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Cold Prey ‘s Ingrid Berdal is a force to be reckoned with

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In this episode I undress a Norwegian babe. The film is much like like “Hills Have Eyes” but I hope your eyes don’t fail you when the beauty shines across this terrifying backdrop that is still slightly more a thriller than a horror. Viktoria Winge is a scream queen babe and Ingrid Berdal is a force to be reckoned with. I give this one 9/10.

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Black Box (2020) ★★★

Hello lovely free-thinking listeners and readers: I am against a new wave of horror films that take little into account except race. I want creepiness, above all else, in my horror. This film has some. I await the day when all colors are presented in movies without preference or prejudice. The goal is the scare! This one is not bad!

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Let me establish here at the get go I am enamored of black culture. I am in no way prejudiced against anyone for the color of their skin or even their socio-economic condition. I teach college freshman English and I encourage all my students, whatever their skin color or ethnicity, to work and succeed in life through getting a college education. I just thought I’d give you a little background on me before anyone starts falsely accusing me of being racist. Ok enough of that fine print, let’s do the review!

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What’s in this 2020 film called “Black Box?” More importantly, is it worth a 2020 horror fan’s time? Blumhouse financed it but as fans know, their movies have been hit and miss in the past few years with a sample miss being “Happy Death Day II” and absolute hits being the “Creep” franchise and the inimitable “Hush.” So, with respect and eager anticipation, horror fans want to know, “What’s next in the box?” For me, this one stops just short of being great. It succeeds in looking like a “Get Out” (is there any latent horror value in mandating a mostly black cast? Please sound off in the comments) but it loses points in scares and writing. In some social ways, this was a hard review for me. I don’t want to offend people. Please don’t be offended. Sound off in the comments, I would love to hear your response to this film.

Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. is our first time director. “Black Box,” in a similar vein of “Total Recall,” concerns the erasure/redemption of memory, and one man’s sad loss of his. Glenn Kenny (NYT) says:

In “Black Box,” it’s bad enough for Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) that, half a year after losing his wife in an automobile accident that also put him into a temporary coma, he’s still suffering from amnesia. But what’s worse are his dreams, which are increasingly becoming nightmares. 

The trouble is, we’ve see this before done far better: e.g. Vertigo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Memento, The Tree of Life …

Mamoudou Athie portrays Nolan, a mysterious dad with no past he can recollect and thus has a very strange relationship with his daughter. He forgets to pick her up from school numerous times and thus is threatened by her teacher that next time she will have to call social services. Enter clinical and controversial memory scientist Lillian (Phylicia Rashad) who claims she can bring back his memory through a sort of guided meditation which smacks of “Insidious,” and other familiar horror tropes. She’s a beloved actress but fails to get this plot off life support. It takes a long time for anything scary to happen and Rashad is … well she’s 72. It feels like they are trying to attract black viewers primarily instead of all colors of fans. I’ve wondered since the release of “Get Out” why they need that. I get reparations and equity etc. I love black culture butI’mnt sure Jordan Peele is a horror director to emulate. I know I’m in the minority on that. Feel differently? Let’s chat about it in the comments. I respect all views on horror. It’s not all black and white.

Progress is steadily made with the protagonist’s memory. These scenes are creepy, I liked them. If anything, these dreamlike memory sequences make it worth your time. The writing in between is often pathetic though. I feel more effort should have gone into developing believable characters, textbook black or not. The righteous anger over prejudice will likely produce more of these mediocre films.

In conclusion, There’s nothing new to see here. It’s a “Get Out” clone with very little bite in the plot. The Cosby Show gave us Claire Huxtable but even her mammoth stardom can’t awaken a scary story. You can miss this one. Psychology majors will enjoy the hypnotism sequences. I give this one a 6/10 “Watchable.” Please start a dialog with me in the comments. (This review of mine appeared first on: HorrorNews.net)

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The Wolf of Snow Hollow, 2020 – ★★★ – Plus Silver Bullet

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This interesting director’s name is Jim Cummings (“Thunder Road”). He’s a new director with a lot of energy. Unfortunately I hated his portrayal of the Sheriff. He’s slight and seems to lash out uncontrollably for no reason. I attribute that to a writer/actor/director taking on too much. But that doesn’t stop the cult praise. I see big scores for this film all over, even on Letterboxd which impresses me since so many of respectable amateur film critics (and pro too) live there. I think the first real werewolf movie I saw was “Silver Bullet” written by Stephen King. That movie will always rock in my memory. Gary Busey was the goofy uncle and the werewolf is one of the scariest anyone could have assembled in a film.

People in their teens and twenties might find it hard to believe that there were werewolf movies prior to “Twilight.” Probably the most outlandish of which is “An American Werewolf in London.”

If you’re a horror fan who hasn’t seen it yet, you should. Let me take a birdwalk here for a few words about Silver Bullet. It’s comedic irony in a horror film like no other film. “Silver Bullet” is another werewolf film that has been lost on a new generation. I was 10 in 1980 and watched whatever I could of Stephen king movies all through the decade. “Silver Bullet” is horror with an Americana feel to it. King created a solid story here that has stood the test of time for me. Watching it 30 years later, I still hid my eyes a few times, remember terrified sleepovers of my youth in front of the tv.

The plot is fairly simple but that works well for the film. A werewolf brings terror down on a smalltown American city. The protagonist is Marty, a paralyzed boy confined to a wheelchair. The other two main characters beside Marty are his sister and uncle. They don’t believe what he is telling them about the horror he sees. Along the way you get smalltown diners, 80’s decorated homes, picnics, and scary legends coming to life before your eyes. All people around my age must remember the motorcycle wheelchair. Yes, that was something to behold! Most all of King’s movies have somewhat of a sing song vibe to them, “The Shining” being an exception. I remember reading “The Stand” and “Firestarter” in high school and there were pages devoted to oldies tunes. King has a talent for making singsong wholesome images terrifying. Silver Bullet follows right along in that style of his.

A character worth noting is Marty’s uncle, played by the indefatigable Gary Busey. He is pure fun to watch on screen. When I see him in movies like this or “the Buddy Holly Story” I can’t help but wonder if the character was written just for him. He has an attitude in real life that shows through in most of his characters. When facing a werewolf, you definitely want Busey with you. In the interest of preventing spoilers I won’t go into too much plot detail. Suffice it to say, “Silver Bullet” is a well-crafted movie adapted from an amazing story by an established and world famous horror writer. It reminds me of the 80’s in its purity and innocence. Even though it is a bit singsong at times with its focus on an American town, it pulls no punches for being a frightening movie including clever effects. Every time I watch it I see something more. The werewolf movie genre may have evolved since the 80’s but we can always travel back and get a glimpse of what it was with “Silver Bullet.”

But this is no “Silver Bullet,” to be fair, it doesn’t try to be your typical werewolf film. It struggles to keep verisimilitude which is a necessary element for scares. I yelled at the TV “There is a wolf or what?” Let me just say I was disappointed with the films response. I think there is a cult favorite rising here for multiple reasons, all complimentary to Cummings. Still, the editing is piss poor, the choices for cuts and scene setups is horrendous. While I liked the sharp canines, it all feel flat for me in that I was constantly being reminded that someone was trying to make it cultic. That’s not what I look for in a film.

The early parts of the film are your typical hick sheriff saves the day types. The difference I suppose is that the writer/director (Cummings) is playing the hick Sheriff. Normally I have straight-up respect for any director who also plays those roles. But in this case, I couldn’t buy the Sheriff and his ex-alcoholism/dead beat dad well trodden plot trail. At one point in a diner, the Sheriff explains to his ex-wife in front of their son that he is trying to pace himself so they wouldn’t “set the bar too high.” She scorns back, “Our bar is extremely low.”

Then there are the teeth. The Sheriff appears to have canine teeth prosthetics hinting at nothing. I wondered ablut 1/4 of the movie if he was the mysterious wolf but alas, that was no clue. This film is getting a lot of praise, as it should, but I don’t think this film is the director’s stunning horror debut nor is it his incredible opus. Of course it’s not his opus, he’s just burst on the scene. In this werewolf film, he hasn’t spent too much on the werewolf which is ok since it turns out to be not worth doing that anyway. The story has a strained dark humor to it that smacks of the Cohen brothers. If this director has a vision for this tone, he hasn’t fully achieved it in this low budget film. Many people respect these two films he’s done though so I suppose I should withhold final judgment. I am curious what this director will do next though.

There is a quasi barfight where the buff tough guy eating in a diner gets offended by the some local trash and insults them. This is a powerful scene. I couldn’t help but remember though I was watching b-list actors reading from their stapled script. I’m not sure why, perhaps it was the writing more than the directing. The timing of this film seems off.

I for some reason suspect the wolf canines are meant to throw us off that the wolf isn’t real. The only thing about distracting clues is that the viewer has to care. That was one thing I unfortunately didn’t do. It could have been developed better through realistic relaxed scenes around the station, or with the Sheriff’s son. Maybe a flashback of their life before the divorce. You could have played more on the Sheriff’s madness over not catching the wolf. Have him research them like they research what is happening in “An American Werewolf in London.”

In conclusion, from “Twilight” to “Dog Soldiers” there exists a cache of mixed quality werewolf movies out there. This one stretches far from the silver bullet. I think we should watch the director but to me, this film felt unfinished and therefore ineffective. Watch it and tell me what you think in the comments. 6.5/10

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Damien’s Halloween Special: Hush (2016) and Archons (2020)

Synopsis: “Archons” (2020) is the story of falling-from-grace rock group, Sled Dog, half a decade after the release of their hit single, Backfire. After a chance encounter with rock-legend and life-long idol, Emerson Gilmore, Eric is willing to take one more chance at success, the way Emerson Gilmore did it back in the 70s—out in the Canadian mountains with a guitar and a bag of psychedelic drugs. An FYI: the blood-shed has a great top ten post on drug horror flicks! I like them all! Check it out. In this post and podcast, I review 2 movies, one is my recommendation for your Halloween primary scare!

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My written review of “Archons” is on horrornews.net

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Review: If you’re a rock band seeking a veto writer’s block, don’t stay out in the terrifying forest and take Indian drugs, stay home and do regular acid. We forget how scary Native Americans can be in horror stories, with all the trips they took on peyote etc. Someone took advantage of that in this film and it works well. The backdrop is a camping trip. The players are 3 beautiful women and a rock band seeking pharmaceutical inspiration for its next album. Both camping and rock music are familiar tropes for horror. Here they work together in a similar and fun way. I didn’t think I would like this film as much as I did. it’s not for everybody though. If you like movies where the cast are on a psychedelic trip, you’ll enjoy this horror. For a low budget film, it delivers the scares. I give a 10/10 to visuals and cinematography. It’s a hammock saying, come and sit awhile.

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After the 3 bikini clad babes have a little dialog with the vacationing rocker, we are introduced to an endearing actress: Parmiss Sehat (April “May”). I recall her role on Keifer Sutherland’s “Designated Survivor.” Her eyes are entrancing and she plays a hopeless fan exceedingly well. The bronze blond rocker is played by Josh Collins. He’s been in “The 100,” “Supernatural,” and a few other roles. Needless to say, this is not a no-namer film. The fan follows the band on their canoeing drug trip and as you can probably imagine, the films descends quickly in chaos and horror. Oh and don’t forget the supernatural aspects of the “Indian Drug.”

The guitarist (Rob Raco/”Supernatral”) acquires drugs before the trip and they are supposedly drugs the Indians’ use to do their religious ceremonies. Of course it’s a little too strong and they “see” things. Hallucination movies can be great. They are meant to emulate a drug trip so you will like it more if you’ve been on one. First, Priss’ character has something explode in her head. From there all manner of camping horror mayhem breaks loose. This isn’t acid, we find out, it’s something much more potent and other worldly. as the makeshift creatures appeared, I found myself wondering if they were really people disguised by the drug. it wasn’t too clear but I let myself believe it and really enjoyed the thrills! The best low budget creature I’ve seen was in “The Village” and thus I learned you don’t need cgi for deep, dark creepy!

The creatures look like paper mache costumes but they still are jarring. I was reminded by the low budget things that this isn’t a blockbuster. At the same time, any horror fan who’s been on a trip with friends will recoil in delight at these humble drug horrors. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred. As is sometimes the case in druggie movies, the hallucination is revealed to be an actual person whom they don’t mean to kill. I suspected that here but they left it open. Camping movies that get this sub genre very right are “Backcountry” and “The Blair Witch Project.” This film “Archons” puts drugs into the mix and I think pulls it off quite well.

In conclusion, the band somehow gets its inspiration but at a ⅔ of the band cost. Only the guitarist survives and is heard on the radio lamenting the loss of his band mates. Is the lead singer alive? The visuals and premise kept me quite entertained but I can’t really plug the weak and cryptic ending. Nonetheless, I did enjoy this film as a sort of psychedelic but low budget hallucination. It suffers from bad acting and truly rustic creatures but recovers with a premise rocking horror and/or drug experienced fans will enjoy. While not my #1 recommendation for Halloween this year but hang in there, it’s coming next! 7/10

Now for my Halloween watch recommendation! “Hush” (2015)

Hush was made for under $75,000 usd but leaves us with the Hush product which is as scary as any high budget horror film. It’s a “thinking person’s scary” which some may prefer to the pure slice and dice variety, though there is certainly some of that here.

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This film was directed by Mike Flannigan (Oculus). He co-write the film with Kate Siegel (plays the main character Maddie) who in real life shares a house with Flannigan. In fact, several sources indicate they wrote the screenplay with their home layout as a blueprint. She starred in Oculus.

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“Hush” is a thriller and horror movie that features a deaf writer at her laptop being broken in on and attacked by a masked man. There are few casualties, few actors, and definitely a few gallons of blood spilled on scene. One original component that builds suspense is that the main character/victim is deaf. This is an ingenious idea as it allows for a few really spine tingling scenes requiring no cgi or music for that matter. The killer’s mask looks different from the standard ones we’ve seen in break-and-enter thrillers, for example presidents and Star Trek masks. In this case, it’s very carefully crafted. In some scenes it appears to be part of the attacker’s own face. This serves for another original, simple, scary element that probably didn’t cost much to create.

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Another film that comes to mind that created massive scares on a low budget is Insidious. It’s being proven again and again we don’t need million dollar movies to be scared and thereby entertained. Through a series of slashings and “intruder” scenes, the deaf Maddie learns she doesn’t have to be a victim. She fights back. Everything is filmed in a dark setting outside and inside the house. This accentuates the revenge element that weaves throughout and leads us to an ending that is pleasing horror critics all over the internet.

The film screened at SXSW for a panel of industry “buyers.” It did very well there but somehow ended up on Netflix where I was fortunate enough to see it. Netflix needs more quality horror and suspense films like Hush. Frankly the category is small on the service and appears to be shrinking. I had a lot of fun watching this film and highly recommend it if you can catch it on Netflix or elsewhere. Imagine you have earplugs in and can’t hear a thing and you can’t hear anyone sneaking in the window either. This film makes the most of the simple scares. I think it would be great to see it on the big screen.

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Choke (2020)

Synopsis: An attractive young women enters the world of a serial killer by having sex with him and being strangled. She lives and her story intertwines with many other lonely characters in this self-professed horror film that revolves around sexual choking and homicide.

Review: Watching a horror movie that looks homemade is fine but the impact has to be there. It may be possible to understand why people asphyxiate themselves during sex: because it awakens endorphin glands before you pass out. I’m no expert but watching “Choke” (2020) I caught a glimpse of perhaps why, and I myself up to that point had never realized it before. As we follow truly lonely souls: a cop, a serial killer and a few other minor chokers. Imagine if you went on a date with a choker killer. When would you expect them to take their hands off your neck? Just like practicing partners of this deviancy, would it be when you passed out? Death and bliss are a fine line we find. This review appeared first at my real writing job 😉 horrornews.net

Choke may be interesting to fans of this sexual choking fetish. I found myself on the other side and hoping to understand the appeal. That never happened. Jeanie (Sarah Brine) meets up with an older man on a train and has sex with him. This is quite fast but I welcomed the excitement in the plot since it took quite a while to do anything stimulating for a horror fan. Even when we see the choking, it looks canned and over coached. Obviously camera angles help but I began to wonder if I was watching an indoctrination film to choking during sex. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t aroused in the slightest. I honestly wonder who would like this movie. I didn’t see it as horror and it was a little too in-your-face to be a thriller/drama.

But Jeanie gets sucked in all the way. She becomes accustomed (addicted?) to this sex move. Perhaps she might tell us that once you’ve tried it, you can never go back. I know this is in a subculture out there but people please, be real, who wants to be choked during a pleasurable encounter? There is something like a lolita storyline here but above that is the practice, the hedonistic practice of choking during sex.

Hatanaka is a good director here. Unfortunately the subject matter is so difficult to draw near to or to push away. It isn’t clear what he wants to tell us so in my mind, he missed the whole point of a horror movie. For example, instead of causing my skin to crawl when the serial killer kills, he visited unbridled annoyance on me by having the choking partners fake evil laugh for 10 minutes. This isn’t why I watch horror movies. There were times it seemed the director was absent, maybe he choked on a cigarette on his break? Just wondering.

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You will not find blood and gore here. Instead you’ll see a director’s case study of trial and error of portraying this deviancy onscreen. I am not a huge fan of pure blood and gore but I do enjoy creepy themes and atmosphere. This did not successfully develop either. Someone had told me the beginning looked like a high school level film term project. It does but they failed to mention it never really changes.

Curious About Autoerotic Asphyxiation?

In conclusion, I’d say that due to an overemphasis of staged choking, this film fails for me. Anytime you name a film after something so chilling as choking, you must tastefully introduce it and then add it to the storyline in a way that yes repulses but keeps the viewer interested and more informed about it as the movie proceeds to its conclusion. I didn’t feel that here. It was a handful of unhappy people addicted to asphyxiation during sex. Sound dumb? It could have been good. I think this problem in our society of choking people during sex could have been addressed in a better fashion. I think the director banked on people being interested in choking and being choked during sex. The waifish lead girl is pleasant to look at but she can’t fix the mess of choking that keeps assaulting viewers from the scene. I can imagine a dozen ways to have done this film differently as a horror but I’m just a reviewer, I haven’t made a movie on it … yet. My verdict? You can miss this one. 4/10

This has nothing to do with asphyxiation but check out this busty babe Janet Lupo, gulp!

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Transference (2020)

I know many of you horror fans out there like superhero films. Maybe this film was aimed at you because I don’t particularly like them and this was all but a lost mess on me. Listen to this episode in your podcast player of choice. The written version appeared first at HorrorNews.net

Tropes of superhero films appear a safe bet in this movie market. “Xmen” franchises always make hundreds of millions of dollars but films like it are beset with production costs that literally no one ever imagine. In that way, “Transference” is a bit refreshing in that it is a low budget film trying to achieve in the ranks of Amazon’s “The Boys.” Are you being assaulted hourly with ads like I am when I tune to Amazon Prime? But “Transference” is currently streaming on tubi not Amazon and the comparison of networks is a metaphor if not almost an allegory.Joshua (Jeremy Ninaber) is the tacit caretaker for his sister Emma (Melissa Joy Boerger) since their father died in a car accident. She has enormous metal psychic powers. At one point, her mind shows itself powerful enough to cause a horde of people to slit their wrists all at the same time. This sounds amazing I know but the way the parts like this are connected and misapplied, the film ends up being all over the place and extremely hard to follow. A friend of mine told me it was like doing brain surgery trying to understand the plot. Another said it had no plot. It does feel like 3-4 scripts were joined together hodgepodge. For that reason, I was turned off by this film.

You might compare Joshua to Wolverine in that he’s highly violent and powerful. What’s more, the knuckle fights don’t affect him physically at all. Picture Captain America in his street clothes attempting to take no prisoners in a street fight. Now imagine no humor to go along with that. Since I’m not much into street fighting either, it came up fairly empty for me. This film would have been better served by being a spoof. That wouldn’t require much of the cgi in superhero movies either.

The knuckle fights at night, while highly improbable and hard to accept as real, keep his sister in the hospital. By that I mean, brother earns the hospital fees through street fighting. You can see elements like this making a superhero film a bit hard to access. This isn’t horror. If the continual barrage of images and plot line made me uncomfortable, I would praise it as horror. Unfortunately, it makes the error of traveling down the road of superhero movies. It could have chosen to be a spoof, which would be better. I should also mention that the street fights are very poorly choreographed which can’t usually be blamed on a 200,000 dollar budget.

Can we look at one feature of this film I did/do like and am happy to share? As is conventional for my reviews, I have to give props to the multi-tasking director/writer/actor of this film: Matthew Ninaber. This was an ambitious task and I always want to recognize the directors who “do it all” to achieve their vision. The budget and plot issues aside, I can see how fans of the sub-genre will enjoy this film. If you agree or disagree with me about aspects of the film, I invite you to kindly start a discussion with me and others in the comments. I welcome all points of view and sometimes comments make me a better reviewer/podcaster.

A comic book masquerading in genre to be a horror is hard enough to pull off in the marketing. Even the film itself lacks the stuff of greatness. I will obviously reserve judgement for you comic book peripheral horror fans but as a straight up horror, you could miss this one.

As a parting thought, let me give you some recommendations of films that “get it right” in the “low budget superhero” subgenre:

Wonder Boy, The Transfiguration, Kick Ass, Super. 

Do you know of another low budget superhero film? Include it in a comment: Let’s get a discussion going!