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CORRUPTION 
Image: Movie Poster from 1968 declaring this, "is a super shock film!," the image of Sue Lloyd's face screaming is used.
Movie Poster from 1968

Between Les Yeux Sans Visage and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die there is Corruption. Not chronologically of course; Les Yeux came out in 1960 and the brain hit the screen two years later while Corruption premiered on the tail end of the sixties. Corruption is an English exploitation film following in the footsteps of the previously mentioned films. Starring Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Kate O’Mara, and Noel Trevarthen. Writing credits to Donald and Derek Ford, and directed by Robert Hartford-Davis; all of whom stayed in the vein of exploitation and low budget films.

History Lesson

In the 1920 as the Theatre Grotesque jumped over to celluloid and a new form of horror began in the European art cinema subgenre. Experimental. Surreal. Unusual. Taboo. The terror was not the monster or the ghoul but the man, or the illness be that physical or mental. Franju’s classic Les Yeux is a tale about guilt and obsession. Genessier having the tools and knowledge, in theory at least, to fix his daughters disfigurement that he caused. We identify with Genessier. In his shoes, with his talents, under that pressure, we all know a part of us would at least toy with the idea of doing anything in the name of someone we love. It’s a touching and personal story, which is why it was so easy to rip it off.

The other film I mentioned, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, similar set up except make it a fiancée instead of a daughter and her face is the only thing that isn’t destroyed, this though meant to be serious comes off significantly more comical. Americans and their lack of subtly, there needs to be a big bad monster in the basement or else it’s not a real horror show, and the talking head is just hilarious. If Les Yeux is art and The Brain is schlock then what is Corruption?

Set Up

CORRUPTION 1968
Image: Peter Cushing and Sue Lloyd dancing looking lovingly into each others eyes at Lynn's photographers party, just before the accident disfiguring Lynn's face
Peter Cushing and Sue Lloyd dancing: Scene before Lynn’s accident

It’s Frankenstein, it’s Jurassic Park, it’s the battle of Could V. Should. The morality of our choices and the lengths we’ll go to see our visons realized. Our Hammer Horror Alumn Peter Cushing, who you might know from Screamqueen’s review of Asylum. Peter is in the role of John Rowan, a brilliant surgeon light-year ahead of his peers like Steve Harris, played by Noel Trevarthen. Sue Lloyd is cast as Johns soon-to-retire-model-fiancée Lynn.

Lynn invites John to a party being held by her photographer. It’s funny, only Peter Cushing could look like a narc at a party where everyone else is in their mid-forties playing some one in their twenties. Either due to his jealousy or his sense of modesty John starts a fight with the cameraman resulting in a floodlamp falling on the Lynn’s face. His love is disfigured and she falls into a deep depression.

John in classic Cushing Frankenstein fashion falls into an obsessive binge of medical esoterica, quoting tricks of the ancients, like you do. The doctor steals a pituitary gland from the morgue. An injection here, a laser blast there, bippady-boppady-boo face reclaimed.

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After a few days the scar returns, otherwise there wouldn’t be conflict. Much like to decision on what in my fridge I shoe eat the answer is obvious, fresher is better. In a montage ripped directly from the The Brain the good doctor takes to the streets to find a fresher sample. After the murder and Lynn is looking better and the two head to the country to hide out the heat. As times arrow marches ever onward they realized that no mater what they do, it will just be a temporary fix but that isn’t good enough for the future Mrs. Rowan.

Another body found headless on a train and surgeon-detective Steve is on to them. John wants to call it quits as it become obvious that Lynn is more infatuated with her own image than him. Lynn to ensure that she gets what she wants sells her fiancée out to some hoodlums to ensure he will continue, and through psychotic shenanigans and lasers everyone dies.  

The Good

The music score is phenomenal, Bill McGuffie has excellent taste. The camera work during the party or the kills are great at conveying the sense of panic and disorientation the character feel. I enjoyed the costume destines miss that 60’s chic look. Though things seem to jump out of nowhere the plot is relatively solid for the most part, even the more absurd instances have an explanatory follow up.

The Bad

As good as the editing can be during the disorienting scenes, the rest of the film is quite jarring. Terrible pacing. There is no metric denoting the passage of time; I often found myself wondering if it was the same day, week or month, What? Steve and Lynn’s sister are getting married? How long have they known each other? We don’t have any idea how long the operations effects last, long enough to give false hope and short enough to need a steady supply of bodies. The first half of the film is a slog to get through. The first fifteen minutes had me questioning my watch and the ending comes out of nowhere and hits like a bullet train.

Character motivation is my biggest gripe, specifically that of Lynn. At the start she makes it clear that she doesn’t care about modeling, stating that she was going to retire once married because she found someone that truly loves her. Then the accident happens and her image becomes her only focus; she becomes vapid and narcissistic, trading lives for looks. Steve seems only to show up for exposition or to be superman. John is little more than a whipped Frankenstein wannabee with a laser, Val (Lynn’s sister) has such little agency I genuinely forgot her name for the most part of this review.  

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CORRUPTION 1968
Image: Alternate Poster with Tagline stating this "is not a woman's picture," containing the image of Peter Cushing collapsed on the floor dead and Sue Lloyd on the nearby bed.
Alternate Poster with Tagline stating this “is not a woman’s picture,”

The Ugly- my opinion

Apropos considering the plot of the film. Corruption is a short film but it feels like a marathon. The effects aren’t terrible but not astounding. Flat characters which is odd considering the power house that is Peter Cushing.  This is not a good film. It’s not a so bad it’s good film either. It’s dry, convoluted, and insulting.

Typically, when I watch an old movie I suspend modern sensitivities and try to frame it in the cultural minds set of the period, but the depiction of women in this film is detestable; vain, fragile, single minded shrew that use men to do there bidding. The marketing too was grotesque, and not in the macabre way, ‘Corruption is not a woman’s picture!… Therefore: no woman will be admitted alone to see this super-shock film!’ alone or not, if you respect yourself and your time forget admittance all together. 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps, Cuckoo Clock of Doom

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Named for the 28th installment of the original book series, The Cuckoo Clock of Doom has the least in common so far with its source material.

Thankfully, the story isn’t negatively impacted by this. I can honestly say so far that these episodes just keep getting better.

The story

After the last episode’s explosive ending, I’m sure we were all more than a little worried about James. I for one was worried we were going to have an example of the Bury Your Gays trope on a kid’s show.

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Cover of R.L. Stine Cuckoo Clock of Doom

Thankfully, that’s not the case.

We go back in time again to Halloween night, and this time we see what James was up to.

Mostly he was up to trying to flirt with his crush. Everything seems to be going well until James lies about being interested in football.

He tries to leave the house, but instead finds himself back at the basement door when Isaiah is trapped and the cuckoo clock is going off. James then shows a remarkable amount of genre savvy and tries his best to escape the house. Each time he does, we see another version of him walking away.

Eventually, he devises a plan to break the clock at just the right moment, but not before he gets some intel on his crush’s favorite team so he can score a date.

Back in the real world free of the time loop though, James finds that he has far more worries. Every time he tried to escape the house, a duplicate version of him was created. And all of those duplicates are waiting for him.

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Back at the Biddle house, though, there’s a surprise waiting. One of the James duplicates has brought Harold Biddle a box. A ventriloquist dummy-sized box.

An empty box.

What worked

The effects of this show so far have been wonderful. When the other characters hit a James duplicate, it doesn’t just die. It explodes in a Nickelodeon-style wave of slime. This is just fun, and I’m kind of sad there doesn’t appear to be more of the duplicates around.

I mean, I wouldn’t rule it out.

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Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

Did I mention that these duplicates appeared to smell like watermelon Jolly Ranchers when they exploded? That was a visceral detail that was both alarming and terrific. They could have smelled bad. They could have smelled like rotting plants or people. But no, they smell like candy.

Of course, the characters continue to steal the show. Margot and Isaiah could be said to be the main characters, but everyone comes into this with main character energy. They are all funny, all capable, all smart. And they all seem to care about each other.

I loved that James and Isaiah talked about how they were feeling. I think it’s important that we’re modeling that for young men. They talked about what was bothering them, and they made up.

Finally, though, we have to talk about Justin Long again. His acting in this just keeps stealing the show. He dances like a cartoon and jumps from joyful to violently furious at a moment’s notice. The character doesn’t know how to act, and watching him fail to act right in front of people never fails to make me laugh.

What didn’t work

I honestly can’t say that anything didn’t work in this episode. But there is something about the show that I, at least, don’t like.

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There’s no real blood or gore. There’s more blood when I eat an actual jolly rancher because I always cut my tongue on them.

Now, this show is pretty clearly not for kids and young adults so there’s probably not a lot of need for too much gore and violence. But if the bloody stuff is more your style, like me, the lack of it might disappoint you.

Fans of the Goosebumps books will know that everyone ended with a twist. And the show so far has been no different. And the ending of this episode has been the best so far. The tension of Margot’s mom’s impassioned reaction, blended with the revelation that Slappy is somewhere in town is just too much. I can’t believe we’re only three episodes in and I am this invested. I hope you are too.

Viewer beware, I suspect things are going to get a lot worse for our characters before they get better.

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4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 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

Goosebumps, The Haunted Mask

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Episode two of Goosebumps was honestly more fun than the first. It was dark, funny, infuriating and wonderful. Best of all, it has a killer twist ending.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Based loosely on the 1993 story of the same name, The Haunted Mask begins sort of partway through the first episode.

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Cover of R.L. Stine's The Haunted Mask.

We’re introduced to a character we haven’t seen much of so far, named Isabella.

Isabella’s life doesn’t seem great. She’s all but invisible at school. She is responsible for taking care of her little brother. It seems like her only real joy is bullying people online. She was the person who tried to get Allison’s party canceled by sending the invite to her parents. Why? Because she is a very unhappy person.

Despite trying to get the party canceled, she decides to go anyway. At the Biddle house, a voice calls her down to the basement. There, she finds a mask.

The mask inspires her to do wild things. She wanders around the party, flirting with everyone. And she has a great time.

Several days later, after Isaiah breaks his arm, Isabella brings an expensive drone to school to get shots of the football team’s practice. Unfortunately, Lucas breaks it fooling around. And Isabella, tired of being ignored, says some awful things to him.

When her mother grounds her because she took the drone without asking, the mask compels her to do some awful things.

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What worked

I would first like to talk about the storytelling structure in this season. It appears that we’re going to be getting the events of Halloween night multiple times, from multiple points of view.

Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps.

I love this structure. It’s unique, and it allows for more mystery in a shorter period. It’s also more complex, showing just how much madness was happening, while just showing one part of the story at a time.

Another thing I appreciated was the evolution of the character Lucas.

On one hand, it’s easy to be angry at Lucas. Even if he thought the drone belonged to the school, it’s still kind of a selfish move to break it.

But Lucas just lost his father. We don’t know how yet, but we know from Nora that his death caused Lucas to start doing things like jumping on drones and skateboarding off the roof from his bedroom window.

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We all mourn differently. Losing a parent as a teen is awful. So while we can all agree that he’s being a problem, he’s also being a sad kid working through something hard.

And the same can be said for Isabella.

Look, we still don’t know what the adults of this town did to make Harold Biddle haunt them. But we do know that these parents are messing up in all sorts of other ways. And Isabella is suffering from parentification. She’s being forced to play mom at home while being ignored by her classmates at school. Even without the mask, I could see her lashing out and trashing the house.

Finally, I love Justin Long in this series. His visual comedy was fantastic here, as he falls through the hallways. But he also manages to be scary as hell. His creepy smile and jerky movements are enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. I honestly can’t think of a living actor who could have played this better.

What didn’t work

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If I have one complaint about this episode, it’s the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Every song seems like it’s just screaming what the characters are thinking. Which isn’t really what I’d consider the point of a soundtrack.

Maybe it’s just a curse on RL Stine. None of his projects can ever have good soundtracks aside from the theme song.

Unlike the original Goosebumps series, there were moments in this episode that did startle me and unnerve me. Which is wonderful. And while it’s still clearly for kids, it’s something anyone can sit down and enjoy. I’m very excited for the rest of the season. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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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

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die

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Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story

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We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.

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All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.

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More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.

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It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

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 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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