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New Shudder original, The Marshes, has the ingredients for a decent horror film but it burns the recipe.

The Marshes, written and directed by Roger Scott, is a mess of a film. The most recent release on Shudder, three young biologists travel to a remote marshland to collect aquatic samples only to encounter a malevolent presence. It’s one part Blair Witch, one part Wolf Creek.

Promising plot. Poor execution

Now, before I start nitpicking the film, I want to give it some praise because I know it tried its best. You could see it trying, which is something you don’t always notice in a horror film; how hard it’s trying to scare you. The two best things about The Marshes are its lovely cinematography and it’s ending.

The film was shot by someone who loved sunsets. The way the sun hung in the sky before dusk, turning the landscape into a black silhouette, made for a marvelous setting. The shots of scenery were presented by an artistic eye, and this made the film very beautiful to look at.

However, I’m sorry to say that its scenery is the only marvelous thing about it. Even the best part of the story, the ending, was poorly executed. The film had a hard time setting itself up. This was clear by the awkward character interactions used to quickly transport them to the marshlands. It wants you to accept what’s being presented without question.

Poor characters

The actors in the film are green. Inexperienced and new to the camera, and while this isn’t a bad thing, it’s hard to ignore when the entire film is character-driven. Without special effects and a scarcely seen villain, we spend the entire 85 minutes with Pira (Dafna Kronental), Will (Sam Delich), and Ben (Mathew Cooper).

We never spend enough time with any of them to see past their one-dimensional character traits or to even care about their safety. Their unlikeable, arrogant and incredibly dumb. These people are practically begging to die. They do everything you’re not supposed to do in a horror movie.

Our leading lady is, unfortunately, the least likable of them all. This unlikeability comes from the film’s preference to tell over show. It prefers to recite facts and plot details, with blunt dialogue and misplaced revelations, rather than show us. We’re told Pira is smart and academically driven but we never see it.

If stripped of the opening scene where we’re told about Pria’s possible promotion and that she gave up a simple life in favor of being a scientist, we’d easily believe she’s just a woman who wandered into the marshlands by accident. Unprepared for the unforgiving terrain.

Lack of a plot

The Marshes starts off slow. Then, after about 40 minutes, logic flies out the window as the monster living in the marsh suddenly develops a taste for blood. It never says how long the three are there and if it did, I didn’t notice. However, they’re there for at least a few days. During that time together, a couple of shocking things happen but all are severely misplaced in the setting that they’re framed in.

Events such as love triangles and ghost stories occur at random intervals just for the sake of moving the film from point A to point Z. I feel that when they were crafting the storyboard, they didn’t know what to do. They wanted to explain the spirit haunting the marshlands and settled on a simple campfire legend that’s presented almost robotically.

There are moments where I thought I missed something. The characters speak to each other as if referencing past events that never occurred. I think Ben is meant to have romantic feelings for Pria but I honestly can’t tell. Ben and Pria are also meant to have known each other a while, but you can’t tell from their dynamic. The three interact like strangers at a potluck.

The Swagman

For a movie monster, the Swagman (Eddie Baroo) is about as one-dimensional as anyone can get. The story of the Swagman is that long ago (how long is never specified) he raped the wife of a Squatter. In retaliation, the Squatter followed the rapist into the marshland and drowned him. That’s as much backstory as we get, and apparently, it’s supposed to be enough, even though the spirit of the Swagman appears to be a cannibal.

Why is he a cannibal? Who knows. It’s not important. He appears and disappears throughout the beginning, haunting Pria’s dreams. There’s a moment where she runs from him (in her underwear) in slow motion and I couldn’t do anything but laugh. All attempts at suspense feel lazy, at least until the second half of the film where they go from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye.

For the most part, nothing happens, until the characters are put into the marsh. Then things start happening rapidly fast, but I had a very hard time believing the suspense or feeling it. As they run from the Swagman, I didn’t feel their fear. I was just waiting for it to be over.

Verdict

Save yourself time. Don’t watch this. If you do and like it, then good for you, but it wasn’t for me.

Also, I have to bring up the editing and how God awful it is. Someone cut the scenes of this film as if they were Victor Frankenstein. Slicing and dicing every action sequence and then sewing them back together with only one hand.

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

All photos courtesy of Shudder and 28 Productions

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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Movies n TV

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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