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Welcome to another episode of Brannyk talks about Small Town Monsters. We’ve explored aliens giving boo boos to cows, totally Bigfoot, a big ol’ stinky doggo, your tea-spilling ghost-witch, and an alien Bigfoot with a hankering for a good peanut butter sandwich. We have a new screener from Small Town Monsters!

So what’s on the dance card this time?

None other but the Joisey Devil himself. You know, the one who has a girlfriend made from cake ALLEGEDLY (no judging).

The Plot:

We’re back to the movie-within-the-documentary style, but sadly lacking our favorite dark cowboy, Lyle Blackburn.

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Journeying into the Pine Barrens, folklorists, historians and locals weave the tale of this illusive devil. Back to its unearthly beginnings as a cursed child, or perhaps a wayward Quaker. Digging up its haunting past and the wake its legend has made.

Thoughts:

Yesssss, we’re back to our “Feature Film” segments like in Momo (and to a lesser extent The Bell Witch). Is the acting good? Not…really. Is it precious and beloved? Yes. Do I want to quote it to people who won’t understand it?

a picture of a kid saying, "you suck, Jake! You suck!"
You tell me

BLOODLINES: THE JERSEY DEVIL CURSE is the same vibe as Momo, using both the legend, but also a film within the documentary to tell the story. So does it work as well as Momo’s did?

Yes and no.

There are a few missing elements that were in Momo that were missing for BLOODLINES: THE JERSEY DEVIL CURSE, such as a real feel for the small towns around the area and the people who live there. I never got a true sense of the area or the locals like in Momo or in other Small Town Monsters series. The drone shots were beautifully done, but I would have liked to see some more local sites connected to the Devil.

On the other hand, the quality of the interviewees was incredibly good and they were very engaging to watch. The featured interviewees spoke with passion about the Jersey Devil, but also had a thoughtful knowledge and reverence. Not just for the devil, but for folklore and Americana in general.

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One thing of note is that the Jersey Devil in BLOODLINES: THE JERSEY DEVIL CURSE is a scary CGI monster and not the lovable Momo who steals my sandwich.

The Jersey Devil is being a jerk and Momo the alien is telling him to be cool
As pictured above

Now, I don’t really have a problem with the CGI in BLOODLINES: THE JERSEY DEVIL CURSE (I know, quote me on that); however! There is one instance where they should have gone with non-CGI.

So, one of the sequences is a silent movie part. It’s actually really cute and I enjoyed the heck out of it. The only issue I had, and the opportunity missed was that they used CGI during this “silent” film, making it feel very awkward and stunted. It would have been so clever and amazing if they had a puppet or practical effect typical of that era as the monster instead. The CGI felt out of place there. It would have only added if there had been a puppet or even (more expensive but way cooler) stop-motion or Claymation. It would have added to the feel and authenticity.

A guy holding a puppet of the devil looking bored while the actress looks scared
(Terrifying)
Like an old timey movie - it reads: Oh my, this must be that loathe-some devil! Organ music intensifies.

Brainroll Juice:

While BLOODLINES: THE JERSEY DEVIL CURSE strayed a bit from the Small Towns aspect, it veered straight into the historical narrative. As a skeptic (hisss, booo), I appreciated hearing the historical and cultural impact the Jersey Devil had on early America. Especially about Quakerism during the era, and the rise of newspapers and their competitions with each other. I ate these segments up completely…much like a stolen PB sandwich.

I often think these kinds of facts are dismissed or omitted in paranormal documentaries in fear it will disprove or minimize the testimonials of witnesses or looking for these entities. However, these are imperative and fascinating facts as we see folklore change and grow in our timelines. Who was the Jersey Devil at creation, during the turn of the century, and to this present day? Breedlove answers those questions with BLOODLINES: THE JERSEY DEVIL CURSE. It’s not a debate if the Jersey Devil is alive and breathing this very moment, but what his mere presence has had within our nation. It’s talking the small town and growing it. Expanding upon it. And maybe that’s the natural progression for urban legends, folklore and culture. So, I appauld Breedlove for not veering away from that.

The Jersey Devil but gothic-looking

Bottomline: While you may find it slow in parts, this is one of my favorite Small Town Monsters. It’s smart. Full of heart. It’s back to the fun “Feature Presentation” segments that I love, and has a wealth of interesting information. If you’re curious about the Jersey Devil and its history, it’s definitely worth checking out. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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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.

Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, The Bunny Man

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Someone is stalking the children of Fairfax, Virginia. He comes bearing an axe. He comes from the forest. He comes in the night.

He comes dressed as a bunny.

The story

In the 1970s, the sleepy town of Fairfax Virginia was menaced by a man dressed as a rabbit. He stalked kids and teens with an axe while they were playing in the woods, or ‘parking’. Children were cautioned to not play outside after dark. Parents were terrified. The whole community was rocked by the horrific killer who, well, didn’t kill anybody. And who might have been a whole bunch of people inspired by a truly sad tale?

Still from Suburban Screams The Bunny Man.

The story begins a hundred years earlier. A man whose name is lost to time is accused of stealing a cow. For this crime, he’s sentenced to death because things were a lot tougher back then. The man escaped but swore vengeance on the town. A few days later several children were found hanging from a bridge underpass, butchered and hung as though they were slaughtered rabbits.

What worked

The biggest thing to love about this episode, the one thing that sets it apart from the rest of the season, was the presence of Historian Cindy Burke. Finally, we have an actual professional talking about one of these stories. Yes, there are still first-hand accounts. But that is how these sorts of stories work best. We have the emotional retelling of evocative survivors. But we also have a professional who is emotionally separated from the situation backing up these stories with historical knowledge.

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This wouldn’t have mattered as much in any other setting. But Suburban Screams has been clear from the start that it wants to be seen as a documentary. This is supposed to be real. And if you’re going to claim that your ghost story is real, bring receipts. As many as you can.

If we’d seen more historians, detectives, and police reports through this series, it probably wouldn’t have the bad rating it does on IMDB.

What didn’t work

Well, it might still have had a bad rating. Because the acting in this episode was, for lack of a stronger word, terrible.

I don’t know if it was the directing, the casting, or just a weak talent budget. But not a single person except for the man playing the Bunny Man could act in any of these dramatic reenactment scenes.

The worst offender was probably the child playing Ed’s childhood friend. This character was way overacted. It’s as though the child had seen a parody of how little boys behave, and was told to act like that. As this was a little boy, he was likely a bit embarrassed.

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And I know, I’m trash-talking a child actor. I’m trash-talking all of the children actors in this episode. But children can act. There are lots of examples of kids doing great acting jobs. Stranger Things is an obvious example. Violent Night is another. The kid can act. These kids couldn’t act.

Is it true?

Unlike most of the other episodes in this series, The Bunny Man is a story I’ve heard before. It is a legitimate urban legend that blossomed from a few firsthand accounts of madmen doing scary things dressed as rabbits in Fairfax County, West Virginia. These events probably inspired others to do stupid things like dress up like a rabbit and run around with an ax. Much like the people who decided to dress up like clowns and scare the hell out of people across the country in 2016.

So, yes, the Bunny Man is very much real. He’s real in the hearts and minds of pranksters and West Virginia frat boys. And he is based on some very real, very upsetting, actual events.

I honestly wish the whole season of Suburban Screams had been exactly like this. Filled with facts, first-hand accounts, and proof of scary events. This was everything I wanted in a supernatural/true crime story. So if you’re giving the rest of the season a pass, I would suggest watching this episode.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

The Girl in the Trunk (2024): A Tense Danish Horror-Thriller Led by Katharina Sporrer

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If you grew up in the 90s you will know one thing–ol’ Jimbo used to have ‘trunk rides’ through the north woods with people in various states of drink screaming for more. This Girl in the Trunk movie is a different type of screaming in the film and in the audience.

The premise at first glance is simple–a terrifying snatch and grab kidnapping. The modern day twist with cell phones, cell reroutes, and trunk escape buttons all come into play with just enough realism to have you wonder if this could happen to you.

The strengths of this contained thriller fall squarely on the shoulders of Katharina Sporrer, who carries the film with such abandon that I’m pretty sure she’s in traction as I type this with an overstrained back. Make no mistake — this Danish horror-thriller works because of Katharina. The end. Not the writing. Not the direction from Jonas Kvist Jensen. Not the edits. It’s her film and she does marvels with walking the tightrope of victim and vengeance as the thriller girl.

What Worked

This movie is a weird catch. What works is one actor. That’s it. Really. Katharina does a lot with little and this is something that can stand out in movies grand and small, especially in an understated Danish horror movie.

I did enjoy the filming style and the thoughts of a low budget gripping thriller. It goes to show that with a talented person you can make a movie with very little set switches, without many effects, and without multiple casts members feeding off each other. All you need is a good basic story of abduction of girl in a trunk–some solid tense pacing–and one amazing actress like Katharina. The rest of the magic is just getting out of your movie’s way.

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I think this is what works the best: The movie doesn’t sabotage itself. It knows its limits. It knows its strength and it plays to that strength.

Make no mistake — this film works because of Katharina. The end. Not the writing. Not the direction. Not the edits. It’s her film and she does marvels with walking the tightrope of victim and vengeance. Jim Phoenix on The Girl in the trunk

What Didn’t Work

When I saw this screener pop into my box, I knew there was just something about the setup I wanted to see play out. This could have gone extremely bad–but because of Katharina’s presence it swerves out of the ditch and into cinema gold.

I am not sure if this movie works only because of her acting, but I know it doesn’t work without her. The other cast members seem out of place–clunky at times. Some of the writing is a level of bizarre ‘I call bullshit’ that I haven’t seen this side of film school.

With that said, there really isn’t much of anyone else in the film for most of this mysterious true crime style film. This seems to work to its advantage, as we focus on the painful consequences for the kidnapped girl in the desert heat, with no bystander to help as she suffers heat exhaustion, bites, mental and emotional abuse, and deep uncertainty all in a very tiny trunk.

Final Verdict of The Girl in the Trunk:

The Girl in the Trunk is a story we’ve heard before, and sometimes in better ways. However, this film is worth the stream. The runtime is tight, the pacing works well, and, as I stated before, Katharina is an amazing actress who pulls this entire thing off. Almost on her acting alone, I give this 4 out of 5 Cthulhu.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Dark Deviations: A Halloween Episode in May

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Smiling Friendsfirst Halloween episode aired in January 2022, so this May release isn’t completely out of character. The much anticipated second season of the bizarre Adult Swim show has, as of June 5,2024, delivered five intriguing stories about geometrically-distorted beings and blob-shaped humans. Episode four, “Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” is a truly terrifying sight to behold.

A Mission to Make the Boss Smile

Smiling Friends is a small company whose mission is to make anyone and everyone smile, per the customer’s request. Each episode consists of various missions the four main characters, Allan, Glep, Pim and Charlie, must accomplish. These tasks can range from saving the career of a homicidal frog to finding true love for a reclusive shrimp. Season two episode four’s dilemma is to save the Boss, a charismatic, unnaturally proportioned man and Smiling Friends’ CEO. We rarely get a glimpse into the Boss’ personal life, but now we are invited to his wedding, where he is marrying none other than Satan’s daughter, Brittney.

The Smiling Friends main cast at the Boss's wedding.
(Left to right) Allan, Glep, Pim, Charlie and a new friend at the Boss’ wedding.

Naturally, marrying Satan’s daughter comes with some major consequences, the biggest of which is losing all free will. Brittney has completely possessed the Boss and transformed the Smiling Friends business into Brittney’s Beautiful Demonic Flowers. It is up to the smiling friends must find a way to save their jobs and creepy, beloved employer.

The Scariest Smiling Friends Mission

“Erm, the Boss Gets Married” is one of the scariest episodes in the series. There are jump scares, Brittney’s hellish face is even worse when she smiles. The animation is enthralling, terrifying and hilarious. Creators Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack went out of the box for this Halloween special and were especially creative with the journey to the Boss’ exorcism. Britney’s screechy demise is abrupt, as most endings in Smiling Friends are. The show is wholly unhinged, and the final lines come from Pim shouting, “HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYBODY!!!!”

While the plot is similar to South Park‘s season three episode “Succubus,” this Smiling Friends episode still upholds its own uniqueness and is fun to watch. Stick around after the credits, and you will see a delightful scene: the Boss in the middle of a screaming match with his ex-father-in-law, Satan, over their personal property in hell.

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The Verdict

“Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” is a ridiculous May Halloween special that keeps the audience on their toes. It is one of the scarier episodes in the season. The creators have a knack for illustrating uncomfortable-looking characters and complicating the simplest of storylines. It would be exciting for Smiling Friends to do more than just one horror themed episode per season, especially with how good Hadel and Cusack are at creating terrifying creatures. However, since the seasons are short, these special holiday episodes are a fun once-a-year treat. The show is already weird and scary enough; it would be overkill if they did too many spooky specials.

(That said, if the Smiling Friends creators ever decided to make an entirely new horror animated series, I would be first in line to watch the entire thing.)

“Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” earns 4.5 out of 5 cthulhu. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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