Five Years

Five Years…

One week ago today, September 28th, 2023, this site turned five years old. For any of you who may have followed the site, you know it’s had its ups-and-downs but I’m happy to see it looking better than ever and still kicking.

I haven’t had the time to work on the archives as much as I had hoped, but I’m going to get all the old posts cleaned up and updated in the very near future. I also plan on porting over the posts that I made on Middle-Aged Fat Kids under the Brandon’s Horror banner.

As Halloween approaches this year, we have a ton of interesting releases on the horizon: The Exorcist, Five Nights at Freddys, Totally Killer, The Jester, VHS 1985, and The Fall of the House of Usher just to name a few. Shudder also announced that Joe Bob is coming back next year, in a different format (just one film a night) but every other Friday, so overall it’s more Joe Bob and Shudder finally found a way to keep me from cancelling my subscription once the season of The Last Drive In ends!

Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment and recognize this achievement. This blog has lasted longer than any of my others, and while it hasn’t always had my attention, it’s been online the entire time and that’s something to be proud of.

Five years ago, if you had told me as I sat down to write a review of Urban Legend, that I’d still be writing about horror films five years later, I probably would have laughed. But I guess this fandom runs deep so here’s to five more years!

So, thank you for visiting and Happy Spooky Season!

-Brandon

My Summer of Horror Entertainment – Movies, Games, and TV

 As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying the horror genre this summer. Here is what I’ve been up to:

Night of Comets – This film has been on my to-watch list for years. A long time ago, I went to a therapy session and somehow zombies came up. When my therapist (a very non-horror fan) asked if I liked zombies, I said yeah, and she mentioned this film. I was always under the impression it was about something else, but ya know, it’s sorta about zombies.

It’s an upbeat take on the apocalypse with Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager in it. I had fun watching it, but I won’t be back for a second viewing.

Fun fact, it inspired the creation of Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


It Follows – An A24 film, before people said an A24 film. I remember the hype in 2015 when this film came out, and while I enjoyed it, I remember being a bit underwhelmed. I gave this a second viewing with my wife, and I actually enjoyed it a lot more this time around.

There is some real tension that occurs when things begin following and despite everyone frowning and no one smiling in this film, you still become invested in their survival.


Wither – Released in 2013, this Swedish homage to Evil Dead looks more like Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead but makes references to Sam Raimi’s. The gore and special effects are fantastic, sadly the film goes on for too long, and lack of likeable characters makes it a bit of a chore to get through.


Death Spa – Talk about an unexpected surprise. This 80’s fantasy/slasher takes place in a cutting-edge health spa that well… has what you would call AI. The kills are great, the girls are great, and I love the 80’s fitness vibe. Tons of fun to be had here.


Girls Nite Out – I was enticed by the Arrow cover art, and well… despite the interesting costume for the killer, this movie was a letdown. It’s another early 80’s slasher film that really offers nothing new or interesting. If you love slashers and want something to throw on in the background it might be worth a watch. The killer reveal was great, that is the one thing I will give it credit for.


House – When I think back to my childhood, I can remember the first horror film I saw all the way through was Popcorn. The second was House. Since then, I’ve attempted to watch House three or four times, but always fall asleep about halfway through. Well, I finally made it all the way through, and I can see why I loved it as a kid, but as an adult, it’s a little slow and a bit cheesy for my tastes. The effects are great and gave me an Evil Dead vibe at times.


Witchboard – A remake of Witchboard is coming out in 2024, and the trailer was pretty great. I decided I needed to see the original and luckily, Joe Bob Briggs covered it on The Last Drive In this past season.

Starring Tawny Kitaen, this film features a Ouija board that wreaks havoc on a couple. The jump scares are wonderful in this film as are the effects. Sometimes the death scenes are so unexpecting, it’s just a surprise which I enjoyed.


Hide and Go Shriek – Similar to Death Spa this was a pleasant surprise. I had never heard of this film until I saw it on a list of movies taking place in stores. I checked it out that evening and loved it! It takes place in a furniture store and features a great killer, a fun cast, and some great kills.


Alligator – Whew… so I’ve wanted to see this film for years. I LOVED the poster. This was another film I watched on The Last Drive In and it was no doubt enhanced by the Joe Bob experience. It’s goofy, but not a terrible creature feature. I loved the miniature work in it.


Sharknado – Okay… so this is not my type of movie, but my wife loves it. When it was announced for The Last Drive In, we tuned in and while it is not something I’ll watch again, spending the night with Joe Bob, Darcy, and my wife was a blast.


Extraterrestrial – After watching and loving the Peacemaker television series, went looking for other films that Freddie Stroma (Vigilante) acted in. Extraterrestrial popped up and looked right up my alley. It’s a dark, alien movie that sort of plays out like a slasher. Well… least the first forty minutes or so, then it goes off the rails and just ends terribly.


The Haunting in Connecticut – This is a film I really enjoyed when it came out. It was during a time when ghost type films weren’t being made as often and it was refreshing. The story itself isn’t great and it’s full of jump scares, but the imagery is great and the sound mixing is terrifying.


The Walking Dead Pilot – After years of Walking Dead jokes, and several mediocre seasons before I quit watching, the Walking Dead’s name was tarnished. I forgot how amazing it began and while watching the first two episodes with Joe Bob, I quickly remembered what a wonderful western this series truly was. It’s a shame the consistency didn’t stay up all the way, but man those first two episodes are gold.


Barbarian – This is the epitome of what I don’t like about horror right now. There are some good ideas that go a little too crazy and the next thing you’ve known you’ve wasted 2-2.5 hours on something that should have been better. The first half of this movie was pretty good.


Critters – This film is what started this summer of horror. After meeting Dee Wallace at Carolina Fear Fest, my wife had noticed some Critters on the various vendors shelves. She’d never seen them before, and I told her I’d actually never watched the franchise either. So, I bought the blu-ray set, and we sat down to watch the first film. I was expecting the worst, but it was actually a ton of fun! Had I seen this film as a kid, it would have no doubt been one of my favorites.


Critters 2 Critters 2 picks up where the first one left off and tells another, fun, goofy story with incredible creature designs by the Chiodo Brothers.


Evil Dead Rise – 2013’s Evil Dead is my favorite horror film of all-time, so I knew following it would be tough. While Rise never reaches the levels of intensity that Evil Dead did, it’s still a worthy entry into the franchise and I had a blast watching it. The more Evil Dead the better I say. Read my full review here.


Natty Knocks – I went in with low expectations and really, really enjoyed this film. Read my full review here.


In Search of Darkness III – I’ve loved all of these documentaries and this one is no different. In fact, I liked it better than II since it focused less on Italian horror (I’m just not a fan). I also felt like the movie selection was a bit better, and several of the films it covered I’ve watched this summer like Critters and Witchboard.


The Pool – An early 2000’s slasher film starring a young James McAvoy taking place inside an indoor waterpark. It featured some great kills and was better than expected.


Urban LegendYou can read my review of Urban Legend here. It was my first ever review for this site. My opinion has not changed one bit.


A Nightmare on Elm Street Series – Way too much to write. See the full recap here.


The Walking Dead: Dead City – AMC got me. They had Joe Bob host the pilot episode of Dead City and next thing I know I’m watching all six episodes. I’d say this was a solid three out of five, but it easily could have been an episode less and I’m still not sold the main villain. Still, I’ll be tuning in next season. You can read the recap of the pilot episode here.


Chucky Season Two – So last year, I finished up the first season and watched the first episode of the second season, and then stopped. Life and Halloween burnout got in the way. So, I finished up season two in preparations for season three, and I got to say, I really enjoyed it. I’m not a huge Chucky fan and some of the comedy bits are a bit too on the nose for me, but I really like the main cast, Brad Dourif is always amazing, and Fiona Dourif steals the show for me. I might could do with a little less Jennifer Tilly in this next season.


Walking Dead: The Complete Collection – The first Walking Dead game is one of my favorite emotional experiences in my own video game history. After picking up Star Trek Resurgence which was created by some of the old Telltale Team and watching the original pilot of the Walking Dead, I felt compelled to pick up the complete collection when it was on sale. It’s been fun revisiting the world of Clementine and while I haven’t made it too far, I do think this is a game and series, I will be finishing up in the near future.


Evil Dead the Game – I love Evil Dead and I’ve loved the past Evil Dead games, but I’m not a huge asymmetrical game player. I just don’t have the time to get good enough to play these types of games. Luckily, the controls are amazing in Evil Dead, and I can play with other players against AI or just with AI companions. It’s eons better than Friday the 13th, and I’ve put in more hours than I ever expected to do so with this game.


Days Gone – Probably my favorite zombie game of all-time, this game is a bit repetitive, but challenging and a lot of fun to play. I put in a few hours every few months and will one day finish it off.

Chasing the Fear

It was 2 AM and I was driving over the Appalachian Mountains on a trip from Raleigh, North Carolina to Nashville, Tennessee. The mountainous roads were mostly barren, which made for a nice relaxing drive. The tourists wouldn't be out for hours, so I appreciated the opportunity to get to my destination without dealing with the idiots who didn't respect the sharp curves and the space needed to properly stop. 

I was steaming music, when suddenly, I hit a dead spot. My cell signal was lost and so was the soft sounds occupying my mind on this dark, quiet night. 

After waiting a few moments hoping I'd regain service, I decided to turn on the radio and see what station I might pick up. It took some time, but finally a voice came in clear. It was a talk radio show, something I was not interested in hearing, but my options were limited. So, I allowed the station to play while assuming I'd have cell signal again in just a few miles. 

The conversation on the radio was not political in nature, which was a huge relief to me. No, this conversation was about... a Ouija board!? I listened to the host and the caller recite the history of the Ouija board and then someone else called in to tell a story about being haunted by a Ouija board. 

Alone, in the middle of the night, with no cell signal in a sparsely populated mountain region of the United States, I felt a feeling of dread beginning to take root. My normal comfort was replaced by a feeling of things being out of control. Help was no longer a phone call away. 

I've never believed in the power of a Ouija board, but as I carefully drove and listened to the desperation in the caller's voice, I began to question what I believed. I'd only been disconnected for a few minutes, but I felt like I had entered a Stephen King story. I was isolated, disconnected, and now forced to listen to discussions about the supernatural. It was both terrifying and thrilling all the same.

That was the last time I felt that sort of a fear, the same fear that horror movies gave me as a child. I remember the long, creepy walk to the kitchen for a soda in the middle of the night while watching a horror movie. I'd carefully turn on every light as I made my way from my upstairs bedroom to the kitchen. Then I'd get to the kitchen a take a good look around every corner to make sure nothing was lingering in the shadows. Once I had my drink securely in hand, I'd cut the kitchen light off and sprint to my room, trying to outrun the darkness and whatever may reside within. Once I closed my bedroom door, I was safe, and things were back to normal.

I feel like I've been chasing that high ever since I was a child and that one trip over the mountains several years ago, was the last time I truly felt it. The world has connected us in so many ways, that it's near impossible to feel truly cut off from the world.

I remember renting horror movies at video stores growing up, and the rarer the box, the more I wanted to rent it. I'd sit alone in my bedroom watching some low-budget movie and I felt like I was the only person in the world who'd seen it. It wasn't for several more years, and the invention of IMDB that I quickly realized I was far from the only person to rent Sleepaway Camp 2.

Horror appealed to me because it was taboo and then because of how it isolated me. It made me feel helpless and alone, and in some strange way that was comforting. It forced me to face my fears and find an inner strength, without the commentary of others. As I grew up, and the fear wore off, my fascination with horror evolved. I went from looking for a scary high to wanting to know more about the motivation behind the stories. I wanted to learn how my favorite movies were crafted and explore different subgenres. I was lucky to have been in high school when DVDs became mainstream, because that opened me up to a world of special features, documentaries, and commentary tracks that gave me an unprecedented look into the world of horror.

What I love and appreciate about horror may have changed over the years, but at the core, I still enjoy watching fucked up shit. Maybe it's a bit trashy sometimes but horror is fun. Even a bad horror movie can be fun, which is part of what makes the genre so special. You won't find many people dedicating podcasts or YouTube videos about a terrible drama film, but a bad horror film? Oh, it'll have a legion of fans and probably merchandise being created.

Horror fandom has always catered towards the outcasts. The people who didn't quite fit in but most likely didn't have a problem letting the world know, "We are the weirdos."

Horror is a movie genre, an emotional response, a community, an analysis of life and death, and whatever else you want it to be. That is what makes it so great. 

Scream VI Review (2023)


My History with the Film:

Not long after the success of Scream (2022) a sequel was put into production, mirroring the release of Scream (1996) and Scream 2 (1997). I was ecstatic to see my favorite horror franchise back in action once again. It was announced that the series would move on from Woodsboro and make its way to New York City, just as Jason did twenty-four years earlier.

The marketing team deserves some major kudos for all the great teasers and posters that were created hyping the move to New York City. I've posted a few of them below. 

 
I made my way to the Alamo Drafthouse in Raleigh the Friday that the movie opened, and I enjoyed it. I wasn't blown away like I was in 2022 and the lack of original cast members were sorely missed which I was not expecting.

What the Film is About (Non-Spoiler):

Hoping to forget about the latest Ghostface killings, the gang unites in New York City to move on with their lives as just another face in a sea of people.

What I Liked About It:

-The return of Kirby was one of the most requested returns in horror and I'm so glad the filmmakers obliged. While ultimately, I felt like she was underutilized, it was great to see her back in the Scream universe. 

-The kills were brutal as everything got cranked up a notch. You could feel the anger and rage behind the attacks and that translated well into elevating this franchise. 


-The new gang returned from Scream (2022) along with Courtney Cox. I didn't expect to miss Sydney and Dewey, but I did. The cast remained likeable, and the addition of Josh Segarra was welcomed. It gave the group a different dynamic when he was in scenes. 


-The use of social media to victim shame was a welcomed and topical plot point. Scream is always at its best when it has slight social commentary (the original film did an excellent job looking at the media's role in inspiring killers) and while I felt like this film could have taken it just a step further, I feel like it was believable and serviceable.

What I Didn't Like About It:

-The brutality made the cast surviving unbelievable. When watching horror, there is always a suspension of disbelief, but some of the folks surviving cause me to role my eyes with disappointment.

-The marketing was focused on the shift to New York City, and while maybe some native New Yorkers would appreciate the subtle use of bodegas and apartment buildings, it all felt underwhelming. At least in Jason Takes Manhattan there was the one great scene in Times Square. I can't really recall any iconic New York City moments from this film.

Additional Notes:

-Courtney Cox did all of her own stunts, which is impressive because she took a beating.

-Neve Campbell did not return due to a salary dispute.

-Courtney Cox has portrayed Gale Weathers in all six films of the franchise over four decades which is a record for any actress.

-Filming took place in Montreal, Canada.

-Hayden Panettiere’s first acting role in four years.

Rating:

Scream VI is a solid entry in the franchise, but the move from Woodsboro was a bit underwhelming. I felt like the New York City backdrop wasn't utilized all that well and ultimately was a wasted opportunity.

The cast remains likeable and the homages to the franchise are appreciated. This film felt more brutal which was enjoyable, but also made believing our heroes could survive some of the attacks so much less believable. In a way, I felt like the film left the realm of the Scream universe a bit and not in a good way.

I'd rate Scream a three out of five and say it's a rental. If you want to rank them amongst the Scream sequels, I'd say it goes Scream (1996), Scream (2022), Scream 2, Scream 4, Scream VI, Scream 3.



Midnight Mass Review (2021)

My History with the Series:

There is no doubt in my mind, when I think of the best horror director working right now, Mike Flanagan is at the top of the list. While not everyone of his movies/series is a home run, he consistently creates slow, brooding, stories that offer more than just your typical jumpscares. He infuses trauma (generational, mental, violent, spiritual) into these stories which makes them so much more appealing than most horror offerings. There's a certain elegant and class with his work and I'm a huge fan.

With that being said, I loved The Haunting of Hill House but I was less impressed with The Haunting of Bly Manor. So, when Midnight Mass rolled around, committing another eight hours to a single story just seemed a bit excessive. I'm not a huge fan of stories being extended for the sake of being extended and I feel like a lot of current series are that way. So, I ignored Midnight Mass, knowing that one day I'd get around to watching it.

Then, in July 2022, I discovered the television show Evil. Well, I should more accurately say, I began watching more than the first two episodes of Evil. The show does an amazing job at interweaving religion into a palatable story and that made me think of Midnight Mass. I believe the religious nature of the show turned me off in the trailers, but as my views on religion have softened over the past year, I found myself drawn to watching it. So, I sat down and over the course of a few days, I completed yet another brilliant Mike Flanagan production.

What the Series is About (Non-Spoiler):

A depressed, island begins experiencing miracles that may or may not be the work of God.

What I Liked About It:

-On of my favorite things about Stephen King stories is the way he can create a familiar setting even when it completely foreign to me. Mike Flanagan channels that talent of King with Crockett Island. I cannot relate to this island in anyway, but I feel like I've been there. I want to live there. I love it. It feels so real and yet so foreign. 


-I also enjoyed how the time period seems to exist sometime between the 90's and now. There is very little to date when the show takes place, but the houses are full of old televisions. You do see smart phones, but they aren't overly used, and everyone isn't on them texting. Reilly's room features a Scully poster from The X-Files and he's now grown, so you'd assume it takes place in the present, but it seems to exist in sort of a parallel dimension and once again, I'm reminded of Stephen King's work. 

-The cinematography is stunning. I mean, this is by far his best-looking work and The Haunting of Hill House and Doctor Sleep were beautifully shot. There is something about the lighting, the depressive setting, and the use of lights on the eyes that really make this show just beautiful to look yet, despite how despairing it is. I was also happy with an improved use of CGI in this series vs. The Haunting of Bly Manor.

-Before I watched this, I heard online some murmurs about the long segments of dialogue, and they weren't wrong. This show consists of many long, uncut scenes of dialogue. Luckily for the viewer, it's all incredibly well performed and written. Never once did I find myself bored and if anything, I'd find myself amazed that an actor/actress could perform so much dialogue.

-The story is thoughtful, and you can see Flanagan both exercising his own mourning of his loss of religion along with his own battles with addictions through the characters. 


-The casting is spot on as usual, Hamish Linklater (Father Hill), Kate Siegel (Erin), and Samantha Sloyan (Bev Keane) are the true stars of the production. Kate Siegel has been in many of Mike Flanagan’s past productions and really shines in this one. There is something about her eyes and smile that makes her so warm, yet so haunted. 


-The church scenes are phenomenal. They make me miss out on something I never even experienced before. There is something so comforting and consistent within them that honors the Catholic faith. It's quite rare to find a form of entertainment that respects religion the way Midnight Mass does. Both Islam and Christianity are front and center and are not treated as quick fixes or something to blame. 


-The story wraps up incredibly nice, which I wasn't quite so sure was going to work. The different levels of critique on substance abuse, religion, society, and arrogance will stay with you long after the credits roll.

What I Didn't Like:

-I'm always a fan of less is more when it comes to series. While I never felt like this story dragged, I would have been just as happy with one less episode.

Additional Information:

-Kate Siegel (Erin) is married to Mike Flanagan.

-Midnight Mass has shown up in other Mike Flanagan works: in Gerald's Game, Jessie throws the book Midnight Mass at the dog, and the book that Maggie is writing in Hush is Midnight Mass.

-You can see Christopher Pike and Stephen King books in Riley's room. You can also see posters for Scream, The X-Files, and Se7en.

-The Lasser Glass from Oculus shows up in many of Mike Flanagan's movies. It can be found in episode two on the rec center stage.

Rating:

I enjoyed Midnight Mass way more than I was expecting. I think due to the length and the slowness of The Haunting of Bly Manor, I was almost dreading Midnight Mass. Thankfully, the show worked for me on all levels, and it managed to tell a fascinating story surrounded by darkness.

The ending delivered and this is piece of art that is not only beautiful to look at it, it also tells an interesting story, and offers some critiques and observations about life, death, religion, mistakes, arrogance, and love. It's a thinking man's piece of horror and my only regret is not watching it sooner.

I highly recommend Midnight Mass and rate it a five out of five.

 

The Walking Dead: Dead City - Episode One (2023)


My History with the Show:
In 2007, my comic loving friend Kevin told me I should check out this comic called The Walking Dead. He knew I was a big horror fan and thought I'd appreciate a story focused on a group of survivors in a more realistic world. I took him up on it and he was not wrong. I found the comic to be sensational. 

Not long after I read the first trade or two, a television show based on the comic was announced. I didn't pay much attention, because I've been around long enough to realize that just because a show or movie is announced, doesn't mean it actually gets made. Imagine my shock, just a year or so later when The Walking Dead premiered on Halloween Night, 2010. 

I'll go into the original series more on a separate review, since I just re-watched the pilot and second episode this past weekend, but I think you may know what a cultural phenomenon The Walking Dead became. It's the only TV show I've ever known that my very different father and stepmother, myself, and my mother and stepfather all watched. It was amazing to see a horror TV show garner that sort of popularity from folks who don't even like horror. It truly was a show that everyone seemed to be watching. 

I loved The Walking Dead and anxiously awaited each episode until season six when (Spoiler: Negan killed Glenn.) I tried watching more after that, but the show was already dragging a bit and that particular death ended it for me. I've thought about going back and finishing it up, and even tried to watch a little of Fear of the Walking Dead, but it just wasn't the same. I put the zombies behind me and moved on, or so I thought. 

Last weekend, I was browsing Shudder when I remembered Joe Bob Briggs had covered the first two episodes of The Walking Dead. I decided to give that a watch and I really, REALLY enjoyed myself. I had forgotten how riveting and well-made The Walking Dead was, especially those first few seasons, and while I had no plans to watch more of The Walking Dead at this time, I saw Joe Bob was also doing a live show for the debut episode of Dead City the following day. 

Dead City is a six-episode spin-off/continuation featuring Negan and Maggie in New York City. My wife joined me as I watched Joe Bob's presentation of Dead City. His commentary during the commercial breaks made for a great end to my Sunday evening. Now... on with the review. 

What the Show is About (Non-Spoiler):
After Maggie's son is kidnapped by someone in Negan's old gang, she makes a deal with the man who brutally killed her husband in an effort to save her son in New York City. 

What I Liked About It:
-The New York City setting is a nice change of pace. It's dark and I feel like it would be if there was no power, mother nature was beginning to take over, and the skyscrapers blocked the light. 

It's also dirty, and even more eerily because it's been left sitting for so long. The world’s greatest city is now a graveyard and that makes for an unsettling atmosphere. 

-I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get into the show, considering I didn't finish The Walking Dead, and this is a continuation of it. But I thought the script did a good job at getting folks up to speed and allowing Negan to drop some exposition early on. 

-There's a strange chemistry between Maggie and Negan, and it's somewhat uncomfortable, yet erotic. It was unexpecting and I think that dynamic may be what will make this show a success if the storytelling stays solid. 

-Seeing Walkers fall from the sky was the highlight of the episode and made for a great visual, as well as a satisfying splat. 

-I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced, even the ones that were disposed of within the episode. Enough time was spent to make me care, which is always appreciated in something horror related. 

What I Didn't Like About It:
-I'm not sure about our villain for the season. He felt like he was out of 90's B action flick and unfortunately the show ended with scene featuring him. The scene wasn't great, and I'm hoping that he'll be interesting enough to keep me engaged for a season. Luckily, it's a short series (six episodes) so it shouldn't be too difficult. 

Additional Notes:
-The majority of the "New York City" was in actually filmed in New Jersey, although some of the show was shot in New York. 

Rating:
Dead City was surprisingly enjoyable. New York City is nothing like rural Georgia, so the atmosphere was enough of a change to make the show feel fresh. I really liked the exchanges between Maggie and Negan, and as usual, Greg Nicotero's work on the zombies was top notch. 

If this was a show set to go on for seasons, I don't think I'd be so hopeful, but a six-episode series seems perfect to tell this story. I look forward to seeing how it unravels. 

I'd rate Dead City a three out of five and say it's worth a look.