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In a story about family and the aging process, Relic hits in places where most don’t. People always die in horror movies but most aren’t designed to purposely remind us of our mortality, of the indignity that it brings, and the alienation that comes with it. Relic is a unique take on the traditional haunted house story in which the past itself is the ghost. People, buildings, items of possession, they all have pasts. A time when they were fresh and new and all we can do is remember them in their prime as they inch closer towards decay.

Ghosts are usually metaphors for the past but Relic is more straightforward. There isn’t actually any ghost in the film, although it vaguely implies that there might be one for the sake of keeping the supernatural element alive but Relic is about age. Age and death, the terror it brings, and the heartbreaking acceptance of it. It really isn’t even that subtle. The damn title tells you what you need to know, “Relic,” for elders are often considered to be relics of the past. Don’t go in expecting to see some grand Lovecraftian monster at the end because there isn’t one and you’ll be greatly disappointed.

(Spoilers below)

Edna (Robyn Nevin) is a widowed elderly woman who has been having memory problems. Loneliness is her constant companion and dementia is coming in close behind. She leaves post-it notes everywhere reminding her of common everyday things like “turn off the facet,” “lock the door,” and “take pills.” One day she goes missing. The opening scene of the film leading up to her disappearance is probably my favorite part. Silently built around tension and creepy as hell, it’s a strong start to open the mystery.

Edna’s scattered post-it notes reveal that she believes something has been following her, making her think and forget things.

After she goes missing, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote), arrive to help look for her and they have the typical generational conflicts going on between them, especially in regards to Edna. They figured she’s wandered off and realize that when they eventually find her, she can’t be left alone anymore. Sam doesn’t know why Kay can’t just move Edna in with her and take care of her full time but as for Kay, the inconvenience is too much, not to mention the responsibility. “That’s how it works isn’t it, she changes your nappies and then you change hers,” Sam says.

Meanwhile, there are no clues to Edna’s disappearance except for a strange mold that’s spread across the house and strange noises that come from behind the walls. But then out of the blue, Edna magically returns. She just reappears without any explanation, covered in bruises and refusing to say where she went.

Tensions rise once Edna returns. Sam and Kay aren’t equipped to handle her increasing confusion and agitation. They’re all waiting for things to get back to normal; Sam wants back her sweet n’ salty grandmother who taught her the piano, Kay just wants to feel at ease again so that she can get back to work, and Edna wants to go back to her daily routine. However, there is no going back to normal and as she gets worse, there grows a layer of dread over them all like rot on a wet ceiling. It keeps growing and growing until it’s spread everywhere. The wetness causing black mildew to drip down to the floor and stain the carpet; same as the mysterious mold spreading through the house.

The “ghost” of the house, the rot it’s inflicting, is an extension of the death approaching upon Edna, affecting her body and mind. While looking through her grandmother’s closet, Sam finds another part of the house blocked off with clutter where the mold has spread the worst. It leads into a never-ending series of passages and doorways, the walls donning Edna’s sticky note reminders; “my mother’s eyes are green,” “my name is Edna.” The further she goes, the smaller the hallways become, and soon the final stages of Edna’s “possession” begins.

Verdict

Directed by Natalie Erika James and written by James and Christian White, Relic is incredibly slow but still feels like it’s runtime. It’s 89 minutes, the perfect length in a world where almost every critical darling is 2h 45 min long. It moves along very quietly, building up to a House of Leaves type climax that suddenly dials down into a heartbreaking moment between mothers and daughters, the finale image of the film is emotive. A finale that sums up the painful and beautiful human experience.

By the way, what’s with movies this year including houses with never-ending mazes behind the walls? First You Should Have Left and now this? What’s going on? Although the maze in this house is much better than the one in David Koepp’s film.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Photos property of IFC Midnight and Screen Austrailia

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day 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, 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 Valentine’s Day Special, 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, we here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo. As is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the live broadcasting of The Last Drive-In Valentine’s Day Special. 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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