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.

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Are You Afraid of the Dark? S2E13 “The Tale of Old Man Corcoran”

Growing up, the popular night game of choice was Ghost in the Graveyard. Essentially, it was just a game to see how terrified we could make each other by hiding the dark.

In this week’s episode it seems that Kiki has a similar idea when she makes the Midnight Society play a game of hide-and-seek before she begins her tale.

Hide-and-seek game in Kiki’s story is a bit more frightening. According to Kiki, you’ll never who when you’ll get caught and by whom.

In “The Tale of Old Man Corcoran,” a pair of brothers move to a new suburb after living in a rough part of the town. Jack and Kenny are still adjusting to their new lives, and still have yet to make any friends.

While playing around in their front yard one day, a boy on a bicycle stops and introduces himself as Marshall. He invites the boys to join him and his friends at their game of hide-and-seek that night. Marshall’s friends keep their distance, looking like a rather unfriend gaggle of children on bikes.

While Jack is initially not interested, when Marshall insinuates that the boys are being chicken, he quickly agrees. So that night, the brothers follow Marshall’s directions to the game. When they arrive, they find that the game takes place in a foggy graveyard. Kenny becomes scared, but Jack is determined to not appear scared. He hops the fence, and Kenny follows.

When they finally find Marshall and his friends, Marshall makes the introductions. One girl, Cissy Vernon, looks particularly displeased that the boys have joined their game. To try to scare them away, she begins to tell the brothers about Old Man Corcoran. She says that he was once the groundskeeper who dug the graves by hand in the cemetery. Some people thought he was crazy. He supposedly chopped the hands off a boy who stole from him.

But Old Man Corcoran died one day after falling into one of his graves and was buried alive. But some people say he’s still walking the graveyard.

After that delightful tale, the boys are told to hide and they can begin the game. While running through the cemetery, they spot an open grave. Jack suggests that it would be the perfect place to hide, but Kenny disagrees. They suddenly hear the sound of a harmonica, and follow it into the woods where they find an old shack, which they believe to belong to Corcoran.

The brothers believe they’ve been set up for a joke, but when they see the harmonica with “Corcoran” etched in it, they flee. Just as they return to the graveyard, the game of hide-and-seek ends. But before they can move, the brothers bump into a ghostly man with an axe in his hands. Frightened, the boys flee the graveyard and go home.

The following day, Marshall and his gang arrive at Kenny and Jack’s house. When they’re called chickens again, Jack immediately agrees to another game of hide-and-seek.

That night, before the brothers arrive, Cissy argues with Marshall about the brothers joining their game. She tells him that she didn’t think there would be any new members to their group after her. But the conversation stops when Jack and Kenny arrive to join the game.

This time, it’s the boys’ turn to seek. While walking the graveyard, they hear Corcoran’s harmonica again, and Jack decides he’s going to steal the harmonica to prove to the other children that he’s not afraid.

When they arrive back at the shack, they see Corcoran chopping wood. When he walks away, Jack enters the shack while Kenny goes to find the other children.

As Jack begins searching the shack, he becomes panicked. But Kenny arrives, having found the harmonica. Jack hands Kenny his flashlight to hold, but someone else kindly takes it. When the boys notice neither of them is holding onto the flashlight, they discover that they are in the same room as Old Man Corcoran.

Fleeing from the shack, they find Cissy hiding in a grave. She tells them to go away and find their own. When Kenny says he doesn’t see her name on it, she says (to herself, as the boys have run again)  that maybe they should look closer.

Kenny and Jack find Marshall and show him the harmonica, but he doesn’t believe them. But Old Man Corcoran pops up from behind the boys, demanding his harmonica back. He asks what the boys are doing in the graveyard, and they reply that they’ve been playing hide-and-seek, Corcoran asks why they’re playing alone.

The brothers start to tell Corcoran the names of the children they’re playing with, but the man stops them, saying that those are the names of dead children. The boys suddenly realise that they are laying on a grave – Marshall’s grave, which is covered in grass as he’s been dead since 1978.

Thanks to Corcoran, the children weren’t buried alive during the game, like the other children had been before them.

“The Tale of Old Man Corcoran” is easily one of the highlights of season 2. There are great scares, a great twist, and plenty of open-ended mystery to make it feel like a urban legend.

One odd inconsistency about AYAOTD is whether or not ghosts have the ability to wear contemporary fashions. A boy who died in the ’70s could possibly go by unnoticed in the ’90’s, but I think we’re pushing it. How do ghosts get new clothes? Do you have unlimited fashion options in the after life?

Hopefully these are the important questions we get answers for in seasons 3.

But that’s a wrap on season 2 of Are You Afraid of the Dark? And I’m afraid that that’s me done with recaps until the new year.

Riverdale ep. 21 recap “Chapter Twenty-one: House of the Devil”

This week’s episode of Riverdale took a break from the intense serial-killer business to remind us that this is still, at heart, very much a teen drama.

Archie and Veronica’s relationship over the course of the seasons has been heating up. Nothing like putting a fire out like saying, “I love you, Ronnie” too early. And that’s exactly what poor Archie does. Emotionally-warped Veronica freezes, and changes the subject.

So staying apart would be ideal, other than Betty and Jughead need their friends’ help more than usual this week. Jughead was able to find a clipping about the Riverdale Reaper story. He shows the article to Betty, who realises that the killing took place in the abandoned house the Black Hood ordered to her go to.

But Betty, unable to face the house again, refuses to go back. And Jughead is out of the sleuthing game too when he gets the news that FP will be released from prison due to over-crowding. That leaves the mystery-solving to Veronica and Archie this week. Or as Veronica says, “You wants us to be you guys?”

When Veronica returns home from school, her parents tell her that they’ve received a letter from the Black Hood. Dozens of other families received identical letters, but since the Lodges are actually horrible people, they have reason to worry. Hermione and Hiram reassure Veronica that they’ll be fine, as their lobby man is trained in Jujitsu or something. But they would feel even better if Archie was around more. And, you know, that sounds fantastic when you’re setting up ending things with your ginger boyfriend.

In preparation for FP’s return, Jughead amps up his “I heart being a Serpent” shtick. When Tall Boy pushes back, it’s put up to a vote whether or not the man should shut up, he loses and Jughead earns more respect from his fellow gang members.

But when FP, Jughead, Betty and Alice go to pick up FP – the Serpent leader claims that he wants to go straight and leave the gang. He tells them that he has even joined AA to quit drinking, and applies for a job at Pop’s.

Meanwhile, Archie and Veronica continue investigating the Riverdale Reaper murders. They go to speak to Sheriff Keller, telling him the files are missing. He explains that since it was a cold case, the investigator could take the files with him. The Sheriff at the time, now dead two years, was obsessed with the case. When the call his daughter, she tells them that her father had called the house The Devil’s House, which I imagine means its always warm.

FP begins his job at Pop’s. Jughead is uncomfortable with it, especially when Cheryl Blossom purposefully knocks over a milkshake and orders FP to clean it up – like he did with her brother’s blood.

Let’s not even talk about Cheryl this week. What’s her deal anyway?

Taking things into her own hands, Betty decides to throw FP a “retirement” party. Complete with all the Serpents. She goes to ask Toni for help, who agrees. While at the Wormhole, Betty tries to learn how she can be affiliated with the Serpents herself to keep an eye on Jughead. One of the older Serpent women tell Betty that she can do “the Serpent Dance,” which is some sort of sexist strip tease. And we all know Dark Betty will be super into that.

Veronica, who is doing her best to avoid all relationship chat, and Archie go to the Devil’s House together. The flashback shows the identity of the Riverdale Reaper, and proves that it’s no one in the cast. When going through the rooms one-by-one to follow the sequence of events, they discover a clue: the initials carved into the doorframe. They realise that while four people were killed that night, there were five people in the family.

The next rule of order is discovering who the surviving son’s identity. V and A learn that the boy was adopted by a family in Riverdale, and his identity changed in order to be protected. The two go through the Riverdale year books to find a match, and Ronnie does. A Joseph Svenson, the school janitor.

When they confront him, Mr Svenson says he knew the identity of the Reaper. He had crawled out of his window and watched to see the identity of the man who killed his family. Later he pointed out the man, a conman, to some men in town. The men took it upon themselves to serve justice, and killed the man themselves.

While Veronica jumps to conclusions, Archie immediately realises that Svenson isn’t a vengeful man posing as the Black Hood. Again, the green eyes don’t match.

The night of FP’s retirement party arrives, and everyone is getting a bit freaky. Alice, upon FP’s invitation, arrives dressed in full Serpent get up. Betty takes out her ponytail.

Then the painfully uncomfortable events begin to unfold.

Why, Riverdale?

Archie finally gets his moment to confront Veronica about the whole “I love you” business. She thanks him for being understanding that she’s not ready, when that’s clearly not the case. They go onstage together and sing “Mad World” together. Which is such a weird choice for karaoke.

Veronica runs off stage mid song, and Archie follows. When the Serpents begin to boo and get rowdy, Betty hops on stage and begins to sing instead. Cute!

Then she begins to strip and do the Serpent Dance. Not cute. I mean, your mom and your boyfriend’s dad are there. YOU ARE SIXTEEN, BETTY.

In seriously one of the most excruciating scenes in television history, Betty is ushered off stage by FP. Again. YOUR BOYFRIEND’S DAD.

Alice tries to get her daughter to leave, but Betty is convinced she’s doing the right thing. Though she soon learns she really fucking didn’t.

FP, now on stage, doesn’t choose to sing “Sweet Caroline,” but instead announces that he’s going against police orders to stay with the Serpents. Off stage, FP tells Jughead that he learnt that Penny Peabody wants a lot out of Jughead (meaning more “pancake mix” deliveries). With FP staying, Jughead is off the hook.

Frustrated, Jughead pushes Betty away. In fairness, not many boyfriend would be thrilled to see their SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD girlfriend strip in front of a biker gang. He tells her that if she gets involved, he’d no longer be able to protect her. And with that, Bughead are over yet again.

Which might be okay, as it’s curtains for Veronica and Archie as well. It had been written in the stars since last season that Archie was having a sort of “Betty sexual awakening.” And he didn’t even get to watch her little show!

I’m in some sort of feminist pickle here. On one hand, ladies have every right to express their sexuality. If you want to be a stripper, be a stripper, girl! But it feels profoundly wrong putting a teenager in that situation. Even if actress Lili Reinhart is 21. Riverdale is great when its insanity is cranked up, but this probably isn’t the right direction to push it in.

It almost didn’t matter that these two relationships ended. I mean, it would be an Archie comics based show if we didn’t have Archie swapping between his favourite two ladies, so we saw this coming anyway. But those moments shouldn’t be overshadowed. They should be important. Even when you’re just a teen, these things are really profound.

I’m going to forget about this episode now. This really wan’t a good one. I’m just going to think happy thoughts of Mädchen Amick and Skeet Ulrich’s sexual tension.

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.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? S2E12 “The Tale of the Hatching”

All of the children in the Midnight Society have their trademarks. Kristen has a flair for the dramatic (and costumes). Betty Ann loves supernatural tales. Gary loves magic.

And David? Well, David is a bit of a stick-in-the-mud.

This week, he’s miserable because he’s had to move to a different school on the other side of town. This, to him, is pretty much the end of the world as he has to make new friends (and I somehow think this is something David doesn’t excel at).

The new move is David’s inspiration for “The Tale of the Hatching.” Brother and sister Augie and Jazz are forced to go to a boarding school when their parents are off on business for six months.

Black Brook School is a bit strange. When the family first arrive, a girl begins screaming when she wakes up from a nightmare. The family rush to the room, to see if the girl is okay. A couple enter and introduce themselves as Mr and Mrs Taylor, the people who run the school. The girl’s rushed away, just as a low tone sounds from the speaker from the room.

Mr Taylor explains that the bell signals the beginning and ending of class, as well as lunch period. While in Mr Taylor’s office, Augie’s alarm on his wristwatch begins to sound. Mr Taylor grips his ears in pain until the sound stops. He explains the episode away by claiming a migraine.

When Augie and Jazz are finally left alone, they begin setting in at school. While they learn to enjoy it, they can’t help but admit it’s strange. At dinner, all the other students are obsessed with something called “Spunge” (like sponge, but “with a u”). It’s grainy, white and grosses the brother and sister out.

Mr Taylor also takes hand-held games away from kids. And Augie is warned away from listening to his walkman. The Taylors apparently believe these things get in the way of the learning process.

Then one night, things at Black Brook get really strange. Jazz wakes up to the bell sounds coming from the speakers in her dorm room. She sees the other girls from her dormitory rise and leave the room, as if in some sort of trance.

Jazz decides to follow the other girls, and bumps into Augie, who is playing along with the trance act. The two agree to go with the other students to discover what’s going on.

They follow the students into the basement, where there’s some sort of room-sized water containment system. Some students go to stand behind control booths while the others head down ladders. Augie and Jazz realise that the water is filled with large eggs, and the other students are sprinkling a powder over them.

Before the brother and sister can investigate any more, they’re interrupted by the arrival of Mr and Mrs Taylor. Augie and Jazz quickly pretend to be “feeding” the eggs, just like the other students. They overhear the Taylors saying they’re happy to see their new students adjusting, as they didn’t believe they had eaten any of their Spunge.

Jazz and Augie decide to follow the Taylors to their office to spy on them. They overhear the Taylors saying that the incubation period is nearly complete, and their master is pleased. Then the children notice Mr Taylor’s arm – it’s green, scaly, and obviously not human.

Jazz tears her brother away and she urges him to help her do something about it. But before they can enact their escape plan, Mrs Taylor catches both Jazz and Augie sneaking around.

Mr Taylor approached them and says, “You can’t leave; the excitement has just begun.” Then the super-swell adults drag Augie and Jazz into the basement where they’re locked up. The Taylors explains that they are the last of their race, but soon the eggs will hatch and they will take over the world.

But first, the children have to meet the “mother” of the meat-eating species. The giant lizard-like Mother begins to approach Augie and Jazz, ready to eat them before a busy week of tending to her new babies. But before she can get too close, Augie begins setting up his trap: a mechanism using the wall-speaker and his Walkman.

After commanding his sister to hit play, the high-frequency rock music begins to blare from the speakers. The noise causes the Mother to explode, and the children discover, the Taylors. Augie explains that he noticed that the high-frequency noise was a problem for the Taylors, and thought it could be used against them. The perks of being a nerd?

When the children are finally able to escape, they discover that the students have woken from their trances and that all the eggs had been destroyed.

Or have they?

“The Tale of the Hatching” is a fun story. It’s not overly-complex, and it has a fun pair of kids at the front. The episode values both of the kids’ strengths: brains and bravery. And who doesn’t love an evil-school tale? Sure it’s strange that there seems to be no other adults around at this school, but that’s television, right?

But the real mystery for me here is what exactly a boarding school is. Are kids seriously just dropped off when they’re parents can’t watch them for a while? I find this very strange. What sort of business are their parents in that they BOTH have to leave for six months? Perhaps Augie and Jazz have something to worry about. Perhaps THEIR parents have green skin.

Riverdale ep. 20 recap “Chapter Twenty: Tales from the Darkside”

Right. First things first: I didn’t intentionally write about Tales from the Darkside on Wednesday because of the title of this episode. I didn’t plan it, but I like it. Fate is smiling down on me today.

But let’s not focus on that. Let’s talk about The Candyman himself: Tony Freaking Todd, ladies and gentlemen!

Following the death of the Candyman (not Todd, but the English teacher), the Black Hood leaves a letter on Pop’s Chock’lit Shop door. In the letter, he asks the citizens of Riverdale to prove that they’ve changes and are pure of heart. If the don’t please him, they’ll pay. This week’s episode took on an unusual anthology style in which we follow the cast throughout those 48 hours of judgement.

The first, follows Archie and Jughead as Penny Peabody calls for Juggie to repay the favour he owes her. She tells him that his father has been beat up in prison by some angry Ghoulies, and he needs money for his medical expenses.

Penny wants Jughead to make a delivery of “pancake mix” for her. When it’s delivered, Jughead’s cut of the money will go to FP’s bills. He agrees, but has to drag Archie into the mix when Penny tells him the shipment will need a car.

Jughead tells Archie that it’s just a one-time deal, just as Penny has told him. In it together, the boys go to pick up a large crate from a shipping container. Along the way, though, Archie’s dad’s truck gets a flat and they have to decide how to get help.

A truck pulls to the side of the road in front of them, and out pops the good old harbinger of doom. The man (played by Todd) offers to take Jughead in exchange for money. Jughead hops into the truck and leaves with him.

Along the way, the man Jughead that man of the people in Riverdale think that the Black Hood is doing God’s work, as confirmed by the angry preaching coming from his radio. He then tells Jughead about another murderer, the Riverdale Reaper.

Meanwhile, poor Archie is left alone where he’s able to get a spare from the service company. But before he’s able to catch up with Jughead, he sees a bloodied deer emerge from the woods. Which is pretty strange, considering that Jughead finds a dead deer in the back of the man’s pick-up.

The man tells Jughead that he wants to eat and they sit down together. When Jughead inquires about the Riverdale Reaper, the man tells the story about family who were all murdered in their beds one night. No one is quite sure what happened to the person who did it, but the man believes that the Reaper and the Black Hood could be the same people.

What happened then is happening now.

But when they try to leave, the man tells the waitress that Jughead will be paying, despite the fact that he knows Jughead already gave him all his money. Before a fight can break out, Archie arrives to pay. He takes Jughead away and they make the delivery.

When there, they’re greeted by a woman in a wheelchair. She says that Penny said that Jughead will be the regular delivery boy, and that the Serpents have taken over the work the Ghoulies were doing.

Later, Jughead goes to visit FP, and sees that his father is perfectly fine. When Jughead confronts Penny, she tells him that FP didn’t keep a promise he made her, which means Jughead has a lot of work to do for her to make up for what his dad did.

In the second story, a rare spotlight is shown on Josie McCoy. They Mayor is angry with her daughter for staying out late. The two women have moved into the Five Seasons in order to be better protected.

But Josie is keeping a fair amount from her mother and the Pussycats. After helping save Cheryl from her would-be sexual attack, Josie is being showered in the Blossom good fortune. Cheryl managed to get Josie studio time with a producer. That is, without the Pussycats.

And she keeps receiving strange letters and the like from what Cheryl calls Josie’s secret admirer. And that, she keeps secret from her mother. Though neither really works out for Josie. The Pussycats eventually learn of Josie’s time in the studio, and they quit.

Chuck approaches Josie and asks her out. While she initially resists, she goes out with him. He tells her that he’s been taking drawing classes to draw comics (like his original comic book counterpart) and he’s been going to church. Her mother catches them out late at Pop’s and forbids Josie from seeing him.

Mayor McCoy admits that she’s been receiving death threats, and that they started to also include Josie. The next day, Josie receives one more note she believes is from Chuck: a drawing of her, and a pig’s heart in a box. Cheryl urges Josie to point the finger at Chuck, and the weak girl complies.

Despite the fact that Sheriff Keller doesn’t find any evidence against him, Chuck agrees to stay away from Josie. So all alone, Josie has no one. No one, that is, except for Cheryl – who is a remarkably good artist.

And Sheriff Keller is at the heart of the third story, starring B&V. Betty’s suspicions are immediately raised when she begins to question how exactly someone could break into the sheriff’s station to murder Mr Phillips.

Kevin explains to Veronica  that his dad has been acting strangely: sneaking out late and talking to himself. That, to Veronica spells out affair. But to Betty, it says Black Hood.

Veronica agrees to help Betty, and asks Kevin if they can have a slumber party at his house. Thanks to Betty’s urging, Veronica sneaks around the house and finds Sheriff Keller working out in the basement. Large and strong, like the Black Hood.

That next day, Veronica tells Betty that the sheriff left the house that night and didn’t return until 4 in the morning. When Betty shows V that there was another drug-related death that night, she feels convinced she’s cracked the Black Hood’s true identity.

She goes to the Keller house where she’s caught snooping through the sheriff’s things. Sheriff Keller takes Betty to the station where he speaks to her and her dad. The sheriff explains that the hood Betty found had been the one found in Archie’s locker. He also tells her that he has an alibi for every one of the murders.

But Betty is not to be moved off course so easily. She (again) convinces Veronica to agree to one of her plans and they follow Sheriff Keller when he leaves his house in the night. Only it isn’t killing the man is into.

They follow him to a sleazy hotel where they catch him making a move on Mayor McCoy. It seems that Veronica’s instincts beat out Nancy Drew’s for once. At Pop’s the girls both agree not to tell Kevin what they saw.

But while Jughead and Archie, Betty and Veronica, and Josie and Cheryl sit in their respective booths, Pop Tate receives a phone call. When the call ends, Pop informs everyone there that it was the Black Hood. They had all failed his test, and the time of reckoning will be upon them all soon.

Riverdale is pulling off something spectacular at the moment. Unhindered by setting up relationships, the show has somehow reached a new level of television excellence. Any initial hesitation I ever had about recommending the show has been long out the door.

Teen shows rarely make a blip on the radar of what most people would consider “good television”. But this show has been proving over and over again that teenagers have been well-deserving of intelligent, witty content. This week’s episode only solidified that sentiment even further.

 

Wicked Wednesday: Tales from the Darkside “Seasons of Belief” (1986)

It’s the wrong side of Thanksgiving, which means it’s officially the Christmas season. Internally, I’m screaming. I’m counting down the days until it’s Halloween again. But we all have to at least give it a shot, right?

Christmas horror is good. That’s, at least, something to be grateful for. Especially when it’s from Tales from the Darkside.

This season 3 episode is a wonderfully twisted tale called “Seasons of Belief.” On Christmas Eve, a family settle in together after dinner. The daughter, Stefa, is a bit of a brat – demanding to watch television specials. But her parents insist that the kids celebrate traditionally.

Though the parents are shocked when they learn that their two young children don’t believe in Santa Claus. The parents tell their children that if they don’t believe in Santa, their gifts will all be broken within the month. When they head into the living room, the toy train under the tree jumps the tracks and breaks.

The parents allow their children to open one present each before settling down for a quiet, relaxing time. But eventually the children get bored and beg their parents for a story – a good story.

The story from Mom and Dad, though, isn’t about Sugar Plum Fairies. Dad begins his story by telling his children that the creature in his tale is the most dangerous in the world. Instead of saying the name out loud, he writes it on a pad of paper and shows it to the kids.

On the paper is the name “The Grither,” which Stefa and her older brother Jimbo read aloud immediately. It’s only then that their father tells them not to say the creature’s name. He tells them that the Grither lives on the other side of the mountain from Santa’s workshop. But while Santa’s place is cheerful, the Grither lives alone in a cave.

The Grither believes itself to be the most important thing on earth. So every time someone says his name “in vain,” his ears grow a little larger. Dad informs the kids that since they said his name, the monster will be on his way to their home. The only way to stop the creature’s arrival is by finishing the story.

As Dad tells the story, the family begin to hear scratching sounds, and the shutters on the windows begin to bang. The parents begin to sing a made-up song about the Grither, that the monster supposedly sings about himself. But Dad stops telling the story altogether when the phone rings. Despite Stefa’s pleading, Dad leaves the room to take the call.

While on the phone, he menacingly tells the person on the line, “We’re all here.”

When Dad finally returns, he’s been on the phone for a while. He tells them that he didn’t know the person on the other end of line, but they had asked a lot of questions. Mom informs everyone that the Grither is flying to their home as they speak, via his really giant-flapping ears, apparently.

But Stefa becomes upset, so Dad finally tells the children that if they don’t believe in Santa Claus, the Grither isn’t real, either.

Then, a banging begins on the door and a man begins to sing the Grither’s song. The children become petrified, but the man reveals himself to be their Uncle Michael.

While they laugh at the joke, the front door blows open again, scattering things about the room. Jimbo finally manages to get the door close.

Before the family can collect themselves, a pair of giant arms shatter the glass on the living room windows, and the hands latch themselves over the parents’ heads. The creature snaps both the mom and dad’s neck before seemingly leaving.

Uncle Michael rushes to help the children, to which Stefa tearfully tells them: “That wasn’t Santa Claus.”

No, sweetheart it wasn’t.

“Seasons of Belief” isn’t a particularly terrifying episode of television. Much of the episode is spent telling a story that  the parents clearly believe is false anyway. Little suspense is built, but there is something wonderful about these 22 minutes.

There’s something truly twisted about a pair of parents willing to torment their children on Christmas with tales of monsters. The Grither like the Krampus, if only he was super sensitive and had vanity issues. So I guess there’s something to be said for tradition, right?