Wicked Wednesday: Searching for Isabelle (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riverdale ep. 3.12 “Chapter Forty-Seven: Bizarrodale”

“Chapter Forty-Seven: Bizarrodale” is one of the more aptly-named episodes yet. It was a complete change of tone from the earlier episodes in the season, and for that – it was both bizarre and incredibly needed.

Josie and Kevin’s parents finally decide to get hitched but under one condition: it has to be a small affair. And considering Josie and Kevin are the most dramatic students in Riverdale outside of the Blossom family, they’re both left disappointed. But they do mange to convince their parents to have an after party.

So both Josie and Kevin reach out to find dates to the wedding, and both come up short. While Josie finds solace in Archie (who helpfully drives her to her ill-fated Juilliard audition), Kevin is left in the cold by Moose – who insists on staying in the closet.

When Cheryl comforts a frustrated Kevin, she devises a little plan to semi-out Moose over the school announcements. She calls it a “little push” but girlfriend Toni immediately calls her out on her bullshit and privilege. And Cheryl must really love Toni, because she’s the one person she’ll listen to.

Cheryl goes about fixing the mess she made. Though her silly move actually worked in getting Moose to come out to his dad. A move which he feels jubliant about. But like everything in Riverdale: it’s just not that easy.

Meanwhile, Sierra and Tom receive a bit of a ‘congratulatory’ note from the Gargoyle King – informing them that the Midnight Club must reassemble with the Midnight Club and go to Riverdale High to complete their ascension.

The Midnight Club all assemble and begin to look for the chalices, and quickly realise they’ve been had. And a trap can only mean one thing: their children are the targets. Tom Keller quickly realises that only Kevin doesn’t respond. That’s because his son is too busy snuggling up with Moose in the now not-so-secret bunker.

As the boys enjoy the first night alone together, the Gargoyle Gang arrive and take the boys away. They’re dragged to the feet of the Gargoyle King to flip for their fate. But before Kevin can drink, the police arrive (and Cheryl with her bow and arrow). The gang and the king are unmasked, and it’s revealed that it’s Moose’s father and the boys from the RROTC.

In his interview with Sheriff FP, Moose’s father admits that he had been in love with Tom, who didn’t return his feelings. After some conversion therapy with the Sisters, he tried to move on. But the announcement of Tom and Sierra broke him. It was even worse seeing his son in love with Kevin, who looked just like his father (weird).

But Jughead doesn’t seem convinced that we still don’t have our real Gargoyle King, and he’s probably right.

With his mom back in the picture, things are sure to get complicated. And it officially looks like we have our newest parental enemy. Gladys Jones is revealed to be the buyer of Hermione’s drug empire. You know, the one that Veronica and Reggie set on fire?

Gladys seems willing to forgive Reggie and Veronica for showing up to the trade-off with a bag of inked currency. But it’s clear the lady is up to no good. She was, after all, preparing to buy a whole drug operation.

It was pretty refreshing getting spending more time with characters outside the core four. Betty (who has stolen the show ever since last season) was barely present. It was great to see both Kevin and Josie get plotlines they are worthy of. Both characters have been shafted by the last two season, and they could finally come back to life for the first time since season one.

Riverdale has got a lot of shit over how it handles its characters’ sexuality, but this episode really set out to set things right. And I honestly felt that this sweet, little episode did a lot to correct the mistakes of the show’s past.

Also, Pretty Poisons is the show’s lamest gang name in Riverdale yet. Good luck with that one, Toni.

Wicked Wednesday: Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

It’s February, which means it’s Women in Horror Month, where we get to celebrate all the lovely ladies who contribute to the horror industry! While I love watching films made by women (and reading books by them) throughout the year, I always look forward to February to really get into the spirit.

Also, I’ve been putting off watching SPM3 since I watched the second installment last year. All three films were directed by women, making it the first horror franchise to do so (and if you can name anymore – please let me know!).

SPM3 follows the same general formula set by the first two movies: there is a slumber party, there is a man with a power drill, and there are too many creeps.

But unlike the second installment, this movie doesn’t have any characters from the first. There’s a whole new set of teens to terrorise this time!

Jackie and her team of pals live a good life of crushes, school work and beach volleyball. Just a session at the beach, they realise that they’re being watched by a “creep” in black. When the leave the beach, Jackie accidentally drops her address book, presumably picked up by The Creep.

The girls get settled in for their slumber party at Jackie’s while her parents are away. They do the usual shenanigans: eat chocolate brownies, talk about boys and casually strip for each other! But they’re quickly interrupted by a gaggle of boys who are promptly thrown out.

One boy, Michael, goes back to beg for forgiveness, but it killed before he can be let in. Meanwhile, The Creep from the beach (good move title there) appears outside Jackie’s window, frightening all the girls. When Jackie goes to chase him, she finds her address book outside the door.

The boys (sans dead Michael) arrive back at the house with Dreamboat Ken (he’s captain of the water polo team, guys). Ken and Jackie’s friend Juliet head off upstairs to get cosy while the others enjoy pizza.

While in bed, though, Ken gets uncomfortable when Jackie tries to touch him. He instead allows her to enjoy herself. Afterwards, Juliet head to the shower where she’s later electrocuted with a plug-in dildo. What a way to die, eh?

The kids later discover Juliet’s body inside a body bag. But when Jackie goes to call the police, they ignore her believe that she is only trying to prank them.

Ken offers to get his uncle, who he claims is a cop. He heads out with another one of the boys where it’s then revealed that Ken in the driller killer. He kills his pal and heads back to Jackie’s house to terrorise the group and whittle them down to the final two. Hot Babe Ken is eventually blinded with bleach from an earlier clean up, then killed by dear Jackie.

It’s essentially standard Slumber Party Massacre affair. But it just isn’t done as well as the first two (which are more biting and clever…and better acted believe it or not).

There were bits that made me laugh, tough. I especially enjoyed the bits of dialogue that attempted to be a bit more feminist, no matter how badly they were delivered.

“Another weird guy?” “Yes.”

The story of my life.

Like SPM2, there is excellent music in this. Particularly the tracks by the director herself, Sally Mattison. It’s a solid, if basic installment in the trilogy. And now that I’ve seen all them, I demand we get more series like this with a much more cutting, satirical take on it.

While SPM3 was my least favourite of the series, I have to say that these movies now hold a special place in my heart. They’re surface-level silly, but to any woman really listening: these movies have a lot to say about women and the people who believe they have any right to us.

Now, if only we could get an excellent blu ray release of all three of these in Region 2, please!

Riverdale ep. 3.11 “Chapter Forty-Six: The Red Dahlia”

One (major) thing I forgot to mention in last week’s recap was that Tall Boy was killed by his fellow Serpents. On accident, of course. Leaving Jughead to cover their tracks.

This death (that I conveniently forgot) was key in this week’s episode of Riverdale, which was an hour-long, not-so-subtle homage to the noir genre.

With Hiram in the hospital and Claudius dead, the children scramble to put together the pieces of the puzzle. Everyone but Archie, that is, who spends most of his screen time starting fights and getting drunk.

Veronica, on the other hand, gets straight to work trying to find out who shot her father. She goes to Jughead to pay him for his help, and he willingly agrees. His first stop is Hermione, who is rather open about the affair that Hiram was having with another woman, which was why Veronica heard her parents arguing one day.

Jughead heads out with Betty to locate the blond mistress. Instead, they come across the members-only Maple Club, run by Ms Penelope Blossom herself. Betty tries to interrogate Penelope about Claudius’s death, but the kids are eventually turned out.

But a quick visit to Betty’s favourite medical examiner. She learns that Clifford Blossom had a secret autopsy done on his body before it was cremated. The examiner tells Betty that he died of poisoning, not too different a fate from his own brother. When Betty confronts Penelope again, this time armed with hard evidence, Penelope admits to murdering all the horrible men in her life.

She explains to Betty that Claudius was poisoning Sweetwater River with the run off from producing Fizzle Rocks. With the water tainted, the women of Riverdale had begun to experience seizures as a side effect (Mystery #1 solved). When she lays out her reasoning, Betty starts to understand the woman more. And even more – Betty doesn’t turn Penelope (“The Scarlet Dahlia”) in.

Mystery #2 solved.

Jughead eventually corners the Hiram’s lady (played by actor Mark Consuelos’s real-life wife Kelly Ripa). He confronts her with the information he had about river, siting that the environmental impact work had been forged – by her, a health and safety inspector. By not denying anything, she confirms his suspicion: she was paid by Hiram to keep things quiet.

After, Jughead receives a call from Sweetpea, who had been tailing Hermione. Together the two follow her to a cabin where the see her together with none other than the dead sheriff himself: Minetta. While eavesdropping, the Serpent boys learn that Hermione gave FP the sheriff job for one reason – to frame him.

When Jughead goes to warn his father, FP admits that he was paid by Hermione to shoot Hiram. But conveniently Jughead has Tall Boy’s dead body to get rid of. The Jones men work together with Alice to pretend that Tall Boy had been killed in a confrontation with police after shooting Hiram.

Mystery #3 is also in the books.

And that leaves only Archie left. After a pep talk from Josie, Archie decides to pay his nemesis a visit the hospital…while bringing a gun. But after his revenge monologue, an actual black hooded hitman waltzes in. And before he can shoot Hiram, Archie gets the man in the arm.

Veronica is more than please, and thus willing to forgive Archie to a point. While Archie makes his peace with Hiram, Veronica sneaks off to burn her parents’ very-expensive stockpile of Fizzle Rocks before it can be sold to a new dealer.

While many of the shows mysteries are solved in this episode, many of the characters are left unsatisfied. Left in a place of limbo. And so is the show. While it keeps its constant style-changing ways, it really feels like Riverdale is trying to wind back down to something smaller. Poor Archie is being given the absolute scraps from the writing room. Someone please figure out what to do with his poor boy.

Wicked Wednesday: Tales from the Crypt “Death of Some Salesman” (1993)

This month has been absolutely nonstop. So keeping up with writing has been a true struggle. Thankfully, though, it’s possible to squeeze lots of disturbing, hilarious horror into a thirty minute episode of Tales from The Crypt

Like most Tales from the Crypt episodes, the character at the heart of this episode is truly unlikable – and is in no way redeeming. That makes travelling cemetery plot salesman Judd Campbell an easy guy to dislike. He’s so smarmy and gross (played excellently by Ed Begley Jr), that you can’t help but root for his demise. I mean, one of his early lines is, “I said I loved you, and you dropped your little panties. It’s called salesmanship”

Gross.

So Judd spends his time roaming the countryside, preying on the bereaved via the obits in the newspaper. He cons an elderly woman (Yvonne De Carlo) out of everything that remains of her money after her husband’s funeral.

After pocketing the cash, Judd goes to a second farm where he meets the less-than-gorgeous Ma and Pa Brackett (both played by Tim Curry). Both are seemingly smitten with travelling salesmen. Despite arriving at the wrong address, Judd is invited into the Brackett family to sell them plots in a (probably fake but most likely shitty) cemetery. The couple seem very willing (and rich), but they need to see the land first.

Judd somehow manages to convince them to pay upfront, so Pa goes into the basement with Ma for their money. When left alone, Judd soon discovers the body parts of other men – other salesmen.

After being knocked out, Judd wakes up handcuffed and on the Brackett’s couch. Ma and Pa disagree on how to best deal with their latest victim, but ultimately leave the decision of Judd’s fate in the hands of their daughter, Winona (also played by Curry).

When Judd awakens, he finally gets to meet Winona. She’s…not super cute. Certainly not to the “standards” that Judd holds himself to with women. But he tries to win over Winona and ultimately win his freedom.

Winona takes Judd to her bedroom where she arouses him. They then have sex (which Judd claims to be the most incredible he’s ever had). When Winona suggests marriage, Judd seems pretty smitten, but he’s completely won over when he hears the word “dowry”. A dowry that just happens to be buried in the Brackett’s basement.

Judd and Winona ask Pa (a priest, apparently) to marry them. The wedding goes forward, but when it comes to the vows, Pa refuses to take Judd’s handcuffs off him.

After an argument between Pa and Winona, Pa seemingly dies when his neck is snapped. Winona makes into the basement for her dowry, soon followed by Judd with a gun. With a hole in the floor of the basement, Judd assumes that the dowry is near. He shoots Winona and hops in the hole, only to find a cemetery plot certificate with his name on it.

“Death of Some Saleman” is a pretty comic episode. The sex scene is…a bit too much for me (it oddly verges on rape but…who am I to judge?). Curry is, as always, a maverick. While you can only tell that it’s the same actor by similar facial features, the make-up and Curry’s acting makes each character to different and vibrant.

It’s funny. It’s quotable. And it’s one hell of a way to spend 30 minutes if you haven’t the time for Motel Hell.

Riverdale ep. 3.10 “Chapter Forty-Five: The Stranger”

Archie is finally back in Riverdale, and he has a lot of brooding to do, kids.

After (somehow) surviving his bear attack, despite being apparently dead, Archie goes back to his father’s house like a prodigal son. But Archie isn’t the same as he was before: he has dark hair, an even darker soul, and he now prefers root beer floats over milkshakes. Sounds like me after puberty.

But with Archie back, Riverdale takes a moment to breathe and reassess the insanity that has been building. For one episode, we have finally returned to the high school realness (you know, as much as Riverdale represents anything real, I guess).

And it could very-well come off as boring, but “The Stranger” actually ends up being interesting, if a bit confusing.

At Pop’s, after Archie’s giant, root beer-related confession, Betty learns that her debit card has been denied. When she returns home, she learns that Alice has drained all of her accounts to donate to the Farm, including Betty’s college fund.

And it all feel very thematic, as the kids’ SATs draws nearer. Archie, having missed most of his academic year, is advised by Principal Weatherbee to retake his junior year. And somehow, the only thing about this that Archie finds upsetting is not graduating with his friends.

So Archie begins cramming for the exam with Betty and Jughead. I don’t know how to tell these gets that you’re able to retake them, but I only just realised I never took the SATs, so what do I know anyway? Archie’s “dimness” is reworked in this episode to suggest that Archie isn’t stupid, but has a learning disability. But if this was the case, surely he would have received some help at some point? Or was Ms Gruny the only tutor in town?

But Veronica is apparently not on the “let’s get Archie to succeed” train. Instead, she throws him a Welcome Back party, which he promptly leaves when he’s reminded of Hiram.

Speaking of, with the Sisters’ of Quiet Mercy convent now open, Hiram begins to plans to buy the building, and he needs Claudius Blossom’s help. And by help, I mean forcing his wife to select Claudius as Riverdale’s new sheriff.

Jughead and his Serpents get to meet Claudius face-to-face when they try and set up Hiram. With Fangs undercover in the Gargoyle gang, they’re able to infiltrate a meeting and discover the identity of the Gargoyle King: Tall Boy.

Yes, that Tall Boy who was definitely dead and definitely was the Black Hood (the non-serial killer one). With Tall Boy’s reluctant help, they get a meeting with Hiram, but Claudius meets them instead, leading Claudius to be thrown in jail…?

While Jughead spends time with that Black Hood, Betty spends time with the real one – her father, Hal. After learning about her bank accounts, her lawyer, Sierra tells her that her father had also signed the papers. But Betty quickly notices that the signature was forged. The only way to get her money back is to have her father sign an affidavit.

She goes to see her father in prison, and old Hal tries out his best Hannibal impression. Its almost laughable how much Riverdale lifts from Silence of the Lambs, it sort of crosses the line of homage. But anyway, little Clarice Betty asks for her father’s help. Hal agrees, but only if she brings him the Gryphons & Gargoyles manual.

When she eventually gets him the manual, he claims that he was there at ascension night. And that he is the original Gargoyle King. Betty soon susses out that he’s lying. He gathered all of his details from sleeping with Penelope Blossom, who was posing as Alice.

But while this is seemingly the darkest part of a fairly “normal” episode, Riverdale lets it all spiral at the end.

Hiram is shot in a rather similar fashion to Fred. Only this time, we don’t even get a hint of the shooter’s identity. No shadow. Nothing. Now, both Fred and FP threatened him earlier in the episode. And both seem to have a good motive.

FP reveals that he is the new sheriff in town, and it’s pretty clear that it was a deal between him and Hermione. What that means, who knows. Hopefully that the two have been in cahoots all this time. I like Hermione too much for her to be a boring pawn like she’s been coming off for the last two seasons.

But Hiram isn’t the only one with someone out to get him. Claudius is found dead in his cell soon after Hiram gets out of his surgery. Is it someone’s greater plan? Hermione’s?

There’s certainly a lot of deceit going on in this little town. Veronica misses an opportunity to be open with Archie about being with Reggie. And ultimately, there’s no trust between the two anymore anyway. But with her dad in the hospital, girl seems certain it’s Archie (apparently Hiram was shot around the same time Archie fled the SATs).

Dark Archie isn’t my favourite Archie. Sweet, guitar-playing one is. Can we have that one back? Or is it as Archie thinks? There’s no going back. He certainly didn’t shoot Hiram. Boy would kill him, not do the job half-assed.

It was pretty good to see some scenes with Fred in them again. Seeing Luke Perry is always calming and lovely. More Fred, please!