Sitting alone in an empty theater on opening weekend wearing my N95 mask because I trust no one, not even myself, The New Mutants was the first movie I saw when theaters opened up again after the great lockdown. Nearly two months later watching it again, it may in fact be the last movie I get to see in theaters this year.
Maybe because this movie was the last in the era of 20th Century Fox X-Men movies, or because it was stuck in production hell for almost 3 years before finally being released at the height of a global pandemic, but given it’s cursed status having The New Mutants come out this year of all years seems oddly fitting.
A bear walks into an asylum. . .
The movie starts in a blizzard of chaos and confusion as our young protagonist, Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Blu Hunt) is awakened in the middle of the night to some unknown terror ripping apart the reservation where her and her father live. Dani’s father hides her in a hollow tree right before he’s killed by the unseen force and his body unceremoniously dumped at Dani’s feet. Running in fear though the woods gets Dani knocked unconscious and when she awakens she’s cuffed to a hospital bed with a werewolf looking down on her, which isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds.
Dani is quickly introduced to her new doctor, Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) and her fellow mutant prisoners, I mean patients, Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams) and Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga). Dani learns they’re all being kept at the hospital against their will for their own good, of course, until they can learn to control their powers.
While Dani’s own powers are something of a mystery, it becomes quickly clear that all the teenage mutants have caused some sort of tragic death when their powers first manifested. While there is budding romance and a few instances of casual racism, in general there’s less of the typical teenage angst you would expect with a group of super powered teens left almost entirely up to their own devices. That might be because everyone comes with a pre-packaged traumatic backstory they’re busy trying to work though. The nightmare visions that start plaguing the teens when Dani arrives also keep everyone a bit too preoccupied for the usual teenage drama.
Will friendship help them to survive their prison? It’s an X-Men movie, what do you think?
Fear. Shame. Self Destruction.
A group of powerful teenage mutant killers trapped in a mental hospital with deadly powers they can’t fully control yet should be an awesome setup for a horror movie, right? Unfortunately, this one falls pretty short in the horror category, though it isn’t for lack of trying. The theatrical release poster at least is on point.
All the charred corpses, smiley faced Silent Hill-like monsters, undead priests, and cool looking nightmare demon bears didn’t help lend much in the way of a spooky atmosphere. If anything this movie should come with a slew of trigger warnings for suicide, child abuse, self harm, PTSD, etc., that should be the real horrors experienced by the teens, except that no weight is ever given to any of these issues. A character might be ready to jump to their death or having a panic attack because of past CSA one minute, and the next, they’re cutting through an army of Slendermen like nothing is wrong.
The movie leaves almost no time for grief or real reflection on the horrors they’re experiencing, and by that account, not much time for character growth either. The best parts of the movie are clearly the quiet moments between the characters when they get a chance to actually slow down for a night and talk about their pasts. It’s a shame too, because these characters and their backstories are interesting.
Rahne probably gets the most fleshed out in terms of her personality since her mutant power (turning into an adorable werewolf), backstory, and sexuality is tied up with her religious upbringing. Her budding relationship with Dani is one of the few things that gives the movie a real heart, and it’s a great positive representation for young LGBT teens. Sam’s visible torment over the people he’s killed is another real moment of feeling in a movie that’s tonally all over the place, and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things, Color Out of Space) does an amazing job with what little he’s given. Dani’s Native American heritage does play a part in her story, but mostly in a ‘there’s a Native American legend about this’ type of way.
Despite being a horror movie veteran at this point, Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch, Glass, Split, Thoroughbreds) through no fault of her own, fairs less well with the character of Illyana. Even though she’s supposed to be the crazy dangerous one, she mostly comes across as racist and bitchy to the point you wonder why the others bother to put up with her. Dr. Reyes is barely given a chance to have an emotion since she’s too busy delivering exposition, but for a mutant that creates force fields maybe that could be considered a personality trait. Still, it would have been nice to know if she really is a monster, or simply a product of the same circumstances Dani and the others find themselves in.
At the end of a very empty second viewing of the movie, it’s really the sense of missed potential that sticks with you more than anything else when leaving the theater after watching The New Mutants. Despite that, the movie does have a lot going for it. This is very much a female character driven movie; Dani, Rahne, Illyana and Dr. Reyes are the real forces that propel the plot forward. No offence to the very likeable Sam and Roberto, but they were just along for the ride. The casual, yet not at all subtle, chemistry between Dani and Rahne is such a nice change of pace from the forced heteronormativity of most horror, or pretty much any movie really, romances. That’s why this movie is, if nothing else, rated Horror LGBT Positive by me.
Final Girl Thoughts
While I would recommend seeing it for the interesting characters and all around good performances, you can probably wait the 2 weeks or so for it to come to VOD or Disney+ instead of risking your life by heading to the few remaining open theaters in the country to see it if you haven’t already. Enjoyable? Sure. Would I want to see these characters again under different circumstances that don’t involve a pandemic? Absolutely, although by the time they get a second movie out they may have to call it The Midlife Crisis Mutants. A solid 3 out of 5 Cthulhu. A good effort at something a little different.
The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 / 5)
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.
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 / 5)
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