Halloween On Amazon Prime 2017 : “Talon Falls”

Trash Film Guru

The recent release of Jigsaw proves, I guess, that the whole “torture porn” thing isn’t over with just yet, but earlier in 2017 low-budget writer/director Joshua Shreve beat the latest installment of the Saw franchise out of the gate with his straight-to-streaming (and, I guess, DVD, but for our purposes the fact that it’s available on Amazon Prime is all that really matters) effort Talon Falls — the question is, did he beat its at its own game?

There’s no question that this story about four road-tripping teens (played by Morgan Wiggins, Ryan Rudolph, Jordyn Rudolph, and Brad Bell) who make a pit-stop at a Kentucky roadside “scream park” featuring a plethora of blood, torture, and gore that all seems a little bit too realistic is, in fact, sadistic in the extreme — especially when the burly rednecks who run the joynt kidnap all our protagonists, one by one, and…

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Halloween On Amazon Prime 2017 : “Dark Exorcism” (A.K.A. “In The Dark”)

Trash Film Guru

A thorough appraisal of the micro-budget horror offerings available for streaming on Amazon Prime would’t be complete if we didn’t check out at least one rip-off of The Exorcist (there are literally dozens to choose from), and so I rolled the dice on writer/director David Spaltro’s 2015 effort, Dark Exorcism (originally released under the title In The Dark, not sure when or why the name-change happened), which manages to stand out from the pack in that it features four female leads — but apart from that, I’ll give the game away right at the outset (never an advisable thing to do in the review game, I know, but what the fuck) and just state plainly that this is “been there, done that” stuff all the way.

If you’re still reading, then, here are the particulars : art student Bethany Mills (played by Grace Folsom) has recently survived a horrific…

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The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Scarehouse (dir by Gavin Michael Booth)

One night, a college student named Brandon died.

While two sorority pledges painted his face and then posed for selfies with his unconscious body, Brandon choked to death on his own vomit.  The pledges were named Corey (Sarah Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) and when they were put on trial for manslaughter, they claimed that it was just a prank gone wrong and that the other members of the sorority put them up to it.  Of course, no one was willing to back up their stories.  Instead, the president of the sorority, Jacqueline Gill (Katherine Barrell), just went on television and said that she hoped the two would ask God for forgiveness.  Corey and Elaina were convicted and sent to prison.

Two years later, Corey and Elaina have been released and now they’re looking for revenge.  However, a simple revenge will not do.  Elaina is an engineering genius and Corey … well, Corey’s just really angry.  They’ve set up an elaborate haunted house and they’ve sent a private invite to each member of the sorority…

Two girls seeking revenge for a sorority prank gone wrong sound like either the set up for a Lifetime movie or the world’s worst Lime-a-rita commercial.  (“So, this happened: we thought we were going to a haunted house but then it turned out we were actually being invited to our violent doom.  Yep, it was a Lime-a-rita night.”)  However, The Scarehouse is neither.  Instead, it’s a rather grisly horror film with a streak of extremely dark humor.

But is it any good?

Let’s start with what works.  Both Sarah Booth and Kimberly-Sue Murray give very good performances as the two girls.  Even when the script lets them down, Booth and Murray keep the movie from dying.  The film actually does some interesting things with the two characters.  It keeps us guessing about which one of them is really the driving force behind the whole revenge plot.  No sooner do you think that you’ve figured out their power dynamic then something will happen or words will said that force you to reconsider what you previously assumed.

Though I had a hard time believing that such an elaborate death trap could have been designed by just two people, the haunted house was a memorable and creepy location.  It was full of atmosphere and the promise of doom.  If I ever found myself in there, I’d probably be scared.

Finally, you always have to admire a horror film that doesn’t shy away from pursuing things to their darkest conclusion.  Once one enters the Scarehouse, there is no escape and everyone’s worst nature will be exposed.  There is no exit and Hell is other people.

At the same time, I’ve grown tired of movies that feature lengthy scenes of people being tortured.  After nearly two decades of Saw films and Hostel rip-offs, whatever shock value those scenes may have once had are gone.  The tortures in The Scarehouse are elaborate and sadistic and thoroughly unpleasant to sit through.  A girl with an eating disorder has her corset tightened until she literally splits in half.  A forced pillow fight leads to corrosive chemicals eating away at flesh.  Some of it is clever but, far too often, these scenes go on too long.  There’s only so long you can spend watching someone being tortured until you mentally check out.

As well, The Scarehouse uses a nonlinear time line.  In between the scenes of Corey and Elaina getting their revenge, we see flashbacks to the prank that led to death of Brandon.  But, since we already know what happened because it’s all Corey and Elaina ever talk about, there’s not really anything new to be discovered in the flashbacks.

Obviously, my feelings about The Scarehouse are mixed.  I was pretty dismissive immediately after I watched it but the movie has definitely stuck with me.  It has its flaws but it also has two memorable and frightening performances.  Watch at your own discretion.


Horror on TV: Thriller 2.16 “Waxworks” (dir by Herschel Daugherty)

In this episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller, murders are being committed all over Europe.  What do all of the murders have in common?  They have all happened outside of the same traveling wax museum!

Is it a coincidence or are the wax figures coming to life and committing murder?

This episode was written by Robert Bloch of Psycho fame and originally aired on January 8th, 1962.

Horror Book Review: You Are A Cat In The Zombie Apocalypse by Sherwin Tija

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a cat?

Sure, we all have!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?

Who hasn’t?

Well, now, you can get the answer to both questions!  First published in 2011, You Are A Cat In The Zombie Apocalypse is a “pick-a-plot” book.  It’s one of those books where, at the end of each page, you’re given a series of options.  For instance, at the bottom of Page 120, we have, “Do you run?  If so, take off to page 169.  If you stay put, turn to page 123.”

In this book, you’re a cat named Holden Catfield.  One day, you’re just waking up from a nap.  You’re minding your own business.  You’re just being a cat, basically.  Suddenly, all the humans are acting strange.  Weird-looking people are wandering the streets and biting each other!  Your owner’s daughter wants you to get in a car with her and a stranger so you can all go somewhere else.  Do you get in the car or do you explore your neighborhood?

That’s the first of many choices that you’ll have to make.  They’re important choices because, if you do happen to find yourself in a situation where you get bitten by a weird human, you’ll turn into a zombie yourself.  And then you’ll  be the one looking for people to bite…

Now, our longtime readers know that I’m both a cat person and a lover of zombie films.  So, needless to say, I totally and completely loved You Are A Cat In The Zombie Apocalypse!  Not only does this book capture what it’s like to be a cat but it also does a pretty good job of capturing what I imagine it’s like to be a zombie.  Don’t worry, though.  Make the right choices and Holden will never turn into a zombie.

You Are A Cat In The Zombie Apocalypse was written and illustrated by Sherwin Tija, who did an excellent job on both counts.  The book ends with a collection of “Catknowldgements” and a page that tells about the “Meowthur” and the “Mewllustrator.”  If you’re a cat person, you’ll love it.

Horror Film Review: The Mummy (dir by Alex Kurtzman)

Oh, where to start?

The Mummy was promoted as being the first entry in Universal’s new Dark Universe, a shared cinematic universe that would supposedly do for the classic monsters what the MCU did for super heroes.  (Of course, horror fans with a good memory remember that Dracula Untold was originally supposed to be the first part of the Dark Universe franchise but, after that film bombed with both critics and audiences, Universal announced, “We were just kidding.  The Dark Universe starts with The Mummy.”)  The Mummy was released in June and it got absolutely decimated by critics.  That wasn’t too surprising.  One could tell from the commercials that, even with 2017 being a good year from horror, The Mummy was not going to be a critical favorite.  But then, audiences rejected it as well, throwing the whole future of the Dark Universe franchise into limbo.

To be honest, I think The Mummy could have been a fun little movie if it had only been 90 minutes long and hadn’t gotten bogged down with all that Dark Universe nonsense.  There are a few moments that actually do work, though they are few and far between.  The film stars Tom Cruise, who is a veteran at handling nonsense and who gives a somewhat lighter version of his standard Mission Impossible performance.  Jake Johnson shows up as a talking corpse and he has a way with a sarcastic line.  Some of the special effects are effective, though The Mummy is often far too dependent upon them.

The plot is damn near incoherent and it didn’t take long for me to give up on trying to follow it.  The film started with a bunch of crusaders moving in slow motion and then it jumped forward to modern-day Iraq, where Sgt. Nick (Cruise) and Cpl. Chris (Johnson) uncovered an ancient tomb.  Apparently, opening the tomb unleashes Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is thousands of years old and is still alive because she was cursed to be both immortal and buried alive.  So, now, she’s free and apparently, she wants Nick to merge with Set, the Egyptian god of all things evil.  But Nick doesn’t want to be evil.  He just wants to save the lives of Chris and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), an archeologist who basically has the same role that Natalie Portman had in the first Thor film.

Meanwhile, Russell Crowe is wandering around as Dr. Jekyll.  This is where the whole Dark Universe things kicks.  Dr. Jekyll is in charge of this secret organization that keeps tabs on all the paranormal stuff that’s happening in the world.  However, if Dr. Jekyll doesn’t regularly get his injection, he turns into evil Mr. Hyde.  In this movie, that means that Crowe suddenly starts talking with a cockney accent.  I’m assuming that, much like Samuel L. Jackson did for the MCU, Russell Crowe is meant to link all of the Dark Universe films together.  Of course, the difference is that the early MCU films usually only had Jackson show up at the end of the movie, often in a post-credits scene.  Crowe, on the other hand, pops up out of nowhere, takes over a huge chunk of the film, and then vanishes.  I was already having enough trouble trying to keep up with the Mummy’s schemes without having to deal with a random Mr. Hyde sighting.

The Mummy is a mess.  When it starts, it’s a likable mess, with Cruise and Johnson exchanging silly lines.  But then the movie gets caught up in trying to launch a franchise and it all goes downhill from there.  There’s even a scene where Ahmanet stands in the middle of a London streets and starts throwing cars around.  It’s such an MCU scene that I was surprised Robert Downey, Jr. didn’t come flying by.  If The Mummy had just been a content to be a silly monster movie, it could have been fun.  But instead, The Mummy tried to launch an entire universe and it just wasn’t up to the task.

Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures In The Internet Archive #22: The Dark Convergence (1993)

For my today’s final adventure in the dark side of the Internet Archive, I played The Dark Convergence (1993).

The Dark Convergence is another haunted house game.  Like Uninvited, it starts with a car crash.

Since you crashed the car, it is up to you get help.  That means that it is time to start walking.

I tried to go into the woods but the game would not let me.  I also tried typing “kick sign” into the parser, just to be told that I was not allowed to do that either.  So, I kept walking until I found the house:

The house looked haunted but it was also the only sign of civilization that I had come across in the game.  Plus, I tried to keep walking down the road, just to run into an invisible wall as soon as I passed the house.

In the house, I discovered this:

That mess on the floor was the house’s owner.

I explored the house a little further.

This bedroom was nice until all of the monsters came through the door.

So much for that.  Fortunately, in a game like this, you can always restart after you die and hopefully, apply the lessons that you learned from the first time you played.  The main lesson I learned was to close the door after me.

The Dark Convergence is a typical haunted house game, the type where you have to solve puzzles to keep from having a bunch of monsters use your organs to “decorate the room’s interior.”  The puzzles are not hard, though some of them require more patience than others.  If you enjoyed Hugo’s House of Horrors, you’ll enjoy The Dark Convergence.


Halloween Havoc!: ALIAS NICK BEAL (Paramount 1949)

cracked rear viewer

The worlds of supernatural horror and film noir collided to great effect in ALIAS NICK BEAL, John Farrow’s 1949 updated take on the Faust legend. The film wasn’t seen for decades due to legal complications, but last August the good folks at TCM broadcast it for the first time. I have been wanting to see this one for years, and I wasn’t disappointed! It’s loaded with dark atmosphere, a taut screenplay by hardboiled writer/noir vet Jonathan Latimer , and a cast of pros led by a ‘devilish’ turn from Ray Milland as Nick Beal.

The Faust character this time around is Joseph Foster, played by veteran Thomas Mitchell . Foster is an honest, crusading DA with political ambitions. When he says aloud he’d “give my soul” to convict racketeer Hanson, Foster receives a message to meet a man who claims he can help. Summoned to a seedy tavern on…

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A Movie A Day #293: See No Evil (1971, directed by Richard Fleischer)

After a rain, a car drives through a puddle and splashes mud on a man’s designer boots.  The owner of the boots follows the car back to a country manor and murders everyone inside.  (Did he really kill everyone in the house because his boots get muddied?  It is never really clear.  Before his boots got splashed on, he was looking at violent comic books in a shop.  Maybe Wertham was right.)  Later, Sarah (Mia Farrow), the niece of the car’s driver, arrives at the house.  As the result of a recent horse riding accident, Sarah is blind.  She walks through the house, unaware that she is surrounded by dead bodies and unaware that the owner of the boots left behind a bracelet that he will soon be returning to retrieve.

Obviously inspired by Wait Until Dark, See No Evil is a well-done cat-and-mouse game between Sarah and her unseen stalker.  Mia Farrow is great as the blind woman and the scenes of her unknowingly walking past the dead bodies of her family while being followed are tense and suspenseful.  See No Evil has been overshadowed by Farrow’s other two horror films, Rosemary’s Baby and Full Circle, but it is definitely worth a look.

Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures In The Internet Archive #21: Haunted Mission Adventure (1987, Agency Automation)

For my next horrific adventure in the Internet Archive, I played Haunted Mission Adventure (1987, Agency Automation).

Everyone loves the Blairs’ annual Halloween party.  However, this year, the Pumpkin Man has been kidnapped by the evil Lady Windsloe.  According to the game’s introduction, Pumpkin Man is world-famous and beloved by children and adults.  Maybe he is somehow related the Great Pumpkin.

This text-based game is simple and I think anyone who is in the mood for a retro horror game will enjoy it.  You move around the neighborhood, searching for clues and trying to not get captured by monsters.  One thing I liked about this game was that it was not hard to find the tools that I needed.  At one point, I went south and I was told that I was in a lumberyard and that I saw a “stake.”  Figuring that there would be vampires around, I grabbed it.  Two turns later and I was suddenly in an occultists shop and I was told that I saw “spirit neutralizer.”  Again, that sounded like something I needed.

Of course, neither one did me any good when I ran into the Moss Man.

That did not go well.

Haunted Mission Adventure is simple and fun.  I have yet to find The Pumpkin Man but I won’t give up until he makes it to the Blair Party.