Riverdale ep. 3.9 “Chapter Forty-Four: No Exit”

Riverdale has come very far from its humble (ish) beginnings. And “Chapter Forty-Four” takes a moment to remember where it came from.

In the last few years, Archie and the gang have solved a murder, caught a serial killer and battled with a money-hungry mobster. Remember when Betty’s biggest problem in her life was that Archie didn’t have a crush on her?

Before the mid-season break, Archie made for the border to hide in Canada. He’s living his best woodsman life by staying in a cabin with Vegas. Despite being warned by the woman he communicated with via ham radio, Archie gets himself attacked by a bear.

He manages to clean himself up, but he passes out on his bed. When he awakes, he finds himself speaking to many of the dead that have crossed his paths. He goes through a slightly Christmas Carol-style journey that makes him face all the turning points in his life (the Black Hood, Hiram, and eventually his friends in their best season 1 outfits – helloooo iconic black cape!).

Archie admits that he needs to kill the stupidity in himself. We all agree. In his last scene, he takes a baseball bat to a sleeping Archie. We’re supposed to think he’s dead, but when he inevitably wakes up, hopefully he’ll start a band and this will all become a teen drama again.

Meanwhile, back in Riverdale, everything is as usual: nuts.

After the super dramatic quarantine, it’s been lifted without much fanfare. It begs the question why we were even put through that, but alas, the Riverdale writers didn’t seem to think it was important (or they wrote themselves into a corner, either one).

Veronica is busy fending off her father, who sends his gang of Gargoyles after her, Reggie and Josie. She eventually succumbs to his offer of giving him 10% for his protection, but he becomes angry when he notices that her books are altered.

He threatens her when he realises that he has been robbed by Cheryl, who has taken up burglary with Toni for fun. He tells her that she needs to retrieve the “Glamourgé Egg” back from her friends – or else.

But instead of listening, Veronica goes straight to Jughead himself. He agrees to get the egg back for her, as long as she decides to hire the Serpents as protection.

In order to get the egg back, though, Jughead has to kick Toni and Cheryl out of the gang for breaking the law against his orders. Cheryl reluctantly gives back the egg, but both girls are still out of the party.

Also out of the party is Fangs, who was dealing Fizzle Rocks to the crashing kiddies at Betty’s place.

Betty spends most of the episode being rather boring for once. The Sisters of Quiet Mercy end up in jail, awaiting their destiny. But they claim to take a vow of silence, making them unable to testify against Hiram in court.

But a little bird in the form of a social worker, tells Betty the sisters have not in fact been actual nuns for over 60 years. After Betty confronts them, someone (Hiram) posts their bail, leading to the sisters’ mass suicide by the blue Kool-aid. One hell of a bleak way to wrap up that storyline, Jim.

Betty also learns that all of the kids, which she had planned to distribute among friends, have been taken away to The Farm. If this part of the story doesn’t start to pay off soon, I’m quitting this show forever.

At first it really seemed like sending Archie off by himself was a bad move for the show. Archie’s storylines are usually the most boring. But here he’s given a bit of redemption (even if he doesn’t give it to himself).

There are some real hints that the show might go back to its roots. For one, Archie really has nowhere else to go. Plus Veronica has finally moved on to Reggie, who she clearly has lot of chemistry with. (Real life actors Camila Mendes and Charles Melton are together, and it’s pretty damn clear.) Reggie sort of serves the same purpose as Archie did: protection and support. But Reggie is much more level-headed about it whereas Archie had only blind faith.

I would actually love to see a more focused, downscaled Riverdale again. But when you’ve gone this far, can you ever go back?

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Wicked Wednesday: I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)

I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle is a weird movie. It has a weird title, for one, and stars Bob the Builder. It has the unbelievable Hells Angels-style Birmingham biker gang, and the world’s most enthusiastic Catholic priest.

Another weird thing about this week, was realising that I live in a country know where people can actually name the actor who voiced ol’ Bob. So there’s also that.

This little gem, though, is about as bonkers as you’d expect it to be. A satanic cult are murdered by a biker gang in the middle of a ritual. A few bodies of the dead rise again, one of them pouring their blood into one of the nearby bikes. This magic brings the bike to life.

Sometime later, a young idiot named “Noddy” (which I can only assume is the name on his baptismal name) buys the bike at the (unassumingly) extortionate price of £1,100. When he takes it home to show off to his friend and girlfriend, they quickly point out all of the bike’s flaws like the damage done by a crossbow.

Noddy’s friend Buzzer (also his Christian name, just guessing) plays a ‘joke’ on Noddy by stealing the cap to the gas tank. But Noddy later finds it in the bike shed that following morning. He and his girlfriend, Kim, get a call at their offices that Buzzer had been killed in some sort of accident.

Noddy goes to Buzzer’s flat where he was killed. He speaks to the inspector and finds that there are tyre tracks everywhere, and a rather motorcycle-shaped hole in Buzzer’s front door.

Later the motorcycle gets to stretch its wheels when Noddy takes it out for a ride. The bike takes over and nearly crashes into a biker gang (the cult killer one), making Noddy the gang’s biggest target. They later harass Noddy and Kim in a pub in a scene that literally looks like a Tenpole Tudor music video.

After escaping the gang, the young couple go to grab Chinese. The bike becomes upset when Kim wants garlic prawns and drives off with only her on the back. The bike attacks her, leaving her in the hospital. The bike goes on a bit of a bender, killing off most of the gang and filling its tank with blood.

When Noddy notices the bloody bike, he decides that the bike is possessed and needs help from god. He seeks help from a priest, and together they take on the bike. It’s already a wacky film, but it goes full-on British at this point. It falls victim to a repetitive ending, a bit, losing the film a little steam. But it is still pretty amusing nevertheless.

With I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, you pretty much get what you’re asking for. It’s zany, stupid, and very, very British. It’s like Cornetto Trilogy version of Death Bed: The Bed that Eats but less psychedelic and with more puns.

There are certainly weak points here, like the never-ending ending. The biggest issue is probably the writing of the characters – which is at least passable because the actors are rather likable. They aren’t very well fleshed out in general and we sort of take for granted that they’re just there. But I want to know: Are they in a biker gang too? Do they have real jobs? What’s this office they keep arriving at and not doing any work in? Do they really think ponytails are a good idea? I don’t know. It could have been explained. Maybe I just didn’t understand the accents.

Wicked Wednesday: Return to Horror High (1986)

The holidays have seemingly sapped all my creativity out of me. I can’t read. I can’t write. I really don’t feel like watching anything. I even gave myself a two week break – the longest in years. And yet…nothing. The brain in mush.

So when it came to choose this week’s movie, I had to think long and hard. And I really, really thought for a long time (hard, not so much). I literally did nothing all Monday night but take “What horror movie should you watch?” quizzes. Seems like I need to check out this movie called The Exorcist. Might give it a go.

Ultimately we landed here with the 1986 mind-bender Return to Horror High. I first saw this little gem back in high school, and I was smitten. I’ve somehow avoided a re-watch ever since then.

Return to Horror High follows a film crew as they make a movie about a series of murders that happened at Crippin High School a few years prior. From the opening scene, it’s clear that things haven’t gone well, as supposedly everyone from the movie has been murdered (according to the movie’s screenwriter).

While the movie (the move within this movie, that is) sets out to “tell the true story”, producer Harry Sleerik does his best to make the movie a sleazy horror film. He’s also super cheap. Part of his cheapness includes forcing the whole cast and crew to both work and sleep at Crippin High School.

When one of the actors quits for a better-paying TV gig, he’s promptly axed by an unseen person. The rest of the crew go on as normal, completely unaware of the death. Joining the oblivious is the young cop Steve, who worked on the original murder case in 1982 and was once a student at Crippin.

The movie continues to be made, but lead actress Callie becomes more suspicious as time goes on. Together with Steve’s help, she begins to investigate the disappearances of her fellow actors and crew.

Steve slowly filters in new information to Callie. He shows her his locker where there’s a heart with his name and his old girlfriend Cathy’s scratched inside. He tells her that Cathy disappeared shortly after they first had sex together.

Cathy’s disappearance is ultimately the key to solving the murders. One day during production, Steve sees a framed photo of Cathy. He realises that she was the daughter of the high school’s principal, who also happens to be work on the movie’s set as the technical adviser.

Callie and Steve crack the mystery wide open when they discover a trail of blood one night leading to a tunnel in the shop room. They follow the tunnel where they find a room full of corpses dressed as Cathy.

The janitor arrives, but after an altercation, it’s revealed that the janitor was Principal Kastleman all along. Kastleman admits that Cathy became pregnant after her time with Steve, so her father locked her in the basement of the school where she eventually died.

Steve and Callie manage to impale the principal and flee the school. But as they leave, it’s revealed that all the corpses outside the school (which the police were investigating) are not in fact corpses. The entire thing was a publicity stunt by the crew, and the solving of the murder was only a bonus.

It takes a real stretch of the imagination to believe in this twist – but that’s half the fun of Return to Horror High. It’s an absolutely insane movie that is more fun than it ought to be.

Trying to decide what’s real and what’s the movie is half the fun here. Having so many years since I first watched this probably makes this count as a “first viewing” as I hardly remembered the twist at the end.

A young George Clooney makes an early appearance here as the smug actor who is killed off first. While it’s fun to see Clooney ham it up, I actually think it harms the film’s legacy in a way. Many of his fan hate this movie. Couldn’t possibly tell you why… But Clooney’s early death works in modern day. Think of it as Psycho or Scream where we axe off the fan favourite straight away.

Watching Return to Horror High probably didn’t solve my creativity-drain, but it did get me writing again, and it certainly made me laugh.

Wicked Wednesday: Christmas Presence/Why Hide? (2018)

Well.

Watching this was like getting a turd in my stocking. How nice.

Christmas Presence is a 2018 British horror film, currently marketed as a Shudder original. With

A group of friends gather to celebrate Christmas in a manor house after the death of McKenzie’s father. The cast of characters are certainly memorable enough. They get festive nearly right away in the most British way possible: by getting wasted.

The banter between the friends (or frenemies, not sure which one they really are) is pretty enjoyable as they all settle in together.

Eventually, flamboyant Hugo decides he wants to get his friends to test out his new magnetic, absorbent underwear. The group reluctantly agree and get more drunk.

A montage of partying and a fat-shaming later, Hugo is lured out into the snow along where he is killed by a shadowy entity.

The following morning, the remaining friends are visited by the caretaker. He hits at something in McKenzie’s past. She later admits to her friends that her sister disappeared when they were younger. She was never found, and McKenzie always felt guilty because she was there when she disappeared.

The group then notice (speaking of disappearances) that Hugo isn’t around. They begin to search for him, but eventually return home without any luck.

New Age Anita insists that she put McKenzie under hypnosis to discover what happened to her sister. But before McKenzie can make a breakthrough, she’s woke up by an interruption. Anite begins to worry, as coming out of hypnosis could confuse the girl (or something).

And McKenzie does begin to suffer. Though whether it has anything to do with being hypnotized is slightly debatable. She sees Hugo in a wardrobe, and he tells her she needs to tie the others up because they’re plotting against them. She believes ‘Hugo’ and takes Jo’s shotgun to get the friends to obey her.

But it’s all for naught as the spell is quickly broken about two seconds later, and they’re all untied.

They begin to learn that they’re being stalked by something that appears as their biggest fears. One is killed by a fold-out bed. Another by…a pantomime actor? I don’t know. It all gets beyond the point of caring, anyway.

I won’t spoil the ending, of course. Mostly because I don’t completely get it (or I do, but I’d rather wish I didn’t).

Christmas Presence has been helped out by the title change. It certainly gets anyone looking for a Christmas horror movie to watch it. I wouldn’t stop anyone who wanted to watch it from watching it…but I certainly wouldn’t encourage it.

McKenzie is very difficult to like as a main character. She’s a TERF, for one, which makes her instantly unlikable in my eyes (there is a not-so-fine line between a character meant to be unlikable and one that’s constantly irritating). I think she was meant to be liked, which was the even more confusing part. It’s difficult to get invested in a character if you really are just staring at your watch until they die.

Actors Orla Cottingham and Elsie Bennett were actually the best part of the film as the story’s lesbian couple. It was clear that the script was initially hinting at something with Bennett’s character Sam, but it never bothered fleshing it out.

But that was probably the biggest issue with film in general. It could have been much more ambitious, and you can see the effort trickling away throughout. Sometimes wanting to do too much can be your downfall.

Riverdale ep. 3.8 “Chapter Forty-Three: Outbreak”

One thing Riverdale is good at is topping its own insanity. Kill off one boy? Try a serial killer next season. Caught the serial killer? Test the waters with drug-induced visions of Gargoyles.

This show loves to out-do itself so how do wrap up mid-season? With a quarantine, obviously!

The seizures in Riverdale have begun to spread at a more rapid pace. Namely hitting the entirety of the Vixens all at once (minus Cheryl). This prompts the Lodges to try and persuade Veronica that she needs to leave to go to NYC. Of course she doesn’t want to. She’s Veronica. So she begins to do some digging on why her parents are acting to desperate.

They even get the school quarantined, and all the Fizzle Rock-addled students have to be dragged out.

She and Cheryl work together, crashing an emergency school board meeting. Veronica confronts her father about the things we now know as truths: he’s a drug dealer, the prison-builders are making those drugs, and the drugs are being tested on the children at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy.

But before the girls can get to the bottom of anything, Penelope Blossom has a seizure. She’s ok, though, and the girls later torture her with maple syrup for information on Hiram.

In the land of the convent, Betty continues the good fight (surprise, surprise she wasn’t as broken as she appeared last episode). She eventually gets Ethel to join her side by locking Ethel in the Gargoyle King’s room until the drugs wear off her. Betty later explains to Ethel that while there is likely a real GK out there, he doesn’t live in the convent.

Together, the girls work to capture Sister Woodhouse. They manage to get her to admit the truth behind G&G. She explains to them that the children in the convent invented the game to cope with the trauma that they faced – particularly when they were in a room with a creepy gargoyle statue.

One they know the truth, they decide to get the other children out. They begin to role play – the only way to get the other girls to listen. Betty poses as the Gargoyle Queen, which goes down great! All the teens in the building leave, with no place to go.

But the other two wanderers, Archie and Jughead, end up at their final destination: with Jughead’s sister and mom. Gladys Jones seems pleased to see her son and his friend, but the reunion is awkward. Things become even more strained when Penny Peabody arrives after stalking the boys. I mean, I know there’s a bounty…but isn’t she a legit lawyer? Doesn’t she have better things to do?

Gladys tortures Penny (as is the theme of this week’s episode) and learns that Hiram is planning something massive for Riverdale. Not only is he after Archie, but anyone who helps him. That means Jughead…and Fred, who later arrives to help his son over the border into Canada (I think).

Archie dyes his hair dark and heads off into the woods with only Vegas at his side. FP (who arrived with Fred) takes Jughead back to Riverdale, but they’re told to go away.

Hermione and Hiram pulled the trigger and quarantined the entire city. Without outside interference, it appears as though the fate of the town lies solely with the Lodges.

It’s revealed that Hiram is indeed in cahoots with the Gargoyle King, who appears to just be chilling in Hiram’s office, enjoying the soft fireplace glow? It’s certainly one of the strangest directions Riverdale has ever gone in. Hiram, who at one point seemed simply surface-level ass hole, has now fully upgraded to being 100% mad.

This is why we’re all here, isn’t it? If we made it through season 2, all of us who are left are just those of us who enjoy this show at maximum crazy. And really, where can they even take it after this?

But it feels like we’re a lot less deep into the mystery than usual at mid-season. I imagined the Farm to be much more relevant than it has so far. But anyway, I’m intrigued. What will happen to the Jonses? Will they adopt Fred so that they can get up to shenanigans alone?

Who knows! I sure will never be able to guess. See you all in January.

Wicked Wednesday: The Dorm That Dripped Blood/Pranks (1982)

The Dorm that Dripped Blood has the same issue that many of these holiday movies have: they really have nothing to do with the holidays. I’m not talking about the plot necessarily, but they sort of use it as a passing excuse instead of a real setting or ambiance.

This is often a bigger mistake than you’d think. For example, would the original Black Christmas be as eerie if it didn’t have the terror played against the cheery, bright lights of Christmas? Christmas Evil is terrifying (and silly) because of Harry’s plotting…in a Santa suit.

This 1982 slasher plays it safe it almost every way. It holds a prestigious 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I think even saying that is over-selling it.  The Dorm that Dripped Blood is by no means the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s just one of the more unremarkable.

Joanne is a young college student spending part of the Christmas holidays at school. Together with four of her friends, they begin to clear out a dorm that’s to be demolished (or refurbished…?).

Joanne’s in charge, which is to the annoyance of her boyfriend Tim, who abandoned her to go skiing. Despite his pleas, she stays behind and begins business after the other students leave. The team of five are meant to be the only people on campus. But it’s clear that someone else is lurking about.

One of the girls, Debbie, takes off early one day. But before she can head off to see Grandma, she and both of her parents are murdered by an unseen person.

Patty, another of Joanne’s group, spots a lurker named John Hemmit. Considering that the five are meant to be the only on campus, they all become unsettled. Why they care about who’s on campus is beyond me. But I’m not the dictator here.

Despite the creepy man about, the kids begin to enjoy the free time of the Christmas break. They play pool, get stalked and sell old desks!

One night, the handyman for the building is killed by his own missing drill. Then someone ruins the Christmas dinner that the kids had cooked (or I assume it was meant to be Christmas dinner – it was really a dimly lit table in the middle of a terrifying warehouse). Somehow, ruining the Christmas dinner is one of the most unsettling things that could happen.

The girls begin to hear things on the roof and the power dies on them. One boy, Brian, is inevitably killed. Then Patty is attacked. Then Craig pretends he’s been attacked.

Poor Joanne just sort of stands by unharmed. But when ol’ John Hemmit makes an appearance, she seems convinced that he’s killed all her friends. In fairness, he keeps saying he wants to “take her away” and “get her out”. But lo and behold, he’s actually trying to save her – not killer her!

It’s Craig who is the killer! Why? Because he likes you.

Turns out Craig is head-over-heels for Joanne. No idea if this was something hinted at throughout the movie. Either it wasn’t, or I just really checked out early on.

But it’s too late when Joanne realises that Craig is crazy because she’s already killed John Hemmit. But Craig also realises something: Joanne can’t live. So he begins to chase her about with 20 minutes left in this poorly-lit movie.

The guy Joanne sold tables to or whatever shows up to save her. He and Craig get into a scuffle. When the police arrive, they see the desk enthusiast has the upper hand. For some reason, they seem to believe that this means he’s the killer. The promptly shoot him even though Craig pulls out a gun.

The police leave and Craig throws Joanne’s body in the incinerator.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Like I said before, The Dorm that Dripped Blood is not really, really horrible. It’s unfortunately not even fun horrible. Just boring and incredibly standard fare.

The worst part is easily the possessiveness of Craig’s character. I mean, why didn’t he just ask Joanne out? Maybe I’m old fashioned. Or, again, maybe I really wasn’t paying attention. Probably the latter.

But despite that, it sort of sucks that Craig wins in the end. “Hi girl, I like you so much that I’m going to throw your body onto the flames while you’re still alive! Text me later!”

As with last week’s film, this movie definitely falls in the “skip” category. There are a lot better Christmas slashers to be spending your time with. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to watch one before 2018 is over.

Riverdale ep. 3.7 “Chapter Forty-Two: The Man in Black”

Riverdale is often a series of convenient actions. The last episode perfectly exemplified that.

So it’s slightly surprising that when wanderin’ Jughead and Archie agree to bunk at a farm it doesn’t happen to be The Farm. But it’s a creepy place nonetheless. Jughead’s guard immediately goes up, but ever-trusting Archie insists that they stay.

The two girls there insist that it’s just the two of them who live at the farm. All the men work down the river. Completely reasonable that two high-school age girls could run a farm by themselves. Anyway, Archie believes this and insists on paying back their kindness by helping with farm work the next day.

Jughead heads into town to take photographs. He sees the familiar G&G markings around town. He stops to speak to an older woman, who tells him that the drug Fizzle Rocks began being taken in town again. The symbols began to appear when the drugs did.

He later meets a group of girls taking Fizzle Rocks and playing G&G. The girls say that the men are building a prison, but are making the drugs at a lab for the Man in Black.

While he investigates, Archie falls under the spell of the older daughter Lori. Archie caves and tells him his real story, admitting that the names he and Jughead gave her originally were fake. She knocks him out with a frying pan and calls Hiram to gather his treasure.

Jughead manages to free him, but Archie wants to stay and fight? Does he think he can kill Hiram? Why does Archie think that’s a good idea? He eventually to Jughead’s (little) sense, and they decide to head off to see Mrs Jones.

Veronica, meanwhile, packs up to leave home. She decides to…move into her speakeasy? It’s like living in her worst nightmare. Her business isn’t making any money. So she decides to turn it into a casino for one night only. That means putting her trust in Elio.

Hiram stops by to warn her away from her decisions. I’m honestly so over this man. Hopefully season 3 is the end of Hiram’s scheming. He simply asks his daughter, “Are you mad at me?” and that alone is enough to make me scream.

But Hiram is right, of course. During casino night, Reggie points out to Veronica that Elio is probably cheating. She decides to play him and puts the deed to the speakeasy on the table. She wins. She later reveals that Hiram warned her before casino night. Apparently Elio wanted to fleece her because she’s an easy target. He subtle suggests that she cheat by bringing in her own dealer.

The following morning, Pop warns Veronica about the dangers of being like her father. He also tells her that Minetta’s body was found…with no head or hands.

Betty is stuck at the Sisters of Mercy still. She learns that all the girls receive “candy” every day – Fizzle Rocks. She later learns that her roommate is Ethel Muggs. Ethel tells Betty that she has been having conversations with the Gargoyle King herself.

Poor Ethel’s character has been massively destroyed (remember when she was a champion for women’s rights in season 1?).

Betty continues her investigation from within the Mercy’s walls. She sees Claudius Blossom making deliveries of something (definitely not maple syrup). But most importantly, she notices that Hiram visits the Sisters and “helps” them with whatever they may need. She then remembers that Hiram was the one who brought Fizzle Rocks to the G&G ascension night all those years ago.

Riverdale’s #1 detective realises what she needs to do in order to get to the files she needs to continue her investigation. She fakes a seizure, landing herself in the medical room. She finds her own record and reads them. She notices that Hiram is dictating drug dosage to use the girls as lab rats for his drug.

When she gets the information she needs, she attempts to escape through the exit Veronica used to save Cheryl earlier. She’s caught and forcefully given Fizzle Rocks, then its decided she needs a “good strong talk-to” from the King. After her meeting, her spirit is thoroughly broken…and worshiping the Gargoyle King.

This section is easily the most entertaining. Having Betty’s internal monologue in my new favorite thing. Betty is also easily the best part of this show. Seeing her so broken is definitely horrible, but seeing her fight a battle is always great. Well, because she always wins.

This episode was structurally similar to “Tales from the Darkside” as it is three separate stories. This works for the episode, but it certainly isn’t as remarkable (or as flashy) as “Tales” was. But I still think the technique works will. The four four are all separated, maybe not for the first time but definitely for the longest. By putting their three stories this way, it highlights just how alone they are all now.

Hiram, the Man in Black, is a looming figure throughout the episode. How can such a crook get away with so much? Why are so many people on board with supporting drug production? Is this a Riverdale thing or am I just naive?