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Spook Warfare, released in 1968, is the second film in the ‘Yokai Monsters’ trilogy written by Tetsuro Yoshida. Previously we looked at 100 Monsters, the first in this thematic trilogy. Though it was released in the same year as 100 Monsters, the two are very different films. Pacing, storytelling, tone, and even special effects have dramatically increased.

A Kappa is surrounded by many yokai spirits.
Spook Warfare cover image for Shudder

The previous film focuses nearly exclusively on humans and their disregard for the spiritual. Spook Warfare, on the other hand, puts the spotlight directly on creepy monsters from the get-go. It’s a lot more accessible than the previous movie and would have probably been a better way to start off the trilogy.

A fierce Babylonian demon(Chikara Hashimoto) is freed when grave robbers attempt to steal his magical staff. He buries them in a rockslide and immediately heads to Japan, as any ancient evil would. Upon arrival, he appears to Isobe, the local magistrate(Takashi Kanda, who played Tajimaya in 100 Monsters) kills him, and possesses his body by drinking his blood. Isobe returns and immediately begins destroying all of the holy altars and shrines, demanding his servants do the same.

Beefin’ Over Turf

The ruckus pulls the attention of a Kappa(Gen Kuroki) that lives in the palace pond. A self-proclaimed protector of the palace, Kappa is able to see through the demon’s disguise and attacks right away. However, the demon overpowers him easily and Kappa flees to a ruin where other yokai live to beg for help.

The magistrate is so popular and well-liked, even among the spirits, so they don’t believe Kappa and refuse to help. Back at the palace, Isobe’s daughter Chie(Akane Kawasaki) and the samurai Shinpachiro(Yoshihiko Aoyama) discover one of the palace workers drained of blood. Knowing they’re dealing with a monster, Shinpachiro contacts a Buddhist priest for aid in helping them dispatch the demon. They set a trap, but it ends up failing and the priest is killed.

The possessed Isobe demands his guards bring all nearby people to the palace so he can feed on them. As the guards are rounding up the villagers, two children escape and stumble into the ruin where Kappa is begging for help. A ungakiyo (usually a mirror, but appearing in this movie as a large bear who can project images of what is happening on his giant stomach by holding his breath – wild, right?) appears, informing the yokai the demon is named Daimon, an ancient spirit from Babylon. This confirms everything Kappa has told them and they decide to help the humans dispatch Daimon. Not just because he killed Isobe, but because it is their duty, as proud Japanese spirits, to expunge any foreign threats on their land.

Children ask the local yokai for help in a ruined house. Text: But our neighbors who were taken away to work as servants all came back ded.
The children ask the local yokai for help

Oh! What A Lovely Yokai War

As mentioned before, the tone for this movie is quite a bit lighter than the previous one – despite there being an actual, you know, WAR in it. There’s quite a bit of comedy and Kabuki-style acting in quite a few of the scenes. Straight away Daimon is a credible threat to the heroes in the movie. And despite some of the yokai’s shenanigans (particularly the over-confident Kappa), their individual personalities shine through.

Considering this film was made in the late 60s, the special effects, costumes, and monster puppets look pretty good! The lighting and blocking do a lot to cover the seams, helping the movie feel a lot more atmospheric. The humans play second fiddle to the yokai throughout but are still very well written and placed in this story.

Daimon, the Babylonian spirit, reveals himself to Isobe.
It’s Daimon’s world, we’re just living in it

Overall this is a much more accessible movie than the initial film in the trilogy. Like 100 Monsters, you’ll get more out of it if you are familiar with yokai history, but it’s not a prerequisite. Spook Warfare fits comfortably with the likes of movies that were hits in the late 70’s-early 80’s American cinema. People into movies like Gremlins, The Goonies or Little Monsters will feel very at home here. If you are love creature features, Japanese cinema or fun films, Spook Warfare should be on your ‘Must Watch’ list. Yoshida-san, you are two for two on the trilogy so far. Can you stick the landing? We’ll find out when we review Along With Ghosts.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Spook Warfare is currently streaming on Shudder

Rokurokubi, the long-necked yokai looks out from the shadows.
Ah, Rokurokubi, my beloved

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The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine 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: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, 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, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. 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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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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