Wicked Wednesday: Black Christmas (2006)

Every year I put off watching this. I have no idea what possessed me to watch it this year, but it was 100% an absolute mistake.

Remakes are tricky. They have a bad reputation at this moment in time when the market is saturated with them, but there are many remakes that are incredibly successful. Anything from The Thing and yes even the 2013 Evil Dead are great movies, even sometimes (in the case of The Thing) vastly improving on the original.

Making a successful remake, though, is hard. It needs to stand on its own two feet without being too dissimilar where it only exists to rip off a name, and it needs to be original in its own right.

The 2006 Black Christmas is a cynical money-grab that can kiss my Christmas ass. Even with Bob Clark’s name attached and Andrea Martin’s role as the house mother couldn’t save this sinking ship.

This remake is pretty standard fair when it comes to the plot. If you have seen the original, imagine that but stripped down to its bare bones. The film attempts to add some originality by adding a back story for Billy.

Unfortunately, this is the film’s biggest faux pas. One of the original’s strengths is that we really have no idea what “Billy” wants or why he’s doing what he’s doing. It’s the feeding of small facts throughout the film that makes it unknown feel large and terrifying.

Like many remakes, Black Christmas is trying to create a story about characters that we just don’t care about. Actually, you had me caring about Billy and his father until the father gets killed. The story just gets daft from there – and not even in a fun House on Sorority Row way.

There was a fairly decent cast here, that could have made something convincing if given the right material. Mary Elizabeth Winstead in particular has proved time and time again she has the chops for horror, but she’s entirely forgettable (though I really don’t blame her). But by focusing so much on Billy and his story, it takes away from the time that could be invested in making us care about the Sorority sisters. It’s pretty difficult to care about any of them. They most exist to just be bodies (but I guess this is a slasher after all).

Ultimately, I am incredibly biased. The 1974 Black Christmas is not only my favourite Christmas horror movie, but it’s one of my favourite movies ever. It preys upon all my fears and has some incredibly real horrible moments.

This remake attempts to capture those same moments, but it always falls short. The visuals of Billy’s eyes watching the girls is so terrifying in the original and here it just feels…perverted. I guess both are meant to be that way, but one is much more effective than the other.

Added ‘twists’ are pretty obvious and, again, just not that impressive.

So “in summary”: Black Christmas 2006 is overly-long. It’s tired and cliched. And it’s very, very, very boring. Skip this and just rewatch the original. Not that you probably needed any convincing otherwise.

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Riverdale ep. 3.6 “Chapter Forty-One: Manhunter”

The core four of Riverdale are supposed to be smart (ok, maybe not you, Archie). Many of the adults around them are clever. So this week’s episode apparently wants us to believe that they’re all really stupid.

Archie is continuing his life on the run. Still in Dilton’s bunker, the boy becomes restless. He coerces Kevin into helping him investigate the supposed witness living at the mines.

Veronica warns him away, believe that she can discover something in his case files that will be useful. Keep in mind that a super-sleuth Betty (who helped solve one murder and catch a serial killer) and professional lawyers studied the case ALL SUMMER.

Conveniently, Veronica discovers a blatant case of footage doctoring. Sheriff Minetta’s cup is full one second, then skips to it being empty. It’s not even subtle, kids. But Veronica finds the key to Archie’s innocence in one afternoon that a group of trained adults couldn’t find in three months.

Regardless, Archie goes with Kevin to the mines. They see Minetta there, which raises their suspicions. When they find the bodies in the mine (which, by the way, is loaded with G&G markings), they’re, well, bodies. All but one that is, and they decide to take the survivor to the hospital despite the risk that Archie could be caught.

Only Archie isn’t caught. Veronica breaks into her mother’s mayoral office and finds the unedited footage on the computer. All conveniently under the password of her birthday. She manages to send off the email with the real footage before being arrested.

Meanwhile, Betty and Jughead continue their quest to find the Gargoyle King. Jughead reveals to Betty that he followed the GK to a clearing where many masked gargoyle-types sat around a fire like a giant worshiping gang.

Betty returns home in the morning and learns about the prison warden’s death. When she questions Alice about it, Alice claims to know nothing about the man. But a quick look at the Riverdale High year books prove otherwise; he was the RROTC instructor when the Midnight Club were at school.

Betty then gets the silly idea to trick all the parents together for a chat. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t lead anywhere. But Penelope blames Dilton Doiley’s dad of poisoning the chalices years before. Though, if I recall, neither her nor Mr Doiley claimed to be the game master the night Principal Featherhead dead.

It’s pretty convenient to blame the dead guy, so all the parents leave. But nothing is quite as it seems, of course. When Betty examines the autopsy report, she discovers that Dilton’s father didn’t die of suicide, but was most likely poisoned.

She uncovers that many of the adults (namely former-sheriff Keller and Alice) helped with the murder’s cover-up.

Jughead meanwhile tracks down Joaquin, who is looking a bit worse for wear. Joaquin is pretty tight-lipped, just filling in the information that the warden was playing with a pack of cards given to him. And that the warden had to kill Archie, as the game told him to. But Joaquin does lead him to one very unsurprising suspect: Hiram.

Hiram claims to know nothing, of course. But he does do a very good job in getting dragged into every horrible thing that has ever happened in that city.

Joaquin doesn’t last very long after Jughead’s interrogation. He’s found in the Serpents’ camp with blue lips and the Gargoyle King’s mark on him.

Despite the fact that Archie’s name is cleared (all of camera). It’s pretty convenient. It’s also all happens pretty damn fast. Veronica begins to prepare for Archie’s welcome back party when she gets a call from him. He ends their relationship. He claims that with Hiram around, he and anyone who loves him will be a target. Which, when you think about it, makes Hiram pretty pathetic. Doesn’t he have any better schemes than taking down a 16-year-old?

Archie and Jughead head off into the sunset together. It’s likely to hinder Jughead’s investigation into the King, but in fairness, FP did handcuff him to a fridge.

Speaking of FP, the man looks might suspicious these days. When Betty and Alice are alone one night, the power goes out. They discover that the Gargoyle King is in their living room. They rush upstairs to hide, and discover that the remains of Dilton’s father is laid out on a bed with his tombstone.

FP conveniently climbs through the window at that moment. Alice tells him that the Gargoyle King is downstairs. But instead of charging to find him, he simple hugs Alice. Which is a very FP thing to do.

The following morning, Alice tells Betty that she’s decided to go to the Farm to be safe. Betty is thus dragged off to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Each season the Riverdale writers give us another reason to hate these ladies.

While Betty being locked up should seem like a bad thing, she discovers that those around her are worshiping the Gargoyle King.

Josie has a seizure at school, and I’m pretty certain at this point all arrows should be pointing at the Farm. They have to have a link to all this G&G stuff or what’s the point? Alice has pretty close ties to both the Sisters (whom she stayed with and sent her eldest daughter to) and the Farm.

Perhaps this love affair of FP and Alice’s is the root of all the evil. That would be pretty fun. But also I think poor Betty has suffered enough in the horrible-parents realm.

Too much of this episode seemed too rushed. Plotlines that could have been better fleshed-out were so conveniently wrapped up that it feels like the writers think we’re all idiots. And if that’s not the case, they should probably stop writing their characters and plotlines as such.

Wicked Wednesday: Bad Ben (2016)

I have a good friend who loves to dig through the depths of Amazon Prime’s horror movie selection. Over drinks, he enjoys telling me of the strangest ones he’s seen or even the ones with the oddest-sound scenarios. Does he enjoy any of these movies? Probably not. Does he ever listen to my recommendations for good films that he will enjoy? Never.

But easily the most intriguing film series he told me about is Bad Ben. Now this is a movie that you tell your friends about.

Bad Ben follows Tom Riley (literally the only actor in the movie) after he purchases a house from a sheriff’s sale. He has put all his life savings into the house so that he can flip it and sell it at a profit.

When he arrives at the house, he discovers that a lot of valuable furniture has been left behind. What he also notices is that several security cameras have been set up throughout the house. He beings to play with the system and eventually learns how to work it.

Thus Tom’s story begins to unfold in both his camera footage and the security cameras.

As with many of these found footage movies, poor Tom begins to mess with things he shouldn’t. He throws away the religious items. Desecrates a grave.

So Tom messes with things, and things begin to mess with Tom. It starts with the furniture moving. Then it’s noises in the basement and attic plus a horrible smell.

With a bit of sleuthing, Tom finds out that the previous owners were murdered in the home. It’s from there that he begins to unravel the truth behind the grave in his backyard and what sinister things are really happening in the house.

Bad Ben was solely acted, filmed and directed by Nigel Bach. If you’re not into Nigel’s character Tom, chances are you probably won’t care about this movie at all. But I quite liked Tom. He isn’t likable, per se, but like all of my favourite found footage films, he felt like a real person. And if the people feel real, the eeriness of the haunting will feel real too.

Sure, you are ultimately watching a guy who dresses like my dad walking around his house doing things my dad would like to do (ie mowing the lawn). And you have to suspend belief a little bit. I mean he talks aloud to himself all the time. But this movie is still really watchable.

I love the story behind this film. I love that it was Nigel doing this all on his own (with some help, I’m sure). It’s basically what we’ve all wanted to do: make our own damn movie. It’s pretty easy to feel cynical about big budget films. A lot of the times they really feel soulless. It felt really good to watch something that had a creator that was obviously passionate about what he was doing – and was clearly enjoying the hell out of it.

Bad Ben is weird. Bad Ben is wonderful. And it has absolutely won my heart.

Wicked Wednesday: Home Sweet Home (1981)

Last year, I had the, er, pleasure of watching Blood Freak for a Thanksgiving-tinted horror movie. It was a bizarre tale in what happens when you take too many drugs (or rather are drug tested on).

That movie was absolutely nuts but kind of fun. So this year I thought I’d test my luck again with the Thanksgiving Day-set Home Sweet Home. Weirdly, this is also about a drug-fuelled maniac but there are no feathers or genetic mutations involved.

Kill Jay Jones is an escaped mental patient who killed his parents. There’s nothing else that you’ll learn about him, and this is apparently not very relevant any way. He hits an old lady with his stolen station wagon and heads on out to a ranch in the isolated countryside.

The ranch is owned by record company owner Harold. He, his girlfriend and his children live together there with a tenant, Scott. For Thanksgiving, Harold brings the family and friends around for a meal.

But things soon go wrong with the power is shut off, and the group discover that there is NO WINE. So the group split off: Harold’s girlfriend Linda and her friend go for wine, Harold goes for more gas for the generator.

Of course ol’ Jay gets to this lot first and kills them. But first not without long, meandering scenes like the women getting lost, then pulled over by police. Or Harold siphoning gas from Jay’s stolen station wagon.

The rest of the guests are also picked off one-by-one in relatively unimaginative ways. Plus by the time they all sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, the night is so dark I can’t make anything out.

One of the more interesting characters is “Mistake” – Harold’s Kiss Army son (who looks rather like Monkey from The Adicts). He carries around a guitar and portable amp just so he can harass people. In a rather strange scene, one woman, Maria, is taken by Jay by knifepoint. Mistake follows, pleading for her to be kept safe. The dumbass doesn’t take the guitar off, though. Which, I don’t know, if in a life-or-death situation I’d say fuck the guitar and use it as a weapon to wield against the GIANT ESCAPED MURDERER.

But he gets electrocuted later so I guess it’s fine?

Anyway, the last third of the film is really rather boring. The whole thing is boring, but this third is relatively more boring. Scott and his girlfriend, along with a little girl named Angel, hole up inside the house. Scott walks around the house a bit and sits back down to hug the girls. Then he gets back up and walks around again to sit back down.

This is truly some incredible and suspenseful stuff here.

But really, the movie suffers too much from being so dark. Thankfully the final scene is during the morning hours. That way I can actually see what’s happening. Not that’s really worth it. You could probably guess the ending with your eyes closed anyway.

It must be pretty difficult to make a Thanksgiving horror movie. The best ‘movie’ to capture the ambiance is probably Eli Roth’s fake trailer for Thanksgiving in Grindhouse. That at least has scenes with turkey in it. I’m not sure if this one did. Mostly because I couldn’t make anything out on the screen.

So to call this a ‘Thanksgiving horror movie’ is probably being really loose with the term. It’s just set on Thanksgiving. And they cook…sometimes. But there’s really no mood or atmosphere and it’s just terrible boring…

Which, actually, was a lot like the Thanksgivings from my childhood. So I stand corrected.

Riverdale Ep. 3.5 “Chapter Forty: The Great Escape”

I never thought anyone would try and combine a Steve McQueen film with Dungeons & Dragons, but I guess if anyone is going to give it a go, it’s Riverdale.

Last time we saw Archie, he was plotting his break out of juvie. Of course, being the fool he is, he decides to try and make a run for it during the day.  Unsurprisingly, he gets caught and branded by the warden. Thus sets off the catalyst for the episode’s events.

After her father alerts her of the attempted break-out, Veronica begins to orchestrate plans to break Archie out herself. She enlists “That Guy Who Owns A Casino Remember Him From Last Season?” to help her out, he agrees and smuggles her into one of the fights.

She meets with Archie in the lockerooms afterwards, and he tells her of his idea: there’s a drain in the bottom of the pool where the fights are held. And believes, despite his large shoulders, that he can slip through there and escape.

But Veronica can’t do it alone (even with that one-dude’s help), so she goes to Betty.

Betty has been doing her own work, of course. But she’s trying to get to the bottom of the G&G business. She’s convinced that one of the parents had something to do with Principal Featherhead’s death. She sends Kevin, Josie and Reggie off to casually interrogate their parents. That, unsurprisingly, ends up at a dead end.

Jughead, on the other hand, believes that the death was caused by the Games Master, whoever that was. Even more, the more he plays the game, the more certain that G&G exists only in Riverdale (thankfully Betty here acknowledges how weird this is, but it’s Riverdale so there are no rules). The game appears to be a reflection on the city itself. That gives me Blossom/Cooper flashbacks… Anyway, He continues on his own campaign, not joining in on helping break out Archie.

I want to be Team Betty on this one. Mostly because I want the killer to be Hiram. That way he can get thrown in jail, and that meandering (aka dying) plotline about him taking over Riverdale can just die.

But it appears that Jughead might actually be right on this one.

During Archie’s “last meal”, the warden tells Archie that he doesn’t answer to Hiram, but rather his “soul belongs to no mere mortal”. He also gives Archie a very big hint: the guys who testified against him could be hiding out near the mines.

Before the fight, Joaquin stabs Archie in the locker room, saying he was promised ascension. The boy escapes juvie, leaving Archie alone to fight (surprise) the original Big Dog.

Veronica and Reggie arrive as guests, and Josie works the room as a waitress. As the fight begins, they throw smoke cannisters (disguised as sodas) into the pool, giving Archie is way of escape. But with his injury, he needs a little help and gets it from Big Dog, who fights off the guards.

The friends manage to get Archie out safely, thanks to a trick pulled off by Kevin and Betty. Veronica and the others smuggle Archie into Dilton’s bunker, where he’s to stay…forever? Not sure the kids really figured this one out.

But the notice something strange – the brand on Archie’s torso. It’s in the shape of one of those unusual G&G symbols. And that, kids, puts the nail in the coffin.

But with the news getting out about the underground fight club, Hermione goes into damage control mode. She goes to see the prison warden, but she won’t get a chance to talk to him.

The warden failed in his quest to kill the Red Paladin. And so, he drinks from the chalice and kills himself with cyanide poisoning.

It’s pretty rare that the Riverdale subplots combine so closely. I mean, I didn’t exactly see that plot twist coming. To be fair, the first three episodes of season three really try and drive home that the warden is in Hiram’s pocket.

This will be the first time that the kids are all on the same page. Figuring out what to do about Archie will only help them figure out what is the truth behind the Gargoyle King.

I know that Riverdale has been feeding us supernatural vibes with the G&G plot, but I think the most unbelievable thing about this show has been the prison story. Thankfully that’s (mostly) wrapped up. Let’s just get to that mountain! Or mine. Whatever. I just need there to be an excuse for this show to make an Edvard Grieg reference.

Wicked Wednesday: Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare (2010)

My quest for mindlessness movies seems to be continuing into this week. That’s not to say that cartoons are always mindless, but Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare really is.

The gang go to Camp Little Moose when Fred insists that they all be counselors there. When they arrive at his old camp, they discover that the children are all gone after the appearance of “The Woodsman”, a tall man with an axe (go figure).

But the gang decide to stay with head counselor Burt and the three children that arrive by bus that night. Fred tries to make the most of it by sending the kids to Big Moose Lake, a superior body of water on the other side of a dam.

While enjoying the water, Scooby discovers an underwater town. But before he can explore he’s attacked by the Fishman, another character based off a campfire story at Camp Little Moose.

After being chased by the Fishman, the local ranger suggests that the gang pack up and close the camp. They don’t, otherwise it would be a rather short mystery.

One of the counselors from the camp at Big Moose Lake, Jessica, decides to help out Fred and the others from Camp Little Moose. She tells them that strange things have been happening at her camp too. Gear has gone missing, including an RV and sonar equipment. The group decides to split up: one to explore where the missing RV went and the other to the scuba dive in the lake.

The scuba group explore the water and are attacked by the Fishman. They all manage to escape, and one of the campers finds dynamite inside an underwater cave.

The other group head into a canyon, where the discover the RV has been disguised to blend in with the canyon walls. Inside the RV, Velma finds a sonar map of the bottom of the lake. But before they can head home, they are chased by a Specter, yet another campfire story.

After the excitement of the day, one of the campers, nerdy Deacon, leaves camp to supposedly go home. The rest of the gang go to a nearby museum on local history to learn more about the map they saw.

At the museum, they learn that the underwater buildings make up what once was Moose Creek. The town was home to a notorious gangster, who supposedly buried his loot in the town. The dam was built and the town was eventually flooded (’cause that’s a thing), leaving the loot at the bottom of the lake somewhere.

They’re also told that the gangster told his cellmate where the loot was hidden. A note Velma reads from the museum tells them how to find it: something about a summer solstice and the light on a steeple.

They head back to the camp and find that it’s trashed. Though there isn’t too much time to feel bad about it. The dam is blown up, causing the lower ground, Camp Little Moose, to be flooded. The gang and the campers manage to escape, then proceed to explore the now-revealed Moose Creek.

It’s revealed that Deacon (!?) is actually Babyface Boretti, the former cellamate of the gangster. How in the fucking world no one noticed that a GROWN MAN was not a child is beyond me. I guess it’s one of those Clark Kent sort of deals.

Anyway, they discover the treasure. Rebuild the camp to combine both camps. Hooray. And Christ did it feel like it took a long time to get to this inevitable conclusion.

I mean, Scooby-Doo movies have never been watertight with its plots, but this one really takes a few leaps of logic. The culprit is actually pretty stupid – I still don’t really understand how it’s remotely plausible (and yes, I have reminded myself that this is a children’s cartoon).

Ultimately, though, the story is just not compelling enough to make up an 80 minute-long movie. It gets pretty repetitive and boring. This is all pretty standard fair. Definitely not one of the best.

Riverdale Ep. 3.4 “Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club”

Riverdale is the ultimate teen show when it comes to taking risks with style. There was the (obligatory) musical episode, and I’m still not over last season’s anthology-style episode, “Chapter Twenty: Tales from the Darkside”.

So choosing to do a flashback episode isn’t that surprising, really. Each of the parents in Riverdale seem to have been cast solely based on how hot they were as teenagers. I’m looking at you, Luke Perry.

At the end of the last episode, every student at Riverdale High received their own copy of the Gryphons & Gargoyles manual. Since the game is pretty suicide-friendly, Mayor Hermione Lodge cracks down and bans the game from being played. But as everyone knows, banning something just makes it all that more enticing.

Betty gets a file from her mortician friend about a similar death to Dilton’s from back in the 90s – both corpses had blue lips. Knowing that her mother has admitted to playing the game before, Betty confronts Alice. But Alice surprises her daughter by agreeing to tell her everything she knows.

Back in the 90s (which is essentially the 80s here for Riverdale‘s sake), Alice was her Serpent-jacket wearing self. Not the crazy journalist we all love or even the bohemian version she is now. In fact, she begins her story at the moment she discovers she’s pregnant with FP’s child.

When Penelope Blossom gets on Alice’s case about it, the girls being fighting. They both get Saturday detention, along with Hermione and Sierra who were trying to break up the fight. FP and Fred also get detention for streaking.

Their principal (Anthony Michael Hall) gives them their writing assignment and leaves them to it for the day. The group somehow manage to get themselves another detention when a fight breaks out again.

Over the span of their detentions, the kids become reluctant friends. It’s not until they discover a box of Gryphons & Gargoyles in their teacher’s drawer of confiscated items that they really begin to bond.

Their obsession with the game grows. They begin to sneak into school to play, eventually taking the game “off board” to play in real life. Like 90s larping, I guess. And with that, they form the Midnight Club (which I really hope is a reference to the Midnight Society and the Breakfast Club).

They gang bump into another group of G&G-ers (including little Sheriff Keller, Reggie’s dad, Hiram and Dilton’s father), and they all decide to play together.

One day, they each receive an invitation for a “ascension party”. The whole group assembles to play. Before they start, they partake in a little recreational drug use in the form of something called Fizzle Rocks (jingle jangles predecessor, I assume). Alice, being pregnant, only pretends to take the drug.

While the rest of the group gets rowdy, Alice’s head begins to spin. She throws up in the bathroom and discovers the chalices when she leaves her stall. But she doesn’t flip the coin to discover her fate. She instead heads back into the hall, where she comes face-to-face with the Gargoyle King.

Strangely, this only kind of weirds Alice out. She turns around, but nearly bumps into Principal Featherhead. She hides from him, knowing he’s looking for the kids. After she sees him leave, she duck out and goes home for the night.

The following day, Alice learns that Principal Featherhead didn’t arrive at school that day. She also learns that Fred’s father died alone when Fred was out larping on drugs.

Featherhead’s body is eventually found in the school, decomposed days after his disappearance. His lips are blue.

Alice begs the other Midnight Club members to go to the police about what they know. But they instead decide to destroy the evidence that they had anything to do with the game. And that is seemingly that.

In the present day, Betty doesn’t get much more out of her mother. Alice does tell her that that night changed who they all were, their guilt making them the adults that we see today.

Betty continues her investigation, spurred by Alice’s story. She discovers the chalices in the trophy cupboard. But when she goes to find Jughead in Dilton’s bunker, she finds him with several other Serpents, getting prepared to play G&G.

Somehow, this must have been a really long story, Jughead is already obsessed with the game, bragging about his ascension. Cole Sprouse does a fantastic job of playing crazy. I guess this is a welcome return to nerdy Jughead?

It was certainly an interesting episode. Having the actors of the children play the young version of their parents was interesting. It blurred the lines of the characters a bit, allowing for the adult’s slightly-off behaviour to feel more real. You can buy a relaxed Fred Andrews when KJ Apa is playing him.

We also got some insight to why these adults are they way they are. Penelope Blossom had one of the more interesting arcs. During the first detention, she admits that she’s not a real Blossom. She was adopted so she could basically be groomed to be Cliff’s future wife. The death of Featherhead basically pushes her into allowing herself to be their pawn. Riverdale has made me feel sorry for a character that definitely doesn’t deserve sympathy on most days.

Notably absent was a young Mary Andrews, which feels like a missed opportunity. We know that she was bullied by the other girls in school. Plus hello, Molly Ringwald. I can only guess it’s because the writers wanted us to feel weird about the parents’ relationships as adults (I really don’t know if I would feel normal making out with my mom’s first boyfriend’s son – but that’s just me).

Riverdale really pulled this one off. A gamble that wasn’t just indulgent, but actually added something to the story. It certainly made me care about the characters more, which is really all you can ask in season 3.

Real question. If there’s a Gargoyle King in this Gryphons & Gargoyles – is there an opposite Gryphons? Is this what’s on the coin? That’s what I get for assuming everything has been played with a quarter.