Wicked Wednesday: Without Warning (1980)

The Warning is one of those movies that goes by a seemingly endless list of names: The Warning, It Came Without Warning, Without Warning. All changed for what I’m sure are very good reasons.

Either way there’s one thing clear from all the titles: there’s something about a warning that may or may not have happened.

This is a fairly standard slasher from the era. A man and his son are out in the woods when they’re attacked by these flying-saucer-esq frisbee aliens. Later, a scout leader is also attacked by the toothed pancakes when out with his boy scout troops.

Meanwhile, a pair of young couples pack up for a trip to the late. On the way they stop for gas where they meet the Harbinger of Doom. He warns them away from the lake, telling them that there had been accidents there lately.

The kids are kids, though, and mostly ignore him. Sandy, though, becomes unsettled by the man. She doesn’t particularly like his hunting trophies to boot. And she certainly tells him that: she’d never kill a living thing.

But despite Sandy’s hesitation, the gang head to the lake for fun and sun. Sandy and Greg head off when their friends begin to get a bit too cozy. When their friends go missing, Sandy and Greg begin looking for them.

They stumble across a shack owned by the water department. When they look inside, they discover the corpses of the men and their friends.

Sandy and Greg flee from the shack and get to the van. They’re attacked by the pancake aliens, but manage to escape using windshield wipers (brilliant).

They seek help at a bar where they meet a cast of colourful characters. Among them in Sarge, a war veteran who has seen the aliens as well.

Sandy and Greg tell the bar patrons that they’ve seen the aliens. No one really seems bothered until they learn about the bodies in the shack. The bar woman calls the sheriff, but when he arrives Sarge shoots him, believing him to be an alien.

The gas station owner, Joe, decides to take the kids away and back to the shack to see the bodies. Joe is attacked by a blood-drinking frisbee but manages not to survive the attack by cutting it off.

The couple are separated from Joe and are seemingly ‘saved’ when they see a squad car. But when they get into the car, they realise it’s driven by crazy Sarge. They learn that Sarge believes them to be the aliens in a human skin outfit.

Greg plays up to the idea and pretends to be an alien. When Sarge is wound up, Greg takes the older man out and he’s able to escape with Sandy.

Later, Sandy and Greg find an empty house in the woods. They clean up and rest there for part of the night. Strange occurrences happen that unsettle Sandy more, so Greg agrees to watch over things while she sleeps.

When she wakes up, though, finds finds a frisbee sucking on Greg’s face! (I do love horror movies…) She flees the house and stumbles upon Joe again, who convinces her to go back to the shack with him. As a hunter, he believes he can lure the alien to where the food is.

Shortly after arriving at the shack, Sarge appears again to come to blows with Joe. During their scuffle, the group see a tall alien approaching the shack. Sarge is killed off, leaving just Joe and Sandy left.

Joe sacrifices himself by luring the alien to the shack where he’s left dynamite. And despite her declarations to never kill anything, Sandy blows up the shack, Joe and alien to save the planet.

This is a strange little movie. It’s delightfully low budget. All the usual tropes are here: the final girl, the harbinger of doom, the first couple to have sex die. It’s all pretty by-the-book. But appearances by Jack Palance and Martin Landau help elevate it to a more memorable status. That and the excellently of-its-time alien work.

While not covering the same baddies, The Warning reminded me of the Bill Rebane film Blood Harvest. Both try to have a commentary of the PTSD of soldiers back from Vietnam. I’m not quite sure if either was successful, but it’s a unique perspective from the era.

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Riverdale ep. 3.22 recap “Chapter Fifty-Seven: Survive the Night”

Riverdale‘s third season has finally come to its close. It’s been another mess of a season. But I think the direction was a bit better (and less meandering) than what we were given last season. A…slight return to form. Though I still don’t think these storylines lend themselves to the 22-episode format. When will networks ever learn?

“Chapter Fifty-Seven: Survive the Night” jumps straight into things. Penelope buys Betty from Edgar before she can get her skull opened. When Betty wakes up, she sees a note telling her to don a pink ballgown. When she goes downstairs, she sees Penelope at a dinner table with the Archie, Veronica and Jughead seated with her.

Penelope goes into a long explanatory speech about all the evil deeds she has done. She alone has orchestrated the mayhem the four have faced. She controls Hal (the Black Hood) and Chic (the Gargoyle King) all by herself.

I have to admit that I didn’t think Penelope was behind it all, despite all the heavy-handed clues throughout the season. But it’s a reveal that actually makes sense. Believe it or not, Riverdale has actually managed to make things come full circle.

Penelope has clearly lost her marbles, even dying Chic’s hair read and calling him “Jason”. But he seems totally ok with that, so that’s fine. She informs the four kids that she will be playing one last round of G&G with them.

She sends them off into the woods to each complete one-last quest. If they survive the night, they will have proved themselves worthy people and better than the stinking bog that is Riverdale.

The four run off into the woods, quickly spotting signs that point them in the right direction. The Red Paladin is the first to receive his quest: fight a juiced-up bear man. It goes well. Mostly because Archie is (slightly) resourceful with a bone. Any excuse to get KJ Apa flexing his muscle.

Now, before this even got started, I, semi-jokingly, wanted to see Veronica get a Vizzini-style puzzle. And lo-and-behold my prayers were answered! The Enchantress must choose her closest friend. Together they play spin-the-bottle and take turns drinking from a chalice. One of the chalices contains fast-acting poison.

In the end, Betty ends up with the supposedly poisoned chalice. But Veronica snatches it away and drinks it first, saving her friend. Penelope arrives and announces that Veronica passed, proving her loyalty. Then she also reveals that ALL the chalices were poisoned. The only way to get the antidote? SURVIVE THE NIGHT!

The Hellcaster basically just needs to take out the Gargoyle King. He does it pretty swiftly, it’s all pretty anti-climactic.

And that just leaves Betty. She’s given a gun with one bullet: she must shoot her own father. But Betty being Betty, doesn’t shoot to kill. She instead shoots off his fingers, proving that she’s not just like her father.

Penelope shoots Hal instead. She doesn’t let the gang off that easily. Archie manages to get the poison antidote quickly before the crew have to flee the Gargoyle gang.

They’re saved by Cheryl, Toni, the Pretty Poisons and the Serpents. And while they get out of the woods (literally), Betty learns that her mother hasn’t escaped the Farm.

The friends quickly make their way to the Farm. When they arrive, though, they only find a moping Kevin. He tells them that the Farm members have ascended. He was left behind in order to tell the story. But what ascension actually means, who knows? Moving on to the next town? Actually dying?

It’s unclear, but presumably that’s part of next season’s mystery.

As the season’s fantasy-theme madness winds down, Betty gets a visitor. The young man (with blond hair and blue eyes) informs her that Alice has been an informant for the FBI the entire time. And the FBI agent is her real bother: Charles. Oh and it’s also Jughead’s real brother. So that’s fun. And weird?

And what’s also fun? Cheryl hanging out with Jason’s corpse.

Each season thus far has had a distinct feeling: high school, serial killer drama, a vast RPG game. The finales always proved us with one last punch to set up the next plot: Fred being shot, Archie being arrested for murder. This time, we get a flash forward. Betty, Veronica and Archie call stand together in their underwear as they set fire to their clothes…and Jughead’s signature hat. Now it can be taken to imply that Jughead is dead, but I seriously doubt that. The core three certainly have more heart than that.

But it begs the question: if Jughead isn’t with them, where is it? The flash forward also takes place during spring break of their Senior year. Does that mean this is the set up for the show’s final season? High school shows going into a college season never works out fell. So maybe this is the grand ending approaching.

I suppose we’ll find out in a few months time. But that’s it for me and Riverdale recaps. In the autumn, I’ll be switching over to watching the CW’s new Nancy Drew show. If there’s one thing I love more than Archie Comics, it’s the Drew Crew.

But I will still be watching next season. Bring on the insanity of Senior year!

Wicked Wednesday: Cry_Wolf (2005)

I have an admission to make: I enjoy reading the last page of books. If a story is too suspenseful or there’s a character I really like, I need to know if they survive or who the killer is.

Considering the amount of mysteries and thrillers I read, this probably makes me a bad person. But that being said, I also think I’m pretty good at guessing a killer before I look at the last page of a book.

That being said, it takes no super sleuth to untangle the ‘mystery’ of Cry Wolf.

Last week, I went on a (minor) rant to my co-workers about how I don’t really care for the aesthetic of 00’s films. I hate the eyebrows, the low-rise jeans, the editing… But I decided I wanted to eat my words and watch an entertaining teen horror romp. When I read the words “boarding school” and “secrets” in the synopsis, I was immediately convinced I needed to watch Cry Wolf.

Cry Wolf is set at the fancy Westlake Preparatory Academy, home to the children of the elite. Joining their ranks is the English Owen. Upon his arrival, he bumps into Dodger, a girl he immediately takes a liking to. She explains to Owen that there is an assembly on about a townie who has gone missing after “screwing the wrong guy”.

Later that night, Owen’s new roommate, Tom, invites him to sneak out and meet his friends at a chapel, including Dodger. She tells Own the rules of a game called Cry Wolf. She, the shepherd, chooses someone to be a wolf and the rest of the “sheep” must discover who the wolf in the group is until one by one they’re picked off.

After playing their game, Dodger later suggests that the group play a bigger version of the game. One that involves the entire school. Together, the kids invent a serial killer. He’s The Wolf. He carries a hunting knife, wears an orange ski mask and camo jacket, and travels from campus to campus killing people. Dodger also suggests that the kids pretend that the missing girl (who was earlier discovered in the woods, killed by a gunshot wound) was the first victim.

Owen sends off the first email and the story takes off like wildfire.

Later, Owen gets an instant message from The Wolf. The messages are threatening, and he begins to suspect the Dodger, Tom and the rest of their friends.

The ‘pranks’ begin to get more bizarre. Tom and Owen find a bloody body piercing. Their room is ransacked. Randal goes missing.

Then one day, Tom goes to his journalism class and a hunting knife falls out of his bag. His teacher, Mr Walker (played by the very studious Jon Bon Jovi), takes Tom away to get expelled or whatever. But Tom manages to stop Mr Walker with one thing: the knowledge that Mr Walker is having an affair with Dodger. The boy had previously seen the two making out in Mr Walker’s office.

But his ‘friends’ begin to distrust him. He skips the Halloween dance, and is later pranked into believing that The Wolf is after him. He and Mercedes (who chases Owen dressed like The Wolf) get into trouble, as do the rest of the group.

The friends are all forced to stay at school over the weekend. But considering it’s a boarding school, I’m not sure why this is such a drag.

Owen gathers the gang together at the chapel, where they begin to admit to their deeds. But this somehow, according to Dodger, makes Owen seem guilty. The others turn on him.

While at the chapel, Mercedes’ boyfriend calls her and they hear her being attacked over the phone. And the one-by-one the kids are seemingly killed off.

Owen gets a call from Dodger who tells him about the gun in Mr Walker’s office. He goes to get it, but is caught by Mr Walker. The two begin to scuffle, and Owen ends up shooting Mr Walker in the chest.

And it’s seemingly all over.

It’s revealed that none of the kids had actually died. They were all (mostly) in on a prank to get back at Owen and Mercedes. Again, this seems pretty steep but whatever. Owen ends up not getting murder charges when his father reveals that Mr Walker was in a relationship with the townie that was killed.

It’s also revealed that Mr Walker had other damning evidence against him. And while it’s seemingly “that’s that”, the film throws in a final twist.

But…it’s not really much of a twist.

Unfortunately, the film is very heavy-handed on the foreshadowing. It makes guessing who the real mastermind easy to spot by a mile away. I almost had hoped that the the obvious suspect wasn’t guilty. But instead we get the very obvious ending. And for me, it made the movie really difficult to enjoy.

I loved the aspects of the children playing horrible pranks on each other. Something about a bunch of rich kids being jerks and getting their comeuppance makes me feel weirdly satisfied.

And while this isn’t typically a type of film I enjoy, I do think that Cry Wolf had its moments. It’s laughably outdated thanks to its technology, but if you can see beyond that (and it’s terribly predictable plot), it’s an alright way to spend 90 minutes of your night.

Riverdale ep. 3.21 recap “Chapter Fifty-Six: The Dark Secret of Harvest House”

Was last week’s prom not over-the-top enough for you? Do you want organ harvesting and fake-out deaths? Well good! Riverdale is here to serve you everything in your insane dreams!

Now in the belly of the beast, Betty continues her investigation into The Farm. She’s mostly ostracized by the others (go figure). But straight away it’s clear why Edgar extended the invite to Betty.

Alice sits down with the family and admits “the truth” to Betty. She tells her daughter that she has the “serial killer gene” that no one else in the family has. After this bombshell, Edgar suggests hypnotising Betty so that she can, I don’t know, come to peace with herself?

Betty agrees, mostly because she’s a really thorough detective. In her hypnosis, Betty meets her “other self” one that tells Betty that she pushed Polly down the stairs and drowned her cat. When she wakes, she seems fairly unshaken. Which can only mean 1.) she’s totally crazy or 2.) she’s clever enough to spot a lie a mile away.

She calls Juggie about the new addition to her routine. She also sets him on the mission to hunt down the chain of people that delivered the letter to her on the night of the prom. The trail leads Jughead to his sister, then Little Ricky, and on to Princess Ethel.

When Jughead finds Ethel in the bunker, she seems pretty upset. She tells Jughead that while she left the “false king” of the Sisters, she’s still in love with the Gargoyle King. He convinces her to leave and take her to safety, along with a gang of Lost Boys (aka the seemingly feral boy scouts). They go to retrieve the littlest Lost Boy and come face-to-face with the hooked Black Hood.

Jughead eventually escapes with Ethel and the boys, which gains Ethel’s trust. She blesses him with the true name of the Gargoyle King: Jason Blossom.

When Jughead shares the news with Betty, she barely bats an eye. She’s in full-on Riverdale mode and is as unsurprised as we all are at this point. Plus Betty has something bigger and more pressing to deal with: The Farm’s organ harvesting.

Betty had started to become suspicious when the others at The Farm told her that Edgar took their emotional pair and channeled it into something physical. Er, win win?

She later sees Evelyn sitting in a chair to receive dialysis. She also notices that the woman is receiving anti-rejection medication. The type taken by someone who has had an organ transplant.

Also, all the stars for the Easter egg of Evelyn reading The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Betty later gets into the room with all the organs. She immediately takes it to Cheryl (who was on the cusp of losing faith anyway after the whole “you-can’t-run-for-prom-queen thing”), who believes her cousin when she sees the organ in the ice chest.

Cheryl immediately helps Toni escape, at the expense of her own freedom. And Betty is tackled by Fangs and Kevin, who hand her over to be Edgar’s next victim.

Meanwhile, a little closer to reality, Archie meets with his mom’s FBI friend! (I did say a little.) Together, the FBI agent and Veronica begin working together to arrest Hiram, who is apparently going to buy Riverdale. As if that’s a thing.

Veronica, the FBI and Archie work together to get Hiram. Archie challenges Hiram to a match. Le Bonne Noit (which Hiram technically owns) takes illegal bets. FBI raids Le Bonne Noit. Hiram gets arrested during the illegal boxing match.

And it all seemingly goes without a hitch.

But after his mother’s coaxing, Archie goes to see Veronica and admit his feelings for her. Only when he arrives, he learns that he’s been beaten by Reggie. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs. But I’ve always thought Archie was better off without Ronnie (that’s both in this TV show and in the comics in general – and I’ll stand by that).

So the kids are seemingly close to wrapping up their mysteries. But somehow, it’s not that likely that things can be so simple. Could it really be Jason this whole time? Well, in Riverdale Land, it’s very well possible. But we saw his body at the funeral, as a rotten corpse, and shot in the head in a video. Sure it could all be fake, and it takes a show like Riverdale to just tell us that “it’s possible!”

There’s some shifty shenanigans going on that are sure to make us scream in next week’s finale. I doubt that Hiram will be down for long. And I’m sure he’s already cooking up delicious revenge.

Let’s just hope that this time, they can cook up a good storyline for him.

Riverdale ep. 3.20 recap “Chapter Fifty-Five: Prom Night”

“Prom is this weekend? We still do things like that here?”

Yes. Yes you do, Ronnie. But as ever, in the most Riverdale of fashions, with serial killers, a Ren Faire theme and rigged Prom Queen elections.

This week Riverdale took a little bit of time to get back to its roots again: high school. And while the kids faced the usual unusual, there was also a bit of the kids being a bit, will, like the 17-year-olds they supposedly are.

The largest and most obvious reminder of how young these kids are was the presence of Molly Ringwald again as Mary Andrews. This episode marked the first after Luke Perry’s death. Her entrance is clunky (she gets more screen time in this episode than Perry did all season), but how on earth could it have gone smoothly?

Fred takes off on a business trip, leaving Mary to head from Chicago to watch over Archie. She realises his growing fondness for boxing and shows some reasonable reluctance towards the latest hobby.

Behind his mom’s back, Archie signs up for a big fight. Of course this leads to issues when Mary introduces him to her friend at a Naval academy. She tells Archie about their boxing program, and he only seems slightly interested. But to please his mom, he agrees to an exhibition fight. Conveniently this conflicts with the regional classic that he signed up for in secret.

Meanwhile, speaking of sneaking, Betty begins investigating her father’s fate after the bus that was transporting him crashed. When she speaks to the coroner, she learns that he can confirm her father’s death.

But let’s face it: none of us are convinced here. Including Betty.

Betty gets another call from the coroner, this time to see a body. The coroner shows her and Jughead the boy’s back, which is covered in G&G tattoos.

They go to a tattoo artist (presumably the only one in Riverdale?) and ask him about the marks. He tells them that he did a similar one for another man a year earlier. One with sandy hair and blue eyes. Betty immediately assumes that it’s Edgar Evernever, but it’s pretty clear her prejudice is making her jump to conclusions. It also describes her own father…and Chic.

Jughead shows Betty the book he had fond on the Gargoyle’s bus. It’s a sort of Gargoyle King “gospel”. They discover that there is a way to lure the king out by crowning a queen (and who better than Betty?).

At the most delicious 80’s Fantasy Prom, the couple get to work. Using the Pretty Poison’s help, they rig the Prom Queen election in Betty’s favour.

But she’s called away via fancy invite by the Gargoyle King, and she isn’t even there for the crowning. Like her mother years before, Betty goes into the ladies’ toilets and finds the chalices. She leaves the bathroom and comes face-to-face with the Gargoyle King AND a Black Hood WITH A HOOK!

For what might be the first time ever, Betty is shook. Turns out scared Betty isn’t totally convincing, but as she stumbles across body after body of fellow classmates, her fear increases. She’s eventually found by Jughead, and all the excitement ends for the night.

But with two serial killers on the loose, Betty doesn’t feel safe. She goes to find Alice, and before she can convince her mother to go into hiding, Edgar offers her security inside The Farm. And Betty actually accepts it.

So who is the real Black Hood this time? Is it Hal? Did Hal cause the bus to crash a la Michael Myers and manage to get a hook? Is it Chic? Is it Edgar? (He has shown off his clean, and sculpted, back.)

I don’t know. MTV was at my prom, and even I can’t say that was half as much fun as Riverdale’s.

Wicked Wednesday: Monster (2005)

The Babadook has to be one of the best horror movies released this millennium. Let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a modern classic. Director and writer Jennifer Kent handles the themes of fear, trauma and grief all with an intelligence.

So when I first read about her short film Monster, I knew it was another one to watch.

Monster explores many of the same themes that Babadook does. In fact, it’s very much in the same spirit. A mother lives with her young son in their rather unclean home.

The son spends his day fighting off a rather creepy doll. The mother seems to know this doll and doesn’t like it. After she finds the doll ‘trapped’ under some of the boy’s things, she throws the doll into a cupboard.

The boy later tells his mother that he has been trying to kill the monster for her. He also claims that the doll has been threatening to kill him…again.

The mother later returns to the cupboard and sees a face in there in place of the doll. It frightens her, and she then offers to allow the boy to sleep in her bed that night.

While cozying up together, the figure from the cupboard appears to the mother and son. But before the monster can hurt the boy, the mother does what any mother does best: scolding.

The monster is eventually shamed and sent back to her cupboard. The boy and mother are allowed to have some peace together at last. But after the boy goes to sleep, his mother gets up and pours a glass of milk, which she leaves outside the cupboard for the monster.

Like Babadook, this short film carries many of the same messages. We see a parent trying to protect their child’s innocence. In Monster, it’s almost as though the mother welcomes the monster. She wants the monster to stay in her place, but it does mean her child stays by her side as his sole protector.

This little black-and-white piece is only 9 minutes long, and definitely manages to tell its story in that short amount of time. All while creating an eerie, effective ambiance.

Kent has a great eye. It’s excellent to see her growth is a filmmaker between the two stories, which are very comparable. Certainly a must-watch for anyone that loved the terrifying Babadook. But it’s also a great mini-introduction to Kent’s style and themes for those yet to dip in their toes.

Wicked Wednesday: The Baby-Sitters Club “Dawn and the Haunted House”

This week’s Wicked Wednesday is a bit different than usual. Instead of the usual blood fest and gore, we have…The Baby-Sitters Club.

As a very young girl, I loved The Baby-Sitters Club TV show. The show, while originally a HBO/Nickelodeon venture, the reruns were shown on the Disney Channel from 1994 to 1997, which meant I couldn’t have been older than 6-years-old when I watched. It’s was shortly before the time that I was forced to watch Mars Attacks! and Scream 2 and my life was ruined forevermore.

But at that age, much more simple things can be scary: something on the other side of a locked door, a basement, a mysterious person. It’s what made The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley work so well for me. That made a BEE KEEPER terrifying. Bee. Keeper.

It’s just a part of being an ignorant child, and that’s exactly that the girls in the Baby-Sitters Club are.

The episode’s title is rather misleading. For one, there is no haunted houses here, but instead an old, “witch” woman than the children of Stoneybrook love spreading rumours about.

Dawn loves a bit of a ghost story. During a biking trip, Dawn stops the other baby-sitters and tell them about Mrs Slade, the woman who lives there. She tells them that she believes that Mrs Slade kills animals for her experiments. And somehow, the girls seem pretty convinced.

Later, Dawn and Claudia baby-sit a trio of young children who leave near Mrs Slade. While they’re at the home, the little boy tells his baby-sitters that he’s found bones that the “witch” has buried.

This somehow prompts the girls to take the children on a walk through the woods. They study the pet cemetery that the boy has seen and begin to freak themselves out. When they hear a calling in the woods, they feel (mostly) certain that it’s either the wind…or the witch! 

Meanwhile, Claudia is struggling with school. Her mother asks her to give up some of her extracurricular in order to focus on studying. Claudia is immediately on the defensive and begins to argue. She even drops in some quotes from the show’s theme song which makes for a pretty compelling argument, if you ask me.

But regardless, Claudia is still a child and this is The Baby-Sitters Club, so Claudia begins her tutoring. She also keeps it a secret from the other baby-sitters.

At a slumber party, the baby-sitters indulge in scary movies and stories. Dawn, of course, tells stories about Mrs Slade. But later Claudia gets defensive when she believes Dawn is calling her dumb.

Later, while baby-sitting the young trio of kids again, Stacey sees Claudia in the window of Mrs Slade’s house. She (somehow) becomes convinced that Claudia is under a witch’s spell. She calls the other baby-sitters to have them rescue Claudia. Stacey, meanwhile, stays with the kids but prank calls Mrs Slade about an injured dog in the woods.

Mrs Slade rushes to the woods in order to save the dog, allowing the baby-sitters a chance to sneak into the house. When the girls find Claudia, she explains that she’s not under a spell but rather having tutoring. From Mrs Slade…a former vet.

Realising their mistake, the girls go into the woods to look for Mrs Slade. To their credit, the girls do apologise. Claudia even strikes up a friendship with the old woman after she paces her science test.

So there’s no haunting here. But it definitely is an episode of television that highlights the fears of silly children. And let’s face it, many children (if not all) can be silly. Most of the fear is created in their minds, making even the smallest of things bigger and more terrifying.

Yeah, the episode is a bit daft. It’s cheesy and silly and heavy-handed on the wholesomeness. But the shows sweetness reminds me of brighter days. The things here certainly won’t spook anyone over the age of 8 or 9, but it’s got all the bare bones of what it means to be both safe and scared at the same time: scary stories at slumber party, urban legends about honest neighbours.

It was certainly nice to watch something different. Though I’m not quite sure if I’d ever write about another for WW. For one, I think I’ve used up all episodes with spook names. Not sure if “Dawn Saves the Trees” or “The Baby-Sitters Remember” will really have the right vibe. But I guess you never know.