Wicked Wednesday: Mr Jones (2013)

Found footage films are pretty “Marmite”. Some people love them, others hate them. For me, I think the bigger question while watching found footage movies is why? Very few stories are enhanced this way. Do certain stories need to be found footage? Can the story be better told in a more traditional way?

In most cases, the found footage style is a waste. A ploy to get asses in seats.

Mr Jones is one of the more tough ones to figure out. For one, it falls into the category of “these people are way too attractive to be actual humans”. Think of all the reasons why Blair Witch failed and Blair Witch Project succeeded: are your actors believable? One of the best examples of this is Bad Ben (you’ve watched it already, haven’t you?). But I always find it difficult to enjoy a found footage movie when everyone in the movie looks way too good too be all together in the same setting.

The premise is on the lofty side too. A young couple decide to go out into the wilderness to stay in a cabin for a few months. It’s their sort of “reconnecting” opportunity as their relationship has been going through a rough patch.

Husband Scott is a documentary maker, trying to get work done out in the wild. But he quickly realises that he has no point in mind for his new film, and it doesn’t help matters when he quits taking his medication.

When his wife, Penny, finds out about his self-treatment, she becomes upset. The couple continue to be on the rocks until one night. A group of birds attack the house. And the following day, Scott’s backpack (containing the car keys) is stolen by a hooded figure.

He and Penny eventually track down the figure and find a home filled with strange scarecrow-type figures straight out of the Blair Witch’s house. But while Scott becomes paranoid, Penny becomes absolutely jubilant. When they return to their cabin, she informs Scott that the man they followed is “Mr. Jones” – a Banksy-esque artist whose work is worth millions as the artists himself stays anonymous.

The couple quickly decide to make money off their find and focus Scott’s documentary on Mr. Jones. Scott goes to New York where he begins collecting interviews with various art collectors, experts and the people who have received pieces from Mr. Jones unsolicited. The collectors love Mr. Jones. The experts love exploring the artist’s use of protective charms as his motifs. And the people who’ve received the art? Well, they’re haunted by a nightmare.

Penny, meanwhile, stays in the country where she bumps into Mr. Jones. She notices that the ‘artist’ wears a creepy burlap sack mask. But the man seems harmless.

When Scott returns, the couple decide to step up their game and break into Mr. Jones’s house again. Scott leaves Penny outside to keep watch as he goes through a hatch. He finds an endless maze-like tunnel. He eventually comes across a room, set up in a shrine-style manner filled with the scarecrows.

Scott sees one of the figures, a baby, and steals it from its spot. Meanwhile, Penny comes across Mr. Jones again. When Scott finds her, she doesn’t seem to remember what happened to them.

What follows is a seemingly endless second half of the movie. A little like that tunnel system ol’ Jones has. The couple see doplegangers, dream-like nightmares and other pointless stuff!

It’s a movie that started off with a fairly great idea and plummeted into the world of We Didn’t Finish the Script.

In many way Mr Jones struggled. And it wasn’t just the ending (and the ending was loooooong).

While the use of the high-end cameras was neatly explained away, it just felt silly. The viewer isn’t stupid and can see right through the flimsy premise. There really was no need for the dual perspective cameras, which much of the ‘footage’ relies on. And there was really no need to be filming themselves. Scott wanted to make a nature documentary, why was he filming arguments with his wife? I mean, who edited this footage anyway? Penny?

I also found it distracting that the characters didn’t really stay in character. Scott goes off his medication, but it’s quickly forgotten after the first few minutes. If it was alluded to again, it was way too subtle. And if you were to ask me to characterise Penny, I couldn’t. One minute she’s adventurous, the next she’s boo-hooing because she’s walking in the dark.

Mr Jones will probably hit the right chord with a certain type of person. But unfortunately, I was not one of them. It’s really a found-footage movie that needed to do a lot more soul searching.

Wicked Wednesday: To All a Goodnight (1980)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That leaves Nancy and Alex to search the school unnoticed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wicked Wednesday: A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

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

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

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

The Virgin Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Changeling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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?

Christmas Horror movie recommendations for the festive season


Christmas is the season of the classic film. No other celebration creates more movies than the holiday season. And really, you can see why, celebrating Christmas one of the new things that most people can agree on (unless you’re Kate Beringer).

Which is also why, I think, filmmakers love destroying Christmas with horror movies. There are so many Christmas-themed horror movies, it even out-numbers Friday the 13th sequels. While Christmas great and all, it’s even better with axes, demons and monsters.

But not all Christmas horror movies are created equal. Here are my personal favourites. I even stretched what it means to be a Christmas movie, because I can:

1. Black Christmas (1974)

Boy, I go on about this movie a lot, but I really do love it. The death scenes can be a bit gruesome, but they’re effective. The suspense is so well-built, it could be the foundation for a shopping mall.

A group of sorority sisters are terrorised during the Christmas season by an unseen man. The body count goes up, and so do the thrills. Olivia Hussey is absolutely perfect as the lead.

Black Christmas one of the finest examples of Canadian films and really gives Bob Clark’s other Christmas movie a run for its money (maybe). And this classic slasher one movie that I go back to every year, whether or not it’s Christmas. But watching it in the days up to the holiday is even better.

2. Gremlins (1984)

Yes. This is kind of cheating. While Black Christmas is one of my favourite horror films, Gremlins is probably my favourite film ever. Gremlins is definitely a children’s film in many ways, but Joe Dante’s horror influences are undeniable.

And if you’ve somehow managed to never see this movie, it’s about a Billy (Zach Galligan) who receives a creature known as a mogwai as a Christmas present from his father. The creature is sweet and loving, but comes with three rules: no bright lights, don’t ever get it wet, and never ever feed it after midnight.

Gizmo, the world’s greatest puppet, “gives birth” to several mogwai with bad attitudes. When they trick Billy into breaking the final rule, they turn into Gremlins, who wreck havoc on the small town.

Gremlins is an absolute classic in every sense. I see it every single year at The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, and it never fails to entertain. Plus is totally scared the shit out of me as a kid, which is a bonus if you’re a truly terrible parent.

3. The Night of the Comet (1984)

Is this a Christmas movie? Well… it takes place during Christmas so it counts. Anyway, it’s my list.

Two sisters survive the passing of a comet that wipes out a majority of the planet’s population when they stand outside to watch the comet pass. They then have to fend of the other zombie-like survivors who are out to eat them. Even worse, the military needs their blood to survive and these valley girls aren’t willing to give up without a fight.

Night of the Comet is the perfect 80’s film. It’s witty, completely absurd, and filled to the brim with excellent characters. I recently re-watched this on the Arrow Video blu-ray release and it was great to be reminded how good this film really is. It’s the perfect cult classic you can rope others into watching because CHRISTMAS!

4. Elves (1989)

Pagan rituals! Nazis! Sinister plots!

Elves is weird. I would be lying if I even pretended to full grasp what the hell this film is. It’s a part of the “so bad it’s good” genre. The plot is just utterly baffling, but I suppose that’s why I rather like it.

A girl is the centre of a Nazi plot to create a race of supermen. Some how this involves elves. Then the girl and her pals get trapped in a department store with said elf.

Sounds totally bonkers? It is, if you didn’t get the message earlier. But it’s rather fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

“I had a rough day at work. Santa got murdered.”

5. Christmas Evil (1980)

The classic “Santa goes nuts” plot. But Christmas Evil is so weird, so wacky that you can’t help but feel a bit of affection for it. Plus John Waters loves it, so you can only guess what type of film this is.

But if you’re interested in knowing more, you can just wait until Wednesday for a more in-depth Wicked Wednesday.  This film is a much better option to Silent Night, Deadly Night, which on the surface is fairly similar (kid sees Santa do something “naughty” as a young boy, boy grows up to be psycho obsessed with Santa). Though that film is the worst option you’d have for a Christmas horror movie. In fact…

6. Silent Night (2012)

I know, I know. Horror remakes are never better than the original, but this is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly what I would catagorise as a good. But Silent Night is still a helluva lot better than the original film it was based on. And I’m constantly told that Silent Night, Deadly Night is worth it. It’s not. It’s really, really not. Though some of the sequels have some truly classic scenes.

Back in the Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday days I wrote about Silent NightI slightly enjoyed it then, and I still tolerate it now.

7. Home for the Holidays (1972)

A made-for-TV film that has everything you could want, really: loads of over-the-top thunder, Sally Field, and a slightly-obvious murder mystery. This was another Wicked Wednesday choice, and I  still rate it as the best made-for-TV film I’ve watched yet. Sure, it gets melodramatic but isn’t that what made-for-TV should be?

And a bunch of people getting killed off during Christmas is always exciting. And the whodunnit is rather entertaining as well.

So what’s your favourite Christmas film? Any horror picks I missed out on?

Wicked Wednesday: Home for the Holidays (1972)


It’s Christmas in July! Or that’s at least the inspiration for this week’s pick after getting through a week-long heatwave in London. I never understood what Christmas in July really meant, but its certainly a cause to watch Christmas-themed horror movies in the middle of the summer.

Nothing says “happy holidays” like a good murder-mystery at Christmas. I find too many Christmas-themed horror movies focus way too much on the whole “messed-up Santa” bit. After watching a number of them, I’ve had enough (especially since none of them were appealing in the first place). But this week’s movie is a little bit different. Home for the Holidays is a made-for-TV movie from 1972 starring a pretty impressive cast: a young Sally Field early in her career, Eleanor Parker, Jessica Walter and Walter Brennan.

The Morgan family are a family that the town loves to talk about. The mother of the family committed suicide five years earlier, and three of the daughters have since never returned to the home. But the eldest, Alex (Parker), has called them back, claiming a “family crisis”.

When the three sisters arrive at the airport, they find out exactly what that crisis is: their father is dying. But Alex reveals that he thinks he is slowly being poisoned to death by his new wife, Elizabeth. Most people believe that Elizabeth poisoned her ex-husband. Though this rumour didn’t do enough to sway Mr Morgan away from her.

The four daughters go to their father to speak to him. The unloving family are reunited with some character introductions: Christine (Field) is the eternal-youth who is in grad school, Freddie (Walter) is an alcoholic (of course) and Joanna (Jill Haworth) has gone through more husbands than pairs of pants. They’re all hesitant to talk as Elizabeth could be eavesdropping. But Christine spots her outside, walking away in a yellow raincoat.

After insulting each of them, their father asks them to kill off Elizabeth for them. A group of worse options couldn’t have been picked.

Before dinner, Freddie and Christine talk about the death of their mother. Freddie is convinced that their mother didn’t commit suicide, but instead was killed by their father. She gets drunk instead of going to dinner, but her screams interrupt the meal as she continues to become super-drunk.

Joanna decides she’s had enough and begins to pack her bags. She bids good-bye to her sisters and heads off to her car. She steps out after she realises that her keys are missing. She’s immediately stabbed by a figure in a yellow raincoat.

The next day, the friendly doctor Ted visits Christine. He’s hesitant to be visiting the house as he isn’t welcome. He tells Christine that the roads are washed out from all the rain. Christine checks the phones and the line is dead.

She then finds Freddie’s body, which has been posed to look as though she died of an overdose, when in fact she was pulled under and drown in the bathtub by someone wearing rubber gloves. Elizabeth is framed as she admits to giving Freddie a drink of milk and honey when she heard her crying the night before.

In a fit of desperation. Christine heads out to the woods to seek help as no help can go to the house. But she’s stalked on her way to the neighbour’s by someone in a yellow raincoat with a pitchfork. Poor Christine has had one hell of day, but when she discovers Joanna’s corpse in the mud. She freaks out when Elizabeth approaches her, wearing the yellow raincoat. Elizabeth tells Christine that her father is dead.

Christine runs back into the rain, screaming for help. When Alex pulls her car over to pick up her sister, she admits to her little sister that she was the one to be killing off her family. Alex tells her that she became tired of her family always needing her. “Now you’ll never need me again.” And Alex proceeds to knock Chris down a hill, seemingly killing her.

Alex finds Ted and tells him that Elizabeth killed the entire family. Ted sends Alex to get the sheriff and to show the sheriff the letter that their father has written, saying he believed Elizabeth was poisoning him.

When Alex arrives back to the house in the morning, the sun is shining and the storm is finally over. And Elizabeth is waiting for her. Ted tells Alex that he found Chris’s body and returned it to the house. When she approaches Chris’s “corpse,” Chris opens her eyes. Alex begins to scream and is immediately pulled away by the police.

Home for the Holidays is extremely melodramatic. It’s filled with over-the-top piano music and contains an excessive amount of thunder and lightening. But I’m slowing warming to these fantastic 70’s made-for-TV-movies. They’re slightly ridiculous, but the quality of acting is always superb. Something about this movie just really hit the spot this week. I’m certainly glad I watched it.

Horror Block October 2015 unboxed


This is the Halloween block for Horror Block, but it sort of ended up “meh”. Though I suppose I really shouldn’t be holding high standards for a subscription box, should I? Spoiler alert: the first thing I noticed about this box is that there is no Rue Morgue issue included this month. This is something I’m trying not to feel too sad about. But there is an item included that is probably the next-best thing.

1. Summoner’s mouse pad

I think the only mouse pads my husband and I have in our flat is whatever we get for free from somewhere or (more likely) a hardback volume of the Serenity comic. As far as mouse pads go, this ouija board one is pretty cool. Nothing like zooming your mouse over the “board”, raising spirits while searching for YouTube videos.

2. Child’s Play Chucky plush doll – exclusive

There were few movies when I was a child that I could not abide by. One of the stop three has to be Child’s Play. Even today I feel an immense feeling of discomfort just thinking about that movie. So I genuinely don’t know what to do with this doll. It might just be the Halloween season, but I don’t feel comfortable leaving it in my room and I definitely  don’t want it in my house. I would try throwing it away, but do I really want to face the horror of it just being back in my room when I return? Also, I guess if you’re going to be a total bitch and a stickler this is a Bride of Chucky doll. But I really don’t care about details here because fuck these movies and this doll.

3. Friday the 13th Camp Crystal Lake t-shirt – exclusive 

Nerd Block really knocked it out with the shirts included in their boxes this month. First it was the Peltzer’s Pets Gremlins shirt, now it’s this fantastic Friday the 13th Jason shirt. This is a bit different than the usual fare, mostly because it’s brown instead of black. What are we to do with ourselves? But seriously, this is another great graphic from ShirtPunch. I’m a particular fan of the bold graphic.


4. Dario Argento’s Dracula (Dracula 3D) DVD

Ah yes. No one’s favourite Argento movie! Oh and no one’s favourite Dracula movie or even anyone’s favourite vampire movie with Rutger Hauer. Don’t get me wrong, I love all three of those things very much, but there just was something that really, really didn’t work in this 2012 film. Perhaps I’ll re-watch and review this a different day, but only if you make me. Either way, this is definitely not going to make my Halloween to-watch list.

5. “They’re Coming to Get You” Print

This is pretty cute, though I never know what to do with the prints I receive in these subscription boxes. Who hangs up art work in their houses that are this tiny? Anyway, for a print that I just described as “cute,” this picture is filled with some of horror’s most iconic undead characters like Madeleine from White Zombie and Karen from Night of the Living Dead, oh and I guess Michael Jackson from his “Thriller” music video because why the hell not? The art was done by Paul Hanley as a part of Guzu Gallery’s “Something Spooky” show.

6. Rue Morgue Magazine’s “Cryptic Collectibles: A Concise Compendium of Creepy Keepsakes”

As I mentioned before, there is no copy of Rue Morgue in this month’s block, which is kind of disappointing. But this book of movie memorabilia is pretty fun. This isn’t the first time subscribers have received a book from the Canadian magazine. This is by far the best and most interesting one included this far. Cryptic Collectibles delves into the world of collectible toys, monster cereals and even Halloween costumes.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 22: Bog


Bog. Now this is a movie that I have been looking for everywhere. Lo and behold it was on YouTube all along (how about those searching skills, eh?).

I suppose the main reason this is a little bit tricky (and I really mean only a little bit – I really am stupid) is the odd dates surrounding the movie. Bog was originally filmed around Harshaw in northern Wisconsin in 1978, but it wasn’t until 1983 that the film finally got a release. To be fair, 1978 Wisconsin looks like 1983 Wisconsin and probably still looks like 2015 Wisconsin so it doesn’t make too much of a different when it was filmed.

This movie has lived on in legend. This is a film that has only ever received a VHS release. An official DVD copy has never happened, which I guess is why it was such a pain to find. There are bootleg copies, or so I’ve heard, but I always imagine bootleg movies are for pirates. Anyway, I was so desperate to find this movie that I was just shy of hunting down a VHS copy myself and investing in a VHS player.

So finally: Bog! It’s here! And was the worth the anticipation? Not really. But it is still worth chatting about.

Of course Bog opens much like a 70’s sitcom with the bizarre purple framing and forlorn love song. Two couples are out in the boonies of the Wisconsin woods. The women are, of course, whiny and just wanting to shop. The men are, of course, dumb and ‘Northern’. Strangely, though, it’s the women who has the best intuition of something being wrong with the bog. One of the wives (who’s name I understand is May considering how many EFFING times they shout her name) is attacked by a fish lens. But the other one (who’s name is shouted much less) is also attacked on her way to seek refuge in the station wagon.

The police find the women dead in the water, but virtually unhurt. Well, other than being dead in a bog and missing a load of blood. But the two deaths seem to put everyone into a deep think. The autopsy showed that whatever did it, probably wasn’t human. But the coroner has this cracker of a line: “Could we have a Dracula running loose out there?” Ah yes. A Dracula. While the “professionals” continue their speech, the two widowers decide to buy a couple of guns and track down the beast themselves with the help of the local Gollum crazy-fuck. The crazy brings them to his friend, Adrianna. She’s about as much help as the Dracula theory. Thankfully the crazy gets scared off and dies. It’s an extremely brief and off-screen death, but I’m still satisfied.

That plot-line is completely inconsequential because then we get into some real action, if you know what I mean. The sheriff and the coroner are in love! People who have zero personality and even less likability. It’s the most compelling romance ever seen on screen. Sorry, Love Story. But that groovy little song from the opening credits gets to play again, which is pretty good.

Back on the, sub-plot, the widowers share the information they’ve learned from Adrianna with the happy couple. A small party head out to the bog to blow up the lake some more (which is what woke up the “thing” in the first place). While the sheriff and his deputy seem certain that they’ve done the trick, the monster attacks again. But even when the two husbands “pump it full of lead”, the monster still lives.

It’s after this that I realise that the coroner is mackin’ on the doctor – not the sheriff. But everyone looks about the same shape. The quality is pretty bad on this, so if you don’t have a mustache I don’t have a clue who you are. But I can tell that two divers have showed up to contribute to the search. This is, of course, a terrible idea because EVERYONE KEEPS DYING. What help will divers be? But there is finally a kind-of glimpse of the monster which is about as satisfying as it’s going to get in this movie, apparently. Though watching them dive through the lake is as exciting as watching ice melt – ironically where the doc thinks where monstersuit came from (because the thawing of the Ice Age didn’t start until the 70s).

Strangely enough, we see the divers getting attacked, but the film kind of “forgets” to inform us if they die or not. I suppose that three-second cut back to their boat means they died? Either way, I feel a bit sorry for the divers because I’m pretty sure no one is letting the word out that there is a MONSTER IN THE BOG. But what do I know? I don’t even know who’s dead or just so boring they decided to just drop a character’s scene.

The lovely couple (whose names I’ve learned are Brad and Ginny) examine the bits the divers found in the lake. But when they go back to the work, they find that someone stole the egg cluster. That someone being the monster, which apparently just walked through town entirely incognito, broke into a lab and just waltzed back out. Fairly impressive or I’m not certain everyone in Northern Wisconsin has to be extremely unobservant. This isn’t good so they tell the sheriff (there is actually a sheriff in the movie), and they devise a plan to trap the monster. I mean it’s about time, really.

Brad and Ginny decide to lure the monster with a “blood scent generator.” A chemical used to kill fish is combined with the chemical from a fireman’s hose, and this is enough to lure and trap the beastie alive. During all the light-drama, Adrianna runs out of her little cave and is “accidentally” shot and killed. Long live Adrianna!


Everyone’s favourite celebrity couple bring in their “favourite Ichthyologist” friend in to help them study the monster. Apparently the beast and Adrianna are somehow connected. This is supposed to be something I’m interested by, but since Adrianna and her total-lameness is an utter bore I really don’t care. While studying the beast alone, Ginny is attacked and is carried King Kong-style off by the monster to his home so she can be his new best friend.  Thankfully dating Brad has its charm and a search party is sent for the coroner when no one can reach her by phone.

And then Bog pretty much ends like you think it would, including a title card of “The End?” (remember the eggs?) which means they want to make a sequel but they never, ever will. Whatever. It ends and we get to listen to that groovy-ass theme song for the third time! If you ask me, this was really a movie about love and triumphing over adversity. That adversity being the awfulness of nature that is always trying to kill you.

Bog was made the same time frame of a bulk of Bill Rebane’s movies, but this monster movie makes Rebane look like Kubrick. To be fair, I actually think the movie could do with a DVD release. It was really difficult to watch mostly because the quality of the picture was so bad. Not that you get to see very much of the monster, but it would be nice to maybe kind of tell what it looks like for the fleeting moments it is there.

The best part of this movie, though, is the constant use of Wisconsin jargon. I personally find this very charming, but I’m assuming no one else does. But it is hilariously flat at times. There are so many classic lines to share with friends or perform at the Globe: “I got an idea. Works like a champ every time.” “Lay it on me.” “I’ll take the brown sleeping bag. you take the green one.” “We haven’t got a brown one.” Some real drama. Of which this movie really has none.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 20: The Alpha Incident


The Alpha Incident from 1978 is a Rebane film through and through. Twenty weeks ago I didn’t know the man’s name. Now he’s like my second father and I’d be able to sniff out one of his movie’s in a heartbeat. Smart hero who keeps quiet (mostly do to lack of acting ability)? Check! Random dance scene without a purpose? Yes of course! That weird sort of random chord that counts as music? As always. Unnecessarily complicated scientific background? Well, we saw it in Giant Spider Invasion. But even though I can guess the structure of every one of his movies now, I really have grown fond of this man. Even if The Alpha Incident is pretty shit.

The story begins with two scientists: one pre-dating Jeff Goldblum and the other is literally just a talking beard. I seriously never saw the man’s mouth move ones. Just the occasional beard twitch. The two are talking about their current project. A mission from Mars has returned with an organism that could kill the entire planet. They are informed that the organism is to be moved. Both think it’s a bad idea, and so do I.

For some illogical but plot-driven reason, the organism has to be transported via train to its new location outside Denver, Colorado. Boring Hero #1 and Hank the Idiot are the only two one the journey. Of course Hank digs through the cargo because he was told not to and gets contaminated. But it’s not fun when only two people die, so it’s time to spread some deadly Martian organisms! Along the way the train has its stops, but the next one will be it’s last. One of the stops is, of course, Moose Point, Wisconsin because where else in the world would a Bill Rebane film take place? Here are two employees and the local guy who has to be a jerk to everyone for no apparent reason other than to be the antagonist dick of the story.

Hank and Boring Hero #1 hop off the train and Hank instantly touches everyone and, of course, contaminates them and sentences them all to their doom. Once Boring Hero #1 figures out what happened, he tells the other four that they are quarantined until the scientists (Goldblum and Beard) figure out the cure. So there’s nothing else left to do but sit and wait. As exciting as that sounds, that is the only thing they do besides the occasional attempt to run away and have Boring Hero #1 shoot them.

As the resident sexy female Jenny says, “I’m sitting here waiting for something to happen only I don’t know what it is.” Me too, Jenny. Me too.

I have almost nothing to say about this movie. It plays out almost exactly like one would think only minus a plot and any action. But The Alpha Incident‘s real crime is saving all the action for last. There’s so much time spent waiting for something to happen that all the final action literally happens within the last ten minutes (I checked).

In a way, I could see that this might have been a sort of trying to emulate what George Romero’s work on Night of the Living Dead was: people of differing tempermants stuck together in a small space, all with different ideas of solving the problem at hand. Alpha Incident attempts to recreate the feeling of “everything goes to hell all at once” feeling, but unfortunately, this movie doesn’t do anything like what Romeo created. With all the action directly in the end, everything happens so quickly and the attempts to make suspense don’t work at all.

If anything, this film is pretty fun to watch for the last 10 minutes. Worth checking out that bit, at least. If I learned anything from the movie it’s this: never, ever spend time with your co-workers.


Archie vs Predator issue #3 review


Script: Alex de Campi
Pencils: Fernando Ruiz
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colours: Jason Millet

Cover: Gisele with Maria Victoria Robado

“More victims! More mutilations! MORE MILKSHAKES!”

Riverdale is doomed. Or it certainly seems like it will be in issue three of Dark Horse’s Archie vs Predator series.

Archie and his pals are still on the run from the elusive predator, and not too many of them left. Their plan to destroy the creature didn’t go as planned, leaving all of Riverdale’s best muscle scattered in the once-quaint streets. Issue #3 opens with Jughead rejoining the team, still dressed as the Veronica decoy. He has to deliver the bad news, which brings out some of the most Archie-esque banter of the series.

The group splits, not wanting to be around the certainly-doomed Veronica behind, leaving only the core group of characters left. Certainly they will all survive, right? Unfortunately, unlike last issue where it seemed uncertain who could survive, readers know no one will. What was shocking before felt a bit repetitive this time around. Being bored watching classic, beloved characters die probably wasn’t the goal.

The trip to the AV room goes pretty much as expected, minus one trick left up Dilton’s sleeve. But with the Predator fast approaching, someone needs to stand up as the ultimate hero of the series. Last review, Betty was the queen of taking control while Archie acted like a massive dolt. But de Campi brought the best out in him this issue, as he was finally becoming the hero he is often seen as in the original comics. This is called AvP for a reason.

The art is delightful as ever. The cover by Maria Victoria Robado and Gisele is so good. The delightful juxtaposition of an iconic Archie look with the horrific predator just about sums up the entire feel of the comic. Balancing the line between an all-out bloodfest and keeping the fun appeal of the characters has to be tough, but the creators have found a balance that has really led to a fun almost b-movie camp type of entertainment.

So far this series has been a lot of fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously because it really can’t – its so silly and sometimes brutally gruesome. It isn’t better than Afterlife with Archie, but it could never be. Thankfully it never tries to be. But there is plenty of action sure to come with next month’s issue. The fate of our heroes is not certain, but one thing is: the conclusion is sure to be one hell of a ride.

Archie vs Predator #4 is out July 15.