Author: Krista Culbertson

Riverdale recap catch-up: Ep 3.14 & 3.15

After the news of Luke Perry’s passing, I really didn’t want to watch Riverdale. Perry was one of my first celebrity crushes. He was a genuinely good guy according to those who knew him. And frankly, the idea of watching him on screen felt more sadistic than fun.

But I woke up this morning and decided to get back on the saddle. It was nice to see a couple of sweet scenes with Perry’s character Fred interacting with Archie and FP. It seems a shame that his character has taken such a back seat all season. Perry’s Fred will always be the heart and soul of Riverdale that rooted it in a reality that made the show so likable.

Without Perry, this show has lost a large part of its soul. We’ll miss you, dude.

With that said, there wasn’t much to miss in these two episodes of Riverdale. Though watching them back-to-back certainly was a nice change. The storylines actually felt like they complimented each other. So instead of two separate “I’m so late I apologise” post, here’s a recap of “Chapter Forty-Nine: Fire Walk With Me” and “Chapter Fifty: American Dreams”.

After being fully initiated into the Farm, Alice Cooper becomes determined that she’s going to sell the family home. Betty does her best to deter her mother (well, mostly the potential buyers). She even sets the house on fire. But she eventually loses out to none other than Gladys Jones. Jughead tries to keep the peace by offering to let Betty stay with them, but she declines and stays with Veronica.

The Farm so far has seemed rather harmless. Sure they do stupid things, but their ‘danger’ is being shown off by children putting their hands over Bunsen burners and running over coals. Both of which I think some people do for fun anyway.

Veronica continues playing the chess match with Hiram and Gladys. She struggles back and forth to get power, but eventually wins out by deciding to hire the Pretty Poisons to be her new muscle. (Apparently the deal with the Serpents fell through?)

But the decision is a controversial one. Toni and Cheryl continue their passive-aggressive power struggle. Cheryl shows off her feathers as being a horrible person. We like that she’s a horrible person. But it’s clearly not a personality trait that makes for a good girlfriend. Toni’s character has many redeeming qualities, like being able to stand up for herself and stay strong for a cause she believes in (ie sisterhood).

The friction between the two comes to a head, and Cheryl kicks Toni out of her house.

Gangland isn’t going all that smoothly for Jughead either. He tried to exert his power over the newly-joined Gargoyles, but he’s met with animosity. He tries his best to give them all a united purpose. And eventually, he convinced FP to allow the gang to become sheriff’s deputies.

He’s seemingly winning, but poor Jughead can’t have that much go right in his life. He and Veronica overhear that someone is trying to make a go of the drug trade in Riverdale again. Jughead assumes that it is Hiram, but Veronica knows the truth.

She eventually admits Gladys’s plans to Betty, who immediately says she needs to tell Jughead. When she does deliver the news, he begins to struggle with how to handle the truth. He opts not to tell FP about it (in order to keep his dad on the straight-and-narrow) but rather decides to take his mother down by himself….with Betty’s help, of course.

In a shocking twist, Archie has the best storyline of the weeks! While working late at the boxing gym one night, Archie and Josie find a little boy hiding in the gym. He tells them that he had run away from his shelter after he was branded by a gang of men. Archie and Josie quickly realise that it is the “sacrifice” brand that Archie has.

Archie and Fred take the boy, Ricky, under their wings. They care for him and Archie even helps hunt Ricky down when he runs away. But when Archie gets a call from a social worker, who warns him that Ricky is Joaquin’s little brother. Archie begins to look for Ricky, and the little boy cuts him with a kitchen knife in an attempt to finish what his brother had started.

After the attack, Fred finds a “Kill the Red Paladin” quest card on the kitchen floor. Archie asks Hiram about it, and he admits that he made many of the cards to be distributed. To end the quest, Archie, Betty and Jughead band together to alter the quest. Hiram gives them the use of an abandoned boxing gym near the docks where they hold a “King of the Mountain”-style tournament.

The kids invite all of the G&G playing folk to fight the Red Paladin. If the Red Paladin wins the fight against every one of them, the quest to kill him is over. And after fighting each of them, including his old prison guard, Archie becomes victorious, lifting the bounty from his head.

Sounds like next week is musical week. Cheryl demands that Kevin direct Heathers, which should be fun. It would have been more fun if Kevin wasn’t a part of the Farm. But alas.

There’s a nice (perhaps unintentional) Basket Case reference in “Chapter Fifty”. I’d like to think it was intentional. Please introduce the world to the majesty of Belial.

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Wicked Wednesday: Body Bags (1993)

Body Bags is a bit of a powerhouse movie. And for a made-for-TV movie, I feel like that’s saying something.

First aired on Showtime in 1993, this is (I think) the first cable made-for-TV movie I’ve watched for Made-for-TV March. It certainly has a noticeably bigger budget than most major network offerings. And you can really tell where that budget went. For one, the cast is incredible and the cameos are really fun (you can spot the likes of Sam Raimi and Wes Craven). But most importantly, it’s directed by the beloved John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper.

Bookending each of the stories is Carpenter doing his best Cryptkeeper with story introductions. And man, he’s clearly enjoying himself.

His first story is “The Gas Station” (directed by Carpenter) and follows a young woman working alone at a gas station one night. On the radio, she hears that a man is murdering people around the town of Haddonfield. Like most young women, Ann feels creeped out by many of her patrons at the station. One in particular is a seemingly homeless man, who uses the men’s toilets and seemingly never leaves.

She’s soon finds herself face-to-face with the killer in town. But it isn’t who she initially suspects.

In the second tale, “Hair” (also directed by Carpenter), a vain man tries his best to get his hair back and stop his balding. He goes to any length, despite the pleas from his girlfriend to stop.

He eventually resorts to going to a specialist, who claims he can grow back Richard’s thinning hair. Richard chooses what style he desires, a Fabio-eque mane of wavy hair. He finds that his girlfriend is now especially attracted to him. He revels in his new confidence, but quickly learns that there’s a price to be paid for his new ‘do.

In Tobe Hooper’s “Eye” a young baseball player on the very of being called to the pros is injured in a car accident. A shard of glass takes out his eye. But a doctor approaches him, suggesting that he tries out a new surgery. The surgery will allow him to use the eye of a recently deceased man.

And all seems well. He can see again, but he begins to start to feel a little…less like himself.

The three stories are all pretty fun. Hooper’s and Carpenter’s style really compliment themselves well. The anthology is certainly more on the silly side. Even “The Gas Station” plays more on the slapstick than a straight-forward Halloween slasher (though it does have plenty of references for fans to watch for). Think more along the lines of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 instead of the original.

It’s fun and incredibly easy to watch. Certainly worth seeking out.

Anyway, I’m having a bit of a mental breakdown this week. Apparently I can’t write anything anymore. Well. At least the movie was good.

Wicked Wednesday: The Midnight Hour (1985)

I have been waiting to watch The Midnight Hour since I first read about it in April of 2018. I have been patient. I have been waiting. But finally we are here, which means only one thing: it’s Made-for-TV March, kids!

Made-for-TV March is one of my favourite times of the year. These made-for-TV gems are always unusual and many of them stick with me in ways that many theatrically-released films do not.

The Midnight Hour is no exception. This campy, 80’s movie is pretty by-the-books, but it has such a fun, wacky atmosphere that it more than makes up for it.

In the town of Kingston Falls/Hill Valley, a group of teenagers get prepared to celebrate Halloween. Their town has a history of witches and witch hunters alike, many of their descendants still living in the town.

One of those descendants is Phil (Lee Montgomery), a “nerd” who is clearly only ‘not-hot’ because they put him in glasses. He pines after girls who ignore him. And his friends make fun of him behind his back. So when they suggest stealing clothes from the local history museum, Phil reluctantly goes along.

After raiding the museum, the kids head to the cemetery to look at the loot that they stole from the museum’s archives. They find a scroll inside a stolen chest. It has a wax seal, but they kids quickly open it up anyway. When Phil’s friend Melissa reads it aloud, they think it’s all fun. But unbeknownst to them, Melissa manages to raise the dead in the town.

The group all gather at Melissa’s house for a Halloween costume party. But there are a number of extra guests attending including many zombies and Melissa’s ancestor, Lucinda.

Lucinda was the original Bad Witch of the town. She cursed the town years ago, only to have her plans foiled by Phil’s ancestor, a witch hunter. But this Halloween, Lucinda isn’t up for playing any games. But she DOES have the time for a good dance number with Melissa.

Phil ends up leaving the party when it becomes a bit of a drag. He begins to head home, but catches the eye of a young woman in a 50s cheerleading outfit. The two quickly strike up a friendship. They even get attacked by a werewolf during a make-out session! But Sandy isn’t all she appears to be.

Meanwhile, at the party, Lucinda turns Melissa into a vampire. Melissa then proceeds to turn the entire party into ghouls.

Sandy, when she realises what Phil and his idiot friends have done, tells Phil that they need to break the curse before midnight. If they fail, Lucinda’s curse will become permanent – including the “changes” made to Phil’s friends. They work together to get the pieces together before midnight, but can they really save the town from its Halloween nightmare?

I mean, of course they do! There’s really no doubt about it.

The Midnight Hour has many of the hallmarks of an 80s movie: the intense 50s/60s inspiration, the pointless (but enjoyable) musical number, the unrealistic car choices for teens. It evokes many similar feelings to movies like The Monster Squad. You really know what you’re getting into with this one, but just because there are no surprises doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun. Because it is.

Also, it’s got a pretty solid cast. Hello, LeVar Burton!

This is definitely a good one to add to your annual Halloween viewings. It might be March, but it’s never too early to plan, right?

Riverdale ep. 3.13 “Chapter Forty-Eight: Requiem for a Welterweight”

This is a late one, kids. I’ve had a busy week going to glamorous (not really) literacy parties and generally recuperating from some health issues.

But it really feels like Riverdale has been gone for ages. There’s been a lot of breaks this season, and it isn’t for the better. The story keeps losing steam, but if it was watched in one go, I might have a different opinion on things.

Alice is being baptized into the farm. While Alice tries to shut Betty out, Jughead suggests that Betty try accepting (or pretending to) what Alice has decided.

Betty reluctantly agrees to play along, until she learns that Alice has to sign a weaver form. When Betty sees the forms, she notices that there is a possibility of death in the baptism.

She later interviews the people who have defected from the Farm. But only one woman agrees to speak to her. When Betty learns that the woman’s sister died during the baptism, Betty runs to her mother’s help. She manages to save Alice just in time before she drowns.

But when Alice comes to, she claims herself to be “reborn”. And she informs Betty that she wants to sell their house so they can all move to the farm full-time.

Meanwhile, Archie attempts to repair his broken character by trying to take up boxing. Archie overhears Elio one day, looking for someone to fight his boxer. Archie agrees to fight him. But Elio stipulates that Archie must lose the fight. While Good Archie immediately says no, he’s won over by the fact that he will receive $5,000 for his “help”.

He feels like this is a good idea until he tells Josie. She reminds him that this is a bad idea, but he’s unable to back out. Tom Keller offers to help Archie and together they nearly win the fight the fair way.

(Completely irrelevant, but Archie and Josie together is a Very Good Thing. Shame that Josie’s character has been confirmed for the Katy Keene spin-off.)

Gladys and Veronica make an unlikely pair when they form a working relationship. Gladys suggests that Veronica spy on Hiram for her. Since Veronica wants to protect her madre, who sold Hiram’s drug trade to Gladys. Veronica decides that she wants her family out of drugs, so she reluctantly agrees to help Gladys.

Together, they get Hiram to agree to focus on his prison, and forget about the “candy trade”. Hiram eventually becomes suspicious of Hermione, but it’s Veronica who takes the fall – owing her father $75,000.

Veronica tells Gladys that Hiram plans on getting the Ghoulies on his side without Penny Peabody around. So the fight begins to see who gets to the Ghoulies first: Hiram or Gladys.

There’s a lame subplot about the Pretty Poisons and the Serpents. Toni refuses to rejoin the old gang because she wants to be a leader. I will always be of the opinion that the gang storylines have always been the most cringey. This new one is one of the worst. It was probably created to pay homage to the Betty & Veronica Vixens comic and to sell some Hot Topic shirts. Otherwise, this one is pretty bad.

But Gladys suggests to Jughead that in order to get more Serpent turf, he needs to side with the Ghoulies. Jughead agrees, weirdly, and goes to FP for his help. FP agrees to claim that the Serpents get immunity from the law.

When Jughead meets the Gargoyles’ leader, Kurt, he quickly realises that the drug-riddled, G&G-obsessed gang are not the type he wants attached to the Serpents. Gladys steps in an makes her own decision without Jughead’s kindness. She enlists the help of the Ghoulies/Gargoyles, much to Jughead’s disappointment.

While this week’s episode is by no means bad, it sort of feels like the season is floundering a bit. Usually there’s a goal: finding Jason’s murderer, catching the Black Hood. But I’m really not sure what this season is doing right now. But hopefully within the next few weeks we start to feel a direction and purpose again.

And fingers crossed there are more Archie and Josie scenes. What a pair of cuties.

Wicked Wednesday: “Into the Drowning Deep” by Mira Grant (2017)

It’s the final week of Women in Horror Month. That’s a whole decade of celebrating the women who contribute to the horror genre.

For the last couple years, I’ve solely focused on contributions to film. But this week I thought I’d chat about the novel Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant.

Grant, who also published under her real name, Seanan McGuire, is a bit of a legend. She’s won the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer. But she’s also won a Nebula, Hugo and Locus for her work in fantasy. Her Wayward Children series is impossibly popular on the likes of BookTube. Her names are ones I know, but somehow have never gotten around to reading. Until this month, that is.

Into the Drowning Deep is a horror novel set on a ship. But think more Jaws than Ghost Ship with added killer mermaid-like beasts. It’s about what happens when we discover that we are the prey, not the predators. “Did we really think we were the apex predators of the world?”

In 2015, the entertainment company Imagine sent a ship full of scientists and film crew to the Mariana Trench to discover mermaids. The company, headed by its very own Roger Corman-figure (weird how he keeps coming up this month), sought its next biggest hit. Imagine Entertainment thrived on cheaply-made sci fi and horror movies in the past, but found more recent success with a string of “mockmentary”-style horror films chasing mythical beasts.

But unfortunately the crew of the Atargatis, they found what they were looking for.

The boat is eventually found empty. All that Imagine Entertainment have to go on is the found footage of the incidents on the beach. When some of that footage was leaked to the public, a debate started about whether or not the footage was faked or real.

Years later in 2022, a second team sets sail to find out the entire truth of the doomed Atargatis. On board the Melusine is scientist Tory, the sister of one of the crew lost on the Atargatis. She and several other scientists seek the biggest scientific discovery of their generation.

But like the voyage before theirs, the mermaids quickly find the soft, tasty humans waiting on their tin can. When the mermaids start to attack, it’s up to Tory and both the scientists and its crew to band together and discover how to save themselves.

Much of Into the Drowning Deep focuses on the science much of the passengers are working on. But between those scenes, Grant fills the pages with eerie, slasher-movie-like scenes with the “mermaids”. The suspense is built victim by victim, growing a sense of dread and impending doom.

This is a pretty long book, and it was certainly a struggle to get through the first 200 pages or so (this comes to pretty heft 484 pages). Horror is best when it’s snappy and succinct. I found the moments of action incredibly readable. And the gore was splendidly described. I love a bit of face loss!

Like a slasher movie, you can pick out which characters are going to die first and which one’s you’d like to see have a painful death. Many of the characters do silly things, as horror characters often do. It prompts a similar reaction to when their screen counterparts do idiotic things on screen.

I personally didn’t enjoy much of the science nonsense. And unfortunately for me, it was about 80% of this book. It’s too much detail and long-winded scenes reiterating previous ones. Accord to many reviews, the science is very inaccurate anyway.

But regardless of the accuracy, Grant still manages to drive home her message: “Humans had the potential for good, although they did not always make the effort.” We are shown the what-cold-be’s of global warming and the destruction caused by changing the once-balanced ecosystem of the ocean. In fairness, killer mermaids are probably what we deserve.

In the Drowning Deep is certainly an unsettling book at the best of times. I’m certainly not in any rush to get on a cruise ship. If there’s something waiting in the ocean for us, I’d like for it to keep waiting, please.

Wicked Wednesday: Searching for Isabelle (2018)

February marks not only the celebration of Women in Horror Month, but also Black History Month in the US. At a quick glance, horror as a genre looks pretty white. But some of the most key players in horror’s history are black – whether that be actors or directors. So really, I think it’s a great time to celebrate both women and directors of colour this month. Diversity in writers, directors and actors allow us to have richer (and fresher) storytelling and that benefit everyone.

But, as it turns out, it’s 1.) there are disproportionately few women making horror films, and 2.) it’s even more difficult to find horror movies director by women of colour. But thanks to Ashlee Blackwell’s informative, funny and inspirational Twitter and website, I found an incredible amount of information about up-and-coming directors. I was pleased to bits to see the selection of short films that there were to choose from. (Also, if you haven’t seen Horror Noire on Shudder yet, which Blackwell co-wrote, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?)

Searching for Isabelle immediately appealed to me because who doesn’t love a good story of magic, strength and the defeat of creepy men?

Isabelle is a young woman with a seemingly normal life. But when she’s caught and locked up in a man’s basement, she soon discovers that she has the power to project herself in the outside world and communicate with her friends.

With her in the room is another captive, Lucy. They seek comfort and strength in each other, but Lucy is reaching her breaking point. Lucy is taken first, leaving Isabelle alone.

Isabelle reaches her friends one more time to get their help. And upon speaking to them, she hears a harsh truth she already knew: the media is only covering Lucy’s disappearance. Isabelle is seemingly all but forgotten in the basement cell.

But it’s ultimately the work of Isabelle and her friends that gain her freedom. It’s Isabelle’s inner magic (strength) that helps her survive when no other victim does.

Horror written in the frame of real-life terror is often some of the most effective. For many women, being prey to a predator is one of the most prevalent fears we have. But this short film is more than just that. In Searching for Isabelle, writer and director Stephanie Jeter taps into the reality of the disproportionate media coverage of missing people based on gender, age and skin colour. She drives straight home to her point without being tedious.

But Jeter also makes a beautiful movie. It has a dream-like quality that plays with the horror of Isabelle and Lucy’s situation really well. And for a short film, it certainly tells its story in an impactful way. She’s certainly a director and writer to await more from.

Wicked Wednesday: Humanoids From the Deep aka Monster (1980)

Have you ever wondered what The Creature From the Black Lagoon would be like if it had more violence and rape? Well, this is the movie to answer all your questions!

This Corman-produced movie was directed by Barbara Peeters, a director and write who worked with Corman on multiple occasions. And while I thought this might share some similarities to the tongue-in-cheek Slumber Party Massacre series (most of which was also produced by Corman), I couldn’t possibly be any more wrong.

One day, a group of fishermen catch something in their nets. But before they can reel it in, the captain’s son goes overboard and is killed by whatever lurks in the water. While the others try to save him, the boat blows up from a freak accident.

Witness to the explosion is Jim, another fisherman from the small Californian town. While perplexed about the probability of the accident, he’s quickly thrown another unsusual event: all of the dogs in the town are killed bar one, one belonging to a local “Indian”.

The following night, during some sort of town party, scientist Dr Susan Drake arrives. She’s boasted at being excellent at boosting healthy salmon populations, a promise that the fishermen all love. But the party is crashed by the “Indian”, Johnny Eagle, carrying his dead dog. A dog was killed in retribution for…surviving? Johnny threatens Canco owner Hank, saying he will file a suit to get back Native land back from the company, thus stopping the company’s plans to open a cannery.

Meanwhile, many of the young couples around town begin to get attacked by strange gill monsters from the deep. The boys are killed and the girls are raped (and presumably also killed). Johnny’s home is also attacked, by both the gill monsters and the human monsters from Canco.

Johnny is enlisted by Jim and Dr Susan to help them investigate the attack site. Susan tells the men that whatever did the attack is amphibious. They’re attacked by the monsters themselves later on after discovering the body of a girl in a cave.

But the monster is killed in the attack, allowing the scientists to study the monster’s corpse. Dr Susan realises that the mutations are caused by the growth hormone used in Canco’s experiments. The hormone didn’t only cause the creatures to mutate, but to develop human-like functions (which I guess includes rape).

The group soon realise that the creatures will attack at the town’s Salmon Festival that night. When they arrive, they find the place in chaos. Fishmen are killing men. Fishmen are attacking women.

Jim and Dr Susan work together to pour gasoline into the bay. They set it on fire in hopes of cutting off the monsters’ escape.

While their plan seemingly works, they have forgotten about the girl who survived. At some point in the future, Dr Susan helps her through the delivery of a…humanoid-from-the-deep baby.

And if that isn’t enough to make you throw up in your mouth.

Humanoids from the Deep is an oddly disjointed film, which is mostly due to its history. After initial filming, a second unit shot the rape scenes to make the film more exciting per Corman’s request. They are incredibly out of place, mostly due to a dramatic shift in style. They’re also pretty gross.

I like a good monster movie. Roger Corman made many of them. I enjoy many exploitation films. Roger Corman had a hand in making many of those too. But this rape subplot couldn’t feel more pointless and shoe-horned in. It actually makes the ending of the film incredibly sinister. And not in a fun way.

I’m not going to pretend without this tasteless addition this movie would be great. It’s still really weird. The campiness is fun (sometimes), but most of it falls flat, making less “so bad it’s good” and more just…bad. But while many of movies leave a lasting impression on me, I can’t wait to forget this one.