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The Addams Family is one of those franchises that has different eras that have their die-hard supporters. Fans of the original TV show generally are not the sort who are highly passionate about the original Charles Addams comics. Nor are the fans of the 1990s films super involved with singing the praises of the original show. That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen. It is just that there are different Addams-eras, and they have their principal audience.

Now we enter a new era with 2019’s animated adaptation of The Addams Family. The question that must be asked is whether this take on the family will inspire any similar passions.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky…

We all know The Addams Family and know the ear-worm theme song. We know the basic archetypes. When you go to see a reboot of The Addams Family you already know what to expect. The film follows the origins and the travails of the Addams Family, a group of strange individuals assembled on a haunted house on a hill. The family’s patriarch, Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac), and the matriarch, Morticia (Charlize Theron),  raise their two children Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). They are often accompanied by Gomez’s mother, Grandmama (Bette Midler), and his brother, Fester (Nick Kroll). The family also lives with Thing, a severed, sentient hand, and the live-in help, Lurch (Conrad Vernon).

But hey, you know all this.

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What you do not know is that movie follows the family as they discover a planned community has sprung up virtually overnight in the valley below. The Addamses are understandably concerned, having been run out of “the old country.” The question remains, however, whether history will repeat itself when they come into the cross hairs of reality TV host Margaux Needler who is banking on the planned community of “Assimilation” to be her greatest triumph. Throw in a dueling subplot about a father understanding his son, and mothers dealing with rebellious daughters, and you have yourself a 2019 Addams Family movie.

The film also features the voices of Snoop Dogg, Allison Janney, and Titus Burgess. There is also a rather fun cameo featuring Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.

The movie was directed by the pairing of Conrad Vernon and Greg Tierman. Matt Lieberman, Erica Rivinoja, and Conrad Vernon wrote The Addams Family, adapting it from the original comics by Charles Addams, but with plenty of references to the television show as well.

What worked with The Addams Family?

Morticia grapples with Wednesday’s desire for change in one of the better sub-plots

The film isn’t a bad movie. It’s not great, but it is an effective distraction for a little over an hour. For anyone who has grown up with some form of The Addams Family there are nods and continuations of what you’d expect to see in an Addams Family movie, but little else. The story is fairly cloying, even for children, but the idea of taking the story back to Gomez and Morticia’s wedding was a welcome surprise. It established the central conflict of otherness fairly well. It is just a shame that what should be a whip-smart parody of a nuclear family ends up wrapping up with a fairly standard 3rd act action-conflict than anything truly clever.

The brightest spot of the film is the willingness to crib the character designs directly from Charles Addams’ original comics, but the CGI feels fairly texture-less and many of the designs skew just a little too far from the source. Overall though, the willingness to play closer to the original source of the characters is a good impulse and definitely makes the Addamses stand out among computer-animated family fare. The film is not afraid to be ugly and weird.

What didn’t work?

So many elements of the movie smack of a sort of template. The character designs are largely pretty boring outside of the family themselves.  Also, there are so many odd choices made that reflect a mid-2000s animated aesthetic and storytelling impulse. Take, for example, celebrity stunt-casting. None of the actors who landed a role in the film really deliver much. I feel we’d have been far better off as viewers with Oscar Isaac as a live-action Gomez rather than delivering a fairly average voice-over role. Even the core cast’s most accomplished voice actor, Nick Kroll, does not really add anything to the film with his take on Fester. It’s the same sort of voices he’s used somewhere in Big Mouth.

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Maybe the biggest example of this mid-2000s casting impulse is having Snoop Dogg voice Cousin It. You don’t get to hear Snoop, really, just the sped-up-gibberish of It. The thing is, you could have easily had anyone else do that part. Instead, it went to Snoop, and it was mostly for a gag; Cousin It drives up to the Addams’ mansion blaring “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”

Look, this is not a bad film. It’s just uninspired. While watching it I didn’t think “this was terrible.” But I did feel like there were a lot of lazy choices. It suffers from that same sort of latter-day-Shrek style of a basic story with gags for kids and pop-culture references for the adults. I am not going to be upset at such a paper-thing plot being predictable. I do, however, find myself annoyed the film did not do more to grapple with the more subversive nature of previous Addams Family adaptations.

Final Impressions

The nod to the TV show’s opening credits was fairly fun.

The Addams Family is cute but fleeting. If you miss it in theaters you will not be missing much. It’d be worth a catch on Netflix or whatever inevitable streaming service it lands on. It’s a curiosity, but I highly doubt it will inspire a passionate fanbase. 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

How did you feel about The Addams Family? Want to see what we thought of other horror movies? Why not check out our reviews?

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

Movies n TV

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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Movies n TV

The Girl in the Trunk (2024): A Tense Danish Horror-Thriller Led by Katharina Sporrer

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If you grew up in the 90s you will know one thing–ol’ Jimbo used to have ‘trunk rides’ through the north woods with people in various states of drink screaming for more. This Girl in the Trunk movie is a different type of screaming in the film and in the audience.

The premise at first glance is simple–a terrifying snatch and grab kidnapping. The modern day twist with cell phones, cell reroutes, and trunk escape buttons all come into play with just enough realism to have you wonder if this could happen to you.

The strengths of this contained thriller fall squarely on the shoulders of Katharina Sporrer, who carries the film with such abandon that I’m pretty sure she’s in traction as I type this with an overstrained back. Make no mistake — this Danish horror-thriller works because of Katharina. The end. Not the writing. Not the direction from Jonas Kvist Jensen. Not the edits. It’s her film and she does marvels with walking the tightrope of victim and vengeance as the thriller girl.

What Worked

This movie is a weird catch. What works is one actor. That’s it. Really. Katharina does a lot with little and this is something that can stand out in movies grand and small, especially in an understated Danish horror movie.

I did enjoy the filming style and the thoughts of a low budget gripping thriller. It goes to show that with a talented person you can make a movie with very little set switches, without many effects, and without multiple casts members feeding off each other. All you need is a good basic story of abduction of girl in a trunk–some solid tense pacing–and one amazing actress like Katharina. The rest of the magic is just getting out of your movie’s way.

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I think this is what works the best: The movie doesn’t sabotage itself. It knows its limits. It knows its strength and it plays to that strength.

Make no mistake — this film works because of Katharina. The end. Not the writing. Not the direction. Not the edits. It’s her film and she does marvels with walking the tightrope of victim and vengeance. Jim Phoenix on The Girl in the trunk

What Didn’t Work

When I saw this screener pop into my box, I knew there was just something about the setup I wanted to see play out. This could have gone extremely bad–but because of Katharina’s presence it swerves out of the ditch and into cinema gold.

I am not sure if this movie works only because of her acting, but I know it doesn’t work without her. The other cast members seem out of place–clunky at times. Some of the writing is a level of bizarre ‘I call bullshit’ that I haven’t seen this side of film school.

With that said, there really isn’t much of anyone else in the film for most of this mysterious true crime style film. This seems to work to its advantage, as we focus on the painful consequences for the kidnapped girl in the desert heat, with no bystander to help as she suffers heat exhaustion, bites, mental and emotional abuse, and deep uncertainty all in a very tiny trunk.

Final Verdict of The Girl in the Trunk:

The Girl in the Trunk is a story we’ve heard before, and sometimes in better ways. However, this film is worth the stream. The runtime is tight, the pacing works well, and, as I stated before, Katharina is an amazing actress who pulls this entire thing off. Almost on her acting alone, I give this 4 out of 5 Cthulhu.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Dark Deviations: A Halloween Episode in May

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Smiling Friendsfirst Halloween episode aired in January 2022, so this May release isn’t completely out of character. The much anticipated second season of the bizarre Adult Swim show has, as of June 5,2024, delivered five intriguing stories about geometrically-distorted beings and blob-shaped humans. Episode four, “Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” is a truly terrifying sight to behold.

A Mission to Make the Boss Smile

Smiling Friends is a small company whose mission is to make anyone and everyone smile, per the customer’s request. Each episode consists of various missions the four main characters, Allan, Glep, Pim and Charlie, must accomplish. These tasks can range from saving the career of a homicidal frog to finding true love for a reclusive shrimp. Season two episode four’s dilemma is to save the Boss, a charismatic, unnaturally proportioned man and Smiling Friends’ CEO. We rarely get a glimpse into the Boss’ personal life, but now we are invited to his wedding, where he is marrying none other than Satan’s daughter, Brittney.

The Smiling Friends main cast at the Boss's wedding.
(Left to right) Allan, Glep, Pim, Charlie and a new friend at the Boss’ wedding.

Naturally, marrying Satan’s daughter comes with some major consequences, the biggest of which is losing all free will. Brittney has completely possessed the Boss and transformed the Smiling Friends business into Brittney’s Beautiful Demonic Flowers. It is up to the smiling friends must find a way to save their jobs and creepy, beloved employer.

The Scariest Smiling Friends Mission

“Erm, the Boss Gets Married” is one of the scariest episodes in the series. There are jump scares, Brittney’s hellish face is even worse when she smiles. The animation is enthralling, terrifying and hilarious. Creators Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack went out of the box for this Halloween special and were especially creative with the journey to the Boss’ exorcism. Britney’s screechy demise is abrupt, as most endings in Smiling Friends are. The show is wholly unhinged, and the final lines come from Pim shouting, “HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYBODY!!!!”

While the plot is similar to South Park‘s season three episode “Succubus,” this Smiling Friends episode still upholds its own uniqueness and is fun to watch. Stick around after the credits, and you will see a delightful scene: the Boss in the middle of a screaming match with his ex-father-in-law, Satan, over their personal property in hell.

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The Verdict

“Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” is a ridiculous May Halloween special that keeps the audience on their toes. It is one of the scarier episodes in the season. The creators have a knack for illustrating uncomfortable-looking characters and complicating the simplest of storylines. It would be exciting for Smiling Friends to do more than just one horror themed episode per season, especially with how good Hadel and Cusack are at creating terrifying creatures. However, since the seasons are short, these special holiday episodes are a fun once-a-year treat. The show is already weird and scary enough; it would be overkill if they did too many spooky specials.

(That said, if the Smiling Friends creators ever decided to make an entirely new horror animated series, I would be first in line to watch the entire thing.)

“Erm, the Boss Finds Love?” earns 4.5 out of 5 cthulhu. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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