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If all goes well, this will be the first of a “Screen Slashers” column I will do once a month. In each one, I will pick a film that features a serial killer or mass murderer and describe the infamous, historical figures they may or may not have been based on. I’m doing this because I love psychopaths and want more excuses to talk about them. Researching which sickos inspired by favorite fictional sickos happens to be a hobby of mine, so why not also write about it? I thought about doing Michael Myers from Halloween since the holiday itself is just around the corner, but I already did a breakdown of Myers about a year ago when I wrote for Hidden Remote and I didn’t feel like doing it again. You can read it here if you want. That being said, I decided on Trick ‘r Treat instead.

Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology horror film released in 2007 that tells five different stories set on Halloween night. They are connected through the presence of Samhain, the literal embodiment of All Hallows Eve, watching over the night. The film deals with the “rules” of Halloween that must be followed, rules that are largely forgotten as respect for the holiday has been thrown out the window. One of the characters observed throughout the film is Steven Wilkins. He may honor the holiday but he’s got a much different problem, his backyard “stinks like a dead whore.”

Steven Wilkins

Despite the presence of the demonically adorable Samhain, the true villains of Trick ‘r Treat are the people. Specifically Mr. Kreeg and Steven Wilkins. Kreeg is responsible for a school bus massacre that, from what I’ve gathered, is not based on real-life events. It was actually inspired by “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” special. So, Steven Wilkins it is. The school principal with a smelly backyard filled with bones.

Played by Dylan Baker, who also co-wrote the script with director Michael Dougherty, Wilkins is a charming local man who happens to be a serial killer. His targets of choice appear to be anyone of convenience, in this case, a few trick-or-treaters and a frightened young woman at a parade. There is a possibility that Wilkins is based on either John Wayne Gacy or Andrei Chikatilo, two sadistic serial killers that primarily targeted children while presenting themselves as “respectable” members of their communities.

Most people already know the name Gacy thanks to the many films and biographies about him. He worked as “Pogo the Clown” at children’s events and would often lure them over while still in costume, prompting him to be known as the “Killer Clown”. Meaning, don’t blame Stephen King for killing the clown industry, Pennywise didn’t come around until eight years after Gacy’s arrest. He was put to death on May 10, 1994, for torturing, raping, and murdering an estimated 33 boys. Burying their bodies in the crawl space of his house. Despite the high body count, hardly anyone suspected Gacy of anything, even though he was arrested and convicted of sexual assault in 1968, and then two more times in 1971. His final arrest was in 1978. To put it bluntly, it really shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise that he was a serial killing rapist. I can’t speak for the family, but how did they not know there were bodies in the house? According to his sister, the house always smelled a bit musty but apparently, no one thought enough to question it. “When [he and his second wife] moved in, there was always this kind of musty smell,” she [Karen Gacy] says. “In later years, he kept saying that there was water standing under the house and he was treating it with lime [and] that’s what the mold smell was.”

Though greatly diluted, Steven Wilkins of Trick ‘r Treat shares many similarities with Gacy including killing children, having a child of his own, and burying bodies on his property. In particular, the cheerful creepiness emitting from the character feels very Gacy.

Andrei Chikatilo and family

Another killer that could have gone into Wilkins’s creation is Andrei Chikatilo, “The Rostov Ripper” or “Red Ripper” who sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in Russia. Chikatilo’s crimes, although sexual in nature, were primarily motivated by rage. He was just a walking flesh suit filled with hate and resentment.

Chikatilo grew up during WWII and was forced to witness the horrors of war at a very young age. He lived through the Nazi occupation of Ukraine that forced his family into underground hideouts. His father was at war, leaving just him and his mother, sometimes completely homeless. It’s been theorized that Chikatilo’s mother had been raped by a German soldier sometime during the war as she suddenly got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. A rape that many believed Chikatilo had witnessed.

Naturally, Chikatilo grew up to have a great deal of emotional and psychological issues. To the point where murder and violence became therapeutic for him, a way to purge the rage. He didn’t seem to have a preference regarding gender, or even age, which is unusual among pedophiles, and often serial killers in general, suggesting he likely chose children because of his own stunted mentality, and for convenience. Anything alive would do.

This is exactly the case with Steven Wilkins who doesn’t pick and chose an exact target but simply killed anyone he might get ahold of.

Death by candy

Death by candy becomes one of Wilkins’s methods of murder, which fits right into the Halloween theme. As mentioned above, one of the running themes of Trick ‘r Treat is honoring the “rules” of Halloween, including checking for tampered candy. Anyone who has ever trick-or-treated knows this rule and remembers how annoying it was. We all remember our parents demanding we hand over our buckets and pillowcases of goodies that we spent all night collecting so that they could check it for open wrappers, because according to them and the news, there was always some wacko just waiting to put arsenic or razor blades into your Snickers.

This is actually one of my personal issues with the holiday, or with the misconceptions of it. The way so many people continue to associate it with violence, murder, and Devil crap.

Parents worry. It’s part of being a parent, but everyone seems to go a bit overboard about Halloween. It’s a Kentucky Fried Mouse situation, a story no one has experienced firsthand but they know a guy who knows a guy who knew someone that it happened to. Despite all the stories about poisoned candy, there’s only been one recorded case of it actually happening, and it wasn’t random at all.

In 1974, a man named Ronald Clark O’Bryan poisoned several Pixy Stixs with potassium cyanide that he distributed to five children, including his own son and daughter. After the other children went home, O’Bryan’s son Timothy asked to eat some of his candy before bed, unfortunately choosing the Pixy Stix. He died less than an hour later. It turns out that the O’Bryan family was drowning in debt and Ronald had murdered his son in order to collect the life insurance policy. He’d hoped to collect the policy on his daughter as well but after what happened to Timothy, all candy was confiscated by the unknowing mother.

This is primarily where the myth of tampered candy comes from and it was exactly what the pearl-clutching fake Christians crying Devil needed to “prove” their case about the evils of Halloween. A study published in “Threatened Children” by Joel Best in 1993 found no credible accusations of poisoned candy to happen before or after the O’Bryan case. To this day, Best continues looking for cases and has yet to find any.

Early versions of this myth occurred in the form of pranks. Older teens would supposedly insert harmless things in candy or hand out items other than treats to shock children. In Best’s book, he describes how in the early 1950s, some people would heat pennies on skillets then dump them in children’s hands. As for lethal objects such as razor blades being pushed through candy wrappers, roughly 100 cases have been reported since 1958 with over 95% of them turning out to be fake. The ones which turned out to be true were all harmless.

There’s an amazing book by David J. Skal called “Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween” that explores the candy myth in-depth.

This just in, this year’s candy fear is cannabis! Police are warning parents about candy masquerading as edibles in states where marijuana is legal.

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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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 mascot, 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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