Do you ever find yourself traipsing along a deserted street in the bleak, inky night? Are you ever frozen at an impasse, your concreted kicks leaving your legs soft and wobbly, the fine hairs on the back of your neck dancing in frantic unison informing you of the distinct possibility that something nefarious lurks in the immediate vicinity? Now Sophies Choicing it, you can waltz ahead blissfully ignorant to the approaching danger or turn painfully slow blooming the tension until your eyes lock with the unnameable horror towering behind you. This is the fate that awaits our protagonist in the horror short, from YouTube channel Horror House Media, Stalk.
The plot of Stalk is admittedly a simple one: a woman, known by the name Vanessa, is trekking to an undisclosed location when a less than desirable masked assailant begins stalking (hence the title!) her. Now, I know it’s a touch frowned upon to go perusing book covers and then to judge said books based on their aforementioned covers, but one gander at this scenario and it’s pretty crystal that unpleasant intentions are the goals for tonight’s proceedings. Can Vanessa make it through the night unscathed or at the very least with only minor superficial wounds? Well, that all depends on whether or not Vanessa has the cunning ability to evade her admirer to safety.
Indie short flicks, usually of the no budget variety, tend to be hit or miss. I’d set Stalk somewhere in between with it leaning a bit more towards the former. I can’t say that Stalk hooked me by the throat not allowing me to come up for air until the credits, but it had enough going for it that it wasn’t a chore to sit through. A strong start helps pique your fancy with a title card that has you staring through the villains mask at broken up letters not quite revealing the word stalk. This “engrossing you in the stalkers perspective” is further driven with the opening shot that gets a bit Halloween-esque as we walk down a dimly lit street from the killer or would be killer’s point of view. I was admittedly disappointed when the story switches to a more cinematic style. From that opening shot I thought we might have a Hardcore Henry on our hands but in a slasher film world.
Alas, the slasher flick from a first killer perspective that I had prophesied did not come to fruition. A much more traditional take was…well…taken. We follow Vanessa as she puts foot to pavement unbeknownst to her that danger lurks behind her. Honestly, it becomes a bit paint by numbers at this point. The story doesn’t exactly lull but it’s all the same-o same-o that we’ve seen before. Protagonist walks along as the antagonist follows. Protagonist senses potential danger, turns to find protagonist is being paranoid as the street behind the protagonist is empty of any encroaching evil. Rinse and then if need be repeat… that is until the ending. I don’t know if it was deliberate but this easing of the audience to let their guard down allows for a surprise ending that I didn’t see coming.
Stalk won’t necessarily blow your mind, it is a solid effort. The acting is better than most indie efforts and the crew display that they have a firm grasp on putting together a story. The cinematography looks good and I found myself impressed with the editing. Smooth transitions followed by tight execution shows a talent to be had here. If Stalk is any indication, give Horror House Media some time to hone their craft and I think we’ll be seeing some quality work coming from under this banner.
So the question remains: Would I recommend Stalk? Well, do you have five minutes to kill? With a strong beginning and end plus a quick run time that makes it easy to breeze through I’d say it’s worth taking a peek.
Adam Troutt is an obsessive horror cinephile. He aspires to one day be a filmmaker, but in the meantime he devours more horror films than is healthy for human consumption. Find him on Twitter:@PsychoCinephile
“Fan of the 13th: A Small Compilation of Friday the 13th Fan Films”
By Adam Troutt
It’s that glorious, erratic, ever changing time of the year again: Friday the 13th! While for most of the country, the maligned and misunderstood holiday is a host for people’s dread and fear of mishaps and a 24 hour cornucopia of a relentless unlucky streak, for horror fans it brings a polar opposite effect. Just like Halloween, it becomes a day for merriment, celebration, and murder (fictitious….for the most part). Now, if you’re a ravenous horror aficionado, as myself, you spend your damned near religious holiday exclaiming with an incessant vexatious sense of glee “Happy Friday the 13th” to every passerby that crosses in your generalized direction, but also ingesting a healthy helping of the oeuvre of Friday the 13th films. Whether you’re the nitpicky or time constrained fan that pulls just a few choice selections that rank as your favorites to bookend(or jumpstart) your day, or you’re the gluttonous, masochist fanatic who tries to sate your hunger with the grueling task of trying to fit every last film in before the night comes to a close, and Saturday the 14th takes over, but that flick and its sequel is a whole other article. Having completed this feat multiple times, I can tell you it’s not for the faint of heart. Now, while I’d never be so blasphemous as to say that the franchise has reached a stalemate, let’s be real: with 10 films, a crossover flick, a remake, and a in name only T.V. show there’s plenty of blood soaked carnage to entertain you, I thought I could offer up an alternative, or a welcomed addition, to your holiday festivities. Which brings me to the subject of fan films.
Fan films, as I’m sure most of the are well versed in, are celluloid love letters to our cherished characters and creators of intellectual properties that have imprinted on our psyche and gassed us up to bring to life our wildest, out there theories, alternative storylines, and what ifs that dare to be. Ranging from kids ketchuping it in the backyard with a VHS camcorder to actual productions churning out a quality film that could easily mask as an addition to the already exhaustive parts that exist. Films, usually short in nature, that curb our hunger for more of the worlds that have engulfed our being.
Seeing as Friday the 13th remains a celebration of our fandom into a franchise of characters that we know and love as much as our own families, I thought I’d offer up a couple of these endearing films of fandom as another way to commemorate the franchise and our obsessive adoration for it.
1. Slash Up: Sarah Connor Vs. Jason Voorhees – Much of an explanation and plot synopsis of this tome is not really necessary from the title. I’ll have a go of it though. The year is 1988, and Ms. Connor is taking up to freelancing for Cyberdyne and I guess combing the country side and busting baddies. I’m assuming in this world that Skynet has been effectively defeated, or just not an issue yet(it’s been a while so I can’t recall the timeline exactly), and given her newly exposed penchant for badassery she decides to dump the diner and take up the philanthropic work of damning evil time and time again. After Sarah cozies up in the quiet New Jersey outskirts of Crystal Lake, she stumbles, with great agility, upon a group of raucous teens YOLOing it in a cabin of decadent sin. Her arrival proves a little too late as the hapless teens get effectively picked off with sanguined glee by the SkyNet like(Shit! Is that the connection?! Was Jason Voorhees just another T-800 created by Cyberdyne? But I digress, that’s another fan flick altogether) murder machine Jason Voorhees, and his life partner and best friend that I’m sure he lovingly referred to as “machete”. Now, with the body count diminished, superfluous characters canon foddered away, it’s up to Sarah Connor to save herself and whatever still functioning body parts are left of the teens, as Jason’s murderous rage laser focuses on her.
Working on what I assume was a basically nonexistent budget, and running at only about ten minutes long, this isn’t going to leave you frothing at the mouth for the next installment of the “Vs. Jason” spinoff series, but it is a fun spirited entry into the Jason mythos. Having seen many no budget atrocities in my days I’m pretty lenient on the production value of independent art. So, take it with a grain of a grain of salt when I say that I thought the look of the flick and the acting within were actually pretty good. The teens imitating the 80s predecessors pull it off in being satirical without venturing into the work becoming cheesy itself, or just plain obnoxious. While Nicole Marines isn’t going to nudge Linda Hamilton, or even Lena Headey, off her spot, she does a solid job of tussling with her undead adversary. I know what you’re saying: “Shut the fuck up about all this shit with the teens and Sarah, Adam! What about Jason?!”. To which I say: *crawls into corner and starts rocking while sobbing uncontrollably*. After that, I stand up super manly like and rest your weary soul by informing you that you have no worries. Derek Russo, as before, isn’t the hulking beast that is Kane motha fuckin’ Hodder, but he does possess enough of a threatening presence to get you to set aside the pitchforks and torches. Considering it’s a slasher film, or at least plays in that wheelhouse, I thought it a tad too lite on spilling the red stuff and assembling creative kills, though I imagine this was simply due to budgetary constraints, and seeing as this is more of a novelty to see these popular figures go head to head, it’s a small gripe. Really my only real complaint is that there is an unnecessary introduction to the short talking about making it and sizing up the opponents. Basically, preproduction stuff that could’ve easily been a bonus video or included at the end credits. Overall, it’s a fun, short but sweet flick not meant to be taken too seriously. So, if you’re strapped for time or just need a cap off, kill ten minutes and watch Sarah battling it out with Jason.
2. Camp Crystal Lake – Friday the 13th Fan Reimagining 2017 – Now, admittedly, this bite sized slasher isn’t sporting the catchiest of titles, but nevertheless don’t let that put you off of it. Camp Crystal Lake – Friday the 13th Fan Re-imagining 2017, or CCLFt13FR2017 for short, for the most part plays out like an omitted scene from one of the sequels. It’s not until the end that CCLFt….we’re just going to lovingly refer to it as “CCL” from now on. Anyways, it’s when the dust has settled and the blood coagulated that CCL becomes its own unique murderous mutant. The plot remains simple. Camp counselor Jack has slipped off to the woods to start toking up. Jack’s bogarting break is interrupted by his counselor peer, Marcy. Marcy brazenly hot boxes herself into his smoke break to partake in the fruits of the earth without so much as even offering to put five on it. Despite this egregious faux pas, the two hit it off swimmingly and take to the dense woods for a light stroll of toke and talk. Getting well acquainted doesn’t last too long for Marcy and Jack, seeing as the number one D.A.R.E. supporter comes along and helps them kick their habit.
I was actually really impressed with CCL. The photography, direction, and acting are all solid, and effectively builds tension once the threat becomes apparent. Even the script works, playing out like a Kevin Smith slasher short. The dialogue is essentially just pointless back and forth between developing characters that aren’t going to make it past the 10 minute mark(or will they?!) making it effective in holding your interest and sucking you into being a part of the movie instead of just an uninterested spectator. Upon first viewing you can’t help but get that knee jerk reaction of frustration whenever Jason shows up because the Jason in this short isn’t the Jason we are familiar with. Bear with me though, and press play with an open mind because without giving anything away, come the end we leave with all being forgiven and questions needing to be answered. Lucky for us, the ending credit scroll shows that this is just Chapter One of a series, and I personally look forward to Chapter Two.
3. Voorhees (Born On a Friday) – When compiling this list I knew I wanted to provide you with works that were entertaining, but to also give you a variety of different takes and voices. Cue Voorhees (Born on a Friday), gifted to us from blinky500. For the uninitiated, blinky500 is the YouTube channel of filmmaker, and Jack of all filmmaking trades, Chris R. Notarile. Mr. Notarile has spent the better part of a decade making cinematic art, from the full length narrative feature to the brief wonder of the short form concept trailer, and all that in between, specifically lots and lots of fan films. In all this time Chris has proven his prowess for creating compelling stories from already existing properties. In short, this dude is the god damn king when it comes to fan films! In this extensive list of fan films is Voorhees (Born On a Friday). What pulled my attention was that instead of watching Jason dispatch horny, unruly teens deep in the woods of Crystal Lake we follow the OG slasher herself, Pamela Voorhees. With the change of M.O. we get to step away from the titillation of mowing down nubile young tarts and brainless roided up jocks and explore the psychological torment of a broken character who can’t find a constructive way to deal with the pain, anger, and grief of losing someone you can’t live without.
Voorhees opens up on the saccharine scene of Pamela setting up a birthday party for Jason. As an upbeat doo wop from the 50s drowns out(pun!) any dialogue, a sheriff approaches and delivers news that while we don’t hear it it’s apparent it’s the crushing blow that her one and only son has died. We leave Pamela in a mess of tears and jump ahead a year to find Ms. Voorhees channeling that pain and rage in the best way she knows how: chasing down and murdering Crystal Lake camp counselors. We follow Pamela in the singular event that sets off the chain reaction that plagued the 80s as she approaches her very first victim. What I love so much about this short is the emotion that comes with traveling along with a character that to some degree we can all sympathize with. Even in a fit of manic rage and with bloodlust soaked into her fingertips you can’t help but feel sadness for her. Despite her actions, which in all reality are heinous and unconscionable, she lost the person she loved more than anything else in existence, including herself, because of an unjust, unfair, and unforgiving world. Beyond the toxic waste, the telekinesis, the dead fuck dances, the Ethels and Juniors. Beyond the late night skinny dips, post coitus impalings, hockey masks, and 3D gimmicks is a tragic story of a parent losing their child and finding a warped sense of justice in the only way their damaged mind can surmise. Voorhees does a great job of showing a version of Pamela that I imagine Betsy Palmer or herself would be proud of. Showing the audience not just a villain that hunts down premarital fornicators, but a fractured mind that has been hurt beyond repair. Admittedly, the acting is a bit dodgy here and there, with some lines of dialogue being delivered flawlessly with the weight of every word felt, while others turn out a bit flat. Given that this whole ten minute short was filmed in just about 3 hours, I can forgive those lost bits of dialogue and just chalk it up to the actors not being able to knock it out of the park without a few more takes to find the characters. Despite the weaknesses, Monica Dinatale does an impeccable job of bringing to life Ms. Voorhees. In such a short running time she impressively fleshes out Pamela into the terrifying but sympathetic character she is. While we all love Jason and he has always satisfied with the more impressive body count, Pamela was always a much more interesting and nuanced character. Voorhees does a solid job of exploring a part of the franchise that has been largely left behind and forgotten about.
4. Revenge – Revenge is easily the most ambitious of these fan films just by the simple fact that the run time is that of a full length feature. It clocks in at one hour and thirty minutes. Don’t let that put you off, Revenge does a valiant job of structuring its run time properly. The story is a simple one, and though it takes place within the franchise timeline after part eight beginning with Jason crawling from out of a sewer and instantaneously vomiting up toxic waste, it could easily be seen as a remake of the first Friday the 13th(except with Jason as the killer instead of Pamela Voorhees). Revenge follows a group of camp counselors as they, along with their hapless camp director, set out to ready the camp into fighting shape for the kids who will soon be showing up for a summer filled with fun and excitement. As we all well know, that summer will never come to fruition as Jason shows up to whittle down the intruders one by one. The characters parallel the assortment that lived in the franchise with the likes of the “crazy Ralphs” who will stop at nothing to shut down progress, the obligatory final girl, the sharp tongued jokester, the awkward shy guy, the hottie with loose morals, etc.
While set in modern day(at least modern to when it was filmed around 2004) it plays out like a flick from the 80s, mainly in part to the music and the camera set ups. Regardless of its production flaws from what had to be a meager budget, Revenge can easily be viewed as a long lost direct to video sequel that never surfaced before Jason Goes to Hell came out. The acting is a bit lackluster but then again the franchise has never been praised for the chops of its thespians. The kills, although a bit bloodless, remain creative enough to hold interest, and Jason is an impressive force that harkens back to the Jason Voorhees from parts two through four. I’m not going to speak too much more on Revenge as the flick speaks for itself as a slasher that fits in smoothly with the later sequels. Set its low budget aside and go in with the mindset of Paramount taking a last stab at the franchise before New Line could take over.
5. Friday the 13th: The Curse of Jason – I can say with relative ease and the utmost of confidence that this is one of my favorite shorts of this faniest of films list. Be not confused, you won’t find Hollywood quality or a moving painting of artistry beaming from the frames of The Curse of Jason. What you get is a frenzy of cheesy, bat shit anarchy. The flimsy plot revolves around poor Jimmy as his family and friends are mowed down erratically by the potato sack donned Jason Voorhees. 10 years later the traumatized Jimmy resurfaces along with Jason, eager to dismember and disembowel the new group of walking talking body bags. What’s so great about this love letter to the series is its constant references and nods to the franchise that it aspires to be. It plays out like a collage of scenes and concepts littered throughout the OG flicks and then assembled by the likes of Neveldine and Taylor. From the opening scene, Jason casually and nonchalantly strolls into frame and commences with the proverbial hack and slash that doesn’t really let up until the credits roll. The Curse of Jason easily has the highest body count of any of the other fan films, and what they lack in blood and tangible fear they make up for in hilariously awkward action choreography and bad acting. A taunt, intense horror masterpiece this is not. What it is though is twenty-six minutes of digital insanity that will warm your dark withered soul. When you lack a budget and means to produce an A list quality product, then this is how you make do with what you have. The Curse of Jason is an absolute blast that any Friday fan is going to gush over. Friday the 13th fandom at its very finest.
6. Never Hike Alone – If you’re a dead set stubborn bastard that will only end up venturing into the woods on one of these treats I’ve pointed you to make damned sure Never Hike Alone is the one you trek down. We’ve come to the end of the list and with our last hike we’re going to grab our survivalist knapsack, complete with tent, MREs, and sick ass bowie knife accented with serrated blade to really get interesting when 127 hoursing it up, and join YouTubemans Bear Grylls, Kyle McLeod. Kyle runs a popular(at least I assume it’s popular, I don’t know his life or his subscriber amount) camping/survivalist/hiking video blog. He travels around documenting himself as he makes his way through different forest terrains. During Kyle’s most recent excursion he stumbles upon an abandoned camp ground. I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this. Nailed it! It’s Camp Crystal Lake. Now, defunct and dilapidated, Kyle sets out to explore his new-found ghost town, of sorts. Upon discovering just what camp he has nomadicly inhabited, he regales his audience with the legend of the camps past indiscretions. Of course like all the counselors before him, he writes the threat off as just another urban legend used to torture little tikes around crackling campfires. It doesn’t take long before the myth becomes all too real and Mr. McLeod is fighting for his life and having to implement those collective survival skills. Will Kyle be able to survive his way out of Crystal Lake or will Jason gain another sacrifice for mama’s murderous vengeance?
Well, shit, I’m not going to answer that for you. Watch and find out for yourself. Even though my vocal range is garbage, I can’t sing enough praise for this fan flick. The creative force behind Womp Stomp Films has created something masterful. A tight, aggressive horror force that rises above the standard generics of most slasher films. Never Hike Alone does what damn near none of the original franchise is capable of doing, assembling something that is knuckle white intense and at times truly fucking scary. Be forewarned, if you’re looking for creative gruesome fodder and nubile young women who have an allergic reaction to having clothes on, you won’t find that in Never Hike Alone. This is survivalist horror thrown into the middle of a slasher franchise. Given that this is a fan film I can’t imagine the budget being that high, but despite that, the movie looks like, well, a movie. The cinematography is beautiful, stark, and vivid. The acting is top notch, and action choreography directed flawlessly. Lack of budget wasn’t made to be a crutch for this crew, everyone brought their A game, firing on all of the cylinders. Fan films don’t really happen in this condition, a rarity of a gem. Should I mumble along some mention of Jason? This is the Jason I want to see portrayed in these fandom fests. He is terrifying. A vengeful, menacing force. The best performance I’ve seen in a fan film about the titular series. This is the sequel you need to see! I don’t want to discuss the ending too much, I’ve kept pretty spoiler free up to this point, no need to start mucking it up now. I’ll just mention that the ending sailed this bad boy right up to the Crystal Lake docks with a satisfying conclusion that added to the flawless climax that came before it with a mind blowing twist connecting it to the original series and revved up my excitement to compile this list. If you’re looking for something fresh that can compete and elevate the Friday the 13th series, Never Hike Alone is what you should be watching.
Time for me to shut the hell up and let you get to watching. I hope you’ve enjoyed my incoherent ramblings, and let me know what you thought of the flicks within this list. Also, if you got any suggestions, like Lundgren, I’m all ears. To all you Friday fans: Have a murderously safe and Happy Friday the 13th.
Adam Troutt is an obsessive horror cinephile. He aspires to one day be a filmmaker, but in the meantime he devours more horror films than is healthy for human consumption
April was a productive month here at HAHC headquarters! Here’s a handy place to help keep up with all of our shenanigans.
1.HAHC Episode 25: The Prowler
We kicked things off on April 5th with episode 25 of our podcast. We discussed the 1981 Film The Prowler, played some horror movie trivia (the movie quizzed about was Army of Darkness), and ended with our segment “What’s Making Us Scared”.
On April 9th, Kia reviewed the fifth novel in R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series. Discover how it ranks with the rest of the novels so far, and which characters from previous novels make appearances in this one, and just how dated are the cultural references of the hip young teens of the early 90’s?
Jumping to April 19th, the HAHC crew talked about the cinematic masterpiece Ghoulies Go to College, played another round of Half Assed Horror Trivia (this week’s movie we are quizzed on is Young Frankenstein), and as always, ended with our segment “What’s Making Us Scared”. Spoiler: Craig ranks Ghoulies Go to College as highly as he did Zodiac.
Finally, in our last entry this month, on April 22nd we had a conversation on if it’s ethically sound to euthanize Gizmo the Mogwai in order to prevent future Gremlin outbreaks. Our listeners were polled for their opinion on the matter, then the HAHC crew weighs in. You might be surprised on how it all plays out. Or maybe not. Gizmo gotta die.
Here at HAHC Headquarters we like to spend our lazy Sundays watching trailers for upcoming horror releases. Sometimes there’s a dearth of those and we also look at trailers to something more akin to a crime thriller. Ahem. That leads us to American Animals. Starring Evan Peters and laced with sardonic humor, this might be the antidote to slick heist films and the ever rising true crime craze. Or maybe it’ll just be a fun movie. See for yourself below…
We like to spend our lazy Sundays catching up on trailers for upcoming horror films. This week brings us The Meg, what looks to be a fun throwback to the late 90s giant predator revival (Anaconda, Deep Blue Sea, Lake Placid, etc).
Boasting a 150 million dollar budget (!!!), a sprawling cast of character actors backing up the square jawed lead Statham, and tongue in cheek humor mixed with nautical terror, we here at HAHC can’t help but be curious about how this film alchemy will work out.
Personally, we love that between Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Rampage, Jurassic World and now The Meg, monsters are still going strong with audiences. Hopefully the trend continues!
Here at HAHC headquarters, we love spending our lazy Sundays watching new(ish) trailers to upcoming horror releases. However, the trailer we’re sharing today we discovered haphazardly before screening Ready Player One. It seems director Eli Roth (of Green Inferno infamy) is getting into the spooky family film game with The House with a Clock in Its Walls. We have to admit, the career shift threw us a bit.
From Universal Picture’s website:
In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead. Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural). Co-starring Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams and Sunny Suljic, it is produced by Mythology Entertainment’s Brad Fischer (Shutter Island) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), as well as Kripke.
Is this a good career move for Roth, or another mainstream stumble attempt like Deathwish? We will find out this September 21st…
Short films have always been a relatively unknown medium in the world of film due to there being very little means for commercial success and even fewer outlets to put them on display. Other than the occasional short that would accompany a feature film back in the 70’s and 80’s, shorts were mainly featured in film festivals or used as a calling card for industry bigwigs to see what chops a filmmaker may have, or if a particular story could work visually in a feature length capacity (think Sam Raimi’s “Within the Woods“). The only other means to see them were from word of mouth from a friend of a friend who had a muddy, grainy 5th generation VHS of “this short film that you have to see”. Then sites like YouTube came along and made it possible for filmmakers to express their passions and hone their work. All the while building an audience and establishing notoriety within the business, or at the very least the indie scene. With that potential for a short film to go viral, the world has discovered such gems like David F. Sandberg’s “Lights Out“, “Kung Fury”, and Fede Alvarez’s “Panic Attack.”
While those films broke through the popular culture and helped to establish a few filmmaking careers, there is an almost endless supply of short films out there that are fantastic and beg to be taking in by as many ravenous eyes as possible. I would like to introduce you to a few of these shorts. In all of the shorts I have seen, I compiled a small list of ones that still instantly come to mind, that have repeat value for me. 5 short films to be specific. 5 Unknown short films that you should definitely know.
1) “Night of the Slasher” – NOTS starts out as a paint by numbers slash and kill flick with the proverbial “slut” stereotype stripping off her restricting, uncomfortable blue jeans down to her panties as she dances to a song resurrected from the vinyl ashes of 1985. From the moment the doorbell echoes throughout the house NOTS shifts into a master class of how to turn slasher cliches on their head, as the killers’ fodder 180s into our final girl, embodying Nancy Thompson in her determination to not be another victim. Shot in what appears to be one long take, we follow our heroine as she fights against an unkillable villain using the tropes of the hack and slash subgenre to try and get the upper hand and stand victorious. What NOTS does so well is plays out a story using the structure of slasher films in a way that is reminiscent of Scream. NOTS is as much a slasher flick as it’s a meta parody on the cliches of the subgenre. At only 11 minutes, it’s such a fun, smart commentary on the subgenre, it leaves you wishing that it was just a bit longer and has you reaching to hit the play button once more.
2) “Still Life” – This one is a more subtle and haunting exercise in horror from Trevor Matthews and Jon Knautz, the same masterminds behind The Shrine, Girl House, and the cult creature feature in the making Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Before Trevor Matthews donned his maintenance belt as Jack Brooks, he embodied Nathan Evans, a young man traveling down back roads and running on fumes (both in regards to his vehicle and his physical and mental capacity to continue pushing along to his destination). The pills start popping as his sunken, bloodshot eyes start getting a bit to heavy. It’s at this moment he arrives in a small town that at first glance appears to be vacant, that is until the mannequin appears in the road. Nathan finds out quickly that something isn’t right in this town, and he better act fast if he wants to get away from there safely. “Still Life” is a creepy and unnerving horror short that evokes something right out of The Twilight Zone. It’s drenched in atmosphere and mounting in dread with an ending that warrants an intro by Rod Serling. Watch with the lights off.
3) “Le Bagman: Profession: Meurtrier” – Before RKSS sent Apple roaming across a dilapidated, apocalyptic 1997 to fight injustice with the kid of all kids, Turbo Kid. A much different battle was fought, albeit with the same gleeful lust for bloodshed. This sweeping epic battle was executed in 2004 in the short film titled “Le Bagman.” Le Bagman’s story is structured in the basic form of a slasher film. A girl wakes up in the hospital disoriented and confused as to where she is and why she’s there. A detective in the room wastes no time in waxing poetically about coffee before turning inquisitive and lobbing questions to our heroine about what exactly happened that has her propped up in this fluorescent infused, sterile room. It doesn’t take long for the flood gates to part and the horrific mind melt to start of the past few days events.
Our protagonist quickly regales us with the legend of a murderous maniac that stalks the woods methodically, and that dismembers, maims, and relocates the insides of anyone unsuspecting enough to venture into his vicinity. A local boogeyman that dons a bag over his head and sends a quiver down the spine of neighboring kids that have them high-tailing away from the woods. Flashback quickly ensues and we’re brought along for the ride to see how she manages to get away, with the unlikely help of a group of outlandish wannabe gangsta thugs, after Le Bagman has disposed of her friends.
“Le Bagman” is a slasher through and through, but with an over the top bent that can only be likened to a mix of Troma, 90s shot on video horror, and The Three Stooges. Basically Evil Dead 2 except less demonic possession, even lesser budget, and no sign of Bruce Campbell. “Le Bagman” is an absolute gore filled good time that I can’t recommend more to fans of cheesy splatter movies.
4) “Peekers” – This short definitely starts out unassuming as pleasant music plays to the image of a man making a hearty morning breakfast starting his day before things take a creepy, unsettling turn.
Larry awoke with the sunny disposition that today would be a lovely pleasant day spent enjoying the sunshine and the fact that the day was like the humdrum of any other day. He plants himself in front of a scrumptious breakfast and the morning T.V. news, hellbent on minding his own business, when his elderly neighbor, Zach, comes knocking on Larry’s door and knocking down this saccharine scene like an obnoxious Kool-Aid man barreling through your living room wall just minutes before your parents come home, leaving you to try and talk your way out of being grounded for a whole year. Begrudgingly Larry answers the door to find Zach requesting his presence at Zach’s humble abode across the street. Larry tries to talk his way out of it, but Zach remains persistent and decidedly vague. Reluctantly, he finally agrees and they trek across the street and into Zach’s predicament.
Once the two walk through the doorway, Zach starts relaying to Larry what is going on with him this morning, and why his wife being at the top of their staircase is not just a normal everyday thing. This is where the tale takes an unsettling turn, one that I don’t want to get too descriptive with as the less you know about this one the better. I will let on to the reader that any elderly person acting menacingly, disturbing, or just plain off absolutely petrifies me. Take a peek (pun!) at Peekers and let your Gerontophobia take it’s icy, wrinkly skinned grasp around your spine and chill you to the bone.
5) “Fists of Jesus” – I want to thank you for traveling with me on this adventure through a roller coaster of emotions, and I can’t think of a better parting gift than “Fists of Jesus.” The story is a simple one, and one you may have heard before, but you haven’t quite heard it like this. A young carpenter has recently discovered his gift of being the son of God and his ability to bring the dead back to life. So, along with his ride or die chum, Judas, he travels from land to land preaching his story. We catch up with Mr. Christ as he wanders upon a family grieving over the dead body of a loved one. Jesus being comfortable and confident in his new powers cracks his fingers, shoos the family to the side, and breaks out the big guns in order to stymie the families pain. There is but one issue: Jesus hasn’t exactly honed his biblical powers just yet. The ritual is successful but with the added side effect that the resurrected corpse has an unquenchable taste for flesh. As the reanimated corpse begins devouring his family, Jesus and Judas take off running from the visceral scene. They don’t make it far before the entire village is taken over by the zombie plague. Jesus finds himself with no other choice but to fight off the growing horde of zombie Phariseans, Romans, and cowboys using his wits, and a miraculously endless supply of fish.
“Fists of Jesus” shares a lot in common with “Le Bagman” in that it’s filled to the grotesque brim with over the top violence, and marinated in an abundance of cheesy, gross out grue. You can definitely see the influence and homage of Peter Jackson’s early works spilled out in gleeful, hilarious fashion across the screen. If you’re not religious, or at the very least, not easily offended then laugh out loud with the outlandishly gory, “Fists of Jesus.”
Adam Troutt is an obsessive horror cinephile. He aspires to one day be a filmmaker, but in the meantime he devours more horror films than is healthy for human consumption.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson
I’ll start by saying that I’ve never seen the original Boris Karloff film from 1932, so I can’t compare the two. However, I feel pretty safe in saying that the Tom Cruise version has more in common with the 1999 film of the same name starring Brendan Fraser, at least in terms of style. Prior to the release of the Cruise film, a behind-the-scenes feature was shown before the trailers at the movie theater. In the feature, the director said, “We owe the audience a monster movie,” and Cruise specifically mentions the original 1932 film and how it made him feel to see it for the first time. Although I haven’t seen the original, I’ve seen stills and I know that Karloff is in it, so I guess I was expecting something a little more serious and dramatic. But Cruise’s The Mummy is just a straight-up, Hollywood action movie. Now I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I just expected and hoped for more. This is the first film in the Dark Universe, a reboot of the classic Universal monster movies. As with any standard-issue Hollywood action film, there were throw-away characters that added nothing to the film or the plot and one-liners that more often than not got no response from the theater audience. Also, and most glaringly, Cruise played a roguish soldier who was more into stealing things than obeying orders from his commanding officer and who has a quickie one-night stand with a character who turns out to be the archaeologist who investigates the mummy tomb. I would buy that with another actor, but Cruise is fifty-four years old, and the role just does not fit well on him at all. And the fact that he’s a roguish thief who has one-night stands has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. So it all felt very unnecessary and like the brains behind the film just fell back on the typical Hollywood action schematic instead of delivering the audience a monster movie as promised. I also have a problem with how the movie ended. I don’t know how to say anymore here without giving it away, so for now I’ll just say that Hollywood’s issues with taking on ancient Egypt persist. See below for spoilers!
Now as for “the monster,” the mummy, whose name in the movie is Ahmanet, was the best part of the movie for me. I’m a fan of the actress (Sofia Boutella), and I think she did great job embodying a creepy and terrifying but also alluring character. Another scene-stealer is Russell Crowe who plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Crowe initially starts out as Dr. Jekyll, but one of my favorite scenes is when he transforms into his alter ego and goes crazy on Cruise’s character.
Overall, would I recommend “The Mummy?” I think I would – not with a resounding “Oh my God, yes!” but with a “Yeah it had some cool moments.” And it was fun to see on IMAX in 3D. I probably would also give it higher than the 16% it has on Rotten Tomatoes. But just know that it’s far from perfect and definitely has its issues that I’m hoping will get ironed out before the other Dark Universe movies get released. The Universal monster movies are the original shared universe and are so iconic you know them even if you’ve never seen them. Hopefully, Hollywood will do more than remake them as just as good but ultimately unremarkable action movies.
AND NOW – SPOILERS!
So, I’m only going to spoil the ending – go big or go home, right? So, the premise of this movie is that Ahmanet, before being mummified, sold her soul to the Egyptian god Set who in turn gave her a dagger that would allow her to transfer his soul into a human body. Upon awakening, she immediately sets her sights on Cruise’s character to be the vessel. At the end of the movie, Cruise ends up with the dagger and stabs himself, essentially becoming the vessel for the Egyptian god. The mummy gets captured and gets locked up in a vault. So, yeah, Cruise’s character is basically an Egyptian god. Because this worked so well for Gods of Egypt. This is just another example of Hollywood living up to its already low expectations and continuing that age-old practice of whitewashing. I’m sure people are getting tired of hearing that word, but I assure you we’re getting tired of talking about it.
And another thing – by being the vessel for the god Set, Cruise is able to resurrect the dead. Craig made a good point that this essentially makes the stakes very low in the Dark Universe because there is now a character who can just bring the dead back to life. So, when a character dies, I imagine the impact on the other characters (as well as the audience) will be very low because they can just call in Cruise’s character to bring them back. I mean, can you imagine if Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead could just restore life – all the deaths on that show would be meaningless and the show would be way less powerful. Glenn would be alive so YAY!!!! But the attachment the audience forms to the characters would be significantly weakened.
With all this being said, I’m still looking forward to seeing what else the Dark Universe has to offer. Hopefully, Hollywood will learn from the mistakes of The Mummy and do justice to the original Universal monsters and the original shared universe.
Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’