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Two Evil Eyes. This Italian-American horror twofer sees another team-up between George A. Romero and Dario Argento. Their creative goal, apparently, was to add their own unique voices to two classic Edgar Alan Poe tales. They definitely accomplished that, as the film is split between Romero’s more classic, nuanced style and Argento’s decidedly more manic, crass, and outwardly violent approach. Don’t get me wrong here: Romero’s movies are often very violent indeed. Still, Argento somehow has a more vicious style. In this case, I’d say much of that is actually carried by the whirlwind performance of Harvey Keitel.

The Black Cat

Harvey Keitel’s performance as Rod Usher really makes “The Black Cat” tick as a story. Because of his strong, commanding presence, it almost not only ceases being just a Poe tale, but also something beyond a typical Argento movie. It’s difficult to overstate that, of all Dario Argento’s actors I’ve seen, Keitel might be at the top of the pile. The end result is that, as the story progresses, you might get a sense of the character’s madness, understanding his bizarre frustrations and destructive nature.

When a horror movie puts you inside the character’s mindsets and lets you feel uncomfortable truths, you’ve really got something. You might be tempted to take points away from “The Black Cat” for this reason or that, but I doubt his performance would be one of them. This story also stars Madeleine Potter, John Amos, and is apparently the first acting role for Julie Benz, who played Dexter’s wife on that Showtime series.

The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar

How about George A. Romero’s take on a classic Poe tale? Well, I would say Romero better conveys the classic Edgar Alan Poe mood throughout his piece. In fact, this part of Two Evil Eyes is superior overall to Argento’s (although, again, Keitel’s performance is pretty damn good). Then again, it’s possible my preference for this story is biased in favor of nostalgia. If you look at the casting here, Romero went with plenty of people involved in the original Creepshow movie.

You have Adrienne Barbeau as Jessica Valdemar, the wife of the soon-to-be-deceased Ernest Valdemar. Well, Ernest Valdemar is played by Bingo O’Malley. Both of them appear in Creepshow. You also have E.G. Marshall as Steven Pike, Ernest’s lawyer. Of course, Marshall also appeared in Creepshow, as Tom Atkins, who plays Detective Grogan in this story.

However, I assure you my appreciation of this tale isn’t just because it’s a partial “Creepshow” reunion. I just think it’s pretty well done. In the story, Jessica Valdemar and her lover (Ramy Zada), Dr. Hoffman, launch an ingenious scheme involving hypnosis to wrest a fortune out of Mr. Valdemar. It ends up being a strange and twisted tale involving the afterlife and the soul’s connection to the body.

Oddly enough, I like this tale well enough, but I actually think it could have been more subtly done. I think that would be my main complaint about it. That being said, it is a solid story overall, even if I don’t place in in the upper echelon of horror cinema. I guess that’s what I’d say about Two Evil Eyes in general. It may not be everything it could have been, but it still delivers on some key points. Also, there’s no way I could have done much better if I were a filmmaker. So give this movie a chance, because it’s a little better than some might expect.

Have you seen Two Evil Eyes? Is it a decent presentation of Edgar Alan Poe? Let us know in the comments!

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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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Movies n TV

Mandrake, a Film Review

Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey, starring Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty.

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Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey. This film boasts a cast that includes Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, and Paul Kennedy. It is currently available for subscribers in DirectTV, Shudder, Amazon Prime, or AMC+.

Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) is a probation officer tasked with the most vilified case in her town, Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty). When a child goes missing, all eyes turn to the infamous Bloody Mary. Cathy, always believing in the best of people, tries to protect Mary. But evidence begins to mount, and Cathy finds herself in increasing danger.

Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw
In the forest
Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw

What I Like

Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty add weight to the film in their performances. Cathy proves resilient against the challenges she faces, while Mary can make any actions intimidating.
To not spoil anything, the ending is bittersweet in the best of ways, showing Cathy grow and mend relationships.

The atmosphere around Mary Laidlaw brings about the intimidation that earns the nickname Bloody Mary. It becomes easier to see why a town would fear this woman as we find her motives sinister.

Mandrake Cover Art: A mandrake behind Deirdre Mullins' Cathy Madden
Deirdre Mullins as Cathy Madden

What I Dislike

While there may be external magical elements, I found people obeyed Mary Laidlaw a little too easily for a vilified woman. There wasn’t enough for me to be convinced she intimidated them to action or magically charmed them. Or perhaps the performances felt underwhelmingly passive?

There was an irritating moment where a stalker helped save the day. The assistance is minor, but it still irritates me.

The daytime scenes of the film are bland. Perhaps it’s intentional, but the night scenes are stunning, making the contrast greater. While this film focuses on its night scenes, I couldn’t understand why it looked so bland, and sometimes poor quality, in the day.

Kraken eating a boat icon for Zeth M. Martinez
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Mandrake can be a frightful enjoyment, especially when set at night where the details work. However, many elements left me wanting more or better. If you’re looking for a witchy tale, I’d say there are better options, but Mandrake can keep you entertained.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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