Riverdale Ep. 3.1 “Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day”

After quite the sophomore slump, Riverdale is back with season three. I can’t say that I was excited for more episodes. Season two was a serious mess in many ways. But that was probably due to a lack of direction-planning from the writers.

In this first episode, viewers are given the set-up to what is sure to be the main plotlines of the season: prisons, cults, and magic? Yes indeed.

Jughead’s opening monologue tells us that it is the summer before the gang’s Junior year. So we have to believe that all of season one and two happened during their sophomore year? When I was a sophomore in high school I was in marching band and didn’t even have a learner’s permit yet.

I also looked like this:

God if I lived in Riverdale, I would be tired as hell, kids. I mean, this show can get pretty unbelievable but convincing us that these kids are 15 is probably the most lofty.

At the end of season two, Archie was charged with the murder of another boy (whom Archie saw killed in cold-blood by Veronica’s doorman). Like the good friends they are, the gang pitched in to help with Archie’s case. Betty being the most involved, helping out with an internship with Mary Andrews and Not-Mayor McCoy.

The whole affair is rather like a Depression-era courtroom drama. Though it is pretty difficult to be convinced by the mood, considering that there is little to no evidence against Archie other than he makes stupid decisions.

After the jury deliberates for a bit, the judge calls for the verdict to be postponed until after Labor Day, giving Archie one more weekend of freedom. Instead of looking for more evidence (which is a little late, considering there have already been closing statements), Archie insists on having one more weekend of freedom.

The gang go to pool parties, swim in the watering hole (including a cute Stand By Me reference). Archie becomes an honorary Serpent with his tattoo (again, these kids are meant to be almost-Juniors). FP and Jughead swear that the Serpents will be there to protect Archie physically, but the mental strength will have to come from Archie himself.

Also, weird, but why are the Serpents living in a Hooverville-style hobo jungle? What’s with this episode’s obsession with the Depression?

Speaking of, Riverdale hasn’t given up on beating this gang sub-plot to death. Jughead is informed that Hot Dog (the Serpents’ mascot) has been taken by the Ghoulies, who are now working closer with Hiram than ever before.

A small number of the usual Serpents go together to get Hot Dog, but are unsurprisingly caught by Penny Peabody. She (rightfully) tells Jughead that his jacket still says ‘Southside’ despite the fact that the Serpents no longer have Southside territory. And by not changing said name, Penny (somehow) believes that means the Ghoulies can declare war on the North side? Does anyone really care?

In the end, the jury is hung. But Archie being the ultimate Stupid Archie takes the plea deal offered by the state, sending him to juvenile prison. This is Archie and this is Riverdale. The most insane option has to be the correct one.

But this is why we are all here, isn’t it?

BUT.

This show loves a good “what the fuck?” ending, and this episode tried to throw everything and the kitchen sink at us.

Throughout the episode, Jughead noticed Dilton behaving strangely, playing some sort of D&D-style game. But Dilton later explains that he isn’t playing a game. He mentions the name of the Gargoyle King – some sort of demonic Wendigo.

Dilton leaves behind a map at Jughead’s trailer, prompting Jughead to go to the spot marked on it. When Jughead arrives, he finds both Dilton and Ben (‘memba him?) with marks carved in their backs, seemingly bowing to this a figure than can only be inspired by the Gargoyle King.

Both seem to be dead, but Ben suddenly wakes. Will he survive to tell Jughead the fuck is going on? Hopefully not, that would be too easy for our super-sleuths.

While that would often be enough to close out an episode on an interesting point, “Chapter Thirty-Six” pushes it further.

If you recall from previous seasons, Betty’s sister Polly ran off to join a farm where she could safely raise her and Jason’s babies. Turns out, the farm is just a bit of a cult. I was all on board the Manson Family train, until, well, that bat-shit final scene.

Betty returns home after the trial to find her sister and mother outside by a fire with a few cult pals. The two women hold the babies over a fire and promptly drop them. But instead of incinerated baby corpses, the babies float. FLOAT!!!!!

I’m pretty opposed to supernatural elements being added to a world late in the game. This feels a far-cry from the early vibes of season 1 (remember the kids sitting around, listening to Archie try to write songs?). While this is completely silly, I do wonder if it’s a nod to Archie Comic’s upcoming show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. 

Or maybe it was all just Betty’s dream? I guess it’s the time to say “tune in next week”.

 

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Wicked Wednesday: Mausoleum (1983)

 

After all the bullshit that happened State-side these past few weeks, I really wanted to watch a horror film with a badass lady. So I put in a lot of research and did my readying. I had everything all picked out, but what did I do?

Abandon everything last minute because I couldn’t be bothered to pay £2 to watch the film.

Instead I watched Mausoleum. A film that lacks in mausoleum screentime, and is a serious mess.

The film revolves around Susan, a girl whose mother died when she was only 10. After the burial, Susan runs away from her Aunt Cora, and sees a mausoleum with a bit of dancing smoke in front of it. The young girl enters the building and becomes possessed as she approaches a coffin with the name “NOMAD” over it.

Twenty years later, Susan is a grown woman with a husband. She seemingly has a great life, but her aunt remains skeptical. Cora reaches out to a psychiatrist, Dr Simon (Norman Burton doing his best Dr Loomis). She gives him a family history that is contained in her father’s diary, then blabs about a demon. But Dr Simon insists that nothing is wrong with Susan, whom he has known her whole life.

But of course there is something wrong with Susan (note: this would be a much better title). She’s possessed by a demon. As the first born girl, she was destined to become a demon’s puppet.

To put things simply, Susan spends most of the movie getting her tits out then killing men by setting them on fire or blowing up their heads. There’s a super irrelevant series of scenes about some weird painting that she steals. She even tears poor Aunt Cora in half.

Susan’s husband Oliver is really stupid. He panics every time his wife does something. Oh my wife is sitting in a rocking chair! Let’s not talk to her – CALL THE DOCTOR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING NIGHT!

After being dragged into the mess, Dr Simon begins researching and reads up on the Nomad family history. He calls in a friend who insists that Susan is possessed. She somehow knows that the only way to break the curse is to put the “crown of thorns” onto Susan’s head.

He succeeds with little effort. Then drags Susan to the mausoleum to put the crown onto the demon’s head? Again? I don’t know. It didn’t really make any sense to me. I think there was even meant to be a twist ending. The gardener she killed is actually a man who is meant to look over the mausoleum? Fuck if I should know.

Mausoleum wasn’t the so-bad-it’s-good kind of fun I was hoping for. That acting is pretty terrible (that poor actress playing Susan). The plot doesn’t make much sense. It’s mostly an excuse to make an actress strip so she can kill people.

Either way, I think there is a lesson to be learned in this: if you put all the hard work into something, you should probably fucking follow through with it. When you take the easy (ie free) way out, you’re stuck watching this.

Wicked Wednesday: The Haunting of Hill House ep. 1 (2018) at the Welsh Chapel

I rarely win things in life. I once won a Princess Diana Beanie Baby in a school raffle, and I was pretty chuffed because I knew it was going to be worth a fortune one day (still waiting on that to happen).

But when I received the email saying I’d won entry for two to an exclusive screening of The Haunting of Hill House, I knew this was a step up from purple bears filled with beans. Plus it took place in the fabulous and freaky Welsh Chapel.

So Husband and I attended a fabulous event last night hosted by Netflix, including a Q&A with the new show’s cast. Turns out Netflix throws one hell of a bash. There was even a supposed ‘set recreation’ that you could wander about, but it was really a ploy to have an actor jump out at you.

And for someone who loves horror movies so much, I’m a massive baby. So having someone jump out at me didn’t exactly bring out the, er, gracefulness in me.

While it was pretty easy to be dazzled by the free cocktails and canapes, the screening of episode one was the highlight of the night. I have to admit, the trailer for the show is pretty underwhelming and slightly confusing. But I can confirm, this skeptic is completely converted after watching episode one.

Even my husband (who enjoyed Wise’s version 0%, and thought we were watching a remake of Burnt Offerings) liked enough to ask when we could watch the next episode.

For those familiar with the Shirley Jackson’s world of Hill House, the TV series revolves around the Crain family. In Jackson’s book, the group are supposedly haunted by the Crains, some of who met tragic ends in Hill House.

In Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House, the Crains have five children, all of whom deal with the trauma of their childhood in different ways. The show flits between modern day and decades before when they were all children in Hill House. It’s clear from

the first episode that the mystery will revolve around Mrs Crain and her supposed suicide.

There are a lot of nice touches for those who love the book and the original 1963 adaption (keep an eye out for the iconic spiral staircase).

In the Q&A, actors Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Kate Siegel and Oliver Jackson-Cohen joined the stage. They only could hint at some of the terror to come, but it all sounded promising. They even had a few cute stories to share about the child actors in the show. Turns out five-year-olds can be great actors, but not-so-great at being patient.

Now, sure, I may have been persuaded by the champagne and funny ghost photobooth, but I feel pretty confident in saying that The Haunting of Hill House is destined to be great. If you love family drama mixed with talking corpses and ghosts, we’re both in for a treat.

All episodes will be available for streaming on Netflix on October 12th.

 

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Wicked Wednesday: Night of the Eagle (1962)

Some films really stand the test of time. They’re story speaks years beyond its initial release due to great storytelling.

Then there are films like Night of the Eagle. Which, while not terrible in any way, just comes off as incredibly dated. And not in a fun, 80’s perm kind of way.

Norman Taylor is a successful psychology professor at a university. He is a critic of the mystical and superstitious. He lives his very nice, clean-cut life with his seemingly nice, clean-cut wife.

One night, after hosting a party for his co-workers, his wife Tansy begins to act strangely. He later finds two dead spiders in her drawer, which she claims is just a memento of their honeymoon in Jamaica.

But he later discovers a plethora of unusual objects after searching through Tansy’s things (!). After he argues with her, she admits she’s a practicing witch. She tells him that she only wants to protect him, and that there are plenty of bad forces after him. But he’s a man and she’s just a stupid, superstitious woman! So he then burns her things as she watches. So he really won’t be winning and Husband of the Year awards.

Norman burns the spiders last. And once he does, the phone rings and a woman’s voices comes through the other line. She speaks to him suggestively, but he hangs up on the unknown woman.

The next day, bad things begin to happen to Norman. He’s nearly hit by a bus, then later one of his students accuses him of rape (but later redacts her accusation).  When he gets home from his long-ass day, he sees that he has received a tape from one of his lectures. He begins to play it, but Tansy notices something is not right and turns it off.

That night, Tansy decides to kill herself in exchange for her husband’s safety (as she had seen a mother do that for her daughter in Jamaica). She leaves the house to go to the family’s cabin. Norman realises she’s gone in the morning and goes after her. He is eventually able to find her before she drowns herself in the sea.

But when he takes her home, she’s still in a strange trance. She attacks him with a knife, so he locks her in her room.

Norman eventually realises that something isn’t right and heads to the school where he discovers that it’s the school secretary, Flora, who is targeting him. Her motive is to simply get rid of the man in line for her husband’s promotion. She sets up a tarot card tower and sets it on fire, setting Norman’s actual house (with Tansy in her room) on fire.

She starts playing the tape again, which begins to cast its spell on Norman. He imagines one of the great stone eagles in the school grounds is attacking him. While he runs away, the tape is eventually turned off and the spell broken.

Norman eventually goes back to his burning home and finds Tansy safe, having escaped. Flora, meanwhile, gets crushed by a falling stone eagle.

Night of the Eagle had the makings of something great. I loved Tansy, and was really rooting for her. It was a shame she became absolutely useless in the third act of the film.

Ultimately, through a 2018 lens, this story is more frustrating than anything. Tansy finds her own powers and has to hide them from her husband. He’s the fool but still ultimately saves himself. For me, it felt like a waste of a plot line. If you give a woman magic, let her use it! I mean, heaven forbid a woman be able to be smarter (or even as intelligent as) than her husband.

It was both boring and frustrating watching a movie about two women who had the ability to do FUCKING MAGIC and only used it to get their idiotic, useless husbands a promotion.

Some films are good enough that their era ideals can be forgiven. This is not one of them.

My most anticipated things this Autumn

Helloooo, autumn!

Today is the autumnal equinox, which means I woke up to rain and cloudy skies. In both Britain and the States, I love this season. Wisconsin is my preferred between the two, because there is more crunchy leaves and happier people. But nevertheless, this time of the year is absolute magic. And I mean ‘magic’ in both a figurative and literal sense.

This is still a time of year that feel more like renewal than death. And most importantly, this is the time of the year that I get to be queen. Horror movies become socially acceptable again. Spooky TV shows come out. Other people start talking about Halloween. It’s all happening.

But there’s plenty of amazing things coming up this autumn. These are just the handful I’m looking forward to most:

1. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is by far the best horror comic to come out of the Archie Horror imprint. It is absolutely brutal, and SO much fun. When this show was announced, I was infinitely more excited than the news about Riverdale. Sabrina was always my favourite Archie character as a kid (I grew up at the height of the MJH and cartoon era), and I’m excited to see another, darker version of her.

This Netflix adaptation looks fabulously cast and seems to have encapsulated the feeling of Robert Hack’s art work. This take on the classic teenage witch promises to be dark and (hopefully) terrifying. Bring it on, Salem!

Available for streaming on October 26th.

2. Halloween (2018)

Sure, everyone is sick of remakes and sequels (see numbers one and three on this list). But this latest addition to the Halloween franchise looks genuinely good. It looks like a lot of love and care went into making it, which already sets it apart from many of the other installments in the franchise. This Jamie Lee Curtis film will actually be a direct sequel to only the first film, which means it will disregard the other films. This probably angers a lot of fans, but I think it’s certainly more interesting than any other direction they could have chosen.

Plus Carpenter is doing the score, so I couldn’t ask for anything more.

In cinemas in the US and UK on October 19th.

3. The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix

Admittedly, after watching the first trailer for this show, I’m significantly less excited for this one. I was hoping for a more detailed, intricate adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, but instead this looks like…well, I’m not sure what it is. The trailer bares zero resemblance to anything about the book. Though I guess I had to expect some major changes if they were going to expand a 250 page novel into 10 episodes of television.

But Netflix and Mike Flanagan have worked well in the past before, so there’s plenty to be positive about. This will be the third adaption of Shirley Jackson’s iconic novel. While I love the Robert Wise adaption, I’ve always loved the book more and was really looking forward to a contemporary take on the work. So hopes up and fingers crossed.

Available for streaming on Netflix on October 12th.

4. Reading all the books

I’m naturally a slow reader, but I like to over-stuff my TBR every autumn. It’s wishful thinking to imagine that I’ll read everything I want to this season, but I will try. This month, the paperback version of Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic was released in the UK. I’m currently devouring it and crying over some of the best magical realism I’ve ever read.

Also, I do love to reread a childhood favourite of mine, Gooseberry Park. While technically set in early Spring, this book is so cozy, it always screamed autumn to me. My copy has been through a lot, so each read is nearing the book’s last.

5. Two Evil Eyes (Due occhi diabolicion Blu-Ray from 88 Films

This British film distributor KILLED IT with their release of Umberto Lenzi’s Eyeball (Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro). 88 Films are easily one of my favourite companies, so I was overjoyed when they announced a Blu-ray release of this 1990 film directed by my two favourites, George Romero and Dario Argento. They’re sure to do great things with this release.

You can pre-order now from 88 Films’ website for a release date of October 15th.

6. Horroctober at the Prince Charles Cinema

The PCC is my home away from home. They take 50% of my paycheck every month (sadly, that’s not much of an exaggeration). Each October, the cinema curates a fabulous selection of Halloween and horror movies to show. Horroctober pretty much offers something for everyone, so guard your wallets wisely.


What are you looking forward most to this season? Thanksgiving? Christmas nearing so you can start playing Mariah Carey?

Treasure these few months because it will be 2019 before you know it, and we’ll be entering the bleakest part of the year. Cheery thoughts, ya’ll!

Wicked Wednesday: The Spiral Staircase (1946)

My parents instilled a great love for classic movies in me. My dad Hitchcock, and my mom the classic musicals and dance numbers of Fred Astaire.

Somehow, in this post-world war film, we manage to merge both things.

The Spiral Staircase is a classic of gothic film. It’s beautiful in its dark candle-lit scenes and period costumes. But even more interesting is it’s fantastic imagery that verges on experimental.

The story is one done many times since: Helen, a selective-mute woman must defend herself in a threatening world. When a crazed serial killer goes after women with “afflictions”, she appears to be next.

Much of the film’s plot revolves around men telling her what to do. Leave the house, don’t leave the house. But many have their own motives. The elderly woman she cares for seems to know more information than she’s unwilling to share with Helen.

The story weaves in and out of dream sequences (including a beautiful dance number) and sinister visuals of close-ups of eyes and people lurking in shadows. It’s slightly jarring, but is a great way of seeing into Helen’s psyche: isolated, threatened, and yet dreaming of having a perfectly lovely life.

The mystery unfolds beautifully, and though slightly-predictable, is still thrilling to watch.

Wicked Wednesday: The Night Dracula Saved the World (1979)

I caved into Halloween mania early this year. I say ‘early’ but really, Halloween season always begins on August 1st. But around the Brits I have to pretend to be sensible when really my whole house is decked out.

It’s been a super manic week, so watching something like The Night That Dracula Saved the World was exactly what I needed.

The made-for TV short film originally aired on ABC as The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t. It’s a much-more apt name than the VHS title, but a name will sell anything these days, right?

The story is a strange mash-up of everything you’d find at a cheesy Halloween party and a lesson about the origins of the holiday. Dracula has called a conference at his castle in Transylvania with all the other monsters. Before they arrive, he and Igor watch the news together, in which a newscaster claims that Dracula wants to end Halloween.

Dracula is offended (“Halloween is my national holiday!”), but he allows the conference to go forward anyway. When all of the guests arrive, they learn that Dracula called them together to warn them that they are no longer scary to children.

The other guests seem pretty offended, but the Witch reveals she simply doesn’t give a crap. She announces to the group that she quits, and will be refusing to fly across the moon on Halloween night – the action that sets off Halloween (apparently). She tells the others that she’s tired of the ugly girl jokes, and she really just wanted to be the leader of the monsters.

Dracula refuses, and the witch flies off to her home. Dracula and the other monsters follow her the next night, and break in believing she doesn’t have any magic.

But she’s a witch, so of course the lady has magic. She sends the others running in circles before locking herself safely in her room. Dracula tries to reason with her, offering to agree to her conditions: her face will be on the monster posters, she’ll have shared leadership of the monsters, and to go disco dancing every night.

Dracula agrees, but the Witch immediately redacts her agreement to fly over the moon. But when a pair of local children arrive, they tug at her heartstrings, reminding her of the true meaning behind Halloween: candy and costumes.

The Witch agrees to the children’s pleas and flies over the moon to mark the start of Halloween. Afterwards, the monsters all have a disco. And why? Because this short is clearly insane.

The Night Dracula Saved the World is a really cute piece of nostalgia. The costumes are a bit hokey, as if they were bought from a costume shop, but it’s all really sweet, weirdly. It’s apparently a holiday staple for a lot of kids who watched it on the original ABC run and later on the Disney Channel during the 80s and early 90s. And I can see why, the random-ass disco in the end might be my favourite thing I’ve ever seen in a Halloween movie.

This is the perfect little 25-minute movie to put anyone in the Halloween spirit. Watch it, disco, and keep on thinkin’.