Horror On TV: One Step Beyond 2.14 “Make Me Not A Witch” (dir by John Newland)

In tonight’s episode of One Step Beyond, Emmy (Patty McCormack) makes the mistake of telling her parents (Eileen Ryan and Leo Penn) that she can read minds.  Needless to say, the news does not go over as well as Emmy might have hoped.  Her parents have a farm to run!  The last thing they need is a witch in their midst!

Emmy runs to the church and prays, “Make me not a witch!”

But what if the world needs a witch?

As with every episode of One Step Beyond, this episode is supposedly based on fact.  Patty McCormack is best-remembered for her Oscar-nominated performance in The Bad Seed while Eileen Ryan and Leo Penn are best remembered as being the parents of Sean and Chris Penn.

This episode originally aired on December 22nd, 1959.


Witchcraft 15: Blood Rose (2016, directed by David Palmieri)

I’m nearly done reviewing Witchcraft films and it’s not a moment too soon.  Because nearly every single installment has shared the same weaknesses (and the same “strengths”), I’m running out of things to say about them.  Even though I appreciate the franchise’s attempts to maintain a loose continuity over the course of 16 films and nearly 20 years, it can still be difficult to remember which Witchcraft was which.  When did Lutz go to London?  I think that was Witchcraft X.  When was Will dead?  That was Witchcrafts VII, VIII, and IX.  But don’t ask me what happened in Witchcraft V or VI.  It’s all just one big blur of softcore sex and needlessly complex rituals.

Witchcraft 15 picks up right where Witchcraft 14 ended.  Witchcraft 15 even opens by reshowing us the final ten minutes of Witchcraft 14, albeit with scenes of a lesbian witch ritual spliced in.  Samuel, the warlock yoga instructor, has been vanquished.  Sharon (Noel VanBrocklin) has taken over the yoga coven and, because Sharon’s managed to convince everyone that she wasn’t really that involved with Samuel’s attempts to bring the Angel of Death out of Hell, young witch Rose (Molly Dougherty), takes a job at the studio.  However, Sharon is still up to her old tricks so she occasionally possesses Rose’s body so that she can steal the souls of other witches and ultimately bring Samuel back to life.  It makes no sense but, after you’ve seen enough of these movies, you learn to tolerate incoherence.

Detectives Lutz and Garner (Berta Roberts and LeRoy Castanon) are again investigating all of the mysterious deaths that are occurring because of the latest witch scheme.  Will (Ryan Cleary) shows up to help them with the investigation.  Will is no longer conflicted about his heritage or his past and he now moves around and talks like he’s the star of his own show on the CW.  It all leads to another needlessly complex ceremony and a magical showdown.

Witchcraft 15 is stupid and trashy but it’s a Witchcraft film so that’s to be expected.  Ryan Cleary is still not a convincing Will and even Lutz and Garner’s trademark banter feels forced.  I do think that Rose and the yoga studio could have been interesting if the film was actually interested in any of that but Witchcraft 15 is ultimately just about getting the witches naked and cashing in on whatever nostalgia direct-to-video hounds might have for the Witchcraft franchise.

I’ve got one one more of these to go.  Tomorrow — Witchcraft 16!

Game Review: The Call of Innsmouth (2020, Tripper McCarthy)

The game is an entrant in the 2020 Interactive Fiction Competition.  All of the entries can be played here!

You are a private detective, working out of Arkham, Massachusetts.  Arkham is a town that’s notorious for its many mysteries.  The locals say that it is a town that’s been touched by the paranormal but you’re a detective.  You deal with the real world.  When a distraught mother hires you to find her missing son, you think that it will just be a routine case.  Instead, it leads you to the decaying port town of Innsmouth, a place that makes even Arkham look normal!

A prequel to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Call of Innsmouth has all the elements that you would expect from a Lovecraft game.  There’s a trip to Miskatonic University.  There are references to cults, Cthulhu, and the search for ancient and maddening knowledge.  You can even chose to read the Necronomicon if you’re so inclined.  The game warns you not to read it but ultimately, the choice is yours.  Don’t worry though.  If you go crazy or get sacrificed, you always have the option to go back and make a different and hopefully better decision.  That’s a choice that most Lovecraft heroes don’t get.

I enjoyed this Twine game.  The Cthulhu mythos are always good source material for Interactive Fiction and The Call of Innsmouth does a great job of capturing the atmosphere of one of Lovecraft’s stories.  The Call of Innsmouth is a mystery and a game worth exploring.

It can be played here.

(Canadian) Guilty Pleasure No. 49: Heavenly Bodies (dir by Lawrence Dane)

“She’s reaching the top …. with everything she’s got!”

That’s the tag line of the 1984 Canadian film, Heavenly Bodies.  It’s a perfectly vapid tagline for an entertainingly vapid movie.  It was on TCM last night and I just finished watching it.  It takes a lot to get me out of my horror film habit in October but how could I resist a movie about Canadian gym rivalries?

Now, even though this isn’t a horror film, it is a Canadian film from the 80s which means that it features a lot of performers who will be familiar to fans of old school slasher films.  For instance, the film stars Cynthia Dale, who was also in the original My Bloody Valentine.  Cynthia plays Samantha, an administrative assistant who quits her job and opens up her own independent gym, Heavenly Bodies.  Samantha is an aerobic dance instructor, perhaps the best in all of Ontario.  Samantha is also a single mother but there’s no better way to find a lover than to teach him aerobics.

Heavenly Bodies was also directed by a veteran of Canadian exploitation, Lawrence Dane.  Remember Happy Birthday To Me?  He plays the father in that movie.  I’d love to know the story of what led to Lawrence Dane not only directing but apparently also helping to write the script for a movie about an independent health club.  I mean, to go from working with David Cronenberg and winning Genie Awards to directing Heavenly Bodies seems like quite a career trajectory.  As a sidenote, how much more interesting would Heavenly Bodies be if it had been directed David Cronenberg?  I imagine that all the leg cramps would be a bit more graphic.

Samantha is selected to host her own exercise show on Canadian TV and a bigger Canadian gym decides that the only way to deal with this upstart is to destroy Heavenly Bodies by buying out their lease …. or something.  To be honest, I really couldn’t follow half the plot of Heavenly Bodies.  I just know that there was a lot of dancing and lot of exercising and a lot of shots of Samantha walking around Toronto.  The film came out a year after Flashdance and all of the scenes of Samantha walking around the city are basically filmed in exactly the same way as the shots of Jennifer Beals walking around Pittsburgh.  (There’s even a scene where Samantha stands in front of a poster for Flashdance, trying to convince people to join her gym.)  Whereas you kind of admired the way that Jennifer Beals handled herself on the dangerous streets of Pittsburgh, you never really worry about Samantha because …. well, it’s Toronto.  As I watched the film, I started to think about the fact that Canada consistently sends its best actors to the U.S. while those of us in the States consistently send our bad movies up north.  I’m not sure if that’s really a fair trade.

Anyway, the two gyms decide to settle their differences with an exercise marathon that is televised on Canadian TV.  (I’m going to assume that the film takes place in-between hockey seasons.)  Basically, the exercise marathon is one of those things where you have two teams and everyone just keeps exercising until they drop.  The last person standing is the winner and their gym gets …. I don’t know, bragging rights?  I mean, I’m not even how they were able to convince anyone to put an exercise marathon on TV.  I guess it was an 80s thing.

Can you guess who wins the exercise marathon?

Listen, Heavenly Bodies is technically a bad movie but I still like it because there’s a lot of dancing and everyone in the cast is so enthusiastic about whatever it is that they think they’re doing.  There’s something to be said for enthusiasm.  Add to that, the exercise marathon just has to be seen to believed.  This is a film of the 80s and its Canadian to boot so how can it not be a guilty pleasure of sorts?

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars
  41. The Dead Are After Me
  42. Harper’s Island
  43. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  44. Paranormal State
  45. Utopia
  46. Bar Rescue
  47. The Powers of Matthew Star
  48. Spiker


Horror Film Review: Special Effects (dir by Larry Cohen)

In this rather odd horror film from 1984, dumb-as-mud Keefe Wateran (Brad Rijn) travels from Dallas to New York City, hoping to bring his wife back home.  Andrea (Zoe Tamerlis, the star of Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45) abandoned both Keefe and their son because she wants to be a star.  When the film opens, she’s posing topless in a replica of the Oval Office.  Keefe is not too happy when he discovers that his wife is apparently appearing in politically-themed nude photo shoots.

And the thing is, you feel like you should feel sorry for Keefe, seeing as how his wife abandoned not only him but also their child.  But Keefe is just such a self-righteous know-it-all that you really can’t blame Andrea for leaving him.  As soon he starts going on and on about how she’s abandoned her family just to be a tramp in New York, you’re pretty much automatically on Andrea’s side.

Unfortunately, when Andrea turns up dead at Coney Island, the police automatically suspect that Keefe’s responsible.  When they show up to arrest Keefe for the murder, he’s only wearing his boxer shorts.  One of the detectives comments that, if he was going to commit murder, he would at least wear interesting underwear.  And, again, you may want to sympathize with Keefe but the detective has a point.  You need to dress for the job you want, not the one you have.  I have an entire drawer full of murder thongs, just in case I ever decide to go for a career change.

Keefe is bailed out of jail and provided a high-priced attorney by Christopher Neville (Eric Bogosian).  Neville is a big-time Hollywood director …. or, at least, he was until he directed a huge flop.  (Apparently, the film had over $30,000 worth of special effects, which I guess was a lot back in 1984.)  Neville, whom Andrea was supposed to have a meeting with on the night that she died, says that he’s fascinated by Keefe and Andrea’s story.  In fact, he wants to turn it into a movie and he wants to hire Keefe as a special consultant.

However, what we know (but what Keefe doesn’t know, though he’d be able to figure it out if he wasn’t such a total and complete freaking moron), is that Neville murdered Andrea!  He strangled her when she objected to him filming them while they were having sex.  Now, Neville wants to make a movie about the murder.  He even hires Elaine Bernstein (Zoe Tamerlis, again) to play Andrea in the film, despite the fact that Elaine has no acting experience.  What’s important is that Elaine looks like Andrea.  Neville also manages to manipulate the rather stupid Keefe into playing himself in the film.  Soon, Neville is suggesting that perhaps they need to film a scene of Keefe and Andrea having rough sex and maybe Keefe should choke her during the scene….

And it just gets stranger from there.  Special Effects is Hitchcock-style thriller from director Larry Cohen, one that’s got a bit more on its mind than just murder and a few heavy-handed jokes about the film industry.  Neville may be smooth and manipulative while Keefe may be loud and a bit on the dumb side but, ultimately, they’re both obsessed with turning Elaine into Andrea.  Neville wants to transform Elaine into the Andrea that he victimized while Keefe wants to turn Elaine into his idealized version of Andrea, the version that never wanted anything more than to be his wife and the mother of his children.  In the end, they’re both creeps.  (Admittedly, only one of them is murderer.)

Adding to the film’s strange tone are the three memorably eccentric lead performances.  All three of the actors do unexpected things with their characters.  Bogosian is wonderfully smug and smoothly manipulative as Neville while Brad Rijin goes all out in making Keefe one of the stupidest characters ever to appear in a leading role in a motion picture.  (He’s like Bruce Campbell, without the comedic timing.)  And finally, Zoe Tamerlis does a great job playing four different characters — Andrea, Neville’s version of Andrea, Keefe’s version of Andrea, and finally Esther.

Special Effects is an intriguing mix of thrills, horror, and satire with an undercurrent of anger.  One gets the feeling that Neville is a stand-in for many of the soulless directors who had the type of career that Cohen felt he deserved.  Track it down and check it out.

4 Shots From 4 Joe Dante Films: Piranha, The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gremlins

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 month, we’re using 4 Shots from 4 Films to honor some of our favorite horror filmmakers!  Today, we honor the one and only Joe Dante!

4 Shots From 4 Joe Dante Films

Piranha (1978, dir by Joe Dante)

The Howling (1981, dir by Joe Dante)

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, dir by Joe Dante et al)

Gremlins (1984, dir by Joe Dante)

Horror On The Lens: Night Tide (dir by Curtis Harrington)

Night Tide

First released in 1961 and directed by Curtis Harrington, Night Tide stars a young Dennis Hopper as Johnny, an awkward sailor.  Johnny meets Mora (Linda Lawson), who works as a “mermaid” on the pier.  For Johnny, it’s love at first sight.  However, the more that Johnny pursues her, the more he learns about both her mysterious past and the dark fate of her previous boyfriends.

Night Tide is low-key and atmospheric gem of a movie, one that serve as an inspiration for low-budget filmmakers every where.  Lawson is perfectly cast as the enigmatic Mora but the film really belongs to Dennis Hopper.  Hopper’s naturally off-key presence made him perfect for the role of Johnny.

Night Tide is one of those low-budget movies that, because it’s in the public domain,  has been released on DVD (often in inferior form) by dozens of different companies.  Often times, films like this turn out to be fairly forgettable.  Night Tide, however, is an exception.

All Joking Aside: Movie Preview, Poster and Trailer

From the PR release:

From acclaimed director Shannon Kohli, and starring Raylene Harewood in an unforgettable performance, the exceptionally inspirational All Joking Aside – coming this November from Quiver Distribution

Review First:

This movie documentary broke me in a way few have. Director Shannon Khol put Charlene in a light few can. Vulnerable, yet Powerful at the same time. Given her circumstances, and watching this movie, I am empowered now!


Raylene Harewood, best known for her role on Netflix’s “The Healing Powers of Dude”,stars in the acclaimed ALL JOKING ASIDE. The film, released from Quiver Distribution November 13, tells of a young woman in New York City that pursues her dream of becoming a stand up comic.

Where Can You See All Joking Aside?

Check your VOD services on November 13, 2020… And I highly recommend watching!

If you are not still convinced, Here is the official trailer!