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Gringo Fantastico is a retired luchador presenting Troma films from the safety of a deteriorating recreation center tucked into chaotic Tromaville. He is begrudgingly accompanied by the French-Canadian demon piñata Francois who criticizes and disparages Fantastico throughout each episode. This week’s special guests are the Adams family (Wonder Wheel Productions). New episodes release on the first of each month on Troma NOW.

Promotional poster for Chapter Tres of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre "Hellbender and the Mixologist's Mirror."
The promotional poster for this episode.

Chapter Tres

Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre returns for Chapter Tres with “Hellbender and the Mixologist’s Mirror.” Initially premiering on October 1st, Gringo Fantastico (Nate Turnpaugh) hosts Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day (1980). The film is based around a rape-revenge plot and is Toby Poser’s personal pick because the “vengeance in it is satisfying.” This one very much deserves a content warning for being a prime example of a Troma film.

Behind the Mask

Cutting into footage that once again feels ripped directly from the past, the episode begins with Fantastico apologizing for his prior poor behavior. Rather, he emphasizes he has been “told to apologize.” Things appear to go well before agitation kicks in and Fantastico attacks the interviewer. Better luck next time, I guess.

Fantastico’s anger is once again centered around his mask. Audiences can feel the growing desperation to free himself from his alias. Throughout these segments, Turnpaugh crafts a surprisingly emotional look at Fantastico’s psyche. Who among us hasn’t wanted to rip off the socially-acceptable mask they’ve created to reveal the feral human beneath it? I never thought I’d relate to a luchador so much.

Humor and Hijinks

Entering Tromaville’s recreation center, the audience can see Halloween decorations. These touches help the set feel lived-in and create mental images of Fantastico and Francois bickering over their placement. Bringing in another Halloween tradition, Fantastico looks into a mirror and repeats “Bloody Mary” three times. Imagine my surprise when he walks out with an actual bloody mary. Which Francois promptly turns to “just a goddamned V8.”

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Speaking with Turnpaugh, he reveals the entire episode’s script came out of him thinking of this particular joke. “I’m not going to waste this joke just as a throwaway gag.” When his wife learns of his intentions, she apparently says, “That’s really funny. You’re really stupid.” The joke expands and changes throughout the episode, and leaves me laughing each time.

Humor and fun is a key tenet when it comes to Turnpaugh’s production style. As he puts it to his crew, “We need to do it and we need to do it well, but it needs to be fun for everyone.” His primary concern with production is always ensuring he’s meeting his crews needs. With this episode in particular, he wanted his guests to have the best possible experience. He even calls in a mutated janitor to set up their chairs.

A production still of the Disasterpiece set. It shows Fantasticos empty chair next to three empty orange chairs for the Adams family. The chairs read "Toby," "Lulu," and "John."
Chairs Turnpaugh custom made with his Cricut.

The Adams Family

Toby Poser, John Adams and Lulu Adams are three-fourths of the family which makes up both the film company Wonder Wheel Productions and the band Hellbender. Zelda Adams is unfortunately unavailable to join the rest of the family for their interview. When Fantastico asks how they made it through Tromaville to the rec center, they assure him they’ve had plenty of “inoculations.”

The Adams family has previously been interviewed on The Last Drive-In, albeit in a different configuration in season three. Toby, John and Zelda are present for that interview and it is Lulu who is unable to attend. Turnpaugh’s interview style gives Joe Bob’s a run for the money when presented with a comparison between the two. The most notable difference which works in Turnpaugh’s favor, is his choice to have all present members of the family together from the start of the interview.

Hoosier Hospitality

The family does seem to be a little too excited to be in Indiana, where Turnpaugh films Disasterpiece Theatre. John says, “We’ve driven through Indiana so many times and we have to look at it. Now we’re part of it.” Turnpaugh reveals in our interview he had treated the family to a full course of Hoosier hospitality in a very short amount of time.

“I had a one day window to get them in, shoot them in, and ensure they got back in time,” he says. After picking them up from the airport, they all go to a restaurant for what should be a quick meal before bed. It instead turns into a three-hour conversation over food and drinks. When the family is in need of good coffee and tea the next morning, Turnpaugh knows just where to go. 

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“I drive them out and I take them to my parent’s house.” He describes the ensuing encounter much like any between family friends, despite just meeting each other. Lulu plays with the family dog, John discusses carpentry with his father, and Toby and his mother share conversation. “My parents have been big supporters of this show, which helps.”

Good Bones

All of this culminates into a fantastico interview with the trio that feels like a good conversation between friends. The family fully buys into the conceit of the show, often throwing in references to Tromavilla and jabs at Francois. At one point Toby offers to kill Francois for Fantastico and the demon piñata is actually speechless.

A production still from Disasterpiece which show Fantastico interviewing the Adams family. Lulu sits closest to him holding a bloody mary. She appears to be animatedly telling a story.
Lulu Adams enjoys her drink while recounting a story.

As the family answers Fantastico’s questions, they build effortlessly off of each other. They tell stories about their family, past travels and productions and future plans. It is obvious they have a solid foundation of admiration and respect for each other. Wonder Wheel Productions itself gets its name from a series of sentimental family moments which they share in the interview. When they need more bodies for their films, they joke “How many cousins do we have?”

Future Releases

Toby, John, and Lulu also discuss their upcoming works Where the Devil Roams under Wonder Wheel Productions and Hell Hole under Blood and Honey Pictures. Where the Devil Roams is a film “with more our DNA in it” according to Toby, while Hell Hole is the largest production they have worked on. 

Where the Devil Roams was originally set to be a Tubi exclusive, but it appears it will be premiering in independent theaters on November 3rd before becoming available to rent/buy the digital version on November 7th. Release information for Hell Hole is not yet available.

Punk Rock is an Attitude

This episode marks the first in-person guest interview Turnpaugh has done as Fantastico. He and Toby have built a friendship over time, and Toby believes Disasterpiece Theatre is “like watching your favorite band in a dive bar.” The show is punk-rock as fuck.

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I can’t agree more. In its absolute defiance of normalcy, it is endlessly entertaining and informative. Fantastico’s development as a character is paying off and Turnpaugh’s abilities as showrunner, producer, host etc. continue to shine.

My rating for Chapter Tres of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre: 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

Follow @realfantastico on the platform formerly known as Twitter to know when to join in with the rest of the Fantasticats as they live-tweet each episode.

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Kait (she/her) haunts the cornfields of the Midwest after being raised in a small Indiana town built on sickness and death. She consumes all sorts of horror-related content and spits their remains back onto your screen. You can follow her on Twitter at @ KaitHorrorBreak, where she live tweets The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs and posts other spooky things.

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Kelly

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Launched in October of 2023, Suburban Screams is the latest project by acclaimed horror master John Carpenter. It’s a true crime/unsolved mystery series covering events that have terrified people living in, you guessed it, the suburbs.

The story

Our first episode, titled Kelly, is the story of two roommates named Dan and Joey. The actual Dan and Joey tell the story from their own perspective, interspersed with dramatic reenactments. This did feel very much like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

One night when Dan and Joey have their girlfriends over, they decide to play with an Ouija board. Since they don’t have one, Dan makes one on a pizza box, complete with a planchette. This is, of course, when things go terribly wrong.

Still from Suburban Screams, Kelly.

Honestly, I have never heard anyone say, “I had a great time with that Ouija board, I’m really glad we did that.”

The couples make contact with a spirit named Kelly. This is very upsetting to Dan’s girlfriend May, as she had a cousin named Kelly who went missing and is presumed dead.

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Dan then finds himself haunted by Kelly. He throws up water, finds his kitchen chairs stacked on the table, and is followed around by a haunting song. Dan feels like he won’t find peace until he helps Kelly find peace.

What worked

There was a lot to enjoy in this first episode. Specifically, I loved the horror visuals. Dan’s vision was very creepy, as an example. And I loved the shots of the body floating down the river. These images were eerie and upsetting.

The storytelling from Dan and Joey was also well done. While I have my doubts about the validity of this story, these two men believe wholeheartedly in what they’re saying. I certainly believe that they experienced something disturbing. Either that or they are some fantastic actors.

What didn’t work

That being said, some things rubbed me the wrong way in this episode.

I’d like to start with the herbs Joey burned during the Ouija session. It looked like sage, or maybe sweetgrass.

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As some of you might know, I am a practicing witch. So I do feel the need to point out that if you want to open a door and invite spirits in, you probably don’t want to be burning sage or sweetgrass as those are going to negate any spiritual activity. This was for sure the action of someone who does not know what the hell they are doing. It just irritated me.

Also, maybe don’t throw open a door indiscriminately to the spirit world. Just saying.

I also didn’t love the acting by Ben Walton-Jones, who played Dan. While it wasn’t a terrible job, the character felt overacted. I don’t know how he had room for that pizza, since he was chewing the scenery most of the episode.

Honestly, this episode felt a little underproduced. When I saw John Carpenter’s name, I was expecting something with some real production value. Great acting, great effects, great music. None of those were in effect here. I’m not sure where their budget went, because it didn’t go to any of the things it should have.

Is it true?

So that brings us to the big question. Do I think this story is true?

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Well, it is verifiable that Kelly Lynn Fitzpatrick was a young woman who unfortunately was found dead in 1999 in Quebec. The rest of the story, so far as I can find, is up to speculation.

Do I believe someone could contact the dead on an Ouija board they made out of a pizza box? Yes, I do. Because Dan made it with his own hands it might have worked better than a store-bought board. But do I think he was haunted to this extent by the spirit of Kelly?

Well, I would say that I believe this about as much as I believe the story of the Amityville house. Something certainly happened here, but I am sure that the details shared in this episode of Suburban Screams are highly overblown.

In the end, while I did have fun watching this episode, this fun was tainted. I would have enjoyed it more if it was presented as a fictional story loosely based on real-life events. Because that is almost certainly what it was.

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Beginning

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We’ve now reached the end of Fallout, season one. As I mentioned during the last review, I was heartily concerned that this show, like so many others, was going to drop the ball at the finale and ruin an entire season.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This episode was everything it needed to be and more.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin our story with Maximus returning to the Brotherhood of Steel compound. He has a head, which he is claiming is the real head of Wilzig.

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I don’t know why he thought that was going to work.

Of course, it doesn’t. The elder cleric is about to kill Maximus until Dane says that they hurt their foot.

Because of this, the Brotherhood is sent out to get the head. Or rather, what’s inside of it. They head to the city run by Moldaver. This happens to be the same place Lucy and The Ghoul are headed.

Still from Amazon Prime's Fallout.

There, Lucy does manage to find her father. What she ends up finding is so much more than she wanted to find.

What worked

The first thing I have to discuss is how seamlessly the storylines of the series combined.

Each of our four main characters has been on their own journey. Lucy is trying to save her father. Maximus wants to become a knight. The Ghoul wants to find his family. Norm wants to know what’s going on in Vault 31.

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I sure wasn’t expecting all of these stories to come together in the way that they did. And to preserve the ending, I don’t dare say more. I will only say that yes, all four stories tie in perfectly with one another. By the end, two characters end up having the very same goal.

As I hinted before, I did not see the twist ending coming.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Yes, we might have guessed some things from the last episode. We of course guessed that Lucy’s dad was involved in some nefarious and probably sci-fi way. But the way this story twists at the end is nothing short of serpent-like. Which is why I cannot go into too much detail here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to experience it blind.

Finally, I can give the Fallout season finale the most important praise I can ever give a finale. It did its number one job, getting us excited for season two. We have answers, but now we have new and more exciting questions. And even better, we have a desire to see vengeance done.

What didn’t work

Now that the season is done, though, I can bring up something that bothered me through all eight episodes.

I don’t buy Lucy and Maximus’s relationship.

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Maybe because it’s rushed. Maybe because the two actors don’t have a lot of chemistry. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure even now either character could tell you a single thing about the other. There is just no spark between the two. So their love story feels tacked on. I honestly feel like their love story could have been removed from the show entirely and it would have no negative impact.

I also didn’t buy Dane’s confession. This is a minor spoiler, but it comes up early in the episode. Dane confesses that they hurt their foot so that they wouldn’t have to go into the wastelands.

And at first, I kept expecting Maximus to thank them later. I honestly thought that they were just lying to save Maximus’s life. But no, as it turns out, they were not.

But it just doesn’t make sense. The motivations don’t jive. I honestly think it would have been better for the story if they had lied to save Maximus’s life.

At least then there’d be one other Brother of Steel who had some nobility.

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In the end, this first season of Fallout was everything I could ask for. So far as I can tell, it was everything fans of the Fallout franchise could ask for. There wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. Honestly, the only real complaint I had was that the season was so short.

I’ll be counting down the days to season two, and I hope you’ll be joining me then. Because war, war never changes.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Radio

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Episode seven of Amazon’s Fallout is the penultimate episode. This is often when a series goes off the rails and starts to mess things up. After being burned so often recently, I was apprehensive when this episode began.

Thankfully, this was a fear that did not come to pass. And so far, Fallout’s finale is doing just fine.

Lana the dog in Fallout.

The story

A lot happened in this episode, so we’re just going to skim over some of the more important storylines. We’ll start with Lucy and Maximus, in Vault 4. Lucy has discovered what she believes is a secret collection of monsters. But of course, it turns out that it’s simply people that the vault dwellers discovered and are trying to help heal. But her meddling around was enough for them to kick her out of the vault. With two weeks’ worth of food and water, of course.

But Maximus assumes they’re going to do something much worse. And so he steals their power coil to fight through the perfectly innocent people and save Lucy.

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Meanwhile, we dive further into The Ghoul’s past, when he was still Western star Cooper.

After attending a Communist meeting, he’s approached by Lee Moldaver. She suggests that Vault Tech is hiding something, something terrible. And she tells Cooper that his wife Barbara knows more about this than she’s letting on. Moldaver gets Cooper to bug Barbara’s Pip Boy, and listen in on an important meeting.

Poor Cooper hears far more than he wants to.

War, war never changes.

What worked

I would like to first point out that this was one of the funniest episodes so far. I mean, it got incredibly tragic and sad by the end. But it also had some great laugh-out-loud moments. This should be a surprise to no one, with such an array of comedians guest starring. Chris Parnell was in the last episode as well but is now joined by the incredibly funny Fred Armisen as DJ Carl. This is of course not his first foray into the funny and spooky world, as he also played Uncle Fester in Wednesday.

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Most of what makes this episode funny is the character’s understated and deadpan responses to wild situations. When Maximus returns the energy coil and is greeted by a simple thank you. When Thaddeus gets an arrow through his neck, and slowly realizes that hey, he might be a ghoul. These were hilarious because they could have been truly dark moments. But because this world is so dark, and the characters have already been through so much, they’re simply done. They take all of this in stride because of course that’s what’s happening. It’s par for the course for them.

Aaron Moten and Ella Purnell in Fallout.

On the other hand, we’ve finally seen the full extent of The Ghoul/Cooper’s past. And it’s so much worse than we could have imagined. I assumed that he’d lost his beloved wife and daughter in the atomic blasts two hundred years ago, somehow not dying with them and instead turning into a literal and figurative monster. The truth is so much worse. I’ll do my best not to spoil the ending. But I will say this. There is nothing more painful than mourning someone and hating them at the same time. And it’s easy to see how Cooper turned into The Ghoul. That sort of pain could drive anyone mad.

This balance between comedy and tragedy is one of the reasons why this episode worked so well. It’s one of the reasons why the series is working so well. It manages to combine the core tenets of theater in a way that never compromises the strengths of either. The eventual downfall of Thaddeus is a great example of this because it’s both tragic and funny. We’ve seen what happens to ghouls, and it’s a horrible end. But as he’s hardly been a sympathetic character, we can all get a good laugh at his predicament as well.

The sheer amount of good old-fashioned gore doesn’t hurt either, of course.

What didn’t work

All that being said, there was one thing that bothered me about this episode. And it was the reveal of Vault 4’s big secret.

Honestly, I was expecting the Vault 4 storyline to go way darker. I wanted it to go way darker. While I’ve never played these games myself, I know enough about the story to say that these vaults are not the bastions of safety and morality that they have so far been portrayed as. And while that has certainly been alluded to, we haven’t seen it.

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We haven’t seen the depravity in these vaults. And it’s there. But maybe we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

In the end, The Radio did exactly what it needed to do. It set us up to have most of our questions answered in the season finale. And I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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