Wicked Wednesday: Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989)

Last week I got to see Phantom of the Paradise at the Prince Charles Cinema. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen the movie on the big screen, and it’s always magnificent – one of my absolute favourite films. So why not, I thought, wash that good feeling of a good film out of my mouth with a horrible Phantom adaption?

Now. I should have been warned going in, having watched Lindsay Ellis’ two-part series on the characterisation of the phantom (watch parts one and two here). This movie is pretty much universally hated. But I cannot resist one thing…shopping malls.

I have a thing for horror movies set in shopping malls: Chopping Mall, Dawn of the Dead, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama, The Initiation (which I seem to remember more fondly than what I’d written). It’s the lure of neon lights, shopping montages and creepy, dark-lit shops.

It’s been difficult to resist the lure of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, despite all warnings that I should have otherwise. Should I have listened? I really should have.

Phantom of the Mall follows the rough phantom set-up: scarred man watches beautiful girl from the distance and wants to protect and possess her. He kills off people who hurt her or have harmed him in some way.

Instead of a grand opera house, though, we are entered into the world of the Midwood Mall. Melody and her pal Suzie both get jobs at the brand new shopping centre, a beacon of a new era for the town.

Of course, a year earlier the land was marred by a fire. One that killed Melody’s boyfriend, Eric. Something about the night doesn’t sit well with Melody, and she’s convinced that Eric’s house was burned down as murder (you know, in order to get land for the mall!).

The Phantom begins killing people off short after the mall’s opening. None of the deaths are particularly noteworthy. But they exist nevertheless.

Meanwhile, Melody befriends the hot journalist, Peter. He’s kind to her and begins to help her investigate the fire. He soon discovers that the man she saw the night of the fire (a white man with a religious-symbol earring), is a security guard at the mall.

But the security guard quickly realises that Melody and Peter are on to him. He alerts his boss, mall-owner Harv, and is told to deal with them. The young couple get away from the perusing guards, though, and afterwards dig up Eric’s grave – suspicious that he is the one behind the killings. Surely this is the only way to confirm that Eric is alive and the phantom!

Things quickly come to a head when Eric saves Melody from the security guard and reveals himself to her. She rejects his advances, having fallen in love with Peter. Plus Eric has a burned face and that’s like, totally ew.

Angered with the mall and Melody, Eric becomes violent. He begins his movements to BLOW UP THE MALL. But as with all things phantom, Eric meets his tragic demise while also getting his revenge.

I don’t think Phantom of the Mall is quite as bad as most people make it out to be. Sure it’s very run-of-the-mill, but it isn’t flat-out horrible. For some people it’s better to feel something than nothing at all. So if that’s what you’re measuring by, it will probably fail the test.

All of the deaths are sort of dark and indistinguishable. Though the acting is passable and the characters are…okay. There’s nothing horribly wrong here, just nothing particularly entertaining.

Weirdly one highlight was Pauly Shore, whose personality out-shined almost everyone on the cast. I’m also kind of in love with the way the film looked – a sort of dreamy, R-rated soap opera. It’s very soft and the very dictionary definition of late-80s style. Honestly, though, the best part about the entire movie was Ken Foree (who should be in everything).

If this movie had turned the cheese and camp level up to 11, this could have been a much better movie. The music put it halfway there (a weird combination of The Vandals and some really over-the-top sex scene romance music). Otherwise, this is very much your uneventful, typical 80s slasher.

Wicked Wednesday: Tales from the Cryptkeeper s1e1 “While the Cat’s Away” (1993)

Can you believe I lived to this ripe-old age without knowing there was a Tales From the Crypt cartoon? I love almost anything horror-related that’s targeted towards children.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that statement extends to the first episode of this show.

Tales from the Cryptkeeper pretty much runs exactly like it’s live-action counterpart: the Cryptkeeper welcomes with several puns before introducing us to the week’s story. This week, the Cryptkeeper is off on holiday. Not-so-incidentally, the boys in his story are the sons of a travel agent. A unsuccessful one at that.

But when the boys overhear their father speaking to a wealthy man (who wants to go to Transylvania – money is no object!), the eldest realises they have an opportunity to rob the man. Why rob him, well, to get money for new bikes!

The youngest, Dwight, is much more nervous than the elder Stu. But he agrees to go along with the plan.

The boys arrive at the home only to realise that it’s more of a haunted mansion. They march in anyway and come face-to-face with a series of traps while trying to make their way around the house. First there’s a ghost in the painting, followed by tentacled monster, Frankenstein’s monster, vampires and zombies!

The boys quickly learn their lesson that it isn’t very nice to steal.

It’s pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. Considering this is the first episode, though, there’s very much a chance that it does improve. I’m probably not interested enough to continue on.

The show lacks the twisted humour that the original has. It’s been stripped down to be “horror lite” children, but it goes too far. I think incredibly young children would enjoy it – say 5 or 6. I’m not sure what the original intended audience was, but it’s not very sophisticated or scary in any way.

But my biggest gripe with this show is the animation. It’s truly some of the worst I’ve seen, especially considering this was made in 1993. It’s very uninspired character design with boxy movements. All very low-budget looking. Certainly not half as good as its contemporaries like Beetlejuice (incidentally produced by the same company) or Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

I’m sure if you have nostalgia attached to the show, it will remain charming upon review. I could listen to John Kassir as the Cryptkeeper anyway! He’s easily the highlight here.

If you do think I should carry on watching. Let me know what episode I should move on to next! Otherwise, I might try to hunt down episodes of New Tales From the Cryptkeeper. You can’t keep a woman away from a Lite Ghoulish Tale (TM).

Horror I’m most looking forward to in 2020

I had every intention of watching a film and writing for Wicked Wednesday today. But I woke up with a bigger hangover than expected.

So 2020 is off to a very unique and special start. Eh. So here’s a rather-lazy list of things I’m looking forward to in 2020!

1. The franchises

Halloween 2018 was pretty perfect for me. I know it certainly wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, but it easily slid in at my #3 in the Halloween series. It’s perfectly fine as a stand-alone. But when I learnt there was to be two more sequels, I wasn’t going to complain. Give me more Jamie Lee Curtis as badass, grizzled Laurie Strode any day!

I absolutely love The Conjuring and its sequel. Both are great little pieces from James Wan. I have to be honest, the rest of the Conjuring Universe doesn’t really interest me. So I was really happy to see that a third instalment featuring Ed and Lorraine Warren was to be released in 2020. This time, director Michael Chaves tackling the true story of “the Devil made me do it” case. I only know a bit about the true story – but it’s certainly a promising bit of history to turn into a film.

2. Grady Hendrix brings us a world of vampires and old ladies

Over the last few years, Grady Hendrix has become a firm favourite of mine. His novels My Best Friend’s Exorcism and We Sold Our Souls are definitely a couple of my top horror novels. He does a great job of blending horror with campy fun in a way like no one else in print. Also, his nonfiction Paperbacks from Hell is a great read too!

His next novel, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, sounds like it’s another wild ride. The book’s summary declares the story is Fried Green Tomatoes meets Dracula and that’s all I think anyone needs.

Also, do yourself a favour and follow Hendrix on Twitter. You won’t regret it.

3. Mike Flanagan returns to Netflix to haunt us

I was so pleased with the success of The Haunting of Hill House. While I was initially disappointed that it didn’t directly adapt Shirley Jackson’s work, I was so impressed with the show.

Season two doesn’t see us back with the Crain family, but in a world inspired by Henry James’s Turn of the Screw in The Haunting of Bly Manor. I suspect the adaption will be as loose as season one’s, but I’ll definitely be reading James’s work in preparation for what’s sure to be another excellent piece from Flanagan – who is time and time again proving himself a modern-day master.

4. Take a trip to Fear Street

R.L. Stine is a master of children’s horror with his Goosebumps series. But those a touch older will remember him for his Fear Street series, his stories featured teenagers in the town of Shadyside.

There’s to be three instalments based on these books, apparently all to be released in 2020. There aren’t a lot of details about which books will be the inspiration for the films, but it will be set in 1994. Hopefully the movies include some twisted cheerleaders and a bit of creepy phone calls – all the joys of being a teen.

5. The stand-alones

There are countless horror movies coming out in 2020. I imagine many of them will continue the success we saw in the past few years. Original, interesting stories with great acting.

To say exactly what I’m looking forward to most would be difficult, as many films later in the fear will not have trailers or full synopses yet. Also, I’m struggling to find out info about more small independents (that will come with FrightFest season, I hope!). But I’ll just throw in this mini-list:

6. Welcome to Lovecraft

It’s no secret that Locke & Key is my favourite graphic novel series. Netflix’s adaption cannot arrive soon enough. The cast looks pretty damn spot-on (especially when compared to the previous attempts), and all early teasers and stills looks magnificent. I really hope that this adaption will do the story justice. But I have very few worries. The show was developed by Joe Hill and Carlton Cuse (Lost) which is as solid of a team that you could hope for.

Locke & Key follows the Locke siblings after the brutal murder of their father. They, along with their mother, return to their father’s ancestral home where they begin to uncover secrets about both the house and their father’s past. It’s a wonderful blend of family drama, magic and horror. February 7th can’t come soon enough.


What are you looking forward to most this year? I personally can’t wait to see the end of the horror that is the current presidency. But that’s perhaps a chat for a different day.

Things I missed out on in 2019 (and really shouldn’t’ve)

I am queen of putting things off. Especially when it comes to watching or reading things I know I will like. No particular reason why, other than I’m already overwhelmed with nice things.

It always seems to be that whenever we reach December, I can’t seem to remember anything about the previous year. Did I read anything? Maybe. Did I watch tv? Probably.

But it’s much easy to figure out what I’ve missed versus remembering what I actually did. Character flaw? Probably.

 There was a lot that I missed out on in 2019. Something that I really want to rectify in 2020. One of my resolutions for next year is keeping up with everything that is happening.

One of the themes I noticed when writing up this list was that most of these shows/films are acclaimed reboots. Nancy Drew, Shudder’s Creepshow (I watched the first episode!), Are You Afraid of the Dark? all were pretty well-received.

Both Nancy Drew and Are You Afraid of the Dark are yet to be released internationally. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a lot more resistant to streaming illegally. But because of it – I feel very cut off from my fellow American fans. We can also throw Into the Dark on that pile.

If I’m wrong on that – please let me know where I can find these in the UK!

As far as films go, I’ve seemingly missed all the heavy hitters. One that I’m most desperate to get to is Tigers Are Not Afraid. This Mexican film has been on so many best of lists this year. It looks fantastic and it’s on Shudder!

Other 2019 films I’d like to are Satanic Panic, One Cut of the Dead, Doctor Sleep, and A Good Woman is Hard to Find.

And for a dash more nostalgia, I’d really like to see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It’s significantly less well-received than anything else I’ve listed, but going into it with a low expectation will help me, right?

There are a lot more films on that to-watch list. But we all know that I’m garbage at watching newer films.

But I’m also garbage at watching old films, too. My pile of unwatched Blu-Rays is slowly getting bigger and bigger. When I stacked them up, I was a touch embarrassed…

Basically, I don’t seem to have much time in my life! That or I’ve been spending it on the wrong stuff.

Am proud to say that I watched Perfume of the Lady in Black last night and it was fantastic. See? Always putting off things I know I’ll like.

And just like that, we enter a new era. I feel really positive about the future for horror. It was one hell of a decade for us! May writers, actors, musicians, and directors continue to make incredible art.

Wicked Wednesday: Krampus (2015)

It’s Christmaaaaaas!

I’m sure plenty of people are feeling jaded at this time of year. I had to go into Brixton’s M&S to get stollen – I get it! (Their stollen was covered in almonds. ALMONDS!) But occasionally we need to take a step back and assess our own negativity. Is it really worth holding onto? Is that long-held grudge with that one cousin really worth it? Should you have hugged your aunt, even if she’s a bit racist?

I had to take a bit of my own advice here. After watching several weeks of average horror Christmas movies. I wasn’t really looking forward to watching another one. But I decided to take a chance on Krampus. It’s a different than the norm for a few reasons: it has a budget, the cast is amazing, and it was successful.

Sure, Krampus treads very familiar ground, but it’s (successful) twisted and fun approach sets it apart.

The Engel family are less-than-jovial at Christmas. They’re either bickering or ignoring one another. They’re not the family most in the Christmas spirit. Everyone, that is, besides little Max, who still believes in Santa Claus. He writes a letter to jolly ol’ Saint Nick in hopes that the gift he receives is his family’s unity.

But when the extended family arrive, everyone just becomes more irritable. At the dinner table, Max’s letter is read aloud by one of his cousins. He snatches the letter away after an fight, tears it up and throws the remains into the sky.

The boy’s anger calls upon the Krampus, who arrives the next day with a giant blizzard as fanfare. The family and the surrounding neighbours lose power. Max’s sister leaves to look for her boyfriend, but is killed off before she can make her return home.

The family get picked off one-by-one as they fend off the Krampus’s henchmen (in the form of demonic toys). With the help of Omi, the Engel paternal grandmother, they learn the story of the Krampus and why he’s arrived to claim them.

Will the family unite and defeat the beast? Well, the ending is certainly a twisted enough to be both horrible and satisfying. Just like Christmas, right?

The ending is easily one of my favourite parts of the movie, but I’m sure it won’t satisfy everyone. But what will satisfy most people is the performance the cast gives. Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Krista Stadler as Omi and, my personal highlight, Conchata Ferrell as the alcoholic aunt. They’re all parts of what is a treat ensemble cast.

And the movie looks good, too. It’s full of warm Christmas lights juxtaposed with the cold, winter hues of the outside world. I do love a Christmas movie that looks like it’s set at Christmas. Obvious as that is, most Christmas horror movies miss the mark on the details.

The deaths are also pretty good, but as Krampus is only rated PG-13, a lot of the gore is missing. So while it won’t be among the most bloody or graphic you can see, it will be suitable to watch with younger ones. Perhaps perfect for inducting your younger family members into the twisted family of horror? It certainly won over a lot of my non-horror-friends. I think there’s something to be said for that.

As the decade nears its end, it’s easy to look back on the Christmas horror offerings and find most of them forgettable. Krampus, on the other hand, is sure to be a holiday classic in the future joining the ranks of Black Christmas, Gremlins, and Christmas Evil. I saw one review that likened it to the dark gleefulness of Joe Dante. As a Dante fan, I’d have to heartily agree.

It’s definitely a good one. I recommend cosying up with your family on this Christmas night and watching some horror goodness. You’ve survived the holidays with each other, you at least deserve a treat.

Wicked Wednesday: My favourite Christmas tradition

An unintentionally Christmas-y-looking selection.

What is Christmas really without traditions? Emigrating to a new country meant that I gain a whole new set of them. There’s horrible Christmas cake instead of stollen. A new holiday with Boxing Day (though I still don’t get the point). I now enjoy bucks fizz while opening presents! It’s very novel.

About three or four years ago, I stopped going to my office Christmas parties. They’re a bit “too much” with someone with an anxiety disorder. But sitting by yourself all day feels a touch pathetic while everyone else is out partying.

So my first year at home, I started my very first only-for-me tradition: baking while watching cheesy Christmas romance movies followed by the most graphic or fun slashers I can find on my shelves. It started off by accident, but has quickly progressed to a day of the year I really look forward to.

Now, I’m not the type to be attracted to romance films. And I’m certainly not the type to condone enjoying things ironically. But the last few years I’ve started really getting into these Hallmark-esque Christmas fares. They’re not too bad at getting you in the mood for Christmas. And I’m someone who consistently lacks Christmas Spirit.

After all the drama surrounding Hallmark this year, I can sufficiently say with confidence: Hallmark – get stuffed. But thankfully, Netflix seems to have filled the holiday-film void with some of their own. Top ranked: Christmas Prince, The Knight Before Christmas and the ultimate wild and crazy shit show: Christmas Wedding Planner.

On the surface, it might appear as though holiday romances have nothing in common with horror movies. But it’s like grilled cheesy and jam: it shouldn’t work, but it really fucking does.

I present to you the following similarities:

  • They’re both formulaic. Slashers = people die. Holiday romances = people fall in love.
  • They have unrealistic situations. Average American woman becomes queen just in time to save the kingdom! Family of inbreds blow up their house for kicks!
  • The genres each focus more on plot than they do character-building. Sure, these people have jobs, but they’re really just shells to move along the story.

Um, maybe that’s it? But you get me – they’re genre films for a specific type of person.

This year, I indulged in maybe too many Christmas movies. Thankfully my friend was around to go out for drinks and pizza to break up the potentially mind-melting experience. We watched quite a few of them together. Could I tell you the plots of any of them? No. Do I remember what the differences were between them? Definitely not. I’m certain they’re all just one film.

Thankfully I watched quite a few gems at night after coming home with a bellyful of pizza. I like to mix my horror choices between a couple of giallos (early enough in the night while I can still read) and American slashers – great for the hour when your brain shuts off.

AND I got to enjoy this all while eating gingerbread scones. Who’s to say I’m not living the dream?

So I enjoy a wholesome, silly movies from time-to-time. And it might just be one day a year, but it’s a moment to savour…before ruining it with switchblades, bloody mysteries and ominous shadows. If you get a bit sick of the holiday spirit, I recommend you start a similar tradition of your own.

Wicked Wednesday: Jack Frost (1997)

Tis the season for “it was really just okay but mostly forgettable” holiday films! Apparently, I guess.

I don’t set out to watch average films, but the heavy hitters of Christmas horror movies are far and few between. Jack Frost is certainly an average fare.

If you like the original Child’s Play but want more Christmas spirit and a lower budget, this movie is really made for you.

Jack Frost is a serial killer. A particularly nasty one at that. While he’s being transported to his execution, the van he is in collides with a truck carrying chemicals.

Jack’s body combines with the genetic material and the snow, turning him into a snowman.

As a snowman, Jack is able to terrorise a small town. The small town, in fact, where he was caught by the sheriff, Sam Tiler.

So as the townspeople begin preparing for Christmas, Jack wrecks havoc by killing them. Two men from the FBI arriving, looking for Jack but refusing to admit to anyone that they still believe he’s alive.

But Tiler soon realised something is amiss, especially when his son’s bully is killed in a freak sled-related accident.

Eventually, the agents must admit the truth when the snowman Jack appears at the police station. Ruler and the others try to fend the killer snowman off repeatedly.

When blowing up the police station or sticking Jack in the incinerator doesn’t work, Tiler has the idea to use antifreeze instead. The townspeople all believe it’s done the trick. Only, it’s a horror movie that demands a sequel – so of course it’s not the end of things.

When I was younger (I was six when this movie was released), the VHS cover terrified me at the rental shop. I thought about it constantly. Because of that fear, I never was keen to watch it. But turns out there is nothing remotely scary. It’s very much a comedy with gore.

I actually chuckled a little, whereas I never felt any sense of tension. That’s not to say the film doesn’t try its best. Some of the deaths are rather gross and one actually pretty humorous. Only, a killer snowman is so ridiculous it is so very hard to take seriously.

The same could probably be said about a certain killer doll, but there’s plenty of evidence that says otherwise.

If you’re looking for something ridiculous, this certainly fits the bill. It just depends on how much late-90s tastelessness you can handle.