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Close-up of Kat's face with Wendell & Wild reflected in her eyes.
Netflix’s Wendell & Wild

Netflix’s Wendell & Wild is kind of like being given an elegantly wrapped gift and knowing for sure there is something amazing inside that you’re going to love. After careful removal of the bows and paper, you are rewarded with a pair of comfortable, intricately-woven socks; pretty and functional, albeit slightly underwhelming.

Henry Selick and Jordan Peele bring us the story of Kat Elliott(Lyric Ross), a young girl who, after the death of her parents, becomes a troubled youth, being moved from foster home to juvenile detention centers and finally returns to her hometown of Rust Bank as part of a “Break The Cycle” program to keep young people out of trouble. 

While attending a Catholic reform school, she is imbued with supernatural powers and becomes a Hell Maiden to Wendell(Keegan Michael-Key) & Wild(Jordan Peele), demon brothers who want to escape their underworld prison to build their very own theme park on the surface world. Kat manages to summon them to the surface and the plot only gets weirder from there, involving powerful hair cream, the prison industrial system, and a fiendish murder coverup.

A Feast for the Eyes

Wendell & Wild’s best feature by far is the visuals. This is why you come to a Henry Selick movie – the characters are well-designed and lovingly animated. The sets are elaborate and detailed. Lots of care is poured into every frame of this film and you can certainly tell from the word go. W&W is a great example of how far stop-motion animation has come, even from Selick’s previous effort, Coraline. But, animation seems to be a niche medium in a niche genre. Which is a shame because there are some incredible animated horror films out right now.

Additionally, a lot of work has gone into the curation of the film’s soundtrack as well. Kat presents herself very clearly as a rebellious youth. This is reflected in the music she chooses to blast down the hallways of the RCG. You’ll get a bit of Ghost Town by The Specials, Freakin’ Out by Death, and Germ Free Adolescents by X-Ray Spex. Even one of the film’s original songs, Raising The Dead is a super-funky bop. The soundtrack is a great blend of ska, punk, and soul making the film as interesting audibly as it does visually.

Raúl looks pensively at Kat.
Raúl (Sam Zelaya) attempts to make friends with the new girl, Kat (Lyric Ross)

Going Thru the Stop-Motions

The visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting for this movie but narratively, it’s very middle-of-the-road. The story itself is very functional. You know what roles most characters will play in the story as soon as they are introduced. Plot devices are paid off and MacGuffins perform their roles in a satisfying way. There aren’t any big plot twists and the story has a satisfying conclusion, which makes sense. The movie is very clearly skewed toward a younger audience. The voice cast is studded with well-known names like Angela Bassett as Sister Helley. James Hong as Father Bests, is easily a highlight of the film for me.

That said, the overall script is still a cut above most other animated films. There are gross out jokes, like Wendell and Wild making stand-in dummies of themselves out of mucous to escape the Underworld, but the overall tack of the story is a bit more mature than standard, more popular animated movies of our day. The film turns its eye to the prison-industrial complex as the main villains’ motivation in the story; plainly and clearly stated, much like the rest of the narration. 

I have to give a bit of a special note to Raúl, Kat’s new friend played by Sam Zelaya. While the movie primarily takes place at an all-girls Catholic school, Raúl has chosen to go by he/him pronouns. Although that is brought up only twice in the movie, both times as characters correcting other characters.

A Faire Shake

Wendell & Wild doesn’t seem to have the makings of an instant classic, or even a cult classic, but what it does it does very well. It’s absolutely worth taking a look at if you’ve enjoyed anything these creators have worked on. Or sharing it with your kids especially if supernatural movies are their jam.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Wendell & Wild is currently streaming on Netflix in the US.

Wendell eagerly describes the world of the living to Wild
Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele) hatch a plan to escape their prison

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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, 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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