Wicked Wendesday

Wicked Wednesday: Women in horror, book edition

It’s the final Wednesday in February, making it the last week of Women in Horror Month. Now, typically I like to highlight women behind the camera. But this year I tried to read as many horror novels by women as possible. Granted that was the uninspiring number of “five” – but we take what we can get in these days of rona.

Each book was stunningly different from the next. Was every book a favourite? No. Though I do think each of these titles has the ability to be someone’s favourite – the writing (and translation in one case) is impeccable in every single one of these.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Moreno-Garcia’s book has been much talked about over the last year. It’s been named as a finalist for the Gram Stoker Awards’ Superior Achievement in a Novel. It won best horror novel at the Goodreads book awards. There’s even a mini-series in the works. There’s a lot of hype behind this one. More than any other that I read this month.

In short, this gothic novel follows socialite Noemí Taboada as she goes to the creepy High Place, where her cousin is living. Something is causing her cousin to behave strangely, and it isn’t long until Noemí begins to see visions herself.

After finishing Mexican Gothic, I had to finally admit to myself that I’m just not a fan of the genre in novel form. I found it slow and didn’t like the ‘twist’. But this book accomplishes everything it sets out to do – it just wasn’t to my tastes.

Moreno-Garcia has great prose – she’s sure to be a hit with anyone who loved Rebecca but thought the plot needed the creep factor of Shirley Jackson injected in the veins.

Ghost Summer: Storieby Tananarive Due

I have been meaning to read Due’s work for a few years now. But the time was finally right when an audiobook of Ghost Summer was finally released in the UK.

This collection of short stories and novellas immediately sucked me in. There are monstrous women, zombies, ghosts and pandemics. Each story is brought to life with vivid characters that I’m still thinking about.

My favourites were in the first section, Gracetown, which consists of three stories (including the titular “Ghost Summer”). Hot days and creeping goings-on are my absolute favourites.

Due is already an icon in the genre, but I feel as though she is increasingly getting the credit she is due (sorry). If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, please pick up one of her stories. I’m desperate to get to the next.

Black Ambrosia by Elizabeth Engstrom

This is a vampire novel of a very different sort.

Angelina is a killer. But she isn’t like other vampires. Angelina kills out of love. She travels the country, weaving herself in and out of various communities, both respectable and not. That is until she begins to spiral further and further into her darkness.

I loved Engstrom’s When Darkness Loves Us and was curious to try more of her work. This novel had much of what I loved about the first collection I read: quiet, twisted women at the forefront. Angelina is an absolutely magnetic protagonist. Yes, she does some horrific deeds, but I really felt like I needed to know more about her.

It’s sad, completely grey and absolutely one of the best vampire novels I’ve read.

Monster She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson

I had to squeeze at least one nonfiction in this month. I adore reading nonfiction, and I particularly love nonfiction about books.

Monster She Wrote takes readers back to the inception of the horror genre itself. Some may be surprised that it even predates Mary Shelley’s monster creation. And throughout history, women writers have been at the helm of making the genre vibrant and diverse.

The book goes through different eras section-by-section from the gothic novel all the way to the paperback boom of the 80s, followed by a look into the future. It’s an incredibly quick and easy read. Things did begin to fall apart a bit at the very end where the writing became rather list-like. But I learned about some incredible authors. Now just to getting around to reading their work…

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell

Things We Lost in the Fire was one of the first translated books I have read in a long while. Really good translations are an art, and I think McDowell did wonderful things with Enríquez’s work.

Enríquez is a novel and journalist from Argentina. And while I’ve never been to the country, Enríquez’s writing brings the communities to life. Each of her short stories is about the underbelly of Argentinian society: drug addicts, nasty men, poverty, devious girls, black magic, and children in vulnerable home situations. It’s all harrowing and made even more twisted with touches of magical realism and monsters.

The stories in this collection are often deeply unsettling. And I loved them.

Wicked Wednesday: Danger Word (2013)

Danger Word” is a short film based on horror authors Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due’s novel “Devil’s Wake”. A short story version appears in a collection of Due’s work Ghost Summer: Stories, but more on that next week.

I became a fan of Due’s when I first watched the Shudder documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. It took me forever to get around to reading one of her books, but I was absolutely chuffed when I learnt that she and her partner were involved with other screenwriting ventures.

The short, directed by Luchina Fisher, follows 13-year-old Kendra (Saoirse Scott) and her Grandpa Joe (Frankie Faison) as they traverse the rugged landscapes of a zombie apocalypse.

Grandpa Joe tries his best to toughen up the young Kendra, whose innocence was taken from her early due to things outside of their control. She had become particularly hardened after seeing the transformation of her mother into the undead.

After shooting practice, Grandpa Joe and Kendra go to see Mike and his sons, who they are hoping to trade with. But it doesn’t take long until both notice that something isn’t quite right. Unfortunately, they are both too late and Grandpa Joe is bit by Mike. He tells Kendra to go north to Albany where she can get help.

Kendra eventually has to kill her grandfather, but leave him with dignity – and leaving the viewer knowing that everything he taught her will not go to waste.

It’s pretty impressive that within 20 minutes, you can establish such a strong relationship between two characters. The ending had me in tears and desperate to know what happened next to young Kendra. It’s a harrowing story of a little girl forced to grow up much faster than she should have to. But that reflects the reality of many children, with or without the apocalypse.

Some of the editing here is a bit confusing. I had to rewatch a bit when I couldn’t understand why Kendra had returned to the farm to kill her grandpa. At first, I thought I had missed a scene, but I think it was the girl reassessing leaving her grandfather to become a zombie. It was subtle, almost a little too subtle.

This short is quite a bit older than the rest of the films I’ve watched this year for Women in Horror Month, and I think you can tell. The cinematography isn’t the greatest. But that being said, it still managed to tell a powerful story in the framework of a traditional zombie tale.

You can watch “Danger World” on the director’s YouTube page. It’s a beautiful and creepy story full of wonderful Black talent.

Wicked Wednesday: Women in Horror Month random short film selection

This week I was trying to pick out just one short film to watch for today. But the more researching I did, the more shorts I found that were calling out to me. All sorts of shorts by women from so many different points of view and backgrounds. It was impossible to pick just one. Having too much to watch is never really a terrible problem to have, is it?

So I had a mini-marathon of short horror films made by women. So pleased that I enjoyed these all quite a bit. Some explored poignant themes while others made me laugh. Truly, women have something to bring to the table. They can prove it in no time flat.

The Lonely Host” directed by Lisa J Dooley (2019)

This short has to be one of my favourites of the week. It plays on a fear many of us have: what’s really going on at this Airbnb?

For Silvia, there’s no good news where she ends up. At her Bnb, the host is super perky and friendly. And being friendly is weird, right? When Silvia returns from a date night with her girlfriend, she realises she’s being watched through cam footage. Can the girl get the hell out of Dodge before it’s too late?

I loved this for a few reasons. At first, the ending really made me stop and think about what had actually happened. Then I realised it was playing on my own expectations and prejudices. Thank you for serving me a wonderfully unsettling slice of atmosphere, Dooley.

Una Mierda De Slasher” directed by Miriam Ortega Domínguez (2013)

This Spanish-language short is basically what you get when you have the worst group of friends ever.

When a group of friends sit down to watch a slasher movie together, they quickly find themselves debating the merits of slashers. Before the movie credits even roll, they find themselves in a nightmare…or do they?

The humour in “Una Mierda De Slasher” is really playful. The tone shifts constantly, keeping the viewer on their toes. But one thing is for sure: I’m so glad I don’t have this lot in my life.

SHE” directed by Zena S. Dixon (2019)

I adore Zena’s work over on her YouTube channel, Real Queen of Horror. She’s personable and funny and makes some really great content. The amount of recommendations I’ve compiled from her lists is incredibly long.

This film puts the “short” in short film, clocking in than less than five minutes. But even this little taste gives you plenty of fun and twists. It’s ladies night for our antagonist and her friends. They’re all playing a little game together, and it’s a little bit twisted.

Knock Knock” directed by Kennikki Jones-Jones (2019)

“Knock Knock” is easily the most surreal and heartbreaking short on this list.

Sinia is a kind neighbour, always looking out for the four children who live next door to her. The children’s mother is abusive towards them, so Sinia is always watching out for them. She communicates with them using a series of knocks on the wall.

But one night, things appear to get out of hand in the children’s home. Sinia tries to help, but she soon finds herself explore her true reality and mind.

This film is rich with symbolism. Jones-Jones offers a story here that is a heartbreaking look at mental health, poverty and motherhood. It’s beautiful, haunting and tragic.

SLUT” by Chloe Okuno (2014)

Like all these shorts, “Slut” very much roots its horror in reality. Young Maddy lives with her grandmother, who is housebound ill. It’s a lonely life, but when she meets a young man at a roller rink, she feels seen. But when Maddy’s new acquaintance is ‘stolen’ away by the local hottie, she decides to do up her image.

Maddy finds empowerment in her new look. She begins to seek new experiences. But unbeknownst to her, Roller Rink Creep is keeping a closer eye on her than she knows.

It’s a terrifying situation, that doesn’t even feel that outlandish to most women. This is not a cautionary tale demonizing sexual exploration, but rather the dangers of toxic masculinity.

Wicked Wednesday: Satanic Panic (2019)

Would you look at that? It’s February. Again. I’m pretty sure it’s been a week since it was February last.

In the blink of an eye, we’ve reached Women in Horror Month. A time to celebrate creatives in horror industries.

I’ve been putting off watching Satanic Panic just for the sole purpose to watch it this February. And boy, that’s an awfully long time to build up anticipation.

This 2019 movie, directed by Chelsea Stardust, was co-written by one of my favourite authors – Grady Hendrix. There are all the hallmarks of a Hendrix story here: great female characters in charge, lots of gore, and a heck of a great villain.

Sam is a young woman starting her first day as a pizza delivery girl. And it’s a rough first day in the service industry. After being shortchanged all day, Sam volunteers to make a delivery to a wealthy side of town, hoping for a great tip.

After arriving at a mansion, Sam delivers her pizza. But instead of getting the great tip she hoped for, she gets nothing but an empty take of gas. Stranded, Sam decides to go into the mansion to get her rightfully-deserved tip. Though instead of getting that tip, she gets dragged into a Satanic ritual.

As a virgin, Sam is the ideal replacement for Judi, the daughter of coven leader Danica, who lost her virginity in hopes of saving her life. The two girls team up together, hoping to escape the Satanists. The results are both disgusting and hilarious.

Sam’s fight against the wealthy Satanists is very Eat the Rich, which is a trope I love. There are some solid moments of sisterhood in this between Sam and Judi. I wish it could have been explored and developed more, particularly in the last act. I mean, nothing brings friends together like escaping a demon-raising coven.

I loved that this film had women calling all the shots. It’s a refreshing power dynamic to watch. Sure they’re all trying to kill each other, but hey – better than a man doing it, right?

While I did enjoy Satanic Panic quite a bit, I don’t really think it does much to create a lasting impression. There are moments that will make you laugh and moments that will make you squeamish. But the ending doesn’t quite stick as much as I’m sure it hoped to. Though I’d recommend this for the enjoyment of watching Rebecca Romijn as queen Satanist alone.

Do remember that February is also Black History Month in the US (it’s in October here in the UK). So please practice intersectional feminism this month. Particularly uplift Black creators. I’ll be reading Tananarive Due’s short story collection, Ghost Summer as well as watching as many horror movies/short films as possible made by Black women. I have both Eve’s Bayou and Afterbirth on my list. Please send more suggestions!

I do agree with calls to move WiHM to another month of the year. This isn’t a new issue, but one that was obviously there since the initiative inception. Twelve years is a long time to be blind.

Wicked Wednesday: Tales of Terror (1962)

Hollywood is made up of great pairings. Fred and Ginger, Scorsese and DeNiro, Rebane and Wisconsin, and, of course, Corman and Poe.

I grew up with classic gothic films on television. And Corman’s Poe cycle movies were always on at some point. I love them. I love the drama, the gorgeous colours, and Vincent Price’s face around every corner. My husband bought me a collection of Corman and Price’s Poe movies for Christmas this year. So it’s been a blast revisiting them. But one I couldn’t recall as well as the rest was the anthology Tales of Terror. 

Four of Poe’s stories are adapted here into three short films. Poe’s work is prime for adapting into an anthology. He only wrote one full-length novel, and his short stories are much more beloved and well known.

Interestingly, two of the stories here (“The Black Cat” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”) were both used in the Dario Argento/George Romero co-production Two Evil Eyes. While I adore all three directors, I think Corman was much more successful at his attempts.

The first of the shorts, “Morella”, follows a young woman as she returns to see her father for the first time in over two decades. Her ornery father (Price) is cold towards her, believing her to have ‘murdered’ her mother in childbirth. It isn’t until the daughter reveals that she is terminally ill that her father warms to her. But it’s too late for them both, as she dies to have her mother’s corpse (which is lying on its deathbed) revived.

Traditional, horrific family fun. A body (corpse) swap for the 1800s.

The second story combines two of Poe’s most well-loved, “The Black Cat” and “The Cask of Amontillado”. It’s easy to see why they’ve been combined here, both original stories end with people bricked up into walls. But screenwriter Richard Matheson and Corman add a humorous, almost farcical twist to the story.

Resident drunk Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre) and his wife Annabelle are in a loveless marriage. She tries to hide the money from him. He insists on spending it all when he can find it. But one night, after a wine-off with a famous wine-taster, Montresor has to be carried home. The wine-taster in question is Fortunato Luchresi (Price, again). Fortunato and Annabelle quickly fall in love.

But when their relationship is discovered, Montresor bricks them both up in his basement walls with Annabelle’s black cat. And like many of Poe’s stories, the insanity that comes with guilt only leads to dire consequences for our villain.

The last of the stories, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”, is easily the strongest. It’s a technicolour one-two punch.

M. Valdemar (Price, one more) is unwell, dying from a horrible disease. Hypnotist Mr Carmichael (Basil Rathbone) puts him under hypnosis. Even though Valdemar is somewhere between living and dying, Carmichael refuses to release him from hypnosis. This is, of course, to both torture Valdemar and steal his wife. Thankfully, seemingly even almost-death and hypnosis can’t stop a person from protecting the ones they love.

Tales of Terror isn’t Corman’s best work. But it is fun.

For me, the comedy didn’t work in the second segment. I know Corman enjoyed it, as he later used the same tone in The Raven (another adaption that doesn’t break into the favourites list). I do appreciate that it certainly prevents the movie from having a monotonous tone, but for the love of God – did the make-up artist really have to do that to the actors?

My favourite of Poe’s short stories is probably “The Cask of Amontillado”. I love its sinister, dark underground tones mixed with the jubilation of Carnival. And I have yet to find an adaption that is satisfying. While natural to mix it with “The Black Cat”, it’s still disappointing that it wasn’t given more use in the story.

As always, it’s worth watching these Poe Cycle films for the enjoyment of watching giant mansions in total desolation while Vincent Price crosses the screen in great costumes. If you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t start here (I would suggest House of Usher).

If you have any non-Corman adaptions of Poe that you love, please share! His grim tales are timeless and still are haunting to this day.

Wicked Wednesday: Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

After finishing my viewing of Uninvited last week, I told my husband that there was no way I’d be able to top that delightful film. But by pure chance, I randomly chose the majestic greatness that is Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. And the mission was accomplished.

A few months back, I watched the 80s satanic panic film Black Roses directed by John Fasano. It was a pretty fun movie. Demonic metal bands? What more could you want? But turns out Fasano helmed an even more crazy (and wonderful) film.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (titled The Edge of Hell here in the UK) is a perfect storm of bad movie tropes: puppets made at a child’s craft time, a lead actor who is both a bodybuilding champion AND a heavy metal singer, great cheesy songs, questionable fake accents, wild twists that make no sense, and lots and lots of man butt. Everything you could ask for.

When metal band Triton and their partners arrive at a Canadian farmhouse in the countryside, they’re less than impressed with that they find. But their manager is insistent that it’s the perfect place to practice and prepare for their next album. It’s the seclusion they need for creativity.

Triton seem to at the farm for a few minutes before they start getting killed off by demons. Some are baby cyclopses others are in the form of ladies who have the special ability to grow a mouthful of fangs. Plus a demon in the oven!

Eventually (spoiler), only lead singer John is left. He’s seemingly the only person immune to the demon’s tricks. But he’s forced to acknowledge it when it appears in its true form of Beelzebub in front of him. But – what’s that? John is INTERCESSORRRRRR! – an archangel. Finally facing each other, a final battle between good and evil ensues.

Oh, and second plot twist: John’s bandmates were just visions of people. Because why not? You’d think demons would be able to tell the difference, but I guess I never thought to ask one.

This movie tickled me so much. No, this is not a well-made movie. The plot is fairly nonsensical and was seemingly written in a stream of conciseness. But it is wildly entertaining and great for a laugh. It might have one of the best ending fight scenes ever for a movie that I wasn’t expecting should have an ending fight scene. This is the type of movie that I will be telling everyone to watch.

In fact, I was so taken with this movie that I immediately watched the documentary I am Thor, which follows actor/bodybuilder/screenwriter/musician/cult hero Jon Milk Thor’s comeback in the mid-2010s. Admittedly, I thought the documentary lost steam about halfway through, but it was fascinating to learn about this magnetic frontman.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare was such a bright spot this week. If you adore cheesy movies, you must watch (or rewatch) it soon.

Wicked Wednesday: Uninvited (1987)

Is there anything more majestic than what a B-movie really just leans into its gimmick? Sometimes low-budget films almost act embarrassed of what they are. They’re boring. What we need are more movies that are enthusiastic, as enthusiastic as 1987’s Uninvited.

If I had to describe this utterly bonkers movie in one sentence it would be: Trump-meets-Epstine millionaire gets on a boat with a bunch of kids only to get picked off by a cat…with a demon in its mouth.

And yet, it’s so much more than that.

At a research facility, a cat-experiment escapes and kills its handlers. Out on the run, the cat finds safety in the hands of two girls on Spring Break, Suzanne and Bobbi. When the two girls find themselves without a hotel to stay at, they’re saved by creep extraordinaire, Walter Graham.

Walter invites the girls to join him on his yacht the following day. He plans to go to the Cayman Islands with his associates to evade prosecution for…something (honestly, I couldn’t follow and didn’t really care). But before the girls head off, they invite a trio of random boys to join them.

The whole gang, cat included, board Walter’s yacht. In exchange for joining the journey, the boys must work as the captain’s crew. The captain, Rachel, is not thrilled. Only, she’s trying to buy back the yacht from Walter, who managed to take it from her father when he owed money (or something – again, it was about money, and I didn’t really care).

A cat aboard should bring good luck. Maybe it does. But the demon in its mouth is probably cancelling out anything good the cat brought along. It begins killing everyone off starting on the first night with its poison. It also messes with the boat, stranding everyone at sea. It’s honestly the worst pet you could ever ask for, and it’s amazing! 

As the group is stranded longer and longer, they begin to make increasingly desperate decisions. Sure everyone seems to be an idiot. But it’s an 80s slasher, it’s not too below the standard of the genre. Plus it makes it all the more rewarding when they die!

Is Uninvited good? No. Is it fun as hell? Hell yeah!

The cat puppet is easily my favourite part of this movie. The beast is so hellbent on destruction. Why? Well, we don’t really know why other than ~scientsits~ but it’s easy enough to go along with things. Especially since the death scenes are pretty excellent. There’s splurting blood, knawed-off fingers, and poisoned food. Could you ask for more?

This is certainly not high quality. But I do think it’s worth popping on if you want to have a laugh. And it’s unique. How many other demon-in-cat mouth movies can you name?

Wicked Wednesday: Amityville Dollhouse (1996)

I have quite the confession to make: I don’t watch horror movie franchises. This is sort of happened organically instead of intentionally. But something I’m slightly embarrassed about nevertheless.

One of my goals for this year (because in 2021 we no longer believe in resolutions) is to watch at least one franchise in its entirety. For example, there are 12 movies in the Friday the 13th series. I could watch one a month!

But I wasn’t expecting to get a start on this goal with Amityville Dollhouse. To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I chose this to watch. It wasn’t until I started reading up on the movie that I learned that this was just one in a series of movies not based on the Lutz family’s experiences or the DeFeo murders, but rather haunted objects linked to the house.

While they’re certainly stand-alone stories, this still felt like being dropped into the deep end of a cold pool.

Amityville Dollhouse follows newlyweds Bill and Claire as they move into a new home that Bill built in the desert. Their children and stepchildren are all reluctant about their new home and families. Strained relationships abound from the start.

A series of unexplained experiences begin for the Martin family when Bill finds a dollhouse in a shed on the lot. Bill and Claire decide to give the dollhouse (an exact replica of 112 Ocean Avenue) to the young kid, Jessica, for her birthday.

Once the dollhouse makes its home in Jessica’s room, she begins to notice strange things about it. Her aunt Marla, a New Age hippie of sorts, makes Jessica take notes about everything that happens. Marla and her husband, Tobias, both have suspicions about the house, particularly the house’s creepy dolls.

And suspicious they should be. The dollhouse is up to something, and it certainly isn’t nice.

I think a large part of why I felt so confused was that much of the “whys” and “hows” here aren’t explained. The family see visions, have awful dreams, are visited by decomposing husbands. It’s all linked to the dollhouse, but we’re never really sure how. Demons? Why not! And why is no one recognise that this dollhouse looks just like one of the most famous murder houses in American history? I don’t demand everything make sense in my horror movies, but a line or two of guidance would be nice!

Putting my thoughts together for this one is difficult. Learning that it was the eighth (and final) in the original series sort of messed with my perception of the film. That begs the question: does someone need to watch all seven previous movies in order to have an opinion on something?

There are some really cool moments in this movie. It looks great in parts. It even gets a bit twisted in a V.C. Andrews sort of way. And yet, I found it impossible to engage with. I might have even dozed off for a minute (though that says more about my sleeping habits than the film) judging by the fact that when I rewatched the trailer, I didn’t recognise some of the footage from the movie.

Are people fans of the Amityville franchise? Is it worth revisiting the other six I’ve missed in order to appreciate this one? Or is it really the film’s fault for just this once? I can’t even recall the 1979 movie and Margot Kidder was in that one for goodness’ sake!

Wicked Wednesday: Better Watch Out (2016)

Has this year turned me into a grinch? Because I’ve disliked all three ‘Christmas’ horror movies I’ve watched this year.

Better Watch Out was recommended to me many times over the past couple of years. This was the year I finally got around to watching it after another co-worker told me to watch it (and it was on Amazon’s £1.99 sale). But unfortunately, this one…really made me angry.

It’s difficult to watch Better Watch Out without spoiling any of its plot twists. But the premise is essentially this: creepy prev 12-year-old has a crush on his babysitter and movie seeks to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible for 90 minutes. There is a home invasion of sorts. Though anyone who tells you this is a horror movie version of Home Alone is completely lying (though if anyone would like to make one, please do).

I love a movie villain that you love to hate. You certainly get that here. Though I’m not sure I loved to hate the villain, as much as I really couldn’t bare them. The young actor was incredibly good at making me feel both disgusted and angry.

My main issue with this movie is that it didn’t develop its characters beyond their basic tropes nor did it establish a strong motive. Even a simple additional line or two of dialogue could have sorted this. If the villain was really a psychopath, there really needed to be a final act to cement whatever it was we were supposed to believe about them. And no I don’t think the last bit was good enough.

Unfortunately, I also think this movie was a great disservice to our final girl. I wouldn’t even call her that. You know nothing about her, but still have to root for her. She’s never given an opportunity to take control beyond the first 20 minutes or so. Actually, I don’t think Ashley’s character at all fits the formula of the Final Girl.

Basically, if you enjoy watching a young woman get tortured for 90 minutes – this is for you! But Krista, you may hypothetically ask me, isn’t that what all horror movies do? Terrorise women?

Yes and no.

Usually, women have more agency in these movies. If anything, they’re at least given a chance to face their attacker for a final time. But here we have to settle for a half-hearted ‘twist’ that goes out like a fart. I mean, if we want her to lose, at least commit to it Omen style!

I do appreciate the film trying to tackle the “simp” trope (according to Dictionary.com, “slang insult for men who are seen as too attentive and submissive to women, especially out of a failed hope of winning some entitled sexual attention or activity from them”). It really had the groundwork to be great and satisfying. With a few tweaks, I think Better Watch Out could have been the classic it’s being presented as. Imagine if a woman would have been involved in the screenwriting or directing process. Lord almighty could that have changed things for the better. This could have been a really clever way of addressing the sinister side of women having to deal with ‘nice guys’ would have been really clever. But this film attempts none of that.

Anyway. My husband liked this. Not sure what that’s saying. Many people really like this one. So I really, really think I’m in a very small minority here. As I said before, I’m such a grinch this Christmas I just can’t wait to watch regular movies again.

If anything, there are two very bright points here that make this worth watching: the actors and those really tall door knobs.

Wicked Wednesday: Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)

I love a horror-comedy. When my husband and I started dating, we watched Dale and Tucker vs Evil together on a date. Krampus is one of my favourite Christmas horror movies. And of course, classics like Night of the Creeps and Gremlins are among some of my favourite movies full stop.

So I was intrigued to watch Anna and the Apocalypse from the moment I first learnt about it back in 2018. Throw in some musical numbers and it sounded like a recipe for something really fun and new.

Now that it’s 2020, I finally sucked it up and bought the movie to watch it. I promised my husband we’d watch it together once I finished watching it for this post.

Yeah. That’s just not going to happen.

Anna and the Apocalypse follows, unsurprisingly, a girl called Anna. She lives with her widower father in a small Scottish town. Around them, the zombie apocalypse is happening. But Anna and her friends seem oblivious as they prepare for the Christmas festivities.

The night of the Christmas show at Anna’s school, the pandemic spirals (and still everyone is oblivious). When Anna wakes in the morning for school, she meets her friend John in the cemetery. It’s there where they meet (and behead) their first zombie.

They head to the bowling alley where they work to find their friend Chris there with exchange-student Steph. The group of kids decide to hunker down until they can go to the school, where Anna’s dad and Chris’s girlfriend are.

The rest of the film focuses on the students’ journey to the school and the inevitable climax when they arrive there. An additional villain pops up along the way, but it’s handled so haphazardly that I didn’t understand it a bit.

The tone in the last third is especially uneven. That’s kind of to be expected when you get a horror-comedy. Rarely is it be pulled off. Shaun of the Dead, the movie which this is constantly compared to, is the prime example of this. And I don’t think this musical holds a torch to that, to be honest.

I unfairly had high expectations for this movie. Disclaimer here: I’m not huge on musicals. So why did I think I’d like this one? I always root for a movie that subverts the norm. Everything about this could have been everything I hoped for. My favourite movie is Phantom of the Paradise and my favourite musical is Toxic Avenger (god that says too much about me). So horror and musicals together are not something I’m new to.

Since I’m pretty biased, I broke my golden rule and read some reviews on Letterboxd. Quite a few people really enjoyed the songs. Personally, I can’t recall a single one, and a lot of them made me physically cringe as I watched. So I think it really comes down to taste preferences. That being said, I think the songs shined best when they were more tailored to the movie. Some numbers like “Hollywood Ending” felt pointless. They could easily be slotted into any other teen film.

Sometimes when we watch movies, we need to remind ourselves that we aren’t always the target audience. Not everything is for us! This is clearly meant for 14-year-olds. Hell, I was at the height of my zombie obsession at that age. I would have loved this to bits back in 2005. And this is exactly how this movie feels: 2005. It’s not really doing anything new here that wasn’t done over a decade ago.

Ultimately, though, I was hoping for a horror musical. But Anna and the Apocalypse is a musical first and foremost. The horror and comedy are a very distant afterthought. While I didn’t like it, I do think there’s a niche for it out there. It certainly has the ability to become a cult film for many.