Connect with us

Published

on

Hey-yo, kids. Recently I “went to” the Trans Steller Film Festival (Nov 26-Dec 3, 2023). And by went to, I mean I sat in my home like a grump, eating kettlecorn popcorn and a lukewarm diet soda.

It was heaven.

So, of course, being a horror critic (or something like that), I bought tickets to the Horror section of their short films, which included three shorts – THE SHACK – An Atmos-Fearic Thriller; THEYSUCK; and MICHAEL AND THE DRAGON.

Backstory, I didn’t read the small print and only watched the first one. Then the next day went to watch the other ones but my ticket expired so I had to pay again. So, that’s the REAL LGBTQ agenda…making me read the small print when I buy shit!

Advertisement
It's a meme that says, "watch all the films or you'll pay again" and Brannyk says, "that sign won't stop me because I can't read."

THE SHACK – An Atmos-Fearic Thriller

The Shack is about is a guy who has very loud music in his head, probably from drinking all the Cthulhu beer. He has a buddy come up into his hunting blind and then bonks the buddy on the head and drags him away. You think in some kind of caveman courtship, but no, it’s for a demon dressed in a raincoat to feed upon the friend.

Next he brings his son (who looks about the same age as he is) to the blind- er, shack? It’s not really a shack. It’s a hunting blind. And it’s really not all that creepy. And it does NOT look like it’s 100 years old like the son says. It looks like it was from the 70’s. It needs more centerfolds in it, like, of 70’s demons or something…

Anyway, spooky things happen and tentacle monsters. Things go downhill.

The issue I took (besides the music, because turn down that racket!) is that the ‘son’ is too old. If he were a twelve or thirteen year old, it would have been more emotionally impactful. The story would have been more interesting. Instead, the son looks old enough to drink Cthulhu beer with dad and it lowers the stakes. Especially as this hunting trip is meant to be a rite of passage.

The high points come from the demon itself – the tentacles and the actor. The makeup for the demon was good and the actor’s presence was appropriately creepy. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the woods and the mystery it was unfolding (although it’s been played out before). Otherwise, it was…good. Mostly. It was fine.

It's a pic of a guy holding another guy with headphones, yelling, "MAH SON". A demon doesn't give a fuck and shrugs.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

THEYSUCK

Man, I wanted to like this one so much. UK NB vampires. Sounds incredible, right?

And some parts were incredible. The editing (while sometimes off, like the clothes washing scene) was stylized and crisp, as well as the cinematography. The music, when not rattling in my ears, was well-paced and energetic. Some of the scenes were clever and the locations were interesting.

Advertisement

The problem that bugged me the most was the writing, actually. It just…was bland. For a short about trans vampires. Like, how is that possible?

Truth be told, I think the largest reason for this was that the story didn’t really focus. It tried to be too many things all at once – friends falling out, falling in love, sexual identity, gender identity, uh…vampire identity? Looking for an apartment. Killing humans. Dancing. Dressing up like ghosts. Washing clothes dramatically.

I guess now’s the time to talk about the actual plot. Vampire Toy and their vampire roommate/romantic partner/friend (?), Novah, have a bit of a falling out. Toy is falling in love with a human! Hiss! A human realtor. Double hiss!! A human realtor cis-woman!!! Eternity amount of hisses!!!

As Toy gets more enraptured with this human, Adele, Novah figures enough is enough. Something drastic must be done. Is love enough to win the day? Or at least can Toy find their dream apartment?

Okay, so first – the names of ‘Toy’ and ‘Novah’…are so on point. I was chuckling. I mean, these are the stuff of Reddit NB memes.

Advertisement
It's a meme where there are two buttons - one says "have a normal name" and the other says "have the name of an inanimate object". The next scene is an NB sweating because they can't choose.

And there was a love of spit and love put into THEYSUCK, don’t get me wrong. I think the reason why I’m picking on this one so much is because of its potential. With a few tweaks and re-writes, this could have been a much stronger narrative and short film (possibly even as part of an anthology).

And I like Toy, but with the time and space we’re allotted with them, they usually end up looking sleazy with Adele or manic-pixie-dream-vamp literally dancing to their own tune. I was so looking for more vulnerability from them like in the first scene with Novah. I wanted to see that side of them. In fact, the parts with Novah and Toy were the strongest. They had good chemistry and were natural together.

The love angle with Adele and the chemistry there just felt flat and honestly…was unnecessary to Toy’s journey in their search for independence and perhaps sexual rediscovery.

All in all, I hope Lisbon Mombellet continues to make films. As I’ve said, the editing and cinematography were fun and stylish, with infectious energy. I was never bored while watching THEYSUCK and I enjoyed the parts of the whole. I think if Mombellet tightens up the writing, we’re in for some real treats in the future.

It's Toy with Adele, saying, "Hubba Hubba Happy Halloween" like a creep. And Adele is blushing and saying, "Oh! Oh! My! You're so quirky!"
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Michael and the Dragon

Oh…

My God…

Interpretive dance…horror!

Advertisement

Interpretivedancehorror!!! OMG!

It's a picture of Brannyk being in love and saying Yesssss

I love it.

Micky Waickman plays both Michael and the Dragon – both equally masculine and feminine in the most beautiful ways. Cait Rowe, cinematographer, pulled an utterly impressive job and took my breath away with the shots. MICHAEL AND THE DRAGON is the proof of how much an experimental piece horror with very little cast and crew can achieve with clever camerawork, ingenuity, and talent.

Shooting in black-and-white was the correct choice and I’m not just saying that because it’d probably be on the now-defunct High Art Camp, but because it added to the horror and distortion of the film. Dreamlike and nightmarish, the dance and bodywork of Waickman was itself a juxtaposition of the story it wove.

And yes, I’m showing my bias of experimental horror, but THERE IS A FINE LINE between pretentious weirdness and actual art. This one was the latter and Director/Writer Ella Price should be incredibly proud. I sincerely hope to see more of her work in the future. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Bottomline for the Trans Steller Film Festival:

Was spending twice the amount really worth it?…

Advertisement

Of course! These small indie film-makers are the lifeblood of solid horror, and bigger and better things to come. I’ve said it before and I’ll say again, indie movies are precious and need to be supported. They are the babies of creators. And whether they fully hit the mark or not is irrelevant. The point is that there is creation, bridled only by lack of funds and resources. And it’s incredible to see what happens when there’s a dream that refuses to be deferred, especially by the minority of creators.

Horror is for minorities. For misfits. For the underfunded and underprivileged. Because that’s when it’s real and authentic. And horror, to be GOOD, desperately requires for it to be authentic. Maybe these won’t blow the door off anything yet. But maybe in a few years. Or maybe they’ll inspire someone else. Or maybe these directors and actors will move on to bigger things.

Yeah, yeah, I’m making it a fireside chat, but it’s true. These film festivals are the lifeblood of our community and we need to support them. I’m glad I’m an idiot and paid twice. They deserve it.

Advertisement

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, A Killer Comes Home

Published

on

Episode two of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was more true crime than supernatural. It was the horrific, dark tale of a serial killer who escapes from jail and comes back to his hometown for revenge. And boy, does he find it.

The story

This story begins with a man coming out to his front porch to find a mysterious package wrapped in newspaper. He opens it to find a rotting, maggot-ridden head that he certainly didn’t order.

The head was placed there by a killer named Allan Legere. In 1986, Legere brutally murdered a couple in their homes during a robbery. For this, he was sentenced to life in prison.

However, he escaped from prison in May of 1989. Enraged at his old hometown, he returns there and starts a brutal killing rampage. He wants revenge on the people who wronged him. At least, the people he believes wronged him. Rather than focusing on the police who arrested him, or the judge and jury who convicted him, he decides to go after the journalists who reported on the case.

Advertisement

Of course, he also murders a whole bunch of old ladies for some reason. And a priest.

Annette Holland in Suburban Screams.

Legere is still alive, and still in prison. But as he’s escaped once, many people believe he might do so again. And if he does, he’ll almost surely try to pick up right where he left off.

This tale is told from the point of view of the journalists, Rick MacLean and David Cadogan. Both men have been deeply impacted by this incident. They are still shaken. And still very, very angry.

What worked

This episode was far better than the first, right from the maggot-headed start. The gore was intense. The story was horrifying. And it’s made even more horrifying, knowing that it is, for the most part, true.

The thing that made this episode stand out is that it feels so much like several beloved horror stories. I would suggest that this story inspired John Carpenter’s Halloween, except that that movie came out in 1978. The events in this episode took place from 1986 to 1989.

To realize that a person could cause so much pain, and take so many lives, is possibly the scariest thing most of us can imagine. And while this story is, sadly, not unique, it is certainly worse than most.

Advertisement

What didn’t work

After watching this episode, I can only really think of one complaint. There is a scene with the first victims, two elderly ladies. The first woman is home alone when someone begins hammering on her front door. We are meant to believe that it is the killer, but it ends up being her sister with a lovely salad. But if the two sisters lived together, why was she knocking to be let in? I can only believe that this is meant as misdirection to the point of being a jump scare. And this feels cheap. Especially when the rest of the episode was more on the level.

Is it True?

While I do think parts of this episode were, let’s say dramatized, I do think this happened. There are just too many facts that would be far too easy to look up. To my dismay, the part that is easiest to look up is the horrific deaths of many innocent people.

This was a much better episode than the one that preceded it. The story is compelling and frightening. It is well told, both from the survivors being interviewed and the actors recreating the moments of horrific history. I’m hoping that the rest of the season is more like this episode, and less like the first.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Kelly

Published

on

Launched in October of 2023, Suburban Screams is the latest project by acclaimed horror master John Carpenter. It’s a true crime/unsolved mystery series covering events that have terrified people living in, you guessed it, the suburbs.

The story

Our first episode, titled Kelly, is the story of two roommates named Dan and Joey. The actual Dan and Joey tell the story from their own perspective, interspersed with dramatic reenactments. This did feel very much like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

One night when Dan and Joey have their girlfriends over, they decide to play with an Ouija board. Since they don’t have one, Dan makes one on a pizza box, complete with a planchette. This is, of course, when things go terribly wrong.

Still from Suburban Screams, Kelly.

Honestly, I have never heard anyone say, “I had a great time with that Ouija board, I’m really glad we did that.”

The couples make contact with a spirit named Kelly. This is very upsetting to Dan’s girlfriend May, as she had a cousin named Kelly who went missing and is presumed dead.

Advertisement

Dan then finds himself haunted by Kelly. He throws up water, finds his kitchen chairs stacked on the table, and is followed around by a haunting song. Dan feels like he won’t find peace until he helps Kelly find peace.

What worked

There was a lot to enjoy in this first episode. Specifically, I loved the horror visuals. Dan’s vision was very creepy, as an example. And I loved the shots of the body floating down the river. These images were eerie and upsetting.

The storytelling from Dan and Joey was also well done. While I have my doubts about the validity of this story, these two men believe wholeheartedly in what they’re saying. I certainly believe that they experienced something disturbing. Either that or they are some fantastic actors.

What didn’t work

That being said, some things rubbed me the wrong way in this episode.

I’d like to start with the herbs Joey burned during the Ouija session. It looked like sage, or maybe sweetgrass.

Advertisement

As some of you might know, I am a practicing witch. So I do feel the need to point out that if you want to open a door and invite spirits in, you probably don’t want to be burning sage or sweetgrass as those are going to negate any spiritual activity. This was for sure the action of someone who does not know what the hell they are doing. It just irritated me.

Also, maybe don’t throw open a door indiscriminately to the spirit world. Just saying.

I also didn’t love the acting by Ben Walton-Jones, who played Dan. While it wasn’t a terrible job, the character felt overacted. I don’t know how he had room for that pizza, since he was chewing the scenery most of the episode.

Honestly, this episode felt a little underproduced. When I saw John Carpenter’s name, I was expecting something with some real production value. Great acting, great effects, great music. None of those were in effect here. I’m not sure where their budget went, because it didn’t go to any of the things it should have.

Is it true?

So that brings us to the big question. Do I think this story is true?

Advertisement

Well, it is verifiable that Kelly Lynn Fitzpatrick was a young woman who unfortunately was found dead in 1999 in Quebec. The rest of the story, so far as I can find, is up to speculation.

Do I believe someone could contact the dead on an Ouija board they made out of a pizza box? Yes, I do. Because Dan made it with his own hands it might have worked better than a store-bought board. But do I think he was haunted to this extent by the spirit of Kelly?

Well, I would say that I believe this about as much as I believe the story of the Amityville house. Something certainly happened here, but I am sure that the details shared in this episode of Suburban Screams are highly overblown.

In the end, while I did have fun watching this episode, this fun was tainted. I would have enjoyed it more if it was presented as a fictional story loosely based on real-life events. Because that is almost certainly what it was.

Advertisement
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Continue Reading

Movies n TV

Fallout, The Beginning

Published

on

We’ve now reached the end of Fallout, season one. As I mentioned during the last review, I was heartily concerned that this show, like so many others, was going to drop the ball at the finale and ruin an entire season.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This episode was everything it needed to be and more.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin our story with Maximus returning to the Brotherhood of Steel compound. He has a head, which he is claiming is the real head of Wilzig.

Advertisement

I don’t know why he thought that was going to work.

Of course, it doesn’t. The elder cleric is about to kill Maximus until Dane says that they hurt their foot.

Because of this, the Brotherhood is sent out to get the head. Or rather, what’s inside of it. They head to the city run by Moldaver. This happens to be the same place Lucy and The Ghoul are headed.

Still from Amazon Prime's Fallout.

There, Lucy does manage to find her father. What she ends up finding is so much more than she wanted to find.

What worked

The first thing I have to discuss is how seamlessly the storylines of the series combined.

Each of our four main characters has been on their own journey. Lucy is trying to save her father. Maximus wants to become a knight. The Ghoul wants to find his family. Norm wants to know what’s going on in Vault 31.

Advertisement

I sure wasn’t expecting all of these stories to come together in the way that they did. And to preserve the ending, I don’t dare say more. I will only say that yes, all four stories tie in perfectly with one another. By the end, two characters end up having the very same goal.

As I hinted before, I did not see the twist ending coming.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Yes, we might have guessed some things from the last episode. We of course guessed that Lucy’s dad was involved in some nefarious and probably sci-fi way. But the way this story twists at the end is nothing short of serpent-like. Which is why I cannot go into too much detail here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to experience it blind.

Finally, I can give the Fallout season finale the most important praise I can ever give a finale. It did its number one job, getting us excited for season two. We have answers, but now we have new and more exciting questions. And even better, we have a desire to see vengeance done.

What didn’t work

Now that the season is done, though, I can bring up something that bothered me through all eight episodes.

I don’t buy Lucy and Maximus’s relationship.

Advertisement

Maybe because it’s rushed. Maybe because the two actors don’t have a lot of chemistry. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure even now either character could tell you a single thing about the other. There is just no spark between the two. So their love story feels tacked on. I honestly feel like their love story could have been removed from the show entirely and it would have no negative impact.

I also didn’t buy Dane’s confession. This is a minor spoiler, but it comes up early in the episode. Dane confesses that they hurt their foot so that they wouldn’t have to go into the wastelands.

And at first, I kept expecting Maximus to thank them later. I honestly thought that they were just lying to save Maximus’s life. But no, as it turns out, they were not.

But it just doesn’t make sense. The motivations don’t jive. I honestly think it would have been better for the story if they had lied to save Maximus’s life.

At least then there’d be one other Brother of Steel who had some nobility.

Advertisement

In the end, this first season of Fallout was everything I could ask for. So far as I can tell, it was everything fans of the Fallout franchise could ask for. There wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. Honestly, the only real complaint I had was that the season was so short.

I’ll be counting down the days to season two, and I hope you’ll be joining me then. Because war, war never changes.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Trending