We have reached now the penultimate season of Unwell, a Midwestern Gothic Mystery. This is the bad news. Any good story ends too soon, as far as I’m concerned. The good news is that the first two episodes of season five are already available, so we can start on that journey together.
That being said, this season was incredible. It was dark and frightening and asks more questions than we have time to answer. And for the first time, we come face to face with a question I’ve been wondering since the very first episode of Unwell.
What if this town doesn’t care for everyone who lives within it?
We begin this season right where we left off. Lily, Dot, Wes, Abbie and Marisol are trapped in the boardinghouse by a pack of wolves. There are more at the town hall. And yes, they do seem ready to bite someone’s face off.
Soon enough though, the wolves become a mild inconvenience more than anything. Yes, they might be vicious. They might be threatening. But eventually, everyone sort of gets used to them. And there are far more frightening elements of the town to be worried about.
For instance, Silas has moved in. The barriers that protected Mt Absalom from him are gone. So he’s around, getting coffee and opening a bar.
Lily takes this all in stride. She seems to see Silas as a trickster entity more than anything. He’s going to cause some trouble but is overall harmless. Even when a child goes missing, she doesn’t see this as a big deal. All in good fun, after all. Silas wouldn’t hurt anybody.
But let’s remember what exactly Silas did in the last episode of season one.
This is a concerning trend not only in Lily but in the town in general. Silas is much like the wolves. They might seem friendly. Some poor souls might be foolish enough to think they can be controlled. But they are still forces of nature. They are still going to do what they do, regardless of the outcome for others. Not out of malice. Only because it is what they are meant to do.
The town is also like the wolves in that way. And I think we’re only now coming to realize that.
I’m glad to see the two opposing sides coming together this season. For the most part, that is. Chester seems more and more willing to work with Dot and the boardinghouse, especially as he grows more and more concerned about whatever Hazel has planned. We don’t know what Hazel wants to do about Silas, but we know that everyone else thinks it’s a bad idea.
Everyone agrees that Silas needs to get out of the town, though. He’s causing all sorts of trouble, disrupting the balance that everyone relies on. But he doesn’t want to go. And he’s more than ready to put up a fight.
During the last few seasons, we have been given the impression that the town takes care of its people. Normally when someone says that, they mean that the people of the town look out for each other. And that is most certainly true. The people of Mt Absalom are wonderfully supportive of each other. It’s like a huge extended family, and I love it. But in this season, we find out that there’s more to it than that. The town itself looks after its people. When children go missing, they’re more often than not deposited in a safe place. The town sends them home. It also seems to hold onto people who might be of use, even after they die.
However, there are two sides to every coin. If a town can protect lost children, it can do more. And it can determine that someone within it is a threat.
One of our main characters makes themselves a threat this season. And the town does what it does best. It protects itself.
I can’t wait to get into the last season. I’m sad we have to wait for the episodes to come out every other week. But still, it could have been worse. We could have found it just after the season ended. I hope you’ll be listening along with me as we witness the final season of Unwell.
(4.5 / 5)
A Love-Letter to Horror: Jeff Whitmire’s Stabby Road
Jeff Whitmire, also known as the “Weird Al of Horror,” creates comedy-based parody songs and original music. For his second album, Stabby Road, he leans into his love of horror with twenty-two parody songs and three original tracks. He describes it as “a love-letter to horror and comedy music.” I describe it as absolutely hilarious and well-crafted.
Music To My Ears
When I start my interview with Jeff Whitmire about his newly released album Stabby Road, I decide against going with the opening line I have written down. This man is funny, funny. What if I say this and he doesn’t laugh?
What I do not say: “Long time listener, first time caller. Honored to be in the Zoom where it happens.” What I do say: I have no idea because I forgot to hit record on the Zoom until a few minutes in. Having ADHD is like that sometimes.
If you’re a fan of his music, you’ll catch the reference to the album’s 15th track, “The Zoom Where it Happened” ft. Seylan Baxter. The song is an homage to the Shudder original movie Host (2020) set to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “The Room Where It Happens”. Yes, Whitmire took on a Hamilton song and actually created an equal-caliber parody.
If you’re not a fan of his music, it’s only because you haven’t listened to it yet. Stabby Road is filled top to bottom with smart and funny homages to horror movies as well as The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. He pays tribute to a diverse selection of horror subgenres, ensuring there is a song for every type of horror fan out there.
Set to Random
When I ask how he chooses songs to work with he says, “I always try to keep people guessing.” Explaining one part of his process he goes on, “I’ll switch stations in the car and just try and hear a song and let the movie idea just jump into my head and I’ll go with it.” This creates an album that parodies everything from The Offspring to Aqua to Rusted Root. And of course, the album’s namesake – the “Abbey Road Medley” from the Beatles.
Whitmire reveals the name of Stabby Road came well before the creation of the songs which parody “Abbey Road Medley”. When it was brought to his attention the album did not yet have a Beatles song on it, it was proposed, “What if you do the entire melody?” Whitmire says he responded with, “That sounds absolutely insane, I’m not going to do that.” So, of course, he did it.
Whitmire explains how he got into making parody music as: “I’ve always considered myself more of a lyricist and writing lyrics. So parody was kind of nice because, you know, then I didn’t have to come up with the melodies… But then I’ve been trying to branch out a little more and do more original stuff.” His lyricism shines on the album, with each parody track both a summary and a toast to its respective film.
Play It By Ear
“Cenobite”, track 2, is Whitmire’s favorite song on the album “from a parody standpoint.” It is a parody of “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down and makes reference to Hellraiser 1 & 2. He describes its creation as “one of those lightning in a bottle moments,” and says it is the song where he and co-collaborator 2 Sleeps “really broke through.”
The song is one of my personal favorites from the album. I cannot stop myself from singing “I got it wrong, this ain’t a game. I solved the box and then they came,” whenever I hear “Kryptonite” on the radio. Whitmire’s lyrics on the album have a sneaky way of replacing the original song’s lyrics in your head.
As a testament to his talent with original songs, the three featured on the album do not feel out of place alongside the parodies of smash hits. Two of the original songs are The Drive-In focused. “Hey, Joe Bob!”, the sixth track, is the song he is most proud of on the album from an original standpoint. The song is more personal in nature and describes, “what The Drive-In means to everyone and what [horror] meant to me growing up.”
He is passing along his love of horror to his family. The fifth track, “Don’t Fall Asleep,” was written after watching the entire Nightmare on Elm Street franchise with his son. Finding comfort in something others find uncomfortable may have influenced his decision to parody “Creep” by Radiohead for the track. Just like with “Cenobite,” it’s impossible now to not sing “Don’t fall asleep, feel him near though.”
Changing His Tune
Whitmire’s switch to focusing on horror content is relatively recent, only happening in 2020. Stabby Road is not his first album of parody songs, but as he puts it, “The way things have worked out, a lot of the horror community don’t realize that.” His first album is Deep Fried Superhero and he describes it as, “wide-open genre wise.”
He recently took the stage at FuMPFest, which was born out of The Funny Music Podcast (known as The FuMP). The FuMP is co-hosted by Devo Spice and Luke Ski, and you can listen to their interview with Whitmire here. “They’re really where I got my start in doing [comedy music] so being invited to do that was awesome.”
Despite fears that his horror based songs would turn-off fans of his earlier music he says, “They were into it, they bought in.” He explains the gap between horror and comedy is larger than some may think. “That mixture in the middle is a very weird one that I do.” Stabby Road serves as a perfect bridge for those who may not enjoy comedic horror but do enjoy being able to laugh about horror.
Face The Music
Whitmire was also recently invited by Shudder to create the closing credits song for V/H/S/85 (2023). He and 2 Sleeps joined forces under the band name Bathed in Blood to create the song “Doppelganger.” Since he spoils the movies within his songs, he was able to pre-screen an unfinished version of the movie as part of the creative process.
He says V/H/S/85 is his favorite of the franchise. They were going for a fitting, “Alice Cooper vibe,” with the song. In my opinion, they nail it. Others seem to agree, with the reception online being very positive.
Whitmire laughs when he recounts finding the song on YouTube quickly after the movie’s release. “We’ve got permission,” he says about filming a music video for it. It will be released on a new YouTube account separate from his existing account to differentiate the projects.
Beating The Drum
Speaking of YouTube, I would be absolutely remiss to not mention the incredible creative quality of Whitmire’s music videos. Each video is full of loving references to the films – even going so far as to include filming on the same location.
Whitmire says he is nowhere near close to being out of ideas for songs. He acknowledges, “I still have like 7 songs on my YouTube channel that don’t have an album yet.” Some, if not all, of those songs will be featured on his upcoming third album Direct to Video. I’ve got my hopes up that “You’re Gonna Float,” which parodies Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat,” will make the cut.
He reveals he is also working on a “serious, non-horror” album of original songs. “It’s been on my back burner forever.” Whatever he’s got cooking up, I will be listening.
Strike The Right Note
Whitmire’s philosophy towards his horror parody songs is: “I just really love music. Just like I really love horror movies.” If you also love music and horror movies, Stabby Road is 100% the album for you. It is an album that will make you smile, if not laugh outright, and appreciate the genre we all love so much just that much more.
My rating for Stabby Road: (5 / 5)
Jeff Whitmire can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter as @JeffWhitmire1 , on YouTube as @jeffwhitmire47 and on bandcamp as Jeff Whitmire. His co-collaborator 2 Sleeps can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter as @2sleepsmusic.
Old Gods of Appalachia Season Two
Back in September, we talked about the first season of Old Gods of Appalachia. And it was a great time.
We didn’t talk then about season two, because I hadn’t yet experienced it. Now, I have. And it’s quite prescient. See, season one was about the coal mines, and what might come out of them.
Season two is about the railroad. The railroad that is still claiming the lives of Appalachian folk to this day. So of course, we have to talk about this season.
Our story this season is about a witch queen. The other witch queen, actually. Whereas our other queen is strong, eternal, and generally benevolent, this queen is different.
Her story is simple, and not unfamiliar. She was the mistress of a wealthy man, who died bringing his unclaimed child into the world. Mother and babe were buried unceremoniously. She, angered by this, became a spirit of vengeance.
She is, in fact, so dangerous and dark that everyone agrees that it’s best if she stays asleep. By everyone, I mean witches and the Haunts who inhabit the Pines. Yes this does include the Walker girls from last season. But it also includes some creatures that are less friendly. Creatures like Skinless Tom, who likes to steal other people’s skin to hide his lack.
That isn’t to say that The Other Queen doesn’t have friends. In fact, she’s worshiped as a Good Mother. She’s considered a spirit of justice, who comes to the aid of women and children. But as some of her followers learn, there’s a difference between justice and vengeance.
Even in her benevolence, The Other Queen is cruel. We see this in the story of a little boy named Cowboy. After he’s found in a cow field, his new friends realize that there’s something strange about him. What seems like a gift at first is quickly understood to be a curse.
Then of course, there’s Elsie Walker. We get some more information about her history, back when her home was a business called Pleasant Evenings. We hear a story of a young woman she took in, and of the man who came looking for her. This was a great story, maybe my favorite one of the whole season.
All of this culminates in the last few episodes. The Other Queen is walking the Earth, she has to be locked away. And the whole cast comes together to put her back. Including some fantastic and powerful people, we haven’t met yet.
I really enjoyed this season. It did the same thing that season one did so well, in the order in which we learn all pertinent facts for our story. We don’t just start at the beginning, that wouldn’t be as fun. No, we start with a little boy who survives the death of his whole family. Then, we’re introduced to the Good Mother’s Ministries. Then we learn why Elsie Walker might have a particular issue with the Railroad Man. As we move through the season each story, dark and delightful on its own, is layered over the one that came before it. Until finally we can stand back and see the whole picture. This is difficult to do and requires patience, time and great attention to detail. The team who creates Old Gods clearly invested all of that and more.
After the events of East Palestine, season two of Old Gods of Appalachia was even more chilling than it would have been. Tales of atrocities by railroad companies in the name of almighty profit are old. Not as old as these hills, but old just the same.
Yes, Old Gods is fiction. No one is saying there are literal demons working for the railroad. But for those of us who live close enough to East Palestine to feel the air burn our lungs, that analogy feels very real.
That being said, this season didn’t need that modern example to be relevant. And it sure didn’t need any help being scary as hell.(4 / 5)
Haunted Places Podcast
Running from October 2017 to December 2022, Haunted Places is a podcast about just that. The dark spots and corners of the world that are best avoided by most. But if you want to explore them, this podcast is a good start.
The podcast is hosted by Greg Paulson and written by Lauren Delille. And I’m sorry to say that the podcast did end in December. I hope that the talented team is doing new, terrifying things.
The first episode I listened to was the very first one, The Cecil Hotel. This is a story that we already know quite a bit about, especially after watching the documentary on Netflix together.
Somehow, this thirty-minute podcast episode managed to tell more tales of the Cecil Hotel than a three-episode mini-series. I’d never heard of Dorothy, who threw her newborn baby out of the window rather than let her lover know she’d given birth.
These are verifiable facts. Dorothy Jean Purcell did throw her newborn infant son out of a window of the Cecil Hotel in 1944.
Here are some things said in this episode that are not verifiable facts.
Elisa Lam was likely murdered. (No, she wasn’t.)
Dorothy Purcell knew full well her son was dead before she threw him out of the window. (We can guess, but that’s all it is.)
Elisa Lam was part of a government conspiracy to cause a TB epidemic among the residents of LA’s Skid Row. (Clearly not a fact.)
While I’m not ready to toss a whole podcast based on some wildly inaccurate storytelling portrayed as facts, I do feel like I need to point it out. I’ll be taking everything from this podcast with a grain of salt, and I suggest you do the same.
I next listened to the final episode, about the Carlile House. Before the episode began, there is a simple message that this would be the final episode. No further explanation is given, and I wasn’t able to find any reason why Haunted Places wasn’t continued. So far as I’ve heard, quality wasn’t the issue.
I’d never heard of Carlile House, in New Zealand. The people who were forced to spend time in the house probably envy me in that regard. In its existence, it was an orphanage, a military barracks, and a trade school for boys. None of those are fun places to be. Some ghosts are going to remain. Especially when a vindictive, psychotic nun is involved.
This story has everything. Lots of racism, hateful ghosts, and sorrow-filled soldiers.
These two episodes are a good example of something I always look for in a supernatural or true crime podcast. I like to see a healthy collection of stories I know, and stories I’ve not heard before.
Some stories, like Hotel Cecil, La Llorona, and the Amityville house, are consistently fascinating. These stories are told again, and I’m happy to hear them. There’s also a whole season about Salem Massachusetts, which I’m a sucker for.
Many of these tales, most in fact, are stories I have never heard before. I had never heard of the Princess Theatre in Melbourne Australia, or the actor ghosts who reside there. I’d never heard of Ruthin Castle or the Lady Grey and her axe. I’d never heard the story of Peg Leg Johnny at the Congress Plaza Hotel. Now I have, and I feel richer for knowing them.
I truly enjoyed Haunted Places. While the ‘facts’ are questionable, the quality isn’t. The tales are disturbing, as all haunted house stories are. There is something about a haunted location that never gets old. Something about a place that has soaked up misery, anger, fear, and hate until it becomes itself a hateful thing. Some place that may seem lovely and safe from the outside, until you’re trapped within the walls.
If you’re looking for a good spooky time, Haunted Places is well worth listening to.(3.5 / 5)