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[NOTE: I may “spoil” some details about the movie. At the same time, that’s a risk of reading reviews to begin with. There, I said it]

Every once in a while, one sees a film which is hard to either condemn or praise. Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report is one such creation. Released in 2013 and certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, the film is about an obviously ill-fated trip to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In fact, it seems any such trip would be a harrowing journey, and tough to return from. One would be headed to Jupiter, after all. Nevertheless, Europa Report will likely keep a viewer’s interest, if they’re into films about space journeys where things go wrong. Otherwise they may struggle with it.

While this has some vague aspects of a sci-fi horror movie, it’s very much a soft-pedaled thriller. There is tension, and one may care for the characters (unlike many straight up horror films where, frankly, you might be glad when some characters go). The result is that Europa Report has more muted drama tension than thrills.

It should come with a fair warning, though: You will not want to watch this film if you are tired, as it is not exactly a fast-paced thrill ride. It’s not a tedious movie, either, but one should be in a certain mindset to appreciate it. There are more daunting situations than haunting ones. It’s about sacrifice more than some endless array of action and horror tropes.

Is it a Monster Movie? Just Ask the Blair Witch

A basic premise of Europa Report is that they are seeking intelligent, alien life, and it may be hostile. However, this movie plays it really subtle. Even as the characters are in panicky situations, they try to be as calm as possible (just as they would be trained). Really, the point isn’t that there’s some fierce presence looming at all times.

It’s sort of the Blair Witch style anticipation, and the feeling of being in a tight situation. This is, in a way, another slight homage to that great (and often hated) ’90s film. Just like with The Blair Witch Project, there are suggestions of a possible menace, but much of Europa Report is about that feeling of being lost, or in a situation far bigger than ourselves.

Okay, So Who’s In It?

Embeth Davidtz is Dr. Unger, or the primary narrator. Horror fans might know her from Army of Darkness. Specifically, she’s the lady Ash says “Give me some sugar baby” to. Also, fans of Dexter‘s first season will recognize Christian Camargo as Daniel Luxembourg. Obviously, Camargo played Dexter’s brother, or the Ice Truck Killer. Here he is not a maniac, but an intrepid hero-type hoping to inspire faith in humanity’s ingenuity.

Of course, there’s a sense that, even if we do discover sentient (or intelligent) life, it might not make that much difference. After all, we have intelligence, but just look at what we’re doing with it (it isn’t all good, folks). Also, are we all going to Jupiter’s moon in the future? Is that part of the plan? Not sure. Anyway, Europa Report also features Anamaria Marinca as Rosa Dasque, Daniel Wu as William Xu, Sharlto Copley as James Corrigan, and a few others (including a surprise appearance by Neil deGrasse Tyson, in archival footage form).

Final Thoughts on Europa Report

I like “Europa Report” mostly because it doens’t try to do anything special. At the same time, that’s probably a mark against it (oddly enough). It’s one of the weird struggles of artists anywhere. You want to essentially be yourself in the vision you present, yet you still must cater to an audience. This film, while well done, could have maybe benefited from more conventional, blockbuster-style action.

I actually hate typing those words, yet nevertheless honestly feel that way. It seems like it could have been more epic in scope somehow, and maybe should have had a less restrained, less somber tone. Again, I feel like a real jerk for saying it, but there it is. It honestly seems like more could have been done with it It’s by no means a bad movie, and I’ll probably even watch it again at some point to see if I missed something. Nevertheless, I doubt this will be most people’s favorite, even among space movie fans.

What are your thoughts on Europa Report? Have you ever fought a space octopus? Let us know in the comments!

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The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!

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The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub mascot, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

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Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

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Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Dahmer, Silenced

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Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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