The Christmas Chronicles (Dir: Clay Kaytis), Review by Case Wright


Netflix is known for taking risks and “The Christmas Chronicles” is no exception. There are six felonies in this film: 2 Grand Theft Autos, a kidnapping, money laundering, attempted murder, and whatever they did to that partridge in the pear tree.  Yet, it worked! I will admit that I am of the Y-Generation and Kurt Russell remains forever cool in my book, but this movie had some good story writing, great acting from veterans like Kurt Russell and Stevie Van Zandt, but great performances by up and comers Judah Lewis (The Babysitter) and Darby Camp (Big Little Lies) as well.

Clay Kaytis had his directorial debut with this film.  He is famous for being an animator for a panoply of films that you have taken your daughters to see: Frozen, Tangled, and Mulan…etc.  Clay was a pretty good choice considering the amount of animation that is in this film.  Honestly, it was a family movie that would have been a HUGE box office draw.

The film begins with a series of home movies featuring a classic nuclear family enjoying Christmas over the years…until 2017.  We learn that the father was a fireman who lost his life saving a family, leaving his family grieving and without the spirit of Christmas.  The mom is now taking extra shifts as a nurse, the daughter is REALLY into Santa, and the son is now a no-kidding degenerate car thief.  There are enough dark scenes in this film to classify it as Film Noir.

The family is trying to live as best they can and the daughter Kate is trying to reconnect with the memory of her late father by watching old home movies.  In one of the films, she sees a mystery arm delivering a package.  She convinces her brother that it could be Santa in the film and they decide to set a trap for him…..and IT WORKS!!! Not only do they catch Santa on film, they stow away onto his sleigh and cause Santa to crash.  He loses his sleigh, reindeer, bag of toys, and his magic hat.  The main ticking clock for the film is that Santa needs to get his presents delivered before christmas is up or christmas spirit will tick down to zero and it will be like the Hills Have Eyes or something.  The rest of the film is spent helping Santa retrieve these lost items and busting Santa out of jail to prevent the After Times.

And yes, Santa ends up in jail, charged with multiple felonies, and does a pretty amazing blues number with the E Street Band.  Yes, the E Street Band.  I know that a lot of this movie is starting to sound like a Christmas fever dream, but it works and my 7 and 9 year old girls were riveted and didn’t hurt each other for the duration of the film.  Thank you, Clay Kaytis…THANK YOU!

I would recommend this film and for you to subscribe to Netflix.  Otherwise, how will you understand half of my reviews?!!!!!

Merry Christmas!

 

Horror on TV: The Curse of Degrassi (dir by Stefan Brogren)


Can you believe that Halloween and Horrorthon are both nearly over!?  I’ve got tears in my mismatched eyes.

Originally, I was planning on posting the final episode of Kolchak tonight but I miscounted and, to make a long story short, I ran out of episodes of Kolchak before I ran out of days in October!

So, for our final Horror on TV of the 2018 Horrorthon, I’m going to share an old favorite of mine, The Curse of Degrassi!

Originally airing on October 28th, 2008, The Curse of Degrassi features Degrassi’s main mean girl, Holy J Sinclair (Charlotte Arnold), getting possessed by the vengeful spirit of deceased school shooter, Rick Murray (Ephraim Ellis).  Chaos follows!  Fortunately, Spinner (Shane Kippel) is around to save the day.  As any true Degrassi fan can tell you, only Spinner has a chance against the forces of the undead.

Enjoy!

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 E10, The Witching Hour, (Dir. Rob Seidenglanz) Review


STAW

Happy Halloween!!! I want to take a moment to thank Lisa. She is a great editor and writer.  She has given me so much support. It was a creative bucket list item review a show with her.  Thank you.

This is the final episode of the season and has the tone and feel of the nadir.  This episode is extremely polished and feels a lot like a well-done network season finale.  The shots are well framed, there is good creepy vibe, and we develop a visceral sense of every character’s inner struggle with each shot.  This is the work of a deliberate pro: Rob Seidenglanz.  It’s actually difficult to see a brilliant show that he hasn’t worked on.  My favorite shot is where Sabrina’s friends finally ask her if she is a witch.  The camera work makes you feel for Sabrina as she is confronted with her true self and she feels unmoored.

Once she’s confronted, it brings us to the question: how free is our will?  I have talked about evil A LOT in my reviews.  I have met evil men who committed terrible acts who will NEVER see justice and I know why they did what they did (see previous reviews and retweet them).  Why is Sabrina so close to the edge?  The same reason the men I met did what they did: she thinks she knows better and because she can.  When I deal with sanctimonious people on social media, I get nervous because they have the arrogance, but I don’t know if they really have the means.  Luckily, most are just lonely and online.  The scary combination that should keep everyone up at night is what these totally self-certain people will do if they feel justified.  You can imagine them shrugging off the collateral damage that they cause in their decisions for expediency.

Back to the review, Sabrina is faced with the oncoming of the resurrected witches who will destroy the town with the help of a headless horseman or some such.  Who is summoning all these demons? Ms Wardwell!!! It all looks terrible for the town.  Sabrina and the fam decide to protect the town, but Ms Wardwell manages to isolate Sabrina.  Once she’s alone, Sabrina’s convinced without a lot of struggle that she alone can solve everything! This plays to Sabrina’s vanity so perfectly that she signs Satan’s book and kicks a lot of ass, but at the cost of her soul.  That is where the corruption concludes.  We see Sabrina walking with with the sisters and she gives a lusty wink to Nick.

Side note: Aunt Z steals a baby and Ms Wardwell is Adam’s first wife Lilith.

SIDE SIDE NOTE IN RE LILITH: If you’re going through a divorce or know someone who is take solace because even the original Adam got divorced. Eve was Adam’s second wife after Lilith refused to subordinate herself to him and split.  Therefore, we are ALL children of divorce.

This show had so many complex characters…and Harvey.  I guess not everyone is supposed to be interesting.  Shipka brought this character to life with so many flaws, but with so much courage.  I like that Sabrina was flawed and corruptible.  It made it a human story.  The show gave a lot of opportunities to some new director and that is great in and of itself.

Happy Halloween!

A Blast From The Past: Peter Cushing — A One Way Ticket To Hollywood


I’m not sure if you can be a true fan of horror (especially British horror) without loving Peter Cushing.

The actor played many roles over the course of his long career.  In fact, the first film in which he and Christopher Lee both appeared was not a horror film but instead Laurence Olivier’s 1948 production of Hamlet.  (They both also appeared in 1952’s Moulin Rouge.)  However, Cushing will probably always be best known for his Hammer roles and, of course, his villainous performance in Star Wars.  Peter Cushing was not only the virtuous Prof. Van Helsing but also the far less virtuous Baron Frankenstein.

According to almost every interview that I’ve read, Peter Cushing was a genuinely nice and professional person, one who didn’t personally care for horror films but who never took it personally when he was recognized for appearing in them.  Though they regularly played rivals on screen, he was close friends with Christopher Lee.  I once read an interview with Lee where he said that, decades later, he still hadn’t recovered from Cushing’s death in 1994.

Below, you’ll find a documentary from 1989.  It was called Peter Cushing — A One-Way Ticket To Hollywood.  It’s basically just Peter Cushing talking about his life and career for 49 minutes but it’s a charming little documentary.  Peter Cushing comes across as being very nice and very British.  He discusses not only his horror films but also his work in Star Wars and his performance as Winston Smith in a 1954 production of 1984.

It’s a nice documentary and I offer it up on Halloween as a tribute to one of horror’s gentlemen.

(Thank you to VintageTreats for uploading this!)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 Ep 9: The Returned Man, Review (Dir Craig Macneill)


STAW

Happy Devil’s Eve.  I will be doing the last episode on Halloween- Bwahahaha!

The Returned Man – directed by Craig Macneill is all about the failure! Since both Episode 8 & 9 were directed well, I’d like to get into their differing styles just a bit. Maggie Kiley built suspense with camera moves and slowing ratcheting up tension like a Hitchcock thriller or The Shining. Craig Macneill’s work feels more like an Italian horror film that relies on music, gore, and lighting to convey confusion, horror, and fear.

This episode is the reckoning of Sabrina’s necromancy.  She did raise Tommy, but he came back….different.  Tommy doesn’t speak, eat, or catch footballs normally.  What he does do is be very still and yet menacing.  Also, Sabrina’s clever plot to cheat death and have the witch return from death after 10 minutes isn’t really working out.  The sister is coughing up gravel.  All and all everything is going horribly horribly wrong.  When Sabrina returns the necromancy book to Ms. Wardwell, she feigns surprise that Sabrina went on the necromancy path.  This cements the sole culpability for Sabrina.

Why isn’t Tommy eating?  When the dead miners are delivered to the Spellman house, we learn that there is a good reason Tommy isn’t hungry; he was chowing down on the corpses of the other miners.  Yes, Tommy is a ….. ZOMBIE!!!! This is cut really well with a scene with Tommy attacking their POS dad.

Sabrina realizes that Tommy came back without a soul and that his soul is in limbo.  She thinks she can just waltz into limbo and get it. No muss no fuss.  Well, nope.  The Spellmans are now all aware of Sabrina’s shenanigans and think she is beyond reckless because she is.  No one wants to help Sabrina go into limbo except…..Ms Wardwell.

The limbo scene is excellent.  It reminds me of Phantasm or The Beyond. We pierce the veil and it’s filled with confusion and a terror called a Soul Eater!!! Sabrina meets her mother in Limbo, but she can’t recognize Sabrina.  This reminded me of The Beyond because if you make it to Hell in that film, you go blind from the revelation. Then, she does find Tommy, but as she is about finish Tommy’s rescue, the soul eater devours him.

Ms. Wardwell is conveniently near Sabrina for this scene and all others that can compromise Sabrina.  Wardwell convinces Sabrina that Harvey must know the truth. Sabrina agrees and we see Harvey’s love for Sabrina shatter.  He doesn’t seem angry as much as he is disgusted by being completely overruled in any of the decisions that affected him directly.  This causes them to break up, which isolates Sabrina completely from the human world.

I enjoyed how the characters were allowed to be diminished.  Sabrina failed in every way possible and lost everything.  This allows her to be prepped for a full corruption.  See you on Halloween!!!

Horror On TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.20 “The Sentry” (dir by Seymour Robbie)


Tonight on Kolchak….

There’s something on the loose underneath Chicago!  Could it be a …. killer lizard!?  Kolchak’s on the story!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and this was the final episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.  Darren McGavin, of course, would later go on to epitomize the ideal middle American father when he played The Old Man in A Christmas Story.

This finale originally aired on March 28th, 1975.

I hope you have enjoyed this October’s trip down Kolchak Lane!

*SPOILERS* Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 E8: The Burial, Review (Dir Maggie Kiley)


STAW

Happy Devil’s Eve!!! I would like to take a moment to tell Jason Blum to hire this Director A LOT!!! From Jumpstreet, she throws us off and builds suspense with her camera angles and moves.  We’re right there with the characters in the thick of suspense in the first seconds!  It almost has a found footage feel to it.  THAT TAKES SKILL! JASON, HIRE HER! A LOT!!! SHE’LL DO A GREAT JOB AND MAKE YOU LOTS OF MONEY!

Back to the review!

Maggie Kiley understood the theme of the episode immediately: Corruption.  Mostly, she uses close-in one-shots and two-shots, drawing us into these conversations where all of our characters are being slowly cozened into full darkness.

We quickly learn that Harvey’s brother Tommy is trapped in the mine and presumed dead. The drunkard father moves ahead with funeral plans right away to get insurance money.  All of these characters are under stress, which is when the easy corrupt always seems to present itself.  We learn from Hilda that their ground brings people back from the dead and in no way should give Sabrina any ideas to commit necromancy.

Furthering the theme of corruption, as the funeral is held, Sabrina violates Harvey’s will for the third time in the season.  She has used her power to make him forget, make him safe, and make him strong.  As pressure mounts, she continues to become more and more comfortable in overriding Harvey’s will.  The series is amazingly complex in that none of the characters end the season with clean hands.  They all are slowly corrupted in some way.  It brings home the slow pernicious temptation that humankind always faces in times of a crisis: To do right thing or the easy thing.  In this show, everytime Sabrina overrides Harvey’s will, we bear witness to it sending her going further down the path of darkness, giving up more and more of her humanity and bringing her closer to Satan.

And who is there at every turn to nudge Sabrina down the easy path of darkness: Mary Wardwell.  She never tells Sabrina: Raise Tommy From the Dead!!!  No, that’s not how temptation works.  She presents the means and opportunity, allowing Sabrina see this viable opportunity to make things all better.  Mary does it over coffee.  It’s innocuous, but the option is presented.

Throughout the episode, it’s brought up that she never asked Harvey if bringing Tommy back from the dead is what he would want. Once again, she is being tempted to substitute her will for his.  In going down the path of resurrection, Sabrina is not only substituting her will in place of Harvey’s, she is substituting her will for the very will of God himself.

Why is this working on her? Evil is attractive.  I have met people that were actually evil.  They appeared normal, but they were not.  They committed terrible acts. Why? Each time I was confronted with these men, their actions were done out of arrogance and expedience.  They knew the act work and because they knew could do it.  That’s the heart of evil: convenience and arrogance.

Ambrose is given clemency from his house arrest by Father Blackwood. With it, comes fealty.  The shot is pulled closer and closer just more actively to bear.  Then, once proposed, the shot backs off.  As if to say, I’m just here to help.

Aunt Z is corrupted as well, but hers is a lot more direct and in keeping with the show’s raging hormone.  She has a torrid affair with Father Blackwood.  It is STEAMY! Honestly, this is the most relatable bad act on the show.

Sabrina learns that the sisters were responsible for Tommy’s death. She conflates vengeance with justice.  They caused harm, so I can use them and harm them in order to correct a greater harm.  In doing this, Sabrina convinces herself to commit murder.  You could argue that it was temporary, but it was pointed out that it was still murder in order to bring Tommy back.

When you hear presumably Tommy banging on the Harvey’s door; it’s straight up terrifying.  The last shot is the hand on the doorknob- Brilliant!

I’ve written about this before how you could have a great director who can’t direct horror.  Maggie Kiley knows what she’s doing. I was riveted.  I can’t wait to see more of her art!