Horror on TV: Baywatch Nights 2.2 “Creature” (dir by David W. Hagar)

In tonight’s episode of televised horror, it’s David Hasselhoff vs. a mermaid.  Basically, the mermaid wants to procreate but it also wants to kill and that leads to all sorts of conflicts and….

Well, listen, this episode is pretty silly.  To be honest, they’re all pretty silly.  But that’s kind of the fun of it all, isn’t it?

This episode of Baywatch Nights originally aired on October 6th, 1996.


The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Girl on the Third Floor (dir by Travis Stevens)

The 2019 film, Girl on the Third Floor, tells the story of Dan Koch (Phil Brooks), a former criminal who says that he’s trying to turn his life around.  Phil is married to Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and they’ve not only got a baby on the way, they’ve also got a new house!  It’s a surprisingly big house and you have to kind of wonder why no one else has bought it.  Maybe it’s because there’s an Episcopalian church right across the street.  That definitely would have kept me from moving in.

Still, despite the presence of Anglicans in the neighborhood, Phil moves into the house.  He wants to get the house ready before his pregnant wife comes out to join him.  Helping Phil out are his dog Cooper and his best friend, Milo (Travis Delgado).  Ellie (Karen Woditsch), the rather judgmental pastor who lives in the church, also comes by and visits.

Of course, any old house is going to have its issues.  There’s the mysterious sludge that pours out of the walls.  There’s the mysterious marbles that keep rolling through the house.  There’s the mysterious bumps in the nights and the fact that Cooper seems to be weary of the new home.  Dogs can always pick up on evil.  Of course, along with being a bit of an idiot, Don is too busy banging his new neighbor, Sarah (Sarah Brooks), to notice.

Don, if you haven’t guessed, is a bit of a jerk.  Even though he swears that he feels guilty for cheating on his wife, he still does it.  When his friends mysteriously disappear while helping out around the house, Don doesn’t make much of an effort to find them.  When Don thinks that there’s a chance his wife might find out what’s been going on at the house, he goes to extreme methods to try to cover everything up.  Don thinks that he can control every situation but Sarah and the House both appear to be intent to prove him wrong.

Girl on the Third Floor is a deliberately-paced …. well, I guess you’d call it a haunted house story.  I was tempted to call it a ghost story but the film is frequently ambiguous as to whether or not the house is haunted by ghosts or by something far worse.  Eventually, we do learn a bit about the house’s past but Girl on the Third Floor is at its best when it leaves you wondering what exactly is going on.  Not all questions have to be answered, especially not in a horror movie.  In fact, the key to most successful horror tales is the knowledge that some questions will never be answered, no matter how effort we put in to  searching for a solution.

Phil Brooks, who wrestled under the name CM Punk, is well-cast as the frequently brutish Don.  Brooks convinces us that he does want to be a better person while also showing that he doesn’t really have the inner strength necessary to do so.  Trieste Kelly Dunn also does a good job as Don’s wife, who seems like she really does deserve better.  Not surprisingly, the film is stolen by Sarah Brooks as the mysterious neighbor.  Not only does she get to wear all the best clothes but she also gets all of the best lines and her confidence that Don will fail whatever test she puts before him is both chilling and understandable.

Despite being a little bit slow-paced (especially early on in the film), Girl on the Third Floor has enough atmosphere to hold one’s attention and the final third of the film is enjoyably surreal.  Girl on the Third Floor is currently on Netflix.  Watch it the next time you’re wondering whether or not to start a home improvement project.


Cinemax Friday: Fever Lake (1997, directed by Ralph Portillo)

I’ve seen my share of bad slasher films but Fever Lake is definitely one of the worst.

The plot is a familiar one.  Six college students (including Corey Haim, Mario Lopez, and Lauren Parker) head to the lake for the weekend.  The lake has a bad reputation and they’ll be staying at a house where a terrible murderer occurred ten years earlier.  The sheriff (Bo Hopkins) doesn’t want any foolishness.  The local Native American medicine man (stiffly played by Michael Wise) says that there is a demon in the lake and that it’s about to reawaken.  The students go to the lakehouse anyway.  Can you guess what happens?  It’s a 93 minute film where the killer doesn’t show up for 70 minutes. There’s not much gore and zero nudity and it has a twist that anyone will be able to see from a mile away.  Haim alternates between sleepwalking his way through the film and screeching unintelligibly and Mario Lopez comes across like he’s playing A.C. Slater on speed.  It’s thoroughly inept in almost every way that a film can be and, even worse, it’s boring.

Fever Lake is the type of film that, in the 90s, you always hated coming across on late night Cinemax.  Because you were watching 2 in the morning, you would expect something extreme and instead you ended up with an hour of Corey Haim and Mario Lopez driving up to the lake.   Late night connoisseurs held films like this in a special kind of contempt.  For the most part, we never asked much from more late night Cinemax offerings and when a movie like this couldn’t even deliver what little we did ask for, it was hard not to take it personally.  (To be honest, the PG-13 rating should have given the game away.  I’m not sure what the film did to rate the addition of that 13, though.  This film is a solid PG, all the way through.)

Today, of course, we can enjoy Fever Lake because of RiffTrax.  Mike, Kevin, and Jim ripped Fever Lake apart in 2015.  The film, with their commentary, is available on Prime.  It’s the best way to watch Fever Lake.


Game Review: Bogeyman (2018, Elizabeth Smyth)

In this interactive fiction game, you are put in the role of a child who, after having what you believe to be a nightmare about being abducted, wakes up to discover that you actually have been abducted.  You are now one of several children, living in an isolated mountain cabin and subject to the unpredictable and often cruel whims of your abductor.  Escape seems impossible and survival is going to mean making some truly grim choices.

Bogeyman starts out with a dark premise and then it just gets progressively more dark from there.  Whenever you think that the story can’t get any more unsettling, it does.  It’s not a game where you always get as many choices as you would like.  Often, you have to decide between doing a bad thing or doing an even worse thing.  It’s also not a short game but it grabs your interest from the very first line and I played all the way to the end because, after spending just a few minutes experiencing life in that cabin, I had to know how it would all end.

Bogeyman is a Twine game and it actually makes good use of the format.  White text slowly appears against a black background while subtle but spooky music plays in the background.  Your choices are in all caps, highlighting the desperation of your situation.  There are a few graphics but most of the game takes place in your head.  The game does such a good job of describing the cabin and the situation that you feel like you’re there.

Well-written and carefully put together, Bogeyman is an IF game that sticks with you.  You can experience it here.


Horror Scenes I Love: Dr. Loomis at Michael’s Board Review From Halloween

To go along with my review of Curtis Richards’s Halloween novelization, today’s scene that I love comes from the film Halloween …. kinda.  It wasn’t included in the theatrical release but, instead, it was later added when Halloween made it’s network television premiere.

Now, I’ve actually heard two stories about this scene.  One story is that it was shot during the filming of the original Halloween but that it was cut out of the theatrical release.  When Halloween premiered on television, the network needed some footage to pad out the running time so this scene was re-inserted.

The other version is that the scene was specifically filmed for the television version of the film.  According to this version, the scene was in an early version of the script but Carpenter didn’t film it until after Halloween had already had its theatrical release and was set to make it’s television debut.

(Personally, to me, the second version sounds more plausible.)

Regardless of when this scene was filmed, I like it quite a bit.  In this scene, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) attempts to get his colleagues to understand just how dangerous Michael Myers actually is.  This, of course, was a running theme for the character of Dr. Loomis and it has always amazed me that no one was ever willing to listen to him.  Loomis spent the last 30 years of his life telling people that Michael was an unstoppable killer.  Every single time, he was proven correct.  And yet no one ever listened to him!

This scene gives us a chance to see Dr. Loomis in a professional setting, as well as giving us a glance of an adolescent Michael at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.  “You’ve fooled them, Michael …. but not me.”

As someone who has seen all of the Halloween films multiple times, I have to say that Donald Pleasence’s performance as Dr. Loomis, especially in the first 2 films, has always been underrated.  Pleasence gave a convincing portrait of a man who had spent the last ten years of his life dealing with evil on a daily basis.  Who could blame him for being a bit fanatical?  Wouldn’t you be if you had spent that much time staring into Michael’s soulless eyes?

Horror Book Review: Halloween by Curtis Richards

This is not an easy book to find.

Based on John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s original script for Halloween (which is a fancy of saying that it features scenes that were either not shot or left on the cutting room floor), Curtis Richards’s novelization of Halloween was published in 1979 and it went out of print in the 80s.  It’s subsequently become popular with both horror fans and paperback collectors.  On Amazon, you can order it used for $123.

Of course, if you’re lucky like me, your cousin might have a copy and he might be willing to loan it to you for the weekend.  Boom!

The novelization of Halloween tells the same basic story as the film, just with a few important differences.  For instance, the novelization doesn’t open in Haddonfield, Illinois.  Instead, it opens in Northern Ireland, at the “dawn of the Celtic race.”  It tells about how a disfigured young man named Enda went mad and killed the king’s daughter on the eve of Samhain.  Enda’s murderous spirit was cursed to wander the Earth.

Jump forward several centuries and we’re in Haddonfield!  However, instead of opening with Michael murdering his sister, the novel spends a bit of time telling us about Michael’s family.  Much like Rob Zombie’s version of the story, the novelization of Halloween spends almost as much time detailing Michael’s background as it does “the night he came home.”  His grandmother fears that little Michael Myers might be dangerous.  Michael says that he hears voices, telling him to hurt people.  Could that be the voice of Edna?   It’s also revealed that Michael’s grandfather was a murderer who also heard voices, suggesting that the entire family is cursed.

Along with more information about Michael’s background, we find out more about Michael’s time at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.  We learn more about Dr. Loomis, as well.  We discover that Loomis is married and that his son thinks that Loomis is kind of lame.  (Reportedly, during filming, Donald Pleasence specifically objected to a scene that would have established Loomis as a family man because he felt that Michael should be Loomis’s sole obsession.)  Michael, who actually does a talk a bit in the early part of the book, comes to control his wing of the sanitarium, largely because everyone is scared to death of him.  The book does a good job of showing how Loomis came to be convinced that not only was there no way to get through to Michael but that he was also pure evil.  Basically, if you’re a Sam Loomis fan, this is the book to read.

Once Michael escapes, the film pretty much settles into the story that we all know from the original film.  Laurie Strode and her friends are stalked by Michael on Halloween night while Loomis desperately searches for him.  The book does a good job of getting into Laurie’s mind while she’s being pursued by Michael.  If you’ve ever wondered why Laurie kept doing illogical things while being pursued by Michael, this book makes clear that she was in a state of shock.  Trust me — if you were being chased by Michael, you’d probably be so scared that you would make a lot of the same mistakes.  I know I would.

The Halloween novelization is surprisingly well-written.  Curtis Richards does a good job of bringing the characters to life, beyond just transcribing their dialogue.  He gets into the heads of Michael, Loomis, and Laurie and forces us to see the story through their eyes.  That said, the most interesting thing about the book is the chance to see what Carpenter’s original vision of the film would have looked like.   Whereas the finished film is a masterpiece of editing that keeps the focus almost entirely on Laurie being stalked, the book is just as concerned with what makes Michael tick.

It’s interesting to contrast why both the film and the book work.  The film works because Michael is largely motiveless.  He’s a force of malevolence and you can understand why Carpenter cut the scenes that went into Michael’s time at Smith’s Grove.  Those scenes aren’t necessary because all of that information is supplied to as visually and, by cutting the store down to only its absolute essentials, the film duplicated Michael’s relentless pace.  In the book, of course, you don’t have the benefit of Carpenter’s visuals.  The book would be pretty boring if it was just Michael showing up and killing people.  Instead, the book works because Richards takes the time to get into the heads of his characters and make them more than just killer and victim.  What wouldn’t have worked for the film works wonderfully for the book.  And vice versa.

Anyway, this novelization of Halloween is not easy to find but if you’re a horror fan, it’s worth the effort.

International Horror Film Review: From the Dark (dir by Conor McMahon)

It’s an Irish horror film!

As a reviewer, I think it’s important for me to be open about my biases.  Especially in October, I think it’s important for you to know that I love horror movies in general and that I especially tend to like low-budget horror films.  You should also know that I tend to value positivity over negativity and, as a result, I’m always going to spend more time on what I like about a movie than on what I don’t like.  I have no interest in joining in with the parade of bitterness that’s consumed so many otherwise intelligent people.

You should also know that I take a lot of pride in my Irish heritage.  Whenever I get stressed out here in America, I remember visiting Argdlass two years ago.  It calms me down.  It makes me happy.  I hope to be able to visit again soon.  As a result, I’m naturally biased towards Irish films.  That’s particularly true now, when I find myself often thinking about what life was like before the start of this year.

Needless to say, with those biases in mind, I was probably the ideal audience from From The Dark.

From The Dark open with a man named Mark (Stephen Cromwell) and a woman named Sarah (Niamh Algar) in a car.  As I watched them drive across Ireland, I shouted, “I’ve done that!”  When Mark and Sarah got lost while trying to navigate the Irish roads, I said, “I’ve done that.”  When the car ends up getting stuck in mud, I said, “Yep, I’ve done that.”  Finally, when Mark and Sarah approached a scary-looking farmhouse in the middle of the night while looking for help, I said, “Oh, Hell no!”

Once you’ve seen enough horror movies, you know that it’s always a mistake to approach a farmhouse in the middle of the night.  Farmhouses are always full of either zombies or inbred rednecks or blood farmers.  Stay away from the farmhouses!  That’s what Sarah and Mark should have done because they soon find themselves being chased and attacked by a monster who seems to thrive on the darkness of the night….

Albeit uneven, From The Dark has its moments.  The low-budget is obvious in almost every shot but the film makes good use of that farmhouse location and, even more importantly, it keeps us guessing about the monster that’s living there.  Wisely, the film keeps the monster off-camera for as much as possible, leaving both the audience and Mark and Sarah to wonder where in the darkness it could be hiding.  I’ve always felt that horror is more effective on a low-budget than a big budget and From The Dark shows why.  The more expensive a monster is, the more obligated the filmmaker is going to be to show it off.  Low-budget monsters, though, are usually kept off-camera for the majority of the film and therefore, they’re much more intimidating.  There’s nothing scarier than what the human imagination can come up with and nothing sparks one’s imagination quicker than trying to figure out what might be hiding in the dark.

From the Dark does have some pacing issues.  As much as I enjoyed the footage of the Irish countryside, the scenes of Sarah and Mark driving dragged a bit.  As well, Sarah and Mark aren’t always the most sympathetic of protagonists.  Usually, I don’t mind it when characters in horror films do stupid things because, quite frankly, we all do stupid things.  But when there’s only two humans in the entire film, it’s a lot easier to dwell on the dumb things that they did that led to them getting in their dire situation in the first place.

Taking all of that into consideration, From the Dark may be imperfect but, when it works, it’s effectively creepy.  Plus, it’s Irish!

4 Shots From 4 Jack Arnold Films: It Came From Outer Space, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using this feature to recognize and honor some of our favorite horror directors!  Today, we honor the one and only Jack Arnold!

4 Shots From 4 Jack Arnold Films

It Came From Outer Space (1953, dir by Jack Arnold)

Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954, dir by Jack Arnold)

Tarantula (1955, dir by Jack Arnold)

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, dir by Jack Arnold)

Horror Film Review: Everfall (dir by John Kissack)

The 2018 horror film, Everfall, tells the story of Eva and Daniel.

Eva Saint (Jessica McLeod) is a figure skater who, at one time, had a bright future.

Daniel (Joe Perry) is the world’s worst boyfriend.

Daniel is also the reason why Eva’s skating career get derailed.  Daniel hosts his own “extreme sports YouTube channel,” which he calls “The Daniel Show.”  Daniel is the type who tends to say things like, “This is going to be a totally new direction for the Daniel Show!”  One of Daniel’s new directions was to convince his girlfriend to stand on a ledge.  Unfortunately, while Daniel was showing off for the camera, Eva fell off that ledge and broke her leg.

A year later, Eva’s leg is scarred but healed.  She wants to get back into the world of competitive figure skating but she’s struggling.  She’s no longer as confident in herself as she once was.  None of her old partners want to work with her anymore.  Even worse, she’s still going out with Daniel.  I’m not sure why.  If I was dating a guy who was responsible for me falling off a roof, I’d probably break up with him as soon as I regained consciousness.

Eva’s coach gives her one last option.  She can go to an obscure little town called Everfall, where they have an annual skating competition.  Eva’s never heard of it before but she knows that she has to do something so she agrees.  And again, for some reason, she takes Daniel and Daniel’s cameraman, Jordan (Kristian Wang), with her.

The competition at Everfall turns out to be even worse than Eva was expecting.  First off, the ice skating rink appears to be on the verge of collapse.  Secondly, there don’t seem to be another other skaters around.  The mysterious Mrs. Redgrave (Catherine Gell) sends Eva to Dressing Room #5.  Dressing Room #5 turns out to be a not very pleasant place to be….

Everfall is an effectively creepy film, one that makes good use of its eerie location and which features an excellent performance from Jessica McLeod.  Everfall is also a film that never really makes much sense but, in this case, that’s acceptable.  When you’re dealing with a skating rink that may or may not be haunted by several ghosts, you can get away with a little incoherence.  The film is full of surreal moments and disturbing imagery.  Characters appear to die and then, just as quickly, they show back up again.  It’s a film that was obviously influenced by Kubrick’s The Shining — particularly the final few scenes — but it also manages to carve out its own rather odd identity.

While Eva, Daniel, and Jordan are wandering around the skating rink from Hell, there’s also wildfire raging around the town of Everfall.  Amazingly enough, Eva’s father is a fireman but he refuses to acknowledge that Eva’s in any sort of danger.  Eva’s parents are played by Jayson Therrien and Julie Orton.  They bicker through the entire film and, to be honest, I could have done without the majority of their scenes.  The scenes between Therrien and Orton wreck havoc on the film’s narrative momentum.  Whenever you’re really starting to get into whatever’s happening to Daniel, Eva, and Jordan, Eva’s parents pop up and start arguing with each other.  The main theme of these scenes is that Eva’s dad isn’t willing to rescue her from a fire despite the fact that he is a fireman and that’s literally his job.  You really can’t help but feel sorry for Eva.  She never had a chance.

Everfall has its flaws.  This is one of those films where the camera is always moving, even when it should be sitting still.  That said, there’s enough strange details and out-there plot twists to make it an effective head trip and it ends on a nicely surreal note.  That’s always a good thing.

Horror on the Lens: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe (dir by Kenneth Johnson)

What better way to get ready for Halloween than spending a little time with Vincent Price?

In this 1970 film, Price recites four of Poe’s works in front of a live studio audience.  Price performs as only Price could, proving once again that he was not only an iconic figure in the history of horror but an iconic actor as well.