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The news keeps spilling out like an open wound of dreadful information, people are stuck at home in quarantine, and horror fans are talking about Captain Trips, aka the superflu, aka the man-made virus in Stephen King’s novel The Stand. This coronavirus thus far is nowhere near as deadly as the superflu. But we can see some parallels between real life and fiction: a collective state of anxiety and helplessness, the governments’ responses (or lack thereof), quickly filling hospitals, no known treatments, the dread of the cough. The Stand is basically the worst-case scenario of our current state of affairs mixed with supernatural elements, including one of King’s most notable villains: The Dark Man. 

Some Background 

This 1994 miniseries, directed by Mick Garris and written by King himself, is a classic. Some fans love it, some hate it; that is bound to happen with any book-to-screen adaptation. I have a love/hate relationship with the show. There are moments where I find it frightening and thrilling, emotional and, at times, comical. Other times it is completely frustrating and cringeworthy.

The Stand miniseries is six hours long and still, understandably, can’t include everything in the 1152 page uncut book. All that said, I’m not going to compare the show to the book because, despite their relationship, they are two different entities. Rather I will review the show on its own, occasionally pointing out some iotas relating to the novel. 

Okay. Enough of my ramblings. Let’s get started. 

The Plague  

Everything is fine until it isn’t. On a California military base protected by a razor wire fence and officer Charles Campion (Rick McKinnon) in a security booth, a biological virus has breached. Everyone inside the base is dead. Campion, the only survivor, panics and drives as far away as possible, taking his wife Sally (Hope Marie Carlton), their daughter, and the virus with him. 

As Campion travels, the virus spreads rapidly. People die left and right. But the government refuses to acknowledge their fault in the matter, downplaying how serious the disease actually is. Citizens riot, desperate for some kind of response. Only when the government starts losing their own members do they recognize the gravity of the situation.

Campion makes it all the way to Arnette, Texas, where he utters his last breath to Stu Redman (Gary Sinse). For weeks, the military holds Stu and others who came in contact with Campion in quarantine. Only Stu survives.

The hospital puts him under many tests until the entire staff acquires the disease and dies. Stu escapes quarantine and runs outside to a new world. As he lays on the grass, trying to take everything in, he has a vision of Abagail Freeman (Ruby Dee), a 108-year-old prophet best known as “Mother Abagail.”  Abagail asks him to come see her, to come home. There’s not much time left. 

The Rest of the Crew (So Far)

Larry Underwood (Adam Storke), the vain, egotistical rock star who only sees his mother when he needs money. Living in California, he travels to New York and meets Rat Man (Rick Aviles), whose significance has not yet come to light. 

Another of our few female protagonists is Frannie Goldsmith (Molly Ringwald). She is compassionate and strong-willed, living with her father and dealing with the pesky admirations of Harold Lauder (Corin Nemec). 

Nick Andros (Rob Lowe), a sweet young man who is deaf, non-speaking, and the constant victim of Ray Booth (Patrick Kilpatrick). Nick is the first to meet Abagail. 

Lloyd Henreid (Miguel Ferrer) has a career dedicated to committing crimes. While the cops arrest him for murder, he sees a mysterious man perched on a telephone wire. But that man turns out to be a crow.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar plays the Monster Shouter, a minor character who foreshadows the apocalypse and Larry’s fate.  

And, finally, out of the shadows in the middle of the night emerges none other than Randall Flagg, The Dark Man (Jamey Sheridan).

“Folks, I’ve just been ordered by my uninvited fascist guests to shut down.”

I adore (adore!) Rae Flowers (Kathy Bates). Her short scene guts me every time. Though the show does not credit Bates, she puts on one hell of a performance as a sardonic radio host who takes no prisoners. We don’t get to see much of her, but she is so well written that it feels like we’ve known her forever.

The Introduction

The Stand starts out with a bang. After Campion drives away, the camera leads us into his booth where we dive into the security footage and land in the military building. Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays as we float over the myriad of dead bodies piled on top of one another. One man kneels against a door, fingers inches away from the handle while a woman sits straight in her chair, neck cricked to the side, eyes white and dead. A game show is on the TV in one break room, the jovial contestants unaware of their future demises. Lunch trays are splattered across the floor, blood drips down the victims’ mouths. Lights in another break room sputter on and off. There isn’t a single place absent of death.

This scene is the perfect introduction to the series: the arrangement of the bodies, the number of deaths, the music. We are seeing the multitude of this man-made virus and the undoubtable aftermath to come:

The world is astronomically fucked.

Critiques

As with the book, the cast in the miniseries is predominately white and male. One could argue they were recreating what King wrote, but that’s not a good excuse considering creative license exists. And this story is about the apocalypse. You’re telling me all the survivors are mainly white people? No. Just no.

I also want to mention Abagail Freemantle. She is one of the most important characters in the story, perhaps one of King’s most notable ever. And Ruby Dee is amazing in this role. But Mother Abagail as a character is stereotypical towards Black women. (This trait is very common for several Black characters in King’s early works, including The Shining and The Green Mile.) As much as I love The Stand, this stereotype is an issue that is impossible to ignore. 

Then there are moments when things get very cheesy. Adam Storke’s acting sometimes leaves something to be desired (e.g. Larry’s reaction when The Monster Shouter tells him “he’s coming for you” looks like Storke just woke up from a nap and forgot he was in a television show). There are some small continuity errors you might catch if you watch very carefully, including the occasional camera in the window.

Oh, and there’s this:

The Verdict

I have some issues with the show, but I still fairly enjoy watching The Stand. There’s something a little bit comforting about the fact that we haven’t gotten as bad as King’s world. It is cheesy, yet also disturbing, action-packed, and exciting. You can watch this episode on YouTube; keep in mind a lot of the music is muted because of copyright (the death montage is completely silent because of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”).

“The Plague” get’s 3 out of 5 Cthulhu.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Until episode two, check out what else we’re watching here at Haunted MTL.

First image after cover photo from the graphic novel. All other photos from YouTube.

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Movies n TV

Dahmer, Cassandra

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Episode seven of Netflix’s Dahmer brings the spotlight, finally, to the hero of our story. Glenda Cleveland. 

Glenda was Jeff’s neighbor. And honestly, I can’t think of a worse neighbor. A horrific stench is always coming from his apartment. He has people over, and they make a lot of noise. 

While they’re dying. 

Niecy Nash in Dahmer

If you’ll recall episode one of Dahmer ended with all of his neighbors, including Glenda, being forced to leave their homes. The whole building was declared a crime scene. They’re not given any place to go, of course. 

Everyone’s got a few thousand dollars socked away for an unexpected motel stay, right? 

Fortunately, Glenda was able to get a motel room. And that’s where she is when Reverend Jesse Jackson finds her. 

Glenda pours out her story to Reverend Jackson. The rest of the episode consists of her dark and troubling encounters with Dahmer. 

The most compelling scene, I think, is when Dahmer brings Glenda a sandwich. He’s being evicted, and he knows it’s because she’s been complaining about the smells coming out of his apartment. 

He tries to pour on his little boy charm. He tells her that he got his apartment cleaned, just for her. He brings her a pulled meat sandwich as a present. 

Notice I don’t say pulled pork, because I’m fairly sure it was human meat. Or, it was just drugged.

Or both. 

This episode just hummed with tension and rage. I was so happy to see Reverend Jackson tear into the police in the most polite way possible. I hated seeing what Glenda went through. And even though I know she lives through this horrific encounter, I held my breath the entire time she was alone with Jeff. 

Dahmer is certainly not afraid to jump back and forth between the past and present. But they are careful to never do it in such a way that I felt lost. And I honestly think this was the best way to do it. 

The reason for this is that it adds a level of suspense that Dahmer might have lacked without it. Suspense is something that true crime stories can lack. Especially well-known ones. We have heard this story before. We know how it ends. But in presenting the tale this way, first from one point of view and then another, it reveals sides of it that we may not have seen before. 

Glenda Cleveland, from the trial of Jeff Dahmer.

I loved seeing the story from Glenda’s point of view. She was brave, determined, and selfless. She had every right to be furious at the way the police dismissed her concerns for years. And yet she continued to handle everything professionally. She never stopped trying to help people, even when no one else seemed to care. And for that, she is a true hero. 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Review: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

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The second half of the 1990s was a comeback of the slasher sub-genre, thanks to Wes Craven’s Scream. It was precisely because of its success that Kevin Williamson was able to pitch the script for I Know What You Did Last Summer. An extremely loose adaption of the book of the same title, it follows a group of teenagers who drunkenly commit a hit-and-run. They decide to – what a surprise – get rid of the body to get away with it. Let’s have a look at why this film is a cult classic of its kind, shall we? 

Top not atmosphere makes a big difference

I must’ve said this in one of my previous reviews but to me at least, the setting in a movie can make or break the viewing experience. In I Know What You Did Last Summer, I always found it a paradox and also highly effective that the action occurs in a fishing town with tons of open land and the sea. However, the characters feel trapped to the point of suffocating by the choices they made because, despite all the roads leading out, they always end up back there. 

Four people stand around in a circle, mid argument. Left to right - Ray, Julie, Helen and Barry.
Dude, you promised to take acting classes! (source http://imdb.com)

Their small town is living in its own little utopia with beauty pageants, firework displays, and unsurprisingly, not a single person the group can turn to for help. I thought it was really well done and it doesn’t hurt cinematography in general is beautiful. 

Would the suggestions of the fans make sense?

Something that the fans of the movie have long debated is that they needed to swap the final girls of the movie, killing off Julie and making Helen the survivor. A lot of factors contribute to this. Sarah Michelle Gellar is phenomenal in her role and with all respect to Jennifer Love Hewitt, her portrayal pales a bit in comparison. Helen’s chase scene is one of the best if not the best in horror with how hard she fought for survival and how close she was to safety. On the contrary, Julie’s chip on the shoulder got on a lot of people’s nerves, mine included sometimes. 

One has to think of the narrative purpose of the two characters. Julie serves as the outright goody two shoes, the one who actively fights Barry to go to the police, and the one who shows the most obvious remorse for what they’ve done. Helen is meant to be the ditsy blonde, however, throughout the movie, she’s shown to have more going on and that the incident affected her just as much even if it wasn’t so transparent. 

Helen is at the forefront, looking ahead, scared. Behind her there are mannequins covered in plastic.
Not the kind of afterparty I imagined (source: https://bloody-disgusting.com)

Her endurance throughout the chase is a nice juxtaposition to the role she is meant to play, and to Julie’s scene later on (again, with all due respect, she does nothing apart from scream and run a bit) and the fact that she still dies after it gives a good gut punch that actually makes you care about these people despite their more than questionable decisions. 

When it comes to the guys, I don’t actually have much to say. Barry is a classic jerk stereotype and Ray is a glaring red herring throughout the movie (I would also say Freddy Prince Jr was the weakest actor out of the four but again, I am no acting coach, just my opinion). 

Final impressions

To sum up my thoughts on I Know What You Did Last Summer – it definitely has its flaws and asks the audience to suspend their disbelief (even for slasher standards). Regardless, it’s a staple entry of the genre and the 90s due to its atmosphere, tension-building, and for the most part decent acting. A must-have in your collection for horror buffs. No wonder it inspired a loosely based TV adaptation (its success is debatable but the thought still counts, right?)

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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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