story in The Demon Murder Case is that it is essentially two in one: Brian’s possession and Kenny’s trial (David Glatzel and Arne Cheyenne Johnson in the true tale). By including both, the typical climax, the exorcism, is too near the beginning. All the suspense is spent before the movie is even halfway over.

That being said, the first half of this movie can be visually interesting. At times it’s almost more ambitious than the usual TV move fare at the time. For some reason, these directoral decisions are discarded once Kenny becomes the main focus.

And I do think a story just about Kenny/Arne could be interesting. This is the first case in the US where demonic possession was part of the defence. As I mentioned before, I’m interested to see what happens with the story when it’s in more modern hands.

Wicked Wednesday: Satan’s School for Girls (2000)

When I first started Made-for-TV March, I was surprised at how many TV movies had modern remakes. They don’t exactly seem like the type of thing to be ripe for that. After watching 1973’s Satan’s School for Girls back in 2017, I spotted the 2000 remake and immediately blew it off. At that point, I didn’t want to touch anything made after 1990.

But after a few years of running this, I slowly began to get over my fear of more modern films. Though I vowed that wouldn’t watch the remake until I had forgotten most of the original.

Only… I maybe forgot a little too much. For one, I thought I had really liked the original. Though glancing through my original write up, I was apparently less-than-enthusiastic. And the plot? I had to reread the entire thing to jog any memories at all.

So watching 2000’s Satan’s School for Girls felt like being introduced to an entirely new story. And in many ways, I was.

In 2000’s remake, Beth goes to Fallbridge College for Girls when her sister’s death is deemed a suicide. Her one piece of evidence is a sympathy card from a group simply called “The Five”. She begins to look into the lives of the girls around her, suspicious particularly of the goths.

She soon learns that The Five were a group of women who all went on to become wildly successful. Senators, bankers and the like.

But Beth’s detective work is not as subtle as she thinks. All eyes at the school seem to be on her. And it’s not too long before she’s forced to call upon her own psychic powers to battle the witches at her school.

There’s a lot more emphasis on this story on the girls’ magic. It’s both a strength and weakness of the film. It’s fun watching some witchy fun, and the women here seem to have much more agency than in the 1973 version. But the special effects in the 2000 movie have dated terribly. Considering The Craft was made nearly four years earlier, there’s not really an excuse. That is unless they spent literally all their budget getting Shannon Doherty.

The remake does switch things up enough that it doesn’t always feel like you’re watching the same movie twice. The second half certainly veers away from the original source material more than the first. Much of the climax is longer and more dragged out than the original – which has an ending like a punch to the gut. The ending was easily the most memorable part of the original.

Breaking one of my rules, I took the time to read an original review in Variety after watching the film. What was interesting to me, is that the writer argued that there wasn’t a need for groups like The Five anymore. Women are plenty powerful without having to make a deal with Satan.

Honestly, I’d have to disagree with that point a lot. We see women still getting attacked and murdered just walking home. I would do anything to have more power in life just to protect myself and other women. And what about our trans sisters? When their existence is challenged every day, can we really say women are fine enough in the workplace?

If The Five weren’t so hellbent on killing other people off, I’d say that every woman should consider making a pact with the Devil.

Wicked Wednesday: When Michael Calls (1972)

Cell phones are both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we never have to answer a call from an unknown number. On the other, we’ve lost a whole subgenre of horror: the creepy caller.

Sorry, Wrong Number, Black Christmas, and When a Stranger Calls are all in the same pot of creepy-caller movies. And When Michael Calls is a wonderful example of the subgenre within the TV movie world. It’s a slasher mystery filled with a wonderful autumnal ambience.

One day, Helen and her daughter, Peggy, receive a surprise visit from Helen’s ex-husband, Doremus. The separated couple, unsurprisingly, has a very strained relationship. But poor Helen’s day only gets worse when she gets a strange phone call.

On the other end of the line in a person with a child-like voice. The caller claims to be Michael, Helen’s nephew who died in a blizzard years before. She knows it’s him as he calls her “Auntie My Helen”, which apparently only he called her.

Shaken by the call, Helen speaks to Michael’s older psychiatrist brother, Craig. They agree that while strange, there’s nothing they can do about it.

Then one night, Peggy answers the phone. She tells her mother that ‘Michael’ called Doc, a family friend, bad names and insinuated something bad would happen to the doctor. Helen tries frantically to contact Doc, but by the time she gets through on the phone lines, Doc is already dead.

Doremus, who might be a lawyer, is seemingly also a good investigator. After the police sweep the scene of the crime, Doremus discovers that someone has tampered with Doc’s things.

And thus begins a series of murders. All of them link to one person: Michael and Craig’s mother. Helen admits to Doremus that when the boys were younger, she had her sister committed. Her sister tried to hurt herself and the boys, so she had to be put away for everyone’s safety. Apparently, Michael had a problem with that and didn’t want to be raised by his aunt. He had run away during the blizzard, upset at ‘losing’ his mother.

So who is the real Michael? Or is it that after all these years, Michael could still be alive? Helen and those around her begin to question their reality as the situation around them becomes more deadly.

When Michael Calls is a prime example of excellent made-for-TV magic. The cast is fantastic, boasting the talents of Michael Douglas, Elizabeth Ashley and Ben Gazzara.

Maybe I’ve seen too many gialli, but I found the twist easy to guess. That being said, it was still enjoyable watching the reveal. It might be a bit hokey for some, but I love a bit of (spoiler) hypnotism. Whacky and unbelievable as all hell – and it’s perfect television.

It’s likely that I might forget this one, as many other TV movies are a bit flashier. When Michael Calls is very atmospheric and is wonderful at building the mystery. But it is subtle at times. Still, this is a wonderful place to start. If only to watch a young Michael Douglas look very attractive in some wonderous 70s glasses.

Wicked Wednesday: Death of a Cheerleader (1994)

I’ve been a bit overloaded with true crime stories as of late. My husband and I are watching The Act. I’ve just finished Sinisterhood’s three-part series on Ted Bundy. It was only incidental that I decided to choose Death of a Cheerleader for this week’s TV movie viewing.

TV movies are one of the original masters of true crime. The original award-winning limited television series, if you will. There’s a long history of overblown “warnings” given to viewers through this medium. There’s Menedez: A Killing in Beverley Hills (1994), I Know My First Name is Steven (1989) about a child abduction and even all the way back to 1975’s The Deadly Tower.

This was an era of true crime novels by names like Anne Rule, John Bloom and John E Douglas were being sold at supermarkets. True crime is certainly having a heyday, but it’s not a new trend.

Death of a Cheerleader is based on the murder of 15-year-old Kirsten Costas at the hands of her young, jealous classmate.

Kirsten in this fictionalised retelling is Stacy Lockwood (Tori Spelling). She’s popular and, as these things go, a bit awful. She runs with a pack of seemingly equally-as-awful-but-less-ambitious friends.

Looking up to them all is the talented writer Angie Delvecchio (Kellie Martin). Entering her sophomore year at school, she’s determined to achieve all her goals. She wants to be the editor of the school yearbook, become popular and make cheerleading. And while the yearbook seems within her reach, everyone around her seems to think the last two are a bit out of her reach.

But Angie is determined. She eventually becomes initiated into a group called the Larks, a sorority-like group that supposedly does community work. It seems to all beginning to happen for her. Then in one fell swoop, she learns she has missed out on making both yearbook and cheerleading.

The last thing she can achieve is popularity. When she’s invited to a party one day, she calls Stacy’s parents and claims that there’s a Lark party. She picks up Stacy on her own to drive her to the party. Stacy is initially bewildered but seems excited at the prospect of the party.

But Stacy’s enthusiasm dies out when she learns that neither of the girls was actually invited by the party’s host. Angie has a meltdown and begins professing her admiration for Stacy. It’s all a bit…intense. Stacy gets out of the car and goes to a house to get a ride home.

Not wanting to lose out on her last chance, Angie stalks Stacy. And in the heat of the moment, murders her friend with a kitchen knife that’s conveniently in the car.

The rest of the film examines Angie’s life after the murder. Life at the school without Stacy’s toxicity is an improvement for Angie. But the guilt still gnaws at her. When she eventually confesses to her mother in a letter, all of Angie’s laundry is aired to the community for them to judge.

Tori Spelling is, as always, wonderfully wicked in her role of the mean queen bee. Losing her halfway through the film certainly is a major factor in why everything begins to feel so….slow….

I loved watching the dramatic dynamics between the girls at the school. Unfortunately, it was less interesting watching Martin shuffle her way through her guilt for the last half of the movie (who is, by the way, also very good in this).

The movie seems to have an agenda here: Angie is the real victim. She’s the victim of a society that bullied her into blindly reaching for success. Stacy’s cruelty only fed into those emotions.

But all you have to do is google Kirsten Costas’ name to remind yourself that this very young woman was real. People are complex, and sometimes movies are very bad at showing us dimensions. Sometimes we have so much fun playing make-believe, that we don’t realise the damage we’re doing.

I think in today’s current TV world, this would make a good mini-series. There’s definitely a lot to analyse here. Though Lifetime skipped that idea when they remade Death of a Cheerleader in 2019. I’d love to learn more about Kirsten’s real life and that of the girl who took it.

Also, this movie has Valerie Harper as Angie’s mom! She’s criminally underutilized in this movie. Justice for Valerie!

Wicked Wednesday: Dark Mansions (1986)

It’s Made-For-TV March, everyone! Truly a month that I look forward to every year.

TV movies are brilliant for many reasons. But one reason in particular that I love these films is the dramatic flair. Soap-opera vibes, if you will. Thunder! Lightning! Unexplained powers! And is there anything soapier than Joan Fontaine as the matriarch of a wealthy family in a TV pilot described as “Dallas meets Dark Shadows”?

That question is rhetorical.

The Drake family are incredibly wealthy and own a successful shipyard (ship making?) business. As with any well-kept family, there are cracks in the facade. The brothers bicker. A couple of the cousins are in love. And one of them just happened to mysteriously fall to her death from a cliff…only for her look-a-like to appear months later.

Shellane Victor is the newest employee of the Drake family. She’s there to be Margaret Drake’s assistant and the family biographer. When she arrives at the house, the family all react to her strangely. Almost amazed at what they see.

But the attention is soon off her when the family patriarch, Margaret’s husband, dies while out on the boat with his sons in a storm. Though his niece Noelle had already seen this coming as she has the powers of premonition. (I think.)

Shellane slowly learns the secrets of the Drake family. Some are more confusing than others. One mystery grabs her attention the most. She learns about the death of Jason’s wife, Yvette, who died falling from a cliff. She’s first told it was a suicide. But maybe it wasn’t? She later hears that Yvette might have been pushed or maybe even slipped out of her husband’s own hands.

Stranger than all of that, Shellane discovers she shares a striking resemblance to the late Yvette.

There is plenty of other storylines going on here. Lots of people sleeping with other people. That cousin romance I mentioned. Drama about the father’s will. A little something for everyone.

Though unfortunately, this one is pretty light on the horror vibes (no vampires here), there is plenty of drama to go around. I particularly loved Lois Chiles as the dastardly, scheming wife of a Drake family son. She walked straight out of a scene in Rebecca and into the 80s. You could see how well this pilot was setting up for future misdeeds. It’s a shame we’ll never see them.

The setting for the story is wonderfully gothic: a pair of mansions. One by the seaside cliffs, sitting abandoned. The other an exact replica, almost a ghost of the other. Throw that in with a wicked family and you have TV movie magic.

I’m not really sure what the point of this story was beyond the mystery of Yvette’s death (which is secondary, really). The point of the pilot was clearly meant to tempt viewers to continue watching in the future, not resolve any storylines. Frankly, that doesn’t matter too much when you get to see scene after scene of drama and gorgeous mansions.

Wicked Wednesday: Women in horror, book edition

It’s the final Wednesday in February, making it the last week of Women in Horror Month. Now, typically I like to highlight women behind the camera. But this year I tried to read as many horror novels by women as possible. Granted that was the uninspiring number of “five” – but we take what we can get in these days of rona.

Each book was stunningly different from the next. Was every book a favourite? No. Though I do think each of these titles has the ability to be someone’s favourite – the writing (and translation in one case) is impeccable in every single one of these.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Moreno-Garcia’s book has been much talked about over the last year. It’s been named as a finalist for the Gram Stoker Awards’ Superior Achievement in a Novel. It won best horror novel at the Goodreads book awards. There’s even a mini-series in the works. There’s a lot of hype behind this one. More than any other that I read this month.

In short, this gothic novel follows socialite Noemí Taboada as she goes to the creepy High Place, where her cousin is living. Something is causing her cousin to behave strangely, and it isn’t long until Noemí begins to see visions herself.

After finishing Mexican Gothic, I had to finally admit to myself that I’m just not a fan of the genre in novel form. I found it slow and didn’t like the ‘twist’. But this book accomplishes everything it sets out to do – it just wasn’t to my tastes.

Moreno-Garcia has great prose – she’s sure to be a hit with anyone who loved Rebecca but thought the plot needed the creep factor of Shirley Jackson injected in the veins.

Ghost Summer: Storieby Tananarive Due

I have been meaning to read Due’s work for a few years now. But the time was finally right when an audiobook of Ghost Summer was finally released in the UK.

This collection of short stories and novellas immediately sucked me in. There are monstrous women, zombies, ghosts and pandemics. Each story is brought to life with vivid characters that I’m still thinking about.

My favourites were in the first section, Gracetown, which consists of three stories (including the titular “Ghost Summer”). Hot days and creeping goings-on are my absolute favourites.

Due is already an icon in the genre, but I feel as though she is increasingly getting the credit she is due (sorry). If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, please pick up one of her stories. I’m desperate to get to the next.

Black Ambrosia by Elizabeth Engstrom

This is a vampire novel of a very different sort.

Angelina is a killer. But she isn’t like other vampires. Angelina kills out of love. She travels the country, weaving herself in and out of various communities, both respectable and not. That is until she begins to spiral further and further into her darkness.

I loved Engstrom’s When Darkness Loves Us and was curious to try more of her work. This novel had much of what I loved about the first collection I read: quiet, twisted women at the forefront. Angelina is an absolutely magnetic protagonist. Yes, she does some horrific deeds, but I really felt like I needed to know more about her.

It’s sad, completely grey and absolutely one of the best vampire novels I’ve read.

Monster She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson

I had to squeeze at least one nonfiction in this month. I adore reading nonfiction, and I particularly love nonfiction about books.

Monster She Wrote takes readers back to the inception of the horror genre itself. Some may be surprised that it even predates Mary Shelley’s monster creation. And throughout history, women writers have been at the helm of making the genre vibrant and diverse.

The book goes through different eras section-by-section from the gothic novel all the way to the paperback boom of the 80s, followed by a look into the future. It’s an incredibly quick and easy read. Things did begin to fall apart a bit at the very end where the writing became rather list-like. But I learned about some incredible authors. Now just to getting around to reading their work…

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell

Things We Lost in the Fire was one of the first translated books I have read in a long while. Really good translations are an art, and I think McDowell did wonderful things with Enríquez’s work.

Enríquez is a novel and journalist from Argentina. And while I’ve never been to the country, Enríquez’s writing brings the communities to life. Each of her short stories is about the underbelly of Argentinian society: drug addicts, nasty men, poverty, devious girls, black magic, and children in vulnerable home situations. It’s all harrowing and made even more twisted with touches of magical realism and monsters.

The stories in this collection are often deeply unsettling. And I loved them.

Wicked Wednesday: Danger Word (2013)

Danger Word” is a short film based on horror authors Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due’s novel “Devil’s Wake”. A short story version appears in a collection of Due’s work Ghost Summer: Stories, but more on that next week.

I became a fan of Due’s when I first watched the Shudder documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. It took me forever to get around to reading one of her books, but I was absolutely chuffed when I learnt that she and her partner were involved with other screenwriting ventures.

The short, directed by Luchina Fisher, follows 13-year-old Kendra (Saoirse Scott) and her Grandpa Joe (Frankie Faison) as they traverse the rugged landscapes of a zombie apocalypse.

Grandpa Joe tries his best to toughen up the young Kendra, whose innocence was taken from her early due to things outside of their control. She had become particularly hardened after seeing the transformation of her mother into the undead.

After shooting practice, Grandpa Joe and Kendra go to see Mike and his sons, who they are hoping to trade with. But it doesn’t take long until both notice that something isn’t quite right. Unfortunately, they are both too late and Grandpa Joe is bit by Mike. He tells Kendra to go north to Albany where she can get help.

Kendra eventually has to kill her grandfather, but leave him with dignity – and leaving the viewer knowing that everything he taught her will not go to waste.

It’s pretty impressive that within 20 minutes, you can establish such a strong relationship between two characters. The ending had me in tears and desperate to know what happened next to young Kendra. It’s a harrowing story of a little girl forced to grow up much faster than she should have to. But that reflects the reality of many children, with or without the apocalypse.

Some of the editing here is a bit confusing. I had to rewatch a bit when I couldn’t understand why Kendra had returned to the farm to kill her grandpa. At first, I thought I had missed a scene, but I think it was the girl reassessing leaving her grandfather to become a zombie. It was subtle, almost a little too subtle.

This short is quite a bit older than the rest of the films I’ve watched this year for Women in Horror Month, and I think you can tell. The cinematography isn’t the greatest. But that being said, it still managed to tell a powerful story in the framework of a traditional zombie tale.

You can watch “Danger World” on the director’s YouTube page. It’s a beautiful and creepy story full of wonderful Black talent.

Wicked Wednesday: Women in Horror Month random short film selection

This week I was trying to pick out just one short film to watch for today. But the more researching I did, the more shorts I found that were calling out to me. All sorts of shorts by women from so many different points of view and backgrounds. It was impossible to pick just one. Having too much to watch is never really a terrible problem to have, is it?

So I had a mini-marathon of short horror films made by women. So pleased that I enjoyed these all quite a bit. Some explored poignant themes while others made me laugh. Truly, women have something to bring to the table. They can prove it in no time flat.

The Lonely Host” directed by Lisa J Dooley (2019)

This short has to be one of my favourites of the week. It plays on a fear many of us have: what’s really going on at this Airbnb?

For Silvia, there’s no good news where she ends up. At her Bnb, the host is super perky and friendly. And being friendly is weird, right? When Silvia returns from a date night with her girlfriend, she realises she’s being watched through cam footage. Can the girl get the hell out of Dodge before it’s too late?

I loved this for a few reasons. At first, the ending really made me stop and think about what had actually happened. Then I realised it was playing on my own expectations and prejudices. Thank you for serving me a wonderfully unsettling slice of atmosphere, Dooley.

Una Mierda De Slasher” directed by Miriam Ortega Domínguez (2013)

This Spanish-language short is basically what you get when you have the worst group of friends ever.

When a group of friends sit down to watch a slasher movie together, they quickly find themselves debating the merits of slashers. Before the movie credits even roll, they find themselves in a nightmare…or do they?

The humour in “Una Mierda De Slasher” is really playful. The tone shifts constantly, keeping the viewer on their toes. But one thing is for sure: I’m so glad I don’t have this lot in my life.

SHE” directed by Zena S. Dixon (2019)

I adore Zena’s work over on her YouTube channel, Real Queen of Horror. She’s personable and funny and makes some really great content. The amount of recommendations I’ve compiled from her lists is incredibly long.

This film puts the “short” in short film, clocking in than less than five minutes. But even this little taste gives you plenty of fun and twists. It’s ladies night for our antagonist and her friends. They’re all playing a little game together, and it’s a little bit twisted.

Knock Knock” directed by Kennikki Jones-Jones (2019)

“Knock Knock” is easily the most surreal and heartbreaking short on this list.

Sinia is a kind neighbour, always looking out for the four children who live next door to her. The children’s mother is abusive towards them, so Sinia is always watching out for them. She communicates with them using a series of knocks on the wall.

But one night, things appear to get out of hand in the children’s home. Sinia tries to help, but she soon finds herself explore her true reality and mind.

This film is rich with symbolism. Jones-Jones offers a story here that is a heartbreaking look at mental health, poverty and motherhood. It’s beautiful, haunting and tragic.

SLUT” by Chloe Okuno (2014)

Like all these shorts, “Slut” very much roots its horror in reality. Young Maddy lives with her grandmother, who is housebound ill. It’s a lonely life, but when she meets a young man at a roller rink, she feels seen. But when Maddy’s new acquaintance is ‘stolen’ away by the local hottie, she decides to do up her image.

Maddy finds empowerment in her new look. She begins to seek new experiences. But unbeknownst to her, Roller Rink Creep is keeping a closer eye on her than she knows.

It’s a terrifying situation, that doesn’t even feel that outlandish to most women. This is not a cautionary tale demonizing sexual exploration, but rather the dangers of toxic masculinity.