Tag Archives: Saturday is Horror Day

Saturday is Horror Day #28 – There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane

 


On July 26, 2009, New York wife and mother Diane Schuler left a campground in upstate New York, driving a minivan she’d borrowed from her brother. Inside the van were Diane’s two children and her three nieces, her brother’s kids. Four hours later, she drove the minivan the wrong way on the highway, at a high rate of speed, for almost two miles before crashing into another vehicles. Eight people died, including the three occupants of the other vehicle, Diane, her daughter and three nieces. The little girls were found in a heap, without seatbelts. The only survivor of the crash was Diane’s five-year-old son Brian.

 

In this HBO documentary, director Liz Garbus interviews witnesses and family members, as well as professional people, in an attempt to make sense of the horrific tragedy. Diane’s autopsy revealed a blood alcohol level of .19%, which is over twice the legal limit, as well as the presence of THC (the active ingredient of marijuana).  A bottle of vodka was also found in the car. Her husband Daniel insists that his wife was not an alcoholic and must have had a medical emergency, although nothing showed up in the autopsy.

 

According to people who knew her, Diane Schuler was a great woman, a super Mom. Strong and


confident. The kind of woman who would never complain if she was in pain. Video footage shows Diane entering a gas station, looking for ibuprofen, but she was told they didn’t carry it and she left. Daniel claims that she had a tooth abscess she’d never gotten resolved, it was causing her problems, and maybe caused a stroke. There is no evidence to confirm that diagnosis.

 

Daniel and his sister Jay hired an investigator (Tom Ruskin) to look into the matter. They said he took their money and didn’t get back to them with the results of a second test done on Diane’s samples. However, a phone call from Ruskin to Jay revealed that he had told them about it months prior, and that the results of the first autopsy had been confirmed.

 

Witnesses report seeing the woman driving the van the wrong way and say she seemed determined and very intent, not slowing or swerving in any way. When she hit the other vehicle, her speed was estimated at 85 mph. Diane’s brother and his wife declined to participate in the making of the documentary, believing it to be an attempt to clear Diane’s name. 

This documentary is not for the faint of heart. It was a very tragic event, and eight people lost their lives. I find it hard to believe that it was a medical emergency, or that she mistook vodka for water (they don’t even taste the same). I believe her husband is in denial because he was oblivious to the extent of his wife’s problem. Perhaps self-induced stress from the way she lived, the tasks she took upon herself. It was hinted that her mother leaving the family when Diane was 9 was a factor, but that just seems like an excuse. I think the real reason lies between Diane and Daniel, and we will probably never know the truth. If he would admit to her drinking, this could be used as a cautionary tale. But one of the things that really disturbs me is that the little girls weren’t wearing seatbelts. Maybe they could have been saved if they were. Did Diane want to commit suicide? We’ll probably never know.

Saturday is Horror Day #27 – Demon House

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Demon House

 


In 2014, TV host Zak Bagans purchased a house in Gary, Indiana sight unseen. The previous owners, the Ammons family, claimed the house was infested with demons, and that the demons had tortured and possessed them before they moved out. Immediately upon arrival at his new home, Bagans began to film a docudrama.

 

 

During the making of this documentary, Bagans claimed to have been so ill that he couldn’t leave his room for 8 days. People he spoke with were hurt and some where hospitalized. Members of his crew quit or were fired. Bagans attempted to speak with the former owners, but they refused to speak to him at their new home in Indianapolis. Her brother Kevin did agree to speak with Bagans. When asked, he admitted her reluctance to be involved in the documentary was because they’d received an offer from a film company for the rights to their story. After speaking with Bagans, the Ammons wouldn’t allow Kevin back into the house, claiming he might have picked up something from Bagans, who’d been inside the demon house at that point, and were concerned he would bring it back to them.

 

Bagans interview a social worker and a child psychologist who claimed to see the 9 year old son of the 


family walk backward up a wall and across the ceiling. Five minutes after the alleged incident, the child had no memory of what they said happened. The social worker turned the case over to someone else. A Catholic priest, Father Maginot, requested and received permission to perform an exorcism.

 

Various people who were involved in making the docudrama showed unusual behavior, up to and including becoming aggressive to one another. In the basement of the house, they discovered a small dirt area beneath the stairs – the only part of the basement like this – and Bagans believed they may have found a Satanic altar. In a final bid to settle the matter once and for all, Bagans had himself sealed into the house to spend the night.

Okay, where to start. A documentary is not meant to take sides, simply to present facts so the viewer can decide for themselves what to believe. Not sure if that was entirely true here. Non-demonic solutions were briefly touched upon, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, but not was investigated very thoroughly. At least they didn’t mention it.  And also, in case you don’t recognize the name Zak Bagans (which I didn’t), he hosts a show called Ghost Adventures, which tells me he is predisposed to believe.

 

In order to believe in demons, I think one has to believe in Satan, which I don’t. But I do believe in the power/energy that resides in all of us, which most of us don’t know how to control or draw upon. By the same token, why couldn’t there be a negative counterpart of this energy, one that people refer to as demons, for lack of a better word. 

At times, this film seems rather too staged for my liking, and perhaps that is the fault of the editing, or the voiceovers, obviously done after the fact. Besides the Ammons, other former residents as well as neighbors said they had no problems with the house.  Some people in Gary believe the whole thing is a crock, made up by the Ammons in order to cash in on the story. There is no overwhelming evidence to support the demon theory as being the true solution. Trying to paint an image of a twelve foot tall goat-headed being didn’t exactly win me over either.

For viewing pleasure alone, and not on believability, I’d give this about 2.5 Stars. The thing to keep in mind is that if you’re highly suggestible, be careful. This might make you think you heard something.

Saturday is Horror Day #26 – Krampus: The Reckoning, The Brotherhood of the Wolf

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Krampus: The Reckoning

 

Zoe (Amelia Haberman) is a troubled child caught in the foster care system. She is difficult at best, and some might even say she’s downright creepy. She wears a perpetual glower. So cynical for one of her tender years. When a fire claims the lives of her current foster parents, back into group care she goes.

 

 

Dr. Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) is a child psychologist who is assigned to Zoe’s case. She finds her rather disturbing and uncommunicative but gives her some leeway, under the circumstances. Rachel works for the police department, in the Homicide division, along with her friend, Detective Miles O’Connor (James Ray) who has a propensity for drowning his sorrows and turning up drunk on her doorstep. Although there is nothing between them, you can cut the sexual tension with a knife. Rachel has an adopted son, Lamaar, whom she loves dearly, and he’s a rather precocious young man.

 

In an effort to learn more about Zoe, Rachel plays detective to hunt down Zoe’s previous foster family. And what she learns… well, it’s not only shocking but it’s impossible. Zoe doesn’t have a lot of things, but she has a small box in which she carries her most prized possessions, including a small Krampus doll. She believes wholeheartedly in Krampus, and has no problem with summoning him, should the necessity arise. She doesn’t seem to care for other people, especially those who, in her opinion, are evil.

More people are turning up dead through fire. They’ve never seen so many crisped corpses. Something 

suspicious is going on here. What can it be?

 

This entry in the Krampus series is weak, at best, and just about as bad as the first one (which was pretty bad). The actors just aren’t very good at what they do, and they sound like just what they are – actors who learned a script (but not very well). The story is rather weak, and doesn’t even bother to explain the strange supernatural element (other than Krampus).Or how Krampus and Zoe even got together originally.

 

There are much better Krampus films out there. I recommend you find one of them and don’t bother with this one. I give this film a rather shaky 1.5 Stars.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf

At the time of the French Revolution, a nobleman who knows the peasants are coming for him,  remembers a time many years before, when he was very young, and a mysterious beast roamed the French countryside, killing hundreds of people. The Chevalier de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his native American friend Mani (Mark Dacascos) are sent to investigate, at the behest of the king, Louis XV.

On their arrival in the province of Gevaudan, they are met by some highwaymen, who think they will be easy marks. But Mani is greatly skilled, and easily puts them in their place. He catches the eye of a young woman of high spirits. But when he runs into her later, during a wolf hunt, she taunts him cruelly.

 

 

The Chevalier and Mani are introduced to the family of the Comte de Morangias.  Gregoire is instantly smitten with the daughter, Marianne (Emilie Dequenne). She has a mind of her own and great beauty. Her brother Jean-Francois (Vincent Cassel) was sorely wounded on a trip to Africa, and as a result has lost one arm. Even so, he manages rather well, and keeps a close eye on his sister, with the assistance of the family priest.

Gregoire is convinced that the beast is not a wolf, despite what the others say, and Mani agrees with him. During a visit to a local brothel, Gregoire becomes intrigued by an Italian whore, Sylvia (Monica Belucci) who he suspects isn’t all she appears to be. The Chevalier has a talent for drawing, which he utilizes on his journeys, besides his skills as a taxidermist. He sketches the courtesan, but someone with an axe to grind steals the pictures and shows them to Marianne, which of course does not sit well with her.

 

When a wolf is caught, Gregoire is ordered to make it into the beast, so the people will be satisfied and the matter will be over, and the king will be happy. He has no choice, but he knows the beast is not dead, far from it. And he will do everything in his power to get to the truth.

This was a very well executed film, beautifully filmed, and very imaginative. From the title, I assumed this was a werewolf movie, but that is pretty far from the truth. I don’t often watch French films, and listening to it in its original language was a treat. For the most part, the cast was unknown to me, but I have seen Monica Bellucci before. You may remember her from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The big surprise was with Mani, who turned out to be Mark Dacascos, who you might remember if you ever watched Iron Chef America as The Chairman. He also played Wo Fat in the recent Hawaii 5-0 tv series.

The story is very interesting and kept me guessing up until the end, until we found out about the brotherhood. Mani’s action scenes are very impressive, as are Gregoire’s. Admittedly, there are some flaws, such as the mention of steel, which didn’t exist back then. And the reference to Mani as a Mohawk, another term not in use then. Maybe some minor continuity errors. But on the whole, this was an enjoyable film. I give it a solid 4 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #25 – Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, The Lighthouse

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave

Just when you thought the zombies were a thing of the past…. Uncle Charles (Peter Coyote) is determined to make money from the cannisters of Trioxin he looted from the Army. He sells one to foreign agents, but they insist on a demonstration. To prove that this is the real deal, he injects a couple of dead bodies. Is anyone surprised when this goes horribly wrong? Little does anyone know that he has two more cannisters hidden away in his brother’s attic.

 

Charles has been raising his nephew Julian (John Keefe) since the death of their parents. Naturally Julian is devastated to be handed at note, while at school, telling him of the death of his uncle. Alone in his late parents’ house, he begins to tidy things up and comes across something weird in the attic. Looks like something was dragged, but to where? He enters a secret door only to discover two strange metal cannisters.

Julian calls his girlfriend Jenny (Jenny Mollen) and then they decide to consult with their nerd friend 

Cody (Cody Hardrict). Cody runs some tests and determines that the liquid inside the cannister has some properties very similar to ecstasy. Against Julian’s wishes, he produces large quantities of the stuff in order to make some money. Luckily for him, raves are popular, and Halloween is only a week away. Jenny’s brother, Jeremy (Cain Manoli) is throwing a huge rave. What better way to turn people on and make money? Unbeknownst to all of them, though, two Russian Interpol agents are on the case, Aldo (Claudiu Bleont) and Gino (Sorin Cocis). 

I am really glad that this is the last of this series, cause it’s really abysmal. I suspect they were going for a combination of humor and horror, but what they came up with was just cringe and suck. Some people might consider it so stupid it’s funny, but I’m not one of them. First off, these are the same characters from the last film and yet none of the kids remember the zombies, seemingly, and seem shocked at what they discover in the cannister. Also, what happened to Julian’s little brother Jake? Nowhere to be seen. 

In each film the zombies get worse and worse. But in this one, they are using the drug known as Z and producing zombies out of live people, which makes no sense. If zombies are dead people brought back to “life” – and I use the term loosely – then how can you take living people and create zombies?

The Interpol agents are ridiculous and cartoonish, but I suspect they are meant to double as comic relief. But I did some digging and I discovered that Interpol works with government agencies, but does not have its own agents. It’s purpose is intelligence, not enforcement. So that whole subplot sucks from the start. Not to mention the ridiculous shooting that goes on.

Another thing I disliked was that the filmmaker took every opportunity he could find – even if he had to create them – to show naked boobs. Like a college frat boy gone wild, as though he’s never seen them before (who knows, maybe he hasn’t).

This film isn’t funny and it isn’t scary, and I would not recommend it. I’m giving it a very shaky 1 Star just because someone might appreciate the stupidity.

The Lighthouse

Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) arrived together on a remote island to serve a four week maintenance shift. Wake is a veteran lightkeeper, while Winslow is new at the task, having previously been a lumberjack. He is to replace a former partner of Wake, who went mad.

 

 

The cantankerous Wake is quick to let Winslow know how it’s going to be, and he will be the one in charge, no matter what the manual says. And that includes keeping watch in the lamp. Winslow grumbles but there isn’t anything he can do about it. The older man is a harsh taskmaster and bullies his young assistant, forcing him to work harder and harder. Winslow is stewing, both about his treatment, and because of lack of access to the lamp, which bothers him no end.

 

Winslow can’t help but wonder what is happening up in the lamp, but Wake keeps it locked and Winslow can’t get to the key. A teetotaler when he arrived, Wake has him drinking more and more until they become regular drinking buddies. Winslow found a small figuring of a mermaid, and in his quieter moments, he masturbates to its image. One time he caught a glimpse inside the lamp, and oh what he saw….

Bothered by a sea gull, Winslow kills it, despite having been told by Wake that that is the worst thing a sailor can do. And sure enough, a rough wind begins to blow, bringing a terrible storm, and they are unable to get off the island when they’re supposed to because no ship can get close enough. It’s only a matter of time until truths come out, and true ugliness is revealed.

 

This is one unusual film. Directed by Robert Eggers, and written by Robert and Max Eggers, it is a deep look into the psyche of two men whom circumstances bring together, and whose very isolation threatens them both. The film is shot in black and white, which only enhances the eerie quality of the story. There is some damn fine photography here, so let me give a shout out to the director of photography, Jarin Blaschke.  And the film editor, Louise Ford. These are two very fine performances by Dafoe and Pattinson, for which I understand they received no recognition at all from the Oscars. Not surprising if you consider that those awards are so politically based it’s not funny, and an Oscar is basically meaningless anymore.

If you watch the film and have to look up what the ending means, don’t feel bad, I did too. But wait until it’s over, let it sink in for a moment, then read to your heart’s content. This is a very fine film, and I’ll give it a string 4.5 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #24 – The Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis, The Hole in the Ground, A Christmas Horror Story

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis

Julian Garrison (John Keefe) and his brother Jake (Alexandru Geoana) are orphans, their parents having died in a car accident. The boys are being raised by their Uncle Charles (Peter Coyote), who doesn’t seem to know or care anything about kids. Charles works at Hybra Tech, a huge  conglomerate that does everything from making food to making chemicals, boasting the latest in cutting edge technology.

 

Julian hangs out with a group of kids, including his “best” friend Zeke Borden (Elvin Dandel), who insists that Julian has the hots for Zeke’s girlfriend, Katie (Jana Kramer), who also works at Hybra Tech, earning money for college. Zeke is something of a bully, who makes fun of Julian when he doesn’t want to take his motorbike up a ramp and jump it. Not surprising since he took a nasty spill last time he attempted the jump. Showing off, Zeke does the jump and it doesn’t turn out well. He ends up knocked out, so the kids call an ambulance.

 

The trouble starts when Julian goes to the hospital to check on Zeke, they tell him his friend died in the ambulance. Strange thing, when he calls Katie at work to tell her the bad news, she tells Julian that she just saw Zeke being brought to Hybra in an ambulance. So what is going on here?

Julian asks his uncle, who denies that Zeke is there. But Cody (Cory Hardrict) hacks into Hybra’s 

computers and finds that Zeke is indeed there. The teens decide to go into action to rescue Zeke.

Oh, did I mention here be zombies? Courtesy of the Army, of course, with the help of Uncle Charles.

So let me just say that every entry in the Return of the Living Dead series is weaker than the one before. Hard to believe, I know. I loved the first two, not to much the next two.

The plot is contrived and ridiculous. And we still don’t know why the hell the army keeps these zombies around. Are they thinking of recruiting future soldiers from the dead? Save on pay and food? If that’s the case, they better find a manual on zombie control, because they don’t have it. The acting isn’t particularly good, not even Peter Coyote (who has done better films). There is one scene where a teen cries over a death, and his crying sounded incredibly fake/forced.

The soundtrack wasn’t particularly memorable, being part of the school of let’s slap some sort of heavy metal onto this and call it done. Real teenagers would not be this stupid, either. I don’t recommend watching this. I even lost track of the action a couple times because I was bored. I’ll give this a very shaky 1.5 Stars.

The Hole in the Ground

Single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) moves her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) and herself to the Irish countryside, presumably to start over. Chris is something of an introvert, and frightened of spiders, but very close to his mother. On the way to their home, they have an unsettling encounter with their neighbor, Noreen (Kati Outinen). The older woman, who appears to be demented in some way, besides appearing out of nowhere and almost causing an accident insists that Chris is not Sarah’s son!

Exploring the land around their home, Sarah comes across an enormous sinkhole, and finds herself concerned for her son’s well-being. The old woman’s words continue to haunt her, which isn’t helped by the woman’s unexpected death. Suddenly, Sarah seems to see Chris differently, and she doesn’t like what she sees. Soon, she is doubting whether he is her son or not.

 

This is a very well-made psychological thriller, one which can make you look at your children differently and wonder. This is a real woman in a terrifying situation. You have to feel for her. What would you do if you began to think your child wasn’t really your child? Who could you confide in, when most people would think you were crazy for even suggesting such a thing. Director Lee Cronin has done a splendid job. Direction and cinematography are great, and so is the acting. 

Granted, by the end of the film, I still had some questions which went unanswered, such as why has no

one reported this sinkhole or warned her about it? Surely such a thing would need to be filled in or something, right? Still, those matters aside, it’s a riveting watch and well worth the view. I give this film a solid 4 Stars.

A Christmas Horror Story

This is an anthology film with four intertwined stories that all take plus on Christmas Eve… or Krampusnacht, if you will. Santa Claus faces down a group of zombie elves, a desperate family makes a last ditch appeal to a rich relative, teenagers film a documentary of the gruesome murders that occurred at their school a year ago, and a family in crisis tries to have a normal Christmas.

 

The common thread within these stories, other than the particular night, is the ongoing narrative by a disc jockey who is stuck working on Christmas Eve, played by William Shatner. His co-worker has left the building, after giving the dj a disparaging message, and hopefully leaves to cover the food drive at the mall. Dan (William Shatner) just keeps on going.

 

Taylor (Jeff Clarke) takes his wife and two children to visit his elderly Aunt Edda (Corinne Conley), in the hopes of being able to get some money from her. What his family doesn’t know is that she has no idea they’re coming… he’s basically waylaying her. Is it surprising that she is less than enthusiastic and can see right through him from the moment of his arrival?

Molly (Zoe De Grand Maison), Dylan (Shannon Kook), and Ben (Alex Ozerov) are filming a student documentary on the disturbing events that happened at their school. But when they find themselves locked into the school at night, things take a sinister turn. Is it possible that what killed the two students still lurks inside the building?

Scott (Adrian Holmes) was the first officer on the scene of the horrific killing, and the discovery has

taken a toll, not just on him, but on his family. In an effort to put a sense of normalcy back in their lives, he proposes they go together to chop down a Chrismtas tree. However, the land he intends to do that on is marked do not tresspass. His wife Kim (Oluniká Adeliyi) doesn’t like the idea, but puts up with it for the sake of their son Will (Orion John). The parents begin to panic when Will disappears into the forest. They find him unharmed inside of a huge hollow tree. But something isn’t quite right…

You don’t usually see Christmas and horror in the same film, but you see plenty of it here, and well done at that. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very happily surprised by what I saw. Each story is well told and well acted. We move from one to another, back and forth, as the tales unfold before our eyes. Each one is riveting and original, not your standard horror fare or Christmas either, an interesting and unique hybrid. There are plenty of scares here, lots of blood, and yet some laughter as well, albeit a mite unsettling. I bet you’ve never heard elves use the language some of these do!

William Shatner is the icing on the cake, the lone DJ who is just trying to get through the night and keep his audience entertained, while wondering where the hell his co-anchor has gotten to and why isn’t he doing what he’s supposed to. He’s very funny, and it’s always good to see him in anything.

The ending… well, I won’t give it away, I’ll just say I never saw that coming in a million years. This was a thoroughly enjoyable film, and I hope these guys make more like this. I’ll give this a strong 4.5 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #23 – Krampus: The Christmas Devil, Krampus (2015)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Krampus: The Christmas Devil

As a child,  police officer Jeremy Duffin (A.J. Leslie) was abducted, dragged in a sack and tossed into a frozen lake from which he managed to escape. It’s thirty years later, and he still can’t forget. Not to mention, he is convinced that the perpetrator of that crime is still out there, and every ten years he repeats the cycle. What’s a cop gonna do?

 

 

Sure enough, it’s happening again, and Jeremy has to do something about it.  Christmas is almost upon them, and all children know that Santa wants them to be good. What they may not know is that the flip side of Santa, who deals with naughty children, is the Krampus. He’s got a list…. and he knows how to use it. Where does he get that list? From Santa Claus, of course, his brother!

 

As if this isn’t bad enough, a criminal that Jeremy put away, Brian Hatt (Bill Oberst Jr) has just been

released from prison after ten years, and of course he has revenge on his mind. Who wouldn’t, right? Which puts not only Jeremy but his wife and daughter at risk. Unbeknownst to Jeremy, his daughter Heather (Samantha Hoepfl) has also made the top of Krampus’ list! Which evil is he going to have to fight off first?

So, what can I say about this movie? I had high hopes for it which were quickly dashed. Right off the bat, the acting sucks. Big time. I’ve seen better acting from high school students. Granted, I’m sure they all tried, but they failed, rather miserably. The best acting I saw was from a minor character in the bar, and I forget his name. As bad as Jeremy is, the actress playing his wife was worse.

What else? Oh yes, the writing was horrible. Terrible script. And the fight scenes were badly choreographed and virtually non-existent. The action would always cut away so you wouldn’t really see anything and would cut back so you could view the end result. The blood looks like strawberry syrup, btw, and not the good stuff.

Krampus himself is not scary. Weird, sure. Creepy? Definitely. He is holed up in a cave or something, and keeps a child in a cage. He also has a half naked woman chained to the wall that he likes to… play with. Seriously? Wth? Why even bring that up? He’s a demon, right? I have no idea.

From the start, this movie is ridiculous and not the least bit scary. The scariest thing to me was wondering how this even got made, who wasted good money on making it. And why were there sequels? Guess I’ll find out when I watch the next one. It has to be better, right? One can hope. On that basis, I’ll give Krampus: The Christmas Devil 1 flimsy Star, and that is being generous. This isn’t a horror movie, it’s a horrible movie.

Krampus (2015)

Christmas is almost here, and it should be a time of great cheer! But young Max (Emjay Anthony) feels otherwise, since it means his horrible cousins and their parents are coming for the holiday.  Mom Sarah (Toni Collette) and dad Tom (Adam Scott) are trying to be good-natured about it, because they are family, after all. But some people are just hard to take. And as if to make matters worse, Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman) has brought along Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell). Can things get any worse?

Hell yes, it can.

It begins at dinner when Max’s cousins reveal that they’ve found Max’s letter to Santa Claus and proceed to read it in front of everyone, to Max’s mortification. Lots of personal stuff in it regarding his family and theirs, and of course the two girls don’t like what he’s said about them. A fight ensues, and ends with Max taking refuge in his room. He takes the offending letter and tears it up, then throws it out his window, where it scatters to the winds.

 

It begins with a power outage. Although technically it began with the arrival of some unexpected gifts on the porch. Sitting in the dark is not how anyone had envisioned their Christmas. Max’s sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) is worried about her boyfriend, who lives nearby. Despite the weather, she gets permission to check on him, since he isn’t responding to her texts. What she finds is horrifying, and as she attempts to race home, to safety, she sees some very strange things.

Meanwhile, back at the house, everyone huddles together in the living room for warmth in front of the 

fireplace, attempting to sleep. But something strange is happening when a chain drops through the chimney, with a strange creature on it, which draws the attention of Max’s cousin Howie Jr (Maverick Flack). The other wake up just in time to see him being sucked up the chimney.

This version of the Krampus legend is as different from the first one as night and day. This one has a solid cast, good writing, good direction, and an interesting story. Darkly humorous, it doesn’t lag. I could easily identify with Max’s parents, doing their best to get through the holidays despite having douchey relatives in the house. Tom’s mother, whom they call Omi, is also there. She is Max’s anchor, and she is the only one with a clue about what’s happening.

 

The story is funny and also scary, it has a unique take on Christmas, and has all the elements of a good horror film. There are more sequels in this series and I intend to watch the ones I can find, except for the sequel to the first one. Same writer and cast, so I’m gonna just call it quits on that while I’m ahead, expecting nothing better. But I’ll keep you posted on the others. I am giving Krampus (2015) a solid 4 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #23 – The Hoarder, Return of the Living Dead 3, Willy’s Wonderland

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 The Hoarder

 


Ella (Mischa Barton) is mistrustful of her fiance. Having been screwed over by men before, she thinks she’s found evidence that he’s been unfaithful. But when the evidence suddenly vanishes, where else can it be but his storage unit, located way out in the middle of nowhere. Ella enlists the aid of her friend Molly (Emily Atack), because that’s what best friends are for, right? Especially friends who know how to get into places they shouldn’t.

 

The two young women bullshit their way past the clerk on duty, Stephen (Andrew Buckley), and take the elevator down to the fourth level. Seems as though everything is underground. And not only is this level dark and creepy, but it has an unfinished look to it. Undeterred the girls find the fiance’s unit and, with some difficulty, open the door, only to be confronted by… what was that? Something just snatched Molly and dragged her inside, shutting the door securely behind!

 

An alarmed Ella runs back to the elevator as the lights, which are on timers, go off around her. But


something is in pursuit and she barely makes it inside. The elevator refuses to move, though, and she climbs out the top and up the cable to the next floor where her cries for help draw the attention of Vince (Robert Knepper), who helps her out. He’s skeptical of her tale, but luckily he’s a cop, and willing to help. Soon they run across Willow (Valene Kane) and then Ian (John Sackville). Ian was in the process of splitting the contents of his storage unit with his soon-to-be ex Sarah (Charlotte Salt). But Sarah disappeared and he’s looking for her, which makes him suspect in Vince’s eyes.

 

The group tries to make its way up the stairs, but the doors at each level are locked. And there’s something in the dark that’s killing people…

 

This film was made in 2015. I’ll admit the big reason I was drawn to watch it is because I really like Robert Knepper. To some extent it’s a character-driven horror film, as we met the protagonists and hear their stories. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives. But it soon develops into true horror as a… creature… begins to claim more and more victims. There is a certain amount of tension, not knowing where this thing is or what it wants… or even something as basic as how to survive and get out of this death trap. The premise isn’t bad, the acting is fairly decent. And of course, Robert Knepper plays his role very well. Naturally, he isn’t necessarily what he appears to be, but would you expect less of him?

My biggest problem with this lies in the finale, once we learn who is behind everything, because there really is no why, no explanation of what we’ve been watching. Of course, based on certain stereostypes that aren’t exactly new in the genre, we can extrapolate the reasons. But I have to believe there is more to it than that, and the film misses the mark on that score. Plus it’s rather one-dimensional in that regard. Like Escape Room, but without the clever twists. It wasn’t a bad film, but it could have been better. Mischa Barton’s acting is less than spectacular but because of Robert Knepper, I am giving this 3 Stars.

Return of the Living Dead 3


Some things never change. Even after the fiasco involving the walking dead, the military can’t get enough of playing around with these new playthings because, of course, they know best. Colonel Reynolds (Kent McCord) is no exception to this rule, as he and his group work at re-animating the dead. His son Curt (J Trevor Edmond) and his girlfriend Julie (Melinda Clarke) use dad’s pass to sneak onto base, and they become unwitting witnesses of what transpires. The experiments lead to the colonel’s reassignment. But when he tells his son, Curt rebels, and runs off with Julie on his motorcycle.

Julie gets a little frisky on the motorcycle, distracting her boyfriend, which results in an accident which kills Julie. The griefstricken Curt is beside himself and sneaks her body back onto the base, so he can revive her with the same stuff his dad and his group were using. This can’t possibly go wrong, can it?

 

Julie begins to show symptoms of being dead, and experiences intense hunger pains. Curt takes her to a convenience store where she gorges on junk. Meanwhile a local gang is there, and trouble ensues, resulting in the shop owner’s death, and one of the gang being bitten by Julie. Curt and Julie escape and make their way to the area of the sewers, where a homeless man unexpectedly aids them. But even he realizes there is something off about Julie.

The gang members are pissed at what happened and follow the young lovers, determined to have 


revenge. Curt’s father is also looking for his son, having been relieved of his command. He’s determined not to come back until he finds him.

This is the third entry in the Return of the Living Dead franchise, and it is by far the weakest link so far. It possesses none of the humor or fun of the first two films (maybe because it’s lacking James Karen and Thom Matthews, just a thought). Different director and different writer result in a different film, and the change is definitely not for the better.

 

I think a large part of the problem is the script, which isn’t very good. Also, I think the film takes itself too seriously but lacks any heart. We have no emotional ties to any of the characters, so it’s kind of hard to care what happens to any of them. Like dispassionately watching a science experiment to take note of the results. But in this case, these are (or were) living breathing human beings, now the re-animated dead.

 

Another thing that irked me greatly was that they changed the rules of the universe in which they were playing. Julie becomes a zombie early on but she still retains her full ability to speak, although she does display many of the classic symptoms of the other walking dead. Tortured by the changes, she hurts herself in order to keep the hunger at bay, but she thinks that won’t work forever and she’s afraid she’ll end up hurting Curt. She ends up making a weapon of herself (see above). So there’s that. I think that’s more of an excuse to show her half-naked body, but that’s just my opinion.

Kent McCord… well, I loved him in Adam 12, but he doesn’t really come across here as the classic father who was never around and doesn’t know how to show his emotions. His portrayal is too cold and too rigid to get a real feel for this character, especially after seeing the experiment he was involved in.

All in all, this was a disappointment. I’m going to give it 2 Stars.

Willy’s Wonderland


In the sleepy little town of Hayesville – one of those blink and you miss’em communities – sits the locked and abandoned one-time children’s play place known as Willy’s Wonderland, named after Willy the Weasel, one of its animatronic attractions. Liv (Emily Tosta) knows what evil lurks therein and intends to burn the place to the ground. But she’s caught in the act by Sheriff Lund (Beth Grant), who is also her foster mother, and placed in handcuffs inside their home… for her own good.

 

Speed traps in small towns are not uncommon, and Hayesville is no exception. A sports car driven by Nic Cage runs over a set of spikes that blow out all four tires. As he stands by his car, a tow truck miraculously appears. When the driver tows Cage to his garage and assesses the damage, including the tow it will come to a thousand dollars. They have no Internet, so can’t pay by credit card. He doesn’t take checks, and the ATM doesn’t work. Cash on the barrel head. Of course the silent Cage doesn’t have a grand in his pocket. So the tow truck driver offers him a deal. He knows a place that needs help. He can spend the night there, cleaning, and in the morning, his car will be ready to go. Cage has no choice but to accept.

 

The place turns out to be Willy’s Wonderland.

Meanwhile, some of Liv’s friends are looking for her and find her handcuffed and help her to break out.


She is intent on finishing what she started, especially since she saw the man with the tow truck driver and she knows where he’s being taken and why. And she is determined that is not going to happen.

Meanwhile, Cage goes to work to do what he’s agreed to. He’s been told to remember to take breaks, so he sets his watch as a reminder to do so. Willy’s is creepy, in large part due to the animatronics which seem to move… and more. But Cage is more than a match for them and dispatches a couple quite handily. When he tries to throw their remains outside, he learns for the first time that he has been locked in.

 

Liv knocks on the window to tell him he has to get out of there, before they set the building on fire, but he turns and ignores her. Exasperated, she decides to find a way inside and tells her friends to wait for her. But Fate has other ideas, and all the teens find themselves inside Willy’s.

I am a huge Nic Cage fan, so when  I found out about this film, which just came out in 2021, I had to see it. What got me really hooked was a line in the preview, when Liv says “He’s not trapped in there with them. They’re trapped in there with him.”

This story was very original, sort of a Chucky Cheese meets Psycho. Nic Cage is a character known only as The Janitor. We never learn his name or his story, and he never speaks. Even so, his actions speak volumes as we watch him do battle with the evil animatronics without batting an eye. And the story is told with a certain amount of humor, which I love. 

Liv is a great character, who has personal reasons for wanting this place to go. The town has its own reasons for doing what they do as well. Liv is the leader among her friends, the alpha if you will, and a very strong character.  I was pretty well riveted to the screen the whole time. I’d call it very bloody, except the animatronics don’t have blood. But then again Liv’s friends do. Nuff said.

 

I enjoyed this movie pretty much. My opinion of Nic Cage hasn’t changed a bit. He’s good in whatever he does. I would recommend this movie, and I will give it a solid 4 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #22 – Night of the Living Dead 2

Return of the Living Dead II – 

Jesse (Michael Kenworthy) is bullied by two other boys into joining their club. Billy (Thorn Van Lingen) forces him to go to their clubhouse, which turns out to be a crypt in the cemetery. There they find some old army cannisters, and Billy claims them. Jesse wants nothing to do with them and makes his escape, but the other boys aren’t as luck as they accidentally break the seal and are overcome by an obnoxious gas.

Ed  (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Mathews) work together, their job being to rob graves for body parts which they sell. supposedly in the name of research. They come across Jesse, who is hiding in a crypt.  He eludes them and runs off, but quickly discovers that things are not what they should. Dead people are rising, and they’re hungry.

Jesse races home and wants to call the number he found on the cannister, because surely the army can

help them, but his sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein), who is babysitting him, has other ideas. When a young, good-looking cable installer, Tom (Dana Ashbrook) shows up, she is really determined to keep her brother under control.

But the dead have other ideas…

The sequel to The Return of the Living Dead  has some of the wit and charm of the first movie, but no Dan O’Bannion, alas. But the good news is that we have the return of James Karen and Thom Matthews, who did much to make the first film memorable. They’re working together again but they’re playing different characters, yet they’re very similar to the first ones. If you’ve seen the first film, you’ll remember this line: “Watch your tongue, boy, if you like this job!”

While still interesting and comedic, it lacks a bit of what made the first one so good. Even so, it’s a good watch and well worth the effort. You might remember Dana Ashbrook, who will later go on to play in Twin Peaks as Bobby Briggs.  Also, keep an eye out for the Michael Jackson zombie toward sthe end. All in all, I give this a solid 3.75 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #21 – The Return of the Living Dead, The City of the Dead

The Return of the Living Dead

Freddy (Thom Matthews) has just begun a new job at a medical supply company, joining the ranks of the gainfully employed. His boss, Burt (Clu Gulager) seems like a good guy, and leaves Freddy in the hands of his co-worker, Frank (James Karen). Frank proceeds to show Freddy the ropes. The company has all sort of odd items, such as skeletons for medical schools, and half dogs, for veterinarian schools, and even fresh cadavers in the walk-in. While swapping strange stories, Frank tells Freddy about the weird cannisters that are stored there, something to do with the army. Of course Freddy wants to see them, who wouldn’t? But things go horribly wrong when Frank accidental strikes one of the tanks, releasing some kind of noxious gas.

Freddy’s girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph) is riding around with some of her friends, trying to figure out what to do. A rather eclectic group, running the gamut from Goth to glam, they’re bored, and the driver refuses to go anywhere without receiving gas money. Tina suggests they pick up Freddy from work, which idea is enthusiastically received as he always knows where there’s a part. But he won’t get off for two hours, so they head to Resurrection Cemetery to hang out, right across the street from the medical supply house.

There, Trash (Linnea Quigley) reveals to Spider (Miguel A. Nunez Jr) her fantasies about death, and her fears of dying surrounded by old men who eat her. This leads to her getting naked on top of a crypt.  In the meantime, Frank and Freddy become freaked out, not just by what they did, but by strange sounds inside the warehouse. Imagine their surprise to find one of the half dogs barking! And the cadavers are trying to break out of the walk-in cooler, just like in the story Frank had told Freedy.

The two men try to handle the situation, but finally give up and call Burt to come back to work. When

he finds out what happened, he is appalled, having warned Frank many times to stay away from those tanks! Be that as it may, they have to deal with what’s going on, so Burt calls on his good friend Ernie (Don Calfa), who has the mortuary across the street. They try to pawn off a story about rabid weasels on Ernie, but that doesn’t fly, and they are forced to not only tell him but truth, but show him. The only thing he can think to do is to burn the evidence in the crematorium, which of course sends the smoke up into the air, and then the toxic chemicals end up being rained back down and seeping into the ground… reanimating the corpses in the cemetery!

This movie is both a horror film and a comedy, and I have to say I think it’s better than most of George Romero’s films (except for the original Night of the Living Dead). These zombies are not shambling brainless hulks, they are cleverer than some of the teens, and are smart enough to realize how to get people to send more fresh meat.

Frank and Freddy are hilarious as the duo who start this entire zombie apocalypse, and Clu Gulager does a great job as Burt and ditto for Don Calfa as Ernie. And c’mon, it’s Burt and Ernie. You don’t think that’s a coincidence, right? That reminds me of a Burt and Ernie in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, which obviously predates Sesame Street, and I believe the Sesame Street writers got the names of their characters from there.

The music is fitting, some kind of punk, I think, and helps drive this film along. The writing is most excellent, and how surprising is that since this is a Dan O’Bannion film!  You remember Dan from Alien, right? The movie ends with the protagonists appealing to the army to help them, as per the phone number on the tanks. But you can only imagine the sort of help the military is willing to give when it comes to covering up a mistake. The ending leaves no doubt there is more to the story…. and there is.

I give this film a solid 4.5 Stars.

Before I go to the next review, I just want to mention that I tried to watch George Romero’s Day of the Dead, but I turned it off because it bored me. So I can’t really give it a review, since I didn’t finish it, but maybe that says enough.

The City of the Dead

When a woman accused of witchcraft is burned at the stake in 1692, she curses the village that condemned her even as she makes a pact with Lucifer.

Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is a young college coed with a bright future ahead of her. Determined to attain her history degree, she intends to work on her paper as much as she can, even if she has to miss spending time with her boyfriend, Bill (Tom Naylor) in order to do so. Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) suggests Nan go to the very small town he had just lectured about where a witch was burned years ago, and suggests she stay at the Whitewood Inn – just mention his name. Nan bids her boyfriend and her brother Dick (Dennis Lotis) a fond farewell and heads out to Whitewood.

Stopping for directions, she learns just how seldom this eerie road is traveled, and doesn’t heed his warning not to go on. She picks up a strange man who is hitchhiking, and is also headed to Whitewood. He has an odd way about him, and a deep, resonant voice. But on her arrival, the man has disappeared! Nan goes to the inn, and the proprietress, Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessel) insists there is no room at the inn until Nan invokes Professor Driscoll’s name, and suddenly there is a room available, so Nan takes it. A young girl named Lottie works at the inn. Lottie is mute, but she seems as though she is trying to tell Nan something but Mrs Newless always finds a way to stop her.

Nan hears things in her room, and when she asks about the strange trap door in the floor, she is told that there is nothing beneath it but dirt. In exploring the town, she goes to the church, but the blind pastor, Reverend Russell, (Norman MacOwan) shoos her away. Borrowing a book about witchcraft from the pastor’s granddaughter, Patricia (Betta St. John), Nan finds out the truth, but it’s too late.

When Nan fails to return after two weeks, and no one has heard from her, her boyfriend and brother

decide enough is enough and trace her footsteps to Whitewood.  The question is will they make it out alive?

This movie is clearly a product of its times, no doubt about that. Having said that, though I wanted to like this film because… well, Christopher Lee… but things made that hard to do. My first question was why does no one in this town notice the perpetual rolling fog that covers the ground at all times (probably to disguise the fact that they’re on a set). But nothing is ever said, as if no one notices. Seriously?

None of this is scary stuff, but in all fairness, perhaps modern moviegoers have come to expect more and have seen this sort of thing a million times. Having said this, what happens comes as no surprise if you look for the signs that are about as bright and easy to see as Rudolf the Reindeer’s red nose! Lottie trying to warn Nan, the mysterious book, even the church, where I saw the name Driscoll on the sign outside but scratched through. The eerie innkeeper who bears a close resemblance to…. no spoilers, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

Some of the acting is better than others. Much as I love Christopher Lee, I can’t say this is his best performance, but he has others beat hands down. What’s worse than the scenery and the acting, though, is the writing. Just not good. The soundtrack is a strange sort of 50s jazz-like sound which seems at odds with what is going on. Predictable and poorly executed. I’ll give this a shaky 2 Stars, and mostly because I love Christopher Lee.

Saturday is Horror Day #20 – The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)

 The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes


As this film opens, a naked restrained woman on a bad writhes in agony. It soon becomes clear she is in the throes of labor. And when she finally delivers, she can’t believe what she sees.

On an undisclosed and hidden site thought to be long abandoned, technicians are installing listening devices, but to what end? There’s no one out there… or is there?

 

 

It’s the last day of training for a young group of sassy National Guard trainees. Out in the middle of the desert, they find a deserted research camp. Where is everyone, and what is going on? They receive a distress call that seems to be coming from the hills and decide to investigate. Can this end well for anyone?

 

This is the sequel to The Hills Have Eyes (2006), which was a remake of the original 1977 West Craven film of the same name. The story is not just a rehash of the first sequel, luckily, and is much better made. Again we see the mutants, who were better explained in the 2006 film. Apparently they’re still intent on reproducing to replace their dwindling numbers (guess they aren’t concerned with further genetic mutations). 

The National Guard trainees as characters are a diverse and interesting group, and the story is 


sufficiently creepy and cringy to warrant a view. Although I have to wonder why the military, who obviously knows about these people, doesn’t just come in and deal with the situation. I mean, why eavesdrop? And the ending is somewhat ambiguous. Do they intend to make more? Your guess is as good as mine.

 On the whole, I’ll give this film a good 3.5 Stars. Worth taking a look.