Wicked Wednesday: The Seed (2021)

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death, and taxes, and tequila making everything messy. Throw in a weird alien baby thing into the tequila mix and you’re really in for a rough time.

The Seed is a modern-day body horror movie with a dash of social commentary, cool alien practical effects and about 200 instances of the word “photoshoot”.

A group of childhood friends get together at a house in the desert for a weekend of partying. On their first night, they watch a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower. During the show, something crashes into the book.

The girls fish the thing out. They aren’t sure what it is, but Charlotte (she hates social media!) sees that it has a face and assumes it is a dead animal.

The next morning, the girls’ phones continue to not work. They also realise that their ‘dead’ animal has crawled away. They follow its slime trail and see that it shed its shell.

The next hour is spent deciding what to do about the ‘animal’. Social media influencer Deirdre wants it dead. Charlotte wants to keep it alive. Heather is there to be a wet blanket with nice hair.

But when Charlotte and Heather go off to find help at a neighbour’s cabin, something happens to Deirdre to change her mind. If you know the title of the film, it’s certainly going to give the last third of the film away. If you’ve seen the trailer, you already know the entire film.

Horror-comedy must be one of the most difficult genres to pull off. I don’t think it’s entirely successful here, as it definitely loses steam about 30 minutes in. (I may have shouted “THERE’S MORE” when I saw I was only a third of the way through…) The ending does pick up, but it feels tonally very different. That’s fine, of course, but neither is really leaned into enough. Give me very gross humour!

There were a lot of jokes set up, and was pretty disappointed in the punchline. Also – huge missed opportunity not to have something being livestreamed at the end!

The character development wasn’t very strong, unfortunately. Deirdre as the strong-willed, vapid influencer was probably the best, if heavily based on stereotypes. Lucy Martin reminded me of a young Elaine Hendrix. I never fully got why Charlotte was so off-the-grid (she just…is?). And Heather is apparently a spiritual guru, but that is thrown away after a couple of lines.

Just imagine if this movie would have been written or directed by a woman instead?

I learned that the cast and director were all British and Irish, which I think explains a lot of really awkward things about the script and acting. Perhaps that’s something I’m particularly attuned to, but I don’t think the Brits are half as good as they think they are at understanding Americans. (Also, set the film in Britain? We need more good British horror films being made, please!)

There are plenty of reasons to watch this. The main reason being some of the practical effects, which are very much in the same vein as Brian Yuzan’s superb Society. Though if that one grossed you out, The Seed is very tame in comparison! But really, we love body horror. There’s always room for more!

Wicked Wednesday: The Amusement Park (1973/2019)

God bless the people who work in film preservation. Gone to us for several decades was George A. Romero’s educational film The Amusement Park. The film was commissioned by the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania. After seeing the disturbing film Romero produced, they shelved the project, seemingly lost and forgotten to the world forever.

It wasn’t until four decades later that a copy resurfaced. A print was used in a retrospective of Romero’s work in 2017. The film was restored, and released on Shudder this week. And wow… talk about a masterpiece – a work well deserving of seeing the sun again.

The film opens with an introduction from the film’s main actor, Lincoln Maazel (Martin), who explains the films purpose: to educate people about the abuse of elders and ageism. The people involved are volunteers, or the elderly themselves – all wanting to participate and spread the message.

A bloodied and abused gentleman (Maazel) finds himself in a white room when he is greeted by a pristine, white-suited version of himself. The gentleman tries to warn himself about the dangers of the outside, but the happier version of himself heads through a door and into the amusement park.

At the amusement park – it is sequence of horror and doom. Everywhere our gentleman looks, people are willing to either ignore or take advantage of the elderly. Their treasures are taken in exchange for pennies and tickets. They’re subjected to tighter rules by impatient carnies.

On one of the rides, a man dies and is (presumably) dropped into a wooden box without fanfare. An elderly woman is blamed for a bumper car crash that she didn’t cause. Our gentleman sees all of these injustices – but when he tires to help or speak up, nothing seems to help. He himself is seen as a “degenerate” and someone to avoid or not believe.

There’s an unsettling scene where a young couple visit a fortune teller to see their future. What appears in the crystal ball is an interview with a landlord who has elderly tenets kept in some abysmal conditions, blaming the tenets for the issues. The woman tries to call the doctor to see her husband, but he refuses. A future that the couple could only avoid by helping to improve situations for the elderly before they become old themselves.

Parades and chaos follows the gentleman’s visit to the fortune teller, but suddenly he finds himself in the abandoned park. He sees the grim reaper pass by, just before a gang of bikers appear to harass, beat and rob him. The gang drives away, but as the park fills again, the gentleman is left on the ground without help.

The gentleman continues to see the harassment of the elderly while being subjected to it himself. It finally comes to ahead when he is literally chased away from a show by a crowd. He ends up at a sanctuary, only to find it closed. Sanctuary, it seems, is nowhere to be found at an amusement park. A park only made for the young.

The Amusement Park is claustrophobic, heart breaking and disturbing. A movie that makes sure to remind you of its point by punching you in the gut at literally every turn. Relief? There is no relief to be found here.

I found this film to be a horrifying parallel to the pandemic. We’ve all seen situations where people heartlessly disregarded the elderly and at risk by living their lives carelessly and our governments disastrously mishandle the situation in care homes. This educational film might be nearly 50 years old, but it’s just as relevant – if not more – than when it was produced.

I’m not really sure why the Lutheran Society decided to hire Romero, who had already released Night of the Living Dead nearly five years earlier. It seems an odd fit. But a brilliant fit, to be sure. What set his work apart in the genre, was his ability to seamlessly add social commentary to his work. He wore his politics on his sleeve. It’s interesting to see him flex his muscles in a piece where the social commentary is meant to be so front and centre.

Romero was the first director I fell in love with. But growing up, most most of his non-zombie movies were difficult to find (particularly fifteen years ago in rural Wisconsin). Heather Wixton’s wonderful interview with his widow, Suzanne Desrocher-Romero (who launched the George A. Romero Foundation), in Daily Dead gives some insight into the creator’s later years – when he felt completely unwanted. A man whose work always meant so much to me, increasingly as his work becomes more accessible, is heartbreaking.

But it does remind you that everything in The Amusement Park, while done up in funfair fashion, rings true. We forget our elders, just wanting to push them aside. But they will always have something to offer. After all, “One day, YOU will be old.”

Wicked Wednesday: Let’s talk about (good) things

After last week’s fiasco, I really wasn’t in the mood to pick out something new for this blog. The last thing I’d want to do is be stuck in a similar situation where I was just moaning and complaining. It’s not cute.

But you know what, I watch loads of great things every week. And in the last month or so, I’ve seen some really great things both horror and non-horror.

Some are new. Some are old. Some are repeat viewings while others I can’t watch to watch again.

HOST (Shudder)

This is the horror movie everyone is talking about right now. Host is one of those movies that when you hear the premise, you can’t help but be wary. When a group of friends get together on Zoom call for a lockdown seance, things begin to go very wrong.

Thankfully, the wariness is completely unwarranted. This is a delightful hour-long found footage movie that packs in the scares with some really great SFX. For those of us on Zoom all day every day, this is sure to keep us up at night.

Opera (Amazon Prime)

I wrote last week that watching Opera felt like such a palate cleanser. While sifting through seemingly endless slasher movies, it’s great to watch a sleek and stylish giallo.

There’s so much tension in Opera that it’s almost painful. Twist after twist keeps you on your toes, as any great Argento film does. Between this rewatch and the passing of the incredible John Saxon, I feel like a rewatch of Argento’s filmography is due.

The Faculty (Amazon Prime)

Is The Faculty a good movie? I don’t know, but it sure as hell is a fun one.

Like many of its contemporaries, this movie is a wonderful bit of 90s cheese. While many films of the era tended to be slasher movies following in the footsteps of ScreamThe Faculty veers slightly by taking a science fiction approach.

The premise is wild: a group of kids in Ohio discover that aliens are taking over their town and must stop them before its too late. If that doesn’t sell it to you, why are you even here?

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

The original Unsolved Mysteries is one of my favourite shows. For one, I love Robert Stack. He and the theme song did all the work setting the mood for that show.

So when I heard that Netflix was releasing a reboot of the series produced by the folks behind Strange Things I was 100% in.

Unlike the original, each episode of the Netflix series follows only one mystery. Some a certainly more worthy than an hour than others. “Mystery on the Rooftop” and “House of Terror” are two highlights for me. That being said, each mystery is certainly intriguing.

Though without a host, Unsolved Mysteries kind of feels like just any other run-of-the-mill true crime show. Still worth watching, but doesn’t quite hold a candle to the original.

Cursed Films (Shudder)

First of all, I want to say that I’m not necessarily recommending the entire series. Honestly, I found it a bit of a mess. It probably would have worked better as one long-form piece. The final episode on The Twilight Zone Movie is incredibly difficult to watch. There are no warnings on the episode, but there certainly should because it’s very distressing.

That being said, watch the episode on The Crow. It’s the most touching and insightful of the series, possibly because it’s the most focused. I loved hearing stories about Brandon Lee from actor Michael Berryman and makeup artist Lance Anderson. Their personal insights were both thoughtful and heartfelt.

The Changeling (Amazon)

So The Changeling is one of the classics that has been on my to-watch list for ages. One of the supposed essentials that always alluded me.

This ghost story was pretty good. Only, I watched this when I was mentally exhausted. For some reason, that mental state meant I was questioning the ghost’s motivations the entire time. I’m not entirely sure that’s what I should have taken away from this movie, but here we are.

It’s clear why this movie is a classic of the genre. It has great atmosphere – possibly the most important piece for a ghost movie. I loved the way this movie looked and sounded. I’m looking forward to rewatching it one day after I’ve had a very long nap.

Grey Gardens (overpriced Criterion Blu-Ray in a Zavvi sale)

This is the odd man out, but I really want to talk about this documentary.

Grey Gardens has been a film I’ve been trying to track down for ages. I finally had to cave and buy myself a Blu-Ray when I spotted it on sale. And man, it was worth the £18.

This 1975 documentary is an absolute classic. Following the lives of “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” (whose real names are both Edith Beale), we get a glimpse into the world of these former socialites. They’re eccentric. They’re a bit gross. They’re the most interesting pair of women that I would love to meet one day.

While this isn’t horror, I really recommend watching this piece of cinema history if you haven’t yet. It’s so worth the watch.

Wicked Wednesday: Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018)

My parents were visiting Britain these past couple weeks. The last of which they stayed with me in my tiny London flat. I love my parents, but it can be difficult to find things that all of us can enjoy. Throw my husband into the mix, and it’s even more complicated.

Usually any decision making is left to me. I’m very bad at making decisions. But it must be the Halloween spirit in the air because everyone actually encouraged me to pick out horror movies.

Both of my parents are a bit…prudish (conservative?), so it’s always a tricky affair. But when I saw Hell House LLC calling to me, I thought it was time for a rewatch. It scared me enough the first time around, surely it would creep everyone else out a tiny bit.

And it was interesting seeing this movie again with sets of fresh eyes in the room. I picked up on many of the same thing as the first time: it’s a subtle build up with a slightly-confusing pay-off in the end. My family, on the other hand, got to enjoy it for the first time. My mom had to physically leave the room and didn’t come back until the ending.

So inspired by the rewatch, I decided it was time to tackle the sequel: Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel. This 2018 movie has been on my to-watch list for a long time, but had purposefully avoided it due to the mostly-negative reviews of it.

The Abaddon Hotel picks up a few years after the original events of the film. Since the release of the documentary, the interest in the Abaddon Hotel grew. But of course, with all the idiots heading into the house for dares – none came back out alive.

Enter straight-laced “investigative journalist” Jessica Fox. For some reason, despite the number of people who have disappeared, she’s determined to get into the hotel and explore things for herself.

The others dragged into her horrible plan are her fellow staff members Molly and David, and original Hell House documentary maker Mitchell (not actually in the first movie). Mitchell was a part of Diane’s team. Diane had disappeared after her interview with “Sara”, and Mitchell is rather determined to solve the mystery. Also along with them is a medium and his camera man. But don’t even bother with them, they die right away.

Much of the movie switches between several different medias: the shaky footage of Jessica’s pals inside the hotel, an TV interview of three guests included Mitchell and an idiotic politician, and the different footage of all the missing boys.

It’s rather distracting, actually. As it’s difficult to understand why we care about any of these people. The initial scenes are about a man named Jackson who went missing after breaking into the hotel. We get to see an interview with his mother that’s actually very compelling. But…it just ends there. It doesn’t matter. And that sort of sucks.

The movie’s decision not to focus on one singular story makes for a very incoherent plot. It’s as shaky as most of the camera work. Glancing back at my notes, I stopped writing after the first 15 minutes or so after realising nothing I was watching actually mattered.

Unlike the original Hell House, much of its sequel has us watching people running around scared. Do you want people running around a haunted house? Great. Then you get it for at least 50% of this movie. The climax of Hell House LLC was great because it spend most of its time building up, and the pay off was (mostly) great because of it. Say what you will about the ending.

In The Abaddon Hotel, we’re immediately shown not-so-subtle images of the cloaked figures. It’s the same scared as the first movie, but they happen straight off the bat. I can see where the idea was to terrify right away, but mostly comes across as lazy and…boring.

Hell House LLC II fails to comply with the idea that less is more. We learn too much about Hell House, which makes it less scary in many ways. If there was a need to fill in the gaps, I think a prequel would have been more interesting. The creation of “the story” is better than over-explaining something in retrospect. Seeing the answers to the first movie was, well, rather disappointing (namely: the walls).

We also learn too much about Alex, the founder of Hell House. Where his story line went was just stupid. It actually takes away from what made the first movie good. Alex apparently signed some deal with Andrew Tully, the hotel owner and cult leader who had hung himself decades earlier. I liked Alex as a character in the first movie because he was just a no-nonsense asshole. Giving him a paranormal element took away from the realism of the first movie.

There’s something that many found-footage sequels have in common: they forget to make likeable characters the second time around. We like certain found footage movies because of the believable cast. Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield. You remember the people and they look like us, thus making the world feel rounder as a whole. Alex was totally ruined for me. The new batch of characters were not interesting. So when they died, it felt more like a shrug.

In this sequel, the acting is…bad. Pretty damn bad. Straight off the bat, the first scene with Molly and Jessica is wooden and cringe-y. It immediately takes you out of a “this is real” mindset and immediately reminds you that this is all fake. And in the world of found footage, that’s a pretty big crime to commit.

As they say, “lightning never strikes the same place twice.” And that, unfortunately, is very true for Hell House. There are many familiar scares here, but they just don’t work the second time around.

Wicked Wednesday: Slaughter High (1986)


I’ve been waiting to watch Slaughter High for ages (holding out to buy the Arrow DVD release), but I was giddy and gleeful when I saw that the film was a new release on Shudder. But to say the least, I’m pretty chuffed that I didn’t buy the DVD – once on streaming is plenty.

Slaughter High is essentially The Toxic Avenger but a lot less clever. Marty is the school nerd (or if you will, Marvin at the Tromaville Heath Club). As an easy prey, Marty falls victim to a group of fellow students’ April Fools’ Day prank. Carol (played by a not teen-aged Caroline Munro) is Marty’s dream girl. She easily lures him into the girls’ locker room where she coaxes him to undress in promise of having sex.

As Marty undresses in one of the stalls, Carol lets in her group of friends, who stand at the ready with a well-made prank for poor Marty to fall victim to. After the curtain is pulled pack, Marty is face-to-face with a camera. But the kids are caught by their coach and given detention. Angry at being caught being, well, total assholes, they plot their revenge against Marty.

While most of the students are working out, two of them find Marty and give him a joint laced with something not-so-usual. They chuckle and head off to the gym. Meanwhile, Marty smokes the joint while he’s alone in the chemistry lab (smart). He places a bottle of acid onto the top of a precariously-built shelf and runs to the toilets to vomit. Asshole captain Skip hears Marty sick and goes to the lab to rig Marty’s experiment.

After Marty returns, the solution catches fire – and do does Marty. The students hear the explosion and all they can do is watch while Marty suffers severe burns that disfigure him.

Some unannounced years in the future, Carol wakes up from a nightmare of that April Fools’. Now a successful-ish actress, she plans to join her old gang from school at a reunion. Skip is now a pretty successful… whatever, driving a constantly breaking-down Volkswagen and waiting for his friends to help him out of his problems.

At the school, the group is reunited but don’t seem rather aware that no one else has showed up and that their school as since long been abandoned. Despite a couple of the women having the great idea to leave, they all run into the school when a storm begins.

Though they still aren’t too freaked out, even when they find an entire room done up for a reunion: only their pictures are hung up, only their’s and Marty’s lockers are there. Not suspicious? Fine. Just get high instead.

During the celebrations, they’re discovered by the caretaker, who is the first of the victims knocked off by someone in a jester mask like the one wore during the prank against Marty. Things quickly unravel from there. The first reunion-goer dies by toxic chemical beer (that doesn’t go through cans!) – then the next one completely melts in a bath.

And for some reason no one leaves. Someone eventually sneaks out via a window on one of the upper stories. I mean, someone even arrives later through an open door. Did they check every door? Do they think all eight or however many there were to begin with was not enough to distract one killer?

Alas, they are mostly sitting ducks while they get picked off. Though Joe tells them that he remembers seeing a tractor. Somehow this tractor is their ticket out of there. But Joe gets grated to death by the tractor’s blade while his wife has sex with his best friend upstairs (but don’t worry, they get electrocuted in the bed).

Finally, the remaining three are Skip, Carol and Nancy. Nancy isn’t special, and she knows it. She blames them for what happens to Marty, and says that’s the only reason why their friends were murdered. Though she certainly passes a lot of the blame – apparently Nancy had to have been mute or something or she was suffering from a backbone injury.

But suddenly, Skip gets the idea that Marty will stop his rampage at noon. Apparently this “April Fools’ ends at noon” saying is an actual thing, though it left me baffled until I looked it up online. But yeah. Okay. Another leap of faith here.

After Skip comes to his revelation, he tells the women that they need to stay awake until noon. They all immediately fall asleep. Skip gets up in the morning looking for trouble and is immediately grabbed and hung (though with the worst rig ever – as he eventually falls to safety).

When Nancy and Carol wake up, they look around for Skip and realise that all of their friends’ bodies have been cleaned away. Nancy begins to get jittery. She gets even worse when the two find a room that is playing back the tape of their prank. They find Marty’s year book and Nancy realises that her picture is crossed off like the rest of the victims.

Instead of keeping calm, Nancy runs off and falls into a cesspit. She can’t manage to pull herself out, and is kicked back in by the Jester. Though don’t worry, there’s a completely visible ledge there that I’m sure she’ll notice.

All alone, Carol begins to be hunted by the killer. While hiding in the backstage area, she accidentally axes Skip in the face. Sorry Skip. But despite it being after noon, Marty doesn’t give up. Carol eventually runs and hides inside the girls’ locker room because Carol really likes everything to come full circle before she dies. Marty impales her with a javeline.

But the ending. Please.

Marty begins seeing visions of his victims, who now are extras in a “Thriller” music video. Then he wakes up – covered in bandages and in a mental hospital. When one of the doctors goes to check on Marty, the nurse turns around and reveals MARTY! He stabs the doctor in the eye and says he will get his revenge. And… that’s it?

Nothing like a dream-within-a-dream cop-out. It’s so confusing and unnecessary, that it becomes rather head-scratching.

So Slaughter High didn’t really live up to my hopes, but it was certainly different and in many ways quiet fun. I enjoyed there being an older cast in comparison to the typical demographic of slashers. It’s filled with quirks that were plenty of fun to watch (or listen to – those awful American accents!).

The jester mask was an excellent tough. It made for wonderful silhouettes. But please, why didn’t we explain why the fuck a student even had one of these? Is this an April Fools’ thing? Why has a 1986 slasher left me with SO many questions?

Boy. January has made me cynical.