Monday Morning Movie Review: Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Back in 2014 the indie game Five Nights at Freddy’s fired the imaginations and nightmares of gamers with its twitchy, fast-paced, stressful management of a low-powered security camera system and a couple of security doors.  The premise of the game is simple:  survive the night as a security guard while the animatronics at a haunted pizzeria come to life.

The game trades on the creepiness of those old Showbiz Pizza (later Chuck E. Cheese) robot concerts and their terrifying characters.  While that ill-fated pizza franchise has struggled with bankruptcy, the interest in deadly animatronics slaying unsuspecting night watchman and would-be pie lovers has only grown.

It’s not surprising, then, that Hollywood would take note of Five Nights at Freddy’s success and attempt to capitalize on this very specific horror niche.  2019 saw the release of The Banana Splits Movie, a horror comedy ludicrously based on the late 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Banana Splits.

I haven’t seen The Banana Splits Movie (though it’s definitely on my list of “weird things to watch”), but I have seen the most recent entry into the subgenre of animatronics horror:  2021’s Willy’s Wonderland, starring Nicolas Cage in a role completely counter to the over-the-top acting style Cage usually employs:  he doesn’t speak a single word in the entire film.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Suburban Gothic (2014)

The Hulu-based deep dive into cinematic obscurity continues this Monday with 2014’s Suburban Gothic, a film broadly in the “comedy horror” genre.  It’s roughly in the same vein as 2020’s Love and Monsters, but it’s much quirkier, a la John Dies at the End (2012).  The presence of Kat Dennings as the sidekick/love-interest—a latter day, gloomier Zooey Deschanel, and a prefiguration of Aubrey Plaza—further drives home the hipster credentials of this oddball little flick.

Needless to say, I loved it.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: You’re Next (2013)

Another weekend has rolled by, so it’s time for another Monday Morning Movie Review.  While clicking around Hulu I stumbled upon a flick I saw some years ago, though I didn’t realize it at first.

That says something about the similarity of schlocky horror flicks out there—they all have basically the same premise and plot description. Except this one, 2013’s You’re Next, is actually quite original.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Digging Up the Marrow (2014)

My fifth trip to Universal Studios in the past eleven months is done, and I’ve put another 900 miles on my little 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV getting there and back again.  It was another great trip, but as much as I love heading down there, it will likely be awhile before I return.  Of course, I thought the same thing when I went last February before The Virus hit, and it was the most Universal Studios-filled year of my life.

After catching up on e-mails and some work after getting back, I decided to see what schlock Hulu had to offer.  The quality of Hulu as a streaming service has really taken a dive, and it’s confoundingly difficult to find specific flicks on the service.  I’ve been on a huge Hammer Films kick lately, an Hulu has one or two of their films; it would be great if there was a way I could search for films by studio, rather than just trying to search the names of Hammer’s movies and hoping I get a hit.

Like all cut-rate services, Hulu is also putting more and more content behind additional paywalls and subscription services.  Sometimes I’ll see that Hulu has a movie I’m searching for in my browser, only to log into the app to find I have to add a $12 a month subscription to HBO or Showtime to view it.  No thanks.

I suppose I can’t complain too much when I’m paying $2.15 a month, and I will note one positive of Hulu:  it has dozens (maybe hundreds; I don’t know, because, again, the service is so difficult to search and navigate) of crummy horror movies.  That’s probably a negative for many users, but it’s a gold mine for someone like me, who genuinely enjoys watching bad horror movies.

Of course, there are occasionally gems—unpolished or otherwise—amid the dross.  So it was this evening that I stumbled upon one such precious stone, blemished though it may be:  2014’s Digging Up the Marrow.

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TBT: Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

It’s getting into that spooky time of year, so for this week’s TBT I decided to look back at “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap.”  I spent most of my Spring Break this year reading horror short stories, writing reviews about and recommendations for some of the better stories I read.

I won’t do much more editorializing than that, as the original post is quite lengthy and detailed.  I will add that love short stories, and find the form chillingly effective for horror.  The brevity and concision of the form encourages horror writers to deliver chills and terror straightaway, and allows for frights to be the focus.

With that, here is “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap“:

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A Tale of Two Horror Movies: Snatchers (2019) & Black Christmas (2019)

Regular readers know I’m a big fan of Redbox, the company that managed to survive the digital streaming revolution with its ubiquitous red monoliths stationed outside every pharmacy, Wal-Mart, and gas station in the country.  Without the overhead of Blockbuster, Redbox has scraped by on its hundreds of locations and super cheap rental fees, and by throwing coupons at customers every five minutes.

Little Lamar has one trusty (if occasionally glitchy) Redbox kiosk outside the local Dollar General.  I was convinced until this week that I was single-handedly keeping that kiosk afloat, but in The Age of The Virus, everyone is looking for cheap entertainment, and I’ve had to wait on someone slowly browsing through the dozens of selections before picking their entertainment sleeping pill for the night.  Regardless, I’ve rented so many movies for dirt-cheap, I’m achieved “Legendary” status with Redbox.

Finally, the recognition I deserve.

My point is, Redbox makes it compelling to watch a lot—and I do mean a lot—of schlocky trash.  They used to throw $1.50 off coupons at me (remember, a rental is only $1.90 for a DVD) like concubines at King Solomon.  Now they’re going with a BOGO strategy, which probably suits their interests better (if you forget to return your two movies, you’re going to pay for another night for both of them).  Either way, it just means I watch a TON of movies.

If I’m spending, essentially, $0.80 on a rental, I’m willing to take some risks.  Sometimes, as in the movie Snatchers (2019), that risk pays off beautifully, and I stumble upon a diamond in the rough.  Usually, I lose the bet, as was the case with Black Christmas (2019).

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Progressivism and Playing God

God Bless the weirdos at Quora for asking the questions the rest of us are too afraid to ask.  Regular readers know that I relish Quora fodder, as questions range from the ridiculous to the thought-provoking, but usually fall into some kind of bizarre no-man’s land.

Such is the case with this question:  “Do humanzees (half-human, half-chimpanzee hybrids) exist, or have ones been recorded in the past?”  It’s the kind of question that’s both fascinating and lurid, like reading about a baby raised by wild animals.  Like allowing a human baby to be raised in the wild (what was once called “the forbidden experiment“), such a horrific, cross-species hybrid would be a disgusting mockery of Creation—so, like the terrible car wreck, we want to see more.

The top answer to the humanzee question is from Belinda Huntington, who explains how various species within the same genus can crossbreed, such as a horse and a zebra, or a lion and a tiger.  The more mundane example is the humble mule, the result of a male donkey and a female horse.

Huntington then goes on to detail the many differences between humans and chimpanzees physiologically, and how such differences would make any offspring, if possible, extremely vulnerable and fragile—differences in spinal structure, arm and leg length, cranial capacity, etc.

She doesn’t get into the more interesting metaphysical questions, much less the moral ones—should we interbreed humans and chimps (answer:  no)—but she does link to a piece about Soviet experiments to interbreed humans and chimps.

Leave it to a dangerously progressive, atheistic ideology to play God.

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Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

Spring Break is (essentially) over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep reading fun stuff!  Today’s Lazy Sunday, perhaps predictably, is going to look back at my Spring Break Short Story Recommendations mini-series.  I’ll also include which of these stories was my favorite of the week.

These are strange times to be a politics blogger.  The Virus holds sway over every discussion, almost absorbing as much mental mind-share as President Trump.  It’s interesting that the same people who are obsessed with Trump are also the very same people that fetishize The Virus.  It’s the same kind of magical thinking:  just as Trump is the cause of all of their problems, so The Virus is the means by which they can exert more social and governmental control over the rest of us.

As such, writing about politics and The Virus has grown dull—and wearying.  Thus, this past week’s diversion into more harmless horror stories.

But I digress.  Let’s get on with the recap!

  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part I: ‘The Judge’s House’” – The chilling tale of Malcolm Malcolmson, the diligent mathematics student in search of total isolation, the better to pore over his textbooks.  Malcolmson takes quarters in the titular house in a distant town, but runs afoul of a demonic rat with a “baleful” eye.  Very spooky mood setting from a true master of horror, Bram Stoker.
  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part II: ‘Thus I Refute Beelzy’” – A short, skin-crawlingly creepy little story from John Collier.  In just five brief pages, this story depicts a troubled youngster—likely in league with Satan—and his overbearing, hyper-rationalist, abusive father.  The ending is satisfying, but the implication is even more horrifying.
  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part III: ‘Seven American Nights’” – A non-horror entry in the week, this story is a bit of sci-fi travel fiction.  A young Iranian visits a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., that is grasping to hold onto a nation irreparably in decline.  It’s an eerie bit of role reversal, as the Third World is on top, and America sinks into mutated decadence.
  • TBT: Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Mother Hive’” & “Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Mother Hive’” (Original Post) – This post is more of an “honorable mention,” as I wrote about it last summer.  But when you blog everyday, as I do, you’re not going to pass up the chance to reblog every Thursday (seriously, it saves a ton of time).  Regardless, this tale definitely fits the theme:  an insidious wax-moth begins filling the heads of vulnerable young bees with sweet, silky lies, much like a public school English teacher.  Soon, the once-proud high is on the verge of collapse, with mutated and invalid “Oddities” born in greater numbers.  It’s a shocking allegory—or Aesopian fable—that ends in flames, with a cautiously optimistic coda.
  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part IV: ‘The Shed’” – I described this small-town tale as proto-Stephen King:  young boys work together to investigate the disappearance of a local dog—and to overcome a mysterious, malevolent evil, The Shadow.

Naturally, I recommend all of these stories—that’s why their recommendations, after all—but which one do I deem the best of the bunch?

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part IV: “The Shed”

Well, all good things must come to an end.  Such is the fate of Spring Breaks everywhere.  While I still have the glorious weekend before me, today marks the formal last day of break.

With that, it’s time to finish out our Spring Break Short Story Recommendations (read Part I, Part II, Part III, and the TBT installment) with 1952’s “The Shed,” a bit of small-town terror by E. Eerett Evans.  This story is a tad obscure, as is its author, and I couldn’t find a free version online, but like “The Judge’s House” and “Thus I Refute Beelzy,” it’s from 11 Great Horror Stories.

“The Shed” takes place in a small town in Michigan in the first decade of the twentieth century, and focused primarily on the rough-and-tumble adventures of the town’s boys, all under fourteen.  The boys are scrappy, plucky, and fun, and spend their days exploring town, splashing in the local waterhole, and generally doing the kinds of things boys did before they were shut up in classes for eight hours everyday.

The boys’ favorite play place is a dilapidated shed that belongs to the local railroad company.  They use the shed as their base of operations, and as a makeshift jungle gym.  However, they strenuously avoid one dark corner of the shed, in which resides The Shadown, an iridescent, subtly shifting, amorphous mass of malevolence.  The boys know, instinctively, to stay away from it, but otherwise tolerate its malignant presence.

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