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Ghosts and women are drawn to each other, that’s a solid Wiki fact (source needed). Something about an other worldly love that transcends all boundaries sends shivers down her spine, literally because that dude’s cold dead. 

This is a tale we’ve seen over and over again in movies about widows and roguish ghost sea captains, in Star Trek: The Good One, in Baywatch (as previously discussed), in that Donald Trump classic and in, well, ‘Ghost’

Girls love them some incorporeal D. And this isn’t a Ray ‘Ghostbuster’ moment played for laughs – these stories are serious as a heart attack…and then the heart attack victim haunts/seduces a living woman.

Same is the case in this strange and wild doozy of a film, ‘The Carpenter’.

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All hail Wings Hauser, the harbinger of 80’s cheese!

The Plot:

Our Main, Alice, has the most polite nervous breakdown by boredly walking around her apartment before carefully and methodically cutting up one of her husband’s suits. He comes home and is mildly upset. Off to the funny farm with you,  you basket-case!

After an apparent hospitalization of weeks, she’s feeling better and her husband has bought them a new house in the country because making huge life decisions without consulting your spouse in the middle of a mental health crisis is the Flemish way to say “I love you”. Or “I wish for your inevitable downfall”. I can never remember which.

Good news for the husband, Alice becomes instantly enamored with the house and connected to it.  

Too bad the house is old and needs work, but not to worry! There are several gross and obnoxious young men who can fix it up on her husband’s tenured (?) professor’s salary. But from these young men, only one catches her eye. 

Enter Wings. Working only all hours of the night, Wings Hauser plays Ed, a carpenter- no, THE carpenter. Just a salt-of-the Earth, old-fashioned man who loves to get down and dirty with the house and she is into it. In the late nights, they wax poetics about how people are dumb and lazy now, and how great the house is. They form a friendship and maybe something deeper…

But can their love affair survive his sordid past, her lackluster marriage, the mysteriously missing crew members, and most importantly, the fact that he may have an incorporeal D?

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Thoughts:

This is actually refreshing. It has all the cheese and glamour of the 80’s, but with a spine of sentimentality running through the film. Surprisingly, this is a love story. A messy and strange one, sure, but a love story. It’s not going to blow your mind, but there’s enough to it that is an entertaining watch and an interesting spin. 

With such a bland title, I was surprised with the weight it did hold. I think having Wings as The Carpenter was a huge part of it. When you have your top bill as “the other” and not as Alice’s husband, it turns to focus around on its head. It’s a wonderful little “what if” trip.

The only thing that I would have changed is not show the asylum or have the breakdown bigger. In the MST3K classic, ‘The Screaming Skull’, this was wonderfully illustrated. The main character, Jenny, was emotionally distressed when moving into a new place, fragile but hopeful. We never saw Jenny in the asylum (this ages very poorly), we just saw the aftermath. I think this would have been better in The Carpenter, especially as a way for the characters to interact with each other. 

Plus maybe another kill in the movie…A nosy mailman or something…Spread them out. They weren’t paced super well.

But as a directorial debut…this was pretty darn good and fun. A little gem for an 80’s night. 

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Brainroll Juice:

Boy, oh boy, I will have to write a whole article one day about mental health in horror movies, huh? There’s a lot to cover. That’s my third dissertation, I guess. Or a whole other podcast (I do those by the way).

Honestly, I liked Alice a lot. She was not a push-over. She was strong in her beliefs and convictions, even regarding her health. Her husband kept trying to get her to take sleeping pills and she was like, “But I don’t need them. I sleep okay.” The only time when she didn’t sleep through the night is when Wings is frickin’ hammering and sawing at 3 in the morning. 

Stupid ghost carpenter. I have WORK IN THE MORNING!!!

When they bond, it’s actually charming. He seems to appreciate her in ways her husband doesn’t (husband seems just to dismiss her, but he’s also having an affair with a student, so he’s a busy guy). And when she disagrees with her husband and Wings, she’s no shrinking violet. She’s not Shelley Duvall in ‘The Shining’, tightly wound and clutching onto each cigarette for dear life. She’s clear about her boundaries, while also being vulnerable and, yes, susceptible. 

Lynne Adams did an amazing job at pulling this off. So, while the initial breakdown and asylum was rough campiness, she did a wonderful job at bringing life and gravity to the character. 

Bottom-line:

Fun 80’s romp with Wings Hauser into the problems of falling in love with a ghost who enjoys flipping houses at ungodly hours. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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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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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