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This week we return to serialization in Lovecraft Country after the brief sojourn into haunted house territory. Unfortunately though, narrative shortcuts and sloppy attention to detail doom this Goonies-lite exploration episode.

Read on, if “ye” dare.

Christina tangles with a representative of a local Lodge

The story so far…

Our A-plot this episode, “A History of Violence,” focuses on Atticus, Leti, and Montrose on a trip to Boston to seek out the missing pages of the Book of Names. Atticus is convinced he can re-purpose the magic in those pages to project everyone in his life. Leti expresses intense frustration at Atticus’s compartmentalizing of information after Christina Braithwhite pays her a visit. Lastly, Montrose, drunk and reeling, studies the book of information from the cult given to him by a dying George and then proceeds to burn the book, hoping to protect Atticus and the others.

Atticus, Leti, and Montrose travel to Boston in the woody, joined by Hippolyta, Diana, and Tree. Later that night, Tic’s Trio returns to the museum, let in by a guard who also seems to be a contact of Montrose’s, and they uncover the hidden series of chambers and tunnels seemingly constructed by Titus Braithwhite. The Trio encounters a number of challenges and traps and also somehow find themselves just under Leti’s recently acquired haunted house in Chicago until uncovering a ship of corpses and an undead Arawak guardian, Yahima, who happens to be an intersex “two-spirit.” They discover that they were being compelled to translate the pages by Titus, and their people were killed to force the issue. Tic’s Trio manages to retrieve the missing pages, escape the flooded tunnels, and find refuge in Leti’s home with Yahima in two.

Then Montrose slashes the throat of Yahima is a dazzlingly self-destructive choice.

The rest of the episode revolves around the other women of the show. Hippolyta has clearly taken the orrery from Leti’s house, the same orrery that Christina Braithwhite seems to be seeking in the episode. The orrery also seems to model a distant solar system. Hippolyta and Diana share a cute moment in a star-dome, where Hippolyta reveals she had discovered and named a comet, but the credit was given to a white girl. Later the pair are returning home to Chicago, confused at how Tic’s Trio got there without them. Hippolyta notices that Diana is drawing on George’s atlas, noticed the route to Devon County, where Ardham is found, is marked, and decides to head that way for answers.

Christina, trying to meet her own magical goals attempts to strong-arm Leti but is kept at bay by the magical energies of Leti’s house. Christina drops that Atticus attempted to kill her, as asks Leti for the orrery in the house. Christina spends time in the neighborhood, waiting on the orrery or some other purpose, and is targeted by the same cops who went after Leti last episode. It becomes clear that these cops are tied to another one of the many (maybe even 35?!) magical lodges. This time, however, Christina vanishes and is instead saved by her servant, William. Could Christina and William be one-in-the-same? That might complicate the next bit.

Meanwhile, Ruby, Leti’s half-sister, makes the unfortunate discovery the department store position she craved was filled by another woman. Ruby goes to Sammy’s bar to let off her blues in some fantastic singing that doesn’t seem to inspire many reactions. She then gets introduced to William who seems to promise her the world before seducing her.

Magic has its price, however. Let’s hope the price is not too steep for Ruby.

The ring seems to be the key, here, but I am sure the blood helped.

How it worked out…

It takes about 15 or so hours to travel from Chicago by Boston, according to Google maps. I only mention this because, within the span of two hours, Tic, Leti, and Montrose somehow manage to use an underground passage from a museum in Boston and arrive at the secret tunnel beneath Leti’s new house. Spatial anomalies are fine and welcome in creating unsettling weirdness in Lovecraftian works, but the key is that it needs to be established first. There is no indication that the laws of time and space are warping around Tic and company in the tunnel, all that there is is the rising tide. So unless there was some sort of time and space shenanigans that were established prior to their arrival at Leti’s elevator then the episode absolutely went off the rails, very badly.

It might seem a bit cynical and unfair of me to latch onto a continuity error such as this, but it is a perfect example of some of the narrative leaps that “A History of Violence” took. So many puzzling choices just to set up circumstances in non-organic ways. Why does Montrose burn the book? Because it makes it easier to set him up to tag along. Why is everyone pissed off at an obviously traumatized Atticus for trying to protect their lives? What happened to Tree? Does the hidden trigger in the museum ever get activated when someone is cleaning the alligator statue?

Even worse, the strength of the show, the themes of the existential horror faced by people of color, was largely absent. We get references to colonialism, Hippolyta being unable to take credit for the cosmic object she saw, and a made-up story about a knot. We do get something with Rose, but it’s all a set-up for next week’s episode.

Instead, we end up with a lukewarm riff on Journey to the Center of the Earth only even more nonsensical than that pulp adventure. Solid performances across the cast can’t even really save it, either. We’re now just mostly hitting the same notes on the characters with a slight thawing of the relationship between Atticus and Montrose.

Lovecraft Country‘s adventurous return to serialization moves the story forward, technically, but seems to be mostly moving pieces around to get the players where they need to be for something more significant to come. Sloppy attention to detail, however, sinks what could have been a fun romp. There is little terror, Lovecraftian or otherwise, to be had, however.

I give the fourth episode, “A History of Violence” two and a half Cthulhus.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
This sequence was pretty fun.

Miskatonic Musings

What do we have of note in this edition of the Miskatonic Musings?

  • Of course, the Freemans were never enslaved. It’s in the name… Free Man.
  • We also see a little bit more of the kid who we assume will be history’s very own Emmett Till.
  • Speaking of tragedy, Montrose references Tulsa as he burns the cult’s book.
  • Yahima Maraokoti is said to be from Guyana and is a two-spirit. There is a history of “two-spirit” intersex individuals in Native American culture and a fascinating example of differing perspectives on sex and gender in indigenous culture.
  • So, Montrose is gay. His friend from the bar, Sammy, in episode one, was caught receiving oral sex. Tree seems to hint at this in the episode.
    • With that said, Montrose killing Yahima feels gross and unnecessary, but it may also make a perverse sense to him; he may be grappling with his own queerness and Yahima represents an uncomfortable blurring of boundaries for him.
  • Literary references in this episode specifically revolve around Journey to the Center of the Earth. The episode borrows heavily from that sort of pulp adventure storytelling. Not entirely successfully, mind you.
  • There is also a rather laconic retelling of the events of “Genesis.”
  • My music pick for this episode? Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.”

What did you think about “A History of Violence?” Let us know in the comments!

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!

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The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub mascot, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

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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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Movies n TV

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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