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I’ve watched a fair amount of silly things, but I must admit that “true” ghost shows aren’t my fave. Nevertheless, I was recently mildly entertained by parts of the (unintentionally?) funny Ghost Adventures episode called Quarantine: Extension of Darkness. As the Travel Channel web site summarizes: “The crew continues their lockdown at the Haunted Museum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guys confront pure evil as they investigate the dark corridors of the infamous basement and the room where Zak displays his collection of serial killer artifacts.”

Basic Premise of Episode

Admittedly, I didn’t pay full attention to the whole episode, as there were times where I was laughing. However, I did notice the Zak character mention Charles Manson numerous times in Zak’s serial killer museum. They also claim to have picked up cryptic, disturbing messages from murderers who have items collected in the museum. There are some cute aspects of the show, which not everyone will notice. For example, I think it’s cute that “Pandemic” is part of the title. It breeds familiarity with the viewer, who will be like, “Hey, I know what a pandemic is! Heck, I’m right in the middle of one myself!” It’s like marketing 101, right? Even if you’re not struck by adrenaline during the walk-through of the museum, they’re still subconsciously tying the show’s events into your life.

This got me to thinking: Would they do this for other newsworthy challenges, too? We’ve all proabbly herad of Japanese “murder hornets” making it to the States, and locust swarms are apparently still happening. So could there be a “Ghost Adventures: Insect Plague” season in the works? Or, hell, maybe “Ghost Adventures: Haunted By Karens.” This premise could run a little thin, obviously, but there’s plenty of potential for relatively inoffensive current event tie-ins.

I Do Believe In Spooks

As a jaded, aging skeptic, it can be tough to watch these shows without scoffing (if you haven’t noticed). Nevertheless, I have written about things like cryptids before, and I’m more open-minded than even I sometimes expect. Still, when I think of Ghost Adventures Quarantine: Extension of Darkness, I’m reminded of this famous moment from the Wizard of Oz:

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It’s like I’m there, man!

This show is presented as very serious, but it’s hard for me to to take seriously. For one thing, I know that a TV network is very capable of lying, or at least bending the truth (sorry, Travel Channel, and I’ll pretend I couldn’t possibly be talking about you). I realize all hauntings might be gimmicks that could be staged, complete with special effects. In other words, I doubt the Ghost Adventurers are in danger of ever being killed, except if they were to trip on their own shoelaces.

There were moments in the episode where people appeared to be enduring a traumatic panic attack caused by ghosts (or whatever), but those moments could either be acting or simply caused by their own self-induced panic if they actually believe ghosts are real. Let’s not kid ourselves: Everything you watch on such a show might involve animations and production. You might have enthusiastic actors, musicians, and storytellers to promote the show to a larger audience and advertisers. You might have set designers, illustrators, etc.

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Photo credit: MY Entertainment

Much like a Godzilla confrontation with Gigan, for me, it’s only there for optional giggles or guffaws. Whether they’re hunting ghosts or trying to scare a flock of mosquito-like creatures away, it’s all about entertainment. There’s even a moment (towards the episode’s end), where one of the Adventurers seems to develop an evil alter ego as if he’s possessed by a spirit (a serial killer, or maybe Charles Manson himself).

However, when even the Discovery Channel has come under fire for fake “reality” shows, pronouncements of “Our ghosts are real” just doesn’t cut it. Still, you might want to get out a bag of popcorn and check out Ghost Adventures during a spare moment.

It even reminds you in its title that a quarantine makes for good binging of goofy spooky TV shows featuring ghosts, crazy monsters, paranormal witnesses, psychics, and supernatural scares in general. I do respect if a ghost adventurer is pursuing his passion and, on some level, appreciate that his project is a massive commercial success. If “supernatural” and magical forces arise to help put food on your table, fine…but I am unconvinced.

What are your thoughts on Ghost Adventures? Let us know in the comments!

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The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023), a Film Review

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is an award-winning sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story.

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The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is a sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this unrated and award-winning film stars Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, and Amani Summer. As of this review, interested viewers can enjoy this film from Shudder with additional availability through purchase or rent.

After a sequence of tragedies and loss, Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) seeks to cure death. Despite her genius earning her a private school education, few take this ambition seriously. Those who see it think of her only as an example of a girl separated from reality. But all that changes when she has a breakthrough. Unfortunately for her, the systemic issues that oppress her neighborhood can’t be solved as simply as curing death.

A woman looks at something out of frame, a switch in her hand that she looks ready to press.
Laya DeLeon Hayes as Vicaria

What I Like about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster and Recognition Earned

This film received nominations from four separate film festivals. It won Best Narrative Feature by the Calgary Underground Film Festival and Best Horror / Sci Fi from Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival. In addition, it received nominations for Best Narrative Feature from the Atlanta Film Festival and a nomination from the SXSW Film Festival.

The beautifully shot scenes earn respect, and the cast remains strong throughout. While Laya DeLeon Hayes executes the most demanding role, Reilly Brooke Stith (Aisha) and Amani Summer (Jada) elevate their material.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster dips its commentary into several hot topics. While I would have liked to see further exploration, it deals with scientific responsibilities, systemic issues facing Black Americans, and more. Needless to say, this film has ambition.

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While particular elements vary in execution, this remains a unique approach to the dehumanization of these racist and systemic issues while telling an engaging story in the process. While I wouldn’t consider this an arthouse film, it dips into that category in many ways.

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Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes, Trigger Warnings, and Considerations

For a better viewing experience, don’t take the film with the utmost realism in mind. An example of what I mean is how easily and unnoticed bodies are moved and hidden. As a metaphor or motif, it works better to serve the overall message.

As mentioned, many systemic issues come to light within the story, with varying levels of depth. Some examples include racial profiling, police violence, and microaggressions that stretch the “micro” aspect of the word. I also want to clarify that the film focuses on Vicaria’s personal story, using these experiences when applicable to the plot.

Drug addiction and gang violence play prominent roles in the plot. As mentioned above, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster addresses many of the systemic issues that make a thriving drug industry as opposed to dehumanizing those participating in it.

The titular Monster evokes levels of realistic body horror. While it’s not particularly extensive, the rot remains present and vivid. Partly related, the film creates a surprisingly gory story.

A man looks out of the screen. The lamp and the couch in the background suggest he is in a house.
Chad L. Coleman as Donald

What I Dislike about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

Several plot points remain underdeveloped or underexplored. This choice might indicate sequel material, but I don’t think that’s the case here. For example, viewers hear about a “body snatcher,” but the narrative doesn’t build the mystery until the end. Perhaps this requires a slightly longer run time, but it also could be cut with some edits to the script.

Her Monster didn’t particularly evoke fear. The rot evokes disgust but not terror. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains more focused on the story than the horror.

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Final Thoughts

For those looking for horror rooted in real issues but not afraid to delve into the absurd, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains a strong choice. While it might not evoke the terror and haunting we horror fans hope for, the bittersweet film certainly provides many reasons to give this film a view.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Blood Flower (2022), a Film Review

Blood Flower (2022) is a Malaysian supernatural horror film directed by Dain Said. Originally titled Harum Malam.

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Blood Flower (2022) is a Malaysian supernatural horror film directed by Dain Said. Originally titled Harum Malam, the film stars Idan Aedan, Bront Palarae, and Remy Ishak. As of this review, the film is available on Shudder and AMC+ with additional availability for rent or purchase.

After a family tragedy, Iqbal (Idan Aedan) has trouble finding focus as an apprentice healer. His family remains in shambles, and Iqbal struggles to find a purpose in the wake of this change. As his father (Bront Palarae as Norman) finds temporary work helping a family friend, a terrible horror becomes unleashed. Now, Iqbal must overcome his internal turmoil or lose even more.

A young man stands before two older men. A giant flower in bloom to his left side. Underneath him reads "Harum Malam" written in red.
Blood Flower (Harum Malam) Original Cover

What I Like in Blood Flower

The horror evoked here has some elements of fabulism with a heavy emphasis on the supernatural component. In general, I like the established world and how this supernatural element connects to the characters’ development.

Throughout Blood Flower, the acting remains consistent and engaging. The relationship between Norman and Iqbal, which provides the heart of the film, remains a particularly well-executed point. Even when the writing falls short, the acting wins me over more often than not.

The film builds up its horror, which elevates the execution and overall effect. I won’t claim that the horror truly haunts the viewer, but it remains unsettling and, even uncomfortable, throughout.

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As for the design of the monster, it works. There are points that remain strong, forcing a rather uncomfortable visual or experience that provides an effective execution of Blood Flower’s vision. One especially effective choice is including stop motion in some of the scenes. This visual creates a somewhat jarring feel to the supernatural entity that still lingers in my mind.

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Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

Blood Flower includes sexual assaults that remain clunkily included in the plot. When dealing with such material, especially when it remains essential to the story, the execution makes or breaks the quality. Unfortunately, the execution feels rushed and more for the shock of the reveal.

Possession-assisted suicide remains an element within the film. While I think the distance between such harm and the context of the film doesn’t rise above confusion, it deserves a mention in this section.

There are general decisions made for the sake of the plot. While this can fall into the dislike section, it’s within a range so as to not completely distract or undermine the viewing experience.

If any of these are deal breakers, then Blood Flower might be a skip.

A large flower with a giant column in the center
The Real Blood Flower, or amorphophallus titanum

What I Dislike in Blood Flower

Where this movie falls short is building up some of its elements to their conclusion by the end of the film. The previously mentioned sexual assaults make for a strong example, but another remains the human villain. As they are the reason for the monster, I am surprised by the general lack of attention and presence the character receives.

Iqbal unlocking his power feels underwhelming and lacks any real visuals or style. We have magic and special effects, but his power consists of holding out his hand. The issue lies in the execution, not the actor, as Idan Aedan does everything he can with the given command.

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Going into the previous points, a spiritual master helps Iqbal train to become a healer. This person isn’t the one who unlocks their power. I still wonder why so little development on this important point remains in the film.

Final Thoughts

Blood Flower, or Harum Malam, remains an interesting supernatural horror that drops its execution towards the end. It provides a unique viewing experience with equal parts ingenuity and creativity to provide an effective horror. But it remains a flawed work with some wasted potential. Still, it earns its runtime for those interested in Malaysian horror.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Night’s End (2022), a Film Review

Night’s End (2022) is a supernatural horror film directed by Jennifer Reeder and written by Brett Neveu, starring Geno Walker.

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Night’s End (2022) is a supernatural horror film directed by Jennifer Reeder and written by Brett Neveu. The cast of this film includes Geno Walker, Kate Arrington, Felonious Munk, Lawrence Grimm, and Michael Shannon. As of this review, this film remains accessible to Shudder and AMC+ subscribers.

Recently divorced and looking to start anew, Ken Barber (Geno Walker) passes the time by making YouTube videos. It soon becomes apparent that one of his videos catches something strange. The further he investigates this mystery, the more aggressive this phenomenon becomes. Despite making him an online sensation, it forces him to acquire help from unlikely sources.

A humanoid creature opens the door. An upside down head acts as the background as "Night's End" stands at the center
Night’s End Alternative Cover

What I Like about Night’s End

Night’s End provides the innovation and execution of a film on a tight budget and clear message. It brings out all the best qualities of a B film that understands what it wants to do. The setting remains a perfect example of this ingenuity, containing itself within Ken Barber’s apartment and using Zoom calls to add additional cast members.

Unrelated to the horror, I like the chemistry between Kate Arrington (as ex-wife Kelsey Dees) and Geno Walker. It’s not often we find an ex-wife depicted as a good person character, and when that does happen, it’s usually because he will win her over by the end of the story. This film doesn’t fall into these tropes. A similar point applies to the new husband, Isaac Dees (Michael Shannon).

There’s a psychological component to the horror, which improves the supernatural elements. While it does linger on Ken Barber’s ongoing battle with mental illness, Night’s End doesn’t exactly use this as an excuse to undermine what the viewer sees.

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While there are some execution issues I will discuss, Night’s End provides a tight script and quality performance from its cast. Geno Walker’s Ken Barber requires a believable and complex performance for success, and the actor rises to the challenge.

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Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Triggers

The biggest disclaimer remains the character’s mental health struggles. While I believe the film refutes many of the dangerous mentally ill tropes, it still allows for some degree of gaslighting. I also think it hints at a few potential issues without exploring any with greater depth. I noted potential alcoholism, OCD, and agoraphobia. But none of these are given too much attention, for better or worse.

Some minor body horror moments might be difficult for squeamish horror fans. However, it hardly makes it a proper introduction to the niche.

If these are deal breakers, perhaps Night’s End won’t satisfy your viewing needs.

A man looks behind him as he sits on a desk. Something looks to be near him
Geno Walker as Ken Barbe

What I Dislike about Night’s End

Night’s End goes so far in strategically applying its budget but provides a few scenes with bad CGI. If it had more style, I’d give it a B movie pass. But it’s just not substantive enough for that pass. While some CGI and special effects remain better than others, the film leans on lower quality.

Toward the end of the film, the characters allow the villain to do some random and weird things with little pushback. Only one person consistently pushes back against the growingly strange requests and receives so little screen time. Some of these people are supposedly experts in supernatural affairs or amateur enthusiasts. Regardless, anyone should have issues with some of these requests toward the conclusion.

While the film remains scary at points, it doesn’t terrify its audience. While the final moments pay off the build-up, we don’t particularly linger on the ramifications.

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Final Thoughts

Night’s End provides a charming but not horrifying supernatural thrill. Ken makes a unique protagonist, struggling to overcome his issues as others seek to exploit him and bring about chaos. It remains an uncommon viewing experience but lacks the weight of a haunting horror.
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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