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This is going to be a hard one to review, not only because it’s a controversial remake (in name) of a classic, but also because it’s chaotic as a movie, too. The only spoiler that I’m giving in this review is that a prominently featured unicorn figurine with an extraordinary large horn is disappointingly *not* utilized in any type of maiming or killing, which was a real missed opportunity.

He just wants to be a useful plot device symbolizing female empowerment

The Plot:

I say that it’s a remake in name because it’s quite different from the original (1974) and remake (2006).

Riley and her sorority sisters are getting ready for winter break as she is still struggling with a sexual assault that occurred in her past. She mentors another sister, Helena, while being friends with Marty, Jesse, and the out-spoken Kris. She begins to get weird texts via their school’s notification system after she and her friends perform at a talent show, opening mocking the fraternity her assailant belongs to.

Soon, the strange texts escalate and they realize that they’re being hunted by a masked figure. They must work together and fast to discover the secrets behind the university’s history and unravel its dark past, terrifying present, and devastating future…

The Good:

The acting from Imogen Poots exceeded my expectations. It was not an easy role, and had challenging dialogue to not only convey but to make believable. Good use of body movement, especially when solitary and during quiet moments, for example in the blue portrait hallway before the talent show. I think she’d be great in an indie horror.

Same with Aleyse Shannon, especially when a lot of her dialogue was very clunky. I hope she’s in more Scream Queen parts, especially in different roles.

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What I love in these Black Christmas movies is the use of Xmas décor as part of the set and lighting. Very good job with that. Cinematography was smooth and lovely until shaky-cam PG-13 violence.

Set design is beautiful with the “old tradition” narrative of the story. Every creak of the floor is real and genuine-feeling, and not a manufactured sound in post-production. Whoever scouted the areas did an amazing job.

Thoughts: Brain Roll Juice

So….yeah. It’s a heavy-handed #MeToo feminist film, so your tolerance and taste for the movie are going to be dependent on your opinions of the #MeToo movement. And it’s not subtle winks and nods, it’s most of what’s on screen, down to the pink snow shovel and diva cup used as weapons (in different ways).

Quarter for size comparison

And it’s told in the lens of Blumhouse Productions, so we get pink cat-ear headbands; Secret Santa vibrators; putting in a tampon in front of a roommate; thong-talk; the phrase “boy-cotted”; push-up bras; and the many times when people are corrected for using the term “girl” instead of “woman”. Surprisingly, there was not white wine, yoga pants, or pumpkin-scented candles present.    

What I’m saying, is that while there are things being said, things that rightfully should be said, it’s through a tight and mediocre lens. It felt more like an episode of Riverdale mixed with 13 Reasons Why than a remake of a classic slasher film, including the off-screen deaths and lack-luster ambiance.

Previously on Black Christmas…
we bought more high-waisted jeans

Also, thank goodness that the characters had stockings with their names, or literally necklaces of their names, so I knew who was who because they so often blurred together. Which is fine, almost standard, for a horror/slasher film, but not when your message is that we should care about these women from the beginning.

Character-wise, I knew almost nothing about them, any of them. It was even a throw-away line that we learned our main character’s parents had died, and this was never brought up again.

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My wild guess is this: this was not originally a Black Christmas remake; it was a script about a sorority house that was slapped with the title to promote it. It’s so disjointed -plot and script- that I think there were a lot of scenes cut by the studio because they either got worried by the message or decided to double-down on the message. I think these scenes would have made it flow better and given more character development, maybe even a better ending (which didn’t make a lick of sense).

I don’t think the changes would have made it a great movie, but I think it would have been a better one. And don’t get me wrong – there have a lot of subpar movies made since the dawn of film, and this one is better than most, if just for the effort of trying to say something, especially in a male-dominated field of horror. Props to that. But at the end of the day, will this get more hate/vitriol than Blumhouse’s Uncanny Annie or Truth or Dare, even though they were of equal or lesser value? Yeah. Will a lot that hate/vitriol come from people reading a few keywords and not actually watching the movie? Sure. Maybe that’s the real juice to roll your brain in.

Now guess which one has
made less friends

One last thing of note before I sink back into the darkness. I find it odd that with PG-13, we can’t watch a human being bleed after getting stabbed in the chest by an icicle, but we can watch a woman be assaulted multiple times, and that meets quality standards for a 13-year-old.

Oh, and Riki Lindhome co-wrote the song for the talent show.

Bottom-line:

Don’t watch this as a first date movie – super awkward. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

Movies n TV

Fallout, The End

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Launching with worldwide excitement, Fallout is based on the extremely popular game series of the same name. Fans of the series have waited with anticipation and trepidation to see if the Prime series would live up to the game.

Having now watched the first episode I can say that, so far, it’s successful.

The story

Our story begins with a children’s birthday party. A performer is there with his daughter, giving horse rides and taking pictures with the kids.

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As much as the adults try to focus on the party and the kids, it’s impossible to ignore the looming threat of war that’s on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s during this party that war comes, and the bombs drop.

We then cut to after the war and into one of the vaults established to protect humankind and the American Way. For future reference, this is Vault 33. We meet Lucy, our first main character, who’s petitioning to be married to a man from Vault 32 to ensure DNA diversity.

On the wedding night, though, Lucy and the rest of Vault 33 are met with a horrible surprise. The group they let in is not in fact from Vault 32, but is instead a team of raiders from the surface. The raiders kill a lot of the vault dwellers and kidnap Lucy’s father.

We are then introduced to our second main character, Maximus. He is in training to become a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel. And, well, he’s not doing great.

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Things get worse when his best friend Dane becomes a squire before him. But when Dane is hurt, Maximus gets their spot.

Aaron Moten in Fallout.

We then go back to Lucy, who has decided to leave the vault and find her dad. Of course, the council of her vault doesn’t want her to go. So she is aided by her brother Norm and cousin Chet in a wild escape.

What worked

The first thing that deserves attention is the exceptional character work. Our three main characters are fleshed out and relatable right away. We feel sympathetic for The Ghoul before he’s even introduced as such. We love Lucy’s nativity and selflessness. And we love Maximus for his honesty and passion for his cause.

While these characters are their own people, they also exhibit the three responses we might expect to see in a post-apocalyptic world. We have the hopeful optimist who doesn’t understand how bad things are. We have the aspiring hero who wants to make the world better by force. And we have the self-serving individual who’s given up on the rest of humanity and is only focused on surviving.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the balance of humor and gore. Because there was certainly enough blood and guts for even the most hardcore horror lover. We had a violent sabotage, a brawl with raiders, and even several nuclear bombs.

But there were a lot of funny moments as well. Usually from Lucy. Her overall goodwill and fearless gumption are absolutely hilarious, especially given the horrors she’s facing. It never ceases to amuse me.

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Ella Purnell in Fallout

Both of these aspects are done perfectly. The jokes land and the bloody scenes pull no punches. It was delightful.

All in all, this was an exciting start to a much-anticipated series. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the landing.

For more tv shows based on video games, check out my review of Witcher. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Ave Hestia

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Episode seven of American Horror Story Delicate was a classic AHS flashback episode. If you were excited to see what Preecher had to say to Anna at the end of the last episode, I’m sorry to say that you will not get that satisfaction. However, we did learn all sorts of other fascinating things about the strange coven hunting Anna. And, we learned all sorts of things we didn’t know about Dex’s first wife, Adeline.

The story

We begin our story with a woman giving birth alone in a barn. When it becomes clear that she’s not going to be able to deliver vaginally, she pulls out a knife and cuts her stomach open to pull out her children.

For whatever reason, this is when the coven of witches decides to make themselves known.

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Ashlie Atkinson in American Horror Story.

We then cut to 2013, when Dex was still married to Adeline. In true Dex fashion, he’s surprised her with a puppy.

While that sounds great in theory, dogs are something a couple should talk about, not gift each other with as a surprise. An adult would know that. A trust fund boy like Dex does not.

Adeline owns a vegan restaurant called Ave Hestia. Love that name. She seems to be living a great life. She has a career she’s passionate about, friends who love her, and a husband she seems kind of fond of.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want a puppy. She already had one.

Of course, things aren’t as good as they appear. We soon find out that Adeline was one of those babies we saw at the start of the episode. The other baby was Sonia, the painter.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones in American Horror Story.

And yes, both of these characters are played by Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Adeline has stepped away from their family, and whatever dark things they do. But the family isn’t happy with her decision. And if she isn’t going to come back willingly, they’re going to make her.

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What worked

To start with, I loved the character, Adeline. She is fierce, she is fearless, and relentless. I feel like this would have been a far different story if Adeline had been our main character. It was astounding to see her interact with the same people Anna has, and get a completely different response. It’s clear now, how much everyone around Anna resents her for simply not being Adeline.

I also appreciated that there was just a shocking amount of blood in this episode. From the start when Adeline and Sonia are born, to the climactic end of Adeline, this episode is just drenched in blood.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the changes in this season from the book it’s based on. Because absolutely none of this was in the book. Compared to this, the book is heartwarming.

The book is kind of heartwarming even without the comparison.

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But I love the fact that, even with just two episodes left in the season, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know what Anna is carrying. I do not know if she’s going to survive this. I do not know what these people want with her.

But I can’t wait to find out.

What didn’t work

All that being said, it is a bit frustrating to have no forward momentum in this episode. This was all backstory, and it felt like there wasn’t enough backstory to fill a full forty minutes. Because of that, it dragged. There were a lot of scenes that just didn’t need to be as long as they were. It felt like they could have cut that down considerably, and had some time to check in with our main characters at either the start or the end of the episode.

There are only two episodes left in the season, and I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen. But so far the story has been dark, bloody, and provocative. So I hope they can manage to end it on a high note.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Movies n TV

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs: An Eggs-celent Time

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The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs returned March 29th for the first ever Easter-themed episode. Debuting the new series format, hosts Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl presented only one film. The Drive-In can be watched on AMC+ and Shudder every other Friday during the season.

This week on The Last Drive-In, Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl hopped onto our screens to include us in their Easter party. Festivities include decorating eggs, blowing noisemakers, cuddling mutilated stuffies, and of course, swigging down Lone Star beer. You’re invited to consume whatever substances you like best to enhance the viewing experience of this week’s film, Brian Skiba’s Rottentail (2019).  

Season 6 poster for The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.

As Joe Bob opens the episode, there is hope he will remain focused and on topic. He begins with innocent rabbit behavior patterns before taking a turn into the best methods of hunting them. Darcy grows increasingly uncomfortable as he delights in giving pointers to would-be hunters. She incredulously asks, “Are you talking about killing rabbits right now?” 

Believing the audience is on her side, she throws up a Twitter poll. It was a close split, but 50.2% of viewers who responded do agree with her. See? Every vote does count. (Seriously, make sure you are registered to vote in this year’s elections.) 

Ch-Ch-Changes

Calling out the elephant in the room, Joe Bob reminds viewers about the new one-movie format of the series. Instead of two movies every Friday, this season has been stretched out with one movie showing every other week until Labor Day. 

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If you want someone to blame, Joe Bob says you can point at us tired folks on the east coast struggling to stay awake past midnight. However, between the new format and specials, we have been assured there are actually more movies this season. 

Thankfully for the audience, Rottentail is packed with action and hits multiple genres to the point that it feels like at least a movie and a half. 

A poster for Rottentail (2019) featuring the mutated Peter Cotten and the tagline "Hippity Hoppity Homicide."
A poster for Rottentail (2019).

Rottentail tells the story of unassuming scientist Peter Cotten (Corin Nemec) being transformed into a rabbit-human hybrid after receiving a bite from a genetically-engineered rabbit. He embarks on a journey of revenge against those who wronged him in his childhood such as Pastor Jake Mulligan (William McNamara). He even finds time to rekindle a past romance with Anna Banana (Dominique Swain).

The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: 4 dead bunnies, 1 mad army general, mutated bunny rampage, lettuce nibbling, heart tossing, 1 mutant bunny baby, and erection fu. “Four stars. Joe Bob says, ‘Check it out.’

No Animals Were Harmed

It goes without saying that there are a few depictions of animal cruelty within this film. Darcy feels it is prudent to warn the audience. Whenever an animal dies on screen, Twitter is flooded with upset viewers expressing their distaste. Dragging the warning out of Joe Bob, she reminds him of the gentle nature of the #MutantFam. We’ll watch humans be slaughtered all day, but don’t you dare hurt that animal.  

Joe Bob seems to not understand the need for the warning as, “this whole movie is about taking revenge on people who harm animals!” He insists no animals are actually harmed and implies that being bothered is indicative of good effects. To demonstrate, at one point he “snaps” Darcy’s neck with the assistance of a sound effect.

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Joe Bob demonstrates the use of sound effects as he fake kills Darcy.
No mail girls were harmed in the filming of this episode.

Pages to Print

The film is based off of the graphic novel Rottentail by David C. Hayes and Kevin Moyers. Initially self-published, Source Point Press picked up the novel and are responsible for its translation onto screen. The film is very stylized and Joe Bob says it gives Re-Animator (1985) vibes. 

Nemec is a big fan of graphic novels, and had read the story prior to the film’s production. He ended up becoming a co-producer of the film. Joe Bob believes Nemec should get more praise for his role as Peter/Rottentail, and the hosts bemoan his lack of availability to come on the episode.

Furthering my belief that Joe Bob is secretly a huge fan of Lifetime Christmas movies, he highlights that director Skiba is perhaps best known for his work on the network. I am continually baffled at how many of these Christmas movies he can name and refuse to believe he doesn’t actually cozy up to watch them.

Tis The Season?

Speaking of Christmas, this week’s mail call features a letter originally sent back in December. Joe Bob immediately senses what is going on and chides Darcy, “I do not want letters that make everyone cry.” Brad from Loretto, Kentucky writes in to share his Halloween memories with his daughter. Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of 20 before Brad had a chance to share The Last Drive-In with her.  It’s a sobering reminder that we truly do not know how much time we have left to spend with someone.  

No, Wait, Come Back!

It is understandable why some folks were upset with the new format change of the series. However, the episode is still full of The Last Drive-In spirit. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it feels as if there was more time & space for host segments. At points, Joe Bob and Darcy were breaking in almost every 15 minutes. It’s very much still the same show we love, just now featuring more anticipation.  

My rating for Rottentail: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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My rating for the episode: 4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

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