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Behind the Monsters – “Chucky” is the third installment of Shudder’s horror documentary series, Behind the Monsters, that promises a guide to legendary horror icons. This episode features a real tiny titan, Chucky, the supernaturally-possessed doll.

What started as a nasty spin on 80s consumerism flourished over three decades into an unlikely progressive horror property that refuses to get back on the shelf.Shudder synopsis for Behind the Monsters – “Chucky”

Does this episode of Behind the Monsters give us the details on the mini-murderer? Let’s find out.

Behind the Monsters - "Chucky" series title card
Week after week these title cards absolutely kill it.

What Worked with Behind the Monsters – “Chucky”

There is a lot riding on an episode based on Chucky for me. I’ve been producing a weekly podcast about the franchise and Chucky is one of my absolute favorite slasher icons – so it takes a lot to surprise me. And while the revelations were few and far between and the emphasis on the original film Child’s Play and Bride of Chucky at the expense of the larger franchise, there was still a lot of fun to be had in this episode of Behind the Monsters.

The key with docuseries such as this is how you answer the question “who can you get?” In this case, the answer is pretty solid. You absolutely need to have Don Mancini and Brad Dourif, as they are particularly key as the faces of the franchise. Brad Dourif, like Chucky himself, is the first draw. More subtle, but perhaps more important for film fans, is Don Mancini. Mancini is a creative mind who has had unprecedented success and influence in a singular horror franchise, which the documentary rightly points out is extremely rare. Of the franchises that make up this first season, the Chucky series is unique in that regard.

However, the inclusion of actress Catherine Hicks, director Tom Holland, and producer David Kirshner is quite welcome and generates some interesting points of discussion. For superfans, there isn’t really anything new, but for a more casual audience that this documentary is produced for, there are fun bits. One example, Catherine Hicks’ eventual marriage to Kevin Yagher, the special effects technician who brought the Chucky doll to life. It’s an adorable story.

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The documentary leans pretty heavily on the original trilogy with an emphasis on its commentary on 80s commercialism, then dives for a time into the evolution of Chucky as an icon who develops a character. The episode does sort of gloss over the recent duology of Curse and Cult and just barely discusses the television show, which I felt was a missed opportunity. After all, how many of these slashers have had their own television series and actually been in them?

Behind the Monsters - "Chucky" Don Mancini and Chucky doll screencap
Chucky series creator Don Mancini has become a very public face for the franchise.

What Didn’t Work

In truth, my expectations of the series and the depth by which the respective franchises are approached have been tempered a bit, and by three episodes, I expect a certain level of superficiality to the whole approach. This isn’t really a bad thing, though. For what it is, it works.

With that being said, however, I found myself a bit frustrated by the limited scope of the episode. With the franchise as a whole having three distinct eras, an upcoming show, and an unaffiliated remake/reboot, I had hoped the exploration would have given the Curse/Cult era a little more attention than it was given. The limited scope is exacerbated by the even smaller runtime, shaving a whole four minutes from the “Candyman” episode’s total time. If these documentaries aren’t going to be deep cuts then they should at least be longer to encompass more of their respective franchises. Especially because these franchises have so many installments and there are plenty of developments that can be discussed further. The three periods of the Chucky movies are very, very distinct and in those distinctions, there is a story worth telling. Many of these series span 30 to 40 years, after all. There is a lot of history to cover and a lot of character development, especially with figures like Chucky.

I think the accessibility of the Chucky franchise’s key players is a huge benefit for the episode as they are always game to talk up the series. While I wish the episode was longer, it did a decent enough job tackling the appeal of Chucky as an icon in just over 30 minutes, which is no small feat. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Did you watch Behind the Monsters – “Chucky,” yet? Let us know what you think. Until then, catch new episodes on Wednesdays exclusively on Shudder and come to Haunted MTL for further coverage.

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David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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Movies n TV

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023), a Film Review

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is an award-winning sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story.

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The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is a sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this unrated and award-winning film stars Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, and Amani Summer. As of this review, interested viewers can enjoy this film from Shudder with additional availability through purchase or rent.

After a sequence of tragedies and loss, Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) seeks to cure death. Despite her genius earning her a private school education, few take this ambition seriously. Those who see it think of her only as an example of a girl separated from reality. But all that changes when she has a breakthrough. Unfortunately for her, the systemic issues that oppress her neighborhood can’t be solved as simply as curing death.

A woman looks at something out of frame, a switch in her hand that she looks ready to press.
Laya DeLeon Hayes as Vicaria

What I Like about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster and Recognition Earned

This film received nominations from four separate film festivals. It won Best Narrative Feature by the Calgary Underground Film Festival and Best Horror / Sci Fi from Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival. In addition, it received nominations for Best Narrative Feature from the Atlanta Film Festival and a nomination from the SXSW Film Festival.

The beautifully shot scenes earn respect, and the cast remains strong throughout. While Laya DeLeon Hayes executes the most demanding role, Reilly Brooke Stith (Aisha) and Amani Summer (Jada) elevate their material.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster dips its commentary into several hot topics. While I would have liked to see further exploration, it deals with scientific responsibilities, systemic issues facing Black Americans, and more. Needless to say, this film has ambition.

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While particular elements vary in execution, this remains a unique approach to the dehumanization of these racist and systemic issues while telling an engaging story in the process. While I wouldn’t consider this an arthouse film, it dips into that category in many ways.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes, Trigger Warnings, and Considerations

For a better viewing experience, don’t take the film with the utmost realism in mind. An example of what I mean is how easily and unnoticed bodies are moved and hidden. As a metaphor or motif, it works better to serve the overall message.

As mentioned, many systemic issues come to light within the story, with varying levels of depth. Some examples include racial profiling, police violence, and microaggressions that stretch the “micro” aspect of the word. I also want to clarify that the film focuses on Vicaria’s personal story, using these experiences when applicable to the plot.

Drug addiction and gang violence play prominent roles in the plot. As mentioned above, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster addresses many of the systemic issues that make a thriving drug industry as opposed to dehumanizing those participating in it.

The titular Monster evokes levels of realistic body horror. While it’s not particularly extensive, the rot remains present and vivid. Partly related, the film creates a surprisingly gory story.

A man looks out of the screen. The lamp and the couch in the background suggest he is in a house.
Chad L. Coleman as Donald

What I Dislike about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

Several plot points remain underdeveloped or underexplored. This choice might indicate sequel material, but I don’t think that’s the case here. For example, viewers hear about a “body snatcher,” but the narrative doesn’t build the mystery until the end. Perhaps this requires a slightly longer run time, but it also could be cut with some edits to the script.

Her Monster didn’t particularly evoke fear. The rot evokes disgust but not terror. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains more focused on the story than the horror.

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Final Thoughts

For those looking for horror rooted in real issues but not afraid to delve into the absurd, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains a strong choice. While it might not evoke the terror and haunting we horror fans hope for, the bittersweet film certainly provides many reasons to give this film a view.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Blood Flower (2022), a Film Review

Blood Flower (2022) is a Malaysian supernatural horror film directed by Dain Said. Originally titled Harum Malam.

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Blood Flower (2022) is a Malaysian supernatural horror film directed by Dain Said. Originally titled Harum Malam, the film stars Idan Aedan, Bront Palarae, and Remy Ishak. As of this review, the film is available on Shudder and AMC+ with additional availability for rent or purchase.

After a family tragedy, Iqbal (Idan Aedan) has trouble finding focus as an apprentice healer. His family remains in shambles, and Iqbal struggles to find a purpose in the wake of this change. As his father (Bront Palarae as Norman) finds temporary work helping a family friend, a terrible horror becomes unleashed. Now, Iqbal must overcome his internal turmoil or lose even more.

A young man stands before two older men. A giant flower in bloom to his left side. Underneath him reads "Harum Malam" written in red.
Blood Flower (Harum Malam) Original Cover

What I Like in Blood Flower

The horror evoked here has some elements of fabulism with a heavy emphasis on the supernatural component. In general, I like the established world and how this supernatural element connects to the characters’ development.

Throughout Blood Flower, the acting remains consistent and engaging. The relationship between Norman and Iqbal, which provides the heart of the film, remains a particularly well-executed point. Even when the writing falls short, the acting wins me over more often than not.

The film builds up its horror, which elevates the execution and overall effect. I won’t claim that the horror truly haunts the viewer, but it remains unsettling and, even uncomfortable, throughout.

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As for the design of the monster, it works. There are points that remain strong, forcing a rather uncomfortable visual or experience that provides an effective execution of Blood Flower’s vision. One especially effective choice is including stop motion in some of the scenes. This visual creates a somewhat jarring feel to the supernatural entity that still lingers in my mind.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

Blood Flower includes sexual assaults that remain clunkily included in the plot. When dealing with such material, especially when it remains essential to the story, the execution makes or breaks the quality. Unfortunately, the execution feels rushed and more for the shock of the reveal.

Possession-assisted suicide remains an element within the film. While I think the distance between such harm and the context of the film doesn’t rise above confusion, it deserves a mention in this section.

There are general decisions made for the sake of the plot. While this can fall into the dislike section, it’s within a range so as to not completely distract or undermine the viewing experience.

If any of these are deal breakers, then Blood Flower might be a skip.

A large flower with a giant column in the center
The Real Blood Flower, or amorphophallus titanum

What I Dislike in Blood Flower

Where this movie falls short is building up some of its elements to their conclusion by the end of the film. The previously mentioned sexual assaults make for a strong example, but another remains the human villain. As they are the reason for the monster, I am surprised by the general lack of attention and presence the character receives.

Iqbal unlocking his power feels underwhelming and lacks any real visuals or style. We have magic and special effects, but his power consists of holding out his hand. The issue lies in the execution, not the actor, as Idan Aedan does everything he can with the given command.

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Going into the previous points, a spiritual master helps Iqbal train to become a healer. This person isn’t the one who unlocks their power. I still wonder why so little development on this important point remains in the film.

Final Thoughts

Blood Flower, or Harum Malam, remains an interesting supernatural horror that drops its execution towards the end. It provides a unique viewing experience with equal parts ingenuity and creativity to provide an effective horror. But it remains a flawed work with some wasted potential. Still, it earns its runtime for those interested in Malaysian horror.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Night’s End (2022), a Film Review

Night’s End (2022) is a supernatural horror film directed by Jennifer Reeder and written by Brett Neveu, starring Geno Walker.

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Night’s End (2022) is a supernatural horror film directed by Jennifer Reeder and written by Brett Neveu. The cast of this film includes Geno Walker, Kate Arrington, Felonious Munk, Lawrence Grimm, and Michael Shannon. As of this review, this film remains accessible to Shudder and AMC+ subscribers.

Recently divorced and looking to start anew, Ken Barber (Geno Walker) passes the time by making YouTube videos. It soon becomes apparent that one of his videos catches something strange. The further he investigates this mystery, the more aggressive this phenomenon becomes. Despite making him an online sensation, it forces him to acquire help from unlikely sources.

A humanoid creature opens the door. An upside down head acts as the background as "Night's End" stands at the center
Night’s End Alternative Cover

What I Like about Night’s End

Night’s End provides the innovation and execution of a film on a tight budget and clear message. It brings out all the best qualities of a B film that understands what it wants to do. The setting remains a perfect example of this ingenuity, containing itself within Ken Barber’s apartment and using Zoom calls to add additional cast members.

Unrelated to the horror, I like the chemistry between Kate Arrington (as ex-wife Kelsey Dees) and Geno Walker. It’s not often we find an ex-wife depicted as a good person character, and when that does happen, it’s usually because he will win her over by the end of the story. This film doesn’t fall into these tropes. A similar point applies to the new husband, Isaac Dees (Michael Shannon).

There’s a psychological component to the horror, which improves the supernatural elements. While it does linger on Ken Barber’s ongoing battle with mental illness, Night’s End doesn’t exactly use this as an excuse to undermine what the viewer sees.

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While there are some execution issues I will discuss, Night’s End provides a tight script and quality performance from its cast. Geno Walker’s Ken Barber requires a believable and complex performance for success, and the actor rises to the challenge.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Triggers

The biggest disclaimer remains the character’s mental health struggles. While I believe the film refutes many of the dangerous mentally ill tropes, it still allows for some degree of gaslighting. I also think it hints at a few potential issues without exploring any with greater depth. I noted potential alcoholism, OCD, and agoraphobia. But none of these are given too much attention, for better or worse.

Some minor body horror moments might be difficult for squeamish horror fans. However, it hardly makes it a proper introduction to the niche.

If these are deal breakers, perhaps Night’s End won’t satisfy your viewing needs.

A man looks behind him as he sits on a desk. Something looks to be near him
Geno Walker as Ken Barbe

What I Dislike about Night’s End

Night’s End goes so far in strategically applying its budget but provides a few scenes with bad CGI. If it had more style, I’d give it a B movie pass. But it’s just not substantive enough for that pass. While some CGI and special effects remain better than others, the film leans on lower quality.

Toward the end of the film, the characters allow the villain to do some random and weird things with little pushback. Only one person consistently pushes back against the growingly strange requests and receives so little screen time. Some of these people are supposedly experts in supernatural affairs or amateur enthusiasts. Regardless, anyone should have issues with some of these requests toward the conclusion.

While the film remains scary at points, it doesn’t terrify its audience. While the final moments pay off the build-up, we don’t particularly linger on the ramifications.

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Final Thoughts

Night’s End provides a charming but not horrifying supernatural thrill. Ken makes a unique protagonist, struggling to overcome his issues as others seek to exploit him and bring about chaos. It remains an uncommon viewing experience but lacks the weight of a haunting horror.
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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