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This week’s theme is… big, big messes. Seriously, both movies are full of gore, viscera, and the cleanup involved afterwards has gotta be insane.

We’re back with Joe Bob again this week at The Last Drive-In, exclusively on Shudder. It’s important to note, Mutants, that as of this moment Shudder has not committed to renewing The Last Drive-In for another round, so what I ask is that you take a moment to tweet @shudder with your desire for more episodes. Don’t forget the hashtag #TheLastDriveIn either!

https://twitter.com/hpkomic/status/1124515924688564226
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is just that sort of movie…

WolfCop (2014)

Opening Rant: Did you know that Saskatchewan is the Arkansas of Canada?

The first film of the night, WolfCop, is pretty much perfect drive-in fare. WolfCop is a Canadian horror comedy about a cop named (wait for it) Lou Garou. Lou is a fairly unimpressive cop in the small community of Woodhaven who spends most of his time at the bar. Well, soon enough he becomes swept into an investigation of cultist activity in town that results in him becoming a werewolf to violent and hilarious results.

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The movie was written and directed by Lowell Dean for the CineCoup Film Accelerator program. WolfCop stars Leo Fafard as Lou Garou, and features Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Aiden Devine, and Jesse Moss. Jonathan Cherry as Willie gives a particularly inspired manic wing-man performance with a twist. Leo Fafard steals the show, however as Lou in deadbeat cop and WolfCop modes.

Reviews

Joe Bob was very enthusiastic in his discussion of WolfCop, awarding the film three stars. The film is violent, hilarious, and gory and in the words of Joe Bob, features “interspecies aardvarking.” The film, structurally, falls a bit flat which likely explains why, despite all the film has going for it, it only reached the three star level. That’s okay though, because the final act of the film is absolutely bonkers in the best way possible because the whole film is played fast and loose. The highlight of the night, of course, was The Last Drive-In mangled-dick consultant Felissa Rose. Thanks for your expertise, Felissa!

The big disappointment of the night for us, as Drive-In fans, is that there just isn’t a ton to talk about the movie compared to previous films. The film was made through the Cinegroup Film Accelerator program, but beyond that the team behind the movie and the cast has not done a ton since beyond a sequel, Another WolfCop. The most recognizable face in the film, Aiden Devine, is mostly a Canadian genre actor who might be recognized here and there. Unfortunately, unlike DEATHGASM, WolfCop doesn’t have enough interesting stuff going on around the movie. Nor has the talent around it had long enough to build interesting careers like some of the older films at the Drive-In.

As for us at Haunted MTL, WolfCop obviously gets a Canadian bump in the score. That being said, it is not like the film needs it. WolfCop is great, despite some plot problems, so we award it three and a half stars. There is some wonderfully loony special effects work in the transformation scenes, and the love scene between woman and beast is funny as hell.

If you are already a Haunted MTL reader, odds are this screenshot is all we need to sell you WolfCop

Best Line: “Grab some meth!”

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Opening Rant: The legacy of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

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The second film of the night is a masterpiece of feel-bad film. Henry: Portrait of Serial Killer is one of those movies that people love to be destroyed by, or absolutely hate. Again, tonight’s pairing is one of those strange combinations that has popped up on The Last Drive-In and results in a little bit of a tonal whiplash, like we saw during the pairing of DEATHGASM and The Changeling.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is not quite a horror film in the way Mutants are used to, and is more of a psychological horror film with true crime elements. The movie is a very, very loose adaptation of the supposed crimes of real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and his partner-in-crime Ottis Toole. The film is notorious for being both controversial and critically praised. The fact the MPAA rated the film with an X-rating also increased the movie’s mystique.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer follows a period of time where a drifter and killer, Henry, lives with a prison friend, Otis, and Otis’ sister, Becky. The three are intensely damaged people who live in Otis’ Chicago apartment for a time. While Becky feels an abusive husband and tries to make a life for herself in Chicago, Henry introduces and educates Otis in the joy and art of murder.

It doesn’t get any more pleasant from there, folks.

The movie stars Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, and Tracy Arnold. Henry was directed by John McNaughton, who is also known for Wild Things (1998). The core cast of Rooker, Towles, and Arnold are superb and live in their parts so well the film almost feels like a documentary.

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Reviews

Joe Bob absolutely had nothing but praise for the film, awarding Henry four stars. The lack of interesting asides in WolfCop was more than made up for in the break segments for Henry, as Joe Bob not only had a great deal to say about the film, but John McNaughton himself stopped by the trailer to reveal some insights into the movie and the lasting legacy of one of the grimiest crime films ever made. Recounting the film of the harrowing “home assault scene,” in particular, revealed a lot about how special this movie truly is. In one anecdote about the film of the movie, McNaughton muses to Joe Bob at the time saying “none of us are going to Heaven” after filming one of the infamous murder scenes. It is a movie so sleazy that an actual real life video pirate played a video pirate in the T.V. shopping scene.

As Joe Bob stated at one point, if drive-in films are about sex and violence, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is sex and violence stripped down to it’s essentials. The film is disturbing and grimy in such a way that as viewers you feel complicit in the on-screen carnage. Needless to say, we here at Haunted MTL love that. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a four star film.

Worst movie night ever

Best Line: “Shit, I’ve got to have a T.V.”

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

  • Joe Bob Fashion: A white button up shirt with black, floral trim and an orange oval bolo tie
  • 1 Degloved face
  • 1 Sad, sad bowl of nachos (what even were those, Joe Bob?)
  • 2 Plot-relevant Eclipses (this week, WolfCop, last week, The House of the Devil)
  • 2 Eye Gouges
  • 3 Victims played by the same actress
  • 7 Producers on WolfCop
  • 6 Twitter bans for Darcy
  • Felissa Rose Mangled Dick Expertise Fu
  • Post-murder Sandwich and Coffee Fu
  • Rat Tail Comb Fu
  • Walmart Joke Fu
  • Five O’Clock Shadow Fu
  • Irishman, Italian, and Redneck Joke Fu
  • Gratuitous Whip Zooms and Pans
  • Gratuitous Chair Pratfall
  • Gratuitous Folklore Infodump
  • Gratuitous Movie-based Rap Song over Credits
  • Gratuitous Darcy Cosplay (as WolfCop)
  • Gratuitous TV Shopping Scene

As always, please share your thoughts with us about The Last Drive-In. Also, please check out our other great content here at Haunted MTL.

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Movies n TV

Goosebumps Say Cheese and Die

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Released in 2023, Goosebumps is the latest in a line of content based on the insanely popular children’s book series with the same name. And if you’re here, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you a lot about Goosebumps. Most horror fans are at least passingly aware of the colorful covers, dark plotlines, and surprise twist endings. Some of us even have a few of the original books lying around.

For nostalgia.

Cover for Say Cheese and Die, Goosebumps number 4.

With so many good and bad versions of the original stories floating around, I was unsure how to feel about this brand-new series. I was sure, however, that I had to watch all of it. Especially with the infamous Slappy appearing so prominently in the advertising.

So, how was the first episode?

The story

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We start this episode with a flashback to 1993, and a young man named Harold Biddle. We don’t spend a lot of time with him. He comes home from school and goes right to the basement. There he starts writing some concerning notes in his journal. This is interrupted when a fire consumes the basement, killing him.

We then flash forward thirty years to the real start of our story. The Biddle house has just been inherited by a man named Nathan Bratt, played by the delightful Justin Long. He adores the place but is less than thrilled when a bunch of teens crash it for a Halloween party.

The teens end up not being thrilled either.

Now we come to our real main characters, Isaiah, Margot, Allison, and James. It is the four of them that planned the ill-fated party.

Zack Morris in Goosebumps

While in the house, Isaiah finds a Polaroid camera. He starts taking pictures of his friends, only to find that they don’t come out right. One of them, Allison, shows her on the ground in the woods, terrified for her life. Another shows Margot in a panic next to a snack machine.

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he eventually sees both of the girls in those exact situations. The real trouble comes when Lucas takes a picture of him, and it shows him on the football field, horribly injured.

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All of these near-death experiences seem to be caused by the flaming spirit of Harold Biddle. And it soon becomes clear that the adults of the town likely know more than they’re willing to tell about what went down at the Biddle house thirty years ago.

What worked

For someone who grew up with the series, and is therefore of a certain age, the first scene of the episode was a lot of fun. It oozed 90’s vibe in a way that’s immediately recognizable to most, and familiar to my generation. Well, insomuch as wearing flannel and coming home to an empty house is the pinnacle of being a 90s kid.

It was also fun for the constant references to books in the original series. Blink and you missed them, but I saw the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Haunted Mask, and Go Eat Worms. These make sense, as they each have their episode this season. But I’m sure I missed a few. Please let me know in the comments.

That was a lot of fun for someone who grew up with the series. But it wasn’t so constant and all-consuming as to distract from the story. Someone could have never read a Goosebumps book in their lives and just enjoy this episode of television.

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More importantly, younger viewers can watch this and feel like it’s for them. The main characters aren’t the parents, they’re the kids. And it’s clear even in this first episode that, even if it was the grownups who caused this horror, it’s going to be the kids that fix it.

This is a series that is for kids. And that’s great. It’s introducing a whole new generation to a series in a way that feels like it can be theirs just as much as it was ours when we were kids.

What didn’t work

All that being said, the story also felt a little dumbed down. A little too predictable. There was one line that particularly irritated me in this regard. When Nora goes to see Isiah’s dad in the hospital, she just flat-out says, “The children will suffer for the sins of the fathers.”

Not only is that just a bad line, it’s also a lazy one. It’s awkward and unrealistic. People simply do not talk that way. And we frankly didn’t need this information dropped on us. It was pretty clear during the football game that at least some of the grownups in town were going to be involved with this when we saw Nora recognize what was happening to Isaiah and try to stop the game. Kids are smart. They would have figured this out by themselves.

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It’s also a really tired trope. Freddy and Jason after all, are both killing young people for the sins of their parents. It was a big part of the storyline in Hide. And while I get that this might feel relevant to the next generation who are all paying for the mistakes of Boomers that Gen X and Millennials have not done enough to solve, it’s also a bit lazy. I just feel like, if this is going to be our main story, it could have been a better one.

But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this episode. Overall, it was a fun start that left me with lots of questions. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Book Reviews

The Dead Take the A Train Review: Queer Magic and Monster Mayhem

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“Julie crawled onto the table, straddling her intern, both hands around the knife. She torqued it downward, cursing. Brad shrieked harder.” -pg 57, The Dead Take the A Train by Cassandra Khaw & Richard Kadrey

The Dead Take the A Train is the first book in a duology by authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey. It was published in 2023 by Tor Nightfire (like the Scourge Between Stars, which I reviewed here). I was not previously familiar with Kadrey’s work, which most notably includes the Sandman Slim series. However, I was introduced to Khaw through The Salt Grows Heavy (review here), which I absolutely adored in all its twisted, gory glory. Therefore, I was thrilled to pick-up The Dead Take the A Train, which promised similar heart in a modern cosmic horror package.

In The Dead Take the A Train, a magical fixer named Julie must hunt down eldritch monstrosities threatening the lives of those around her. To do this, she has to go up against her shitty ex, a questionable angel, finance executives, and her own sobriety. When an old friend shows up, Julie is terrified to find herself making a retirement plan that doesn’t involve getting murdered by a demon.

The Dead Take the A Train is reminiscent of N.K. Jeminsin’s The City We Became, with both featuring queer characters tackling eldritch horror plots in New York City. In the same way, the novel was reminiscent of a gorier version of Dimension 20’s Unsleeping City actual play series. However, it clearly carves out a space for itself among the droves of cosmic-horror inspired love letters to New York City. For one, it is mostly unconcerned with borough beef, which (not to sound like a curmudgeonly Midwesterner), is so refreshing. The book also has a relatively novel way the world works, which helps it stay memorable.

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Overall, I really liked The Dead Take the A Train. First off, the characters are fun and easy to root for. Julie is a mess in pretty much every aspect, but her bad decisions are understandable and she is charismatic. Her romance with her friend, Sarah, also serves to make Julie more likable. It helps that the villains are so easy to hate too. What’s not to hate about rich Wall Street assholes engaging in human sacrifice? Speaking of which, I liked the juxtaposition of corporate Wall Street and cosmic cultists. The actions taken were evil, but more importantly, they were just business.

The prose was flowery, but not quite as much as in The Salt Grows Heavy. So, if you struggled with Khaw’s other works for that reason this may be a much easier read. Personally, I enjoyed the prose in both. There is quite a bit of gore in The Dead Take the A Train, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. I think you could still enjoy the book if you don’t love gore, though maybe not if you have a weak stomach.

One of the largest issues I have with The Dead Take the A Train, is the lack of clarity in power levels of the various characters. Especially since all their forms of magic work in different ways, it is sometimes unclear the level of danger present. This can also sometimes create room for plot holes. For example, Julie has a friend who is tapped into anything and everything happening online. This is an absurdly powerful ability (and is used as such). But there were moments where the main conflict probably could have been avoided or solved using that power. It also felt odd that no one else in this thriving magic community felt strongly about stopping a world-ending catastrophe. Because of this, the magic underground of NYC could feel smaller than I think was intended.

Having been familiar with Khaw’s work previously, The Dead Take the A Train clearly feels like a mix of Khaw’s style with someone else’s. This could be a boon or a hindrance, depending on your view of Khaw’s distinct prose and storytelling. Either way, if you are interested in learning more about the process or the authors, check out the interview they did for SFF Addicts Podcast!

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey on the SFF Addicts Podcast

I recommend The Dead Take the A Train, especially for those who are fans of modern urban eldritch horror. The book is an even bigger steal if you are looking for danger, gore, and queer characters. Check it out! And keep your eyes peeled for the next book in this duology. 

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[USR 4.2]

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Movies n TV

Dolores Roach, A Fillet of Left Cheek

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The second season of Dolores Roach started with a bang. The first episode was dark, gristly and in a strange way whimsical. It certainly brought to light new elements of the character.

The story

We begin our story with Dolores somewhere, talking to someone. I’d like to be more specific, but that’s all we know right now.

She tells this unknown person about her flight from Empanadas Loco. How Jeremiah killed Luis. How she, whether she meant to or not, killed Jeremiah. How she then set the building on fire by blowing up the fryer in the kitchen.

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Scared and alone, Dolores then ran for the underground. Dragging her purple massage table she runs into a hole in a subway track and finds herself in a whole different world.

Almost at once, she finds a place where someone is living. There’s a hot plate, a kettle and several packets of ramen. Even better, everything has Jeremiah’s name on it, literally written on it. Exhausted and alone, Dolores makes herself a cup of ramen and goes to sleep on her massage table.

She’s woken sometime later by a small man named Donald. He knows her because he knew Jeremiah. Dolores proceeds to tell him an abridged version of events that led up to Jeremiah’s death. And by abridged, I mean she blamed Luis for everything, throwing him under the bus so hard I’m surprised she didn’t pull something.

Donald seems inclined to help Dolores. He tells her that if anyone messes with her she should go further down, down a stairwell that he points out for her.

Dolores thanks him, then tries to go back to sleep. She’s soon woken again by a young woman collecting Jeremiah’s things.

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While Dolores has an issue with this, she’s willing to let it go. Until that is, this woman tries to take her table. Then, Dolores does what she does best. Because one thing is for sure. Dolores is going to take care of herself.

What worked

One thing I love about this series so far is that our main character, Dolores, is crazy. And hearing her rationalize her crazy is both terrifying and fascinating. I hate/love how sweet and soothing she can be. Even with the rat that she killed in this episode. She cooed at it, encouraging it to come to her, even calling it a subway raccoon.

Then she killed it and started crying.

I also love the underground community. It’s both horrific and whimsical. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which is full of worlds most people don’t see but are all around us. It’s also horrific because there are so many people that our society has failed, that they’ve gathered underground and made their own little society. That’s not great. There just shouldn’t be that many people who need homes.

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What didn’t work

Unfortunately, this episode did have two major flaws. And the first one is a personal pet peeve of mine.

In the last episode of season one, certain things were established. Dolores said she was carefully rationing her weed. She said she didn’t have anything to eat since coming down to the tunnels. She still had her massage table. This episode rewrote a lot of that.

Frankly, I hate when stories do that. It may or not make a difference to the story. It just strikes me as poor planning and lazy writing. This show has proven it’s capable of doing better.

All things considered, I thought this was a great start to the season. I’m invested in the story, curious about the new characters, and worried about the well-being of everyone Dolores comes in contact with. And that’s all as it should be.

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3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing, you might want to check out my latest sci-fi horror story, Nova. It’ll be released episodically on my site, Paper Beats World, starting February 5th.

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