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In The Pale Door, a dark western about love and sacrifice, there is a lack of congruence. It throws away a film brimming with backstory, lively characters, and a strained brotherly love to make room for some silly witches that look and act as if they came out of a Roald Dahl book. A great example of wasted potential. I wouldn’t even call it a disappointment, just bland, and certainly not as horrifying as it thinks it is. The film is essentially split in half with one part being a western and another being about witches, but they are not balanced or even compatible. It flows like a river with too many rocks and not enough water.

It starts strong on the road to an exciting drama about outlaws, opening with the violent raiding of a farmhouse where two young brothers are left as the only survivors of a massacre. The elder of the two, Duncan, grows up to become an outlaw while the younger, Jacob, lives an honest life working in a saloon. Duncan runs a loose variation of the real-life Dalton gang from the early 1890s, also called the Dalton gang, that’s wanted all over the country for robbery and murder. Despite his promise to come home for good, Duncan and his gang have one more big score to collect but when they’re one man short, Jake volunteers to help out, becoming a part of the gang.

It’s after the robbery, however, when things start to fall apart. The only goods they find turns out to be a young girl named Pearl locked inside a chest, her mouth held shut with a Hannibal Lector mask. She was seemingly captured by bounty hunters working for a man named Cotton Mather IV, a descendent of Cotton Mather, a name the movie clearly expects you to recognize. In case you don’t, Cotton Mather was a prominent figure during the Salem Witch Trials whose account of the trials to magistrate John Richards ensured the deaths of many innocent women.

Pearl tells them to take her back to her village where they will be given a handsome reward, secretly leading them to a horde of witches that are eagerly awaiting their arrival because as it turns out, Pearl’s abduction was not an abduction at all. It was a staged event to bring victims to her coven ruled by her mother, a woman burned at the stake over 200 years ago. Her mother, Maria, and all the other women are hideously burned monsters hiding beneath beautiful faces.

One significant flaw of the film is its lack of suspense. Everything is placed right in front of you for easy decoding. This is blatantly demonstrated in Pearl’s introduction. There is no question about whether or not Pearl is dangerous, we know she is. The movie wants you to know that her presence has sealed the fate of these people, making the long drawn out reveal of the other witches redundant. We know what’s coming and we’re just waiting for it. Rather than keeping the witches in the dark, hovering like demons in the shadows, their evil is put front and center in an almost cartoonish manner.

Honestly, the robbery was the highlight of the film for me. It kind of goes downhill from there but I would never say that The Pale Door is a bad film because it’s not. All the parts are good, it just has a hard time blending them all together. Everything feels like it’s coming from a different movie. The witches, the brothers, the outlaws; they’re all in different movies that had no correspondence prior to overlapping.

This film had three screenwriters, which might explain the excessive introduction of subplots that went nowhere. They just wanted to put more than they can fit. It’s largely made up of half-baked aborted ideas, backstories, that only clutter the film.

I admire the work that went into the character creations though. It’s clear that they put more work into the characters than they did in the plot. Some of the Dalton members include a mute Native American, a hard-drinking woman named Brenda, a gangster version of Pacific Rim‘s Dr. Hermann Gottlieb, and a former slave that helped raised the brothers. The brothers themselves are their own convoluted mess. They’re devoted to one another in that beautifully overprotective, codependent kind of way that I’m always a sucker for and have whole lives outside of what’s going on in the story. Jacob is even revealed to be gay later in the film, a detail dropped in a single throwaway line that is just used as a further pointless character definition. The witch Maria even has a flashback to her possible baby daddy sentencing her to burn. It’s all drama all around that goes absolutely nowhere. Kind of a waste.

Verdict

In the end, I don’t have any strong feelings about The Pale Door. I don’t like nor do I hate it. I liked parts of it but came to feel nothing by the end credits, but that’s just me. I will give the film credit for taking a different approach to the conclusion. It doesn’t go the way most will expect and I enjoyed that, but otherwise, it’s rather unoriginal.

The Pale Door could’ve been something memorable but it prefers to remain indecisively spliced. It needs to pick a side. Cowboys or witches? Pick one.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Photos are property of Paper Street Pictures and Storyteller Media

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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