Author: Krista Culbertson

Wicked Wednesday: Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare (2010)

My quest for mindlessness movies seems to be continuing into this week. That’s not to say that cartoons are always mindless, but Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare really is.

The gang go to Camp Little Moose when Fred insists that they all be counselors there. When they arrive at his old camp, they discover that the children are all gone after the appearance of “The Woodsman”, a tall man with an axe (go figure).

But the gang decide to stay with head counselor Burt and the three children that arrive by bus that night. Fred tries to make the most of it by sending the kids to Big Moose Lake, a superior body of water on the other side of a dam.

While enjoying the water, Scooby discovers an underwater town. But before he can explore he’s attacked by the Fishman, another character based off a campfire story at Camp Little Moose.

After being chased by the Fishman, the local ranger suggests that the gang pack up and close the camp. They don’t, otherwise it would be a rather short mystery.

One of the counselors from the camp at Big Moose Lake, Jessica, decides to help out Fred and the others from Camp Little Moose. She tells them that strange things have been happening at her camp too. Gear has gone missing, including an RV and sonar equipment. The group decides to split up: one to explore where the missing RV went and the other to the scuba dive in the lake.

The scuba group explore the water and are attacked by the Fishman. They all manage to escape, and one of the campers finds dynamite inside an underwater cave.

The other group head into a canyon, where the discover the RV has been disguised to blend in with the canyon walls. Inside the RV, Velma finds a sonar map of the bottom of the lake. But before they can head home, they are chased by a Specter, yet another campfire story.

After the excitement of the day, one of the campers, nerdy Deacon, leaves camp to supposedly go home. The rest of the gang go to a nearby museum on local history to learn more about the map they saw.

At the museum, they learn that the underwater buildings make up what once was Moose Creek. The town was home to a notorious gangster, who supposedly buried his loot in the town. The dam was built and the town was eventually flooded (’cause that’s a thing), leaving the loot at the bottom of the lake somewhere.

They’re also told that the gangster told his cellmate where the loot was hidden. A note Velma reads from the museum tells them how to find it: something about a summer solstice and the light on a steeple.

They head back to the camp and find that it’s trashed. Though there isn’t too much time to feel bad about it. The dam is blown up, causing the lower ground, Camp Little Moose, to be flooded. The gang and the campers manage to escape, then proceed to explore the now-revealed Moose Creek.

It’s revealed that Deacon (!?) is actually Babyface Boretti, the former cellamate of the gangster. How in the fucking world no one noticed that a GROWN MAN was not a child is beyond me. I guess it’s one of those Clark Kent sort of deals.

Anyway, they discover the treasure. Rebuild the camp to combine both camps. Hooray. And Christ did it feel like it took a long time to get to this inevitable conclusion.

I mean, Scooby-Doo movies have never been watertight with its plots, but this one really takes a few leaps of logic. The culprit is actually pretty stupid – I still don’t really understand how it’s remotely plausible (and yes, I have reminded myself that this is a children’s cartoon).

Ultimately, though, the story is just not compelling enough to make up an 80 minute-long movie. It gets pretty repetitive and boring. This is all pretty standard fair. Definitely not one of the best.

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Riverdale Ep. 3.4 “Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club”

Riverdale is the ultimate teen show when it comes to taking risks with style. There was the (obligatory) musical episode, and I’m still not over last season’s anthology-style episode, “Chapter Twenty: Tales from the Darkside”.

So choosing to do a flashback episode isn’t that surprising, really. Each of the parents in Riverdale seem to have been cast solely based on how hot they were as teenagers. I’m looking at you, Luke Perry.

At the end of the last episode, every student at Riverdale High received their own copy of the Gryphons & Gargoyles manual. Since the game is pretty suicide-friendly, Mayor Hermione Lodge cracks down and bans the game from being played. But as everyone knows, banning something just makes it all that more enticing.

Betty gets a file from her mortician friend about a similar death to Dilton’s from back in the 90s – both corpses had blue lips. Knowing that her mother has admitted to playing the game before, Betty confronts Alice. But Alice surprises her daughter by agreeing to tell her everything she knows.

Back in the 90s (which is essentially the 80s here for Riverdale‘s sake), Alice was her Serpent-jacket wearing self. Not the crazy journalist we all love or even the bohemian version she is now. In fact, she begins her story at the moment she discovers she’s pregnant with FP’s child.

When Penelope Blossom gets on Alice’s case about it, the girls being fighting. They both get Saturday detention, along with Hermione and Sierra who were trying to break up the fight. FP and Fred also get detention for streaking.

Their principal (Anthony Michael Hall) gives them their writing assignment and leaves them to it for the day. The group somehow manage to get themselves another detention when a fight breaks out again.

Over the span of their detentions, the kids become reluctant friends. It’s not until they discover a box of Gryphons & Gargoyles in their teacher’s drawer of confiscated items that they really begin to bond.

Their obsession with the game grows. They begin to sneak into school to play, eventually taking the game “off board” to play in real life. Like 90s larping, I guess. And with that, they form the Midnight Club (which I really hope is a reference to the Midnight Society and the Breakfast Club).

They gang bump into another group of G&G-ers (including little Sheriff Keller, Reggie’s dad, Hiram and Dilton’s father), and they all decide to play together.

One day, they each receive an invitation for a “ascension party”. The whole group assembles to play. Before they start, they partake in a little recreational drug use in the form of something called Fizzle Rocks (jingle jangles predecessor, I assume). Alice, being pregnant, only pretends to take the drug.

While the rest of the group gets rowdy, Alice’s head begins to spin. She throws up in the bathroom and discovers the chalices when she leaves her stall. But she doesn’t flip the coin to discover her fate. She instead heads back into the hall, where she comes face-to-face with the Gargoyle King.

Strangely, this only kind of weirds Alice out. She turns around, but nearly bumps into Principal Featherhead. She hides from him, knowing he’s looking for the kids. After she sees him leave, she duck out and goes home for the night.

The following day, Alice learns that Principal Featherhead didn’t arrive at school that day. She also learns that Fred’s father died alone when Fred was out larping on drugs.

Featherhead’s body is eventually found in the school, decomposed days after his disappearance. His lips are blue.

Alice begs the other Midnight Club members to go to the police about what they know. But they instead decide to destroy the evidence that they had anything to do with the game. And that is seemingly that.

In the present day, Betty doesn’t get much more out of her mother. Alice does tell her that that night changed who they all were, their guilt making them the adults that we see today.

Betty continues her investigation, spurred by Alice’s story. She discovers the chalices in the trophy cupboard. But when she goes to find Jughead in Dilton’s bunker, she finds him with several other Serpents, getting prepared to play G&G.

Somehow, this must have been a really long story, Jughead is already obsessed with the game, bragging about his ascension. Cole Sprouse does a fantastic job of playing crazy. I guess this is a welcome return to nerdy Jughead?

It was certainly an interesting episode. Having the actors of the children play the young version of their parents was interesting. It blurred the lines of the characters a bit, allowing for the adult’s slightly-off behaviour to feel more real. You can buy a relaxed Fred Andrews when KJ Apa is playing him.

We also got some insight to why these adults are they way they are. Penelope Blossom had one of the more interesting arcs. During the first detention, she admits that she’s not a real Blossom. She was adopted so she could basically be groomed to be Cliff’s future wife. The death of Featherhead basically pushes her into allowing herself to be their pawn. Riverdale has made me feel sorry for a character that definitely doesn’t deserve sympathy on most days.

Notably absent was a young Mary Andrews, which feels like a missed opportunity. We know that she was bullied by the other girls in school. Plus hello, Molly Ringwald. I can only guess it’s because the writers wanted us to feel weird about the parents’ relationships as adults (I really don’t know if I would feel normal making out with my mom’s first boyfriend’s son – but that’s just me).

Riverdale really pulled this one off. A gamble that wasn’t just indulgent, but actually added something to the story. It certainly made me care about the characters more, which is really all you can ask in season 3.

Real question. If there’s a Gargoyle King in this Gryphons & Gargoyles – is there an opposite Gryphons? Is this what’s on the coin? That’s what I get for assuming everything has been played with a quarter.

Wicked Wednesday: Deadtime Stories (1986)

I spent went felt like an absolute age trying to pick out this week’s film. I wanted something complete stupid and mindless. And as soon as I saw Deadtime Stories, I knew I had found the perfect thing.

This anthology movie is a weird one. A young boy is being babysat by his uncle (why is never explained), and the young boy demands a bedtime story before he can do to sleep.

His uncle begrudgingly begins to tell him the story about a fisherman’s son who has to live with two witches when he runs out of options. They drag him around to help create the spell to raise their sister from the dead.

He eventually must seduce a girl so that they can sacrifice her life. But the son falls for the girl and turns against the sisters. While the story has a traditionally happy ending, the uncle changes it to one of death just to please his nephew.

The last two stories are significantly better. The first sort of looks like the fairy tale bits from Troll 2. But the latter take on a much more watchable Troma vibe.

Story number two is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood. Rachel is a sexually frustrated teenager. She also likes to go running. Are these things related? Maybe.

One evening, Rachel is sent off to get her grandmother’s meds and deliver them to her. She bumps into a rather wolfish man while at the pharmacy and the two accidentally switch prescriptions.

The man attempts to go track down the grandmother, but she refuses to answer the door. Rachel, who still hasn’t delivered the goods to gran, is too busy losing her virginity to her boring boyfriend. Eventually, the man turns into a werewolf without his meds. He kills grandma, and he kills Rachel’s boyfriend too.

The werewolf is eventually killed, but not before it can turn grandma into a werewolf as well. “What big teeth you have!”

The third bedtime story is easily the best. It’s zany and beyond stupid. In Goldi Lox and the three Baers, two members of the Baer family escape from a mental asylum with the help of Mama Baer. After avoiding the police, they agree to return to their usual hideout to lay low. But when they arrive, the discover that the Goldi Lox is already.

Lox is also an escapee. She’s also a serial killer with telepathic powers (because of course). While the Baers are initially upset with her presence, they agree to let her stay. The family soon learn that having Lox around is a great asset to their lifestyle.

It’s totally loony, but it’s great in a very over-the-top sort of way. And it certainly takes many leaps of logic to actually believe.

In the end, when the uncle finished his stories, the little boy is attacked by a puppet monster in his room. A bit of a weak payoff in the end, considering it’s difficult to even understand what the puppet it meant to be doing.

But you don’t exactly go into a movie like Deadtime Stories and expect really high quality. It’s a weird sort of film that made my evening just that bit more enjoyable.

Five great horror soundtracks to play this Halloween

It’s finally Halloween! The greatest night of the year. We’ll wake up tomorrow to a world of Christmas music, but for tonight: the world is ours, horror fans!

I love a good horror movie soundtrack any time, but I’ve chosen five of my favourites to listen to tonight. Don’t (or do) listen to them alone tonight. But be sure to lock the doors.

1. Deep Red (Profondo rosso) by Goblin and Giorgio Gaslini

Goblin’s soundtrack for Suspiria typically gets more love. I get it, it’s one hell of a soundtrack (and my personal top five). But there’s something very interesting and exciting about Profondo rosso. This giallo’s score switches seamlessly between Goblin’s progressive sounds, to the incredibly creeping singing of a child, to Gaslini’s more traditional pieces. Even if you just seek out the title track, it’s worth it. But “Mad Puppet” is really the jewel in the crown here. It’s a bit funky, like if you feeling a bit cool before you’re about to die.

2. Halloween (2018) by John and Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies

Including this just because you’ve probably listened to the original once or twice already. This is an updated take on Carpenter’s soundtrack from the 1978 original, and it feels a lot more industrial because of it. Come for the familiarity, stay for the excellence.

3. City of the Living Dead (Paura nella città dei morti viventi aka Fear in the Town of the Living Dead)by Fabio Frizzi

Ominous and foreboding, this is Frizzi at his finest. City of the Dead is surreal and shocking (like most of Lucio Fulci’s work), but Frizzi has always complimented his vision well. It might not be your favourite movie, but the soundtrack is always glorious.

4. It Follows by Disasterpiece

Easily the most unsettling on this list. While It Follows is already a few years old now, its soundtrack still sounds like the future of horror. You can find its 80s synth inspirations everywhere now. While there are lighter moments (“Jay”, “Detroit”), much of the soundtrack builds to painful stretches of suspense (“Heels”). I can’t listen to “Inquiry” without getting goosebumps. Sure, it’s just music, but are you sure there’s nothing following you?

5. Carnival of Souls by Gene Moore

Want to remember those fond feelings of being terrified in church? Well, look no further than this eerie organ-based soundtrack by Gene Moore. The music immediately invokes the feelings of loneliness and desperation Mary feels throughout her journey. Definitely not one great to play at parties. This was movie made on a shoestring budget, but somehow the soundtrack (and the movie) defied all of that to create something really special.


What will you be listening tonight? Sticking to “The Monster Mash”? Probably for the best…if you want to sleep tonight.

Riverdale Ep. 3.3 “Chapter Thirty-Eight: As Above, So Below”

The first three episodes of Riverdale have gone so well, I feel like checking over my shoulder to look for the ghoul that is certain to come and ruin it.

“Chapter Thirty-Eight” sees the core four building up much of their stories individually, which is sort of a nice change. Betty and Jughead split up their tag-team, Veronica busies herself with the opening of her new speakeasy, and Archie has ‘fun’ in solitary confinement!

Archie, poor kid, continues his life in prison as the warden’s new target. The boy is cut off from his father and any other visitors, seemingly for the foreseeable future. And he soon finds out exactly why. He’s entered into a series of bare-knuckled fist fights, of which the prison wardens and guards bet on fights like the boys are dogs.

Archie soon learns how to take care of himself, but quickly realises that punching people and being punched isn’t a sustainable hobby. When he discovers a pick inside one of Mad Dog’s books (The Count of Monte Cristo, no less), Archie becomes inspired to break out of prison. I’m not sure whether anyone wants to tell him that’s probably not a super idea considering he couldn’t just walk as a free boy.

Meanwhile, outside of the prison, Veronica opens up her speakeasy. Unsurprisingly, her father’s meddling begins before the doors even open. He enlists the help of Penny Peabody and her Ghoulies to stir up trouble. They send her boxes of Jingle Jangle after she refuses to hire the Ghoulies as bodyguards.

In retaliation, Veronica, Toni and Cheryl go to the Ghoulies’ Jingle Jangle lab and take photos as evidence to use against Hiram. This seemingly works, as the Ghoulies back off. But after the opening, Veronica realises that her father has already moved the lab, making all of Veronica’s ‘evidence’ worthless.

But clearly, the best plontline here is the mystery of the season (as it always is). Betty and Jughead continue their investigation into the Farm and Griffins & Gargoyles. Betty (very loosely) puts the Farm and the game together, believing that they are connected by a leader. Why she thinks this is a bit vague. Only that the two timelines seem to match up. A bit of anger just might be getting in the way of Nancy Drew’s thinking here.

When Jughead and Betty find Ethel has returned to school after her seizure, they go to speak with her. She admits that she’s taking medication for them since she’s been having them frequently. She also tells them that Evelyn (daughter of cult leader Edgar) has been helping her.

Jughead then volunteers to join the game, and Ethel admits that he is worthy enough. When Ethel tells Betty she’s definitely not G&G material, Betty decides to join the Farm’s school branch instead.

When Betty arrives at Evelyn’s meeting, she finds that no one else is there. Evelyn explains that it’s because the rest of the school hasn’t caught on yet. But instead of being creepy like in the last episode, Evelyn is much more sympathetic. She’s more of a likable loser than anything. Could it just be another ploy? Maybe. But it looks like Betty’s mind is running away from her a little too much.

But Betty’s meddling gets her into more trouble. When she arrives at home, she finds that actual Farm members are waiting for her. She learns at the meeting that her mother has spilt a few too many secrets – including the one about the hidden body. During the meeting, Betty begins to feel faint again, as if she’s on the verge of yet another seizure.

Meanwhile, Jughead plays his first game of G&G with Princess Ethel. He successfully drinks from one of the chalices and survives. In exchange for proving his worth, Ethel gives him “the scripture”, which is essentially the game guide (I assume). But before Jughead can delve into things more, Ethel drinks from the other, poisoned chalice.

Ethel ends up surviving her suicide attempt, which is both nice and horrible. The poor girl has been through a lot in three seasons, including her own father’s suicide attempt.

When FP and Alice discover that Jughead has dabbled in G&G, they begin to lecture their children. FP finds and burns the game manual, which Jughead believed to be the only copy.

Though when Jughead arrives at school the next day, he discovers that all of the students at Riverdale High have copies in their lockers. It’s confirmed, not to him, that it was Ethel’s doing. Anything to please her King.

So does this mean anything? In the real world, probably not. G&G is essentially the equivalent to a twisted D&D. If they’re not already playing it, it probably won’t be of any interest to real kids. But this is Riverdale, so await a whole slew of G&G-ers soon!

This episode really drove in the notion that FP and Alice were involved in something as kids. Their reactions over any mention of the game is pretty over-the-top. If you want anyone to listen, try subtlety.

Next week’s “Chapter Thirty-Nine” will (hopefully) fill in the blanks with the anticipated flashback episode. I’m here for it.

Wicked Wednesday: The Witch in the Window (2018)

Horror is having a bit of a moment, isn’t it? More than ever, the stories of ghosts and maniacs are becoming popular, in large part due to the fact that they feel so relevant. One of the best themes in many contemporary horror films is family. You’ll see it in The Babadook, Hereditary, and the new Halloween film. And that trend continues in the beautiful and subtle The Witch in the Window.

Simon and his son, Finn, head out to the Vermont countryside where Simon is supposedly flipping an old farmhouse. Finn has been banished from his home with his mother in the city after doing something not-quite explicitly said on the internet. Their relationship has been both strained and distant, which is mostly due to Simon’s long absences from his son’s life.

The father-son duo get off to a rocky start. Finn, for one, is resistant to help restore the house with his father. He also claims the toys his father got out of storage are “childish”, and he talks back with some very colourful language.

Simon brings out the local electrician and neighbour, Louis, who tells him that the line had been clipped. After Simon expresses his dismay, Louis takes the opportunity to tell the story of the woman who used to live in the house. She wasn’t very well liked, often called a witch because she loved horrible things happening to people. Both her husband and son died in a suspicious accident.

Louis’ story unsettles Simon and Finn, but they both try to blow it off. But things begin to go “wrong” in the house. Much of the slow build-up consists of searching for the witch, Lydia, who seems to be lurking in every scene.

When the father and son realise Lydia’s ghost is really haunting them, Simon must step up as a father and take care of his son.

The Witch in the Window really takes a sad turn at the end, but it’s not exploitative. Rather, it feels open-ended enough to encourage a bit of thought.

This movie is certainly blurs the genre lines. Any one looking for an all-out ghost thriller won’t find it here. The story is very subtle and character-driven. But it’s so well done. Over the span the movie, I really came to care about Simon and Finn a lot.

Horror movies can churn out disposable characters, but occasionally, it feels really good to invest in someone.

Riverdale Ep. 3.2 “Chapter Thirty-Seven: Fortune and Men’s Eyes”

After a decent first episode, “Chapter Thirty-Seven” begins to build up the typical building blocks of every season: Archie tries and fails, Betty and Jughead investigate a mystery, Veronica stirs up trouble with her parents. But more than ever, the show is blurring the lines of reality and the impossible.

Much of the episode establishes Archie’s new life in prison. His roommate, Mad Dog, does his best to keep his distance, but dishes out wise advice that we all know Archie is going to ignore anyway.

In juvie, Archie begins to navigate the world of the Serpents and Ghoulies once more (who are much more like gangs inside prison that they are outside). He manages to keep his heart of gold, though, but ignoring the Serpents’ challenge to go after a Ghoulie. He settles things with everyone inside the prison by suggesting a game of football.

Archie has always had some of the weakest plot lines. Each season, he’s manipulated by a different adult, and it appears that this time it’s the ‘prison warden’. Of course the warden is in Hiram Lodge’s pocket, because otherwise Veronica wouldn’t have a plotline.

She spends most of her life now trying to make sure Archie feels comfortable in his prison life. Apparently, the girl doesn’t have a life outside anything that doesn’t revolve around her boyfriend. It’s the main source of tension with her father, and it’s all getting a bit old at this point.

Veronica hosts a little cheerleading performance (including a very horrible, but cheesily fun cover of “Jailhouse Rock”), but a “prison riot” happens, causing Archie and the other boys to be beat up during their football game.

Afterwards, Archie learns that he is being blamed for it. He’s also told that Mad Dog was killed during the riot, despite not being at the game himself. The guard then tells Archie that he has been “tapped”, just like Mad Dog warned him about. But this tap makes him the new Mad Dog, whatever that means. But I have a strong feeling that it will be just as ‘exciting’ as Archie working for the mafia.

Jughead and Betty, as always, continue their Frank Hardy and Nancy Drew double act. Following the death of Dilton Doiley, the pair begin to investigate him and Ben, who unlike his dead friend, ended up in ICU.

Then the couple go to see Ben, the find a talisman and learn that it was left there by Ethel. When they speak to Ethel, she claims that Ben is her boyfriend and that the talisman was left to protect him. She agrees to take them to Dilton’s bunker where they played their “game”. But when they try to meet her at night, they bump into a masked figure of the Gargoyle King instead.

So Betty and Jughead return by themselves the following night, finding not just the game board, but a missing scout member. He explains that he had been waiting for Dilton’s return. But he also spills a lot of true details about Dilton, Ben and Ethel’s game, which turns out to be mostly a completely-explainable fantasy, mostly squashing the idea of anything really supernatural occurring here. Though when Ethel has a similar seizure to Betty, it begins to raise more questions than answer them.

Betty also meets the daughter of everyone’s favourite cult leader, Gracie Johanssen Evelyn Evernever. Evelyn spends much of her time seemingly stalking Betty after her apparent seizure. She seems to know a lot about Betty. More than what Betty knows about her, which is a nice change of pace for Riverdale’s sharpest mind.

Many of the side characters here continue to be pointless. Kevin, Josie… well, mostly just those two. What purpose do they serve? Even Ethel has become more of a break out star over both of them, and she doesn’t even sing. Really, maybe it’s just time to let them go. Have them as background characters, focusing more on the main stories, which seems to always have such brief scenes.

But while the children are running around creating mischief, their parents are all gathered by Hermione, who tells them that the secret that they “buried years ago” seems to be coming back to haunt them. And whatever “it” is seems to be targeting their children.

I love how this show just seemingly creates relationships between the parents that we’ve already been told didn’t exist in previous episodes. But Riverdale wants to have a flashback episode, so I’m here for the Losers Club vibe.

Two episodes in, though, and this show seems to be heading in a better direction writing-wise. It certainly is trying to set us up for quite the season, I think.