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!

Music Video of the Day: I’m Upset by Drake (2018, dir by Karena Evans)


We’re not even halfway through 2018 yet and I’m already prepared to declare that today’s music video of the day is the best of the year!  Now, you’ll notice that I didn’t say that it’s the best song of the year but really, the song’s not that important.  What’s important is that, with this video, Drake and director Karena Evans gives us the Degrassi reunion that we’ve all been waiting for!

(Okay, maybe not everyone.  Apparently, some people aren’t as obsessed with Degrassi as the rest of us are.  But you know what?  I love Degrassi.  I’ve got almost the entire series on DVD and I’ve watched and rewatched every episode so many times that I can quote most of them from memory.)

Before he found superstardom as Drake, Aubrey Graham was best known (by people like me) for playing Jimmy Brooks.  When Degrassi first started, Jimmy was something of a random jock.  He got into fights.  He played basketball.  He dated Ashley Kerwin and dumped her after she took ecstasy and ended up making out with Sean.  He dated Hazel until she graduated.  He dated Ashley again until she betrayed him to get a recording contract.  And, of course, he ended up in a wheelchair after a mean-spirited prank led to Rick Murray shooting him in the back.  Jimmy eventually left Toronto for Amsterdam and possibly law school but, as we see in this video, he’s back and so are all of our old favorites.

Admittedly, before this video, there was a previous Degrassi reunion.  Back in 2016, the 500th episode of Degrassi featured a class reunion and several old characters did return.  Unfortunately, everyone’s favorites — like Paige, Spinner, Marco, and Emma — didn’t get much screen time.  Instead, Mo — who really shouldn’t have even been at the reunion since it had only been a year since he graduated — got most of the screen time and seriously, who ever cared about Mo?  Meanwhile, beloved graduates like Ellie, Craig, and Manny didn’t even show up.  In short, the official Degrassi reunion was a huge disappointment!

Fortunately, this video does a better job of bringing back almost all of our favorites.  I guess that’s the power of Drake.  True, it’s hard not to be disappointed that Sean Cameron, Joy Hogart, Alex, J.T. Yorke, Johnny DiMarco, and Bruce the Moose didn’t show up.  (If you ever had any doubt that Degrassi was a Canadian show, just consider the fact that a major supporting character was named Bruce The Moose.)  But check out who did return!

First off, here’s Spinner (Shane Kippel)!

Seriously, it’s not a Degrassi reunion if Spinner isn’t there.  Despite the fact that Degrassi was a four-year school, Spinner was enrolled for seven seasons.  Okay, so Spinner wasn’t that good of a student but so what?  He was the heart and soul of Degrassi!  Not only was he the drummer for Toronto’s greatest band, Downtown Sasquatch, but he was also Jimmy’s best friend, except for that time when Jimmy was angry over Spinner’s part in the prank that led to Jimmy getting shot in the back.  (Fortunately, they made up.)  I’ve seen some people online wondering why Spinner spends so much of this video throwing up.  My theory is that it’s an homage to the seventh season episode, Pass the Dutchie.  That’s the episode where Spinner, while undergoing chemotherapy, throws up on his English teacher.

(That episode also features one of the greatest lines in Degrassi history, when a stoned Spinner realizes that he’s about to fail English for the third time and exclaims, “What kind of idiot fails his own language three times!?”)

Four of my favorites all showed up together.  Getting out of the stylish white car: Paige (Lauren Collins), Ellie (Stacey Farber), Marco (Adamo Ruggiero), and Craig (Jake Epstein).  I always related to Ellie, largely because we both had red hair and always wore black to school.  I also always felt bad that Craig and Ellie could never quite seem to make things works romantically, though Ellie and Sean were actually a better couple.  But I’m just kind of rambling now…

Hey, it’s Terri (Christina Schmidt) and Hazel (Andrea Lewis)!  Terri was on the first three seasons of Degrassi, until she was put into a coma by her abusive boyfriend, Rick Murray.  (This was the same Rick who would later shoot Jimmy in the back.)  Hazel was Jimmy’s girlfriend, until she eventually realized that Jimmy was actually in love with Ellie.  It’s probably not a coincidence that Drake is rapping about his ex at the same time that Hazel shows up.

Then the teachers show up!  Ms. Kwan (Linlyn Lue) was the tyrannical English teacher who was driven to tears when Jimmy and Spinner egged her car.  As for Archie “Snake” Simpson (Stefan Brogren), he’s been the one constant over the course of all the different versions of Degrassi.  He started out as a student on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High.  In School’s Out, he was the first character to say “fuck” on Canadian television.  Finally, Mr. Simpson taught the school’s media immersion class and eventually became principal of the school.

About halfway through the video, we learn that Mr. Simpson buys his drugs from Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith).

A longtime fan of the Degrassi franchise, Kevin Smith appeared as himself during season 4 and 5 and also in the second Degrassi movie, Degrassi Goes Hollywood.  Smith came to Degrassi to shoot his latest movie, Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?  Of course, he brought Mewes with him.  While Kevin Smith did end up contributing to the break-up of Caitlin and Joey, he also helped to track down Craig, who was having a manic episode and living on the streets at the time.  Later, Smith would return to Degrassi to encourage Paige to take a chance with Alex and to also help launch the acting career of Manny Santos (Cassie Steele).

Speaking of Manny, she returns for Drake’s reunion and, appropriately enough, she’s seen hanging out with Emma (Miriam McDonald).  Interestingly, in Degrassi Takes Manhattan, Emma ended up marrying Spinner in a plot twist that caused thousands of Degrassi fans (like me) to roll their eyes in unison.  (Seriously, Emma and Spinner barely spoke to each other for 9 seasons and then they suddenly got married.)  In this video, Spinner and Emma don’t even seem to acknowledge each other.  Maybe they got divorced.

Among the other former Degrassi cast members to make an appearance: Melissa McIntyre (a.k.a. the one and only Ashley Kerwin), Nina Dobrev (who played teen mom-turned-super model Mia), A.J. Saudin (a.k.a. Simpson’s autistic godson, Connor), Sarah Barrable-Tishauer (a.k.a., class President Liberty Van Zandt), Jake Goldsbie (a.k.a. adorable nerd Toby Isaacs), Marc Donato and Dalmar Abuzeid (a.k.a. dorky friends Derek and Danny), and Paula Brancati (who played Jane, the girl who Spinner probably should have married.)

And then there’s Rick Murray (Ephraim Ellis).  Despite the fact that Rick was reported to have died shortly after shooting Jimmy, he still showed up for the reunion.  Of course, not everyone was happy to see him:

So, for those of you keeping track: Jimmy regained his ability walk, Emma and Spinner are divorced, Rick Murray apparently didn’t die after all, and J.T. Yorke is still dead.  Poor J.T.

(Then again, if Rick’s still alive then you have to wonder how his ghost was able to possess Holy J in The Curse of Degrassi.  Maybe I’m overthinking this.  Anyway…)

Enjoy!

Greatest video of 2018, have no doubt

Horror Film Review: Flatliners (dir by Niels Arden Oplev)


Jeff and I are currently on a little road trip but we’re not going to let something like that prevent us from seeing the latest bad movies.

For instance, last night, we saw the remake of Flatliners at the AMC 8 in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  Ardmore is a lovely little town.  When I was six years old, my family briefly lived in Ardmore and I can still remember this deserted barn that was sitting right at the edge of our property.  My older sisters all told me that it was haunted and I can still remember sneaking over to the window in the middle of the night and staring at that dilapidated barn, searching for ghosts.  Even though I was only six at the time, it’s still an incredibly vivid memory and I still have dreams about that barn.  That’s the power of a good scare and that is exactly what’s missing from Flatliners.  This is seriously one of the most forgettable films that I’ve ever seen.

I did get a little excited when I discovered that the film co-starred Nina Dobrev.  Most people know her as Elena from The Vampire Diaries but, for me, she’ll always be Mia Jones on Degrassi.  (Mia was not only a high school student and a star on the spirit squad.  She was also: a single mother, a model, a drug addict, and J.T.’s girlfriend during the show’s sixth season.)  She’s one of many Canadians in the cast of Flatliners.  There’s also Ellen Page and Kiefer Sutherland.

That’s right, Kiefer Sutherland returns in the new version of Flatliners.  But don’t get too excited.  He’s not playing the same character.  If he had been playing the same character, this film would have been a lot more interesting and he could have told the new cast, “Your sins have returned in physical form … and they’re pissed off!”  Instead, he’s just playing a clueless doctor with really weird hair.  I think we’re just supposed to be impressed by the fact that he agreed to appear in the remake and I guess I would be if the first one was some sort of award-winning classic or something.  It’s not like the original Flatliners is the defining role of Kiefer Sutherland’s career.  Now, if they had gotten Oliver Platt to come back…

ANYWAY, it’s pretty much the same story all over again, just told with a lot less visual flair.  (Say what you will about Joel Schumacher as a director, he understood that the first Flatliners needed a lot of neon.)  This time, it’s Ellen Page who convinces her friends to let her die and then revive her after two minutes.  The remake does add an interesting wrinkle in that, when Page returns from being dead, she is now suddenly super smart and has total recall.  At the very least, this explains why all the rest of her friends are then so eager to try it out for themselves.  Even though it feels like a Limitless knock off, it’s still an interesting idea and I think that if the entire film had been about the students obsessively killing themselves and coming back, all in an effort to achieve some sort of Godhood, it would have made for an intriguing movie.

But that whole angle kind of gets abandoned.  Soon, it’s time for everyone’s sins to start showing up.  That means that Ellen page has to deal with her dead sister.  Nina Dobrev has to deal with a dead patient.  Another doctor has to deal with a girl she bullied.  The movie tries to make you wonder whether or not they’re just having hallucinations but why would a hallucination feel the need to sneak around a room while its target isn’t looking?

Plus, I have to wonder: there are real people out there who have been clinically dead, just to have been brought back to life.  Some of them have reported seeing the bright light and all the rest.  If you follow this movie’s logic, are they all now secretly smart and being chased around by their past sins?  If that’s the case then I’m looking forward to the sequel to Heaven Is For Real.

It’s a forgettable movie.  The first Flatliners had its own stupid charm but the remake just falls flat.

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


Can you believe it?  The first day of Horrorthon is nearly over!  I’ve got tears in my mismatched eyes.

You may remember, from previous horrorthons, that I like to end each day in October by sharing a classic example of televised horror.  Much as with the the horror movies that I share at the start of each day, it should be remembered that I’m a bit at the whim of YouTube here.  If YouTube decides to yank down a video after I share it on this site, there’s nothing that I can do about it.  That’s why I encourage everyone to watch these now!  Don’t wait until 2024.  Who knows if YouTube will even still be a thing in 2024?

Anyway, let’s start things off with The Curse of Degrassi!

This is a special episode of my favorite TV show of all, 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!

(Before anyone asks, yes, I did share this same episode last October.  What can I say?  I really like Degrassi and forcing people to watch my favorite Canadian obsession is a bit of a tradition around here.  We’re all about tradition here at the Shattered Lens.)

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


Well, can you believe it?  Halloween is nearly over!  In just four more hours, it will be midnight on the West Coast and October will officially be ended and so will our annual horrorthon.  Thank you to everyone who contributed and read and commented this year!  Y’all make all the hard work more than worth it!

Well, here’s our final excursion into the world of televised horror.  Ready for it?  I’m getting a little teary-eyed.

This is a special episode of my favorite TV show of all, Degrassi!  Originally aired 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!

Happy Halloween and Enjoy!

Love you!

Back to School Part II #43: Degrassi Goes Hollywood (dir by Stefan Brogren)


Before I get around to actually reviewing the 2009 made-for-Canadian-TV Degrassi Goes Hollywood, I should start out by admitting that if you’re not a Degrassi fanatic like I am, this review probably won’t make any sense.  Then again, if you’re not a Degrassi fan, you probably wouldn’t be reading this review in the first place.

I should also address a rumor that is currently circulating around the TSL offices.  Some of my fellow contributors seem to be under the impression that the only reason I announced that I would be reviewing 56 back to school films was so I would have an excuse to review the four Degrassi films.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  The reason I started this series of reviews was so that I’d have an excuse to review Andy Warhol’s Vinyl.  The Degrassi films are just a nice side benefit.

Got it?  Okay, let’s talk about Degrassi Goes Hollywood!

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Degrassi Goes Hollywood premiered on August 14th, 2009 and it served as the finale of Degrassi‘s 8th season.  As such, it also served as the conclusion for several long-running Degrassi plot lines, which I’ll get to in a minute.  For the non-Degrassi fan, Degrassi Goes Hollywood is probably most interesting because it features Jason Mewes playing himself and coming across like a surprisingly normal human being.

To really understand Degrassi Goes Hollywood, you have to understand that Kevin Smith is a long-time and very outspoken fan of Degrassi.  In fact, he even appeared, as himself, in seasons 4 and 5 of the show.  In the world of Degrassi, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes came to Canada so that they could film their latest film, Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?  They filmed the majority of the film at Degrassi Community School and used several Degrassi students as extras.  Kevin also served as the catalyst for the Joey/Caitlin break-up, which a lot of people have never forgiven him for.  Myself, I would just point out that when Craig Manning stopped taking his medication and ended up living on the streets of Toronto, Kevin was the one who went on television and asked Craig to come home.  So, Kevin wasn’t all bad!

(As I said, this review won’t make a damn bit of sense if you’ve never watched Degrassi.)

As Degrassi Goes Hollywood opens, we learn that Jason Mewes is about to make his directorial debut.  His film, Mewesical High, is an autobiographical film about his youth in New Jersey and his love for a girl named Trixie.  Jason wants to cast former Degrassi student Manny Santos (Cassie Steele) as his Trixie.  However, the studio demands that Jason cast Paige Michalchuck (Lauren Collins) in the role.  Believe it or not, Paige also went to Degrassi!  She was in charge of the Spirit Squad and she and Manny once got into a memorable fight.

(Actually, Manny got into a lot of fights when she was a student at Degrassi.  That was kind of her trademark.)

When she hears that Paige might be replaced in the film, Manny decides to go to California and fight for the role.  Fortunately, her ex-boyfriend, Jay (Mike Lobel), just happens to have a school bus.  So, he agrees to drive Manny to Hollywood.  Accompanying them on the bus are the members of the Studz, one of Degrassi’s many bands.  They want to convince Jason Mewes to use their music in the film.

Now, here’s where it is helpful to know your Degrassi history.  The lead singer of Studz is Peter Stone (Jamie Johnston).  When Peter first appeared on Degrassi, he was portrayed as being almost a sociopath.  He even got Manny drunk and sent a topless video of her to everyone at the school.  Manny spent two seasons hating on him but, oddly, in Degrassi Goes Hollywood, she has absolutely no trouble traveling from Canada to California with him.  Degrassi is all about forgiveness.

Speaking of forgiveness, what about Jay!?  In Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Jay is pretty much the hero of the film, the guy who convinces Manny to never give up on her dreams.  That’s quite a change from how Jay was portrayed when he was first introduced in season 3.  When Jay was first introduced, he was the local hoodlum who was always breaking into candy machines and who ordered his friends to steal everything from the school’s DVR to Mr. Simpson’s new laptop.  Jay was subsequently kicked out of school after he pulled a prank that led to a school shooting.  (If you’re wondering why Drake was in a wheelchair during his final few seasons on Degrassi, Jay was indirectly responsible.)  Jay was then at the center of an outbreak of gonorrhea and subsequently helped to turn another character into a drug dealer.  And, let’s not forget the time that he and Spinner nearly burned down the school…

Fortunately, Jay was played by Mike Lobel and he always played the role with an appealing sense of humor.  You never got the feeling that Jay was truly evil.  Instead, he was just a little hyperactive.  Somehow, it seems appropriate that he would go from being the most evil character on the series to being one of its most memorable anti-heroes.  He gets a lot of good scenes in Degrassi Goes Hollywood.  He and Cassie Steele made for a fun couple.

Speaking of couples, the best thing about Degrassi Goes Hollywood is that, after four long seasons of heartbreak, it finally gives some closure to the Craig/Ellie storyline.  Craig Manning (Jake Epstein) was the bipolar musical genius who left school to become a big star and who subsequently returned for two episodes, in which we discovered that he had developed a cocaine addiction.  (The scene where he gets a nosebleed while performing is pure Degrassi nightmare fuel.)  Ellie (Stacey Farber) was one of my favorite characters on Degrassi, mostly because we both have red hair and like to dress in black.  Sadly, Ellie spent four seasons crushing on Craig, just to watch as he dated Manny, Ashley, and then Manny again.

In Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Ellie and Marco (Adamo Ruggero) are invited to Hollywood to hang out with Paige.  And while Ellie tries to pretend that everything’s okay at home (despite the fact that her father is in the hospital, suffering from PTSD as a result of serving in Afghanistan), she just happens to go for a walk and randomly runs into Craig!  And though they have their usual issues, the movie ends with Craig and Ellie finally kissing as something more than just friends.

AWWWWWWWWWWW!

Of course, it wouldn’t be Degrassi without drama.  Paige and Marco fight over Paige’s diva attitude.  Ellie gets drunk and walks out into the ocean.  The school bus gets stolen while Jay, Manny, and Studz are visiting a redneck bar.  It’s dangerous for Canadians in California!

But what’s important is that it all works out in the end and, even if it’s never specifically stated, I imagine that Mewesical High won all sorts of Oscars.  Listen, if you’re a Degrassi fan, you’ll enjoy Degrassi Goes Hollywood.  And, if you’re not into Degrassi, you probably stopped reading this review a while ago.

Horror Film Review: The Final Girls (dir by Todd Strauss-Schulson)


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Would you believe that there’s a film that not only brilliantly satirizes and pays homage to the old slasher films of 80s but which also possesses the type of emotional depth that can bring very real tears to your eyes as you watch?

Well, there is and the name of that film is The Final Girls.

In the 1980s, a struggling actress named Amanda Cartwright (played by the always-wonderful Malin Akerman) found a certain amount of cult fame by appearing as a doomed camp counselor named Nancy in the slasher film, Camp Bloodbath.  However, as often happens, playing an iconic role in a horror film has turned out to be as much of a curse as a blessing.  As The Final Girls opens, Amanda has just finished yet another audition.  As she drives home, she tells her teenage daughter, Max (Taissa Farmiga) that she will never escape being typecast as Nancy.  Suddenly. they are blindsided by another car.  Max is the only survivor.

Three years later, Max reluctantly agrees to attend a showing of Camp Bloodbath and Camp Bloodbath II: Cruel Summer.  It’s not something that she wants to do but she’s talked into it by Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), the geeky stepbrother of her best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat).  Also attending the showing is Chris (Alexander Ludwig), who Max has a crush on, and Chris’s ex-girlfriend and self-described “mean girl,” Vicki (Nina Dobrev).

Some of the best scenes in The Final Girls occur while Max watches Camp Bloodbath.  Not only is Camp Bloodbath a perfectly pitched homage/satire of old school slasher films (like Friday the 13th, to cite an obvious example) but Farmiga perfectly plays Max’s reaction to seeing her mother on screen.  Max watches Camp Bloodbath with a heartfelt mix of sadness, pride, and eventual horror.  (One of the film’s best moments is the way that Max slowly sinks down in her chair while watching her mother make out with another actor on the big screen.  It’s a very human moment, one that is both poignant and funny at the same time.)

However, during the showing, a fire breaks out.  In their efforts to escape the theater, Max and her friends find themselves literally sucked into the movie.  That’s right — they are now inside the world of Camp Bloodbath.  And though they can interact with the film’s characters (and, for that matter, with the film’s killer, Billy), they find it’s much more difficult to keep those characters from playing out their pre-ordained roles.  Even after explaining to the camp counselors that doing anything the least bit sexual will cause Billy to come out of the woods and kill everyone, the counselors still find themselves incapable of changing their stereotypical slasher film behavior.  It’s not really their fault, of course.  As Duncan mentions, they’re just “badly written.”

While the rest of her friends simply want to survive the movie and somehow get back home, Max wants to spend time with her mom.  (Except, of course, Nancy isn’t really her mom.  Instead, Nancy is a character that her mom played in a movie that made before Max was even born.)  And you know what?  The scenes between Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman brought very real tears to my eyes.  The scenes between Max and Nancy (and Max and Amanda) are so heartfelt and so full of sincere emotion that they elevate the entire film.

Without the relationship between Max and Amanda, The Final Girls would be a very clever homage to the old slasher movies.  But what that relationship, The Final Girls becomes one of the best films of the year.

On November 3rd, The Final Girls will be released on DVD and Blu-ray.  Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

P.S. When I grow up, I want to be Malin Akerman.