In the 2015 film, God’s Club, Stephen Baldwin stars as Michael Evens.
Michael is a teacher at the local high school. His wife is also a teacher and it is quickly established that she is quite a bit more religious than her husband. In fact, she’s the sponsor of the after-school Christian club. This club is very controversial because God’s Club is one of those films that takes place in a community where everyone is not only an atheist but also a total jerk about it. It’s like everyone learned how to be an atheist by watching Richard Dawkins YouTube videos. At a school board meeting, parents shout about separation of church and state and warn that they are not going to sit by while their children are brainwashed. Principal Max Graves (Corbin Bernsen, giving the film’s best performance as the sole voice of reason at the high school) explains that no one is being forced to attend the club. Michael, for his part, remains quiet. Later, as they’re driving home, Michael and his wife are in a serious accident. Michael survives. His wife asks him to pray with her and then promptly dies.
Weeks later, a guilt-stricken Michael returns to school. It turns out that most of the students are just as jerky as their parents. When Michael opens his class with a moment of silence for his dead wife, one of his students reports him for praying in class. This leads to the parents demanding that Michael be fired. Spencer Rivers (played by Lorenzo Lamas) is especially adamant that Michael should not be allowed to teach and he even goes so far as to insult the memory of Michael’s dead wife. Making things even more tense is Michael’s decision to restart God’s Club himself. Needless to say, this leads to even more controversy but it also gives Michael a chance to make peace with both himself and his guilt over his wife’s death.
Christian teachers being persecuted by atheist parents and mindless government enforcers is a recurring theme when it comes to faith-based films. Perhaps the best-known example of this is God’s Not Dead 2, in which Ray Wise literally cackles with delight as he thinks about ruining Melissa Joan Hart’s life. (“We are going to prove that God is dead,” Wise explains to his legal team, none of whom point out that it would be smarter to just settle the case and move on.) The debate over whether or not religion should be allowed in schools is a legitimate one but films like God’s Club (and God’s Not Dead 2) tend to approach the subject in such a melodramatic that it’s difficult to really pay much attention to their arguments. It’s not enough that the parents in God’s Club are perhaps being a little bit paranoid in their belief that their children are going to be preached to. Instead, the parents are portrayed as being so evil that they can’t even show the least bit of kindness to a man who has just lost his wife in a sudden tragedy. One thing that all of these films have in common is that they take place in world in which there are no polite atheists.
Stephen Baldwin, who is usually the only lively thing about the films in which appears, gives a rather stilted performance as Michael. According to the film’s IMDb page, Baldwin was dealing with some health issues while filming God’s Club and perhaps that’s why he seems to be so disinterested in the film. Baldwin seems to be just as depressed when his wife is alive as he is after the car accident. At the end of the film, everyone seems to be excited about God’s Club except for him. It’s hard not to think that maybe Michael would be better off just retiring and maybe moving to Florida. By the end of the film, he’s earned some time on the beach.
Because it’s nearly Halloween, here’s a special bonus television episode!
After I reviewed I Was A Teenage Werewolf, this episode was recommended to me by Mark, one of our regular readers in Australia. Highway to Heaven was a TV show about an angel and a human who traveled across the country and helped people out. It aired for 5 seasons in the 80s and it’s pretty much achieved immortality via syndication and streaming. It starred Michael Landon who also starred in I Was A Teenage Werewolf. As you call from this episode, he obviously had sense of humor about his early film career.
This originally aired on October 28th, 1987. The series was a bit silly but this episode is kind of fun.
Oh no! Halloween might be canceled because people just aren’t scared of the old monsters! Dracula (Judd Hirsch) calls all of the classic creatures to a meeting in his castle (where they all happen to be freeloading) and give them an ultimatum. Be more scary! It turns out to be easier said than done.
This originally aired in 1979 but, for people of a certain age, it achieved a certain immortality thanks to regular airings on the Disney Channel. It’s a cute show. It might seem a little bit corny today but that’s a large part of its appeal. It’s a reminder of a more innocent time.
Warren the Werewolf, by the way, was named after Warren “Werewolves of London” Zevon.
In Tomb of Dracula #43 (April, 1976), a reporter named Paul Butterworth discovered the existence of not only Dracula but also the people (like Blade, Frank Drake, and Rachel Van Helsing) who were trying to stop his reign of terror.
Paul thought it would make a good story but he knew he needed proof so, when he met Dracula, he was sure to take a few photographs. The joke was on Paul because vampires can’t be photographed! When Paul’s editor sees the blank photos, he demotes Paul to doing the helpful hints column.
Not a bad story. Tomb of Dracula was always at its best when it brought in “normal” characters and allowed them to interact with Dracula and the vampire hunters. Paul Butterworth never made another appearance but he was still a part of the series’ overall mythology.
However, the thing that made this issue great was the cover. Illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, this cover may not have much to do with the story but it perfectly captures the feel of Tomb of Dracula.
After five years of enthralling audiences with the story of Barnabas Collins and his family, Dark Shadows came to an end on April 2nd, 1971. By this point, the show itself had tried to return to its gothic roots by setting its latest storyline in 1841. During the show’s final episodes, Jonathan Frid played not Barnabas but instead, Bramwell Collins. Unfortunately, this didn’t help the show’s once strong ratings and ABC abruptly canceled Dark Shadows in 1971.
When the show ended, it did so in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion. With Bramwell and his love, Catharine Harridge, preparing to leave Collinsport, news suddenly came that there had been a vampire attack!
A group of cultists who worship Death are threatening to destroy the world so a mysterious operative named Alice (Christina Licciardi) assembles a group of fairy tale villains and heroes to help defeat them. Unfortunately, getting The Big Bad Wolf, Goldilocks, the Mad Hatter, Bluebeard, and a host of others to work together isn’t as easy as it should be. Complicating things is the evil Rumpelstiltskin (Johnny Rey Diaz), who is imprisoned with a mask over his face to keep him from convincing anyone to say his name. Just as he is responsible for smashing the magic mirror that unleashed Death and his evil followers on the world, he also might be the only one who can stop the cult. But at what price?
I watched the 2016 film, Sinister Squad, last night. I have to admit that I had a pretty difficult time following the plot. Produced by the Asylum, Sinister Squad is a sequel to Avengers Grimm. AvengersGrimm was a mockbuster of The Avengers, in which all of the heroes were fairly tale characters. Sinister Squad is a mockbuster of Suicide Squad, in which a group of fairy tale villains are recruited to save the world. Avengers Grimm was a surprisingly fun movie but Sinister Squad gets bogged down by its own low budget, with nearly the entire film taking place in one location. It’s kind of hard to make an epic action film when you can’t afford more than one set.
That set is a warehouse, where the members of the Sinister Squad are imprisoned. It’s also where Alice is storing Death’s scythe. Death wants his scythe back so he sends his followers to retrieve it and it leads to a bit of a one-sided battle. Indeed, none of the members of the Sinister Squad seem to be that effective when it comes to defending the world and it’s hard not to feel that Alice should have made more of an effort to recruit some of Death’s followers. Probably the most impressive of Death’s acolytes is Bluebeard (Trae Ireland), who can throw knives in slow motion and steal the souls of those he kills. (He calls them his “wives” because he’s Bluebeard.) Still, as impressive a bad guy as Bluebeard might be, it’s hard not to wonder why he’s there because it’s not as if Bluebeard is a fairy tale character. It seems like a waste to have Goldilocks face off against Bluebeard as opposed to three bears.
As I said, the plot of this one is not always easy to follow. If you haven’t seen Avengers Grimm, you’ll be totally lost. I have seen Avengers Grimm and I still wasn’t always sure what everyone in Sinister Squad was going on about. On the plus side, some of the costumes are nicely done. Bluebeard was properly intimidating. I sympathized with the Big Bad Wolf, who was apparently just misunderstood. I respected Alice and her refusal to surrender. For the most part, though, Sinister Squad was more underwhelming than sinister.
After a piece of the Skylab space station crashes into rural Spain, first the cows and then the wolves are infected by a cosmic virus that turns them into cannibalistic monsters. Soon, the virus spreads to a nearby town and the villagers also start to transform into mindless flesheaters. While NASA tries to contain the virus and keep the rest of the world from finding out, three American college students drive their RV into the village. Damon (Dennis Christopher), Michael (Martin Hewitt), and Samantha (Lynn-Holly Johnson) soon find themselves fighting for survival as they are pursued by both the mutants and the government. Working with a helpful scientist, they try to recover an antidote before it is too late.
Also released under the title Alien Predator, The Falling deserves a lot of credit for knowing exactly what it is. It’s a low budget, B-movie and it doesn’t try to convince us that it’s anything else. As soon as I saw the red buggy that was hooked up to the book of the RV, I knew that this was going to be good. Eventually, Michael gets in the dune buggy and gets chased around the village by the flesheaters and the movie starts to feel like an extended episode of Starsky and Hutch. The three leads are likable, even if they are also too old to be believable college students. Christopher makes jokes and tries to sound like James Cagney, Hewitt does a Rod Serling impersonation, and Lynn-Holly Johnson looks good while screaming. People who watch movies like this for the gore will appreciate the exploding head scene. All in all, The Falling is an enjoyable “bad” movie.
Today, I decided to see how Dracula would have done against Jimmy Carter in 1976. I set up the simulation with the same economic and world conditions that Carter, Gerald Ford, and third party candidate Eugene McCarthy were debating in 1976. The only difference is that I substituted Dracula for Gerald Ford. No longer would Ford carry the stain of pardoning Nixon. Now, it would be Dracula. Again, I gave Dracula high score for his speaking ability, his personal magnetism, and his ability to stay cool under pressure. I also made sure that Dracula’s campaign platform represented his authoritarian politics.
In the end, Dracula’s platform didn’t matter. Watergate didn’t matter. The economy didn’t matter. Dracula wiped the floor with both Carter and McCarthy. Carter challenged Dracula to one debate. Dracula blew him out of the water. In real life, Carter narrowly defeated Ford after Ford lost their debates. In the simulation, Dracula dominated the election.
On election night, Carter got one piece of good news when he won the District of Columbia.
However, that would be all that Carter would win. Dracula won the next state and never looked back.
Carter was strangely competitive in Rhode Island, only losing the state by a few thousand votes. As for the rest of the states: