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Welcome back to Notes from the Last Drive-In, where we discuss the 8th episode of season 3, featuring the cult “classic” films Sledgehammer and Things. I will be very critical of the movie selection for this episode – the films presented were amateurish, bad, and hard to watch movies. With that being said, though, they are also movies I feel I can treasure, and there is something genuinely valuable and charming about them, despite their flaws, like teeny, tiny diamond encrusted in a couple of inches of muck and dirt; unpleasant to dig through but ultimately rewarding. That’s kind of what you get with a VHS night, though.

Ultimately, it was a night of cinematic lows, but a wonderful night because of those lows. Thanks, Shudder.

Sledgehammer (1983)

Opening: The VHS Revolution and Joe Bob’s reason for VHS Night.

Bad slasher films far exceed the number of good slasher films, but Sledgehammer may be the reigning champ of awful in the genre. Written and directed by David A. Prior and shot entirely on VHS, Sledgehammer is, according to Joe Bob, said to be the first horror film produced entirely on VHS. Some argue it was 1982’s Boardinghouse, but our host suggests that because the taped film was transferred to actual film, the honor is dubious. The film stars Ted Prior, Linda McGill, John Eastman, and Jeanine Scheer, though most of the cast had minimal careers at best. Ted Prior is best known for the direct-to-VHS Deadly Prey (1988), a Rambo-knockoff, and bit-part in Surf Nazis Must Die (1987).

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The film follows a group of friends who decided to spend their time partying in a house that was the site of a murder mystery a decade earlier. Before long, they participate in a prank séance that summons the vengeful ghost of a boy locked in a closet by his abusive mother shortly before her murder. Naturally, the bodies start piling up. However, the plot is a mess, and the story throws bizarre, inconsistent elements on screen. The killer has strange, arbitrary rules that are jettisoned in an instant. There is a suggestion of a Satanic ritual that serves no real purpose to confuse the overall story. Even worse, the film suggests the child who was locked in the closet went missing, yet his remains are found in that same closet ten years later during the course of the film.

The whole film has a pseudo-improvised quality to it. A story doesn’t so much unfold rather than exists as a series of moments, some of which suggest a possible narrative while others feel like ideas had on the day of the shoot, such as the infamous “food fight” sequence, which may be the most horrifying moment in the movie. Furthermore, the performances are amateurish and exaggerated. Every line read has an odd cadence that makes even simple lines sound unnatural. The killer, the largest draw of a slasher film, is a lazy trope, a masked figure with a common tool used to kill. The plastic mask makes no sense, either; perhaps if it was something the kid wore before he died, there might be a reason to include it, but it is an arbitrary and laughable choice in the film as it exists.

Sledgehammer VHS box art
Peter Gabriel was nowhere to be found.

I could continue to criticize the film easily. However, something about it ended up being quite fun. It isn’t a good movie by any reasonable metric – yet I enjoyed my time with it. That begs the question of how we define a “good” movie, though, doesn’t it? Joe Bob’s commentary throughout the night articulates that idea to a degree. The film is not technically good, but it exists. It is the effort of someone genuinely having fun and making something, and we are partaking in that joy. It may not be in the way intended by Prior, but here we are, over 30 years after Prior’s friends made it, watching it as a community and pulling something from it. It’s not unlike The Room or that Monkey Christ incident where we see the earnestness of the intent and do find a kind of enjoyment in bearing witness to it, though the quality itself may be lacking or laughable.

Perhaps the highlight of the host segments was discussing the VHS form and aesthetic, particularly why there is something so comforting about them. Essentially, Joe Bob reasons that there is something about the “dot pattern that lulls you into a comfort zone” of familiarity. When we watch such VHS horror, we find ourselves reading them as home movies in a way, and can project people we know into the film. This is definitely part of that larger communal reading.

Among some of the other fun bits during the host segments, we learn a fun assemblage of the history of the film – in one of the more impressive feats, Prior shot it in a two-bedroom house. Yet, it ends up feeling much larger in the final film, mostly due to a baffling number of door opening sequences, I suspect. There was also a fun history of aerobic-themed horror films, which frankly sounds like a nice double-feature for season four. Of course, there was also some of that classic poking of fun at academia and horror, which I have grown immune to – it is always a fun time when Joe Bob mentions semiotics.

It is hard to rate a movie like Sledgehammer where the end product is bad, but you enjoy it. Joe Bob gave it two-and-a-half stars, even noting he was being “generous.” His rating, I feel, reflects that dichotomy of recognizing the movie is bad but still finding enjoyment from it. I guess if I had to force a food metaphor if most of the movies on The Last Drive-In are junk food, Sledgehammer is like that gas station taquito you can’t help eating once a month. So while I can only give this movie a one out of five Cthulhus when it comes to the quality of the film, it is certainly worth experiencing at least once.

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1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

Best Line: “BLARGHARBLE.” – Chuck’s “Bill Murray” Impression

Still from the movie Sledgehammer depicting a house
This exterior shot takes about about 10% of the film’s total run-time.

Things (1989)

Opening: We’re about to go on a trip.

Muddy and dimly lit. Tinny and grating dubbing. Incoherent and minimal story. This is the infamous “classic” Things. But, believe it or not, The Last Drive-In can dig deeper and find an even worse movie for the back half of the night. This Canadian independent horror film, already a sign of danger, was shot direct-to-video – specifically on Super 8. Directed by Andrew Jordan, who co-wrote it with Barry J. Gillis, the movie stars Barry J. Gillis, porn star Amber Lynn, Bruce Roach, and Doug Bunston.

The film follows two friends who visit a friend’s cabin, only to uncover a horrific experiment… I think? The plot of Things is tough to discern for many reasons. Perhaps the best description of the intended plot I could find is on IMDB:

An impotent husband, driven by a fanatical desire to father children, forces his wife to undergo a dangerous experiment. The result: the birth of a multitude of monstrous THINGS.

There is a story to be found, but the film takes every opportunity it can not progress the story. First, long sequences of poorly dubbed conversations, cheese sandwich making, and wandering around darkened rooms with a flashlight. These long stretches are periodically punctuated by Halloween prop ants or some ham-fisted gore effect. Then, of course, there are the Amber Lynn sequences that have no plot relevance – where she plays a news reporter sitting in front of an A/V shelf, reading cue cards that are obviously off to the side of the camera.

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The movie has so many problems that talking about them would just come off as bullying someone who cannot fight back. Such as the case with one character vanishing for well over a half-hour of the runtime because Bruce Roach couldn’t be on set. With that being said, I do feel I need to point out the absolutely hilarious dub. Much like that MST3K classic, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Things is entirely dubbed over. Unlike Manos, which the crew was unable to record audio when it was shot due to the lack of sound equipment, Things had to be dubbed over because of too much talking on set. This is important as to why Things, as bad as it is, is ultimately compelling. With that being said, the dub on Things is awful in the most hilarious way imaginable – line reads are frequently slurred, rushed through, or completely inappropriate to what is going on. Even better is when a line is spouted, which was obviously added in post, such as Don’s hilarious bitching about the weight of his friend or maple syrup references.

Things VHS box art
I’d wear this as a tshirt.

Joe Bob’s host segments featured a special appearance by a friend of the Drive-In and AEW superstar Chris Jericho, likely future recipient of his own dedicated land-line for Canadian horror. He’ll be the next Felissa Rose on the show, only consulting on canucks rather than mangled dicks. Jericho’s interview segment was by far the most naturalistic of the season, and his utter contempt for Things was quite funny. However, his attempts to disown the film as a product of Canada are not likely to pan out. Outside of this, most of the segments would begin with a series of questions attempting to parse the film’s meaning and what was seen on screen. Unfortunately, few of the answers were found. Some of the factoids worked their way in from the confused delirium: how exactly Amber Lynn became involved (they asked her) and who the nude woman was (a sex worker).

Joe Bob’s impassioned speech at the end of the episode is key to the night. Both films are rightly terrible, with Joe Bob giving Things a one-star rating. Things seems to be the only movie on the show so far that has earned that dubious honor. Yet, as Joe Bob says in the conclusion of the night, the evening was a celebration of the little guy. Things is a movie that exists, a tangible thing made by someone outside the traditional pipeline of film. It is far from competent, but at least someone poured their passion into it. It is easy to judge a film as bad, but it is quite another to actually make an independent film, which should be celebrated when it happens. As for my own rating from quality alone, I would only give the film one of five Cthulhus. However, much like Sledgehammer, I am glad to have seen it. 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Best Line: “Susan! They ate her down to the skull!” – Don, upon seeing the Things have eaten Susan down to the skull.

A still from the movie Things, depicting one of the things.
It was a bold choice to shoot the scene inside while the location was being tented for ants.

Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals

Of course we are going to include the standard Drive-In Totals, as shared by the Shudder Twitter account.

And as for our totals we have:

  • 2 mailbag entries
  • “$350,000” Budget
  • The 8th dead dog of the season
  • 4 breaks per movie
  • 37 David Prior movies
  • Gratuitous Canadian references
  • “Creepy Neighbor” caps
  • Tracking Fu
  • Existential Questioning about what we are seeing Fu
  • Yuki sighting
  • Spontaneously disappearing actor
  • Silver Bolo Award: SOV Horror
  • Darcy Cosplay: Sledgehammeress and Blockbuster Darcy
A still from The Last Drive-In with Darcy wielding a knife
OH GOD SHE HAS A KNIFE!

Episode Score

The movie selection tonight was terrible, yet the episode is larger than the sum of its parts. I hope that VHS night becomes a thing every season as there are so many VHS films out there that could easily find their way into the show. I think a celebration of the earnest but incompetent is something we could benefit from as horror fans from time to time. With any luck, nights like this might inspire someone to make their damn movie. The average mutant carries an entire film studio on their phone these days. Perhaps a few years down the line, they will be talking about the Mutant Renaissance?

Anyway, one star movies but a five star night. I give this episode of The Last Drive-In five out of five Cthulhus.

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

And with that, I am out. Join us on Twitter next week as we live-tweet the penultimate episode of the season. It’s gonna be a good time.

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The Last Drive-In Season 5 Premiering April 21st Exclusively on Shudder!

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They say good things come to those who wait, and boy have we been patient. It has been close to a year since our eyes have indulged a full season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs’, in fact, the season 4 finale premiered on Shudder July 1st, 2022. Since then, we have been able to satisfy our appetites with festive holiday specials sprinkled throughout the past year. Specials such as ‘Joe Bob’s Halloween Hangout’ guest starring horror’s favorite Mistress of the Dark, Elvira (played by the legendary Cassandra Peterson) and ‘Joe Bob’s Ghoultide Get-Together’. Last month was a treat in itself, as we were able to witness Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) marry one lucky couple for the first time on the show with Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine‘ special.

picture of Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl sitting in lawn chairs on the set of The Last Drive-In. Behind them we see a white camping trailer with red string lights along the top and a bright red and blue neon sign that reads "The Last Drive-In' in the background. Joe Bob is seen wearing an orange collard button down long sleeve shirt and black jeans with snake skin cowboy boots. His hands rest on his thighs as he invites you in with a warm smile. Darcy is seen sitting to Joe Bob's left wearing a mail girl costume with fishnet stockings, her legs neatly crossed over one another. Surrounding the two hosts is an ice box with empty beer bottles and cans resting on the top and an old tube screen television in the front of them.
host Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl on the set of ‘The Last Drive-In‘.

While the current changes in staff at Shudder have left fans questioning whether we will receive a new season of the popular series, I can happily say mutant family, we need not worry. In fact, to our wonderous surprise, Joe Bob Briggs has officially announced via Twitter, season 5 of ‘The Last Drive-In will be premiering April 21st, exclusively on Shudder! One thing that is noteworthy, is unlike previous seasons, it has been reported by 1428Elm that season 5 will be broken up into two parts of five double-feature blood-curdling episodes. Though we have not been provided the official release schedule for the second block of season 5, here is a sneak peek of what we can expect for the first half of the season:

April 21: Season 5 Launch Party!
April 28: Walpurgisnacht Part 2!
May 5: Cinco de Fucking Mayo!
May 12: Mama’s Day!
May 19: Dysfunctional Family Jubilee!

Unfortunately, we do not have an official list of the brand-new double feature films for the first half of season 5 but, with amusing episode titles such as these, one can only imagine what grindhouse-classics will be joining ‘The Last Drive-In’s’ already eclectic list of sloshy goodness. For those impatient mutants eagerly waiting for more hilarious Joe Bob rant-filled commentaries, or those newcomers who’ve yet to experience the magic that is ‘The Last Drive-In‘, all previous four seasons, including past holiday specials are currently available to stream now on Shudder.

If you are just as big of fans of ‘The Last Drive-In‘ as we here at HauntedMTL are, please be sure to follow us on Twitter @HauntedMTL and join us April 21st as we tweet along with Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl for the season premier. As is tradition, we will be hosting live watch parties every Friday with each new episode, including fresh holiday specials. The road to season 5 is upon us…let the countdown begin!

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Shudder March 2023 Release Schedule

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Mutant family, please gather ’round as February kicks rocks and we shove our way into March. With the new month comes the shifting from winter to spring as death beautifully resurrects back to life, drunken patrons swarm our local bars like rabid locusts for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and of course new exclusives and returning favorites on Shudder to satisfy the horror fiend in us all. To quote the prestigious Samuel L. Jackson, “hold onto your butts” and let’s dive right into Shudder’s March 2023 release schedule.

Shudder Exclusives

While it is true that the release schedule for the start of 2023 on Shudder has been minor and slightly mixed, with films such as the much talked about experimental low-budget indie ‘Skinamarink‘, the surprisingly entertaining horror comedy ‘Sorry About the Demon‘, and writer/director Neil Marshall’s return to the genre with ‘The Lair‘. We also graciously received the wildly fun ‘The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine” special, with season 5 currently in production and premiering later this year; though it can’t come soon enough. As we like to do here at HauntedMTL, let’s kick off March with Shudder’s newest exclusives currently streaming now and in the coming weeks.

Spoonful of Sugar – Now Streaming

official film poster for Spoonful of Sugar. We see a vial filled with a red liquid, possibly blood being dripped into a young woman's open mouth. Her tongue slightly extended out ready to receive the scarlet drop. We see an individual in a space helmet standing in the background behind her, slightly blurred. The title Spoonful of Sugar reads in red capital letters.
Spoonful of Sugar‘ official poster.

Starting off this list we begin with director Mercedes Bryce Morgan and writer Leah Saint Marie’s latest film Spoonful of Sugar, now currently streaming.

Millicent (Morgan Saylor), a disturbed college student working on her thesis about children with severe allergies, is hired to babysit little Johnny (Danilo Crovetti), a sickly, mute child who suffers from every allergy under the sun. His mother Rebecca (Kate Foster) is an accomplished author currently focused on her newest book release, while his father Jacob (Myko Olivier) spends his days in the backyard working on frivolous carpentry projects. After experiencing a bizarre sexual awakening while using LSD as an alternative treatment for Johnny, she soon uncovers the family’s dark secrets as things begin to become unhinged.

Leave – Premiering Friday 3/17

official film poster for Leave. We see a hooded individual holding a silver inverted cross necklace engulfed in bright orange and yellow flames. The individual holding the flaming cross has yellows hands and long rotted finger nails. one eye peers from thick-long black hair. The title Leave is smeared along the bottom in bright blood.
Leave‘ official poster.

After having been abandoned as an infant at a cemetery wrapped in a cloth with satanic symbols, Hunter White (Alicia von Rittberg) grows obsessed with figuring out who her biological parents are and why they seemingly abandoned her. However, as she gets closer to the answers she so desperately seeks, a malevolent spirit is warning her to leave.

Leave‘ premiers exclusively on Shudder Friday 03/17 and is directed by Alex Herron and written by Thomas Moldestad, starring Alicia von Rittberg, Herman Tømmeraas, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, and Stig R. Amda

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The Unheard – Premiering Friday 03/31

Official poster for The Unheard. We see the main Character Chloe staring out of a window, the image has a static blur. as we only see Chloes pale face and bright blue eyes. The title The Unheard is seen below written in White bold font.
The Unheard‘ official poster.

The Unheard‘ follows the story of deaf 20-year-old Chloe Grayden (Lachlan Watson) after she undergoes an experimental treatment to restore her hearing. While recovering at her family’s beach home after the successful procedure, Chloe begins to fear she is not alone as she begins to experience auditory hallucinations related to the mysterious disappearance of her mother.

The Unheard’ is directed by Shudder alumni Jeffrey A. Brown (The Beach House) and written by brothers/screenwriting partners Shawn Rasmussen and Michael Rasmussen (Crawl), co-starring Michele Hicks and Nick Sandow. ‘The Unheard‘ premiers exclusively on Shudder Friday 03/31.

Returning Classic and Fan Favorites

Now that we’ve removed the veil for the new exclusive titles dropping this month, I think it’s time we reveal the returning classics jump starting our transition into spring for 2023. Allow me to highlight some of my favorite films returning to Shudder for March including ‘Gretel and Hansel‘ and ‘The Company of Wolves‘; grim re-telling’s of popular children’s fairy tales. We also cannot forget John Carpenter’s haunted coastal horror ‘The Fog‘; no, not the remake…thankfully.

Gretel and Hansel – Now Streaming

image of Alice Krige as The Witch in Gretel and Hansel. She stares in the camera with a sinister smirk. Her head covered and body drapped in black clothing. Her right eye a dark grey/brown color with her left pale white...blind.
Alice Krige as “The Witch” in ‘Gretel and Hansel’.

Directed by Osgood Perkins, ‘Gretel and Hansel’ is a terrifyingly dark and unique vision to one of history’s most famous childhood fairy tales. After being thrown out of their mother’s home, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) leads her younger brother, Hansel (Samuel Leakey), through the woods in search of food and work. The children soon discover a quaint cottage where a fragile old woman Holda (Alice Krige) offers fresh food and bed. The children accept all Holda has to offer, with little thought as to what may be asked of them in return.

Though it has been met with mixed reviews, ‘Gretel and Hansel‘ offers astounding performances by veteran actress Alice Krige as the films iconic Witch of the woods and Sophia Lillis as lead Gretel. Director Osgood Perkins does well to draw his viewer in with a beautifully haunting score and unnerving cinematography, making this one grim re-telling worth checking out at least once. ‘Gretel and Hansel‘ is available to stream now.

The Company of Wolves – Now Streaming

Image of a werewolf transformation. A mans head is tilted back as the snout of a wolf begins protruding from his mouth. The fur on the snout white as the large fangles gnarl and growl. The mans eyes are a bright yellow and his hair long flowing brown locks. A terrifying image as his mouth extends in an inhumanely manner.
My, what big teeth you have…

Continuing our list of returning classics, we have yet another bold re-telling of a beloved children’s fairy tale, 1984’s ‘The Company of Wolves‘. While the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood‘ has been retold through various forms of media, including numerous films, ‘The Company of Wolves‘ is a beloved horror interpretation with adult themes and memorable practical effects including one of the genres best werewolf transformations.

A wise grandmother (Angela Lansbury) tells her granddaughter Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) a disturbing tale of innocent maidens falling in love with handsome strangers … and of their sudden mysterious disappearances when the moon is full and accompanied by the strange sound of a beast in the woods.

‘The Company of Wolves’ is co-written and directed by Neil Jordan and stars Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Micha Bergese, and David Warner, streaming now.

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John Carpenter’s The Fog – Streaming 03/31

Haunting ghoslty image of 8 figures standing in a cloud of mist and fog. They are outlined in eeire blue and white lighting. All we see is the outline of these ghostly figures and their glowing red eyes.
When the fog comes, run!

Writer, director, musician, and horror master John Carpenter is a legend in the genre having provided countless classics such as ‘The Thing‘, a terrifyingly gruesome remake of ‘The Thing from Another World‘. Or his sci-fi action/horror ‘They Live’ where he deals with societal control through corporations and government. And of course, my personal favorite, the film that jumpstarted his career and created one of horror’s most iconic slashers…’Halloween‘.

1980’s ‘The Fog‘ is a terrifying shoreside tale of vengeful spirits haunting the fictional coastal town of Antonio Bay, OR. as they begin preparations to celebrate its centenary. Following exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in the town’s waters, a thick unearthly fog harboring the souls of those who perished rolls in and with them, the dark secrets of Antonio Bay’s past.

John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ stars scream queen and recent Academy Award winner Jamie Lee Curtis, genre alums Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, and Nancy Kyes, and was co-written by the late Debra Hill. ‘The Fog‘ will be available to stream on Shudder 03/31.

Full Shudder March 2023 Film Releases

For a full comprehensive list of all the titles being added to Shudder for the month of January, please refer to the graphic below. Please be on the lookout for our review of ‘The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine’ to drop later this week here on HauntedMTL and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more Shudder news and spooky reviews!

Image list of the films releasing on Shudder for the month of March.
Shudder March 2023 film release schedule.

3/1:

Gretel and Hansel

3/2:

Spoonful of Sugar

3/9:

The Company of Wolves

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3/13:

Holidays

3/17:

Leave

3/20:

Jack be Nimble

3/27:

Ultra Pulpe

After Blue

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3/31:

The Unheard

The Fog

The Blair Witch Project & Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

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Movies n TV

She Wolf, Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So this isn’t a review but more just some thoughts…

I have to admit that I actually like the She Wolf music video by Shakira.

Maybe partly because my Zumba group back in the day used to dance to it with all of us cautioned to not to look up the music video for fear it would be too risque or something… (The Zumba dance to this was one of my favorites, and I loved our group of mostly 60+ year old retirees for all that some of them did act surprised at these things, whether or not they actually were.) Or maybe partly because it reminds me of Madonna’s Express Yourself, or by extension the famous dance scene in Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang.

It’s a guilty pleasure.

The ways these things evolve and stay the same over time fascinates me, especially how the messaging and movement change, and yet stay the same.

Shakira She Wolf
Madonna Express Yourself
Metropolis dance scene

Anyway, I created this artwork based upon the She Wolf video and song, incorporating a Hazelle puppet head atop a modern Barbie doll body. I don’t recall what happened to Barbie’s actual head though I’m pretty sure I needed it for another project. (Technically I needed the body for another project too, and this was just a stopover.) Years ago this piece found itself part of the Women’s Caucus for Art website as one of the chosen artworks for the year. I was going to try to write something to go with it for Haunted MTL but instead I thought I’d share it as a lead up to my revisitation of my werewolf story from St. Patrick’s Day last year.

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She Wolf digital art by Jennifer Weigel
She Wolf digital art by Jennifer Weigel

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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