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Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! Sorry I’m late to the game, but I had five mother-things to call today and you know how much they like to talk.

But thank you to all the womb providers out there that gave humanity a gooey sac to bump around in until we triumphantly punch, kicked and bit our way out. Like in Twilight – that’s how it ends, right? No spoilers, people.

So, when my internet pooped out on me, I went to my lovely collection of my dvds (I’m a dvd prepper for these situations; you can’t trust Uncle Sam to give you high speed internet at all times) and lo and behold, found a Mother’s Day movie in my “cheap schlock” pile.

Hence, I present: Mother’s Day Massacre.

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The Plot:

Your guess is as good as mine.

Jim is on the cusp of manhood, but is constantly emotionally abused by his over-bearing, hyper-macho Texan stereotype of a father. Never knowing his real mother, he does some research and finds clues to where she may be at.

Together with his friends, they find a ghost town and decide to get up to teenage shenanigans, only to find they aren’t alone. Thus begins the rampage and unraveling of so many secrets that were better off buried…

The informed and rational one…

Thoughts:

Yes, I know. Yep. Uh-huh. Looks bad. Real bad.

And I’m not saying that it isn’t…but…I’m saying that they knew the tone walking into it and kept it consistent. They knew it was a short (almost 80 minutes), low-budget redneck-y slaughter-fest and kept it on the same level throughout (although Jim was blankly devoid of any Texan culture or flavor), down to the rockabilly jams and gopher-killing guns.

So, what I’m saying is, don’t judge it too quickly or harshly.

The Good:

The casting was actually really well done. The “kids” had genuine chemistry together that made it feel like they actually liked each other instead of being actors saying lines. Most of the actors have had a lot of acting under their belts and it shows. They knew to chew that scenery because that’s the type of movie this is. This is aragoto style of horror – loud, exaggerated, and rough around the edges. It’s in your face and they (especially Mel Gorham, Joe Coots and Greg Travis) executed this to a ‘T’. There was a good amount of energy to the whole movie and I think a lot of that came from the actors themselves.

Also, that flippin’ kid – Trevor Heins. That kid playing the typically old grizzled gas station attendant who spouts exposition was a cute and funny twist to the trope. As cheesy as it was, I enjoyed it incredibly.

There was also a great scene that came after the initial incident that is rarely seen in movies – the aftermath of surviving something horrific. We see how the remaining characters interact with each other after watching their friends die and how that changes them. Say what you will about the crassness of some of the scenes, but I thought this was a seldom explored little gem of a moment in storytelling and acting. Often at the end of every movie I watch, I rate how flipped they are for the rest of their lives if they survive, and this one actually answers that. It was a clever moment of writing and expression.

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Good practical effects. They were scarce and probably cheap, but it was refreshing to see them…The CGI at the end…not so much.  

And it had an ending I didn’t expect. It wasn’t a great ending, but it was a weird and wild one. Definitely a different turn (but was set up in a previous scene).

The Bad:

It would have been nice to see Jim as also a Texan, but a nice one? I mean, he lives with his dad in Texas, too, right? He can still be a quiet, calm, and sensitive heterosexual Texan male – I mean, there’s always Austin. But that bugged me a bit…Maybe that was something I didn’t hear or get.

The story was a bit jumbled as stated in the plot category. I think with some more story-boarding, it could have been smoother, but they may have been working with limited time or shoots that prevented more time being put into it. I know, it’s schlock, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better schlock.

The biggest issue I guess I have is that the story had nothing to do with motherhood, really. It was all about dude-junk power, machismo, and pissing contests. Literally. There was peeing on people and things to establish a form of dominance more than once.

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The main villains were males, including the killers (I consider them sub-villains), that sexually abused women. The whole movie is extremely dude-junk-centered. In fact, there is a scene in which one of the killers enters the home of his (male) victims with a raging and enormous…and the other….well, here’s a representation:

And that’s fine, but I think it would have been better as Father’s Day Massacre, especially as Jim’s father plays a huge role in this life and the consequences of this movie. So, if you’re looking for a womanhood-type thing, I would pass this up and watch Aliens, Silent Hill, or, if you want schlock, Jaws 3.

The ending with the police is super-fast, confusing, and weird. I didn’t hate it, but I thought that it could have been edited better (and please get better line reads from that cop, even if it takes all night of slapping him in the face with fish oil).

CGI gun shots…bad.

Brain Roll Juice:

For some reason, our killers are “hillbillies”. I forgot the actual wording of grizzled exposition kid, but that’s the gist. And we all know shorthand for hillbillies in horror movies…

Developmentally and intellectually disabled people.

As great as the actors are, it’s still at the expense of the DD population. It’s a trope, yeah, sure. But it’s one that gets under my skin. This movie is rife with sexual assaults, which is part of the story and movie, but putting someone with DD in the mix when people with DD are seven times higher to be assaulted just…makes it a little less fun.

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As Nancy Thaler, a deputy secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services, has stated,

“They are people who often cannot speak or their speech is not well-developed. They are generally taught from childhood up to be compliant, to obey, to go along with people. Because of the intellectual disability, people tend not to believe them, to think that they are not credible or that what they saying, they are making up or imagining.”

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been one of the most marginalized groups throughout history, experiencing forced sterilizations via legal action; denial of medical treatment; involuntary medical experimentation; mercy killings; physical and sexual abuses; neglect and homicides. In fact, one study showed that when it came to being murdered, the majority died as a result of neglect. This category included death by medical neglect and starvation. Can you imagine being cared about so little that you die from it?

Screw axes and chainsaws; slowly dying after a life of abuse, while not being able to speak or be believed, because society doesn’t care about you – that’s the real horror movie.

…Also, Latinas are not typically crazy, over-sexed, pot-growing, abusive brujas. Just throwing that out there (again, though, fun and campy performance by Mel Gorham).

A joy to watch

Bottom-line:

Rockabilly b-slasher with a Texan drawl. Goofy and gory enough for a movie night or two, but nothing to really knock off them socks or rocks. 2.7 out of 5 stars (2.7 / 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, Kelly

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Launched in October of 2023, Suburban Screams is the latest project by acclaimed horror master John Carpenter. It’s a true crime/unsolved mystery series covering events that have terrified people living in, you guessed it, the suburbs.

The story

Our first episode, titled Kelly, is the story of two roommates named Dan and Joey. The actual Dan and Joey tell the story from their own perspective, interspersed with dramatic reenactments. This did feel very much like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

One night when Dan and Joey have their girlfriends over, they decide to play with an Ouija board. Since they don’t have one, Dan makes one on a pizza box, complete with a planchette. This is, of course, when things go terribly wrong.

Still from Suburban Screams, Kelly.

Honestly, I have never heard anyone say, “I had a great time with that Ouija board, I’m really glad we did that.”

The couples make contact with a spirit named Kelly. This is very upsetting to Dan’s girlfriend May, as she had a cousin named Kelly who went missing and is presumed dead.

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Dan then finds himself haunted by Kelly. He throws up water, finds his kitchen chairs stacked on the table, and is followed around by a haunting song. Dan feels like he won’t find peace until he helps Kelly find peace.

What worked

There was a lot to enjoy in this first episode. Specifically, I loved the horror visuals. Dan’s vision was very creepy, as an example. And I loved the shots of the body floating down the river. These images were eerie and upsetting.

The storytelling from Dan and Joey was also well done. While I have my doubts about the validity of this story, these two men believe wholeheartedly in what they’re saying. I certainly believe that they experienced something disturbing. Either that or they are some fantastic actors.

What didn’t work

That being said, some things rubbed me the wrong way in this episode.

I’d like to start with the herbs Joey burned during the Ouija session. It looked like sage, or maybe sweetgrass.

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As some of you might know, I am a practicing witch. So I do feel the need to point out that if you want to open a door and invite spirits in, you probably don’t want to be burning sage or sweetgrass as those are going to negate any spiritual activity. This was for sure the action of someone who does not know what the hell they are doing. It just irritated me.

Also, maybe don’t throw open a door indiscriminately to the spirit world. Just saying.

I also didn’t love the acting by Ben Walton-Jones, who played Dan. While it wasn’t a terrible job, the character felt overacted. I don’t know how he had room for that pizza, since he was chewing the scenery most of the episode.

Honestly, this episode felt a little underproduced. When I saw John Carpenter’s name, I was expecting something with some real production value. Great acting, great effects, great music. None of those were in effect here. I’m not sure where their budget went, because it didn’t go to any of the things it should have.

Is it true?

So that brings us to the big question. Do I think this story is true?

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Well, it is verifiable that Kelly Lynn Fitzpatrick was a young woman who unfortunately was found dead in 1999 in Quebec. The rest of the story, so far as I can find, is up to speculation.

Do I believe someone could contact the dead on an Ouija board they made out of a pizza box? Yes, I do. Because Dan made it with his own hands it might have worked better than a store-bought board. But do I think he was haunted to this extent by the spirit of Kelly?

Well, I would say that I believe this about as much as I believe the story of the Amityville house. Something certainly happened here, but I am sure that the details shared in this episode of Suburban Screams are highly overblown.

In the end, while I did have fun watching this episode, this fun was tainted. I would have enjoyed it more if it was presented as a fictional story loosely based on real-life events. Because that is almost certainly what it was.

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Beginning

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We’ve now reached the end of Fallout, season one. As I mentioned during the last review, I was heartily concerned that this show, like so many others, was going to drop the ball at the finale and ruin an entire season.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This episode was everything it needed to be and more.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin our story with Maximus returning to the Brotherhood of Steel compound. He has a head, which he is claiming is the real head of Wilzig.

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I don’t know why he thought that was going to work.

Of course, it doesn’t. The elder cleric is about to kill Maximus until Dane says that they hurt their foot.

Because of this, the Brotherhood is sent out to get the head. Or rather, what’s inside of it. They head to the city run by Moldaver. This happens to be the same place Lucy and The Ghoul are headed.

Still from Amazon Prime's Fallout.

There, Lucy does manage to find her father. What she ends up finding is so much more than she wanted to find.

What worked

The first thing I have to discuss is how seamlessly the storylines of the series combined.

Each of our four main characters has been on their own journey. Lucy is trying to save her father. Maximus wants to become a knight. The Ghoul wants to find his family. Norm wants to know what’s going on in Vault 31.

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I sure wasn’t expecting all of these stories to come together in the way that they did. And to preserve the ending, I don’t dare say more. I will only say that yes, all four stories tie in perfectly with one another. By the end, two characters end up having the very same goal.

As I hinted before, I did not see the twist ending coming.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Yes, we might have guessed some things from the last episode. We of course guessed that Lucy’s dad was involved in some nefarious and probably sci-fi way. But the way this story twists at the end is nothing short of serpent-like. Which is why I cannot go into too much detail here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to experience it blind.

Finally, I can give the Fallout season finale the most important praise I can ever give a finale. It did its number one job, getting us excited for season two. We have answers, but now we have new and more exciting questions. And even better, we have a desire to see vengeance done.

What didn’t work

Now that the season is done, though, I can bring up something that bothered me through all eight episodes.

I don’t buy Lucy and Maximus’s relationship.

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Maybe because it’s rushed. Maybe because the two actors don’t have a lot of chemistry. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure even now either character could tell you a single thing about the other. There is just no spark between the two. So their love story feels tacked on. I honestly feel like their love story could have been removed from the show entirely and it would have no negative impact.

I also didn’t buy Dane’s confession. This is a minor spoiler, but it comes up early in the episode. Dane confesses that they hurt their foot so that they wouldn’t have to go into the wastelands.

And at first, I kept expecting Maximus to thank them later. I honestly thought that they were just lying to save Maximus’s life. But no, as it turns out, they were not.

But it just doesn’t make sense. The motivations don’t jive. I honestly think it would have been better for the story if they had lied to save Maximus’s life.

At least then there’d be one other Brother of Steel who had some nobility.

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In the end, this first season of Fallout was everything I could ask for. So far as I can tell, it was everything fans of the Fallout franchise could ask for. There wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. Honestly, the only real complaint I had was that the season was so short.

I’ll be counting down the days to season two, and I hope you’ll be joining me then. Because war, war never changes.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Radio

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Episode seven of Amazon’s Fallout is the penultimate episode. This is often when a series goes off the rails and starts to mess things up. After being burned so often recently, I was apprehensive when this episode began.

Thankfully, this was a fear that did not come to pass. And so far, Fallout’s finale is doing just fine.

Lana the dog in Fallout.

The story

A lot happened in this episode, so we’re just going to skim over some of the more important storylines. We’ll start with Lucy and Maximus, in Vault 4. Lucy has discovered what she believes is a secret collection of monsters. But of course, it turns out that it’s simply people that the vault dwellers discovered and are trying to help heal. But her meddling around was enough for them to kick her out of the vault. With two weeks’ worth of food and water, of course.

But Maximus assumes they’re going to do something much worse. And so he steals their power coil to fight through the perfectly innocent people and save Lucy.

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Meanwhile, we dive further into The Ghoul’s past, when he was still Western star Cooper.

After attending a Communist meeting, he’s approached by Lee Moldaver. She suggests that Vault Tech is hiding something, something terrible. And she tells Cooper that his wife Barbara knows more about this than she’s letting on. Moldaver gets Cooper to bug Barbara’s Pip Boy, and listen in on an important meeting.

Poor Cooper hears far more than he wants to.

War, war never changes.

What worked

I would like to first point out that this was one of the funniest episodes so far. I mean, it got incredibly tragic and sad by the end. But it also had some great laugh-out-loud moments. This should be a surprise to no one, with such an array of comedians guest starring. Chris Parnell was in the last episode as well but is now joined by the incredibly funny Fred Armisen as DJ Carl. This is of course not his first foray into the funny and spooky world, as he also played Uncle Fester in Wednesday.

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Most of what makes this episode funny is the character’s understated and deadpan responses to wild situations. When Maximus returns the energy coil and is greeted by a simple thank you. When Thaddeus gets an arrow through his neck, and slowly realizes that hey, he might be a ghoul. These were hilarious because they could have been truly dark moments. But because this world is so dark, and the characters have already been through so much, they’re simply done. They take all of this in stride because of course that’s what’s happening. It’s par for the course for them.

Aaron Moten and Ella Purnell in Fallout.

On the other hand, we’ve finally seen the full extent of The Ghoul/Cooper’s past. And it’s so much worse than we could have imagined. I assumed that he’d lost his beloved wife and daughter in the atomic blasts two hundred years ago, somehow not dying with them and instead turning into a literal and figurative monster. The truth is so much worse. I’ll do my best not to spoil the ending. But I will say this. There is nothing more painful than mourning someone and hating them at the same time. And it’s easy to see how Cooper turned into The Ghoul. That sort of pain could drive anyone mad.

This balance between comedy and tragedy is one of the reasons why this episode worked so well. It’s one of the reasons why the series is working so well. It manages to combine the core tenets of theater in a way that never compromises the strengths of either. The eventual downfall of Thaddeus is a great example of this because it’s both tragic and funny. We’ve seen what happens to ghouls, and it’s a horrible end. But as he’s hardly been a sympathetic character, we can all get a good laugh at his predicament as well.

The sheer amount of good old-fashioned gore doesn’t hurt either, of course.

What didn’t work

All that being said, there was one thing that bothered me about this episode. And it was the reveal of Vault 4’s big secret.

Honestly, I was expecting the Vault 4 storyline to go way darker. I wanted it to go way darker. While I’ve never played these games myself, I know enough about the story to say that these vaults are not the bastions of safety and morality that they have so far been portrayed as. And while that has certainly been alluded to, we haven’t seen it.

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We haven’t seen the depravity in these vaults. And it’s there. But maybe we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

In the end, The Radio did exactly what it needed to do. It set us up to have most of our questions answered in the season finale. And I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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