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So. I’m another year older this month. Happy birthday to me. And I’ve always have done something special on my birthday because I’m one of “those people”. Maybe an apple orchard. Maybe fighting robots TO THE DEATH. Maybe an ice cream dinosaur party. Looking for sea glass on Lake Huron. 

However, to be frank, after my divorce from glorious spouse earlier this year, it’s been a bit lackluster around these parts. The shine is taken off. Most my friends are miles and kilometers away. I’ve been just kinda rolling around and figuring where this rolling stone will fall.

Birthdays are becoming, sadly, adult. Not sexy adult. Lame adult. Like “socks are great gifts” adult.

BUT GUESS WHO’S BACK JUST IN TIME FOR SPOOPY SEASON??

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I feel spooky-season coursing through my veins. I bleed pumpkin-spiced blood. I am the night. King of the pumpkin patch. Back from the dead, baybeee.

So come celebrate spooky season and my birthday month with me as I go through 31 horror movies this month. And maybe 31-ish horror reviews? Maybe? I mean I sometimes have a life. Regardless, all 31 films that are new and fresh to me. Not one repeat, friends. No re-watches. Clean, virginal eyes on each one. 

So, let’s get to it. Starting with HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.

The Plot of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME:

Ginny has everything. She has a doting father, an enormous house, some terrible but elite friends, and a terrible but elite school she attends. But one thing she doesn’t have is a mom. Well, she did, but then there was that freak accident that Ginny still can’t remember.

However, now that she’s settling back into her old life and getting ready for her birthday, people keep dying. What the heck is going on? And what happened to her mom? And her brain? And her panties?

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Oh, it was one of her so-called friends who took her panties? Welcome to the ’80’s.

Thoughts:

Campy good fun because HOLY MOLY it makes absolutely no sense. Screenplay by three people? I believe it because what a weird and wild ride as the story seemed to split into completely three different stories. A kind of exquisite corpse of a movie. Not like we, at Hauntedmtl, know anything about that.

Her so-called friends (they’re horrible people) are dying by a mysterious killer. She was part of some kind of brain experiment after the accident. Her mom died a mysterious death that no one will talk about. And her therapist is, like, way too close to her. Like, there’s a lot to unpack. 

And even when you get to the end, the plot twist is more of a, “….huh. Okay.” Because there is no lead up to it. You literally cannot guess the full extent of it because it’s so out of left field. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME is WILD. In the most delicious and bananas way.

So…I’m kind of in love with HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME? It’s absolutely a friends’ horror night movie. And while the acting gets a bit shaky, Melissa Sue Anderson is KILLING IT. This would have been a dumpster fire if not for her superb acting as the main character, which is full of grace and vulnerability. I wish this had been the movie to really catapult her career into movies because it would have been well-earned.

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Brainroll Juice:

I’m always curious about birthday horror movies. Partly because my birthday is in October, obviously, but also there’s something so personal about one’s birthday. In many horror tropes, the birthday usually signifies a coming of age, quite literally as the day is usually the beginning of a nightmare. It can signal a child becoming an adult and regaining mysterious powers like in Teen Witch. Or a prophesied catastrophe, like Good Omens. Or the worst day of your life, like VFW.

There is something inherently sacred about one’s day of birth a day to be protected and cherished. And when something threatens that, it becomes profane and twisted. And it’s an interesting focus in horror because it is so, so personal. We have seen bodies after bodies fallen during slumber parties, camping trips, Halloween nights, summer camps, but when it becomes personal, death becomes a different threat on one’s own birthday. It’s an inherent and intimate tragedy. To be taken from this world on the day you were given to this world, it’s chilling.

Murder, She Wrote Quota:

So, I have this running thing about how most horror movies in the 1980’s have at least one person who was in Murder, She Wrote because, bless, that show had everyone in it. I think I’m in it. Somewhere. If you lived in the 80’s, you’re probably in it, too, and don’t even know. 

And it’s probably on my top ten shows of all time, so, I’ll make a running tally this year for shits and giggles. I was going to say who was in it and what episode, but that’s tedious, so just a yes or no will do it. If you wanna search who, knock yourself out.

YES.

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Bottomline:

Campy and twisty-weird plot. Great for a b-movie night this Halloween season. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    October 8, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    This is a great idea and fun review series. I am catching up on several and finally just came to this one, and I love the Murder She Wrote them. Adult birthdays suck. My grandfather died in a sailboating accident on my eleventh birthday and it hasn’t been the same since. Other family history from around that time of year has always held a cloud over the occasion though. There’s something about coming to recognize one’s own mortality then that other days just don’t have as much presence with. Being and unbecoming as it were.

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, A Killer Comes Home

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Episode two of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was more true crime than supernatural. It was the horrific, dark tale of a serial killer who escapes from jail and comes back to his hometown for revenge. And boy, does he find it.

The story

This story begins with a man coming out to his front porch to find a mysterious package wrapped in newspaper. He opens it to find a rotting, maggot-ridden head that he certainly didn’t order.

The head was placed there by a killer named Allan Legere. In 1986, Legere brutally murdered a couple in their homes during a robbery. For this, he was sentenced to life in prison.

However, he escaped from prison in May of 1989. Enraged at his old hometown, he returns there and starts a brutal killing rampage. He wants revenge on the people who wronged him. At least, the people he believes wronged him. Rather than focusing on the police who arrested him, or the judge and jury who convicted him, he decides to go after the journalists who reported on the case.

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Of course, he also murders a whole bunch of old ladies for some reason. And a priest.

Annette Holland in Suburban Screams.

Legere is still alive, and still in prison. But as he’s escaped once, many people believe he might do so again. And if he does, he’ll almost surely try to pick up right where he left off.

This tale is told from the point of view of the journalists, Rick MacLean and David Cadogan. Both men have been deeply impacted by this incident. They are still shaken. And still very, very angry.

What worked

This episode was far better than the first, right from the maggot-headed start. The gore was intense. The story was horrifying. And it’s made even more horrifying, knowing that it is, for the most part, true.

The thing that made this episode stand out is that it feels so much like several beloved horror stories. I would suggest that this story inspired John Carpenter’s Halloween, except that that movie came out in 1978. The events in this episode took place from 1986 to 1989.

To realize that a person could cause so much pain, and take so many lives, is possibly the scariest thing most of us can imagine. And while this story is, sadly, not unique, it is certainly worse than most.

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What didn’t work

After watching this episode, I can only really think of one complaint. There is a scene with the first victims, two elderly ladies. The first woman is home alone when someone begins hammering on her front door. We are meant to believe that it is the killer, but it ends up being her sister with a lovely salad. But if the two sisters lived together, why was she knocking to be let in? I can only believe that this is meant as misdirection to the point of being a jump scare. And this feels cheap. Especially when the rest of the episode was more on the level.

Is it True?

While I do think parts of this episode were, let’s say dramatized, I do think this happened. There are just too many facts that would be far too easy to look up. To my dismay, the part that is easiest to look up is the horrific deaths of many innocent people.

This was a much better episode than the one that preceded it. The story is compelling and frightening. It is well told, both from the survivors being interviewed and the actors recreating the moments of horrific history. I’m hoping that the rest of the season is more like this episode, and less like the first.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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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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