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Happy pride month, horror fans! When I was thinking about what I wanted to review for June, I tried to find books and movies that had some sort of LGBT themes. One of the movies I’ve heard about nonstop from queer horror spaces on Instagram and Twitter was Jennifer’s Body. I thought that there was no better time than the present to watch this super gay horror comedy. 

What’s It About?

In the opening scene, we meet Needy, who is a patient at a mental hospital. She flashes us back to a few months earlier, when she was just a normal high schooler with her boyfriend, Chip, and her best friend, Jennifer. Needy is pretty nerdy (haha), while Jennifer is gorgeous and popular, but they still get along. Jennifer takes Needy to a local bar to see a band called Low Shoulder (a very, very 2009 scene: guys with thick eyeliner, straightened hair, and all the girls wearing hideous low-rise jeans). During the band’s set, the bar catches on fire. The girls escape, but Jennifer seems to be hypnotized by the band’s creepy lead singer. They split up, Jennifer goes into the singer’s van while Needy goes home and calls Chip. 

Later that night, Jennifer shows up at Needy’s house, covered in and vomiting blood. But the next day at school, Jennifer seems totally fine (aside from being extra mean). It all goes downhill from there. Jennifer seduces a guy at school just to kill him.   A month later, Jennifer is feeling pretty rough. Turns out, she’s a demon and needs to eat men to survive. The guys from the band (who are actually Satanists) kidnapped her and tried to sacrifice her, thinking she was a virgin. Because she wasn’t, the ritual turned her into a sex demon. Needy realizes that she needs to do something about it. 

It’s a high school movie, so the grand finale is at prom. Jennifer kills Chip, then Needy kills Jennifer. But Jennifer bit Needy, so now Needy is possessed too. We then flash forward to prison again, where Needy uses her powers to escape. She hitchhikes a ride with someone and tells them she’s going to a band’s last show. Pictures of the murdered members of Last show play over the credits. 

Is it gay?

Yes! If I had seen this movie in high school, I would have been obsessed with it. There’s the explicitly gay stuff, like Needy and Jennifer almost hooking up and Jennifer saying that she goes both ways. There’s also the other part, though, of the intensity of Jennifer and Needy’s friendship. I think every queer woman can relate to that aspect of it (I know I can!). To me, this was really refreshing to see. Most horror movies don’t center women at all, and this one not only does that but also centers female friendship, exploring the healthiness and toxicity of it. I loved it for that alone. The fact that it was directed and written by women only adds icing on the cake. 

Another thing I loved about this movie was how it was a great satire. Aside from being hilarious (like the sacrifice scene where Jennifer begs the band to hire her as their publicist), Jennifer’s Body’s prerogative is to point out and make fun of the hypersexualization of teenage girls. Jennifer literally uses the leers and harassment of the men around her to her advantage. She’s evil and toxic, but this is honestly really refreshing to see as a female horror fan. More than anything, this movie challenges the role of women in horror as helpless victims, and has a lot of fun while doing it. I highly recommend watching this video if you’re interested in how the movie’s marketing totally missed the mark.

Final Thoughts

Watch Jennifer’s Body. At worst, you’re going to see a hilarious teen horror comedy that will take you right back to 2009. On the other side of that coin, the reason I’m taking half a star off is the very 2009 dialogue and attitude. At best, though, you’ll see a queer satire on misogyny and hypersexualization of women that challenges the male-dominated horror genre. Either way, it’s a classic. 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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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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Movies n TV

Mandrake, a Film Review

Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey, starring Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty.

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Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey. This film boasts a cast that includes Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, and Paul Kennedy. It is currently available for subscribers in DirectTV, Shudder, Amazon Prime, or AMC+.

Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) is a probation officer tasked with the most vilified case in her town, Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty). When a child goes missing, all eyes turn to the infamous Bloody Mary. Cathy, always believing in the best of people, tries to protect Mary. But evidence begins to mount, and Cathy finds herself in increasing danger.

Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw
In the forest
Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw

What I Like

Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty add weight to the film in their performances. Cathy proves resilient against the challenges she faces, while Mary can make any actions intimidating.
To not spoil anything, the ending is bittersweet in the best of ways, showing Cathy grow and mend relationships.

The atmosphere around Mary Laidlaw brings about the intimidation that earns the nickname Bloody Mary. It becomes easier to see why a town would fear this woman as we find her motives sinister.

Mandrake Cover Art: A mandrake behind Deirdre Mullins' Cathy Madden
Deirdre Mullins as Cathy Madden

What I Dislike

While there may be external magical elements, I found people obeyed Mary Laidlaw a little too easily for a vilified woman. There wasn’t enough for me to be convinced she intimidated them to action or magically charmed them. Or perhaps the performances felt underwhelmingly passive?

There was an irritating moment where a stalker helped save the day. The assistance is minor, but it still irritates me.

The daytime scenes of the film are bland. Perhaps it’s intentional, but the night scenes are stunning, making the contrast greater. While this film focuses on its night scenes, I couldn’t understand why it looked so bland, and sometimes poor quality, in the day.

Kraken eating a boat icon for Zeth M. Martinez
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Mandrake can be a frightful enjoyment, especially when set at night where the details work. However, many elements left me wanting more or better. If you’re looking for a witchy tale, I’d say there are better options, but Mandrake can keep you entertained.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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