Wicked Wendesday

Wicked Wednesday: I won’t talk about I Trapped the Devil (much)

This week’s plan was to watch and write about I Trapped the Devil. But man…sometimes you have nothing to say about something. With no back-up film having been watched, I’m sitting here before the holidays (stressed) with a bunch of notes on a movie I’ve already mostly forgotten.

Oops?

I Trapped the Devil is a nice enough film. It’s got that nice green-and-red glow that Christmas horror movies should have. It’s also a short film wearing a feature-length’s clothes.

Matt and his wife, Karen, visit Matt’s brother Steve for Christmas. It’s a nice gesture, right? But it’s unannounced and two years after the death of Steve’s daughter and wife. Nice brother. Anyway, Steve’s nuts and thinks he has trapped THE LITERAL SATAN in his basement. Has he? Hasn’t he? Let the question linger the entire film!

There are no reveals in this movie, which I think makes it a bit one-note. If we gathered information about Steve and his descent throughout the film, I might have been more intrigued. But you know what’s going on pretty early. Then just sit with it until the story decides to wrap up.

Safe to say. It’s not going to make my list of favourite Christmas movies.

Can a film make it on atmosphere and ~vibes~ alone? Yes. I recently watched the excellent A Wounded Fawn directed by Travis Stevens. Not a clue what was going on, but it looked amazing. If you’re going to rely on pretty, make sure it’s got something worth paying attention to. Christmas lights can hold my attention for a long while, but probably not 80-some minutes.

Speaking of lists… I made one back in 2016, and I thought it might be time for a refresh. Having looked at it again, I can say it’s a basic bitch list. After all these years, though, it still is probably what I’d produce today. Bar Elves. Not sure what I was on then. Did I really like this film? I can tell you nothing about it.

I always find this time leading up to Christmas to be one that is stressful. Who has time to do any serious, critical thinking? Not I! Is this why so many websites produce lists? I’m going to produce lists. Look forward to those lists. Your girl is tired these days.

Wicked Wednesday: No Exit (20220

Book adaptions are tough. As an audience, it doesn’t matter how often we tell ourselves the two mediums are different: some bias will always remain. Oh and most of the audience doesn’t care about how stories have to be told differently on page and screen. That’s probably ass, too.

I tried to reserve judgement when watching an adaptation of a book I like. It doesn’t always work. But what about an adaptation of a book you perhaps didn’t like.

No Exit was a book I tried reading in early 2021. It had everything I love: a locked-room mystery, a snowy local… But the book just didn’t work for me. There was a point about halfway through the book that I gave up, flipped through the rest of the book and learned the ending. I know, I know. I’m the worst kind of human.

When I saw there was a (rather quietly released) film adaptation out, I was still intrigued. Even more, I had friends recommend it to me.

But in faithful adaptions, this one was a little too faithful for me. Because it was at the same point in the book and film that I checked out.

Darby is an addict in rehab. When she gets the call that her mother has had an aneurysm, she breaks out and steals a car. On her way to the hospital in Salt Lake City, a storm strands her in the mountains.

A police officer directs her to stay at a visitors’ center, where a group of people are waiting out the storm. There she finds two young men and a couple. Things seem boring and mundane until Darby goes out to try and get a phone signal. While roaming in the storm, she hears the screams of a girl. She finds the child in the back of the van and must free the girl.

The reveal of “who” kidnapped the girl arrives very early. The film is very good at building suspense, but it’s spent very quickly. The ending trudges along in a series of events that increasingly gets more tiresome.

That being said, it has great performances, particularly by the lead Havana Rose Lui. Also love seeing Dale Dickey and Dennis Haysbert in anything. The film looks great and the setting is really well utilised here.

If you want a horror thriller to fill two hours of your time, No Exit isn’t a bad way to spend it.

So the moral of the story is: if you didn’t like the book, you’ll probably not like the movie either.

Wicked Wednesday: Bunnicula the Vampire Rabbit (1982)

When I was a kiddo, I was obsessed with the covers of books from series like Bailey School Kids and, of course, the Scary Stories books by Alvin Schwartz. I wasn’t much of a reader, but I loved a book illustration that allowed me to imagine the stories inside. Yes, it is ironic that my day job consists entirely of me reading children’s books.

One series that always grabbed my attention was Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe. The first in the series being published following Deborah’s death.

It wasn’t until I was in my adult years that I read Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery. Even without the glasses of nostalgia, this series holds up as an adorable gateway horror read. And, of course, when I learned of the TV special adaption, I had to watch it.

It’s not the most faithful adaption, but it still remains very cute. Chester the cat and Harold the dog live with a very nice nuclear family, the Monroes. One day, Mr Monroe loses his job when there’s yet another accident at the factory he’s employed at. In fact, the entire factory is shut down by the owner. Why no one bothers to ask OSHA for advice or something isn’t totally clear.

The family, who is waiting for him, learn of the closing. But before they can get too upset, they discover a bunny in a box by a tree. The bunny has a note with him, written in Romanian. Unfortunately, the Monroes aren’t worldly enough to know a lick of Romanian, but they can make out the name “Bunnicula”. Howard the dog, however, is able to read the note and reads, “Take care of my baby.” (So threatening!)

Soon after Bunnicula is at the Monroes’ home, things begin to get strange. The vegetables are all white and drained of their juice. Chester is certain that it’s Bunnicula, as Chester knows a lot about vampires. (He spends his days reading, as all cats do.)

They agree to take turns watching Bunnicula at night, but when it’s Chester’s turn, he fails big time and the bunny escapes. They head off to search for the rabbit. But during the search, Chester sets off a neighbour’s boobytrap. When the humans find vegetables with little rabbit tracks, they know Bunnicula is the culprit.

It’s up to Chester and Howard to find Bunnicula first and keep him safe from the mob. Oh and somehow save the factory in the meantime.

Short, sweet and to the point, Bunnicula is a fun special. Bunnicula in particular is adorable, but the animators made both Howard and Chester great characters. The humans I could do without, but that’s probably not an issue specific to this special. You can watch it on YouTube (with commercials!) on the Museum of Classic Chicago Television’s YouTube channel. They’re raising money to help with transfers and preservation at the moment.

Being made in 1982, the animation has a wonderful vintage feel. The company that made the special, Ruby-Spears, is the one behind the animated segments in Child’s Play. Which is a nice horror link, if you ask me. I would have loved to see more horror nods, but I think for a 30-minute special, this does all you can really hope for.

Wicked Wednesday: Spellcaster (1988)

On paper, Spellcaster has to be the most 80s movie ever to be released in the 90s. (Unsurprisingly, the film started production in ’86.) A spellcasting demon named Diablo controls the lives of a group of young adults who arrive at an Italian castle to participate in a competition run by a MTV-style music channel. The woman from the “Take on Me” video plays an alcoholic pop star. DJ Richard Blade is also here. Adam Ant (yes) plays the demon.

That, of course, means it’s that 80s kind of wild that only could have been pulled off in that decade. What I’m trying to say is: this movie was made for me!

Down-on-their-luck siblings Tom and Jackie are struggling for money after the death of their parents. They enter in a lottery to win a spot in a TV competition. Not only does one of them earn a place, but they both earn spots. What a stroke of luck!

The kids arrive in Italy where their fellow competitors wait. It’s a selection of the greatest hits of stereotypes. The Italian is a sex pest. The French girl is a sex pest. The American is a sex–uh. I guess they all have something in common, which must be nice for them.

They’re informed by the VJ and face of the show, Rex (Blade), that the competition involves looking for a cheque for $1,000,000. Whoever finds it first gets to keep the money. The cheque is hidden somewhere in the vast castle, and the camera will be following them while they search. Additionally, the competition is sponsored by the successful popstar Casandra Castle.

That night, the competitors get a head start before the official “go”. One of them gets consumed by a demon chair, not to be seen again. Meanwhile, Rex and Cassandra strike a deal together. Cassandra suggests hiding the cheque on her person. No one will find it, meaning no one wins the money. The two agree to split the money after the competition ends.

But when the competition gets off to its official start, competitors start to get attacked. The cheque is blown off of Cassandra’s person and lands temptingly in front of various competitors, who meet their various, odd fates (including someone being turned into a pig!).

Our daring siblings remain the only two to not meet their demise. When Jackie finds a mysterious room with a crystal ball, she comes face-to-face with the castle owner and spellcaster himself Adam Ant Diablo! Will she succeed in defeating him and win the money?

Well, yes, because it’s the 80s.

This movie seems to exist only to provide fun facts:

  • The castle will look familiar to Full Moon fans. It’s another one filmed in his 12-century castle. It was also used in Castle Freak. Gotta love that Roger Corman spirit.
  • Cinematographer Sergio Salvati will be known to fans of Italian horror/gialli through his work with Lucio Fulci.
  • Actress and model Bunty Bailey appeared in not just one, but two a-ha music videos and one for Billy Idol.
  • Adam Ant was a gorgeous BABE, and I will always love him.

It definitely isn’t the most cheesy of movies. There could have been more story or cutting down of certain scenes. These things hinder it from being an out-an-out blast. But it’s so charming in its own weird way that it’s well worth checking out.

Have I mentioned Adama Ant yet? Let’s talk about him again. My friends and I were obsessed with him as kids. And this movie reminded me why. I mean…what a dreamboat. If he asked me to sell my soul to him, I would without a second’s hesitation! The biggest flaw of his film is that he doesn’t show up until the last 10 minutes. It would have been fun to see him playing with the people throughout the story. But perhaps the scenes/budget wasn’t there.

If you like these one-by-one fantasy slashers, Spellcaster has plenty of charisma to make it worth the watch. And if anything, you need to stick around for that ending just to see Adam.

Hubba hubba.

WICKED WEDNESDAY: 100 HORROR MOVIES IN 92 DAYS 2022, WRAP-UP #3

Learning that today was already November 2nd shaved years off my life. Where did October go? It was possibly the busiest I have ever been around this time of the year. but there are no complaints from me! And yet, I managed to watch 110 new-to-me horror movies from August to October. It beats last year’s number, and I feel significantly better than I did at the end this time around.

One bit of guidance I had this year was Shudder’s latest show, The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time. It was a solid list of new and classic films to watch. And I became determined to watch as many as I could from it, meaning I finally ticked off missed classics like Rosemary’s Baby and saw recent hits like The Night House.

There were a lot of new horror films released in October as well. Seriously, an excellent month for genre fans. I saw quite a few family-friend movies this month with Wendell & Wild being my favourite. Easily. Henry Selick and Jordan Peele are icons.

Overall, it was a much more positive experience this year. I made lists and set goals for myself as to what I wanted to accomplish. Only one film was left on my checklist, The Velvet Vampire, which I hope to get to in November.

#79-110

79 Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) dir. by Anne Fletcher

80 I Walked With a Zombie (1943) dir. by Jacques Tourneur

81 Cujo (1983) dir. by Lewis Teague

82 Train to Busan (2016) dir. by Yeon Sang-ho

83 Hollows Grove (2014) dir. by Craig Efros

84 Nightmare Weekend (1984) dir. by Henri Sala

85 Rosemary’s Baby (1968) dir. by a rapist

This might be my biggest oversight when it comes to classic horror. The plot such a part of popular culture that I didn’t think any thing could surprise me about this film. But it really did. Mia Farrow is absolutely incredible here. She alone is the film.

86 Evil of Dracula (1974) dir. by Michio Yamamoto

87 Black Rock (2012) dir. by Katie Aselton

88 This House (2022) dir. by Emma de Swaef, Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Paloma Baeza

89 The Tell-Tale Heart (1960) dir. by Ernest Morris

90 Fiend (1980) dir. by Don Dohler

91 Killer Piñata (2017) dir. by Stephen Tramontana

92 Werewolf by Night (2022) dir. by Michael Giacchino

I don’t know what I was thinking…

93 Gerald’s Game (2017) dir. by Mike Flanagan

94 Stage Fright (2014) dir. by Jerome Sable

When I got the notification that Stage Fright was available for streaming, I was SO excited. I have been dying to see Michael Soavi’s film for years. But lo and behold it was this Stage Fright starring Meat Loaf. But I will call this a happy mix-up. A bananas movie that’s a lot of fun.

95 The Curse of Bridge Hollow (2022) dir. by Jeff Wadlow

96 The Night House (2020) dir. by David Bruckner

97 Halloween Ends (2022) dir. by David Gordon Green

I really enjoyed this. Sue me.

98 Rocktober Blood (1984) dir. by Beverly Sebastian

99 Frightmare (1974) dir. by Pete Walker

100 The Suspicious Death of a Minor (Morte sospetta di una minorenne) (1975) dir. by Sergio Martino

101 V/H/S/99 (2022) dir. by Johannes Roberts, Vanessa & Joseph Winter, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Flying Lotus

102 All Hallows’ Eve 2 (2015) dir. by Bryan Norton, Antonio Padovan, Jay Holben, James and Jon Kondelik, Andrés Borghi, Ryan Patch, Mark Roussel, Elias Benavidez, Mike Kochansky

103 Saloum (2021) dir. by Jean Luc Herbulot

A stunning horror tale from Senegal. The fact that I haven’t seen more people talking about this film is a HUGE shame.

104 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) dir. by Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney and James Algar

105 Significant Other (2022) dir. by Robert Olsen, Dan Berk

106 Blackenstein (1973) dir. by William A. Levey

107 Bad Hair (2020) dir. by Justin Simien

108 Cemetery of Terror (Cementerio del terror) dir. by Rubén Galindo Jr.

109 Saw (2004) dir. by James Wan

I put off watching this film for years and years. It was what gave birth to the modern “torture porn” subgenre. Nothing about it ever appealed to me, but I knew it was time to bite the bullet. You can always turns things off, right? But this was an entirely different film to what I was anticipating. Maybe I watched an edited version, but the gore was very light. The biggest shock? It had an interesting story.

110 Wendell & Wild (2022) dir. by Henry Selick

Wicked Wednesday: Rocktober Blood (1984)

Like a fool, I’d been saving watching this movie for Halloween. Rocktober = October = Halloween, right? Well. Instead of my fun holiday romp, it turns out that Rocktober Blood has nothing to do with All Hallows’ Eve and everything to do with heavy metal, evil twins and poor attempts at being Phantom of the Paradise.

Most of the cast in the film was made up of the band Sorcery. While not the main cast, they do hang around quite a bit. Though it is difficult to tell seeing as the movie was light with about three lightbulbs.

Billy “Eye” Harper is the lead singer for a successful metal band. During a late-night recording session, he and the rest of the band leave. Only girlfriend and backup singer Lynn remains behind to do further recording with the engineer Kevin and another assistant.

Lynn leaves to go into the jacuzzi. While she’s away Kevin and the assistant are both murdered by Billy. Or are they???

Lynn is confronted by who she assumes is Billy, who attempts to kill her. A security guard manages to intervene. But two years later, Billy is dead, having been executed for the crimes. He maintained his innocence up until his death, confusing Lynn, who was certain she’d been threatened by him.

With Billy out of the way, Lynn becomes the lead singer of the band, who rebrands themselves as Headmistress. As their “Rocktober Blood” tour looms, Lynn is certain that she is being haunted by Billy. Unsurprisingly, no one believes her.

Her friends even go so far as to help her dig up Billy’s coffin. Inside, they find his decomposing corpse. But Lynn maintains that he is alive as she gets continually harrassed by who she thinks is Billy.

On the night of the tour’s first show, it’s revealed that Lynn has been wrong all along. Billy is dead. Silly woman. It’s not Billy harassing her, but Billy’s EVIL TWIN BROTHER! John Harper is the talent of the twins, having written all the music that Billy took credit for. How better to exact revenge than to kill literally everyone. (No, this does not make sense to me.)

The last scene of the film is quite clearly an attempt at an homage to the Beef and the Undeads concert scene in Phantom. But, you know, done on a budget of about $50. There are fake deaths, electrocution by guitar and glam rock-inspired makeup. John appears on stage, which should be a pretty big reveal. I mean, even if you didn’t know about this evil twin business, it looks like a dead guy is parading around on stage. Somehow the band seems pretty unphased by this, even when Lynn is getting manhandled and handcuffed by him. Everyone keeps playing!

And poor John ends up dead. Or is he?

I love metal music. Particularly hair metal. It’s the white trash Wisconsinite in me. If Poison comes on, I must worship. Though I have to admit, I had never heard of Sorcery before. They seem like a pretty great band, as the soundtrack is probably the best part of the film.

Lynn’s voice was provided by Susie Rose Major, who has a set of great pipes. It would have probably been more impactful, though, if we had heard “Rainbow Eyes” only at the end and not constantly (and I mean constantly) throughout.

Rocktober Blood is a low-budget affair that’s pretty rough around the edges when it comes to production value. It’s also padded up to high heaven and has nothing to do with Halloween OR October. But all that said, can you really resist a movie that combines 80s metal music, evil twins, and homages to one of the greatest movies ever made? Well, maybe. Maybe just watch Phantom of the Paradise instead.

Wicked Wednesday: Fiend (1980)

I love and appreciate regional horror. These movies, which are not made in Hollywood, are often filled with local character and crew. Think the Bill Rebanes and George A Romeros of the world.

Fiend very much fits into that mould. Director, writer and star Don Dohler is obviously from (and clearly loves) Maryland. There are plenty of title cards to let us know where in Maryland we are. All the radio news announcements keep mentioning places in Maryland. I learned more about Maryland from this movie than I did when we studied in the 50 states in 5th grade.

The premise is very straight-forward: an alien entity lands on earth and resurrects the body of a music teacher Eric Longfellow. He rises from his grave and needs to suck the life out of people in order to survive.

He moves into (and by moves, I mean just takes down the “for sale” sign) a home in a Maryland suburb. With his arrival, murders – all in the same fashion – begin to be reported in the area. And Longfellow’s neighbour macho Gary Kender is very suspicious.

For one, the guy plays music. For a living! And second, he was home the day a young child was murdered. So he must have seen something – no matter what he’s told the police.

The logic is not very sound, but neither is Gary Kender’s head, to be fair. But of course he’s right anyway. Even if he isn’t the best of heroes to root for.

There are plenty of rituals, stranglings, odd characters and synth music to fill the 90 minute running time.

Fiend is definitely a small movie with a small budget. But there is plenty to really like about it. It’s full of quirks, like the red glow that surrounds Longfellow when he gets murdered. There are even a couple of plot holes thrown in for fun. Though it’s also got a consistent atmosphere that helps it be a successful film. It’s maybe not the best film technically but it’s clearly been made with a lot of heart and enthusiasm.

Regional horror is pretty much dead these days, but it’s nice to revisit works from people as passionate about their corner of the world as Dohler clearly was.

Wicked Wednesday: The Dead Come Home (1989)

The Dead Come Home aka Dead Dudes in the Hosue aka House on Tombstone Hill is a pretty standard post-Evil Dead slasher in many ways. Kids arrive at a haunted house, they meet supernatural foes, and then they die. It’s a beautiful formula that works.

And yet, there’s still something that makes it a bit special. There are echoes of Troma’s own Mother’s Day throughout, namely in its villain, an elderly woman. Only this one is dead! But there are also some brilliant practical effect death scenes that make this worth watching.

In a massive home in the countryside, a woman and her daughter spend some time over the corpse of a man on their floor. Forty years later, a group of young people arrive at the house. Mark, the house’s new owner, got it for a steal. In his words, “practically given away.” Maybe it was the 80s, but man – if it’s too good to be true…

After arriving, the kids have a look around. One of them disturbs the grave buried out back, severely pissing off the ghosties within the house.

The kids get to work, but soon after entering the house, they see an older woman. She doesn’t talk to them, but Mark goes to follow her when she shuffles away. And poor Mark, bless, is dead within the first fifteen minutes of run time. The home-owner dream was just not meant to last.

When Mark’s girlfriend goes to look for him, she discovers that he is very much dead, but still running around and being rude. The friends all try and escape the house, only to discover that they can’t get out. Granny and her daughter begin picking them off one-by-one in a pretty fun fashion.

Sure. The plot doesn’t really get more developed than that. But the makers of Dead Dudes in the House were obviously not here to tell a tale with characters we care about. They were here for the blood and gore. And they delivered!

I love a horror movie with too many names. And this one changes depending on the home video release. I have a personal affinity towards Troma’s choice of Dead Dudes in the House. There’s a group of boys (clearly in the early 90s) that don’t even feature in the film. Even Lloyd Kaufman’s description of the film in his book All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger isn’t entirely accurate but makes a nod to the unusual cover. “A group of hip-hop teens inhabit a house possessed by the spirits of a murdering, maniacal matriarch and her sexy daughter.”

Hip hop teens? Not here. But I would pay to see that movie too.

Wicked Wednesday: Screamplay (1985)

Troma has a reputation for being, as some would think, “a bit much.” It’s literally in their slogan as a badge of pride (“40 years of Disrupting Media”).

But beyond their shock tactics, the distributor has released some of the oddest independent films and sniffed out promising talents like Trey Parker and James Gunn. One of the most daring films is 1985’s Screamplay, a horror story set in Hollywood if Hollywood had been thrown up on by Robert Wiene.

Aspiring screenwriter Edgar Allan is fresh off the boat bus in Hollywood. All the naive young man has on him is his typewriter. He finds his way to a diner and meets Al, an agent interested in Edgar’s work.

Shortly after, Edgar is assaulted in a bathroom, but is saved when another man kills the assailant. Edgar’s savour is Martin, a landlord who agrees to put Edgar up in a storage closet in exchange for some custodial work. But at the crime scene is a page of Edgar’s screenplay, which makes the police suspicious.

At the apartments is an eclectic selection of characters: a fading actress, a rocker. And Edgar dreams about killing all of them while writing his screenplay! When the deaths in his screenplay are seemingly coming true, Edgar becomes the police’s main target.

Director, star and writer Rufus Butler Seder only ever made this one feature film. You can’t help but wonder if Hollywood did the same thing as what happened to Edgar or if any attempts to “make it” inspired Screamplay. Thankfully, Seder has had a great career publishing children’s books, so the man got to put his excellent eye to use in other ways.

Seder created a film with some incredible-looking scenes. It’s clearly inspired by expressionists, using stark black and white images with very set-y-looking sets. (Someone – get me a job in writing!)

This story reminded me a lot of the film Fade to Black, but I had a lot more fun with Screamplay. And stylistically, it’s much more interesting to look at. But I don’t think you can ever have too many “crazy in Hollywood” stories, honestly.

Wicked Wednesday: The Old Dark House (1963)

Remakes: they’re a source of contention with many horror fans. My favourite type of remake is one that really goes balls-to-the-wall and tries something different.

For most people, William Castle’s version of The Old Dark House will not be an improvement over Jame Whale’s 1932 original adaption. But for me, it was a great laugh that really pushed the slapstick humour.

Tom Penderel is a hapless car salesman in London. He shares his flat with a mysterious Casper Femm, who is only around during the day and goes home to his family estate in Dartmoor at night.

Casper asks a favour of Tom, to drive Casper’s car to the estate. When Tom arrives, the car is destroyed by a statue, forcing him to stay at the home. But once inside, Tom realises that his roommate has died.

Tom, now a guest at the home, meets Casper’s eccentric family, including the young Cecily. He learns from them that the family must meet at the home at midnight every night or forfeit their inheritance.

At the first midnight, Tom and the famiyl realise that the mother Agatha hasn’t arrived. They find her soon after with knitting needles in her throat. And soon, one-by-one, the rest of the Femms are picked off.

It’s a silly version of the story, for sure. Even more surprising, this is a Hammer Horror production! The usual air of dignity is long gone. And yet…while I enjoyed the original, I found myself still enjoying this remake for very different reasons. I love that Castle really leaned into how stupid it was.

There isn’t the usual Castle gimmick here, unfortunately, but I could definitely see one working. Is there a stage production of this thing? Someone quick! Get one made!