Sep 102021
 
Every dungeon adventurer’s danger sense is screaming right now.

Dave’s girlfriend went on a trip so Dave decided to do an art project. He made a maze (actually a labyrinth) out of cardboard in the living room. Because he started by building it around himself, he got lost and is no longer able to find his way out. You see, an important detail to know is that the maze is bigger on the inside.

The girlfriend comes home. she is not amused that Dave is stuck inside this ugly cardboard mess in the living room. Dave won’t let her break the maze down because he is attached to it. A bit despondent, she calls Dave’s friend Gordon to help get him out. Gordon brings Leonard, who brings Harry, who brings his documentary film crew and three other friends as well as two random Finnish tourists and a homeless person who claims to know a lot about cardboard.

Despite Dave’s warnings, everyone goes into the maze. Sure enough, it is bigger on the inside. Did I mention there were traps? Because there are traps and when they kill someone, their body spurts red ribbons everywhere instead of blood. There is also a Minotaur. You do not want to get caught by the Minotaur.

There are two kinds of people reading this blog post right now. There are those who think the whole idea is stupid and it hurts their head to think about. Those people should avoid this movie. The other group of people want to go poking around in the cardboard maze and those people should definitely go watch this movie.

Dave Made a Maze is listed as a Comedy/Horror but I find that description kind of simple. People die but there is such a surreal feeling to this movie and the deaths are so ridiculous that I couldn’t take any of it serious enough to consider it horror. I would call it a Cosmic Comedy as once again, almost everything doesn’t make sense.

The characters are weirder than the maze. Harry is trying to film a documentary throughout the entire ordeal. Gordon is weirdly an expert for no discernible reason. The girlfriend is at first annoyed with this whole thing but she becomes enchanted that her boyfriend actually made something. Dave himself is a delusional creative that is so darn earnest in his wish to make something that I feel for the guy despite it all. The strangeness of the characters sell this movie as maybe the real maze is the people we know.

Nah, the real maze is the cardboard walls loaded with traps.

This movie came out in 2017 and I have no idea how such a weird creative quirky of a movie got past me for this long. Make sure it doesn’t pass you by either.

Jul 192021
 

Netflix justified their subscription price for another month with the glorious Fear Street series of movies. Adapted from what appears to be an endless number of books by RL Stine, these movies tell a tale about the most cursed town in America over three different time periods. The first movie is set in 1994 and apparently got their soundtrack from my computer, while the second one takes place in 1978. The final movie takes place in 1666. Yeah, olden witch times.

The premise for these movies is that a witch cursed a town to always know sorrow. The dead witch drives people mad and they become slasher killers. This has been going on for two hundred years so there is a LOT of slashers. We only get glimpses of most of them and they have really cool iconic looks that barely need any explanation. The slashers can be any gender and their kill counts are insane.

All of these murders take place in Shadyside, while nearby Sunnyvale lives in prosperity and hasn’t had a murder in ages. if that sounds suspicious as fuck, it is because it is.

Now, I was totally on board with a movie series about multiple slashers. What elevates this series is that it is told with a strong feminist viewpoint. The main characters are women. The story lines revolve around broken friendships, the lack of support from the male authority figures and the hardships of what is it like to be a woman who stands out in any way, shape or form that bucks society.

It is also interestingly enough a series about how hard it is to grow up non-privileged. The people of Shadyside are considered losers who keep killing themselves and all of their murder problems are their own fault. There is a lot of drug use and it is often portrayed as an outlet for these kids to escape their shit lives. Some kids who try to escape their backgrounds are resented by those who are stuck in their lives. Although it is never openly expressed, I found myself looking at this movie as a metaphor for how hard it is for impoverished people to escape the pre-destiny of their shitty starting situations.

But on top of all this, the series is a just a lot of fun. The kills are gruesome. The characters are worthwhile and will break your heart when they die. There is a lot of humor along with characters acting smart instead of making dumb moves like other slasher films.

So give the series a try. Even if you are not a slasher nut like I am, this is one of the best female heroine movies you will see this year.

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Jul 162021
 
At no point do they ever attempt to explain where the purple hair comes from.

Frankenhooker tells the story of Jeffery Franken, a man who loses his fiancee in a tragic automatic lawnmower accident and decides to bring her back to life. Unfortunately, most of his fiancee’s body was shredded by the a fore mentioned lawnmower so he is going to have to get some new body parts. After drilling into his own head to scramble his sense of right and wrong, he decides to use sex worker parts.

You know reader, dead sex workers has to be one of my top squicks for fiction. Real life violence against sex workers is so pervasive in our world that I just can’t derive any entertainment from it in fiction. I have avoided this movie for years and it was only because of a recommendation that I decided to reluctantly try it.

And you know what? I liked it. This is a deeply silly movie. At no point is Jeffery a sympathetic character. The sex workers end up killing themselves by accident. When the fiancee is re-animated, she keeps repeating phrases that the sex workers said and Jeffery is dismayed. It is like this movie to trying to say something deep about how men are okay with using sex workers but not having a loved one as a sex worker.

Or that might be an accident.

Either way, this was a ridiculous movie with some laugh out loud moments. No one can accuse this movie of being sex worker sensitive, but it also wasn’t as misogynistic as the average 90’s. movie. It also has a surprisingly sexy scene where Jeffery is examining a group of sex workers and measuring their parts. It makes me wonder how many people acted out that fantasy after seeing this movie. Well, without the exploding bodies.

Anyhoo, Frankenhooker is a movie that deserves the cult status it has garnered over the years. It starts off slow but the once the freaky stuff starts, it never stops.

Apr 162021
 

Billy is a high school kid who wants to get a basketball scholarship so he can go to Denver College with his girlfriend. His guardian, Aunt Cheryl, wakes him up every morning by crawling over his nude body and rubbing against his face before whispering in his ear. As you can imagine, Aunt Cheryl isn’t happy with the idea of hot young Billy moving away.

What I described sounds like the start to a lot of taboo porn stories, but no, this is Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker, a horror film from 1981. Aunt Cheryl, the most inappropriate older aunt figure ever, cannot keep her hands off the boy and wants to keep him around. To do that, she will stab a television repair man and claim he tried to rape her. There, that should keep Billy around.

From here, the movie takes a detour from creepy-aunt touching. The lead detective finds out the repair man is gay and therefore wouldn’t rape a woman. He gets hung up on the gay part and assumes that Billy must be gay and they had a lover’s quarrel. The detective fills the movie with homophobic slurs and threats of gay-bashing while ignoring that Aunt Cheryl is the real killer.

Interestingly enough, the homophobic detective becomes a secondary bad guy and gets his comeuppance as well. It is remarkably progressive for an 80’s slasher film. By the end of the movie, the detective is completely disgraced as a character and the only other confirmed gay character is a hero!

But Aunt Cheryl is the real star of the movie and eventually the movie remembers that. Aunt Cheryl escalates to keep Billy around. Billy gets roofied before the big game. Teenage Julia Duffy gets hit upside the head. The nosy neighbor gets gutted. Once the killing restarts the bodies start dropping fast.

I will say, this movie was a fascinating display of cringe. Aunt Cheryl’s every action with Billy is disturbing. Later reveals about her relationship to Billy DOES NOT make it better. Even when she dies in the end, her dying action is try to get an open mouth kiss from her nephew.

So yeah, Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker. If you wish there were more slasher movies with sexually deviant older women, then this is for you!

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Mar 222021
 

A man returns home to his apartment to find his wife is missing. In between flashbacks of knife play with nipples, he searches for his wife. He only searches within the apartment building but that is enough to keep him occupied. Each person he encounters has their own, although very tangential, connection to his wife. It always involves relating their own flashback of sex and mystery.

Welcome to the Strange Color of You Body’s Tears, a 2013 French film. It is a tribute to the Giallo films, although I would argue much better than the genre it emulates. Giallo films are notoriously dream like and incoherent as well as being murderfests of pretty women. This movie keeps the dreams and incoherence, but drops the highly misogynistic murders. The multiple characters bringing their own flashbacks turns the movie into an anthology series with the husband’s quest for his wife providing a frame story.

That is not to say there still isn’t some murders. There is one murder scene that is especially gruesome, but since the murderer seems to also be the victim, it feels less like shocking violence and more like a visualization of internal struggle. Maybe. Who the fucks knows in this movie because again: dream like incoherence.

The real star of this movie is the visuals. Eyes fill the screen. The apartment building is a work of art. A woman’s top is removed to reveal blinding light instead of skin. A gloved hand touches a woman’s face and it joined by another and then another until a dozen hands are caressing her. Some of the shots are breathtaking and other shots are almost laughable with their blunt imagery, but it is also interesting to watch.

People are going to hate this movie or love it. One thing I can guarantee is that they won’t forget it.

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Jan 182021
 
Faithful immortal servants of darkness are so hard to find.

Stefan and Valerie are newlyweds on their way to enjoy their honeymoon. Valerie wants to meet Stefan’s mother. Stefan makes excuses and is very reluctant. Their train breaks down and they are forced to stay at an empty hotel in a tourist town during the off-season. Marital tensions rise.

But look, another guest arrives! It is Countess Bathory and her sexy secretary! The Countess is so charming and glamorous and takes a shine to the the young couple. Oh joy!

Stefan is suspicious. He is the first character in a vampire movie to actually know enough history to get nervous around someone named Bathory. Besides, he has heard there are young women dying in the town and he is getting visibly aroused by the news. This frightens Valerie but she doesn’t know what to do.

Quite frankly, Stefan is such a lying psycho that I had even money on whether he or the Countess would kill Valerie first.

Daughters of Darkness is an erotic vampire movie with perhaps the best clothing ever. Instead of tight corsets and puffy Hammer-film shirts, the Countess dresses like she is attending Fashion Week in New York. Her secretary is delightfully androgynous and wonderfully submissive, except for a few pleadings to be released from the Hell of her life. If you were a vampire, or kinky, you couldn’t pick a better movie to base your looks on.

That being said, the movie takes its time. There is a lot of sexual tension. There is a lot of the Countess insinuating herself into the newlyweds’ lives. Quite frankly, it reminded me a lot of my poly days when I would see people try their best to seduce couples into their lifestyles. It has that same awkward sexual energy and I found it very entertaining.

I don’t know if I would call it a good movie, but is a damn pretty looking movie and the tension between the couples was completely believable.

You can watch it for free on Tubi.

Jan 042021
 

Alice in Borderland is a television show about a strange world of killer games. Three friends come out of a subway restroom to find that everyone in Tokyo has disappeared. Their phones have no signals, the power in the buildings have been cut off and food is rotting on restaurant tables. Where the fuck did everyone go?

When night falls, billboards begin to light up. They direct the friends to the nearest “game arena”. Once there, they find other people who have been taken from Tokyo earlier than them. Cell phones waiting at the building explain a game. Try to leave the game and an orbital laser punches through your hear. Fail at the game and you die. Winning the game allows you to live.

The players that survive get a playing card and a few days off depending of the number of the card. The suit of the card determines the skills used in the game. When your days off expire, you have to play a game to renew them or you get a laser in the head.

As you can imagine, this is a series with a lot of questions. Who kidnapped these people? How is Tokyo deserted and yet contains personal items like a wedding ring someone stashed in a hiding place before they were taken? Who are the gamemasters? Why are they running the games?

For a series that sometimes plays like Saw meets Maze Runners, it is surprisingly gore-free. There is a lot of psychological horror, as friends sometimes compete against each other and tensions rise. Main characters get introduced and die. It is a lethal show.

It is also a fast moving show. The first season has eight episodes and has two story arcs that other shows would have stretched out for sixteen episode seasons. Some answers do get revealed, but for every answer, another mystery is introduced.

But unlike Lost, the answers in this show are satisfying. It is a singular joy to find something odd, chalk it up to maybe fuzzy storytelling, and then find out later, nah, there was something going on there and you were right to be suspicious. It is the rare show about smart people that is actually smart itself.

The description of the show, where they mention one of the main characters is a videogame player, turned me off at first. I expected the guy to be a gamerbro who thrives because of his experience, but that did not happen at all. The young man lost his mother and has been escaping his grief by playing games. He doesn’t apply himself and even his semi-loser friends urge him to do better. His experience with games helps him in this world, but what really saves him is his own cleverness.

I binged this show rather quickly and am still thinking about it. Currently it is on Netflix and I recommend it.

Dec 072020
 

Porno is a horror-comedy movie set in 1992. Four young people and an older straight-edge guy work at a movie theater run by an uber-Christian boss. After the theater closes for the night, the boss leaves and the employees find a hidden door leading to an abandoned theater under the building. Inside this theater they find a film canister covered in arcane symbols. Curious, they decide to watch it.

The film shows a ritual being performed by a naked trio of people. The straight-edge employee declares that it is porn and shuts it off. One of the hornier male employees decides to turn it back on. Weird shit happens and before long, there is a sex demon running around and people are getting their dicks ripped off.

I liked this movie. It starts slow and most of the tension for the first half of the movie is between the employees. The boss sets the tone with his Christian self-righteousness which creates a sort of self-surveillance state where no one wants to step out of line for fear of losing their job. Even when the boss leaves, that fear permeates the theater to the point that they resist escaping out of a dangerous situation because no one wants to get in trouble for breaking the glass door.

But this movie also doesn’t preach that faith is a bad thing to be mocked. The boss is an asshole, but the other employees are semi-decent Christians with courage, a sense of responsibility and loyalty to their friends. This is the rare horror movie with young Christians as characters that doesn’t treat them as fools or naïve saps.

Once the killing starts, the movie kicks into high gear and keeps it there. There is a surprising amount of bush and penis, although there are a few scenes of genital mutilation that will scar my memory for a while. Some of the scenes are a bit too dark but with the low budget, I assume it was to help conceal some of the sets.

I do want to give a shoutout to the cursed film that summons the demon. It feels like I have watched a lot of movies lately with cursed films within the movie and some of them rely on fast cuts and gross images to freak out the viewer. This film was a nicely done ritual that wouldn’t look out of place in an occult music video. I liked it, and wanted to see more.

Oct 052020
 

Scare Me is a different kind of horror anthology movie. The frame is straight forward. Two writers, on a best selling horror author and the other is an aspiring horror writer with ad writing experiences, are renting cabins next to one another. The power goes out and the two hang our to swap scary stories.

In other movies, these scary stories they tell would take place somewhere else with different actors playing out the story. This movie stays with the two characters telling stories in their cabin. It is entirely oral story-telling. The writers might act out what they are doing, but it stays an oral tradition. Other than some subtle special effects like a clawed hand, or convenient thunder, it feels much the same as if you were really in a cabin telling stories.

Now, that won’t be for everyone. My wife checked out at the first story but I was enraptured. It is an actor’s showcase mixed in with a lot of commentary about the work of writing. The best selling horror is a bit abrasive, but you can see why she is a successful writer with her comments. The aspiring writer is better at acting out the stories but he could learn a lot from the other writer.

I felt like anyone watching this could learn to be a better storyteller, and I would rank this movie among my favorite “how to write” books.

Scare Me is currently playing on Shudder.

Sep 252020
 

Lovecraft Country is a television series on HBO. It is the adaptation of the book of the same name. The plot concerns several African-Americans struggling with weird shit and the racism of the 50’s. The evil in this show is vile, disgusting and horrific, and that is just the racists.

I got to tell you, I am a bit burned out on H.P. Lovecraft. He had great ideas, but these ideas had their genesis in his racism and fear of outside cultures. As I get older, that root racism becomes more and more obvious. I am a big fan of how he created new mythologies and horrors, but I find most fiction written about his universe to be predictable and too familiar. In short, I think I am over him.

So I was pleasantly surprised when Lovecraft Country decides early on to explore some of Lovecraft’s themes without direct references to his fiction. This is Lovecraft Adjacent, or like the title says, in the same country as his fiction, but not a slavish recreation. In other words, the monsters, mythology and horrors are in a similar vein, but completely original.

And of course, the biggest change is having African-American heroes. Holy shit, i feel I have waited my whole live for African-American pulp heroes. Not only are they tough and sexy, but most of the heroes are outright nerds. It is their mastery of knowledge as well as their bravery that carries them through. Lovecraft would have died of fright at the notion.

In the world that this takes place, the heroes better be brave because America is racist as fuck. The first episode is about three African-Americans travelling the northeast of America encountering cruel hostility and outright attempts at murder. The sickening thing is how similar these period piece acts of racial aggression are not all that different from what you encounter today.

The big difference is that at five episodes in, the racists have suffered some pretty terrible fates. This is not a show about black people suffering. This is a show about black people TRIUMPHING and I am all here for that.

I highly recommend this show and when the season ends, I’ll be buying the book. The mythology is cool and the heroes are cooler. I can easily see these stories being the gateway for a generation of fans into the worlds of pulp.