October Positivity: The Perfect Race (dir by Dave Christiano)

In this 2019 sequel to Remember The Goal, cross country coach Courtney Smith-Donnelly (Allee Sutton Hethcoat) finds herself coaching at the college level.  One of the runners that she coached in high school, Brittany (played by Bethany Davenport), is now the best runner at Bethany University.  In fact, she’s the second best runner in the nation!  Coach Michaels (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.) brings in Courtney to work with Brittany while he deals with some health complications.

So, pretty much all the stuff that happened during the first movie happens during the second.  Once again, everyone doubts Courtney’s training methods.  Once again, Courtney takes it upon herself to tell all of the runners how to live their lives.  Brittany’s father gets angry when Courtney tells Brittany to run slower than usual.  Considering that Courtney is now a local celebrity because of how well the cross country team did in Remember the Goal, you might think that the other coaches would know about her techniques and would prepare for them.  But nope.  No one has any faith in Courtney’s ideas but she’s vindicated in the end.  In fact, over the course of two movies, Courtney is never once incorrect about anything.  To be honest, that’s kind of annoying.

The main difference between Remember The Goal and The Perfect Race is that Courtney is a thousand times more preachy in the sequel.  In the first film, she cited a verse from Corinthians and later talked about Jesus raising a girl from the dead and that was about it.  In The Perfect Race, it’s rare that a scene goes by without Courtney saying, “Do you remember the story about….” and then offering up a Biblical lesson.  It gets a bit tiring and, again, it’s hard not to get bored with Courtney having all of the answers all of the time.  For example, when she’s told that the track team doesn’t practice when its raining, she promptly asks everyone in the room to raise their hand if their parents are divorced.  Courtney goes on to explain that, if you’re not willing to train while it’s raining, you probably won’t be able to make a marriage work either.  WHAT!?  You know what else might end a marriage?  Dying of pneumonia.

For a film about athletics, The Perfect Race is a very talky film.  Unfortunately, most of the conversations are very repetitive.  When Courtney tells Brittany to slow down during one of her races, we got several scenes in a row of people asking each other why Courtney did that.  Brittany’s father asks Brittany why Courtney told her to slow down.  Brittany replies that she doesn’t know.  In the very next scene, Brittany’s father tells Coach Micheals about what Courtney told Brittany to do.  Coach Michaels asks Brittany’s father why Courtney did that.  “I don’t know,” Brittany’s father replies.  Coach Michaels asks Brittany why Courtney did that.  “I don’t know,” Brittany replies.  In the next scene, two rival coaches talk about Brittany slowing down.  One coach asks, “Why did she do that?”  “I don’t know,” the other coach replies.  And it just kept going and going until eventually, I wanted to throw something at the TV.

Anyway, my frustrations aside, Courtney is triumphant at the end of the movie, largely because Courtney is perfect and never makes any mistakes.  Did I mention how annoying that can get?

This film inspired me to go for a run, if just to have an excuse to stop watching it.  And, before anyone asks, I do not like carrots.

Horror On TV: Circle of Fear 1.19 “Graveyard Shift” (dir by Don McDougall)

On tonight’s episode of Circle of Fear, John Astin plays a former actor who now makes a meager living as a security guard at the studio where he once worked.  Unfortunately, the studio is shutting down.  John Astin will be out of a job but, as he discovers one night, he’s not the only one who fears being forgotten.  This is the type of story that could only have been told in the days before physical media, streaming sites, and cable.

Patty Duke, who was married to Astin at the time, plays his character’s wife.  Playing their baby is John and Patty’s newborn, future actor MacKenzie Astin.  William Castle, who served as executive producer of Circle of Fear, appears as the head of the studio.

This episode originally aired on February 16th, 1973.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Scissors (dir by Frank De Felitta)

The plot of the 1991 film, Scissors, is not easy to describe. That’s not because the plot is particularly clever as much as it’s because it doesn’t make much sense.

Basically, Sharon Stone plays a woman named Angela Anderson. She is oddly obsessed with scissors and terrified about getting close to anyone. She’s been getting hypnotherapy from Dr. Carter (Ronny Cox) in an effort to understand why she’s so repressed but she doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. This could possibly have something to do with the fact that Dr. Carter is continually distracted by the adulterous activities of his wife, Ann (Michelle Phillips).

Angela lives in a lonely but surprisingly big apartment with only her cat for company. Her cat is named Midnight and he’s a black cat so he automatically became my favorite character in the film. Living next door to her are two twin brothers. Alex (Steve Railsback) is a soap opera star. Cole (Railsback, again) is an artist in a wheelchair who continually paints cartoonish pictures of Angela being attacked by a man with a big red beard.

Then, one day, Angela goes out to buy some scissors. When she returns and gets on the elevator to head back up to her apartment, she’s attacked by a man …. A MAN WITH A RED BEARD! Fortunately, Angela is able to stab him with her scissors. After the man with the red beard runs off, Angela is discovered in the elevator by Alex and Cole. Alex and Angela fall in love. Cole’s not too happy about that.

Following so far?

Angela get a call about a job interview, one that requires her to go to a stranger’s apartment. Despite the fact that the film has spent nearly an hour setting up Angela as being intensely agoraphobic, she has no problem going to this apartment. However, once she enters the apartment, she finds herself locked in! She also discovers that the red-bearded man is also in the apartment. Fortunately, he’s dead. Unfortunately, it appears that he was killed by Angela’s scissors. There’s also a raven in the apartment. The raven continually taunts Angela, saying, “You killed him!” Let’s just be happy that Edgar Allan Poe wasn’t around to see this.

Trapped in the apartment, Angela has flashbacks to her past. Is Angela the murderer? Is all of this just happening in her mind? Or is someone trying to drive her over the edge?

Though Scissors is set up as a psychological horror film, it’s really more of an extended acting exercise for Sharon Stone. Stone wanders around the apartment. She talks to herself. She had a nervous breakdown or two. She discusses life with a puppet. Every single scene seems to be designed to make audiences go, “Wow, she really can act!” but, despite all of the histrionics on display, Angela is still a very one note character. By making her obviously unstable from the start, the film doesn’t really leave the character with much room to develop or take us by surprise. The film attempts to end on a bit of an ambiguous note as far as Angela’s character is concerned but that type of ambiguity has to be earned. There’s nothing to Stone’s performance to indicate that there’s anything about Angela that isn’t totally on the surface. To suggest that there was more to her than originally appeared is to insult the audience’s ability to discern hidden depths.

The film does eventually wrap up its mystery and present a solution of sorts. Unfortunately, it’s a totally unsatisfying solution and one that’s dependent on otherwise intelligent people coming up with a ludicrously overcomplicated scheme to deal with one not particularly complicated problem. It’s all pretty forgettable but at least the cat survives.

The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (1977, directed by Gordon Hessler)

Miriam Oliver (Karen Black) is a prim housewife who always keep her hair in a tight bun and who wears eyeglasses.  After she starts to have dreams about going to her own funeral, Mrs. Oliver’s personality starts to change.  Her husband, Greg (George Hamilton), can only watch as Mrs. Oliver puts on a blonde wig, ditches her eyeglasses, and starts to dress in revealing clothes.  Greg wants to concentrate on starting a family but the new Mrs. Oliver only cares about going out and partying all night.  She also wants to move into a new house, one that was previously owned by a woman named Sandy.  Sandy, who was a student of the occult, died in a mysterious fire.

The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver is a good made-for-TV movie that gives viewers two Karen Blacks for the price of one!  Black is undeniably sexy, whether she’s playing the prim Mrs. Oliver or the wild Sandy.  But she also delivers a really good performance as she switches back and forth from being Mrs. Oliver and being Sandy.  Richard Matheson provides an intelligent script while Gordon Hessler’s direction keeps you guessing as to whether Mrs. Oliver is truly possessed or if she’s just having a mental breakdown of some sort.  This is an enjoyably twisty thriller with a good ending and a knockout performance from Karen Black.

Horror Game Review: Friends? (2022, MBoone)

One night, Natt is woken up by his friends Josh and Stan.  Josh and Stan want Natt to step outside and have a drink.  Natt has not seen or checked up on Josh and Stan for a while.  Natt can be a friend and have a drink or he can go back to sleep.  Either way, he is going to end up in a bad situation.  Are Josh and Stan friends?  Natt soon discovers that there are consequences for not keeping up with people.

Friends? is a choose you own adventure style horror game.  You decide how Natt reacts to things and then you discover what happens as a result of Natt’s decisions.  The majority of the decisions appear to lead to Natt dying a horrible and gruesome death.  If you make the right choices, Natt can survive but it’s very difficult to get through the game without Natt taking on some damage, both physically and mentally.

A few typos aside, Friends? is well-written and the endings are gruesome and twisted enough to keep most horror game players happy.  It doesn’t take long to discover that there are very real consequences to making the wrong decision.  The game features multiple endings and multiple paths to those endings, making it a game that can replayed several times.

Play it and then check up on your friends.  They would probably love to hear from you.

Play Friends?

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 1.7 “Julie’s Old Flame / The Jinx / The Identical Problem”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

Love, exciting and new!

Let it go, it floats back to you!

We all float down here!

Episode 1.7 “Julie’s Old Flame / The Jinx / The Identical Problem”

(Directed by Don Weis, originally aired on November 12th, 1977)

The Love Boat is jinxed!

Or, at least, that’s what the crew assumes when they meet Horace and Henrietta McDonald (played by Ray Bolger and Harriet Nelson).  Horace and Henrietta first met when they were children and they’ve been in love ever since.  In fact, they met each other on a cruise.  Unfortunately, that cruise was the Titanic!

(Remember, when this episode aired, it had been 65 years since the Titanic sank.  So, there were still a few elderly survivors around.)

Anyway, the crew worries that Horace and Henrietta might bring bad luck with them and, before you know it, everyone’s getting injured.  Doc Bricker gets hit by a door and ends up having to wear a bandage on his head.  Gopher trips in the lounge.  Isaac gets whiplash after falling in the pool.  Julie ends up wearing an eye patch.  To be honest, I think the crew is just clumsy.

While the crew is trying not to die, identical twins Ellen and Helen (Diana Canova) are trying to keep the crew from realizing that they’re both on the boat.  (They only bought one ticket.)  One of the twins falls in love with Doc Bricker.  The other can’t stand him.  Bricker being Bricker, he really doesn’t care how the twins feel about him.  He just wants to get laid.  Still, Bricker spend most of the episode very confused and very afraid of the Titanic jinx.

Meanwhile, Julie is shocked when she discovers that Buddy Stanfield (David Hedison) is on the cruise!  Buddy is a wealthy and handsome attorney and he’s also Julie’s former lover.  They had a whirlwind romance in Paris but then Julie discovered that Buddy was married and her heart was broken.  Now, Buddy claims that he’s divorced and Julie starts to fall for him again.  It’s pretty obvious that Buddy is lying but who can blame Julie when he’s played by the classy and suave David Hedison.  Hedison played Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die and License to Kill.  In between dealing with the jinx, the crew tries to proect Julie from Buddy.  Of course, Buddy’s wife eventually shows up but at least Julie has her friends to support her!

Anyway, this was a pretty predictable episode and the plot with the twins was way too silly to believed.  It didn’t help that the twins appeared to be in their early 20s while Doc Bricker is in his 40s at least.  But David Hedison was a perfect cad and Ray Bolger (who, of course, is best-remembered for playing the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz) and Harriet Nelson were an adorable couple.  This episode was nothing special but it was still enjoyable while it lasted.

Horror Scenes I Love: Gnahgi and the Head from Dellamorte Dellamore

This scene is from the 1994 Italian film, Dellamorte Dellamore.  Gnaghi is upset that a girl upon whom he had a crush has been killed in a terrible bus accident.  But then Gnaghi remembers that the dead come to life when they are buried in the town’s cemetery.

Novel Review: The Overnight by R.L. Stine

Did you know that Fear Street had a Fear Island?

It’s does.  It’s sitting right in the middle of Fear Lake.  It’s a bit of an isolated place.  For whatever reason, it’s never occurred to anyone to actually make commercial use of Fear Island, even though that seems like the most obvious thing to do.  There are rumors that Fear Island is cursed and overrun with mutants and ghosts….

Unfortunately, even though the majority of the book takes place on Fear Island, there are no mutants or ghosts to be found in The Overnight.  First published in 1990, The Overnight was the third of the Fear Street books and it’s one of those books where nothing supernatural happens!  What a let down!

Instead, it tells the story of what happens when the members of Shadyside High’s Outdoors Club (really?  What a lame club) sneak off and spend some time on Fear Island without adult supervision.  One of the members of the club is approached and then attacked by a strange man who eventually ends up at the bottom of a ravine.  The members of the club leave his body there and return home, determined not to tell anyone.  They’re less concerned with getting accused of murder than they are of their parents finding out that they went on an unsupervised trip.  Soon, the phone calls begin.  “I know what you did,” the voice on the other end rasps.  Next, two of club members are chased by a mysterious car.  Who could it be?

While the members of the Outdoor Club try to figure out who is stalking them, their faculty advisor makes an announcement.  They’re going on an overnight trip and they’ll be camping on …. FEAR ISLAND!


I will admit that I laughed out loud when the club found out that they were returning to Fear Island and that there was no way that they could avoid it.  I think it’s because, by the point I reached that point in the book, I already started to imagine The Overnight as being an episode of Saved By The Bell. 

“We’re going to Fear Island!” Mr. Belding announces.

“TIME OUT!” Zack says, before looking at the audience and saying, “I can’t go back to Fear Island!  They’re going to hack Zack!”

Anyway, as I said before, this book is disappointing in that there are no ghosts or monsters and it’s a bit difficult to really relate to anyone who would want to join something as dorky as the Outdoors Club.  (Shadyside High has a club for everything!)  That said, it’s hard not to be amused by the fact that there’s apparently a Fear Island sitting in the middle of Fear Lake.  Apparently, Fear Island was mentioned in a few other Fear Street books, some of which I do remember reading.  So, I guess I just blocked the island’s existence from my memory.

Anyway, the important thing is that everything work out in the end.  Fear Island?  More like Love Island, right?