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Fright Night for witches, or it tries to be. The Wretched got some good press earlier this year when it became an unlikely box office success after it was released in drive-in theaters due to the pandemic. The Wretched therefore became the first film since Avatar (2009) to top the box office for six consecutive weekends. It made over $3 million. The Wretched was also met with strong critical reception, getting a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and worming its way onto several “Best Horror of 2020…” lists. However, I personally don’t see what’s so great about it.

If I saw this in a drive-in theater I probably would’ve liked it more. It would’ve given the film a layer of thrill that it naturally lacked. I’m not saying that The Wretched is a bad movie. It’s not, it’s actually pretty good, but it’s nothing fantastic or even memorable.

The witch design, high strung score, and dark atmosphere are the film’s strong points. The actual horror of The Wretched is near amazing, the witch moves like a cockroach struggling to fit into a second skin and genuinely creeps you out. She is a wild animal who lives and breaths with the authority and weariness of being centuries old.

Creating a morose atmosphere is what the Pierce Brothers excel at if only they didn’t weigh it all down with their human characters. The story follows angsty teenager Ben (John-Paul Howard) when he goes to visit his father after his parents’ messy divorce. Ben has had some problems in the past, which is just used as a reason for no one to believe when he ultimately cries wolf. The old “they must not be telling the truth because they’re troubled” excuse.

Living next door to Ben is a family on vacation, a couple, and their young son Dillion who are being terrorized by the witch. The narrative splits between Ben and the neighboring family with a focus on young Dillion as he realizes that something is wrong with his mother. She hasn’t been the same ever since they took a hike in the woods. Zarah Mahler gives an incredible performance as a woman possessed, bending her body as if the bones are all stuck in an unnatural direction, glaring at her son with hunger; it’s one of the better parts of the film. It all builds up to a striaghtforward finale and a frankly, overdone type of ambigious ending.

As I said, the real issue is the characters. There’s not one developed past their name and personality description that was on the actor’s calling sheet. You won’t care if one disappears and is never to be seen. Ben is not a charismatic lead and his involvement in the plot feels completely random. As if it dropped out of the sky, the film forces Ben into the plot with each scene until you eventually get used to it.

Maybe if the film put more focus on the neighboring family or expanded on Ben beyond being a watered-down Charley Brewster, it might’ve been better. There is a decent plot twist near the end that is enough to invest you well into the third and final act, but Ben still remains as vanilla as a white cake without frosting.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Images property of IFC Midnight

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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