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It’s another Joe Bob mini-marathon on Shudder, and this time it was just the sort of thing we love for the Holiday season… Christmas horror! Because what is more horrifying than Christmas? It’s cold and gets dark earlier, and we actually celebrate telling small children about a garishly-dressed home-invader who offers them gifts. We’ll be reviewing all three movies of this marathon one at a time. This time we’ll start with the holiday “classic” Black Christmas.

Black Christmas (1974)

Opening Rant: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is communist propaganda.

Black Christmas is the 1974 proto-slasher horror film that follows sorority girls being hunted, stalked, and murdered by a mysterious killer in their own sorority house during, you guessed it, Christmas. The film is loosely based on an urban legend about a baby sitter and a killer in the attic.

Black Christmas stars Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Keir Dullea, Olivia Hussey, and Andrea Martin. Bob Clark, a journeyman director with a very strange body of work, puts together a pretty competent film. The film is mostly known for some memorable performances and being one of the first real holiday-horror films. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as one of the first slashers, however. But Joe Bob will set that straight.

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The film’s largest claim to fame, however, may be the very divisive ending that you either love or hate.

This film spends more time on the phone than my grandparents during the holidays.

Review

Drive-In Fashion Show: Joe Bob dazzles in a red and white reindeer-patterned holiday blazer with a turquoise (spider?) bolo tie.

Black Christmas is a Christmas horror staple due to inertia than being of any particular merit. Joe Bob Briggs awarded the film three stars, which is perfectly respectable. He noted, a bit jokingly, that the film is a landmark in “Canadian horror,” which is true in many ways but also doesn’t really see “Canadian horror” as a thing. Of course, Darcy is a fan of Canadian horror, making her the ally Haunted MTL needs.

Joe Bob’s segments during the film are as insightful and interesting as ever. Some particular highlights include discussion of the very eclectic career of Director Bob Clark, the “get” that Keir Dullea was for the film, and how great Margot Kidder was. There was also a begrudging acknowledgment on the part of our venerable host that Black Christmas should be considered a proto-slasher. The biggest revelation of the night, however, was learning that Joe Bob had polio.

Margot Kidder in a choker has awoken something deep and dark within me…

As for Haunted MTL; Black Christmas is a classic in the sense that it is, well, older, now. It was one of the first Christmas horror films and carried a moderate level of adoration. It is most definitely a three-star film. The film is gloomy as Hell and utilizes shadow very well. It just feels gross and grimy in a way 1970s horror always had. It also has some pretty bad pacing issues.

The film is decent but nothing revolutionary. The fervor around it feels a bit unearned, honestly. The ending is novel enough and subverts narrative expectations, but it feels like more of a cop-out than a striking choice. Also, they killed off Margot Kidder’s character way too early.

Best Line: “Darling, you can’t rape a townie.” – Barb

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Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

We have our own Drive-In totals, but we should cover Joe Bob’s list.

Thanks, Shudder! As for some of our totals:

  • 4 documentaries about Black Christmas
  • 27 Viewings by Steve Martin (apparently)
  • 3 American Flags (Joe Bob said they were all over the movie?)
  • Gratuitous Yuki
  • Fellatio Tweet-Fu
  • Gratuitous Margot Kidder
  • “Pig Cunt” or “Pink Cunt”-Debating
  • Impalement-Threatening
  • John Saxon-ing
  • Boyfriend Slaying
  • Murder by Unicorn
  • Slasher-Pedigree Debate Fu
  • Bar Joke Fu
Watch the sight-lines there, J.B.!

I had the joy of watching the marathon with a close friend who visited for a week during the holidays. It is really fun to see how the normals handle Joe Bob… and I gotta say, Joe Bob is a figure who transcends. Black Christmas was a bit slow for my friend, but Jack Frost and Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 were truly amazing experiences.

What wasn’t so amazing was the cruel tease dropped upon us by Joe Bob at the end of this first film, but we’ll get into that for next time. Next time we’ll cover Jack Frost. Stick with Haunted MTL for ongoing coverage. See you then.

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Cursed Neighborhood

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Episode five of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was one of the best kind of horror stories. It is a dark, eerie tale of a mean house that is determined to destroy anyone who dares reside within it.

The story

Our story begins in 1682. A group of colonists are attempting to take over land that is very much not theirs. When the colonists are killed, they vow to curse the land.

Fast forward to modern times, and the land in question is a little suburban neighborhood. Carlette Norwood moves in with her husband, mother, and daughters. The house seems like a dream come true. Until, of course, their beautiful dream home becomes a nightmare. The curse of the colonists wrapped itself around the neck of each family member, turning them into people that they didn’t recognize. People who don’t exactly like each other.

What worked

While I wouldn’t say that the acting in this episode is flawless, it was several steps above what we’ve seen so far. Every actor seemed to understand their role and reacted in realistic ways. I was especially impressed by the young woman playing Angelique. She had the good sense to not overplay the role, giving each scene exactly the right amount of energy.

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Of course, there was one actress who way overplayed every scene. But rather than being terrible, it was terrific. And that was Chloe Zeitounian, who played the neighbor Stacy. Stacy the neighbor was creepy as shit. After an unnamed neighbor dies by suicide, Stacy shows up at Carlette’s house with a bottle of champagne, sipping coffee with a big old smile. Well, okay it probably wasn’t coffee.

Stacy was a fantastic character, and I hope there was a crazy neighbor just like her. I bet her house was haunted as hell, but she just decided that her ghost was like a stray dog that everyone else thinks is dangerous. She probably put a bejeweled collar on the colonist ghost and renamed him Kori spelled with an I on purpose.

Finally, I want to talk about the theme of ancestral curse and ancestral protections that this episode discussed.

Charles County was cursed by the colonists who took the land that rightfully belonged to the indigenous tribes. They took what their ancestors had given them, and left a curse in their wake.

At the end of the episode, Carlette talks about being protected by her ancestors. Ancestors that survived horrible things most of us can’t imagine. I am sure that their strength blessed Carlette, and helped her to save Angelique.

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What didn’t work

While this episode was certainly better than most of the season, it wasn’t perfect. The thing that most stood out to me as being frankly unneeded was the inclusion of maggots attacking Brian.

Paul A Maynard in Suburban Screams.

In multiple scenes, during which Carlette is narrating, Brian has maggots coming out of open wounds. Never once does Carlette mention a maggot issue.

It feels like there is a clear reason why the creators did this. This story doesn’t have a lot of blood, gore, or jump scares. And a core goal of horror content is to cause a reaction.

Stephen King has a great quote about this goal. “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

The inclusion of maggots in this story admits that someone involved didn’t think the story was terrorizing or horrifying enough. But it was. The story was freaky all on its own without the inclusion of our wriggling friends.

Is it true?

This might be an unpopular opinion, but aside from the completely unnecessary maggots infesting Brian, I think this episode is the most honest and accurate one so far.

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The thing about hauntings is that they’re seldom what we see in the movies. Haunted houses don’t have glass vases flying off shelves and wallpaper peeling to reveal 666 painted in blood over arcane symbols. Haunted houses dig into the minds of those who live there, causing bad luck and bad vibes. And that’s exactly what happened here. There are no massive explosions. No spirits throwing people downstairs or demonic dogs chasing children from the attic. This house dug into the hearts and minds of a loving family, ripping them apart.

So yes, I do think this episode is likely true.

The further we get into Suburban Screams, the more I enjoy it. This episode was eerie, upsetting, and riveting. I hope that Carlette and her daughters are healing from this horrific journey. And I’m thankful to them for sharing their story. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Happy Father’s Day Herman Munster!

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Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel
Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel

Today for Father’s Day I want to celebrate one the best dads in horror ever: Herman Munster! Herman Munster of television celebrity is a perfect example of a good father in a genre awash in epically horrible parents. He is fun to be around, cares deeply about family, and has a huge heart. He is essentially the naive and loving Frankenstein’s monster despite his horrific appearance, and is aptly employed at a funeral home.

Herman is lovable, hardworking, and always ready with the physical humor dad jokes, even if he is too naive to catch on to his role in the punchlines all the time. He is devoted to his wife Lily Dracula and son Eddie and will do whatever he can to protect them. His generosity extends beyond just his own, with the family taking in his niece Marilyn (who is painfully normal by comparison to the Munsters), and father-in-law Grandpa.

Portrayed by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster is kind of the epitome of the good father in horror. Sure, he’s a brute, and can be a little dim sometimes, but he’s really just a big teddy bear at heart, and always ready for a good laugh. And apparently Herman Munster was even nominated by his son Eddie for Father of the Year in Season 2, Episode 25, so it all comes around full circle. If the show highlight doesn’t load, you can find it here.

And to celebrate more great Hollywood celebrities, here’s a poem for Ed Wood and an homage to Theda Bara

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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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