Wicked Wendesday

Wicked Wednesday: Hammer House of Horror ep. 1 “Witching Time” (1980)

Well, it’s the third week into 2018, and I’m already achieving goals.

New Year’s Resolution: watch more British horror. Check. Done.

So maybe one week doesn’t count as “more”, but either way – I can’t say this has improved perceptions. I tried to ease myself in with an episode from Hammer House of Horror, an hour-long anthology show that aired in 1980. Hammer, historically, has never worked for me as much as the Universal films. So why did I think this would work?

Two words: Patricia Quinn.

Magenta herself appears in this first episode – as a witch! Which sounds so far up my alley, I was convinced it was going to be a sure win. But of course it’s another pointlessly long, meandering piece of work.

And let’s get the inevitable out of the way: I am American and I like my entertainment entertaining. May there be unnecessary explosions, dramatic staring and baffaling one-liners.

But at least it had Patricia Quinn. And she’s so great in this.

Film composer David lives with his actress wife Mary on a rural farm in England. The two have a strained relationship, mostly because David suspects she’s cheating on him and she definitely is. With his doctor.

After getting a call that Mary won’t be returning for the night, David settles in to work. But a sudden storm knocks the power out. When he goes to the barn to check on Mary’s horse, he finds a naked lady (Quinn) in a cloak.

The cloaked nutter introduces herself as Lucinda. She seems pretty happy to be at the farm, exclaiming that she’s escaped “them.” Assuming she’s ill, David takes Lucinda to the farm house. She tells him that she was born there, so he shows her around. Her behaviour is strange, though.

She’s terrified of the lights. And wonders at the running water in the bathroom. Asks David what people do to witches in his time. Eventually, Lucinda explains to him that she was born in 1627. She escaped her would-be executioners with magic by transporting herself into the future. And with that tidbit, David locks her away in the guest room.

He calls his doctor (the man who Mary is having an affair with), and invites him over to check on Lucinda, who he merely assumes is delusional. But when the doctor arrives, Lucinda is nowhere to be found. The doctor instead treats David, who has previously suffered from nervous exhaustion.

That night, David dreams he is having sex with Lucinda, who claws her nails into his back. When Mary arrives in the morning to check on her husband, she sees the nail marks in his back.

Things begin to get worse for the couple. As David becomes increasingly erratic, Mary becomes more and more paranoid that he’s after her. After she’s nearly crushed by a bust, she begins to pack up to leave David. Lucinda uses her powers to create a wind storm within the bedroom.

Mary decides then to not leave David, but to visit a priest who tells her about exorcisms. She also finds Lucinda’s name in the church book as one witch who escaped her death. She asks her doctor-lover for help, but he’s gives that a solid pass.

Equipped with the power to remove Lucinda, Mary begins to head back to the farm. But her horse startles, and Mary is thrown and knocked out. When she awakes, she finds out that she’s been in the hospital for days.

When Mary finally is able to leave the hospital, she finds David in terrible shape. He locks her in the cellar where Lucinda was once kept. While Mary tries to escape, David begins building a pyre to burn his wife to the ground.

But Mary manages an escape, and takes Lucinda on directly. Using Lucinda’s voodoo doll, Mary begins to attack the witch, but eventually drowns her in a trough. David then wakes up from Lucinda’s spell. The couple walk away, and David throws the doll onto the burning pyre, and Lucinda’s screams are lost to them.

It’s a very convoluted ending to a rather straight-forward plot. Instead of giving any suspense, the episode mostly is shrug-inducing. It is neither good nor bad but just mostly boring. Quinn’s witch character was compelling to watch, but her story was very flat. I’m not quite sure what the episode should have focused on more, but it needed to be focusing on something.

Unfortunately “Witching Time” is ultimately a product of an over-ambitious script for a one-hour show. Too much telling, and not enough showing.

So did I enjoy this episode? No. Do I want to watch more of this show? Well, yes.

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Wicked Wednesday: Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Going into a movie without expectations can be hard. A lot of the times, we can go into movies and get what we expect. Sometimes there are surprises. Cheerleader Camp has no surprises.

Camps. Cheerleaders. An alternate title of Bloody Pom Poms. We all know what we’re getting here.

A group of six cheerleaders and their mascot take a van out to Camp Hurrah to participate in a cheerleading competition. Why is there an important competition at a camp where there are no judges? Beats me.

At the centre of things is Alison (Betsy Russell), a cheerleader with a tormented mind. She falls asleep each night and has disturbing nightmares. Though the real nightmare in Alison’s life is that her boyfriend Brent (Leif Garrett) has eyes for all the other girls at camp, particularly a blonde from a rival team.

The next day, Alison finds the blonde in her bed with both of her wrists slit. The counselor (owner, judge, whatever), Miss Tipton, is certain that there is no foul play, and refuses to call the police. But when Alison stumbles upon the body in the freezer, she calls the sheriff. Only the sheriff is more interested in getting into Miss Tipton’s pants than getting any work done.

Meanwhile, while Brent goes off to busy himself with other women, Alison strikes up a friendship with the mascot, Cory (Lucinda Dickey). The girls try to boost each other’s self-esteem.

When one of Alison’s teammates, Pam, begins to cozy up to Brent, Alison leaves him behind. Pam and Brent go off in the woods together, but Pam refuses to do anything with them. When he leaves her, she begins to chase after him in the woods. But the poor girl gets a sheers to the back of the head before she can find him.

That night it’s the cheerleading competition, which looks more like a talent show for cruise ship guests than an actual competition. Thankfully, the moves are as brilliantly 80’s as you’d want them to be.

Cory loses the mascot competition, despite the fact that she pulls from sweet break dancing moves (probably all learned from Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo). The gang also lose their competition after Pam doesn’t show for their performance. Though Bonnie, another of Alison’s teammates, wins Miss USA Cheer 2020 or something. So good for her.

Shame she’ll die anyway.

During the post-competition celebrations, Cory, Brent, Alison and Theresa go out into the woods to look for Pam. Of course none of them think to search as a group. One-by-one they run out into the woods alone.

Theresa finds Pam’s corpse in the woods, and begins head back to the camp. Though she doesn’t get very far when she’s smashed against a tree by a van. When Theresa’s body is found by her teammates, Brent decides to alert the camp that there’s a killer on the loose. Everyone but Alison’s team scatter, as their van doesn’t work (it’s been tampered with – surprise).

A very drunk Miss Tipton gets stabbed in the back. She stumbles into Alison, who grabs the meat cleaver from her back. Cory walks in at that moment, and catches Alison in a suspicious position. Alison becomes increasingly unsure of what is reality, and what memories are from her dreams.

Without the van, the kids begin to search the woods again. They run into the camp’s gardener, who fires his gun in the air to scare them off. Timmy, the over-weight comedic vomit of the movie, stays behind. He’s spent most of his time filming the going-ons at the camp (meaning topless cheerleaders), and decides to set up the camera for the killer.

The increasingly-small group realise that Timmy isn’t around. When Brent goes to look for him, he only finds the camera. The survivors go to watch the footage, and watch as Timmy dies on film.

This somehow convinces Brent that the gardener,Pop, is responsible for the killings. They set up a booby trap, which actually kills the sheriff. Though Cory manages to kill Pop when he goes after Brent with his gun.

The remaining kids, Brent, Alison, Cory and Bonnie, regroup in one of the cabins. Brent sends Bonnie to call the police and Cory leaves after her. With Brent and Alison alone, he tries to come on to her. Alison tells him no, but the boy is stopped when Cory interrupts, saying she an’t find Bonnie.

When Brent goes off to look for Bonnie, Cory confides in Alison that she believes Brent is the killer. Despite not having any real proof, Alison takes a gun from Cory and the two girls go to look for Brent.

They find the boy standing over Bonnie’s corpse. Alison shoots her boyfriend, seemingly ending the killings. But when the police arrive, they arrest Alison, who is in too much shock to protest.

While the police carry her away on a stretcher, Cory talks to the policeman. He tells her it’s likely that Alison will stay in a mental ward for years. Cory agrees, saying that Alison was obsessed with what others thought of her – trying to be perfect. Between the dreams and the pills, she’s obviously the murderer.

With a knowing smile, Cory flounces off to have a bit of cheerleading practice of her own.

And that, is an underwhelming ending. It’s quite clear that throughout the film Cory is the killer. She’s obviously manipulating Alison, and is the only one who cares about those who insult her. Plus no one likes Cory because she’s a stupid mascot.

But nothing about Cheerleader Camp is a surprise. It’s cheesy, skeezy, and a bit schlocky. Going into this, at least, I wasn’t expecting anything more than what I got.

If it’s a cheesy, below-average slasher you’re looking for, Cheerleader Camp will do the trick. There’s plenty to chuckle at to make it enjoyable. Though it’s of course dated, and filled with out-dated fun like slut-shaming.

Also. Explain me this: Why did the filmmakers cast the only dancer in the movie (Dickey) as the only non-cheerleader roll? Those last few minutes at the end hardly count. Also, it clearly establishes she’s much better than anyone else on the real team, so there’s no excuse as to why she didn’t make the team.

Obviously getting to the heart of the real problems here.

Wicked Wednesday: Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated “The Hodag of Horror” (2012)

Growing up, I was always afraid of the forest at night time. I was always convinced aliens lurked in the woods behind my parents’ house. If aliens were to invade, they’d certainly begin with rural Wisconsin.

Then my friend’s dad used to tell us stories about a mythical beast. It was seven-foot-tall man walking around the woods with a pigs head, ready to kill us if we wandered off alone. I saw visions of the man for months after that tale.

So, it’s not hard to see why the hodag story took off in the 1890’s. With endless Wisconsin wilderness, your imagination can get the best of you.

In the past few years, the hodag has become “fashionable” again. It appeared as one of the new North American beasts in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And it’s the main monster in this episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. 

This iteration of Scooby-Doo is a bit different. For one, there’s a long-running story arc along with the monster-of-the week. I found that slightly confusing (I’ve never seen a single episode bar this one). But I do understand one thing: cheese.

One day in the gang’s hometown of Crystal Cove, the “Most Haunted Place on Earth”, a travelling curio wagon arrives. Shaggy and Scooby hop inside and explore the exhibits. That’s where they meet the fearsome hodag of Wisconsin. But not convinced by the cheap-looking suit, they leave.

Later, Daphne’s sister Daisy finds the hodag in her room. Daphne gets a call, and the mystery-solving gang go to Daisy’s to investigate. She tells them that the beast stole the jewellery from her room, including an expensive ruby.

Velma begins her sketch based on the description from Daisy, and Shaggy and Scooby immediately recognise the thief as the hodag from the travelling curiosities show.

Upon returning to The Traveling Cabinet of Curiosities, the owner, Gene Shepherd shows the gang around. When they spot a locked box, he explains that he only opens it once a year. When he leaves, they all agree that he’s suspicious. Even I’m suspicious.

That night, Daphne’s family have a cheese party. I’m not actually sure what’s the party is actually for, but I’m from Wisconsin, so I fully accept the existence of cheese parties. During the party, surprise surprise, the hodag attacks again. Only this time, instead of just jewels, the hodag also steals Nova, the dog that Scooby is in love with.

The gang suspect Shepherd of the thefts, and return to his wagon where they find the loot. Even though he’s arrested, Velma isn’t convinced they’d really caught their thief. She reads up on the ability to train certain animals with the ringing of a bell. Before each theft the sound of a bell could be heard, and Nova wears a bell on her collar.

Velma and Fred agree to set a trap for the real thief. They bait the hodag with a key, which it uses to open the chest. They then lure the hodag up a tower using more bells. Eventually the hodag is trapped. When the gang take off its mask, it’s revealed that it’s a monkey named Roberto.

Because of course!

Roberto’s trainer, Mr Fussbuster, is the owner of the town’s cheese shop. He arrives holding onto Nova, and confesses that he trained Roberto to rob for him, but the monkey soon went out of control and began to steal bells. Fussbuster ultimately wanted Roberto to steal what was in Shepherd’s chest: a wheel of 500-year-old cheese.

Scooby then hurls the cheese (the package stolen from the chest) at Fussbuster’s head, allowing him to save Nova. With the real thief caught, the gang try to give Shepherd his cheese back, but he no longer wants it because it’s cracked. He mutters that the cheese told him to go to the town before leaving in his wagon.

Scooby-Doo always ticks the right boxes for me, and this weird, cheese-obsessed episode was perfect. For one, I love a celebration of strange, relatively-obscure folklore. Throw in masked monkey thefts and you’ve got me completely sold.

So sold, in fact, I think I’ll watch the first series. Scooby, you lovable buffoon, you’ve done it again.

Also, if you’re interested in reading more about the hodag, you can read up on him on the city of Rhinelander’s website. If you have any equally fun or interesting local folk legends, please share!

Wicked Wednesday: Bloody New Year (1987)

I know a lot of people who would consider New Year’s the most disappointing of all holidays. Maybe it’s meant to always be disappointing. That’s what you get for having expectations?

You know what else is disappointing? Bloody New Year.

This 1987 British horror film was directed by Norman J Warren, a director I have zero experience with, but was supposedly an unusual, but interesting filmmaker. I assume that this wasn’t a highlight of his career.

On New Year’s Even in 1959 (turning into 1960) a group of party-goers welcome in the New Year in a hotel ballroom. A girl, the last left, stands in front of a mirror before she’s grabbed and pulled through.

Some twenty years later, a group of kids are spending the day at the seaside. It’s some time in July – not December. The two girls go off to speak to a fortune teller while the three boys stroll around. The boys soon catch a girl being terrorised on a tilt-a-whirl by a group of carnies at the funfair.

The boys step in, one of them even ruining the ride to help out the girl. The carnies chase the group of friends throughout the funfair, but the kids are eventually able to escape the three angry men.

They friends learn that the rescued girl is Carol, an American visiting on holiday. As her friends haven’t arrived yet, she agrees to go with the British group out on a boat.

While out at sea, the boat begins to sink and everyone is forced to jump ship. Luckily, they are not too far from an island are able to swim to shore. Only the island is booby-trapped. Which probably isn’t so lucky.

The cold, wet sack of friends search the island until they stumble upon a hotel. The hotel is, unusually for July, done up in Christmas and New Year’s decorations. But assuming it’s just “quirky,” the kids split up into couples to search for anyone in the hotel to speak to.

While looking around, strange things happen. A magazine closes itself, snooker balls reset themselves, and a ghostly maid appears to give Carol a blanket.

Despite that this hotel has been vacant for nearly 20 years (it’s the hotel from the beginning, shock), nothing seems really gross. Someone even manages to take a bath. The clothes in the suitcases are in perfect condition.

I live in Britain. I know how damp it is. There is no way that this shit would be in good shape. Unless, that is, that Ghost Maid is super good at her job and likes to keep up her work during her after life.

Eventually, a couple are able to turn on the power. The kids all change into the 50’s-style clothes they find in the guest rooms and get changed into dry clothing. In the background, a news show from the 1959 is playing on the TV in the background. This is apparently key, but will make no sense no matter how many times you watch it: New Year’s night there will be an experiment with an anti-radar device on a plane that will make the plane become invisible. And some dude on the show is mad about this.

Me too, I guess.

The kids eventually discover a cinema room in the hotel, which is playing Fiend Without a Face. When the film rolls out, a different film starts playing of three people in front of the hotel. One of the men in the film jumps out, and kills one of the boys. Since I don’t know his name, I don’t really care.

The remaining five run out of the hotel and decide to split up and look for help. The first couple, Lesley and Tom, find a home, but when they go inside, they don’t find the caretakers, but a sort of seaweed tablecloth monster that attacks Lesley, though Tom seems to kill it off?

The second couple, Janet and Rick, go into the woods where they hear laughter and see bushes shaking. A bit like Evil Dead but in the daylight (though everyone keeps referencing that it’s “getting dark”). They run to the beach where they see footprints appear then disappear. I don’t want to tell them that it’s just a trick of the film because they seem rather scared by this.

Janet and Rick see and explosion in the forest, and run to see it. They find the remains of the plane inside a burnt-out building.

Poor Carol is stuck waiting by the hotel. Thinking that being alone is a good idea. After getting freaked out, she chases after a figure that is clearly not her friends but is convinced that it is anyway. Though after getting freaking out in a similar with as Lesley and Tom (but with snow because nothing says “I’m going to kill you” like some wind), she runs back to the hotel.

Rick, Janet, Carol and Lesley are reunited at the hotel and go back to the house Lesley found with Tom. There’s a lot of this, in case you’re interested. But when they return, they find that the house has somehow ended up on the side of a cliff. That’s when they are attacked by one of the funfair men. Because that’s still a thing we care about.

The man punches Lesley in the stomach, but his fist goes through her stomach – revealing that she’s a ghoul of some sort. The three remaining not-dead-people, run away while the carny is killed by Ghoul Lesley. They fight off the other two carnies back at the hotel. Though Ghoul Lesley helps them in her own way by offing one herself.

Rick “kills” Ghoul Lesley and the three have a moment to think. That’s when Carol realises that the funfair men must have arrived by boat. She’s my favourite of this group. They decide to look for the boat when they bump into Tom, who looks badly wounded. And because they didn’t learn their lesson the first time, the leave Janet behind to take care of him while Rick and Carol go to look for the boat.

Unsurprisingly, Janet gets attacked by Tom, who is also one of these ghouls. Carol and Rick are too late to save her, and she’s sucked into an elevator wall. They decide to run around the hotel endlessly, dodging kitchen knives, carnies and various traps until they end up in the ballroom.

Some woman on the stage says something about an “Elimination Waltz” and at this point, I could care less, but the imagery gets a bit more dream-like and interesting. She tells Carol and Rick something about the plane crash and how the experiment went wrong, shattering time itself.

If that means something to you, congratulations.

The two try to leave. Are trapped in the games room where all party-goers from 1960, the carnies and their friends stand around and taunt them.

When Carol and Rick finally do think they’ve escaped, they run for the boat. Unsurprisingly, neither escapes. Rick is stupid and goes back for his clearly-dead girlfriend, and Carol is pulled into the sea like it’s a dream about Camp Crystal Lake.

In the weirdest ‘twist’ of the ending, we see the British kids dancing around the ballroom with the 1960’s folk, but poor Carol is in the mirror! WHY IS CAROL IN THE MIRROR? Why has any of this happened?

Bloody New Year is a pile of confusing shit that is a lot more boring than it should be. It’s clearly a misleading title trying to capitalise on holiday video sales, I can let that go, but it lacks on so many other levels. Where is the blood? Where is the explanation to why these people are forever stuck on this island?

Some of the scenes are rather good-looking, which might make it worth watching once. But this movie is not as good as some people would lead you to believe. And it certainly isn’t a good movie for New Year’s. While the plot certainly sounds fun, this is a lot of potential squandered by a poor script.

There is one bright side. We all know I’m a sucker for an original song. And damn do they milk the hell out of this song. If you don’t have this memorised by the end, you’re not paying attention. The band Cry No More provide a few tracks that are pretty catchy, but couldn’t be more out of place.

Thaaaaat’s a recipe for romance!

 

 

Wicked Wednesday: Elves (1989)

Oh my.

Oh my.

How does one begin to talk about Elves? This 1989 film is hands-down one of the most bewildering movies I have ever seen. “Bewildering” being one of the nicer adjectives one could use.

So let’s just jump straight into this one.

Teenage Kristen hates Christmas. She hates it enough that she gathers her two friends for an anti-Christmas pagan ritual. They gather in the woods to begin to ritual, but Kristen cuts her hand, and bleeds over the ground. The girls decide to pack it up and head home without doing the ritual. Unbeknown to them, a hand reaches out of the ground as a creature from below awakes.

In fairness to Kristen, anyone would hate Christmas with a family like hers. Her brother pervs on her when she’s in the shower. Her grandpa slaps her about. And her mother drowns Kristen’s cat! JUST BECAUSE! Not exactly the group of people who fill you with festive spirit.

Kristen’s wheelchair-bound Gramps is upset for her being in his room. When her mother finds out, she tells Kristen she’s taking away the money in her savings account. Poor Kristen works a crap job at a cafe in a department store. Despite not being able to keep anything but her tips, she keeps her job.

At the department store, former police officer Mike McGaven visits the store to ask for a job. Though he’s initially turned away, he eventually gets work as Santa after the original Mr. Claus is killed by the elf after he pervs on Kristen. In room where the former-Santa was staying, he finds a symbol on the floor and decides to investigate it.

You can’t stop a cop and he’s old habits, eh?

That night, the elf digs up Kristen’s dead cat and dances it in front of her window. Though it’s clearly trying to protect her, it’s got a sick sense of humour. Seeing an elf (which she keeps calling “troll”) is obviously upsetting to Kristen. Her grandfather becomes angry with her when he discovers her drawing of the Christmas virgin, or whatever.

Mike and Kristen become friendly with each other as Mike becomes a regular at her cafe. Mike, having been kicked out of his mobile home, begins to stay in his Santa room. Kristen plans a night with her two best friends and three boys to pal around the department store after hours.

But there are other plans being formed for Kristen. While she plans with her friends at the cafe, a man in a not-at-all subtle black coat listens in on them.

A group of Germans in similar black coats interrogate Kristen’s grandpa. They remind him that his granddaughter is key, and she will begin a new world order.

Then this fucking line drops.

“When there is no more room left in hell, the elves will walk the earth.”

….

Anyway, Mike’s research on the mysterious symbol eventually leads him to believe that the Nazis are somehow involved with the murder. While he’s out, the girls begin to prepare for their night in at the department store, and Kristen begins to contemplate whether or not she wants to lose her virginity that night. She wants it to be “special.”

When Mike, who has returned to his room at the department store, hears the girls giggling and slapping on blush, he tells them off. But Kristen, pointing out that he’s also there under shady circumstances, makes a deal with him and neither will rat out the other.

But the shady black-coat men break into the store after killing the girls’ boyfriends. The girls scatter in different directions. One girl is killed by the men in the elevator while the other is killed by the elf (again – no idea why).

Mike is able to protect Kristen using his ex-cop skills, and is able to get her to safety. Though she’s blamed for all the damage to the shop and Mike gets into trouble with the police. But that’s not nearly the amount of trouble Kristen gets into with her mom.

At Kristen’s house, Mike tries to defuse the argument happening in the family. But while talking down Gramps, he notices the murder-scene symbol carved into the hardwood floor. Mike leaves the house to continue his search, certain that the symbol has something to do with why Kristen was being targeted.

He goes to two professors for some help, and boy. Here is gets fun.

The first professor says that the symbol is the symbol of the elves. When Noah took two of each animal in his ark, he also took the creeping creatures: elves! And apparently the Nazis news his story and believed.

The second professor shares two different theories with Mike. The first is that the Nazi’s experimented with elves to form assassination teams. The second, wait for, was that elves were used in genetic experiments by the Nazis. Their sperm housed the master-race genes. Since elves were immortal, this was an ideal way to protect their Aryan ideals. The elves must consummate with a virgin on Christmas Eve because plot.

Kristen is told by her grandfather to pack, but her mother catches her. She reveals to Kristen that Gramps is not only Kristen’s grandfather – but her real father!

When she confronts Gramps, he admits that he indeed drugged his daughter and when he rapped her, she was at least unconscious. Because, sure that makes it better. Kristen’s grandpa explains that it needed to happen in order to create Kristen: the perfect Aryan specimen.

Then things get a bit worse/better: Mike manages to escape from his car that is loaded with dynamite, and Kristen’s mom is killed when the elf electrocutes her in the bathtub!

Mike arrives at Kristen’s house to protect her from the Nazis (yes), and Gramps tells Kristen that she knows how to defeat the elf because her dreams already told her stuff…or something. He also drops this little nugget: if the elf impregnates Kristen, she will give birth to the anti-Christ.

Obviously this man doesn’t believe in the woman’s right to choose.

The Nazi’s arrive and kill Gramps. Despite Mike’s best attempts to find them off, he’s shot as well. But Kristen manages to escape with her brother Willy into the woods.

Kristen injures her ankle when she becomes stuck in the elf’s hole (ew), and she can’t run away. The elf eventually corners her. Willy runs off and collects a red gem from Gramp’s study. He brings it back to Kristen, and she uses it to kill the elf.

While everything seems peaceful, the credits begin to roll over footage of a fetus, whose heart is beating. Presumably inside Kristen’s womb. Meaning the elf managed to rape her after all.

So the Nazis win! Merry Christmas! At least Kristen said she wanted to lose her virginity to someone special. Doesn’t get any more special than an elf, right? Eh?

This movie is so wonderfully strange. It’s so horrifying (elf rape!), and straight-up nonsense, but it is truly a spectacle to behold. It has some great lines: “Are we going to be alright?” “No, Willy, Gramps is a Nazi.” And “Are you hurt? Good.” It’s certainly something I want to tell everyone about, even if it’s a bit shit. But it’s shit in a special way.

I have to admit, I don’t understand 90% of this film’s mumbo jumbo, but it certainly makes me laugh.

Elves has not had a DVD release yet, but hey, we can only hope.

And from American of London, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May it be Nazi-free!

Wicked Wednesday: To All a Goodnight (1980)

Why is it that sorority slashers (or in this case “finishing school” slasher) try their best to be as indistinguishable as possible? A rare few set themselves apart, and yet these movies keep trying to do the same thing. Sure they’ll throw a twist on it, but the twist is inevitably always about someone who was killed years ago and their parents are getting revenge.

Is this because the term “house mother” exists? Either way, To All a Good Night is about as standard as it gets when it comes to slasher films. Only this one has a killer in a Santa Claus outfit and mask.

It’s Christmas holidays at the Calvin Finishing School for Girls where students are going home for the holidays. Five girls, though, stick around for a few days more.

During their dinner, their house mother Mrs Jensen tells them that the school president has left and won’t be back for a few days. The news comes to a delight to most of the girls, as a group of boys will be arriving by plane that night.

One girl, Nancy, is a little less enthused. She’s dateless and a hopeless virgin, but at least that cements her right to be Final Girl. She has the school gardener Ralph following her around and warning all the girls about the impending evil.

Unbeknownst to the girl, another student is at the school. While her boyfriend waits outside for her, he’s stabbed by an unseen figure. The girl is also killed when she leaves the school.

Two years prior to the events, a girl died after falling off a school balcony. What was essentially a prank gone wrong, has clearly left someone with the desire to get even.

And they probably deserve it. The girls decide to drug Mrs Jensen so she falls soundly asleep throughout the entire night. Nancy is tasked with the job because she’s easily the most believably nice.

With their house mother out of the way, the girls go to pick up the boys. These four boys are about as irritating as you’d expect. None of them are good-looking, but act like they’re each a special gift from Our Lord. One of the boys, Blake, plays guitar and attempts to sing. Again, about as bad as you’d expect.

The couples begin pairing off, leaving Nancy behind. But at least we have the comfort that she survives. Plus she gets to sit around, chill and drink milk while the others are getting killed by an evil Santa. Though she does have to deal with creepy Ralph following her around again, warning her about evil.

So some kids get their throats slit, while one girl gets her head chopped off when the killer is in a suit of armour! Two ladies and two boys are now out for the count after night one. That leaves the score at: 2 creepy school workers, 3 ladies, 2 boys.

In the morning, the remaining kids begin to wonder what happened to their friends. They tell Mrs Jensen that the boys’ plane has broken down, and they can’t leave until it’s fixed. Meanwhile, Santa buries the corpses of their friends. ‘Tis the season, eh?

Two of the kids, Melody and the “dorky” Alex, run off into the woods together. When Nancy decides to wander into the woods as well, she’s scared by Alex when he leaps out at her. While running away, Nancy stumbles upon Ralph’s corpse in a field.

After the discovery of Ralph’s body, the police are called to the school. This causes the students to become more concerned about their missing friends’ whereabouts. Detective Polanksy tells everyone at the school that he will be keeping two of his policemen on campus to keep an eye out.

One of the policemen is killed off later that night. The other kids, meanwhile, shake-up the relationships a bit. Regular Nancy-tormentor Leia goes off with the not-dead-yet policeman while her boyfriend goes to fool around with Melody.

That leaves Nancy and Alex to search the school unnoticed.

After sleeping together, Leia decides to take a shower, where she discovers her friend’s head in the shower. The policeman is also stabbed before she can leave the room. Seemingly at the same time, Leia’s boyfriend is strangled while making out with Melody by a tree.

Melody finds Nancy and Alex, and explains what happens. When they find Leia, they discover that she’s incoherent, and is simply just dancing around.

While trying to escape the school, the three girls run into Santa, who is revealed to be Mrs Jensen (shock). She begins to attack Nancy, believing she was present when Mrs Jensen’s daughter was killed two years prior.

Melody tries to make her escape by going to the plane. Only when talking to the pilot does she discover that the plane really isn’t working. While looking at the engine, someone in a Santa suit turns on the plane’s propellers, beheading both Melody and the pilot.

Nancy, meanwhile, is trying to fend of Mrs Jensen as she’s stalked throughout the school. In a probably-meant-to-be-poetic moment, Mrs Jensen falls off the same balcony has her daughter did, meeting the same fate.

But before you can say “Merry Christmas,” Nancy is attacked by a second Santa, who is revealed to be the the detective. Apparently he’s the dad or something, there’s really only about half-a-line here to explain things. Before Nancy can be killed, Alex saves her by using a crossbow to end Polansky’s life.

Despite both killers clearly being dead, Nancy and Alex run away from the house, leaving a dancing Leia behind. Why? Who fucking knows. But at least it’s over.

To All a Goodnight shares a lot of similarities to other films, but doesn’t really compete with any of them. It is a sorority Christmas-set movie like Black Christmas, but doesn’t fill the screen with enough Christmas imagery to really work. It’s also like The House on Sorority Row (which this film predates), but it isn’t nearly as memorable or good-looking.

There are some things that are unintentionally funny. For example, 90% of the film is meant to take place at night, but much of the movie was clearly filmed during the day. But it’s not bad enough to be amusing or good enough to enjoy thoroughly. Just skip this one. Even if you don’t, you’ll probably forget that you’ve even watched it.

Wicked Wednesday: A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

In all honesty, Christmas horror movies are about as hit-or-miss as it can get. There are the 1974 Black Christmases of the bunch as icons of the genre, then there are the Silent Night, Deadly Night sequels (which rarely make the so-bad-it’s-good level of film making). Take your pick of the worst.

And somewhere in the middle lies this 2015 Canadian snoozer, A Christmas Horror Story. The film is done in the anthology style, though each story is told intermingled with each other instead of shown as separate segments. It’s heavy-handed, unoriginal, but at least has it’s moments of shining glory.

It’s Christmas Eve in the town of Bailey Downs where everyone is preparing for the holidays. Radio DJ Dangerous Dan (played by William Shatner) is covering the shift before Christmas, reminding everyone to head down to the shopping mall to partake in a holiday charity event.

The Virgin Mary

Three teens, Molly, Ben and Dylan, decide to do their school project together at a local prep school where two teenagers were murdered the year before. Together, they watch a video of the police footage of the officers looking at the crime scene. A boy and a girl were found in the basement, murdered, along with the Bible verse, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

They get keys to the school from Dylan’s girlfriend, Caprice, so that they can sneak into the school and get their own footage.

As they begin exploring the school, they discover that the principal is also in the school. The teens somehow think this makes the man guilty. Sure. No leap in logic there.

The teens head down into the basement, and Molly explains to the boys that it’s the area that used to be where they kept the unwed mothers that went to the convent. She shares a delightful tale about a young mother who had lost her baby years ago.

After the kids explore the room where the bodies were found, they try to leave and discover that the door back to the school is locked. They, again, believe it’s the principal.

But after waiting hours, the kids become cold and hungry. And Molly begins seeing ghosts.

After the ghost of a young girl appears to Molly, she faints. The boys, unable to help, just keep her next to some creep mannequins wearing nativity clothes.

Later, Molly awakes, and sees that Ben is a sleep. She asks Dylan to go into the room where the other kids were killed with her. She tries to come on to him, but he rejects her because of his girlfriend. She glowers at him as the crucifix on the wall begins to shake.

Ben is later woken by Molly, who tries to come on to him as well, only she’s much more successful with him. After they have sex, Molly wakes up from an apparent trance. She becomes frantic, as she wasn’t completely aware of what she was doing. It’s then that Ben realises that Dylan is missing.

The two begin to look for their friend, and find him murdered in the bedroom. As Ben panics, Molly realises that she’s meant to carry the baby of the ghost girl, who lost her baby. The other teens had been killed because they refused to have the girl’s baby. Ben looks on horrified, but is promptly killed by the ghost, who is now protecting Molly and the baby.

The door unlocks, and Molly is allowed to leave the school.

The Changeling

Police officer Scott and his wife Kim take their son to get a Christmas tree. Dad, being one of those law-breaking cops, goes into a private woods to chop down a tree. While heading back to the car, their son Will disappears.

They eventually find him inside a large hole in the tree. The parents take Will home (unbeknownst to them, being watched by an old man), and begin to notice that he’s behaving strangely. He’s aggressive towards Scott, and really likes pasta. He stabs his dad in the hand when Scott tells Will he’s had enough to eat.

That night, Scott tries to get intimate with Kim, but she tells him no. Angry, Scott goes into the living room and drinks while he looks on the evidence of his unsolved murder case of the two teens at the prep school. Kim, meanwhile, falls asleep and her son – or what ever it is – climbs into her bed and tries to feel her up.

He eventually falls sleep, and wakes up to see that someone got into the gifts, shattering the thing that Scott got Kim for Christmas. Assuming that it’s Will, Scott goes into his son’s room and begins to beat Will with his belt.

Kim sends Scott away, and comforts the clearly-not-Will. She receives a call from a man, who says that he owns the land that they took the tree from. He informs her that her son is not longer her son, but a Changeling. Unbelieving, she hangs up on him. She begins to research Changelings when she hears a strange sound. When she goes into the living room, she finds Scott tied up, missing a hand, and very much dead.

Kim calls the man back, who then explains that she must bring the Changeling back to the woods. And the Changeling can’t feel threatened, but when you’re trying to stuff your kid in a bag – it’s going to be threatening. She bashes the creature with a bat, and manages to get him into a bag and back to the woods.

At the woods, Kim meets the man on the phone. He explains to her that she probably won’t get her son back. He’s the Changelings’ caretaker and they won’t hurt them while he’s around. While brandishing a gun about, Kim accidentally shoots the man, killing him. But the Changeling goes back into the tree, and out comes Will, good as new.

Krampus

Caprice’s family are driving together to visit her father’s elderly, wealthy relative, Aunt Etta. When the family arrive, they receive a cold welcome from Etta and Gerhardt, Etta’s caretaker. Before the father goes away with Etta to discuss money, she tells them about the legend of Krampus as it is Krampusnacht. Caprice’s brother then decides stirs up trouble by breaking a Krampus figure.

Gerhardt immediately become upset, and Aunt Etta, upon hearing the ruckus, demands that the family leave. The family drive off, but get into an accident when something jumps in front of their car (they’re Canadians – you’d think they’d know not to break hard in the snow).

The family resort to walking through the woods, back towards Aunt Etta’s house. As night falls, and Krampusnacht begins, the father is attacked by something on a chain. The chain then wraps itself around the brother, dragging him away into the night.

Mom, Dad and Caprice manage to get themselves into a nearby chapel in the woods where they seek refuge. But it isn’t long before Ma and Pa get picked off as well by the beast, which is revealed to be the Krampus.

Caprice runs into the night, trying to escape the Krampus. When she gets to Aunt Etta, she finds that no one will let her in. The girl then decides to face the Krampus herself, and kills him off with a pipe through the neck. As the Krampus dies, she realises that it was actually Gerhardt.

After the death of the Krampus, Aunt Etta allows Caprice in and tells her about Gerhardt. She explains that anyone can become the Krampus if there is anger in their hearts. Then Caprice realises that her Great-Aunt had planned for the family to get murderd by the Krampus all along. She then begins to take on the Krampus form herself.

Santa and his Christmas Elves

At the North Pole, Santa and his elves are preparing for Christmas deliveries when the elves start to become infected by a virus and become zombies. It’s up to Santa to killed them all off for good. He eventually kills Mrs Claus. That’s about it.

But as Santa is about to hitch up his sleigh to leave for the night, he hears someone arrive. The new arrival is the Krampus, who engages in battle with Santa. This is meant to be epic, I guess, but is incredibly cringe-y. Before Santa can kill Krampus, the beast turns into a man who is begging for his life.

It’s then revealed  that Santa is in fact DJ Dangerous Dan’s weatherman, who hasn’t been heard from all night during the massacre in the shopping mall. The man had imagined himself as Santa, needing to kill off all the elves – or rather, the mall employees and shoppers.

Before the weatherman can get away, he is shot by the police and everyone probably has a nice Christmas.

Let’s be honest. I haven’t been this irritated by a movie in a long time. But I feel like I’m in the minority with this one, as it has actually received average ratings. Admittedly, this is a style of contemporary horror that really doesn’t work for me. Nothing is stylish, it isn’t nuanced. It’s ugly as hell. The death and gore is boring and derivative.

And yet, a lot of people here are people I like. Julian Richings and Zoé De Grand Maison both of Orphan Black fame are here. Ginger Snaps producer Steve Hoban was on board. Freaking William Shatner is here!

But all that talent is wasted on a basic, uninspiring, muddled mess of stores. Since the stories are interwoven, the tonal shifts don’t work. The Santa story could have been a hilarious horror comedy if I wasn’t meant to take the scenes around it seriously.

Blame it on my Scrooge-like demeanor this week, but this movie really didn’t work for me.