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.
The film’s largest claim to fame, however, may be the very divisive ending that you either love or hate.
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.
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
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
- John Saxon-ing
- Boyfriend Slaying
- Murder by Unicorn
- Slasher-Pedigree Debate Fu
- Bar Joke Fu
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.
Shutter Island (2010): Review
Leonardo Dicaprio’s films rarely disappoint. It was interesting to see him flex different acting muscles in this psychological thriller Shutter Island alongside Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams. When I say that I was not expecting such a turn in the story, I mean that my jaw was pretty much on the floor the entire time. Without any further ado, let’s dive into its mastery, shall we?
A cliché setup done right
We have been here before a million times. A character stumbles into a scene to solve a mystery. Everyone is acting just the right amount of suspicion to make you wonder. Dicaprio’s Edward ‘Teddy’ travels to an extremely remote island where a woman goes missing from a psychiatric institution. He’s experiencing migraines and flashbacks to his murdered wife while receiving little to no help from the hospital staff.
Teddy soon suspects that the hospital is experimenting on patients which fuels his theories on what happened to the missing woman. Things take even more of a turn when his partner also disappears. Unsurprisingly, everyone insists Teddy came to the island alone. Feeling like he’s losing his mind, our protagonist finds out that this is exactly the case. He is a patient in the hospital and the entire investigation is an attempt to get him to understand the truth.
While the whole ‘it was all in your head’ trope has a bad rep for the fans of any genre, this film uses it masterfully. Watching it for the first time not knowing what to expect is obviously a shock and then watching it again, looking at all the clues that were the which you missed – that’s a treat on its own. After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using cliches if they are done the right way.
Things that go bump in our minds
A huge part of this movie’s storyline is Andrew’s inability to process the truth. The roots for it stretch far beyond the plot twist. Andrew is unable to acknowledge that his wife is mentally ill and believes that moving them to the countryside will fix everything. After she murders their children, he is further pushed into the world of delusion, convincing himself to be a hero because he couldn’t save his own family.
It’s interesting to note that in his delusion, Andrew is the one who set fire to their house. Is this a little sliver of his mind whispering the truth to him? Is it his subconscious villainizing himself out of contempt, searching for answers that are never going to come? Andrew’s psychiatrist pointed out that his moment of clarity has happened before, only to be undone quite quickly. Perhaps it was easier for Andrew to shut it off rather than live with the knowledge that he could’ve done something to prevent a terrible tragedy.
Shutter Island is a movie that provides both the entertainment value you would expect from a suspense thriller and a deeper layer of thought. Coated with a perfect atmosphere and amazing acting, it’s a piece that will definitely hold the test of time. (4.5 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Daughter of The Night
We’ve reached episode four of Wheel of Time, which means we’re halfway through the season. While it doesn’t seem like much has happened so far, this is the episode where things start heating up.
We begin this episode with a flashback. Ishamael is raising something dark and twisted. As we watch, it takes the shape of a woman.
More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, Nynaeve is healing from her time in the arches. She is quiet and withdrawn. She’s also awkward and uncomfortable around Egwene now that she’s initiated and Egwene is not. Her new friendship with Elayne isn’t helping.
But the three girls come together when Liandrin tells Nynaeve that Perrin has been captured by the Seanchan.
However, Perrin is no longer in the clutches of the Seanchan. He was rescued by Elyas and a pack of beautiful wolves. Beautiful and deadly AF by the way. If you have any fear of dogs, this episode might not help that.
Elyas explains to Perrin that he is a Wolf Brother. This means that he can communicate with the wolves, and eventually will gain some of their abilities. While Perrin and Elyas don’t exactly get off on the right foot, he does find a fast friendship with one specific wolf. After a time, he introduces himself by showing Perrin an image of himself jumping up and down. From this, Perrin assumes his name is Hopper.
Finally, we return to Rand. He and Selene have been off in the mountains. They haven’t done much more than each other so far.
And that’s exactly what it appears they’re about to do when Moiraine bursts into the cottage and cuts Selene’s throat.
Rand is surprised and furious until Moiraine explains that the woman he knows as Selene is the Dark Friend Lanfear. With this shocking revelation, the two run off into the night.
It should be a surprise to no one that I loved the wolves in this episode. Hopper himself was worth an extra Cthulhu. But this is not just because dogs are cute. It’s also because the dog playing Hopper just does a great job.
On a more serious note, I loved how Nynaeve responded upon coming back to the real world. She isn’t okay.
And it’s a good thing that she isn’t. Too often in fiction we don’t see the fallout of emotional damage. Hell, we don’t usually see realistic fallout from physical damage.
But she is hurt by what she experienced. And you can tell. That’s realistic character building, and we don’t see that enough.
I also really appreciate the special effects in this episode. The first time we see Lanfear, she’s eerie. She’s frightening. Part of this is thanks to Natasha O’Keeffe, who does a great job. But the effects are what really sells this.
What didn’t work
If Wheel of Time has any fault, it’s that there is far too much sitting about and talking about things. In this case, there’s a lot of standing about and talking about things. Some of this was necessary, and some of it could have been done better. Honestly, there just has to be a better way to convey that characters are struggling.
This was most apparent with Rand and Selene/Lanfear. Honestly, anytime the two of them were on screen it was a great time for me to catch up on Instagram.
This might come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but Rand is supposed to be the main character. And here we are, four episodes into an eight-episode season, and so far all he’s done is mess about with his emo girlfriend!
That being said, the story is starting to pick up. With four episodes left, I can’t wait to see how far we go.
(3 / 5)
Elevator Game, a Film Review
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks.
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks. It adapts the supernatural myth and creepypasta of the same name while providing an original plot. This unrated Shudder exclusive stars Gino Anania, Samantha Halas, and Verity Marks. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to interview Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner about the film.
Ryan seeks to find answers to his sister’s mysterious disappearance. To do this, he infiltrates a myth-busting web series that seems to have some ties to her final confirmed moments. Desperate to force a confrontation, he encourages them to play the elevator game. Unfortunately, there seems to be more truth to the myth than expected.
What I Like about Elevator Game & as an Adaptation
I am lucky to have additional insight into the development hell this movie overcame due to COVID. It’s commendable that the film manages to make it of that, even if it requires a lengthy delay of the film.
Usually, I provide a separate section for adaptation quality. However, the source material remains the ritual, which Elevator Game performs accurately. While the myth inspires many creepypastas, Elevator Game doesn’t directly take or adapt any of these works from what I’ve seen. Instead, it makes its own film based on the legend.
As the Fifth Floor Woman, Samantha Halas creates an eerie and disturbing character. While I won’t go so far as to say terrifying, she certainly makes an impression. The revelation that the stunts and performance are all her, as an actual contortionist, I give her more credit.
Gino Anania, given a more complex role than most of his cast members, really does bring a strong performance that creates either friction or synergy with his cast members. I suppose I wanted more of these interactions as some cut sooner than appreciated.
Another amusing element is that the entire motivation for the plot to follow is a forced advertisement from an investor. Something about the chaos being a product of appeasing some investors feels uncomfortably real.
The alternate reality remains surprisingly effective. To be clear, it’s not impressively realistic but stylistic. It genuinely seems like an alternate world with a skewered impression.
Tired Tropes or Trigger Warning
I feel weird mentioning this, but endangering a sister’s life to push the brother’s story forward seems a common trend beyond one form of media.
No discredit to the actors, but the romance feels rushed and unnecessary. Without going into too much detail, to avoid spoilers, there is synergy between the actors but little chemistry in the plot.
What I Dislike or Considerations
Elevator Game remains set in providing a B-movie experience. Its tight budget leaves little room to surprise the viewer visually. While I am surprised at what it accomplishes, it’s far from overwhelming. This film also remains the first production of Fearworks, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m interested in the future, but Elevator Game leaves much to grow from.
Rebekah McKendry may have a directorial style that influences dialogue, but the line delivery evokes an overexpression that’s common in Lovecraftian films. I say this not as a direct negative, but it remains a required taste best known before viewing. As this isn’t Lovecraftian, I fear it removes some of the reality and tension of those haunting elements.
Many of the characters feel underdeveloped, making me wonder if cutting these roles might lead to more invested characters. While the performances hit their marks, a tighter cast might give each role more to work toward. As this is a tight cast already, it seems an odd issue to rectify.
Elevator Game provides an interesting B-movie experience for those who know the legend. For those expecting something different, this film may not work for you. This film overcame a lot to exist but doesn’t break the mold. While I am excited to see Fearworks pursue further ventures toward its ambitious mission statement, I find Elevator Game falling short of its goal.
(2 / 5)