Shudder continues to deliver up the bizarre and unusual, proving it’s well worth the price of admission for the streaming service. This last week saw the service bring the 1985 film The Stuff to the service.
It’s an unusual horror flick that combines elements of consumer protection advocacy, mass media advertising, consumerism, ruthless business tactics, and addiction into a blob of creamy terror.
Indeed, the film is something like The Blob (1958) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) rolled into one: a greedy corporation knowingly sells a dangerous product, which turns out to be a goopy white organism that entire consumes the very people consuming it.
So, essentially, the entire flick is a metaphor for consumerism and corporate greed run amok.
Apparently, the 1960s were a bit wild for the Soviets, too, as the Russkies allowed the release of Viy (1967), a Soviet-era horror flick, the first of its kinds to enjoy an official release in the USSR. Shudder is currently streaming the film, and it’s worth your time to check it out, both for the novelty of watching a Soviet horror flick, but also because it’s a fun, surprisingly frightening film.
Today marks the end of summertime fun and the beginning of work. Classes for the school year won’t start for another nine days, but I’ll be filling out various bits of legalese paperwork and taking the same bloodborne pathogens quiz I’ve taken every August for the paste decade.
In the spirit of beginning another year of academic rigmarole and inspirational mind-molding, I decided to review the 1989 dark comedy Heathers, starring Wynona Rider and Christian Slater as two oddball teens who declare war against the titular popular clique that rules the school.
I first watched Heathers on Hulu back in 2019 with the girl I was dating at the time. I remember it being far darker than I anticipated, and found the second half of the film unpleasant. I usually enjoy unsettling movies, but tonally it seemed “off.”
Well, tomorrow I head back to the real world—at least, as close to the real world as teaching gets—and the glorious freedom of summer ends. I’ll likely spend today playing piano at church and watching crummy movies on Shudder.
That’s kind of a metaphor for the conundrum of summer vacation: you get two months of completely unstructured time handed to you, then blow it all watching B-movies and taking naps. I do think I had a more productive summer than usual, but many of my hoped-for projects—as usual—are incomplete, even un-started.
Oh, well. It was still a good summer. I loved living like a retiree for two months.
Anyway, on to the flicks!:
“Monday Morning Movie Review: Still (2018)” – This movie is about a magical water source deep in the Appalachian Mountains that grants eternal youth to two jaded outlaws. A young woman stumbles upon it, and is drawn into their weird world.
“Monday Morning Movie Review: Suburban Gothic (2014)” – This flick is a fun, quirky comedy-horror. The protagonist is a dude who looks and dresses like a gay man, but is just an eccentric weirdo. When some Mexican contractors dig up a young girl’s grave and steal her necklace, some supernatural shenanigans start to go down. Needless to say, this movie—which is only seven years old—could not be made today.
“Monday Morning Movie Review: The Housemaid (2016)” – I very much enjoyed this Vietnamese-language film, which takes place during France’s failed attempt to hold onto its southeast Asian colony in the 1950s. A young woman takes a job at a notoriously haunted rubber plantation and begins an affair with the wounded French captain and plantation owner. The flick is all about revenge and colonialism, but don’t let that second point spoil it for you—it’s quite good.
That’s it for this Lazy Sunday, my last Sunday as a free man until June 2022.
August is an odd time be writing about vampires. With the intense heat and humidity of the brutal South Carolina summer beating down upon us, it doesn’t feel like vampire weather. But the crisp autumnal nights of October are closer than we realize, even if they seem impossible right now.
That said, the Southern vampire is a particular niche of Southern gothic horror. All the mystery and romance of “moonlight and magnolias” is enhanced with these mysterious, romantic creatures stalking about crumbling old plantation houses in the night. I’ve been reading Anne Rice’s novel Interview with the Vampire(the film version of which I reviewed last fall), and the titular vampire and narrator, Louis, is from Louisiana. The exotic setting of New Orleans plays a prominent role in the first half of the book, and provides the perfect backdrop for Louis, Lestat, and Claudia’s lethal nocturnal escapades.
This week’s film, 1987’s Near Dark, isn’t exactly about Southern vampires, but Midwestern vampires. That doesn’t exactly fit into the mold of the seductive, mysterious vampire, but that’s one of the film’s strengths: these vampires are crazy Nebraskan (or Oklahoman?) low-lives, terrorizing the prairie in a aluminum-foil-covered panel van.
The description for the movie on Shudder.com reads thusly:
A lonely dog groomer in Hollywood searches for love, but his true passion is making weird video art that nobody understands. His menial routine spirals out of control when he meets the girl of his dreams, crossing boundaries between reality and fantasy as he dives deeper into his video experiments.
I guffawed as soon as I read the line “making weird video art that nobody understands.” That sold me on the flick, which I actually found enjoyable, if baffling.
When I first pulled up the flick on Shudder, I was hoping for 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, the supposedly “fun” Romero Dead movie. That’s the one with survivors of a zombie apocalypse live it up in a mall, enjoying all the materialism the late 1970s could afford.
Despite my efforts, though, I can’t seem to locate that flick on any streaming service I use, so Day of the Dead it was. By now the trope of “humans are the real monsters” is familiar to viewers—and readers of virtually any Stephen King novel—but Day of the Dead delivers that trite message in a taut, unsettling way.
I’ve been enjoying my Shudder membership immensely, and it’s pretty much become the main streaming service I watch when I’m viewing solo. Needless to say, I’ve consumed a lot of movies on the service already, so brace yourselves for many horror movie reviews (as if I didn’t mostly write those already).
This week, I’m looking at the horror anthology Creepshow (1982). Horror anthologies can vary in quality, with usually one very strong entry, and then some forgettable duds. Creepshow, for the most part, beats the odds.
I don’t remember when I first saw Creepshow, but I was probably far too young. What I do know is that some of its most iconic, comic-book-inspired images have stuck with me down to the present. I didn’t even know they were from Creepshow until re-watching it all these years later, but they’ve been seared into my brain.
For example, the whole plot of “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill“—which stars Stephen King in his first film role—has always stuck with me (indeed, I have an idea for a short story with a similar premise tentatively entitled “Yeast Man”): the idiot farmer slowly succumbing to the weird alien plant. Ted Danson’s submerged head in “Something to Tide You Over” is another memorable image, as is the flood of roaches entering the impossibly sanitized apartment in “They’re Creeping Up on You!”
Regular readers know that I have a penchant for schlocky horror movies. Knowing this fact well, Audre Myers, a regular contributor at Nebraska Energy Observer and a frequent commenter on this site, e-mailed me last week with a recommendation to check out Shudder, the horror streaming service. She isn’t the first to recommend the service—a colleague of mine has been singing the service’s praises for several months, but I kept putting it off for the same reason folks are slow to subscribe to my SubscribeStar page: whenever I thought to sign up, I didn’t have the time to do so.
Regardless, Audre sent along a YouTube video by Jade The Libra, a woman dressed like a witch and talking about which stores tend to put out their Halloween decorations first. Jade is some kind of Shudder affiliate, and entering promo code “JADE” gives new subscribers a free month of the service.
With that enticement—and without the lame excuse of lacking time—I signed up for the annual membership. Since subscribing (just about five days ago), I have pretty much only watched Shudder. If I weren’t paying a mere $2.15 a month for Hulu—and sharing it with three or four family members—I’d probably drop it entirely in favor of Shudder. After all, other than Bob’s Burgers, I pretty much only watch horror and thriller films on Hulu (as well as plenty of weird sci-fi flicks).
But I digress. That cloying endorsement of Shudder is my long way of introducing the subject of this week’s Monday Morning Movie Review, which is the second flick I viewed on the service. The film is 1960’s The City of the Dead (known as Horror Hotel in the United States—I like the original title better), a story about a coven of witches who have taken over the town of Whitewood, Massachusetts.